Page:Journal of the Royal Geographical Society of London, Volume 1 (2nd edition).djvu/52

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32
Description of the Natives of King George's Sound.

hammers, in the same manner as is practised at Port Jackson. Thus they procure opossums, which they trace to their holes by the marks of their claws upon the bark. There are two species, one, the common ring-tail (nworra), and the other, comal. They are not often found in the same districts, the comal living chiefly in lofty and thick woods, whilst the ring-tail is frequently found in swamps and the low brush which surrounds them. The comal is of larger size, and much lighter colour, with a brownish bushy tail: it is also fatter; the fur is longer, of a whitish colour, and is used by the natives to spin into a kind of worsted called by them peteroe, of which the noodle-buls are made. The fur of the ring-tailed opossum is not used. Of both species it is easily detached from the skin.

The comal is frequently hunted with dogs by moonlight, when it is either speared in its flight, or driven into its haunt in some hollow tree. The natives then make a hole and extract it; but should this be too difficult or troublesome, they kindle a torch of grass-tree leaves, and push it into the hole, when, in attempting to escape, the animal is easily taken.

The natives describe other animals which are found in trees, and are very abundant in the interior, one of which may probably be a species of the flying fox, or vampyre bat; but this animal is not found in the neighbourhood of the settlement.

During the summer and autumn months, the natives derive a large proportion of their food from fish. They have no canoes[1], neither can they swim, in both of which points they differ materially from all other parts of the Australian continent with which we are acquainted. They can, therefore, only catch those fish which ap-


  1. The want of proper material for the construction of canoes may possibly be the cause of the natives of King George's Sound not possessing the means of navigating. From the shoal nature of Princess Royal Harbour and Oyster Harbour, it is not of so much consequence, since, for the greater part, they can be waded across; still, from the scarcity of food, visits to the islands in the sound, on which seal abound, would be of great advantage, and from the navigating disposition of the Australian Indians, it seems extraordinary that they have not some mode of conveying themselves across the water. The trees of King George’s Sound are not at all adapted to be made into canoes, for they afford no bark that could be used, and are too hard and heavy to be burnt or hollowed out. The natives of the west coast have no canoes, and in a northerly direction from Cape Leuwin, none have been noticed, until at Dampier's Archipelago, on the north-west coast, where the mangrove affords the Indians of that part the means of crossing the sea. It is merely a log, which is sufficiently buoyant to carry two or more people. (See King's Australia, vol. i., p. 43, and the wood-cut in the title page of the first volume.) Farther to the eastward, at Hanover Bay, the mangrove is the only material used (see vol. ii. p. 69) in the shape of a raft. But on the north and east and south-east coasts, the canoes are made of the bark of the eucalyptus, but are of very different construction. On the north-east coast, between Cape Flinders and the Cumberland Islands, the canoes are a hollowed log of a soft pulpy wooded tree (Erythrina Indica), and are furnished with an out-rigger. This canoe is described in vol. i., pp. 220 and 225. Other canoes are described in the first volume, at pages 90, 200, and 202.