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Week 30 - First encounters

[ 11th of September 1836 to 17th of September 1836 ]
[ View related 'school content': Week 30: Heating up and lighting the way ]

In South Australia

The week begins with the long-awaited arrival of the Cygnet. Sadly this is the last we will hear of Boyle Travers Finniss, as his diary ends with the arrival on Kangaroo Island on 11 September. From his last brief entry however, we learn that Colonel Light has left a letter for Kingston, instructing him to proceed directly to Port Lincoln after off-loading his stores at Fresh Water River.

Others are also about to leave the Island.  Captain Morgan is busy preparing the Duke of York to sail, filling casks with fresh water, repairing the boats and ‘other jobs as needful’, but he still finds time to pray every night and to remember his ‘beloved wife and children’. Elsewhere on the Island John Brown is busy building cottages for himself and his men near the Freshwater Lagoon. He is having trouble with the stock straying, especially the merinos. But at least all seems peaceful. Samuel Stephens visits briefly, but is soon off to the mainland. Then towards the end of the week Brown’s men all go into Kingscote to collect their wages, leaving him ‘quite alone’ as he writes. This must have been an unnerving experience after all the weeks in close confinement at sea

Over on the mainland Colonel Light, Dr Woodforde and William Pullen are exploring the coast between Rapid Bay and Yankalilla. They land at an inlet, which Light promptly calls Finniss Valley, (now Second Valley) and walk through the rich countryside to Yankalilla, an Aboriginal name that Light decides to retain.  Once again they are charmed by the ‘park like appearance’ of the countryside and speculate that it will be well suited to agriculture.

In the diaries of Pullen and Woodforde this week we hear much about some members of the local Ramindjeri Encounter Bay tribe, who come with the sealer Cooper to meet the newcomers. Pullen describes a ‘corrobory’, but there are some puzzling elements to his description, and to some of the other comments he makes (about infanticide for instance), suggesting either that he revised his description later, or that he had read accounts of such practices elsewhere.

Woodforde also comments on the Aboriginal men from the perspective of a doctor.  He notes signs of the ‘ravages’ of smallpox, records that two of the men have ‘congenital malformations’, and notes the existence of ritual scarring (described as tattoos).  They are all puzzled by the sight of many burnt tree tops, surrounded by rich, green growth.  They have heard that the Aboriginal People fire the country, but are inclined to attribute the burning to lightning strikes (‘the electric fluid’) instead.

At sea

The Africaine is approaching the Cape and all on board are busy making lists of things they want to buy. It is much colder and the Gougers find they don’t have warm enough clothing, but in other respects they are very comfortable in their cabin.  Robert Gouger gives us a lengthy description of the various ‘conveniences’ of their situation, which he intends as guidance for other wealthy travellers in the future.

The Buffalo meanwhile has almost reached the Equator and everyone on board is preparing for the ritual visit of NeptuneStevenson continues his litany of complaints against the Governor.  He and James Hurtle Fisher seem to agree with one another on many things, notably this week on the importance of establishing a public library in the new province.  Hindmarsh evidently does not agree: ‘what good will books do our Colony’, he apparently comments. But Stevenson and Fisher intend to persevere.  There is another interesting comment in Stevenson’s diary entry this week.  The male passengers are all required to practise military drilling, so that an additional armed force will be available if required, but Stevenson is vehemently opposed to any such force being directed against the Aboriginal population. A ‘hostile shot shall never be fired against them if I can help it’, he writes. His comment suggests that Stevenson supports the views of radical reformers at home where this issue is concerned.

Sadly the week ends in tragedy. Just as everyone prepares for the crossing the line ceremonies that night, a young sailor, Story, ‘the only support of a widowed mother’, falls overboard while taking The action or process of measuring the depth of water with a sounding line, a line marked at intervals of fathoms and weighted at one end. A fathom is a unit of length equal to 6 feet (1.83 metres). soundings for a shoal marked on the Admiralty charts. Although they put a boat out for him within a few minutes, he is lost, probably because he cannot see the ship in the darkness.  Stevenson is sickened by the loss. ‘To add to the misery of his fate the poor fellow was an excellent swimmer’, he writes, ‘and most probably suffered a horrible & lingering death’.

Language warning: Please note that these sources contain language which is today considered offensive. It has been retained as it is part of the historical record and evidence of past attitudes.


Journals from settlers in South Australia:

Tuesday 13 September 1836

[, who arrived in South Australia on board the wrote.]

This 24 hours light wind and A squall is a sudden, sharp increase in wind speed. squalls with rain
employd cutting wood and other nessary work the carp
enter reparing the boats
In the everning had family worship read the word
of god with singing and prayer

[ Read the full journal extract ]


Sunday 11 September 1836

[, who arrived in South Australia on board the wrote.]

Anchored in Nepean Bay 11th Sep. Kingston
received a letter from Coll Light acquainting
him that after forming his settlement and
landing the stores at Fresh water River, He
was to proceed in the Cygnet with the Surveyors
to Port Lincoln.

[ Read the full journal extract ]


Monday 12 September 1836

[, who arrived in South Australia on board the wrote.]

Sept 12th At Noon Bates & Powell came from Kingscote
having been there all Night, and were accompd by a Man named
Chandler, who came to fill the place of Mitchell, in the After-
-noon Powell was assisted by Chandler building his own Cottage
and Bates was engaged along with myself, looking for the
Merino Sheep, which had stray’d away, but found them again
before it was quite Dark _________

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Wednesday 14 September 1836

[, who arrived in South Australia on board the wrote.]

Wednesday 14th September.

This morning, the weather being beautiful, Field and I started after breakfast with our guns and penetrated nearly three miles into the interior which considering the height of the hills we found a very long and fatiguing walk. We met with no sport but the views from the top of the hills were beautiful. The soil in the valleys is excellent but that on the hills is shallow and mixed with rock and stones of many kinds, viz: lime-stone, coarse slate and an inferior kind of marble. We found some fine Cypress and Cedar trees, likewise daisies similar to those found in English meadows. Flinders mentions a peculiar feature of the country which we found very striking in today’s excursion. I allude to the combustion which a great part of the trees have undergone and which I can only attribute to the passage of the Electric fluid and not, as some have said, to the burning of the bush by the natives. My reasons for coming to this conclusion are first, that the same phenomenon exists in Kangaroo Is. Where there are no natives: and secondly, that the trees thus found are for the most part isolated, there being no traces of combustion around them – indeed I have in many instances found a large tree reduced almost to charcoal surrounded by and close to a cluster of others in a state of vigorous health. There are many speculations on this subject which will be, I doubt not, soon set at rest. If lightning had been the cause we shall most probably see its most recent effects in the summer and our intercourse with the natives will satisfy us as to its being their handywork or not. We dined at the tents and then came off.

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Thursday 15 September 1836

[, who arrived in South Australia on board the wrote.]

15 September-Fine weather, employed in surveying. My servant, Cooper, who had volunteered to go to Encounter Bay, returned with a tribe of natives, who soon became intimate with our men. Having now spent as much time as I could well spare in this little paradise, I made preparations for returning on board; and at two p.m., sent the surveying instruments on board, and at four embarked myself, leaving Messrs Pullen, Claughton and Jacob, and the men on shore, to embark the following day with the tents, &c. The natives were engaged to remain and take care of our garden.

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Thursday 15 September 1836

[, who arrived in South Australia on board the wrote.]

At last Cooper returned with
about a dozen of the tribe some of them fine looking
fellows & made themselves very useful there was given
them biscuit & Soldiers old clothes of which they were very
proud & in the evening by way of expressing their joy
at the white mans arrival they danced a corrobory. __
Ye ladies could you see a corrobory you’d blush
but now in the colony it is gone out of fashion
So I shall imagine I’m speaking to the Colonial
Cadet & give a brief but imperfect sketch of
the above dance. The men some supplied with a
couple of sticks are ranged near a few small embers
which is sparingly fed by one of the women who are
seated on the ground with their legs tucked under them [something?]
All’a Tuck resting on their Knees a skin (of some sort
chiefly Kangaroo)which they beat with their hands. It commences
with a low monotonous chant beating the stick’s the
dancers at the same time moving in slow
& [keeping?] very regular time at last it becomes loud and furious
but with every regularity maintained The contortions
of the body are numerous and all being in Natures only
dress, with the dull blaze emitted from the few embers
the noise to a New comer it exites almost a degree of terror & might
imagine a few of the inhabitens of Pandemonium
had broken loose. In some case they work themselves
up to such a state of exitement that the countenance
is truly terrific, but yet how soon they calm down the
next moment you’d not imagine the being before
you was the same.

[ Read the full journal extract ]


Thursday 15 September 1836

[, who arrived in South Australia on board the wrote.]

9 p.m. Thursday, 15th Sept.

After we had turned in last night Captain Martin came on board on his way to Kangaroo Island from his trip up the Gulf. He gave us a very favourable account of the country and the few natives he met with were peaceable – but as we are going the same road in a day or two we shall be able to judge for ourselves. After breakfast Martin, Hill and myself went on shore to the tents and had not long been there before our Sealer returned from Encounter Bay bringing with him eight of the natives who promised to take care of our garden. These men are much the same in appearance and belong to the same tribe as the two we saw on the Island. There were no women with them except those belonging to the Sealers. It appears that the small-pox commits great ravages against them as three of them were deeply pitted and one has lost an eye from the same disease. Two of them had congenital malformations – the most singular – of the arm, there being in the place of that useful member a shrivelled stump not more than ten inches in length with three small appendages the rudiments of fingers at the end of it. They are all more or less tattooed in a very rude way, the principal incisions being on the back and two very large ones of a similar shape over each blade-bone. Their faces are free from these mutilations which are made with pieces of flint. This tribe is a very small one – a great number being carried off yearly by disease and a still greater number being put to death shortly after their birth. They hold a …[pages torn from journal]

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Friday 16 September 1836

[, who arrived in South Australia on board the wrote.]

This 24 hours light winds and rain at times employd
prepairing for sea…
…  bless the Lord O my soul may my beloved wife and children
be the care of the all wise all mercifull Creator Redeemer & santifier

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Saturday 17 September 1836

[, who arrived in South Australia on board the wrote.]

This 24 hours gentle breeses from the NWd AM prepared to git
under weigh at noon unmoored ship and got under weigh
came to anchor faceing the setlement in 4 A fathom is a measure of depth in the imperial system. One fathom is equal to six feet or 1.83 metres. fathoms water
cleared the decks down and prepaired for sabath…

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Saturday 17 September 1836

[, who arrived in South Australia on board the wrote.]

Sept 17th Bates & Chandler have been busy at my Cottage
since Tuesday last, and to Day were assisted by Powell, in
the Eveng they all went to Kingscote, leaving me again quite alone

[ Read the full journal extract ]


Saturday 17 September 1836

[, who arrived in South Australia on board the wrote.]

17 September-Calm and fine; at nine, Messrs Pullen, Claughton, Jacob and Woodforde (surgeon) landed to walk to Yankalilla. I went in my gig to examine an inlet about two miles to the northward, where I appointed a meeting with these gentlemen, desiring Mr Field to get under way and proceed to Yankalilla as soon as he could. On landing at this little inlet, which I shall call Finniss Valley, I found a little cove fit to moor a vessel of 70 or 90 tons, in any weather, but there is only room for one; and there is a beautiful stream of fresh water running into the sea, where a boat may approach to within fifty yards of a good spot for filling water casks. On joining my shipmates on the rising ground above, we beheld a valley three times as extensive as the last, and equally rich in soil; there is abundance of wood all the way, yet not so thick but that agriculture might be pursued without the trouble of clearing. From this we walked to Yankalilla, over undulating ground of good quality, and wooded in the same manner as before mentioned; passing several little runs of water which are dry in summer, sometimes edging our way down to the sea-at others, bending inland, mounting and descending as the ground presented itself: but having just landed, we were all quite satisfied when the walk was over. At two p.m., I went on board and sent the tents on shore.

[ Read the full journal extract ]


Saturday 17 September 1836

[, who arrived in South Australia on board the wrote.]

From Rapid Bay we proceeded to a spot about nine
miles to the Northwd (up the Gulf) where we remained 4 days the
native name was Yankalila which the Colonel retained.
We were equally pleased with this spot as Rapid Bay. The
country presenting a park like appearance in rather disorder
from want of attention many spots completely ready for any agri-
-cultural purpose. We remained here but a short time the Colonel
being anxious to complete his examination. The first anchorage
after Yankalila we were greatly deceived in the appearance of
the country on a close examination which gave rise to the name
it now retains (Deception Bay)…

[ Read the full journal extract ]


Journals from passengers at sea:

Tuesday 13 September 1836

[, on board the wrote.]

Tuesday September 13. This morning the south east trade
wind reached us and we are now within 100 miles of the equator.
A conversation with the Governor, Mr Fisher, & Mr Jickling
to-day on the subject of the establishment of a Public
Library in the Colony, regarding which both Mr Fisher and
myself are exceedingly anxious. The governor is inclined
to throw cold water on our project. “It is of no use,” said he,
“what good will books do our Colony?” but I strongly
suspect neither Fisher nor myself will be deterred from
doing our conscientious duty by such an opinion. The
ship continues to be made a carpenter’s shop, – hot-houses
dog-houses and other sorts of houses for the Captain
are in progress, and there is from morning to night such a
complication of noises, hammering, sawing, planing,
that the Ladies & passengers and Emigrants generally
suffer dreadfully from these various annoyances.
Little regard indeed is paid to their comfort at any
time: poor Mrs Fisher has the carpenter’s shop precisely over
her bed, while that part of the Technically called a stern deck, the poop is an exposed partial deck on the stern (rear) of a ship. It forms the roof of the stern or ‘poop’ cabin. poop under which are the
cabins of the Governor’s family is carefully secured from
noise by being covered with trusses of hay. The Governor’s
dogs are allowed to run loose, bite, as they have done, the
Emigrants & crew at their pleasure, and to perform all
manner of beastlinesses where they have a mind; while
the dogs of the passengers are sedulously cooped up.
In a man-of-war it seems the Captain’s property and
chattels are always especially attended to; those belonging
to others must take their chance – that is the rule. It is
a pity Governor Hindmarsh should act upon it. Public
respect & popularity are not usually acquired by decided
acts of selfishness.

[ Read the full journal extract ]


Wednesday 14 September 1836

[, on board the wrote.]

Wednesday Sept. 14. Today it was ordered by the Governor that
the Emigrants should be instructed in the manual exercise.
In order that no objection should be made, the Gentlemen
passengers were first asked to A military exercise in rifle handling. drill , and they agreed to
do so with great good nature. The Emigrants were then
paraded and went through their exercise very respectably
for a first attempt. They are to be A military exercise in rifle handling. drilled regularly by
the corporal of Marines until they are perfectly au fait.
That an armed body should exist for the enforcement of
the laws in the event of popular or individual resist-
-ance may perhaps be necessary, but the idea which
appears to exist in some quarters, that they are required
as a means of defence or aggression against the natives
cannot be too soon repudiated. A hostile shot shall never
be fired against them if I can help it either by pen
or print; the proper force after all, would be a small
body of regular soldiers say 25 or 30, to be paid by the
Colony, and liable to do the requisite duty.

[ Read the full journal extract ]


Thursday 15 September 1836

[, on board the wrote.]

Thursday September 15. Crossed the line this afternoon
thermometer at 74. In the evening the ship was hailed
by Neptune, who announced his intention of paying us
a visit on the morrow. The Water sprite then burned his
blue light, sent up his rocket, and sailed gaily away in
his lighted car. Great preparations are making for the
Saturnalia, and amusing pictures are drawn by those
who have undergone the process of lathering shaving and
ducking for the comfort and edification of the uninitiated.

[ Read the full journal extract ]


Friday 16 September 1836

[, on board the wrote.]

Friday Sepr 16 Gloom seems to be daily becoming more
the natural element of the Buffalo. In place of the
mirth which last evening promised us, a most a gloomy state of mind. melancholy
crossing the line we have had. One of the sailors a young
man named Story, the only support of a widowed mother,
fell overboard last night while heaving the lead, The action or process of measuring the depth of water with a sounding line, a line marked at intervals of fathoms and weighted at one end. A fathom is a unit of length equal to 6 feet (1.83 metres). sounding
for a shoal marked in the Admiralty Charts but which is in
fact generally believed not to exist. He was missed in a few
minutes after the accident had taken place, and a boat
was lowered, but he was lost. To add to the misery of his
fate the poor fellow was an excellent swimmer, and
most probably suffered a horrible & lingering death. It
seems astonishing that the readiest and most efficient
means of salvation in such cases should not have been thought
of, and that the life buoy was not let go: it is provided with
a light and he might have seen it and swam to it, while
he could not see the boat. Since this accident the Sentry on
the poop has received orders to slip the life buoy at the cry
of “a man overboard”, without waiting for orders from the
officer of the watch. This might have been done before,
it may however yet be useful.

[ Read the full journal extract ]


Saturday 17 September 1836

[, on board the wrote.]

I have purposely avoided making a memorandum of the conveniences of our cabin until I should have had time to test them practically; it is now more than ten weeks since we came on board, and considering the time sufficient to enable me to ascertain their relative worth, with a view to the guidance of others who may follow my steps, I shall now describe them and the cabin itself. The cabin I occupy is the larboard stern cabin, besides the two stern windows, there is a ventilator on the deck about three feet in diameter which however is divided between mine and the adjacent cabin. Thus I have a sufficiency of air and light for all purposes. But there is an advantage in the possession of a stern cabin far beyond that of ventilation or even abundance of light: viz. the power of abstracting oneself from the company of the rest of the passengers. In our case, the companion ladder is between the stern cabin and the cuddy, so that when the door is shut, it is impossible to hear the never ceasing conversation in which some of the party are sure to be engaged. To be alone is the greatest luxury which we enjoy on board; were I the occupant of a cabin adjacent to the cuddy, I verily believe, that instead of passing my time agreeably, I should be suffering from a brain fever caused by the continual din and noise of my worthy fellow passengers…

In the list of ‘cabin comforts’ a filter stands preeminent. The water on board the Africaine is I should think as good as is generally found in ships; but I, who however am to a great extent a water drinker, should much feel the want of this little machine. Mine was purchased of James in the Poultry, and filters very brightly. By way of protection it is enclosed in the wickerwork.—I have two cabin lamps, and one candlestick: they are all useful. The candle is enclosed in the candlestick, and is forced up to the socket with a spring, and the whole has a universal joint to accommodate itself to the motion of the ship. By this I write andread. The night lanthorn was bought of Miller in Piccadilly, and is convertible into a variety of purposes: it is a dark lanthorn, a hand lanthorn, a chaise lamp, & a night lamp. The other is a nursery lamp upon Davy’s principle, with a kettle and saucepans to fix on the top: this afforded Harriet during her illness at the commencement of the voyage excessive comfort; by its means in about fifteen minutes I have been able to supply her in the course of the night with a cup of tea or arrow root, things which could not have been obtained by any other means… at all events I would recommend a few things to be procured for use in the cabin, amongst which I would name the following articles: — half a dozen bottles of brandy of the best quality in case of sickness; some dried fruits (such as figs, almonds & raisins, prunes) by way of dessert, a luxury which of course the ship does not provide, but which becomes almost a necessary to health if the voyage is undertaken at a time of the year when potatoes will not keep; some of Gamble’s preserved provisions, especially mutton broth and vegetables in the smallest canisters; some of [?Lemsan’s] biscuits in tins; and one each of sago, arrow root, and prepared groats for gruel…

[ Read the full journal extract ]


Next week

We bid farewell to Captain Morgan and the Duke of York as it sets sail for Hobart in company with the Lady Mary Pelham. On the Rapid Colonel Light continues slowly up the coast searching for fresh water and a harbour.  At the end of the week he anchors near present day Port Adelaide.  The passengers on the Africaine enjoy their sojourn at Cape Town, while the Buffalo heads for Rio.

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