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Title: Wreck of the "Sydney Cove"
Author: Anonymous
* A Project Gutenberg Australia eBook *
eBook No.: 1300541h.html
Language: English
Date first posted: January 2013
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Asiatic Mirror, Calcutta [1797-8].





1796—1799. [APPENDIX A, pages 757-769.]




By Authority.




CONTENTS [not in original]

1. Narrative of the Shipwreck of Captain Hamilton and the Crew of the Sydney Cove.*

2. Voyage of the Sydney Cove's Longboat from Preservation Island to Port Jackson.*

3. Letter: Governor Hunter To The Duke Of Portland, 6th July, 1797.

4. Letter: Captain Kent to Secretary Nepean, 19th November, 1797.

5. Letter: Governor Hunter to The Duke Of Portland, 1st March, 1798.

6. Letter: Governor Hunter to Secretary Nepean, 3rd Sept., 1798.

Chart of Van Diemen's Land and Part of the Southern Coast of Australia.

[* Reprinted from the Asiatic Mirror, Calcutta, 27th December, 1797, and and 10th January, 1798. See also pp. 277, 278 [3. Letter] and note, 309 [4. Letter], 364 [5 Letter], 474 [6. Letter], ante.]


CAPTAIN HAMILTON is a native of Glasgow. The Sydney Cove, Captain Guy Hamilton, left Bengal on the 10th November, 1796, on a voyage to Port Jackson, in New South Wales. On the 13th December, in lat. 15° 30' south, experienced a severe gale of wind, with a heavy sea. The weather continued variable, generally with strong gales and a high sea, till towards the middle of January. During this time the ship laboured much from the violence of the weather, making from 6 to 8 inches water in an hour. The leak was judged to be under the starboard bow. In order to get at it the forehold was unstowed. The rushing in of the water was distinctly heard; but the leak could not be reached, owing to its being seated at the back of a timber. On the 13th January a thrummed sail was got over the starboard bow, and passed under the bottom, which reduced the leak from 6 to 4 inches an hour. In this way the ship continued till the 25th January, when a gale of extreme violence set in from the S.W. In handing the topsails, Mr. Leishman, second mate, was lost from the main topsail yard-arm. The ship was kept before the wind, which continued blowing with such fury that a new foresail, a main topsail and driver, were torn from the yards, though handed and carefully secured. Being thus without any sail bent, by which the ship could be kept ahead of the sea, she was hove to. The gale continued, and the sea running dreadfully high, caused the ship to labour greatly and the leak to increase. The weather was intensely cold, with constant rain, from which the crew suffered considerably. The lascars were well supplied with blankets and warm clothing, shipped on purpose at Bengal; yet they were so benumbed by the severity of the weather that neither entreaty nor force could prevail on them to work on deck at the pumps. There being 4 feet water, and gaining fast, all hands were sent down to bale from the well. The lascars being thus sheltered from the inclemency of the weather and sea, which incessantly beat over them on deck, worked with cheerfulness. By noon next day the water was reduced to 2 feet; but the violence of the weather continuing, the people could have no intermission from pumping and baleing. Such was their fatigue that two men dropped dead under the labour of the pumps, and a third died a few hours afterwards. After a severe and tedious night, exhausted in pumping and baleing, the well was cleared of water, and the gale abating a little, a new foresail was bent, and the ship then made sail with the wind at west.

On the 27th January a new thrummed piece of canvas was got over the starboard bow. At this time the leak had increased between 11 and 12 inches an hour. By next day the fothering had reduced it to 8 inches, not'hstanding the sea was very heavy; yet, from the weak and sickly state of the crew, it was found impossible to keep the water under. On the 1st February, in lat. 40° 1' south, made the coast of New Holland, and rounding Van Dieman's Land, stood to the northward. On the 4th passed the Maria Island, 4 leagues distant. From this time the gale continued to encrease till the 7th, when it blew so hard as to bring the ship under courses. On the 8th February, observed in the latitude 40° 56' south, longitude by timepiece, 149° 40' east of Greenwich. The gale now encreased to a perfect hurricane, with a dreadful sea. At half-past 3 p.m. sprung a new leak, which gained so fast on the pumps as rendered it necessary to bear up for land to save the lives of the people, and, if possible, to get the ship into a place of security. Bore in accordingly for the land and made more sail, Cape Barras by accounts W. ½N. or W. and by N., distant by accounts 90 miles. The cargo was thrown overboard; but notwithstanding every exertion to keep the leak under, at 5 p.m. there were 2½ feet water in the well, and hourly gaining. At 8 p.m. the water had increased to 5 feet, and the ship settling fast, the longboat was got clear—still running west and carrying a press of sail in order to get in with the land. By midnight the water was nearly up to the lower-deck hatches. At half-past 12 saw the land about 2 miles distant; but appearing to be high perpendicular rocks with a heavy surf, it was thought advisable to heave to till the morning. At daybreak the water was over the comings of the lower-deck hatches, and the vessel lying on one side with the channels on the water. At daylight, having with difficulty got her head round, made all sail possible towards the land, but from her being so much waterlogged she would hardly answer her helm. Stood in for an opening in the land, but could get no ground at 75 fathoms, though but a small distance from an island ahead. When a little nearer in with the land got ground in 15 fathoms. Finding the ship must soon go down, the longboat was got out and sent ashore to the island** with some rice, ammunition, and firearms; still standing in for the island, till she struck on a sandy bottom in 19 feet water, a few minutes after the longboat left her.

[** This island was called Preservation Island, a name it still retains. It is one of the Furneaux Group. Clarke Island and Armstrong Channel also derived their names from the circumstances of this wreck. (See Chart)]

All the people being safely landed, small parties were sent out in different directions on the following day, the 9th February, in quest of water, but without success. A well was then sunk. After digging 7½ feet they met with water, a little brackish, with which they were obliged to be content, as none could be procured from the wreck; but from the 10th till the 27th February Capt. Hamilton was employed in equipping the longboat in order to dispatch her to Port Jackson with an account of the loss of the ship, and to request such assistance as could be afforded. The longboat being completed, was dispatched on the 27th February in charge of Mr. Hugh Thompson, chief mate, with Mr. W. Clark, assistant supercargo, and fifteen men, the best of the crew.

After the departure of the longboat, Capt. Hamilton and the people remaining with him were employed in getting ashore various parts of the cargo from the wreck. The stock of provisions saved being but small, and the time when relief might arrive uncertain, each man's daily allowance of rice was limited to a teacupful.

The weather proved extremely cold, with constant gales and heavy rains, and the people, having no other shelter than tents made from old sails, suffered greatly.

From the 23rd April till the 1st May was one continued storm, with thunder, lightening, rain, and extreme cold. The tents being soon dismantled and blown to pieces, the unfortunate sufferers were left exposed to the extremities of cold, wetness, and hunger, for during the continuance of this storm it was impossible to keep always fire to dress the pittance of rice on which their subsistance depended.

On the 1st of May the weather moderated, but the people were so much reduced that they were unable to rescue anything farther from the wreck. All hands were therefore set to work to build a house, as without some protection inevitable death threatened to result from the recurrence of such weather as they had lately experienced.

On the 8th of June the sufferings of their associates in misfortune were interrupted by the welcome sight of a longboat to the westward of the island, apparently looking for the wreck. Gladness now sat on every countenance—every look, every gesture, bespoke the fulness of their joy; the miseries of four sad dreary months were now forgotten in the transport of the moment. As soon as their first emotions had subsided the jollyboat was launched, the nimblest of the crew leaped on board, and eagerly stood out to follow the vessel in the offing. But what language can convey any adequate idea of their grief on perceiving the object of their pursuit standing before the wind directly from the island! Continuing her course, the lapse of a few minutes carried her out of sight, and with her fled all the hopes and joys which she had so lately excited. Their disappointment and despair, heightened by the excess of their late expectations, may be readily conceived. They did not, however, neglect any measure that could yet afford a gleam of hope. The jollyboat returned to the island. The English colours were hoisted, and a large fire prepared which might be visible some leagues at sea. To their unspeakable joy a schooner was seen next day to the eastward, but the surf run so high as to prevent any attempts to go off to her in the jollyboat.

On the ensuing day, 10th June, the sloop-rigged boat that had been seen on the 8th again appeared, and approaching the island, the jollyboat was sent on board. She proved to be a sloop, private property, sent to their assistance from Port Jackson, out ten days, and navigated by Mr. Armstrong, master of his Majesty's ship Supply.*** The vessel in the offing was his Majesty's schooner Francis, sent from Port Jackson to the assistance of Captain Hamilton and his men by his Excellency Governor Hunter.

[*** This boat was wrecked on the voyage back to Sydney; the master and crew were never heard of.—Ante, p. 309. (4. Letter)]

Having loaded the two vessels with a part of the cargo from the wreck of the Sydney Cove, they were ready to sail on their return to Port Jackson by the 20th June. The cargo saved being more than the two vessels could take on board, five of Captain Hamilton's men volunteered to remain on the island to take care of the cargo left, till he should be able to return from Port Jackson with a vessel of sufficient size to bring off the whole. Matters being thus arranged the two vessels sailed on the 21st, and after a stormy passage of fifteen days the Francis safely arrived at Port Jackson.


THE longboat, being equipped and ready for sea, was dispatched on the 28th of February, as already stated, in order to proceed to Port Jackson with intelligence of the shipwreck. Mr. Thomson, late chief mate of the Sydney Cove, Mr. Clark, supercargo, three European seamen, and twelve lascars, in all seventeen persons, embarked. They pursued a southerly**** course till the 1st of March, lat. 38° S. by account, having had no observation for several days. On the evening of this day it began to blow, and soon increased to a stormy gale, with a heavy sea, by which the boat was in great danger of foundering. They were at an inconsiderable distance from the shore; but the surf broke with such violence as to prevent the possibility of approaching with safety. Being unable to land, the only chance of preservation was to come to with both anchors, which was accordingly done. The boat lay in the most imminent danger from being often almost entirely filled with water by the heavy sea, which during the night continued to break over her. In this perilous situation they remained till daylight, when they cut both cables and set the foresail; but the boat at this time suddenly filling, it was not without the utmost difficulty that they got her through the surf, when she went to pieces a few minutes after the people had gained the beach.

[**** Evidently an error or misprint for "northerly". A southerly course would have landed them on Tasmania.]

Imagination cannot picture a situation more melancholy than that to which the unfortunate crew was reduced—wrecked a second time on the inhospitable shore of New South Wales; cut off from all hopes of rejoining their companions; without provisions, without arms, or any probable means either of subsistence or defence, they seemed doomed to all the horrors of a lingering death, with all their misfortunes unknown and unpitied. In this trying situation they did not abandon themselves to despair; they determined to proceed to the northward in the hopes of reaching Port Jackson, although the distance of the settlement, the unfrequented deserts they were to traverse, and the barbarous hordes among whom they had to gain their way, presented difficulties that required no ordinary share of fortitude to encounter and perseverance to overcome; but danger and difficulty lessen as they approach—the mind, as if its ultimate strength were reserved for arduous occasions, reconciles itself with calm resignation to sufferings from which, on a more distant view, it would recoil with horror.

It was thus with our little party: the dangers that surrounded them served but to excite them to exertion; they resolved to brave every difficulty, and to commence their journey without delay. The three days following the loss of their boat were spent in collecting such articles as had been thrown on shore from the wreck. On the 15th they began their march. The principal occurrences in the course of the journey are related in the following abstract of a journal, compiled partly from recollection, and partly from the assistance of memoranda written with a pencil.*

[* The memoranda were evidently written by the supercargo, Mr. Clark.]

March 15th.—We began our journey for Port Jackson

16th.—Walked 16 or 18 miles along a sandy beach.**

[** It is probable from this and from the estimated latitude of 38° S. given above that the boat was cast ashore on the northern part of the Ninety-mile Beach.]

17th.—Passed several small rivers, and one so large that we were obliged to construct a raft to cross it. From the detention this occasioned walked only 8 miles.

18th.—Forded several branches of rivers. We this day fell in with a party of natives, about fourteen, all of them entirely naked. They were struck with astonishment at our appearance, and were very anxious to examine every part of our clothes and body, in which we readily indulged them. They viewed us most attentively. They opened our clothes, examined our feet, hands, nails, &c., frequently expressing their surprize by laughing and loud shoutings. From their gestures during this awkward review it was easy to perceive that they considered our clothes and bodies as inseparably joined. Having made them a present of a few stripes of cloth, which they appeared highly delighted with, we pursued our journey, and halted in the evening, after a march of 30 miles.

The natives on this part of the coast appear strong and muscular, with heads rather large in proportion to their bodies. The flat nose, the broad thick lips which distinguish the African, also prevail amongst the people on this coast. Their hair is long and straight, but they are wholly inattentive to it, either as to cleanliness or in any other respect. It serves them in lieu of a towel to wipe their hands as often as they are daubed with blubber or shark oil, which is their principal article of food. This frequent application of rancid grease to their heads and bodies renders their approach exceedingly offensive. Their ornaments consist chiefly of fish-bones or kangaroo-teeth, fastened with gum or glue to the hair of the temples and on the forehead. A piece of reed or bone is also wore through the septum, or cartilage, of the nose, which is pierced for the admission of this ornament. Upon the whole, they present the most hideous and disgusting figures that savage life can possibly afford.

19th.—Met with a pretty large river, which we were unable to cross till low water, there being no wood from which we could construct a raft. A few natives on the opposite bank of the river ran off at our approach.

20th.—This day we procured a few shellfish on the rocks. We walked about 16 miles along the seaside, part of the way over very high bluffs and sharp rocks.

21st.—This morning went inland about 3 or 4 miles. Made a raft and crossed a large river. Its banks were delightful; the trees, tall and majestic, added dignity to the stream, and gave the surrounding country a beautiful and picturesque appearance. Saw a few of the natives, who, at first sight, advanced, but on a nearer approach they fled and concealed themselves in the woods. Among the different groupes of natives it is remarkable we have not yet seen a woman. Walked 16 miles this day.

22nd.—This day's walk was rendered very disagreeable by constant heavy rain.

23rd.—The weather to-day was delightful; the agreeable temperance, together with the beautiful scenery that opened to our view through a most delightful country, compensated in a great measure for the inclemency of yesterday's journey. We had a distant prospect inland of some very high hills, covered to their summit with lofty trees. In the evening we halted, after a march of 18 miles.

24th.—We had travelled about 7 miles when our progress was stopt by an immense river, which emptied itself in the ocean by several branches. We began to prepare a raft, in order to cross the river before us.

25th, 26th, and 27th.—These three days were employed in completing the raft and crossing the different branches of the river.

28th.—In the course of this day's journey we reached an island, about 5 miles distant from the seashore. This place appears well suited to afford shelter to shipping, being completely landlocked and covered from the wind. In the latter part of the days march we had to traverse hills of sands, which made it exceedingly fatiguing; nevertheless we travelled about 12 miles.

29th.—On crossing a narrow but deep river one of the natives threatened to dispute our landing, but approaching with a determined appearance no actual resistance was attempted, and a reconciliation was effected by the distribution of a few stripes of cloth. A good understanding being thus established, the men called to their wives and children, who were concealed behind the rocks, and who now ventured to shew themselves. These were the first women we had seen; from their cries and laughing it is evident they were greatly astonished at our appearance. The men did not think proper to admit of our coming sufficiently near to have a full or perfect view of their ladies, but we were near enough to discern that they were the most wretched objects we had ever seen—equally filthy as the men, coarse and ill-featured, and so devoid of delicacy or any appearance of it that they seem to have nothing even human about them but the form. We pursued our way and walked about 10 miles.

30th.—Crossed a small river this morning, and walked about 8 miles through a country interspersed with hills and covered with heath. We came to a pretty large river, which, being too deep to ford, we began to prepare a raft, which we could not have completed till next day had not three of our native friends, from whom we parted yesterday, rejoined us and assisted us over. We were much pleased with their attention, for the act was really kind, as they knew we had this river to cross, and appear to have followed us purposely to lend their assistance. In the evening we travelled about 4 miles farther, and rested for the night.

31st.—Walked about 18 miles round a very deep bay and many small rivers opening into it.

April 1st.—Passed through a very pleasant country, whose delightful verdure, strewed over with a variety of flowers, rendered a walk of 20 miles this day extremely agreeable.

April 2nd.—Travelled 8 miles this forenoon. Between 9 and 10 o'clock we were most agreeably surprised by meeting five of the natives, our old friends, who received us in a very amicable manner, and kindly treated us with some shellfish, which formed a very acceptable meal, as our small pittance of rice was nearly expended. After this little repast we proceeded 6 miles further and halted.

3rd.—Had a fatiguing march over very high bluffs, sharp rocks, and afterwards through very thick brushwood, interspersed with stumps of trees and other sharp substances, by which our feet were so much bruised and wounded that some of the party remained lame for some time afterwards; and to aggravate our sufferings we were now living upon a quarter of a pint of dry rice per diem. As we got out of this harassing thicket we missed two of our unhappy fellow-travellers. At 4 p.m. we provided ourselves a lodging for the night, having walked, or rather crawled, 10 miles, over the ground above described.

4th.—Waited for our missing companions until 12 o'clock, when, to our great joy, they made their appearance; we then proceeded on our journey, and in the evening came to a very broad river. It being low water, some places were very shallow, which enabled us to catch a few small skate, which were, indeed, very acceptable. Walked this day 8 miles.

5th.—Reached the opposite bank of the river, where we remained a few hours to catch some more fish, in which we happily succeeded; among them was a very fine shark about 4 feet long; this was a refreshment for which we offered our thanks to Providence, the rice, our only certain resource, being now nearly at an end.

6th.—Having got a tolerable supply of fish, pursued our journey for about 18 miles through a delightful plain, interspersed here and there with a few scattered trees.

7th.—Went some way into the country, over hills and valleys. After a walk of 16 miles we halted at twilight, and as we reclined our heads to rest on a bank we could just hear the roaring of the surf on the seashore.

8th.—Bent our way towards the beach this morning, and travelled along about 9 miles, when we were stopped by our old impediment, a river, at which we were obliged to wait until low water before we could cross. We had scarcely surmounted this difficulty when a greater danger stared us in the face, for here we were met by about fifty armed natives. Having never before seen so large a body collected, it is natural to conclude that we were much alarmed. However, we resolved to put the best appearance on the matter, and to betray no symptons of fear. In consequence of the steps we took, and after some preliminary signs and gestures on both sides, we came to some understanding, and the natives were apparently amicable in their designs. We presented them with a few yards of calico, for they would not be satisfied with small stripes, and, indeed, we were glad to get rid of them at any expence, for their looks and demeanour were not such as to invite greater intimacy.

9th.—Proceeding this morning on our journey, we were again alarmed at the approach of the party who detained us yesterday, and whom we so justly suspected of treacherous intentions. They came on with dreadful shoutings, which gave us warning to prepare for defence, and to give them a warm reception in case violence should be offered. Fortunately, however, from the particular attention we paid to their old men, whom we supposed to be their chiefs, and making them some small presents, they soon left us. This dispersion gave our little party general satisfaction, as we were doubtful how the affair, might have terminated. During our conference, and at their departure, several of them had placed their spears in the throwing-sticks, ready to discharge at us. We now pursued our route, and walked about 10 miles.

10th.—We were overtaken by a few of the natives with whom we parted yesterday, but seeing us on our guard, with our one gun, two pistols, and two small swords, while others were armed with clubs, and perceiving our resolution not to be imposed upon, they acted with more prudence than heretofore. We did not at this meeting indulge them with any presents, but to one gave a piece of cloth, in exchange for a large kangaroo's tail, with which we endeavoured to make some soup, by adding a little of the rice we had remaining, from which we received great nourishment, being much weakened by the fatigue and want which we had suffered in these inhospitable regions. Our walk of 14 miles this day was performed over a number of rugged and disagreeable heights, until we came to a river, which we crossed, and then betook ourselves to the cheerless turf until the morning.

11th.—Walked 8 miles and came to a river, where we met fourteen natives, who conducted us to their miserable abodes in the wood adjoining to a large lagoon, and kindly treated us with mussels, for which unexpected civility we made them some presents. These people seemed better acquainted with the laws of hospitality than any of their countrymen whom we had yet seen, for to their benevolent treat was added an invitation to remain with them for the night. They did not, however, lodge us in their nominal huts, but after we were seated around our resting-place they brought their women and children to see us, and certainly, to judge from the attention with which they surveyed us, we afforded them no small share of entertainment. As far as we could understand, these natives were of a different tribe from those we had seen, and were then at war with them. They possessed a liberality to which the others were strangers, and freely gave us a part of the little they had, which the others were so far from doing that they would have deprived us of the last article in our possession had they not been overawed by the sight of arms, against which they knew not how to defend themselves. We endeavoured to make our entertainers sensible by signs how rudely their neighbours had behaved to us; to compensate for which both the old and the young were anxious to give us part of their shellfish.

12th.—Met with another party of the natives who did not attempt to molest us. Walked 16 miles over rising ground and along the seaside, where we found a dead skate, which, though a little tainted, would not have been unacceptable to an epicure with our appetite.

13th.—Came to a large river, where we met with a few natives, who appeared very timorous at seeing us; but in a short time we came to a better understanding, and they kindly carried us over in their canoes. This was not accomplished without several duckings, for their rude little vehicles formed of bark, tied at both ends with twigs, and not exceeding 8 feet in length, by 2 in breadth, are precarious vessels for one unacquainted with them to embark in, though the natives, of whom they will carry three or four, paddle about in them with the greatest facility and security. After crossing the river, and receiving a few small fish at parting, we walked 10 miles.

14th.—Met with no obstruction during a walk of 18 miles.

15th.—We were joined by our last friends, who ferried us over a very large river in their canoes. Whether this meeting was the effect of chance or one of their fishing excursions, or that perceiving we should find it difficult they had come to our assistance, we could not determine; but had it not been for their aid we must have been detained here for some time in making a raft. The greatest part of the wood of the country being very heavy will not swim, unless it has been felled for some time and exposed to the sun, a fact which we had already been taught by miserable experience. Having walked 9 miles after crossing the river, we rested for the night, and boiled a few shellfish we had picked up by the way like good oeonomists, making them serve for both dinner and supper, for our little evening's cookery formed the only meal we could daily afford ourselves, unless we ventured to eat a few wild plants which we sometimes picked up.

16th.—Having walked about 12 miles we once more met with our friends, who, a third time, conveyed us over a large river at a shallow part, which they pointed out. On the banks of this river we remained for the night. Our poor unfortunate companions, worn out by want and excessive fatigue, now began to drop behind very fast. At this place we were under the painful necessity of leaving nine of our fellow-sufferers behind, they being totally unable to proceed further; but we flattered ourselves they would be able to come up with us in a day or two, as we now often stopt some time with the natives when we found them kind to us, or loitered about the rocks to pick up shellfish or collect herbs.

April 17th.—Had a pleasant walk about 5 miles along the seacoast until we came to a narrow but deep river, in endeavoring to cross which an unlucky accident happened to Mr. Thomson, and which nearly proved fatal, We found an old canoe on the bank, in which three or four of our party got to the opposite side, and proceeded on their journey. Mr. Thomson, who could not swim, in making an effort to cross, was left struggling in the water by the canoe sinking under him. This was witnessed by four Bengal blacks, who, though they were adepts at swimming, stood unmoved spectators. I instantly jumped in and flew to his relief, although very much fatigued and very cold. I seized him by the hair and drew him to the shore motionless. My first care was to place him over a rock with his head downwards, pressing him at the same time on the back, by which means he discharged much sea-water by the mouth, and in a little time recovered.

18th.—The illness of Mr. Thompson, occasioned by the accident, prevented our walking more than 8 miles this day.

19th.—Came up with those who went before us the 17th. Were again stopped by a very large river, which the violence of the wind prevented us from crossing. We therefore employed ourselves in collecting muscles, which, in our present situation, was a great relief, having been without a more generous nourishment for two days before.

20th.—Got over the river and had a long walk, about 18 miles, through an immense wood, the plain of which was covered with long grass. We had the good fortune this day to have a friendly native in company, who undertook to be our guide, by whose good-natured assistance we were enabled to avoid several high points and cut off a great deal of ground.

21st.—Had a pleasant walk for about 14 miles, during which we met a party of natives who gave us plenty of fishes. It seems they had met the Moor whose friendship we experienced yesterday, and were by him informed of our distress, so that we were indebted to that kind-hearted fellow for his guidance and this day's protection.

22nd.—The natives accompanied us a few miles and returned, leaving with us a plentiful supply of fish. This day we walked 12 miles.

23rd, 24th, 25th.—Walked 10 or 12 miles each day, without meeting with any natives, and being wholly without nourishment almost perished for want.

26th.—At 9 a.m. observed several natives on the top of a high bluff, who came down to us as we approached, and remained with us for some time. When we had made signs to them that we were hungry and much exhausted, they brought us plenty of fish and treated us very kindly. After we had refreshed ourselves and put up some fish to carry with us, we were preparing to proceed, when about fifty strong natives made their appearance, of whom we soon took leave, giving them such little presents as we could afford, and with which they were apparently well satisfied. We had not parted more than twenty or thirty minutes when a hundred more approached us, shouting and hallowing in a most hideous manner, at which we were all exceedingly alarmed. In a short time a few of them began throwing their spears, upon which we made signs to them to desist, giving them some presents, and appearing no ways dismayed at their conduct—any other demeanour on our part would have been quite superfluous, having only one musket unloaded and two pistols out of repair, and at best were only six opposed to such a multitude, for our little company were daily dropping off. No sooner had we turned our backs on this savage mob than they renewed hostilities and wounded three or us, viz., Mr. Hugh Thompson, myself, and my servant. Notwithstanding this disaster, we, in our painful situation, proceeded 8 miles, to get clear, if possible, of these savages; but just as we came up to a very deep bay they overtook us again. This pursuit induced us all to suppose they intended to murder us—as we were, however, to make a virtue of necessity, and to remain among them all that night, though it may be well supposed that the anguish of our minds and the pain of our wounds prevented the possibility of sleep.

27th.—Our disagreeable and treacherous companions continued with us on our journey until about 9 a.m., when they betook themselves to the woods, leaving us extremely happy at their departure. We continued our route along this extensive bay 10 miles.

29th.—Met with some brakish water, which we eagerly swallowed; indeed, all the rivers we examined were impregnated with salt-water from their connection with the sea. Walked 14 miles.

30th.—We this morning reached the largest river we had met with since we came to this large bay. Its width put us entirely to a stand, and prevented our crossing over until the evening. As we were devising means to accomplish our design six natives very fortunately came to our assistance. They seemed, however, suspicious of us, for when we reached the opposite bank we made signs that we wanted water, and, under pretence of going for some, they set off, but never returned. We were not able to proceed any more than 3 miles this day.

The fifteen following days of our journey were much the same as the preceding, until we very fortunately met with a fishing-boat about 14 miles to the southward of Botany Bay.

On the arrival of Mr. Clark and his unfortunate companions at Port Jackson, they were received by his Excellency Governor Hunter with such kindness and humanity as it were impossible to describe, though its grateful remembrance never can be effaced nor diminished.

Mr. Clark embarked for China in September, on board the Britannia. At that time no accounts had been received at Port Jackson of the small schooner* which had brought away a part of the late crew of the Sydney Cove from the island on which they were wrecked. From the boisterous weather which had prevailed and the length of time she was missing, it was feared she had been totally lost.

[* This was the longboat Eliza, commanded by Mr. Armstrong, master of the Supply, and not the schooner Francis, which returned safely to Port Jackson.]


pages 277-8]

Sydney, New South Wales, 6th July, 1797.   

My Lord,

A ship nam'd the Sydney Cove having been loaded with a cargo of goods upon speculation from Bengal to this port, was wreck'd in February last upon this coast, in latitude 40° 37' South,* or about 408 miles to the southward of Port Jackson. Seventeen of her crew embark'd in the longboat in order to reach the harbor, and to procure whatever assistance could be had here; but they were also wreck'd upon the coast 220 miles to the southward of this port.** They all got on shore, and travel'd along the coast, and in May last a small row-boat, fishing to the southward of Botany Bay, discover'd three people on the shore, whom they took into the boat and brought hither scarsely alive. The remainder of the seventeen have undoubtedly perish'd or been kill'd by the natives, these survivors having been much annoy'd and wounded by them. On their arrival they gave an account of two others whom they had left a small distance from the place where they met the boat, but too weak to proceed farther. Upon this information I immediately sent a whaleboat well mann'd, and put on board her everything which cou'd be necessary for people in that condition, as well cloathing as nourishing articles of food, and sent the same fishermen who had taken up the others in this boat; but these unfortunate men were not to be found. Some articles they had were pick'd up cover'd with blood, so that we have reason to believe they have been murder'd in this helpless state.

[* The vessel was wrecked on one of the islands of the Furneaux Group, which is still known as Preservation Island.—Appendix A. (Chapters 1, 2)]

[** The longboat appears to have been wrecked in the vicinity of Point Everard.]

As soon after as possible I dispatch'd the Colonial schooner to the southward, together with a deck'd longboat,*** in order to take off the people who had been left upon the island on which they had been wreck'd. The schooner is just arriv'd, and has brought the commander (Mr. Hamilton), the only surviving European, and the remainder of the Lascars. The commander has left six of his own people in charge of the property sav'd, one of whom is one of the three who reach'd this place, and who, being well recover'd, return'd to the wreck in the schooner. I have, &c.,


[*** The decked longboat, The Eliza, was in charge of Alexander Armstrong, master of H.M.S. Supply. She separated in a gale from the Francis shortly after the rescue of the shipwrecked crew of the Sydney Cove, and neither her nor her crew was afterwards heard of.—Post, p. 309. (4. Letter, below)]


pages 308-9.]

Supply, Port Jackson, New South Wales,      
19th November, 1797.   


I beg you will inform my Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty, on the first of July last, by permission of his Excellency Governor Hunter, I sent Mr. Archd. Armstrong, master of his Majesty's armed vessel under my command, in a small sloop of about ten tons, in company with the Francis, Colonial schooner, to bring away the crew of a ship from Bengal, called the Sydney Cove, which was wrecked upon the eastern coast of this island, in latitude 40° 37' S.* After having taken on board the commander and those who remained alive, they sailed together for this place, but being overtaken by a violent storm and seperated, the Francis arrived alone about the end of the month, since which time the sloop has never been heard of, in consequence of which I have every reason to believe Mr. Armstrong and the whole on board have perished. I am extremely sorry to add, this unfortunate man, in his endeavour to make himself of use, has left three infant orphan children. I have, &c.,

WM. KENT.   

[* Ante, p. 278 (note) (3. Letter); and Appendix A. (Chapters 1, 2)]


pages 363-365]

Sydney, New South Wales,      
1st March, 1798.   

My Lord Duke,

The tedious repairs which his Majesty's ship Reliance necessarily required before she could be put in a condition for going again to sea hav'g given an oportunity to Mr. George Bass, her surgeon, a young man of a well-informed mind and an active disposition, to offer himself to be employed in any way in which he could contribute to the benefit of the public service, I enquired of him in what way he was desirous of exerting himself, and he informed me nothing could gratify him more effectually than my allowing him the use of a good boat and permitting him to man her with volunteers from the King's ships. I accordingly furnished him with an excellent whaleboat, well fitted, victualled, and manned to his wish, for the purpose of examining along the coast to the southward of this port, as far as he could with safety and convenience go. His perseverance against adverse winds and almost incessant bad weather led him as far south as the latitude of 40.00 S., or a distance from this port, taking the bendings of the coast, more than of six hundred miles. He coasted the greatest part of the way, and sedulously examined every inlet along the shore, which does not in these parts afford a single harbour fit to admit even a small vessel, except a bay in latitude 35.06, called Jarvis's Bay, and which was so named by one of the transport ships, bound here, who entered it, and is the same called by Captain Cook Longnose Bay.* He explored every accessible place until he came as far as the southermost parts of this coast seen by Captain Cook, and from thence until he reached the northermost land seen by Capt. Furneaux, beyond which he went westward about sixty miles, where the coast falls away in a west-north-west direction. Here he found an open ocean westward, and by the mountainous sea which rolled from that quarter, and no land discoverable in that direction, we have much reason to conclude that there is an open strait through, between the latitude of 39 and 40.12 S., a circumstance which, from many observations made upon tides and currents thereabouts, I had long conjectured.**

[* Long Nose Point was the name Captain Cook gave to the inner north head of Jervis Bay. The point is that given in the Admiralty Charts as Dart Point. Cook noted in passing that a bay existed, but did not give it any name. Lieutenant Bowen, when he entered the bay in August, 1791, in the transport Atlantic, named it Jervis Bay, after Sir John Jervis, under whom he had seen considerable active service in the Navy.]

[** When commenting upon his voyage in the Sirius, from Sydney to the Cape, for provisions, in 1788-89, Hunter remarked that no land was seen to the westward, between Furneaux Group and the southernmost known part of the coast of New Holland; and he surmised, from the fact that they had an easterly set of current with a N.W. wind, that there was either a very deep gulf or a strait which separated Van Diemen's Land from New Holland. —Hunter's Journal, pp. 125, 126.]

It will appear by this discovery that the northermost land seen by Captain Furneaux is the southernmost extremity of this coast, and lays in latitude 39.00 S. At the western extremity of Mr. Bass's coasting voyage he found a very good harbour; but, unfortunately, the want of provision induced him to return sooner than he wished and intended, and on passing a small island laying off the coast he discovered a smoke, and supposed it to have been made by some natives, with whom he wished to have an opportunity of conversing. On approaching the shore he found the men were white, and had some clothing on, and when he came near he observed two of them take to the water and swim off.* They proved to be seven of a gang of fourteen who escaped from hence in a boat on the 2nd of October last, mentioned in letter No. 30,** and who had been treacherously left on this desolate island by the other seven, who returned northward. The boat, it seems, was too small for their whole number, and when they arrived at Broken Bay, and they boarded another boat in the Hawkesbury with fifty-six bushels of wheat on board, they went off with her northward, leaving the old boat on shore.

[* Bass did not make any allusion to these escapees in his Journal.—Ante, pp. 312 to 333.]

[** Ante, p. 345.]

These poor distressed wretches, who were chiefly Irish, would have endeavoured to travel northward and thrown themselves upon his Majesty's mercy, but were not able to get from this miserable island to the mainland. Mr. Bass's boat was too small to accommodate them with a passage, and, as his provision was nearly expended, he could only help them to the mainland, where he furnished them with a musket and ammunition and a pocket-compass, with lines and fish-hooks. Two of the seven were very ill, and those he took into his boat, and shared his provision with the other five, giving them the best directions in his power how to proceed, the distance being not less than five hundred miles. He recommended them to keep along the coast the better to enable them to get food; indeed the difficulties of the country and the possibility of meeting hostile natives are considerations which will occasion doubts of their ever being able to reach us.

When they parted with Mr. Bass and his crew, who gave them what cloaths they could spare, some tears were shed on both sides. The whaleboat arrived in this port after an absence of twelve weeks, and Mr. Bass delivered to me his observations on this adventur'g expedition. I find he made several excursions into the interior of the country wherever he had an opportunity. It will be sufficient to say that he found in general a barren, unpromising country, with very few exceptions, and were it even better, the want of harbours would render it less valuable.***

[*** See Bass's own account of this voyage.—Ante, pp. 312-333.]

Whilst this whaleboat was absent I had occasion to send the Colonial schooner to the southward to take on board the remaining property saved from the wreck of the ship Sydney Cove, and to take the crew from the island she had been cast upon.**** I sent in the schooner Lieut. Flinders, of the Reliance (a young man well qualifyed), in order to give him an opportunity of making what observations he could amongst those islands; and the discovery which was made there by him and Mr. Hamilton, the master of the wrecked ship, shall be annexed to those of Mr. Bass in one chart, and forwarded to your Grace herewith,* by which I presume it will appear that the land called Van Diemans, and generally supposed to be the southern promontory of this country, is a group of islands separated from its southern coast by a strait, which it is probable may not be of narrow limits, but may perhaps be divided into two or more channels by the islands near that on which the ship Sydney Cove was wrecked.

[**** See a full account of this shipwreck, Appendix A. (Chapters 1, 2)]

[* Unfortunately, this chart has not been preserved; but one, apparently by Flinders, showing part of the tracks of Bass in the whaleboat, Flinders in the Francis, and Flinders and Bass in the sloop Norfolk, is reproduced.—Appendix B. (Chart, below)]

Having had occasion in my letter No. 31** to mention the persons sent to the interior of the country with a few of the discontented Irishmen, I have further to observe that after the return of those men the three guides whom I had directed to proceed into and to make what observations they could upon the country they travelled over, they informed me when they arrived, from a journal which I had given them directions to keep, and to mark every day, that they had been to the south-west of Parramatta more than one hundred miles, and found several hills in which were considerable veins of salt, of ten and twelve feet, and they described the country to be in some places highly beautiful and fit for cultivation; in others very poor and sterile, frequently intersected with narrow but rapid branches of fresh-water rivers, over some of which they were obliged to swim; others were fordable.

[** Ante, p. 359.]

I have had occasion to send a second time thro' this part of the country in search of our herd of wild cattle, which it was reported had been by these lawless deserters driven from their former station or feeding-place. To insure, therefore, such information on this head as I could depend upon, I sent a person in whose account I could place confidence, and I understand from him that they found the cattle a few miles from their former spot, and distinctly counted a flock of one hundred and seventy in number; nor was that the whole of them, as appeared by their meeting afterwards with a few stragglers.

They brought specimens of the salt, which appeared to be a good deal impregnated with the earth in which it was discovered.

I have, &c.,



pages 474-5]

Sydney, New South Wales, 3rd Sept., 1798.   


From the unfortunate loss of a ship nam'd the Sydney Cove,* from Bengal, upon a voyage of speculation to this port, I had occasion to send our small Colonial schooner and a deck longboat to the southward as far as latitude 40° 36 S. to take off the surviving crew, and to save such property as the above boats might be capable of taking on board from the island on which the ship had been wreck'd.

[* See Hunter to Portland, 6th July, 1797.—Ante, p. 277 (3. Letter) and Appendix A. (Chapters 1, 2)]

I beg their Lordships may be inform'd that the schooner return'd in safety with the master of the wreck'd ship and a few lascars, but a heavy gale of wind having set in on the day of their leaving the island, the longboat, which was commanded and navigated by Mr. Armstrong, the master of the Supply, founder'd with all her crew and seven or eight lascars on board, together with such articles as had been put on board from the wreck.

The schooner being only forty-two tons burthen, it became necessary to send her again to the wreck. I took that opportunity of ordering Mr. Flinders, the 2d lieutenant of the Reliance, with her, for the purpose of making what observations he cou'd amongst those islands relative to anchorage, &c.

Previous to the last trip of the schooner, Mr. Bass, the surgeon of the Reliance, a young man of much ability in various ways out of the line of his profession, solicited, during the repairing of the Reliance, that he might be allow'd a boat, and have her man'd from the King's ships. He was desirous of tracing the coast along in the boat, and to make what observations he might be able relative to harbours or anchorage. I fitted out a good whaleboat for him, victual'd her, and man'd to his wish. He went southward along the coast, and on finding, when he had got the length of Cape Howe, that the shore inclin'd westward, he continued to trace it along untill he came to a steep and high promontary** in latitude 39° 00 S. From this cape the land lay along W.N.W.; he continued to steer in that direction for about sixty miles beyond this headland, where he found an extensive harbour, but his provisions becoming short, and being at a very considerable distance from Port Jackson, together with his boat becoming leaky, he resolv'd upon returning. He had at one time stretched off from the above headland to the S.W., untill he was in latitude 40° 00 S., but the wind shifting to the westward and blowing strong, he was oblig'd to run for the land again, which he with difficulty reach'd. The sea rose to so mountainous a height that he had every reason to believe he was not covered by any land to the westward. This circumstance corroborates an opinion which I ventur'd to give from some observations of my own—that there was a probability of an open strait, thro' between the latitudes of 39° 00 S. and 42° 00 S.**

[** Wilson's Promontory. See Bass's own journal, ante, pp. 312-333.]

[** Hunter, in his "Historical Journal", published in London, in January, 1793 (p. 126), expressed the opinion that a very deep gulf or a strait separated Van Diemen's Land from New Holland.]

To shew how far the conjecture I made may have been just, I directed Mr. Hinders to take into one chart the observations of Mr. Bass and his own; and I send a copy*** to be laid before their Lordships. From this little sketch it will appear that the high land in latitude 39° 00 S., which Mr. Bass went round, is the southern extremity of this country, and that the land call'd Van Dieman's is a group of islands laying to the southward of that extremity, and probably leaving a safe and navigable passage between; to ascertain this is of some importance. I am endeavouring to fit out a deck'd boat of about fifteen tons burthen for that purpose, in which I propose to send the two officers above mentioned.

I have, &c.,


[*** The chart is missing. See the map, reproduced in Appendix B. (Chart, below)]

Chart of Van Diemen's Land and Part of the Southern Coast of Australia. Preservation Island lies directly north of the north-east tip of Tasmania


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