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3-098 (Text)

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author,male,Hart, John,45 addressee
Narrative Discourse
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Bride, 1898
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In the month of November 1831, became master of the schooner Elizabeth, of Launceston, owned by Mr. John Griffiths,' and bound on a sealing voyage to the N.-W. Islands.
Early in December we landed on the Lawrence rocks, Portland Bay, where we were joined by a boat's crew left there the year before, they having procured nearly 400 skins.  Proceeding towards Kangaroo Island, anchored on the 16th in Guichen Bay; landing on Baudin's rocks killed 30 seals, leaving one man with a supply of water and provisions until our return. Anchored in Nepean Bay on the 20th, and procured from the Salt Lagoon five tons of salt; bought 150 skins (seal) and 12,000 wallaby skins from the islanders.
These islanders were principally men who had left various sealing vessels when on their homeward voyage, the masters readily agreeing to an arrangement by which they secured for the next season all the skins obtained during their absence.
This island-life had a peculiar charm for the sailors, being supplied from the ship with flour, tea, sugar, tobacco, and a few slops, and living generally in pairs on the shore of one of the little bays. They cultivated a small garden to supply them with potatoes, onions, and a small patch of barley for their poultry. They thus led an easy, independent life, as compared with that on board ship. They obtained wives from the mainland; these attended to the wallaby snares, caught fish, and made up the boat's crew when on a sealing excursion to the neighbouring rocks. At Kangaroo Island, there were some sixteen or eighteen of these men. On a certain day, once a year, they assembled from all parts of the island to meet the vessel in Nepean Bay, and dispose of their skins, getting a supply in return for the following year, the only money required being a sovereign or two for making earrings.
There was another class of men, also, who probably had escaped from Van Diemen's Land; these lived generally on islands apart from the others, some on Thistle Island, near Port Lincoln, and other islands in Spencer's Gulf, and there was one man who had been unvisited for three years when I saw him on this trip. This man lay under the suspicion of having murdered his original companions. He had two wives, whose woolly heads clearly showed their Van Diemen's Land origin. 
Although so long without supplies, he had every comfort about him. A convenient stone house, good garden, small wheat and barley paddocks, with pigs, goats, and poultry, made him quite independent of the vessel, except for tea and tobacco. He had collected 7,000 wallaby skins of a kind peculiar to this island - very small, fine-furred, and beautifully mottled in colour. I sold these in Sydney for the China market. Returning to Launceston in February 1832, I was first employed to take Mr. Sinclair's whaling party to Twofold Bay, and afterwards in the Sydney trade.
November 3rd, proceeded on a second sealing trip, landing on almost every rock between Bass's Straits and Doubtful Island Bay; returned to Launceston after a very successful trip in March 1833. My mate, Mr. Dutton, appointed the chief headsman of the first fishing in Portland Bay; employed attending on these whalers. Whales so plentiful that, on my visiting the Bay in June, I found all the casks full, and the men putting oil into pits they had made in the clay. Out of 100 tons thus dealt with a very small quantity was saved. I took the first cargo of oil from Portland on this occasion. Port Fairy was visited about three years before by the cutter of that name, commanded by Mr. Wishart.
Mr. E. Henty made his first visit to Portland with me, returning to Launceston the same voyage.
November. - Fitted for my third sealing voyage, which was extended to Cape Leeuwin; on this voyage we anchored in the Harbour of Middle Island; discovered close to the beach a lagoon containing fine salt, in such quantities that we took on board 20 tons in three days. On this voyage also I was on the plain where Adelaide now stands; and also discovered the dangerous reef off Cape Jaffa. Returned to Launceston in March 1834. Two fisheries in Portland Bay this year. Voyage to Hokianga, New Zealand.
October. - Brought Griffiths's party of whalers from Portland. Employment having to be found for these men during the summer, to prevent them being employed by the opposition fishing party, took a number of them on an expedition to strip bark. 
Left Launceston the latter end of November, having on board a team of bullocks, a dray, and some twenty men besides the crew. Entered the Heads of Western Port the beginning of December; anchored under Phillip's Island; saw the place where a settlement had been; ruins of houses and workshops, with broken crockery, &c.; the land here was bad, and there were no wattle trees. Stood up the harbour; surprised to find the deep-water channel marked with beacons on each side. Anchored abreast of the ruins of another settlement; landed the men and team. Here were the remains of houses and gardens - grass very abundant, and the wattle trees the largest I had ever seen. Employed for a fortnight collecting bark; saw the traces of numerous cattle; shot a large white bull.
Finding the bark so abundant, I loaded the schooner and proceeded to Sydney, leaving the shore party behind; sold my cargo to a ship bound to London, and chartered the ship Andromeda to load bark in Western Port for London. Put on board Mr. Thom (my mate) as pilot and supercargo. She arrived there in April 1835. In the meantime I proceeded to Launceston and gave an account of my trip, first to my owner and Mr. Conolly; afterwards to a number of persons assembled in the billiard-room of the Cornwall Hotel, among whom were Mr. Fawkner, Messrs. Geo. and John Evans, and, I think, Mr. Batman. I spoke in high terms of the land and the grass; instanced the sign of the mimosa trees as a proof of the one, and the condition of the wild cattle as the result of the other.
When, however, the Andromeda arrived to get her clearance at the Custom-house of Launceston, the fame of the place was spread far and wide by the returned bark cutters. Many of these were farming men born in Van Diemen's Land, and they at once saw the advantages of this beyond that of their own country. 
The cargo of the Andromeda was consigned to John Gore and Co., of London, through Mr. Conolly, and sold for about £13 per ton.
I brought vast numbers of black swans, which we had pulled down while moulting; the waters of Western Port were covered with these birds.
In December 1835 I sailed as a passenger to London, and while there gave evidence to some of the South Australian Commissioners on the subject of the coast and lands of that province. I furnished sailing directions for Colonel Light, then about to leave in the Rapid. I related to Colonel Torrens the fact that the Port Lincoln natives circumcised their males in a very extraordinary manner, although the tribes round had no such custom.
In September I sailed from London for Launceston, taking with me as passengers several of the now old South Australian settlers, who, on my suggestion, went to Van Diemen's Land, in the first instance, to select their stock, &c., to take with them.
In November 1837 I undertook to drive a herd of cattle from Portland to Adelaide; these cattle I had originally bought from Mr. Dutton, in Sydney, to be delivered in Portland. I had shipped a large number during the previous six months. The remainder, about 500 head, I started with from Darlot's Creek. My party consisted of Mr. Pullen, who had been my chief officer (now, I believe, Captain Pullen, R.N., of the North Star), and nine men.
I arrived at Mr. S. Winter's station on the Wannon on the 3rd, and for a week was employed exploring to the westward of the Glenelg, with a view of making a direct course to Adelaide. Finding, however, no water, I determined to make the Murray by Major Mitchell's road. I had, however, greater difficulties to overcome than I expected. It was a season of extraordinary drought. Many waterholes were dry, in the bottoms of which we found the large monster mussels lying putrid. I was obliged, therefore, to leave the Major's road for the purpose of procuring water; his object at the season in which he passed being to avoid it.  
I arrived on the Murray, near Mount Hope, early in January 1838, and, travelling down the stream, crossed the river about fifteen miles below the Darling. At this place the depth of water did not exceed eighteen inches on a sandy bottom. As a nautical man I felt great interest in this river, and saw at once that it would be navigable for a great portion of the year, possibly for the whole year, in ordinary seasons. I observed that the cause of the shallows was the river having to cross in its course to the westward the pine sand ridges that run north and south, and, therefore, when the river is full, in these places, it increases its width and brings a fresh supply of sand into its bed; no deepening, therefore, will avail here, and it appears to me the only improvement that could be made would be to narrow the channel artificially with clay or wood, the expense of which would make it impossible to be done for ages to come.
Nothing struck me so much on this river as the splendid timber that grows on its banks; I never saw anything equal to it for shipbuilding purposes.
I arrived in Adelaide, March 1st, without the loss of a beast, and on the 3rd sailed to Launceston to ship the whalers for Encounter Bay.