Phillip Parker King.

Narrative of a Survey of the Intertropical and Western Coasts of Australia Performed between the years 1818 and 1822 — Volume 2 online

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up by banks of sand and rocks; but on my return the tide was higher, and
I pulled about one mile up the northernmost inlet, where I was again
stopped by the shoalness of the water. All these places must afford
abundance of fresh water during the rainy season, and perhaps are seldom
without; and, as this was a year of unusual drought, it is not improbable
that the river in which we watered generally afforded a very considerable
stream; if so, from its proximity to the anchorage, the bay is of great
importance, and is an excellent place for refreshment: turtle might be
procured at the islands in its vicinity, and abundance of very fine fish
at the sandy beach: the anchorage is safe in all parts, being protected
from the sea by the islands in the offing, which front the bay. There is
also abundance of wood that may be cut close to the waterside.

Ships detained during the westerly monsoon, as far to leeward as the
meridian of 125 degrees, would find an advantage in putting into Hanover
Bay, and remaining there until the wind should veer round: by which they
would avoid the necessity of beating to windward, over such dangerous
ground as extends between this part to Timor; and, by being to the
southward, out of the strength of the westerly winds, at the latter end
of February and beginning of March, when southerly and south-east winds
prevail on the coast, they might much earlier effect their passage to the
westward.

The beach of Hanover Bay is situated in latitude 15 degrees 18 minutes 21
seconds, and 13 minutes 40 seconds West of our observatory at Careening
Bay, which makes its longitude 124 degrees 47 minutes 5 seconds East of
Greenwich.

August 11.

The next morning (11th) we left Hanover Bay and steered out at the
distance of a mile and a half from the western shore. After passing round
the western head, we entered a deep opening, and, running into it for
some distance between a rocky shore on either side, came into an
extensive basin, in the centre of which was a high island which we saw at
a distance last year, and then called the Lump, from its shape. As a set
of bearings from this island was desirable, the vessel was anchored
abreast of it at about a mile and a half from the shore; having landed
upon it in time to observe the sun's meridional altitude in the
artificial horizon, we ascended its summit and obtained the desired
bearings; we also discovered Freycinet's Island on the horizon, bearing
North 13 degrees 42 minutes West; this island was distinguished easily by
its form, which is that of an inverted basin. A large island lies in the
centre of the entrance of the port, by which two channels are formed; the
westernmost has several patches of rocks in it, but the eastern one,
which we used, appeared to be clear and free from danger, excepting a
rocky shelf projecting from the eastern shore for not more than three
quarters of a mile. In the afternoon we examined the former, and from a
summit at the south-west end of the island in the entrance obtained
another set of bearings. Afterwards we sounded its channel, and found a
deep passage, but too narrow and intricate to be preferred to the eastern
channel.

Whilst one boat was thus employed, Mr. Baskerville went to examine an
opening at the bottom of the port, which he reported to be a strait,
trending round to the South-West for six miles, beyond which his view was
intercepted by the next projecting point. The strait, which he called
after Captain R.H. Rogers, R.N., is sprinkled with many islands and dry
reefs of great extent.

August 12.

On the 12th I was occupied in laying down the plan of this place, which,
on account of the day, was honoured with the name of our most gracious
king, Port George the Fourth.

August 13.

The next day we sailed out by the eastern channel, but having to beat
against the wind, made no further progress than an anchorage off Point
Adieu, which was the last land seen by us in the Mermaid; it is the north
end of the land that forms the west side of Port George the Fourth, which
was afterwards called Augustus Island: to the westward of the point there
appeared to be many islands and much broken land. I sent Mr. Roe to Point
Adieu to get some bearings from the summit of the hill, and in the
meantime Mr. Baskerville sounded the channel between the point and the
islands; which he found to be deep and clear; Mr. Roe's report, however,
of the appearance of the inner part among the islands was not so
favourable, for it is studded over with numerous extensive reefs, which,
being low water, were exposed to view. Mr. Roe saw a tolerably broad
separation between two islands to the south-west, but more to the
westward the islands were so numerous that very little information as to
their shape or number could be obtained.

August 14.

At daylight the following morning we weighed, and with a moderate
land-breeze from South-East, steered to the North-West, and passed round
the islands. Very far to the northward on the sea horizon we saw a
sandbank, surrounded with heavy breakers; and more to the westward was an
island, which was at first supposed to be one of the Champagny Isles of
Captain Baudin, but which I afterwards satisfied myself was Captain
Heywood's Red Island: it is rocky and of small extent and apparently
quite barren. We were soon afterwards abreast of a strait leading between
some rocky islands to the southward; which, as it appeared to be free
from danger, we purposed to steer through. The brig entered it at noon,
when it was high-water, and as she advanced and reached the narrow part,
the ebb-tide was setting so strong against us that, although we were
sailing five knots by the log, we were losing ground; we continued
however to persevere for three hours and a half, and had run nearly
twenty miles by the log without gaining an inch; the breeze then died
away, and not being able to stem the tide, we steered back for anchorage,
but it was dark and late before a favourable bottom was found so that we
lost all the progress that we had gained since noon.

August 15.

The next morning, after taking angles from the sun's rising amplitude, we
got underweigh and stood towards the strait to make another attempt to
pass through it. The view that was obtained yesterday evening from the
masthead before we put about to look for anchorage, induced us to suppose
that many reefs existed in the neighbourhood of its south entrance, for
one of very extensive size was observed dry, lying off the south-west end
of the island that bounds the west side of the strait. The north end of
that island also appeared to be fronted by many shoals, which either
embrace Red Island and extend to the northward, or else the channels are
narrow and deep. The flowing tide, now in our favour, carried us quickly
forward: as we passed on we heard the voices of natives and soon
afterwards perceived two standing on a hill; our course was, however, so
rapid that we were soon out of sight of them; their fires were seen
yesterday but then they did not make their appearance.

The flood-tide, running to the South-West through the strait, meeting the
ebb flowing North-East into the deep bay to the South-East, formed many
strong ripplings, which to a stranger would have been a frightful vortex
to have entered, and although we had lately been accustomed to such
appearances, yet we did not encounter them without some fear. After
clearing them we sounded on a muddy bottom; upon which, as the weather
was so thick and hazy as to conceal the land from our view, we anchored
in seventeen fathoms muddy sand, at six miles from the strait.

In the afternoon the weather cleared a little, but it was still too thick
for us to be underweigh, so that we remained all the evening, which was
profitably spent in bringing up the chart; a little before sunset the
weather cleared and afforded a good view of the land, which to the
South-East is composed principally of islands, but so numerous that the
mainland could not be distinguished beyond them; a point, afterwards
called Point Hall, round which the land trended to the southward, bore
from the anchorage South 19 degrees East.

The direction of the tides, the flood setting South-South-East, and the
ebb North-North-West and North-West, induced me to suppose that the
opening to the eastward of the bay we were at anchor in, which was called
Camden, in compliment to the noble Marquess, was not only connected with
Rogers Strait, but was also the outlet of another considerable river or
bay.

At the anchorage the flood did not run at a greater rate than a mile and
a half an hour, but it ebbed two miles, and fell thirty-seven feet, which
is the greatest rise and fall we had yet found; it is probable, from the
intricate nature of the coast, that these high tides are common to all
this neighbourhood.

August 16.

At five o'clock on the morning of the 16th after a fine night the wind
sprung up from the East-South-East and blew fresh; but misty weather
immediately after sunrise enveloped us, and clouded our view. The breeze
was too fresh for us to continue at anchor, we therefore got underweigh,
and made sail by the wind; but upon standing across the channel and
finding that the flood-tide set to the South-West, we bore away, and,
passing round Point Hall, steered to the southward towards some low
islands that were just visible through the haze, and which, being
disposed in a group, were named after Mr. Andrew Montgomery, the surgeon
of the Bathurst.

At noon our latitude observed to the South was 15 degrees 44 minutes 16
seconds. The land was visible from the deck as far as South 30 degrees
West, but from the masthead at one o'clock it was seen as far as South 50
degrees West, and a long low island, the westernmost of Montgomery Isles,
bore from South-West by West to South-West by South. The group besides
this contained six other isles, which are all low and rocky and crowned
with bushes: as we approached them the water shoaled to ten fathoms rocky
ground; which on being reduced to the depth of low water, would not be
more than five and perhaps only four fathoms. Between Point Hall and
these islands the ground was also rocky, and, as the group appeared to be
connected by reefs, we steered off to pass round them; the wind, however,
changing to the westward, detained us all the evening near them.

The land to the southward trended deeply in and appeared to be much
broken in its character and very uninviting to us who had only one anchor
to depend upon. This bight was named, at Mr. Montgomery's request, in
compliment to the late Captain Sir George Collier, Bart., K.C.B., R.N.
During the greater part of the night the wind was light, and by the
bearings of a fire on the land we were making but little drift.

August 17.

At sunrise we were near two low islands, bearing South 12 degrees 22
minutes West, and South 20 degrees West, from which very extensive reefs
were seen extending between the bearings of South and South-West by West.
They were called Cockells Isles. We passed round their north end over a
bottom of hard sand, mixed with shells, stones, and coral; in doing which
we found an irregular depth, but as the water did not shoal to less than
twelve fathoms our course was not altered. Soon after the sun appeared
above the horizon the distant land was again enveloped in mist. At eight
o'clock we ventured to steer more southerly, but continued to sound over
a rocky bottom until ten o'clock, when the islands bore South-East; we
then steered South-West through a muddy channel with the flood tide in
our favour, towards some land that, as the mist partially cleared off,
became visible as far as South-West 1/2 West; some islands were also seen
bearing South-South-East; and at noon, being in latitude 15 degrees 50
minutes 39 seconds, we found ourselves off a bay, the east head of which
was formed by several islands. The land at the back appeared to be of
tolerable height but its outline was so level, that it did not present
any prominent feature sufficiently defined to take a bearing of more than
once; its coast appeared to be fronted by several rocky islands and to be
very much intersected to the westward; either by straits or considerable
openings.

The continued hazy state of the weather prevented our ascertaining the
particular feature of the country; it seemed to be rocky and very bare of
vegetation; but they were some parts, particularly on one of the islands
to the eastward at the entrance of Collier's Bay, where a few good-sized
trees were growing over a sandy beach.

The ebb tide after noon was against us, and the wind being light, we were
making no progress. As sunset approached, we began to look for anchorage;
but the suspicious nature of the bottom and the great depth of the water
prevented our being successful until some time after dark; the anchor was
at last dropped in twenty-eight fathoms, on a bottom of sandy mud, with
the ebb-tide setting to the North-West, at the rate nearly of two knots.

Several whales of that species called by whalers fin-backs were playing
about us all day, and during the morning two or three were seen near the
vessel lashing the water with their enormous fins and tails, and leaping
at intervals out of the sea, which foamed around them for a considerable
distance.

After anchoring the wind was variable and light from the western quarter
but during the night there was a heavy swell. The flood-tide, which
commenced at nine o'clock, when the depth was twenty-eight fathoms,
gradually ran stronger until midnight, when its rate was two miles per
hour: high-water took place at 3 hours 15 minutes a.m., or at twelve
minutes before the moon passed her meridian; the rise being thirty-six
feet.

August 18.

We were underweigh before six o'clock the next morning, and after
steering by the wind for a short time towards the southward (on which
course the tide being against us we were making no progress) bore up with
the intention of hauling round the point to leeward for anchorage, whence
we might examine the place by the means of our boats, and wait for more
favourable weather; but upon reaching within half a mile of the point we
found that a shoal communication extended across to a string of islands
projecting several miles to sea in a West-North-West direction: in mid
channel the sea was breaking, and from the colour of the water it is more
than probable that a reef of rocks stretches the whole distance across
the strait; but this appearance, from the experience we afterwards had of
the navigation of this part, might have been produced by tide ripplings,
occasioned by the rapidity of the stream, and by its being contracted in
its passage through so narrow a pass; it was however too doubtful and
dangerous to attempt without having some resource to fly to in the event
of accident.

Being thus disappointed, we were under the necessity of steering round
the above-mentioned range of islands, and at nine o'clock were two miles
North-East by East from the small island 18, when our latitude by
observation was 15 degrees 57 minutes 56 seconds; the depth being
thirty-seven fathoms, and the bottom of coral mixed with sand, mud, and
shells.

To the westward and in a parallel direction with this line of islands was
another range, towards which we steered; at sunset we hauled to the wind
for the night, off the northernmost island which afterwards proved to be
the Caffarelli Island of Captain Baudin. Between these two ranges of
islands we only obtained one cast of the lead which gave us thirty-three
fathoms on a coral bottom. Upon referring to the French charts of this
part of the coast it appeared that we were in the vicinity of a reef
(Brue Reef) under which the French ships had anchored; and, as the night
was passed under sail, we were not a little anxious, fearing lest there
might be others in its neighbourhood.

August 19.

At daybreak Caffarelli Island bore South-South-East; and shortly
afterwards we had the satisfaction of seeing Brue Reef; it appeared to be
partly dry but of small extent.

We passed within half a mile of the dry rock that lies a mile and a half
from the west end of Caffarelli Island and afterwards endeavoured to
steer between the range of islands, of which Caffarelli is the
northernmost, and a group of rocky isles, marked 33; but finding we could
not succeed from the scanty direction of the wind, then blowing a fresh
breeze from South-East, we bore up round the west side of the latter and
then steered by the wind towards a group of which the island 40 is the
principal. On approaching 40 there appeared to be a channel round its
south-end; but afterwards observing the sea breaking in the direction of
our course, we tacked off to pass round the west extremity of the group,
towards two small low islands, 50 and 51, that were seen in the distance
bearing about South 84 degrees West. The tide, having been before in our
favour, was now against us, and, setting with great strength, drove us
near the rocks that front the islands to the northward of Island 40; the
wind was however sufficiently strong to enable us to clear the dangerous
situation we found ourselves in, but soon afterwards it fell to a light
air and we were carried by the tide rapidly towards the low rocky
extremity of the islets, which we were nearly thrown upon, when a breeze
suddenly sprung up again from the South-East and enabled us to clear this
impending danger. We were now drifting to the South by East through a
wide channel, sounding in between fifty and sixty fathoms, rocky bottom.
Had the evening been less advanced and the wind favourable, we could have
run through, and taken our chance of finding either anchorage or an open
sea; and although this would certainly have been hazarding a great risk,
yet it was of very little consequence in what part of the archipelago we
spent the night, as the spots which we might consider to be the most
dangerous might possibly be the least so. We had however no choice; we
were perfectly at the mercy of the tide, and had only to await patiently
its ebbing to drift us out as it carried us in.

By our calculations high-water should have taken place at a quarter past
four o'clock; every minute therefore after that time was passed by us
most anxiously. Every now and then we were in the midst of the most
violent ripplings and whirlpools, which sometimes whirled the vessel
round and round, to the danger of our masts. Five o'clock at last arrived
and the tide-eddies ceased, but the stream continued to run until a
quarter of an hour afterwards, when at last the brig began to drift out
slowly. To add now to the dilemma and the danger we were in a breeze
sprung up against us: had it continued calm we should have been drifted
back through the deepest part of the channel, over the same ground that
the flood had carried us in: we however made sail and beat out, and
before dark had made considerable progress; we then lost sight of the
land until eleven o'clock when some was seen to the eastward: at
half-past eleven we had a dead calm; and, to increase our anxiety, the
tide had begun to flow and to drift us towards the land, which was then
ascertained to be the group 33, on whose shores the sea was distinctly
heard to break. As midnight approached the noise became still more and
more plain; but the moon at that time rose and showed that our position
was very much more favourable than we had conjectured; for, by bearings
of Caffarelli Island and the body of 33 group, I found we were at least
two or three miles from the shore of the latter.

August 20.

A few minutes after midnight we were relieved from our fears by the
sudden springing up of a fresh breeze from South-West, and in a moment
found ourselves comparatively out of danger.

At daylight we were eight miles to the north-east of Caffarelli Island;
whence we steered to the South-West by West and South-South-West. Brue
Reef was seen as we passed by it. At noon our latitude was 16 degrees 14
minutes 1 second, Cape Leveque bearing South.

From noon until one o'clock we were steering South-South-West, but made
no progress, on account of an adverse tide which occasionally formed such
strong eddies and ripplings that we were several times obliged to steer
off to get without their influence. The land of Cape Leveque is low, and
presents a sandy beach lined by a rocky reef, extending off the shore for
a mile, on many parts of which the sea was breaking heavily: the land was
clothed with a small brush wood, but altogether the coast presented a
very unproductive appearance, and reminded us of the triste and arid
character of the North-West Cape.

On laying down upon the chart the plan of this part, I found Cape Leveque
to be the point which Dampier anchored under when on his buccaneering
voyage in the Cygnet in 1688. He says: "We fell in with the land of New
Holland in 16 degrees 50 minutes, we ran in close by it, and finding no
convenient anchoring, because it lies open to the North-West, we ran
along shore to the eastward, steering North-East by East, for so the land
lies. We steered thus about two leagues, and then came to a point of
land, from whence the land trends east and southerly for ten or twelve
leagues; but how, afterwards, I know not. About three leagues to the
eastward of this point there is a pretty deep bay with abundance of
islands in it, and a very good place to anchor in or to hale ashore.
About a league to the eastward of that point we anchored in twenty-nine
fathom, good hard sand and clean ground." He then proceeds to say: "This
part of it (the coast) that we saw is all low, even land, with sandy
banks against the sea, only the points are rocky, and so are some of the
islands in the bay."*

(*Footnote. Dampier volume 1 page 462.)

From this description I have little hesitation in settling Cape Leveque
to be the point he passed round. In commemoration, therefore, of his
visit, the name of Buccaneer's Archipelago was given to the cluster of
isles that fronts Cygnet Bay, which was so-called after the name of the
ship in which he sailed. The point within Cape Leveque was named Point
Swan after the Captain of the ship; and to a remarkable lump in the
centre of the Archipelago the name of Dampier's Monument was assigned.
During the last four days we have laid down upwards of eighty islands
upon the chart, and from the appearance of the land it is not improbable
but that there may be as many more behind them.

Had we even recognised the bay above alluded to by Dampier before we
passed round Cape Leveque, we could not have anchored in it for the wind
was blowing strong from the northward, and a heavy swell was rolling,
which would have placed us in rather a dangerous situation, besides its
being exposed to easterly winds, which for the last two or three days had
blown very strong. During the time we had been among these islands, we
had not met with a single spot that we could have anchored upon without
the almost certain loss of our anchor; and the weather had been so very
thick and hazy that only the land in the vicinity of the vessel's
situation could be at all distinguished; and these disadvantages, added
to the great strength of the wind and the rapidity of the tides, had
materially prevented us from making ourselves better acquainted with the
place. It is remarkable that as soon as we passed round the Champagny
Isles, hazy weather commenced, and continued without intermission until
we were to the westward of Cape Leveque. The French complain of the same
thing; and they were so deceived by it that, in their first voyage, they
laid down Adele Island as a part of the main, when it is only a sandy
island about two or three miles long. No natives were seen on any of the
islands but there were many large smokes on the horizon at the back of
Cygnet Bay.

We were now 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, was still upon the sick list. Our passage up the east
coast, the fatigues of watering and wooding at Prince Regent's River, and
our constant harassing employment during the examination of the coast
between Hanover Bay and Cape Leveque, had produced their bad effects upon
the constitutions of our people. Every means were taken to prevent



Online LibraryPhillip Parker KingNarrative of a Survey of the Intertropical and Western Coasts of Australia Performed between the years 1818 and 1822 — Volume 2 → online text (page 5 of 40)