Presentation on theme: "Bound for South Australia 1836 Exploration Week 38 Port Lincoln, taken from the south. By William Westel, published 1835."— Presentation transcript:
Bound for South Australia 1836 Exploration Week 38 Port Lincoln, taken from the south. By William Westel, published 1835.
Overview Between February and July 1836 nine ships left Britain bound for the newly created province of South Australia. On-board the ships were passengers who over many long months braved the perils of the ocean, including some of the most treacherous seas in the world to begin a new life on the other side of the world. This resource uses the stories from these nine ships as recorded by the passengers and crew in their personal journals.
Introduction This week we hear that Mary Thomas is reluctant to leave Kangaroo Island without knowing what happened to the six men who set out for Nepean Bay and are now missing. She knows the dangers of exploring in unfamiliar territory after becoming lost in the scrub with her husband. We also check in with Colonel Light who is still exploring and seeking the best place for the settlement but is feeling pressure from the settlers who are eager to know where their new home will be. We will look at how explorers navigate new environments while keeping safe and how they make decisions based on their discoveries.
Journals from settlers in South Australia: Sunday 6 November 1836 William Light, who arrived in South Australia on board the Rapid wrote: 6 November-At four p.m. the Africaine, Captain Duff, arrived with Mr Gouger the Colonial Secretary, Mr Brown the Emigration Agent, and many other passengers. I went on board and found that the ship had touched at Nepean Bay, where hearing that I had ordered all the surveying party and stores to this part of the Gulf, they followed, imagining some very urgent reasons had induced me to take such a step, contrary to the instructions given in England, which were for the stores to remain at Nepean Bay. My reasons were sent home to the Commissioners very soon after. Mr Gouger was of course very anxious to know where we should settle – a question I was by no means prepared to answer; and the only thing I could do was to recommend his proceeding to Holdfast Bay for the present. This was not at all satisfactory, everyone in such circumstances being anxious not to move again after landing all his embarked property; I could only recommend this place as one from which they were the least likely to
re-embark – stating strongly at the same time, that I could not guarantee permanent settlement there. To make the best of a doubtful case, both Mr Gouger and Mr Brown agreed to take their chance; and Captain Duff having very kindly offered me a passage, I embarked at ten a.m., on the 7th. After beating against northerly winds, we came to at six p.m. the following day (8 November), at Holdfast Bay, where we saw the Rapid at anchor. Mr Field and Mr Morphett came down to meet us before we anchored; the accounts given by these gentlemen, did not cheer the spirits of our newcomers although they were anything but unfavourable. I had to undergo a little torment, which I kept to myself, being still persuaded that the connection of these plains with the creek, their immense extent to the N.E., consequently towards the Murray, and the certain conviction in my own mind of the existence of plenty of rich soil, would, after a month or two of dissatisfaction, fully quiet any apprehensions now entertained by these gentlemen. And these surmises were more strongly impressed by the trip Messrs Field, Kingston, and Morphett had made a few miles inland, during which they had come to a fresh water river, much larger than any we had yet seen.
Sunday 6 November 1836 Mary Thomas, who arrived in South Australia on board the Africaine wrote: NOVEMBER 6.-This afternoon we set sail for the mainland, which we reached about 4 o’clock. We anchored in Rapid Bay, in front of the most beautiful prospect imaginable. We could see some tents on shore belonging to the surveying party. Colonel Light, commander of the Rapid, was stationed there, and soon afterwards came on board. A party from the vessel went on shore, and on their return gave a most enchanting account of the country which everywhere resembled a gentleman’s park – grass growing in the greatest luxuriance, the most beautiful flowers in abundance, and the birds of splendid plumage. They saw several of the natives, who the surveyors said were of great service to them. They introduced themselves by the names which had been given them, as Peter and Tom, and most of them spoke English. We all seemed to wish this part to be fixed on for the seat of government, but it was said that the anchorage was not good, and we must proceed to Holdfast Bay, about
forty miles further. Accordingly, the next morning we left this delightful spot and sailed for Holdfast Bay. But my greatest regret was in leaving Kangaroo Island before we had heard something respecting the young men, for whom we began now to be seriously alarmed, especially as we had ourselves made a slight experiment of the difficulties of travelling in the bush, which sufficiently convinced us that our fears were not without reason. We had all spent a day on Kangaroo Island, and during a walk which I took with my husband we entered the scrub, as it is called, and incautiously proceeded till we were so completely bewildered that we began to be uneasy lest we should not find our way out of the labyrinth, which seemed on all sides to be interminable, for nothing could be seen but the sky above us and the bushes around us. Nor could we tell which way to retrace our steps, as no path which we had passed through was discernible. At length, however, after advancing, as far as we could judge, about half a mile, we fortunately caught through a small opening in the brushwood a glimpse of the sea, and immediately made towards it, forcing our way through the bushes down a step hill till we reached the shore. But for this providential escape our adventure possibly might have terminated as fatally for us as for the young men who attempted to accomplish the rash undertaking of traversing what was, at least to them, an unknown country…
Now that this part of New Holland was to be made a British colony, the South Australian Company had a station on the island, including a large tent containing stores and provisions. This was situated near the shore, and all beyond the immediate vicinity was a wilderness as far as the eye could reach, thickly overgrown with trees and bushes. According to report, this was the general character of the island, and a passage through was extremely difficult, even to those accustomed to such travelling, and doubly so to inexperienced young men. That nothing might be omitted which was likely to apprise them of their danger and make them aware that others were on their track, large fires were kept burning on the highest eminences for several nights as signals which they might see at a distance. Guns were fired at intervals, which it was hoped they would hear, but it was all of no avail, and we were reluctantly obliged to quit the shores of Kangaroo Island without any information respecting them.
Monday 7 November 1836 Robert Gouger, who arrived in South Australia on board the Africaine wrote: Nov r 7 th This morning the “Africaine” left Nepean Bay, and in a few hours reached Cape Jarvis; following the direction of Cap t Lipson, we sailed slowly along the shore, and anchored in a Bay where we discerned the “Rapid” & on an adjacent hill, some tents. A boat, which put off on our approach brought us Co l Light, who piloted the ship into Rapid Bay. Having dined a party of us accompanied Co l Light on shore, being desirous of seeing as much as we could of the land now, in case we should have to move onwards with the ship. Now we found that the accounts we had heard at Kangaroo Island of the beauty of the mainland, glowing as they were, were not exaggerated, for it is impossible to imagine a more lovely valley than that which skirts the Bay. The soil produces an abundant crop of the finest grass – it is watered by a rivulet containing a number of fresh water fish, & trees of a very large size are found at a distance of perhaps from 30 to 50 y ds asunder. The surface is hilly, but not mountainous, & thepiloted
splendid description of country extends inland to Cape [Lake?] Alexandrina. Delighted as we were with the spot we determined on the recommendation of Col Light to proceed higher up the gulf, where he discovered there was at all times fresh water, & a fine harbour for shipping of which advantage Rapid Bay is destitute.
Tuesday 8 November 1836 Dr John Woodforde, who arrived in South Australia on board the Rapid wrote: …Pullen arrived in the surveying boat this evening and had it not been for the timely assistance of the natives would have been drowned in swimming ashore through the surf. The “Cygnet” passed our Bay on her way up the Gulf. Captain Rolls is taking this trip to bring his accounts with Kingston to an issue which are very complicated. Mr. Kingston seems to shrink from the investigation and his behaviour is censured by high and low. He is universally disliked for his despotism and upstart tyranny.
Tuesday 8 November 1836 Robert Gouger, who arrived in South Australia on board the Africaine wrote: Nov r 8 th This morning accompanied by Duff & a large party, I again went ashore. We walked about 2 miles over the hills, where as far as the eye could reach the same rich character of land prevails. The grass is now ready to cut – the hay would be of a very superior kind, & Sydney presents a market, where the price obtained is £10 a ton. Having gathered a nosegay of the most beautiful flowers as a present to H, I went on board; Col Light following almost immediately after, as he was going up the Gulf on another of his exploring expeditions. nosegay
Wednesday 9 November 1836 William Light, who arrived in South Australia on board the Rapid wrote: 9 November-Messrs Gouger and Brown, with Captain Duff and myself, guided by Mr Field, landed about two miles to the northward of the Creek at Holdfast Bay, to ascertain, if possible, the mouth of the river discovered by Messrs Kingston, Field and Morphett; and here I give a short extract of my letter written as soon as I got on board to the Commissioners: We have this morning been looking for the mouth of the river and find it exhausts itself in the lagoons, these must either ooze through the sand into the sea, or be connected with the creek. I strongly suspect the latter, as the distance to the creek is small at this part, and the water in the upper part of the creek, where I grounded, was far from being salt. I feel more interested in this flat than ever, and have determined that a survey may be carried on here while I am in the other Gulf…
Saturday 12 November 1836 William Light, who arrived in South Australia on board the Rapid wrote: 12 November-Still bad weather, and about noon one of the heaviest squalls we have yet had. I shall now give another extract of my letter to the Commissioners, of this date: squalls As various opinions are afloat as to the eligibility of the settlement here, I will now state my reasons in detail for the removal of the stores from Kangaroo Island, and the subsequent motions. 1st. I ought to have been sent out at least six months before anybody else, which would have given me time to settle emigrants or stores as they arrived. 2nd. Having seen so much beautiful country on this side [Gulf Saint Vincent, I was resolved on employing all the surveying gentlemen here, while I went round the other side and round Gulf Spencer, after which the site of the Capital would be fixed, and final arrangements made. The Rapid was therefore dispatched to Nepean Bay, and I went onshore in Rapid Valley to give up my cabin, and bring up some back work.
3rd. Hearing such lamentable accounts from our party at Nepean Bay from scarcity of water, I thought it best for the whole to come over, and for the want of another efficient officer I was obliged to divide the party into two instead of three; therefore the largest party, with Mr Kingston, should come to Holdfast Bay, and Mr Gilbert’s stores to accompany him also, Rapid Bay not having so good a beach for landing stores; and besides, should a gale come on, and a ship go on shore, all would be lost, whereas, at Holdfast Bay, lives and property in such a disaster would at least be saved, and most likely the ship also; had I a third party I would have landed them at Yankalilla. I could not make a store ship of the Cygnet to go from one part of the Gulf to another as stores might be wanted, from her inefficient sailing qualities, and her not being the kind of vessel required for such service. 4th. Looking generally at this place I am quite confident it will be one of the largest settlements, if not the capital of the new colony, the Creek will be its Harbour. Six months labour would clear a road down to it, and if not there is a hard, sandy beach the whole way, on which a mail coach might run. I next view the range of mountains going with a gradual slope into the plain where it ends altogether, and we see no other hills which gives me great hopes that this plain extends all the way to the Murray, and in spite
of all the opinions on the subject now, I am positive there is quite enough of good rich land for every purpose; the low parts of this plain are covered with fresh water lakes, many of which are full of rushes, and in the winter a great part of the plain may be covered with water, but the ground rises gradually towards the mountains, and that part can never be flooded, and it has the same appearance that exists on the hills about Rapid Bay, the second valley, and other parts which are extremely rich. Much remains to be done also by proper management of the waters that have hitherto run in natural courses, by collecting them with proper dams, and conducting them through more eligible channels. This will I am sure be one of the finest plains in the world. 5th. If I had time to examine the other side of this Gulf, Port Lincoln, and Gulf Spencer, perhaps some better place might have been found for the stores; even then we should have wanted more men for their protection, as the natives on Yorke’s Peninsula and Gulf Spencer are represented much more hostile; when I say better place, I allude to the anchorage, and landing stores on a lee shore ; in other respects they cannot be better, having here plenty of wood and water, and for those who have stock there is plenty of good grass…lee shore
Inquiry Questions How did the settlers go about exploring their new environment? How did these early explorations impact on the development of the colony? What dangers did the settlers face in an unfamiliar country and what strategies did they use to keep safe? What skills were needed by those settlers who were exploring and surveying the coast and inland areas? Read through this week's journal entries. What emotions and feelings are described as these people explore their new home?
Images The maritime portion of South Australia from surveys of Captn. Flinders and Col. Light, Survr Genl. Courtesy: National Library of Australia
Glossary of Terms lee shore A lee shore is dangerous. It is a coast onto which the wind blows from the sea, presenting the danger that a ship will be blown onto shore. Nosegay A small bunch of flowers. Pilot To navigate difficult stretches of water, ships took pilots on board. Pilots were coastal navigators with knowledge of their local waters and they captained the ship through the channel or harbour. Squalls A squall is a sudden, sharp increase in wind speed. Return to Journal Entries