The following account of the voyage from Sydney to England on the Buffalo in 1800 was probably written by Eliza Kent, the wife of Captain William Kent.....
Abstract of The Journal of a Voyage From New South Wales to England on the Buffalo
HAVING embarked on board the Buffalo man of war, with a number of passengers, amongst whom there were eighteen women and twenty-one children, besides ten convicts who were to be landed at Norfolk island, we sailed from Port Jackson, in company with, the Francis schooner, on Tuesday, October the 1st, 1800, at 9 a.m. with a fresh breeze from the westward.
On the following day, at noon, we descried a vessel to the northward, which, on bearing down, proved to be the Speedy Whaler. At night a tremendous gale came on, accompanied with thunder, lightning and rain, which continued till the 23d, and during which we lost sight of the schooner. On the Q9th, in the morning, we passed Lord Howe’s island and Balls’s pyramid, which are situated in latitude 31° 35’ south, and longitude 159“ 9’ east.
Nothing particular occurred till the 5th of November, when at dawn of day we discovered Phillip’s island, and at 9 a.m. Norfolk island. A large sail appeared in the N. W. quarter. As a very heavy sea broke on the beach of Sydney, we sailed to Cascade, a landing place on the opposite side of the island, where the ten prisoners were landed. Cloudy damp weather.
Norfolk island lies in latitude ' 29° 2’ south, and longitude 168" 5’ east. November 6th and 7th. The surf being very high both at Cascade and at Sidney Bay, it was impossible for a boat to land at either place during these two days.
The weather was fine and clear, and the island, wore a beautiful appearance, being covered with lofty pine trees with lesser trees of the brightest foliage. The banks and many of the steepest hills were covered with native flax, which grows in the greatest luxuriance. The large sail we had seen proved to be the Albion, Captain Bunker, who touched at the island for provisions. -
On the 8th, the weather being perfectly fine and the surf moderate, I was induced to go on shore immediately after breakfast. We landed without much difficulty at Cascade, and walked to Sydney. The road was just wide enough for one carriage, and ran between pine trees, whose majestic height screened us from the scorching rays of the sun, and rendered the walk to Sydney, which is about three miles and a half distant from Cascade, extremely pleasant. After descending a very steep hill, we reached Sydney, where, the governors house excepted, there is not one good building.
The town is built close to the water side, and the inhabitants must, I think, be greatly annoyed by the noise of the surf, which is continually foaming and breaking with such violence as to render it difficult to hear what any person says. The land in every part of the island has a fertile appearance. The government-garden, which is situated in Arthur's Vale, is extensive and in high cultivation. Beyond it is a piece of water of a circular form, with a small islet, covered with flowering shrubs, rising in the centre of it, which gives it a romantic appearance. This pond abounds with eels of the finest kind, and its water turns a mill of considerable size. The farms extend all along this vale, and their luxuriant fields,-in which the grain was nearly ripe, yielded a rich prospect.
Major F. the lieutenant-governor (Joseph Foveaux), paid me every polite attention, and, at my departure in the evening, had a horse with a sidesaddle and attendants in readiness to convey me to Cascade. Being rather fatigued, l gladly availed of his politeness, and had a most pleasant ride in the cool of the evening to Cascade, when we re-embarked in the Buffalo's jolly-boat.
A heavy swell had drifted the ship to a great distance from the island, and we did not reach her till after a row of three hours, when it was quite dark. On the 9th, at 9 a. m. the Buffalo fired a salute of fifteen guns on governor Hunter’s leaving the ship. On the 10th we made sail and stood off, and on the 11th hoisted in the boats and took our departure from Norfolk island; Mount Pitt bearing S. W. three or four miles; wind at E.S.E. We had light breezes and good weather.
On the 16th, being Sunday, divine service was performed on the quarter-deck, by the Rev. Mr. Johnson. The greatest part of the passengers and the whole of the ship’s company attended, and behaved with great decorum and proper attention. The performance of this duty was continued every Sunday during the voyage, except when prevented by the weather, or such incidental occurrences as will be noticed.
On the 19th it fell quite calm, with slight showers. A large green turtle was seen within a few yards of the ship.
On the 22d we had fresh breezes and cloudy weather. North Cape of New Zealand bearing S. S. W. distant about ten leagues; saw the, land very distinctly. A sperm-whale was this day seen from the ship.
On Sunday, the 23d, light breezes and hazy weather. Lost sight of the land of New Zealand. Great numbers of porpoises were seen. Much of my time was this day passed in rendering every service in my power to one of the female passengers, a Mrs. Molloy, whose life was despaired of. Her being within three weeks of lying-in, and some other cruel circumstances, rendered her situation truly calamitous, and called forth every feeling of humanity.
On the 24th we had uncommonly fine weather; the ship going seven knots an hour under a steady breeze from the westward. The fine weather continued for several days, with moderate breezes, and clear moonlight nights, which are peculiarly pleasant and desirable at sea, in which I frequently indulged myself with walking the deck till a late hour, viewing the waves by the mild rays of the orb of night. No fitter time or scene for contemplation; and my mind at those times enjoyed enjoyed a tranquility which led my thoughts to soar beyond the extensive sweep of the ocean, and the wider expanse of its spangled canopy; even to that unknown world which the spirits of the just inhabit.
On the 26th Mrs. Molloy, the person before mentioned, and who was at this time supposed to be near death, was, to the great surprise of every person on board, safely delivered of a girl, after a very easy labour, and both seemed likely to do well.
On Sunday the 30th we had such frequent and heavy showers of rain, with fresh gales and hazy weather, that the performance of divine service was prevented. We this day calculated our distance from Cape Horn to be 4,384 miles. For the three or four first days of December we had fresh breezes and squally weather. Vast flights of birds of the albatross, pintado, and peterel kinds, passed the ship on the 2d.
On the 5th it blew violently hard, with frequent heavy squalls, accompanied with rain‘ and a great sea running. The next day the weather moderated. A large whale was seen within three yards of the ship, and on the 9th another of an enormous size was near enough to have been struck from the cat-head. A gale came on that day, which increased in the night and on the next day, so that the ship was obliged to lie to. The sea ran very high, and struck her with such violence as to lay her repeatedly on her broadside. Towards noon the wind veered round two points to the westward, which enabled the ship to continue her course with the foresail and mainsail set. The gale became more moderate in the evening, and gave us hopes that the succeeding day would see it out.
On the 11th our hopes were more than realized, for the gale not only abated, but a pleasant breeze sprung up from the wished-for quarter, and we went the whole day with studding sails set on both sides. . On the 13th we carried away the maintop-mast studding-sail-yard in a squall. It continued squally with fresh gales till the 18th, when a great storm came on (the most serious we had encountered since we left Port Jackson) from the north-westward, with frequent heavy rain and hail; the ship scudding under her foresail, seven and eight knots an hour, with a great sea running. The storm continued, with unabated violence, till the 20th, when it subsided, and the weather became clear and pleasant.
Saturday, 27th December. Some days have elapsed since I laid aside my pen. A dreadful catastrophe, which I will endeavour to relate as circumstantially as possible, prevented my resuming it till I found my spirits more collected. It was Christmas eve, and we were sitting round a good fire, anticipating the pleasures of the ensuing day, for which great preparations had been making for several days, when we heard a great noise on the main-deck, which we soon learnt was occasioned by Mr. L. one of the midshipmen, who was excessively intoxicated. Stripped to his trowsers, his face flushed with liquor, his countenance (which, I must observe, was, at the best of times, one of the Worst I ever saw) dark and malignant, and his mouth foaming with passion, he was uttering the most horrid oaths, and threatening to strike or destroy every person near him. He refused obedience to the orders that were given to confine him to his cabin, which was under the half-deck, till menaced to be punished at the gangway. He then went in, and the door was shut upon him, but not fastened. In less than five minutes afterwards he appeared, stark naked, just under the main-chains on the gangway, having got out at the Port in his cabin. He was discovered standing on the gangway, by his calling out, “ make haste, messmates, bear a hand, I am going to drown myself; bear a hand, messmates, tell them I am going to drown myself.” All hands thronged to that side of the ship; he looked up and said, “call my messmates, tell them I am going to drown myself, I wish well to all the Buffalo’s ship’s company ;” and instantly plunged into the deep, before any means could be used to prevent him.
The ship was going at the rate of seven knots, directly before the wind, a considerable sea was on, and night had just set in, it being between nine and ten o’clock, so that he must have been out of all reach before a boat could have been lowered. To describe the horror and dismay it occasioned throughout the ship is impossible. One moment we had all been witnesses to the dreadful state of drunkenness he was in, and had heard his blasphemous oaths, and the next, whilst they were yet quivering on his lips, we saw him rush into the presence of his Maker, “ with all his imperfections on his head.” It cannot be expected that the next day, the joyful anniversary of our Saviour’s nativity, would pass over very cheerfully, while the circumstance was still so recent ; and it appeared to have had a very serious effect on the minds of his messmates, and I hope will be a warning to some of them, who were known to drink very freely.
The weather at this time was cold and dreary, the atmosphere dark and cloudy, and all around was gloomy. We had nothing to cheer our spirits but the consciousness that every passing moment lessened the distance between us and our native country. We had likewise an earnest desire to see land again, having lost sight of it for nearly two months; besides which, the coast we were next approaching, the southern extremity of America, had the charms of novelty, if it possessed no other, to recommend it to most of us, as very few of the passengers, and none of the women on board, had seen it. Our distance from Cape Horn being reduced to 1,057 miles,- gave us hopes of seeing it at the expiration of another week, provided the Winds continued favourable.
January lst, 1801. The weather beautifully clear, inclining to calm, and as warm as a fine spring morning in. April in England, which was highly acceptable to us, who had so long encountered the ' blustering cold weather of the Southern Pacific. We are only, by estimation, 363 miles from Diego Ramirez, an island near Cape Horn. I had not the least expectation of meeting with such fine weather in the south latitude of 56° 36’. It put us all in high spirits: a large party dined in the great cabin; we had a dance in the evening to the drum and fiddle, and, upon the whole, passed a very pleasant New year’s day.
On Sunday, the 4th, a strange sail was seen in the north-west quarter, distant about seven miles. Every thing had been put in readiness for action some days before, in case of falling in with an enemy off Cape Horn, and the crew had, at the intervals of fine weather, been exercised at the great guns. The sight of this vessel appeared to give fresh life and spirits to the officers and ship's company; far different sensations did it excite in me, and my spirits were not a little raised when a thick haze came on about six o’clock, which entirely concealed her from our sight. It cleared, and the sun shone in three hours afterwards, but no vestige of the vessel appeared till between four and five in the afternoon, when the strange sail was deserted as far as the eye could reach to windward, and in half an hour afterwards we thought, by the help of glasses, a schooner was in company with her. Shortly after we saw clearly that they were two large ships, under a great press of sail ; upon which nothing was heard on all sides but “ I hope they will bear down upon us; we are ready to give them a warm reception,”
But the result proved that their sails were set to get clear of us; they steered a course directly contrary to ours, and before the evening set in they totally disappeared, and with them my fears. The general opinion respecting them was, that they were two outward-bound Whalers.
On the 6th we had heavy squalls from the westward, with flying showers of bail and rain; and being within a short distance of Cape Horn, with a great sea rising and night coming on, it was judged best to bring the ship up by the wind, under close reefed topsails. On the next day it blew very fresh from the S. W., and the horizon clearing up, we saw land, supposed to be Statenland, bearing W. N. W. distant 13 leagues. Upon this the cables were bent, and every thing got in readiness to anchor in New-year's harbour, where it was intended the ship should water, for, by the consumption during her long run, she was so high out of the water, and crank, that it was dangerous to put much sail upon her., As we drew near the land, a strong current set us off a considerable distance ; it foamed like breakers, and seals were seen leaping in it in all directions. We got within four leagues of Cape San Juan, and nearly abreast of New-year’s harbour, but without any hopes of getting in. We persevered for twelve hours in attempting it, and then finding the ship losing ground, and every appearance of a storm coming on, she bore up, and I took (in all probability) my last look of Statenland. I cannot say any thing in favour of its appearance. Not a tree is to be seen; the land is in general very high and peaked; the tops of many of the bills, or rather mountains, were enveloped in thick dark clouds; patches of snow appeared on their steril sides, and even in the inlets, which had the advantage of streams of fresh water, no herbage was to be seen."- It will, therefore, be easily believed that we left it without regret
Since I wrote the above, I have been credibly informed by a gentleman, who has been on shore at Cape San Juan, in Statenland. that impenetrable woods are to be found in several of the deep vallies, so that my supposition or there not being a tree on the island is erroneous, If the safety of the ship was insured by filling the empty casks with salt water. Our thoughts were now all turned towards the Cape of Good Hope, the distance to which promontory from hence is 34,022 miles: this, however, we think nothing of, having crossed the largest ocean in the known world, and sailed 7995 miles since we left Port Jackson.
On the 10th of January we had squally weather, with strong gales, and a keenness in the air that led us to believe we were not far distant from islands of ice.
Sunday, the 11th. Favourable breezes, which wafted us eight and nine knots an hour; the air keen and sharp; a good look out was kept in case ice should be seen. Being aware of the danger attending the vicinity of islands of ice, the desire I felt to see one was much damped.
On the 13th, however, we relinquished all expectation of seeing ice, being in the latitude of 47° 36’ 16” S. and the weather considerably warmer. Our distance from the Cape of Good Hope was that day reckoned to be 2804 miles. We continued our voyage with moderate and steady breezes and some strong gales, and without any material occurrence till Friday the 30th of January (according to our reckoning) when at 4 o’clock I was awakened by the officer of the watch calling Captain K. to inform him that a strange sail was seen on the weather bow at the distance of six or seven miles. My fears would not suffer me to remain longer in bed. I hastened on deck, and saw the sail, which it was supposed was Spanish.
The Buffalo stood towards her, with top-gallant-sails set, and the drum beat to quarters. It blew fresh from the eastward, and the strange sail carried a press of sail, which I secretly hoped might carry her out of our reach. After a chase of three hours we gained upon her considerably. The Buffalo, for a heavy sailing ship, did wonders; and at nine o’clock we discerned that she had a red colour flying, which was in a short time exchanged for a blue one: this strengthened the hopes of her being an enemy, supposing that she held out false colours. At length we came up with her, and brought her to by firing two shot from the forecastle.
To the disappointment of our tars she proved to be the Merry Quaker, from Boston, bound to Batavia. Meeting with this vessel, we were enabled to correct our account of time, and the next day, which, according to our reckoning, would have been Saturday the 3lst, we called Friday the 30th, having gained a day by going east round the world.
On the 5th of February, early in the morning, we saw the Table land of the Cape of Good Hope, distant about five leagues; and anchored in Table Bay between 3 and 4 ,b. m. Cape Town has a beautiful appearance from the bay; it is extensive and regular, with many handsome buildings. I landed the morning after our arrival, and took up my residence with a very genteel Dutch family of the name of Lesueur, whose house adjoined the Company’s gardens, which are very shady and pleasant. The hedges are all of myrtle, and the lofty trees are chiefly Cape-pines and oak. The governor’s house is a handsome building, and is situated in the gardens. There are a number of delightful country residences only three or four miles from Cape Town, most of which I saw. One, belonging to a Mr. Zaun, attracted peculiar attention, from its beautiful situation and extensive gardens.
The most agreeable excursion I had during our stay was to Constantia. The roads were infinitely better than I had been led to expect: they are bounded on one side by a range of lofty mountains, with gardens and vineyards at their base, to which some very good buildings are attached: an extensive plain, which has a very barren appearance, lies on the other side, beyond which are the mountains, inhabited by the natives. On the 28th of February we weighed and made sail out of Table Bay, with a fresh breeze and fine clear weather. At the time we left the bay the ships on the expedition under the command of Sir Home Popham, were under weigh.
After a run of ten days in the most delightful weather, we arrived at the island of St. Helena, where we found in the road four ships, a brig, and a schooner, waiting for convoy to England. A salute was fired from the fort, which was answered with fifteen guns from the Buffalo. Our stay at St. Helena was too short to allow me to form a correct opinion of it, farther than that its appearance is extremely romantic. The whole island is an assemblage of very lofty hills, with deep fertile vallies between them. On the summit of the highest hill, under shelter of which the town is built, stands a fortification, which, from its elevated situation amidst the clouds, I called the castle of Parnassus. From the little I saw of the island, I was highly prepossessed in its favour; and if the climate is in general as good (and I was informed by the inhabitants it was) as the specimen we had of it, it must be as healthy a spot as any in the Southern hemisphere.
Tuesday, March 17th. At half past five a. m. fired a gun, and made the signal for the convoy to weigh. At six weighed, returned a salute of fifteen guns from the fort on Ladder-hill. The convoy consisted of four ships, the Highland Chief, the Minerva, the Friendship, and the Varuna, and the Hope brig.
On the 29th at six a. m. saw the island of Ascension; the east end bearing W. N. W. six or seven leagues. At 12, dropped anchor with the convoy in fourteen fathoms. In the evening I attempted landing at Ascension, but it was found impracticable for ladies, owing to the surf, which had nearly swamped the boat. A party of gentlemen, with some seamen from each ship, stayed on shore all night to turn turtle. At eight o'clock on the following morning the boats returned. Four fine turtles, supposed to weigh each about 400lbs. were brought on board our ship, and about the same number fell to the lot of each ship. At 10 made the signal, and weighed anchor in company with the convoy. Two days afterwards we killed the first of our turtles, which contained upwards of 600 eggs.
Monday, the 30th. On crossing the line this day we received a visit from Neptune, accompanied by his wife and child, and his customary attendants and constables. Some of his suite were sent on board by Neptune, to announce his intended visit, and to enquire “What ship a-hoy," and the name of her commander. These enquiries being answered from the quarter deck through a speaking trumpet, and an invitation being sent to Neptune, he and his retinue came over the bows of the ship with his trident in his hand, and in a dress suited to the occasion. His godship, with Mrs. and Master Neptune, were placed in a car made out of an old cask, which was drawn in great state from the forecastle to the quarter-deck. After a well-delivered speech to the commander, and the bestowal of his good wishes in a bumper of wine, Neptune cast his eyes around, and seeing a number of children, who, he observed, had never crossed the line before, he claimed the usual privilege, and upon their shrinking and endeavouring to conceal themselves, he gave orders to his constables to seize them; upon which nothing was to be heard but shrieks and cries, till, on their parents making him an offering, he politely withdrew. A most ludicrous scene then commenced, for Neptune having discovered that many of the ship’s company, and most of the passengers, though they had crossed the line before, had never paid him the customary tribute, insisted on their being shaved, the whole apparatus for which was prepared on the main-deck. Some of the passengers being a little refractory, had buckets of water poured on them from the maintop, down the windsails, from the awning over the quarter-deck, and from every other part whence aim could be taken; at last they were obliged to snatch up buckets, and began sluicing in their own defence. Though I was merely a spectator, I came in for a pretty large share, and before I made a retreat had got so complete a soaking, that I was under the necessity of changing every part of my dress. A great many submitted quietly to the operation of shaving, which is truly laughable. The patients are seated on sticks laid across deep tubs full of water, a bandage is placed over their eyes, and a lather compounded of all sorts of filth smeared over their chins, which are dexterously scraped by an iron razor a foot in length, and with notches of an inch deep in it; the stick is then drawn from under them, and they are soused into the tub of water; at the same time buckets full are thrown upon them from all directions, so that they are well washed, and nearly drowned as well as shaved. This fun lasted for some hours, and was at last terminated by Neptune’s getting ducked himself.
April lst. Squally with heavy showers of rain.
April 2d. Light airs; spoke the Friendship, all well on board.
April 3d. Killed the last of the four turtles brought from Ascension; they all proved to be females, containing an immense number of eggs. On the 4th we got into the N. W. trade wind. Fine clear weather. Sunday, the 5th. steady breezes. Ship’s company mustered; all in perfect health.
We continued our voyage, with fresh and moderate breezes, till the 25th, when the winds became contrary and we had boisterous weather. During the interval the following are the only circumstances I found worthy of recording in my journal. On the 9th, in the evening, I missed my favourite little dog Flirt; search was instantly made all over the ship, but not being able to learn any tidings of her, I concluded she had fallen overboard, unseen by any person, and was drowned.
On the 20th, in the forenoon, William Field, one of the seamen, fell overboard, and would have been drowned, but for the efforts of another seaman (Casper Sadou, a Frenchman) who, by jumping overboard, and swimming to him with a large grating, to which he clung till a boat got to him, saved his life. On the 24th, Mary Breeze, one of the passengers, was brought to bed of a boy.
We now met with contrary and variable winds, with intervals of calm.
On the 2d of May we had dark cloudy weather, with strong gales and squally. Marie and shortened sail occasionally for the convoy.
On the 9th we had frequent squalls with showers of rain. Shortened sail, hove to, and spoke an American schooner, out twenty-two days from Boston, bound to St. Sebastian. On the 12th, light airs and fine weather: a boat came on board from the Minerva, requesting a supply of water, they having been on an allowance of three pints a day for a month. Sent them six casks. In the afternoon sent a boat on board the Friendship, Varuna, and Hope. We now had strong gales of wind, and on the 16th a violent storm came on, which lasted two days; only three of the convoy in sight; fired a gun and made the signal for the convoy to close.
On the 18th the two missing ships of the convoy joined us again. On the 21st; we fell in with the Endymion and Lapwing frigates, with the Lisbon convoy .
Friday, the 22d. The greatest part of this day we were under the necessity of lying to, the weather being very hazy, and part of the convoy a great way astern. This was a detention we could ill brook, the wind being highly favourable for our making the long wished for port, and the shores of England, from which we had been absent for a long, long period, on the opposite side of the globe. It added to our impatience, when we considered that twelve hours run would have carried us to Portsmouth if we had been alone.
Saturday, 23d. At 10 a. m. descried land, supposed to be Portland Head.
Sunday, the 24th of May, 1801, we arrived at Spithead, after passage of seven months, having sailed during that time 18,863 miles.
........The Athenaeum: A Magazine of Literary and Miscellaneous Information
Some of the passengers who departed Sydney on the Buffalo in October 1800........
Governor John Hunter - Australian Dictionary of Biography
Captain William Kent and wife Eliza Kent - Australian Dictionary of Biography - Kent Family Papers State Library of NSW
James Williamson - Australian Dictionary of Biography
Captain George Johnstone - Australian Dictionary of Biography
Rev. Richard Johnson, wife and two children Milbah and Henry - Australian Dictionary of Biography
Mr. Harrison - Possibly William Harrison of the NSW Corp - HRA, Series 1, vol. II, p.672
Captain Prentice - HRA, Series 1, vol. II, p.672
Some of the convicts who were sent to Norfolk Island on the Buffalo October 1800: (HRA, Vol II, p.583)