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2-131 (Raw)

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author,male,Batman, John,34 addressee
Narrative Discourse
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Private Written
Ward, 1969
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28 May [1835]. - During the darkness of the night, we passed King's Island, and about 1 p.m. sighted a portion of New Holland, the land of promise and to reach which we had already endured many anxious days and sleepless nights. We continued nearing this hitherto unappreciated portion of New Holland, and, as evening now cast its shadow over the waters, the captain preferred lying off the land at a distance of about eighteen miles, until the following morning, when we anticipated the satisfaction of entering the port of Phillip. Several chain hooks, being baited and attached to the ends of ropes, were thrown over the vessel's side, and two fine, long, bright, and well-tasted barracoutas, fish peculiar to the coast of Australia, were caught, not however until we had lost several hooks, in consequence of the fish having bitten through the rope, above its junction with the chain or wire part. [159]
May 29. - Daylight had no sooner broke this morning - and never had its cheerful return been so ardently longed for - than we were again greeted by the sight of Port Phillip heads, at a distance not apparently exceeding eight miles.
By 9 a.m. we were between the heads, with the tide running out, and nearly at low water; a heavy surf, and the wind light and baffling. We effected an entrance with difficulty, at a part of the bay where the width was about a mile and a quarter. We took soundings, and found the depth of water from five and a half to seven fathoms. We succeeded, however, in entering one of the finest bays, or basins of water, well sheltered, that we remember to have seen. Within the bay, the water was, compared to our late tossing in the boiling and foaming waters outside, as smooth as a millpond: and our little bark floated gently along, like a sleeping gull. I shall, however, take this opportunity to remark that it will be desirable to enter its mouth only at the times of the tide running in.
At the distance of about fifteen miles we reached the point indicated, and had no sooner anchored than we perceived my Sydney natives coming along the shore. I again landed for the purpose of taking another inspection of the country, which we discerned as exceedingly rich, and beautiful in the extreme; thinly-timbered, richly-grassed, and diversified by a few sweet vallies, and hills of small elevation and of volcanic formation. The toil was of a fine, rich, oily, decomposed whinstone. Nothing could be more satisfactory and in every point the reality far exceeded my most sanguine expectations. In these and other situations the kangaroo and other native grasses have attained at least two feet, and thick as it could grow, capable of affording hay of the best quality. The trees were thinly-scattered in a park-like form, averaging five or six to the acre.
Robinson Crusoe was never better pleased with the appearance of the first ship which arrived, and rescued him from his desolate island, than I was with the vessel which proved the means of my thus opening to view a country capable of supporting a future nation, and which, we trust, will be the means of relieving the Hobart Town country of its overstocked cattle, and the mother country of her surplus and half-starved peasantry. Futurity must develop this prophecy! Further travelling and examination only added to my pre-conceived estimate of this extremely interesting and extensive territory; consisting of plains or downs at least twenty miles long by a width of ten miles, and the distance may have been greater, but for the interruption of hills more than ordinarily high, which broke the horizon in different directions. One of these vistas, which I have at present in view, cannot form a less area than 100,000 acres. Its general character presents that of cultivated pastures for centuries past; the few trees appear as though they owed their plantation to the hand of man. All the high hills are covered with grass to their summits.
I ascended these eminences or hill-summits, from which the view was most satisfactory. The country on either hand presented the same continuation of rich pastoral plains, apparently of greater extent than those already mentioned. The bay up which we sailed to-day, and where we cast anchor, varied in depth from two and a-half to six fathoms, and, to my great joy, I discovered the fires of the natives or aboriginal inhabitants of this marvellously fertile country, and felt delighted beyond expression that the task of its discovery should have devolved upon myself. [160] [161] [162] I intend going ashore tomorrow morning to the camp of natives, and, if possible, shall establish a friendly intercourse with them, in order to effect a treaty for the purchase of a large portion of their fertile and hitherto useless territory.
May 31, Sunday - The vessel lay last night in three fathom water, in a fine little bay, to which I gave the name of Gellibrand's harbour, in honor of Gellibrand, Esq, late attorney-general, of Hobart Town.
As soon as the day broke, we landed for the purpose of carrying out our object with the Aborigines. We had not travelled more than smile and a half when we caught sight of the smoke arising from the fires of seven large gunyahs or huts. My Sydney natives immediately stripped off their clothes, and introduced themselves, purea naturabilis, to the inhabitants of the gunyahs; at least they intended to have so done, but on reaching the little village they discovered that the sable tenants had departed that morning. My natives forthwith beat for their trail, and, having found it, we commenced to follow, and continued on the track for about ten miles, when one of my natives caught sight of a black at the distance of a mile. Having made a sign to us, we again formed into Indian file, and marched after him until we came up to the black he had seen, who proved to be an old and crippled woman, having no toes on one foot. About a mile ahead we saw the main body of the tribe whom we had followed, and overtook them about 1 p.m.
My Sydney natives and their new companions, by a sort of freemasonry, or from a similarity of language, appeared to perfectly understand each other, and a friendly footing was at once established, which augured well for the accomplishment of my projects.
A corroborree with song was got up in quick time, in which both tribes joined, to my great delight. The company was composed entirely of women, twenty-four in number, each having a child at her back, excepting one who was young and very good looking. They informed us that the male members of their tribe had gone up the river. With this interesting group of females were four native dogs or dingos, and, independent of infant burdens, they each had a net or basket hung around their shoulders. The weight of some of their loads could not be less than sixty or seventy pounds; these loads were so largess to form a hump behind, on which their children rested. Each had, besides, two or three baskets of their own manufacture, containing nets, stone tomahawks, bones, crystals, &c. In one of the bags, which I took the trouble to examine. I found a piece of the tire of a cart wheel, with the remains of two nail holes. This piece of iron was ground down to a sharp edge and fixed in a piece of wood for a handle: they used it for the purpose of cutting with as a tomahawk; with this were several pieces of iron hoop, which they had likewise ground to a sharp edge, and used as substitutes for knives. Several large wooden vessels, of rude construction, for the purpose of holding water, were also among their utensils, and in one of them was some water, of a bad quality. [163] They very willingly came back with us to where I had a number of blankets, glass-beads, looking-glasses, sweet sugar apples, and handkerchiefs; and I distributed amongst them 8 pair of blankets, 30 handkerchiefs, 1 tomahawk, 18 necklaces of beads, 6 pounds of sugar, 12 looking-glasses, and a quantity of apples. They appeared to be very much pleased with the presents, and shortly after receiving them took their departure. I had arranged that we were to meet again tomorrow.
The young woman, of whom I have written, gave me a very handsome basket, of her own making: some of the other women alto presented me with two baskets and several spears; all of which I took with me on board. I have this day travelled over at least fifteen miles of country, all of the same good character of open plains, several of which, seen from a neighbouring hill, could not be less than twenty miles square. In the course of the journey I ascended a sugar loaf hill, which was richly grassed to the top. This hill I dedicated to the honor of J. T. Collicott, Esq, postmaster-general, and I hope and trust that, should this magnificent country eventually be settled upon, this hill may in future be allowed to retain the name of Mount Collicott. I never could have imagined it possible that so fine a country existed on the face of the globe - gentle hills, plains, and downs, on which 5,000 sheep might have been allowed to feed with little trouble to the shepherd. I cannot, however, shut my eyes to the fact, that, fine as the land undoubtedly is. from what I have yet seen of it. there is a great deficiency of water, although I have no doubt whatever that water might be easily obtained by digging. [...]
June 6. - During the greater part of last night the wind was very high, accompanied with a few showers of rain. We made an early breakfast, and resumed our journey in order to reach the camp of the blacks, the smoke of whose fires we had seen yesterday. We travelled over land equal to any that we had seen, a deep black diluvium, with grass three or four feet high, and thinly-timbered. After travelling eight miles we struck the trail of the natives, which in a short time led us to a branch of the tribe, consisting of one chief, his wife, and three children - fine, plump, chubby, healthy-looking urchins they were. To this distinguished royal chieftain of the prairies I gave one pair of blankets, handkerchiefs, beads, and three pocket knives; upon the receipt of these presents he undertook the part of guide. We crossed a fresh water creek, with good land on either bank. Our new guide informed us that he would take us to his tribe, at the same time naming many of their chiefs.
After travelling about eight miles we were surprised to hear a number of voices calling after us, and on looking round encountered six men, armed with spears fixed in their wommeras. We stopped, and they at once threw aside their spears, and came up to us in the most friendly manner possible. We all shook hands, and I gave them knives, tomahawks, &c, whereupon they took the lead, and brought us back about a mile, to where we found huts or gunyahs, and a number of women and children. [164] We sat down in the midst of these sooty and sable aboriginal children of Australia; amongst whom, we ascertained, were eight chiefs belonging to the country near Port Phillip, over which we had travelled, and with which we had so much reason to be pleased. The three principal chiefs were brothers. Two of them were fully six feet high, and tolerably good-looking: the third was not so tall, but much stouter than the others. The other five chiefs were equally fine men. And a question, to myself, here arises, and the answer as speedily follows, viz.: now is the time for entering into and effecting a purchase of their land. A full explanation, that my object in visiting their shore was to purchase their land, they appeared to understand; and the following negotiation or agreement was immediately entered into. I purchased two large blocks or tracts of land, about 600,000 acres, more or less, and, in consideration there for, I gave them blankets, knives, looking-glasses, tomahawks, beads, scissors, flour, &c, and I also further agreed to pay them a tribute or rent yearly. The parchment or deed was signed this afternoon by the eight chiefs, each of them, at the same time, handing me a portion of the soil: thus giving me full possession of the tracts of land I had purchased.
This most extraordinary sale and purchase took place by the side of a lovely stream of water, from whence my land commenced. A tree was here marked in four different ways, to define the corner boundaries. Good land, to any extent, either for stock or tillage, wish good water, was here in abundance, ready for sheep, cattle, or the plough. The timber was she-oak, dwarf-gum, and wattle. Our negotiation was terminated by my Sydney natives giving our newly-acquired friends a grand corroborree at night, much to their delight.