Friday 25 November 1836

[, on board the wrote. | Read source notes.]

Extracts from a Memoranda of a residence in Holdfast Bay
By Robert Gouger                       Copied by S.A.G.
Novr 25th Though the “Africaine” anchored here on the 9th ult for the purpose of discharging cargo, I have been obliged to neglect my journal in consequence of the many calls upon my time, therefore the accounts which follow may not be given in chronological order. On landing with Col. Light on the 10th we were informed by Mr Field (the 1st officer of the “Rapid”) that a river had been recently discovered running apparently into the Creek, known by the name of “16-miles Creek” – that he had seen it, & said it was of important magnitude. This being the case it became a question whether or not the “Africaine” should at once commence the discharge of her passengers & cargo, or wait the report of the Colonel. With a view to the settlement of this question, Col. Light, accompanied by Capt Duff, Mr Brown, & myself, started the next day upon a walking expedition to the River. At a distance of about 5 miles we came within sight of it; it ran through a low swampy country covered with most luxuriant grass, & skirting a range of beautiful well wooded hills, from the centre of which line rose Mount Lofty. We did not prolong our excursion, as the Col. felt satisfied that the river would be found to run to the Creek; but as from the nature of the country he thought the investigation might last some days, he felt a desire to strengthen the party at Holdfast Bay, & disembark there at once. He was also anxious to land without loss of time, as the whole Surveying party (officers & men) had been unprovided with fresh meat since their arrival, & he thought it necessary to give them a change of food, & considered the most advantageous course would be to dispatch the “Africaine” to Van Dieman’s Land for the purpose of bringing sheep & oxen to the Colony.

The next day therefore saw the ship’s boat busily employed in landing passengers & Cargo. The question now was, where to pitch our tent & build our hut. Mr Kingston (the deputy Surveyor-General), with his men were located about a mile from the beach, but I at once determined to go further in search of a place for my temporary abode. I at length determined on a spot shaded by large gum trees, in the middle of a meadow covered with pasture of a richness hardly to be surpassed, and more within the precincts of the Surveyors’ tents. The next day therefore saw the tent struck and erected on the newly chosen site. Mr Brown chose the side of a sand-hill, being allured by the shade of a large tea-tree xxxxx The first thing to be done in my case was to transport my packages from the beach to the tent, a distance of little more than a mile (but not of British turnpike road, nor with the aid of waggon & horses). My only assistants were Pollard, my boy Alfred, & a portable truck which I had brought from England. The road was first a deep sand, then an uneven field covered with high grass, & intersected by 2 gullies, which in the wet season doubtless bring down water to the rivulet running into Holdfast Bay; but they were now fortunately dry. Three journeys from the beach to the tent with laden truck were a good day’s work. The heat was sometimes very oppressive, & the mosquitos troublesome; but the flies are afflicting! Nothing can equal their cruel perseverance. They settle upon the face in myriads, & tickle tormentingly but their chief delight is the eye. At length protection was sought by wearing veils & thus accoutred we “wended out weary way”. While these toils were going on, Harriet had the refuge of the ship, to which also I  returned every evening, not however without being obliged to wade breast-high in the sea to reach the boat, which, except at particular times of the tide, could not get over a sand bank about 20 yds from the beach. At length the time arrived when H.’s affectionate impatience to aid me would not be restrained, and on Saturday

Nov.19th we left the “Africaine” and took up our residence in the tent. Troops of Mosquitos entertained us with their music, & we, in return, entertained them with a full repast, & in the morning we were well nigh in a fever from their visitation. It is not however from these insects alone that annoyance has been felt, as scarcely a day passes without something turning up to excite surprise if not apprehension. Within 2 yards of the tent, 5 Centipedes of about 5 inches long have been caught – one actually in the tent, & one night I put my hand within an inch of a large scorpion. Enormous ants and very small frogs abound also in our tent, but the first of these is harmless, & the others cause us no disturbance. Were I at the present moment obliged to record an opinion of the climate of S. Australia I should certainly speak in its dispraise. We have had frequent gales of wind, & the changes from heat to cold have been somewhat extraordinary; in one instance, within 12 hours the thermometer ranged between 105E & 50E, both in the shade. It would however be premature to pronounce an opinion, and I endeavour to console myself and others with the assurance that when the clearing of land & cultivation shall have commenced, many of the annoyances will no longer exist. Some of the emigrants brought with them tents, & those generally are insufficient habitations for day or night, in consequence of their being single. My own tent, being double, is in comparison with any in the Colony, a very comfortable residence – the outside being of draped cloth, not one drop of rain has entered. Two of my friends tried to sleep in my tent one rainy night while holding umbrellas over them – so little does a single tent avail. Mine also has a verandah which serves as a store-room, thereby keeping the interior in excellent order & neatness, & a boarded floor which I have laid down is a luxury of much importance. It is however the only one yet in the Colony, though nearly 50 habitations of various kinds have been erected. Those who did not provide tents have built huts, for which every facility exists, there being a little forest of straight poles about a mile off, & plenty of long sedge-grass wherewith to thatch them. Game is in great abundance on the plain; it is almost impossible to walk 200 yds without putting up quails, wild ducks, & other water fowl are to be met with constantly on the river & in the lagoons. White cockatoos, parrots, & parroquets of splendid plumage are to be found on almost every other tree. These, & a peculiar kind of plover are excellent eating. Kangaroos are plentiful – one fine fellow (nearly as large as a jackass) with his mate, bounded by within 20 yds of my tent yesterday while I was carpentering, but had passed out of reach before I could get my rifle – though loaded in the tent. Fish are also numerous, but few have been taken.

Share this page:

Comments or Questions:

No comments yet.