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Week 42 - the scourge of scurvy

[ 4th of December 1836 to 10th of December 1836 ]
[ View related 'school content': Week 42: Numeracy Onboard ]
[ View related 'school content': Week 42 - the scourge of scurvy ]

In South Australia

By 4 December Colonel Light has managed to sail to Port Lincoln.  His next challenge is to manoeuvre into the harbour, which he finally manages after a ‘great deal of trouble’. There he meets up with the Cygnet and with Captain Lipson, who has been waiting on the arrival of Governor HindmarshLight is surprised and disappointed to find the Governor has not yet arrived. Lipson is evidently enthusiastic about the potential of Port Lincoln as a site for the colonial capital, but Light is unimpressed.  He thinks the approach to the harbour too dangerous for merchant ships and speculates that many would be lost if it was selected.  In a long despatch to the Commissioners he sets out his reasons in detail, comparing the anchorage at Port Lincoln with the alternative on Gulf Saint Vincent.  On inspecting the land inshore from Port Lincoln he is equally unimpressed with its immediate prospects, and decides to waste no more time in exploring the hinterland. By 7 December he is underway again, anxious to resume his survey.

Basket of Potatoes, Vincent van Gogh, 1885

In his report to the Commissioners Light is also anxious to justify his decision to send to Hobart for supplies of fresh food. He worries that the workers are showing signs of A disease caused by a deficiency of vitamin C, characterized by swollen bleeding gums and the opening of previously healed wounds. scurvy and that many are unable to work as a consequence.  Dr Woodforde is equally concerned, but is lucky to get hold of some potatoes from a passing sealing ship.  He orders a distribution to the labourers.

Back at Holdfast Bay the settlers have another close brush with fire, and Mary Thomas is struck once again by the speed with which grass fires can spread in the dry conditions.  They are forced to beat out the flames with boughs and only just manage to save their tents. Several days later a neighbour is not so lucky and his tent burns down. Fires are also burning all around the little settlement at Rapid Bay, although Woodforde believes that these are not accidental blazes, ‘it being the season at which the natives set fire to the grass’.

At sea

George Stevenson and James Hurtle Fisher continue to do daily battle with Governor Hindmarsh.  They seem to disagree on just about every detail. But this week the Governor is particularly displeased to learn (from Stevenson) that, contrary to assumption, he does not have the power to choose the capital. This rests ‘solely and exclusively’ with Light. Hindmarsh reputedly responds that ‘he does not give a – for any order of the Commissioners and he would fix the seat of Government where he pleased.  It was only his private confidence in Col. Light’s discretion that would lead him to submit to his decision.’ Here we see the seeds of future conflict between Light and Hindmarsh, although at this stage they remain friends.


Next week.

Colonel Light outlines his reasons for preferring Holdfast Bay and Port Adelaide over Encounter Bay for the initial settlement, while the emigrants at Holdfast Bay watch anxiously for the arrival of the Buffalo.

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