[The French Expedition--Buonaparte's lavish outfitting--Baudin in the Géographe--Coast casualties--Sterile and barren appearance--Privations of the crew--Sails for Timor--Hamelin in the Naturaliste--Explores North-Western coast--Swan River--Isle of Rottnest--Joins her consort at Coepang--Sails for Van Dieman's Land--Examination of the South-East coast of Australia--Flinders' prior visit ignored--French names substituted--Discontent among crew--Baudin's unpopularity--Bad food--Port Jackson--Captain King's Voyages--Adventures in the Mermaid--An extensive commission--Allan Cunningham, botanist--Search at Seal Islands for memorial of Flinders' visit--Seed sowing--Jeopardy to voyage--Giant anthills--An aboriginal Stoic--Cape Arnhem and west coast exploration--Macquarie Strait--Audacity of natives--Botanical results satisfactory--Malay Fleet--Raffles Bay--Port Essington--Attack by natives--Cape Van Dieman--Malay Teachings--Timor and its Rajah--Return to Port--Second Voyage--Mermaid and Lady Nelson--East Coast--Cleveland Bay--Cocoa-nuts and pumice stones--Endeavour River--Thieving natives--Geological formation of adjacent country--Remarkable coincidences--Across Gulf of Carpentaria--Inland excursion--Cambridge Gulf--Ophthalmia amongst crew--Mermaid returns to port.]
The voyage of the Géographe and Naturaliste, under Commander Baudin, was undertaken whilst the explorations of Flinders were in progress, and their meeting on the south coast, and the subsequent substitution of French for English names, led to a very sore feeling on the part of the English navigator.
The expedition was under the special sanction of Buonaparte, and there is little doubt was mainly dictated by his morbid jealously of the maritime supremacy of England.
Even at the time when the army of reserve was on the move to cross the Alps, he found leisure to attend to the details of the projected expedition and nominate twenty-three persons to accompany the ships and make scientific observations. "Astronomers, geographers, mineralogist, botanists, zoologists, draftsmen, horticulturists, all were found ready in number, double, treble, or even quintreple."
"Particular care had been taken that the stores might be abundant and of the best quality. The naval stores at Havre were entirely at the disposal of our commander. Considerable sums were granted him for the purchase of supplies of fresh provisions, such as wines, liquors, syrups, sweetmeats of different kinds, portable soups, Italian pastes, dry lemonade, extracts of beer, etc., some filtering vessels, hand mills, stoves, apparatus for distilling, etc., had been shipped on board each vessel."
Added to which a national medal was struck to preserve the memory of the undertaking, and unlimited credit opened on the principal colonies in Asia and Africa.
Think of Flinders in the crazy old Investigator, of King and Cunningham cramped up in the Mermaid, where the cabin was not big enough for their mess-table, and imagine with what scorn they would have looked on these luxurious preparations.
M. Péron writes:--
"On the shores to which we were destined were many interesting nations. It was the wish of the First Consul, that as deputies of Europe, we should conciliate these uninformed people, and appear among them as friends and benefactors. By his order the most useful animals were embarked in our vessels, a number of interesting trees and shrubs were collected in our ships, with quantities of such seeds as were most congenial to the temperature of the climate. The most useful tools, clothing, and ornaments of every sort were provided for them; even the most particular inventions in optics, chemistry, and natural philosophy were contributed for their advantage, or to promote their pleasure."
Certainly if M. Baudin failed it would not be the fault of the First Consul.
On the 27th of May, 18oi, the coast of New Holland was made--"a blackish stripe from the north to the south was the humble profile of the continent first caught sight of." Their first acquaintance with the coast was not encouraging. Landing at Géographe Bay to examine a river reported to be there, the longboat was lost, a sailor named Vasse drowned, and the Naturaliste lost two anchors. The ships now parted company, the Géographe steering north to Dirk Hartog's Road, or Shark's Bay. Here they waited some time for the appearance of the Naturaliste, but that vessel not appearing, the Géographe sailed north, and on the 27th July they were in the neighbourhood of the much visited Rosemary Island. On the 5th of August the Lacepede Islands were found and named, but no landings were effected, and the voyagers described the appearance of the islands as "hideously sterile."
"In the midst of these numerous islands there is not anything to delight the mind. The soil is naked; the ardent sky seems always clear and without clouds; the waves are scarcely agitated, except by the nocturnal tempests: man seems to fly from these ungrateful shores, not a part of which, at least as far as we could distinguish, had the smallest trace of his presence. The aspect is altogether the most whimsical and savage, at all parts raising itself into a thousand different shapes of sandy, sterile, and chalky isles, many of them resembling immense antique tombs; some of them appear united by chains of reefs, others protected by immense sand-banks, and all that one could see of the continent displayed the same sterility, and the same monotony of colour and appearance. The dismayed and astonished navigator turns away his eyes, fatigued with the contemplation of these unhappy isles and hideous solitudes, surrounded, as he views them, with continual dangers; and when he reflects that these inhospitable shores border those of the archipelago of Asia, on which nature has lavished blessings and treasures, he can scarcely conceive how so vast a sterility could be produced in the neighbourhood of such great fecundity. We continued to range the coast, which seemed to make part of the archipelago, everywhere bordered with reefs and quicksands, against which the sea struck with violence, and varied itself as it were in sheafs of foam. Never was such a spectacle before presented to our observation. 'These breakers,'" says M. Boulanger, in his journal, "'seem to form several parallel lines at the shore, and little distant one from the other, above which the waves are seen raising themselves, successively breaking with great fury, and forming a horrible cascade of about fifteen leagues in length. We navigated at this time in the midst of shallows; the lead found only at times six fathoms. Then, though more distant from the land, we were not out of sight of it. This part of New Holland is truly frightful. All the islands that we could reconnoitre presented alike hideous characters of sterility. We continued to sail in the midst of shallows and sandbanks, compelled to repeatedly tack, and avoiding one danger only to fall into another.'"
Their privations were very heavy at this time; the food to which they had been reduced since their departure from the Isle of France had affected the health even of the strongest, and the scurvy increased its ravages. Added to that, the allowance of water beginning to fail, and their belief in the utter impossibility of taking any from these shores, the Géographe, after naming the archipelago of the north-west coast, Buonapartes, a name now obsolete, sailed for Timor, and here, after a lapse of some time, was joined by her consort. The stay at Coepang was a long one, for scurvy and sickness was rife amongst the crews and many died.
During the time Captain Hamelin of the Naturaliste was absent from his consort, he had been busy along the coast. The Swan River was explored by Bailly the naturalist, and the island of Rottnest examined.
"The River of Swans," says M. Bailly, .'was discovered in 1697 by Vlaming, and was thus named by him, from the great number of black swans he there saw. The river cannot be considered as proper to supply the water necessary for a ship; in the first place it is difficult to enter, and its course is obstructed by many shoals and sandbank; and secondly, the distance from the mouth of the river is too great before we can find any fresh water.
"In the meantime the days fixed by Captain Hamelin to wait for the Géographe had expired, and we had heard nothing of her, nor did it now appear likely that we should obtain any news of her by staying any longer on this coast, we therefore determined to sail for Endracht's Land, leaving on this island of Rottnest a flag, and a bottle with a letter for the Commander, in case he should touch there."
Leaving the Isle of Rottnest, they sailed north, intending to examine the shore, but the wind compelled them to keep off the land. After several attempts they succeeded in keeping near enough to distinguish the general constitution of the soil, and pronounced this part of Edel's Land of the same melancholy appearance as the shore of Leeuwin's Land. On the 9th of July they were in sight of the Isles of Turtel-Duyf and the Abrolhos, on which Pelsart was wrecked in the year 1629. Their first care on anchoring in the "Bay of Sea-dogs"--or Shark's Bay--so called by Dampier--was to find if the Géographe was there, or had been there, this being the second rendezvous appointed. No signs being found, they concluded to wait eight or ten days in the hope she would appear.
"Our chief coxswain, on his return from the island of Dirck Hartighs, brought us a pewter plate of about six inches in diameter, on which was roughly engraven two Dutch inscriptions, the first dated 25th of October, 1616, and the second dated 4th of February, 1697. This plate had been found on the northern point of the island, which for this reason we named Cape Inscription. When found it was half covered with sand, near the remains of a post of oak-wood, to which it seemed to have been originally nailed.
"After having carefully copied these two inscriptions, Captain Hamelin had another post made and erected on the spot, and replaced the plate in the same place where it had been found. Captain Hamelin would have thought it sacrilege to carry away this plate, which had been respected for near two centuries of time, and by all navigators who might have visited these shores. The Captain also ordered to be placed on the N.E. of the island a second plate, on which was inscribed the name of our corvette, and the date of our arrival on these shores."
Evidently M. de Freycinet had no such veneration for antiquity, for on his return from the voyage round the world he subsequently made, he is reported to have carried the relic home and deposited it in the Museum of the Institute in Paris.
Having done much to determine the size and formation of the great bight called Shark's Bay, the Naturaliste resumed her voyage, and joined her consort at Coepang, finding the Géographe had arrived there more than a month before. The Naturaliste, more fortunate than her companion, had few cases of scurvy on board, owing principally to their many and long stoppages on shore.
The ships in September took their departure from Timor for Van Dieman's Land, having on board a large proportion of sick. On drawing near the coast, the humidity of the climate and short allowance of water caused many deaths.
"On the 2nd of December, in 15 deg., we observed the first bird of paradise--the most beautiful of equatorial sea-birds. On the 22nd we saw more of them, and on this day we passed the Tropic of Capricorn. Thus these observations agree with what is so elegantly said by Buffon on the limits of the climates in which these beautiful birds are seen.
"Following the chariot of the sun in the burning zone between the tropics, ranging continually beneath that ardent sky, without ever exceeding the extreme boundaries of the route of the mighty stars of heaven, it announces to the navigator his approaching passage under the celestial signs.
"On the 29th of December, the sea appeared covered with janthines, the most beautiful of the testaceous molusques. This jellyfish, by means of a bunch of small vesicles filled with air, floats on the surface of the waters. On this shining shell I discovered a new kind of crustaceous animal, of a beautiful ultramarine blue, like the shell; I knew this to be a Pinnothera. This discovery is so much the more interesting, as it does not appear that any of these adhesive animals were ever before found in univalve shells. On this same day died my colleague, M. Levillian. During his stay in Dampier's Bay, he had made a fine collection of shells and petrifactions, which form long banks on these shores, and which are so much the more interesting, as most of them seem to have their living resemblance at the feet of the same rocks, which are composed of these petrified shells."
On their departure from Timor the ships sailed for Van Dieman's Land, having on board a large proportion of sick, and losing many lives on the way.
Through calms and wind they had much difficulty in doubling Cape Leeuwin, and on the 10th of January, 1802, they sighted the southern coast of Van Dieman's Land, and devoted some time to the examination of that island, finding many discrepancies in the chart of D'Entrecasteaux.
Sailing up the east coast, the Géographe sighted the mainland of Australia on the 28th March, near Wilson's Promontory, most carefully examining and naming all capes, bays, and harbours, little thinking that they were directly after Flinders. Whilst off this shore, the encounter with the Investigator took place, which has before been referred to. After the ships parted, Baudin continued along the south coast, already surveyed by Flinders, which he re-christened Napoleon's Land, and in Péron's narrative no reference at all is made to Flinders' prior investigation.
The French claim to the discovery and names of these shores was not received in France until after the publication of Flinders' book, which took place the day after his death.
Throughout the voyage Baudin had greatly embittered himself with his crew. He showed no sympathy nor care for the sick, and was harsh and unfeeling in his conduct to all on board; in fact, he is blamed for the constant presence of scurvy that had decimated his men. He seemed utterly to ignore all precautions for health, and refused to take the many preventatives that were accessible to prevent that dread disease. After the magnificent preparations that had been made, it is astonishing to read of the state of the ship before entering Port Jackson. M. Péron writes:--
"Several of our men had already been committed to the deep already more than the half of our seamen were incapable of service from the shocking ravages of scurvy, and only two of our helmsmen were able to get on deck. The daily increase of this epidemic was alarming to an extreme degree, and, in fact, how should it be otherwise?
"Three-quarters of a bottle of stinking water was our daily allowance; for more than a year we had not tasted wine; we had not even a single drop of brandy, instead was substituted half a bottle of a bad sort of rum, made in the Isle of France, and there only used by the black slaves. The biscuit served out was full of insects; all our salt provisions were putrid and rotten, and both the smell and taste were so offensive that the almost famished seamen sometimes preferred suffering all the extremities of want itself to eating these unwholesome provisions, and, even in the presence of their commander, often threw their allowance into the sea.
"Besides, there were no comforts of any kind for the sick. The officers and naturalists were strictly reduced to the same allowance as the seamen, and suffered with them the same afflictions of body and mind."
With unlimited credit and a princely outfit, this state of things did not speak well for the captain's management.
The sickness of his crew and want of provisions compelled the French commander to make for Port Jackson, and on arrival they heard of the safety of the Naturaliste, that vessel having parted from them off the coast of Van Dieman's Land and arrived there earlier, but left in search of them a few days before the Géographe made the port.
From Port Jackson the Naturaliste went home to France, the Géographe, in company with a small vessel purchased in Sydney, and placed in charge of Lieutenant Freycinet, pursuing her geographical labours in other parts of the world.
The many voyages of Captain P. P. King, son of the Governor of that name, are some of the most adventurous voyages ever chronicled in our history. On the 22nd December, in a tiny cutter called the Mermaid, he left Sydney for the first of his survey trips. It was the year 1817, and his mission was:--
"To examine the hitherto unexplored coasts of New South Wales from Arnhem Bay, near the western entrance of the Gulf of Carpentaria, westward and southward, as far as the North-West Cape, including the opening, or deep bay, called Van Dieman's Bay, and the cluster of islands called Rosemary Islands, also the inlets behind them, which should be most minutely examined; and, indeed, all gulfs and openings should be the objects of particular attention, as the chief motive for sour survey is to discover whether there be any river on that part of the coast likely to lead to an interior navigation into this great continent.
"It is for several reasons most desirable that you should arrive on this coast and commence your survey as early as possible, and you m-ill therefore, when the vessel shall be ready, lose no time in proceeding to the unexplored coasts, but you are at liberty to commence your survey at whichever side you may judge proper, giving a preference to that which you think you may be able soonest to reach, but in case you think that indifferent, my Lords would wish you to commence by the neighbourhood of the Rosemary Islands.
"Either on your way out, or on returning, you should examine the coast between Cape Leeuwin and the Cape Gosselin, in M. De Freycinet's chart, and generally you will observe that it is very desirable that you should visit those ranges of coast which the French navigators have either not seen at all, or at too great a distance to ascertain and lay down accurately."
Captain King was further instructed to take from Port Jackson seeds of all vegetables that he considered most useful to propagate on the coasts to be visited, and to plant them not only in the best situations for their preservation, but that, also, they might be in sight and reach of succeeding navigators.
All notes, surveys, and drawings were to be made in duplicate, and on every opportunity to dispatch a copy, with full report, of his progress.
The most important subjects to obtain information on were:--
"The general nature of the climate as to heat, cold, moisture, winds, rains, periodical seasons, and the temperature. The direction of the mountains, their names, general appearance as to shape, whether detached or continuous in ranges. The animals, whether birds, beasts or fishes, insects, reptiles, etc., distinguishing those that are wild from those that are domesticated. The vegetables, and particularly those that are applicable to any useful purpose, whether in medicine, dyeing carpentry, etc.; all woods adapted for furniture, shipbuilding, etc. To ascertain the quantities in which they are found, the facility, or otherwise, of floating them down to a convenient place for shipment. Minerals, any of the precious stones, how used or valued by the natives; the description and characteristic difference of the several tribes of people on the coast. Their occupation and means of subsistence. A circumstantial account of such articles growing on the sea coast, if any, as might be advantageously imported into Great Britain, and those that would be required by the natives in exchange for them. The state of the arts, or manufactures, and their comparative perfection in different tribes. A vocabulary of the language spoken by, every tribe which you meet, using in the compilation of each word the same English words."
How much was expected to be accomplished by King with his company of seventeen, including Messrs. Bedwell and Roe as mates, and Mr. Allan Cunningham, botanical collector! he also had "Boongaree," a Port Jackson native, who had accompanied Captain Flinders in the Investigator, And promised to be of great service in any intercourse with the natives. Provisions for nine months were procured, and twelve weeks water.
The Mermaid's outfit being completed too early in the season to attempt the passage by way of Torres Straits to the north-west coast, King, rather than remain inactive, determined to sail viâ Bass' Strait and Cape Leeuwin.
At Seal Island they landed, and searched in vain for the bottle left there by Captain Flinders, containing an account of the Investigator's visit, not with any motive of removing it, but to add a memorandum. On the summit of the island or rock--for it can scarcely be called an island--the skeleton of a goat's head was found, and near it were the remains of a glass case-bottle. These, as was afterwards learned, were left by Lieutenant Forster, R.N., in 1815, on his passage from Port Jackson to Europe.
Next day they anchored off Oyster Harbour, and examined the bar, finding they could lie close to the shore. It was convenient for all purposes, the wood being abundant and close to the waterholes, which were dug in the sand; so that both wood and water could be procured without going far away from the vessel, thus preventing any possibility of a surprise from the blacks.
It was here that Captain Vancouver planted and stocked a garden with vegetables, but no signs of it now remained, also the ship Ellegood's garden, which Captain Flinders found in 1802; the lapse of sixteen years, however, would make a complete revolution in the vegetation. Cunningham made here a large collection of seeds and dried specimens from the vast variety of beautiful plants and flowers.
"A small spot of ground near our tent was dug up, and enclosed with a fence, in which Mr. Cunningham sowed many culinary seeds and peach stones; and on the stump of a tree, which had been felled by our wooding party, the name of the vessel and the date of our visit was inscribed; but when we visited Oyster Harbour three years afterwards, no signs remained of the garden, and the inscription was scarcely perceptible, from the stump having been nearly destroyed by fire."
Sickness having attacked the crew, little attempt was made to investigate the west coast, but a straight course was steered to Cape North-west, that goal of so many navigators. On the 10th of February, 1818, while at anchor off the Cape, the cable parted, and they lost one of their anchors, an accident which considerably endangered the remainder of the voyage, as on the 12th the fluke of a second anchor broke in consequence of the wind freshening during the night. Three days afterwards they reached a secure anchorage, which he named the Bay of Rest, as the crew had been long fatigued when the found it. Here a landing was effected, and Allan Cunningham took occasion to measure one of the gigantic ant-hills of that coast. He found it to be eight feet in height and twenty-six in girth, which after all is not so large as some to be seen in that region. All examinations of the country tending to give King and his companion a very poor opinion of the place; they left the inlet in which they had found shelter, and the large bay in which it was situated received the name of Exmouth Gulf.
They pursued their course to the north-east. On the 25th they arrived at Rosemary Island, so long supposed to mask the entrance to a strait, and commenced a closer examination of the coast line. Here the always active botanist planted peach stones, and the party made their first capture of an "Indian." He and some more were paddling from island to island on logs--their only means of navigation--and a regular "duck hunt" ensued before one was caught, and taken on board the cutter by a boat's crew.
"The tribe of natives collected upon the shore, consisting of about forty persons, and of whom the greater number were women and children, the whole party appeared to be overcome with grief, particularly the women, who most loudly and vehemently expressed their sorrow by cries and rolling on the ground, covering their bodies with the sand. When our captive arrived alongside the vessel, and saw Boongaree, he became somewhat pacified, and suffered himself to be lifted on board; he was then ornamented with beads and a red cap, and upon our applauding his appearance, a smile momentarily played on his countenance, but it was soon replaced by a vacant stare. He took little notice of anything until he saw the fire, and this appeared to occupy his attention very much. Biscuit was given him, which as soon, as he tasted it he spat out, but some sugared water being offered to him he drank the whole, and upon sugar being placed before him in a saucer, he was at a loss how to use it, until one of the boys fed him with his fingers, and when the saucer was emptied he showed his taste for this food by licking it with his tongue."
He was then restored to his log and around his neck a bag was suspended containing a little of everything he had appeared to fancy during his short captivity, this was to induce him to give a favourable account to his companions. He rejoined his tribe, and the amused seamen watched the interview on the beach. He was ordered to stand at a distance until he had thrown away the red cap and axe that had been given him. Each black held his spear poised, and a number of questions were seemingly put to him. Upon his answering them apparently satisfactorily he was allowed to approach, his body was carefully examined, then they seated themselves in a ring, he placed in the middle. Evidently he told them his story, which occupied about half an hour. When finished, after great shouting, the tribe departed to the other side of the island, leaving the presents on the beach, having carefully examined them first. After some days spent amongst this group of islands, endeavouring to establish friendly communication with the natives, the little vessel resumed her voyage, and on the 4th of March anchored in and christened Nickol Bay.
Steering on E.S.E. to Cape Arnheim, where the examination of the west coast was to commence, they named and passed through Macquarie Strait, and anchored off Goulburn Island, making a complete survey of the Bay in which they were anchored, and the surrounding islands, calling them Goulburn Islands. Here they found traces of the visits of the Malays on their voyages after trepang, before mentioned by Captain Flinders, and also could tell from the boldness and cunning of the natives that they were well used to visitors; they even had the audacity to swim. off after dark and cut the whale boat adrift, fortunately the theft was detected before the boat drifted out of sight.
Their hostile conduct caused much trouble whilst getting wood and water, so much so, that King determined to finish wooding on Sims Island to the northward. It was fortunate that they were not often obliged to resort to the muskets for defence, as the greater number of the twelve they had taken from Port Jackson were useless, yet they were the best they could then procure in Sydney.
Meantime Cunningham greatly added to his collection, and took advantage of a good spot of soil to sow every sort of seed he possessed, but with little hope of their surviving long; as fire no doubt would soon destroy all.
"The country, was thickly, in some parts impenetrably, clothed with eucalyptus, acacia, pandanus, fan-palms, and various other trees, whilst the beaches are in some parts studded, and in others thickly lined with mangroves. The soil is chiefly of a grey sandy earth, and in some parts might be called even rich; there was, however, very few places that could bear so favourable a character.
"The climate here seems to favour vegetation so much, that the quality of the soil appears to be of minor importance, for everything thrives and looks verdant."
Whilst on this part of the coast they encountered a fleet of Malay proas, fifteen in number, but King, with his little unarmed cutter, did not care to have any communication with such very doubtful characters.
On the 16th of April, Raffles Bay was found, and named after Sir Stamford Raffles, and the next day they entered Port Essington, which was christened after Vice-Admiral Sir William Essington.
King thought that:--
"Port Essington being so good a harbour, and from its proximity to the Moluccas and New Guinea, and its being in a direct line of communication between Port Jackson and India, as well as from the commanding situation with respect to the passage through Torres Straits, it must at no very distant period become a place of great trade, and of very considerable importance."
At Knocker's Bay, immediately to the west of this port, the natives made a very determined attack on the boat, whilst she was hemmed in amongst the mangroves, but without doing any damage. King next entered and examined Van Dieman's Gulf, so called by the three Dutch vessels that sailed from Timor in 1705. The examination of this Gulf formed a prominent feature in his instructions. Here he found part of the Malay fleet at anchor, and feeling strong enough to encounter a few of them at a time, he anchored and allowed them to come on board. He showed them his rough chart, when they instantly understood the occupation of the cutter. Like the visitors who came off to Flinders, they showed a great liking for port wine. Upon mentioning the natives of the coast, and showing a stone-headed spear, they evinced great disgust. They called them "Marega," being the Malay definition of that portion of the coast.
King, during his survey of Van Dieman's Gulf, found and named the two Alligator Rivers, afterwards traversed by Leichhardt on his trip to Port Essington. From the Gulf they sailed to Melville Island, which was named after the First Lord of the Admiralty. He says:--
"We passed round Cape Van Dieman and anchored in the mouth of a very considerable river-like opening, the size of which inspired us with the flattering hope of having made an important discovery, for as yet we had no idea of the insularity of Melville Island."
Here once more they had trouble with the natives, whose intercourse with the Malays had made them adroit and treacherous thieves.
Whilst on shore taking some bearings, the party was suddenly surprised, and, beating a hasty retreat, the theodolite stand and Cunningham's insect net were left behind, and immediately appropriated by the natives.
This stand they obstinately refused to deliver or exchange, although offered tomahawks and other tempting presents. Once, after a long discussion, they brought it down to the beach and minutely examined it, but the brass mountings took their fancy too much to allow them to part with it, and King could not take it by force without bloodshed. On the 19th May, Apsley Strait was discovered, and the second island received the name of Bathurst.
King next surveyed and named the Vernon Islands, and Clarence Strait.
"The time had now arrived for our leaving the coast; our provisions were drawing to an end, and we had only a sufficiency of bread to carry us back to Port Jackson; although we had been all the voyage upon a reduced allowance; our water had also failed, and several casks which we had calculated upon being full were found to be so bad that the water was perfectly useless; these casks were made in Sydney, and proved-like our bread casks-to have been made from the staves of salt provision casks: besides this defalcation, several puncheons were found empty, and it was, therefore, doubly necessary that we should resort to Timor without any more delay."
While at Timor, "Dramah," the principal rajah of the Malay fishing fleet, gave King the following information respecting the coast of New Holland, which he had frequently visited in command of the fleet that visits its shores yearly for trepang:--
"The coast is called by them 'Marega,' and has been known to them for many years. A fleet, to the number of two hundred proas, annually (this number seems exaggerated), leave Macassar for this fishery; it sails in January, during the westerly monsoons, and coasts from island to island until it reaches the north-east of Timor, where it steers S.E. and S.S.E., which courses carry them to the coast of New Holland; the body of the fleet then steers eastward, leaving here and there a division of fifteen or sixteen proas, under the command of an inferior rajah who leads the fleet, and is always implicitly obeyed. His proa is the only vessel provided with a compass; it also has one or two swivel or small guns, and is perhaps armed with musquets. Their provisions chiefly consist of rice and cocoa-nuts, and their water--which during the westerly monsoon is easily replenished on all parts of the coast--is carried in joints of bamboo. Besides trepang, they trade in sharks' fins and birds' nests."
Their method of curing is thus described by Flinders:--
"They get the trepang by diving in from three to eight fathoms of water, and where it is abundant a man will bring up eight or ten at a time. The mode of preserving it is thus--the animal is split down on one side, boiled and pressed with a weight of stones, then stretched open by slips of bamboo, dried in the sun and afterwards in smoke, when it is fit to put away in bags, but requires frequent exposure to the sun. There are two kinds of trepang, the black and the white or grey slug."
From Dramah's information, it would seem a perpetual warfare raged between the natives and Malays, which was unfortunate for King, as it would make it a very difficult matter to establish friendly communication with people who could not be expected to distinguish between the English and Malays. After a short stay in Timor, he sailed for Sydney by way of the west coast, and anchored in Port Jackson on the 29th of July, 1818.
The early loss of the anchors had not allowed King so much opportunity of detailed examination as would otherwise have been the case; but much of the work that he had been sent to do had been carried out; the examinations of the opening behind Rosemary Island, and of Van Dieman's Gulf, beside the survey of the numerous smaller openings and islands.
"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, who accompanied me, 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 landed!"
The equipment of the vessel for the second voyage, and the construction of charts of the first, occupied Captain King until December, when he left Port Jackson to survey the entrance of Macquarie Harbour, which had lately been discovered, on the western coast of Van Dieman's Land, and in February, 18ig, he returned to Sydney.
King now started to return to the scene of his labours, this time intending to make his way along the east coast and through Torres Straits. With him went Surveyor-General Oxley, in the colonial brig, Lady Nelson, to examine Port Macquarie, in New South Wales, where, it will be remembered, Oxley reached the coast after his descent of the Main Range. On the 8th of May, 1819, the two vessels left Port Jackson, and arrived at their destination in two days. Here, after spending a short time in the necessary examination, they parted company, the Lady Nelson returning to Sydney with the Surveyor-General, and the Mermaid continuing her voyage.
The east coast having been twice surveyed by Cook and Flinders, there was little left beyond minor details for King to complete. An opening which had escaped Captain Flinders was examined, finding good, well sheltered anchorage within. They named it Rodd's Bay. Amongst other places they landed at, was Cleveland Bay.
"Near the extremity of Cape Cleveland some bamboo was picked no, and also a fresh green cocoa-nut that appeared to have been hastily tapped for milk. Heaps of pumice stone was noticed upon this beach; not any of this production had been met with floating. Hitherto no cocoa-nuts have been found on this continent, although so great a portion of it is within the tropic, and its north-east coast, so near to islands on which this fruit is abundant. Captain Cook imagined that the husk of one, which his second Lieutenant, Mr. Gore, picked up at the Endeavour River, and which was covered with barnacles, came from the Terra del Espiritu Santo of Quiros; but from the prevailing winds it would appear more likely to have been drifted from New Caledonia, which island was at that time unknown to him; the fresh appearance of the cocoa-nut seen by us renders, however, even this conclusion doubtful; Captain Flinders also found one as far to the south as Shoal Water Bay.
"In the gullies, Mr. Cunningham reaped an excellent harvest both of seeds and plants. Here as well as at every other place that we had landed upon within the tropic, the air is crowded with a species of butterfly, a great many of which were taken. It is doubtless the same species as that which Captain Cook remarks are so plentiful in Thirsty Sound. He says, 'We found also an incredible number of butterflies, so that for the space of three or four acres the air was so crowded with them, that millions were to be seen in every direction, at the same time that every branch and twig were covered with others that were not upon the wing.' The numbers seen by us were indeed incredible; the stem of every grass tree, which plant grows abundantly upon the hills, was covered with them, and on their taking wino, the air appeared, as it were, in perfect motion."
King landed at the Endeavour River to build a boat that he had on board in frame--in all probability the very same spot that Captain Cook landed upon forty-nine years before. He took the precaution to burn the grass that the natives should not attempt the same trick upon him that they had played on Cook. During the time the boat was building the inevitable thieving of the natives took place, and the usual tactics of firing over their heads had to be resorted to.
"On the 10th of July our boat was launched and preparations were made for leaving the place which had afforded us so good an opportunity of repairing our defects.
"The basis of the country in the vicinity of this river is evidently granitic; and from the abrupt and primitive appearance of the land about Cape Tribulation, and to the north of Weary Bay, there is every reason to suppose that granite is also the principle feature of those mountains, but the rocks that lie loosely scattered about the beaches and surface of the bills on the south side of the entrance, are of quartzoze substance; and this, likewise, is the character of the hills at the east end of the northern beach. Where the rocks are coated with a quartzoze crust, that, in its crumbled state, forms a very productive soil. The hills on the south side of the port recede from the banks of the river, and form an amphitheatre of low grassy land, and some tolerable soil, upon the surface of which, in many parts, we found large blocks of granite heaped one upon another. Near the tent we found coal, but the presence of this mineral in a primitive country, at an immense distance from any part where a coal formation is known to exist, would puzzle the geologist were I not to explain all I know upon the subject.
"Upon referring to the late Sir Joseph Banks' copy of the Endeavour log, I found the following remark:--'June 21st and 22nd, 1770--Employed getting our coals on shore.' There remains no doubt that it is a relic of that navigator's voyage, which must have been lying undisturbed for nearly half a century."
Leaving the Endeavour, the next object of interest they fell in with was the wreck of a vessel, which, on examination, proved to be the Frederick, but no signs of the fate of her crew were to be seen. They next had a narrow escape of being wrecked themselves on a bank at the mouth of a river running into Newcastle Bay, which King christened Escape River, and which was afterwards destined to come into fatal prominence as the scene of Kennedy's death.
Off Good Island, in Torres Straits, the arm of their anchor broke.
"A remarkable coincidence of our two losses upon the two voyages has now occurred. Last year, at the North-West Cape, we lost two anchors just as we were commencing the survey; and now, on rounding the North-East 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 now since they had left Port Jackson, during that time King had laid down the different projections of the coast, and the track within the Barrier Reefs and between the Percy Islands and Cape York; surveyed Port Macquarie, examined Rodd's Bay, and constructed the boat at the Endeavour River.
Frequent rain between Cape Grafton and Torres Straits not only increased the danger of navigation, but the continued dampness of the small cabins, and--from the small size of the vessel--no stove to dry them, caused much sickness; but on the voyage from the straits to the western head of the Gulf of Carpentaria--Cape Arnhem--they found drier air, and finer weather, which soon restored the invalids to perfect health.
King sailed across the Gulf, and sighted the land again at Cape Wessel, and on the 30th July anchored off the "Cocodriles' Eylandts" of the old charts. Here King discovered a river which he named the Liverpool, and is doubtless the Spult of the Dutch navigators. Up this river, the commander, accompanied by Bedwell and Cunningham, made a long excursion, but the country was too flat for him to gain much information.
At Goulburn Island, where they landed at their old watering place, they were again attacked by their friends, the natives, as of old. There is no doubt that the bad habits of these blacks had been induced by their long intercourse with the Malays.
Leaving Goulburn Island they passed round Cape Van Dieman, steering so as to see several parts of the coast of Melville Island, in order to check the last year's survey. After rounding the cape they kept a course down the western side of Bathurst Island. On the 27th they made land on the south side of Clarence Strait, in the vicinity of the Vernon Islands.
"This was the last land seen by us on leaving the coast in May, 1818."
Captain King's next important discovery was the now well-known Cambridge Gulf. On Adolphus Island, in the Gulf, he buried one of his seamen, named William Nicholls, and in memorial, the north-west point of the island was named after him. From this point King was very anxious to examine the coast most carefully, as the French ships, under M. Baudin, had seen but very little of it; but he had been unable to find fresh water in Cambridge Gulf, and his stock was running low. They were very weak handed, three men, besides Mr. Bedwell, being ill.
"The greater part of the crew were affected with ophthalmia, probably caused by the excessive glare and reflection of the sun's rays from the glassy surface of the sea."
Under these unfavourable circumstances they were obliged to make for Coepang. King says:--
"In the space between Cape Bougainville and Cape Voltaire, which was named Admiralty Gulf, we have given positions to at least forty islands or islets. Having now emerged from the archipelago of islands which front this part of the north-west coast, we seized the opportunity of taking leave of it for the present, and directed our course for Timor."
Here he heard that some of the crew of the wrecked vessel, the Frederick, that they had seen on the east coast, had arrived, but the greater number of the crew in the long boat had not been heard of.
On the 12th January, 1820, the Mermaid returned to Port Jackson, having surveyed five hundred miles of coast, in addition to five hundred and forty surveyed on the previous voyage, and a running survey of the east coast from Percy Islands to Torres Straits, which had not formerly been narrowly examined.