Bound for South Australia 1836TimeWeek 39 Ship's chronometer, c.1907
Overview Between February and July 1836 nine ships left Britain bound for the newly created province of South Australia. On-board the ships were passengers who over many long months braved the perils of the ocean, including some of the most treacherous seas in the world to begin a new life on the other side of the world. This resource uses the stories from these nine ships as recorded by the passengers and crew in their personal journals.
Contents • Introduction • Journal entries • Inquiry Questions • Relevant images • Glossary of Terms
Introduction The journeys to South Australia in 1836 were all of different duration, with many factors affecting the length of time it took a vessel to arrive. Each week we read references made to time, some are general references, such as Woodforde who writes, “My time has on the other days been variously employed working at my hut,” while other references are more specific, as Thomas wrote, “I was suddenly startled about 5 o’clock by the loud crowing of a cock.” Today we have systems that enable us to tell the time accurately anywhere in the world, but what was it like in 1836, how did the crew and passengers tell the time at sea? Was the time accurate and how did the time affect the journey to South Australia?
Journals from settlers in South Australia:Sunday 13 November 1836 Mary Thomas, who arrived in South Australia on board the Africaine wrote: NOVEMBER 13.-This day the girls and I packed up our bedding and such things as remained in the cabin, and went on shore to the place of our present destination. It is remarkable that we finally set sail on a Sunday and landed on a Sunday. We had two tents, the smaller of which the men had erected, and of which we, with part of our family, that is, our three daughters and the young woman who came out with us as assistant, took possession, gladly enough, though everything was in the roughest fashion imaginable. The two men located themselves in the sandhills, making a circle with packages and furniture and sleeping in the middle. As for my two sons (for Robert had now joined us for the present) I made up a bed with a thick mattress on the ground in the open air, and as near as I could with safety to a large fire, and saw them asleep before I ventured to retire myself. My anxiety, however, would not suffer me to sleep much for that and many succeeding nights. Towards morning, however, I fell into a
slumber out of which I was suddenly startled at about 5 o’clock by the loud crowing of a cock, which, with some hens we brought from the Cape of Good Hope, had roosted in a bush close to the back of the tent. I got up at the summons and, hastily dressing myself, went to see after my boys, both of whom I found fast asleep. The quilt that covered them was so saturated with dew that I could have wrung the water out of it. Yet they took no cold, nor seemed at all the worse for their night’s exposure, although it must have been very cold, as was proved by the following circumstance. A pewter jug had been accidentally left outside the tent in a tin dish containing some water, and on lifting up the jug to my surprise the dish came up with it, for the water had frozen to an eighth of an inch in thickness. This astonished me in a country where I did not expect to see such a thing, and yet the thermometer rose that day to 110 degrees .
Wednesday 16 November 1836 William Light, who arrived in South Australia on board the Rapid wrote: 16 November-Walked with Messrs Kingston and Brown to examine the plains, taking a south-easterly direction; we were much pleased with the appearance of the whole; at four p.m. returned on board, the weather looking bad, and the wind increasing fast from the westward; about six the Cygnet‘s long-boat in going from the shore to the ship unfortunately capsized in a squall , and went down; no lives were lost…
Wednesday 16 November 1836 Dr John Woodforde, who arrived in South Australia on board the Rapid wrote: Nothing worth notice has occurred since Friday until yesterday which Lipson and I spent shooting and fishing in the next valley. My time has on the other days been variously employed working at my hut when the weather would permit, and lying down with a book in the middle of the day. The heat has been excessive these last two days, the thermometer in the tents yesterday being at 1180 . We have no mosquitoes in Rapid Bay but the flies are the most torturing of torments, alighting by hundreds on the face and creeping into the ears, eyes and nose, thus keeping one in a constant fever
Wednesday 16 November 1836 William Deacon, who arrived in South Australia on board the Africaine wrote: November 16th I am sorry to say the two lost Gents have losttheir lives. Some of the ships were 6 months on the Voyage andwhen I arrived here, had not unloaded they lost all the cattleand horses bought at the Cape and had a dreadful passage.
Friday 18 November 1836 Dr John Woodforde, who arrived in South Australia on board the Rapid wrote: 9 p.m. Friday, 18th November. An idle day, the tools being still in use by the surveying party. I shot a few quails yesterday which with those of yesterday will make us a nice pudding – a thing not to be sneezed at in this infant Colony, especially as we are getting tired of kangaroo which as the heat of the weather increases gets poor and rank. This afternoon I cleaned my gun, smoked and read and am now going to bed, leaving the gentlemen surveyors to sup off roasted potatoes of Kangaroo Island growth.
Saturday 19 November 1836 William Light, who arrived in South Australia on board the Rapid wrote: 19 November…. The following is an extract from my letter of the same date to the Commissioners: I have also entered into an agreement with Captain Duff, to go to Hobart Town for sheep, oxen, &c. &c. The sheep to be fattened and killed here, and sold to all who are not entitled to rations, at a price fixed by Messrs Gouger, Brown, and Gilbert, those who are entitled to rations will get alternate days fresh and salt provisions. This measure I deem highly necessary for the welfare of the colony, for among our men, who have been seven months on salt provisions (and will be nine perhaps before the stock arrives) strong symptoms of scurvy appear-if any get the slightest scratch, he is not cured for a month or six weeks; and I am sorry to observe cases of sore feet and painful swellings occur too frequently. The oxen, with cars complete, are very much wanted-no work can be carried on inland without them, they are indispensable; therefore I should not do my duty to omit sending for them. I am told, some are ordered from the Cape, but when will they arrive? And when they do, there will be work
for treble their number-this can never be a loss to the Commissioners, for the purchasers of land will require them also, and for the present we cannot go on without them. In England and other countries where roads are made, houses are found for accommodation, &c. vehicles and animals are allowed for public duties, but in this country, no one knows how impossible it is to work without them, except those on the spot….
Journals from passengers at sea:Sunday 13 November 1836 Young Bingham Hutchinson, on board the Buffalo wrote: Sunday, Novr 13. Light winds & hazy. Mustered at Divisions. Readprayers in the wardroom. Communicated with the whaler“Woodlark”, whose master dined on board. Head S.Ely. Wind Vble.Noon. DoWr. Miles run, 71 + 11245 = 11316. Lat. 39E55′ So. Long.39E44′ Et. P.M. Mode & fine. Tried for soundings with 130 fmsno bottom. 6.30. Set studg sails. Woodlark in company.
Inquiry Questions • How can we describe time? • How has time been recorded, measured and represented in the past? • How would time have impacted on the lives of these early migrants to South Australia?
Images Robert Thomas’ tent and rush tent, Glenelg. 1836
Glossary of Terms 118° • About 48 Degrees Celsius. 110 degrees • About 43 Degrees Celsius. Fathoms • A fathom is a measure of depth in the imperial system. One fathom is equal to six feet or 1.83 metres. Lat • Latitude is the distance of a point north or south of the equator as measured in degrees. The poles are at 90 degrees north and south. Long • Longitude is the distance, measured in degrees, of the meridian on which a point lies to the meridian of Greenwich. On the other side of the earth to Greenwich is a point with a longitude of both 180 degrees east and 180 degrees west. Studding sails • Studding sails were set outside the square sails in fine weather and with a fair wind. Their head was fastened to a short yard hoisted to the end of the upper yard and their foot extended by a boom slid out from the lower yard. They took their name, such as main topmast studding sail, from the adjacent sail. Return to Journal Entries