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Tour of Inspection to
Port Stephens and Newcastle
(1 - 6 January 1812)

Earlier transcriptions describing the voyage from Hobart to Port Stephens available in 1811 Journal

Wednesday 1st. January 1812 !!!
This day two years I assumed the Government of the Territory of New South Wales and its Dependent Settlements; the anniversary of which I am this day to Celebrate in Port Stephens! ---

Wishing to explore the inner or second Bason of this fine Harbour, I ordered the Lady Nelson to proceed up it as far as she could do so with safety on the turning of the Tide of Flood this morning. ---She weighed anchor accordingly at 5 a.m.; but the wind being ahead she made very little progress, and therefore dropped anchor again about half a mile above Meredith Island in the inner Bason, at 7 a.m. ---I consequently resolved on exploring this noble extensive Bason in the ship's Boat, and with this view we Breakfasted immediately after the Lady Nelson came to anchor. ---

At 1/4 after 8 a.m. Mrs. M. and myself, accompanied by the Gentlemen of our Party and Mr. Overand, set out in the Boat from the Lady Nelson, with the Tide of Flood in our favor. ---We crossed over many shoals of Sand and mud, and after a row of two hours, reached the bottom of this inner Harbour, about twelve miles distant from Meredith Island. Here we expected to fall in with a large fresh water River, which was reported to me to fall into this Bay at the head of it. ---We did not here however find any such River; but in nearly a due west direction from the Heads & Meredith Island, we discovered a Salt Water Creek of considerable size, and pursued the winding Serpentine Course of it for four miles into the interior of the Country without discovering any good Land or fresh water. ---We therefore returned back, the same way we went, to explore other parts of this inner Bason; naming this Salt Water Creek Meehan Creek. ---We directed our course North Westerly, along the Head of the Bay, to look for the River; and observing an extensive opening or Inlet run in a northerly direction, we proceeded into it, and found on a nearer approach, that it was the mouth of a large River. ---We rowed up this River Four miles to a point of Land from whence we could observe that it divides itself into two Branches; the one running in a westerly direction and the other in a North Easterly direction. ---As far as to the point of Land we halted at the River was about a quarter of a mile broad, but the water quite Salt. ---The Banks of the River on both sides are hilly, but no good Land was to be seen, nor was any Cedar or other good useful Timber growing on them. ---Whilst our Lunch was preparing, Mrs. M. and myself walked up to the top of a high steep Hill, about half a mile from the bottom to the top. ---From the summit of this Hill we had a very fine extensive prospect of the principal Branch of the River, and the interior of the Country in every direction for 25 miles. ---No Plains, or good Land, were to be seen in any direction, and the country here appears wild and sterile; being neither fit for agriculture nor for grazing Farms, as far as we can judge from what we have seen.---

On returning to the foot of the Hill where we had landed and sitting down to our Lunch, I christened this River the Clyde after the River of the same name in Scotland. ---Having taken our Lunch and rested here for a couple of hours, we set out at 1/4 before 5 p.m. to return to the Lady Nelson -- now about 15 or 16 miles distant from us. ---The Tide of Ebb was now nearly spent and the wind being also against us by the time we got as far as the mouth of the River, we made slow progress towards the Lady Nelson. ---The greater part of this immense Bay, which is in some parts not less than six miles broad from the north to the south side, was now seen dry flats, extensive Sands and mud Banks, with only narrow channels between them; through which however no large Vessels could pass at this Time of tide; consequently this inner Bason, tho' beautiful to look at from a distance at high water, can never be used as a Harbour or safe Port for shipping. ---Indeed, if even it were a good Harbour, it never could be of any importance, as the Country round it is barren and unfit to be settled.---

At 8 p.m. we reached the Lady Nelson, after a pleasant but long Excursion of nearly 12 Hours! ---We sat down to a good Dinner immediately on coming on board, and celebrated thus the first day of the New Year. ---

Thursday 2d. Jany. 1812.
Having now finished my survey of Port Stephens, I directed Mr. Overand to sail early this morning on the turning of the Tide of Ebb for Newcastle. The Lady Nelson weighed accordingly at 1/2 past 2 a.m.; but it being quite a calm, she made little way in towing down the Harbour, and came to anchor again at 6 a.m. halfway between Meredith Island and the Heads. ---

At Noon weighed anchor again and sailed with the beginning of Ebb; the Sea Breeze however, from the North East having set in, and being against us, we made little progress, being obliged to work out of Port Stephens all the way. ---At 3 p.m. crossed the Bar and got clear out of the Heads of Port Stephens; and as soon as we cleared Point Stephens, which we did at half past 4 o'clock, we steered direct for New Castle [sic] with a fine fair Breeze at North East. ---At 9 p.m. arrived off Newcastle, distance 30 miles from Port Stephens; but it being too late for entering the Harbour, we lay off and on all Night, so as to have Daylight to go in with. ---

Friday 3d. Jany. 1812.
At Day-light we were within 6 or 7 miles off the shore of Newcastle. ---At Sunrise fired a gun and hoisted our Colours. ---It being quite Calm, we could make no way to the shore, and must therefore wait for the Sea Breeze. ---At 10 a.m. the Sea Breeze set in very light, and at 11 a.m. we were within 3 miles of the Shore and in sight of the Houses of Newcastle. ---No Boat having yet come off to us, I ordered the Ship Boat to be hoisted out in order to land in it. ---The Colonial Schooner Govr. Hunter passed us at about two miles distance at 10 o'clock this morning on her way from Newcastle to Sydney. ---

At 11 a.m. Mrs. M. & myself with the Gentlemen of our Family set out in the Ship's Boat for Newcastle -- leaving the Vessel to follow us, being still between 2 & 3 miles from the Shore.

We rowed in through the Channel formed by the main Land and Nobby's (or Coal) Island, and landed at the Settlement of Newcastle at 1/2 past 1 o'clock; Lieut. Skottowe the Commandant having received us on the Govt. Wharf from whence we proceeded to the Government House. ---I issued General Orders immediately on my landing respecting the inspection of the Settlement. ---I then went with Mrs. M. &c. to view the Coal mines, and took afterwards a long walk along the Beach and over the Hills in the vicinity of the Town and through the Town itself. ---Soon after the Lady Nelson had come in and anchored in the Harbour, we returned on board again, Lt. Skottowe accompanying us to Dinner. ---

Saturday 3d. [sic] Jany. 1812.
At 7 a.m. -- I set out with Mrs. M. and the Gentlemen of our Party and Lieut. Skottowe in two Boats on an Excursion up Hunter's River; which we explored as far as the first Branch, twenty miles from the Settlement of Newcastle, being as far as the Tide of Flood carried us. ---We then landed and Tiffed on shore, remaining for two Hours to rest the Boats Crews and give them time to Cook and eat their Dinners.

We returned by the Camp of the Lime Burners at Newcome Pipers Reach, 7 miles from Newcastle, where we landed and remained for some time to view the Lime Kilns, and the Cedar and Rose-wood Timber growing. ---

At 8 p.m. we returned to the Lady Nelson, after a long Row of not less than 44 miles backwards & forwards; sitting down to a late but a very good Dinner at half past 8 o'clock, with tolerable keen appetites. ---

Sunday 5th. Jany. 1812.
At 7 a.m. I landed at Newcastle, accompanied by Mrs. M. and Staff, to inspect the Detachment of the 73d. Regt. and the Male & Female Convicts at this Settlement.

After the Inspection of the Troops and Muster of the Convicts, I went to inspect the Barracks & Hospitals & Gardens of both. ---I also visited the Dry and Wet Stores, and Inspected the Govt. Flocks & Herds. ---At 10 a.m. we returned on Board to Breakfast.

At 11 a.m. I landed again and walked to inspect the Government Farm, which is about 1 1/2 miles Distant from Newcastle, returning on board at 1/2past 12 o'clock.

On the turning of the Tide of Ebb at 1/4 past 2 p.m. we weighed anchor and sailed for Sydney, being obliged to work all the way out on account of the Sea-Breeze having set in. ---At 20 minutes before 5 p.m. we had got clear out, and steering a Direct Course for Sydney.

Monday 6th. Jany. 1812.
At Day-break this morning we were off the Heads of Port Jackson, which we passed through at 1/2 past 4 in the morning; and at half past 5 o'clock we anchored in Sydney Cove, after an absence of Two Months and Two Days from the Seat of Government. ---

At 6 a.m we landed and were received by Lt. Govr. O'Connell at the head of the 73d. Regt. with military honors; the Corps forming a Lane from the Wharf to the Government House; a Salute being fired from Dawze's [sic] Battery immediately on my landing. ---

I had the pleasure to find all friends at Sydney perfectly well and as I left them, with the exception of the Revd. Mr. Cowper, who has been very dangerously ill, and still continues indisposed, but is now considered out of danger. ---

I had also the pleasure to find the Publick Works in a progressive state of forwardness fully equal to my expectations, and that Lieut. Govr. O'Connell had carried on the current Details of the Public Service with great zeal and regularity during my absence from the Seat of Government; for which I expressed my thanks to him in my General Orders of this date.

I find on inquiry that not a single Vessel has arrived from either Europe or India, or any foreign Country at Port Jackson since my departure hence on the 4th. of Novr. last, and consequently no later English News than what was received here previous to my departure. ---

The Ruby and Daphne, both India Vessels which I left here are the only Strange Vessels now at Port Jackson. ---


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