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CHAP. XV. [...] 
LEAVING Furneaux's islands, the Norfolk proceeded toward the North coast of Van Diemen's land; and on the 1st of November the anchored for a tide at the largest of the Swan isles, two small islands So named by Lieutenant Flinders, when he was here in the Francis, because a European. who belonged to the Sydney-cove had assured him that he had met with vast numbers of breeding swans upon them.
The isle at which the sloop anchored bore a great resemblance to Preservation Island, being low, sandy, and barren, but differed from it in the composition of its rocks, or that substance which formed the basis of its Support. This had not any affinity to granite, nor did Mr. Bass remember to have Seen any of a similar kind upon any part of New South Wales. It was of various colours, but generally either a light brown, or a Sort of grey. It Seemed to be lamellated, but the lamellae were placed vertically, sometimes radiated with a diameter of four or five feet, and sometimes they were placed parallel Upon breaking the stone, the fracture was vitreous, or like that of glass, and it scintillated on steel being applied. Rust of iron was visible in several parts, the stone breaking easily in those parts into plates correspondent to the length and direction of the rust; but where that was not, it broke with great difficulty. [160] On the first view, the stone looked like a clay; but as it produced fire with steel, there must have been a large portion of flint in it. It appeared to contain iron in rather a large quantity, and probably some other metallic substances.
Notwithstanding the information. given by the European, not a single Swan was found upon the island; but Several geese were breeding there, and the sooty petrel possessed the grassy parts; the swans of the sailor, in this instance, therefore, turned out to be geese. This bird had been seen before upon Preservation island, and was either a Brent or a Barnacle goose, or between the two. It had a long and slender neck, with a small short head, and a rounded crown ; a short, thick arched bill, partly covered with a pea-green membrane, which soon shrivelled up, and came away in the dried Specimens. Its plumage was, for the most part, of a dove colour, set with black spots. It had a deep, hoarse, clanging, and, though a short, yet an inflected voice. In size it was rather less than our tame geese, and lived upon grass. The flesh was excellent.
Early in the morning of the first of November they left the Swan Isles, steering to the westward along shore. At nine o'clock the North coast of Van Diemen's land lay extended from about S. E. by E. to West, the nearest part of it being distant two and a half or three miles. Its general trending seemed to be about E. S. E. and W. N. W. with a Small island lying off the western extreme. The shores were chiefly beaches, the front land was of a moderate height, the back was mountainous. One ridge of mountains that bore south was very high and rugged, and from the white patches in it was concluded to be rocky and barren.
If any judgment could be hazarded of the quality of the country, at the distance the sloop was at, it might be supposed, from the beauty of the lower head-land, to be somewhat above mediocrity. [161] 
Extensive tracts of open ground that come down towards the Sea in gradual green slopes were varied by clumps of wood and large single trees.
A column of smoke that arose some few miles inland, was the only sign of its being inhabited.
At noon the latitude was 400 44' 08", the peak of Cape Barren Island then. in fight. At this time they were two miles to the westward of the small island, which was low and rocky, lying about two miles and a half off a sharp, Sandy point, with which it was nearly connected by some lumps of rock that almost closed up the passage. A long curved line of ripple extended to the northward.
The aspect of the low land here became less pleasing, the mountains approaching nearer to the Sea, and the country appearing to be more wooded. The coast seemed inclined to a more Southerly direction, and the western extremity, which bore S. W. by W., appeared broken, like Islands.
At five in the afternoon they anchored two miles and a half to the westward of the Small island, it being calm, and the tide of ebb Setting the vessel to the Northward.
They weighed at nine the next morning with an easterly wind, and steered in towards a small break that presented itself in the bottom of an extensive but not deep bay, or rather bight, lying between the two extremes then in view. The break was not sufficiently distinct to have justified in itself alone a reasonable Supposition of an inlet, but that it was corroborated by the direction of the ebb tide, which, while the sloop was at anchor, was observed to come from the S. S. W. or directly out of the bight, running at the rate of two miles and a half per hour. By noon, it being ascertained that there was not any inlet, they bore away to the Westward along the land.
Their distance from the shore did not exceed a mile and a half. The back country consisted of high hummocky mountains, whole parallel edges were lying elevated one above another to a considerable distance inland. [162] The land in front was woody and bushy, of a moderate height, but sandy.
At three in the afternoon they ran through between a sandy point, with shoal water off it, and two islands. One of these, named Waterhouse Isle, is between two and three miles in length, rather high, but level, and covered with large wood. The other is small, low, rocky, and almost bare. The coast now trended to the S. S. W. the land sloping up gradually from the sea to a moderate height, with more open than wooded ground, and but little brush; but the soil appeared sandy, and the grass but thinly grown. The hummocky mountains still retained their general figure in the more interior parts.
As they proceeded, the shore no longer preserved any regular line of direction, but fell back into sandy bights. Hauling off for the night, a little to the westward of a small rocky and barren island, lying about four miles from the land, at six o'clock the following morning they came in with it again, near where they had left it the preceding evening, and began their course along the shore, which trended to the S. S. W. in an irregular manner, with a sandy country at its back.
At eleven o'clock they passed within a mile of a high grassy cape, which is the seaward extremity of a ridge, that, riling up by a gentle ascent, retreats and joins Some chains of lofty mountains. A small rocky island lay two miles from it to the W. S. W. At noon the latitude was 40° 55' 25', and the longitude 147° 16' 30".
Early in the afternoon a gap in the land situated at the back of a deep narrow bight, which had for some time attracted attention, began to assume the appearance of an inlet, which they bore away to examine; and, after running three miles, they found they had shut in the line of the coast on each side, and were impelled forward by a strong inlet of tide. Continuing their course for the gap, some back points within the entrance loon became distinguishable, and the rapidity of the flood tide was observed to increase with the increasing contiguity of the Shores. [163] When the sloop was on the point of entering the harbour, which appeared to be fairly open before her, the water shoaled suddenly, and she struck the ground and lay fast; but fortunately the strong flood in a few minutes dragged her over into deep water, and shot her into the entrance with uncommon velocity.
Having advanced within the entrance, the harbour began to expand itself in a kind of large basin. Its Shores were broken into points and projections, between Some of which the great strength of the flood tide led them to expect it would branch off into arms. The land lying immediately upon its borders was low, but not flat; well wooded ; and those points near which the sloop passed were clothed with a very unusual degree of verdure. The sun being down, the vessel was anchored for the night, and the next day they proceeded with their researches.
They were employed during Sixteen days in the examination of this place ; and the result of the observations which were made by Mr. Bass in different parts of it, and the neighbouring country, are thrown by that gentleman into one general account.
This harbour, or inlet, which was named by the governor Port Dalrymple, in compliment to Alexander Dalrymple, Esq. takes its course from the S. E. between two chains of rounded mountains, stretching inland from the sea with an almost imperceptible increase of elevation; and, after gradually approximating each other, seemed to unite, at the distance of between thirty and forty miles, in a body of rugged mountains more lofty than themselves. These two chains in their relative positions formed an acute angle, being at their greatest distance asunder, as measured along the lea coast, only sixteen miles.
Being limited in point of time (twelve weeks having been deemed by the governor sufficient for the execution of this service , the apprehension of losing a wind favourable for the prosecution of the principal object of the voyage, that of failing through the strait, deterred them from attempting to reach the head of the river; but it was hardly to be doubted, that its principal source proceeded from some part near the point of union of the two chains of mountains. [164] Allowing this supposition, a great part of its stream must be perfectly fresh; for at the place where they ended their examination, which was not more than half the whole supposed distance or length of the river, it had become half fresh half salt, although its breadth was from half a mile to a mile and a half, and its depth eight or nine fathoms.
The country which Mr. Bass had an opportunity of observing, was a certain portion of that lying within the angle formed by the two chains of mountains, and more especially of the parts which lay contiguous to the water, rather than of those situated in the vicinity of the chains.
The quality of the ground, taking it in the aggregate, was much superior to that of the borders of any of the salt water inlets of New South Wales, Western Port excepted (seen by Mr Bass on his first excursion in the whale boat). The vegetable mould was, however, found to be of no great depth, and was sometimes, perhaps advantageously, mixed with small quantities of land.
The best of the soil was found upon the sides of sloping hills, and in the broad vallies between them. Some parts that were low and level had a wet and peat-like surface, bounded by small tracts of flowering shrubs and odoriferous plants, that perfumed the air with the fragrance of their oils. These retained in general the appearance of those in New South Wales, while they were in reality very different. The rich and vivid colouring of the more northern flowers, and that soft and exquisite gradation of their tints, for which they are so singularly distinguished hold with those here, but in a less eminent degree. The two countries present a perfect similarity in this, that the more barren spots are the most gaily adorned. [165] The curious florist, and scientific botanist, would find ample subject of exultation in their different researches in Port Dalrymple.
Except in these places, the grass grows not in tufts, but covers the land equally with a short nutricious herbage, better adapted, possibly, to the bite of small than of large cattle. The food for the latter grows in the bottoms of the vallies and upon the damp flats. A large proportion of the soil promised a fair return to the labours of the cultivator, and a lesser ensures an ample reward; but the greater part would perhaps be more advantageously employed, if left for pasturage, than if thrown into cultivation; it would be poor as the one, but rich as the other.
Water was found in runs more than in ponds, and, though not abundant, was far from being scarce.
The west side of the river furnishes the largest quantity of the best ground, because the mountains on that side are at a greater distance than those on the east. The country lying near the west arm is chiefly rather flat, and might be converted to many useful purposes, both in agriculture and in pasturage, for which last it is probably well calculated. If it Should ever be proposed to make a settlement here, this part seems to merit very particular attention.
The best land seems to be that fine hilly country which lies at the back of an island named Middle-Island; but access to it is not easy on account of a large shoal extending along its front, which is dry at low water, as far out as the island itself. The shape of the land is very pleasingly variegated with hill and valley; the soil is in general a rich black mould, shallow, and even sometimes a little stoney upon the hills, but in the vallies is of abundant depth and richness. A close coat of grass of a uniform thickness over-spreads it every where. It appears to be watered only by swampy ponds, which in many places are at some distance from each other; but it is hardly to be doubted, that wells sunk in the vallies would furnish water sufficient for all domestic purposes. [166] 
In failing up the river, the points and shores present an appearance of fertility that astonishes an eye used to those of the rocky harbours of New South Wales. They are mostly grassed as well as wooded close down to the water side, the wood, perhaps, thin; the grass every where thick, every where a dark luxuriant vegetation, that, either from the thinness of the wood, or the gradual rounding of the hills and points, is visible to a very considerable extent of ground.
The tides run so uncommonly rapid, that if the port were colonized, and the principal town built, as it no doubt would be, near the entrance, the produce of the villages and farms scattered along its banks might be brought to market with the greatest ease, expedition, and certainty.
The heavy timber is chiefly gum tree of various species; of which two are different from any that have been yet seen in this country. Nothing new was observed in the quality of the wood; but, from the few trees that were felled, it was thought to be more found at heart than they are usually met with. The she oaks were more inclined to spread than grow tall. The Smaller trees and shrubs resemble, with Some variety, those of the continent. The tree producing the yellow gum is of a very diminutive size; but, unlike that of Cape Barren Island, it bears a reed correspondent to itself. These were going into flower, and their length was only from nine inches to two feet.
The few rocky shores of the river presented nothing remarkable, being generally either of a rough iron-stone, or a soft grid-stone. [167] 
The grey kangooroo of a very large size, abounded in the open forest; the brushes were tenanted by the smaller black kind, or, as it is named by the natives of Port Jackson, the Wal-li-bah.
The plumage of the parrots forms a gloomy contrast with the rich lustre of those near the settlement, their colours being rather grave than gay. The melancholy cry of the bell-bird (dil boong, after which Ben-nil-long named his infant child) seems to be unknown here. Many aquatic birds, both web-footed and waders, frequent the arms and coves of the river; but the black swans alone are remarkable in point of number. Mr. Bass once made a rough calculation of three hundred swimming within the Space of a quarter of a mile square; and heard the "dying Song" of some scores; that song, So celebrated by the poets of former times, exactly resembled the creaking of a rusty sign on a windy day! Not more than two thirds of any of the flocks which they fell in with could fly, the rest could do no more than flap along upon the Surface of the water, being either moulting, or not yet come to their full feather and growth, which they require two years to attain. They swam and flapped alternately, and went along surprisingly fast. It was Some times a long chase, but the boat generally tired them out. When in danger, and speed makes no part of their escape, they immerse their bodies So far, that the water makes a passage between their neck and back, and in this position they would frequently turn aside a heavy load of shot. They seemed to be endowed with much Sagacity; in chase they soon learned the weakest point of their pursuers, and, instead of Swimming directly from them, as they did at first, always endeavoured in the most artful manner to gain the wind, which could only be prevented by anticipating their movements, and by a dexterous management of the boat.
The swan is said to feed upon fish, frogs, and water-slugs; but in the gizzards of many that at different times and in different places were examined by Mr. Bass, nothing ever appeared but small water plants, mostly a kind of broad leaved grass, and some little sand. [168] To their affection for their young he had seen Some lamentable Sacrifices; but of their fierceness, at least when opposed to man, or their great strength, he had seen no instance.
Among other reptiles were found the Snake with venomous fangs, and some large brown guanoes.
This country is inhabited by men; and, if any judgment could be formed from the number of huts which they met, in about the same proportion as in New South Wales. Their extreme shyness prevented any communication. They never even got sight of them but once, and then at a great distance. They had made fires abreast of where the sloop was at anchor; but as soon as the boat approached the shore they ran off into the woods. Their huts, of which Seven or eight were frequently found together like a little encampment, were constructed of bark torn in long stripes from some neighbouring tree, after being divided transversely at the bottom, in Such breadths as they judge their strength would be able to disengage from its adherence to the wood, and the connecting bark on each side. It is then broken into convenient lengths, and placed, slopingwise, against the elbowing part of some dead branch that has fallen off from the distorted limbs of the gum tree; and a little grass is sometimes thrown over the top. But, after all their labour, they have not ingenuity sufficient to place the slips of bark in such a manner as to preclude the free admission of the rain. It is somewhat strange, that in the latitude of 4j0, want should not have Sharpened their ideas to the invention of Some more convenient habitation, especially since they have been left by nature without the confined dwelling of a hollow tree, or the more agreeable accommodation of a hole under the rock.
The single utensil that was observed lying near their huts was a kind of basket made of long wiry grass, that grows along the shores of the river. The two ends of a large bunch of this grass are tied to the two ends of a Smaller bunch; the large one is then spread out to form the basket, while the smaller answers the purpose of a handle. [169] Their apparent use is, to bring shell fish from the mud banks where they are to be collected. The large heaps of muscle-shells that were found near each but proclaimed the mud banks to be a principal Source of food. The most scrupulous examination of their fire places discovered nothing, except a few bones of the opossum, a Squirrel, and here and there those of a small kangooroo. No remains of fish were ever Seen.
The mode of taking the opossum Seemed to be similar to that practised in New South Wales, except that it is probable they use a rope in ascending the tree; for once, at the foot of a notched tree, about eight feet of a two inch rope made of grass was found with a knot in it, near which it appeared to have broken.
A canoe was never met with, and concurring circumstances shewed that this convenience was unknown here; nor was any tree ever observed to be barked in the manner requisite for this purpose; though birds bred upon little islands to which access might be had in the smallest canoe. Those made of Solid timber seemed to be wholly out of the question. The roughness of the notches left by the stone hatchet upon the bark of the trees bore no very favourable testimony to its excellence. They were rather the marks of a rough than of a sharp-edged tool, and seemed more beaten than cut, which was not the case with the marks left by the mo-go, or stone hatchet, of New South Wales.
Hence, from the little that has been Seen of the condition of our own Species in this place, it appears to be much inferior in some essential points of convenience to that of the despised inhabitants of the continent. How miserable a being would the latter be, his canoe taken from him, his stone hatchet blunted, his hut pervious to the smallest shower of rain, and few or no excavations in the rocks to fly to! But happiness, like every thing else, exists only by comparison with the stage above and the stage below our own. [170] The circumstances which occasioned this difference between the people of two countries So near to each other, and so much alike in their natural productions, must remain hidden from our observation, until perhaps Some permanent European settlement shall be made in Van Diemen's land.
The range of the thermometer, taken in various parts of the port, was at night from 490 to 52°, and at noon from 58° to 64°.
On the 20th of November they left Port Dalrymple with a light breeze at N. E. and proceeded very slowly to the westward. At day-light the following morning, the wind shifted to the W. by N. which drove them back to Furneaux's islands, where, the gale continuing at welt, they were kept until the 3d of December, when they were enabled to proceed to the westward. The land here trended to the W. N. W. as far as was visible through the haze, which allowed them only to distinguish that it was high and uneven. At noon the latitude was 400 58', and the longitude 146° 44'. Their progress was slow, and unavoidably at too great a distance from the shore to form any just idea of the country; but what was seen of it appeared high and mountainous, the mountains forming into hummocks and low peaks, to which a few large shapeless knobs added a great singularity of appearance. On the haze clearing away, and the shore being distinctly Seen, it appeared rocky, but wooded nearly down to the water's edge. Here and there were seen spaces of open ground, Some of which sloped toward the sea, and had a few large trees growing irregularly upon them. A remarkable peaked mountain, Some few miles inland, might have been thought, from its shape and height, to have been once a volcano. A very singular lump of high level, or table land, lay at a few miles to the westward in the coast line; and at some distance beyond it, a point appeared with three knobs of land lying off it, resembling islands. This land was named Table Cape.
To the extreme eastern point of this land, a fine easterly breeze had brought them at day-light of the 6th; when they found that what they had on the preceding evening taken to be islands were three lumps or ridges of the point itself, lessening in bulk as they advanced toward its seaward extremity. [171] The very uncommon figure of this point may perhaps be best conceived by comparing it to a Spear with several barbs. It was extremely barren and rocky. Beyond the point, the coast trended more northerly, but fell back into an extensive bay, with a sandy beach in its rear. The western point of this bay was formed by a high, sleep, and round bluff, named Circular Head, that might easily be taken for an island, but was a peninsula. The land behind was of moderate height, and rose gradually from the sea. It was clothed in a poor coat of either grass or short brush; among which were seen Some dwarf gum trees, that appeared to be in a sickly and dying state, apparently for want of sufficient soil to expand in.
Towards noon, soon after passing Circular Head, the outermost land in sight stretched so far to the northward, that the course to clear it was N. N. W. It formed like two hummocks, and in steering for it they were compelled to leave a large bight unexamined. The coast at its back was too distant to form any judgment of it, except in the general outline. Its westernmost part Seemed broken and intersected, like islands and gaps; but, as the wind blew fresh and directly into it, they passed on.
Nothing new presented itself on the following day, but Some small flights of sooty petrels.
On the 8th, being threatened with a gale, they came to anchor under the land, off a Small beach on its N. E. part, where the S. W. wind could not molest the vessel. Here Mr. Bass landed to examine the country, but found it impenetrable. The tall sturdy brush wood grew So close that their dogs could hardly make their way through it. Large patches appeared to have been burnt many months ago, but the small brush and creeping vines only were destroyed; the closeness of the blackened saplings was still irresistible. A few starved gum trees erected their sickly heads above the brush, and the whole wore an aspect of poverty which the sandy soil confirmed. [172] And yet this place was inhabited by men, as was shewn by the old fire places strewed round with shells of the sea ear. The rocks were composed of quartz, probably a Species of granite, but much unlike that which formed Furneaux's Islands.
Leaving this place on the 9th, they steered for the outermost land in sight, which bore to the southward of west, and was distant three or four leagues. After rounding the Seaward end of the land under which they had anchored, its shores fell back, and at last discovered to them that it was an island of from fifteen to twenty miles in circuit, and situated between four and five from the main. It was with the greatest astonishment that they recollected the fire places and sea shells which they had the preceding evening seen upon the island. That the inhabitants of this part of Van Diemen's land should possess canoes capable of crossing over four or five miles of open sea, while those of Port Dalrymple were without any, Seemed highly improbable. The island itself was certainly unequal to the maintenance of any settled inhabitants, and yet there were unequivocal vestiges of men upon it. Long and frequent reflection upon facts in themselves So contradictory had never produced any rational solution of the difficulty. This island took the descriptive name of Three Hummock Island.
For several hours during the early part of the morning, a vast stream of sooty petrels issued from the deep bight which had been left unexplored, and passed the vessel on their way to the westward. There must have been some millions of birds. Thence they were well assured there was at least one island in that bight, if not more than one, as they had imagined. .
Having passed within a mile of a pointed part of the main, which in height and starved vegetation very much resembled Three Hummock Island, towards noon they came up with some land, which proved to be a Small island, high and very steep; and a long swell, which had just before made its first appearance, broke violently upon it, making a furious surf on all sides. [173] Its Summit was whitened over with birds. With Some difficulty a landing was effected at the foot of a chasm filled up with loose stones; and, after a slight rencontre with Some Seals that stood above, they reached the top. The birds they found were albatrosses innumerable. The Spread of their wings was from seven to nine feet. Their colour was more white than black, and the appearance of their visitors did not occasion much disturbance among them, even when they approached close to them. This was the season of their breeding. The females fat upon nests not more than a foot and a half apart, built of muddy earth, bound with coarse grass, raised about four inches from the ground, and formed into a concavity of nearly that depth, with a diameter of five or six inches. One young bird only was in each nest: it was of the size of a small pullet, but at that time covered with a beautifully white down. The shapeless lump at some distance resembled a ball of cotton. Some nests held an addled egg of a dingy white colour, and equal in size to that of a goose. The nests were so near each other, and the birds so conscious of the great strength of their sharp bills, that in going through them the voyagers were obliged to make use of their seal clubs, to procure themselves a passage. Even the young ones spouted plentiful mouthfuls of a not inodorous oil upon them.
The island, which obtained the name of Albatross Island, was a mere mass of stone, without any other vegetation than a few tufts of coarse grass. Besides albatrosses, it afforded shelter to a few scores of hair seals, and the large gull. The latitude was 40° 24', the longitude 145° 02'.
Several other islands were Seen to the Southward, and the coast of the main teemed trending in the same direction. A deep bight lay at the back of these islands, with points and openings visible in its most distant part. There was reason to believe, that the Sea here had a communication through into the unexplored bight to the eastward of Three Hummock Island; in which case the pointed part of the main, whole vegetation bore so great a resemblance to that of Three Hummock Island, would also be an island. [174] They passed sufficiently near to determine that they were high, steep, and difficult of access. Their tops and sloping parts were grown over with either coarse grass or short brush ; but not any trees appeared. The largest might be seven or eight miles in circuit, the smaller were mere masses of rock of various sizes; and the whole cluster, in number about twelve, including Three Hummock Island, obtained the name of Hunter's Isles.
A fresh gale at E. N. E. and a heavy swell from the S. W. drove the vessel fail to the southward and westward; and on the 11th, the gale having moderated, they stretched in for the land, a large ex-tent of which was indistinctly visible through a light haze that hung about the horizon. At noon the latitude was 41° 13', and the longitude 148° 58'. With a fresh breeze at N. N. E. they bore away along the shore, which trends to the S. E. by E. and was distant three or four miles.
From a shore of beach, with short rocky points at intervals, the land rose gradually to a considerable height, the aspect of which was barren and brushy, and the soil sandy. Several short reefs of rocks lay in front of the beaches, and broke the long swell into a surf of a tremendous appearance.
Dreading a gale of wind from the west, which was threatening, and might have proved fatal to their little vessel, they hauled out to the S.S.W.; but the weather remained moderate.
On the following morning the wind flew round to the northward, and they continued their route along the shore. Early in the forenoon they passed a singularly formed point, with a number of lumps of rock lying some two or three miles off it to the S. W. It resembled an artificial pier, or mole, with warehouses upon it, and a light-house on the end next the water. Large masses of detached oblong rocks gave the appearance of warehouses, and a remarkably long one standing upon its end, that of the light-house. [175] 
Their latitude at noon was 42° 02' and the longitude 145° 16'; the coast still trended to the S. S. E. and the land began to change that uniformly regular figure which it had hitherto preserved. It was becoming mountainous and uneven, but was still barren. [176] 

CHAP. XVI. [...] 
M R. Bass and his fellow voyager, Lieutenant Flinders, did not hesitate now to think that they had passed through the strait, and from the Pacific had entered the southern Indian ocean; for what within the extent of a vast sea could give birth to the monstrous swell that was rolling in before their eyes? and the coast was evidently trending towards the S.W. cape.
Mr. Bass says (with all the feeling and spirit of an explorer), that he already began to taste the enjoyment resulting from the completion of this discovery, which had been commenced in the whaleboat, under a complication of anxieties, hazard, and fatigue, known only to those who conducted her ;" modestly sharing the praises, to which he alone was entitled, with those who accompanied him.
It was worthy of remark (Mr. Bass says), that the northern shore of the strait from Wilson's Promontory (Seen in the whale-boat) to Western Port resembled the bluff bold shore of an open lea, with a Swell rolling in, and a large Surf breaking upon it; while the southern shore, or what is the coast of Van Diemen's land, appeared like the inner shore of a cluster of islands, whose outer parts break off the great weight of the sea. [177] The cause of this is immediately obvious, on recollecting that the swell of the Indian ocean enters the strait from the southward of west. The greater part of the Southern shore lies in a bight, whole western extreme is Hunter's isles, and the N. W. Cape of Van Diemen's land. Now as the swell comes from the Southward, as well as the westward, it must, after striking upon the northwest part of the southern shore, evidently run on in a direction Somewhat diagonal with the two sides of the strait, until it expands itself upon the northern shore, where both swell and surf are found. But to the southward of this diagonal line the swell must quickly take off, and totally disappear, long before it can reach the shore to make a Surf. Hence arises the difference.
That the swell of the Indian ocean comes, by far the greater part of the way, from the southward of west, can hardly be doubted, since it is well known that the prevailing winds are from that quarter.
Early in the afternoon (of the 11th) a piece of land stood out from the line of the coast like an island, but it was loon found to be joined to the main by a sandy beach. The shore beyond it looked rugged and craggy, and the land equalled the most sterile and stoney that had been seen. At night the vessel stood off to the westward from abreast of a pyramidal rock lying close to the main. At day-light the following morning, they came in again with the land at the same place, and ran along the shore with a fresh breeze at N. W., the coast trending in a waving line to the S. S. E.
Towards noon the coast began to rife into chains of lofty mountains, which ran along in nearly the same line as the coast. The latitude was 43.° 07'., the longitude 145.° 42'. A large Smoke that got up astern of the vessel was the first sign of inhabitants that had been seen upon this west coast, the appearance of which was miserably barren. [178] 
On the morning of the 13th they found that they had been carried in the night to leeward of a break in the land, which had been Seen the preceding evening, and had the appearance of being the entrance to a harbour. The north point of this imaginary inlet was named Point .St. Vincent. The coast here trended to the eastward, the land of which was mountainous and steep to the sea. Some islands were in fight a-head, lying near the land.
At 8 in the evening they passed the S. W. cape of Van Diemen's land, hitherto known as that of New Holland. It is a narrow piece of land, projecting from the higher land at no great distance, with two flattish hummocks, that gave it some little resemblance to the Ram Head near Plymouth. Having passed the Cape, they hauled up, and went between the islands, which are Be Witt's Tiles, and the main. At sunset they were about a mile and a half from the South Cape.
The south west and south Capes lie nearly east and west of each other, and are distant about fifteen leagues. The intermediate coast forms the southern boundary of Van Diemen's land; but if taken upon the more extensive Scale of the whole southern hemisphere, it appears, as the South point of New Holland, to be of equal respectability with the extremity of Terra del Fuego, and of the Cape of Good Hope, the South points of the continents of America and Africa.
The relative Situations of these three points, when viewed upon a chart drawn on the plane of the equator, or upon an artificial globe, are particularly striking. They will be found to lie at nearly equal distances from each other in the circumference, and each extending itself so directly towards the South, that, if continued on in the same line, they would certainly meet Somewhere near the pole. The effect that is produced upon the whole globe, by this peculiar disposition of three of its most prominent points, Seems indeterminable. [179] 
Like that of Terra del Fuego, the extremity of Van Diemen's land presents a rugged and determined front to the icy regions of the south pole; and, like it, seems once to have extended further south than it does at present. To a very unusual elevation is added an irregularity of form, that justly entitles it to rank among the foremost of the grand and wildly magnificent scenes of nature. It abounds with peaks and ridges, gaps and fissures, that not only disdain the smallest uniformity of figure, but are ever changing shape, as the point of view shifts. Beneath this strange confusion, the western part of this waving coast-line observes a regularity equally remarkable as the wild disorder which prevails above. Lofty ridges of mountain, bounded by tremendous cliffs, project from two to four miles into the sea, at nearly equal distances from each other, with a breadth varying from two miles to two and a half. The bights or bays lying between them are backed by Sandy beaches. These vast buttresses appear to be the southern extremities of the mountains of Van Diemen's land; which, it can hardly be doubted, have once projected into the sea far beyond their present abrupt termination, and have been united with the now detached land, De Witt's Isles.
If a corresponding height of similar strata were observable on the islands and on the main, it would amount to a proof that they were originally connected; but this proof was wanting. The same kind of strata appeared in both; but, as far as could be determined in passing hastily by, the necessary correspondence seemed to be deficient. They did not land upon either the islands or the main; but two kinds of rock, one with strata and the other without, were plainly discernible. That without strata formed by far the largest part; it appeared whitish and shining, was certainly a quartz, and probably a granite. The layers of the rock with strata were of various dark colours, and perfectly distinct.
It was evident, that land so much exposed to the violence of extensive oceans must have undergone some very material changes, by the incessant attrition of their vast waves. [180] Two of the isles, either from this or a more sudden cause, have so far deviated from their centre, that their parallel strata form angles of between sixteen and eighteen degrees in one instance, and in another between twenty-five and thirty degrees, with the horizontal line. But it is difficult to explain, by the action of water, how a large block of the white stone without strata is caused to overhang an almost perpendicular corner of one of the islands, which beneath that block consists of the dark coloured stone lying in strata.
De Witt's Isles, (so named, probably, by Tasman) twelve in number, are of various sizes. The two largest are from three to four miles in circuit. Their sides are steep, but their height is inferior to that of the main. The largest is the lowest. The Smaller isles are little more than large lumps of rock, of which that named by Captain Cook the mew stone is the southernmost. Their aspect, like that of the main, bespeaks extreme sterility; but, Superior to the greater part of it, they produce a continued covering of brush; and upon the sloping sides of some of their gullies are a few stunted, half dead gum trees.
They could not account for the vestiges of fires that appeared upon the two inner large islands; the innermost in particular, which lay at some distance from the nearest point of the main, was burnt in patches upon different parts of it. It must have been effected either by lightning, or by the hand of man; but it was So much unlike the usual effects of the former, that, with all its difficulties, they chose to attribute it to the latter cause.
A great smoke that arose at the back of one of the bights shewed the main to be inhabited; but they could not suppose the people of this place to be furnished with canoes, when those of Adventure Bay, in their neighbourhood, were unprovided with them. Nothing, therefore, was left to their choice, but to allow that they might transport themselves over, either upon logs of wood, or by swimming across: and, as the most probable reward of such an exertion would be, the capture of birds, whilst breeding, or the Seizure of their eggs, the utility of spreading fires in facilitating such operations is obvious. [181] 
The south cape may be easily distinguished from any other projection in its vicinity. Besides being the southernmost, it is a promontory making like a foreland, and sloping very gradually as it runs towards the sea, where it ends in a perpendicular cliff.
About sunset the fresh N.W. wind died away suddenly; and a strong Squall from the westward, with thunder, lightning, and heavy rain, soon carried them round the south cape, and, by dark, brought them off what was formerly called Storm-Bay, where they hauled to the wind with the sloop's head up the bay, intending, in the morning, to proceed by this Storm-Bay passage into the Derwent river.
The night was squally, and by day light the next morning (the 14th,) it was found that the vessel had drifted across the mouth of Storm-Bay, or more properly Storm-Bay-Passage. Tasman's-head, its eastern point, bore N. E. distant three miles. Being too far to leeward to fetch up the passage, and the gale continuing, they bore away round Tasman's -head, and hauled up along shore for Adventure-Bay.
Nothing remarkable was observed about Tasman's-head, except two Small islands lying off it, at the distance of half or three quarters of a mile; and close to them were the two conical basaltic rocks named by Captain Furneaux the Friars. The vegetation upon the innermost of the two small islands had been burnt in a manner similar to that on the De Witt's isles. If it were possible to account for Those fires in any other way than by the agency of man, it would be more satisfactory, than to Suppose that people, always believed to be without canoes, had crossed over from a rather steep and rocky head, to an island equally rocky, but more steep. [182] 
Having passed Fluted Cape, a fine piece of basaltes, and Penguin island, they fetched up under Cape Frederick Henry, the north point of Adventure Bay; but, as the wind blew strong directly off it, and the sloop was light and leewardly, they bore away round the Cape Frederick Henry, hauling upon the north side of it into the bay of that name, purposing to go into the Derwent river, discovered a few years since by Mr. Hayes, master of the ship Duke, of Bengal: but, finding that they were likely to lose ground by tacking, they stood into Henshaw's bay (so named by Hayes), and were greatly surprised to find that, instead of its being a mere shallow bight, as laid down in Mr. Hayes's chart, it extended many miles to the northward. The whole now bears the name of Frederick Henry Bay; that given by Hayes is lost. In this very extensive bay they remained a week, traversing and measuring various parts of its shores.
The Surrounding country was found to be miserable, presenting but very little that was fit even for pasturage, and none good enough for cultivation, except near a shallow lagoon on the west side, on the border of which were seven or eight hundred acres of low ground, of a black mould, rather Sandy, which might be cultivated with great advantage. Contiguous to the best part, was a large fresh water Swamp, overgrown with reeds and bulrushes.
In the evening of the 21st they entered the mouth of the Derwent.
In passing between two islands, the heads of the Sea-weed, which, from its size, is named the Gigantic, were shewing Themselves above the Surface in six or eight fathoms water: a diminutive plant when compared with those of the kind Seen in higher latitudes, but of vast magnitude in comparison with the generality of Sea-weeds.
On their various movements in the Derwent, Mr. Bass is silent, confining his narrative to a general account of what he learned and Saw of the neighbouring country. [183] 
If the Derwent river have any claim to respectability, it is indebted for it more to the paucity of inlets into Van Diemen's land, than to any intrinsic merits of its own. After a sleepy course of not more than twenty-five or twenty-seven miles to the N. W. it falls into Frederick Henry Bay. Its breadth there is two miles and a quarter, and its depth ten fathoms. A few hundred yards above its mouth, it is joined, on the west side, by the Storm-Bay-Passage, and this union makes an island of that flip of land which is Adventure Bay. This island, the Derwent river, and the Storm-Bay-Passage, were the discovery of Mr. Hayes, of which he made a chart; wherein it was found, by the minute examination of the whole scene which it now underwent, that the smallest runs had been magnified into rivers, and coves into bays and ports. Such glaring errors could not be Suffered to exist; but the name, where it was possible, was retained, though the geographical term was necessarily altered.
This dull lifeless stream, the Derwent, is So little affected by the tides, that its navigation is extremely tedious with a foul wind. It takes its way through a country that on the east and north sides is hilly, on the west and north mountainous. The hills to the eastward arise immediately from the banks; but the mountains to the westward have retired to the distance of a few miles from the water, and have left in their front hilly land similar to that on the east side. All the hills are very thinly Set with light timber, chiefly short the oaks; but are admirably covered with thick nutritious grass, in general free from brush or patches of shrubs. The Soil in which it grows is a black vegetable mould, deep only in the vallies, frequently very shallow, with occasionally a Small mixture of sand or Small stones. Many large tracts of land appear cultivable both for maize and wheat, but which, as pasture land, would be excellent.
The hills descend with such gentle slopes, that the vallies between them are extensive and flat. Several contain an indeterminate depth of rich soil, capable of supporting the most exhausting vegetation, and are tolerably well watered by chains of small ponds, or occasional drains, which empty themselves into the river by a cove or creek. [184] 
One mountain to the west, lying about three miles from the water, and so remarkably conspicuous as to be seen from every part of the Derwent and its vicinity, Mr. Bass ascended; and he was much surprised to find it abounding with fine tall gum-tree timber uncommonly straight.
The shore on the east side of the river, proceeding up, is covered with a good but shallow soil, and lightly wooded; cultivable for the greater part with any kind of grain, and the whole fit for pasturage, though, perhaps, not sufficiently watered for large cattle which require much drink.
On the west side the country rises too suddenly into stoney hills to be in general so good as in most other places. It would, however, afford tolerable pasturage; and a few patches of eighty or one hundred acres each were excellent arable land.
The shore here, as in many other parts of the river, exhibited signs of internal or subterraneous disturbance. The strata of cliffs were broken and disjoined, lying sloping in different directions. Near a small point Several pieces of petrified wood, and lumps of stone of every kind and every Size, were enveloped, or rather stuck into the matter of the rock, which, although in colour much like a yellow tinged clay, yet had the usual rough porous Surface peculiar to substances that have been in a state of fusion. It was here, as in other places, hard, but did not Scintillate with steel, and was divided, by lines of a still harder iron-tinged stone, into squares and parallelograms of various Sizes. From one of these intersecting lines, Mr. Bass took a Small lump of this ferruginous stone, that Seemed to have bubbled up, and to have hardened in the form of an ill-shaped bunch of Small grapes. Some of the neighbouring cliffs, for Several yards, were formed into basaltic columns. [185] 
In walking across one of the steep heads between two Small bays, he met with a large deep hole in the ground, that appeared to have been occasioned by the falling-in of the earth which had formerly occupied its space. Its extent was about twenty-two yards by seventeen; its depth perhaps Sixty feet. The sides were not excavated, but rather smooth and perpendicular. They were rocks of the same yellow tinge as those of the shore. A little surf that washed up within it shewed a communication with the river, by a narrow subterraneous passage of some ten or sixteen feet in height, and, according to the distance of the hole from the edge of the cliff, about thirty-five yards in length. Appearances seemed to agree, that the period at which this earth fell in could not be very remote.
Continuing on the west side from Point William to Shoal Point, (places named by Mr. Hayes,) the land is too stoney upon the hills for cultivation, but is proper for pasturage. The vallies are, as usual, adapted to grain.
The land round Prince of Wales's Cove is rather level, and frequently clayey: the worst of it produces excellent food for cattle, even up to the foot of the high mountain lying at its back. Being a stiff close soil, it is perhaps adapted to the growth of grape vines, rather than of grain. About three hundred acres of open ground, called by Mr. Hayes King George's Plains, (could this have been in derision?) seem well calculated for this purpose, and for this only.
The land at the head of Risdon creek, on the east side, seems preferable to any other on the banks of the Derwent. The creek runs winding between two steep hills, and ends in a chain of ponds that extends into a fertile valley of great beauty. For half a mile above the head of the creek, the valley is contracted and narrow; but the soil is extremely rich, and the fields are well covered with grass. Beyond this it suddenly expands, and becomes broad and flat at the bottom, whence arise long grassy slopes, that by a gentle but increasing ascent continue to mount the hills on each side, until they are hidden from the view by the woods of large timber which overhang their summits. [186] With this handsome disposition of the ground, the valley extends several miles to the S. E. in the figure of a small segment of a circle. The tops of its hills, though stoney, produce abundance of tall timber, which, as it descends the slopes, diminishes in size, and thins off to a few scattered the oaks and gum trees, interspersed with small coppices of the beautiful flowering fern.
The soil along the bottom, and to some distance up the slopes, is a rich vegetable mould, apparently hardened by a small mixture of clay, which grows a large quantity of thick, juicy grass, and some few patches of close underwood.
Herdman's Cove, (so named by Lieutenant Flinders from the surrounding country) above Risdon Creek, has a large tract of good pasture land lying at its head. The country, which is unusually thin of timber, is finely rounded into grassy hills of various moderate ascent. The soil consists of more brown earth than black vegetable mould; upon the sides and tops of the hills, it is frequently Roney; but in some of the vallies rich and fine, and capable of profitable cultivation. A chain of ponds intersecting the hills afforded an almost continual stream of fresh water into the head of the Cove.
As it was not supposed that the sloop could proceed above Herds-man's Cove, Mr. Bass and his companion went up the river in her boat, imagining that one tide would enable them to reach its source; but in this they were mistaken, falling, as they believed, several miles short of it. Where the returning tide met them, the water had become perfectly fresh; the stream was two hundred and thirty yards in breadth, and in depth three fathoms. It was wedged in between high grassy hills that descended to the river upon a quick slope, and had a grand appearance. But the only cultivable land that they saw was some few breaks in the hills, and some narrow flips that were found at their foot close to the water's side. [187] 
In their way up, a human voice saluted them from the hills; on which they landed, carrying with them one of several swans which they had just shot. Having nearly reached the summit, two females, with a short covering hanging loose from their shoulders, suddenly appeared at some little distance before them, snatched up each a small basket, and scampered off. A man then presented himself, and suffered them to approach him without any signs of fear or distrust. He received the swan joyfully, seeming to esteem it a treasure.
His language was unintelligible to them, as was theirs to him, although they addressed him in Several of the dialects of New South Wales, and some few of the most common words of the South Sea Islands. With some difficulty they made him comprehend their with to see his place of residence. He pointed over the hills, and proceeded onwards; but his pace was slow and wandering, and he often stopped under pretence of having lost the track; which led them to suspect that his only aim was, to amuse and tire them out. Judging, then, that in persisting to follow him they must lose the remaining part of the flood tide, which was much more valuable to them than the sight of his hut could be, they parted from him in great friendship.
The most probable reason of his unwillingness to be their guide seemed, his not having a male companion near him; and his fearing that if he took them to his women, their charms might induce them to run off with them - a jealousy very common with the natives of the continent.
He was a short, slight made man of a middle age, with a countenance more expressive of benignity and intelligence than of that ferocity or stupidity which generally characterised the other natives; and his features were less flattened, or negro-like, than theirs. His face was blackened, and the top of his head was plaistered with red earth. His hair was either naturally short and close, or had been rendered so by burning, and, although short and stiffly curled, they did not think it woolly. [188] He was armed with two ill made spears of solid wood.
No part of their dress attracted his attention, except the red silk handkerchief round their necks. Their fire arms were to him objects neither of curiosity nor fear.
This was the first man they had spoken with in Van Diemen's land, and his frank and open deportment led them not only to form a favourable opinion of the disposition of its inhabitants, but to conjecture that if the country was peopled in the usual numbers, he would not have been the only one whom they would have met. A circumstance which corroborated this supposition was, that in the excursions made by Mr. Bass into the country, having seldom any other society than his two dogs, he could have been no great object of dread to a people ignorant of the effects of fire arms, and would certainly have been hailed by any one who might have seen him.
They fell in with many huts along the different shores of the river, of the same bad construction as those of Port Dalrymple, but with fewer heaps of muscle shells lying near them. The natives of this place, probably, draw the principal part of their food from the woods; the bones of small animals, such as opossums, squirrels, kangooroo rats, and bandicoots, were numerous round their deserted fire-places; and the two spears which they saw in the hands of the man were similar to those used for hunting in other parts. Many trees also were observed to be notched.
No canoes were ever seen, nor any tree so barked as to answer that purpose. And yet all the islands in Frederick-Henry Bay had evidently been visited. [189] 
Besides the Small quadrupeds already mentioned, they observed the grey and red kangooroo, but not in any numbers, and once they heard the tread of an emu.
The feathered tribes were apparently similar to those of Port Dalrymple. Here again they daily ate their swan, the flocks of which even exceeded those that they had before met with.
The most formidable among the reptiles was the black snake with venomous fangs, and so much in colour resembling a burnt stick, that a close inspection only could detect the difference. Mr. Bass once, with his eyes cautiously directed towards the ground, stepped over one which was lying asleep among some black sticks, and would have passed on without observing it, had not its rustling and loud hiss attracted his attention the moment afterwards.
He determined on taking him alive, in order to try the effect of his bite upon a hawk which was at that time in the sloop. In the contest, he turned round and bit himself severely; in a few minutes after which he was mastered. His exertions, however, were still vigorous, and Mr. Bass expected, as he began to recover himself, that they would increase; but in less than ten minutes he died. Having never before known a snake of this size to be killed by a few very slight blows with a stick so rotten as scarcely to bear the weight of its own blow, he was at a loss to conceive how death had so suddenly succeeded So much vigour in an animal so tenacious of life. Was it possible that his own bite could have been the cause? When, three hours afterwards, the skin was stripped off, the flesh for Some distance round the marks of his teeth, was found inflamed and discoloured.
The account of the Derwent river being now closed, and the whole of what was learned of Van Diemen's land related, it may not be improper, says Mr Bass, to point out the manner in which this country and New South Wales appear to differ in their most essential quality, that of their soil. [190] 
In adjusting their comparative fertility, the contrasted disposition of their soils is much more prominent than any inequality in their quantity. They are poor countries; but, as far as the eye of discovery has yet penetrated into either, the cultivable soil of the latter is found lying in a few distinct patches of limited extent, and of varying quality; while the soil of the former, being more equally spread, those spots of abundant richness, or large wilds of unimproveable sterility, are much less frequently seen.
Although Van Diemen's land seems to possess few or none of those vast depths of soil with which the happiest spots of New South Wales are blessed; yet it seldom sickens the heart of its traveller with those extensive tracts which at once disarm industry, and leave the warmest imagination without one beguiling project.
In point of productive soil Mr. Bass gives the preponderance to Van Diemen's land.
In one particular, which to the inhabitants of a civilized country is of the utmost importance, both countries are but too much alike: each is amply stored with water for the common purposes of life; but deficient in those large intersections of it which, in other more fortunate countries, so much facilitate the operations of man, and lead commerce to the door of even the most inland farmer.
Two rivers only, Port Dalrymple and the Derwent, are known to descend from Van Diemen's land; and by Point St. Vincent possibly there may be a third. But two rivers, or even three, bear but a Scanty proportion to the bulk of the island.
On the 3d of January they left the Derwent, and proceeded to the northward, coasting the east side of Frederick-Henry Bay, which was for the most part high and steep to the sea. The figure of the shore, between what is now called Cape Basaltes and Cape Pillar, exhibited one of those great works of nature which seldom fail to excite surprise: it was all basaltic. The cape is a vast high wedge, which projects into the sea, surmounted by lofty single columns. [191] 
After passing Cape Pillar, some islands came in sight to the northward; but they did not fetch them, owing to the wind hanging in that quarter. On the following day, they reached within five or six miles of one of them, which in its general appearance bore Some resemblance to Furneaux's Islands. This groupe must be either Maria's or Schouten's islands, or both; but it was not determined to which they belonged.
On the 7th, having until that day had but indistinct views of the land, they Saw Cape Barren Island. They did not pass through the channel, or passage, which divides Furneaux's Islands, but discovered why Captain Furneaux named the place the Bay of Shoals.
Early on the morning of the 8th they were among the islands lying off the Patriarchs. They were three in number; the largest of which was high, rocky, and barren, with a basis of granite, which, like that of Preservation Island, laid Scattered about in large detached blocks. Mr. Bass landed upon the outermost, and found it well inhabited. The various tribes had divided it into districts. One part was white with gannets, breeding in nests of earth and dried grass. Petrels and penguins had their under-ground habitations in those parts of the island which had the most grass. The rocks of the Shore, and blocks of granite, were occupied by the pied offensive shag and common gull; geese, red-bills and quails, lived in common, and the rest was appropriated to the seals, who seemed to be the lords of the domain. Mr. Bass remarked with surprise, that though the principal herd scampered off like sheep, as is usual on the first approach, yet the males, who possessed a rock to themselves, where they fat surrounded by their numerous wives and progeny, on his drawing near them, hobbled up with a menacing roar, and fairly commenced the attack, while the wives seemed to rest their security upon the superior courage and address of their lord; for, instead of retreating into the water in the utmost most consternation, they only raised themselves upon their fore fins, as if ready for a march, keeping their eye upon him, and watching the movements of his enemy. [192] 
The Seal is reckoned a stupid animal; but Mr. Bass noticed many signs of uncommon Sagacity in them; and was of opinion that, by much patience and perseverance, a seal might be trained to fish for man; in which there is nothing, at first sight, more preposterous than the attempt to make a hawk his fowler.
The seal appeared to branch off into various species. He did not recollect to have seen them precisely alike upon any two islands in the strait. Most of them were of that kind called by the scalars hair Seals; but they differed in the shape of the body, or of the head, the situation of the fore fins, the colour, and very commonly in the voice, as if each island spoke a peculiar language.
Having collected as much stock as was necessary, they stood to the northward, and on the 12th reached Port Jackson.
On delivering the account of this voyage to the governor, he named the principal discovery, which was the event of it, Bass Strait, as a tribute due to the correctness of judgment which led Mr. Bass, in his first visit in the whale boat, to suppose that the south-westerly winds which rolled in upon the shores of Western Port, could proceed only from their being exposed to the Southern Indian Ocean.
The most prominent advantage which seemed likely to accrue to the Settlement from this discovery was, the expediting of the passage from the Cape of Good Hope to Port Jackson; for, although a line drawn from the Cape to 44° of south latitude, and to the longitude of the south Cape of Van Diemen's land, would not sensibly differ from one drawn to the latitude of 40°, to the same longitude; yet it must be allowed, that a ship will be four degrees nearer to Port Jackson in the latter situation, than it would be in the former. But there is, perhaps, a greater advantage to be gained by making a passage through the strait, than the mere saving of four degrees of latitude along the coast. [193] The major part of the ships that have arrived at Port Jackson have met with N. E. winds on opening the sea round the South Cape and Cape Pillar, and have been so much retarded by them, that a fourteen days' passage to the port is reckoned to be a fair one, although the difference of latitude is but ten degrees, and the most prevailing winds at the latter place are from S. E. to S. in summer, and from W.S.W. to S. in winter. If by going through Bass Strait these N.E. winds can be avoided, which in many cases would probably be the case, there is no doubt but a week or more would be gained by it; and the expence, with the wear and tear of a ship for one week, are objects to most owners, more especially when freighted with convicts by the run.
This strait likewise presents another advantage. From the prevalence of the N. E. and easterly winds off the South Cape, many suppose that a passage may be made from thence to the westward, either to the Cape of Good Hope, or to India; but the fear of the great unknown bight between the South Cape and the S. W. Cape of Lewen's land, lying in about 35° south and 113° east, has hitherto prevented the trial being made. Now the strait removes a part of this danger, by presenting a certain place of retreat, should a gale oppose itself to the ship in the first part of the essay; and should the wind come at S.W. the need not fear making a good stretch to the W.N.W., which course, if made good, is within a few degrees of going clear of all. There is besides King George the Third's Sound, discovered by Captain Vancouver, situate in the latitude of 35° 03' South, and longitude 118' 12' east; and it is to be hoped, that a few years will disclose many others upon the coast, as well as the confirmation or futility of the conjecture, that a still larger than Bass Strait dismembers New Holland. [194] 
The vessel that has the credit of having first circumnavigated Van Diemen's land was built at Norfolk-Island, of the fir of that country, which was found to answer extremely well. Being only five-and-twenty tons in burthen, her comforts and accommodation must have been very inconsiderable, but great when compared with those which could have been found in a whale boat. Yet in a whale boat did Mr. Bass, as has been already shewn, run down the eastern coast of New South Wales from Port Jackson to the entrance of the strait. Captain Flinders has not the gratification of associating this gentleman with him in his present expedition, he having failed on another voyage and a different pursuit. [195] 

CHAP. XVII. [...] 
We must now return to the other concerns of the settlement, from which we have been so long absent.
Some pleas of debt having been decided by the civil magistrates, to relieve them from that duty, and enable them to attend to that only of the justice of the peace, an order was issued, declaring that such pleas belonged to the court of civil jurisdiction solely, as was clearly expressed in the letters patent for establishing that court; but they were at the same time requested to use their utmost endeavours, as far as their influence as magistrates could be effectual, in recommending the settling of trifling debts by arbitration, and thereby prevent much vexatious litigation.
Agricultural concerns wore as unpromising an appearance in this as in the last month. The governor, in a visit which he made to Parramatta, found that the pasture over the whole country had been entirely burnt up; in consequence of which the grazing cattle were in great distress; and, from the lamentable continuance of the drought, the maize was every where likely to fail: a misfortune that would ruin the stock of hogs, and reduce the settlement considerably in the article of bread. [196] 
That he might ascertain what quantity of grain he had to depend on, all those who cultivated ground were directed to give in by a certain time a return of the wheat and other grain in their possession.
By the Diana whaler, which arrived from Norfolk-Island, in-formation was received, that the wheat harvest had been more productive there than usual; but the maize was likely to fall short from a similar want of rain.
Wheat at this time bore a high price in Norfolk-Island, the settlers who had railed refusing to sell it, on account of the high rate of wages, at less than fifteen shillings per bushel.
On the night of the 24th, the acting commissary's house was broken into, and robbed of articles to a considerable amount. The thieves appeared to have got in at the office window, and loosened the bricks of a partition wall; by which Opening they got into the store-room, and, forcing the locks off the chests and trunks, carried away every thing that they could manage.
One evil among others which attended the frequent arrival of ships in the port was, the ready market which these plunderers found for disposing of their stolen goods; the seamen not hesitating to become the purchasers on leaving the place.
The criminal court of judicature was assembled at the close of the month; when one man, a serjeant of the New South Wales corps, was condemned for forgery, but recommended to the governor's mercy by the court; another was condemned for a burglary, and a third Sentenced to receive a severe corporal punishment, for having shot a native (man) at Botany Bay. Could the evidence of Some of these people have been taken, it was supposed that he would have been capitally convicted, in which case he would certainly have suffered, the governor being determined to put that article of his Majesty's instructions in force, which, in placing these people under the protection of the British Government, enjoined the punishing any injury done to their persons or property, according to the degree and nature of the offence. [197] 
When this man was brought out to be punished, several of the natives were assembled for the purpose; and he received in their presence as much of his sentence as he could bear, they witnessing his sufferings with the most perfect indifference.
The weather was exceedingly hot during the whole of January.
February. Deplorable was the catalogue of events that presented itself in this month: executions, robberies, and accidents.
On the 8th a prisoner, who had been condemned to die by the last court, suffered the Sentence of the law. The recollection of his untimely end, and his admonitions from the fatal tree, could not have departed from the minds of those who saw and heard him, when another court Sent another offender to the same tree and for the same crime. Samuel Wright had been once before respited at the gallows. On the morning of his execution, the wretched man attempted to cut his throat; but as he only very slightly wounded himself, it may be supposed that he merely hoped, by delaying the execution, to gain time to effect an escape.
Before this court, was brought part of a nest of thieves, who had lately stolen property to the amount of Several hundred pounds; but none of them were capitally convicted, being sentenced either to be transported to Norfolk-Island, or corporally punished.
It might be supposed, that these executions and punishments would have operated as a check to the commission of offences; but they appeared to be wholly disregarded, and enormity had not yet attained its full height.
On the night of the 11th, between the hours of eleven and twelve, the public gaol at Sydney, which cost so much labour and expence to erect, was set on fire, and soon completely consumed. [198] 
The building was thatched, and there was not any doubt of its having been done through design. But, if this was the fact, it will be read with horror, that at the time there were confined within its walls twenty prisoners, most of whom were loaded with irons, and who with difficulty were matched from the flames. Feeling for each other was never imputed to these miscreants; and yet if several were engaged in the commission of a crime they have Seldom been known to betray their companions in iniquity.
To complete this catalogue of offences, a few days after, some Irish convicts, with their faces blackened, attacked the house of an industrious man (one of the missionaries), whom they Severely wounded in Several places and plundered of all his property.
Were it not evident that certain punishment awaited the conviction of offenders, it might be supposed that a relaxation of the civil authority had begotten impunity; but far otherwise was the fact: The police was vigilant, the magistrates active, and the governor ever anxious to support them, and with incessant diligence endeavouring to establish good order and morality in the Settlement. But, much was the depravity of these people, from the habitual practice of vice, that they were become alike fearless of the punishments of this or of the world to come.
Notwithstanding the Settlement had before it the serious prospect of wanting grain, and the consequent destruction of much useful flock, it was known that several people had erected stills, and provided materials for the purpose of distilling Spirituous liquors; a pernicious practice which had long been forbidden by every officer who had had the direction of the colony. Former orders on this subject were now repeated, and persons of all descriptions were called upon to use every means in their power, in aid of the civil magistrate, to Seize and destroy such stills and materials as they might find.
Presuming on the late inefficient harvest, the Settlers requested again to be Supplied with Seed wheat from the store, but were refused. [199] 
It was well known, that they sold for Spirits, to the last bushel of their crop, and left their families without bread. Then they pleaded poverty and distress, and their utter inability to repay what they had borrowed. When seed has been lent them, they have not unfrequently been seen to sell it at the door of the store whence they had received it!
On the last day of the month a man belonging to the military was found dead, sitting upright against the outside of the barrack paling. It was known, that he had been much intoxicated the preceding night ; and it was supposed that, being unable to reach his hut, he had sat himself down, and, falling asleep, passed from this life without a struggle.
The great drought and excessive heat had affected the water. Such ponds as still retained any were reduced So very low, that most of them were become brackish, and scarcely drinkable. From this circumstance, it was conjectured, that the earth contained a large portion of salt, for the ponds even on the high grounds were not fresh. The woods between Sydney and Parramatta were completely on fire, the trees being burnt to the tops, and every blade of grams was destroyed.
To defeat as much as possible the intentions of those who were concerned in Setting fire to the gaol, a strong and permanent building of stone, with very Substantial walls, was begun in this month, and was well calculated to defy every Such attempt in future.
March.] The dry weather which had So long prevailed, to the great detriment of the cultivated and pasture grounds, was succeeded by rain for two or three days, which greatly refreshed the gardens that were nearly wholly burnt up, and every where revived the perishing vegetation. At the Hawkesbury, however, an accident occurred, which, although not to ruinous to the colony at large as the drought, proved most destructive to the settlers in that district. This river suddenly, and in the course of a very few hours, swelled to the height of fifty feet above its common level, and with much rapidity and power as to carry every thing before it. [200] The government store-house, which had been erected at the first settling of this part of the country, was not out of the reach of this inundation, and was swept away, with all the provisions that it contained. Many of the inhabitants were taken off from the ridges of their houses, by a few boats which they fortunately had among them, just in time to save their lives; for most of the dwellings were inundated, and the whole country appeared like an extensive lake. Many hogs, other live stock, poultry, with much of the produce of the last unfortunate harvest, and the domestic effects of the people, were hurried away by the torrent. Fortunately only one life was lost.
This was a most Serious calamity; and, no cause having appeared to indicate an approaching overflow of the river, the settlers were not prepared for such a disaster. It was Said, that the natives fore-saw it, and advised the inhabitants; but this wanted confirmation. if true, the trait was a favourable one. There could, however, be no doubt, that, unperceived by our people, a heavy fall of rain had taken place in the interior of the country, among the mountains, and which, from the parched state of the land for Such a length of time, had in no part been absorbed, but ran down the Sides of the hills, as from mountains of solid rock, filling all the low grounds, and branches of the river, which, being in form Suddenly Serpentine, could not give vent so fast as the waters descended.
It was hoped and believed, that this uncommon inundation would, in the end, prove highly beneficial to the grounds so overflowed, causing them for a season or more to produce with Such abundance as to recover the lots which the sufferers had sustained. In a few days this extraordinary collection of water had found its way to the Sea, and, the river regaining its usual level, the Settlers set about new cropping their grounds; for which purpose they made application for seed wheat, that certainly could not be refused; their other application, for bedding and clothing, it was not so easy to comply with, from the poverty of the public stores in these articles. [201] 
This fertile Spot had, in Some seasons, produced from fifteen to twenty thousand bushels of wheat, and might justly be termed the granary of New South Wales.
To relieve the inhabitants in Some degree from the contemplation of these distresses, the Rebecca, a whaler, came into the Cove from the Cape of Good Hope, bringing authentic accounts of Lord Nelson's memorable and brilliant victory over the French fleet at the Mouth of the Nile, This decisive battle was announced to the settlement in a public order, and by a discharge of all the artillery in the colony.
The master of the Rebecca, having brought out a few articles for sale, chartered the Nautilus to take them to Norfolk Island, thinking to find a better market for them there than at this place, where the late unsuccessful harvest had neither filled the granary of the public nor the pocket of the settler. She failed with this cargo in the course of a few days.
On the 9th, the Britannia whaler came in from sea, to repair some damages which she had sustained in bad weather. She had been rather successful in her fishery, having procured twenty-five tons of spermaceti oil since her departure; and the master reported, that, had the weather been more moderate, he should have been enabled to have more than half filled his ship.
The criminal court was only once assembled during this month; when one man was condemned to death for a burglary, and another transported for fourteen years to Norfolk-Island.
The civil court was also assembled for the decision of private causes, in which it was engaged during a week. [202] 
Among other public works in hand were, the raising the walls of the new gaol, laying the upper floor of the wind-mill, and erecting the churches at Sydney and Parramatta. Most of these buildings did not advance So rapidly as the necessity for them required, owing to the weakness of the public gangs; and indeed scarcely had there ever been a thorough day's labour, much as is performed by a labouring man in England, obtained from them. They never felt themselves interested in the effect of their work, knowing that the ration from the store, whatever it might be, would be issued to them, whether they earned it or not; unlike the labouring man whose subsistence, and that of his family, depends upon his exertions. For the individual who would pay them for their services with spirits, they would labour while they had strength to lift the hoe or the axe; but when government required the production of that strength, it was not forthcoming; and it was more to be wondered, that under such disadvantages so much, rather than that So little, had been done. The convicts whose services belonged to the crown were for the most part a wretched, worthless, dissipated Set, who never thought beyond the present moment; and they were for ever employed in rendering that moment as easy to themselves as their invention could enable them.
Of the settlers and their disposition much has been already said. The assistance and encouragement which from time to time were given them, they were not found to deserve. The greater part had originally been convicts; and it is not to be supposed, that while they continued in that state their habits were much improved. With these habits, then, they became freemen and settlers; the effect of which was, to render them insolent and presuming; and most of them continued a dead weight upon the government, without reducing the expences of the colony.
These expences were certainly great, and had been considerably increased. The settlement was at this time much in want of many necessary articles of life; and when these were brought by speculators and traders who occasionally touched there, they demanded more than five hundred per cent above what the Same articles could have been sent out for from England, with every addition of freight, insurance, &c. [203] They saw the wants of the colony, and availed themselves of its necessities.
April. On the first of this month the criminal court met for the trial of a Soldier belonging to the regiment, who had a few days before stabbed a seaman of the Reliance, who insulted him when centinel at one of the wharfs at Sydney. The man died of the wound; the Soldier, being called upon to answer for his death, proved to the satisfaction of the court, that it had been occasioned by the intemperance of the seaman, and he was accordingly found to have committed a justifiable homicide.
This accident was the effect of intoxication, to which a few days after another victim was added, in the person of a female, who was either the wife or companion of Simon Taylor, a man who had been considered as one of the few industrious settlers which the colony could boast of. They had both been drinking together to a great excess; and in that state they quarrelled, when the unhappy man, in a fit of madness and desperation, put an untimely end to her existence. He was immediately taken into custody, and reserved for trial.
To this pernicious practice of drinking to excess, more of the crimes which disgraced the colony were to be ascribed than to any other cause; and more lives were lost through this than through any other circumstance; for the settlement had ever been free from epidemical or fatal diseases. How much then was the importation of Spirits to be lamented! How much was it to be regretted, that it had become the interest of any set of people to vend them!
Several robberies which at this time had been committed were to be imputed to the same source.
A new enemy to agriculture made its appearance in this month. A destructive grub-worm was discovered in several parts of the cultivated ground; and at the Hawkesbury a caterpillar had commenced its ravages wherever it found any young grain just shooting out of the earth. [204] This occasioned some delay in Sowing the government ground.
It having been for several days reported, that the crews of two boats, which had been permitted to go to Hunter's River for a load of coals, had been cut off by the natives, the governor ordered his whale boat to be well armed, and to proceed thither in quest of the boats and their crews; Sending in her Henry Hacking, a person on whom he could depend.