Article written by member Geoffrey Humphries.
Ref; ‘Narrative of a Voyage to Port Phillip and Van Diemen’s Land with Lieutenant Governor Collins.’
by AW Humphrey (1984)
In late 1803 Lt. Governor David Collins decided to abandon the camp at Sullivan Bay (near present day Sorrento) and proceed to Van Diemen’s Land. Before leaving he dispatched a party under William Collins to explore and report back on the Port Dalrymple area of Northern Van Diemen’s Land. The only ship available was the Francis (The first sea-going ship built at Port Jackson NSW.)
The party set sail in the Francis at 9.30 am on Saturday 24th December 1803. The ship leaked badly requiring the pumps to be manned continuously. The Francis arrived at the Kent Group of Islands in Bass Strait, where they found the Brig Lady Nelson sheltering there. It was decided to proceed to Port Dalrymple in the Lady Nelson, a more sea worthy vessel, whilst the Francis would proceed to Port Jackson for repairs.
People on this expedition to Port Dalrymple included William Collins as leader, Adolarius Humphrey the mineralogist, who later together with Reverand Robert Knopwood became the first two magistrates of Hobart Town. Thomas Clark, later to become Superintendant at the Government Farm at New Town, Robert Brown and John Johnson who was better known as the Danish adventurer Jorgen Jorgenson. All these were young men in their twenties.
The Lady Nelson arrived at Port Dalrymple (Tamar River) on the 1st January 1804, and off-loaded at a sandy shore just north of present day Georgetown. One group walked about seven miles upstream along the shoreline, where at one stage they were forced into the shallows by a bushfire which had nearly surrounded them.
A short time later they came upon a frightened native who screamed at them, then ran off. He returned shortly with other natives, a spear was thrown before the natives dispersed. After two days they decided to explore the river from the Brig Lady Nelson, another attempt to communicate with the natives resulted in Robert Brown almost being speared, a volley of shots dispersed the natives.
As they travelled further upstream William Collins noted the good timber and soil and also the stands of flax. On 9th January 1804 the Cataract Gorge was sighted for the first time by Europeans. On the morning of the 10th, Humphrey, Brown and possibly others walked into the Gorge area. At midday Collins decided to head downstream, but the Lady Nelson drifted into a Mudbank and it was not until the morning of the 11th that they got underway.
From the diary of the 22 year old mineralogist, Adolarius Humphrey;
“on the 12th We got down as far as Egg Isle (still known as Egg Isle) and here we came to anchor again. On the morning of Friday 13th January 1804 we went on shore to examine a waterfall which one of the seamen had seen the night before when in search of Kangaroo (Supply River). We found it excellent water and filled several casks at it. While this was doing I amused myself with carving my name (A. H. 1804) in the solid Basaltic rock with hammer and chisel, in a place where it must be seen by any boat’s crew that may hereafter visit the spot for fresh water.”
The Supply was named by William Collins. Humphrey’s mark is possibly the earliest surviving mark left by a European in Tasmania. Did the group spend some time at the Supply River, collecting water, swimming or fishing? According to Knopwood’s diary the 13th and 14th January was very hot at the settlement at Port Phillip. No doubt warm weather was also experienced in northern Tasmania.
On 14th January the Lady Nelson made her way down the river dropping anchor for the night at Middle Isle (opposite present day Bell Bay). From Humphrey’s diary “On Sunday 15th got under way and at 9 came to anchor in twenty five fathoms water off Middle Rock. On shore we saw a great number of natives, who called to us apparently in a friendly way, but on our approaching they threw large stones at us and seemed determined to oppose our landing. After making signs of friendship in vain we fired over their heads, on which they ran away into the woods and we saw them no more.”
The Lady Nelson arrived back at Sullivan Bay on 21st January 1804; Lt Governor David Collins having decided to move to the Derwent, he was worried not only of the French, but also of encroaching groups of Aborigines near the camp.
At dawn on the 30th January 1804, the settlement at Sullivan Bay was abandoned, one William Buckley’ a convict who had escaped with others around Christmas 1803 (27th December) would alone survive to spend the next 32 years wandering around the Port Phillip district before being found in 1835 at Indented Head by a group from John Batman’s party.
A.W.H, Humphrey and others from the brig Lady Nelson arriving at the Supply River Falls to replenish water supplies on the morning of Friday 13th January 1804. Humphrey’s initials and year are still visible on the large rock above the figure in the fore of the Boat. Humphrey wearing his large straw hat is the figure in the rear of the boat.
Article featured in the First Fleet Folio, December 2020, Editor Anne Gibson