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THREE YEARS ON THE AUSTRALIAN STATION.
ON the 25th of May, 1863, at 5 P. M., we sailed out of Spithead, and bade adieu to dear old England. There was a fresh breeze from the N. N. E., and we were soon going down Channel at the rate of eleven to twelve knots. The Pigmy, a small Government steamer, came out about a mile with us, with Lady Wiseman on board, but we soon left her far behind. We all remained upon the taffrail, watching the last of the houses of Portsmouth, and the white chalk-pits on Portsdown Hill. We soon passed the Warner light-vessel, about one mile and a half from our late anchorage; also the Nab light-vessel, four miles further, and after that rounded the eastern point of the Isle of Wight, losing sight of Portsmouth. We
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passed Portland Light in the night, and the next morning some Torbay fishing-boats came alongside to offer us some fresh fish. We were becalmed off the Start Point all that day (the 26th), but the next day we got up steam and got clear out of sight of land. Sir W. Wiseman is taking out another passenger besides his daughter and her maid, a youth about fifteen, who is going out to Australia to learn sheep-farming. There are two brown spaniels and a setter on board, belonging to the Commodore, and between them and the live-stock we are treated to a variety of noises at times.
On June 2, at noon, we were 186 miles from Porto Santo Island, which is about thirty-five miles from Madeira; and on June 3, at 6 P. M., we anchored in Funchal roads. We left Madeira on the 6th, and while we were there I saw my kind friends the Bewicks. The night we left Madeira was so calm, that we hardly moved along under sail; but on the 8th we got the N. E. trades, and we ran past Palma, one of the Canaries, and San Antonio in the Cape de Verde group. Then we were two days becalmed in the Doldrums; but on the third day we got up steam, and steamed till we got the S. E. trades, in lat. 2 deg. N. We crossed the Line in 26 deg. W. long, on Saturday
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night, the 20th, about 11.30 P. M. We shall carry the S. E. trades as far as 26 deg. or 28 deg. S. lat., and then get the westerly winds to take us right away to the Cape, and from there to Australia. We are to-day (the 23rd) steering S. S. W., over towards South America, on account of the S. E. trades.
We have seen a great many curious fish. Flying-fish by dozens, and some sharks, dolphins, pilot-fish, albacores, and some of those pretty nautili. It is unbearably hot in our berth, with the number we have, and equally scorching on deck; but we shall feel the cold very much in a week or ten days. We expect to be at the Cape in rather less than three weeks. We steered over as near to Pernambuco, in the Brazils, as 450 miles, and then shaped our course to the southward, with the S. E. trades to help us along. In lat. 25 deg. S., Cape pigeons began to flock astern of us, and we caught them in great numbers with a fishing-line, and a small hook baited with a piece of salt pork fat. One night, in my middle watch, a flying-fish flew in at the port, at a lantern I had in my hand, and I caught it, and have since dried it. One of the Cape pigeons we let go, with a piece of white stuff tied to his leg, and we have noticed him every day since, which is a proof that the flock
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must have followed us several thousand miles. It is 8000 miles to the Cape of Good Hope the way we came, though the shortest route down to the coast is only a little over 5000; but unless a ship could steam all the way, this would be impracticable, on account of the S. E. trades making you stand over so far towards South America.
When we got to 31 deg. S. lat. we began to get variable winds again, and we were able to stand for the Cape about an E. S. E. course, and though we were becalmed several days we did not steam at all; we had also a gale, or rather half a gale. There have been plenty of albatrosses, boatswain-birds, frigate-birds, and various terns astern. The former are immense birds, having a body nearly as large as a swan, but then the wings are from nine feet to twelve feet from tip to tip, and occasionally even seventeen feet. We saw some large sharks while we were becalmed, but we never caught any.
We are now (July 20) in sight of the Cape Light, and hope to be at anchor this forenoon. We have had a good long passage from England--eight weeks to-day, it can be done in six. It is blowing pretty fresh now, and as yet we have not got up steam.
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20th, July, 5 P. M. --We are now off the Cape, and we have seen immense flocks of gannets or soland geese, and Cape hens. There was a very great swell as we rounded the Cape, and the ship rolled very much.
Off the Cape there are tremendous rugged rocks, and any amount of breakers around them. The lighthouse there is about 800 feet above the sea. As we passed it there were very heavy squalls of wind and rain. After rounding the Cape, we went up False Bay, and came to an anchor in Simon's Bay, which is the men-of-war's anchorage, where we found the screw frigate Narcissus, fifty-one guns, bearing the flag of Rear-Admiral Sir Baldwin Walker; the Valorous, sixteen, paddle frigate; the Seringapatam guard-ship, and the Penguin, five-gun vessel. Simon's Bay is a snug little cove, with high and barren rocks round it, and on one side great sand-drifts, which, when they blow away, are very unpleasant.
I made an expedition to Cape Town. It is twenty-two miles from Simon's Town. The first seven miles are over good sands, and though people talk of quicksands, they are now almost fabulous. The sands are best close to the water--in fact, the best plan is to ride in the water; on your left
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are tremendous cliffs. At one place there is a whale-fishery, where they caught one the other day. At the end of the sands you turn sharp to the left, and a mile or so further on there is a public-house called Farmer Peck's; the sign-post is the "Gentle Shepherd of Salisbury Plain," under which is a long inscription, partly in English and partly in Latin,
about 'good accommodation for man and beast; beds without fleas, &c.:' then the road crosses a flat marshy tract, with the range that ends in Table Mount on the left, and in four miles you come to the half-way house, where we stopped and had a cup of excellent coffee, and after this we came
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into a cultivated part of the country. In four miles more we came to the village of Wynberg, and seven miles further on Cape Town was before us, having rounded Table Mountain. It would only be a distance of eight or nine miles if you could go straight to your point, but there are such large mountains between the two towns, that this is impossible. They have begun a railway between Cape Town and Wynberg, and it is to go up the country to Stvellenbosch--or some such hard name.
The waggons, drawn always by ten, or from that number to fourteen oxen, are curious things. The bullocks have tremendous horns. Cape Town is a neat town, with wide streets, and the houses are all of stone. There are some nice public gardens, and we also saw the museum, where there is a large collection of animals, birds, fishes, &c.
In the evening we rode back to Simon's Town, which is a single street of houses running along the shore of the bay; at one end is the Admiral's house and garden, and the dockyard, and beyond that is the town, in which there are a few shops. There is an English, a Dutch, and a Roman Catholic chapel in it, also a naval hospital.
In coming down, a gentleman got into conversa-
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tion with me; he was a farmer riding home, I think; and he kindly offered to show me where the best antelope-shooting was: so I went out two days afterwards, a long way up the country, with another of my messmates, but the springboks were too sharp for us, and, though I think I hit one, he did not seem to care much about it. We shot some small birds with very gaudy feathers. The farmer and my messmate each got an antelope, one of which was a red antelope, I believe. We slept at a Dutch farmer's, and the next day went still further up the country, when I had better luck, for I shot an antelope called a gemsbok, and have kept the horns. My companions shot a jackal or two, and another antelope. We came back after this, but did not reach Simon's Bay till quite late at night.
On Sunday, the 26th, an Anglo-Chinese paddle-steamer came in, one of Captain Sherard Osborne's; and the day before yesterday another and a larger one arrived. Their names were the Quangtung and the Kiang Tsou.
On Monday afternoon, the 27th, we had private theatricals on board, which began at 7 P. M., just after the Admiral, the Miss Walkers, and some other ladies had arrived. There were two plays,
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The Turkish Bath, and Whitebait at Greenwich, by the officers, and Charles the Second by the men. The next evening the Admiral gave a party at his house. The night of our theatricals it poured with rain, but luckily our awning was spread.
July 31st. --We left Simon's Bay, Cape of Good Hope, at about 10 A. M., after firing the day before at a target with shot and shell. We steamed out of False Bay, and in the afternoon we got up the screw and made sail, but it was nearly calm, with a heavy swell on. Ever since that we have been going at the rate of from one to five knots per hour.
We of course steered to the southward, for the further you go to the south, the stronger the wind is (which is a steady W. wind); and the more you go south, the colder it becomes. It blew very hard from the S. E. for a day or two, and, owing to the heavy head sea, we never went more than five knots at the most. We got the westerly winds one day, but lost them the next; and, though we went ten or eleven knots several days, we were only rolling about and going from one to three knots the remainder of the time. It blew very hard on Wednesday night (August 12), and we put the ship under close-reefed topsails to run before it, and secured the guns in-
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board. We saw our old friends the Cape pigeons and albatrosses, and several other birds; some like an albatross, only their plumage was dark brown, and they had light-coloured bills; and some of the others were grey or light-brown on their backs, and white underneath, but otherwise like Cape pigeons, or perhaps rather larger. There is such a heavy swell here. One night it was so dark, that one of the studding-sail booms (which are spars on the yards, intended to push out and set outer sails on) was not well secured, and rolled out of its place and overboard, without anybody seeing it go.
On the 22nd at 6 P. M. we sighted the little island of St. Paul's on our starboard or right hand bow. Being winter here, it was nearly dark when we passed it. As we passed midway between it and Amsterdam Island, we caught a sight of the other island soon after on the other side, and in the same morning we arrived on the limits of the station. A few days before that we sighted a ship, probably a China clipper from Liverpool, and she kept in sight for three days. All the clippers going to Australia go further south so as to get the westerly wind stronger, while those to China steer about N. E. from St. Paul's. She was the only sail we have
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seen since we left the Cape. To-day, the 30th, we are between the meridians of 104 deg. and 105 deg. E. long., and are about 1800 miles from Cape Otway, which is in Bass's Straits, near Melbourne. We have had the wind right aft for the last week or so, but now it is from the southward, and is icy cold. We have been proceeding pretty well this last week, but last night it came on to blow very stiff indeed, and this morning we were under close-reefed maintop sail and reefed foresail and storm sails also.
We had no church this morning, but the chaplain read the same prayers that are read every morning, on account of the ship knocking about so much. About 8 o'clock A. M. the wind shifted suddenly round in a heavy squall, but we have been going seven knots ever since yesterday at noon. The Cape pigeons, boobies, noddies, and albatrosses, are still following the ship in great numbers. I suppose they will follow us almost to Sydney. We have only hard salt meat left, and harder biscuit, and a little wine of our own store; but all our stock of beer and porter (though we renewed it at the Cape) is gone.
September 10th, --We sighted Cape Otway, which is a point in the Colony of Victoria, just before
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coming to Bass's Straits. About 6 A. M. in the. morning watch, we saw Cape Nelson, and about 9. 30 or 10 o'clock we passed Cape Otway, and made our number there, which was at once telegraphed on to Sydney. We had a gale of wind that night-- passed Wilson's Promontory, and Ranee Head the next day; and on Friday night were off Cape Howe, which is the S. E. extremity of Australia. On Saturday it fell from a fine breeze to nearly a calm, so we did not get on much. But on Sunday (13th) 9 A. M. we sighted Botany Bay Heads, and passed it about 11 A. M. About 10. 30 A. M. we sighted Sydney Head, and after getting up steam and steaming into Port Jackson, which is one of the prettiest harbours I ever saw, we anchored at 2. 15 P. M. in Farm Cove, close to Sydney. We found the Eclipse here, --the Harrier and Miranda are both in New Zealand, and this composes our fleet.
We are lying just off Government House in a beautiful little cove, on the banks of which are the Botanical gardens. About two or three months ago, it seems a war again broke out with the Maories in New Zealand, so we are going to start off for Auckland almost immediately, with as many troops as we can carry. You cannot see much of Sydney itself from
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where we lay, on account of the trees which come to the water's edge. It is about six or seven miles from the sea, and along the banks of the inlet are beautiful little creeks, with country-houses peeping out from amongst the trees. Here and there, an immense Norfolk Island pine stands out, from amongst the rest of the trees. The public gardens seem very nicely kept, and I believe there is a menagerie in them. The people are very hospitable here. We have had cards sent on board making all our officers honorary members of one of their clubs. There is a colonial gun-boat just built; she has one paddle-wheel at her stern, and has two iron shot-proof cupolas; she is going to New Zealand soon. I believe she is to carry twelve brass guns. She was trying her speed in the harbour here yesterday afternoon. There has been a French paddle steamer of war on her way to New Caledonia, but she left last night at 8.30 P. M. It is very hot here in comparison with what it was on our passage: they say it has been a very warm winter, and a very dry summer. We left Sydney on Tuesday the 22nd, the same day the English mail did, only she sailed at 3 P. M. and we at 5 P. M. We took a detachment of the 12th regiment on board at 4 P. M. --sixteen
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officers and 240 rank and file, so you may imagine how crowded we are. There are only a few soldiers at Sydney now. Besides these we have six horses on board. Two are Colonel Hamilton's, a grey and a bay. Another for the adjutant, one for the doctor,
and the others belong respectively to the instructor of musketry and the quartermaster. They are all Australian horses. They kicked a good deal at being hoisted in. They hoist horses in with a canvass slung under them; and a band round them as well. They are all in horse-boxes round the stern. At first they could not stand straight at all, for the boxes are only just large enough for them to stand up in. Besides these we have two 40-pounder Armstrong field-pieces, and ammunition waggons, which of course lumber us up very much. When we left Sydney there was a tremendous swell on, and as we had so much top weight, we rolled more than we had ever done before, even as much as 40 deg.. This did not agree at all with the constitutions of our soldiers, and you may imagine what a state our decks were in.
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A day or two before we left Sydney, the Governor, Sir John Young, came on board. We also had the Austrian and Belgian Consuls on board before we left the place. I made the acquaintance of Mr. Dumaresque, and I went with him to his uncle's house, and spent part of the day there. It was about five miles' walk from Sydney, alongside of the harbour, mostly through woods, which are composed chiefly of gum-trees. There is not anything remarkable in the town of Sydney; it is an immense place, considering the time it has been built. There are some fine shops and wide streets, and everything just the same as in England, only much dearer, except meat, which is as cheap as possible. I did not think much of the Mint or the Council Chambers (Houses of Parliament); but then they were built in the beginning of the century by one of the first governors, named Macquarrie. The Commodore talks of making a small dockyard of Garden Island; it is the only spot belonging to the Home Government. At Cockatoo Island, about five miles above Sydney, we saw all the convicts at work, and they have built a large dry dock. Then fourteen miles above Sydney stands Paramatta, a large town, and I believe the river is deep all the way
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up, that is to say, not the river, for it ends near Paramatta, so I must call it an arm of the sea, Port Jackson. There is a railway from Sydney to Paramatta, where it divides into two branches, and each runs about twenty miles further west, and S. W. respectively. There are some curious names about the place, such as Wooloomooloo (a suburb of Sydney), Kirribilli Point, Balmain, and many others.
After being driven about by a head wind (and though we steamed and sailed), we did not make the land near the Manukau Harbour, till the 30th of September, and then it came on a thick fog, so we had some difficulty in working our way up round Capes Maria, Van Dieman, and so on to the north, but at 12.30 noon, on the 2nd of October, the fog suddenly cleared away and showed us the Great Barrier Island close to us. We were ten or twelve miles from where we thought we were. We had a difficult passage to make between islands with jaw-breaking native names, such as Kawau, Tiritiri, Whangaproa, and Rangitoto, and about 6 P. M. sunset, we sighted Mount Victoria and its signal station; we had to wait for a pilot, whom we did not get till after dark, and then we passed on and anchored off Auckland, at 7.40 P. M. The Miranda and a colonial gunboat the
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Sandfly are the only men-of-war here. The Harrier is in Manukau, and the Eclipse and another colonial gunboat arrived there the day before yesterday. The Manukau was where the Orpheus was lost. This town seems a thriving one, notwithstanding the war; certainly it is a very pretty one, with Mounts Eden and Hobson rising behind it. All the hills round here seem to have their tops cut off. We were ten days coming from Sydney here. Some of the sailing packets do it in five days, but sometimes they take twelve days. The distance is about 1200 miles. There is a cathedral, at least so they call it, but it is not more than a small church, and the Bishop's name is Selwyn. The Government House here is rather a small house, nothing like the size of the one at Sydney, where it was a fine building, though I cannot call it handsome. All the Harrier's men are ashore at this war, where I believe there is nothing very serious going on, except that the Maories fire at you from concealed places, and from which you can never get a shot at them. I have not heard anything about my landing yet, but some of our men and the field-pieces are going, and I should like to go very much.