rafts and canoes in australia, 1862
: Rafts and Canoes in Australia, 1862. SMH
Correspondents:Canoes in Australia The Sydney Morning Herald, 30 June 1862,
Trove 1862 'CANOES
IN AUSTRALIA.', The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 -
1954), 30 June, p. 3, viewed 20 September, 2013,
Morning Herald, 30 June 1862, page 3.
The following correspondence, bearing
chiefly on the question whether the Australian
aborigines are able to construct canoes, appeared in the London
Athenown for the month of March last -
Times of Wednesday, the 29th of January, in a review of the "Transactions of the
Society," refers to the various opinions of ethnologists with respect to the original unity of
the human species, and the probability, or otherwise, of the
different portions of
the globe having been peopled by the migrations of a single race, and mentions
that Mr Crawford holds "the supposition of a single race
countries to be monstrous and contradictory to the fact that some of them to this day do not
know how to use or construct a canoe."
At a recent meeting of the Royal Geographical Society, Mr Crawford
stated that the Australians have no canoes, so that perhaps
these may be the
people alluded to as not knowing how to construct or use them I will not presume
now to offer any
theory upon the question as to the source from whence Australia was peopled, but
perhaps you will kindly allow me space in your columns to say
Rockingham Ray, on the north eastern coast ot Australia, the natives have very
neatly-made canoes , and further on at a river opening in the
the Frankland Islands (longitude 140 degrees E , latitude 17 12 S ), were not
only catamarans, or rafts, but canoes made out of the
solid tree, and having an outngger on one side , and it is
remarkable that both the canoes andcatamarans
at this place resembled others we afterwards met with at the south-eastern
part of New
At Cape York (North Australia), we found the natives had large canoes, with
double outriggers and mat sails, with which they stood boldly
out in a strong
breeze with as much sail as our own boats would carry under the same
circumstances indeed, the Australians generally, upon all parts of
the coast that I
have visited, show little fear of the water, and under the direction of white men
make very good
In June, 1848, the natives near Cape Grafton (latitude 16 11 b )
came out in their canoes and boarded the "Will o'-the-Wisp, a small
trader, which they nearly captured.
There are at
least six varieties of canoes and rafts along the north-eastern shore of Australia
alone, and these are different from others found on the coast in
and in other parts.
O. W. BlUJ-.llLY. 1, Lidlington-place, Oakley-square, February,
1862. Dublin, March 3, 1802. Will you allow me to refer
to the paragraph headed " Canoes in Australia," in your last number,
purpose of stating exactly how the case stands ?
Western Australia, athough some large islands front the coast near the mouth of Swan
River, at a distance of not more than three or four miles, no
natives had ever
landed on them till the arrival of the settlers.
They had not the remotest notion of a canoe nor any kind of water conveyance whatever.
This is true also so far as my inquiries sixteen or eighteen
enabled me to ascertain, for all the west and for all the south coast of Australia.
On the north-west coast they used bundles of rushes tied
together to assist
them in swimming from one island to another. In
Botany Bay, Cook found them using strips of bark tied together at the ends, making a
sort of di_, in which a man could stand. In Rockingham Bay, when I
visited it in H.M.S. Fly, we first saw bark canoes sewn together,
thwarts, something like the canoes of the North American Indians.
North of this the cauoes improved till we came to the large ones
belonging to tie
Papuan islanders of Torres Straits, with sails and outriggers.
West of the Gulf of Carpentaria, however, these disappear at once and the
nothing at Fort Essington that could be called a canoe until they got some of the Malay
therefore, that the Australians derived their canoes from the Papuan Blendern, and that
Mr. Crawford is right as to their original destitution,
Brierly is also right as to existing facts. J. BEETE JUKES. P.S.Does any wood grow in
Australia large enough and light enough to moke a canoe if
hollowed out ?
I doubt it.
Neither is there any of which a bow could be made. March 11, 1802. Mr. J. B. Jukes, in his
letter on "Canoes in Australia," is wrong in his statement with
respect to New South
In the Catalogue of the Natural and Industrial Products of New South
Wales for the Exhibition of 1862, is the following extract
from a Lecture on
the Aborigines of New South Wales, by ,$riwnrrl J. Hill, E'a. : -
"The canoes of the natives are of two kinds.
Those intended for a mere temporary purpose to cross a river or
formed from the bark of a gum-tree simply tied together at the ends, with a
piece of stick
to keep the sides from coming together.
When intended for fishing, or permanent use, much more trouble is taken.
A large sheet of bark is taken from the stringy-bark tree ; the outer side
of the bark which
is very rough and stringy, is carefully removed ; it is then slowly, and with very
great attention, passed over a blazing fire until it has become
thoroughly hot through, which makes it very pliable; the
ends of the bark
are then brought together and laced with a cord made from the same description of
bark ; the gunwale is strengthened by a band of rushes, laced
edge ; and two or three stretchers are placed, according to its length, to keep
the canoe in shape.
A canoe of this kind is usually occupied by two men- one at the stern, who propels
it with a short paddle in either hand, and the other at the
with spears with which to strike the fish.
When crossing a river or lake, four or five persons may be conveyed in one of them with
employed in fishing, a flat stone is placed in the centre, on which a small fire is
always kept burning, on which they can cook their fish when they
them." Mr. Hill speaks the language
and knows the customs and habits of the aborigines thoroughly,
therefore, be considered an authority.
In 1834 I saw
the natives using the large canoes outside both Jervis Bay and Twofold Bay, and the
large fish which were brought in by them clearly proved to me
canoes must have been very buoyant and strong.
Anyone acquainted with the strength and tenacity of stringybark would not wonder that a
primitive people without metal tools should use it for boats
to wood, which could only be hollowed out in a rude manner, and with immense
Murray, Murrumbidgee, and other interior rivers, the bark canoe was used ;
and all who have seen much of the natives, especially on the
coast, will admit
that they are skilful men in a hnit. What Mr. Brierly states
about the canoes on the north-east coast I believe to be correct,
but I cannot vouch
for its accuracy from personal observation.
The north coast of Australia is regularly visited, I believe, by the Malays for the
purpose of trepang fishing.
If Mr. Jukes will be good enough to examine the Australian timbers, and the
them in the catalogues of the Great Exhibition, he will find the doubts expressed in
the P.S. of his letter fully answered.
DANIEL COOI'BR. 8,
Lidlington-place, Oakley-square, March 12,1862.
I cannot but feel flattered by the testimony of so eminent an authority as Mr. Jukes
to the truth of my observations about the canoes of Australia,
remember the interest with which (on board H.M.S.Rattlesnake) we used
to consult his valuable work upon that part of the world during our
cruises overmuch of the ground which he had visited, in H.M.S. Fly, before us ;
but I think in the observations which he makes for the purpose of
"exactly how the case stands" in the present instance, there are one or two points in which
he does not define this quite clearly, and with your kind
permission I will
endeavour to show which these are. Alter alluding to the canoes
they saw at Rockingham Bay, Mr. Jukes observes, that " north
the canoes improved till we came to the large ones belonging to the Papuan
Islanders of Torres Straits."
The improvement in the canoes in Rockingham Bay northward here spoken of
the state of the case so far ; but at Cape York we arrive- in the first instance, on
the mainland- at important canoes, with double outriggers and
belonging to the Australians ; while next to these, increasing in size and importance,
are the canoes of the Kowraregîs, or natives of the Prince of
Islands, who are friendly with the Gudang tribe at Cape York, and in constant
communication with them.
The Kowrarogas are a true island tribe, more Australian than Papuan, though
respects superior to the Australians and it is the large canoes of these people, and not of Papuans, which
we have on the Australian side of the Straits.
The Kowraregas intermarry both with the Australians and with
Papuan tribes of the islands nearer New Guinea, as the Kulcalsgas, Badnlegns, Italegas,
indeed, the islanders of the Straits generally appear to be more or less a mixed race, with a
greater or less proportion of Australian or Papuan character
as thei:tm aproach either side of the
William Islanders have no direct communication with New Guinea, but get ornaments,
»eopniii through the Badus and other tribes, who obtain them either from New Guinea, or
immediately upon its coast, and take back in return from the Kowraregas the shell of a
large flat oyster, they call Marri, which is much valued by the
people to the
north for making breast ornaments. After speaking of the canoes
of Torres Straits, with sails and outriggers, Mr Jukes remarks,
that " west
of the Gulf of Carpentaria these disappear at once , and the natives at Port
Essington had nothing that could be called a canoe until they
got some of the
Malay sampans. "
I think Mr Jukes is right as to the disappearance of the miling canoes
west of the
Gulf of Carpentaria, but the sketches of canoes taken by Mr Banes, the artist of Mr
and now to be seen in the chart-room of the Royal Geographical Society, show that
the natives of the Goulburn Islands, upwards of 200 miles
westward of Cape Arnhem, on the western side of the Gulf of Carpentaria, have well made
paddle canoes, capable of carrying at least three men in a
rough sea. At Post Essington we saw
two kinds of wooden canoes- one brought over by the Malays, and
smaller kind, which appeared to me to be native, but ot this I am not sure, as I do
not find any note about it upon my sketches of them.
Macgillivray says ("Voyage of H M S Rattlesnake," vol
1, p 140) that before they obtained canoes from the Malays,
canoes were in general use among the natives here. Speaking witn reference
not only to the west, but also to alt the southern coast of Australia
Mr Jukes says
that the result of his enquiries, sixteen or eighteen years ago, enabled him to
ascertain that the natives of these "parts of Australia had not
remotest idea of a canoe nor any kind of water conveyarce whatever."
When I visited Twofold Bay, in the yacht Wanderer, soon after our
arrival in Australia in that vessel, twenty years ago, we
natives of that part had their canoes of bark, certainly, but still canoes in which they went
out into the bay to catch fish by lines and spearing.
Twofold Bay is upon the southern point of the Continent, in
latitude 37 G
40 S. The concluding remark, in
which Mr Jukes expresses his doubt as to whether any wood
Australia "large enough and light enough to make a canoe if merely hollowed out," will
surprise many, besides myself, who have visited Australia I
me a list of upwards of three hundred Australian trees, many of which, from their
great size and other properties, must be adapted for making the
A considerable proportion of the large Australian trees, as the black butt (Eucalyptus
medias), become very hollow when they attain their
One of the most useful trees in Australia, the cedar (Cedrela Australis), is
very large and light, and is cut annually in great quantities at the
Clarence, and other rivers, and floated down to the coast for shipment to Sydney. Nearly all the Australian
wooden canoes that I have seen had outriggers with floats of light
attached , and these not only give great stability, but are calculated to support upon the
surface of the water canoes made from wood which otherwise
weight might not be adapted for the purpose. A friend of mine in Sydney
had a canoe made from one of the Austrian trees (the red gum, I
this carried upwards of fifteen people easily, without any assistance from floats
When we were at Cape York, the natives pointed out to me the trees of which they
said they made their canoes, and Macgillivray (" Voyage of H
Rattlesnake, ' vol ii p. 16,) gives the following account of their construction at
A tree of sufficient sue, free from limbs- usually a species of Bombax (silk
cotton tree) or
Erythrina- is selected in the scrub, cut down, hollowed out where it falls, and dragged
to the beach by means of long climbers used as ropes.
requisites are now added , two stout poles, fourteen to twenty feet in length, are
laid across the gunwale, and secured there from six to ten feet
the projecting ends are secured by lashing and wooden pegs to a long float of
light wood on each side, pointed, and slightly turned up at the
platform or stage of small sticks laid across occupies the centre of the canoe, extending
on each side several feet beyond the gunwale, and having on the
outside a sort
of double fence of upright sticks, used for stowing away weapons and other gear.
The cable is made of twisted climbers, often the Flaggelaria
Indica, and a large stone serves for an anchor. When I wrote the letter on
this subject which you did me the honour to insert in your number of
instant, I had not seen Mr Crawford s Paper "On Classification of the Races of
Men," published in the last volume of the "Transactions of the
Society," and my observations then were in consequence of the statement, which I
heard Mr Crawford
make at a meeting of the Royal Geographical Society, and the views attributed
to him in a notice of his paper in the Junes of the 20th
of January last. Upon reading Mr Jukes'
letter, however, I thought that perhaps the paper itself might contain
reference to an "original destitution" of the Australian natives with respect to canoes
in which Mr Jukes believes Mr Crawford to be right, but upon
through it I can only find the most positive assertions (pp 355, 3G1) that the Australians
"have no canoes to this day," and that "even now they cross
rivers only on rude rafts." Mr Crawford attacks
evervthing opposed to his own views with so much impetuosity, that he
scarcely to allow himself breathing-time to ascertain existing facts.
Had he done so he would not have made these statements
-O W BRIERLY ? Dublin,
March 24, 1802 Will you allow me to state
my opinion a little more deliberately than in my hastily-written note
appeared in your number of the 8th instant.
statements as to existing facts made by Sir D Cooper and Mr Brierly are, ot course,
beyond all question.
I looked at the subject from an ethnological point of view, and supposed that the question
was, whether the
Australians had anything of their own invention worthy of being called a canoe.
Before writing the ethnological chapter in the "Voyage of H M S
(published in 1847), I searched most, if not all of the early voyages and travels for
information on this matter among others.
From this search, and from my own observations and inquiries made during our voyage, I came to the
conclusion that before they were visited by Europeans, the
had no canoes anywhere along the south, west and north west coasts from Cape Howe
to Cape Leuwin,
and thence to Melville Island or thereabouts.
On the east coast, at Twofold Bay, Botany Bay, and the other places visited by Cook,
Flinders, King, and others, as far north as Sandy Cape, the only
mentioned are, as I believe, the strips of bark tied together at the ends, with rough sticks
to keep them open,
which have been already described.
I was much
struck with the bark canoes about Rockingham Bay, as they resembled those I had
previously seen among the Native Indians of Newfoundland,
greatly inferior to them.
The detailed description of those canoes which I find m my own notes
with that quoted by Sir D. Cooper from Mr Hill.
The fact mentioned by Sir D. Cooper, however that he had seen similar canoes
outside Jervis and Twotold Bays in the year 1834 is new to
would, had I been aware of it, have pro tanto modified my statements as to the canoes
of New South
I still behove that the canoes made of hollowed trees found among the
Australians of the north-east coast are either procured from
Papuan Mandera, or that at all events it was from these islanders that the Australians
learnt how to make
them. Macgillivray says, in the page quoted by Mr Brierly from the" "Voyage of
the Rattlesnake," that they now use iron axes,
which they must
of course procure from "white men."
larger canoes among the Torres Straits Islanders themselves must, I think, have been
procured from New
Guinea, whence so many of their implements are derived, ornamented with
cassowary and not with emu feathers.
The doubt expressed in the P S of my note as to the possibility of
getting trees in
Australia large enough and light enough to make canoes if hollowed out, is
certainly of too sweeping a character, for I had hardly posted the
note before I
recollected the beautiful pine trees which grow in such profusion about Whitsunday
Passage and the neighbourhood, a part of the Australian
superior in aspect, and, I believe, in value, to any other portion of any side of it.
The statements of Macgillivray and Mr. Brierly show clearly
that I was wrong
Still the generality of Australian trees are ill adapted for such a purpose.
It was always said
in the Australian colonies that none of the native woods would float in water.
Whether that be true or not, almost all the large trees of the
greater part of Australia are at the same time heavy, hard
brittle, readily splitting into slabs or splinters, but not easily cut across the grain.
It is probably in great measure the nature of their woods which has prevented the Australians from
advanced m the arts of life as the Papuans, who have in New Guinea not only large canoes
of solid timber, but powerful bows, and large well constructed
on the stumps of stout trees, all cut down to one uniform level by stone hatchets not
superior to those used by the Australians.
I am not
speaking of what might bo done by Europeans with Australian woods, but solely
endeavouring to learn the condition of the Australians before they
contact with either Papuans, Malays, or Europeans.
My own impretation was, that their intercourse with the former had not been of very much
earlier date than that with either of the latter, and that it
was from the
Papuan Islanders of Torres Straits that the art of canoe making was making its way
among the Australians
when they were first visited by Europeans.
It appeared to me that this art had spread from Torrea Straits, as from a centre, down the
east coast to Twofold Bay and Cape Howe, and along the north
nearly to far in consequence of the great indtntation of the Gulf of Carpentaria with
its barren and therefore uninviting shores.
I feel sure that we were told at Port Essington that the natives
wooden canoes before that coast was visited by the Malays. Can any one now give any
certain information as to Port Phillip before it was
natives any canoes there ? and what kind of canoes were they ? J. BEETE JUKES.
Trove 1862 'CANOES IN
AUSTRALIA.', The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 -
1954), 30 June, p. 3, viewed 20 September, 2013,
6 March 1863, page 3.
Canoes in Austhalia.
-At recent meetings of the Ethnological and Geological Societies, Mr.
support of a theory that the human race has sprung from many original races,
stated that in Australia the natives have no canoes.
This would notprove much, even if true; but the direct
testimony of many
Australian travellers and explorers is opposed to Mr. Crawford's statement.
One of these, Mr. O. W. Brierley, thus writes in a letter to the "
"I will not presume now to offer any theory upon tlie question as to the
whence Australia waa peopled, but perhaps you will kindly allow mo space in your
columns to say that at Rockingham Bay, on the north-esstern coast
the natives have very neatly-made ciuoes ; and further on, at a river
opening.in the mainland opposite the Frankland Islands (longitude
146- E., ,
latitude 17*12 S.), were not only catamarans
canoes made out of the solid Irec, and having an outrigger on one side ; and it is
somewhat remarkable that both the canoes and the catamarans at this place resembled otheis we alterwards
met with at the south-eastern part of New Guinea.
At Cape York
(North Australia) we found the natives had large canoes, with double outriggers and
mat sails, with which they stood boldly out in a strong
breeze with as much
sail as our own boats would carry under the same circumstances : indeed, the
Australians generally upon all parts of the coast that I have
little fear of the water, and under the direction of white men, make very good whalers.
In June, 1848, the
natives near Cape Grafton (latitude 16- 51-S.) came off in their canoes and boarded
the Will-o'-the "Wisp, a small sandal-wood trader, which they
There are at least six varieties of canoes and rafts along the north-easteni
shore of Australia alone ; and these are different from others
found on the
coast to the southward and in other parts."
1863 'THE WATERFALL.', The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW :
1842 - 1954), 6 March, p. 6, viewed 21 September, 2013,
http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article13075251 The Perth
Gazette and Independent Journal of Politics and News
5 June 1863, page 2.
The Tien Tsin's track to the Harding River.
extracts from Captain Jarman's Journal commence upon his closing in with the land, immediately after
North West Cape, from whence to Tien Tsin Harbor he proved the
of the surveys of Captains King and Stokes as laid down in the Admiralty charts, the only
differences he notes
being his observation of an apparent deep water passage through Ritchie's Reef, a greater depth of water
Delambre Isle and the main land....... ... May 5.- At 7 a.m., weighed and
Cape Lambert, following the Mystery, in fine smooth water, throughout
greater depth than indicated upon the Admiralty Sheet.
At noon Bezout N.W. 3
miles close in with the land immediately Southward of Cape Lambert, with
shore to the southward of the eastern reef lying off the same ; coasting along under easy sail I saw from the
royal yard a
deep bay and tempting looking spot for landing, and the Mystery leading
rounded the north headland of the bay afterwards named the "Tien Tsin Harbor" by Mr. Hunt, and anchored in three fathoms at low water spring tide,
midway between Jarman Isle and Samson's Point. ... May 7.- Shifted the ship to
about half a
mile from low water mark where she had 16 feet at least depth. Three
to the ship, each upon a support awash in the water of some description of cork wood, much in shape and form
centre piece of a catamaran,
about 8 feet
long by 9 inches in diameter, with a cross peg about l8 inches from the
is grasped by the great toes when the affair becomes too lively, they
craft with the palms of their hands which they use like a dog does his
when swimming. After
I induced a fine strapping fellow to leave his perch in the water and
deck, when I led him by the beard to the main hatch, when one of the
happening to bellow and look up, he made a spring from my hand on to the
ship's rail and
into the water, and they subsequently appeared to have a most wholesome
dread of us
and the bullocks, for as soon as the latter made their appearance on
every man disappeared and we never saw any of them again. Trove
1863 'The "Tien Tsin's" track to the Harding River.', The
Perth Gazette and Independent Journal of Politics and News (WA
: 1848 - 1864), 5 June, p. 2, viewed 21 September, 2013,
Sydney, 20 June 1864 , page 5.
THE FLOOD IN THE
Wednesday and Thursday, in paddling "catamarans," or rafts, constructed of pieces of
boards tied together with ropes, and on one or two occasions some of the
off and got a good dunking, narrowly escaping being drowned.
1864 'THUR DAY, JUNE 16TH.', Empire (Sydney, NSW : 1850 -
1875), 20 June, p. 5, viewed 21 September, 2013,
http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article60554253 The Maitland
Mercury & Hunter River General Advertiser
28 March1871, page 3.
Another Heavy Rainstorm-A very heavy rainstorm pissed over this district
Wednesday ... Perhaps never before has the necessity of a bridge
Paterson River been so severely felt as during the past and present year, for seven
months out of
the past twelve months the various cussing places bave been impassable, and
many parties are
now constructing small punts and catamarans, to enable them to obtain
communications with the opposite side of the river and the town.
these temporary constructions will not cause us to have to record such a fatal
occurred a few years ago near Gostwyok, when crossing on one of their
ill-constructed log arrangements, called catamarans, a man, his wife, and two children, met their
drowning, by the capsizing of these frail and giddy rafts. Trove
1871 'PATERSON.', The Maitland Mercury & Hunter River
General Advertiser (NSW : 1843 - 1893), 28 March, p. 3,
viewed 21 September, 2013,
The Argus Melbourne,Friday 23 June
1871, page 3.
GUINEA A Field for Exploration, No. 111.
(FROM THE AUSTRALASIAN.)
... At Brumer Island the natives were perfectly
came boldly alongside with yams and cocoanuts on catamarans.
A comical salutation was found among them, which
to signify friendly intentions. It was made by touching the nose with
forefinger and thumb of one band, and pinching the skin on each side of the navel with the other, calling out the word
" at the same time. The women were tatooed with a beautiful
pattern like worked lace.
The expertness and
fearlessness of the natives in the water was remarked.
1871 'NEW GUINEA.', The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 -
1957), 23 June, p. 3, viewed 21 September, 2013,
http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article5850150 Australian Town and Country Journal
NSW, Saturday 9 August 1873, page 16.
DISCOVERY HARBOUR, NEW GUINEA.
Recent Discoveries in New
Guinea, during the Cruise of H.M S.
Basilisk. BY BEAUFOY MERLIN, ESQ. Photographic Artist of
The vessel next proceeded along the coast to tho southward ; but some
difficulty was experienced in avoiding the numerous reefs that lie to
the south of
While at the Bay several natives came on board, while many
more moved round tho ship in canoes.
They were shy and destitute of clothing, save a bit of matting
fastenod round their loins.
average height of tho adult men seemed to be about five feet five inches.
They looked well-made and muscular, but were not so clean nor
apparently so healthy as others of the aborigines with whom the
crew of the
Basilisk subsequently became acquainted. ... Page 17
The second trip of the Basilisk was begun on the 20th March, 1873.
... Further progress was made along the
coast, and having mapped a portion of the
mainland of New Guinea, theBasilisk
was brought to anchor off the Isle of Testo, one of the
Louisiade Group, on the 9th of April.
came off in great numbers in their catamarans to meet
their white visitors, bringing with them cocoa nuts,
yams, and other vegetable products of a very
excellent quality. ... Page 18
As the ship passed along the coast the natives in
great numbers, came off from the shore in canoes, and
tried to overtake the vessel while in motion, displaying
bananas, &c, to induce her commander to stop but
she was kept ou her course, and after making a run of
about twentymiles, came into a beautiful biiy, which
was named Discovery Harbour and which forms the
subject of the accompanying engraving.
remained at Discovery Harbour until the 30th April,
and during their stay this beautiful spot was the scene
of much animated traffic and agreeable intercourse with
the natives. Trove
1873 'Recent Discoveries in New Guinea, during the Cruise of H.M
S. Basilisk.', Australian Town and Country Journal (NSW :
1870 - 1907), 9 August, p. 16, viewed 21 September, 2013,
April 1874, page 5.
North-east Coast Expedition.
The Johnstone River lies in
17° 30' S. latitude and
140°6' E. longitude.
From its description it
must be the discharge of a most important district, inasmuch as, speaking of a
moot point, as to
whether the river they were entering was the Gladys of Captain Moresby or the
leader says, " Up to this point we were under the belief that we were entering
especially as the entrance of both is in thc same latitude and longitude.
THE JOHNSTONE RIVER LANDS.
... "This bora ground afforded evidence of the large numbers of blacks in this
locality, further borne
out by the numerous catamarans or rafts, made of three logs of light timber
or banana stems
lashed together with strips of cane, and capable of carrying five or six
people, which we saw
moored along the river banks.
twenty between our junction camp and the bora ground, and remarked that they were
all moored on
the side next the camp- evidence of a curiosity on the part of their owners which
inconvenient to us in our daily explorations.
"All the catamarans were still on the
of the river, and more had joined them.
"Rounding the bend into
Bora Camp reach, a
numerous black mob occupied the bora ground.
They fled as we approached, and left several largecatamarans,
on which they had come down the river, moored alongside the bank.
combined circumstances, we were of opinion that they were collecting to attack us ;
general impression was that the sooner they did so and discovered the full extent of
their mistake the
better for us and for future settlers on these rivers.
'Queensland North-east Coast Expedition.', The Brisbane Courier
(Qld. : 1864 - 1933), 18 April, p. 5, viewed 21 September, 2013,
http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article1381954 The Mercury
Hobart, Monday 6 July 1874 page 3.
OF TASMANIA., No. 1. [Written BY J. E. CALDER ] SEALERS V. BLACKS: A STRAITSMAN'S STORY.
It is said by Robinson, in one of his many reports on the
condition of the blacks (January 24th, 1831), that none of the
natives of the North or East Coasts had the least idea of making or using a
catamaran, like those dwelling on the South and West Coast
districts had. Indeed, the configuration of the shores he is
speaking of, which are not much broken into bays, gave them
little occasion to trust them- selves afloat ; and as no
Tasmanian native ever gave himself the smallest unnecessary
trouble, these " machines," as Robinson contemptuously calls
them, were never constructed by them ; so if the North or East
Coast tribes desired to visit any of the bird rocks that were
not within swimming distance, they had no means of doing so
unless a friendly boatman were at hand, to cross and recross
them. Thompson, when he had leisure, never refused them this
service, thus enabling them in egging time to add largely to
their food supplies.
1874 'PALEOLOGICAL SKETCH OF TASMANIA.', The
Mercury (Hobart, Tas. : 1860 - 1954), 6 July, p. 3, viewed 21
September, 2013, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article8930932 The Sydney
Wednesday 14 October 1874, page 2.
THE FIJIAN GROUP
[By Our Own Reporter]
At length there wai some stir in the distance, and canoes,
with outriggers, bearing natives, and boats carrying Fijians and
some few Europeans began to show themselves, all making eagerly
for the ship. The first outrigger canoe that came over to us wat
declared by Colonel B. (a veteran military officer on board) to
bear a strong resemblance to the catamaran of Ceylon, and
intense was the curiosity of all as the dark-skinned Fijian
visitors thus brought along-side, most of whom only wore the
sulu, or waist-cloth, and some of them having also the salu, or
white tappa turban on the head. Trove
1874 'THB FIJIAN GROUP VISITED.', The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW :
1842 - 1954), 14 October, p. 2, viewed 21 September, 2013,
Queenslander Brisbane, Saturday 3 April 1875, page
Sketcher. The Torres Straits Route.
In the Straits several ships of European rig
were seen, and one unmistakable Chinese junk, with everything,
from the sails to the painted eyes near the bows, to the hats of
the sailors, intensely Chinese.
Rather a sensational object was passed in the night- a
catamaran, or fishing canoe, waterlogged, and with nobody
In the morning there was a numerous fleet of catamarans in
sight; these boats sail with an outrigger on each side to
prevent upsetting. Trove
1875 'The Sketcher.', The Queenslander (Brisbane, Qld. : 1866 -
1939), 3 April, p. 7, viewed 21 September, 2013,
http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article18335440 The Brisbane
Saturday 2 October 1875, page 5.
By the courtesy of Lieutenant
Connor, R.N, we are enabled to furnish the following
particulars of his recent Northern exploration cruise.
He left Brisbane by the Northern steamer in February last, for
Townsville, at which place he remained for some time to
complete a survey of the different sites proposed for the
jetty and breakwater at that place.
Having finished this work, Lieutenant Connor proceeded to Cape
York ; but not finding there the Government cutter, which was
to have met him at Somerset, he took the Lizzie Jardine, and
made surveys with a view of determining, the best site on
Thursday Island for tho Harbor of Refuge, sounding all round
Normanby Sound and its approaches.
He next went down aud examined the Gulf of Carpentaria,
between Parker aud Bayly Points.
Finding no harbor there after examining the whole of the coast
of the Gulf as far as the Queensland boundary, he returned to
Brisbane. At Sweer's Island, Lieutenant
Connor had a severe attack of rheumatic fever, which prevented
him from carrying out his intention of surveying tlie mouth of
the Norman River.
While at Parker Point two rafts or catamarans came alongside,
each carrying one man.
They were fine-looking men, and appeared desirous of friendly
inter-course, not manifesting the slightest fear.
The timber in the neighborhood was too small to permit of the
construction of canoes.
The rafts were of the most extraordinary description ever seen
by the Lieutenant ; they were about nine feet in length,
and in shape resembled an elongated V, the seat being situated
about one-third of the length from the broad end, composed of
a lot of grass.
The occupant of the catamaran sits with his lower parts quite
immersed in water, while he paddles himself about.
The natives of the islands immediately facing Swear's Island,
use the same description of raft, constructed of larger
1875 'Telegraphic.', The Brisbane Courier (Qld. : 1864 - 1933), 2
October, p. 5, viewed 21 September, 2013,
Note: Sweer's Island is in the lower Gulf of Carpentaria.
South Australian Register
Adelaide, Friday 12 May 1876 page 5.
PHILADELPHIA. Fiji to the Sandwich Islands. Honolulu., April 1.
When last I wrote we, the
passengers by the Colima from Sydney, were contemplating
with eager delight the reef-bound harbour of N'Goloa.
in the Island of Kandavu, Province of Fiji, and looking
forward with unlimited satisfaction to the prospect of
speedy deliverance from the steamer in which we had
spent ten weary days. ...
Irrespective of these the water was alive with native boats,
closely resembling the catamarans, so familiar to voyagers by
the P. & O. steamers.
They are nothing more than a rude raft, the platform being
supported on one side by a canoe hollowed out of the trunk of
a tree, and on the other by a bare log of wood.
The rafts vary in size from a light skull capable of
supporting only two or three persons to a capacious craft
large enough to carry a small tribe.
Long experience has made the islanders amazingly expert in
handling these vessels.
A small sail attached to a rude mast and a couple of paddles
constitute the only propelling power they condescend to use.
Most of the canoes betray a remarkable weakness for taking in
water, and if they are of any size two natives are invariably
told off to do the baiing out. Under ordinary circumstances,
it matters little to the boatmen whether their frail barks
sink or swim, for they evidently feel at least as comfortable
in the water as on board.
1876 'ADELAIDE TO PHILADELPHIA.', South
Australian Register (Adelaide, SA : 1839 - 1900), 12 May, p. 5,
viewed 21 September, 2013,
http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article43002671 The Inquirer &
Perth, Wednesday 6 June 1877, Supplement, page 2.
WHALES TAMED AND EMPLOYED.
Boston, 6th January.
"Then I'll come home and form a General Whale Navigation Company
in Nantucket, New Bedford, and New York, and we will take the
contracts for carrying with whales all the ocean mails at the
rate of sixty miles an hour. More than this, we will tow in and out of every bay and
harbour in the world all the ships, barques, brigs, brigautines,
schooners, sloops, flotboats, rafts, and catamarans with whales.
By the means of young whales we will easily do all this,
and much more, and by the means of old ones we will give light
and heat to all mankind, and thus send all steamship companies
that burn coal, all coal companies,and all gas companies, to one
eternal smash." Trove
1877 'Sketcher.', The Inquirer & Commercial News (Perth, WA :
1855 - 1901), 6 June, p. 2 Supplement: Supplement to the
Inquirer., viewed 21 September, 2013,
http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article66302622 Australian Town
and Country Journal
NSW, Saturday 16 March 1878, page 18.
New Guinea. PART VI.-SURVEYING- "VOYAGES.
Sailing Westward Captain Stanley passed the Duehateauaud
the Duperry Islands; the Lejeune Ushant, Teste, and Lebrun
Islands of D'Urville and sighted the high land of New Guinea. The Brummer Islands appeared fertile and beautiful, with
the broken ridges of New Guinea in the back ground. These broken ridges have turned out to be a number of lofty
islands divided from the mainland by navigable straits. The natives made use of both catamarans and canoes, the
former consisting of planks, or logs, lashed together ; the
latter of trees hollowed out, bulging at the sides, with a long
outrigger supporting a framework. The common salutation in this part consists of touching the
nose with the finger and thumb, and then pinching the skin on.
both sides of the navel. The first part of the performance is the custom of
Polynesia, the second of the Torres Straits and these natives,
uniting these two extremes, have adopted both.
1878 'New Guinea.', Australian Town and Country Journal (NSW :
1870 - 1907), 16 March, p. 18, viewed 21 September, 2013,
http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article70615606 The Record and
Emerald Hill and Sandridge Advertiser
Victoria, Friday 5 April 1878, page 3.
AQUATICS. ALBERT PARK YACHT CLUB.
... With the present I forward you a copy of tho Spirit
of the Times of 24th Novr., a New York paper devoted to
out-door sports, aud containing an illustration and
description of n new style of pleasure boat called a catamaran,
from its hiving a slight resomblance to thecatamarans
of Madras. Its performances in all sorts of weather, if
correctly described, are very surprising, and I suppoaod
that the account given would interest you aud other.
members of the club, some of whom may be inclined to try
the experiment of building acatamaran for
the Lagoon. ... Yours truly, (signed) CONOLLY LEETCH. NAUTI-CUSS. Trove
1878 'AQUATICS.', The Record and Emerald Hill and Sandridge
Advertiser (Vic. : 1872 - 1881), 5 April, p. 3, viewed 21
September, 2013, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article108500229 The Sydney
Morning Herald Monday 22 September 1879, page 6.
; while the Royal Society of Tasmania furnishes some ethnological
of skulls of male and female aborigines, and casts of faces, stone implements,
waddies, baskets, and a model of a catamaran.
1879 'TASMANIA.', The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 -
1954), 22 September, p. 6, viewed 21 September, 2013,
Bulletin Rockhampton, Wednesday 8 July 1903, page 5.
VISIT TO GULF OF CARPENTARIA.
DESCRIPTION OF ISLANDERS. [By
BRISBANE, July 7. Mr. Hedley, the
Conchologist of the Australian Museum, Sydney, recently accompanied Dr. Roth, Northern Protector of Aborigines, on a visit to the
While there they explored Mornington Island, one of the Wellesley group at thc southern extremity of the Gulf,
Hedley arrived in Brisbane yesterday. In the course of an
interview to-day he said, "I accepted the invitation of Dr.Roth
to accompany him on his annual trip through the Gulf of Carpentaria
From a scientific point of view the chief matter of interest resulting
cruise is the proof that the Gulf is more nearly associated in its fauna to
Indian Ocean than the Pacific.
I was much
interested in discovering several typical Indian Ocean ferns in the Gulf, which have not previously been found
On the other hand many charactistic forms of the Barrier Reef were conspicuously absent.
We visited several islands in the Gulf, and at Mornington Island we landed.
From what could be discovered no white man had over been there since Matthew Flinders discovered
It appeals the islanders have been separated from the blacks on the mainland
generations, and they are
far behind the
mainlanders in their civilisation.
Islanders do not make primitive huts as others do, but simply gather
together grass at
night time and lie out in
the open to the
leeward of the heaps.
The mainlanders make beautiful little baskets in which to carry things while the islanders
possessions in the bark of trees.
can make canoes, but the islanders only fasten together a couple of logs with lighter wood in between and make them like rafts with one end pointed and the other end fairly wide.
On the bottom of these rafts
heaps of grass to make them more comfortable.
In Mornington we found quite a fleet of rafts.
We noticed thc
islanders do not seem lo have the wonderful gum cement which the natives of
mainland use for fastening things together.
Apparently these natives either drifted backward or they represent the lower class of blacks from which the
The island, which is forty miles long by ten miles wide, carries a large population.
In one deserted camp wc counted twenty camp fires.
fire there would probably be at least two persons.
Although the natives were armed with spears they made no hostile display.
Whenever we came across them in the bush they ran away.
What struck me
most was the stolidity of the natives.
They seemed to take us as a matter of course.
The islanders do not wear a shred of clothing.
They are very lightly built, but very strong nnd healthy compared with the natives to be found about
1903 'VISIT TO GULF OF CARPENTARIA.', Morning Bulletin (Rockhampton,
Qld. : 1878 - 1954), 8 July, p. 5, viewed 23 September, 2013,
Examiner Launceston, Tasmania, Saturday 19
October 1935, Special Saturday Section,page 1.
CLIFFS OF TASMAN ISLE Men Who Dared the Southern Ocean in Boats
Sheer from a stormy sea the cliffs of Tasman
Island rise black against the sky.
To this islet far better than Norfolk Island applies the
saying that it is fit to be the home only of eagles and of
angels. Tasman Island is indeed accessible to birds
alone, except at one point of the northern side. There a ledge of rock offers a precarious
landing, though even this is often swept by the great rollers
of the Southern Ocean as they crash and boil around the islet.
(Writes Thomas Dunbabin, in "Walkabout")
FROM this ledge a goat, or a surer footed climber, may climb to
the top of the cliffs up a ridge not quite so steep as the side
of a house.
And so one comes to the few acres of nearly level land on the
top of the island, 800 feet above the sea.
Half a mile of deep water, a channel through which small sailing
craft sometimes venture when the wind is steady, parts Tasman
Island from the great cliffs that line Cape Pillar, the extreme
south-eastern point of Tasmania.
Right in under the Pillar Cliffs and just opposite the northern
point of the island are ledges of rock on which the seals sun
themselves in fine weather.
When a sea comes up, these, too, are swept by the waves, no man
may reach these ledges from above, for the cliffs are
perpendicular- and far too high to be climbed, though they are
low compared with the mighty cliffs a mile away on the. eastern
side of the Pillar, where they rise to 1100 feet, the tallest
sea cliffs in the Commonwealth.
All shipping bound to and from the Derwent and the port of
Hobart from the east coast of Australia or from Bass Strait,
must round Tasman Island.
And so, with infinite pains and toil, a lighthouse has been
built on the summit.
A crane for hoisting goods ashore has been placed above the
ledge, and a haulage line up the steep ridge takes them to the
light house and the cottages on the summit.
Where Black Men
Tasman Island lies right off the extreme end of Cape Pillar.
On the one side the cliff-lined shore stretches northward
without a break to the Inlet of Fortesque Bay, opening between
black rocks eight miles away.
To the north-westward an equally un broken line of cliffs runs
away to Stewart Bay, at the head of which lies Port Arthur.
Here it is nearly, ten miles before you reach a break in the
cliffs, where the shore can be reached at the head of a little
Here, at least, one would say, is an island that never felt the
tread of man till the white man came, with his superior boats
and his seafarine skill.
Yet, when the lighthouse was built, a skeleton was found on the
summit of the island as mute testimony that some Tasmanian
aboriginal had climb ed the cliffs before the white man ever
thought of planting a light on Tasman Island.
It may be that he died and left his bones there before that day,
293 years ago, when the two ships commanded by that dark, fierce
Frieslander, Abel Janszoon Tasman, rounded Tasman Island first
of all European ships to coast the shores of Tasmania, and
passed on to anchor near the fantastic cloven dome of Green
Island, 30 miles to the north ward.
Writers have pictured the Tasmanian aborigines as lacking even
the elementary art of navigation.
All that they could do, it has been asserted, was to float on
rafts across a narrow, sheltered channel.
The skeleton and the worked stones of Tasman Island are mute
witnesses against such a belief.
To reach Tasman, Island the natives had to come out of either
Fortescue Bay or Stewart Bay, and to navigate for eight to ten
miles over one of the stormiest seas in the world.
There are, of course, days when the sea is comparatively smooth,
even round the stormy corner.
But, even on the calmest days, there is always a swell, and the
surf breaks high on the rocks round Tasman and under the Pillar.
It has been suggested that the natives left their canoes on the
flat rocks under the pillar and swam across to Tasman Island.
If so, they were good and daring swimmers.
Besides, this only shifts the difficulty.
As it was quite impossible for them to carry their canoes down
the cliffs of the Pillar, even if they had dragged them out
through the scurb and over the rough country which leads the few
hardy bushmen who have made the trip out to the headland to
speak of the "Purge of the Pillar," they must still have reached
this point by the voyage from Fortescue or Stewart Bay.
Bold and Daring
The truth is, of course, that the Tasmanians of the coast had
good canoes and were, within their limits, bold and daring
seamen. Their canoes, it is true, were made of bark, but they
were workmanlike craft.
Peron, the French scientist, who visited Tasmania in 1802, not
only described the canoes, but gave a drawing of one from the
east coast, which was quite a neat little craft.
Amasa Delano, the American sealer, who was on the Tasmanian
coast in 1804, does indeed speak of the canoes as ill-made, but
asserts that they had outriggers.
If he is right, they were ahead of the canoes of almost all the
natives of the mainland of Australia.
It is known that the natives always carried fire on their
canoes, having a little hearth of clay for the purpose.
To-day the aborigines of Tasmania sail the seas no more in their
Never again, while the world endures, will they put out from
Fortescue Bay to coast the frowning cliffs of the Pillar or to
land on the ledge of Tasman Island.
Yet still to-day their descendants of mixed blood sail from
Western Port and Port Phillip on the crayfish ketches to work
round the storm beaten, tide-swept rocks and reefs of Bass
Strait, drawing from the depths the food that crowns the revelry
of the city dweller, who hardly knows whether a crayfish has
scales or not.
These men, too, show the skill and daring of their ancestors who
dared the Southern Ocean with but a sheet of Ibark between them
1935 'CLIFFS OF TASMAN ISLE.', Examiner (Launceston, Tas.
: 1900 - 1954), 19 October, p. 1 Edition: DAILY, Section: SPECIAL
SATURDAY SECTION, viewed 21 October, 2013,
Correspondents:Canoes in Australia The Sydney Morning Herald, 30
June 1862, page 3.