Duties of an explorer — geographical position of South Australia — description of its coast line — sea mouth of the Murray — entered by Mr. Pullen — risk of the attempt — beaching — Rosetta Harbour — Victor Harbour — Nepean Bay — Kangaroo Island — Kingscote — Capt. Lee’s instructions for Port Adelaide — Port Adelaide — removal to the North Arm — Harbour Master’s report — Yorke’s Peninsula — Port Lincoln — Capt. Lee’s instructions — Boston Island — Boston Bay — Coffin’s Bay — Mr. Cameron sent along the coast — his report — position of Port Adelaide.
No mariner ever shook the reefs from his sails, on the abatement of the storm, under the fury of which his vessel had been labouring, with more grateful feelings than those with which I turn from the dreary and monotonous wastes I have been describing, to the contemplation of fairer and more varied scenes. My weary task has been performed, and however uninteresting my narrative may have proved to the general reader, I would yet hope, that those who shall hereafter enter the field of Australian discovery, will profit from my experience, and be spared many of the inconveniences and sufferings to which I was unavoidably exposed. They may rest assured, that it is only by steady perseverance and unceasing attention, by due precaution and a mild discipline, that they will succeed in such an undertaking as that in which I was engaged. That unless they are fortunate enough to secure such an assistant as I had in Mr. Browne, their single eye must be over every thing, to study the features of the country through which they are passing, to keep their horses and cattle always within view, to prevent disputes in their camp, and to husband their provisions with the utmost care, to ascertain from time to time the quantity they may have on hand, and to regulate their consumption accordingly. Few difficulties present themselves to the explorer in journeying down a river, for that way is smooth before him; it is when he quits its banks, and traverses a country, on the parched surface of which little or no water is to be found, that his trials commence, and he finds himself obliged to undergo that personal toil, which sooner or later will lay him prostrate. Strictly speaking, my work should close here. I am not, however, unmindful of the suggestion I made in my Preface, that a short notice of South Australia at the close of my journal would not be out of place.
In the following pages, therefore, it is proposed to give some account of that province, from whence, as the reader is aware, I took my departure, before commencing my recent labours. Its circumstances and prospects have, I know, of late, been frequently brought before the public, but, I trust, nevertheless, that my observations will carry something of novelty, if not of interest, and utility with them.
South Australia, then, the youngest of the colonies that have been established round the shores of the Australian Continent, is situate, as its name would imply, upon its southern coast. It extends from the 132nd to the 141st degree of longitude east from Greenwich, and runs up northwards into the interior to the 26th parallel of latitude. The district of Port Phillip bounds it on the east, for which reason, the fixing of the eastern boundary line between those two fine provinces has of late been a point of great interest and importance. Mr. Tyers, an able and intelligent officer, was employed by the Government of New South Wales, primarily to determine the longitude of the mouth of the Glenelg, and from his triangulations and observations it would appear that the 141st meridian falls on the coast about a mile and a half to the eastward of it. Subsequent observations, taken by Captain Stokes, in command of Her Majesty’s surveying ship, the Beagle, differ slightly from the result of Mr. Tyers’ observations, but they prove beyond doubt, the care and accuracy with which the latter officer carried on his survey. The point, has since, I believe, been finally recognised by the governments of Sydney and Adelaide, and the boundary line been marked to the distance of 123 miles from the coast. The party employed in this useful undertaking, however, was obliged to relinquish it for a time, in consequence of heavy rains; but it is not probable that any dispute will hereafter arise on the question. If the line could have been extended to the Murray river, it would have been as well, but the desert country beyond it is valueless to civilised man. Taking it for granted, then, that the S.E. angle of the province of South Australia has been fixed, we shall in the first instance proceed along its sea line, and notice any thing worthy of observation, before we enter into a detail as to the character of the country itself.
From the mouth of the Glenelg the coast of South Australia trends to the westward as far as Cape Northumberland in long. 140 degrees 37 minutes and in lat. 38 degrees;† from Cape Northumberland it turns to the N.N.W., keeping that general direction for more than 100 miles. Between the last mentioned Cape and Cape Morard des Galles in lat. 36 1/2 degrees, there are several bays, two only of which, Rivoli Bay, immediately to the north of Cape Lannes, and Guichen Bay, a little to the south of Cape Bernouilli, have more particularly drawn the attention of the local Government, rendered necessary in consequence of the rapid settlement of the back country. Recent surveys have enhanced the value of these two bays, and townships have been laid out at each. That at Rivoli bay being called Grey Town, that of Guichen bay Robe Town. At the latter, there is a resident magistrate and a party of mounted police. Many allotments have been sold in both towns, and although the bays offer but little protection to large vessels, they are of great importance to the colonial trade and to the settlers occupying the beautiful and fertile country in the neighbourhood of Mounts Gambier and Shanck. From Cape Morard des Galles, a low dreary and sandy beach extends for five leagues beyond the sea mouth of the Murray, a distance of more than 100 miles. This beach, which varies in breadth from one to three miles, conceals the waters of the Coorong, and the depressed and barren country beyond it is completely hid from view by the bright sand-hills on this long and narrow strip of land.
† The reader will be good enough to bear in mind that the Longitudes in this work are all east of Greenwich, and that the Latitudes are south.
The sea mouth of the Murray, famous for the tragical events that have occurred near it, and which give a melancholy interest to the spot, is in long. 138 degrees 56 minutes and in lat. 35 degrees 32 minutes. No one could, I am sure, look on the foaming waters of that wild line of sand-hills through which it has forced a channel, without deep feelings of awe and emotion. Directly open to the Southern Ocean, the swell that rolls into Encounter Bay, is of the heaviest description. The breakers rise to the height of fifteen or eighteen feet before they burst in one unbroken line as far as the eye can see, and as the southerly is the most prevailing wind on that part of the Australian coast, it is only during the summer season, and after several days of northerly wind that the sea subsides, and the roar of breakers ceases for a time. The reader will perhaps bear in mind that the channel of the Goolwa connects Lake Victoria with Encounter Bay, the sea mouth of the Murray being the outlet through which its waters are discharged into the ocean.
The channel of the Goolwa (now called Port Pullen, in compliment to an officer of that name on the marine survey staff of the province, who succeeded, after several disappointments, in taking a small cutter through that narrow passage, and navigating her across the lake into the Murray River, as high as the settlement of Moorundi) is to the westward of the sea mouth as the Coorong is to the eastward. ‡
‡ The compliment thus paid to Mr. Pullen, who is now employed on the expedition to the North Pole, in search of Sir John Franklin, by Col. Gawler, the then Governor, was well merited, as a reward for the perseverance and patience he had shewn on the occasion — for those only who have been at the spot can form an idea of the disturbed and doubtful character of the place, and the risk there must have been in the attempt to enter such a passage for the first time.
But although Mr. Pullen succeeded in getting into the Goolwa, it was only under the most favourable circumstances, nor will the sea mouth of the Murray ever, I fear, be available for navigable purposes. How far it may be practicable to steamers, I would not hazard an opinion, nor is the subject at the present moment one of much importance, for the country to the eastward of the ranges is not yet sufficiently located to call for such a speculation.
The sea mouth of the Murray is about the third of a mile in breadth, and when the river is flooded a strong current runs out of it with such rapidity, that the tide setting in at the same time causes a short and bubbling sea. It took Captain Barker nine minutes and fifty-eight seconds to swim across it on the fatal occasion on which he lost his life — but he was obliged to go somewhat above the outlet, as the stream would otherwise have carried him amidst the breakers. The western shore is very low, but the eastern one is marked by a large sandhill, now called Barker’s Knoll, after that talented and amiable officer. From seaward, nothing but a wild line of sand-hills meets the view, such as few mariners would venture to approach, and through which fewer still could hope to find a passage into the calmer waters of Lake Victoria, so completely hidden is the entrance. It was only by patient watching indeed, that Mr. Pullen seized the opportunity by which he entered the Goolwa. He was not the first, however, who did so, as Captain Gill, the master of a small cutter that was unfortunately wrecked on the strand at some distance to the eastward of the outlet, was the first to come down the Coorong in his boat, in which he ultimately reached Victor Harbour, but he also had to remain three weeks under the sand-hills before he could venture forth. Some years prior to this, however, Sir John Jeffcott, the first judge of South Australia, and Captain Blenkensorf, the head of the fishery, both found a watery grave in attempting to pass from the Goolwa into Encounter Bay.
I speak more particularly on the point, however, because, in 1838, during my first visit to the province, I went with a party of hardy seamen, with the intention, if possible, of passing into the Goolwa from seaward. At Encounter Bay, Captain Hart, who had the superintendence of the fishery there, gave me his most experienced steersman, and a strong whale-boat. In this I left Victor harbour for Freeman’s Nob, a small rocky point in the very bight of Encounter Bay, where I remained until three a.m. of the next morning, when I started for the outlet under the most favourable auspices. A northerly wind had been blowing off the land for several days, and the sea was so tranquil that I had every hope of success. I had five leagues to pull, and keeping about a mile from the shore, swept rapidly along it. We were still about four miles from the inlet when the sun rose over it, as if encouraging us onwards. On approaching it at low water, I tried in vain to enter. The sea was breaking heavily right across the entrance from one side to the other, and after several ineffectual attempts to run in, I came to an anchor, close to the outer line of breakers, hoping that the sea would subside at high water and that we should then have less difficulty. We had not, however, been in this position more than half an hour, when a heavy southerly swell set in; from a deep blue the water became green, and the wind suddenly flew round to the S.W. Before we could weigh and stand out from the shore, several seas had broken outside of us, and in less than ten minutes the whole coast, to the distance of more than a mile from the shore, was white with foam, and it seemed clear that a gale was coming on. Under these circumstances I determined on returning to the little harbour from which we had started in the morning, but the wind being directly against us, we made very little head. “We shall never get to the Nob,” said Mr. Witch, who had the steer oar, to me; “it blows too hard, Sir.” “What are we to do, then?” said I. “Why, Sir,” he replied, “we must either beach or run out to sea,” “We will beach, then,” I said; “it is better to try that than to do any thing else.” Mr Witch evinced some surprise at my decision, but made no remark. “You had better select your place,” I observed, “and be careful to keep the boat’s head well on to the seas.” “You need not fear me, Sir,” said the hardy seaman; “I am accustomed to such work. It looks worse than it really is.” The sea, however, was now breaking full a mile and a half from the shore, and in looking towards it I observed a solitary horseman riding slowly along, as if watching our movements. At length Mr. Witch said that he thought we were opposite to a favourable spot, on which I directed him to put the boat’s head towards the shore, and to keep her end on as he went in. Round we flew, and in a moment after we were running at railway speed on the top of a heavy wave. “Steady, men,” said Mr. Witch: “Steady all,” and on we went; but looking round him a moment after —"Back, all. Back, all,” he cried. The men did as they were ordered, and the boat’s way was stopped. Her stern rose almost perpendicularly over the prow, and the next moment fell into the trough of the sea. The wave, transparent as bottle glass, rushed past us, and topping, as it is called, burst at our very bow, in a broad sheet of foam. “Give way, my lads,” was the next order of the watchful steersman, as he again cast his eyes behind him. “Give way, my lads. Give way, all.” “Steady, men,” he called, as if doubtful of the result of the coming wave. I thought I saw paleness on the face of the rowers, but they pulled regularly and well, and a thundering sound soon told us we had escaped the threatening sea that had come so rapidly up. I do not know if I am doing justice to the occurrence. There was more of apparent than real danger in it, and I myself was less nervous, because I had not long before been accustomed to the heavy surf of Norfolk Island. It was, however, a moment of great excitement. We had literally shot towards the shore, and were now within fifty yards of it, when Mr. Witch said to me, “Take care of yourself, Sir; we shall catch it at last.”
I turned round, and saw a large roller close upon us, just on the point of topping — I had scarcely time to stoop and give my back to it when it came upon us, and I never had such a thump in my life. The boat was filled in a moment and we were all thrown out — Mr. Witch, who had been standing, was hurled to a great distance, but the men were up in a moment, the water being about four feet deep, and with admirable dexterity ran her on the beach. I do not remember ever having been in so strong a breeze. The reader may form some idea of it when I assure him that the wind rolled the boat over and over as if she had been as light as a carpenter’s chip, and the sand and pebbles came with such violence in our faces, that we were obliged to retreat behind the sand hills until it moderated.
It was my friend Mr. Strangways who had accompanied me from Adelaide, whose figure we had seen on the beach, and he assured me that we seemed to fly as we approached him.
The wind having apparently flown permanently round to the south, and it being hopeless to expect that the sea would subside for many days, I hauled the boat over the sand hills, and launching her in the Goolwa, tried to row through the outlet to sea, but after remaining for eight days, and having my boat four times swamped, I was forced to give up the attempt as I had no time to spare. The distance between my outer and inner points might have been a cable’s length. In endeavouring to pass out I shoaled to a quarter less one, having kept the lead constantly going. I abandoned the task therefore under an impression that the outlet was not navigable, yet Mr. Pullen succeeded in taking a small cutter into the Goolwa with perfect safety. I cannot but conclude therefore that it has a shifting bar, and that it will present difficulties to regular navigation that will only be surmounted by a better knowledge of its locality, and in all probability by artificial means.
From Freeman’s Nob the coast line turns southwards to Rosetta Head, a bold and prominent conical hill, from the summit of which the whalers look for their game. Under the lea of Rosetta Head there is a small harbour called Rosetta Harbour. It is separated by a rocky island called Granite Island, and a reef that is visible at low water, and connects Granite Island with the main land from Victor Harbour, so called after H.M.’s ship Victor, when surveying in that quarter. Neither of these harbours however are considered secure, although they are protected from all but south-east winds.
It was in Rosetta Harbour, that during the early settlement of the Colony the South Australian Company’s ship South Australian, was driven on shore and lost. The John Pirie, a strongly built schooner, also belonging to the Company, had well nigh shared her fate. This little vessel was lying astern of the Australian when she went ashore, with the reef close astern of her. In this fearful position her anchors began to drag, and her destruction appeared inevitable, when her commander, Captain Martin, determined on attempting to take her over the reef, it being high water at the time. He accordingly cut his cable, set his sails, and ran his vessel on the rocks. Four times she struck and was heaved as often over them, until at length she floated in the deeper water of Victor Harbour, and found her safety under the lea of the very danger from which she expected destruction. It was a bold resolve and deserved the success that attended it. I always feel a pleasure in recording such events, not only from feelings of admiration, but because they are examples for men to follow when placed in equally hazardous circumstances, and shew that firmness and presence of mind are equal to almost every emergency. The anchorage in Victor Harbour is under the lea of Granite Island, but I believe it is foul and rocky, and until both it and Rosetta Harbour shall be better known, the seaman will enter them with caution. Encounter Bay indeed, is not a place into which the stranger should venture, as he would find it extremely difficult to beat out to sea with a contrary wind. Still no doubt vessels may find refuge at these places from strong west and south-west winds, but I have always understood that it is better for a ship encountering a gale at the entrance of Backstairs Passage rather to keep at sea, than seek shelter in any contiguous harbour.
There is room for two or three tolerably sized vessels in Victor Harbour, which is in longitude 138 [188 in published text] degrees 38 minutes 0 seconds and in latitude 35 degrees 32 minutes, and in certain seasons of the year it may be deemed secure, if it were not liable to other objections, but I have heard it stated by an experienced seaman, one whose intimate knowledge of this part of the coast of South Australia is indisputable, that there is anchorage under the lea of Freeman’s Nob, and a small island off it, sufficient for two or three vessels of 250 or 300 tons, altogether preferable to either of those I have mentioned, as being more sheltered, and having better holding ground — but we must not forget that it is deeper in the bay, and there would consequently be a greater difficulty in beating out; but the truth is that the importance and capabilities of these harbours will only be developed as the wants of the colonists render it necessary for them to have ports in this vicinity. When the country to the eastward of the mountains shall be more thickly peopled, and when the rich and fertile valleys of the Inman, the Hindmarsh and Currency Creek, and the available country between the two last, be more generally cultivated, and when the mines at the Reedy Creek and other places are at full work, the want of a harbour at Encounter Bay will be sufficiently apparent.
The principal whale fishery on the coast of South Australia is in Encounter Bay, and has, I believe, of late years proved as advantageous a speculation to those who have carried it on as could be expected; profits are of course dependent on contingencies, as the nature of the season and the number of whales that may visit the coast: but the fishery at Encounter Bay has certainly been as successful as any other on the coast, and would have been more so if the ground had not been intruded upon. As a source of colonial industry, and as a proof of commercial enterprise, I should regret to see this bold and hardy occupation abandoned. See Appendix.
From Rosetta Head the line of coast again trends for a short distance to the west, and forms, together with the opposite shore of Kangaroo Island, the Backstairs Passage, or eastern entrance into St. Vincent’s Gulf, of which Cape Jervis is the N.W. point. It is here that the more important navigation of the South Australian seas commences. The line of coast I have already described is not sufficiently known to be approached by the stranger without caution, nevertheless the several bays and harbours I have mentioned may offer better shelter and greater convenience than I am able to point out.
One of the first establishments, if not the very first, of the South Australian Company was on Kangaroo Island, on the shores of Nepean Bay. Here the town of Kingscote was laid out, and some very good houses built, which are now falling to dilapidation and decay, since it has been abandoned by the Company’s servants for some years. Nevertheless Kingscote is a very pretty sea-port town, and the harbour is undoubtedly good. The bay is large enough to hold a number of ships, and is secure from all winds, being almost completely land-locked. The water inside moreover is smooth, since the bay is protected by a long spit of sand, whereby the roughness of the outer sea does not affect it, and vessels consequently lie there during heavy weather without any apparent motion. It is to be regretted, that, with such advantages, Kingscote Harbour should have any drawback, but when we have given credit for its capabilities as a harbour, we have done all, and even as a harbour, sailors are divided in opinion, whether or not American River, or a small bay, five miles to the south-east of it, are not to be preferred. In Nepean Bay there is a deficiency of water, which is not the case in either of the last mentioned places. The soil is equally good in the neighbourhood of all three, but Kingscote having been occupied, the ground has been cleared of the dense brush that grew on it in a state of nature, and some of the most productive gardens in the Province are to be found there. It is astonishing what quantities of the finest onions are sent from Kingscote, with other produce, to Adelaide. The island is, however, so generally and so heavily covered with brushwood, that although the soil is good in many places, it has been found impracticable to clear. On the general character of Kangaroo Island, I would observe, that, from the reports of those best acquainted with it, nine-tenths of the surface is covered with dwarf gum-trees, or heavy low brush, that there are no plains of any consequence, no harbours excepting those I have already mentioned — that water is generally scarce, and the best land is most heavily wooded and perfectly impenetrable; but, if it is thus useless and unavailable for pastoral and agricultural purposes, Kingscote, being so short a distance from Adelaide, holds out every inducement as a watering-place to those who, desiring change of air and sea-bathing, would wish to leave the heated neighbourhood of the capital during the summer months. It is a disadvantage to them that there are few places on the shores of St. Vincent’s Gulf, on which bathing places could be established, but the change of air at Kingscote would be as great a benefit as sea-bathing itself, for hot winds are not felt there, but a cool and refreshing breeze is almost constantly blowing. As a watering-place therefore, it may, one day or other, be of importance, when the convenience of steam-boats shall render the passage from Adelaide to Kangaroo Island, like a trip across the Channel. But it is to be observed that whatever disadvantages the island may possess, its natural position is of the highest importance, since it lies as a breakwater at the bottom of St. Vincent’s Gulf, and prevents the effects of the heavy southerly seas from being felt in it. There is, perhaps, no gulf, whether it is entered by the eastern or western passage, the navigation of which is so easy as that of St. Vincent, and so clear of dangers, that it can only be by the most fortuitous circumstances, or the most culpable neglect, that any accident can befal a ship in its passage up to Adelaide.
Anxious to make this portion of my work as useful as possible, and feeling assured that the remarks I have hitherto made will only lead the seaman to adopt those measures of precaution in approaching any of the harbours and bays I have mentioned, our knowledge of which is still limited, I shall here quote a passage from a small book of Sailing Instructions for South Australia, published some years ago by Captain Lee, an experienced mariner, for the guidance of commanders of vessels bound to Port Adelaide. I shall only observe that, in running up the Gulf it is extremely difficult to recognise the peak of Mount Lofty; but a pile of stones has been erected upon it, which is easily visible through a good telescope, and that the pilot station spoken of by Captain Lee as being five miles from Glenelg has been abandoned, and the pilots now board ships from the light vessel moored off the bar.
“Vessels from England bound to Port Adelaide, should, after leaving the Cape of Good Hope, run to the eastward in 37 degrees or 38 degrees south latitude, until they arrive in longitude 132 degrees east, when they may haul to the northward, so as to get into latitude 36 degrees 25 minutes, in longitude 135 degrees 30 minutes; then steer to the north-east, and make Kangaroo Island, passing between which and a small island named Althorpe’s Island, they will enter Investigator’s Straits. These Straits form the western entrance to St Vincent’s Gulf, and are so free from danger, that it seems almost wonderful how any vessel can get on shore without gross negligence. The only danger that can possibly affect a vessel is the Troubridge Shoal, and this, by a little attention to the lead, may be easily avoided, as on the south side of the shoal the water deepens gradually from four to seventeen or eighteen fathoms. The shores on the side of Kangaroo Island are bold and rocky, whilst on the north side, on Yorke’s Peninsula, they are low and sandy. In working up in the night, stand no nearer to the north shore than nine fathoms, or to the southward than twelve fathoms. You will have from sixteen to twenty fathoms in the fair way — fine grey sand, mixed with small pieces of shell. In working up St. Vincent’s Gulf, you may stand to the eastward in six fathoms, and towards the Troubridge Shoal in nine fathoms. The prevailing winds are from the south-west to south-east, especially in the summer months, when the sea breeze sets in about nine o’clock. The strength of tide in the Gulf is very irregular, with a strong south-west wind, the flood runs up at the rate of about two miles an hour, whilst with a northerly wind it is scarcely perceptible. The anchorage in Holdfast Bay is hardly safe in the winter months, as it is quite open to north-west, west, and south-west winds, which, when blowing hard, raise a short tumbling sea. The ground is a fine sand, almost covered with weeds, so that when the anchor once starts, the weeds being raked up under the crown, will in a great measure prevent its again holding. In the summer months it may be considered a perfectly safe anchorage, if due caution is exercised in giving the vessel cable in time. The best anchorage for a large vessel is with the summit of Mount Lofty, bearing east in six fathoms. A small vessel will lay better close in, just allowing her depth of water sufficient to ride in.
“The pilot station for Port Adelaide is about five miles north of Holdfast Bay. In running up keep in five fathoms, until abreast of the flag-staff on the beach, when a pilot will come on board. It is always high water in Port Adelaide morning and evening, and consequently low water in the middle of the day. In the present state of the harbour, no vessel drawing more than sixteen feet water ought to go into the port. Several very serious accidents have befallen vessels in this port, for which the harbour itself ought certainly to be held blameless.”
“Vessels,” he adds, “from Sydney, or from the eastward, bound to Port Adelaide, having arrived at Cape Howe, should shape a course for Hogan’s Group in Bass’ Straits, when off which, with a northerly wind, the best passage through the Straits is between Redondo and Wilson’s Promontory, because should a gale of wind come on from the north-west, as it almost invariably does commence in that quarter, they would have more drift to the south-east than if they passed through near Kent’s Group or Sir R. Curtis’s Island. It is also a great saving in distance. Having arrived off King’s Island, with a north wind, stand well out to the west or south-west, so as to keep well to the southward of Cape Northumberland, as the heavy gales from the north-west seldom last more than forty-eight hours, when they veer to the south-west, and fine weather ensues. Being abreast of Cape Northumberland, a south-west wind will be a favourable wind to proceed to Adelaide. Steer directly for the east end of Kangaroo Island, which you may pass at a distance of one mile; and if the wind is from the south or south-east, you may then steer across Backstairs Passage to Cape Jarvis; having arrived off which, proceed as directed before: should the wind be strong from south-west or west-south-west, keep Kangaroo Island close on board until abreast of Cape Jarvis, when you will have the Gulf open. Should it be night time or thick weather, and you have sighted Cape Willoughby at the entrance after passing that Cape, steer north-west fifteen miles, and you may lay to or run up north-east by east under snug sail until daylight. There are four rocks at the entrance of this passage, called the Pages; with a beating wind, you may pass on either side of them, but with a leading wind there is no necessity to approach them at all, as it is best to pass close round Cape Willoughby. Should the wind be so strong that a vessel could not carry sufficient canvas to fetch through the passage, it would be better for a stranger to stand out to the southward, rather than attempt to run into Encounter Bay. The anchorage in Encounter Bay is close round Granite Island, where a vessel may lay sheltered from all winds, save from south-east. There are several good anchorages where a vessel may run to, should she be caught in a gale of wind in Bass’ Straits: one behind Wilson’s Promontory, the corner inlet of Flinders; another in Western Port; two under King’s Island, besides several on the Van Diemen’s Land side, as Circular Head, George Town, Preservation Island, &c., the whole of which may be attained by a proper consideration of the chart; but it is always better, provided a vessel has sufficient sea room, to keep at sea than to run for an anchorage, as the sea will seldom hurt a good ship properly managed, and she is always ready to take advantage of any change that may take place.
“Should a gale of wind come on when a vessel is far to the westward of King’s Island, she may run for Portland Bay. In going in, you pass to the eastward of the St. Lawrence Islands, and haul directly in for the land west-north-west; keep along the south shore of the bay, at a distance of one mile, until you see the flag-staff at Mr. Henty’s; bring that to bear west, and you will have six fathoms water about three-quarters of a mile from shore.”
From Cape Jarvis the coast line tends to the north along the eastern shore of St. Vincent’s Gulf. The scenery, as you turn the point, is extremely diversified. Dark cliffs and small sandy bays, with grassy slopes almost to the water’s edge, succeed each other, backed by moderate hills, sparingly covered with trees, and broken into numerous valleys. Thus you pass Yankelilla, Rapid Bay, and Aldingis; but from Brighton the shore becomes low and sandy, and is backed by sand hummocks, that conceal the nearer country from the view, and enable you to see the tops of the Mount Lofty Range at a distance of from eleven to twelve miles.
Port Adelaide, a bar harbour, is about nine miles from Glenelg, and situate on the eastern bank of a large creek, penetrating the mangrove swamp by which the shore of the Gulf is thereabouts fringed. This creek is from ten to eleven miles in length. Its course for about two miles after you cross the bar is nearly east and west, but at that distance it turns to the south, and runs parallel to the coast; and there is an advantage in the direction it thus takes, that would not be apparent to the reader unless explained. It is, that, as the land breeze blows off the shore in the evening, and the sea breeze sets in in the morning vessels can leave the harbour, or run up to it as they are inward or outward bound.
The landing-place of the early settlers was too high up the creek, and was not only the cause of great inconvenience to the shipping, but of severe loss in stores and baggage to the settlers; but at the close of the year 1839, Mr. McLaren, the then manager of the South Australian Company commenced and finished a road across the swamp to a section of land belonging to his employers, that was situated much lower down the creek, and on which the present Port now stands. The road, which is two miles in length, cost the Company 12,000 pounds. It has, however, been transferred to the local Government, in exchange for 12,000 acres of land, that were considered equivalent to the sum it cost.
The removal of the Port to this place was undoubtedly a great public benefit; and whatever perspective advantages might have influenced Mr. McLaren on the occasion, he merited all due praise for having undertaken such a work at a time when the Government itself was unable to do so. Both the wharf and the warehouse belonging to the Company are very creditable buildings, as is the Custom House and the line of sheds erected by the Government; but the wharf attached to them is defective, and liable to injury, from the chafing of the tide between the piers, which are not placed so as to prevent its action. Mr. Phillips’ iron store is also one of a substantial description; but there was not, when I left the province, another building of any material value at the Port. Numerous wooden houses existed in the shape of inns, stables, etc.; but the best of these were unfortunately burnt down by a fire a few days before I embarked for Europe. Whether it is that a misgiving on the minds of the public as to the permanency of the Port has been the cause of, and prevented the erection of more substantial and better houses at Port Adelaide, it is difficult to say; but any one might have foreseen, that as the colony progressed, and its commerce increased, the Port would necessarily have to be moved to some part of the creek where there was deeper and broader water, for the convenience of the shipping. I felt assured, indeed, that the removal of the Port would take place sooner than was generally supposed. The following extract from the South Australian Gazette of the 4th of December last, will prove that I judged truly:—
“NEW ROAD TO THE NORTH ARM. — This road was commenced last Tuesday week; and at the rate at which the work is progressing, will be completed (except as regards the subsequent metalling and ballasting) within four months from the present time. The line adopted is the one which was proposed by Mr. Lindsay in 1840, as requiring less outlay in the original construction than either of the other lines proposed. Taking Adelaide as the starting point, the course will be either along the present Port Road between Hindmarsh and Bowden as far as section No. 407, thence along the cross track between that section and section No. 419 (preliminary), as far as the southeast corner of Mr. Mildred’s section, No. 421; then in a straight line through the last named section and Mr. Gilles’s, No. 2072, after leaving which it passes through an opening in the sand-hills, and then winds along the highest ground between the creeks, leaving the South Australian Company’s road about a mile on the left, till it joins the main road or street running through section G. at the North Arm; or through North Adelaide and along the road at the back of Bowden, parallel with the main Port Road as far as Mr. Torrens’ residence, to the south-east corner of Mr. Mildred’s section, thence through that section as before. The soil of the so-termed swamp, or rather marsh, is of the most favourable description for embanking and draining operations, consisting at the part of the line where the work has been commenced, of a good loam for the first spit, and then clay to the depth of eighteen inches or two feet, resting upon a stratum composed for the most part of shells of numberless shapes and sizes, which extends to the bottoms of the drains (four feet), being the level of high water at spring tides, and at about the same above the low-water level. The shelly stratum continues below the bottoms of the drains to an uncertain depth. From the commencement of the ‘Swamp’ to the Great Square or public reserve at the junction of the North Arm with the main channel of the Creek, the distance along the line of road is 4800 yards, or nearly two miles and three-quarters. The breadth of the road between the ditches will be 114 feet, or between three and four times the breadth of the Company’s road.”
If there is anything more justly a subject of congratulation to the Province than another, it is the commencement of the work thus notified. The road is now, in all probability, finished, and that part of the creek rendered available where these permanent improvements may be made, without the fear of any future change; and when the shores of the North Arm shall be lined by wharfs, and the more elevated portions of Torrens’ Island shall be covered with houses, few harbours will be able to boast of more picturesque beauty. There was something dreary in sailing up the creek with its dense and dark mangroves on either side, and no other object visible beyond them save the distant mountains; but the approach to the new Port will not fail to excite those pleasurable feelings in the heart of the stranger which give a colouring to every other object.
The removal of the port to the proposed locality will bring it within three miles of the bar, and will be of incalculable advantage to the shipping, since there will no longer be any delay in their putting to sea. The following letter, addressed by Captain Lipson, the Harbour-master, to the Colonial Secretary, in reference to the improvements that have been effected at the bar, will best explain its present state, and the description of vessels it will admit into the Port.
“Port, 6th July, 1847.
“SIR — In answer to your letter of this day’s date, requesting that I would report to you, for the information of the Legislative Council, what beneficial effects have been produced by the use of the mud barge in deepening the bar at the entrance of Port Adelaide, since the commencement of its operation, in the year 1845, up to the present date, also what additional depth of water, if any, has been obtained by the work alluded to.
“I have the honour to state, that at the commencement of the colony, her Majesty’s storeship ‘Buffalo’ was brought out by the then governor, Captain Hindmarsh, to be detained here nine months for the protection and convenience of the colonists. It was, therefore, much wished to have her inside the bar; but after attending and carefully watching successive spring-tides, it was given up as impracticable, she drawing fifteen feet. The Governor then appointed a board to examine the bar, consisting of the masters of the ‘Buffalo,’ ‘John Renwick,’ and another, who, in their report, stated as their opinion, that no vessel above 300 tons ought to be brought into the harbour; however, last week two vessels exceeding 600 tons have been brought up to the wharf. But the most beneficial effect is now felt from a ship being able to cross the outer bar so much sooner on the tide than before, thereby having sufficient time to take her round the bar, and, if moderate, to beat up and anchor at the North Arm the same tide. Ships may now be brought in on the springs in winter, drawing seventeen or eighteen feet, as the time of high water is in the day, and the wind generally fair to beat in, but not so in going out, from the difficulty of reaching the bar at the time required, and the tide leaving so quickly after the ebb is made great care is required; and I find it unsafe to allow any vessel to load deeper than 15 or 16.6 inches at most. With a tug, there would be less difficulty and danger in loading to 18 feet than there now is to 15.
“There is now three feet more water on the bar than there was previous to its being deepened, and if the work be continued next summer, to enlarge a cut which has been made, there will be five feet.
“I have the honour to be, Sir, your obedient servant,
“THOMAS LIPSON, Harbour Master.
“The Honourable Colonial Secretary.”
It is not clear to me, however, that the admission of larger class shipping into the Port will be of any great advantage. I am led to believe that ships of smaller tonnage than those drawing 16 to 17 feet, have been found to be most convenient for the ordinary purposes of commerce. However, it is evident, that if Captain Lipson continues the same praiseworthy exertions he has hitherto used, he will deepen the bar for vessels of any tonnage. Under existing circumstances, it may be as well to state that any ship arriving off the bar when there is not sufficient water on it for them to enter the port, will find good anchorage all round the lightship, particularly a little to the westward of it. The whole Gulf, indeed, from this point, may be considered as a safe and extensive roadstead. As regards Port Adelaide itself, I cannot imagine a securer or a more convenient harbour. Without having any broad expanse of water, it is of sufficient width for vessels to lie there in perfect safety, whether as regards the wind or the anchorage.
The head of St. Vincent’s Gulf is in latitude 34 1/2 degrees. Between that point and Port Adelaide, the shore is either lined by mangroves, or is low and sandy. There are, nevertheless, several inlets similar to, but much smaller than Port Adelaide, and other commodious anchorages for small craft along it. The principal of these is the inlet connected with the Gawler, of which I shall hereafter speak. York Peninsula forms the western shore of St. Vincent’s Gulf, and separates it from that of Spencer. It is a long, low tongue of land — Cape Spencer, its southern extremity, being in 35 degrees 17 minutes, and in long. 136 degrees 52 minutes. Though embracing a considerable area, the character of the Peninsula is unfavourable to the growth of nutritive herbage; the surface soil is a species of calcareous limestone, the rock formation of a tertiary description, although, at the lower extremity, granite and trap rock are known to exist. The surface of the country is undulating, covered in many places by scrub, and the trees being very short-lived, the whole is matted with dead timber, and difficult of access. A deficiency of water renders York Peninsula still more unfavourable for location; nevertheless, several sections of land have been purchased on that part which is immediately opposite to Port Adelaide, and it is said that indications of copper have been found there, a fact I should be inclined to doubt. In 1840, a company applied for a special survey on the shores of the Peninsula to the southward of Point Pearce, and gave the name of Victoria Harbour to the locality; but the survey was subsequently abandoned in consequence of the unfavourable character of the interior, from the great deficiency of water.
If we except the results of a survey made by the late Lieut.-Governor, Colonel Robe, of the upper part of Spencer’s Gulf, during which, as is the case in the same part of the neighbouring gulf, his Excellency found convenient bays and inlets, but little is known of the eastern shore of that splendid gulf, beyond this point. Double the size of St. Vincent’s Gulf, it runs up to the 32 1/2 parallel, and was at one time or other very probably connected with Lake Torrens. The higher part is backed by a range of mountains, the more prominent of which were named by Captain Flinders — Mount Remarkable, Mount Browne, and Mount Arden. On the first of these there were so many indications of copper, that a special survey of 20,000 acres was taken by a company for the purpose of working any lodes that might be found. The country round about Mount Remarkable is stated to be exceedingly picturesque and good; so that independently of any value it may possess as a mineral survey, it possesses both agricultural and pastoral advantages. After passing the Mount Remarkable Range, however, the country falls off in character. A dreary region extends round the head of the Gulf, and, it is to be feared, to a much greater distance. The description given by Mr. Eyre, and the reports of those who have endeavoured to penetrate to the westward of Lake Torrens both agree as to the sterile and inhospitable character of the remote interior. Little improvement takes place in it on following down the western shore of the Gulf. Several individuals, indeed, have perished in endeavouring to take stock round the head of the Gulf to Port Lincoln, either from the want of water, or from having wandered and lost themselves amidst the low brush with which it is covered. The whole of the country, indeed, lying to the westward of Spencer’s Gulf is, as far as I have been able to ascertain, of very inferior description. There are, it is true, isolated patches of good land, and a limited run for sheep, but the character of the country corresponds but little with the noble feature for which Spencer’s Gulf is so justly celebrated. In reference to this magnificent basin, Captain Lee, from whom I have already quoted, observes —
“The harbour of Port Lincoln, including Boston Bay, is situated near the extremity of the Peninsula, which forms the west side of Spencer’s Gulf in the Province of South Australia, and from its great extent, and the number of its safe anchorages, is capable of containing the largest fleets, and as a depot, is not, perhaps, to be surpassed by any port in the world. Vessels from England, bound to Port Lincoln, should run along in about 35 degrees 20 minutes south latitude, until they arrive in 135 degrees 20 minutes east longitude, when they may haul up to the north-east, and make Cape Catastrophe. After arriving near the Cape, they may then shape a course to pass between it and Williams’ Island. There are strong tide ripplings here, which, to a stranger, would present the appearance of reefs; but as the channel is perfectly clear, no danger need be apprehended. Having passed through the channel, should night be approaching, it would be advisable for a stranger to keep the main land aboard, leaving another Island (Smith’s Island), on the starboard hand, and bring up in Memory Cove, a perfectly safe anchorage, in about five fathoms, and wait for day-light. Proceeding then along shore to the northward, he will arrive at Taylor’s Island, which may be passed on either side; after which he may run along shore at a distance of one mile, until he arrives at Cape Donnington. This Cape may be known by its having a small islet laying about half a mile from the point. Rounding this islet, at half a cable’s length, in about nine-fathoms’ water, and hauling to the westward, he will open the magnificent harbour of Port Lincoln, stretching to the south-west as far as the eye can reach. Should the wind be fresh from the south or south-west, it would be better if bound to Boston Bay, to beat up between Boston Island and the promontory of Cape Donnington. The shores are steep on both sides, so that a vessel may stand close in on either tack. Should the wind be so strong as to prevent a vessel beating in, she may run up under easy sail to a bay on the north-east end of Boston Island, and bring up in seven fathoms opposite a white sandy beach, three-quarters of a mile off shore. There is also excellent anchorage at the entrance to Spalding Cove, bringing the western point of the promontory of Cape Donnington to bear north by east, and the northernmost of Bicker’s Island west by north, you will lay in seven fathoms, muddy bottom. Having arrived at Bicker’s Island and bound for Boston Bay, stand directly over to the westward, passing the south end of Boston Island, until you open the bay, when you may choose a berth according to circumstances, and in any depth from ten to four fathoms.
“The positions of the various points and islands are so correctly laid down on Flinders’ chart, that the skilful navigator will at once know his exact situation by cross-bearings.
“The anchorage in Port Lincoln itself is not so safe as in Boston Bay, and more difficult of access, especially in the winter months, when the winds are strong from the south-west, and in the summer months it is quite open to the north-east. In working up, a vessel may stand close in to the eastern shore, and to within half a mile of the western, but should not attempt to pass between the two Bicker’s Islands, as there is a reef running from the northernmost island nearly across to the other.
“Vessels from Adelaide, bound to Boston Bay, after arriving at Althorpe’s Island, should shape a course so as to pass between the Gambier Islands and Thistle’s Islands. There is a small island bearing west five miles from the south end of Wedge Island, the largest of the Gambier group, which is not laid down in Flinders, which should be left on the starboard hand. Bring the highest part of Thistle’s Island to bear west, distant about six miles, and in twenty-two fathoms water, and a north-west half-west course will carry you through midway between the Horse-shoe Reef and the rocks which lay off the north-west end of Thistle’s Island, and in the direct track for Cape Donnington. The passage between the reefs is about three miles wide, and ought not to be attempted in the night, as the tides set directly across the channel. There is very good anchorage on the north-east side of Thistle’s Island, well sheltered three-fourths of the year. Bring the rocks before-mentioned to bear north-north-west, and two remarkable sand hills south by west, and you will lay in five fathoms, one mile off shore — north end Thistle’s Island west by south. Should the wind be so strong from southwest or west-south-west, so that a vessel from the eastward cannot carry sail sufficient to fetch up to Cape Donnington, or under Thistle’s Island, it would be advisable to bear up for Hardwick Bay; passing to the eastward of Wedge Island, come no nearer to the shore of York’s Peninsula than two miles, until you arrive within five miles of Corny Point, when you may haul in for that point, rounding it a distance of half a mile, you may bring up in five fathoms, one mile from shore: Corny Point bearing west. Vessels from Sydney, bound to Port Lincoln, may pass through Backstairs Passage, and proceed according to the foregoing directions, or by keeping well to the southward, pass outside Kangaroo Island, until they arrive in longitude 136 degrees E., when they may shape a course either to pass between Gambier’s and Thistle’s Islands, or else for Cape Catastrophe, taking care to give the Neptune Islands a wide berth, and then proceed according to either of the foregoing directions.”
To this extract which refers exclusively to the navigation of Spencer’s Gulf, I may add, that Boston Island lies immediately opposite to the bay, and that there are two channels of entrance round the island, through which vessels of the largest size can pass with any wind or in any weather, for the harbour is so sheltered by the headlands forming the entrance, that the swell of the sea is broken before reaching it.
The high ground which almost surrounds Boston Bay, protects it in like manner from the winds, more especially those coming from the west and southwest, in which directions some of the hills attain the height of several hundred feet.
The depth of water in the central parts of the Bay is about twelve fathoms, varying from five to seven at the distance of less than a quarter of a mile from the shore all round; whilst at Boston Point, where the town of Boston has been laid out, there is a depth of two, three, and four fathoms, at about a boat’s length from the land. The bottom consists in some places of mud, in others of shells and sand, so that the anchorage is safe.
The tide sometimes rises seven feet, but that is considered a high tide, the ordinary rise not being more than five; this depends, however, on the outward state of the Gulf, and the quarter from which the wind may happen to be blowing.
In the summer season, the land and sea breezes blow very regularly, for three weeks or a month at a time. They are then succeeded by strong winds from the south-west, that last for three or four days, and are sometimes very violent. In winter these interruptions to the usual calm state of the weather are more frequent, but the harbour is little influenced by them; taking it altogether, indeed, as a harbour, it is unquestionably as safe and commodious as any in the world, and it is deeply to be regretted, that its position, of which I shall have to speak, and the nature of the country behind it, should be any drawbacks to its becoming one of the most important ports on the Australian Continent.
In the vicinity of Port Lincoln, the land is of very varied character. To the west and south-west it is poor and scrubby, covered with a diminutive growth of she oak (Casuarinae) or dwarf gumtrees (Eucalypti), or it is wholly destitute of timber; but along the line of hills, stretching to the north, at a short distance from the shores of the Gulf, there is an improvement in the soil. The pasture is well adapted for sheep, and there are isolated valleys in which the soil is very good and fit for cultivation; but this kind of country only occupies a narrow strip of about ten miles, and although tracts of available land have been found in the interior, and it has been ascertained that water is not deficient, it must still, I fear, be considered as a very inferior district. As regards Port Lincoln itself, the inhabitants procure their water from a spring, on the sea-shore, which is covered by every tide. This spring does not appear to undergo any sensible diminution, even in the height of summer, and is stated to be so copious, that it would yield a most abundant supply.
It has been reported, that strong indications of the presence of copper have been found in the neighbourhood of Port Lincoln, and this report may be correct. The discovery of mines there, would at once raise the harbour to importance, and make it the resort of shipping. Mines might be worked at Port Lincoln with more advantage perhaps to the province, than where they have been already in operation, for it admits of great doubt whether the benefit from the distribution of wealth from mining speculations, makes up for the interference of such speculations with other branches of industry. Unless some local advantage, of the kind to which I have alluded, should give this noble harbour an impulse however, it would appear to have but little prospect of becoming a place of importance, for although Spencer’s Gulf penetrates so deep into the northern interior, the country is altogether unprofitable, and although there is depth of water sufficient for the largest ships to the very head of the Gulf, yet, as far as our present knowledge extends, it is not probable that it will be the outlet of any export produce. It is to be remembered, however, that if there should be minerals in any abundance found on the Mount Remarkable special survey — the ore must necessarily be shipped, from some one of the little harbours examined by the Lieutenant-Governor during his survey of that part of Spencer’s Gulf — In such case, Port Lincoln will be brought more immediately into notice.
From Port Lincoln, the shore of the Gulf still trends to the south, as far as Cape Catastrophe, in lat. 35 degrees. It then turns with an irregular outline to the N.N.W., and several bays succeed each other. The first of these is Sleaford Bay, sometimes occupied as a whaling station, but of no other importance. Coffin’s Bay, almost immediately behind Port Lincoln, is rather an inlet than a bay, and runs so far into the interior, as to approach Boston Bay, to within 16 miles. Coffin’s Bay is exceedingly wide, and objectionable for many reasons, but as it is a whaling station of some importance, and visited by numerous whalers, I shall quote Captain Lee’s remarks upon it, and give his directions for going to it.
“This is a very large bay, perfectly secure from all winds, save from north to east, but unfortunately a great portion of it is rendered useless by the shallowness of the water. The best anchorage is with Point Sir Isaac, bearing north-north-west, about one mile and a half from the western shore in four or five fathoms. In working in with a southerly wind, you may stand to the eastward until you bring the above point to bear south-west by west, after which it would be better to make short tacks along the western shore. You must be careful to keep the lead going, as the water shoals from five and four fathoms to one and a half at a single cast. This bay seems well adapted for a fishing station. The inner part of the bay extends a long way back into the country, at least thirty miles from Point Sir Isaac, and contains two or three secure harbours and excellent anchorages, a new chart of which is in course of publication.
“Vessels from Sydney bound to Coffin’s Bay, should proceed as if bound to Port Lincoln until arrived off the Neptune Islands, when they should steer for Perforated Island, having passed which, steer for Point Whidbey, giving it a berth of at least two miles. In running along shore from Point Whidbey to Point Sir Isaac, come no nearer the shore than two miles, until you get the latter point to bear east-south-east as the rocks lay a long way from the shore. Having arrived at Point Sir Isaac proceed as directed before.
“Althorp’s Island is of moderate height, situated at the entrance of Investigator’s Straits; may be passed close to on the south side. Several other islands and reefs lay between it and York’s Peninsula, rendering that passage highly dangerous.
“Wedge Island, one of the Gambier Group, may easily be known by its wedge-like form, sloping from south-east to north-west. There are two peaked rocks off the south-east end, one mile off shore, also a small island, bearing west five miles from the south end, not laid down in Flinders’ charts.
“Thistle’s Island, is low at each end but high in the middle, it lays in a north-west and south-east direction. There are some rocks which lay off the northern point about three miles, which being connected with the island itself, forms a good anchorage behind, secure from all but north and east winds, another good place for a fishing party. See Port Lincoln directions.
“Neptune’s Islands are low, three in number, and having numerous rocks and reefs amongst them; ought not to be approached too closely, there being generally a strong swell from the south-west, the sea breaks over them with great violence.
“Liguanea Island is of moderate elevation, and may be passed on the south side at a distance of two miles.
“Perforated Island, as its name imports, may be known by its having a hole through it near the north end and close to the top of the island, it may be passed close on any side. FOUR HUMMOCKS may easily be known from their appearance answering to their name.
“Greenly Island, this is a peaked island, rather high, and may be seen ten leagues off. There is another island laying south and by west, seven miles, not laid down in Flinders’, and two other reefs between them, rendering the passage unsafe.
“Proceeding along shore to the northward you will fall in with Flinders’ Island. This is a large island, covered with wood, with plenty of fresh water, possessing a secure anchorage on the northern side, and is admirably adapted for a whaling station. In going on from the southward, keep outside the top Gallant [GALL’S in published text] Island, and steer directly for the north-east point, rounding which, you will open the anchorage, and as there is no danger, but may be seen, you may choose a berth according to circumstances.
“Waldegrave’s Island, close to the main land, has good anchorage on the northern side, secure from south-east and south-west winds.
“The shore, from Waldegrave’s Island to Point Weyland is low and sandy. There is a large body of water running in a direction parallel to the coast, all the way from Point Weyland to the northward of Cape Radstock, having an entrance at both points. It appears as if the action of the sea from the south-west, had broken through the coast range and filled up the valley immediately behind. Indeed the whole coast from Kangaroo Island to as far to the north-west as has been visited by the author, bears evident marks of the encroachments of the sea. In some places marked down as small islands in Flinders’, there are now only reefs, other places which were formerly points of land, are transformed to islands.”
In the year 1840, I was instructed by the then Governor of South Australia, to send an officer of the survey in a small vessel, with a supply of provisions for Mr. Eyre, who was at that time supposed to have reached Fowler’s Bay, during the first of his expeditions; I accordingly selected Mr. John Cannan, in whose zeal and ability I had every confidence. This officer left Port Adelaide the 9th September, 1840, with instructions from me, in addition to the immediate object he had in view, to survey such parts of the coast along which he was about to sail, as had only been partially examined by Captain Flinders. Unfortunately it was during the winter time, and the task I had assigned him would, I knew, be attended with considerable risk in beating along that dangerous and stormy coast. Mr. Cannan arrived at Streaky Bay on the 27th September, but was disappointed in finding Mr. Eyre, or a letter he had buried for him under Cape Bauer, he therefore proceeded to the examination of the coast, as I had instructed him to do; and the following extract from his report will not only enable the reader to judge how he performed that service, but will give him the best information as to the character of the several bays and inlets he examined.
“I send you a chart of Streaky, Smoky, and Denial Bays, by which you will be better able to judge of the capabilities of the harbours they contain, than by any description I can give. I may mention however, that the entrance to Smoky Bay, between the shoals of St. Peter’s and Eyre’s Islands, is dangerous, for with any swell on the sea breaks right across. In the inlet, on the west side of Denial Bay, there is a salt water creek with two fathoms of water; and adjoining some high sand-hills, among which we found fresh water by digging. Our vessel being the first, I believe, that ever entered Smoky Bay, on finding an island at its southern end, I named it after that enterprising traveller Mr. Eyre. I also found an island and reef not laid down by Flinders, to the southern of St. Francis Islands. There is also an island 10 miles west of the rocky group of Whidbey’s Isles, and about 12 miles from Greenly’s Isles. The captain of a French whaler also informed me, that a sunken rock lays 6 miles N.W., off Point Sir Isaac, on which the sea breaks in heavy weather.
“The desert country surrounding these bays has been sufficiently explored, and so correctly described by Mr. Eyre, as not to require to be mentioned. The absence of any rise that can be called a hill, from Mount Greenly to Mount Barren, the eternal limestone cliffs, the scarcity of water and grass, surely prove this coast to be the most miserable in the world, whilst the harbours are as good as could be wished for, and it must be owing to the deficiency of charts, that whalers do not frequent these bays, for there are generally two or three French or American vessels in the neighbourhood during the season. I found no bones or carcases of whales in Streaky, Denial, or Smoky Bays, but the shores of Fowler’s and Coffin’s Bays, I found strewed with their remains. In the latter place, Captain Rossiter, of the Mississippi shewed me his chart, and told me there was no shelter for a vessel on this side of the Bight, except at Fowler’s Bay, and that was indifferent. The great extent of smooth water at Denial and Streaky Bays, and a well of water on St. Peter’s, dug by a sealer who lived on it many months, afford more advantages for fishing, and more especially to a shore party, than are to be found any where else in the Province.
“From the general flatness of the country, it may be presumed that its character does not alter for a great distance inland. I observed nothing in the formation of the island, differing from the mainland, and I may mention that the rocks of the isles of St. Francis presented the same appearance as the Murray Cliffs.”
It will appear from the above, that Mr. Cannan did not proceed farther to the westward than Fowler’s Bay, and that he did not therefore prolong his survey to the western limits of the Colony, by a distance of about five leagues, since the 132 degrees meridian falls on that coast a little to the westward of Cape Adieu, and between 12 and 15 leagues from the bottom of the Great Australian Bight.
Although some of the bays and harbours I have described in running along its coast, are not so good as might be desired, yet it is evident that, as a maritime country, South Australia is particularly favoured, not only in having anchorage of the safest description, but also in possessing two or three known harbours, capable of containing ships in any number or any size, and as safe and capacious as any in the world. Looking indeed at Port Adelaide, one cannot but admire its appropriate and convenient position. Had such a harbour not existed there, the produce of that fertile portion of the Province would hardly have been available to the inhabitants in the shape of exports, so difficult would it have been to have found another harbour of equal security, or of equal size, for the commercial wants of the settlers. Added to this, it has the double advantage of being close to the capital, being so easy of access, and in so central a position, as to be able to communicate with the neighbouring colonies with the greatest ease.
It will be remembered that I stated in the former part of my work, that the remarkable wall forming the Great Australian Bight, was thrown up simultaneously with the great fossil bed of the Murray.
As the principal object of the Expedition into Central Australia was to ascertain the past and present structure of the Continent, I have been led to allude to the subject again, in consequence of two or three remarks in Mr. Cannan’s letter, which has been quoted above, bearing strongly upon it, and corroborative of the hypothesis I have entertained as proving a striking uniformity in the rock formation of those two localities. To those remarks I would beg to call the attention of my readers. They will be found at the commencement and termination of the last paragraph.
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