Wednesday 2 November 1836

[, who arrived in South Australia on board the wrote. | Read source notes.]

Coastline of Kangaroo Island from 'Views of the South Coast of Australia'. by William Westall, 1802. Image courtesy National Library of Australia.

NOVEMBER 2.-This morning most of the passengers were up at 5 o’clock to take a view of Althorpe Island as we passed it. It appeared like a huge rock. It is supposed to be only an eruption in the sea. At about 10 o’clock we entered Nepean Bay. The flag was hoisted and the guns were fired to announce our approach. Soon after a boat with the mate and four sailors went on shore, and immediately returned with another boat, in which was a gentleman of the name of Stephens, who came out in a vessel called the Duke of York, and which was rowed by four men. One of them, Nathaniel Thomas, had been a resident on the island many years, but his appearance, I thought, was more like that of a savage than an Englishman. This man, by some mischance, fell overboard, and as the tide was running strong at the time he was carried some distance from the vessel before assistance could be rendered. Although he could swim well enough, he was watched by those on board with considerable anxiety on account of the sharks, which were known to be numerous. An oar, however, was thrown to him, on which he got astride till the boat reached him, and when he came again on the deck he shook himself as a dog does when just out of the water, and took no more notice of the matter.

At about 2 o’clock this day a party of six, including two of our young men engaged as printers, set off in a boat for the shore, furnished with four days’ provisions, to walk across the island (about fifty miles) and meet the ship on the other side, whither we were going.

At 4 o’clock we came within a mile of the shore; and soundings were taken-twenty-six fathoms and a fine, gravelly bottom. The day was fine and the sea calm. The boat did not return till nearly 9 o’clock, in consequence of the passengers not being able for a long time to find a landing-place on that side of the island; but when it began to grow dark their prolonged stay excited alarm, especially as there were five gentlemen in the boat (three of them married) besides the mate of the vessel, who went to see them safely on shore. At about 8 o’clock, therefore, the captain ordered a gun to be fired and a light in the shrouds was hoisted as a signal and guide. The crew also gave three cheers, and the echo of the cannon and the cheers of the men resounded from the opposite shore and gave additional effect to the beauty of the scene, for although the moon had not risen the evening was remarkably clear and serene, and the stars glittered over our heads in millions. At length our fears were relieved by the flash and report of a gun, and soon after another, and at last we discovered the boat approaching the vessel with all those safe who meant to return and one of the adventurers, whose heart failed him when they reached the unknown shore. The other six, all young men, were left to proceed on their way as they best could. Their names were:- Slater, a surgeon; Osborne, a well-educated young man apprenticed to Mr. Thomas as a printer; Fisher, engaged as a journeyman printer; Nantes, attached to Mr. Gouger (the Colonial Secretary) ; and Warren and Biggs, engaged by Mr. Hallett. We were naturally anxious, and could not help feeling somewhat uneasy at their setting out on such a romantic expedition, especially on account of Osborne, who was an amiable young man and a general favourite, and whose father, residing in London, had consigned him to our care. They had agreed to take their guns, expecting to find some game, and Osborne having a double-barrelled gun which was rather heavy, asked me to exchange it for the time for our single-barrelled one, and I did so accordingly. He and Slater were sworn friends, and the latter having the gun in his hands just as they were going to step into the boat, I said to him, half in jest,
“Don’t you lose that gun, Mr. Slater.”
“Ah, Madam,” said he in his hasty way (he was an Irishman), ” I will lose my life first.”
“Oh,” said I, laughing, ” I did not mean that. I only intended to caution you against laying it down under bushes, where you might not find it again.”

Alas! I little though that his words would in some measure prove true, and that I would never see either him or poor Osborne again. But of this more hereafter. Those who returned had, during their expedition, caught a curious fish, about the size of and somewhat resembling a red mullet, but with yellow fins and long pointed teeth, like those of a dog. They also shot four birds, one about the size of a pigeon, another a waterfowl, like a duck, and two black birds, the size of a crow, one of which, being little hurt, was still alive. These two were called oyster-catchers, as they live principally upon the oyster. They were furnished with slender but strong beaks, about four inches in length, and of a deep scarlet; the eyes also were encircled with a rim of the same colour. The legs and feet were red, and the nails resembled those of the human hand.

At night we saw so large a fire on the island that it reminded me of the burning of the Parliament Houses, which took place in October the year before. We were told that it was the brushwood, to which the islanders often set fire in order to clear the ground.

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