Early Voyages to Terra Australis/Extract from the Journal of a Voyage Made to the Unexplored South Land

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Early Voyages to Terra Australis  (1701)  by Richard Henry Major
Extract from the Journal of a Voyage Made to the Unexplored South Land

EXTRACT FROM THE JOURNAL OF A VOYAGE MADE TO THE UNEXPLORED SOUTH LAND, BY
ORDER OF THE DUTCH EAST INDIA COMPANY, IN THE YEARS 1696 AND 1697,

BY THE HOOKER DE NYPTANG, THE SHIP DE GEELVINK, THE GALIOT DE WESEL AND THE RETURN TO BATAVIA
PRINTED AT AMSTERDAM, 1701.

On the morning of the 29th December (1696) at half-past two o'clock, we discovered the South Land, to east north-east of us at from four to five miles distance. We found the country low, the main coast stretching from south to north. Our people observed a remarkable fish here, about two feet long, with a round head and a sort of arms and legs and even something like hands. They found also several stems of plants. They cast anchor in from fourteen to fifteen fathoms. At nearly half a league from the island on the south side that had good holding ground. The wind south-west by south.

On the 30th December we took counsel, and then with our guns on our arms put the shallop afloat and with the chief pilot I went on shore to look round the island. We rowed round to the east corner of the island about a cannon shot distance from the coast, and found there two fathoms water with muddy bottom, filled with shells, and occasionally a sandy bottom, Proceeding a little further, we sounded the little island bearing to the south of us, and the westernmost point of the large one bearing north-west of us; and we found five fathoms, and good and bad bottom by turns. We afterwards sounded north, the westernmost point bearing N.W. and by W. of us, and the little island S.W.and had as before five-fathoms. At nearly a gun shot from the shore we found on the south east coast of the island seven or eight great rocks, the island being on this side of a rocky and stony aspect, bearing north-east from us; then we had eight fathoms both good and bad ground; with here and there a gulf, where was a straight bank stretching from the coast up to the nearest rock nearly three quarters of a mile from the coast. Along the east side there are many capes and gulfs, with white sand, which is found also round the greater part of the land. It stretches lengthwise from east to west nearly four leagues, and is about nine leagues in circumference.

On the 31st of December I again put on shore with our skipper, and directing my steps into the interior of the island, 1 found several sorts of herbs, the greater part of which were known to me, and some of which resembled in smell those of our own country There were also a variety of trees, and among them one sort the wood of which had an aromatic odour nearly like that of the Lignum Rhodii. The ground is covered with little or no soil, but chiefly with white and rocky sand, in ray opinion little adapted for cultivation. There are very few birds there and no animals, except a kind of rat as big as a common cat, whose dung is found in abundance all over the island. There are also very few seals or fish, except a sort of sardine and grey rock bream. In the middle of the island, at about half an hour's distance, we found several basins of excellent water, but brackish, and six or seven paces further a fountain of fresh water fit to drink. In returning to shore, the crew found a piece of wood from our own country, in which the nails still remained. It was probably from a shipwrecked vessel, and three or four leagues from us some smoke was seen to rise at different points of the main land. The country had the appearance of being higher than it really is. The coast is like that of Holland.

On the 1st of January, 1697, the crew went to seek for fuel, and again saw smoke rising at different points on the mainland. They observed also the flow and ebb; and our sail-master found on the shore a piece of planed wood about three feet long and a span broad.

On the 2nd I again went on shore, with out skipper, to examine the island on the west side, which we found similar to the last. It is to be avoided for about a league, on account of the great numbers of rocks along the coast; otherwise it is easily approachable, as from six to seven leagues from the shore there are soundings at a hundred fathoms. On the mainland we again saw smoke arising.

On the 3rd, after sunset, we saw a great number of fires burning, the whole length of the coast on the mainland.

On the 4th, De Vlaming's boat made sail for the mainland. On its return a council was held with the view of making an expedition to the shore on the morrow. N.B. Here we have, the headlands inaccurately indicated.

At sunrise on the morning of the 5th, the resolution which had been taken was put into execution; and I, in company with the skipper, pushed off to the mainiand with the boats of the three South Land Navigators. We mustered, what with soldiers and sailors, and two of the blacks that we had taken with us at the Cape, eighty-six strong well armed and equipped. We proceeded eastwards; and after an hour's march, we came to a hut of a worse description than those of the Hottentots. Further on was a large basin of brackish water, which we afterwards found was a river; on the bank of which were several footsteps of men, and several small pools; in which was, fresh water, or but slightly brackish. In spite of our repeated searches, however, we found no men. Towards evening we determined to pass the night on shore, and pitched our camp in the wood, in a place where we found a fire which had been lighted by the inhabitants, but whom, nevertheless, we did not see. We fed the fire by throwing on wood, and each quarter of an hour four of our people kept watch.

On the morning of the 6th at sunrise, we divided ourselves into three companies, each taking a different route, to try if we could not, by this means, find some men. After three or four hours we rejoined each other near the river, without discovering anything beyond some huts and footsteps. Upon which we betook ourselves to rest. Meanwhile they brought me the nut of a certain fruit tree, resembling in form the drioens,* having the taste of our large Dutch beans; and those which were younger were like a walnut. I ate five or six of them, and drank the water from the small pools; but, after an interval of about three hours, I and five others who had eaten of these fruits began to vomit so violently that we were as dead men; so that it was with the greatest difficulty that I and the crew regained the shore, and thence in company with the skipper, were put on board the galliot, leaving the rest on shore.

On the 7th the whole of the crew returned on board with the boats, bringing with them two young black swans. The mouth of the said river lies in 31° 46'; and at eleven, nine, and seven gunshots from the mainland, are five and a half fathoms of water on good bottom. Between the river and Rottenest Island, which is at nearly five leagues distance, Captain De Vlaming had the misfortune to break his cable.

On the 9th, De Vlaming made sail for the mainland.

* This word, which is perhaps misspelt, does not occur in Nemnick's polyglot Lexicon der Naturgeschichte.

On the 10th we followed him with the galliot, and cast anchor off the mainland, in thirteen fathoms. A council was immediately held, and orders forthwith given to proceed to explore the river with two of the galliot's boats. The galliot remained in the neighbourhood before the river, while we went up it with three boats well supplied with guns and ammunition. We found, at the mouth, from five to six feet of water. We remained a little time on the shore, and put ourselves on the alert, not to be surprised by the natives. After sunset we ascended the river, and overcame the current with our oars; seeing several fires, but no men. About midnight we threw out our kedge, as we saw no opening although it was moonlight.

On the 11th, at break of day, we again ascended the river, and saw many swans (our boat knocked over nine or ten) some rotganzen, geese, some divers, etc., also a quantity of fish, which were frisking on the water. We also heard the song of the nightingale. Here we thought we saw a crowd of men; but after rowing on shore we found none, but lighted on a little pool of fresh water, and within it, at the bottom, a certain herb smelling like thyme; which was, perhaps, put into it by the inhabitants, to give the water a more agreeable taste, and make it more wholesome. All around we saw many footsteps of men, and the impression of a hand on the sand; the marks of the thumb and fingers shewing plainly that it was quite recently done. Proceeding further, we found a fire which had been just lighted, and three small huts, one of which was made with a quantity of bark of a tree known in India under the name of liplap, which, I think, was intended for a battery. For want of water, we could not go any further south, and being nearly high and dry withthe boats in the sand, we resolved, to return, having already ascended the river six or seven leagues (some thought it was ten) without having discovered anything of importance. Towards the evening we again went on shore to see if, towards midnight, we could take the inhabitants by surprise; but not having been able to attain our object, and the moon meanwhile rising, we allowed ourselves to glide gently along the river.

On the 12th, two hours before sunrise, seeing several fires, I again went on shore with our chief pilot, some sailors and the two blacks above mentioned, We observed eight, and around each of them a heap of branches of trees, but no men. As it was, therefore, evident that there was no good to be done here, we returned to our vessel, which we reached about noon. As regards the country, it is sandy, and in the place where we were had been planted with a good many shrubs, among which were some quite three and four fathoms (vademen) thick but bearing no fruit,--in short, full of prickles and thorns. Several of these yielded a gum nearly like wax, of a brownish red colour. The men, the birds, the swans, the rotganzen, koopganzen, the geese, the cockatooes, the parroquets, etc., all fled at the sight of us. The best of it is that no vermin is found there; but in the day time one is terribly tormented with the flies.

On the 13th, in the morning before daybreak, we held a council; and in order to be able to take soundings nearer the coast, the galliot and two boats made sail at about three o'clock in the morning watch. We took our course, therefore, along the coast most frequently N.N.W., sometimes a little north and west. We were in 31° 43' latitude, and sounded generally at a cannon-shot or a cannon shot and a half from the coast. Here and there we came to several large rocks, and had fifteen, twelve, nine, and eight fathoms water. Towards noon we passed an opening which, might well have been a river; and towards sunset we again made sail for the coast.

On the morning of the 14th we again made sail for the coast, and found the same depth as before but principally fifteen fathoms of brackish water, being then in 30° and 40' latitude.

On the 15th, after having held a council, we made sail along the coast, and found the latitude 30° 17'. In different places towards the south we saw a great smoke and vapour arising, and we went with our boats on shore, and we found nearly a league from the shore, a rock; and a gunshot from thence two fathoms water, and from that to the coast four, five, six, three, two and a three, five, eight, five, three, and two fathoms, mostly foul bottom, not adapted for anchoring; and on the south-west side there are generally breakers. There two corners extend south and north from the gulf; the soil dry and sandy, and but little adapted for the habitation of animals, still less of men. We had nearly proceeded a league and a half inland, but we saw no men nor fresh water, but several footsteps of men, and steps like those of a dog and of the cassowary. Nor did we see any trees, but only briars and thorns. One of our people said that he had seen a red serpent. Some others said that as soon as we reached the shore, they saw a yellow dog leaping from the wild herbage, and throwing itself into the sea, as if to amuse himself with swimming. What truth there was in these statements, I do not know. At all events I did not see either of these things myself. At two o'clock we returned with our chief pilot on board.

On the 16th my companion went with the boats ashore, and marched onwards with his crew in order for one hour and a half; but returned on board in the evening without having made any discovery.

On the 17th the boats returned on shore, and directed their course then more towards the south than they had hitherto done, and brought on board from an island a quantity of sea-mews. The latitude 30° 42 minutes. Nothing new.

The 20th, returning to the shore, I found nothing but a great plain very barren; many rocks on the coast; and the depth sixteen, fourteen, eleven, eight, six, five, three, and two fathoms; the anchorage difficult.

On the 21st our boat once more went on shore, but without learning anything new. The latitude was 29° 47'. Along the coast, the wind south; the course N. and N.N.W. Towards evening we saw breakers ahead, and sounded twenty-six, twenty, sixteen, and suddenly three fathoms. We held close on the wind, and immediately got greater depth. It was a reef, which stretched four or five leagues from the coast.

On the 22nd I started for the shore with our under-pilot. Being nearly three leagues from the coast, and sailing along it for some leagues, we found, close under the shore, ten and nine fathoms; a steep coast with constant breakers. On landing we found, et two hundred paces from the shore, a brackish stream, along which we walked landwards for a quarter of an hour. The middle was rather deep, and the fish pretty plentiful. We should have followed it further, but, the time being too short, we returned, and on the road saw many footprints like those of a dog; but saw no men, nor animals, nor trees, the country here being twice ac barren as what we had before seen. Towards evening we returned together on board.

On the 21st (sic) our boat again made sail for the land, and keeping along the shore, we found that here, in between 28 and 29°, tolerably good anchorage might be found. The land is tolerably high. Our chief pilot returning on board after dinner, informed us that he had seen on the shore three or four men, and several more on the little downs beyond, all quite naked, black, and of our own height; but that he had not been able to get near them on account of the current; that afterwards, rowing a little further, they had landed and found a lake, which extended far into the country like a river. It was of brackish taste, and though white had a reddish tinge caused by the bottom, which was of red sand and mud. At noon we were in latitude 28° 16'; and at five o'clock, after dinner, we anchored in a gulf, in eighteen fathoms water, good holding ground, sand and mud, at about a cannon's shot from the shore.

On the 25th, early in the morning, I landed with nine of our crew, our under pilot, together with the commandant of De Vlaming's soldiers, his Dardewaak, and thirty-one soldiers. On reaching the shore, we found a good many oysters; we put ourselves in marching order, but from the fatigue occasioned by the excessive heat, and the obstructions on the road from brushwood, we were obliged occasionally to rest ourselves, till we reached the mountains, where we took our rest. But if the road had been difficult, a greater trouble was yet in store for us; for finding no fresh water, we thought we should have fainted with thirst, From this point we could see our vessels, and wished a thousand times over that we were on board again. However, the commandant of the soldiers, with two men, went down, and soon came up to us again, with a look of satisfaction, bringing news that he had discovered some fresh water, and also a little hut, and about an hour's distance from our camp, some footsteps, of the length of eighteen inches; upon which we resolved, although it was beginning to be dark, to bend our steps in that direction, an effort which, from the quantity of brushwood and the approach of night, could not be made without much difficulty. On arriving at the drinking place, we found a great pool, but the water was slightly brackish. We encamped there, and having arranged that there should be a soldier constantly on the watch as sentry, we passed the night there in the best manner we could.

On the 26th, in the morning before sunrise, we continued our journey, and shortly reached the aforesaid little hut, which had a good many egg-shells around it, but the eighteen inch footsteps changed into ordinary ones. This night also re remained on shore, and encamped again near the pool. Although we were divided, we met with no men nor cattle, but nothing but wild brushwood.

On the 27th, at the point of day, we betook ourselves to the shore, and thence to our vessels, which we reached near noon: the crew complained greatly of sore eyes.

On the 28th, having held a council before sunrise, we braced our sails, and put to sea an hour and a half after dinner, the wind being S.S.W. quarter W. in latitude, in 27° 50'. Shortly after, we again steered for the coast N.E., and by N. to N.W. and N.N.W., hugging the shore.

The 29th we still kept along the shore, the land high and rocky latitude 27° 40'.

The 30th the land rather high, until five o'clock in the afternoon watch, when we cast anchor in an extensive gulf, which probably must have been that named "Dirk Hartog's Reede."

On the 31st, two boats entered the gulf to explore it, and two others to go fishing, which brought back in the evening a good quantity. The same evening the chief pilot reported that they had been in the gulf, but had seen nothing further to shew whether the part to the north of the gulf were an island or not. They saw there a number of turtles.

On the 1st of February, early in the morning, our little boat went to the coast to fish: our chief pilot, 'with De Vlaming's boat again went into the gulf, and our skipper went on shore to fix up a commemorative tablet.

On the 2nd, we took three great sharks, one of which had nearly thirteen little ones, of the size of a large pike. The two captains (for De Vlaming had also gone on shore) returned on board late in the evening, having been a good six or seven leagues a way. Our capttain brought with him a large bird's head and related that he had seen two nests, made of boughs, which were full three fathoms in circumference.

On the 3rd, Vlaming's chief pilot returned on board, he reported that he had explored eighteen leagues, and that it was an island. He brought with him a tin plate, which in the lapse of time had fallen from a post to which it had been attached, and on which was cut the name of the captain, Dirk Hartog, as well as the names of the first and second merchants, and of the chief pilot of the vessel De Eendragt, which arrived here in the year 1616, on the 25th October, and left for Bantam on the 27th of the same month.

On the 4th of February, before daylight, we set sail, steering our course along the island and at half-past two in the afternoon, we cast anchor in sixteen fathoms on the N.E. of Dirk Hartog's Reede, the gulf above mentioned in the latitude of 25° 40'. The two boats took soundings all along the coast, N.E. and by N.W., but could not see the country for the fog.

On the 5th, we took five turtles on the island, and having then held a council, and prepared and provisioned our vessel and that of De Vlaming, we, that is, our captain, under-pilot, and myself, and De Vlaming with his Dardewaak and under-master and oarsmen, with close-reefed sails, the wind being at south and rather high, set sail, steering along the island, where we landed at nightfall at nearly four or five leagues distance from our vessels.

On the 6th, still a good deal of wind. This day we made but little progress and returned on shore at night. We saw a great many turtles, and in the corner of a rock a very large nest, made like a stork's nest.

On the 7th, a good wind. In the evening we took a fish of immense size, of which twenty-four of us partook. It had exactly the natural taste of the ray. There remained enough for thirty more persons to feed on. We slept on shore.

The 8th, in the morning, fair weather. We set sail for what the chief pilot had pointed out to us a river, and up which we proceeded full three leagues, but found it to be different from what it appeared. There were, in fact, two rivers, which, for some time invisible, afterwards reappeared and formed an island eastwards, a full half league from the coast, in three, two, and one feet of water, surrounded on all sides by rocks, and sand, and stones. We presently returned, being prevented by the drought from approaching within half a league of the shore. We had a heavy storm, and received the first rain of the South Land. In the evening we returned on shore and encamped in a very unpropitious spot, at once barren and wild.

On the 9th we steered for the mainland, which we reached near noon. This coast extends with a winding N.E. to N. and S.W. to S. The coast is steep, the sand of a reddish colour, rocky, dry and forbidding. In order to get some good water, we made the crew dig several holes, but the water was so salt that it could not be drunk without injury to health. We saw several ducks. Sailing, along the coast, we reached a basin of water, like a river, which gave us great hope of getting some fresh water. Therefore with the flow we weathered the cape, and after sailing half-an-hour reached a basin of round form, but in which we only found salt water. All round it we dug several holes, but, in spite of all our labour, we could find no fresh water. This night we spent in the boat and De Vlaming on shore. Thunder, lightning and rain.

On the 10th of February, after midnight, withthe high tide, we set sail from the above-mentioned basin of water, and then, as before, kept along the coast at the distance of three or four leagues. Again we went ashore, ascended a mountain, saw a valley, and beyond it a water course. Two men immediately ran in haste to dig, but nowhere found fresh water, although they saw all about several footprints of men. Setting sail from hence we returned on board three hours after sunset and learned that on Friday, the 8th of the month, our vessels had been compelled by the driving of the sea to put out a league and a half from the shore, and had cast anchor in seventeen fathoms; the shallop of the galliot had upset and the carpenter was drowned, and De Vlaming's boat damaged. From De Vlaming's vessel two dead men had been cast into the sea on the same day.

On the 11th, De Vlaming came on board in the morning. Having passed all the night in a stormy sea, in latitude 25° 22' and being unable to cast anchor, we were compelled to make sail.

On the 12th we held a council; and before noon made sail, holding our course toward the north north-east and north along the coast, and in the evening giving it a wide berth.

On the morning of the 13th we made sail for the coast, which bore off us S. and N., and before noon saw a cape and three island two of which were but small. Turning the cape, we held close on the wind in a great winding of the coast, on the southward tack, and on various tacks 17, 15, 12, and 9 to 4 fathoms water. At five o'clock in the afternoon we made our course W. to S. with a south wind, latitude 24°, 40'. In the evening we cast anchor.

During the 14th we tacked continually all day, and in the evening cast anchor.

On the morning of the 15th, in weighing anchor our cable would not hold, but we saved our anchor. We set sail and cast anchor in the evening.

On the 16th we were tacking till the afternoon, steering towards the north with a south wind, the shore bearing from us to the west, but we kept afloat that night.

On the 17th we again neared the coast, which we held close, sailing smartly with a south wind. The coast stretched south and north. We were in 24° latitude, and the compass we laid at 5°.

On the 18th, in the morning, we braced our sails and steered along the coast N.N.W.and N.W.Towards noon we saw breakers ashore. We were in latitude 22°, 26', and we were tacking the whole day.

On the 19th, in the morning, we again kept along the coast, the land more or less steep, but very low toward the south. Our course N.E. We saw a considerably larger cape, from which a bank stretched out into the sea. We kept close on the wind which was at S.W., and found ourselves in latitude 21°, 34'. When we had passed the cape we came to the end of the coast, and reached the river known as William's River, and sailing up it, found ground but little suited for anchoring. We therefore put out for the sea.

On the 20th we tacked towards De Vlaming, and in the evening cast anchor near him. Latitude 21°, 28'. We held another council.

On the 21st, in the morning, we put to sea towards the N.W. latitude 21 degrees. Held once more a council. Received from De Vlaming three half barrels of water. Half-an-hour after sun-rise, our captain came from on board De Vlaming's vessel, from which five cannon shot were fired and three from our vessel, as a signal of farewell to the miserable South Land; and we steered our course N.N.W., in 135° of longitude from the South Land.

From the date of the 22nd February to the 10th March inclusive, the journal only gives the points of the wind, the time and course of the ship towards Java.