- Category: Edward John Eyre - Vol 2 - Ch 4
- Written by Edward John Eyre
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June 5. — From this time until the fourteenth of June I remained on board the Mississippi, enjoying the hospitality of Captain Rossiter. Wylie went out once or twice to try to shoot a kangaroo for the ship, but he never succeeded; he had so much to eat on board that he had no stimulus to exertion, and did not take the trouble necessary to insure success. During almost the whole of the time that I remained on board the Mississippi, the weather was exceedingly boisterous, cold, and wet, and I could not but feel truly thankful that I had not been exposed to it on shore; even on board the ship, with shelter and extra clothing, I felt very sensibly the great change which had taken place in the temperature.
I regretted greatly that during my stay I had not the opportunity of seeing a whale caught. There was only once an attempt at a chase. In this instance three boats were sent out, commanded by the Captain and the two mates, but after a considerable lapse of time, and a long interval of suspense and anxiety, the fish chased turned out to be a hump-back, and as this was not deemed worth catching, the boats returned to the ship. The life led by the whalers, as far as I was able to judge, from the short time I was with them, seemed to be one of regularity, but of considerable hardship. At half-past six or seven in the evening they invariably went to bed, but were up at the first dawn of day, and sometimes even before it, the boats were then usually sent to a distance from the ship to look out for whales, and whether fortunate or otherwise, they would always have a pretty hard day’s work before they returned. They were, however, well fed, being apparently even better dieted than the generality of merchant-ships; the bread was of a better quality, and the allowance of butter, cheese, beans, and other little luxuries much more liberal. In the Mississippi the crew were generally young men, and with few exceptions all were complete novices at sea; this I was told was in consequence of an expected war between England and France, and the prohibition of able seamen from leaving their country. Captain Rossiter assured me that he had not been allowed for a considerable length of time to sail at all from France, as the war was daily expected to break out. He was still ignorant as to what had been done in this respect, and naturally felt very anxious at being, as he might imagine, on an enemy’s coast.
During the time I remained on board the vessel, a party of natives once or twice came down to the beach, and as I was anxious to enter into commucation with them, two were induced to get into the boat and come on board; as I expected, my boy Wylie fully understood the language spoken in this part of the country, and could converse with them fluently. Through him I learnt that they had never seen white people before the Mississippi anchored here, which was somewhat singular, considering the frankness with which they visited us, and the degree of confidence they appeared to repose in us. Of the interior I could gain no satisfactory account, they said that as far inland as they were acquainted with the country, it was similar to what we saw, that there was an abundance of water in the valleys in small wells, that there was a lake and fresh water river, but that there was little or no wood anywhere. In turn they were curious to know where we had come from, or where we were going; but Wylie, who in this respect, at least, was prudent and cautious, told them that we had come from the eastward to join the ship, and were now going to remain. Finding I could gain no further useful information, presents of fish and biscuits were made to them, and they were put on shore, highly pleased with their visit. During the remainder of my stay, I had no further opportunity of entering into conversation with these people, as the weather was generally wild, and they could not procure much shelter or fire-wood on the coast, had they come down to see us.
A few days before I contemplated commencing the renewal of my journey, I requested the Captain to allow a blacksmith he had on board to shoe my horses, and to this he kindly consented, but as a scarcity of iron prevailed, some old harpoons and lances had to be worked up for this purpose. The blacksmith who was a Frenchman, made his shoes and nails in so different, and apparently in so much more clumsy manner than I was accustomed to, that I was almost afraid of letting him put them on, and tried hard, but in vain, to get him to imitate the English shoe and nail in ordinary use.
Finding that I was likely to derive no advantage from my officious interference, I determined to let him have his own way, and was surprised and delighted to find that he performed his work well and skilfully, the only unusual part of the operation to me, being the necessity he appeared to be under, of always having a man to hold up the leg of the horse whilst he put the shoe on, instead of holding the foot up himself, as an English blacksmith does; such however, he assured me was the practice always in France, and he appeared to think it the best too. Having had my horses shod, I got some canvass from the Captain, to make bags for carrying my provisions, and then giving him a list of stores that I wished to take with me, I commenced preparations for leaving my hospitable entertainer. Every thing that I wished for, was given to me with a kindness and liberality beyond what I could have expected; and it gives me unfeigned pleasure, to have it now in my power to record thus publicly the obligations I was under to Captain Rossiter.