Port Kennedy, 8 May 1893

The method of loading the coal was so primitive and so time consuming that in the morning, despite working without interruption and with great effort, the required quantity was still not on board and only towards noon the loading was complete. As the low tide and the strong counter current were noticeable at that time and we only had 1 foot of water below the keel we had to wait until the next day to continue our voyage to Sydney.

The morning I spent on board and killed a sea eagle from the iron deck — a beautiful specimen of Haliaetus leucogaster — it had snatched a piece of meat swimming on the water surface.

In the afternoon we had the choice of either to go hunting or fishing for corals and shells.

I decided to do the latter and thus the commander and I drove to a reef marked on the map between  Goode Island and Hammond Island, while the other gentlemen landed on Hammond Island, which nobody among us had yet set foot upon, to hunt there. We equipped ourselves with everything necessary to fish corals, with hoes, hammers and crowbars, and drove in the dinghy to the reef.

How incompletely the people of Port Kennedy know the surroundings of their town and how badly they are informed about it had already been proven by the hunting expert of Prince of Wales Island. Today we would make similar experiences. Even though the resident and all others we had asked about it had declared that there are no corals here — though the valuable red precious coral is not present in the tropical seas —  we saw ourselves surrounded shortly after we had arrived at the reef by the most beautiful and interesting corals. The whole reef that can be clearly seen during the lowest tide by individual points emerging out of the water might be about 100 m long and descended sharply down into the deep sea on one side while on the other side it flattened out by and by towards the land. At its deepest spot we anchored the boat and jumped onto the reef where the water only reached up to our knees.

We found ourselves in the most delightful spot for a collector I have ever seen. Even though I have held numerous illustrations of such coral reefs in my hand and read many descriptions of them, I found that my expectations were surpassed here by a wide margin and I was gladly surprised by what I could see here on the spot. The coral reef resembled a flower bed filled with flowers of all kinds and colors, magically produced by the unimaginable quantity and diversity of the animal kingdom present. There were first coral stocks that remind of antlers in their multiple branching; trunks thick as an arm that carry tree-like branches, fan-formed plates, large lumps that have at a closer glance a very delicate and fine composition despite their rough appearance. Then countless species of sponges, mollusks,  sea cucumbers and other animals of the lower order that are all notable by their colorful intensive flashy glowing color. No painter — and even if he had the palette of Makart — could represent the prismatic color effects, the glittering splendor, clarity, brilliance, the never ending scale of color tones with which these children of the sea are so splendidly ornamented.

On the gray frame of a Madrepore for instance hang hundreds and hundreds of echinoderms and mollusks that enhance in the finest nuances of the rainbow in all the shades the game of color. Between the bushes, vases, globes, branches of these polyps those so diverse limy skeletons of the coral animals, appear all kinds of strange fish, starfish, crabs, snails and even in the shaft of the corals all kinds of animals are hidden and buried. And here and there and there, over, beside, under each other, in hundreds and thousands of places in the coral reef, always an overwhelming number of organic beings — an unknown incomprehensible spectacle!

The commander, the sailors and I waded without interruption in the shallow water over corals and discovered something new at every step and put it into the boat for the collection. We were so eager that only the fast setting sun made us think about our return and have the boat filled up to rim taken in two by the steam barge. Leaving the reef proved to be difficult. The current was very strong and the anchor had been caught amongst the corals too so that we had to drive at full speed to free the shaft and the wings. Such a strong current as that between those canals between the strait of Torres I have not yet seen and believe that a rowing boat surely would not be able to keep up against it as even the steam barge managed to bring us on board only very slowly.

Only late in the evening the gentlemen of the other party returned from Hammond island having bagged but little prey as the woods were too dense and only a few representatives of the bird world could be seen. This party too had difficulties in embarking and had to leave behind one anchor.

Links

  • Location: Thursday Island
  • ANNO – on  08.05.1893 in Austria’s newspapers. The Emperor returned home from Budapest.
  • The k.u.k. Hof-Burgtheater is playing „Kriemhilde“ and the k.u.k. Hof-Operntheater is performing the opera “Cavalleria Rusticana” and the ballet „Sylvia“.

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