Castaway on the Auckland Isles
Chapter VI. — scarcity of food.—tenacity of life in seals.—further explorations in the island.—resolve to build a vessel
scarcity of food.—tenacity of life in seals.—further explorations in the island.—resolve to build a vessel.
"Sarah's Bosom."* Sunday, September 4, 1864.—It is now eight months since I had the misfortune to be cast away on this miserable island. And how tardily they have passed, and what anguish of mind I have suffered, would be impossible for me to describe, or any one else to imagine, unless they have been similarly situated; and how much longer it will last God only knows. Surely some friends (if we have any) in Sydney will bestir themselves, and have us looked after by some means or other; and if they exert themselves a little, and go about it properly, I have no doubt but that the Government will take the matter in hand. But as the time approaches nearer when I may reasonably expect a vessel, I am getting daily more uneasy and dubious about it. I take so many conflicting views of the matter, that sometimes my mind is almost (and I am not sure if not quite) wrought up to a state of frenzy.
I have employed myself all the week in working at our new place, and I am going to much more trouble than is absolutely necessary, so as to divert my mind as much as possible from melancholy thoughts and forebodings. To judge by the pains I am taking with it, any one would suppose that we intended to pass the remainder of our days here, which may be the case; but if life and health are spared me, I shall not remain here another twelve page 58months, if I go to sea in a boat and drown like a rat—which would be the most probable result—which mode of getting out of this world could not be termed suicide; although by those who are aware of the risk in so doing it might be considered systematic self-destruction, which I hope I shall not have occasion to adopt. If we had any carpenters' tools we would soon knock up something that would carry us to New Zealand, out of the wreck of the 'Grafton,' if it was only a scow. Mr. Raynal has been shoe-making for the last fortnight; he has made a pair for himself and a pair for me, and, considering the material he had to work with (seal-skin uppers, and old boots picked to pieces for soles), and having had no previous experience, he has made a surprisingly good job of them. The sealskin is too thin for mocassins: we wore out a pair in five days or a week. The men make wooden clogs, but they are very dangerous amongst the stones on the beach. The weather continues fine; we have had the wind high, and moderate, from the south, or the eastward, throughout the week; atmosphere moderately clear. Barometer has been down to 29·50, but is now rising, 29·90; thermometer from 40° to 50° at noon each day.
Sunday, September 11, 1864.—We have had quite a change in the weather since last Sunday. On Monday a gale came on from the north-west, and it has continued to blow very hard ever since, with heavy squalls and showers, sometimes hail and snow. On Thursday morning the ground was covered with snow, but it did not lie very long, for there has been a great deal of rain falling also. The wind hauled to the south, and veered again to the north-west, from which quarter it is now blowing a very heavy gale, with constant heavy rain, and very dark, gloomy weather. It has been a very miserable week, and there is no prospect of any change for the better. I have no doubt but we shall get bad weather in earnest this month with the equinox. When the gale commenced the barometer was at 28·75. It has since been at 29·25, and page 59as high as 29·80, constantly rising and falling, and is now at 29·50; thermometer 44°. I have done nothing at the new place this week; the weather has been so bad that it was not fit to go outside the door if it could be avoided: but we were obliged to go out on Monday and yesterday to look for meat, and, as we could not launch the boat, we had to carry it a distance of about three and a half miles. We killed a cow seal each day; they were both in calf.
Sunday, September 18, 1864.—The weather has been very stormy, with almost constant hail, snow, or rain throughout the past week, and we are again hard up for something to eat. We have been obliged to turn out in the midst of the bad weather to look for grub, and if turning out was all it would not be worth mentioning; but I am sorry to say that it is not to be had so easily as it used to be. We were out in the boat three times in succession —Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, from four o'clock in the morning to six in the evening; and, by dint of great industry and perseverance, we managed to get as much widgeon, fish, and mussels as kept us going, and a small surplus, which will barely last us to-day. To-morrow we must boat it again, whatever the weather may be; and it is not at present very promising. The barometer is very low, with every appearance of a heavy S.W. gale.
About three weeks ago I had every reason to hope, from the great number of seals that were in the harbour just then, that we were going to have abundance of seal meat, which is our principal food; but I find myself sadly disappointed, and I fear very much that they were only mustering at that time for a final leave-taking, for at the present time there is not a seal in this part of the harbour, and whether they have left the harbour entirely or not I cannot say; but as soon as the weather subsides a little we intend to go up the northern arm and see if we can get any there. They were numerous up there on the occasion of our visiting that part of the harbour. It is twelve miles from here; therefore it is quite an undertaking for us to go there.page 60
The present state of the weather has prevented us doing anything at the new place. If provisions were so plentiful as not to occupy all our time in looking after them, we might be able to do something towards it. Certainly we have dried meat and widgeon, but it is almost impossible to eat it. If we are compelled to have resource to it, and I find I can subsist upon roots, I shall certainly do so in preference to eating it. I must do the men justice in this, that, with all our hard fare, which is no doubt much harder than anyone that reads this journal might be inclined to imagine, they have not as yet made any open complaints. But since we have been so very much pinched, they have had to be pulling about in the boat, in the storm and wet, from morning till night, and then scarcely getting enough to subsist upon.
Wednesday, September 21, 1864.—On Monday morning the weather appeared promising, although the glass was very low, giving indications to the contrary; but, as forage is getting so scarce, I thought we would venture to start for the western arm. We had the wind from the S.W., which was ahead in going, and detained us so much that by nightfall we had only got a short distance into it—about eight miles from the house. Here we spied a seal on shore, and as yet we had only seen one in the water, and it was an old black bull. We landed and killed the one on shore; we also found another, which led us a chase until dark, and we were near losing her. They were both old ones. We now made up our minds to camp here for the night, and in the morning go farther up, and see if we could find any more; but it came on to blow, with hail and rain, and the night was bitter cold, so about midnight we made up our minds to return home. Although it was blowing a hard gale, it was favourable, so we started, and arrived at home about two o'clock on Tuesday morning, wet through, and almost famished with cold. Seeing the black seal gives me hope that the others have not left the harbour altogether, but are at the head of the western page 61arm; for we supposed that the black ones had left entirely, as we have not seen any for a very long time. Tenth anniversary of my marriage.
Sunday, September 25, 1864.—From the commencement of the gale mentioned on Wednesday, until Friday evening, it continued to blow very hard from between S.W. and N.W., accompanied by hail, rain, and snow. There has been more snow on the ground this week than at any time during the winter, and it lies thick on the mountains yet; but it will not lie very long, I suppose, for the sun begins to feel very warm again. Yesterday and to-day have been two very fine days, with a light breeze from the southward. It would have been an excellent opportunity for a vessel coming here to have made the land and got in, for the atmosphere has been particularly clear. The island might have been seen at a great distance. However, I don't expect anybody here until after the 15th of next month; then I shall look for some one coming every day, if we are not starved to death before that time.
It is evident that the seals have left this part of the island entirely. We were out in the boat yesterday, but did not see one. I have often thought I could get across to the western shore of the island by a valley at the head of the bay, where I imagine it is not more than three miles across. We started in the boat the first thing after our breakfast, and landed at the place where I intended to cross. We left the boat, and the three men who were in her started to go with me; but the travelling was so horribly bad that when we had got half a mile two of them turned back, leaving the other man and myself to pursue our way without them, which we did for about a mile farther; and I may say we had accomplished this distance by creeping on our bellies, very seldom getting as high as our hands and knees. I have described some bad roads before. This beats description, and it also beats me; and this is the first time I have been beaten in getting through the infernal scrub and swamp. The time which page 62we occupied in going and returning this mile and a half may give some idea of what sort of travelling it was: we were about seven hours in doing it! I got a severe cold over it, which was the only reward of my trouble (fatigue and scratched face and hands excepted). On our return, I shot three widgeons and two young ducks. There are ducks here, as I think I have before remarked; but they are very few, and they are so shy that we cannot get within gunshot of them. What we have got have been young ones, before they could fly. The widgeons, or what we call widgeons, are getting scarce also. We must go up the western arm again to-morrow, weather permitting. Barometer, 29·85; thermometer, 38°.
Sunday, October 2, 1864.—The long looked for month has arrived at last (God send relief before it passes). It is nine months to-day since the wreck. I shall make no comments how they have passed, as they could only have a tendency to rekindle the internal fire which has almost consumed me, and which fresh hopes have in some measure quenched; still, the dying embers require but a slight blast to make the flame burst forth afresh.
On Monday morning last the weather appeared promising, although the barometer was at a doubtful altitude. We started at an early hour for the western arm, to look for fresh meat, and fortunately for us we had to go no farther than its entrance. On the small island there we found and killed four seals, and amongst them was our old acquaintance, 'Royal Tom.' Had meat not been so scarce we would not have killed him. Another was a great calf about four months old. We killed a cow in milk the Monday previous, which, without a doubt, was its mother. This is the only instance that we yet found of them having calves later than January. December, I should say, is the month in which they generally calve. I am inclined to think that these seals, with the two we killed the week before, have composed a family, which, perhaps on account of the voung calf, have not taken their departure with the rest, for page 63I fear much that they have all gone; for we have not seen a sign of any others. However, it is to be hoped that these will last till we are taken away, which event I fully expect between the 15th and 20th of the present month; for if anybody has exerted themselves at all on our behalf, I have no doubt that the Government would despatch a vessel to look for us not later than the 1st of this month, after the equinoctial gales have subsided. Had we not been so fortunate on Monday, in falling in with seals so soon as we did, it would have been impossible for us to return yet, for it has blown a gale of wind ever since, which would have prevented our doing so.
At 9 a.m. on Monday a breeze came from the N.E., which soon increased to a gale. This is only the second N.E. wind we have had at any other time but the fall of the moon, and both those have happened at about the last quarter, but did not stand long before it hauled, by north to the westward, and has continued to blow a very heavy gale from between S.W. and W.N.W., and is now at N.W., with the barometer 30·20. We have had another instance of a low barometer preceding a S.W. gale, but this is the first time I have known it to be above 30 inches with a N.W. wind. A great deal of rain has fallen throughout this week also: on one occasion it rained harder for about two hours than ever I remember seeing it do anywhere, except it may have been one of those heavy showers we get on the equator sometimes. The thermometer has been low, 36° to 40°.
Sunday, October 9, 1864.—The past week, up till Friday, was very fine. Light north-west wind, and, although the sky is generally clouded, the atmosphere was particularly clear. This would have afforded an excellent opportunity for a ship to have made the island and got in here. It is to be hoped that we shall have moderate weather for a time now, for goodness knows it was bad enough last month to suffice for some time; but I suppose we must take it as it comes, without grumbling. However, the barometer is now page 64up to 30·20; we shall have good weather for a few days, no doubt. In that time there is no telling what may transpire; perhaps we may get away before any more bad weather comes. At midnight on Thursday it commenced to rain, and continued without ceasing until midnight on Friday. At 4 p.m. on Friday the wind shifted instantaneously from N.W. to S.E., and has remained at S.E. and S.S.E. ever since; moderate breeze and passing clouds, with frequent showers of snow. The tips of the hills are once more white, and it is very cold: the thermometer is down to 38°. We planted some pumpkin seed at the beginning of the week, but I am afraid it will stand a poor chance. We tried some last summer; it did come up, and that was all. Corn would do very well here, I have no doubt—also potatoes: we have got two or three which we intend to try.
Sunday, October 16, 1864.—Another week of fine weather has passed, and here we remain yet. Surely not more than another week at the outside will pass before something arrives to take us away; that is, if anyone has thought anything about us, or done anything towards having us looked after. But I am afraid that those who should have felt interested in our fate are either dead or sleeping, or else something would have been despatched to look for us at the latest on the first of the present month, in which case, had they come here direct, as I instructed Mr. —— they should do if anything happened that we did not return in reasonable time, they should have been here before now: and I think I made him understand clearly that an accident was much more likely to happen in harbour than at sea; so thus their consciences will scarcely allow time to let the matter rest without discovering by some means what has become of us. Besides, they don't know but their own personal interest is at stake, which in itself would stir them to action; still I do not for a moment doubt they will be doing something towards finding us. I think I may question their energy, for had page 65they applied to Government as soon as they gave us up—which they must have done, at the outside, five months after we sailed—I feel convinced that we should have had relief before this time; for the New South Wales Government is not slow to move in such matters. In this humane age, the probability of saving the lives of five men becomes a matter of immediate and energetic public interest and action; therefore I am inclined to think that our friends, who should at least have given us an opportunity of condescending to receive succour from public benevolence (we are not too high-minded now to accept of assistance from any quarter, neither would anyone else be so if they had lived as we have done for nine or ten months), have been, to say the least, wanting in energy; but, for fear of doing them an injustice, I will say no more on the subject at present.
As I have already remarked, the weather during the past week has been fine. On Monday morning the snow lay thick on the ground, but was soon dispersed by the sun. In the afternoon of that day we had a strong breeze from the westward, which lasted till midnight. Since that time the wind has been light from the southward and south-east, with scattered clouds, but mist almost constantly enveloping the high parts of the land. To-day the wind is moderate from N.N.E., with passing clouds and clear atmosphere. The barometer has been steadily rising all the week, from 29·50 on Monday to 29·90 to-day; thermometer at 53°, which is below temperate; but we feel it very warm. The weather has been so fine, and I am so sick of remaining here, that Raynal and I proposed taking the boat to try to reach New Zealand in her; but the men at once opposed this project, as they did not wish to be left alone here; and as I do not wish to risk unnecessarily anyone's life but my own, and perhaps relief may not after all be so far off, I have for the present abandoned the idea. Perhaps I am unreasonably uneasy, but it is impossible for me to be otherwise.page 66
On Monday morning last we started at daybreak for the western arm, to look for seal. On Masked Island we saw one tiger seal, but we could not get him; and he was the only one we could see until we arrived at the head of the arm. About noon we landed, made a fire, and got something to eat, and then proceeded on our way; but immediately after noon we got a strong breeze from the westward, which was dead a-head. We are very unfortunate, for every time we go out in the boat a gale of wind comes on before we get back. However, by about 4 o'clock in the afternoon we had managed to get nearly to the head of the arm, and we saw a large black seal lying amongst the rocks close to the water—so close that it would have been impossible for us to have got him if we had landed to attack him: and the meat is getting so scarce we were glad of only half an opportunity of getting him, and only afraid that he would escape and we should not be able to get another one. He was not asleep, but sat up and looked at us; and we lay on our oars and looked at him, not daring to move for fear he would take the water—and a musket ball seldom has any effect on them when they are so near the water, further than it may confuse them, when you must be ready to attack them at once with clubs; and we were as yet too far from him to shoot. We made a few bold strokes towards him; he did not move until the boat was near touching the beach; then he started: but Mr. Raynal let drive at him with the gun and staggered him, knocking out three of his canine teeth, the ball going up into his head: but this did not kill him. In an instant we were on him with our clubs, which had the effect of quieting him for a short time; but, strange to say, the very time occupied in pounding him to make sure of killing him gave him time to revive again, and he nearly escaped into the water before we got his throat cut. He was a very large seal, one of his teeth measuring 3⅔ inches long, 1½ inches in circumference at page 67the gum, and 5¾ inches at the base. Mr. Raynal has some larger than this.
It is a surprising fact that the nearer to the water a seal is killed, the more tenacious it is of life. I have actually seen one of these black bull seals, with two bullets in him, his head split open with an axe, and his brains hanging out, dragging the men along the beach, who were trying to keep him out of the water by hanging on to his hind flappers; and he would have got away had not another man at that moment come to their assistance, and chopped off his head entirely with the axe. But when they are at any great distance from the water a slight tap on the nose will stun them, and if struck immediately they will probably die without the slightest muscular motion. But in striking these fellows it is necessary to make sure of your blow, for if you miss they will have hold of you, and they would undoubtedly break the limb they got hold of. None of us as yet have got bit, thank God; but they have on one or two occasions taken the club out of some of our hands. After getting our seal into the boat, we went as far as the western head or entrance, where we got another black seal, and saw there three others, which we could have killed, but the two we had already got were a load for the boat. We also saw about half-a-dozen in the water, all black seals. Not very long ago we thought it would be impossible to eat this kind of seal; and indeed they are not by any means fit for food, for the strong smell of the meat is enough not only to disgust but to stifle a person. But what are starving men to do? and we may consider ourselves such. Hunger is certainly a good sauce. We were all in a state of excitement over the seal that was shot, for fear we should lose him and not be able to get any more.
After taking a good view of the entrance, we returned to the boat and set sail homeward (as I must call my prison-house), with a strong fair wind, as much as we could carry the whole sail to, and were not more than two hours and a page 68half in running back, and arrived about an hour after dark. The distance is fourteen or fifteen miles. I may here give a description of the western arm of this extensive harbour, as I think I have not as yet done so. About seven miles from the eastern entrance heads is Musgrave's Peninsula, which lies nearly at right angles with the entrance and Flagstaff Point. Its S.E. entrance bears from between the heads W.-half-S. (Here our signal board is erected). The elbow, which turns off from the direct line to the heads, and into the western arm, is called Point No. 1, and bears from Flagstaff Point S.E. by E.-half-E. From Point No. 1 the arm runs, in a S.W. by W. direction, a distance of about five miles, to Point No. 2, where it turns its direction to W.N.W., about two miles to Point No. 3, and follows nearly the same bearing from this point to a point along the northern shore to its head, a distance of about three and a quarter miles farther. From Point No. 3 to Break Sea Point (which is on the east side of the passage out), W.-half-N., about one and three quarter miles.
On the eastern side of the passage (from the sea) are standing two isolated rocks, not less than 200 feet high, which from seaward would appear to be one, and which I am of opinion are synonymous with the rock placed on the general chart immediately off the South Cape, and named Adam's Rock. This entrance, I am folly persuaded, is precisely on the South Cape, although I am not at present able to assert such as a positive fact. The passage runs N.N.E. and S.S.W., about one and three quarter miles in length, and one mile wide at its entrance, narrowing very regularly and gradually towards its head, where its width is not more than half a mile, which space is almost entirely occupied by an island, which is situated almost exactly in the centre, leaving on each side a very narrow but deep channel. The one on the east side appears to be the best; it is about 100 feet wide and 300 feet long.
On the inside, immediately off Break Sea Point, stands a rock which only shows at low water, unless occasionally page 69when the sea breaks on it. A considerable portion of the point is covered at high water also. The island, which from its singular appearance I have named 'Monumental Island,' is a peculiar feature of, and would be an unmistakeable finger-post to, this entrance. The eastern head, for a distance of nearly two miles, is a perpendicular wall, averaging not less than 120 feet high. The western head rises to a height of not less than 400 feet, and is not quite so perpendicular as the eastern one, but shows an unbroken face. This passage, if properly examined, might possibly be available to a vessel entering or leaving this harbour; but, in my opinion, it would be in no wise recommendable.
Masked Island bears from Flagstaff Point S.W. by S., and could not, by a vessel bigger than a long boat beating or sailing in, be discovered; indeed, I passed it once in a boat without discovering the fact. There is a snug nook on its south side, where a vessel might very easily be secured, and would be well sheltered from both wind and sea. I would recommend laying down two anchors ahead, in about 12 fathoms (not less), and hauling her stern as far in to the N.W. as the depth of water will allow (there is eight feet rise and fall; high water on full and change days at 12 hours), then moor with four good hawsers to the trees, or the rocks if preferable. I would prefer this place to any other in the harbour. There is a drift to the S.E. of about one mile and a half, but the wind from that quarter is not felt; the very high land off the south island entirely breaks it off, and when it is blowing a heavy gale from any other quarter there is scarcely a breath of wind in this quarter. From this island the western arm has on its north side six bays, from half a mile to a mile deep, and at the head of each is a small stream of water. The shores are generally rocky, and clad with stunted crooked timber, similar to the shores of the north arm where we live, running to some distance up the mountains, which rise abruptly from the water to the height of page 701,000 to 1,500 feet. The south island attains in one place a height of not less than 2,000 feet. I have not visited the south side of this arm, excepting at its head. It carries an average width of about one and a half miles. The south side has a number of small bays, but nothing near so deep as those on the north side. I have sounded along the north side, but nowhere did I get bottom with a 20 feet line at 90 yards from the shore.
On Thursday we were out in the boat all day. We went down to Flagstaff Point and re-painted our signal board, and spent the remainder of the day in fishing, and getting mussels and widgeons. We got three small fish, a basket of mussels, and a dozen widgeons. We saw two small seals in the water. It is evident they have left the harbour altogether. God only knows what is to become of us; we shall starve outright if we remain here much longer. I expect the few black seals that remain will be off now also.
Sunday, October 23, 1864.—Week passes on after week. Another one has passed like its predecessors, and thus I suppose it will continue till time shall be no more. Each day passes, and we know not what the next may bring forth, or whether we shall see it or not; and probably one of the best gifts of Providence is the veil that conceals futurity. My eyes are positively weak and bloodshot with anxious looking. Since last Sunday I have scarcely slept, for night and day I have been constantly on the worry, expecting that a vessel would come in. The weather was moderate during the first and middle of the week, but since noon of Friday it has been blowing a hard gale from S.W. and W.N.W., with much rain and dirty thick weather, and at the present time has not the slightest appearance of subsiding; so that if a vessel was now in the vicinity of the island it would be impossible for her to get in. It would be impossible for me to convey to any one an idea of my present state of mind. I am anything but mad; if that would come it would very likely afford relief in forgetfulness. I was mad once, though, and no doubt people page 71are made accountable for their actions in that sort of madness; and perhaps I am suffering the just punishment of my folly.
I have still one consolation remaining, in those beautiful words of Thomas Moore:—
Let fate do her worst, there are relics of joy,
Bright gems of the past which she cannot destroy;
That come in the night-time of sorrow and care,
And bring back the features that joy used to wear.
Long, long may my heart with such mera'ries be filled,
Like a vase in which roses have once been distilled.
You may break, you may ruin the vase as you will,
But the scent of the roses will hang round it still.
On Tuesday morning, Raynal and I set off at five o'clock in the morning to go on to the mountains to the northward and have a look round. The night had been beautifully fine and clear, and when we started there was not a cloud in the sky, and scarcely a breath of wind. A finer morning could not have been, but before we arrived at the top clouds rose from the westward and passed rapidly over, till the whole sky was covered, and a mist began to settle on the land, which soon became a dense fog, with heavy rain. It continued for several hours, and we were very glad that we had not got to the top, and made our way back again as quickly as possible. It would be exceedingly dangerous to be caught on the top of these mountains in one of those thick fogs; for sometimes you cannot see two yards before you, so that you would be obliged to stop until it cleared away, and in so doing you might perish with cold and wet. The alternative would be almost a certainty of falling headlong down one of these immense precipices, which I have mentioned before, 1,200 to 1,500 feet deep.
On Wednesday morning, about the same time, we made another attempt, and succeeded. The day was dry and clear, but there was a haze about the horizon which pre-page 72vented us from seeing so far as we otherwise could have done. However, I suppose we had a clear view all round of not less than fifty miles; but no sail blessed our longing eyes. We went much farther to the northward than we have been before, and nearly over to the western shore, and saw several detached conical shaped rocks, and small islands scattered about close to the shores, which are high and rugged, with here and there small indentations or bights. But I find that this western coast line does not run, as I have previously noted, N.N.E. and S.S.W., but nearly north and south. It has, however, an elbow about its centre, which lies somewhat to the westward of its north and south extremities; and I am now inclined to think that the passage out from the western arm is a little to the northward of the South Cape. In other respects the description I have given before is correct, only that the mountains are higher than I at the time supposed them to be. I have since measured some of them, which enables me to judge more correctly the height of the others.
The Giant's Tomb is about 1,800 feet high, and the highest part of the land is on the south island, and is about 2,000 feet high. I also find that some of the chasms in the north-east angle of the land penetrate nearly (perhaps some of them go entirely) through the island, and are very narrow, with the mountains rising perpendicularly from the water to the height of 1,200 feet. Indeed some of them are so narrow that it appears as if a person could jump across at the top. The great height and extraordinary steepness makes the distance appear much less than it actually is. It would be difficult for me to judge how high they are; however, they vary very much in every feature. I hope no vessel will go humbugging about these places looking for us. The reefs before mentioned, lying to the eastward of the north end of the group, I may here mention again, for they are undoubtedly exceedingly dangerous, and should be carefully avoided. On this occasion page 73there was a long line of breakers (with several dry places) running in an easterly direction, and extending (as I first stated) not less than ten miles from the land. I have now seen them from several different bearings, and I conclude that their distance from the land is not less than ten miles. I should also have stated that there are a number of sunken rocks, which do not always show, lying about and across the mouths of the bights and chasms on the north-east angles. All this part should be very carefully approached. As we returned we set fire to the grass on the homeward side of the mountains; it was very dry, and burnt well all night, and would have been a good beacon for any one near the island.
As soon as the weather moderates we must go and see if we can get another seal or two, if they are only black ones. I am trying to tan the largest of the last two skins we got. Whether I shall succeed or not I cannot tell; but we have found a bark which I have great hopes of, and, if it answers, the skin of this fellow would make excellent sole leather. We are not yet reduced to wearing seal-skin clothes entirely, but those which we do wear look most deplorable, although they are neither ragged nor dirty; but they are patched to such a degree that in scarcely any piece of garment that any of us wear is there a particle of the original visible. Joseph's coat would scarcely be a circumstance of comparison with some of ours. Old canvas, old gunny bags, anything we can get hold of, goes in for patches, and we use canvas ravellings for thread, and sew everything with a sail-needle. We are certainly a motley group. I have cut up all my bed sheets for patching with, and I expect I shall have to use canvas, gunny bags, &c, also shortly. Raynal and I keep on doing a little at our new place, but the greater part of our time, when we are down there, is occupied in straining our eyes in looking down the harbour. The barometer has been all the week between 29·10 and 29·90, and is now 29·52. Thermometer 38°.page 74
Sunday, October 30, 1864.—Here we are yet, closely clasped in Sarah's Bosom. I don't think I shall have any reason to dread purgatory after this; I trust that my purgations are now being performed, and are almost completed, for things appear to be drawing rapidly towards a crisis. The proverb says, when things are at their worst they must mend; but how bad that worst may be is beyond the reach of human knowledge. I must now forego about the last bit of comfort that was left me, which is writing a little on Sundays; for if I continue to do so, my only remaining book of blank paper will be filled up. I may yet have something of moment to insert, for which purpose I must reserve the few remaining pages. So, my dear old book, I must bid you good bye, for God only knows how long. If nothing comes after us, we shall commence at the New Year to pull the 'Grafton' to pieces, and try what we can do with her bones. It is an undertaking the success of which I am exceedingly doubtful of. If we had had tools I should have tried what we could have done long before this time; but who expected that we should be left here unlooked for like so many dogs!
It is folly for me to get into this vein. Let it pass. Our stock of tools is, as I think I have said before, an American axe, an adze, a hammer, and a gimblet—a mighty assortment to take our ship to pieces, and build another one with, if even there was any carpenter or blacksmith among us, which there is not. The idea is almost farcical; but, as I have said before, I shall go to sea on a log in preference to dragging out a miserable existence here: besides, I am not sure that we shall be able to do that much longer. We have had very bad weather all the week, with the exception of Wednesday. It was constant heavy rain until Friday evening, and blowing a gale from the westward. On Friday evening it shifted suddenly to S.S.W., and the rain turned into snow, which fell heavily, and now lies thick on the ground; and the weather is dark, page 75gloomy, cold, and miserable. On Wednesday, although a dirty wet day, and blowing too hard to take the boat, we were obliged to turn out, almost without breakfast, to look for something to eat. Four of us went out together, taking the gun, expecting to get a few widgeons; and I returned very ill, and I have not been right since. Until the evening we were very unfortunate. We travelled about ten miles without getting anything. Here there were a few mussels; but it was high water, and we could not get to them, so we set to work fishing, but only got two very small ones, about the size of sprats. About three o'clock in the afternoon, by wading into the water, we were able to get a few mussels, which we at once roasted and ate, but afterwards we got as many as we could eat. I think I ate too many, and this, with walking and fasting so long, very likely made me ill. This is picnicing in reality. God protect us from having much of it to do! but He is still good to us.
On our way home we fell in with and killed two tiger seals, without which I think we should positively have starved, for the weather has been such as to prevent us from getting any since. On Tuesday morning we launched the boat, although it was blowing a heavy gale, with heavy rain, and with a fair wind went to the place where the seals were. We had taken a small piece of one home with us on the previous evening, to make our supper and breakfast with. We got our seals into the boat very comfortably, but with four oars we were five hours pulling back home (a distance of two miles and a half!) where we arrived drenched to the skin, and I have had a severe cold ever since. The barometer has been from 29 inches to 29·50; thermometer, 34°.
November 28.—Strong gale from N.W.; hail, sleet, and snow falling. Barometer, 29·35.
December 1.—Ice on the mountains. 6th.—Very low tide and easterly wind. 8th.—Frost; thermometer at 32°. 19.—Thermometer 56°; 1° above temperate. 21st.—N.E. page 76gale for 12 hours; barometer 29·90. Throughout the month of December the weather has been exceedingly fine. A ship could come in here at any time during the whole month, and from last Christmas till to-day (New Year's Day) the weather has been as fine as ever I saw it anywhere. Barometer about 30 inches, and thermometer 60° at noon.