Kangaroo Island in 1888
KANGAROO ISLAND (S.A.)
By A. S. B.
EVANS'S LAGOON.—GOYDER RANGE IN THE DISTANCE
THE name of Kangaroo Island is more intimately associated with the early history of South Australian colonization than that of the mainland itself. It was on this island that the early pioneers landed in 1836, and formed the first South Australian settlement ; and, for some little time after their arrival, it seemed as if the present site of Queenscliffe and its neighbourhood were destined to become the metropolis of the young colony. For some years prior to this date, however, the place had been occupied by a few adventurous white men, who had reached the island from trading vessels and whaling ships, which had chanced to touch on the island. Occasionally, it is said, their scanty numbers were reinforced by one or two persons who "had left their country for their country's good." The two elements, however, did not mix. The new comers were quietly ostracised by the earlier settlers referred to.
Though South Australia has just been celebrating her jubilee year, the history of the occupation of Kangaroo Island by these enterprising pioneers runs back almost to the commencement of the century. The earliest settler of whom record remains was Thomas Whalley, known in the island as "Governor Whalley," until the arrival of the first immigrants in the barque "Duke of York," when his claim to this inflated title was disputed by "Governor" Stephens, the manager for the South Australian Company. Whalley, who had landed in 1816, had originally deserted from the whaler "General Gates," which had anchored in Nepean Bay just 14 years after the discovery of the island by Captain Matthew Flinders.
For the year of the discovery of Kangaroo Island was 1802. The merit of its discovery belongs unquestionably to the English, although a rival claim was set up on behalf of the French Government by M. Peron, the able French naturalist, who accompanied the exploring expedition, which was commanded by Captain Nicolas Baudin, of the "Geographé," in 1803. The "Investigator " encountered Baudin's vessel in South Australian waters just after Captain Flinders had finally set sail from the island. The place of meeting was hence called Encounter Bay. As the "Investigator" sailed eastward, having left Backstairs Passage and the then dangerous rocky islets called "The Pages," (standing not far from the entrance to what is now Victor Harbour), another "white rock," was announced from aloft. This subsequently proved to be a heavy warlike looking vessel bearing down to them under full sail. The French and English were at this time enemies, and, in response to the "Investigator's" signal, the stranger ran up the French ensign, which roused Flinders' apprehensions, and caused him to prepare for action. In response to a white flag, the stranger then hoisted an English Jack forward, which allayed anxiety somewhat, and induced Flinders to heave to, but, still distrustful of the flag of truce, Flinders kept his vessel broadside on to the new-comer, prepared for any sign of foul play, and, as she passed to leeward with a fair breeze, the found she was the French national ship "Le Geographé," from France, in command of Nicolas Baudin, who was making a voyage of discovery along the Australian Coast. The French ship having now hove to, a boat was hoisted out and Flinders went on board to communicate the news of his discovery and the incidents leading thereto.
It appears that he set sail from Spencer's Gulf about the the end of 1801, and was overtaken by a storm. After running some time before the wind, he came in sight of a low projecting point, lower than the cliffs which fell back from it to the westward. This he named Point Marsden, after the second Secretary of the Admiralty. Beyond this point to the southward, the cliffs fell back into a large bay, with their deep indentations, which seemed capable of affording splendid shelter from the rough weather. This he named Nepean Bay, after the First Secretary of the Admiralty, and, hauling up for it, fetched with difficulty the headland forming the eastern extremity of the Bay, which he named Kangaroo Head, from the numerous flocks of kangaroos which were seen on shore. They had passed along seventy miles of coast, yet had seen no smoke nor any other evidence of human habitation.
On landing, on the following day, his party found swarms of kangaroos and wallabies feeding on the luxuriant grass near the headland, which were so unused to the presence of human beings that they took no notice of the strangers, suffering them to walk in and out in their midst, brain them with their sticks and clubbed guns, and shoot them down in numbers. As a result of this wholesale slaughter of the innocents, over thirty kangaroos were taken on board. In proof of this assertion Flinders pointed to the kangaroo-skin caps perched on his men's heads, and so grateful was he for this providential supply of fresh meat, in view of their failing larder, that the circumstance determined the name of the island. The heaviest of the kangaroos weighed about 130 pounds. Wallabies were afterwards found in great numbers, and a little distance inland large flocks of emus stalked majestically to and fro in search of their food, without evident fear of molestation, while seals disported themselves upon the low-lying rocks and shingly beaches along the coast. Long lines of white cockatoos stretched overhead against the deep ultramarine of a cloudless sky, and myriads of pelicans winged their rapid flight to some distant part of the island. Thousands of small and pretty plumaged penguins darted and dived in the breakers or waddled with discordant guttural noise into the crevices and fissures of the rocks on shore, and anon a scurrying flight of innumerable varieties of sea-birds would darken the atmosphere, frightening others along the edge of the water for miles till they rose en masse, wheeling and circling on the wing.
At Kangaroo Head, Flinders took a set of angles, the sole bearing of importance to the southward being a lofty eminence, to which he gave the name of Prospect Hill. From Kangaroo Head, looking away to the east-ward, the mainland seemed more like an island than that which he had discovered culminating in an eminence, to which he gave the appropriate name of "Mount Lofty." The nearest point of this apparently unconnected land, from which the background of lofty hills gradually rose, he named Cape Jervis. Concluding the account of his somewhat important discovery, Flinders affirmed his belief in the existence of mineral and magnetic substances in the island, but more particularly in York's peninsula ; a belief which has long since been strangely verified in the case of the latter district by the discovery of the wonderful Wallaroo and Moonta copper mines, which contain a practically inexhaustible store of this metal, commanding longer prices in the world's copper markets than the produce from any other copper mines.
Latterly Kangaroo Island itself seems in a fair way to verify his prophetic expression of belief in regard to it, as the Koh-i-Noor gold mines in the Goyder Range— a long line of low hills which skirts the southern side of the Valley of the Cygnet—are giving very fair promise of success to the small company by which they are worked. Copper, silver, and lead have also been found in sufficient quantity to justify the belief that they will give good returns in the near future if worked with energy and enterprise ; and a peculiar viscous oily fluid has been found exuding from the rocks in some localities, which seems to indicate the presence of mineral oils. After Captain Flinders had so freely shown his hand to the Frenchman, he sailed along the Victorian Coast, and, falling in with the officers of the "Geographé" subsequently at Port Jackson and else- where, the merit of his discovery was always tacitly conceded by them. Some playful badinage was even indulged in by them at the expense of their commander, and of Mons. Peron, the naturalist. Flinders came into personal contact with Mons. Peron, and found him to be a gentleman of strict integrity, so he acquitted him of all blame in the matter of his writings, and ascribed the wholesale appropriation of his own discoveries in South Australian waters to the pressure of an over-ruling authority on the part of the French Government.
Kangaroo Island, the name by which it was known to them in the expedition, and which they even openly adopted, was re-christened at Paris, "L'isle Decrés ;" Spencer's Gulf became "Golfe Bonaparte;" the Gulf of St. Vincent, "Golfe Josephine," and a long stretch of country was named "Terre Napoléon," every insignificant island and point even receiving some stamp of French discovery.
On the shores of Hog Bay, standing with its weather-worn face exposed to the summer sun and the winter storms, is a huge boulder of granite, known as the "Frenchman's Rock," with an inscription cut so deeply in its surface by this very expedition that over four-fifths of a century have not materially diminished its legibility. This gives the lie to the French Government's claim—for, whereas Flinders' charts and papers show clearly the date of his discovery to be 1802, this inscription is dated 1803 !
Two or three years after the advent of Whalley, he was joined by a man named Day. Subsequently, however, he went into partnership with a later arrival named George Cooper, and, establishing themselves in a small farm on the Cygnet River, they "took to themselves wives," by crossing over to the mainland in their primitive boats and abducting aboriginal women from their tribes.
Of the old pre-colonists, the sole surviver is old George Bates, now nearly 90 years of age. He lives in a stone hut on the outskirts of the township of Penneshaw, near Hog Bay, the Government giving him rations and allowing him the free use of the hut during his lifetime. Having landed in the year 1824 on the island, he has had a life of strange vicissitudes and romantic experiences, which have left their imprint on his rugged countenance. He is strangely reticent with regard to the doings of the first inhabitants prior to the advent of the real colonists ; but an authoritative version of his own life and experiences, from his own dictation, has been put into the hands of the proprietors of the South Australian Advertiser, on the condition that it be not published till after his death. Bates originally had a companion, but after a time his mate died, and then he made his way to Hog Bay, falling in occasionally with some of the escaped or emancipated convicts, whalers, and others who had found their way to the island. One of these, known by the euphonious name of "Nat"—which was Christian and surname combined in one—was living near Hog Bay, with a native woman known as "Old Bet," who had accompanied him from Tasmania. "Nat " was an emancipated convict, and had served a rather long apprenticeship at the art of stone-breaking in this young colony. He had, therefore, no desire after his release to return to an old-world civilisation. He would seek "fresh woods and pastures new," and a trading vessel about to sail for Kangaroo Island or South Australia seemed to provide the necessary opportunity. As he was concluding his hasty arrangements, he met with "Old Bet," who proved to be his soul's affinity. Being a man of action, his courtship was short, and he induced her to set sail with him. (To be continued.)KANGAROO ISLAND (S.A.) (1888, February 22). Illustrated Sydney News (NSW : 1881 - 1894), p. 5. Retrieved August 7, 2019, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article63620960
KANGAROO ISLAND (Continued).
"WRIGHT'S FORD, ON THE CYGNET RIVER. THE HOME OF THE WILD BOAR.
BIG TREE LAGOON
A HOT CORNER FOR THE DUCKS. A NOOK IN KINCH'S LAGOON,
Like their long since deceased first parents, Adam and Eve. "Nat" and " Old 'Bet " lived in a state of primitive Innocence and isolation for a time, unaware of the proximity of others until surprised the sudden appearance of George Bates, who was then a comparatively young man. George considerably enlarged the field of their mental vision, dilating up on the wonders of distant parts of the island and telling them there were other inhabitants in its remote forest recesses and along the coast. His love of companionship was sufficiently strong to decide him upon making Hog Bay his head-quarters, and here he and "Nat" and " Old Bet " existed harmoniously together, "hunting the wallaby in his favourite lair," and in some degree cultivating the soil, which in this neighbourhood is among the richest in the island. In the long summer nights " Old Bet " would wonderingly listen to the two conversing on the ever-recurring topic of Old England, the land they had left and seemed destined never to see again, but which with singular persistency they still called " home," until her imagination became fired with the tales told of fortunes made in London at the Egyptian Hall and elsewhere by the exhibition of curiosities and monstrosities found in various parts of the world. She became thoughtful and abstracted, and took to solitary wandering in the bush and along the coast. On being questioned by her lord and master, it became apparent that her soul was alive with a longing to find some wonderful prodigy which should, when transported to London, make the fortunes of herself and her spouse, with a little thrown in for Bates. She returned rather late from her wanderings one night, but with alacrity in her step and fire in her eye, and volubly commenced to describe a strange animal which she had discovered on the shore at a distance of eleven or twelve miles from the hut. Her enthusiasm at length infused the stolid "Nat" with the idea that possibly her wishes were on the eve of realisation. He had often told her of the mythical sea-serpent, and now she believed she had found it. With Herculanean exertions she had rescued the passive thing from the waves and tangled sea-weed, and had dragged it up beyond high-water mark. Its mouth was all agape and extended along its whole length, which was about twenty feet ; it had six pairs of legs, which were straight, and destitute of knee joints or ankles. "Nat" instinctively rejected the idea of the " sea-serpent," on hearing of the legs, and on ascertaining from her crude description that its long back was invertebrate, but, nevertheless, to quote his own words to Bates, he " could hardly sleep for dreaming of it all night," and by day-light the trio were tramping away to where the monster lay, inwardly praying that the monster had not revived and gone out to sea again. " While yet a great way off," they perceived its dark wet sides glistening in the slanting rays of the risen sun, but it was not until they had reached it that they discovered it was an object they had been familiar with in a former state of civilization —-a huge pig's trough, which, amongst other flotsam and jetsam, had probably been washed ashore after a storm. As "Old Bet" glanced at the fallen countenances of her companions, her visions of London and fortune melted into thin air.
Her passion for sensational discovery had received a rude shock, but it subsequently revived in full force, only to receive a severer shock still. When she reported the finding of another unwieldy animal along shore, half stranded in the shallow water among the rocks, " Nat" and Bates elicited the information that it had two monstrous eyes, with large teeth, a gaping mouth, and long, beaked nose, and was about the size of a hut. Their curiosity was aroused and they resolved themselves into another search party, but " Old Bet " discreetly remained behind, and it was well for her that she had not to encounter the'\ baleful anger of these lords of creation a second time, before the long walk home had cooled and modified it. The " monster " was the stern part of a wrecked vessel wedged amongst the rocks, in which two port holes corresponded to the " eyes " of the imagined animal, a rift below these disclosing beams which her untutored mind mistook for huge teeth, and the rudder answering to her idea of what the nose of such a strange creature would probably be. All chance of prestige as a prospector for marvels was gone forever, and when, some years later, and after a few more rough settlers, had drifted to the neighbourhood of Hog Bay, it was reported that she had discovered gold, the rumour was entirely discouraged by the incredulous "Nat."
As time wore on, intercourse with the mainland became more frequent, and as a true historian, I grieve to relate that the unfaithful " Nat " abducted some of the native girls hence from their tribes in the absence of the males, and (to paraphrase Eudymion), conveying, them where his
" Little shallop floating there hard by,
Pointed its beak over the fringéd bank ;
And soon it lightly dipt, and rose, and sank,
And dipt again, with their united weight,
The old man guiding through the water straight,
Towards the bowery island opposite "
The late Captain Hart had a ship regularly trading between the Island and Van Diemen's Land, bartering tobacco, rum, needles, pipes, buttons, hats, guns and ammunition, moleskin trousers and shillings for the kangaroo, seal and wallaby skins which the Islanders brought aboard in such abundance. It was usual when she dropped anchor to place a cask of rum on the deck, open it, and invite the islanders to help themselves before proceeding to business, an invitation of which they freely availed themselves. The bargains then obtained, if not mutually advantageous, were very liberal, and the "morning head-ache only seemed a portion of the bliss. " George Bates handled a great deal of property in these early times, and it is matter for surprise that he did not save enough to give him a competency in his old age. He acquired a great stock of whalebone on the shores of Encounter Bay on the mainland, worth at the lowest computation £300, which was calmly appropriated by a certain old trading captain, who shall be nameless, [John Hart?] but whose descendants revel in wealth at the present day, while poor old George lives at the expense of the Government, and on the charity of neighbours.
On July the 27th, 1836, the curiosity of the islanders near the coast of what is now called Queenscliffe, was excited by seeing a large, smart-looking vessel, entirely unlike the one or two small craft which traded with the island, put in at Nepean Bay. She was the barque Duke of York, and brought the first legal colonists for South Australia. This was the " only real, original " pioneer colonist vessel, as they phrase it in the play-bills, though the Lady Mary Pelham had actually started before her. They fell in with each other near the end of the voyage, and then parted company again to sight each other in Nepean Bay, the Duke of York having reached her anchorage a day before the other ; the passengers of the latter were immensely chagrined, after inviting the others to take a tow-line, to find themselves so late in the field, but perfect good feeling was soon restored when they landed and commenced to get acquainted with the surroundings of their new home. It was a matter for dispute with the passengers of the York, as to who should be the first to land and claim the credit of being the first colonist, but the captain humorously solved the question by sending a host's crew ashore with the youngest passenger—"Little Baby Beare"—and the little girl's feet were the first to be placed on the dry shingly beach of "Reeve's Point."
There the little colony of huts, tents, and dwellings and warehouses—called Manning's houses, built originally in sections and hastily put together—was soon established, and the remains of the old landing stage or jetty are still to be seen. The neighbouring bluffs and hills and back country were clothed with dense forests and scrub, some of the trees of which were very large, though they have long since disappeared. There was no water procurable nearer than the Three Well River, some half-dozen miles away, and access to this through the dense scrub was so difficult, that water supplies had to be obtained by pulling in open boats across twenty-five miles of sea to the famous "Frenchman's Rock," where a beautiful stream of fresh water trickles out to Hog Bay from the Rocky defile called " Frenchman's Gully." Water was subsequently found in the "Stony Spit," near the point where the emigrants first landed, by digging about three feet in the sand, and though hardly above high water mark, it had scarcely a trace of brackishness. It might have fared hard with the new arrivals had not the York brought out large supplies of provisions for the South Australian Company, for the emus were now extinct, the kangaroos had nearly disappeared, and the wallabies, though still swarming on the island, had betaken themselves to the impenetrable jungle. What sheep and goats and cows they had brought with them were killed one after the other to save them from starvation, as there was hardly any grass on this part of the island.
They tried to establish friendly relations with the original inhabitants, but these regarded them with jealousy and distrust, and Leigh's diary states that one night they came down upon the new arrivals "like the wolf on the fold," setting fire to the forest and bush, and fiercely threatening them. This statement is not confirmed by any of the old colonists, however, nor is it to be found in any other authority.
The last sheep that was killed was sold for 1s. 6d. to 2s. per lb., and was disposed of by auction, the majority of the settlers crowding to the sale. In June of the following year the first death occurred in the small community, whose numbers had been gradually augmented by emigrant vessels arriving at regular intervals. This was Mrs. T. Hudson Beare, mother of the little Beare who was the first legal colonist, and the vault which encloses her remains is in a perfect state of preservation to this day. It was built of bricks brought all the way from England, and is a prominent, though isolated, feature in the dilapidated cemetery which contains the mortal remains of a handful of the pioneer colonists.
The cemetery overlooks the sea, with the Bay of Shoals extending in a beautiful circular sweep to the left, Nepean Bay to the right, and the blue hills of the mainland facing it, showing soft and faint over the intervening stretch of ocean.
Colonization proceeded apace, and the houses gradually encroached on the back country. A track was cut through to Whalley and Cooper's Farm, about ten miles up the valley of the Cygnet, and for some time the new settlers purchased such supplies and vegetables and other necessaries as they could obtain from the former, which, however, soon became exhausted. Stephens, the manager of the S. A. Company, is said to have bought all Whalley's fowls, pigs, hens' eggs, &c., compelling him to sell at absurdly low prices, and to have refused to re-sell him anything except at exorbitant figures.
Up to the end of the year 1836, eight vessels, including the York; and Lady Mary Pelham, had anchored in Nepean Bay, bringing stores of all descriptions and an aggregate of 375 passengers ; many of these landed on the island and took up a temporary abode, but gradually drifted to the mainland on the latter becoming the seat of government. The first Governor of South Australia was Captain (afterwards Sir John), Hindmarsh, R.N., who received his appointment early in 1836, Mr. James Hurtle Fisher, (afterwards Sir James), was appointed Resident Commissioner for the sale of Crown Lands, and Col. Light was appointed Surveyor General. Colonel Light arrived at Kangaroo Island in August of that year, in the brig Rapid. The names of those who have been most prominent in the subsequent formation of South Australian history, are to be found in the lists of passengers arriving in this first year of her existence as a Colony, amongst whom were Messrs. G. S. Kingston (afterwards Sir George, Speaker of the House of Assembly), Mr. Robert Thomas, the founder of the South Australian Press, and Messrs. Finnis, Hare, Mildred and others. There was a man of genius worthy of mention who arrived amongst the passengers in the barque Africaine, with his relative Mr. Robert Thomas, for whose artistic talents the new land could offer but little scope, financially. This was Mr. J. M. Skipper, an artist of such brilliant promise, that the wonder is he did not remain and make London the field of his ambition. However, he chose to make South Australia his home, and for many years his prolific pencil delighted a large host of friends with his beautiful and masterly interpretations of colonial life and scenery. The mantle of his artistic instinct has fallen upon a son who is connected with the press which was founded by his uncle, but it has impelled him to another form of expression, and through the medium of writing he has long amused the public with his prose and poetical compositions.
From the year 1836 to the present time, the area brought under cultivation in Kangaroo Island has gradually increased, and though the farmers complain that they labour under great disabilities, settlements are gradually extending from the coast into the back country. The land all along the north seaboard is particularly rich and favourable to the cultivation of barley, which is here grown in such perfection that it has in times past realized fifty-three bushels to the acre, and still commands better prices than that raised in any other part of South Australia.
The climate is very mild and salubrious, and the position of the island, surrounded as it is by the sea, secures it an immunity from the enervating hot winds and dust from the mainland, while the absence of high mountain ranges secures it from an excessive rainfall and helps to equalize the temperature. The seeker after health and recreation will find it an excellent sanatorium, and the township of Queenscliffe, at Nepean Bay, has latterly so improved, that he can obtain good accommodation there. The area of the island is 2,500,000 acres, just half the size of Ireland, and it embraces every character of country, though much of it is pronounced worthless by the farmers. Rich in historical interest, it is of still greater interest to the artist, who can obtain an entirely different character of subjects for his pencil from those obtainable on the mainland. Though much of my space has been taken up in giving the reader the gist of historical facts gleaned from the islanders and other sources, I should like to take him with me in imagination to the points of artistic interest which I visited in my trip round the island.
The steam-ship Dolphin leaves the Port Adelaide wharf at 6 a.m. every Saturday morning, calling at Glenelg en route, so we have more leisure for breakfast, and take the 8 o'clock train for the latter place ; we are on board by 9 o'clock, and are soon steaming down the gulf, passing succesively Brighton, Marino, Normanville (the port of Yankalilla), first and second valleys, and the bold and characteristic coast of Rapid Head, and getting abreast of Cape Jervis we stand across Backstairs Passage for the nearest port of the island, Hog Bay. We get a terrible knocking about in the passage, and on arriving at Hog Bay are obliged to round to under a bluff beyond the usual anchorage, and land our cargo in a little sheltered spot called " Christmas Cove," or " Hog Bay Basin."
Here the tight little craft which is to be our " home on the rolling deep " for a fortnight, is lying at anchor, and her skipper and his assistant anxiously looking out for us. Having taken our luggage aboard, we go ashore and look round the township of Penneshawe [sic], and lay in a few supplies. We are soon off with a fair breeze, leaving Kangaroo Head on our left, and standing across the Bellows or Ballast Head. Here we go ashore and have a little sport with the breech-loader, our skipper collecting some firewood and preparing the mid-day meal on the beach. The wind has freshened to half a gale, so we deem it advisable to up anchor and beat down for the mouth of American River for shelter before night. (To be continued.)KANGAROO ISLAND (S.A.) (1888, March 15). Illustrated Sydney News (NSW : 1881 - 1894), p. 14. Retrieved August 7, 2019, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article63621003
Illustrated Sydney News (NSW : 1881 - 1894), Thursday 31 May 1888, page 12
KANGAROO ISLAND, S.A.
THE coast scenery in the neighborhood of Queenscliffe is very diversified in character, bold bluffs alternating with prettily wooded knolls of precipitous cliffs, whose rich red and orange tones contrast most glowingly with the cool grey green tints of the sea. This part of the Bay is almost always calm, owing to the encircling sand-spit on the one hand, and the back-ground of island on the other. In the face of the cliffs, a little to the right of the beacon and test-house, is a quarry, with perpendicular shutes running down to the beach, and from this excellent road metal-ling is obtained, which is shipped to Port Adelaide and sold at remunerative prices. This stone has the peculiarity, as it is quarried out and falls on the beach below, of breaking naturally into squares of nearly equal size, owing to thin veins of a rotten earthy substance which intersect it at right angles. A very primitive but picturesque old wooden pier runs out into the water from this quarry, erected for the purpose of facilitating the shipping of the stone, and on this tram rails run out to the extremity. I spent a little time cruising about in this locality, sketching what subjects I could from the sea, and then landing, took my sketch-pad and meandered amongst some of the oldest historical spots of the Colony, which are shamefully ill-treated and should be brought under the notice of the Old Colonists' Association.
The township of Queenscliffe is about a mile distant, and owes much of its recent improvement to the efforts of an energetic gentleman from the mainland, who, having invested some capital here, followed it up by taking a keen interest in the welfare of the place and people. Owing principally to his exertions, good hotel accommodation was provided ; after which the establishment of a Church was considered a necessary consequence, and to this he also contributed with characteristic liberality. Two or three years ago, after some battling with the Government of the day, a jetty was projected, prior to which time passengers and cargo were landed on the shoulders of sailors. This jetty unfortunately stops rather short of the deep water, and in order to be of more practical utility will require to be lengthened. Here the disciples of Isaac Walton may be seen lazily kicking their heels together by the hour, and endeavouring to beguile the finny inhabitants of the bay, apparently with success.
After being " cribb'd, cabin'd, and con-fined" in the small berth of the Lily May, Ï imagined it would be somewhat of a relief to get sleeping accommodation on shore, and accordingly repaired to a little boarding-house which is prettily situated on a hill overlooking the expansive waters of Nepean Bay. Here an invitation was awaiting me from the courteous manager of the Sleeper Saw Mills, on the Cygnet. River, to make his camp my head quarters if I wished to see a little of the interior country in this direction. A buggy and horse were placed at my disposal, and the services of the bearer of the note as charioteer, and for company I was invited to bring the before-mentioned gentleman who is interested in Queenscliffe, and was then on a visit to the Island. I cheerfully accepted the invitation, and we made an early start in the morning.
The combination of bush buggy and bush road proved to be such a one as I had never before experienced. This buggy was a marvel of construction, and seemed as though it might date its origin back to pre-historic times. It see-sawed, wilted, and jolted through the deep ruts of the road, occasionally giving us a vista view of the scenery ahead through the perspective of the horse's legs, and at other times, rising painfully and slowly over intervening obstacles, would shut out all view of our equine pegasus in front, and give us a monarch-of-all-we-surveyed sort of feeling. Its motion was accompanied by a wheezing, screeching, unintermittent cough from the back axle, which predominated over every sound of birds and parrots by the roadside, and drowned all my companion's attempts at humor.
After a time, the gentleman from the mainland became pensive, then restless and uneasy, and began to assume a painful interest in roadside objects which required constant ratification by a closer inspection, necessitating frequent descent from his elevated perch. I was glad to join him in these little excursions, which gave me an opportunity for stretching my nether limbs.
After a few more minutes of enjoyment, we obtained a first glimpse of the Cygnet River, winding through gently undulating park-like country towards the sea. A picturesque little wooden bridge carries the road over the waters of the river, which here flows deeply and silently between shelving banks, shadowed by densely foliaged ti-tree and slender gums. A quaintly built islander's hut on the Queenscliffe side gave us opportunity for another stoppage, as my friend from the mainland carefully dismounted with the remark that he wanted a drink. In response to his knock, the door was unclosed by the lady of the house, attired in an apron consisting of an opened-out flour bag, which depended in graceful folds from the neighborhood of her neck ; placing her thin hands on his shoulders, she exclaimed, " Eh, mon ! but I'm glad to see ye ! Come in and have a drap o' somethin' to drink." When the gentleman from the mainland removed his intelligent features a few moments later from the vessel which she produced, there was a look of unspeakable regret in his lack- lustre eye.
But there was compensation to be found in the fact that we had a couple of guns among our traps, and seizing the most murderous-looking weapon of the two, he blazed his way along the course of the river.
After spelling our Gothic charger for half an hour, and inadvertently allowing him to regale himself on the straw which composed the stuffing of the cushions of our friend from the mainland vehicle, we resumed our journey, passing successively Daw's Farm and some pretty little homesteads on the way. Recrossing the Cygnet River at a deep place called "Wright's Ford," we skirted a long and winding belt of timber, and soon arrived at the Saw Mill Camp, which looked very romantic, bathed in the warm glow of the setting sun. The machinery of the mill was silent, but a score of curling columns of blue smoke indicated the whereabouts of the men's huts and tents in the dense gum forest, and an occasional shout of merriment would rise high above the scream of parrots and the harsh cachinnations of laughing jackasses. It was too late to see much of our surroundings, so after a meal in the huge hut which was the cook's kitchen and dining-room combined, we adjourned with the Manager to his hut.
The Saw Mills are owned by Messrs. Malpas and Little, of Port Adelaide, who are under contract with the Government to cut a quantity of sleepers for the Hergott Springs line in the far North. The particular kind of tree selected by the Conservator of Forests is the sugar gum, which is thought to be the hardest wood procurable for the purpose. It grows to an immense size in places along the broad valley of the Cygnet, and some of the trees are extremely grand in their proportions. The "jinker" (which a boy of eighteen years old can so manipulate as to raise a log weighing three tons, owing to a special contrivance designed by the principal member of the firm) stands ready like a species of forest hearse to convey their remains to the Saw Mills, and here their identity is still further lost, until they are finally turned out in the shape of thousands of compact, conventional looking sleepers.
The Saw Mills are situated on the shores of " Duck Lagoon," a long winding stretch of water, with romantic nooks and pretty little coves, which are the home of the wild duck and the haunt of the heron and crane. Symmetrical gums and dense ti-tree and undergrowth flourish on either side, and after leaving the noise and rattle of machinery at the mills, with all their evidences of waste and destruction, I found it a relief to pick my way through the silent forest with gun and sketch-pad, the wild ducks flashing the water from their backs at every bend of the lagoon, winging their flight with harsh quack of alarm, but always out of range.
On the following day we renewed our acquaintance with the bush buggy, our final destination being Evans's Farm, where we were promised a brush with the wild boars. Our route lay through the extensive farm lands of the Kinch Bros., a German family of culture and intelligence who live on the banks of another of the extensive and beautiful lagoons of the Island. Some of the finest old gum trees are to be found near their homestead, which consists of a couple of houses—one on each side of the water—and several barns and old outhouses. In one of these there is an extensive incubator, and a great number of poultry are bred and reared on the farm. The Kinch Bros. have done a great deal towards eradicating the pestilential "narrow leaf." No quarter is given to this terrible enemy. One of the brothers has designed an apparatus for stump-extracting, which does its work splendidly, though it requires a team of twenty bullocks to work it, as it weighs about two tons. Some time ago they contracted with Messrs. Malpas and Little to clear off some of the old gums in the neighbourhood of the lagoon, but the finest were spared by the woodman, and remain to this day. Splendid hops have been grown on this farm ; and there is a large field of lucerne, on which a number of pigs are constantly turned loose, and on which they appear to thrive. We were shown a field which each year grows a crop of wheat standing above the head of an average man. Heavy crops of white oats are also obtained, and many other crops flourish in due season.
Continuing our journey, we followed the road along the lagoon, until we emerged upon some desolate-looking country, where the Kangaroo Island grass-tree flourishes in all its pristine strength and beauty. After a few miles of rough travelling we arrived in the home paddock and sighted the hut on the rise of the hill.
We bade our driver and his vehicle a tender adieu, and he returned to the Saw Mills on the understanding that we would tramp the distance back if spared by the wild boars. We crossed the fallen tree which served to bridge the narrow "Cygnet" at this point, and were soon sitting before a comfortable dinner, to which we did full justice. The man in charge was prepared for us, and the one solitary rifle on the premises had been furbished for the fray. The gentleman from the mainland handled his breech loading shot gun in a knowing manner, and a small boy called " Ted" was detailed off to beat the bush, accompanied by a tailless dog named " Stump." As this young gentleman moved off, with lower limbs encased in leggings reaching nearly to his thighs, and a rusty gun on his shoulder, he looked like some diminutive but, romantic bushranger. The rest of us laid our course for a distant grove of tall sugar gums, crashing through bracken and fern, and scaring plover, ducks and other wild birds, on which, however, we did not deign to waste a shot in view of the larger game our souls desired.
We were now fairly in the lagoon country, and as I had provided myself with pocket-book and pencil, I frequently lost sight of my companions in my eager anxiety to secure a fugitive sketch of the wonderful little bits of water and wood met with at every turn. After losing my companions for the twentieth time, I strolled absorbed in the romantic scenery and the wealth and tone of colour, when suddenly I happened upon a lagoon where the light of day seemed scarcely to penetrate, owing to the thickness of the foliage. There were some moving objects in the shadow, but before I could distinguish them the crack of a twig under my foot had alarmed them, there was a vigorous snorting and grunting, and, darting out of the shadow into the sunlight, they were quickly swallowed up in the tall bracken. There were three or four fine old boars, and hastily levelling my gun, I discharged it, not so much in the hope of doing them any damage as of putting the rest of the party on the qui vive. There was no responsive shot to indicate that they had seen them, so I hastened on in the direction taken by the sportsmen, hoping to come up with them shortly. I became involved in a network of small lagoons, and giving a prolonged cooey to which there was no response, I assumed that I was lost. Having cleared the lagoons, I was in the midst of tali bracken studded with the boles of giant gum trees, when suddenly I heard the deep baying of a dog ; following the direction of the sound, I ascended a gentle rise and there on the other side an animated scene met my gaze.
The two sportsmen had been joined by " Ted " and the dog, which latter had rounded up an old boar and was engaging his attention, while the former were endeavouring to get in a shot without endangering the life of the dog. I hastened forward to have some part in the fun and secure a rough sketch, when the old boar, apparently resenting the intrusion, left the dog, and transferring his attentions to myself, charged at me furiously.
Before he could reach me the dog had nailed him and brought him up again on the round turn, and when I paused and looked back, he was circling about in a series of short, vigorous, successive jumps, showing his tusks significantly. The man with the rifle was unmoved, and steadily watching for his opportunity, when the gentleman from the mainland unloaded his gun, the charge of small shot pattering like hail against the tough skin of the animal. This tickled him so effectually as to induce his attention in the new direction of danger, and breaking away from the dog, he charged after the unfortunate gentleman, who beat a hasty retreat. He managed to swing himself clear by the friendly aid of a sapling bough, as the boar rushed in under, and this he tenaciously gripped with arms and legs until the affair had been brought to an issue. A well directed bullet from the rifle crashed through the shoulder of the brute, and he fell dead in his tracks without a groan.
We rushed up to examine him, and after a few minutes a voice from the distance called out faintly: " Is—ah—is he dead?" It was the gentleman from the mainland ; and on receiving our reassuring reply, he descended from his elevated perch, and hesitatingly approached.
It was now dusk,and the "man in charge" decided it would be advisable to return in the morning for the carcass. I imagined we were half-a-dozen miles, or so from the hut, but although we had covered so much ground, we had moved mostly in a circle, and were now within a mile-and-a-half of it. We returned at daybreak, and securing the skin which the man affirmed was worth a pound note, we cut out the tusks as mementos, and some choice portions of the meat, which we subsequently enjoyed for breakfast. The skin was about an inch thick on the shoulder at the part where the bullet had entered.
Some distance, to the north-westward of this portion, of the Valley of the Cygnet, near the mouth of Western River, extensive silver reefs have recently been discovered. Away in an opposite direction, to the east of the Koh-i-noor gold mines in the Goyder Range, the soil is very stony, consisting of dry sandstone thickly interspersed with quartz, ironstone, and decomposed shaly slate. This extends a long way to the westward in the direction of "Harvey's Return." and seems to carry every indication of being an auriferous country. Copper, silver, and tin also exist in the vicinity.
Leaving the long chain of picturesque lagoons in our rear, we pass through a dense forest of Kangaroo Island grass-trees or "jackas" on our way to the Western Coast, in the old flower stems of' which thousands of wild bees build their nests.
Passing successively Birchmore Lagoon, White Lagoon Station, Hawk's Nest, and Murray's Lagoon, we reach a low eminence dignified by the title of " Mount Pleasant," half-a mile to westward of which a small tributary of the Eleanor River runs through a wide tract of rich alluvial soil. We are on the Karratta Run, which covers 861 square miles, and extends to the Cape Willoughby Lighthouse. Two or three miles distant is the old whaling station of Vivonne Bay, into which the Eleanor River discharges. The Stunsail Boom River dis-charges into the sea some distance further, and is a pretty stream of water running through the Karatta head station, bordered with fine tall sugar gums, and navigable by small craft for several miles.
Six miles north from Karratta Station there are two remarkable hills, recently re-named Mounts Taylor and Stockdale, but formerly known as the " Nobs." After passing South Western River, the " Remarkable Rock," and several more lagoons, we find ourselves on the West Coast, over-looking the sea. We are on a smooth, solid surface of limestone, which is in places intersected with deep fissures. There is a beautiful cave-like formation in the cliffs here, known as the " Sealer's Bridge." The arch is from 70 to 80 feet high at the crown, about 200 feet wide at the base, and between 250 and 300 feet broad. The floor is composed of hard black rock, dipping to the southward in an easterly and westerly direction, and from the roof depend innumerable stalactites of dazzling whiteness.
About half a mile out to sea are the Cassowary Rocks. They stand about 70 or 80 feet out of the sea, but look quite flat and not nearly so high. There is deep water all round, and a landing can only be effected in very smooth weather by sealers, who go thither in search of the fur seals which disport oil the margin.
We have now traversed the island from end to end, which is almost entirely & terra incognita, to the inhabitants of the mainland. It is very sparsely populated, a fact which will possibly be altered with more liberal land legislation. The population scattered all over the island possibly amounts to between 600 and 700, and there are about 200 houses altogether. It is becoming more and more popular with the medical fraternity, who are constantly sending their patients to various parts of the island to recuperate their physical energies, and the time may not be far distant when it will be appreciated at its true value in every respect by South Australians generally.KANGAROO ISLAND, S.A. (1888, May 31). Illustrated Sydney News (NSW : 1881 - 1894), p. 16. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article63621082