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Title: Excursions in New South Wales, Western Australia, and Van Dieman's Land, during the Years 1830, 1831, 1832, and 1833. Author: [William Henry] Breton. * A Project Gutenberg of Australia eBook * eBook No.: 1402161h.html Language: English Date first posted: May 2014 Date most recently updated: May 2014 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 Licence which may be viewed online.
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"William Henry Breton entered the Navy 7 Jan. 1812; passed his
examination in 1818; and obtained his commission 10 March, 1827.
He has since been on half-pay. Lieut. Breton is at present
employed as a police magistrate at Launceston, Van Diemen's
Source - "A Naval Biographical Dictionary" by William R. O'Byrne, Esq., 1849.
A few obvious spelling inconsistencies have been silently corrected. The font size of the Appendix has not been reduced.
When obliged to have recourse to the superficial remarks of the vulgar travellers, sailors, traders, buccaneers, and missionaries, we must often pause, and, comparing detached facts, endeavour to discover what they wanted sagacity to observe.—Robertson.
RICHARD BENTLEY, NEW BURLINGTON STREET.
PRINTED BY SAMUEL BENTLEY,
Dorset Street, Fleet Street.
A new Edition of this Work being required, the author has availed himself of the opportunity to correct such errata as were occasioned by his not personally inspecting the proof sheets of the First Edition. Some new facts have also been added which he thinks will increase the interest and usefulness of his Work; but he has not considered himself authorized to introduce all that he has subsequently heard respecting regions of which such contradictory reports have been published, as his object is to impart information collected by himself and verified by actual observation alone.
London, May 1834.
An inherent propensity to wander, and, not improbably, some slight wish to secure a share in the golden prospects held out to all persons emigrating to the Australian Colonies, induced me, once more to encounter the perils of the deep, and to bid adieu, for a time, to those luxuries and comforts so much prized by all who love a life of tranquillity.
A sojourn in the Colonies, however it may have gratified my roving propensities, and afforded much real interest and amusement, has certainly tended to dispel some of the bright illusions with which the high-flown accounts of not a few writers on the subject had previously possessed my mind. It must be obvious to every impartial person, who has had an opportunity of judging from actual observation of the capabilities of the Colonies, that most of the works hitherto published are calculated to excite in the emigrant expectations which, unless through some singularly lucky circumstance, can never be realized: in addition to which, they certainly convey but little of that practical information so necessary to all who intend establishing themselves in those distant regions.
It is with this conviction that I have been induced to offer to the public the substance of my note-book, trusting that it will be found to convey an impartial and correct, though brief and unvarnished account, of the actual state of things in this portion of the globe.
I lay no claim to the graces of authorship, nor in a work of this kind, would there have been much opportunity for displaying them; the only object I have in view is, to convey as aqcurate an idea as possible of the nature and resources of the different settlements; so that, in the event of the emigrant undertaking a voyage of nearly 16,000 miles, he may not find, on his arrival at his destination, that he has been misled by over-drawn accounts or actual misstatements.
This, I regret to say, has been the case with many, who, judging from what they had read, quitted England with the notion, that the countries to which they were proceeding comprised in them all the delights of a paradise!
It is perfectly natural to believe all that is said of a country by a respectable person who has been there, especially when he has no apparent motive for making mis-statements; but some travellers show a most singular aptitude to amplify as much as possible, particularly with respect to the beauties of a country; seemingly from the supposition, that unless a book be full of high-flown language, it would not be read: others, again, owing to their not having had any opportunities of visiting other regions, can be but little qualified to take a fair and correct view of the relative advantages and disadvantages of a country.
I believe no persons have written on the Colonies who have not been in some way connected, it may be said identified, with one or other of them; and it cannot, therefore, excite surprise if they say all they can in favour of that particular colony in which they haf e established themselves. I mean not to accuse them of wilful misrepresentation; but they certainly appear, in too many instances, to have been influenced by that amor patrię, that devotion to their adopted country, which, lending to every thing an enchantment it possesses not for the casual and indifferent observer, but ill qualifies them for giving a faithful and unbiassed account of it.
Having, during my wanderings, visited, and, I trust, not quite unprofitably, many parts of the globe, I may perhaps be allowed to hope, in giving a concise description of regions so little known in England, that I shall be enabled to impart useful information to those who propose to emigrate, and also to prove the truth of the observations made by Pliny the elder, "That no book is so bad as not to afford something valuable."
London, October 1833.
OBSERVATIONS ON THE VOYAGE FROM ENGLAND—MODE OF PRESERVING PLANTS AND SEEDS—ST. JAGO—DESCRIPTION OF PORTO PRATA—APPEARANCE OF THE COUNTRY—DROUGHT—ARRIVAL AT SWAN RIVER—GAGE'S ROADS—COCKBURN SOUND—FREEMANTLE—PERTH—ANECDOTE OF THE DOCTOR OF THE L——OPINIONS RESPECTING THE SOIL—EXCURSION UP THE SWAN, AND CANNING—DARLING RANGE OF MOUNTAINS—ABORIGINES—THEIR ADDICTION TO MIMICRY—GARDEN ISLAND—CLIMATE—CONFLICTING STATEMENTS CONCERNING THE COLONY—APPRENTICES—RECENT ACCOUNTS OF THE PROGRESS OF THE SETTLEMENT.
ARRIVAL AT SYDNEY—MODE OF TRAVELLING IN THE "BUSH"—WHERE UNLOCATED LAND IS TO BE FOUND—ROUTES IN THE VARIOUS SETTLEMENTS—LIVERPOOL—CAMPBELL TOWN—COW PASTURES—BONG-BONG—GOULBOURN PLAINS WOLLONDILLI—LAKE GEORGE—LAKE BATHURST SHOAL HAVEN GULLIES—PERSONS LOST IN THE WILDS OF NEW HOLLAND—CAVES NEAR THE GULLIES—DESCENT INTO ILLAWARRA—WALLOGONG—GREAT SIZE OF THE FISH IN THE SHOAL HAVEN AND OTHER STREAMS—COAST SOUTH OF ILLAWARRA—ROUTE OF BATHURST—PARAMATTA—BLUE MOUNTAINS—TOWNSHIP OF BATHURST—ASPECT OF THE PLAINS, OR DOWNS ROUTE TO THE HUNTER—HAWKESBURY—SCENERY IN THE BLUE MOUNTAINS FALL IN WITH A PARTY OF NATIVES—WOLLOMBI—MERTON GAMMON PLAINS—SINGULAR APPEARANCE OF THE LAND—MOUNT BOOROOAN—CORBORN COMLEROY—REMARKABLE SPRING BASALTIC COLUMNS—PURSUIT OF THE EMU—LIVERPOOL MOUNTAINS INVERMEEN—ST. HILIER'S—MAITLAND COUNTRY ON THE HUNTER ENORMOUS TREE—NEWCASTLE PORT STEPHENS—PORT MACQUARRIE—MORETON BAY—RIVER NEPEAN—COUNTRY ON THE HAWKESBURY.
GENERAL OBSERVATIONS ON NEW HOLLAND—COASTS—CORAL BANKS—ACCOUNT OF THEM BY FLINDERS—MELVILLE ISLAND—BATHURST ISLAND—WEATHER ON THE COASTS—PREVAILING ASPECT OF THE COUNTRY EXTENT OF THE COLONY—RIVERS—CONSIDERABLE SEA SAID TO HAVE BEEN FOUND IN THE INTERIOR—NORFOLK ISLAND—NEW ZEALAND—ISLANDS.
ABORIGINES OF AUSTRALIA—OBSERVATION ON THEM BY DAMPIER—EXTRAORDINARY INSTANCES OF DELUSION—CRUEL TREATMENT OF A SHEPHERD BY A TRIBE—UNFEELING CONDUCT OF THE WHITES—CUSTOMS OF THE WOLLOMBI NATIVES—SUPERSTITIOUS IMPRESSIONS—WARS—NATIVES AT MORETON BAY—COWARRWEL BLACKS—THE KABARRAH—WEAPONS—DIFFICULTY OF RECLAIMING THE NATIVES—SAID TO BE CANNIBALS—THEIR LANGUAGE—ANIMALS OF NEW HOLLAND—WONDERFUL TENACITY OF LIFE DISPLAYED BY THE NATIVE DOG—VARIOUS KINDS OF THE KANGAROO—REPTILES, BIRDS, INSECTS, VEGETATION—RAPIDITY OF THE GROWTH OF TREES—CLIMATE—HOT WINDS—DESTRUCTIVE FIRES—DROUGHT.
SKETCH OF SYDNEY ENVIRONS—SOIL—PRICES OF PROVISIONS—PUBLIC HOUSES—POPULATION SOCIETY—CONVICTS—RATIONS ALLOWED THEM—EXTRACT FROM A LETTER WRITTEN BY ONE—BUSH RANGERS REPORT CONCERNING A COLONY OF RUNAWAYS—EXPORTS—IMPORTS—REVENUES—SALARIES OF PERSONS HOLDING SITUATIONS UNDER GOVERNMENT—HORSES—UNCOMMON INSTINCT SHOWN BY THEM—CATTLE—CURIOUS DOCILITY OF A BULLOCK—PRICE OF CATTLE—SHEEP—UNACCOUNTABLE CIRCUMSTANCE RESPECTING A FLOCK.
ARRIVAL AT HOBART TOWN—EXCURSIONS INTO THE INTERIOR—LAUNCESTON—STORM BAY—SKETCH OF THE CAPITAL—POPULATION—SOCIETY CONVICTS—ANECDOTES OF THEM—REPORTS—HORSES—CATTLE—SHEEP—PRICES OF PROVISIONS—GENERAL OBSERVATIONS ON VAN DIEMAN'S LAND—RIVERS—ABORIGINES—EXPEDITION AGAINST THEM ANIMALS—FISH—WHALES—VEGETATION—CLIMATE—MEDICAL TOPOGRAPHY.
GENERAL OBSERVATIONS ON THE COLONIES—PUBLIC WORKS SCHOOLS—LAND REGULATIONS—VARIOUS MODES OF CLEARING LAND—EXPENSE OF DITTO—SQUATTERS—CAPITAL REQUIRED—DESCRIPTION OF PERSONS LIKELY TO SUCCEED IN THE COLONIES—DIFFICULTY OF PROCURING STEADY SERVANTS—WAGES OF MECHANICS—DISTRESS OF THE SETTLERS, HOW CAUSED—COMPARATIVE ADVANTAGES AND DISADVANTAGES OF THE COLONIES—OBJECTIONS TO SETTLING THERE—INDUCEMENTS—CONCLUSION.
DIRECTIONS TO THE BINDER.
|Native Arms.||To face page 206.|
TOUR IN AUSTRALIA.
OBSERVATIONS ON THE VOYAGE FROM ENGLAND—MODE OF PRESERVING PLANTS AND SEEDS—ST. JAGO—DESCRIPTION OF PORTO PRATA—APPEARANCE OF THE COUNTRY—DROUGHT—ARRIVAL AT SWAN RIVER—GAGE'S ROADS—COCKBURN SOUND—FREEMANTLE—PERTH—ANECDOTE OF THE DOCTOR OF THE L———OPINIONS RESPECTING THE SOIL—EXCURSION UP THE SWAN, AND CANNING—DARLING RANGE OF MOUNTAINS—ABORIGINES—THEIR ADDICTION TO MIMICRY—GARDEN ISLAND—CLIMATE—CONFLICTING STATEMENTS CONCERNING THE COLONY—APPRENTICES—RECENT ACCOUNTS OF THE PROGRESS OF THE SETTLEMENT.
Ships bound to the Australian colonies sail at all times of the year; but it is by no means an easy matter to ascertain the precise period fixed for their departure; for such is the anxiety of the agents to secure passengers, that they will not hesitate to state a positive time, although well aware that the vessel may not sail for many weeks afterwards.
It is therefore advisable to withhold the passage money until the vessel is in a state of forwardness for sea, which can only be ascertained by a person going himself on board, and finding out what portion of the cargo is shipped: if he cannot do so personally, he should employ a friend to act for him. Without taking this precaution, the emigrant may be detained in London, at very great expense, and during a considerable time: indeed I know of one instance in which a family were induced, through the misrepresentations of an agent, to go from Aberdeen to London, where, after having made their arrangements and paid their passage-money, they were detained three months.
The amount of the passage-money varies greatly, but the following may be taken as the average:
|Cabin, from||80l. to 90l.|
|Stern Cabin||40l. to 50l. extra.|
|Steerage||20l. to 30l.|
The freight for baggage, &c. taken in the hold, is from 2l. 15s. to 3l. per ton.
The average passage to Sydney and Hobart Town is about four months, and to Swan River about three weeks less.
Previous to securing his passage, the emigrant will do well to ascertain that the ship is commanded by a person of known credit and responsibility; he will thus be secure against those disputes respecting fare, etc. etc., which add so much to the inevitably numerous inconveniences of such a long voyage.
Some persons consider the passage-money to be extravagant, but they do not reflect that the style of living will most probably be greatly superior to that to which they have been accustomed on shore; many also imagine, that on board ship, the time must of necessity pass very heavily, which is altogether a mistake; for it is really inconceivable with what rapidity weeks, nay months, seem to disappear during a voyage, especially if a person be moderately partial to literary pursuits. The very regularity, or, as it is termed, monotony, of the life one leads, tends to make the days appear short; and when it is considered how many sources of recreation are supphed by reading, chess, etc., it is but seldom that any one, save the mere idler, will find the day too long. If there should be any person, who, instead of employing his time rationally, thinks of nothing but eating and drinking, no uncommon circumstance, he may expect to feel enough of the tędium vitę to make him wish himself on shore again.
Not a few are alarmed at the supposed dangers of the voyage: it might possibly instil some degree of courage into the most timid, if they would but take into consideration the small size and badly found condition of the vessels in which the early navigators encountered the storms of which they speak.*
[* When Diaz discovered the Cape of Good Hope, he had only two vessels, 50 tons each; this was in 1446! Those of De Gama, who discovered India, were 120, 100, and 90 tons. In Drake's voyage round the world, he had with him one vessel of 100, one of 80, one of 50, one of 30, and a pinnace of 15 tons!! Candish or Cavendish, in his voyage round the world, had three vessels of the respective burdens of 140, 60, and 40 tons! Columbus' fleet consisted of three carracks, each of 100 tons, and iundry vessels of much smaller size.]
I have been twice to New Holland (and a friend of mine four times) without having experienced aught resembling a gale of wind! Even off Cape Horn, when returning to England, at the commencement of the winter, the weather was truly delightful.**
[** It is not to be inferred from this that we had not, during the voyage an occasional strong breezy, but then it was commonly favourable: at all events we were not prevented from making some progress.]
Previous to our reaching the Cape the weather had been thick and gloomy, so that for thirteen days we never saw the moon, and very littlfe of the sun; but old ocean, during that period, was so uncommonly smooth, that we were almost led to believe ourselves close under the lee of the land, instead of being at some distance from it, with sometimes a fresh breeze blowing right on shore. We were quite unable to account for this; there was just such a ripple as is frequently observed on the surface of a lake, but not the slightest perceptible swell. This was fortunate, as we sailed nearly five hundred miles amongst ice islands, the first of which was seen in latitude 55° 13' south, longitude 115° 45' west. They were mostly at a distance of several miles from each other, with small broken fragments between them: the greatest number seen at one time exceeded twenty, and the most considerable may have been half a mile in length, and two hundred feet, or upwards, in height. The principal danger, when amongst ice, arises from the small pieces, which, during a dense fog, are not perceived until the vessel is nearly upon them: the larger masses or islands, may generally be distinguished by the "blink."
Those who wish to touch at Rio Janeiro, on their way to the Colonies, will do well to sail early in April: but if they prefer the Cape of Good Hope, about the middle or end of August, as there will then be a greater probability of their making a good passage; besides which, they will arrive at the Cape in the fine season, a point of great consequence in such a boisterous region.
Ships appear, however, to touch more commonly at the Cape Verd Islands: on my first voyage, we passed a couple of days at the Island of Mayo, and on my second we put into Porto Praya; at the former we procured nothing but water and salt, and at the latter various fruits, and some poultry.
If the emigrant has any articles of value at all liable to become damaged, they should be in cases lined with tin; and in order to keep his trunks, etc. free from damp, he had better place them on stands, so as to raise them a few inches from the deck; they can afterwards be secured in the usual manner.
Seeds are put up in several ways; some persons enclose them in cannisters, or boxes of coarse sugar; others in tin soldered up. From experience, I consider it a good plan to pack them in brown paper, and then to suspend them in the cabin. I had heard that it was necessary to exclude the air entirely, and therefore tried the experiment; yet most of the seeds failed. Cuttings can be carried in boxes in the following manner: first put in a layer of mould, then one of cuttings, and so on alternately, until the box is filled; nail it down tight, and keep it from wet.
Bulbous roots may be hung up in paper bags; and all the care that they require, is to be occasionally cleared of any insects that may be on them.
Plants are often packed in moss, as cuttings are in mould; and I have seen them brought out in this manner, and succeed perfectly well. But the more usual mode is to have boxes fitted on purpose, in which case the glass should be protected by a wire grating. In spite, however, of all the trouble that may have been expended upon the plants, many of them will perish before the expiration of the voyage; but many will also reach their destination in excellent condition. They frequently die in consequence of the box not being closed in stormy weather, so that the plants are destroyed by the spray. They must not be watered too often.
There is not a tree or plant that will grow in Europe that will not also thrive well in one or other of the three colonies; and such, likewise, is the case with a great number of exotics. The emigrant ought certainly to take out both cuttings and seeds of every description. In a country like New Holland, every deciduous tree, in particular, is valuable. He will perhaps say he has already enough to attend to, without hampering himself with so many packages; but he may rest assured, that the trouble and expense are so trifling, as not to be worth mentioning.
He will most probably, on his arrival, have no place in which to put his plants, etc., in this case, he can give them to the botanical garden, and the superintendent will at any time supply him with those he may require when on his location.
I have several times, to my no small astonishment, met with persons who were going to Australasia professedly with the view of becoming settlers, and who, nevertheless, had not supplied themselves with a plant or seed of any kind. This must have been through idleness or carelessness, neither of which is very creditable. I tried to introduce the goldfinch and sky lark; and Dr. F., who, in each of his voyages has exerted himself greatly to introduce both birds and plants, took on board, when he last went out, two-dozen linnets, and three dozen goldfinches; he landed three of the latter, and I saved two larks, but both males. Here we both committed a mistake, in having too many birds in one cage; for I had fourteen goldfinches in the same cage, and the Doctor thirty-six. In flying about they destroyed each other, and they also fought most desperately.
The proper, and in fact the only way, is to have a large wicker cage divided into compartments, and to keep two birds, male and female, in each, but with one general slide, so as to avoid the necessity of cleaning each cage or compartment separately. Singing birds, provided they are not of the kind which destroy grain or young fruit, (and even if they did, the loss would be trifling) would be a great acquisition to the Colonies, as they would tend to break, during a portion of the year, the horrid silence which so often reigns in the vast forests of New Holland and Van Dieman's Land.
Our voyage to St. Jago, one of the Cape Verd Islands, was tolerably rapid, and we found there two ships which had sailed from England ten days before us, and yet had only arrived one day sooner.
We anchored at Porto Praya, the principal town of the island, and a party of us immediately went on shore. The landing is always indifferent, frequently very bad, and even dangerous. On my former visit to this place in a frigate, one of our boats was upset, and some of the crew were nearly drowned. On landing we had to walk along a sandy beach, and across a valley which extends to the port, and contains a few wretched looking trees; then ascending a steep acclivity by a bad road cut out of the rock, we found ourselves in the town. It consists of a large square, one rather wide street, and a few lateral streets of a miserable appearance, and stands upon a bold rocky projection, elevated considerably above the sea, with a valley on each side, and bare hills and barren valleys behind. From it, with the exception of the above mentioned trees on the one side, and a few acres of garden ground and thick wood in the valley on the other, the eye looks over a region as bare and desolate as can possibly be imagined; in short, no spot I ever saw can, in apparent sterility be compared to it. Most of the inhabitants are blacks.
From the town we walked a mile and a half to inspect some springs, and found there a good garden belonging to one of the merchants, and also a copious supply of excellent water, which flowed from beneath a rock. It is from hence that the government propose laying down pipes, in order to supply the shipping, and also the town, so as not to be under the necessity of depending, as is the case at present, on a well, inconveniently situated in a valley three quarters of a mile from the beach.
Quitting the springs, we continued our walk, over loose lava without a blade of grass, and scarcely a plant of any kind, to a ravine called Trinidad.
Here, however, the vegetation was truly luxuriant, and fruit of various kinds, particularly oranges, lemons, grapes, bananas, and cocoa-nuts, together with sugar canes, coffee, etc., were extremely abundant. We saw also the tree commonly called, in Western Africa, the monkey-fruit, the adansonia of botanists; one which we measured was forty-two feet in girth.
The ravine, for it can hardly be termed a valley, is really a beautiful spot; but it will bear no comparison with another called St. Domingo, some miles beyond it, which I visited at a former period. The last is nine miles from the town; and on our way to it we passed occasionally the bed of a mountain stream, but found not one drop of water. The ravine is rendered highly romantic and interesting, as it is of some extent, and enclosed by lofty rocks of a bold and picturesque appearance; the effect of which (together with the cultivation) is greatly heightened by the contrast with the gloomy and unpromising aspect of the country around. St. Jago is ten miles long and five wide.
From July, 1830, to the time of my visit—that is to say, twenty-two months—not more than half an inch of rain had fallen in St. Jago; and this had also been the case in some of the other islands of this group. The consequences have been highly disastrous, and many of the inhabitants have perished through want.
During our little excursion, we remarked several large herds of cattle, and numerous goats, but were unable to discover upon what they subsisted; of course their owners must supply them with food and water at night, though as these are scarce articles, it is not improbable that great numbers of the unfortunate animals perish.
Guinea fowl and quail aboimd in every part of the island, and afford good shooting; if a person wishes to procure the former, he must set off at daylight. There are also hawks, king-fishers, and one or two other birds: of animals, I met with a few monkies, but doubt much if any person who had once seen one of these singular creatures asleep, would wantonly kill them; and certainly a semi-cannibal alone would eat of one.
The island is, at particular seasons, extremely unhealthy, and, taking into consideration the badness of the landing, the great fatigue experienced in walking even a few miles in a place so hot, and so entirely destitute of shade, and also how little there is to compensate any person for the trouble, it is scarcely worth the while of any one, save the sportsman, to go on shore: at all events, I would advise no female to land unless the water be more tranquil than it generally is.
I have said that we touched, on a former voyage, at Mayo. This island is of no great extent, and its sterility is even more apparent than that of St. Jago: the only signs of vegetation which we were enabled to discover, being observed on the sides of two mountains, of considerable elevation. We landed at some steps cut out in the rock, and a worse landing place I have rarely seen; for the sea beats with no little violence against the precipitous sides of the cliff, so that it requires great care and attention to prevent the boat from being stove or upset. The town, as it is termed, is a collection of miserable huts, inhabited by about 1500 Portuguese blacks; and not far from it are the saltpans, where a large quantity of salt is annually made, forming the sole produce of this delectable spot. During the rains, the island is said to be covered with grass, but when a drought occurs, the condition of the natives, as also of the cattle and asses, must be dreadful. We procured water by digging holes in the sand, and then placing casks, into which the water was allowed to drain; a tedious process. That which we got, however, although soft and vapid, was by no means bad. I would recommend no one to touch at this most wretched island.
The only land made, after leaving St. Jago, until we reached New Holland, was the Island of St. Paul, by all accounts a most singular spot; but we were not near enough to make any observations concerning it.
After a voyage of sixteen weeks, with no incidents or events of any kind worth relating, we finally arrived at Swan River; and it may be imagined how much our curiosity was excited to see, with our own eyes, a spot of which such a variety of accounts had been published.
This place was known to the French long before the English thought of colonising it: they seem to have entertained no very high opinion of its beauties or capabilities.* The coast, to some distance on each side of the entrance to the river, has a most wretched appearance, nothing being visible save barren rocks, or a sandy beach, with a dreary looking country beyond; in short, a more inhospitable spot is rarely to be found; and a vessel driven upon the rocks, formed an object which did not conduce to animate the scene.
[* Swan River was discovered in 1696 by Vlaming, but he gives no account of it.]
The port, or road-stead, called Gage's Roads, is partially sheltered by Garden Island, and two other islands named Rotten Nest and Pulo Carnac, but it is greatly exposed to the north-west winds, which often blow with considerable violence.
The best anchorage is in Cockburn Sound, formed by Garden Island and the main, with the disadvantage, however, of being nine miles from the landing-place at Freemantle; so that it will always be highly inconvenient for the boats of the merchant-vessels, besides causing a serious delay in discharging the cargoes of the latter.
Gag[e]'s Roads are said to be perfectly safe from October to April, as land and sea-breezes prevail regularly during that season.
Freemantle, at the time of my arrival—(in October 1829)—was a mere encampment, every person being either in a tent or temporary hut: its site is a level spot, consisting entirely of sand, and the "bush" or forest, extends to within a very, short distance of it. Water was easily procured by digging holes a few feet in depth, but it was not particularly good; and that which we took on board, at our departure, was not drinkable; I understand, however, that a plentiful supply has been found since, and of a good description. The only spring, near the place, was about a mile distant, and it fell into the river only a few yards from its source.
Some accounts state that Freemantle has been almost deserted, the colonists having removed to Perth, or to their grants; others that it is in a flourishing condition! Be this as it may, if the site alone be considered, a worse spot for a town could hardly have been selected! Situated as it is upon a bed of sand, and exposed to a glare that is almost insupportable, it holds out but little inducement for any person to fix his residence there, unless compelled by circumstances.*
[* Subsequent to writiug this I have been informed, by one gentleman, that there were five hundred houses at Freemantle: and, by another, that the number was very small: yet both had recently been there!]
It was not a little curious to observe the incipient town during the first few months after its commencement. Tents and huts in every variety; goods of all descriptions scattered about in disorder; the emigrants employed, some in cooking their provisions, and others in sauntering about, or landing their effects; many looking very miserable, and not a few equally happy; different kinds of animals, just landed, and showing evidently how much they must have suffered during so long a voyage; such was the scene I witnessed on landing at the spot on which the future principal sea-port of Western Australia was to stand.
At the entrance of the Swan, which is close to Freemantle, there is a bar on which the depth of water does not exceed six or seven feet; and often, even when the wind is moderate, the passage over it is not a little hazardous. From thence to Perth the distance is about nine miles, and the navigation is impeded by shoals, which, in some places, extend nearly across the river.
On approaching the township, one part of the river forms a lake several miles in extent, which would make a fine harbour if a canal could be cut so as to admit large vessels. Its shores are rocky, and generally useless to the agriculturist. Perth, the intended capital, stands on a rising spot covered, when I was there, with trees, in the midst of which the settlers had pitched their tents, or erected their huts; and the situation is not only well chosen, but affords some highly interesting views.* The river, at this part, is about half a mile wide, or rather more, but it is so shallow that it may sometimes be forded. The doctor who came out with us, in attempting to ford it, stuck in a hole and was drowned. He was short and stout, and was found, a day or two after, standing upright, with his head only a few inches below the surface; his companion got safe across.
[* There are now at least 120 houses there, if my information is to be relied upon.]
The former unfortunate young man was a proof how little dependence is sometimes to be placed in the advertisements in the London papers, with respect to vessels bound to New Holland. The agent advertised the L———, conformably to established custom, concluding with—"This vessel will carry an experienced Surgeon." This "experienced Surgeon"—(the doctor of the L.——)—was a shop-boy in the employment of a chemist and druggist; and he told me, without hesitation, that so far from being acquainted with medical matters, he did not know even how to bleed! He was one day about to perform the operation of phlebotomy on one of the crew; and commenced by fastening a bandage round the man's wrist! he was, of course, told that he was doing wrong. He tried to bleed a horse, and, after several attempts, failed entirely—the horse died!
The agent also pledged me his word of honour (blessings on his honesty!) that the fare should be good, and the allowance ample. The first was, in every respect, most execrable, even the salt junk and pork being unfit to be eaten; and the commander took especial care that we should not gorge ourselves at the expense of his larder, such as it was.**
[** It is very rarely the case now, that the living is had: indeed, our fare on board the Royal George and Brothers was not only excellent in its kind, but of a description far superior to what I had expected to meet with on board any merchant vessel: the wines especially would have done credit even to those who pride themselves in keeping what is termed a good cellar on shore. Most of the regular ships are equally well provided.]
Many and very contrary opinions have been given concerning the soil immediately around Perth; and the reader will easily perceive to what an extent this was carried, when he is informed that one gentleman said it was a rich loam, with a superstratum of sand; and another asserted that there was nothing but sand to the depth of several feet! Both of them were residing upon the spot, not above thirty or forty yards asunder, and neither of them would have willfully misrepresented the matter. As there happened, opportunely, to be a saw-pit at hand, I examined it with great care to the depth of nearly seven feet, and found the latter assertion to be strictly correct. Consequently one of the above gentlemen must have judged entirely from hearsay.
It does not however follow that the colonists will not be enabled to cultivate the land, and make it in some way or other available; for the soil about Sydney is of a considerably more arid description, yet a variety of fruits and vegetables are produced in abundance.
A mile or two above Perth there are several islands; and the river, at this spot, was so shallow, that we were obliged to get out of our boat and drag or lift it through the mud for some distance; after which, we found ourselves again in deep water, and it soon became fresh.
From this part of the river, to a distance, as well as we could judge, of twenty-five or thirty miles above Perth—that is to say, as far as we could proceed in a boat, the scenery was frequently of a beautiful description, and the banks, in many places, were composed of a rich alluvial soil, covered with excellent grass. Unfortunately, the good soil was rarely found to extend more than half a mile from the river, and often not more than fifty or a hundred yards. The land, to a greater distance, may be capable of cultivation, but we lost sight of the black mould, and observed, beyond it, sand and ironstone.
In some parts, the country was thickly clothed with forest; in others it had the appearance of a fine park, in which scarcely a tree was to be seen that one would think it necessary to destroy.
It has been confidently asserted that the land is generally so scantily wooded that there are not more than two trees to the acre! Nothing can be more absurd; for it is only here and there that such is the case, the country being more commonly what is denominated "open forest," with spots where the trees are very close together.
We made a point of landing wherever, we perceived an indication of good land, and frequently discovered the holes which had been dug by those who had preceded us, in order to ascertain the nature of the soil, and saw at once the cause why some persons had been so greatly deceived. Instead of proceeding in a direct line from the river, they had, in consequence of their ignorance of its course, passed partly across an elbow, or bend, formed by it, without being aware that they were all the time not far from its banks; so that they were led to believe the black mould extended several miles from instead of along it.
About forty miles from the sea, following the sinuosities of the river, our farther progress was impeded by fallen trees; but the French are said to have explored it to a distance of eighty miles from the entrance. If this be true, they must have disembarked at the place where we were stopped, and followed it up on shore. We were prevented by want of time from going to the source. The Canning falls into the Swan a little below Perth, on the opposite side, and in most of its features resembles that river; but it is smaller.
Our party ascended the stream as far as the fallen trees permitted, which was not more, I think, than fifteen or sixteen miles from its confluence with the Swan. Its banks are highly picturesque—often romantic; and it struck me there was rather a larger proportion of good soil than on the last named river; but even on the Canning, it extends not farther than from half to three quarters of a mile, and very seldom so far. I cannot speak with any certainty as to the exact distance that we went up the two rivers, for we could only surmise it by judging, as well as we were able, at what rate we rowed; though I do not conceive it could have been much farther than I have stated, as we occupied only nine days in making the excursion, employed much of our time in exploring, or shooting, and did not exert ourselves very greatly in rowing. Between Perth and Freemantle the land, in an agricultural point of view, is almost worthless, if we except a few small spots; the greater portion of it consisting of sands or sandstone covered with trees and underwood.
The base of the Darling range approaches to within a few miles of Perth: the declivities of these hills had not the appearance of being particularly abrupt; and their elevation is considered to be only about 1,200 feet, which I am inclined to believe is somewhat underrated. Their aspect is triste and displeasing. How far inland the range extends is not known; some officers had gone up the Canning as far as they could in a boat, and then walked, according to their statement, upwards of forty miles; when, seeing no apparent termination to the range, and their provisions being well nigh exhausted, they were obliged to retrace their steps.
They said (and there is every reason to believe their information to be correct) that the soil was bad or indifferent, excepting sometimes at the bottom of a valley or ravine, nor did they see much land adapted even for the purposes of grazing; indeed their account of the interior was far from cheering.
On the Canning we fell in with twenty-one of the aborigines, a greater number than had been previously seen in a body. They were of good height, straight limbed, very slightly made, and appeared to be extremely active. As though they were not naturally sufficiently ugly, many of them had thrust a feather, a bone, or a piece of wood through the septum of the nose; and the same practice was observed on various parts of the east coast by Cook's people, who gave to the ornament the appellation of spritsail yard.
Of their women we were unable to get more than a transitory glimpse, as the natives seemed to be either afraid or jealous of us, and therefore kept them concealed, although not far off, a sable head occasionally shewing itself amidst the bushes whenever that inquisitiveness so natural to the sex was excited. Nevertheless, these men were ever ready to make off with our own women, as was afterwards proved more than once. They repeated all we said, and imitated all our actions; and an amusing instance of the former propensity occurred to a party while on their way up the same river. At a spot where they had no expectation of meeting with any person, they heard a cry of "Go it, ye cripples, crutches are cheap!" On looking about them, they observed some of the natives emerge from the forest, one of whom must have heard an officer use the expression when exploring the country, and not improbably fancied it was our mode of salutation. This addiction to mimickry has been noticed by several navigators; and it is not confined to the inhabitants of the west coast. They were extremely afraid of a gun, and almost equally so of a dog: which last, by the way, was rather singular, for they have dogs of their own.
These people excavate large holes in the ground, but for what purpose, does not seem to be precisely known. They are thought to be intended for catching tortoises, but there is more reason to suppose that kangaroos must have been meant; as they are so deep, that, when I tumbled into one, by no means the most profound among them, I was immersed above the shoulders. We found on both rivers various kinds of water fowl and other birds; these were rapidly decreasing, the constant warfare kept up against them on the part of the colonists being so active, that scarcely one of the feathered race could escape them.
Our lair at night, while on this expedition, was formed by an oil-cloth, drawn partly over a bar supported by two trees, and quite open in front; at the ends were placed some branches, and before us was a large fire. Rushes, or grass, formed an excellent bed; and a blanket, or cloak, was a good substitute for bedding. Our fare consisted of "all the delicacies of the season" namely black swans, ducks, widgeon, white, and black, cockatoos, parrots, etc. Of kangaroos we met very few, and only two emus were seen.
We found the musquitoes excessively annoying, though far more so at Perth than elsewhere. At Freemantle there appeared to be none; it was not far from the latter that I had pitched my tent, just within the "Bush" and close to a huge rock, where I had the advantage of a natural chimney and fire-place. Here I passed three weeks in searching for the beauties and wonders of this much extolled spot; though I cannot say with any great degree of success.
Garden Island may be about twelve or fifteen miles in circumference, and the highest part 150 feet above the sea. It is little better than a mere bank of sand, and was so densely covered with trees and underwood as to be in many places quite impervious: nor from the nature of the soil does it present any capabilities of improvement or of alteration for the better.
The water procured there was of such an indifferent quality, that the officers of H.M.S. Sulphur were necessitated to send over to Freemantle for a supply, such as it was: I have since been informed that some of a better kind was afterwards procured from wells.
The sheep and goats, which were left on the island some time before, had perished, and the only animal found upon it at my visit, was the Wallabee kangaroo, with an occasional seal. The island appeared to be quite useless to the husbandman; but it may possibly prove an eligible spot for the establishment of a fishery, as snappers and other fish were abundant. Sharks also of a large size, are seen both in Cockbourn Sound and Gag[e]'s Roads; we had one of these monsters alongside the vessel, and its length was certainly not less than twenty or twenty-two feet. I am not positive whether the black whale has been seen near the land: there were great numbers round the ship when we were within sixty or eighty miles of it.
The animals at Swan River are of the same description with those on the East Coast, and the only noxious beast is the native dog, or wolf of this country.
From the colony being so nearly in the same parallel with Sydney, it is taken for granted that the climate of both must necessarily be alike. It does not, however, follow as a matter of course; for local circumstances may cause an essential difference; in proof of which, a variety of places might be mentioned, and it is frequently exemplified in New South Wales. I do not mean to say there is a difference, for some time must elapse before the climate of Western Australia can be fully known; but as Perth and Sydney are so widely asunder, and so differently situated, it is probable there must be a distinction.
While I was at Freemantle, the thermometer rose at noon to 87 deg., and once or twice to 91 deg.; before nine o'clock in the evening it had frequently fallen to 56 deg., making a difference of from 31 to 35 deg.; this was in a large tent. After my departure, it was sometimes as high as 105 deg. in the shade, and before midnight fell upwards of 40 degs.! What effect this rapid change of temperature may have on the constitution, remains to be proved; in so far as I was individually concerned, I found a cool night, after an oppressive day, highly agreeable to the feelings, and not in the least injurious to the health; but it must be remembered that I was only five weeks at the place.
I have heard that opthalmic complaints were common, and have abundant reason to believe they were greatly magnified. Throughout the months of May, June, July and August, 1829, the rains were incessant; and as, sometimes for several days together, there was scarcely an hour's intermission, the sailors were in the habit of saying that it had left off raining, and taken to pouring. Afterwards, when I was at Sydney, there were great complaints of drought at the Swan; from whence I infer, that both the east and the west coasts are equally liable to suffer from drought and floods. The situation of the settlement with respect to its distance from various parts of the globe, is unquestionably superior to that of Sydney or Hobart Town; and provided it possessed a safe harbour, and a fair proportion of good soil in the interior, without being too distant from the coast, I should undoubtedly prefer a location there to either of the other two colonies. That the representations of the fertility of this portion of New Holland, which were published in the different periodical works, were amplified, will admit of little doubt; and hence the reason why so many persons experience a feeling of disappointment on their arrival, as they had naturally been led to expect a much finer country, with a sufficiency of arable land in the vicinity of the capital.
It is easy to conceive, that when those who first explored the rivers, observed the scenery on their banks, (for whatever may be said to the contrary, the scenery is often beautiful,) they may have been greatly struck by the general effect; and, judging only from the immediate neighbourhood, have taken it for granted, that the alluvial soil extended to a much greater distance. This, to say the least of it, was injudicious, as the examination of a spot intended for colonization, cannot be too minute; and nothing could be more calculated to deceive, than the publication of a highly coloured picture of its aspect.
When we are told of a country being singularly magnificent, we are naturally inclined to believe it in every respect eligible for a settlement, not taking into consideration that whatever may be the nature of the scenery, the land may be of a very different quality, or, from local circumstances, not adapted to the purposes of tillage.
Admitting that some reproach attaches to those who, by their description of Western Australia, misled the public, still one cannot but blame persons who, finding on their arrival that the reality did not equal their anticipations, became afterwards discontented, and despaired of ever succeeding in their speculations. Some of them had quitted England with the most visionary notions imaginable, and, on the demolition of their airy castles, which vanished within a few hours after they had landed, they left the place in disgust, with heavy complaints of deception, and then strove to assuage their choler by striving to make it appear far worse than is actually the fact. One of them seriously contemplated taking out a pack of fox-hounds; another was resolved on having a cock-pit; and we may with justice suppose these trifling projects were not the only Utopian schemes that were concocted in the brains of the multitude of fanciful dreamers, who thought the terra Australis incognita of our forefathers, would prove the El Dorado of their posterity. The last accounts (1831,) stated the population of Swan River at 3,000, or more, which is probably not overrated, the arrivals having been very numerous.
It may with truth be asserted, that of no place on earth have there been published such contradictory reports as of Swan River. While I was in New South Wales and Van Dieman's Land, (in 1830,) information came from all quarters, that the whole of the settlers were in a state of utter destitution, not having even the most essential necessaries of life. At this very time, I read a letter from one of them to his friend at Sydney, in which occurred the following remark: "We have every thing in abundance, save fish-sauce, for which we are but badly off; try if you can persuade any one to send a supply, it would be sure to meet a ready sale!"
Although one would think the emigrant must have enough to occupy his mind, without going to the trouble of procuring such ridiculous luxuries, this man's letter plainly proves the want of veracity on the part of those who said the settlers were suffering from starvation.
A gentleman who afterwards went on to Sydney, affirmed most positively, that there was not a blade of grass throughout the settlement, having absurdly founded his opinion on what he had remarked between Perth and the sea; so that here we have one of the numberless instances in which emigrants have touched at Swan River, inspected a portion of country not nine miles in extent, and then left the place, marvellously astonished at not having perceived abundance of grass on the sea-coast itself. There are settlers who have succeeded in their exertions, and are now comfortably established; but it must be confessed, that rather a large proportion of those who embarked the whole of their property in the speculation, have suffered considerably; and such will always be the case, when persons evince so little foresight as to invest their entire substance in a scheme, of which the success is extremely doubtful, and a failure attended with almost utter ruin.
The interior has been explored, and, as I expected, tracts of country affording fine pasturage, have been discovered. The soil, also, on the banks of several streams to the southward, is represented to be excellent; but it cannot be expected that I should describe the country from mere hearsay. The only portion of it that I had an opportunity of exploring, was that about the Swan and Canning; and if I attempted to delineate the interior from the accounts given to the public by those prejudiced against it, or biased in its favour, I should only mislead the reader. It is obvious, from the same cause, that it is out of my power to give any advice on the subject of seeking for land; the emigrant may rest assured that he will find none unoccupied within sixty or eighty miles of Perth, and in all probability not within a much greater distance. I have no doubt, however, that as the country becomes more known, arable and pasture land will be found when least expected, as was the case in New South Wales, when in one instance, nearly sixty miles of mountains covered with dense forest, were traversed before the open plains were seen, on which the township of Bathurst has been established. Unfortunately a long period must elapse before roads can be made in a colony without compulsive labour; and when made, nothing save valuable merchandize of small bulk would defray the expense of distant land carriage.
I am not at all convinced, that it is a good plan to take out apprentices; many of those that went having proved very refractory and of little use. Their wages varied from 10l. to 25l. or more per annum; while the mechanics, and others who had gone there at their own expense, and were consequently independent, earned from eight shillings to a pound daily. As soon as the apprentices, whose term of servitude I believe was for seven years, perceived this, they very naturally wished also to be free, and in order to accomplish it, did all that lay in their power to annoy their employers to the utmost so as finally to oblige them to cancel their indentures. This is not so difficult as might be expected, for the quantity of work to be daily, performed is not specified; and although the law authorizes the master to correct an apprentice, the latter may easily manage to keep clear of the law, and at the same time go through his labours in such a careless and negligent manner, that the master often has cause to regret having had anything to do with him.
It will perhaps be asked, what is to be done without them? I can only reply to the question by repeating my previous assertion, that those taken from England rarely turn out well, and the greater portion of them extremely ill; for which reason I would rather trust to hiring those who are at liberty to work, where, and for whom they think proper.
It is precisely the same with servants who are taken to the other colonies. Two cases occurred in the ship in which I last went out; nor were their faults and inutility discovered until it was too late to remedy the evil.
The preceding notes are extracted from my journal; and I have in addition collected the latest intelligence in my power, touching the progress of the colony, but it is not of a satisfactory nature. Conflicting statements still exist, and to such a degree as almost to render it impossible to give any correct information relative to the present condition of the place. Several of those who formerly spoke and wrote of it in the highest terms of admiration, have, notwithstanding, gone on to New South Wales or Van Dieman's Land. A writer observes, in a recent publication, "As a proof that the accounts of the scarcity are false, I neither heard nor dreamt of any want during my stay there of two months; for I bought fresh butter at 4s. 6d. per pound; potatoes at 9d., and vegetables at the same scale of price!" How this can be adduced as a proof of the abundance of provisions, (such was the case in the work alluded to), I am at a loss to discover.
I am greatly pleased to find, that not a few of the emigrants who remained are perfectly contented and happy, and hope soon to hear that the colony is in a far more thriving state than is generally supposed. Other settlements have been formed along the coast to the southward, but I know not with what success. It is a prevalent opinion that the seat of government ought to have been at King George's Sound, where there is a plentiful supply of water, and good soil in the interior, with a safe harbour. Some persons have said that it is not even now too late to select a more eligible spot for the capital; but what would the colonists at Perth say to a change that would so depreciate their property, as to render it, comparatively speaking, of scarcely any value.
Swan River is a proof amongst many, how cautious people in England ought to be in believing all that is written respecting Australia, and particularly where they observe that inclination to hyperbole or exaggeration, which are so often found in the productions of those who attempt to describe that vast island. One writer says he has been in Switzerland, in South America, and in other regions, without having seen any thing equal to the tract of country between Swan River and King George's Sound; and another makes the same remark in New South Wales.* I cannot say I was able to discover the most distant resemblance, (if I except the descent into Illawarra,) between any part of New Holland that I have visited, and Switzerland or South. America. The aspect of the country is totally different, so is the vegetation; the mountains are mere mole-hills, compared with those of the other two countries, and the absence of water in the landscape would alone cause a material difference. Besides, how is it possible to form a comparison between the beautiful valleys of Switzerland, strewed as they are with cottages, vineyards, fields and gardens, watered by noble rivers, or innumerable streams that descend in cascades from the rocks, and diversified by magnificent lakes, which reflect every object around them, and the generally cheerless valleys of New Holland; or between the sublime mountains of the former, the summits, often the craggy and precipitous sides of which, are covered by eternal snow and ice, and the uniformly monotonous hills (the most lofty known is little more than a third of the height of Mont Blanc,) of the latter.
[* A third remarks that the environs of New Norfolk, in Van Dieman's, are also superior to any views which he observed in Switzerland!!]
The great plains of New Holland most probably resemble the Savannahs of America; and any farther comment on this part of the comparison would be superfluous; nor should I have alluded to the subject except to guard any one in England from placing too implicit a confidence in the absurdities penned in Australia.
If activity, perseverance, and urbanity, on the part of a governor conduce to promote the prosperity of a colony, that at Swan River ought to succeed; but whether it will or not, time alone can prove. Difficulties and obstacles occur at all newly formed settlements; but these disappear, as was the case at Sydney, provided the colonists do not remit their exertions; and that such will not be the course pursued in Western Australia, will, I feel confident, be proved by the result of their labours.
The reader will bear in mind, that this brief sketch of Swan River applies to the Settlement no later than 1831. Many changes have taken place since that time, but I shall leave him to peruse more recent accounts of the Colony; and if he should chance to meet with an absolutely true, or entirely impartial statement of all that concerns ft, he will be very fortunate. For my own part, if determined upon emigrating, I would personally inspect the country, however distant, in which I proposed to settle, and not trust to any accounts, no matter by whom written.
ARRIVAL AT SYDNEY—MODE OF TRAVELLING IN THE "BUSH"—WHERE UNLOCATED LAND IS TO BE FOUND—ROUTES IN THE VARIOUS SETTLEMENTS—LIVERPOOL—CAMPBELL TOWN—COW PASTURES—BONG-BONG—GOULBOURN PLAINS WOLLONDILLI—LAKE GEORGE—LAKE BATHURST SHOAL HAVEN GULLIES—PERSONS LOST IN THE WILDS OF NEW HOLLAND—CAVES NEAR THE GULLIES—DESCENT INTO ILLAWARRA—WALLOGONG—GREAT SIZE OF THE FISH IN THE SHOAL HAVEN AND OTHER STREAMS—COAST SOUTH OF ILLAWARRA—ROUTE OF BATHURST—PARAMATTA—BLUE MOUNTAINS—TOWNSHIP OF BATHURST—ASPECT OF THE PLAINS, OR DOWNS ROUTE TO THE HUNTER—HAWKESBURY—SCENERY IN THE BLUE MOUNTAINS FALL IN WITH A PARTY OF NATIVES—WOLLOMBI—MERTON GAMMON PLAINS—SINGULAR APPEARANCE OF THE LAND—MOUNT BOOROOAN—CORBORN COMLEROY—REMARKABLE SPRING BASALTIC COLUMNS—PURSUIT OF THE EMU—LIVERPOOL MOUNTAINS INVERMEEN—ST. HILIER'S—MAITLAND COUNTRY ON THE HUNTER ENORMOUS TREE—NEWCASTLE PORT STEPHENS—PORT MACQUARRIE—MORETON BAY—RIVER NEPEAN—COUNTRY ON THE HAWKESBURY.
The voyage from Swan River to Sydney occupied three weeks, but I shall suppose myself on my second visit to the Australian colony; this was in August 1832. After our departure from St. Jago, where we touched for water, etc., nothing meriting a detail occurred until we reached Bass's Straits, between New Holland and Tasmania. We had sailed upwards of 12000 miles without having seen land, which must have been delightful to those who admire an endless expanse of sky and water, but the uniformity of which was somewhat fatiguing to those who delight in woods and green fields. Just as the night "had rushed down black and sudden upon the face of the deep" we accidently saw certain rocks, lying almost in the track of vessels sailing through the Straits, on which a strong current had nearly driven us. If this had happened, and the merest chance alone prevented it, many of us, perhaps all, would assuredly have met with a most disagreeable termination to our wanderings; for shortly afterwards the winds arose, and the waves with them, so that if we had struck upon the rocks, the total loss of the vessel would have been inevitable.
It is rather extraordinary that upon the islands here, and indeed upon all those on the coasts of the two countries, there are kangaroos, but how they got there seems incomprehensible.
Having cleared the Straits, and their numerous rocks and shoals, we entered the Pacific, notwithstanding its appellation, "one of the most boisterous of oceans, and soon reached Sydney.
Possibly it may interest some readers to know that taking the distance in direct daily rans from Plymouth, we sailed more than 14,000 miles: but the total number of miles traversed on our aqueous route could not have been less than 19,000, a distance equal to nearly four fifths of the circumference of the globe.
The duration of the voyage was about the same as from England to the Swan, that is to say sixteen weeks.
On his arrival at Sydney, the emigrant, if married, should take a lodging, for at the hotels his money will disappear with a celerity somewhat marvellous; besides which, he must take into consideration that his wanderings in search of land may be far more protracted than he imagines; and in the meantime, there is no reason why his family should not be made as comfortable as his circumstances will admit of.
Above all things, let him be cautious what connections he forms, and with whom he becomes acquainted; and he must also be careful how he places too great dependence in what he may hear of the various districts. I was informed, at Bathurst, that the "New country"—(Argyle)—was actually not worth a visit! On going there I had reason to prefer it, in some respects, to Bathurst: another proof that fhe traveller had better trust to his own observation than to that of others.
It has often occurred to me, that the emigrant would do well to pass a couple of months in examining the different parts of the colony, and of course, more particularly where unlocated land is likely to be found, before he finally decides upon establishing himself in any particular district. More than one person, whose opinion I have asked, has entirely agreed with me; and although I admit that some time might perhaps be saved by his locating himself as loon as possible after his arrival, still I cannot but think the advantages derived from being thoroughly acquainted with the localities of the colony would fully counterbalance any loss of time.
To a single man the extra expense would be scarcely worth consideration—(it would be amply compensated by the information he collected)—and, in fact, the whole cost might not equal his expenses if residing at Sydney. A married man could leave his family in lodgings, in any of the towns, at no great distance from the capital; such as Paramatta, Windsor, Richmond, Liverpool, or Campbelltown, in all which, excepting, perhaps, the first, house-rent must be lower than at Sydney: he might then absent himself for several weeks at a time, during which period, instead of spending their money at some cheerless inn, his family would be just as comfortable as if they had remained in England. Any articles of furniture that may be thought necessary, had better be purchased in London; if not wanted afterwards, they are sure to sell at a price that will fully repay the original cost and freight.
The only convenient way of travelling in the "bush," * is on horseback. In this manner, therefore, the emigrant will proceed into the interior, putting up at the different inns so long as he journies on the high road, and when he quits it, at the houses of the settlers,** who will always give him a cordial reception. If there is no habitation at hand, a bark hut may be constructed in a few minutes.
[* "Bush" is the term commonly used for, country per se: "he resides in the Bush," implies that the person does not reside in, or very near, a town. It also signifies a forest; and is an expression so well understood, and so much employed in the colonies, besides, being extremely convenient, that I have often used it for want of a better.]
[** By "Settlers," I mean the farmers only: and by "Colonists," the whole of the free inhabitants.]
In some parts of the colony it will be necessary to have a pack-horse to carry provisions, and, in that case, a tent may easily be taken—a tent-pole can always be procured at the spot where the traveller bivouacks. The most convenient dress is a shooting suit, and the following articles should be carried when a person sets out on one of these excursions:—a gun, some matches, a compass, tomahawk, blanket, and tether-rope for his horse, with some bacon and flour, and any other necessaries that may be deemed requisite; some tea, in a cannister, must not be omitted; it is almost meat and drink to a person when on one of these expeditions, as I know from experience, and far preferable to spirits. I should also recommend the traveller to take a brace of good kangaroo dogs, as they will frequently prove of great use—indeed he will often be indebted to them for a dinner. It is indispensable that the valise or saddle-bags be made so as not to gall the horse, and that the saddle be always well dried, beaten, and brushed; without these precautions the animal will, in hot weather, be quite certain of having a sore back.
Two or three persons setting off thus furnished, and having with them a servant or a couple of natives, might enjoy themselves greatly, if at all partial to travelling. Many objects would excite their interest in a country totally different from any other they may have previously visited.
I will now inform the emigrant, to the best of my power, where he is likely to find unlocated land, leaving his own judgment to decide him, whether one situation be better than another; in fact, advice upon this head would be worse than useless, as it would only tend to deceive; for when a tract of country is thrown open to location, the most eligible portions of it are often disposed of within twelve or eighteen months afterwards. If, therefore, I were to recommend any one to inspect a spot where there is at present vacant land, he might find, on his arrival in New South Wales, that it had all been secured, and that he must go still farther into the interior.
Nearly all the intermediate country from Sydney to Shoal Haven, Lake George, Bathurst, Hunter's River, and to a distance of ninety miles up the last, is long since occupied, or unproductive. South of Shoal Haven—(sixty-five miles from Sydney)—are Jervis Bay, Bateman's Bay, and other places, where there is still land unoccupied; and when it is reflected how much more valuable a farm near water-carriage is than when at a remote distance inland, I am surprised there are not more settlers on this line of coast, and the more so, as it is not unlikely that the climate may be preferable to the northward of the capital, and less liable to drought
There are stock-stations—(to which cattle and sheep are sent)—nearly as far as Cape Howe, 240 miles from Port Jackson.
In the vicinity of Lake George, to the south-west of Sydney, there is land that is not taken; with the disadvantage, however, of being upwards of 150 miles inland; so that the expense of carriage, which is considerable, would annually absorb a large sum; and nothing would remunerate the farmer except wool and tobacco. By employing his own drays he could save very little, and perhaps nothing.
Beyond the Lake is the river Morumbidgee, which, after flowing some distance, falls into the Murray; and the last, after a course, of several hundred miles, empties itself into a lake near Encounter Bay. Much of what has been said concerning these two rivers is extremely difficult to comprehend; for instance, they are said to be navigable one thousand miles; but if this be true, how is it that the boat in which a late expedition descended them was twice stove, and frequently in great clanger from sunken trees, rocks, and sandbanks, etc., etc.? If the Murray be really the noble stream it has been represented to be, it appears strange that a whale-boat was unable to proceed on it, without encountering such perils that the skiff, which was towing astern, was once actually sunk by coming in contact with a log! And again, how are we to understand the account which represents the Lake to be from fifty to sixty miles in length, and thirty or forty miles in breadth, with a medium depth of only four feet? Would not even a moderate gale convert the whole of its waters into an expanse of breakers? It is asserted that the Murray for 50 miles from its mouth is 350 yards broad and from 20 to 25 feet deep.
Behind Cape Jervis there is a tract of country bounded on the west by the Gulf of St. Vincent, and by Lake Alexandrina and the sandy space which separates the latter from the sea on the east. This tract is said, in the same account, to include a space 75 miles in length, and 55 miles wide, and to occupy a surface of seven millions of acres, of which five millions consist of rich soil, whereon no scrub is found; and is accessible through a level country on the one side, and by water on the other!! Now the above would comprise only 4,125 square miles, or 2,640,000 acres! I presume, therefore, this must be a mistake. The Lake is immediately to the eastward of Gulf St. Vincent, extends to the shore of Encounter Bay, and has no available communication with the sea.
There is much vacant land on the banks of the Morumbidgee, and there are some few settlers, with stock-stations, at a distance of nearly 300 miles from Sydney: the most remote of the former is not above 200.
Bathurst is 120 miles to the westward of the capital; beyond the township there is unappropriated land, but, I believe, not nearer than thirty or forty miles.
A Government Establishment formerly existed at Wellington Valley, 117 miles from Bathurst; and it was to this place that all the principal convicts, or those called specials were sent: that is to say those of good connections. It has been described to me, by persons who have been there, as a very beautiful country, with good soil, and no deficiency of water.
Here, in addition to the great distance from Sydney (237 miles), there is the objection, that to reach Bathurst itself the traveller must cross the Blue Mountains, over which he has to proceed nearly sixty miles; and although the route has of late been greatly improved, some parts of it are still in a bad condition.
The Hunter's River district, 130 miles, is entirely located, but there is still land to be had on the banks of the Chichester, Manning, Williams, and other streams, not far from it.
At Port Stephens, 100 miles by sea, and nearly double that distance by the common route to the Hunter, there are not many settlers, the Australian Company having taken a million of acres, and consequently precluded any one else from making a selection there. Of this part of the colony an author remarks as follows:—"Here a million acres of good arable and pasture land have, with all imaginble ease, been culled out, superiorly watered, etc. Of this grant 300,000 acres were inspected; only one hundred were calculated to be absolutely useless; 500 more were bad, but still productive; leaving 299,400 acres of either excellent, or at least of very tolerable quality!" He says, also, that Port Stephens is for merchant vessels one of the finest harbours in the world!
How he could possibly have been so misinformed, I cannot conceive; nor could I have imagined any person who had been some time in the colony, so credulous as to believe that such a large tract of good land (1,562 square miles), could be found at one spot, on any part of the coasts of New Holland.
The port is a bar harbour, so that small vessels alone can enter it, those of a larger description being compelled to anchor outside; and the country has a barren and unsightly appearance. Without doubt the soil of some portions of this enormous grant must be fit for every purpose, but its advantages have been magnified to a degree not a little incredible.
I cannot say, positively, whether there is any available land in the immediate neighbourhood of the Grant, but am quite convinced, it would not be worth the time or trouble of a visit to ascertain.
Port Macquarrie is the northernmost point at present (1833) open to location. The vicinity may be considered a fine country, but there are lofty mountains no great way off. Although no alluvial plains have been discovered, excepting near the settlement, there is much open forest land, with good feed for cattle or sheep. Water is also plentiful and of excellent quality; and nothing can exceed the luxuriance of the wheat and maize cultivated there. The harbour has a bad bar at the entrance, yet few accidents happen; as at high water, vessels drawing from ten to twelve feet can enter with perfect safety. The river, formed by the union of the Wilson and Hastings, is navigable about thirty miles: the country is undulating with much thick "bush" on the banks of the two streams.
This was formerly a penal settlement, but was thrown open about three years since, and is rapidly becoming settled. There is no doubt of its being well worth a visit, and the emigrant could go there by land if he wished to see the intermediate country: the distance is 278 miles. North of it there is no beaten track; with a guide, however, there would be no difficulty in following the coast.
There are still unlocated tracts of open country at Gammon Plains, 150 miles from Sydney, and between them and Liverpool Plains, fifty miles farther, but often hemmed in by mountains; these are generally covered with grass to the summit. A farm at this distance inland can only serve as a station for cattle or sheep.
To recapitulate the several districts where unappropriated land may be found, it may be remarked, that south of the Shoal Haven River, beyond Lake George, and on the Morumbidgee and Murray, between Bathurst and Wellington Valley, between Bathurst and the Hunter, and to the northward of the latter as far as Port Macquarrie, the emigrant will no doubt be enabled to find a grant that would suit his purpose.
I say nothing concerning the indication of good or bad soil, as I take it for granted, that every person, intending to become a farmer, knows, at once, the difference between that which is productive and that which is not. As to certain trees indicating the quality of it, this is merely a general rule liable to many exceptions. I have seen trees growing in very bad soil, when, according to some who have written upon this subject, they are found only where it is good: the apple is said by many to indicate the best of land, and by others, that which is, in every respect, the worst. So much for a contrariety of opinions upon a point which might be decided with the greatest facility without reference to trees of any kind.
The various descriptions of soil are not likely to bewilder any person who possesses a moderate knowledge of agricultural matters; and any one who does not, had much better remain in England. Besides, there are very different opinions entertained respecting sand loam; some preferring the former because it does not part with its moisture so freely as the loam, a point of no small consequence in such a dry climate.
Having thus touched on the subject of seeking for land, I shall now describe the routes from Sydney to the interior and distant settlements, adopting the terms most commonly used in the colony; for if I were to designate the various counties, the reader would not be in the least assisted. The route to Lake George, more commonly denominated the "New Country," * is by what is called the Great South Road, both sides of which, as far as Liverpool, twenty miles, are too thickly covered with forest to afford much interesting scenery; nor do I recollect a single view particularly worthy of mention. This township, or village, contains a good hospital, and some neat cottages and inns: the population is trifling. Quitting this place, I passed the houses of numerous respectable settlers, and came to Campbell Town, twelve miles. Too much forest still meets the eye, but some of the views are rather fine. This is a small place and badly situated; it is likewise not always well supplied with water unless it rains hard, at which time some of the inhabitants get more than they require, as their houses are flooded.
[* So named, because comparatively speaking, recently settled.]
In the vicinity of, and for some miles beyond, Campbell Town, the country is very undulating and picturesque, and quite superior to the environs of Sydney; the settlers too are numerous, so that this tract has an animated and populous appearance.
Seven miles hence are the Cow-Pastures, containing many thousand acres of fine land, but a large proportion is the property of one gentleman.
The route then leads principally through forest,** which is often very dense, and across the Razorback, an acclivitous hill, of no great elevation; after which the traveller enters Bargo Brush, an uncouth forest, encompassed by wild and craggy hills, and covering the worst of soils, through which he has to proceed ten or twelve miles. I then crossed the Mittagong range, of moderate height, entered a much more cheerful country, and came to Bong-Bong, 80 miles from Sydney. Here are some good farms, with a fair proportion of rich soil and well watered. The township is on the Wingecarabbee, a small stream, and is a capital of Campden, or rather was so, for another site has been selected, five miles lower down, where a new township, called Berima, is to stand.
[** "Open forest," is of that description where
there is no underwood, and the trees in general are far
"Scrub," is dense forest with much underwood and bad soil.
"Vine brush," is almost impenetrable forest, where great numbers of climbers, parasitical plants and underwood, are found: the soil is generally good.
"Brush," is forest with occasional underwood, but not so dense as "scrub:" besides which, the latter may be without large trees: "brush" is never destitute of such.]
The road then passes for some miles through Wombat Brush, which is quite as unsightly as that of Bargo, and after crossing the Uringalla, (20 miles from Bong-Bong,) more commonly called Paddy's River, (because, I presume, more harmonious,) I soon found myself in the open forest country of Argyle, and came to Lockersleigh, an estate affording abundance of pasture and arable land. In proceeding hence to Goulbourn Plains, 12 miles, I had twice to ford the Wollondilli, which more usually forms a chain of ponds than a river.
The plains are 120 miles from Sydney, and contain from 25,000 to 30,000 acres naturally clear of trees, with a large extent of open forest around, particularly on the way to Lake George, 30 miles, farther inland.
What proportion of the ground here is fit for cultivation, it would be difficult to say, but most of it is probably more adapted for pasturage than tillage; indeed a finer grazing district is seldom seen. There is excellent soil along the banks of the Wollondilli, which intersects part of the plains, forms here and there miniature lakes, and imparts an extremely pleasing effect to the landscape, and some patches are likewise observed at a distance from the river. The last may possibly form a stream of some little consequence after much rain: its more usual appearance is that of a series of ponds connected by small rivulets often not more than a few inches in depth.
From the plains, or rather downs, are seen endless ranges of mountains; still this may be considered, upon the whole, a very noble tract of country, nor are the elevations themselves always useless; as although for the most part, they are, throughout their entire height, overspread with trees, there is commonly found a luxuriant herbage beneath them. While on a visit here I went to see the Cookburndoon, 12 miles from the plains; this is also a chain of ponds. Some pretty spots are about it, but only calculated for small farms, as they are closely confined by hills.
Lake George is from 15 to 18 miles in length, and seven in its greatest breadth. On the eastern shore there are extensive plains, and open forest: the western has nothing very agreeable in its aspect, being merely a range of low hills nearly level on their summits, and looking more like a huge bank, with little, if any, available land between them and the water. This Lake is supposed to have been formerly a succession of inconsiderable ponds, which is scarcely probable, as, if such had been the case, the last "Great Drought" would have almost dried it up. It is not unlikely that some years since its present level rose in consequence of a flood, 15 or 16 feet, and killed all the trees around it: after which, during a drought, it was reduced within the original boundaries. The dead trees still remain, and where the land is low, extend some way from the shores. The water is brackish, yet the cattle prefer it to any other, and some of the settlers do not dislike it.
No one seems to know what animals inhabit the Lake, though it is pretended that a species of seal, or as it was called a devil, had been seen in it; but as Satan is made to personify all animals whatever, when of the non-descript or wonderful kind, it is not improbable that the creature in question, may have been altogether imaginary. Several settlers informed me that they had seen nothing living it: there were, however, plenty of black swans, ducks, teal and other wild fowl, upon its surface; and in the water-holes, or creeks, that communicated with the Lake, there are cray-fish and eels, together with some very small fish, none of which appeared to quit the fresh water. Eels of large size are sometimes caught in the water-holes; in one of the latter, not twenty yards across, near Goulbourn Plains, one of these animals was killed, that weighed twenty-two pounds. There was no river within several miles, but eels are known to wander much on the land.
It was here that I first met with the Native Companion, or Gigantic Crane: there were 40 of these great birds (they are six feet high) in one flock, and it was an amusing sight to see them marching along in military order like a file of soldiers: the effect, too, was fine when they rose at once into the air.
Here also are numerous wild, or native turkies, the Bustard of New Holland. When a person wishes to shoot this bird, he should go on horseback; it will then often permit him to approach within half a dozen yards: on foot he will seldom get more than a distant shot, which is almost useless, as it will carry off an incredible quantity of lead. Lake George is upwards of two thousand feet above the sea; and in March, answering to our September, the evenings were so cold, that we always found a fire necessary after sunset.
In proceeding hence to Lake Bathurst by the shortest route, I had to steer by compass, and crossed three ridges, from the most lofty of which the prospect comprised an extensive range of broken country, with a wild intermixture of mountains, rocks, and occasional plains. Of gentle undulations, but few were to be perceived, the elevations appearing steep and difficult of access: and the vegetation formed one compact mass of foliage, only broken here and there by some enormous tree that had overtopped its fellows. The lake is not more than sixty miles from the sea, and its circumference does not exceed twelve miles: not far from it there is much naturally clear land, a portion of which most probably forms a lagoon in wet weather.
The scenery here is of a bolder description than at Lake George, and also more picturesque, but hills predominate as usual, more than one would wish. Stock-stations extend nearly 100 miles beyond the Lake; and even the farms or grants, some way. Such an immense portion of this vast tract abounds in grass, that there is yet space for innumerable flocks and herds; nor can it possibly be exhausted for some generations. At present the actual population is very scanty even at Goulbourn Plains; and between them and the Lakes still more so. The fact is, the proprietors do not generally reside upon their farms, but leave them in charge of overseers.
Bending my steps to the south-west, I passed through much fertile, though almost uninhabited country, passed a day at Lumley, a most capital form, and came to the Shoal Haven Gullies, twenty-six miles from Lake Bathurst. These are ravines of great depth (from 500 to 1,200 feet) and of tremendous appearance;* and through one of them flows the Shoal Haven river. Any one who loses his way in them, will stand a fair chance of ending his days there; for even if he came upon the river itself, there are places where it rushes between vertical rocks, so that it would be quite impracticable to pass there, and equally so to ascend their precipitous sides!
[* Oxley saw in the interior, a chasm, or ravine, from two to three miles wide at the top, and from 100 to 200 feet wide at the bottom. The depth was 3000 feet.]
An unfortunate man was lost in them a short time previous to my arrival, and information had just been given by some natives, of their having discovered his remains.
It is a curious circumstance, that so few persons are lost in the intricate ravines and immense forests of New South Wales; and the more so, when it is considered that the greater number of those who miss their way become so confused as hardly to know what they are about! Upon these occasions I suspect accident alone enables them to extricate themselves, unless they meet with the good fortune of the German Emperor; which is, however, not very likely, as I never heard of angels, or chamois hunters, in the wilds of this country.** Some persons have wandered about during several days; and one gentleman informed me, that he and his companions were once three days without food, and were just on the point of killing one of their horses, when they luckily came upon a Stock-station! One unhappy man was found on the thirtieth day after he was missing, and, from the state of the body, it was supposed that he had not been dead more than two days.
[** Maximilian of Austria once so completely lost himself in the mountains that he knew not which way to take: the chronicles of the time state, that an angel (most probably a chamois-hunter) extricated him from his disagreeable situation.]
Several of the convicts have perished when trying to escape; but there is no doubt that much of what has been said of their setting off in search of Timor, Ireland, and China, is purely fabulous, whatever may be affirmed to the contrary.
There are edible roots in the colony, though not easy to find; the only one I ever ate was given me by a native at Swan River, and it was not unlike a parsnip. The fern root, however, is eaten by the Aborigines at Moreton Bay, and also by the New Zealanders; and it is considered highly nutritious.
Many people seem to possess an intuitive faculty of finding their way; and I have known persons who will ride twenty or thirty miles through the "bush," and though unable to see more than a quarter of a mile in any direction, will yet exactly hit the place to which they were proceeding. Admitting this to be the result of a general knowledge of the country, it is not the less surprising; for by keeping a mile too much to the right or left, the traveller may pass the house where he intends to stop, and have to ride a long distance before he comes to another!
Close to the gullies there are caves which are extremely curious, and well worth inspection, but they have not yet been explored. In walking along a level spot one comes unexpectedly to a hollow, seldom more than thirty or forty feet across, often not near so much, and of very trifling depth. At the side of this, or occasionally at the bottom, is observed a hole, into which it is sometimes difficult for more than one person to enter at a time; this aperture is the entrance to extensive fissures, ramifying in all directions through the limestone formation. I descended into the largest, forming at once a lofty cavern, though the "hopper," as it is called, was only a few yards in diameter: the entrance was in the side of the last. The cave contains nothing particularly remarkable except the mouth of another, which must be of great depth. Into this we threw large stones, and judged that the first fall was fifty or sixty feet; and from five to seven seconds were counted before a stone ceased to rebound, the last fall denoting plainly that it had met the water. It is supposed this cave cannot be less than twelve hundred feet deep, but these calculations are always liable to error. Each time a stone was thrown in, a great number of bats were disturbed; these might, without much trouble, be dislodged by any person venturesome enough to descend the cave, to do which ropes and torches would be required.
Near this there are "fairy rings" which, unlike those seen elsewhere, are entirely denuded of vegetation, being as bare as if they had been burnt.
There is some admirable land in this part of Argyle, fit either for pasturage or grain, and why the settlers are not more numerous I do not comprehend; but from Bong-Bong to the Lakes, and thence to Inverary, nearly 120 miles, there are very few persons located on their grants, which are used more as stock-stations than farms. I am not aware that there is much that is worthy of observation between Inverary and Bong-Bong, forty-one miles; the features of the country are much the same with what one finds on every road in the colony.
From the latter township to the brow of the Merrigong Range I had again to pass through Bargo Brush, but in a different direction; the distance is about seventeen miles, through dense forest, or over swampy flats of a most dismal aspect, in some of which my horse sank up to the girths! In consequence of the trees not having been properly marked, I had the extreme satisfaction of losing my way, and passing a night on a flat rock, not twenty yards round, and surrounded by bogs and streams, with the further consolation of having nothing to eat during thirty hours—that is to say, from the dawn of one day to noon of the following!
The night was lovely, and the moon was at the full, while a cloudless sky, studded with innumerable stars, added to the effect; but in these dreary solitudes there reigns so deep a silence, that even the hoarse croaking of a frog would have been a relief; nor did I perceive the slightest symptoms of animated existence, save an occasional owl or bat that flittered past in quest of its prey. I might possibly have admired the solemnity of the scene at any other time, but must confess, that after riding and walking nearly ten hours (for, short as was the distance, it employed me all that time in finding my way to the rock on which I bivouacked), I began to think with the philosophers, that Nature really does abhor a vacuum. Moreover, being of opinion that a rigid fast, or abstemious diet, are alike detrimental to the traveller, I would willingly have exchanged my lair for a comfortable room, and my meditations for a supper. When a hungry man thinks of eating he only increases his appetite; I therefore made a large fire of banksia, converted my saddle into a pillow, and was soon sound asleep upon the rock.
To such trifles as these one soon becomes habituated when travelling in the "Bush;" and in a climate like that of New South Wales, I doubt if the danger from exposure is of any consequence.
Arrived, after a tedious search, at the commencement of the precipitous pass by which I was to descend, I enjoyed a most superb prospect of the district of Illawarra, with a vast extent of ocean.
No one who has not wandered over such a region as New South Wales, can folly appreciate the effect on the mind when, after having passed through vast forests, and among eternal mountains or hills, the traveller emerges from such triste scenery, and comes at once to a spot whence the view appears absolutely boundless; and the effect is greatly heightened by the suddenness of the transition, which probably causes a person to fancy the prospect even more magnificent than it really is.
The pass winds beneath lofty crags, some of which project so much as to have a very threatening appearance; and the path is so steep and slippery, as well as stony, that no loaded animal could descend it without imminent danger, as it is not only extremely narrow and abrupt, but the ravines are of such depth, that a fall would be attended with inevitable destruction. The distance to the township, called Wollongong, was about eighteen miles, that is, from the summit of the pass near which I had spent the night.
The district has very properly been called after the native name; it had previously been termed the "Five Islands," from as many islets on the coast. It contains 150,000 acres, and is completely hemmed in by the Merrigong range and the sea. Its aspect is that of a tropical region, especially near the range, and it is incomparably superior in point of scenery to any part of the Colony I have visited. The palms, from fifty to eighty feet high, and quite straight, the fern trees, parasitical plants, and climbers, were beautiful, and in many places so luxuriant was the vegetation, and so completely were the climbers, many of them nearly as large as a man's body, interwoven amongst the trees, that they rendered the forest off the path, utterly impervious. Wollongong is sixty miles from Sydney by the nearest route, and is situated close to the coast. Even in this interesting district there are not many respectable residents, nor has much land been cleared; so that some time will elapse before its various resources are called forth. Along the shore the good soil extends, in some places, to within a few feet of high-water mark, even where the land is low: and, at the northern extremity of the district, quite to the edge of the cliffs. The last contained large seams or veins of coal, fragments of which were strewed about the beach.
The observation made by some writers respecting the trees here being for the most part cedar, is an error; and what they have said of the boat harbours is also wrong. The fact is, the shore is entirely exposed and open, affording no shelter whatever; and when I was there, a small vessel of not more than six or eight tons, was driven by a gale high and dry upon the sand. With a safe port, Illawarra would soon become of consequence, and perhaps the intended road will make it so: it appears to be well watered, and the coast abounds in fish. The land is so heavily timbered, and the trees are frequently of such enormous dimensions, that the expense of clearing it would be very great; but once in a state of cultivation, I have no doubt such rich soil would make an ample return.
It is here that the nettle tree (urtica gigas) is produced; if handled, it inflicts a pain far more severe than that caused by the common nettle, and grows to the height of thirty or forty feet.
I had intended proceeding farther south, but a lake had forced its way through the sandy barrier which divided it from the sea, so as effectually to put a stop to my farther progress along the coast, unless I had waited a few days, which want of time prevented me from doing; and if I had gone by a circuitous route, I should still have had to swim my horse across several streams that had overflowed their banks, which would have been attended with some danger and great inconvenience. It is a common opinion that the bell bird denotes the proximity of water; if this be true, Illawarra must have enough of that necessary article, for I heard more of these birds than in all the rest of the Colony—the woods literally swarmed with them. The note is not unlike the single tinkle of a sheep bell, at least I know of nothing else to compare it with; it is melancholy as well as monotonous.
The Shoal Haven River, so named because it falls into the haven, takes its rise in a swamp at Corrumburoo, 190 miles from Sydney; and although in many places a mere mountain stream, it contains fish of the weight of fifty or sixty pounds, and there are people who say they have seen them of ninety pounds! Certainly the fish in some of the streams are of a size that would astonish any one in Europe.*
[* Oxley caught, in the Lachlan, a fish that measured 3 feet 5 inches in length and weighed 70 pounds.]
There are settlers or stations from the source to the haven (the last is thirty-five miles from Wollongong); and there is also on it a church grant of 42,467 acres.
The accounts of the tract of country through which the river flows are highly favourable; the grounds that enclose the ravines are level, and afford pasturage, as well as arable land, which is likewise the case in several of the ravines themselves, (the number, however, that are accessible is but small), the kangaroo ground being one of the most remarkable; and at a place called by the natives Cambewarra, there is a space of twenty square miles of the very best land.
Between the upper part of the river and a branch of the Morumbidgee (on which are the plains of Molonglo, Limestone, and Yarralumla, where there are numerous stations) the mountains are represented to be of great height, and the summit of one to the south-west of Lake George is usually covered with snow.
The present southern boundary of the Colony is at Muroya, twenty miles from Bateman's Bay, and 190 from Sydney.
The appearance of the coast south of Illawarra, as far as Cape Howe, when viewed from the sea, is mountainous; but in general, the mountains appear to be at a sufficient distance from the shore to admit of locations along its whole line, and the moderately elevated or undulating ground, sometimes stretches a long way back, As far as I could judge from the vessel in running along the shore there did not seem to be any land naturally free of timber; in short, all the plains at present known are in the interior. Of course I was unable to form any opinion as to the nature of the soil.
I quitted Illawarra by a pass not quite so precipitous as that by which I had descended, but nevertheless sufficient to try the vigour of man and horse, as it was no easy affair to scramble over the fallen trees, and up the rugged spots which continually impeded our progress; and after riding many miles through a tract of country apparently condemned by nature to perpetual loneliness, and desolation, I came to Appin, 30 miles from Wollongong. Here there are numerous settlers, and much land is cleared and cultivated.
The distance hence to Sydney, through Campbelltown and Liverpool, is forty-five miles. On my way I saw a specimen of the damage that may be caused by floods, and found that all the bridges had been destroyed, so that people were under the necessity of passing by temporary ones, swimming their horses across, with the assistance of men stationed on the banks of the streams, for that purpose. "The great drought" had lasted so long that some persons began to think no more rain would fall in the colony: they were mistaken, for the flood-gates of the heavens were opened, and there descended such a deluge that the rivers overflowed, and swept away barns, stacks, and fences, besides drowning several people and many cattle.
It will be perceived in the slight sketch of this excursion of 400 miles, that, instead of describing minutely every mile of ground, I have only attempted to convey to the reader some idea of the general aspect of the country through which I travelled; and this mode I shall adopt throughout, for it would be useless to occupy his time with the constant repetition of—here I passed through forest, and there over a small spot of clear or cleared land, and so on.
Between Sydney and Liverpool the proportion of cultivated and cleared land is not near so considerable as might have been expected from the proximity to the capital; besides which, the bad soil predominates greatly. It is not until we reach Goulbourn Plains that naturally clear land of any extent is seen, nor is the country at all populous excepting from Liverpool to the Cow-pastures; beyond the latter, the settlers bring only land enough into cultivation to supply their own wants.
The route to Bathurst is by Paramatta, a small town, sixteen miles from the capital; it is the head-quarters of one of the regiments, and near it is the country-house of the governor. The place contains, about 3,000 inhabitants, which includes the troops, and different families in the neighbourhood; as also the factory, a mile distant, to which the refractory female convicts are consigned, in order to go through the tonsorial operation, hard work, bread and water diet, etc., and a rare unruly race they are.
The town stands in a hollow, in consequence of which, together with the circumstance of the sea-breeze being scarcely felt so far from Port Jackson, the heat is even more intense than at Sydney, and the thermometer, more than once last summer—(1832-33)—rose to 98 deg. in the shade. The houses are small, and though some of them are rather neat, I cannot say they appeared, to my eyes, to "shine like transparent alabaster," neither did they excite in me any "thrills of admiration. Therefore, other travellers must have been more easily excited, or more fortunate than myself.
Some of the most fertile soil in the colony is on this route, but chiefly at Prospect, an eminence not far from Paramatta; there are also many farms, and a fair proportion of cultivated land—(principally off the road)—as far as the Nepean, nineteen miles; there is however far too much wood.
The Nepean is fordable in a dry season, but the ford is very bad; on crossing (there is a punt) the road passes over Emu plains, of inconsiderable extent; and the traveller then ascends the Blue Mountains by an acclivity far too laborious and fatiguing for a high road; but another and better route was in progress, which will be a great improvement.
Among these mountains I rode nearly 60 miles, passing the entire distance through forest, with an occasional inn by the road side. They are extremely rugged and wild and most of them very difficult of ascent. They consist of masses of hills irregularly connected, diverging into ranges of various heights without any appearance of uniformity, and invariably shrouded by sullen evergreens, which afford but little shade; while the ravines, which divide them are very narrow, and often form dark and gloomy chasms. Their aspect, indeed, is peculiarly dreary, exhibiting little save continued precipices, with a sterile soil; nor do they display either beauty or magnificences added to which, that horror umbrarum so solemn and, to most persons so replete with disagreeable reflections, has an effect not very exhilerating to the lonely traveller.
Previous to reaching Collet's Inn, 75 miles from Sydney, one part of the route is 3000 feet above the sea; there is then a rapid descent into the vale of Clywd, in which the house is situated. It is only at the Inns that grass is found near the route, and even there it was but scanty, Water is also scarce in a dry season, and when discovered, the bullocks are sometimes so eager to get at it, that they are apt to rush (dray and all)—into the waterhole: of this I saw an instance on my way.
From one point on the route, there is a prospect extending over nearly forty miles of country, affording a fair specimen of the scenery of New South Wales, with its mountain-ridges which reach to the horizon in all directions; and its forests, just broken here and there by a farm.
The common drag would never answer on this road, particularly in descending Mount York, where the inclination is so rapid, that the carriers are in the habit of attaching to the drays a large log or billet of wood, as for example the trunk of a tree, which being drawn after the vehicle, prevents it from descending too quickly: at the foot of the hill the log is thrust to the side of the road, and the latter, in consequence, is only passable for one vehicle at a time.
In Van Dieman's Land a carpenter and wheelwright has established himself at the base of a precipitous hill, where the same drag is employed, and of the wood thus, brought down, he makes use, as he finds convenient.
Five miles from the vale there is a military station on Cox's River, and a government reserve of 200 acres, not far from whence are sundry grants used as stock stations, but these are not near the route. Twenty-one miles farther on is a bad ford, over the Fish River, otherwise called the Macquarrie, which flows into the interior. Cox's River being the last that takes its course to the coast, to the northward of Sydney. Both banks are located all the way to Bathurst.
During the whole of this journey of 120 miles, there is, after leaving Emu Plains, very little to interest the mete traveller. The Vale of Clywd is rather romantic, and there are some few savage looking ravines that are well enough; but the wildest spot is near the weather-boarded hut, an inn twenty-three miles from, the Nepean. Here a small stream falls over a precipice of several hundred feet into a glen, the sides of which form a rocky and abrupt rampart which precludes all ingress or egress. The water is lost in the obscurity of a thick wood; nor does it appear to be known by what channel it afterwards escapes. From the cascade there is a striking view, between two vertical rocks about 200 yards asunder, which extends over, and far beyond the glen.
The greatest elevation of the Blue Mountains is stated to be 4000 feet above the sea: after passing them, the land though still hilly, is thinly timbered and fertile. Bathurst is well situated, and there is little doubt of its becoming in process of time a considerable place; for as the country inland becomes settled, stores or shops, will be established at the township, and mechanics of every denomination will fix themselves there. I heard a gentleman say, that as soon as steam navigation becomes more in use, the interior settlements will be entirely deserted by residents, and only employed for stock. I might with equal propriety assert, that when steam carriages become common, Bathurst, and other inland places, will increase their population very rapidly! At all events, it is not likely that such a tract will ever be deserted by the settlers, especially when it would be scarcely possible (I feel certain it would not), to find such another nearer the sea-coast.
The Macquarrie, after joining the Campbell, flows past the township, but some of the neighbouring farms are badly supplied with water, except after rain; the proprietors are therefore obliged to send to the river for a supply, a great inconvenience, as it is some way from them.
The plains or downs, (they undulate considerably) are twelve miles in length, about five in width, and contain 30,000 or 35,000 acres destitute of timber and surrounded by open forest. They are not unlike the Brighton hills. One circumstance respecting them is remarkable, viz. on the summits of some of the elevations or knolls, there are found dangerous quagmires or bogs; and they are also seen in the miniature valleys. These have not unfrequently a resemblance to a pond that has been dried, but others are concealed by verdure; into one of the former I went in to my girths, and nearly lost my horse.
"Fairy Rings" are common on the Downs, and on most of them grow fungi of large size; seldom however, within less than several feet of each other; mushrooms are common in all the moist parts.
These plains are 2000 feet above the ocean, and are surrounded by a fine open country: and as the settlers are numerous and all highly respectable, the society is pleasant, and the families that constitute it extremely sociable; so that this may be considered the only spot beyond the mountains, where a person can be said to have a neighbourhood immediately around him. The township itself does not contain more than a dozen houses.
On the whole, I was greatly pleased with the place, and the only objection I should have to reside there, is on account of its distance from a market; but when the improvements of the route are completed, there will be even in this respect a material difference.
It is here that the best cheese is made; at least such is the prevailing opinion; though why the settlers in the other districts cannot make cheese of an equally good description I am at a loss to discover, as the pasture in some of them is equally good, and in several better. Wellington Valley inland of Bathurst has already been noticed.
On the banks of the Macquarrie, and Lachlen, the former of which loses itself in extensive swamps in the interior, there are Stock-stations to a distance of three hundred and fifty miles from Sydney; many of these are grants, but they are used as stations. The Lachlan falls into the Murrambidgee; and the land about it (such is also the case over all the country watered by this river, and Wellington Valley as well) is covered with open forest, with abundant pasturage of the best description. From Bathurst I ought to have crossed the country to Argyle, but in consequence of the information I received of its not being worth a visit, I returned to Sydney by the usual route.
To proceed to the Hunter the traveller must again pass through Paramatta; after which he has to ride eighteen miles through forest, with cleared spots that are few in number and far between; they had notwithstanding a pretty effect, which was increased by the contrast they formed with the "Bush;" and they took off in some little degree from the monotony which reigns over much of the landscape. Some of the views too over Windsor, and taking in the Blue Mountains, Emu plains, &c. were fine. The settlers are all small farmers, and there are not many of them.
Three miles farther on we no longer observed signs either of cultivation or good soil: and then had to ride fourteen miles over rocky ridges and through "Scrub," which being a style not in the least in accordance with the ideas of my companion, or myself, touching the pleasing or picturesque, we were very glad to find ourselves at the little inn on the right bank of the Hawkesbury.
The road on approaching the river is unfinished and in a very ruinous condition: at one spot, the side of it, built up with large stones, had entirely given away, so as to leave a path only wide enough to admit of one vehicle, and of rather a dangerous kind.
The river is 250 yards in width, and 13 fathoms in depth: and the distance from the sea is perhaps 40 miles in a direct line. The inn stands on a romantic and interesting spot, but there is far too little space between the Hawkesbury (and its branches) and the mountains to admit of much cultivation.
We crossed over in a punt and immediately commenced the ascent of the Blue Mountains by a carriage road extremely creditable to the person who planned it. This pass is not many miles from that which commences the route to Bathurst. Here we enjoyed some good views of the farms on the Hawkesbury, which improve the landscape greatly. The road would have been completed, but on account of the facility of proceeding from the Hunter to Sydney by steam-vessels, which has reduced the intercourse by this route to almost nothing, the Government have wisely transferred the people who were employed upon it, to places where their services are more required. It forms a singular contrast with the only miserable road that has been made in Van Dieman's Land!
The scenery is mountainous to the Wollombi Brook, thirty-five miles, and there is not an habitation of any kind. Although among these mountains there are some really fine views, much of the scenery is indescribably sombre. The eye seeks in vain for something more cheerful to look upon than a succession of ridges, stretching as far as the vision can reach, and deep gullies without a single spot uncovered by trees, and not a blade of grass in any direction! Yet there is a multitude of flowers which contribute in some degree, to adorn these solitudes; and they prove in a measure, the truth of the remark, that the poorer the soil the more it abounds in flowers. This is not the case every where in the colony, and appears to me to be very uncertain; the principal floral ornament of the Blue Mountains was the Warrataw, one of the most magnificent of flowers; from one to three grow upon the same plant, and the latter is from eight to ten feet high. The gigantic and rock lillies also are uncommonly beautiful, the first growing to the height of six or seven feet, and bearing a crimson flower: the last is white and flourishes only on a bare rock. Large stones or rocks, entirely without soil, were nearly concealed by this ornamental plant.
One objection to the scenery is the almost total absence of living creatures, with the exception of one or two small birds at the few spots were water is found: the only specimen we saw was one of those singular animals the Ant-eater (Echidna) which we captured.
On descending the mountains we arrived at the Wollombi Creek, found cultivated ground, a far more cheerful country, and a comfortable inn. Resuming our ride, we passed through some very romantic open forest country, sometimes along the steep bank of the creek, seldom far from it, and in several places had to lead our horses, the nature of the track which was on the side of a rapid slope, not admitting of riding.
The shortest route to the lower part of the Hunter bears to the right of the above inn, and that was the one I took on my first visit to the river: the distance is not above twenty or twenty-five miles. From the inn I passed over a level tract interspersed with farms belonging to small settlers, but more commonly there is nothing but a dense scrub, and came upon the Hunter at an estate twelve miles from Maitland. On my present excursion I went altogether a different way.
Some miles from the inn we fell in with several of the aborigines, and the farther we rode the more we saw, until at length there were not less than sixty with us, while our own party consisted of our two selves, the overseer and seven convict servants! En passant, I may as well do the last the justice to say, that I never saw men conduct themselves better; they were on foot, had to lead some young horses, and yet went thirty-five miles in one day without a murmur.
It was entertaining to observe the different groupes wandering among the trees, for we were all more or less scattered, and the shouts of the wild denizens of the woods added to the effect. Nothing respecting these people surprised me more than their avidity for tobacco, they willingly sold me some of their arms for two or three pieces not worth more than as many pence.
Their manners are scarcely formed yet, if I may judge from the behaviour of one of them: he was trying to teach me the mode of throwing the spear; when observing me to be somewhat clumsy, he took it out of my hand, remarking at the same time, "Oh you d—d stupid!" This was not polite in the barbarian, but so long as the natives learn their English from the convicts, I fear we shall get no better language from them. I am not at all convinced that this black intended to make use of an improper expression.
These people consisted of two tribes, one from Illarong, the other belonging to the Wollombi, and were on their way to wage war with another tribe. Some of them were diligently employed in painting their sable bodies in a most fantastic manner, with a substance that resembled pipe clay; and may have adopted this Pictish plan, in order by thus disfiguring themselves to strike the greater terror into their enemies. Although it certainly added to their already naturally hideous aspect, the paint imparted to it far more of the ludicrous, than either the martial or terrible. They were but indifferently armed.
After a delightful ride of thirty miles from the inn, we reached the Wollombi river, where I remained several days. In consequence of the hilly nature of the country through which we had ridden, the farms were mostly small, nor was there much cultivated land; but on approaching Mr. B's. (called by the natives Kineland) the valley of the Wollombi began to expand, and at the farm is full two miles wide. It is closed in by rocky ridges in every direction, and the river, a trifling stream which falls into the Hunter after a short course, is half a mile from the house. All this portion of country, with the exception of occasional cultivated spots, is covered with wood, and such has been the case from Paramatta, about one hundred miles: but it is not thickly timbered after leaving the Blue Mountains.
The variety of birds in the valley is not great; I found three kinds of quail, and a bird called the Indian Bee-eater (Merops); it is nearly twice the size of the common swallow, flies very much in the same manner, and the plumage is extremely handsome, with two feathers projecting an inch or more from the tail: its nest is made in a bank, into which it burrows much farther than the sand martin (Hirundo Riparia) and it feeds entirely upon horse-flies (Libellula.) It was here too that I first heard the Cuckoo as it is called, a bird of considerable size, and not unlike a hawk; its note is harsh and discordant, though still bearing some resemblance to that of our harbinger of the spring; it is only heard at night. There is also a species of large curlew, whose singularly shrill cry, conjointly with the lugubrious note of the cuckoo, has an effect which is inexpressibly melancholy.
While here I went out after kangaroos, and to my surprise saw only sixteen, at a place where formerly a hundred might have been seen together; but within the last two or three years they have almost disappeared. The hunting ground was far superior to any I saw in Van Dieman's Land, being not near so rocky, nor so densely timbered.
The whole of the valley of the Wollombi is granted away; some of the farms are of great extent, and only one or two of the owners reside upon their property; of society therefore there is none.
As Mr. B. and I were now to travel through a region where there are only stock-stations, we took with us sumpter-horses, a canteen, tent, etc., and proceeded from Kineland to Jerry's Plains, fourteen miles; these form a valley eight miles long, and not more than a mile in breadth; we were now upon the Hunter, about 100 miles from its mouth.
On leaving the plains, (they were named after a convict Irishman), we forded the river, which was not higher than the horses' girths, though it has been known to rise here thirty or forty feet within three or four days. We then rode through a succession of hills and valleys to Merton, thirty miles from Kineland; most of the land (it is all open forest), is very fertile, the soil being rich, and with no want of grass; but it is used chiefly as a sheep-walk. All this tract is too much confined by elevations, particularly about the Goulbourn, a stream that joins the Hunter, near Merton. This estate is eighty miles from water carriage, and is well supplied with water: the garden is the best in the district.
From Merton we crossed the Hunter, and rode several miles over alluvial flats, subject to inundation; our way then led us through an indifferent country to the Wybong or Waibong, a small stream that takes its rise in the Liverpool range, and falls into the Goulburn.
Leaving this, we found the land thinly wooded, and the soil sandy; nevertheless grass was plentiful, nor has there been any deficiency of it for the last 70 miles.
The next little stream to which we came was called the Bingan creek; this we followed up seven or eight miles, then crossing two low ridges, we reached the Wobungi Creek, which passes through Mr. B.'s sheep station, and five miles beyond this, we were on Gammon Plains: having ridden thirty-five miles, or rather less, through an exceedingly varied and interesting scenery, in all respects equal to aught at Bathurst or in Argyle, and in some greatly superior. The mountains are sometimes so thrown together, that the valleys are of very narrow dimensions, but we rode every mile of the way over a rich sward.
The contrast between New South Wales in 1829, and at the present time, is not a little striking: for during the "great drought," 1826, 27, 28, 29, not a blade of grass was visible, except in shady spots, and now it abounds every where.
Gammon Plains greatly resemble those of Goulbourn, but the soil at the former is generally better; even on the hills it is often good. Many hundreds of acres have not a single tree upon them, and thousands more are so thinly sprinkled with timber, that there is not the slightest occasion for the axe. The various parts of the plains are named by the natives; one of these is called Gullingal, a second Booroobulbarrowindi; a third Miangarindi, etc.
In this part of the colony I remarked a very peculiar appearance in the surface of the ground. I allude to places where the land rises in ridges exactly as though it had once been in a state of cultivation; that is to say; like a field in which wheat for instance had been once cultivated, and then permitted, after the removal of the crop, to remain untouched; so that the water or drain furrows may still be perceived. The ridges were often several hundred yards in length, more commonly parallel than otherwise, from ten to fifteen feet asunder, and frequently terminated abruptly. The summits of the ridges, which were seldom elevated more than six or eight inches above the intervening furrows, were perfectly bare; in other respects the ground was covered with a luxuriant herbage.
This "ploughed land," as it has been termed, was observed only where the soil was a rich black mould, and rarely where the surface had not a slight inclination or dip; but admitting that the furrows have been produced by the agency of water, it is still difficult to account for the great regularity with which they run, and for their abrupt termination. I have never remarked this peculiarity to be so very evident in any of the other districts. Some persons refer the cause to the deluge, a theory, like others of the same description, very absurd and very unlikely to be correct.
The plains are watered by a small stream, which is much like the Wollondilli, and the pasturage is of the first description. The buttercup abounds, but I am not positive if it is indigenous, though I am inclined to believe it is so, notwithstanding that I have never yet met with a person who had seen it at any place where cattle had not been depastured.
In the creek * we shot ducks, teal, widgeon, and a few snipe, amongst which may be included the painted snipe, larger, and far handsomer than the common one; the native turkey and ox-bird are likewise seen here. One of the ducks was rather different from the others, being of a brown colour, with the eyes black and surrounded by a broad white circle. We shot also some platypi, and a small bird like a mule canary (a species of saxicola); this last is exceedingly rare in the colony, and I am not aware that any other person possesses a specimen; there were only three together, and the natives said they had never seen any before.
[* A creek is commonly the bed of a stream, which, being partially exhausted during dry weather, forms only an occasional pond or water-hole.]
We had pitched our tent close by the hut on Mr. B.'s grant of 10,000 acres, whence we rode through a remarkably fine open country, to the foot of a mountain named Boorooan, eighteen miles, without having seen any bad soil, and encamped for the night by the side of a small brook at the head of a narrow valley, having around us a complete amphitheatre of hills.
At dawn of the following day, we sent on the servants with the pack-horses, by the usual route, with directions to await our arrival, and in the mean time ascended the above mountain, called also Oxley's Peak.** The ascent is very easy, and admitted of our riding to within a short distance of the summit; we then dismounted, tethered our horses, and went the remainder of the way on foot. The Peak is said to be 6,000 feet above the level of the great plains, but this most probably means above the level of the sea; it cannot certainly be more than 4,000 feet above the former. From the hazy state of the atmosphere, the view was not so extensive as it might have been, nor was it improved by the total absence of water. Clusters of irregular eminences were seen in all directions, shrouded to the summits with evergreen trees, which formed a strong contrast with the grassy plains observed amongst the elevations; but a prospect of far-stretched hills and funereal forests, although interspersed with immense tracts of meadow land, inspires one with feelings of melancholy and sadness, rather than of satisfaction. Nevertheless there is a sort of savage grandeur in the aspect of some parts of New South Wales, which excites interest in the traveller, who cannot but admit that the scenery of these stern wastes possesses a character of peculiarity he has never witnessed elsewhere.
[** And if I mistake not, Mount Wereid as well.]
This is part of a range branching off from that which divides the eastern from the western waters: and from it, mountains seventy miles off may be distinctly perceived on a clear day.
I have stated that flowers grow well in the sandy soil of the Blue Mountains. On Mount Boorooan, on the contrary, with the exception of the buttercup, there was hardly one to be found; and this was the case on the Liverpool range generally. Descending the mountain, on which we saw kangaroos, and the indications of cattle having been there, we rode over good soil until we came, not more than eight miles from its base, to the Great Plains, of which so much has been said or written, and so little is known. We may now be supposed to have quitted the colony, properly so called, as no actual locations are permitted on this side of the Liverpool, or dividing range.
In speaking of Liverpool Plains, the aborigines call them Corborn Comleroy, Corborn implying great, as Gammon does small. I was unable to discover if they applied the term to the whole of this tract of the country, or only to some particular portion.
After travelling over ten miles of a flat, without a tree or a shrub upon it, we encamped near a hut, on Mr. B.'s cattle station. Yarramunbar is the appellation applied to that part of the plains over which we had crossed, and Gircobill is the name of the station itself.
We had previously passed sundry mountains, with some unmeaning English name applied to them; such were Nānni, Mņorgņinbņin—(a basaltic mountain)—and others; the English terms I do not recollect. The head of the small river which traverses the plains, or rather a part of them, is called Mochi, and the following are the names of various stock stations: Woondee, Warra, Breza, Wallawārree, Guingulli, Eūrunbun, Waldoo, all which, with those given to a portion of Gammon Plains, (except perhaps that of Booroqbalbarrowindi, which may possibly be over-long to be easily got through on one of our short days in England), appear to me far more euphonous than the terms applied by those who wish to immortalise themselves or their friends.
The distance from Gammon Plains to Gircobill, is twenty-two miles. Little seems to be known of the actual extent of the Corborn Comleroy; that they occupy an immense space, is, of course, evident enough; but if one is to believe all that the natives, stock-keepers, and others assert, they must be some hundred miles across. A respectable settler informed me that he once rode, in a straight line, during nearly a month, and then returned hopeless of succeeding in reaching their utmost verge! And one of the natives said, that to the place where he was born, it would occupy a person a whole month to travel on horseback, and that there is not wood enough there to make even a waddie or club. Fifty miles beyond Gircobill, if one may judge from the concurrent testimony of those who have been there, they must be far more extensive and clear of eminences than at that station.
The ground was similar to a beautiful English meadow, the grass being about two feet high, and the butter-cups were in some places so numerous—(they are double the size of those in England)—that the only colour visible was a bright yellow. Some parts of the plains had the resemblance of burnished gold; but where the grass was burnt or dried by the sun, the glare was excessively disagreeable to the eyes.
I had received quite a false impression of these regions, having been led to suppose, from various accounts, that they constituted one boundless flat, unbroken by hills, denuded of trees, and completely covered with such high grass, as to be almost impassable. This is clearly a wrong description of them; they may rather be likened to a lake, interspersed with islands, clothed with wood; or in other words, they form one vast plain, on which are insulated woody spots, the elevation of which is from several hundred feet down to almost nothing; for they are not always raised above the plain itself, at least the height is so very trifling as not to be worth mentioning; only one or two of them were without trees. One eminence was opposite our tent, three miles from it, and was a curious and prominent feature in the landscape; for while the mountains or hills at hand were of whinstone, here was an elevation composed entirely of sand and sandstone—(neither of which is found within a space of several miles)—from 500 to perhaps 700 or 800 feet high; six or seven miles long, and overspread with thick "bush." The tree of greatest consequence is the pine, which resembles the common fir, and grows always in a bad soil.
The plains, not unfrequently over a considerable space, are so burrowed by the rats, that they are like a rabbit-warren, and riding is in consequence not only unsafe, but, if the speed be great, even perilous. Snakes, I had been told, swarmed in all directions, so as to make it highly dangerous to walk in the long grass. How far this may be true I cannot say—I saw none, and Mr. B. only one, on which he nearly placed his foot; but in ascending the Liverpool Range we killed a large black snake, though why I hardly know, unless it be from the natural antipathy that mankind bear to these creatures. The unhappy reptiles rarely, most probably never, inflict an injury wilfully, and of the multitudes I have seen in all parts where I have been, I never knew a single instance of one attempting to bite, unless when trod upon or attacked—it is natural they should then do so in self-defence. Some of the settlers, and many of the convicts have adopted a strange fancy, that a person or animal bitten by a snake, is quite certain to die about sunset; and others say that the bite of a black or brown snake will assuredly prove mortal; that the last is not always the case may very easily be proved, as I have myself known several instances to the contrary. In one of these, the comrade of the man who was bitten, killed the snake, and rubbed some of the fat upon the wound, after which he procured the aid of a medical gentleman who entirely cured the patient. A dog was bitten by a black snake; its jaw became greatly swollen for a time, but the animal eventually recovered. It is curious that this idea of dying at sunset should be so prevalent; for in Japan, and many other countries, it is also a common belief.
Close to the hut at Gircobill, there is a creek or series of ponds, some of which extend from 100 to 150 yards or more, in length, and are connected only in wet weather. At a distance of some miles there is a river; an inconsiderable stream, that loses itself in a swamp; of its source I am ignorant. On both the creek and river there were such multitudes of wild fowl that we shot as many as we could devour; at the same time taking care not to destroy them unnecessarily. We met with one spoonbill, the third that I have seen in the colony—it is a very uncommon bird.
All this portion of the plains is liable to inundations; and at these times large lakes are formed, which often cover, according to the stock-keepers, a surface of many miles. When this occurs, great numbers of rats are drowned, and the snakes are obliged to retreat to higher grounds.
Behind Gircobill there is a whinstone-hill, from 500 to perhaps 700 feet high, ten or twelve miles in length, and several in width; from its summit we could see, even to the horizon, immense plains of the greatest verdure, without a tree upon them. One of these, (though the whole extent was not visible, the greater portion was, and its length has been pretty correctly ascertained), was at least twenty-five miles in length, and from five to ten broad; and this flat alone must contain not less than 100,000 acres! All the plains are bounded by mountains of some height (one is decidedly higher than Borooan), except to the north-west, in which direction only an occasional elevation was observed, but no continuous range. It would be in vain for me to attempt to convey an idea of the effect of a view over these vast solitudes: I have never seen aught like them; and can only compare them to the boundless savannahs or pampas of America;* and, at the same time, I must confess that I cannot perceive how any other comparaison can be drawn between the two countries. The extreme silence that prevails here almost exceeds what the imagination can conceive. It is true that a herd of cattle, some emus, or perhaps a solitary bustard, can sometimes be distinguished, but they are generally afar off; and the traveller may frequently ride many miles without seeing a living creature! One would imagine that a residence in such a lone place would be liable to cause a change of some consequence in the minds and habits of any person; and it would be an interesting point to ascertain the effect on the convict stock-keepers, who, for weeks together, can have no opportunity of conversing with a white man, except their sole companion; for there are always two in a hut. The time cannot hang very heavily on their hands, as they are almost constantly engaged in riding after cattle, in order to drive them within certain boundaries; or in hunting the kangaroo, of which there are great numbers on the hills, and the emu.
[* The Great Plain, or Pampas, east of the Cordilleras, is about 900 miles in extent.]
From Gircobill we rode 20 miles, or more, in rather a circuitous direction, to the other side of this part of the plains, and pitched our tent at a station called Booranbill; there was a stream close by, which, after a short course, like the river, is lost in a swamp.
Our ride had led us over some miles of boggy ground, on which we were obliged to lead our horses, as they sunk in at every step they took; in other respects we passed over land covered with grass, and quite firm. The grass was high and coarse; but, where recently burnt and grown again, it was delightfully green and refreshing to the eye; too much of it was, however, withered by the heat.
We visited in out way a remarkable spring which issued from a spot a little higher than the surrounding ground, and on which there grew nothing but rushes and long grass. The natives say, and some of the stock-keepers believe, that the devil or an ally of his resides in it; and as we were determined to ascertain if his Satanic majesty had really established himself in such uncomfortable quarters, we sent in a posse of dogs, in the hope that they would easily discover the occupant of this little swamp, which was not above twenty yards in diameter. They had no sooner entered, than we heard a peculiar noise, which we agreed was made by some bird; but as none was seen, and as the dogs would not proceed with the adventure, the mystery still remains unravelled, affording an opportunity for any future traveller to display his prowess: he must, however, wear mud pattens, and invoke the assistance of St. Dunstan!
A few miles before we arrived at our resting place, we came to an accumulation of loose stones 20 feet in height, and 40 or 50 across: some of them were of large size, others very small, and all of them were sand-stone; and not far from this we found a most singular mass of basaltic columns. The elevation did not exceed 40 feet, nor the width at the base above 70 or 80 yards; and the summit was about 12 yards in diameter. None of the columnar fragments were more than 3 feet in length, nor were any under 6, or above 12 inches thick; and they all had either three, five, or six sides; at least we were unable to find any other form, although we searched with great care. We did not observe that any of them were upright or even nearly so; the heap appearing to have been thrown up in such a manner, that all the fragments were lying about in the greatest confusion. The soil for miles around both the sandstone and basalt consisted of rich black mould.
Near this we saw thirty-five emus, widely scattered, however, on a plain which we had to cross, but from the nature of the ground were prevented from getting very near them; yet we saw a good run, as two of the greyhounds pursued a pair of these birds. The emu, some distance in the rear of the other, exerted itself entirely by fits and starts, running with incredible speed, though much faster at one time than at another. One of the dogs at length came up with it, and got kicked head over heels for his pains, which will teach him in future to jump at the neck instead of trying to lay hold of the leg; he may consider himself fortunate in having received no injury, as not long before our present expedition, a greyhound belonging to my fellow-traveller, had his ribs broken by an emu, and died almost immediately. The bird always springs off the ground when about to lash out, and a kick from it is nearly equivalent to one from a horse. Stately as it is, the ostrich far surpasses it in grandeur of gait: indeed the latter, when running at its utmost speed, is truly a magnificent object, at least I thought so when in Africa.
A storm on these plains has an awful effect; one was experienced during our stay at Gircobill, and the wind was heard approaching amongst the trees on the hill behind, with the noise like the rushing of a torrent, and long before it reached us. This furious gust was exactly similar to a tornado, and, like it, was accompanied by vivid lightning and tremendous peals of thunder, rendered doubly loud by the reverberations from the hill. The rain and wind had well nigh upset our tent, and compelled us to take shelter in the hut.
Want of time prevented our remaining more than a few days in the plains, and had this not been the case, we could have made no discoveries without proceeding a long way into the interior. Several persons have tried to cross them, and were obliged to return after suffering from want of water and other causes. Mr. Oxley in returning, found the land flooded, and had to ride someway up to the girths; and another gentleman, who found a copious supply of water on his way inland, was greatly straightened for that necessary article on his way hack. The Surveyor-General, went a great way on them, but two of his men, who had been left for some reason at a place in the rear, having been murdered by the aborigines, he retraced his steps.
It would possibly be worth the while of Government to ascertain if the camel could not be introduced into the colony, even if only for the purposes of discovery. This "ship of the desert," such is the strong and expressive appellation that denotes its value as a beast of burden, will travel great distances without water, and with a load of five or six hundred-weight: he will likewise swim across rivers, for the celebrated Burchardt passed several at the tails of his camels, on which occasions each animal had an inflated skin attached to his neck; but as the conformation of this quadruped is so peculiar, it remains to be proved to what extent he would be enabled to ascend, or descend the rugged precipices that must be passed by the traveller on a journey of discovery. From Sydney to the "Corborn Comleroy," however, there is not a place that presents the most distant impediment to the progress of a camel, and it is only on the plains that it would be of use.
"In travelling through the desert," says Volney, "camels are chiefly employed, because they consume little, and carry a great load. The ordinary burthen is from 600lbs. to 750lbs., and they eat whatever is given them, straw, thistles, the stones of dates, beans, barley, etc. In the journey from Cairo to Suez, which is 40 or 46 hours, they neither eat nor drink; but these long fasts, if often repeated, wear them out. Their usual rate of travelling is very slow, being hardly above two miles an hour, for they will not quicken their pace; but if allowed a short rest, they will travel from 15 to 18 hours a day."
The point is, how would they succeed in passing over swampy ground?
From Booranbill, our servants and pack-horses returned to the Wollombi by the usual route, while we took that over the Liverpool range to the Hunter. The ascent commenced four or five miles from the Stock-station, and was, at times, abrupt and fatiguing; but we were amply compensated for our trouble by some magnificent prospects, particularly in the direction of the plains: and the alpine is so blended with the champaign style of scenery, that the views are totally different from those amidst the Blue Mountains, though with the same absence of water. Although the effect of the first view, when upon the Plains was striking; and although one cannot help acknowledging the richness and verdure of the land, its beauty soon begins to pall; the eye becomes fatigued with so extensive a view, bounded only by the level horizon, and the fancy can but imagine a continuance of a similar series of flats. The prospect from the Liverpool range was very different, as the grand characteristics of mountain scenery afforded a relief which would be sought in vain on the plains themselves.
With respect to the tract of country through which we travelled from the Wollombi to the summit of the range (in a circuitous direction,) say 140 miles, it may, without exaggeration, be considered as unsurpassed by any part of the colony, whether it be looked upon in the light of a pastoral or agricultural country. The mountain that we crossed is 200 miles from Sydney, but this pass is only practicable for horses and cattle, the route for drays being more to the northward.
Six or seven miles from the foot of the range, we lost the whinstone, and came upon a sandstone country, and met, afterwards, alternations of good and bad soil, until we reached Invermeen, nearly 30 miles from Booranbill.
The country at this farm, and to some distance in every direction, is interesting. There is much forest land, though sufficiently open to admit of good sheep-walks. We passed the night there, greatly to our satisfaction, after having been so many days under a tent. Near Invermeen is Segenhoe, an estate of 24,000 acres, on which the level land runs in narrow strips, enclosed by hills and forests;—that is to say, just such an estate as is usually found in the colony. I believe it is considered a good farm. Twelve miles farther is St. Hiliers, one of the finest estates on the Hunter; the house is the best in the district; and as the proprieter is constantly engaged in planting the most useful and ornamental trees (one of the very few instances I have seen in the "bush"), the place bids fair to remind him, at no very distant period, of an English country house with its shrubberies.
Much has been said of the park-like scenery of the Hunter; I really cannot speak quite so favourably of it. After riding no great distance from St. Hiliers, that fine description of landscape, so much of which we had traversed from the time we left the Wollombi, entirely disappeared; much of the soil was indifferent, or worthless, the grass scanty, the forest unsightly, and the latter part of the ride, nearly twenty miles, uninteresting; nor could I perceive any improvement in the general features of the scenery all the way to Maitland, thirty-six miles farther. There is undoubtedly fine land on both sides of the river; but instead of speaking in such laudatory terms respecting the mere aspect of the country watered by it, writers and travellers would do much better to state simply, that most, perhaps all, of the grants on its banks form excellent farms, leaving the scenery out of the question, for it will bear no comparison whatever with that which we had seen previous to our coming upon it. Even in regard to the quality of the land it is far inferior, as within a given distance there is much less good soil than we had found during the preceding part of our journey. Go where you will on this stream, the distance will be short, excepting in a few instances, before ironstone and sand, with the usual concomitants of ugly gum trees, are met with; however, the settlers have more than sufficient good land to supply their wants, and there is no scarcity of grass, though not equal to that on Gammon Plains. I have heard this termed the finest agricultural district in the colony; yet in 1829, many of the crops had failed, and likewise during the three preceding seasons, so as not to produce seed for the following year; at the same time, the wheat at Bathurst was tolerably abundant, but full of smut; while in Argyle it was perfectly clean, and the soil in some cases yielded thirty-six bushels to the acre. I should consider it a fine sheep country, and maize and tobacco thrive uncommonly; indeed grain also grows extremely well, though in dry seasons it is liable to fail. Frost sometimes injures the maize, and such is also the case in Argyle.
The Hunter rises rapidly after heavy rain, and in some places, even to the height of fifty feet; but I am not aware that the floods have been attended with any destruction of property; and from the nature of the country on both sides of the river, there does not appear any danger of this happening, unless where persons have placed their houses, etc. in such situations that they must necessarily incur some hazard.
There are fords as low as Maitland; and even when the weather has not been remarkably dry, the river may be crossed in several places almost dry-shod. Its direct course is 125 miles, and it is navigable 20 miles, or double that, following its sinuosities. From the Liverpool range to Newcastle, nearly 120 miles, the entire country is clothed with wood; but it may generally be termed open forest as far as Maitland. The last is now the principal township on the Hunter, and is rapidly increasing in size; the situation however is particularly ill chosen; not that the government are to blame, for the township properly so called, where the court house and jail are, is some way from the other, and out of the reach of floods; but on account of the facility with which boats can be loaded or unloaded, the proprietors of the ground have erected their houses on the bank of the river, and also of a creek that falls into it. The consequence will most probably be, that the first extraordinary rise that takes place will demolish some of the houses, and drown the inmates. The water has already more than once flowed into the street.
There are some alluvial flats in the vicinity, but not so much good soil as I had been led to expect, from the high-flown accounts given me of this part of the Hunter. One gentleman told me, when I first visited the colony, that I might as well have quitted Rome without having seen St. Peter's, as leave this district, or New South Wales, (I forget which), without beholding Maitland. Now that I have beheld the last, I must confess I feel somewhat disappointed: Perth, at Swan River, in point of situation, is far superior.
Thus it is: ask any person for a true and impartial account of the colony, or of one of its districts, and the probability is, the account will be unsatisfactory in all its bearings; for what one traveller considers a beautiful country, is by another deemed quite the contrary, and vice versa; and this goes far to prove how cautious the emigrant should be how he places too great confidence in the descriptions or accounts of New South Wales, and Van Dieman's Land, and particularly of Swan River. I have attempted to give a correct description of the colonies but am just as likely to err as any other writer.
Close to the township there is a lake or lagoon, several miles in circuit; it was dried up during the "great drought," but was soon filled again. It has frequently occurred in this colony that large ponds, of some depth when first discovered, (as the streams are styled by courtesy rivers, so these ponds are termed lakes)—and of an extent equal to that near the township, have suddenly disappeared; one gentleman called his farm after his own cognomen, with the addition of a word denoting the presence of apiece of water, the two together forming the name of one of our finest lakes in Cumberland. The mere name remains, the mere water is gone.
On the opposite side of the creek, behind the town, there is one of the thickest vine brushes in New South Wales, so that it is difficult to penetrate even a few yards, amidst such an exuberant vegetation. Here I saw a most enormous tree of the Ficus tribe, but what the proper name is I am not botanist enough to determine; it is known by the title of the great fig; it no more resembles a fig than it does an oak. The form of the trunk is triangular, the side facing the south-east being eighteen feet in width; that to the north nineteen feet and half; and that to the west, twenty-two feet and a half; total, sixty feet. This measurement is rather under than above the truth.
The trunk does not rise more than about thirty feet before it separates into branches of such magnitude as to equal trees of considerable size. Will it be credited that the former owner of the farm had actually commenced felling this "giant of the forest?" This was positively the case, and he was only prevented from fulfilling his intention by the remonstrance of the settlers around. This noble specimen of vegetation still bears the marks of the axe, a memento of the Vandalic taste of him who could contemplate the destruction of such an interesting object.
Instead of embarking on board the steamer at Maitland, we proceeded to Newcastle in a carriage, for which act of imprudence we were almost suffocated by the dust, broiled by an intensely hot sun, and well nigh jolted to death. The distance is twenty miles by land, and nearly forty by water. We had one or two tolerable views of the Hunter, but every thing considered, few drives could have afforded less interest; and the greater portion of soil; on each side of the miserable road by which we went, (deep sand, deep holes, and deep ruts all the way), was generally of the worst description; but water appeared abundant. The soil on the banks of this river, (and I believe this is general all over the colony), is so alluminous, that the water procured from wells is not often fit to drink. I saw two wells, one not less than 120 feet in depth, and the other above sixty; the water in the former was bad, and in the latter nauseous.
This circumstance causes great inconvenience to the settlers generally, as they are obliged to employ a man with a dray, and from two to six or eight bullocks, to bring a supply from the nearest stream or creek, which may be at some distance from the house. I have known instances where, in dry weather, there is not a drop of water within from three to four miles; but this was not on the Hunter.
In England, if I recollect rightly, for I am no disciple of Tubal-Cain, kettles wear out externally, while there is always a sediment inside, which is removed. In New South Wales, on the contrary, there is no sediment, but the kettle becomes thickly coated with rust, which abrades the metal until it is quite honeycombed; and even the cast-iron kettles made in England, and well tinned, last but a short time.
Newcastle was a penal settlement, and a very improving little town: at present, in consequence of the communication between this district and Sydney being carried on from Maitland, it is rapidly becoming deserted; nor indeed is there any inducement to settle there, as the land about it is bad, and not fit for cultivation. It is prettily enough situated, though rather exposed; and from the church there is a view of the ocean, as also of a considerable tract of melancholy forest; it takes in likewise the river.
All the coal sent to Sydney is supplied from this place by the Australian company, who have a large coal-mine here; the quantity exported can hardly repay the cost of working it. Veins of this mineral are also found in the cliffs of Nobby's Island, a remarkable rock or islet at the entrance of the port, and very near the town; and it is found on other parts of the Hunter as well.
Newcastle is 70 miles from Sydney by water, and nearly 150 by land.
There are several streams at no great distance from the Hunter; such are the Paterson, Williams, Chichester, and others, on all which the locations are numerous; but I do not imagine that many of the owners reside upon them, as I was informed they are at present employed more as stock-stations. The country about them (150 miles from Sydney,) is characterized as open forest land, affording excellent pasture, with small flats or strips of alluvial soil on the banks of the rivers, a remark that may be applied to all the rivers, as they are called, in the colony, and here and there "vine brush," in which are found cedars and other useful trees.
There are also settlers on the Manning; between it and the Williams there is a tract of thirty or forty miles, perfectly useless, being covered with scrub, and the soil worthless.
Contrast the names of the rivers in this district with those in Argyle, per ex. the Cookburndoon, Wallondilli, Uringalla, Ooromča, Narjongoolmar, Windellįma, Caradłlla, Yarąlla, etc. etc., and then decide whether the sonorous titles of the former, or the modest terms of the latter, are the more euphonous!
From Newcastle to Port Stephens, the distance by the coast is not above twenty miles; but to proceed by this route, the Hunter must be crossed at the former place, as otherwise a person would have to go round by Maitland, which would make it much farther.
Although it is not above 180 miles from Sydney to Port Macquarrie by sea, by land it is 100 more. I have already stated that this settlement is increasing fast, and there is no doubt of its being very soon a place of consequence, when steam-vessels are more numerous.
One most essential advantage that the Hunter district has over Bathurst and Argyle, is its proximity to a market, for the steam-boat can easily reach Sydney in twelve hours; while a dray occupies three weeks in performing the journey from Bathurst to Sydney and back, and probably not less from Goulbourn Plains. Here is at once a far more substantial reason than its park-like scenery, for preferring it to the other two districts.
There are the materials of a most excellent society in this part of the colony: unluckily the farms are so far asunder, that is to say, from eight to fifteen miles, that a free intercourse cannot well be kept up; and then again, many of the respectable proprietors of land reside in Sydney. Whether this absence of social communication would accord with the feelings and ideas of every one, I cannot of course say: some of the settlers themselves seem to have no objection to a retired life; but they are all married, which makes a wonderful difference!
As Moreton Bay has not been thrown open to location, and as some time may elapse before this will be the case, I have said nothing concerning its capabilities in respect to unlocated land, etc. when pointing out the different parts of New South Wales, where any is to be found; indeed it may be considered, at present, as quite a distinct portion of the colony, just as Norfolk Island is.
The following remarks are by Capt. C. of the 17th regiment, and I was permitted to transcribe them through the kindness of Col. D. of the same regiment.
"In point of climate, Moreton Bay being farther to the northward, must, on the whole, be warmer than Sydney; and although we have no hot winds here, the thermometer ranges, during the summer, from 80 to 100, but I have seldom felt it so oppressive as in India; and the nights are generally cool and pleasant. In winter, except at our highest station, ice has hardly ever been seen: the mornings and evenings, however, are generally very chilly, and for several months constant fires are agreeable: at this season the climate may be considered as delightful. From the greater heat, all tropical plants thrive better than at Sydney, but bananas, plaintains, and pines, are the only fruits that have yet been tried. Cotton grows well, and I dare say rice might be cultivated to advantage, as many of the fields might easily be irrigated.
"Wheat is very liable to fail; but as it succeeds in hotter climes, I have no doubt of its eventually doing so here, if we are allowed to use ploughs, and to try the soil higher up the country; nor do English potatoes thrive, for they soon degenerate into sweet potatoes, which, however, are better here than in any part of the world that I have hitherto visited. The principal article cultivated at the settlement is maize, which grows very luxuriantly, on what is termed "Scrub Land," being neither more nor less than patches of ground, which, in their original state, have been covered by almost impenetrable brushwood. Upon this soil we can have two crops of maize in the year; but unless the winter sets in very mild, the second is not good. On the forest-land generally, near the settlement, nothing but cotton succeeds, as the soil is very poor; higher up, where our flocks are, and where we bum lime, there are thousands of acres of rich land almost without trees, well watered, with plenty of coal and lime; and the side next us has a long, but very good water communication with the sea.
"This part of the country, I am, also inclined to believe, would be more healthy than where we now reside, from its being drier, and more elevated. I am, however, far from thinking our present place of abode unhealthy, although fever and ague have, of late, been rather prevalent; but these were not known when first I came here, and probably may not always continue to annoy us. It is strange that during the last very hot weather, when these complaints were most prevalent, the soldiers suffered more than the convicts; and we had from 10 to 15 sick: such a circumstance never occurred before nor since. Often we have no sick military, rarely more than two or three; and in the course of seven years, the period that has elapsed since the establishment of the settlement, only one soldier has died, and his complaint was dropsy!
"Of twelve hundred persons, I have at times known only seven or eight to be sick at once; these were principally old men with chronic incurable disorders, and worn out constitutions. Though the half year ending June, 1832, was considered unhealthy, of twelve hundred persons only five died; and in all likelihood they would have died in any other part of the world, as they were all old and exhausted."
The country between Moreton Bay and Port Macquarrie does not appear to have been much explored, and will most probably be found to resemble what is seen elsewhere: the distance is 264 miles. When thrown open to location, the former place will no doubt afford most eligible farms for the settler.
I have now described all the most distant settlements, and although it may perhaps be thought that I have given rather too cursory a view of them, and of the intermediate country, yet from the general sameness of the features in the aspect of New South Wales, I could not have said more without being tedious and prolix; nor would the reader have been much benefitted if I had devoted a volume to this subject alone.
One of the most cheerful portions of the colony is the tract of country extending from the head of the valley of Mulgoa to Windsor. The valley itself is ten or twelve miles long, but in some places of no great width, and the land is very undulating, affording some extremely pretty points of view; there is also excellent soil in various parts of it. It is here that the junction of the western, or Cowpasture River,.and the Warragamba, takes place, which is at a spot that forms a basin, enclosed by lofty crags, and displaying a scene of wild and savage grandeur, such as is not often observed. The bold and picturesque rocks at the confluence of the two streams, are of sandstone, and in some places form caves which have afforded shelter to bushrangers.
The Wollondilly takes its rise somewhere in Argyle: after flowing some distance, it passes through the Cowpastures, hence its second name; on its junction with the Warragamba it becomes the Nepean, and finally, at Windsor, is termed the Hawkesbury. Its course is about two hundred miles.
Native dogs are sometimes numerous between the upper part of Mulgoa and the Cowpastures, and it was here I first hunted them. Taking with me a man named Tribe, who was excellent as a guide, and equally so at finding the game, but whose movements were scarcely commensurate with my ideas of celerity, perhaps in consequence of his having passed the meridian of his vigour, I set out at dawn of day, and rode no great distance before a large dog was seen, which we pursued and killed, after a run of a mile: the next we killed was much smaller, and had only time to run a few yards; and we caught a third, but our greyhounds would not hold him, so that before we could get through some fences that were in our way, they lost him.
There is some satisfaction in hunting this animal, but the fox is permitted to exist for the sole purpose of affording amusement in the pursuit; the native dog often commits such ravages amongst the sheep and poultry, that it is absolutely necessary either to destroy it, or, at all events, to expel it from the inhabited parts of the colony; therefore a person has not the dissatisfaction of reflecting that he is guilty of wanton cruelty; and yet even with this reflection, I must confess myself not a little partial to indulging also in the pursuit of poor renard.
Tribe related to me an affair that he had with a native dog, which may perhaps amuse the reader, and will at least shew him, that when hunting, it is possible, even in New South Wales, to catch a Tartar; and that, consequently, it is as well to be cautious not to make too free with him until dead. It also furnishes a striking instance of the tenacity of life which this creature possesses: I shall give Tribe's story in his own words:—
"One day, Sir, I comes upon a large native dog, and after a long run we catches him. Well, Sir, my dog pitches into the joker, and I supposes they had killed him; so I dismounts, and ties my horse up, while my dogs goes to a water-hole to drink. Then I takes the native dog by the leg, and draws my knife across his hock, meaning to skin him, as his hide was worth half a crown; but I had no sooner done this, than up he jumps, and tries to lay hold of me by the throat! So I kicks him, and thumps him, and swears at him," (the last ought to have had some effect,) "but all to no purpose; whereupon I was obliged to scramble up again on my horse, and halloo for my dogs, which pitched it into him until he was quite dead, and afterwards I cuts his throat to make sure! By gollins, Sir, you never catches me skinning another native dog before I have cut his throat!"
The best way of hunting the animal is with foxhounds or harriers.
At Regentville, situated very near the Nepean, which is here a beautiful piece of water, with some highly interesting scenery, the country becomes more open, much land has been cleared, and from the house there is a very extensive view towards Windsor. On the right of the river the soil is of the most fertile description, the settlers are numerous, and there is a considerable portion of land in cultivation. On the left bank are Emu plains, backed by a range of the Blue Mountains, which extend to the sea. There are some farms on the sides of the hills, but on account of the abruptness of the declivities as well as the nature of the soil they are not numerous.
Windsor is thirty-four miles from Sydney, and about twenty-five from that part of the river which is crossed on the route to the Hunter. It is a small and ill-built place, and it is in this neighbourhood that the floods, caused by the Hawkesbury, are so disastrous. The greatest height to which this river has been known to rise is estimated at ninety feet; and from fifty to eighty feet is not uncommon!
The houses in this district are the best that are to be found in the "Bush," most of the settlers in the other parts of the country residing in their original huts, some of which have been erected eight or ten years or more; or else they have built small cottages, which, although very clean and neat, are often much too small for families. However, those who reside between the Blue Mountains and Sydney can scarcely be said to be settled in the "Bush."
GENERAL OBSERVATIONS ON NEW HOLLAND—COASTS—CORAL BANKS—ACCOUNT OF THEM BY FLINDERS—MELVILLE ISLAND—BATHURST ISLAND—WEATHER ON THE COASTS—PREVAILING ASPECT OF THE COUNTRY EXTENT OF THE COLONY—RIVERS—CONSIDERABLE SEA SAID TO HAVE BEEN FOUND IN THE INTERIOR—NORFOLK ISLAND—NEW ZEALAND—ISLANDS.
New Holland is the largest island on the globe, being nearly 2,000 miles from north to south, and nearly 2,500 from east to west; it is comprised between the parallels of 10 deg. south, and 39 deg. south, and the meridians of 154 deg. east, and 113 deg. east.
It was first visited by the Portuguese and Spaniards in the sixteenth century; though the Dutch, who explored the west coast in 1605, were the first who made it known to Europe.
Between the years 1616 and 1641 the coasts were several times visited by Dutch ships; and in 1642 Abel Tasman was sent to complete the survey of them. In 1688 Dampier fell in with the island, and afterwards paid it a second visit; since which period it had been frequently visited by navigators, and in 1788 was colonized.
Australasia is a general term, and commonly includes New Holland, Van Dieman's Land, and other islands in the South Seas. Australia is a denomination of New South Wales, or the eastern half of New Holland, and western Australia of the remainder.
The island is separated from New Guinea by Torres' Straits, which are about eighty miles wide, and contain a great number of islands, besides a multitude of coral reefs and banks. These rendered the navigation extremely dangerous and difficult, until the publication of Captain King's directions for sailing through; by following them, the difficulty is now so materially lessened, that ships frequently proceed from Sydney by this route. This passage is advantageous only as a way from the east coast of New Holland, shortening the distance both to India and China.
The proper season for passing through the straits commences about the end of February, and ends in October, that is to say, during the easterly monsoon, but for the remainder of the year the passage ought not to be attempted; as the westerly monsoon, besides being a contrary wind, is generally accompanied by much bad and gloomy weather, with frequent storms, which, independent of the danger of shipwreck, cause great delay in the voyage.
Navigators have seen snakes * of large size swimming about the Straits, but of what description they are I have never been able to learn; though if what the captain of a vessel told me be true, it would appear that some of them must be poisonous. He stated that while a Newfoundland dog was amusing itself with swimming round the ship during a calm, a snake, eight or nine feet in length approached and bit the animal, which was immediately taken on board, but only survived a few hours.
[* Snakes are often seen in the Bay of Bengal,
Straits of Malacca, and Timor Sea: their length is from four or
five to seven or eight feet, and their colour is yellow, with
black and brown spots. They are seen only in fine weather, and
always move very sluggishly.
Peron, in the Naturaliste, while on a voyage of discovery, saw sea-snakes from 300 to 400 miles from land. They were from one to thirteen feet in length. Snakes are found also in the Persian Gulf, Red Sea, etc.]
From Van Dieman's Land, or Tasmania, New Holland is divided by Bass's Straits, 120 miles in breadth, and containing several islands of little note, of which mention will be made hereafter.
I shall now take a rapid glance at the coasts, and add one short extract from Flinders, leaving the reader to consult the various works that have been published for any farther information concerning them.
The description of Port Jackson will be given when speaking of Sydney: at present I shall merely remark that the light House is in 33 deg. 51 min. south, and 151 deg. 20 min. east. The entrance to the harbour is between two enormous cliffs not quite two miles apart; both of these are rugged and precipitous, and in many places the appearance of the rocks is extremely grand and striking. Some of the cliffs are partially excavated by the waves, forming caverns or arches; and several of the headlands are uncommonly magnificent. On leaving Port Jackson, and proceeding to the northward, we come to Broken Bay, where the Hawkesbury falls into the sea. Several vessels have been built there, and ships of burden may find shelter in it; but this bay is very little frequented.
Port Hunter is the entrance to the river of that name, and ships of 300 tons have loaded there; I have already noticed it, as also Port Stevens, and Port Macquarrie.**
[** Oxley describes the country about Port Macquarrie as very beautiful. The Port, however, is only adapted for vessels of 100 tons.]
Moreton Bay is in 27 deg. 1 min. south; and 153 deg. 26 min. east. The bay is a considerable expanse of water, sheltered by an island, and on the bar there is a depth of eighteen feet. The Brisbane, thought to be the largest river on the east coast, falls into the bay, and the latter is said to be 60 miles in extent.
From the latitude of 25 deg. south to the northern extremity of Australia, a distance of 850 miles, Captain King says he saw neither rivers, nor springs, of any consequence; and although, in some parts the country was well wooded, and of a pleasant aspect, this ceased to be the case to the northward of Endeavour River, whence to the North Cape, in lat. 10 deg. 43 min. south lon., 142 deg. 39 min. east, 300 miles, the country is quite barren. Endeavour River is the place where Cook repaired his ship after having been many hours on a coral reef; it is not adapted for large vessels unless when actually in distress.
Breaksea Spit commences in about 25 deg. south, and is a vast barrier reef of coral, extending to New Guinea, that is, upwards of 1,000 miles. In some places it is from 90 to 100 miles from the land; towards the south it occupies a breadth of from 45 to 50 miles, but is narrower to the north; and in lat. 16 deg. south, it closes in with the shore at Cape Tribulation. For more than 350 miles from the south opening of the spit there is no entrance that, can be trusted as safe: there are openings, but these are very dangerous. It is said, that on this part of the coast no settlement could be formed; but as the sea, between the barrier and the land, is so smooth that small vessels can navigate it with ease, it is not unlikely that when a steam vessel is employed to examine it more minutely, its colonization will not be found impracticable.
Captain Flinders has given such an excellent, and at the same time interesting account of the formation of coral banks, that a perusal of it cannot fail to entertain the reader, and I have therefore extracted it verbatim.
"Half-way island, to the east of Torres' Straits, is scarcely more than a mile in circumference, but appears to be increasing both in elevation and extent. At no very distant period of time, it was one of those banks produced by the washing up of the sand and broken coral, of which most reefs afford instances, and those in Torres' Straits a great many. These banks are in different stages of progress; some, like this, are become islands, but not yet habitable; some are above high-watermark, but destitute of vegetation; whilst others are overflowed with every returning tide.
"It seems to me that when the animalculę, which form the corals at the bottom of the ocean, cease to live, their structures adhere to each other, by virtue either of the glutinous remains within, or of some property in salt water; and the interstices being gradually filled up with sand and broken pieces of coral washed by the sea, which also adhere, a mass of rock is at length formed. Future races of these animalcules erect their habitations upon the rising bank, and die in their turn, to increase, but principally to elevate, this monument of their wonderful labours. The care taken to work perpendicularly in the early stages, would mark a surprising instinct in these diminutive creatures! Their wall of coral, for the most part, in situations where the winds are constant, being arrived at the surface, affords a shelter to leeward so that their infant colonies may be safely sent forth: and to this their instinctive foresight it seems to be owing, that the part of the reef which is exposed to the open sea, is generally, if not always, the highest part, and rises almost perpendicularly, sometimes from the depth of 200, and perhaps many more fathoms. To be constantly covered with water seems necessary to the existence of these animalcules, for they do not work, except upon holes in the reef, beyond low-water mark; but the coral, sand, and other broken fragments thrown up by the sea, adhere to the rock, and form a solid mass with it, as high as the common tides reach. That elevation surpassed, the future remnants, being rarely covered, lose their adhesive quality, and remaining in a loose state, form what is usually called a key upon the top of the reef. The new bank is not long in being visited by sea-birds; salt water plants take root upon it, and a soil begins to be formed; a cocoa nut, or the drupe of a pandanus is thrown on shore; land birds visit it, and deposit the seeds of shrubs and trees; every high tide, and still more, every gale, adds something to the bank: the form of an island is gradually assumed; and last of all comes man to take possession."
Since Flinders wrote, several of the coral banks which he describes are become partially covered with vegetation.
The width of the entrance to the Gulf of Carpentaria,* from Cape York to Cape Arnheim, is 338 miles, and the gulf itself is nearly 1,200 miles in circuit. It is into this immense gulf that some of the principal rivers of New South Wales are supposed to flow; which appears to be an assumption not at all corroborated by the testimony of navigators, particularly Flinders, (and I think Capt. King); nor can we perceive amidst the various theories of those who have written concerning this point, any particularly good or forcible reasons for assuming that such is the fact; for we are told that the gulf has already been examined, and that if any considerable rivers had fallen into it, they must have been discovered.
[* Flinders sailed 500 miles in this gulf and saw only one elevation of a hundred feet.]
From Captain King's account, the best harbours, with the exception of Port Jackson, are on the north coasts.
On the east and north-east coasts shell-fish of prodigious dimensions have been seen; even so large as three feet in length, and weighing, shell and all, nearly two hundred pounds; a friend of mine told me they were strong, and not very palatable; and added that he had seen them even much larger. Dampier says he found an empty shell which weighed 258 lbs! The bźche de mer is found on all the reefs on the east coast, but is little sought for there: on the north-west coast, however, the Malays seek for it with the greatest avidity for the Chinese market. I found a specimen at Swan River, but believe it is not common there. It is also called the Trepang.
Melville Island is 370 miles from Cape Arnheim; and close to it is Bathurst Island. On the former a settlement was formed, with the view of establishing a commerce with the Malays and others; it failed from several causes. 1. The Malays did not appear inclined to engage in a trade with the colony. 2. The soil was so bad that no grain would thrive in it. 3. The aborigines were inimical to the colonists, and killed several of them. 4. When a vessel went from Sydney to the island it was obliged, during many months in the year, to return by the western coast, thereby circumnavigating New Holland! Consequently the island was subsequently deserted. Each of the islands is about 100 miles in circumference, and they are separated by a channel only a gun-shot across. Both are inhabited, and the natives, as also the animals, resemble those on the main land. Lat. 11 deg. 56 min. south, long. 130 deg. 55 min. east.
The next conspicuous spot to which we come is North West Cape, 1,140 miles from the above islands; and in lat. 21 deg. 47 min. south, long. 114 min. east. On the whole of this vast line of coast, there are no known rivers, and the appearance of the land is represented to be sandy, barren, and sterile!
Shark's Bay, discovered by Dampier, is a spacious and safe harbour 236 miles from North West Cape, and nearly 400 to the northward of Swan River. The land about it is sandy, barren, destitute of inhabitants, and without water; at least such was its inhospitable aspect as described by those who visited it. I am greatly inclined to doubt if this spot has been hitherto sufficiently explored, especially in the interior. A good harbour is of such consequence in a colony where so few ports are known to exist, that provided land of a fair description was discovered at no great distance in the interior, it is of no very essential consequence what kind of soil prevails near the shores. The latitude is 25 deg. 43 min. south.
Passing Swan River we come to Cape Lewin, in lat. 34 deg. 22 min. south, long. 115 deg. 6 min. east, and 136 miles from the former. This is the south-westernmost point of New Holland; and vessels are not unfrequently many days before they can weather it, on account of the north-west winds which so often prevail here. The distance hence to King George's Sound (to the south-east) is 150 miles.
The account given by Flinders of the country here was unfavourable. He says "that through which he passed had but little to recommend it. The stony hills of the coast were, indeed, generally covered with shrubs, but there was rarely any depth of vegetable soil. The land, extending from Princess Royal harbour to some lakes several miles from the sea, was swampy. There the surface is clothed with grass and brushwood, and on the parts a little elevated there are forest trees; nevertheless the soil is shallow, and unfit for cultivation. The sound is sheltered from all winds except those from the eastward, but the inner harbour will only admit small vessels. From all I have heard of this settlement, it does not seem to be in a very thriving state.
Spencer's Gulf runs about 190 miles into the land, and is fifty or sixty miles wide at the entrance. The distance from the sound is 870 miles, nearly east. Near it is the Gulf of St. Vincent, also of considerable extent: the country about the latter is superior to that on the shores of the former.
Port Lincoln, on the western side of the entrance to Spencer's Gulf, is considered a good harbour, with the disadvantage of having no constant run of fresh water, which is therefore procured by digging, and even then greatly discoloured by the clay. The country around is rocky and barren, with a sufficiency of grass, bushes, and small trees, not to look quite desolate.
From hence to Cape Otway, we may reckon 246 miles; and to Wilson's Promontory 150 miles farther. Between the two last are Port Phillip and Western Port: the former, which is the westernmost harbour on the north side of Bass's Straits, is seventeen or eighteen leagues to the north-eastward of Cape Otway, and although an excellent harbour, labours under a deficiency of fresh water: the latter is eight or nine leagues from Port Phillip, and may be chosen as a place of shelter, if a ship is driven near its entrance by a southerly gale. The coast between the two ports presents a continued barrier of rock, with a heavy swell tumbling in from the south-west.
Although Port Phillip is capable of receiving the largest fleet that ever went to sea, it labours under this great disadvantage, that the entrance, in its whole width, is scarcely two miles, nearly half of which is occupied by rocks on the one side, and shoals on the other.
The country is described to have a fertile appearance, and some of the vallies are adapted for agricultural purposes: and although some parts are sterile, there is grass sufficient for the support of numerous cattle or sheep.
Attempts at colonization have been made at both these places, but owing to want of water, and the nature of soil, they failed.
Wilson's Promontory is a lofty mass of hard granite, about 20 miles long, and from 6 to 14 wide. The soil upon it is shallow and barren, though the brushwood, dwarf gum trees, etc. which cover the rocks give it a deceitful appearance to the distant observer. From hence to Cape Howe, 241 miles, the shores are sandy, with barren land behind. The interior is mountainous, but not having been much explored, very little is known concerning it.
Twofold Bay, 30 miles from the Cape, is chiefly adapted for small vessels only, being greatly exposed to easterly winds: as nothing larger than boats can find shelter on the line of coast from Jervis Bay, lat. 35° 6" S. to Furneaux Isles in 40° 30", it becomes of importance to whalers, and ships passing along the coast. The soil of the contiguous hills is good, and water is tolerably abundant. The entrance to Jervis Bay, 100 miles to the northward, is 2 miles wide, and inside there is a bay or harbour, from three to four leagues in length, and two in width. It is considered a safe port for ships of any size, but although only 80 miles from Sydney, is very little resorted to.
The land immediately round the bay is mostly barren, as is commonly found to be the case near the coast. On the eastern side it is chiefly rocky, with brushwood; the western is low, swampy, and sandy, with some partial exceptions; on the south there are grassy places, which might afford pasturage for cattle.
Botany Bay is 6 miles from Sydney, and is of great extent; during tempestuous weather from the eastward it forms a very indifferent anchorage. It was here, as in feet must be pretty well known, that the settlement was first established; and at the head of the Bay is Cook's River, while George's River falls into it near the entrance. Very few persons reside on its shores.
As a general observation upon the coast, it may be remarked that most navigators speak of the Gulph of Carpentaria in no very favourable terms; and certainly, judging from the various accounts of it, the country about its shores must have a most dreary and inhospitable appearance. Such also is the description of the coast from Cape Arnheim to North-west Cape, and thence to Swan River, a distance of 2,116 miles!
When I inform the reader that such too is the case with respect to a great portion of the south and east coasts, he will be able to form some slight idea how desolate and melancholy must be the general aspect of the shores of this immense island. The circumference of New Holland is about 6,000 miles, that is, without following strictly all the inflections of the bays, etc.
The weather on the coast is extremely uncertain and variable, often very stormy, and seldom to be depended upon. Lightning generally denotes a change, and is commonly considered the precursor of bad weather.
The last time I left Sydney we experienced, during three successive nights, the most awful lightning I ever beheld.
In consequence of the frequent gales and heavy sea, vessels employed in whaling prefer the neighbourhood of New Zealand, and other islands, and also of the Equator.
Of the general appearance of the country, it is difficult to convey an adequate idea to the reader, for it is so different from any other region I ever beheld, that I am at a loss what to compare it with. Of the mountains scarcely enough is known to enable me to impart any really accurate information concerning them. A barrier range is supposed to run parallel to the east coast, and another on some parts of the west coast, particularly at, and south of, Swan River: from Cape Jervis also there is a ridge, 3,000 feet in height, and 210 miles in length, which joins the ridge on the east side of Spencer's Gulf.
The direction, however, of the various ramifications which extend into the interior, seems to be extremely irregular, for to whatever point the eye is directed vast groups of mountains are visible; and a person, judging only from that part of the country at present known, would be led to suppose the entire island a congeries of mountains or hills, separated by narrow, and deep gullies and ravines, with occasional valleys, usually of no great width, and covered in some places by open forest, but in more by forests that are almost impenetrable. The naturally clear spots are few in number, and extremely circumscribed, when compared with the extent of the colony; nor is it until he reaches a distance of 200 miles from the coast that the astonished traveller emerges from the maze of mountains and woody wildernesses and finds himself on the boundless Corborn Comleroy!
Some future Park will probably explore the country beyond; and we shall then know how true, or false, the tales are which have been communicated by the aborigines (with whose language we are very imperfectly acquainted), and swallowed by the credulity of those who believe that every thing connected with the interior must be wonderful and extraordinary.
The extent of the colony of New South Wales was, in 1829, 34,500 square miles, or upwards of 22,000,000 of acres; it must be greatly increased since the country about Port Macquarrie was thrown open to location.
Such vast tracts are seen where the soil is utterly worthless, that the proportion of good land to the absolutely bad, or indifferent, is very trifling; and where fertile soil is found it is ever in patches of no extent, excepting at places where it would not repay the labours of the agriculturist, from its being at too remote a distance from a market. Of the rivers much has been both said and written; but whatever may be the opinions of writers concerning them, they are mere streams; for although their height is great during floods, they are more commonly navigable to a distance of not mare than thirty or forty miles from the sea, and seldom so much.
It is conjectured that the Lachlan is the channel by which all the waters rising in those ranges to the west of Port Jackson, known by the name of the Blue Mountains, and which do not fall into the sea on the east coast, are conveyed to the immense inland marshes. The course of this river, according to Oxley, exceeds 500 miles in a straight line, and including its windings, it flows at least 1,200. It rises sometimes 36 feet; but in dry seasons the channel is empty, or forms only a chain of ponds.
There is not in fact known to exist one really navigable river in the whole Island, exclusive of the Morumbidgee and Murray, of which I strongly suspect very little is known, save that the last was of some depth when first visited; and that the expedition, in returning, found the body of water greatly diminished! A single visit to a river in this country cannot possibly enable any one to form a correct opinion as to its usual average depth.
The stockmen * at Wellington Valley procured a piece of information, in 1828, which would have been of no small consequence to the colony, if true; and I shall, therefore, extract it from the periodical in which I accidentally observed it, just to show with what facility marvellous stories are snatched up, and circulated by those who do not take time to consider.
[* Stockmen are convicts, who are appointed to look after the cattle and sheep: sometimes free, or "ticket of leave" men, are appointed instead.]
"The tribes who occupy the country two or three days' journey from Wellington Valley, have been engaged in war several years with the tribes living west and north-west; but owing to the death of one of the chiefs, peace has been at length restored between them, and these mial, or strange blacks, have related to their new friends, and these to us" (and doubtless without losing by the repetition) "that there exists in, the western country, many days off, a vast interior sea, where the water is salt, and where whales are seen to spout! The manner in which they imitated the whale throwing up water was so completely satisfactory, as to leave little doubt of the fact, as it is not likely these inland blacks could have known it but from actual observation. Here, then, is a problem that will repay the working, and the sooner we are relieved from the present state of suspense arising from such a report, the better!"
By making a fair calculation the "great sea" ought to have been nearly about the centre of the island, so that the "great fish" must have had to travel up a "great river" to a distance of some 1,200 miles from the coast! But the "great drought" seems to have dried up the first, for it has disappeared, and the whales with it; so that the above writer need not now be "in a state of suspense!"
The only island that is colonized op the coast of New Holland, is that of Norfolk, which is a penal settlement, different from that at Moreton Bay, inasmuch as those persons sent to the former are generally of the worst description, and most probably sent there for a long period; while convicts are not sentenced to the latter for more than seven years.
Its distance from Sydney is about 1,000 miles, and it is 400 to the northward of New Zealand. For the following notices of it I am indebted to an officer of the Fourth, or King's Own Regiment, who was stationed there some months.
Norfolk Island, situated in 29 deg. 2 min. south latitude, 168 deg. 13 min. east longitude, is about twenty-one miles in circumference. The air is very pure, and the climate fine and temperate, resembling very much that of Portugal, but subject to sudden squalls, chiefly from the S.E.
The soil is uncommonly fertile, and capable of producing the fruits and vegetables of every part of the world in perfection; but care must be taken to shelter fruit trees from the effects of the southerly winds, which are liable to destroy them by a kind of blight.
The island is covered with a very thick "brush," and a great variety of trees, amongst which the pine (pinus insularis) is the most conspicuous, growing to the height of two hundred and forty feet, and forming very useful timber: there is also a tree called the blood wood, so termed from the colour of its sap, and a variety of others with the botanical names of which I am unacquainted: some of them are peculiar to the island, and have never been described. Lemons, citrons, guavas, grapes, pomegranates, coffee plants and figs, abound in almost all the gullies. The ferns are numerous and very beautiful, and several of them are found nowhere else. Every kind of grain can be cultivated with success: tobacco and sugar canes also thrive well, particularly the former. The surface is extremely irregular, consisting of a succession of hills and gullies thrown together without the slightest appearance of design or order; and nearly all the gullies are watered by small streams, generally of the purest water, occasionally mixed with a considerable quantity of iron.
Mount Pitt, which arises 1,200 feet above the sea, is basaltic; the rest of the island is commonly pudding-stone and sand-stone.
There is no safe anchorage on any side of the island, and the landing is at all times very precarious, the surf rising so very rapidly as to preclude any certainty even for a very short time.
The population consists of 800 persons, of whom upwards of 500 are convicts, 124 military, and the remainder civil servants of the government. The prisoners are employed in building, felling timber, making roads, and cultivating the farm, on which the principal grain is maize. Fish are plentiful, and the most abundant are snappers, trumpeters, salmon, king-fish, gropers, etc. etc.
The only animals are wild cats, which are common, and rats; the birds are pigeons, woodquests (a large and handsome kind of pigeon,) parrots, lories, several kinds of peterel, boatswains, and sometimes curlew and plover.
From the uncommon verdure which prevails throughout the year, caused by the frequent showers, the scenery is highly beautiful and romantic; the lemon and citron trees are seen bending under the weight of their fruit, and guavas are equally abundant. The last form the principal food of the rats.
There are several good roads in the island leading to the different objects considered worthy of notice; the brush, however, is so thick, that it is a very easy matter to lose one's way for many hours: in some places it is quite impervious. In the gullies, New Zealand flax (phormium tenax) is found in large quantities; the government sent three natives of that country to instruct the prisoners in dressing it; but either from want of proper instruments, or as was said of the proper class of natives, the attempt was, for the most part, a failure.
The Norfolk island pine sometimes attains a most astonishing size: the following dimensions of one were given me by a medical gentleman long resident in the island. Diameter near the ground 12 feet; and at the height of 80 feet, nearly 9 feet; to that height the stem was perfectly straight, but it had then a slight twist or bend. The total height of the tree was two hundred and sixty-seven feet! He added that the settlement ought to have been on the north side of the island, as the landing is much more easy there: on the south side the colony is so difficult of approach that vessels are sometimes several weeks off the place before they can disembark their passengers, or discharge their cargoes. Another objection to the present site is the circumstance of there being a morass close by it! As the convicts who are transported to the island (from Sydney) are those only who have been convicted of crimes of some enormity, it may easily be imagined what a set of knaves must be collected together, when it is considered that in addition to the sentence of transportation (perhaps for life) pronounced upon them in England, they are sentenced, in New South Wales, to a second deportation!
From all that I have heard of this settlement, I should hardly suppose it can pay its own expenses; of course, as the number of convicts increase, some other spot must be selected as an additional penal establishment.
It will perhaps be thought irrelative to the present subject to introduce any observations on New Zealand, as it has not yet been colonized by us; but a resident, or consul, having been recently appointed, I may now consider it as strictly connected with our Australian settlements. It would, however, be entirely foreign to my purpose to attempt a regular description of the islands, and I shall therefore refer the reader for any farther information he may require, to the works of those who have had better opportunities of seeing them than myself.
We touched there on our voyage from Sydney to England; but vessels would probably make a more rapid passage by keeping to the southward of the islands, at all events iii February or March, and I understand at some other periods of the year, if their commanders would escape the contrary winds which we encountered after making the Three Kings (islets off the north point,) and which prevented us, for many days, from quitting the coast after our departure from Kororadica. Besides, little is to be gained by going there, with the exception of potatoes, pigs, water, and perchance a few spars. With respect to the first, it must be admitted they constitute not merely one of the greatest luxuries on board ship, but one of the most considerable necessaries, particularly for the crew, who have nothing save salt provisions. As to water, a supply after such a short run can scarcely be required, and spars are not always to be procured.
The New Zealand islands are three in number, the northernmost of which, called Eahei No Mauwee, is 1100 miles from Sydney. The average width of this singularly formed island, as far as Woody Point, a distance of 230 miles, is not more than 30 miles; it then suddenly expands, the remainder being 220 miles in length, by a breadth of 120.
Tavai Poenammoo, the centre island, is 450 miles in length by an average breadth of 100. These two are separated by Cook's Straits, seventy-five miles wide at the north-west entrance, but much narrower at the south-east. Stewart's Island is about 100 miles in circumference, and separated from Tavai Poenammoo by a strait of trifling width; and containing many islands or rocks.
The north point of Eahei No Mauwee is in lat. 34 deg. 24 min. south; long. 173 deg. east; and the south point of Stewart's Island in lat. 47 deg. 20 min. south; long. 167 deg. 40 min. east.
We anchored in the Bay of Islands on the north-east coast of Eahei No Mauwee, and 80 miles from the north point. This is one of the finest and most spacious bays ever beheld, being, in so far as respects the mere aspect, greatly superior to Port Jackson itself; but no part of it affords a harbour equally safe. It contains a great number of ramifications, or arms of the sea, some of which extend far into the land, and are beautifully studded with islands that conduce greatly to the general effect; and when during a calm the land is reflected from the placid surface of the water, the scene is one that far surpasses any of the prospects in the vicinity of the Australian capital. If the views, in the present neglected state of the place, are often fine, what may we not expect when the country becomes colonized and cultivated? I do not mean to imply that the land where we anchored is remarkable for its scenery, the most interesting prospects being farther up the inlets or rivers; but even on the shores of the bay itself, cultivation will soon cause a wonderful change. There are two streams which fall into the bay, one is the Wye Catte, the other is named the Cower-Cower; and rivulets are also found.
New Zealand may be considered, on the whole, a mountainous country, some part of it rising to a considerable elevation, particularly on Tavai Poenammoo, where the mountains are very lofty, and, as viewed from the sea, constitute an extremely bold feature in the landscape. This was particularly observable from the ship while near White Island—a curious volcano on that coast. At the Bay of Islands the surface is more commonly undulating, though approaching occasionally to the alpine. There did not appear to be any forests of consequence near the bay, but much of the land is concealed by brushwood or fern, while the gullies, or ravines, are filled with a variety of trees that form an almost impenetrable wilderness. Nor is there any level land on its shores—not even a few acres, except in one or two places, where a small patch of very trifling extent may be discerned. The soil is extremely rich, both close to the water and upon eminences of considerable height, and apparently adapted for all the purposes of husbandry, but we found no grass.
Of the natives we saw many, and they are with justice considered a fine race of people, being well formed, athletic, and active. One of them, who came to England in the same ship with myself, although, for a New Zealander, by no means a powerful man, gave us a specimen of his strength, and at the same time convinced the crew that he was not to be annoyed with impunity, for he lifted one of them by the heels, and then knocked his head against the anchor. If the man had not been rescued, either his head or the anchor would have sustained some material injury. They were all, in a greater or less degree, tattooed—the chiefs, however, much more so than the others; and some of them carry this to such an extent, that the countenance seemed to have been marked in every pore. In most of them the face and the rear had alone been tatooed; indeed the latter was frequently far more elaborately ornamented than the former, and the effect was so ludicrous as to excite our mirth, in which the people themselves joined, though well aware of the cause of it. Some of them had long hair, while in others it was short and curly; they took little trouble in dressing it.
The women, if I may be allowed to judge from those we saw, are not worthy of the praises that have been bestowed upon their beauty; the only really good-looking young female among them was the offspring of an Englishman, (I abuse the name) and a native.
I had always been led to believe the New Zealanders were extremely brave, and was therefore not a little disappointed, when informed on the spot, that they do not possess the courage attributed to them by the early navigators; and that so far from engaging openly and fairly, they are in the habit of attacking their enemies by surprise. They talk of battles as if they were nothing but a pastime or recreation, and they certainly appear to be always warring with each other; but we were told that not unfrequently, when they pretend they are going to slay and devour their enemies, their arms have been miraculously converted into potatoes, and their implacable foes into a marvellous herd of fine hogs, both of which were cooked and consumed without compunction by the soi-disant combatants; or, to speak more soberly, they had gone to meet another and friendly tribe, in order to have a feast.
I take it for granted they sometimes display their martial ardour, as we hear of sanguinary encounters, in which the amount of the slain is rather considerable, furnishing to the victors a plentiful though horrible banquet.
All voyagers unite in believing these people to be anthropophagi, but they have not been proved to be so from any absolute predilection for human flesh. It is supposed they believe, (and as many of their theological opinions are well known, the conjecture is probably a correct one) that if the body of an enemy be devoured, his soul will pass into everlasting fire, there to be tormented to the end of time; but if interred with all due formality, it will be received into a habitation more congenial to it. Even granting this not to be the fact, those persons who have been most among them, and who had opportunities of studying their character, assert most positively, that in eating an enemy whom they have slain, they are persuaded they will become possessed of the valour and abilities of the defunct.
Cook observes, that among other reasons which he had heard assigned for the prevalence of this horrible custom, the want of animal food was one; but how far this is deducible from facts or circumstances, must be left for those to find out who advanced it. In every part of New Zealand where he had been, fish was in such plenty that the natives caught as much as served themselves and his crew. They had also plenty of dogs; nor was there any want of wild fowl, which they know very well how to kill: so that neither this nor the want of food of any kind can be the reason.
If such was Cook's opinion sixty years since it is not likely that at the present time, when in addition to fish and fern root, the natives have abundance of potatoes, maize, and pork, they would eat human flesh from preference. "Human flesh," remarks one of our best historians, "was never used as common food in any country; and the various relations concerning people who reckoned it among the stated means of subsistence, flow from the credulity and mistakes of travellers."
The most strange instance of cannibalism known to exist, is that practised by the Battas, a nation of Summatra; their anthropophagism however is judicial, for they do not eat their enemies, but only those condemned to death for some crime. In one respect the New Zealanders must be more humane than those miscreants, as they never wantonly inflict pain, putting the victim to death at once, instead of employing the revolting mode, common with the Battas, of cutting up a human being in such a manner as to avoid, so long as possible, injuring a vital part.
For my own part, I must still maintain that there is no proof of any nation being naturally cannibals; although, from constantly indulging in a vindictive feeling towards their foes, they may not only have overcome the repugnance usually felt by mankind to eat human flesh, but even to have contracted a liking for it.
War is said to be almost as natural to mortals as peace; if we may form an opinion from the pugnacious disposition of the South Sea Islanders, it is far more so, peace of any duration being scarcely known to exist among them; for the transient intervals during which they are not actually engaged in warfare, are for the most part occupied in concocting some act of aggression; and although their conflicts may not often be sanguinary, they are very frequent.
Rousseau tells us, that great eaters of flesh are commonly cruel, and cites as an example the barbarity of the English; by a parity of reasoning the New Zealanders, who, before the introduction of pigs, fed principally upon roots, shell-fish, and other fish, ought to have been remarkable for the suavity and softness of their manners, unless the circumstance of their occasionally eating an enemy may be supposed to have had the effect of rendering them otherwise. Whatever their fare may be, whether fish or flesh, they are notorious for ferocity, treachery, and revenge; and are never to be trusted as a body, unless when the weaker party. They are also great thieves, (which, according to the authority of a celebrated writer, I think Lord Kames, is the case with all islanders,) crafty, and idle, considering time of no value. For the "Indian weed" they betray as great a penchant as the New Hollanders, pipes and tobacco constituting a considerable article of barter; but gunpowder and muskets have of late become somewhat reduced in value, although still exchanged to great advantage, by the whites, for provisions, etc. The pigs roam where they please, and the flavour of the pork is sufficient to tempt an Israelite, while the potatoes are of such fine quality as to be esteemed not inferior to the best in England. These are sown in holes made with a stick, as the land does not go through any preparation by the hoe or spade, the soil being of so friable a nature that very frequently the hand alone is used. The holes are not more than three inches in depth, and the earth is raised to the same height above the surface of the ground. When gathered they are placed on stands, or platforms, raised ten or twelve feet, on which they are heaped up, and loosely covered with fern. Experience has shown that the best way to preserve the potatoes is to admit a free current of air; hence the reason why they are so exposed; besides which, the rats cannot get at them when in such an elevated situation: potatoes are seldom sown twice on the same spot.
Dogs are now seldom eaten, nor does it appear they ever were an important article of diet. If they go on increasing as they have done of late, the settlers and missionaries will find it difficult to secure their sheep from them.
The natives construct their huts with peculiar neatness; and their mats furnish a convincing proof, that with so much natural ingenuity, they would soon excel in many manufactures if tutored. They die the mats with the sap of different plants.
Their canoes are the largest I have seen, some of them being 100 feet in length by 12 or 15 in breadth; the body is formed of a single tree, but the ends are added, and highly carved or ornamented.
Most of the villages are placed in situations not easily accessible to an enemy without his being observed. Kororadica, off which we anchored in order to be near the watering place, is an exception, as it extends along the beach, and, except in front, is surrounded by eminences. Small as the village is, it is ruled by three chiefs, each of whom reigns over his particular portion: these possess the place by right of conquest, having expelled a tribe that now resides farther up the bay, and in a much better situation.
I learnt but little of their customs * that is not already known to the generality of readers, and shall therefore only notice the way in which they dispose of their dead. The body being put into a box, or coffin, is then secured on a stand, or on the lower branch of a tree, where it remains until quite decayed; after which the bones are buried with much ceremony; but on particular occasions a hut is erected, in which the body is placed in a sitting posture, with the most valuable property of the deceased; the ground is then tabooed, so that no native dare approach it, nor can any foreigner do so with impunity. The captain of a vessel informed me that he once looked into a hut of this description, not being aware at the time that a tabooed spot was held so sacred. There were in it three skeletons, and judging from the property left with them, he supposed them to be the remains of persons of some consequence. His curiosity cost him a disturbance with the natives, and a good sum of money to boot.
[* One of the most singular is the following. They will neither eat nor drink, nor will they permit any one else to do so, within their habitations: all meals must be taken outside.]
I was informed also that the body is sometimes elevated to a certain height from the ground, after which any native who passes the spot, throws a piece of wood, or a branch, beneath the corpse.
Of the climate of New Zealand the reports are highly favourable, and from the concurrent testimony of persons who are conversant with it, there is every reason to believe they are correct. Diseases do not seem numerous; of these, consumption is considered the most fatal, and carries off great numbers of the youth of both sexes.
There are some excellent harbours in the island, the principal of which appears to be Southern Port, fifteen miles in length, but of no great width; the shores are described as rocky and bold, with here and there a sandy beech.
From a curious map or chart that I possess, delineated by a native, there must be lakes of no small extent in Eahei No Mauwee, some of which are connected by streams with the sea; but one of the largest has no apparent outlet. They contain islands on which there are fortified villages, and from the number laid down in all directions, the population of this part of New Zealand must be considerable. Many of the bays and inlets are indicated with an accuracy I should not have expected in an untaught savage, and it is this exactness with respect to the coast, that induces me to believe he may also be correct, with regard to the interior. The chart chiefly takes in the Thames, or Ee How Rackey, and the country to some distance inland, or to the south-west.
Stewart's Island differs essentially from the other two, and the sealers who frequent it say it rains there nine months in the year. Emus and wild dogs are said to have been found upon it, as also a bird resembling our hen pheasant, but it was unable to fly. The seal frequents the creeks and bays, "and has been observed three miles inland," at least so says my informant, who passed two months there, during which period they killed 300, and procured from them a large quantity of oil. The timber is not equal to that on the other islands; the soil is greatly inferior, and the climate bad.
The New Zealanders are rapidly becoming deteriorated by their intercourse with Europeans! This is caused principally by a number of convicts who have escaped from the colonies, and now reside in the islands; as also by men who have deserted from vessels, and are little, if at all, better than the convicts. It may easily be conceived how much immorality must be imbibed from a set of convicted felons, who are far greater savages than the islanders themselves, though the last are pagans and cannibals. Several of these runaways reside at Kororadica, where they realize money by purchasing spirits from the merchant vessels that put into the bay, and then retailing them to the crews of the whalers. One of the most noted of them is a fellow named Poyner, most likely an assumed name, who has married a native, and is the father of the good-looking young female to whom I have alluded.
A New Zealand woman wears two mats, one over the shoulders and reaching below the waist, and the other secured round the waist and descending to the feet. To deprive her of the first is looked upon as a mark of sufficient degradation, but to uncover her entirely is considered a most humiliating punishment. The above ruffian tore off, in my presence, the upper mat from his wife, and then threatened to expose her completely, at the same time giving her a severe beating. In a place where neither laws nor regulations exist, it was out of my power to interfere except by interceding for the unfortunate creature, which, as might have been expected, was of no, avail. To my great contentment, although doubtless much against the will of the fellow himself, he once got a chastisement on board an American vessel that he will most probably remember for some time to come. He had gone on board for some purpose, and while there misconducted himself, for which the captain, previous to turning him out of the ship, inflicted on him a sound flogging. I honour the American for his act of summary justice, and wish the commanders of our vessels would follow so good an example.
With reference to the aversion entertained by the women to exhibiting their persons, I have seen sketches in which they are represented in nearly a state of nudity; but while at the Bay of Islands I did not observe one who was not clothed from the throat to the feet; that an improper exposure is considered degrading I had ocular proof in the above instance; besides which, a well informed person, who had passed some time among them, informed me that such was actually the case.
The missionaries make sad complaints of the bad conduct of the men to whom I have alluded, with whom they should commence their labours instead of which the New Zealanders, as do the few respectable merchants who are settled at the Bay of Islands; but they possess no power of preventing them from following evil inclinations, their authority extending no farther than their own thresholds. Nor is it believed that the resident or consul (he had not arrived when I was in the bay) will be able to assist them unless accompanied by a detachment of soldiers, which, by all accounts, is not likely to be the case. Yet without some aid I cannot perceive of what utility his office will be, as his authority will be rendered altogether nugatory, if he is not furnished with the means of enforcing coercive measures with the convicts, etc.; and if troops were sent, I fear it would soon provoke a fracas with the natives.
By offering to the chiefs a reward of tobacco, powder, or any article that is prized, they would, in a very short time, capture and deliver up the whole of the runaways.
It must be confessed that these vagabonds are not the only cause of the demoralization of the natives, for the crews of the whalers (there were seven in that bay) conduce almost equally to effect it, although in a different way. I witnessed on board of one of their ships a scene which baffle an description, and made me fancy myself amongst the most riotous of those worthies the Buccaneers! The number of females (natives) equalled or surpassed that of the crew; and the sounds of revelry and licentious riot which pervaded the vessel, would have astounded Morgan, Van Graff, Van Horn, or any other of the renowned freebooters.
Whalers are ever a lawless race; after the hardships and privations of a cruise of perhaps four or five months, it is natural to suppose they must be glad of a little relaxation when they go into port to refit; but instead of indulging themselves moderately and rationally, they rush at once into the very vortex of the most boisterous mirth and dissipation, and the lord of misrule reigns paramount amongst them. I shall not exceed the limits of truth in stating, that the infernal orgies of these men resembled more the unholy mysteries of the ancient worshippers of Bacchus, than the sober enjoyments of Christians; and the reader will readily agree with me that such persons are not likely to improve the morals of a nation of barbarians.
I have not the slightest intention of attempting to make the reader believe that the crews of the whalers are to be even compared, in point of moral turpitude, with the convicts, or whatever they call themselves, of Kororadica, for their faults are exceeding venial when compared with the crimes of such villains; but by teaching the New Zealanders to drink, and encouraging their women to lead a life of infamy, the example they set is equally pernicious in its effect upon their minds; with this excuse, if an excuse can be alleged, that the faults of the sailors are more the result of that hilarity and thoughtlessness peculiar to those, the principal portion of whose lives is passed in a constant succession of hardship, and whose time for pleasure or recreation is necessarily brief; but the crimes of the convicts are of a far deeper die, and arise from a settled principle of brutality and baseness, inherent in some, familiar to all of them: they are men whose minds are sunk to the lowest grade of vileness.
I was greatly amused with an observation which occurs in a recent publication, stating that "to the crews of the whalers we are indebted for having, in a manner, civilized the hardy islanders!" It is, indeed, "in a manner," but not quite the right one.
If proper means were adopted to reclaim the New Zealanders, a point under existing circumstances not very easy to accomplish, we have no reason to doubt of their becoming eventually a people of some consideration, as the country possesses advantages which ought to enable them to hold a respectable situation among the nations of the earth: it has materials for building ships, a salubrious climate, a fertile soil, and the coasts swarm with fish; and, finally, the three islands contain an area of nearly 100,000 square miles, which is more than equal to that of Great Britain.
Whether the missionaries have conferred a benefit on the islanders or not, with respect to intellectual attainments, I will not venture to affirm or deny; there being so many different sentiments upon this subject, I would rather decline giving an opinion. They have a neat, and rather pretty little village; and I understand a good many children are taught to read and write, which can scarcely be of equal utility with some of the handicraft trades.
One thing is quite certain, namely, that no adult native has hitherto been converted, which may possibly arise from the circumstance of the missionaries "trying," as Kotzebue remarks, "to make christians of them before they make them men." More than one New Zealander has demanded a musket, or blanket, for listening to a missionary, and declined to attend because refused a reward. This reminds me of the Coobd in Anastasius, who chose to become a catholic while rice was distributed, but when the supply ceased, cried out "no pilaff, no pope!"
There are about 150 Europeans in the islands, including children, (the missionaries in particular have large families), and some of them have purchased land of the chiefs, with the view of cultivating flax, and of supplying shipping with provisions, spars, and plank. It has been supposed that the flax is not adapted for cordage, as the rope is very liable to unlay, and is easily broken; but it will be useful for many other purposes: indeed, many persons are of opinion, that the flax brought to this country had not been properly prepared, and that it will eventually be found to answer perfectly well.
In the above brief and desultory observations I have referred to no work of any kind, for, as I have already stated, it was not my intention to give a regular description of New Zealand, but simply to notice it as connected with the Australian Colony.
ABORIGINES OF AUSTRALIA—OBSERVATION ON THEM BY DAMPIER—EXTRAORDINARY INSTANCES OF DELUSION—CRUEL TREATMENT OF A SHEPHERD BY A TRIBE—UNFEELING CONDUCT OF THE WHITES—CUSTOMS OF THE WOLLOMBI NATIVES—SUPERSTITIOUS IMPRESSIONS—WARS—NATIVES AT MORETON BAY—COWARRWEL BLACKS—THE KABARRAH—WEAPONS—DIFFICULTY OF RECLAIMING THE NATIVES—SAID TO BE CANNIBALS—THEIR LANGUAGE—ANIMALS OF NEW HOLLAND—WONDERFUL TENACITY OF LIFE DISPLAYED BY THE NATIVE DOG—VARIOUS KINDS OF THE KANGAROO—REPTILES, BIRDS, INSECTS, VEGETATION—RAPIDITY OF THE GROWTH OF TREES—CLIMATE—HOT WINDS—DESTRUCTIVE FIRES—DROUGHT.
The aborigines of New Holland are a singular race, and very different from the savages of the other South Sea Islands; and as little is known in England of their habits or customs, the reader may possibly derive some information from the following observations.
Their hair is not woolly, nor is it always frizzled, for I have seen it long and straight; the nose is flat, the nostrils expanded, the lips thick, and mouth wide. They are of good height, and with the exception of their limbs being somewhat too slender, they are sufficiently well formed. In some, the complexion is black as that of the negro; in others it approaches nearer to that of a mulatto.
As their habits are migratory, so are their habitations temporary, being constructed of pieces of bark, or branches of trees, wherewith an oven-shaped hut is made, six or eight feet in diameter, and of about the same height: in this they repose in a sitting posture with their knees against the chin.
Natural deformity is very rarely met with, and most of them retain their teeth, in all their perfection to the last.
Of those on the north-west coast Dampier remarks: "The inhabitants of this country are the most miserable people in the world; the Hottentots compared with them are gentlemen! They have no houses, animals, nor poultry; their persons are tall, straight bodied, thin, with long limbs; they have great heads, round foreheads, and great brows; their eyelids are always half closed to keep the flies out of their eyes, (for they are so troublesome here that no fanning will keep them from one's face,) so that, from their infancy, they never open their eyes as some people do, and therefore they cannot see far unless they hold up their heads, as if they were looking at something over them. They have great bottle-noses, full lips, wide mouths; the two fore-teeth of the upper-jaw are wanting in all of them; neither have they any beard. Their hair is short, black, and curled; and their skins coal-black, like that of the negroes in Africa. Their only food is fish; they consequently search for them at low water, making little weirs or dams, with stones, across the coves of the sea. They have neither boats nor canoes!"
This is not a very flattering portrait, but it seems to be correct; it does not however apply to those in New South Wales, at least so far as regards the flies.
At Swan River, the natives (they have already been noticed) are extremely inimical to the Europeans, and have murdered several persons, besides destroying a greater number of sheep. When I was there soon, after the formation of the settlement, we found them friendly and quiet, nor did I hear of a single act of aggression on their part; the only way therefore of accounting for the bad feeling which now exists between them and the settlers, is by supposing they must have been ill-used, or that some misunderstanding has taken place. Of their customs not much appeared to be known; one however is singular, as it prevails on the east coast upwards of 2,000 miles distant. They invariably destroy an individual of a neighbouring tribe whenever one of their own tribe has paid the debt of nature! This has been absurdly attributed to the circumstance of Providence having decreed the final destruction or extinction of all the people in this part of New Holland; as if we have any right to suppose Providence capable of an act of such absolute supererogation as that of creating a race of human beings merely to destroy them.* Those I saw were naked, and, some of them, painted; and their disfiguring themselves by thrusting a bone through the septum of the nose, and adorning their heads with feathers, is a practice which I understand prevails along the whole western coast: on the eastern it is very common.
[* When any friend of the Pampas Indians dies before he has reached the natural term of life (which is unusual) they believe that some enemy has prevailed upon the evil spirit to kill him, and assemble to determine who this enemy can be. They then denounce war against the supposed culprit.]
There is no particular difference between the natives of that part of New Holland south of Swan River on the West, and of Shoal Haven on the east coast; their arms are much the same, though there appears some distinction in their tomahawks and knives, if they can be so termed. These will be noticed in their proper place.
At Shoal Haven River there occurred, some years since, so curious an instance of superstition, that it may be worthy of mention. Three natives persuaded a convict servant to accompany them in search of cedar, an ornamental and useful wood that is found in this part of the country. The man, naturally expecting no treachery was intended, as he, in common with others, had been accustomed to such expeditions, set off with them without hesitation—for the blacks, being much better acquainted with the localities, save both time and trouble to those who have occasion to penetrate into the "bush." The guides, watching a favourable opportunity, pushed him over a precipice, and he was killed upon the spot. One of them then cut out his tongue, and ate it, in the supposition that as he had eaten the tongue of a white man, he would in consequence be enabled to speak English! I readily grant this is somewhat marvellous; but there is not the smallest reason to doubt the word of the gentleman who related the circumstance to me. He added, that the body was subsequently found, and one of the blacks described the cause and manner of the murder.**
[** According to Marco Polo the Tartars had a
custom, that when a stranger of good appearance happened to lodge
with them, they used to kill him in the night, believing that the
good qualities of the murdered person would afterwards devolve to
the inhabitants of the house!
It is, I suppose, to this custom that Butler alludes when he says
"A wild Tartar, when he spies
A man that's handsome, valiant, wise;
If he can kill him, thinks t'inherit
His wit, his beauty, and his spirit."]
At certain times of the year, numerous blacks are seen at and in the neighbourhood of Sydney, who are the most wretched in appearance of any I have met with; nor will this excite surprise, when it is considered that they learn to drink, and also to become idle, depending entirely upon the charity of the whites for food, and neglecting during their stay among them, all those active habits to which they have been accustomed. These people are never permitted to enter the town unless clothed.
During my excursion to Lake George, I saw very few natives; there was no marked distinction between them and those scattered over the other parts of the colony.
Every one must be aware that savages, when depending upon the chase for subsistence, sometimes suffer greatly from famine, and in consequence do not hesitate to destroy their newborn children; but this is an act of necessity, and if done by the New Hollanders, is done by them in common with others. I was told that the natives about Lake George were in the habit of having recourse to this horrible practice. They have also a custom so extraordinary that I should have hesitated to mention it, if it had not been related to me by a gentleman well acquainted with them. He said he had seen them bleed themselves with a bit of flint or a shell, and allow the blood to flow into a sort of dish made of bark; the latter was then placed upon the warm embers, until its contents were somewhat dried: the blood was then eaten! If this was not borrowing from Peter to pay Paul, I know not what is. May not this strange practice be some superstitious ceremony?
I heard also that the native women, both in this part of the colony, and elsewhere, sometimes put their children to death, in order that they may be enabled to suckle the whelps of the dogs, by which they are invariably accompanied. This idea is so monstrous that I do not believe it; but that they do frequently suckle the whelps is well known to be the case.
Near Bathurst I fell in with from 100 to 200 natives, who appeared to be on excellent terms with the colonists; but some serious disturbances had taken place a few years before, when many of them were killed. Discovering afterwards that it was in vain to contend with their antagonists they became quiet, and have remained so ever since.
The following is a specimen of their native language, and my reason for inserting it is, its being the best specimen of a native idiom that I was able to procure. The words are spelt as nearly as possible according to the pronunciation—
|Toontoo||Black Swan.||Woąmboambang||Wild Duck.|
While in the Bathurst country, I witnessed a Corrobborey, or meeting between two hostile parties,* and for some time entertained an idea that they were only amusing themselves; in fact, after all their trouble, it was not very evident which party got the best, though it was quite so that two individuals got the worst of it, one of them having his head broken, and the other his leg.
[* A Corrobborey, however, does not always imply a hostile meeting.]
The disputants afterwards separated, and returned to their respective districts, with as much unconcern (the wounded of course excepted) as if nothing had happened.
If thickness of skull would enable a person to bear a large quantity of liquor, these aborigines might out-do the toper of yore, who directed that it might be inscribed upon his tomb what an enormous portion of wine he could swallow; but the maudlin native of New Holland becomes intoxicated by a vulgar beverage made in the most simple manner possible. A bag, in which sugar has been imported from the Mauritius, and made of the leaves of a particular kind of tree that grows in the island, is steeped in water, by which means all the saccharine matter is extracted, forming a decoction of sugar, (there is no reason for supposing the bag itself has any effect on the beverage,) and with this simple drink the native soon becomes in that state in which men like to be who love their wine.
This however general it may be at and about Sydney, is not so throughout the colony; for I neither saw, nor heard, that the natives at Lake George, Bathurst, and in other parts of the interior, were addicted to inebriation. This may possibly arise from their not having the opportunity, as I have never met with an uncivilized people who would not indulge, if any intoxicating drink were placed in their way.
It was during my rambles from the Wollombi to Liverpool Plains that I saw more of the natives than in all my excursions; and certainly what I did see of them by no means inspired me with a very high opinion of their intellect or general habits. Speaking of them collectively, it must be confessed I entertain very little more respect for the aborigines of New Holland, than for the ourang-outang; in fact, I can discover no great difference. In comparing them, however, with this animal, I make the similitude only in so far as their general habits are considered; and in selecting the Simia Troglodytes, I cannot think an injustice is done them; at least if we are to believe Buffon, who affirms that he saw one so trained, or rather educated (which, as far as my recollection carries me, was his expression), that he would use a knife and fork, or napkin; take wine with a person, and, when invited to take tea, would bring a cup and saucer, put in sugar, pour out the tea, and allow it to cool before he drank it; in short, he is stated to have conducted himself at table with as much propriety as any individual of the genus Homo! If this be true, it would certainly have put to the blush the whole race of New Hollanders, for he says (Buffon, not the ourang-outang) that the above mentioned individual was likewise very cleanly in its habits. Now those of the natives of this country are filthy beyond conception, especially in their mode of eating. They take, for example, an opossum, deprive the creature of its fur, and then, when just warmed over a fire, tear it to pieces and devour it, in very nearly a raw state, giving the entrails to their wives. There is something peculiarly disgusting in observing them while eating, nevertheless I could not refrain from laughing when I thought of the contrast between them, and a fat citizen while swallowing his turtle. The ourang-outang is represented to be of a grave appearance, and melancholy disposition, disinclined to frolic even when young. This is not exactly the case with the New Hollanders; but the former is certainly a "mere animal," and Lord Monboddo says that man in "a state of nature" is nothing more! The comparison, therefore, between Homo and Simia is, in this instance, clearly in favour of the former.
We found the Wollombi natives very friendly towards us, but they seemed to have taken a much greater liking to some swine belonging to the gentlemen with whom I was staying; of these they slew several, and were bearing them off in triumph, when to their extreme dissatisfaction, not to say dismay, the superintendant made all possible haste in pursuit with his establishment of dogs. One of these sable stealers of pork was driven into a tree, and another was fairly run down and brought to bay, crying out all the time in a most unbecoming manner; an evident proof that he did not belong to the sect of the stoics. The superintendant took great care that the dogs did them no injury, his object being only to frighten the depredators; and, having recaptured his pigs and secured the spolia opina in the shape of two spears, he wisely retired; his retreat being perhaps accelerated by the warlike appearance of the tribe, who began to brandish their arms, and to show symptoms of a sudden enlargement of their "organs of destructiveness."
A neighbouring tribe killed, in 1830, more than 100 sheep belonging to a settler who has a farm near Wollombi; they then bound the shepherd hand and foot, left him upon an ant's nest (a bed that Guatimozin himself would not have envied him), and then departed. The man was rescued before he had sustained any injury, and most fortunately for him, for these ants sting and bite in a way that would astonish any one, as I know from experience, having twice suffered from their attacks, to my great annoyance, for many days afterwards. The large black ant can cause a pain inmost as acute as that of a wasp! A party of soldiers, or dismounted police, were sent after the offenders, of whom they killed several.
In case of any serious affray with the blacks, it really would appear to be the most judicious plan, to make upon them at once, a strong impression; for if only one or two be killed, the sole effect is to instigate them to revenge their companions, whereby a series of murders on both sides is the consequence! At the same time actual necessity alone can justify the destruction of these poor creatures; nor should the trifling circumstance of stealing a pig, or a sheep, be admitted as an excuse. But on the other hand, they should not be permitted to harrass the settlers with impunity: we have taken possession of their country, and are determined to keep it; if, therefore, they destroy the settlers or their property, they must expect that the law of retaliation will be put in force, and that reprisals will be committed upon themselves. This has rarely been the case, as they have been wantonly butchered; and some of the Christian (?) whites consider it a pastime to go out and shoot them. I questioned a person from Port Stephens concerning the disputes with the aborigines of that part of the colony, and asked him, if he, or any of his companions, had ever come into collision with them, as I had heard there prevailed much enmity between the latter and the people belonging to the establishment? His answer was, "Oh we used to shoot them like fun!" It would have been a satisfaction to have seen such a heartless ruffian in an archery ground with about a score of expert archers at a fair distance from him, if only to witness how well he would personify the representations of St. Sebastian. This man was a shrewd mechanic, and had been some years at Port Stephens: if such people consider the life of a black of so little value, how is it to be wondered at, if the convicts entertain the same opinion? It is to be hoped that the practice of shooting them is at an end, but they are still subjected to annoyance from the stock-keepers, who take their women and do them various injuries besides.
Some of the customs of those near the Wollombi are brutal in the most extensive sense of the word! One of their dances commenced by great adorning of their heads with feathers, etc., after which they formed a circle round four women, and then began dancing. The women were on their knees, and threw their heads about as if knocking them against the ground; at intervals they threw up their heels, like an animal when kicking, the whole party, at the same time, yelling in concert in the most hideous manner imaginable, and with as much regularity as if a master had been at hand to direct them. After this had continued some time, the women raised themselves on their hands and feet, the men still dancing round them, and accompanying their movements by the most libidinous gestures! The remainder of the dance was far too disgusting to bear a description. Few of the feelings, which are so commonly shown by other nations towards their kindred, seem to exist among these savages: fathers and sons frequently fight and the latter often deprive the former of their gins,* (not their own mothers,) and other property. All the tribes procure their wives by treachery, and always from some other tribe: on these occasions the unhappy woman is often most dreadfully beaten.
[* These are not the gin, jin, or genii of the Mahometans, but the wives of the New Hollanders.]
Amongst many superstitious notions is a great dislike to being called by the same name as a person who is dead; nor do they even like to hear the name of a dead man mentioned, as they believe he will rise and lay hold of them: they have moreover no taste for graves, not liking at all to approach one, particularly at night!
In an affray that took place on the Wollombi between two tribes, four men and two women of the Comleroy tribe were slain; they were buried at a very pretty spot in the following manner. The bodies of the men were placed on their backs in the form of a cross, head to head, each bound to a pole by bandages round the neck, middle, knees, and ancles, the pole being behind the body; the two women had their knees bent up and tied to the neck, while their hands were bound to their knees; they were then placed so as to have their faces downwards: in fact, they were literally packed up in two heaps of earth, each of the form of a cone, about three feet high, and rather removed from the cross; for their idea of the inferiority of the women will not allow them to be interred with the men. The neatness and precision observed with respect to the cross and cones is very remarkable, both being raised to the same height and so smoothly raked down, that it would puzzle the nicest observer to discover the slightest inequality in the form. The trees for some distance around, to the height of fifteen or twenty feet, are carved over with grotesque figured meant to represent kangaroos, emus, opossums, snakes, etc., with rude representations also of the different weapons they use. Round the cross they made a circle, about thirty feet in diameter, from which all rubbish was carefully removed, another was made outside the first, so as to leave a narrow interval between them: within this interval were laid pieces of bark, each piece touching the rest, in the same way that tiles do. The devil, they say, will not leap over the bark, and cannot walk under it!
Such evident pains and labour to make a place of sepulture, struck me as being not a little extraordinary in a people so very indifferent about most other matters; but I could discover no satisfactory reason why such care had been taken of these members of their tribe. They said it was the way in which they usually buried their dead, but this practice is by no means common. Four waddies (clubs) were stuck into the earth in the centre of the cross; and these they informed me were left in order that the deceased might have some arms, "when they jump again," so as to be enabled to drive away the devil, and prevent him from taking them again into the earth!
It would appear from this that they have some idea of a future state; but it is difficult to believe all that is said by those who have conversed with them respecting this point. Several creditable persons have informed me that the natives imagine they will be happier in a future state than at present, as they are to "jump up" white men, and to possess all the comforts which they see us enjoy, with plenty to eat and drink, and eternal sunshine to keep them warm! If this be true, their theological ideas must be of recent formation, or have experienced some sudden change.
I have somewhere read of four convicts who escaped from Sydney in 1790, and were found four or five years afterwards at Port Stephens, having lived in the interim with the aborigines. The account stated that the convicts spoke in high terms of their pacific and gentle manners.
It is remarkable that these people believed the whites were some of their ancestors who had fallen in battle, and returned from the sea to revisit them; in consequence of this they held them in high respect.
One native was convinced that he had identified his father in the person of one of the runaways, and conducted the man to the spot where the body of his parent had been burnt.
When informed that great numbers of people existed in other parts of the world, they said they must be the spirits of their countrymen, which, after death, had migrated to other climes.
Having once asked a "wild man" why they so much dreaded the devil—devil (as they term him) and the place to which he would convey them? His answer was—"Because he would carry them to a very cold place, where they would never see the sun, and be detained in a state of hunger and cold, from whence there would be no release." **
[** Mahomet also taught that the wicked, when in hell, would be tormented by intense heat and extreme cold.]
If they really acknowledge a Supreme Being, a point never ascertained, it is not unlikely they may entertain notions concerning him similar to those prevalent among the negroes on the coast of Africa, who do not fear the Almighty, because, being perfectly good, and from his nature beneficent, he is by consequence averse to inflict an injury; but are in no little dread of the devil, as they believe him to be naturally malevolent, and inclined to harm them. For this reason they think it requisite to propitiate him by sacrifices. A multitude of instances might be adduced of the awe in which uncivilized nations stand of the devil; the following, however, will suffice:—The Hottentots offered sacrifice to a malignant deity in order to soften his temper, or assuage his wrath; but not to the good, as they are of opinion he never does mischief. In the Friendly Islands the natives try more to conciliate the evil genius, as he is supposed to inflict diseases. Some of the Kurds, or Koords, likewise worship Satan (or the evil principle). The Americans were persuaded that their good deities, prompted by the natural benevolence of their nature, would bestow every blessing in their power without solicitation or acknowledgement, and their only anxiety was to soothe and deprecate the anger of the powers whom they regarded as the enemies of mankind. The New Zealanders, too, dread an evil being, without concerning themselves about a beneficent deity.
Even Luther himself, not possessing the boldness of the saint of yore, feared his infernal majesty, and thought he caused thunder! Of whatever description the superstitions of the New Hollanders may be, they can hardly be more contemptible than those of other nations.
The women have nothing very irresistible either in their aspect or appearance; those with whom I met being far inferior to the young Africans. Nor have they yet adopted the ingenious method of carrying their children so commonly employed in Africa. I allude to the use of the kankey, a bundle secured behind, and beneath the garment; upon this sits the infant, with its arms round the mother. When the seat is vacant, although somewhat considerable in its dimensions, and perhaps rather ultra-fashionable, it strongly reminds one of a certain addition to the costume of our modern belles, which shall be nameless, but which will readily occur to the reader. Indeed, there can be little doubt that the European fair have adopted the suggestion from their dark-visaged sisters; and we may expect, ere long, to see our countrywomen combine the useful with the ornamental, and our rising generation taking the air ą la kankey! The only ornament that I procured was a string of kangaroo teeth worn round the head, these people resembling in this respect the Natives of Fernando Po, in which magnificent island the men pay more attention to the embellishment of their sable bodies than the women. This is not the only particular in which they resemble the islanders; their mode of painting themselves is similar. At Fernando Po several kinds of clay were used, some of the men having their eyebrows painted white, the cheeks yellow, the upper lip red; many were striped from head to foot, some before, others behind, and a most hideous effect it had. Now although the colour used by the Wollombi tribes was principally white alone, they were painted much after the same manner. Their spears, too, were made exactly like some I brought from the African island. The most striking similarity between them is, that both employ the same monstrous plan of disfiguring the body by frightful vesicles and scars.*
[* A practice common also among the Eboe people of Western Africa.]
The blacks of Gammon Plains wear short beards, which seems an arbitrary custom, some wearing them, and others plucking out the hair by the roots. The men and children generally go quite naked; and such is the case with most of the New Hollanders; their women, however usually have kangaroo or opossum skins thrown loosely about them, as have also the men in cold weather; indeed, they sometimes make kangaroo cloaks with no little neatness.
When about to fight, the contending parties, except where treachery is employed (which I believe does not very often occur), encamp opposite each other. At the dawn of the following day two young men, one from each side, advance in front of their respective friends, and, after using the most opprobrious epithets to each other, mutually throw a spear, and then retire to procure others, which are thrown in the same manner. If neither is wounded, they then commence a battle with the club, using sometimes an elaman, or shield, made of wood; while the women, particularly those advanced in years, who are probably more crabbed than the younger ones, excite them to the utmost. When one is worsted, another advances to succour him, and others to aid his adversary, until a general mélée takes place, and broken heads, and sometimes bad spear wounds, are the result; but the latter do not occur so often as might be expected. The conquered are allowed to depart without molestation; and they will even frequently join the victors, so that a person would not know that there had been any animosity between them. There is certainly more talking than fighting in their battles, and it is, therefore, to be hoped they will some day send over a few of their people as missionaries, to convince civilized nations that it is far worse to cut the throat of a man while alive, than to eat his body when dead!
I was greatly disappointed at not falling in with a tribe on Liverpool Plains; the stock-keepers informed me that they had gone to war against the Never-never-blacks, who are so called because they have hitherto kept aloof from the whites.
The natives on the Hunter resemble their neighbours in every respect. In common with all those tribes with which we are acquainted, they make excellent guides, when well treated; but when hard pressed, which is sometimes the fact, when accompanying persons on horseback, who forget that a horse at a good walk goes much faster than is convenient for a man on foot, they turn sulky, and avail themselves of the first opportunity to give their employers the slip.
On my arrival at Newcastle a tribe had just come in from punishing a man for some crime; this is done by throwing a certain number of spears at him, which he wards off, if he can, with his shield; should he fail, he is pretty certain of receiving an ugly wound or two.**
[** In Africa, Bosman saw a negro punished in a similar manner.]
Of tattooing I met with very little, but frequently observed the skin much scarred, and also raised in blisters or vesicles.
The natives of Moreton Bay, although of the same race as those near Sydney, differ in language, and in many of their customs, especially in not being, as it is termed, civilized; in other words, they have not yet picked up a little bad English, learnt to get drunk, smoke tobacco, or any of the vices so prevalent among the whites. (This definition of civilization will apply equally to the New Zealanders.)
It has been asserted that it is unsafe to go among them; they have certainly murdered an officer and several other persons; but if the real truth were known, it would, in all probability, be found that the blacks here, like those in other parts of the world, have been the injured party, and simply retaliated upon their persecutors some of the numberless wrongs experienced at their hands.
In point of appearance these people are greatly superior to those in the neighbourhood of the capital, being more robust, manly, as well as healthy looking; in respect, however, to the expression of their countenances, they do not surpass the other New Hollanders. They all go without clothing. The men of each tribe are tattooed in a peculiar manner; this, in some instances, is neatly enough executed; in others it consists solely in making a number of horrid scars, or raising the skin in blisters.
The tribes commonly consist of from thirty to fifty men, women and children, each having its own particular boundaries, which are seldom passed, except at the "corroberies," held about the period of the fall moon. At this time several collect together, not unlikely from superstitious motives, though principally for the purposes of amusement. The meeting at an end, they return to their respective hunting or fishing grounds, to pass which, at any other time, is considered an act of aggression, or a signal for war.
Those bush-rangers, who have lived longest with them, say their wars are of rare occurrence, short duration, seldom attended with loss of life, and, for the most part, mere sudden ebullitions of passion, evaporating in empty threats; or, at most, a few spears are thrown, and some of their adversaries wounded. Both parties then find it convenient to return to their respective territories, and think no more of the matter. Although each tribe is limited to its peculiar district, within that tract of country they are far from confining themselves to one spot, as, independent of being compelled to move from one place to another in order to obtain subsistance, a settled residence does not suit their disposition.
Their grounds usually include a square of twenty or thirty miles, within which they change their stations according as the season may answer for catching fish at the different places; their food also consists of kangaroos, opossums, guanas, snakes and a species of worm.
While the natives on the coast subsist chiefly on fish, those in the interior are more expert at catching the various animals of the forest; but the root of the fern, called Bungwhaul, is eaten by them generally.
The mode employed by the New Zealanders to prepare it is the following; the fern, being first roasted, is beaten on a stone with a piece of wood, until soft like dough; when cold again, it attains the solidity of gingerbread. The Moreton Bay blacks have most probably adopted the same method.
The task of procuring and preparing the Bungwhaul devolves entirely upon the women, who also make all the nets, and are loaded during their journies, with children, bark for their huts or canoes, and even dogs, while the men walk along, with all the consequence imaginable, at most with a spear or fishing-net in their hand. This is not the only hardship the poor women endure, for their ungallant lords are extremely passionate, and often beat and cut them in a most shocking manner.
When on the move, if they do not intend to remain beyond a day or two at a place, they have no covering save the canopy of heaven; but when at a good fishing station, where their stay is likely to be prolonged, a sort of hut is constructed with small branches, or the bark of trees, which will keep out the rain: a fire is then lighted in front, so that the inmates contrive to keep themselves tolerably warm.
Sixty or seventy miles to the northward of the bay, their huts are far superior to those met with elsewhere in this colony, the customs changing, in some respects, even in that short distance. As a proof of this, all the runaway convicts who have been there, declare positively that the natives are cannibals; now they are decidedly not so immediately around this settlement, nor to the southward of it. One of the most curious of their customs is that of preserving the bones, skin, or other parts of their deceased friends, which they frequently carry about with them. One officer procured a complete skin, and another a child's foot in perfect preservation.
On the arrival of Europeans in this part of New Holland, the natives were acknowledged to be a harmless, inoffensive race of people, and for the first two or three years they continued on the best terms with the colonists. Subsequently, however, quarrels arose through their ignorance of our laws relative to the right of property; for having been taught to eat com, to which they soon become extremely partial, they shortly began to take it without waiting for permission, doubtless concluding there was no harm in doing so. Hence arose a succession of disputes, which furnished those employed to watch the corn, with a pretext for shooting them. Of this the government appears to have been ignorant, as was also Captain L—, whom they murdered.
A most convincing proof of their not being naturally inimical to those by whom they are not maltreated, is the fact, that convicts who have escaped and lived among them, except in having their clothes taken away, experienced great kindness.
Our astonishment and indignation are excited when these unhappy people now and then put to death an unarmed white who may chance to fall in their way, because we do not reflect that they act according to their own sense of right and wrong. Can it be supposed they will submit to the atrocious treatment they meet with at the hands of the soldiers, constables looking for bush-rangers, persons going up and down the river in boats, and convicts, without indulging in some measure that feeling, so strongly implanted in the human mind, which prompts the oppressed to turn upon the oppressors, and avenge upon them some of the multiplied evils by which their already sufficiently wretched existence has been embittered?
It would be absurd to imagine they will; and so long as we persist in annoying them, so long may we expect them to avail themselves of every opportunity to requite the iniquitous conduct of those by whom they are injured.
The reader may easily conceive what kind of usage they must experience from doubly convicted felons,* when persons of comparative respectability can fire at them for their diversion, and feel gratified with their day's amusement; and when instead of giving them a piece of bread, a few potatoes, or a little sugar and water, for their hatchets, efc., they take them by force, justifying themselves with the plea that the owners are only blacks.
[* He will recollect that Moreton Bay is a penal settlement.]
Upon one occasion all the dogs were set at them, not on account of any act of violence on their part, but because a tribe, a hundred miles from the settlement, had murdered a soldier.
It was in consequence of all this that during two years they were never seen in the neighbourhood, unless accidentally, that is to say the tribes previously on friendly footing with the colonists; but those in the interior were inclined to be sufficiently familiar, and, it must be admitted, were at times both annoying and troublesome.
Not long since, when Captain C— was nearly a hundred miles to the northward, he gave the natives all kinds of presents, notwithstanding which they ran off, during his absence from the tent, with an axe. They are certainly great thieves, and will often steal blankets, and other articles under similar circumstances.
The tribe of that tract of country, where the pilot resides, once burnt his house, besides killing a soldier and a convict, independently of their having attacked people by throwing spears at them, for which it is not very evident they had any adequate cause; but it is so easy matter to determine this point, as only one side of the story is heard. If the aborigines were able to tell theirs, it would not improbably be very different. There is often great difficulty in acting justly towards them, protecting at the same time the lives or property of the whites, it being impossible to discover those who commit depredations, if once permitted to escape; unless therefore by firing at the instant, there is no way of punishing them.
During the time they were at variance with our people, no one could with safety go unarmed where there was a liability of falling in with them; but there was no instance of their offering any resistance of consequence to a person when armed. An officer frightened a whole tribe by presenting a bottle; and it is believed that two men with muskets would beat off all the natives in this part of the country.
Through the judicious and humane conduct of the present commandant a reconciliation was effected, and the "wild men" are once more on the best terms with the colonists. The tribes with which they have most communication is that in the immediate vicinity of Moreton Bay, and another residing chiefly upon the islands in it, and on the coast where the pilot lives. The former are almost constantly at the agricultural establishment, where they pass most of their time among the soldiers, who give them sweet potatoes in return for squirrels, parrots, etc., etc., and they occasionally receive tomahawks for catching convicts. As they find it their interest to proceed in this way, and as any one who ill-uses them is certain to be punished, we may look for a continuance of the friendly feeling which now exists.
With the exception of the animals indigenous to their country, they will not touch animal food, nor will they taste spirits; but they are fond of maize, sweet potatoes, sugar and water, and bread. The last they call "Five Island," because three shipwrecked sailors who were driven on shore in a boat gave them some biscuit and asked them the way to Five Islands or Illawarra.
They greatly prize an iron tomahawk, or a blanket, though they apparently make little use of the latter, if one may judge from their stealing a cloak and tearing the red lining into strips with which they adorn their heads.
They also like to have their hair cut and beards shaved by an European, as they perform the operation themselves with a burning sticky an article carded with them on all their journies, it being a tedious affair to obtain fire if once extinguished, for they are then compelled to rub two sticks together until they ignite.
Amongst their customs is that of changing names with any person with whom they wish to become particularly friendly; therefore there are numerous English names among a people who will not speak a word of English! A soldier of the 57th regiment exchanged names with the leading man: in the tribe, and called himself the Duke of York; the native retains the appellation, and will continue to do so until he meets with a new friend, when another exchange will take place.
I believe it has been said of all the New Hollanders, that they have no kind of religion. The remark is certainly applicable to those of Moreton Bay; but they are not the less addicted to superstition, believing as they do that some of the whites are their dead friends returned in that shape, and showing them, accordingly, the greatest kindness and attention. Indeed, wretched as they are, they appear to have some attachments; for when Capt. C. came suddenly upon their women, he never knew them attempt to escape by leaving their children. Although they expected to be murdered or made prisoners, they would run with a child on each shoulder, holding by the mother's hair, and apparently quite secure, although she had no hold of either. This opinion by no means nullifies my previous observation when speaking of the Wollombi tribes, and commenting on the absence among them of feelings of regard for their immediate kindred, although applied generally to the New Hollanders. Women are not the criterions by which we can judge of the sentiments of a people or nation; for every person must be well aware that they invariably display far greater tenderness, especially in regard to their offspring, than men.
While many of the aborigines have several wives, others have only one; this, perhaps, arises from their possessing less influence, or not being leading men. Their women may be considered a species of property, as they perform various menial offices already noticed. The language spoken here is very different from that of the tribes near the capital, and appears to have very few words, the same term being applied to a tree, mast, oar, stick, or any piece of wood; there is also only one word to denote a man when sick or dead, the different signification depending upon the pronunciation.
If they receive a piece of glass it is divided, each breaking his portion into very small fragments; these, after the sharp corners have been rubbed off, are swallowed, while the blacks place themselves in a variety of odd postures, use many strange gestures, look up to heaven, and remark how good it is!
In common with all savages, they possess a good deal of cunning, and very little, if any, care for the future. Their rude canoe, for instance, which costs them some trouble in the construction, when it has conveyed them where they wish to go, is constantly left to be beaten to pieces on the beach; although by being pulled up a few yards it would be placed in security, and ready when required at any subsequent time.
In addition to carrying about portions of their departed friends, they sometimes assemble to dance at their graves: moreover, in common with the Wollombi blacks, they never mention the name of a person deceased; and an individual of one of the tribes, who was called commandant, having died, they now designate the commanding officer by another appellation like all the aborigines of New Holland, they are great mimics; and so expert are they at making signs, that, even without comprehending a word of their language, it is scarcely possible to mistake their meaning.
For the whole of the information concerning the natives of the Moreton Bay districts, I have to thank Capt. Clunie, of the 17th regiment, from whose interesting letters to his colonel I was permitted to extract whatever matter I deemed necessary.
The circumstance of their supposing some of the whites to be their deceased friends returned to life, is worthy of observation; for if the Wollombi tribes really believe they will "jump up white men—" and certainly this was positively asserted to be the fact,—it would shew an intercourse between distant tribes that we could hardly have expected, the distance being not less perhaps than 450 miles!
At Port Macquarrie the natives differ in some respects from those in the other parts of the colony; but in the main there exists no very essential distinction, their general habits being much the same. In the interior they are described as very wild and savage. However, I doubt if much is known concerning them: those near the settlement are on very good terms with the colonists.
The Cowarrwel blacks, whose territories are near the mountains to the westward of Port Macquarrie, have a peculiar mode of acting with regard to their dead; for, instead of interring them in the usual way, they sew the body in bark procured from the tea-tree, which resembles that of the birch, but is softer and much thicker, the layers being far more numerous, and then suspend it from a tree at the height of ten feet from the ground, and close to one of their paths. Each black, in passing, throws a piece of wood beneath the corpse, in the same manner as is observed in New Zealand, and the body is burnt as soon as the pile is large enough. This is a curious circumstance, for, in other respects, no two people can differ more.
On the coast the dead are buried in shallow graves, which are so levelled as not to be visible; and all the grass immediately around is carefully rooted up, though why is not clearly understood. In some parts of Australia, the aborigines dig a grave in the usual form, and then excavate a hole in one side of it, into which the corpse is thrust. The grave itself is then filled with stones and earth, which are well beaten down. This practice is common among the Korannas in Africa, and likewise in Sumatra.
When a native dies, the body is turned over in all directions; an old man then stoops down, and asks the defunct by whom he was killed? The latter being incapable of answering for himself, the hoary knave answers for him, and, pretending that he has his information from the dead man, is sure to mention a person belonging to another tribe. The consequence is a war, when great exertions are made by the friends of the deceased to slay the supposed murderer: This would appear to be precisely the custom which prevails on the west coast, for after all it amounts to the same thing—that is to say, when a man dies, one of another tribe must be slain. Has Providence decreed the extinction of the aborigines on both coasts?
At Port Macquarrie, as elsewhere, fathers fight against their sons, and the latter against their parents; they are also vindictive and treacherous, and never pardon an injury. A man never marries a woman of his own tribe; but that he is obliged to fight for that tribe into which he marries, is, I am convinced, a mistake.
Pugnacity seems to be a prevailing vice throughout this extensive island, for go where you will—north, south, east, west—nothing is heard of but wars; and it is fortunate that these are not so bloody as in Christian and civilized regions, for if this were the case, New Holland would soon be peopled only by whites. Whether, after a victory, they sing a Te Deum or an Io Pęan, I omitted to inquire; in all probability they remain contented with having gained the battle, without wishing to make the higher powers a party in their squabbles.
In some parts of New South Wales they are very careless respecting their sick, and those unable to accompany them on their expeditions. At Port Macquarrie, though at first sufficiently attentive, if the malady be of such a nature that the cure of it is protracted, the sufferers are soon neglected, and often deserted. They are very jealous of their women, and yet (which, by the way, appears a contradiction) will lend them for a bit of bread or some tobacco; but the price must be paid in advance, as they have so often been deceived by the christian savages, that they have now become too cunning to trust them.
In the event of one of their women having a child by a white, it is, if a female, preserved; but if a male, it is put to death without mercy. An anecdote upon this subject was related to me, which tends to prove that this does not arise so much from any inherent principle of inhumanity, as from the idea they entertain, that the offspring of a European "will know too much!" An idea analogous to this prevails amongst some of the people of the Kroo Country, at Cape Palmas; for if a man, while absent at Sierra Leone, or on board a vessel, has learnt to read, he is certain of being poisoned by the priests on his return, as they fear that, with so much knowledge, he will become too great a man among them! Such, too, may be the opinion of the New Hollanders. At Port Macquarrie the blacks eat of every living creature, even the native dog—an animal, in so far as I could ascertain, generally rejected by the other tribes; but they will not eat a snake unless killed by themselves, as they fancy it may have bitten itself, and thereby become poisonous. This feeling is very prevalent in the colony, most of the natives refusing to eat a snake under similar circumstances. Their food is almost always eaten in nearly a raw state, as they say that, if too much done, it would become dry like a waddie.
There is a remarkable ceremony performed, not only in this neighbourhood, but, with some variation, in many parts of New Holland: here it is called kabarrah, and is performed in the following manner:—The summit of an eminence, or low hill, is chosen for the scene of this singular rite; the surface is then carefully cleaned from grass, etc., and the bark of any trees that may be near is carved into rude representations of different animals. After this a fire is lighted in the centre, and the youth who is to be initiated is suspended or held by the heels, while the natives dance round him, uttering loud shouts. A man called the Cragee, or doctor, then bites out the upper front-tooth on the left side, or, if he should fail, it is knocked out. It is not unlikely that the tooth is loosened beforehand, as otherwise the Cragee might be liable to break one of his own teeth instead of that of the lad. After the extraction of the tooth, the youth is supposed to have arrived at the age of manhood, and is then at liberty to steal a woman from another tribe.
No female is permitted to be present at the celebration of these rites, nor may she even approach within several hundred yards of the spot; and any attempt on the part of one to witness the ceremony would be punished by instant death.* The kabarrah always includes several tribes, some of whom come from a distance of eighty or a hundred miles, and probably much farther. As a preliminary to the meeting, two messengers are despatched from each tribe (intending to be present,) and these men, together with the leading men of the Port Macquarrie natives, form a council, by whose authority wars are proclaimed, boundaries settled, and one tribe prevented from interfering with, or encroaching upon another; so that it is natural to suppose that this part of the country is of no small consideration. It is also not unlikely that the tribe may be one of some consequence; otherwise, the natives of the Corborn Comleroy would scarcely travel so far merely to be present at the meeting. While it lasts, all the blacks of the respective districts are on the most friendly terms; but as soon as it is concluded they become extremely shy of each other, and soon separate. The settlers are allowed to be present, but not the convicts, whom they call croppies, of course a word which they have learnt from the whites.
[* A rule that is also strictly observed amongst the Bulloms of Western Africa, who have an institution peculiar to themselves called Purra, resembling, in some measure, our Freemasonry. This forms another curious analogy between the customs of barbarians so distant from each other.]
With respect to losing the teeth, it is evident that the custom varies throughout the island, for Dampier saw many people who had lost both the upper teeth; but they frequently lose, as at Port Macquarrie, only one. Some writers say the women of certain tribes lose an eye; of others, a finger: the first I do not believe, the second I doubt. The unhappy creatures may sometimes lose an eye when carried off by their brutal ravishers, as they are certain of receiving a dreadful beating. Among the numerous natives with whom I have met, not one was mutilated in any way. Assuming that the assertions respecting the loss of a finger be true, the excision may relate to some idea analogous to that of an African tribe. A Bojesman was asked how he lost the joint of a little finger? He replied that his mother, having lost all her previous offspring soon after their birth, had cut off the joint to prevent the like misfortune from happening to him.
Of the mode employed in curing diseases, I know but little, and am induced to think they trust very much to nature. The most ridiculous, not to say disgusting, piece of quackery that came under my observation, was a pretended cure for the head-ache. The wife of the patient took a bowl of water, and then drawing a slip of opossum skin across her gums until they bled, expectorated into the bowl: as soon as she thought there was sufficient blood, she gave the bowl to her husband, who immediately swallowed the contents, which he believed to be an infallible remedy! **
[** The celebrated Boyle was subject to a bleeding at the nose, and is said to have been cured by the application of moss from a dead man's skull! Ought we to be surprised at the remedy employed by the New Hollander?]
The arms of the aborigines consist of the spear, boomerang, and several kinds of waddie. The first is nine or ten feet in length, and about the thickness of one's finger; the point is commonly jagged, or barbed, but not always. It is thrown with considerable exactness to a distance of more than sixty yards, and some say a hundred, which is an exaggeration. It may be thrown that distance, but not with precision. The impetus is greatly increased by the use of the wommora, or throwing-stick (Nos. 9 and 11), a piece of wood about three feet in length, three inches broad at one end, and going off to a point at the other, to which a sort of hook is fastened. This hook being inserted into a small hole at the extremity of the spear, and the wommora grasped close to the broad part of it, the spear itself is brought beneath the middle finger. The wommora acting like a sling, or rather upon the same principle, it may easily be conceived that a powerful man will cause a good spear to fly to an astonishing distance.
The boomerang is of various forms; the most common, however, are those in the plate. This is one of the most curious weapons of war ever invented, at least by a barbarous people; nor is it easy to comprehend by what law of projectiles it is made to take the singular direction that it frequently does. I have seen a native throw one so as to make it go forty or fifty yards horizontally, and not more than three or four feet from the ground; it would then suddenly dart into the air to the height of fifty or sixty yards, describe a very considerable curve, and, finally, fall at his feet! From numerous attempts I am inclined to think those only of a peculiar shape can be made invariably to return—as, for instance, No. 4: the others, although they may often do so, are more designed for throwing straight, and at the legs of the enemy; in which case they are made to go either horizontally or hoop fashion—that is to say, the points or extremities alternately strike the ground. In all cases, no matter how thrown, the boomerang keeps turning with great rapidity, like a piece of wood revolving on a pivot, and with a whizzing noise. It is always made of hard wood, is 30 or 40 inches in length, two-and-a-half to three inches wide at the broadest part, and tapers away at each end nearly to a point. The concave part is from one-eighth to one-fourth of an inch thick, and the convex is quite sharp. It is a dangerous weapon, and should be very cautiously used by those who do not understand it, as no person, save a native, can ever be certain where it will fall.
I have thrown, or rather pretended to throw, a boomerang, formed like No. 4, at an object on the ground, and about ten yards distant. If cleverly managed it would go within a few inches (sometimes two, perhaps three) of the object, and rise, at once, vertically; or otherwise proceed many yards close to the ground, and then ascend; almost invariably describing a long curve, and frequently returning to within three or four yards of my feet. Even if it strikes the ground it will often move along hoop fashion, and then rise to a great height, and return to the thrower! Of course, when thrown in this way, the blacks mean only to amuse themselves; for, when in earnest, they always make it proceed horizontally, or vertically, and in either case it inflicts serious wounds.
Nos. 5 and 6 are made to strike with alone, or perhaps are occasionally thrown; and No. 3 I do not comprehend, being unable to make it go horizontally, or vertically, or any other way, with any exactitude. No. 7 is a formidable weapon used at Port Macquarrie; its length is three feet, and the arm (if it may be so termed) about eighteen inches more; and the reason why it is made of that peculiar shape, is, that the warrior may be enabled to strike round the shield, or elaman, of his adversary.
The waddies, No 12, and nullah-nullahs, are clubs, made, as might naturally be expected, of no small solidity, as they would otherwise make but little impression on the skull of a New Hollander. The tomahawks, Nos. 8 and 10, that they use are very clumsy, but at the same time curious; they are made of a piece of hard stone, fixed sometimes between two sticks, but not unfrequently it is thickly coated, except at the edges, with some kind of gum (probably that of the grass-tree), which in a short time becomes almost as hard as the stone itself. The stick, or handle, seldom more than ten or fifteen inches long, is fixed in the gum, and has the appearance of being let into the stone, but it is not so. With this rude instrument they cut the notches in the trees by which they ascend, and I have no doubt use them in their wars as well. At King George's Sound, a piece of glass or quartz is secured, with the same kind of gum, to the end of the handle of a wommera. This constitutes the rude knife with which they fashion their arms or scrape them smooth.
It is by no means improbable that their wars are caused, for the most part, by the way in which they manage their marriages and funerals; as, in the one case, they commit an act of aggression; in the other, they wish to avenge a supposed murder: in fact, with the exception of an accidental rencontre, in consequence of transgressing, likely-enough unwittingly, upon the hunting grounds of another tribe, I know not what other motive they can have for fighting; they have no religious wars amongst them, nor do they slay each other because of a different way of thinking.
By civilizing them, a stop might, perchance, be put to these eternal quarrels; but more than forty years have elapsed since the country was colonized, and I have not yet heard of an instance of a single native having been reclaimed from barbarism. A chief named Bennilong was sent to England, where he remained for a time, met with every encouragement while there, and, on his return to the colony, was treated with every possible kindness and attention; but notwithstanding he had rooms at Government House, a servant to wait upon him, and, in short, every comfort he could require, his clothes were one day found in the domain, and he had returned to his native forests, in order to resume his old and independent habits! so likewise a girl that was educated at the Orphan School, the moment she was put out to service, escaped into the "bush," and was no more seen! Our wonderment is greatly excited at this, because we do not reflect that it must be equally difficult for them to change their habits as for ourselves; they like to lead a life of independence—we are of a different way of thinking: we laugh at them for disdaining the comforts of life (as we call them), and, they, in return, ridicule our sophisticated and factitious habits.
They are said to be idle, and averse to labour, which I can contradict, having seen them work with quite as much activity as the convicts, particularly in assisting the settlers to get in their harvest; it is, therefore, an act of injustice to say, as many do, that they are incorrigibly lazy. Even taking it for granted that they actually are averse to labour a point I by no means concede, they then only resemble other uncivilized people. The natives of western Africa are called indolent; naturally they may perhaps be so, but so far from this being always the case, I need only instance the Kroomen and Fishmen (they possess the country about Cape Palmas, are neighbours, and also enemies), some of the most hard-working people I have ever met with. The reason is obvious; their love of gain forms an incentive to labour, and this is the cause of exertion with all savage nations whatever: for where there is a motive for shaking off their sloth, they can be just as industrious as the whites.
The New Hollanders, like all the Hunter tribes, wish to be entirely unshackled in their movements (nothing is more natural), and they will, in all likelihood, remain so for a long period to come; for civilization is always of slow, growth, and therefore not likely to advance with rapid strides among savages, whose lives are wandering, precarious, and turbulent, and who delight in liberty and independence.
As to the observation made by many, that the natives are anthropophagi, we have no decided proof of this being true; and although I have questioned a person who declared, in the strongest terms, that he had come suddenly upon a party, and actually seen the remains of their diabolical feast, I am, notwithstanding, not the less inclined to be of opinion that the accounts of their cannibalism are greatly exaggerated, probably utterly false; because, whenever any of them have been killed by the convicts, and others, the latter have invented all sorts of ridiculous tales concerning them, in order that they may be furnished with an excuse for taking away their lives. We are told that a party, while on an expedition into the interior, about three years since, ascertained beyond a doubt that the natives had "killed and eaten two Irishmen, who had gone in search of Timor;" but as the former would not answer any of the questions that were put to them concerning this matter, my incredulity still remains, as I do not comprehend, in consequence, how the truth of the story could be known with any certainty.
With regard to their language, it is pretty certain that each tribe has a dialect more or less different from that of its neighbours—the difference being greater according to the distance the tribes are asunder; and, judging from some of the words, many of the dialects must be very pleasing to the ear. The following have been selected at random:—
|Euroka, the Sun.||Elgowčra, Falls of.|
|Yellina, Ihe Moon.||Warrawollong, Mountain of.|
|Landovčra, Plains of.||Warragong, Range of.|
|Yarralumla, do.||Alianoyonyiga, Mountain of.|
|Bungónia, the Creek of.||Wolowolarre, Hill of.|
|Mandóorama, Ponds of.||Callalia, Rivulet of.|
|Coolaburragundi, Valley of.||Panuara, do.|
|Gurthenangunguna,||Belubula, Creek of.|
|Canningalla,||Nekinda, River of.|
|Ballabba,||Wallarobba, Creek of.|
Those which stand alone are names of places. It will easily be seen, by these words, how numerous are the vowels in the dialects of these people. Some words contain an unusual number; Wooloomooloo, a place near Sydney, is one. Many more could be adduced, but the above will suffice; and it were to be wished that the native names were more generally adopted, instead of the senseless terms so commonly applied. In some instances several places have been called after the same person, whereby no small confusion is often caused to those who are not aware of it. One example alone in each colony will suffice to show to what a ridiculous extent this changing of names is carried. Coolapatambah, the English of which is "where the eagle drinks," is the native name of a mountain no great way from Port Macquarrie; instead of this euphonous and poetic name being retained, that of Mount Cairncross has been substituted; and, in Van Dieman's Land, the Frenchman's Cap, as it was formerly called, has been rebaptised, and is now the Peak of Teneriffe, a term even more absurd than the other; at least, I never was able to discover what the Peak of Teneriffe has to do with Tasmania; nor is it easy to understand why a term should have been chosen from a foreign colony, when a much better might, with so much facility, have been taken from the numberless mountains in the United Kingdom. I fear the reader will think I have been too prolix in my observations on the aborigines, but this could not well be avoided without omitting much interesting matter.
In respect to the small variety of animals, this country resembles America, especially in there being none of the ferocious kind indigenous to it; in fact, I doubt if the variety be near so great; but if we consider only the peculiarities of the different kinds, we shall discover no resemblance whatever between them and those of other regions. Most of the quadrupeds are night animals, and this accounts at once for the silence and solitude of the vast forests that are spread over the island. I have frequently ridden sixty or eighty miles and scarcely met a living creature, which is one reason why few persons like to ride alone in the "bush;" for what can be more cheerless than to travel a whole day through a dreary and desolate forest without seeing an animal of any description save an occasional lizard or snake, or possibly one or two small birds! On a moonlight night, however, some parts of the country literally teem with life, and at this time the traveller may amuse himself with observing the gambols of the squirrels and opossums, or the flight of the larger kind of bat. The native dog (Canis Australis) appears to be the most active, as he is ever on the look out for prey, and he may sometimes be perceived crouched near a herd of cattle, ready to pounce upon a young calf the instant its parent moves from its side. Several have frequently been found together, and there is little doubt of their hunting in packs. One gentleman came unexpectedly upon no less than thirteen; they were devouring a yearling steer, and close by were the remains of a calf, a mare, and the foal of the last, supposed to have been killed by them.
This animal resembles a fox, and the smell is often very nearly the same; in its general appearance it may be considered a breed between the fox and the wolf, larger than the former, smaller than the other. It is about two feet high, and two feet and a half long, with a head like that of the fox, and erect ears. The colour varies, but most of those I saw were of a reddish brown: he howls in a dismal manner, seldom if ever barks, and not unfrequently yelps like the common dog. Whether it is indigenous to New Holland, or introduced from some other country, is not ascertained; but there is little, if any, reason for supposing it to be the Malay dog, as the latter carries his tail curled over his back, and is shorter in the body in proportion to his height.
If I had not witnessed the death of some of the native dogs, and also gained my information from the best sources, I should consider the accounts respecting the tenacity of life shown by these animals to be incredible; and although the following anecdote will very probably cause a smile of incredulity in the reader, he may rest assured that it is perfectly true; for I can vouch for the veracity of my informant, who was actually present when the occurrence took place. He hunted a native dog in the usual way, caught him, and, as he imagined, killed him. He then directed the animal to be skinned, which was accordingly done, the neck and head being left untouched: the carcass was left on the ground. On the return of the gentleman two or three hours afterwards, he had the curiosity to look for the body, that he might see if the eaglehawks had commenced their feast; to his utter astonishment it had disappeared, and he found it had crawled into a hollow log that lay close by the place where the poor brute was skinned. He immediately had the animal dragged out and its throat cut.
I once had five dogs with me, and they caught a large native dog; the little pack did their best to kill him, and my companion and self assisted them to the utmost, by alternately pounding him with a stout piece of wood: when we supposed his soul had winged its flight to other realms (as the rhapsodists say) I deprived him of his tail, intending to keep it as a trophy of my own prowess. To my no small surprise he seemed to be revived by the excision, for he got up again; nor was it without some difficulty that we at last slew him.
The full-grown males seldom make any noise, allowing themselves to be worried without a yelp or whine. One, not much more than half-grown, only howled until the dogs laid hold of him; he then ceased to cry, and young as he was, underwent a considerable deal of thrashing with a stout waddie, before he was killed. Sometimes, when hard put to it, he will feign to be dead, and may then be pulled about with impunity, for in spite of blows and bites he will show no signs of life. This occasionally deceives his enemies, and they quit him; he then marches off, doubtless laughing in his sleeve at their mistake, so that Tribe's plan of making sure, is decidedly the best.
Considerable animosity exists between this animal and the domestic dog; they have nevertheless been known to breed together; but the idea that the former invariably takes out the piece of which he lays hold is an error, nor do his teeth always meet; for I saw one sieze a young mastiff, hold it for some time, and yet not leave a mark. Whether it preys upon its own species I cannot say; it is certain if one is killed, the others will eat him. They hunt by scent, and have been seen in small packs in pursuit of the kangaroo. A settler watched one which was running a kangaroo of some size; when the latter turned round to fight, the dog would leave it; and the moment the kangaroo set off again, its pursuer would keep biting at the hind quarters: this went on until the former was exhausted; at this moment the settler rode up and secured it.
The native dog is found throughout New Holland, but is not known in Van Dieman's Land: its bite is supposed to be mortal to sheep, and a single individual has been known to worry from fifteen to twenty in the course of a night: it also destroys a great number of poultry.
Of kangaroos there are several kinds which vary in size, and in respect to their haunts, or places where they are commonly to be found. The following are the only species I have seen, and the names are those used at Liverpool Plains, and in some other parts of the colony; but each tribe seems to employ different terms; Wallaba, and Paddiemalla, are very commonly employed:—
Cannoor. Large red kangaroo.
Wallaroo. Large black rock kangaroo.
Kangaroo. Common kangaroo.
Wallaba. Dark brown: it is found in brushes. When cooked whole it is rather larger than a jack hare.
Paddiamalla. Frequents blady-grass flats, and nearby hills.
Wirrang.—Bittang. Rock kangaroos. These are small and much alike; but the first is larger than the other.
Kangaroo Rat. It is about the size of a wild rabbit, and lives in hollow logs.
Boomah. Implies a large kangaroo.
Forester. Found in forest land. There appear to me two or three kangaroos called by this name; the largest is not less than four feet high.
Brash. It is of a size between the Wallaba and Forester.
The flesh of this animal is excellent eating, and is usually made into soup, or steamer. It may easily be conceived how rich the former must sometimes be, when I state that we one day killed three kangaroos, each weighing from thirty to forty pounds, and that the hind quarters and tails, the only portions considered worth cooking, were made into soup for four persons: very little water was added, so that it was, in fact, rather gravy than soup. This, however, is wanton waste; and if kangaroos are slaughtered at this rate the race will soon become extinct in the located parts of the colony; even at present it is often difficult to find a kangaroo, where, three years since, fifty or a hundred were seen in one flock.
A steamer consists of pork and kangaroo minced together (the latter being without fat, the pork is substituted), and, when well cooked, is a dish fit for an alderman.
The kangaroo has rarely more than one at a birth, and never exceeds two. Its ordinary spring is from twelve to fifteen feet, but one of them in descending a slope, when pursued, cleared twenty-one paces, or nearly fifteen yards—indeed the distance, if any thing, exceeded that number of yards. From the form of the foot they can jump from a considerable height without injury. This animal can be made perfectly tame in the course of a few days; and I met with an instance of one becoming reconciled to its change of life before the expiration of the third day. It was kept loose in the hut where the convicts lived! and the hut was constantly frequented by the very dogs by which it was caught.
The kangaroo has many enemies, the eaglehawk not being the least formidable.
It has been considered a curious circumstance that the fox, when tamed or in captivity, will be perfectly free from danger, even though kept in a place where there are fox-hounds; but if he were seen running about a field, or coursing over it, by any of the canine race, his life would without doubt fall a sacrifice to his gambols. Now a kangaroo will commonly keep near the house, but may often be observed hopping along with great speed to a distance of some hundred yards; yet neither the dogs that caught it, nor any of the species belonging to the establishment, will attempt to molest. A strange dog, however, could not be trusted.
In hunting the kangaroo, the settlers make use of a breed between the greyhound and some other dog, as also of the former itself; but the mixed breed, or the lurcher, is preferable on account of its superior strength, which enables it to cope with those of ft larger kind, some of which inflict most serious wounds with the claw of the hind foot.
Many persons imagine it impossible that a kangaroo can escape from so fleet an animal as the greyhound; yet we more than once had a run of upwards of a mile, and after all to no purpose; for as soon as it gets among low brush wood, or long wiry grass, the dog has no chance of overtaking the creature, which bounds along in a most extraordinary manner. The longest run I heard of was rather more than two miles; the kangaroo escaped. The flying gin (gin is the native word for woman or female) is a boomah, and will leave behind every description of dog. As a proof of the physical power of the kangaroo, I may instance that a gentleman of some strength, and great activity, was knocked head-over-heels, and had his coat torn from the shoulder to the wrist, by one. It runs badly up an inclined plane.
Some of the dogs used in this kind of hunting, when taught, will show astonishing sagacity, by returning to their master, after having killed an animal, and conducting him to the spot where they have left the quarry.
It may here be observed, that the fox-hounds, which have been introduced into the colony, are most unadvisedly permitted to range alone, and on some occasions have been absent so long as two entire days; a practice evidently contrary to the interest of the settlers themselves; as if any of them were to become wild, a circumstance not at all unlikely to happen, not only would the whole race of kangaroos be destroyed, but the sheep, and even cattle, would suffer in a far greater degree than at present.
The fox-hounds are not the only dogs that will hunt alone, for a gentleman of my acquaintance in Van Dieman's Land had a kind of Newfoundland dog, and a turnspit, which were continually in the habit of hunting when unaccompanied. Their mode of managing was as follows:—The turnspit having the better nose, found the game, and its companion, being superior in speed, pursued it. They were frequently watched while thus employed. But I am digressing.
The Wombat (Phascolomys) was represented to me as precisely resembling that of the other colony. It is rather scarce, and considered excellent fare.
There, is, also, a species of sloth, which I did not see; it appears to have the same habits as the common sloth.
The ornithorynchus paradoxus, called also platypus, duck-bill, or water-mole, is one of the most singular animals in existence, and has given rise to no small discussion amongst naturalists, some of whom believe it to be oviparous, while others say it is viviparous; there are, also, not a few persons who affirm that the creature is both oviparous and mammiferous, laying its eggs and hatching them, and afterwards suckling its young. I shot several females, but found no eggs in them, and am well acquainted with two or three of the settlers who have killed some dozen, without having discovered aught like an egg. The natives declare they are oviparous, and it must be confessed I was once shown the remnants of an egg laid by one, or rather they were said to have been so, which, notwithstanding I doubted strongly, suspecting rather they were once the egg of some bird or reptile. That it suckles its young will admit of little doubt, as the milk may be expressed from the lacteal glands through the skin of the animal: there are no nipples.
The food of this animal consists of shrimps, and animalculę of various kinds. When out in the mornings and evenings in search of these, it may often be seen to rise to the surface, remain there a few minutes, and then sink as quietly as it rose. It is extremely wary, and will disappear at the slightest noise, on which account it is rather difficult to shoot, the more so as its fur is so thick that the shot will not always penetrate. At a distance of not more than twenty-five yards, and although the gun was fired from a bank quite over the animal, some of the shot (number one) had barely perforated the skin, and hardly one had entered the flesh; but its skull was broken. The dimensions of the specimen now before me, a male, are as follows:—
|From the commencement of the beak to the tail||14|
|Length of the beak||2||½|
|Do. of the tail||4||½|
|Breadth of the upper mandible||1||7/12|
|Do. of the tail||2|
|Circumference of the body||11||½|
The lower mandible is little more than half the size of the upper. Of all the mammalia yet known, it seems the most extraordinary in its conformation, exhibiting the perfect resemblance of the bill of a duck engrafted on the head of a quadruped. The body is depressed, and has some resemblance to that of an otter in miniature. It is covered with a very thick, soft, and beaver-like fur. The head is flattish, and rather small; the tail flat, furry like the body, and obtuse. The legs are short, terminating in a broad web; this on the fore feet extends some way beyond the claws, the number on which is five, and they are straight, strong, and sharp-pointed; the two exterior ones being somewhat shorter than the three middle. On the hind feet there are six claws, longer, and more inclining to a curved form than those before; one of these is seated much higher up than the rest, and resembles a strong sharp spur. In fact, to my common apprehension, it appeared to be neither more or legs. The internal edges of the under mandible, are serrated or channelled with numerous strię, as in a duck's bill.
The colour of the back is dark grey, sometimes approaching to black; that of the belly is rather lighter.
The platypus forms a hole in the side of a bank, just above the usual surface of the water; it then burrows almost horizontally to a distance of twenty or thirty feet from the entrance, and always in a zig-zag direction.
It must be borne in mind, that I am noticing the different animals for the information of the general reader, not of the naturalist.
The ornithorynchus hystrix, or porcupine anteater, is totally different from the ornithorynchus paradoxus, nor am I able to discover the slightest similitude between them. The dimensions of a living specimen which I possess are as follows:—
|Length from the origin of the snout||13|
|Do. of the snout||1||½|
Circumference of the body while the quills are not erected
|General length of the longest quills||2|
|Length of the tongue (it is very narrow)||2||½|
|The long claw of the hind foot||2|
|The width of the claw is||0||¼|
The second claw is nearly as long, and the other three much shorter.
On the fore feet they are nearly the same as on those behind.
Its natural food consists of ant eggs, but I feed mine in the same way in which nightingales are fed in England and Germany, that is, with eggs and meat chopped very small. Its mode of eating is very curious, the tongue being used, sometimes, in the manner employed by the chamelion, and at others as a mower uses his scythe; there is an adhesive substance on the tongue which lays hold of the food. From what I have seen of this animal I should suppose it to be, of its size, the strongest quadruped in existence.*
[* The animal alluded to died suddenly a few hours after I had written the above, and not unlikely in consequence of the cold off Cape Horn: its death may also have been caused through my omitting the meat, and confining the creature to a diet of eggs, some of which were very bad. With more care it might have been got safe to England.]
The flying squirrel, often called the flying oppossum, though why I do not comprehend, is the petaurus Australis (Sciurus) of naturalists. It is a beautiful animal, and I had a fine specimen, but it was killed by the dogs.
The flying fox, or vampire bat, is about the size of a rat, and is covered with a soft reddish coloured fur. It is not often seen, and I understand is chiefly found in the "New Country," (Argyle, etc. etc.) I had one 28 inches from tip to tip of the wings.
The bandacoot is somewhat larger than a rat. The oppossum (there are two kinds) is from the size of a kitten to that of a cat, and is greatly coveted, as a delicacy, by the natives, though never eaten by the whites: and there are some other animals for a description of which I must refer the reader to the works of those who are more conversant with the subject than myself. But I may not omit mentioning the flying mouse (dwarf flying phalanger): this beautiful little creature measures from nose to tail rather under three inches; the latter is two inches and a half long; and the width of the body when spread out is nearly two inches. The colour of the fur is rather lighter than that of the common mouse, and the fur itself is much softer.
Reptiles are numerous, though perhaps less so than might have been expected; and they are not spread equally over the colony, being much more common in some parts than in others.
The diamond snake attains the length of fifteen feet, and even more; but one of this size is very rarely seen. The largest I saw killed, measured nine feet and a half; and a gentleman told me he had fired at one which he felt positive was as long as two panels (sixteen feet) of the fence by which he saw it. By some it is said to be poisonous, and by others quite innocuous: and therefore I shall only say, that, if poisonous, it is, as far as I know, the largest snake that is so. The black, and also the brown snake, are both venomous; but they have already been noticed, and I shall therefore make only one remark concerning them, as it appears to me rather curious that these reptiles should prey upon each other, and after such a strange fashion. At a settler's house, where I passed the night, a black snake was killed some few hours before my arrival; on opening it there was found in its stomach the headless body of a brown snake that had been dead a very short time. Now, in the first place, snakes will rarely swallow that which has not life; secondly, two venomous animals when fighting would naturally be expected to destroy each other. Dr. Good says, all snakes have an immunity against each other's bite, except the rattle-snake, which not only kills every other, and even its own kind, but by being so far irritated as to inflict a personal wound, has been known to kill itself. Admitting this immunity exists, still I was not aware before that one poisonous reptile would prey upon another. The black and brown snakes are supposed by many to be male and female; the above circumstance goes some way to prove the contrary.
The death, or deaf adder is an ugly creature, and is considered highly dangerous. A case of death caused by the bite of one was communicated to me by a very respectable person who had the account from the comrade of the deceased;* if it be correct, of which there is sufficient reason to believe there is little doubt, the death of the unfortunate man must have been peculiarly dreadful, as the blood gushed from his eyes, nose, mouth, and ears. Immediate decomposition commenced, and in a very short space of time the body was in such a state that it was with difficulty removed to where the grave had been dug. My informant, who had been twenty-two years in the colony, emphatically added, that when a person is bitten by a death adder he has scarcely time to say, "Lord have mercy upon me!" before he becomes a lifeless corpse. It is not, of course, impossible that there may be some little exaggeration in the above relation, but in justice to the narrator, although myself somewhat incredulous in regard to these matters, it will be as well to mention one or two snakes, whose poison, according to naturalists, is equally, or more virulent. It is affirmed that, in Africa, there are several the bite of which will cause a most horrible death. The person bitten feels drowsy, and the form melts at once into a mass of putrefaction. The burning snake of India can cause instant death, the blood flowing from the eyes, nose, mouth, and ears, and exuding from the pores. An American serpent, called de la crux, is said to kill in the same manner; finally, the bite of the naja is represented to be so fatal, that a person bitten by one will die within the course of half an hour; his flesh falling off his bones in a semi-dissolved state. Granting all this to be the case, I am not less of opinion that people are often unnecessarily afraid of snakes, for the latter are, in all probability, the more alarmed of the two; as, whenever approached, so far from evincing any inclination to attack, they appear anxious to get out of the way with all possible haste.
[* It occurred some years ago.]
The natives have some mode of extracting their fangs, for they have been seen playing with them, and allowing them to entwine round their bodies.
Lizards are numerous, and some attain the length of three or four feet; the most remarkable are the Jew lizard, which has a membrane that it can extend in such a manner as to form a complete ruff round its neck; the capucin, which, I am told, for I never saw one, can erect a membrane so as to form a kind of cap; and at Liverpool Plains, we met with a lizard resembling very much a miniature alligator.**
[** Alligators are common on the north coasts of New Holland.]
It is a remarkable circumstance, that all the dogs in New South Wales show the greatest antipathy to every description of reptile; they will often attack lizards and snakes the instant they descry them. Nor is it less singular to observe their sagacity when assaulting such dangerous enemies as the last, for they rarely get bitten by them.
The birds of New South Wales, though not distinguished by qualities so characteristic as those observed in the other animals, are yet in some respects highly interesting and curious; and the varieties are not only almost endless, but the plumage of many is remarkable for its great beauty and brilliancy of colours. I shall notice very few, and those only familiar to the colonists; as it would afford neither amusement nor instruction to peruse a cursory and superficial description of birds now seen in every museum.
It may naturally be expected that in a region so extensive the feathered tribe will vary according to climate and locality; and such we find is the case; those most noted for their plumage coming from places remote from the capital, particularly from the northward.
The largest and principal is the emu, and it is also one of the most easily tamed, after which it becomes an amusing pet, being as domestic as a dog. From six to eighteen eggs have been found in the same nest, if nest it can be called, though whether laid by one bird or more is uncertain. One portion of this singular bird is considered tolerable eating, being somewhat similar to beef, but it is killed more on account of the oil procured from its fat, which is used for burning, preserving leather (it is thought to do so better than any other), and as a remedy for the rheumatism.
Among some of the natives, no woman is allowed to eat of the emu (nor of the kangaroo), neither is any male permitted to do so, until she or he has attained a certain age; but for what reason I was unable to ascertain.
The native companion (ardea antigone), a gigantic crane, is a most stately bird, of a pale ash colour, with some red about the head, and six feet high. It is often seen at Lakes Bathurst and George, on Liverpool Plains, and elsewhere, sometimes in flocks of thirty or forty. It derives its name from the facility with which it becomes domesticated.
Black swans are found on all the lakes, and at the entrance of all the rivers, that is to say, in the least frequented parts; for, like the emu, they are rapidly retiring to places where they are less liable to be disturbed. Many consider them excellent fare, while I pronounce them to be fit food for those only who are unable to procure something more palatable. There are wretches, who, in order to procure the skin free from oil, starve the bird to death.
Pelicans are not numerous in those parts of the colony which I have visited; other aquatic birds, such as ducks, teal, and widgeon, abound wherever they can find a sequestered spot; on Liverpool Plains there are vast flights of them. The musk duck is a curious bird, and has such short wings that it cannot fly; it is oftener seen than shot, as it dives the instant the trigger is drawn: I fired four times at one, and a friend of mine eight or nine times at another; and although the shot were of large size, and went all round and over the duck, it yet escaped.
The native turkey, or bustard of New Holland, is as large as a common turkey, but of different form and plumage: it weighs from 15 to 18 pounds, and is most excellent eating.
Eagles and hawks are seen every where, and some of them are of considerable dimensions; the wings of the eagle-hawk, as it is called, being nine feet from tip to tip. The white hawk, that rare bird, I saw only once, at Hunter's River.
There are said to be not less than thirty varieties of pigeon, of which the most beautiful come from Shoal Haven and Moreton Bay. The most common is the bronze-winged about the size of a tame pigeon; but although a handsome bird, it is very far inferior to the won-ga won-ga, and several others. The small green pigeon, and a dove, both from Moreton Bay, are perhaps superior to the whole tribe in elegance of form and plumage, though inferior to some in gaudiness of colours.
Of snipe there are two kinds, and three of quail; one of the latter is very small and of a dark colour, and not so common as the others.
The varieties of the parrot tribe appear to be countless, and they are more numerous than sparrows are with us!
White cockatoos are seen in large flocks in some districts, and seem to keep more inland than near the coast: from their destruction of maize and corn, they are looked upon, with good reason, as great pests. Near Bathurst a piece of ground was so covered with these birds, that they had the appearance, at a distance, of snow! The noise they make is abominable, and nothing can be more disagreeable than to hear their harsh and discordant screams resounding through the forest.
The black cockatoo is a handsome bird; its note is melancholy and loud, totally different from that of the white one, and far less unpleasant. As it feeds upon grubs, no person has, I believe, succeeded in keeping one alive beyond a few days. The crop, when filled with its favourite food, the large white grub, or maggot, is highly relished by the natives, who deem it unnecessary to have recourse to the assistance of the culinary art to improve its flavour.
Both kinds of cockatoos are eaten, though I cannot say much in their favour as an article of diet, as they are tough, and fit only for a stew.
All the different kinds of parrots are more destructive than any birds we have;* notwithstanding which, there are persons who talk of the advantages to be derived from the introduction of these pests into England, where, say they, it would have a pretty effect to see them walking before our windows or doors. I doubt greatly if our gardeners would not be of opinion that they would appear to more advantage in a pie, seeing they are uncommonly expert at clearing the trees both of buds and fruit, and likewise at destroying grain of every kind. They are good eating, especially curried. While on an excursion at Swan River, being six persons in number, we made each evening an ollapodrida of the birds shot during the day; take as a specimen one compound which consisted of a swan, a duck, a teal, three cockatoos, (two white, the other black,) a host of smaller kind of parrots, with rice and potatoes; these being stewed together, formed a mess which would not have been admired at a Lord Mayor's feast, but was discussed by us with considerable satisfaction after a hard day's toil.
[* Garcilasso de la Vega relates, that his father lost his way amongst the Cordilleras, and that he directed his course towards that point to which the parrots had steered their flight; by which means he came to a habitation! This plan would hardly have availed him in Australia.]
The spur-winged plover frequents the open parts of the country, and is chiefly remarkable for having a large spur upon the shoulder of each wing; it fights desperately.
There are two kinds of pheasant, as they are termed, (superba,) one of which has been said to equal, in point of plumage, the birds of Paradise! It has certainly a handsome tail, but the plumage of the body is not equal to that of a common barn-door hen. The other called the swamp pheasant, (cuculus phasianus,) is a handsome bird, without such a tail. They do not in any respect resemble a pheasant.
The common crow is found on both coasts.
Of magpies there are three kinds, and one of them is eaten by the colonists. These birds are easily tamed, and taught to whistle a great variety of airs.
The laughing jackass, a senseless term, is the dacelo gigantea: its note bears a slight resemblance to the coarse and boisterous laugh of a man, but is much louder and more dissonant. It destroys snakes and other reptiles, and should therefore never be injured.
The coachman, or coachwhip, is a small bird, with a nate which terminates in a jerk, and a peculiar sound, something like the crack of a whip, hence its name.
One of the most extraordinary notes I heard, is that of a green bird, with white spots, and about the size of a small pigeon; there were two together in a lofty tree, and the noise they made was so exactly like that of two cats when fighting, that I at first actually imagined such to be the fact; it has been named the cat-bird.
The regent and satin birds are particularly beautiful, especially the former; and there are many others which it is unnecessary to mention in a work of this description.
Partridges and pheasants have been introduced, and the former have bred (they were only brought to Sydney last year;) but they should have been turned out up the country, and not near the capital, where they will most probably, soon be destroyed.
At Dalwood, an estate on the Hunter, where I passed several highly agreeable days, there occurred a singular instance of the familiarity of the swallow, which may possibly interest those who are partial to natural history. Three of these birds commenced building in the drawing-room; one of them secured a spot under the table, but, in consequence of the dirt it caused, was ejected; another completed its nest at the comer of the chimney piece, and laid two eggs; being, however, often disturbed by the curiosity of the children, it deserted its habitation: the third built over one of the windows, and, during my visit, was setting! The room was constantly occupied, though as the weather was warm and fine, the doors and windows were open throughout the day. It is worthy of observation, that although the swallow of New South Wales constructs its nest, even when beneath a verandah, of great solidity, and with a neck five or six inches long, like that of a battle, the aperture of which is only large enough to admit the bird, here were three nests entirely open. This would seem to imply a considerable degree of instinct in these birds.
The insect tribe are very numerous. As they are, however, now so well known in the cabinets of collectors, I shall only detain the reader by noticing a few of them.
The locust is common only in particular parts of the colonies; for I have sometimes journied a long distance without meeting one, and then unexpectedly found myself surrounded by them: the noise they make resembles somewhat that of the large saw used for cutting up timber, though varying greatly at times, and is particularly disagreeable.
Scorpions (at Swan River three were caught in my tent,) centipedes, and tarantulas are found; but I never heard of their doing any injury. Of the mantis there are several varieties, and their nests, or whatever they are called, are remarkable. I have two which were packed in paper; on opening it during the voyage, it was discovered that the eggs contained in one of them were hatched; about fifty young ones, of course dead, being found in the envelope.
Butterflies are not numerous, nor did I perceive much beauty of colours in the greater number of them; those, however, of some of the beetles are uncommonly brilliant.
The blow-fly is a greater nuisance, both in New Holland and Van Dieman's Land, than all the other insects and reptiles united. Meat is often blown immediately: kill an animal with the intention of preserving it as a specimen, and the chances are that in a short time it is completely blown, so that it must be skinned and preserved at once. At Swan River an officer found his carpet-bag swarming with the progeny of this loathsome insect; and at Hobart Town I saw the same thing occur with a piece of green baize: in short, nothing woolen appears to be exempt from it. It is about the size of our blue-bottle fly, and is found on the summits of the mountains as well as in the valleys; but where it deposits its larvae, when on the former, seems rather doubtful, as dead animals are not often met with on the high grounds.
Of bees there are three kinds, the principal of which is not larger than a common sized winged ant; they form their hives in hollow trees or logs, produce a great deal of honey, and are without stings. The blacks are very fond of the honey, and have several ways of discovering it. English bees have lately been introduced.
There are several varieties of ants; one is nearly an inch in length, and, as I have already stated, stings and bites most furiously. The "gigantic" ant does not form a nest like that made by the smaller kinds, being more commonly found beneath large stones, or in sandy spots, where the elevation made by them is very trifling. One species forms a mound a few feet above the surrounding ground, from three or four, to fifteen or more in diameter, and generally where the soil consists of small iron-stone pebbles, or gravel; it often proves a great pest in gardens. Ant-nests are also found in trees, at a considerable height from the ground; and I have likewise seen them made more solid and compact than even those in Africa, though much smaller; these were invariably deserted.*
[* Those in Africa are built in a pyramidal form, rise to the height of fifteen feet, and the base is often seven or eight feet in diameter.]
While at Swan River, and seated one evening with some friends, in my tent, an incredible number of winged ants entered, and almost covered the sides of it, besides flying into our tea, and almost extinguishing the candles! In the course of half-an-hour not one was visible, with the exception of those that were scalded or burnt to death; but the articles of furniture, as well as the ground, were strewed with their wings! This happened only a few minutes previous to a tremendous squall.
A similar circumstance occurred in my presence in New South Wales—vast numbers of ants suddenly issuing from a hole beneath a verandah, depositing their wings, and then disappearing!
Many of the insects display an ingenuity which is certainly wonderful; witness the spider, which, in New South Wales, forms its nest of a leaf, and then by running webs from one branch to another, suspends it in such a way as to prevent its enemies from reaching it.
So likewise another spider, peculiar to both New Holland and Tasmania, excavates a circular hole in the ground, five or six inches in depth, and with a door over it! When he sallies forth to see the world, or in quest of food, the door is closed; but it is always open when he is at home! (A good hint for our people of fashion.). Some of the larger kinds have the same description of habitation, without the door; most probably trusting to their own strength, which enables them to eject any ordinary intruder.
The principal trees in the colony are the following:—
Iron bark (Eucalyptus resinefera), used for building, but more for fencing.
Blue gum (Eucalyptus piperita), used for ship-building and wheelwrights.
Black-butted gum, the same.
Grey gum, for fencing, building, etc. etc.
Stringy bark, for boards, and building purposes.
Box, for wheelwrights, ploughs, etc.
The last are also varieties of the eucalyptus.
Forest oak (Casuarina torulosa), Swamp oak (Casuarina paludosa), for shingles and cabinet work.
Cedar (Cedrela Australis), for cabinet work.
Turpentine (Tristania albicas), boats etc.
Sassafras, sometimes three feet in diameter, for flooring (it is not common).
Mountain ash, two kinds, for carriage work.
Sallow, for gig-shafts.
Pear (Xylomelum pyriforme), for gun-stocks.
Apple (Angophora laceolata), for boards and building purposes.
Currajong, bark used for making cordage.
White cedar (Melia azederach), for boards and boat-building.
Several kinds of acacia are found in the colony, and a considerable quantity of gum might be procured from this tree; but it is entirely neglected, though perhaps not inferior, in some respects, to the gum Arabic. Acacias have often been observed to spring up on spots lately cleared, surrounded by forest, and many miles from the nearest place where this tree is known to grow (such is likewise the case with couch-grass), but how to account for this is no easy matter. We are told that, in Russia, when the pine-forests are consumed, they are not succeeded by the pine and fir tribe, but by birch, poplar, lime, and other trees; and in America, a field that had been cultivated during a series of years, but which had previously produced nothing save oaks and chesnuts, produced, when left to itself, a thick grove of white pines! So likewise when ashes are strewed on high and arid heaths in England, clover and vetches are said to make their appearance; and in East Friesland wild clover is made to grow by strewing pearl ashes on peat marshes! It is not unlikely that some effect of the same kind may be caused by the ashes of the trees burnt in New Holland.
The trees attain a surprising height, the stems sometimes rising from fifty to eighty feet or more, with a few straggling branches on the top, which have a most uncouth appearance, the entire height of the tree being scarcely under 140 feet, and often exceeding that.
One would imagine that a tree of this height, and too large to be grasped (they may frequently be seen from five to ten feet in diameter), would be utterly inaccessible, yet a New Hollander will easily ascend the loftiest in the forest! While the great toe of each foot rests on a notch, and the left-hand is employed to steady the person with the assistance of another notch, the right-hand is used for cutting one above; the native then holding the tomahawk with his teeth ascends one step, and thus he proceeds until he attains the summit I In the meantime his companions wait patiently at the foot of the tree, prepared to knock on the head any animal that may attempt to escape; or by applying smoke at a hole below, drive it upwards, when the black who has ascended is sure to secure it. In this manner they capture; opossums, flying squirrels, etc.
Many trees have been named according to the caprice of the colonists; the pear, oak, and several others bearing no more resemblance to those of other climes than the beech does to the yew.
A large proportion of the forest-trees are decayed in the heart, so that it is no uncommon circumstance to cut down four or five before one is found fit for use, unless for fencing. May not this be caused by the fires which prevail every year, for the grass being ignited, scorches the bark of the tree, and driving the sap to the heart, causes a superabundance in that particular part? It has often excited my surprise that even a single tree should escape from the tremendous fires which so frequently occur! The fire very frequently runs up the bark to the topmost branch, making the tree as black as charcoal; yet it goes on flourishing, although every succeeding year brings a recurrence of the same scorching, and, occasionally, twice in the same season: sometimes, indeed, the tree is destroyed, and nothing remains but a huge black and hollow stump. It often happens that a shrub, or young tree, is so effectually charred externally, that a person naturally infers it must have perished, but in the course of a few weeks it will throw out leaves, and as some of these shrubs are naturally of a lively green, the contrast between the green and black is rather singular.
To a person who has been in an American forest, and sank up to the middle in decayed vegetable matter, or springing upon the apparently sound trunk of a prostrate tree found himself half buried in it, there is something very striking in the forests of New Holland, where one so often observes a soil composed of nothing whatever save sand, or sand and ironstone, with a scanty herbage insufficient to conceal it. And even where the soil is of a good quality the herbage is not always over-luxuriant. A species of cotton plant was introduced some years since by an officer, who fancied it would eventually form an article of export; but it has proved a greater pest than that nuisance the broom plant at the Bermudas, (introduced as being good for hedges); nor can it possibly be eradicated, for the seed is carried by every breeze to distant places, where it grows with the greatest luxuriance, and is now rapidly overrunning the colony. As it appears to require a certain temperature, one may hope the climate of the elevated districts will prove too cold for so useless a plant.
Some of the tropical fruits thrive quite as well at Sydney as in their native climes, and oranges, lemons, limes, loquots, etc. may be had in abundance; European fruits succeed better at Bathurst and in Argyle, no fruit peculiar to warm climates growing there. "Bacchus amat colles," says the proverb; if this be true, the colony, with so congenial a climate, ought to produce wine of excellent quality. The vine grows uncommonly well, and the varieties now in the country are very numerous: and as the settlers are directing their attention to the making of wine, there is every probability of their ultimate success provided they will but have patience. That which has hitherto been made has proved what may be done if the wine be kept sufficiently long.
The native fruits of the country are the cherry, raspberry, currant, and gooseberry: they are chiefly used for preserves: and are quite different from those of Europe.
Tobacco is cultivated by most of the settlers, and is now become an article of export of some consideration, but the curing of it is not yet fully understood. The sugar cane grows at Port Macquarrie and will most probably succeed farther north as well as at the Mauritius. In short, within the course of another generation the colony may be expected to export, or supply itself, with, sugar, coffee, indigo, tobacco, opium, and many other articles, perhaps even silk.
Vegetation is most astonishingly rapid in these regions; and although the reader should not yield implicit faith to what I may write upon this subject, he may chance to meet with some person who has been in the colony, and will then find, that however exaggerated he considers many circumstances in this little work, and however much he may think I have availed myself of the right claimed by all travellers of amplifying, I have, nevertheless, stated nothing that cannot be corroborated by any settler in Australia. In order that I may not draw too largely upon his stock of faith, I shall only mention one or two examples.
At Liverpool, in a small garden, or rather court yard, I was shown a cabbage, the stalk of which, though crooked, was five feet and a half high; and to the uppermost flowers (it had run to seed) the height from the ground was thirteen feet, as measured by an officer of the army and myself: it had produced three heads.* At Edinglassie, a beautiful spot on the Nepean, the Rosa multiflora grew from twenty to thirty feet in two years; and, at a farm on the Hunter, the boughs of a willow had grown sixteen feet in less time. As to the rapidity with which grafts produce fruit, and fruit-stones or seeds, plants of good size, it so far exceeds every thing of the kind in England, that although a traveller, and consequently accustomed to "see strange things," I dare not describe it. Land which at my former visit to New South Wales (1830) was entirely clear of wood, is now (1833) thickly covered by trees of some size; and it always happens, that land once cleared and neglected for a year or two, becomes concealed by a forest far more dense than any before seen upon it. Most of the trees are ever-green, consequently the eye dwells eternally upon a forest that, instead of the bright and varied tints in which nature is arrayed in other countries, presents to view the dull and embrowned verdure, which has so often been observed to detract from even an Italian landscape; and the circumstances of many of them shedding their bark, which is seen hanging in long strips from the stem or branches, tends not to improve the effect. The acacias, when in flower, are assuredly very beautiful, but in looking over a forest they are not distinguished; as, if they grow there, they are over-topped by all the tribe of eucalyptus.
[* The cabbage attains also a great height in Jersey; according to some, even fourteen feet, while others say it does not exceed seven feet.]
I cannot but think the colonists might more generally introduce the various European trees upon their farms; for if no immediate advantage accrue to themselves from doing so, their children, at all events, will derive some benefit from it; and this point might just as well be taken into consideration in Australia, as in England. Surely our umbrageous and ornamental trees, setting aside the value of the wood when arrived at maturity, would conduce infinitely more to the beautifying of an estate than the huge ungainly gums, crowned with a few scattered branches, and affording little or no shade, so commonly seen throughout the settlement. Even by encouraging clumps of acacias, the appearance of the country would be improved; but the usual excuse is, that both time and labour would be required, as well as land, and that all three are too valuable to be expended upon that which will make no quick return. Very little of the first, and not much of the other two, could be required for a few seeds of the oak, or any other tree; and one or two gentlemen in each colony being of the same opinion, have put into the ground many hundred of young plants and seeds.
As I have been asked by many persons what description of plants are most required in the colonies, I have subjoined in the appendix a list of the principal of them, in the hope that by so doing the emigrant may be saved some trouble.
The climate of Swan River has already been noticed, and I shall therefore allude here only to that of New South Wales. The summer at Sydney is often excessively sultry, the weather, during the prevalence of a "hot wind," being more oppressive than can be imagined. At this time of the year also, the sand and dust rise in such clouds, as almost to suffocate one; but from the intense heat and nature of the soil, it is in vain to water the streets, as they almost instantly become dry again: besides which, as fresh water is not over abundant, salt water would have to be substituted. If those who planned the town had laid out all the streets of sufficient width for a row of trees on each side, it would have been a great advantage; but we English are far behind the French and Dutch in these matters.
A "hot wind" (north-west), resembles the Sirocco, or rather the Kamsin, and sometimes prevails for two or three days together. I recollect once having experienced one for four days, but this is seldom the case. The heat caused by it was enough to melt that fire eating beast the Salamander!
The theory of this wind is not at all understood, for the assertion that its intense and peculiar heat is caused by its passage over immense deserts in the interior, cannot be proved until it has been ascertained that such deserts exist! **
[** Oxley, who had penetrated farther inland than any other traveller, came to the conclusion, that the interior is a vast marsh: some have decided that it is a sandy desert; and others that it forms an extensive lake! a slight difference of opinion!]
I had often thought the hot winds might possibly be caused by the fires which prevail so constantly throughout the colony, but have been informed by several old and respectable settlers that such is most certainly not the case; I therefore know not in what way to account for them, as they occur also in Van Dieman's Land! Now to reach that island they must cross Bass' Straits, and pass over a surface of seventy or eighty miles of water; but I never met with any person who had remarked one at a greater distance from land than nine or ten miles; and in consequence am inclined to believe, that the north-wester which blows in Tasmania may not be the same that passes over New Holland! One objection against the warmth being caused by the fires is, that if this were the case, every wind, except from the eastward, would be charged with this superabundance of caloric: yet notwithstanding this, I cannot but still be of opinion, that the climate must, in some measure, be affected by them! for I remember perfectly well, that during the last (in January, 1833), which reached to within six or eight miles of Sydney, and extended all over the country, the air was tolerably oppressive; and in exposing myself to its influence, I might just as well have been placed before the mouth of a furnace.
It does not follow, because a hot wind happened to blow at that particular time, that it was caused by the conflagration; but it seems to me impossible that a great extent of country can be almost enveloped in flames, without this producing for the time a material influence upon the climate. In running along the coast to southward of Port Jackson, vast columns of smoke were perceived as far as the eye could reach inland, and afforded irrefragable proof that the fires must sometimes extend over a prodigious tract of country, so that a person would naturally be led to believe they would heat the air to even an extraordinary degree! * When that disastrous fire at Mirimachi (in America) took place, the heat was felt at a distance which almost surpassed the bounds of credibility; and although I grant that it was more terrible in its effects than any which has taken place in New South Wales, yet, judging from it, the ignition of the forests of the latter may, perhaps must, cause a great increase of temperature throughout the country.**
[* The fires about Sydney, and to a distance of forty miles, were so serious last summer that much fencing was destroyed; and in some places twenty or thirty men were employed to extinguish the conflagration, particularly near the grain, which was ready for the sickle.]
[** In Ghilan, one of the Caspian provinces, a hot wind sometimes suddenly springs up from the south, lasts 24 hours, and is followed by a gale from north-east, but there are no satisfactory means of accounting for it.]
I have not the most distant idea of attempting to establish any theory of my own with respect to the above point, there being no data on which to found one; but in noticing the climate, I have considered myself bound not to omit mentioning a circumstance of such consequence. It is a grand and magnificent spectacle to observe the fire spreading itself on the sides and summits of the mountains: on the Blue Mountains, when this was the case, the effect was similar to that caused by a volcano!
It sometimes happens that a change takes place from a hot wind to a "brickfielder," on which occasions the thermometer has been known to fall, within half an hour, upwards of fifty degrees! That is to say, from above 100 deg. to 50 deg.! A brickfielder is a southerly wind, and takes its local name from the circumstance of its blowing over, and bringing into the town, the flames of a large brickfield: it is nearly as detestable as the hot wind. More than once during last summer (1832-33), the thermometer rose to 98 deg. in the shade, and 88 deg. in the coolest room in the house. Yet such is the atmosphere of this country, that with the thermometer at 96 deg. in the shade, I have ridden fifty miles between sunrise and sunset without being particularly incommoded!
The winter is represented to be delightful, and the little I saw of it induced me to consider it superior to that of Florence. The temperature, during that season, is seldom below 50 deg. Some writers have pretended to form registers of the temperature, number of rainy days, etc., etc.; but in such a peculiar climate these can never be correct, unless the result of observations during a long series of years.
From the peculiar configuration of Illawarra I am led to believe the climate is superior to that of Sydney; for the abrupt range of mountains behind must screen the district from the hot winds, which necessarily pass over it at too great a height to injure the vegetation; and it is likewise refreshed by the cool breezes which blow from the sea, so that it can seldom experience the extremity of heat.
To the southward of Illawarra the climate is better calculated for agricultural purposes than that of Sydney itself; nor, from all I have heard of it, do I believe droughts are so common there.
In the elevated parts of Argyle, and at Bathurst, the heats of summer are less intense than at the capital, but in the winter the cold is felt rather severely; in the former district more than one settler told me that, at times, the temperature was as low as in England during the same season: this however, can scarcely be the case. The climate of these districts is extremely healthy; hot winds do not prevail so often, nor are they so much felt there as at Sydney. Between the last and the Hunter's River district the distinction is trifling, the principal difference being, that at the latter, the maize is liable to be cut up by night frosts.
I am not aware if the elevation of the Corborn Comleroy has been hitherto ascertained, but judging imperfectly from the country over which we travelled, it must be rather considerable; and certainly if Mount Boorooan be 6,000 feet above the level of the sea, the plains cannot be much under 2000. While there I found the heat far less oppressive than near the capital, and on the Hunter.
At Port Macquarrie hot winds prevail as elsewhere, and the climate appears to vary very little, if at all, from that of Sydney.
The seasons in the different districts are naturally influenced by the localities, and in the Bathurst country, and towards Lake George, both 2,000 feet above the sea, with a climate which (with the exception of the droughts) is merely a modification of that of the milder parts of England, they are three weeks later than at Sydney. The whole of New Holland, as far as it is known, is liable to droughts, and these constitute the principal, perhaps only decided objection to the climate. The last, distinguished by the title of "The Great Drought," lasted four years, (1826, 27, 28, 29); and many of the settlers were nearly ruined by it. One gentleman is said to have lost five consecutive crops. The longest period, during which no rain fell, was six months and thirteen days; but in one part of the colony only a few light and trifling showers fell during eight months.
Sometimes tremendous hail-storms occur, and hailstones have fallen as large as pullet's eggs, killing lambs and poultry, and cutting up the corn most completely. One of these took place in Argyle in October 1832, answering to our April, and some idea may be formed of the havoc it must have caused, by the knowledge that many of the hailstones were two inches and a half in length, and one inch in diameter. Its effects were felt over a tract of country five miles in width, but of what length I cannot say; and the direction was from a part of the colony very little located. Some of the sheep were badly injured, and birds killed; and the trees were cut, or broken, in a very remarkable manner.*
[* Last April, (1833) there fell hailstones seven inches and a half in circumference! Many of the sheep were slain, and the tobacco crops were destroyed.]
The last earthquake happened in December. 1813; it created alarm, but did no damage.
A circumstance respecting this colony, which must excite astonishment in every one, is the truly wonderful way in which the vegetation will recover itself after a drought. Land so completely burnt up that not a blade of grass is visible, will, within a few days after rain, become covered with a verdure most refreshing to the eye, and doubtless not the less acceptable to the cattle and sheep. Of the former some thousands perished during the "great drought."
As a general observation, I may say of the climate of New South Wales, that it is undoubtedly healthy, but more adapted to some constitutions than others; and an important advantage is, that the invalid, by removing from one district to another, may select a climate according to the temperature he requires; at the same time I by no means agree in conferring upon it the unqualified praises bestowed by a writer of some note; nor do I pretend to assert that people are longer lived, or more healthy, than in our own beautiful island; the climate of which, despite its vicissitudes, is probably, every thing considered, equal in point of salubrity to that of any country I have visited. The finest of climates is that of the neighbourhood of the Tropics, at a distance from land: for what can be more delightful than to course rapidly along in clear weather, with a brisk, trade wind, imparting a delicious freshness to the atmosphere, and causing a feeling of vigour, and an elevation of spirits, seldom experienced to such an extent on shore?
If that of New South Wales has many excellencies, it has also its imperfections; and the emigrant will find that, however adapted for the agriculturists, there are several circumstances which, if fairly considered, will tend to reduce it, notwithstanding the perfectibility attributed to it by writers, to a nearer level with that of our own.
There is a striking resemblance between New Holland, Persia, and Southern Africa, not only in regard to climate, but in the deficiency of water, which, in each of them, is the most scanty boon of nature. It is only immediately after heavy rains that they appear to be well irrigated; then, indeed, a thousand streams rush down the mountains, every little hollow, or rainworn channel, becomes the bed of a rapid torrent, and every little rivulet is swelled at once to a considerable size. Droughts of long continuance too are not uncommon; and I have no doubt that on enquiry a still greater resemblance would be found.
To conclude this subject, if we take the whole of the eastern half of New Holland, there will be found every description of climate from the vicinity of the equator to 40 degrees of latitude: but if we select any particular portion of it, our own climate, inconstant as it is, will not perhaps lose by the comparison.
Such is a very imperfect sketch of a country, whose climate has been extolled as far superior to what is actually the case; and whose aspect, the forlorn grandeur of which is entirely peculiar to these regions, is so utterly different from that of every other country, that the author is unable to find one with which to compare it.
SKETCH OF SYDNEY ENVIRONS—SOIL—PRICES OF PROVISIONS—PUBLIC HOUSES—POPULATION SOCIETY—CONVICTS—RATIONS ALLOWED THEM—EXTRACT FROM A LETTER WRITTEN BY ONE—BUSH RANGERS REPORT CONCERNING A COLONY OF RUNAWAYS—EXPORTS—IMPORTS—REVENUES—SALARIES OF PERSONS HOLDING SITUATIONS UNDER GOVERNMENT—HORSES—UNCOMMON INSTINCT SHOWN BY THEM—CATTLE—CURIOUS DOCILITY OF A BULLOCK—PRICE OF CATTLE—SHEEP—UNACCOUNTABLE CIRCUMSTANCE RESPECTING A FLOCK.
The capital of Australia stands partly in a narrow valley or ravine, and partly on the sides of it, and extends also some distance beyond, occupying a space of about a square mile: the site might have been better selected, as it is rather difficult at present to get at many of the wharves. The streets are laid out with regularity, and are of good width as mere streets; but they ought to have been broad enough to admit of a row of trees on each side (as I have before remarked), which would have imparted some beauty to the town, and been of great advantage to the inhabitants. There is no person who has visited the Cape of Good Hope, the Mauritius, Martinique, and numerous other foreign colonial towns, who will not agree with myself, that they are laid out with infinitely more taste, and regard to comfort, than our own.
In some of the streets the houses have a space of twelve feet of garden between them and the part of the road appropriated to pedestrians, but these are not the most frequented or the most respectable: and very probably, when large houses usurp the place of the cottages, these miniature gardens will be turned into court yards, or concealed by the building. If George-street, which is a mile in length, had been planted, the effect would have been fine, and the heat lessened. Some of the houses and cottages are built with great taste. At the town the harbour is about a mile and a half broad, and towards the entrance the width increases to nearly three miles. The shores are bold, often abrupt and rocky, and composed of a sandstone that forms a good material for building, as it becomes indurated by exposure.
The harbour contains several islands, and may be said to extend fourteen miles from the sea, for the Paramatta river is but an arm or branch of it; there are, also, a great number of bays, inlets, and creeks, which contribute materially to the general appearance of the prospects.
The country on both sides of the harbour is very irregular, but more rugged on the north shore; on this side, also, there are but three or four houses, and the surface is concealed by forest as far as the distant hills: on the south side there are several spots which have been got into cultivation at great cost and labour, and in process of time these will tend to render less conspicuous the monotony which at present reigns over the landscape.
Port Jackson may well be termed one of the noblest of harbours; and although the country around is not worthy of the high encomiums which have so lavishly been bestowed upon it, there are various points of view quite entitled to the admiration of any traveller.
There is still a vast portion of forest in the immediate neighbourhood of Sydney, and a very long period may be expected to elapse ere it can be cleared off; for the returns would not repay the expense of cultivating such a soil as that found in this part of the colony. It is in patches that the good soil is seen, and some spots on the Paramatta river are particularly fertile; but more commonly sand and iron-stone prevail, with frequently a mixture of the two. As to the fine land at Botany Bay, I know not what has become of it: Banks's Meadows still remain, but the rich soil seen by him and Cook seems to have disappeared, if it ever existed. Sydney is increasing with such rapidity, that fast as the houses are run up, they are frequently taken before they are quite completed! It is, therefore, not to be wondered at that house-rent is so high; and if it were not for this, I know of no town in England (taking into consideration the absence of taxes), that could be compared with it in cheapness of living, as the necessaries of life are uncommonly reasonable.
When I left Sydney an auctioneer was erecting a house, with auction-rooms, etc. the estimated cost of which was 4,500l., and will, most probably, exceed 5,000l.! Two partners expended 8,000l. upon another house, in which they established a store; and another person has raised a huge and unsightly range of distilleries and breweries, said to have cost 16,000l. This will convey to the reader some idea of the extent to which building is carried.
The expense of a cottage, forty-five feet by thirty-five, with six rooms, is 530l.
There is an excellent market, well supplied with provisions of every description; the prices in January, 1833, were as follows:—
|Beef, per lb. per quarter||0||0||1½||to||0||0||2|
|Do. joint, per lb.||0||0||2½||0||0||3|
|Couple of fowls||0||1||9||0||2||3|
|Fresh butter, per lb.||0||1||0||0||1||3|
|Wheat, per bushel.||0||3||4||0||4||0|
|Hay per ton from English seed.||6||0||0||8||0||0|
|Do do Colonial.||4||0||0||5||0||0|
The most expensive article of food is potatoes, which were from ten to fifteen shillings per hundred weight, and seldom fit to eat at any price. They grow well at Bathurst and other places, but would not pay the carriage to Sydney: however, they are imported from New Zealand and Hobart Town.
Water is unfortunately scarce, the trifling spring which rises in the town affording a very scanty supply; and although the quantity has been increased by a small stream conducted by pipes from a distance, there is still a great deficiency of this essential requisite; which, as the population increases, will be the case in a still greater degree, unless reservoirs or tanks are constructed. The well-water is seldom fit to drink.
The number of public-houses in the Australian capital may cause some little surprise, when the reader is informed that they amount to one hundred and ninety-seven; besides which, the houses where spirits are surreptitiously sold are believed to be nearly as numerous. Drinking, amongst the lower orders, is certainly carried on here to an extent little known elsewhere! Possibly some blame may attach to the climate, as it assuredly promotes a predisposition to drought in the human subject, and also to the bad quality, and small quantity of the water; but at the same time I am much inclined to suspect that the aforesaid classes, in Sydney, are inclined to indulge, whenever they have it in their power, solely from habits of drunkenness. The quantity of spirits imported between the 1st of December, 1831, and the 1st of December, 1832, was 352,549 gallons; and of wine 104,406 gallons. The quantity of spirits exported was 29,256 gallons; and of wine 37,543 gallons: but at least 11,000 gallons of gin were distilled in the colony, of which none was exported. Consequently there remained in the colony 334,283 gallons of spirits; and 66,858 of wine. What quantity is actually consumed annually I did not learn, but, compared with the population, it must have been very great.
According to information which I derived from the police office, Sydney contains 13,000 inhabitants, 400 military, and 2,000 convicts, in all 15,400. This includes all the inhabitants of the district, but those who reside out of the town are not numerous. The entire population of the colony probably exceeds 60,000, An extract from Mr. Bulwer's speech in the House of Commons will convey some idea of the impracticability of ascertaining correctly the sum total:—"In regard to the population of New South Wales," he observes, "there seems to exist a most singular uncertainty. According to the returns of 1828 the amount was 36,598. Out of this population 15,666 were convicts, leaving 20,930 free inhabitants. But, by referring to the population returns of preceding years, it is found that, in 1824, the population was 33,595; so that it had only increased about 3,000 in five years. Now the population in these five years had, according to our lists of persons transported, been increased by convicts alone 10,005. To make, therefore, the census of 1828 correct, the free inhabitants must have decreased in these five years by about 5,000; a proposition perfectly absurd. In this same year of 1828, Mr. Huskisson stated the total population to be 49,000; it could not have suddenly decreased between the returns and this assertion by 13,000. Take, then, this calculation as correct (since in regard to the number of convicts stated, viz. 15,666, there could not be any error), the free population would then have amounted to 33,334. The colonists themselves state it much higher."
As in all other communities we perceive various grades or ranks in society, so likewise the same is observed at Sydney, though with more variations; I shall limit them to five divisions, viz. government officers, settlers and merchants, free persons generally (not being of either of the above classes), emancipists and convicts. As to the subdivisions of the fourth class, I consider them absurd in themselves, and liable only to wound the feelings of those concerned, without imparting any information to the reader. The child of an emancipist ought to be considered equally entitled to all the claims of respect and attention as the offspring of a person who came to the colony perfectly free; for it is sufficiently painful for the parent to hate his sins visited upon himself, without having, in addition, a stigma cast upon his children. I therefore look upon it as most illiberal to attempt to establish any distinction between the latter and that class to which their birth or education would have entitled them, if they had been in the colony under more auspicious circumstances.
There are in and about Sydney so many families of respectability, that they constitute a society extensive enough for any one, who, not wishing to be eternally engaged in what is termed dissipation, is contented with a moderate share of it; and as I experienced much attention from several of them, I can answer for inhospitality not being a trait in the character of the gentry of this town. Much has been said about the "envy, hatred, malice, and all uncharitableness" of the society; but proneness to scandal and detraction are so universal, that it would be difficult to say where this propensity does not exist: the inhabitants of these colonies are not worse than the rest of the world, and therefore ought not to receive more than their share of the blame.
Of the hospitality of the settlers, or those who reside out of Sydney, I have already made mention, and shall therefore only add, that go where I would, I was received in a manner which would have led any one to suppose me an old acquaintance of the family rather than a mere casual visitor. There are many thankless persons who say that the settlers are, as a matter of course, naturally glad to see strangers, and that this is the sole reason why they receive them in such a friendly manner. I can only tell these ingrates that they have quite enough to do, and also to think of, without devoting their time and attention to every traveller who may chance to put up at their houses.
Emancipists are those who have become free in consequence of the termination of their sentence, or been pardoned; and some of them have realized very considerable property.
Persons holding a "ticket of leave" are convicts, who, in consequence of good conduct, are made, in a great measure, free; for though they may not quit a particular district without the permission of the governor, yet in it they are at liberty to act to all intents and purposes as if pardoned—that is to say, so long as they continue to behave themselves properly.
Lately a great change has taken place respecting them, for by a recent order no person sentenced to transportation can receive a pardon or "ticket of leave," "unless such person, if transported for seven years, shall have served four; if transported for fourteen years, shall have served six; or, if transported for life, shall have served eight years of labour;" and no ticket-of-leave person can hold property, nor can he sue or be sued in a court of law! Now, as numbers of them possess property, the point is, to whom does the same belong? This question had not been decided at my departure.*
[* Several other new regulations have recently been established, which render the situation of a convict somewhat less agreeable than formerly.]
Some of the ticket of leave men are employed as constables, others as overseers; in short they hold all kinds of situations.
The number of convicts ** in the colony, at the census of 1828, amounted to 13,927 males, and 1,504 females, making a total of 15,431. The numbers arrived since the census are as follows:—
|Or 10,580 in four years.|
[** The appellation of "Convict" is rarely used in the Colonies, except officially, "Prisoner," or "Government Man," being substituted as less offensive; and for "Convict Servant," the term of "Assigned Servant" is used.]
In 1832 there were granted 1,002 certificates of freedom, and 1,162 tickets of leave; and 5,515 convicts were assigned, or transferred, to private service alone.
At a fair calculation, I shall not be far out in stating the total amount of convicts, in January last, at from 21,000 to 23,000.
The greatest number of servants employed by any one individual is one hundred and thirty; and by one family, (father and two sons) one hundred and seventy; notwithstanding which, it is doubtful if they are not in want of more. People in England naturally wonder how this can be, when the farmers there, however large their farms, require, comparatively speaking, so few. They are not probably aware, that in these colonies, the respectable settlers have artificers or mechanics of every description, and that almost every article is made on their farms, with the exception of clothing; as it would cause most serious inconvenience to be obliged to send a considerable distance for every thing they wanted. They have also sometimes, in addition to their flocks and herds, several large establishments to look after. Every thing considered, it does still appear extraordinary that any settler can require such a host of servants. However, such is the case; and as fast as prison ships arrive, the convicts are immediately assigned, but the supply is still greatly inferior to the demand.
The weekly rations of the convict are 12lbs, of wheat, or 9lbs. of flour, or 3½ lbs. of maize and 9lbs. of wheat, or 7 lbs. of second flour; 7 lbs. of beef or mutton, or 4½ lbs. of salt pork; 2 oz. of salt; 2 oz. of soap.
The clothing to which they are entitled consists of 2 frocks or jackets; 3 pair of shoes of stout and durable leather; 3 shirts; 2 pair of trowsers; 1 hat or cap.
No person can diminish the rations or allowance of clothing as ordered by the government regulations.
Some of the settlers allow their servants tea and sugar, others milk instead; and many give them tobacco, and, occasionally spirits: these are indulgencies which can be withheld at pleasure.
The expense of a convict servant who has no wages (some of the best of them receive a gratuity annually) is about £10 per annum; but there are settlers who contrive so as not to let it exceed £7 or £8: however the sum of £10 is more correct as an average.
Convicts will sometimes work quite as well as our labourers at home, though, as might be expected they are also pretty often troubled with the vis inertię; and I have known them receive their usual allowance of wheat, and then give a moiety of it to a comrade on condition that he returned the other in flour, being too lazy to grind it themselves. One gentleman tried the experiment of enclosing for his people a piece of ground, and giving them seeds that they might be enabled to supply themselves with vegetables: the seeds were sown, but the garden was shortly after abandoned, and the fence used for fire-wood, as the men preferred remaining without vegetables to being at the trouble of cultivating them. A gentleman on the Hunter also tried this plan and entirely succeeded; so that here we have an instance of the effects of good management: it is certainly pretty evident throughout the colony, that while some settlers manage their servants uncommonly well, others, on the contrary, completely spoil them, and entirely through the want of system.
The huts of the convicts are seldom notorious for cleanliness or comfort, and the inmates are not unfrequently mote numerous than those of an Irish cabin: the last that I inspected contained a multitude of noisy parrots, intended for sale; pet kangaroos and opossums, with a variety of kangaroo dogs, grey-hounds, and sheep-dogs: on the fire was a huge boiler filled with the flesh of a kangaroo, and close by were suspended the hind-quarters of another of these animals; in one corner was a large pan of milk, in another, a number of skins partially dried; while, a few feet from the ground, were the filthy bed-places or cribs of the people themselves.
The gentleman to whom I have alluded above (on the Hunter), has erected neat cottages, in each of which reside a certain number of his people, and there is a piece of garden attached to them, filled, when I was on the spot, with vegetables and flowers. Indeed his entire establishment does credit to his energy and exertions.
One of the regulations respecting servants, if acted up to, is very judicious:—"In assigning convicts, especially labourers applicable to husbandry, preference will be given to new settlers; to persons residing in the country, and to those of good moral character, who pay due attention to their servants. Another regulation is, "No convict will be assigned to his, or her, wife, or husband, although holding a ticket of leave." This must have been introduced lately, as not long since it certainly was common enough to see convicts assigned to their wives, who had come out free, and at the same time brought with them the unlawful gains of the villanies of themselves and husbands, whereby the sentence of the former was rendered in a great measure nugatory, as the woman, though her husband was ostensibly her menial, did not of course, look upon him in the light of one; a manifest injustice to the other prisoners, who had not their wives with them, or were unmarried; consequently, if the above regulation be peremptory, it is a very proper one.
Great improvement might be made (in both colonies) with reference to the assignment of the prisoners, so as to distribute the more useful impartially to all the settlers, without considering who or what the latter are, provided they are persons with whom the Government have no reason to find fault in respect to their treatment of their servants. Some of the convicts are absolutely worse than useless, especially a London pick-pocket, than whom a more worthless, good-for-nothing blackguard is hardly to be found. This alone will show that it is a matter of no trivial consequence to procure men who are acquainted with some trade, or are, at least, available as labourers.
If a convict prove refractory a single magistrate can order him fifty lashes; but a severer punishment can only be inflicted by two or more; and no magistrate can punish his own servants.
Convicts are also punished by being compelled to work in chains or irons upon the roads (they are called "road gangs"); but in the event of their committing an act which constitutes felony, they are tried in a court of justice, and, if not hanged, are sent to a penal settlement. This last sentence is held in no small dread by many of them, as it does not at all coincide with their ideas of comfort; and some have preferred even death itself, as will be more fully explained when noticing this subject in the general observations on Van Diemen's Land.
Moreton Bay and Norfolk Island are, at present, the only penal settlements; at these places the rations are not so ample as in the colony generally, and those who are sent there are compelled to do rather more work than is agreeable to them; but neither this award, nor that of being in the chain-gangs, is at all commensurate with their crimes.
When they conduct themselves with propriety, and can obtain from their masters a good character for honesty and diligence, even those who are for life are certain of receiving a ticket of leave, long before the expiration of the term of their transportation.
As to the females, it is a melancholy fact, but not the less true, that far the greater proportion are utterly irreclaimable, being the most worthless and abandoned of human beings! No kindness can conciliate them, nor any indulgence render them grateful; and it is admitted by every one, that they are, taken as a body, infinitely worse than the males! They are punished by having their heads shaved, by solitary confinement, and by bread and water diet; they care for neither of the two first, and not so much as might be expected for the last. Good conduct entitles them to the same privileges as the men.
In order to show the opinions entertained by some of the convicts, as regards the colony, I will give an extract from one of the sundry letters which I have read, written by them to their friends in England, using the writer's own language and punctuation, but altering the spelling. He requests that his wife will come out, and bring their children with her, and then proceeds as follows:—
"I am perfectly well satisfied with my situation thanks be to God that has placed me under those that does not despise a prisoner. No, my love, I am (not?) treated as a prisoner but as a free man, there is no one to say a wrong word to me. I have good usage, plenty of good meat, and clothes with easy work. I have 362 sheep to mind, either of our lads could do it with ease. The best of men was shepherds. Jacob served for his wife, yea and for a wife did he keep sheep and so will I, and my love we shall be more happy here than ever we should be at home if happiness is to be found on the earth. Don't fail to come out I never thought this country what I have found it. I did expect to be in servile bondage and to be badly used but I am better off this day than half the people in England, and I would not go back to England if any one would pay my passage. England has the name of a free country and tins is a bond country, but shame my friends and countrymen where is your boasted freedom. Look round you, on every side there is distress, rags, want, and all are in one sorrowful state of want. Happiness and prosperity has long taken their flight from Albion's once happy isle."
He then alludes to the low price of provisions, and adds—"Except you live in a town you have no rent to pay, for each man builds his own house, no tithes, no poor-rates, and no taxes of any kind. And this is bondage is it?" There are some other amusing remarks in this original composition, but the above will suffice to show that convicts lead not always the unhappy life they are supposed to do, unless through their own bad conduct. The writer of the above letter bears such an excellent character that his master has sent to England for his wife and family, with the intention of trying to be of some use to them. Those employed at the stock-stations have little to do save to ride about and look after the cattle, or sheep; indeed, much of their time is passed in hunting kangaroos, or emus, and a most independent kind of life they seem to lead, as indeed I have already shown.
Bush-rangers are convicts who have escaped into the "bush," preferring a life of independence and plunder to one of labour and honesty. In the neighbourhood of Sydney they abounded in 1829 and 1830; but some of the most desperate were shot by the constabulary and mounted police, or taken and hanged; the rewards held out for their apprehensions being such as to induce all persons interested to use their utmost exertions to capture them.
There are moralists who consider it a most heinous sin to set one thief to catch another; but with every possible deference for their opinions on this head, I must certainly differ with them; for much good has arisen in both colonies from the adoption of this system; complete bands of robbers having been broken up entirely, in consequence of the rewards offered on the part of the respective governments being so considerable, as to induce the bush-rangers to betray each other. A person who captures or assists in the capture (alive or dead) of any bush-ranger, especially designated in the government proclamations, which are issued on particular occasions, receives the sum of one hundred pounds; in addition to which, if a convict, he obtains an unconditional pardon, together with a passage to England; if a free man he gets a grant of land. Previously the pardon was conditional, so that the risk outweighed the chances of reward, for the other convicts were certain, sooner or later, to avenge their late comrade on those who, by their zeal and activity, had been instrumental in his capture, and thereby rendered themselves obnoxious. Under the present arrangement, the risk is not incurred, as the person who is pardoned may proceed forthwith to England. It must, however, be understood, that it is not for the apprehension or destruction of the mere canaille of the bush-rangers that such rewards are held out, but only for those who are particularly specified; these are always men who, by the magnitude and boldness of their depredations have become of considerable notoriety.
Robberies in the "bush" are remarkably few in number, and deliberate murders of such rare occurrence as to be exceedingly uncommon; when an unfortunate man has been killed, it has generally, perhaps always, happened when the robbers were attacked or resisted.
At a distance from the capital, the precautions which are taken in England to secure houses from intruders, are not attended to. While up the country, I constantly slept with both door and window open, and feared only an unwelcome visit from some lengthy snake, or unsightly flying fox or vampire bat.
Some persons have written from Sydney, informing their friends in England that so common is burglary there, that they are under the necessity of sending all their plate, and other valuables, to the Bank, so that they may be in a place of safety! This is not the case; in fact, the assertion is absurd. Street-robberies, in some of the worst parts of the town (the resort of every description of profligate characters), are common enough, as might be expected; but to say that house-breaking is so frequent is a most ridiculous exaggeration. Highway robberies, within thirty miles of Sydney, are certainly more common than is agreeable to the solitary traveller, but they are chiefly confined to the plundering of drays; and I strongly surmise that the robbery does not always happen without some slight collusion on the part of the drivers.
It would be no bad plan to hang up all receivers of stolen goods; these wretches, who are ever the most cowardly and dastardly of men, and who, though afraid to commit a robbery themselves, are glad enough to profit by the villany of others, being once got rid of, there would no longer exist that great incentive to pilfer.
It was reported by a convict that a number of runaways had established themselves at a spot in the interior, where they had erected houses, and formed a regular community! In consequence of this information an officer was sent with a party to seek for the supposed settlement, but returned without having succeeded. The aforesaid convict declares that the officer did not proceed far enough; whether, therefore, it exists or not, must still remain a doubtful point. Supposing the man's statement to be correct, it would be highly interesting to know what kind of government has been established among a set of such lawless beings.
When it is borne in mind that the colony of New South Wales has been established only 45 years, the progress it has made must appear extraordinary; and the imports and exports, with the rapid increase in the revenue, will show the great advances it has made in a commercial point of view.
Comparative statement of the imports and exports of New South Wales from December 1, 1831, to November 30, 1832.
|Imports.—Total official value.||£659,881|
Deduct the value of the following articles, being chiefly the produce of colonial industry and capital, viz.
|New Zealand flax, 744 tons.||£13,989|
|Oil, sperm, 2,072 tons.||£102,282|
|Oil, black whale, 1,774 tons.||26,110|
|Whalebone, 50 tons 2 cwt.||3,670|
|New Zealand timber and spars.||3,097|
|Total real imports.||£510,733|
Exports.—Official value of Colonial produce and manufactures.
|British ditto ditto.||53,762|
|Produce of British Settlements.||10,249|
|Ditto of Foreign Settlements.||13,567|
|Ditto of New Zealand.||17,418|
|Ditto of Society Islands.||6|
|Ditto of South Sea Fisheries.||140,107|
|Total official value of exports.||371,174|
|Excess of imports over exports.*||£139,559|
Deduct—Amount of bills drawn by the Commissariat on the British Treasury for the maintenance of the Military and Convict Establishments, and remitted in payment of imports.
|Balance against New South Wales.**||£23,930|
[* Exclusive of specie, of which no record is kept.]
Of the various items of exports I shall only notice some of the principal:
|Bread and flour.||983,559||pounds,||value||£6,943|
|Butter and cheese.||189,821||do.||do.||5,506|
|Imports in 1828.||£570,000;||Exports.||£90,000|
|Do. in 1829.||£610,000;||do.||£161,716.|
The number of ships that entered Port Jackson in 1829, amounted to 161, equal to 37,342 tons; and in 1832, to 186, equal to about 40,000 tons.
The quantity of wool exported in 1832, exceeds that of 1829 by 330,579 lbs.; and if it goes on increasing at this rate, it will soon drive foreign wools out of our market.
Revenue of New South Wales from January 1st 1826, to October 31st, 1832:—
The following are the salaries of the principal persons holding situations under Government, and chargeable on the Treasury of New South Wales:—
|His Excellency the Governor||5000|
|The Chief Justice||2000|
|Two Assistant Judges at £1500 each||3000|
|Clerk of the Council||600|
|Collector of the Customs||1000|
|Collector of Internal Revenue||500|
|Crown Solicitors, one at £500, one at £300||800|
|Registrar of the Supreme Court||800|
|Commissioners of the Court of Requests||800|
The estimated charge for the clergy and school establishment is £20,471, and the total estimated expenditure for 1833, £110,252.
The breed of horses is rapidly improving in New South Wales, racers having been imported from England, and Arabs from India; and there are also two fine animals of the Cleveland breed. Of the true dray horse, however, I saw few good specimens; indeed, with the exception of the two Clevelands, I never heard of a pure cart horse being in the colony; but some of the crosses are admirably adapted for the climate of Sydney, and many of the carriage-horses are likewise of a fine description. Those for the saddle will endure a wonderful deal of fatigue if properly attended to; even during the hottest part of the year, with the thermometer, at times, as high as 96 deg. in the shade, I rode the same animal fifty miles daily for three days together, and that through rather a rugged country, and for some distance over mountains. But all the colonial horses "will go through a vast deal of work; and they would last much longer, if it were not for the absurd plan that has been adopted, of breaking them in for the saddle, or for harness, while so very young, a common practice throughout the country. They are sometimes ridden, or driven, fifty or sixty miles within the course of less than nine hours, although little more than two years old: besides, they are often turned out when the journey is finished, to pick up whatever scanty herbage they may be able to find; or as a jocular friend of mine observed, "they get a kick and a bucket of water," a fare with which I would rather dispense. They have decreased so much in value that a very good one may be purchased for £35., and a very tolerable one for £15 or £20. There are settlers who possess from fifty to two hundred horses (the latter is an unusual number), but the proportion of those really good is much smaller than it ought to be, provided proper attention had been paid to them.
So far as my slight knowledge of natural history goes, it is agreed that the horse retains a most extraordinary recollection of any place to which it has once been. In these colonies this is carried to a degree almost beyond credence: for instance, a person proceeding through the "Bush" to a place where his horse had once been, and chancing to lose himself, has only to give the animal the rein, when although there is neither path or track, it will frequently find the way: some horses will invariably do so; and it may with truth be said, that, in this respect, they sometimes exhibit an instinct superior even to the boasted reason of man.
While on a visit at the Valley of Mulgoa, I witnessed an instance of retentive memory in a mare belonging to an officer who was at the same house: it got loose, found its way to the Warragamba, and then proceeded through a forest to the habitation of a gentleman on whom its owner had called once six months before, and three miles from the house where he was staying. The animal was tracked, and had passed the river at the precise spot, which was very rugged and rocky, where it had previously crossed, and thence had reached the house.
There are complaints to which horses are subject in England which are unknown in New South Wales: the glanders par ex. has never made its appearance, but the strangles, or a complaint analogous to it, has been lately introduced, if I mistake not from Timor. Greasy heels are rarely, if ever, seen, and it really would appear to be almost confined to England, for I never remarked it abroad except in France, where I once saw eight horses (in two stage-coaches at Boulogne), not one of which was free from the malady; but it turned out that they had all been imported.
Races were established some time since, though hitherto with no great éclat; however, great improvements were in contemplation. A new race course has been formed, which will be of some advantage, as the old one was one of the worst ever seen.
Cattle have multiplied prodigiously; hundreds, perhaps thousands, are now roaming wild in the forests, and as might naturally be expected they are of a very mixed description, some being of a superior kind, but the greater number much crossed.
The largest herd, as far as I could learn, owned by one individual, is 4,000; another gentleman had more, but never knew the total amount, as no small number of them were completely wild. He is supposed to have lost nearly 2,000 of them during the "great drought."
Although the price of meat is so low, those who breed cattle contrive to clear considerable sums by them; and, by reference to the "exports," it will be seen that a large quantity of meat is salted. The perfect curing is not yet fully understood, and consequently the commanders of vessels and others object to provisions salted in the colony: the hams and tongues are certainly very indifferent. The colonial salt is said not to be adapted for the curing of meat: it is certain this is an error, for I have eaten beef cured with it, and although two years in cask, of excellent quality.
One remarkable, I had almost said unaccountable, feature in this colony is the truly singular manner in which the cattle contrive to preserve their condition during a long continuance of dry weather. In the six months from July 1832 to January 1833, so little rain fell that the country was completely parched up; and in consequence of the grass being accidentally ignited, not a blade was to be found within some forty miles of Sydney. Nevertheless, the cattle by browsing upon the tender shoots of various plants, though they were not overburdened with fat, were yet in general tolerably sleek, and the oxen quite able to get through their work; while the cows afforded a fair supply of milk and butter. Even up to the time of my departure, early in February, no rain of any consequence had fallen, so that, what with the hot winds and great fires, the drought and the dust, one could hardly breathe; but as I propose making a handsome fortune by transporting the bones or relics, of St. Swithin, a better supply of rain may be expected in future.
It is a common supposition that the ox is a clumsy animal; no person would admit this to be the case, if he had once seen the creature in a wild, or semi-wild state. There are few settlers who have not witnessed the astonishing leaps it can take, in this respect, appearing to excel even the horse; for I measured a stock-yard fence rather more than six feet high, which was cleared by one lately caught, with great apparent ease; although from the trifling dimensions of the stock-yard, it had no opportunity of increasing its impetus by a run. A common fence is considered by the cattle as no impediment whatever to their escape.
They all evince great dislike to the aborigines, and so do many of the horses. A party were out once after wild oxen, and had with them a native for a guide: the instant the latter was perceived by the herd he was pursued, but was nimble enough to climb a tree, where he remained, while they stood round and watched him. Some time elapsed before the party were able to extricate their sable friend, as the animals showed an inclination to attack them whenever they advanced; but after some manœuvring they at length succeeded.
When persons on horseback are seen by the half-wild cattle, (those regularly branded by their respective owners, but only driven at stated times into the enclosures,) the latter will gallop in a body towards the strangers, with every appearance of a determination to attack them. Whenever this occurs a person had better stop, upon which they will make off, or stand and stare at him until he has passed away. They more than once came up to us in this manner, and on one occasion charged right through our party of eleven persons, while we were somewhat scattered; however, I never saw them attempt the smallest injury. When hard driven it signifies little whether they are of the wild or half-wild kinds, for they will attempt to gore both horse and rider; and unless the former be a steady, sagacious beast, and accustomed to such rough work, the chances are decidedly in favour of his master getting some broken bones.
There is something highly exciting and amusing ill collecting wild cattle: the nature of the country, the style in which both horses and oxen will leap over the huge trunks always found scattered about on the ground, and especially the clever way in which a well trained horse will avoid coming in contact with a tree, a circumstance rather liable to occur when going at full speed, all this is extremely animating; and the more so from its not always being unaccompanied by danger; the principal incentive (with emulation) to engage in such a pastime as hunting. There are convict stock-keepers who, when after cattle, would not only astonish our fox-hunters, but if the country was at all difficult to ride through, would, not improbably, leave them entirely in the lurch.
While at Liverpool Plains I heard of a bullock that had been taught to carry a stock-keeper in search of strayed cattle. The man would ride a short distance, and then stop, upon which the animal would low; if the herd were at hand they were sure to answer; if otherwise, the man rode farther, and generally succeeded in gaining his object. Of course this plan was adopted only when in a forest, where a person was unable to see any distance. The gentleman who related this singular incident, had wished to purchase the animal, but the owner did not choose to part with it: it died a short time previous to my excursion to the plains.
The price of cattle in January last was as follows:—
Of sheep there may be had all the varieties, from the pure Merino, or Saxon, to the most indifferent cross-breed, their wool being from the finest to the most ordinary. As elsewhere they are subject to scab and rot, the result as often of neglect or injudicious treatment as of untoward circumstances. The three largest flocks, of which I heard, amounted to 23,000, 20,000, and 15,000; and the united flocks of the ten principal growers of wool, would most probably exceed 130,000. What may be the total number of sheep in the colony, I have not the smallest idea, nor do I imagine it would be an easy matter to ascertain: the Australian Company alone are computed to have not less than 50,000. I should hardly think there were fewer than 450,000 shorn last year; for the quantity of wool exported would give (at from 3 lbs. to 3½ lbs. a fleece) about 385,000, and a large quantity of the coarser wools are manufactured into cloths in the colony; one individual alone making not less than a thousand yards weekly. Fleeces of the weight of 5 lbs. are not uncommon, and some of fair wool weighed 7 lbs; but from 3 lbs. to 3½ lbs. appears to be the more usual average of those of a superior quality. The fleeces of 7 lbs. were sold in the colony at fifteen pence per pound. Not long since a settler, whose flocks were in the Morumbidgee, was obliged to apply for permission to change his grant in consequence of a most unprecedented event that happened with respect to his sheep. The soil was impregnated with saline matter, and the sheep were observed to eat it with the greatest avidity; but, after a time, the ewes took to devouring the lambs as fast as they were dropped; that is to say, as soon as a lamb made its appearance, the ewes (not the mother) would tear it to pieces and eat it! When this was made known to the owner, he ordered a quantity of salt to be given to the animals, which was incautiously placed in a heap at one spot, for the instant it was perceived by them, they made a simultaneous rush, and several of them were trampled to death. Of 1,400 lambs only 400 were saved; and, in so far as I could discover, the loss occurred in consequence of the sheep not having been supplied with salt. Many of the settlers appear afraid that it would injure them; a great error, as is well known to farmers in England. Lord Somerville attributes the great health of his Merinos to the salt with which they are supplied, and allows a ton annually to every hundred sheep; and in Spain also the Merinos have salt; while in New South Wales thousands of the sheep never see a grain from the beginning to the end of the year.
Cachmere goats have been recently imported, and, as the climate is so congenial, their hair will very likely form an important article of exportation. The broad-tailed sheep might also be introduced with advantage; in Thibet the fleece is remarkably fine, and from its beauty and length is worked into very fine shawls.
As any further observations that I may have to make on this colony, will apply equally to Van Dieman's Land, I shall introduce, in the next chapter, those which concern the latter only, and afterwards conclude with those likely to be of use to the emigrant in whichever colony he may decide upon locating himself.
ARRIVAL AT HOBART TOWN—EXCURSIONS INTO THE INTERIOR—LAUNCESTON—STORM BAY—SKETCH OF THE CAPITAL—POPULATION—SOCIETY CONVICTS—ANECDOTES OF THEM—REPORTS—HORSES—CATTLE—SHEEP—PRICES OF PROVISIONS—GENERAL OBSERVATIONS ON VAN DIEMAN'S LAND—RIVERS—ABORIGINES—EXPEDITION AGAINST THEM ANIMALS—FISH—WHALES—VEGETATION—CLIMATE—MEDICAL TOPOGRAPHY.
The distance from Sydney to Hobart Town is 650 miles, and the passage usually occupies eight or ten days, though sometimes from twenty to thirty, but it has been accomplished in less than ninety hours.
The advice recommended to the emigrant on his arrival at Sydney is equally applicable to him on his reaching Hobart Town; it would consequently be useless to repeat it: and the mode of travelling in the "bush" is also the same as in New South Wales.
Any person undecided in which colony he will finally establish himself, could take his passage in a vessel bound to Sydney via Hobart Town; as he would then have ample time, while the cargo was discharging, to make every inquiry connected with the subject of land: if he found that the colony answered his expectations he could remain, or otherwise go on to New South Wales. If he adopted this suggestion, it would be adviseable to make some arrangement with the commander before he quits England, so as to live on board while in harbour; for the expense on shore would be very heavy. The above plan I should adopt myself without the slightest hesitation. There are tracts of country in Van Dieman's Land so imperfectly known, in consequence of the island having been but partially explored, that it is very probable good land may be discovered when least expected; at present, I really do not know of any good unlocated land in an eligible situation, unless there be some between the capital and Macquarrie Harbour, which I have heard is the case. There are undoubtedly spots which would form grants of 1,000 or 2,000 acres; but this is not the kind of farm adapted for the wool-grower nor for the grazier, unless there be a back run, which is not quite so likely to be the case as in the more open forest country of New Holland. All that I can say upon the subject, therefore, is, that the emigrant will find it extremely difficult to secure land in such a situation, and of such extent, as would benefit him to the degree he has a right to expect, in exchanging his paternal soil for a residence in so distant a country.
I shall now describe very briefly those parts of the island which I visited; they are few in number, but want of time prevented me from extending my little tour, nor am I sure that by travelling farther I should have seen aught particularly worthy of notice: even as it is, the reader will probably fancy I am describing (with the exception of the Derwent) some portion of New South Wales, unless he attends to the names of the places, which are certainly sufficiently distinct not to deceive him very easily.
New Town is a scattered village consisting of ten or twelve houses, and is well situated on the right bank of the Derwent. There is much land around in a state of cultivation, several gardens with a different appearance from those spots of white sand near the capital of the other colony, and it is altogether a pretty vicinity. Besides being desirable as a residence, on account of the respectability of those who live there, it is only two miles from Hobart Town. On the road from it to the ferry, seven miles farther, there are some good views of the river, which I crossed; thence a ride of six miles through open forest brought me to the Jordan, an inconsiderable stream, not far from which is the township of Brighton, standing on a plain, with much open, but very stony country, in the vicinity: on the whole I was rather pleased with the situation of the place.
The route then led me through the Valley of Bagdad, which though not the scene of Mirzah's Dream, was yet extremely pretty, (I saw no flocks however), and the country generally to Green Ponds, (an elegant name) thirteen miles, is interesting and often picturesque. The settlers are mostly small farmers. Forty miles from the capital I crossed Spring Hill, of some elevation, and covered with wood: this is the spot where the natives cross the country in their periodical migrations. A fortnight previous to my journey (1830) they had murdered a settler close by and plundered his hut. Two miles beyond the summit is Jericho, an incipient township. One would imagine that those who had had the childish folly to give such ridiculous and unmeaning names to the various places in the colony, had taken the trouble to search for them in the United States of America; for any person who had travelled in that country would almost fancy himself there again while passing through Tasmania.
The position of Oatlands, fifty-one miles from Hobart Town, is dreary and wretched, so that my wonderment was excited in no small degree at such an ill-favoured spot having been selected for the formation of a town. Independently of a lake, or lagoon, close by, there is, after rain, far too much water in the neighbourhood; the site is too elevated, the exposure great, and the soil none of the best; in short, this part of the country is only adapted for grazing, or pasturage. The township consists of a few houses, amongst which is a capital inn.
The country for the next eight miles is gloomy and monotonous, nothing being visible save almost impenetrable forest; it then becomes more open to Ross Bridge, twenty-three miles from Oatlands.
Here there is a very great extent of naturally clear land, which affords the finest pasturage possible, and is, indeed, better calculated for grazing than for arable land. There is, also, a fine race course, but the distance from town must be inconvenient.
Campbell town is eight miles from the bridge, and contains very few houses; it is well situated, and I had ridden (from the bridge) over beautiful downs, almost clear of wood, and affording good pasture. Passing alone over these interminable meads has a more dreary effect than even through a forest; frequently not a living creature is to be seen for miles, and the death-like stillness does not tend to raise one's spirits. Emus were once common here; but as man advances into a new country, animals retire to places where they may be secure from their omnivorous enemy; and such is the case in this island, emus having deserted the open country, and gone to parts of it where they are less liable to be molested.
The plains extend some miles farther to Epping Forest, through which the ride of six or seven miles has nothing in it to enchant the least fastidious traveller, unless it be some large swamps and lagoons. The contrast is very striking when, after riding through the "bush," the traveller comes unexpectedly upon a plain, sprinkled only here and there with Small clusters of trees, and on crossing it again finds himself in an extensive forest, which is the case in this part of Van Dieman's Land; for the transition is not at all gradual, as a person may ride many miles without meeting a single open spot, while on the plains it often occurs that scarcely a tree is visible.
On emerging from Epping Forest, the country improved; and some distance farther is Clarendon, 108 miles from Hobart Town; it is a mile or two off the direct route to Launceston. This estate is on the left bank of the South Esk, a rapid stream in winter, but fordable in summer. In front of the house there is an extensive flat, through which winds the river; in other directions, however, the views are highly picturesque, comprising the eastern and western tiers, or ranges of mountains. Of the former, Ben Lomond is the most conspicuous, and its summit is usually covered with snow during the greater portion of the year.
The valley in which Clarendon stands is sixty miles in length by twenty wide, with numerous inequalities, and is hemmed in by the above ranges. The country is commonly open forest.
The distance hence to Launceston is seventeen miles, and the country is woodland, somewhat interesting, and rather populous; the entrance to the town, however, is not so fine as many would have led me to believe. This is the second place in point of consequence in the colony, being inferior only to the capital, from which it is distant 124 miles. It stands between the rivers North and South Esk, which here unite and fall into the Tamar, at the head of the navigation of Port Dalrymple, and it is forty-five miles from the sea; the tide reaches quite to the town.
The lower part of Launceston is built on a flat, the remainder rises gradually to the summit of a moderate elevation. It is of some extent, contains in all about 2,500 inhabitants, and is not badly laid out; but I cannot say much in favour of some of the streets, as in wet weather the sloughs are deeper than is convenient for those who get into them, the bullocks not unfrequently perishing while attempting to extricate themselves and the dray from such a disagreeable situation. At least this was the case in 1830; and I was informed when in the colony in November 1832, that very little improvement had been made.
The country around is greatly superior to that about Hobart Town, though without the bold and fine description of scenery observed at the latter. The soil is also much better; and it is from this side of the island that the greater proportion of grain is exported. The settlers are amongst the most affluent in the colony.
The Tamar, at the head of the navigation, is not more, I should think, than sixty yards across, yet vessels of upwards of 150 tons may ascend nearly to the town, but they cannot lie alongside the wharf unless they previously discharge part of their cargo, on account of a reef which interrupts the channel. The width of the last is not more than twenty yards, nor does it widen for two miles, and it is very narrow ten or twelve miles farther.
One great disadvantage in this river is the circumstance of the wind blowing continually either directly up or down it; so that a vessel is often obliged to depend upon the tide; a great inconvenience, as, in consequence of this, the passage from the entrance to Launceston sometimes occupies from two to three weeks. The entrance is also difficult to find, and one vessel employed three days in seeking for it. Steam vessels would be a great improvement, and would undoubtedly pay well.
Much of the soil on the banks is fertile, and a good deal of land is cultivated. I was given to understand, that not a single acre hereabouts is unlocated.
A site for a town was fixed upon, about forty miles from Launceston, where it was intended that vessels of considerable burthen should tranship their cargoes: it was called George Town, went on increasing for a brief period, and was then deserted.
Many of the principal settlers on this side of the country are rapidly improving the appearance of their farms. One gentleman has laid down much land in English grasses, and several were adopting a style of enclosure that would be admired in any country, namely, a bank with a quickset hedge on it, and a double ditch. In New South Wales I never saw any description of fence except the external rails; even the gardens are often enclosed in no other way, although there is abundance of cape mulberry, quince, lemon and sweet briar, etc., in the country. Some of the farms on the North and South Esk, Lake River, and other streams, as, for instance, Woolmars, Rhodes, Pansanger, etc., are uncommonly well situated; the scenery is in various places beautiful; and in returning to Hobart Town by a circuitous route, I was highly gratified by the variety of views and general appearance of the country through which I passed.
Not being inclined to indulge in the dolce far niente, I soon afterwards crossed the harbour to Kangaroo Point, which is opposite, and rode to Richmond, a township ten miles from the Point, and containing ten or twelve houses. The neighbouring country is highly romantic, the cultivated spots contrasting well with the surrounding hills, whose sides were swarded to the summits with fine grass. The valleys are narrow, and of no great length; so that a large portion of this district is much better adapted for grazing than for tillage; but where the soil is good, nothing can exceed its fertility. It was near this that I saw oats six feet high; they were growing in a rich black mould. Why land should be thought in valuable and sell so high at this township, I could not comprehend, as the place cannot become of any consequence for several generations; yet, an acre joining, or rather, forming part of the township, was sold for 65l.!
From Richmond I followed the route to Sorell Town, passing, on my way, some few farms, and through much hilly and thickly-wooded country; the distance is twelve miles. It is a small place, containing a church, parsonage house, and several inns, as usual better built than the other habitations. Repeatedly have I passed inns by the road-side, in both colonies, and remarked how constantly they are superior in point of neatness and comfort, to the houses of the settlers in the vicinity.
Of a verity, these are rare countries for publicans (as well as for sinners;) and, as a proof that they must occasionally be at no loss for customers—those, too, from amongst the most devout of the votaries of Bacchus—I may mention an occurrence which took place at the inn at Lovely Banks, (lucus ą non lucendo, one of the least interesting spots in the island,) which was related by "mine host" himself to an officer of a regiment now in Sydney, and by him to me. A party of six emancipists drank, at one sitting, seven bottles of sherry, and forty-one bottles of porter, and after all, according to the landlord's account, left the house almost sober!
The Downs near the township are extensive, with no deficiency of good soil; and the views of the harbour, with the distant mountains behind Hobart Town, afford extensive and even magnificent prospects. This district is a fair specimen of an interesting and improving tract of country; but the township labours under the disadvantage of being rather exposed, and water is scarce.
Pitt Water is close to it; this is a large lake, or bay, connected with Storm Bay, the entrance being so shallow as to admit only vessels of small size.
Two miles from it is Orielton, an estate of 7,000, or 8,000 acres, with much good soil and excellent pasturage. On an adjoining farm I was shewn turnips, weighing from twenty to twenty-five pounds: they have attained a still larger size in this colony.
From Sorell Town I returned to Richmond, and then continued my ride to New Norfolk, or Elizabeth Town—for it goes by both titles—having passed through some very pleasing country, and enjoyed several good views of the Derwent; but there is much dense forest. There were few farms for some distance, as the latter portion of the ride led me through the "Bush." In this part of the island, however, there are numerous valuable estates in almost every direction. Elizabeth Town, thirty miles from Sorell Town, is in the district or county of New Norfolk, and is in every respect well situated; it stands on the river, and is only twenty-two miles from the capital. Some of the houses, or rather cottages, are neat enough, the inns, as usual, being better built. During the summer months the river is brackish and unfit for drinking; but when swollen by rains, it is fresh to a distance of two or three miles below the town. The face of the country around is extremely irregular, and intersected in some directions by long mountain ranges, with detached hills and groupes diversifying the other parts; and although it may be considered a romantic spot, in point of scenery, it is greatly exceeded by the country farther up the river.* I crossed in a punt to the town, and as my way was still by the left bank of the river, had to re-cross. Before I had ridden many miles, I came to a remarkably perfect specimen of basaltic pillars, at a spot where the road had been cut down twenty feet, to admit of a passage for vehicles, and so as to show the basalt, on which there rested a stratum, composed of a hard and solid mass of stones and clay. The country through which I now travelled was often highly beautiful; lofty hills, with their declivities concealed by forests, showed themselves in the distance, on the right of the Derwent, in some places extending close to the river; and, where the nature of the ground admitted of locations, the farms of the settlers added greatly to the effect. On the left bank the country formed a series of downs, in general so thinly sprinkled with trees, that it resembled a noble park, in which one would hardly wish to fell a tree, save an occasional unsightly Eucalyptus: the Acacias, too, were in full flower, and the fragrance exhaled by them was delicious.
[* One of the finest views on the whole of this river is that from Restdown (or Risdale,) the residence of Mr. G——n, famous even among the hospitable settlers of these colonies for his urbanity and kindness to those who are introduced to him.]
The Frenchman's Cap, alias Wylde's Craig, alias the Peak of Teneriffe, and perhaps a dozen other alias appellations besides (for the names of places in Tasmania are not like the laws of the Medes and Persians, which alter not,) with its snow-capped summit, was seen to great advantage. It is 4,500 feet above the level of the sea, and is the highest mountain in the colony; why it is called the Peak of Teneriffe is only known to the person who gave it that appellation, if haply to him.
After a most agreeable ride, I reached Lawrenny, an estate of 14,000 acres, the whole of which is fenced in, but very little cultivated: it is fifty-two miles from Hobart Town.
Here we see hill and dale, the Derwent and two or three other streams, much fertile soil, fine sheep-walks, and, in short, just such an estate as a man of property would wish to possess, if partial to a country life, and disposed to be hospitable! Unfortunately the proprietor is absent; no great number of respectable settlers reside near enough to form a society, and very little has been done in the way of improvement. Even on the eminences, some of which rise several hundred feet above the valley in which the estate is situated, there is good soil; and with a moderate capital a person of enterprise would soon make it a property of very considerable value. At present the number of sheep that can be depastured on it is calculated at 10,000; and, admitting a fair proportion of it to be cultivated, it would still afford feed for 7,000 or 8,000, with some pasture also for cattle.
On the opposite bank of the Derwent, which here forms one boundary to the estate, is Dunrobbin, a good farm, and very prettily situated, though rather too much confined by forest. There are some fine rides in the neighbourhood, but they are chiefly on the Lawrenny side of the river.
The splendid tract of country, to which I have alluded, continues only a few miles above Lawrenny and Dunrobbin: beyond there is a confused mass of wild looking mountains, which extended in chaotic confusion, as far as I could see. They have been very little explored, and are of no use to the agriculturist.
There are several settlers between the former and the mountains, but only one above Dunrobbin.
From the last I pursued the route by the right bank of the Derwent, and passed Fenton Forest, an estate of 3,000 acres; when not possessing the "organ of locality," or being rather stupid, which amounts to the same thing, I contrived to lose my way; and after riding some distance, found myself on the banks of the Styx, (in this island, even the infernal regions being ransacked for names,) with no path of any kind, and a dismal forest around.
The torrent brawled, and foamed, and rushed over its rocky bed with such impetuosity, that had the experienced mariner, Charon himself, attempted to cross a stream so violently agitated, there h little doubt that he and his ghostly freight would have had no small difficulty in reaching their destination.
So, likewise, the souls of old Homer's unburied heroes, if compelled to pass a far more brief period than the usual term of 100 years in wandering on the banks of this melancholy stream, would have found their peregrinations extremely fatiguing, and the walking particularly irksome. They would also have been greatly troubled with ennui, unless they indulged in the chase of the kangaroo—a pastime scarcely fitted for the shades of those stout and valiant personages.
For my own part, I was not a little delighted to find myself, after no small trouble, at precisely the same spot from whence I had diverged from the proper path just two hours before; for I had no provisions with me, and it would have been scarcely worth my while to slay my horse, as the poor quadruped was not overburthened with flesh. The Styx crosses the route to New Norfolk, and falls into the Derwent a few miles from Fenton Forest, but I was not aware of this. I am surprised that the neighbouring districts were not called Erebus, Tartarus, and Elysium; or at all events, after the general term of Ades!
It is a bad, nay a dangerous practice, to ride much alone in the "Bush," as in the event of meeting with an accident, the traveller is almost sure of perishing if disabled; and during the heavy and sudden squalls which sometimes occur, whereby large branches are blown to a considerable distance, an accident might happen when least expected. I have, however, ridden some hundred miles in the two colonies, entirely alone, and must confess this mode of travelling is so consonant with my mode of thinking, that on revisiting Australia, I should most probably again indulge in it.
Six or seven miles from the above estate, I came to Bushy Park, where the best of home-made wines and cider are found, and poultry enough to supply the capital for months; but of what use would it be to send fowls to town, if the person who sends them cannot get paid? I next came to Ivanhoe, only three miles from Bushy Park, and Redlands is the same distance from Ivanhoe; both are good farms. On this side of the river the settlers have formed hedges of quickset and sweet-briar, which, especially the latter, grow in this country with a luxuriance rarely seen elsewhere; they certainly conduce greatly to break the general monotony of the landscape, a point seldom attempted in New South Wales.
From Redlands to Elizabeth Town, six miles, and thence to Hobart Town, twenty-two miles, there are many noble prospects, and this is the case the whole distance from Dunrobbin. Indeed the scenery on both sides of the river is uncommonly varied and beautiful; but though the views from some of the elevated grounds on the right bank are superior to any on the left, the country on the latter has very considerably the advantage in every other respect. I may safely say that I passed no tract of country in New South Wales (in the located districts), at all to be compared to that extending from Hobart Town to about sixty miles up the Derwent, the Hunter's River, with its "park-like scenery" falling so far short of it, that there is not the slightest resemblance between the two, consequently a comparison would be ridiculous.
Great Swan Port, 110 miles by land, from the capital, I visited without intending it, the captain of the vessel which conveyed me from Sydney, having mistaken it for Storm Bay, and run in there. The whole country round this extensive bay appeared to be covered with dense forest, nor did we observe a single clear spot except on the farms, of which the number is very small.
Maria Island is here, and was until lately a penal settlement: there is some good land upon it, but the soil is in general indifferent. Port Arthur is fifty-five miles from the capital, and is considered one of the best harbours in the colony. The country around presents an unvaried prospect of thickly timbered hills, and the soil is so stony that it would never pay the trouble and expense of clearing for the purposes of cultivation. The "scrub" is in many places impervious, so that the country is often impassable, and always difficult to travel over. The timber is for the most part stringy-bark and gum-trees which grow to a large size both on the hills and in the valleys. This is a penal settlement, to which those convicts are sent, who have not been guilty of crimes of sufficient enormity to entitle them to a residence at Macquarrie Harbour.
Circular Head is on the north-west side of the island and is joined to the main by a low sandy isthmus. The land at the back is somewhat lower than the Head; and is formed into gentle slopes. A slight covering of withered grass gave it a smooth appearance. There was very little soil spread over the rock and sand, and the general aspect of the country was that of sterility; so much for Flinders' account of this part of the coast.
While here he saw a flight of sooty Petrels so numerous, that they occupied one hour and a half in passing; and he computes them to have amounted to at least one hundred and forty millions. This reminds one of a flight of pigeons seen in America by Wilson, but amounting to nearly double that number.
It is at Circular Head that the Van Dieman's Land Company have a tract of 300,000 acres. There are persons who say they would not object to locate near one of these great company grants, alleging as a reason, that they could easily manage to depasture their cattle or sheep upon so extensive a run, without in the least interfering with the company itself. The reason, though it may appear plausible, is a very bad one, there being several against it of much greater weight: one alone, and that perhaps of the least consequence, would deter me, and it is the circumstance of being entirely shut out from society; as a ride of fifteen or twenty miles to pay a morning visit is no trifle, nor can it be performed except by those who have much unoccupied time.
From general I shall now proceed to particular observations on the colony, commencing with the metropolis.
The capital of Tasmania stands at the foot of a lofty mountain, clothed to the summit with dense forest, and forming a grand feature in the landscape. The distance from Cape Pillar is thirty-three miles, and from Tasman's Head thirty-seven: these two capes form the entrance to Storm Bay, and are thirty-six miles asunder. Hobart Town is in the latitude 42 deg. 54 min. south long. 147 deg. 28 min. east. The bay contains several islands, and continues to the town, where it narrows so much that the harbour is not more than three miles broad, and in some places the width is still less; it is not near so sheltered as Port Jackson, but has excellent holding ground, and extends some miles above the town, though ships seldom anchor above Sullivan's Cove, where the Derwent may be said to terminate. The principal portion of Storm Bay is included between the land extending from Cape Pillar to the entrance of the Derwent and Brune's Island, between which and the south-east part of the main land is D'Entrecasteaux Channel, where there is a passage for large ships. The island is thirty miles in length and in some parts several broad, but at Adventure Bay is very narrow. The scenery both in Storm Bay and the Channel is interesting, often picturesque, and combines also its share of the sombre. The country is very densely timbered, with much underwood; and fern, six or seven feet high, grows in such abundance, that in most places we found it quite impossible to penetrate into the bush; this was in the Channel, the shores of the Bay, except here and there, being far more free from this plant.
Mount Wellington is a most singular mountain, and worthy of a better description than I am capable of giving of it. A road having been made by a person for the convenience of bringing down his sawn timber, shingles, etc., the first four miles from town may now be performed on horseback, the obstacles to an ascent, therefore, have been materially decreased. It is when a person arrives amongst a species of grass-tree that the walking becomes disagreeable, for the leaves often warn the traveller by their sharpness that they are not to be handled with impunity; there are also vast accumulations of large stones, generally with smooth surfaces, to clamber over which requires care and exertion; some of these stones are ten or twelve feet thick. Notwithstanding the impediments, a moderately active pedestrian will experience no difficulty in ascending the mountain, and returning to town in twelve hours, allowing three for exploring or examining the summit.
The mountain is stated to rise 4,000 feet above the level of the sea, some accounts say 3,000, the medium would most likely be the height of it. The summit is a plain some miles in extent, and it is the abrupt termination of a range of considerable height. The side fronting the town is a tremendous precipice, faced with immense columns of basalt, many of which are as regular as if made by man himself; and thousands of fragments are scattered about in the most confused manner imaginable, showing evidently that some violent convulsion must have taken place at a former period.
At some spots the columnar fragments have been thrown up in heaps to the height of forty or fifty feet or more, and in others isolated columns from ten to twenty feet high are seen; these last often have upon them a large piece of basalt (four or five feet high), unconnected with the pillar itself, and seemingly placed there by some person. In one instance two of the columns formed, as it were, a gateway about eighteen feet wide, and each of them was surmounted by a detached block of basalt. On my way up I had crossed a large bed of shells and other organic remains, and have no doubt the geologist would find in it a variety of interesting objects.
The view from Mount Wellington is really superb, extending, on a clear day, to the northward beyond great Swan Port, over a tract of country of nearly forty miles, as the crow flies, and nearly as far to the westward; to the southward the view is bounded by mountain ranges, to the eastward by the ocean.
From the numerous fine springs of excellent water which are seen at almost every step on the summit, I am induced to believe a copious supply will at some future period be brought to the town; at present they all flow towards the Huon River.
The space occupied by Hobart Town may be about a square mile; some of the streets are laid out with great regularity, but not a few of them run up the side and on the top of a hill. A small mountain-stream flows through it, affording a scanty supply of abominably bad water to the lower part; and the water is not much improved by the dead animals and various kinds of filth thrown into it. A stream of better description has lately been conveyed to the barracks and some of the principal streets by pipes—a great advantage, as nothing is more likely to cause sickness than impure water.
The houses are mostly small, and built in the cottage style; some of good size have been erected within the last year or two, though the style of building is still far inferior to that observed at Sydney. The public-houses, in proportion to the population, are not quite so numerous as in the other colony, yet they are sufficiently so; the number in Sydney being 197 (there were others building), gives one to sixty-eight free persons; in Hobart Town there are eighty-four, or one to seventy-eight free persons. Although their climate is neither so hot nor dry as that of Australia, some of the Tasmanians are not less regular in their devotions than their brethren in that colony.
All the streets run at right angles to each other, and in most of them there is a piece of garden in front of each house: this is particularly the case in Macquarrie-street, in which are the principal public buildings, so that it has a much better appearance than George-street in Sydney. A law was made that no house should be nearer the footpath than twelve feet, a rule which ought to obtain in all new colonies, and we should not then see the uncouth heaps of houses, with narrow lanes between them, so commonly perceived in our own settlements.
For the cemetery, a spot has most injudiciously been selected, that will ere long be surrounded by buildings, and close to that part of the harbour which was most likely to be wanted for wharves and stores: and as the Government is now employed on the formation of a wharf of great consequence the remains of the dead must be removed—a circumstance always to be deprecated. Places of interment should be situated in scenes of solitude, as in the East, particularly in these colonies, where the heat of summer is so intense, and where there are so many places near the towns which might have been selected, as being both retired, and, from the localities of the situation, so little likely to influence the purity of the atmosphere, by the miasmata constantly generated by the decomposition of animal matter.
In countries where those human goules, the "resurrection men," disturb, by their unholy occupation, the repose of the departed, it may possibly be a matter of precaution to form a cemetery so situated as to be under the immediate observation of the living; but in the colonies there can exist no inducement to disinter a body.
The settlement was at first established several miles farther up the harbour; the following year (1804) the present spot was finally determined upon, in consequence of the deficiency of water at the former place. The environs are in every respect superior to those of Sydney, being far more picturesque, and the rides and walks far more interesting. The Government domain at the latter is certainly pretty, and some of the views from it are good; that from the lighthouse is also grand, at least all who admire a prospect of sky and water will consider it to be so: but what are these compared to the prospects from Mount Wellington, Mount Nelson, and other lofty spots on both sides of Storm Bay? Even the view from the elevated part of the road to New Norfolk, only a mile from the town—in fact not so far, as the houses, though not continuous, extend some distance in that direction—comprehends a finer landscape than is to be found within twenty miles of Sydney; and the shores of the harbour have also a more lively aspect than those of Port Jackson, as there are houses and farms for some miles below the town; on the opposite side, likewise, an occasional farm is seen; the soil, too, is better, and the verdure is very different.
The following is a table of the population of the district of Hobart Town, in December 1832:—
The district extends some miles; deduct, therefore, 500 for the population outside the town (it can hardly amount to so many), and we have remaining 9,601 for that of the capital itself; or, if we take the whole district into account, 5,299 less than the district of Sydney. But it must be considered that there are in Hobart Town neatly 1,500 convicts more than in the other capital (these are employed on public works), so that the fairest way of judging of the respective population of the two capitals is to take the difference between their free population, which gives 6,774 in favour of Sydney.
The total population of the island was stated to be 30,000: this, like many other conjectures relative to the colonies, wants confirmation. The free population in 1830 was 13,000; so that it is not unlikely the island may now contain in all 30,000 inhabitants. The society is so limited that a stranger would without doubt find this town a dull residence; but I do not agree with the officer who lately published a letter on Tasmania, that all the families are inhospitable. That an English town is in general a more agreeable residence for a bachelor, in respect to society, than Hobart Town (or Sydney either) will admit of no doubt; if, however, a person can obtain one or two good letters of introduction he may get on well enough both with the aristocracy and merchants, though decidedly better with the last! The officer to whom I have alluded adds, that the settlers are also inhospitable. In making such an assertion, I can assure him he is entirely mistaken; and any person who has been as much about the colony as myself will agree with me, that a more hospitable class of people cannot be found in any part of the world. Like those in Australia, they are always glad to see a stranger, and, in so far as my own experience went, invariably treat him with the greatest attention and urbanity.
What may be the number of convicts in the colony I have no idea, as I omitted to procure the necessary information previously to my departure.
The rules and regulations respecting them are much the same as in New South Wales; but for some reason, which I have not heard explained, the rations differ, and, the price of provisions being considered, they are, consequently, more expensive than in Sydney.
Those allowed to the men are:—Meat, 10½ lbs.; flour, 9½ lbs.; sugar, 7 ounces; soap, 3½ do.; salt, 2 do.
The clothing supplied to them must consist of, per annum:—Woollen clothing, 2 suits; boots, 3 pair; shirts, 4; hat or cap, 1.
The bedding to be a palliass, stuffed with wool, two blankets, and a rug, to be considered the property of the master.
The regulation which succeeds states that "The supply of food and clothing above specified, with comfortable lodging, and medicine in the event of illness, being deemed fully equivalent, no payment of wages is in future to be demanded by the convict; and it is strongly recommended that none should be allowed!" I should hardly think it likely any would be allowed, unless under very peculiar circumstances.
When a convict is assigned to a settler, he is furnished by Government with one suit of clothes, for which his master has to pay one guinea.
The weekly rations to the women are:—Flour, 8½ lbs.; meet, 5¼ lbs.; tea, 2 oz.; sugar, ½ lb.; soap, 2 oz.; salt, 1½ oz.
For the information of my readers of the beau sexe, I subjoin a list of the wearing apparel allowed them annually:—Cotton gown, 1; bed-gowns, or jackets, 2; shifts, 3; flannel petticoats, 2; stuff petticoats, 2; shoes, 3 pair; calico caps, 3; stockings, 3 pair; neck handkerchiefs, 2; check aprons, 3; bonnet, 1.
A woman transported for fourteen years must have it in her power, one would suppose, to accumulate a tolerable stock of clothing.
The above articles of dress to be of a plain and neat description, not exceeding the cost of 7l. per annum; "and beyond which allowance the Lieutenant-Governor strongly recommends that no female convict should be remunerated."
In addition, a female is entitled to the same proportion of bedding as a male.
Here we have sufficient data for ascertaining the annual cost of a female; and, admitting the most moderate price of the various provisions, the expense of sending for her, perhaps from some distance, etc., it will most probably be little less than from 15l. to 18l.; a large sum, when we reflect that the value of money is so much greater than in England.
A male convict would cost about the same.
It must be understood that the meat and flour, being produced on the farm, a price has been stated for both—lower than they would cost in Hobart Town. It may, perhaps, be said, that when provisions are produced on the estate, the expense of maintaining the servants must be very trifling: such is the case in New South Wales, where cattle are so abundant, and, consequently, of small value; but it is very different in Tasmania.
On the farms, where the settlers employ their own people to make shoes, etc., there would be some decrease in the expense; but, every thing considered, the above sum may be taken as the average cost of a servant.
The remarks made on the convicts of New South Wales apply equally to those of this colony; the only point, therefore, which I have now to notice respects those who are sent to Macquarrie Harbour, on the west coast. This is the principal penal settlement in the colony, and its situation is described as cold and bleak, being entirely exposed to the ocean. The harbour is an inlet of the sea, running up into the land a distance of twenty miles. The head-quarters of the settlement are on Sarah's Island, in the south-western comer of the harbour.
The convicts sent there are, of course, of the worst description, and there are commonly from 350 to 400 of them at the place; some of whom are employed in constructing vessels, and others in cutting timber, consisting chiefly of the Huon pine. They also make shoes, and weave cloth from the raw wool produced in the colony. As no beasts of burden are allowed, the work must be sufficiently laborious; but the men are not obliged to work in irons. Although the climate is considered inclement, yet, from their regular way of living and simple food, the prisoners enjoy good health. The only river is the Gordon, which has a bar at the entrance; it is afterwards navigable between thirty and forty miles up, and seldom less than one hundred yards wide. Some of the scenery is romantic enough; on the whole, however, this part of the island does not appear to possess more than its share of charms.
In mentioning Norfolk Island, I have said that convicts sent to the penal settlements will often go to great lengths, in order to be returned to headquarters! It is at Macquarrie Harbour, in particular, that this is the case, some of them having even committed murder, that they might be returned to Hobart Town, although well aware they will be tried, and most certainly hanged: their argument is, that the life they lead is miserable, and, by going to the capital, they will see their friends again; after which, whether they suffer death or not, is a matter of no consequence! Such is the account given me by a highly respectable and well-informed resident; and, even if exaggerated, it tends to show the extreme aversion the convicts have to the hardships and restrictions of this second banishment.
Some persons are of opinion that these outcasts of society are treated with unnecessary severity; but what is to be done with doubly-convicted felons? If not punished with some degree of rigour, is it not evident that they would serve as no example to deter others of the convicts from committing crimes? From all I could learn, they are dealt by rather favourably than otherwise; of course they are compelled, to work, but if this be considered a punishment, they undergo it in common with those who are free. The principal object of the Government is to keep them out of the way, so as to prevent them from contaminating the well-disposed portion of the prisoners. It is not long since several of these wretches murdered one of their own companions, by knocking him on the head with an axe, having previously drawn lots who should inflict the blow; and, it would appear, without any provocation. They consequently suffered the extreme penalty of the law.
In another instance, nine of them drowned a constable, without even the shadow of a reason for so doing, as the man had neither injured them, nor could prevent their escape. They then took to the "bush," where they wandered about for some time, and one of the party was finally taken. From his account there seems to be little doubt, that the strong ones among them subsisted upon the bodies of those of their comrades whom they contrived to murder, and it is supposed they all perished except the man who was secured.
One of the most remarkable characters, perhaps, ever engaged in bush-ranging, was Michael Howe. This gloomy savage was transported, 1812, for seven years; on his arrival at Hobart Town he was assigned as servant to a settler, absconded, and became the leader of a gang. He does not appear to have remained long with them, but wrote to the Governor, offering to give himself up, provided he might be assured of personal safety, and a chance of eventually obtaining his pardon: his terms being agreed to, he surrendered himself. In less than three months again absconded; but his former associates looked upon him as a traitor, so that he was compelled to wander about alone during fifteen months: when, in the attempt to take him, his skull was fractured by the blows he received, and he died on the spot. He was nearly six years in the bush, and appears to have caused great alarm.
Of Brady there are many anecdotes; but this man, bad as he was, was a very different character from the other. The following incident was related by him, after his apprehension, to a magistrate, from whom I had the particulars:—
A man by whom he had frequently been harboured, at length determined to betray him, so as to be entitled to the reward offered for his capture, and for this purpose concealed two constables in his hut.
It is curious, and probably inexplicable, that persons should so often feel a presentiment of approaching evil, for this prescient instinct can be of no use, seeing that the evil is ever unavoidable; and yet who has not felt it himself at some period of his passage through life?
When Brady was about to approach the hut, where he had so often been before, suspicions arose in his mind that all was not right; which, in fact, was an instance of the singular prescience to which I have alluded. On observing this to a man who was with him, the latter said it was highly improbable that the owner of the hut would betray him, after all that had passed between them! Without being in the least convinced of the soundness of the argument, he advanced, and when near enough, was fired upon by the constables. The result was a wound in the arm, and the seizure of himself and his companion: the latter was marched off, in charge of the constables, to the next magistrate, and Brady was left bound, under the charge of his betrayer. After a while, the former asked his quondam friend to let him lie on the bed, and to place over him a kangaroo rug, as his wound was very painful. His request being complied with, he availed himself of the opportunity to extricate his hands from the cord by which they were bound, and then asked for water. While procuring some, the man laid aside his gun, which being perceived by Brady, he sprang from the bed and laid hold of it, so as completely to turn the tables upon his treacherous keeper.
When a prisoner, Brady had reproached him for having acted with such perfidy to one who had placed implicit confidence in him; he only replied by observing, that Brady could but be hanged, which was of no consequence, as there was neither God or devil! As soon, however, as he found himself in the power of the man whom he had injured, and that he might dread the worst from his vengeance, the craven threw himself on his knees, and in the most abject manner begged, for God's sake, that his life might be spared! Brady replied, "You are a pretty rascal to use the name of God, after having told me there was none; however, I will not shoot you now, as an alarm might be created by the report of my gun, but if we meet again, beware!" Brady then made his escape. Afterwards, when commanding a regular gang of bush-rangers, he fell in with this same man, seized him, and, holding a pistol to his head, told him he had just five minutes left to say his prayers. When he perceived his death resolved upon, he coolly placed his head against the door of a hut by which they were standing, and said, "Then fire, and be d—d to you!" upon which he was shot dead. When the body was discovered, the bullet was found to have barely penetrated the skull, and was quite flattened!
At one time the plan was tried of giving a prisoner permission to go out and join the bush-rangers, that he might betray them into the hands of the police. The man retained his irons, left town secretly, and, on falling in with the marauders, pretended he had escaped from goal. This manœuvre succeeded once or twice, but the bush-rangers soon became aware of the scheme, and acted accordingly: however, on one occasion they committed a slight mistake. A convict had been guilty of some crime for which he was sent to prison to await his trial; not admiring this curtailment of his wonted exercise, or his organ of space having experienced a sudden development, he got out of the prison and made off. It was not long before he met with Brady's gang, which he wished forthwith to join: but as they naturally supposed him to be another decoyer, in spite of his protestations to the contrary, he was adjudged to suffer death. The sentence was politely intimated to him, and, at the same time, he was allowed five minutes to make any arrangements for his exit. Brady seems to have thought time of no small value, if one may form an opinion from his want of liberality when granting it to those who required it more than himself.
The time being expired, the gang forced him to swallow a whole bottle of laudanum, of which they had a quantity by them in case of being apprehended; for it was their intention, in the event of this happening, to give themselves a quietus rather than receive one at the hands of the executioner: they left him, as they fancied, in articulo mortis. The quantity, perhaps the quality, saved the man, as, just after the gang had quitted him, which was immediately, his stomach rejected the laudanum, the narcotic effects of which merely caused him to take a sounder nap than he had been accustomed to. On awaking and finding himself still in the land of the living, he arose and moved on; but, after wandering about for some time, fell in, a second time, with Brady and his myrmidons, who, as might naturally be expected, were not a little astonished at seeing him. "Hollo! what, ar'nt you dead?" (such was the greeting)—"well, we'll do for you now, at all events!" It is to be presumed he had five minutes more granted him for preparation, but as I am not certain of this, the point must still remain doubtful. Two pistols were discharged at him, one of which took effect in his back and passed round the surface of the body, and the other inflicted a flesh wound of no great magnitude. He fell, and was left for dead; which would imply that the aforesaid myrmidons had not taken a very strict (post mortem) examination of the body, or they would have saved themselves farther trouble, as well as powder and lead—both scarce articles in the "Bush." The man, obstinately bent on not quitting the world in such a hurry, again rallied, dressed his wounds as well as he could, and once more set off in the intention of giving himself up at the first place he came to. Here he reckoned without his host, for once more he met his evil genii, who must have believed he possessed more lives than one of the feline race. In this last rencontre he could hardly expect the usual law of five minutes, and accordingly, it does not appear to have been conceded. A pistol was fired at his head, but instead of entering the skull (most likely one of considerable density) the bullet glanced and went nearly round it, causing a severe wound, and striking him senseless to the ground. The supposed corpse was cast into a creek that was nearly dry, and a few branches were thrown over it. This man is now in the colony, alive and well, and tells the story himself, having recovered from his wounds, neither of which was of a dangerous nature. The fact was also corroborated by Brady, when examined by the gentleman from whom I got the account, and, strange as the relation may appear, it is perfectly correct. Brady was finally disabled, like Achilles, in the heel, and his career was terminated upon a scaffold.
The bush-rangers admit that the life they lead is wretched almost beyond endurance. Constantly on the watch, to prevent their pursuers from surprising them, fearful of treachery from their companions in iniquity, and harrassed by the reflection, that while reposing themselves they may pass unexpectedly into the sleep of death; exposed to the vicissitudes of the weather, and often afraid to light a fire lest it might lead to their discovery—besides suffering, as they sometimes must, from hunger and fatigue, one would imagine that death itself would be preferable to a life of such hopeless misery. Their career is invariably of brief duration, nor would any but the most desperate characters ever resolve upon leading a life of so much privation and anxiety.
The principal exports from Van Dieman's Land, consist of wool, black whale oil, grain, mimosa bark, etc. Of the first, say the colonists, a larger quantity was exported in 1831 than from Australia. The only way in which one can account for this apparent impossibility, is, to assume that the wool of the preceding year, or a large portion of it, was kept back and exported together with that of 1831; for it is out of the question to suppose, that this island, where the largest flock does not exceed from 12,000 to 15,000, can export more wool than a colony so much more extensive, and where the united flocks of only ten individuals probably exceed 130,000. I have lost the returns of the exports and imports, and am in consequence incapacitated from giving their amount: the revenue is probably £65,000, and in 1830 there was an excess of income over expenditure of £20,000.
The tonnage of the vessels that arrived at Hobart Town in the year 1831, was rather under 20,000 tons.
The breed of horses is inferior to that of New South Wales, with the exception of the dray-horse, which is of a finer description than the same animal at Sydney, the latter being of a much lighter build, and better adapted for the climate than one framed in a more bulky mould. The Tasmanians find great fault with those horses that are imported from Sydney, and say their temper is bad; but this objection does not seem to deter them from purchasing the animals as soon as landed. The price of one valued at about 30l. in Sydney, is from 50l. to 60l., though much depends upon chance or accident: I saw an instance where a person lost considerably by some horses which he had imported from the other colony.
The cattle resemble those of New South Wales, but I have seen more pure Devonshires in this colony; the bullocks are not so large, for in Argyle several were upwards of a thousand weight; with this exception, I am not aware of any essential distinction between the cattle of the two countries.
The price of working bullocks is from 10l. to 12l. the pair, and a cow of a pure breed, 25l.; the value of one, generally speaking, is from 8l. to 10l. It would excite a smile in a stranger to observe the mode of milking a cow in this part of the world: the animal is made to stand in a kind of stall of four posts; the two in front are so contrived, that one is pushed back to admit the animal's head, and is then pushed to and secured to the other by a cross bar; one of the hind legs is now stretched out and secured by a rope to another post, and this is the common plan throughout the colonies.
I heard of one settler possessing 4,000 head of cattle, but have some reason to doubt the correctness of my information, for the demand is far too great to induce any one to keep up so large a herd, and if such herds are found in the island, the price of meat is rather unaccountable.
The sheep are of all sorts and descriptions, and on the whole not equal to those of Australia, though they will in all probability be so ere long, at least such is the opinion of the settlers.
What is the value of one of a superior breed, I cannot exactly say; the usual price of a fair woolled one is from 15s. to 20s, and for those of a poor or common kind, from 5s. to 10s. One would imagine that a sheep of the value of only 5s. or 10s, must indeed be of a miserable description, when the price of meat is considered; for some of the South Down stock were sold to the butchers, even up the country, at two guineas each. With respect however, to this subject there are many points quite incomprehensible to the mere traveller, and which can be understood only by those who are thoroughly conversant with the affairs of the colony.
The prices of provisions in December 1832, were as under:
|Beef, per lb||0||9||to||0||10|
|Bread, the quartern loaf||0||8|
The average prices during the year 1832 were
|Stall-fed beef||0||8||to||0||11 per lb.|
From this it will easily be perceived how much cheaper the necessaries of life are in Sydney; and as house-rent is also higher in Hobart Town, so is the expense of living very far greater. Another disadvantage in Hobart Town is, there is no markets and the inhabitants are therefore obliged to purchase in the shops or stores every article they require. This is positively discreditable to the colony; but when I asked some of the settlers why they did not send their surplus stock into town, and establish a market in spite of the shopkeepers, their answer was that it would not pay the expense and trouble! As this was somewhat unaccountable, in so far as related to those residing at no great distance from the capital, I put the question to a settler, in whose opinion I could place the greatest reliance. He informed me that it would be useless to send in poultry, etc., because he could not get for it a fair remunerating price in ready money; and that he did not choose to dispose of it, probably at a low price, and certainly at twelve months' credit! Here was at once an elucidation of the matter; and, thus circumstanced, he doubtlessly acted wisely in not attending so much as formerly to the rearing of stock.
An attempt was once made by the government to establish a market, which failed; and it is intended, as soon as the new wharf is finished, to try another.
English money is so scarce in the place, that it is with great difficulty it can be procured at less than from three to four per cent premium. Gold is never got at a smaller premium. The Spanish dollar passes at 4s. 4d., and is, with copper, the only money to be seen in the shops; indeed a person may often search half through the town before he can get a note changed, unless he is willing to receive the change in halfpence!
Van Dieman's land, or Tasmania, was discovered by Tasman in 1642, visited by Cook in 1773, and the colony established in 1803. From that period 1825, it was included in the government of New South Wales, and it then became independent.
The island is situated between 40 deg. 44 min. and 42 deg. 39 min. south latitude, and 145 deg. 38 min. and 148 deg. 24 min. of east longitude. Its extreme length is 191 geographical miles, and greatest breadth 171.
From its general resemblance to New Holland, one would be induced to believe it a continuation of the latter, nor in travelling through it will the distinction be found very great.
Considering its extent, it is, if possible, even more mountainous than New South Wales; for look which way one will, the country appears to rise irregularly into a confused jumble of wild and woody hills, a few only forming ranges. Between these, are valleys, some of tolerable width, but more extremely narrow, and entirely enclosed by mountains. The plains are the only exception; they are of great extent, almost without trees, and those at Campbell Town exceed 12,000 acres.
In respect to rivers it has the advantage over the other colony; as they are not only more numerous in proportion to the size of the island, but never cause such disastrous floods. The Tamar, however, is the only one that is navigable to any distance. After the Derwent and Tamar, the following are the principal streams; and their names, with some exceptions, display more taste than those of the Hunter's river district; for when native names are not employed, those of our own rivers should be substituted, with some attention, however, to consistency. In this list, the main absurdity lies in the application of the names of considerable rivers to small streams:—Ouse, Shannon, Clyde, Esk, Thames, Plenty (he who named the last must have been sadly at a loss for a word), Styx, Macquarrie, Isis, Mersey, Meander, Forth, Iris, Leven, Emu, Cam, etc. etc. In regard to the names of places, the taste is not quite so apparent; as, for example, Jerusalem, Jericho, Bagdad, Salt-pan Plains, Break-of-day Plains, Bothwell, Hamilton, Abyssinia, etc. etc.; so, likewise, with the mountains. Of lakes, the island has several, the largest of which is fifteen miles in extent.
Of the origin of the natives of this country, little, if any thing, is known. They are very different from the New Hollanders, and, if possible, even more barbarous, approaching nearer to the "mere animal" than the former. Some writers say they come from New Guinea; others from Africa. The truth is, no one knows from whence they sprung. It has been considered a remarkable circumstance that these people should be so different from their neighbours; but we constantly observe in the South Seas, islands not far asunder, the inhabitants of which are totally distinct races. Any difficulty that may exist in accounting for this apparently singular circumstance has been cleared up by Cook, who visited an island where he perceived that the inhabitants spoke the same language, had the same actions, and, in short were essentially of the same race as those he had previously seen at another island some hundred miles off. He ascertained from the islanders themselves that a party, while in a canoe, were driven off the land by a storm, and finally cast ashore on the spot where he found them. It is therefore easy to conceive that other islands may have become populated in the same manner, and it is possible this may have been the case with Van Dieman's Land. From whatever part of the world they may have come these people must have deteriorated, as a nation so utterly savage can scarcely be found elsewhere. The Van Dieman's Landers (I may not term them Tasmanians, as that would apply to native-born whites, who would not thank me for my portrait of them) have woolly hair, features flat and disagreeable, with a perfectly black complexion; and it struck me their eyes were more deeply seated than I ever observed in any other people. They are more strongly formed than the New Hollanders being neither so slight, nor so long in the limbs; their aspect I consider, if any thing, inferior. I heard of no ornament among them, and it is said they never wear clothing; but I should fancy they must do so in very cold weather, as the winter is occasionally extremely inclement, and it is not probable that they would throw away the skins of the animals they kill. They are known to have distinct tribes, each with its chief or leader; do not appear to have any rites or ceremonies, religious or otherwise; and lead a wandering life, like all the unsophisticated children of nature; and if their Christian brethren would not interfere with or annoy them, would very likely be sufficiently happy.
For a long time they agreed perfectly well with the whites, but became troublesome (well they might after the treatment they experienced) in 1814, though it was not till 1826 that the evil began to assume a serious character: in that year two of them were tried and hanged for the murder of a white. Whatever may be urged in favour of the policy of this act, may be retorted by much against the humanity and propriety of it: perhaps it was an act of absolute necessity; but it would surely be preferable to slay a black in "hot blood," while about to commit violence, or even afterwards, than to take away his life by a law he does not understand. The lex talionis is familiar to every one, and more particularly to savages; if those two men, therefore, had been killed in the "bush," it might have made some impression on the natives generally, but, being hanged, the chances are, that if their countrymen knew of it, they would only feel irritated, and retaliate the first opportunity. "In a state of nature," says Gibbon, "every man has a right to defend by force of arms, his person or his possessions; to repel, or even to prevent the violence of his enemies, and to extend his hostilities to a reasonable measure of satisfaction and retaliation."
The settlers say that some of the tribes are infinitely more savage and mischievous than the others; more treacherous, and more difficult to be wrought upon: it was against two tribes of this description that an expedition was sent in September, 1830, and as it created some sensation, I will first notice the cause of hostility evinced by the natives against the colonists, and afterwards the expedition itself. Formerly they were in the habit of visiting the towns, and also the various settlers from whom they procured bread, tobacco, etc., both parties being at that time on the most friendly terms. At some distance from the located parts of the colony, there are stock-stations, which are not often visited by the owner of the stock, so that the convict servants who are placed there in charge, are in a great measure their own masters, or at most are but little controlled. Now some of these men have conducted themselves towards the aborigines in a most brutal manner; for, not contented with taking their women, the wretches have been guilty of the most horrid atrocities towards them, murdering them without scruple. In consequence of these continual acts of aggression, the aborigines appear to have adopted the system of reprisals, and not only put to death some of their oppressors, but unfortunately several well-disposed persons from whom they had never experienced any injury. Of course the government were under the necessity of trying to put a stop to such sanguinary proceedings, and accordingly prepared the expedition, with the view of driving the two tribes upon a peninsula at no great distance from the capital, and confining them there by a chain of posts across the narrow neck of land which connects it with the main.
Orders were therefore issued for all the disposable part of the military, the government convicts, and as many of those in the employ of the settlers as could be spared, together with the volunteers who might feel inclined to give proof of their martial prowess, to set off for that part of the colony where the crusade against the Paynim was to commence, the inhabitants of the town in the mean time taking charge of the posts, and doing duty in the absence of the troops.
In thus denouncing war against the original possessors of the soil, the sole object of the government was to drive the obnoxious blacks upon the peninsula, without destroying any one of them; indeed so far from this, the greatest exertions had been made to civilize them, though hitherto in vain; as they show no small aversion to clothing their sable bodies in a christian-like manner, and avail themselves, when taken, of the earliest opportunity to escape, at the same time throwing away their clothes the moment they get into the "bush." That the natives of hot climates dislike to encumber themselves with clothing, need not excite our wonder; but that those of so cold a country as Tasmania should likewise go without any covering, is passing strange.
When the motley assemblage which had been collected, amounting to about 3,000 persons, was arrived at the seat of war, it was extended in a line over thirty miles of country, forming posts very near each other, or farther asunder according to the nature of the ground. Whenever the line halted, huts made of bark or branches of trees were erected, and each occupied by three persons, one of whom was always on duty as sentry. During the night, besides a large fire close to each hut, there were two or three kept up thirty or forty yards in front, so as to produce rather a fine effect. From one of our stations we could discern fifteen or sixteen of them, which caused a blaze that illumined a great extent of forest. In the event of the blacks attempting to force the line, or during its advance, shewing any inclination to do battle, orders were given to fire, and drive them back, but unless absolutely necessary in self-defence, not to kill them. The signal for an enemy was the cry of "Look out," to be repeated along the whole line. On the second night after I had joined the array, we were aroused by the preconcerted war-cry, upon which we stood to our arms, in the full expectation that the whole army of the Paynim were upon us; as, in addition to the cry, we heard the noise of musquetry.
We were soon relieved from our uncertainty, by hearing the cry of "All's well," denoting, of course, that we had put the enemy to the route. When the day dawned, it was ascertained that the alarm had been given by some of the people, who had probably heard an animal rustling through the bushes.
The ship in which my passage to England was secured, sailed before the campaign had terminated. On my second visit to the Island, I found that the result had been unsuccessful. Even the roving parties sent in front of the line to scour the "bush" did not fall in with a single native, although they perceived indications of their having been recently in the neighbourhood. What will be said in England to the fact, that among 1,500 convicts who were in the expedition, and a great number of whom were armed with musquets, only one instance of misconduct occurred during two months, the period they were out! One of these men shewed an instance of sang froid rather unusual. During the alarm alluded to above, he was mistaken for a native and fired at; he remonstrated with the gentleman who fired for being so precipitate, and concluded by saying, "and then to miss me after all!"
It is imagined the native population does not exceed 2,000, but it is impossible to form any correct idea of it. The fact, however, that the males greatly exceed the females in number, seems to have been pretty well established: and those who are acquainted with them affirm, that they are at least six times as numerous! Their language is musical and soft, abounding in vowels, like the Italian. It is universally admitted in the colony, that these children of the wilderness are not deficient in courage, and are wont to show each other fair play, not seeming at all inclined to avail themselves of any unfair advantage. It is added, also, that when they meet with the intention of fighting, it is the custom for one to receive a blow on the cranium, and then to return the blow on that of his adversary! How they arrange about precedence I was unable to learn, but must confess I should like uncommonly, when so engaged, to be permitted to strike first, if only to discover, for the benefit of phrenologists, what description of bump could be raised: by causing a development of that of benevolence, or a depression of that of destructiveness, the effect might equally operate in my favour. This fairness reminds me of the ourang-outang on the banks of the Ganges, "which (Froger speaks) will present a native with a stick and then compel him to fight, as it scorns to profit by any accidental superiority!"
Their arms are spears, like those of the New Hollanders, and waddies: the wommora, or throwing-stick, is unknown, so that they throw the spear by the hand alone, and yet will strike a small object at a distance of from forty to fifty yards. They use also a stick about two feet in length, half an inch in diameter, and pointed at one end. This, though not so dangerous a weapon as the boomerang, is nevertheless a formidable instrument, as it is sent with almost unerring aim, and with such force that any person struck by it would receive a dangerous contusion, or even a severe wound. It can be thrown with ease forty yards, and in its progress through the air goes horizontally, describing the same kind of circular motion that the boomerang does, with the like whirring noise. The natives of the Radack Islands use a similar weapon.
Through the exertions of several individuals, assisted by the government, fifty or sixty of the aborigines were secured lately and sent to Bass' Straits. In these Straits, as already stated, arc a number of islands; it is on the principal of these, Great Island, that the black settlement has been formed under the superintendance of an officer of the regiment stationed at Hobart Town. They are supplied with food and clothing, and land is cultivated for them; and as there are kangaroos upon the island, they are enabled to divert themselves with a little hunting. They appeared quite contented and comfortable; and although, if it be admitted, as some philosophers hold, that the most perfect state of man is that in which he makes the nearest approach to nature, these unsophisticated beings must have attained the utmost extreme of perfectibility, it is not the less to be hoped they will shortly become less perfect, more civilized, and ultimately useful members of society.
The animals of Van Dieman's Land differ in some respects from those of New Holland. The varieties of the kangaroo amount to only three; and the native dog, koula, and sloth are not found in the former, while the native tiger, or hyena opossum, as it is absurdly called, and the native devil, are unknown in the latter.
The colour of the native tiger (dog-faced dasyuris) is brown, with a number of black stripes which extend across the back, gradually taper to a point, and terminate near the belly; the circumference of the body is only eighteen inches. It is carnivorous, has a remarkable large mouth, destroys lambs, and will eat offal; is slow in its movements, extremely cunning in its nature, and is a night animal. Like the kangaroo, it goes in tracks or paths beaten by that animal, or by its own kind, and can be tamed with equal facility. The following were the dimensions of one:—
|From the nose to the insertion of the tail.||45||Inches.|
|Length of the tail.||20||do.|
|Ear to the shoulders.||12||do.|
|Shoulder to the foot.||8||do.|
Of the native devil (dasyuris ursinus) I saw only one specimen: it was nearly entirely black, about the size of a terrier, with a large head, a most formidable set of teeth, and very short legs. It is entirely carnivorous, and is also the only quadruped in these colonies that is untameable. The individual alluded to had been two years in captivity, and was fierce as ever. When provoked, it champed its teeth with great force, making at the same time a noise not unlike that made by a bear. This animal can exist a long time without food; the above, for example, was three weeks without any. One writer says it is covered with scales, and is the ugliest creature in existence; the one I saw, was covered with hair, like that of a dog, and not remarkable for ugliness.
The wombat is a singular animal, and when fall grown will weigh nearly forty pounds. The largest that came under my observation was thirty-two inches in length and twenty-four in circumference; the fur is thick, very strong, and of a dark grey colour. The legs are extremely short, the ears hardly visible, the feet formed like those of a badger, and it has no tail. Its mouth resembles that of a rabbit, with only four teeth in front. The flesh has the flavour of that of a kangaroo, but is more delicate. The food of the wombat consists principally of leaves and grass; its movements are rapid; it burrows, and, in common with the other quadrupeds of this island, is a night animal.
The ornithorynchus histrix, or porcupine, differs greatly from that of New South Wales, and is the echidna setosa of naturalists; it is larger, has not near so many spines or quills, nor is the form the same. The flesh equals that of a fowl.
The ornithorynchus paradoxus is found in many of the streams, and differs very slightly from that of New South Wales.
Some of the dogs introduced by the Colonists have become wild (in all probability through the culpable neglect of their owners), and have destroyed a great number of sheep: once fairly established in the Colony, it would be in vain to attempt their destruction, as there are tracts of "scrubby" country from which it would be impossible to expel them.
Several kinds of animals resembling the weasel tribe in their predatory habits, are peculiar to the island, and destroy great numbers of poultry. The kangaroo, or opossum mouse, is a mouse formed like a kangaroo, and is a very curious little animal; it would appear to be rather scarce, as I never saw one, nor could ever get a proper description of it.
Amongst the feathered race are emus, black and white cockatoos, parrots, two kinds of magpies, laughing jackass, hawks, eagles, the carrion crow, pelican, black swan, ducks, teal, widgeon, etc., etc.; with quail, snipe, and bronze-winged pigeons.
There are likewise several kinds of snakes,—two or three of which are venomous—guanas, centipedes, scorpions, and ants as large as those of New South Wales.
It is certainly a remarkable feature in the character of the quadrupeds, and in many of the birds of these colonies, that they can be so easily tamed. In other countries, both time and attention are required to subdue the natural ferocity or wildness of the animals, while here it is done without trouble, and in a very short time. The kangaroo, wombat, and many others become reconciled to captivity in the course of a day or two, and will then follow a person like a dog. Even the native tiger and some of the animals called native cats, can be reclaimed: the native devil alone seems averse to quit its life of freedom to associate with man.
Of their habits little, if any thing, is known in Europe; and it is to be regretted that more attention has not been paid to a subject that would not fail to afford considerable interest.
Fish are more abundant on the coasts of Tasmania than near the Australian capital, but the rivers of this island contain only fish so small, that, compared to those, of Australia, they are mere sprats. Black whales enter the bays in order to seek some retired spot where they may bring forth their young, and during that season become victims to the cupidity of the arch destroyer, man. At no very distant period, few, if any, will be found on these coasts, for the warfare kept up against them is so incessant and destructive, that their numbers are already greatly diminished. I witnessed the death of one (in 1830) nearly fifty feet in length, in Storm Bay; and it certainly was a fine though melancholy sight, to observe the huge creature pursued by six boats, the rowers of which were all striving their utmost to secure, the first stroke with the harpoon, as the boat which first "gets fast," that is to say, strikes first, the harpoon at the same time retaining its hold, is entitled to the animal. After a sharp row of several miles, the harpooner ("headsman") in the foremost boat "threw his iron," which became fixed. The instant the whale felt the stroke it darted off with great velocity, but had not gone far before it dived ("sounded"); on rising again to the surface it began to spout blood and water to the height of many feet, and to lash the water most furiously with its tail ("fight with its fluke"); a very short time elapsed before it died.
Spermaceti whales are not found on any part of the coasts. The captain of a whaler told me, as a singular instance of instinct in the shark, that wherever whales are seen, there likewise will most assuredly be found the former. It is an undoubted fact, that as soon as the whale has been brought alongside the ship, and the operation of "flinching" or "cutting in" commenced, the sharks claim their share by an immediate attack; and it may be taken for granted that their appetites must be sufficiently ravenous, for we never captured one with any thing in its stomach, save once, when we found in it it two or three well-used quids of tobacco, thrown overboard by some of our people. The captain of the whaler had well nigh lost one of his men a few days before we spoke to him (off New Zealand), a shark having taking a piece out of his thigh while employed in fixing a hook in the whale, when alongside.
Amongst other curious expressions used in the vernacular jargon of sperm whalers, is that of "right fish," for it means literally the wrong one, as it denotes the black whale, which is not disturbed by them.
Vegetation is equally rapid in this colony as in Australia, and the trees often attain a large size: not far from Hobart Town there is an eucalyptus nearly sixty feet in girth; it is quite hollow, with every prospect of flourishing for years to come. The trees are ungainly, shoot up with vast stems, and scarcely any branches; but where the cherry, mimosas, and one or two other ornamental trees are seen, they take off greatly from the effect caused by the uncouth appearance of the eucalyptus tribe. It is from one of this tribe that the manna is procured, as noticed in my remarks on Argyle; it is found on the ground in pieces none of which are larger than a small bean, and more usually they do not exceed the size of a pea; it often happens that they are still more minute. The manna is white, and tastes like sweetened flour, or rather like some kinds of sugar-plum. Some writers say it dissolves immediately the sun is up, which is a mistake, for it may be gathered in both colonies at any time of the day, in clear or in cloudy weather: the greatest quantity that I ever collected at one time was just after a smart shower of short duration. It does not exude from the stem, but forms concretions on the leaves and smaller branches, and is found in such trifling quantities that it would never repay the trouble of collecting it.
The stringy bark seems to be the most valuable tree in the colony, and there are several kinds of gum nearly equal to it; the woods most esteemed by cabinet-makers are, the Huon pine, black and silver mimosas, a species of cedar, and sassafras.
The trees are all evergreens, with that sombre hue which prevails in New Holland, without a single lively tint, except that of the native cherry, to break the monotony it causes.
There are some very handsome shrubs, and many beautiful flowers; but in this respect it is quite inferior to the other colony.
All the European trees thrive wonderfully well, and so abundant was the fruit last year, that the quantity was immense. It may well be said that no climate can be more congenial to the growth of fruits than that of this island; and one great advantage it possesses over Australia, is that, instead of ripening at once as in the latter. (I do not speak of those which are tropical,) they do so gradually, and in consequence a plentiful supply may be had during many weeks. No tropical fruit of any kind will grow in Van Dieman's Land.
Geraniums grow in all the unexposed parts of the island in the open air, and frequently attain the height of eight or ten feet; a small slip of the common red one will become a considerable shrub in less than two years. I mention this plant to shew the mildness of the climate.
All the English grasses succeed well, as do the various kinds of grain; the wheat especially is considered of an excellent quality, weighing generally sixty-two to sixty-four pounds the bushel: Barley and oats will only thrive in good soil.
Apples, peaches and plums, grow with such rapidity, that the shoots sometimes attain the length of six or seven feet (not unfrequently more) in one season; and I was shewn a young pear above six feet high, that had been produced from a pip put into the ground twenty-two months before. Tobacco will grow well enough; it is, however, very little attended to, only enough being cultivated for the dressing of sheep.
Minerals are supposed to be numerous; but in the colonies so little attention has been paid either to geology or mineralogy, that the mere traveller who, like myself, has had no opportunity of minutely exploring the country, is compelled to judge very much by hearsay—an unsatisfactory mode of forming an opinion upon these interesting subjects. All I could learn was, that the following have been discovered:—namely, coal, iron, copper, alum, etc., and petrifactions, particularly of wood, are common and beautiful. Salt has also been procured from water-holes on some of the plains, and in considerable quantity.
Of all variable climates, that of the district of Hobart Town is certainly the most changeable, the mutations being incessant. Heat, cold, rain, and sunshine succeed each other with a rapidity I never observed in any other part of the world. In winter, these alternations, with the addition of hail and snow, follow each other with equal celerity. Nevertheless, with all its faults, I prefer it greatly to the climate of Sydney,* and am convinced it is far more healthy. The winter of 1830 was considered particularly inclement, yet the snow never remained on the ground in and about the capital beyond a few hours.
[* It must be recollected that by the climate of Sydney is meant that of the tract of country between the capital and the Blue Mountains, say a space of about thirty miles square.]
There is no doubt that the climate is influenced by the proximity of Mount Wellington and other elevated land, the weather being much more steady at a distance. At Swan Port such is the case, and at places still nearer. At Sydney, the winter is more agreeable; but there, during the summer, often for weeks together, one observes an intensely blazing sky, without a friendly cloud to afford a moment's relief to the eyes. This does not so frequently occur at the Tasmanian capital.
On the north side of the island, the snow was (1830) of considerable depth, and many days before it dissolved; but why the cold should be greater there than on the south side, is rather inexplicable. One would imagine that as Launceston is not more elevated than the capital, the converse would have happened.
It is not an uncommon opinion among the colonists, that the climate has undergone some very important changes within the last twelve years, having become more inconstant, and also inclement.
Regular land and sea breezes prevail during the summer; and hot winds sometimes occur, causing the thermometer to rise even to 108 degrees. They blow from the north and north-west, and rarely last any time; but during their prevalence, vegetation is greatly blighted.
The island is not so subject to storms of thunder and lightning as New South Wales; but sometimes, as in that country, violent gusts of wind occur, which are so furious as to force their way through a forest, making a road or path forty or fifty yards wide, and extending to some distance.** The coasts are visited by much boisterous Weather; and during some part of the year gales are almost constant off Bass's Straits. As they blow from the westward, the passage through from the eastward is seldom attempted, captains of vessels preferring to go round the island. One captain tried, for eighteen days to get through, but was obliged to bear up and go to the southward. On the whole, the climate may be considered a mild modification of that of England, including its numerous vicissitudes. The average height of the thermometer in summer is 70 deg.; and in winter from 40 deg. to 48 deg., though it rises higher for a day or two occasionally.
[** The same havoc is caused in America by sudden gusts which sweep off acres of trees in a minute.]
The children of this colony have a florid appearance not often observed in New South Wales, and many of them are extremely pretty. I am told they grow up plain, but know not how true this is. On my remarking to a gentleman how good-looking the Tasmanian children were, he replied, that "he thought them the ugliest set of little brutes he had ever seen!" So much for the various opinions of travellers.
I shall conclude these observations by a few remarks on the medical topography of the island, written by my friend Dr. S.
"Van Dieman's Land is not less peculiar in this respect than it is in its animal and vegetable productions, as situations are here "enjoyed with health and pleasure, which any where else would be considered inevitable destruction, or hazardous to human life. And although the vicissitudes of the thermometer from heat to cold, and of the barometer from clear weather to foul, are frequent and sudden, they are not succeeded by the same baneful consequences to the human body as in other countries; nor are their changes followed by epidemic or contagious diseases, which as yet can hardly be said to have appeared. Vaccine virus has been introduced from the Isle of France and Sydney, but after passing through one or two patients has become ineffective. The diseases, both acute and chronic, are generally mild and of short duration, and yield more easily to the visual remedies than in any other country with which I am acquainted. It is to be observed, that a great number of cases are brought on by intemperance, partial clothing, and exposure to wet and cold, and that they are mostly contracted by European prisoners of dissolute habits or broken constitutions. The valetudinarian, searching for health, will nowhere find a climate and country more congenial to his feelings than Van Dieman's Land."
But if he seeks for amusement as well, in no place that I ever visited will he find less of it.
GENERAL OBSERVATIONS ON THE COLONIES—PUBLIC WORKS SCHOOLS—LAND REGULATIONS—VARIOUS MODES OF CLEARING LAND—EXPENSE OF DITTO—SQUATTERS—CAPITAL REQUIRED—DESCRIPTION OF PERSONS LIKELY TO SUCCEED IN THE COLONIES—DIFFICULTY OF PROCURING STEADY SERVANTS—WAGES OF MECHANICS—DISTRESS OF THE SETTLERS, HOW CAUSED—COMPARATIVE ADVANTAGES AND DISADVANTAGES OF THE COLONIES—OBJECTIONS TO SETTLING THERE—INDUCEMENTS—CONCLUSION.
In these regions, which pass through all the varieties of climate included in an extent of thirty-eight degrees, or 2,280 geographical miles, and are fitted for yielding all the productions of the temperate and inter-tropical climes, there is no question that the inhabitants, in the course of time, will be enabled to supply themselves with numberless comforts and luxuries which colonies less happily situated are obliged to procure from distant parts. Even during the brief period which has elapsed since their settlement, an unexampled progress has been made, and with unlooked for success, in respect to the location and cultivation of the land, as well as the introduction and increase of animals and plants; the exports are also increasing in a ratio that is extraordinary; the powerful agency of steam has been brought into use, and through the laudable exertions of numerous energetic individuals, the immense resources of the colonies are gradually becoming developed.
Many generations, however, will roll away before the country can become thickly inhabited; for, in the first place, there are vast tracts that, in all probability, will never be reclaimed so as to yield any profit to the husbandman;* these intervene between the fertile spots that are scattered through the colonies; and, in some places, extend so far, that the traveller may pass over fifteen or twenty miles, and scarcely see an acre of good soil. Particular spots will (some have already) become populous; and districts, once thinly inhabited by wandering savages, are already covered with farms, where a multitude of flocks and herds are seen; but these are far asander, and peculiarly situated.
[* As for instance—Oxley describe the country 260 miles west of Sydney to be hopelessly barren and sterile: in fact it is a dreary and chilling waste; and so utterly destitute of water that he was without any for 36 hours. The land appeared to be parched by long continued drought.]
In the second place, the grants, or farms are of such magnitude, that unless sub-divided, which from the nature of the land, is not likely to happen, this alone would prevent the country from becoming populated to the extent observed where the land is more adapted for tillage than for pasturage. It is the same in Southern Africa where there are tracts of land so arid, that farms of 10,000 acres are not unfrequently supplied with only water sufficient for the supply of one family.
Nature has distinguished New Holland and Van Dieman's Land by a character so entirely their own, that their appearance as already stated is totally different from that of every other country; in both, the mountains are almost invariably rounded, nor did I ever observe, save once, (near Mount Boorooan), an elevation which terminated abruptly, in craggy, perhaps inaccessible rocks; and in both, with the exception of the few plains, all of which are some distance in the interior, the entire country is one interminable forest, sometimes impervious, but more frequently open, though, on the whole, more open in New South Wales than in Van Dieman's Land. But the latter is not only better watered, it possesses also, in proportion to its extent, more harbours. Let the reader cast his eye over the chart of New Holland and on its 6,000 miles of coast, he will find the number very small; for omitting those on the north coast, there are not more than four or fire that are commodious for large ships. As to the west coast, with the exception of Shark's Bay, said to be useless by reason of the deficiency of water, there does not appear to be a harbour along its whole extent. It is a curious fact that the western coasts of many countries labour under the same disadvantage, and by reference to the charts it will be seen, that in South America and Africa, the ports on the west coasts are few in number and very indifferent: other parts of the world are similarly situated.
Although some portions of New South Wales are picturesque, and afford extensive and even magnificent prospects, the absence of water, to which I have so often adverted, detracts so much from the interest which the landscape would otherwise have excited, that the effect is often dreary, triste, and monotonous, while a river or lake would have rendered it quite the contrary; and although its wilds are certainly decked with lofty trees and luxuriant herbage, there is ever a gloominess by no means consonant to the feelings of the traveller; such is not so much the case in Van Dieman's Land.
The floods which occur may easily be accounted for; the ground becomes indurated by drought and heat; a deluge of rain suddenly descends, and instead of part of the water being imbibed by the thirsty soil, the whole runs off, and rushes through the gullies or beds of rivers, not only too narrow and tortuous to admit of its flowing on without impediment, but the course of the torrent is likewise interrupted by trunks and branches of trees, which, by the accumulation of rubbish soon become dams.
I have said nothing respecting the government of the colonies, and am not convinced if I gave a full account of it, that the reader would be much edified; and as to the disputes about juries, houses of assembly, etc. etc., the emigrant has nothing to do with them; I shall therefore leave these matters to be commented upon by the historian.
Of the public works of New South Wales, the principal are the roads, which are a monument of perseverance and ability; though not numerous they extend a great way, and two of them cross the Blue Mountains. In Van Dieman's Land the only road, (if road it can be called) is that to Launceston; it is barely: passable in wet weather. At Hobart Town, however, a wharf is in progress, and a few miles from it a bridge across the Derwent, both of which will be creditable performances, though one would suppose that the formation of roads to facilitate a communication throughout the colony, would be of much greater present public utility, than a wharf.
The churches are wretched specimens of taste and economy: that of St. James at Sydney may be an exception (it is too small), but those of the Dissenters, the two steeple nondescript at Paramatta, and the only one at Hobart Town, are certainly no great credit to the respective architects. The church now being erected by the Catholics at Sydney will, when finished; be a highly respectable edifice; but for want of funds it approximates very slowly towards completion. The male and female orphan schools near Hobart Town may be regarded as the handsomest buildings in the colonies; with these exceptions, those of New South Wales are greatly superior; particularly the hospitals.. It may create some little surprise in the reader, when he is informed, that in Van Dieman's Land, there are five "Academies," one. "Grammar School," and one "Seminary" for "Young Gentlemen;" and three "Establishments," and eight "Seminaries for "Young Ladies" in all eighteen. What the number is in the other colony, I am not aware, but there are quite sufficient for the population; and two colleges, the Australian and Sydney, were being erected.
Of public amusements there, is a great paucity; races have been long established; and at Sydney there is a theatre, where the performance is tolerable. I believe the proprietor has sent to England for a supply of actors and actresses; if he has not, there is an opening for those who profess the histrionic science!
To the great credit of the Tasmanians, boxing, that most odious and brutal practice, has not yet been introduced; I wish as much could be said for the Australians, with whom it seems to be gaining ground, and principally amongst the native-born, who ought to have shown more judgment, as well as taste, than to adopt a diversion worthy only of savages.
Such are the public amusements: as to excursions into the country, I have already said that the environs of Hobart Town afford many more interesting rides and walks than those of Sydney; for the Paramatta River, which is neither more nor less than a branch or arm of the harbour, although some parts of it are extremely pretty, is not to be compared with the Derwent; nor the proportion of good soil within ten or fifteen miles of the latter capital, to that within the same distance of the former. This brings me to the subject of land, and "Land Regulations," with the latter of which I shall now make the reader acquainted: the emigrant should study them well, and mature his calculations, before he undertakes his voyage to the Antipodes.
By some they are considered highly judicious, and exactly the contrary by others; the main objection appearing to be this, that the charge of five shillings per acre for land, (immense tracts of country are clearly not worth half the sum per acre,) no matter how distant from a market, nor of what description the nature of the soil may be, is extravagant. But there is another objection of some moment, viz.: two persons arrive from England with the view of becoming settlers: one proceeds at once into the interior to seek for a location; while the other, in the mean time, remains quietly at the capital. The first, having succeeded in his object, returns, and makes the usual application that the land may be put up to auction, of which due notice is given in the government gazette, together with the name of the applicant. When the sale takes place, the individual who has had no trouble in exploring the country attends, and being of opinion that it is better to pay something beyond the five shillings per acre, (he, of course, takes it for granted that the applicant has secured a location well worth the money,) than be reduced to the necessity of passing many weeks in wandering about the "bush," bids against him who had discovered the land in question, and not improbably secures it. I do not mean to imply that this has been done, but there is a liability of its happening; therefore, it should be guarded against.
There is, however, one benefit derived from the change made in the regulations, and it is, that every individual having now an equal right to purchase, there can exist none of those unjustifiable "Reserves" for persons of interest to occupy at their leisure, which were formerly so common.
Not a few people suppose, that under existing regulations, many persons will be deterred from emigrating, and certainly, I have known instances of this having occurred; but whether they will operate largely to prevent emigration, remains to be proved: nor shall I venture to express an opinion upon a subject on which the reader will be enabled to form one equally, or more correct, than, any I could give myself. I understand the money procured by the sale of land, is to be applied to the purpose of emigration. If this be true, it will of course tend to increase the population, but respectable settlers can gain nothing by it.
"First—That all applications for the purchase of land must be made in the prescribed form, addressed to the surveyor-general, and obtainable only from that officer upon the payment of
"Second—That after three months' notice the land so applied for will be put up for sale by public auction (subject to all risks arising from any inaccuracy in the description), at a price of not less than five shillings per acre. If estimated at a higher rate than five shillings, the applicant will be duly apprized previous to the land being advertized.
"Third—That, with the exception of special cases, each lot so put up, will consist of one square mile, or 640 acres.
"Fourth—That the highest bidder must pay down a deposit of ten per cent, at the time of sale, and the remainder of the purchase money within one month, under penalty of forfeiting both the land and the deposit.
Fifth—The crown reserves to itself the right of making and constructing such roads and bridges as may be necessary for public purposes, in all lands purchased as above, and also to such indigenous timber, stone, and other materials, the produce of the land, as may be required for making and keeping the said roads and bridges in repair, and for any other public works. The crown farther reserves to itself all mines of precious metals and coal.
"Officers of the army, wishing to become settlers, shall, like all other individuals, procure land only by purchase at the public sale, but they shall be entitled to have a remission of the purchase money to the following amount provided they shall produce, from the general commanding in chief, satisfactory testimonials of good conduct, and unexceptionable character, viz.—
|Of 25 years service and upwards, in the whole||300|
|Of 20 years service and upwards, in the whole||250|
|Of 15 years service or less, in the whole||200|
|Of 20 years service and upwards, in the whole||200|
|Of 15 years service or less, in the whole||150|
|Of 20 years service and upwards, in the whole||150|
|Of 15 years service or less, in the whole||100|
"Officers of his Majesty's navy and marines, will be entitled to a similar remission, according to their relative rank and length of service; but no officer who has not served seven years will have a claim to any advantages under these regulations."
Without pretending to question the wisdom of these regulations, I may be permitted to hazard an observation upon the second. Let it be supposed that the emigrant has travelled to some distant part of the colony, and that, having discovered and selected land suitable for a farm or sheep-walk, he returns, and applies to have it put up to auction. Of course no person would wilfully purchase indifferent land at a high price; the government being aware of this, the surveyor is directed to inspect it, and, perhaps after the expiration of several weeks, the emigrant receives due notice that the estimated value of the land in question is above five shillings per acre. In despair of finding, without great delay and manifest inconvenience, another spot equally eligible, he is compelled to pay the sum demanded. But, if from inability, or some other reason, he objects to give beyond five shillings per acre, will he not have to set out in search of another tract? and may not the same disappointment occur to him more than once? Besides, is it not apparently a hard case, that he should actually be obliged to pay government for information gained by his toil and activity, and not improbably at some expence? Such are the arguments of many; however, I merely quote them as suggestions, and leave the reader to judge if they are worthy of serious attention.
The number of officers of the two professions absolutely settled in New South Wales (some possess property in the colony who do not reside in it), is stated at not less than fifty; but I do not imagine there are quite so many. In Van Dieman's Land there cannot be nearly that number.
The modes of clearing land are various: some persons cut down and burn off every tree at once, without waiting until they are dead, and without leaving even a few, under the shade of which the cattle might shelter themselves from the intense heat of a mid-day sun: the stumps are left to decay, and the land is cultivated between them. Others employ a plan very commonly practised in America; that is, a deep incision is made quite round the tree (called girdling), which soon dies: and as it then becomes quite dry, it is, when felled, consumed with great facility.
There is another method which I did not see tried; it is said to answer well, and is as follows: a hole, about six inches in diameter, is made in that side of a tree against which the wind is blowing at the time; on fire being applied, it communicates with the heart (which I presume must be in a state of decay,) involves the whole stem, which is soon destroyed; and any branches or fragments that are left, are then heaped together and also burnt! Such is asserted to be the case; but it certainly does not follow, as a matter of course, that the stem will be entirely consumed; for thousands of trees may be seen in the forests only partially destroyed, some of them still throwing out branches, and hundreds of them being hollow trunks, perfectly black and scathed, and imparting a most repulsive solemnity to the scenery; yet these trees have been more than once enveloped by the flames of the destructive conflagrations which so often occur.
When the stumps are left to rot, they remain a great number of years, for even if not charred by the fires when burning off, they will occupy a considerable space of time before they become quite decayed. One advantage resulting from girdling the trees and leaving them standing until ready for the axe, is, that the use of the land is not lost in the meantime, as it can be employed in grazing; but when the ground is strewed with fallen trees, which are frequently cut down and then left for years before they are burnt off, horses and cattle are liable to be staked or otherwise injured.
"Where the stumps have not been eradicated, they constantly throw out shoots, these become trees; four or five of which are often the scions of a common parent, and all of them probably many inches in diameter; but if girdling has been employed, I believe this is not likely to occur, the roots (I speak under correction,) and therefore the stump, perishing with the stem. As these young forests increase, so must the ground from time to time be cleared, a work of much trouble, for they are often very dense; consequently it appears to me, that it would be preferable to employ either the American method, or to clear the land entirely, as it is wanted.
The expense of clearing land varies according to the description of forest upon it, and to the district in which it is situated: but before I enter upon this part of the subject, it will be as well to premise; that, although the wages of free labourers are apparently exorbitant, yet, when it is taken into consideration, that (if at a distance from a town) they are under the necessity of procuring every necessary they require from the proprietor of the estate on which they are employed, who commonly chaises thrice as much for an article as it costs himself, (a previous agreement is made respecting this point,) their wages are not so high as might be imagined, although still sufficiently so.
If the soil is heavily timbered, as for instance in some parts of Illawarra, where there are trees ten feet in diameter, to fell one of which would occupy a man an entire day, the charge, I was told, is sometimes 12l. per acre; for this sum the ground will be brought in a state fit for cultivation. It is, however, very rarely that so much is paid, and only where the soil is concealed by an impervious "vine brush," the more usual charge being from 2l. to 5l.; but this naturally depends upon circumstances. The charge for going over land with a hoe, in order to collect in heaps all the rubbish, fragments of roots, etc. etc. is 12s. per acre.
In making a purchase, the emigrant should be careful to secure, if possible, a "back run;" that is to say, a tract of land, which, being behind his own farm, and without water, (such are many of the hills, which afford a good supply of herbage,) is not likely to be taken by any other person; and he will easily perceive the necessity of this, when he is informed that, speaking generally, three acres are required to feed two sheep. There are particular spots which will undoubtedly supply food for a greater number than the above proportion; though many settlers of repute, stated it as the average throughout the colonies. I have certainly heard of farms on which the herbage is so luxuriant, that only one acre was required for each sheep: but the finest estate I have seen in either colony, is calculated to admit of not more than five sheep to seven acres, at least, such was the prevalent opinion; besides, a certain portion of the estate must be cultivated, and the horses, milch cows, and working bullocks, must be fed.
As the settler will naturally devote his attention chiefly to the production or cultivation of those articles which make the highest returns, such as wool, salted meat, and cheese, he will find, that in addition to his purchase, which could be used as a homestead, presuming it to contain only 2,560 acres, (four square miles, or the old maximum grant,) he will still require additional land, to obtain which there are three ways of proceeding: he can purchase or rent a tract either from the government, or from an individual; he can also select a "stock station" in some part of the colony where the land is either unlocated, or being beyond the limits of that portion of the country at present open to location, will not, probably, for some time, become so. This is a very common expedient, but it is one that is also only temporary, as the occupier may be compelled to quit the land at a moment's warning.
There are likewise in the colony persons called "squatters," (the term is American,) who are commonly, it may be said always, of the lowest grade. These men establish themselves on some unlocated spot, where they cultivate enough land to supply them with grain, and not unfrequently pilfer whatever else they require, from the neighbouring farms. The only mode by which they can be dislodged is to purchase the land of government; they can then be warned off or ejected by force.
No emigrant ought, on any account, to purchase a property until he has quite resolved upon remaining in the colonies; for unless more fortunate than purchasers of land generally are, he will experience very great difficulty in disposing of it, without sustaining considerable loss.
I may here observe that unlocated land within 200 miles of Sydney, and throughout Van Dieman's Land, is becoming so scarce, that ere long the emigrant will have to seek for it at a most inconvenient distance in the interior of the one colony, and will be hardly able to find any in the other. This alone will show him of what consequence it is not to lose time in embarking as soon as possible after his mind is finally made up with respect to his expatriation; in short, to sum up in a few words, all that can be said on this subject, I do not hesitate to inform all those who intend to become settlers, that if they wish to avail themselves of the present advantages arising from the low prices of stock, etc., they have not a moment to throw away upon procrastination.
They will naturally wish to know what capital is required to form a respectable establishment; and although I cannot enter into all the minutię of the calculation (nor would a detail thereof be of any utility,) yet by being made acquainted with the principal expenses at the outset, they will be enabled to approximate so near the truth, that, with the addition of a farther sum for any unexpected contingencies, it cannot be very far from the amount.
Let it be assumed that the emigrant purchases what was formerly termed a maximum grant (2,560 acres,) and he could not do with less, the cost at five shillings per acre, would be 640l. If a "back run" is secured, it will make a very material difference in the value of the purchase, as a person who possesses two or three thousand, or even only a few hundred acres, may yet, independent of his own property, have a run for his sheep or his cattle many miles in extent. If one is not secured the above quantity of land will not be sufficient.
The charge for a fence of four bars is four shillings per rod, or sixteen feet; and if the farm did not exceed a maximum grant, the whole would doubtless be inclosed, besides which, there must be stock (farm,) yards, a garden, and paddocks. A hundred acres would not, I think, be more than sufficient for the supply of the household, if there be a family, with grain, garden produce, etc. etc. If properly cleared and cultivated, the whole expense would be nearer 4l. than 3l. per acre, and probably exceed the former sum. The settler would have likewise to purchase working bullocks, cows, and several horses. Of the first he will need at the least ten; but if he resides in the interior, and sends his wool or cheese to the capital in his own drays, double that number will not more than suffice. Of the second, from fifteen to thirty would not be too many for the consumption of the establishment, if the servants are allowed milk instead of tea And sugar.
No respectable settler intending to devote his attention principally to the growth of wool would, I suppose, commence with less than 500 sheep; for these, if of a good quality, he would pay £250, exclusive of any incidental expenses in sending them up the country, etc. There are persons in the colonies who will not dispose of a superior wooled sheep for less than £1 each.
A neat cottage of five rooms would cost, up the country, if built by contract, about £150; but the expense of the hut erected by the majority of the settlers, and which is often their only habitation during a number of years, is very trifling, as it is built with slabs of wood cut on the spot, and the interstices filled up with clay. Out buildings, however, are more costly, as they must be of more solid materials, and also much larger; the outlay on these will of course depend on the settler himself.
On a review of these items, after making due allowance for the difference between the apparent and real price of labour, the result of the profits on the necessaries supplied to the work-people, and bearing in mind that provisions and clothing for the servants, implements of husbandry, furniture, and a variety of articles too numerous to be mentioned here, must likewise be procured, the total amount of the expenditure would scarcely be under £2000, say from that to £2,500. The reader must not forget that I speak of a really respectable farm. There are numerous settlers who dispense with every comfort; their furniture consists of a table, made on the spot, two or three rude chairs, a bed, and a few articles used for culinary purposes; their "fare consists of fresh and salted meat, with damper (cake made of flour and water, and baked in the embers), and their beverage is milk or tea. Thus they vegetate during many years, regardless of the comforts and most of the conveniences to which they had previously been accustomed. An emigrant who is at all anxious that his family should enjoy a few of these will find that, in stating as an adequate capital the sum of from £3,000 to £4,000, I have made a calculation moderate rather than otherwise. In Van Dieman's Land especially, I do not see how a smaller sum can admit of a person doing much with respect to farming; and by reference to the prices of provisions, cattle, horses, sheep, etc. etc., the reason will appear sufficiently evident.
Any one, however, not in possession of the above sum, who nevertheless wishes to become a settler, has only to make his calculations accordingly, and purchase less land and fewer cattle and sheep; but in that case; he must be contented to remain some years before he will derive much profit from his farm.
There are persons who fancy that a very small capital will, as a matter of course, enable them to accumulate a large fortune in a brief period of time. It Is certainly true that many who commenced the world without a shilling are now in possession of affluence. But these were not farmers; they were merchants, and persons who retailed goods at Sydney and Hobart Town; and amassed money in a very different way from that in which the mere settler must expect to realize a competence. Those of the last description, who have done well, have passed many years in the colonies, have exerted their industry and energy to the utmost; and have availed themselves of the advantages derived from the sale of their stock at a time when the prices were extremely high.
It must likewise be recollected, that the period When a tract of land could be secured on the easy terms formerly admitted, is now passed; nor can the same be the case again, unless a change take place in the regulations, if the same price had been demanded for land some years since, as at present, a very small number of persons probably not one) could have afforded to pay for the extensive grants they possess—some of them containing from 10,000 to 30,000 acres, (I include all the farms of a settler no matter how distant from each other) for which a sum of not less than from £2,500 to £7,500 would have been required.
By purchasing a farm, on which some improvements have been made, the emigrant would not only save much valuable time—a point of great consequence; but another most material consideration would be this, that instead of being compelled to go a long way from any market, and there have to encounter, at the commencement of his new line of life, the numberless discomforts and privations concomitant on the profession of an incipient settler, he would find a hut or cottage, a garden, and several other conveniences, which would conduce greatly to make him contented, and very probably reconcile him to a residence in the "Bush." Not a few who have been obliged by circumstances to establish themselves in a vast forest, far from any neighbour, and with neither medical nor any other assistance within reach of them, become disgusted with the change, and then bewail their lot in being entirely shut out from society.
To give some idea of the serious loss of time as well as of the great trouble caused by being far removed from a magistrate alone, I need only state, that when a convict servant misconducts himself, the settler must either send the vagabond to the nearest magistrate, not improbably some thirty or forty miles distant, or he must overlook the offence.
I am thoroughly persuaded, that (under existing circumstances), so far from entailing upon himself any extra expense by purchasing a farm improved to a certain extent, the settler will save by it; for an estate of this description is almost always to be had at a reasonable price, even in good situations. A fine farm on a river, not far from water carriage, and containing 2000 acres, with a cottage and out-buildings upon it, was sold for £1,600, which was not more than the improvements had cost.
It is not uncommon for persons who do not reside in the colonies, but who, from the nature of their professions, pay them transient visits, to purchase cattle and sheep, which they leave in charge of an overseer. This plan is liable to numerous objections, and sometimes causes serious loss; for even if left "on thirds," that is, where the person who has the care of them receives one-third of the produce, (occasionally he gets the half), it does not follow that it will always answer, as this must depend entirely upon the man left in charge, who ought to be a man of undoubted honesty; a rara avis in terris not to be found every day.
I could instance several persons who have lost considerably by adopting the plan, but do not feel myself authorized to point them out.
Respecting those who not being settlers or merchants ate likely to succeed in the colonies, there is no doubt whatever that mechanics of every description are certain of finding as much employment as they can require: for respectable tradespeople there are also some openings, though their profits will not equal those of their predecessors, a good many of whom, and nearly the whole of the merchants, keep their carriages. Bailiffs or overseers are likewise wanted; so are those who understand the breaking of horses.
Good servants, especially those of the gentler sex are in great request; those free women sent out not long since by the government, having proved no great acquisition, except by increasing the population. This is a bold assertion; but my information proceeds from highly reputable sources.*
[* Several vessels have recently proceeded to the colonies, with free females; and it is hoped these will be found more tractable, and better disposed.]
Of the children who were also sent out, some have conducted themselves well, and many of them indifferently.
It is really inconceivable how difficult it is to procure steady servants, or work people; as they all seem to be of opinion that the great charm of life consists in getting drunk as often as possible; and unfortunately spirits are so cheap that they can constantly indulge themselves in their inclination. There are servants, who, though in every other respect most commendable in their conduct, were yet entirely untrustworthy through this abominable propensity. Such too is the case with a large proportion of the mechanics, men who have it in their power to lay by considerable sums from the profits of their labours, and to make no contemptible provision for their families; but who prefer instead, to waste their substance in inebriation at the public houses: they seem determined to take no heed of the morrow, eating and drinking as much as possible on the one day, for fear I presume, of dying on the following!
In New South Wales those employed in fencing, if very diligent, will sometimes earn as much as 16s. per diem; and even those not remarkable for activity can gain ten shillings. Two of these men commonly form a partnership, and they find this plan preferable to working separately.
Good mechanics will not work in Sydney, nor I believe, in the country, for less than eight shillings those of an inferior description receiving from three shillings and sixpence to five shillings per diem. It must, however, be understood that by the piece or job, they are able to earn twice, or even three times as much; so that it is only when not thus engaged, that they will accept of the above wages. Sawyers charge twelve shillings for 100 square feet of plank.
In Hobart Town a first-rate mechanic will not work for less than ten shillings per diem; and the common charge is from seven to nine shillings. But the artisans of New South Wales have one great advantage over those of Van Dieman's Land; for as meat is sold in the former at from two-pence half-penny to three-pence per pound, and in the latter at from five-pence to nine-pence, it results that, at Hobart Town, it is never less than double, and often three, or even nearly four times as dear.
I cannot say what the average price of wages throughout the year would be; a well-informed mechanic, who went out in the same ship with myself, said he could not earn more than two pounds per week. As he was a sensible man, and also skilful in his trade, I shall consider him, in a great measure, a fair criterion by which to judge of the value of labour, and assume, as the present wages of a good mechanic (1833), from one pound fifteen shillings to two pounds five shillings per week in Sydney, and probably ten shillings more in Hobart Town.
Stone-masons and coopers have in some instances been paid, at the latter town, as high as twelve shillings per diem; this was only on particular occasions, the wages of work-people ever fluctuating; for when I was in Tasmania, in October, 1830, a cooper might have demanded, and got, much more than that sum.
It is from this uncertainty that I am precluded from stating any positively fixed or average annual sum, and shall therefore simply remark, that as meat, and several, it may be said most other, necessaries of life (with tea and sugar), are much cheaper than in England; as there are no taxes, and as the wages are quite adequate payment for the labour, the artisan will doubtless be induced to admit that, in a pecuniary point of view, he would be much better off in Australasia than in any part of the United Kingdom.
One striking circumstance in the colonies is the almost entire absence of paupers: very few are seen at Sydney—none at Hobart Town; and those at the former are most probably idle and profligate characters, who are too lazy to gain an honest livelihood by working. The squalid misery, and dreadful state of destitution so common in our own islands, is never observed in these regions; nor is the eye offended, nor the mind harrowed, by the shocking scenes so frequently witnessed in all countries that are in a high state of civilization! The reason is obvious; where the population is small, and the price of labour high, no one need perish through want, as work is always to be found; but where the population is dense, there also will be, of a necessity, numbers unable to procure employment, and, who consequently, die of starvation, or through disease, generated by the pernicious nutriment which hunger compels them to extract from bad or unnatural food.
I know not how to account for there being such a difference between the two capitals in regard to affluence: the settlers in Tasmania, speaking generally, seem to have gone on quite as well as, probably better than, those in Australia: yet there is no comparison between the (apparent) fortunes of many of the inhabitants of Sydney, and of those of Hobart Town. Even making every possible allowance for the superior opportunities of realizing money, which the merchants and tradespeople of the former have enjoyed, it is still surprising that the disparity should be so very considerable! It is seen in every thing; style of living, equipages, and buildings.
Several causes combined to occasion the partial ruin of a portion of the settlers in, Australia, and one appears to have arisen from their having incautiously acted on the supposition, that the high prices of stock would have always continued, which induced them to go on increasing their flocks and herds, until the number became prodigious; when, as might have been expected, the supply being greatly superior to the demand, the value fell, comparatively speaking, to almost nothing.
The principal cause, however, of the distress, was that dreadful drought of 1826, 1827, 1828, and 1829: an extract from the Sydney Almanack, for 1830, will explain the matter better than I can. "The operation of the distress among the settlers was twofold; it obliged them to make purchases at an excessive price, of imported bread corn (the entered value of grain, flour, and potatoes, imported in 1828 alone, was £54,823) for the support of their households and establishments; and in order to raise the funds for these purchases, it compelled them to make forced sales of their live stock at a most unfortunate crisis. For, as the distress was confined to no one district, the competition of sellers became as great as the competition of buyers had been; and the consequence of this reaction was, to sink the prices of stock as much below their natural level as ever they had been raised above it. This depression was also materially assisted by a cause less to be expected than either the fall in the price of our flocks and herds, which finds its vent within the colony, or the severe drought which accelerated that fall; namely, by the alteration in the value of wool in the London market. This almost exclusive article of export on which the settler had as yet calculated, and which he fondly hoped would always maintain a permanent or increasing value, had fallen from fifty to seventy-five per cent, and it only wanted this to make the depreciation of property complete."
The distress is at an end; and it is to be hoped there will be no recurrence of such a calamitous period.
It is a circumstance greatly to be deplored when persons who, during a series of years, have exerted themselves to the utmost, and are going on with every prospect of soon realizing an independence, are unexpectedly reduced by fortuitous events, over which they had no control, to even a worse condition than when they commenced their labours; but in a country so liable to suffer from drought, it behoves every settler to be as circumspect as possible, and to display his foresight, by providing, as far as he can, against an evil which, in all probability, will sooner or later assail him; though certainly we can hardly expect that so long a drought as the last will happen more than once in half a century. That the value of stock will increase, particularly as soon as the curing of meat is perfectly understood, at all events, that it cannot decrease, is a very prevalent opinion, though it will never again be so valuable as it was a few years since.
It is quite out of my power to give any advice as to which colony the emigrant had better proceed, nor, in fact, should I be justified in attempting it. By what I have said of Swan River he will readily perceive how impossible it is to give a true and impartial account of that settlement; of the other two it may perhaps be as well to notice here a few of their comparative advantages, although some of them have already been alluded to; this will enable any person in some measure to judge which of them would constitute the more desirable residence.
New South Wales possesses a climate certainly more adapted for the production of wool, as well as other articles of export: and as it varies according to the district or locality, so every tree and plant that will thrive in Van Dieman's Land, and a great number that will not, will do well in Australia.
The proportion of unlocated land, and facility of finding it, are far more considerable.
The settler will for many years have more considerable runs for his flocks and herds; and the country is more open. Finally, he can select that district the climate of which is most congenial to his feelings.
On the other hand, Tasmania is not liable to suffer either from the droughts or floods, which cause such calamitous effects in the other colony; nor to such a degree from hot winds. In whatever part of the island the settler may locate himself, he can hardly be above seventy or eighty miles from water carriage.
The crops are not nearly so liable to fail; the soil is commonly more fertile, and also more favourable to the growth of English grasses, arising chiefly from the heat of the climate being so much less intense.
There prevails in England a great degree of ignorance respecting these colonies, and of all that concerns them. Many persons have formed their estimation of the profits that would accrue to them from a location there, from some work teeming with laudatory observations on the wealth of the country, the independence of the settlers, the interest of money, the excellence of the soil, and a variety of other advantages; on their arrival, they have discovered that there exist certain drawbacks which the author, of course through inadvertency, had omitted to notice. I. have slightly glanced at some of these, nor do they, on the whole, make a very formidable array; but they ought to be stated in every work, and perhaps it will be as well to embody them here, so that the reader may perceive at once whether they are of sufficient consequence to counterbalance the benefit derived from becoming a settler; premising, however, that if any one is so unreflecting as to fancy, that in establishing himself in a new country, where all around him is in a state of nature, there will be no difficulties to contend with, he would do well to remain at home; for with such an opinion he would inevitably meet with considerable disappointment, and discontent would assuredly follow.
First—The chief objection may be considered, the immense distance of the colonies from the mother country, which renders it almost out of the question for a family man to think of ever revisiting his paternal soil; he may therefore conclude, the moment he has established himself upon his farm, that he has bid an eternal farewell to all his friends and relations at home, and to the places endeared to him from his earliest infancy. To a person of reflection and feeling, there is something almost awful in the contemplation of meeting no more, on this side of the grave, the friends of his youth, or the connexions he has formed in his riper age; and although we are told, that all places are distant alike from heaven, and that, to a wise man, it does not signify in what part of the world he may be, yet, when the emigrant finds himself amongst strangers, not one of whom is concerned for his welfare, he will experience a sensation which will throw a damp on his present situation, and tend materially to cloud his future prospects.
Second—In the "bush" it is seldom that settlers are near enough to each other to make those reciprocal and friendly calls, or visits, which tend so much to preserve a good feeling and fellowship amongst neighbours in more populous countries. Consequently, society is almost nominal, and very many months will sometimes elapse without the wife of the settler seeing a female countenance, save those of her servants.
Third—However beneficial the convict population may be to the colonists, there is something extremely unpleasant in the idea of being surrounded by convict servants; for though they not unfrequently conduct themselves as well as our people at home, every article of any value must be under lock and key; and such is often their propensity to theft, especially as regards the women, (I am sorry to give such an unfavourable account of the sex, but the truth will out), that nothing is secure; nor can any confidence with safety be placed in them; besides which, the settler may expect at times to encounter no small trouble and vexation from their obstinacy and impertinence. In common justice, however, to them, I may add, that, in some respect, our servants at home pilfer from their masters to an infinitely greater extent, and often give them much more trouble.
Fourth—The emigrant may take it for granted, that unless his capital enable him to purchase a farm, so situated as to be within reach of a market, he will be compelled to establish himself at a spot not improbably from one hundred and fifty miles to two or three times that distance from the capital, whence his supplies must nevertheless be procured; whereby not only considerable loss of time is caused, but great inconvenience in many other respects.
Fifth—The existing regulations concerning the granting, or more properly speaking, sale of land.
Let us now turn to the advantages; if not numerous, they are, at least, of some magnitude.
First—The interest of money lent on mortgage, varies from ten to twelve and a half per cent., but the latter may easily be procured; this will, most probably, be the case for the next five years or more, and eight per cent, during a number of years afterwards. Therefore, a person who possesses a capital of, say 4000l. from which he derives in England only from 140l. to 200l. per annum, would here be able to secure, for a time, an income of from 400l. to 500l. per annum.
Second—The climate of these regions, notwithstanding the droughts and hot winds, is far superior to that of the Canadas; at all events, it is better adapted for wool and many other productions.
Third—The settler has nothing to do with taxes, tithes, poor rates, or parish business of any kind; matters which at home occasion considerable inconvenience and discontent.
Fourth—Provisions of every description are plentiful, and extremely cheap.
Fifth—Servants are not nearly so expensive as at home; and from the variety of their trades, the settler can generally calculate upon making, upon his own estate, almost every article he may require.
The preceding observations apply equally to the two colonies; with this exception, that in Van Dieman's Land servants are comparatively expensive, and the price of provisions is not lower than in England.
It has been recommended by one writer, that two or more persons should combine their means, and form a copartnership. The inconveniences attending such, a plan are so obvious, and the liability to disagree so great, that I shall make no remarks upon it; contenting myself with strenuously advising all those about to emigrate, not to try the experiment, unless with their nearest relatives;—even then, the result will be extremely precarious. I could have extracted, from various authors, much useful information concerning agricultural pursuits, but have thought, it better to leave the emigrant to peruse their works himself. And I have also refrained from giving an opinion upon such an important point as expatriating one's self; for it is quite impossible to comprehend fully the views of every person who may determine on quitting Europe.
There are many who regret having gone to the colonies; and there are also many who have greatly improved their circumstances by settling there.
A person who proposes to emigrate, can hardly fail of forming a tolerably correct judgment as to the several colonies, if he will but compare the different authors who have written on them, and then consider dispassionately the respective advantages and disadvantages; at the same time taking especial care, that he does not allow himself to be led away by those bright illusions, and Utopian ideas, so liable to be generated by the natural tendency most men have, to believe all they hear on the subject of amassing riches!
Once on his grant, the emigrant will soon perceive his comforts and conveniences increase; that is to say, if he possesses common industry and perseverance, and avoids falling into the hands of the money-lenders; but it should always be borne in mind, that the life of a settler is far more adapted for married people than for those who are single. A great portion of the life of an unmarried man, who is located at a distance in the interior, must necessarily be consumed in solitude; nor will its even tenor be broken in upon, unless by the casual visit of some unexpected traveller. His vacant hours roll heavily along; and before the close of each succeeding day, he not improbably often sighs after the blessings of the matrimonial life, and wishes for some congenial mind with which to interchange his thoughts. There are individuals who have passed years in this secluded and apparently comfortless state, only informed of passing events in the busy world by an occasional brief visit to the capital; but as I doubt much if most persons would not soon tire of it, unless they possessed great energy, and a peculiar way of thinking, I would, by no means, recommend the trial, except to those who have pondered well the consequences of thus separating themselves from society. They should reflect that, when immured in deep solitude, such objects as a dismal forest, and cheerless hills, are very apt to diffuse a gloom over the fancy, which, however compatible with one's occasional feelings, cannot fail to tincture the thoughts in the hour of silence and loneliness. It is extraordinary to observe the greater cheerfulness frequently found in the weaker sex; at Swan River in particular, the wives of the settlers were constantly trying to persuade their husbands that all would eventually be well, and the various difficulties and privations but temporary!
Many of the ladies who went there deserve the most unqualified praise; and so do most (I should not be far wrong if I said all), of those who reside in Australia and Van Dieman's Land; and it is with no small pleasure that I avail myself of this opportunity of bearing testimony to their excellent conduct, in striving to render the labours of their husbands as light as possible, by smoothing the numerous obstacles both have to encounter, when establishing themselves in a new country, and entering upon an entirely new kind of life.
I shall now take leave of the reader, with the hope that I shall be found to have omitted touching on no point of material interest or importance to the emigrant. It would have been easy to enter into more lengthened details, but my object has been to condense my work as much as possible, so as to render it compendious, and within the reach of the ordinary class of persons who propose becoming settlers.
Should my remarks be found desultory and unconnected, and my style obnoxious to the refined critic, I am at least guiltless of having held out any extravagant expectations; and however gratifying it might be to my feelings, should these pages be thought worth the perusal of the general reader, still I must repeat that for the emigrant are they specially intended. For him have I ventured this my first feeble essay in authorship, amply rewarded if I should be instrumental in removing any of the misapprehensions respecting the colonies, occasioned by the conflicting accounts now in circulation, and if I should have assisted him in forming his plans and arrangements, by rendering him more familiarly acquainted with those scenes and objects, among which his lot is to be in future cast.
In addition to what I have already stated of the great dread in which the devil or evil principle is held by savages, the following curious instances of superstition may not, perhaps, be thought uninteresting. The inhabitants of the Nicobar Isles, at the entrance of the Gulf of Bengal, have no notion of a God, but they firmly believe in the devil, and worship him from fear. If they observe signs of an approaching storm, they imagine that the devil intends them a visit, upon which many superstitious ceremonies are performed. When a man dies, all his property is buried with him (as in New Zealand); and his wife must conform to custom by having a joint cut off from one of her fingers.
The Pagan Mandingoes believe in one God, the Creator of all things, whom they consider as of a nature much too exalted above human affairs to give attention to their prayers. The Arrawaks, a tribe of Guiana, have neither priesthood nor form of worship; they say it is unnecessary to address the Creator, for as he is supremely just, he will not give any one undue precedence on supplication, neither will he willingly afflict his creatures. They attempt by incantations to propitiate the evil spirit.
In Otaheite the body of a person deceased is placed beneath a shed, open at one end and formed of a kind of wicker work, upon a bier or frame of wood, supported by four posts at the height of about four feet from the ground. When the bones are stripped of their flesh and become dry, they are buried with great ceremony. In the Fox Islands, situated in the sea of Kamtschatka, the bodies of the rich are put into a small boat, which is suspended upon poles placed cross-wise; the body is then left to rot in the open air. Here we observe a custom resembling one among the New Zealanders, and the natives of Moreton Bay.
If it be true that the women of New Holland have been observed deprived of a finger, it is not improbable that a custom common to the Friendly Islands may also prevail in Australia. It is supposed by the Islanders, that the Deity will accept of a little finger as a sort of sacrifice efficacious enough to procure the recovery of their health: they cut it off with a stone hatchet; and there appeared to be scarcely one in ten who was not thus mutilated in one or both hands. According to Captain King, it is common also for the inferior people to cut off a joint of the middle finger on account of the sickness of the chiefs to whom they belong. Or the women of Australia may amputate their fingers in consequence of the death of their husbands, as do those of the Nicobar Isles.
The New Hollanders are not the only people who entertain peculiar notions respecting the dead; but it would be of no great utility to notice more than one or two instances of superstitious credulity with regard to those who have it no longer in their power to acknowledge a benefit nor to resent an injury. The friends of a Laplander are very loth to attend him in his last moments; the desceased is therefore placed in his coffin by a person selected for the purpose; but the last takes care to secure himself from any ill offices of the manes, by a consecrated brass ring fixed on his left arm. The Yacuti, or Socha, a Tartar tribe that originally descended into Siberia from the high regions of the south, never mention the dead, unless allegorically, and forsake the hut in which any one has expired. The Abyssinians are extremely credulous touching Genii, or evil spirits, that go about doing mischief in the dark. Hence, they are afraid of moving about, but especially of fighting in the night time; because they imagine that the world is then entirely given up to these beings, who are put out of humour by the motions of men, or of any other terrestrial animals. I believe the New Hollanders never fight after night fall.
When the negroes of some parts of Africa suspect, or rather have been induced by their priest to suspect, that a person has died in consequence of sorcery, they interrogate the corpse, which they imagine gives an answer in the affirmative, by impelling forward the persons who bear it, and the negative by a rolling motion. The person accused is seized and sold into slavery, and sometimes also his whole family. If of no value as a slave, he is compelled to dig his own grave, into which he is thrust; the earth is then thrown over him, and a stake is driven through his body.
This notion certainly differs from the idea entertained by the New Hollanders, but the difference is not essential, as in both cases, where a person dies, another is accused of having caused his death; in the one instance, entirely through the machinations of some personal enemy amongst the priesthood, and in the other, from some cause with which we are unacquainted, though not improbably from that inherent pugnacity forming so conspicuous a trait in the character of dogs and men.
From these few observations, it will be seen that a singular resemblance is frequently found to exist between the habits and customs of the most distant tribes; and it would undoubtedly prove highly interesting to peruse a comparison between the religious ideas of all the various nations of this terrene world of ours.
Subsequently to sending my manuscript to press, I have read an extract from a recent work, which states that a mechanic cannot earn more in New South Wales than in England, and that, consequently, he is not better off there than he would be at home! I can only say, that I have asserted nothing but what I actually heard viva voce from several mechanics of repute, who, assuredly, ought to be the best judges anent this matter. Moreover, let it be taken for granted, that the artisan earns exactly what he would be enabled to earn in his native country, and no more; still I hold, that considering the low price of provisions in Sydney, and the absence of taxes in the colonies, he must inevitably be better off in Australia, and most probably in Van Dieman's Land. That the price of labour is liable to fluctuate, I have already mentioned; and it must be borne in mind, that the prices I have stated are those of January of last year, 1833. By a letter recently arrived from an officer at Sydney, I find that a discharged soldier of the 4th. Regiment was earning fourteen shillings per diem as a painter! Will the author of the above work assert that this man is not somewhat better off than he would have been in England?
A company has lately been formed for colonizing the country at Spencer's Gulf; and it is intended that the settlement shall be independent of the governments of New South Wales, and Swan River. And a number of emigrants have just proceeded to King George's sound, which, I hear, is also to constitute an independent Colony. Convicts are not to be transported to either of these. By a letter from Swan River, written in July last 1833 I learn, that the produce of grain amounted to between 4000 and 5000 bushels; and that the varieties of fruit and vegetables were very numerous. The country to a distance of 60 miles to the Eastward, abounds, we are told, in grass, and the colony is represented to be in a more flourishing condition than is generally believed; notwithstanding that the population had decreased, by departures, from 2,500 to 1,500!
I do not agree with the writer that "all first settlers must go to the dogs;" for my conviction is, that if there had been a good harbour at Swan River, the Colony would have succeeded very much better than it has.
W. H. B.
LIST OF DECIDUOUS TREES AND SHRUBS WHICH ARE GREATLY WANTED IN THE COLONIES.
|Common maple.||Red hawthorn (Cratęgus rubra).|
|Ash-leaved do. (Acer negundo.)||Azarole (Cratęgus azarolus).|
|Norway do. (Acer platanoides.)||Laburnum (Cytissus laburnum.)|
|Sugar do. (Acer sacchariuum.)||Scotch do. (Cytissus alpinus).|
European date (Dyospynus virginiana).
|Yellow do.||Spindle tree (Euonymus europeus).|
Broad leaved do. (Euonymus latifolio).
Tree of Heaven (Ailanthus glandulosa.)
|Alder (Alnus glutinosa).||Ash.|
|Cut-leaved do. (Alnus laciniosa.)||Walnut.|
|Double peach (Amydalus persica).||Weeping ash.|
|Birch (Betula pendula).||American do.|
|Weeping do. (Betula pendula.)||
Three-thorned acacia (Gleditschia triacanthus).
|Paper do. (Betula papyracea)||Black hiccory.|
Poplar-leaved do. (Betula poperlifolia).
|Canada do. (Betula lenta).||Tulip tree (Linindeodrum tulipifera).|
|Tall do. (Betula excelsa).||Umbrella tree (Magnolia tripetala.)|
Hornbeam (Carpinus betulus).
|Do. (Magnolia acuminata.)|
American do. (Carpinus americanus).
|Do. (Magnolia cordifolia.)|
|Sweet chesnut.||Do. (Magnolia macrophylla).|
Shining-leaved do. (Castania fol. lucidus).
|Catalpa (Catalpa syringifolia).||Tupelo tree (Nyssa aquatica).|
|Nettle tree (Celtis occidentalus).||Do. (Nyssa montana).|
|Judas tree (Cercis siliquastram.)||Hop hornbeam (Cotrya virginica).|
|American do. (Cercis Canadensis).||Box.|
|Abele (Populus alba.)||Arbutus (Arbutus unedo.)|
|Balsam (Populus balsamia.)||Sea purslane (Atriplex halimus.)|
|Lombardy (Populus dilitata).||
Groundsel tree (Baacharis halimifolius).
|Athenian (Populus gręca).||Do. do. (Cytissus hirsutus).|
|Canada (Populus monilifera).||Spruce fir (Pinus abies).|
|Black (Populus nigra).||Silver fir (Pinus picea).|
|Aspen (Populus tremula).||Stone pine (Pinus pinea).|
|Plane tree.||Yew tree.|
|Sibernian crab.||Sweet scented vine.|
|American oak (Quercus cerris).||Cypress (Cypressus sempervirens).|
|Scarlet do. (Quercus coccifera).||Holly.|
|Common willow (Salix alba).||Bay tree.|
|Lime (four species).||Laurel.|
|Elder.||Do. (Magnolia grandiflora.)|
|Broad-leaved do.||Cedar of Lebanon.|
Chinese hawthorn (Phœtenia serrulata).
|Dutch do.||Arbor vitę (Thuja occidentalis).|
|Nut.||Do. (Thuja orientalis).|
|Do. (Koelnuteria paniculata).||Cork tree.|
|Do. (Bronsonetia palpynifera).||Bermuda cedar.|
|Evergreen oak (Quercus ilex).||
Deciduaus Cypress (Cypressus disticha).
It would be useless to subjoin a list of climbers; they are well known to be numerous, and many of them are peculiarly beautiful, as well as ornamental. The emigrant should not fail to take some with him.
SCHULZE AND CO., 13, POLAND STREET.
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