Kangaroo Island in 1868


One of our correspondents sends us the following items of information as to the extent of settlement and cultivation on the island. He details, as others have done, particulars of the primitive state of simplicity, in which the settlers live, from which we judge that like the early Pitcairn Islanders they have few of the trammels of law and none of the unhealthy excitement of politics. Our corre-spondent says:—

Most colonists are familiar with the above name, but few are at all acquainted with the place. 'The population is about 250 souls, spread principally on the north-east coast— the two centres being Kingscote and Hog Bay. There are about 10,000 sheep depastured, and from 10,000 to 15,000 bushels of cereals grown, a considerable portion being English barley, for which the climate and soil seem to be favourable. Large quantities of wallaby skins are exported.

From my knowledge of the island I consider it will never rank much as an agricultural district; whether it may do better as a mining one has to be proved. Its chief advantages are for residence and sea bathing, the climate being very healthy, with a temperature much lower than in Adelaide.

Sport —Fishing, shooting, and boating; having splendid bays. The disadvantages are no roads, no houses of entertainment, no places of worship, no schools, the inland covered with an almost impenetrable scrub, no political rights, no Magistrates, no police, but all the inhabitants left to agree amongst themselves. I have no doubt that in course of time it will be the watering place of South Australia. The time will come when nobs won't meet snobs as now, but will go further for greater pleasure, and avoid in a great measure hot winds and dust. There are only a few sections sold on the island, principally at Kingscote, Cygnet River, and Hog Bay, and several of them are very poor land. I wish there was more good land, but positively I don't know where you could get even four sections in a block worth having; but here and there is a spot of say one or two sections of rich land. In consequence of the strong S E. winds that have been blowing so long, our mail-boat contractor has been unable to cross the Passage for the last three mail days - a great inconvenience to those who have to journey 21 miles on a bootless errand.

A few days ago there was a singular occurrence at my place. A turkey was sitting on a nest of eggs; and her time being up, on going to the nest in the morning part of the brood were found to be hatched, and in the evening, about 5 o'clock, on going again, to our surprise we found, about three or four yards from the nest, the poor old turkey dead but warm. On turning and looking at the nest, to our dismay we saw the brood all out and scattered about, and a large black snake lying stretched across the nest. It was soon dispatched, and then the brood gathered together. I have no doubt the turkey lost her life by a bite from the deadly snake in endeavouring to defend her chicks, and in the scuffle the chicks had been tumbled out of the nest. The dead turkey I put into a tree, but nothing appears to touch it. I examined it yesterday, eight days having elapsed since it died, and ordinary decomposition appears stopped, which is rather extraordinary at this season of the year.

About a fortnight ago a memorial was carried round to a limited number of the residents of Kangaroo Island for their signatures, asking the Government to cause more land to be surveyed on the island. &c. If land is really wanted that is all right: but would it not have been better to have called a meeting, and talked the matter over! All parties will be pleased to hear of some good agricultural area, but I must confess I don't know of a block of half a dozen sections worth £1 per acre; and I speak advisedly when I say there is not a section of 80 acres that has been cleared of scrub. A section here and there may be picked out of really good land, if the purchaser can fix his own boundary— not otherwise. As however familiar the residents at Hog Bay and Kingscote may be with what transpires on the adjacent island of New Holland, comparatively few of our colonists on the mainland are informed as to the extent and capabilities of the 'tight little island' so near their shores, the subjoined extract from "Bailliere's Gazetteer" may not be without interest. Specially is it so at this time, when there is a possibility of Nepean Bay, or some other harbour there, being a port of call for the ocean mail at steamers:

— ' Kangaroo Island is a large island extending from 35° 35 to 36° 5 S. lat., and from 136° 35 to 138° 10 E long., and measuring 75 miles from east to west, and 30 miles from north to south. This island lies to the south of the Gulf of St. Vincent and Investigator Strait, the latter separating it from Yorke's Peninsula. Between the north-east end of the island and Cape Jervis, the east head of the Gulf of St. Vincent, is a narrow passage known as the Backstairs, and used by vessels making Adelaide from the east.

Flinders, the discoverer, landed upon this island on the 22nd May, 1802, finding the beach grassy, and the country further inland covered with thick scrub. He gave it the name it bears in consequence of finding large numbers of kangaroos upon it, 31 of which were shot by his crew the first day. These animals were found to be large and fat, and differing only from those of New South Wales by the fact of their being darker in colour. It is in form something like the shape of a Malay creese, the east end, which is nearly detached from the main body, forming the handle, and the remainder the blade. Its east point is known as Cape Willoughby, and a lighthouse, known as the Sturt Light, and showing a revolving white light every 11 minutes, is erected thereupon the edge of the cliffs. The west extremity is Cape Borda, which has also a lighthouse called the Flinders Light, showing a revolving white and red light every half minute. This island is for the most part covered with dense scrub, and affords pasture only for a few sheep and cattle. The land is of tolerable elevation and well wooded, presenting on its north side a steep cliffy shore, with sandy beaches and ranges of sand hills, with white perpendicular stripes.

The harbour of Nepean Bay, in the north east part, is scarcely to be surpassed, and will accommodate hundreds of vessels. The entrance is protected by a sandpit or shoal, which, leaving a deep passage to the south, forms a complete breakwater. The spit is dry at low water, and can always be avoided by the soundings which are very regular. Ships of 700 tons burthen can anchor within half a mile of the landing-place. It lies in lat. 35° 33' S., and long. 137' 41' E. Kingscote is situated on the slope of some hills, looking down a steep precipice into the sea. On the beach stand a storehouse and a few huts built of bushes. The soil of this island, in the vicinity of Kingscote, is composed of sand left by the retiring sea, mixed with a small portion of vegetable mould. The want of rain upon so dry a soil renders it impossible to produce vegetables, except during the rainy season. About 200 or 300 yards from the sea good soil is found, where young potatoes, plants, and peas will thrive, but no sooner is the ruin over than the earth is heated to that degree that every vegetable perishes.

Nine miles in the interior there are belts of iron and limestone running through the inland, in the interstices of which good soil is frequently found. The animals found in this island are kangaroos, wallabies, bandicoots, opossums and iguanas. Snakes, from the circumstance of the island being one matted bush, are most abundant, and are seen winding along in all directions. Tarantulas, scorpions and mosquitoes are also very numerous. There is an abundance of eagles, pelicans, cormorants, crows, magpies, robin redbreasts, swallows, and small birds remarkable for the brilliancy and variety of their plumage. A bituminous substance, resembling tar in appearance, in found largely scattered upon some parts, of the beach of this island, and points to the discovery ere long of petroleum springs. In this island there are 2,375 acres of purchased land. 1,189 acres enclosed, and 676 acres under cultivation. The live stock numbers 98 horses, 294 horned cattle 9.329 sheep, 211 goats, 206 pigs and 751 head of poultry. Of the land under cultivation 398 acres are under wheat, 176 acres under barley, 55 acres under hay, 39 acres fallow, 3 acres under potatoes, 8 acres of garden, 2 acres of orchard, and 1 acre of vineyard, the latter having 610 vines in bearing, and 6,160 vines not in bearing. The crops for the year ending March 31, 1866, were 5,701 bushels wheat, 3,475 bushels barley, 77 tons hay, 6 tons potatoes, and 1 cwt. grapes. The population numbers 227 persons, and the number of dwellings is 43.

KANGAROO ISLAND. (1868, February 17). South Australian Register (Adelaide, SA : 1839 - 1900), p. 3. Retrieved August 6, 2019, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article39188992