Journal of Landsborough's Expedition from Carpentaria by William Landsborough


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Page 1




Sweer's Island, Gulf of Carpentaria, 30th September 1861.

To Captain Norman of Her Majesty's Colonial War Steamer Victoria, and
Commander-in-chief of Northern Expedition Parties.


I have the honour to inform you that the greatest attention was paid by
my parties to the horses for the expedition on board the Firefly, and
they ought, during the eight days after leaving Moreton Bay, while we had
the finest weather, to have done well, if their allowance of five gallons
of water each a day had been sufficient for them; but with that allowance
they were so thirsty that they did not thrive well. That quantity of
water may do well for horses intended for the Indian market, where they
can be fattened afterwards; but for our expedition horses, which were
intended for immediate service on landing, to be kept in a close hold,
confined by the cargo of the vessel, and fed with dry forage (they did
not eat the carrots at first, until they had acquired a taste for them)
eight gallons of water each per day at least should have been allowed to

On Sunday the 1st instant, when Captain Kirby expected to get through the
Raine Island passage on the following day, where he hoped to get such
calm weather that it would admit of your giving him a fresh supply of
water, he allowed our party to give the horses a good drink. On that
occasion they drank each, on an average, nine gallons. Towards evening of
the same day the breeze freshened into a gale, and about ten at night,
when the Firefly was head-reaching under close-reefed sails, we had the
misfortune to lose sight of H.M.C.S. Victoria, under your command.

On Monday the 2nd instant the gale continued, and during the night the
ship was hove to with her head to the eastward.

On Tuesday the 3rd instant the gale still continued, but Captain Kirby,
having got observations of the sun, he boldly made sail in for the reefs,
and between eleven and twelve a.m. he sighted the Raine Island beacon,
and early in the afternoon he went through the passage, and got into
smooth water, where we congratulated ourselves, and were thankful, I
hope, to God, for the comparative safety of ourselves, and also of the
horses under our charge.

All the horses were alive except one, which, from the sand being pumped
from under its feet, had not been able to stand during the gale, and in
consequence had been trampled underfoot by the other horses and so much
injured that we were compelled to destroy it. About an hour before dark
we reached, with a fresh and favourable breeze, a point between the two
largest of the Sir Charles Hardy's Islands, where one of the anchors was
let go and, upon its dragging, another was let go, which dragged also,
until we were close to the lee shore, when it held, fortunately, till
after daylight of the morning of Wednesday the 4th instant when, the
cable parting, the brig went ashore broadside onto the reef which extends
for about half a mile from the base of the bold rocky island. The waves
breaking over the ship, the masts were cut away and fell over the side.
The smallest boat was then launched and immediately broke in pieces.
While the wreck of a masts was being cleared away by a good swimmer
called Muller, a Dutchman, in order to get a clear sea to launch the
ship's large boat, our party took the opportunity of feeding and watering
the horses, and in the meantime the tide had fallen so much that Muller
found footing. The boat was launched safely and, on being asked by
Captain Kirby, I went ashore with Mr. Martin, the supercargo, and a part
of the crew. We found we could wade on shore; and, on the previous
evening having seen the masts of a ship on the other side of the island,
Mr. Martin and I went across and found it was a vessel which had sunk
within half a mile of the shore in deep water.

At the abandoned camp of the shipwrecked crew we found a copy of The
Argus newspaper of the 14th June, a barrel of peas, fragments of paper
bearing the names of the Lady Kinnaird and Captain Chorley on them, a
part of a child's dress, etc.

On our return to the wreck of a Firefly, we found the crew very busily
engaged in carrying stores on shore on their backs, as Captain Kirby did
not like using the boat for that service, being afraid of having it
injured. In the evening we fed and watered the horses, and Mr. Campbell
offered to remain on board if he got someone to assist him to attend to
the horses during the night; but as there were drunken sailors on board,
and I thought the breaking up of the old Firefly not improbable, I did
not like remaining or asking anyone else to do so. After the ship struck,
the officers and crew considered themselves under no discipline, taking
from the stores whatever they wanted, and, I am sorry to say, much of the
Expedition spiced beef and other things were stolen, and many things
destroyed from recklessness; but I am pleased to add that, after your
arrival, when order and sobriety became prevalent, from the prompt and
wise measures adopted by you, a considerable quantity of the slops were
recovered by a diligent search through the effects brought on shore by
the crew of the Firefly.

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Books | Photos | Paul Mutton | Tue 25th Feb 2020, 6:32