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before the navigator can venture upon so sweeping an assertion as that of Captain Flinders in the instance in question.
Moreton Bay is not formed, as its name might suggest, by a mere sinuosity or indentation of the land, but by three islands running nearly parallel to the coast, and so disposed as to form, with the main, a large salt-water lake or inland sea. Of the three islands, the southernmost or Stradbroke Island is thirty miles in length, and about five in breadth. It lies due north and south, and its southern extremity consists of a mere sand spit which runs out for about twelve miles parallel to the mainland, and affords an entrance for boats, called the South Passage, which is occasionally practicable also for steam navigation. To the northward of Stradbroke Island, and separated from it by a navigable channel of nearly a nile in width, is Moreton Island, running due north for about twenty miles with an average breadth of three miles. The third island is Bribie's Island, the Yarun of the natives, and is about seventeen miles in length, and two or three in breadth ; and as the south end of Bribie's Island—which lies close in-shore, leaving a narrow channel between it and the land, called the Pumice-Stone River, or Bribie's Island Passage-lies between the north end of Moreton Island and the main, there is a wide entrance into the Bay, called the North Entrance, between the two islands, being about eight miles across, with four miles of a deep water channel, in which the soundings are from five to six fathoms. Hitherto the Southern Entrance, between Stradbroke and Moreton Islands, has been the one usually taken by steamboats and coasting vessels; but as the sea breaks fearfully on the bar, which has only a depth of water of three and a-half fathoms, in bad weather, the North Entrance, which is practicable for vessels of the greatest draught of water at all times, must evidently be the principal entrance for the future. So little attention, however, has hitherto been paid to the interests of commerce and navigation in this most important district by the four
Soldier-Officers who have successively been governors of the colony of New South Wales for the last twentytwo years, since the discovery of the Brisbane River, and the formation of the Penal Settlement of Moreton Bay, that this principal entrance into that noble inlet had never been surveyed up to the period of my return to Sydney, from a tour to the northward, in the month of December 1845. I had returned on that occasion by the Shamrock, a very superior iron steamboat, of 200 tons, (belonging to the Hunter's River Navigation Company) which occasionally visits Moreton Bay in the wool season. On getting out into the Bay from the Brisbane River, the wind was quite fair for our voyage, and we could have got into the Pacific to avail ourselves of it in a few hours by the North Entrance, had the deep-water channel by that entrance been only surveyed and buoyed off. But as this indispensable operation had not been performed, although the Local Government had had a Convict Establishment of occasionally upwards of a thousand men at the Settlement, with all the necessary apparatus for maintaining maritime communication with the district for twenty years, we had to lie for two whole days inside the southern or inferior entrance, till the surf, which was then breaking fearfully on the bar from the effects of a recent gale, had sufficiently subsided to enable us to get out into the open sea.
Moreton Bay is sixty miles long and about twenty wide. It is studded with islands, especially towards its southern extremity, where it gradually narrows to a mere river in appearance,
A few of these islands are high land, and capable of great improvement, as Peel's
* The Bramble and Castlereagh, two tenders of H. M. Surveying Ship, Fly, Captain Blackwood, which has recently been surveying the navigable channel towards Torres Straits, were despatched from Sydney, on the 21st December 1845, to complete that important Survey; and at the instance of Captain Wickham, R.N., Police Magistrate at Moreton Bay, they were to touch there on their way, and spend a few days only in surveying the North Entrance into the Bay.
Island and St. Helena Island ; the latter of which received its name in the penal times of the settlement, from the circumstance of a black-fellow, who had been named Napoleon by the convicts, having been placed upon it by way of punishment for some crime or misdemeanour: the others are low, muddy, covered with mangroves, and merely in process of formation from the gradual deposits of the Brisbane, the Logan, and the other rivers that empty themselves into the Bay. The three islands that form the Bay to seaward, are all hopelessly sterile—at least in regard to productions at all useful for man; for they are all covered with indigenous vegetation, suited, doubtless, to the soil, or rather sand and climate. The roots of the cyprus pine from Moreton Island are in high estimation at Brisbane Town for ornamental furniture and fancy cabinet-work-for which, from their rich and beautiful appearance, they are well adapted, and would doubtless bring a high price in London or Paris.
To the northward of Moreton Bay, there is a long island called Frazer's Island, parallel to the coast-line, about sixty-five miles in length, with an average breadth of ten miles; the northern half of which, being abreast of a bight in the mainland, gave the latter the appearance of a deep bay, and induced Captain Cook to designate it accordingly, Hervey's Bay, anticipating, doubtless, that a river would be discovered at its head. In this anticipation, we have seen, Governor Hunter concurred; but when it was ascertained that the land forming the east side of the bay was merely an island, the idea of finding a river on that part of the coast was at once abandoned. The southern half of Frazer's Island forms a long narrow sound that will doubtless prove available for coasting navigation, and Wide Bay, into which the river of that name empties itself, is situated at its southern extremity in latitude 25° 55' S. Frazer's Island received its name from Captain Frazer, of the ship Stirling Castle, a Scotch vessel, which has obtained some celebrity in New South Wales, from having brought out to the colony, at my particular in
stance, a number of Scotch mechanics, the first free immigrants of this class, to erect the requisite buildings for an Academical Institution in Sydney, in the year 1831. On a subsequent voyage to the Colony, Čaptain Frazer was unfortunately wrecked on the Barrier Reef, on his way to India. He reached the coast, however, in his boat; but it was only to experience a more awful fate, for he was seized by the black natives on his landing, and inhumanly murdered with most of
Frazer's Island is rather of indifferent character, in point of soil and general capabilities in the estimation of Europeans; but it is an excellent fishing station, and abounds in the other requisites of Aboriginal life. It is consequently very populous—the number of Aborigines on the island being estimated at not fewer than 2000.
The next inlet to the northward of Frazer's Island, that requires to be noticed, is Port Curtis, situated in latitude 24o S. or thereby. It was discovered, and partially surveyed by Captain Flinders in the course of his voyages of discovery along the coasts of Australia, early in the present century, and the following is the account given of it by that eminent navigator :- -“ This part of the east coast had been passed in the night by Captain Cook, so that both the openings escaped his notice, and the discovery of the Port fell to our lot. In honour of Admiral Sir Roger Curtis, who had commanded at the Cape of Good Hope, and been so attentive to our wants, I gave to it the name of PORT CURTIS, and the island which protects it from the sea, in fact forms the Port, was called Facing Island. It is a slip of rather low land, eight miles in length, and from two to half a mile in breadth, having Gatcombe Head for its southern extremity.”
“ The Northern Entrance to Port Curtis is accessible only to boats; but ships of any size inay enter the Port by the southern opening."
“The country round Port Curtis is overspread with grass, and produces the eucalyptus, and other trees common to this coast; yet the soil is either sandy or covered with loose stones, and generally incapable of cultivation. Much of the shores and the low islands are overspread with mangroves.
“Granite, streaked red and black, and cracked in all directions, appeared to be the common stone in the upper parts of the Port; but a stratified argillaceous stone was not unfrequent.”
“ Traces of inhabitants were found upon all the shores where we landed; they subsist partly on turtle, and possess bark canoes and scoop-nets. Fish seemed to be plentiful; the shores abound with oysters, amongst which, in the upper parts of the Port, was the kind producing pearls.” *
This locality was afterwards visited by Mr. Oxley, in search of a suitable place for the establishment of a new Penal Settlement in the year 1823; and on that occasion Mr. O.discovered an important river, of which discovery the following account is taken from the Observations of Mr. Uniacke, a gentleman of great promise, who had accompanied Mr. Oxley on his expedition to the northward, but who died shortly after his return in Sydney. During the examination of Port Curtis, Mr. Uniacke observes : 6 On our arrival on board, the master reported that he had discovered a fine fresh water river emptying itself by an outlet which was visible astern of the vessel to the southward. From his account Mr. Oxley was induced to defer our departure to Port Bowen for another day, in order to have an opportunity of viewing it himself. Accordingly Mr. Stirling and he started early the next day, while I remained behind to collect specimens of minerals on Facing Island for the Governor. Late in the evening they returned, having proceeded up the river to about where the tide reached, and Mr. Oxley deemed it of sufficient consequence to remain three or four days more, in order to examine the country more minutely. Accordingly the next morning early we again left the
* A Voyage to Terra Australis, &c., by Matthew Flinders, Captain R.N., II. 19, 20.