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Week 36 - the Africaine approaches

[ 1836 to 1836 ]
[ View related 'school content': Week 45: Proclamation and Celebration ]
[ View related 'school content': Week 43: Kangaroo Island ]
[ View related 'school content': Week 40 - Finally! The harbour is found ]
[ View related 'school content': Week 37: Building a Home ]
[ View related 'school content': Week 36: Family Life ]
[ View related 'school content': Week 35: Pastimes ]
[ View related 'school content': Week 34 - a tempest ]
[ View related 'school content': Week 26: Whose story? ]
[ View related 'school content': Week 25 - The demon drink ]
[ View related 'school content': Week 22: In Good Time ]
[ View related 'school content': Week 20 - infectious disease ]
[ View related 'school content': Week 18 - the port of Rio ]
[ View related 'school content': Week 16: Crossing the Line ]
[ View related 'school content': Week 16 - towards Australia ]
[ View related 'school content': Week 15 - high drama on the John Pirie ]
[ View related 'school content': Week 08: Employment ]
[ View related 'school content': Week 06 : Weathering the Storm ]
[ View related 'school content': Week 05: Ship Shape ]

In South Australia

It is a slow week for Colonel Light and his surveyors.  On 23 October deputy surveyor George Kingston finally arrives at Rapid Bay, after some weeks on Kangaroo Island.  It is not clear why he delayed there so long, but his arrival means that Light can divide his forces to cover a greater area. Progress is imperative.

We hear one last time from George Martin, captain of the John Pirie. In a long letter to his wife Mary, written from Hobart on 29 October, he provides a summary of the journey from his perspective.  Apparently he was unimpressed with Kangaroo Island, which he dismisses as ‘a most wretched & barren place not worth anything’, in contrast with the mainland, which he describes enthusiastically. ‘I must confess, that in all my travels I never saw so fine a country before & abundance of fresh water’. We learn that Mary is to join him and that they may seek to join the settlers in South Australia.

At sea

Although Light does not yet know it, the Africaine is fast approaching.  On 23 October Mary Thomas reports passing Cape Leeuwin and the ship makes good progress across the Great Australian Bight. Several whales pass in front of the vessel, spouting up water.


Mary Thomas, painted by her daughter Frances, aged fourteen. 1834. Image courtesy of the Estate of Joan Kyffin Willington.


Thankfully for the survey party, the Buffalo is further behind. On 28 October it is approaching the coast of Africa, although still some distance out. Young Bingham Hutchinson reports fine sailing conditions, which is good news for the young mother in labour on board. Her new baby is born safely that morning.

The atmosphere is more stormy in the captain’s cabin. Hindmarsh seeks his secretary’s opinion on the extent of his executive powers as governor and is not pleased with the answer. Stevenson argues that the governor should act in concert with his Executive Council: Hindmarsh apparently announces that he is ‘determined to act singly and uncontrolled’.  The stage is set for subsequent battles, although at this stage Stevenson is inclined to think that Hindmarsh will ‘probably come or be brought to his senses ere he be called upon to act’.

Language warning: Please note that these sources contain language which is today considered offensive. It has been retained as it is part of the historical record and evidence of past attitudes.

Journals from passengers at sea:

Week 42: Numeracy Onboard

Over the past eight months we have read many journal entries, diaries and letters describing the experiences, thoughts, ideas and feelings of those onboard the nine ships. We have followed the authors…

[ Read the full journal extract ]

Week 25 – The demon drink

[ | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | , on board the | | | | | | | | wrote.]

On land It is one week into the grand experiment of colonisation and things are not going well at Nepean Bay. Samuel Stephens and Captains Morgan and Ross have their hands full, with both the company …

[ Read the full journal extract ]

Week 20 – infectious disease

[ | | | | | | | | | | , on board the | | | | | | wrote.]

The Duke of York is now in the Southern Ocean, making good progress. It is Captain Morgan’s wife’s birthday and he reflects endearingly on his love for her and his happiness in the married state….

[ Read the full journal extract ]

Week 14 – steady progress

[ | | | | | | | | | , on board the | | | | | wrote.]

All six ships are making steady progress, sailing south in the Atlantic. The weather is fine and conditions pleasant, but relations on board the John Pirie and the Cygnet are tense. On the John Pirie …

[ Read the full journal extract ]

Week 13 – tensions reach breaking point

[ | | | | | | | , on board the | | | | | wrote.]

This week we catch up with the Cygnet as it approaches the Equator. A bout of bad weather has seen many of the passengers sick and conditions below deck are foul. Boyle Travers Finniss is impatient with…

[ Read the full journal extract ]

Week 06 – a ‘perfect Hurricane’

[ | | | | , on board the | | | wrote.]

On 26 March the John Pirie seemed to be making progress, as it finally cleared the English Channel and struck out for the Atlantic Ocean. But just west of the Bay of Biscay the weather worsened…

[ Read the full journal extract ]