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Historical Records of New Zealand

Governor King to Lord Hobart

Governor King to Lord Hobart.

Sydney, New South Wales, 9th May, 1803

My Lord,—

* * * *

The Porpoise, since her last return from Otaheite, has been found very weak in her frame, and her outside plank in many places rotten. She is now repairing and refitting as well as can be done here, to be sent to England next September. That ship has not lain idle a day, except in refitting, during the three years she will have been on this service, and has rendered much benefit to the colony by the two cargoes of salt pork she has brought from Otaheite, the first of which certainly saved us from experiencing much inconvenience and loss of our breeding stock; nor has her second cargoe been unacceptable, altho’ our stores are now so well filled with salt meat. Notwithstanding she has brought these supplies, yet she is by no means calculated for bringing cattle; therefore, if it should meet your Lordship’s approbation, to apply to the Admiralty for the Porpoise being replaced by another vessel of about 350 or 380 tons, with a good between decks for cattle, a vessel of that kind would be a great acquisition to this colony; and if the two qualities of sailing and stowage could be united, such a ship would be the most desirable for this service.

The Cumberland, Colonial schooner, which I sent to the southward, as stated in my separate letter (a duplicate of which is sent with this), returned here 8th March. By her I received a letter from the Commandant of the French expedition of discoveries, a copy of which—with my remarks thereon—I have the honor to enclose. By its tenor your Lordship will observe that he does page 247 not avow having instructions to make any settlement on Van Diemen’s Land. What intentions the French Government may in future have on that island, I cannot pretend to say further than I have communicated to your Lordship; but I respectfully conceive some instructions should be sent on that head, as it is within the limits of His Majesty’s territory. On the arrival of His Majesty’s ship Glatton, Lieut’t John Bowen of that ship offered to settle any part of that island I might direct. The river Derwent having many local advantages, joined to the description given by Mr. Bass of what is called Risdon’s Cove, induces me to accept of L’t Bowen’s offer; and as he had Capt. Colnett’s consent and recommendation, I have appointed him to act as commandant and superintendant of that intended settlement, under the enclosed instructions. And as an assistant-surgeon cannot be spared from this place or Norfolk Island, I have appointed Mr. Jacob Mountgarret, surgeon of the Glatton, to that situation, who will also act as a magistrate, and be of much assistance to Mr. Bowen, whose numbers at first will be but small, until I am able to report to your Lordship the progress he is likely to make.

The officer of the Buffalo, surveyor, gardner, &c., returned from their survey of King’s Island and Port Phillip, with no very promising hopes of either being found an eligible place for a large agricultural settlement. I have the honor to forward a copy of their surveys,* which will explain what they have done. It now remains to determine how far it would be advisable to make a settlement at Port Phillip. From its being situate at the western extremity of the entrance of the straits, it may be advisable some years hence, and indeed absolutely necessary. How far it may be considered as an immediate object, I must submit to your Lordship’s consideration.

The French schooner I mentioned in a former letter, which arrived here from the Isle of France to catch seals, &c., in the straits, was lost among the Cape Barren Islands, which may stop any more adventurers from that quarter.

The flattering accounts the owners of the southern fishery will receive of the success their ships have had on this coast and that of New Zealand, ought to ensure their following this as the surest and most profitable track for their ships. We have now two ships belonging to London ready to sail, full of spermacceti oil, and several more are gone Home in the same state.

* * * *

I have, &c.,

Philip Gidley King.

The Porpoise sailed on the 10th August, 1803, in company with the Cato and Bridgewater. The last-named reached Bombay, but the Porpoise and Cato were wrecked on Wreck Reef on the night of the 17th August, 1803.

* These enclosures are not available.

L’Enterprise, Captain Lecorre.