Page:The life of Matthew Flinders.djvu/193

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been validated.
142
LIFE OF MATTHEW FLINDERS

Flinders also saw from three to five hundred black swans on the lee side of one point; and so tame were they that, as the Norfolk passed through the midst of them, one incautious bird was caught by the neck.

Bass went ashore on Albatross Island to shoot. He was forced to fight his way up the cliffs against the seals, which resented the intrusion; and when he got to the top he was compelled "to make a road with his club among the albatross. These birds were sitting upon their nests, and almost covered the surface of the ground, nor did they otherwise derange themselves for their new visitors than to peck at their legs as they passed by."

In the Derwent Bass and Flinders encountered Tasmanian aboriginals, now an extinct race of men. A human voice was heard coming from the hills. The two leaders of the expedition landed, taking with them a swan as an offering of friendship, and met an aboriginal man and two women. The women ran off, but the man stayed and accepted the swan "with rapture." He was armed with three spears, but his demeanour was friendly. Bass and Flinders tried him with such words as they knew of the dialects of New South Wales and the South Sea Islands, but could not make him understand them, "though the quickness with which he comprehended our signs spoke in favour of his intelligence." His hair was either close-cropped or naturally short; but it had not a woolly appearance. "He acceded to our proposition of going to his hut; but finding from his devious route and frequent stoppings that he sought to tire our patience, we left him delighted with the certain possession of his swan, and returned to the boat. This was the sole opportunity we had of communicating with any of the natives of Van Diemen's Land."

The results of the cruise of the Norfolk were of great importance. From the purely utilitarian point