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Week 44 - 'excellent eating': kelp, parrots and a new oven

[ 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

On 18 December Colonel Light sails the Rapid into the harbour on the Port River with the Tam O’Shanter close behind. It is an emotional moment for Light.  In his mind’s eye he can see this harbour, ‘in a creek that had never before borne the construction of a marine architect’, as it might one day become – ‘the channel of import and export of a great commercial capital.’ It is hard for us now to imagine the scene as he saw it on that mild December day, but his vision for the future is clear. With both ships now safely delivered, he feels it is time to move full time to his ‘work on shore’. On Christmas Eve he walks over the plain to the spot on the River Torrens where Kingston is camped with the surveying party and records again his conviction that this ‘beautiful flat’ is the ideal place for the settlement.  As he returns to the Rapid in the evening he determines to make final arrangements for leaving the ship.

Platycercus Pennantii, Lithograph, John Gould’s ‘Birds of Australia’ 1840-1848

From Gouger’s diary we have further confirmation that Light now sees the site of the ‘chief town as determined’.  With this in mind he has removed to the Port River to complete an accurate survey of the intended harbour. The settlers at Holdfast Bay meanwhile are preoccupied with more prosaic matters – notably diet. All are heartily sick of salt provisions and seek out fresh meat and vegetables wherever they can get them.  They try the local kelp and pronounce it ‘excellent eating somewhat resembling the English spinach’. Gouger also resolves to join others in shooting the local wildlife and returns very satisfied from his expeditions with numerous parrots.  Their beautiful plumage is much admired, but does not save them from the pot. They too are declared ‘excellent eating’.  We can only wonder how many will fall victim to the settlers’ voracious appetites before alternative supplies of meat arrive.

The Thomas family is also busy on the domestic front.  Fifteen year old William constructs what Mary claims is the first  oven in the Colony – built of iron hoops placed in a half circle on the ground and covered with clay which is then baked hard.  This, she says, answers ‘extremely well’, and they manage to bake successful bread, pies and even fresh meat when they can get it.

The settlers continue to observe the customs of several local Aboriginal men who come and go from the encampment with great interest. One evening they perform a ‘corrobboree’, although Gouger records that he ‘was not so fortunate to witness this’.  Once again the Europeans hand out sugar, biscuits and clothing, but they are bemused to find that the Aboriginal men carefully remove these garments before lying down to sleep at night, despite ‘lying in the open air’.

At sea

The Buffalo is at last bearing down on Port Lincoln, although Stevenson continues to grumble about the slow rate of progress. In his diary jottings he implies more than once that this is a deliberate ploy of Hindmarsh’s to ensure that the ship’s carpenter can complete the Governor’s house before they arrive.  Whatever the truth of Stevenson’s claims, the Buffalo has certainly made a very slow passage and does not finally anchor off Port Lincoln until Christmas Eve. Captain Lipson at once comes on board to welcome the Governor and convey Light’s wish that they proceed to Holdfast Bay. He also brings other news – of the two deaths on Kangaroo Island and of Samuel Stephens‘ ‘quarrels with his people’. Bad news certainly travels fast! The week ends with both the Buffalo and the Cygnet bound for Holdfast Bay – at last!

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 ]