Discoveries in Australia, Volume 1.
by J Lort Stokes
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IN THE YEARS 1837-38-39-40-41-42-43.















I cannot allow these volumes to go before the public, without expressing my thanks to the following gentlemen for assistance, afforded to me in the course of the composition of this work: To Captain Beaufort, R.N., F.R.S., Hydrographer to the Admiralty, for his kindness in furnishing me with some of the accompanying charts; to Sir John Richardson, F.R.S; J.E. Gray, Esquire, F.R.S.; E. Doubleday, Esquire, F.L.S., and A. White, Esquire, M.E.S., for their valuable contributions on Natural History, to be found in the Appendix; to J. Gould, Esquire, F.R.S., for a list of birds collected during the voyage of the Beagle; to Lieutenants Gore and Fitzmaurice, for many of the sketches which illustrate the work; and to B. Bynoe, Esquire, F.R.C.S., for several interesting papers which will be found dispersed in the following pages.

Captain Owen Stanley, R.N., F.R.S., also merits my warmest thanks, for the important addition to the work of his visits to the Islands in the Arafura Sea.

I have to explain, that when the name Australasia is used in the following pages, it is intended to include Tasmania (Van Diemen's Land) and all the islands in the vicinity of the Australian continent.

All bearings and courses, unless it is specified to the contrary, are magnetic, according to the variation during the period of the Beagle's voyage.

The longitudes are generally given from meridians in Australia, as I much question whether any portion of the continent is accurately determined with reference to Greenwich. Sydney, Port Essington, and Swan River, have been the meridians selected; and the respective positions of those places, within a minute of the truth, I consider to be as follows:

Swan River (Scott's Jetty, Fremantle) 115 degrees 47 minutes East.

Port Essington (Government house) 132 degrees 13 minutes East.

Sydney (Fort Macquarie) 151 degrees 16 minutes East.



Objects of the Voyage. The Beagle commissioned. Her former career. Her first Commander. Instructions from the Admiralty and the Hydrographer. Officers and Crew. Arrival at Plymouth. Embark Lieutenants Grey and Lushington's Exploring Party. Chronometric Departure. Farewell glance at Plymouth. Death of King William the Fourth.


Sail from Plymouth. The Eight Stones. Peak of Tenerife. Approach to Santa Cruz. La Cueva de Los Guanches. Trade with Mogadore. Intercourse between Mogadore and Mombas. Reason to regret Mombas having been given up. Sail from Tenerife. Search for rocks near the equator. Arrival at San Salvador. Appearance of Bahia. State of the Country. Slave Trade. And results of Slavery. Extension of the Slave Trade on the eastern coast of Africa. Moral condition of the Negroes. Middy's Grave. Departure from Bahia. Mr. "Very Well Dice".


A gale. Anchor in Simon's Bay. H.M.S. Thalia. Captain Harris, and his Adventures in Southern Africa. Proceedings of the Land Party. Leave Simon's Bay. An overloaded ship. Heavy weather and wet decks. Island of Amsterdam. Its true longitude. St. Paul's. Water. Westerly variation. Rottnest Island. Gage's Road. Swan River Settlement. Fremantle. An inland lake. Plans for the future. Illness of Captain Wickham. Tidal Phenomena. Perth. Approach to it. Narrow escape of the first settlers. The Darling Range. Abundant Harvest. Singular flight of strange birds. Curious Cliff near Swan River. Bald Head. Mr. Darwin's Theory. The Natives. Miago. Anecdotes of Natives. Their Superstitions. Barbarous traditions, their uses and their lessons.


Sail from Gage's Road. Search for a bank. Currents and soundings. Houtman's Abrolhos. Fruitless search for Ritchie's Reef. Indications of a squall. Deep sea soundings. Atmospheric Temperature. Fish. A squall. Anchor off the mouth of Roebuck Bay. A heavy squall. Driven from our anchorage. Cape Villaret. Anchor in Roebuck Bay. Excursion on shore. Visit from the Natives. Mr. Bynoe's account of them. A stranger among them. Captain Grey's account of an almost white race in Australia. Birds, Snakes, and Turtle. Move the Ship. Miago, and the Black Fellows. The wicked men of the North. Clouds of Magellan. Face of the Country. Natives. Heat and Sickness. Miago on shore. Mr. Usborne wounded. Failure in Roebuck Bay. Native notions.


Departure from Roebuck Bay. Appearance of the Country. Progress to the northward. Hills and Cliffs. French Names and French Navigators. Tasman, and his account of the Natives. Hazeygaeys and Assagais. His Authenticity as an Historian. Description of the Natives. Marks and mutilations. Phrenological Development. Moral condition. Proas, Canoes, and Rafts. Another squall. Anchor in Beagle Bay. Face of the Country. Palm Trees. Dew. Hauling the Seine. A meeting with Natives. Eastern Salutation. Miago's conduct towards, and opinion of, his countrymen. Mutilation of the Hand. Native smokes seen. Move further to the North-East. Point Emeriau. Cape Leveque. Point Swan. Tide-races. Search for water. Encountered by Natives. Return to the Ship. The attempt renewed. Conduct of the Natives. Effect of a Congreve Rocket after dark. A successful haul. More Natives. Miago's Heroism. The plague of Flies. Dampier's description of it. Native Habitations. Underweigh. Wind and weather. Tidal Phenomenon. Natural History. Singular Kangaroo. Bustard. Cinnamon Kangaroo. Quails. Goanas and Lizards. Ant Hills. Fishing over the side. A day in the Bush. A flood of fire. Soil and Productions. White Ibis. Curious Tree. Rain water. Geology of the Cliffs. Weigh, and graze a Rock, or Touch and go. The Twins. Sunday Strait. Roe's Group. Miago and his friends. A black dog. A day of rest. Native raft. Captain King and the Bathurst. A gale. Point Cunningham. Successful search for water. Native estimation of this fluid. Discovery of a Skeleton. And its removal. The grey Ibis. Our parting legacy.


Survey the Coast to Point Cunningham. Move the Ship. Mosquitoes. Southern View of King's Sound. Singular vitreous Formation. Move to the south of Point Cunningham. Captain King's limit. Termination of Cliffy Range. Disaster Bay. An Exploring Party leave in the boats. The shore. A freshwater lake. Valentine Island. Native Fire and Food. A heavy squall. The wild Oat. Indications of a River. Point Torment. Gouty-stem Tree and Fruit. Limits of its growth. Another squall. Water nearly fresh alongside. The Fitzroy River. Tide Bore and dangerous position of the Yawl. Ascent of the Fitzroy. Appearance of the adjacent land. Return on foot. Perilous situation and providential escape. Survey the western shore. Return to the Ship. Sporting, Quail and Emus. Natives. Ship moved to Point Torment.


Examination of the Fitzroy River. Excursion into the interior. Alarm of the Natives. Ascent of the River. Sufferings from Mosquitoes. Red Sandstone. Natives again surprised. Appearance of the Country. Impediments in the River. Return of the boats. An Alligator. Stokes' Bay. Narrow escape of an Officer. Change of Landscape. Pheasant-Cuckoos. A new Vine. Compass Hill. Port Usborne. Explore the eastern shore of King's Sound. Cone Bay. Native Fires. Whirlpool Channel. Group of Islands. Sterile aspect of the Coast. Visited by a Native. Bathurst Island. Native Hut and Raft. Return to Port Usborne. Native Spears. Cascade Bay. Result of Explorations in King's Sound. Interview with Natives. Coral Reefs. Discover Beagle Bank. Arrival at Port George the Fourth. Examination of Collier Bay in the boats. Brecknock Harbour. The Slate Islands. Freshwater Cove. An Eagle shot. Its singular nest. Rock Kangaroos. A Conflagration. Sandstone Ridges. Doubtful Bay. Mouth of the Glenelg. Remarkable Tree. Fertile Country near Brecknock Harbour. Return to the Ship. Meet with Lieutenant Grey. His sufferings and discoveries. Visit the Encampment. Timor Ponies. Embarkation of Lieutenant Grey's Party. Sail from Port George the Fourth. Remarks on position of Tryal Rock. Anecdotes of Miago. Arrival at Swan River. Directions for entering Owen's Anchorage.


Miago's reception by his countrymen. Whale Fishery. Strange ideas entertained by Natives respecting the first Settlers. Neglected state of the Colony. Test security of Owen's Anchorage. Weather. Celebration of the Anniversary of the Colony. Friendly meeting between different Tribes. Native beggars. Personal vanity of a Native. Visit York. Description of Country. Site of York. Scenery in its neighbourhood. Disappointment experienced. Sail from Swan River. Hospitality of Colonists during our stay. Aurora Australis. Gale off Cape Leeuwen. Stormy passage. Ship on a lee shore. South-west Cape of Tasmania. Bruny Island Lighthouse. Arrive at Hobart. Mount Wellington. Kangaroo Hunt. White Kangaroo. Civility from the Governor. Travertine Limestone. Leave Hobart. Singular Current. Appearance of Land in the neighbourhood of Sydney. Position of Lighthouse. Entrance and first view of Port Jackson. Scenery on passing up the Harbour. Meet the Expedition bound to Port Essington. Apparent increase of Sydney. Cause of Decline. Expedition sails for Port Essington. Illawarra. Botany Bay. La Perouse's Monument. Aborigines. Meet Captain King. Appearance of Land near Sydney.


Leave Sydney. Enter Bass Strait. Island at Eastern entrance. Wilson's Promontory. Cape Shanck. Enter Port Phillip. Tide-race. Commence Surveying Operations. First Settlement. Escaped Convict. His residence with the Natives. Sail for King Island. Examine Coast to Cape Otway. King Island. Meet Sealers on New Year Islands. Franklin Road. Solitary Residence of Captain Smith. Soil. Advantageous position for a Penal Settlement. Leafless appearance of Trees. Examine West Coast. Fitzmaurice Bay. Stokes' Point. Seal Bay. Geological Formation. Examine Coast to Sea Elephant Rock. Brig Rock. Cross the Strait to Hunter Island. Strong Tide near Reid's Rocks. Three Hummock Island. Rats. The Black Pyramid. Point Woolnorth. Raised Beach. Coast to Circular Head. Headquarters of the Agricultural Company. Capture of a Native. Mouth of the Tamar River. Return to Port Phillip. West Channel. Yarra-yarra River. Melbourne. Custom of Natives. Manna. Visit Geelong. Station Peak. Aboriginal Names. South Channel. Examine Western Port. Adventure with a Snake. Black Swans. Cape Patterson. Deep Soundings. Revisit King and Hunter Islands. Fire. Circular Head. Gales of Wind. Reid's Rocks. Sea Elephant Rock. Wild Dogs. Navarin and Harbinger Reefs. Arrive at Port Phillip. Sail for Sydney. Pigeon House. Drought. Mr. Usborne leaves.


Leave Sydney. Gale and Current. Port Stephens. Tahlee. River Karuah. Stroud. Wild Cattle. Incivility of a Settler. River Allyn. Mr. Boydell. Cultivation of Tobacco. A clearing Lease. William River. Crossing the Karuah at Night. Sail from Port Stephens. Breaksea Spit. Discover a Bank. Cape Capricorn. Northumberland Isles. Sandalwood. Cape Upstart. Discover a River. Raised Beach. Section of Barrier Reef. Natives. Plants and Animals. Magnetical Island. Halifax Bay. Height of Cordillera. Fitzroy Island. Hope Island. Verifying Captain King's Original Chart. Cape Bedford. New Geological Feature. Lizard Island. Captain Cook. Barrier and Reefs within. Howick Group. Noble Island. Cape Melville. Reef near Cape Flinders. Princess Charlotte's Bay. Section of a detached Reef. Tide at Claremont Isles. Restoration Island. Islands fronting Cape Grenville. Boydan Island. Correct Chart. Tides. Cairncross Island. Escape River. Correct position of Reefs. York Isles. Tides. Torres Strait. Endeavour Strait. Booby Island. Remarks on Barrier and its contiguous Islands and Reefs. Cape Croker and reef off it. Discover error in longitude of Cape. Reefs at the mouth of Port Essington. Arrive at the latter.


Port Essington. Bearings from shoals in the Harbour. Appearance of the Settlement. Meet Captain Stanley. Church. Point Record. Prospects of the Settlement. Buffaloes escape. Fence across neck of Peninsula. Lieutenant P.B. Stewart explores the Country. Natives. Uses of Sand. Tumuli-building Birds. Beautiful Opossum. Wild Bees. Escape from an Alligator. Result of Astronomical Observations. Geological Formation. Raffles Bay. Leave Port Essington. Popham Bay. Detect error in position of Port Essington. Melville Island. Discover a Reef in Clarence Strait. Cape Hotham. Native Huts and Clothing. Geological Formation. Discover the Adelaide River. Interview with Natives. Attempt to come on board. Messrs. Fitzmaurice and Keys nearly speared. Exploration of the Adelaide. Its capabilities. Wood-ducks. Vampires. Another party ascends the Adelaide. Meet Natives. Canoes. Alligator. Visit Melville Island. Green Ants. Thoughts of taking ship up Adelaide abandoned. Tides in Dundas Strait. Return to Port Essington. Theatricals. H.M.S. Pelorus arrives with Provisions. Further remarks on the Colony.


Leave Port Essington. Reach Timor Laut. Meet Proas. Chief Lomba. Traces of the Crew of the Charles Eaton. Their account of the wreck and sojourn on the Island. Captain King's account of the Rescue of the Survivors. Boy Ireland's relation of the sufferings and massacre of the Crew. Appearance of the shores of Timor Laut. Description of the Inhabitants. Dress. Leprosy. Canoes. Village of Oliliet. Curious Houses. Remarkable Ornaments. Visit the Oran Kaya. Burial Islet. Supplies obtained. Gunpowder in request as Barter. Proceed to the Arru Islands. Dobbo Harbour. Trade. Present to Chief. Birds of Paradise. Chinaming Junks' bottoms. Character of Natives. Some of them profess Christianity. Visit the Ki Islands. Village of Ki Illi. How protected. Place of Worship. Pottery. Timber. Boat-building. Cultivation of the eastern Ki. No anchorage off it. Visit Ki Doulan. Antique Appearance of. Luxuriant Vegetation. Employment of Natives. Defences of the place. Carvings on gateway. Civility of Chief. His Dress. Population of the Ki Group. Their Religion. Trade. Place of Interment. Agility of Australian Native. Supplies. Anchorage off Ki Doulan. Island of Vordate. Visit from Chief. Excitement of Natives. Their Arms and Ornaments. Carved Horns on Houses. Alarm of the Oran Kaya. Punishment of the Natives of Laarat by the Dutch. Revisit Oliliet. Discover that Mr. Watson had rescued the European Boy. Return to Port Essington. Mr. Watson's Proceedings at Timor Laut.



List of Birds, collected by the Officers of H.M.S. Beagle.

Descriptions of Six Fish. By Sir John Richardson. M.D., F.R.S. etc.

Descriptions of some New Australian Reptiles. By J.E. Gray, Esquire F.R.S. etc.

Descriptions of new or unfigured Species of Coleoptera from Australia. By Adam White, Esquire M.E.S.

Descriptions of some new or imperfectly characterized Lepidoptera from Australia. By E. Doubleday, Esquire F.L.S.









SOUTH BRANCH OF THE ALBERT RIVER. G. GORE del. London, Published by T. & W. Boone, 1846.





KILEYS OF KING SOUND AND SWAN RIVER. 1/24th of the usual size.




CIRCULAR HEAD. South-South-East Six Miles.


SECTION OF THE NORTH-EAST COAST OF AUSTRALIA, AND GREAT BARRIER REEF. Horizontal Scale of 20 miles. Vertical Scale of 2000 feet. A. Cape Upstart, 2000 feet high. B. Bay within 3 fathoms deep. C. Raised bed of coral and shells, 12 feet high. D. Depth 17 fathoms, fine grey sand and shells. E. 27 fathoms, grey sandy mud or marl, which after exposure to the air becomes very hard. F. 32 fathoms, coarse sand. G. Great Barrier Reef, outer part uncertain, being taken from the width of it near H. No bottom, with 200 fathoms. I. Level of sea at high-water; rise of tide 7 feet.

NORTH-WEST PART OF MAGNETIC ISLAND. G. Gore del. London, Published by T. & W. Boone, 1846.

MOUNT HINCHINBROOK. West-North-West 35 Miles.

SECTION OF A DETACHED CORAL REEF IN LATITUDE 14 DEGREES SOUTH, WITHIN THE BARRIER REEF OF AUSTRALIA. The point C (on the edge of the reef C) stands two feet above waterline G, and the point D 1 1/2 feet above it. The depth of water in the lagoon exaggerated in section. Figures on line denote depth of water in feet beneath. G level of sea in a mean state.



NATIVE TOWN OF OLILIET. O. Stanley del. London, Published by T. & W. Boone, 1846.


FISHES. PLATE 1. FIGURES 1, 2, 3. Cristiceps axillaris. Drawn on Stone by W. Mitchell. Hullmandel & Walton Lithographers.

FISHES. PLATE 1. FIGURES 4, 5. Balistes phaleratus. Drawn on Stone by W. Mitchell. Hullmandel & Walton Lithographers.

FISHES. PLATE 2. FIGURES 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. Assiculus punctatus. Drawn on Stone by W. Mitchell. Hullmandel & Walton Lithographers.

FISHES. PLATE 2. FIGURES 6, 7, 8, 9. Natural size. Scorpaena stokesii. Drawn on Stone by W. Mitchell. Hullmandel & Walton Lithographers.

FISHES. PLATE 3. Smaris porosus. Drawn on Stone by W. Mitchell. Hullmandel & Walton Lithographers.

FISHES. PLATE 4. Chelmon marginalis. Drawn on Stone by W. Mitchell. Hullmandel & Walton Lithographers.


REPTILES. PLATE 1. Silubosaurus stokesii. Day & Haghe, Lithographers to the Queen.

REPTILES. PLATE 2. Egernia cunninghami. Day & Haghe, Lithographers to the Queen.

REPTILES. PLATE 3. Hydrus stokesii. Day & Haghe, Lithographers to the Queen.

REPTILES. PLATE 4. Gonionotus plumbeus. W. Wing Litho. C. Hullmandel's Patent.


INSECTS. PLATE 1. FIGURES 1, 1a, 1b and 1c. Megacephala Australasiae, Hope.

INSECTS. PLATE 1. FIGURES 2 and 2a. Aenigma cyanipenne, Hope.

INSECTS. PLATE 1. FIGURES 3, 3a, 3b, 3c, 3d, 3e and 3f. Calloodes grayianus, White.

INSECTS. PLATE 1. FIGURES 4, and 4a. Biphyllocera kirbyana, White.

INSECTS. PLATE 1. FIGURE 5. Cetonia (Diaphonia) notabilis.

INSECTS. PLATE 1. FIGURE 6. Stigmodera elegantula.

INSECTS. PLATE 1. FIGURE 7. Stigmodera erythrura.

INSECTS. PLATE 1. FIGURE 8. Stigmodera saundersii, Hope.

INSECTS. PLATE 1. FIGURES 9, 9a, and 9b. Clerus ? obesus.



Objects of the Voyage. The Beagle commissioned. Her former career. Her first Commander. Instructions from the Admiralty and the Hydrographer. Officers and Crew. Arrival at Plymouth. Embark Lieutenants Grey and Lushington's Exploring Party. Chronometric Departure. Farewell glance at Plymouth. Death of King William the Fourth.

For more than half a century, the connection between Great Britain and her Australian possessions has been one of growing interest; and men of the highest eminence have foreseen and foretold the ultimate importance of that vast continent, over which, within the memory of living man, the roving savage held precarious though unquestioned empire.

Of the Australian shores, the North-western was the least known, and became, towards the close of the year 1836, a subject of much geographical speculation. Former navigators were almost unanimous in believing that the deep bays known to indent a large portion of this coast, received the waters of extensive rivers, the discovery of which would not only open a route to the interior, but afford facilities for colonizing a part of Australia, so near our East Indian territories, as to render its occupation an object of evident importance.

His Majesty's Government therefore determined to send out an expedition to explore and survey such portions of the Australian coasts as were wholly or in part unknown to Captains Flinders and King.


For this service H.M. Sloop Beagle was commissioned at Woolwich, in the second week of February 1837 by Commander Wickham, who had already twice accompanied her in her wanderings over the least known and most boisterous waters of the globe; first, in her sister ship of discovery, the Adventure, Captain King, and afterwards as first lieutenant of the sloop now entrusted to his command. Under Captain Wickham some of the most important objects of the voyage were achieved, but in consequence of his retirement in March 1841, owing to ill health, the command of the Beagle was entrusted to the author of the following pages; and as, by a singular combination of circumstances, no less than three long and hazardous voyages of discovery have been successfully completed in this vessel, some account of her here may not be wholly uninteresting. The reader will be surprised to learn that she belongs to that much-abused class, the 10-gun brigs—COFFINS, as they are not infrequently designated in the service; notwithstanding which, she has proved herself, under every possible variety of trial, in all kinds of weather, an excellent sea boat. She was built at Woolwich in 1819, and her first exploit was the novel and unprecedented one of passing through old London bridge (the first rigged man-of-war that had ever floated so high upon the waters of the Thames) in order to salute at the coronation of King George the Fourth.


Towards the close of the year 1825 she was first commissioned by Commander Pringle Stokes,* as second officer of the expedition which sailed from Plymouth on the 22nd of May, 1826, under the command of Captain Phillip Parker King; an account of which voyage, published by Captain R. Fitzroy, who ultimately succeeded to the vacancy occasioned by the lamented death of Captain Stokes, and who subsequently commanded the Beagle during her second solitary, but most interesting expedition—has added to the well-earned reputation of the seaman, the more enduring laurels which literature and science can alone supply.

(*Footnote. Not related to the author.)


Though painful recollections surround the subject, it would be hardly possible to offer an account of the earlier history of the Beagle, and yet make no allusion to the fate of her first commander, in whom the service lost, upon the testimony of one well qualified to judge, "an active, intelligent, and most energetic officer:" and well has it been remarked by the same high authority, "that those who have been exposed to one of such trials as his, upon an unknown lee shore, during the worst description of weather, will understand and appreciate some of those feelings which wrought too powerfully upon his excitable mind." The constant and pressing cares connected with his responsible commanded—the hardships and the dangers to which his crew were of necessity exposed during the survey of Tierra del Fuego—and in some degree the awful gloom which rests forever on that storm-swept coast—finally destroyed the equilibrium of a mind distracted with anxiety and shattered by disease.

Perhaps no circumstance could prove more strongly the peculiar difficulties connected with a service of this nature, nor could any more clearly testify that in this melancholy instance every thought of self-preservation was absorbed by a zeal to promote the objects of the expedition, which neither danger, disappointment, anxiety, nor disease could render less earnest, or less vigilant, even to the last!

The two vessels returned to England in October, 1830, when the Adventure was paid off at Woolwich, and the Beagle at Plymouth; she was recommissioned by Captain Fitzroy—to whose delightful narrative allusion has been already made—on the 4th July, 1831,* and continued under his command till her return to Woolwich in November, 1836; where, after undergoing some slight repairs, she was a third time put in commission for the purposes of discovery, under Commander Wickham, her former first lieutenant; and shortly afterwards commenced that third voyage, of the toils and successes of which, as an humble contribution to the stores of geographical knowledge, I have attempted in the following pages to convey as faithful and complete an account as the circumstances under which the materials have been prepared will allow. Nor will the subject less interest myself, when I call to mind, that for eighteen years the Beagle has been to me a home upon the wave—that my first cruise as a Middy was made in her; that serving in her alone I have passed through every grade in my profession to the rank I have now the honour to hold—that in her I have known the excitements of imminent danger, and the delights of long anticipated success; and that with her perils and her name are connected those recollections of early and familiar friendship, to which even memory herself fails to do full justice!

(*Footnote. The Beagle was stripped to her timbers, and rebuilt under this able officer's own inspection: and among other improvements, she had the lightning conductors of the well-known Snow Harris, Esquire, F.R.S. fitted to her masts; a circumstance to which she has more than once been indebted for her safety.)


The following instructions were received by Captain Wickham, previous to our departure from Woolwich, and under them I subsequently acted.


Whereas his Majesty's surveying vessel, Beagle, under your command, has been fitted out for the purpose of exploring certain parts of the north-west coast of New Holland, and of surveying the best channels in the straits of Bass and Torres, you are hereby required and directed, as soon as she shall be in all respects ready, to repair to Plymouth Sound, in order to obtain a chronometric departure from the west end of the breakwater, and then to proceed, with all convenient expedition, to Santa Cruz, in Tenerife.

In the voyage there, you are to endeavour to pass over the reputed site of the Eight Stones, within the limits pointed out by our Hydrographer; but keeping a strict lookout for any appearance of discoloured water, and getting a few deep casts of the lead.

At Tenerife you are to remain three days, for the purpose of rating the chronometers, when you are to make the best of your way to Bahia, in order to replenish your water, and from thence to Simon's Bay, at the Cape of Good Hope; where, having without loss of time obtained the necessary refreshments, you will proceed direct to Swan River; but as the severe gales which are sometimes felt at that settlement may not have entirely ceased, you will approach that coast with due caution.

At Swan River, you are to land Lieutenants Grey and Lushington, as well as to refit and water with all convenient despatch; and you are then to proceed immediately to the north-west coast of New Holland, making the coast in the vicinity of Dampier Land. The leading objects of your examination there will be, the extent of the two deep inlets connected with Roebuck Bay and Cygnet Bay, where the strength and elevation of the tides have led to the supposition that Dampier Land is an island, and that the above openings unite in the mouth of a river, or that they branch off from a wide and deep gulf. Moderate and regular soundings extend far out from Cape Villaret: you will, therefore, in the first instance, make that headland; and, keeping along the southern shore of Roebuck Bay, penetrate at once as far as the Beagle and her boats can find sufficient depth of water; but you must, however, take care not too precipitately to commit His Majesty's ship among these rapid tides, nor to entangle her among the numerous rocks with which all this part of the coast seems to abound; but by a cautious advance of your boats, for the double purpose of feeling your way, and at the same time of surveying, you will establish her in a judicious series of stations, equally beneficial to the progress of the survey, and to the support of your detached people.

Prince Regent River appears to have been fully examined by Captain King up to its freshwater rapids, but as the adjacent ridges of rocky land which were seen on both sides of Collier Bay, were only laid down from their distant appearance, it is probable that they will resolve themselves into a collection of islands in the rear of Dampier Land; and it is possible that they may form avenues to some wide expanse of water, or to the mouth of some large river, the discovery of which would be highly interesting.

As this question, whether there are or are not any rivers of magnitude on the western coast is one of the principal objects of the expedition, you will leave no likely opening unexplored, nor desist from its examination till fully satisfied; but as no estimate can be formed of the time required for its solution, so no period can be here assigned at which you shall abandon it in order to obtain refreshments; when that necessity is felt, it must be left to your own judgment, whether to have recourse to the town Balli, in the strait of Allas, or to the Dutch settlement of Coepang, or even to the Arrou Islands, which have been described as places well adapted for that purpose; but on these points you will take pains to acquire all the information which can be obtained from the residents at Swan River.

Another circumstance which prevents any precise instructions being given to you on this head, is the uncertainty that prevails here respecting the weather which you may at that period find in those latitudes, and which it is possible may be such as if not altogether to prevent the execution of these orders, may at least cause them to be ineffectually performed, or perhaps lead to a waste of time, which might be better employed on other parts of the coast. If such should eventually be the case, it would be prudent not to attempt this intricate part of the coast during the prevalence of the north-west monsoon, but to employ it in completing the examination of Shark Bay and of Exmouth Gulf, as well as of other unexplored intervals of coast up to the 122nd degree of longitude; or, with a view to the proximity of one of the above-mentioned places of refreshment, it might, perhaps, be advisable, if compelled to quit the vicinity of Dampier Land, to devote that part of the season to a more careful investigation of the low shores of the gulf of Carpentaria, where it has been surmised, though very loosely, that rivers of some capacity will be found.

The above objects having been accomplished (in whatever order you may find suitable to the service) you will return to the southern settlements for refreshments; and then proceed, during the summer months of fine weather and long days, to Bass Strait, in which so many fatal accidents have recently occurred, and of which you are to make a correct and effectual survey.

But previous to your undertaking that survey, as it has been represented to us that it would be very desirable for the perfection of the Tidal theory, that an accurate register of the times and heights of high and low-water should be kept for some time in Bass Strait, you will (if practicable) establish a party for that purpose on King Island, and you are to cause the above particulars of the Tides there to be unintermittently and minutely observed, and registered in the blank forms which will be supplied to you by our Hydrographer. If, however, circumstances should render this measure unadvisable at that island, you will either choose some less objectionable station, where the average tide in the Strait may be fairly registered; or, if you can employ no permanent party on this service, you will be the more exact in ascertaining the above particulars at every one of your stations; and in all parts of this Strait you will carefully note the set and strength of the stream at the intermediate hours between high and low-water, and also the time at which the stream turns in the offing.

The survey of Bass Strait should include, first, a verification of the two shores by which it is formed; secondly, such a systematic representation of the depth and quality of the bottom as will ensure to any vessel, which chooses to sound by night or day, a correct knowledge of her position; and, thirdly, a careful examination of the passages on either side of King Island, as well as through the chains of rocks and islands which stretch across from Wilson's Promontory to Cape Portland. This survey will, of course, comprehend the approach to Port Dalrymple, but the interior details of that extensive harbour may be left to the officers employed by the Lieutenant-Governor of Van Diemen's Land, provided you can ascertain that it is his intention to employ them there within any reasonable time.

The number of vessels which are now in the habit of passing through Bass Strait, and the doubts which have recently been expressed, not only of the just position of the dangers it is known to contain, but of the existence of others, show the necessity of this survey being executed with that care and fidelity which will give confidence to all future navigators; and may, therefore, be more extensive in its limits, and occupy a larger portion of your time than is at present contemplated. You must exercise your own judgment as to the fittest period at which you should either repair to Sydney to refit, or adjourn to Port Dalrymple to receive occasional supplies. Whenever this branch of the service shall be completed, you are forthwith by a safe conveyance to transmit a copy of it to our Secretary, that no time may be lost in publishing it for the general benefit.

At Sydney you will find the stores which we have ordered to be deposited there for your use, and having carefully rated your chronometers, and taken a fresh departure from the Observatory near that port, and having re-equipped His Majesty's ship, and fully completed her provisions, you will proceed by the inner route to Torres Strait, where the most arduous of your duties are yet to be performed. The numerous reefs which block up that Strait; the difficulty of entering its intricate channels; the discordant result of the many partial surveys which have from time to time been made there, and the rapidly increasing commerce of which it has become the thoroughfare, call for a full and satisfactory examination of the whole space between Cape York and the southern shore of New Guinea, and to this important service, therefore, you will devote the remaining period for which your supplies will last.

In this latter survey you will cautiously proceed from the known to the unknown; you will verify the safety of Endeavour Strait, and furnish sufficient remarks for avoiding its dangers; you will examine the three groups called York, Prince of Wales, and Banks, Islands; you will establish the facilities or determine the dangers of passing through those groups, and by a well-considered combination of all those results, you will clearly state the comparative advantages of the different channels, and finally determine on the best course for vessels to pursue which shall be going in either direction, or in opposite seasons. Though with this part of your operations Cook's Bank, Aurora Reef, and the other shoals in the vicinity will necessarily be connected, yet you are not to extend them to the 143rd degree of longitude, as the examination of the great field to the eastward of that meridian must be left to some future survey which shall include the barrier reefs and their ramified openings from the Pacific Ocean. You are, on the contrary, to proceed, if practicable, but most cautiously, in examining the complicated archipelago of rocks and islands which line the northern side of Torres Strait, till, at length, reaching New Guinea, you will there ascertain the general character of that part of its shore, whether it be high and continuous, or broken into smaller islands with available channels between them, as has been asserted; or whether, from being guarded by the innumerable reefs and dangers which are marked in the charts, it must remain altogether sealed to the navigator. The nature of the country, as well as of its products, will also be inquiries of considerable interest; and you will, perhaps, be able to learn whether the Dutch have made any progress in forming settlements along its shores; and if so, you will take especial care not to come into collision with any of their authorities.

Throughout the whole of this extensive region, you will bear in mind the mischievous disposition of the natives; and while you strictly practice that dignified forbearance and benevolence which tend to impress far higher respect for our power than the exercise of mere force, you will also be sedulously on your guard against every surprise; and though your boats should always be completely armed, you will carefully avoid any conflict where the ignorant or misguided natives may presume on your pacific appearance, or on the disparity of your numbers.

You will then turn to the westward, and pursue this part of the survey, so as to determine the breadth of the foul ground off the coast of New Guinea, and the continuity or interrupted form of that coast; and you will establish certain positions on the mainland (if the adjacent sea be navigable, and if not on the several advancing islands) which may serve as useful land-falls for vessels coming from the Indian Seas, or for points of departure for those who have passed through any of these straits. You will thus continue a general examination of this hitherto unexplored coast as far as Cape Valsche, which is now said to be only the terminating point of a chain of large islands, and then across to the Arrou Islands, which are supposed to be remarkably fertile, to abound with resources and refreshments, and to be peopled by a harmless and industrious race, but which do not appear to have been visited by any of His Majesty's ships.

The length of time which may be required for the due execution of all the foregoing objects cannot be foreseen. It may exceed that for which your supplies are calculated, or, on the other hand, a less degree of the supposed complexity in the ground you will have traversed, along with the energy and diligence with which we rely on you for conducting these important services, may enable you to complete them within that period. In this latter case you will return to the Northern coast of New Holland, and selecting such parts of it as may afford useful harbours of retreat, or which may appear to comprise the mouths of any streams of magnitude, you will employ your spare time in such discoveries as may more or less tend to the general object of the expedition.

Before your departure from Sydney you will have learnt that His Majesty's Government has established a new settlement at Port Essington, or somewhere on the North coast of New Holland; and before you finally abandon that district you will visit this new colony, and contribute by every means in your power to its resources and its stability.

We have not, in the concluding part of these Orders, pointed out the places or the periods at which you are to replenish your provisions, because the latter must depend on various circumstances which cannot be foreseen, and the former may be safely left to your own decision and prudence; but when you have been three years on your ground, unless some very important result were to promise itself from an extension of that period, you will proceed to the Island of Mauritius, in order to complete your stock of water and provisions, and then, touching at either side of the Cape of Good Hope, according to the season, and afterwards at Ascension, you will make the best of your way to Spithead, and report your arrival to our Secretary.

Directions will be forwarded to the commanders-in-chief at the Cape of Good Hope and in the East Indies, and to the governors or lieutenant-governors of the several settlements at which you have been ordered to call, to assist and further your enterprise as far as their means will admit: and you will lose no opportunity, at those several places, of informing our Secretary of the general outline of your proceedings, and of transmitting traces of the surveys which you may have effected, together with copies of your tide and other observations. You will likewise, by every safe opportunity, communicate to our Hydrographer detailed accounts of all your proceedings which relate to the surveys; and you will strictly comply with the enclosed instructions, which have been drawn up by him under our directions, as well as all those which he may, from time to time, forward by our command.

Given under our hands, the 8th of June, 1837.


Charles Adam.

George Elliott.

To J.C. Wickham, Esquire.

Commander of His Majesty's surveying vessel Beagle, at Woolwich.

By command of their Lordships.


John Barrow.


Nor should the valuable instructions of Captain Beaufort, Hydrographer to the Admiralty, be forgotten; such extracts as may probably prove of interest to the general reader are here subjoined.


The general objects of the expedition which has been placed under your command, having been set forth in their Lordship's orders, it becomes my duty to enter somewhat more specifically into the nature and details of the service which you are to perform. Their Lordships having expressed the fullest reliance on your zeal and talents, and having cautiously and wisely abstained from fettering you in that division and disposition of your time which the periodic changes of the seasons or the necessities of the vessel may require, it would ill become me to enter too minutely into any of those arrangements which have been so flatteringly left to your discretion; yet, in order to assist you with the results of that experience which has been derived from the many surveys carried on under the direction of the Admiralty, and to ensure that uniform consistency of method in your varied labours, which will so greatly enhance their value, I will briefly touch on some of the most important subjects, and repeat those instructions which their Lordships have in every former case ratified, and which it is therefore expected you will bear in mind during the whole progress of your survey.

The first point to which your orders advert, after quitting England, is the Eight Stones, where you will probably add one to the many testimonies which have been already collected of their non-existence, at least in the place assigned to them in the old charts; but, before we venture to expunge them, it becomes a serious duty to traverse their position in every possible direction. Should the weather be favourable, it would be desirable, while crossing their parallel, to obtain one very deep cast of the lead, and should that succeed in reaching the bottom, the sacrifice of a few days will be well bestowed in endeavouring to trace a further portion of the bank. A small chart, showing the tracks of various ships across this place, is hereto annexed, and as the meridian of 16 degrees 22 minutes nearly bisects the two adjacent courses, you are recommended to cross their parallel in that longitude.

From the Canary Islands to the coast of Brazil, and indeed throughout every part of your voyage, you should endeavour to pass over the places of all the reported Vigias which lie near your course, either outward or homeward. You will perceive a multitude of them carelessly marked on every chart, but of some you will find a circumstantial description in that useful publication, the Nautical Magazine, and a day devoted to the search of any, which will not withdraw you too far from your due course, will be well employed.

The rocks off Cape Leeuwin, some near King George Sound, the dangerous patch off Kangaroo Island, and many others, of which accounts are given in the above work, ought, if possible, to be examined, as more immediately appertaining to your own field. Whenever found, the depth, nature, and limits of the banks on which they stand, should be determined, as they might prove to be of sufficient extent to give warning to the danger, and then a direct course should be immediately made by the Beagle to the nearest land, where a convenient place should be selected, and its position carefully ascertained.

At Swan River you will have previously learnt from Lieutenant Roe, the Surveyor-General, whether the above-mentioned rocks off Kangaroo Island, have been again seen, or their position altered, since Captain Brockman's first description, so as to save your time in the search.

You will no doubt obtain from that intelligent officer, Lieutenant Roe, much important information respecting the north-west coast, as well as all the detached intelligence, which during his long residence there he must have collected, relating to every part of the shores of New Holland. From him, also, you will acquire many useful hints about the places in the Indian Sea where refreshments may be obtained, as well as some insight into the disposition of the authorities and the inhabitants whom you will meet there, and he will probably be able to give you a clear account of the duration of the monsoons and their accompanying weather.

If at Port Dalrymple it should so happen that you can wait on Sir John Franklin, it is probable that he will detach Lieutenant Burnett to cooperate with you in the survey of Bass Strait, and it is certain that the Governor will do everything in his power to assist your labours. At Sydney you will have the advantage of seeing Captain P.P. King, whose long experience of all those coasts, as well as of the seasons, and of the manner of dealing with the inhabitants, will be of the utmost use to you; and whose zeal for the King's service, and whose love of science, will lead him to do everything possible to promote your views. If Mr. Cunningham, the Government Botanist, be there, he also will, I am convinced, eagerly communicate to you and your officers everything which may be serviceable in the pursuits connected with Natural History.

At Swan River, at Port Dalrymple, and at Sydney, it may, perhaps, be possible for you to hire, at a low rate, some person acquainted with the dialects of the natives, which you are subsequently to visit, and with whom it will be so essential to be on friendly terms. Such a person will greatly assist in that object; but you will keep him on board no longer than absolutely necessary, and you will take care to provide for his return if the Beagle should not be able to carry him back.


In such an extensive and distant survey, numerous subjects of inquiry, though not strictly nautical, will suggest themselves to your active mind; and though, from your transient stay at any other place, you will often experience the mortification of leaving them incomplete, yet that should not discourage you in the collection of every useful fact within your reach. Your example in this respect will stimulate the efforts of the younger officers under your command, and through them may even have a beneficial influence on the future character of the navy.

It has been suggested by some geologists, that the coral insect, instead of raising its superstructure directly from the bottom of the sea, works only on the summits of submarine mountains, which have been projected upwards by volcanic action. They account, therefore, for the basin-like form so generally observed in coral islands, by supposing that they exist on the circular lip of extinct volcanic craters; and as much of your work will lie among islands and cays of coral formation, you should collect every fact which can throw any light on the subject.

Hitherto it has been made a part of the duty of all the surveying vessels to keep an exact register of the height of the barometer, at its two maxima of 9, and its two minima of 3 o'clock, as well as that of the thermometer at the above periods, and at its own day and night maximum and minimum, as well as the continual comparative temperature of the sea and air. This was done with the view of assisting to provide authentic data, collected from all parts of the world, and ready for the use of future labourers, whenever some accidental discovery, or the direction of some powerful mind, should happily rescue that science from its present neglected state. But those hours of entry greatly interfere with the employments of such officers as are capable of registering those instruments with the precision and delicacy which alone can render meteorologic data useful, and their future utility is at present so uncertain, that it does not appear necessary that you should do more than record, twice a day, the height of the former, as well as the extremes of the thermometer, unless, from some unforeseen cause, you should be long detained in any one port, when a system of these observations might then be advantageously undertaken. There are, however, some occasional observations, which cannot fail of being extensively useful in future investigations:

1. During the approach of the periodic changes of wind and weather, and then the hygrometer, also, should find a place in the journal.

2. The mean temperature of the sea at the equator, or, perhaps, under a vertical sun. These observations should be repeated whenever the ship is in either of those situations, as well in the Atlantic as in the Pacific; they should be made far away from the influence of the land, and at certain constant depths, suppose fifty and ten fathoms, and at the surface also; and this last ought to be again observed at the corresponding hour of the night.

3. A collection of good observations, systematically continued, for the purpose of connecting the isothermal lines of the globe, and made, as above, at certain uniform depths.

4. Some very interesting facts might result from the comparison of the direct heat of the solar rays in high and low latitudes. The two thermometers for this purpose should be precisely similar in every respect; the ball of the one should be covered with white kerseymere, and of the other with black kerseymere, and they should be suspended far out of the reach of any reflected heat from the ship, and also at the same elevation above the surface of the water; the observations should be made out of sight of land, in a variety of latitudes, and at different hours of the day, and every pains taken to render them all strictly similar and comparative.

5. All your meteorologic instruments should be carefully compared throughout a large extent of the scales, and tabulated for the purpose of applying the requisite corrections when necessary, and one or more of them should be compared with the standard instruments at the Royal Society or Royal Observatory on your return home.

6. All observations which involve the comparison of minute differences should be the mean result of at least three readings, and should be as much as possible the province of the same individual observer.

7. In some of those singularly heavy showers which occur in crossing the Equator, and also at the changes of the Monsoon, attempts should be made to measure the quantity of rain that falls in a given time. A very rude instrument, if properly placed, will answer this purpose, merely a wide superficial basin to receive the rain, and to deliver it into a pipe, whose diameter, compared with that of the mouth of the basin, will show the number of inches, etc. that have fallen on an exaggerated scale.

8. It is unnecessary to call your attention to the necessity of recording every circumstance connected with that highly interesting phenomenon, the Aurora Australis, such as the angular bearing and elevation of the point of coruscation; the bearing also of the principal luminous arches, etc.

9. It has been asserted that lunar and solar halos are not always exactly circular, and a general order might, therefore, be given to the officer of the watch, to measure their vertical and horizontal diameters whenever they occur, day or night.

Large collections of natural history cannot be expected, nor any connected account of the structure or geological arrangements of the great islands which you are to coast; nor, indeed, would minute inquiries on these subjects be at all consistent with the true objects of the survey. But, to an observant eye, some facts will unavoidably present themselves, which will be well worth recording, and the medical officers will, no doubt, be anxious to contribute their share to the scientific character of the survey.

I have now exhausted every subject to which it can be necessary to call the attention of an officer of your long experience; and I have, therefore, only further to express my conviction, that if Providence permits you to retain your wonted health and activity, you will pursue the great objects of this expedition with all the energy in your power, and with all the perseverance consistent with a due regard to the safety of His Majesty's Ship, and to the comfort of your officers and crew.

Given, etc. this 8th of June, 1837.

F. Beaufort,




The crew embarked in the Beagle in this her third voyage, consisted of:

John Clements Wickham, Commander and Surveyor. James B. Emery, Lieutenant. Henry Eden, Lieutenant. John Lort Stokes, Lieutenant and Assistant Surveyor. Alexander B. Usborne, Master. Benjamin Bynoe, Surgeon. Thomas Tait, Assistant Surgeon. John E. Dring, Clerk in charge. Benjamin F. Helpman, Mate. Auchmuty T. Freeze, Mate. Thomas T. Birch, Mate. L.R. Fitzmaurice, Mate.* William Tarrant, Master's Assistant. Charles Keys,** Clerk. Thomas Sorrell, Boatswain. John Weeks, Carpenter. A corporal of marines and seven privates, with forty seamen and boys.

(*Footnote. This officer I afterwards appointed to the assistant surveyorship (vacated upon my succeeding Captain Wickham) on account of the active part he had taken in the surveying duties: an appointment most handsomely confirmed by Captain Beaufort.)

(**Footnote. Mr. Keys was always a volunteer for boat work, and is entitled to honourable mention as being, even where all were zealous, of great value upon more than one occasion.)

During our six years' voyage the following changes occurred:

Mr. Usborne invalided, in consequence of his wound, in May 1839; Mr. Birch exchanged, in August 1839, with Mr. Pasco, into the Britomart; Mr. Freeze exchanged, in September 1839, with Mr. Forsyth,* into the Pelorus; in February 1840, Mr. Helpman joined the colonial service in Western Australia; Mr. C.J. Parker was appointed, in December 1840, to Mr. Usborne's vacancy, superseding Mr. Tarrant, who had been doing Master's duty since Mr. Usborne left; Lieutenants Emery and Eden returned to England in March 1841. Late in the same month Commander Wickham invalided, when the writer of this narrative was appointed to the vacant command, by Commander Owen Stanley, H.M.S. Britomart, senior officer present, an appointment subsequently confirmed by the Lords of the Admiralty. In April 1841, Lieutenant Graham Gore succeeded Lieutenant Emery.** Commander Wickham, myself, Mr. Bynoe, the Boatswain, and two marines, had served in both the previous voyages of the Beagle.

(*Footnote. From this officer's previous knowledge of the duties of surveying, having sailed in the Beagle on her former voyage, he proved a very valuable addition to our party.)

(**Footnote. Lieutenant Gore had been appointed to H.M.S. Herald and came down from India, expecting to join her at Sydney: on his arrival, he found she had left the station; and though he might have spent some months among his friends there, he in the most spirited manner, at once volunteered to join the Beagle, and proved himself throughout the remainder of the voyage of the greatest value, both to the service, and the friend who here seeks to do justice to his worth. This deserving officer would seem to have an hereditary taste for the duties of a voyage of surveying and discovery, his grandfather having accompanied the renowned circumnavigator, Cook, and his father, the unfortunate Bligh. Besides Lieutenant Gore's valuable services in H.M.S. Beagle, he was 1st Lieutenant of H.M.S. Volage, during the early part of the Chinese war, and present at the capture of Aden: he served under Captain Sir George Back in the Polar expedition, and on board H.M.S. Albion at the battle of Navarin.)


On the 9th of June we left Woolwich, in tow of H.M. Steamer Boxer, furnished with every comfort and necessary (by the Lords of the Admiralty) which our own experience, or the kind interest of Captain Beaufort could suggest. It had been determined by the Government—the plan having been suggested by Lieutenant Grey to Lord Glenelg, then Secretary of State for the Colonies—that, simultaneously with the survey of the seaboard of the great continent of Australia, under Captain Wickham, a party should be employed in inland researches, in order more particularly to solve the problem of the existence of a great river, or water inlet, supposed, upon the authority of Captains King and Dampier, to open out at some point on its western or north-western side, then but partially and imperfectly surveyed.


This expedition was now entrusted to the command of Lieutenant Grey—since Governor of South Australia—who was accompanied by Lieutenant, now Captain Lushington; Mr. Walker, Surgeon, and Corporals Coles and Auger, of the Royal Sappers and Miners, who had volunteered their services: they were to take passage in the Beagle, and to proceed either to the Cape of Good Hope or Swan River, as Lieutenant Grey might ultimately determine. It was arranged that they should join us at Plymouth, and on our arrival there on the 20th of June—having called at Portsmouth on our way—we found them anxiously expecting us.

Here we were busily occupied for some days in rating the chronometers, and testing the various magnetic instruments: we also during this time swung the ship to try the local attraction, which neither here, nor in any subsequent experiments, exceeded one degree. As the ship lay in the Sound our observations were made on a stone in the breakwater marked 230/1, from whence we took our chronometric departure; it is about one-third of the length from the east end, and had been used for similar purposes by Captains King and Fitzroy. We considered it to be west of Greenwich, 0 hours 16 minutes 33 seconds 4t.


Hardly anyone can visit Plymouth Sound without being at once struck with the singular beauty of the surrounding scenery; nor shall I easily forget the mingled feelings of admiration and regret with which my eye dwelt upon the quiet spot the evening before bidding it a long, long farewell. The sea had sunk to sleep, and not a single breath disturbed its glassy surface: the silent waters—and yet how eloquently that silence spoke to the heart—glided swiftly past; into the still air rose the unbroken column of the thin and distant smoke; through long vistas of far-off trees, which art and nature had combined to group, the magnificent building at Mount Edgcumbe, but veiled, to increase its beauty: scenery varying from the soft luxury of the park, to the rude freedom of the wild mountain's side, by turns solicited the eye; and as I leant against a shattered rock, filled with all those nameless feelings which such an hour was so well fitted to call forth, I felt notwithstanding all the temptations of promised adventure, the full bitterness of the price we pay for its excitements!


On the evening of the 21st of June, we received the melancholy intelligence of the death of our late most gracious Sovereign, King William the Fourth. To all classes of his subjects his mild and paternal government has endeared his memory; and none however they may differ with him, or with each other, upon that great political revolution which will render the name and reign of the Fourth William, no less remarkable than that of the Third, will refuse the tribute of their sincerest respect for qualities that adorned the sovereign while they exalted the man. By the naval service, in which he had spent the early part of his life, his name will long be remembered with affection; he never lost sight of its interests; and warmly supported its several institutions and charities, long after he had been called by Providence to the Throne of his Fathers. We bore the first intelligence of his fate, and the account of the accession of our present most gracious Queen, to every port at which we touched up to the period of our reaching Swan River.


Sail from Plymouth. The Eight Stones. Peak of Tenerife. Approach to Santa Cruz. La Cueva de Los Guanches. Trade with Mogadore. Intercourse between Mogadore and Mombas. Reason to regret Mombas having been given up. Sail from Tenerife. Search for rocks near the equator. Arrival at San Salvador. Appearance of Bahia. State of the Country. Slave Trade. And results of Slavery. Extension of the Slave Trade on the eastern coast of Africa. Moral condition of the Negroes. Middy's Grave. Departure from Bahia. Mr. "Very Well Dice".

The morning of the 5th July saw us running out of Plymouth Sound with a light northerly wind, and hazy weather: soon after we were outside we spoke H.M.S. Princess Charlotte, bearing the flag of Admiral Sir R. Stopford, and as she was bound down channel we kept together for the next three days: she had old shipmates on board, and was not the less an object of interest on that account. Nothing worthy of particular notice occurred during the run to Santa Cruz in Tenerife, which we made on the 18th of July; having in obedience to our instructions passed over the presumed site of The Eight Stones, thus adding another though almost needless testimony to their non-existence, at least in the place assigned them in the old charts.

In passing the gut of Gibraltar we remarked the current setting us into it: this I have before noticed in outward voyages: in the homeward, one is generally too far to the westward to feel its effects. A small schooner sailed for England on the 20th, and most of us took the opportunity of sending letters by her. I learnt from the master of her that a timber ship had been recently picked up near the island, having been dismasted in a gale off the banks of Newfoundland; she was 105 days drifting here.


We were not so fortunate on this occasion as to obtain a distant sea view of the far-famed peak of Tenerife. There are few natural objects of greater interest when so beheld. Rising at a distance of some 40 leagues in dim and awful solitude from the bosom of the seemingly boundless waves that guard its base, it rests at first upon the blue outline of the horizon like a conically shaped cloud: hour after hour as you approach the island it seems to grow upon the sight, until at length its broad reflection darkens the surrounding waters. I can imagine nothing better calculated than an appearance of this kind to satisfy a beholder of the spherical figure of the earth, and it would seem almost incredible that early navigators should have failed to find conviction in the unvarying testimonies of their own experience, which an approach to every shore afforded.

In approaching the anchorage of Santa Cruz, vessels should close with the shore, and get into soundings before—as is the general custom—arriving abreast of the town, where from the steepness of the bank, and its proximity to the shore, they are obliged to anchor suddenly, a practice never desirable, and to vessels short handed, always inconvenient: besides calms sometimes prevail in the offing, which would prevent a vessel reaching the anchorage at all.


Lieutenant Grey was most indefatigable in collecting information during the short period of our stay at the island, as an examination of his interesting work will at once satisfy the reader: he explored a cave three miles to the north-east of Santa Cruz, known by tradition as La Cueva de los Guanches, and reputed to be a burying-place of the aboriginal inhabitants of the island: it was full of bones, and from the specimens he brought away, and also from his description of all that he examined, they appear to have belonged to a small-limbed race of men.

Besides the wine trade, a considerable traffic is carried on with the Moors upon the opposite coast, who exchange gums and sometimes ivory for cotton and calico prints, and occasionally tobacco.


The chief port for this trade is Mogadore, from whence ships not unfrequently sail direct to Liverpool.

A singular circumstance was mentioned to me by our first Lieutenant Mr. Emery, as tending to prove the existence of commercial intercourse between the various tribes in the interior, and the inhabitants of the coast at Mogadore on the north-west coast of Africa, and Mombas on the south-east. In the year 1830, certain English goods were recognized in the hands of the Moors at Mogadore which had been sold two years previously to the natives at Mombas. The great extent of territory passed over within these dates, renders this fact somewhat extraordinary; and it affords a reason for regretting that we did not keep possession of Mombas, which would ere this have enabled us to penetrate into the interior of Africa: we abandoned it, at the very time when the tribes in the interior were beginning to find out the value of our manufactures, especially calicoes and cottons.

From the best information that Lieutenant Emery had obtained among the natives, it seems certain that a very large lake exists in the interior, its banks thickly studded with buildings, and lying nearly due west from Mombas.

It was Lieutenant Emery's intention to have visited this lake had he remained longer at Mombas; the Sultan's son was to have accompanied him, an advantage which, coupled with his own knowledge of the country and its customs, together with his great popularity among the natives, must have ensured him success. It is to be feared, that so favourable an opportunity for clearing up the doubts and darkness which at present beset geographers in attempting to delineate this unknown land, will not soon again present itself.


Having completed the necessary magnetic observations, and rated the chronometers, we sailed from Tenerife, on the evening of the 23rd. It should be noticed that the results obtained from our observations for the dip of the needle, differed very materially from those given by former observers: the experiments made by Lieutenant Grey in different parts of the island, satisfied us that the variation could not be imputed to merely local causes.

As in obedience to our instructions we had to examine and determine the hitherto doubtful position of certain rocks near the Equator, about the meridian of 20 degrees West longitude, we were obliged to take a course that carried us far to the eastward of the Cape de Verd Islands; for this reason we had the North-East trade wind very light; we finally lost it on the 30th, in latitude 13 degrees 0 minutes North, and longitude 14 degrees 40 minutes West; it had been for the two previous days scarcely perceptible.

The South-East trade reached us on the 8th of August, latitude 3 degrees 30 minutes North longitude 17 degrees 40 minutes West, and on the morning of the 10th we crossed the Equator in longitude 22 degrees 0 minutes West: when sundry of our crew and passengers underwent the usual ceremonies in honour of old Father Neptune. A close and careful search within the limits specified in our instructions justified us in certifying the non-existence of the rocks therein alluded to: but before we presume to pass any censure upon those who preceded us in the honours of maritime discovery, and the labours of maritime survey, it will be proper to bear in mind the ceaseless changes to which the earth's surface is subject, and that, though our knowledge is but limited of the phenomena connected with subterranean and volcanic agency, still, in the sudden upheaval and subsidence of Sabrina and Graham Islands, we have sufficient evidence of their vast disturbing power, to warrant the supposition that such might have been the case with the rocks for which our search proved fruitless. Nor are these the only causes that may be assigned to reconcile the conflicting testimonies of various Navigators upon the existence of such dangers; the origin of which may be ascribed to drift timber—reflected light discolouring the sea, and causing the appearance of broken water—or to the floating carcass of a whale, by which I have myself been more than once deceived.


A succession of winds between South-South-East and South-East, with the aid of a strong westerly current, soon brought us near the Brazils. We made the land on the morning of the 17th, about 15 miles to the north-east of Bahia, and in the afternoon anchored off the town of San Salvador.

Though this was neither my first nor second visit to Bahia, I was still not indifferent to the magnificent or rather luxuriant tropical scenery which it presents. A bank of such verdure as these sun-lit climes alone supply, rose precipitously from the dark blue water, dotted with the white and gleaming walls of houses and convents half hidden in woods of every tint of green; while here and there the lofty spires of some Christian temple pointed to a yet fairer world, invisible to mortal eye, and suggested even to the least thoughtful, that glorious as is this lower earth, framed by Heaven's beneficence for man's enjoyment, still it is not that home to which the hand of revelation directs the aspirations of our frail humanity.


I had last seen Bahia in August, 1836, on the homeward voyage of the Beagle; and it was then in anything but a satisfactory condition; the white population divided among themselves, and the slaves concerting by one bloody and desperate blow to achieve their freedom. It did not appear to have improved during the intervening period: a revolutionary movement was still contemplated by the more liberal section of the Brazilians, though at the very period they thus judiciously selected for squabbling with one another, they were living in hourly expectation of a rising, en masse, of the blacks. That such an insurrection must sooner or later take place—and take place with all the most fearful circumstances of long delayed and complete revenge—no unprejudiced observer can doubt.


That selfish and short-sighted policy which is almost invariably allied with despotism, has led to such constant additions by importation to the number of the slave population, that it now exceeds the white in the ratio of ten to one, while individually the slaves are both physically and in natural capacity more than equal to their sensual and degenerate masters. Bahia and its neighbourhood have a bad eminence in the annals of the Brazilian slave-trade. Upwards of fifty, some accounts say eighty cargoes, had been landed there since the Beagle's last visit: nor is the circumstance to be wondered at when we bear in mind, that the price of a slave then varied from 90 to 100 pounds, and this in a country not abounding in money.

The declining trade, the internal disorganization, and the rapidly augmenting slave population of Bahia, all tend to prove that the system of slavery which the Brazilians consider essential to the welfare of their country, operates directly against her real interests. The wonderful resources of the Brazils will, however, never be fully developed until the Brazilians resolve to adopt the line of policy suggested in Captain Fitzroy's interesting remarks upon this subject. To encourage an industrious native population on the one hand, and on the other to declare the slave-trade piratical, are the first necessary steps in that march of improvement, by which this tottering empire may yet be preserved from premature decay.


It would, however, be a vain imagination, to suppose that this wiser and more humane determination will be spontaneously adopted by those most implicated in this debasing and demoralizing traffic. Indeed it appears from the best information obtained on the subject, that since the vigilance of our cruizers has comparatively put a stop to the trade on the west coast of Africa—where it has received a great discouragement—it has been greatly extended on the east. Could it but have been foreseen by our Government that their efforts upon the west coast, would in proportion as they were successful, only tend to drive the traders in human flesh to the eastward, it is probable that Mombas would have still been retained under our dominion; for such a possession would have enabled us to exercise an effectual control in that quarter: as it is, it gives additional reason to regret that the place was ever abandoned. The horrors of the passage—horrors which no imagination can heighten, no pen adequately portray—are by this alteration in the chief seat of the accursed trade most fearfully augmented. The poor victims of cruelty and fraud and avarice, in their most repulsive forms, are packed away between decks scarcely three feet high, in small vessels of 30 or 40 tons, and thus situated have to encounter the cold and stormy passage round the Cape: the average mortality is of course most frightful, but the smallness of the vessels employed decreases the risk of the speculators in human flesh, who consider themselves amply repaid, if they save one living cargo out of every five embarked!


In the meantime cargoes of slaves are almost weekly landed in the neighbourhood of Bahia: the thousand evils of the vile system are each day increasing, and with a rapid but unregarded footstep the fearful hour steals on, when a terrible reckoning of unrestrained revenge will repay all the accumulated wrongs of the past, and write in characters of blood an awful warning for the future!

So far as we could learn, no attempts are made by the masters to introduce the blessings of Christianity among those whom they deprive of temporal freedom. The slave is treated as a valuable animal and nothing more: the claims of his kindred humanity so far forgotten as they relate to his first unalienable right of personal freedom, are not likely to be remembered in his favour, in what concerns his coheritage in the sublime sacrifice of atonement once freely offered for us all! He toils through long and weary years, cheered by no other hope than the far distant and oft delusive expectation that a dearly purchased freedom—if for freedom's blessings any price can be too costly—will enable him to look once more upon the land of his nativity; and then close his eyes, surrounded by the loved few whom the ties of kindred endear even to his rude nature.

It would swell this portion of the work to an unreasonable extent, to give any lengthened details of the working of a system, about which among my readers no two opinions can exist. Let it suffice to say, that the Europeans are generally better and less exacting masters than the Brazilians. Among the latter it is a common practice to send so many slaves each day to earn a certain fixed sum by carrying burdens, pulling in boats, or other laborious employment; and those who return at night without the sum thus arbitrarily assessed as the value of their day's work, are severely flogged for their presumed idleness.


During our brief stay at Bahia I paid a visit to the grave of poor young Musters, a little Middy in the Beagle during our last voyage, who died here on the 19th May, 1832, from the effects of a fever caught while away on an excursion up the river Macacu. He was a son of Lord Byron's Mary, and a great favourite with all on board. Poor boy! no stone marks his lonely resting place upon a foreign shore, but the long grass waves over his humble grave, and the tall palm tree bends to the melancholy wind that sighs above it. As I paid his memory the tribute due to his many virtues and his early death, I breathed a prayer that the still and placid beauty of the spot where his mortal remains return to their kindred dust, may typify the tranquil happiness of that world of spirits with which his own is now united!


On the afternoon of Friday the 25th, we left the magnificent bay of Bahia, and after obtaining an offing, stood away to the southward and eastward. I was much amused by a story of Grey's a day or two after we sailed: it seems he had mistaken the Quartermaster's usual call in conning the ship of "Very well, dice" (a corruption of "very well, thus") for a complimentary notice of the man at the helm; and anxious to know the individual who so distinguished himself, had two or three times gone on deck to see "Mr. Very well Dice:" finding a different helmsman each time, completely confounded him; and when I explained the matter, he joined me in a hearty laugh at the mistake!


A gale. Anchor in Simon's Bay. H.M.S. Thalia. Captain Harris, and his Adventures in Southern Africa. Proceedings of the Land Party. Leave Simon's Bay. An overloaded ship. Heavy weather and wet decks. Island of Amsterdam. Its true longitude. St. Paul's. Water. Westerly variation. Rottnest Island. Gage's Road. Swan River Settlement. Fremantle. An inland lake. Plans for the future. Illness of Captain Wickham. Tidal Phenomena. Perth. Approach to it. Narrow escape of the first settlers. The Darling Range. Abundant Harvest. Singular flight of strange birds. Curious Cliff near Swan River. Bald Head. Mr. Darwin's Theory. The Natives. Miago. Anecdotes of Natives. Their Superstitions. Barbarous traditions, their uses and their lessons.

We had, upon the whole, a favourable passage across to the Cape; but on the 17th of September, when distant from it about 500 miles, we encountered a moderate gale from the north. As this was the first heavy weather we had experienced since our departure from England, I was curious to see what effect such a strange scene would have on our passengers. Wrapt in mute astonishment, they stood gazing with admiration and awe on the huge waves as they rolled past, occasionally immersing our little vessel in their white crests—and listening, with emotions not wholly devoid of fear, to the wild screams of the seabirds as they skimmed o'er the steep acclivities of these moving masses. The landsmen were evidently deeply impressed with the grandeur of a storm at sea; nor can the hardiest seaman look with unconcern on such an exhibition of the majesty of Him, whose will the winds and waves obey. Not more poetically beautiful than literally true are the words of the Psalmist, so appropriately introduced into the Form of Prayers at Sea—"They that go down to the sea in ships, and occupy their business in great waters: these men see the works of the Lord, and his wonders in the deep: for at his word the stormy wind ariseth, which lifteth up the waves thereof." My own experience has over and over again satisfied me, that, mingled with many a dim superstition, a deep religious sentiment—a conviction of the might and mercy of Heaven—often rests on the heart of the most reckless seaman, himself all unconscious of its existence, yet strangely influenced by its operations!


We sighted land on the evening of the 20th of September, rounded the Cape the next morning, and in the afternoon anchored in Simon's Bay. We found here H.M.S. Thalia, bearing the flag of Admiral Sir Patrick Campbell, Commander-in-chief of the Cape station: and during our subsequent stay received every attention which kindness and courtesy could suggest, from himself and his officers.

We were glad to ascertain that our chronometers had been performing admirably. They gave the longitude of Simon's Bay, within a few seconds of our homeward determination during the last voyage. Mr. Maclear, of the Royal Observatory, and Captain Wauchope, of the flagship, had been measuring the difference of longitude between Simon's Bay dockyard and Cape Town Observatory, by flashing lights upon the summit of a mountain midway between those two places. Their trials gave a greater difference, by a half second, between the two meridians, than we had obtained on a former visit by carrying chronometers to and fro. The results stand as follow:

Mr. Maclear and Captain Wauchope: 11.5 seconds South.

H.M. Sloop Beagle: 11.0 seconds South.


We found at the Cape the renowned Captain Harris, H.E.I. Company's Bombay Engineers, who had just returned from his sporting expedition into the interior of Southern Africa, having made his way through every obstacle, from the frontier of the Cape Colony, through the territories of the chief Moselekatse, to the Tropic of Capricorn. With his spirit-stirring accounts of hunting adventure and savage manners we were all most highly gratified. What he had seen, where he had been, and what he had performed "by flood and field," have since been told to the world by himself, and therefore need not be repeated here: but it would be unpardonable not to do justice to his energy, his perseverance, and his success. He had collected quite a museum of the Natural History of the wild beasts against whom his crusade had been directed; while his collection of drawings, both as regarded the animals delineated, and the appearance of the country in which they were found, was really most beautiful: and many a pleasant hour was spent in viewing the various specimens and illustrations, each one of which testified the intrepidity and skill of himself or his no less adventurous companion, William Richardson, Esquire, B.C.S. It will readily be believed that these two gentlemen were then, themselves, the great Lions of that part of Africa.


Having completed our observations, and crammed every available square inch of the Beagle with various stores—a proceeding rendered absolutely necessary by the unsatisfactory accounts we received of the state of affairs at Swan River—we sailed for that place on the morning of the 12th of October.

It should be mentioned, that Lieutenant Grey, hearing it would be impossible for him to obtain a suitable vessel at Swan River, hired a small schooner from this port, and sailed, with his party, for Hanover Bay, on the north-west coast of Australia, the day after our departure. His subsequent perils, wanderings, and adventures having been fully described in his own published account, I need do no more here than allude to them.

We encountered a good deal of heavy weather, shifting winds, and consequently irregular seas, during our run to Swan River; and owing to the deep state of our loaded little vessel, her decks were almost constantly flooded. For many days we had never less than an inch and a half of water on them all over; and this extra weight, in our already overburdened craft, did not, of course, add to her liveliness; however, she struggled on.


And on the 1st of November bore us in sight of the Island of Amsterdam, and in the afternoon passed to the southward of it, sufficiently near to determine its position. The summit of the Island, which has rather a peaked appearance, we found to be 2,760 feet high, in latitude 38 degrees 53 minutes South, longitude 77 degrees 37 minutes East of Greenwich. It is singular that though this Island, which is almost a finger-post for ships bound from the Cape either to New Holland or India, has been so long known to all navigators of these seas, its true longitude should have been till now unascertained. The western side presented the appearance of a broken-down crater, nor indeed can there be any reason to doubt its volcanic origin. Light brown was the pervading colour upon the sides of the island, and appeared to be caused by stunted bushes and grass. The southern island, St. Paul's, affords a good anchorage in 21 fathoms, about midway on its eastern side, latitude 38 degrees 42 minutes, and is in every way preferable to the spot chosen for that purpose by Vlaming in 1764, on the south-east side of Amsterdam, where landing is never very easy, and generally quite impracticable.


The well ascertained fact, that water is found in abundance at St. Paul's, leads to a very fair inference, that in this humid atmosphere, and with a much greater elevation, the same essential commodity may be met with at Amsterdam; but certainly at St. Paul's, and most probably at Amsterdam, the rugged nature of the travelling over these volcanic islands, would render useless any attempt to water a ship.

The following table, though it may not possess much interest for the general reader, will not be without its value in the eyes of my nautical brethren: it shows the increase of variation since 1747:


From Horsburg's Directory : 1747 : 17 1/2. From Horsburg's Directory : 1764 : 18 3/4. From Horsburg's Directory : 1793: 20. H.M.S. Beagle : 1837 : 21.

As these islands lie in the same meridian, the longitude given above of Amsterdam, will equally apply to St. Paul's: they are admirably situated for connecting the meridians of Africa and Australia. We lost sight of Amsterdam towards evening, and flattered ourselves that we were also leaving the bad weather behind. The sky more settled; the sea less high; and the barometer rising: such indications, however, cannot be implicitly trusted in this boisterous climate; and shortly after dark, having shipped a very heavy sea, we rounded too for the night. The constant set of the huge following seas, carried our little vessel much faster to the eastward than could be easily credited, till proved by actual observation. During the last three or four days, we had run upwards of 195 miles daily by the observations, being from twenty to thirty more each day than appeared from the reckoning.


We made Rottnest Island on the morning of Wednesday, November 15th; and in the afternoon of the same day, anchored in Gage's Road, Swan River. Our position at midnight, the night before, made us about 30 miles from the mainland, when we had the wind from the eastward, getting round again towards noon to south and by west. This may be some guide to the limit of the land wind, and as such I record the fact. During the three days previous to our making the land, we experienced a northerly current of one knot per hour. We tried during the same period for soundings, with nearly 200 fathoms, but in vain.

We passed along the north shore of Rottnest at the distance of a mile and a half, closing with it as we got to the eastward, where it is not so rocky. The north shore should not be approached within a mile. As we were opening out the bay on the north-east end of the island, we passed over a rocky patch, with, from appearance, not more than three fathoms on it, it is small, and we had 14 fathoms close to it. This patch is about one mile North by West from the north-west point of the bay. Off this point is a low rocky islet; and when on the shoal, we could just make out the white sandy beach in the bay open between it and the point. The western points of the island are all shut in by the north point; therefore, keeping them open, will always enable the navigator to give this dangerous rock* a wide berth.

(*Footnote. Now called Roe's Patch.)


The Swan River Settlement, which is a portion of the colony of Western Australia, was founded in August 1829, under the auspices of the Colonial Office, Captain Stirling being the first Lieutenant-Governor.


Fremantle, at the entrance of Swan River, is the sea port; and Perth, situate about nine miles inland, the seat of Government: Guildford and York are the other chief places in the colony.

There is nothing very particularly inviting in the first appearance of Western Australia; dull-green-looking downs, backed by a slightly undulating range of hills, rising to nearly 2,000 feet high, are the chief natural features of the prospect. Fremantle, of which it was wittily said by the quartermaster of one of His Majesty's ships who visited the place, "You might run it through an hourglass in a day," is but a collection of low white houses scattered over the scarce whiter sand. The only conspicuous landmark visible in approaching the anchorage is the Jail: rather a singular pharos for a settlement in Australia, which boasts its uncontaminated state. This building I afterwards induced the Governor to have white-washed, and it now forms an excellent mark to point out the river, as well as the town.*

(*Footnote. A large patch of white sand, on the coast, about three miles to the northward of Swan River, also serves as a landmark.)

Shortly after our arrival, I was introduced to the Governor, Sir James Stirling; he, and all those here best qualified to judge, joined in regretting that Lieutenant Grey had not decided to come on with us. The accounts we heard of the country and the natives gave us every reason to entertain but slender hopes of his success.


Sir James and Mr. Roe, the Surveyor-General, appeared to coincide with the general opinion that a large inland lake will ultimately be discovered. They had questioned many of the natives about it, who all asserted its existence, and pointed in a south-easterly direction to indicate its position. Their notions of distance are, to say the least, exceedingly rude; with them everything is "far away, far away." The size of this water the natives describe by saying, that if a boy commenced walking round it, by the time he finished his task he would have become an old man! After all may not this be the great Australian Bight that these natives have heard of, for none we met in Western Australia pretended to have seen it? They derive their information from the eastern tribes, and under such circumstances it must at least be considered extremely vague.*

(*Footnote. This much-talked-of lake, which it was the assumed labour of a life to circumambulate, was discovered in January 1843, by Messrs. Landor and Lefroy, who found it about 100 miles South-South-East from Beverley. It is quite salt, called Dambeling, and about fifteen miles long by seven and a half broad!)

The Surveyor-General had lately returned from an exploring journey to the eastward of the capital, and reported that there existed no reasonable probability of extending the colony in that direction: he strongly recommended us to proceed at once to the north-west coast, and return again to Swan River to recruit; saying that we should find the heat there too great to remain for a longer period. This course Captain Wickham, after due deliberation, resolved to adopt, and accordingly all the stores, not absolutely required, were forthwith landed, and the ship made in every respect as airy as possible. The 25th November was fixed for our departure, when most unfortunately Captain Wickham, while on his way to Perth, was attacked with a severe dysentery, and continued so ill that he could not be brought to the ship till the end of December. The most that could be effected was done to improve this unavoidable delay; and our tidal observations, before commenced, were more diligently pursued. We found the greatest rise only thirty-one inches, and here, as elsewhere on the Australian coast, we observed the remarkable phenomenon of only one tide in the twenty-four hours! Surveying operations were also entered on, connecting Rottnest Island with the mainland; the dangers which surround it, as well as those which lie between its shores and the coast, were discovered and laid down: this survey, of great importance to the interests of shipping in these waters, was ultimately completed on our subsequent visits to Swan River.

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