At 4 P.M. we were off Pine Island, a small islet of the Percy group, on which a light has been established. From Pine Island onwards to the Whitsunday Passage the navigation recalls the experiences of many pleasant summers on the west coast of Scotland. The inner route, which we followed, passes between numberless rocks and islands. The Percy Isles form a distinct group, extending twenty miles from north to south, and eight miles from east to west. To the westward of the Percy Isles a still larger group has received the collective name of Northumberland, the several islands being distinguished by familiar Northumbrian names. Advancing northwards, at a distance of some sixty miles from the Percy group, the Cumberland, Sir James Smith, and Whitsunday groups form a continuous archipelago on the eastern side of the passage. The highest peaks attain an elevation little short of 1,000 feet. The islands are for the most part richly wooded. Some peaks are clothed with timbers to the summit, others are smooth and grassy, a few are bare of vegetation. The rocks are magnificent. Paternoster rises sheer from the water to a height of more than 900 feet.
'Turning from the sea to the mainland, the coast-range at a short distance inland forms a continuous barrier, varying in height from 3,000 to upwards of 4,000 feet. At Whitsunday Passage, through which we passed on the afternoon of August 6th, the line of coast is broken by Cape Conway, which, at its south-eastern extremity, rises to a height of 1,637 feet. A chain of peaks extends northwards from Cape Conway to Mount Drysander, and forms a fine amphitheatre of hills on the western side of the Whitsunday Passage. On the eastern side is a group of islands, of which Whitsunday, the largest, is eleven miles long, while Whitsunday Passage is twenty miles in length. At its narrowest part it is contracted to a breadth of two miles. On the mainland side the passage opens out into the fine natural harbour of Porte Molle. On the eastern side the line of shore is broken by the bays of Whitsunday Island, and the channels which divide it from the smaller islands, by which it is completely surrounded.'
Cape Gloucester was reached in about three hours after we had issued from the Whitsunday Passage. Rounding the cape, we anchored for the night close under the land.
Sunday, August 7th.—The morning dawned clear and bright, and we sent off two men in the dinghy to land on Gloucester Island. They took the dogs for a run ashore, and I asked them to collect what they could in the way of shells or greenery. They did not bring back much of either, but reported that the island was very pretty and had a nice sandy shore, with forests running down almost to the water's edge, and quantities of parrots and parrakeets. We had church at half-past ten, and directly after service went across to Bowen, anchoring a short distance from H.M.S. 'Paluma.' Bowen is a small town, but the harbour is spacious. The sea was rather rough, and we found some difficulty in communicating with the shore; but after lunch all the party landed in the large cutter. I was sorry to hear that Bowen is rapidly dwindling and losing its trade; the inhabitants hope, however, to recover some of their former vitality when once the network of railways is extended to their little town. Later on the officers of the 'Paluma' came on board, and seemed pleased to meet people lately from Europe; for they have been on this station several years, surveying the Barrier Reef. Our own shore party returned late, having much enjoyed their expedition and the long walk. They had picked up a good many curiosities, including one of the largest and finest hawksbill-turtle shells I had ever beheld. It had been most carefully polished by a lighthouse-keeper on one of the reefs, who had caught the creature himself. A great many telegrams were received this evening, all referring to the various kind arrangements proposed for us at Townsville and elsewhere.
Monday, August 8th.—Weighed anchor at daybreak, and were pushed merrily forward by strong S.E. breezes. We sailed swiftly up the coast as far as Townsville—a pretty-looking town of foreign appearance, with its wharves and business-houses close down on the beach, whilst the villas and private residences stand on the little nooks and corners of a hill at the back. The officers of H.M.S. 'Myrmidon,' which was lying in harbour, soon came on board to see us. They had broken their rudder-head outside the Barrier Reef, where they too were hard at work surveying, and had come into Townsville for repairs. The anchorage proved rolly, there being no protection whatever, and I had rather an uncomfortable night.
Tuesday, August 9th.—At daybreak Tom moved the yacht out to the shelter of Magnetic Island, where the coal-hulks lie, some six miles off Townsville. There we kept boxing about all the morning, under the mistaken idea that it was quite smooth. Meanwhile some supplies were taken on board; but as I was not well enough to undertake the long expeditions which had been planned, and the rest of the party declared that it would not be possible to go without me, they were given up. After landing and taking a walk through Townsville, the shore-going people pronounced it to be quite as clean-looking and prosperous as Bowen, but with more business going on. The town, which has a population of 12,000, is built on a tongue of land between the sea and Ross Creek. It consists of one main street containing banks, public offices, counting-houses, and well-supplied stores and shops. The bustle in the streets and the flourishing and prosperous appearance everywhere were quite cheering. Townsville owes its prosperity to its railway, which is already opened to a distance of two hundred miles into the interior, and which has made it the port for a wide area of pastoral country and for several promising gold-fields.
The bay of Townsville is open, and the shoal water extends some two miles from the beach. A breakwater is in course of construction, and dredging operations are being prosecuted with energy, so that the defects of the port will in course of time be remedied. We started with the same strong trade-wind up the coast, passing through some pretty picturesque islands and roads, hoping to anchor at Dungeness for the night. Finding it impossible to get up there before dark, we anchored in Challenger Bay, under shelter of Palm Island, shortly after sunset. Soon after we had dropped anchor aboriginal blacks were reported alongside, and on going on deck I saw two miserable-looking objects in the frailest of boats. Indeed the craft looked like the pictures of an ancient British coracle, and was so light and unseaworthy that every wave washed into it. They had nothing for sale except some commonplace and evil-smelling shells, which they were anxious to exchange for tobacco and biscuits, evidently preferring these commodities to money. We bought all the shells they had, and they were so well satisfied with their bargain that they returned later on with another bucketful of conchological curiosities, which were also purchased. They looked most harmless individuals; but having been warned by Captain Bridge never to trust the natives here, we thought it better to set a double watch for the night, more as a matter of precaution than from any fear of actual danger. Though they may have the reputation of being friendly, and may be certified as such in books of sailing directions and on the Admiralty charts, one can never feel sure of their disposition. A trifling event may have occurred since the last report was made which would alter the disposition of the whole tribe towards Europeans. Some officers may have landed to shoot, and walked over the crops of the natives without apologising or offering them remuneration, not knowing that they had done anything wrong. Drunken sailors may have landed, and so changed the friendly attitude of the inhabitants to deadly enmity towards the next arrivals. I honestly believe that a great many of the reported outrages in the South Sea and other savage islands are due more to a temporary misunderstanding between blacks and whites than to any cold-blooded barbarity or love of bloodshed on the part of the natives.
Wednesday, August 10.—Some of the party went early ashore, and I need scarcely say they were not molested in the slightest degree, and only found a most harmless black camp of about twenty individuals, with gins nursing their babies and men walking about. They brought off a good collection of pectens, clams, helmets, conchs, pearl-oysters, and large cowries, but the specimens were not very perfect. Also a quantity of greenery in the shape of Pancratiums, Logodium scandens, climbing Lycopodium, and a curious sort of fruit off a palm, which grows in large cone-shaped clusters. They call it breadfruit in these parts, and the natives eat it; but it certainly does not look either inviting or eatable. One fruit weighed twelve, and the other over eleven, pounds.
Two more natives came alongside this morning. They had not the slightest vestige of clothing; but two men, whom I saw over the side later in the day, both sported hats, and one of them had on besides a man-of-war shirt; the other wore a very short tunic cut low in the neck and several rows of canary-coloured glass beads. We weighed at eleven, and proceeded towards Dungeness under sail. I was carried up into the deck-house to see the view, which was provokingly obscured by mists and driving rain. We found some difficulty in making our way, owing to the new buoys not having yet been entered on the Admiralty chart. Fortunately, the officers of the 'Myrmidon' had warned Tom of this fact, made more dangerous by the thick mist and fog. We ultimately arrived at Dungeness in safety, taking everybody by surprise, as no ship had ever been known to go through the southern entrance of Hinchinbrook Channel before without a pilot. The pilot, a nice old man, had been looking for us all day yesterday, as well as all last night. As we did not appear, he must have gone home, thereby losing the pleasure of conducting us into the harbour, but giving Tom the gratification of bringing the vessel in through the channel without taking a pilot.
Thursday, August 11th.—When I awoke at eight Tab and Mr. des Graz had already started on their shooting expedition, and at noon we also set forth on an excursion up the Herbert River. Tom had caused a comfortable bed to be rigged up for me in the gig, so that I was not obliged to dress, but simply got out of one bed into another. The gig was towed by the steam-launch, which also trailed the 'Flash' behind in case we might want to land in any shallow place or get aground on a sand or mud bank. After the first little fluster of moving was over it was a great pleasure to me to be once more in the open air after being shut up for what seems so long a time. It felt deliciously warm too, the temperature being 74 deg.. The scenery was beautiful—sandy shores, green woods with high precipitous mountains in the background, covered with shiny slate-like shale, which when moist shows up like a mirror through the mist. The view so reminded me of Scotland that I felt inclined to take up my glasses to look for deer among the craggy peaks and corries. We passed the little pilot station of Dungeness, and almost directly afterwards the hamlet of the same name. It bears some resemblance to its English namesake, for it is situated on a sandy spit of land, surrounded by mangrove swamps instead of grass marshes. I noticed, too, that the people have the fever-stricken look which is sometimes seen about Lydd and that part of the country. There are only fifty-six inhabitants, men, women, and children. Dull as the surroundings seemed, it is wonderful how bright and cheerful the people who came on board yesterday seemed to be. The river, though wider, put us very much in mind of the Kuching, in Borneo—the same tropical vegetation and miles of unhealthy-looking mangrove swamps. We passed several tidy-looking little settlements on the banks, some picturesquely built of wood thatched with sugar-cane or palm-leaf, while others were constructed of corrugated iron, which must be frightfully hot in summer. The white people, so far as we could judge, as we passed up and down the river, were suffering from the climate. The Kanakas and Chinamen seemed more prosperous; and the few aboriginals looked quite happy in their natural surroundings.
The servants, with their usual ingenuity, managed to both cook and serve an excellent lunch, in the boat, with only the assistance of the 'Darby and Joan' stove. About half-past two we reached the wharf of the Halifax sugar-plantation, where our arrival disturbed a large party of aboriginals, women and children, who were enjoying their afternoon bath, splashing, jumping like a shoal of fish. Our party (including the dogs) landed, and on their return said that the crop of sugar looked very healthy, and the rolling and crushing stock of the cane was in excellent order. The whole district is well adapted for the cultivation of sugar. No less than 9,600 tons were produced in 1886. The growth is steadily increasing, and the country will sooner or later become the centre of a large and prosperous trade.
For the cultivation of sugar on the Herbert both British and coloured labour is employed—British workmen in the mills, the coloured people in cutting the cane. Wages for Englishmen range from twenty-five shillings upwards weekly. We spoke to some of the wives of the workmen, several of whom are recent arrivals from Lancashire. Their dwellings are of the simplest description, made of corrugated iron or of straw, and scattered at haphazard in a clearing in the jungle or on the banks of the river. These pioneers of cultivation have to lead a hard life and bear many privations—circumstances in which the colonising qualities of the Anglo-Saxon race always come to the front.
There was an hotel and a store, and, as is usual in this sort of place, enormous piles of broken bottles and empty cases of tinned meats, jams, &c. It breaks my heart to see the colonists, particularly the children, living on condensed milk, tinned meats, and canned fruits from America, when there is so much good pasture running to waste all round the house. In the orchards the trees are literally broken down from the weight of their crop, while quantities of fruit which the boughs cannot support are given to the pigs and cattle.
We had to wait a little before starting on our homeward water-way, for the tubes of the 'Trap's' boiler began to leak, and had to be repaired. This delay gave us an opportunity of observing some of the inhabitants, who came to the pier to see us. They looked smart and clean and well-to-do—quite different from those we had noticed as we ascended the river. We stopped to take one or two photographs of tropical scenery and of various little stations on the way down the river. We also paused to look at the body of a dead alligator which had been caught in a snag. He was between five and seven feet long, and a second rather larger one lay close by. From time to time we caught sight of parties of blacks hidden amongst the rank vegetation of the shores, and we saw some beautiful birds, particularly a brilliant blue kingfisher, flashing about like a jewel in the sunlight. There was another pretty little red-beaked bird; and an enormous black crane, about four feet high, with white tips to his wings, and a red and blue topknot, stalked about among the lotus-lilies. One part of the river banks was covered by a dense growth of pancratium lilies, scenting the whole air; while elsewhere a tangled curtain of pink and violet ipomoea hung down from tall trees. I may mention that the currents in the river are very strong, and that we had several tropical showers in the course of the day. Although I enjoyed my outing, I was thankful to get on board again and lie down on my bed. Mr. and Mrs. Wardlaw came off later on, and brought me some orchids and a telegram from Mr. Pennefather pressing us to stay till to-morrow, so as to allow the gentlemen to have the good day's shooting he had arranged for them; but want of time rendered this pleasant plan impossible. The maids, stewards, and some of the crew had gone on shore on Hinchinbrook Island, and brought back a quantity of ferns, orchids, lilies, and shells, and an amusing report of the blacks' camp which they had seen there. The children were so delighted with the description the maids gave them of the wonders on shore that they promptly took off their father and two other gentlemen in the steam-launch to search for curiosities, hoping to be fortunate enough to find some shells as beautiful and uncommon as those the servants had brought back with them.
Friday, August 12th.—An hour after midnight the sportsmen returned, and Mr. Pennefather came to breakfast. He was much disappointed that the party could not stay for another day's shooting, and talked of the variety of game to be had—geese, ducks, widgeon, teal, coot, plover, quail, swans, turkeys, and bitterns, to say nothing of cockatoos, parrots, wallabys, kangaroos, and alligators. Yesterday the engine-driver, being a sportsman himself, kindly stopped the train and allowed them to have a shot, or rather several. They succeeded in killing one poor lady wallaby with a dear little baby in her pouch, which did not seem very young, and would therefore have been easy to rear; but, unfortunately, they did not take possession of it and bring it on board for a pet, to add to the little flock already brought up by hand. Wallabys are quite easy to tame when caught as young as this little creature, and are very gentle and affectionate. Arrived at the factory, the shooting-party had lunch with Mr. Pennefather, and then went out with their guns, but only succeeded in bagging a bandicoot, two ducks, a widgeon, a plover, and a few other birds, making altogether a somewhat nondescript bag.
Precisely at 9.30 we started under steam through the Rockingham Channel, which separates Hinchinbrook, an island of magnificent mountains, from the mainland. We are now well in the doldrums of the Tropic of Capricorn, and the delicious fair strong trade-breezes we have hitherto enjoyed have now deserted us, or rather we have sailed through them. I do not think I ever saw anything finer than this Rockingham Channel. The mountains on the mainland are high, and of beautiful shapes, with points and rounded outlines, covered with green foliage, whilst on the inner shore of the island of Hinchinbrook there is a dense mass of tropical foliage clothing the hills up to their highest tops. Where the scrub has been burnt, little patches of ferns of a fresh light green colour have sprung up, and the leafy mass is broken here and there by a perpendicular rock or a white lace-like cascade. Every bay and little inlet has its own peculiar charm, and occasionally a sharp spit of rock is thrust out into the sea. The water to-day is as placid as it can possibly be, and reflects on its surface as in a mirror all the beauties of the scenery. About twelve o'clock we reached Cardwell, a collection of little tin houses, looking from the ship as if they stood amid widely separated fields and orchards. All the party but the Doctor and myself went on shore to see the place. The people were all very kind, and our party were entertained at the house of Mr. Walsh, the principal Government official; and afterwards the chairman of the Local Board, on behalf of the inhabitants, read and presented a neatly worded address to Tom, who made a suitable reply. The party then returned on board, laden with orchids, cocoa-nuts, and everything the township produces. The few settlers were most hospitable, and expressed great pleasure at seeing us. Whilst Tom and the others were taking their ramble at Cardwell, Mr. Walsh came off to pay me a little visit; but directly the shore party returned on board, at 2.30, we resumed our voyage under steam towards Mourillyan. The channel was still lovely, with islands on one side and the high mountains of the mainland on the other. I do not know when we have had such a charming sail, and there was a certain appropriateness in the surroundings on this 12th of August. The general contour of the hills, the purple colouring of the mountains, the Norfolk pines and other trees on some distant heights (when you were not near enough to see how tropical was the foliage) reminded me vividly of Scotland. What a pleasure lovely scenery is! and what a delight to be able to travel and see it! I do not think I have ever forgotten or shall forget a single really beautiful view I have ever seen and admired. Those scenes are all clear and distinct, put away in little pigeon-holes of memory. If my brain were only a photographic camera, I could print them off as clearly on paper to-day as in the long bygone years when I first saw them. All the incidents and circumstances are still fresh in my recollection.
For the last few days the scenery has been an especial pleasure to me, laid up as I am in the deck-house, where a comfortable bed has been arranged for me, so high that I can look out of the window and have my eyes delighted and my nerves soothed. I am very thankful that I can thus enjoy the lovely coast, though I should much prefer being able to take a more active part in the sight-seeing, orchid- and shell-collecting, and general scrambling which ensues every day when the rest of the party go for their pleasant walks on shore along sandy beaches shaded by graceful palms, with tree ferns growing almost to the water's edge. It is fortunate, perhaps, that this constant malarial fever has made me feel too weak to care much about anything, so that I am not tempted to long to do imprudent things. I was indeed sorry when the shades of evening began to fall and prevented my seeing anything beyond the mere outlines of the coast.
The distance to Mourillyan is only forty miles, and the entrance to the harbour is extremely fine, though it was so dark that we could hardly distinguish anything. Soon after we entered the harbour and dropped anchor, Mr. Levinge, the manager of three large sugar-estates in the neighbourhood, came on board, full of plans of pleasure for the morrow. Unfortunately the programme which had been arranged was rather more than I could undertake. I may be able to manage the eight miles in a steam-tram through the jungle, to see the sugar-plantation, crushing-mills, and lunch with the manager and hospitable proprietor of the plantation; but I fear I shall not have strength or time to go on to the Gundy Plantation, some miles off, up a branch of the Johnstone River, and see the scenery there, which is said to be very fine. The original idea was to go on in boats to Geraldton, close to the mouth of the Johnstone River, where the yacht or a steam-launch was to meet us and take us back to Mourillyan Harbour, about eight miles off. We left it till the morning to decide what we should do, and went to bed in good time so as to be ready for an early start if I felt strong enough to attempt it.
Saturday, August 13.—Woke just at daybreak. When I looked through the porthole I found that this harbour of Mourillyan where we were lying was one of the most picturesque I had ever seen. It is entirely land-locked, except for the narrow passage through which we entered last night. Both vegetation and landscape looked thoroughly tropical, and two or three bungalows were perched amid the dense foliage on the steep banks of the rising hillsides.
We were ready before our kind hosts, and it was quite eleven o'clock before we landed and established ourselves in the steam-tram, ready for a journey to the Mourillyan sugar-plantation. My long deck-chair having been placed most comfortably in a sugar-truck, my journey was luxuriously and easily performed, though, after the perfectly quiet, smooth movement of the last few days, I rather felt the occasional jolts and jars. I have travelled through tropical jungles in all parts of the world, and though the scenery to-day was wanting in the grandeur of the virgin forests of Brazil, and of the tangled masses of vegetation of Borneo and the Straits Settlements, it had much special beauty of its own. The variety of foliage was a striking contrast to the monotonous verdure often seen in Australia. Some of the palms and ferns were extremely beautiful, and so well grown that each might have been a specimen plant in a greenhouse. What I call the umbrella palm, but what they call here the cabbage palm—a sort of Zamia alsophila—grew abundantly in groups. Wherever there was a clearing we could see high trees, some with their bare white stems rising to nearly a hundred feet before they branched out, while others were completely covered, and almost killed, by masses of creepers whose leaves, of every kind and shape—some large and broad like the Aristolochias; others quite finely cut like Logodiums; others sharp, pointed, and shiny; others again palmated—and of every shade of green, gave a fine effect to the different peeps and vistas as we glided along. Presently the clearings became more numerous, and we passed a deserted village, surrounded by gardens, where some Chinese had settled a few years ago and tried to make a living by supplying ships with vegetables. They did not find the venture successful, and have left the district. We passed several small tramways running at right angles into the bush, with little huts adjoining, built of rushes and thatched with sugar-cane. In these the men lived when sent down to cut timber for the fences, furnaces, and sleepers for the tramway, as it was pushed further and further up through the jungle. 'Sugar is a very expensive crop to start, for the work of clearing the jungle is most laborious, and therefore costly. The expense of cutting down timber for the first rough cropping is 10l. per acre. The complete clearing and grubbing of roots for the purposes of ploughing and permanent cultivation is not less than 20l. an acre. The cost of clearing alone is thus 30l. an acre. The machinery of the mills, of Scotch manufacture, cost more than 60,000l. Some 900 acres have been brought under cultivation. The total capital already expended may be taken at 200,000l. The yield of sugar is from three to five tons per acre. The price may be taken at 20l. per ton. The production of sugar last year was 2,050 tons.'
'The successful results of labour imported from Java are a special feature at Mourillyan. We heard an excellent character of the Javanese workpeople. They are sturdy, and most docile. They are imported for a term of three years, under strict engagements with the Dutch Government. An advance of two to three pounds is given to each workman before he leaves home. His fare costs 6l. to Queensland. His wages are 30s. a month and found. The secret of success has been the adoption of a system of supervision by Javanese sarongs. Javanese are employed to drive locomotives, and for the management of the boilers and most of the machinery in the mills.'
The proprietors of the plantation have 5,000 acres cleared already, and will clear more as soon as they can raise sufficient capital. They have already invested 250,000l. in the land, 20,000l. in the tram, and 40,000l. in the mills, independent of the money they will require for all sorts of contemplated improvements and additions. The process of crushing is just the same as we saw in Trinidad. The carts bring in the cane from the field, and it is passed through a series of rollers to extract the juice, which is pumped up to a higher floor, where it is received into vats, and then by different processes converted into sugar of three kinds—white, medium white, and light brown. The first-quality sugar is made white by being subjected to a process of sulphur fumes, which produce beautiful glittering crystals. It is said that this method of treating the sugar is not so satisfactory as the old and rougher process. It seems to bleach the crystallised particles without sufficiently removing the impurities. The quality of the sugar is, however, excellent, and it commands a high price in England.
From the mill I was carried through a clean and tidy-looking coolie village to a comfortable house of the bungalow type, like those in Mourillyan Harbour, inhabited by Mr. Nash, the proprietor of one of the plantations, and Mr. Levinge, who had kindly arranged a luncheon for us. Australian colonists are the most hospitable people in the world. Their one idea seems to be to endeavour to do everything they can for you, to give you the best of everything they possess. Nowhere, in all our far-extending travels, have we received more true hospitality. I had a comfortable sofa provided for me, whereon I lay during lunch, and afterwards I rested in a chair in the verandah while the others went to see more of the sugar plantation and mill.
About three o'clock we started back, and returned much quicker than we came up, for which I was very thankful. Pleasant as the day had been I was getting rather worn out. On our return to Mourillyan our hospitable hosts accompanied us on board, and made an inspection of the 'Sunbeam.' They could not stop long, as our Jersey pilot said we had better be off before dark, the entrance to the harbour being very narrow. It is, however, so well buoyed that when the new chart is published there will be no difficulty in getting in or out at any time of the day or night, with or without a pilot. In the night there are two leading lights which show you the direct way in, the only danger being at spring tides, when the tide sometimes runs eight or nine knots an hour. The harbour looked lovely as we steamed away, and we were quite sorry to leave the little haven of rest where we had spent such a peaceful, comfortable day and night.
We were soon outside Mourillyan and past the picturesque mouth of the Johnstone River. Judging from the photographs, the scenery of this river must be very fine, for the sun-pictures represent several high waterfalls pouring volumes of water over dark and perpendicular basaltic rocks. One of the falls is said to be 300 feet high, and there are several cascades with a fall of between 100 and 250 feet. The light breeze from the S.E. carried us on famously. We soon saw the Seymour Range; a little later we found ourselves off the mouth of the Mulgrave River, and by midnight had passed through the narrow channel which divides the Falkland Islands from the mainland at Cape Grafton. We ladies retired early to bed, and even the children acknowledged to being tired; but the gentlemen played whist on deck till a much later hour. The nights are perfect now. The breeze is rather fresh by day when not under the shelter of a protecting coast; but one must remember that if the wind be fresh it is wafting us speedily on our way, and we must not grumble, for we have turned the corner and are now homeward-bound.
About three o'clock this morning we met a steamer going down the coast, and, with the usual fatuity of steamships, she would not make up her mind which way to go until she was close to us, and then ran right across our bows. It is most extraordinary why steamships will not get out of the way of sailing-ships at night. The matter is entirely in their own hands, for the sailing-ship is comparatively helpless. It is quite impossible for the officer on watch to tell at what rate the approaching vessel is moving, and the steamer ought to alter her helm the very instant a sailing-ship is perceived. Our pace is rather rapid, particularly in light winds, and it is probable that the steamer misjudged her distance from us. The more voyages I make the more I feel that the melancholy little paragraphs one only too often sees, headed 'Lost with all hands,' or 'Missing,' are nearly always the result of accidents caused by a bad look-out and careless steering. I often tell Tom it is his duty to report those cases which come to his own knowledge. The instances have been numerous on this voyage alone; but he is too kind-hearted to like to complain, which I consider a mistaken view of humanitarianism.
Sunday, August 14th.—I did not wake till late, and then found we had just passed Cairns Harbour, which is said to be a wonderfully rising place. The soil is good and suitable for sugar, and a railway is being rapidly constructed which will open up the interior of this part of Northern Queensland. The scenery is lovely, especially up the Herberton River, where one of the most magnificent waterfalls in Australia is to be seen.
We had service at eleven, but I was only able to listen to the hymns from my cabin. At afternoon service at half-past four I heard every word just as plainly from my bed on deck as I could have done had I been below in the saloon. This has been one of the most perfect days at sea I can remember, and I was carried up early on deck to admire the beautiful coast, with the Macalister Range in the background. At noon to-day we were in lat. 16 deg. 37' S., long. 145 deg. 47' E., stealing quietly along under balloon canvas. At one o'clock we passed the entrance to Port Douglas, another young and rising place. Early in the afternoon we were abreast of the lighthouse on the Low Islands, which returned our signals with creditable promptitude, and after sighting Cape Kimberly we found ourselves abreast of the Daintree River, where, I am told, there is some beautiful scenery. A little later Cape Tribulation was passed, where Captain Cook ran his vessel ashore to discover the amount of damage sustained after she had been aground on a coral reef. They are now trying to recover her guns, which are so overgrown by coral that it is likely to prove a difficult job. Divers have been down and have absolutely seen the guns; but if they try to dislodge them with dynamite the result may be the same as at Springsure with the large opal—that they will be blown to pieces. It is interesting to once more read Captain Cook's voyages on the scene of some of his most important discoveries, and to think that many of these peaks, bays, mountains, and inlets were named by him after some more or less memorable incident. Cape Tribulation lies exactly under the Peter Botte, a large and peculiarly shaped mountain. The whole coast here is very like that of Cuba, especially the shape of its mountains and the indentations of its coasts. The sunset was magnificent, and made the mountains look quite volcanic as they rose in the sky against the lurid light, producing red, yellow, and grey tints such as one sees at Vesuvius, Etna, or Stromboli.
This afternoon, as we were looking over the side, Tom and I observed a quantity of a brownish substance floating on the surface of the water. We thought it might be either the outpouring of a neighbouring volcano, or the spawn of some fish, sponge, coral, or algae. We drew up several buckets of this discoloured water, and on closer inspection found the floating matter to be a small sponge which exists in larger pieces at a considerable depth below, but on reaching the surface changes to a sort of powder, which reunites again and forms a filmy track for a long distance.
EAST COAST (continued).
Monday, August 15th.—Last night was an anxious one for Tom, who was up and down a good deal, and did not get to bed until 5.45 A.M., having hoisted the pilot-flag and left orders for the yacht to jog about until the pilot came on board. It was half-past eight o'clock before we were securely moored in the harbour, almost alongside of our old friend the little 'Harrier.' Originally a yacht, she is now one of her Majesty's ships, and is used for cruising from one island to another. With 35 men on board, and guns and gear of all kinds, she is not by any means the smart little craft she used to be; but she is in thorough working order, and as good a sea-boat as ever.
Cooktown, in spite of the preponderance of iron houses and shops, looks rather pretty from the sea, and is picturesquely situated in an amphitheatre of hills, of which Mount Cook is the highest. Its small port is formed by the mouth of the Endeavour River. There are abundant indications that larger and more substantial buildings will rapidly be substituted for the provisional structures of which Cooktown at present consists. The population is about 2,500. The Palmer River gold-diggings, and some recent discoveries of tin, which have attracted a large number of miners, are the chief sources of prosperity. A railway will shortly connect Cooktown with the gold-mines. A section of thirty-two miles has been already opened. It was a delicious day, and I enjoyed sitting under an awning until the afternoon, when some of the party went on shore to play lawn-tennis, whilst the Doctor, Muenie and I went for a little drive, which did me good, though it tired me at the time.
Tuesday, August 16th.—Awoke about seven, feeling much refreshed, and went early on deck. Many visitors came on board, only a few of whom I was able to see. All the rest of the party again landed, and at twelve o'clock Tom and I went on board the 'Harrier.' I was carried on deck, and then managed to get below to look at the new alterations. Captain Pike had some pretty watercolour drawings and a good collection of curios, picked up at various islands. These were capitally arranged in the cabin, and looked very nice. He kindly gave Mabelle and me some beautiful shells, as well as some gorgonias growing on a pearl-shell. In the afternoon we went out for a drive. On leaving the town we followed the same road as yesterday, after which we came to a fairly good bush-road or track, running through a pretty country, with some fine trees and a great variety of foliage. We passed one or two nice stations, with comfortable, deep-verandahed houses, and tidy gardens and orchards. Ultimately we plunged into the regular bush, where the sandflies and mosquitoes began to trouble the rest of the party; but my invaluable eucalyptus oil saved me. Nothing could exceed the care our driver took of me; his chief anxiety was that I should not suffer a single jolt beyond what the roughness of the road necessitated. He came out here when he was twenty-one years old, and rushed at once to the gold-fields; found 1,100l. in three days, on an alluvial field 300 miles inland from Sydney; lost it two days after, by putting it into a speculative mining concern which failed the day after he parted with his money. He then became a gentleman's coachman at Sydney, and had several other mining and reefing adventures on some fields near the Johnstone River. All went well with him until he had an attack of fever, which laid him up for eighteen months, and not only absorbed all his own little savings but that of his comrades, to whose kindness he was indebted for the positive necessaries of life. Now he is coachman at the largest hotel here, and as soon as he has scraped a little money together, intends going off to the Croydon diggings, where I hope he will be fortunate, and trust he will invest his hard-earned money more satisfactorily. Owing to our late departure we had no time to stop, as we had intended, to see the tomb erected over the remains of poor Mrs. Watson, her child, and Ah Sam the Chinaman, who are buried here. The story of their death is a sad one, and we listened with interest to the circumstances as related by Mr. Fitzgerald; which are briefly these.
Elizabeth Wilson, who came originally from Rockhampton, was the wife of Mr. Watson, the owner of some small schooners engaged in the beche-de-mer trade, whose head establishment was at the Lizard Island. Some time in 1881 she persuaded her husband to take one of his vessels on a tour of inspection, leaving her with a child of two years old and a couple of faithful Chinamen in charge of the Lizard Island. Mr. Watson set forth very reluctantly, only yielding to his wife's assurances that with firearms in the house, which she well knew how to manage, she would be in no danger. Soon after her husband's departure, however, the natives came across from the mainland in great force, killed one of the Chinamen, and wounded the other. When it became dark the brave woman hastened to provision one of the square iron tanks used for boiling down the beche-de-mer, and embarked in it with her babe and wounded retainer. Nothing could be more clumsy than such a craft, 4 feet long by 3 feet wide, and perhaps 1-1/2 feet high. She put water-bottles on board, and with only a shawl for sail and an oar to steer with set forth on the calm sea, towing, however, a little dinghy behind, in case of her iron vessel proving too unmanageable. The trade-wind carried the tank thirty miles out to sea to one of the Hawick group; but she was prevented from landing there by the threatening aspect of the blacks in possession. She drifted a little further to a neighbouring island, where the spring tide carried the tank up so far inland that she could not launch it again. This was the more terrible, as a very few miles further would have brought her to the lightship. There were no blacks on the island, to which the tank had been carried. Mrs. Watson had sufficient provisions, but apparently no water. They all must have died of thirst just before an abundant rainfall. Three weeks later, when their bodies were discovered, there were pools of fresh water around them. In the meantime Mr. Watson called at the lightship and recognised his own dinghy, which had drifted thither a few days before. He immediately set out, accompanied by Mr. Fitzgerald, and soon reached the little island, where he found his wife's body, one arm still clasping her child, and the other hand holding a loaded revolver. Her diary lay close by, and told the sad story almost up to the last moment. The dead Chinaman lay near the tank. The bodies were put into rude shells and taken to Cooktown, where they were buried. The poor woman's diary and the tank are preserved in the Museum at Brisbane.
Thursday, August 18th.—We gave Cape Sidmouth a wide berth and passed Night Island, going close to Cape Direction and Restoration Island, which latter is exactly opposite the narrow opening in the Barrier Reef through which Bligh found his way in 1780, in an open boat, after the Mutiny of the 'Bounty.' Bligh gave the name to Restoration Island to commemorate his escape from the mutineers. A little further to the north took us abreast of Providential Channel, through which Captain Cook entered with the greatest difficulty in 1770. He arrived outside the Barrier Reef, rolling heavily to the swell with no wind, and finding it impossible to descry a single opening. Hope seemed at an end, when, providentially, Captain Cook espied from his masthead what looked like deep water between two rocks, through which he safely steered his vessel. From Restoration Island to Cape Weymouth we were considerably exposed to the sea, and rolled about a good deal until we got into the shelter of Weymouth Bay. Passing Fair Cape, we reached Piper Island at about eight o'clock, and anchored for the night, close to the lightship, alongside which there was another small steamer. The last fourteen miles had to be done in the dark. This was a time of great anxiety for Tom, for the passage was narrow, being only about half a mile wide in places, and the current was strong. It blew hard all night, and we longed for the sheltered anchorage of last evening.
Friday, August 19th.—Early this morning Tom and some of the gentlemen went on board the 'Claremont' lightship. After breakfast we landed on the reef. It is a bare heap of sand and coral, save on its highest part, where a few tufts of coarse grass are growing. Here we found a native of St. John, New Brunswick, brought up, as he told us, by foreign parents, engaged in the business of collecting beche-de-mer, or dried sea-slugs, for which there is a large demand in China.
This white man had in his employ thirty natives. He had five fine boats, which are constantly at work inside the Great Barrier Reef. The money embarked in this enterprise had been advanced by a bank at Cooktown. Beche-de-mer commands a high price. We were shown the accumulated casks full of this unattractive edible, representing a value of many hundreds of pounds. Lee, the head of this establishment, was living in a shelter formed of tattered canvas and battered sheets of corrugated iron, but he evidently possessed the power of command and organisation, and was not without education. He produced the Admiralty charts of the coast and Barrier Reef, with large additions to the delineation of the reefs from his own explorations.
Beche-de-mer is of various qualities. The best is worth 120l. per ton, the next 100l., a third quality 90l., and a fourth from 80l. to as low as 30l. per ton. The beche-de-mer is a curious kind of sea-slug, rather like a sea cucumber. Its scientific name is Holothuria. It makes excellent soup, which is very nourishing, and is like the snail soup so much given to invalids in the south of France. In Cooktown the Europeans eat it largely, while in China, as trepang, it is a much-prized and high-priced delicacy.
We had a long and pleasant conversation with Lee, and Tom and I were both much struck with him. Tom was anxious to purchase for me a pair of large hawksbill turtle shells which he had seen earlier in the morning on the lightship, but Lee absolutely refused to part with them at any price. He said a man had done him a good turn in Cooktown, and he had promised him the shells. We suggested that it was possible, as the man was a resident of Cooktown, that he might get him another pair and let us have these; but Lee was quite firm, and said, 'No, I have given my word, and it would be very wrong to break it on any account whatsoever.' His charts were most interesting, and his own discoveries of new reefs and shoals were intelligently marked. I hope that for the good of the navigating world they may some day be incorporated into an Admiralty chart, but I trust not without due recognition of Lee's work. He certainly deserves the greatest credit for the careful and painstaking observations he must have made while cruising in his little schooners about the Barrier Reef. Many a shipwreck may possibly be prevented and many a life saved by his laborious and at present unrewarded exertions. Just before we were going away it seemed to suddenly dawn upon Lee that Tom was Lord Brassey. He asked the question, and when an answer in the affirmative was given shook hands most warmly, and was delighted when he was told that I was Lady Brassey and that the children were my own dear ones. He had all our history at his fingers' ends, and was extremely pleased to see the 'historical Sunbeam' and 'her spirited owners,' as he called us. Later on in the morning he tried to come on board the yacht in his schooner, but unfortunately missed the rope and so lost the opportunity of seeing the vessel. I was interested to hear from him a confirmation of our supposition that the island off which we anchored was the one on which Eliza Watson's body was found.
We landed on the leeward side of the island, and on going to the windward shore it was curious to notice the process by which these islands gradually become covered with vegetation. The whole shore just above high-water mark was covered with little seeds, beans, and various other atoms of vegetation which had been dropped by birds or cast up by the sea, and which in process of time will cover the island with trees and shrubs. The island did not look much bigger than half a dozen times the size of the yacht. At low spring tides the most beautiful corals and shells are found.
The blacks we saw on shore were a good-looking set of men, the finest in stature we have yet seen. Lee says he has to be most careful and always 'sleep with one eye open,' as they are treacherous. They would turn round on him at any moment if they saw a chance and did not know he was well armed.
All the inmates of the lightship came on board the yacht, with which they were much delighted. They said they could not have imagined anything like it on the sea, and thought they must have got on dry land without knowing it. We parted with mutual good wishes, and I have no doubt that the visit of the 'Sunbeam' will be a pleasant little incident, affording much material for conversation for weeks to come. We did not forget to give them some Ambulance papers.
We weighed at 11.30, and anchored under the Piper Islands an hour after sunset. Distance, eighty-five miles.
Saturday, August 20th.—All hands were called at four, and we got under weigh soon after, making Home Islands about seven. Thence we passed through Shelbourne Bay, by Hannibal Islands, and so off Orford Ness. The navigation here was very intricate, and necessitated much trouble and attention on Tom's part, and the taking of endless cross bearings and observations. At 11.50 we passed the s.s. 'Tannadice,' and exchanged friendly greetings. All navigators owe the commander of this ship gratitude for reporting the reef named after his vessel. It lies in a most dangerous position, and would doubtless have brought many a good ship to grief had it not been reported and charted. Soon after we started this morning we very nearly got on another reef. The wind blew fresh and fair, and the current ran strong. Tom chanced to be engaged taking some observations, and so paid, for a few moments, less attention than usual to the pace at which we were going; and in this hazardous interval the yacht very nearly ran on a coral reef that was only just a-wash.
[Footnote 6: The temporary failure of the chart lamp was the real cause of this alarm. The coast sheets for Northern Queensland are on a very small scale, and it requires a strong light and young eyes to read their figures and the infinitesimally small signs denoting rocks.]
From Fern Island, an almost straight course through a narrow channel hemmed in by rocks, reefs, shoals, and islets, brought us to the entrance to the Albany Pass. The navigation is intricate, but the scenery quite lovely; the land on either side of the Pass, whether on the mainland or on the islands, being densely wooded. At Fly Point on the mainland our attention was attracted by some curious-looking projections on a hillside, which resembled an enlarged edition of Stonehenge, in red sandstone. On looking through the glasses we discovered that these projections were ant-hills of an extraordinary peaked shape, some of them being many feet in height.
The entrance to Port Albany and Somerset is narrow; and the strong tide and wind combined to knock up an unpleasant popple. At Somerset on the mainland, and immediately opposite to our anchorage at Port Albany, a pretty little station has been built, with a flagstaff in front of the bungalow. On our arrival the flag which was hoisted was dipped a great many times and a large bonfire was lighted, in order to give us, I suppose, a really warm welcome.
Sunday, August 21st.—The boat went ashore early this lovely morning to the large house we had seen last night. The station belongs to Mr. Jardine, a relative of the founders of the firm of Jardine, Matheson, & Co., so well known in China as well as along this coast. The station is for cattle, and they are gradually increasing its boundaries so as to be able to supply Thursday Island and the neighbourhood with fresh meat, of which they are lamentably in need at present. About twenty-five years ago Mr. Jardine drove a mob of 700 cattle from Rockhampton to this place. It took him and his party nearly two years to accomplish the journey, and they had to fight the blacks on their way.
The men who went ashore in the boat brought off some milk and new-laid eggs. There is excellent water here. The supply is obtained from two springs and a well, and as water is bad, scarce, and dear at Thursday Island, many ships come here for it. Last Sunday there were sixteen schooners in this little port. They are all away now at the reefs, but are expected back next Sunday.
We had Litany at eleven o'clock. In the afternoon I landed with the Doctor, and sat, or rather lay quietly, on the pleasant sandy shore for an hour or two, while the Doctor and the sailors roamed about and picked up many curious pieces of coral and some lumps of scoriae, of which the whole island seems to be formed. There is very little soil beneath the volcanic matter, and it is wonderful how trees and plants manage to grow in such luxuriant fashion. Some cocoa-nut trees have been planted, which are doing exceedingly well, and I rested under their shade, looking up at the sky through the long, pale green leaves. The innumerable flies, ants, and sandflies were troublesome. But what can be expected in a land where the ant-heaps are ten feet high and twenty-four feet in circumference? While on his rambles with one of our men the Doctor saw a large snake four or five feet in length, which he vainly tried to kill; but the reptile escaped into a crevice in the rocks amongst the brushwood.
Tom, Tab, and Mr. Wright, in the meantime, went over to the mainland to pay a visit to Mr. Jardine. They found the sea rather rough in the narrow crossing, and after a stiff clamber up the hillside arrived at the house. Mr. Jardine was away, but his manager, Mr. Schramud, gave them some interesting information about the pearl fishery, and spoke of the trouble of establishing their station in old days. He took them round the paddocks where the bullocks are kept, and then a little way through the bush, where he showed them an encampment of aborigines which was much better constructed than usual. The centre hut was large, with nicely built walls and a substantial thatched roof of coarse dry grass.
The hut was divided into two parts, one section containing two beds slightly raised from the floor, and the other a few rough seats and a table, upon which stood a broken lamp and a drum, apparently hollowed out from a piece of wood. Mr. Schramud gave the drum to Tab, saying that its peculiarity consisted in the fact that, though the natives possessed no adzes or chisels, the wood was completely hollowed out, and yet it must have been done with knives of the most inferior description. He had often tried, unsuccessfully, to 'catch the natives at work' as he expressed it, in order to watch their method of dealing with such hard wood. On leaving the encampment the party returned to the beach and came across in the cutter to the island, landing in the nice little sheltered cove where the Doctor and I were established.
Shortly afterwards the Doctor and Mr. Wright started across the hills to meet the others, while Tom, Tab, and I returned, or rather tried to get back, to the yacht in the gig and the cutter, but the tide had fallen considerably, and the reef over which we had floated so gaily on landing, was now showing all sorts of nasty little jagged heads and rounded tops, both above and very near the surface of the water. It was not without many bumps and jars, and a certain amount of risk of finding ourselves firmly aground, that we fairly emerged into the open sea; then a long pull, a strong pull, and a pull all together against the swiftly running current brought us once more alongside the good ship 'Sunbeam.'
The rest of the party had still greater difficulty in getting off, for the tide was falling every minute, and the dinghy had to be sent off to pick them up one by one and transfer them to the gig. They seemed to have enjoyed their walk very much, and described the island as being covered with scrub. They saw a few animals which, though wild now, have evidently once been domesticated, and actually stumbled upon a family of little pigs. They climbed over the hill at the back of the landing-place and descended to the windward shore, where they found a stretch of beautiful firm white sand, extending for some distance along the coast, indented by many pretty little coves and bays, in which however there was not much flotsam and jetsam to be collected. Mr. Wright and the Doctor had also been to the windward beach, but by a different route, which led them through a valley full of extraordinary ant-hills. From their description this place must have looked like a veritable city of tombs, something like the view of Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives. I was sorry they had not taken a camera with them, although we had already taken photographs of isolated ant-hills. The Doctor saw another snake quite as large as the first, but it also escaped before he could get within striking distance of it. Perhaps it was just as well it did escape, as we heard afterwards that they are venomous, in fact deadly. There is no cure for their bite, and though they get out of your way if they can, when once attacked, or if you chance to stand between them and their hole, they fly at you most viciously, and their bite has generally fatal results.
We had evening prayers on board at six, and after a quiet evening's reading, went to bed rather early.
Monday, August 22nd.—I sent ashore this morning, by the men who went for the milk, a few books and Ambulance papers for Mr. Jardine, in return for which he sent me several beautiful pearl-shells, some of which had curious corals growing on them. Mr. Schramud paid us an early visit. He was much interested in the Ambulance papers I had sent him, and said he always had a good deal of amateur doctoring to do, both for himself and others, when out in the bush. He gave me a vivid description of how on one occasion his horse, usually a quiet animal, first threw him against the trunk of a tree, breaking his leg in two places, and then, instead of standing still for him to remount, bolted off to the station, seven miles away. Mr. Schramud crawled to the nearest tree, stripped some bark off with his knife, padded it as well as he could with some portion of his garments, and with two straps which he fortunately found in his pocket strapped his leg up, making what he described as an excellent splint or cradle. He then proceeded to drag himself on his hands and knees through the bush towards the station, a terrible journey, for he had not a drop of water or food of any kind with him. Some hours passed before the people at the station, seeing his horse come home riderless and guessing an accident, set out to trace the tracks of the horse through the bush by the light of a lantern, and found him with much difficulty.
We had great trouble in getting up our anchors this morning, for they were fouled in every possible way, and it was nearly eleven before we started and were fairly steaming through Albany Pass towards Cape Yorke, on our way to the Thursday Island group. Cape Yorke has been described as the seat of Government in these parts, but is a melancholy looking place, and can never have been of any importance. Tom did not quite like taking the inner and shorter channel to Thursday Island, so we went to the north of Wednesday and Hammond Islands, and arrived at the back of Goode Island, where there is a signal-station and lighthouse, from which they signalled a kind welcome and an offer of a pilot, which was declined with thanks. We then rounded the island and proceeded to Normanby Sound close to Friday Island, and, after a tremendous tussle with the tide, finally reached Thursday Island and anchored in Normanby Sound just off Port Kennedy, the name given to the capital of the island, after the late Governor of Queensland.
Thursday Island is one of an extensive and intricate group. The chief building material used in the settlement is corrugated iron, embellished by verandahs supported on wooden posts and nattily painted, making the little dwellings look both pretty and comfortable. The Residency is a larger bungalow on the top of a little hill, and half a dozen fairly good houses cluster round it. Then comes a row of stores along the sea-face, and a few more houses stand at the back. A soft sandy track runs in front of the stores, but there are no roads, and consequently no vehicles, and no draught beasts. There is no communication, except from the visits of occasional steamers, nor are any provisions obtainable, except canned meat and fruits. The vegetables are grown by the invaluable Chinese, on some of the islands opposite. Even the water, of which the supply is scanty, is condensed. The only servants available are people of colour. The ladies have to do everything for themselves, and children of eleven and twelve years are frequently trained by the force of circumstances to become as good cooks and housemaids as many a well-paid servant at home. A gentleman living here said to me the other day, 'How little do our sisters in England know the way we live in some of the colonies! I am very glad you have come out, Lady Brassey, for you will be able to describe, as we cannot in letters, the really hard, rough life we lead here.' For those who are well and strong, and can enjoy roughing it, constantly knocking about in a small schooner from island to island, with often nothing to eat except cocoa-nuts and yams, the life is not intolerable; but for those who are delicate, and not able to bear without suffering these conditions, it is indeed a very hard life. The women who bravely face these hardships deserve all our admiration and sympathy. In spite of the great difficulties, they manage to maintain a high standard of education and refinement. Truly their lives read a lesson to us all, and teach us how much there is to be thankful for, and how little real cause we have to grumble at many things about which we make a fuss.
Mr. Milman, the Resident, and Mr. Symes, the Commissioner of Customs, called upon us soon after our arrival, and took the rest of the party on shore to lawn-tennis, which must be a great resource here, for there is no sport of any kind. Mr. Milman has made a good tennis-court, and anybody who likes can play there every afternoon. The society on Thursday Island consists of two resident ladies, supplemented by occasional visitors, and six gentlemen. Besides this handful of English, Mr. Hall lives on Prince of Wales' Island, and Captain and Mrs. Stevens on Goode Island.
Mr. Milman was anxious to take us to Murray and Darnley Islands, in his little steamer the 'Albatross,' but she is at present looking for escaped convicts from New Caledonia, and it seems doubtful when she will return. The story about these escaped convicts is rather interesting. A boat's crew landed here the other day, with four men, who stated they were shipwrecked mariners. They were all examined separately, and told such inconsistent stories (even differing as to whether their ship had one, two, or three masts), that suspicion was aroused. Some were Italians, but one appeared to be a Frenchman, though he pretended not to understand a word of the language. They are undoubtedly escaped convicts from New Caledonia. Two own to having had another man with them, and say that when they landed he disappeared. The others will not acknowledge that the party was ever more than four in number, but the blacks have since reported finding a body on the beach twelve miles from where these men landed, near Somerset. There are still five men wandering about, who were hospitably entertained and furnished with food and clothes by Mr. Jardine, at Somerset, before he knew who they were, and three others were compelled to go on board the 'Claremont' lightship, through want of food, and were promptly shipped off to gaol in Brisbane. The 'Albatross' was the little steamer we saw lying alongside the lightship at Piper Island, on the 19th inst. She was then on her way to search all the reefs and islands for the five missing men. I hope it will not be long before they are brought in, for, independent of any other crimes they have committed, they must almost certainly have been guilty of a most brutal murder, and have killed their own comrade. It is wonderful how so many of these men escape. It is difficult to understand how they can procure boats, provisions, and sufficient water for the voyage of over 2,500 miles, that being about the distance from New Caledonia to Rockhampton or Cooktown. The run between New Caledonia and Australia is dead to leeward before the trade-winds.
PRINCE OF WALES' ISLAND.
Tuesday, August 23rd.—I had a better night, and awoke feeling much refreshed. Most of the party went early ashore to see what this uninteresting town is like. Tom spent a busy morning with Mr. Milman, going into statistics, fortification questions, and so forth. In the afternoon we steamed across to the pearl-shell station on Prince of Wales' Island, managed by Mr. Hall. He has a nice bungalow there, and seems very busy and happy in his occupation, contriving to keep good friends with all the 'boys,' as the coloured labourers from Manilla, China, the South Sea Islands, and other places are called. These 'boys' are now busily occupied in unloading the shells from the boats and cleaning and preparing them for the market, which latter process we had come to see to-day. First we went to a small shed where about half a dozen 'boys' were employed, some in chopping and scraping the shells in order to reduce their weight, whilst others were washing and cleaning them with brushes made from the outside of the cocoa-nut husk, which, when split into strips, is excellent for the purpose, as it scrapes and polishes the shells without scratching them. The boxes stood ready outside for packing, each holding about two cwt. of shells, valued at 11l. per cwt. The number of shells varies according to their size, from sixty to sixty-five fitting into each box. On a table in the middle of the shed the shells were being quickly packed and nailed up, ready for exportation. They are just now higher in price, on account of the disaster on the north-west coast of Western Australia, which has temporarily crippled that rival station. From the cleaning and packing shed we went to another, where the diving apparatus is kept. This was sent out from England, and is exactly the same as that in use everywhere, being made to fit tightly round the ankles, wrists, and neck, with an immense superfluity of space in the middle to hold a storage of air. Besides this heavy dress, divers wear a belt with a large knife stuck into it, to cut themselves free from any obstacle their ropes may get foul of, and they also have a hook, to which their air-pipe is attached. In addition to an enormous pair of leaden boots, two heavy pieces of lead are suspended over their shoulders, one piece lying on their chest and the other on their back. They descend with great rapidity, and can walk, with the current, on the bottom easily enough; but woe betide them if the tender is not careful, for if their air-line catches in anything it is absolutely impossible for them to make any headway against the tide. Unless the men above are quick and clever enough to repair the mistake promptly, they are lost.
Mr. Hall had kindly prepared tea for us at his house, but I wished to return on board, and so deferred my visit until a future occasion. On returning to our anchorage we had quite a business to stem the tide, and took a long time to reach our destination. The others arrived in time to go on shore and have a game of lawn-tennis, an amusement which they all much enjoy, and which does them a great deal of good in the intervals of their voyages. Mr. Milman dined with us and told me a great many interesting things about his island, and afterwards the gentlemen had some good games of whist. I have at last heard the real story of the opals, for Mr. Milman's overseer was the first to bring in a piece of opal off the Blackall station on the Listowel Downs, in 1869. The beautiful fragment stood on the mantelpiece for several years before it was thought of any value, but at the time of the great mining fever attention was attracted to the specimen, and it was sent to a mineralogist, who pronounced it to be a fine and valuable opal. The story struck me as being very similar to that told of the first diamond found in South Africa; but doubtless there is a strong family likeness in the early history of all gem-bearing districts.
Wednesday, August 24th.—At ten o'clock this morning Mr. Milman came on board, and we proceeded down the Sound to Goode Island, where we anchored about half a mile from the shore. Tom, Tab, Mabelle, and Mr. Milman landed at once, and walked up to the lighthouse to take a bird's-eye view of this extensive archipelago and to discuss the best method of defence, about which Mr. Milman was anxious to know Tom's opinion. Later on I landed with the rest of the party, and we went to see Captain and Mrs. Stevens, the former of whom is the manager of the pearl-fishing station here. I then returned with Mrs. Stevens and her children to lunch on board the yacht. Whilst I was still lying down to rest I heard a bustle on deck as if the dinghy were being lowered, and as I wanted to send a message on shore I called to them to stop. In reply they told me that 'Sir Roger' was swimming off to the yacht, and that not a moment must be lost in trying to save him. It did not tend to calm my fears when Mrs. Stevens told me that the bay was perfectly full of sharks, and that she herself had lost a fine dog not a month ago under similar circumstances. Poor old 'Sir Roger' swam bravely out, keeping his head well above the water; but what with the fear of the strong current dashing him against the sharp coral reefs, and the dread of seeing him dragged under by the snags of a ferocious shark, I spent a bad quarter of an hour. At last I saw him pulled safely into the boat. I have been so ill lately, and necessarily left so much alone when the others were on shore, that my dog has become more than ever a companion to me, and never leaves my chair or bed for an instant if he can possibly help it. He had been fairly driven away this morning to accompany Tom on his long walk to the lighthouse, for I knew the outing would do him good. Halfway up the hill he refused to follow any further, and bolted back, in a straight line, to the beach, and had actually swum more than halfway to the yacht before he was picked up. I should hardly have thought a dog could identify the vessel at so great a distance.
Those of the party who had been left on shore came off to a late lunch, and shortly afterwards we got up our anchor and steamed back towards Thursday Island. This was again a work of great difficulty, for the tide ran eight or nine knots an hour, and a stiff gale was blowing against us. Once or twice, in the narrows, we positively stood still for five or ten minutes at a time, and the chief engineer was considerably chaffed about his beloved engines not moving the vessel ahead at all. We reached our anchorage safely at half-past four, and soon afterwards many people came off to the yacht. I was too tired to see them, but I am told they appeared greatly interested in their inspection. Some of our own party went ashore in the afternoon to lawn-tennis, and Mr. Milman came back with them to dinner.
Thursday, August 25th.—We were to have been off, first at daybreak, and then at 9 A.M. When Mr. Milman and Mrs. Hunt, the wife of the missionary, whom we were going to convey to Darnley Island, appeared on board, it was blowing a strong gale of wind nearly dead in our teeth, and the voyage did not offer a very cheerful prospect. As we had made all arrangements, we thought it better to proceed. At half-past six we started, and, passing Ninepin Rock and Saddle Island, soon found ourselves in a channel full of reefs, rocks, islands, islets, and dangers seen and unseen, which made the navigation an anxious task for Tom. He was ably assisted by Mr. Milman. It was a most unpleasant morning, and, keeping quietly down in my berth, I think I was better off than some of those on deck. After passing Ninepin and Saddle Islands, and the three island-sisters, Poll, Bet, and Sue, we made Cocoa-nut Island, one of the few high islands we have seen to-day. During the afternoon the navigation continued to be intricate, but shortly after sunset we made York Islands, under the lee of the larger of which we anchored for the night in tolerably sheltered water. The York Islands are two in number, connected with each other at low water by a sandy spit. A semicircular reef four miles long and nearly two miles broad extends along the south side of the islands, the larger of which is one and a half mile long, and lies towards the western end of the reef, while the other is on its north-eastern extremity. There are only two white men living on York Islands; one is an English gentleman, and the other bears the name of Yankee Ned. He is the proud possessor of a telescope which, he declares, belonged either to Captain Cook or Admiral La Perouse. It bears marks of great antiquity, but there is no name or descriptive mark to show that it ever really was used by such distinguished navigators. These two men have a very large beche-de-mer station here, which they manage with the aid of some natives, and make over 1,000l. a year out of it.
Friday, August 26th.—The wind was blowing stronger than ever to-day at daylight. We got under weigh at six as prearranged, but were no sooner out of the shelter of the island than Tom came to ask if it would not be better, on my account, to turn back, for we should have fifty miles or more beating dead in the wind's eye to Murray Island, besides which the weather was so thick that we should have some difficulty in seeing the unsurveyed coral reefs through which we must pass. The only objection to this course was that we had promised to convey Mrs. Hunt to her new mission station at Murray Island. We finally decided to proceed as far as Darnley Island, which we should necessarily pass on the way to Murray Island; so, passing Campbell, Stevens, and Nepean Islands, at which innumerable cross-bearings were taken, we anchored off Darnley Island precisely at half-past ten. It is very pretty as seen from the sea, with large groves of cocoa-nut trees growing right down to the shore. On the higher ground the cleared slopes of grass give it at a distance something of the look of an English park. At half-past eleven we all landed, being only too glad to have dry land once more beneath our feet, after the shaking and tossing about of the last twenty-four hours. All our anxieties as to Mrs. Hunt were relieved by seeing her husband's schooner, the 'Mary,' riding quietly at anchor in the bay. The difficulties of landing were great, for the tide was low and the poor gig kept bumping against the coral-reefs and rocks to such an extent that I was afraid she would have a hole knocked in her bottom. However, some of the natives came out to help us, and, wading waist-deep in the water, guided us into a small channel, and from thence carried us one by one ashore. I was borne in my chair straight to the house of the chief, who is called King Jack, and who, with his wife, was anxious to welcome and shake hands with us all. The flag flying before his trim little cottage—red with a yellow cross—did not satisfy King Jack at all, so we promised him a blue Jack for use on future festive occasions.
At the back of the village a grove of cocoa-nuts waving in the strong sea-breeze put me in mind of a South Sea island, such as we so often landed on in going round the world in 1870. Even the dress of the natives was just the same, consisting of the original long George II. sack, brought out by the first missionaries, with its original shape somewhat lost and altered by the lapse of long years and the variety of hands through which the pattern has passed. We rested in the back garden for some time. The chief's men climbed the trees and brought us down fresh cocoa-nuts, giving us the milk and the nice creamy substance which lines the shell when the nuts are quite young. This is most delicious, and is a dainty one never has a chance of tasting in England, for it is quite different to the dried-up and aged cocoa-nuts to be procured from Covent Garden. We took some photographs of the groups of natives and of the curious native boats, hollowed out of a single trunk, which were lying pulled up on the shore before us. The larger canoes are made from timber grown in New Guinea, which must be much larger than any trees we saw growing on the island. After a short delay I was carried by some native policemen through a little village consisting of a few circular and oblong houses made of plaited grass and thatch, all of which had been so familiar to one's eyes in the South Seas. It was quite like old times to see these dwellings again, and some of them were actually occupied by genuine South Sea Islanders—Kanakas. The men of these islands are very similar in appearance to that race, though I think the type here is finer.
At the end of the village stood the missionary's house, which was a superior abode to the others. It has been built and is kept for the use of white missionaries when they come over from the other islands. The native teachers generally live in a little grass hut at the side, and content themselves with gazing at the 'mansion'—a small dwelling, consisting of only one main room and two side-rooms off it, with deep verandahs all round. The native teacher is a well-educated Kanaka. His wife is of the same race, and is pleasant and agreeable. She seemed to keep her house, hut, and children very tidy. Our path led up from here through banana and cocoa-nut groves, with an undergrowth of sweet potatoes, to the top of a little hill about 150 feet high. Close to the rather dilapidated native church we found a beautiful sward of grass shaded by cocoa-nut trees, where we established ourselves to rest and look at the view. After a time the others joined us, and we took some photographs before lunch, and then the party went off in different directions—some to the windward beach to see what shells could be collected; but they were not very successful in their quest, the violence of the waves having either killed or broken most of the specimens found. Others went clambering up to the top of the high hills; while Mr. Milman sat in my carrying-chair and held a sort of open-air court. The natives formed a picturesque group on the grass around him. He found out all the news of the place since he had last been here, and inquired into the administration of justice in a sort of pigeon-English somewhat difficult to understand.
There was only one crime to report. A poor woman had been guilty of what they called 'telling tales'—namely, saying that the laws of Murray Island were good, but that at Darnley Island they were 'very bad.' For this the old chief, King Jack, promptly fined her 200 cocoa-nuts, which, by the way, we bought for 10s., knowing what a welcome addition they will prove to our own and the crew's diet, for fresh vegetables are difficult to procure. Mr. Milman has taken the precaution of planting these islands with cocoa-nuts, and he allows the people to keep a certain number, so that there is a definite and just way of punishing them if they offend against the law, by fining them so many cocoa-nuts. The money paid for the cocoa-nuts goes into the national exchequer; and although the amount realised is not large, as may be imagined, it contributes to the cost of repairs or improvements.
During the afternoon 'Sir Roger' performed some of his tricks for the amusement of the assembled natives. Their delight was intense and unbounded. Though he may have had a more crowded, he never had a more enthusiastic, audience. The performance was repeated several times, but the natives never seemed to weary of it. I thoroughly enjoyed the trip to the island to-day, and found it delicious to lie lazily under the shade of the cocoa-nut trees and listen to just as much or as little as I liked of what was going on round me. The rustle of the wind through the long leaves of the cocoa-nut trees is far more calm and peaceful than even the murmur of the 'immemorial elms;' and the glimpses of the sea, dotted by small islands and coral reefs, on which the waves broke in beautiful creamy foam, were most lovely. About four o'clock we went down again to the village, passing through tracts of cultivated ground bearing crops of sweet potatoes. On our way we paused to admire the church bell—an ancient dinner-bell, which hung by a piece of string from the longest and scraggiest arm of a very old and leafless tree. All the rest of the party were assembled on the beach, and a brisk trade was being done in corals, shells, and cocoa-nuts, paid for in tobacco, which the islanders much prefer to money. The teacher's wife was made happy by the gift of a reel of white cotton and a packet of needles, which will enable her to carry out her dressmaking operations and repairs with much greater ease. Her eyes quite glistened as she took them. Mr. Savage told me that the two Regina birds-of-paradise tails which I bought to-day were obtained from a native of New Guinea who lives on the island of Peram, at the mouth of the Fly River. From this man's account, the birds must abound there; but I cannot help regretting that the poor creatures should be sacrificed merely to line the cloaks of rich ladies.
While we were up on the hill the crew had been engaged in procuring water to replenish our fast-failing stock. They had had great labour in bringing off the water, for the well is half a mile from the beach, and the sea was very rough. We only got a ton after all, when we should have liked a dozen or fourteen tons! Soon after our return on board a number of boats followed us, laden with baskets of sweet potatoes, yams, pumpkins, cocoa-nuts, shells, coral, &c. So great was the supply that the deck of the ship soon became covered with native produce, the owners of which, like all true savages, considered it a matter of etiquette and dignity not to express the least surprise or astonishment at anything they saw, although somewhat taken aback by the pictures and large looking-glasses. They were very pleasant and obedient, doing exactly what they were told without touching anything.
Though feeling much the better for my outing, I became tired, and was glad to lie down and rest in the deck-house. The little mission schooner, the 'Mary,' with a dove and olive-branch on her flag as a message of peace, was tossing and rolling about in the most unpleasant manner, exposing her keel at almost every wave, first to windward and then to leeward. Her captain and crew, a fine, determined-looking set of Kanaka men, did not seem to mind the sea at all. I pity poor Mr. and Mrs. Hunt, who will have to make their voyage to Murray Island to-morrow in the teeth of this heavy wind. Mrs. Hunt remained on shore, but Mr. Hunt and Mr. Savage came on board to dinner; and from Mr. Savage I heard a good deal of his work among the natives. The station here is comparatively small, but at Murray Island a training-school for native teachers has been established, that island being somewhat larger than this, surrounded by live coral reefs, and containing about 400 inhabitants. Their principal field of mission operations among the natives appears to be in the Fly River in New Guinea, which is a most unhealthy spot. Their work is now beginning to be attended with a large measure of success. At first no attempt was made to teach the Papuans English. The missionaries were the only people who could communicate with the natives. The ignorance of English proved a great drawback to all trade, and it has certainly retarded for years to come the opening up of the country. Not only is the climate bad, but the natives of New Guinea are treacherous, and not to be depended on for a moment.