Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Now to Sir Isaac Newton, mathematician, physicist, astronomer, natural philosopher, and theologian….

What, you ask? How can we get Isaac Newton into our story of Australia and its discovery? Well, believe me we can.

Back in England during the 18th century, we can detect that “the times were a changing”, to quote singer songwriter Bob Dylon.

This change is best illustrated by the formation of the “Royal Society of London for Improving Natural Knowledge”. A society whose reputation Sir Isaac Newton from 1703 until his death in 1727 did much to enhance as the leading voice in the pursuit of knowledge and discovery within Britain.

The Royal Society evolved from a small group of like-minded individuals who called their gathering the “Invisible College”. This group’s focus was to acquire knowledge through experimental investigation. It evolved into a “Royal” Society in 1660 by Royal Charter and whose future membership would include a number of eminent people such as Newton, Benjamin Franklin, Charles Darwin and Michael Faraday.

During the early 18th century the Royal Society saw the number of Fellows increase from 110 to approximately 300 by 1739 and it is following this time that the society influences the search for the Land Down Under…

In the mid 18th century we are entering a new Age of Discovery, as opposed to a period motivated largely by the outright quest for trade & plunder (principally spearheaded by the Spanish and Dutch).

The Royal Society directly intersects with our story when two topics begin to dominate its discussions. The first is the possible existence of an undiscovered continent in the Earth’s southern hemisphere (New Holland was thought by the British to be too small to be the Great Southern Land) and an impending astronomical event, the crossing of Venus across the face of the sun. Interest in this event had been increasing since a British clergyman Jeremiah Horrocks became the first recorded observer of a transit of Venus in 1639.

Why Venus? Firstly, only Mercury and Venus transit the Sun. Secondly, the transit of Venus, as opposed to Mercury, is relatively easy to observe, but extremely rare. The 1761 transit was viewed with only limited success and the British were keen to make the most of the next transit. At that time the British plans for viewing the transit of 1769 were mediated by the Royal Society, which asked King George III to authorise three more expeditions, including one aboard a Royal Navy vessel to Tahiti in the South Pacific.

The Royal Society wanted Alexander Dalrymple, geographer and a former employee of the English East India Company to lead the expedition. Dalrymple also wanted to take advantage of the proposed expedition to undertake further exploration for this mysterious land, Terra Australis Incognita. This importantly coincided with the desires of the British Admiralty; but unfortunately for Dalrymple and the Royal Society, the Admiralty stipulated that a Navy officer command a Navy ship. So it was out with Dalrymple…and a new candidate was sought…

With the hopes of Dalrymple scuttled, it would open an opportunity for another man to step forward and take the lead in this history changing endeavor. A man whose name would become synonymous with the “discovery of the Great Southern Land”…

SMALL SIDE NOTE:

The motto of the Royal Society: Nullius in verba –  Latin for “Take nobody’s word for it”.

As we venture towards the European colonisation (or invasion) of Terra Australis, let’s catch up on the situation of indigenous Australians around this time.

They possessed one of the oldest continuous cultures on the planet. But what makes their culture distinctly unique is their isolation other cultures.

It was 40,000 years plus years ago that the first humans migrated to Australia. This was during a time of glaciation and much lower sea levels, effectively joining Papua New Guinea and Tasmania to Australia.

Some 10,000 years ago the sea began to rise again, adding to the isolation of the Australian continent. This resulted in minimal contact with outside cultures for thousands and thousands of years (except for a few tribes in the north that may have had limited contact with Indonesian tribes). Over this time indigenous Australians developed their own unique culture, shaped by this isolation and the harsh and varied nature of the Australian landscape.

Aboriginal people at this time lived as they had for thousands of years, in close association with the rhythms of the land, mainly as hunter-gatherers. Aboriginal society was generally mobile and influenced by food availability and the seasons. The population at prior to the arrival of Europeans is variously estimated to be somewhere between 300,000 and 700,000.

Aboriginal society was based on largely oral traditions and complex and, as is obvious now, largely beyond the comprehension of the average European of the time. Research indicates that the indigenous Australians had not only had a rich systems of beliefs (a subject of a future Bytes), but also pioneered a number of innovations, among them being the earliest known human cremations, some of the earliest rock art, the first boomerangs, ground axes, and grindstones in the world.

As Europeans ready themselves to step onto this continent, some 500 individual tribes cover the continent like a patchwork quilt. There is no overarching political system. No chiefs or kings. Tribes met for ceremonies, settled disputes and traded with each other, but that was about it.

Beneath these tribes were are a multitude of clans and family groups of varying sizes, from 6 to 40. There was also around 250 languages, along with intricate and shared oral traditions and spiritual beliefs united by the Dreaming, a world view that unites the spiritual, human and natural world.

You could easily think of this continent as being made up of a multitude of individual nations all with dynamic relationships and alliances, but a single world view.

But there was one thing over and above the Dreaming that unites indigenous Australia, and that is a strong and permanent relationship with the land…and unfortunately this is something that the Europeans coveted most of all.

So as the Europeans approach this Great Southern Land we need to prepare ourselves for an impending clash of two very different cultures…cultures formed separately over thousands of years on opposite sides of the world. One rich and spiritual, the other individualistic and legalistic.

And as if to exacerbate this future clash the fires of prejudice were being stoked in Britain and Europe by the writings of the European explorers of the time.

We have to look no further than the writings of William Dampier in his New Voyage Round the World in 1697. His description of indigenous Australians created stereotypes that policy makers took to heart:

So wrote Dampier:

“The inhabitants of this country are the miserablest people in the world. The Hodmadods of Monomatapa, though a nasty people, yet for wealth are gentlemen to these; who have no houses and skin garments, sheep, poultry, and fruits of the earth, ostrich eggs, etc., as the Hodmadods have; and setting aside their human shape, they differ but little from brutes….”

Though to be fair, not all spoke as harshly as this. For example Captain Cook wrote a little more favorably about the Aboriginal inhabitants in 1770:

“… they may appear to some to be the most wretched people upon Earth, but in reality they are far more happier than we Europeans; being wholly unacquainted not only with the superfluous but the necessary conveniences so much sought after in Europe, they are happy in not knowing the use of them … the Earth and sea of their own accord furnished them with all things necessary for life …”

What we will now see as we move towards the arrival of the first European colonists is a conflict over the very stuff of Terra Australis – a peoples’ identity and the land itself. A clash that will see the indigenous population dwindle from 100% of the population of this Great Southern Land, to some 2.5 % today…

“I first set out of England on this voyage at the beginning of the year 1679, in the Loyal Merchant of London, bound for Jamaica…” 

So starts Captain William Dampier in his book A New Voyage Around The World, which describes his first circumnavigation of the World.

Dampier was a character of the age, variously described as a buccaneer, explorer, sea captain, author and scientific observer. From our point of view he is a man who is to contribute greatly to the unveiling of the Great Southern Land.

Dampier was born in 1652, the son of a farmer near Yeovil, south west of London. Some 20 years or so later we find him on the other side of the world cutting and loading log-wood on the Bay of Campeachy in the present day Gulf of Mexico. Not satisfied with life there, in 1679 he sets sail on a grand adventure that will lead to his first circumnavigation of the World. Importantly he would popularise this voyage in his very successful book A New Voyage Around The World which regales stories of his travels and numerous buccaneering adventures.

It was in fact the very success of his journals that propel him into our journey of discovery. The British Admiralty become aware of his experience in the Pacific and seek his advice on the exploration of this part of the World. In 1699 they provide him with the command of the Roebuck and a commission to explore the east coast of New Holland (the name the Dutch had given to our Great Southern Land, Australia).

So at the age of 47 Dampier, Englishman and buccaneer, is at the helm of the Roeback, and at the centre of our journey of discovery.

However, not all goes well, supporting a view that perhaps notoriety, not talent put him in command of this expedition. He sets off late in the season in 1699 traveling via the Cape of Good Hope and the roaring forties. It is soon clear, however, that the 21-gun ship was not up the task of such an arduous trip, nor did he have good relations with his crew, actually having to clap one of his lieutenants into irons on the way. Scurvy follows, as well as chronic water shortages not making for a happy time when he reaches the coast of Western Australia.

But despite all of this Dampier pushes on, following the Western Australian coast north to Roebuck Bay near modern day Broome, then heading for Timor.

From January to April 1700 he follows the North Coast of New Guinea and during this time discovers New Britain. But instead of heading to explore the east coast of Australia he heads homeward, the cause, the poor state of the Roeback. In fact Dampier and his crew barely makes the volcanic Ascension Island in the mid Atlantic. Soon after their arrival their ship flounders and sinks. Dampier and sixty men have to wait two months until they are rescued.

Although in reality doing little more than previous visitors (like the accidental visitor Dirk Hartog) Dampier does popularise the exploration of the Pacific, again publishing a book of his journeys, A Voyage to New Holland in 1703 and 1709 (Part 2). Dampier’s visit also produces the first detailed observations of Australian flora and fauna. But other than this, the voyage is not much of a success, and falls well short of the goal of exploring the east coast of Australia.

Dampier himself was disappointed in what he saw. Viewing this new land as a mixture of dangerous shoals and reefs surrounding a barren land inhabited by ‘the miserablest people in the world’.

On Dampier’s return to England things did not get much better. He was court martialed for his treatment of Lieutenant Fisher (who he had clapped in irons), found guilty, fined all his pay and declared to be “not a fit person to be employed as commander of any of His Majesty’s ships.”

However, this did not stop Dampier. With the outbreak of the Spanish War of Succession his buccaneering experience again puts him to the fore with the Admiralty. Sought out as because of his knowledge of the Pacific and experience as a privateer he is given command of a ship the St. George in 1703. From there he fades from our story of discovery, but he will still circumnavigate the world another two times.

Dampier’s role in the exploration of the Great Southern Land is indirect, but significant. His ability with the pen, along with his scientific observations, inspires his fellow countrymen to join in the exploration of the Pacific. Once again, here come the English…and they are serious this time…

SIDENOTES:

Books by William Dampier

  • A New Voyage Round the World, (1697)
  • Voyages and Descriptions, (1699)
  • A Supplement of the Voyage Round the World
  • The Campeachy Voyages
  • A Discourse of Winds
  • A Voyage to New Holland, (Part 1 1703, Part 2 1709)

Wikipedia provides the following interesting list on the impact of William Dampier:

  • His observations and analysis of natural history helped Charles Darwin’s and Alexander von Humboldt’s development of their theories,
  • He made innovations in navigation technology that were studied by James Cook and Horatio Nelson.
  • Daniel Defoe, author of Robinson Crusoe, was inspired by accounts of real-life castaway Alexander Selkirk, a crew-member on Dampier’s voyages.[5]
  • His reports on breadfruit led to William Bligh’s ill-fated voyage in HMS Bounty.
  • He is cited over a thousand times in the Oxford English Dictionary notably on words such as ‘barbecue’, ‘avocado’, ‘chopsticks’ and ‘sub-species’. That is not to say he coined the words, but his use of them in his writings is the first known example in English.
  • His travel journals depicting Panama influenced the undertaking of the ill-fated Darien Scheme, leading to the Act of Union of 1707.
  • His notes on the fauna and flora of northwestern Australia were studied by naturalist and scientist Joseph Banks, who made further studies during the first voyage with Captain James Cook. This helped lead to the naming of and colonization of Botany Bay and the founding of modern Australia.
  • He is mentioned in the Gabriel García Márquez short story The Last Voyage of the Ghost Ship.
  • Jonathan Swift explicitly mentions Dampier in his Gulliver’s Travels as a mariner comparable to Lemuel Gulliver.
  • He is believed to have influenced the writing of Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s poem “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner”.

A little background note to assist us to understand the next character in our story of discovery, namely William Dampier.

Dampier has variously been described as an English buccaneer, ships captain, author and scientific observer. Some have described him as one of the greatest nautical explorers behind the likes of Sir Francis Drake and Sir Walter Raleigh.

It is the descriptor of buccaneer that is worth clarifying, as there are three terms that are often used interchangeably, that of Pirate, buccaneer and privateer.

Let’s first turn to a privateer

Basically a privateer is someone who is authorised by the government to attack enemy vessels at sea. During the 1600’s and beyond a Letter of Marque and Reprisal was often provided as a government license that authorized a private vessel to attack and capture enemy ships. A privateer could quite legally plunder a ship of another designated country, and even bring the vessel before courts for condemnation and sale.

Sailing the high seas for prizes under the authority of a Letter of Marque was considered an honorable pastime, as opposed to wanton acts of indiscriminate piracy. But be warned, things did not always turn out famously for privateers. For anyone interested in the fate of one famous privateer (not pirate) see the book about Captain William Kidd, The Pirate Hunter by Richard Zacks. This book tells the tale of how William Kidd started out as a legitimate English privateer, but was later hanged for alleged acts of piracy (basically to protect his aristocratic sponsors who authorized him to hunt down pirates and capture their plunder).

A privateer was often used as a tool used to bolster a smaller navy, or to distract opposing forces by requiring them to protect their trade routes from attack. You may also hear of the term Corsair, which is French version of the privateer.

Now comes the term buccaneer.

Today the term is often used interchangeably with that of a pirate, but the term had a different meaning originally. The term buccaneer was applied to privateers who specifically attacked Spanish shipping in the Caribbean Sea during the mid to late 17th century. The term actually comes from the Arawak term buccan, a wooden frame for smoking meat.

So a buccaneer is a specific type of privateer. For example the English viewed buccaneering as a cheap way to wage war on the Spanish. There was an additional benefit of a return on investment as the English crown took a cut of the plunder as payment in exchange for providing a Letter of Marque.

Now to Piracy, which is pretty straight forward.

Piracy is the unauthorised plunder of both shipping and coastal towns. The history of piracy stretches back thousands of years, and the one universal rule was, where there was an ocean and trade, there was piracy.  From the Mediterranean Sea to the seas off China.

The so-called “classic era” of piracy was in and around the Caribbean from the late 1500’s to the 1720’s. One interesting side note is that pirate ships were one of the first democratic institutions of this era. This was in great contrast to the current modus operandi of Western society at the time. In general the captain and quartermaster were elected by the crew. They in turn appointed the ships officers. There was logic in this approach, as it provided checks and balances and ensured that only a successful captain who delivered “results”, (or plunder) remained leading the ship.

For a pirate getting caught during these times often meant meeting a gruesome end. Often it was punishment meted out by “dancing the hempen jig”, or hanging. In England many pirate executions’ took place at Execution Dock on the River Thames. At that time they were very much public executions, drawing great crowds, with some then locked into iron cages where their bodies would rot over several years, visible to all those who sailed by. It was a clear reminder of the fate of those caught and prosecuted for piracy.

So, in our next byte we meet a man who will greatly add to the knowledge of this Great Southern Land. A man who would, amongst other achievements, be the first man to circumnavigate the world three times….

The 1640’s mark somewhat of a turning point in our story of discovery of Terra Australis. So far discovery has been either driven by logic (Aristotle) or the accidental visit driven by a quest for wealth from the Spice Islands. Now, however, at least one of the participants becomes serious – the Dutch. So while the accidental tourist will remain a part of the future exploration, we now move to a period where the Southern Land is more deliberately quested for, and then its coast mapped (but the interior by no means explored at this time).

This quest commences with a lad named Able Janzoon Tasman who is born in the meadows of Luytjegast in Holland in 1603. Little is known of this boy’s early life prior to 1634 other than he comes form humble stock and takes to sea at an early age and eventually becomes deeply involved in the spice trade in the East Indies.

By 1635 we learn that Tasman has quickly risen from a simple seaman to “Commandeur Abel,” leading a fleet of small vessels that jealously guard the VOC’s monopoly from foreign intrusion, as well as no doubt harass ships of hostile European rivals.

Tasman quickly becomes known as an experienced and “able” skipper, familiar with the great trade routes from Europe to India. He is also experienced in the waters of the Eastern Archipelago, and navigation of the China and Japan seas. By the end of the 1630’s he has ventured beyond the limits reached by any previous European navigator into the unknown and mysterious North Pacific Ocean.

It is therefore of no surprise that in 1642 the Dutch East India Company selects Able Tasman to lead its quest for the Unknown Southland. This search by the Dutch is primarily a commercial venture, not driven by a thirst for scientific knowledge or adventure. Tasman is instructed by the authorities to journal the full particulars of the productions of the countries he visits, describe the sort of goods available for trade, and what they may take in exchange. For this reason the ships that eventually set sail are laden with a great variety of articles of merchandise to potentially trade during the voyage.

It is also important to note there is at this time a clear distinction in the minds of the Dutch between the Known Southland (visited by Dirk Hartog, the Leeuwin in 1622, and the Gulde Zeepart) and the Unknown Southland. The Unknown Southland is still very much shrouded in mystery and legend involving the writings of Marco Polo who described a mysterious land of Beach, where “gold was so plentiful that no one who did not see it could believe it”. The location of this mysterious land at this time is thought to be somewhere south of the Solomon Islands. And it is this Unknown Southland that is being sought by Tasman and the Dutch. As the song goes, “Money, Money, Money”!

In 1642 Tasman sets sail on this voyage of commerce and trade and heads first to Mauritius. From there he turns south to the Unknown Southland. On the 18th of November they pass the longitude of Nuyts Land (Great Australian Bight), the furthest known extension of the Discovered South Land. However, not all goes well. They have to contend with strong westerly gales that push them further west. It was then, on the 24th November they sight their first land, which they call Antony van Diemen’s Land, after the Governor-General. They have reached modern day Tasmania, the large island south of Australia.

On the 3rd of December Tasman’s two boats (the Heemskerck and Zeehaen) make for a bay now known as Prince of Wales Bay. Tasman quickly launches the Heemskerck’s longboat to try and make shore, but the surf is too treacherous, preventing him from landing. Instead the ships carpenter (no doubt a volunteer!! Or perhaps the only person who could swim) swims through the surf, and plants the Prince’s flag on the shore. Tasman, on behalf of the VOC takes formal possession of the newly discovered country.

From there Tasman sails west and goes on to visit the South Island of New Zealand, then he moves on to the Tongan archipelago and the Fiji Islands. It ends up being a true voyage of discovery.

The trip, however, from a commercial point of view is a disappointment to his Dutch masters. Tasman did not discover any rich gold or silver mines, or indeed any rich trade for the Company at all. All he could boast of was that he had circumnavigated New Holland, or “Compagnies Nieuw Nederlandt” and had a damn good story to write about.

But it is not over for the Dutch or Able Tasman.

In 1644 Tasman is commissioned for a second voyage by resolution of the Governor-General. The ships Limmen and Zeemeeuw with the little tender Braek (carrying only 14 men) are commissioned for the voyage. In all a total of 111 hands are provisioned for an eight-month journey of discovery focusing on a northerly approach to the Unknown Southland via Papua New Guinea. Unfortunately Tasman’s journals of this voyage are lost, but Tasman did add to the knowledge of Terra Australis by carefully charting the west and north coasts of Australia, including the Gulf of Carpentaria.

The Great Southern Land is finally taking shape. But to the commercially focused Dutch this land is a disappointment. It was not turning out to be a land of gold and silver.

Perhaps now is a time for others, more “willing and able” to step forward into our story…

Let’s turn to a little background on the subject of penal transportation. It is a subject that will soon come to play a major role in our History of Australia journey.  Let’s turn to England in the late 16th and 17th Century…

In 1600 the population of England and Wales is growing along with the port of London and London itself, the latter reaching a population of half a million towards the end of the 1600’s. The English nation, as it moves from Elizabethan times, is also becoming wealthier with the advent of improved trade and the establishment of new industries.

However, beneath this economic success, there are social tensions. England at this time is a land of “haves”, and “have nots”. The “have nots”, or poor account for some fifty percent of the population (for example, the latter were unable to afford to eat meat more than once per week). It was an issue that parliament sought to address in the latter part of the 16th century.

In 1601 the first overseers of the poor is appointed by Parliament as a part of a series of Poor Laws. The 1601 Act creates a national requirement for compulsory local taxes to fund support of the poor. Although support was a little different in those days. Help typically came in two completely different ways – for the infirmed and deserving unemployed, daily support in the form of food, while for the vagrant a good whipping or incarceration in a local correctional institution was provided.

These local correctional institutions were quite new at the time, established only some 25 years prior by the first of the Poor Laws. These so called correctional institutions were established under local Justices of the Peace specifically so that able body vagrants, harlots and the like might be removed from the streets and “corrected in their habits by laborious discipline”. These institutions could be described as the for-runners of today’s prisons, with the exception that they were not run by the state at this time. They were (under) funded via local  taxation, and, as we know today, were often poorly run.

Without digressing too far, the rise of the visible and vagrant poor had a number of causes. Major events like Henry VIII’s Dissolution of the Monastery’s in the 1530’s (monastery’s did much to support the poor in local communities), the breakdown of the hierarchical feudal system which supported the peasant classes, along with Land Enclosure Laws designed to support such things as sheep grazing all contributed to a rise in the number of poor, and particularly the visible urban poor.

It is also interesting to note that before this time sanctions or punishments for crimes were generally public events; such as a community hanging or a good public flogging.  A correctional facility was generally only for holding people prior to their public sanction, rather than being a punishment in itself (an exception to this were those held for outstanding debts; they had to pay there own board and lodgings). It is around this time that Thomas More writes his book Utopia and first suggests imprisonment as a punishment and alternative to death via execution (and thieves be reduced to the status of a slave).

But back to our journey of discovery which is in the vicinity of 1620.

This is a time when the English Crown and Parliament begin their first experiment with penal transportation.

Countries such as Portugal, Spain, and France had all used criminals and vagrants to help populate their colonies in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, and the idea was taken up by the writer and explorer Richard Hakluyt in a treatise he laid before Queen Elizabeth I in 1584.  Hakluyt argued that the Crown should support populating vacant parts of North America with the English race.

Up until this time (and going forward for quite a while) there were really only two sentencing options available for capital crimes. A first time offender could receive the “Benefit of the Clergy” and be released back into society, or alternately, death. However, a new statute of 1584 opened up another option of deportation (although not forced labour at that time).

Soon after, over in North America, Virginia found itself struggling in its endeavours to exploit the land and realise its abundant commercial opportunities (we should never underestimate the power of “commercial opportunity” to influence the law at this time). In 1611 there was a request from Governor Dale to King James I for convicts sentenced to die to be shipped to his colony. Able men were needed. Finally on January 23, 1615, the Privy Council issued a warrant that enacted a forced labour option (in the colonies) as a punishment for those found idle or committed mis-demeanours.

So here in 1615 we have the creation of a formal system of transporting convicts to overseas colonies, basically by granting them a reprieve on the condition that  felons remove themselves to one of the colonies. The concept of a reprieve was to get around the common law of the Habeas Corpus Act which made outright sentencing of transportation illegal at that time, but not the act of providing a pardon based on the accused removing themselves from the country.

And as brutal as transportation sounds, it must be said, it was often the chosen alternative over execution, and generally undertaken at the cost of the convict (or the shipowner). On the other hand, as we shall see, often the crime did not match the punishment.

The penal system as it evolved required convicts to work on government projects, or they were provided as unpaid labor to local colonists. In Virginia convicts were sold to private individuals, basically as slaves, or at least to work along side slaves.

The practice of transportation to North America continued until the War of Independence with the number of convicts transported during this time estimated to be up to 50,000 people…

So over the 17th century the English became increasingly well practiced at the art of penal transportation. And it will not be long until they turn their eyes and expertise to a new penal opportunity, deep in the southern oceans…

 

 

 

 

 

 

So where are the English in this History of Australia?

They have been notably absent from the Discovery story, particularly when many think  it was the Englishman Captain Cook who actually discovered Australia. In fact an estimated  54 European ships precede Cook’s so called “discovery” in 1770.

Well, the time has finally come. Enter the English, if ever so briefly. Although the Englishmen in question may wish it was not so. Meaning, John Brook, Commander of a 500 tonne British East India vessel and his crew of some 130 men.

The year is 1622 and he is at the helm of the Tryall, a ship that soon is to become the Great Southern Land’s oldest known shipwreck. So to our story….

Loaded with silver from Plymouth, Brooks is on his way to the East Indies from Plymouth. It is the ship’s maiden voyage and the early days of the English trying out the new Brouwer route to the East Indies. His ship we know is only the second British ship to try out this route.

It is clear Brooks and his crew are inexperienced as they stop in Cape Town, not just for supplies, but to ask the locals basically, “How do we get to the East Indies?” Not happy with a verbal answer, they recruit a solution.  Brooks locates and appoints an experienced First Mate, Thomas Bright and sets off east with the “roaring forties” at their backs.

Then the fun begins. After mistaking Barrow Island for the mainland they find themselves too far east. There are varying accounts of the cause – incompetence, or the the typical challenge of trying to work out their exact longitude.

Fate struck in the dead of night of the 25th of May. The Tryall crashes into submerged rocks some 30 km from Montebello Islands. In the dead of night there begins a mad scramble for a skiff and longboat. Brook’s immediately takes command of the skiff (filled with silver?) and Bright takes to the longboat. Over 90 of the 133 souls are left to perish as the two boats set sail into the night. But they do not head for the nearby Great Southern Land, but rather they head north. Amazingly some weeks later in early July both boats arrived in Batavia some 1200 km away. A feat of endurance and perseverance by both Brooks and Bright.

Today the submerged rocks are now known as the Tryal Rocks, and for some 300 years after their exact location had been a point of controversy amongst mariners.

The English have finally entered our story of discovery, but have not quite managed to set foot on their future domain. But we do know one thing…finally the English are coming…

%d bloggers like this: