From the diaries

21.03.1802 Flinders between Cape Spencer and Kangaroo Island

At daylight, the ship was nearly in mid-channel,between the southern land and Cape Spencer, and nothing was seen to the eastward. It then blew a fresh gale at south-west, with much sea running; we stretched south-east under close-reefed top sails, when the larger Althorpe Isle bore N.32ºW., it was distant six or seven miles to the south, and extended from S.61ºW. to 79ºE., as far as the eye could reach. It was rather high, and cliffy; but there was nothing by which to judge its connection with the main. ···

21.03.1802 Flinders offshore Kanguroo Island

Neither smoke, nor other marks of inhabitants had as yet been perceived upon the southern land, although we had passed along seventy miles of its coast. It was too late to go on shore this evening; but every glass in the ship was pointed there, to see what could be discovered. Several black lumps, like rocks, were pretended to have been seen in motion by some of the young gentlemen, which caused the force of their imaginations to be much admired; next morning, however, on going toward the shore, a number of dark-brown kanguroos were seen feeding upon a grass plat by the side of the wood; and our landing gave them no disturbance. I had with me a double-barrelled gun, fitted with a bajonet, and the gentlemen my companions had muskets. It would be difficult to guess how many kanguroos were seen; but I killed ten, and the rest of the party made up the number to thirty-one, taken on board in the course of the day; the least of them weighing sixty-nine, and the largest one hundred and twenty-five pounds. These kanguroos had much resemblance to the large species found in the forest lands of New South Wales; except that their colour was darker, and they were not wholly destitute of fat.

After this butchery, for the poor animals suffered themselves to be shot in the eyes with small shot, and in some cases to be knocked on the head with sticks, I scrambled with difficulty through the brush wood, and over fallen trees, to reach the higher land with the surveying instruments; but the thickness and height of the wood prevented any thing else from being distinguished. There was little doubt, however, that this extensive piece of land was separated from the continent; for the extraordinary tameness of the kanguroos and the presence of seals upon the shore, concurred with the absence of all traces of men to show that it was not inhabited.

23.03.1802 Flinders in Nepean Bay

The day was employed in shifting the top masts, on account of some rents found in the heels. The scientific gentlemen landed again to examine the natural productions of the island, and in the evening eleven more kanguroos were brought on board; but most of these were smaller, and seemed to be of a different species to those of the preceding day. Some of the party saw several large running birds, which, according to their description, seemed to have been the emu or cassowary.

···Not being able to obtain a distinct view from any elevated situation, I took a set of angles from a small projection near the ship, named Kanguroo Head; but nothing could be seen to the north; and the sole bearing of importance, more than had been taken on board, was that of a high hill at the extremity of the apparently unconnected land to the eastward: it bore N.39º10' E., and was named Mount Lofty. The nearest part of that land was a low point, bearing N 60º E, nine or tem miles; but the land immediately at the back was high, and its northern and southern extremes were cliffy. I named it Cape Jervis, and it was afterwards sketched by Westall.

All the cliffs of Kanguroo Island seen to the west of the anchorage, had the appearance of being calcareous, and the loose stones scattered over the surface of Kanuguroo Head and the vicinity were of thAT substance; but the basis in this part seeemd to be a brown slate, lying in strata nearly horizontal, and laminae of quartz were sometimes seen in the interstices. In some places the slate was split into pieces of a foot long, like iron bars, and had a shining, ore-like appearance; and the strata were then further from the horizontal line than I observed them to be elsewhere.

A thick wood covered almost all that part of the island visible from the ship; but the trees in a vegetating state were no equal in size to the generality of those lying on the ground, nor to the dead trees standing upright. Those on the ground were so abundant, that in ascending the higher land, a considerable part of the walk was made upon them. They lay in all directions, and were narly of the same size and in the same progress towards decay; from whence it would seem that they had not fallen from age, nor yet been thrown down in a gale of wind. Some general conflagration, and there were marks apparently of fire on many of them, is perhaps the sole cause which can be reasonably assigned; but whence came the woods on fire? That there were no inhabitants upon the island, and that the natives of the continent did not visit it, was demonstrated, if not by the want of all signs of such visit, yet by the tameness of the kanguroo, an animal which, on the continent, resmbles the wild deer in timidity. Perhaps lightening might have been the cause, or possibly the friction of two dead trees in astrong wind; but it would be somewhat extraordinary that the same thing should have happened at Thistle's Island, Boston Island, and at this place, and apparently about the same time. Can this part of Terra Australis have been visited before, unknown to the woprld? The French navigator, La Pérouse, was ordered to explore it, but there seems little probability that he ever passed Torres' Strait.

04.03.1802 Flinders in Nepean Bay

I was accompanied by the naturalist in a boat expedition to the head of a large eastern cove of Nepean Bay; intending if possible to ascend a sandy eminence behind it, from which alone there was any hope to obtaining a view into the interior of the island. all the other hills being thickly covered with wood. On approaching the south-west corner of the cove, a small opening was found leading into a considerable piece of water; and by one of its branches we reached within little more than a mile of the desired sandy eminence. After I had observed the latitude 35º50'2" from an articial horizon, we got through the wood without much difficulty;l and at one o'clock reached the top of the eminence to which was given the name of Prospect Hill.
Instead of a view into the interior of the island, I was surprised to find the sea at not more than one and a half, or two miles to the southward. ··· Mount Lofty on the east side of the Gulph St.Vincent, was visible from Prospect Hill at the distance of sixt-nine miles; and bore N.40º40' E.

Certainly none more likely to be free from disturbance of every kind could have been chosen, than these islets in a hidden lagoon of an uninhabited island, situate upon an unknown coast near the antipodes of Europe; nor can any thing be more consonant to the feeling,
if pelicans have any, than quietly to resign their breath, whilst surrounded by their progeny, and in the same spot where they first drew it. Alas for the pelicans! Their golden age is past; but it has much exceeded in duration that of man. I named this piece of water Pelican Lagoon


06.01.1803 Peron in Port Dache

There was no trace of humans on the beach which we occupied, and we have seen only three kinds of mammals: a jolly kind of possum, while the other two are new and appeared to be the largest of the singular family of kanguroos. Most of these on the Island are as tall as a man of taller when they stand on their hindlegs a and tail, holding their body perpendicular. Favoured by the absence of all enemies, the rate of increase of these large quadrupeds is considerable here; they form many groups. Wherever they spend much of their time, the soil is so trodden dowm that one cannot see a blade of grass.

This abundance of kanguroos makes hunting them profitable and easy; we succeeded in procuring twenty-seven which were taken on board alive, independently of those which were killed and eaten by the crew. This precious supply did not demand munitions nor fatigue; a single dog, named Spott, became our purveyor: bred by English fishermen for this kind of hunt, he killed them at once by tearing their jagular arteries. There was no at all necessary the presence and shouts of huntsmen to pull the victim away from certain death. With such a dog and with such a method of hunting, there can be no doubt that several persons could feed themselves very well on the island; at the same time one realizes that this innocent and weak race of kanguroos will be infallibly destroyed in a few years by several dogs of the type which I have discussed.

Among the many seals which populate the beaches of this island, one has, in particular, a newspecies of sea lions, which can be up to 3.2 m long. The fur of these animals is very short, very hard and very coarse; but its skin is dense and strong, and the oil prepared from its fat is as well as plentiful. In one or the other respect, the hunt of this amphibian offers valuable advantages. There are also other breeds of seals which are smaller and equally numerous, with good quality pelts.

At the entrance to Port Dache (Nepean Bay), one finds a large type of oyster which form their extensive banks; the flesh of this animal is tender and delicate. Our entomological collections produced 54 new kinds from 33 different families. There were many rich sponges and ascidia.

06.03.1802 Flinders in Backstairs Passage

The approach of the winter season, and an apprehension that the discovery of the remaining unknown part of the South Coast might not be completed before a want of provisions would make it necessary to run for Port Jackson, prevented me from stopping a day longer at Kanguroo Island than was necessary for obtaining rates for the time keepers; and consequently, from examining the south and west parts of that island. The direction of the main coast and the inlets it might form, were the most important points to be now ascertained; and the details of particular parts, which it would interfere too much with those objects to examine, were best referred to the second visit, directed by my instructions to be made to this coast. When, therefore, the rising of a breeze made it advisablew to get under way from Kanguroo Head, which was not until two in the afternoon, we proceeded for the eastern outlet of the Investigator's Strait; in order to prosecute the discovery beyond Cape Jervis. ··· I stood in at nine o'clock, to look for anchorage at the east end of Kanguroo Island; and finding no shelter there, we ran a little to leeward into a small bay which I had observed before dark, and anchored at half past ten, in 4½ fathoms, on a bottom of hard sand.

07.04.1802 The bay is perfectly sheltered from all southern winds; and as there were several spots clear of wood near the beach, it is probable that he kanguroos, and perhaps cassowaries, might be numerous. We did not stop to land, but got under way so soon as the bearings were taken, to beat out of the strait against the south-east wind; so little was gained, however, working all the day, that at eight in the evening the ship was still off the east end of Kanguroo Island.

This part of Investigator's Strait is not more, in the narrowest part, than seven miles across. It forms a private entrance, as it were, to the two gulphs; and I named it Backstairs Passage. The small bay where we had anchored, is called the Ante-chamber; and the cape which forms the eastern head of the bay and of Kanguroo Island, and lies in 35º 48' south and 138º 13' east, received the appellation of Cape Willoughby. Without side of the passage, and almost equidistant from both shores, there are three small, rocky islets near together, called thePages, whose situation is in latitude 35º 46½' east; these are the sole dangers in Back-stairs Passage, and two of them are conspicuous. ···