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The Journal of Syms Covington

Chapter 7

From the Antipodes to England

[Entrance of the river Derwent, Tasmania]

(3') Left New Zealand December 30th; the 30th and 31st, blew very heavily. After a long passage which was occasioned by headwinds and calms, we moored ship in Sydney Cove, New South Wales,(190) January 12th 1836 (a passage very often made in five days by the traders).

Port Jackson (Sydney), where the first settlers landed IN 1788. THERE IS A lighthouse on left hand side going in. The harbour, I think, is one of the finest and most beautiful I have yet seen. About here the land is low, even lower than New Zealand, a fine harbour, two forts, town large and populous, situated rather on side of hill. Hot, or sirocco-like, winds are frequent here, AND THE weather very precarious.(191) When sun's out, there appears TO BE a very strong glare, which I think injures the sight as I saw many Whites here with weak eyesight.

Here the country is complete forest, with, as is well known, some of the most beautiful birds in the world; a the kangaroo,(192) kangaroo rat,(193) opossum,(194) wolwar(195) (great many), very large venomous snakes, and a most curious lizard: half snake, half lizard, about six inches long, and very easy to be caught on the mountains.(196) I went inTO A museum while here.

THERE ARE but few natives in or about town; The chiefs wear A brass plate suspended to a chain round the neck to denote what tribe they belong to. (4') Here a stranger must take care with whom he associates, as the place consists principally of convicts, or the most notorious characters of England; and a place I must say I was heartily happy to leave. Paramatta, the town or village where the female convicts are kept, about eighteen or nineteen miles from Sydney.(197) Sailed January 30th, 1836. (5') After a moderate passage anchored in THE harbour of Hobart Town,(198) February 5th. The town is situated up the River Derwent on the slope of hill, and very much scattered about suburbs, AND well cultivated. Here for the first time in four years I've had the pleasure of seeing the wheat in sheaves, etc. Here, as at Sydney, are great numbers of convicts, BUT this place, I think, is far preferable in every respect to Sydney. The harbour is fine, when at anchor SHIPS being landlocked. A lighthouse IS on A small island TO THE starboard hand going in. Here, as at Sydney, are hot winds.

The land IS high and mountainous, Mt. Wellington the highest near town. I Went up to the summit its summit, February 11th.(199) FROM the town to the top IS about eight or nine miles, I should suppose, but ON very intricate roads. Its top IS rugged, with low bushes and fresh water in small pools. The lake that is saidto be there, is merely a small pool. Snipes ARE to be shot on summit occasionally or in season.(200) The land here is much higher than at Sydney.

(6') Steam ferry-boats cross the river Derwent almost every hour of the day; that is from Hobart Town to Kangaroo Point, which is nearly opposite. Sixpence the fare; WE went there during our stay.(201) though the ferries, made in the colony, crossed the river frequently.

A lighthouse IS situated on a small island in the river between THE entrance and THE place for shipping.

HOBART TOWN now has 15,000 free subjects.(202) Colonel G. Arthur superseded, Colonel William Sorell as Governor IN May 1824, A POST which he retains at this period. Van Diemen's Land, was in the first place, a penal colony for the Sister Colony, or New South Wales, in 1803 -- or a large jail, as it was termed -- until 1817 when Colonel William Sorell was appointed governor by our home government. On his arrival the population amounted to about 2000 souls, and depended on themselves and the Mother Country alone for every article of food and clothing. Under him every thing thrived in the island. At THE close of his governorship, which was about seven years, the exports were large and valuable. Under him free emigration was greatly forwarded, under which POLICY he found the colony quickly thrived -- as before nearly all the population were convicts.(203)

(7') Sailed from Hobart Town February 7th, February 19th doubled the southwest cape of Van Diemens land. Here we felt the cold. (Infermo aqui).(204) Anchored in King George Sound,(205) March 6th. Three islands ARE in the mouth of the entrance, with A flat on each side, which makes it narrow. The settlement is small AND very scattered. This colony belongs to New South Wales; Sir Richard Spencer IS the present Governor. The country at large IS sterile and very sandy,(206) yet a few potatoes, pumpkins, etc. grown; salt provisions are used here, except when the kangaroo and wolwar can be caught, the latter very small. Kangaroo flesh sold at eight pence per pound. Great numbers of Indians here and the most miserable and meagre set of beings I have yet seen.(207) No tattooing among natives, but gashes with sharp stones, knives etc., which they inflict on themselves, (on their breasts), said to be done out of bravado, to see which can stand the most pain without crying out.(208)

(8') Anchored in the Basin, Keeling or Cocos Islands April 1st, after having a heavy breeze the last two or three days of our passage.

[Traditional thatched hut]
Sketch by Syms Covington: 'Keeling Islands'

The Islands ARE all very low; the beaches appear to be the highest. AND the highest I should suppose not more than twelve to fifteen feet high; all coral, about forty in number, the largest not more than ten miles long. The islands are complete forests of cocoa nut trees; if not for THE trees, the land would be seen FROM but a very short distance. ONE can wade from one island to another when the tide is low, to nearly all except THE entrance to THE Basin, which Basin is formed by the islands being as placed to form a circle. The Basin IS about twelve miles across. ONE cannot go far in with A ship; we anchored in seven or eight fathom OF water; coral bottom with white sand, the water always being clear. Beautiful branches of coral can be seen from the ship's side, the fish constantly passing and repassing amongst the coral, has a most beautiful effect, etc.

(9') An Englishman and HIS family, with about sixty or seventy Mulattos from the Cape of Good Hope,(209) live on one of the islands.

[3 men on a small sailing boat]
Sketch by Syms Covington: 'Keeling Islands'

Captain Ross, the governor, is now absent at the Cape. Plenty of poultry (A Chinese breed) and turtles, the latter of which the ship was supplied during our stay: two per day, each about A hundred fifty pounds IN weight.(210) Also hogs, sugar cane and bananas (the latter I never saw); tobacco, planted here, produces well. I believe the coffee plant was also tried but never saw it. THERE ARE two sorts of indigenous fruit AND plenty OF watermelon, ALSO maiz. The water is very brackish and for which one is obliged to dig wells; THE WATER LEVEL rises and falls with the tide although IT IS some distance from THE beach, and THEY WERE obliged to dig until they came to a number OF stones, under which springs the water.

A lake (lagoon) IS on the largest island. In the small lagoons or pools on reefs are immense numbers of small fish of different species, and of the most brilliant colours and shapes I ever saw or fancy could paint. Here are great numbers A green fish, THE coral eater. Here also are land crabs, very curious and very strong in claws.(211) THEY are eaten by the inhabitants. ( P{10'}) Here, I should suppose is one of the largest shells in the world, sort of clam shell, WHICH would take a very strong man to lift one with the animal in. The largest is about nine feet long.(212) Different sorts OF SHELL AS WELL, leopard shells, etc. Great quantities of bêche-de-mer, WHICH is like A large, black English slug only about ten times the size, are dried here for the Indies.(213)

Only one genus of land bird here, viz. the land rail,(214) indigenous to THESE islands. A great many sea birds and very tame, as to let you come close to the them or within a yard or two. THEY build their nests on the trees close to beach. On this Island were great numbers of the land rail, about several houses. The Java sparrow WAS brought here.

On Sunday the 3rd of April was caught a shark eight feet long, which put a stop to our bathing, which before was at every evening by moonlight.

It is excessively hot. When sitting still the sweat is constantly dropping off the body.(215)

Outside of THE Basin, round the islands at seven tenths of a mile from THE beach, soundings 100 fathoms; a mile out, no bottom.(216) (11') AT THE southernmost part of basin a channel is cut through coral for the boats, and stakes drove in different places to mark the channel. Even then, you are very apt to run foul of or branches of coral. WE had a pilot in the boat.(217)

Those islands lay about East by North from Mauritius, or Isle of France. Sailed from the Cocos, April 12th for the Isle of France; from here we had the Trade Winds the whole passage, a distance of about 2200 miles. During our passage we had frequent heavy showers of rain with but little wind, AS about the middle of April the hurricanes are all over.

(12') Anchored ship in Port Louis, Mauritius or Isle of France, April 29th.(218) Passed several small islands very near THE main island previous to entrance in port, and very low point of Isle. The sea shore very low and flat, until THE base of THE mountains. Mountains rise very abruptly, their tops very rugged. Some run up like pinnacles, their height 2000 to 3000 feet. THE town IS situated nearly at THE base of the highest mountains, and gradual ascent from the coast, with small race ground at THE back of town. The port is very snug, and a good anchorage, with a fort on each side of Outside of THE Basin, round the islands at seven tenths of a mile from THE entrance, which entrance is about a quarter of a mile wide. THERE ARE moorings for three men of war, viz. line of battle ship, frigate and sloop. Here THERE are frequent squalls, or showers of rain, occasioned by the mountains back of town, which break the clouds in their passage. Fort Adelaide, now building, is said will be bomb proof when (13') finished. IT will contain all the English on the island with provisions for seven years, AND commands the town and harbour, by being situated AT THE back of town and TO THE left of race ground. THERE are situated here 2500 soldiers, the general standard complement. Paul and Virginia's graves seven miles from town.(219)

The town is laid out, like Spanish towns in South America, viz. in squares. THE houses ARE nearly all built of wood. Here the scene was greatly changed from the Spanish style, to the Eastern or turbaned heads, with their long white (sort of) tunicks, with the white trousers of some. Their large pipes, etc. having a very novel appearance.(220) THERE WERE people from various nations, both from Europe and the East.(221) Here silks, etc. are very little cheaper than in England.

From the Isle of France, to the Cape of Good Hope, about 2200 miles. (14') Left the Mauritius at 5 o'clock pm May 9th; the 10th saw the Island of Bourbon, but very indistinctly. Had a fair and strong breeze, and IT WAS much cooler, which made it very pleasant to our feelings after being in hot climates for many months. The 13th am saw the South end of that great Island, Madagascar; the land IS high and mountainous. WE WERE ABOUT ten or twelve miles off from the land; at the same time the ship WAS running AT eight knots. From here the Current began, which carried the ship forty nine miles in twenty four hours, besides her distance by log.(222) We expected to get in on 22nd but the wind shifted. ON the 20th the wind changed from fair to foul at midnight, and almost TO a gale, which continued two days and nights. ON THE 21st THE ship went by THE Current ninety eight miles, THE WIND blowing heavily at same time from Madagascar to the Cape. WE ran along the coast of Africa, with land in sight nearly all the time THE latter part of the passage. Winter.

(15') The 28th, doubled the southernmost Cape of Africa, or Cape Aguilhas. Previous to doubling Cape, saw white sandy beach, OUR ship BEING six or seven miles from shore. When off here WE supplied a Calcutta ship with twenty four breakers of water, each breaker containing eight gallons. This detained us some hours, as we were obliged to go to leeward to the ship, at the same time IN A head wind. Sunday 29th blew a heavy gale from the West; 30th, eased to moderate breeze.

June 1st, the first Winter month, moored ship in Simons Bay. The port IS situated at foot of THE mountains and IS rather small; THE mountains and valleys appear barren AND very sandy, but ARE covered with bushes and some low trees. In some valleys are patches of cultivated ground for vegetables. Birds ARE very numerous and beautiful, great numbers of land tortoises ARE on the hills. The above port is situated in a deep bay between False Cape and THE Cape of Good Hope, and IS on THE left left going in. The land about here is all very bluff. Things for general use, I think, are much cheaper than any place since England. Mutton is sold two pence per pound. Cape Town is twenty one miles from the port.(223)

(16') Sailed from Simons Bay June 18th pm.(224) Doubled the Cape THE same evening. THE following day THE WIND blew very heavily. Remaining part of the passage, WE had Trade Winds WHICH began to blow two or three degrees from THE Cape: light winds, and those WHICH WERE very frequently foul.

On Friday, anchored at St. Helena,(225) July 8th am, twenty days being rather a good passage IN this part of year (distance from the Cape 1600 miles).

[St. Helena]
Sketch by Syms Covington: 'St Helena'

From THE ship, St. Helena appears like a garrison on a large scale, viz. for wherever the eye is attracted it meets with a battery or multiples of guns, etc. The land, or Rock I should say, is very high, and most parts are inaccessible. It is very dark rock, AND without herbage. At this time, the beginning of Winter, the climate is very pleasant, but on THE mountains IT IS rather cold. It rains very frequently in the course of the day: showers, OR a misty rain.(226)

[Napoleon's grave]
Sketch by Syms Covington: 'Napoleon's Grave'

(17') ON the 11th, went to Napoleon's Grave, a distance of about two and a half miles from port.(227) This tomb is situated in a valley, WHICH has gardens, houses, etc. The grave is simple for so great a man, having no more than a large oblong stone with no inscription, surrounded in same form by iron railings AND also with wooden railings round the iron ditto leaving a space of about ten to fifteen feet for visitors to walk, and that beautifully green with grass, with the willows and cypresses. Outside the wooden railings is the small beautiful, clear well, where he (NAPOLEON) constantly every morning (18') used to send for water to wash etc. Beautiful, clear water. Here is stationed a noncommissioned officer, an old soldier, to take care that no one injures the above. The willow is strictly forbidden for anyone to touch, but from the cypresses, a small twig is allowed only. At the East end or head of tomb, within railings, is a geranium, planted by Lady Warren (Admiral Warren's wife) and HER daughters; at THE West end or foot are several Cape bulbs, etc. The house IS situated from THE tomb, about a mile, along a ridge of mountains.(228) I went to house the 13th; which is in a very decayed state, one (19') room is a billiard room for visitors (wine sold also!). The remaining part serves as a barn and dwelling for the servants of the clergyman who inhabits the new house, which was built for Napoleon, but HE never inhabited it.

IN the interior part of island, houses are to be seen in all parts, with patches of cultivation. Pears, guavas,(229) etc . are to be had here, Here is to be seen the gorze, and blackberry, [Barlow 1933: 410] etc., the latter now bearing fruit, and very plentiful. The small birds are numerous and pretty; partridges from France WITH blue feet and beak; pheasants indigenous to the islands, the male of which is said to be very beautiful BUT now out of season; horses, bullocks, sheep etc. are to be seen grazing on hills and valleys in THE interior. In many parts, ST. HELENA is very picturesque.

(20') Sailed from St. Helena July 14th. Had a very moderate passage, with fine weather. Anchored at Ascension the 19th pm. This island, from a distance, looks much like St. Helena, but on coming rather close ONE DISCOVERS THAT the eye is deceived greatly, viz. from a high and inaccessible rock like St. Helena, to that of a gentle ascent.(230) Here there is no town, merely a few buildings such as barracks for the marines, houses for the officers and houses also for the private marines who are married AS WELL AS buildings for government store, etc. There is but one spring, or place to get water on the whole island, which is about four miles from the landing place, where there is built a reservoir large enough to hold all the water and from whence iron pipes lead down to the port where are also three large tanks or reservoirs, which tanks had at this (21') time contained 1700 tons of water; WHICH WAS of course sufficient to supply shipping AND all government people at any time when wanted.

Very little turtle IS FOUND here. The guinea fowl(231) run at large and ARE very plentiful; officers from different men of war are allowed to shoot them occasionally.(232) The soldiers HERE appear well satisfied, although there is scarcely anything green on the whole island; as for their work they get their food, and of course their full pay as usual. The different departments are all built of sandstone, ARE uncommonly clean and commodious, and indeed every thing appears as if done for the common comfort of all.

(22') ON the 20th, went up the highest mountain(233) (2843 feet) to the summit of which is A DISTANCE OF seven miles. A mile below summit are several houses, and small gardens. From the top are to be seen the old volcanoes, AND at their bases, patches of reddish green ashes, which from a distance appear like herbage, with a few cape sheep, that feed on a short low plant which grows on the lava, scattered about the valleys.(234) There are also a few cows, goats, and horses.

There are sixty marines, four officers, that is, the captain or governor, two lieutenants and one surgeon; the remainder are the soldiers' wives, Blacks, THEIR wives, and children, which altogether amount to 260. The soldiers' wives are allowed half as much provisions as their husbands, and children, half as much as their mothers. The soldiers build all the dwellings, etc.

During stay here went out in country three days following. [Darwin 1906: 473] ) There is only one land bird indigenous to island, that a land rail.(235) Two mammals, a mouse and A small rat, the latter dark coloured, former much like the English mouse. The land crab IS small, yellow and rather plentiful. (23') This island is nothing but lava. The nasturtium(236) grows wild, I believe on the little plant which grows amongst the lava. The soldiers pickle them, and use them in common. Rather plentiful.

Sailed from Ascension July 23rd and after a good passage (a distance of 1400 miles), anchored in Bahía, Brazil, August 1st am, the third time of our coming here. Bahía is nearly due West from Ascension. On our arrival here the first news was THAT the natives(237) had taken a 1000 miles of coast towards the North from the Portuguese some time since, which they still retained.

BETWEEN the island of Ascension (Africa) and Bahía (Brazil) we find a wide difference, viz. the former which is solely lava, the latter of a rich and most luxurient herbage, with hill and dale, and birds of a most beautiful plumage. I went into THE country four days during OUR stay here.(238)

Sketch by Syms Covington: 'Pernambuco'

Sailed or left 7th August; (24') anchored in the Roads of Pernambuco(239) August 12th pm The same afternoon, went inside reef, or place where shipping lie, in fourteen feet OF WATER. On 13th pm unmoored ship and went in THE Roads again. As the neap tides were coming, and THERE WAS barely water sufficient at this time. AS WE WERE on the sand bank at high water thirteen feet, AND our ship drawing nearly 13 feet, WE had a pilot to take the ship in and also out. The reef, which is coral, appears inside like a wall; with guns placed all along as posts, for shipping to make fast their hawsers. The lighthouse (revolving light) stands AT THE extremity of THE reef and close to it a small fort! The other extremity of THE reef reaches to the mainland, inside of which runs a large river. This reef forms a complete breakwater, and of course the water inside very smooth. The reef runs North and South, WITH the lighthouse on THE North side. In the Roads, there is a great deal of motion.(240)

Sailed August 17th pm (25') Passed Fernando Noronha, 17th at dark. Crossed the Equatorial Line, at a quarter after 10 o'clock, Sunday the 21st with a fine breeze from the Southward and Eastward, which we have had since or from Pernambuco. A Northwest WIND blew very heavily the 27th, so THE ship, under bare poles, ran eight knots an hour, in middle water. The following morning until night, WE saw immense shoals of (241) pursuing the flying fish. Had light winds and calms the three following days.

[Puerto Praya]
Sketch by Syms Covington: 'Puerto Praya'

31st Anchored am St. Jago, Porto Praya. The Island of St. Jago is very high and mountainous. The town situated at THE bottom, or end of THE bay on a narrow strip of tableland, is populous. Goats and poultry, and of course fruit, ARE in abundance. Soon will be the sickly season; but very few have the fever at present. September the 1st went in country, saw the celebrated baobab tree,(242) which is of great size, and very aged. The island at large is very barren, the valleys alone ARE where (26') cultivation is to be found, BUT at this season there is scarcely any fruit ripe. A small monkey is indigenous the island.(243)

Porto Praya is Latitude 14o 51' North. The islands of Fogo and Mayo (Cape Verd), are to be all seen at almost all times from St. Jago, AS THEY ARE all very high land. Quail Island, ON THE left, going into port. Sailed from St. Jago, September 4th.

From the latter place we carried the North East Trade winds as far as Latitude 28° During our passage we had frequent squalls with showers of rain.

September 19th anchored in the Roads of Angra, at the island of Terceira,(244) subject to the Portuguese. This island is not so high as the latter, but IS thickly populated, and all parts of the island seen from the ship were cultivated. fruits and vegetables are very cheap.(245) The Road is open for shipping, AND pretty well fortified.

(27') The 22nd pm sailed. The 24th sent a boat ashore, to the island of St. Michael; during which time the ship kept in the offing. This island, like the latter, is well cultivated, and thickly studded with houses. The night OF THE 28th THE ship ran at times ten knots and six tenths. The following morning it blew a heavy gale, so that THE ship was hove too under a close reefed maintopsail and storm staysail at same time WE WERE about 500 miles from the Lands End. The sea went down greatly in course of the day.

Anchored in Falmouth pm Sunday October 1st, 1836.(246) (28') Left Falmouth October 3rd pm, anchored in Plymouth. Sailed the 4th. Left Plymouth 10th 3 o'clock pm; anchored 20th 8 o'clock Dover; sailed from Dover the 21st 11 o'clock am; anchored off Dungeness the 22nd; anchored off Deal 23rd. Visitors came to see the ship the following morning. Sailed about 12 o'clock the same day, and came to our anchor about three or four hours afterwards. When near the flats, we were obliged to bring too in consequence of thick weather. Anchored off The Nore near to Chatham 26th. Anchored off Gravesend, was towed by steamer the same evening FOR about an hour and A half; the following morning were towed to Greenwich the 28th. Also were towed to Woolwich November 7th and paid off NOVEMBER 17th, 1836.(247)

(29') So much for the H.M.S. Beagle which carried us safely round the World!


190 At Circular Quay, still an overseas passenger terminal. Much of the oldest part of town, the affectionately known to old sailors and drunks as The Rocks, is preserved on a small rise (overshadowed by the rampways of Sydney Harbour Bridge).

191 Likewise a concern for Darwin, who mentions huge dust clouds, simmering temperatures and the odd bushfire [Barlow 1933: 284].

192 Meaning the western grey kangaroo, Macropus giganteus.

193 These days turned around to rat-kangaroo, to avoid confusion with a rodent, Covington refers to bettongs (Bettongia) and potoroo (Potorous) which were much more widespread before foxes were introduced [Throughton 1957: 154].

194 Cook dropped the 'o' in opossum when describing the animal in his journal, and so smaller Australian marsupials are still called 'possums' [Throughton 1957: 50].

195 Here and below, Covington uses "wolwar," which seems to be a corruption of wallaroo. The names for macropods were in something of a flux during this period, so it would be useless to try to pin Covington down to a species. However, he probably means a variety of wallaby.

196 Innocent blue-tongue lizards (Tiliqua) are often mistaken for snakes. Covington may mean legless lizards (family Pygopodidae): true lizards which only have a small flap where legs should be.

197 Darwin, apparently without Covington, toured the bush for ten days [Barlow 1933: 376; Darwin 1906: 416], stopping with squatters, wary of bushrangers, and assimilating the Australian dialect. He could not help but notice that an Australian character had emerged in the mere 35 years since Botany Bay. Here is his example:

Towards the end of his stay, Darwin lunched with Captain King and his brother-in-law, Hannibal MacArthur, at the charming columned mansion, the Vineyard. In this most English building, he heard otherwise "very nice looking young ladies exclaim, 'Oh, we are Australians and know nothing of England!'" [Barlow 1933: 386].

Though a prosperous colony, the great numbers of convicts and the limited number of book shops (and those existing sold a low class of book) made Darwin fear that Australia "with such habits and without intellectual pursuits ... can hardly fail to deteriorate and become like ... the United States" [Barlow 1933: 386].

198 Van Diemen's Land, now the Australian State of Tasmania.

199 Mt. Wellington is noted here and on the back cover of the Journal as "3100 feet in height".

200 Darwin tried to climb it alone but got lost; he barely made it on the second try because his guide, "a stupid fellow," took him up damp, brush choked ravines. Finally reaching the top, on a "splendidly clear" day, they were blessed with a clear view of wooded hinterland and "intricate bays" [Darwin 1906: 432; Barlow 1933: 390].

201 This may have been with Darwin who was also pleased to see not one, but two masterpieces of local engineering plying the river [Darwin 1906: 432; Barlow 1933: 390].

202 Darwin [Darwin 1906: 430; Barlow 1933: 389] quotes Hobart as having 13,826 inhabitants (in 1835), with Tasmania at 36,505. The remaining 140 Aboriginal Tasmanians were expelled to Flinders' Island in Bass Strait between 1831 and 1835, as Darwin explains, by beating them into Tasman's Peninsula, near Hobart, the way tigers were driven towards the hunters "in the great hunting-matches of India" (which failed) and by the remarkable conciliatory efforts of George Augustus Robinson (which did not) [Darwin 1906:431]. What Darwin called necessary was nothing less than genocide. As a race, they are now gone.

203 Both Covington and Darwin preferred Hobart to Sydney [Barlow 1933: 391]. Covington did a certain amount of research on this place, as you can see; perhaps his first choice after South America was to emigrate to Tasmania. Arthur's sober and disciplined approach to running the colony impressed Covington.

204 "I was ill here."

205 In the South West corner of Western Australia, near the present city of Albany.

206 After the tropics, Darwin was bored with a land which "supported either a coarse vegetation of thin, low brushwood and a wiry grass, or a forest of stunted trees." From the boat, the green of the Casuarina seemed almost fertile. "A single walk, however, was enough to dispel such an illusion; and he who is with me will never wish to walk again in so uninviting a country" [Darwin 1906: 433].

207 The word "people" was marked out for "set of beings." The Nyungyar people had remarkably cordial relations with the Whites for a number of reasons. Even so, the Whites shot out most of the game, which is why Covington found high meat prices and starving Aboriginals [Stannage 1983: 74,88]. In the end, the Aboriginals were forced to stay near the coast, dependent on scraps from Yankee whalers. This exposed them to violence and inevitable disease, and like everywhere else, they were decimated.

208 The local Aboriginal tribe and the visiting "White Cockatoo Men" held a corrobaree, the two parties dancing in answer to one another. The Beagle left on the 14th, after a delay. Neither Covington nor Darwin were uplifted by their visit to the Antipodes. Darwin writes, "Farewell, Australia! You are a rising child, and doubtless someday will reign a great princess in the South: but you are too great and ambitious for affection, yet not great enough for respect. I leave your shores without sorrow or regret" [Darwin 1906: 434].

209 Darwin [Darwin 1906: 435] mentions only the Malays. These were slaves brought from throughout the Indonesian Archipelago by an invidious Alexander Hare to work the cocoa-nut plantation [Barlow 1933: 397 ]. But there were also Cape Blacks, and a selection of South and East Asians (derived from Hare's harem). One of Covington's drawings clearly shows two African-looking men rigging a small boat steered by a White.

Captain Robert Clunies-Ross was a merchant seaman, and along with Hare, was veteran of Stamford Raffles's take-over of Java from the Dutch. Hare miserably mistreated his slaves, and they soon escaped to work under better conditions in the Clunies-Ross compound. Here they were "free, except to make mischief" [Wood-Jones 1912: 18]. Only as recently as 1984 was this covenant exchanged for full Australian citizenship.

210 Darwin explains how sea turtles (Lepidochelys olivacea) are caught: men follow the animal in a boat; when the turtle comes up for air, "a man standing ready in the bow, at this moment dashes through the water upon the turtle's back; then clinging with both hands by the shell of its back, he is carried away till the animal becomes exhausted and is secured" [Darwin 1906: 442].

211 This is Birgo latro, which employs its strong pincers to husk cocoa nuts, punch through an eye and then eat the white interior [Darwin 1906: 445].

212 Covington is pulling our collective leg; giant clams, Tridacna rarely reach more than four and a half feet (1.5 metres) long. The word Covington uses is "clamp."

213 Otherwise known as sea cucumbers. Sea cucumbers are echinoderms and are related to starfish, brittle stars, sea urchins and sea lilies. [Billett 1991]

214 Rallus phillippensis [Darwin 1906: 438; Barlow 1933: 396].

215 Tropical humid damp; the thermometer never went above 81°-82° Fahrenheit(27° [Barlow 1933: 394].

216 With 7200 feet of line payed out. Fitz Roy intended to survey the atoll, but strong winds in this treacherous reef stopped them [Darwin 1906: 448; Barlow 1933: 399-400].

217 The structure of atolls like the Cocos Islands intrigued Darwin. He found atolls thorughout the Pacific. Most had a high central rock cone, surrounded by a coral fringing reef; by extension, barrier reefs are of a similar construction. Darwin knew that coral needs light and only grows within a few yards of the surface; but there were fossil coral colonies hundreds of feet down, on the sides of underwater mountains. He was drawn to the conclusion that the mountains of the Pacific Basin subsided over thousands of years. This is part of the picture. We now know that huge Ice Age glaciers sucked vast amounts of water from the World Ocean, lowering the sea level and exposing the land. Coral grew at the edge of these emerged islands. But as the sea returned, and the coral grew up to the light, the reef stood well away from the vanished mountain [Darwin 1906: 448-64].

218 Near the Tropic of Capricorn. Mauritius, a French colony, surrendered to a British fleet in 1810.

219 Paul and Virginia, by J.H. Bernardin de Saint-Pierre.

220 Though at this time under the British flag, the French language was spoken, even by Englishmen. The turbaned heads Covington refers to belong to some of the 800 Indian convicts employed by the English on public works [Darwin 1906: 4 64; Barlow 1933: 401].

221 And Blacks from Zanzibar and Madagascar [Barlow 1933: 402].

222 To judge the speed through the water, a small piece of wood called a 'log-ship' is tossed over the side with a length of line; the speed of the ship in the water is calculated from the amount of line payed out in a given time; this information is, naturally, logged in the log book. The Current, flowing along with the ship, in this case gives an added boost of speed, as Covington states.

This Current is the great Aguilhas Stream which flows southward past Madagascar and carries shipping to Cape Town. Off the tip of Africa, the Stream turns South towards Antarctica.

223 A note added to one side, "June is the first Winter month," in the Southern Hemisphere .

224 Their stay here was longer than expected, owing to bad weather. Fortunately for Darwin, because it allowed him the opportunity to go ashore, see the country and also to meet John Herschel, the Astronomer Royal, his telescope likewise stormbound [Barlow 1933: 409].

225 In the South Atlantic, at about 15°S Latitude. The small port, Jamestown runs up a little crease in the Rock; in those days it was mainly populated by soldiers and liberated slaves.

226 Napoleon was first confined to the island of Elba, from which he escaped to mount an army. He lost at Waterloo in 1815, was forced to abdicate again and was this time sent to St. Helena which is even further out of the way. Some believe [see Weider and Hapgood 1982] that to make absolutely sure this would not happen again, Napoleon's wine was spiced with arsenic. As a consequence, he was buried here in 1821. His tombstone was incomplete; it said only "Ci-gît." ("Here lies.") To show there were no hard feelings, the body was returned to the Parisian throngs in 1840.

227 On the 10th, Darwin obtained lodging at a healthier elevation "amongst the clouds"[Barlow 1967: 115] and "within a stone's throw" [Darwin 1906: 467] of the tomb. Covington probably stayed here as well .

228 Longwood House, an officer's residence, added onto in stages before it was taken over for "Bony." It was a "sober and unpromising" house, built on a high plain planted in gumwood trees on the East of the Island, well away from town [Forsyth 1853: 48].

229 The word appears to be "guayvers." Covington may mean guavas, mangos or a fruit similar to the guayavita found on the Galápagos Islands [Darwin 1906: 368; Barlow 1946: 248].

230 Mr. Dring quoted a blunt St. Helena resident, "We know we live on a rock, but the poor people of Ascension live on a cinder" [Barlow 1933: 415].

231 Introduced from the Cape Verd Islands [Barlow 1933: 414].

232 Darwin agrees, "the island is much too English not to be subject to strict game-laws. He goes further, "The poor people formerly used to burn a plant...and export the soda from its ashes; but a peremptory order came out prohibiting this practice, and giving the reason that the partridges have nowhere else to build" nests! Darwin thought this was unjust; the concept of conservation, as now espoused, belongs to our age of diminishing resources and was less part of his age of discovery [Darwin 1906: 471; Barlow 1933: 412 ].

233 Green Hill, named, we are told, "from the faintest tinge of that colour" [Barlow 1933: 41 3]. Covington accompanied Darwin [Darwin 1906: 472].

234 Like the Galápagos, Ascension Island is of volcanic origin. They spent the 21st and 22nd studying what little life they could find [Barlow 1933: 415; Darwin 1906: 473].

235 Porphyrio simplex [Darwin 1906: 438].

236 What Covington calls "sturtions" is probably a garden flower, the nasturtium Tropaeolum, which has edible leaves and a fruit that is a good substitute for capers.

237 A revolt among Black slaves.

238 Darwin calls these long walks [Barlow 1933: 415].

239 Pernambuco, now the city of Recife, is on on the far eastern tip of the continent. Darwin went ashore to stay but found the town "in all parts disgusting, the streets narrow, ill-paved, filthy; the houses very tall and gloomy" [Barlow 1933: 418 ].

240 That is to say, there was a lot of traffic. This made waters choppy, and reminded Darwin of his susceptibility to sea sickness [Barlow 1933: 420].

241 There is a space in text for a fish he could not identify; he may have seen porpoises [Barlow 1933: 99] or tuna, both of which feed on flying fish -- a t least on the poor flyers.

242 The bottle tree (Adansonia) of Africa and northwestern Australia. Fitz Roy, Wickham and Darwin drew and measured this tree five years before, finding the tree 13 feet in diameter, but only 45 feet high (measured by pocket sextant). Now on their return they again visited their "old friend" [Barlow 1946: 157; figured in McCormick 1884: (1)16 with McCormick's initials carved high up on the butt of the tree].

243 The green monkey, Cercopithecus aethiops sabaeus introduced from Africa, but we do not know when. Green monkeys, though irascible, were once very popular as pets among Europeans.

244 In the Azores.

245 Darwin found no shops to his liking, so went riding with friends. Covington spent his time more practically, at the fruit vendors. The Azores were then a main source of oranges imported to England [Barlow 1933: 421, 424 ].

246 It was here that Darwin left the Beagle, on October 2nd.

247 From her commission in July 1831, the Beagle completed her period of service after five years one hundred thirty six days [Barlow 1933: 431]. The three chronometers which were still in perfect order at the end of the journey, showed a difference of only 33 seconds in all that time [Mellersh 1968: 171;Thompson 1975: 666].

Published by the Australian Science Archives Project on ASAPWeb, 23 August 1995
Comments or corrections to: Bright Sparcs (bsparcs@asap.unimelb.edu.au)
Prepared by: Victoria Young
Updated by: Elissa Tenkate
Date modified: 17 March 1998

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