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Edward John Eyre - Vol 1 - Ch 11

Embark Stores — Party Leave Streaky Bay — Dense Scrue — Point Brown — Singular Well — Process of Change in Appearance of Country — Dig for Water — Friendly Natives — Extraordinary Rite — Native Guides — Leipoa’s Nest — Denial Bay — Beelimah Gaippe — Kangaroo Killed — More Natives — Berinyana Gaippe — Salt Lakes — Wademar Gaippe — Sandy and Scrubby Country — Mobeela Gaippe — Difficulty of Getting Water — More Natives — Genuine Hospitality — Singular Marks on the Abdomen — Natives Leave the Party — Fowler’s Bay — Excellent Whaling Station.

November 19

November 19. — The wind still being unfavourable, the day was spent in removing the drays, tents, etc. to a more elevated situation. Our camp had been on the low ground, near the water, in the midst of many scrubby hills, all of which commanded our position. There were now a great many well armed natives around us, and though they were very kind and friendly, I did not like the idea of their occupying the acclivities immediately above us — at all events, not during my contemplated absence from the party. I therefore had every thing removed to the hill next above them, and was a good deal amused at the result of this manoeuvre, for they seemed equally as uneasy as we had been at the heights above them being occupied. In a very short time they also broke up camp, and took possession of the next hill beyond us. This defeated the object I had in view in our former removal, and I now determined not to be out-manoeuvred any more, but take up our position on the highest hill we could find. This was a very scrubby one, but by a vigorous application of the axes for an hour or two, we completely cleared its summit; and then taking up the drays, tent, baggage, etc. we occupied the best and most commanding station in the neighbourhood. The result of this movement was, that during the day the natives all left, and went in the direction of where the cutter was. I was not sorry for their departure; for although they had been very friendly and useful to us, yet now that I contemplated keeping the party for a long time in camp, and should myself probably be a considerable time absent, I was more satisfied at the idea of the natives being away, than otherwise; not that I thought there was the least danger to be apprehended from them if they were properly treated; but the time of my men would be much occupied in attending to the horses and sheep; and they were too few in number, to admit of much of that time being taken up in watching the camp or the natives who might be near it; for I always deemed it necessary, as a mere matter of prudence, to keep a strict look out when any natives were near us, however friendly they might profess to be.

Upon walking round the shores of Fowler’s Bay, I found them literally strewed in all directions with the bones and carcases of whales, which had been taken here by the American ship I saw at Port Lincoln, and had been washed on shore by the waves. To judge from the great number of these remains, of which very many were easily recognisable as being those of distinct animals, the American must have had a most fortunate and successful season.

It has often surprised me, that the English having so many colonies and settlements on the shores of Australia, should never think it worth their while to send whalers to fish off its coasts, where the whales are in such great numbers, and where the bays and harbours are so numerous and convenient, for carrying on this lucrative employment. I believe scarcely a single vessel fishes any where off these coasts, which are entirely monopolised by the French and Americans, who come in great numbers; there cannot, I think, be less than three hundred foreign vessels annually whaling off the coasts, and in the seas contiguous to our possessions in the Southern Ocean. I have generally met with a great many French and American vessels in the few ports or bays that I have occasionally been at on the southern coast of Australia; and I have no doubt that they all reap a rich harvest.

Among the many relics strewed around Fowler’s Bay, I found the shell of a very large turtle laying on the beach; it had been taken by the crew of the vessel that I met at Port Lincoln, and could not have weighed less than three to four hundred weight. I was not previously aware that turtle was ever found so far to the southward, and had never seen the least trace of them before.