State Library of Victoria > La Trobe Journal

No 44 Spring 1989

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EXPLORERS: Nicholas Pateshall

On 9 October 1803, H.M.S. Calcutta entered Port Phillip Bay. Among those on board were Lieutenant-Governor David Collins, whose duty was to establish a settlement; a party of convicts; and Lieutenant Nicholas Pateshall, third lieutenant under the command of Captain Daniel Woodriff. The settlement was, of course, unsuccessful: within a few weeks Collins transferred the entire party to Van Diemen's Land, where he selected and settled the site of Hobart.
By this time the Calcutta was on its way back to England, and it is possibly on this return voyage that Pateshall began his “Short account of a voyage round the globe in H.M.S. Calcutta”.
His original manuscript was acquired by the Library in 1988. A transcription held in the Hereford County Record Office has been edited and published by Marjorie Tipping. From this edition (which differs in a few respects from Pateshall's original) we have, with grateful acknowledgement to Mrs. Tipping and the Queensberry Hill Press, extracted Pateshall's account of his first impressions of Port Phillip.
On the 9th of October 1803 we came to an anchor under the Southern Shore the Ocean being half a mile from us. Upon entering this spacious harbour nothing could be more pleasing to the eye than the beautiful green plains with lofty trees which surrounded us in short the country appeared more like pleasure grounds than a wild savage Continent.
Capn. Murtho of the Ship Ocean came on board and informed us that he had arrived but two days before and that since he had left the Coast of South America he had neither seen Land or Ship but had as well as ourselves experienced very bad weather. His crew and passengers were in a perfect state of health. When the Ocean entered Port Phillip they were deceived in the same manner as ourselves with respect to the surf across the entrance so that she stood off and on for two days not daring to approach it and at length sent a boat first to sound.
On the following morning we hoisted out all the boats Capn. Woodriff Govr. Collins and Lieut. Tuckey went on shore in the barge and in a short time afterwards returned with a very unfavourable account of the place not having been able to find fresh water and the soil they found to be little better than sand. Upon their approaching the shore Natives appeared brandishing their Spears and making signs of hostile motion but a musket being fired over their heads they ran into the woods with a hideous yell leaving their war weapons behind. Again all the boats went in search of fresh water and returned with the same ill success. Vast quantities of wild Fowl black Swans Pelicans Ducks and an innumerable number of Parrots were seen and likewise the prints and other marks of the Kangaroo.
It was now proposed and determined to fit the Launch and another boat for the purpose of surveying the harbour and if possible to find an eligible situation for establishing the Colony. We next began to make wells for the daily supply of water by boring holes in Casks and sinking them in the low grounds even with the surface this plan answered our purpose as well as could be expected but the water was brackish.
On the 11th the Capn. Govr. and some others visited a part of the Bay called Arthur's Seat. Lieut. Dowers the Revd. Mr. Knopwood and myself went to an Island 5 miles from the Ship where we found excellent Shooting and returned to the Ship before night bringing with us large Swans two couple of Redbills and six Pellicans besides many other small birds and as many eggs as we could conveniently carry. Upon this Island I got a young Eagle of the golden species. Other parties were equally successful having killed Quail Parrots Snakes and Pigeons.
Capn. Woodriff and party returned with no better opinion of the place than before but had determined upon landing the Convicts in a Bay which we called Sullivan. The two boats before mentioned under the command of Lieut. Tuckey and some civil Officers belonging to the Colony Establishment well armed and fitted out in every respect for 14 days proceeded upon the intended survey. Arming the boats was thought prudent for although as yet few of the Natives had appeared there could be no doubt that the place was swarming with them from the constant fires round the Bay. In the evening we hauled out nets for fish but not with any great success most of those we caught were of one sort to which we gave the name of Aldermen from their delicious eating and from finding fish in them half as big as themselves.
From the 11th to the 21st we were employed in landing the Convicts stores etc. from the Ship
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The title page of Nicholas Pateshall's “Short account”.

belonging to the Settlement at the same time we have parties of pleasure such as shooting fishing gathering shells and other curiosities. Lieut. Tuckey and boats now returned having found a fresh water River but at a great distance. The soil universally proved sandy. The Natives in general were very friendly and proud of every thing given them, but seemed quite ignorant of the use of fire arms or any thing else, altho' they stole from us axes and saws.
Both sexes go entirely naked excepting their Chiefs or Kings who wear Cloaks on their backs of small skins sewn very neatly together with grass. The Men seldom approach you without their instruments of war which are Spears pointed with sharp bones and Shields neatly carved and ingeniously made. The Women carry fish-gigs, nets etc. They are a robust race of people fond of adorning themselves with scars, white and red paint, and long necklaces made of reeds. Their Chiefs head-dress is composed of feathers of the Cockatoo and Parrot, and Kangaroo teeth. The Women appear very shy always keeping in the rear, are well made, but very dirty; their heads are likewise dressed in feathers etc. When the Men approach you with hostile intention their Chiefs are carried upon the shoulders of 4 men and are otherwise distinguished by having a bone or reed from 10 to 12 inches long run through their noses which added to the painting of their faces makes them curious figures.