Kangaroo Island and its resources


[By our Special Reporter.]

South Australian Weekly Chronicle (Adelaide, SA ), Saturday 16 January 1886, page 5

In commencing an account of Kangaroo Island and its resources we may state for the benefit of those readers who are unacquainted with the geography of the place that the island is about 90 miles in length from Cape Willoughby on the east to Cape Borda on the west, its greatest breadth being 36 miles from Cape Gantheaume on the south to Cape D'Estaing on the north. The average breadth, however, is only about 25 miles. The eastern end of the island— the hundred of Dudley, or Hog Bay district — is a peninsula measuring only 22 miles from Cape Willoughby to Pennington Bay, by about 11 miles from north to south. Nepean Bay on the north is divided into Eastern Cove and Western Cove, the former terminating in American River, which nearly divides the Hog Bay district from the rest of the island, leaving an isthmus of only a mile in width.

American River is much used as a harbor of refuge by vessels in stormy weather or when adverse winds prevail. Other harbors are found around the coast. Western Cove being an especially safe one, as it is land-locked on the east, south, and west, and a sandspit several miles in length running south eastwards from Point Marsden shelters it from the north. On the western shore of this harbor are situated Queenscliffe and Kingscote, near the site of the earliest settlement formed by the South Australian Company almost fifty years ago. The two places are so close together as to be undistinguishable by the uninformed visitor. The Government buildings, telegraph and post-office, and police-station, and the Queenscliffe Family Hotel are at Queenscliffe, also an Anglican Church, where the service is read on Sunday evenings by the telegraph-master. Besides these structures there are a general store attached to a substantial stone dwelling, be longing to Mr. Evans, and a good stone cottage, the residence of the builder of the place. The few remaining houses are of an inferior description, and several of them are of a very primitive style of architecture. The inhabitants of Queenscliffe and Kingscote together probably number about seventy souls.

The Queenscllffe Hotel is a comfortable hostelry, large and substantially built of stone, and in every way superior to what one would expect to find on Kangaroo Island. It is kept by host J. B. Anderson, formerly of Port Adelaide, who is very obliging and attentive to the comfort of his guests, as also is his wife. Mrs. Anderson, though not like her namesake a duly-qualified medical practitioner, has, by the force of circumstances, acquired some degree of proficiency in the healing art, and in the absence of a medical man is often consulted by the inhabitants with reference to their ailments. She is able to set a broken limb or to use the lancet if necessary. Mr. Anderson, owns the Hawthorn, a smart ketch, which trades between the island and Port Adelaide, and a handy little yacht in which visitors can enjoy a sail in the bay and indulge in the sport of fishing. The steamers Dolphin aud the little Cowry, formerly belonging to the Fishing Company, run to and fro, or, as ' Cousin Jack' would say, ' back and foath,' once a week.

The island, though not what one would unreservedly call a desirable spot for a residence, has its advantages. No such hot winds as we are accustomed to in Adelaide ever trouble the inhabitants ; the proximity of the sea prevents this. True - Monday, January 4, was a roaster, and from want of a veil or a sufficiently broad-brimmed hat the tip of my nose suffered, a process of slow cookery, and by the evening was 'done tender.' But the oldest inhabitant, who by-the-way, has resided thereover forty-nine years, informed me he never remembers so hot a day as that 4th of January in all his experience.

The supply of fish is good, and in the beautiful bays fishing is very enjoyable. Handsome shells of the paper nautilus are often picked up on the beach, and large and perfect specimens are saleable for about 5s. each. Numerous fresh water rivulets exist on the island, the longest being the Cygnet River, which has a course of about thirty-three miles from west to east, not reckoning its windings. It empties itself into Western Cave some three or four miles south of Queenscliffe. There are several large lagoons on the island, some quite salt, others nearly fresh. Good water is generally obtainable by sinking to a moderate depth. Here and there are patches of gum trees, but the prevailing vegetation is scrub, scrub, scrub, of immense variety, almost every land that is found on the mainland flourishing on the island, besides some which I believe is peculiar to this locality. In many parts the scrub is very dense and high, in others it is low and more open. The beautiful crimson bottle-brush is now in flower, and the native currant bush is giving forth its pleasant odor. Though not the season for flowers, there are still several to be seen scattered through the scrub. Although the general features ot the country are hardly such as would be likely to attract the admiration of an artist, there are not wanting bits of scenery that would be worth transferring to canvas. The bays on the north eastern part of the island are very pretty, and the south-western coast is bold and rocky, while some of the lagoons and pitches of timber inland would help to make a passable picture.

The greatest area of cultivation is on the eastern end of the island — the Hog Bay district— and there some good crops of grain, especially barley, have been, reaped in years gone by. But one sees no such long stretches of cornfields here as in the northern areas, and the farms on Kangaroo Island are fewer and smaller than in most of the agricultural districts on the mainland. With ordinary care and the application of manure, garden produce of all kinds can be raised with out difficulty. Mr. Buick, a very old resident, has a fine garden and orchard on the shore of American River. Sheep breeders do not appear to have been very successful on the whole, though in parts they have done very well. There does not seem to be a sufficient extent of well grassed land, or enough of the herbage like saltbush and geranium which is so excellent a substitute for grass. Cattle and horses seem to do well here, but they are mostly kept for domestic purposes or farm use, and have not to get all their living in the scrub. In parts there are wild pigs which manage to get a living. I saw one which bad been caught young, and was probably at the time of my visit about five or six months old ; a fine young porker, black as a native would be, and as well shaped a pig as any Patlander would wish for to 'pay the rint.' While writing of animal life the ferae naturae must not be forgotten. There are very few kangaroos or wombats, and no wild dogs here; but wallabies, opossums, porcupines, snakes, iguanas, cranes, swans, ducks, macaws, and parrots, with a variety of smaller birds, are to be found. In insect life, ants — from bull dogs downwards— fleas, and spiders predominate.

For some years mineral ores have been found in different parts of the island, but not much attention seems to have been paid to the subject until lately. Galena exists both in the east and west, and a very promising lode about 4 feet wide is now being worked by a Melbourne company near Western River. The ore is rather mixed with quartz, but the metal seems of good quality and might probably give 15 oz. of silver to the ton, and about 70 per cent. of lead. Galena has also been found in one or two other portions of the island, but does not appear to be very rich in silver. Recently, however, ferruginous ore containing silver, and closely resembling the Silverton ore, has been met with in two or three localities, which are about to be tested. Some experienced practical miners who have been for some little time prospecting on the island express themselves as very sanguine respecting the produce of these lodes. They are traceable for a considerable distance on the surface, and several sections have been secured. Assays have been made of stone from the lodes, revealing the presence of silver, in some cases only four or five ounces to the ton, but still enough to show that it is there, and to encourage sinking on the lode with the probability that it will, as most of the Silverton lodes have done, prove richer in depth. One of the localities in question is near Western River, and not far from the telegraph line to Cape Borda ; another is about twenty five miles west of Queenscliffe, and indications are said to have been met with in other places also. Tin was found on the 'Stunsailboom' station, in the southern part of the island, where the granite formation occurs. The extent and value of these discoveries has yet to be proved, but judging from samples submitted for my inspection I can safely say that they are at least worth a good trial. It must be borne in mind that the samples referred to are not like those of copper ore or auriferous quartz, likely to delude one by their attractive appearance, but rough unsightly pieces of ironstone, requiring a practised eye to detect in them anything more than mere ironstone. 'The Diggings,' as they are called, or the locality where several quartz reef claims are being worked, are about sixteen or seventeen miles from Queenscliffe in a westerly direction, and near a branch of the Cygnet River. Several leaders of auriferous quartz have been cut among the hills, and a tidal crushing of seven tons gave an average return of about 16 dwt. of gold to the ton. About eight or ten men are working there, some of them being experienced reefers, and they all express themselves with confidence as to the future of the field.

The geological formation of the country is favorable, and the quartz looks likely enough to carry gold, though all that can be seen in it is only an occasional spec. I saw similar quartz in another place while riding across the island. A shaft 120 feet in depth was sunk near where the above-named leaders are being worked, and a little fine gold was seen. There is a good belt of timber suitable for mining purposes about a mile from the reef, and excellent water is obtainable at a small depth by sinking in the bed of the creek within a mile of the workings. The general impression amongst the mining men is that Kangaroo Island will by-and-bye prove to be rich in mineral wealth, and judging from what I have seen it will no doubt 'ere long receive more attention in this direction than has hitherto been bestowed upon it. The density of the scrub over the larger portion of the country renders prospecting far from an easy matter, but when once public attention is drawn to tbe place by one or two good finds of gold, silver, or tin, the progress of mineral discovery will be greatly accelerated. It will be a grand thing for the island if the anticipations respecting its mineral wealth come to be realised, and good for the colony generally. There is abundance of excellent limestone in the cliffs about Queensclitfe, and also inland. Considering the ample supply of fuel at hand even the production of lime might become a payable industry.

The place has not received any special proofs of the fostering care of a paternal Government, and it is really entitled to a little more attention. The telegraph line to Cape Borda cannot be debited to the island, as it was constructed rather for the benefit of the city of Adelaide. The post and telegraph office and the police-station seem to be about the only Government buildings or works here, and they cannot have cost 2 per cent, of the amount the Government has received for land sold on the island, which is said to amount to nearly £100,000. Hardly £1,000 has been spent on road-making or other improvements. The roads for the most part are mere tracks through the scrub, sandy and rough from stones and stumps, and in many parts almost impassable in the winter. The settlers think that they have a right to expect that some thing should be done to give them better means of access to the seaboard. Probably the establishment of district councils and a special grant from the Government for road making would be the best way of meeting the case. The roads would then be made with the greatest regard to economy, and to the most argent requirements of the various localities. In driving to the gold reefs one might fancy without any great stretch of imagination that he was enjoying a ride on a stump-jumping plough.

It is surprising that no jetty or landing-place has been constructed. A jetty is very much wanted, and one to answer all the requirements of the place for sometime to come could be built for £300. It is very awkward for passengers from the steamers, especially ladies, to be carried ashore and set down amongst rough rocks to scramble up a narrow and ragged pathway to the top of the cliff. On the morning of my leaving the island the steamer Dolphin was delayed fully two hours in loading a small quantity of cargo, which had there been a jetty might have been put on board in twenty minutes. If a few improvements were made in this direction, Queenscliffe would be by no means the worst place in which to spend a portion of the hot summer time, especially by those who wish for perfect quiet and freedom from excitement. The population of the island is stated at about 900 souls. The number of letters received from Adelaide by the weekly mail averages about 250, and of newspapers about 400; so that it will be seen that the place is of rather more importance than some of our readers were probably aware.

KANGAROO ISLAND AND ITS RESOURCES. (1886, January 16). South Australian Weekly Chronicle (Adelaide, SA : 1881 - 1889), p. 6. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article93850618