Royal Naval Biography/King, Phillip Parker
PHILLIP PARKER KING, Esq.
[Captain of 1830.]
Fellow of the Royal and Linnaean Societies; Member of the Royal Asiatic Society of London; and a Corresponding Member of the Zoological Society.
This officer’s father, the late Captain Phillip Gidley King, R.N., was many years Lieutenant-Governor, and for six years Governor, of New South Wales. He obtained post rank in 1798, and died at Lower Tooting, co. Surrey, Sept. 3d, 1808.
Mr. Phillip Parker King was born at Norfolk Island, in the South Pacific Ocean, Dec. 13th, 1791; and entered the navy as midshipman on board the Diana frigate. Captain (afterwards Commodore) Charles Grant, Nov. 25th, 1807. In the following year, he “well supported” the first lieutenant of that ship, in an attack made by her boats upon a French convoy between Nantz and Rochfort. In Oct. 1810, he quitted the Diana, and proceeded, in the Hibernia 120, to the Mediterranean, where he successively joined the Centaur, Cumberland, and Armada, 74’s, the latter commanded by Captain Grant, with whom he continued until the completion of his time, when he was received on board the Caledonia 120, bearing the flag of Sir Edward Pellew (now Viscount Exmouth) commander-in-chief on that station, who promoted him into the Trident 64, guard-ship at Malta, Feb. 14th, 1814; and subsequently removed him to the Elizabeth 74, Captain Edward Leveson Gower, from which ship he was paid off in June 1815.
In the beginning of 1817, among the numerous voyages of survey and discovery upon which a part of the navy of Great Britain was so honorably and so usefully employed, the unexplored coasts of Australia were not forgotten. An expedition for the purpose of completing the survey of its north and north-west coast was planned, under the joint direction of the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty and the Secretary of State for the Colonies, to the command of which Lieutenant King had the honor of being appointed. The arrangements for providing him with a vessel and crew were made by the latter department.
On the 5th Feb., Lieutenant King received his appointment, together with an order for a passage in the hired transport Dick, then about to convey H.M. 48th regiment from Cork to New South Wales, where she arrived on the 3d September, after a passage from Ireland of twenty-two weeks, including a fortnight spent at Rio de Janeiro.
The vessel appropriated to Lieutenant King’s use was the Mermaid, a cutter of 84 tons burden, built of teak, and not quite twelve months old; her length was 56 feet; breadth of beam 18 feet 6 inches; and she did not, when deep-laden, draw more than 9 feet: the total number of her officers and crew was only eighteen, viz. Lieutenant King, commander; Messrs. Frederick Bedwell and John Septimus Roe, master’s-mates, both of whom had accompanied him from England; Mr. Allan Cunningham, botanical collector; twelve seamen, and two boys. In addition to this establishment, Lieutenant King accepted the proffered services of Boongaree, a Port Jackson native, who had formerly accompanied Captain Flinders in the Investigator, and also on a previous occasion in the Norfolk schooner.
The Mermaid could not be got ready to commence her interesting voyage until towards the end of December, when we find Lieutenant King steering for Bass’s Strait, with the intention of passing along the southern and western coasts, and commencing his survey at the N.W. cape of New Holland. A few days after his departure from Sydney Cove, he found that a considerable quantity of bread was already spoiled from damp and leaks, which necessarily obliged the officers and crew to go at once upon a reduced allowance of that article. On rounding Cape Leeuwin, the S.W. extremity of the continent, Feb. 1st, 1818, all hands were attacked, more or less violently, with a bowel complaint, and symptoms of dysentery. On the second day, when it happily began to subside, only four men were able to keep watch. On the 12th of the same month, the Mermaid had only one serviceable anchor remaining.
The various parts of the coast between the N.W. cape and Depuch Island were visited before the 6th March; on which day, the westerly monsoon being nearly expended. Lieutenant King stretched off to examine a shoal discovered by Captain (now Sir Josias) Rowley, in the year 1800. He then ran to the eastward, as far as Point Braithwaite, on the north coast; from whence he carried on his survey, westwardly, until May 31st. Whilst employed in watering at one of the Goulburn Islands, Mar. 30th, three of his men were slightly wounded by stones thrown from the brink of a cliff overhanging the beach. “It was, however, fortunate,” says he, “that we were not often obliged to resort to firearms for a defence, for the greater number of the twelve muskets that we possessed were useless, notwithstanding they were the best that could be procured at Port Jackson when the vessel was equipped.”
On the 4th June, the Mermaid anchored off the Dutch settlement of Coupang; and during her stay there, the departure of a vessel for Batavia furnished Lieutenant King with an opportunity of acquainting the Admiralty of his progress. His letter arrived in time to contradict a report which reached England, of the Mermaid having been wrecked, and that all on board had perished. The receipt of his first report was thus officially acknowledged:–
“Admiralty Office, 8th Dec. 1818.
“Sir,– I have received, and communicated to my Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty, your letter dated at Timor the 10th of Jane last, and in return I am commanded by their lordships to acquaint you that they approve of your proceedings, and are pleased to find that you appear to have done so much with such small means, and, they are glad to observe, without sickness or accidents. Their lordships commend your forbearance towards the natives, and they trust you will continue to be very careful of the lives of yourself, your officers, and your ship’s company.
Soon after leaving Coupang, the crew of the Mermaid were attacked by dysentery, brought on by change of diet; and at one time the disease wore a very alarming appearance. On the 9th July, whilst running to the southward, in a heavy gale, her stern-boat was washed away; and on the 24th, just after re-entering Bass’s Strait, one of her seamen breathed his last. From the 13th of the same month, on which day she passed the meridian of Cape Leeuwin, until the 26th, when she was again on the east coast of New Holland, her people were constantly wet with the continued breaking over of the sea; and on the latter day, she had only five men capable of duty. On the 29th, at midnight, she anchored in Sydney Cove, after an absence of thirty-one weeks and three days, “Upon reviewing the proceedings of the voyage,” says her commander, “the result of which bore but a small proportion to what we had yet to do, I saw, with no little satisfaction, that I had been enabled to set at rest the two particular points of my instructions, namely, the opening behind Rosemary Island, and the examination of the great bay of Van Diemen.
“Upon rounding the N.W. Cape, we had been unfortunate in losing our anchors, which very much crippled our proceedings, and prevented our prosecuting the examination of the coast in so detailed a manner as we otherwise might have done; for we possessed no resource to avail ourselves of, if we had been so unfortunate as to get on shore. A series of fine weather, however, on the first part, and a sheltered coast with good anchorage, on the latter part of the voyage, enabled us to carry on the survey without accident; and nearly as much has been effected with one anchor, as could have been done had we possessed the whole. It prevented, however, our examining the bottom of Exmouth Gulf, and our landing upon Depuch Island. The latter was a great disappointment to us, on account of the description which M. Feron gives of the island, in his historical account of Baudin’s voyage, from the report of M. Ronsard, who visited it.
“On our passage to the north coast, we saw the Imperieuse and Clerke’s shoals, and also discovered a third, the Mermaid’s.
“On the north coast, we found some deep bays and excellent ports, and at the bottom of the great bay of Van Diemen we discovered several rivers, one of which we ascended for forty miles. Mr. Cunningham made a very valuable and extensive collection of dried plants and seeds; but, from the small size of our vessel, and the constant occupation of myself and the two midshipmen, we had neither space nor time to form any other collection of natural history than a few insects, and some specimens of the geology of those parts where we had landed.”
“The construction of the charts of the preceding voyage, together with the equipment of the vessel, fully occupied me until the month of December; when, having some time to spare before we could leave Port Jackson on our second voyage to the north coast, in consequence of its being the time when the westerly monsoon prevails, I acquainted His Excellency the Governor, of my intention of surveying the entrance of Macquarie Harbour, which had lately been discovered on the western coast of Van Diemen’s Land. To make my visit there as useful aa possible to the colony, a passage was offered to Mr. Justice Field, the judge of the Supreme Court, who was at that time about to proceed to Hobart Town, to hold his court; and, as it was probable that his business would terminate about the time of our return, it was arranged that the Mermaid should also convey him back. We left Sydney Cove on the 24th December, but did not clear the beads of the port until the following morning.”
On the 14th Feb. 1810, the Mermaid returned to Port Jackson, from whence Lieutenant King sent home an account of his late proceedings, the receipt of which was duly acknowledged as follows:–
“Admiralty Office, 11th Dec. 1819.
“Sir,– I have received the letter which you addressed to me from Sydney on the 23d February last; and, having communicated it to my Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty, I am commanded to convey to you their Lordships’ approbation of your conduct, and their satisfaction at your report of the good conduct of the two midshipmen under your orders.
“It is their Lordships’ directions that you should continue the survey, until you shall have completed the whole of the west coast of New Holland, so that your survey shall unite with that of Captain Flinders.
“Their Lordships are aware that a vessel of such small tonnage as the Mermaid is inconvenient for such extensive work; but they trust that the Governor of the colony will do everything in his power towards fitting and storing her, and removing, as far as his means may extend, the inconveniencies of the vessel.
(Signed)“J. W. Croker.”
Between the period of Lieutenant King’s return from Van Diemen’s Land and the second week of March, 1819, he was prevented from making any preparation for his second voyage to the north coast by an unusual continuance of the heavy rains incident to that season; which caused three floods on the Hawkesbury and Nepean rivers, and did considerable damage to the ripening crops. This unfavorable weather so retarded the equipment of the Mermaid, that it was the middle of April before she was ready for sea; even then she was not able to complete her crew; but at length she sailed from Port Jackson on the 8th of May.
“As it was my intention,” says Lieutenant King, “to take the northerly passage through Torres Strait, I proposed, in my way up the east coast, to examine Port Macquarie; and in order that the governor might be informed of the result of our proceedings as soon as possible. Lieutenant Oxley, R.N., the surveyor-general of the colony, accompanied me in the Lady Nelson, colonial brig. * * * * * *. In consequence of the report made by Lieutenant Oxley to the governor, upon the result of the expedition, an establishment has been since formed at this harbour, which, at present, is used only as a penal settlement: hitherto, no settlers have been permitted to take their grants at Port Macquarie; but, when this is allowed, it will, from the superiority of its climate, and the great extent of fine country in the interior, become a very important and valuable dependency of the colony of New South Wales.
“July 24th, at 3-30 p.m., Bligh’s Turtle Island was seen, for which we steered; but, attracted by the flattering appearance of an opening in Newcastle Bay, we hauled in to examine it. As we stood towards it, the soundings were very regular until we were within the projecting points of the coast, when the quality of the bottom changed from mud to sand; and with this the depth began to decrease. The opening trended deeply in to the N.W., and bore the character of a river, with a good port at its embouchure; the heads of which were rocky and apparently bold, but the light colour of the water between them, indicated that its entrance was shoal, and would prove both intricate and dangerous to pass. Sooner however than was expected, the water shoaled to three fathoms; and, before it was possible to avoid it, the vessel struck: the helm was put up, but she continued to beat on a hard sandy bottom as her head paid off. Some time elapsed, for it was blowing strong, before the main-sheet could be hauled in to ‘gybe’ the sail; during which the cutter was running along the shoal or bar in ten feet water, which was not sufficient to float her; for she struck the ground violently every time that the swell passed by. Upon the main-boom being got over, and the vessel’s heel touching the ground at the same instant, her head flew up in the wind, and she was very nearly thrown back upon the bank. This was, however, fortunately prevented; – in a few seconds she reached deeper water, and we providentially escaped a danger which had so nearly proved fatal to the vessel and our lives; for had the cutter remained aground on the bank during the night, the sea was so heavy that there would not have been the least vestige of her the following morning. To commemorate this occurrence, I have distinguished the opening with the name of Escape River.”
The evening closed in with every appearance of bad weather, and the Mermaid was obliged to bring up in a very exposed situation, without any protection, either from the wind or sea. On the 25th, at 4 a.m., the ring of the anchor broke, and she drifted a cable’s length to leeward before another could be dropped. At day-light the wind blew so hard as to render the recovery of the broken anchor impossible; and in the course of the same day the arm of a second broke, owing to its being ill shaped and badly wrought.
“On another occasion,” observes Lieutenant King, “this misfortune might have caused the loss of the vessel; but, fortunately, a few hours’ day-light, and a clear run before us, enabled us to proceed, and before sunset we passed Booby Island. A remarkable coincidence of our losses upon the two voyages has now occurred: last year, at the N.W. Cape, we lost two anchors just as we were commencing the survey, and now, on rounding the N E. Cape, to commence our examination of the north coast, we have encountered a similar loss, leaving us, in both instances, only one bower anchor to carry on the survey.”
Eleven weeks had now elapsed since the Mermaid left Port Jackson; “during which time,” says her commander, “I had been able to lay down the different projections of the N.E. coast, and our track within the barrier reefs between the Percy Islands and Cape York; besides having surveyed Port Macquarie, examined Rodd’s Bay, and constructed a boat at Endeavour River.
“Until we passed Cape Grafton the weather was generally fine, and favorable for our purpose; but, between that cape and Torres Strait, it had been thick and cloudy, with frequent rain; which not only increased the danger of the navigation, but also considerably retarded our progress; and, from the continual dampness of the cabins below, which, from the small size of the vessel, and our not possessing the advantage of a stove to dry them, it was impossible to prevent, occasioned much sickness: but fortunately it was checked by our reaching a more salubrious climate. The attention I was obliged to pay to the invalids, took up a great deal of my time, which ought to have been otherwise and more advantageously employed in the object of the voyage. Sailors, of all other people, are the most incautious and careless in contracting illness; but when attacked, there are none that require more attendance and nursing; besides, they were unwilling, in the first instance, to trust to my ignorance, until increasing sickness obliged them, and then my fear was that, although I might be of service and check the disorder, their complaint was possibly not understood by me, and that eventually, instead of curing, I might destroy my patient. And to these fears my mind was so constantly alive, that on some occasions I thought of little else.
“On our voyage from Torres Strait to the western head of the Gulf of Carpentaria, which is Cape Arnhem, no incident occurred of sufficient interest to be worth recording; but no sooner had we passed Torres Strait, than a very sensible difference was perceived in the temperature; the thermometer was observed to range between 75° and 83°, which was about 3° higher than it did on the south side of the strait: this change produced a drier air and liner weather, and soon restored our invalids to perfect health.”
On the 27th Sept. Lieutenant King had to record the death of one of his most attentive and useful men, a native, like himself, of Norfolk Island. This poor fellow, for some time before, and particularly during the last three days of his existence, had been suffering from a dropsical complaint; but his death was occasioned by suffocation, having very imprudently laid down with his head to leeward, while the cutter was under sail in Cambridge Gulf, which is described as a very extraordinary inlet. On the 30th of the same month, the Mermaid had reached Cape Londonderry, a part of the coast which, if we except a few of the islands that front it, Mons. Baudin did not see.
“We should, therefore,” continues Lieutenant King, “have commenced its examination with more pleasure had we been in a state better fitted for the purpose; but we were rapidly consuming our stock of water, without any prospect of finding a supply at this season; and this, added to the loss of our anchors, considerably lessened the satisfaction we should otherwise have felt in viewing the prospect before us.”
“In the space between Cape Bougainville and Cape Voltaire, which he has named the Admiralty Gulf, Lieutenant King determined the positions of at least forty islands or islets. The plan given by Mons. Freycinet of this Archipelago is so defective, that many of his islands could not be recognized.
On the 16th Oct., Lieutenant King again directed his course for Timor, but owing to contrary winds and unfavorable weather, he did not reach Coupang before the 1st of November. On the 12th Jan. 1820, we find him returning to Port Jackson, after an absence of thirty-five weeks and four days.
“The result of our proceedings during this voyage,” says he, “has been the survey of 540 miles of the northern coast, in addition to the 500 that were previously examined. Besides which we had made a running survey of that portion of the intertropical part of the east coast, that is situated between the Percy Isles and Torres Strait, a distance of 900 miles, the detailed survey of which had never before been made; for Captain Cook merely examined it in a cursory manner as he passed up the coast. The opportunity, therefore, was not lost of making such observations oh our voyage as enabled me to present to the public a route towards Torres Strait infinitely preferable on every account to the dangerous navigation without the reefs, which has hitherto been chiefly used.”
“On receiving their wages, the whole of the Mermaid’s crew, with only two exceptions, requested to be discharged; and the middle of June had nearly arrived before she could be re-manned. Mr. James Hunter, surgeon, who had arrived at Port Jackson in charge of convicts, then volunteered his services, which were gladly accepted, and he was accordingly attached to the cutter’s establishment. On the 22d of that month, eight days after her departure from Sydney Cove, she lost her bowsprit by plunging into a head sea; nor was it until the 13th July that her voyage could be resumed. Seven days afterwards she got aground on the south side of Port Bowen, and received very serious damage. On the 24th of the latter month, the Under Secretary of State for the Colonies wrote to Lieutenant King as follows:–
“Sir,– I have laid before Lord Bathurst your letter of the 26th Feb. 1820, transmitting the charts of your first voyage of survey on the coasts of New Holland, and a brief account of your second voyage; and I am directed by his lordship to acquaint you that the manner in which you have, up to the period from which your letter is dated, discharged the duty entrusted to you, has been highly satisfactory to him. I am, &c.
On the 16th Aug. 1820, the Mermaid reached Booby Island, in Torres Strait; and on the 5th Sept., passed Cape Voltaire, at which point the preceding year’s survey had terminated. To the westward of this position, Lieutenant King counted twenty-three islands, the northernmost of which he supposes to be the Montalivet Isles of Baudin: another group, near a fine harbour which he entered on the 20th Sept., and named Port Nelson, he called the Coronation Islands. The state of the Mermaid at this period is thus described in his journal:–
“Notwithstanding we had constantly experienced,, since the period of our leaving the east coast, both fine weather and smooth water, yet the leaky state of the vessel had been gradually increasing; leading me to fear that the injury received at Port Bowen had been much more serious than we had then contemplated. Having the advantage of smooth water and a fair wind during our passage up the east coast, the damage had not shewn itself until we reached Cairncross Island: after this it was occasionally observed, but with more or less effect according to the strength and direction of the wind, and the state of the sea. At the anchorage off Booby Island, being exposed to a swell, she made four inches of water in an hour; and, in passing round Cape Torrens, the vessel being pressed down in the water from the freshness of the sea-breeze, it gained as much as nine inches in one hour and twenty minutes. From the alarming increase of the leak, it became absolutely necessary to ascertain the full extent of the damage, in order that we might, if possible, repair it, so as not to prevent the further prosecution of the voyage, or at least to ensure our return to Port Jackson.
“We were fortunately upon a part of the coast where the tides had a sufficient rise and fall to enable us to lay her on shore without difficulty; but the beaches in York Sound and Prince Frederick’s Harbour were all too steep for the purpose. The spring tides were now at hand; and, it being on this account very important that it should be done as speedily as possible, I left the cutter the following morning in search of a convenient place, in which I was fortunately very soon successful; for, at the bottom of the port (Nelson) in which we had anchored, we landed on the sandy beach of a bay which, to my inexpressible satisfaction, was found in every way suitable for the object we had in view. Deferring, therefore, any further examination for a more convenient opportunity, I hastened on board, and, in the course of the morning (Sept. 21st), anchored the cutter close to the beach. The sails, being sent on shore, were suspended to trees and converted into tents, for the preservation of our provisions and stores, and for habitations for the officers and crew. The following day all our wet and dry provisions, our wood and guns, were landed, and the greater part of the crew slept on shore. The next morning, at high tide, the vessel was warped and secured as far up the beach as the water would allow, preparatory to her taking the ground, which event we awaited with considerable anxiety. When the tide left her dry, we proceeded to examine her bottom; and having stripped the copper off the stern-post, the full extent of the injury she had sustained was detected, and found to be greater even than our fears had anticipated. The after-part of the keel was rent for two feet in an horizontal direction, and its connexion with the stern-post and garboard streak so much weakened that, at the first impression, there was every reason to fear we could not remedy the defects sufficiently to ensure even an immediate return to Port Jackson; but when the full extent of our means were considered, it was thought not only possible to repair the injury, but to do it so effectually as to permit our completing the voyage according to our original intention.
“In order to connect the keel and stern-post, both of which were almost separated from the frame of the vessel, two bolts, each twenty-four inches long, were driven up obliquely through the keel, and two of the same size horizontally through the stern-post, into the dead wood; besides which, they were also united by a stout iron brace, which was fitted under the keel, and up each side of the stern post; by which method the injury appeared to be so well repaired, that we had no fears for our safety if the weather should be but moderately fine.
“These repairs were completed by the 28th; but, just as we were congratulating ourselves upon having performed them, a fresh defect was discovered, which threatened more alarming consequences even than the other: upon stripping off some sheets of copper, the spike nails, which fastened the planks, were found to be decaying; and many were so entirely decomposed by oxidation, that a straw was easily thrust through the vacant holes. As we had not nails enough to replace the whole of the copper, for that was now our only security, we could not venture to remove more than a few sheets from those parts which appeared the most suspicious, under all of which we found the nails so defective, that we had reason to fear we might start some planks before we reached Port Jackson, the consequence of which would unquestionably be fatal to the vessel and our lives. All that we could do to remedy the defect, was to caulk the water-ways and counter, and to nail an additional streak of copper a foot higher than before This further temporary repair was finished by the 30th; but we were detained until the 5th of October before the tide rose high enough to float the cutter. By the 8th, every thing being embarked, we made preparations to quit this place (Careening Bay), which had afforded us the means of repairing our damage, and stopping for the present the progress of an injury which had been every day assuming a more serious aspect.
“Oct. 11 th, – “Our people were now all laid up with sores upon their feet and legs, from cuts and bruises received in scrambling over the rocks; and several were affected by ophthalmia. Besides this, the rainy season was approaching; it commenced last year about the 18th of October, and as the weather was now close and sultry, and daily getting more unfavorable, the change was evidently at hand. We therefore determined upon quitting the coast as soon as possible. In beating out of the river (Prince Regent’s) the cutter leaked a good deal, which shewed that our late repair at Careening Bay had not placed us without the pale of danger. This made me decide upon instantly returning to Port Jackson: but it was with great regret that I found it necessary to resolve so; for the land ta the westward appeared so indented, as to render the necessity of our departure at this moment particularly vexatious.
“Dec. 2d, – We were off Mount Dromedary; and the wind blew strong from the east, the weather assuming a threatening appearance. The next day we passed the heads of Jervis Bay, at the distance of three or four leagues, and the course was altered to North and N.b.W. parallel to the coast. At noon, an indifferent observation for the latitude, and a sight of the land, which for a few minutes was visible through the squalls, shewed that our situation was very much nearer to the shore than we had expected, a circumstance that was attributed to a current setting into the bight to the northward of Jervis Bay. The wind from the eastward was light and baffling, and this, added to the critical situation we were in, made me very anxious to obtain an offing before night, for there was every appearance of a gale from the eastward.
“Dec. 4th, – From an unusually westerly current, we found ourselves, very nearly to our destruction, considerably out of our reckoning. At 2-40 a.m., by the glare of a flash of lightning, the land was suddenly discovered dose under our lee: we hauled to the wind immediately; but the breeze at the same moment fell, and the swell being heavy, the cutter made but little progress. Sail was made as quickly as possible, and as the cutter headed N.N.E., there was every likelihood of her clearing the land; but a quarter of an hour afterwards, by the light of another flash, it was again seen close to us, stretching from right a-head to our lee-quarter, and so near, that the breakers were distinctly seen gleaming through the darkness of the night. A third flash confirmed our fears as to the dangerous situation we were in; and as there was not room to veer with safety, the helm was immediately put a-lee; but, as was feared, the cutter refused stays. We were now obliged to veer as a last resource, and the sails being manoeuvred, so as to perform this operation as quickly as possible, we fortunately succeeded in the attempt, and the cutter’s head was brought to the wind upon the other tack, without her striking the rocks: we were now obliged to steer as close to the wind as possible, in order to weather the reef, on which the sea was breaking, within five yards to leeward of the vessel: our escape appeared to be next to impossible: the night was of a pitchy darkness, and we were only aware of our situation from time to time as the lightning flashed: the interval, therefore, between the flashes, which were so vivid as to illumine the horizon around, was of a most awful and appalling nature, and the momentary succession of our hopes and fears, which crowded rapidly upon each other, may be better imagined than described. We were evidently passing the line of breakers very quickly; but our escape appeared to be only possible through the interposition of a Divine Providence; for, by the glare of a vivid stream of forked lightning, the extremity of the reef was seen within ten yards from our lee-bow; and the wave which floated the vessel, the next moment broke upon the rocks with a surf as high as her mast-head: at this dreadful moment the swell left the cutter, and she struck upon a rock with such force, that the rudder was nearly lifted out of the gudgeons: fortunately we had a good seaman at the helm, for instantly recovering the tiller, by a blow from which he had been knocked down when the vessel struck, he obeyed my orders with such attention and alacrity, that the sails were kept full; so that by her not losing way, she cleared the rock before the succeeding wave flowed from under her, and the next moment a flash of lightning shewed to our almost unbelieving eyes that we had pulsed the extremity of the rocks, and were in safety!
“It was now doubtful whether we could clear the point under our lee which we first saw; but as the next flush shewed that we were between the heads of Botany Bay, and that the point on which we had nearly been wrecked was, according to Captain Hunter’s plan. Cape Banks, its north, era head, we bore up, and, in half an hour, were safe at anchor. On the 6th, H.E. the Governor was informed of our arrival, and of our intention to go round to Port Jackson us soon as the weather cleared up; but we were detained by it until the 9th, when with some difficulty we cleared the entrance of the bay. At noon, the anchor was once more dropped in Sydney Cove, after an absence of twenty-five weeks and three days.”
As soon as an opportunity offered, the Mermaid was laid on shore and surveyed. Upon stripping the copper off the bottom, the tide flowed into her, and proved that to the sheathing alone her officers and crew were indebted for their safety. In consequence of this, a brig of 170 tons burden was purchased, and, at the suggestion of Governor Macquarie, named the “Bathurst.”
“By this change,” says Lieutenant King, “we gained a great addition to our comforts; and, besides increasing the number of our crew, were much better off in regard to boats; for we now possessed a long boat, large enough to carry out and weigh an anchor, or save the crew, if any accident should happen to the vessel, – a resource which we did not possess In the Mermaid. A further addition was made to our party by the appointment of Mr. Perceval Baskerville, midshipman; but Mr. Hunter, the surgeon, was superseded by Mr. Andrew Montgomery, who had lately arrived in charge of a convict ship."”
The Bathurst’s establishment consisted of 33 officers, men, and boys, including a volunteer native, named Bundell, who proved to be not only a more active seaman, but was of much greater service to Lieutenant King, than his countryman Boongaree had been. Nor was this man the only person who voluntarily encountered the perils attending the circumnavigation of New Holland; for Lieutenant King informs us, that on the 30th May, 1821, three days after his departure from Port Jackson, a girl, not more than fourteen years of age, was found concealed among the casks in the hold, which had been locked ever since the 26th.
“She had secreted herself,” he says, “in order to accompany the boatswain to sea, and when brought upon deck, she was in a most pitiable plight, for her dress and appearance were so filthy, from four days’ confinement in a dark hold, and from having been dreadfully sea-sick the whole time, that her acquaintances, of whom she had many on board, could scarcely recognise her. Upon being interrogated, she declared she had, unknown to all on board, concealed herself in the hold the day before the vessel sailed, and that her swain knew nothing of the step she had taken. As it was now inconvenient to return into port to put her on shore, and as the man consented to share his ration with her, she was allowed to remain; but in a very short time she heartily repented of her imprudence, and would gladly have been re-landed, had it been possible.
“Upon reaching Cairncross Island (June 30th), as we were in the act of letting go the anchor, Mr. Roe, who was at the mast-head, holding thoughtlessly by the fore-topmast-stay-sail-haliards, was precipitated from a height of fifty feet, and fell senseless on the deck. This unfortunate event threatened to deprive me of his very valuable assistance for some time, a loss I could but very ill spare, particularly when upon the point of returning to the examination of so intricate a coast as that part where we last left off.
“At 10-30 p.m. during a very heavy squall, the cable parted; but the brig happily drifted with her head to starboard, and passed clear both of the Dick and San Antonio” (two merchant vessels then in company); “the chain-cabled anchor was then dropped, which brought her up in fifteen fathoms, mud, in which berth she appeared to ride much easier than before. I was now very anxious about the lost anchor; and, having expressed a wish to inform Mr. Harrison” (the master of the Dick) “of our situation, and to request him to recover our anchor in the morning if the weather would permit, Mr. Bedwell volunteered to go on board that ship, which, although a service of danger, was, if possible to be cfTected, absolutely necessary. The boat shoved off; but as the crew were unable to pull it a-head, I called her on board again, which was most fortunate, for shortly afterwards the chain-cable parted also, and the brig drove with her head towards the shore. An attempt was made to veer; but, from the weight of the chain at the bow, this manoeuvre could not be effected: fearing, therefore, to drift any more to the westward, in which direction we were making rapid way, I was under the necessity of slipping the chain, by which we lost one hundred fathoms of cable. Being now freed from this impediment, the brig’s head was placed off shore; and after making sail, we fired several muskets and shewed lights, as signals to the Dick, who, it afterwards appeared, kept a light up for our guidance; but the weather was so squally and thick, with almost constant rain, that it was not seen by us. At day-dawn we were joined by our companions; and, as it was not possible, from the state of the weather, to regain the anchors we had lost, made sail towards Turtle Island, on our way to which we passed Escape River. Both of these places reminded us of former perils; but the recollection of our providential preservation on those occasions, as well as on many others during our former voyages, increased the grateful feelings which we now felt for our safety and protection during the last night, the anxieties and circumstances of which can never be obliterated from our minds. At 4 p.m. (July 1st), we passed Booby Island, and steered W.b.S. across the Gulf of Carpentaria.”
On the 7th July 1821, Lieutenant King was advanced to the rank of commander. On the 25th, he again entered Prince Regent’s River, and there completed his fuel and water. On the 7th August, Mr. Montgomery was speared in the back by a native, and several days elapsed before he considered himself out of danger.
“On the 20th,” remarks Commander King, “we were beginning to feel the effects of this fatiguing duty. One-fourth of the people who kept watch were ill with bilious or feverish attacks, and we had never been altogether free from sickness since our arrival upon the coast. Mr. Montgomery’s wound was, however, happily quite healed, and Mr. Roe had also returned to his duty; but Mr. Cunningham, who had been confined to the vessel since the day we arrived in Careening Bay (July 23d), was still upon the sick list. Our passage up the east coast, the fatigues of watering and wooding, and our constant harassing employment during the examination of the coast between Hanover Bay and Cape Levêque, had produced their bad effects upon the constitutions of our people. Our dry provisions had suffered much from rats and cockroaches, and this was not the only way these vermin annoyed us, for, on opening a keg of musket-ball cartridges, we found, out of 750 rounds, more than half the number quite destroyed, and the remainder so injured as to he useless.
“Aug. 26th. – As the wind now blew constantly from the S.W., or from some southern direction, and caused our progress to be very slow and tedious; and as the shore for some distance to the southward of Cape Latouche-Treville had been partly seen by the French, I resolved upon leaving the coast. The want of a second anchor was so much felt, that we dared not venture into any difficulty where the appearance of the place invited a particular investigation, on account of the exposed nature of the coast, and the strength of the tides, which were now near the springs: upon every consideration, therefore, it was not deemed prudent to rely any longer upon the good fortune that had hitherto so often attended us in our difficulties. Accordingly, we directed our course for Mauritius.”
After re-fitting at Port Louis, the Bathurst proceeded to King George the Third’s Sound, where she remained, in amicable intercourse with the natives, from Dec. 23d, 1821, until the 6th Jan. 1822. Between Jan. 14th and 29th, the whole of the west coast of New Holland, from Rottnest Island to the N.W. cape, with the exception of Shark’s Bay, was examined; and on the 8th Feb. we find Commander King again off Cape Levêque. Another remarkable escape is thus recorded in his journal:–
“It was my intention to have brought up under the lee of Point Swan, where Dampier describes his having anchored in 29 fathoms, clear sandy ground; but, upon rounding the projection, the wind suddenly fell, and, after a light squall from S.W., we had a dead calm; the depth was thirty fathoms, coral bottom, and therefore not safe to anchor upon: this was unfortunate, for the sudden defection of the wind prevented our hauling into the bay out of the tide, which was evidently running with considerable rapidity, and drifting us, without our having the means of preventing it, towards a cluster of small rocks and islands, through which we could not discover any outlet, and which were so crowded, that in the dangerous predicament in which we found ourselves placed, they bore a truly awful and terrific appearance. At this time, I was at my usual post, the mast-head, directing the steerage of the vessel; but, as the brig was drifting forward by a rapid sluice of tide towards some low rocks, about a quarter of a mile off, that were not more than two feet above the water’s edge, and upon which it appeared almost inevitable that we must strike, I descended to the deck, under the certain conviction that we could not escape the dangers strewed across our path, unless a breeze should spring up, of which there was not the slightest appearance or probability. Happily, however, the stream of the tide swept us past the rocks without accident, and, after carrying us about half a mile farther, changed its direction to S.E., drifting us towards a narrow strait, separating two rocky islands, in the centre of which was a large insulated rock that seemed to divide the stream. The boat was now hoisted out and sent a-head to tow, but we could not succeed in getting the vessel’s head round. As she approached the strait, the channel became much narrower, and several islands were passed, at not more than thirty yards from her course. The voices of natives were now heard, and soon afterwards some were seen on either side of the strait; we were so near to one party, that they might have thrown their spears on board. By this time, we were flying past the shore with such velocity, that it made us quite giddy; and our situation was too awful to give us time to observe the motions of the Indians: for we were entering the narrowest part of the strait, and the next moment were close to the rock, which it appeared to be almost impossible to avoid. It was more than probable that the stream it divided would carry us broadside upon it, when the consequences would have been truly dreadful. The current, or sluice, was setting past the rock at the rate of eight or nine knots, and the water being confined by its intervention, fell at least six or seven feet; at the moment, however, when we were upon the point of being dashed to pieces, a sudden breeze providentially sprung up, and, filling our sails, impelled the vessel forward three or four yards; – this was enough, but only just sufficient, for the rudder was not more than six yards from the rock. No sooner had we passed this frightful danger than the breeze fell again, and was succeeded, by a dead calm; the tide, however, continued to carry us on with a gradually decreasing strength, until one o’clock, when. we felt very little effect from it.
The Bathurst returned to Port Jackson on the 25th April, 1822; sailed for England, Sept. 25th; and, after touching at the Cape of Good Hope, St. Helena, and Ascension, arrived at Plymouth, April 23d, 1823. Commander King concludes his journal with the following observations upon what he had then effected, and what yet remains to be done upon the northern coasts of Australia:–
“Beginning with the north-eastern coast, I have been enabled to lay down a very safe and convenient track for vessels bound through Torres Strait, and to delineate the coast line between Cape Hillsborough, in 20° 54' S., and Cape York, the north extremity of New South Wales; a distance of 690 miles. As my instructions did not authorize my delaying to examine any part of this coast, I could not penetrate into the many numerous and extensive openings that presented themselves in this space; particularly in the neighbourhood of Capes Gloucester, Upstart, and Cleveland; where the intersected and broken appearances of the hills at the back are matters of interesting inquiry and research.
“My instructions at first confined me between Cape Arnhem and the N.W. cape, but were subsequently extended to the western coast. The examination of the northern and part of the north-western coasts, from Wessel Islands to Port George the Fourth, a distance of 790 miles, has been carefully made, and, with a few exceptions, every opening has been explored. Those parts in this interval that yet require examination are some inlets on the south side of Clarence Strait, and one of more considerable size to the eastward of Cambridge Gulf, trending in to the S.E.: otherways, the coast comprised within those limits has been sufficiently examined for all the purposes of navigation.
“The coast between the N.W. cape and Depuch Island, containing 220 miles, has also been sufficiently explored; but between the latter island and Port George the Fourth, a distance of 510 miles, it yet remains almost unknown. The land that is laid down is nothing more than an archipelago of islands fronting the main-land, the situation of which is quite uncertain. Our examinations of these islands were carried on as far as Cape Villaret; but between that and Depuch Island the coast has only been seen by the French, who merely saw small detached portions of it. At present, however, all is conjecture; but the space is of considerable extent, and if there is an opening into the interior of New Holland, it is in the vicinity of this part. Off the Buccaneer’s Archipelago, the tides are strong, and rise to the height of 36 feet. Whatever may exist behind these islands, which we were prevented by our poverty in anchors and other circumstances from exploring, there are certainly some openings of importance; and it is not at all improbable that there may be a communication at this part with the interior for a considerable distance from the coast.
“The examination of the western coast was performed during an almost continued gale of wind, so that we had no opportunity of making any very careful observation upon its shores. There can, however, be very little more worth knowing of them, as I apprehend the difficulty of landing is too great ever to expect to gain much information; for it is only in Shark’s Bay that a vessel can anchor with safety.”
On the 11th Aug. 1825, the secretary of the Admiralty Wrote to Commander King as follows:–
“Sir,– I have received, and communicated to my Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty, your letter of the 22d of last month, reporting the final completion of the service upon which you have been employed since the year 1817, in regard to the survey of the coasts of New Holland, the subsequent arrangement of the charts, and the preparation of a set of sailing directions; and I am commanded by their lordships to express to you their approbation of your labors. I am, &c.
(Signed)“J. W. Croker.”
Commander King’s “Narrative of the Survey of the Intertropical and Western Coasts of Australia,” was published by Murray in 1826 ; and his “Atlas,” by the Hydrographical Office at the Admiralty. Of the latter, the following review appeared in the United Service Journal:–
“The work before us is contained principally in eight sheets, comprising the north-east, the north-west, and the western coasts of Australia; the former of which was so nearly fatal to our great circumnavigator Cook. The first sheet commences with the Northumberland Islands; and includes the coast between lat. 21° 50' S. and l8° 40' S. The second from lat. 19° S. to lat. 14° 30' S.; and the third contains the north-eastern extreme of Australia and Torres Strait. The anxiety of Captain Flinders to examine the great Gulf ot Carpentaria, induced him to defer for another opportunity the survey of this part of the coast, although it is by far the most dangerous of the whole continent. The shores of this extensive country on either side, from their southern extreme, are bold and comparatively free from dangers. But no sooner are the warm latitudes entered, than they become fringed with coral reefs. From Hervey’s Bay on the east, in the latitude of 25° S., to the mouth of Shark’s Bay on the west, in nearly the same parallel, the coral reefs prevail, to the terror and disquiet of the navigator. Mount Warning and Cape Tribulation, so aptly named by Cook, prepares him and introduces him among them.
“Although no pains seem to have been spared by Captain King in laying down all the reefs that came in his way, the time when we shall see complete charts of the intertropical coasts of Australia is yet very far distant. The charts are given on the scale of six inches to the degree of longitude. Much, however, remains to be added to them, although the interior limits of the great Barrier Reefs are pretty dearly defined, and the passage is given within it, which is the principal benefit resulting from the survey of this part of the coast. Hitherto vessels bound to the northward, and through Torres Strait from Port Jackson, had invariably adopted the passage outside the reefs, and had endeavoured as much as possible to avoid them. By this route they increased their difficulties as they advanced to the northward, where the reefs become more numerous as well as extensive, and where it is necessary to enter them in order to pass through Torres Strait. Captain King seeing the danger attending this, and aware that Captain Cook had merely passed along this part of the coast, directed his attention towards finding another passage, and succeeded in discovering a route towards Torres Strait, which he says, ‘is infinitely preferable on every account to the dangerous navigation without the reefs.’ The only river which falls into this part of the coast, and which in itself is a trifling stream, is Endeavour River, in lat. 15° 27' S., famous for being visited, and receiving its name from Captain Cook. The coast about Cape Bowling-green, on the N.E. part of Australia, presented the appearance of a river being there, but was not explored by Captain King.
“The Gulf of Carpentaria, which received its name from James Carpentier, a Dutch commander, who explored it in 1627, had been examined by Captain Flinders. The coast line in his chart is not connected, but his track is sufficiently near it to set aside the possibility of any great error in the contour of the gulf, and Captain King recommences his survey at Cape Arnhem, its western limit. We now come to that part of Australia which had been discovered by the Dutch navigators, and we find the names of the various discoverers retained in the charts of the coast. The earliest of these is that named Endracht’s Land, which was visited in 1616 by the ship of that name, signifying the Concord, commanded by Dirk Hartog; an island on the west coast, lying in 25° 30', and forming Shark’s Bay, still bears the name of this commander.
“Arnhem’s Land of 1618, extending from the meridian of 129° to 137° E. occupies the fourth sheet of Captain King’s survey. The principal features in it are Arnhem’s Bay and Van Diemen’s Gulf, with Melville and Bathurst Islands. A low sandy point projecting from the former of these at its N.W. extreme is Cape Van Diemen. The Dutch charts represented these two islands as being connected with the continent; but Captain King found them separated from it by a strait, to which he gave the name of Apsley Strait.
“The Liverpool and Alligator rivers, are the principal that fall into this part of the coast. The mouth of the former, situated in long. 134° 15' E., is about four miles wide. This was explored to about forty miles within its entrance, where it was found to diminish gradually to an inconsiderable stream. The banks of it are flat and muddy, and found by Captain King to be infested with alligators, though not so large as those of the Alligator rivers. These consist of three rivers lying close to each other, and falling into Van Diemen’s Gulf, in long. 132° 30' E. The south river, or middle one of these, is the most considerable, and navigable for vessels of 100 tons, to a distance of thirty-six miles from its mouth, where it assumes the same appearance as the Liverpool. The tide was found to ebb off from their banks, leaving a considerable space between high and low water marks. They seem to afford nothing of importance, and, as their names indicate, are rather a retreat for alligators than likely to prove of any beneficial purpose.
“Formal possession was taken of this part of the coast in 1824, by Captain Bremer, of H.M.S. Tamar. The ceremony was first performed at Port Essington; but from its not affording water, the settlers were removed to Melville Island, and the foundation of a town established oo the borders of Apsley Strait, which separates Bathurst from Melville Islands. We are indebted to Lieutenant Roe, the present surveyor-general of the settlement at Swan River, for a very useful survey of Port Cockburn, the harbour of the settlement. In this chart, which includes Apsley Strait, the entrance to Port Cockburn is very clearly defined, as well as the limits of the extensive flat, called the Mermaid’s shoal, extending to the west from Cape Van Diemen.
“The portion of coast lying between the meridians of 122° and 130° E. is contained in the next sheet of Captain King’s survey. This presents a far more interesting, and varied appearance, than the foregoing. Several portions of it are given in separate plans on a larger scale, the first of which is Cambridge Gulf. This is an inlet about sixty miles in depth, and eleven in width, terminating in a narrow creek, but entirely destitute of fresh water, and, like much of the preceding coast line, is incomplete in that particular. Vansittart Bay, Admiralty Gulf, and the Buccaneer’s Archipelago, form three distinct and separate portions of this chart. The latter of these was so named by Captain King, from its having been visited by Dampier in 1688, and Point Swan commemorates the name of his commander. In each of these charts there is much wanting in the coast line to complete them, and a considerable opening of fifteen miles in width remains entirely unexplored.
“The principal rivers of the north-west, and indeed of the whole coast of Australia, are found here. A very remarkable circumstance is presented in Prince Regent’s River, by its running in a strait line a distance of forty-nine miles between high precipitous cliffs. It was explored to this extent by Captain King, and amply repaid him the trouble by its magnificent scenery. The cliffs on each side rise to the height of three and four hundred feet, and a magnificent cascade was found on one of its banks, of a hundred and forty feet in height; the further examination of this river was abandoned for want of time. Roe’s river, and another falling into Port Warrender, are also considerable streams, which fall into the coast near Prince Regent’s river. To the south-west of this latter river, are some extensive openings, which may be the mouths of other rivers, but were left unexamined.
“The succeeding portion of coast, extending to the meridian of 117° E. is contained in the next sheet. It is mostly taken from the survey made by Captain Baudin in the French expedition to these parts, and this was only seen by them at a distance. The coast between Forestier’s Islands and Cape Latouche Treville, an extent of about 250 miles, is laid down in this manner.
“The coast between Forestier’s Islands and Cape Cuvier is better defined on the last sheet of the north-west coast. Dampier’s Archipelago in 117° E. longitude, as well as Exmouth Gulf, at the north-west extremity of the continent, are given on an extended scale in separate charts. The former of these was named by M. Baudin, Rosemary Island, being generally supposed to be that on which Dampier landed. The eastern coast of Exmouth Gulf still remains to be examined.
“The whole western coast of the continent is contained in one sheet, and is the last of Captain King’s charts of Australia. Although on a very limited scale, the nature of the coast generally is not such as to require it much larger, if we except Shark’s Bay, the adjacent harbours, and Swan River, of which places we should have been glad of particular plans. A misplaced reliance on the surveys of the French, induced Captain King to leave these places, and it is no less remarkable than true, that although we have of late established a colony at the entrance of Swan River, we do not possess a plan of it which can be depended on as accurate; and although we know something of the localities of Cockburn Sound, our chart of it is far from being complete. The deficiency has been in some degree made up by a plan of the entrance to this Sound, published at the Admiralty, from a survey by Lieutenant Roe, the surveyor-general of the colony, to whom we have before alluded. It is intended principally to show the entrances to the Sound, between Carnac Island (formerly Isle Berthoullet) and Buache Island. So far it is sufficient for navigation, but requires many soundings, as well as the approaches to Swan River, to complete it. We sincerely hope, that for the benefit of navigators, as well as for the new settlement, that this will be shortly followed by a chart of the southern half of the Sound, and a good plan of Swan River.
“A survey of the entrances of Macquarie Harbour in Van Diemen’s Land, by Captain King, remains yet to be noticed, as well as an elaborate and very useful plan of Port Jackson, by Lieutenant Roe. The former of these two presents an intricate channel into a spacious harbour, the channel being rendered narrow and dilHcult to navigate, by extensive flats of sand projecting from each shore. That of Port Jackson, by Lieutenant Roe, contains all the various branches of this noble harbour, and extends up to Paramatta.
“The above surveys are accompanied by some elaborate and very useful descriptions of those parts of the coast that were visited by Captain King, which will always prove a useful reference to future navigators.
“In concluding our remarks on these surveys, we cannot but lament with Captain King, the necessity there was for leaving the charts in their imperfect and unfinished state. He repeatedly regrets his inability, from the nature of his orders, to examine the various openings he passed, some of which he concludes, from their appearance, might he the mouths of considerate rivers. This will no doubt hereafter prove to be the case, particularly with those about Cope Bowling-green on the north-east, and Collyer’s Bay on the north-west coast. Their general character may, perhaps, be better estimated from his own opinion of them, which we find us follows:– ‘As it was not intended that I should make the survey of this extensive tract of coast, I did not feel myself authorised to examine in any very detailed way, the bottom of every bay or opening that presented itself; but merely confined myself to laying down the vessel’s track, and the various positions of the reefs that were strewed on either side of it; and also to fixing the situations of the headlands. In doing this, enough has been effected to serve as the precursor of a more particular examination of the coast, the appearance of which, from its general fertile and mountainous character, made me regret the necessity of passing 30 hastily over it.’”
At the commencement of the next instructions which Commander King received from the Admiralty, we find the following paragraph:
“Whereas we think fit that an accurate survey should he made of the southern coast of the peninsula of South America, from the southern entrance of the Rio Plata round to Chiloe, and of Tierra del Fuego, and whereas we have been induced to repose confidence in you from your conduct of the surveys in New Holland, we have placed you in the command of H.M. surveying vessel the Adventure, and we have directed Commander Stokes of H.M. surveying vessel the Beagle to follow your orders.”
During this voyage, Commander King surveyed the coasts of South America from Cape Blanco, on the Atlantic side, lat. 47° 15' S., round Cape Horn, and through the Straits of Magalhaens, up to Cape Tres Montes, on the Pacific, lat. 47°; also the archipelago called Tierra del Fuego, and the islands on the S.W. coast. The commencement of this survey is thus described by an officer of the Adventure:–
Montevideo, April 25th, 1827.
“We have just returned from our first cruise to the southward, after the absence of nearly six months; and, as a knowledge of our proceedings may not be wholly uninteresting, I will briefly relate the particulars of the voyage.
“On the 19th Dec. the ships entered the Straits of Magellan, having anchored at two places only on the east coast of Patagonia, viz. Port St. Elena and near Cape Fairweather, at neither of which were any traces of natives observed. In the latter end of December several rather severe gales of wind were experienced, by which our progress was somewhat retarded, and we did not reach Port Famine until the 6th Jan. the Beagle having been there completed with provisions, &c. proceeded to the western extremity of the Straits, and our decked boat, dignified with the name of the Hope tender, was hoisted out, and equipped for service with all expedition. During the three months we remained at Port Famine, a considerable extent of coast was explored by means of the Hope, and she proved to be admirably adapted for the service. Many deep sounds and inlets on the Fuegian side (some of which were formerly imagined to be channels) were examined, and the straits as far as Cape Forward may, with a few exceptions, be said to be completed. The supposed channel of St. Sebastian still remains a problem; but I believe it will be solved early next season. There is reason to suppose no channel exists in that direction, as low land has been distinctly seen, stretching across the opening, from the summit of a mountain near Port Famine.
“The Beagle rejoined us in the beginning of March, having fixed the positions of Cape Pillar, Cape Victory, the Evangelists, &c. and performed other important services; and, early in April, both vessels left Port Famine, to return here for supplies.
“We have not experienced the bad weather we anticipated; on the contrary, we found it as fine as what might have been expected in the same parallel of north latitude. The Beagle, however, was not so fortunate, having met with a great deal of rainy and squally weather.
“At the Bay of St. Gregory, between the first and second Narrows, we communicated with a tribe of Patagonians, consisting of upwards of 100 people, and found them a quiet and inoffensive race, anxious apparently to cultivate our friendship. I wish it was in our power to confirm the accounts given by former navigators, of the gigantic stature of these people; the tallest we met with did not exceed six feet two inches, and the majority were certainly considerably under six feet. They are, however, remarkable in having a very broad and full chest, and their frame is unquestionably exceedingly large; but their limbs are not in the same proportion, being somewhat smaller than the average of Europeans. They were well provided with horses, equipped in the manner of Buenos Ayres, and several spoke tolerably good Spanish; from which it may be inferred that they communicate occasionally with the Rio Negro and other civilised nations. – Horses and guanacoes appear to afford them all the necessaries of life. They subsist entirely on the flesh, and the skins are used both for clothing and shelter. In hunting they make use of two or three balls, attached to thongs of hide, which, after having been swung several times round the head, to acquire a sufficient impetus, are thrown with unerring certainty at the animal’s legs, and entangle them in such a manner, that it is utterly impossible for the creature to extricate itself, and it consequently falls an easy prey.
“We also met with several families of Fuegian Indians, who form a striking contrast with the Patagonians, being in every respect a very inferior race of people. They derive their subsistence entirely from the sea, the flesh of the seal affording them food, whilst their skins are converted into clothing. They appear to drag on a miserable existence in their cold and inhospitable climate, strangers to every comfort, and their condition is certainly the lowest on the scale of human degradation.
“The only unfortunate circumstance that occurred during the cruise, was the loss of a boat in crossing the Straits near Port Antonia. By this unhappy event the master and two seamen were drowned. In the death of poor Ainsworth the service has lost a valuable officer, and bis fate will be long and sincerely deplored by every one attached to the expedition. It is curious that humming birds and parrots should be found so far south as the Straits of Magellan; but such is the fact. The existence of the latter has been noticed by most of the previous voyagers; but we are not aware of humming birds having been observed. Several were seen by the Beagle at Port Gallant, one of which was shot, and is in the possession of Captain King. Two curious documents were also found at that place, on the summit of a mountain – one the copy of a paper left by Cordova, the other a paper deposited by Bougainville, both in Latin, and descriptive of the objects of their several voyages.”
The only other information which we are at present enabled to promulgate respecting this very interesting voyage, is derived from the Literary Gazette, Oct. 30th, 1830:–
“The particular object of the survey appears to have been to obtain an accurate account of the straits of Magalhaens, with the view of ascertaining how far that navigation might be adopted, instead of the passage round Cape Horn. And the result of this investigation proves, that the name of Cabo Tormentoso, bestowed by the first discoverers on the Cape of Good Hope, may be with much more reason applied to its corresponding point on our globe, the bleak and barren termination of the new world. Of the continent of South America, the southern part is justly described as a region of storms, cold, and rain.
“The Spanish surveys have been found by Captain King to be very near the truth; a remark which is, we believe, generally applicable to the hydrographical works of that nation. The strong prevailing currents in the straits, running from the west, renders it unlikely they will ever be frequented, except by vessels on sealing voyages. On the subject of the passage round Cape Horn into the Pacific, the opinion of Lord Anson is decidedly confirmed by modern navigators, with the exception of his recommendation not to pass through the Straits of Le Maire. He says, that ‘all ships bound to the South Seas, instead of passing through the Straits of Le Maire, should constantly pass by the eastward of Staten Land, and should be invariably bent on running as far as the latitude of 61° or 62° south, before they endeavour to stand to the westward; and ought then to make sure of a sufficient westing in or about that latitude, before commencing a northern course.’ This is now proved to be precisely correct in all but one point, which is, that vessels should pass through the Straits of Le Maire for the following reasons, and we trust our readers will excuse us if we use a little nautical phraseology in the explanation of so important a point.
“It is well known that westerly and south-westerly winds are the most prevalent in this part of the world; a vessel, therefore, by keeping as close to the coast as is proper, has the advantage of being considerably to the westward, and consequently to windward, when she meets with the westerly winds on opening the cape, and can therefore stand down to the southward ready to take advantage of a slant to the northward, which another vessel passing to the eastward of Staten Land could not do.
“By the expedition under the command of Captain King, the numerous creeks and inlets of the south-west coast have been all examined to their termination, which has led to the discovery of the Otway (named, we presume, after the gallant and worthy admiral. Sir Robert) and Skyring waters; two very extensive salt-water lakes which nearly intersect the continent. The innermost parts of the various creeks were found to extend into valleys with glaciers forming magnificent terminations to the water. Much of the country about the Gulf of Penas is low and flat, and in most parts little better than mere bog.
“The Beagle being detached on the examination of the Islands of Tierra del Fuego, and to ascertain the position of Cape Horn, Captain (Robert) FitzRoy with Lieutenant (James) Kemp, one of his officers, visited the celebrated promontory, of sonorous name, and erected a pile of stones, twelve feet high on it. The observations for the latitude differed very little from those made by the Spaniards.
“The vessels have brought home various specimens, carefully preserved, of the animals, minerals, and plants, of the districts which they have visited, and which will prove an interesting addition to our South American collections. Captain Fitzroy has also brought to England two men, with a boy and a girl, natives of Tierra del Fuego, whom he proposes, after having them instructed in various matters which may tend to the civilization of their country, to send back again. These people were at first detained as hostages for some seamen, who, with the master of the Beagle, were forced to remain on shore, in consequence of the boat in which they had landed having been stolen by the natives; and until a rude canoe was constructed by the master, which enabled the whole party to get on board, they were without the means of rejoining their vessels.
“Four officers and seven men of the expedition have died since the Adventure and Beagle left England. Amongst the former is Captain Stokes, who commanded the Beagle when she sailed from this country, and of whose melancholy death, as well as of other events connected with the sailing and progress of this expedition, we have from time to time given accurate accounts in the Literary Gazette. In this expedition the perseverance of Captain King, under most difficult and trying circumstances, cannot be too highly spoken of. We have heard the names of two young officers. Lieutenants (William George) Skyring and (Thomas) Graves, particularly mentioned, for their zeal and activity in promoting the objects of the survey. The former, who was placed in command of a small vessel, named the Adelaide, attached to the expedition as a tender, surveyed nearly all the coast, from the Gulf of Penas to the southward of the Guanaco islands, where it is supposed the unfortunate crew of the Wager, one of Lord Anson’s ships, were cast away in 1744.
“It was found, on making this survey of the Gulf of Penas, and that portion of the shore designated Tres Montes, that the latter was joined to the mainland by a neck of land, called the Isthmus of Offaqui. We have no doubt, from the indefatigable exertions of Captain Beaufort, the hydrographer of the Admiralty, that the details of this important addition to our maritime knowledge, will speedily be made known to the public.”
Commander King was promoted to the rank of captain, Feb. 25th, 1830. On the 25th April and 9th May, 1831, “some observations upon the geography of the southern extremity of South America, Tierra del Fuego, and the Strait of Magalhaens,” made by him during his recent survey, and accompanied with a map, were read before the Geographical Society of London. His wife is Harriet, sixth daughter of Christopher Lethbridge, of Launceston, co. Cornwall, Esq., and, we believe, that he is already the father of seven sons.
- See Vol. III. Part I. p. 187.
- United Service Journal, Dec. 1830.
- Commander Stokes, who had for some time been apparently labouring under an aberration of intellect, terminated his existence early in Aug. 1828, and was succeeded in the command of the Beagle by Lieutenant Skyring.