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1-210 (Text)

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Newspapers & Broadsides
Ingleton, 1988
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News from Moreton Bay
SYDNEY, December 18, 1823
We are happy to announce the arrival of H.M. cutter, Mermaid, from the Northward, with John Oxley, Esquire, Surveyor-General of the Territory; and are much gratified to observe that in Moreton Bay a fresh water river has been discovered, which, for extent and depth of water, far surpasses any thing hitherto known in New South Wales; and indeed inferior to very few rivers in the old world.
The party ascended it about 50 miles, the river preserving its uniform breadth from a quarter to half a mile, and of sufficient depth to float ships of considerable burthen; and, from an adjacent eminence a view of the interior of the country was obtained, which rendered it probable that it was navigable to a much greater distance, particularly as the tide rose about 4.5 feet, and there was no apparent diminution of width or depth in the river.
The country on the banks, appeared capable of raising all the different descriptions, of produce usually cultivated under the same latitude. The timber was abundant and good; and among various trees, of not generally known kinds, a lofty and elegant one, of the pine species, predominated.
The Mermaid has been the means of restoring two unfortunate men to civilised life. Their names are Thomas PAMPHLET and John FINNEGAN.
These poor men sailed from Sydney, on the 21st. of March last, in an open boat about 30 feet long and 10 feet beam, intending to bring cedar from Five Islands; and they were accompanied by Richard Parsons (part owner of the boat) and John Thompson. They had a considerable quantity of provision, flour, pork, etc. for the purpose of buying cedar, and four gallons of water and five of rum. When almost at their destination, they were driven off the land by a violent gale of wind from the West, which continued with unabated violence for five days.
Supposing they had been carried by the current to the Southward, when the gale moderated they pursued a northerly course, for it was not until the eleventh day after the storm that the boat could carry sail, and by then they supposed they were off Van Diemen's Land. They had no compass, but steered by the sun, as near as they could guess, a N.W. course, expecting very soon to make the land in the neighbourhood of the Five Islands, their original destination. Their sufferings were dreadful, for their water was expended, and they had nothing to drink but rum.
John Thompson, a Scotchman, the best hand in the boat (having been an old man of war's man), had become quite delirious and totally useless from drinking salt water. On the fifteenth day, a heavy shower of rain fell, and three days later more rain. On the nineteenth day they thought they saw land but it was not until the twenty first day (12th. April) that some islands were sighted.
Thompson on hearing this joyful news, apparently revived a little; they had been obliged to bind him hand and foot, three days before, to prevent him jumping overboard. His feet were untied, and he entreated for God's sake to give him fresh water, having imagined the boat had already landed and secured some. When he found that there was none on board, he raved in the most incoherent manner, and in the course of an hour expired from disappointment.
They continued to steer Northwards, being afraid to land because of the natives whom they could see; and Parsons being a part owner of the boat, would no endanger it, by anchoring close inshore.
Thompson's body had continued on board all this time, as they constantly expected to land and so bury it; but it began to grow offensive, and on the twenty-fourth day it was thrown overboard. He had been kept so long that he swam as light as a cork on the water.
On the 16th April, they saw a stream of fresh water, and the boat was anchored in a bight, about half a quarter of a mile from the shore, and the cable payed out for forty fathoms to let her drift further in. Pamphlet then stripped, and swam ashore with a keg; but he was so exhausted that it took him an hour and a half to land. He then drank so much water that he could not fill the keg. In the meantime it began to blow very fresh from the Eastward, and those on board called loudly to Pamphlet to swim back and help them to pull her off shore. The surf ran so high that Pamphlet dared not venture into the water, because of his weakness, and he called out to them to cut the cable and let the boat run ashore. After some time, they did; but the boat grounded on the sandy bottom, still some distance from the beach, and in five minutes her bottom was stove in. Parsons and Finnegan both got safe on shore, and eagerly drank from the stream; Parsons emptied a pint pot, which had been attached to the keg, thirteen times.
They were all naked, and could not get to the boat because of the surf.  They had not the means of kindling a fire, and to make matters still more miserable, it began to rain heavily. They suffered much throughout the night from cold and hunger. Next morning, when day break, they found the boat had gone to pieces and a few things had floated ashore, including a little flour still unspoilt by salt water. They still imagined they were to the southward of Port. Jackson, and accordingly (after a wretched meal of flour and water), they set out along the beach in a northerly direction. They were, in fact on Moreton Island abreast Moreton Bay.
They soon found signs of native habitation, and from one hut secured a fire and began to roast some flour cakes. Natives shortly afterwards made their appearance, and treated the shipwrecked men with the utmost kindness and consideration, which indicated but little of the savage. Such kind treatment was accorded them from other tribes as they proceeded along the beach. On the fifth day after their shipwreck, they found their progress stopped by a channel about three miles wide, through which the tide run very rapidly. They were now certain that they were on an island, which they had almost walked around; but they could observe fires on the opposite shore.
Next day they it a large fire on the beach to attract attention, which being seen by the natives, one of them passed over in a large canoe. But no sooner did he observe their colour, than he ran back to his boat, and jumping in, pushed rapidly off, shouting and roaring with all his might. Subsequently, more natives crossed over; they were naked and unarmed, and Parsons, who happened to have a pair of scissors, entertained them by cutting off their long beards. But the natives would not take the three men back with them in their canoes.
Fortunately, the following day they found a canoe, deserted near the channel, but it would only carry two. After consultation, Pamphlet agreed to wait, allowing Parsons and Finnegan to cross over, when one was to return to fetch him. However, the canoe was met by natives on the opposite shore, and it was not until two days later, that Finnegan had the opportunity to rescue Pamphlet, and then it was accomplished only with great exertion and danger, because the tide carried the frail canoe out to sea.
The natives treated them most kindly and they stayed with their hospitable hosts for about ten days. The natives would not suffer them to approach the huts in which the Women were, for the first five or six days; but afterwards they became less vigilant, and the white men were allowed to pass through the huts among the women as they pleased.
Having now recovered their strength to some degree and being much refreshed, Parsons and Pamphlet resolved to continue their endeavours to reach Sydney; but Finnegan was desirous of staying with the friendly blacks Sooner than encounter the difficulty and danger of attempting to reach the Settlements. At length, however, they all set off in a westerly direction, in order to get round the large bay, which they imagined to be Jervis's Bay.
The natives had pointed out an inlet at a distance of twelve or fourteen miles, where, they said they would find a canoe. With great difficulty, and trouble in carrying their fire, they at last reached the inlet; but to their mortification and sorrow, they found the canoe old and cracked, and it would not carry even one. They retraced their steps back to the natives, and resolved to construct a large canoe, which took them nearly three weeks working from sunrise to sunset.
With this canoe they were able to cross the inlet, and reached an island, which they traversed carrying the canoe. From here they saw another point far to the Northward, but the distance appeared so great, and the shore appeared to recede so far, they were afraid to venture by canoe, so they set out to walk around the bay.
On the third day, they arrived at the bank of a very large river, but it was too wide for them to attempt to swim, and they could find no canoe. Accordingly they travelled with great difficulty for a whole month, along the southern bank of the river, and its many salt - water creeks, until they could find the means to cross it. They existed on a poor diet of fern roots, being half-starved all the time. At last they found two canoes; but the opposite bank proved to be such rough country, that they were glad to retrace their steps, (more easily, however, with the aid of the canoes), to the mouth of the river, and there crossed over. With the kindly assistance of the friendly natives they slowly made their way Northwards along the shore of the bay.
Here they were befriended by the old chief of the natives in the vicinity of Pumice Stone Strait, and it was he who persuaded Pamphlet and Finnegan to stay, but Parsons pressed on. At last, one evening, Pamphlet's attention was drawn by the natives to a cutter under full sail, standing up the bay. Imagine his astonishment and delight, and the surprise of those on board the Mermaid, when they were hailed in English, by a naked, light-coloured individual from the shore. Mr Oxley and his officers hurried ashore to be received by the poor man with breathless joy, which almost deprived him of utterance.
He was taken on board, cleaned and decently clothed, and learned to his surprise that they were at least 500 miles to the Northward of Port Jackson, instead of being, as they always imagined to the Southward of Jervis's Bay. He had lost all idea of the passing of time and when told the day, 29th. November, he found that upwards of eight months had elapsed since the boat left Sydney, and consequently five had been spent with the hospitable natives of Moreton Bay.
Next day, Finnegan was rescued. Parsons, who was an obstinate, hot-tempered man, in spite of the remonstrances of his companions, had some weeks before, pursued his course to the Northward along the shore, being still infatuated with the belief that he was to the Southwards of these Settlements. No doubt he will perish, but should he be driven to return to the friendly natives, Mr. Oxley left a message for him in a bottle with the sable chief of that kindly - hearted tribe of savages.
Mr. Oxley with a party, set out next morning, taking Finnegan with them, in order to examine the large river, which had so long retarded their progress. On their return five or six days later, the Mermaid raised anchor and set all sail for Sydney.