|Chapter Title||A PAIR OF COASTERS.|
|Newspaper Title||The South Australian Advertiser (Adelaide, SA : 1858 - 1889)|
|Trove Title||Recollections of a Pioneer|
RECOLLECTIONS OF A PIONEER.
[By Captain Underwood.]
Chapter V. A PAIR OF COASTERS.
After getting safely launched by the aid of our shepherd friends we skirted the shore towards Guichen Bay. At that time no soul except natives was there. About noon we reached
some rocks at the north side of that bay. It was calm, and we landed on an islet in a sandy nook, hauled the boat aground, and went about the rocks. On a small grassy patch we encountered about a dozen old sea lions, nearly as large as oxen. We at tacked one of them by trying to break his nose, but they all took to the sea, snorting and grunting as they hobbled along, and threw themselves over the rocks into the waves. 'We collected about a bucket of gull's eggs, and took them with us for food. A dead calm now set in, and as we had to reach the south end of the bay before dark, as a place of refuge for the night, we paddled a distance of about nine miles with our makeshift oars. Beaching the refuge about dark we hauled up the boat, made it fast, and scrambled away among the bushes: made a fire, scraped a hole in some swampy ground, and got enough muddy water to make a pannikin of tea. The night was very cold; we could not sleep or lay down on the cold ground with comfort, so we sat and roasted gull's eggs for amusement through the night. There was but little wind, and no rain. When daylight came we found our boat nearly 100 yards from the water, on a flat but rough rocky ledge, and it cost much labor and time to get it to the water by laying rollers of round sticks under the bottom ; then we had to tumble it several feet over the edge of a rock into the water. As it was dark when we landed we could not see our position. The wind was from the east, with a fine strong breeze. We pulled round the point of the bay, then set sail, and away we went over a very heavy swell coming in from the sea. For several miles we made our way along shore, through a great many rocks, mostly just at the water's edge, and some a few feet under water, with the surf boiling over them. We passed very near some of them, and on the land side of most of them. ANOTHER NARROW ESCAPE. At the end of that day, having a fine breeze off the land, we reached within a mile or two of the north end of Rivoli Bay, when it came on very dark and the breeze freshened, blowing strong off the land, with a heavy swell rolling in against it. We were a mile or two from land, and had to strike our sail, and take to our paddles to try and get inside the bay. On pulling towards the north cape of the bay, we got into great danger, for a gigantic swell came rolling in with great altitude, and just as it had passed us, tossing us on its curling top, it burst with a roar like thunder and almost frightened us out of our wits. We instantly pulled out sea wards to avoid any following swell. This was a narrow escape. Had it burst a mo ment before it did, we should never have been heard of more. After making a curve of a mile or more we pulled in again, and late in the evening reached the beach in safety. Just inside the northern cape of the bay we drove a peg into the sand, and se cured our boat ; then found our way inland into the jungle, gathered some dead wood, lit a fire, and sat and roasted eggs. It was too cold to attempt to lie down to sleep or rest. I had no hat all this time, but the weather keeping dry we got along pretty well, and passed a tolerable night. We had no disposition to utter hardly a syllable; probably we felt a little dispirited, having lost everything, and meeting with such a succession of dangers and few com forts. BEACH RIVOLI ONCE MORE. After sunrise we embarked again, and had to go only to the south end of the bay, a distance of about nine miles. The water was smooth, and we skirted the beach, and arrived at the infant settlement in the fore noon of the day, greatly to the surprise of every one there, when they heard our tale and saw our condition. There of coarse I was at home, having a store there, and friendly persons, my wife's brother and his wife in charge. We now soon recruited, repaired personal damages, and rested a few days. Two horsemen from the interior visited the bay, one a settler, the other a person going overland to Adelaide from the District of Mount Gambier. I prevailed on the settler to sell me his horse; after a little huxtering he kindly agreed to let me have it for £34, as a great favor of course. I gave him a cheque on Adelaide, and next day became a horse marine again. AN OVERLAND TRIP. With the stockdriver I then started for a trip overland to Adelaide. It was the beginning of July, cold and wet weather. Having made all the arrangements we could for comfort by providing a new hat, pannican, some damper, tea and sugar, a tether-line, &c, off we went. The country at that time was not so well known as at pre sent, and there were but few settlers, at long distance apart. The first day we travelled over leagues of country all under water, in some places up to the horses' bellies, in danger of being swamped in hidden holes. On we went till night, when we came on higher ground, and at dark tethered our nags, made a fire, had some tea and damper, and lay down on the grass, to shake with cold if not to sleep. So we passed the first night. In the morning early, tea and damper again, then to horse. That day we passed over drier country through thick forest land, but before night came I was so chafed that I could hardly sit my saddle in any position. I threw myself into queer attitudes to seek for ease, and felt glad when night came to get some respite. The country was soft and swampy much of the way. We passed another night in similar lodgings, on the same fare, at the same charge. The third and fourth day I suffered great pains from chafing, but there was no respite, on we must go. I certainly did not relish being a horse-marine. Fourth day over, we got into lowland, all under water, and halted at dark in the heart of a thick forest of trees and jungle ; water about a foot deep over the surface. We tethered our horses, and the poor brutes, like ourselves, were pretty hard up ; they had to seek what grass they could by pulling it up from under water. We had to break the branches from the trees, and pile them on each other to make a resting-place for ourselves above water. WAS IT THE BUNYIP? The gloomy darkness in the jungle was oppressive. About midnight we were startled by hearing a sound at a short dis tance, as of a horse, but more like the foot steps of an ox heavily trotting towards us. We started up, and threw ourselves in the line of march as it passed within a few yards of our bedplace; so totally dark was it, that though it seemed within a few feet of us we could see nothing. We called out, but got no answer, and caused no deviation or disturbance of its force or course. My partner was an old bushman, and expressed great astonishment, and thought curious thoughts about the nature of the midnight traveller in such gloom and darkness. It disturbed our repose for the rest of the night. He feared some one had been killed by the natives, and that his frightened steed was careering its way home again; then he thought if it were a horse our horses would have been disturbed, or it would have stopped with them in passing, but on it went and we never heard more of it. We had poor fare now; all our stock was
done, and no refuge near, but we hoped at the end of the next day to get fresh "tucker'' and a rest at E. Spicer's station. We did reach it, got mutton, damper and tea, and regaled ourselves there a short time, but took no stock with us. After an hour or two we made a fresh start. I began to be a better rider, and felt less the pain of chafing, and got a little accustomed to the little difficulties of overland travelling. There was not much variety in the scene, and the season did not add much to the pleasure. FORTY MILE DESERT, where nothing grows for man or beast, was reached about the sixth day. We got into it about 10 or 12 miles when darkness over took us, and we had to halt for the night. Neither we nor our horses had anything to eat, but it was no use grumbling. We tethered one horse and hobbled the other ; that was the directions from my guide. He said the hobbled horse was too hungry to run away and would keep company with his tethered friend. The saddles we used for pillows, and without a fire, tea or damper, lay down on the sod, and a cold and rather uncomfortable lodging it proved. There was no moon, the night was dark, but clear. In the morning only one horse could be seen. No bush or trees intercepted the view, but no horse was in sight. That was calamitous, as we had no food and a long and desolate journey before us. A council was held as to what to do. We could not both ride one horse; then we had two saddles and bridles to take on ; so it was determined to make a pack-horse of the remaining one — that was mine — and so putting one saddle on it, and then strap ping the other on the top of it, and our jackets on that, we started to walk over the desert, hoping eventually to fall in with the other horse. I wanted to lead the pack, but my friend said there was no need of that, as the horse was less inclined to run than ourselves. Hunger kept us all pretty quiet, so we drove the pack before us and trudged on. Some parts of the desert were white sand; others barren, hard, clayey-looking surface. We had not gone very far on our journey when the pack capsized and came down under the horse's bellv. The girths had not been tight enough. That frightened the brute, and off it went in alarm. The pack dragged the ground, and the hind feet of the horse trod on the saddle-flaps and tore them off and left them behind. By these means the saddles were dismantled, we lost our jackets, and had lost now both horses. As we could not afford to lose time we pushed on, and the horse kicked up and went ahead of us, greatly to our annoy ance. We were now fairly HORSEWRECKED and at our wit's end, though not in despair of finally reaching quarters. My friend told me that at the edge of the desert the feed would be good, and that there we should recover the nags. We came on to white soft sand, and as our footsteps made no sound there I made an effort to get up ; to the frightened packhorse, which became quieter on the sand. I crept up in a line with the horse's track, and being close to its tail I made a spring and seized the tether-rope that was coiled round its neck. That alarmed it again, and off it went, but I held on, and finally got hold of its head and brought it to a stand. We repacked the ruined saddles, and saw at a distance the other horse. The jackets were in pieces. My companion then took my horse, with the wreck of the best saddle, and gave chase for the other, and fortunately re covered it and returned. Then we went to work to refit our saddles by lashings and rope stirrups, so we made a shift to ride again. I determined to go back to see if I could recover my jacket, though destroyed, and rode back many miles, but could not : find it or our tracks. I then rode on again towards our destination. By dark we got out of the desert and reached a station be longing to a Mr. Giles, where we found hospitality and a welcome that made us feel at home. We stayed the night and recruited, and : got feed for the horses, ready for a new start. We were now within the limits of outer civilization and fast drawing near the Murray, which we passed over at the crossing-point station. I had some diffi culty there in satisfying the ferryman, as I had not much if any cash with me, though I had credit in Adelaide; but we got over that little difficulty at last. Again we started on the Adelaide side of the Murray towards our final destination, the City of Adelaide. At the end of the first day I reached the hills near Mount Barker, when night came on, and my horse was done up. Arriving at a cottage down a deep gorge among the hills I asked for and got comfortable quarters for the night, besides something to eat before I started off for the last stage. I reached Adelaide in the even ing of the day, 10 days after leaving Rivoli Bay, and was welcomed by many a kind heart and smiling face, glad to see me safe and sound again. The tidings of our ship wreck had preceded me, and an account had been published in the papers of the day. I soon got fresh rigging, recruited, and in a few days was ready for service again. BACK TO THE OLD SHIP On going to Port Adelaide I found the good ship Governor Gawler laid up in Botten-row ready for my flag again. I hauled her alongside the wharf, advertised for Port Lincoln, took in some cargo, shipped my horse, fitted for sea, shipped my crew and officers, consisting of a Frenchman who could not speak a word of English, but I could speak the French, so that did not much matter — he was cook, steward, chief officer and seaman. Just as we were ready for sea I had a pressing offer to take up all the saloon cabins by a party of gentlemen wanting to take a trip to Port Pirie, 200 miles up Spencer's Gulf. They would not take no for an answer. The party consisted of Messrs. Elder, Hall, and Grey. They came with bag and bag gage, though I protested I could not accommodate them, the saloon cabins not having been kept in such fine order as when I left them. It mattered not — go they would. So, after laying in extra stores and comforts, consisting of a few more potatoes, fresh beef, biscuits, butter, &c., not to mention champagne and other wines and other delicacies, I told them I must take them to Port Lincoln first, as the ship was specially engaged for that port, but nothing was an impediment sufficient to induce them to forego the pleasure of a trip in so fine a vessel. It was an oppor tunity that offered only once in their his tory, and was not likely to be repeated. To sea we went, and all went on smoothly except occasional warm discussions in the saloon respecting things not understood, so that the surface of their tempers at times was a little ruffled. Then, for relief, we met a strong westerly gale in Investiga tor's Strait, and took refuge for a day under Cape Spencer at anchor. We safely reached Port Lincoln, got clear of our en gagements there, saw old friends and familiar faces, took our adieus, and started for the then unknown waters of Port Pirie. After a little surveying and poking about we made the discovery of its whereabouts. There was no soul there ; it was a natural desert to us. We landed and wended our way a few miles into the interior, enlarged our ideas, amused ourselves, and came away. On the return voyage we touched again at Port Lincoln, where I put in another commanding officer and took my leave of the travellers, wishing them a happy and quick passage to their homes and friends. Their patience began to get small, their promenades on the poop were seldom and very short, and all things gave signs that the sooner the little
pleasure trip ended the more satisfactory it would be to all parties, except the cooks and stewards, whose prospects for future fees would be curtailed. All terminated suc cessfully, and for aught I know fortunes might have resulted from the visit of such notable visitors to Port Pirie. Then I spent over a month in retirement at my head-quarters employed in gardening, teaching my children, and scouring over the country on horseback. Having afresh taken command of the Governor Gawler, another trip was made to Rivoli Bay to bring up wool to Ade laide. The season promised fine weather, and die trip proved a pleasant one. Guichen Bay was projected as a place for settlement. I touched there on my way, landed a passenger, and proceeded on. Ar rived duly ; took in a full cargo of wool, consisting of about 15 bales ; took on board a passenger for Adelaide, and returning, touched at Rapid Bay, anchored there for several hours, landed with the gentleman passenger, and enjoyed a stroll. THE SHIP ON FIRE On returning to the beach I observed the good ship to be in flames. from the saloon to the midships. On getting alongside all our fire extinguishers were put in motion, and after considerable effort the flames were sub dued, as of course plenty of water was at hand. The after end, including the saloon and ladies' cabins was entirely burnt out, poop deck and all ; the wool was most of it more or less damaged; all our clothes, tools, utensils, fittings and stores were destroyed, and the sides of the ship were nearly burnt through. My passenger being a musician had a famous fiddle in the saloon; it was also a bank. He had for safety stuffed the fiddle with bank notes, rather than trust them in his pockets on board a packet ship, but fiddle, notes, and all went off in smoke, very much to his chagrin, and taught him the folly of laying up his treasures in a fiddle. We all looked very blue at the matter and at one another. All our wardrobes were turned into smoke ; it was a great loss to me in more ways than one. The vessel was burnt ; all I had on board was burnt ; the freight was lost ; re pairs were to be done of an extensive kind ; time was lost, and I was becoming poor comparatively. The foremast and sails were intact, and the wind being fair up the gulf, we arrived in Port Adelaide in safety but not in comfort. The ship was discharged of all the wool that remained, and she was hauled up for repairs. In the middle of our operations the Port took fire, and a large part of it was burnt down. The Governor Gawler narrowly escaped. REFITTING. Repairs were got through at length. The saloon was restored to its original state, the ladies' cabins were improved, and all was made good and fitted to afford any comfort the circumstances could warrant. Times had altered, freights were low, com petition growing up on every hand, other vessels pushing into the trade, and all things gave signs of coming decay to the original packets of the colony. The worms (cobra) were doing their work under water. It was evident that retirement from the scene would soon be the best policy. Still, in the face of all that I pushed on and never slacked pace. Winter returned again, and voyages to and from Port Lincoln were repeated with small encouragement, and although a number of my competitors were swept away with all on board by storms cr other accidents, yet others shot in directly to fill the gaps. In the winter months of June or July the celebrated craft made HER LAST DEPARTURE from Port Adelaide bound to Port Lin coln, with a general cargo and two gen tlemen passengers. We met very heavy westerly gales in the Straits, and at the entrance of Spencers Gulf we struggled hard to make way against them, and rounded Cape Spencer. Hard gales con tinued to succeed each other. We dragged along to the north-west to try and reach the western shore of the gulf, and thought we had effected our purpose. The night was very dark, very dirty, and a very heavy gale blowing as we dragged under close reefs all night, and made the southernmost island of the Joseph Bank's Group early in the morning, and passed under the lee of it at about 4 a.m. I was alone above-board; my crew and officers, consisting of a young lad, Thos. Cheeseman, with the two passengers, were in the land of nod below. Through the dark I saw a sea break about three points under my lee. I dragged on, hoping to pass it, as I saw it was a danger; soon it was a beam and not very distant. I called no one. I knew if we went among the breakers on the rocks they would hear the crash, and it would save them a few moments' previous anxiety. A minute after a aea broke right ahead. Now I saw we were in a trap; to wear was impossible, to weather the danger impossible — so on we went, and I sat at the helm and patiently waited for the fast-coming crisis — THE CRASH! THE SPLASH! THE END! I had not long to wait, for as I ap proached the reef a wave rose, took us gallantly on its back, and sent us down with a crash on the rocks, while it covered us with its foam and tears. In a moment the vessel's bottom crashed in. Up jumped all hands from below, without a call from me. They were soon bathed in brine. We had been sent so far up on the reef that the heavy breaker lost its power before it struck us. It was dark, and the roar of the wind and breakers made us music till the day came. We then got the boat out under the lee of the wreck, well fast, and it held on without being filled or smashed. The hold was open on deck, and there were some casks of bottled beer at hand, so I told the boys they might wet the inside as well as the outside. They did so, for it was very cold as well as wet. It was a bout an hour before day. We hung on in the surf till day came and showed us our position and the nature of the reef. The top was out of the water and about 50 yards across it. After day light I put some biscuits in a bag, with some other things we got at, threw them into the boat, put in the two passengers and slacked them away to the rocks, so they could jump out when near enough. The boat filled, they jumped out, but into a hole, and were in the surf for a minute, like two young seals — not a little to our amuse ment who were looking at them ; but they got safely on dry rock at length. How ever, we lost our biscuits and everything else we tried to save. After we had got our passengers safe on the rocks we hauled the boat alongside through the surf, and got into it under the lee of the wreck. After waiting a while for a chance to at tempt to pull through the bursting surf from the wreck, we got away a few yards, when a sea broke over the boat and nearly filled it, driving us back again. We re covered our position under the lee of the wreck, baled the water out of the boat, and tried it again. The second time we suc ceeded in getting clear out to wind ward of the breaking sea. We then pulled away round the rock to leeward of the breakers, and landed under the lee of the rocks. We strolled about for an hour or two, and picked up a few biscuits out of the surf, a pair of trousers and a shirt, a part of my wardrobe. We were about four or five miles from an island to leeward of us, and away we went in hopes of reaching it in the boat. The sea was running very high, and it was with some difficulty that we reached the island, landed and hauled up the boat on the sandy beach. Scouring over the island in
search of food, we found young wild geese, which we ran down, and as we had saved the means of getting a fire, we gathered dead wood and cooked the geese by grilling them. Making a lodging under lee of a sandhill, we got along pretty well and stayed there two days till the weather became fine. THE RESCUE. On the evening of the second day, seeing a sail at a distance to the far north-west of us, we launched the boat and set off with the hope of cutting it off. We got within two or three miles of her when darkness began to come on. We waved a shirt made fast to an oar, and they saw us, hove-to for us, and took us on board. It proved to be the Petrel, bound to Port Lincoln, so we reached our intended destina tion next day, and I landed again with just what I had on my back and the extra shirt and pair of trousers I had saved. So ends with the wreck of the famous little craft the Governor Gawler the first seven years of my colonial career— and a pretty chequered course it was. At that period I was pretty hard up again, though I had a house and a little means left in Port Lin coln, where my family was at the time comfortably located. To Him who has kept and brought me through so many perils by land and by sea be praise and thanksgiving.