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of the north-west cape came next, which proved the position of the cape to be 10° southward of that assigned to it by the French, while neither Hermit Island nor the land laid down on their charts as being westward of Trimouille Island was to be seen.
The expedition likewise revisited and verified the position of Barrow Island, Montebello Island, Rowley's Shoals, Cape l'Eveque, and Buccaneer's Archipelago, and terminated its labours by the examination of Cygnet Bay. In April it anchored off Sydney, after 344 days of absence, and in the same year returned to England.
The results of this four years' labour may be given in the following summary: —
1st. A running survey was made of that portion of the east coast which is situated between Perry Island and Cape York, a distance of 900 miles, and which, being laid down for the first time, became a valuable and convenient track for vessels bound through Torres Straits.
2ndly. The examination was effected of the N. and N. W. coast from Cape Wessel to Cape Villaret, including Port Essington, — a distance of 1100 miles.
3rdly. Of the coast between Deputch Island and Cape Leeuwin, a distance of 700 miles.
This makes a total of 2700 miles of surveyed coast; besides Macquarie Harbour, Port Macquarie, and Rowley's Shoals, &c. Those who have not been professionally employed in similar undertakings can scarcely conceive the amount of labour which is involved in a survey of 2700 miles; neither could any description give them the remotest idea of the difficulties, the trying situations, and the anxiety, Avhich the commanding officer in such a survey has to encounter. Personal peril and the inconveniences arising from cold, heat, wet, fatigue, and frequent want of food, are sufferings which a man passionately fond of his profession, and ardently devoted to his enterprise, little cares for; they are indeed trifling in comparison with those bitter disappointments and harassing anxieties which unfavourable weather, adverse winds, the wear and tear of the vessel, the loss of boats, anchors, and instruments, produce, or which the sick list of the ship's company, the deterioration of water and provisions, &c. entail upon the commander of the expedition: and when, as regards the case of Captain P. P. King, it is added that that part of the coast of Terra Australis which was entrusted to his survey, far from presenting any of those interesting and picturesque features which by enhancing curiosity relieve anxiety, was mostly barren, and displayed, with few exceptions, only flat, low shores bordered by shoals and reefs or studded with an impervious growth of mangrove trees, rarely supplied with fresh Avater, and inhabited by an intractable race, whom nothing could conciliate, or deter from murderous designs; when it is considered that the act of landing to explore or to take observations was generally attended with a struggle for life, and that the nearest place from whence effectual assistance could be obtained in the case of any damage which the vessel might sustain, was as far off as New York is from Liverpool, and that, in consequence of this circumstance, the completion of 2700 miles of survey required nearly 40,000 miles of sailing; when all these difficulties, which Captain King in his Australian survey had to encounter, and all of Avhich he surmounted, are duly considered, the merit which would attend the execution of so extensive a survey under common circumstances is indeed greatly enhanced.
His work on this survey and the atlas appended to it bear the date of 1827, and form a most valuable reference in all questions, whether nautical or scientific, connected with Terra Australis.
Much, however, as had been effected, some details in the description of the coast, particularly portions of the N.W. coast, still remained to be filled up, having hitherto escaped the notice of, or not having been visited by, any navigators. The following is the account which Captain P. P. King has furnished of the voyage of Her Majesty's surveyor-ship, "Beagle," which was sent out to complete what still remained to be done.
"The ' Beagle,' left England originally under the command of Captain J. C. Wickham. This officer, however, after two harassing voyages to the northwest coast—in which several interesting points were established, and two rivers (the Adelaide and the Victoria) discovered—was necessitated to return, to England, on account of bad health, brought on by the extreme heat of the climate, when the command devolved upon Captain J. L. Stokes, who has completed the objects of her voyage, and now takes her home — to receive, it is hoped, the reward of his long and useful services.
"To describe the work performed, in the succession in which it was executed, would be out of place here. It is better, therefore, to give a general summary of the different portions of the survey in the order, as to position, in which they follow each other.
"Commencing, therefore, with the eastern coast. The inner route towards Torres Straits was twice navigated on the way to the north coast, and several important corrections and additions made to the charts now in use. Of the latter may be mentioned, the determination of a better outlet than the one to the north of Wednesday and Hammond Islands, viz. by passing through Endeavour Strait, which hitherto has been considered to be too shoal for vessels of large burthen. Captain Stokes has, however, ascertained, that by keeping nearer to Wallis Isles, a good channel ov outlet exists in which there is not less that five fathoms water. The passage, therefore, through this part of Torres Straits has been very much improved.
"The next important feature of the ' Beagle's' voyage was the discovery of two considerable rivers at the bottom of the Gulf of Carpentaria, flowing through a fine country in a south-westerly direction for sixty miles, navigable for thirteen miles for vessels of thirteen feet draught, and to within five miles of where the water is fresh; the boats, however, traced it for nearly fifty miles further, to the latitude of 17° 59' and longitude 139° 30'. The climate was found, in the month of August, to be of an agreeable character, the thermometer in the month of August indicating an. average temperature of 60°, the minimum being 50°. To these rivers the names of Albert and Flinders were given. The character of the country is low, and the soil chiefly alluvial. No satisfactory reason has been given for the low temperature of this tropical region, which, as the latitude is about 17°, ought to have been at least 70° or 75°. The situation of these rivers may at no distant period open a road to the interior, which is at present wrapped up in doubt and mystery.
"The next discovery in succession, to the west, was that of the Adelaide River, at the north-west part of the Gulf of Van Diemen, similar in character to the Alligator Rivers, which were discovered in the year 1818, falling into the gulf at its southern part. Proceeding farther, another river was found of more importance, as to size, than any previously known in Intertropical Australia. It was called the Victoria. It extends for about 150 miles to the S. E. by E. and is navigable for vessels of burthen for sixty miles from the entrance: its further examination was made by a pedestrian party to the latitude of 15° 96' and longitude 130° 52', and was left still flowing from the south-east. This position is about 500 miles from the centre of the continent. The character of the river may better be understood from the following extract from Captain Stokes's Journal: —' The valley through which the river passes varies in its nature, from treeless, stony plains, to rich alluvial flats, lightly timbered with a white-stemmed gum; the banks are steep and high, thickly clothed with the Acacia, drooping Eucalyptus, and tall reeds. There was no perceptible stream in the upper reaches; but, if we may judge from the inclination of the stems of the trees growing in the bed, and heaps of large boulders in the channel of the river, the Victoria, at some recent period, must have been a large and rapid river.'
"Whilst employed in making observations at Cape Pearce, which forms the north entrance of this river, Captain Stokes was treacherously speared by the natives; the wound was a severe one, but assistance being rendered, his life was happily saved. It is a curious coincidence that the three officers whose services as surveyors in the late expedition have been most prominent, viz. Captain Stokes, Mr. A. B. Usborne, master, and Mr. Fitzmaurice, mate, each met with serious wounds in the prosecution of their duty, — Messrs. Usborne and Fitzmaurice, from muskets accidentally exploding: the former was obliged to be invalid in consequence, and the latter, who, however, has persevered to the last, will be lame for life.
"The rivers Albert and Flinders to the eastward, and that of Victoria to the westward, converge in the direction of their sources apparently to one common point; to which also do the intermediate rivers — the Alligators and the Adelaide. It seems probable that all derive their origin from some large inland marsh or lake, to which they serve as drains. It is not unlikely that there may be a low tract of land between