Chapter 29604218

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Chapter NumberIII
Chapter TitleROUGH WEATHER AT RIVOLI BAY.
Chapter Urlhttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article29604218
Full Date1878-07-10
Page Number7
Corrections3
Word Count4161
IllustratedN
Last Corrected2018-04-03
Newspaper TitleThe South Australian Advertiser (Adelaide, SA : 1858 - 1889)
Trove TitleRecollections of a Pioneer
article text

RECOLLECTIONS OF A PIONEER.

[BY CAPTAIN UNDERWOOD.] CHAPTER III. ROUGH WEATHER AT RIVOLI BAY.

I made another trip to Rivoli Bay with stores for the settlers at the Mount in the winter month of July. We arrived at the bay all right. There was no one then

living near it, so we had to wait the arrival of drays from the interior to remove the staff. While riding there a north-west storm was brewing, and the heavy ocean swell rolled in very strongly. I was riding in the south end of the bay. During the day a heavy surge broke the ring of my best anchor, about 200 lbs. weight, and let us adrift. I had yet two anchors on board, so we got underweigh and worked to wind- ward to a fair berth again. We backed one anchor by the other, bent both chains to the best anchor, and veered away. Bad weather was fast setting in, the swell was increasing and becoming more sudden in its action. Just before dark a very heavy rolling swell carried away my boat's painter, though it was a long one, and my boat went before wind and sea on to the beach. I felt that to be a disaster, especially in prospect of a coming storm. There we were without means of communicating with the shore, and could not tell how soon we might have to land against our will. I had an empty pork barrel on board, the only floating means I could command, so I tried to fix it by lashing four oars, and placing it in the centre, in order that if possible some of us (for I had two men that trip), might reach the shore upon it, to recover the boat before it went to pieces. All being ready, I offered the post of honor to both my officers, who politely declined the almost certain chance of being made a supper for a shark, or, at any rate, drowned in the dark. However, the sharks could do without supper better than we could do without a boat, so it was Hobson's choice again, and after giving them my instructions in case they should not hear of me again, I determined on the experiment, so taking a balance-pole in my hand, I committed myself to the waves. It was now dark and threatening, but I landed safely, rescued the boat, and got her back again to the craft before the wind came on too strong, greatly to the satisfaction of everybody. We doubly secured the boat astern, and waited for the burst. About 10 p.m. down it came, like thunder, with vivid lightning, and the sea came in from the west like hills. The craft began to drag by the sudden surging of the rollers, and a little after midnight a heavy sea again carried away our boat. Every few minutes we dragged nearer to the outer breaker, and by 3 a.m. we saw there was no hope of escape. I had all ready to slip at the right moment of canting the right way, and to set small canvas and shoot into the snuggest corner of the bay. The breakers on shore were heavy, but we shot along after slipping till a breaker took charge of us, and sent us with a crash on the strand. The rudder flew off in an instant, and being long heeled, the vessel went on right before the wind and sea, and was soon washed up far enough for us to get out safely on to the beach. She lay steadily in that position, and that saved her from going to pieces. The water was forced high up on the coast by the storm, and when it abated the ordinary tides did not reach her by 50 feet. She. bedded about three feet in the sand; the cargo being principally flour did not get much damage. Fine weather returned, we discharged the stores and carried them above highwater mark, built a circle with bags of flour, put the other stores inside it, and covered the whole with a sail. We had not then seen any natives. One of my two men took his station at the stores close to the vessel, did all the cooking there, and slept under the cover at night. Myself and my other man worked at dismantling the craft, to try and dig her out of the sand-bed she had made. A QUEER FIX. A. night or two after the stores were landed the man in charge, who lay asleep by his fire, woke up, and found the natives had been in while he was asleep, stole our provisions, and made an attempt on a sugar bag. In a great fright he came rushing on board to tell the news. We all mustered, and beat about round the place, but nothing could we see but the prints of raked feet, a proof of who the robbers were. So we had to double our guard, and keep a better look out. After a day or two drays came and relieved us of our charge. It cost us much labor and time to raise the hull above the level sand by levers; we had no help at hand of any kind; and it was only once in many months there was communication with Adelaide. After we raised the hull we found the keel and garboard streaks were knocked out about 20 feet along. We got the hull rolled on to the bilge, and I had tools with me, and fortunately boards too, as well as fastenings; so to work I went to put in a new keel and new planks. Under the circumstances it cost some time and scheming. The rudder I recovered at low tide, lying about where it parted company with the sternpost. After five weeks effort we had got repairs finished, and at the end of six weeks all was ready to launch again. I had recovered my boat, not destroyed, and

my anchors I had slipped with a. buoy, so we got anchor.and chains again. We bedded the anchors well off, and rove tackles with purchase blocks lashed to the chains. Just as we were ready a strong gale sent up the water again, and a team of bullocks came to the bay, so we yoked the bullocks to the fall and attended the hull whilst launching on her broadside, till it reached two or three feet of water, when we allowed her to "righten," and had her afloat again. We had no pitch for the seams, so used grease, and when afloat we found she made a considerable quantity of water. We got spars, sails, and stores on board, and soon were ready for sea, but we could not tell the cause of leakage. The weather looking threatening, I thought it not prudent to try aud reach Adelaide in these circumscances against strong N.W. gales, so ran round to Portland, in hopes of being able to heave down there and stop the leak. We reached Portland, but found it impracticable to heave her down. So far I was beaten. At Portland Messrs. Henty Brothers offered me a cargo of barrelled beef to take to Circular Head, in Tasmania, where they said I could repair. I accepted it and went on, the leak increasing a little at sea. After much pumping we reached Circular Head, but not without some narrow escapes in attempting to pass between Cape Grim and the adjacent islands, and there we met with a terrific gale from the south. We grounded in the night on a mud spit, which for a time stopped the leak. Arriving safely in Circular Head, we discharged the beef to the order of the agent there, and in attempting to heave down broke off the mainmast by the deck. That gave us a little bother. We then lay her ashore on a bank of stones, and discovered the leak to be a bolt hole left open through the new keel. We stopped it, and all was so far right again. Having refitted, we took on board a cargo of potatoes for Henty Bros., to be delivered at Portland. We set sail on our return passajre, and reached King's Island quietly. There we met a heavy norther when trying to round the north end of the island, and were driven back to the east side, till the weather "fined." We again recovered our lost ground, and on trying to round the north end of King's Island against a strong nor'-wester, we narrowly escaped the reefs in that vicinity. We were nearly on the back of the outer breaker before we saw our danger, as it was a dark night. The weather looked extremely threatening: the sky had a lurid glare like .that which at times precedes a hurricane. We got round the island, but the threatening appearance warned me to seek shelter, if possible, under New Year's Island, on the north west end of King's Island. I ran in and found excellent anchorage in a horseshoe cove in 3 fathoms of water, and rode there for 12 days during some of the worst weather I ever knew on the coast. I don't think we could have survived it at sea. We found plenty of cabbages, celery, and garden stuff, and good fresh water on the island, and there seemed no end to the number of snakes. After the weather cleared up we again started for Portland, and in a few days reached it all rijrht, greatly to the surprise of the people there, who supposed we had perished in the late storms. In those days there were no jetties or landing places, so everything had to be landed through a surf on the beach. We landed our cargo of potatoes, but they of course had been wet with salt water. They were put in the ground for seed potatoes, but never came up. At Portland I met an old friend, an Adelaide skipper, who had just lost his vessel, driven on the beach there, so I did the amiable, and gave him a passage round to Adelaide in the saloon of the Governor Gawler. We had a fine passage round, and skirted the shore all along from Cape Northumberland to Cape Jaffa as close as possible, to determine the true nature of that part of the coast. For that, and my report thereon, I received a cheque for £10 from His Excelleucv Governor Grey. THE MISSING MAX TURNS UP I had then been away from Adelaide three months. No one there had heard a word about me since I sailed. There was then little intercourse between one colony and another, or between parts of the same colony. I had been given up as lost for at least six weeks. It had been reported in Adelaide that my body had been found and recognised, and buried on the beach some where. My family was in Port Lincoln, and had entirely given up hope of ever hearing of me again, and had thought of again returning to England. My friends in Adelaide exclaimed on my reappearance, "Here is the dead man come again to life among us." I had passed through a fair share of difficulties few would dream now- a-days of exposing themselves to. TOBACCO TRIP. In these early periods of our history American whalers frequently visited our waters, and made their rendezvous at Kan- ; garoo Island to keep their crews from contact with the enticements of our young land. About 1843 or 1844 I fell in with two of those visitors, and was employed to bring from their ships a cargo of tobacco and other stuff to turn into cash to pay their refit from Adelaide. The tobacco did not take, not being of marketable quality. The ships' names were Edward and Majestic, Captains Barker and Hawes. The tobacco was sold for sheepwash and stored a while to be disposed of. I carried back to their ships stores from Port Adelaide and took in the tobacco, 70 cases more or less, which the purchasers were desirous of converting into sheepwash, but were not allowed to do in the colony. I was to take it to some place unknown by their direction, one of the principals going with me, for the purpose of making a wash of the stuff. Of course it was not the intention to go beyond the colony, but to some such isolated place as Kangaroo Island. To sea we went, and to our surprise and amusement we found the Collector of Customs had instructions to follow us wherever we went, in the schooner Victoria, belonging to the South Australian Company, but employed for that purpose by Government, Captain Lipson, R.N., commander. We got into the gulf, and there we loitered about, acting a sort of farce for several days, making signals and laughing at the result. So we spent a week or more dodging each other, and then returned to Adelaide again. GETS A NEW SHIP. I then chartered the Victoria from the Company, and hoisted my flag on board that vessel, putting another in charge of the Governor Gawler. I ran successfully with her about eight months, trading on the coast, and found her to be a more powerful sea-boat than my late craft. In the month of June, 1843. I started on a trip for Bivoli Bay with stores, principally flour, for the settlers there. During the interval between my wreck there and my visit in the Victoria I had erected a shed to store goods or wool at the Bay, and had put a person with his family in charge of it. The place was rising in importance. A public-house had been built, and signs of life were visible round the bay. I had sent stores there for sale to the settlers when required, and had gone to con siderable expense to start the place. At the time there was no soul at Guichen Bay, nor prospect of any. The weather had been very fine for some time in June, and we got as far south as Cape Jaffa; when a heavy westerly gale set in, and blew with intense fury. Wanting to keep Encounter Bay open I hove-to about 30 miles off the coast, head to the northward, making considerable

drift, the schooner being of light draught. At the end of the second day, the gale still continuing, and not being able to carry canvas to do any good, at sunset I could see from the masthead the breakers on the Cape Jaffa shoals, bearing S.E., distance by estimation eight miles. Fearing I should not keep off the coast till morning, and the coast being then unknown in that vicinity, having sounded in 15 fathoms, I got all ground tackle ready, saw everything clear, and sounded again in nine fathoms. I then determined to keep away to the N.E., and to round the shoals at a distance. Everybody being on deck, three besides myself, I went to the mainmast-head to keep a look out for any danger, and to give instructions to the steersman. Everything seemed clear ahead, and for about half an hour we forged fast along under close-reefed top sail and foresail. All at once I saw a sea rise on the quarter, gaining altitude as it rushed along. I gave orders to put the helm hard up, but it was upon us before any thing could be done. It burst with a roar like thunder, and rolled right over the schooner, capsizing her in an instant, and burying us all beneath its mass. UNDER WOOD UNDER WATER I went down under the mast, how far I don't know, but I let go, and came to the surface. I saw all was over. The weather rail was just out of water, so was the upper foreyardarm, I instinctively swam under the lee of the wreck. I neither heard nor saw any one, but I saw the boat still at the water's edge rearly full of water. It must have been below water, but how it partly got out again I cannot tell. I got into the boat, but found the stern was lashed to some thing below water. I tried hard to get a knife out of my pocket to cut the lashinG, but could not. Then I saw another moun tain sea coming on with a roar like thunder. For a moment I waited to see it cover me, but it spent its fury before it reached me, and the jerking motion of the wreck snapped the lashing and sent me in the boat away from the wreck about 2O yards on its frothing, foaming surface. It rolled the wreck keel up, but did not fill the boat any fuller. The boat was built of redgum boards, and when full of water would sink to the bottom like an earthenware basin. Finding myself now adrift in the dark of the night, in an ocean storm and an ocean sea, without oar, baler, or anything else, I lay down in the water, just keeping; my face out to breathe, expecting instantly to disap pear beneath the waves. I felt I had done with this life, and committed my spirit to God, who gave me being. The boat was full of water up to the thwarts, and per haps above them, and must have been deep under water when the sea rolled over us. I had lain in that condition but a few minutes when I heard a voice on the wave at a short distance. It was a seaman struggling for life—struggling to reach the boat which he could see on the rolling wave. He was soon alongside, and on looking saw the boat was nearly full of water, and exclaimed, "I may go down at once.'' Whether he saw me I do not know, but I said to him. "Do not go down, but roll out of the water over the boat's gunwale. and lie down with me in the boat." He rolled over and lay down, as we thought, to breathe on!y a minute longer. Sea after sea rolled by, but did not fill the boat. Seeing that I felt hope revive, and said to the seaman, "Do as I do, but do not move." We took off our hats, and tried to push the water over the gunwale. My hat soon went to pieces, and I threw it away; his was a painted south-wester, and well suited to the purpose. After a few minutes he felt something against his leg, and on feel ing it found to be a pannikin he threw it to me, and we both baled away. I felt there was no plug in the boat's bottom, and the water was boiling up into the boat through the hole. I saw there was just one thole pin sticking in the gunwale. I wrenched it out and stopped the plug-hole with it. In half-an-hour we had the boat dry ; then it floated boldly on the wave. We rose and sat on the thwarts while the boat was driven by the wind and sea towards the land. After thinking a while I continued to tear up the middle bottom-board, and putting it over the stern through the scull- hole I made shift to steer the boat right before the wind and sea toward shore. It was yet but a forlorn hope : there was the expected breakers bursting on the beach to be feared, but on we went in the dark at the rateof three or four miles an hour. After run ning about four miles I saw a heavy breaker right ahead, and watched to see when we rose on the top of the wave, what it was. On nearing it I perceived by its defined limits that it was a rock, and by angling the boat's head a point or two we cleared it. After we passed it the water began very sensibly to smoothen, and the heavy sea gradually sub sided. Then we saw the low sandhills, and as we approached the shore the water was quite smooth, and when we grounded on the beach there was hardly a ripple. We landed about three or four miles to the east- ward of Gape Jaffa. After getting ashore we felt cold and sodden, and being on a lonely beach in a very dark night, exposed to the pelting of the storm, we had poor comfort to look for. We left the boat and began our wanderings along the beach to the north-eastward. The first idea was to get warmth restored to our flesh by exer cise, and to wander northward towards Adelaide at the same time. We had had little to eat for 30 hours be fore the wreck; that added to cold and wet, and anxiety, and the uncer tainty of our future, made us drag heavily along in the darkness and solitude of a sandy beach ; scarcely a word was uttered by either of us. I knew we were near the spot where a few years before the crew and passengers of the brig Maria, wrecked there, were murdered by the natives. I knew too that part of the coast was still uninhabited by white settlers. All this was present to my thoughts, though the seaman who was with me knew nothing of his situation or probable dangers. I soon felt fagged out and done up, and proposed that we should quit the beach and try to find shelter inland of the sandhills. Scrambling over them we soon found our selves among the scrub and stunted she oaks. We broke down some boughs, and made a sort of breakwind at the base of a tree, then lay down on the sod to rest our fagged limbs, but not to sleep. At times the squalls of rain passed over us, but we heeded them not. Our lodgings were cold, and being wet from head to foot our bed added little to our comfort. So we passed that dreary night, WET, COLD, AND HUNGRY. When morning came our limbs were almost numb and stiff. At length the sun arose, and gleamed through the cloudy shroud to show us our position and light our way. We got on our feet and moved about to get heat into us, for we had no means of getting a fire. We began to feel the want of food. Our thirst we slaked from rainwater found in the curled bark of trees. In the dark of the night we had strolled five or six miles away from the boat. It now rested with myself to determine on a definite course of action. I knew the nature of the country from the charts I had seen. I knew we were cut off from Adelaide by lakes and the Murray, and that our distance from any source of help in that direction was more than double the distance from Rivolii Bay, besides the impassable difficulties just mentioned. I felt too that we had little chance of reaching either place without food. After reflection I determined on going south for Rivoli Bay and to keep the

seaboard, with the hope of finding some thing on the beach we could eat, either 1 limpets from rocks if rocks were to be met with, or shellfish of some sort. A MELANCHOLY MEDITATION We then returned to the beach and re traced our steps to the boat, then lying dry, as the water had fallen, and the gale abated. Having reached the boat, we sat down on it for awhile in silence, as if we were sitting on our coffin. We saw that two of the side planks were knocked out at the stern, next to the gunwale, and that otherwise it had received but little damage. The boat was capable of carrying nearly a ton weight, and was strongly built. We then wended our way along the beach towards Cape Jaffa, but the strong-blowing wind we found to be dis agreeable. We had not wandered far from the boat—probably a mile—when we found lying on the sand a fine bird about the size of a duck. It was warm and evidently just dead. I picked it up and considered it truly a Godsend. It helped to cheer us up and assure us that we should not perish through want of food. We determined to keep it till the last extremity of hunger compelled us to devour it. We found some wooden vessel on the beach which we thought had come from the wreck; but besides the bird we could find nothing that would serve for food.