The Logbooks of the Lady Nelson Part 2


The Logbooks of the Lady Nelson

The Logbooks of the Lady Nelson Part 2

In this excursion the explorers were impressed by the silent grandeur of the forest trees: there was no underwood, but there was excellent gra.s.s, from which sprang coveys of quail, or partridges of New Holland.

The trees in general were the tall she-oak so common in the neighbourhood of Sydney.* (* Casuarina suberosa, commonly known as Beefwood.) Grant returned to the beach and went on board to dinner. In the afternoon he again made a party for the sh.o.r.e, consisting of Mr. Barrallier, Mr.

Caley, botanist, and two soldiers. They entered the woods at the same place as before, intending to make a circuit back to the boat. Again, beautiful birds were seen, among them, some c.o.c.katoos which were perfectly black "excepting the breast and a few feathers on the wing which were yellow." They were so shy that no one could get near them.

Other birds were killed--whose flesh, when cooked, was very palatable; that of the parrot resembled our pigeon in taste--"possibly because they feed on seeds of wild plants."

According to Grant, "no country in the world abounds with a greater variety of insects. We saw numbers buzzing about the trees...Having pursued our walk inland we fell in with a swampy land in a valley with much brush wood; a rivulet of excellent fresh water ran briskly through it, emptying itself in the sea near to where I had ordered our boat to haul the seine. We found the track of the natives and fell in with several of their gunnies or habitations. These are constructed with a few boughs stuck up to screen them from the wind; bones of beasts, birds and fish were lying about them. On the return to the boat, Mr. Barrallier shot a large hawk. Our fishing-party had caught some fish, and would have been very successful, but two sharks got into the seine and tore it in several places: they were both brought on sh.o.r.e, one measuring seven feet in length. The liver I ordered to be carried on board, to be boiled for the oil and used in our lamp.

"On the 11th of March, the wind still hanging to the south, I took some hands on sh.o.r.e to cut a boatload of wood and fill our water casks...Messieurs Barrallier and Caley, with two soldiers, accompanied me on another excursion. We took another direction inland...but saw no kangaroos. We met with two small lagoons and several streams of good water running through the thickest part of the woods. In this excursion we saw the Laughing Bird so called from the noise it makes resembling laughter.* (* The Giant Kingfisher or Kookaburra.)

"On our return to the boat we fell in with a spot of ground which appeared to have been selected by the natives for the purposes of festivity. It was a small eminence having no habitation near. We counted the marks of fifteen different fires that had been employed in cooking fish and other eatables, the bones of which were strewed about. Among them we picked up part of a human skull--the os frontis with the sockets of the eyes and part of the bones of the nose still attached to it. A little distance from where we found this we discovered a part of the upper jaw with one of the molars or back teeth in it, also one of the vertebrae of the back having marks of fire which the others had not.

"The gra.s.s was much trodden down, and many of the bones of the animals eaten appeared fresh...I brought off the human bones and on getting on board showed them to Euranabie. Finding two of the natives from the sh.o.r.e in the vessel, I desired him to ask them whether these bones belonged to a white man or not, and if they had killed and eaten him. I was anxious to have this cleared up, as the ship Sydney Cove from India to Port Jackson had been wrecked about twelve months before to the southward and it was reported that some of the crew were killed by the natives near this place."* (* The Sydney Cove from Bengal to New South Wales was wrecked on Preservation Island, Tasmania, on 8th February, 1797. Her long-boat was equipped and despatched on 27th February to Sydney, but the boat filled and went to pieces at a spot called Ninety Mile beach. Out of the crew of seventeen, who started to walk to Port Jackson, only three lived to reach their destination--some dying of fatigue and hunger, the others were murdered by the natives.)

Euranabie, who spoke English, made inquiries, and a soldier who understood the Sydney dialect, also endeavoured to extract the truth regarding the bones, from the two black fellows, who said that they were those of a white man that had come in a canoe from the southward where the ship "tumble down," meaning that it had been wrecked. Lieutenant Grant also questioned Worogan, and was informed that "the bush natives (who appeared to be a different tribe of people from those that lived by the seaside) did eat human flesh."

He now prepared to leave the port. "On the 12th, we got into a clean berth for getting under weigh, but in the morning the wind being variable and light we were prevented sailing. I went on sh.o.r.e with Mr. Barrallier to make a survey of the cove we were lying in. When preparing to return to the vessel we were joined by several natives who appeared anxious to go on board with us. Two of these were strangers who signified that they had come a long way to see us and that they were very hungry. They were both young, stout men with longer hair than the natives generally.

"In the was needless to attempt sailing till the wind abated. I therefore proposed to survey...the western side of the island which lies in the mouth of the harbour and shelters the cove from easterly winds. This island I named Ann's Island, in compliment to Mrs.

King, the wife of the Governor.

"In putting the surveying instruments into the boat the chain was found missing; we were of opinion it had been left on sh.o.r.e by the soldiers who carried it in measuring the distances. A boat with one of them was sent on sh.o.r.e. After a fruitless search they were returning when a canoe put off from the island with a man in it who held up the chain in his hand.

The boat's crew brought him on board to me. On looking at the chain it was made up in the usual way...and tied with a piece of string; but in undoing it I found that the natives had untwisted every bend of the wires which contained the bra.s.s markers and after taking them off bent the wires back into their original form, with this difference, that they placed the end which is carried in the hand in the middle. This was the first instance I had experienced of their pilfering anything and I did not chuse to proceed to extremities. I gave the native a blanket and some biscuits and the mate gave him an old hat.

"We got into the boat to prosecute the intention of surveying the island...the native with us, towing his canoe astern. On landing we were joined by a great number of natives who seemed glad that the man had been rewarded for carrying back the chain. The blanket attracted their notice much, the use of which they appeared to know. The old man whom I formerly mentioned was among them; he made signs for me to sit down at a distance from the rest and by pointing to his white beard signified a wish to have it cut off, which I immediately did with a pair of scissors, and he expressed much satisfaction at being rid of it."

Observing some of their women in the distance and wishing to see what they were like, signs were made to the old man to ask them to come nearer. He called to them, whereupon they seated themselves close to the visitors. They seemed nervous as the white men approached them, but when the old chief spoke to them sat down again composedly. One of them had fastened to the neck of her child a bra.s.s marker which had been taken from the stolen chain. Grant says: "They examined my b.u.t.tons and the head of my dirk and seemed much surprised at my watch chain which I began to think they had an inclination for, but I was soon relieved on pulling out my watch. They did not seem to like it and talked very gravely among themselves; they were all anxious to listen to the noise of the watch, yet they would pull their ear from it and look at the watch with symptoms of fear...and then return to it again. I attempted to point out the use of it and pointed to the sun, but I am led to think that they believed it to be something we worshipped. The old man particularly pointed to the sun and appeared anxious to know more of it."

A boy about twelve years of age who was a little deformed, carried a sharp pointed stick in his hand which was the only weapon of defence seen but it was soon perceived that they had weapons not far distant. The Lady Nelson's commander by signs told the chief that he wanted fresh water.

"The old native readily understood and getting up made me follow him to the side of a hill where some water had settled, but it not appearing to be from a spring, I expressed my desire to be taken to a rivulet. A native stept forward, as I supposed, to show me, but on my following him he turned back and left us. Thinking from the direction we were in that water was not far distant I took one of my men with me to whom I gave my fowling-piece to carry...We saw another native a little way before us to whom I signified what I wanted." As Grant approached, this native, by a sudden jerk of the foot, raised and caught up in his hand a spear; the weapon rose within six inches of the Lieutenant's face and caused him to turn and grasp his gun from his attendant. The native, however, merely put the spear on his shoulder and walking leisurely towards a cliff stood looking at the sea. It was not supposed anything hostile was meant but the action showed that the natives had weapons concealed.

"At 5 A.M. of the 13th, we weighed anchor with light variable airs and got clear out of the cove by ten, when we found a moderate breeze from north-east, and we made all possible sail to the southward."

Grant then gives his opinion of Jervis Bay, a place destined to be much more important in the future of the continent, as it will serve as port to Canberra, the seat of the Australian Government. "It is worthy of remark that Jarvis's Bay* (* i.e. Jervis Bay.) or sound is large, commodious and easy of access, affording shelter from all winds and having room for upwards of 200 sail of ships with plenty of wood and water. When this bay comes to be more known, it will be found eligible for vessels bound to Port Jackson after a long pa.s.sage from England...and will be the means of saving many lives."

From Jervis Bay the Lady Nelson continued her voyage southwards and, on the 19th of March, off Point Hicks, she met with a strange sail which proved to be the ship Britannia, Captain Turnbull, from England, bound for the whale fishery. She was going to Sydney to refit, and thus gave Grant an opportunity to send a letter to Governor King. He wrote as follows:


"18th March, 1801.

"SIR,--Seeing a vessel to windward, and judging you would wish to hear of us...I sit down to write you a few lines before she joins us, as I suppose she is bound to Sydney, and from her situation, I presume she is one more who has come through the Straits. The Bee, no doubt, has arrived long ere now. I, on the Tuesday morning after she parted, got safely into Jarvis's Bay, and sailed early on Friday with the wind at the north-east which only lasted 30 hours so that we have been nearly 5 days beating in sight of Cape Howe and could not weather it, the wind being now south but moderate.

"During our stay in Jarvis's Bay we were by no means idle, which you will be convinced of, I hope, when we arrive. The weather I have had these 5 days convinces me that the Bee would have been a very great r.e.t.a.r.d to us...for the sea here, when it blows hard (owing, I presume, to the current setting strong against the wind) makes it run confused and break much...Mr. Barrallier has got nearly well of his seasickness and we have had the azimuth compa.s.s to work, which he now understands thoroughly.

Murray is well, and all my people are comfortable and happy.--I am etc.


On their parting, the Britannia steered to Sydney, while the Lady Nelson stood to the southward, meeting with a southerly wind and being so r.e.t.a.r.ded that it was 8 A.M. on the 21st before Wilson's Promontory was sighted. When close to the rock which he had named Rodondo, Grant observed the lat.i.tude to be south 39 degrees 4 minutes.* (* The lat.i.tude of Wilson's Promontory is 39 degrees 7 minutes 55 seconds and the longitude 146 degrees 25 minutes east. In the log, Lieutenant Grant gives the former as 38 degrees 59 minutes and longitude 146 degrees 6 minutes east.) From Wilson's Promontory, the land sloped to the north-north-west as far as eye could reach, becoming low and level towards Cape Liptrap and from Glennie's Islands. The Lady Nelson now followed the coast towards Western Port. On the way her commander named a point Cape Paterson in honour of Colonel Paterson of the New South Wales Corps.

He thus describes the manner of his coming to Western Port: "At 4 P.M. of the 21st we had sight of the island which forms the south head of Western Port having the likeness of a snapper's head or horseman's helmet. By eight we were up with it. On opening the entrance of the port I found two small islands situated about three quarters of a mile from the South Head with apparently a good pa.s.sage between them and the island forming the harbour. From its likeness, as above mentioned, to a snapper's head, I named it Snapper Island.* (* The Phillip Island of Ba.s.s which even at that time was called Phillip Island, a name it is still known by. Its eastern extremity resembled the head of a snapper and was known as Snapper Head. Ba.s.s himself had, in discovering the Strait, noticed the resemblance.) It falls in a high clay bluff down to the water's edge. The small islands lying off it were covered with seals, numbers of which, on our approach, precipitated themselves into the sea, covering the pa.s.sage, while others remained on the rocks making a very disagreeable noise, something like the grunting of pigs. They were of a large size, many of them being nearly equal to a bullock. I judged them to be of that species of seal called by fishermen sea elephants, accordingly I named these islands, Seal Islands. I sent a boat ahead to sound...and found between the Seal Islands and the South Head, 12, 9, 6, 5 and 3 1/2 fathoms of water which last was shoaled in mid channel. This pa.s.sage will shorten the distance when there is a leading wind but standing round to the westward of Seal Islands there will be found sufficient room for any number of vessels to beat in. Mr. Ba.s.s, when he visited this place in the whale boat, entered the port by the eastern pa.s.sage which is much the smallest, and coasting the western sh.o.r.e, from whence he made his remarks. It is probable that these islands, lying so close to the western side of him, did not show themselves to be detached...It had rained constantly and heavily all night and...we could not see any great distance from the vessel therefore I kept the lead going as she worked up the harbour."

At half-past five she was "brought to" opposite to a sandy point which he named Lady Nelson's Point "as a memorial of the vessel as she was the first decked one that ever entered this port...Mr. Barrallier went on sh.o.r.e with the second mate. They saw black swans and redbills, an aquatic bird so called whose back is black, breast white, beak red and feet not fully webbed. On Sunday 22nd or, according to our sea account the 23rd at noon, I went with two of our crew in the smallest boat to search for a river or stream described by Mr. Ba.s.s."

In proceeding along the sh.o.r.e Grant pa.s.sed a muddy flat, and fell in with an island* (* The log says this island bore north-north-west, 2 miles.) "separated from the main by a very narrow channel at low water."...On this he landed. "The situation of it was so pleasant that this together with the richness of the spot made me conceive the idea that it was excellently adapted for a garden." The island was called Churchill's Island after John Churchill, Esquire, of Dawlish, in the county of Devon, who, when the Lady Nelson left England, had given her commander vegetable seeds, the stones of peaches, and the pips of several sorts of apples, telling him "to plant them for the future benefit of our fellow-men, be they countrymen, Europeans or savages." Captain Schanck had also supplied him with seeds. A very rare apple, having seldom more than one pip in each fruit, was named by Grant "Lady Elizabeth Percy's Apple," because, "it was owing to her Ladyship's care and attention in preparing the pepins that I was enabled to introduce it."

On this day several good observations were obtained. Grant placed Western Port in lat.i.tude 38 degrees 32 minutes south and (by chronometer) in 146 degrees 19 minutes east of Greenwich. He did not, however, discover the stream for which he was looking. On the following morning the second mate (Mr. Bowen) tried to find the stream but was also unsuccessful. During his absence the Commander explored the banks of a creek "which opened abreast of the vessel" and Barrallier and Murray surveyed the harbour while Caley searched for new plants wandering as far as Snapper Island.

Barrallier and Grant also made collections but Governor King afterwards wrote that "Caley received everything they found--and refused to give up or part with a duplicate."

Wet weather set in until the 25th. The day following, search was again made for fresh water, and Grant went up the creek which was found to terminate in a salt marsh. The trees on the bank were not large but the underwood was thick. He penetrated inland for some distance and saw spots "as if cleared by manual labour...covered with good tender gra.s.s," a delightful sight to him. The open land had the appearance of being frequently overflowed and he thought it was well adapted for the purpose of fattening cattle; numbers of black swans and other water-fowl were seen in the creek, the length of which was about two miles and a half, its waters, which were salt, ended in a small run some 12 feet in breadth. It was Bowen, the second mate, who at length found the fresh-water stream originally discovered by Ba.s.s, and on the same day he captured a couple of cygnets one of which was presented to the Governor at Sydney.

On 27th March, Murray accompanied by Barrallier and Caley set out to explore the stream. They went up its windings as far as possible pa.s.sing no less than 42 short reaches. Its breadth at the entrance was about half a cable's length and at the farthest part reached by the boat not more than 18 or 20 feet, the pa.s.sage being there impeded by trees lying across it.

While his party were exploring, the commander with Euranabie made excursions along the sh.o.r.e to the mouth of the harbour. "The beach was covered with, many of them beautiful and some of them entirely new to me. I observed another creek not so large as the former which I have described but having its entrance quite filled that the sea could not enter it...the land in general was above the level of the sea and the soil was in some places light and black, in others a red clay. We fell in with a rocky point about which I observed playing in the water a number of fishes called salmon in New Holland. I expressed a desire to the native of having some...and no sooner expressed my wish than I missed my companion from behind me. I halloed...upon which he instantly presented himself from the wood with a small stick in his hand. Asking for my knife he presently sharpened one end to a point and then, stripping himself, he leaped from one point of the rock to another until he met with an opportunity of striking a fish which he did, the stick penetrating right through it. I could not but admire the keenness of his sight and his ability to preserve the steadiness of his position, standing as he did on the rough edge of a sharp rock, the sea washing above his knees, his eyes intent on the fish, very difficult to strike from the smallness of its size, presented to him in a narrow back. Though I pressed him to take the fish several times he constantly refused it but accepted some tobacco."

Next day Grant went on sh.o.r.e at Churchill's Island with a party to clear a s.p.a.ce for a garden. Some twenty rods were burnt after the larger trees had been felled. The soil on the island was found to be rich and loose and easy to dig. On the 29th Murray was sent to ascertain particulars "respecting the entrance of the port and with regard to Seal Islands" on which he was instructed to land. Barrallier accompanied him. Soon after their departure bad weather set in which prevented their landing. They eventually anch.o.r.ed off a sandy beach which appeared to have no surf, but were suddenly surprised by a heavy swelling sea that rolled upon it, followed by another which filled the boat, upsetting it upon the beach.

Fortunately no lives were lost though all "were immersed in the water from which the native Euranabie...first escaped to sh.o.r.e." The provisions, however, and the ammunition were lost or spoiled. At turn of tide they launched the boat and returned on board. A black swan and four ducks, which they had shot on their way out, afforded a savoury meal for those in the ship.

On the 31st the commander went up the freshwater river with Mr.

Barrallier.* (* This river had already been seen by Mr. Bowen.) At night they encamped on its banks when there came on an exceeding heavy storm of rain with thunder and lightning and high wind. They traced a branch of the river on the right as far as their boat could go and then followed its course on sh.o.r.e along the bank and found it was fed by the greater river only. This carried them inland and they discovered marks of fires made by the natives. The log book records that they met none of the blacks at any place though there were native dog tracks in abundance.

"Towards the end of this branching stream the country appeared to afford plots of very rich pasture. At some considerable distance the land rose to a height, and being covered with large trees which appeared to have been shattered by storms had for this reason obtained the name of Mount Rugged. We marched pretty far inland and found the country everywhere free from inundations and exhibiting a very picturesque appearance. The day was remarkably fine but in the woods the air was close and disagreeably sultry. My people had killed a small black snake...the same common about Sydney. We pursued our course up the river and Mr.

Barrallier completed his survey."

The water in the river was found to be good and perfectly sweet, and the casks were filled. Among the birds seen was a bell-bird which has "no remarkable plumage but a note not unlike the tinkling of a bell, so that when a number of these birds are collected together the noise they make is similar to that made by the bells of a team of horses." The laughing-bird (whose note can only be compared to the ha! ha! ha! of a hearty laughing companion) was the first to salute the explorers in the morning. The whistling duck, so called because of the whistling noise made with its wings when flying, was shot here, and a grey parrot was caught alive. Mr. Barrallier shot a rare c.o.c.katoo.* (* It was stuffed and afterwards given to General Davies, R.A., by Governor King.) The wet weather afterwards gave little chance of meeting with birds, and the explorers made their way through the woods until they reached an extensive level country. This plain extended out of their sight on the one side and on the other was bounded by hills. Paths beaten down by kangaroos crossed and recrossed it. The face of the country was almost everywhere level and productive, free from swamp and secured from inundation.

Grant thus describes the journey back to the ship: "We returned to the river-side and ordered the boat to drop lower down a few miles through a forest of stately timber trees. I had a few of them cut down and brought on board...I brought Governor King specimens of light woods and a species of sa.s.safras discovered by my second mate...On our way down the river we stopped at the place where we had pa.s.sed the preceding night and found our fire still burning. To this spot we gave the name of The Halfway House, being halfway up the river."

The commander now revisited Churchill's Island: "I found my people had cleared the spot I had laid out for a garden, and that there was nothing wanting but to prepare the ground to receive such seeds as I should choose to plant...It was no easy matter...for we had neither hoe nor spade with us...however, we were in possession of a coal shovel which, though it was thin and much worn, served the purpose.

"My men, who slept on the ground they had a hut built for the occasion, informed me that one of their comrades was awakened out of his sleep by some animal that seemed to be gnawing his hair. He supposed it to be the bandicoot rat. I sent on board for a dog which we had brought with us from Sydney. This dog remained with the people on the island, and, as they reported to me, was one night engaged with some animal apparently of equal strength, for it brought him to the ground and made him howl...The ground was now prepared and I sowed my several sorts of seeds, wheat, Indian corn, and peas, some grains of rice and some coffee berries; and I did not forget to plant potatoes. With the trunks of the trees I felled I raised a block house of 24 feet by 12 which will probably remain some years, the supporters being well fixed in the earth."

Full of enthusiasm regarding his visit in general, Grant is more so about Churchill's Island: "I scarcely know a place I should sooner call mine than this little island." And he also tells how he planted the stones of fruit trees round the hut which his men had built there. Of the traces of iron seen, he adds: "We turned up a few stones and some interspersed with veins of iron ore, indeed so rich in metal that they had a visible effect on the needle of our compa.s.s; stones of a like kind are found about Sydney." In the pages of his journal and also of his log he describes very minutely the manner in which European seeds were first sown in the soil of the British colony of Victoria. That they were successfully planted we learn from a subsequent page in Murray's log when he, in command of the Lady Nelson, visited the same spot.

To return to the narrative. "On the 12th* (* In the narrative, through a printer's error, this date appears as 21st.) of April Mr. Bowen, while seeking for water in the ship's launch, discovered near the mouth of the freshwater river part of a canoe which had sunk near the mouth. He brought it back to the ship together with two paddles and some fishing line." The canoe differed greatly from those made by the natives of Port Jackson, being framed out of timber, and instead of being tied together at the ends "was left open, the s.p.a.ce being afterwards filled with gra.s.s worked up with strong clay."

At the termination of the voyage, it was handed over, along with the other specimens collected, to Governor King.

The Lady Nelson now changed her berth and moored close by the opposite sh.o.r.e, "in order to be near a small island lying in the opening of the extensive arms described by Mr. Ba.s.s of which this port has two branching out to the northward." Grant named this island Margaret Island in honour of Mrs. Schanck who had given him several articles which proved useful on board the Lady Nelson.

The tide ebbing very fast, the brig was soon in shoal water, but the bottom being a soft mud and the weather calm there was no danger to be apprehended, yet, says Grant: "As I am no friend to vessels being on the ground by carrying out a hawser I soon hauled her off and brought yet her nearer to Margaret's Island. We found this island to be in general flat, but well covered with wood. Here we deposited some seeds but did not find the soil equally rich with that of Churchill's Island." Having lost some of their drinking water, the Commander writes: "Luckily I heard the bullfrog, which is common in New South Wales, and I made towards the thicket from whence his croaking issued and there found a present supply.

This arm reminded me of the appearance of Porchester Lake when the tide is out. Indeed the entire view of Western Port has no small resemblance to Spithead and Portsmouth Harbour. On the 17th we got under weigh and at night brought up in 12 fathoms water with rather a foul bottom. In the morning we discovered a sand shoal whereon the waves were breaking very heavily close to us...We shifted our berth and brought up in a small nook or bay which I named Elizabeth Cove in honour of Miss Elizabeth King, daughter of Governor King, then at Sydney." The greater part of Grant's survey of Western Port was completed by April 22nd, but the Lady Nelson was detained there by bad weather until the 29th, when, at break of day, she weighed and stood out of the port, pa.s.sing to the westward of Seal Islands.

Grant then proceeded to make a survey of the coast from Western Port eastward as far as Wilson's Promontory, which he says he carried out for a distance of seventy miles, but winter being now advanced little more could be done in the way of surveying, and as the wet weather was prejudicial to the instruments, he resolved to make the best of his way to Sydney; bad weather caused the ship to put into Botany Bay, but she eventually arrived on May 14th, 1801.

On his return to Sydney Grant refers to the good health of those on board: "I had not from the time of my departure a sick man among my ship's company, one man only excepted, whose skull had been fractured."

He also tells us that while in Botany Bay he had the satisfaction of receiving a letter from Governor King, in which he expressed himself well pleased with what had been done.

We know that the Governor was keenly disappointed that Grant had failed for the second time to explore Governor King's Bay and to fulfil other duties which had been expected of him. The voyage, however, must have had its compensations, as Barrallier was able not only to survey Jervis Bay and Western Port (the map of the former is not at the Admiralty), but also to obtain much of the information contained in the combined chart of his "discoveries made in Ba.s.s Strait up to March 1802," reproduced above.

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