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Title: An Expedition through Bass's Strait Author: Matthew Flinders * A Project Gutenberg Australia eBook * eBook No.: 1203411h.html Language: English Date first posted: September 2012 Date most recently updated: September 2012 Produced by: Ned Overton Project Gutenberg Australia eBooks are created from printed editions which are in the public domain in Australia, unless a copyright notice is included. We do NOT keep any eBooks in compliance with a particular paper edition. Copyright laws are changing all over the world. Be sure to check the copyright laws for your country before downloading or redistributing this file. This eBook is made available at no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg Australia License which may be viewed online at http://gutenberg.net.au/licence.html
Flinders's map, after page 767 of HISTORICAL RECORDS OF N.S.W.,
Volume 3 Hunter 1796-1799, APPENDIX B.
NARRATIVE of an Expedition in the Colonial sloop Norfolk, from Port Jackson, through the Strait which separates Van Diemen's Land from New Holland, and from thence round the South Cape back to Port Jackson, completing the circumnavigation of the former Island, with some remarks on the coasts and harbours, by Matthew Flinders, 2nd l't, H.M.S. Reliance.*
[* Accounts of this voyage will be found in Collins (vol. ii, pp. 143 to 194), and Flinders's "Terra Australis" (vol. i., pp. cxxxviii to cxciii) —the former by Bass, the latter by Flinders. The sloop Norfolk was built by Captain Townson at Norfolk Island, in the autumn of 1798, to carry his despatches to Sydney (ante, p. 408). She was 25 tons burden, and was accompanied by a private vessel named the Nautilus (Captain Bishop and Supercargo Simpson), in quest of seals at Furneaux's Island.]
(Printed from a MS. in the possession of the Honorable Philip Gidley King, M.L.C.)
NOTE.—The bearings in the following journal are all magnetic, unless it is otherwise particularly expressed.
At daylight, October 7th, weighed from the Cove with a light westerly air, in company with the snow Nautilus, which was bound to Furneaux's Island to seal. About 9 o'clock passed between the Heads, the sea-breeze coming from the N.E. By 4 o'clock Hat Hill bore true west, 8 leagues, from which we took our departure, steering a course parallel with the coast.
October 8th.—At 8 a.m. hauled up and passed between Montague Island** and the coast under Mount Dromedary. There is a small cove on the west side where a boat may land either with the sea or northerly winds. We got on ground with 13 fathoms at a mile distant from the west side, nor saw any danger beyond a cable's length from the shore. It lays N.E. b. E. ½ E. from Mt. Dromedary. No observation at noon. Supposed latitude, 36° 28'; Dromedary, N.W. by N. 4 leagues.
[** Montague Island was first discovered to be separated from the mainland by the convict ship Surprize.]
October 9th.—At daybreak the wind shifted to S.S.W.; bore away for Twofold Bay. At half-past 10 we were 4 miles due east of Green Cape, *** which was nearly on with Cape Howe, bearing about S. At noon we were abreast of a point resembling a haycock,**** which, being about 4 miles to the south of Twofold Bay, and distinguishable at some distance, is a good mark for knowing the bay from that side. Had 18 fam. ¾ of a mile from it. Having passed the point and on with Green Cape at S. 30° E., the intermediate 7 or 8 miles presenting a moderately low and not uneven coast, waving into small coves near the point.
[*** So called by Flinders when he passed it in the schooner Francis on 3rd February, 1798.]
[**** Called by Flinders "Haycock Point".]
At a cable's length from the low rock that lays a little off the south point of the bay there is 10 f'ms, but in standing across to the north side had no ground with 13 till we came near the head, on the west side of which is Snug Cove, where we anchored in 3½ f'ms, sandy bottom. The south point of the bay locked on with the head. The latitude of Snug Cove, 37° 4' 13" S. The variation, about 10° East.
The importance of this bay arises from its local situation, there being no other place of shelter for a vessel larger than a rowing-boat from Jervis Bay, in latitude 35° 5' S., round to Corner Inlet or to Furneaux's Island in 40½°. The best of the two anchoring-places is that on the north side in Snug Cove off the centre of the beach, where the south point of the bay is shut on with the head in 5 f'ms water. A ship attempting to moor with a southerly wind should drop her outer anchor a little before the head comes on with the point, and should be careful to keep the lead out astern as she veers in shore, for she may get into less 3 before she is aware. Half a cable upon the inshore anchor would be sufficient. She would have room to swing at single anchor if let go at the time the land shuts on, and I believe two if not three ships might find berths here; smaller vessels would go closer in shore.
Snug Cove is so situated at the back of Stony Head that it is not seen till the vessel comes right off it; but the long outer beach on the north side, and then the head, point out its place in the bay sufficiently for a vessel to run for it who had not the sketch.*
[* The sketches referred to in this narrative have not been preserved. They were, however, probably identical with those published by Flinders in his "Terra Australis".]
At the east end of the great south beach there is an opening which would afford excellent shelter for boats that could pass over the bar-entrance in 6 feet water; within side there are holes of 12 or 15 feet depth. This opening leads into a shoal lagoon of saltwater, which spreads itself at the back of the beach almost the whole length. There are smaller lagoons or swamps at the back of almost every beach in the bay, but none that we could drink the water of, except at the two anchoring-places, and these were brackish. Wood can be had in abundance in every part of the bay. This place will probably be of service to whalers, who, when fishing off the coast, might be glad to get shelter from a gale of wind in a place that would take so little time in going in and out, and it is not unlikely but they might find some right fish here; we saw the remains of one.** This bay has some marks by which it may be known besides its latitude. The land at the back lays much more in hummocks than on any part of the coast near it; and there is a roundish mount about 3 leagues inland, bearing S.W. ½ W. from the bay, which is sufficiently distinguishable above the neighbouring hills to be seen at some distance, and may be more especially known in a fine day by having Mt. Dromedary in sight about 12 leagues distant, bearing N. b. W. from the entrance of Twofold Bay. The outer points of the bay are remarkable by having each a dry rock laying off them. The next point without that on the south side is the before-mentioned Haycock Point; and we noticed that the projection next the north point was broken, remarkable land, a flat piece appearing to be separated from it. It is high water about nine hours, and rises about 7 feet. The longitude of the coast is 150° 13', which is 13 miles farther to the eastward. Our time was employed from the 9th to the 14th in surveying this bay.
[** The reef or rock on which these remains were seen was named by Flinders "Whale Spit".]
October 14th.—In the morning sailed; and soon after 6 o'clock, having run 10 leagues, took our departure from Cape Howe, bearing N.W. about 4 leagues, and steered a course for Furneaux's Land (if any such existed), north of Sisters, in the latitude of 39°. The wind coming round to the N.W., I hauled up S.W., thinking it immaterial whether we first made Wilson's Promontory and run east from it to the meridian of the Sisters, or vice versa, each of them being equally well calculated to ascertain whether the promontory was the land seen by Captain Furneaux after leaving the islands, or whether any other existed in that latitude.
October 15th.—From daybreak on Monday to noon we kept close to the wind, which was light.
Light and variable from the westward. Our observed latitude then was 38° 34', and longitude by dead reckoning 149° 16' E., but we then thought it was farther to the westward, from having the appearance of land N.N.W. of us supposed to be the hills at the back of the long beach; this could have been only an appearance.
The amplitude, 9° 54' east variation at sunset; and we again thought there was land bearing well to the westward, which raised our hopes of soon making Wilson's Promontory. As soon as the stars made their appearance I got a set of distances of Fomalhaut east and Antares west of the moon, by each of the sextants. The result was considerably to the eastward of our dead reckoning, and, being corroborated by some taken on board the Nautilus, destroyed all hopes of a westerly current.
October 16th.—Soon after daylight tacked to the N.W'ward, the wind being at W.S.W., but saw no land; at noon, latitude 38° 42½' S., longitude by dead reckoning 148° 39' E. The weather continued fine, whilst the wind shifted gradually round to the south to east in the course of the following night. We kept to the wind till daylight, and then made the signal to the Nautilus and bore away S.W. to make the promontory.
October 17th.—At noon the latitude was 39° 11' S., longitude 148° E., and we then kept W. b. S. right before the wind, but in half an hour altered the course to steer for land which appeared in the S.S.W. At 1 hove to, and got ground with 30 f'ms, broken shells, being then about 5 leagues from the islands. They proved to be the high barren land, separated by a passage, which I had seen when in the Francis, schooner; but had laid down a few miles too far to the southward. They afterwards obtained the name of Kent's Group.
But little account can be given of the longitude of these islands, having no timekeeper on board, but 147° 35' E. for their centre seems to agree best with their supposed distance from Furneaux Island; the latitude is 39° 27' S. At 4 o'clock we were close to the small island, off the N.E. end, and bore away along the north side, and through the channel which nearly divides the group into two equal parts. It lays S.S.W. through; is about ¾ of a mile wide, and so deep that 7 f'ms up and down did not reach the bottom. There are two coves on the east and one on the west side, in one or other of which small vessels might lay securely in all winds. At the back of these and in some other places the high bluff land is intersected by gullies, out of which gusts of wind come which would often make it dangerous to carry much sail in passing through. We entered the channel with a fresh breeze, but were soon becalmed under the land, when in a moment a gust laid the gunwale so far under water that the Nautilus expected to go to Furneaux's Island by herself. After this proof there could not be much doubt but that if the rigging was well set up the mast was able to upset the sloop, and it is my opinion that the stringy will make the best of lower masts, when lightened a little by drying, for those vessels that carry them of a single stick.
When clear of the channel we saw the small islands bearing S.W. by W., 6 or 7 miles, and a pyramidal rock to the south-eastwards, but although the bearing differs a good deal it is most probably the same that was seen in the Francis. Night coming on prevented our ascertaining the point; however, we saw nothing of it steering S.E. b. S.
We were now so far to the southward, and the present wind rendering it impossible to make an east course from Wilson's Promontory, that I gave up the search after Furneaux's Land till our return, and kept to the wind all night, to make the island as far to the northward as we could.
October 18th.—At daybreak moderately high land appeared through the haze from N.E. to E.N.E., and soon after a round hill to the southward of east, which proved to be Mt. Chappell, and was as conspicuous from this as from the other side; the mountains of Furneaux's largest island were obscured by the haze. The wind hanging obstinately to the eastward, we tacked to the northward, working up under the low land between us and the mount. At noon the observed latitude was 40° 22' S., and the mount bore 28° to the northward of east, the nearest land—a low, barren island, 2 or 3 miles in length—being about 4 miles distant. On approaching the high land first made in the morning we found a small low island laying to the southward of it, and connected, or nearly so, by a circular reef of rocks, whose convex side was to the eastward. The wind being very strong, and the weather dull and threatening, I determined to try for anchorage under the lee of the reef for the night. We accordingly luffed close round the island about dusk, made a tack into the bight, and, finding the place well sheltered from the easterly sea, dropped the anchor in 5 f'ms., having found a coarse sandy bottom with 7 at the previous cast, but it proved to be rocky where the anchor lay. The Nautilus stood in after us, but, not liking the appearance of the place, ran out to sea again. Between the island and the reef is a space where we expected there would be a passage out for us should the wind come round to the westward, but, on examining it in the boat, I found there was not sufficient water through for the sloop to escape, and the bottom was very foul everywhere. Fearing the rocks might cut our cable, or the wind shift in the night, we weighed the anchor with a good deal of difficulty, stood out, and after running 2 leagues to the southward, hauled to the wind, under the close-reefed mainsail and storm-jib till daylight, and then bore away to pass between Mt. Chappell and the low western islands to join the Nautilus, who was standing off and on.
October 19th.—The wind being now from the N.E., on approaching the mount it appeared that the island on which it stood was small, and that the low land between it and the small western island was a separate island; but of the width and depth of the channel between it and the mount I cannot speak, as the lee side prevented us from fetching up, and the weather was so thick and rainy that nothing could be seen of it.. There is a bight on the east side of the large western island with a sandy beach, which would afford shelter from westerly winds. The water in this channel is discoloured, but there is more than 10 f'ms through it. Its width is near 2 miles. The water is also very pale for a considerable distance off the west side of these islands. On sounding we found a sandy bottom, with 23 and 25 f'ms at 3 leagues off. This cluster bears the name of Chappell Isles, consonant with the mount. They are rocky, extremely barren, and low, except the mount, which then appeared a conspicuous object over them; but it was so no longer when the granite mountains of Furneaux's largest island made their appearance through the haze, and their towering peaks, bathed in the late showers, reflected the gleaming sunshine, and presented a spectacle so magnificent and stupendous that the circular, gently-declining Mount Chappell ceased to attract attention. I could not at the moment blame the sterility that produced so rich a scene. Having joined the Nautilus, we steered to the eastward amongst several small rocky islets for Cape Franklin, which is the west end of Cape Barren Island. The passage between this and the large island appeared to be clear on this side, but I afterwards learned from Mr. Bishop that small islands and rocks lay in many [parts] of it. Preservation Island being low, and laying in the wake of the hills on Clarke's Island, when seen from this direction did not make its appearance till we were very near it. Mr. Bass and myself went on shore at the west end of the island, which we passed close to, as well as to keep clear of the breakers, which lay a long way from Night Island, as for the convenience of landing.
October 20th.—I proposed to go ahead of the Nautilus with the sloop, into Armstrong's Channel, and ascertain the nearest situation of the sealing points for her to lay in. About 10 o'clock on the following day we weighed with a westerly wind, and towed his boat over. By keeping a little over to Clarke's Island, the soundings were never less than 3½ f'ms, and 8 and 9 in the middle of the channel past Battery Island. Here the boat returned to pilot the snow. We stood on as far as the N.E. point of Clarke's Island, and landed on the largest of the rocks that lay off it. Finding the snow did not follow, we turned back with the flood-tide, intending to stop in the corner near Point Whombat, but finding it shoal, we anchored 2 or 3 cables' length from the N.E. side of Battery Island in 3½ f'ms, with a sandy bottom.
October 22nd.—There is a large shoal laying to the eastward of Clarke's Island, and nearly, if not quite, joins the western passage island. This shoal extended a good way to the northward, and is dry in some places at low water. Standing round the north end of this, we saw the snow at an anchor up in the opposite bight, several miles farther from the seal rocks than I proposed her to lay, which was off the southernmost beach near the high land of Cape Barren; but it afterwards proved that she was in a better place, the beach not being near so well sheltered from the present westerly wind as I expected it would have been by the before-mentioned shoal. Having passed two rocks which lay about three cables' length off the beach, we luffed round and let go the anchor, but found it did not hold; the small one was then thrown over to assist it, not having the sheet-cable bent, but neither did it hold, both stops appearing to have broken from the rings, so that their weight was all we had to depend upon, and this was not sufficient to hold the sloop in a strong breeze. By being very expeditious, the sheet-cable was bent, and the anchor got over the side, before the sloop struck; but we had only 7 feet water abaft.
October 27th.—We were detained at this anchorage by a heavy gale of wind till this morning, when it became more moderate, and we weighed and stood over with the flood-tide to the Western Passage Island, on which two of the people landed to get a few sealskins. In standing from thence to speak the snow* before our final departure, the shoal water on the north side of the channel obliged us to tack; and a heavy squall coming on at the same time, we anchored in 5 fathoms, and soon after let go the sheet-anchor, there being a good deal of sea and the wind blowing a gale from W.S.W. The peak of Cape Barren bore from us N.N.E. ½ E., and the inner rocky point S.E. b. S. A boat that came to us in consequence of a signal was not able to return till the following morning.
[* The sealing-vessel Nautilus.]
October 29th.—It was not till the morning of the Monday following that the gale was sufficiently moderated to allow of moving; we then ran over to the little sandy bay under the lee of the island, which the two people were upon, and anchored in 2½ fathoms, having the rocks off the N.E. end of the island and the peak nearly on at N.N.E. The outer part of the reef that lays off the south point of the bay bore S.E. b. E. and within 1½ points of being shut on with the south end of the eastern island, which is the only part that this bay is exposed at; from thirty points of the compass it is tolerably well sheltered.
The channel between these two Passage Islands lays about S.S.E. and N.N.W., and is nearly a mile wide. The flood coming from the southward joins the more rapid tide from the eastern passage and runs to the N.W'ward, leaving a shoal on each side.
After filling up the large bight called Kent's Bay, by Mr. Simpson, where the snow lay, the tide turns to the W.S.W., between the N.E. end of Clarke's Island and the opposite sloping point on Cape Barren Island. The limits of the channel being here contracted, the velocity of the tide is increased, and thence the depth of this part is greater than we found it anywhere else. On the west side of these projections the sand left by the eddy has accumulated to shoals, which are partly dry at low water. The body of the tide runs west-southerly, past the south end of Battery Island and Point Whombat, in a channel of 9 to 12 fa'ms deep, and continues its course through between the northern end of Preservation Island and the opposite shore, where as far as we went there is 7 to 10 fa'ms in the deepest. On the west side of Point Whombat there is a shoal, which extends along the shore and bounds the north side of the channel. There is also one in the wake of Preservation Island, bounding the south side. It lays directly under the lee of the body of this island with a westerly wind.
The passage between Clarke's and Preservation Islands is wider and shoaler than that on the north side of the latter. There seems to be but little tide running through either way, but it is open to the S.W. wind and swell.
The passage into Kent's Bay lays close along the shore on the east side of Sloping Point, and the anchorage in 5 to 7 fa'ms, at the back of a small rocky islet, which breaks off the southerly sea, and none other can have any effect. No ship ought to attempt to go on the north side of Battery Island. In the afternoon, whilst we were on shore, the westerly wind died away, and a breeze sprung up at E. b. S., which threw some swell into the bay, although the wind had near a point hold of the eastern island, and was light.
October 30th.—Before the morning it blew a moderate breeze from the westward, and as there was good cause to distrust the sloop's ability to advance in the teeth of it, we employed Tuesday as preceding day, in getting a few sealskins dried to make us good warm caps.
October 31st.—On Wednesday morning we got under weigh in time enough to have the advantage of the whole of the flood, which was the weather tide, what wind there was being still from the westward. At noon the observed latitude was 40° 39' 17" S., and the largest of the Swan Islands bore S. 43 W. about 7 miles; when it bore S.S.W. 1½ miles, we sounded in 14 f'ms, upon a sandy bottom, and at 1½ cables' length off the rocks at the east end of the island in 10 f'ms. The flood-tide having done running, and the wind being still from the westward, we turned up into a little sandy bay and anchored soon after 3 o'clock in 4 f'ms, at 2 or 3 cables' lengths from the beach, the S.E. point of the island bearing N. 66° E., and the extreme of Van Diemen's Land S. 49° E. between 3 or 4 leagues, between which points this little bay is exposed to the easterly winds. This island is near 3 miles in length, and in its shape and produce seems to resemble Preservation Island; but the latter has the advantage in having kangaroos upon it, no marks of which were seen here. We might have expected to find seals here, being in sight of the islands where they abound, but not one was met with. Indeed the selection of place which these animals make is beyond my comprehension; they will leave one island unoccupied close to several others where they cover the shores—nay, one point upon the same island will be so left, and totally without any apparent reason, at least in the form or situation of the ground. We may conjecture that they follow their food, preferring those points and islands for their residence where the most fish are to be found; and the choice of the latter is determined by streams and eddies, and perhaps by many other causes which to us are imperceptible. I had been led to suppose we should find great numbers of swans upon this island, for a man who had been left at Preservation Island with a part of the cargo of the wrecked ship Sydney Cove, told me he had visited it and found the ground thickly strewed with their eggs, from which account I had called this and the small rocky patches near it the Swan Isles, a name they appear very little to deserve.
November 1st.—The flood making about 9 o'clock in the morning, we were under weigh at that time, and off the south end of the island, carrying 6, 7, and 8 fathoms along it at less than 2 cables' lengths from the rocks. There is another bay at the S.W. end of the island; it does not bight back so far as that in which we anchored at the S.E., but having a more southern aspect, it seems to be not so much exposed to easterly winds.
Being nearly calm, we drifted with the tide towards the N.E. point of Van Diemen's Land, afterwards named by Governor Hunter, Cape Portland; the depth of water generally 8 f'ms, with a sandy bottom, to within a mile of the shore, when it shoaled to 3. The sun was upon the meridian whilst in that situation, and gave the latitude 40° 43' 40" S., and the peak of Cape Barren bearing N. 31° E., the longitude will be 148° 6'; taking the peak in 148° 26' E., as the run to Low Head at the entrance of Port Dalrymple, and the lunar observations taken in that port, afterwards gave it. Had I been fortunate enough to have had one of the timekeepers on board the sloop that were at Port Jackson, the relative positions of all these places that are within a few days' run of Port Dalrymple would have been well ascertained, and from the arrangement of the observations taken there, and their number, the real situations would probably have been as near the truth as the lunar distances at present usually give.
From the easternmost extreme of the land to Cape Portland the shore is sandy, and apparently barren enough, but rises gradually to hills, which seem well clothed with verdure. The coast is almost a continued beach. There are two or three small low islands off the cape, which bore W.N.W. about 2 miles at noon, and some patches of dry sand between them and the sloop. Fearing these might be connected with the cape by shoals, we put the vessel's head to the northward, and as she had steerage way, expected to have passed round the whole. This was accomplished, but the tide increased its rapidity so much on approaching the outermost island that it took away all command of the vessel, and we no sooner perceived a ledge of rocks laying off the N.E. end of the island than we were hurried into the middle of it, and saw the stones close under the bottom. Before the sweeps could be got out or any other movement effected, the tide carried us into deep water; and probably found a deeper channel for us than we could have done for ourselves.
From this island a line of shoal water extends so far to the eastward towards the small western Swan Isles that I doubt whether a ship would find a passage between, and therefore it would be hazardous to attempt passing a line between the isles and the main untill better known.
The flood-tide continued to carry us rapidly to the N.W. towards a strong ripling, which we endeavoured to pass to the northward of by the assistance of our sweeps; but on approaching it we found it extended that way as far as could be discerned, curving a little to the eastward; and was more than a cable's length in breadth. There was no other choice, therefore, than to look out for that part where the water was least disturbed; in passing through we found 9 fathoms water in the middle of it. The northernmost of the islands off Cape Portland is divided into two parts, nearly equal in size, whence it will be distinguished by the name of Double Island. The ripple commences about a mile N.W. of this; but whether there is deeper water upon the breaking part, close to the island, that I cannot determine. Our sounding of 9 fathoms upon the ripple may, perhaps, be near the average depth; but as this agitation of the water is most probably occasioned by the tide passing rapidly over an irregular bottom, the soundings will necessarily be irregular also.
The flood-tide continued to run till 4 o'clock, carrying us now to the S.W'ward towards a large bight round the cape; when the ebb made we dropped the anchor in 11 fathoms, the weather being still calm and the evening very fine. The Double Island then bore N. 35° E. 2 or 3 miles; and the westernmost land in sight, afterwards named by Governor Hunter, Isle Waterhouse, S. 49° W. The coast round the bight is sandy, the same as to the eastward of Cape Portland, and rose gradually at the back to high mountains, a range of which, bearing S. b. E., much resembles the peak and high land of Cape Barren, seen in the same direction.
As rivers are usually found in the neighbourhood of mountains, their channels being hollowed out by the water from the heights tracing the same course down to the sea during a succession of time, so we expected to find some opening in this bight; and the ebb-tide coming at the rate of 2½ knots from more than two points within the westernmost land assisted the conjecture, and led us to hope that if the wind should come dead into the bight and too strong to beat out against, there might yet be a better fate in reserve for us than to be driven on shore.
By the meridional altitude of the planet Mars the latitude of the anchoring-place was 40° 44' S., which is the situation of Cape Portland by the observation at noon, and it now bore nearly east of us about 2 miles distant. A single set of distances of the sun east of the moon gave, when corrected, according to the Port Dalrymple observations, 148° 6½'; but I preferred the bearing of Cape Barren Peak, and from it have placed Cape Portland in 148° 3' to 7' E. in the chart. By the sun's amplitude, the variation was 12° 20' E., but, as before observed, our azimuth compass could seldom be depended on to 2 or 3 degrees. I believe the variation to be about 9°.
November 2nd.—In the morning we weighed with a breeze at E.S.E., and steered south for the head of the bight in a line parallel with the larboard shore. It forms into sandy bights, and has some low rocky islands laying along it at a small distance; the largest might be a quarter of a mile long. At noon the latitude observed was 40° 49' 45" S. Our distance from the beach near the head of the bight was not more than 1½ miles, and the Double Island and Cape Portland were in a line bearing N. 18 E. 6 miles. After standing a mile farther on the same course we bore away S.W., and afterwards W.N.W. along the shore for Isle Waterhouse, finding no river or opening of any kind. This island is about 3 miles in length, moderately high and level, and its distance from the west point of the large bight is about 1½ miles. There is a sandy hillock upon this point of the bight, and some rocks laying a quarter of a mile right off it, but at a mile distance there is 8 f'ms. Seeing the coast trend well to the southward of west, we hauled up within the island and steered along it. Our soundings in the passage were never less than 4 f'ms, but the bottom being a white sand, the discoloured patches showed themselves as distinctly as if there had been only as many feet. A small rocky island lays only ¾ of a mile off the S.E. end of Isle Waterhouse, and somewhat contracts the width of the channel; but the depth of water had increased to 6 fathoms when abreast of it. There were many birds, and a few hair-seals upon it.
The main continued rather low near the shore, with patches of trees in places sandy beaches in general skirting it as before. After running about 4 miles S.W. by W. the coast trended S.S.W. into a bight, and then rounds out to a point, from which Isle Waterhouse bore N.E. 10 miles. This projection is composed of sandhills, as is another much resembling it, 2 miles W.S.W. of it. Seeing rocks laying out some distance to the westward of this last point, we sounded past it in 5 and 4 fa'ms, at of a mile distant. At dusk we hauled to the wind off the coast; the furthest land in sight bore S. 60 W. about 5 miles, and an island about a mile long much resembling Isle Waterhouse N. 9° E. nearly the same distance. The wind was now fresh at N.E., and continued so all night, during which time stood to and fro, keeping the island in sight.
November 3rd.—At daybreak we were 1½ [miles] to the westward of it. The top appeared green and level, and the shores rocky, but I did not see any seals upon it. Having regained yesterday's track, we kept along the shore for the head set last night, which was higher than usual, and remarkable for being the first cliffs we had met with on the coast. The high land approaches nearer to were smokes rising both ahead and astern of us from the low space between the mountains and the coast.
The wind having come round to N. b. E., we hauled up to W. b. N. and passed near a small rocky island which lays about 2½ miles to the N.W. of the cliffy head; a few overgrown hair-seals were sitting on the uppermost parts of it. At noon observed the latitude to be 40° 55' 25" S., and the cliffy head bore S. 76 E. 4 or 5 miles; our longitude, 147° 16½' E. From this head the shore again became sandy. A projection about 2 leagues farther on opened from it at S. 58° W., but it then turns more to the southward to a low head, which bore from us S. 21 W. 3 leagues, the farthest extreme S. 39 W. At this time we altered the course to S.W. b. W., still increasing our offing somewhat, for the wind was now upon the beam, and I feared it might come still farther forward. Being very desirous to find some place of shelter that might save us from being driven back, should the wind head us and come to blow, and finding the land to hollow in behind the low head, at 2 we steered S.S.E. towards it. As we advanced the port became more conspicuous, and in two hours we had passed the low head and steered in S.E. with a strong flood-tide. Some shoals that were not quite covered we left on the starboard hand, and, as near as the wind would permit us, steered a straight course for the entrance, which appeared to lead into a large basin or bay.* This course took us through several strong riplings and whirlpools, upon which there was 9, 7, and 5 fathoms, but directly we were in the smooth water could find no bottom with 13. About 3 miles from the entrance a low green island lays in nearly the midchannel, but, preferring the direct course into the basin, we left it on the larboard hand. From 8 fathoms the next casts of the lead were 3½ fathoms and 6 feet, and immediately the sloop touched the ground; but the bottom being soft and the tide flowing, she dragged over without injury, and the water gradually deepened till we had the channel open from the other side of the Green Island, when the line showed 7 and 8 fathoms, and then no ground with 13.
[* Named by Governor Hunter "Port Dalrymple", in honor of Alexander Dalrymple, Hydrographer to the Admiralty.—Post, p. 788.]
Finding the tide hustling us we scarcely knew whither, and the evening coming on, steered over to the west side between some shag rocks that shewed their heads above water and the point they lay off. Here the water shoaled, but getting 2 fa'ms a little farther off the shore, dropped the anchor. From the masthead I had seen the western arm over the low point of land, and was a good deal surprised to find the entrance into it so shallow. Four unfledged black swans that were caught up it by the boat, and brought on board in the evening, afforded us great joy, considering them to be an earnest of fresh provisions as long as we should stay here.
November 4th.—In the morning Mr. Bass [landed] to walk into the country, with two men to accompany him. I employed myself in measuring a base-line, and getting bearings from several stations near the vessel for a survey of the port, and at noon observed the latitude with the artificial horizon upon the Shag Rock to be 41° 8' 29" S. These rocks are a good large collection of stones, which are covered at high water at the spring tides. At about two ships' lengths off there is 3 or 4 fathoms all round.
From hence I went down to the Green Island, and being low-water time, saw the shoals in the mouth of the port extending so far from each side that it was a matter of surprise to me how we got up so far as this island without touching the ground. In the deep channel that turns round to the east of this island there is a rock lays in nearly the middle of it, but the water is very deep in the passages, particularly between the island and the rock. The greatest part of Green Island has long coarse grass upon it, and several small trees and bushes. The large noisy gulls frequent it for the purpose of laying their eggs, several of which we found. There were also some old nests of swans, with the broken shells in them. These, I think, are marks of the inability of the natives to get over from the main, and led me to suppose they had no canoes amongst them. The young flood had made when I returned, and formed ripples and whirlpools everywhere. On one of the strongest of these there was 25 fathoms. Seeing Mr. Bass at the waterside, we took him off in our way on board, and a kangaroo weighing 80 or 90 pounds, which he had shot, and which was amongst the smallest of a flock he had fallen in with.
In the evening three of the people requested to take the boat up the western arm, which I granted, with an injunction not to land. In two or three hours they returned with six swans, which, having no wing-feathers, they had run down.
November 5th.—The following morning about 7 o'clock the vessel lifted her anchor and drifted up the western arm with the tide abreast of Red Bill Point, before it was perceived. On veering to 7 fa'ms on the cable she brought up, but as I imagined the cable had been shortened by getting foul round the anchor, for she had rode over two tides with the same scope, we dropped our small anchor and sighted the other, but it was clear. We moored where she then lay, being about a cable's length from the north shore on one side, and as much from the shoal on the other. The greatest part of this morning I was tantalized with the hope of getting some lunar observations, but the clouds at length prevailed, and it would have been impossible to get a meridional altitude had I been within the reach of the sextant; but the observation by the artificial horizon yesterday shewed me that no more could be got here in the same manner. The rest of the day was spent in surveying and searching for a watering-place; but neither Mr. Bass or myself met with any in our excursions that was at all convenient. I therefore determined to proceed up higher, as well as to examine the port, as from the necessity we were under of getting water before we sailed.
November 6th.—Accordingly, next morning we got under weigh with that intention, but the flood-tide being almost as much as she could stem, and sweeping round the point of the shoal, we got upon it before the sloop could answer her helm. The rise of the tide and a little exertion got her off without any injury, and we made sail with a fresh westerly wind past the Shag Rocks over to the middle island, under the lee of which I proposed to anchor, but finding [it] too shoal there even for the sloop, we stood into the bight on the north side, and kept along the shore upwards, looking out for a stream of water and a cove to anchor in out of the tide's way. We carried 10 f'ms or more tolerably close to the shore. After running 2 or 3 miles a cove presented itself, into which, from the formation of the hills at the back, it was probable there would be some drain of water. The cove was too shoal for the sloop to lay in, but meeting with a bank where there was 5 fathoms of water we anchored, and went on shore in the boat to examine it. Marks of natives having been here some Little time back were numerous, and we found what was of much more importance to us—a stream of water coming into the N.W. corner of the cove. Near the middle of it also was a gully, which had contained a run in wet weather, and at this time there were several holes in it full of the best water I had ever tasted, and this being more convenient to get at than the other was pitched upon for our purpose.
During dinner-time a native came down to the shore opposite to us, and employed or amused himself by setting fire to the grass in different places, and soon after we observed a smoke likewise upon the middle island. As I wanted some angles from this place, Mr. Bass and myself went there in our little boat, but the natives had then left the island, most probably at our approach, for soon after, on looking round with a telescope, I saw three walking up from the dry flat, which at low water joins this island to the main. They appeared to be a man, a woman, and a boy; the two former seemed to have something like a small cloak of skins wrapped round them.
November 7th.—The getting on board 1¼ tons of water employed the boat and people on Wednesday morning, and the shoalness of the cove was such that the hogsheads could only be rafted off at high water. In the afternoon, Mr. Bass and myself landed on the opposite shore; he to examine the internal part of the country, and I to ascertain the winding of the coast-line, and by a long base to connect the different parts of what may be called the basin with this eastern arm. About sunset we returned without anything in particular occurring to either of us.
November 9th.—The whole of the next day the wind blew strong from the eastward, with thick rainy weather. On the following morning we got under weigh with the first of the flood, and turned upwards, the wind being at S.E. in a light breeze. When abreast of Point Rapid, where the main stream runs short to the S.E'ward, I left the sloop to Mr. Bass, and went away in the boat to examine how this eastern branch terminated, and to get a few bearings to correct the survey as went up. From the flood-tide running so strong, the haste I was obliged to make to follow after the sloop prevented me from going up to the head of this branch, but it appeared to terminate as laid down in the sketch of the port. Having no lead in the boat, I could not ascertain whether it is deep enough for vessels to lay in, but it appeared to be so. The wind having dwindled away to a calm (and the sloop would consequently be unable to make any other progress than from the tide), I stopped at almost all the conspicuous projections to collect materials for laying down the river as we proceeded. Having passed a small green island, which was thickly covered with flowering shrubs (afterwards called Brush Island), and seeing two arms in quite opposite directions, I began to fear we should miss the sloop. The small remains of flood-tide determined me to take that whose course lay to the S.E. The width of this reach is but a short quarter of a mile, being much narrower and the banks are higher than in any of the lower parts of the river. At the end of this reach the river opened out to a large piece of water like a sea, the end of which was scarcely discernible. However, we soon had the satisfaction to see the sloop coming to an anchor about half a mile from us, and also to run down a swan in our way on board. Mr. Bass informed me that the eddies and whirlpools in the narrow reach had detained him a considerable time; but that if he had not been anxious for the coming up of the boat he could have got much farther on by keeping in the tide's way. Eight swans were caught by the boat this evening.
November 10th.—Being under the necessity of going down to Brush Island to bring the survey up from thence to the sloop, we did not get under weigh till near noon the next day, at which time I went up to Egg Island in the boat, and Mr. Bass followed in the sloop soon after, having a fresh breeze at W.N.W. In running from Egg Island to the opposite point we observed a flock of swans at the back of the shoal which lays off it, and as their numbers far exceeded any we had before met with, I called this low sandy projection Swan Point. Having taken the bearings of every projection and remarkable object that was in sight from this point, we sailed on amongst the swans with the boat, steering for the next point on the starboard shore. Had not the sloop been increasing our distance so fast from her we might have picked up a good many swans. One unlucky fellow was caught by the neck as we sailed by him. We extended a base-line from the next point across a small stream of fresh water which falls into the shoal bight between Swan Point and it, and having gotten the necessary angles returned on board about 4 o'clock, the sloop being then at an anchor, very near us, in 4 fathoms. She had met with shoal water over on the east side, and being obliged to turn back had lost a good deal of time, and the river appearing to get shoaler in this wide part of it, Mr. Bass stood over to us on the west side and dropped the anchor. At low water the shoal was dry to within 2 cables' lengths of the sloop, and extended past the mouth of the fresh-water run, which must make it troublesome to fill casks there. Hoping to find a more convenient place to complete our water before we should leave this river, we did not attempt it at this place.
As the order I received from his Excellency Captain Hunter to return to Port Jackson in twelve weeks did not leave me any superfluous time, and the principal object of the expedition remained to be fulfilled, I found it necessary to forego the desire of examining this river to its farthest navigable extent, and therefore determined to dedicate the following day to an excursion in the boat as far upwards as I should be able to carry on the survey, and then to go down to the lower arms, one of which remained wholly unexamined. This I proceeded to put in execution on the following morning, and Mr. Bass landed on the western shore to take a day's walk into the country at the same time.
November 11th.—From the top of a hill that stood on the west side, or rather, as the direction of the river is in this part, on the south side, I found that from the S.W. reach, where the sloop lay, the river curved to the E.S.E. and ran in that direction 1½ or 2 miles, where it appeared again to open out its banks to a considerable extent; its course being then intercepted by a great body of mountains, it turned more to the southward along the foot of the nearest range. This body of mountains consists of three ridges, whose general trending is towards the S.E. Some blue peaks and caps of more distant land to the E.N.E. topped over the uppermost ridge, which I judge to be the same seen from the large bight on the west side of Cape Portland, and amongst which the river most probably takes its rise. The depth of water being 8 fathoms abreast of the hill I was upon, and the tides running still very strong, are much in favour of the supposition that the river runs a good deal farther up, if not to these distant mountains, and the water will be fresh a very few miles above, for it was almost drinkable at low water where the sloop lay. It was too late before everybody got on board to move downwards the same evening.
November 12th.—In the morning a thick fog prevented us from weighing before 8 o'clock. The weather being then calm, we pulled down with the sweeps, sounding as marked in the sketch of the port. When we came near the narrow whirlpool reach I left the sloop, and took some empty casks with me to fill at a small rill, which had been observed when going up the river, intending also to get a set of angles from One Tree Point. The former we were not able to accomplish from the tide being so nearly out; neither were we more fortunate in searching the cove opposite to this reach, where the sloop had then come to anchor. In the afternoon I continued the search for water in the lower parts of the river, requesting Mr. Bass to follow in the sloop as soon as the tide should turn in our favour. Along the west shore down to Point Rapid the head of every creek and gully was examined, but no water could be found that the boat could come within a reasonable distance of. At sunset we came to an anchor with the sloop upon the same bank above Watering Cove which we had before stopped at, but not chuseing to wait till the following afternoon for the opportunity of filling our water up here, —
November 13th.—We got under weigh again at daylight in the morning with the first of the ebb, and turned down below Middle Island with a moderate breeze from the westward. My intention was to run into the southern arm, but in standing over to the middle head the water shoaled so much that we were obliged to put about. Having made an ineffectual attempt to find a passage into it along the western shore we bore away, and at 9 o'clock anchored a little to the westward of the Shag Rock in 5 fathoms, not much to the east of our first anchoring-place.
On going to examine the middle arm with the boat I found very deep water close to the western shore, but at this time could not be certain where the entrance into this deep channel lay. It appeared, however, to be of little consequence, for above the Middle Head, where the arm must be said to commence, there is but a small channel, or rather gutter, with 3 fathoms water in it. The rest is quite shoal, and a great part of it dry at low water. There were several swans at the head of the arm feeding on the grass which grows upon the shoals, and I observed two places where streams of water are most probably thrown into it at some seasons; but their entrance, if there are such streams, were now dry.
When we returned on board in the afternoon the wind blew a fresh gale from the westward, with hail and rain in squalls, which frusterated my intention of taking the sloop down the harbour with the evening ebb and anchoring in the entrance somewhere abreast of Green Island. The object in view was to lay in a convenient place for ascertaining the situations of the shoals and other parts in their neighbourhood, as also to be in readiness for proceeding along with the coast with the first fair wind.
November 14th.—In the morning I thought it advisable to go down in the boat and examine the outer cove. The head of it proved to be shoal, and the stream that falls into it salt instead of fresh water; but there was sufficient room for a larger vessel than the sloop to lay there out of the tide's way, in from 3 to 8 fathoms. Had the weather been moderate, I should have returned and brought the sloop into the cove, but it now came on to blow strong, with the same kind of weather as yesterday. I therefore continued down the harbour surveying till 2 o'clock, and having the opportunity of low water, went out upon the extensive shoal that lays along the sandy western shore, and took bearings of every place where the water appeared to break, as well as of the rocks and shoals that showed themselves above the surface. At night we dropped the sheet-anchor under foot, the wind blowing a gale from the N.W., with constant rain and thick weather.
November 20th.—There being a light breeze at N.N.W., we got under weigh as soon as the flood slacked, and at noon were abreast of the outer shoals, having narrowly escaped being set upon a part of one of them, which was now first perceived. Towards the low head there were many dark-coloured suspicious appearances of shoal water, but it could not now be ascertained of what nature they were.
We were now clear of the port, with a moderate breeze from the N.E., the weather cloudy with haze, and took our departure from Low Head, steering W.N.W. In the evening the weather became thick and rainy, when we kept more off the shore, and before 8 hauled our wind to the N.N.E. At 12 it began to freshen, and by daylight had brought us under close-reefed mainsail on the larboard tack, the wind having come round to W. b. N., where it fixed and blew a strong gale, accompanied with thick hazy weather and a good deal of sea.
November 21st.—By noon the balance-reefed mainsail and reefed storm-jib were as much as the sloop could bear, but these we were obliged to carry as long as possible, to make certain of drawing off the coast. The sun shewed itself at times, but there was too much spray and wet over everything to attempt an observation for the latitude.
Towards the evening the storm-jib split, but, from the mast being placed so far forward, the mainsail balanced very well by itself—an evident advantage to us at this time, although it was deemed so much the contrary at Port Jackson that it had been intended to shift it.
We were well satisfied that no land could be seen at sunset, and retired perfectly easy, the wind being at W.S.W., notwithstanding it was as strong as before and the sea higher; for although the sloop shipped some large sprays, upon the whole she performed wonderfully. Seas that were apparently determined to swallow her up she rode over with all the ease and majesty of an old experienced petterel. The gale moderated a little during the night, and the sea became less furious.
November 22nd.—In the morning we had many Mount Pitt birds about, but could see no land. At noon the latitude was 40° 13', by as good an observation as could be got, and soon after some high hummocky land appeared in the N.E., which, by its form and our latitude, judged to be that of the west side of Furneaux's largest island. Soon after 1 o'clock we set the squaresail and bore away before the sea for the Chapped Islands, to secure a situation to anchor in before night. At 3, Mount Chapped was in sight to the S.E., but on approaching to pass between it and the island S.W. of it we saw the breakers extending so far from each shore that it appeared doubtfull whether there was any clear passage between them, and therefore we hauled up for the Western Channel.
Hamilton's Road, at the east end of Preservation Island, being the only place of safety within our reach before dark, we steered for it, and glad were we to anchor there.
November 23rd.—The westerly gale continued to blow all the next day. This time was employed by us in drying and repairing our sails, getting provisions to hand, and recovering ourselves from the effect of the gale. At night I observed the beginning and end of an eclipse of the moon, and the time by the watch being corrected by altitude of the stars Rigel and Syrius, gave the longitude 148º 37' 30" E. of Greenwich.
November 24th.—The gale having subsided by the following morning into a moderate breeze from the N.W., we got under weigh, hoping to turn up with the flood to the Chapped Islands, which were almost wholly unexamined. After an ineffectual attempt on the south side of Preservation Island, we stood back and passed the road to examine the shoal and the passage between Preservation and Cape Barren Islands.
As long as the flood-tide lasted we kept turning to the westward, but the ebb making about noon, and not being able to anchor sufficiently near the Cape Barren shore to be sheltered by it, we bore away into Armstrong's Channel to speak the Nautilus, our former consort, and, through the commander of her, to inform his Excellency Captain Hunter of what we had already seen, and the tedious delays we had met with from the westerly winds. At 2 anchored in Kent's Bay, close to the Nautilus.
The wind having now died away, and there was a prospect of its coming fair for us, at 5 in the evening weighed and pulled towards Preservation Island with the flood-tide; but about dusk, a light breeze springing up at N.E., the advantage of which was worth the risk of removing in the night, we got in the boat, reefed the squaresail that we might see under it, and made sail to the S.W. for that part of Van Diemen's Land which we had left.
November 25th.—At half-past 5 in the morning the small, flat, level island which somewhat resembles Isle Waterhouse was in sight. The wind had by this time shifted to N.N.W., and blew strong with rainy weather, and before 8 o'clock was at W.N.W., which obliged us to tack off shore. At noon it blew a gale, but being then at W. b. S. the weather cleared, as it usually did, when the wind was on that side of west. We kept steerage-way on the sloop till 3 o'clock, and then took in the storm-jib and lay to under the close-reefed mainsail.
At sunset the high land of Cape Barren Island and of Van Diemen's Land was in sight, which induced me to make as much sail as the sloop could bear, to keep to windward during the night.
November 26th.—The wind moderating before the morning, and coming back to the northward, we tacked at 7 o'clock, making another attempt to get along the coast to the westward. At noon it was nearly calm; the observed latitude was 40° 34' 30" S. Mount Chappell bore N. 31 E. 6 or 7 leagues, and the low land about Isle Waterhouse S. 21 E. About 3 in the afternoon a breeze sprung up from E. by S., with which we steered to the S.W'ward. The flat level island before mentioned bore S. 12 E. 7 or 8 miles at sunset. At 10 we hauled N.E. by N. off the coast till half-past 1, and then tacked to come in with the land by daylight.
November 27th.—At 6 in the morning the cliffy head bore south 1½ miles, and the small rocky island W. by N. 2 miles. We passed close without the latter, and set it on with the head at S.E. by E.
Having now nearly reached the western part of our track, the wind began to shift round to its old quarter, with hazy weather, as if determined to resist our farther progress. At 9 o'clock, when the entrance of the port was open on the lee bow, it freshened to a gale, and the sea began to rise; we therefore judged it expedient to bear away and secure a retreat. The discoloured suspicious appearance which had been observed when coming out the port we now saw were patches of weed. In steering through these we yawed to one side and then the other, to prevent running over any of them. Nevertheless, I apprehend there cannot be less than 3 f'ms upon these patches, for the sea did not break upon any but the outermost one, or that which is farthest from Low Head.
December 3rd.—At 11 o'clock we anchored near the Shag Rock in 7 f'ms. As all the observations made in this port were now concluded, this may be the most proper place for inserting such as are most material and have not been remarked in our daily transactions.
The harbour itself is named Port Dalrymple by his Excellency Governor Hunter, as a small token of respect to the indefatigable labours of Alexander Dalrymple, Esq., whose fame in the hydrographical world needs no comment in this place to support it.
It is difficult to find any good local marks whereby this port may be found. In coming from the eastward we noticed the nearest head that way as being the first we had seen cliffs in, for every projection between that and the Swan Isles is sandy. The mountains do here approach nearer to the shore than any we had before met with on this coast, and it is the offshoot of a ridge, or rather a chain of lower mountains from the great mass inland that forms this cliffy head. The butt end of this chain comes to the back of Low Head, over which it is seen from sea, when bearing to the S.E., as a cluster of irregular hills, with the parent mountains shewing their blue heads just over them. On the west side of the entrance there is also a cluster of hills a good deal resembling those at the back of Low Head. They are the butt end of a range from the mass inland, which comes down to the sea on the west side of the port, and with that on the east forms an angle of which the blue distant mountains are the apex, and where, I apprehend, the river takes its rise. At about 4 leagues on the west side of the port the land is uncommonly high and irregular, being in the nearest part a kind of tableland, and afterwards intersected into uncouth shapes and peaks. From the brilliancy of some parts on the appearance of the sun after rain I judged them to consist of granite, like the mountains of Furneaux's Islands.
These appearances, taken together, are the best marks I can give for knowing this port by, in addition to its latitude, longitude, and trending of the coast on each side as laid down in the chart. The mountains whence I suppose the river to originate are situated to the E.S.E. from the entrance, and if they are, as is very probable, part of the great body of high land which we saw from the bight near Cape Portland, must be at least 10 or 12 leagues inland from the entrance to the port, and consequently we did not get more than halfway up the river. Between the two ridges or chains which branch off to the sea from these mountains the bed of the river is contained. Where the high lands which branch off inside shoots from the ridges are well apart, the river spreads out its banks to a considerable extent. Where they nearly meet the river is contracted by a small channel, but the rapidity of its stream does not suffer one to forget that it is a considerable river. It is in one place nearly 2½ miles and in another a short quarter of a mile in width, and these nearly close together.
One might suppose these large sheets of water to have been at one time separate lagoons, till repeated efforts, and perhaps some unusual weight of water, forced a communicating channel; the force of the whole being then united would work out a passage to the sea—from the shoals in the entrance, and particularly those connected with Green Island, which turn the whole force of the tides. The period when this took place has, comparatively speaking, been at no great distance. From these strange turnings and contractions, and the consequent irregularity of the bottom, the ripples and whirlpools are very strong and numerous.
It will appear from the sketch of this port* that it is very difficult of access. In addition to the sketch, I would observe to a vessel going in that the greatest part of the shoals are covered at half-tide; it is therefore by much the best time to go in with the first of the flood, or even a little before that. A line drawn from about two cables' lengths of Low Head for the middle of the harbour will, with a little deviation, carry her almost up to Green Island. There are two passages into this fairway—that nearest Low Head is amongst the patches of weed; the outer one is to run tolerably near the outermost shoal, which, I believe, is uncovered at all times of tide, and then to steer about E. b. S. for the lagoon beach, according to the line of direction marked in the sketch. I am not quite certain whether at a much less distance than two cables' lengths from the Low Head the former passage may not be clear of the patches of weed; it appeared to be so from the head.
[* See Plate VI, Flinders's "Terra Australis" (Atlas).]
Having steered S.E. b. S. about one mile and a half for the middle of the harbour, which will be sufficiently conspicuous unless the weather is very thick, the deep channel will begin to narrow; and a dangerous rock on the larboard hand, with shoal water a small distance round it, must be looked well out for. If it should be above or near half-tide it will be covered; but its place may be well ascertained by a remarkable gap in the trees at the top of the northernmost and nearest hill, which bears E. b. N. from the rock. This rock and shoal are more particularly dangerous, as the ebb-tide appears to set a good deal upon them; the situation will often be denoted by a strong ripple, but perhaps not always. It is safest to keep the shoal on the starboard hand nearest aboard, especially above the narrow part, hauling more into the channel whenever the line shews five or six fathoms. This shoal, being in general a mixture of shells, sand, and a little mud, upon a rocky foundation, will, in almost all kinds of weather, show itself to a man at the masthead, and is tolerably steep too. If the vessel comes in before the tide is much risen, the greatest part of it will be dry untill Green Island is approached very near to. It will have the appearance of being a point, and the direct channel into the basin will seem to be on the west side of it; but with the knowledge that the channel winds round on the east side of the island, it will be sufficiently conspicuous.
The middle rock lays equi-distant from the Green Island and the two points of Outer Cove, and, like most of the rocks and shoals, is uncovered till near half-flood. The passage is clear on each side of it and deep moderately close to, but that nearest to the island is the best and most direct. Should the rock be covered, the safest way is to keep the island close on board; this is more especially necessary on the ebb-tide, for it sets over or close past the rock, according to the time of tide. When above this part there can scarcely be said to be any clanger in getting into the basin, for the points are all steep to, and the Shag Rock is not covered till the top of high water. A ship may safely push in between the Shag Rock and the point, taking care that she borrows near enough to the point if the flood-tide is running, and does not go too near the shoal water in the entrance of the western arm before she anchors.
Upon the whole, although the entrance is certainly a dangerous one, I confidently hope that by attending to the sketch and the preceding remarks, and by keeping a vigilant look out, a vessel of any size may get in safely. In the Norfolk sloop we got up as high as Green Island on first going in, almost without perceiving any danger. However, this circumstance has often surprised me. The tide run so strong that a vessel will scarcely get in or out against them, but with them may get against any wind when she can carry sail.
In the sea reach more particularly the tides form strong ripples and whirlpools, upon many of which we have found deep water, but it must by no means be inferred that a vessel need pay no attention to them. Outer Cove will afford anchorage for at least one vessel, and when well-known places will probably be found below that on the same side, for it is to be observed that the shoal water is marked to its utmost extent in the sketch, and in those places that I had not sufficient time and opportunity to examine minutely, perhaps somewhat more than it really is. Our usual place on the west side of the Shag Rock affords very good anchorage for small vessels, but ships that had good boats would lay in any part of the basin where there is deep water. However, I should think it most advisable for a vessel that wanted much water or to refit to run up into the fresh water at once, to do which there seems to be no direction necessary but to consult the sketch, particularly about Brush Island, and when above our uppermost anchoring-place she will of course keep a boat ahead. Wood can be had in as great plenty and as conveniently as can be wished, but I have reason to think fresh water is scarce in the lower parts of the harbour. The most convenient place we met with was the lagoon at the back of a beach, about a mile from Low Head, but the water was not near so good as that in Watering Cove, which is 2 or 3 miles above Middle Island, on the eastern shore. The difficulty of getting at the water there is mentioned in the daily occurrences.
The supplies of food tell more in favour of Port Dalrymple than those of fresh water. The great number of swans that inhabit the port would be a source for some time during our stay. We usually found about one-tenth of them without the wing-feathers. A great many of these might be caught by a handy whaleboat, with no other weapon than a boat-hook. In the short intervals of time that our boat could be spared from more important employments we caught about thirty-five, and as one will serve three or four people for a day, they constituted the greatest part of our food during the time of our stay. They frequent the middle and western arms, but in the upper parts we found them most numerous at the heads of the coves, and particularly in the shoal bight above Swan Point; but they will probably be found in still greater numbers in the fresh water.
Kangaroos are tolerably numerous, and Mr. Bass was of opinion that they are larger than those about Port Jackson.
There are large flocks of ducks, but we found them shy. We took no trouble after them, and consequently got none. The white-bellied shag is commonly met with, and the large black one that is usually found about rivers. This last, we afterwards found, was very good eating. Pelicans also inhabit here. Of the fish, I can only say that our wants or leisure were never sufficient to induce a trial to catch any. A hook was once put over for a shark or nurse, which a piece of hide that was soaking overboard had attracted to the sloop. The islands in this port would be found very convenient for landing goats or other stock upon from a ship during her stay. Green Island has before been spoken of. Middle Island is a very beautiful place, and contains about forty acres of good pasturage, but the natives sometimes cross over the flat from the main, which, however, it is probable they would not do if the ship was laying near, or any person was on shore with the stock. Egg Island is small. We did not observe any marks of the natives having visited it, and it is covered with long grass; our limited time would not allow us to follow it up as far as it permitted navigation. From the table at the end of this journal it will appear that the latitude of Low Head is about 41° 3½' south, and the longitude 147° 11' east of Greenwich. The variations by the azimuth compass was 7° 33' 15" east, and by the theodolite 8° 30'. I calculated the time of high water to be about a quarter of an hour before the moon passes over the meridian, and the rise of the tide from six to eight feet; the ebb runs out near seven hours.
December 3rd.—Whilst laying at an anchor off the Low Head we got some azimuths by the compass, which agreed very well with those taken in Outer Cove. We had scarcely finished taking them when a breeze sprung up from the N.E'ward, upon which we quickly got the anchor up and made all sail to the westward. A little before it was dark, a rounded hill, which was the farthest land in sight, bore W. b. S. At 8 we hauled to the wind off the coast, being then 7 or 8 miles from Port Dalrymple.
December 4th.—At 4 o'clock on Tuesday morning we found ourselves about 2 miles to the east of our situation on the preceding evening. We then made sail W. b. N., with a light breeze from N.N.E., and hazy weather. In this weather, the bight, which lays round the south head of the port, could only be seen indistinctly, but I conjectured there was no opening in it. The small projecting point is low, and looked like an island.
At noon the wind had headed to N. b. W. in a light breeze with hazy weather. Our observed latitude was 40° 58' 10" south. We could yet distinguish the south head of Port Dalrymple, and the round hill, set on the evening before, bore S. 52° W. We hauled off the shore at dusk with a light air from the westward, and the hill then bore S. 44° W. about 7 miles, and the bluff north end of what appeared to be an island, W. 1° N. 6 or 7 leagues. This round hill stands close to the waterside, but would scarcely be observed at any considerable distance right off the coast; being very little higher than the back land, it loses its roundness when seen to the eastward. Six or seven miles on the east side of it there is a higher and much larger mount close to the water, which belongs to a range of mountains running to the S.W'ward, and joining the great irregular mass, already spoken of, which commences within 3 or 4 leagues of Port Dalrymple.
December 5th.—At 10 in the evening it fell calm, and continued so till 3 in the morning, when a light air sprung up from S.S.E., but soon shifted to the northward. Our progress to the west was but small, for at noon we were still 3 leagues from the same bluff head which had made like an island the day before, but was now seen to join the main. It bore W. 10° S. It is moderately high and level, whence I called it Table Cape. Land was in sight a considerable distance beyond this cape, and bore 11° to the northward of west, making like a small flat-topped island. Our latitude by observation was 40° 56', and the hills that came down on the south side of Port Dalrymple were still distinguishable, bearing E. 1° S., although our reckoning was 47° longitude west of Low Head. The light variable air, with intervals of calm, continued till midnight, at which time a breeze got up from the eastward, with which we stood off for two hours and then tacked in shore.
December 6th.—At half-past 4 in the morning Table Cape bore S. 3° W. 4 or 5 miles, when we bore away W. ½° S. for the farthest land that could be seen to be connected with the main. On the east side of Table Cape the coast runs nearly south 2 or 3 miles, into a small cove with a sandy beach at the head of it, where there appeared to be shelter from westerly or southerly winds. From the outer head of this small cove the coast runs a little farther to the southward, and then curves to E.S.E. and E. b. S., which is the general trending past the round hill and the high head near it. The land near the coast is moderately high and regular, but the blue tops of the island mountains show over the coast range here and there. At S. 16° E. from the cape there is a remarkable peaked hill, 4 or 5 leagues inland, which was distinguishable the last two days, there being no land of at all an equal height near it. It made at first with a flat top, but as we brought it to bear to the eastward of south it assumed a conic form.
From Port Dalrymple to Table Cape the land was well covered with wood, and had the appearance of being fertile: but on the west side of the cape there seems to be scarcely earth enough to support a starved scrubby brush, the bare rock showing itself in patches up to the summit of the hills. The rocky cape* for which we steered lays W. b. N. ¼ N. from Table Cape about 4 leagues, and, like most of the other projections, made at first like an island. The shore between hollows back into two shallow bays, the westernmost with a sandy beach, and there is a small rocky islet laying off it one mile and a half distant from the shore.
[* This cape still bears the name of "Rocky Point".]
At 8 o'clock we were abreast of the rocky cape. Behind it the shore falls back to the south-westward with a sandy beach, but curves round to the northward, and seemed to join the flat-topped piece of land which is called Circular Head in the charts, and which in its form very much resembles a Christmas-cake. It lays about N. b. 5° W., and distant 4 leagues from the Rocky Cape. I cannot be certain that there is no opening in the bight between these two projections, for the shore being low and sandy, and a thick haze hanging over the land, the continuation was not seen to be complete. At half-past 10 the line of the shore from the Circular Head into the bight bore S.W. b. S., the head being then only one mile and a half distant. Upon the lower land that lays on the west side of the peninsulated Circular Head there are some large green bushes, which, at a distance, appear above the smooth half-starved brush like sea-lions and seals laying upon a rock. This lower land is not above two or three miles in breadth from the Circular Head, for the coast again falls back to the southward some little distance, and then continues its trending to the westward, but from the haziness of the weather and our distance off the shore we could only see it in patches. At noon, light breezes from N.E. b. E. and fine weather, but thick over the land. The observed latitude was 40° 39' 44" south, and the longitude brought on from Port Dalrymple 145° 43' east. Circular Head bore S. 27° E. 6 or 7 miles, and the farthest continuation of the land S. 16° W., to the westward of which it only appeared at intervals; and I think it probable that there is some opening near the last-mentioned bearing, but running to leeward to examine it was too dangerous at this time, the wind seeming inclined to come right on the shore, and there was a hummock of land in sight as far as N. 52° W., which was the northernmost of three that lay near each other, in nearly a north and south direction. The southernmost hummock is the highest, and something like a broad-based sugar-loaf in form.
From noon we steered N.N.W. to weather the northernmost land, but after 3 o'clock the sloop seemed to be set astern, although going a knot and a half through the water. This circumstance attracted our attention a good deal, for we had observed very little tide any way before this morning. Seeing the water discoloured, we sounded and got ground with 17 and afterwards with 15 fathoms, being then about 3 leagues to the eastward of the Sugarloaf Hummock.
At 7 in the evening the weather was clearer, and gave us a last view of Table Cape, bearing S. 53½° E. at the distance of 12 or 13 leagues. The extreme on the other side bore N. 58° W. about 3 leagues, a little beyond the outer hummock. The land to the southward of us was still indistinct, and could only be seen at unequal intervals, but it appeared to run all along to the back of the land with the three hummocks upon it. There was, however, a steep head bearing S. 60° W., which had every appearance of being the north head of an opening. In a line with this head were some low black rocks nearer to us than the head. During the night the wind got round to the north, and at 4 in the morning fell calm.
December 7th.—At daylight we found ourselves a little to the eastward of our situation on the preceding evening. The observed latitude at noon was 40° 28', and the longitude, corrected by the bearings along the coast, 145° 38'. The outer hummock bore W. 1° N., and the southern one, or Sugarloaf, S. 67° W. 3 or 4 leagues.
The thermometer was at 70° at noon during last three days. Towards this evening a spurt of wind arose from the S.W., but it soon died away, and the weather continued nearly calm all night. Our last bearing of the outer hummock in the evening was S. 38° W. 8 or 9 miles, and was within a few degrees of being the extreme land in sight.
December 8th.—At 7 o'clock on Saturday morning it bore S. 19½° W. in a line with the Sugarloaf, and our distance off shore was about 5 miles. The middle hummock lay a little to the eastward of the line, and is the smallest of the three.
At this time the wind had freshened up from S.W.; the swell began to rise, and there was every appearance of an approaching gale. In this situation, I considered whether it would not be best to stand to the northward, and go into Western Port, agreeable to my orders, for it was evident that we could make no progress to the westward, and might probably be driven back; but in opposition to this, it appeared to me too dangerous a risk to make an unknown coast in thick weather with the wind nearly dead on; for to have been certain of getting into Western Port, we must have made the land on the west side of it, its situation having been only ascertained by Mr. Bass's run from Wilson's Promontory in a whaleboat, and even the Promontory was very ill-known in longitude, being only guessed at from its supposed relative position to Furneaux's Islands. As we had no timekeeper, it became also an inducement to keep these hummocks and the land in their neighbourhood in sight, to preserve the connexion in the bearings along the shore, upon which keeping of the longitude free from the errors that a dead reckoning is liable to almost inevitably in a tide's way altogether depended, for had we left the coast but for a few days, and come in upon it again, but just so far to the westward of the hummocks as not to have known the land, there is two to one that the dead reckoning would have accumulated an error of at least one degree by that time, and, consequently, an equal chance that a place not more than eight or ten leagues from the hummocks would have been laid down at twenty-eight or thirty; and if we made the land two or three degrees to the westward, there is two to one that it would be placed one degree wrong. If opportunities of getting lunar observations should have occurred, they would most probably reduce this error to half or a third of that quantity.
With these considerations Western Port was given up, and we made a stretch to the southward to beat up under the land, but could get no nearer to it until the weather tide made. At noon fresh breezes and hazy weather. Observed the latitude to be 40° 22' 55" south, the northern hummock bearing S. 35 W., and the distance from the land under it about 4 miles.
At half-past 3 we sounded in 11 fathoms, at 2 cables' length off the N.E. point of the land, and steered about S.E. b. S. under its lee, till we came abreast of a small beach about 4 miles from the N.E. point, to which we worked close up, and at 6 o'clock anchored in a quarter less 4 fathoms upon a sandy bottom, the extreme which sheltered us bearing N. 11° W. round by the west to S. 43° E. One of us* landed to examine the coast, and the other went upon the small rocks that lay off, but both without success as to our first inquiry, which was in some measure accounted for by the frequent marks of natives that were met with. We were, however, enabled to decide upon a most interesting question, for it was near low water by the shore, and we knew the tide had been running from the east all the afternoon. The flood, therefore, must come from the westward. This we considered to be almost a certain proof that there was a passage through between this land and New South Wales, and also that we could not be far from the west side of it. On our return on board we hoisted in the boat and got everything clear for putting to sea at a moment's notice, should the wind shift to the eastward.
[* By "us", Flinders evidently refers to himself and Bass.]
December 9th.—At 6 in the morning a light air from the S.E. succeeded a short calm. We weighed immediately and stood round the N.E. point. The land trends W. 8° S. from thence about 4 miles, then runs to the southward to a sandy beach, and from thence out to a rocky point which lays about S.S.W. 4 or 5 miles from the N.W. point. The shore is low and rocky, and equally barren as that we had anchored under. Having satisfied ourselves that the land of the Three Hummocks was certainly divided from the land to the westward, and by a channel of 3 miles in width, a difficulty recurred which we could not solve—the natives had been upon it, and yet we were tolerably certain that at Port Dalrymple they had no canoes, and by analogy, none here; but it did not appear probable that the island could be visited without. This is a dilemma which I am obliged to leave as I find it. From the low north point of the western land the coast lays S. 15° E., forming the west side of the channel, and rises in height to the southward, where it appears to be steep. On the other side of the rocky north point a projection opened at S. 20° W. at the distance of 6 or 7 miles, the shore between them falling back into two shallow bights, with sandy beaches. The land is low, and apparently as barren as Three Hummock Island, to which the vegetation bears a good deal of resemblance. Having a fresh breeze, we passed the north point of this land at half-past 10 and steered for a small but high and rocky island the south end of which bears W. 2° S. from the point, their distance asunder being about 8 miles. We passed some heavy breakers, which lay near 2 miles to the west and are independent of the point, and a little before noon hove too off the N.E. end of the island; got the boat out, and Mr. Bass pushed off for the shore to see what was to be procured. Whilst busy in getting out the boat the ebb-tide had imperceptibly drifted us near the shore, and the sloop's head being to the southward and wearing but slowly, she was not more than her length off the breakers when we got her round and made a stretch to the northward.
The island is nearly a mile in length, very steep and rocky, and seemed to be almost covered with birds, for there were white patches which we took to be of them some acres in extent. At noon the island bore from S. 70° E. in a line with the sugar-loafed hummock to S.S.E., distant one mile and a quarter, and by the observation the centre of it is in 40° 25' south; the computed longitude of it is 145° 4' east. To the northward I could see no land, but to the southward there were several rocks and islands, and a black lump of a rock, somewhat pyramidal, 5 or 6 leagues to the south-westward. Although we kept to the wind off and on the island whilst waiting for the boat, yet the tide had drifted us considerably to leeward before she got on board, and when we had unloaded her of the seals and albatrosses, and gotten the boat in and stowed, the island which [I] call Albatross Island bore N. 77° E. 5 or 6 miles.* It was then half-past 2 o'clock, and a steep rocky island of about 3 miles in length bore S. 35° E. about 4 leagues. We made sail for this, keeping up E.S.E. to fetch it, but the tide set so strong to the south-westward that we were obliged to pass to leeward of a peaked black rock which lays 5 miles to the westward of it, and round some breakers that lay three-quarters of a mile to the south-westward of the black rock. The tide also prevented us from fetching a larger island to the S.S.E. of the former, which is equally high, steep, and rocky. The chart will give the best idea of the situation and forms of these islands as near as they could be ascertained, but they must not be expected to be perfect, for between the strong wind which now blew from the E.N.E. and the long S.W. swell meeting the tide, the motion of the sloop was such as to render our compasses almost useless. The land that lays to the west of Three Hammock Island now appeared to be unconnected with the coast, which we saw stretching to the southward, and consequently adds another large island to this cluster. I have denominated them Hunter's Isles after his Excellency Captain Hunter, by whose orders this little voyage of discovery was made. They have the appearance of having been long and constantly beaten by strong winds and high seas, and the westernmost of them seem scarcely accessible by reason of the steep cliffs with which they are begirt. If seals should inhabit these I judge they will remain unmolested untill none are to be found anywhere else. The heavy swell, which the strong easterly wind made no impression upon, too surely announces the bad weather that generally prevails here, and the extreme danger a ship would run in cruising off and on for her sealing parties. The land which lays immediately to the southward and about 3 miles distant from the larger of the two high, steep islands is what we now considered to be the N.W. point of Van Diemen's Land, for the direction of the coast, the set of the tides, and the great swell from the S.W. did now completely satisfy us that a very wide strait did really exist betwixt Van Diemen's Land and New South Wales, and also now that we had certainly passed it.
[* Bass, on landing, had to fight his way up the cliffs with the seals, and afterwards to make a road through the albatrosses, which were sitting upon their nests and almost covered the surface of the island. —Flinders's "Terra Australis", vol. i., p. clxxii.]
This N.W. point** is terminated by steep black cliffs, and there are two lumps of rock laying off it which are equally high and inaccessible. To the northward of the point the land runs back to the N.E'ward, leaving an opening between it and the south end of that island, which lays west of the Three Hummocks, which opening I judge to be the same that was set on Thursday afternoon from the eastward. On the other side of the N.W. point the coast trends south a little easterly for 7 or 8 miles in high dismal-looking cliffs, which appear as if they had not had a respite from the dashing of a heavy sea almost up to their summits for this thousand years. We got ground with 20 fathoms when the south end of these cliffs bore E. by S. ¼ S. 4 miles, but stood on a little longer till 8 o'clock, and then wore to the northward, keeping under the lee of the land, for the wind now blew a gale at E.N.E. and very hard in puffs. At the end of these cliffs the land seemed to fall back into a sandy bay, and then to project out to the south-westward, the extreme bearing nearly south, a little before dark, between 2 and 3 leagues distant. The night was very dark and tempestuous. We continued to stand backwards and forwards, and to lay to occasionally, as the wind would allow, keeping as much under the land as we could.
[** Called by Flinders "Cape Grim".]
December 10th.—At 8 in the morning the land appeared indistinctly through the haze, and the wind being at N.E., and a little moderated, we then made some sail upon the vessel and stood in shore on the larboard tack. Before 10 the head which had been set at south on the preceding evening was in sight, bearing N. 37° E. 2 or 3 leagues, but there was low land running without it as far as N. 30° E.
The wind had become quite moderate at noon, but the weather remained dull and cloudy. We, however, got an altitude of the sun which gave the latitude 41° 13' 46" south, being fourteen more than could be made by the dead reckoning. Our longitude, corrected by the land, was 144° 58' east, the low land at the north extreme bearing N. 16° W. 3 leagues. The shore from thence is low and mostly sandy, but rises inland to a moderate height, and is covered with wood. There was a mount* bearing S. 58° E., which appeared to be the northernmost of a range of high hills running parallel with the coast. The southern extreme of the land bore S. 28° E., and abreast of us was distant about 3 miles, but there are several rocks and breakers laying a mile or two off the shore, some of which were not more than 1 mile distant. We steered S. b. E. till near 6 o'clock, with a breeze from N.N.E., and had then run 5 leagues along the same kind of shore as before described. The wind beginning to shift round to the westward, we hauled off a little, and at 7 kept close to the wind on the larboard tack, but the great head swell prevented us from making much way off the coast. The last bearings of the land this evening were as follows:—A low rocky projection, with sandhills on the south side of it, N. 17° E. 4 or 5 miles; the northernmost mount of the high hills inland N. 46° E.; the highest part of some mountainous land to the southward, unconnected with the northern range, S. 52° E.; and the extreme of the shore, indistinctly seen through the haze, bore about S.E. b. S.
[* Called by Flinders "Mount Norfolk".]
December 11th.—We kept to the wind off and on till 4 o'clock in the morning, and then steered N.E. till near 5, when I set the same low rocky projection as seen last night at N, 17° W. 2 or 3 leagues, and the north mount at N. 22° E. Nearly the same kind of waving shore continued on the south side of the low projection as on the north side, sandy beaches and low stony heads presenting themselves alternately. Some sharp-pointed rocks at the south extreme bore S. 47° E., for which we bore away before a moderate breeze from N.W., the weather hazy.
At 7 we came abreast of a rocky head which is higher than those which had been lately passed, and behind which the land seemed to divide and form a gully or small river, running in to the northward; but I much doubt there being a passage in for anything larger than a boat, as there is a reef from the north head, which appeared to extend almost across the entrance.** We stood towards it for a few minutes, but the wind just at that time came round to the west, and rendered it necessary to keep farther off the coast. On the south side of this small entrance there is a sandy beach, from whence a smoke ascended as from an expiring fire, and was the first we had seen since passing Table Cape, on the north side of the island. The shore from thence becomes rocky, and forms a point about 4 miles from the entrance. There are also many rocks laying a small distance off the shore in this space.
[** Evidently the entrance to Pieman River.]
The haze had hitherto obscured the mountainous land which had been seen bearing S. 52° E. on the preceding evening, but at 10 o'clock it was in sight, the highest part bearing E. 9° N., and our distance from the shore under it was about 7 miles. We then steered S.S.E. and S.E., keeping at nearly the same distance from the land till noon, when the observed latitude was 42° 2' 11". The longitude I reckoned to be 145° 16' east, and the thermometer stood at 64°. The wind blew fresh at west, and the cloudy weather and haze were such as scarcely permitted us to distinguish the high land, although it ranges tolerably close to the shore. The extreme of the land at this time bore as far as S.S.E. ½ E., distant 4 leagues, which obliged us to haul farther out.
Of the hollow on the north side of this extreme I cannot speak with much certainty, the direction of the wind making it necessary for our safety to keep at such a distance from the shore that when combined with the haze would only allow us to distinguish that the coast was in general sandy, and to suspect that the haze obscured some great masses of high land close at the back of it. There is one or two places left in the chart where the coast-line did not seem to be perfect, but one of a like appearance near the outer point, we found on approaching it, had a low sandy beach running across. To the southward of this point the shore is rocky, the land is lower, and to appearance wretchedly barren. Not a sandy beach was seen on which the imagination could rest [with] a hope of saving our lives in case the wind should come to blow dead on the coast. We carried every sail the sloop had to set till 8 o'clock, and had then run 11 leagues to the S.S.E. since noon. We then hauled off to the S.W'ward, having set a pyramidal rock bearing east 5 or 6 miles, and a low rocky cape at E. 16° S.*** The pyramid lays nearly a mile from the shore, and was seen when 4 leagues distant, although the weather was still hazy.****
[*** The low rocky cape Flinders called "Cape Hibbs", after the master of the vessel.]
[**** During this day's run Flinders passed, unobserved, the entrance to Macquarie Harbour.]
December 12th.—At daybreak the pyramid and low cape were again in sight, and at 5 o'clock the former bore N. 27° E. over the cape, appearing like the crown of a hat, and not near so pointed as when seen to the S.E. The cape was not more than 3 miles distant, and the land running 3 or 4 miles to the eastward from its extreme forms a hollow by then turning to its usual course. The wind being moderate at W. b. N., we steered S.E. for some high rocks, 3 or 4 leagues distant, that lay off a steep head, behind which there was some prospect of meeting with an opening. The shore contiguous to this run is moderately high, and has a better appearance than on the north side of Low Cape, for it is tolerably well-wooded.
From 7 to 10 o'clock we steered S.S.E., keeping about 4 miles from the shore. The high rocks then bore N. 6° W. 11 miles, and the extremity of a low rocky point* E. 10° S. 5 miles. From this rocky point the land runs back to the eastward 6 or 7 miles to the foot of some high and very barren mountains, and then resumes its old course. In this bight a smoke arose, which was the second we had seen on this coast. At noon Rocky Point bore N. 8° W., or true north 6 miles; and the observed latitude was 43° 7' south, which is eleven more than the log gave. Some observations of the sun west of the moon place this point in 145° 24' east, being corrected by the observations in Port Dalrymple; but I have placed it in 145° 41' in the chart, according to the corrected dead reckoning, which afterwards gave the situation of the S.W. Cape only 5' of longitude different from what Captain Cook lays it down. Two round hills on the extremity of a point bearing S. 64° E. 5 leagues was the farthest land we could well define; at 4 o'clock the hills bore N. 55° E. 5 or 6 miles, when the latitude by the meridional altitude of the moon was 43° 18' 40" south. The point upon which these hills stand was afterwards named Point St. Vincent, by Governor Hunter; round it there was the appearance of a considerable opening, and the space that there seemed to be between the mountains partly corroborated the conjecture. The mountains which presented themselves to our view in this situation, both close to the shore and inland, were amongst the most stupendous works of Nature I ever beheld, and, at the same time, are the most dismal and barren that can be imagined.** The eye ranges over these peaks and variously-formed lumps of adamantine rock with astonishment and horror; had the thermometer been 30° or 40° lower, and our distance from the land been somewhat greater, the white streaks and patches of bare rock might have been taken for snow.
[* Named by Flinders "Rocky Point".]
[** These are now known as the De Witt Range. The highest point was called by Flinders "De Witt Mount", under the impression that the peaks were the De Witt Isles of Tasman.—Flinders's "Terra Australis", vol. i., p. clxxvii.]
Soon after 5 o'clock it fell calm, and we perceived that the sloop was drifted towards the shore by the swell. At sunset I took the angle of a pyramidal rock at the south extreme 103° to the left of the sun's amplitude, which gives its true bearing S. 45½° E., and the highest of the two hills on Point St. Vincent N. 49° E true. A variable easterly air that sprung up soon after this enabled us to draw the sloop off the shore a little, but there was very little wind during the night.
December 13th.—At 4 in the morning we steered E. b. N., with a moderate north wind, for a high jagged point of land, which was the southermost in sight.*** At half-past 7 a steep head opened round it at E. 14° N., and the highest round hill upon Point St. Vincent bore N. 14° W., in a line with one of the highest mountains to the northward, and this same mountain afterwards bore N. 27° W. from the pitch of the high jagged point.
[*** This jagged point of land was the South-West Cape.]
I now counted seven islands and rocks laying off to the southward, the form and relative situation of which evinced them to be De Witt's Isles, and although the log did not give our situation so much to the southward, yet everything else tended to prove that the high jagged point was the S.W. Cape of Van Diemen's Land, and consequently that from a totally unknown coast we were now come to a part of the island that had often been visited before. On this occasion it was gratifying to reflect that we had been enabled to keep the shore so close on board that not much of it had escaped a minute examination, and altho' [the winds] had much detained us by their contrariety and violence, yet had the chain of angles been never wholly broken from that part of the coast near the N.E. Cape, where Capt. Furneaux left it, round to the S.W. Cape, where his examination commenced. This will explain how it comes to pass that without having a timekeeper our reckoning should only err 5' of longitude in ten days, from Port Dalrymple to the S.W. Cape. These places, too, are laid down by lunar observations, and taken by different people and instruments, and at an interval of twenty-two years.
The same tide or current that had drifted us about 4 leagues to the southward during the night now prevented us from fetching nearer than 3 miles to the S.W. Cape, but it then drew more to the westward, and the wind took the same direction along the high-towering heads. Those heads are the extremes of ranges of mountains which, rising inland and stretching towards the south, have been here abruptly severed by the effect of some unknown cause. The De Witt's Isles are probably the uncovered remains of this section. These isles and the projecting ridges seem to vie with each other in sterility, but there is some vegetation on both in those parts of them that are sheltered from the southerly and westerly winds.
Soon after 10 we hauled up to examine an opening about 3 leagues from the S.W. Cape. It proved to be only a small shallow bay, with a sandy beach at the head of it, and is open to southerly winds, but there are two clusters of rocks in the mouth of it, which would break off a good deal of sea, perhaps sufficiently so for a ship to find shelter in the bay. At noon we hove to off the southernmost cluster of these rocks, to take the angles that the islands, rocks, and other conspicuous objects made with the steep head, which bore from us N. 75° E. The distance afterwards run to it was 11 miles. I observed the sun's meridional altitude from the south, which gave the latitude 43° 27' 38" south, according to which the S.W. Cape would be in 43° 29' south. This latitude is something more than that given by our log from the time of the observation by the moon yesterday, but it is less than that of both Captn. Furneaux and Captn. Cook, the first of whom makes it in 43° 39', and the latter in 43° 37' south. From the greatness of these authorities, I conjecture that from haste to get the angles before our position was materially altered a mistake of 10' must have been made in reckoning off the altitude from the sextant, and I have therefore placed the Cape in 43° 39' 0" in the chart.
Every navigator that has hitherto passed along this coast, as far as my knowledge extends, has kept to the southward of the islands, and those who have made sketches or charts have usually left unfinished places where it was supposed there might be good harbours or bays. In order to ascertain this point we steered within the body of the islands, and from within one and a half to four miles of the main. I am tolerably certain we saw the head of every bay and bight, and also that they are nearly as marked in the charts. With respect to relative position, some allowance must be made for the rapidity with which we passed along, and the tides that might render a dead reckoning more erroneous than would be perceptible by the land. Here I again lamented the want of a timekeeper. Indeed this deficiency was a continual source of regret, and has been already mentioned more than once, but it ought to be kept constantly in mind, that more confidence may not be placed in the chart than it deserves.
At 2 o'clock we passed close to the westernmost of De Witt's Isles. This island appears to be higher and larger than any of the cluster, being near 2 miles in length, and it is very barren. It had lately been burnt, which was a circumstance that a good deal surprised us. We examined the rocks very carefully for seals, but did not see one there, or even in the water, during any part of the day.
At half-past 5 we approached very near to a head equally steep with those to the westward, but differing in this—that it was basaltic, and somewhat lower than those. This had hitherto been the farthest land in sight, and was taken to be the South Cape, and the first land that opened round it being at E. b. N., about 6 miles distant, proves that it was so. But on examining Captn. Cook's chart, I think it is this next head that he has called the South Cape, principally from the relative situations of his Peaked Hill and the Eddystone. This peaked hill was called Cockscomb Hill by Captn. Bligh in 1791, which is a name very applicable to its form when bearing to the eastward of north, but when seen to the westward its high peak is only conspicuous.
At 6 it became nearly calm, and at the same time heavy clouds of black and red began to collect in the south and round the west. We therefore steered off shore, for at this time our distance was not so much as a mile and a half from the rocky shore, under the South Cape. There was a tide setting to the eastward, with which—and getting a little more offing—we hoped to be able to fetch into the Storm Bay Passage, if the wind should not come so dead on as at south. Sudden puffs of wind from the westward succeeded the calm, each puff being stronger than the former, and the intervals shorter. At the same time we saw a heavy squall behind, of all colours, sweeping along towards us and covering the horizon with impenetrable darkness. Soon after we had taken in all the sails but the foresail, it burst upon us, with thunder, lightning, and heavy rain. The direction of the wind was W. b. S., and we steered S.E. b. E. and east, keeping it as much quartering as we dare, to get farther off shore. Had it been from south, or had the squall come on an hour sooner, it is probable we should have been left to bleach under the high cliffs of the South Cape, and the separation of Van Diemen's Land from New Holland would still have been only supported by conjecture.
At half-past 7 the squall was mostly passed over, and we had an indistinct view of either Swilly* or the Eddystone, bearing S.E. ¾ S. The South Cape then bore W. ½ N. 5 or 6 miles, and the next head N. b. E. two and a half. There was a second head in sight to the eastward of the cape, which opened from the first at N. 70° E., 5 or 6 miles asunder.** Beyond this I believe the coast trends away to the northward up the Storm Bay Passage; Tasman's Head was just in sight, bearing about N.E. b. E.
[* Now known as Piedra Blanca.]
[** Shown on the maps as South-East Cape.]
Friday, December 14th.—It blew very hard during the night between west and north-west, accompanied with rain and very thick weather. We kept to windward in the mouth of the passage as well as we could, hoping to fetch in next morning; but at 4 o'clock found it would be impossible to weather the small islands called Courts by Mr. Hayes, and therefore bore away for Tasman's Head, the outermost of the Friar Rocks*** then bearing N.E. b. E. 2 or 3 leagues. Courts Isles lay W. ½ N. from the southernmost of the Friars, and between them there is a deep bight, the head of which I set at N.N.W., when the inner part of Tasman's Head was in the same bearing. There is some vegetation upon three of the Friars, and we observed that the largest of them had been lately burnt. The two easternmost are mere black rocks. One of them is in a pyramidal form, and, I suppose, it was from the appearance of these two in particular that Captn. Furneaux gave them their present name. They extend about one mile and a quarter from the head, and are frequented by many gannets. About one mile N.E. of these rocks we saw broken water, which might have been upon a reef, or perhaps was only the effect of a tide. A small reef is marked in the chart, that those who follow may be on their guard.
[*** So called by Captain Furneaux.]
About one mile N.E. of these rocks we saw broken water, which might have been upon a reef, or perhaps was only the effect of a tide. A small reef is marked in the chart, that those who follow may be on their guard.
By our azimuth compass the Fluted Cape opened round Tasman's Head at N. b. E. ¼ E., and Cape Frederick Henry round Fluted Cape at N. ½ E.
Not being able to get into Adventure Bay, we edged away round Cape Frederick Henry, to try if we could not get into the Derwent River.
At noon the wind was more moderate, with fine weather. The north end of the Island of Adventure bore N. 68° W., and the other point of the entrance up the Derwent N. 40° W. about 6 miles; the observed latitude was 43° 8' 16" south.
Finding we could not gain the mouth of the river after turning some hours, the sloop being now light and leewardly, we bore away up what Captn. Bligh called Providence Sound in 1791, and which Mr. Hayes has since named Henshaw Bay; but as I apprehend this is the place that Tasman called Frederick Henry or Hendrick's Bay more than a century ago, I have prefixed that name to it in the chart.* At half-past 6 we anchored in 10½ fathoms upon a sandy bottom, about one mile and a half from the weather shore, and exposed to a southerly sea, Cape Frederick Henry bearing S. 9° W., and the opposite side of the entrance S. 25° E. There is a long sandy beach at what appeared to be the head of the bay, but to the eastward of us there seemed to be an opening, where we hoped to find good shelter, as well as a field for further researches. The country had a pleasant appearance, particularly a sloping piece of land on the south side of the opening. This we afterwards found to be an island of between one and two miles in length, and is distinguished by the name of Sloping Island in the chart.
[* This bay is still known as Frederick Henry Bay.]
Saturday, 15th.—In the morning the wind was moderate from the N.W. We weighed at half-past 10, and ran over to a small island bearing N. 33° E., and having observed there was no tide running any way, we weighed the distance by a constant log, and found it to be 3.41 miles, which served as a base to lay down this part of the bay from. We anchored on the lee side of the island in six and a half fathoms, and went on shore upon it with the theodolite. Its length is not more than a quarter of a mile S.E. and N.W. It is frequented by gulls, who lay their eggs here; and it had also been frequented by men but a few months back, there being several fire-places with numbers of large ear-shells about them. Finding several dark holes in the cliffs, I called this the Isle of Caves. In the afternoon we weighed and steered for a smooth beautiful-looking island up the opening, which bore from E. 5° 30' to 10° 40' S. from the Isle of Caves, and measured another base in the same manner as before. Their distance asunder is five miles and three quarters.
On landing upon this smooth island in the evening we did not find the goodness of its soil equal to its appearance; it would, however, make a fine large garden, there being more than a hundred acres of cultivable ground upon it.
December 16th, Sunday.—In the morning I again landed to take bearings from another part of the island, after which we weighed and ran to the south side of a point which lays one mile and a half to the south-eastward, the wind fresh from the northward. From a hill that stands a little within this point I had a good view of the form of the bay in its neighbourhood.
Monday, 17th.—In the evening we ran round to the north side of the point, there being every appearance of a southerly gale coming on, but it continued moderate, and in the morning we landed upon the islet called Gull Island in the chart. The soil of this island is a mixture of vegetable earth and sand, and it is clothed with trees and brush. We found a good many gulls on the west point of it, and shot several, which were not thought bad eating when in addition to a short allowance.
The wind blew too strong from the westward to move the sloop, and therefore we spent the afternoon in examining a small arm to the N.E. of Gull Island in the boat. We took no lead or line, our progress being too slow and difficult to admit of the delay of sounding, but there appeared to [be] water enough for the sloop to some distance up. A small stream of fresh water runs over the stones into the head of this small branch, but the shallowness of the water in this part would render it very inconvenient to fill casks here. The country all round was miserable and barren.
Tuesday, 18th.—The strength of the wind at sunset made it necessary to drop the sheet-anchor under foot, but it was moderate on Tuesday morning. We then made an attempt to turn up to the weather shore, but towards the evening found it most convenient to compromise the matter by anchoring on the south side of the bay, under the lee of a cliffy head which projected to the northward. Our soundings, as well as the form of this extensive bay, will be best understood by consulting the sketch.
From a head that lay three-quarters of a mile from our anchorage I took bearings of every remarkable object in sight, amongst which it was an agreeable surprize to see a new opening on the east side of the bay, at the back of a small woody island. It did not appear to be above half a mile wide, but the only land that could be seen through it was a hummock which was quite blue from its distance, and I then conjectured it might be one of the Maria Islands; but whether this opens into the ocean or is the mouth of a river, or whether there may be very low lands running across but a little way back, and thus be neither the one or the other, I cannot determine. About 8 o'clock I observed the meridional altitude of the moon abreast of the sloop by the artificial horizon, and found the latitude to be 43° 1' 28".
Wednesday, 19th.—I went early on Wednesday morning to get bearings from the extremity of the nearest western head before we got under weigh. The wind was still at W.S.W., but the length of time it might take to turn back in the present light trim of the sloop deterred me from running for the new opening. Therefore, with the intention of returning to examine it if time and the winds should permit, we stood back out of this upper part of Frederick Henry Bay for the purpose of getting up the Derwent River, where there was little doubt of finding fresh water, as well as the most fertile country. The latter, as being Mr. Bass's pursuit, weighed with me, as well as the expectation of finding a field for my own. At noon I got an observation of the sun, which gives the latitude of Green Head 42° 56½' south. It bore S. 72° W. two and a half miles, and is the north point of the great piece of land that divides the eastern part of Frederick Henry Bay from the common entrance into it and the Derwent, and makes the former a spacious and well-sheltered harbour. I called it Green Head from its appearance. At 8 in the evening we got to an anchor in 4½ fathoms on the N.E. side of Sloping Island.
Thursday, 20th.—At daylight on Thursday morning continued our progress towards the Derwent, but a calm with thick rainy weather induced me to drop the anchor soon afterwards. At 10 o'clock a breeze sprung up from the southward. We weighed and attempted to turn to windward, but finding we were likely to have a long beat in the rain to little purpose we anchored abreast of a small beach on the west shore in two and three-quarters fathoms, the wind being about three points off the land. The rain abated in the evening, and permitted us to examine a sheet of water which had been observed over the beach from the masthead. There was a good deal of tide coming out of the narrow entrance; but the water is only of sufficient depth for boats. Our examination of the lagoon next morning was principally with the hope of finding a passage by it into the river, but it was without success, nor was there any fresh water to be met with. There were some flights of ducks, but we could not shoot any.
Friday, 21st.—We were under weigh with the sloop at noon and crawling a little to the southward with light westerly airs. At 4 o'clock a variable breeze sprung up from the N.E'ward, upon which I left the sloop for Mr. Bass to proceed with into the Derwent, and went away in the boat to Betsey's Island to get bearings. This island lays between the entrance of the river and the passage into the upper part of Frederick Henry Bay, and is a mile off the beach of what Mr. Hayes has called Speak's Bay; though, if it deserves a name, perhaps No-man's Bay would be the most applicable to it. The length of the island is more than a mile S.E. b. S. and N.W. b. N. It is high and so steep that I was unable to land till after coasting half-round it, and it was then necessary to make good use of my hands in ascending the mount to ensure safety. It is thickly clothed with trees and luxuriant grass, upon which no animal appeared to feed, and the prospect from it is extensive and grand. The natives visit it; but I found no recent marks of their fires.
At 8 o'clock I joined the sloop off the west point of Speak's Bay. The wind had shifted round to the southward, and there were great doubts of her weathering the rocks that lay off the point. I therefore went to sound within them, and found 3 fathoms amongst the seaweed; but she fetched round with the assistance of the sweeps, and we soon after anchored in 9 fathoms in the mouth of the river, it being then calm. Mr. Bass informed me that he had passed two flat rocks laying nearly halfway over from the beach of Speak's Bay to Betsey Island and through a great deal of seaweed, but never had less than 5 fathoms of water.
Saturday, 22nd.—At midnight a light air from the southward induced us to weigh, but we had not advanced a quarter of a mile before a want of wind made it necessary to anchor again. At 7 in the morning we made another trial, but with no more success. Mr. Bass and myself then went ashore abreast of the sloop upon our several pursuits. A little before noon we returned on board and got under weigh to turn upwards, finding there was a little tide in our favour, the wind moderate from the northward. We had advanced about 3 miles when the wind died away, and the tide was then draining downwards; we therefore anchored again, and went on shore as before. This was a large beach, hollowing back into the land, which I had hitherto taken to be Ralph's Bay.
Sunday, 23rd.—The wind being fresh from the northward in the morning, and the tide running down, we did not attempt to turn upwards, but stood over to the west side of the river and anchored close to the shore. I ascended the high land abreast of the sloop, and saw the head of Fairlie's Harbour on the other side. It appeared to be very shoal, but the ground round it good, and, from its situation immediately under the slope of the high mountain, there are probably several streams of fresh water running into it.
About the time that it began to get dark we were abreast of Risdon River, according to the situation of Mount Direction, and therefore anchored for the night, intending to enter it in the morning and take in fresh water, if any was to be found.
Monday, 24th.—Risdon River turned out in the morning to be a small cove which has a run of water into it in wet weather. The tide flows into it at other times, but at low water it is nearly dry. Not being able to go upwards with the sloop, the wind and tide being both against us, I ascended Mount Direction, from whence I could see into Frederick Henry Bay, and had a good view and bearings of the different points of the river as far down as Betsey's Island, and upwards till it turns to the southwestward, where I conjectured the Saunders River of Mr. Hayes emptied itself.
Tuesday, 25th.—The following morning we made an attempt to go up the river, but, being likely to lose ground, anchored in 8 fathoms on the west side, abreast of a small inlet dignified with the name of Prince of Wales's Bay. Whether there is water enough for a vessel to go into it I cannot say; but seeing no swans there, I took the boat round to the place where Duke's River is marked in the chart. Mr. Bass had had a search on shore for this river the preceding evening, but could find nothing more than a drain, and that a small one, issuing from a swamp. I was still more unsuccessful in that pursuit, but I brought three swans on board soon after 8 o'clock. After landing Mr. Bass, I took the boat up the river above Mount Direction, and got bearings from several places on both sides. I observed the latitude to be 42° 47' 23" south, on a point to the W.N.W. of the mound, and on the opposite side. We were obliged to give the point under Mount Direction a good berth, and could not anywhere find more than 2 fathoms off it. By keeping too near the point on the west side of the river where the observation for the latitude had been taken, the water shoaled and obliged us to let go the anchor in 9 feet. We sounded in the boat for the deep water and weighed, but touched the ground just off the point, altho' the previous cast had been 7 fathoms. The bottom being soft mud and the tide rising, she went over without any injury, and we proceeded upwards till it began to be dark, and then anchored in the mouth of a cove that had particularly attracted my notice at the top of Mount Direction, from the beauty of the surrounding country and the great number of swans I observed in it.
Wednesday, 26th.—Having taken bearings to intersect those from Mount Direction, we weighed at 8 o'clock, with the intention of running up towards the head of the river, into the fresh water, but had not proceeded far before the shoalness of the water obliged us to anchor, neither could I find that there was any channel deep enough for the sloop, altho' the river was still half a mile wide. We were now cut off from our principal dependence for fresh water, which our expiring twelve weeks, the light trim of the sloop, and indeed almost immediate necessity, made a primary object of pursuit; I therefore went with the boat into the cove we had just left to search for fresh water, and on the making of the ebb the sloop followed and anchored in the mouth of it.
This place I called Herdsman's Cove, from the capability of the neighbouring country to support large herds of cattle. There are two small streams that fall into it; the southernmost leads to a swamp, into which we got the boat, being near high water, but could not anywhere find it fresh enough to drink. That which comes into the N.E. corner of the cove is much larger and deeper, but we rowed nearly 2 miles up it before the water became fresh. This was at the head, where it drains in amongst the stones, and was very inconvenient to fill casks at. There are 2 or 3 fathoms up to near the head of this creek, but it was with a good deal of difficulty, and not till the afternoon, that we could find the narrow channel leading into it. Except this channel, the cove itself is mostly dry at low water, the bottom being soft mud covered with slimy grass of some feet in length, upon which the swans feed. Towards evening the wind blew strong from the S.E., with thick rainy weather (Thursday, 27th), which continued all the next day, so as to prevent us from moving either with the sloop or boat. The intricacy of the channel into this creek, and the delay that might arise from a southerly or westerly wind setting in, deterred me from going up it to fill water. The banks of the creek are in general so very high that even a light breeze would be so much increased as to prevent us from getting out whilst the wind blew upon it. I therefore thought it best, after giving one day to an excursion up the river in the boat, to go down to Risdon Cove, where we were certain of getting water, though it might be with a good deal of difficulty.
Friday, 28th.—On Friday morning the weather was fine, and a light breeze blowing from the S.W., we took an early breakfast and set off upon our excursion.
In the corner of the turning to the south-westward we expected to find the Saunders River of Mr. Hayes, but could not perceive any opening or stream whatever. The water being very shoal there, and the place out of our way, we did not go up into [the] corner, and therefore I cannot assert that there is no stream, but certainly there can be none that ought to be called a river. From this corner the river runs S.S.W., contracting its banks to half its former size, and after a short distance the water becomes fresh. The land on both sides rises high at a very little distance from the water, and being a steep ascent and clothed with trees and verdure, has a beautiful and majestic appearance, particularly on the larboard shore.
After rowing about 3 miles from the corner, deviating a point or two from S.S.W., the river turns sharp round to about W. ½ N. for half a mile, preserving nearly the same width. The number of swans that we saw in this excursion by far exceeded the flocks in Port Dalrymple. We brought fifteen on board with us.
Saturday, 29th.—There were some small coves on the western shore, which were examined for fresh water, but without success. At half-past 6 we got under weigh, and having a fair wind, traced the deep channel down with tolerable accuracy till we came abreast of Mount Direction Point, where there did not appear to be more than 9 or 10 feet in any part. Mr. Hayes marks one fathom here, but seems to have anchored above it in his ship. As soon as the anchor was dropped in Risdon Cove we went on shore to examine the run, and found that the late rain had thrown so much water in that we should be able to fill our casks near the mouth. The valley that it runs down extends some distance to the southeastward, and is a very beautiful country, with a rich luxuriant soil.
In the afternoon we got all the water-casks on shore, and in the evening some good observations gave the variation of the azimuth compass 8° 28' east, and of the theodolite 9° 15' east. A meridional altitude of the moon, taken early next morning gave the latitude 42° 48' 12' south.
Tuesday, January 1st, 1799.—Having light baffling airs and foul winds, we were no lower down the river on Tuesday at noon than the mouth of Ralph's Bay, opposite to which I observed the latitude to be 42° 56' 56" S. At night the weather looked so wild and unsettled that I was afraid to anchor on either shore lest it should become a lee one; we therefore kept beating all night, the wind being in general strong from the S.E'ward.
Wednesday, 2nd.—It was still foul in the morning, when, finding that we might be beating about for two or three days, and perhaps not get round Cape Pillar after all without a fair wind, we ran into the Storm Bay Passage, and about noon anchored in Port Pruen, in 4 fathoms. It is almost unnecessary to say that wood can be had in every part in great abundance. Every place that we found fresh water in has been noticed in the daily occurrences. The longitude marked in the sketch is according to the situation of Penguin Island by Lieut. Bligh in 1788. The meridians upon the chart are moved 1½' more westerly on account of a before-mentioned difference of 5' in the reckoning on making the S.W. Cape.
Thursday, 3rd.—Early on Thursday morning we sailed from Pruen Cove for Port Jackson, it being then the fourth day after the expiration of our limited twelve weeks. It was not without regret that I was obliged to leave this interesting part of Van Diemen's Land so imperfectly examined. Of the Storm Bay Passage we saw nothing except the northern entrance, and the western part of Adventure Bay Island, which Mr. Bass was so anxious to visit, was not landed upon. It would have been worth some trouble to ascertain whether the hogs and goats which the philanthropy of navigators has placed here are yet remaining. We weighed with a variable wind, which afterwards settled at N.W., and having turned out of the Storm Bay Passage, hoisted in our boat and stood over to Quoin Island, intending to keep close round the south end of what has hitherto been called the Maria Islands, tho' why Tasman called this body of land islands, or whether this is certainly the same that he so named, I cannot tell, not having his Voyage.
At noon the high mountain* on the west side of the Derwent bore N. 52° W. This mountain, by being visible at almost every station, was very serviceable in connecting the different parts of the bay and river together. Quoin Island at the same time bore S. 74° E. 2 leagues. The western part of Quoin Island is steep cliffs, and by sloping down gradually to its eastern side it presents the form of a quoin when seen from the southward. It appeared to be not more than a mile distant from the main, but on the north side of the point, which is nearest to the island, the shore falls back to a much greater distance into a large bay, which we could not distinctly see round, but I judge there is no shelter in it from westerly winds.
[* Doubtless Mount Wellington.]
There are two distinct projections of land at the south end of the supposed Maria Islands; the outer one has long been called Cape Pillar —most probably from the basaltic pillars or columns which its steep cliffs almost everywhere present. The extreme part of the inner projection lays W. b. S. from Cape Pillar, and by our run their distance asunder is 10 or 11 miles. It is equally basaltic with the cape, and has several single columns, much resembling tall chimnies, at the extremity of the point. I have called it Cape Basaltes.** The cliffs are very high, steep, and romantic, particularly on the west side of it. Between the two capes the land falls back and forms a deep bay. How it appeared to me will be best seen by the sketch. A ship that was taken with a southerly wind between these capes, and unable to clear either, need not yet give herself up. If the lump of land in the bay, which is probably an island, would not afford shelter, the head of the bay possibly might, and it may perhaps furnish a good harbour.***
[** This cape, which Flinders named Cape Basaltes, is the Cape Raoul of D'Entrecasteaux.]
[*** This conjecture of Flinders was correct: the opening between these two capes is now known as Port Arthur.]
The wind continued to blow fresh from the N.W. when we passed the high steep island* that lays at a small distance off Cape Pillar, and when we attempted to haul up to the northward along the coast, the flurries of wind that rushed round the island and out from between it and the cape were of such strength as to make us put right before them till our distance was such that they mixed with the general breeze before they reached us. The height of the island is nearly the same as that of Cape Pillar, and it is equally steep and basaltic, so that those who have passed it at a considerable distance must have taken it for the cape. There are several columns upon the south part of it which stands single, and others that are in clusters. The very eastern extreme of Cape Pillar is a low point on which there are clusters of columns, decreasing in number towards the top, so as to form a near resemblance to a regular constructed tower, but this will not be visible at a greater distance than 3 or 4 miles, the top of it not being so high as the neighbouring cliffs.
[* Tasman Island, or The Pillar.]
From the extreme of Cape Pillar a small cliffy island opened at N. 4° E., and the first point of the coast at N. 7° W. about 5 miles. The point is steep itself, and has some high craggy rocks laying off it. At 8 in the evening the island off Cape Pillar bore S. 22° W. about 8 miles, and the small island N. 65° W. 3 miles. Some hummocks of land bore from N. 3° to 15° W., as near as their indistinct appearance and the motion of the sloop would allow me to set them. At 12 we tacked for two hours, supposing ourselves abreast of this land.
Friday, 4th.—At 4 in the morning, when it became light, the hummocks appeared to form two islands of moderate height. The extremes bore N. 28° and N. 73° W. about 3 leagues, and the island off Cape Pillar S. 15° W. More land like islands was also visible, bearing from N. 4° to 9° west.
We tacked and stood in shore for the two islands, between 9 and 10 o'clock, on the shifting of the wind to N. by W. It brought thick rainy weather with it, but cleared up in time for us to observe the meridional altitude of the sun, which gave 42° 41' 37" south; the northern part of the island abreast of an indented head like a cock's comb bearing N. 74° W., the south end S. 72° W. 6 or 7 miles. The island, which appeared to lay about 3 miles to the southward of it, I could not get bearings of. The northernmost land, which makes like hummocks and broad-based peaks, bore N. 2°, and then to 13° W.
It is to be observed that at the time we were off these islands I had not Mr. Cox's plan of Oyster Bay in the sloop, or did I recollect its situation; but by our latitude this day at noon, and the relative situation of Cape Pillar, there can be no doubt that what appeared to us to be two islands is the one in which is Oyster Bay. The Cockscomb Head is his Mistaken Cape; but we saw nothing of the small island which is laid down off it.
The greatest part of this afternoon we kept beating up against a fresh westerly wind. At 7 o'clock it came more to the southward in a strong squall, accompanied with heavy rain, which, however, soon blew over, and was succeeded by a fine night. We therefore made all sail to the northward, and about 11 o'clock passed the northernmost island we had seen. Mr. Bass, who had the watch, judged them to be one mile and a half apart. These are connected with the line of the main coast in Mr. Cox's plan, and by the soundings marked there he was much nearer than we were in the sloop, therefore it may be so, but there was no appearance of such connexion, or did we suspect it.
Saturday, 5th.—At 5 a.m. the wind became light and variable from the west. We kept making nearly a north course till noon, the land being in sight at 4 or 5 leagues distant. The observed latitude was then 41° 27" 32' south, being 27' to the northward of account. There was land like islands in sight to the southward, which we had hitherto taken for those passed last night, but the latitude shews that they must be to the northward of those. Most probably they were the northernmost of Schouten's Islands. The land abreast was moderately high, of irregular ranges of tolerably well-wooded hills. A peak near the shore bore S. 50° W. 5 or 6 leagues.
Sunday, 6th.—Towards evening the wind freshened from the north-westward, and continued till late next morning. At noon the observed latitude was 40° 45' 23", the longitude 149° 5' east. The wind being at north, we stood in shore till 9 in the evening.
Monday, 7th.—It was then variable till next noon, with thick misty weather. Our observed latitude then was 40° 24' 44" south, and the high land of Cape Barren Island made an indistinct appearance through the haze at S.W. b. W. ½ W., being not more than 5 or 6 miles distant. The wind was easterly, and we stood along the north side of Cape Barren Island, intending to go through the passage between it and the large island which lays to the northward, and from thence to run along the west side of the latter, to examine the unexplored part of it. At 5 o'clock the weather was something clearer, and discovered to us a line of breakers about 2 miles to the northward, altho' we could not find the bottom with 17 fathoms. In an hour the water became discoloured, and we struck soundings in 3 fathoms, but thinking it might be only a bank, we stood on to pass round the sloping island that lays in the channel. The water, however, kept gradually shoaling, and more breakers appeared farther to the westward. The wind was right aft, and the sun being so nearly down that we should have but little time to turn back, even if it could be done at all, we continued steering before the light easterly breeze, hoping that there would be water enough for the sloop. When within 2 miles of the sloping island, there appeared to be almost a continued line of breakers from the north part of it, in a circular form, round to those we had first seen, and the water had now shoaled to 9 feet. Our situation at this time appeared to be somewhat critical —it was within an hour of being dark. All prospect of advancing was lost, and the wind directly opposed our retreat, and should it freshen, which was not improbable, from the unsettled state of the weather, there could be but little hopes of saving the sloop. In the act of wearing round to endeavour to beat out, the wind suddenly died away, and to our surprise sprang up from the opposite quarter. We made all sail back to the E.S.E. immediately, and at 11 could get no ground with 20 fathoms.
Tuesday, 8th.—At 2 in the morning we bore away for the islands* which lay off the Patriarch Hills, the wind being fresh from the S.8.E., and at 6 hove to off a cove in the northernmost of the two flat islets, where there was good landing. These two islets and the island have been described in the Journal of the schooner Francis, to which account our present visit has not enabled me to add anything worth notice.
[* Named by Flinders "Babel Isles".]
We steered our course from thence for the two islands called, by Captain Furneaux, The Sisters. At noon the outer Sister bore N.W. distant 7 miles, from which our latitude was about 39° 43' south, for the weather was too hazy to get an observation. A little before this time we had sounded and got ground with 12 fathoms upon a sandy bottom, the beach of the largest of Furneaux's Islands being 5 miles distant. From the Sisters I wished to have steered a true north course to the latitude 39°, to be fully certain whether any land existed in that situation, but the wind being very strong from the S.E'ward we kept a point to windward. At 8 o'clock we had run 51 miles from noon, without seeing any land. The weather, however, was so thick that it might have been within 10 miles of our track and yet not visible. We then steered N.E. b. N., which I judged to be fully sufficient to clear Cape Howe.
Wednesday, 9th.—At 8 o'clock in the morning, to our surprize, the land appeared through the thick haze at N.E. b. E., and lower land and sandhills from thence to the lee beam, not more than 6 or 7 miles distant. We hauled up as close to the wind as possible immediately, and set as much sail as the sloop could possibly bear. From the appearance of the land we judged it to be about the Ram Head, but our log did not give so far to the northward by 20 miles. At 10 the thick rainy weather hid the land, nor did we see it till Friday, the 11th, when the wind being moderate, and the haze cleared away, we saw Hat Hill at I o'clock, and next morning (Saturday, 12th) made the harbour of Port Jackson, and laid the sloop alongside of his Majesty's ship Reliance.
The voyage being now completed, it may not be amiss to take some further notice of the straits, which was the principal object of it; and it ought to be first observed that his Excellency the Governor named it Bass's Strait, after my worthy friend and companion, as a just tribute to the extreme dangers and fatigues he had undergone in first entering it in the whaleboat. The southwesterly swell which rolled in upon the shores of Western Port and its neighbourhood sufficiently indicated to the penetrating Bass that he was exposed to the Southern Indian Ocean. This opinion, which he constantly asserted, was the principal cause of my services being offered to the Governor to ascertain the certainty of it, and it was with great satisfaction that I was able to associate him in the expedition.
It has been observed that the tides had very little influence upon the sloop from Isle Waterhouse till we came to Circular Head. Let a line be drawn from one to the other, and it will be the southern extent of the general set of them. Past Wilson's Promontory it runs with great strength both ways, but the flood will sweep along the beach from Cape Howe and leave the bights on the west side of the promontory to be filled up by eddies and dead water. On the ebb it will be reversed, and there will be little or no tide along the great beach. Corner Inlet will be left in an eddy in both cases, whence the time of high water is an hour later there than at Sealers' Cove.
Let us also take a short view of the advantages which the discovery of this strait seems to present. The most prominent one is that of expediting the passage from the Cape of Good Hope to Port Jackson, for, altho' a line drawn from the Cape to 44° of south latitude and to the longitude of the South Cape of Van Diemen's Land will not sensibly differ from one drawn to the latitude of 40° to the same longitude, yet it will be allowed that a ship will be 4° nearer to Port Jackson in the latter situation than in the former. But there is, perhaps, a greater advantage to be gained by making a passage through the strait than the mere saving of 4° of latitude along the coast. The major part of those ships that have arrived at Port Jackson have met with N.E. winds on opening the sea round the South Cape and Cape Pillar, and have been so much retarded by them that a fourteen days passage from thence to Port Jackson is reckoned to be a fair one, altho' the difference of latitude is but 10°; and the most prevailing ones at the latter place are from S.E. to south in summer, and from W.S.W. to south in winter. If by going through Bass's Strait these N.E. winds can be avoided, which in many instances will most probably be the case, there is no doubt but a week or more will be gained by it; and the expence—the wear and tear of a ship—for even one week is an object to most owners, more especially if freighted with convicts.
Bass's Strait also presents another advantage. From the N.E. and easterly winds having been so often found to prevail off the South Cape many suppose that a passage may be made from thence to the westward, either to the Cape of Good Hope or to India, but the fear of the great unknown bight between the South Cape and the S.W. Cape of Lewen's Land, laying in about 35° south and 113° east, has hitherto prevented the trial from being made. Now, the strait takes away a part of this danger by presenting a certain place of retreat should a gale oppose itself to the ship in the first part of the essay; and should the wind come at S.W. she would fear making a good stretch to the W.N.W., which course, if made good, is within a few degrees of going clear of all. There is, besides, King George the 3rd Sound, discovered by Captn. Vancouver, situate in the latitude of 35° 3' south and longitude 118° 12' east; and it is to be hoped that a few years will disclose to us many others on the coast, as well as the verification or futility of the conjecture that a still larger than Bass's Strait dismembers New Holland.
To those who shall first pass through Bass's Strait it may be necessary to observe that the central and western parts of the strait are still unexplored, and that it is probable several islands yet unseen lay there, for it must not be supposed that none exist in all situations where none are marked; it is sufficient that none exist near the tracks, and that those which are laid down shall be found in the places they are marked on. Therefore, after seeing Albatross or Three Hummock Island —one or both of which every captain of a ship would, of course, make, unless with strong northerly winds—it would be imprudent to run in the night to the eastward of Furneaux's Islands.
OBSERVATIONS for the Latitude, Longitude, and
Variation, taken in
the Norfolk, sloop, on her expedition round Van Diemen's
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