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Week 32 - Visions of the future

[ 25th of September 1836 to 1st of October 1836 ]
[ View related 'school content': Week 32: Planning the Economy ]

In South Australia

In Kingscote Samuel Stephens takes advantage of the John Pirie sailing to Hobart to write to George Fife Angas, enclosing a copy of his private journal. The tone of this letter is somewhat defensive.  Stephens stresses that he has ‘had a great deal to contend with’, and admits that he may well have ‘erred in some things’, but assures Angas that he is mindful of the need to pay a company dividend as soon as possible. This seems somewhat ambitious, even fanciful in the circumstances, but Stephens has plans for an ‘Agricultural Establishment’ at Yankalilla and recommends that a Bay Whale Fishery should also be established. ‘Fishing and Sheep Farming will be our two grand sources of Profit’, he writes, ‘Merchandise (trade and commerce) the next.  He is also aware that the time for the sale of the 563 ‘spare Acres of town land’ is near, but worries that he may well run out of cash in the interim.  Unfortunately this is the last we hear of Samuel Stephens directly.  If he continued to keep a private journal, it does not seem to have survived. 

Colonel Light, Woodforde and Pullen meanwhile, spend a frustrating week scouring the coast for the safe harbour a certain Captain Jones had described previously. In increasing anxiety they investigate every likely inlet from Holdfast Bay to the top of the gulf, but cannot find anything that seems to correspond to the description they have.   Light alternates ‘between hope and fear’, but finds some consolation in his first glimpses of the Adelaide Plains.  ‘I was enchanted with the extent of the plain to the northward of the Mount Lofty range’, he writes and stays glued to the looking glass as they sail slowly down the coast.

 

The maritime portion of South Australia from surveys of Captn. Flinders and Col. Light, Survr Genl.

The maritime portion of South Australia from surveys of Captn. Flinders and Col. Light, Survr Genl.

At sea

After some rough sailing conditions the weather abates enough for the Africaine to speak to a schooner on its way to the Swan River Colony. Robert Gouger learns that the main cargo on board is ‘spirits of various kinds’ – 100 puncheons to be precise, or one puncheon for every person at the Colony.  Since a puncheon could hold anything from 72 to 120 gallons, Gouger is not surprised to learn that the main problem at this colony is drunkenness!

On the Buffalo resentment mounts at the Governor’s many changes of course.  They are short of water and Stevenson is convinced that they have no choice but to call in to Rio, but Hindmarsh vacillates, and for several days alters course to steer in another direction.  Stevenson despairs. ‘The misfortune is that many may suffer bitterly for one man’s indiscretion’, he writes.

Language warning: Please note that some of 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:

Sunday 25 September 1836

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

Sunday, 25th September.

Both boats went away this morning to find the mouth of the river but they have as yet been baffled in their search – a deep channel was seen this afternoon from the mast-head taking a circuitous course nearly parallel with the shore and Field who took the jolly-boat to sound in it believes it to be that of the river, he does not, however, think that there is depth enough for the A sailing vessel with two square-rigged masts. Brig as in some parts of it he only found five feet at low-water, what the rise and fall is we have not ascertained. Colonel Light intends to make an early start tomorrow and I hope he will be more successful as it is far from pleasant lying at so great a distance from the land without being able to get a run. Bradley, our Boatswain, has been discharged from duty today for insolence to the First officer directly coming under the command of the captain. Ships’ Mates were responsible for supervising watches, crew, navigation and safety equipment, and sometimes even served as the ship’s doctor. First-Mate . This is the first rumpus we had had since we left England.

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Sunday 25 September 1836

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

25 September … I left the ship to examine what appeared to us a considerable inlet; the water shoaled very gradually, and about half a mile from our supposed inlet it became very shallow, and soon after the boat grounded. Seeing this could not be Jones’s harbour, which I was intensely anxious about, I resolved on returning to the A sailing vessel with two square-rigged masts. brig and running higher up the Gulf, but on getting on board, Mr Hill, A merchant ship’s officer next in rank below the first mate; also known as a ‘second officer’. second mate , told me he had seen from the masthead a river to the southward of considerable breadth…

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Monday 26 September 1836

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

26 September… After going some distance and finding it did not accord with Captain Jones’s description of the harbour he discovered, I determined on running higher up the Gulf…

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Tuesday 27 September 1836

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

…Colonel Light is of opinion that we have passed all the rivers on this side of the Gulf and that the one he went to yesterday is the one described by Captain Jones – the distance we kept from the shore while running along it renders this highly probable. Colonel Light intends to retrace his steps and while the A sailing vessel with two square-rigged masts. Brig keeps at a safe distance the surveying boat is to run close in so that nothing in the shape of a river can thus escape us…At daybreak this morning I went with the boat to haul up the net which we had left in the water all night – we found it full of fish but our disappointment to see nothing but dog-fish and sting-ray. Of the latter, bad and coarse as it was, we ate heartily at breakfast. It is not unlike Skait and I have ordered some of it to be hung for a day or two to give it a fair trial. The former were a very disgusting looking fish resembling the dog-fish of the English shores in all except the head which was bony and in shape like a gurnet. Anything in the shape of fresh provisions is so acceptable that, uninviting as these fish are, we intend having some fried for breakfast tomorrow. We have had no kangaroo for some time not having had an opportunity of landing our women and dogs.

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Tuesday 27 September 1836

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

27 September…we came to anchor in three fathoms, about four miles from the shore, latitude 34°31′ south. From this position we could distinctly see the head of the Gulf as laid down by Flinders, and the opposite shore-nothing could look much worse, mangroves and very low swampy looking ground seemed to surround this bight. I now despaired of ever finding the beautiful harbour described by Captain Jones, but the jolly-boat with Mr Field was sent in shore to see if anything like an inlet could be found…

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Tuesday 27 September 1836

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

My Dear Sir,
…Nothing is yet done (or rather nothing yet appears to have been done towards paying a Dividend, but I assure you, that most deliberately & coolly, I at this moment consider the shares of the South Australian Company S.A.C. to be worth more than I ever expected they would be in so short a time – In four or five days Deo Volente – God willing. (D.V.) I shall go over to Cape Jervis with the view of Discharging the “Emma” on her arrival at “Yankalilla” & there forming forthwith an Agricultural Establishment, for which purpose I think of employing that Vessel to fetch up Stock. The John Pirie must keep at work fetching Sawn Timber as there is no timber here or there that is worth a rush for building. I wish I had 3 or 4 more such handy & roomy little Craft as the “Pirie” – I could employ them so as to return us a handsome Profit & I hope you will press upon the Board the propriety of sending out more whale ships – Nothing can be more suitable than the “Lady Mary Pelham”, she is exactly the thing. – Our two whalers intend to return here next May & take the Black Whale season (in which they can hardly help doing well) & then after refreshing – Proceed on an Eight months Cruise for Sperm & this is the course all our ships (except very large ones) had better pursue…

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Wednesday 28 September 1836

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

28 September…; I was now full of hope that Jones’s harbour was at last found, and at one p.m. came to an anchor in our former berth, to await the arrival of Messrs Pullen and Claughton… At one p.m. Mr Pullen returned, reporting his entrance into the northern channel, &c.; no fresh water was seen, and the channel, though broad and deep at first, was reduced to A fathom is a measure of depth in the imperial system. One fathom is equal to six feet or 1.83 metres. one fathom water a short distance from the mouth. He further stated that there were two separate channels, thus forming two islands. This was so different to the account given by Jones that I felt a great disappointment…

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Wednesday 28 September 1836

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

Wednesday 28th Sept At ½ past 6 Claughton
4 men & myself with 3 days provisions left the A sailing vessel with two square-rigged masts. Brig
and stood in for the shore…
About 2 o clock by following the shore close
found ourselves in a deep bight formed by the main…
After pulling about a
mile I found the flood which was now making
in a contrary direction to the one I wished to go
I was fully convinced of there being another outlet, we
pulled on, but the men were beginning to flag when
on rounding a point to our great joy at a considerable
distance a boat was seen under sail. This circumstance gave
me great pleasure as my conjecture on first
entering this channel was fully proved…
Now was prepared for supper could not go on shore to make a fire
so lit one in an iron pot, spread our awning (not unlike the tilt of a
waggon) and prepared to make ourselves snug. After getting some
tea (the greatest luxury a man can have after fatigue which I have
often proved) we now began to prick for the softest plank which necessary
being accomplished we lay down to sleep and awoke next mor-
-ning as much refreshed as if we had slept in the softest of beds.

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Thursday 29 September 1836

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

Thursday, 29th September…Pullen has returned with the surveying boat but is not certain as to the non-existence of a river, having seen a deep wide creek which he did not examine. Captain Light intends going himself tomorrow…

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Friday 30 September 1836

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

30 September…At the end of this reach, a large inlet appeared, still keeping a southerly direction; but as I was anxious to examine to the eastward, we ran about one mile in that direction, when another creek appeared in a line with Mount Lofty; into this I bent my course, with the strong hope of finding it prove the mouth of some fresh water stream from the mountains… I landed for the purpose of tracing on shore the source or direction of this creek, but the swamp and mangroves checked me entirely, therefore I returned to the A class of net fishing boats used on the Thames estuary. The Rapid’s boat was built specially for the Colonization Commissioners by W.T. Gulliver of Wapping hatch-boat , which being now afloat, we got under way; and having now fully persuaded myself that no part of this harbour could be that described by Captain Jones, I resolved on returning to the A sailing vessel with two square-rigged masts. brig , to run down the coast again, and see if by any chance we could have missed so desirable a shelter; but my mind was so impressed with the capabilities of this place, that it was my determination, should we be fortunate enough to discover the other, to return again to this as soon as I had made the first necessary survey…

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Friday 30 September 1836

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

30th This morning the Colonel with 4 men & myself left the A sailing vessel with two square-rigged masts. Brig
with the A class of net fishing boats used on the Thames estuary. The Rapid’s boat was built specially for the Colonization Commissioners by W.T. Gulliver of Wapping Hatch Boat & proceed to the sands. The depth of water we got
in the sea reach was quite enough for any purpose, at the extreme
of the second (a long & splendid reach) we bore away through
the channel I came though yesterday (now styled North
channel & eventually likely to become the chief anchorage) and
followed a large creek diverging from it towards the Hills
We carried good water for a considerable distance, at last
were effectually stopped by the shoals there being no good
landing or appearance of Fresh water determined on returning
& renew the examination after visiting Port Lincoln. __

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Saturday 1 October 1836

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

Colonel returned early this morning without having discovered any river, but there are many creeks running inland from the Channel in some of which the water is brackish…

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Saturday 1 October 1836

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

Oct 1st This Morng I got G. Bates to Saw off part of a
Horn, from One of the Merino Rams, in order to get at a Wound
that was underneath it, and which the Animal recd on the
first Day of being Tether’d by plunging about to get his
liberty, when the Cord slip’d under his Horn and cut his Neck
severely, since which time it has contd getting worse, on acct
of not being able to apply any remedy, for the above mention’d
piece of Horn being right upon the part most Wounded —
Powell and Chandler have been engaged at the new Fence, Yestdy
and to Day, while G. Bates has been employ’d among the
Stock and sometimes at the Fence, during all the Week, but
this Eveng left us to accompany Mr Stephens, on a visit
to the Main-Land with which he is well acquainted  _______

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Saturday 1 October 1836

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

1 October…Running down the coast, I was enchanted with the extent of the plain to the northward of the Mount Lofty range; and as we had very little wind, our progress was slow, and consequently more time for observation; all the glasses in the ship were in requisition. At length seeing something like the mouth of a small river, and a country with trees so dispersed as to allow the sight of most luxuriant green underneath, I immediately stood in for it, and at fifteen minutes past four p.m. came to an anchor in three and a half A fathom is a measure of depth in the imperial system. One fathom is equal to six feet or 1.83 metres. fathoms in mud and weeds, about one and a half miles from the mouth of the river…

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Journals from passengers at sea:

Monday 26 September 1836

[, on board the wrote.]

Monday, Septr 26. Moderate & fine. Course S.S.E. Wind E.b N.
Very busy drilling both labourers & their masters.
A dozen little pigs born last night, eleven doing well.
Noon. Miles run, 124 + 5577 = 5701. Lat. 19E13′ South.
Longe Rio Janeiro, distant 890 miles, & bearing W.½So.
P.M. Light winds & fine. A dance performed by four couples. It became popular in England after 1813. Quadrilles & country dances on deck.

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Tuesday 27 September 1836

[, on board the wrote.]

Tuesday Sepr 27. After obstinately persevering in taking the
ship out of our course for the last four days, the Captain has
once more altered his mind and we are again steering for
Rio. We have lost from four to five hundred miles by this
unaccountable and to my view unwarrantable proceeding,
but it is useless to complain or remonstrate. My position
precludes me from doing more than stating here what are
the opinions and feelings of every individual of common
sense on board, and I record them more in sorrow than in
anger. We are at present six or seven days sail from Rio;
had we not madly altered our course on the 24th we should
have been, to-day, with the wind as it has stood ever since,
within three hundred miles of our port

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Wednesday 28 September 1836

[, on board the wrote.]

Wednesday Septr 28th The wind now subsided into a calm, which enabled us to speak with a A schooner is a vessel with two masts, the main mast is taller than the forward mast and the largest sail on each mast is a fore and aft sail. schooner on her way to Swan River. Her cargo contained amongst other things spirits of various kinds, equal in quantity to 100 puncheons which the Capt regarded as his most profitable investment. One 100 puncheons to a of 1600 persons! [sic] One puncheon to 16 persons – men, women & children! The cost of this importation would suffice to pay the passage of 100 labourers to the Colony, or thereabouts: a mode of expenditure infinitely more profitable to the Colony, seeing that the main cause of difficulty there, is the want of labourers. Capt Tobin, the commander of this A schooner is a vessel with two masts, the main mast is taller than the forward mast and the largest sail on each mast is a fore and aft sail. schooner has resided in the Colony 4 years & says that the chief bane of the Colony is Drunkenness – to this he attributes greater political evils than the scarcity of labour for, he says, “the labourers we have there: from intoxication will scarcely ever perform three days work together”!

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Thursday 29 September 1836

[, on board the wrote.]

SEPTEMBER 29.-This was Michaelmas Day, and the roughest we had yet seen since we had been on board. Not that there was much wind, but a tremendous sea burst over the decks and poured down the hatchways like a river, completely drenching all that came in its way. Our opposite neighbour, intending to go on deck, had just left his cabin when a wave came down over his head and gave him so complete a shower-bath that he was obliged to return and change his clothes; yet we had the satisfaction of knowing that the wind was fair and that we were proceeding at a rapid rate.

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Friday 30 September 1836

[, on board the wrote.]

SEPTEMBER 30.-Last night exceedingly rough weather, and this morning the sea still running mountains high, but indescribably beautiful. Well did the psalmist say, “They that go down to the sea in ships and occupy their business in great waters, these men see the works of the Lord and His wonders in the deep.”

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Saturday 1 October 1836

[, on board the wrote.]

Saturday October 1. To-day at 12 instead of being at
anchor in the harbour of Rio de Janeiro we are still 230
miles distant from the coast of Brazil. The wind this
evening blows directly in our teeth. No one will envy the
Governor’s feelings at the announcement of a foul wind.
The misfortune is that many may suffer bitterly for one
man’s indiscretion.

[ Read the full journal extract ]


Next week: Light continues to survey the coast and is more and more impressed by the Adelaide Plains. The Buffalo reaches Rio at last and finds that there is great interest in the plans for South Australia.

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