Chapter 29604074

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Chapter NumberII
Chapter TitleA VOYAGE TO HOBART TOWN.
Chapter Urlhttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article29604074
Full Date1878-07-08
Page Number6
Corrections11
Word Count4772
IllustratedN
Last Corrected2018-04-04
Newspaper TitleThe South Australian Advertiser (Adelaide, SA : 1858 - 1889)
Trove TitleRecollections of a Pioneer
article text

RECOLLECTIONS OF A PIONEER.

CHAPTER II. A VOYAGE TO HOBART TOWN.

[BY CAPTAIN UNDERWOOD.]

In the year 1843 there was little doing about our coast even for such a ship as the Governor Gawler of 16 tons. Employment being slack, a voyage to Hobart Town was

determined on. At that period of our colonial progress we grew great quantities of water-melons, and very tine fruit they wore then considered to be. It was summer time, and favorable for the venture. Having purchased a cargo of melons, to be delivered alongside at the Port, I received them on board and at once started off on my passage to the southward. I got jammed in on the coast south of Cape Jaffa by south-west winds, and in the night steered in to a bay, then unknown to the colonists. It was Rivoli Bay. Some time was spent in examining its facilities for anchorage and landing; and on my return from Hobart Town I made it known through the Press as a place of access for the Mount Gambier sheepfarming interest. In fair weather it seemed a very fine anchorage. I pushed on towards my destination, and made a rapid progress to the southward. When in tbe parallel of the south-west cape of Van Diemen's Land a pretty heavy gale with high seas and thick dirty weather came on. Having no means of navigation besides an old quadrant, a chart, and good judgment of the action and speed of my craft, I felt anxious about my position in such weather, as I could make no allowance for currents, if any. In the gale I fell in with a ship under double-reefed topsails and furled courses. I hove-to to leeward of her, and made signal to speak. She ran down to us, and I got from her the information I required, the bearing and distance of the South - West Cape, it being on our parallel, distant 20 miles. Oa dauc?d my sturdy craft again over the bis seas like a thing of life, and my bigger companion had to loose his courses to try and keep pace with us. I showed him a fine large melon over the stern, as much as to say don't you wish you night get it, and bid him adieu. Before dark the Cape was passed, and the gale increased in very heavy squalls, so that I had to keep under very snug canvas, and at times was almost under water from the violence of the gusts, which raised the water in a white drift. Next day I entered the Entricasteus Channel on the west side of Bruny Island, and narrowly escaped destruction on a reef of sharp-pointed rocks, peeping out of water about a foot, but hidden from sight at a small distance by a thick bed of kelp. I passed within 10 feet of one of those pointed rocks before I saw it. While passing through that long meanandering channel the squalls blew off the high land with intense fury, but the water was smooth. The night being very dark, we nearly ran on a high bold rock in the channel. HOBART TOWN. After a passage of about eight days I anchored in the snug harbor of Hobart. There were a few vessels there, mostly small coasters. The wharfs then were only second rate, but there was sufficient accommodation for my good ship, drawing 4 feet of water. After I hauled in to the quay, and the report of a visitor from South Australia had got abroad, great numbers came to inspect the little lion, and could hardly believe it had come from such a far off country to bring them a few melons. Among the visitors was the worthy Governor, Sir John Franklin, who came and asked questions. Many curious remarks were made about the little wanderer.

Having disposed of my melons to a fruiterer (who never paid for them), I advertised for freight or charter back to South Australia, and for cabin passengers only. I had one gent, who applied for passage, and on inspection of the saloon and other accommodation determined on the voyage. I then filled up with apples and other produce, and set sail for Port Adelaide again. I went round the east side of Van Diemen's Land through Bank's Channel and the Straits, and touched on my way at Portland. On rounding the Law rence Rocks we smelt a strong smell sntna thing like GUANO. Having heard the fame of that manure, and as it began to be talked of among the colonists, I came to anchor near the rocks, and examined the flat top where thousands of gannets were hovering about. I discovered that it contained some thousands of tons of the precious deposit. I brought samples to Adelaide, and it excited the curiosity of many to know whereabouts the discovery had been made, I arrived safely back after a very favorable and quick voyage. My return cargo was of more benefit to me than the melons. I started off afresh and quickly got a cargo of guano round to Port Adelaide, where it came from being yet a aecret except to a favored few. and among them my good friend the Governor, now Sir George Grey. Many thought me a fortunate fellow for my discovery, and I hoped it might prove of some advantage. I stored the first cargo under the care of Messrs. A. L. Elder & Co. It was bagged and carted to town to their stores, as they thought it might be something in their way as well as in mine. I then took a gang of men and the material to make a stage on the rock for easier shipping it, as the range of the swell all round the rocks made it both difficult and dangerous to get it away. About a thousand tons were heaped up ready for removal when a gale came on and swept away all my staging. I brought away two cargoes aad then abandoned the affair, as no one in the colony at the time was prepared to use it, or knew much about its useful qualities. It was stored for a long while, and put me to some expense, loss of time, labor, and risk, added to which none would buy it, and I was saddled with the cost of bags, cartage, and store rent, so ended the discovery of guano so far as I was concerned, but many cargoes have been carried to Melbourne since and disposed of at a profit by other parties. DISCOVERS THE CAVES. Having finished the guano venture I went to Rivoli Bay with stores to be landed there for settlers in the Mount Gambier district. Having arrived at the Bay I started to go to the Mount, leaving the craft there. I had the company of Mr. J. B. Graham, of Barra Barra notoriety, who went with me for a trip. We scoured a large part of the country and discovered some singular subterranean caverns, with remarkably small openings above like the hatchway of a ship. I descended one by means of a rope about 90 feet, and landed on a small peak of a conical shape, surrounded by apparently deep water. The cavern appeared of vast extent, dark and undefined. In one of the caverns the bottom was dry, and there were the remains of numerous animals, with some huge skeletons of kangaroos, which no doubt had met their fate by falling down while going about in the dark. There were fine specimens of tree ferns growing in one of the caverns. AFFRAY WITH ABORIGINES. We arrived at the station of Mr. Leake, then a sheepfarmer of repute, and enjoyed his mutton and damper. While there an assault was made by the natives on his sbeep, and a large number were driven off to the native camp, killed, and a grand corroboree was held among them. All the forces that could be mustered, either volunteers or pressed men, were in requisition for instant service. I fell in with the rest, and being a horse marine, I had the advantage of some of my comrades, who were on foot. After a march of several hours, smoke rising in clouds among the distant trees directed our course to the scene of slaughter. We soon began to smell the fumes of burning flesh. Two parties were formed, the first armed with guns of some sort—l suppose neither Snider nor Martini- Henry rifles. Mv party was a sort of reserve, and second in action. The feasting party was very unceremoniously disturbed by a round of missiles from our " braves." The order of battle was quickly formed on the side of the swarthy sheepstealers. They, however, were taken by surprise, and only threw themselves in front of their woman and children to enable them to make good their retreat into a thick tea tree scrub close behind. The retreat was but the work of two or three minutes. It beinp secured, after a second volley from our veterans, the "sables" evidently considered a retreat the better part of valor, and they quickly folowed their lubras and children where no whitefellow could penetrate to annoy them; but left behind them on the field all their utensils, nets, waddies, and other trappings, with about 60 fires burning - a good proof that they had lost no time in their cooking operations. Every sheep was slaughtered, not one left alive. All their scattered arms and tools were collected and laid on the fires. So ended the first campaign in which I took part against the aborigines of the soil. Whether any were killed or wounded we did not learn, as none were found lying about. Having performed that feat of valor, and made sure that nothing was to be recovered, we started back again one party to the station of Mr. Leake - our party to a station belonging to the South Australian Company. On nearing it there appeared signs of something wrong, so we pushed on with all speed. I was the only horseman of the party, so dashed ahead to reconnoitre. I found the natives had charge of the station, and had already lighted a fire at the entrance of the sheepyard, where the flock was secured. The shepherd was a prisoner under guard of a sable sentry outside. On our giving a shout and making a rush forward the blacks began a retreat. I tried to ride one down before me, but he gave me the double, and I lost my man. \Ve had no other arms among us but sticks. One black was made a prisoner near the shepher's hut. So we arrived just in time to prevent mischief and another corroboree. Our prisoner was secured, and we brought him to Adelaide to see what law and justice would do for him there. All it did was to give him plenty of tucker, a blanket, and send him back again. At the instance of Mr. Leake, a leading character, a roundrobin was signed, expressing the necessity of using vigorous and stern measures with the natives as a warning to keep them from making free with the property of the whites. The article appeared in the papers of the day, and we all got a reprimand for taking the law into our own hands. I visited the top of Mount Gambier, and had a view of the beautiful indigo blue waters contained in its crater. On our way between the Bay and the Mount, in the thick-wooded country, we were obliged to stop for the night. The night was dark and gloomy among the thick gums of the forest, so we tethered our horses, made a fire, and under the lea of some bushes lay down to camp for the night. My companion was a celebrity, by cognomen Mick the Devil! for what reason I cannot tell, as l did not see any signs of a cloven hoof. In the night while Mick was sound asleep I was |ying awake, and with our heads on the turf it was easy to hear sounds if near us. I was a new chum at such lodgings, but being awake, I heard a sound not very distant of a gentle thumping on the ground,

as with a stick. I woke up friend Mick to get his opinion of the matter. After listening for a moment he said quietly, "Up and away, quick; it is the natives stealing on us. They have seen our fire and if they can they will soon cook our goose." I dare say he was right, so in the dark gloom we found our horses, and were soon on them and rode off as best we could in an opposite direction from the encroaching foe. We rode probably a couple of miles throough the trees, then halted again, tethered our horses, and lay down on the ground without making a fire. I believe I lay watching for sounds all night till daylight dispersed our fears. We had no kind of arms with us. In attempting to pass the neck of a swamp Mick's horse rolled over into a hole covered with long grass, and lay there till we could extricate the poor brute. After great difficulty we succeeded in getting it out again. We got along all right at last, and reached our destination. On arriving in Adelaide I made known through the Press the fine open glades over which we passed, and there was a considerable movement among some interested in sheep to set out and see for themselves. It resulted in many flocks being sent south very soon afterwards. So ended my visit to that part of the country on that occasion. I landed some stores at the Bay for the settlers inland, and they were taken away by drays sent to receive them. That object accomplished, I returned safe and sound to Port Adelaide. WAR AT PORT LINCOLN The good ship was then employed to convey troops, a company of H.M. 90th Regiment, to Port Lincoln, where the natives had killed a number of the white settlers, and filled the minds of the rest with fear and terror. Our houses were barricaded, and the place was in a state of seige. After a stormy passage the "braves" were landed with their arms and the security of the locality reassured. An opportunity soon offered to test the valor of the redcoats. A camp of friendly natives near the town was stormed by surprise in the dark of the night, and carried at the point of the baronet. After a few rounds had been poured into their harmless circle, the townspeople cried shame so to use their friendly sable neighbours. The natives that could scramble away, and those who could not had to lie down. A party of the "valiants" were marched out to a station about 18 miles from the town, and placed there by their lieutenant as a protection to the out-stations. After giving them instructions for their guidance, their officer returned in company with some friends to town. A few hours after he had left his men some natives appeared in the distance making some manoeuvres. That was sufficient ; a panic amongst the troops was the result, and without firing a shot there was a stampede. It was said they did not cease running till they felt themselves safe again under the protection of the townsfolk. Such were the "gallants" of that day. The only good they were was as a sort of stand-by in the township. My house was strongly barricaded, and I left two or three guns at the service of my man in charge, with instructions not to fear using his weapons if he had need in case of attack. Having been away on one occasion, I returned unexpectedly in the night, and ventured to put his courage to the test. I reached the house, and began to imitate a blackfellow at the door. I heard his movements inside, and an instant after a ball from a musket came through the door. I felt it or a splinter touch my nose as it passed. He was preparing to send another after it when he heard my voice, to his no small surprise. I was thus near paying too dearly for my experiment at playing the blackfellow. TURNS FARMER Port Lincoln having begun to develop itself a little I entered into a wheat-growing spec. with E. McEllister, who was to conduct the operations, while I found the funds to carry on. So to wheat-growing we went at a place called The Swamp. Our first year's production was pretty well as to quantity, and according to my friend's showing it cost 15s. per bushel to raise and get it ready for market. It brought about 12s. 6d. delivered in Adelaide. I was under engagement for three years. Our next year's produce showed a cost of 12s. 6d., and it brought at market about 10s. The third year the produce cost about 6s. and brought at market about 7s. 6d. Right glad I was the engagement had run out, though I believe I had the worst end of the venture for my share. Then my friend was in my debt about ?50, so I had to take sheep from him at 10s. a head to clear the debt off, and he was to keep them on halves. Somehow or other a great many of the lambs took it into their heads not to stay in this world of barrenness and bad grass, so they died at once. I expect my friend's lambs were like captain's birds at sea - they never die even if others on freight or trust should never live; however singular it may be, it is said to be the case. I kept my interest in my flock for seven years, by which time they had increased to 500, when they were sold again at the enormous price of 2s each. Such was my success at corn and sheep farming. Of course I was laways away in the good ship, and now came my second voyage to Hobart Town. By this time a great improvement had been effected on board, a sort of half deck had been put on, a new saloon built, with considerable improvements in the cabins, especially in the ladies' cabin, where every accommodation that the pace allowed was made. All the improvements were effected in the interval while at Port Lincoln. About that time the Governor, now Sir George Grey, with his suite paid a visit to Port Lincoln, and sent a messenger to say he intended to pay me the honor of his first visit after landing. I displayed St. George's ensign and a long streaming pennant on my flagstaff in honor of my illustrious visitor. The party landed, and took me and my family a little by surprise. Not being an aristocrat I did the best I could to entertain them, while the Governor amused himself by nursing one of my children, to the no small amusement of the rest. His Excellency expressed a wish to inspect the accommodation of the good ship the Governor Gawler then riding at anchor to all her glory in the spacious bay. He came on board, entered the saloon, and saw the ladies' cabin, but expressed his conviction that there was hardly the space and accommodation he should like on a voyage. TAKES PASSENGERS FOR TASMANIA. In the midwinter month of June I determined on a second voyage to Hobart Town, to lay on the berth at once for passengers and cargo. The event will be a comment on the state of our coasting and intercolonial trace at that period. In a few days I received about 16 tons of goods of various kinds to be delivered at Hobart Town, besides which I had 11 passengers who had engaged their berths for the voyage - men, women and children; about half a dozen were intermediates, the rest were saloon passengers. Many would say nowadays where did you put the intermediates? Well, I left room on the top of the goods, so that a person could lay down on his back and work himself in heels or head foremost as preferred, like herrings in a box; once in they were snug, and could not be much knocked about by the motion of the sea, as passengers are in the ?packets of these modern times. Once here there was little danger of sudden exit. Of course the saloon passengers had every attention and accommodation they could expect, and always in the society of the captain and officers of the ship. I never carried but one lad, who was cook, chief

officer, seaman, boatswain, gunner, and steward. Having received my passengers on board, the craft being rather deep and the season of the year rather unpropitious for such a voyage, some who thought me mad or something else advised me to make my will before sailing, if I had anything or anybody to leave behind me, so I sat down, wrote out my will at once, and got two of them to witness the signature HE WOULD GO. Just as I was ready to quit the wharf to my amusement down came a large drayload of furniture and household goods, all for Hobart Town, and a regular John Bull burly sort of gent and his wife of the same respectable build, besides one child. I told him he was too late, as the ship was full to the bung. He was in great wrath and said he had come with all he had in answer to my advertisement, and he insisted on my finding space for him and his. Not willing to disappoint him of the enjoyment of the trip I told him I would do what I could. I had a small hole forward - what in other ships is commonly called the forecastle. I told him that there my man Friday dwelt, and that if he and his wife could squeeze down through the little hatchway on the deck I could build him a bed bunk on the side opposite to that of Friday's. He said he would do with anything or any place rather than not fo in the good ship. I contrived a bedplace for him with a few broad palings just under the hatchway so that he had only to drop through into bed. That done it was pronounced satisfactory, but he was so stout he had some difficulty in getting into his quarters. His large drayload of stuff was the ?ub but I contrived to pile it on the craft somehow, and covered it with a tarpaulin. Happily we were not subject to the Passenger Act, the health officer's visit, or the inspection of the general public or police. The good ship was now a little deeper than before. I had lots of provisions and little comforts in the shape of potatoes, salt beef, and biscuit, &c., and we had a small stove and coppers placed on deck for general use if any one felt inclined to arise, cook, and eat, as they really did on some occasions, and sometimes myself or any man Friday could assist them. To sea we went, nothing fearing and little hoping, except to get to our destination safely. I presume such an expedition never set sail before or since from the waters if Port Adelaide. We were regularly cleared from the Customs, and away we went. A TIGHT CRAFT AND PLENTY OF SEA ROOM. All went on well, with a smart north and north-west wind, until we got about 40 miles south of Kangaroo Island, when the weather set in for a change, and one of the heaviest winter westerly gales came upon us and considerably tossed us about. We were hove-to a day or two under close reefs and small comforts. The first night, about midnight, the top of a heavy sea rolled over us with a roar like thunder put our lights out, half-filled the saloon with water, washed the hatch overboard ' that covered my stout friends in the fore- cabin, and poured upon them a volume of the briny flood that not a little astonished their weak nerves, capsized the galley on deck, and nearly sent us all to kingdon come. There was such squealing and shrieking of the women and children and such a general commotion that it was some time before I could persuade them that there was not the least danger in such a ship. My stout friend rushed precipitiously out of the hatch above him, crawled aft to the saloon door, and roared lustily for the presence and assistance of the captain. He insisted the sea had knocked a great hole through the vessel, and that he had got through it himself. I went with him to see the disaster, and after a while persuaded him the hole was there before the sea rolled over us, and directed him to go below and make himself and wife and child as comfortable as he could. Meanwhile all hands were knocked out to go to the pumps and clear the ship of the water that had got below. The intermediates could not make a move; they were too fast wedged in under the deck, and a hole made above them by a bolt being drawn out of the deck, allowed the water to squirt down upon them to their no small discomfort and alarm. The saloon passengers were all right, but it was a terrible night even to the hardy crew of the gallant ship. No more seas broke on board, and after a time the passengers felt calm and comfortable again, though the motion was considerable and the storm blew with great fury. After about 48 hours we were able to make more sail and forge our way ahead to the southward through a heavy sea. In two or three days we reached and touched at Portland, as the wind was unfavorable to pass round the west side of Tasmania. In that little vessel I never allowed anything for lee drift or current, and was never many miles out of my reckoning. On arriving at Portland my passengers in the fore cabin, my stout friends, determined to debark and try their luck there rather than take out the value of their money in continuing the voyage. In fine weather at sea it was delightful to be on board so fine a vessel. We could, if we could steady themselves, walk six feet back and forwards on the deck for exercise, catch fish, and harpoon porpoises. All that was very interesting. In Portland I took in another gentleman and his lady as saloon passengers, a sheepfarmer, for Hobart Town. Away we went to the eastward through Banks' Straits, and greatly enjoyed the remainder of the voyage in the smooth water of a winter passage on the east side of Tasmania. I soon passed Cape Pillar and entered the waters of the Derwent, and moored snugly once more alongside the wharfs of Hobart. I discharged my passengers all in good order and good condition, and I don't remember that any of them ever expressed a feeling of dissatisfaction at either the ship or accommodation, steward, officers, or captain. All landed safely in harmony and goodwill. RETURN VOYAGE Such was the fame of the packet now in Hobart Town that I had no difficulty in soon tilling up again with passengers and cargo. I had a good batch of cabin pas sengers, although the weather there at that inclement season was cold and stormy. On being ready for sea and clearing at the Customs, I was not a little surprised to be charged with pilotage, and found it no use to protect against it. The funds in that department must have been very low when they were driven to such a strait. When ready for sea I applied at the Harbor Office for the services of a competent pilot, as I had paid the charge, and to my surprise I could not find one of the staff willing to undertake the risk and responsibility of taking such a ship out of their waters, though they had the injustice to make the charge. Captain Moriarty, the Harbour- master, came alongside the ship at the Quay and assured me I had but small pro spect of ever getting to Adelaide at that season in such a vessel, and advised me not to attempt going round the S.W. Cape, as their finest and best-equipped vessels had often tried it without success : he said I should be mad to attempt it. I told him I certainly should attempt it, and he thought it was a forlorn hope. I sailed without a pilot, got to sea, made all snug, and pointed our prow to the westward, and on the second day passed the dreaded S.W. cape, and on the third day was well to the N.W. of it, bearily ploughing our way back again ; the ship not being very deep was fit to attempt anything. On the eighth day we

were up close to Kangaroo Island. Our stock of water, except one cask, was done, and the cask which was left had a very large bunghole, or rather square hole, for

the purpose of dipping in a pannikin. On starting we had on board a fine old cat, and we had missed puss a long time, and ex pected puss had missed his footing, and made a mess for the barracoutas. At length we learned his fate. The cook, on draw ing water out of the said cask, found queer things coming up in the shape of flesh nearly dissolved, hair, &c. This led to enquiry and to the decision that puss had committed suicide by getting into the cask of water, as the hole had been left open. But it was Hobson's choice again, that or nothing, so we made scouse and used plenty of pepper to disguise it, and strained it for tea and coffee; so instead of puss having fed the barracoutas he was destined to feed us land sharks, and many a piece of fun he made for us when meal time came on, and the cry of "Who is for cat scouse?" was heard among us. But no one flinched at doing their duty on poor pussy's remains. So puss was honorably buried, and a number did honor at his funeral. On the tenth day after leaving Hobart Town Wharf we were safely an chored in the waters of Port Adelaide. These long trips over sea were not very profitable, but having only one man or sometimes a lad to pay, my expenses were not large, but it was a hacking, wearing sort of life. We had an advantage at sea, we could make the craft steer herself except when running free. In gales we made all snug, and took it quietly below till it blew over, then we pushed on again. So finished the second voyage to Hobart Town.