The View From Mount Clarence

A look back at settlement along Western Australia's South Coast

Campbell Taylor and the Cape Arid Connection – 3 (a)

From New Zealand and Bass Strait to Kangaroo Island, Middle Island and King George’s Sound


Seals-Bass Strait

Above: The business of hunting fur seals boomed in the 1790s, arriving in Australian waters around 1798. At the time seal rookeries were crowded and hundreds of thousands of  the animals were slaughtered in the opening years. Australian sealers graduated westwards from New Zealand and Bass Strait, impacting the South Coast between Albany and Esperance during the 1820s. Photo courtesy  SV-Take it Easy website.


I had intended to complete Part 2 of this subseries with a look at a couple of rogue mariners from the east who had come to make Albany their home during the 1830s and 40s. These were the sealers John Bailey Pavey and Robert Gamble. However, the more I looked into it the more story I saw needing to be told, not least the incredible feats of journey made in small open boats but also with regard to those who came to live on the poor and criminal edge of white society at Albany. While the conflicting interests of the moneyed settlers and the colony’s officials tells one story, the contrast between those powerful land owners and the working classes is quite another. Thus, we temporarily set aside our main subject while we seek insight into the less known, less discussed, less regarded individuals of the day, those who influenced the town and coast peripheral to the Taylors of Candyup.


The business of procuring seal skins for market in China and England gave rise to an early colonial work force comprising many rogue characters. The industry had two phases, the 1798-1810 boom and the residual which endured commercially for around another 20 years. After that, as with the sealers relevant to our story, the industry faded, becoming fragmented and increasingly localised as the grip of its most enduring protagonists weakened with age.

At first the business was largely conducted from Sydney, the Southern Fishery’s primary port and trading post, though in the boom years many vessels were American. Hobart and Launceston played an important role too, playing home, or second port, to many participating vessels. In Phase-1 most ships bound for ‘the sealing grounds’ exploited Bass Strait’s Furneaux, Kent and Western island groups along with sub-Antarctic McQuarrie Island and the waters around southern New Zealand. The western end of ‘the Strait’ was regarded as Kangaroo Island.


Bass Strait and NZ Sealing Grounds by I.W.G. SmithAbove: Diagram taken from a paper entitled The New Zealand Sealing Industry by Ian W.G. Smith.


Norfolk Island was in the picture at that time too, constituting a main convict depot in the process of transferring to Tasmania. Distances between primary locations were enormous and the risks run by sealing gangs who signed up were equal in every way. During Phase-2 the Bass Strait islands became permanently inhabited by sealers as did Kangaroo Island off South Australia.

The sealing grounds of the Southern Fishery were wide and dangerous, the men who tackled them tough and often brutal. Tales of shipwreck, abandoned gangs, vicious rivalries, abduction, theft and murder litter the records. Map Source: The New Zealand Sealing Industry: History,Archaeology, and Heritage Management by Ian W.G. Smith

The South Coast of Western Australia was visited by American vessels during Phase-1, as illustrated by the 1803 meeting of the brig Union with the French survey vessels headed by Captain Baudin on the Geographe, at Two Peoples Bay and King George’s Sound (see King George’s Sound, Oyster Harbour and John Septimus Roe; Part 2). It was on the advice of the French that the American sealing brig Union came to winter at a place which became known as American River on uninhabited Kangaroo Island that year, thus commencing occupation of the island by people of European origin.

Kangaroo Island is centrally located between Australia’s east and west coasts and has abundant wildlife, fresh water and salt reserves, so made a convenient anchorage and base for men engaged in the maritime trade who preferred to live an isolated life away from official governance. Though occupied for many years beforehand, the first permanent settlers at Kangaroo Island look to have been aboard the Nereus both before and afterafter its rescue of the crew and gangs of the wrecked Belinda in December 1824 (see Part 1 of this subseries). These sailings predate official settlement at Kangaroo Island by about ten years.


Kangaroo Island Map - WikipediaAbove: Kangaroo Island is central to the story of the rogue sealing gangs who operated along Western Australia’s South Coast. Most early activity was at American River, so named after the presence of the crew of the American sealing brig Union. The location is inside Nepean Bay on the north-eastern corner of the island, but a community later evolved at Three Wells River, renamed and shown on the map here as Cygnet River. Map courtesy Wikipedia


The role of the eastern settlements at Sydney and Hobart Town in the early history of Albany goes beyond that of nearest neighbours and vital trading posts. When looking at our local history eastwards toward the seat of Australia’s colonial power, what quickly becomes apparent is the difference fifty years of economic force had made. While W.A.’s South Coast was virtually uninhabited by whites, Australia’s eastern settlements were busy and building, combining the ruthless drive for wealth with the exploitation of poorly treated conventional and convict labour. The fascinating story of  the sealers of Australia’s southern littoral, a piebald ragbag of castaways and absconders, ties the likes of the gentlemanly Camfields, Hentys and Hassells with the coast-ranging ruffians Bob Gamble, John Bailey Pavey and Black Jack Anderson.

Hobart Town and Launceston (referred to more commonly then as either Port Dalrymple or George Town) were the original settlements at Van Diemen’s Land. They came into being from 1803, about five years after the Bass Strait islands began to be exploited for their seal populations, the business spreading westwards from rampant Independence declared North-America during the 1790s. As soon as the Americans began arriving in Australian waters with stories of big profits gained from the overflowing seal rookeries and streaming whale migrations they’d found in the South Seas around New Zealand, the newly Antipodean officials and businessmen based at Sydney bound with their British cohorts and went to work.

Men of mixed origin, including many so-called Black Jacks (African Americans), were hired and left off on outlying islands ranging in size from small countries to little more than exposed lumps of rock a hundred or so yards across where they, mostly indiscriminately, hunted fur seals for their pelts. Conditions were harsh and dangerous and their time left alone on the islands varied. The men who endured this work tended to be illiterate, coming from the lowest social classes. Many operated under aliases because they did not want to be pinned down by officialdom. Not necessarily escaped convicts (runaways), they also comprised jump-ship Americans and Europeans as well as general and ex-convict seamen.

The story of the sealers Major Lockyer found roaming about the South Coast when he arrived at King George’s Sound in 1826 (see Rough Men in Small Boats; Part 1 and Part 2) is bound with this group. All emerged from the same unique congregation, a body of men who had travelled between Sydney, New Zealand, McQuarrie Island in the deep Southern Ocean, Bass Strait, Kangaroo Island and the islands off southern Western Australia.

By the mid 1820s, a lasting population of sealers came to be centered on Kangaroo Island, the largest and most centrally located of these ungoverned locations. From there, a select few directed their attention away from the busy eastern waters toward the western extremity, the remote and potentially lucrative sealing grounds of the Recherche Archipelago.



Kangaroo Island population 1826 - Austrln 9.3.1826Above: Reports of  rogue settlements in Bass Strait and on at Kangaroo Island began to circulate in the mid 1820s, associating bushrangers and other lawless types with the way of the gypsy sealer. The Australian Newspaper;  9 March 1826


Our story is deeply attached to that select few and their snug retreat.

Sometime during the so-called first phase when the rookeries were densely populated, sealers found ways to live on the islands; sometimes in small numbers, sometimes alone. This happened because their employers dropped them, often in dinghys or six man whale boats with paltry provisions, for what became extended stints, while the not always reliable mother-ship roamed near and far. After a period some established sustainable existences through the help of Aboriginal women they obtained (mostly) from the Tasmanian mainland. These Palawah women, who were valued for their skills as coastal food gatherers were sometimes bartered for from their men folk and sometimes taken through murderous raids. In consequence there developed a body of women from both sides of the Strait which was attached to the sealers.

Many were traded amongst them as slaves. The women were used, abused, and some even murdered, but yet within their role some found a bearable existence, one with certain advantages, the best of which amounted to a kind of freedom and abundance of food. Some, over time, look even to have been content. There were children a result, mixed-race kids who may have grown up wild, with no knowledge of the wider world, its moral guidance, rules and regulations, but who burnt bright with human desire regardless. And these kids were not only the offspring of European/Aboriginal unions, there was Negro, Maori, Otaheitian and other South Seas blood running through them too. And there were runaway or stolen ship’s boys as well, taken to provide service of one kind or another to the loveless men whose power they came under.

I made a character of one of these boys, Edward (Ned) Tomlins, in story two of the Outdonecollection, The Major’s Last Stand. I also wrote something about him in an earlier post called The Major’s Butterflies Beat Him Down, which is dedicated to that story. A man named Samuel Tomlins drowned at Kangaroo Island in 1819.  This was Ned’s father. Ned’s mother was a Palawah women named Poolrerenner, known more commonly amongst the sealers at Bulrub. (See the Bass Strait People 1790-1850 website.)

Getting out from under the employ of the merchants, the sealers came to live year round on the islands, selling on their skins to whichever opportunity best presented itself. Some acquired their own boats and were able to move more freely, taking women and child labour with them. More extraneous than insurgent (though they were influenced by and contributed to the many barbarous stories of Settler/Aboriginal conflict at Tasmania during that time), by 1820 there are thought to have been around 50 men permanently ensconced in Bass Strait this way. Gamble, Pavey (by then going under the name John Williams) and Anderson joined the throng soon after.

Now, most notoriously in Australian colonial history, as the new European presence grew and Hobart Town and Launceston expanded into regional centres with significant convict numbers, Van Dieman’s Land’s outlying areas became the scene of repeated violence. The Aborigines were at war with themselves, thrown into a state of civil conflict driven by the arrival of the Europeans, their culture, economics and illnesses, while the Europeans were combating their own issues of social discrimination. The lower end of the settler social scale, comprised of labourers, convicts, bushrangers and sealers, impacted negatively on both the aspiring new white society and the turmoil-ridden traditional black one and all three clashed terribly; the strife becoming a thing of gruesome savagery and dismay which the N.S.W. authorities eventually realised needed some form of redress.

In 1829 George Augustus Robinson was appointed Protector of Aborigines and given the task of rounding up the remaining Tasmanian tribesmen and women for the sake of their preservation. Robinson set about this with profit in mind, eventually establishing a retreat on Flinders Island, the subject of a great deal of interest over the years. This ’rounding up’ included taking back the Palawah women from the sealers, a search which extended to Kangaroo Island. The result, as far as these pages are concerned, is an imperfect though invaluable contribution to the record of who the sealers were, who their Tyrelore (island  wives) were, who their children were and some of their movements.

There is no substitute for N J B Plomley’s compilation of Robinson’s journals and papers, but for a useful overview and on-line summary, go to Bass Strait People 1790-1850

For a comprehensive a look at the sealers who figured at Kangaroo Island, in the first instance go to J.S. Cumpston‘s original investigation, Kangaroo Island 1800-1836.

For more and in particular with regard to the Palawah and othe Indigenous women who lived or spent time at Kangaroo Island, consult Dr Rebe Taylor‘s book, Unearthed: The Aboriginal Tasmanians of Kangaroo Island.



Bass Strait Island GroupsAbove: There are over 50 Islands in Bass Strait. The three main groups are Furneaux, Kent and Western. In the face of ongoing expeditions out of Sydney and Hobart, an estimated 50 men from the sealing industry had made the Strait home by 1820. In order to survive these men took Aboriginal women from Tasmania, occasionally raiding the northern mainland around Phillip Island and Western Port as well. The sealers made wives of their captives and some bore them children. Sealing was dangerous and many lives were lost to accidents. Sometimes expedition vessels weren’t able to return and pick up their men before they perished from want of sustenance.


Kangaroo Island may have accommodated its first known permanent settlers from about 1825, but it begins appearing in newspaper reports around 15 years earlier when Joseph Murrell and two others were picked up from there in a sealing vessel called Eliza. According to the Sydney Gazette 16.4.1809, Murrel was one of a gang of seven who survived on Kangaroo Island for an extended period. One report says they had been there three years before the crew of Eliza found them, having arrived with just three months provisions. The men, by the time they were found, had become so familiar with their existence four decided to stay.

By 1817 the island was being used as a source of salt as much as seal skins reflecting ongoing habitation in the area of American River. In the first instance, salt was essential to the preservation of seal pelts, so vital to the sealers needs. It also served as a general food preservative as well, so had additional survival value. Supplementary to that was its commercial value among early Australia’s general populace, including the sealing trade. Kangaroo Island Salt was criticised for being impure but in 1819 was being sold in Sydney for £10 per ton when imported salt only fetched £7 (Cumpston pg 58) By 1824 therefore, Kangaroo Island was very well known to colonial maritime traffic. By this time island culture was well established among the body of individuals who had not only found a sustainable lifetsyle (sealing + birding + wives + crops + domestic animals) but through the use of commercial traffic and the building or acquisition of their own boats, had means of moving between locations.

Amongst the sealing trade Kangaroo Island was probably even known as a source of labour for westward bound excursions, somewhere to pick up additional hands in the event numbers were low. In 1820, there were ‘eight or nine men‘ reckoned to be living there with women and children; a more transient population existing alongside. The identities and detail of these individuals is densely knotted, but there is no escaping the role Kangaroo Island played in servicing the gangs which came to hunt along Western Australia’s south coast from the mid 1820s onward.


Sealers Map 1811Above: From around 1810 Kangaroo Island Salt was recorded as cargo amongst vessels operating along Australia’s southern littoral. By 1820 a Bass Strait culture of permanent island life based on sealing existed; amounting to about 50 men, a lesser number of Aboriginal wives and some of their children. Commercial sealing expeditions operating out of Sydney and Hobart probably engaged in the risky practise of calling into the larger islands in search of additional hands willing to go westward for the summer months.


Captain John Hassell and the Fate of the Brig Belinda



Now, our story begins with the wreck of the Belinda, which I first mentioned in Part 1.Belinda is important because she introduces the story of one of the more powerful characters of  Western Australia’s South Coast through her Chief Officer John Hassell, later to become Captain John Hassell, owner of the influential Kendenup and Jarramungup properties.

Hassell first sailed to Australia from Britain in 1823. Probably embarking in September, he was First Mate aboard Belinda, a twin masted brig under the command of Captain Thomas Coverdale.  Supercargo was Edward Lee, son of the owner, Issac Lee, a Jewish merchant from Great Yarmouth, Norfolk. John Hassell was then 25 years old. Born in 1798, his father was an East-London shipbroker and merchant. Hassell joined the navy, transferred to the mercantile marine and then to the Chilean navy where he was taken prisoner by the Peruvians for about a year. Back in England he took up in the merchant navy again, signing on as Chief Officer of the four year old Belinda, a 159 ton single deck brig armed with two guns (Lloyds Register 1823).


Belinda - Lloyds Register 1823Above: Entry for the brig Belinda in Lloyd’s Register for 1823.


Belinda came to anchor at Hobart Town on 12 November that year in a state of wreckage with both masts fallen after meeting heavy gales in the deep Southern Ocean during which the galley and three people were swept overboard and lost, including a boy passenger travelling with his mother and two siblings. The vessel dragged its way to port, underwent expensive time consuming repairs then on-delivered its cargo of goods (mostly wine) and passengers to Port Jackson, but only after being held up again by the Hobart port authorities while they chased down a watch thief seeking to make his escape on her. Captain Coverdale at that time must have wondered what else might go wrong. Belinda was at sea another week, finally arriving at her nominated destination of Sydney on Monday, February 23rd, 1824.

Roughly six months after departing Britain, Coverdale, Hassell and Lee completed their troublesome outward mission.

At Port Jackson Belinda came under the agency of prominent merchants Berry and Wollstonecraft who would have negotiated her port taxes, customs duties and sale of goods.At this time Berry and Wollstonecraft were engaged in trade with their own vessels between Norfolk Island, Tahiti, New Zealand and Tasmania, procuring sealskins, whale and seal oil, flax, Sandalwood and Australian Red Cedar. It was probably through this connection that Edward Lee came to learn of the sealing trade, of the by then depleted Bass Strait islands and of the far less plundered western reaches of the South Coast. In an attempt to earn back money paid over to effect damage repairs, Lee decided to put the ship to work by fitting her out for a sealing expedition of his own.


Nereus and Belinda fitted out - 28.10.1824 The AustrlnAbove: The Australian newspaper reported on October 24th 1824 a number of ships having been fitted out for
the business of sealing and whaling at Port Jackson that year. Two of the brigs listed were Belinda and Nereus.


Berry and Wollstonecraft may have helped install the sealers which comprised the ship’s muster roll of 29 persons. Typically, a brig took between 12 and 16 men to crew, so it’s safe to say that there were between 13 and 17 sealers aboard which would equate fairly neatly to two individual gangs.  As they were about to leave the colony, Coverdale complied with colonial regulations, completing the ship’s muster list and paying due port taxes of seven pounds, twelve shillings. The muster roll read as follows;

Belinda Crew Cropped - 1824

Above: A cut from the muster roll of the Brig Belinda, entered 12th May 1824. The list totalled 29 persons including Edward Lee. Also, note here the name John Segworth, which becomes relevant later. State Archives NSW; Ships musters; Series: 1289; Items: 4/4775; Reel: 562;


It’s probably not possible to entirely separate the crew from the sealers in the above list, nor to know how many of the men were novices but in any case the names above only partially agree with those I found in the ship’s adverstised ‘Claims to be Presented’ list shown below.


Belinda Sealing Gang 22.4.1824 Syd GazAbove: This is the list of 27 names aboard the Belinda, first advertised 15 May 1824, in the Sydney Gazette ex Port Jackson.  The lists excludes Lee, Coverdale and Hassell, thereby differing in number by one from muster roll gathered three days previous. Underlined names should be noted for later reference.   Sydney Gazette and N.S.W. Advertiser 15.5.1824


In early times persons leaving the colony of N.S.W. were required to publish notice of their departure so that payments for any bills they may have run up could be sought beforehand. Coverdale and Hassell advertised separately. I could find no advertised notice for the supercargo himself, Edward Lee. Note the above underlined names Nathaniel Thomas and Henry Waller. Both men are credited with being amongst the original permanent settlers at Kangaroo Island, having disembarked there when the party returned from Western Australia. Thomas’s name appears on both lists but Waller’s only on the second, so it’s not clear whether he actually made the sailing.

Comparing the names lists we can see those who were known to the Captain and/or were honest in declaring their identities. Across the two lists there are 13 anomalies. This gives a fair insight into the nature of recruiting sealers who may have given different names for the claims advertisement, or who may have declared an intention to go but then failed to turn up. Recruiting men to sealing expeditions may have come down, literally, to last minute dockside calls.


Brig Belinda 12th May 1824  Customs Muster Roll  Brig Belinda 15th May 1824   Syd Gazette Claims List
1 Edward Lee – Supercargo  Henry Waller  x
2 Thomas Coverdale Thomas Coverdale
3 John Hassell John Hassell
4 William Rooke William Rooke
5 Christopher Robinson Christopher Robinson
6 Nathaniel Thomas Nathaniel Thomas
7 John Happy John Happy
8 James Caddell James Caddell
9 Brian Dunne Brian Dunne
10 William Savery William Savery
11 Thomas Cosgrove Thomas Cosgrove
12 William Taylor William Taylor
13 Clause Johnson Clause Jansen x
14 Thomas Wakefield Thomas Wakefield
15 John Matthews John Matthews
16 James Martin William Tomlin x
17 George Coombs George Williams x
18 John Sedgworth John Sedgworth
19 George Maher (Walker?) John Watson x
20 George Manuel William Scandon x
William Evans (did not go)
21 James Charles Perry (sp?) James Dagg Lowe x
22 Thomas Harris Charles Morris x
23 Benjamin Simpson Henry Green x
24 Philip Denell Robert Scott x
25 John Baptiste Thomas Rudd x
26 Robert Newman Robert Robinson x
27 Richard Davis Thomas May x
28 Robert Campbell Robert Campbell
29 John Burke John Burke


For an added flavour of the type of character who might be found on an everyday sealing excursion click on the link for James Caddell in the above list. Cadell was taken by Maoris when about 16 after the sealing gang he belonged to was slaughtered and eaten. By becoming one of them he survived, achieving chief status after marrying into a powerful family. When eventually found by Europeans again Caddell had forgotten how to speak English and was fully tatooed. After returning to Sydney with his Maori wife Caddell inexplicably took up sealing once again.

In any case, Belinda  set sail for ‘the sealing grounds’ on May 17th, exactly 12 weeks after arrival at Sydney. The ship’s muster says the Supercargo went himself, but it was Captain Coverdale and Chief Officer John Hassell, as per the outward voyage, who commanded the ship. She made for the islands of Bass Strait where she began her business of dropping men on what in some cases were no more than wind swept rocks. One of these may have been Flat Rock (probably one of Reids Rocks) off King Island.

In due course Belinda progressed westwards, almost certainly via Kangaroo Island and possibly as far as the Doubtful Islands and King George’s Sound. There is no known account of her actual activities but two months into the trip she was in Goose Island Bay adjacent to the salt lake in the north east corner of Middle Island, part of Western Australia’s Recherche Archipelago. As all hands were with her I’m guessing she was on the return leg. Middle Island, like Kangaroo Island, has sheltered bays, fresh water and salt reserves, so it’s possible the ship based itself there while the sealers hunted the surrounding islands using the smaller boats.

Then, on July 19th, presumably in a gale, Belinda was driven into shallow water where she foundered on sand about a hundred feet from shore. For a time the sandy stretch there became known as Belinda Beach because of it.  Everyone survived, those aboard coming ashore in the two small boats, managing as they did so to salvage valuable provisions from the ship’s store.


Beinda wreck site - Middle IslandAbove: The wreck site of the Belinda at Goose Island Bay, Middle Island, off Cape Arid. Note the large pinkish tinged salt lake. I took the image from the West Australian Museum Shipwreck Data Base.


The story goes that the men sought their own survival by setting off eastwards in the small boats, hoping to cross the cliffs and make it to Kangaroo Island, a distance following the shore of about a thousand miles. This information has been taken for granted since first published but there were 29 persons aboard the ship and in all likelihood just two smaller whaleboats, which was the typical accompaniment. Even if there were three small boats it would mean each would have to take nine or ten persons, plus whatever provisions they had (water barrels for a start). My belief is that not all made that attempted cross-Bight journey. Some must have had to stay behind.

After two hundred miles, near a place later to become known as Eyre’s Sand Patch, one of the boats was swamped and wrecked by surf as the men were coming ashore. The cliffs were ahead and they agreed to go back, taking it in turns to walk and sail. I couldn’t find any detailed recounting of the story but the men appear to have eventually reached Cape Arid without notable mishap and via a couple of journeys all returned safely from the mainland to the scene of their original stranding. The men’s return trip in the small boats will probably have taken about three weeks. There is no doubt in my mind they will have met with the Cape Arid/Nullabor Aborigines during that time, or at least the Aborigines will have been aware of their plight. They may well have helped them.

In any case, the men of the Belinda probably got back to Middle Island sometime in late August where they will have mounted a lookout and kept a smokey fire in an attempt to catch the attention of any passing ships. In all likelihood they will have made armed forays to the mainland in search of meat.
Now, on Tuesday, November 9th, the Brig Nereus under Captain Swindles left Sydney on a separate sealing expedition, calling first at Port Dalrymple. Nereus regularly plied between Hobart, Launceston and Sydney, her cargo often comprising seal skins, and had made a dedicated sealing voyage earlier that year at least as far as Kangaroo Island.

On the November expedition she made westwards, ultimately calling at Middle Island on December 8th where she found the stranded Belinda survivors ‘reduced to the utmost distress in the absence of provisions’ and ‘existing on an allowance so scanty as scarcely to admit of prolongation of life.’ (Sydney Gazette, 17 March 1825: 2d).

Nereus Crew Nov 1824 Sydney to Port DalrympleAbove: The Nereus muster roll dated November 5th 1824 showed that at 139 the brig was 20 tons lighter than Belinda. The crew she left Sydney with totalled 19. The last  six  names on the list look to be those of the sealers, the name George Briggs leading them. Briggs is a well known sealer of the era. He took a Tasmanian Palawah wife, Woretmoeteyenner. From that union many descendants live today amongst both the European and Aboriginal communities in Tasmania and Victoria. State Archives NSW; Ships musters; Series: 1289; Items: 4/4775; Reel: 562; Page: 370


Captain Swindles must have had room because, by accounts, he brought them all aboard. He may also have negotiated ownership of the skins the Belinda had taken in exchange for provisions. He may also have committed them to work for him as they continued sealing as well, because it wasn’t until Friday March 11th, 1825, eight months after the wreck of theBelinda and four months after finding her crew, that Nereus arrived back into Sydney. There she declared her last port to have been Kangaroo Island and her dual cargoes to be 3500 skins and all 26 of the missing Belinda’s crew.

Swindles wasn’t entirely honest though, as it looks very much like some of the men remained at Kangaroo Island where, possibly, others joined the ship in order to get back to Sydney. By my reckoning, amongst those who disembarked at Kangaroo Island were Henry Wallen and Nathaniel Thomas.  Also, at this time, it seems likely the crew of the Nereus encountered another ship fitted for a sealing expedition, the schooner Governor Brisbane, which may have learned of the skins to be got in the far west and decided to go there herself.

In any case, four other men come in to the picture at this juncture. These are James Kirby, James Everett, John Randall and  George ‘Fireball’ Bates.  As with so many of the personnel exchanges which took place at Kangaroo Island, there is no clear description of the men’s actual movements, but in the wider story I’m trying to tell the presence of these four becomes increasingly conspicuous. George Bates is well known as another original settler at Kangaroo Island and his story, though in parts contradictory, tells how he and Randall left the Nereusto avoid going to New Zealand. This was probably on the first sailing Nereus made to Kangaroo Island in 1825, as John Randall’s name appears on that crew list.

Anyway, Bates wasn’t a convict, he was a regular seaman who wanted at that point to return to England. Bates said later that he thought jumping ship at Kangaroo Island might afford him that opportunity. He also told how he and Randall had been on the island just a few days when three other white men appeared. These, he said, were Henry Waller, James Kirby and James Everett who he said were not sealers, but runaway whalers. This and more about George Bates, Nathaniel Thomas and Henry Waller can be found on the Kangaroo Island Pioneers Association website KI Pioneers maintained by David Wilson, but it is Cumpston’s marvelous Kangaroo Island and in Rebe Taylor’s work as well, both referenced above, where most of the detail can be found.

Importantly, and the reason I digress here, Kirby, Everett and Randall led the sealing gangs who were at King George’s Sound when Lockyer landed there over the Christmas of 1826, thereby also linking the story of the Belinda with that of first settlement at Albany.

So, to return. Even with the exchange of personnel at Kangaroo Island and the uncertainty over exact numbers, there is still  a single missing man from the Belinda’s starting crew. Poor Robert Newman was the one left behind ten months earlier on Flat Rock, possibly Reid Rocks, off King Island in Bass Straight. I wonder did Captain Coverdale ask Captain Swindles to see if they could find him? Quite possibly they made the effort because Nereuswas a long time getting home. If they did, however, it would have been to no avail as the below Sydney Gazette report of March 3rd that same year shows.


Belinda - Syd Gaz 3.3.1825Above: The Sydney Gazette and N.S.W. Advertsier:  3 March 1825


Like I said, sealing was a precarious game.



Reid Rock - Flat RockAbove: One of Reids Rocks, possibly known as Flat Rock amongst the sealers of old, was a harsh and dangerous place but one which made rich pickings for hunters. See my doctored Google Earth map of the Bass Strait islands (towards top of page) to see where the site lies relative to King Island. Image courtesy of Google Earth.


Four weeks after the Nereus delivered them to safety, the surely dispirited Edward Lee and Captain Thomas Coverdale left Sydney, bound for Britain on the ship Hope . (State Archives NSW; Ships musters; Series: 1289; Items: 4/4775; Reel: 562; Page: 516)  However, Lee was no quitter and emigrated back to New South Wales soon after where he became a Sydney wine merchant. He got into financial difficulty in 1828 though, records of which are here. I could find nothing else about him, though it’s possible he may have lived at Upper Pitt Street, Kirribili. John Hassell, of course, stayed. For the next ten years he commanded ships trading out of Hobart Town, Launceston and Sydney. These were the;

Cutter Governor Arthur

Schooner Hetty 1827 – 1829

Schooner Prince Regent  1830 – 1833

Barque Freak  1833

Schooner Active  Sept 1833 – Jan 1835  (Hassell tried to buy this ship from the Missionary Society but the purchase fell through.)

Samuel Cunard  1836  (Hassell may also have acted as agent based at Launceston for this ship.)
John Francis Hassell was granted 500 acres on the Tamar River (Launceston) in 1828 and ran cattle there. Late in 1836 or sometime in 1837, aged 39, he returned to England where in partnership with the financially dubious Frederick Boucher he bought the ship Dawson and stocked it with merchandise. On 19 September 1838 Hassell married Boucher’s sister, Ellen, and a week later sailed for King George’s Sound where he liberated George Cheyne from his financial bondage by buying his and John Morley’s Moorilup grants. (See George Cheyne and the South Coast Fishery and Campbell Taylor and Cape Arid Connection – Part 1)

Thus commenced John Francis Hassell’s married life and career as a land owner, sheep grazier and merchant trader based at Albany. He named his third child and first born daughter, Ellen Belinda. In 1849 Hassell took up land at Jarramungup after first sending a boat to survey the coast south of there. That boat was the Undine, skippered by an ex-sealer named Bob Gamble.

2 responses to “Campbell Taylor and the Cape Arid Connection – 3 (a)”

  1. Cathy Avatar

    So interesting, I’m a descendant of Captain John Hassell, but I don’t know much about him, thanks!

    1. Avatar

      Delighted Cathy, Plenty more to come about the Hassells in the current series, ‘In Search of Ngurabirding’.

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