TRANSCRIPTION

 

A VOYAGE TO TERRA AUSTRALIS.
[South Coast, Kanguroo Island.]

 

 

PAGE 168

1802
March
Saturday 20


Sunday 21.

Gale would come on, and that as usual it would veer to the south west., we ceased to follow the coast beyond Cape Spencer, and steered for the land seen in the southern quarter. The Althorpe Isles were passed at eight o'clock. at the distance of eight or nine miles; and the wind being fresh at west, we made short trips during the night between the two lands, not knowing what might be in the space to leeward. At daylight the ship was nearly in mid- channel, between the southern. land and Cape Spencer, and nothing was seen to the eastward. It then blew a fresh gale at south-west, with much sea running; we stretched south-east under close-reefed top sails, to get under the lee of the southern land ; and at eight o'clock, wlien the largest Althorpe Isle bore N. 32° W., it was distant six or seven miles to the south, and extended from S. 61° W. to 79°E , as far as the eye could reach. It was rather high, and cliffy; but there was nothing by which tojudge of its connection with the main.

At ten o'clock we were close under the land; and finding the water tolerably smooth, had shortened sail with the intention of anchoring near a small, sandy beach ; but the situation proving to be too much exposed, we steered eastward along the shore under two close-reefed top sails and fore sail, the wind blowing strong in squalls from the south-west. The furthest land seen a-head at noon, was a projecting point, lower than the other cliffs., it bore E. 7° S., four leagues, and lies in 35°' 33' south, and 137° 41' east. It was named Point Marsden, in compliment to the second secretary of the Admiralty ; and beyond it the coast was found to trend southward into a large bay containing three coves, any one of which promised good shelter from the gale. This was called NEPEAN BAY, in compliment to the first secretary (now sir Evan Nepean, Bart.), and we hauled up for it; but the strength of the wind was such, that a head land forming the east side of the bay was fetched with difficulty. At six in the evening we came to anchor in 9 fathoms, sandy bottom, within a mile of the shore ; the east extreme bearing S. 76° E., and the land near Point Marsden, on the west side of Nepean Bay,

 
   
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N. 61° W., six leagues. A piece of high land, seemingly unconnected, bore from N. 4e to 781, E. ; but no land could be distinguished to the northward.

Neither smokes, nor other marks of inhabitants had as yet been perceived upon the southern land, although we had passed along seventy miles of its coast. It was too late to go on shore this evening; but every glass in the ship was pointed there, to see what could be discovered. Several black lumps, like rocks, were pretended to have been seen in motion by some of the young gentlemen, which caused the force of their imaginations to be much admired; next morning, however, on going toward the shore, a number of dark-brown kanguroos were seen feeding upon a grass plat by the side of the wood ; and our landing gave them no disturbance. I had with me a double-barrelled gun, fitted with a bayonet, and the gentlemen my companions had muskets. It would be difficult to guess how many kanguroos were seen; but I killed ten, and the rest of of the party made up the number to thirty-one, taken on board in the course of the day ; the least of them weighing sixty~nine, and the largest one hundred and twenty-five pounds. These kanguroos had much resemblance to the large species found in the forest lands of New South Wales ; except that their colour was darker, and they were not wholly destitute of fat.

After this butchery, for the poor animals suffered themselves to be shot in the eyes with small shot, and in some cases to be knocked on the head with sticks, I scrambled with difficulty through the brush wood, and over fallen trees, to reach the higher land with the surveying instruments; but the thickness and height of the wood prevented any thing else from being distinguished. There was little doubt, however, that this extensive piece of land was separated from the continent ; for the extraordinary tameness of the kanguroos and the presence of seals upon the shore, concurred with the absence of all traces of men to show that it was not inhabited.

The whole ship's company was employed this afternoon, in

1802
March
Sunday 21








Monday
   
PAGE 170
1802
March
Monday 22





Tuesday 23.















(Atlas,
Plate XVII.
view 12.)

skinning and cleaning the kanguroos ; and a delightful regale they afforded, after four months privation from almost any fresh provisions. Half a hundred weight of heads, fore quarters, and tails were stewed down into soup for dinner on this and the succeeding days; and as much steaks given, moreover, to both officers and men, as they could consume by day and by night. In gratitude for so seasonable a supply, I named this southern land KANGUROO ISLAND.

Next day was employed in shifting the top masts, on account of some rents found in the heels. The scientific gentlemen landed again to examine the natural productions of the island, and in the evening eleven more kanguroos were brought on board; but most of these were smaller. and seemed to be of a different species to those of the preceding day. Some of the party saw several large running birds, which, according to their description., seemed to have been the emu or cassowary.

Not being able to obtain a distinct view from any elevated situation, I took a set of angles from a small projection near the ship, named Kanguroo Head; but nothing could be seen to the north ; and the sole bearing of importance, more than had been taken on board, was that of a high hill at the extremity of the apparently unconnected land to the eastward: it bore N. 39° 10' E., and was named Mount Lofty. The nearest part of that land was a low point, bearing N. 6o° E. nine or ten miles; but the land immediately at the back was high, and its northern and southern extremes were cliffy. I named it CAPE JERVIS, and it was afterwards sketched by Mr. Westall.

All the cliffs of Kanguroo Island seen to the west of the anchorage, had the appearance of being calcareous, and the loose stones scattered over the surface of Kanguroo Head and the vicinity were of that substance; but the basis in this part seemed to be a brown slate, lying in strata nearly horizontal, and laminc of quartz were sometimes seen in the interstices. In some places the slate was split into

 
   
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pieces of a foot long, or more, like iron bars, and had a shining, ore- 1802. like appearance and the strata were then further from the horizontal March. line than I observed them to be elsewhere.

A thick wood covered almost all that part of the island visible from the ship; but the trees in a vegetating state were not equal in size to the generality of those lying on the ground, nor to the dead trees standing upright. Those on the ground were so abundant, that in ascending the higher land, a considerable part of the walk was made upon them. They lay in all directions, and were nearly of the same size and in the same progress towards decay; from whence it would seem that they had not fallen from age, nor yet been thrown down in a gale of wind. Some general conflagration, and there were marks apparently of fire on many of them, is perhaps the sole cause which can be reasonably assigned ; but whence came the woods on fire? That there were no inhabitants upon the island. and that the natives of the continent did not visit it, was demonstrated, if not by the want of all signs of such visit, yet by the tameness of the kanguroo, an animal which, on the continent, resembles the wild deer in timidity. Perhaps lightning might have been the cause, or possibly the friction of two dead trees in a strong wind ; but it would be somewhat extraordinary that the same thing should have happened at Thistle's Island, Boston Island, and at this place., and apparently about the same time. Can this part of Terra Australis have been visited before, unknown to the world The French navigator, La Pérouse, was ordered to explore it, but there seems little probability that he ever passed Torres' Strait.

Some judgment may be formed of the epoch when these conflagrations happened. from the magnitude of the growing trees; for they must have sprung up since that period. They were a species of eucalyptus, and being less than the fallen trees, had most probably not arrived at maturity but the wood is hard and solid, and it may thence be supposed to grow slowly. With these considerations, I should be inclined to fix the period at not less than ten, nor more

1802
March
   
PAGE 172
1802
March

than twenty years before our arrival. This brings us back to La Pérouse. He was in Botany Bay in the beginning Of 1788 ; and if he did pass through Torres.' Strait,. and come round to this coast, as was his intention, it would probably be about the middle or latter end of that year, or between thirteen and fourteen years before the Investigator. My opinion is not favourable to this conjecture; but I have furnished all the data to enable the reader to form his own judgment upon the cause which might have prostrated the woods of these islands.

The soil of that part of Kanguroo Island examined by us, was judged to be much superior to any before seen, either upon the south coast of the continent, or upon the islands near it; with the exception of some portions behind the harbours of King George's Sound. The depth of the soil was not particularly ascertained ; but from the thickness of the wood it cannot be very shallow. Some sand is mixed with the vegetable earth, but not in any great proportion; and I thought the soil superior to some of the land cultivated at Port jackson, and to much of that in our stony counties in England.

Never perhaps had the dominion possessed here by the kanguroo been invaded before this time. The seal shared with it upon the shores. but they seemed to dwell amicably together. It not unfrequently happened, that the report of a gun fired at a kanguroo near the beach, brought out two or three bellowing seals from under bushes considerably further from the water side. The seal, indeed, seemed to be much the most discerning animal of the two; for its actions bespoke a knowledge of our not being kanguroos, whereas the kanguroo not unfrequently appeared to consider us to be seals.

The latitude of the landing place near Kanguroo Head from an observation in the artificial horizon, was 35° 43' 0" south; and the longitude of our anchorage by time keepers, 137° 58' 3" east. This last, being deduced from observations only four days after the proof had of the time keepers having gone correctly since leaving Port Lincoln, should be as accurate, or very nearly so, as the longitude of that port.

 
   
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The variation observed from two compasses on board, with the head south-westward. was 6° 31' east; but when the ship swung to a tide coming from east-north-east ; the change in the bearings of different objects showed the variation to be about 4° less. The true variation I deduce to be 4° 13' east; which is an increase upon what was observed on the west side of Cape Spencer, of 2°; although the distance be no more than twenty-four leagues, and the previous increase from Cape Catastrophe had been almost nothing. It seems probable that the existence of magnetic bodies in the land to the north-westward, and perhaps, also in Kanguroo Island and Cape Jervis, was the cause of this change in the direction of the needle.

From appearances on the shore, I judged the rise of tide to be about six feet. The flood came from the east-north-east. twice in the day, and by the swinging of the ship, ceased at two hours and a half after the moons passage; but the time of high water was afterwards found to be later by one hour and a half.

1802
March