Diary of ten years eventful life of an early settler in Western Australia and also A descriptive vocabulary of the language of the aborigines/The voyage
REFLECTIONS ON LEAVING LAND—DUTIES OF THE SABBATH-DAY—MEETS A VESSEL IN DISTRESS—TRADE WINDS—MADEIRA—FLYING FISH DESCRIED—PILOT FISH—PORTUGUESE MAN OF WAR—MEMORIALS OF HOME—EPITAPH ON HIS SPANIEL—RAIN—A STRANGE SAIL—CROSSING THE LINE—THE SOUTHERN CROSS—THE CAPE—STANZAS—TERMINATION OF THE VOYAGE.
Exhausted with sleeplessness and agitation, I threw myself into my berth soon after you and my dear father left me, still indulging a hope of seeing you on board once more before sailing. On awaking from long and painful slumber, disturbed by a confusion of all imaginable noises, I found that a steamer had taken us out of the harbour in the course of the night, and that we were at a considerable distance from land. The reflection then crossed me, that I was for the first time separated from my family and friends,
and placed as it were, alone on the ocean of life to steer my own way, and depend on my single efforts, without the friendly hand of the dear parent, who had hitherto been my guide and companion–the "custos incorruptissimus"–without the interchange of fraternal love, and with the heavy responsibility of having embarked four others in my service and speculations, for whose welfare of mind and body I feel myself accountable; under all these anxious thoughts and considerations, I prayed to God, the only source of calmness and of comfort, to strengthen and support me.
To vary the usual monotony and dulness of the long and painful voyage before me, I shall keep a journal, which, if it ever reach you, will make me present to you all.
Sunday, June 4th, 1830.—In pursuance of a determination, which I had previously formed, never to omit, when practicable, the duties of the Sabbath-day, either at sea or in the land of my destination, I read prayers and a suitable service to my own people; great interruptions, from several causes, occurred, but I persevered, and had the satisfaction of finding that the captain would be pleased at having the service on deck for the advantage of the crew. Wind moderate and favourable, our lat. 46°, lon. 10°, and yet the weather cool. Thermometer only 64°—great talk of being in the latitude of pirates, and consequent cleaning and preparing of all our firearms—saw nothing, however, more terrible than some large porpoises playing about the bows of the vessel. Experienced the want of a filtering machine for our water, which already smells offensively and tastes badly. This is a sad want. It is inexcusable in the captains of vessels to be unprovided with this valuable and unexpensive apparatus, which conduces so much to health and comfort.
July 8th.—Approaching the trade winds; James killed a pig in the evening—quite an event! This same James makes himself very useful in many ways; he takes particular pleasure in feeding our sheep, but whether this taste proceeds from a disinterested benevolence, or from the anticipated enjoyment of good mutton chops, I cannot say.
9th.—A vessel in sight, making signals of distress. Hove to. She sent a boat to us. Proves to be the Patriot, from Benecarlo to Dublin; had been six weeks at sea, sprung a leak, and was kept afloat by incessant exertions at the pump. Her provisions were running short, so that we were obliged to give her a supply of water and biscuit, some coals also, and leather for the pump. Many of us took the opportunity of writing to our friends, as well as the limited time would permit. I wrote a few lines (thought crowding upon thought in the happiest confusion) to my dear father and brother. As the captain of the Patriot did not seem quite sure of his reckoning, we gave it correctly to him; he had two officers on board who wished for newspapers, which unluckily for them and the credit of our philanthropy, we did not share. Being now 16° W. our time is one hour and four minutes later than at Greenwich, each degree making a difference of four minutes. The most perceptible difference in our latitude is the short duration of twilight.
We expect to fall in with the regular S.E. trade wind a few degrees on this (north) side of the line; our course must then be directed towards South Ameria, until this region be traversed, after which we may calculate on variable winds until we shall have reached a more southerly latitude, when westerly winds will prevail again. Remained late on deck in the evening, watching the phosphoric brilliancy which every one has witnessed at sea, and the deep blue of the ocean.
11th.—At four in the morning passed Madeira, lying about twenty-five miles to the east. Most delightful day; wind moderate and steady from the N.E., supposed to be the regular trade wind. Read morning service, and the psalms and lessons for the day, with a sermon; the captain, passengers, and crew, with the exception of two or three, attending in the large cabin–a gratifying and impressive scene. No vessel, no living thing in sight, except a solitary bird, one of Mother Carey's chickens. Ship going at the rate of nine knots, and rolling more than is quite comfortable. Peak of Teneriffe not yet visible. Saw flying fish for the first time. They seemed to spring up from the side of the vessel as if startled, sometimes taking a considerable flight, at other times just touching the waters and then rising again. Occasionally a single one rises, at other times twenty or thirty spring up together. I could not perceive any vibrations in their fins or wings, whichever naturalists please to call them. Most of them are of a silver grey; a few of yellow or gold colour. We are supposed to be now about the tropic. Thermometer 80°. Water miserably bad; even filtering fails to improve it, as one of our passengers, who happens to have a good filtering machine, assures me. The only way to swallow it without disgust is in negus, with plenty of lemon juice.
Saw a pilot fish, which is about the size of a mackerel, with stripes on his side like those of a zebra. I am told that he generally accompanies the shark; the latter, however, did not appear, but towards evening a large shoal of porpoises surrounded the vessel, apparently more for sport than prey, their gambols being of the most comic kind. This night the captain took an observation of the north star; the sky too cloudy to be very accurate. Thermometer 80°. This degree of heat produces in me great languor by day and restlessness by night. Lat. at noon, 18°, 16'. We hope to see Antonio, one of the Cape Verd Islands, to-morrow. The anxiety with which we look for the smallest island is inconceivable to those who have not been exposed for many days to the monotony of time passed on the ocean.
Sunday, 18th.—I officiated as usual for a congregation of about thirty-six persons, apparently interested and attentive to the services of the day. Thermometer 80°, at 2 p.m. This day, for the first time, we saw a shark gliding slowly along, with its fin just above the water's surface, and in his wake followed a great train of what the sailors call Portuguese men of war, and a long shoal of flying fish and bonetas, so that we had something to look at. We are disappointed in our hope of seeing the land of St. Antonio, the weather proving hazy, and there being every indication of our losing the N.E. trade wind, and falling in with the S.W. wind, which prevails about the Cape Verd Islands. The heat at night, thermometer 82°, is very oppressive, so much so, that I can hardly bear even a sheet over me.
19th.—This day has been marked by a fearful accident. We had been all anxiously looking out for fish, and endeavouring to catch men of war by means of buckets, and had just succeeded in capturing one (which I shall describe by and by), when a boy, in the act of throwing out a bucket, became entangled in the rope attached to it, and was dragged overboard. A sailor looking on, instantly jumped into the sea, and by assisting and encouraging the youngster, until a boat was lowered, saved his life. Providentially the day was calm, and the boy had great presence of mind, and swam pretty well, though he had all his clothes on, except his shoes. The brave fellow, who risked his life for the lad, is George Southern, son of a respectable man living at Bray; his amiable and obliging temper had rendered him a general favourite previously to this occurrence, which of course has not lowered him in the scale of estimation. I was in the cabin when the alarm was given, and on reaching deck, George had made such way towards the boy, who sustained himself boldly, that my only apprehension was that the sharks would meet them. If these monsters were in our track, the bustle and noise from the ship, and the appearance of the boat, kept them at a distance;—it was a scene of intense and awful anxiety. May we all give praise where it is due, and may our praises be accepted!
I threatened to describe the man of war:—It consists of a bladder filled with air, from which depend roots or feelers, nearly four feet long. One of the roots of this zoophyte I have now examined with a microscope; it is no thicker than a thread, transparent, and hollow, with many knots or joints from which other minuter fibres extend. After I had handled these fibres, I experienced a prickly sensation like that of needles in my face, on the application of my hand. This I am unable to account for. I have lately acquired the habit of taking a night bath, by having water pumped over me. The time which I have chosen has been about an hour before midnight, in order to obtain cool and refreshing sleep. Last night, after my bath, I remained a long time on deck en chemise, without any inconvenience whatever. Thermometer yesterday, lat. 15° 4', in my sleeping cabin stood at 81°; in the afternoon 85°, and on deck 92° 22'. This day we have had a great addition to our live stock, Poor Lass having presented me with nine puppies, five of which were committed to the deep. I have been obliged to keep four, to gratify the urgent solicitations of some of our passengers; but I fear that the mother has not strength or nutriment sufficient, and milk is a scarce article now on board. The dozen bottles which I had brought with me, boiled, corked, and hermetically sealed, soon became sour; even Poor Lass, for whose accouchement I had kept it, since it proved unfit for her master, refuses to drink it;—tell this to all whom it may concern.
The effects of the heat have been proved on our mutton (the sheep which James killed three days ago being quite offensive, though washed with chloride of lime), and still more lamentably on Poor Lass, who is staggering about, restless and feverish, and half frantic; at one time coming down to my cabin, at another wandering about the deck, as if in search of something, and paying little attention to her young ones; indeed her doing so would be of little service, her milk being gone; I have given her medicine, and whatever else I could think of as possibly serviceable to her.
24th.—Poor Lass is no more. I grieve at her death, for she formed a link of associations with home and its inmates. Oh! how bitter are the thoughts of the exile !
How often, and with what intense anxiety, do I contemplate successively the many little memorials of affection and friendship, which are almost always before me! Not only those which you, and my father and sister have given, and which are associated in some way or other with all my occupations, whether praying, reading, writing, marking the progress of time, or preparing for eternity; but those tokens of regard which I have received from comparative strangers. I constantly wear a ring which——gave me just before I came away. Poor fellow! he could scarcely speak, I could not articulate a syllable. I trust before this, his anxious and affectionate heart has found rest and peace in wedded life! I dress every day before a glass belonging to a case given me by Miss T——.
Instances of Mrs. R's kindness are constantly before me. Poor John Maguire (Joseph's old servant), with tears in his eyes, entreated my acceptance of a handsome dark lantern, which he had had for one and twenty years. It is now suspended in my cabin, and my reminiscences revert with as much gratification to this keepsake of poor John's, as to any other that I see around me. Furlong's kindness and attention appear in several marks of his friendship. A cabin lamp, fowling-piece, and pair of pistols, an apparatus for kindling an instantaneous light, are suspended in my cabin; and when I look at these articles, as well as at the books, and many other of his gifts, I am filled with gratitude at his disinterested friendship; but I shall not dwell more upon recollections. I cannot dare to indulge in the "solemn sorrows of suffocating sensibility" as Bridgetina Botherum says, else I should unnerve my mind when it has need of all its fortitude; and yet, my dear brother, I cannot avoid giving you the rythmical produce of my waking thoughts last night, or rather at peep of day this morning, soon after the death of Poor Lass. My melancholy must have vent, aud though there is sad wastry, as Rose Anne would say, as applies to paper, yet, under existing circumstances, I may be allowed to play the fool, if it were only for my beloved sister's sake. She knows when the fit comes on, how hard I find it to resist. Was ever an epitaph on spaniel composed in my present position? Lat. 11°, 12' Here goes:—
Aye! give the body to the deep,
Or was it meant as to commend
Sunday, 25th.–Read church service and a sermon as usual. Robert has absented himself on this and the preceding Sunday, without any good or apparent cause; I must remonstrate;–strongly impressed myself with the many mercies of a kind Providence, and the dependence of His creatures on Him for each moment of their existence, every circumstance of their prosperity, and every hope of future happiness, I consider myself involved in the fate of those who have accompanied me, and bound to confirm them, as far as I am able, in religious principles and observances.
Weather fine, but warm and close; a numerous shoal of porpoises have come rushing towards the ship with great violence. "They are just like sheep sporting in a field," said Letty, and it was not a bad simile for their boundings and gambols; and although it was comical enough to see these animals floundering about, I could not help feeling some alarm on the recollection of an observation Captain Cook makes somewhere in his voyages, "that the playing of porpoises round the ship was a certain indication of an approaching gale;" this remark made by so experienced a seaman was calculated to excite apprehension in a landsman.
25th.—This day has been delicious—one of heavy incessant rain, welcomed by the crew, passengers, and every living animal on board; it is the first heavy rain of any consequence we have had since we sailed, and as our allowance of water has been very limited, we all eagerly prepared for a general ablution of clothes. Letty's obliging temper has been taken full advantage of, every one applying to her in difficulties, and she does everything in her power to accommodate. We have saved much of the rain, and I have bottled a large supply for my own use.
28th.—During the few preceding days, the air has been cool–wind variable, and sometimes foul. A dolphin went off with a line and hook in his stomach this day. I fear that he will suffer from dyspepsia.
We had been complaining of the monotony of our time, "one day telling another and one night certifying another," when a vessel was descried; conjecture became immediately busy, and her movements and appearance were watched with intense interest.
29th.—At length we communicated by signals with the strange sail, which proved to be not a pirate, as we had dreaded, but the brig Harriet, bound for Buenos Ayres.
30th.—I slept uncommonly well last night, which I attribute to my having taken a cold bath immediately before retiring to bed; breeze unfavourable, lat. 6° 42' at noon. It is not recommended to come closer to the coast than 18 long. We are now opposite Sierra Leone, and are entertained by the sailors with agreeable tales of the corsairs, seven of whom, my story tellers asserted, they have seen beheaded at Cadiz. Our determination is to fight manfully, if we should be attacked by an equal force; if by an overwhelming one, to submit quietly at once. Some of these pirates have eighty men and ten or twelve guns; we have but twenty men and two six pound carronades, and small arms.
August 1st.—Fine morning. Breeze strong. Found that we had made but nine miles southing since yesterday. Read prayers, and an excellent sermon of Burder's. This admirable preacher of a pure religion must have done wonders with his parishioners. I give him the credit of the manifest reform which appears to have taken place in my congregation; he cannot be read or heard without interest and improvement. He speaks to the heart more in the eloquence of feeling than language; but whatever he says, he strongly impresses. His sermon on the text, "Christ is the way," is calculated to make a man a Christian, and to keep him one. On these occasions all on board regularly attend, with three or four exceptions.
2nd.—I have been occupied most of this day in writing out the foregoing part of my journal, in the hope of its being conveyed to my sisters. It is inconceivable what a pleasureable interest I take in it. Since this notion has come into my head, it is no longer to me a mere dry record of each day's progress, and its passing events. It is my medium of communication with my dear girls; and though the voyage be barren of incidents, it will, I know, be valued as a memorial, from its writer—as a transcript of his thoughts. How often and how intensely do I think of you all!
The north star is almost invisible, and only the tail of ursa major can be seen. A breeze has split our fore-topsail, but this is a trifle. We are now supposed to have caught the first of the trade wind, which blows strong from S.E., and must, in consequence, shape our course towards South America, and we experience more motion than at any other period of our voyage. The vessel lies more on her side, which renders our position, either sitting or standing, an embarrassing one. Everything is kept on the table by means of raised ledges, placed at equal distances. The sun is strong but the breeze cooling. Thermometer 70° to 82°, lat. 4° 39'.
Several of Mother Carey's chickens were flying near the vessel at dusk. Certes if they go home to sleep, it will be late bed-time with them, for we are several hundred miles from land.
I take a great deal of exercise on deck, swinging on the ropes by the hands, legs, arms, and jumping over one of my feet held in the opposite hand. These gymnasticising exercises are of great benefit to me. You may tell this to Huguenin when you see him. Several of the passengers, and sailors also, amused themselves to a very late hour with different sorts of sports, hunt the slipper, and other playful exercises, with which they were much delighted. I took a pump bath at midnight and found the water rather cold.
5th.—Approaching the line; certainly the line of heat is in lat. 10° or 11°, for our weather here, lat. 2° 11', is quite cool.
6th.—We have crossed the line without witnessing any of those wonderful sights which landsmen are taught to expect. There was neither a well-stretched line in the air, nor a white streak on the waters; nor did the needle tremble, nor the ship groan, nor the heavens give any peculiar indications. We sailed along at the rate of four knots an hour, on a cool and pleasant day, over an unruffled sea; and it was only by observation at noon that we ascertained our having crossed the mystic boundary. We are promised a visit at night from Neptune, on passing his peculiar territory.
9th.—Last night I got a view, for the first time, of the Southern Cross, a beautiful constellation, which corresponds with the Plough or Bear of the northern hemisphere; its shaft points to the south pole, and at midnight it is vertical. All the stars here appear with greater splendour than in our part of the northern hemisphere; the sky being cloudless, and the atmosphere clear. After admiring the brilliancy of Venus until eleven o'clock, I bathed, and retired to rest about midnight. I have not told you exactly how my day passes on board:—We rise about six; and breakfast on coffee, biscuit, and cold meat, or fried pork and rice, about eight; sometimes on stirabout and molasses: after breakfast, I read and write (occasionally going on deck to see any novelty which may occur there), and at three sit down to a very fair dinner with the captain, the first and second mates, and Messrs. Codd and Nolan. We take tea at candle light (the sun setting at six), and from seven until bed-time, I usually remain on deck, star-gazing, gymnasticising on the ropes, or chatting with some of the passengers.
Before leaving Europe I was cautioned against heavy night dews, but I have not experienced any vapours, though remaining on deck until nearly twelve every night, and frequently standing for a considerable time en chemise after a cold bath. Time passes slowly with some persons on board, but with me its course appears rapid; and when I look back I am surprised at the lapse of days since I left land.
18th.—Last night the appearance of Jupiter, when rising above the horizon, was so singular, that many persons (thinking of pirates) cried out in alarm, "a light, a light;" his rapid ascent in the heavens, however, soon put an end to conjectures.
Our course is now S.E. direct for the Cape—many birds have been flying about us.
20th.—What a busy day this is with you–preparing for grouse shooting. Shall I ever shoot grouse with you again? As I have nothing else to do, I must scribble poetry on the occasion.
FIRST DAY OF THE SHOOTING SEASON—AT SEA.
Oh, what a spirit-stirring day
Sept. 1st.—While fishing with a piece of pork as bait, a Cape pigeon caught the hook in his bill and was pulled up. Porpoises, and an albatross about the ship. Weather cold, like the month of March. Thermometer 52°. Drew the quilt over me for the first time for many weeks.
11th.—A heavenly day, like one of our autumn days; but rather too calm for our impatience the Cape being within less than a hundred miles. Great cleaning out of the ship preparatory to our arrival.
13th.—The breeze has, most provokingly, freshened to a gale, and we are obliged to keep off land, for there is no shelter from this wind in Table Bay. It is most tantalising to be within view of the light-house and flag-staff on the mountain, and then to recede from them.
14th.—After a storm last night, which to my inexperienced eye was sufficiently terrible, the wind has moderated, and we are now standing in for the Bay; straining our eyes to have the first peep of African scenery, turning the glass towards every flat-roofed villa as it appears on the shore, and gazing as we near the quays, at the great teams of twelve or fourteen oxen drawing waggons. * * * *
* * * * * *
20th.—We are now under weigh for Australia. I have brought some cuttings of vine and fig trees in earth, and pumpkin and orange seeds.
25th.—A week has now elapsed since we left Cape Town, and we have made no progress, but have rather gone backwards; so difficult is it sometimes to weather the Cape. We may now have to run to the fortieth degree of south latitude before we meet with a west wind.
I have stumbled upon a pamphlet written by Dr. Macartney, 1810, on the luminous appearance of the sea. He describes one luminous animalcule like a shrimp so far his microscopic observations agree with mine; but he does not conjecture (as I do) that the small globules are the spawn, which afterwards assume the tadpole, and subsequently the fish shape. I wish I had seen his pamphlet before, as I should then have observed more closely.
28th.—What a night has passed! Incessant thunder, lightning, and wind, accompanied with torrents of rain and hailstones of a very large size. Sleep was out of the question. I was frequently on deck to observe the vivid flashes of electric matter, which illuminated the ocean around; and on one or two occasions I saw a steady light, which sailors call Jack-o'-the lanthern, continuing at least ten minutes on the mast-head. During this storm we sailed ten knots an hour, shipping a tremendous sea occasionally.
Do you ever think of me? I hope you do, at least in your morning and evening petitions to the Throne of Grace. I think of you, and pray for you every time that I offer up my prayers and thanksgivings for myself.
October 1st.—I have been in a poetical mood again; yet dissatisfied with the labours of my brain. Last night (when I wrote them) I thought my lines sublime,
To-day I think some of them bordering on the ridiculous. Between the two, you know, there is but a step; you shall have them, however, but please to bear situation and circumstances in mind. I was alone on the deck on a beautiful moon-shining night, when the poetical afflatus seized me. Whatever the character of the poetry may be, these lines are faithfully indicative of my feelings, and of the communion which subsists between my head and heart:
I gaze on the moon—I gaze on the moon—
And it brings to mind, oh! it brings to mind,
Are you as the dead? has all pleasure fled?
5th.—Nothing worthy of note has occured of late; we have fine weather, a smooth sea, and a favourable wind.
13th.—I have my expectations excited, from hearing that a great flaming cross is frequently seen in our present position, lat. 38°, long. 67° 35` at midnight. I have seen it, but with great disappointment.
It is composed of many stars, of no extraordinary brilliancy. The sky has not been clear for some time; and it was only last night that I saw it in its erect position at midnight.
I also saw the Pleiades, a beautiful constellation, the sight of which (so powerful is the association of ideas) led my thoughts far, far from the present scene to our little study, and boyish days, when we conned over Virgil and Ovid; and, heartily sick of their Pleiades and "Aquosus Orion," wished them at the bottom of the sea. I little thought then, that it would be my subsequent fate to gaze on these beautiful constellations on the wide ocean.
I need not recall to you that exquisite expression of Job, which may challenge comparison with any of the ancient poets, "Canst thou bind the sweet influences of Pleiades or loose the bands of Orion?"—a passage which Milton has borrowed and appropriated:—
You see I am not totally idle, but make some use of the few books which I have packed up.
18th.—I have had a dream of home, and here you have a poetical version of my visions of the night:—
When gentle slumber seals my eyes,
Can this, I said, can this be home—
20th.—We have been watching the land (which is about thirty miles distant) since dinner time, and are now running parallel with it; we hope to anchor to-morrow.
I have been searching for my tents and iron bedsteads, and getting my packages into order.
This voyage, which once appeared interminable, now draws to a close; and though fifteen weeks have elapsed since I left Dublin, the time has passed more rapidly and agreeably than I could have believed to be possible. I do not recollect to have been so fat at any other period of my life, and am in perfect health. Even my cheeks have plumped out, and I have no longer the sallow visage of the student, but the ruddy hue of the farmer. A freedom from anxiety of mind, and professional occupation, may probably be the cause of my being so fat; however, an active life of rural industry will soon rid me of superabundant flesh.
29th.—There has been almost a dead calm since yesterday, until within this last two hours. We are now advancing towards the coast, which has an undulating and very pleasing appearance, like gentlemen's parks. We can plainly distinguish clumps of trees on the low lands in front; and in the back grounds a range of hills, apparently twenty-five or thirty miles distant. All our people are in high spirits but we are obliged to put about, and stand off, as our charts are not perfect enough to assure us of our proper landing-place.
30th.—We are now at anchor in Cockburn Sound, near Garden Island; which, except for the greenness and the foliage, does not deserve the appellation. Why it is so called I cannot conjecture, unless it be according to the accommodating rule, which so satisfactorily accounts for every misnomer, best known by its example—lucus a non lucendo. The soil on the beach is sandy; the view around is beautiful, the land having sufficient diversities.
The entrance to Cockburn Sound is attended with some difficulty to strangers; but new charts have been sent home, laying down all the soundings, &c., &c. It is a fine harbour when you reach it.
Nov. 9th.—More than a week has passed since I came here; but such a week! So many new scenes, new people, new languages and manners, incidents and accidents!
I have waited on the governor; been at the head of the Swan River, and in a conflict with a tribe of natives; accompanied a party, which chased them for miles through the woods, where they had been making merry with plunder; and after seeing one native shot, and three wounded, assisted in bringing seven prisoners to Perth. To-morrow I shall set off for the Canning River, my object being to procure a grant at once, if possible, as I do not wish to be at unnecessary expense in keeping my people. Letty has come ashore with a hen under each arm; and James has brought the sow, sheep, and goat. The weather is roastingly hot, but not oppressive.
And now safe on shore,