Imágenes de página
PDF
ePub
[blocks in formation]

throughout has any preparation been made for our proper accommodation, or the due performance of the solemn service, by having seats properly placed for those that choose to attend; while, on the contrary, every usual occupation, and the running to and fro of boys with meat to the cook's shop, have been permitted as on other days.

To-day it rains heavily; the dense atmosphere and thick haze are melancholy, and we feel more depressed than we ought to do, when we reflect upon the past, and consider that the Heads of Sydney are only eighty miles distant. We had a grand but stormy sun-set last evening, and to-day all is again dark and gloomy. There is a current setting down the coast from Torres' Straits, which is also against us, retarding us a mile and a half an hour, even when we do progress at all; this current is occasioned by the monsoon; which, at this season, blows through these fearful channels. From October to May is the season for getting through Bass's Straits to the westward, and from May to October through Torres' Straits, from Sydney northward. In the other months, vessels so bound scarcely attempt these passages.

Tuesday, 12th October.—When will our troubles end? Last night, after the heavy rain, it cleared up, and by ten o'clock we all had turned in, weary of the day. At eleven, a loud voice called out at the door of one of the passengers' cabins, “The lanthorn, Sir, the lanthorn-a large ship close upon us to windward.” It appears that the only ship’s lanthorn we have, has been most improperly given to one of the passengers for his individual use, and we were now in the greatest danger for want of it,—the lives of all in the ship in jeopardy, for the accommodation of one person : this needs no comment. Before the lamp could be got

[blocks in formation]

ready, the strange ship had, fortunately, passed us. We were now but a few miles from port, and in the very run of ships outward bound; it was very dark, and yet our only warning light was in the cabin of a passenger.

Our captain confessed to me next day, before the

surgeon,

that she passed us within half the length of the ship !-a large ship, on the opposite course, under all sail—the collision must have sunk us.

The heat has been excessive, and the lightning was flashing wildly the whole night. Early this morning I was awakened by a tremendous bustle on deck, and on quitting my berth I found everything in confusion. A sudden storm had arisen ; we were quite unprepared, and everybody was alarmed. It was one of the violent and dangerous squalls so frequent off this coast, which are called brickfielders, and come suddenly right off the land without warning of any

kind. It lasted about an hour; and, from the disorderly state of everything on board the ship, and our being so near the shore, we were, at one time, in great peril.

Thank God, we are at length safe within the Heads of Sydney, having a pilot on board, and proceeding up to the capital ; and, all our dangers over, are, at last, in New South Wales.

These Heads of Sydney, which we have so long desired to see, present a grand and imposing front to the ocean; and the coast, on either side, is high, bold, and rocky, and formed of red sandstone; there is, however, one space of fine white beach to the southward. All this arm of the sea affords beautiful anchorage ; its shores are covered to the water's edge with a dark stuntedlooking brushwood, which gives a sombre appearance at first,-at least in this evening light,--to the otherwise

72

NEW ZEALAND BOATMEN.

varied and beautiful entrance to Australia. But it is relieved by several pretty-looking cultivated places on the shores ; and the lighthouse is a cheering sight, after a four months'

voyage. We cannot, it seems, land to-night, or get within four miles of the town; and must lie at anchor till morning

We passed port Hacken this forenoon, and afterwards the inlet called Botany Bay; a name, the agreeable sound of which subsequent association has quite destroyed. It is a much wider opening and more extensive bay than Port Jackson ; but in a bright sun and fine weather I should imagine Port Jackson would be by far the most beautiful. This evening, however, I must say it has a gloomy, dark, and inhospitable appearance. Health officers are on board of us this evening; and, though hooping-cough is in the ship, we are not to be put in quarantine, of which we were in great dread. Those who have come on board report that the colony is in a very distressed state,- innumerable failures, and no confidence.

Wednesday, 13th October.—The sun this morning shines through a thick dust, which, as well as the wind which sets it in motion, is called a brickfielder. The scene is dismal—rain, gusts of furious wind, and this thick dust and drift; and the weather is such that we dare not yet venture to weigh anchor.

The boat that brought our pilot on board was manned by six New Zealanders; they were fine-looking, athletic fellows, with good expressive faces, copper-coloured, and tattooed in every part. They were most picturesquely dressed, in red shirts. Their boat was painted light blue, her bows were scarlet, and the shape most beautiful; it was long and narrow, and cut through the waves like an

arrow,

DANGEROUS POSITION.

73

Three o'clock. There is no hope of our getting up to Sydney to-day. The wind and sea are raging, and the breakers throwing their foam up to the tops of the tremendous Heads; it is a grand but fearful sight. One of our passengers went ashore last night with the health officers in their boat, and got down again to-day opposite our ship, but dared not attempt to come on board : he remains ensconced in a cottage in this bay, which is called Chouder, though his wife is still in the ship. There seems a great trade at this place; three ships have entered the Heads since we did last night, and have cast anchor before us in a mountainous sea; the pilots, at the peril of their lives, having steered them through these awful Heads into the anchorage within. .

14th October.Our present situation is quite as alarming as it has been during any part of the voyage. The storm is most violent, and our ship is anchored within one hundred yards of a line of rocks astern. If our anchors shift, we are lost. The pilot was very improperly allowed to go on shore yesterday, and is not returned; the flag is again hoisted for him. A ship, which came in since we did, has been driven ashore before our eyes. Some of us talk of venturing, during a lull, in the New Zealand boat, to effect a landing in the bush, taking our valuables with us, rather than run the greater risk of being driven on the rocks. Our awful peril must be known in Sydney, yet no one can come to our aid. Our danger becomes every moment more imminent. The pilot is again come to us, and two of the Favourite man-of-war's boats are alongside, to see what help they can afford us: they can give us none. Everything depends on our anchors holding ; and they are off to assist the vessel on the beach. These are fine gallant daring fellows. The officer came into our cuddy, dripping wet

74

LANDING IN THE BUSH.

from head to foot, but as gay and lively as possible ; drank all our healths in a glass of wine, wished us well out of our

larking night,” and was off to help those to whom he could be of use. The pilot says he thinks we should hold on with two cables. Thinks is an awkward word, where death hangs upon the doubt, more especially as he well knows we have dragged our anchor some space already, and that even in the darkness we see the breakers nearer astern.

The storm still rages, the pitch darkness rendering it doubly dreadful. Warps are being got ready to assist us, if needful! If the wind changed a point, we might be saved. The lulls betwixt the gusts are becoming longer, but the gusts are terrific. The pilot is a great comfort; he still holds out hope that we shall not be lost, and that the storm will probably abate about the change of the moon, at 2, A. M.

Friday, 15th October.-—The gale continued throughout the entire night, and our peril was excessive; but, thank God, the wind did abate this morning, as our pilot foretold, and about the very hour he had named ; and, as there was every appearance of the weather clearing, preparations were made for weighing anchor, and all was thankfulness and expectation. But at seven o'clock, squalls again came on, and again the sea arose. The pilot sent for his boat by signal, intending to go ashore, as he did not expect we should be able to proceed up to the town to-day.

On his boat, with its gallant New Zealand crew, coming alongside, he consented to allow them to land us in the bush, on the beach of Chouder Bay, five or six miles from Sydney. I and my son, together with three other passengers, got into the boat, and were speedily rowed across to the shores of New Holland. And thankful

« AnteriorContinuar »