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April 1788

April 15th. His excellency, attended by Lieutenant Ball of the navy, Lieutenant George Johnston of the marines, the judge advocate, myself, three soldiers, and two seamen, landed in Manly Cove (so called from the manly conduct of the natives when the governor first visited it), on the north side of the entrance into Port Jackson harbour, in order to trace to its source a river which had been discovered a few days before. We, however, found this impracticable, owing to a thicket and swamp which ran along the side of it. The governor, anxious to acquire all the knowledge of the country in his power, forded the river in two places, and more than up to our waists in water, in hopes of being able to avoid the thicket and swamp; but, notwithstanding all his perseverance, we were at length obliged to return and to proceed along the sea-shore, a mile or two to the northward.


  ― 137 ―
At the end of this we fell in with a small salt-water lagoon, on which we found nine birds that, whilst swimming, most perfectly resembled the rara avis of the ancients - a black swan. We discharged several shots at them, but the distance was too great for execution. Our frequent firing, however, caused them to take wing, and they flew towards the sea, which was very near, in the order that wild geese generally preserve, the one before the other. Had we not raised them, we should certainly have concluded that they were black swans, but their flight gave us an opportunity of seeing some white feathers, which terminated the tip of each wing; in every other part they were perfectly black. Their size appeared not equal to that of an European swan, but the shape exactly corresponded, except about the wings, which seemed rather small for the body.

We not long after discovered the great brown King's Fisher, of which a plate is annexed. This bird has been described by Mr. Latham in his General Synopsis of Birds, vol. ii., p. 603, nearly to the following purport:—The length eighteen inches; the bill black above and white beneath; the feathers of the head narrow and pretty long, so as to form a kind of crest. They are of a brown colour, streaked with paler brown; the


  ― 138 ―
back and wings in general brown; the lower part of the back and rump pale blue-green; the outer edges of the quills blue; within and the tips black; on the wing coverts is a patel of glossy blue-green; the tail is barred with ferruginous and steel-black, glossed with purple, the end, for one inch, white; the under part of the body is white, transversely streaked with dusky lines; legs yellow, claws black.

Colour plate facing page 137 of 'Great Brown Kings Fisher'



This bird is not uncommon in many islands of the South Seas, being pretty frequent at New Guinea, from whence the specimen came from which Mr. Latham took his description: it is also an inhabitant of New Holland, from whence several have been sent over to England.

We rounded this lagoon, and proceeded four or five miles westward, along the banks of a small fresh-water river, which emptied itself into it and had for its source only a swamp or boggy ground. After we had passed this swamp we got into an immense wood, the trees of which were very high and large, and a considerable distance apart, with little under or brush wood. The ground was not very good, although it produced a luxuriant coat of a kind of sour grass growing in tufts or bushes, which, at some distance, had the appearance of meadow land, and might be


  ― 139 ―
mistaken for it by superficial examiners. Here we pitched our tents (without which the governor never travelled) for the night, near a swamp, out of which we were supplied with water, not, indeed, either of the best or clearest kind. The night being cold, and a heavy dew falling, we kept up a large fire before the tents, which, though in one respect an excellent precaution, far from chasing away seemed to allure the musquitos, which tormented us inexpressibly during the whole night. We this day discovered the Banksian Cockatoo. This species was first described by Mr. Latham, in his seventh volume or supplement to the General Synopsis of Birds, and the one in the plate annexed differs from that in some few particulars. In Mr. Latham's figure the general colour is dusky black, the feathers of the head longer than the rest, forming a crest; and each of those on the head, back of the neck, and major part of the wings has a spot of buff-colour at the tips; the under parts of the body barred with narrow bars of buff-colour; the tail is black at the bottom and ends of the feathers, but the middle of a fine red,


  ― 123 ―
barred irregularly with black. In our specimen, the general colour of the bird is olive, or rusty black; the head feathers pretty


  ― 140 ―
long, and about the sides of the head and top of it is a mixture of fine yellow; but none of the feathers are marked with buff at the tips, nor is the under part of the body crossed with buff-colour. In the tail it differs scarcely at all from Mr. Latham's figure.

These birds have been met with in several parts of New Holland.

Colour plate facing page 139 of 'Banksian Cockatoo'



We likewise saw several Blue-bellied Parrots. This is a very beautiful bird, and Mr. Latham, whose leave we have to copy the account of it, from his Syn. vol. i., p. 213, No. 14. B., describes it thus: “The length is fifteen inches; the bill is reddish; orbits black; head and throat dark blue, with a mixture of lighter blue feathers; back part of the head green; towards the throat yellow green; back and wings green; prime quills dusky, barred with yellow; breast red, mixed with yellow; belly of a fine blue; thighs green and yellow; tail cuneiform; the two middle feathers green; the others the same, but bright yellow on the outer edges; legs dusky.”

Colour plate facing page 140 of 'Blue Bellied Parrot'



This bird is a very common species in various parts of New Holland, and in great plenty both at Botany Bay and Port Jackson. It is found to differ much in plumage,


  ― 141 ―
several other varieties having been met with, which are natives of Amboina and others of the Molucca Islands.

16th. We pursued our route westward, proceeding many miles inland without being able to trace, by a single vestige, that the natives had been recently in those parts. We saw, however, some proofs of their ingenuity in various figures cut on the smooth surface of some large stones. They consisted chiefly of representations of themselves in different attitudes, of their canoes, of several sorts of fish and animals; and, considering the rudeness of the instruments with which the figures must have been executed, they seemed to exhibit tolerably strong likenesses. On the stones, where the natives had been thus exercising their abilities in sculpture, were several weather-beaten shells. The country all around this place was rather high and rocky, and the soil arid, parched, and inhospitable.

In the evening, after a long and fatiguing march, we fell in with the north-west branch of Port Jackson harbour. Here the two seamen, overcome with fatigue, and having their shoes torn from their feet through the ruggedness of the road along which we had travelled, could proceed no further. This circumstance induced the governor to consign them to


  ― 142 ―
the care of Lieutenant Ball and a marine, supplying them with provisions sufficient to last them till they reached the ships. His excellency, with the rest of the party, pushed on to the westward, by the water side, in hopes of finding better land and a more open country. About four o'clock in the afternoon we came to a steep valley, where the flowing of the tide ceased, and a fresh-water stream commenced. Here, in the most desert, wild, and solitary seclusion that the imagination can form any idea of, we took up our abode for the night, dressed our provisions, washed our shirts and stockings, and turned our inconvenient situation to the best advantage in our power. Saw this day the Anomalous Hornbill, of which a plate is annexed. This bird is so very singular in its several characteristics that it can scarcely be said to which of the present known genera to refer it. In the bill it seems most allied to the hornbill, but the legs are those of a toucan, and the tongue is more like that of a crow than any other. It must therefore be left to future ornithologists or determine the point, resting here satisfied with describing its external appearance.

Colour plate facing page 142 of 'Anamolous Hornbill'



The size of the body is not much less than that of a crow: the bill is very large and bent, particularly at the tip of the


  ― 143 ―
upper mandible; the nostrils and space round the eyes are bare and red; the head, neck, and all beneath, are of a pale grey, crossed over the thighs with dusky lines; the back and wings dusky lead-colour, with the end of each feather black; the tail is long and wedgeshaped, the feathers white at the ends, near which is a bar of black. The bill and legs are brown; the toes are placed two before and two behind, as in the parrot or toucan genus.

This singular bird was met with at New Holland, from whence three or four specimens have found their way to England, but whether it is a numerous species has not been mentioned.

The next morning we hid our tents and the remains of our provisions, and, with only a little rum and a small quantity of bread, made a forced march into the country, to the westward, of about fourteen miles, without being able to succeed in the object of our search, which was for good land, well-watered. Indeed, the land here, although covered with an endless wood, was better than the parts which we had already explored. Finding it, however, very unlikely that we should be able to penetrate through this immense forest, and circumstanced as we were, it was


  ― 144 ―
thought more prudent to return. We, accordingly, after an expeditious walk, reached the stream from whence we had set out in the morning, and, taking up the tents and provisions which we had left, proceeded a little farther down, to the flowing of the tide, and there pitched our tents for the night, during which it rained very heavily, with thunder and lightning. The Wattled Bee-eater, of which a plate is annexed, fell in our way during the course of the day. This bird is the size of a missel thrush but much larger in proportion, its total length being about fourteen inches. The feathers on the upper part of the head, longer than the rest, give the appearance of a crest; those of the underpart are smooth; the plumage for the most part is brown, the feathers long and pointed, and each feather has a streak of white down the middle; under the eye, on each side, is a kind of wattle, of an orange colour; the middle of the belly is yellow; the tail is wedge-shaped, similar to that of the magpie, and the feathers tipped with white; the bill and legs are brown.

This bird seems to be peculiar to New Holland, and is undoubtedly a species which has not hitherto been described.

Colour plate facing page 144 of 'Wattled Bee Eater'



18th. We began our progress early in the morning,


  ― 145 ―
bending our course down the river. Some places along the shore, where the tide had flowed so as to obstruct our passage, we were obliged to ford, and at times we were under the necessity of climbing heights nearly inaccessible. At length, after undergoing much fatigue, we were agreeably surprised, and cheered, with the sight of two boats, sent by Captain Hunter to meet us, and just then coming up with the tide. By them we learnt, that Lieutenant Ball, with his enfeebled party, had arrived safe at the ship the day after they had quitted us. We all went on board the boats, and fell down the river till we got to a pleasant little cove, where we dined, with great satisfaction and comfort, upon the welcome provisions which were sent in the boats by the governor's steward. After having refreshed ourselves, we again embarked, and about six o'clock in the evening arrived in Sydney Cove.

Colour plate facing page 145 of ‘The Wattled Bee Eater, Female’



We were likewise able, during this excursion, to take one of the Gold-winged Pigeons, of which a plate is annexed. This bird is a curious and singular species, remarkable for having most of the feathers of the wing marked with a brilliant spot of golden yellow, changing, in various reflections of light, to green and copper-bronze, and, when the wing is closed,


  ― 146 ―
forming two bars of the same across it. The general colour of the bird otherwise is brown, changing to vinaceous red on the breast, in the manner of our domestic species. The fore part of the head and chin are buff colour, with a streak of brownish red passing on each side through the eye. The quills and tail are darker than the rest of the plumage, but all the feathers of the last, except the two middle ones, incline to lead colour, with a bar of black near the tip. The bill and legs are of a dull red.

This species is a native of New South Wales, several of them having been sent from Port Jackson.

Colour plate facing page 146 of 'Golden Winged Pidgeon'



22d. On the morning of this day the governor, accompanied by the same party, with the addition of Lieutenant Cresswell of the marines and six privates, landed at the head of the harbour, with an intention of penetrating into the country westward, as far as seven days provisions would admit of; every individual carrying his own allowance of bread, beef, rum, and water. The soldiers, beside their own provisions, carried a camp kettle and two tents, with their poles, &c. Thus equipped, with the additional weight of spare shoes, shirts, trowsers, together with a great coat, or Scotch plaid, for the purpose of sleeping in, as


  ― 147 ―
the nights were cold, we proceeded on our destination. We likewise took with us a small hand hatchet in order to mark the trees as we went on, those marks (called in America blazing) being the only guide to direct us in our return. The country was so rugged as to render it almost impossible to explore our way by the assistance of the compass.

In this manner we proceeded for a mile or two, through a part well covered with enormous trees, free from underwood. We then reached a thicket of brush-wood, which we found so impervious as to oblige us to return nearly to the place from whence we had set out in the morning. Here we encamped, near some stagnant water, for the night, during which it thundered, lightened, and rained. About eleven o'clock the governor was suddenly attacked with a most violent complaint in his side and loins, brought on by cold and fatigue, not having perfectly gotten the better of the last expedition. The next morning being fine, his excellency, who was rather better, though still in pain, would not relinquish the object of his pursuit; and therefore we proceeded, and soon got round the wood or thicket which had harassed us so much the day before.


  ― 148 ―
After we had passed it, we fell in with an hitherto unperceived branch of Port Jackson harbour, along the bank of which the grass was tolerably rich and succulent, and in height nearly up to the middle, interspersed with a plant much resembling the indigo. We followed this branch westward for a few miles, until we came to a small fresh-water stream that emptied itself into it. Here we took up our quarters for the night, as our halts were always regulated by fresh water, an essential point by no means to be dispensed with, and not very abundant or frequently to be met with, in this country. We made a kettle of excellent soup out of a white cockatoo and two crows, which I had shot, as we came along. The land all around us was similar to that which we had passed. At night we had thunder, lightning, and rain. The governor, though not free from pain, was rather recovering.

24th. As soon as the dew, which is remarkably heavy in this country, was off the ground, we proceeded to trace the river, or small arm of the sea. The banks of it were now pleasant, the trees immensely large, and at a considerable distance from each other; and the land around us flat and rather low, but well covered with the kind of grass just


  ― 149 ―
mentioned. Here the tide ceased to flow; and all further progress for boats was stopped by a flat space of large broad stones, over which a fresh-water stream ran. Just above this flat, close to the water-side, we discovered a quarry of slates, from which we expected to derive great advantage in respect to covering our houses, stores, &c., it being a material beyond conception difficult to be procured in this country; but on trial it was found of no use, as it proved to be of a crumbling and rotten nature. On this fresh-water stream, as well as on the salt, we saw a great many ducks and teal, three of which we shot in the course of the day, besides two crows and some loraquets. About four in the afternoon, being near the head of the stream, and somewhat apprehensive of rain, we pitched our tents before the grass became wet, a circumstance which would have proved very uncomfortable during the night. Here we had our ducks picked, stuffed with some slices of salt beef, and roasted, and never did a repast seem more delicious; the salt beef, serving as a palatable substitute for the want of salt, gave it an agreeable relish. The evening cleared up, and the night proved dry. During the latter, we heard a noise which not a little surprised us, on account of its resemblance


  ― 150 ―
to the human voice. What it proceeded from we could not discover, but I am of opinion that it was made by a bird, or some animal. The country round us was by no means so good, or the grass so abundant, as that which we had passed. The water, though neither clear nor in any great quantity, was neither of a bad quality nor ill-tasted.

The next day, after having sowed some seeds, we pursued our route for three or four miles west, where we met with a mean hut belonging to some of the natives, but could not perceive the smallest trace of their having been there lately. Close to this hut we saw a kangaroo, which had come to drink at an adjacent pool of stagnated water, but we could not get within shot of it. A little farther on we fell in with three huts, as deserted as the former, and a swamp, not unlike the American rice grounds. Near this we saw a tree in flames, without the least appearance of any natives; from which we suspected that it had been set on fire by lightning. This circumstance was first suggested by Lieutenant Ball, who had remarked, as well as myself, that every part of the country, though the most inaccessible and rocky, appeared as if, at certain times of the year, it had been all on fire. Indeed in


  ― 151 ―
many parts we met with very large trees the trunks of which and branches were evidently rent, and demolished by lightning. Close by the burning tree we saw three kangaroos. Though by this time very much fatigued, we proceeded about two miles farther on, in hopes of finding some good water, but without effect; and about half past four o'clock we took up our quarters near a stagnant pool. The ground was so very dry and parched that it was with some difficulty we could drive either our tent pegs or poles into it. The country about this spot was much clearer of underwood than that which we had passed during the day. The trees around us were immensely large, and the tops of them filled with loraquets and paroquets of exquisite beauty, which chattered to such a degree that we could scarcely hear each other speak. We fired several times at them, but the trees were so very high that we killed but few.

26th. We still directed our course westward, and passed another tree on fire, and others which were hollow and perforated by a small hole at the bottom, in which the natives seemed to have snared some animal. It was certainly done by the natives, as the trees where these


  ― 152 ―
holes or perforations were, had in general many knotches cut for the purpose of getting to the top of them. After this we crossed a water-course, which shews that at some seasons the rain is very heavy here, notwithstanding that there was, at present, but little water in it. Beyond the chasm we came to a pleasant hill, the top of which was tolerably clear of trees and perfectly free from underwood. His excellency gave it the name of Belle Veüe. From the top of this hill we saw a chain of hills or mountains, which appeared to be thirty or forty miles distant, running in a north and south direction. The northernmost being conspicuously higher than any of the rest, the governor called it Richmond Hill; the next, or those in the centre, Lansdown Hills; and those to the southward, which are by much the lowest, Carmarthen Hills.

In a valley below Belle Veüe we saw a fire, and by it found some chewed root of a saline taste, which shewed that the natives had recently been there. The country hereabout was pleasant to the eye, well wooded, and covered with long sour grass, growing in tufts. At the bottom of this valley, or flat, we crossed another water-course and


  ― 153 ―
ascended a hill, where the wood was so very thick as to obstruct our view. Here, finding our provisions to run short, our return was concluded on, though with great reluctance, as it was our wish, and had been our determination, to reach the hills before us if it had been possible. In our way back, which we easily discovered by the marks made in the trees, we saw a hollow tree on fire, the smoke issuing out of the top part as through a chimney. On coming near, and minutely examining it, we found that it had been set on fire by the natives; for there was some dry grass lighted and put into the hole wherein we had supposed they used to snare or take the animal before alluded to. In the evening, where we pitched our tents we shot two crows and some loraquets, for supper. The night was fine and clear, during which we often heard, as before, a sound like the human voice, and, from its continuance on one spot, we concluded it to proceed from a bird perched on some of the trees near us.

27th. We now found ourselves obliged to make a forced march back, as our provisions were quite exhausted, a circumstance rather alarming in case of losing our way, which, however, we met with no difficulty in discovering


  ― 154 ―
by the marked trees. By our calculation we had penetrated into the country, to the westward, not less than thirty-two or thirty-three miles. This day we saw the dung of an animal as large as that of a horse, but it was more like the excrement of a hog, intermixed with grass. When we got as far back as the arm or branch of the sea which forms the upper part of Port Jackson harbour, we saw many ducks, but could not get within shot of any of them. It was now growing late, and the governor being apprehensive that the boats, which he had ordered to attend daily, might be, for that day, returning before we could reach them, he sent Lieutenants Johnston and Cresswell, with a marine, a-head, in order to secure such provisions as might have been sent up, and to give directions for the boats to come for us the next morning, as it then appeared very unlikely that all the party, who were, without exception, much fatigued, could be there soon enough to save the tide down. Those gentlemen accordingly went forward, and were so fortunate as to be just in time; and they returned to us with a seasonable supply of bread, beef, rum, and wine. As soon as they had joined us, we encamped for the night, on a spot about the distance of a


  ― 155 ―
mile from the place where the boats were to take us up in the morning. His excellency was again indisposed, occasioned by a return of his complaint, which had been brought on by a fall into a hollow place in the ground that, being concealed by the long grass, he was unable to discern. We passed the next day in examining different inlets in the upper part of the harbour. We saw there some of the natives, who, in their canoes, came along-side of the boat, to receive some trifles which the governor held out to them. In the evening we returned to Sydney Cove.

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