THE LAND OF THE KANGAROO.
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TRAVEL ADVENTURE SERIES.
IN WILD AFRICA. The Adventures of Two Youths in the Sahara Desert. By Thomas W. Knox. 325 pages, with six illustrations by H. Burgess. 12mo. Cloth. $1.50.
THE LAND OF THE KANGAROO. The Adventures of Two Youths in the Great Island Continent. By Thomas W. Knox. 350 pages, with five illustrations by H. Burgess. 12mo. Cloth. $1.50.
Col. Knox's sudden death, ten days after completing "The Land of the Kangaroo" leaves unfinished this series of travel stories for boys which he had planned. The publishers announce that the remaining volumes of this series will be issued, although the work will be done by another's hand.
Announcement concerning the remaining volumes of this series will be made later.
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THE LAND OF THE KANGAROO.
Adventures of Two Youths in a Journey Through the Great Island Continent.
THOMAS W. KNOX.
Author of "In Wild Africa," "The Boy Travelers," (15 Vols.) "Overland through Asia," Etc., Etc.
Illustrated By H. Burgess.
Boston, U. S. A. W. A. Wilde & Company, 25 Bromfield Street.
Copyright, 1896. by W. A. Wilde & Co. All rights reserved.
The Land of the Kangaroo.
The rapidly increasing prominence of the Australian colonies during the past ten or twenty years has led to the preparation of the volume of which this is the preface. Australia has a population numbering close upon five millions and it had prosperous and populous cities, all of them presenting abundant indications of collective and individual wealth. It possesses railways and telegraphs by thousands of miles, and the productions of its farms, mines, and plantations aggregate an enormous amount. It has many millions, of cattle and sheep, and their number is increasing annually at a prodigious rate.
Australia is a land of many wonders, and it is to tell the story of these wonders and of the growth and development of the colonies of the antipodes, that this volume has been written.
T. W. K.
I. WEST COAST OF AFRICA—Adventure in the South Atlantic Ocean II. THE CAPE OF GOOD HOPE—The Southern Ocean—Australia III. A LAND OF CONTRADICTIONS—Transportation to Australia IV. STRANGE ADVENTURES—Australian Aboriginals V. ACROSS AUSTRALIA—Tallest Trees in the World VI. AUSTRALIAN BLACKS—Throwing the Boomerang VII. ADELAIDE TO MELBOURNE—The Rabbit Pest—Dangerous Exotics VIII. CANNIBAL BLACKS—Melbourne and its Peculiarities IX. "THE LAUGHING JACKASS"—Australian Snakes and Snake Stories X. THE HARBOR OF MELBOURNE—Convict Hulks and Bushrangers XI. GEELONG—Australian Gold Mines—Finding a Big Nugget XII. A SOUTHERLY BURSTER—Western Victoria XIII. JOURNEY UP COUNTRY—Anecdotes of Bush Life XIV. LOST IN THE BUSH—Australian Horses XV. EXPERIENCES AT A CATTLE STATION—A Kangaroo Hunt XVI. HUNTING THE EMU AND OTHER BIRDS—An Australian Sheep Run XVII. FROM MELBOURNE TO SYDNEY—Crossing the Blue Mountains XVIII. SIGHTS OF SYDNEY—Botany Bay and Paramatta XIX. COAL MINES AT NEWCASTLE—Sugar Plantation in Queensland—The End
"We passed a ship becalmed in the doldrums" Frontispiece. 18 "Harry had obtained a map of Australia" 56 A visit to the Zoological Garden 147 "There they go!" shouted Mr. Syme 242
THE LAND OF THE KANGAROO.
WEST COAST OF AFRICA—ADVENTURE IN THE SOUTH ATLANTIC OCEAN.
"We don't want to stay long in this place."
"I don't think we do, sir," was the reply.
"The sooner we leave it, the better."
"That is so," said Harry; "I quite agree with you. I wonder how white men manage to live here at all."
This conversation occurred at Bonny, a trading station on one of the mouths of the river Niger in Western Africa. In former times Bonny was a famous resort for slave traders, and great numbers of slaves were sent from that place to North and South America. In addition to slave trading, there was considerable dealing in ivory, palm oils, and other African products. Trade is not as prosperous at Bonny nowadays as it was in the slave-dealing times, but there is a fair amount of commerce and the commissions of the factors and agents are very large. Bonny stands in a region of swamps, and the climate exhales at all times of the year pestilential vapors which are not at all suited to the white man. Most of the white residents live on board old hulks which are moored to the bank of the river, and they find these hulks less unhealthy than houses off shore, for the reason that they are less exposed to the vapors of the ground.
The parties to the conversation just quoted were Dr. Whitney and his nephews, Ned and Harry; they had just arrived at Bonny, from a visit to Lake Chad and Timbuctoo, and had made a voyage down the Niger, which has been described in a volume entitled "In Wild Africa."
One of the residents told Dr. Whitney that all the coast of the Bight of Benin, into which the Niger empties by its various mouths, was quite as unhealthy as Bonny. "We don't expect anybody to live more than three or four years after taking up his residence here," the gentleman remarked, "and very often one or two years are sufficient to carry him off. The climate is bad enough, but it isn't the climate that is to blame for all the mortality, by any means. The great curse of the whole region is the habit of drinking. Everybody drinks, and drinks like a fish, too. When you call on anybody, the servants, without waiting for orders, bring a bottle of brandy, or whiskey, or something of the sort, and place it on the table between the host and the visitor. You are expected to drink, and the man who declines to do so is looked upon as a milksop. When one rises in the morning, his first call is for brandy and soda, and it is brandy, and whiskey, and champagne, or some other intoxicant, all the day long. The climate is bad enough without any help, but the drinking habit of the residents along the Bight of Benin is worse than the climate, and everybody knows it; but, somehow or other, everybody is reckless and continues to drink, knowing perfectly well what the result will be."
Dr. Whitney had already made observations to the same effect, and remarked that he thought the west coast of Africa would be a good field of labor for an advocate of total abstinence. His new acquaintance replied that it might be under ordinary circumstances, but that the conditions of the region where they were not ordinary. It was necessary to remember that the men who went to West Africa for purposes of trade were of a reckless, adventurous sort, having little regard for the future and determined to make the most of the present. Men of this class take very naturally to habits of dissipation, and would turn a deaf ear to any advocate of temperance who might come among them.
Fortunately for our friends, they were detained at Bonny only a single day. A small steamer which runs between Bonny and Fernando Po took them to the latter place, which is on an island in the Atlantic Ocean, and has a mountain peak ten thousand feet high. This peak is wooded to the summit with fine timber, and altogether the island is a very attractive spot to the eye, in comparison with Bonny and the swampy region of the lower Niger.
Port Clarence, the harbor of Fernando Po, is said to be one of the prettiest places of Western Africa. The town consists of a group of houses somewhat irregularly placed, and guarded by a fort which could be knocked down in a few hours by a fleet of modern warships.
Our friends went on shore immediately after their arrival, and found quarters in what Ned called an apology for a hotel. Fernando Po is the property of Spain, and the island is one of the State prisons of that country. Some of the prisoners are kept in hulks in the harbor, while others are confined in the fort. Not infrequently prisoners escape and find shelter among the Adyia, the tribe of natives inhabiting the island. They are a peaceful people, but have a marked hatred for civilization. They rarely come into the town, and none of them will consent to live there. Their huts or villages are scattered over the forests, and when visitors go among them they are kindly treated. The town of Port Clarence is occupied by a few white men and a considerable number of negroes from Sierra Leone, Liberia, and other regions along the coast.
"This will be as good a place to get away from as Bonny," the doctor remarked to his nephews, as they were strolling about Port Clarence.
"I have observed," said Harry, "that the wind is blowing directly from the coast, and therefore is bringing with it the malarias of the swampy region which we have just left."
"That is quite true," the doctor answered, "and the circumstance you mention makes a long stay here undesirable. Have you noticed that many of the natives here seem to be suffering from skin diseases of one kind or another?"
"I observed that," replied Ned, "and was wondering what was the cause of it."
"I was told by a gentleman at the hotel," said the doctor, "that there is an ulcer peculiar to this locality which is well-nigh incurable. The slightest abrasion of the cuticle or even the bite of an insect is sufficient to cause it. I was told that it sometimes happens that the bite of a mosquito on the arm or leg will make amputation necessary, and an instance of this kind occurred within the past three months. On a first view of the island it looks like a delightful place, but a nearer acquaintance dispels the illusion."
"I wonder how long we will be obliged to stay here," Harry remarked.
"According to the time-table," replied the doctor, "the mail steamer will be here to-morrow; and if she comes, you may be sure we will take passage on her."
The steamer came according to schedule, and when she left she carried the three travelers away from Fernando Po. She was an English steamer bound for the Cape of Good Hope. There was hardly any wind blowing when the great ship started out into the Atlantic and headed away to the southward, but the movement of the vessel through the water was sufficient to create a breeze, which our friends greatly enjoyed. They sat beneath the awnings which covered the entire length and width of the steamer, studied their fellow-passengers, and now and then cast their eyes over the wide and desolate sweep of waters to the west and south.
Not a sail was to be seen, a few craft were creeping along the coast, but they were not numerous enough to add animation to the scene.
We will take from Harry's notebook an incident or two of the voyage.
"We found a mixed lot of passengers on board the steamer. There were a few Englishmen going to South Africa for the first time,—young fellows seeking their fortunes, and full of hope and ambition. One of them said he was going up country on a hunting expedition, not for the sport only, but for the money that could be made by the sale of hides, ivory, horns, and other products of the chase. He was quite well informed concerning the business on which he was bent, and told me that it was the custom for two or more men, generally not above four, to buy wagons, oxen, horses, and provisions in one of the towns on the coast or in the interior, and then strike out into the wild country for an absence of anywhere from three to six or seven months. Their provisions consisted of flour, sugar, tea, pepper, salt, and a few other things. For meat they relied upon what they killed; and he added that a great deal of meat was needed, as there were from twenty-five to fifty natives attached to a hunting party and all of them had ferocious appetites.
"They shot anything that came in their way, elephants, buffaloes, elands, gemsbok, and I don't know what else. It was a hard life and not without risk, but it was healthy and full of good sport. He told us so much about his business that Ned and I heartily wished to go with him and have a share in the experience and fun.
"Another young man was going out as a mining engineer and expected to find employment in some of the newly opened gold mines in the Johannesburg district. Another was to become the manager of a large farm forty or fifty miles from Cape Town, which was owned by his uncle. Another young man was going out with no particular object in view, and said he was ready for anything that turned up.
"Then there were Afrikanders who had been on a visit to England for business, or pleasure, or both combined. One had been there for the express purpose of finding a bride; he found her, and she was with him as a passenger on the steamer. She and two others were the only lady passengers on the ship; men greatly predominated among the passengers, and we were told that such was always the case on board one of these steamers. One of the passengers was a resident of Durban, the port of Natal, and he gave us a cordial invitation to visit his place. 'You will find Durban a very interesting spot,' said he, 'and the only bad thing about it is getting ashore. There is a nasty sea breaking there most of the time, and it is tedious work getting from a ship into a small boat and then getting safe to land. You must come prepared to be soused with salt water two or three times before you get your feet fairly planted on the shore.'
"Ned and I concluded that we would not make any special effort to get to Durban, although we had received such a cordial invitation to go there.
"We had a good breeze," continued Harry, "until we got to within four degrees of the Equator; then the wind died out and left the sea as smooth as glass, without the least motion upon it anywhere. We seemed to be running through an enormous plate of glass, polished until it shone like the most perfect mirror ever made. As we looked down from the rail into the depths of the sea our faces were reflected, and there seemed to be a counterfeit presentment of ourselves gazing at us from the depths below, and, oh, wasn't it hot, blistering, burning hot! The sun poured down so that the heat pierced our awnings as though no awnings had been there, and the breeze which the ship created by her motion seemed like the blast from a furnace. The pitch oozed from the seams of the planking on the deck, and the deck itself became blistering hot to one's feet. There was not the least stir of the sails and only the faintest motion of the ship from side to side. Respiration became difficult, and, as I looked about, I could see the passengers and sailors yawning and gaping in the effort to draw in their breath. All the metal about the ship became hot, especially the brass. If you touched it, it almost seemed to raise a blister, and the spot with which you touched it was painful for hours.
"We passed a ship becalmed in the doldrums, as this region is called, and she looked more like a painted ship upon a painted ocean than any other craft I ever saw. Her sails were all hanging loose, and so were all the ropes, and lines, and halyards from one end of the ship to the other. She was as motionless as if she were tied up to a dock in harbor, and there was very little sign of life about her anywhere. I asked one of our officers how long that ship had probably been there and how long she was liable to stay.
"'That's a question, young man,' he replied, 'that I can't answer very surely. She may have been there a day or two only, and may stay only a day or so, and then, again, she may have been there a week or a month; we can't tell without speaking her, and we are not particularly interested in her, anyhow.'"
Then he went on to explain that ships have been becalmed at the Equator for two months and more, lying all the time in a dead calm, just like the one through which we were passing.
"Two weeks," he said, "is a fair time for a ship to stay in the doldrums, and you can be sure it is quite long enough for passengers and crew.
"Passengers and crew sometimes die of the heat, and existence under such circumstances becomes a burden. There are stories about ships that have been in the doldrums six or eight months at a time, but I am not inclined to believe them; for a man to stay in this terrific heat for that length of time would be enough to drive him crazy.
"The steamer was three days in the calm belt of the Equator before we struck the southeast trades, and had a breeze again. I don't want to repeat my experiences with the doldrums.
"One day I heard a curious story about an incident on board an American ship not far from the Cape of Good Hope. She was from Calcutta, and bound to New York, and her crew consisted of American sailors, with the exception of two Indian coolies who had been taken on board at Calcutta because the ship was short-handed. One of these coolies had been put, one in the starboard and the other in the port watch, and everything had been quiet and peaceable on board the ship until the incident I am about to describe.
"One night the ship was sailing quietly along, and some of the men noticed, or remembered afterwards, that when the watches were changed, the coolie who had been relieved from duty remained on deck. Shortly after the change of watch, the two mates of the ship were standing near the lee rail and talking with each other, when the two coolies came along and one of them made the remark that he was sick. This remark was evidently a signal, for instantly one of the coolies drew a knife and stabbed the first mate to the heart, while simultaneously the other coolie sprang with a knife at the second officer and gave him several stabs in the chest.
"The first mate fell dead at the stroke of the knife, but the second mate had sufficient strength left to crawl to the companionway leading to the captain's room, where he called out, 'Captain Clark!' 'Captain Clark!' and then ceased to breathe.
"The captain sprang from his bunk, and rushed on deck in his night-clothes. At the top of the companion-steps he was violently stabbed on the head and seized by the throat; he was quite unarmed and struck out with his fists at the face of his assailant, hoping to blind him. The coolie continued to stab him, and the captain started back down the steps until he slipped in the blood that covered them, and fell into the cabin, with a terrible wound in his side. He then crawled to where his revolver was, and started up the steps; when half way up, a man rolled down the steps against him and knocked him over.
"The captain thought it was the coolie, but it proved to be one of the sailors, who was frightened half to death. All he could say was, to beg of the captain to save him.
"The captain had his wife and child on board, and his wife was roused by the tumult. She came to her husband's aid and proceeded to bind up his wounds. While she was doing this one of the coolies smashed in the skylight, and would have jumped into the cabin had not the captain fired at him with his revolver and drove him away.
"The next thing the coolies did was to murder the man at the wheel and fling his body overboard. Then they murdered the carpenter and a sailor and disposed of them the same way. Including the two mates, five men were slain and four others were wounded. The wounded men and the rest of the crew barricaded themselves in the forecastle for protection, and there they remained the rest of the night and all through the next day. The captain and his wife and child stayed in the cabin.
"The two coolies were in full possession of the ship from a little past midnight until eight o'clock of the following evening. One of them, venturing near the skylight, was shot in the breast by the captain, and then the two coolies rushed forward and threw a spar overboard. One of them jumped into the sea and clung to the spar, while the other dropped down into the between-decks, where he proceeded to set the ship on fire. Seeing this, the sailors who had barricaded themselves in the forecastle broke out, and two of them proceeded to hunt the coolie down with revolvers. They hunted him out and shot him in the shoulder, and then he jumped overboard and joined his companion. Shots were fired at the two men, and soon afterward they sank.
"The fire got such headway that it could not be put out. Finally a boat was provisioned and lowered; the crew entered it, and after waiting about the ship during the night in the hope that the flames might bring assistance, they put up a sail and headed for St. Helena. Thus was a ship's crew of twenty-three people overawed and rendered helpless by two slender coolies, whom any one of the Yankee crew could have crushed out of existence in a very short space of time.
"The steamer passed near Ascension Island, but did not stop there. This island is entered in the British Navy List as a commissioned ship. It is nearly three thousand feet high, very rocky and well supplied with fresh water. Ships often stop there for a supply of water and such fresh provisions as are obtainable. The climate is said to be very healthy, and when the crews of British naval vessels are enfeebled by a long stay on the African coast, they go to Ascension Island to recruit their strength."
Ned and Harry were very desirous of visiting the island of St. Helena, which became famous as a prison and for many years the grave of Napoleon. They were disappointed on ascertaining that the ship would not stop there, and the officer of whom they made inquiry said there was nothing to stop there for. "The island is not of much account," he said, "and the natives have a hard time to make a living. In the days of sailing ships it was a favorite stopping place and the inhabitants did a good business. The general introduction of steamships, along with the digging of the Suez Canal, have knocked their business all to pieces.
"Where they used to have a dozen or twenty ships a month, they get about half as many in a year. The buildings where Napoleon used to live are all gone to ruin, and the sight of them does not pay for the journey one has to make to get there."
When it was announced that the vessel was nearing the Cape of Good Hope, our young friends strained their eyes in a friendly competition to be first to make it out. Harry was ahead of Ned in discerning the dim outline of Table Mountain, which is well described by its name. It is a flat-topped mountain fronting on the bay on which Cape Town stands. It is about three thousand five hundred feet in height, and is guarded on the left by the Lion's Head, and on the right by the Devil's Berg. The harbor is reached by passing between a small island and the coast, the island forming a very fair shelter for ships that lie inside of it.
Here the voyage of the steamer came to an end, as she belonged to one of the lines plying between England and the Cape. It became necessary for our friends to look around for another ship to carry them to their destination. They were not in any particular hurry about it, as they were quite willing to devote a little time to the Cape and its peculiarities.
A swarm of boats surrounded the ship as soon as her anchor was down, and everybody was in a hurry to get on shore. As soon as our friends could obtain a boat, their baggage was passed over the side and they followed it. The boat was managed by a white man, evidently of Dutch origin, who spoke a mixture of Dutch, English, and Hottentot, and perhaps two or three other native languages, in such a confused way that it was difficult to understand him in any. Four negroes rowed the boat and did the work while the Dutchman superintended it. The boatman showed a laudable desire to swindle the travelers, but his intentions were curbed by the stringent regulations established by the city authorities.
As they neared the landing place, Ned called attention to a swarm of cabs that seemed to be far in excess of any possible demand for them. Harry remarked that he didn't think they would have any lack of vehicles to take them to the hotel, and so it proved. The cab drivers displayed great eagerness in their efforts to secure passengers, and their prices were by no means unreasonable.
We will listen to Ned as he tells the story of what he saw on landing in Cape Town.
"The thing that impressed me most was the varying complexion of the inhabitants. They are not exactly of the colors of the rainbow, but they certainly present all the shades of complexion that can be found in the human face. You see fair-haired Englishmen, and English women, too, and then you see negroes so black that charcoal 'would make a white mark on their faces,' as one of my schoolmates used to say. Between these two, so far as color is concerned, you see several shades of negro complexion; and you also see Malays, coolies from India, Chinese, and I don't know what else. The Malays or coolies have drifted here in search of employment, and the same is the case with the Chinese, who are to be found, so Dr. Whitney says, in every port of Asia and Africa.
"Most of these exotic people cling to their native costume, especially the natives of India, and the Malays, though a good deal depends on the employment in which they engage. Some of the Malays drive cabs, and the drivers usually adopt European dress or a modification of it. Among the white inhabitants the Dutch hold a predominating place, and they are said to outnumber the English; they are the descendants of the original settlers at the Cape something more than two hundred years ago. They observe their individuality and have an important voice in the local affairs of the colony; but whenever the English authorities have their mind made up to pursue a certain policy, whether it be for the construction of railways in the interior or the building of docks or breakwaters in the harbor of Cape Town, they generally do pretty much as they please.
"I observed that the people on the streets seem to take things easily and move about with quite a languid air. This was the case with white and colored people alike; probably the Dutch settlers set the example years and years ago, and the others have followed it. Harry thinks that it is the heat of the place which causes everybody to move about slowly. Some one has remarked that only dogs and strangers walk rapidly; in Cape Town the only people whom I saw walking fast were some of our fellow-passengers from the steamer. I actually did see a negro running, but the fact is, that another negro with a big stick was running after him. As for the dogs, they seemed just as quiet as their masters.
"We inquired for the best hotel in Cape Town, and were taken to the one indicated as such. Harry says he thinks the driver made a mistake and took us to the worst; and Dr. Whitney remarks that if this is the best, he doesn't want to travel through the street where the worst one stands. We have made some inquiries since coming to this house, and find that it is really the best, or perhaps I ought to say the least bad, in the place. The table is poor, the beds lumpy and musty, and nearly every window has a broken pane or two, while the drainage is atrocious.
"We are told that the hotels all through South Africa are of the same sort, and the only thing about them that is first class is the price which one pays for accommodation. The hotel is well filled, the greater part of the passengers from our steamer having come here; but I suppose the number will dwindle down considerably in the next two or three days, as the people scatter in the directions whither they are bound. Most people come to Cape Town in order to leave it.
"And this reminds me that there are several railways branching out from Cape Town. There is a line twelve hundred miles long to Johannisburg in the Transvaal Republic, and there are several other lines of lesser length. The colonial government has been very liberal in making grants for railways, and thus developing the business of the colony. Every year sees new lines undertaken, or old ones extended, and it will not be very long before the iron horse goes pretty nearly everywhere over the length and breadth of South Africa.
"We have driven along the principal streets of the city, and admired the public buildings, which are both numerous and handsome. We took a magnificent drive around the mountain to the rear of the city, where there are some very picturesque views. In some places the edge of the road is cut directly into the mountain side, and we looked almost perpendicularly down for five or six hundred feet, to where the waters of the Atlantic were washing the base of the rocks. From the mountain back of Cape Town, there is a fine picture of the city harbor and lying almost at one's feet; the city, with its rows and clusters of buildings glistening in the sunlight, and the bright harbor, with its docks, breakwaters, and forest of masts in full view of the spectator. From this point we could see better than while in the harbor itself, the advantages of the new breakwater. It seems that the harbor is exposed to southeast winds, which are the prevailing ones here. When the wind freshens into a gale, the position of the ships at anchor in the harbor is a dangerous one, and the breakwaters have been constructed so as to obviate this danger. When they are completed, the harbor will be fairly well landlocked, and ships may anchor in Table Bay, and their masters feel a sense of security against being driven on shore."
THE CAPE OF GOOD HOPE—THE SOUTHERN OCEAN—AUSTRALIA.
"Would you like to visit an ostrich farm?" said Dr. Whitney, while our friends were at breakfast, on the second morning after their arrival at Cape Town.
"I would, for one," said Harry; to which Ned replied, "and so would I."
"Very well," continued the doctor. "I have an invitation to visit an ostrich establishment, and we will start immediately after breakfast. The railway will take us within about three miles of the farm, and the gentleman who has given me the invitation, and included you in it, will accompany us on the train, and his carriage will meet us at the station."
"That is capital!" exclaimed Harry. "He will be sure to give us a great deal of information on the subject while we are on the train, so that we can see the farm more intelligently than would otherwise be the case."
"Yes, that is so," echoed Ned, "and as he is the proprietor of the establishment, he will certainly know all about the business."
At the appointed time the party assembled at the railway station in Cape Town, and when the train was ready, our friends, accompanied by their host, Mr. Shaffner, took their places and were soon whirling away towards their destination. For a part of the way the train wound among hills and low mountains, and for another it stretched away across the level or slightly undulating plain. Mr. Shaffner entered at once upon the subject of ostriches, and as he began his conversation, Harry asked him if he had any objections to their taking notes of what he said.
"Not in the least," was the reply; "you are welcome to take all the notes you like, and if there is any point that I don't explain fully to your satisfaction, please tell me, and I will be more explicit."
The youths thanked him for his courtesy, and immediately brought out their notebooks and pencils.
"According to tradition," said Mr. Shaffner, "ostriches were formerly very abundant, wild ones, I mean, all over this part of the country. In the early part of this century they were so numerous in the neighborhood of Cape Town, that a man could hardly walk a quarter of an hour without seeing one or more of these birds. As late as 1858, a flock of twenty or thirty were seen among hills about twenty miles from Cape Town, but after that time they seemed to have disappeared almost entirely. Ostrich farming is an enterprise of the past twenty years, and before it began, the only way of procuring ostrich feathers was by hunting down and killing the wild birds. The practise was cruel, and it was also the reverse of economical. Thoughtful hunters realized this, and a rumor went through the colony that ostriches had been domesticated in Algeria, and were successfully raised for the production of feathers. When this rumor or report went about, it naturally set some of us thinking, and our thoughts were, 'Why can't ostriches be raised here, as well as in Algeria?' Several enterprising men proceeded to make experiments. They offered to pay a high price for live birds in good health and condition, and the price they offered induced the natives to set about catching them.
"Of course we were all in the dark as to the proper method of taking care of ostriches, as the business was entirely new to all of us. We made many mistakes and lost a good many birds. The eggs became addled and worthless, and for the first two or three years it looked as though the experiments would be a failure. Our greatest difficulty was in finding proper food for the birds. We tried them with various kinds of grasses, and we studied as well as we could the habits of the wild bird at home. We found that they needed a certain quantity of alkalies, and they subsisted largely upon the sweet grasses, wherever they could find them. The grass called lucerne seems the best adapted to them, and you will find it grown on all ostrich farms for the special purpose of feeding the birds.
"We have got the business down so fine now that we understand all the various processes of breeding, rearing, herding, feeding, plucking, and sorting. We buy and sell ostriches just as we do sheep. We fence in our flocks, stable them, grow crops for them, study their habits, and cut their feathers as matters of business. We don't send the eggs to market along with our butter and cheese, as they are altogether too dear for consumption. It is true that an ostrich egg will make a meal for three or four persons; but at five dollars an egg, which is the usual price, the meal would be a dear one.
"In fact, the eggs are so precious," he continued, "that we don't allow them to be hatched out by the birds. For fear of accidents, as soon as the eggs have been laid they are taken from the nests and placed in a patent incubator to be hatched out. The incubator makes fewer mistakes than the parent ostriches do. That is to say, if you entrust a given number of eggs to the birds to be hatched out in the natural way, and place the same number in an incubator, you will get a considerably larger proportion of chicks from the latter than from the former.
"The business of ostrich farming," Mr. Shaffner went on to say, "is spread over the colony from the near neighborhood of Cape Town to the eastern frontier, and from Albany to the Orange River. Ostrich farms were scattered at no great distances apart, and some of the proprietors had a high reputation for their success. He said it must not be understood that ostrich farming was the great industry of the country; on the contrary, the product of wool was far greater in value than that of feathers, and the ostriches were to the sheep as one is to a thousand."
Harry asked if the birds were allowed to run at large, or were kept constantly in enclosures.
"Both plans are followed," said Mr. Shaffner, "and some of the farmers allow their flocks to run at large, feeding them once a day on grain, for which they must come to the home stable. The ostriches know the hour of feeding as well as if they carried watches, and are promptly on hand when their dinner time arrives. In this way they are kept under domestication and accustomed to the presence of men, but occasionally they stray away and disappear. The safer way is to keep a native boy or man constantly with each herd of ostriches, and the herder is held responsible for the loss of any bird.
"Even then the flock may sometimes be frightened and scattered beyond the ability of the herder to bring the birds together. On my farm, I have the ground fenced off into fifty-acre lots. I divide my birds into flocks of twenty-five or thirty, and put them successively in the different lots of land. I sow the ground with lucerne, and do not turn a flock into a field or paddock until the grass is in good condition for the birds to eat.
"You may put it down as a rule on ostrich farms, that plenty of space and a good fence are essential to success. In every paddock you must have a good shed, where the birds can take shelter when it rains. You must also have a kraal or yard in each paddock, where you can drive the birds whenever you want to select some of them for cutting their feathers. It is proper to say, however, that a kraal in each paddock is not necessary, as all that work can be done at the home station, where you have the buildings for artificial hatching and for gathering the feathers."
Ned asked what kind of ground was best suited for the ostrich.
"You must have ground where the soil and plants are rich in alkalies," replied Mr. Shaffner, "and when this is not the case, care must be taken to supply the needful element. Before this matter was understood there was some melancholy failures in the business. A friend of mine started an ostrich farm on a sandstone ridge. There was no limestone on the farm, and most of the birds died in a few months, and those that lived laid no eggs and produced very few feathers. Limestone was carted to the farm from a considerable distance, and the birds would not touch it. Bones were then tried and with admirable effect. What the birds required was phosphate of lime, and the bones gave them that. They rushed at them with great eagerness, and as soon as they were well supplied with bones they began to improve in health and to lay eggs. On farms like the one I mentioned, a quarter of a pound of sulphur and some salt is mixed with two buckets of pulverized bones, and the birds are allowed to eat as much of this mixture as they like. Where the rocks, grass, and soil contain alkaline salts in abundance, the birds require very little, if any, artificial food, and they thrive, fatten, pair, and lay eggs in the most satisfactory manner."
"According to the story books," said Harry, "the ostrich will eat anything. But from what you say, Mr. Shaffner, it does not seem that that is really the case."
"The ostrich has a very good appetite, I must say," was the reply, "and so far as green things are concerned, he will eat almost anything; lucerne, clover, wheat, corn, cabbage leaves, fruit, grain, and garden vegetables are all welcome, and he eats a certain quantity of crushed limestone and bones, and generally keeps a few pebbles in his stomach to assist him in the process of digestion. If he sees a bright sparkling stone on the ground, he is very apt to swallow it, and that reminds me of a little incident about two years ago. An English gentleman was visiting my place, and while he was looking around he came close up to the fence of a paddock containing a number of ostriches. An ostrich was on the other side of the fence and close to it. The gentleman had a large diamond in his shirt front, and while he was looking at the bird, the latter, with a quick movement of his head, wrenched the stone from its setting and swallowed it. I see that none of you wear diamonds, and so it is not necessary for me to repeat the caution which I have ever since given to my diamond-wearing visitors."
"What became of the diamond?" Harry asked.
"Oh! my visitor bought the bird and had it killed, in order to get the diamond back again. He found it safe in the creature's stomach, along with several small stones. It was a particularly valuable gem, and the gentleman had no idea of allowing the bird to keep it."
Ned wanted to know if ostriches lived in flocks like barnyard fowls, or divided off into pairs like the majority of forest and field birds.
"That depends a great deal upon the farmer," Mr. Shaffner answered. "The pairing season is in the month of July, which is equivalent to the English January. Some farmers, when the pairing time approaches, put a male and female bird together in a pen; some put two females with a male, and very often a male bird has five hens in his family. The birds run in pairs or flocks, as the case may be. In August, the hens begin to lay, and continue to deposit eggs for a period of six weeks. They do not lay every day, like domestic fowls, but every second or third day. As I have already told you, the eggs are taken as soon as laid and hatched in an incubator. Sixteen birds out of twenty eggs is considered a very fair proportion, while, if the bird is allowed to sit on the eggs, we are not likely to get more than twelve out of twenty. There is another advantage in hatching eggs by the incubator process, and that is, that when the eggs are taken away the hen proceeds a few weeks later to lay another batch of eggs, which she does not do if she has a family to care for."
"What do you do with the young birds when they are hatched?"
"We put them in a warm room," was the reply, "and at night they are put in a box lined with wool; they are fed with chopped grass suitable to them, and as soon as they are able to run about they are entrusted to the care of a small boy, a Kaffir or Hottentot, to whom they get strongly attached. They grow quite rapidly and begin to feather at eight months after hatching, but the yield at that time is of very little value. Eight months later there is another and better crop, and then at each season the crop improves until the birds are four or five years old, when it reaches its maximum condition. Exactly how long an ostrich will live, I don't know. There are some birds here in South Africa that are twenty years old, and they are strong and healthy yet."
Conversation ran on in various ways until the station was reached where our friends were to leave the train. The carriage was waiting for them, and the party drove at once to the farm, where Mr. Shaffner showed them about the place, and called attention to the flocks of birds straying about the different paddocks. It so happened that a flock had been driven up that very morning for the purpose of cutting such of the feathers as were in proper condition to be removed from the birds.
While the men were driving the birds into the kraal, Mr. Shaffner explained that there was a difference of opinion among farmers as to whether the feathers should be plucked or cut. He said that when the feather is plucked or pulled out at the roots it is apt to make a bad sore, and at any rate cause a great deal of pain; while the feather that grows in its place is apt to be twisted or of poor quality, and occasionally the birds die, as a result of the operation. When a feather is nipped off with pincers or cut with a knife the bird is quite insensible to the operation. The stumps that are left in the flesh of the ostrich fall out in the course of a month or six weeks, or can be easily drawn out, and then a new and good feather grows in place of the old one. The reason why plucking still finds advocates is that the feathers with the entire quill bring a higher price in the market than those that have been cut or nipped.
Harry and Ned watched with much interest the process of removing feathers from the birds. Here is the way Harry describes it.
"The men moved around among the ostriches in a perfectly easy way, and seemed to be on the best of terms with their charges. The foreman selected a bird and indicated to one of the men that he wanted it brought forward. Thereupon the man seized the bird by the neck and pressed its head downward until he could draw a sack like a long and very large stocking over it.
"When blindfolded in this way the ostrich is perfectly helpless, and will stand perfectly still. The man pushed and led the bird up to the fence, and then the foreman, armed with his cutting nippers, selected the feathers that he wanted and cut them off. When the operation was ended the sack was removed, and the ostrich resumed his place among his companions. He did not strike, or kick, or indicate in any way that he was aware of what had happened to him.
"During their breeding time the male ostriches are decidedly vicious, and it is dangerous to go near them. Mr. Shaffner told us that several serious accidents had happened to his men at such times. Occasionally a bird shows more or less ugliness on being driven into a kraal, and when this is the case caution must be used in approaching him. The ostrich's favorite mode of fighting is to strike or kick with one leg, and he can give a terrible blow in this way.
"I asked Mr. Shaffner," said Harry, "what was the value of a good ostrich. He replied that the question was one he could not answer in a single phrase. He said that an egg was worth not less than five dollars, and an ostrich chick, fresh from the egg, was worth twenty-five dollars.
"After a few months it was double that value, and by the time it was a year old it was worth two hundred and fifty dollars. Mr. Shaffner said he would be unwilling to sell a pair of hens and a male ostrich for less than two thousand dollars, but he explained that a great deal depended upon the breeding and feather-producing qualities of the birds.
"Then, I asked," continued Harry, "about the yield of feathers, and was told that the average yield was about fifty dollars annually to a good bird. The feathers ripen at the time of incubation and are injured by the process, so that the artificial incubator, by releasing the birds from duty on the nest, is of special value.
"I remarked," said Harry, "that, considering the increase in the flocks and the money obtained from the feathers, ostrich farming ought to be very profitable."
"Well, it is profitable in a general way," replied Mr. Shaffner, "but that is not by any means the rule. There are farmers who have never made anything by it, and it has its drawbacks, like everything else. The birds are subject to diseases of various kinds, and there is a parasitic worm on some farms that is very destructive. Wild beasts kill the birds, and I myself have lost three fine ostriches this year in that way. I know one farm on which eighty-five birds were originally placed. In the very first year twenty-seven were lost, thirteen by cold and wet, three by diphtheria, six killed by natives, three by fighting, and two by falling into holes. Out of sixty eggs, nineteen were destroyed by crows. These birds would take stones in their claws, fly to a point directly over the nest, and then let the stones fall on the eggs, thus breaking them, so that they could get at the contents of the shells. The remaining eggs were sent to a neighboring farm to be artificially incubated, but only ten of them hatched out. So, you see," the gentleman continued, "ostrich farming has its hard times, like everything else."
After inspecting the ostrich farm our friends were entertained at a substantial dinner in the house of their host, and in the afternoon were driven to the railway station, whence they returned to Cape Town, having well enjoyed their first excursion.
That evening Dr. Whitney received an invitation to visit a large sheep farm about thirty miles from Cape Town, accompanied, as before, by his two nephews. He accepted the invitation, and the trio took an early train for their destination. They were met at the station by the owner of the establishment, and were speedily shown through the entire place. Sheep farming was less a novelty to our young friends than ostrich farming, and consequently they had much less interest in seeing the sights of the establishment. Harry wrote a brief account of their visit, and we are permitted to copy from it.
"Evidently the place was prosperous," said Harry, in his journal, "as we found an abundance of substantial buildings, a luxurious house for the owner, and substantial dwellings for the manager and his assistant. We sat down to an excellent, though somewhat late breakfast. We had a good appetite for it, as we had breakfasted very lightly before leaving Cape Town. On the table we had broiled chickens, broiled ham, and lamb chops, together with eggs, bread, and the usual concomitants of the morning meal.
"After breakfast we visited the sheds where the sheep are sheared, and also the surrounding sheds and yards where the animals are driven up at shearing time. We were sorry that it was not the time of the annual shearing, so that we could witness the process. Our host told us that the shearers travel about the country, and take contracts for shearing the flocks at so much a head. In addition to their wages, they were supplied with food, and he added that the shearers were a fastidious lot, and nothing but the best table would suit them.
"After inspecting the buildings, we were supplied with saddle horses and rode over the farm. The sheep are divided into flocks of about three hundred each, and every flock is in charge of two herders or shepherds. Some of them come into the home stations at night, while others have separate out stations of their own. The herders are either Hottentots or Kaffirs; at any rate they are negroes. The two of them start out in the morning with the flock, and go slowly along, allowing the sheep to feed, and calculating time and distance so that they will reach a watering place about noon. There the sheep are watered and then they start back again towards the station, where they arrive an hour or so before sunset, and are shut up in a yard for the night.
"The shepherds do their own cooking, and once a week one of them comes to the head station to be supplied with provisions. Our host explained to us that one shepherd was sufficient for a flock, but the life was so lonely that a man would not stick to it, if left alone, and they had to have two men in order to keep each other company. I can well understand how wearisome it would be to have nobody to speak to for days at a time, and one of the last occupations I would wish to engage in is that of shepherd.
"Wool raising is a very large industry in Cape Colony, and it certainly has been a very profitable one. Our host told us that if a man could avoid accidents and misfortunes, he would find the business very remunerative; but, of course, misfortunes are pretty sure to come. He told us further, that nearly all the sheep farmers of South Africa had started into the business as poor men, and, while none of them were millionaires, there were some that were very near being so. He gave some statistics of the wool trade, but I have mislaid the sheet of paper containing them, and so cannot give them to you."
On their return from the excursion to the sheep farm, our friends learned that a steamer of the Orient line had just arrived, and would leave at noon the next day for Australia. Dr. Whitney decided to take passage on this steamer, and the matter was very quickly arranged.
When the great ship left the harbor of Cape Town, our friends stood on her deck and were deeply interested in the scene about them. As they steamed out around the breakwater, they had a fine view of Table Bay and the mountains that surround it. Then they passed a series of cliff-like mountains, known as the Twelve Apostles, and after them some brightly colored mountains that had a dazzling appearance in the bright sunlight. Thirty miles from Cape Town they passed the famous Cape of Good Hope, which is popularly but erroneously supposed to be the southern end of the continent; the fact is that the point of Africa nearest to the South Pole is Cape Agulhas, sixty or seventy miles away from the Cape of Good Hope.
Down to Cape Agulhas the steamer had followed the coast line. Now it steered away from the coast, and gradually the mountains of the southern end of Africa faded and became dim in the distance, and gradually disappeared altogether from sight. Our friends were now upon the great Southern Ocean, which sweeps entirely around this part of the globe.
"We have a long voyage before us now," said Harry to Ned; "we have sixteen days of steaming, so one of the officers tells me, before we reach the coast of Australia."
"Well, if that is the case," Ned answered, "we have plenty of time to become acquainted with the Southern Ocean. I wonder if it will be very different from the Atlantic."
"As to that," replied Harry, "I don't know, but I have no doubt it has peculiarities of its own. We will see about that later."
Flocks of birds accompanied the ship as it steamed away from the coast. Some were familiar sights to our young friends, and some were new to them, or comparatively so. The next day and the few succeeding days made them acquainted with several birds that they had never seen, and the boys were so interested in them that Harry wrote a description, which we will presently consider. But before doing so, however, we will look at a note which Ned made concerning the waves of the Southern Ocean.
"The waves of this part of the boundless waste of waters that covers three fourths of the globe," said Ned, in his journal, "are the largest we have ever seen. The prevailing winds are westerly, and the captain tells us that they drive a continuous series of waves right around the globe. You have heard of the long swell of the Pacific, but it is not, at least in the Northern Hemisphere, anywhere equal to the immense swells of the Southern Ocean. I have never seen waves that began to be as large. The captain says that the crests are often thirty feet high, and three hundred and ninety feet apart. Sir James Ross, in his Antartic expedition, measured waves thirty-six feet high, and said that when two ships were in the hollows of two adjoining waves, their hulls were completely concealed from each other by the crest of water between them. This great steamer, measuring nearly five thousand tons, is rolled and tossed as if it were nothing more than an egg-shell, and such of the passengers as are liable to seasickness are staying below out of sight. Fancy what it must be to sail on this ocean in a small craft of one hundred or two hundred tons! I think I would prefer to be on shore."
And now we come to Harry's account of the birds. He wrote as follows:—
"Dr. Whitney says that I must make a distinction between land birds, coast birds, and ocean birds. Land birds are only at sea by accident; coast birds are seen only in the neighborhood of the land, but ocean birds go far out at sea, and rarely visit the land except during their breeding season. When you see a land bird out of sight of the shore, you can know that he has been driven there by the wind; perhaps in a squall or rain storm. The doctor tells me that we can make a general distinction between the three kinds of birds, by remembering that the more the bird lives on the land, the more he flaps his wings, and most land birds flap their wings constantly. A few, like the eagle, condor, and other birds of prey, sail about and flap their wings occasionally, but the true ocean birds, as a rule, flap their wings very little.
"An interesting flyer that we have seen is the frigate bird, also called the man-of-war bird, which appears to me to be a good deal of a pirate, as it makes the most of its living by robbing others. When another bird has caught a fish the frigate bird attacks him, and takes away his prize, catching it in the air as it falls from the victim's claws. These birds follow the steamer or fly in the air above it, and they seem to go along very easily, although the ship is running at full speed. I am told that, on the previous voyage of this ship, some of the sailors caught two of these birds and marked them by attaching strips of white cloth to their feet. Then the birds were set free, and they followed the steamer four or five days without any apparent fatigue.
"Of course we have seen 'Mother Carey's Chickens.' These tireless little fellows, that never seem to rest, are found in all parts of the world of waters. They have been constantly about us, flying around the ship but never settling upon it, and dipping occasionally into the waters behind us to gather up crumbs or particles of food. The other birds, which are all much larger, would like to deprive them of their sustenance, but they do not have the quickness of the little flyers on the wing. When anything is thrown overboard, they dart as quick as a flash under the noses of the larger and more clumsy birds, and pick up a mouthful or two before the latter can reach them. Then there are whale birds, and cape pigeons, and also the cape dove, which is somewhat larger than the pigeon, and is also known as the 'fulmar petrel.'
"But the most interesting as well as the largest of all the ocean birds is the albatross. There are two or three kinds of this bird; the largest of them has a spread of wing varying from twelve to fifteen feet, and one has been caught measuring seventeen feet from tip to tip. With outspread wings, his body, as he sails about in the air, looks as large as a barrel, but when stripped of its feathers its size diminishes very much. We offered to pay a good price to the sailors if they would catch an albatross for us, but they declined our proposal to catch one, and when a passenger one day wanted to shoot one which was directly over the steamer, the sailors objected. We finally induced them to compromise the matter by catching an albatross and letting it go unharmed.
"They baited a hook with a piece of pork which was attached to a long line, and then allowed to tow behind the steamer. We were doomed to disappointment, as the albatross, that was then flying with the ship, refused to touch the bait, and it was taken up by a frigate bird. It is said that the albatross is very difficult to catch, as he is exceedingly wary, and constantly on the lookout for tricks. I am told that a live albatross standing on the deck of the ship is a very handsome bird. His back is white, his wings are brown, he has a fine head, carries himself with great dignity, and has a grand eye and countenance. The bird has a pink beak and pretty streaks of a rose color on the cheeks. After death these colors disappear, and are not to be seen in the stuffed specimens such as are found in museums. A good-sized albatross weighs about twenty pounds, though, as before stated, he looks very much larger.
"The wonderful thing about this bird is the way he sustains himself in the air. He sails along above the ship, though she may be steaming fifteen or sixteen miles an hour, but he does it all with very little motion. Three or four times in an hour he may give one or two flaps of his wings, and that is all; the rest is all steady sailing. The outspread wings sustain the bird, and carry him forward at the same time. If any man ever invents a successful flying machine, I think he will do so by studying the movements of the albatross. It is proper to say that this bird is not at all courageous, and often gives up the fish that he catches to the piratical frigate bird. It lives mostly on fish, and is very fond of the carcass of a dead whale, and they tell me that the longer the whale has been dead, the better does the albatross like it.
"The superstition of the sailors about its being bad luck to kill an albatross is not by any means a new one. It is referred to by old writers, and you will find it mentioned in Coleridge's 'Ancient Mariner.'
"We have seen a great many flying fish during our voyage, but as we have seen them before, they are not a great curiosity. The flying motion of this fish is more fanciful than real. He does not soar in the air like a bird, but simply leaps from the crest of one wave to the crest of another. He makes a single dash through the air, and that is all. Sometimes, when a ship is in the hollow between two waves and the flying fish is attempting to make his way across, he falls on the deck of the vessel, but he rarely gets more than fifteen or eighteen feet into the air, and therefore does not reach the deck of a big steamer like this.
"Flying fish seem to fly when disturbed by big fishes, or, possibly, by the commotion that a vessel creates in going through the water. There is a good deal of dispute as to how long the flying fish can stay out of water, and the longest time I have heard any one give to it is thirty seconds. Some say that the flying fish can stay in the air only while its wings are wet, but that is a point on which I do not care to give any opinion, for the simple reason that I don't know."
Ned and Harry had kept the nautical instruments which they carried over the deserts of Northern Africa, and they amused themselves by taking daily observations and calculating the ship's position. Sometimes they were wrong, and sometimes they were right, Ned naively remarking that "the wrongs didn't count." The first officer of the ship gave them some assistance in their nautical observations, and, altogether, they got along very well.
Our friends made the acquaintance of some of their fellow-passengers and found them very agreeable. The majority were residents of Australia or New Zealand, who had been on visits to England and were now returning home. The youths learned a great deal concerning the country whither they were bound, and the goodly portion of the information they received was of practical value to them. They made copious notes of what they heard, and some of the information that they gleaned will appear later in these pages.
In due time they sighted the coast of Australia at its western extremity, known as Cape Leeuwin, but the sight was not especially picturesque, as the mountains around the cape are of no great height. After passing Cape Leeuwin, the steamer held her course steadily to the west, gradually leaving the shore out of sight. She was passing along the front of what is called the Great Australian Bight, an indentation in the land twelve hundred miles long, and bounded on the north by a region of desolation.
"It is a desolate coast," said one of the passengers to Harry, "and is so destitute of water that no settlements have or can be made upon it. Mr. Eyre, who was afterwards governor of Jamaica, endeavored to explore that coast, and had a terrible time of it. He was an entire year making the journey of twelve hundred miles, and suffered the most terrible hardships."
A LAND OF CONTRADICTIONS—TRANSPORTATION TO AUSTRALIA.
"How long is it since Mr. Eyre made this journey?" Harry asked.
"It was a good while ago," the gentleman answered, "in the years 1839 and 1840. Mr. Eyre had explored a portion of the western shore of Spencer Gulf, and while doing so, determined to make the attempt to travel along the shore of the Great Australian Bight. One of the first difficulties that opposed him was the scarcity of fresh water. There were numerous gullies, showing that in times of rain there was plenty of water, but no rain had fallen for a long time and all these gullies were dry. A few springs were found, but these were generally brackish and the water was hardly drinkable.
"Mr. Eyre tried the experiment of sinking a cask in the ground, near the edge of the sea, in the hope of obtaining fresh water, but his experiments in this direction were not successful. By the time he had advanced two hundred miles, he had lost four of his horses. The reduction in the number of his pack animals made it impossible for him to carry sufficient provisions for his party, and he therefore sent back his only white companion and three of his men. Then he continued his journey with his overseer and three natives, one of the latter being his personal servant.
"In order to be sure of water, Mr. Eyre explored in advance of the party, and sometimes was gone four or five days before finding any. One by one the horses died of thirst, and the only way the men could keep alive was by gathering the dew, which fell at night, by means of sponges and rags.
"The natives complained at their hardships, and one night the two men took possession of the guns, killed the overseer, and ran away, leaving Mr. Eyre with only his native servant and a very small stock of provisions. They were then about midway on the journey; that is, they had still six hundred miles to travel to reach the settled parts of West Australia. The entire supply of provisions that they had was four gallons of water, forty pounds of flour, and a portion of a dead horse. They had to go nearly two hundred miles before finding any more water, and lived on horse-flesh, with occasional game and fish, and a little flour paste. Just as they were about to lie down and die in the desert they saw a sail in the distance.
"They built a fire on the beach as a signal, and, luckily for them, it was observed. The vessel came in quite near the land and sent a boat to their assistance. The ship proved to be an American whaler that was cruising about the Australian Bight in pursuit of whales, and the captain invited them to stay on board as long as they liked. They remained there two weeks, and were then put ashore at the same spot whence they had gone on board. The captain supplied them with all the provisions and water they could carry. Mr. Eyre was determined to complete his journey, if possible, and his faithful servant consented to remain with him. They struggled on for two or three weeks longer, when they reached the first of the settlements on King George's Sound."
"Has anybody else ever tried to make the same journey?" Harry asked.
"Not under the same circumstances," was the reply. "I believe that a well-equipped exploring party was sent out some twelve or fifteen years ago, to travel along the coast and look for gold. Water and provisions were supplied every few days by a small steamer that kept near the shore and went in when signaled by the travelers. In this way, suffering from hunger and thirst was avoided and the animals of the expedition were well supplied with forage. The enterprise was not a successful one so far as the finding of gold was concerned, but I have little doubt that one of these days gold will be discovered there; and if it should be, some way will be found for softening the asperities of this desolate coast."
"I have heard," said Harry, "that a great part of Australia is destitute of water. Is that really the case?"
"Yes," the gentleman answered; "you have been correctly informed. Australia, is a waterless country, or, at any rate, that is the case with a great part of it. The interior has never been fully explored for this reason, and there are thousands, I might say millions, of square miles of Australian country where no human foot has ever trod. Many attempts have been made to penetrate this desolate region, but all have resulted in failure.
"Water, as you know, is an absolute necessity for man and animals, and there is a limit to the amount which an expedition can carry, just as there is a limit to the food that one may take on a journey. There are parts of Australia where rain seems never to fall, or, if it does, the intervals are so rare and irregular that no reliance can be placed on them. Explorers cannot stop to dig wells hundreds of feet in depth, and it is certain that no ordinary amount of digging will procure water. The atmosphere is dry, terribly dry, as all who have attempted to penetrate into the interior will tell you.
"Instruments, and cases made of the best seasoned wood—wood that has been dried for years and years—crack and split and go to pieces in the dry atmosphere of the interior of Australia. Leather becomes brittle, and cracks and breaks when the slightest pressure is put upon it. One exploring expedition was obliged to turn back in consequence of the drying up and cracking of the wood contained in its instruments and their cases. The evaporation from one's skin is very rapid under such circumstances, and produces an agonizing thirst, which is no doubt intensified by the knowledge of the scarcity of water and the necessity of using the supply on hand with great care."
"I have heard," said Ned, "that Australia is a land of contradictions as compared with England and the United States. I read in a book somewhere that nearly everything in nature was the reverse of what it was in the countries I mentioned."
"That is true," said the gentleman with whom they were conversing, "and I will tell you several things to demonstrate the correctness of what you say. In the first place Australia is on the other side of the world from England and the United States, and that circumstance ought to prepare you for the other peculiarities. Most countries are fertile in their interior; but, as I have told you, the interior of Australia is a land of desolation, where neither man nor beast can live. I have been told that birds never fly in the interior of Australia; and certainly if I were a bird, I would not fly there nor anywhere near it.
"We have very few rivers, and none of them come from far in the interior. Most of them are low in summer or altogether dried up. There is only one river, the Murray, that can be relied upon to have any reasonable depth of water in it throughout the entire year. The other rivers dwindle almost to nothing, and, as I have said, entirely disappear. The greater part of the country is absolutely without trees, and the dense forests which you have in America are practically unknown. We have summer when you have winter, and we have night when you have day. When you are in your own country, and I am here, our feet are nearer together than our heads; that is to say, our feet are pressing the ground on opposite sides of the earth, and so we may be said to be standing upon each other."
"That is so," remarked Harry; "I was thinking of that this morning. I noticed also that the ship's compass pointed to the south, and that the sun was traveling along the northern heavens. I observed, too, that the south wind was cold, and the north wind hot."
"You are quite right," said the gentleman; "and if you have been studying the barometer, you have found that it falls with the northerly wind and rises with the southerly one. When you travel over the country, you will find that the valleys are cool and the mountain tops warm. The bees have no sting, and many of the beautiful flowers have no smell. The leaves of the trees are nearly always perpendicular instead of horizontal, as in your country, and consequently one gets very little shade under an Australian tree."
"I have heard," said Ned, "that the trees shed their bark instead of their leaves. Is that really so?"
"It is so with most of the trees," was the reply; "in fact, with nearly all of them. A few shed their leaves every year, and on many of the trees the leaves remain unchanged, while the bark is thrown off. One tree is called the stringy bark, on account of the ragged appearance of its covering at the time it is shed.
"In your part of the world," the gentleman continued, "cherries grow with the stones inside; but here in Australia we have cherries with the stones on the outside. We have birds of beautiful plumage and very little song; the owls are quiet at night, and screech and hoot in the daytime, which certainly is not a characteristic of the English or American owl. The geological formation of the country is also peculiar, and the scientific men who have come here from England and America are a good deal puzzled at the state of affairs they find in Australia. Would it not surprise you to learn that we have coal in this country as white as chalk?"
"That is, indeed, a surprise," one of the youths remarked. "I wonder if the conditions are continued so that your chalk is black."
"The contrasts do not go quite so far as that," said the gentleman, with a laugh, "as the chalk of Australia is as white as that of England. I don't mean to say that all our coal is white, but only the coal of certain localities. It generally takes the stranger by surprise to see a grateful of white coal burning brightly, and throwing out smoke at the same time. I must tell you that this coal is bituminous, and not anthracite."
"I hope," said Ned, "that men's heads do not grow out of their sides, or from their breasts, and that they do not walk topsy-turvy, with their feet in the air."
"No, they are not as bad as that," was the reply; "but you will see some queer things before you are through with Australia. Bear in mind that the country contains no antiquities of any kind; it is a new land in every sense, as it was first settled in 1788, and all these cities are of modern foundation and growth."
Our young friends thanked the gentleman for the information he had given them, and said they would specially bear in mind the comparisons and contrasts which he had indicated in their brief conversation.
The first stopping place of the ship was at Adelaide, in South Australia, from which place she proceeded around the coast to Melbourne. Our friends decided to land at Adelaide, and go overland through that city wherever the railway would take them. They thought that by so doing they would be able to see a great deal more on their way to Melbourne than if they continued aboard the ship.
Harry had obtained a map of Australia on the day before their arrival at Adelaide. He was busily engaged in studying it.
"Just look a moment," said Harry to Ned, as he spread the map out on one of the tables in the saloon; "here is another contradiction that our friend didn't include. Look at it."
"Well, what of it?" said Ned. "It is a map of Australia, is it not?"
"Yes, it is, and just look at the provinces or colonies of Australia. Here is West Australia, as its name indicates, at the western end of the great island or continent. Here are Queensland, New South Wales, and Victoria, and here is South Australia, where we are going to land. Adelaide is its capital."
"Well, what of it?" queried Ned, with an expression of curiosity on his face.
"Why, don't you see," said Harry, in a tone of impatience, "that South Australia is not South Australia at all. Here is Victoria, which runs further south than this colony, and then you see South Australia runs clear across the continent to the northern side, and almost as far north as the extreme point of Queensland. They ought to change the name of it, or else divide it into two colonies, calling this one by its present name, and the other North Australia."
Ned admitted the force of the argument, and then joined his cousin in studying the map. Strange to say, the middle section or unexplored region had a singular fascination for both the youths, and each confided to the other that he would like to undertake the exploration of that part of the continent. They wondered whether Dr. Whitney would entertain their proposal to do so, but finally concluded that the hardships would be too great, and they would say nothing about their aspirations.
In due time the steamer came to anchor at Port Adelaide. The harbor of the capital city is not on the sea, but seven miles away from it, on the banks of the small river Torrens. The railway connects the port with the city, and shortly after getting ashore our friends were seated in a train, which carried them quickly to the capital. One of the passengers told Ned that the port was formerly quite shallow and difficult to enter. The entrance at present is between two large shoals of sand, which are marked by lighthouses. A great deal of money has been expended in deepening and widening the harbor, so that it is now accessible for large ships.
A long pier extends into St. Vincent's Gulf, the body of water on which the port stands, and this pier is quite popular as a promenade for the people living at the port, and also for those who come down from the city.
Harry observed that the dock and pier accommodations were excellent. There were immense sheds, and warehouses for the storage of grain, wool, and other products of the country while awaiting shipment, and equally extensive shelters for merchandise arriving at the port on its way to the city and to other parts of the colony. There were dry docks and repairing yards, and there were hospitals for sick sailors and others, together with the usual public buildings of a prosperous seaport. Immense quantities of wool and frozen meat are shipped from this port to England, and the trade of the colony with the mother country is said to be increasing every year.
It was about the middle of the afternoon when our friends landed, and in less than half an hour after landing they were in the city. One of their steamer acquaintances had directed them to a hotel, and, in fact, accompanied them to it, so that they had the advantage of his personal guidance and introduction. Harry made a memorandum in his notebook that they found the hotel quite a good one, certainly much better than the hotel where they stopped at Cape Town.
After settling themselves in the hotel the party went out for a stroll, but, in consequence of the heat, they were not long in turning their stroll into a drive. Here is what Ned says of their first day in Adelaide:—
"This city recalls Chicago more than any other place I can think of. It is on a level plain, with the exception of the portion to the north where the ground rises a little, and the streets are laid out at right angles, as though a chess-board had been taken as a model for the place. We have wondered why it was called Adelaide instead of Mary Ann, Betsy, or some other feminine name; Dr. Whitney has just told us that the city was laid out in 1837 and named in honor of the queen of King William IV., who was then the ruler of England.
"Having named the place in honor of the queen, the founders of the city felt that the next thing to do was to call the principal street after the king. Thus it happens that the great street, the one most built upon, and where the majority of the shops are concentrated, is King William Street. It is a broad avenue running from south to north, and divides the city almost equally. It is certainly a very handsome avenue, and we greatly enjoyed our drive upon it. Most of the public buildings, the town hall, post-office, government offices, and the like, are on King William Street, and they are very handsome structures.
"The people are very proud of these edifices, and well they may be, as they would be ornaments to any city ten times as old and large as Adelaide. The principal banks, newspaper offices, and business structures generally are also on King William Street, and to judge by the crowds of people that throng the sidewalks, one might conclude that the population was a busy one. One thing that attracted our attention was the great number of churches, which certainly gave us the impression that the population of Adelaide is decidedly religious, and also that its zeal in religion had led it to contribute freely to the erection of places of worship. Our driver pointed out the various churches and told us their denomination. Of course the Church of England was ahead of the others, as is expected to be the case in a British colony."
"I learned afterwards," said Ned, "that there were nearly one thousand churches and chapels in the colony of South Australia, together with nearly five hundred other buildings that are occasionally used for religious worship. All the churches are supported by voluntary contributions, there being no State aid to any of them. At the last census of the colony there were 76,000 adherents of the Church of England, 43,000 Roman Catholics, and 42,000 Methodists. Then came the Lutherans, with 20,000; Presbyterians, with 18,000; Baptists, with 14,000; and about 10,000 each of primitive Methodists, Congregationalists, and Bible Christians. There were several other denominations, but their numbers were insignificant. We looked for pagodas while driving along the street, but none of them were to be found, and we learned on inquiry that the number of Chinese and Moslems in South Australia was hardly worth mentioning. The colony has never been attractive to the Chinese, and few of them have endeavored to find homes there.
"We drove to the resident portion of the city and saw a goodly number of private houses of the better sort. A great deal of taste has been displayed in the construction of these houses, and we derived the impression that Adelaide was a decidedly prosperous city. The wheat-growing industry of South Australia is a very large one. Many of the great farmers have their residences in Adelaide and spend only a small portion of their time on their farms, leaving all details to their managers. A considerable amount of American farming machinery finds its way to South Australia, where it has attained a well-deserved popularity."
While our friends were at breakfast the next morning, Harry suggested that if the others were willing, he would like to see one of the Australian prisons containing convicts that had been transported from England.
The doctor smiled,—just a faint smile,—while Ned laughed.
"Oh, you are all wrong, Harry," said Ned. "They gave up that business long ago. I was under the same impression that you are, but learned better from one of our fellow-passengers. I meant to tell you about it."
"Well, I will acknowledge my mistake," said Harry. "We are all liable to make blunders, and that is one of them."
"Quite true," Dr. Whitney remarked. "Every visitor to a country that is strange to him makes a great many mistakes, and the frank thing is to acknowledge it."
"The gentleman who corrected my blunder," said Ned, "told me that an American visitor who was very fond of hunting landed once in Sydney, fresh from the United States. The hunting fever was strong in him, and before he was an hour on shore he asked the clerk of the hotel where he could go to shoot Sydney ducks. He had heard of them, and would like to bag a few brace."
"What is the point of the joke?" said Harry; "I confess I cannot see it."
"That is exactly what I said to my informant," replied Ned, "and then he went on and told me that in former times Australian convicts were spoken of as Sydney ducks."
"Oh! I see," said Harry, "that is a very good joke when you come to know all about it. What did the clerk of the hotel say to the inquiring stranger?"
"I don't know," replied Ned, "but I presume he told him that Sydney ducks had gone out of fashion, and were not being shot any more. Probably he let the man down as gently as possible."
"How did the convicts come to have the name of Sydney ducks?" Harry asked.
"I can't tell you, I am sure," said Ned, "you will have to ask the doctor about it."
"The name came, no doubt," said Dr. Whitney, "from the circumstance that the first convicts who were brought to Australia were landed at Sydney, and for a good many years Sydney was the principal depot of these involuntary emigrants. The adoption of Australia as the place for convict settlement was brought about by events in America, a statement which may surprise you."
"It certainly is surprising," Harry remarked. "How did it happen?"
"It came about in this way," the doctor continued; "when America was subject to England, offenders of various kinds, whether political or criminal, were sent to the American colonies, principally to the Southern States and the West Indies, where they were chiefly employed in the cultivation of tobacco. The consumption of tobacco in England was very large, and the revenue derived from it was considerable. Consequently England was able to kill two birds with one stone; she got rid of her criminals, at the same time, and made a large profit on their work.