A Curious Case of Shipwreck
The brig Amity has brought to Sydney a man of the name of Richard Parsons, who was shipwrecked in Moreton Bay, about two years ago. This man gives a very curious account of his misfortunates and adventures. It appears that he was originally a sawyer. He had entered into the Five Islands trade. By his earnings he had saved about 50 guineas; with which he purchased the half of a boat; three others joining him in the speculation. They intended to fetch timber to Sydney. With their first trip commenced their misfortunates. They were blown off the shore by a heavy gale of wind; and after been driven about, after 20 days, during which one of the three died, at last reached Moreton Bay.
When first they fell in with the natives, these were timid, and avoided them. They, however, succeeded in making an acquaintance with them, and in a short time got quite friendly. When they had lived among the natives in the neighbourhood of Moreton Bay, for three or four months, Parsons wished to explore his way to Sydney, along the coast, but his companions would not accompany him, as they thought themselves well off where they were. The natives gave them nets to catch fish, and showed them where to find and how to use the bungwa (65), as they call it - a very nutritious root, something like ferne, but larger; it is found in swamps.
The natives also taught them what they could of their language. Parsons, at length, set out alone, and as he thought towards Sydney. Unluckily, however, he proceeded northward. He continued this course until he had travelled four or five hundred miles along the coast, and only began to suspect his error by the extreme heat which he felt, as he advanced. In his progress he fell in with various tribes of natives, who for the most part avoided him, at first seeing him. When he could not entice them to come near him, he strategem usually succeeded. They would then come and offer him fish and be very friendly. At all time he found men very jealous of the women, who often were not allowed to present any thing; for the men would give it themselves to him. This feeling he describes as pervading the whole tribes he fell in with, in a greater or less degree. He was about three months in going, and about four or five months in returning.
He suffered many hardships in going, and was frequently three or four nights without food; he fared better on his return, as he got more acquainted with the natives. He was fourteen months without any article of dress. His progress was much impeded by large rivers, which he usually swam across. When in want of fresh water, he commonly found it by travelling three or four miles to the westward. The rivers he crossed were all of salt water. The widest he fell in with is the River Brisbane. He found one much deeper and with more rapid current, more to the northward. The huts of the natives are much the same as those built by the natives in this settlement, but larger and stronger. The natives are a stouter and more athletic race of men than we have been accustomed to see here.
He described the land, wherever he has been, to be very sandy and poor; worse even the Broken Bay. He had seen no rain for twelve months. The country is covered with thick scrubs and vines. He found a great deal of pine and iron bark; she oak, swamp oak, and a kind of spotted gum. Some timber he found good, some very bad; both the land and timber are best near Brisbane River. There is some good timber on the large river he found to the northward of the other. Currijong is found in great abundance in the interior. He was on his travels when the first ship went to Moreton Bay. The two men that stayed behind him left the place on that occasion.
Mr. Oxley left a memorandum in a bottle to give Parsons away to a distance of 50 or 60 miles, by the natives; but when he came back, it was brought to him. He was never in any danger from the natives except once. A female brought him some fish and he attempted a little familiarity with her, when on a sudden a great number of the natives started up, and in a menacing attitude called out to him to let natives started up, and uniform kindness to him, that they were sure to offer him the best fish they there would not allow him to quit them; and he was obliged, at last, to watch they came on board to give him a fishing net, in order as they told him to get his living in the country he was going to.
The only mode that he had of computing time was by watching the new moon, and then cutting a notch. These facts, especially such as related to the desposition of the natives, we considered important, as they show that by avoiding harsh treatment in the first instance, many misunderstandings may be avoided between the whites and the blacks.