Narrative Of The Voyage Of H.M.S. Rattlesnake, Commanded By The Late Captain Owen Stanley, R.N., F.R.S. Etc. During The Years 1846-1850. Including Discoveries And Surveys In New Guinea, The Louisiade
by John MacGillivray
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It was originally intended that an account of the Surveying Voyage of H.M.S. Rattlesnake should have been undertaken conjointly by the late Captain Owen Stanley and myself, in which case the narrative would have been constructed from the materials afforded by the journals of both, and the necessary remarks upon hydrographical subjects would have been furnished by that officer, whose lamented death in March, 1850, prevented this arrangement from being carried out. Not having had access to Captain Stanley's private journals, I considered myself fortunate, when the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty—in addition to sanctioning the publication of my account of the Voyage in question—directed that every facility should be afforded me in consulting the manuscript charts and other hydrographical results at their disposal, and to Rear-Admiral Sir F. Beaufort, C.B., Commander C.B. Yule, R.N., and Lieutenant J. Dayman, R.N., I beg to express my thanks for the liberal manner in which they carried out their Lordships' intentions.

To the other gentlemen who have contributed Appendices to this work—George Busk, Esquire F.R.S., Dr. R.G. Latham, Professor Edward Forbes, F.R.S., and Adam White, Esquire, F.L.S.—I have also to offer my best thanks. It also affords me great pleasure to record my obligations to T. Huxley, Esquire R.N., F.R.S., late Assistant-Surgeon of the Rattlesnake, for the handsome manner in which he allowed me to select from his collection of drawings those which now appear as illustrations; and I may express the hope, which in common with many others I entertain, that the whole of his researches in marine zoology may speedily be laid before the scientific world. My own collections in Natural History have been submitted to the examination of various eminent naturalists. Many of the novelties have already been described, and the remainder will appear from time to time.



Objects of the Voyage. Admiralty Instructions. Hydrographer's Instructions. Sail from Plymouth. Arrive at Madeira. Funchal. Visit to Curral. Try for Deep Sea Soundings. Crossing the Line. Arrive at Rio de Janeiro. City of Rio and Neighbourhood. Dredging in Botafogo Bay. Slavery. Religious Processions. Brazilian Character. Cross the South Atlantic. Temperature of the Sea. Oceanic Birds. Pelagic Animals. Arrive at Simon's Bay. Survey the Bay. Caffre War. Observations on the Waves. Arrive at Mauritius. Port Louis. Visit to Pamplemousses. La Pouce Mountain. Try for Deep Sea Soundings. Arrive at Hobart Town.


Arrive at Sydney. Bramble is attached to the Expedition. Survey Entrance of Port Jackson and Twofold Bay. Sail upon our First Northern Cruise. Arrive at Moreton Bay. Proceedings there. Natives at Moreton Island. Arrive at Port Curtis. Settlement of North Australia. Excursions made in Neighbourhood. Natural Productions. Call at the Percy Isles. Port Molle and Cape Upstart. Unable to find Fresh Water. Return to Sydney. Recent Occurrences there. Sail for Bass Strait. Visit Port Phillip and Port Dalrymple. Inspect the Lighthouses of the Strait.


Sail on our Second Northern Cruise. Entrance to the Inner Passage. Arrive at Rockingham Bay. Land Mr. Kennedy's Expedition. Commence the Survey at Dunk Island. Communication with Natives. Barnard Isles. Botanical Sketch. Examine a New River. Frankland Isles. Find the Cocoanut Palm. Fitzroy Island. The Will-o-the-Wisp and her Story. Trinity Bay. Animals of a Coral Reef. Stay at Lizard Island. Howick, Pelican, and Claremont Isles. Bird Isles. Meet party of Natives in Distress. Cairncross Island. Arrive at Cape York.


Water the Ship. Vessel with Supplies arrives. Natives at Cape York. Description of the Country and its Productions. Port Albany considered as a Depot for Steamers. Sail from Cape York and arrive at Port Essington. Condition of the Place. History of the Settlement. Would be useless as a Colony. Aborigines. Leave Port Essington. Arrive at Sydney.


Fate of Kennedy's Expedition. Sail on our Third Northern Cruise. Excursion on Moreton Island. History of Discoveries on the South-East Coast of New Guinea and the Louisiade Archipelago, from 1606 to 1846. Find the Shores of the Louisiade protected by a Barrier Reef. Beautiful appearances of Rossel Island. Pass through an opening in the Reef, and enter Coral Haven. Interview with Natives on Pig Island. Find them treacherously disposed. Their mode of Fishing on the Reefs. Establish a system of Barter alongside the Ship. Description of the Louisiade Canoes, and mode of management. Find a Watering Place on South-East Island. Its Scenery and Productions. Suspicious conduct of the Natives. Their Ornaments, etc. described.


Leave Coral Haven. Brierly Island. Communication with the Natives. Description of their Huts. Bartering for Yams and Cocoa-nuts. Suspicious conduct of the Natives. They attack the Surveying Boats. Calvados Group. Further communication with the Inhabitants. Stay at Duchateau Islands. Their Productions. Proceedings there. Duperre Islands. Unable to find Anchorage. Pass out to Sea, and proceed to the Westward. Western termination of the Louisiade Archipelago. Reach the Coast of New Guinea.


Brumer Islands. Catamarans and Canoes. Friendly relations with the Natives of New Guinea. Are well received at their Village. Tatooing and Dress of the Women. The Huts described. Large Canoe from the Mainland. Tassai ladies return our visit. The Natives described. Their Weapons, Ornaments, Food, etc. Cul de Sac de l'Orangerie, and Communication with the Natives. Redscar Bay and its Inhabitants. Leave the Coast of New Guinea. Arrive at Cape York.


Rescue a white Woman from Captivity among the Natives. Her History. Bramble and boats complete the Survey of Torres Strait. Wini and the Mulgrave Islanders. Intercourse with the Cape York Natives. Nearly quarrel with them at a night dance. Witness a Native fight. Discover some fine country. Incidents of our stay. Many new Birds found. Remarks on the Climate, etc. of Cape York.








CUTTING THROUGH THE SCRUB AT ROCKINGHAM BAY. T. Huxley, delt. Hullmandel & Walton, Lithographers. T. & W. Boone, Publishers, London. 1852.






VIEW IN WATERING CREEK, SOUTH-EAST ISLAND, LOUISIADE ARCHIPELAGO. T. Huxley, delt. Hullmandel & Walton, Lithographers. T. & W. Boone, Publishers, London. 1852.


HUT ON BRIERLY ISLAND, LOUISIADE ARCHIPELAGO. T. Huxley, delt. Hullmandel & Walton, Lithographers. T. & W. Boone, Publishers, London. 1852.





VILLAGE OF TASSAI, NEW GUINEA. Hullmandel & Walton, Lithographers. T. & W. Boone, Publishers, London. 1852.







NEW ZOOPHYTES. C. Busk, delt. W. Wing, lith. T. & W. Boone, Publishers, London. 1852. Hullmandel & Walton, Lithographers.




Objects of the Voyage. Admiralty Instructions. Hydrographer's Instructions. Sail from Plymouth. Arrive at Madeira. Funchal. Visit to Curral. Try for Deep Sea Soundings. Crossing the Line. Arrive at Rio de Janeiro. City of Rio and Neighbourhood. Dredging in Botafogo Bay. Slavery. Religious Processions. Brazilian Character. Cross the South Atlantic. Temperature of the Sea. Oceanic Birds. Pelagic Animals. Arrive at Simon's Bay. Survey the Bay. Caffre War. Observations on the Waves. Arrive at Mauritius. Port Louis. Visit to Pamplemousses. La Pouce Mountain. Try for Deep Sea Soundings. Arrive at Hobart Town.

H.M.S. Rattlesnake, one of the old class of 28-gun ships, was commissioned at Portsmouth on September 24th, 1846, by the late Captain Owen Stanley, with a complement of 180 officers and men. The nature and objects of the intended voyage will best be conveyed to the reader through the medium of the following instructions from the Admiralty, for the use of which I am indebted to Lieutenant C.B. Yule, who succeeded to the command of the Rattlesnake, upon the death of our late lamented Captain, at Sydney, in March 1850, after the successful accomplishment of the principal objects of the expedition.


Whereas, it being the usual practice of vessels returning from the Australian Colonies, or from the South Sea, to proceed to India through Torres Strait; and most of those vessels preferring the chance of finding a convenient opening in the Barrier Reefs to the labour of frequent anchorage in the Inshore Passage, it was thought fit to send out an expedition under Captain Francis Blackwood, to determine which was the best opening that those reefs would afford, and to make such a survey thereof as would ensure the safety of all vessels which should continue to adopt that mode of reaching the Strait:

And whereas, although that specific object was successfully achieved by the survey of Raine Island Passage, and by the erection of a durable beacon there to render it the more accessible, yet it appears that much is still to be done in those seas in order to make the approach to the Strait more secure and certain, as well as to afford the choice of another entrance farther to the northward in case of vessels overshooting the latitude of Raine Island by stress of wind, or current:

We have, therefore, thought proper to appoint you to the command of the Rattlesnake, for the purpose of carrying out these objects; and you are here by required and directed, when that ship is in every respect ready for sea, to proceed in her to Madeira for the verification of your chronometers—from thence to Simon's Bay at the Cape of Good Hope, for a supply of water, and to land the 50,000 pounds you have been ordered to convey to that colony; then to make the best of your way to the Mauritius, to land the treasure (15,000 pounds) entrusted to your charge for that island; and having so done, to proceed to King George Sound for the purpose of carrying its exact meridian distance to Sydney, where you will lose no time in preparing for the execution of the important service entrusted to you.

The several objects of that service have been drawn up under our direction by our Hydrographer; but notwithstanding the order in which they are placed, we leave to your own discretion the several periods of their performance, and likewise the times of your return to Sydney to revictual and refit—being satisfied that your zeal in pushing forward the survey will never outstrip your attention to the health and comfort of your crew.

You will take the Bramble and her tender, the Castlereagh, under your orders, and employ them in those places which require vessels of a lighter draft of water than the Rattlesnake. They are to be attached as tenders to the Rattlesnake, and to be manned from that ship; and such of the present crew of the Bramble as may have served five years continuously, and volunteer to remain on the surveying service in Australia, are to be entered in the Rattlesnake under the provisions of the Act of Parliament. The books of the Bramble are to be closed, and she is to be considered as no longer in commission; and you are here by authorised, after being joined by her and by the Castlereagh, to enter ten supernumerary seaman for wages and victuals in the Rattlesnake (making her total complement 190) to enable you effectively to man the said two tenders.

In stretching off from the Barrier Reefs to the eastward, in order to explore the safety of the sea intervening between them and Louisiade and New Guinea, you will have occasion to approach those shores, in which case you must be constantly on your guard against the treacherous disposition of their inhabitants, all barter for refreshments should be conducted under the eye of an officer, and every pains be taken to avoid giving any just cause of offence to their prejudices, especially with respect to their women.

A naturalist having been permitted to accompany you, every reasonable facility is to be given him in making and preserving his collections.

In the event of this country being involved in hostilities during your absence, you will take care never to be surprised; but you are to refrain from any act of aggression towards the vessels or settlements of any nation with which we may be at war, as expeditions employed in behalf of discovery and science have always been considered by all civilised communities as acting under a general safeguard.

You will consider yourself under the command of Rear-Admiral Inglefield, the Commander-in-Chief of Her Majesty's ships and vessels on the East India station, while you are within the limits of that station; and we have signified to him our desire that he should not divert you from the survey, nor interfere with your proceedings, except under the pressure of strong necessity; and that upon all fit occasions he should order you to be supplied with the stores and provisions of which you may stand in need; and all officers senior to yourself, with whom you may fall in, are hereby directed to give you any assistance which may be requisite.

Notwithstanding the 16th article of the 4th section of the 6th chapter of the Admiralty Instructions, you are, besides your reports to your Commander-in-Chief, to send brief accounts to our Secretary of your proceedings, state, and condition: and you will make known to him, in due time, the nature and quantity of any supplies of which you may be absolutely in want, and which may have to be forwarded to you from England.

With our Hydrographer you are by every opportunity in your power to keep up a constant correspondence; you are to report to him in full detail all your proceedings; and you are to transmit to him, whenever possible, tracings of all charts and plans that you may have completed, accompanied by sailing directions, and with notices of any facts or discoveries which may be of interest to navigation.

Having completed the service herein set forth, you are to return in the Rattlesnake, along with the Bramble, to Spithead, when you will receive directions for your further proceedings. If the Bramble should, however, by that time be in an unfit state to undertake the voyage to Europe, it may perhaps be prudent to dispose of her, under the sanction of the Commander-in-Chief.

In the event of any unfortunate accident befalling yourself, the officer on whom the command may in consequence devolve, is hereby required and directed to carry out, as far as in him lies, the foregoing orders and instructions.

Given under our hands, this 1st December 1846.





Captain of her Majesty's Surveying Vessel Rattlesnake, at Plymouth,

By command of their Lordships,

Signed: H.G. WARD.



In connection with the preceding general instructions to Captain Stanley, it will be necessary to give a portion of those more explicit directions furnished by the Hydrographer, Rear-Admiral Sir Francis Beaufort.


On your arrival at Sydney you should take the earliest opportunity of communicating with Lieutenant Yule, in order to learn how much has been executed, by the Bramble and her tender, of the orders which he received from Captain Blackwood, and you will no doubt avail yourself of his long experience in those seas in digesting your plan of future operations.

A letter from the Colonial Office having recently apprised their Lordships that it is the intention of her Majesty's Government to form a new settlement at Hervey Bay, and having requested that it may be duly examined with that view, your first undertaking, after leaving Sydney, should be to repair to that place, and to make an efficient survey of the whole bay, extending it down through the channel into Wide Bay, and marking the best anchorages, the most convenient landing-places, and the several parts where water may be found. And as it appears that Colonel Barney, R.E. is engaged in the same inquiry, it will be prudent to act in concert with him, and to give him a copy of such parts of it as may suit his purposes.

In your way to this district, and indeed on every part of the shores of Australia, you should lose no fair opportunity of verifying the positions—of multiplying the soundings—and of improving the smaller details of the coast as laid down by Captain P.P. King in his excellent Survey, but which he had not time or means to effect with the same accuracy that will be in your power. By carrying on this system of correction and improvement in our present charts from Hervey Bay along the narrow navigation which is generally known by the name of the Inshore Passage, between the coast and the Barrier Reefs, a very great benefit will be conferred on those masters of vessels who would be the more readily inclined to adopt that channel, if certain parts of it were so clearly delineated, and the soundings so spread on either side of the tracks, that they could sometimes continue under sail during the night. However necessary it was, and is, to contribute as much as possible to the safety of those vessels who choose the outer voyage by the Barrier Reefs, it is not the less our duty to facilitate the navigation of the Inshore Passage to all vessels who prefer its tranquillity and security to the risk of the former; and your labours for the accomplishment of this object will prove to be of peculiar importance when steam communication between Singapore and Sydney shall be established.

In the general and searching examination of those parts of the Coral Sea which are likely to be traversed by ships steering for Torres Strait, you will be obliged to regulate your movements by the periodic changes of the weather and monsoons—probably beginning to windward, and dropping gently to leeward by close and well-arranged traverses, and by spreading out your three vessels to a convenient distance apart. This great expanse of sea, which may be said to stretch from Lord Howe's Island to New Caledonia and to the Louisiade, would no doubt require many years work in order to accomplish that object; but, by dividing it into definite zones or squares, and by fully sifting those which you may undertake, a certain quantity of distinct knowledge will be gained. Navigators in crossing those zones will then be sure of their safety, and future surveyors will know exactly on what parts to expend their labours.

In carefully exploring the northernmost, and apparently the safest entrance from the Pacific, which may be called Bligh's Channel, you will connect the islands with a survey of the coast of New Guinea, as well as with the edge of the Warrior Reef, and as there are throughout moderate soundings, you will probably be able to draw up such clear directions as will enable the mariner to use it in moderate weather by night, and to beat through it at all times. Characteristic views of the coast and hills of New Guinea, as well as of each island, both from the eastward and westward, will greatly assist him by the immediate certainty of his landfall, and will also materially add to your means of giving proper marks and bearings for avoiding the dangers.

In Torres Strait you will find much to do—not only has a new rock been discovered in the middle of the Endeavour Channel, but the water in its western opening is only four and a half fathoms, and there seems no reason for not believing that Prince of Wales Channel is safer, easier, and more direct. But before we can decide upon that point, an accurate survey must be made of it, throughout its length and breadth, including the adjacent islands, and showing their anchorages and watering-places, as well as the nature of the soil, and the kind of timber they produce, along with a full investigation of the tides.

The connection of that Strait with Bligh's Farewell should also be examined, for many circumstances may render it highly necessary that the Admiralty should be made aware of what means there are to pass from one ocean to the other, without being observed from Cape York.

On this latter Cape Government have for some time contemplated a station, and it will therefore be very desirable to fix upon a convenient but secure anchorage in its neighbourhood. Our latest surveys do not show much promise of finding such a port; but, perhaps, inside the reefs beyond Peak Point, or more likely between Albany Island and the main, a snug place may be discovered for that purpose.

In tracing out the approach to Bligh's Farewell, you will be led to examine the southern face of New Guinea as far as Cape Valsche; but after verifying the position of this point, it will be prudent to quit the shores of that island, and not to meddle with any part of it over which the Dutch claim jurisdiction.

When you have arrived at this distant point, the south-east monsoon will probably render it necessary to repair to Port Essington for such supplies as may by previous arrangement have been sent there for you from Sydney; or perhaps unforeseen events might render it more expedient to proceed for refreshments to some of the islands in the Arafura Sea, or it is possible to one of the Dutch settlements in Java. And in either of these two latter cases you should make a complete survey of the island to which you have proceeded, or you should select any one of the eastern passages from Bally to Floris most convenient to the object you have in view, and then lay it down with precision. Of the many well-known passages between the innumerable islands of that great Archipelago, there is not one which has ever been charted with plausible accuracy; and it cannot be too strongly impressed on your mind that hydrography is better served by one accurate chart than by ten approximate sketches.

The several objects of this highly interesting expedition having thus been briefly enumerated, I have only to remind you that their Lordships do not prescribe to you the order in which they are to be executed, leaving it to your own prudence, and to your experience in those climates, so to arrange them that each part of your survey shall be complete in itself, and that each step in your progress shall be conducive to its successor.

Signed: F. BEAUFORT,




The Rattlesnake left Spithead on December 3rd, and on the 11th took her final departure from Plymouth, which place we had called at to complete her fittings, swing the ship a second time to ascertain the amount of local attraction, and receive some specie for the Cape of Good Hope and the Mauritius. Being favoured by strong northerly winds, we reached Madeira on December 18th, after a quick, but most uncomfortable passage; during the greater part of which the main and lower decks were partially flooded, owing to the inefficiency of the scuppers, and the leaky state of nearly every port and scuttle in the ship.


December 20th.

The scenery of Madeira has been so often described by voyagers, who, from Cook downwards, have made it the first stage in their circumnavigation of the globe, as to render superfluous more than a few passing allusions. When near enough to distinguish the minor features of the island, the terraced slopes of the mountainsides converted into vineyards and gardens studded with the huts of the peasantry, presented a pleasing aspect to visitors, whom a week's sailing had brought from the snow-clad shores of England. Here and there a whitewashed chapel or picturesque villa lent a charm to the scenery by contrasting strongly with the patches of green upon the slopes, the deep blue of the ocean, and the delicate white of the ever-changing clouds of mist which rolled incessantly along, while the rugged summit of the island, and the deep ravines radiating towards the coast-range of precipitous cliffs, gave an air of wildness to the scene.


The town of Funchal, said to contain about 25,000 inhabitants, is situated upon the slope of an amphitheatre of hills, behind the only anchorage of the island. The finest view is obtained from the balcony of a church dedicated to Nossa Senhora de Monte, situated at a considerable elevation above the town. Here one looks down upon the numerous quintas and cottages of the suburbs embosomed in gardens and vineyards, the orange groves and clumps of chestnut trees, the snow-white houses of Funchal with its churches and public buildings, the citadel frowning over the town, the calm waters of the bay with the vessels at anchor gently heaving to and fro on the long westerly swell, the Ilheo rock and batteries, the bold headlands, and the dim outline of the distant Desertas. Some of the streets are pleasantly shaded by rows of plane-trees (Platanus occidentalis). Several deep ravines passing through the town are carefully walled in, to prevent damage being done by the torrents which occasionally sweep down the mountain, carrying everything before them. From the steepness of the narrow roads and streets, wheeled vehicles can scarcely be used, and sledges drawn by small bullocks supply their place, while the wine, the chief article of export, is conveyed into the town in goat-skins carried on the shoulder.


December 23rd.

Few strangers remain long in Madeira without paying a visit to the Curral, and a large party of us left the ship for that purpose this morning. At first the road led through a series of narrow lanes frequently separated from the fields and vineyards on either side by hedges of roses, honeysuckle, jasmine and fuchsias; now and then passing under successions of trellis-work covered by the vines when in full vigour, and then forming long shady vistas. For several miles we wound our way along the hillsides, down deep ravines, and up steep rocky slopes. In spite of the ruggedness of the path, our horses progressed with wonderful alacrity, although occasionally impeded by the additional weight of the attendant burroqueros holding on by the tail, and laughing at our efforts to dislodge them. On reaching the shoulder of one of the hills, we found the ravines and valleys below us filled with dense mist. Here, at an elevation of 2500 feet, a species of spruce-like pine appeared to thrive well. The path, which at times is not more than three feet wide, now winds along the sides of the mountain with many sharp turnings; heading numerous ravines, the frightful nature of which was partially concealed by the obscurity of the mist.

We halted at the Pass of the Curral, to which Captain Stanley's barometrical observations* assign an elevation of 2700 feet above the sea. Shortly afterwards the mist gradually dissolved, unveiling the magnificent scenery below and around. The Curral gives one the idea of a vast crater** of irregular form, surrounded by a rugged wall (upwards of a thousand feet in height) of grey weather-beaten rock cut down into wild precipices, intersected by ravines and slopes of debris mixed up with masses of crumbling rock, and towering upwards into fantastic peaks. A winding path leads to the bottom—a small fertile valley watered by a streamlet which leaves it by a deep gorge on the left, and forms a picturesque waterfall on its way to the sea. The scattered rustic huts and snow-white chapel of the Curral complete the picture of this peaceful and secluded spot, buried in the very heart of the mountains.

(*Footnote. The height of the Pico dos Bodes, determined in the usual way by the mountain barometer, was found by Lieutenant Dayman to be 3677 feet; his observations on the magnetic dip and intensity (for which see the Appendix) are interesting, as showing a great amount of local attraction at the summit.)

(**Footnote. There is reason to suppose the Curral to have been the principal, although not the only centre of that submarine volcanic action, during the continuance of which Madeira first emerged from the sea, an event, which the evidence afforded by the limestone fossils of St. Vincente (on the north side of the island) associates with the tertiary epoch. See Paper by Dr. J. Macaulay in Edinburgh New Philosophical Journal for October 1840.)

Although it is now the middle of winter, today's excursion afforded many subjects of interest to a naturalist. Some beautiful ferns, of which even the commonest one (Adiantum capillus-veneris) would have been much prized by an English botanist as a very rare British species, occurred on the dripping rocks by the roadside, and many wild plants were in flower on the lower grounds. Even butterflies of three kinds, two of which (Colias edusa and Cynthia cardui) are also found in Britain, occurred, although in small numbers, and at the Pass of the Curral coleoptera of the genera Pimelea and Scarites, were met with under stones along with minute landshells, Bulimus lubricus, Clausilia deltostoma, and a Pupa.


After a stay of eight days, we left Madeira for Rio de Janeiro, and on January 2nd picked up the south-east trade wind, and passed through the Cape de Verde Islands to the southward between Mayo and St. Jago. Two days afterwards, in latitude 9 degrees 30 minutes North, and longitude 22 degrees 40 minutes West, a slight momentary shock, supposed to be the effect of an earthquake, was felt throughout the ship.


On the 11th an attempt was made to strike deep-sea soundings, but failed from the drawing of a splice used to connect two portions of the spun-yarn employed. On the following day the attempt was repeated by Captain Stanley, unsuccessfully, however, no bottom having been obtained at a depth of 2400 fathoms. Still a record of the experiment may be considered interesting. At three P.M., when nearly becalmed in latitude 1 degree North, and longitude 22 degrees 30 minutes West (a few hours previous to meeting the south-east trade) the second cutter was lowered with 2600 fathoms of line (six yarn spun-yarn) in her, coiled in casks, and a weight consisting of twelve 32 pounds shot—in all, 384 pounds, secured in a net bag of spun yarn. The jolly-boat was in attendance to tow the cutter as fast to whirlwind as she drifted, so as to keep the line during the time it was running out as nearly up and down as possible. The following table shows when each 100 fathoms passed over the stern, the whole 2400 fathoms of line having taken 38 minutes and 40 seconds to run out:


100 : 1 0. 200 : 2 5. 300 : 2 30. 400 : 3 35. 500 : 5 0. 600 : 6 15. 700 : 7 35. 800 : 9 0. 900 : 10 35. 1000 : 12 40. 1100 : 13 30. 1200 : 15 10. 1300 : 17 5. 1400 : 19 0. 1500 : 20 50. 1600 : 22 30. 1700 : 24 25. 1800 : 26 30. 1900 : 29 10. 2000 : 31 0. 2100 : 32 55. 2200 : 35 0. 2300 : 36 55. 2400 : 38 40.


The forenoon of January 13th was employed in the performance of the usual ceremonies on crossing the line, a custom now happily falling into desuetude—I allude to it merely for the purpose of mentioning its unfortunate consequences in the present instance; for, although the whole proceeding was conducted with the greatest good humour, we had soon afterwards to lament the occurrence of a fatal case of pleurisy, besides another scarcely less severe, believed by the medical officers to have been induced by forcible and continued submersion in what is technically called the pond, one part of the performance which novices are obliged to submit to during these marine Saturnalia.

The most interesting occurrence in natural history during the passage, in addition to the usual accompaniments of flying fish, dolphins, physaliae and velellae, was our finding, in the neighbourhood of the equator, considerable numbers of a rare British bird, Thalassidroma leachii, a species of storm-petrel, not before known to extend its range to the tropics; it was distributed between the tropic of Cancer and latitude 5 degrees South.

As we approached the South American coast, the rates of several of our seventeen chronometers (fifteen Government and two private ones) were found to have strangely altered, thus reducing the value of our meridian distance between Madeira and Rio; this effect was ascribed to the firing of shotted guns when exercising at general quarters, a practice which in consequence was not afterwards repeated.


January 23rd.

I shall not soon forget my first view of the shores of the new world. The morning was beautifully fine, and with a light breeze scarcely sufficient to cause a ripple on the water, we were slipping past the high and remarkable promontory of Cape Frio, which at first appeared like an island. A long beach of glittering sand stretched away to the westward, and was lost in the distance; behind this a strip of undulating country, clad here and there in the richest green, was backed by a range of distant wooded hills, on which many clumps of palms could be distinguished. Few harbours in the world present a more imposing entrance than that of Rio de Janeiro. Several islands lie off the opening, and on either side the coast range terminates in broken hills and ridges of granite, one of which, Pao d'Acucar, the Sugarloaf of the English, rises at once from near the water's edge to the height of 900 feet, as an apparently inaccessible peak, and forms the well-known landmark for the entrance.

Passing the narrows (where the width is a mile and a quarter) strongly guarded by fortifications, of which Fort Santa Cruz, an extensive work, with several tiers of guns occupying a rocky point, is the principal, the harbour widens out with beautiful sandy bays on either side, and rocky headlands covered with luxuriant vegetation. Here the view of the city of Rio de Janeiro is magnificent. The glare of the red-tiled buildings, whitewashed or painted yellow, is relieved by the varied beauty of the suburbs and gardens, and the numerous wooded eminences crowned by churches and other conspicuous public edifices. Beyond the city the harbour again widens out to form an immense basin, studded with green islands, extending backwards some seventeen or eighteen miles further towards the foot of the Organ Mountains, remarkable for their pinnacled summits, the highest of which attains an elevation of 7800 feet above the sea.

The harbour presented a busy scene from our anchorage. The water was alive with small craft of every description, from the large felucca-rigged boat down to the fishing canoe simply constructed of a hollowed-out log, and steamers crowded with passengers plied between the city and the opposite shore. The seabreeze died away, and was succeeded by a sultry calm; after a short interval, the grateful land wind, laden with sweet odours, advanced as a dark line slowly stealing along the surface of the water, and the deep boom of the evening gun echoing from hill to hill may be said appropriately to have closed the scene.


Landing at the Largo do Paco, or palace square, my first favourable impressions of the city of Rio de Janeiro were somewhat lessened by the stench arising from offal on the beach, and the vicinity of the market, under the conjoined influence of a perfect calm and a temperature of 90 degrees in the shade. The palace, now used by the emperor only on court days, has two sides of the large irregular square in which it is situated, occupied by shops and other private buildings. Close by is the market, which the stranger, especially if a naturalist, will do well to visit. The variety of fruits and vegetables is great, that of fish scarcely less so. On the muddy shore in the background, the fishing canoes are drawn up on their arrival to discharge their cargoes, chiefly at this time consisting of a kind of sprat and an anchovy with a broad lateral silvery band. Baskets of land crabs covered with black slimy mud, of handsome Lupeae, and the large well-flavoured prawns, called Cameroons, are scattered about, and even small sharks (Zygaenae, etc.) and cuttlefish are exposed for sale.

The streets, which, with few exceptions, are very narrow, are paved with large rough stones—they have usually a gutter in the centre, and occasionally a narrow pavement on each side. For building purposes, unhewn granite is chiefly used, the walls being afterwards smoothed over with a layer of plaster, whitewashed, and margined with yellow or blue. The two principal streets are the Rua Direita, the widest in the city, and the principal scene of commercial transactions, and the narrow Rua do Ouvidor, filled with shops, many of which equal in the richness and variety of their goods the most splendid establishments of European capitals. Of these the most tempting, and the most dangerous to enter with a well-filled purse, is the famous feather-flower manufactory of Mme. Finot, where the gorgeous plumage of humming birds and others of the feathered tribe is fabricated into wreaths and bouquets of all kinds. Although the absence of sewerage is everywhere apparent, the town is well supplied with water from numerous large fountains, filled by pipes from an aqueduct five or six miles in length, communicating with the Corcovado mountain. One is struck with the comparative absence of wheeled vehicles in the streets of Rio. Now and then a clumsy caleche is driven past by a negro postillion, in blue livery and jackboots, riding a second horse yoked outside the shafts, and omnibuses drawn by four or six mules, are not infrequently met with, and seem to be much patronised.

Many of the walks in the neighbourhood of the city are exceedingly beautiful; one of the pleasantest leads along the line of the aqueduct. Here the botanist fresh from Europe, will find subjects of interest at every step, and the entomologist may revel to his heart's content among gaudily coloured Heliconiae, Hesperiae, and Erycinae, or watch the larger butterflies of the restricted genus Papilio, slowly winging their lazy flight among the trees just beyond the reach of his insect net. A common butterfly here (Peridromia amphinome) has the singular habit of frequenting the trunks and limbs of the trees where it rests with expanded wings, and generally manages adroitly to shift its position, and escape when swept at with the net. Some large dark Cicadae are common among the branches, and the air often resounds with their harsh grating cries, especially towards evening. On the trunks of various trees along the path, especially a thorny-stemmed Bombax, the pretty Bulimus papyraceus is common, with an occasional B. auris-leporis, but I never during my walks was so fortunate as to find any of the more magnificent of the Brazilian landshells—for example, B. ovalis, a noble species, four or five inches in length, of which I have bought live specimens in the market.

Some of the lanes, in which, on one occasion I lost my way, about dusk, would have reminded me of those of the south of England on a fine autumnal eve, were it not for the scattered palms and papaw trees in the hedgerows, and the hedges themselves occasionally consisting of the coffee plant, concealing clumps of banana and sugar-cane. The Cicadae were singing their evening hymn from the branches overhead, and in due time the fireflies came out in all their glory.


I had looked forward with eager anticipation to the result of the first dredging of the Voyage. None of the ship's boats could be spared, so I hired one pulled by four negro slaves, who, although strong active fellows, had great objections to straining their backs at the oar, when the dredge was down. No sieve having been supplied, we were obliged to sift the contents of the dredge through our hands—a tedious and superficial mode of examination. Still some fine specimens of a curious flat sea-urchin (Encope marginata) and a few shells, encouraged us to persevere. Two days after, Mr. Huxley and myself set to work in Botafogo Bay, provided with a wire-gauze meat cover, and a curious machine for cleaning rice; these answered capitally as substitutes for sieves, and enabled us by a thorough examination of the contents of the dredge, to detect about forty-five species of mollusca and radiata, some of which were new to science. Among these acquisitions I may mention a new species of Amphioxus, a genus of small fishes exhibiting more anomalies than any other known to ichthyologists, and the lowest organisation found in the class; it somewhat resembles the sand-eels of Britain in habits, like them moving with extraordinary rapidity through the sand. By dint of bribery and ridicule, we had at length managed to get our boatmen to work tolerably well; and when we were alike well roasted by the sun and repeatedly drenched, besides being tired out and hungry, they had become quite submissive, and exchanged their grumbling for merriment. A more lovely spot can scarcely be found, than the secluded bay of Botafogo with its pretty village, and the noble Corcovado mountain immediately behind, and we paid it other visits.


One of the principal characteristics of Rio is slavery. Slaves here perform the work of beasts of burden; and in the business parts of the city the attention of a stranger is sure to be arrested by gangs of them heavily laden, proceeding at a jog-trot, timing their steps to a monotonous song and the noise of a tin rattle filled with stones, carried by their leader. What their domestic condition and treatment may be, I know not, but, among the slaves one sees out of doors, the frequency of iron collars round the neck, and even masks of tin, concealing the lower part of the face, and secured behind with a padlock, would seem to indicate extreme brutality in those capable of resorting to such means of punishment. Yet these, I was told, were rare exceptions, the Brazilians not being worse task-masters than the people of other slave-holding countries—and such may be the case.


Whatever he may think of the true state of religious feeling, it soon becomes obvious to a stranger that great care is taken to celebrate the numerous festivals of the Church with all possible pomp and splendour. One day I happened to encounter a procession in honour of St. Januarius, the patron saint of Rio. The number of ecclesiastics taking a part amounted to several hundreds, and a body of military brought up the rear. The streets and windows were crowded with people in their holiday costume, bands of music were playing, bells were ringing, flowers were scattered about and showered down from the houses. The profusion of tinsel and embroidery was very great, and the balconies and windows in the line of procession were hung with rich brocade in all the colours of the rainbow.


A short stay, such as ours, afforded very limited opportunities of judging of the national character; and my impressions on this point were, probably, often erroneous. The Brazilians and English did not then reciprocate very cordially, on account of the existing state of international relations. Of late years great advances appear to have been made upon the mother-country, judging from the increasing liberality of their institutions, the establishment of commercial relations abroad, the freedom of discussion and influence of the press, the attention paid to public education (especially of the middle classes) the support granted to literature and science, and the declining influence of the priesthood in secular matters. The national character, however, can scarcely be considered as fully formed; the Brazilians have been too recently emancipated from the thraldom of a modified despotism to have made, as yet, any very great progress in developing the elements of national prosperity and greatness which the vast empire of Brazil so abundantly possesses, and the foul blot of slavery, with its debasing influence, still remains untouched.


On February 2nd we sailed from Rio for the Cape of Good Hope. The morning being calm, we were towed out by the boats of the squadron until a light air, the precursor of the seabreeze, set in. While hove-to outside the entrance, a haul of the dredge brought up the rare Terebratula rosea, and a small shell of a new genus, allied to Rissoa. The remainder of the day and part of the succeeding one were spent in a fruitless search for a shoal said to exist in the neighbourhood, to which Captain Stanley's attention had been drawn by Captain Broughton, of H.M.S. Curacao.

At one P.M. of each day, when the weather was favourable, the ship was hove-to for the purpose of obtaining observations on the temperature of the water at considerable depths, under the superintendence of Lieutenant Dayman. As these were continued during our outward voyage as far as Van Diemen's Land, and the number of observations amounted to 69, the results will more clearly be understood if exhibited in a tabular form, for which the reader is referred to the Appendix. "Two of the Sixe's thermometers were attached, one at the bottom of the line of 370 fathoms, the other 150 fathoms higher up. The depth recorded is that given by Massey's patent sounding machine. As the same quantity of line was always used, the difference of depth of each day should be trifling, varying only in proportion to the ship's drift; yet on several occasions the depth recorded by the machine gives as much as 100 fathoms short of the quantity of line let out."*

(*Footnote. Lieutenant Dayman, R.N.)


While engaged in sounding, a process which usually occupied three-quarters of an hour, a boat was always at my service when birds were about the ship, and the state of the sea admitted of going after them—by this means many species of petrels were obtained for the collection. On one of these occasions, owing to a mistake in lowering the stern boat before the ship had quite lost her way through the water, one of the falls could not be unhooked in time; consequently the boat was dragged over on her broadside, and finally capsized with eight people in her. Some reached one of the life-buoys, which was instantly let go, the others managed to roll the boat over and right her, full of water. All were eventually picked up by the leeward quarter-boat; the weather one, from the shortness of the davits, would not clear the ship's side, but turned over on her bilge, dipping in the water, and was rendered ineffective when most wanted. This defect in the davits was afterwards remedied by the substitution of other and longer ones, which had formerly belonged to H.M. steam vessel Thunderbolt, wrecked at Algoa Bay a short time previously.


Among many interesting birds* procured in the above-mentioned manner, I may allude to Puffinus cinereus, a European species of shearwater, which was found to be generally distributed across the South Atlantic between the meridians of 28 degrees West and 1 1/2 degrees East; on two successive days, while in the neighbourhood of Tristan da Cunha, myriads of these birds passed the ship to the westward, apparently coming from that island. A few days afterwards, while 480 miles from the nearest land, we caught a beautiful tern (Sterna melanorhyncha) hitherto considered to be peculiar to Australia.

(*Footnote. For the occurrence of Procellariadae during our outward voyage, with a view to determine the geographical distribution of the species met with by me, see Contributions to Ornithology by Sir W. Jardine, Bart. page 94.)


On several occasions the towing net* produced a rich harvest, especially one day when almost becalmed in latitude 34 degrees 40 minutes South and longitude 4 degrees West. The surface of the water was absolutely teeming with marine animals. Of these a small Physalia and a Velella (V. emarginata ?) were the most plentiful. The latter curious animal, consists of a flat oval expansion, an inch and a half in length, furnished below with numerous cirrhi and a proboscidiform mouth, and above with an obliquely vertical crest, the whole of a rich blue colour with white lines and dots, the soft parts conceal a transparent cartilaginous framework. The crest acts as a tiny sail (hence the name) and communicates to the animal a slow rotatory movement while drifting before the wind. Two kinds of Janthinae (J. globosa and J. exigua) molluscs with a fragile, snail-like shell, and a vesicular float, were drifting about, and, together with a very active, silvery-blue Idotea, half an inch long, prayed upon the Velellae. At another time, among many other pelagic crustacea, we obtained three kinds of Erichthus, a genus remarkable for the glassy transparency of its species, also Hyalaea inflexa and H. tridentata, curious pteropodous molluscs which swim near the surface.

(*Footnote. Not having seen a description of this useful instrument, I may mention that the kind used by Mr. Huxley and myself, consisted of a bag of bunting (used for flags) two feet deep, the mouth of which is sewn round a wooden hoop fourteen inches in diameter; three pieces of cord, a foot and a half long, are secured to the hoop at equal intervals and have their ends tied together. When in use the net is towed astern, clear of the ship's wake, by a stout cord secured to one of the quarter-boats or held in the hand. The scope of line required is regulated by the speed of the vessel at the time, and the amount of strain caused by the partially submerged net.)


On March 8th, we anchored in Simon's Bay; our passage from Rio de Janeiro, contrary to expectation, had thus occupied upwards of five weeks, owing to the prevalence of light easterly winds (from north-east to south-east) instead of the westerly breezes to be looked for to the southward of latitude 35 degrees South. We were fortunate, however, in having fine weather during the greater part of that time.

The period of our stay at the Cape of Good Hope was devoted to the construction of a chart of Simon's Bay and its neighbourhood, which has since been incorporated with the previous survey of Captain Sir Edward Belcher in H.M.S. Samarang, and published without acknowledgment. The requisite shore observations were made by Captain Stanley and Mr. Obree, while Lieutenants Dayman and Simpson conducted the sounding. Our detention was lengthened by a succession of south-east gales, and the state of the weather throughout was such that during the period of twenty-one days the sounding boats were able to work on six only—the other fine days were devoted to swinging the ships for magnetical purposes. It was also intended to survey the Whittle shoal in False Bay, but when we sailed, the weather was so thick and unsettled, that Captain Stanley was reluctantly obliged to give it up.


Simon's Town is a small straggling place of scarcely any importance, except in connection with the naval establishment kept up here—dockyard, hospital, etc.—this being the headquarters of the Cape station. It is distant from Cape Town twenty-three miles. The neighbourhood is singularly dreary and barren, with comparatively little level ground, and scarcely any susceptible of cultivation. I have often been struck with the great general similarity between the barren and sandy tracts of this district, and many parts of New South Wales, where sandstone is the prevailing rock. In both countries there are the same low scrubby bushes, at the Cape consisting of Heaths and Proteae, and in Australia of Epacridae and Banksiae—the last the honeysuckles of the Colonists. Even the beautiful sunbirds of the Cape, frequenting especially the flowers of the Proteae, are represented by such of the Australian honeysuckers as resort to the Banksiae.


We found the Cape Colony suffering from the long continuance of the Caffre war. As a natural consequence, the price of everything had risen, and there was little specie left in Cape Town. All the troops had been sent to the frontier; a party of bluejackets from the flagship at one time performed garrison duty at Cape Town; the emergency was so great that even some detachments of troops on their way back to England after long service in India, having put in at the Cape for refreshments, were detained and sent to Algoa Bay. We were all heartily tired of Simon's Bay long before leaving it; not the less so from having this all engrossing Caffre war dinned into our ears from morning to night as an excuse for high prices, and sometimes for extortions, which I had before supposed to be peculiar to new colonies.

On April 10th we left Simon's Bay for Mauritius. Our passage of twenty-four days presented little remarkable. We experienced every gradation between a calm and a heavy north-east gale; during the continuance of one of the latter, we passed near the Slot Van Capel bank of the old charts, the existence of which it was of importance to verify; * but the heavy confused sea, such as one would expect to find on a bank during a gale, rendered it dangerous to heave-to to try for soundings.

(*Footnote. I have since learned that H.M.S. Meander, Captain the Honourable H. Keppel, struck soundings on this bank, but have not been able to procure the particulars.)


During this passage some important observations were made by Captain Stanley and Lieutenant Dayman to determine the height, length, and velocity of the waves. The results will be apparent from the following tabular view.*


April 21 : - : 5 : 7.2 : 22 : 55 : 27.0 : Ship before the wind with a heavy following sea.

April 23 : 8 : 5 : 6 : 20 : 43 : 24.5 : Ship before the wind with a heavy following sea.

April 24 : 6 : 4 : 6 : 20 : 50 : 24 : Ship before the wind with a heavy following sea.

April 25 : 9 : 4 : 5 : - : 37 : 22.1 : Ship before the wind with a heavy following sea.

April 26 : - : 4 : 6 : - : 33 : 22.1 : Ship before the wind with a heavy following sea.

May 2 : 6 : 4 and 5 : 7 : 22 : 57 : 26.2 : Sea irregular, observations not very good.

May 3 : 7 : 5 : 7 and 8 : 17 : 35 : 22.0 : Wind and sea on port quarter.

(*Footnote. The height was determined by watching when the crest of the wave was on a level with the observer's eye (the height above the trough of the sea being known) either while standing on the poop or in the mizzen rigging; this must be reduced to one half to obtain the absolute height of the wave above the mean level of the sea. The length and velocity were found by noting the time taken by the wave to traverse the measured distance (100 yards) between the ship and the spar towing astern. In column 3, the number 4 denotes a moderate breeze, and 5 a fresh breeze.)

Oceanic birds were plentiful in our wake, and gradually dropped off as we approached the tropic. On May 2 the vicinity of land was denoted by the appearance of four tropic birds (Phaeton aethereus) and a tern; and next evening, shortly before sunset, we sighted the Island of Mauritius, the Bamboo Mountain at Grand Port being the first part seen. We rapidly closed in with the land, and during the night were near enough to see the surf on the coral reefs fringing the shore, it assuming the appearance, in the bright moonshine, of a sandy beach of glittering whiteness.

Captain Stanley remarks, that "The reef on the east side of the island projects further than is laid down on the Admiralty chart, and as from the prevalence of the south-east trade a current is constantly setting to the westward, vessels approaching this part of the island should be very cautious, even with a leading wind, not to get too close in with the land until the passage between Gunner's and Round Island is well under the lee. At night, also, the distance from the land, when off the north-east end of the island, is very deceiving, as the plains of Pamplemousses are very low. The Rattlesnake, in passing at night between the Gunner's Quoin and Flat Island, experienced a strong set of nearly three miles an hour to the westward, which at times is said to be much stronger, and partakes in some measure of the nature of the tide."


May 4th.

When I came upon deck I found that we had rounded the north end of the island, and were beating up for Port Louis. It was a delightful morning, with bright sunshine, smooth water, a gentle trade wind, and an unclouded sky. The view was very beautiful, and quite equalled my expectations, based, though they were, upon the glowing descriptions of La Pierre. The extremes of the island are low, but the centre is occupied by the partially wooded crest-like ridge, rugged and pinnacled, connecting La Pouce with the famous Peter Botte. Viewed in a mass, the country looked burnt up, of a dull yellowish red hue—the higher hills were dark green, and the lower grounds partially so. To the left was the fertile plain of Pamplemousses, even now, in the beginning of winter, one mass of green of various degrees of intensity. As we approached we began to make out more distinctly the sugar plantations, the groves of coconut trees and casuarinas, the features of the town, and the dense mass of shipping in the harbour. We hove to off the Bell Buoy (denoting the outer anchorage) for the steamer which towed us to our berth abreast of Cooper's Island.


The harbour of Port Louis is of singular formation. It is entered by a narrow passage or break in the coral reef surrounding the island, leading into a large basin, the central portion only of which has sufficient water for shipping. The bottom is mud, which, they say, is fast accumulating, especially in a small bight called the Trou Fanfaron, where a few years ago a line-of-battle ship could float, but which has now scarcely water enough for a large corvette. The reefs about the entrance are nearly dry at low-water, at which time one may wade to their outer margin, as is daily practised by hundreds of fishermen.

Passing through the closely packed lines of shipping, and landing as a stranger at Port Louis, perhaps the first thing to engage attention is the strange mixture of nations—representatives, he might at first be inclined to imagine, of half the countries of the earth. He stares at a Coolie from Madras with a breech-cloth and soldier's jacket, or a stately, bearded Moor, striking a bargain with a Parsee merchant; a Chinaman, with two bundles slung on a bamboo, hurries past, jostling a group of young Creole exquisites smoking their cheroots at a corner, and talking of last night's Norma, or the programme of the evening's performance at the Hippodrome in the Champ de Mars; his eye next catches a couple of sailors reeling out of a grog-shop, to the amusement of a group of laughing negresses in white muslin dresses of the latest Parisian fashion, contrasting strongly with a modestly attired Cingalese woman, and an Indian ayah with her young charge. Amidst all this the French language prevails; everything more or less pertains of the French character, and an Englishman can scarcely believe that he is in one of the colonies of his own country.


May 16th.

Few passing visitors, like ourselves, leave the Isle of France without performing a pilgrimage to Pamplemousses, a pretty village seven miles distant, near which are the (so-called) tombs of Paul and Virginia, and the Botanic Gardens. For this purpose—as we sail the day after tomorrow, I started at daylight. The road, even at this early hour, was crowded with people—Coolies, Chinamen, Negroes, and others, bringing in their produce to market, while every now and then a carriage passed by filled with well-dressed Creoles enjoying the coolness of the morning air, or bent upon making a holiday of it, for the day was Sunday. I breakfasted in one of the numerous cabarets by the roadside, dignified with the name of Hotel de ——, etc. Numerous small streams crossed the road, and the country, so far as seen, exhibited a refreshing greenness and richness of vegetation.

Les Tombeaux are situated in a garden surrounded by trees, and a grove of coffee plants, behind the residence of a gentleman who must be heartily sick of being so constantly disturbed by strangers. They exhibit nothing more remarkable than two dilapidated monumental urns on opposite sides of the garden, shaded by a clump of bamboos and casuarinas, the latter usually mistaken for cypresses. In the coffee plantation close by, I was delighted to find great numbers of a large and handsome land shell, Achatina mauritiana—it burrows in the earth during dry weather, but some rain which had fallen during the night brought it out in abundance.


The Botanical Gardens are close to the church. Among the plants are some magnificent sago palms, almost rivalling those I had seen in New Guinea, during the voyage of the Fly,* and many clove and nutmeg trees, the cultivation of which in the island it had been the intention of Government to introduce. Here are some very fine shady walks with ponds of water and rivulets, but although these cool retreats are admirably adapted for solitary rambles and the holding of merry picnic parties, I found with regret that the title of botanical had misled me.

On my return I was not surprised to see in an island colonised by the French—so little outward respect paid to the Sabbath. Many people were at work in the fields, and washerwomen in the streams—a party of Chinamen were employed roofing a house, and blacksmiths hammered away within gun-shot of the church, while many of the shops and all the taverns were open in the villages.

(*Footnote. Narrative of the Surveying Voyage of H.M.S. Fly in Torres Strait, New Guinea, and other Islands of the Asiatic Archipelago by J. Beete Jukes.)


On a former occasion I had made an excursion to the summit of La Pouce, a remarkable knob-like peak on the sharp crateriform ridge behind Port Louis. Following a path, leading from the town directly to Wilhelm's Plains, one crosses a small stream and skirts the steep face of the hill over rough ground covered with burnt up grass, and straggling bushes. To this succeeds a region of evergreens (among which the wild mango is the prevailing tree) where a species of monkey introduced many years ago into the island has taken up its abode. I saw none, however, but occasionally heard their chattering as they hurried along among the bushes. Where the path crosses the ridge, it widens out into a succession of rounded eminences, with the summit of La Pouce rising suddenly from its centre in a thumb-like form. Its base is watered by a small gushing rill, and the vegetation now is very luxuriant from the continual supply of moisture. The most striking plants are the tree-ferns (Cyathea excelsa and C. bourbonica) some of which attain a height of from fifteen to twenty feet. From the eastern margin of the ridge the view is very fine; a sloping precipice, several hundred feet in height, covered with stunted bushes, overlooks Wilhelm's Plains, nearly all under cultivation and studded with sugar plantations. The soil, when newly turned up, appeared of a dull red colour. Numbers of tropic birds were flying along the face of the cliff where they probably breed. Eight species of land shells were picked up here, either creeping up the grass or under stones and logs; they were of the genera Caracolla, Helix, and Pupa.

A narrow path, difficult to find among the long grass, leads to the summit of the mountain, 2600 feet above the level of the sea. The view from the top embraces the greater part of this fine island. The coral reef fringing the shores is well seen—the pale green of the shoal water is separated from the deep blue of the ocean by a line of snow-white surf.


For entomological purposes I frequently visited the Cemetery, numbers of insects being attracted by its flowers and trees. The road leading to it, one of the principal evening drives, is shaded by rows of magnificent casuarinas, from Madagascar. Some five or six widely-separated religious creeds may each here be seen practising their peculiar modes of interment—Chinese, Mahomedan, Hindoo, and Christian; and among the last it was a novelty to me to observe, for the first time, the pleasing custom of decking the graves with fresh flowers, often renewed weekly for years, disposed in jars of various kinds, from the richly ornamented vase down to the humblest piece of crockery. All the low land hereabouts has been borrowed from the sea; it is a mixture of sand and fragments of coral; and the land-crabs have established a colony in one part of the cemetery, and run riot among the graves.

Although well aware of the productiveness of this fine island in marine objects, I was yet unprepared for the sight of upwards of one hundred species of fish, which I frequently witnessed of a morning in the market at Port Louis; but this to me was diminished by the regret that the most skilful taxidermist would signally fail, either to retain upon the prepared skin, or to reproduce, the bright colours for which so many of them are remarkable. Dredging in the harbour was perfectly unsuccessful; outside the margin of the coral reefs which fringe the entrance to Port Louis one finds a zone of loose blocks of living Maeandrinae, Astraeae, and other massive corals, where dredging is impracticable; to this succeeds a belt of dead shells and small fragments of coral; and the remainder of the channel is tenacious mud, in which I found nothing of interest.


After a pleasant stay of twelve days, we left Mauritius, on May 17th, as soon as the last set of sights for rating the chronometers had been obtained, and in due time rounded the north end of the island to a light wind off the land. In the first watch a distant light was conjectured, with some degree of probability, to proceed from the well-known active volcano of the Island of Bourbon.

During our stay at Port Louis, Captain Stanley had complied with a requisition from the Commissariat to take some specie to Hobart Town, consequently his previous intention of proceeding to Sydney, by way of King George Sound, was abandoned.

On May 24th (our noon position being in latitude 28 degrees 1 minute South, and longitude 67 degrees 30 minutes East) we tacked to the South-West, having found the impracticability of making a straight course for Cape Leeuwin without first getting well to the southward, and in due time we reached the latitudes where westerly winds prevail, and were enabled to proceed onward on our course.


On June 14th, when in latitude 40 degrees 45 minutes South, and longitude 123 degrees 23 minutes East, the occurrence of a calm during the forenoon, although accompanied by a considerable swell, induced Captain Stanley to make a third attempt to obtain deep-sea soundings. He had been much interested in the success of experiments of this kind, in which the grand desideratum has always been to produce POSITIVE PROOF OF HAVING REACHED BOTTOM by bringing up a portion of its substance, hitherto unattempted on account of the great length of time required for the experiment, and the disproportionate strength of the line to the enormous weight employed, should any sudden jerk ensue from the heave of the sea. Captain Stanley had at length succeeded in contriving a very ingenious apparatus by which, upon striking soundings, the eight 32 pounds shot employed would be immediately detached, leaving no greater weight to be hauled up than the iron framework to which the shot was slung, and a small bell-lead with the usual arming of tallow, to which portions of the bottom would adhere. The line was similar to that employed on January 12th, as then carefully coiled away in casks, each of which held from 800 to 1000 fathoms, and ran out remarkably well, without any tendency to kink or get foul; but, unfortunately, after 3500 fathoms (or forty yards less than four statute miles) had gone out, the line parted, from some flaw, it is supposed, as a piece of the same bore a far heavier weight when tested subsequently on board. The whole weight employed was equal to 280 pounds; and the time taken by the line to run out was 1 hour, 59 minutes, and 56 seconds.


100 : 0 0 42. 200 : 0 1 49. 300 : 0 3 3. 400 : 0 4 23. 500 : 0 5 57. 600 : 0 7 39. 700 : 0 9 30. 800 : 0 11 22. 900 : 0 13 20. 1000 : 0 15 19. 1100 : 0 17 35. 1200 : 0 19 44. 1300 : 0 21 38. 1400 : 0 24 15. 1500 : 0 26 47. 1600 : 0 29 32. 1700 : 0 32 17. 1800 : 0 35 2. 1900 : 0 38 11. 2000 : 0 41 5. 2100 : 0 44 3. 2200 : 0 47 38. 2300 : 0 50 47. 2400 : 0 53 57. 2500 : 0 57 6. 2600 : 1 0 51. 2700 : 1 6 15. 2800 : 1 12 25. 2900 : 1 20 27. 3000 : 1 26 34. 3100 : 1 32 45. 3200 : 1 39 49. 3300 : 1 45 37. 3400 : 1 52 47. 3500 : 1 59 56.


On June 24th we entered Storm Bay, and next day arrived at Hobart Town. None of our Australian colonies—I had previously seen them all—reminded me of the mother country so much as Tasmania. The clearings on the shores of the Derwent looked very pretty, and almost English, particularly the spire of a small church peeping out from among the trees.


Arrive at Sydney. Bramble is attached to the Expedition. Survey Entrance of Port Jackson and Twofold Bay. Sail upon our First Northern Cruise. Arrive at Moreton Bay. Proceedings there. Natives at Moreton Island. Arrive at Port Curtis. Settlement of North Australia. Excursions made in Neighbourhood. Natural Productions. Call at the Percy Isles. Port Molle and Cape Upstart. Unable to find Fresh Water. Return to Sydney. Recent Occurrences there. Sail for Bass Strait. Visit Port Phillip and Port Dalrymple. Inspect the Lighthouses of the Strait.

We left Hobart Town for Sydney on July 8th. On the night of the 15th, saw the fine revolving light on the South Head of Port Jackson, and next morning anchored at Farm Cove. Our stay in Sydney was protracted to a period of nearly three months. During this time, in consequence of previous arrangements, the schooners Bramble, Lieutenant C.B. Yule, and Castlereagh, Lieutenant D. Aird, were paid off. Both these vessels had been left in December, 1845, by Captain F.P. Blackwood, of H.M.S. Fly, to continue the survey of New Guinea (as will afterwards be more particularly alluded to) and had long been awaiting our arrival. The Castlereagh, originally purchased in Sydney, being reported to be quite unfit for surveying purposes, was sold to her former owner; and the Bramble was recommissioned as tender to the Rattlesnake, and continued under the command of Lieutenant Yule. Ten additional men were entered on board, increasing our complement to 190 officers and men, of whom 36 were placed on board the schooner. After a thorough refit, both vessels were at length quite ready for sea.


Meanwhile a minute survey was made by Lieutenants Dayman and Simpson of the inner entrance to Port Jackson, where a reef, called the Sow and Pigs (distinguished by a beacon and a light vessel) in the middle of the passage, leaves only a narrow available channel on either side. The exact boundaries of them, with the depth of water, were to be determined, especially to ascertain whether a line-of-battle ship, with her full armament, could pass into the harbour. The shoalest part of the west channel was found to have 21 feet, and of the east 24 feet at low-water (the rise and fall of tide being from 5 to 8 feet); consequently, at high-water there would be room for a three-decker to enter.* This work was in connection with a proposed dry dock** on Cockatoo Island, above Sydney, towards the expenses of which the Imperial Government were willing to contribute, provided it were made of such a size as to be available for large steamers and line-of-battle ships.

(*Footnote. It was found by comparison with Lieutenant Roe's survey, made 25 years before, that the inner edge of the shoal had extended considerably to the southward.)

(**Footnote. This has for several years been under construction; its importance will appear more evident, when it is considered that a large vessel in the Australian colonies requiring repairs, which cannot be effected by the process of heaving down, will find no suitable place nearer than Bombay.)

In compliance with a requisition from Sir Charles Fitzroy, the Governor of New South Wales, Captain Stanley, in the Bramble, paid a visit to Twofold Bay, 200 miles to the southward of Sydney, a place of rising importance as a harbour, also in connection with whaling establishments, and the extensive adjoining pastoral district of Maneroo. The bay was resurveyed, with a view to test the comparative merits of the two townships there—one founded by government, the other by private enterprise. After all, I believe, the advantages afforded by each of the rival establishments are so equally divided, that the question still remains an open one.


October 11th.

After a protracted stay in Sydney of very nearly three months, we were at length enabled to start upon our first cruise to the northward, the object of which was to make a survey of Port Curtis and part of the Inshore Passage leading up to Torres Strait. The Rattlesnake and tender got under weigh soon after daybreak and ran out of Port Jackson to the northward with a fine South-east wind. In the evening the Bramble parted company, her present destination being Port Stephens, for the purpose of running a meridian distance, and ours Moreton Bay.

One day, while off Cape Byron, an interesting addition to zoology was made in a small floating shellfish, which has since proved to constitute a new genus,* throwing light, I am informed, upon many fossil univalves in the older formations; and a rare bird of the noddy kind (Anous leucocapillus) perched on the rigging towards evening, and was added to the collection; for even the beauty and innocence of a tired wanderer like it was insufficient to save it from the scalpel.

(*Footnote. This mollusc, allied to Litiopa, Professor E. Forbes has done me the honour to publish in the Appendix as Macgillivrayia pelagica.)


On October 18th we anchored in Yule's Roads, Moreton Bay in 12 fathoms, sand, about a mile off shore, and remained there for sixteen days. During our stay, some additions were made to render more complete the former survey of this important sheet of water. Buoys were laid down to mark the intricate channels of the north entrance, now preferred for its greater safety to the south entrance, although lengthening by about 50 miles the passage to or from Sydney. The wreck of a steamer, and loss of most of those on board, had not long before caused a great sensation, and forcibly attracted attention to the dangers of the southern entrance.

Moreton Bay is an expanse of water 45 miles in length, and 20 in greatest width, enclosed between the mainland and Stradbroke and Moreton Islands. It is open to the northward, but sheltered on the eastward by the two islands forming that side, which run nearly north and south. The Brisbane river enters the bay about the middle of its western side, and, having been the means of opening up an immense extent of the finest pastoral country, it has conferred a considerable degree of importance upon the place as a harbour, although beset with numerous shoals and narrow winding passages, through which the tides run with great force. The entrance to the river has a depth of only 10 or 11 feet at high-water, consequently, is available for small vessels only; the best anchorage for larger ones is five miles distant. The banks are constantly shifting, and the channel is intricate. When to this is added that the settlement—consisting of the townships of North and South Brisbane, and Kangaroo Point, is situated 14 miles from the river mouth—it was not surprising that a proposal had been made to establish a trading port elsewhere in the bay, so that the wool and other produce of the district, might be shipped direct for England.


For this purpose, Cleveland Point (at the south-east side of the bay) had been suggested, and the Colonial Government requested Captain Stanley's opinion on the subject: which is as follows. "This," says he, "is the worst possible place I ever saw for such a purpose; from the proposed site of the town, a low rocky point only a few feet above the level of high-water, projects for more than a mile in the sea; and from both sides of this, mudflats, that become dry at low-water, extend for a very considerable distance. The anchorage off this point must be of necessity in the stream of tide, which, when it sets against even a moderate breeze, causes a heavy sea. And as the point affords no shelter whatever for boats, it will be absolutely necessary to build a breakwater, at least as far out as three fathoms at low-water."


Moreton Island, under the lee of which the Rattlesnake was at anchor, is 19 miles in length, and 4 1/2 in greatest breadth. It consists for the most part of series of sandhills, one of which, Mount Tempest, is said to be 910 feet in height; on the north-west portion a large tract of low ground, mostly swampy, with several lagoons and small streams. The soil is poor, and the grass usually coarse and sedge-like. All the timber is small, and consists of the usual Eucalypti, Banksiae, etc. with abundance of the cypress-pine (Callitris arenaria) a wood much prized for ornamental work. The appearance along the shores of the Pandanus or screw-pine, which now attains its southern limits, introduces a kind of intertropical appearance to the vegetation. Among the other plants are three, which merit notice from their efficacy in binding down the drift sand with their long trailing stems, an office performed in Britain by the bent grass (Arundo arenaria) here represented by another grass, Ischaemum rottboellioide: the others are a handsome pink-flowered convolvulus (Ipomoea maritima) one stem of which measured 15 yards in length, and Hibbertia volubilis, a plant with large yellow blossoms.


Among the marine animals of Moreton Bay are two cetacea of great interest. The first of these is the Australian dugong (Halicore australis), which is the object of a regular fishery (on a small scale however) on account of its valuable oil. It frequents the Brisbane river and the mudflats of the harbour, and is harpooned by the natives, who know it under the name of Yung-un. The other is an undescribed porpoise, a specimen of which, however, I did not procure, as the natives believed the most direful consequences would ensue from the destruction of one; and I considered the advantages resulting to science from the addition of a new species of Phocoena, would not have justified me in outraging their strongly expressed superstitious feelings on the subject. We observed that whenever a drove of these porpoises came close inshore, a party of natives followed them along the beach, and when a shoal of fish, endeavouring to avoid their natural enemies, approached within reach, the blacks rushed out into the water with loud cries, and, keeping their bag nets close together, so as to form a semicircle, scooped out as many fish as came within reach.

Our seining parties from the ship were usually very successful, but only at one particular time of tide, or during the young flood. Sharks are numerous close to the beach, but are generally small and harmless; one of the natives however had lost his foot at the ankle joint, from the bite of one.


There were then no white residents upon Moreton Island, but we found a party of about twenty natives encamped near the watering place. Some of the men were rather good specimens of the race, but the reverse was the case with the females; although the latter on the first day of our meeting them evinced a desire to cover their persons, they afterwards went about as naked as the men—but the female children wore a small fringe in front. The married women had lost the last joint of the little finger of the right hand—one had three half-caste children. The huts of these natives are of simple construction, yet comfortable enough, and perfectly waterproof—a framework of sticks in a dome-like form is covered with bark of the tea-tree (Melaleuca) and branches of trees.

While procuring materials for a vocabulary, I found that even this small party contained individuals of two tribes, speaking different dialects. It was curious to observe that although these natives had had much intercourse with Europeans, a party of them who came on board, could not be persuaded to go below; and one strong fellow (One-eye, as he called himself) actually trembled with fear when I laid hold of him by the arm, to lead him down to the main-deck.

November 4th.

Sailed from Moreton Bay for Port Curtis in company with the Bramble. The wind being at north, we had to beat out through the narrow channel leading between the banks of the north entrance, probably never before attempted by a square-rigged vessel.


On November 7th, we rounded Breaksea Spit, and passed Lady Elliot's Island—low, of coral formation, and one of the great breeding places of the seabirds of this portion of the coast. Next day we anchored five miles off the south entrance of Port Curtis, and sent in two boats to sound. On their return with a favourable report, the ship was got underweigh, and ran in under the headsails to round Gatcombe Head, by the channel laid down in Flinders' chart; but, while following a boat ahead in charge of the master, the signal to anchor immediately was made, and we brought up as required, being then about the middle of the north channel.

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