Wild Men and Wild Scenes
Eighteen Men Killed and Eaten by Cannibals in New Guinea
Close Calls with Death
Wild White Men
SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 23, 1924,
WILD MEN AND WILD SCENES
“World’s News” readers are invited to come with me on a trip down the west side of the Cape York Peninsula, about 30 years ago, and on the way we shall take off our hats to the memory of the grand old Dutch navigators who left their names on that coast 319 and 301 years ago, or 165 and 147 years before Cook.
It is a wild romantic coast, even today, for there are no white people anywhere actually living on that coast, for nearly 500 miles, except the Mapoon Aboriginal Station, at the mouth of the Batavia, 100 miles south of Thursday Island.
In 1605, the yacht Duythen, the “dove” was sent to explore New Guinea, and the captain landed on the east side of Cape York Peninsula, and also sailed south to what he called Cape Keerweer –“turn again” –and returned to Java. That cape is 150 miles south of the Batavia. The total depth of that vast Coast of Carpentaria, named from the Dutch Governor Carpentar, of Batavia, is 400 miles in width, from the Batavia to Cape Arnheim, named from one of Jan Carstens’ ships of 1623.
And Carstens, with the Pera and Arnheim, went 160 miles south to Cape Keerweer in that year, and named the Staaten and Nassau Rivers, the first rivers named in Australia. Gilbert, the naturalist of Leichhardt’s Expedition of 1843, was killed by the blacks on that old Dutch Nassau about the junction of the 16th parallel and the 142nd meridian.
Then Leichhardt turned south, and went round the shores of the Gulf. The farthest north cattle station at the time of my visit was York Downs, on the head of the Embley, and the manager, Lachlan Kennedy, told me he shot three remarkable strange cattle, over on the Batavia, a bull and two cows, no bigger than Newfoundland dogs. He kept neither the hides nor the skeletons, not even the skulls. He appeared to have no sane reason for shooting them at all, except that they were wild and unbranded, and belonged to nobody.
In my opinion those two pigmy cows and the pigmy bull were descendants from some stock left there by the Dutch navigators over 300 years ago, and their descendants had degenerated. But Kennedy’s rifle consigned the whole fascinating romance to eternal oblivion.
Fifty miles south from the mouth of the Batavia is Albatross Bay, named by John Douglas from the Government steamer Albatross. Between that Bay and the Batavia is a short but broad river the Dutch call the Coen, from Governor Coen of Batavia. Like all the rivers on that coast, it swarms with crocodiles, the “gamburra” of the blacks, and the captain of the wrecked Kanahooka was taken by one on his way along the coast to Mapoon. Albatross is a large bay, the two capes guarding the entrance, north and south, Pera Head and Duythen Point being 20 miles apart, though the actual entrance narrows to about two miles. The blacks call Pera Head “Imbangga,” and Duythen Point “Loopanninjin,” the names of the tribes who owned the locality.
There can be hardly a doubt that the Dutch sailed into that bay 300 years ago, and probably went in their whaleboats to examine the two rivers, and also the long estuary that runs into the bay. We really know nothing of the first white men who landed on the coasts of Australia.
The crocodiles would not be new to the Dutchmen, as there are plenty in Java, but the aboriginals would be a very different race from the Javanese, and the Dutch have left a record that they had a serious conflict with the blacks, apparently somewhere about the Coen River.
The aboriginals all along that coast throw the spear with the woomera, “meendee,” and at Albatross Bay they use three kinds of spear, a three pronged one, “andoolo,” a single point “ahdoon,” and a stingaree “lannip”. The last is a most diabolical weapon, and the wound it inflicts rarely ever heals. The point is composed of from five to 12 stingaree barbs, the centre one being the largest 4in in length, the others in circles round that centre, each circle receding half an inch, until the whole forms a pyramid which makes a ghastly and intensely painful wound – actually a round hole, half an inch in diameter, which never seems to close. This spear is usually thrown at the thigh or the buttocks.
My first experience was in Albatross Bay. We had taken the whaleboat up one of the rivers running into the bay, and camped all night on a beautiful little glade fronting the river, about two acres, as level as a billiard table, covered with beautiful flowering plants that scented the whole area. The river bank was not more than 5ft above the water, the river dark and deep, about 40 yards across a narrow, dark, uncanny looking creek coming into it on our right. It was just becoming dusk when we started to camp, about 40 yards from the river, and my Coen River blackboy, “Gnootaringwan,” called my attention to two big “gamburra” (crocodiles) cruising up and down in midstream, showing only the tips of their noses, and their eyes, which are only about an inch below the crown of the head. The two front teeth in the lower jaw go right up through two holes in the end of the top jaw, and project half an inch, the two white points being clearly seen when the nose is just barely out of the water. They had the heads of crocodiles from 14ft to 16ft in length, and were a pair of ugly visitors on such an occasion. After dark, they began to utter those horrible sounds, something like the grunt of an old boar and the yawn of a lion, varied by the sound made by a bull bellowing with his nose on the ground.
And it was not a cheerful serenade in that black darkness, with the dark scrub around us on three sides, the Stygian gloom of the river in front, and beyond and on our right the dark, dense mangrove stretching away into inky blackness. The silence was one that could be felt, broken only by those dreadful animals we could only hear, and not see. Had they known their power, and rushed the camp in the darkness, they would probably have got two of the party. But the blackboy and myself knew their habits, and that they would never come near a fire, and so that fire was most carefully kept very much alight – all night!
Next morning, when going down the river to the Albatross, there was an 18ft crocodile sunning himself on the mud at low tide. At the second of firing, one of the men was nervous and moved, the rifle bullet just grazing the crocodile’s back, and throwing up the mud behind him. The shot woke him, and he glided into the river, without making a ripple.
On the way down, at low tide, the depth was about four or five feet, the water very clear, and the bottom of the river swarmed with splendid crabs up to five pounds in weight. One of the blacks thrust a spear through a choice specimen, and lifted it on board, following that with three more.
Those crabs were in their hundreds.
Nearing the mouth of the river, we saw, a short distance ahead, a couple of wild blacks fishing from a bark canoe, one sitting in the bottom, and the other standing erect, with a spear, both with their backs to us.
At a signal from me, the men stopped pulling, and the boat drifted down with the tide to within ten yards of the canoe, before the erect man turned and saw us.
At first he was going to sit down with the other, but the spirit of the warrior asserted itself, and he promptly stood erect, and looked defiantly at us all. He was a fine specimen of a man, about 6ft, and, as we drew alongside the canoe, my attention was directed to a terrible circular wound on his left thigh, “teenee,” made by one of those terrible stingaree spears.
We took the canoe in tow, over to a sand bank covered by shells and pebbles, and there his wound was dressed by me with bichloride of mercury and a little cotton wool, bound by a strip of adhesive plaster.
The stern savage watched the process with great interest, probably wondering if it were more effective than his own remedy, the powdered gum of the bloodwood, E. corymbosa, the “boonah” of the South Queensland blacks, a powerful astringent, antiseptic gum. During this scene, an immense crocodile crawled out on to the mud, about 200 yards away from us.
The sound of the ball striking him, somewhere on the side, was distinctly heard, and the huge beast threw himself over into the water, in a half somersault, with incredible agility. It may or may not have been a fatal wound. If fatal, they may die in the water, and sink until decomposition sends them to the surface, or they may crawl out and die on the shore.
The blacks expressed great joy at “gamburra” being hit, and were much amused at his somersault.
While treating the spear wound, the black repeated the words “lannip” and “indrooanna,” the stingaree spear and woman. My Coen blackboy explained that the man had been speared in a row, through jealousy over a woman, a fruitful source of trouble among all the races of mankind.
So it must have seemed to Chrysostom, when he said, “Woman is a necessary evil and a desirable calamity!” He never had a best girl, or he would not have talked like that. Byron said, “The love of woman is a beautiful and a fearful thing,” and so it may be when stingaree spears are introduced.
In the cape York dialect a woman is “indahmoo,” and a man “imbahmoo,” an affinity not known in any other district. An old woman is “immahtha,” and an old man “woorpoo,” a little girl, “gimbutta,” water is “getta,” and fire, “ooma.”
In the afternoon the blacks showed me where a Thursday Island policeman, with black troopers, came down in a cutter, enticed a number of blacks on board, and then shot them, as some of that tribe were suspected of stealing a cutter. That policeman was afterwards murdered at Thursday Island by a prisoner.
That Albatross Bay is a romantic and delightful spot, perfectly sheltered from all winds, with abundance of fresh water an unlimited supply of fish, and a wealth of splendid crabs, probably unexcelled in Australia.
Just inside the bay, on the left hand side, is a small river, called the Pine River, the “Leeoopannanjinni” of the aboriginals. Between the mouth and the sea stands the romantic, rugged, cliff faced Pera Head, seamed and grooved and caverned by the wild north-west monsoon storms, the cyclonic winds, and tempestuous surges of ten thousand years, sweeping across the Gulf, and leaving their hieroglyphs cut into the grey stone crag, as the silent “testimony of the rocks.” And that glorious, beautiful headland is covered by flowering shrubs, by superb orchids and lycopodiums, by marvelous lichens, green, brown, blue, and yellow, and elegant creepers and graceful ferns, a wealth of wondrous tropical vegetation. And yet that fascinating headland holds a very sad memory for me, not mentioned heretofore, even to a friend. On my first visit to that bay we ran into the mouth of the river, or, at least, anchored near the mouth, and two of us went ashore with the intention of going to Pera Head. My friend was behind me, and we were walking very quietly, in sandshoes, over flat rocks, through scattered clumps of bushes, when what appeared to me to be a dark rock wallaby moved in some undergrowth, and a sudden snap shot with the rifle evidently stopped him about 15 yards away; but when we walked up to the spot the supposed rock wallaby was a thin, old, grey-haired blackfellow, just breathing his last.
Alas! Alas! He must have been on his hands and knees, for the merciless Swinburne rifle bullet entered his right hip, and came out under his collarbone. That pathetic unfortunate accident made a sad day for me, and many a sad day afterwards.
SATURADY OCTOBER 6, 1923
NEW GUINEA’S WORST TRAGEDY
In the year 1895, my last visit was paid to Frank Jardine at his romantic home at Somerset, on the shore of Albany Pass, near Cape York, and facing Albany Island, the “Pahbajoo” of the Straits Islanders, who are a Papuan race, of whom those once living on Thursday Island, Prince of Wales Island, Possession, Horn, and Hammond Islands, are extinct.
Frank Jardine was one of the two brothers who conducted the remarkable expedition from Rockhampton to Cape York in 8164, an account of which was written by me for “The World’s News.”
A week as the guest of Jardine, in 1895, gave me a rich patch of stirring incidents in his career, and they were promptly recorded in my notebook. He also gave me a copy of a letter and report handed to him in his official capacity as police magistrate at Somerset in 1873, being a report and extracts from the log of the brigantine Franz, a vessel of 148 tons, which had left Sydney on July 2, 1872, on a pearl shelling voyage to the South Seas and Malayan Archipelago.
The report was signed and handed to Jardine by Captain Edwin Redlich, a Prussian, and August Baumgarten, the second mate. They dated their report at Somerset.
Jardine, in his letter enclosing the report to the Colonial Secretary in Brisbane, throws a brief but lurid light on some of the deeds too common in the days when Polynesians were being recruited for the sugar plantations. He says: “By adhering strictly to the letter of the Act, the master is perhaps liable to punishment for bringing Polynesians into the colony without the necessary authority.”
“He left Sydney on July 2, when the Kidnapping Act was not in force, and when masters employed in seeking native laborers had a wide margin for committing with impunity all sorts of atrocities in procuring them. But, after a strict investigation of the proceedings of the voyage, I find that in times when it was the rule among traders to swindle and ill treat their men, the master of the Franz made a fair written agreement with the natives he shipped, and while on board the vessel had treated them well. Since leaving Sydney he has not been into a British port, or had a chance to hear of the Kidnapping Act being passed, so I have taken no proceedings against him, except holding the vessel until the arrival here of H.M.S. Basilisk, due here about March 1. Before leaving Salawatty, Captain Redlich left a letter in the hands of the Rajah, addressed to his brother, the Prussian Consul-General in Hamburg, reporting the murder of his crew.”
Now we shall accompany the Franz on her disastrous trip to the final terrible tragedy. She left Sydney with the master, first and second mates, and 14 colored men, a very mixed lot of Chinese, Fijians, and Loyalty Islanders.
They reached the Island of Mare on July 13, and shipped two men there, followed by two at Sango, three at Uea, and three at Lifu.
Could get no men at the Banks Group, and at Uraparapara, they were received with a shower of arrows, and were forced to shoot. The captain’s log laconically records: “I believe we hit some.”
At St. Christoval a sailor, and native of that island, named Jimmy Ketumah, died on board, and was taken ashore and buried, the mate reading prayers over him. Jimmy had been in the last stage of consumption when leaving Sydney. At Duke of York Isles, the natives were friendly, and came to the ship in crowds, but, though many offered to be hired, the muster only took seven men to complete his complement of 34.
On October 26, they reached the coast of New Guinea, and on November 12, the master sent away the mate, Henry Schleuter, with the two large boast and 17 men, to prospect for pearlshell, taking provisions and water for three weeks. Not one of these 18 men ever returned. The captain would have sent more men, but 11 of his crew were down with fever.
A boat sent in search could find no trace of the missing men and two boats, but those on board were told by friendly natives that they had gone into a dangerous place and not come out again.
The captain went to see the Rajah of Salawatty, and get his assistance. The boats had called there and gone away, being warned by the Rajah against the natives where they were going, but the mate only laughed and pointed to their firearms.
On December 16 the Rajah came off with three armed proas and 45 men, and was supplied with guns, revolvers, and ammunition, but he took none of the white men, as he did not want the natives to see them with him.
Five days after, and the Rajah returned with seven guns, a revolver, the mate’s watch, a boat compass, and the Hamburgh colors, but no trace of the boats. Then the captain, the steward, and two of the sailors went on board the proas with the Rajah, and anchored next night at Cape Saylee, passing on Jan 1 the two small islands of Elfmatal, and next day going 30 miles up the large river Crarbera, where it was a mile across.
On Jan 3, they caught three wild bush blacks, one of whom was actually among the murdering party, and, according to his confession, the two boats had been anchored under Elfmatal Island, when three canoes, each with 15 men, came off from the mainland of New Guinea, were quite friendly, and gave them a lot of pineapples and bananas, then returning to the mainland.
What followed may be told by the captain himself: “My men in the boats had divided into two parties, some sleeping in the boats and the others going ashore to light a fire and sleep there. Meanwhile the savages had returned, landed at the back of the island, and walked across, lurking in the bush for hours, watching the men ashore until they were all asleep; then they rushed up and killed them all, without a cry being raised or a shot fired, the whole being murdered before those in the boats heard a sound or realised that they were to be the next victims.
“When the horrible cannibals had finished the massacre on shore, they went silently in their canoes to the boast and killed every soul in his sleep, there evidently not being a cry uttered or a shot fired, and I could find no marks of blood on the guns or the men’s jackets. Then the cannibals took the boats to a place which dries at low water mark, near Elfmatal Island, and burned them there, the anchors and cables being thrown into deep water. Then they took all the bodies to the village at Crarbera, where they cut off all the heads for trophies, selling the bodies to a neighbouring tribe, who cooked and ate them. The three prisoners were horrible looking fellows, especially the fellow who had helped to murder my poor men. They are a different race from the more civilised Papuans, with dirty brown skin, short poodle hair, flat African noses, projecting lips, and are of horrible appearance.
“If my poor men had only been watchful and fired at them they never would have been killed by these miserable wretches. We went some distance further up the river, but the Rajah could not be induced to go above Crarbera, as there are a thousand savages there, and he said our party was not strong enough, so we returned and anchored at Epnatal Island, where I ordered the terrible cannibal to be brought ashore. Facing the spot where the two boats had been lying, we tied him up to a tree, and shot him, myself and the mate firing the two first shots. Then the natives cut off his head and tied it on a tree, hanging the body in a branch, as a warning to the next cannibals who came along. My men witnessed the execution, and it had the Rajah’s sanction.”
Such is the captain’s story, but, with the aid of a Malayan sailor and much patience, he got the whole story from the New Guinea native who acted as pilot from the river to the open water. It appears that he was fishing from his canoe when he first saw the boats with the doomed men in them; that he and others paddled up to them, counted the number of the party and the firearms, were quite friendly, and gave them a lot of fruit, and returned two days after with 120 men to murder them all. There were 16 of the ship’s people ashore, and only two in the boats. The cannibals crawled up to them when they were sound asleep, and speared them all in one act, the mate being the first, several spears being run through each man, and others rushed up with bamboo knives and cut their heads off. Eighteen men murdered in one party probably form a record for New Guinea.
In Australian history the 19 whites killed on the Nogoa at Will’s station in 1861, and 11 on the Dawson, on Hornet Bank station, are the greatest numbers of whites killed at one time, and next come the nine of Faithfull’s men, overloading with teams to Victoria.
In all these cases there was a total absence of common sense caution, such as would have prevented all these tragedies. The clearly apparent ease with which ill deeds may be done frequently suggests the doing.
In the case of the murder of 18 men of the Franz, it does seem incredible that so little suspicion and watchfulness were shown. A whole party of 18 men are caught sound asleep, quite unsuspecting, on the beach of an island within a very short distance of a mainland swarming with murderous, treacherous cannibals, of whom about 40 had visited them with presents of fruit, and nothing required in return, a most ominous sign in itself.
The Rajah had solemnly warned them of the treacherous character of the natives, and among the party were several Polynesians and Malays, two of the most suspicious races on earth, and no strangers to all forms of treachery.
That there was no sentry guard, not even a dog, seems beyond comprehension. The free gift of fruit should alone have been enough to raise suspicion, especially in the Malays and Polynesians, and the evil looking types should have warned the mate of their general character.
And they were actually camped in that unguarded manner for three or four days. It is a hopeless conundrum.
And then one terrible night there came, just before the dawn, that awful and tragical scene, the 120 black human cannibal tigers, hungry and thirsty for blood, on their midnight march through the darkness, then crouched in the shadows, crawling like tigers on to the doomed men, wrapped there in peaceful slumber, lullabied by the long wash and metallic ripple of rhythmic waves upon the coral beach, the final signal by the chief tiger, the simultaneous rush, the muffled sound of a hundred spear thrusts, then silence and death.
SATURDAY MARCH 15, 1924
It has been my lot to crowd a considerable number of exciting incidents into my life, and death has given me a close call on several occasions, but being a confirmed fatalist enabled me to regard the Valkyrie in the vicinity with perfect indifference, firmly believing in the horoscope cast for me by a dear old Caledonian grandmother, who passed away at the early age of 104.
Among the pastimes of past years were three bites from snakes which have all unpleasant reputations. At the age of 14, a brown snake bit me at the junction of the left small toe and the foot, at Ulmarra, on the Clarence, and a full account is in the old Grafton “Examiner.”
There was a distance of 300 yards between me and my brother, and for that distance anyone could have heard me whiz, like Mark Twain’s jackass rabbit, long after he was even out of sight!
My brother made a liberal incision, and started to suck the poison out, but the blood around the bite was black and congealed, and he had to cut further back to the red blood. That black blood poisoned his mouth for a week after.
Then Billy Goodger galloped up, waving a bottle of brandy he had got from Sam Cohen, father of J. S. Cohen, who went to school with me, and is now Judge Cohen of New South Wales. He and his brother, Dr. Aaron Cohen, another schoolmate, will remember this incident. People came from all directions, as if they came out of the earth, and most of them had infallible snakebite remedies, any one of which would have successfully killed me.
There was great excitement, and the only calm, unconcerned person was the youth who was bitten.
They took turns in walking me up and down the verandah for about four hours, and gave me spoonfuls of brandy and water, until they found me speaking in a language supposed to be extinct. Then came ten hours sleep, and pleasant dreams about snakes that have never been seen since; thousands of snakes, all colors of the rainbow, and all sizes, up to 200 feet, with teeth that tore sheets of bark off the spotted gums. That joyous nightmare is not forgotten yet.
My next familiarity with a snake was at the crossing of the Brunswick River, in 1870, when Marshall, the cedar getter there, was the only inhabitant from the Tweed Heads to the lighthouse at the mouth of the Richmond. The great butter factory at Byron Bay today was not even in the primordial, atomic, globule stage of Evolution.
Muir and myself, coming from the north, swam our horses over the Brunswick with Marshall’s boat, and then hung our bridles over two small bushes until we had something to eat. On returning for my horse, my left hand grabbed a five foot black snake instead of the bridle, and he promptly bit me viciously on the left forearm. A Brunswick River aboriginal had the wound cut and sucked in about two minutes, and all the poison out. Then he bound on a puffball to stop the blood, left it on for an hour, got some young tea-tree leaves, heated them over the fire, and bound them on the wound with my handkerchief, the cure being so complete that there was no more sensation of any kind.
The next unfriendly snake interviewed me when camped on the shore of Weymouth Bay, in the Cape York Peninsula.
It was a fairly cold night, and the snake evidently crawled in beside me, under the blanket, just about daylight, though he may have been there much longer. Being restless in my sleep, and turning over on might right side so as to crush some part of him, he bit me on the outside of the right wrist. This did not wake me, but it caused me to turn back to the left side for a few minutes, and turn back to the right just in time to see the snake moving off into the bushes, leaving me quite unconscious of being bitten.
Had this been known to me, there were blacks there who would have cured me in three minutes, but it was only known to me from the agonizing pain in my hand at midnight, on board the cutter Myro, when on my way with Fred Lancaster to Thursday Island. A Pascoe River black on board saw in a second the cause of the pain, and told me it was the bite of “irra-irra,” a brown snake with two red spots on the head, and two of which were killed by me on the previous day, the blacks telling me that the bite of that snake was not fatal for two days. On the Myro the black took my razor and made two longitudinal incisions on my wrist, but no blood would flow, and so it was left until we reached Thursday Island. How a man can endure the unspeakable agony for a day and a night and live through it, is something to marvel at.
It landed me a month in the Thursday Island Hospital, and that month reduced me from 11 stone 12 pounds to 9 stone 3 pounds, about 6 months being required to restore my weight. Doctors White and Wassell credited my recovery to what they called my “chilled-steel constitution.”
It may be well to say here that the bite of a snake feels like a slight pinch by two sharp fingernails, or a small stab from the points of two needles. The poison fangs are very sharp, the hole through which the poison is expressed coming out on the side of the tooth, some distance back from the point, so that the bite of the deadliest snake would be harmless unless the fangs were driven in far enough for the poison orifice to get below the skin.
This explains the escape from fatal consequences of so many people who were really only partly bitten.
Travellers on the present Little River road from Grafton to Glen Innes, when coming down the “Big Hill” to cross the Mann River, can see away in front, in to the right of the road, a large mountain with a sheer vertical precipice about 800ft. It is ribbed from base to apex, and, in appearance, might be vertically stratified sandstone or columnar basalt. The name of “Samson’s Ribs” was given to it when the Big Hill cutting was being made in 1865, if not before.
The picturesque road along the Little River was only opened even for horsemen in 1868, and Jim Braham, the mailman, and myself, were two of the first who rode through. The old road by Barney’s Hill, the Stony Pinch, and the old Hook’s River – the Nymboy – was easily the worst road in Australia.
As a boy, my curiosity was great to go to the foot of Samson’s Ribs, and Jim took me over. We had to leave our horses at one stage and walk to the foot of that awful precipice, which grimly towered above us,
Like the pillars of the skies, like the ramparts of the world.
A great and impressive spectacle.
While we were standing there, and only about two yards apart, a mass of rock, detached from somewhere on the summit, and weighing at least at ton, fell with an ominous “swish” within ten or twelve yards of us, and smashed into a thousand pieces, the awful concussion making a tremor under us like some great blast of dynamite. We were both struck by several small fragments, and giving me a nasty bruise on the ribs, and another hurt Jim badly between the shoulders.
Had it been five or six yards nearer, we would certainly both have been killed by the large fragments, some of which passed unpleasantly near. Jim at once hurried back to the horses, where he said, “By Jove, that was my closest call!” And yet he had told me of much nearer calls than that, one when he was riding along the deep ravine of the Nymboy, and a sharp tomahawk, thrown by a blackfellow from a rock overhead, cut the purse pouch off his waist belt and took the head off his lead packhorse alongside of him! And once, when riding a matchless grey mare along a narrow wallaby track on the face of a precipice, he had to close his eyes to shut out the awful gulf below, a gulf of such fearful depth that if the mare had slipped they would not have reached the bottom until some time the next day!
But that falling rock from “Samson’s Ribs,” apparently, for the time at least, overshadowed the grey mare on the precipice and the tomahawk and the headless horse!
Ever after that falling rock was Jim’s star tragedy. It increased in size to a hundred tons, and the fragments cut down all the big timber in the vicinity. Dear old Jim! He would share his last meal and last shilling and do anything possible to oblige you, so it was very easy to accept all his narrative as authentic and encourage him to go one better.
He was a fine type of the old time mailman, with cabbage tree hat, and blue silk turban, a silver watch chain, chin band, a blue or grey Cardigan jacket, corduroy or moleskin trousers, and half Wellington boots, a red or blue sash round the waist with a tassel at each end. He usually had two muzzle loading revolvers and a small but very loud brass trumpet to announce his arrival or scare the blacks. He stayed one night at “Hook’s Crossing” of the Nymboy, and the next at Newton Boyd station, then owned by John Small, of Ulmarra, with Sellen as managing partner. Through all weathers, hot or cold, wet or dry, thunderstorms and flooded creeks, mostly rough mountains and deep gorges from the Nymboy to the top of the Big Hill, a long lonely ride when he had no companion. He told me of close calls he had, twice with falling trees, twice with lightning, and a very narrow escape when washed away at the crossing of the Nymboy. After leaving Chambigne station, on the Urara, there was not a soul from there to Rusden’s Shannon Vale station, on the Mann River, except at Hook’s Crossing, and Newton Boyd. Rusden, who was a fine old fellow, with a splendid library, was a brother of Rusden, the historian, of Victoria.
Along the Mann River were hundreds of Rusden’s geese, that had gone as wild as the wild geese. He invited me to stay with him for a week, with full permission to shoot geese, and all hands dined on geese during that week.
He was delighted with my reading to him for a couple of hours every night.
COPPER AND IRON
The sudden evolution of a great mine. From the primeval wilderness, to a fair sized town, and a populous centre of mining activity, that in one year is known to the civilised world, is one of the wonderful romances of Australian colonization.
No November 27, 1864, Frederick Walker, in search of Burke and Wills, picked up two leaves from Burke’s memorandum book, near the junction of the Norman and Flinders Rivers, about 30 miles from salt water, in the Gulf.
One of the tributaries of the Flinders, entering that river at the 20th parallel, Burke named the “Cloncurry,” from his birthplace in Ireland.
Today, the Cloncurry River is the centre of the present most extensive known copper bearing field in the world, and part of it was proclaimed a gold field on October 1, 1874, but the actual already known mineral area of gold, copper, silver, and lead, extends over 13,000 square miles, an area nearly as large as Tasmania.
The town of Cloncurry is 481 miles west by rail from Townsville, and about 200 miles due south from the Gulf of Carpentaria. It stands on level country of Silurian formation, 600 feet above the sea, near the bank of the Cloncurry River, which runs north into the Flinders, and was named from Cloncurry in Ireland, the birthplace of Burke, of the Burke and Wills expedition of 1861. The town is midway between the 140 and 141 Meridians, near the 21st parallel.
A squatter named Ernest Henry, who was the original holder of Hughenden station, found the Great Australian Copper Mine, and took it up in 1864. The Mount Cuthbert Mine, 40 miles beyond Cloncurry, was not found by the Power brothers until 1900, and was opened by the Chillagoe Option Company in the following year.
Considerable quantities of alluvial gold have been found over a wide area and reefs also gave fair returns. The gullies and flats round the Mary Douglas Hill gave rich alluvial gold, and in some of the claims the gold was found mixed with carbonates of copper, or coated with iron oxides, so that the diggers called it “black gold.”
Gold and bismuth are found together in the “Pumpkin Gully,” near the town. One nugget weighing 28lb was found.
Very remarkable in the Cloncurry area are hills of almost pure magnetic iron ore. One of these, named Mount Leviathan, close to the town, is about 200ft in height and three -quarters of a mile in circumference at the base. Picture the quantity of first class iron in that one hill!
The copper ores occur usually as carbonates and red oxides, and there are vast quantities of both. The lode also occurs as oxychloride, known as aetamite, and chalcocite, known as “glance copper.”
Sixty nine miles from Cloncurry by rail are the Mount Cuthbert mines, 840 feet above sea level, among rough rocky hills, and 80 miles north-west, out on Leichhardt waters, is the famous Mount Oxide, another discovery by Ernest Henry, where the company first started operations in 191. It is one of the richest copper mines in the world.
Sixty eight miles southwest of Cloncurry is the small mining township of Duchess in a valley encircled by low hills. The copper mine here was sold to the Hampden Company by Kennedy, of Bushy Park Station, for £15,000, and it was a good investment, as large quantities of ore are sent weekly by rail to the smelting works at Selwyn, 58 miles away. Duchess is also the depot for a large extent of pastoral country, and over 20 stations, some as far as Lake Nash, 210 miles, and even Brunette Downs, 320 miles.
One needs to study for a short time a map of that country, to get even a faint idea of the enormous territory represented by the watershed of the Gulf rivers and that of the Diamantina and Georgina.
From Kynana opalfield, stretching away northwest into the Barclay Tableland near Camooweal, runs the divide between the Gulf rivers and those that are lost in Central Australia. And, if you cut out the purely mineral country, which is usually poor and rough, you can know that four-fifths of the remainder consists of first class pastoral country, splendidly watered, with a fair rainfall and a healthy climate, at a height of from 500 to 1000 feet above sea level.
The Burke, Camooweal, Cloncurry, and Norman districts, Gulf country alone, carry 350,000 head of cattle and 12,000 head of horses. That country is not subject to the droughts of southwest Queensland.
The average fall at Normanton is 48, Burketown 28, Floraville 28, Donors Hill 27, and Canobie 21.
The Gregory is the most remarkable river in Queensland. It rises in the limestone of the Barclay Tableland, fed evidently by perennial springs, and carries an unvarying current of clear, cool, excellent water at all times of the year, apart altogether from the wet months which usually extend from December to March. It is a beautiful river, with splendid fertile country on both sides.
The Beames’ Brook, named by Leichhardt, is really a branch of the Gregory, and it leaves that river on Gregory Downs, runs parallel for over 30 miles, the two only 10 miles apart, and then empties into tidal waters in the Albert. That, too, is a perennial stream of pure water, with beautiful country on both banks. The Gregory at Alice Downs joins the Nicholson, another river coming from the Barclay Tableland and fed also by never fail springs. The whole of the Gulf watershed, from the Flinders west to the Nicholson, is a network of running creeks and good country.
Mr. George Phillips, C.E., a very careful observer, estimated the daily flow of four streams as follows:- Gregory River, 100,000,000 gallons’ Beames’ Brook, 30,000,000 gallons; Lawn Hill Creek, 16,000,000 gallons; Widdallion Creek, 22,000,000 gallons.
Just as Landsborough described the Gregory in 1861, so did Phillips find it in 1909, for it had undergone no change in 48 years. Phillips does not mention the O’Shannessy, a large stream flowing into the Gregory, and also permanent.
The bed of the river is densely lined by large tea-trees, beautiful Leichhardt trees, figs, plum trees, casuarinas, cabbage palms, and pandanus, a gorgeous wealth of tropical vegetation.
Cloncurry must always be an important town, being the centre ofa vast mineral field and the depot for an immense extent of splendid pastoral country.
Cloncurry has a population of about 1500 people, but the district has over 4000. At one Christmas time about 1500 people went from there by excursion trains to Hughenden, Charters Towers, Ravenswood, and Townsville.
Ernest Henry, who discovered the Cloncurry mine in 1867, was also the finder of the Argylla in 1867, and Mount Oxide in 1881.
Henry and Roger Sheaffe (afterwards M.L.A. in 1879) found the Duck Creek mines also in 1867, but Henry had taken up the Great Australia mine in 1864.
The first Police Magistrate and police officer was Reginald Charles Heber Uhr, Sub-Inspector Kaye was stationed there for a while before he went to the Woolgar, where the blacks speared him.
He was escorting the blacks out from the settlement, quite unsuspicious, when an old grey haired black walking beside him, a few yards away, jerked a woomera spear from under his arm, and it passed through Kaye’s heart.
The first divisional board started in 1884 with George Seymour as chairman and W. S. Willmer the first clerk. The water supply comes from wells 30 to 60 feet deep, and rain tanks. There is no artesian or sub-artesian water in granite. They also get water a mile away, from a long, deep, permanent reach in the river. The climate is dry and healthy, people having lived there in good health for 30 or 40 years. Rain usually falls from October to March, and comes from whence come the monsoons of the Gulf.
The first newspaper, the “Cloncurry Advocate,” was started by Kennedy and McGrouther in 1889, and bought by the present proprietor, H. Hensley, in 1892.
The famous Mount Oxide Copper Mine lies away northwest 119 miles from the Oona Railway station, six miles from Mount Cuthbert. The coach leaves there at noon on Wednesday, and arrives on Sunday at noon. The mine is in a small hill surrounded by higher hills, and the top of the main shaft is 1000 feet above sea level. Ernest Henry’s old camp being 300 feet lower.
On the route from Cloncurry to Normanton travellers are on Flinders waters all the way until they cross the Divide on to the Norman, and the formation soon after leaving Cloncurry is Rolling Downs (Lower Cretaceous), which extends to Leonard Downs and Taldora, and from there west of the Norman to the Gulf shores is what the geologist calls Recent Alluvia, Raised Beaches, and Bone Drifts, or Post Tertiary Limestones. East of the Norman, on all the tributaries of that river, is the Blythesdale Braystone (named from Blythesdale rocks in the old country), a rolling downs formation, extending to the edge of the Croydon goldfield.
Seventy-one miles south from Cloncurry is the mining town of Selwyn. It stands at a height of 1230 feet above the sea on the dividing watershed of the Burke and Cloncurry, the former running south past Boulia to Eyre’s Creek and Central Australia, and the latter into the Flinders and the Gulf.
On the east side of the town are remarkable formations of rock, an intrusive section of the old Desert Sandstone of the Cretaceous Period, coming up in a belt from the Kynuna opal field, and mostly covered by spinifex on the feet of men or stock. A mile from the post office is the famous Mount Elliott Mine, discovered in 1893 by James Elliott, who died nine years afterwards in the Cloncurry Hospital. In 1904 the lease was floated into a company with 150,000 shares at £5 and then work began in earnest, first with a plant costing £10,000, and then new works costing £80,000, finished in July, 1910, the result being copper to the value of £2,000,000 in the first five years.
There are several other copper mines near Selwyn, including the Belgium, found by the Kluver brothers, while kangaroo shooting in Jan 1916. The mine is about seven miles from Mount Elliott. There appears to be copper in all directions in that country, and all that has been discovered so far was found entirely by surface outcrops or indications.
Considerable quantities of copper ore are brought into the smelting works by the “gougers,” parties of two or more miners working small shows and picking out the best of the ore. New discoveries can be expected any time in that Cloncurry district, which appears to be one vast field of copper, silver, gold, lead, zinc, and iron, and all that, too, surrounded by some of the finest pastoral country in Australia. It is deficient in nothing but good timber.
The western country generally has a poor supply of timber, especially the Rolling Downs and the Desert Sandstone areas, the low rainfall being chiefly accountable. The best timbers are on the basalt country.
Outside of that there are chiefly gidya, mulga boree, brigalow, lancewood, leopard wood, the western bloodwood, which differs from that of the coast, and along the watercourses are coolibah gums, tea -trees, and swamp oaks (casuarinas). The boree and gidya, two very hardy and hard acacias, are used largely for fencing posts, stockyards, and rough outbuildings, having remarkable durability, posts of both being taken out of the ground sound after 30 and 40 years. It is remarkable that, as acacias are the principal trees of the west, the commonest of all the coast acacias, the wattle, is entirely absent. Even firewood has to be brought long distances to many places. Witness all the firewood sidings on the far west lines.
Another mining town in an important centre is Hampden, originally Friezland, 53 miles south by rail from Cloncurry, and 1132 feet above the sea, on an open flat, with a background of very rugged and picturesque hills. The chief mine is the Hampden, owned by the Hampden Cloncurry Company, who have a very fine smelting plant, which in one month of 1915 produced 813 tons of copper, a record for Australia. The company also manipulate ore from their other mines – the famous Duchess, Happy Salmon, Trekelano, and Macgregor.
The Hampden mine was first discovered by Fred Gibson in 1896, but not much was done until the present company started in 1905. The Mount Elliott Company own an adjoining mine, the Hampden Consuls, and close to the town are the Hampden Queen and Hampden Central. The Hampden Company also purchases all the parcels of ore from the surrounding “gougers’” just as is done by all the other smelting works.
Hampden is a considerable town with good hotels and stores, and many neat private houses. There are six hotels and five stores. In one year the smelters produced 6000 tons of copper, 1980 ozs of gold, and 52,000 oz of silver, worth a total of £382,600 of silver, so the importance of the district is clearly established.
SATURDAY OCTOBER 27, 1923
WILD WHITE MEN
The historian naturally wonders that no wild white man was ever found among the wild blacks of New South Wales, South Australia, or West Australia, and only one among the aboriginals of Victoria.
Of the six wild white men in Australian history, five were found in Queensland. The Victorian, James Buckley, was a convict who escaped from the soldiers at the first attempt to found a settlement at Port Phillip in 1803, and he was out for 33 years with the blacks before he was found by the white men.
Of the Queenslanders, Davis, Bracefell, and Baker were also escaped convicts, but James Murrells was a shipwrecked seaman from the barque Peruvian in 1846.
It was somewhat unfortunate that the wild blacks had to form their first estimate of the white man on such types as Buckley, Davis, Fahey and Bracefell who were actually far below the average aboriginal in intelligence, and still further below him in dignity, honesty, courtesy, and self-respect. The precarious thinness of that white man’s artificial veneer, which we are pleased to call “civilisation” is very clearly apparent when we see the readiness with which, when the occasion arises, he becomes what we have the effrontery to call a “savage”!
And this, too, in calm defiance of the painfully apparent fact that the worse and lowest types of real savages are found today among the civilised white races. Buckley was a type for whom the wild blacks could have no respect whatever, but he had red hair, and they though he came from Balamee, and that he was the reincarnate spirit of some dead aboriginal. Exactly the same reason led to the adoption of Davis, Bracefell, Fahey, Baker and Murrells.
Other escaped white men, who gave clear and fatal proofs that they could never have been aboriginals, were promptly killed. In Queensland territory alone, from 1840 to 1860, there was an official record of 250 white men killed by the blacks, apart from those who, in the language of Essex Evans:
“Went their weary ways alone,
And died unknown.”
In nine years there were 174 killed, according to the official records of that time. How many aboriginals were shot and poisoned in the same period, frequently without any justification whatever, is a question to which the answer is something not pleasant to hear, so the omission here is justifiable.
In any case, it must necessarily fall far short of the actual number, only a fraction –a terrible fraction – ever being recorded.
When Buckley was found, he had become as wild as any of the blacks, and was expert in throwing the boomerang and the woomera spear. He could also use the shield and nulla, and had adopted all their habits and customs, and ate exactly the same food cooked in their own way.
Fahey, in only 12 years, had become just as wild as Buckley, and went away back to civilisation very reluctantly with Lieutenant Bligh and the native police, when they brought him into Brisbane, in December, 1854. In the 12 years he had forgotten his own language and spoke fluently the “Wacca” dialect of the Darling Downs and Bunya Mountains.
The blacks must have passed him through the “Bora” ceremony – “Boorool” in that locality – because his body bore the “Xoolgarra” scares and the epaulette Bora marks on the right shoulder – the shoulder no blacks, when fighting with the stone knife, ever injured under any provocation, however wild a rage they might be in.
When Davis, “Duramboi,” was found by Andrew Petrie and Stuart Russell, in 1842, on the Mary River, he was clearly wilder and more savage than any of the other wild white men. Russell, in his “Genesis of Queensland”, gives a highly dramatic and poetic description of that remarkable scene, when the white savage was taken away from the wild blacks of the Mary River, “Nummabulla.”
He was located by the aid of Bracefell, “Wandi,” who had been found among the Noosa blacks, with whom he had resided for ten years, having escaped from Moreton Bay in 1832. Of all the six wild Australian white men, Davis was the nearest to the primeval savage.
He was well known to me for over 20 years, and we had many interviews concerning aboriginals, their habits, customs, and language, but he had none of the courtesy or politeness, or desire to please characteristic of the aboriginal in his wild state. That has been my experience of the wild aboriginal, over a wide area of Australia, for considerably over 50 years.
So that the low class of white man, after years with the blacks, seems to acquire none of their good qualities, nor lose any of his own bad ones.
Bracefell and Baker, “Boralchu,” were quiet men, whose policy with the blacks was probably that of “tacit acquiescence” in all that happened. Soon after coming in, Bracefell was killed by a falling tree, near Goodna, 14 miles from Brisbane, when he was felling scrub for a settler.
All my research failed to find out Baker’s subsequent career, beyond the fact that he was taken to Sydney, identified by the Superintendent of Convicts, and was actually sentenced in 1854 to 12 months’ hard labour, for absconding from a road gang, near Armidale, in 1842, one of those cases in which the law may justly be regarded as a first class ass.
The best type of all the six wild white men was certainly James Murrells, who was an honest English yeoman, born at Heybridge, near Maldon, in the county of Essex. His photograph, which is a very rare copy of the only one ever taken, shows him to be a good, honest, type of the old time sailor, with the circular style of beard of that period.
When he was brought down to Brisbane in 1863, he was, fortunately, interviewed by the late Edmund Gregory, who in after years was Government Printer of Queensland, and we have to thank Gregory’s manuscript for all the existing records of Murrells.
And Gregory expressed to me on several occasions his earnest regret for not making a special effort to exhaust Murrells’ store of rare and instructive knowledge, of which he admitted only touching the fringe. He spoke in high terms of Murrells’ modesty, and his kindly readiness to answer any questions.
Ad even Murrells’ partly told tale reads like a wild romance. After a few short voyages as a youth, on the English coast, he finally sailed as carpenter’s mate on board the Ramilies, which shipped the 11th Regiment of Foot for Hobart Town, and a detachment of Royal Artillery for Sydney, bound for New Zealand and the Maori War.
At Sydney he shipped on a small schooner called the Terror, and went across to New Zealand and back. Finally, on Tuesday, February 24, 1846, he shipped on board the barque Peruvian, bound for China, with a cargo of hardwood, and in charge of Captain George Pitkethley.
The Sydney Collector of Customs in 1863, W. A. Duncan wrote in reply to Mr. Edmund Gregory, giving the list of passengers on the Peruvian when she sailed out of Sydney Heads.
Besides the captain and his wife, there were a Mr. And Mrs. Wilmott, Mr. J. B. Quarry, and Miss Quarry, but Murrells told Gregory there also Captain Pitkethley’s brother as first mate, J. R. Quarry, and a six year old daughter, while Mrs. Wilmott had an infant and a nurse girl, the second mate, the carpenter, John Millar, the sailmaker, the cook, James Dicks, James Gooley, James Murrells, and two black men who had been stowaways, and were allowed to work their passage.
Finally she ran on a reef away east of Cape Cleveland, in the night, and remained there. Next day there was nothing around them but surf and rocks. The captain’s brother was washed away while trying to launch a boat, and was never seen again. The bread was all destroyed by the salt water, and the preserved provisions was overboard.
Then a raft was made, and 21 people drifted away on that at the mercy of wind and waves. Then Murrell’s narrative tells us: “The first death was James Quarry, leaving his child to survive him but a short time. He told us on the day before that he was dying. As soon as he died, he was stripped, and thrown over, the sharks devouring him instantly before our eyes. Mrs. Wilmott’s baby went next, then herself, and, one by one, they were thrown to the sharks.” They fished for sharks with a dead man’s leg for bait, caught one on a running bowline knot, on the end of an oar, chopped him up and ate him raw.
And so that dreadful journey, in which they and the sharks ate each other for 42 terrible days, and finally seven out of the original 21 landed three or four miles south of Cape Cleveland, and were all treated kindly by the wild blacks, with whom they stayed until only Murrells survived, and he remained until one day he walked up to the white men forming a new station on the Burdekin, in 1863, and was nearly shot before they saw he was a white man. He only lived until the 30th of October 1865, and died at Bowen, where he was a great favourite and the whole population went to his funeral. He had married a white woman, who bore him one son.
When leaving the blacks he relates that, “I told them I would probably be away for three or four moons, and they said ‘You will forget us altogether.’ When I said ‘Goondawyn,’ the man I was living with burst into tears, so did his wife, and several other men and women. It was a wild touching scene, and the remembrance of all their past kindnesses came up terribly strong, and quite overpowered me. There was a short, sharp struggle between a feeling of love for my old friends and companions and the desire once more to live civilised life.”
SATURDAY DECEMBER 1, 1923
TROPICAL SEAS AND ISLANDS
ROMANCE OF CORAL REEFS
In an old essay by John Foster, in 1805, he tells us that “it is the high test and proof of genius that writer can render that which is interesting to himself, in the same manner equally interesting to his readers. If the great works of antiquity had not this power, they would long since have ceased to charm.”
Thus do the ferocious warriors of Hemer, and the splendid characters of Lucan, Plutarch and Xenophon remain perpetually silhouetted gloriously on the imperishable pages of the classical history of the ancient world. There, in still ever luminous pages, stand the Greek Achilles, Ulysses, Hector, Ajax, Diomede, and other heroes of the Iliad, and the men who are immortal for their splendid virtues in the palmy days of Rome.
The epic poetry of the ancients has left the most remarkable descriptions, not of scenery, but of individuals, the scenery of the Iliad, Odysseus, or Aeneid, leaving no such permanent remembrance as the amazing characters in those wonderful books. One of the best passages of descriptive writing in all the Bible is the word picture of the warhorse in Job.
We can see that warhorse today as he appeared to the eyes of the Hebrew Prophet, far back across the vast expanse of long dead centuries. And we still thrill with the spirit breathed through what Burns calls “rapt Isaiah’s wild seraphic fire.” Among modern poets, Byron and Shelley stand apart in the splendour of their descriptive writing, but Byron admits that “no painting can give is any picture of the ocean.” No painting done by human hands can give us even a faint conception of the glories of a tropical sunset or sunrise. As well expect a six feet clay model to enable you to grasp the sublime magnificence of Everest or Chimborazo.
The limitation of the power of description in giving a reasonable picture of some wondrous scene that makes a boundless appeal, equally to the eye and the imagination, must have been felt acutely by the descriptive writers of all ages and nations,. The most eloquent of the world’s men and women cannot get themselves properly understood or utter more than a wild fragment of their thoughts, and what a wild whirlpool, whirlwind, and vortex of stormy thoughts, ever restless, as the rays of radium, must have been, in the brains of the world’s thinking men and women, before the evolution of language at all!
But this is diverging from the tropic seas, reefs, and islands of North Australia. Comparison of one class of scenery with another bearing not the slightest resemblance, is mere foolishness. To the seeing eye each class of scenery has its own excellence and its own charms. To the Norwegians, his steel blue fiords, his weird lakes, his ice mountains and avalanches, his pine clad hills and ravines, his snowdrifts, his skies, rainbow tinted by the Aurora, would appeal more strongly than all the gorgeous jungles and coral seas of our tropic north. Even the Icelander, with his volcanic Hecla, throwing mounded oceans of tempestuous fire and lava over the fields of perpetual ice and snow, in that weird battlefield of fire and frost, sees more beauty in his scenery than the average Australian in his own. If we could suddenly transport a Norwegian, an Icelander, and an Eskimo direct on to a beautiful island on the Barrier Reef, the end of the first week would find them all pining for their snow and ice, their pineclad hills, fiords, and avalanches, their white hares, foxes and polar bears.
You would get the same result if you took the wild Arab, untamed son of the desert, away from his eternal sands, his mournful camels. His green oasis by the palm tree wells, for all this has been proved thousands of times in the world’s history.
So true is that story of the little American backwoods girl who was on a visit to some town friends, with one of whose little girls she had a quarrel. The little town girl taunted her by saying, “Ah! You haven’t got two ponies and a nice new carriage, ah!” But the little bush girl promptly replied, with a crushing air of triumph, “Ah! You ain’t got a skunk under your barn ah!”
You see, that skunk was more of a prize to the bush girl than the ponies and carriage to the town maiden. So, when we display the splendour of our own Australian scenery, tropic or semi-tropic, to people from other countries, and attempt to overawe them, by proudly saying, “You have nothing like this,” you will probably find that the most of them have got skunks under their barns! And you will merely be wasting time in trying to depreciate the value of those skunks.
Among the tens of thousands of tourists who annually travel France, Germany, and Italy, there are thousands who see nothing but themselves and their clothes, and think of nothing but their stomachs. A few of that type, too many, tour the Australian coast, and visit the tropic north, people to whom every animal is only a skunk, and a bird of Paradise may be a crow – for all they care!
But there are hundreds of enthusiasts who raise their hats to the glories of Nature, and gaze with boundless admiration, and more or less reverence, at the magnificent and majestic panorama which God has spread before us in that wondrous tropical Northern Australia.
We shall go north to the 16th parallel, to Captain Cook’s Cape Tribulation, where the Endeavour was nearly wrecked on a coral reef.
A few miles south is the Daintree River, and within a short distance – three miles from the Daintree – is an island, called Schnapper Island, which was named by Lieutenant Jeffreys, of the armed transport Kangaroo, on her way from Sydney to India with a number of troops, 108 years ago. Think of the vessels that have passed through Sydney Heads since the Kangaroo sailed out, and the subsequent terrible tragedies so many of them represented. How did those early navigators find their way through those uncharted coral seas, among that tangled wilderness of reefs and islands.
Lieutenant Jeffreys landed on that island, there being at the time thousands of Torres Strait pigeons, and they got great numbers of large crabs and big rock oysters, all three being in abundance during four days spent by me on the island. We lived exclusively on crabs, oysters and pigeons, which included the whampoo, white headed pigeon, pheasant tailed pigeon, flock pigeon, and the little green pigeon.
There were also numbers of scrub turkeys and scrub hens, while fish of many kinds swarmed everywhere off the beach.
The island shown on the next page consists of a hill covered by thick tropical jungle, with glorious vegetation, and there is plenty of excellent fresh water. The point showing in the picture is Point Kimberley, named by Dalrymple on October 24, 1873. A short distance south, is the mouth of the Daintree River, named by Dalrymple in 1873, one of the most romantic and picturesque rivers in tropical Australia. The view from the outer beach, on the east side, is away out over the Barrier, with splendid coral in all directions. Westward is a scene not to be forgotten. Towering up before you are two of the most remarkable mountains in Australia.
One is Mount Alexandria, named the “heights of Alexandra,” from Queen Alexandra, by Dalrymple, in 1873, and the other is Mount Peter Botte, named by the captain of H.M.S. Rattlesnake in July, 1848, from a fancied resemblance to the Mount Peter Botte of Mauritius. Peter Botte, 3320 feet, the “Numbalburroway,” or “rock emu,” of the aboriginals, rises abruptly to a curved rock peak like the neck and head of an emu, clothed with dense tropical jungle from the base to the foot of the rock apex, which is apparently unscaleable for at least the last hundred feet. Both mountains are of solid granite. Alexandra rises to a height of about 4300 feet, the highest point a tremendous bare granite rock about 300 feet, and also evidently unscaleable. All from that rock down to the base, at the sea beach on one side and the Daintree River on the other, is clothed with splendid tropical jungle, a tangled wilderness of rich and gorgeous vegetation, fruit trees, and flowering plants, tree ferns, and dwarf ferns, elegant palms, and wild bananas, with perfect and magnificent leaves, frayed by no touch of any wind, wonderful tree orchids, and beautiful ground orchids, the air heavy with their delightful perfume, majestic pines, and great red cedars, as tangled network of amazing vines and creepers; and there, too, the dreadful serpent of that Eden, the dark green heart shaped leaf of that terrible stinging tree, Laportea gigas, the very touch of whose leaf means such acute pain to man, and a cruel death to a horse. Long experience taught me that for the stinging tree, or the bites or stings of insects, or scrub tick, or any sort of itch, a wet, thin paste of bicarbonate of soda, well rubbed in, is an effective remedy, and nobody should ever be without it. Alexandra is a double mountain, divided in the middle by an impassable thousand feet ravine, along which runs a large rapid stream, that falls abruptly over a thousand feet precipice, and flows thence into the Daintree. In 1895 my ascent of Alexandra was from the west side, with Harry Crees, of Port Douglas, and two wild blacks. Great was my surprise, and much my disappointment, on reaching the top, to find the great rock summit at least 400 feet higher, and divided from us by that impassable chasm, whose sides are strewn with tremendous, insurmountable granite rocks and dense, tangled wiry, rank vegetation.
And yet the aneroid gave me a height of 4000 ft, so that great rock crest, which overlooks the sea, and Schnapper Island and the Barrier Reef, and a truly wondrous panoramic view of fantastic ranges, north, south, and west, must be at least 4400 feet. The Lieutenant Jeffrey, who named Schnapper Island also named Cape Melville in 1815, the most savage and romantic looking cape on the coast of Australia. From Point Lookout, near Cape Flattery, near Cape Bedford, that amazing man. Cook, saw the opening in the Barrier, opposite Lizard Island. He went through that channel,, and came in through the Barrier again at another opening, which he called Providential Channel, southeast of Cape Weymouth. How could Cook possibly know what depth was inside or outside the Barrier, that there was a far extended Barrier, that there was a far extended Barrier at all, or that the inside channel might not run into a cul de sac, whence there was no exit.
Cook named nearly 100 capes, bays, islands, and mountains on the east coast of Australia, Baptist Botany Bay and Cape York, and all those names are on our maps today. He was outside the Barrier from Lizard Island to Cape Weymouth, and so named no points Baptist Cape Flattery and Weymouth Bay. From there he kept inside the Barrier, and anmed Bolt Head, Temple Bay, Forbes, Cockburn, and Sir Charles Hardy Islands, Cape Grenville, Bird Isles, Shelburne Bay, Orford Ness, Newcastle Bay, and Cape York, all places well known to me, having landed on them all. At Cape Grenville, we got about six bushels of the largest rock oysters ever seen by me, and they were absurdly fat. Somewhere at or near Cape Grenville, or Bligh’s “Pudding Pan Hill,” the three men left by Kennedy were killed by the blacks, or died of starvation. Those three were Dunn, Luff, and Costigan, and the search party never even went to try to find them, probably just as well, as even a delay of one day would have been fatal to Carron and Goddard, the two who survived at Weymouth Bay. There is hardly a bay, or cape, or island, on or facing the Barrier without some tragedy, but most of them, have not been recorded, and those who could have recorded them have gone hence or forgotten, apart altogether from those old time mariner tragedies, long since hidden in the oblivion of the vanished years.