Saturday 17 December 1836

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

17 December-At daylight, Mount Lofty and the range of hills seen, fine weather, made all sail for Holdfast Bay, and at ten came to an anchor and went on shore to see our party, and hear from Mr Kingston if he had made any interesting discovery during my absence. That I may not appear to wish to conceal any part of my operations or my reasons for them, I here again insert a short extract from my letter to the Commissioners, dated this day:

The time now lost in much extra labour, and the arrival of many people from England, makes me anxious to find some place to locate the land purchasers and others; and from every answer to my enquiries of the sealers, as well as the practical view of the coast I had to the westward, I felt convinced I should never find anything more eligible than the neighbourhood of Holdfast Bay, I therefore steered at once for it, and at ten a.m. came to an anchor.

As for Encounter Bay I resolved on leaving that to a future period for the following reason. As much as Encounter Bay and Lake Alexandrina had been talked of in England, I never could fancy for one moment that any navigable entrance from the sea into the Lake could possibly exist, on looking at Flinders’ chart, and considering the exposed situation of that coast, open to the whole southern ocean, great danger must always attend the approaching it with fresh breezes; moreover the very circumstance of so large a Lake being there was a convincing proof to me that the Murray could not have a passage sufficiently deep or wide to discharge its waters into the sea. These ideas I mentioned in England, and often during our passage, but when I saw the sandy shore to the eastward of Encounter Bay from the Rapid as we stood over, beating against strong northerly winds, and seeing that this shore of sand was open to several thousand miles of the southern ocean, where S.W. winds prevailed during eight or nine months of the year, I was more than before convinced that no good and accessible harbour could exist, contrary to the general laws of nature. Deep and fine harbours, with good entrances on the sea coast, are only found where the shore is high, hard, or rocky; in other cases such harbours must be in large rivers or gulfs; sand alone can never preserve a clear channel against the scud of the sea, and particularly such as must inevitably be thrown on the coast about Encounter Bay. I was quite certain that even should such a thing as a harbour be there, contrary (as I said before) to the general laws of nature, yet no ship could make it exactly, and if she missed it there is no trifling on such a coast, and with a strong breeze from the southward or westward no one would dare to approach it. What then must ships do? They must go to Nepean Bay and wait for favourable weather to enter this harbour, in doing which a ship may lose two months of her time. I was also sure that on a low, sandy shore like that, there must be a bar and tremendous surf. When I reached Nepean Bay this idea was fully confirmed by the reports of the sealers, and some said there was no such thing as a harbour along the coast; I therefore thought I should be throwing away valuable time in examining there, and besides this, had I wished it, the frequent westerly winds would have prevented me.

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