Phillip Parker King.

Narrative of a Survey of the Intertropical and Western Coasts of Australia Performed between the years 1818 and 1822 — Volume 1 online

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caused its death.

We now found that the proved superiority of our weapons, instead of
quieting them, only served to inflame their anger the more; and we were
evidently on the point of an open rupture. One of them seized the
theodolite-stand, which I carried in my hand, and I was obliged to use
force to retain it. They then made signs to Mr. Hunter to send his gun to
the boat; this was of course refused, upon which one of them seized it,
and it was only by wrenching it from his grasp that Mr. Hunter
repossessed himself of it.

Many little toys were now given to them, on receiving which their
countenances relaxed into a smile; and peace would perhaps have been
restored, had we not unfortunately presented them with a looking-glass,
in which they were, for the first time, witnesses of their hideous
countenances, which were rendered still more savage from the ill-humour
they were in. They now became openly angry; and in very unequivocal terms
ordered us away. Fortunately the Indian that carried the spear was the
least ill-tempered of the party, or we should not perhaps have retreated
without being under the necessity of firing in self-defence.

We retired however without any farther rupture and left them seated on
the bank, whence they continued to watch our movements until the boat was
loaded and we left the shore. They then came down to the beach and
searched about for whatever things we might accidentally have left
behind; and after examining with great attention some marks that, for
amusement, some of our party had scratched upon the sand, they separated.
The old man and the two boys embarked in a canoe and paddled round the
point towards the Cape, in which direction also the other two natives
bent their steps.

The tall, slender form of the Port Jackson natives and their other
peculiarities of long curly hair, large heads, and spare limbs are
equally developed in the inhabitants of this part. The bodies of these
people are however considerably more scarified than their countrymen to
the southward, and their teeth are perfect. One of our visitors had a
fillet of plaited grass, whitened by pigment, bound round his head, and
this was the only ornament worn by them.

The spear was of very rude form and seemed to be a branch of the
mangrove-tree, made straight by the effect of fire: it did not appear
that they used the throwing-stick.

The soil of the hills of Cape Clinton is of good quality but the country
at the back of the port appears to be chiefly marshy land. Mr. Hunter
sowed orange and lemon seeds in various places in the neighbourhood of
the cape; the climate of this part is so well adapted for those trees
that, if it were possible to protect them from the fires of the natives,
they would soon grow up, and prove a valuable refreshment to voyagers.

Captain Flinders describes the soil at the northern part of the port to
be "either sandy or stony, and unfit for cultivation."* The country
around Mount Westall is also formed of a shallow soil, but the low lands
are covered with grass and trees, and the ravines and sides of the hills
are covered with stunted pine-trees which were thought to be the
Araucaria excelsa.

(*Footnote. Flinders volume 2 page 38.)

The country between Port Bowen and Shoalwater Bay is low and overrun with
mangroves; but Captain Flinders* speaks more favourably of the land about
the latter bay, particularly in the vicinity of his Pine Mount, where he
describes the soil as being fit for cultivation. At Upper Head in Broad
Sound the country appears to be still better;** in addition to which the
great rise of tides might be of considerable importance to that place,
should a settlement there ever be contemplated.

(*Footnote. Flinders volume 2 page 51.)

(**Footnote. Idem volume 2 page 71.)

Having obtained sights on the beach at Cape Clinton for the time-keepers
we sailed out of this port by the same track that we entered; and held
our course to the northward towards the Northumberland Islands.

At midnight we were abreast of the Percy Islands.

July 23.

At noon the next day we passed to the westward of the islet, marked kl,
and thence steered between the Three Rocks and k2, and, before sunset,
were near l2, the island on which Captain Flinders landed.

July 24.

The night was passed under sail and at daylight, when we resumed our
course towards the Cumberland Islands, Linne Peak and Shaw's Peak, and
the land about Capes Hillsborough and Conway were seen. At noon we were
off Pentecost Island.

Hence we steered to the northward within a string of rocky islets. On
passing this part, some natives came down to a point, and kindled a fire
to attract our attention. At four o'clock in the evening we rounded the
north extreme of the Cumberland Islands; and by sunset obtained a set of
bearings to connect the present survey with that of last year. A lofty
peak on the main, distinctly visible from all parts, particularly from
Repulse Bay, was named after the late Jonas Dryander, Esquire; it was
ascertained to be 4566 feet high.

The Cumberland Islands are all high and rocky and are covered on their
windward or south-east sides with stunted timber and pine-trees; but the
leeward sides, being sheltered from the wind, are generally well clothed
with grass and timber. The pine-trees on these islands do not appear to
be of large dimensions but several vessels have cut spars upon the
islands near the south end of Whitsunday Passage, large enough for
topmasts and bowsprits for vessels of 400 tons burthen. It is not
probable that larger spars can be obtained: they are very tough, but full
of knots; and, when carried away by the wind, break short without

July 25.

We passed Capes Gloucester and Upstart during the night and early part of
the next morning. Between the latter cape and the low projection of Cape
Bowling-green, we experienced an in-draught of three-quarters of a knot
per hour. This also occurred last year; and it should be guarded against
by ships passing by: for the land about the latter cape is so low that it
cannot be seen at night.

From the period of our entering among the Northumberland Islands, the
weather, although fine, had been more than usually hazy; the wind during
the day blew moderately from South by East and South, and veered towards
night to South-East by East and East-South-East; but when we passed Cape
Cleveland it blew a fresh breeze, and was so very hazy that we could not
take advantage of our vicinity to the coast by verifying or improving any
part of our former survey, except the outer or seaward side of the Palm
Island Group, near which we passed in the evening.

July 26.

The next morning we were off the southernmost Barnard's Island, and as
the coast between Double Point and Fitzroy Island had not been
satisfactorily laid down on the previous examination of this part, we
steered near the shore in order to improve it; but the land was much
overcast and the summits of Bellenden Ker's Range were so enveloped in
clouds that very little improvement was effected.

A breeze, however, in the evening from South-East dispersed the vapours
that had collected during the day on the sea horizon. In passing outside
of Fitzroy Island, a sandbank situated nine miles East 1/2 South from the
island was noticed, and other banks were reported from the masthead; but
on my going up I saw nothing more than a bright appearance on the
horizon, which is however an indication of their existence that seldom
failed in being correct, whenever an opportunity offered of proving it.

Bearing up between Cape Grafton and Green Island we steered North-West
1/2 North, by compass to make the Low Isles in Trinity Bay. The weather
was thick and misty with showers of rain; but, as a sight of these
islands was of consequence in crossing this bay, we continued to steer
for them, and at midnight they were seen. This enabled us to direct the
course with more confidence towards Cape Tribulation over Captain Cook's

July 27.

At daylight we were off the cape and soon passed to the eastward of the
Hope Islands; between which and Endeavour River we had an opportunity of
laying down the reefs in the offing, particularly that on which the
Endeavour struck, and which so nearly proved fatal to her enterprising
commander and his companions.

As it was our intention to visit Endeavour River to complete our former
observations for the determination of its longitude, we hauled in for the
land and upon reaching the entrance, with which I was sufficiently
acquainted, steered over the bar on which the least water was ten feet,
and secured the cutter to the beach on the same spot occupied at our last

Being anxious to see what change had taken place during an absence of
twelve months, our steps were naturally first directed to the spot where
our boat had been built; the remains of our encampment were still
visible, and the carpenter's bench was exactly in the same state as it
had been left: the Mermaid's name, which had been carved on a tree, was
also legible; but in a short time would have been defaced by the young
bark which had already nearly covered it. Upon visiting our former
watering place we were mortified to find that it was quite dried up; and
this may probably account for the absence of natives, for there was not a
single vestige of their presence on this side of the port; but as large
fires were burning at the back of the north shore it was presumed they
were in that direction. On setting fire to the grass to clear a space for
our tent, it was quickly burnt to the ground, and the flames continued to
ravage and extend over the hills until midnight.

July 28.

The following day we erected tents and commenced some repairs to the
jolly-boat, which was hauled up in the usual place; the other two boats
were sent to the north end of the long sandy beach on the opposite side
to examine the state of the rivulet which we had noticed there last year.
On their return they reported it to be still running with a plentiful
stream; and although it was rather inconvenient, from the beach being
exposed to the swell and surf, yet our boats made daily trips to it
without any ill consequences, notwithstanding one of them was once
swamped in loading; it did not however sustain any injury.

Another stream of water was subsequently found on the south side, a
little without the entrance of the harbour, but too brackish for the
purposes of drinking; it was therefore merely used during our stay for
the common purposes of washing and cooking.

Whilst our people were thus employed I was assisted by Mr. Roe at the
observatory. As the particulars of our observations for this and the
preceding years are inserted in the Appendix it will be sufficient here
merely to record the position of the observatory; it was situated on the
south shore opposite the low sandy north point; and was found to be in:

Latitude: 15 degrees 27 minutes 4 seconds.
Longitude: 145 degrees 10 minutes 49 seconds.
Variation of the compass: 5 degrees 13 3/4 minutes East.
Dip of the south end of the Needle: 38 degrees.
High water at full and change: at eight o'clock.

July 29.

On the 29th Mr. Bedwell went to Captain Cook's Turtle Reef but he was
unsuccessful in his search for that animal; neither did he find any
shells different from what we had previously seen; only a few clams
(Chama gigas) were brought away, besides a small fish of the shark tribe
(Squalus ocellatus, Linn.). At high water the reef was overflowed
excepting at its north-west end where a patch of sand not larger than the
boat was left dry. At low tide the key, or the ridge of rocks heaped up
round the edge of the reef, was left dry and formed a barricade for the
interior, which is occupied by a shallow lake of circular shape in which
many small fish and some sharks were seen swimming about. It was from
this reef that Captain Cook, during the repair of his ship, procured
turtle for her crew; and, this being the same season, we were
disappointed in not obtaining any. On the return of the boat she was
placed in some danger from the number of whales, of the fin-back species,
that were sporting about the surface of the water and occasionally
leaping out of it and lashing the sea with their enormous fins.

July 30.

On the 30th, having hitherto carried on our occupation without seeing or
hearing anything of the natives, whilst I was busily employed with Mr.
Roe in observing the sun's meridional altitude, I happened on looking
round to espy five natives standing about forty or fifty yards off among
the high grass watching our movements. As soon as they perceived we had
discovered them they began to repeat the word itchew (friend) and to pat
their breasts, thereby intimating that their visit had no hostile motive.
As the sun was rapidly approaching its meridian I called Mr. Bedwell from
on board to amuse them until our observations were completed. The only
weapons they appeared to carry were throwing-sticks, which we easily
obtained in exchange for some grains of Indian corn.

A few words were obtained by Mr. Cunningham which served to confirm many
we had possessed ourselves of last year; and which, being afterwards
compared with the vocabulary of the New South Wales language given by
Captain Cook, proves that he obtained it at Endeavour River. And here it
is not a little curious to remark that, of the only two words which
materially differ in the two accounts, one of them is the name of the
kangaroo. This word was repeatedly used to them last year, as well as
this, accompanied by an imitation of the leap of the animal, which they
readily understood; but on repeating the word kangaroo they always
corrected us by saying "men-u-ah." This animal has therefore been
distinguished by a name which chance alone gave it; and not, as has
always been supposed, from the term applied to it by the natives of the
part where Captain Cook first saw it.

The resemblance of the words in the following vocabulary proves that the
language of these people has not changed since Captain Cook's visit; and
that in the term for kangaroo he has been mistaken.


Kangaroo : Men-u-ah : Kangaroo.
Canoe : Mar-a-gan : Maragan.
Eye : Ca-ree, or Me-ell : Meul.
Nose : E-mer-da, or Po-te-er : Bon-joo.
Ear : Mil-kah : Melea.
Teeth : Mol-ear.
Knee : Bon-go : Pongo.
Toes : Eb-e-rah.
Navel : Tool-po-ra : Tool poor.
A quail : Kah-kee or Mool-lar.
Friend : It-chew.
Pigment : Wo-parr.
Feathers : Te-err.
Hair of the head : Mor-re-ah : Morye.
Beard : Wol-lah : Wallar.
Nipples : Coy-o-ber-rah : Cayo.
Fingers : Mun-gal-bah.
Elbow : Ye-er-we.
Huts : Ye-er-kah.
Go along, go away, or go on : Tattee or Tah-tee.

Among the presents made to them were some beads which they appeared to
consider of little value; but what pleased them most was a bird that Mr.
Hunter shot previous to their appearance.

Their visit did not last longer than a quarter of an hour during which
they were very pressing for us to accompany them; finding us however
unwilling to trust ourselves in their power, for from our experience of
their mischievous behaviour last year we had good reason to be suspicious
of their intentions, they went away, but after walking a short distance,
one of them returned, and stooping, picked up something with which he
immediately slunk off, evidently with the hope of having escaped our
notice: but in this he was disappointed; for Mr. Hunter and Mr.
Cunningham followed him and ascertained that he had returned to carry
away his spear which had been concealed close at hand during their
communication with our party; and by the limping gait of the rest it was
probable that they all carried spears between their toes; a practice that
has been frequently observed among the natives in many parts of New South
Wales, when they wish to conceal their being armed; and which generally
indicates a mischievous intention.

Shortly after their departure the country towards the back of the harbour
was perceived to have been set on fire by them; as the wind was fresh the
flames spread about in all directions; and in the evening our people
being allowed to range about for amusement, increased the conflagration
by setting fire to the surrounding grass; so that the whole surface was
in a blaze.

July 31.

The next day, whilst busily employed at the tent in calculating some
lunar distances, we were suddenly alarmed by the rapid approach of the
flames; but having previously taken the precaution of burning the grass
off round the tent, their advance was received with unconcern: the
rapidity and fierceness however with which they approached made me fear
that the sparks might set fire to the tent, upon which the instruments
were moved to the water's edge and the tent pulled down; but, had not the
grass been previously cleared away, we could not have saved any article,
from the rapidity with which the flames spread through that which had
been left standing and which was not more than ten yards from the tent.

1820. August 2.

Three days after the visit from the natives, Mr. Bedwell and Mr. Hunter
proceeded to examine among the mangroves at the back of the harbour for a
communication with some fresh water ponds which we had discovered the day
before; but they returned in the afternoon without success. They had
penetrated up two or three openings in the mangroves; in one of which was
found a canoe, similar to that described by Woodcut 3: it was hollowed
out of the trunk of the erythrina and was furnished with an outrigger. A
turtle-peg was found in it, which Mr. Hunter brought away; it measured
seventeen inches in length and was in other respects similar to that used
by the natives of Rockingham Bay. (See Woodcut 4.) On the mud and close
to the canoe the gentlemen noticed the impression of a human foot, that
must have been made since the previous high tide. They also saw an
alligator but it was not more than eight feet in length.

Mr. Cunningham returned in the evening from a walk to the summit of Mount
Cook, much fatigued from the difficulty he experienced in the ascent: he
brought with him however a collection of specimens and seeds, which fully
repaid him for the toil of his excursion. He also rendered his expedition
useful to me by taking the bearings of some reefs in the offing and by
furnishing a sketch of the bay on the south side of the mountain, and of
the rivulet which falls into it. This did not appear to him to be deep
enough for a vessel larger than a boat. It was this bay that Captain Cook
first examined for a place to repair his ship after his escape from the
reef; but he found it much too inconvenient and exposed for his purpose;
and it was after this that Endeavour River was discovered.

On one of Mr. Cunningham's explorations he found several cabbage palms
(Seaforthia elegans, Brown); but they were too distant from the tents to
induce me to send for any for the ship's company. Besides this he also
found a species of yam (Caladium macrorhizum, Cunn. manuscripts) the
roots of which would have furnished an excellent substitute for
vegetables for us, had the plants been found in abundance and convenient
for gathering.

During our stay at this harbour our gentlemen visited every part of the
country within five or six miles from the tents. The soil, although
covered with grass, was generally remarked to be shallow and of inferior
quality; as was sufficiently indicated by the small size of the trees.
The distance to which we had penetrated was by no means sufficient to
give a fair idea of the nature of the country in the interior; which from
its hilly appearance might be expected to possess both a rich soil and a
better pasturage than the parts we had seen; but for the latter, the
neighbourhood of the entrance of Endeavour River was by no means

The small number of our crew prevented my sending away a party to examine
the interior with any certainty of protection either to the travellers or
to those left in charge of the vessel; and this circumstance, on several
occasions, precluded us from forming any correct idea of the productions
of the places we visited, which we probably might have been partially
enabled to do by a walk of two or three miles from the sea.

Some kangaroos were seen by us during our visit; and Mr. Hunter shot a
few birds: among the latter was a specimen of the Psittacus haematodus,
or Blue-mountain parrot of Port Jackson; and a crane-like bird, similar
to the Ardea antigone, was seen at a distance. Some of our gentlemen
observed the impression of a bird's foot, resembling that of an emu; it
was nine inches broad: very few insects were found here. We saw no more
of the natives after their visit on the 30th but the smokes of their
fires were frequently observed in the interior. Mr. Cunningham found some
traces of their having eaten the fruit of the pandanus, of which he says,
"Pandanus pedunculatus, Brown, forms ornamental clumps on these arid
downs, and, being now heavily laden with its compound fruit, afforded me
an ample supply of seeds in a well-ripened state. These tempting
orange-coloured fruits had induced the natives to gather a quantity for
the sake of the little pulp about their base, and I observed that, in
order to enjoy themselves without trouble, they had lately kindled their
fires immediately beneath some of the trees laden with fruit, which with
some shellfish had afforded them a good repast." Cunningham manuscripts.

The weather during our visit has been oftener clouded and hazy than
clear: the wind veered between South-South-East and East-South-East, and
was generally fresh and accompanied with squalls. The thermometer ranged
on board in the shade between 70 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit, and the heat
was by no means oppressive.

Having sufficiently attained our object in visiting this place, and
having also taken the opportunity of completing our wood and water and
repairing our boat, we prepared to sail.

August 5.

And on the 5th at seven o'clock in the morning weighed anchor and made
for the bar; but the wind was so baffling and unsteady that we had great
difficulty in passing over it.

Our course was then directed round Cape Bedford towards Lizard Island. On
our way we noticed several shoals. Off the south-west end of the island
we saw a great many whales: soon after three o'clock we anchored in a
sandy bay on its south-west side.

August 6.

The wind during the night and the following day blew so fresh as to
prevent our proceeding; the delay was therefore taken advantage of by our
gentlemen to land and examine the island. It may be recollected that it
was from the summit of Lizard Island that Captain Cook discovered the
openings in the reefs through which he passed and got to sea; little
thinking that, by so doing, he was incurring a greater risk than by
remaining within the reefs and steering along the coast. Some of our
people walked round the island where they found a whaler's ton butt cast
upon the beach: it had probably belonged to the Echo. Near the cask were
lying several coconuts, one of which was quite sound and perfect. The
beach was strewed with pumice-stone heaped up above the high-water mark.

The basis of the island is a coarse-grained granite. A shallow soil on
the sides of the hills, the surface of which was thickly strewed with
stones and large masses of rock, nourished a slight clothing of grass and
other herbage. The summit of the island forms a peak, and is perhaps
about a thousand feet high; the island is thinly wooded with small trees
which scarcely deserve the appellation of timber.

No natives were seen but it was evident they had lately been upon the
island from the recent appearances of their fireplaces and the perfect
state of a hut, which was a more comfortable habitation than we have
usually found: it was arched over in the usual way, by twigs bent in the
form of a dome; and was neatly thatched with dry grass. No turtle marks
were noticed on the beach so that I should think this was not the season
for laying their eggs.

August 8.

We were detained at this anchorage from the unfavourable state of the
weather until the 8th, on which day we sailed and steered for Howick
Group on a direct and unimpeded course. The channel appeared equally free
on either side of the group; but as it was a material object, on account
of the unfavourable state of the weather, to make sure of reaching the
anchorage under Cape Flinders, we did not attempt to pass round the

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Online LibraryPhillip Parker KingNarrative of a Survey of the Intertropical and Western Coasts of Australia Performed between the years 1818 and 1822 — Volume 1 → online text (page 21 of 25)