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July 1788

July 8th. A party of the natives came to the place where the Sirius's boat had been to haul the seine, and, having beaten the crew, took from them by force a part of the fish which they had caught. It is a great misfortune to us that we cannot find proper wood in this place wherewith to build a boat, particularly as fish is not only so very plentiful in the summer but the only change from salt provisions which we can procure, there being neither wild nor domestic animals fit for food. Here, where no other animal nourishment is to be procured, the Kangaroo is considered as a dainty; but in any other country I am sure that such food would be thrown to


  ― 184 ―
the dogs, for it has very little or no fat about it, and, when skinned, the flesh bears some likeness to that of a fox or lean dog.

A few days since a civil court of jurisdiction (which consisted of the judge advocate, the Reverend Mr. Johnson, and myself), was convened, by his excellency, to hear a complaint made against Duncan Sinclair, master of the Alexander transport, by Henry Coble and Susannah his wife (the Norwich convicts who so much excited the public attention), for the non-delivery of a parcel sent on board the Alexander, by Mrs. Jackson of Somerset Street, containing wearing apparel, books, and other things, for the use of the said Henry Coble, his wife, and child, value twenty pounds. The parcel was proved (and this even by the acknowledgment of the master) to have been received on board; and it likewise appeared in evidence that, on moving it from one part of the ship to another, the package had broken and the books had fallen out, which books the convict said had been delivered to him. The court, after deducting five pounds (the value of the books received), gave a verdict in favour of the couple, in whose cause the world had seemed so much to interest themselves,


  ― 185 ―
and in consequence of the authority unto them granted by Act of Parliament, in such cases made and provided, they adjudged the master of the transport fully to compensate the loss of the convicts, amounting to fifteen pounds. Sinclair considered it as oppressive to be obliged to pay for that on account of which he had not received any freightage, but this objection had no weight with the court, as the ship was in the service of government and paid for the sole purpose of conveying these people, and the little property which they possessed, to this country.

July 13th. The Alexander, Friendship, and Prince of Wales transports, with the Borrowdale victualler, sailed for England. His Majesty's brig the Supply sailed at the same time for Norfolk Island, with provisions, &c. for the people there.

21st. I went down the harbour, with the master of the Golden Grove victualler, to look for a cabbage tree as a covering for my hut. On our return, we fell in with three canoes that had been out fishing. We rowed towards them, when the natives in them suddenly appeared intimidated, and paddled away with all possible dispatch. Willing to


  ― 186 ―
convince them that they had nothing to dread from us, we rowed after them, in order to present them with some trifles which we had about us. When we approached the canoes, an old woman in one of them began to cast her fish overboard, in great haste; whether it was for fear that we should take them from her, or whether she threw them to us, we could not ascertain. However, when we came along-side, our conduct soon convinced her that her alarms, with respect to us, were groundless. She had in the canoe with her a young girl, whom, as she wore a complete apron, we could not help considering as such an instance of female decency, as we had not at any other time observed among the natives. The girl did not betray the least sign of apprehension, but rather seemed pleased at the interview. She laughed immoderately, either at us or at the petulance shown by the old woman, who, I believe, was more terrified on the girl's account than on her own. After this we left them fully satisfied that we did not mean to offer them any injury.

Colour plate facing page 186 of 'New Holland Creeper'



We discovered the New Holland Creeper (see plate annexed). The general colour of the bird is black, spotted in various parts with white: the bill is dusky, growing paler


  ― 187 ―
towards the tip; the neck, breast, belly, and sides are more or less streaked with white; over the eye is also a white streak, and the sides of the neck and beginning of the back have likewise some streaks of the same. The quills and tail feathers are marked with yellow on the outer margins; the last are rounded in shape, and two or three of the outer feathers spotted within, at the tip, with white; legs dusky; is about the size of a nightingale, and measures seven inches in length. It is probably a non-descript species.

A party of convicts, who had crossed the country to Botany Bay to gather a kind of plant resembling balm, which we found to be a good and pleasant vegetable, were met by a superior number of the natives, armed with spears and clubs, who chased them for two miles without being able to overtake them; but, if they had succeeded in the pursuit, it is probable that they would have put them to death, for wherever persons unarmed, or inferior in numbers, have fallen in with them, they have never failed to maltreat them. The natives had with them some middling-sized dogs, somewhat resembling the species called in England fox-dogs. A servant of Captain Shea being


  ― 188 ―
one day out shooting, he found a very young puppy, belonging to the natives, eating part of a dead Kangaroo. He brought it to the camp, and it thrives much. The dog, in shape, is rather short and well made, has very fine hair of the nature of fur, and a sagacious look. When found, though not more than a month old, he showed some symptoms of ferocity. It was a considerable time before he could be induced to eat any flesh that was boiled, but he would gorge it raw with great avidity. (See plate annexed.)

23d. The blacksmith's shop, which was built of common brush wood, was burnt down. Very fortunately for us, the bellows and the other tools were, through the exertion of the people, saved. To effect this was no easy point, as in the course of three or four minutes, the wood being very dry, every part of the shop was in flames.

29th. One of the convicts was met by some of the natives, who wounded him very severely in the breast and head with their spears. They would undoubtedly have destroyed him had he not plunged into the sea, near which he happened to be, and by that means saved himself. When he was brought to the hospital he was


  ― 189 ―
very faint from the loss of blood, which had flowed plentifully from his wounds. A piece of a broken spear had entered through the scalp and under his ear, so that the extraction gave him great pain. Their spears are made of a kind of cane which grows out of the tree that produces the yellow gum; they are ten or twelve feet long, pointed, and sometimes barbed, with a piece of the same cane or the teeth of fish. These they throw, with the assistance of the short stick already mentioned, which has a shell made fast to the end of it with the yellow gum. With this gum they likewise fasten their barbs to their spears and fish-gigs. The latter of these differ from the former by having four prongs, and being always barbed, which is not generally the case with the spears. Their spears, the only weapon they are ever seen to have that may be considered in any degree as dangerous, they throw thirty or forty yards with an unerring precision. When equipped for any exploit, they are also armed with a shield made of the bark of a tree, with which they very dexterously ward off any thing thrown at them. An humble kind of scymitar, a bludgeon, or club, about twenty inches long, with a large and pointed end,


  ― 190 ―
and sometimes a stone hatchet, make up the catalogue of their military implements.

We this day shot a Knob-fronted Bee-eater (see plate annexed). This is about the size of a blackbird; the plumage mostly brown above and white beneath; the head and upper part of the neck are sparingly covered with narrow feathers, almost like hairs; but the fore part of the neck and breast are furnished with long ones, of a white colour and pointed at the ends; the tail is pretty long, and the feathers tipped with white; the bill is about one inch in length, and pale; but, what is most remarkable, on the forehead, just at the base of the bill, is a short blunt knob, about a quarter of an inch in length and of a brownish colour; the tongue is nearly of the length of the bill, and bristly at the end; the legs are brown. This inhabits New South Wales, and is supposed to be a non-descript species.

Colour plate facing page 190 of 'Knob-fronted Bee-eater'



This day three canoes, with a man and woman in each, came behind the point on which the hospital is built, to fish. I went over to them, as did two other gentlemen, my assistants, without their shewing any fear at our coming; on the contrary, they manifested a friendly confidence.


  ― 191 ―
We gave them some bread, which they received with apparent pleasure, but did not eat any of it while in our presence. We likewise presented them with a looking-glass, but this they received with indifference, and seemed to hold in no kind of estimation. I gave one of the women a pocket handkerchief, which she immediately tied round her head, and shewed great satisfaction. She had a young child between her knees in the canoe (the way in which they always carry their infants), for whom she solicited something, in the most suppliant tone of voice I ever heard. The only thing I had about me was a narrow slip of linen, which I gave her; and, trifling as it was, she appeared to be perfectly satisfied with it, and bound it round the child's head. She would not come out of the canoe, though along-side the rocks; but the man quitted it, and shewed us some wild figs that grew near at hand. Such as were green and unripe he did not pull; but, after some search, having found one that was tolerably ripe, he made me pluck it and put it into his mouth. He eat it with an apparent relish, and smacked his lips, after he had swallowed it, to convince us how good it was.




  ― 192 ―
At some little distance from the place where we were a sheep lay dead. As soon as he had discovered it, he took it by the horns, and, as well as we could understand him, he was extremely inquisitive and anxious to know what it was. When his curiosity was satisfied, he went into the canoe, where the woman had been waiting for him. About ten or twenty yards from the shore, among the long grass, in the shallow water, he struck and took with his fish-gig several good fish; an acquisition to which, at this season of the year, it being cold and wet, we were unequal. While he was engaged in watching for them, both he and the woman chewed something, which they frequently spit into the water; and which appeared to us, from his immediately striking a fish, to be a lure. While they were thus employed, one of the gentlemen with me sung some songs; and when he had done, the females in the canoes either sung one of their own songs, or imitated him, in which they succeeded beyond conception. Any thing spoken by us they most accurately recited, and this in a manner of which we fell greatly short in our attempts to repeat their language after them.

While we were thus amicably engaged, all on a sudden


  ― 193 ―
they paddled away from us. On looking about to discover the cause, we perceived the gunner of the Supply at some little distance, with a gun in his hand, an instrument of death, against which they entertain an insuperable aversion. As soon as I discovered him, I called to him to stay where he was, and not make a nearer approach; or, if he did, to lay down his gun. The latter request he immediately complied with; and when the natives saw him unarmed they shewed no further fear, but, returning to their employment, continued alternately to sing songs and to mimic the gentlemen who accompanied me.

Colour plate facing page 193 of 'Sacred Kings Fisher'



We this day shot the Sacred Kings-Fisher (see Plate annexed). This bird is about the size of a thrush, and measures nearly ten inches in length: the top of the head is blue, and crested; sides of the head, and back part of it, black; over the eye, from the nostrils, a rusty-coloured streak; the chin, the middle of the neck, all round, and all the under part of the body, buff-colour, more or less inclining to rust; the upper part of the plumage chiefly blue; but the beginning of the back is black, as are also the quills and tail feathers within,


  ― 194 ―
being blue only on the outer edges; the bill is large and black, but the base of the under jaw is whitish; the legs are brown. This bird is subject to great variety, several of them being mentioned by Mr. Latham in his Synopsis. The present seems to come nearest his Var. C. See vol. ii, page 622, of that work.

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