Burke & Wills Web
The online digital research archive of expedition records
© 2020

February 1862

Report of Commander Norman, of H.M.C.S.S. Victoria, together with copy of his journal of the late expedition to the Gulf of Carpentaria
Melbourne: John Ferres, Government Printer.
Victorian Parliamentary Papers No. 109. 1862.

Saturday, 1 February 1862.
Light winds and sultry weather. I am sorry to record our sick list increases ; two more down this morning with dysentery, and several, with myself, suffering from boils and violent pains in the head. Finished coaling this morning. Thermometer 89° to 85°.

Sunday, 2nd February 1862.
The weather the same as the last two days, very sultry and relaxing. Our sick list much the same, but no worse, or increase in the number. Performed Divine service. Thermometer 88° to 86°.

Monday, 3 February 1862.
Light S.E. and N.E. airs, with sultry weather. Crew all on shore, cleaning boats and gear, washing their clothes, &c. Thermometer 88° to 84°.

Tuesday, 4 February 1862.
At 8 a.m. left the Roads for the Albert River anchorage. Arrived off there at 11.30. Sent the whaler up to the dépôt in charge of Lieutenant Gascoyne, to bring down Landsborough's party, if they have returned ; this being the eightieth day he is out. Wind steady at N.E., with fine weather. Thermometer 89° to 84° in the after cabin.

Wednesday, 5 February 1862.
Very light land and sea breezes, with sultry but fine weather. Thermometer at noon, in the sun, 132°; in cabin, 88½° only. The general routine of duty performed. Surgeon reports improvements in the cases of dysentery.

Thursday, 6 February 1862.
At 11.30 pm, Landsborough arrived by the whaler, and reported himself as having returned to the depot on the 19th January, with only a loss of two horses, which were drowned in one of the rivers ; otherwise his little party all well. He is now anxious to go on the south-east expedition, but requires tea, sugar, and rum, none of which it is in my power to supply him with, having but twenty days of either left for my crew on the reduced scale they have been upon for the last three months ; and as many of them are on the sick list, and others debilitated from the effects of exposure, I do not consider it just towards them to deprive them of their 1½oz. sugar per day, to give to those who have expended on the average of 7 oz., especially as the heaviest of the work has had to be done by this ship's company. All other stores he requires will be supplied to him. Very sultry weather, with a heavy thunder storm and strong northerly breeze at midnight.

Friday, 7 February 1862.
Cloudy, sultry, unsettled weather, with a northerly wind. At 1 pm. started the cutter and whaler, in charge of Lieutenant Gascoyne, for the dépôt, to assist Landsborough in getting his horses and stores over the river to the eastern shore ; also, to bring down ship's stores and the guard of the hulk after everything necessary has been done to secure the stores to be left at the depot for any party who might fall back or call there.* Sent Wilson up to take a copy of Landsborough's journal to date. Thermometer 88° to 85° below. Moist, muggy weather. Nine men on the sick list.

* 20 lbs. biscuit, 250 lbs. flour, 9½ lbs.-can powder, 2 boxes percussion caps.

Saturday, 8 February.
Fresh northerly breeze, with heavy squalls of rain, thunder, and lightning, from 1 a.m. to noon, and at intervals until sunset, when it cleared up and was fine.

Sunday, 9 February 1862.
Fine calm weather, but very sultry. At 9 am. the boats were sighted off Kangaroo Point, but owing to its being calm and the flood tide against them, they did not both get alongside until 2.50 pm., having been from 9 pm. last night on their oars. Weighed at once for Investigator Roads, where we anchored at 6.20 pm.

Monday, 10 February 1862.
Calm. Employed coaling, and otherwise preparing to leave the gulf, the men working throughout the day until 6.30 p.m. in the heat, which is very trying; but to get away, every one is anxious to do all they can. Eleven hands on the sick list.

Tuesday, 11 February 1862.
Light winds and calm weather. Commenced coaling at 4.30 a.m., and finished at 6.30 p.m. A strong party out most of the day after the eight sheep reserved for this time, when all on board are suffering from want of vegetable diet. I am sorry to say that only two were got, and one of them had to be shot. Thermometer 92° to 86° in the shade, but in the sun 128°.

Wednesday, 12 February 1862.
At daylight, sent one watch after the remaining six sheep, while the other was preparing ship for sea. At 7 a.m. I started over to Bentinck Island with the galley's crew, taking with me the Firefly's old boat rigged, some tomahawks, handkerchiefs, beads, looking-glasses, and about twenty pounds of turtle, as a farewell present to the two families I had taken presents to before. On landing, there being only two natives seen, with much persuasion I induced them to come near to receive the gifts after they had been made to understand by signs and gestures that all was for them and their families. I ordered the boat's crew to go down to the boat, which was about three hundred yards off from us, which they all did. I followed them myself about ten minutes after, with my back to the two men, who had kept their spears in hand all the time. I had not got more than twenty-five or thirty yards from them, when a noise behind made me turn suddenly round, dropping at the same time my umbrella on my shoulder ; as I did so, I discovered both these treacherous savages in the act of poising a spear each, and stepping stealthily after me, not more than ten yards off. My sudden discovery of their intended object by facing them, put them into confusion, and they stole away as if ashamed of being found out. Their wives and children have always been kept at a long distance, but nothing seemed treacherous in their behaviour further than that circumstance, and their not being inclined at any time to lay down their arms. I am now satisfied they are treacherous and bloodthirsty. After leaving them, they ran down and took charge of their boat and the presents, and seemed much delighted, judging by the noise they made. The watch on shore after the sheep did not all get on board until 1.30 p.m., and four of them were then quite ill. They have not caught one, although twenty men were after them ; they are a great loss to the whole of the crew, more especially the sick. Left the Roads at 1.45 p.m., and anchored at Bountiful Island at 8 p.m. Sent two boats' crews at once away to turn turtle, and who brought off fourteen by 1.30 a.m. At 4.30 weighed and took our departure from the island, with the wind light from the N.W., and sultry weather.

Latitude, at noon, 15° 55' S.; longitude, 140° 4' 45° E. Thermometer, 95° in cabin ; on deck, in the sun, 130°; stoke-hole, 145°.

Friday, 14th February 1862.
Light N.E. airs from sunrise to noon. Latitude was, 12° 52' S.; longitude, 140˚ 39' E. Thermometer, 89° below in cabin, and 145° in stoke-hole, - very trying for the engine-room party. Light N.W. airs, and calm all night.

Saturday, 15th February 1862.
At 8.30 a m. landed on Booby Island to examine stock of provisions in the caves for the use of shipwrecked seamen, and found as per margin, or the same as left by me on the 24th September:

• Biscuits, 20 tins
• S. Beef, 3 casks
• Pork, 3 casks
• Tea, 3 lbs
• Sugar, 12 lb
• Butter, 1 keg
• Water, 4 hhds
• Salt, 6 lbs
• Brandy, 3 bottles
• Rum, 2 bottles
• Tobacco, 6 lbs.
• Pipes, Pens, Ink and Paper

A heavy squall from N.W. coming on, made me hurry on board; this squall lasted until 11.30 a.m. when it cleared away. Stood on for the Prince of Wales Channel, in the middle of which some three of our port boiler-tubes burst, and put out all the fires ; kept going with one boiler. There being but little wind, we did not get further than the eastern side of Albany Island, off which, brought up for the night at 7 p.m. in ten fathoms water, and had a visit from some natives in their canoes (Jemmy One Eye).

Sunday, 16 February 1862.
At 4.30 a.m. shortened in, weighed at 5.15 and stood on under steam and fore and aft sail until 2 p m., when the wind drew to the S.E. Passed Cape Grenville at 5.30 p.m., anchoring at 10 fathoms at 6.45, with Haggerstone Island bearing east. A very sensible difference for the better in the state of the atmosphere since yesterday.

Monday, 17 February 1862.
At 5.30 a.m. weighed and stood on at half speed, with a fresh S.E. wind throughout the whole day. At 6 p.m. brought up under No. VIII. Islands in six and a half fathoms water, with fifty fathoms of cable. On approaching the place to anchor, observed a danger not noted on the Chart or Strait Pilot.

Tuesday, 18 February 1862.
Fresh S.E. gale with continued rain until 1 p.m. On examining the above shoal at daylight, and finding it to be a coral reef, with only eighteen inches water on it, of about twenty yards diameter, steep all round, and right in the fairway of any vessel anchoring at or passing this island, to avoid the doubtful rock to the eastward of it, directed Lieutenant Woods to survey and fix its position; and the weather moderating in the afternoon, took two boats, the galley and the cutter, to look for the doubtful rock* to the eastward. At 5 p.m. (low water) found them both, passing with galley over the northernmost, with only eighteen inches of water on it, and pulled up to the south one, which is about 150 yards from it, north and south, and with seven fathoms of water between them, and steep to all round. This I found was awash, and had a lump of broken dead coral on it, and on to which the bow-man held the boat while bearings were taken, which were found to agree in every way with the position marked on the Admiralty Chart, for the bank, with one fathom on it, and from which Chilcott Rocks bear about north true 150 yards.

* Chilcott Rocks.

Wednesday, 19 February 1862.
Strong S.E. wind continuing. With the small quantity of coals on board, we cannot afford to steam against wind and current too. At 11.30, being the last quarter flood, and looking a little finer, weighed and stood on to the S.-eastward ; but with strong winds from the same quarter, we only reached No. 2 island at 5.30 p.m., anchoring there for the night. Had strong S.S.E. winds, with continued heavy rain, to 5.30 a.m., and it then cleared with more moderate weather.

Thursday, 20 February 1862.
At 4.45 weighed and proceeded on towards and passed Flinders group of islands, off Cape Bathurst, at 9.30 a.m., and anchored under Low Woody Island at 11, as it was then blowing a S.E. gale, with strong tide against us. The gale continued with heavy squalls all night, and much rain.

Friday, 21 February 1862.
At 4 a.m. a very hard squall from N.E., with heavy rain. At 6.30 a.m. looking finer, weighed and continued our voyage with the wind at E.N.E., but it only lasted so for one hour, when it backed to the S.E. and became squally again with heavy rain, which continued at intervals throughout the whole day. Made the best of it, and anchored under Lizard Island at 6.15 p.m., so that we have eighty miles out of this day's work notwithstanding.

Saturday, 22 February 1862.
The squalls, with heavy rain, continuing until 4 a.m. At day-dawn it cleared up. Weighed and stood on with the wind at E.S.E. Set all square sail for the first time since leaving Investigator Roads, but the wind backing again to S.E. at 11 a.m., took them all in again at 1. A heavy squall from S.E., with continued hard rain until 2 p.m., and with every sign of more, anchored in eight and a half fathoms, with Rocky Island on with Walker Point to the southward.

Sunday, 23 February 1862.
At 3.20 another hard squall, with heavy rain. Veered to seventy-five fathoms of cable. Continuing squalls and rain until 4 a.m. At 6 weighed and steamed on as before, with strong S.E. wind, and squally weather; brought up in seven fathoms and a half, under Low Islands. Landed, and finding some good she oak fit for firewood, on the small isle, gave orders for a strong party to go on shore for the purpose of cutting it down at day-dawn. The weather looks like a change for the better.

Monday, 24 February 1862.
At 10 a.m. having cut and brought on board about seven tons and a half of firewood, weighed and stood on our course towards Cape Grafton, which was passed at 3.30 p.m. The weather again setting in squally from the southward, with heavy rain, anchored under No. 2, Franklin group, in twelve fathoms, with seventy-five fathoms of cable, and had another rainy night until 4 a.m.

Tuesday, 25 February 1862.
At day-dawn weighed, and continued our course as before. Noon, passed Dunk Island, and at 6.30 p.m. anchored in six fathoms and a half, under the Middle Palm Island. Our distance made ninety-two and a half miles. Seeing plenty of timber on shore, ordered a strong party to go wooding in the morning.

Wednesday, 26 February 1862.
Continued heavy rain all night until 5 a.m. Party wooding ; shifted ship to facilitate it ; but, in consequence of the tide falling, there was great labour to carry the blocks of gum over coral to the boats. At noon weighed, and continued our voyage, passing through between the islands, and at 5.30 passed Magnetical Island. At 10 off Cape Cleveland.

Thursday, 27 February 1862.
At 8 a.m. passed between Cape Gloucester and Middle Island, anchoring in Port Denison at 10.30 a.m., to obtain a supply of fresh meat and vegetables; also firewood, if possible, for fuel. The latter, I find, cannot be got without great delay; the former, with other necessaries, will be on board to enable me to leave to-morrow morning after breakfast. Squally, with rain and wind from the N.E. throughout the night, and until—

Friday, 28 February 1862.
10 a.m., when, having got two days' fresh meat and some vegetables (pumpkins and melons only), weighed, and proceeded over under Gloucester Island, to cut firewood, anchoring at 11.15 a.m. Started a strong party away immediately on that duty. Wind light and variable all day from N. E.

www.burkeandwills.net.au Burke & Wills Web The digital research archive of expedition records
© 2020, Dave Phoenix