An Account of the Voyages undertaken by the order of His Present Majesty, for making Discoveries in the Southern Hemisphere, and successively performed by Commodore Byron, Captain Wallis, Captain Carteret, and Captain Cook, in the Dolphin, the Swallow, and the Endeavour: Drawn from the Journals which were kept by the several Commanders, and from the Papers of Joseph Banks, Esq. [Vol. II]
Departure from New South Wales. A particular Description of the Country, its Products, and People. A Specimen of the Language; and some Observations upon the Currents and Tides.
Of this country, its products, and its people, many particulars have already been related in the course of the narrative, being so interwoven with the events, as not to admit of a separation. I shall now give a more full and circumstantial description of each, in which, if some things should happen to be repeated, the greater part will be found new.
New Holland, or, as I have now called the eastern coast, New South Wales, is of a larger extent than any other country in the known world that does not bear the name of a continent. The length of coast along which we sailed, reduced to a straight line, is no less than twenty-seven degrees of latitude, amounting to near 200 miles, so that its square surface must be much more than equal to all Europe. To the southward of 33 or 34, the land in general is low and level; farther northward it is hilly, but in no part can be called mountainous, and the hills and mountains, taken together, make but a small part of the surface, in comparison with the vallies and plains. It is, upon the whole, rather barren than fertile, yet the rising ground is chequered by woods and lawns, and the plains and vallies are in many places covered with herbage: the soil however is frequently sandy, and many of the lawns, or savannahs, are rocky and barren, especially to the northward, where, in the best spots, vegetation was less vigorous than in the southern part of the country; the trees were not so tall, nor was the herbage so rich. The grass in general is high but thin, and the trees, where they are largest, are seldom less than forty feet asunder; nor is the country inland, as far as we could examine it, better cloathed than the sea coast. The banks of the bays are covered with mangroves, to the distance of a mile within the beach, under which the soil is a rank mud, page 397 that is always overflowed by a spring tide; farther in the country we sometimes met with a bog, upon which the grass was very thick and luxuriant, and sometimes with a valley that was cloathed with underwood. The soil in some parts seemed to be capable of improvement, but the far greater part is such as can admit of no cultivation. The coast, at least that part of it which lies to the northward of 25° S. abounds with. fine bays and harbours, where vessels may lie in perfect security from all winds.
If we may judge by the appearance of the country while we were there, which was in the very height of the dry season, it is well watered. We found innumerable small brooks and springs, but no great rivers; these brooks, however, probably become large in the, rainy season. Thirsty Sound was the only place where fresh water was not to be procured for the ship, and even there one or two small pools were found in the woods, though the face of the country was every where intersected by salt-creeks and mangrove-land.
Of trees there is no great variety. Of those that could be called timber, there are but two sorts; the largest is the gum-tree, which grows all over the country, and has been mentioned already: it has narrow leaves, not much unlike a willow, and the gum, or rather resin, which it yields, is of a deep red, and resembles the sanguis draconis: possibly it may be the same, for this substance is known to be the produce of more than one plant. It is mentioned by Dampier, and is perhaps the same that Tasman found upon Diemen's Land, where, he says, he saw “Gum of the trees, “and gum lac of the ground.” The other timber tree is that which grows somewhat like our pines, and has been particularly mentioned in the account of Botany Bay. The wood of both these trees, as I have before remarked, is extremely hard and heavy. Besides these, here are trees covered with a soft bark that is easily peeled off, and is the same that in the East Indies is used for the caulking of ships.
We found here the palm of three different sorts: the first, which grows in great plenty to the southward, has leaves that are plaited like a fan; the cabbage of these is small, but exquisitely sweet, and the nuts, page 398 which it bears in great abundance, are very good food for hogs. The second sort bore a much greater resemblance to the true cabbage-tree of the West Indies; its leaves were large and pinnated, like those of the cocoa-nut; and these also produced a cabbage, which though not to sweet as the other, was much larger. The third sort, which, like the second, was found only in the northern parts, was seldom more than ten feet high, with small pinnated leaves, resembling those of some kind of fern; it bore no cabbage, but a plentiful crop of nuts, about the size of a large chestnut, but rounder. As we found the hulls of these scattered round the places where the Indians had made their fires, we took for granted that they were fit to eat; those, however, who made the experiment, paid dear for their knowledge of the contrary, for they operated both as an emetic and cathartic with great violence. Still, however, we made no doubt but that they were eaten by the Indians; and judging that the constitution of the hogs might be as strong as theirs, though our own had proved to be so much inferior, we carried them to the stye; the hogs eat them, indeed, and for some time, we thought, without suffering any inconvenience; but in about a week they were so much disordered that two of them died, and the rest were recovered with great difficulty. It is probable, however, that the poisonous quality of these nuts may lie in the juice, like that of the cassada of the West Indies, and that the pulp, when dried, may be not only wholesome but nutritious. Besides these species of the palm and mangroves, there were several small trees and shrubs, altogether unknown in Europe, particularly one which produced a very poor kind of fig; another that bore what we called a plum, which it resembled in colour, but not in shape, being flat on the sides like a little cheese; and a third that bore a kind of purple apple, which, after it had been kept a few days, became eatable, and tasted somewhat like a damascene.
Here is a great variety of plants to enrich the collection of a botanist, but very few of them are or the esculent kind. A small plant, with long, narrow, graffy leaves, resembling that kind of bullrush, which in England is called the Cat's-tail, yields a resin of a bright page 399 yellow colour, exactly resembling gambouge, except that it does not stain; it has a sweet smell, but its properties we had no opportunity to discover, any more than those of many others with which the natives appear to be acquainted, as they have distinguished them by names.
I have already mentioned the root and leaves of a plant resembling the coccos of the West Indies, and a kind of bean; to which may be added, a sort of parsley and purselain, and two kinds of yams, one shaped like a raddish, and the other round and covered with stringy fibres: both sorts are very small, but sweet, and we never could find the plants that produced them, though we often saw the places where they had been newly dug up; it is probable that the drought had destroyed the leaves, and we could not, like the Indians, discover them by the stalks.
Most of the fruits of this country, such as they are, have been mentioned already. We found one in the southern part of the country resembling a cherry, except that the stone was soft; and another not unlike a pine-apple in appearance, but of a very disagreeable taste, which is well known in the East Indies, and is called by the Dutch Pyn Appel Boomen.
Of the quadrupeds, I have already mentioned the dog, and particularly described the kanguroo, and the animal of the opossum kind, resembling the phalanger of Buffon; to which I can add only one more, resembling a polecat, which the natives call Quoll; the back is brown, spotted with white, and the belly white unmixed. Several of our people said they had seen wolves, but perhaps if we had not seen tracks that favoured the account, we might have thought them little more worthy of credit than he who reported that he had seen the devil.
Of bats, which hold a middle place between the beasts and the birds, we saw many kinds, particularly one which, as I have observed already, was larger than a partridge. We were not fortunate enough to take one either alive or dead, but it was supposed to be the same as Buffon has described by the name of Rouset or Rouget.page 400
The sea and other water-fowl of this country are gulls, shaggs, soland-geese, or gannets, of two sorts, boobies, noddies, curlieus, ducks, pelicans of an enormous size, and many others. The land birds are crows, parrots, paroquets, cockatoos, and other birds of the same kind, of exquisite beauty; pigeons, doves, quails, bustards, herons, cranes, hawks, and eagles. The pigeons flew in numerous flocks, so that, not withstanding their extreme shyness, our people frequently killed ten or twelve of them in a day; these birds are very beautiful, and crested very differently from any we had seen before.
Among other reptiles, here are serpents of various kinds, some noxious and some harmless, scorpions, centipieds, and lizards. The insects are but few; the principal are the musquito, and the ant. Of the ant there are several sorts; some are as green as a leaf, and live upon trees, where they build their nests of various sizes, between that of a man's head and his sift. These nests are of a very curious structure; they are formed by bending down several of the leaves, each of which is as broad as a man's hand, and gluing the points of them together, so as to form a purse; the viscus used for this purpose is an animal juice, which Nature has enabled them to elaborate. Their method of first bending down the leaves we had not an opportunity to observe, but we saw thousands uniting all their strength to hold them in this position, while other busy multitudes were employed within, in applying the gluten that was to prevent their returning back. To satisfy ourselves that the leaves were bent, and held down by the effort of these diminutive artificers, we disturbed them in their work; and as soon as they were driven from their station, the leaves on which they were employed sprung up with a force much greater than we could have thought them able to conquer by any combination of their strength. But though we gratified our curiosity at their expence, the injury did not go unrevenged, for thousands immediately threw themselves upon us, and gave us intolerable pain with their stings, especially those which took possession of our necks and our hair, from whence they were not easily driven; the sting was scarcely less painful than that of a bee, page 401 but, except it was repeated, the pain did not last more than a minute.
Another sort are quite black, and their operations and manner of life are not less extraordinary. Their habitations are the inside of the branches of a tree, which they contrive to excavate, by working out the pith almost to the extremity of the slenderest twig; the tree at the same time flourishing as if it had no such inmate. When we first found the tree, we gathered some of the branches, and were scarcely less astonished than we should have been to find that we had profaned a consecrated grove, where every tree, upon being wounded, gave signs of life; for we were instantly covered with legions of these animals, swarming from every broken bough, and inflicting their stings with incessant violence. They are mentioned by Rumphius in his Herbarium Amboinense, vol. ii. p. 257. but the tree in which he saw their dwelling is very different from that in which we found them.
A third kind we found nested in the root of a plant, which grows on the bark of trees in the manner of misletoe, and which they had perforated for that use. This root is commonly as big as a large turnip, and sometimes much bigger; when we cut it, we found it intersected by innumerable winding passages, all filled with these animals, by which, however, the vegetation of the plant did not appear to have suffered any injury. We never cut one of these roots that was not inhabited, though some were not bigger than a hazel-nut. The animals themselves are very small, not more than half as big as the common red ant in England. They had stings, but scarcely force enough to make them felt; they had, however, a power of tormenting us in an equal, if not a greater degree; for the moment we handled the root, they swarmed from innumerable holes, and running about those parts of the body that were uncovered, produced a titillation more intolerable than pain, except it is increased to great violence. Rumphius has also given an account of this bulb and its inhabitants, vol. vi. p. 120, where he mentions another sort that are black.page 402
We found a fourth kind, which are perfectly harmless, and almost exactly resemble the white ants of the East Indies; the architecture of these is still more curious than that of the others. They have houses of two sorts, one is suspended on the branches of trees, and the other erected upon the ground: those upon the trees are about three or four times as big as a man's head, and are built of a brittle substance, which seems to consist of small parts of vegetables kneaded together with a glutinous matter, which their bodies probably supply; upon breaking this crust, innumerable cells, swarming with inhabitants, appear in a great variety of winding directions, all communicating with each other, and with several apertures that lead to other nests upon the same tree: they have also one large avenue, or covered way, leading to the ground, and carried on under it to the other nest or house that is constructed there. This house is generally at the root of a tree, but not of that upon which their other dwellings are constructed; it is formed like an irregularly sided cone, and sometimes is more than six feet high, and nearly as much in diameter. Some are smaller, and these are generally slat sided, and very much resemble in figure the stones which are seen in many parts of England, and supposed to be the remains of druidical antiquity. The outside of these is of well-tempered clay, about two inches thick; and within are the cells, which have no opening outwards, but communicate only with the subterranean way to the houses on the tree, and to the tree near which they are constructed, where they ascend up the root, and so up the trunk and branches, under covered ways of the same kind as those by which they descended from their other dwellings. To these structures on the ground they probably retire in the winter, or rainy seasons, as they are proof against any wet that can fall; which those in the tree, though generally constructed under some over-hanging branch, from the nature and thinness of their crust, or wall, cannot be.
The sea in this country is much more liberal of food to the inhabitants than the land; and though fish is not quite so plenty here, as they generally are in higher latitudes, yet we seldom hauled the seine without taking page 403 from fifty to two hundred weight. They are of various sorts; but, except the mullet, and some of the shellfish, none of them are known in Europe; most of them are palateable, and some are very delicious. Upon the shoals and reefs there are incredible numbers of the finest green turtle in the world, and oysters of various kinds, particularly the rock-oyster and the pearl-oyster. The gigantic cockles have been mentioned already; besides which there are sea cray-fish, or lobsters, and crabs; of these, however, we saw only the shells. In the rivers and salt creeks there are alligators.
The only person who has hitherto given any account of this country, or its inhabitants, is Dampier; and though he is, in general, a writer of credit, yet in many particulars he is mistaken. The people whom he saw, were indeed inhabitants of a part of the coast very distant from that which we visited; but we also saw inhabitants upon parts of the coast very distant from each other, and there being a perfect uniformity in person and customs among them all, it is reasonable to conclude, that distance in another direction has not considerably broken it.
The number of inhabitants in this country appears to be very small in proportion to its extent. We never saw so many as thirty of them together but once, and that was at Botany Bay, when men, women, and children assembled upon a rock, to see the ship pass by: when they manifestly formed a resolution to engage us, they never could muster above fourteen or fifteen fighting men, and we never saw a number of their sheds or houses together that could accommodate a larger party. It is true, indeed, that we saw only the sea-coast on the eastern side, and that between this and the western shore there is an immense tract of country wholly unexplored; but there is great reason to believe that this immense tract is either wholly desolate, or at least still more thinly inhabited than the parts we visited. It is impossible that the inland country should subsist inhabitants at all seasons without cultivation. It is extremely improbable that the inhabitants of the coast should be totally ignorant of arts of cultivation which were practised inland; and it page 404 is equally improbable that, if they knew such arts, there should be no traces of them among them. It is certain, that we did not see one foot of ground in a state of cultivation in the whole country, and therefore it may well be concluded, that where the sea does not contribute to seed the inhabitants, the country is not inhabited.
The only tribe with which we had any intercourse, we found where the ship was careened; it consisted of one-and-twenty persons, twelve men, seven women, one boy, and one girl; the women we never saw but at a distance, for when the men came over the river they were always left behind. The men here, and in other places, were of a middle size, and in general well made, clean limbed, and remarkably vigorous, active and nimble; their countenances were not altogether without expression, and their voices were remarkably soft and effeminate.
Their skins were so uniformly covered with dirt, that it was very difficult to ascertain their true colour; we made several attempts, by wetting our fingers and rubbing it, to remove the incrustations, but with very little effect. With the dirt they appear nearly as black as a Negroe, and, according to our best discoveries, the skin itself is of the colour of wood-foot, or what is commonly called chocolate colour. Their features are far from being disagreeable, their noses are not flat, nor are their lips thick; their teeth are white and even, and their hair naturally long and black; it is, however, universally cropped short; in general it is straight, but sometimes it has a slight curl; we saw none that was not matted and filthy, though without oil or grease, and, to our great astonishment, free from lice. Their beards were of the same colour with their hair, and bushy and thick; they are not, however, suffered to grow long. A man whom we had seen one day with his beard somewhat longer than his companions, we saw the next with it somewhat shorter, and upon examination found the ends of the hairs burnt: from this incident, and our having never seen any sharp instrument among them, we concluded that both the hair and the beard were kept short by singeing them.page 405
Both sexes, as I have already observed, go stark naked, and seem to have no more sense of indecency, in discovering the whole body, than we have in discovering our hands and face. Their principal ornament is the bone which they thrust through the cartilage that divides the nostrils from each other: what perversion of taste could make them think this a decoration, or what could prompt them, before they had worn it or seen it worn, to suffer the pain and inconveniency that must of necessity attend it, is perhaps beyond the power of human sagacity to determine: as this bone is as thick as a man's finger, and between five and six inches long: it reaches quite across the face, and so effectually stops up both the nostrils, that they are forced to keep their mouths wide open for breath, and snuffle so when they attempt to speak, that they are scarcely intelligible even to each other. Our seamen, with some humour, called it their spritsail-yard; and indeed it had so ludicrous an appearance, that till we were used to it, we found it difficult to refrain from laughter. Beside this nose-jewel, they had necklaces made of shells, very neatly cut and strung together: bracelets of small cord, wound two or three times about the upper part of their arm, and a string of plaited human hair about as thick as a thread of yarn, tied round the waist. Besides these, some of them had gorgets of shells hanging round the neck, so as to reach eross the breast. But though these people wear no clothes, their bodies have a covering besides the dirt, for they paint them both white and red: the red is commonly laid on in broad patches upon the shoulders and breast; and the white in stripes, some narrow, and some broad: the narrow were drawn over the limbs, and the broad over the body, not without some degree of taste. The white was also laid on in small patches upon the face, and drawn in a circle round each eye. The red seemed to be ochre, but what the white was we could not discover: it was close grained, saponaceous to the touch, and almost as heavy as white lead; possibly it might be a kind of Steatites, but to our great regret we could not procure a bit of it to examine. They have holes in their ears, but we never saw any thing worn in them.page 406
Upon such ornaments as they had, they set so great a value, that they would never part with the least article for any thing we could offer; which was the more extraordinary, as our beads and ribbons were ornaments of the same kind, but of a more regular form and more showy materials. They had indeed no idea of traffic, nor could we communicate any to them: they received the things that we gave them; but never appeared to understand our signs when we required a return. The same indifference, which prevented them from buying what we had, prevented them also from attempting to steal: if they had coveted more, they would have been less honest; for when we refused to give them a turtle, they were enraged, and attempted to take it by force, and we had nothing else upon which they seemed to set the least value; for, as I have before observed, many of the things that we had given them, we found left negligently about in the woods, like the playthings of children, which please only while they are new. Upon their bodies we saw no marks of disease or sores, but large scars in irregular lines, which appeared to be the remains of wounds which they had inflicted upon them-selves with some blunt instrument, and which we under-stood by signs to have been memorials of grief for the dead.
They appeared to have no Fixed habitations, for we saw nothing like a town or village in the whole country. Their houses, if houses they may be called, seem to be formed with less art and industry than any we had seen, except the wretched hovels at Terra del Fuego, and in some respects they are inferior even to them. At Botany Bay, where they were best, they were just high enough for a man to fit upright in; but not large enough for him to extend himself at his whole length in any direction: they are built with pliable rods about as thick as a man' finger, in the form of an oven, by sticking the two ends into the ground, and then covering them with palm leaves, and broad pieces of bark: the door is nothing but a large hole at one end, opposite to which the fire is made, as we perceived by the ashes. Under houses, or sheds, they sleep, coiled up with their heels to their heads; and in this position one of them will page 407 hold three or four persons. As we advanced northward, and the climate became warmer, we found these sheds still more slight: they were built, like the others, of twigs, and covered with bark; but none of them were more than four feet deep, and one side was intirely open: the close side was always opposed to the course of the prevailing wind, and opposite to the open side was the fire, probably more as a defence from the musquitos than the cold. Under these hovels it is probable, that they thrust only their heads and the upper part of their bodies, extending their feet towards the fire. They were set up occasionally by a wandering hord, in any place that would furnissh them for a time with subsistence, and left behind them when, after it was exhausted, they went away: but in places where they remained only for a night or two, they slept without any shelter, except the bushes or grass, which is here near two feet high. We observed, however, that tho' the sleeping huts which we found upon the main, were always turned from the prevailing wind, those upon the islands were turned towards it; which seems to be a proof that they have a mild season here, during which the sea is calm, and that the same weather, which enables them to visit the islands, makes the air welcome even while they sleep.
The only furniture belonging to these houses that fell under our observation, is a kind of oblong vessel made of bark, by the simple contrivance of tying up the two ends with a withy, which not being cut off serves for a handle; these we imagined were used as buckets to fetch water from the spring, which may be supposed some-times to be at a considerable distance. They have however a small bag, about the size of a moderate cabbagenet, which is made by laying threads loop within loop, somewhat in the manner of knitting used by our ladies to make purses. This bag the man carries loose upon his back by a small string which passes over his head; it generally contains a lump or two of paint and resin, some fish-hooks and lines, a shell or two, out of which their hooks are made, a few points of darts, and their usual ornaments, which includes the whole worldly treasure of the richest man among them.page 408
Their fish-hooks are very neatly made, and some of them are exceedingly small. For striking turtle they have a peg of wood which is about a foot long, and very well bearded; this fits into a socket, at the end of a staff of light wood, about as thick as a man's wrist, and about seven or eight feet long: to the staff is tied one end of a loose line about three or four fathoms long, the other end of which is fastened to the peg. To strike the turtle, the peg is fixed into the socket, and when it has entered his body, and is retained there by the barb, the staff flies off and serves for a float to trace their victim in the water; it assists also to tire him, till they can overtake him with their canoes, and haul him a-shore. One of these pegs, as I have mentioned already, we found buried in the body of a turtle, which had healed up over it. Their lines are from the thickness of a half inch rope to the fineness of a hair, and are made of some vegetable substance, but what in particular, we had no opportunity to learn.
Their food is chiefly. fish, though they sometimes contrive to kill the kanguroo, and even birds of various kinds; notwithstanding they are so shy that we found it difficult to get within reach of them with a fowling-piece. The only vegetable that can be considered as an article of food is the yam; yet doubtless they eat the several fruits which have been mentioned among other productions of the country; and indeed we saw the shells and hulls of several of them lying about the places where they had kindled their fire.
They do not appear to eat any animal food raw; but having no vessel. in which water can be boiled, they either broil it upon the coals, or bake it in a hole by the help of hot stones, in the same manner as is practised by the inhabitants of the islands in the South Seas.
Whether they are acquainted with any plant that has an intoxicating quality, we do not know; but we observed that several of them held leaves of some sort constantly in their mouths, as an European does tobacco, and an East Indian betele: we never saw the plant, but when they took it from their mouths at our request; possibly it might be a species of the betele; page 409 but whatever it was, it had no effect upon the teeth or the lips.
As they have no nets, they catch fish only by striking, or with a hook and line, except such as they find in the hollows of the rocks and shoals, which are dry at half ebb.
Their manner of hunting we had no opportunity to see; but we conjectured, by the notches which they had every where cut in large trees in order to climb them, that they took their station near the tops of them, and there watched for such animals as might happen to pass near enough to be reached by their lances: it is possible also, that in this situation they might take birds when they came to roost.
I have observed, that when they went from our tents upon the banks of Endeavour River, we could trace them by the fires which they kindled in their way; and we imagined that these fires were intended some way for the taking the kanguroo, which we observed to be so much afraid of fire, that our dogs could scarcely force it over places which had been newly burned, though the fire was extinguished.
They produce fire with great facility, and spread it in a wonderful manner. To produce it, they take two pieces of dry soft wood, one is a stick about eight or nine inches long, the other piece is flat: the stick they shape into an obtuse point at one end, and pressing it upon the other, turn it nimbly, by holding it between both their hands as we do a chocolate mill, often shifting their hands up, and then moving them down upon it, to increase the pressure as much as possible. By this method they get fire in less than two minutes, and from the smallest spark they increase it with great speed and dexterity. We have often seen one of them run along the shore, to all appearance with nothing in his hand, who stooping down for a moment, at the distance of every fifty or a hundred yards, left fire behind him, as we could see first by the smoke, and then by the flame among the drift wood, and other litter which was scattered along the place. We had the curiosity to examine one of these. planters of fire when he set off, and we saw him wrap up a small spark in dry grass, which, when he had run a little way, having been fanned by page 410 the air that his motion produced, began to blaze; he then laid it down in a place convenient for his purpose, inclosing a spark of it in another quantity of grass, and so continued his course.
There are perhaps few things in the history of mankind more extraordinary than the discovery and application of fire: it will scarcely be disputed that the manner of producing it, whether by collision or attrition, was discovered by chance: but its first effects would naturally strike those to whom it was a new object with consternation and terror: it would appear to be an enemy to life and nature, and to torment and destroy whatever was capable of being destroyed or tormented; and therefore it seems not easy to conceive what should incline those, who first saw it receive a transient existence from chance, to produce it by design. It is by no means probable that those who first saw fire approached it with the same caution, as those who are familiar with its effects, so as to be warmed only and not burned; and it is reasonable to think that the intolerable pain which, at its first appearance, it must produce upon ignorant curiosity, would sow perpetual enmity between this element and mankind; and that the same principle which incites them to crush a serpent, would incite them to destroy fire, and avoid all means by which it would be produced, as soon as they were known. These circumstances considered, how men became sufficiently familiar with it to render it useful, seems to be a problem very difficult to solve: nor is it easy to account for the first application of it to culinary purposes, as the eating both animal and vegetable food raw, must have become a habit, before there was fire to dress it, and those who have considered the force of habit will readily believe, that to men, who had always eaten the flesh of animals raw, it would be as disagreeable dressed, as to those who have always eaten it dressed it would be raw. It is remarkable that the in habitants of Terra del Fuego produce fire from a spark, by collision, and that the happier natives of this country, New Zealand, and Otaheite, produce it by the attrition of one combustible substance against another; is there not then some reason to suppose that these different operations correspond with the manner in which page 411 chance produced fire in the neighbourhood of the torrid and frigid zones? Among the rude inhabitants of a cold country, neither any operation of art, or occurrence of accident, could be supposed so easily to produce fire by attrition, as in a climate where every thing is hot, dry, and adust, teeming with a latent fire which a slight degree of motion was sufficient to call forth; in a cold country, therefore, it is natural to suppose that fire was produced by the accidental collision of two metallic substances, and in a cold country, for that reason, the same expedient was used to produce it by design: but in hot countries, where two combustible substances easily kindle by attrition, it is probable that the attrition of such substances first produced fire, and here it was therefore natural for art to adopt the same operation, with a view to produce the same effect. It may indeed be true that fire is now produced in many cold countries by attrition, and in many hot by a stroke; but. perhaps upon enquiry there may appear reason to conclude, that this has arisen from the communication of one country with another, and that with respect to the original production of fire in hot and cold countries, the distinction is well founded.
There may perhaps be some reason to suppose that men became gradually acquainted with the nature and effects of fire, by its permanent existence in a volcano, there being remains of volcanos, or vestiges of their effects, in almost every part of the world: by a volcano, however, no method of producing fire, otherwise than by contact, could be learned; the production and application of fire, therefore, still seem to afford abundant subject of speculation to the curious.
The weapons of these people are spears or lances, and these are of different kinds: some that we saw upon the southern part of the coast had four prongs, pointed with bone, and barbed; the points were also smeared with a hard resin, which gave them a polish, and made them enter deeper into what they struck. To the northward, the lance has but one point: the shaft is made of cane, or the stalk of a plant somewhat resembling a bullrush, very strait and light, and from eight to fourteen feet long, consisting of page 412 several joints, where the pieces are let into each other and bound together; to this are fitted points of different kinds; some are of a hard heavy wood, and some are the bones of fish; we saw several that were pointed with the stings of the sting-ray, the largest that they could procure, and barbed with several that were smaller, fastened on in a contrary direction; the points of wood were also sometimes armed with sharp pieces of broken shells, which were stuck in, and at the junctures covered with resin: the lances that are thus barbed, are indeed dreadful weapons, for when once they have taken place, they can never be drawn back without tearing away the flesh, or leaving the sharp ragged splinters of the bone or shell which forms the beard behind them in the wound. These weapons are thrown with great force and dexterity: is intended to wound at a short distance, between ten and twenty yards, simply with, the hand, but if at the distance of forty or fifty, with an instrument which we called a throwing stick. This is a plain smooth piece of a hard reddish wood, very highly polished, about two inches broad, half an inch thick, and three feet long, with a small knob, or hook at one end, and a cross piece about three or four inches long at the other: the knob at one end is received in a small dint or hollow, which is made for that purpose in the shaft of the lance near the point, but from which it easily slips, upon being impelled, forward; when the lance is laid along upon this machine, and secured in a proper position by the knob, the person that is to throw it holds it over his shoulder, and after shaking it, delivers both the throwing stick and lance with all his force; but the stick being the stopped by the cross piece which, comes against the shoulder, with a sudden jerk, the lance flies forward with incredible swiftness, and with so good an aim, that at the distance of fifty yards these Indians were more sure of their mark, than we. could be with a single bullet. Besides these lances, we saw no offensive weapon upon this coast, except when we took, our last view of it with our glasses, and then we thought we saw a man with a bow and arrows, in which it is possible we might be mistaken. We saw, however, at Botany Bay, a shield or target, of an oblong shape page 413 about three feet long, and eighteen inches broad, which was made of the bark of a tree: this was fetched out of a hut by one of the men that opposed our landing, who, when he ran away, left it behind him, and upon taking it up, we found that it had been pierced through with a single pointed lance near the center. These shields are certainly in frequent use among the people here, for though this was the only one that we saw in their possession, we frequently found trees from which they appeared manifestly to have been cut, the marks being easily distinguished from those that were made by cutting buckets: sometimes also we found the shields cut out, but not yet taken off from the tree, the edges of the bark only being a little raised by wedges, so that these people appear to have discovered that the bark of a tree becomes thicker and stronger by being suffered to remain upon the trunk after it has been cut round.
The canoes of New Holland are as mean and rude as the houses. Those on the southern part of the coast are nothing more than a piece of bark, about twelve feet long, tied together at the ends, and kept open in the middle by small bows of wood; yet in a vessel of this construction we once saw three people. In shallow water they are set forward by a pole, and in deeper by paddles, about eighteen inches long, one of which the boatman holds in each hand; mean as they are, they have many conveniencies, they draw but little water, and they are very light, so that they go upon mud banks to pick up shell fish, the most important use to which they can be applied, better perhaps than vessels of any other construction. We observed, that in the middle of these canoes there was a heap of sea-weed, and upon that a small fire; probably that the fish may be broiled and eaten the moment it is caught.
The canoes that we saw when we advanced farther to the northward, are not made of bark, but of the trunk of a tree hollowed, perhaps by fire. They are about fourteen feet long, and, being very narrow, are fitted with an outrigger to prevent their oversetting. These are worked with paddles, that are so large as to require both hands to manage one of them: the outside is wholly unmarked by any tool, but at each end the page 414 wood is left longer at the top than at the bottom, so that that there is a projection beyond the hollow part resembling the end of a plank; the sides are tolerably thin, but how the tree is felled and fashioned, we had no opportunity to learn. The only tools that we saw among them are an adze, wretchedly made of stone, some small pieces of the same substance in form of a wedge, a wooden mallet, and some shells and fragments of coral. For polishing their throwing sticks, and the points of their lances, they use the leaves of a kind of wild fig-tree, which bites upon wood almost as keenly as the shave-grass of Europe, which is used by our joiners: with such tools, the making even such a canoe as I have described, must be a most difficult and tedious labour: to those who have been accustomed to the use of metal, it appears altogether impracticable; but there are few difficulties that will not yield to patient perseverance, and he, who does all he can, will certainly produce effects that greatly exceed his apparent power.
The utmost freight of these canoes is four people, and if more at any time wanted to come over the river, one of those who came first was obliged to go back for the rest: from this circumstance, we conjectured that the boat we saw, when we were lying in Endeavour River, was the only one in the neighbourhood: we have however some reason to believe that the bark canoes are also used where the wooden ones are constructed, for upon one of the small islands where the natives had been fishing for turtle, we found one of the little paddles which had belonged to such a boat, and would have been useless on board any other.
By what means the inhabitants of this country are reduced to such a number as it can subsist, is not perhaps very easy to guess; whether, like the inhabitants of New Zealand, they are destroyed by the hands of each other in contests for food; whether they are swept off by accidental famine, or whether there is any cause which prevents the increase of the species, must be left for future adventurers to determine. That they have wars, appears by their weapons; for supposing the lances to serve merely for the striking of fish, the shield could be intended for nothing but a defence against page 415 men; the only mark of hostility, however, which we saw among them, was the perforation of the shield by a spear which had been just mentioned, for none of them appeared to have been wounded by an enemy. Neither can we determine whether they are pusillanimous or brave; the resolution with which two of them attempted to prevent our landing, when we had two boats full of men, in Botany Bay, even after one of them was wounded with small shot, gave us reason to conclude that they were not only naturally courageous, but that they had acquired a familiarity with the dangers of hostility, and were, by habit as well as nature, a daring and warlike people; but their precipitate flight from every other place that we approached, without even a menace, while they were out of our reach, was an indication of uncommon tameness and timidity, such as those who had only been occasionally warriors must be supposed to have shaken off, whatever might have been their natural disposition. I have faithfully related facts, the reader must judge of the people for himself.
From the account that has been given of our commerce with them, it cannot be supposed that we should know much of their language; yet as this is an object of great curiosity, especially to the learned, and of great importance in their researches into the origin of the various nations that have been discovered, we took some pains to bring away such a specimen of it as might, in a certain degree, answer the purpose; and I shall now give an account how it was procured. If we wanted to know the name of a stone, we took a stone up into our hands, and, as well as we could, intimated by signs that we wished they should name it: the word that they pronounced upon the occasion, we immediately wrote down. This method, though it was the best we could contrive, might certainly lead us into many mistakes; for if an Indian was to take up a stone, and ask us the name of it, we might answer a pebble or a flint; so when we took up a stone, and ask an Indian the name of it, he might pronounce a word that distinguished the species and not the genus, or that, instead of signifying stone simply, might signify a rough page 416 stone, or a smooth stone; however, as much as possible to avoid mistakes of this kind, several of us contrived, at different times, to get from them as many words as we could, and having noted them down, compared our lists: those which were the same in all, and which, according to every one's account, signified the same thing, we ventured to record, with a very few others, which, from the simplicity of the subject, and the ease of expressing our question with plainness and precision by a sign, have acquired equal authority.
|English.||New Holland.||English.||New Holland.|
|Beard,||Wallar.||A male turtle,||Poinga.|
|Knees,||Pongo.||A dog,||Cotta, or Kota.|
|Feet,||Edamal.||A loriquet,||Perpere, or pier-pier.|
|The soal of the foot,||Chumal.||The bone in the nose,||Tapool.|
|Arms,||Aco, or Acol.||A great cockle,||Moingo.|
|Thumb,||Eboorbalga.||Cocos, yams,||Maracotu.page 417|
|English.||New Holland.||New Holland.||English.|
|The sore, middle, and ring fingers.||Egalbaiga.||Expressions, as we supposed, of admiration, which they continually used when they were in company with us.|
|The little finger.||Nakil, or Eboornakil.||Yarcaw,|
|The sky,||Kere, or Kearre.||Tut, tut, tut, tut,|
I shall now quit this country, with a few observations relative to the currents and tides upon the coast. From latitude 32°, and somewhat higher, down to Sandy Cape, in latitude 24° 46′, we constantly found a current setting to the southward, at the rate of about ten or fifteen miles a day, being more or less, according to our distance from the land; for it always ran with more force in shore than in the offing; but I could never satisfy myself whether the flood-tide came from the southward, the eastward, or the northward: I inclined to the opinion that it came from the south-east, but the first time we anchored off the coast, which was in latitude 24° 30′, about ten leagues to the south-east of Bustard Bay, I found that it came from the north-west; on the contrary thirty leagues farther to the north-west, on the south side of Keppel Bay, I found that it came from the east, and at the northern part of that Bay it came from the northward, but with a much slower motion than it had come from the east: on the east side of the bay of Inlets, it set strongly to the westward, as far as the opening of Broad Sound; but on the north side of that Sound, it came with a very slow motion from the north-west; and when we lay at anchor before Repulse Bay, it came from the northward: to account for its course in all this variety of directions, we need only admit that the flood-tide comes from the east or south-east. It is well known, that where there are deep inlets, and large creeks into low lands, running up from the sea, and not occasioned by rivers of fresh water, there will always be a great page 418 indraught of the flood-tide, the direction of which will be determined by the position or direction of the coast which forms the entrance of such inlet, whatever be its course at sea; and where the tides are weak, which upon this coast is generally the case, a large inlet will, if I may be allowed the expression, attract the flood-tide for many leagues.
A view of the chart will at once illustrate this position. To the northward of Whitsunday's passage there is no large inlet, consequently the flood sets to the north-ward, or north-westward, according to the direction of the coast, and the ebb to the south, or south-eastward, at least such is their course at a little distance from the land, for very near it they will be influenced by small inlets. I also observed, that we had only one high tide in twenty-four hours, which happened in the night. The difference between the perpendicular rise of the water in the day and the night, when there is a spring tide, is no less than three feet, which, where the tides are so inconsiderable as they are here, is a large proportion of the whole difference between high and low water. This irregularity of the tides, which is worthy of notice, we did not discover till we were run ashore, and perhaps farther to the northward it is still greater: after we got within the reef the second time, we found the tides more considerable than we had ever done before, except in the Bay of Inlets, and possibly this may be owing to the water being more confined between the shoals; here also the flood sets to the north-west, and continues in the same direction to the extremity of New Wales; from whence its direction is west and south-west into the Indian sea.