Jacob Nagle | State Library of New South Wales

Jacob Nagle (1761 - 1841)

The account of seaman Jacob Nagle was written some 40 years after the events it describes and provides the perspective of the common sailor. Jacob Nagle was born in the American colony of Pennsylvania in 1761. He fought in the American War of Independence and served time as a prisoner of war of the British as a result. Following the American Revolutionary War in 1783, Nagle joined the Royal Navy and was transferred to the Sirius, as Able Seaman, in March 1787. He sailed with the First Fleet on the Sirius.

At Botany Bay, in January 1788, he was part of Phillip’s boating party exploring the coast and harbour, looking for a better site to found the colony.

The Sirius, with Nagle aboard, was sent to Norfolk Island in March 1790 where the ship was lost on a reef, stranding her crew until they were taken back to Sydney Cove in February 1791.

Nagle returned to England and was paid off at Portsmouth in 1792. He died in Ohio, United States of America, in 1841.

Nagle's journal was acquired by the Library in 1995.

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Transcript: Jacob Nagle, his Book A.D. One Thousand Eight Hundred and Twenty Nine May 19th. Canton. Stark County Ohio, 22-26 January 1788

Partial transcription (22-26 January 1788)

[page 81]
the fleet into two devisions Supposing the would Arive Sooner he went into the Supply Brig & took half of the best sailors & we Remained with the Rest the Ship Lady Pennereen would have Steering Sails alow & aloff as long as She was able to Carry them at the Same time Our topsails would be on the Cap however After we got Round the South end of Van demon's land We ware struck by a White Squall & lay us Upon Our beam End taking in Sail She Rightened & I went up to pass the gasket Round the Main top Mast Staysail as soon as I jumped on the Sail to Ride it down the Wind blew me Off like a feather but ketching One of the leaslines brought me upright & I fell on the bithead without being much hurt the Officors thinking I was kill'd but I went up the lee Riging & furled the Sail Most Ships in the fleet Received Sum damage we arived in botnay Bay Sum time in the latter part of January as near as I Can Conjecture the govener Arived Early Twenty four hours before us though the Ware all the best Sailing Ships in the Morning all the Ships

[page 82]
laying at a Single Anchor we cut boats & Went on Shore with the Govener & a Number of the Officers we landed on the South Side of the Bay where we found a fine Run of Water & Immediately we begin to Clear Out the Run which was full of dry leaves & wet old lims I getting into a deap hold I hall'd up a Spunge from the bottom as big as a gallon Missure[?] Which I gave to the doctor the Natives Came down to us & Apeared as though the did not Aprove of Our Visit when we ware going on board Again the govener Atempted to be Very friendly with them but the Came with Spears & a bark Shield when we ware all in the boats Excepting Capn Ball the begin to be Mischeivous but he took one of their Shields & Sit it up against an Old Stump of a tree & fired One of his pistols at it which fritened them when the heard the report but Much More when the saw the ball went through the Shield which Cooled them we went on board & three boats got Ready to go Round to Port jackson we took three Days provisions & a Number of Officers & Sum Marines in the Morning we Started it being about 5 Leagues by Water but we found Afterwards it was not More than 5 or 6 by land we Arived in the After Noon & Run up Middle harbour to the Westward & then a Sircular Round to a bay that govener Phillip Call'd Manly bay & Survay'd Round till we Came into the S.W. branch

[page 83]
it then Coming on dark we landed on a Beach on the South Side & there pitched Our tents for the Night this place was Call'd Camp Cove the Marines were put on their posts & the Sailors was Employed Variously Sum getting Out the Cooking Youtentials Sum making fires & then shooting the Seane For fish by the time we got Out Suppers it was late in the Night & by Four in the Morning we had everything in the boats Again & on Our Oars with One Man at the led to Sound Out of One Cove into another Capt Hunter Mr Bradly Leughn &the Master taking a draught of the Soundings likewise the distances we Eat our breckfast On our Seats & pulling all day the harbour was so large and extensive & the govener Anxious to get to the head of it but we Could not at length we got as far as where the town is now Call'd Sidney Cove & landed at the West Side of the Cove along Shore was all Bushes but a Small distance at the head of the Cove was level & large trees & no Underwood worth mentioning & a Run of fresh Water Runing down into the Center of the Cove the Govener & Officers & Seamen Went up to a aleet[?] it. I Remained in the Boat being boatkeeper I hove my line over being 4 or 5 fathom Water Along Side of the Rocks & I ketched a large Black Brim & hove it into the Stern Sheets of the Boat the govener Came down determined to Settle here & Observed the fish I had hall'd in & asked Who had Caught

Partial transcription (25 November 1789)

[page 90]
Kinds of Birds Small Birds with Beautiful Colours Cockatoos both Milk white with - Yallow top Nots Likewise Black Ones Some Swans Curloos the Eagle falkon Bustards patridges the goveners hunter Shot a Bird about Seven foot When on his feet which Could Run & flutter with his Short Wings faster than a horse or a hound Calld Cassowary pelicans Ducks

There is different kinds of Animals but the Kangooroo is the Chies The lep on the hind legs which is Very long & supported by a Strong tail with a false Belly which their Yous go into when in danger the Will lep 20 or 30 feet at a lep the fore feet are very Short Some have been Shot of two hundred Wt! The Native dogs are of a fox Colour though I never heard them bark the Resemble the fox but larger & the tail Rather Bushy.

The Natives here Are the Most Misserables on the See Coast I ever Saw the have Som huts of bark but when the Wr is Cool the generally get on lee Side of the harbour in the Caves & hollow Rocks & the Always Carry fier with them to Kindle a Small fier at the entrence or Otherwise in the middle of the Cave the Chiefly live on fish I have Seen them eating a Yellow Root but it was so Noxious And Slimy that I Could not bare it in My Mouth I have Seen them so Ignorant that when they would Take up a fish & put it behing them that You Should not see it the Would turn

[page 91]
Round & Walk away With the fish in their hand Remaining behind in full Vew Of us all I have Observed that the all Want One tooth & a joint off the little
Finger they have a hole through the grissle of their Nose which the Can put a Bone or a Small Stick through lighting to a Spritsail Yard their is Sum tall but Slender Bone & ill Made the Men have Bushy Beards & Very large Mouth but good teeth if the Ketch any fish the will Stick the guts in the hair of their head their Lines is Made of a kind of bark that grows Round the Beach Cabbidge tree which is Very Strong their fish hooks is made of Shells in the Shape of a New Moon & fastened to the line their Spears they will heave 4 or 5 hundred Yards the have Clubs is Pointed at both ends & a hold burnt in the Middle to hold it with a Bark Shiel in the Arm for Close Quarters being down in Manly Bay with the Govener three boats of us we Saw an Action between two parties the One as we Supposed to be from the Interier the fought on the Rising ground Nearly in frunt of us as we lay in Our Boats the fought Spear in hand with great dexterity for Nearly an hour when the Interier Party Apeared to gain the Victory the Others having to Retreat with their Wimmen & Children Screaching & Hallowing at a dredful Rate till they Ware Out of hearing

[Page 92]
It was Always the goveners Studdy to Cultivate & Naturelise those Natives as Much as possible we had One girl the govener Clothed & kept her at the hospittle With Docr White as he wish to find out their language during this time the fleet that Came Out with us ware all gone though it would be proper to mention a trick that One of the convicts was guilty of during the time The Shipping lay there the Captains of those Transports had with them a good deal of Venture & this Convict by Sum Means got holt of a half guinea & with the filings of other Mettle & that filed with it brought it to One of the Capn to barter for liquor & other article & told him he Could find More gold dust when Opportunity Served, it was amediately Rumered that gold dust was found & it came to the goveners ears he Must Either tell where he found it or be punished he Said he Would Show them the boats ware Ordered to be Ready & down the harbour they Went but he Could not find any he was brought back & Made to Confess the truth & when all was found Out he got a Severe floging for his Making fools of the public

The Kings Birthday drawing on the supply Brig was Sent Out to Some of the Islands for turkle & Returned with Some that was Served Out as far as it would go Two of the Prisoners was Condemned to pinch gut Island the Rock before Mentioned for Three Year Upon Bd & Water but the did not Remain the hole time as the govener forgave them I Believe

[page 93]
if I Recollect right it Was for killing a goat belonging to the Parson & eating it About this time the Cattle we brought from the Cape of good hope ware all Missing in One Night & not to be found though a Search was Made upon all directions but in the Year 92 the have been Since found Runing Wild & greatly Increased though the Interior We ware Ordered to have the Boat Ready to go down the harbour with the Govener Dc White Capn Johnston & a Number of Other Officers their was three boats as the Govener had a design of taking Sum of the heads of the Natives to Natrulise them we landed in Manly Bay the Natives Came to us & we ware Very friendly & the Govener Apointed the two that ware to be Seiced & put into the boat One War Call'd Bennelong the Other's Name I do not Recollect but the Ware the head Warriers of those tribes When the Sigl was given by the Govener the Boats Crews Seiced them & Carried them into the boats in an Instant the Spears Begin to fly the Officers & Sum Marines firing Upon them but loosing their Chiefs the Ware Verry Resolute but Retreating in the Bush & the hove their Spears at Random & Capn Jonston Kept to Study and quick fier Upon them that we got off with both the Warriers and

[page 94]
Brought them to town the Govener Kept them in his Own house till Such times as he had a Small house Built on Cattle point on the East Side of the Cove the War Both Sent to England Afterward & One of them died on the Passage & the Other Returned again in One of those Excursion the Govener had Nearly lost his life in the North branch a Spear that was hove from the Natives went through his Right breast & came Out behind the doctor not having Materials with him he dare not take the Spear Out but Cut it off & it Remained in him till the Boats Crew pulled him to Sidney Cove the pulled with all their might till the arived in the Meantime the Govener & bore it with the Greatest Patience and Made his Will & Settled & his affairs in the Boat Not Expecting to live as Soon as the Arived the doctor drew the Spear Out & Stoped the Blood & he Recoverd & the Coxswain had a Spear Sent throug his Right Arm & he Recovered if the found us without Arms the Would take over Advantage in the latter part we ware Allowed to have a Musket in the boat which Made them Shier of us the Govener at this time had a Two Story Stone house built by One the Convicts

[page 95]

in Short Allowance & no Signs of a Ship from England the Sirius begin to fit Out for the Cape of good hope & as Soon as She was Complete we Sailed Bd to the S.E. Round Cape horn we had been Out a few Weeks when We Ware Surprised to See land as we Supposed the Whole Ships Crew Came on deck to View it the Capn & First Leutenant brought their Charts on deck & Over hall'd them Could not find Any land near us by the charts & their Reconing we did not Apear to be More than Two or Three Miles from it & we ware Stearing Right for it the lead was Ordered to be hove but no bottom we Could See the Surfe Rolling on the Sandy beach the trees & hills in Sum Plases like Yellow Clay Others brush &Woods &farther in the Interiar high Mountains & while gasing by all hands it begin to Vanish Away & proved to be cape Flyaway One Night before we Made the Cape Our third Leutenant having the watch Mr Maxwell by Name having a fine Breeze Quarterly he begin to Set all Sail that he Could & at 12 o'Clock when the Other Watch was Call'd up begin to Set the Shearing sails though the Wind was getting fresher & fresher till the Ship lay down Sufficient to heave the Capn Out of his Cot The Capn got on deck in his Shirt & begin to take in Sail as fast as possible

Partial transcription (19 March 1790)

[page 104]
Capn Ball of the Supply Brig hailed us & inform'd Capn hunter that we ware two Close in the Swell of the Surf having holt of us though it did not brake & Capn Ball being at a distance OutSide of us purseiv'd it sooner than we did Immediately we Made all Sail that we Could Set & a light Breeze off Shore but it all availed Not the Swell was Stronger than the Wind & the Swell Still driving us in we Atempted & did let go an Anchor thinking to Work Out but the Picks Cut the Cable the first & Second time we Struck we Opened the Main hatch & Sounded & had 4 foot Water in the hold we Ware then About Three Quarters or half a Mile from the Shore & as the Rocks Cut hur Bottom away the Ballace & &big Ballace fell Out & a heavy Surf Rolling Aboard of hur Still drove hur further in but before the Swell broke we got a boat a long Side & Sent Capn Cooks time peace & two wimen One being pregnant on Shore the ware Wives to two of the musicioners the got Safe on Shore the Capn then Ordered the Mast to be Cut away by Cutting the Lanyards of the larbourt Rigging the Mast All Went

[page 105]
together a long Side by this time the Surf Rolled heavy Against us but having a Spar deck it Sheltered us the Commandr gave Orders to Open the After hatch way & Stave all the Liquor that Could be got at to prevent the Seamen from getting drunk we began to Secure Our Clothing in Our Chests & lashd Them Well with Cords & hove them Over doard thinking the Surf Would take them on Shore but being a Strong Current Setting to the Westward the Ware Carried to see & we lost all but what we had on at length we got a harser on Shore be heaving a Cask Over board witrh a small line bent to it & from that a harser with the heart of the forestay on it and halline line both on shore and a board to hall it backwards & forwards with a gratin Slung to it to Sit on by that Means the Capn & Sum Officers & a Number of the Men got on Shore at least to the Reef which was a good distance from the Shore & from thence the boats took them the harser was made fast to a large pine Tree & hove tough by Our Captain and on the Reef was Made a Triangle with

[page 106]
Our fire booms to keep it as high as possible & Still when the Ware halling them on Shore the Would be Under Water a Considerable time the Surf Rolling Over them to a great hight Mr Bradly First Leutent & a Number of us More Remained on Bd all Night Under the Spar deck the Surf rolling on Bd so heavy during the Night that we expected She would go to peases before morning...

[page 107]

About 700 on the Island Men and Woman Convicts Sailors & Soldiers & Officers Excepting Sum of Our Officers that Returned to Sidney Cove in the Supply Brig to inform the Govener of Our Misfortune the Govenor not Nowing what time a fleet would Arive from England Amediately Sent the Supply Brig Away to betavia to take up a Vessel & land her with Rice for the Collonny in Sidney the ware put on 6 upon 4 Mens Allowance though Ours was Quite different Leut Govenor Ross was a merciless Commander either for free Man or prisoners he laid us Under Three different laws the Seamen Ware Still Under the Navel laws the Soldiers Under the Millitery Laws Besides the Sivel law & a Marchial Law of his Own directions with Strict Orders to be Attended to for the Smallest Crime Whatever or neglect of duty we ware now Ordered to get on Bd the Sirius as Many as Could to Save all the Provisions we Could there was 13 of the best Swimmers with a Masters mate got on board when the tide was Upon the half ebb the Men could work on the Reef & we on Bd would Send it on Shore to them by the halling lines we Cut away the Stern to Make a port to Sling the Casks & when the Could not Work on the Reef