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Week 34 - a tempest

[ 9th of October 1836 to 15th of October 1836 ]
[ View related 'school content': Week 34: Aboriginal Perspectives ]

In South Australia

Light continues his exploration of the coast, although he is beginning to doubt the existence of the harbour Jones described. For the record he copies Jones’ description into his journal, which allows us to be fairly certain that the anchorage in question is Port Adelaide, but clearly this was not obvious to either Light or Pullen when they first examined it. They head south again, looking for the river one of the Aboriginal women tells them they have missed, but once again they are disappointed. Although it is the Sabbath, Woodforde sets off to do some shooting, excusing himself by arguing that they need the fresh provisions. Carelessly he expends all his ammunition and gets a fright when he comes upon five ‘native huts’. Luckily for him perhaps there is no one there, ‘and we resumed our journey unmolested, but at a quicker pace than we had hitherto walked,’ he writes.

The Rapid heads back to Rapid Bay, where Light is relieved to run into Samuel Stephens and John Morphett, who confirm the arrival of the Cygnet some weeks before. Light can now split his surveying team, leaving him free to examine Port Lincoln while the others continue charting the Gulf.  In his diary this week Woodforde gives us an amusing insight into how the others see the Colonial Manager, (who Woodforde refers to as ‘little Stephens (our Nepean Bay friend)’), and how his relationship with Charlotte Beare is regarded. ‘Little Stephens has made the “Literally meaning honourabl compensation, amende honourable was a public apology or reparation made to satisfy the honour of a person wronged.amende honourable ” since we left the Island by marrying a girl whom he had been living with in a discreditable manner’, he writes. It makes us wonder whether this was the general perception of the marriage.

In Woodforde’s diary entry for 13 October we also have the first confirmation that Light is travelling with a ‘lady’.  She is Maria Gandy, his partner of some years and she is accompanied by her two brothers William and Edward. Light himself is becoming increasingly anxious at the many delays caused by bad weather and their inability to fix on a suitable harbour. On 15 October he sits down to write ‘to the Commissioners, with a mind worn down with anxiety in consequence of such repeated bad weather checking our work, and the dread of having a host of emigrants out before I knew where to land them.’ On reflection it seems foolhardy to say the least to have sent the surveying party out just a few months ahead of the settlers. The ‘planned settlement’ was not so well planned after all!

 

Watercolour by Colonel William Light depicting the surveying brig ‘Rapid’ riding out a storm off Rapid Bay while held by two anchors on October 12th and 13th, 1836. Image courtesy of SLSA. PRG280/1/41/286

At sea

On board the Africaine Mary Thomas sits up all night through a terrifying storm, keeping her own lonely vigil in her cabin. ‘I have often said that I would like to witness a storm at sea,’, she writes, ‘but then I meant myself to be on dry land and only a spectator of the warring elements, for little did I conceive the terrors of such an awful scene.’ Robert Gouger notes Captain Duff’s comment that ‘he never saw the sea higher, or had so severe a gale’.  By the next day all is calm again, but it is very cold and they even have a light snow fall. They are near an isolated little island called St Paul’s, a noted fishing spot, and the captain considers a short stop there for some fresh fish, but they are making such good progress that he decides instead to make the most of the fine sailing conditions.

 

Barque Africaine in the Indian Ocean, Wednesday 12 October 1836. JM Skipper, 1836. Image courtesy of the National Library of Australia

The Buffalo meanwhile is still in RioYoung Bingham Hutchinson seems to accompany the Governor and his family everywhere. Later we will learn the reason for this. In between his visits on shore he supervises the loading of supplies, some plants intended for trial in South Australia, and yet more livestock. On 12 October they are off once again, although George Stevenson is no happier for his visit to Rio. ‘The Buffalo seems to be in a more inextricable confusion than ever,’ he writes with heavy sarcasm, ‘half the men scarcely sober, then other half fit for nothing from the effects of the gross intemperance they have been permitted to indulge in. A fresh supply of poultry, & as if the poor emigrants had not nuisance around them enough already, eight or ten half grown hogs which the Captain purchased at Rio a bargain have been added for their health and comfort.’ By the next day it seems that half the ship is ready to rise up in protest, as Hindmarsh unwisely tries to reduce their water rations from five pints to four to feed the extra animals, at the same time refusing water to all dogs but his own. ‘But the expression of disgust was too strong & general upon the subject to be resisted’, Stevenson reports, ‘& the order was rescinded in the course of the evening.’ It is hard to know whether Stevenson’s views are widely shared by others on board, but if they are, it is clear that Hindmarsh has made a poor beginning in his role as governor.

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:

Sunday 9 October 1836

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

Sunday, 9th October.

Claughton and I again went on shore after dinner with our guns and killed sufficient fowl with yesterday’s sport for two meals. The great scarcity of fresh provisions from which most of us have suffered more or less could alone justify our thus breaking the For most Christians the Sabbath is Sunday, the day they celebrate their religion. For other Christians and for Jewish people the Sabbath is Saturday. Sabbath and I feel confident that neither of us would have done it for mere pleasure. We had expended all our ammunition and were returning towards the ship with empty guns when we found ourselves close upon five native huts which as we had no means of defence created a little alarm. It turned, however, that they were vacant and we resumed our journey unmolested but at a rather quicker pace than we had hitherto walked…

[ Read the full journal extract ]


Monday 10 October 1836

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

we proceeded down the coast in search of the river the native woman had mentioned. At half past one p.m. To ‘heave to’ is to reduce a ship’s sails and adjust them so they counteract each other and stop the ship making progress. It is a safety measure used to deal with strong winds. hove to abreast of the river, and sent Mr Pullen in the A light, narrow ship’s boat that could be rowed or sailed. gig to examine the entrance. At ten past two he returned, and reported his seeing a large river for some distance, but the bar of sand having such a surf over it that he was nearly upset. Again disappointed in my hopes of finding Jones’s harbour, I now felt fully convinced that no such thing could exist on this coast, at least as described by him. Captain Jones’s account says:

There are several other streams of fine water all along the eastern side of the Gulf St. Vincent. Sturt River is always open to the sea, but the others are closed by a bar of sand during the summer, through which the water filters. The inlet (mis-called by Sturt Sixteen-mile Creek) is a stream of fresh water, and is much deeper and wider than the rest. About fifteen or twenty miles north of this river, he discovered a fine harbour, sheltered by an island at its entrance; the southern passage through which he entered is about one mile wide, with three and a half to four A fathom is a measure of depth in the imperial system. One fathom is equal to six feet or 1.83 metres. fathoms water; he anchored here 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 , and remained a day and a night. He did not land on the main, but was on shore on the island, which is about three miles in circumference; it is sandy, but there is an abundance of fresh water on it, as well as some streams running into the harbour from the main land…

[ Read the full journal extract ]


Tuesday 11 October 1836

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

Tuesday, 11th October

… About one we descried a boat steering for us and it was soon alongside when we found it contained little Stephens (our Nepean Bay friend) and Mr. Morphett a Land Agent who had come out in the “Cygnet” which vessel we were all delighted to hear had arrived safe on the 11th. of last month. They had, as we suspected, put into Rio for water. They have had two births on board, one since their arrival and one off the Island. Little Stevens has made the “Literally meaning honourable compensation, amende honourable was a public apology or reparation made to satisfy the honour of a person wronged.amende honourable” since we left the Island by marrying a girl whom he had been living with in a discreditable manner. She is the sister of an industrious man by the name of “Bear” – the same whose wife became insane on the passage out.

[ Read the full journal extract ]


Tuesday 11 October 1836

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

…At a quarter to six got under way, light variable winds from the S.W. At noon we observed a boat coming towards us; at two p.m. hove to for the boat, which brought Mr Morphett and Mr Stephens. From these gentlemen we learned the arrival of the Cygnet at Nepean Bay, and that great part of the stores were already landed, and that the party had begun to hut themselves. I now resolved upon going into Rapid Bay, and after landing some stores there, to send the brig to Kangaroo Island, to fetch over the Assistant Surveyors, that they might be employed in the survey on this side of the Gulf, during my examination of Port Lincoln…

[ Read the full journal extract ]


Wednesday 12 October 1836

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

…The natives we left in care of the garden have proved honest and are here to welcome our return and claim their reward. Our garden is looking well the seeds having nearly all come up.

[ Read the full journal extract ]


Wednesday 12 October 1836

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

Light airs from the eastward, and very fine weather; we all felt in high spirits, the air had a freshness quite exhilarating, and the idea of winter and gales being now over, we might set to work without any hindrances except what usually and unavoidably attend the commencement of such an undertaking…

[ Read the full journal extract ]


Thursday 13 October 1836

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

Thursday, 13th October.

The gale increased last night and blew with such violence that we were in momentary expectation of having our tent blown away. Jacob and I were the only two Officers on shore and in the night the carpenter and one of the labourers broached the rum cask and got dreadfully drunk. The latter was nearly dead this morning when I drew him out of the sand in which he was nearly buried and to make matters worse the tide rose so much higher than usual in the night that it floated our two boats that had been hauled up above high water mark. A box of carpenter’s tools was washed out of the surveying boat and nearly all of them are lost. Last night was the first I have slept on shore since we left England. A more uncomfortable one I never passed and it would not require many such to make me wish myself on board again. The A sailing vessel with two square-rigged masts. Brig has ridden out the gale bravely which proves that the anchorage is good. The weather moderated about noon and at 4 p.m. the Captain and Lady with Pullen and party joined us and all things are going on smoothly. I sent two of our natives to hunt with our dogs and they have captured a fine kangaroo which will be sufficient to feed all hands for four days.

[ Read the full journal extract ]


Thursday 13 October 1836

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

13 October-Strong gales and a high sea. All the forenoon the ship pitched very much, but she held on well; at one p.m. it began to moderate, and by four we had fine weather. I went on shore, and we landed a few more things the same evening.

[ Read the full journal extract ]


Friday 14 October 1836

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

Friday, 14th October.

We have been busy all day putting our tents to rights and have just returned from our native’s fire where they entertained us with their native dance called by them A word from the Sydney area, in common usage by the 1830s to refer to a dance or ceremony performed by Australian Aboriginal people.“Corroborey”. It is chiefly characterized by feats of activity and violent contortions of muscle having nothing of grace in its composition. They dance it to a very monotonous harsh kind of vocal music, constantly repeating the same words. After the dance was over I played them an air on the flute. They seemed very much pleased but did not evince any great surprise.

[ Read the full journal extract ]


Friday 14 October 1836

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

Thursday 14th Visited by the Natives dist-
-ributed amongst them a few red jackets &
trousers old ordnance stores which we were furn-
-ished with for that purpose, they were very
much pleased by them.

[ Read the full journal extract ]


Saturday 15 October 1836

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

15 October-The few remaining things left yesterday were landed early this morning. In the forenoon, I was employed in arranging the disposition of tents, &c. And the afternoon writing to the Commissioners, with a mind worn down with anxiety in consequence of such repeated bad weather checking our work, and the dread of having a host of emigrants out before I knew where to land them.

[ Read the full journal extract ]


Journals from passengers at sea:

Sunday 9 October 1836

[, on board the wrote.]

Sunday, Octr 9. Heavy showers. Walked with the Hindmarshes –
Attended Divine Service on board HM Ship Dublin (50).
The Governor introduced me to Sir Graham Eden Hammond.
Dined & took tea with the Hindmarshes in the cabin.

[ Read the full journal extract ]


Monday 10 October 1836

[, on board the wrote.]

Monday, Octr 10. Showery weather. Completed water again.
People busy washing clothes. Up tgt yards. Got
two mules on board & stowed them in the launch.

[ Read the full journal extract ]


Tuesday 11 October 1836

[, on board the wrote.]

Tuesday, Octr 11. Cloudy weather. Unmoored Ship, & crossed
royal yards. Received a number of banana, pine,
cactus, & other plants, as emigrants to South Australia.

[ Read the full journal extract ]


Wednesday 12 October 1836

[, on board the wrote.]

OCTOBER 12.-Although several times we had had very high winds and rough weather we had not as yet had anything that could be called a storm, but this day and the following night we were destined to experience such a one as the oldest sailor on board had not seen for many years, and in which they declared many a vessel would have foundered and gone down. In the morning there was nothing more than a stiff breeze, but about noon it rose considerably, and continued to increase till it became a complete hurricane. The vessel plunged and rolled from side to side in such a manner that those who had never been to sea can have no idea of, and the waves dashed over the ship with fearful violence. The captain, mates, and crew were upon the deck the whole night. For myself, I neither undressed nor lay down, but continued sitting at my cabin door, listening to and watching the progress of the storm, which from 9 to 12 o’clock was truly awful. The wind then lowered a little for about an hour, when it again rose with redoubled fury, and so continued till daylight. Then it ceased blowing with violence, but the agitation of the sea continued unabated for several hours.

Fortunately our lamp, which hung midway between the cabins, and which was usually extinguished at 10 o’clock, was on this occasion suffered to burn the whole night. I was very glad of such a companion, as I was sitting alone, being, I believe, the only passenger who was so foolish, it may be called, as to sit up. But I could not be satisfied otherwise, for had an accident occurred we would have been instantly overflowed, as, notwithstanding the hatches were close shut, the water frequently came over the decks with such force as to pour through the crevices in torrents. About midnight a sailor came down with a pail and a mop to soak it up, and again at 6 o’clock in the morning, when, as I thought, the storm being over, we would have no more for that time. I followed with a cloth, and made the floor as dry as I could, but had scarcely finished when a tremendous wave dashed through a square hole which had been left open, and not only completely deluged the part which the sailor and I had been so industriously endeavouring to dry, but also overflowed my own cabin, which till then had escaped such a disaster.

I could not help laughing, though I was well drenched myself, to see our work so quickly undone, but the only remedy was to do it again, which I did without the help of the sailor, who probably was not aware of what had happened.

I have often said that I would like to witness a storm at sea, but then I meant myself to be on dry land and only a spectator of the warring elements, for little did I conceive the terrors of such an awful scene. Yet, as it pleased God to bring us safely through the danger, I am not now sorry that I have heard the terrific roar of the winds and the rush of the mighty waters, though I candidly confess that I do not wish to hear them in like manner again. We had one satisfaction, however, and that was that the wind, though violent, was still in our favour, and sent us swiftly on.

[ Read the full journal extract ]


Wednesday 12 October 1836

[, on board the wrote.]

Wednesday, Octr 12. Light airs & fine. N.E. 5.30. Weighed & made
sail.

[ Read the full journal extract ]


Wednesday 12 October 1836

[, on board the wrote.]

Wednesday Octr 12. Off with a fair wind, but the Buffalo seems
to be in more inextricable confusion that ever; half the men
scarcely sober, the other half fit for nothing from the effects of the
gross intemperance in which they have been permitted to indulge
A fresh supply of poultry, & as if the poor emigrants had not
nuisance around them enough already, eight or ten half grown
hogs which the Captain purchased at Rio a bargain have been
added for their comfort & cleanliness. The Captain’s strict orders from
the Admiralty were to proceed without touching at any port unless
in case of necessity. On a very short allowance of water, we might
have gone on to the Cape; & it was to avoid a measure of this kind
that we came a couple of thousand miles & more out of our track to
Rio. And now what has been the first step taken by the Captain
on leaving this port? Why to do the very thing he came here professedly
to avoid, to reduce the allowance of water to each passenger and
emigrant one pint a day! Besides the mules & hogs, the pens are
filled up with his Excellency’s turkeys, guinea fowls, geese and
poultry, & they must have water; so to accommodate them, we
are thus treated! But this is quite consistent with his general conduct
which is daily becoming more offensive.

[ Read the full journal extract ]


Thursday 13 October 1836

[, on board the wrote.]

Thursday, Octr 13. Fresh breezes & fine. Wind N.E. Course S.E.
Allowance of water 5 pints a day: met with a heavy
disaster – upset my water bottle, & lost a quart of its contents

[ Read the full journal extract ]


Thursday 13 October 1836

[, on board the wrote.]

Thursday Octr 13. To-day at 12 upwards of 120 miles from Rio
This evening, Mr Fisher, the resident Commissioner fell down on deck
in an epileptic fit, from which he seemed to suffer much. From the
coolness with which his family looked on amid the general alarm I appre-
-hend that he is subject to such attacks. If the Commissioners at home did
not know of the fact, I think it would be right to inform them, as no
provision that I know of has been made to carry on the duties of his
situation in the event of his being suddenly incapacitated. Another characte
ristic bit of authority on board to-day. The dogs belonging to the passengers
have been refused their modicum of water; those belonging to the Captain
were not included of course. Not to say a word on the score of humanity,
popularity is known to be very fleeting & his Excellency therefore takes
no care to secure even the smallest portion of that perishable commodity
But the expression of disgust was too strong & general upon the subject
to be resisted, & the order was rescinded in the course of the evening
in the hope that the malcontents would be duly sensible of the
favor done them by the non-exercise of the power possessed at sea
by a Captain in the Royal Navy!

[ Read the full journal extract ]


Friday 14 October 1836

[, on board the wrote.]

Octr 14th The morning of the 12th opened  brightly, but about 11 o’clk it blew so heavily that we were  placed under double-reefed topsails, & the wind increasing the Capt ordered the Carpenter to put in the dead lights at our windows. The wind still increased till 2 o’clk the next morning when it blew – to use the Capts words “a very severe gale”. The sea broke over the ship, with a shock like that of thunder, & when I went on deck about midnight I found the Capt anxious as to the safety of the ship – not so much from the effect of the gale, as from the violence of the sea, which was, to use a hackneyed phrase “running mountains high”. Towards morning the wind abated, & yesterday the good ship “Africaine” was again persueing her course without having sustained any injury beyond the loss of main-top sail, which was torn into shreds. Capt Duff informs me that he never saw the sea higher, or had so severe a gale. This morning we passed the singular little Island of St Paul’s. It had been the Capts intention to stay here for a few hours to procure fish, but the wind was blowing so favourably that the prosecution of the voyage was too tempting for delay.

[ Read the full journal extract ]


Next week

Light remains at Rapid Bay completing his charts and Dr  Woodforde is impressed by the skills of the men they meet from the Rapid Bay tribe. On the Africaine Mary Thomas has an altercation with the first mate.

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One Response to “Week 34 – a tempest”

  1. Pauline October 11, 2011 at 1:12 pm #

    Just a note about Light’s ‘lady’ companion. Sorry to see that there wasn’t much about her here but then that’s typical of women’s history. Perhaps you’ll be interested to know that the Thebarton Historical Society and residents of Maria Street, Thebarton are working together to create a Maria Gandy Memorial (Colonel William Light’s housekeeper/carer from 1836-1839.

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