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1-156 (Original)

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author,male,NN,un addressee
Narrative Discourse
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Private Written
Ward, 1969
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On seeing them (a native tribe numbering about two hundred) approach we pulled the boat out a little from the shore, leaving Tolo (a leading native) on the rock. We got out our arms and examined them to see if they were in firing order, and afterwards held up three or four seals' carcasses, and acquainted the natives we wished to trade for kangaroo skins. Tolo ordered ten women to go into the water each loaded with kangaroo skins and flesh. We gave them in return the carcasses, and they carried them to their tribe, returning immediately to the boat with more skins as payment. We then requested Tolo to fill our kegs with fresh water, which he did, but we would not let them take more than one keg at a time, for fear they would not bring them all back again. Tolo seemed much displeased at this evident want of confidence.
The natives asked if we would bring over more seals on the following day. Briggs (a seafarer who had had many years experience as a sealer) informed them that they were getting scarce and shy of being caught. Tolo considered that we had better take some women over to the island to assist in catching them, as they were very dexterous at sealing, This of course being agreed upon, Tolo ordered six stout women into the boat. They obeyed with alacrity, evidently delighted with the prospects of the trip. The wind being fair, we ran over to the island, hauled the boat up, and pegged out the kangaroo skins to dry, The women, perceiving some seals on the outer rocks, were anxious to commence operations.
We gave [...] the women each a club that we had used to kill the seals with. They went to the water's edge and wet themselves all over their heads and bodies, which operation they said would keep the seals from smelling them as they walked along the rocks. They were very cautious not to go to windward of them, as they said 'a seal would sooner believe his nose than his eyes when a man or woman came near him'. The women all walked into the water in couples, and swam to three rocks about fifty yards from the shore. There were about nine or ten seals upon each rock, lying apparently asleep. Two women went to each rock with their clubs in hand, crept closely up to a seal each, and lay down with their clubs alongside. Some of the seals lifted their heads up to inspect their new visitors and smell them, The seals scratched themselves and lay down again.
The women went through the same motions as the seal, holding up their left elbow and scratching themselves with their left hand, taking and keeping the club in their right ready for the attack, The seals seemed very cautious, now and then lifting up their heads and looking round, scratching themselves as before and lying down again; the women still imitating every movement as nearly as possible. After they had lain upon the rocks for nearly an hour, the sea occasionally washing over them (as they were quite naked, we could not tell the meaning of their remaining so long), all of a sudden the women rose up on their seats, their clubs lifted up at arms length, each struck a seal on the nose and killed him; in an instant they all jumped up as if by magic and killed one more each. [92] After giving the seals several blows on the head, and securing them, they commenced laughing aloud and began dancing. They each dragged the seal into the water, and swam with it to the rock upon which we were standing, and then went back and brought another each, making twelve seals, the skins of which were worth one pound each in Hobart Town. This was not a bad beginning for the black ladies, who now ascended to the top of the small hill, and made smokes as signals to the natives on the main that they had taken some seals. The smokes were soon answered by smokes on the beach. We skinned the seals and pegged them out to dry. The women then commenced to cook their supper, each cutting a shoulder off the young seals weighing three or four pounds. They simply threw them on the fire to cook, and when about half done commenced devouring them, and rubbed the oil on their skins, remarking that they had had a glorious meal.
19 January 1816. - At daylight, having low water, the women recommenced their sealing labours. They would not allow us to come near them until they had killed all that could begot on the beach. [93] They killed twenty-six before breakfast. The weather being fine, the wind south east, the remainder of the day was passed in catching and skinning seals, the work being principally done by the women.
January 20. - At sunrise smokes were made on the main; the women said they were signals for us to go over. We were employed until noon killing and skinning; the women swimming to the Outer rocks, as the seals were getting very shy. We succeeded in getting 16 skins. In the evening launched the boat and went over to the main; took two of the women, and loaded the boat with the carcasses of the seals we had skinned. On arrival at the beach we found Tolobunganah there. The two women told him what we had done. He was delighted to see the boat's freight, and told us he had plenty of kangaroo skins to give us in payment for the seals. We threw the seals into the waler, and the women dragged them to the beach. Tolo ordered the tribe to take them all into the bush. In a few minutes they returned with ten dead kangaroos and about ninety skins. Tolo enquired how long we would Want the women? We told him about two or three days, as the seals were getting scarce, and we should not stay longer. He directed the two women to return with us, and stop as long as we required them. The wind being from the westward, we ran over to the island and hauled the boat up. The four women we left on the island informed us that during our absence they had caught six seals.
January 21. - During the day fresh breezes at south west and fine weather; employed drying and packing the skins in bundles for a start.
January 22. - .. During the day the wind blew strong from eastward, and thick weather.
January 23 - The first part of the day fresh breezes from the southward and fine weather. The women killed five seals on the rocks. At noon loaded the boat with carcasses and took them over to the main. On our arrival at the beach Tolo and his tribe came down. They had a few stead kangaroos and about fifty skins; they were very much pleased to see the boat loaded with dead seals. We threw them out of the boat. Tolo ordered them to be put in a heap upon the beach. Briggs informed Tolo that we should start tomorrow from the inland, and we should now take leave of them at which the women all began to cry; in fact, the whole assembly seemed full of sorrow at our leaving them. Tolo asked Briggs not to go away until they had a dance, The mob of them - about three hundred in number - formed a line in three divisions, the men and women forming two of them, and the children another. Tolobunganah then gave the signal to commence the dance, and it was a most singular one. The women in the centre division began a song, and joining their hands, formed a circle, dancing round the heap of dead seals, They then threw themselves upon the ground, putting themselves into the most grotesque attitudes, beating the lower parts of their bodies with their hands, and kicking the sand over each other with their feet. The loud laughter of the men and children evidenced their gratification with the sport; and the women having sat down, the children went through a similar dance. [94] The men then commenced a sort of sham fight with spears and waddies, dancing afterwards round the heap of seals, and sticking their spears into them as if they were killing them. This game lasted about an hour. Tolo then informed us that the dance was over. He asked Briggs where we were going, and was informed we were bound for Cape Barren, and Briggs requested him if he saw the white men (Howe and his party) to tell them we had gone thither. This was intended to deceive them in case they should attempt to waylay us on our way to Hobart Town. The wind being fair, we ran over the island, hauled the boat up, and began to pack our skins, ready for a start next morning if the wind and weather should permit.
January 24. - At sunrise, the wind north east and fine weather, launched the boat, got all the skins, provisions, etc., into her. After breakfast, started with a fine breeze at north, and steered along short to the southward. The natives made three smokes to say 'Good-bye'.
We found after leaving King George's Island and Rocks we had been there nine days, and had procured 122 seal skins and 246 kangaroo skins from the natives, the value of which was £180 at Hobart Town.