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Historical Records of New Zealand

Governor King to Sir Joseph Banks

Governor King to Sir Joseph Banks.

5th June, 1802.

Dear Sir,—

By Capt. McKellar you will have learned that I retained the Lady Nelson ’till November, when, finding the Investigator did not arrive, I was unwilling to lose so much of the summer, and sent her to the Straits, expecting she might fall in there with the Inves’r. The young man* who commands her did very well. He remained out from 9th Nov. till 28th March, and as I had closed my despatches I could say but little about what he had done at that time. However, I now have the pleasure of saying that in this trip he ascertained everything on the east, north, and S.E. sides of King’s Island, which he made a very good sketch of, as well as the passage through and coves in Kent’s Group. He also discovered a spacious harbour about six leagues to the westward of Western Port which I named Port Phillip, after my worthy and dear friend the Admiral, who until now has not had his name bestowed on either stick

* Acting-Lieutenant John Murray.

page 237 or stone in the colony. I have sent Mr. Murray’s journal to the Adm’ty, with a chart* containing his discoveries, together with his tracks and those of other vessells that have passed thro’ the Straits. I have also sent a letter respecting the Naturaliste, which arrived here April 24th, and Investigator, 9th May. Under the persuasion that you will see that letter, either at the Adm’ty or Whitehall, I shall say nothing more about it, as the whaler this goes by is in a great hurry to get home before winter, that you may not be left in darkness. The Investigator is refitting, and will sail, I hope, in a month, accompanied by the Lady Nelson, which is, and has been, a most valuable vessell to this colony and the service she is going on; and as the young man who commands her has passed for a lieut., and has hitherto acquitted himself much to my satisfaction (considering he is neither astronomer or surveyor, but aspires to both), should it occur, and an opportunity happen, I shall be much obliged by your saying a word in his favour at the Admiralty. I have wrote particularly about him in my letter to the Admiralty. As Captain Flinders will tell his own story what he has done, I think, if no accidents happen in the business he has to perform, that a complete survey will be made. The Naturaliste did not remain here more than fourteen days. We expect the Geographe here also. The Commander has been looking for the Naturaliste, and she for him. Rendezvous they had none, for while the Naturaliste was here Flinders met the Geographe six degrees to the westward of Basses Straits. Previous to the Naturaliste’s sailing we had an imperfect account of peace.

By Captain Flinders I received yours of June 22nd and July 8th. With your usual goodness you inform me of the advantageous reports made of me. As it is my only study to merit your approbation, and as for others I am callous to what those about me say and think. There are two things that set me much at variance with those about me—first, my determination that the public shall not be cheated; and next, that the King’s authority shall not be insulted. I could enlarge very much; however, trusting you will see my dispatches, I must refer you to them. The former system of monopoly and extortion I hope are now eradicated. Of spirits I think the inundation is going off, and industry begins to know her produce will not be sacrificed to the infamous wretches that have preyed on the vitals of this colony.

* Unfortunately this chart is not available. The journal, as already stated, will be found in Labilliere’s Early History of the Colony of Victoria, vol. i, p. 72 et seq.

These two letters are not available.

page 238

I have begun a new settlement* eight miles to the northward of Parramatta, which is doing extremely well. The country and soil is well adapted for cultivation and grazing, and extends equally good as far as the Hawkesbury. Our herds of tame cattle are increasing so fast that we are obliged to be constantly erecting new stockyards. This species of stock thrive wonderfully well.

I do not recollect what things I sent by the Buffalo besides the duck-bill, the Spanish wool, and Cayley’s boxes. The first I hope got safe and perfect, as no pains or spirits were spared to preserve it. I will enquire respecting the other species, and do as you desire. I sent some rubbish by the Albion which I hope you received safe. I send by this conveyance the articles named in the enclosed list. The printed paper will explain how I came by the head. The bearer of it you will find mentioned in Collins’s books. Altho’ a terrible pest to the colony, he was a brave and independent character. Understanding that the possession of a New Hollander’s head is among the desiderata, I have put it in spirits and forward it by the Speedy. I also send a box containing specimens of the fustic which grows in great abundance at the Coal Harbour or Hunter’s River. Respecting the salt, I believe the specimens Governor Hunter gave you were good ones. I now send a large lump in a box, which I can assure you was taken from a hollow in the mountains. I did intend to have sent a party early in March, under the direction of Ensign Barallier, and to have had a chain of depots for provisions, to ascertain the circumstance of the salt and several other objects, but the rain unfortunately set in, which will prevent this expedition taking place before next October, when I hope we shall be able to make a good job of it. Cayley has made new attempts to get to the mountains, and has once crossed the Nepean. With all his faults, which he cannot help, I believe him clever and faithful, except that he certainly supplies Colville, to whom I am informed he has sent parcels by the Speedy. Notwithstanding this, and all his eccentricities, I believe fulfilling your wishes and expectations is his constant study.

While the Naturaliste was here the mineralogist made experiments on the ferruginous stones that abound here. He says they contain too small a portion of iron for working, but that a profitable substance might be got from them for glazing porcelain. He could not discover any limestone. He says none was to be found on the S.W. coast, but the Investigator says different.

* Evidently Castle Hill.

page 239

Capt. Flinders tells me that on one of the northernmost of the islands that form D’Entrecasteaux Straits or Archipelago they found a very considerable salt-pit, which would supply this colony. This is an information I will avail myself of as soon as summer approaches and I have a vessel I can send. At present the Porpoise is gone to the Society Islands in quest of salt pork, and the other Colonial vessels cannot be spared; neither would the season be favourable if they were at leisure. However, it is an object of too much consequence to pass over or neglect. I should have sent you a copy of the charts for the Lady Nelson’s last voyage; but as I have requested the Adm’ty and Sect’y of State to allow them to be printed until Flinders can complete and arrange his surveys, I hope you will have some direction therein. This is rendered still more necessary from an information I have received from a vessel* that has returned here from sealing after being four months absent, six weeks of which time they were in a very snug place on the west side of King’s Island, filling with prime sealskins and elephant oyl…

I have in a very earnest manner recommended the making a settlement at Port Phillip, for the very advantageous account given of it, both by Capt. Flinders and Lieut. Murray—its relative situation to this colony requires it. The soil is excellent, and the timber thin, added to which the security and expansiveness of the harbor seems to point it out as absolutely necessary that a settlement should be made there; nor can there be a doubt of its being a better wheat country than this, from its being in a higher latitude. So fully convinced am I of the utility this would be of to this colony that I would have decided on this measure before I heard from England; but the truth is, I have not a person I can spare or trust with such a commission. The great abundance of sea elephants, prime and other seals, that are throughout these Straits and all up the south-west coast, will make this a place of great resort, if the oyl of the elephant or skins are held in request, but at present we are told that the China market is quite glutted with them; however, that may not always be the case.

The whale-fishing on this coast and off New Zealand may now be pronounced established. A full whaler takes these letters Home, another is almost ready to follow, and four more are filling with very good success. In order to set Government au fait, I have put some queries to three of the whaling masters

* The Harrington, whaler, Captain Campbell.

Omitted, being practically a repetition of parts of the Governor’s letter to Under-Secretary King.

page 240 who are now in here. The answers I have sent Home to the Admt’y and Sect’y of State, also another copy to one of the principal owners, which, of course, you will see; but I have no doubt, from the success they have had, you will observe how deserving that employ is of encouragement and protection from Government.

What political object the French have in view of exploring this coast I do not know, but I suspect they have a settlement on the west coast in view. I hear of no other new discovery they made except a very large bay* between Swan River and the east point of the Land of Lyons. Should that be the case, is it not more incumbent on us to make a settlement at a place so advantageously situated as Port Phillip certainly is? Mr. Brown sends a box of seeds by this conveyance. All the scientific folks on board the Investigator appear very assiduous. They talk of a walk to the mountains. With my sincere wishes for your health, and my respects to Lady and Miss Banks, I beg to assure you of the respect with which I am,

Yours, &c.,

Philip Gidley King.

* Evidently Geographe Bay, named after Le Géographe.