History of Kangaroo Island

Mail (Adelaide, SA : 1912 - 1954), Saturday 28 March 1914, page 5



(Author of "Jack Halliday, Stockman," &c.)


On Saturday, June 18, 1801, His Britannic Majesty's sloop of war, Investigator, 334 tons, sailed from Spithead, bound for the unknown waters of southern New Holland. The appointment of Mathew Flinders to the vessel carried with it his well earned promotion from lieutenant to commander. His new vessel, which had previously been known as the Xenophon, was, with a singular appropriateness, renamed the Investigator. Flinders personally superintended the strengthening, re-fitting, victualling, and general finding, as well as the manning of the vessel. The whole ship's complement were picked men —from its illustrious commander to its youngest A.B. It is recorded that, 11 sailors being required to complete the establishment, volunteers were called for from the flagship, the Zealand, and that out of 300 men who were paraded, 250 offered themselves. On board the Investigator were Lieuts. R. M. Fowler, afterwards admiral; S. W. Flinders, the captain's brother; Mr. John Franklin, midshipman, afterwards the celebrated Arctic explorer; Dr. Robert Brown, naturalist, the first white man to ascend the Flinders Range, and view the country from the top of the mount, now called by his name; Jno. Crossley, astronomer; F. Bauer, natural history painter; and Mr. Westall, A.R.A., the celebrated landscape artist. The whole ship's company, including scientist and non-combatants, numbered 88.

Flinders's commission was to thoroughly explore and survey the northern coast of New Holland, with particular reference to its islands, reefs, bays, gulfs, and other inlets, from King George the Third's Harbour eastward to the known shores of New South Wales. Well and truly did he do his work. An almost infinite capacity for taking pains is shown in the marvellously correct charts which were the result of his labours. "Thorough" was his watch-word. "The anxiety of Flinders whenever he had anything to do, was to do his utmost." Officers and men alike seem to have caught the enthusiasm of their youthful captain — he was 27 years of age when appointed to the command— and vied with each other in their devotion to duty and loyal attachment to him.

Saturday, March 20, 1802, will ever be a memorable day in the annals of Kangaroo Island, for on that date its history commences. The illustrious Matthew Flinders having explored the shores of Spencer's Gulf, had in re-entering the Southern Ocean, sighted land to the south and south-west. Keeping eight or nine miles west of the Althorpe Islands, he steered for the unknown land to the south. During the night he made a series of short tacks, and in the morning found himself close to the iron-bound, forbidding looking cliffs of the north coast. Sailing eastward he sighted a promontory much lower than the rest of the land, and named it Point Marden, after the second Secretary of the Admiralty. Rounding the Cape he found that the coast trended southward into a large bay, which he called Nepean Bay, in honour of the first Secretary of the Ad-miralty, Mr. (afterwards Sir) Evan Nepean. Flinders anchored in nine fathoms of water on a good, sandy bottom. The next day, having sailed across to the western horn of the bay which he afterwards called Kangaroo Head, he landed a little to the west of it on a small plate, where large numbers of kangaroos and seals were feeding and disporting themselves in blissful ignorance of impending danger. The landing party having been four months without fresh meat, made short work of the unresisting marsupials. Flinders tells us that he himself killed 10, and the rest of the party, 21, all of which were taken on board. He says that they were darker than the NewSouth Wales kangaroos, and were not as destitute of fat. The smallest weighed 69 lb. and the largest 125 lb. That day the whole ship's company feasted on fresh meat and soup, and in gratitude therefor, says Flinders, "I named this southern land Kangaroo Island." His observations made the position of his landing to be lat. 35 deg. 43 min. 0 sec. south, and long. 137 deg. 58 min. 31 sec. east.

The following day, March 23, he ascended Kangaroo Head, as he named the eastern extremity of Nepean Bay, and sighted and named Mount Lofty. After exploring and charting St. Vincent Gulf, Flinders returned to Kangaroo Island, and on April 4, in company with Mr. R. Brown, he explored the American River. He said, "I was accompanied by the naturalist in a boat expedition to the head of the large eastern cove of Nepean Bay, intending, if possible, to ascend a sandy eminince behind it, from which alone there was any hope of obtaining a view into the interior of the island, all the other hills being thickly covered with wood. On approaching the south-west corner of the cove a small opening was found leading into a considerable piece of water, and by one of its branches we reached within little more than a mile of the desired sandy eminence. After I had observed the latitude, 35 deg. 50 min. 2 sec., from an artificial horizon, we got through the wood without much difficulty, and at 1 o'clock reached the top of the eminence, to which was given the name of Prospect Hill. (The local name for this is now Mount Tisby). Instead of a view into the interior of the island I was surprised to find the sea at not more than one and a half or two miles to the southward. . . . Mount Lofty, on the east side of the Gulf of St. Vincent, was visible from Prospect Hill at a distance of 69 miles, and bore N. 40 deg. 40 min. E." The eastern branch of the inlet known as American River was named Pelican Lagoon by Flinders. He describes the shores of the lagoon and the four small islands thereon as being alike the birthplace and deathplace of numberless generations of pelicans. The lagoon was also frequented by ducks and gulls besides numbers of the pied shag, and in the shoal water the party obtained some oysters. It was Flinders's description of Pelican Lagoon which inspired James Montgomery to pen his memorable "Pelican Island," some lines of which are here transcribed:

— It was a land of births—unnumbered nests Of reeds and rushes studded all the ground. A few weer desolate and fall'n to ruin; Many were building from those waste materials; On some the dams were sitting till the stroke Of their quick bills should break the prison shells. It was a land of death. Between those nests The quiet earth was feathered with the spoils Of aged pelicans that thither came To die in peace, where they had spent in love The sweetest periods of their long existence.

Such was the scene—the dying and the dead neighbour to the living and the unborn. After his return to the ship on the next day Flinders wrote in his journal as follows. — "A few kangaroos had been obtained during my absence, as also some seal-skins; but one of the sailors having at-tacked a seal incautiously, received a very severe bite in the leg, and was laid up. After all, the researches now made in the island, it appeared that the kangaroos were much more numerous at our first landing place, near Kangaroo Head, than elsewhere in the neighbourhood. . . . Not less than 30 emus or cassowaries were seen at different times; but it so happened that they were fired at only once, and that ineffectually. They were most commonly found near the longest of the small beaches to the eastward of Kangaroo Head, at the place represented in the annexed plate, where some little drainings of water oozed from the rocks.

The approach of the stormy season, and the fear of a possible shortage of provision, induced Flinders to forego any examination of the southern and western parts of the island, and to give his attention to the southern coast of the main-land. In the first instance he had given the name of Investigator Strait to the whole stretch of water which separated the island from the mainland, from Cape Borda to Cape Willoughby. Later on the eastern portion appeared to him to be in the nature of a private entrance to the Strait proper and St. Vincent's Gulf. So pursuing his course southward from Cape Jervis, he named the strait Backstairs Passage, a small bay in which he had anchored on the night of April 6 he called the Antechamber, and three rocky islets at the outside he named the Pages. The eastern horn of Antechamber Bay received the appellation of Cape Willoughby.

On April 8th, at 4 in the afternoon, a ship was sighted, and the Investigator was cleared for action. The stranger proved to be Le Geographe, Capt. Nicholas Baudin. Both vessels hove to, and Flinders, accompanied by Mr. Brown as interpreter, went on board the French ship. The two explorers freely communicated to each the discoveries they had made. Flinders mentioned Kangaroo Island, and the name given to it, and pointed to the kangaroo skin caps of his men in confirmation of his statement that fresh meat and water could be obtained there. The next morning they parted with mutual expressions of regard, and Flinders called their place of meeting Encounter Bay. From M. Peron's account of Baudin's voyage it appears that Le Geographe explored St. Vincent's Gulf, Spencer's Gulf, and the south coast as far westward as Peter Nuyte land and then returned to Van Diemen's Land for the winter, not having touched at Kangaroo Island at all. In January, 1803, Baudin made his second visit, and on this occasion circumnavigated the island, and not only named those portions he had discovered, but renamed the various places which had been discovered by Flinders. Backstairs Passage became Colbert's Strait, Investigator Strait gave place to Lacepede Strait, Point Marsden was renamed Cape Vendome, Nepean Bay was Bougainville Bay, Western Cove became Bay of Seals, Kangaroo Head Cape Delambre, while the whole island received the title of Decres Island. M. Peron, the naturalist on board, in describing the flora and fauna met with in their short excursions from and along the coast, says,

''At the bottom of the great bay we are upon (Nepean Bay) are found forests which appear to extend a considerable distance into the interior of the country, and which consist, like all others in these remote regions, of different spe-cies of eucalytpus, banksia (honeysuckle), phebalium (mountain myrtle), mimosa (wattle), Casuarina (sheoak), Metraside-ros, Leptosperma (titree), Styphelia, Ha-kea (native furze), Conchium, Diosma, and Embothrium (Australian holly). . . . On the shores no trace of human life is to be found, and we saw only three specimens of mammalia. One of these belongs to the handsome genus Dasyurus (opossum). The others are new species and appear to belong to the largest of the kangaroo tribe. Many of these are as tall as, or taller than a man when sitting on their hind legs and tail. Free from fear of all enemies, they associate in large herds. In consequence of their great numbers hunting them is as easy as it is remunerative. We secured 22 living specimens, not to mention those that were killed and eaten by the crew. Among the numerous seal families who had established their homes on the shores of the island we noticed a new species of the genus sea lion (Enotaria cinerea) which attained a length of 3 metres to 3.20 metres (9 ft. 9 in. to 10 ft. 6 in.), Its fur is very short, very hard, and very coarse, but its skin is thick and strong, and the oil that can be obtained from its fat is good in quality and abundant."

Peron writes in glowing terms of the bird life on the island, in respect to number, variety, and beauty of the plumage, from the tiny tomtit to the eagle and the emu. Of these last there appeared to be large numbers, and despite their fleetness of foot the crew were successful in catching three, which were taken on board alive. Neither Peron nor his compatriots appear to have ventured inland at all, and so they conceived the idea that the country was destitute of water. He calls it "a land deprived of fresh water," "completely destitute of fresh water," except at Anse des Sources (Hog Bay), where by digging they obtained enough for daily use. To confirm the drought-stricken character he gives to the island, he makes the astounding statement that large herds of kangaroos and flocks of emus regularly came down to the bleach in the cool of the afternoon to quench their thirst by drinking the sea water. The probable explanation of Peron's statement is that there are fresh water springs at Hog Bay, which are covered except at low tide. The kangaroos and emus, knowing the locality of these springs, stood in the sea waiting for the tide to recede far enough to enable them to quench their thirst.

On the beach at Hog Bay is the celebrated Frenchman's Rock, which bears the following inscription: — "Expedition de de-couverte, par le Commandant Baudin, sur Le Geographe, 1803." This was no doubt cut during Baudin 's visit, but by whom and by whose orders is not known. M. Peron makes no mention of the rock. After exposure to the elements for over a century the lettering was showing signs of wearing away. To prevent further deterioration, and to safeguard the precious relic from the hands of vandals, a dome has been built over it. The cost of the work was met by subscriptions, raised by Mrs. Stow, head teacher of the school at Hog Bay, which were subsidised by the South Australian Government to an equal amount. The sheltering structure was erected in 1906.

Peron was much impressed by the possibilities suggested by the vast quantities of mussels readily available in Nepean Bay. He says: --"Towards the bottom of the bay is a kind of marsh, covered with sea-weed, in which live, buried in the mud and sand, millions of Pinnae marinae, or mussels. These shellfish furnish a silk equal in all respects to that obtained from similar animals along the coasts of Calabria and Sicily, but the European mussels dwell at a depth of 30 or 40 ft., and the fishery is attended with great difficulty; whilst those of Kangaroo Island are covered with scarcely 25 to 30 in. of water, and thousands might with ease be collected in a few hours." Mr. E. G. Wakefield, in his book "South Australia,'' published in 1835, makes the following comment upon the above statement:— "In Italy the silk of the Pinnae marinae is of great value. It is convertible into a fine and durable stuff, and being scarce, fetches a high price."

Having completed the circumnavigation of the island, and made a cursory examination of Nepean and Hog Bays, the French navigator sailed away, no doubt glad to leave such a — to them— inhospitable shore. So ended the first chapter of the history of Kangaroo Island. (To be Continued.)

Mail (Adelaide, SA : 1912 - 1954), Saturday 4 April 1914, page 7HISTORY OF KANGAROO ISLAND.BY H. J. DRISCOLL (Author of "Jack Halliday, Stockman," &c.).


The resumption of the peaceful reign of Nature on the island — rudely disturbed for a brief space by the visits of Flinders and Baudin — was destined to be of but short duration. Almost coincidentally with the departure of the first navigators from its shores, whaling vessels commenced to frequent its waters, followed by the hardy straitsmen of Van Diemen's Land. These men, who lived on the islands in Bass Straits, relied principally upon sealing for a livelihood. Veritable seadogs, they gradually extended the scope of their operations, and in their sealing boats or small cutters gradually worked their way westward. Between 1800 and 1805 these men and the whalers had visited practically every island along the south coast of Australia, from Cape Otway to Port Lincoln. It is practically certain that the first men to live on the island were two sailors from one of the whalers which frequented its waters. Whether they, attracted by the immense number of seals along the coast, and assured from starvation by the presence of such multitudes of marsupials, landed as a commercial speculation, or whether enamoured by the idea, of perfect freedom from toil, they decided to adopt the simple life of the savage, is not known. Others followed their example, some of them leaving their vessels by consent, and accepting a dinghy and a few stores in lieu of wages due, while others — the greater number, perhaps-deserted their ships, oftentimes taking with them one of the boats, a supply of guns and ammunition, and in some cases, it is recorded, dogs. These, finding that it was not well to live alone, early betook themselves to the mainland, and took unto themselves helpmates from among the daughters of the blacks on the adjacent coast, principally from Cape Jervis and Encounter Bay. The ranks of these primitive settlers were soon augmented by sealers from Van Diemen's Land, who brought native wives with them. These added to the first-comers, lived in amity together, and established themselves in little companies at various points along the coast, where shelter was obtainable for their frail craft and fresh water for themselves. They carried on a legitimate trade with the vessels which called at the island, exchanging seal-skins and the pelts of kangaroos and wallabies for flour, sugar, and rum. Wild and rough as the life of these little communities was, it was destined ere long to become much worse. Runaway convicts, some of them with Van Diemen's Land women, commenced to arrive, some in stolen boats, some in the cutters of sympathetic sealers, and others as sailors on ships touching at the island. The new comers soon terrorised over the more peaceable among the little community, and embarked in a more wholesale importation of native women from the mainland, not only for wives, but to act as slaves. On these predatory excursions to Encounter Bay, Rapid Bay, and other places, many deeds of blood were done, which later on were no doubt avenged by the natives as opportunity offered, and may be responsible for the treacherous massacres of unoffending whites which occasionally occurred along the coast. The discovery of large quantities of salt easily obtainable was responsible for an increase in the number of vessels calling at the island. At first the "salters" anchored in Nepean Bay, and landing in the Bay of Shoals westward of Reeve's Point, gathered their cargo from Salt Lagoon about a mile or so inland, but as their knowledge of local conditions increased they included the salt deposited near the head of the eastern cove of Flinders (now called the American River) in the scope of their operations. Chevalier Peter Dillon, who was at one time a captain in the Honourable East India Company's service, and who is remembered principally as being the discoverer of the relics of the ill-fated expedition of La Perouse at the Malicolo Islands in 1827, visited Kangaroo Island in 1815 in the brig Spring from Van Diemen's Land. Included in his crew was a Portuguese with the — no doubt adopted — name of Thompson, who, he states, had been on the island for seven years. Supposing the gallant Chevalier shipped Thompson there and at that time, then his residence would date from 1808. Capt. Dillon took on board seven tons of salt from Salt Lagoon, near Kingscote — he explains that the rest was spoilt by the wet— and 500 seal skins. He speaks of the kangaroos, emus, and porcupines (Echidnae) as being present in large numbers, and describes the marsupials as being bigger and fatter than those of Van Diemen's Land. He also mentions the fact that potatoes thrive well on the island. Pigs and poultry were introduced at an early date, and multiplied exceedingly. The former at once took to the scrub, and ran wild, particularly on the eastern end. Hog Bay ("Ause de Sources" of Baudin) is credited by tradition as being the scene of their first appearance, but whence they came, and how, are shrouded in mystery. Two solutions are current, and both are credible. First, that they were loosed at Hog Bay by the French in 1803, against which is the silence of Peron on the subject, and second that they were smuggled ashore by deserters from a vessel anchored in the bay. The latter hypothesis is the more generally accepted one. Kangaroo dogs were numerous, as befitted a population that lived largely by hunting. They were large, fierce, rough-haired animals. The narrow southern extremity of Lagoon Bay received the misnomer of American River from the islanders. Two versions of the origin of the name are current. Capt. Geo. Sutherland, of the brig Governor, 140 tons, who spent some months at the island in 1819, states that an American ship was wrecked there in 1811, and that the crew during a residence of some months built a schooner at Lagoon Bay, hence the name. The other account is that the American ship General Gates anchored there in 1816 for some time and built a flat-bottomed barge, the remains of which in 1886 were still to be seen embedded in the mud. She left with 60 tons of salt. It was from this vessel and at this time that Robert Warland deserted. Later on he achieved notoriety as "King or Governor" of the island. Taking into consideration the unreliable character of Sutherland uncorroborated statements, the later account may be accepted as correct. Captain Sutherland, who was in island waters from January 8 to August 12, 1819, picking up a cargo of salt, sealskins, and kangaroo hides, is more prodigal in his information, more imaginative in his details than other early visitors, and— where not in accord with others' accounts — utterly untrustworthy. He loaded salt at Kingscote and obtained 4,500 sealskins (value in Sydney 6/ each) and 1,500 kangaroo skins (Sydney value 3/ each), for which he bartered provisions and rum. The latter commodity bulks largely in all the commercial transactions of the island at that time. As the traders took skins at 1/ each and charged £3 10/ a gallon for the rum given in exchange, the trade must have been a profitable one to the unscrupulous owners and traders. For example, a gallon of rum bought in bond in Sydney would probably not cost more than 20/. When exchanged for 70 skins at 1/ each, worth in Sydney 3/ each, the value received for the spirit would equal £10 10/ a gallon. The following may be taken as a fair example of Sutherland's romancing, which was indirectly responsible for the loss of two valuable lives hereafter. After describing the inland country as grassy plains of park-like appearance, with no hills or swamps, and the soil as being a deep loam superior to Sydney, he continues:— "I crossed directly (from Kingscote) to the place where the sealers had fixed their residence (Vivonne Bay), which is at the head of the inlet before mentioned." To give a greater veri-similitude to his story, he traced his route upon a map of the island. The internal evidence furnished by his narrative proves conclusively that he never penetrated more than a mile or two from the coast.

During the period which had elapsed since the first escaped convicts joined the small company of sealers and sailors, the proportion of undesirables, criminals, and escapees had steadily increased. Fugitives from the draconic justice of New South Wales, bushrangers hard pressed, and notorious characters steeped in all phases of infamy found an asylum on Kangaroo Island. Many of the more respectable and industrious among the sealers and trappers resumed their former occupation as sailors, or shipped on whalers, or returned to the more civilised parts of New South Wales or Tasmania. Those left behind at the various settlements around the coast made more frequent raids upon the mainland and carried off numbers of natives—both men and women. One visitor who was there in 1824 says — "These gangs joined each other and became the terror of ships going to the island, being little better than pirates. They live in bark huts, dress in kangaroo skins, and wear sandals of sealskin. They smell like foxes." (To be Continued next week.)

Mail (Adelaide, SA : 1912 - 1954), Saturday 23 May 1914, page 9HISTORY OF KANGAROO ISLAND.BY H. J. DRISCOLL(Author of "Jack Halliday, Stockman," &c.)

Chapter III.

Immunity from punishment and increasing numbers emboldened these outlaws to commit such depredations and outrages that at last the Government of New South Wales was forced to take action. Early in 1826 an expedition was dispatched from Sydney for the purpose of securing a number of the most notorious of these piratical islanders. It was under the command of a Mr. Whyte, but whether this gentleman was a military man or a police officer the fragmentary record available does not say. He was assisted by two men, named Smith and Skelton, who knew the islanders and their various haunts and hiding places. Skelton was a sea captain who traded with the island, and is assumed to have been but half-hearted in his efforts to lay by the heels some of his best customers. On the other hand, Mr. Smith is accorded great praise for the part he played in securing the desperadoes (says a report at the time). "The plan . . . must entirely have failed but for the exertions of Mr. Smith. By his means chiefly the runaways were discovered and apprehended. He had but just before saved from their hands his life and part of his property, with which he escaped as if by a miracle." One of the settlements (near Kingscote) at this time consisted of 40 people, including children, the chief being a negro named Abysinia, who had been on the island since 1812. The expedition from Sydney, besides arresting the runaway convicts, took measures to deport the native men and women back to the main-land. Whether the promiscuous gathering together of natives originally kidnapped from the different and antagonistic tribes inhabiting such widely separated districts as Encounter Bay, Yankalilla, Yorke's Peninsula, and Port Lincoln, and dumping them down at one particular spot was conducive to their subsequent wellbeing is a very open question. The Van Diemen's Land native women were allowed to remain. After the purging which the island had received by the deportation of the most lawless and bloodthirsty among the population an improvement, slight, it is true, but still an advance on previous conditions, took place.

Warland, who had picked a piece of land on the Three Well River (now Cygnet) and squatted there-on, planted a garden which he enclosed by a wallaby-proof pallisade, and cultivated potatoes and onions, gradually increasing his stock as opportunity offered by purchase from trading vessels. Later on he enlarged his borders and grew a couple of acres of wheat. Warland possessed the only horse on the island, a creature remarkable for its size, being over 17 hands high. Whence, when, and how it came history does not record. Tradition says from Van Diemen's Land, but is silent as to date and method. Warland's agricultural operations being successful, he took a man called Day into partnership, and found employment for others. The result of his advance in the scale of civilisation from a hunter to a tiller of the soil and a distributor of its products, for he became at once a trader, was to give him an importance in the community to which no man had previously attained. When he assumed the title is not known, but he soon began to be styled the "King" and the "Governor" of the island. He disclaimed the former title, but accepted and thereafter claimed the position and authority of the latter. He had one rival, a big black, supposed to be Abysinia previously mentioned, but who was generally called Black Bob. This man was the leader of the sealers, and is described as being a most bloodthirsty, brutal ruffian. He came to an untimely end, and thence-forth Warland ruled unchallenged until the advent of the South Australian Company's ship the Duke of York created an entirely new situation. The death of Black Bob was on this wise. He and others had been out along the south coast hunting for seals, and upon returning to the land-ing place on the beach below the cliffs he had a violent altercation with one of his mates. From words to blows among such men was naturally a quick transition, and in the ensuing encounter Black Bob gave his opponent a most unmerciful drubbing, and, with the instincts of the savage that he was, taunted him with his defeat. The other took his gibes in silence—and waited. The ascent of the cliffs was a very steep one the upper portion being nearly vertical. To enable one to successfully scale this part a rope was used which, securely fastened above, dangled below. By grasping this the climber was enabled to accomplish a scaling feat which was impossible without it. On this occasion the whole party except their chief had reached the top, and he was almost within reach of it when his former antagonist drew his sheath knife and with one sharp cut severed the rope. Thus died Black Bob.

In 1827 the island received a singular addition to its ranks. George Meredith, a young man of education and means, whose father was in a big way of business at Hobart, purchased a large sealing cutter, and with an old man-o'-war's man named Jacob Seaman, an American called Bathurst, and a Tasmanian "gin" called Sal, sailed to the Western River, and made his home there. He cultivated a plot of ground as a vegetable garden, and engaged in sealing and trading excursions. In the course of one of these expeditions his party kidnapped a gin from Port Lincoln. On another occasion they carried off two boys from Encounter Bay. These acted as servants, and were well treated. Meredith presently became a most religious man, and not only read the Bible, constantly, but instructed his "boys" in its moral precepts. Bathurst had left; Seaman, Sal, and the "boys" remained. In 1834 or 1835 Meredith sailed for the mainland, taking, very much against Seaman's advice, the two blacks and Sal. He put into Yankalilla Bay, and one day while on deck reading the Bible one of the ''boys" crept behind and killed him with a tomahawk. Jacob Seaman becoming anxious, at Meredith's non-return, communicated with Governor Warland, who immediately started with Nat Thomas and Walker to look for the missing man. They soon found Sal, who told them of Meredith's fate, and added that the blacks had the boat at Encounter Bay, and that they were talking of crossing to the island and murdering all the whites there. For several months afterwards the scattered islanders lay at night with their arms loaded and within reach. Meredith is said to have buried a large sum of money at Western River, but his cache has never been found.

In 1831 four of the settlers—George Bates, otherwise known as "Fireball," who had been on the island since 1824, Warley, and two others—were taken to the mainland on board a schooner to endeavour to get news of Capt. Barker's fate. In the dead of night the four men—Bates got up to represent a ghost—rushed the blacks' camp. The natives fled helter skelter in great alarm. One young gin, about 16 years old, bolted fair into Warley's arms. She was promptly gagged and carried off. She told them the particulars of the gallant captain's death. Bates and party received from Dr. Davis (of Capt. Barker's party) a zne boat as payment for their services.

The example of the "Governor" and Meredith in cultivating the soil was gradually followed by many of the settlers, until by the year 1831 almost all of them had cleared small plots, on which they grew vegetables. Most of them also had arrived at the dignity of keeping pigs and fowls. Creek Bay, American River, Western River, and Warland's at Three Well River were the most important. By this time kangaroo hunting had become a negligible quantity, and wallaby snaring had taken its place as the mainstay of the people. Capt. Hart, of the schooner Elizabeth, who was a regular trader, took away 12,000 wallaby skins, 150 seal skins, and 5 tons of salt on December 20, 1831. The islanders knowing nothing of Flin-ders or Baudin's naming, adopted a nomenclature of their own. Thus we have Hog Bay, Creek Bay (Antechamber), Flour Cask Bay, Doyle's Bay (Vivonne), Murrell's Landing (Harvey's Return), Murrell's Lagoon (now Murray's), Stunsailboom River, Snug Cove, Hairseal Beach, Bloody Jack's Bay, Long Nose (Cape Cassini), Snake's Point (now Reeves's Point), Three Well River (Cygnet), Porkey flat, and others.

No record of this period would be complete without the story of the Narrinyeri lubra, who, impelled to it by her love of home and kinsfolk, is said to have swum Backstairs Passage. There are four accounts of this legendary feat, or patriotic fact, still extant. Two from islanders and two from mainland writers. Mr. J. W. Bull, in his "Early Recollections of Colonial Life," says that a gin from Encounter Bay, who had been forcibly deported to the island, longing to get back, deserted her master, and, breasting the shark infested waters, heedless of its strong currents, swam across Backstairs Passage. He further states that he saw her four or five years after her remarkable achievement, and comments favourably upon her physique, and states that she was a fine specimen of her race. The Rev. George Taplin, who spent many years with the natives, gave a very circumstantial account of the episode, which came to him secondhand, and many years after the generally accepted date of the occurrence. He says:—"Many years ago some white sealers on Kangaroo Island stole from Cape Jervis three native women. When they had stayed a few weeks . . . they found a small dinghy belonging to the sealers. It would hardly hold two. Now, two of the women had no children, but the third had an infant at the breast, so the two childless lubras took the dinghy and started for the mainland and reached it in safety. The poor mother left behind pined sadly for her country and friends, but nothing was heard of her for some time. One day the natives found her body on the beach just above high water mark, with her baby tied to her back. She had swum Backstairs Passage, and then, in a state of utter exhaustion, crawled up the shore and died." So far the mainland accounts. Now for the island ones:— Mr. E. H. Hallack, writing of an interview he had with Mr. Augustus Reeves, after whom the old Kingscote Point was named, quotes his account of the incident as follows:—"The story of swimming the channel which constitutes Backstairs Passage is all nonsense. The facts are that a lubra who was kidnapped from Encounter Bay by some of the old wretches of whalers attempted to swim across, but was unsuccessful, and when recaptured was soundly thrashed for her trouble." Mr. George Bates, "Fireball," who was living on the island at the time of the supposititious escape, is responsible for the following account:—As the result of a raid upon Cape Jervis two gins were transferred to the island. Both of them immediately took to the bush, and for some time successfully evaded recapture. Finally, however, Bates and his party regained possession of their slaves, who had suffered great privations while at liberty, and were nearly starving when secured. They were brought back to the camp in a very weak condition, despite which one, to whom the name "Bett" had been given, seizing the first opportunity afforded her by a relaxation of her captors' surveillance, plunged into the sea and struck out for the mainland. In her condition it was an impossible venture. "Bett" never reached Cape Jervis. She was either drowned through exhaustion or killed by the sharks which abound in those waters. Taking a judicial review of the four stories, weighing the probabilities and possibilities of each, and taking into consideration the origin of the evidence— mostly hearsay—it seems plain that the romantic and pathetic tale told by the Rev. G. Taplin must be discarded. His information was gleaned nearly a generation after the event; had filtered through aboriginal channels, and lacks corroboration. Mr. J. W. Bull fortifies his version by having the lubra pointed out to him within four or five years of her swim. He contented himself with looking at her! Had he spoken to her and heard the story from her own lips his statement would have been of much more value. As it is it goes to prove the currency of and belief in the incident at that early date. Mr. A. Reeves's account was derived from personal intercourse with the old sealers, and as it was given by him from memory at an advanced age a few days before his death allowance must be made both for probable loss of memory and unconscious aggregation of detail. Mr. G. Bates remains. He claims to be a participator in the tragedy, and as his reminiscences have been generally confirmed by independent evidence, his story—of which Mr. Reeves's appears to be a variation—may be accepted. Leaving ascertained facts, however, the probabilities are that more than one gin essayed the swim, and of that number one—the one seen by Bull—accomplished the feat.

Mail (Adelaide, SA : 1912 - 1954), Saturday 12 September 1914, page 8


BY H. J. DRISCOLL. (Author of "Jack Halliday, Stockman," &c.)


When, on November 1, 1836, the Africaine was tacking off and on the coast near Cape Borda, much discussion took place and many conjectures were made by those on board relative to the character of the country, its physical features, the quality of its soil, and its fauna and flora. The outcome was a proposal to land, walk across to Nepean Bay, and there re-embark. This wild scheme was originally mooted in the cabin or saloon— the first suggestion coming from Mr. R. Gouger the Colonial Secretary — but the after guard abandoning the idea, it was put into effect by six young men from the intermediate or second cabin. Capt. Duff giving a ready assent the adventurous party was disembarked at Morrell's boat harbour— now called Harvey's Return — an operation involving considerable difficulty and much loss of time. Leaving the ship at 3 p.m. on November 1, it was not until 7 o'clock that a landing was affected, and the sextet of explorers with two days' provisions, six bottles of wine and spirits, but no water, bivouacked that night about a mile inland. Their names were Dr. Slater, M.R.C.S. (Ireland), Robert Fisher, a journeyman printer under engagement to Mr. R. Thomas, of the "Register," Alfred Warren, John Baggs, Charles Nantes (clerk to Mr. Gouger), and an apprentice of Mr. Thomas called Osborne. In the morning they started at 6 o'clock in a north-easterly direction through very hilly country, so densely covered with prickly shrubs that they experienced much difficulty in forcing a passage. Their hands bled freely, and they began to suffer so much from thirst that when later on they discovered a stagnant pool apparently unfit to drink they drank heartily of it. At this spot they shot seven parrots, filled their bottles with water, and held a consultation as to their course of action. They possessed a little book containing Capt. Sutherland's report of his supposititious journey across the island. One of them read the following extract from it: —

Close on the shore, within a quarter of a mile to half a mile of the sea, the wood is very thick, but when this belt of wood is passed you come to an open plain country covered with grass, where there are often hundreds of acres with-out a tree. I calculated . . . there might be on this plain, on an average three or four trees to the acre. I once crossed the island a distance of about 60 miles in two days. Once past the belt of wood we walked straight on end over the plains, found plenty of water in ponds, saw abundance of kangaroos and emus, and met with no difficulty or trouble.

Having confidence in Capt. Sutherland's report they determined to continue in a south-easterly direction. They found the scrub and brushwood as thick and as difficult to penetrate as before, and to add to their troubles Mr. Osborne was taken ill and declaring his inability to proceed suggested that the others should go on without him, which they refused to do. "We fortunately found water in a spring," says one of the party in his journal, "and having lighted a fire, we cooked a little pork, mixed him some rum and water, laid him under a bush by the fire, and covered him well over. In two hours Mr. Osborne was sufficiently recovered to proceed." They continued ankle deep in mud on the flats, crossing numerous creeks and rivers, and forcing their way through almost impenetrable scrub till they camped for the night. And so they continued day after day, wading through swamps, sometimes breast high, crossing rivers, ascending and descending steep, stony hills, or forcing a path by the aid of a tomahawk through the dense prickly scrub in single file, Mr. Osborne with difficulty keeping up with them. By the night of November 4 they had nothing left to eat. About 7 o'clock the next day they reached Vivonne Bay, where they boiled and ate several pints of periwinkles, but had no fresh water. On November 6 Mr. Osborne was again taken ill, but was induced to proceed. Shortly afterwards they reached a lagoon (Morrell's), where they observed tracks — both barefooted and shod— and heard a gun fire, which they erroneously thought was from the Africaine. The tracks were those of one of the islanders and a black woman looking for them, the gunshot being theirs also. At this spot Mr. Osborne was too ill to proceed further, and Dr. Slater stayed with him, requesting the others to go on, reach the ship that night, and send them assistance in the morning. After two days more weary travelling the party reached Lagoon Bay (American River), and proceeding westerly struck Seal Bay on November 9, where they cooked some periwinkles — the first meal for four days — and drank some brackish water. By this time they were barefooted. In travelling along the beach they found some fresh water, the first for five days, and shortly afterwards sighted the shipping in Nepean Bay. About noon Mr. Nantes became ill, and was unable to proceed. In crossing the Three Well River (Cygnet) Mr. Fisher was only saved from drowning by Mr. Baggs seizing him by the hair and dragging him ashore. An hour or so later the three survivors staggered into Kingscote, where they found that Mr. Stephens and Dr. Wright had nourishing food ready for them, and whence a boat was at once dispatched to pick up Mr. Nantes, who arrived safely the next morning. The day following the landing of Dr. Slater and party at Harvey's Return the Africaine anchored in Nepean Bay. Upon the officials enquiring when the pedestrian party was likely to arrive they were shocked to hear that the possibility of their reaching the settlement unaided was almost inconceivable. Mr. Gouger writes in his diary, "All agree in saying it is impossible, but that they should be lost in the woods, and unless very fortunate in finding water would be starved to death." Search parties were at once organised under the immediate supervision of Mr. Stephens, Dr. Wright, and Mr. Hallett, and dispatched in various directions. As these parties consisted of islanders well acquainted with the country, accompanied by their native women, great hopes were entertained of their ultimate success in finding the unfortunate wanderers. Each night the highest hills on every side were lighted up with beacon fires, and cannons were fired at intervals in the hope that either by sight or sound the party might be guided to safety. While the search was contuing, and before the Africaine left for Holdfast Bay, Mr. R. Gouger and four others made an excursion inland. After pushing their way for several miles through thick bush and bramble, and scrambling almost continually over logs of dead timber, two or three of the party reached a stream called by the islanders the "Three Well River," renamed by the early settlers the Morgan River, after the captain of the Duke of York, and eventually and finally christened the Cygnet. On the river and adjacent lagoons were "millions of wild ducks and black swans." They wandered many miles, and finally after an exciting battle with a wild sow and four young ones, in which they were hard put to it to gain the victory, they arrived at "Governor" Warland's farm. Mr. Gouger praises Warland's hospitality, industry, and general behaviour. He regaled the visitors with roast pork and damper, washed down by ti-tree tea, which Gouger highly commends. Warland had four acres of fine wheat, a large, well stocked garden, and a farmyard with substantial and well filled pigsties, and large stock of poultry of all descriptions.

As evidencing the progress made on the island before the proclamaton of South Australia by Governor Hindmarsh, a letter from Mr. Charles Simeon Hare, dated December 20, may be quoted. He says: — "An extensive boat building shop and a blacksmith's shop are erected. This week our first whaleboat will be launched. Mr. S. Stephens's house will be erected (finished) in three weeks." The dwelling mentioned is, of course, the more pretentious one which succeeded the historic mud fort, the materials for which were imported from England. Mr. C. W. Stuart, stock overseer, gives some interesting glimpses of life at Kingscote in December, 1836. It would appear that the company's stores required to be guarded, as he speaks of taking his turn on watch at night. Outside the company's officials he characterises Capt. Bromley and Mr. Hallett as the only bona fide and respectable settlers. He records his appreciation of Mr. and Mrs. Stephens's unvarying kindness and hospitality. Incidentally he mentions having bought two casks of rum containing 104 gallons, from Capt. Colton at 2/6 a gallon, and having sold Mr. Stephens two barrels of Sydney flour at £1 each. Tired of tent life he bought a thatched hut for £2. The first Christmas Day in the new land was not allowed to pass without some attempt to perpetuate the time-honoured traditions of the old land. Though perforce mutton, wallaby, or fowl — according to the means of the household— had to take the place of the roast beef, yet a Christmas pudding of some sort duly appeared on the festive board. The day was a fine one, and the holiday was spent in various ways. Cheap rum was a great inducement to the bibulous among the community, while the Christmas service, held in the company's carpenter's shop, and conducted by Mr. Stephens, was well attended by the better class of colonists in all conditions.

One of the first official acts of the Government of South Australia was a recommendation to Governor Hindmarsh that a special commission should be appointed to enquire into the disturbance which had taken place at Kingscote in the previous September. The action was taken consequent upon reports received from Mr. Stephens detailing the occurrence. Agreeably to his Ministers' advice His Excellency appointed George Stevenson, J.P. (his secretary) and Thomas Bewes Strangways, J.P., commissioners to hold a court of enquiry. As Colonel Light was sending the surveying vessel Cygnet to Rapid Bay for the purpose of transferring Mr. B. T. Finniss and his party to Adelaide, he consented to the commissioners being passengers upon the condition that they did not hinder the embarkation of the surveyors on the return of the Cygnet from Kingscote, to which stipulation they agreed. On January 7 the vessel called at Rapid Bay, left Colonel Light's letter of instructions for Mr. Finniss, and sailed the same night. The court was duly constituted on January 9 and continued sitting for several days. Voluminous evidence was taken, not only bearing upon the facts of actual rioting, but upon the immediate and contributory causes thereof. There was a wonderful unanimity of expression regarding the first portion of the enquiry, and a most remarkable conflict of testimony regarding the second. The commissioners re-embarked on the Cygnet on January 12, and at 6.30 p.m. hove to off Rapid Bay four miles from the shore. A peremptory message was sent to Mr. Finniss that his party and impedimenta must be on board by 10 o'clock, which Mr. Finniss states was a physical impossibility. Messrs. Stevenson, and Strangways must have realised that, too, for they did not trouble to wait, but sailed for Holdfast Bay as soon as their boat returned. When the Cygnet shook out her sails and began to gather way, Mr. Finniss and his party of surveyors with all their stores, tents, and paraphernalia, were on the beach ready to go off to the vessel. In a report forwarded to the South Australian Commissioners in London Colonel Light complained bitterly of Messrs. Stevenson and Strangways' breach of faith and their unwarrantable action in arbitrarily assuming command of a vessel, on which they were guests, the complete control of which was invested in him. What finding the commissioners arrived at, whether any punishment was inflicted upon the rioters, whether any strictures were passed upon the startling inconsistencies of the sworn evidence, and what recommendations, if any, were made as a result of their enquiry, are questions which cannot be answered, as no record appears to be in existence. The official "Gazette" of the time entirely ignores the incident, and the State papers dealing with it were probably among those destroyed at the burning of the Government Hut a few years afterwards. The net result recorded was the widening of the breach and increased bitterness between Governor Hindmarsh and Colonel Light. Unofficial sources, however, supply a short account of these disturbances and give us a picture of St. Stephen, hard-pressed, standing at bay with a double barrelled pistol in each hand. The same authority announces the conviction and imprisonment of two of the ringleaders, but omits their names and the length of their sentences.

William Archer Deacon (presumably boarding house keeper at Kingscote) was then head constable of the island. Consequent upon the selection of Adelaide as the capital, a general exodus from the island occurred, only those directly or indirectly connected with the company remaining at Kingscote. The depletion of population was, however, only temporary, for the Coromandel, Capt. William Chesser, and the John Renwick, Capt. W. Livington, arrived early in January and February respectively and brought considerable additions to the population. The latter vessel also added to the livestock on the island by landing 20 pure-bred Cashmere goats, the property of the company, also a number of wooden frame houses and cottages or double tents for temporary use. As indicative of the idealistic side of the company's operations, it is interesting to note that the education of the young was not forgotten, and a large and varied assortment of school requisites, books, slates, &c., were landed . A letter from G. F. Angas written in 1836 bearing on this matter contains the following:— "Our chief works being in Kangaroo Island will enable us to keep our own people together . . . and give them religious and other knowledge."

Among the passengers by the former vessel was Johannes Menge, the father of South Australian mineralogy. This remarkable man had studied geology, mineralogy, and botany in Germany, Italy, France, the British Isles, Scandinavia, Iceland, Russia, Siberia, and other parts of Asia and North America. He was also a most distinguished linguist, being ac- quainted with more than 20 languages, all of which, except the dead ones, he had acquired while living in the lands in which they were spoken. He was a native of the Hartz Mountains, and after the completion of his mineralogical journeys he settled down in the East End of London, where he taught Hebrew and other Oriental tongues. In 1835 he declined the chair of Hebrew and Greek at Oxford at a salary of £1,000 a year, and shortly afterwards, for the sake of being able to pursue his mineralogical studies in Australia, he accepted the position of "mine and quarry agent and geologist" to the South Australian Co. at a salary of £150 per annum with a free passage to the colony. Menge was a non-conforming Lutheran, and when the persecution arose in Prussia in 1830 his sympathy with religious freedom was shown both by voice and pen. At Kingscote he lived in a "dug-out," the roof of which was just above the level of the ground. He rambled about the island as far as he could with safety, and made exhaustive reports to the company on the result of his investigations. He described the geology, mineralogy, and the various soils on the island, pointing out the different treatment such soils demanded in order to obtain the best results from them. He was always urging upon the manager of the company the vital importance of irrigation; indeed, he went so far as to say that the land was of no value whatever without it. In one of his reports he elaborates a scheme for conserving all the flood waters which flow into the sea from Western Cove to Emu Bay. The project included a fresh water canal navigable for 30 miles. Under a proper system of irrigation he computed that Kangaroo Island would carry a population of a million. In one of his reports, speaking of the capabilities of the soil, he says:— "You know already that I made the nature of the soil here my study, and I found out that an acre of land will yearly provide for £200 worth of vegetables or fruits if cultivated on chemical principles.'' Although he describes iron as being the "domineering" metal on Kangaroo Island, he was successful in finding traces of copper, small portions of tourmaline, and all the necessary materials from which to manufacture earthenware and china of all degrees of quality. Precious gems have of late years been discovered, and the china clay mine near Cuttlefish Bay, which is now being developed, bears testimony to the accuracy of his statements.

Professor Menge, as he was generally called, was a most eccentric man. His eccentricity was so nearly allied to madness that at times under the stress of undue excitement the partition which divided them was very thin indeed. He was good-natured and child-like in his innocence and regardless of self. His general appearance was more that of a professional tramp than a Christian gentleman as he was at heart. "Cold water, soap, and clean linen were evidently regarded by him as unnecessary luxuries for a new colonist to indulge in." Another who knew him said that he lived on tobacco smoke and pancakes. Wild bursts of passionate vituperation afforded a strange contrast to his, at other times, guileless merriment. After the arrival of Mr. D. McLaren, the second colonial manager of the company, he was instructed to endeavour to find water, that necessary fluid having still to be brought from Port [Point] Marsden and retailed at from ½d. to 1d. a bucket. His efforts to locate any springs or indicate where water could be obtained by sinking were futile. A violent quarrel with the manager resulted in his leaving the company's service, and very shortly afterwards fresh water was discovered within a few yards of the front of his dug-out at Reeves Point. This well is still in use, the quality and the supply both being excellent.

On April 22 the company's barque, South Australian, Capt. Alex Allen, anchored in Nepean Bay, followed two days later by one of their whaling fleet, the Sarah and Elizabeth, Capt. J. Wakeling. Among the passengers by the former vessel was Mr. David McLaren, who relieved Mr. Stephens of the management of the commercial, shipping, and banking departments of the company's business leaving the former chief control over the agricultural operations, and a nominal rank co-equal with himself. This dual control lasted but a short time, for on June 16, less than two months after his arrival, McLaren assumed complete command and became colonial manager, Stephens continuing for some time longer as head of the agricultural department. Mr. (afterwards the Hon. Henry) Mildred also arrived in the South Australian. His position was that of master shipbuilder or dockyard manager. With him were landed a patent slip capable of accommodating vessels of up to 50 tons burthen, milling machinery, and four pairs of mill stones for grinding wheat and barley. The exploitation of the piscatorial potentialities of the narrow seas was not overlooked by the company, for we find that a Mr. Wright of Penzance, and four or five experienced fishermen and their wives were landed at Kingscote. The enterprise shown by the company in this matter did not meet with much success. The fishermen who were engaged at £100 a year turned out an idle and drunken lot. Their first attempt at testing the waters of Nepean Bay resulted in damaged gear and torn net, but no fish. This initial failure seems to have been productive of despair, for it is recorded that when at rare intervals any measure of success attended the desultory efforts, the results were so unsatisfactory that they barely provided for their own wants. The food supply of the settlement was none the richer for their presence, and the company decidedly the poorer. The South Australian also brought two pure-bred Devon bulls and heifers— the first horned cattle on the island— as well as a number of well-bred pigs. The state of discontent which had all along been very much in evidence among the labouring class was much aggravated by the advent of the large contingent brought by the South Australian. Although as a result of representation made to Mr. Stephens the labours' wages had been increased from 14/ to 25/ a week, the rise in the price of provisions had more than kept pace with the increment, and the whole population was more or less discontented, and a number almost in a state of mutiny. Notwithstanding that the men had been assured that provisions would be but 5 per cent. higher than English prices a contemporary price list gives the following particulars:— Salt pork, 9½d. a lb.; Sydney bacon, 2/4: ham, 2/10; cheese, 2/4; salt "junk," 6d.; salt butter, 1/8 to 4/; eggs, 6d. each; soap, 2/ a lb.; mutton birds, 10d. each; water, 1d. a bucket. Fresh meat and flour were often unobtainable at any price; wallaby at from 2/ and upwards each; and ships' biscuits, more or less weevilly, taking their places. Vegetables of various kinds grown by the islanders on the Cygnet River and at American River were reasonably cheap. Another source of discontent was the paper currency initiated and put into circulation in December, 1836. This plan of issuing notes for small sums such as 5/, 10/, and £1 obviated the necessity of providing large sums of specie, and it is difficult at this distance of time to understand how such a convenience could be regarded as a grievance. One of the prime factors in keeping the discontent alive was the cheapness and fiery character of the rum and inferior wines, which were sold without any licence or restriction. One writer says that the grog-shanty keeper was the only contented man on the island. Despite the uncongenial character of their surroundings, the forbidding gloom of the scrub behind them, the fierce sun over-head, the hot, loose, barren soil beneath their feet, the scarcity of water, the absence of the conveniences and often times the necessities of civilised life, and the seething discontent which was rampant, the settlers found time to marry and be given in marriage. We hear of a double wedding in June, of feasting and making merry thereat, of dancing being kept up by the light of the moon, the ballroom being the sandy space under the big gum tree, the music being supplied by a solitary clarionette. A little later a cynic writes: — "To-day being near the full moon another wedding took place."

In July Dr. W. H. Leigh and Mr. H. Mildred made an excursion to "Governor" Warland's farm, now the property of the company. A track had been by this time cut through the scrub from Kingscote to the Cygnet, a distance of about eight miles. They spent six or seven days in exploring the country beyond "the Farm," under the guidance of Warland himself. On the third day out they reached a beautiful lagoon, the waters of which swarmed with wild game, and the land around which for the space of a quarter of a mile was clothed with a luxuriant growth of grass and lightly studded with large trees, the open space being blocked on all sides by dense undergrowth betwen the larger timber. A heavy shower of rain forced the whole party to take refuge in the hollow trunk of an ancient gum. Deeply cut into the bark of this old burnt-out tree were the words, "This is the place for fat meat, 1800." If this inscription was authentic, and Leigh does not seem to have doubted it, it would appear that prior to Flinders' discovery one of the whalers or sealers spoken off by the Straitsmen to Capt. Stokes had landed and penetrated at least some miles inland. No doubt, owing to the presence of water and the abundance of grass and herbage, it would be a favourite resort for kangaroos and emus. (To be Continued Next Week.) [sic]

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