previous
next

January 1788

January 1st, 1788. The new year was introduced with a pretty heavy gale of wind from the northward and westward, which was the first we had encountered since we left England. It began a little before 12 o'clock the preceding night, and continued till seven this evening. The Sirius was the whole day under her stay-sails, and the convoy under their fore-sail and stay-sails.

2d and 3d. Smart gales, with dark gloomy weather. Some seals and oceanic birds about the ship.

4th. Cloudy weather, in latitude 44°2'S. The Sirius


  ― 106 ―
made the signal for the longitude by lunar observation, which was found to be 135°30' East. In the evening some birds, called Mother Cary's Chickens, were round the ship.

5th. The weather cold and clear, the wind N.W. Passed some seaweed. In the morning the third mate thought he saw some divers; but, as they were not seen by any other person, not much attention was paid to the report. At night we had some squalls, with light showers of rain.

7th. Early in the morning the Lady Penrhyn made the signal for seeing land; but it only proved to be a fog-bank; a circumstance that often deceives the anxious mariner. About two o'clock in the afternoon the Prince of Wales, being the headmost ship, made the same signal. The Charlotte being next in succession, the signal was scarcely displayed before we also discovered it very plainly through the haze, and repeated the signal, which was answered by the Sirius. By our last lunar observation this land appears to be well laid down in Maskelyne's Tables, and in the journals of the celebrated Cook: but to the surprise of every one on board, we found a small chart, published by Steele, and which was held in little estimation, to be not only accurate as to the situation, but also to give a tolerable


  ― 107 ―
appearance and description of Van Dieman's Land: indeed such as may prove extremely useful to ships coming this way, and fully sufficient to enable them to avoid all danger if the weather be clear. For my own part, I see no hazard that attends making this land by day (such an attempt by night would be very incautious and absurd), as nature has been very particular in pointing out where it lies, by rocks which jutt out of the sea, like so many beacons. I believe a convoy was never conducted with more care, or made the land with greater accuracy and certainly, than this. Indeed, ability and experienced nautical knowledge were never more fully evinced on all occasions than by Captain Hunter; who is, I may venture to pronounce, without much risk of having my veracity called in question, one of the most assiduous and accurate observers, and able navigators, the present day furnishes. His appointment to this expedition by Lord Howe is strongly marked with that prudence and wisdom which are known to govern his Lordship's conduct. Captain Hunter has a pretty turn for drawing, which will enable him, no doubt, to give such a description of this coast as will do credit to himself, and be of singular advantage, as well to those whose lot it may be


  ― 108 ―
to visit, hereafter, this extensive coast, as to navigation at large. The assistance of Lieutenant Bradley, first of the Sirius (who likewise is an officer of more than common abilities), as a navigator in conducting a convoy in a track so little known, must have been pleasing to Captain Hunter.

As we run in with the land, which is pretty high, we were surprised to see, at this season of the year, some small patches of snow. The haze being dispersed, by a gentle breeze at N.N.W., we could observe, and hear, as we were not more than six or seven miles from the shore, the surf beating high and loudly against some uneven rocks which jutted out, in strange projections, into the sea. This part of the coast, as far as we could see, is bold, irregular, and craggy; and very few trees, or appearance of verdure, to be seen. At four in the afternoon, being about six or eight miles to the eastward of the eastward-most rock, called the Mewstone (there being several others which we distinctly saw), bearing N.N.W. we discovered to the westward of them some eminences, which probably might be islands; or, if not, some land running a considerable way into the sea. For my own part I am inclined


  ― 109 ―
to believe the latter to be the case; though the distance was too great to hazard a conclusive opinion upon it, as a large smoke was seen close to the innermost height.

About seven, steering to the eastward, along shore, nearly at the distance of four miles, being well in with the westward-most point of a very large bay, called Storm Bay, laid down in lat. 44°3'S. and long. 146°E. we discovered Swilly bearing S.E. ½S. and a little to the eastward of it a small rock rising out of the sea, distinguished by the name of the Eddystone, from its resemblance to the Eddystone light-house off Plymouth, which was very perceptible at the distance we were then from it. Our being close in with the land prevented us from seeing either of these before, as they lie at least six or seven leagues out to sea. From the S.W. cape, which lies in lat. 43°39'S. and long. 145°50'E. to the S.E. cape, which is admitted to be Tasman's South Cape, is about the distance of fifteen or sixteen leagues. As we got to the eastward, we saw many trees, mostly of a dwarf or stunted kind, with a whitish bark, and perfectly leafless. This part of the country still continued to be a rough, rugged, uneven tract, with very little appearance of fertility.


  ― 110 ―
Some small patches of verdure were discovered about Storm Bay, and the trees seemed to increase in number and size. Between eight and nine at night we saw a large fire on the east point of land which forms this bay, made by the natives, none of whom could we see during the day, though close in with the shore: nor did we perceive any other indication of its being inhabited but this fire, and the smoke mentioned to be seen on our first falling in with the land. The distance between the smoke and the fire was eight leagues, a space that would surely have exhibited some other proofs of populosity had it been thickly peopled.

About 10 o'clock, off Storm Bay, the weather moderately pleasant, the ship was taken aback. The Lady Penrhyn was then under our lee quarter, which obliged us to tack, after which we immediately wore, brought the ship to the wind on the other tack, and stood to sea with the rest of the ships. The wind was then at N.E. which just enabled us to weather Swilly and the Eddystone. As we got to sea the wind increased moderately.

8th. The wind and weather variable; could perceive nothing of the land. I went on board the Fishburne, to see


  ― 111 ―
the boatswain, who, on the first night of the new year, having probably drank more grog than he ought, and the ship labouring much, had fallen from the top-sail yard, by which he bruised himself in a dreadful manner. The man being highly scorbutic, the parts soon mortified, and he died about half an hour after I got on board. The master of the ship showed evident marks of great concern for this invaluable man, as he termed him. He declared to me that, sooner than venture again on so long a voyage without a surgeon, he would put to sea with less than half his complement of men; for he was strongly of opinion that if the poor fellow had received immediate assistance he would have recovered. I should have seen him sooner, but was prevented by my own indifferent state of health. How owners of ships can think of sending them through such a variety of climates, and a voyage of so great a length, without a surgeon, is to me a matter of surprise. The Lady Penrhyn, owned by Alderman Curtis, was the only merchant ship in our fleet that had a surgeon. What the others will do on their return, Heaven only knows; but this I well know, that they would never have reached


  ― 112 ―
thus far but for the succour given them by myself and my assistants.

9th. Wind variable, and weather hazy, damp and dark; with some vivid flashes of lightning, succeeded by distant peals of loud thunder. On the morning of this day died Edward Thomson, a convict, worn out with a melancholy and long confinement. Had he lived, I think he would have proved a deserving member of society, as he seemed sensible of the impropriety and imprudence of his former life, and studious to atone for it.

10th. The wind variable and weather dark and gloomy, with a very troublesome high sea. About two o'clock p.m. we had one of the most sudden gusts of wind I ever remember to have known. In an instant it split our main-sail; and but for the activity shewn by the sailors, in letting fly the sheets and lowering the top-sails, the masts must have gone over the side. The Prince of Wales, who was close to us, had her main yard carried away in the slings. Fortunately for us the squall was of short duration, otherwise the


  ― 108 ―
ships must have suffered considerably from the uncommon cross sea that was running; which


  ― 113 ―
we had found to be the case ever since we reached this coast.

11th and 12th. The wind variable, inclining to the southward and westward, and still an unpleasant cross troublesome sea. We saw a whale, several seals, and many large oceanous birds, which we frequently fired at, without their betraying the smallest symptom of fear either at the report, or at the balls, which frequently dropped close to them. A conclusion may be drawn from hence, that they had never been harassed with fire-arms before; if they had, they would undoubtedly have shown some fear, a sensation they seemed to be totally unacquainted with. In all our firings we did not kill one of them.

19th. In the evening we saw the land over Red Point, bearing W. by N. the extremes of the land from S.S.W. to N. We were then about three leagues from the shore, and, finding it unlikely to get in that night, Captain Hunter made the signal for the convoy to come within hail, when he acquainted them that the entrance into Botany Bay bore N.N.W.: adding that for the night he intended to stand off and on, and early in the morning make sail for the bay.




  ― 114 ―
20th. At four in the morning the Sirius and convoy made sail, and at eight o'clock anchored in eight fathom water; Cape Banks E.S.E., Point Solander S.S.E., and the entrance of the bay, between these two lands, W.S.W. We found here the Supply tender, which had arrived the 18th, and the Alexander, Scarborough, and Friendship transports, who had only arrived the day before. To see all the ships safe in their destined port, without ever having, by any accident, been one hour separated, and all the people in as good health as could be expected or hoped for, after so long a voyage, was a sight truly pleasing, and at which every heart must rejoice. As we sailed into the bay, some of the natives were on the shore, looking with seeming attention at such large moving bodies coming amongst them. In the evening the boats were permitted to land on the north side, in order to get water and grass for the little stock we had remaining. An officer's guard was placed there to prevent the seamen from straggling, or having any improper intercourse with the natives. Captain Hunter, after anchoring, waited on the governor, on board the Supply, who, with several other officers, landed. As they rowed along the shore, some of the natives followed the boat; but on her


  ― 115 ―
putting in for the shore they ran into the woods. Some of the gentlemen, however, before they returned on board, obtained an interview with them, during which they showed some distrust, but, upon the whole, were civilly inclined. The boats sent to haul the seine returned, having had tolerable success. The fish they caught were bream, mullet, large rays, besides many other smaller species.

21st. The governor, Captain Hunter, and the two masters of the men of war, with a party of marines, set off this morning, in two rigged long boats, to examine Port Jackson, a harbour lying a little to the northward, which was discovered by Captain Cook.

23rd. The party returned this evening, full of praises on the extent and excellence of the harbour, as well as the superiority of the ground, water, and situation to that of Botany Bay, which, I own, does not, in my opinion, by any means merit the commendations bestowed on it by the much-lamented Cook, and others whose names and judgments are no less admired and esteemed. During his excellency's absence the lieutenant-governor had issued his orders to land all the artificers that could be found among the convicts, and a party of others, to clear the ground for the intended


  ― 116 ―
town, to dig sawpits, and to perform everything that was essential towards the works purposed to be carried on. Although the spot fixed on for the town was the most eligible that could be chosen, yet I think it would never have answered, the ground around it being sandy, poor, and swampy, and but very indifferently supplied with water. The fine meadows talked of in Captain Cook's voyage I could never see, though I took some pains to find them out; nor have I ever heard of a person that has seen any parts resembling them. While the people were employed on shore, the natives came several times among them, and behaved with a kind of cautious friendship. One evening while the seine was hauling, some of them were present, and expressed great surprise at what they saw, giving a shout expressive of astonishment and joy when they perceived the quantity that was caught. No sooner were the fish out of the water than they began to lay hold of them, as if they had a right to them, or that they were their own; upon which the officer of the boat, I think very properly, restrained them, giving, however, to each of them a part. They did not at first seem very well pleased with this mode of procedure, but on observing


  ― 117 ―
with what justice the fish was distributed they appeared content.

While we remained at Botany Bay, as I was one morning on board the Supply we saw twenty-nine of the natives on the beach, looking towards the shipping; upon which Lieutenants Ball and King, Mr. Dawes, and myself went on shore, landing at the place where they were. They were friendly and pacific, though each of them was armed with a spear or long dart and had a stick, with a shell at the end, used by them in throwing their weapons. Besides these, some few had shields made of the bark of the cork tree, of a plain appearance but sufficient to ward off or turn their own weapons, some of which were pointed and barbed with the bones of fish, fastened on with some kind of adhesive gum. One of the most friendly, and who appeared to be the most confident, on signs being made to him, stuck the end of his shield in the sand, but could not be prevailed upon to throw his spear at it. Finding he declined it, I fired a pistol ball through it. The explosion frightened him, as well as his companions, a little; but they soon got over it, and on my putting the pistol into my pocket he took up the shield, and appeared to be much


  ― 118 ―
surprised at finding it perforated. He then, by signs and gestures, seemed to ask if the pistol would make a hole through him, and on being made sensible that it would, he showed not the smallest signs of fear; on the contrary he endeavoured, as we construed his motions, to impress us with an idea of the superiority of his own arms, which he applied to his breast, and by staggering, and a show of falling, seemed to wish us to understand that the force and effect of them was mortal, and not to be resisted. However, I am well convinced that they know and dread the superiority of our arms, notwithstanding this show of indifference, as they, on all occasions, have discovered a dislike to a musquet: and so very soon did they make themselves acquainted with the nature of our military dress, that, from the first, they carefully avoided a soldier, or any person wearing a red coat, which they seem to have marked as a fighting vesture. Many of their warriors, or distinguished men, we observed to be painted in stripes across the breast and back, which at some little distance appears not unlike our soldiers' cross belts.

24th. The boats were employed in getting water and grass for the live stock; as the governor, finding Port Jackson


  ― 119 ―
more suited to his wishes, had determined to remove to that place and form the settlement there. While these preparations were making, every person in the fleet was surprised to see, in this part of the world, two large ships plying hard in the offing to get into the bay. It was seen, in the evening, that they had French colours flying; but, the wind blowing pretty strong out of the bay, they were unable to get in, and, the weather becoming thick and hazy, we soon lost sight of them.

25th. Nothing of the strange ships to be seen. The governor, with a detachment of marines, sailed in the Supply tender for Port Jackson, leaving instructions with Captain Hunter to follow him, with all the transports and victuallers, as soon as the wind and weather would permit.

26th. We again descried the French ships standing in for the bay, with a leading wind; upon which Captain Hunter sent his first lieutenant on board the commanding officer's ship, which was distinguished by a broad pendant, to assist them in coming in. Soon after the lieutenants were returned to the Sirius, Captain Clonnard, the French commodore's captain (who during the late war commanded


  ― 120 ―
the Artois, taken by the Bienfaisant, Captain Macbride), waited on Captain Hunter, and informed him that the ships were the Astrolabe and the Boussale, which sailed from France in the year 1786, under the command of Messieurs de la Perouse and De Langle. He further acquainted him that, having touched at Navigator's Isles, they had had the misfortune to lose Captain De Langle, the second in command, with ten other officers and two boats crews, all of whom were cut off by the natives of those islands, who appeared to be numerous and warlike. This accident induced them to put into this port in order to build some boats, which they had in frames. It also had afforded room for the promotion of Monsieur Clonnard, who, on their leaving France, was only the commodore's first lieutenant.

At ten o'clock the Sirius, with all the ships, weighed, and in the evening anchored in Port Jackson, with a few trifling damages done to some of them, who had run foul of each other in working out of Botany Bay. Port Jackson I believe to be, without exception, the finest and most extensive harbour in the universe, and at the same time the most secure, being safe from all the winds that blow. It is divided into a great number of coves, to which his


  ― 121 ―
excellency has given different names. That on which the town is to be built, is called Sydney Cove. It is one of the smallest in the harbour, but the most convenient, as ships of the greatest burden can with ease go into it, and heave out close to the shore. Trincomalé, acknowledged to be one of the best harbours in the world, is by no means to be compared to it. In a word, Port Jackson would afford sufficient and safe anchorage for all the navies of Europe. The Supply had arrived the day before, and the governor, with every person that could be spared from the ship, were on shore, clearing the ground for the encampment. In the evening, when all the ships had anchored, the English colours were displayed; and at the foot of the flag-staff his Majesty's health, and success to the settlement, was drank by the governor, many of the principal officers, and private men who were present upon the occasion.

27th. A number of convicts from the different transports were landed to assist in clearing the ground for the encampment. His excellency marked the outlines, and, as much as possible to prevent irregularity, and to keep the convicts from straggling, the provost marshal, aided by the patrole, had orders to take into custody all convicts that


  ― 122 ―
should be found without the lines, and to leave them in charge of the main or quarter guard. The boats sent this day to fish were successful. Some of the natives came into the little bay or cove where the seine was hauled, and behaved very friendly. Indeed they carried their civility so far, although a people that appeared to be averse to work, as to assist in dragging it ashore. For this kind office they were liberally rewarded with fish, which seemed to please them and give general satisfaction.

29th. A convenient place for the cattle being found, the few that remained were landed. The frame and materials for the governor's house, constructed by Smith in St. George's Fields, were likewise sent on shore, and some preparations made for erecting it. This day Captain Hunter and Lieutenant Bradley began to take a survey of the harbour. In the course of the last week, all the marines, their wives and children, together with all the convicts, male and female, were landed. The laboratory and sick tents were erected, and, I am sorry to say, were soon filled with patients afflicted with the true camp dysentery and the scurvy. More pitiable objects were perhaps never seen. Not a comfort or convenience could be got for them, besides the very few we


  ― 123 ―
had with us. His excellency, seeing the state these poor objects were in, ordered a piece of ground to be inclosed, for the purpose of raising vegetables for them. The seeds that were sown upon this occasion, on first appearing above ground, looked promising and well, but soon after withered away, which was not indeed extraordinary, as they were not sown at a proper season of the year. The sick have increased since our landing to such a degree, that a spot for a general hospital has been marked out and artificers already employed on it. A proper spot, contiguous to the hospital, has been chosen, to raise such vegetables as can be produced at this season of the year; and where a permanent garden for the use of the hospital is to be established.

previous
next