Letter from Theresa Chauncey 1837

The author of the letter was Miss Theresa Chauncey, who came to South Australia in the John Renwick in 1837. Miss Chauncey became the wife of Captain John Walker in 1838 in Launceston, and being left a widow she married Mr. Herbert Poole.


"South Australia, 15th (13th) February, 1837."My dear Father—On the 9th this month we anchored safely on these shores after the most favorable passage ever known. I should certainly have written to you during our voyage if we had spoken any ship near enough to take a letter on board, but we only spoke to four, I think, and but one of them bound for London. So few incidents occurred on board and none of any interest that I did not commence my journal till we were in sight of Kangaroo Island on the 5th. What observations I have made during that time I now send you and shall continue a journal for you. I must certainly continue that here. I feel certain from what I have seen it is the climate and place you would like. I suffered with sickness very much for the first month, but soon after that and ever since I have been better than ever I was. The warmth agrees with me, and I have never jet found it too warm, even crossing the line. We had not above a day or two of calm;—at a time—and I think never quite stationary more than a few hours altogether. We did not put in anywhere. Saw St. Antonia at a distance and also Trinidad. We had fresh meat on the table every day with the exception only of one or two days, and fresh soup, either mock turtle, gravy, or beef every day, with made dishes, curries, &c, and fruit tarts. We have plenty of currants and gooseberries now, and dried apples, Normandy pippins, potatoes, also, twice within a fortnight. Our filter has been of great value to us. I should recommend everyone to bring a filter with them. "It was exactly three months to a day when we saw the land at King George's Sound (93 days). We had then a contrary wind which detained us a week, but on February 5 we saw Kangaroo Island.

It was a lovely morning and the sun rose over it as it appeared in sight, a most welcome sight to us all. We saw Althorpe's Island and the mainland on the other side as we entered Investigator's Straits, sailing beautifully but at five knots an hour only. When we had proceeded about 30 miles along the coast we saw smoke rising, which was supposed to be a signal from someone who had seen us. It was answered by one of the guns being fired. The cliffs appeared about 300 ft in height and covered with wood very dark, in the evening the ship lay to near land about two miles from the shore as we could not get round into Nepean Bay on account of an extensive shoal. Early on the morning of the 6th we continued our course, but the wind being contrary were obliged to tack all day between Cape Jervis and the island. Could not get round the shoal that night, but cast anchor. About 10 o'clock next morning we saw a boat from shore to meet us, which afforded us all much pleasure. It contained five sailors. They came from the settlement, and one of them acted as pilot and took us safely round the shoal early on the morning of the 7th when we again anchored as near to the land as possible about a mile and a half off. They informed us the William Hutt [arr. Nepean Bay 16 Jan 1837] had struck on the shoal but sustained no injury. The Tam O' Shanter had struck previously on going into the harbor on the mainland by an accident and is condemned in consequence of being much damaged. It is now used as a store ship in Port Adelaide.

Soon after breakfast Captain Berkeley, with J. Oakden, went ashore in the whaleboat the sailors came in. They took provisions and their guns and we the three ladies were to follow with Captain Lamington as soon as they had made a signal that the landing was good. We soon saw the flag hoisted and descended the ship's side with delight into our little boat, anticipating the pleasure of a walk. The day was very fine and warm, but we had not proceeded far when the captain thought it not safe to go on as there was such a heavy swell in the sea and our boat was small and leaking a good deal so we returned to the ship much disappointed and quite wet. The captain went afterwards by himself in another boat to see what sort of landing it was first. We went on shore next morning with 13 cashmere goats and a settler and also two gentlemen who had come on board from the Company. We were received by Mr. Beare and Mr. Stevens. They had prepared a dinner for us the day before. The land rises gradually from the beach, which is of sand with shells, and which is thickly covered, to the water's edge almost, with the most beautiful evergreen shrubs, some growing out of the sand. I gathered 13 different specimens of the shrubs, nearly all of which had a fine aromatic smell and taste. The teatree and gum are the largest. The distant park woods on the higher hills added great beauty to the landscape, but the bush is so thick as to be almost impenetrable, and extends no one knows how far inland. None of the settlers have yet passed it, though one said the open plains were within four miles, but Captain Berkeley and some other gentlemen of our party after scrambling over trunks of trees and through thick bush for seven or eight miles saw no end to it. Another person said the plains were 40 miles off, and another that there were no plains at all, which I think is as probable as not, or if they do exist they are as such distance as not to be of any use for many years to come. We went into several of the huts and tents. They are mostly thatched with teatree (why so called I cannot tell). They have commenced building, and the site of Mr. Stevens's house is beautiful. It is on a gentle slope, with evergreen shrubs for about half a mile, and then the whole extent of the bank shoals and Nepean Bay in the distance. We took refreshments in Mr. Stevens's tent and had some cold ham, pickles, porter, wine, cheese, and raspberry tart. We took a little walk through the shrubs with Mr. Stevens, Mr. Beare, and a German gentleman, and Mr. Hare. We soon came to a little open spot they had cleared, which could not but excite a melancholy feeling amidst the life and beauty which surrounds us. It was a graveyard, for death had already been among them. There were but two graves, one a man who had been drowned; the other has a well cut stone placed at the head and foot with his name, W. Howlett , of Acton, painted on it. We saw no snakes and they are not numerous. We then walked along the beach to meet our boat; collected shells and sponge, of which there is plenty on this coast by diving about two fathoms. None is good that is washed up. They have goats, rabbits, turkeys, geese. &c, but no cattle. I saw parrots, ducks, pelicans, and other birds. There are no kangaroos on the island. There is no water nearer to this station the company have chosen than nine miles, and they are obliged to fetch it in boats, but the German having just found good water within a mile they will soon have a supply from thence. We were so delighted with our ramble that we had prolonged the time allowed us to four hours instead of one, and on arriving on the ship found the captain in no very good humor at having been obliged to wait so long for us. ...

WAS SIXTY YEARS AGO. (1897, December 28). The Advertiser (Adelaide, SA : 1889 - 1931), p. 5. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article35101015