Some account of that part of New Holland now called New South Wales
Having now I beleive fairly Passd through between New Holland and New Guinea and having an open sea to the Westward, so that we tomorrow intend to steer more to the Northward in order to make the South Coast of New Guinea, it seems high time to take leave of New Holland, which I shall do by summing up together the few observations I have been able to make on the countrey and people. I much wishd indeed to have had better opportunities of seeing and observing the people, as they differ so much from the account that Dampier (the only man I know of who has seen them besides us) has given of them. He indeed saw them on a part of the coast very distant from where we were and consequently the people might be different; but I should rather conclude them to be the same, chiefly from having observd an universal conformity in such of their customs as came under my observation in the several places we landed upon during the run of 00 leagues along the coast. Dampier in general seems to be a faithfull relater, but in the voyage in which he touchd on the coast of New Holland he was in a ship of Pyrates, possibly himself not a little tainted by their idle examples: he might have kept no written Journal of any thing more than the navigation of the ship and when upon coming home he was sollicited to publish an account of his vogage have referrd to his memory for many particulars relating to people &c . These Indians when coverd with their filth which I beleive they never wash of are, if not coal black, very near it: as negroes then he might well esteem them and add the wooly hair and want of two fore teeth in consequence of the similitude in complexion between these and the natives of Africa; but from whatever cause it might arise, certain it is that Dampier either was mistaken very much in his account or else that he saw a very different race of people from those we have seen.
For the whole lengh of coast which we saild along there was a sameness to be observd in the face of the countrey very uncommon; Barren it may justly be calld and in a very high degree, that at least that we saw. The Soil in general is sandy and very light: on it grows grass tall enough but thin sett, and trees of a tolerable size, never however near together, in general 40, 50, or 60 feet assunder. This and spots sometimes very large of loose sand constitutes the general face of the countrey as you sail along it, and indeed of the greatest part even after you have penetrated inland as far as our situation would allow us to do. The Banks of Bays indeed are generaly clothd with thick mangroves sometimes for a mile or more in breadth; the soil under these is rank mud always overflowd every spring tide. Inland you sometimes meet with a bog upon which the grass grows rank and thick so that no doubt the soil is sufficiently fertile. The Valleys also between the hills where runs of water come down are thick clothd with underwood, but they are generaly very steep and narrow, so that upon the Whole the fertile soil Bears no kind of Proportion to that which seems by nature doomed to everlasting Barrenness.
Water is here a scarce article or at least was so while we were there, which I beleive to have been in the very hight of the Dry season; some places we were in where we saw not a drop, and at the two places where we filld for the ships use it was done from pools not brooks. This drought is probably owing to the dryness of a soil almost intirely composd of sand in which high hills are scarce. That there is plenty however in the rainy season is sufficiently evincd by the channels we saw cut even in rocks down the sides of inconsiderable hills; these were in general dry, or if any of them containd water it was such as ran in the woody valleys, and these seldom carried water above half way down the hill. Some indeed we saw that formd brooks and ran quite down to the sea but these were scarce and in general brackish a good way up from the beach.
A Soil so barren and at the same time intirely void of the helps derivd from cultivation could not be supposd to yeild much towards the support of man. We had been so long at sea with but a scanty supply of fresh provisions that we had long usd to eat every thing we could lay our hands upon, fish, flesh or vegetable which only was not poisonous; yet we could but now and then procure a dish of bad greens for our own table and never but in the place where the ship was careend met with a sufficient quantity to supply the ship. There indeed Palm cabbage and what is calld in the West Indies Indian Kale were in tolerable plenty, as was also a sort of Purslane. The other plants we eat were a kind of Beans, very bad, a kind of Parsley and a plant something resembling spinage, which two last grew only to the Southward. I shall give their botanical names as I beleive some of them were never eat by Europeans before: first Indian Kale (Arum Esculentum), Red flowerd purslane (Sesuvium Portulacastrum), Beans (Glycine speciosa) Parsley (Apium ), Spinage (Tetragonia cornuta). Fruits we had still fewer; to the South was one something resembling a heart cherry only the stone was soft (Eugenia ) which had nothing but a light acid to recommend it; to the Northward again a kind of Figs growing from the stalk of a tree, very indifferent (Ficus caudiciflora), a fruit we calld Plumbs like them in Colour but flat like a little cheese ( ), and another much like a damson both in appearance and taste; both these last however were so full of a large stone that eating them was but an unprofitable business. Wild Plantanes we had also but so full of seeds that they had little or no pulp.
For the article of timber, there is certainly no want of trees of more than midling size and some in the valleys very large, but all of a very hard nature; our carpenters who cut them down for fire wood complaind much that their tools were damagd by them. Some trees there were also to the Northward whose soft bark,which easily peels off, is in the East Indies applyd to the use of calking ships in Lieu of Oakum.
Palms here were of three different sorts. The first which grew plentifully to the Southward had leaves pleated like a fan; the Cabbage of these was small but exquisitely sweet and the nuts which it bore in great abundance a very good food for hogs. The second was very much like the real cabbage tree of the West Indies, bearing large pinnated leaves like those of a Cocoa nut; these too yeilded cabbage if not so sweet as the other sort yet the quantity made ample amends. The third which as well as the second was found only in the Northern parts was low, seldom ten feet in hight, with small pennated leaves resembling those of some kinds of fern; Cabbage it had none but generaly bore a plentifull Crop of nutts about the size of a large chestnut and rounder. By the hulls of these which we found plentifully near the Indian fires we were assurd that these people eat them, and some of our gentlemen tried to do the same, but were deterrd from a second experiment by a hearty fit of vomiting and purging which was the consequence of the first. The hogs however who were still shorter of provision than we were eat them heartily and we concluded their constitutions stronger than ours, till after about a week they were all taken extreemly ill of indigestions; two died and the rest were savd with dificulty
Other usefull plants we saw none, except perhaps two might be found so which yeild resin in abundance: the one a tree tolerably large with narrow leaves not unlike a willow which was very plentyfull in every place into which we went; this yeilded a blood red resin or rather gum-resin very nearly resembling Sanguis draconis, indeed as Sanguis draconis is the produce of several different plants this may perhaps be one of the sorts. This I should suppose to be the gum mentioned by Dampier in his voyage round the world p. and by him compard with sanguis draconis, as possibly also that which Tasman saw upon Diemens Land, where he says he saw gum of the trees and gum Lac of the ground; See his voyage in a collection publishd at London in 1694 p.133. The other was a small plant with long narrow grassy leaves and a spike of flowers resembling much that kind of Bulrush which is calld in England Cats tail; this yeilded a resin of a bright yellow colour perfectly resembling Gambouge only that it did not stain; it had a sweet smell but what its properties are the chymists may be able to determine.
Of Plants in general the countrey afforded a far larger variety than its barren appearance seemd to promise. Many of these have no doubt properties which might be usefull, but for Physical and oeconomical purposes which we were not able to investigate, could we have understood the Indians or made them by any means our freinds we might perchance have learnt some of these; for tho their manner of life, but one degree removd from Brutes, does not seem to promise much yet they had a knowledge of plants as we plainly could percieve by their having names for them.
Thus much for plants: I have been rather particular in mentioning those which we eat hoping that such a remembrance might be of use to some or other into whose hands these papers may fall. For quadrupedes, Birds, fish &c . I shall say no more than that we had some time ago learnd to eat every identical species which came in our way: a hawk or a crow was to us as delicate and perhaps a better relished meal than a partridge or Pheasant to those who have plenty of dainties: we wanted nothing to reccomend any food but its not being salt, that alone was sufficient to make it a delicacy. Shaggs, Sea gulls and all that tribe of sea fowl which are reccond bad from their trainy or fishy taste were to us an agreable food, we did not at all taste the rankness, which no doubt has been and possibly will again be highly nauseous to us whenever we have plenty of Beef and mutton &c .
Quadrupeds we saw but few and were able to catch few of them that we did see. The largest was calld by the natives Kangooroo. It is different from any European and indeed any animal I have heard or read of except the Gerbua of Egypt, which is not larger than a rat when this is as large as a midling Lamb; the largest we shot weighd 84 lb. It may however be easily known from all other animals by the singular property of running or rather hopping upon only its hinder legs carrying its fore bent close to its breast; in this manner however it hops so fast that in the rocky bad ground where it is commonly found it easily beat my grey hound, who tho he was fairly started at several killd only one and that quite a young one. Another was calld by the natives Je-Quoll: it is about the size and something like a polecat, of a light brown spotted with white on the back and white under the belly. The third was of the Opossum kind and much resembling that calld by De Buffon Phalanger. Of these two last I took only one individual of each. Batts here were many. One small we took which was much like if not identicaly the same as that describd by de Buffon under the name of Fer de cheval; Another sort was as large or larger than a partrige but of this Species we were not fortunate enough to take one; we supposd it however to be either the Roupette or Rougette of the same author. Besides these Wolves were I beleive seen by several of our people and some other animals describd, but from the unintelligible stile of the describers I could not even determine whether they were such as I myself had seen or of different kinds. Of these describtions I shall insert one as it is not unentertaining. A Seaman who had been out on duty on his return declard that he had seen an animal about the size of and much like a one gallon cagg; it was, says he, as black as the Devil and had wings, indeed I took it for the Devil or I might easily have catchd it for it crauld very slowly through the grass. After taking some pains I found out that the animal he had seen was no other than the Large Bat.
Birds there were Several Species of - sea fowl, Gulls, Shaggs, Soland geese or Gannets of 2 sorts, Bobies, &c . and Pelicans of an enormous size, but these last tho we saw many thousands of them were so shy tht we never got one of them; as were the Cranes also of which we saw several very Large and some beautifull species. In the Rivers were ducks who flew in large flocks but were very hard to come at, and on the Beach were curlews of several sorts, some very like our English ones, and Many small Beach Birds. The Land Birds were crows, very like if not quite the same as our English ones, Parrots and Paraquets most Beautifull, White and black Cocatoes, Pidgeons, beautifull Doves, Bustards, and many others which did not at all resemble those of Europe. Most of these were extremely shy so that it was with dificulty that we shot any of them; a Crow in England tho in general sufficiently wary is I must say a fool to a New Holland crow and the same may be said of almost if not all the Birds in the countrey. The only ones we ever got in any plenty was Pidgeons of which we met Large flocks, of which the men who were sent out on purpose would sometimes kill 10 or 12 a day; they were a Beautifull Bird crested differently from any other Pidgeon I have seen. What can be the reason of this extrordinary shyness in the Birds is dificult to say, unless perhaps the Indians are very clever in deceiving them which we have very little reason to suppose, as we never saw any instrument with them but their Lances with which a Bird could be killd or taken, and these must be very improper tools for the Purpose; yet one of our people saw a white Cocatoe in their Possession which very bird we lookd upon to be one of the waryest of them all.
Of insects here were but few sorts and among them only the Ants were troublesome to us. Musquetos indeed were in some places tolerably plentyfull but it was our good fortune never to stay any time in such places, and where we did to meet with very few. The ants however made ample amends for the want of them, 2 sorts in particular: one green as a leaf and living upon trees where he built his nest, in size between that of a mans head and his fist, by bending the leaves together and glueing them with a whiteish papery substance which held them firmly together. In doing this their man[a]gement was most curious: they bend down leaves broader than a mans hand and place them in such a direction as they chose, in doing of which a much larger force is necessary than these animals seem caple of. Many thousands indeed are employd in the joint work; I have seen them holding down such a leaf, as many as could stand by one another each drawing down with all his might while others within were employd to fasten the glue. How they had bent it down I had not an opportunity of seeing, but that it was held down by main strengh I easily provd by disturbing a part of them, on which the leaf bursting from the rest returnd to its natural situation and I had an opportunity to try with my finger the strengh that these little animals must have usd to get it down. But industrious as they are their courage if possible excells their industry; if we accidentaly shook the branches on which such nest[s] were hung thousands would immediately throw themselves down, many of which falling upon us made us sensible of their stings and revengefull dispositions, especialy if as was often the case they got posession of our necks and hair. Their stings were by some esteemd not much less painfull than those of a bee, the pain however lasted only a few seconds. Another sort there were quite black whose manner of living was most extrordinary. They inhabited the inside of the Branches of one sort of tree, [ ] the pith of which they hollowd out almost quite to the ends of the Branches; nevertheless the tree flourishd as well to all appearance as if no such accident had happned to it. When first we found the tree we of course gatherd the branches and were surprizd to find our hands instantly coverd with legions of these small animals who stung most intolerably; experience however taught us to be more carefull for the future. Rumphius mentions a similar instance to this in his Herbarium Amboinense Vol. II. p. 257; his tree however does not at all resemble ours. A third sort nested in the inside of the root of a Plant [ ] which grew on the Bark of trees in the same manner as Miseltoe; the root was as large as a large turnip and often much larger; when cut the inside shewd innumerable winding passages in which these animals livd; the plant itself throve to all appearance not a bit the worse for its numerous inhabitants. Several hundreds have I seen and never one but what was inhabited, tho some were so young as not to be much larger than a hasel nut. The ants themselves were very small, not above half as large as our red ants in England. They stung indeed but so little that it was scarce to be felt: the cheif inconvenience in handling the roots came from the infinite number, myriads would come in an instant out of many holes and running over the hand tickle so as to be scarce endurable. Rumphius has an account of this very bulb and its ants in the 6th Vol. p. 120, where he describes also another sort the ants of which are black. The fourth sort were perfectly harmless, at least they provd so to us tho they resembled almost minutely the white ants of the East Indies, the most mischevous Insect I beleive known in the world. Their architecture was however far superior to that of any other species . They had two kinds of Houses, one suspended on the Branches of trees, the other standing upright on the ground. The first sort were generaly 3 or 4 times as large as a mans head; they were built of a brittle substance seemingly made of small parts of vegetables kneaded together with some glutinous matter, probably afforded by themselves; on breaking this outer crust innumerable cells appeard full of inhabitants in winding directions, communicating with each other as well as with divers doors which led from the nest. From each of these went a passage archd over leading to different parts of the tree and generaly one large one to the ground; this I am inclind to beleive communicated with the other kind of house, for as the animals inhabiting both were precisely the same I see no reason why they should be supposd, contrary to Every instance that I know in nature, to build two different kinds of houses unless according to the conveniences of season, prey &c , they inhabited both equaly. This other kind of house which I now speak of was very often built near the foot of a tree, the Bark of which tree always had upon it their coverd ways tho but seldom the first kind of house; it was formd like an irregularly sided Cone and sometimes was more than 6 feet high and near as much in diameter; the smaller ones were generaly flat sided and resembled very much the old stones which are seen in many parts of England and supposd to be remains of Druidical worship. The outside Coat of these was 2 inches thick at least, of hard well temperd clay, under which were their cells; to these no doors were to be seen. All their passages were underground, where probably they were carried on till the root of some tree presented itself, up which they ascended and so up the trunk and branches by the coverd way before mentiond. These I should suppose to be the houses to which they retire in the winter season as they are undoubtedly ble to defend them from any rain that can fall, while the others, tho generaly built under the shelter of some overhanging branch, must be but ill proof to a heavy rain from the thinness of their covering. Thus much for the ants, an industrious race who in all countries have for that reason been admird by man, tho probably in no countrey more admirable than in this. The few observationsI have wrote down of them are cheifly from conjecture and therefore are not at all to be depended upon; was any man however to be setled here who had time and inclination to observe their oeconomy I am convincd it would far exceed that of any insects we know, not excepting out much admird bees.
The sea however made some amends for the Barreness of the Land. Fish tho not so plentyfull as they generaly are in higher latitudes were far from scarce; where we had an opportunity of haling the Seine we generaly caught from 50 to 200 lb of fish in a tide. There sorts were various, none I think but Mullets known in Europe; in general however they were sufficiently palatable and some very delicate food; the Sting rays indeed which were caught on the Southern part of the coast were very coarse, but there little else was caught so we were obligd to comfort ourselves with the comforts of Plenty and enjoy more pleasure in Satiety than in eating. To the Northward again when we came to be entangled within the great Reef (within which we saild to our knowledge 0 Leages and we knew not how many more, perplexd every moment with shoals) was a plenty of Turtle hardly to be credited, every shoal swarmd with them. The weather indeed was generaly so boisterous that our boats could not row after them so fast as they could swim, so that we got but few, but they were excellent and so large that a single Turtle always servd the ship. Had we been there either at the time of Laying or the more moderate season we doubtless might have taken any quantity. Besides this all the shoals that were dry at half Ebb afforded plenty of fish that were left dry in small hollows of the rocks, and a profusion of Large shell fish (Chama Gigas) such as Dampier describes Vol III, p. 191. The large ones of this kind had 10 or 15 lb of meat in them; it was indeed rather strong but I beleive a very wholesome food and well relishd by the people in general. On different parts of the Coast were also found oysters which were said to be very well tasted; the shells also of well sizd Lobsters and crabs were seen but these it was never our fortune to catch.
Upon the whole New Holland, tho in every respect the most barren countrey I have seen, is not so bad but that between the productions of sea and Land a company of People who should have the misfortune of being shipwreckd upon it might support themselves, even by the resources that we have seen. Undoubtedly a longer stay and visiting different parts would discover many more.
This immense tract of Land, the largest known which does not bear the name of a continent, as it is considerably larger than all Europe, is thinly inhabited even to admiration, at least that part of it that we saw: we never but once saw so many as thirty Indians together and that was a family, Men women and children, assembled upon a rock to see the ship pass by. At Sting-Rays bay where they evidently came down to fight us several times they never could muster above 14 or 15 fighting men, indeed in other places they generaly ran away from us, from whence it might be concluded that there were greater numbers than we saw, but their houses and sheds in the woods which we never faild to find convincd us of the smallness of their parties. We saw indeed only the sea coast: what the immense tract of inland countrey may produce is to us totaly unknown: we may have liberty to conjecture however that they are totaly uninhabited. The Sea has I beleive been universaly found to be the cheif source of supplys to Indians ignorant of the arts of cultivation: the wild produce of the Land alone seems scarce able to support them at all seasons, at least I do not remember to have read of any inland nation who did not cultivate the ground more or less, even the North Americans who were so well versd in hunting sowd their Maize. But should a people live inland who supported themselves by cultivation these inhabitants of the sea coast must certainly have learn'd to imitate them in some degree at least, otherwise their reason must be supposd to hold a rank little superior to that of monkies.
Whatever may be the reason of this want of People is dificult to guess, unless perhaps the Barreness of the Soil and scarcity of fresh water; but why mankind should not increase here as fast as in other places unless their small tribes have frequent wars in which many are destroyd; they were generaly furnishd with plenty of weapons whose points of the stings of Sting-Rays seemd intended against nothing but their own species, from whence such an inference might easily be drawn.
That their customs were nearly the same throughout the whole lengh of the coast along which we saild I should think very probable. Tho we had Connections with them only at one place yet we saw them either with our eyes or glasses many times, and at Sting Rays bay, had some experience of their manners; their Colour, arms, method of using them, were the same as we afterwards had a nearer view of; they likewise in the same manner went naked, and painted themselves, their houses were the same, they notchd large trees in the same manner and even the bags they carried their furniture in were of exactly the same manufacture, something between netting and Knitting which I have no where else seen in the intermediate places. Our glasses might deceive us in many things but their colour and want of cloths we certainly did see and wherever we came ashore the houses and sheds, places where they had dressd victuals with heated stones, and trees notched for the convenience of climbing them sufficiently evincd them to be the same people.
The tribe with which we had connections consisted of 21 people, 12 men 7 women a boy and a girl, so many at least we saw and there might be more, especialy women, who we did not see. The men were remarkably short and slender built in proportion; the tallest we measurd was 5 feet 9, the shortest 5-2; their medium hight seemd to be about five feet six, as the tall man appeard more disproportioned in size from his fellows than the short one. What their absolute colour is is difficult to say, they were so compleatly coverd with dirt, which seemd to have stuck to their hides from the day of their birth without their once having attemptd to remove it; I tryd indeed by spitting upon my finger and rubbing but alterd the colour very little, which as nearly as might be resembled that of Chocolate. The beards of several were bushy and thick; their hair which as well as their beards was black they wore cropped close round their ears; in some it was lank as a Europeans, in others a little crispd as is common in the South sea Islands but in none of them at all resembling the wool of Negroes. They had also all their fore teeth; in which two things they differ cheifly from those seen by Dampier; supposing him not to be mistaken. As for colour they would undoubtedly be calld blacks by any one not usd to consider attentively the colours of different Nations; myself should never have thought of such distinctions had I not seen the effect of Sun and wind upon the natives of the South sea Islands, where many of the Better sort of people who keep themselves close at home are nearly as white as Europeans, while the poorer sort, obligd in their business of fishing &c . to expose their naked bodies to all the inclemencies of the Climate, have some among them but little lighter than the New Hollanders. They were all to a man lean and clean limnd and seemd to be very light and active; their countenances were not without some expression tho I cannot charge them with much, their voices in general shrill and effeminate.
Of Cloths they had not the least part but naked as ever our general father was before his fall, they seemd no more conscious of their nakedness than if they had not been the children of Parents who eat the fruit of the tree of knowledge. Whether this want of what most nations look upon as absolutely necessary proceeds from idleness or want of invention is difficult to say; in the article of ornaments however, useless as they are, neither has the one hinderd them from contriving nor the other from making them. Of these the cheif and that on which they seem to set the greatest value is a bone about 5 or 6 inches in lengh and as thick as a mans finger, which they thrust into a hole bord through that part which divides the nostrils so that it sticks across their face making in the eyes of Europeans a most ludicrous appearance, tho no doubt they esteem even this as an addition to their beauty which they purchasd with hourly inconvenience; for when this bone was in its place, or as our seamen termd it their spritsail yard was riggd across, it compleatly stop'd up both nostrils so that they spoke in the nose in a manner one should think scarce intelligible. Besides these extrodinary bones they had necklaces made of shells neatly enough cut and strung together, bracelets also if one may call by that name 4 or 5 ring[s] of small cord wore round the upper part of the arm, also a belt or string tied round the waist about as thick as worsted yarn, which last was frequently made of either human hair or that of the Beast calld by them Kangooroo. Besides these they paint themselves with the colours of red and white: the red they commonly lay on in broad patches on their shoulders or breasts; the white in stripes some of which were narrow and confind to small parts of their body, others were broad and carried with some degree of taste across their bodies, round their legs and arms &c ; they also lay it on in circles round their eyes and in patches in different parts of their faces. The red they usd seemd to be red ocre but what the white was we could not find out; it was heavy and close graind almost as white lead and and had a saponaceos feel, possibly it might be a kind of Steatites. We lamented not being able to procure a bit to examine. These people seemd to have no Idea of traffick nor could we teach them; indeed it seemd that we had no one thing on which they set a value equal to induce them to part with the smallest trifle; except one fish which weighd about ½ a pound that they brought as a kind of token of peace no one in the ship I beleive procurd from them the smallest article. They readily receivd the things we gave them but never would understand our signs when we askd for returns. This however must not be forgot, that whatever opportunities they had they never once attempted to take any thing in a clandestine manner; whatever they wanted they openly askd for and in almost all cases bore the refusal if they met with one with much indifference, except Turtles.
Dirty as these people are they seem to be intirely free from Lice, a circumstance rarely observd among the most cleanly Indians, and which here is the more remarkable as their hair was generaly Matted and filthy enough. In all of them indeed it was very thin and seemd as if seldom disturbd with the Combing even of their fingers, much less to have any oil or grease put into it; nor did the custom of oiling their bodies, so common among most uncivilizd nations, seem to have the least footing here.
On their bodies we observd very few marks of cutaneous disorders as scurf, scars of sores &c . Their spare thin bodies indicate a temperance in eating, the consequence either of necessity or inclination, equaly productive of health particularly in this respect. On the fleshy parts of their arms and thighs and some of their sides were large scars in regular lines, which by their breadth and the convexity with which they had heald shewd plainly that they had been made by deep cuts of some blunt instrument, a shell perhaps or the edge of a broken stone. These as far as we could understand by the Signs they made use of were the marks of their Lamentations for the deceasd, in honour to whose memory or to shew the excess of their greif they had in this manner wept for in blood.
For food they seem to depend very much tho not intirely upon the Sea. Fish of all kinds, Turtle and even crabs they strike with their Lances very dextrously. These are generaly bearded with broad beards and their points smeard over with a kind of hard resin which makes them peirce a hard body far easier than they would do without it. In the sourthern parts these fish spears had 4 prongs and besides the resin were pointed with the sharp bone of a fish; to the Northward again their spears had only one point; yet both I beleive struck fish with equal dexterity. For the Northern ones I can witness who several times saw them through a glass throw their Spear from 10 to 20 yards and generaly succeed; to the Southward again the plenty of Fish bones we saw near their fires provd them to be no indifferent artists.
For striking of Turtle they use a peg of wood well bearded and about a foot long: this fastens into a socket of a staff of light wood as thick as a mans wrist and 8 or 9 feet long, besides which they are tied together by a loose line of 3 or 4 fathoms in lengh. The use of this must undoubtedly be that when the Turtle is struck the staff flies off from the peg and serves for a float to shew them where the Turtle is, as well as assists to tire him till they can with their canoes overtake and haul him in. That they throw this Dart with great force we had occasion to observe while we lay in Endeavours river, where a turtle which we killd had one of them intirely buried in its body just across its breast; it seemd to have enterd at the soft place where the fore fins work but not the least outward mark of the wound remaind.
Besides these things we saw near their fire places plentifull remains of lobsters, shell fish of all kinds, and to the Southward the skins of those Sea animals which from their property of spouting out water when touched are commonly calld sea squirts. These last, howsoever disgustfull they may seem to an European palate, we found to contain under a coat as tough as leather a substance like the guts of a shell fish, in taste tho not equal to an oyster yet by no means to be despisd by a man who is hungrey.
Of Land animals they probably eat every kind that they can kill which probably does not amount to any large number, every species being here shy and cautious in a high degree. The only vegetables we saw them use were Yams of 2 sorts, the one long and like a finger the other round and coverd with stringy roots, both sorts very small but sweet; they were so scarce where we were that we never could find the plants that producd them, tho we often saw the places where they had been dug up by the Indians very newly. It is very probable that the Dry season which was at its hight when we were there had destroyd the leaves of the plants so that we had no guides, while the Indians knowing well the stalks might find them easily. Whether they knew or ever made use of the Coccos I cannot tell; the immence sharpness of every part of this vegetable before it is dressd makes it probable that any people who have not learnd the uses of it from others may remain for ever ignorant of them. Near their fires were great abundance of the shells of a kind of fruit resembling a Pine apple very much in appearance, tho in taste disagreable enough; it is common to all the East Indies and calld by the Dutch there Pyn appel Boomen (Pandanus); as also those of the fruits of a low Palm calld by the Dutch Moeskruidige Calappus (Cycas circinalis) which they certainly eat, tho they are so unwholesome that some of our people who tho forewarnd depending upon their example eat one or 2 of were violently affected by them both upwards and downwards, and our hogs whose constitutions we thought might be as strong as those of the Indians literaly dyed after having eat them. It is probable however that these people have some method of Preparing them by which their poisonous quality is destroyd, as the inhabitants of the East Indian Isles are said to do by boiling them and steeping them 24 hours in water, then drying them and using them to thicken broth; from whence it should seem that the poisonous quality lays intirely in the Juices, as it does in the roots of the Mandihocca or Cassada of the West Indies and that when thouroughly cleard of them the pulp remain[in]g may be a wholesome and nutritious food.
Their victuals they generaly dress by broiling or toasting them upon the coals, so we judg'd by the remains we saw; they knew however the method of baking or stewing with hot stones and sometimes practis'd it, as we now and then saw the pits and burnd stones which had been made use of for that purpose.
We observd that some tho but few held constantly in their mouths the leaves of an herb which they chewd as a European does tobacca or an East Indian Betele. What sort of plant it was we had not an opportunity of learning as we never saw any thing but the chaws which they took from their mouths to shew us; it might be of the Betele kind and so far as we could judge from the fragments was so, but whatever it was it was usd without any addition and seemd to have no kind of effect upon either the teeth or lips of those who usd it.
Naked as these people are when abroad they are scarce at all better defended from the injuries of the weather when at home, if that name can with propriety be given to their houses - as I beleive they never make any stay in them but wandering like the Arabs from place to place set them up whenever they meet with one where sufficient supplys of food are to be met with, and as soon as these are exhausted remove to another leaving the houses behind, which are framd with less art or rather less industry than any habitations of human beings probably that the world can shew.
At Sting-Rays Bay, where they were the best, each was capable of containing within it 4 or 5 people but not one of all these could in any direction extend himself his whole lengh; for hight he might just set upright, but if inclind to sleep must coil himself in some crooked position as the dimensions were in no direction long enough to hold him otherwise. They were built in the form of an oven of pliable rods about as thick as a mans finger, the Ends of which were stuck into the ground and the whole coverd with Palm leaves and broad peices of Bark; the door was a pretty large hole at one end, opposite to which by the ashes there seemd to be a fire kept pretty constantly to the Northward. Again where the warmth of the climate made houses less necessary they were in proportion still more slight; a house there was nothing but a hollow shelter about 3 or 4 feet deep built like the former and like them coverd with bark; one side of this was intirely open which was always that which was shelterd from the course of the prevailing wind, and opposite to this door was always a heap of ashes, the remains of a fire probably more necessary to defend them from Mosquetos than cold. In these it is probable that they only sought to defend their heads and the upper part of their bodies from the Draught of air, trusting their feet to the care of the fire, and so small they were that even in this manner not above 3 or 4 people could possibly croud into one of them. But small as the trouble of erecting such houses must be they did not always do it; we saw many places in the woods where they had slept with no other shelter than a few bushes and grass a foot or two high to shade them from the wind; this probably is their custom while they travel from place to place and sleep upon the road in situations where they do not mean to make any stay.
The only Furniture belonging to these houses, that we saw at least, was oblong vessels of Bark made by the simple contrivance of tying up the two ends of a longish peice with a withe which not being cut off serves for a handle, these we imagind serv'd for the purpose of Water Buckets to fetch water from the springs which may sometimes be distant. We have reason to suppose that when they travel these are carried by the women from place to place; indeed the few opportunities we had of seeing the women they were generaly employd in some laborious occupation as fetching wood, gathering shell fish &c .
The men again maybe constantly carry their arms in their hands, 3 or 4 lances in one and the machine with which they throw them in the other; these serve them in the double capacity of defending them from their enemies and striking any animal or fish that they may meet with. Besides these each has a small bag about the size of a moderate Cabbage net which hangs loose upon his back fas[t]ned to a small string which passes over the crown of his head; this seems to contain all their worldly treasures, each man hardly more than might be containd in the crown of a hat-a lump or two of Paint, some fish hooks and lines, shells to make them of, Points of Darts and resin and their usual ornaments were the general contents.
Thus live these I had almost said happy people, content with little nay almost nothing, Far enough removd from the anxieties attending upon riches, or even the possession of what we Europeans call common necessaries: anxieties intended maybe by Providence to counterbalance the pleasure arising from the Posession of wishd for attainments, consequently increasing with increasing wealth, and in some measure keeping up the balance of hapiness between the rich and the poor. From them appear how small are the real wants of human nature, which we Europeans have increasd to an excess which would certainly appear incredible to these people could they be told it. Nor shall we cease to increase them as long as Luxuries can be invented and riches found for the purchase of them; and how soon these Luxuries degenerate into necessaries may be sufficiently evincd by the universal use of strong liquors, Tobacco, spices, Tea &c . &c . In this instance again providence seems to act the part of a leveler, doing much towards putting all ranks into an equal state of wants and consequently of real poverty: the Great and Magnificent want as much and may be more than the midling: they again in proportion more than the inferior: each rank still looking higher than his station but confining itself to a certain point above which it knows not how to wish, not knowing at least perfectly what is there enjoyd.
Tools among them we saw almost none, indeed having no arts which require any it is not to be expected that they should have many. A stone made sharp at the edge and a wooden mallet were the only ones we saw that had been formd by art; the use of these we supposd to be in making the notches in the bark of high trees by which they climb them for purposes unknown to us, and for cutting and perhaps driving wedges to take of the bark which they must have in large peices for making Canoes, Sheilds and water buckets and also for covering their houses. Besides these they use shells and corals to scrape the points of their darts, and polish them with the leaves of a kind of wild Fig tree (Ficus Radulo) which bites upon wood almost as keenly as our European shave grass usd by the Joiners. Their fish hooks are made of shell very neatly and some exceedlingly small; their lines are also well twisted and they have them from the size of a half inch rope to almost the fineness of a hair made of some vegetable. Of Netting they seem to be quite ignorant but make their bags, the only thing of the kind we saw among them, by laying the threads loop within loop something in the way of knitting only very coarse and open, in the very same manner as I have seen ladies make purses in England. That they had no sharp instruments among them we venturd to guess from the circumstance of an old man who came to us one day with a beard rather larger than his fellows: the next day he came again, his beard was then almost croppd close to his chin and upon examination we found the ends of the hairs all burnd so that he had certainly singd it off. Their manner of Hunting and taking wild animals we had no opportunity of seeing: we only guessd that the notches which they had every where cut in the Bark of large trees, which certainly servd to make climbing more easy to them, might be intended for the ascending these trees in order either to watch for any animal who unwarily passing under them they might peirce with their darts, or for the taking birds who at night might Roost in them. We guessd also that the fires which we saw so frequently as we passd along shore, extending over a large tract of countrey and by which we could constantly trace the passage of the Indians who went from us in Endeavours river up into the countrey, were intended in some way or other for the taking of the animal calld by them Kanguru, which we found to be so much afraid of fire that we could hardly force it with our dogs to go over places newly burnt. They get fire very expeditiously with two peices of stick very readily and nimbly: the one must be round and 8 or nine inches long and both it and the other should be dry and soft; the round one they sharpen a little at one end and pressing it upon the other turn it round with the palms of their hands just as Europeans do a chocolate mill, often shifting their hands up and running them down quick to make the pressure as hard as possible; in this manner they will get fire in less than 2 minutes and when once posessd of the smallest spark increase [it] in a manner truely wonderfull. We often admird to see a man run along shore who seemd to carry no one thing in his hand and yet as he ran along, just stooping down every 50 or 100 yards, smoak and fire were seen among the drift wood and dirt at that place almost the instant he had left it. This we afterwards found was done cheifly by the infinite readyness with which every kind of rubbish, sticks, witherd leaves or dry grass already almost dryd to tinder by the heat of the sun and dryness of the season would take fire: he took for instance when he set off a small bit of fire and wrapping it up in dry grass ran on, this soon blazd, he then layd it down on the most convenient place for his purpose that he could find and taking up a small part of it wrappd that in part of the dry rubbish in which he had layd it, in this manner proceeding as long as he thought proper.
Their Weapons, offensive at least, were precisely the same where ever we saw them except that at the very last view we had of the countrey we saw through our glasses a man who carried a Bow and arrows; in this we might but I beleive we were not mistaken. They consisted of one only species, a Pike or Lance from 8 to 14 feet in lengh: this they threw short distances with their hands and for longer, 40 or more yards, with an instrument made for the purpose. The upper part of these Lances were made either of Cane or the stalk of a plant something resembling a Bullrush ( ) which was very streight and light: the point again was made of very heavy and hard wood, the whole arfully balancd for throwing tho very clumsily made in two, three or four joints, at each of which the parts were let into each other and besides being tied round the Joint was smeard over very thick with their Resin which made it larger and more clumsey than any other part. The points were of several sorts: those which we concluded to be intended against men were indeed most cruel weapons: they were all single pointed either with the stings of sting-rays, a large one of which servd for the point, and three or 4 smaller tied the contrary way made barbs: or simply of wood made very sharp and smeard thick over with resin into which was stuck many broken bits of sharp shells, so that if such a weapon pierced a man it was many to one that it could not be drawn out without leaving several of those unwelcome guests in his flesh, certain to make the wound ten times more dificult to cure than it otherwise would be. The others which we supposd to be usd merely for striking fish, birds &c had generaly simple points of wood or if they were barbd it was with only one splinter of wood. The instrument with which they threw them was a plain stick or peice of wood 2 and ½ or 3 feet in lengh, at one end of which was a small knob or hook and near the other a kind of cross peice to hinder it from slipping out of their hands. With this contrivance, simple as it is and ill fitted for the purpose, they threw the lances 40 or more yards with a swiftness and steadyness truley surprizing; the knob being hookd into a small dent made in the top of the lance they held it over their shoulder and shaking it an instant as balancing threw it with the greatest ease imaginable. The neatest of these throwing sticks that we saw were made of a hard reddish wood polish[d] and shining; their sides were flat and about 2 inches in breadth and the handle or part to keep it from dropping out of the hand coverd with thin layers of polished bone very white; these I beleive to be the things which many of our people were deceivd by imagining them to be wooden swords, Clubs &c . according to the direction in which they happned to see them. Defensive weapons we saw only in Sting-Rays bay and there only a single instance - a man who attempted to oppose our Landing came down to the Beach with a sheild of an oblong shape about 3 feet long and 1½ broad made of the bark of a tree; this he left behind when he ran away and we found upon taking it up that it plainly had been piercd through with a single pointed lance near the center. That such sheilds were frequently usd in that neighbourhood we had however sufficient proof, often seeing upon trees the places from whence they had been cut and sometimes the sheilds themselves cut out but not yet taken off from the tree; the edges of the bark only being a little raisd with wedges; which shews that these people certainly know how much thicker and stronger bark becomes by being sufferd to remain upon the tree some time after it is cut round.
That they are a very pusilanimous people we had reason to suppose from every part of their conduct in every place where we were except Sting Rays bay, and there only the instance of the two people who opposd the Landing of our two boats full of men for near a quarter of an hour and were not to be drove away till serveral times wounded with small shot, which we were obligd to do as at that time we suspected their Lances to be poisned from the quantity of gum which was about their points; but upon every other occasion both there and every where else they behavd alike, shunning us and giving up any part of the countrey which we landed upon at once: and that they use stratagems in war we learnt by the instance in Sting-rays bay where our Surgeon with another man walking in the woods met 8 Indians; they stood still but directed another who was up in a tree how and when he should throw a Lance at them, which he did and on its not taking effect they all ran away as fast as possible.
Their Canoes were the only things in which we saw a manifest difference between the Southern and Northern people. Those in the Southward were little better contrivd or executed than their Houses: a peice of Bark tied together in Pleats at the ends and kept extended in the middle by small bows of wood was the whole embarkation, which carried one or two, nay we once saw three people, who movd it along in shallow water by setting with long poles; and in deeper by padling with padles about 18 inches long, one of which they held in each hand. In the middle of these Canoes was generaly a small fire upon a heap of sea weed, for what purpose intended we did not learn except perhaps to give the fisherman an opportunity of Eating fish in perfection by broiling it the moment it is taken.
To the Northward again their canoes tho exceeding bad were far superior to these. They were small but regularly hollowd out of the trunk of a tree and fitted with an outrigger to prevent them from oversetting; in these they had paddles large enough to require both hands to work them. Of this sort we saw only [ ] and had an opportunity of examining only one of them which might be about 10 or 11 feet long but was immensely narrow; the sides of the tree were left in their natural state untouch'd by tools but at each [end?] they had cut off from the under part and left part of the upper side overhanging; the inside also was not ill hollowd and the sides tolerably thin. What burthen it was capable of carrying we had many times an opportunity to see: 3 people or at most 4 were as many as dare venture in it and if any more wanted to come over the river, which in that place was about a half a mile broad, one of these would carry back the Canoe and fetch them.
This was the only peice of workmanship which I saw among the New Hollanders that seemd to require tools. How they had hollowd her out or cut the ends I cannot guess but upon the whole the work was not ill done; Indian patience might do a great deal with shells &c . without the use of stone axes, which if they had had they would propably have used to form her outside as well as inside. That such a canoe takes them up much time and trouble in the making may be concluded from our seeing so few, and still more from the moral certainty which we have that the Tribe which visited [us] and consisted to our knowledge of 21 people and may be of several more had only one such belonging to them. How tedious must it be for these people to be ferried over a river a mile or two wide by threes and fours at a time: how well therefore worth the pains for them to stock themselves better with boats if they could do it!
I am inclind to beleive that besides these Canoes the Northern People know and make use of the Bark one of the South, and that from having seen one of the small paddles left by them upon a small Island where they had been fishing for Turtle; it lay upon a heap of Turtle shells and bones, Trophies of the good living they had had when there, and with it lay a broken staff of a Turtle pegg and a rotten line, tools which had been worn out I suppose in the service of Catching them. We had great reason to beleive that at some season of the year the weather is much more moderate than we found it, otherwise the Indians never could have venturd in any canoes that we saw half so far from the main Land as Islands were on which we saw evident marks of their having been, such as decayd houses, fires, the before mentiond Turtle bones &c . May be at this more moderate time they may make and use such Canoes, and when the Blustering season comes on may convert the bark of which they were made to the purposes of covering houses, making Water buckets &c . &c . well knowing that when the next season returns they will not want a supply of bark to rebuild their vessels. Another reason we have to imagine that such a moderate season exists, and that the Winds are then upon the Eastern board as we found them, is that whatever Indian houses or sleeping places we saw on these Islands were built upon the summits of small hills if there were any, or if not, in places where no bushes or wood could intercept the course of the wind, and their shelter was always turnd to the Eastward. On the main again, their houses were universaly built in valleys, or under the shelter of trees which might defend them from the very winds which in the Islands they exposd themselves to.
Of their Language I can say very little. Our acquaintance with them was of so short a duration that none of us attempted to use a single word of it to them, consequently the list of words I have given could be got no other manner than by signs enquiring of them what in their Language signified such a thing, a method obnoxious to many mistakes: for instance a man holds in his hand a stone and asks the name of [it]: the Indian may return him for answer either the real name of a stone, one of the properties of it as hardness, roughness, smoothness &c , one of its uses or the name peculiar to some particular species of stone, which name the enquirer immediately sets down as that of a stone. To avoid however as much as Possible this inconvenience Myself and 2 or 3 more got from them as many words as we could, and having noted down those which we though[t] from circumstances we were not mistaken in we compard our lists; those in which all the lists agreed, or rather were contradicted by none, we thought our selves moraly certain not to be mistaken in. Of these my list cheefly consists, some only being added that were in only one list such as from the ease with which signs might be contrivd to ask them were thought little less certain than the others.
They very often use the article Ge which seems to answer to our English 'a' as Ge Gurka a rope.