|John Oxley - Moreton Bay - November/December 1823|
John Oxley - Moreton Bay - November/December 1823
This document is from an extract from Oxley's field books, which are in the Archives Office of New South Wales, 2/8093. The text of this extract has previously been published in a version in J.Steele's Explorers of the Moreton Bay District(1) from which this copy has been made and acknowledgement recognised. It covers Oxley's second visit to Moreton Bay and covers the date range from 29th November - 5th December 1823.
Off the Glass House, at 12. Sun's meridian altitude, 84* 19' 00". North Glass House west 25 south, Cape Moreton south 56 east.
A shoal extending 3 or 4 miles from the land, the opposite eastern extreme south by west distant 2 1/2 or 3 miles, distance off shore 3 miles.
From noon, sailed five and a-quarter miles south by east half east. Shoal water three fathoms. North Glass House, south 83* west; Cape Moreton, south 64* east. Deepened almost directly to six fathoms and within half a mile shoaled again to three fathoms. These shoals appear to extend right across from shore to shore with alternate channels of deeper water from four to six fathoms. The first shoal breaks at low water about two and three-quarter miles from the west shore. After passing through this shoal water for about one and three-quarter miles, at 3.25pm we deeped out water, having passed these shoals, which form a kind of bar across to the centre of the north portion of the bay. The North Glass House, south 87* west; Point Skirmish, about south 8* east.
We rounded Point Skirmish about 5 o'clock and observed a number of natives running along the beach towards the vessel. The foremost one appeared very much lighter in colour than the rest. We took him for a half-caste, but were to the last degree astonished when he came abreast the vessel (which had just anchored) to hear him hail us in good English. We immediately went on shore and were received by the poor man with a breathless joy, that almost deprived him of utterance.
He said his name was Thomas Pamphlett, that he left Sydney on 21st March in company with three other men, Richard Parsons, John Finigan and another whose name he does not remember, being a stranger to him when he sailed. That intending to go to the Five Islands for cedar, they were caught by a small gale of wind shortly after quitting the Heads, and were blown out of sight of land. That some days after, when the gale abated, they made land again, and thought they had been blown southward, near Jervis Bay. That under this impression they kept to the north 21 days without water, having only four gallons when they sailed. The man whose name he does not know died for want of it. Had plenty of provisions but had neither fire nor the means of procuring any. Ran the boat on shore on the outside of a large island (proved to be Moreton Island) where she was dashed to pieces. Walked round the island, fell in with natives who were universally kind to them and assisted them. There they wandered for many weeks round the shore of Moreton Bay (Glass House Bay) in entire ignorance where they were. Went up a river which they found to be fresh at some distance from the mouth. Descended in a canoe and found their way to Point Skirmish, receiving occasional assistance from the natives. That three or four months ago, still believing themselves to the south of Sydney, they set forward to the north. That himself and Finigan, being footsore, soon returned to Point Skirmish. That Parsons went on; he does not know where he now is, but thinks he is not many days' journey from this place. The natives were certainly kind to him. Finigan went upon a hunting excursion about three or four weeks ago, with the Chief of the tribe of Point Skirmish, and is now on the opposite side of the Bay.
Natives were round us in considerable numbers and seemed most friendly. Pamphlett assured us they would do no harm, and had treated him with great kindness. He afterwards gave many curious and interesting particulars respecting them, &c.
Found plenty of good, fresh water in deep swamps close to the beach, a great treasure to us who had suffered severely from bad winter.
Plenty of the Cupressus australis growing to a large size. A native burial place clase by. Endeavoured to make clear to the natives, through Bowen (our Sydney native, who understood something of what they said), and Pamphlet, our desire to see the other two white men.
Presented them with knives, ect., with which they seem much pleased. Returned on board taking Pamphlet with us. He had been out fishing and been very stressful.
Fresh winds from the southward and eastward. Sent all the water casks on shore, and preparing to examine the western shores of the Bay in the morrow.
I went on shore and examined the margin of the coast round Point Skirmish. Found plenty of cypress of large and useful dimensions and a good ornamental species of eucalyptus. The other trees were nearly similar in species to those in the vicinity of Port Macquarie, but were small and stunted. The soil, a poor, loose sand.
Obtained some of the root from the swamps, called by the natives bulwang, and used by them as bread. It is a species of fern, with a large tap-root for about two feet, which then, sending forth shoots, runs horizontally to a great distance from the parent stem. (Beaten and roasted, very palatable).
About 3 o'clock, we had the satisfaction to see a white man wading into the water from the point opposite, and on sending the boat for him, he proved to be John Finigan, whose actions, words and countenance showed how deeply he was overpowered by his sudden and unlooked deliverance.
His account of the wreck of the boat and their subsequent adventures perfectly coincided with the statement we had previously received from Pamphlet, and was somewhat clearer as to dates. His manner throughout was truly diverting, yet was perfectly original in his remarks and detail. His resignation under his sufferings and privations did high credit to the native simplicity of disposition which seemed a marked feature in his character. He spoke highly of his friend the King, and agreed with Pamphlet on praising the kind and humane treatment which they had received from the untutored beings who inhabit these shores. He quitted his companion Parsons three days after Pamphlet, being afraid from his wild language and threats that he would do him some bodily harm, as they were both reduced to the last extermity of hunger, not having seen any of their friendly natives for some days.
Finigan, soon after quitting Parsons, fell in iwht some who had seen him in Moreton Bay, and they would not suffer him to proceed northerly as was his wish, intimating to him that he would meet with people who would illuse him.
From his accound, and the day's journey they were to the north of Point Skirmish, it appears that he parted with Parsons on the banks of the south arm of Wide Bay - in a brush near which he saw some cedar trees growing, the water salt.
On the east coast of Moreton Island they saw a New Zealand canoe of large size, painted red, also a log of cedar with a staple in it. It is a singular circumstance that from the description given of the canoe it was recognised by a seaman on board as one that the Echo, south whaler, had procured in the Bay of Islands, New Zealand, when he was there. The canoe being not only remarkable by its colour, but also its size and long, projecting head.
The Echo was wrecked about two years ago on Wreck Reek. Thus it would appear that some judgement may be formed as to the set of currents on this part of the coast. Out at sea, they appear to set strong to the southward, in shore to the north, and this corresponds with my own experience on this point and with that of Captain Flinders.
The men in the boat were deceived by these currents. Leaving Sydney at a period of the year when it is known the southerly currents prevail strongest, they at once conceived they must have been set in that direction, whereas not being in the stream of that current, they were set to the north, and they were only convinced to the contrary by their falling in with us. Finigan, however, declared he thought it very strange that if they were to the south, the weather should prove so extremely hot, and that instead of getting colder, as he afterwards knew it ought to do, as the winter season was advancing, it was rapidly getting warmer every day they sailed to the north, in which direction they imagined Sydney to be. Time, they had nothing to do with. What was it to men so situated? They had long forborne to keep any account. They, however, remembered the day of the month they had left Sydney, and up to a period of 101 days. Finigan asked the day of the week and being informed it was Sydney, uttered a shout, and, I am sure a heartfelt prayer of thanks to his Beneficent Creator for his deliverance.
Calm, with rain, until 10 o'clock, then clear with winds from eastward. At 7, left the vessel to examine the west shore of the Bay, and at 12 landed on a low mangrove island at the entrance of a considerable river, carrying from the main part of the Bay to the inlet in which it lays, two and a-half fathoms, stiff mud.
Station 1st. - Redcliff Point, north 62 1/2* east, 2 [miles] in line with point of island, 10 chains; on the point to the south-east, north 150*, one and a-half mile. Inner point opposite, north 164* half mile, narrowing to one-quarter, the channel on the island side off the point, of which runs a sand spit about 30 chains to the eastward. Tree up the river on west bank, north 251*, one and a-half [miles].
Stations 2. - Short last station 30 cahins, north 175* 50 chains. Full of low mangrove island and shoals, width about one-quarter mile. The river to end of this station very narrow, six or seven chains, but deep, five fathoms.
Station 3. - On Larboard shore, north 287* 60 chains, cutting a low mangrove point on opposite shore. Shores on both sides low, six to eight feet water at low water; north 306* 40 low and swampy. North 325* 30; north 297* 30. Finding the stream had its source in swamps and not from the mountains, did not pursue it further. Where we left off, the water was brackish, and there were a great many very fine cypresses. Ascended a small hill on right, of good soil. Saw the stream had a weir across a little higher up. Much good timber of the eucalyptus species, with she-oak (casuarina) and dog-wood. The natives are very numerous on the shores of this inlet, and came down in great numbers, trying all methods in their power to induce us to land, waving green boughs, holding up their necklaces, ect. Several waded off to the boat, to whom we gave biscuit, which they ate.
After pulling out of the inlet, we landed at sun-set on a point. Stony, good land, about three miles to the south-east of the entrance in to the inlet we had examined, and round which is a shoal inlet. Plenty of fresh water and grass.
Calm and fine. At 6 we again embarked and pulled along the shores of the harbour. At 8, we entered the mouth of a very large river, having three and four fathoms. The islands in the main Bay apparently closing up the mouth of the river, which, between those islands and the main land, is about two miles wide. Proceeded up the river, and at the end of the first reach, having four fathoms, close to the starboard shore, landed to take bearings.
Station 1st., Point A. - Opposite, a low mangrove point jutting out from the higher mainland, north 175*, half mile. Extremes of an island opposite, from north 188* to 215*, distance half and three-quarter mile, a passage round it between it and the main [land]. An island up the river being intended next station, North 224*, one and a-half mile. Line of starboard shore, north 231*.
Station 2nd., on the Larboard Shore. - A sand-stone, rocky bluff, grass tree, spotted gum, dow-wood and barren. Point D, north 331* 40 chains. Reach up, to a tree on the starboard shore, north 277*, two and three-quarter miles. Just open of the point on larboard shore. Line of shore, north 265* for three-quarter miles, ridge of stony forest land to this station. The larboard shore has been tolerable high ridge of forest land, the starboard shore low and swampy. The river above widens in an elbow to full three-quarter wide, a good three fathoms channel, high peak (Flinders) north 291 1/2*.
Station 3rd., on Rocky Point on Starboard Shore. - A small stream to larboard. Next station north 156 3/4, two miles, point on southward shore forming a D. North 160*, on [line] with the summit of a high mount on larboard shore. The soundings to this station from three fathoms in the wide part to ten fathoms in the narrows. The river very beautiful, specs. of rock, Coy. and timber good, opposite point low. Station 4, on Larboard Shore. - A tree on larboard shore. Next station, north 238* 80 chains. The opposite side low brush land. This side high, stony land. The water brackish. The depth of water to this station from six to 11 fathoms.
Station 4, on Larboard Shore. - A tree on larboard shore. Next station, north 238* 80 chains. The opposite side low brush land. This side high, stony land. The water brackish. The depth of water to this station from six to 11 fathoms.
Station 5, on Larboard Shore - Open forest land, soil sandy, covered with grass, ironbark trees good. Next station on starboard shore under a high ridge, north 330* one and a-quarter mile. The bank of the river this side ends on a forest point. Opposite shore, low brush.
Station 6, on Starboard Shore. - Landed on a high, rocky bluff, opposite shore low and open forest, covered with grass. Sounding to this station from five to 11 fathoms. Medium breadth of river between one-fifth and one-sixth of a marine mile. Up to this point, we have found navigable for ships of any size, the water nearly fresh. North 230* 20 chains to a tree on bend of river this side. We dined at this station and ascended the bank in hopes of recognising some object on the coast, but the timber and brush prevented us. We, however, discovered that we were not in the vicinity of any high land.
Station 7. - Ten fathoms to this station. Larboard shore rather low. Next station, north 169* 60 chains. On this side the land low and brushy with a few cypress. The station, a bold perpendicular rock.
Station 8. - At foot of high, rocky bank, opposite side, low and brushy. Next station, north 262 1/2* 40 chains, to which open forest land. Soundings to this station from four to 10 fathoms.
Station 9. - To this station seven to 10 fathoms. Opposite side low land gradually rising to the next station. On this side the land descends to a low point, one mile. Next station North 317*, one and a-quarter miel to tree on opposite shore.
Station 10. - From this station to the next on the same shore, the river forms a magnificent cresent of two and a-half miles of forest land. The larboard shore, a thick brush with some cypress. Soundings from three and a-half to 11 fathoms. Next station, north 219* two miles. Marks of the tide rising above the point of tide from four to five feet.
Station 11, on Starboard Side. - Which still continues low, open forest, good grass and iron-bark trees; opposite side, rich, low brush. Next station on this shore, north 173 1/2* 40 chains.
Station 12. - At this station, the low land on starboard shore commences, having cypress intermingled with the brush. The next station on larboard shore, north 85* one and a-half to a high, rocky bank, being the commencement of the high land on that side. Soundings from the last station, seven to 11 fathoms. River narrows to ten chains.
Station 13. - High, rocky land, Larboard side low thick brush. Soundings from four to 11 fathoms. Next station on this shore, north 135* three-quarter mile, being the termination of forest land, and commencement of brush.
Station 14. - To brush on this shore. Four to 10 fathoms to this station. Next station, nroth 236* one mile, brush on starboard shore on a piece of forest land. River quite fresh, low water. The tide has a rise of at least five feet and up to this point, a distance of 20 miles, the river is navigable for vessels of any burthen; (a rock midway in river).
Calm and sultry. We passed a miserable night, mosquitoes and sandflies almost devoured us. At half-past five, resumed the examination of the river. Landed on high bank starboard shore.
Station 1st. - North 178* three-quarter mile to a brush same side, opposite side brush land. Five to ten fathoms to this station. Low water20 minutes to 7 o'clock.
Station 2nd. - Brush lands. Height above the water about 15 to 20 feet, opposite side brush land. Next station on larboard shore, north 85* one mile. River quarter mile wide and very noble reaches, shores muddy. A large lagoon at this station.
Station 3. - At a brush on larboard shore. Soundings to this station from five to eight fathoms. Next station on larboard shore to a brush, north 183* three-quarter mile.
Station 4. - To this station soundings five and six fathoms. River about 30 chains wide, water very muddy. Rich brush land on both sides. Next station on larboard shore north 261* one mile. Much cypress on larboard shore. Landed and examined the brush. It abounds with noble timber; specimens of two new species we procured: one, a piece of noble dimensions, the other a black, heavy wood of great size. The soil uncommonly rich, from 10, 15 to 30 feet above the river. No floods. We also discovered that the tree which we had hitherto taken for cypress is this new description of pine, from 100 to 140 feet high.
Station 5. - At the mouth of a small river, which we called Canoe River, being the spot where Parson and his companions found a canoe in which they went down the river. To the next station, forest land rising back two miles to a lofty ridge. North 308* two miles.
Station 6. - At foot of high bank. To Canoe River, navigable for large ships, afterwards, owing to the great breadth of the river, the water shoaled to two fathoms at low water, but towards this station deepened again to five and six fathoms; opposite side brush. Next station north 246* 40 chains. Saw three natives, evidently strangers to white people.
Station 7. - To this station soundings five to seven fathoms. Next station on starboard shore, north 182 1/2* one and a-half mile, moderate high land.
Station 8. - Soundings five and seven fathoms, forest land. Next station on larboard shore north 143 1/2* one mile.
Station 9. - Rich land on both sides, four to six fathoms. Next station on starboard shore north 189* three-quarter mile.
Station 10. - Five to seven fathoms. Next station rocky bank on larboard shore, north 139* 50 cahins. This side rich brush.
Station 11. - Four to eight fathoms. High bank this side between it and next station which is high and rocky. On same side is a brush, pine, ect. North 243* 40 chains.
Station 12. - To this station four to six fathoms. Starboard shore, low brush. This side high and rocky, thin brush to next station. North 313* one mile. Passed 313* and went to a station on starboard shore crossing a reef of rocks, having two fathoms on them, then deepened to five fathoms, the tide rushing over them like a bore.
Station 13. - On starboard shore. Next station on starboard shore, north 293* one and half mile, three to six fathoms.
Station 14. - Forest land on starboard shore, brush on larboard. Next station north 256* one and three-quarter mile.
Station 15. - To this station three to nine fathoms. Reaches fine and broad. Next station to base of sloping, clear hills on larboard shore, north 179* one mile.
Station 16. - Three to nine fathoms to this station. Fine clear hill, then commences low. Opposite side fine, rich, forest land. Small apple tree (angophora). Next station north 254* to base of rocky hill on starboard shore two and a-quarter miles. Natives.
Station 17. - To larboard shore. Soundings to this station three to eight fathoms; fine forest land on both sides. Timber, chiefly eucalyptus and apple tree. Next station on larboard shore, north 153 1/2* one mile.
Station 18. - To this station, soundings from three to seven fathoms. Good forest flat on both sides, hills low. Next station on starboard shore, north 242* one mile.
Station 19. - On starboard shore. Soundings three to nine fathoms; high, flat bank of rich land. Next station, north 125* one mile. Ascended the bank. The country very open and generally to be called quite level, the inequality being very slight, no high land in any quarter. The soil a rich, sandy loam; gum and apple trees.
Station 20. - Soundings various from three to eight fathoms. A shoal in middle of river. On this side begins low brush land, opposite side gentle rising of open land to a small brush. Next station, north 215* one and a-quarter mile.
Station 21. - Five to seven fathoms. River narrows, brush on both sides, the larboard shore the lowest. At end of the next station, the land rises, and is to that station higher brush land. Flood tide still continues, and hills, none of moderate elevation visible, nor anything resembling rapids or denoting a mountainous sources; no sign whatever of flood. [Next station] north 152* one and a-quarter mile.
Station 22. - High flat or rich land on this starboard side. Opposite side low and brushy, rising to a low hill. Next station, north 124* three-quarter mile. Great abundance of kurrajong and various climbing plants in full flower under. The river scenery very beautiful. Passed an island. All on the right a level country, iron-bark trees. Country good.
Station 23. High, hilly bank to the end of next station on larboard side, then begins brush. Opposite shore, low flat of rich land with very large gum trees near the water side. Soundings from two fathoms to three and a-half. Breadth or river uniform.
North 166* three-quarter mile. Landed on the starboard shore, a rich flat. The flood tide being down above an hour (high water half-past one), and the men extremely fatigued with rowing eight hours under a burning sun. Soundings three to seven fathoms and an indication of a rise at times above the line of the river of about seven feet. The force of the ebb and current not equal to the flood. Every appearance indicates that the river may continue navigable to as great a distance as we have hitherto come. It is remarkable that the tide here should nearly equal in height the Bay tide. After taking refreshments, landed on the larboard shore and ascended a small hill, poor land, good timber.
Bend of river up - north 262* one and a-half mile, then turns southerly. A distant mountain which I take to be in the vicinity of Mt Warning, if not the mount itself, north 178 1/2*, distant 25 or 30 miles. Round from this point to the north-west, I should consider the country to decline in elevation rather than otherwise. It appeared, in fact, an immense extended plain of which no great portion was visible, the point of view being little elevated above the country around. The hill might be about 120 feet above the water. The only hills or six or eight hundred feet in height were those we had passed to the northward. This appearance of the country, the slowness of the current and depth of water induce me to conclude that the river will be found navigable for vessels of burden to a very considerable distance, probably, at the least, 50 miles.
I cannot help entertaining a strong belief that this is no river having its source in mountain streams. I see none give them. On the contrary, my opinion is strongly in favour of its deriving its source in an interior lake. Whichever turns out to be the case, it is by far the largest river in New South Wales and promises to be of utmost importance to the colony from the very fertile country it passes through, affording the means of water communication with the sea to a vast extent of country, the greater portion of which is capable of producing the richest productions of the tropics.
Examined the country to the south-east, a gently undulating forest country of good soil and timber, declining in low valleys towards the south, the peak of a mountain being the only elevated land in the direction from north-east to south. I had not contemplated such a discovery, and was therefore totally unprovided with the present means of ascertaining how much further the river was naviglable. We were about 70 miles from the vessel and our provisions were only calculated for the present day. The entrance of the river was also to be sounded and its positions fixed, as also a large island (near the entrance which from a cursory view, I was induced to think might prove eligible as a primary place of settlement) required to be examined.
I therefore determined to return down the river as far as the Green Hill, and afterwards to proceed to determine such points as are mentioned above, the great object of a large navigable, having its source in the interior, being ascertained.
Other points seemed of minor consequences, besides, its extent of course westerly could be ascertained very readily at a period when more time could be devoted to an object of such importance.
Peak of Flinders, 193*
Apparent course of river, 258* or 246*.
Distance, 25 miles.
Murdoch's Peak, 200*.
Another lower peak, 196*.
of these bearings Mt. Warning rose like a huge atlas over the surrounding country, the range of which it is the nucleus gradually losing itself to the west. From south to north-west we scarcely saw a hill, and we could have seen any within 50 or 60 miles.
Descended the river. Examined the right bank near the end of Sea Reach. Fresh water and tolerable land, passed through between the island having two fathoms at low water shortly deep to three and a-half. This channel, though narrow, seems the best. Other channels may be found however, as the river is very wide.
It was dark when we got to the entrance of the river. We could not land on any part of the mainland for mangrove island, covered by the tide as spring tides. We had scarce pitched the tents on this bank before we had a very heavy storm of wind and rain, with thunder and lightning, which lasted about two hours, wetting us and added to the comforts of innumerable hosts of mosquitoes.
Calm and clear. Took the following bearings to determine the entrance of the river.
Point A up, 217 1/2*.
Extreme of the point of mainland opposite starboard channel from 15 to 20 chains wide, shoal one mile from point to point: 212 1/2* to 87*. South extreme of Inner Concealment Island, two and a-quarter miles: 87*. North extreme of Inner Concealment Island, one and a-half miles; This small island connected with it by dry sand shoal: 33*.
North extreme of North Concealment Island, distant about two and three-qurater miles:22*.
Point Uniack, being the west point two miles of entrance and east point of a low mangrove island close to sand spit: 3*. West extreme of [that island], three-quarter mile long; 356*.
West point of low mangrove island, 278* one mile.