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Week 35 - feasting on fish

[ 16th of October 1836 to 22nd of October 1836 ]
[ View related 'school content': Week 35: Pastimes ]

In South Australia

After several days of bad weather, Colonel Light is finally able to send the Rapid off to Kangaroo Island on 16 October to fetch supplies and bring over the surveyors from the Cygnet. For the rest of the week he must await its return and he spends the time in completing his surveys of the coast and writing reports. Dr Woodforde remains with him and from him this week we have some detailed reports of the hunting and fishing skills of the Aboriginal men who come to visit the camp. It is not clear whether these are the same men who he earlier called the ‘Encounter Bay tribe,’ or a different group. Woodforde calls them simply the ‘Cape Jervis tribe’, but he is very impressed with them, praising their skill in fishing and their general friendliness. Of course his perception of these men is entirely tempered by the attitudes he has brought with him and the language he uses reflects this. We would find it unacceptable today. On 16 October for example he writes: ‘Contrary to the opinion of most people I think that with kind treatment they may be as easily civilized as any other race of savages’. But at least he is prepared to learn as well as teach. Some days later he writes: ‘I have been engaged with one of the natives this evening learning the language and teaching him in return some words of English’. Nevertheless there is a warning in his earlier words. It seems that others hold different views.

Second Valley, c. 1838. (artist William Light) SLSA B7285.

At sea

The Africaine is making excellent progress  and Robert Gouger notes that they have travelled some 1221 miles in only six days – the fastest ‘run’ in Captain Duff’s experience. But all is not plain sailing aboard. Mary Thomas clashes with the A merchant ship’s officer next in rank below the first mate; also known as a ‘second officer’. second mate , whom she finds rude and unhelpful. After a series of confrontations Mary decides that enough is enough, and she writes a long, formal complaint to Captain Duff. We reproduce it here because it helps to show the kinds of silly personal feuds that developed so easily on these long voyages. Captain Duff seems to be a wise and experienced diplomat. He soothes Mary’s wounded pride and apparently finds a way to improve the A merchant ship’s officer next in rank below the first mate; also known as a ‘second officer’. second mate’s manners too.

These are skills apparently lacking in Captain Hindmarsh, although this week we have no complaints from George Stevenson. Perhaps he is happy for once! Instead we must rely on Young Bingham Hutchinson, whose diligent diary keeping tells us that the Buffalo is making steady progress. By the end of the week it is sailing in fine conditions near the mid-Atlantic Ridge and the young people can once again indulge in some A dance performed by four couples. It became popular in England after 1813. quadrilles and country dances on the deck.

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 16 October 1836

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

Sunday, 16th October.

The Brig being detained till today by contrary and strong winds got under weigh at daybreak for Nepean Bay, the wind being having moderated and the weather being very fine. Some of the natives showed much ingenuity this afternoon capturing several very fine fish of the salmon species. They descried the shoal from their huts – a distance of half a mile and upon a signal given each man dashed into the water with a small net under his arm and each succeeded in bringing out two, three or four enclosed in it in an incredibly short space of time. They immediately brought them to our tents and gave them to us, but we only took three from them, in return for which Colonel Light intends to give them a meal of beef. This tribe, i.e. the Cape Jervis tribe, have evinced much goodwill and not the slightest disposition to thieve. They are very useful to us fetching our wood and working in any way with great cheerfulness. Yesterday they were all rigged out in new jackets and trowsers and are promised each a new cap if they remain faithful. Contrary to the opinion of most people I think that with kind treatment they may be as easily civilized as any other race of savages. One of them who has lived with Wallend [Henry Wallen], the Chief Sealer, on the Island speaks a little English and understands much more, so he is a good interpreter. He generally accompanies me out shooting and fetches the game out of the water as well as any dog. He is much pleased when I kill a bird on the wing and expresses his surprise by the exclamation ‘Nurra-dourra”.

[ Read the full journal extract ]


Monday 17 October 1836

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

17 October-Light breezes and fine, with cold air. At six, thermometer 52, noon 95, at two p.m. 105, at four 85, at six 62, at nine 52.

[ Read the full journal extract ]


Monday 17 October 1836

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

… Stevens [Stephens] and Morphett called in just at dinner-time on their return from the Gulf. They are now with us and remain tonight. Bathed this morning for the first time.

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Tuesday 18 October 1836

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

Tuesday, 18th October.

The weather today is extremely warm and sultry – thermometer in the tent 100. Stevens [Stephens] and party left us this morning for Kangaroo Island after which I went out with my gun and Jacob and killed a brace of quail. We sent our dogs out with two of the native men this morning and they have just returned with a fine kangaroo. This is the third we have had since we encamped here. Colonel Light and I took our rods and lines down to the stream and caught five dogfish in less than two hours.

[ Read the full journal extract ]


Wednesday 19 October 1836

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

9 p.m. Wednesday, 19th October.

After our walk yesterday Jacob who was much fatigued and heated – contrary to my most urgent advise [advice] bathed in the fresh water stream which is extremely cold and in consequence is now confined to his bed suffering from a fever. I have not strayed far from the tents today but after the heat was over I again accompanied Colonel Light with Pullen to fish. Those we caught last evening were dressed for breakfast and proved extremely good tho’ small, and we have been equally successful this evening. The difference between the temperature of the mornings, evenings and mid-day is excessive. On Monday the range of the Thermometer in the tents was from 520 to 1050 .

[ Read the full journal extract ]


Thursday 20 October 1836

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

…I have been engaged with one of the natives this evening learning the language and teaching him in return words of English. They are very apt at pronouncing words but forget them the next minute. Jacob is still very ill.

[ Read the full journal extract ]


Friday 21 October 1836

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

21 October-Employed these two days in my surveys of the coast, drawings, and reports. All this day changeable; at night hard rain.

[ Read the full journal extract ]


Saturday 22 October 1836

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

Saturday Oct 22d The two Men have been employ’d all this Week
at making a new substantial Fence round the Paddocks and
attending to the Stock       _________         On Tuesday last I
had all the So Down Sheep shear’d and gave them a complete
dressing with Ointment, as they were very bad indeed of the Scab,
but think they are now cured

[ Read the full journal extract ]


Saturday 22 October 1836

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

22 October-Hard rain almost the whole day. At work on my chart.

[ Read the full journal extract ]


Saturday 22 October 1836

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

Saturday, 22nd October.

It rained hard the whole of last night and occasionally this forenoon. Until the tents were well wet the rain filtered thro’ them as thro’ a sieve so that our beds were rather damp. I went out alone with my gun after breakfast till dinnertime but killed nothing. After dinner I went with Colonel Light and Pullen to fish at the stream and we were successful. We sent our dogs out this morning and one of them was dreadfully torn by a kangaroo. I sewed the wound up and the poor creature seems much easier.

[ Read the full journal extract ]


Journals from passengers at sea:

Sunday 16 October 1836

[, on board the wrote.]

Sunday, Octr 16. Light winds & fine. Head E.S.E. Wind S.b W.
Out reefs, set tgt sails, royals, & tgt studg sails. 10.30. Divine
Service performed by Revd C. Howard. Noon. Do Wr, rather
cool weather. Miles run, 131 + 7214 = 7345. Lat. obs. 30E8′ So.
Longe 34E24′ Wt. P.M. Moderate breezes & fine, going 5 Knots.

[ Read the full journal extract ]


Thursday 20 October 1836

[, on board the wrote.]

OCTOBER 20.-This day the thermometer was reduced to freezing-point.

When we left London we had on board a young man of the name of Constable, who acted as second mate, but for some reason, which I do not know, he was left at the Cape of Good Hope… The absence of this young man from among the officers of the ship was regretted by many of the passengers, as he was very civil and obliging. The chief mate was just the contrary, and seemed to take a delight in annoying the intermediate passengers whenever he had an opportunity to do so… Among other instances in which he displayed his authority was that of removing the step-ladder, preventing us from going on deck, or occasionally keeping us there during his pleasure when we wished to return to our cabins. It so happened that the trapdoor by which access was obtained to that part of the hold where the ship’s stores were kept was on a level with the floor of my cabin, and only a few feet from it. The ladder by which we ascended to the deck rested on it, and was consequently removed and generally drawn up whenever the storekeeper had occasion to descend to the hold for supplies… It so happened that whenever the aforesaid store was opened we were almost sure to be half-smothered with dust. Moreover, ·a considerable quantity of straw and chaff were generally left for anyone to clear away who chose to do so, but being nearer to us than to any of the others, of course it fell to our share to dispose of it in the best way we could. This we did for a long time without complaint, but one day, a larger quantity of rubbish than usual being deposited close to our cabin door, and seeing no reason why those who left it there should not clear it away or cause it to be done, I went on deck with the intention of asking one of the sailors to remove it. Meeting Mr. Smith, I drew his attention to it, and requested that he should send someone with a broom for that purpose. Not only did he peremptorily refuse to send anyone, but replied to my request with the most insulting language, insomuch that I threatened if he behaved to me in that manner again I would complain to the captain. He told me I was welcome to do that, and, pointing to the quarter-deck, said, “There is the captain. Tell him what you please.” But the captain was not there at the time, or I would have applied to him immediately. Determined, however, to put a stop, if possible, to the mate’s insolence, I resolved to take his advice and appeal to the captain as the only way. Accordingly, the next day I addressed the following letter to Captain Duff:-

Sir-As I presume you will not knowingly suffer anyone on board this vessel to be in any way ill-treated, I consider myself justified in stating to you the particulars of an occurrence which happened a few days ago, in which I was grossly insulted by Mr. Smith, the chief mate, and which likewise led to an altercation last night on the deck, the circumstances of which I think you ought to be acquainted with. But before I proceed I beg leave to state that the complaint I am now about to make has no allusion whatever on my part to anything that passed on a former occasion, nor did I give Mr. Smith the slightest provocation to treat me in the manner he did, but I cannot, in justice to myself and my family, tamely submit to such repeated insults as we have experienced from him since we have been on board this vessel. You must be well aware that all those in the intermediate cabins, ourselves in particular, are greatly annoyed by the frequent opening of the hatchway leading to the hold, and that at all hours of the day, by which our ingress and egress are not only often prevented, but we must also put up with the dust and litter proceeding from the stores, with many other inconveniences, to which even the steerage passengers are not subjected, but all this we should not complain of, knowing it is unavoidable, if we could meet with that civility and attention which, as respectable persons, we think ourselves entitled to, for in this respect I speak in the name of all concerned, though the ungentlemanly behaviour it produced from the chief mate was directed to me alone. It happened, then, a few mornings since that the storekeeper had left a more than usual quantity of dust and dirt, which, as usual, was left for us to clear away, and, being opposite to my cabin, it was not very pleasing or agreeable. Mr. Thomas, therefore, sent a message to the mate requesting a broom and mop to enable us to clean it, but his answer was that he had neither, and if Mr. Thomas wanted them he might fetch them himself. This passed, and we took no further notice, being compelled to let the litter remain till a short time after, when I went on deck, and seeing Mr. Smith close by I pointed down the steps and requested that he would send someone to sweep away the dirt there, to which, with a scornful air, he replied, “Pray, Mrs. Thomas, who do you expect to clean it?” I said it certainly was not my place to do it, nor did I suppose that anyone there considered it their place to do so, that if we swept our own cabins it was surely sufficient without cleaning after the ship’s crew. He then asked me where our servants were, saying that we had too many servants, and if I expected anyone on board the vessel to be my servant or to do anything for me I was mistaken, to which I replied that it was not my servants’ place any more than mine to clean after his men, and supposing that we had brought no servants on board, how was it to be done then? “Done,” says he; “why, do it yourselves, to be sure.” This was his precise answer, to which I replied that I would not be insulted by anyone, and that if he behaved to me in that manner again I would complain to the captain. “There is the captain,” said he, “on the quarter-deck. Go and complain to him.” If you, Sir, had been there at the time, I would certainly then have made you acquainted with his conduct, as I cannot suppose that you or any gentleman in the cabin would suffer his wife to be insulted. Of course, I related what had passed to Mr. Thomas, and in consequence of Mr. Smith’s refusing to allow such a trifling request as mine to be complied with he forbade his men to assist the crew in any way whatever, which before they had done on all occasions, not only with his sanction, but particular desire, and he always felt a pleasure whenever their services were available in any way. Yesterday morning the same annoyance again occurred from the stores, when a quantity of chaff and straw was left and the same neglect ensued as before with regard to clearing it away. Therefore, when Mr. Thomas saw his men pulling the rope (for it seems Mr. Smith had asked them if they meant to mind what that foolish man said), he again forbade them, which he would not have done, notwithstanding his previous orders, could we be treated with common civility. But Mr. Smith has taken every opportunity to annoy and insult the passengers in this part of the vessel from the day we embarked to the present time. As another instance of his discourteous behaviour last night he prohibited the cook from baking any more bread for the intermediate berths, a luxury which we have seldom enjoyed since we came on board, but there being two loaves in the oven at the time, one belonging to me and the other to Mrs. Lewis, he compelled the cook to turn them out half-baked, and, of course, spoiled; but as there can be no reason why others should suffer on my account, and as I consider myself more especially the party aggrieved, I have taken upon myself to state these particulars, and now appeal to your justice as commander of this vessel and to your generosity as a man whether you will suffer such conduct to pass unnoticed. I am, Sir, your obedient servant, MARY THOMAS.

This letter was politely answered by Captain Duff assuring me that I did him justice in assuming that he would not knowingly suffer anyone on board the vessel to be uncivilly treated while he had the command of it, and that he would take care that there would be no cause for complaint in future. Whether Mr. Smith received a reprimand or not I do not know, but the next morning, to my surprise, he inquired if I wished first to go on deck, and added that the ladder would be replaced as soon as possible. From that day his churlishness seemed in a great measure to have left him, at least as far as the passengers were concerned, for I am not aware of anything unpleasant occurring afterwards to the end of the voyage.

[ Read the full journal extract ]


Friday 21 October 1836

[, on board the wrote.]

Octr 21st During the last week the weather has been squally & cold, sometimes 42E on the deck; several times the ship having been under reef-top sails, and our windows furnished with A strong shutter or plate fastened over a ship’s porthole or cabin window in stormy weather. dead lights. The distance however these winds have driven us is remarkable; during the last 6 days we have sailed in a direct line to the Colony 1221 miles! a run exceeding any which Capt Duff states he has ever before had.

[ Read the full journal extract ]


Saturday 22 October 1836

[, on board the wrote.]

Saturday, Octr 22. Light winds & hazy. Head E.S.E. Wind N.N.E.
Miles run, 124 + 8122 = 8246. Late 34E26′ So. Longe 18E13′ Wt.
P.M. Light winds & hazy wr. Lowered the cutter to pick up two
Mother Carey’s chickens, & a Cape pigeon which had been
shot: the albatross was too strong to be affected by the shot.
A dance performed by four couples. It became popular in England after 1813. Quadrilles & a country dance on 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 until 8 P.M.

[ Read the full journal extract ]


Next week: The Rapid brings the deputy surveyors and their stores to the mainland and Light prepares to divide his team. The Africaine passes Cape Leeuwin and encounters whales in the Great Australian Bight. A baby is born on the Buffalo and Stevenson argues with the Governor about the extent of his executive powers.

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