1828-1829 - Shipwrecked and Exploration

In the middle of 1828 Thomas Braidwood Wilson was once again commissioned as Surgeon Superintendent on a convict transport ship, on this occasion, the Governor Ready. Thomas wrote an account of the journey, and subsequent events, in his book Narrative of a voyage round the world.1 Thomas begins the book with him joining the Governor Ready after it was commissioned for a second journey to the colonies as a convict transport.

The ship "Governor Ready," 512 tons, was, shortly after her arrival from Van Dieman's Land in 1828, chartered by the Commissioners of the Navy, to convey 200 male prisoners from Ireland to New South Wales; and being again appointed surgeon-superintendent, I joined her on the 22d of July in that year.

On the 17th of August the guards consisting of 50 men of the 63d regiment having embarked, and all being ready for sea, we sailed from Deptford, and on the 27th arrived at the Cove of Cork.

On the 18th of September 200 prisoners were received on board, on the 21st we took our departure, and on the 17th of January, 1829, we arrived at Sydney, after a very pleasant passage, during which the utmost harmony and quietness uninterruptedly prevailed.

On the 26th all the prisoners were landed in good health.2

According to Charles Bateson’s book, The Convict Ships, the Governor Ready sailed from Cork, Ireland on 21 September 1828 and arrived in Port Jackson on 16 January 1829, taking 117 days to complete the journey. John Young was the master.3

On 20 January 1829 Thomas Braidwood Wilson wrote to the Colonial Secretary A. Macleay about his inability to provide certain convict documentation as he had not been provided with any when the convicts were boarded in Ireland.

SURGEON WILSON TO COLONIAL SECRETARY MACLEAY.
Governor Ready Ct. Ship,
Sydney Cove, 20th January, 1829.

Sir,

I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your Letter of the 17th inst. requesting me to transmit to you a List containing information, respecting the Caracters and Connexions of the Prisoners brought out under my Charge.

In reply, I beg to state that, when the Prisoners embarked in this Ship, I requested Mr. Beatty, the Overseer of the Hulk "Surprise," to give me a List of the Names, Characters, and other particulars of the Prisoners committed to my charge, that it might be delivered, according to my Instructions, to the proper Authority in New South Wales.

The Overseer informed me that Dr. Trevor would not permit any such List to be given, all the particulars being enclosed to His Excellency the Governor. In consequence, I have no List to transmit to you; this circumstance, I stated in my Journal on the 18th 'September, 1828.

Strict attention shall be paid to your directions relative to the disposal of Money belonging to the Prisoners.

I have, &c.,
T. B. WILSON, M.D.,
Surgeon, R.N., Surgeon Supt.4

The letter was subsequently sent to Governor Darling, who forwarded a copy along with other similar complaints to Sir. George Murray, noting that it appears that it is the practice , as well in Ireland as in England, to refuse furnishing the Surgeons with Lists containing the particular cases of the Prisoners embarked in the Convict Ships. According to another surgeon, the Gaoler's reason for acting in this manner... (was) "that I might become prejudiced against a Man by knowing that his Crime was bad" ; and that I might in consequence ill treat him, or allow others to do so.5

After two months in Sydney, Thomas continued on to Hobart Town, as reported in his Narrative of a Voyage.

In the afternoon of the 18th March, Capt. Young and myself bade adieu to our friends at Sydney, and after a protracted pull down the harbour, joined the ship, which, having been under weigh since daylight, was lying-to for us inside the heads of Port Jackson.

We had a favourable and pleasant passage to Hobart Town, where we arrived on the evening of the 25th.6

The arrival was reported in the Colonial Times:

MARCH 25.—Arrived the ship Governor Ready, 512 tons, Captain John Young, from Sydney the 18th instant, in ballast.—Passengers, Captain Briggs and Lieut. Gibbons, of the 63d Regiment, Dr. Wilson, R. N. ; Serjeant Shaw, P. Dogherty, and B. Fagers, of the 63d Regiment, and Thomas Haines.7

The company weren’t in Van Diemen’s Land for long however, and by early April commenced the journey back home to England.

At daylight on the 2d of April we got under weigh, and gliding down the river, under the influence of a stiff breeze, Hobart Town and its singularly romantic environs soon receded from our view. As the wind was blowing strongly from the westward, we proposed going through D'Entrecasteaux's channel, so that, should the wind continue to blow with undiminished force from the same quarter, we might anchor near the southern entrance, and there be in readiness for the first favourable slant to carry us round the south-west Cape of Van Dieman's Land. The wind, however, having shifted a little to the northward, and the barometer indicating moderate weather, we entered Storm Bay, and were soon once more on the mighty Southern Ocean.8

While he was at sea Thomas was the subject of a complaint on 22 April 1829 from Mr. E. S. Hall to Sir. George Murray about his land lease but further research is required to reveal the details of Hall’s objections.9

By the end of April 1829 Thomas, aboard the Governor Ready, had just reached Cape Otway on the coast of Victoria before heading up the east coast of Australia.

On the 27th we made Cape Otway; and while passing through Bass's Straits we found, from the cross bearings of several islets, that the chronometer deviated widely from the truth: it was, therefore, evident that no reliance could prudently be placed on the longitude thus ascertained; this circumstance, however, caused us no uneasiness, being fortunately favoured with other and unerring celestial time-keepers.

We had scarcely got round Cape Howe when the wind shifted to the northward, and, after two days fruitlessly spent in standing off and on, we stretched out to the eastward until we obtained a favourable breeze. On the 6th of May we passed the parallel of Port Jackson, in longitude 157° 30', when, the wind being still fair, we shaped a course, so as to pass close to the eastward of Cato's bank. At noon, on the 9th, we were one mile north, and ten miles east of it, according to chronometer corrected from Kent's group; but satisfactory lunar observations placed us twenty miles farther to the eastward. The course was, therefore, altered a little more to the westward, that we might obtain a sight of "Bird Islet" on Wreck Reef, in compliance with the generally received opinion, that every vessel bound through Torres' Straits by the outer passage ought to do so; as, from the position of Wreck Reef being well known, a good opportunity is thereby afforded of comparing the chronometer.10

The ship soon entered the tropics and the dangers of the coral reefs.

I may here mention that as soon as we passed the tropic, and entered into a sea bestrewed with coral reefs and sand-banks, every measure, which prudence could dictate or caution suggest, was adopted to insure a constant and careful look-out. Every one acquainted with inter-tropical navigation must be aware from experience that it is very difficult for a person keeping "watch-and-watch" to be sufficiently alert, especially in sultry weather. Three watches were, therefore, formed, each under the charge of two officers, one of whom was stationed on the poop, and the other on the forecastle: a trust-worthy sailor was also to keep a look-out from the forecastle, and another from the foreyard—the latter to be relieved every half hour: due care being thus taken to guard against dangers known and unknown, we cautiously but confidently, kept under sail even during the night.11

Over the coming weeks there were a number of instances that caused the ship’s crew concern, and there was constant vigilence to avoid the sand banks and reefs.

Having thus parsed safely between these reefs, we were rather elated by being the first (as far as our knowledge extended) who had made the attempt during the night. We kept on our course under easy sail till day-light, when, as expected, we saw Murray's Island…12

Murray’s Island is between Australia and Papua New Guinea so the ship had now reached Torres Straits. It was here that ship ran into trouble.

About one, P.M., being in the fair channel, under the influence of a strong breeze, and the tide in our favour, we pursued our serpentine and perilous course with much rapidity; and, guided only by the colour of the water, passed many sand-banks and reefs in safety, until 2.45 P.M., when the ship struck with such force on a small detached coral reef, that the rock penetrated instantly through her bottom! There was no occasion for sounding the well, the encroaching water, in a few minutes up to the lower deck, affording us a melancholy proof of the extensive and irremediable damage that the ship had sustained.13

Wreck of the Ship Governor Ready
Wreck of the Ship Governor Ready
Narrative of a Voyage Round the World

The damage was such that there was no doubt the ship was lost, but just when they should quit the ship was still to be determined. The life boats were deployed but tethered to the ship.

The ship was now gradually going down a-stern, and fears were entertained that she might suddenly slip off the rock and sink in deep water.

From having been formerly placed in a similar situation, I had no apprehension of such a result; on the contrary, I thought that if no particularly bad weather occurred, she would perhaps remain nearly in the same state, till the change of the monsoon; the Captain coincided in this opinion, and it was thought advisable to remain on board until the morning.

After having assisted in the arrangement of all matters connected with our safety, I retired to my cabin, and while employed there, in selecting some papers and other small articles, which I wished, if possible, to preserve, one of the sailors, on whose judgment I placed some reliance, came hurriedly in, and begged me to come instantly into the boat, as the ship was rapidly going down; this intelligence, although contrary to my own opinion, was not to be neglected, especially as the water was now up to the cabin windows. On coming out, I found every one, excepting the Captain, in the greatest alarm; all dreading that the ship would suddenly slip off the rock, and drag the boats down with her, thereby rendering our escape impossible, and our destruction inevitable.

Although the Captain and myself were still persuaded that there was no immediate danger of such an accident, yet, in acquiescence with the general wish, the order was given, which there was no occasion to repeat, for all hands to go into the boats; and we left, with sorrowful hearts, the ship that had conveyed us in safety through stormy seas, so many thousand miles, just as the sun,—emblematic of her fate,—had sunk in the western wave.14

The life boats remained tethered together and they began their journey to safety. The captain and crew still had their maps and instruments, and decided to make their way to Half-Way Island to take stock of their situation. When they arrived there around 11am they shared a meal and set about establishing their stores and rations.

By 6pm they set off again, Half-Way Island having no fresh water. They intended to make for Booby Island but their progress was obstructeed by reefs and sandbanks. They ultimately came upon a group of islets and finally a group of small island where they landed once more and were gratified to find fresh water.

The cook having got his utensils on shore, soon provided us with boiling water, and we enjoyed our tea, not feeling the want of sugar, which the salt water had completely destroyed. Being all fatigued, and inclined to sleep, we made preparations to retire to rest. Directions were given to keep the boats afloat, and arrangements were entered into to guard against the possible consequences of sudden surprise; and also to receive, in a friendly way, any of the natives who, from curiosity, or from any other cause, might pay us a visit I during our slumbers. Captain Young, and myself, chose a spot, protected from the night-wind by a large block of granite, and within a short distance of high-water-mark, where—our bed the sand,—our canopy the sky,—we were soon lulled asleep by the soothing sound of the hollow breeze, and the mournful melody of the murmuring sea.15

The next day they made some necessary repairs to their boats, including the addition of some make shift sail. In the evening Captain Young, his officers, and Wilson, climbed to the highest part of the island and got their bearings.

As soon as daylight appeared, preparations were made for our departure; …about six o'clock, A.M., of the 22d of May, we left the island, not without regret, yet pleased, that we should no longer be annoyed with reefs and sand-banks. Not wishing to run the risk of finding a clear passage between any of the islands, we steered to the northward of the group, and then directed our course W. by S. across the gulf of Carpentaria.16

They sailed on for some time, catching sea birds that happened to alight on their boats, and Thomas wrote of his enchantment by the sights of sea snakes and dolphins. At one point the weather turned squally and in the darkness that evening the three boats became seperated, but happily they were reunited the following day. They were intending to make for Melville Island but they meandered for some time on the ocean before coming across the Brig Amity who informed them that Melville had been deserted.

Now aboard the Amity, itself in need of repairs, they sailed for Coupang, at the time a Dutch settlement in Timor.

This town, the principal settlement of the Dutch, is situated on the south side of a capacious bay, near the western extremity of the island; where vessels of any burden may anchor in safety, excepting when the N.W. monsoon blows; in which season they usually find convenient shelter-under the lee of a small adjacent island named Pulo Semao.

The view of the town from the anchorage does not impress the stranger with a very favourable idea of the industry or enterprise of its inhabitants;—on the left bank of a small rapid river is a madreporic rock of some elevation, whereon is built Fort Concordia, which commands the town, and may thereby keep it, and the various aboriginal tribes, in awe; but being completely commanded by more elevated ground to the westward, it could not be of much avail in repelling the hostile attacks of a disciplined force. To the eastward of the fort, on which the Dutch flag waves, a few red roofs of houses may be perceived here and there, sprinkled among the trees. To the westward of the fort, at a little distance, may be observed a considerable number of fishermen's huts, in a little cove, shaded by the cocoa and palmyra palms. On approaching nearer to the town, its aspect improves a little. The residence of Mr. Bechade,—a Chinese temple, and some other pretty fair buildings, tend to embellish the Marina, where a commodious inn, now nearly completed, will be of much advantage to strangers.17

View of the Bazaar at Coupang
View of the Bazaar at Coupang
WikiGallery

The principal street, parallel with the right bank of the river, contains some good houses, a few of which are in repair, but by far the greater part are more or less dilapidated. Here are situated the Church, and the habitations of the Resident, the Secretary, and others connected with Government. Rows of trees on each side of the street, being without their usual attendants, canals, afford an agreeable shade, without being detrimental to health.

The other streets, if they deserve the name, are narrow and crooked, and the houses formed chiefly of bamboo. The town is well supplied with water from the river, which is fresh at a very little distance from its mouth. The principal part of the town is on the right bank, but there is a considerable number of houses on the left bank also, and a communication exists by means of a bamboo bridge.18

Thomas sailed from Coupang on Sunday 8 June 1829. The Captain of the Governor Ready, John Young, stayed behind with the intention of sailing the following Tuesday on the Dutch brig Merkus for Batavia. They made their way for the coast of Australia, or New Holland as Thomas called it, and on the 15th sighted some island to the South East. They continued past the islands, sighted Bathurst Isle on the 24th, and on the 31st arrived at Raffles’ Bay, at the tip of what is now the Northern Territory of Australia.

Raffles Bay
Raffles Bay (Map)
Google Maps

Thomas intended to stay at Raffles Bay for three weeks, during which time he observed the behaviour of the natives with interest, but he also lost several of his companions to various afflictions, the last of whom, a Mr. Radford, was a close friend. This delayed his departure and in his narratives he spends a good deal observing and commenting on events associated with the natives, as well as noting that a number of the convicts who were part of the settlement asconded.

On Monday, the 24th, the brigs Amity and Thompson sailed for Swan River. On the evening of the 25th, Dwyer, another of the runaways, gave himself up: he had fared better than the others, by keeping near the beach, where he obtained cockles in abundance.

The runaways are now all returned, excepting two, who, it is expected, will speedily follow the others; and that they should do so, is desirable for several reasons, but principally lest, being left behind, they might destroy the various animals and vegetables which Captain Barker intended to leave, for the advantage of future visitants to this place.19

Thomas embarked from Raffles Bay on 29 July 1829 with Captain Barker on the Governor Phillips. They went to Port Essington and close by Knockers Bay where they interacted with the natives. Again and again in the Narratives Thomas extols the virtues of the natives, albeit in the superior tongue of his time, and laments their treatment at the hands of others.

If I am rightly informed by those who were actors in the business, many of the natives were put to death in a very unwarrantable manner; and I think I may assert, that, had mild and conciliatory conduct been adopted, and uniformly continued towards these ignorant creatures while their depredations were unattended with violence, several valuable lives might have been saved, and many inconveniences and privations prevented.20

Thomas devotes the next three chapters of the Narratives at this point to a history of the settlment of the northern portion of New Holland (Australia), in particular the settlements at Raffles Bay and Melville Island. He concludes that they were unjustly abandonded due to the climate, the attitudes of the natives, and their isolation.

Thomas and Captain Barker left Port Essington on 31 August 1929 for Coupang where Captain Barker purposed to close all accounts that might have been left unsettled by the late Mr. Radford. He also intended to purchase provisions for the use of the settlement at King George the Third's Sound. They proceeded by way of Buckle’s Island and were temporarily lodged on coral rocks before finally making their destination. On 12 September 1929 they left Coupang for the Swan River settlement, now called Perth. They arrived there in mid-October, where they were informed that:

…the Governor resided at Perth, some distance up the river, where the head-quarters were established; that another river, named the Murray, had been recently discovered; that a great number of settlers had already arrived from England, most of whom yet resided at Freemantle, the sea-port town; that nineteen ships had entered the roads; that all the land on the banks of the river was already given away; and that the dismantled vessel was the Marquis of Anglesey, driven on shore, having parted from three cables in a N.W. gale; he also pointed out to us the mouth of the river, and we were greatly disappointed by its apparent insignificancy.21

They left the brig Governor Phillips and made their way to Perth to meet with the Governor. As they proceeded up the Swan river they passed several tents “…pitched in a low sandy neck of land, which … was the site of Freemantle, so named in compliment to Captain Freemantle, of H.M.S. Challenger.” They met with the Governor, just quickly as he was about to go up river, and Thomas caught up with an old friend Lt. Roe, the site’s Surveyor-General.

The next day Wilson and Roe made an excursion up the Swan River as Roe was required to mark out the plots of land grants. They spent the night out of town and at this point in the narrative the character of Thomas’ writing takes on an air of light and humour.

A convenient shelter was soon erected, to defend us from the rain; and a large half-burned tree being rekindled opposite the entrance, soon diffused a genial warmth, and an air of comfort, well known to those fond of a bush-life. We sat down, with hearty appetites, to an excellent meal, and enjoyed ourselves much, laughing heartily at the misfortune that befel the Governor and his party, who, Mr. Drummond informed us, had lost themselves (or rather their way) last evening, in endeavouring to reach this place, and were consequently compelled to remain in the bush all night, suffering from hunger, and exposed to cold, and heavy rain.22

The next day they returned to Perth where Thomas thought it prudent to catch up with Captain Barker lest he lost his means of transport. He made is way to Fremantle and while they were there encountered the Governor where Thomas took the opportunity to remark on some of his fellow travellers in West Australia.

In a short time, the news having spread that the Governor was in the camp, he was surrounded by many individuals; and, as I had never before seen a levee held in the open air, I took up a favourable position, in order to observe the ceremony. I thought I could discern, in the Governor's countenance, some annoyance that he had been thus caught; but being so, he assumed an air of determination to be as civil and condescending as possible.

Many passengers had arrived by the Atwick, who, it appeared, were now to be presented. The first was a gigantic, fierce-looking gentleman, dressed, I suppose, in the newest London fashion, who had been at some pains with his toilette; and it was very evident that he considered himself of no small importance. I thought at first, that he was ill adapted for the line of life into which he was about to enter; but on further consideration, I concluded, that if he took as much pains to cultivate the land, as he appeared to have successfully bestowed on the culture of his whiskers, he might surpass those less careful in their attire; especially as his martial frown might tend to keep his servants in due obedience.

Next came a pert-looking, smartly-dressed gentleman, who seemed to plume himself on his white kid gloves, neatly-tied cravat, well-polished boots, and scented white handkerchief. I thought he would have been more at home, behind the counter of a fashionable London repository, distributing ribbons and lace to the fair damsels, than wandering about the wilds of Australia, in fruitless search of land, abounding in ready-made houses, and growing corn.

Next came a stout-looking personage, having all the appearance of a substantial English yeoman, whose jolly features, albeit a little shrunk from his sea fare, indicated a long acquaintance with beef and ale. He had not half told his story, when he was interrupted (contrary to all the rules of etiquette) by the dapper-looking gentleman, who, doubtless, thought his conversation more interesting, and agreeable to his Excellency; but he was, in turn, interrupted by the yeoman, who appeared determined to have his "say" out.

Then came a modest-looking young man, who presented two letters to his Excellency, and looked round the surrounding throng, with an expression of face that seemed to say, "My fortune is made." He appeared confirmed in this opinion, by a few civil words from His Excellency, who put the letters in his pocket, perhaps never to be opened; or, if so, not attended to,—the common fate of letters of introduction.

His Excellency was evidently tired long before the conclusion of the levee; but, as he could not bow his clients out of the drawing-room, he was obliged to back astern, which he did, with much dexterity, until he came to a spot of swampy ground, where he could not be surrounded, which he jumped over, bowed courteously to the assembled throng, and walked away, as fast as decorum would permit, fearful that he might be overtaken before he reached the boat; which, as soon as he entered, was pulled with all speed towards Perth.23

As an indication of Thomas’ wide exposure to the colonies at this time, a number of the people assembled at Fremantle were known to him. One gave him refreshment and another lent him a horse. He spent the day riding along the river and on his return spent the night at Fremantle.

Thomas eventually made it back to the Governor Phillips but business there meant he could return to Fremantle and engage with others in the town. He fell in with the captain and crew of the Ephemina and accompanied them as they took depth soundings of the water near “Rottenest” Island. They landed on the island and spent the night after eating wallaby their dogs had caught.

Rottnest Island, Fremantle and Perth
Rottnest Island, Fremantle and Perth (Map)
Google Maps

Work aboard the Governor Phillips continued so while waylaid Thomas and Captain Barker took the opportunity to explore the river Canning. They left on 27 October 1829 in a whale boat and spent their first night at Mount Eliza. They next day they continued up river, expecting to rendevouz with the Governor and Surveyor General. Instead they met up with commander of the Brig Thompson and spent the night with him in one of the river’s estuaries.

The following day they did catch up with the Governor and his party but the two groups soon parted again going different ways. Thomas and some others decided to head back to Perth but overland, across country that had never been explored. While doing so they came across a native village, much to the native’s surprise. Initial aprehension was soon given way to acceptance once all parties knew no violence was intended, and the travellers were led by the natives to fresh water.

Having refreshed themselves they pushed on and made an agreed rendezvous where they spent the night. The next morning they met back up with the Governor and Barker and all proceeded back to Perth, although just prior to arriving there they seperated again into two groups, Thomas and Barker deciding to ascend Mount Eliza.

On Friday, the 12th of November, Captain Telfer, of the Ephemina, Mr. Hickey, and myself, took a trip to Buache, or Garden Island. Before landing, we paid a visit to H.M.S. Sulphur, and were received by Captain Dance and his officers with courteous cordiality; and from the first lieutenant (Mr. Preston, formerly of the Success, who is an enterprising and indefatigable explorer) I learned many facts, corroborative of those I had already heard, relative to Melville Island and Raffles Bay.24

From Garden Island Thomas then made his way back to Perth where he learned that Captain Barker would soon be leaving the colony. Thomas joined him in visiting the Governor to say goodbye, but found him in a state of ill-health, probably as a result of his recent adventuring.

At this point in his narratives Thomas spends considerable time summing up his experience of the juvenile Western Australia colony. He points out that the location of the capital city could have been better chosen, that Fremantle at the time was a den of iniquity, and that the assignment of land grants to date had been done without forethought or equanimity.

Thomas, aboard the Governor Phillips, left Western Australia on 19 November 1829. Over the next ten days they stayed as close to the coast line as they could as Captain Barker had been ordered to investigate reports of a river emptying into the part of the coast they were passing. They could find no such entity, and “About noon, on Sunday, the 29th of November, we anchored in King George's Sound, within a mile of the entrance of Princess Royal harbour.”25

The next morning they attempted to navigate the channel into Princess Royal harbour, now called Shoal Bay, but got stuck on a sand bar. Thomas went ashore and made the acquaintance of Dr. Davis. They proceeded to walk to the nearby Government farm, after which they walked to the summit of Mount Melville. On their return in the afternoon they crossed the path of the Captain Barker and the local military commander Lieutenant Sleeman. Thomas discussed a proposed inland journey he was considering with the Lieutenant and Sleeman offered the use of prisoners as labourers, and an aboriginal guide named Mokare.

On Wednesday morning, at daylight, we left the settlement, with a week's provisions. Gough had his knapsack filled with brandy, rum, and gin; and, although rather heavily burdened, he made no objection, from the nature of his lading. The only burden of Mokare was a fowling-piece, which he would not go without; and, as he was a good shot, we thought he might be of use, in procuring fresh provisions. Gough had a musket, and Mr. Kent a fowling-piece, and two kangaroo dogs.26

They proceeded North North-West of the colony (now called Albany) and came across a couple of streams, presumed to be branches of the King’s River. They continued in that direction for a number of miles, with the odd complaint, and on Thursday night they camped at a large lagoon. On Friday they continued during which time they crossed a couple more streams, camping at one that evening and dining on black cockatoos. On Saturday they saw large numbers of Kangaroos but had little success in catching them for food. Later in the day Mokare was luckier with a spear and killed a large kangaroo, so they ate well that night. Thomas described the usual method of establishing a camp.

A convenient spot being selected, if possible, to windward of a large fallen half-burned tree, a few branches and bushes are placed in a semicircular form, as a defence from the night wind; the log is kindled, and soon forms a blazing fire, which, being too fierce for cooking, a smaller one is used for that purpose. After supper, each rolls himself in his blanket, and, with his feet towards the fire, soon fells asleep.27

As they dined Thomas interviewed their aboriginal tracker about his beliefs concerning a diety and an afterlife but language was still too much a barrier for accurate conversation. The servants were allowed a double ration of alcohol so the campfire conversation was extremely animated.

The next day, Sunday, as they walked Thomas was alarmed to hear behind him, “Oh, doctor! you are a gone man! a snake has a hold of you!”, and he was suddenly aware of the creature in the act of making a strike. The fangs pierced his trousers but not the skin so he had a luckly escape from dying in the bush.

Later still they came upon an extensive lagoon with large numbers of birds. Still thinking of food they attempted to wade in and catch them but they were molested by leeches. By the end of the day one of the men became frustrated and uncivil so that the next day Thomas decided to offer those who were tired of the journey an alternative, namely -

…that they might return, that Mokare would go with them, to guide them on their way, and that they might take all the provision, excepting a little biscuit. This proposition came like a thunderbolt. Mr. Kent, to whom I had previously communicated my intention, agreed to keep company with me, as also did the Crown prisoners. Gough said he would not go back, as he could never find his way home, and that Mokare was now as much at a loss as himself.

I then explained to him, not to suppose I had wished his company altogether for the pleasure of his society; on the contrary, it was under the idea that he would make himself useful,—which he had not hitherto conspicuously done. I again desired him to return home, and inform them at the settlement, that we should be there in a day or two after him; but he persisted in remaining with the party. Observing that he was now completely crest-fallen, I made no further observation, than threatening, that if he henceforth conducted himself with any impropriety, I would leave him in the bush without ceremony.28

So they proceeded, but the next day even Mokare declared that the journey had gone on long enough, and that they would shortly run out of supplies. Thomas declared that if they didn’t catch a kangaroo that day they would return to the settlement but shortly afterwards the dogs did indeed catch a kangaroo. The next day they caught another, and by Wednesday that had reached a small mountain which Thomas ascended to gain a view of the country.

Whilst on the summit he took readings of longitude and latitude and named the various peaks he could describe. On the way down the mountain he jumped over a stream and sprained his ankle, making progress painful and slow. Cooling his leg in a stream and allowing leeches to bleed it apparently allowed some relief.

After spending the night in a glen the next morning they walked around the base of the mountain and soon found another stream, and then another, which joining together they named the Denmark, “in compliment to a physician of the British fleet”.29 According to Wikipedia:

The Denmark River was named in December 1829 by naval ship's surgeon Thomas Braidwood Wilson after his mentor, naval surgeon Alexander Denmark, Physician of the Fleet, Resident Physician at the Royal Hospital Haslar, and past-Physician to the Mediterranean Fleet. Wilson discovered the river while exploring the area in company with the Noongar Mokare from King George Sound, John Kent (officer in charge of the Commissariat at Frederick Town, King George Sound), two convicts and Private William Gough of the 39th Regiment, while his ship the Governor Phillip was being repaired at King George Sound.30

Returning to the progress of the party from Denmark, the day’s journey proved tiring, and the next day, Friday, Mokare led them until they reached another river, and then another near a mountain they badged, according to Thomas, “Mount Hallowell, in compliment to the gallant admiral of that name, under whose flag I served, and from whom I received my first promotion in the service, at the instance of my friend Dr. Denmark.” The entire body of water these various streams and rivers emptied into, including the Denmark, is an area now known as Wilson’s inlet.

Wilson’s Inlet from the Southern Shore
Wilson’s Inlet from the Southern Shore
Wikimedia

After a cursory survey of the inlet, Thomas was convinced by the others to begin the journey back to the settlement, as they were expected there and rations had run very low. Their trek took that all day and the morning of the next, largely keeping to the coast. They arrived at Princess Royal Harbour about noon, at which time Thomas caught up with Captain Barker. He would later make the same trek and sent details of his journey to Thomas when he was back in England. Thomas included Barker’s letter in the Narratives.31

Now back at the settlement, the brig Governor Phillips was still not fit for sailing, so Thomas accepted an invitation to visit Oyster Harbour. As he relates, “accordingly on Wednesday morning the weather promising to be fair, a party, consisting of Lieutenant Sleeman, Dr. Davis, Mr. Hickey and myself, proceeded in the whale-boat.”32 They arrived there to find wild ducks and a well tended garden on Green Island which furnished them with meat and vegetables for the evening meal.

At this point in his Narratives Thomas spends a good deal of time relating the habits of the natives and speaking positively of them regarding their behaviour and intelligence. That he respected them is evident, displaying an intelligence in himself about the potential for positive race relations that was rare in his era.

All that said, Thomas then goes on to describe the untimely death of his companion Captain Collet Barker two years after their journey at the hands of the natives, in a most brutal and un-necessary fashion, in April 1831.

A colleague at Raffles Bay described him [Barker] as 'zealous in discharge of public duties, honourable and just in private life, a lover and follower of science, indefatigable and dauntless in his pursuits, a steady friend and entertaining companion, charitable, kindhearted, disinterested and sincere'33

According to Thomas, “my much-lamented friend fell a victim to the undiscriminating revenge of irritated savages.”34 They parted from each other on 20 December 1829 as Thomas headed for Van Diemen’s Land, arriving in Bass Strait on 2 January 1830. Poor weather delayed their progress and they didn’t make the Tamar River until 7 January 1830 when they made landfall at George Town.

The next morning Thomas made his way to Launceston where he arranged a room for two days, during which time he made a tour of the local area. He first visited the small township of Perth, not to be confused with the capital of Western Australia which he had just left. He then visited his own farm in the area, only to learn that an influential individual was attempting to deprive him of it, probably because he was rarely there. Returning to Launceston, the next day he made arrangements for this trip back to England on the ship Surry, and on Friday 15 January 1830 the ship left George Town and made way for Sydney. They entered Port Jackson at daylight on 21 January 1830.

In a few days afterwards, I proceeded on a tour through the Counties Cumberland, Camden, Argyle, Murray, St. Vincent, Bathurst, &c.; and, although only twelve months had elapsed since my last visit, the improvements on the various farms were really astonishing, and reflected infinite credit on the perseverance and enterprise of the settlers.35

It wasn’t until 9 April 1830 that Thomas Wilson sailed from Sydney on the Surrey bound for England. They crossed the equator on 9 July 1830 and anchored in the Downs on 2 August 1830. According to Thomas –

Thus did I complete another voyage round the world, during which I experienced some dangers, many privations, and great pecuniary loss—not having been insured, although a former similar calamity might have taught me to act more prudently.36

  • 1. The book is now available to read online and download via Google Books. The book has also been transcribed and is also available on WikiSource.
  • 2. Wilson, Thomas Braidwood: Narrative of a Voyage Round the World; Printed for Sherwood, Gilbert and Piper, London, 1835; Chapter I
  • 3. Bateson, Charles: The Convict Ships; Brown, Son & Ferguson Ltd, Glasgow.
  • 4. HRA Series 1 Volume 14 p. 697
  • 5. HRA Series 1 Volume 14 p. 697
  • 6. Wilson, Thomas Braidwood: Narrative of a Voyage Round the World; Printed for Sherwood, Gilbert and Piper, London, 1835; Chapter I
  • 7. "SHIP NEWS." Colonial Times (Hobart, Tas. : 1828 - 1857) 27 Mar 1829: 2. Web. 27 Feb 2014; http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article8644185.
  • 8. Wilson, Thomas Braidwood: Narrative of a Voyage Round the World; Printed for Sherwood, Gilbert and Piper, London, 1835; Chapter I
  • 9. HRA Series 1 Volume 15 p. 63 – pp. 61-67 - T. B. Wilson – Land Lease (Complaint by Mr. E. S. Hall to Sir. George Murray)
  • 10. Wilson, Thomas Braidwood: Narrative of a Voyage Round the World; Printed for Sherwood, Gilbert and Piper, London, 1835; Chapter I
  • 11. Wilson, Thomas Braidwood: Narrative of a Voyage Round the World; Printed for Sherwood, Gilbert and Piper, London, 1835; Chapter I
  • 12. Wilson, Thomas Braidwood: Narrative of a Voyage Round the World; Printed for Sherwood, Gilbert and Piper, London, 1835; Chapter I
  • 13. Wilson, Thomas Braidwood: Narrative of a Voyage Round the World; Printed for Sherwood, Gilbert and Piper, London, 1835; Chapter I
  • 14. Wilson, Thomas Braidwood: Narrative of a Voyage Round the World; Printed for Sherwood, Gilbert and Piper, London, 1835; Chapter I
  • 15. Wilson, Thomas Braidwood: Narrative of a Voyage Round the World; Printed for Sherwood, Gilbert and Piper, London, 1835; Chapter II
  • 16. Wilson, Thomas Braidwood: Narrative of a Voyage Round the World; Printed for Sherwood, Gilbert and Piper, London, 1835; Chapter II
  • 17. Wilson, Thomas Braidwood: Narrative of a Voyage Round the World; Printed for Sherwood, Gilbert and Piper, London, 1835; Chapter IV
  • 18. Wilson, Thomas Braidwood: Narrative of a Voyage Round the World; Printed for Sherwood, Gilbert and Piper, London, 1835; Chapter IV
  • 19. Wilson, Thomas Braidwood: Narrative of a Voyage Round the World; Printed for Sherwood, Gilbert and Piper, London, 1835; Chapter VII
  • 20. Wilson, Thomas Braidwood: Narrative of a Voyage Round the World; Printed for Sherwood, Gilbert and Piper, London, 1835; Chapter VIII
  • 21. Wilson, Thomas Braidwood: Narrative of a Voyage Round the World; Printed for Sherwood, Gilbert and Piper, London, 1835; Chapter XII
  • 22. Wilson, Thomas Braidwood: Narrative of a Voyage Round the World; Printed for Sherwood, Gilbert and Piper, London, 1835; Chapter XIII
  • 23. Wilson, Thomas Braidwood: Narrative of a Voyage Round the World; Printed for Sherwood, Gilbert and Piper, London, 1835; Chapter XIII
  • 24. Wilson, Thomas Braidwood: Narrative of a Voyage Round the World; Printed for Sherwood, Gilbert and Piper, London, 1835; Chapter XV
  • 25. Wilson, Thomas Braidwood: Narrative of a Voyage Round the World; Printed for Sherwood, Gilbert and Piper, London, 1835; Chapter XVI
  • 26. Wilson, Thomas Braidwood: Narrative of a Voyage Round the World; Printed for Sherwood, Gilbert and Piper, London, 1835; Chapter XVI
  • 27. Wilson, Thomas Braidwood: Narrative of a Voyage Round the World; Printed for Sherwood, Gilbert and Piper, London, 1835; Chapter XVII
  • 28. Wilson, Thomas Braidwood: Narrative of a Voyage Round the World; Printed for Sherwood, Gilbert and Piper, London, 1835; Chapter XVII
  • 29. Wilson, Thomas Braidwood: Narrative of a Voyage Round the World; Printed for Sherwood, Gilbert and Piper, London, 1835; Chapter XVIII
  • 30. Wikipedia: Denmark, Western Australia; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Denmark,_Western_Australia (Viewed 19 Dec 2016)
  • 31. An alternative summary of that journey of discovery was included in a letter from Thomas Wilson dated 15 December 1829. The recipient of the letter is not named. The letter is available online from Wikisource: Extract of a Letter received from Dr. J. B. Wilson, R.N.; dated King George's Sound, 15th Dec. 1829
  • 32. Wilson, Thomas Braidwood: Narrative of a Voyage Round the World; Printed for Sherwood, Gilbert and Piper, London, 1835; Chapter XIX
  • 33. J. Bach, 'Barker, Collet (1784–1831)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/barker-collet-1740/text1923, published first in hardcopy 1966, accessed online 19 December 2016.
  • 34. Wilson, Thomas Braidwood: Narrative of a Voyage Round the World; Printed for Sherwood, Gilbert and Piper, London, 1835; Chapter XIX
  • 35. Wilson, Thomas Braidwood: Narrative of a Voyage Round the World; Printed for Sherwood, Gilbert and Piper, London, 1835; Chapter XX
  • 36. Wilson, Thomas Braidwood: Narrative of a Voyage Round the World; Printed for Sherwood, Gilbert and Piper, London, 1835; Chapter XX

Locations: 

Ships: