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- Early Australian Voyages - 1/24 -


EARLY AUSTRALIAN VOYAGES

by John Pinkerton

Contents:

Introduction Pelsart Tasman Dampier

INTRODUCTION.

In the days of Plato, imagination found its way, before the mariners, to a new world across the Atlantic, and fabled an Atlantis where America now stands. In the days of Francis Bacon, imagination of the English found its way to the great Southern Continent before the Portuguese or Dutch sailors had sight of it, and it was the home of those wise students of God and nature to whom Bacon gave his New Atlantis. The discoveries of America date from the close of the fifteenth century. The discoveries of Australia date only from the beginning of the seventeenth. The discoveries of the Dutch were little known in England before the time of Dampier's voyage, at the close of the seventeenth century, with which this volume ends. The name of New Holland, first given by the Dutch to the land they discovered on the north-west coast, then extended to the continent and was since changed to Australia.

During the eighteenth century exploration was continued by the English. The good report of Captain Cook caused the first British settlement to be made at Port Jackson, in 1788, not quite a hundred years ago, and the foundations were then laid of the settlement of New South Wales, or Sydney. It was at first a penal colony, and its Botany Bay was a name of terror to offenders. Western Australia, or Swan River, was first settled as a free colony in 1829, but afterwards used also as a penal settlement; South Australia, which has Adelaide for its capital, was first established in 1834, and colonised in 1836; Victoria, with Melbourne for its capital, known until 1851 as the Port Philip District, and a dependency of New South Wales, was first colonised in 1835. It received in 1851 its present name. Queensland, formerly known as the Moreton Bay District, was established as late as 1859. A settlement of North Australia was tried in 1838, and has since been abandoned. On the other side of Bass's Straits, the island of Van Diemen's Land, was named Tasmania, and established as a penal colony in 1803.

Advance, Australia! The scattered handfuls of people have become a nation, one with us in race, and character, and worthiness of aim. These little volumes will, in course of time, include many aids to a knowledge of the shaping of the nations. There will be later records of Australia than these which tell of the old Dutch explorers, and of the first real awakening of England to a knowledge of Australia by Dampier's voyage.

The great Australian continent is 2,500 miles long from east to west, and 1,960 miles in its greatest breadth. Its climates are therefore various. The northern half lies chiefly within the tropics, and at Melbourne snow is seldom seen except upon the hills. The separation of Australia by wide seas from Europe, Asia, Africa, and America, gives it animals and plants peculiarly its own. It has been said that of 5,710 plants discovered, 5,440 are peculiar to that continent. The kangaroo also is proper to Australia, and there are other animals of like kind. Of 58 species of quadruped found in Australia, 46 were peculiar to it. Sheep and cattle that abound there now were introduced from Europe. From eight merino sheep introduced in 1793 by a settler named McArthur, there has been multiplication into millions, and the food-store of the Old World begins to be replenished by Australian mutton.

The unexplored interior has given a happy hunting-ground to satisfy the British spirit of adventure and research; but large waterless tracts, that baffle man's ingenuity, have put man's powers of endurance to sore trial.

The mountains of Australia are all of the oldest rocks, in which there are either no fossil traces of past life, or the traces are of life in the most ancient forms. Resemblance of the Australian cordilleras to the Ural range, which he had especially been studying, caused Sir Roderick Murchison, in 1844, to predict that gold would be found in Australia. The first finding of gold--the beginning of the history of the Australian gold-fields--was in February, 1851, near Bathurst and Wellington, and to-day looks back to the morning of yesterday in the name of Ophir, given to the Bathurst gold-diggings.

Gold, wool, mutton, wine, fruits, and what more Australia can now add to the commonwealth of the English-speaking people, Englishmen at home have been learning this year in the great Indian and Colonial Exhibition, which is to stand always as evidence of the numerous resources of the Empire, as aid to the full knowledge of them, and through that to their wide diffusion. We are a long way now from the wrecked ship of Captain Francis Pelsart, with which the histories in this volume begin.

John Pinkerton was born at Edinburgh in February, 1758, and died in Paris in March, 1826, aged sixty-eight. He was the best classical scholar at the Lanark grammar school; but his father, refusing to send him to a university, bound him to Scottish law. He had a strong will, fortified in some respects by a weak judgment. He wrote clever verse; at the age of twenty-two he went to London to support himself by literature, began by publishing "Rimes" of his own, and then Scottish Ballads, all issued as ancient, but of which he afterwards admitted that fourteen out of the seventy-three were wholly written by himself. John Pinkerton, whom Sir Walter Scott described as "a man of considerable learning, and some severity as well as acuteness of disposition," made clear conscience on the matter in 1786, when he published two volumes of genuine old Scottish Poems from the MS. collections of Sir Richard Maitland. He had added to his credit as an antiquary by an Essay on Medals, and then applied his studies to ancient Scottish History, producing learned books, in which he bitterly abused the Celts. It was in 1802 that Pinkerton left England for Paris, where he supported himself by indefatigable industry as a writer during the last twenty-four years of his life. One of the most useful of his many works was that General Collection of the best and most interesting Voyages and Travels of the World, which appeared in seventeen quarto volumes, with maps and engravings, in the years 1808-1814. Pinkerton abridged and digested most of the travellers' records given in this series, but always studied to retain the travellers' own words, and his occasional comments have a value of their own.

H.M.

EARLY AUSTRALIAN VOYAGES. VOYAGE OF FRANCIS PELSART TO AUSTRALASIA. 1628-29.

It has appeared very strange to some very able judges of voyages, that the Dutch should make so great account of the southern countries as to cause the map of them to be laid down in the pavement of the Stadt House at Amsterdam, and yet publish no descriptions of them. This mystery was a good deal heightened by one of the ships that first touched on Carpenter's Land, bringing home a considerable quantity of gold, spices, and other rich goods; in order to clear up which, it was said that these were not the product of the country, but were fished out of the wreck of a large ship that had been lost upon the coast. But this story did not satisfy the inquisitive, because not attended with circumstances necessary to establish its credit; and therefore they suggested that, instead of taking away the obscurity by relating the truth, this story was invented in order to hide it more effectually. This suspicion gained ground the more when it was known that the Dutch East India Company from Batavia had made some attempts to conquer a part of the Southern continent, and had been repulsed with loss, of which, however, we have no distinct or perfect relation, and all that hath hitherto been collected in reference to this subject, may be reduced to two voyages. All that we know concerning the following piece is, that it was collected from the Dutch journal of the voyage, and having said thus much by way of introduction, we now proceed to the translation of this short history.

The directors of the East India Company, animated by the return of five ships, under General Carpenter, richly laden, caused, the very same year, 1628, eleven vessels to be equipped for the same voyage; amongst which there was one ship called the Batavia, commanded by Captain Francis Pelsart. They sailed out of the Texel on the 28th of October, 1628; and as it would be tedious and troublesome to the reader to set down a long account of things perfectly well known, I shall say nothing of the occurrences that happened in their passage to the Cape of Good Hope; but content myself with observing that on the 4th of June, in the following year 1629, this vessel, the Batavia, being separated from the fleet in a storm, was driven on the Abrollos or shoals, which lie in the latitude of 28 degrees south, and which have been since called by the Dutch, the Abrollos of Frederic Houtman. Captain Pelsart, who was sick in bed when this accident happened, perceiving that his ship had struck, ran immediately upon deck. It was night indeed; but the weather was fair, and the moon shone very bright; the sails were up; the course they steered was north-east by north, and the sea appeared as far as they could behold it covered with a white froth. The captain called up the master and charged him with the loss of the ship, who excused himself by saying he had taken all the care he could; and that having discerned this froth at a distance, he asked the steersman what he thought of it, who told him that the sea appeared white by its reflecting the rays of the moon. The captain then asked him what was to be done, and in what part of the world he thought they were. The master replied, that God only knew that; and that the ship was fast on a bank hitherto undiscovered. Upon this they began to throw the lead, and found that they had forty-eight feet of water before, and much less behind the vessel. The crew immediately agreed to throw their cannon overboard, in hopes that when the ship was lightened she might be brought to float again. They let fall an anchor however; and while they were thus employed, a most dreadful storm arose of wind and rain; which soon convinced them of the danger they were in; for being surrounded with rocks and shoals, the ship was continually striking.

They then resolved to cut away the main-mast, which they did, and this augmented the shock, neither could they get clear of it, though


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