At Sea to Sydney, 10 May 1893

At dawn the anchor was hoisted and the journey continued, namely through Weymouth Bay, until Cap Weymouth and Restoration island came into view.

This was the scene of a bloody drama a few weeks ago. An enterprising fisherman had settled here with 30 companies and did business between the surrounding reefs. Suddenly in one night the whole colony was attacked by wild natives and slaughtered to the last man. Many Australian settlers living apart are imperilled by such raids, namely in Queensland, but the savages are just do retribution for the ruthless and often cruel way in which they are displaced from their own land and even exterminated. Thus it is said that at the start of Australia’s colonization by the English natives were killed off by placing bread laced with arsenic as bait near their settlements. Other cruelties and all kinds of atrocities, even real manhunts should have been undertaken by many Europeans in the name of „culture“ and „civilization“ against the native population of Australia who only wanted to defend their lives and property.

In any case, the native population, even if they look less novel-like and heroic as the redskins of North America, has like them doubtless been mistreated with barbaric force and displaced. The establishment of new „stations“ and „runs“ upon territories which before had only been settled by natives, wars of extermination among the various tribes displaced from their hunting grounds, the demon of alcohol, illnesses and many other aspects have reduced the number of natives in West and South Australia as well in Queensland to around 200.000 individuals.

The next cap we passed by was Cap Direction whose shape corresponds to its name as it juts out into the sea and offers a good object for steering at considerable distance.

On both sides of our fairway numerous islands and shallow reefs emerged; so just after Cap Direction the Rocky and Chapman islands, the islands Night, Binstead, Lowrie, Ellis and Morris with its anchored light house ship, furthermore the group of the Claremont islands among them Fife, Hay, Willkie, Hannah, Burkitt are the most remarkable.

The day was gorgeous, the sea was calm and of such as light-green color like many of our European continental lakes and the air was of a rare clarity and purity so that we could namely distinguish clearly the contours and the vegetation of the mainland.

A few miles in front of Burkitt islands the course was changed and Princess Charlotte Bay passed whereas the mainland retreated into the distance only to vanish completely for some time out of our view and it only reappeared when we approached the group of the Flinders islands near Cap Bathurst. The Flinders islands, not to be confused with the islands north of Tasmania of the same name, are high, mountainous islands that are known for their strange formations of their rocks and bare slopes. Some cliffs are covered with low bushes. Some of these islands, especially the island of Stanley, reminded me of individual spots on our Dalmatian coast.

The setting sun flooded the bizarre shore rocks of Stanley island with its glowing gold while the higher points of the island already appear in their evening colors. In complete darkness we passed by a light house ship that marked the passage between the Pipon islands and Cap Melville.

The life of one of the guardians on one of these light house ships may be, especially in these waters, a lonely and sad one. Cut off completely from the world, without any interaction with other living beings sit two men year for year on their light house boats, anchored at a small reef whose area extends for only a few steps. The world of these men is their light house boat and their only occupation is to light the lantern every evening. Every four to eight weeks a government steam ship comes and provides water and supplies to the guardians and only stops as long as it has to because it has to drive from one light house ship to the next one after another. Only seldom these lonesome men find the distraction of passing ships as the passage is feared due the many coral reefs and only a few ship captains dare to pass through. We had only met a single small steam boat and even this was probably just the regular supply ship. Truly, the men of the light house ship are not to be envied in their fate. Such a life as an Anchorite must deteriorate the mind and soul of these banned men into complete lethargy.

As during the day the air during the night was of a special purity. In unclouded clarity the stars were lighting down upon all of us. The cross and Taurus are the only remarkable constellations of the southern sky. An old acquaintance from the North still offered us company — Ursa Major that appeared low on the horizon. A strangeness of the southern milky way are the countless starless and thus dark spots that interrupt the white lines. Due to the clarity of the air one could directly see the stars rise out of the sea with one’s eyes only.

After repeated course corrections we reached the Howick island that were visible as black lines on the horizon. Towards 1 o’clock in the night the pilot advised us to anchor in front of the large island of Lizard, as the passage between this and the reefs of Eagle island during the night would be difficult. The commander followed this advice and had the ship set the anchor. The pilot proved to be very skilful and reliable and despite his 67 years he stood day and night on the bridge and gave his orders.

Once he had been a captain on one of the large merchant steam ships of the Australian merchant fleet and used to drive the line route to China and Japan. Now he seemed to find piloting the more profitable business. In order not to miss „Elisabeth“, coming from Sydney, he had expected our arrival on Thursday island for a full seven weeks prior to our arrival. According to his stories he had not been enchanted by his long stay on Thursday island.

Links

  • Location: near Howick Island
  • ANNO – on  10.05.1893 in Austria’s newspapers.
  • The k.u.k. Hof-Burgtheater is playing „Die kluge Käthe“ and the k.u.k. Hof-Operntheater is performing the ballet “Die goldene Märchenwelt”.

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