At five in the morning we steered for the land; and soon afterwards Cape Radstock was in sight. Other cliffy heads came in sight as we advanced eastward. The line of the projecting parts of the coast is nearly east from Cape Radstock, for four leagues; and at the end of them is a cliffy point which received the name of Point Weyland.
Crows of a shining black colour were numerous. There were no appearances of the island having been before visited either by Europeans or Indians, and a single rat was the sole quadruped seen; but a few hair seals were killed upon the shore. Mr.Brown remarked, that this was the first island where not a single novelty in natural history had presented itself to his observation.
The vegetation differed from that of other islands before visited, in that the lower lands were covered with large bushes; and there was very little, either of the white, velvety shrub (atriplex), or of the tufted wiry grass. The beaches were frequented by seals of the hair kind. A family of them consisting of a male, four or five females, and as many cubs, was lying asleep at every two or three hundred yards. Their security was such, that I approached several of these families very closely; and retired without disturbing their domestic tranqillity, or being perceived by them.
20.02.1802 Flinders off Thistle Island A tide from the north-eastward, apparently the ebb, ran more than one hour; which was the more remarkable from no set of tide, worthy to be noticed, having hitherto been observed upon this coast. No land could be seen in the direction from whence it came; and these circumstances, with the trending of the coast to the north, did not fail to excite many conjectures. Large rivers, deep inlets, inland seas, and passages to the Gulph of Carpentaria, were terms frequently used in our conversations of this evening; and the prospect of making an interesting discovery, seemed to have infused new life and vigour into every man in the ship.
There were seals upon the beach, and further on, numberless traces of the kanguroo. Signs of extinguished fire existed every where; but they bespoke a conflagration of the woods, of remote date; rather than the habitual presence of men, and might have arisen from lightening, or from the friction of two trees in a strong wind.
In our way up the hills a speckled, yellow snake lay asleep before us. By pressing the butt end of a musket upon his neck, I kept him down whilst Mr. Thistle, with a sail needle and twine, sewed up his mouth; and he was taken on board alive, for the naturalist to examine; but two others of the same species had already been killed, and one of them was seven feet nine inches in length.
We were proceeding with our prize, when a white eagle, with fierce aspect and outspread wing, was seen bounding towards us; but stopping short, at twenty yards off, he flew up into a tree. Another bird of the same kind discovered himself by making a motion to pounce down upon us as we passed underneath; and it seemed evident that they took us for kanguroos, having probably never before seen an upright animal in the island, of any other kind. These birds sit watching in the trees, and should a kanguroo come out to feed in the day time, it is seized and torn to pieces by these voracious creatures. This accounted for why so few kanguroos were seen, when traces of them were met with at every step; and for their keeping so much under thick bushes that it was impossible to shoot them. Their size was superior to any of those found upon the more western islands, but much inferior to the forest kanguroo of the continent.
21/22.02.1802 Flinders in search of the lost cutterAt dusk in the evening, the cutter was seen under sail, returning from the main land; but not arriving in half an hour, and the sight of it having been lost rather suddenly, a light was shown and Lieutenant Fowler went in a boat, with a lanthorn, to see what mnight have happened. Two hours passed without receiving any tidings. A gun was then fired, and Mr. Fowler returned soon afterward, but alone. Near th situation where the cutter had been last seen, he met with so strong a rippling of the tide that he himself nrrowly escaped being upset; and there was reason to fear that it had actually happened to Mr.Thistle.
At daybreak I got the ship underway, and steered across Thorny Passage. Mr. Brown and a party landed to walk along the shore to the northward, whilst I proceeded to the souhern extremity of the main land, which was now named Cape Catastrophy.
The soil of the land round the cove, and of Cape Catastrophy in general, is barren; though the vallies and eastern sides of the hills are covered with brush wood, and in the least barren parts there are small trees of the genus eucalyptus. The basis stone is granite, mostly covered with calcareous rock, sometimes lying in loose pieces; but the highest tops of the hills are huge blocks of granite. Four kanguroos, not larger than those of Thistle's Island, were seen amongst the brushwood; and traces of natives were found so recent, that although none of the inhabitants were seen, they must have been there no longer than a day before. Water does consequently, exist somewhere in the neighbourhood, but all our researches could not discover it.
On the arrival of strangers, so different in complexion and appearance to ourselves, having power to transport themselves over, and even living upon an element which to us was impassable; the first sensation would probably be terror, and the first movement flight. We should watch these extraordinary people from our retreats in the woods and rocks, and if we found ourselves sought and pursued by them, should conclude their designs to be inimical; but if, on the contrary, we saw them quietly employed in occupations which had no reference to us, curiosity would get the better of fears; and after observing them more closely , we should ourselves seek a communication. Such seemed to have been the conduct of these Australians; and I am persuaded that their appearance on the morning when the tents were struck, was a prelude to their coming down; and that had we remaineds a few days longer, a friendly communication would have ensued. The way was, however, prepared for the next ship which may enter this port, as it was to us in King George' Sound by captain Vancouver and the ship Elligood; to those previous visits and peacable conduct we were most probably indebted for our early intercourse with the inhabitants of that place.
At ten o'clock our oars touched the mud on each side, and it was not possible to proceed further. It seemed remarkable, and was very mortifying, to find the water at the head of the gulph as salt nearly as at the ship; nevertheless it was evident, that much fresh water was thrown into it in wet seasons, especially from the eastern mountains. Our return to the ship was a good deal retarded by going after black swans and ducks amont the flats. The swans were all able to fly, and would not allow themselves to be approached; but some ducks of two or three different species were shot, and also several sea pies or red bills.
At ten in the evening we reached the ship, where Mr. Brown and his party had not been long arrived. The view from the top of Mount Brown was very extensive, its elevation being not less than three thousand feet, but neither rivers nor lakes could be perceived, nor any thing of the sea to the sout-eastward.
We had seen fires upon the eastern shore opposite to Point Lowly, and wherever I had landed there were traces of natives; Mr. Brown found them even to a considerable height up the side of the mountain; and it should therefore seem that the country here is as well inhabited as most parts of Terra Australis, but we had not the good fortune to meet with any of the people.
We set off in the afternood for the Hummock Mount, which stands upon a northern prolongation of the hills on the west side of the inlet, and about eight miles from the water; but finding it could not be reached in time to admit of returning on board the same evening, I ascended a nearer part of the range, to inspect the head of the inlet. It was almost wholly occupied by flats, which seemed to be sandy in the eastern part and muddy to the westward. These flat abounded with rays; and had we been provided with a harpoon, a boat load might have been caught. One black swan and several shags and gulls were seen.
In honor of the noble admiral who presided at the Board of Admiralty when I sailed from England, and had continued to the voyage that countenance and protection of which Earl Spencer had set the example, I named this new inlet, the Gulph of St.Vincent. To the peninsula which separates it from Spencer's Gulph, I have affixed the name of Yorke's Peninsula, in honour of the Right Honourable Charles Philip Yorke, who followed the steps of his above mentioned predecessor at the Admiralty.
At noon a somewhat projecting part, which appears to be the Cape Bernoulli of the French navigators, as three or four miles distant. From Encounter Bay to this projection, the coast is little else than a bank of sand, with a few hummocks on the top. The shore runs waving between east-south-east and south-south-east, but to form what is called Cape Bernoulli, it trends south, and the curves back to south-eastward into a bight. The south head of the bight appears to be the Cape Jaffa of the French; but I do not find that they have given any name to the bight, although much more deserving than some other sinuosities in the coast on which that honour is conferred.
13.04.1802 Flinders at Baudin's RocksAbout three leagues to the south of Cape Jaffa is a cluster of rocks, apparently the same of which captain Baudin had given me information. We called them Baudin's Rocks; and since no name is applied to them in M. Peron's account of their voyage, the appellation is continued. Four miles beyond the rocks, is a point of moderate elevation; sandy, but mostly overspread with bushes. This is the Cape Lannes of the French and on its north side is a small bay, their Baye de Rivoli.
15.04.1802 Flinders off Cape BuffonIn the evening we got sight of a projection, and somewhat elevted part, which lies ten leagues to the south-eastwards of Cape Lannes, and appears to be the Cape Buffon of the French navigators.
At noon, two larger rocks were seen at the southern end of the reef, and are those called by the French The Carpenters. They lie one or wo miles from a sandy projection named by them Cape Boufflers; but here a prior title to discovery interferes. On arriving in Port Jackson, I learned, and so did captain Baudin, that this coast had been before visited. Lieutenant (now captain) James Grant, commander of His Majesty's brig , saw the projection, which, on 03.12.1800, he named West Cape Banks. Flinders adds "West" to the name to distinguish it from captain Cook's Cape Banks on the east coast, and followed the coast from thence, through Bass' Strait. "The same principle upon which I had adopted the names applied by the French navigators to the parts discovered by them, will now guide me in making use of the appellations bestowed by captain Grant."
I have been the more particular in detailing all that passed at the interview with captain Baudin, from a circumstance which it seems proper to explain. At the above situation of 35º 40' south and 138º 58' east, the discoveries made by captain Baudin upon the South Coast have their termination to the west; as mine have to the eastward. The extent of his Terre Napoléon to the east may be properly defined. It cannot be placed further to the south-east than Cape Buffon; for the land is laid down to the northward of it in captain Grant's chart, though indistinctly.
A cliffy point which proved to be the Cape Northumberland of captain Grant, was in sight at two in the afternoon, as also were two inland mountains lying to the north-east; the nearest is his Mount Schanck, of a flat, table-like form, the further one, Mount Gambier, is peaked
At half past noon, after a constant succession of rainy squalls preventing us from knowing how the land lay, our anxiety was relieved by distinguishing the furthest xtreme, a bold, cliffy cape, the Cape Bridgewater of captain Grant. As we passed Cape Bridgewater, a second cliffy head opened at S. 73½º E. and a further round the last at N. 83º E. These are the Cape Nelson and Cape Sir W.Grant, though differing considerably in relative position from what they are laid down in captain Grant's chart. At two o'clock, the weather having become soemwhat finer, I ventured to bear away along the coast; and presently a small island with two hummocks, and a rock nearer to the shore were visible: these are Lawrence's Isles
20.04.1802 Flinders in sight of Lady Percy's IsleDuring the night there were squalls of wind with hail and rain, but tolerably moderate weather in the intervals. At daylight, we bore away for the land. A cliffy, flat-topped isle, Lady Percy's Isle was seen. It was seldom that the weather would allow us of any thing being distinguished beyond two mile; and when the night came on, we were quite uncertain of the trending of the coast.
We were now entered into Bass' Strait; and the subsiding of the sea made me suspect that the large island concerning which I had made inquiry of captain Baudin, was to windward. The south part of this island was discovered by Mr. Reid, in a sealing expedition from Port Jackson; and before quitting New South Wales in 1799, I had received an account of its lying to the north-west of Hunter's Isles. It afterwards appeared, that the northern part was seen in January 1801, by Mr. John Black, commander of the brig Harbinger, who gave to it the name of King's Island. Of this I was ignorant at the time; but since it was so very dangerous to explore the main coast with the present south-west wind, I was desirous of ascertaining the position of this island before going to Port Jackson, more especially as it had escaped the observation of captain Baudin.
A boat was immediately hoisted out, and I landed with the botanical gentlemen. On stepping out of the boat, I shot one of those little bear-like quadrupeds, called Womat; and another was killed afterwards. A seal, of a species different to any yet seen by us, was also procured; its phippers behind were double, when compared to to the common kinds of seal, and those forward were smaller, and placed nearer to the head; the hair was much shorter, and of a blueish, grey colour; the nose flat and broad; and the fat upon the animal was at least treble the usual quantity.
We returned on board at dusk, with our womats, the seal, and a kanguroo; the last being of middle size between the small species of the lesser islands, and the large kind found at Kanguroo Island and on the continent. It appeared indeed, all along the South Coast, that the size of the kanguroo bore some proportion to the extent of land which it inhabited.
In steering north-north-west from King's Island, two small isles were seen which Mr. Black named New Year's Isles; and his Harbinger's Reef were seen to extend, in patches, nearly two leagues fron the north end of King's Island. A five o'clock, a bluff head, the most projecting part of the northern land, was distant three or four leagues; it was captain Grant's Cape Otway. From Cape Otway, eastward, the shore trends east-north-east to a projection called Cape Patton, and according to captain Grant, a bay is formed between them; but at three leagues off, nothing worthy of being called a bay could be perceived.
In the morning we kept close to an east-south-east wind, steering for the land to the north-eastward; and at nine o'clock captain Grant's Cape Schanck, the extreme of the preceding evening, was five leagues distant to th N. 88º E., and a rocky point towards the head of the bight, bore N. 12º E. On coming within five miles of the shore at eleven o'clock, we found it to be low, and mostly sandy; and that the bluff head which had been taken for the north end of an island, was part of a ridge of hills rising at Cape Schanck.
On the west side of the rocky point there was a small opening, with breaking water across it; however, on advancing a little more westward the opening assumed a more interesting aspect, and I bore away to have a nearer view. A large extent of water presently became visible within side; and although the entrance seemed to be very narrow, and there were in it strong ripplings like breakers, I was induced to steer in at half past one. The extensive harbour we had thus unexpecedly found I supposed must be Western Port, although the narrowness of the entrance did by no means correspond with the width given to it by Mr. Bass. It was the information of captain Baudin, who had coasted from thence with fine weather, and had found no inlet of any kind, which induced this supposition; and the very great extent of the place, agreeing with that of Western Port, was in confirmation of it. This, however, was not Western Port, as we found next morning; and I congratulated myself on having made a new and useful discovery; but there again I was in error. This place, as I afterwards learned at Port Jackson, had been discovered ten weeks before by lieutenant John Murray, who had succeeded captain Grant in the command of the Lady Nelson. He had given it the name of Port Phillip, and to the rocky point on the east side of the entrance, that of Point Nepean.
From Arthur's Seat, so named by Mr.Murray from a supposed resemblance to the hill of that name near Edinburgh, the shore trended northward so far, that the land at the head of the port could not be seen, even from aloft. After breakfast I went away in a boat, accompanied by Mr. Brown and some other gentlemen, for the Seat. I ascended the hill; and to my great surprise found this port so extensive, that even at this elevation its boundary to the northward could not be distinguished. The western shore extended from the entrance ten or eleven miles in a northern direction, to the extremity of what, from its appearance, I called Indented Head. Arthur's Seat and the hills and vallies in its neighbourhood, were generally well covered with wood; and the soil was superior to any upon the borders of the salt water, which I have had an opportunity to examine in Terra Australis There were many marks of natives, such as deserted fire places and heaps of oyster shells; and upon the peninsula which forms the south side of the port, a smoke was rising, but we did not see any of the people.
The plan of examining the port with the ship was abandoned, the day before, because of the slow mode of proceeding with weak winds. Having left orders with Mr.Fowler, the first lieutenant, to take the ship back to the entrance, I went in a boat early in the morning with provisions for three days; in order to explore as much of the port as could be done in that time. I rowed to windward for Indented Head and landed at nine o'clock at night, near the uppermost part which had yet been seen.
In the morning, a fire was perceived two hundred yards from the tent; and the Indians appeared to have decamped from thence on our landing. Whilst I was taking angles from a low point at the north-easternmost part of Indented Head, a party of the inhabitants showed themselves about a mile from us; and on landing there we found a hut with a fire in it, but the people had disappeared, and carried off their effects.
Three natives having made their appearance abreast of the boat, we again landed. They cam to us without hesitation, received a shag and some trifling presents with pleasure, and parted with such of their arms as we wished to possess, without reluctance. They afterwards followed us along the shore; and when I shot another bird, which hovered over the boat, and held it up to them, they ran down to the water side and received it without expressing either surprise or distrust. Their knowledge of the effect of fire arms I then attributed to their having seen me shoot birds when unconscious of being observed; but it had probably been learned from Mr. Murray.
Along the north-east sides of Indented Head, I found the water to be shoal; but on approaching the entrance of what Mr. Murray called Swan Harbour, but which I have taken the liberty of converting into
Swan Pond, it became somewhat deeper. Seeing swans there, I rowed into it after them, but found the place full of mud banks, and seldom more that three or four feet in depth. Three of the birds were caught; and at the south side of the entrance, upon the sandy peninsula, or island as it is when the tide is in, I shot some delicate teal, and found fresh water in small ponds.