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Week 40 - Finally! The harbour is found

[ 20th of November 1836 to 26th of November 1836 ]
[ View related 'school content': Week 40: Commodious Harbour ]

In South Australia

Colonel Light is a relieved man. He has identified the harbour that will become Port Adelaide and is excited by what he sees. ‘[O]ne of the finest little harbours I ever saw is now fairly known’ he writes, adding that it is ‘more extensive, safe and beautiful, than we could even have hoped for.’ He sits down immediately to share his news with the Commissioners in London. In his mind’s eye he can already see it as a busy port, once ‘improved’ by a ‘little human industry’. Since so much of the subsequent history of South Australia stems from this decision, we include a lengthy excerpt from his report here, along with a second report from George Kingston confirming Light’s opinion of the country inland. We can see clearly in this report that Light is by now almost certain that this will be the site of the capital, but he must still go to Port Lincoln to inspect that anchorage before he can confirm it. He is also profoundly relieved to find that the settlers at Holdfast Bay now agree with him. Their early reservations (loudly expressed) have disappeared.

"Port Lincoln, South Australia" engraved by T.Heawood after a picture by J.C.Armytage, c.1873. Image courtesy ancestryimages.com

At Holdfast Bay we catch up with Robert Gouger, who has been too busy to write for some time. He and his wife Harriet are settling into their tent, after much laborious trudging back and forth with their possessions along a sandy track from the beach. Harriet is by now advanced in pregnancy and remained on board until the tent was in place. Like all the settlers they are tormented by mosquitoes and flies, but are also rather disconcerted to find other more alarming insects – centipedes, huge ants and a scorpion – invading their tent. Surprisingly, no-one seems to have encountered a snake yet. The climate is also proving more trying than they had anticipated. Gouger is surprised by the intensity of the heat, but even more by the sudden changes of temperature, recording that on one day the temperature ranged from 105E to 50E within 12 hours. It has also been very wet, with ‘frequent gales’ – the same gales that are causing so much frustration to Colonel Light. Gouger is lucky: his tent is a ‘double’, with two layers of canvas. But most of the emigrants have only ‘singles’, which cannot keep out the rain.  It is a bedraggled little settlement during the frequent storms.

In Rapid Bay Dr Woodforde is also suffering from the heat.  As a man of science, he takes note of the daily temperatures, and on 20 November records that the temperature reaches 123°F (50°C) in his tent during the day, before falling to 60°F (15°C) at night. No wonder they are all feeling weary! Many are also suffering from opthalmia, a painful inflammation of the eyes very common in nineteenth century Australia, although his suggestion that it was caused by the rapid changes in temperature and the glare of the sun, would later prove to be mistaken. Flies were the probable culprit. The next day however Woodforde is sufficiently recovered to venture out shooting again, but strays away from the surveying team and almost runs into a group of ‘strange’ Aboriginal men. It turns out that they have come from Encounter BayWoodforde’s comments make it plain that, although he feels confident of the Aboriginal men attached to their settlement, he is still very wary of strangers. ‘[N]ot at all inclined to be eaten I quickly retraced my steps’, he writes, suggesting that he still believes he may encounter cannibals.

Two Sheep, chromolithograph after a painting by Frederick Taylor, published in 1884. Ref F3720. Image courtesy of ancestryimages.com

On Kangaroo Island John Brown is struggling to keep his animals either confined or healthy.  They seem to spend all their time searching for straying animals. Fresh water is still a problem for the settlement too.  William Deacon writes enviously that the settlers at Holdfast Bay seem to have ‘plenty of fresh water’, although ‘plenty of mosquitoes’ too. He fervently hopes they will find fresh water soon and receive the malt hops promised by the Company so that they can begin to brew beer. ‘I this day paid 15d [pence] for a bottle of Beer’, he writes. He is still an optimist though, ending his report by assuring the Commissioners ‘I was never better in my life’.

At sea

George Stevenson is still busily drafting legislation for the new settlement.  This week he is working on another aspect of the Master and Servants Acts, and, interestingly, on an act to prevent imprisonment for debt. Is it a coincidence that the man credited with the plan for South Australia, Edward Gibbon Wakefield, developed his ideas while imprisoned in Newgate as a debtor?  Either way, Stevenson is interrupted in his work by James Fisher who has another epileptic fit. This is a matter of concern to all on board, who are beginning to wonder how his condition will affect his ability to work on arrival.

General relations on board are little improved from the week before.  If anything they are worse, since the Captain has once again reduced the water ration by one pint, ostensibly (according to Stevenson) to water his animals. Even Young Bingham Hutchinson records the reduction in the water ration in the first hint we have that he has come to share the general critical view of Hindmarsh. ‘The allowance of water reduced this day to two quarts a head Latin phrase meaning per day. per diem , half of which is consumed in cooking & the other quart is all I am allowed for washing & drinking’, he writes tersely.


Journals from settlers in South Australia:

Sunday 20 November 1836

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

20 November-Early part employed finishing our letters for England, at noon sent them on board the Africaine, and immediately after got under way for the creek… At six p.m. we came to anchor in the first reach in the creek, and all hands were overjoyed at the little A sailing vessel with two square-rigged masts. brig’s berth, in so snug a spot in this hitherto unknown anchorage.

[ Read the full journal extract ]


Sunday 20 November 1836

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

NOVEMBER 20.-This day the Africaine sailed for Van Diemen’s Land; the Cygnet and Rapid had also departed, so that we were left without any protection either by sea or land. This we thought was not right, especially as the Africaine was bound to remain a month after she had cast anchor. Consequently she ought to have been stationary till December 2. Moreover, we had heard nothing of the unfortunate young men who were still on Kangaroo Island, and for whose ultimate fate we were now seriously apprehensive. We were still hoping that the peculiar capacity of the black woman for tracing in the bush would enable the search party to discover the wanderers, though probably in an exhausted state. This was a sorrowful beginning, and greatly damped our spirits. but we could not give them up for lost.

[ Read the full journal extract ]


Monday 21 November 1836

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

21 November-Left the A sailing vessel with two square-rigged masts. brig , in 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 , with Messrs Kingston, Morphett and Pullen, to examine the southern reach, which I had before left unnoticed but here I will give a copy of my letter to the Commissioners:

[ Read the full journal extract ]


Monday 21 November 1836

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

Yesterday was passed in a quiet peaceable kind of way, none of us leaving our home. The heat exceeded anything we have as yet felt. The mosquitoes made their appearance at Rapid Bay and were very numerous. The thermometer in the tents was 1230 at mid-day and below 600 in the evening. This morning at daybreak I rose to join the Surveyors who were going to take a long [way?] round but being of straying habits I lost them before I had been away an hour and pursued my course with my gun for a companion. I shot a great many birds chiefly of the Parrot tribe which are very good eating – Being very much fatigued about mid-day, and thirsty in proportion to the heat, I was lothe to leave a stream that I found between N.W. High Bluff and Cape Jervis and consequently determined on shooting my way along it to a small beach where it emptied itself. The cliffs each side were so perpendicular that I was obliged to walk in the bed of the stream for more than a mile knee deep in mud and water. I was weary and well nigh exhausted and just had the little beach with the fresh sea breeze within my grasp where I intended resting until the cool of the evening when lo I found the very haven of my repose occupied by a tribe of strange natives. Being Latin, meaning alone. solus and not at all inclined to be eaten I quickly retraced my steps and as good luck would have it, unperceived by the black gentry who, I have learnt from our Sealer, belong to Encounter Bay. I arrived at our camp at 4 p.m. more dead than alive but am now considerably [refreshed?] by my tea of which I have swallowed six cups.

[ Read the full journal extract ]


Tuesday 22 November 1836

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

22 November-The harbour.

Gentlemen-I sent you my last report by the Africaine, on the 20th inst. I am now in hopes of seeing Captain Duff in Nepean Bay, before she sails for Hobart Town, that I may send this also. I could not leave this coast without looking once more at this harbour; the first impressions with regard to its being connected with the fresh waters grew stronger on my mind daily, therefore on leaving Holdfast Bay on the 20th inst. we steered at once for this beautiful anchorage, and ran the A sailing vessel with two square-rigged masts. brig in, where we now lie at single anchor, with only twenty fathoms of chain out, in smooth water, although it is blowing a gale of wind from the S.W., with thick rainy weather.

…Mr Kingston accompanied me in the surveying boat to examine that creek taking a southerly direction which I had not had time before to look at carefully…

We were more than delighted to find it running into the plain at such a distance, and I am now more than ever persuaded that it is connected with the fresh water lakes; if not, it extends to within a couple of miles of them, and one of the finest little harbours I ever saw is now fairly known; we had, as you will see, three A fathom is a measure of depth in the imperial system. One fathom is equal to six feet or 1.83 metres. fathoms water, and very often four at dead low water, at five or six miles from where the A sailing vessel with two square-rigged masts. brig was at anchor.

In the rough plan I send you I have put down all my views as to the Harbour and plain, and although my duty obliges me to look at other places first before I fix on the capital, yet I feel assured, as I did from the first, that I shall only be losing time. The eastern coast of Gulf Saint Vincent is the most eligible, if a harbour could be found that harbour is now found-more extensive, safe, and beautiful, than we could even have hoped for…I have never seen a harbour so well supplied with little creeks that would answer for ship building as this. We want some small craft sadly, from forty, fifty, sixty, or even one hundred tons; they would soon pay for themselves as the colony increases. A few horses are much wanted vehicles are absolutely necessary, work cannot go on without them.

[ Read the full journal extract ]


Wednesday 23 November 1836

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

23 November-I have this day been taking more angles on shore to ascertain the direction of the harbour, but find they differ so little from the first that it is not worthwhile altering until an accurate trigonometrical survey commences. You are, I hope, aware that all my plans hitherto have been done from hasty angles by A precision instrument for measuring angles in the horizontal and vertical planes. theodolites , bearings by pocket compass, and in many cases estimated distances, for I have done them frequently alone and with interruption of bad weather; but I am quite sure they are more than sufficiently accurate to give you a better idea of the coast than any former chart, and quite enough for any ship to sail by. While employed on shore, I requested Mr Field to lay down a buoy at the end of each spit forming the mouth of this harbour-and I hope in a short time to be able to take all ships coming here into as beautiful and safe a harbour as the world can produce. We want a mud boat also to deepen the channel for large ships drawing more than seventeen feet water. If we consider these channels to have remained with three A fathom is a measure of depth in the imperial system. One fathom is equal to six feet or 1.83 metres. fathoms at high water for ages with the natural drainings from the land, a little human industry may render these parts as deep as the rest, particularly as they extend but a short distance. There is another and a stronger reason than all for this idea-I have observed the ebb tide runs much stronger than the flood, a proof that the harbour is supplied from more than the flowing of the sea. Yesterday in the gale, with twenty A fathom is a measure of depth in the imperial system. One fathom is equal to six feet or 1.83 metres. fathoms of cable, the ship rode to the tide the whole time with the wind right up.

[ Read the full journal extract ]


Wednesday 23 November 1836

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

November 23rd Please inform Mr Angas the Governor had
not arrived and no water has been found near the Settlement; no
ship arrived from England since the Africaine which returned
here from Holdfast Bay on 22nd inst. where she left all the
Government passengers I hear they have plenty of fresh water,
and plenty of mosquitoes, every man being obliged to wear a
veil to keep them off. I hope we shall get water by some means
and soon receive the malt hops from the Company and begin to
brew. I, this day, paid 15d. for a bottle of Beer. I must conclude
by saying I was never better in my life, compliments to Mr Angas
Mr Wheeler, and all enquiring friends.

[ Read the full journal extract ]


Thursday 24 November 1836

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

At half past two, Messrs Kingston and Brown came on board, and I am, thank God, at last repaid for my former anxieties by finding the first impressions made on my mind of the plains and harbour so far realized. I cannot say how much I suffered (although I was determined not to allow individual feeling to hurt the future prospects of the colony) from the evident discontent experienced by all parties on my insisting on landing stores and all here; but I find now they have changed their minds, and think this is the place for the capital of a flourishing colony. I herewith enclose you Mr Kingston’s report:

Holdfast Bay,
24 November, 1836.
My Dear Sir – It affords me much sincere pleasure to be enabled to report to you that the branch of the harbour which we went up on Monday last, proves to be the embouchure of the fresh water river which I discovered the day after we had landed here, and which, as far as I have been able to see it, I am induced to believe, rises at the foot of Mount Lofty. I landed on Tuesday from 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 , about a mile further north than we did the day previous, and proceeded as close to the banks as the mangroves would allow. About a quarter of a mile from where I landed, we crossed a creek from the eastward about fifteen yards wide and three feet deep; in the course of the day we crossed several other small ones, in all of which the water was salt. After proceeding on nearly a due southerly course, I found the water in the middle of the river nearly fresh (we had used much worse at Nepean Bay), and about a mile further perfectly so. Mount Lofty bearing E.50 S. I kept along the banks of the river, still running from the south, about two miles-when I think it had its source in the marshes, in which I found the river before alluded to, losing itself… [H]aving first crossed the river running down from Mount Lofty, my road for about six miles was across a plain of exceedingly fine land; I again traced the plain and then kept on its edge, being all along able to trace the course of the river through the reeds, until I found it again running through a regular bed. The river, although in parts shallow and much obstructed by fallen tea trees, would be navigable for flat-bottomed boats as far as the marshes, through which a regular communication with the upper part of it can easily be made. A very large body of water must come down the river in the winter, as in the upper part where the banks are thirty feet deep, there are evident marks of the floods reaching the top. I now feel assured that we have obtained sufficient information to convince the most sceptical of the great value and eligibility of these plains-possessing as they do, abundance of fresh water, an excellent harbour, with at least one river into it, which can easily be made eligible as a mode of communication between it and the plains.

Believe me, Sir,

Yours, most sincerely,

G. S. Kingston.

[ Read the full journal extract ]


Thursday 24 November 1836

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

…Tuesday I felt very poorly and in the night was seized with a violent bowel complaint of which I have only now recovered, consequently yesterday was again a blank. Understand that Captain Light wished for the spot I had fixed upon for my hut, which is finished all but the thatch. I immediately gave it up to him with the frame and today I have three labourers getting under weigh with all speed. We have had for dinner today a mass of beautiful French beans. The first vegetables with the exception of radishes and cress grown in our garden. We shall soon be able to have green pease, and everything else looks very promising. We are still planting potatoes, but merely for seed, as the season is too far advanced for them to reach their full growth.

[ Read the full journal extract ]


Friday 25 November 1836

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

Novr 25th Though the “Africaine” anchored here on the 9th ult for the purpose of discharging cargo, I have been obliged to neglect my journal in consequence of the many calls upon my time, therefore the accounts which follow may not be given in chronological order. On landing with Col. Light on the 10th we were informed by Mr Field (the 1st officer of the “Rapid”) that a river had been recently discovered running apparently into the Creek, known by the name of “16-miles Creek” – that he had seen it, & said it was of important magnitude. This being the case it became a question whether or not the “Africaine” should at once commence the discharge of her passengers & cargo, or wait the report of the Colonel. With a view to the settlement of this question, Col. Light, accompanied by Capt Duff, Mr Brown, & myself, started the next day upon a walking expedition to the River. At a distance of about 5 miles we came within sight of it; it ran through a low swampy country covered with most luxuriant grass, & skirting a range of beautiful well wooded hills, from the centre of which line rose Mount Lofty. We did not prolong our excursion, as the Col. felt satisfied that the river would be found to run to the Creek…

The next day therefore saw the ship’s boat busily employed in landing passengers & Cargo. The question now was, where to pitch our tent & build our hut. Mr Kingston (the deputy Surveyor-General), with his men were located about a mile from the beach, but I at once determined to go further in search of a place for my temporary abode. I at length determined on a spot shaded by large gum trees, in the middle of a meadow covered with pasture of a richness hardly to be surpassed, and more within the precincts of the Surveyors’ tents. The next day therefore saw the tent struck and erected on the newly chosen site. Mr Brown chose the side of a sand-hill, being allured by the shade of a large tea-tree. The first thing to be done in my case was to transport my packages from the beach to the tent, a distance of little more than a mile (but not of British turnpike road, nor with the aid of waggon & horses)…

Three journeys from the beach to the tent with laden truck were a good day’s work. The heat was sometimes very oppressive, & the mosquitos troublesome; but the flies are afflicting! Nothing can equal their cruel perseverance. They settle upon the face in myriads, & tickle tormentingly but their chief delight is the eye. At length protection was sought by wearing veils & thus accoutred we “wended our weary way”. While these toils were going on, Harriet had the refuge of the ship, to which also I  returned every evening, not however without being obliged to wade breast-high in the sea to reach the boat, which, except at particular times of the tide, could not get over a sand bank about 20 yds from the beach. At length the time arrived when H.’s affectionate impatience to aid me would not be restrained, and on Saturday Nov.19th we left the “Africaine” and took up our residence in the tent. Troops of Mosquitos entertained us with their music, & we, in return, entertained them with a full repast, & in the morning we were well nigh in a fever from their visitation. It is not however from these insects alone that annoyance has been felt, as scarcely a day passes without something turning up to excite surprise if not apprehension. Within 2 yards of the tent, 5 Centipedes of about 5 inches long have been caught – one actually in the tent, & one night I put my hand within an inch of a large scorpion. Enormous ants and very small frogs abound also in our tent, but the first of these is harmless, & the others cause us no disturbance. Were I at the present moment obliged to record an opinion of the climate of S. Australia I should certainly speak in its dispraise. We have had frequent gales of wind, & the changes from heat to cold have been somewhat extraordinary; in one instance, within 12 hours the thermometer ranged between 105E & 50E, both in the shade. It would however be premature to pronounce an opinion, and I endeavour to console myself and others with the assurance that when the clearing of land & cultivation shall have commenced, many of the annoyances will no longer exist. Some of the emigrants brought with them tents, & those generally are insufficient habitations for day or night, in consequence of their being single. My own tent, being double, is in comparison with any in the Colony, a very comfortable residence – the outside being of draped cloth, not one drop of rain has entered. Two of my friends tried to sleep in my tent one rainy night while holding umbrellas over them – so little does a single tent avail. Mine also has a verandah which serves as a store-room, thereby keeping the interior in excellent order & neatness, & a boarded floor which I have laid down is a luxury of much importance. It is however the only one yet in the Colony, though nearly 50 habitations of various kinds have been erected. Those who did not provide tents have built huts, for which every facility exists, there being a little forest of straight poles about a mile off, & plenty of long sedge-grass wherewith to thatch them. Game is in great abundance on the plain; it is almost impossible to walk 200 yds without putting up quails, wild ducks, & other water fowl are to be met with constantly on the river & in the lagoons. White cockatoos, parrots, & parroquets of splendid plumage are to be found on almost every other tree. These, & a peculiar kind of plover are excellent eating. Kangaroos are plentiful – one fine fellow (nearly as large as a jackass) with his mate, bounded by within 20 yds of my tent yesterday while I was carpentering, but had passed out of reach before I could get my rifle – though loaded in the tent. Fish are also numerous, but few have been taken.

[ Read the full journal extract ]


Friday 25 November 1836

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

The whole of this day I have been busy with the men at my hut and have now some hopes of getting it finished and not before it is wanted as we are all of us more or less sufferers from An inflammation of the eye. opthalmia , occasioned as I believe by the intense heat and glare of the tents in the day and the sudden cold in the evening.

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Saturday 26 November 1836

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

The “Rapid” hove in sight at 7 a.m. this morning and came to anchor at 3 p.m. Captain Light, Pullen and Claughton came on shore to dinner and informed us that there is every probability of the Capital being formed at Holdfast Bay, as, during the last cruize, many paramount advantages have been found, viz. the creek higher up forms a most splendid harbour ending in fresh water streams, one of which having from two 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 in it. It extends to within six miles of [the] Capital.

[ Read the full journal extract ]


Saturday 26 November 1836

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

Saturday Nov 26th One of our wretched wether Sheep
was found dead, on Monday Morng last, and the other Six
were stray’d into the Bush, since which time Chandler
has been engaged looking for them & a little Boar that
had also gone astray      since Thursday he has been assisted
by Powell (who only commenced work on the Day)
They succeeded in finding all the Sheep but 2 out of the 6
were dead, and the remaining 4 are the picture of misery —
While searching the Beach on Thursday they also
found our large white Sow lieing dead with 2 small
pigs that She had litter’d — This Sow has been in the habit
of going between here and North Cape, for a Month past, and
had it appears had brought forth young in the Bush, about 20 yds
from the Beach leading to that place — I am very
sorry we had not the means of confining here, for want of
Hog Troughs, untill it was over late.

[ Read the full journal extract ]


Journals from passengers at sea:

Monday 21 November 1836

[, on board the wrote.]

Monday Nov. 21. Busy to-day with two important Acts – one for the sum-
-mary determination of disputes between Master & Servant; the other for
the Prevention of Imprisonment for debt except in cases of fraud &
for the better  recovery of debts; but I was interrupted in having them
considered in the afternoon by the Governor & Fisher, owing to the latter
having another of those unfortunate attacks of epilepsy.

[ Read the full journal extract ]


Friday 25 November 1836

[, on board the wrote.]

Friday Nov. 25. After four days contrary wind we had the pleasure
of seeing the ship once more on her right course; & at ½ past 5 we were going
between 6 & 7 The speed of ship or wind in nautical miles per hour. knots, when in order to maintain the Captain’s favorite
proposition that ships go faster in proportion as they have less canvas
spread, sail was shortened, & we wot not how many Seafarers reduce sails in strong winds so that ships can move more safely and comfortably. Sails are made with rows of small ropes attached to them and these are tied around spars to reduce the amount of sail exposed to the wind. The amount of sail taken in by securing one set of ropes is called a reef. The action of reducing sails is called reefing and the knot that is used to tie the ropes is called a reef knot. reefs taken in.
Everybody loud in dissatisfaction.

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Saturday 26 November 1836

[, on board the wrote.]

Saturday Nov. 26. The Governor’s mules, pigs, cow, geese, turkeys, & dogs
must have their full allowance of water, & that they may not suffer,
another pint is this day struck off our allowance in addition to the
pint at Rio. It is impossible to repeat what is said in all quarters of
such conduct. Every thing is sacrificed to his own selfish purposes.
The The mainsail is the lowest sail on the mainmast, as is the fore-sail on the foremast. mainsail has been kept single Reducing sails. reefed now for a month in order
that his cow & mules in the long boat may not suffer by the draught of
wind. Of what importance is making sail to their health or
safety!

[ Read the full journal extract ]


Saturday 26 November 1836

[, on board the wrote.]

Saturday, Novr 26. Light winds & fine. Head S.E.½S. Wind S.W.
Made all sail. Noon. Mode & fine. The allowance of
water reduced this day to two quarts a head Latin, per day. per diem , half
of which is consumed in cooking, & the other quart is all
I am allowed for washing & drinking during the day.
Miles run, 754 + 12720 = 12795. Latitude is the distance of a point north or south of the equator as measured in degrees. The poles are at 90 degrees north and south. Late 37E6′ So. Longitude is the distance, measured in degrees, of the meridian on which a point lies to the meridian of Greenwich. On the other side of the earth to Greenwich is a point with a longitude of both 180 degrees east and 180 degrees west. Longe 68E41′ Et.
P.M. Moderate & fine. St Paul’s isle S.77EEt, 444 miles.

[ Read the full journal extract ]



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