Morning Glory Clouds of the Gulf of Carpentaria

Historical Notes on Sweers Island

Peter Saenger
Part Two
Captain Kirby describes Sweers Island as follows:

"There are no large trees, those we saw being stunted in their growth, and of small size; we saw neither plants nor fruits. The soil is a dark loam of considerable depth, and, except on the beach, there is little or no sand: no animals were seen, but birds of the cockatoo, pheasant, and parrot tribe are abundant. There can be no doubt but that tropical fruits would grow most luxuriantly; and if the Albert River become ere long an important settlement, Sweer's Island must also be a place of much consequence. Fish are to be had in the greatest abundance, more especially codfish, weighing from seven to twenty pounds, and I see no good reason why a fishery of a remunerative character might not be established there.

The natives are not numerous: they are mere Australian blacks, and are disposed, so far as I can judge, to be on friendly terms with Europeans. I could not ascertain that they belong to any tribe, neither would they appear to have either king or government. I have crossed the Island and seen most of the natives, and do not believe that they would be any serious obstacle to settlement. There is no appearance of volcanic action, neither would it seem to have ever been subject to earthquakes. It is but twenty miles distant from the mouth of the Albert River, and must ere long become an important place. Parties fit for the business, with moderate capital, who would occupy Sweer's Island would eventually do well". (77)

Oct. 1 - "Landed early on Sweer's Island to shoot. Killed two cockatoos and a red-bill, which we ate for breakfast. No water found ... Saw tree with 'INVESTIGATOR, 1802' cut on it, besides other names." (78)

The expedition party to establish a depot on the Albert arrived at the mouth of the river. Landsborough explored the river in the barge from the VICTORIA. On the Albert near the Barkly Junction, a tributary approximately twenty six miles upstream, Landsborough and Norman found trees marked by Augustus Gregory in 1856 and by Lieutenant Chimmo of the survey ship TORCH. (79)

Oct. 2 - "... Mr. Campbell and two blacks cutting grass." (80) Oct. 3 - "Self and two black boys cutting grass on shore." (81) Oct. 4 - "Went on shore at 6 am to cut grass. 2 pm moved up to where turtle pond is being built. It is a ring, fenced with stone and timber, on the beach, including some water. The turtle are put in, and some of the seaweed on which they feed thrown in to them; they will live a long time in this way." (82)

"Finished the turtle pond, and landed that were left alive, which occupied nearly the whole day. Fifty-seven is the number out into it, but two died, and two escaped." (83)

Oct. 9 - "... The horses eat with avidity the grass which had been cut for them on Sweers island. Mr. Bourne and 3 troopers remained ashore where they had been cutting grass." (84)

Oct, 25 - "It has been reported to me that about thirty [blacks] have been seen on this, Sweer's Island, and are at its north end, where a lake has been seen by some of the ramblers of the colliers." (85)

Dec. 6 - Walker's relief expedition arrived at the FIREFLY depot. "Walker stayed fourteen days at the Albert River depot enjoying the hospitality and turtle soup of Commander Norman, together with fresh cress, onions, radishes, and sprouts which the Commander had thoughtfully planted on Sweer's lsland." (86)

Dec. 9 - "I took Mr. Walker on board, to procure a copy of his journal and a tracing of his route; in the meantime we proceeded to Sweer's Island to obtain from the depot the stores necessary for his further use ...... and returned with Walker to the depot on the 13th of December." (87)

(Norman also maintained at least 7 sheep on Sweers Island - the first agricultural pursuits on the island. in addition, on arriving at Sweers Island, Norman built stone tanks below high water mark for 126 turtles which had been captured on Bountiful Island on arrival. Only 57 turtles survived the trip and tank construction. These early attempts at agriculture and mariculture in addition to the taking of wood for steamers and fires are likely the first white man's resource utilization of Sweers Island of any consequence.)

Dec. 19 - 'Through careless handling of Flochfeldt's revolver, Law (midshipman) shot himself through the leg. The discharge had gone through the thick flesh and has fortunately not touched any bone. I bound it for him with water bandages. The leg is much swollen." (88) [Fiochfeldt (89), also a German, was the storekeeper with Walker's party.]

Dec. 25 - Christmas dinner was held aboard the VICTORIA anchored in Investigators Road. Roast mutton and pudding were served together with porter. (90)

Dec. 26 - "Had this night again heavy thunderstorms and rain. I went out early and had a pretty successful trip. As I came back, a new accident took place. Mr. Frost cleaned our two guns, both of which were well loaded. One of the barrels went off, and the full charge went into his right side, and, if as Doctor Patterson believes, that shot has penetrated into the intestines, he could not be saved ... Captain Norman begged of me to undertake the nursing of Frost." (91)

Dec. 31 - 'This morning early about 5 o'clock poor Frost died, at the age of twenty eight years. A young man loved of the Captain and all the sailors. We buried him the same evening some distance from the camp, after the rites of the Church of England." (92)


Jan. 30 - "I collected lately many seeds. The necessary notes I wrote on the respective tickets. On account of the infernal mosquitoes one cannot get an hour's rest at night. A miserable country here. I compare it with a convict settlement. The VICTORIA takes in coals. Frost's grave is fenced in, and he got a neat grave stone .... A similar inscription has been cut into a tree nearby." (93)

[A sketch of the grave with its picket fence, drawn by a George Gordon McCrae around 1862 is in the National Library. It is annotated as 'after F.O. Handfield' - the mate of the VICTORIA]

Despite these difficulties. Henne made extensive seed, wood and plant collections on the island (94) and around the Albert River, (95) bringing back six cases of botanical specimens collected on the island to be deposited in the Melbourne herbarium. (96)

Feb. 1 - "Since the rain, we have snakes in pretty large numbers. especially the harmless carpet snake: however, also one, I believe venomous species: they are short and plump, about eighteen inches long, and are brown and yellow banded, with blunt tail; also iguanas turn up." (97)

Feb. 11 - "I packed my gear and went the following day on board. A dozen men tried to catch the sheep. which were, however, so wild. that only two were got which were shot." (98)

Feb. 12 - "At 7am, I started over to Bentinck Island with the Galley's crew, taking with me the FIREFLY's old boat rigged, some tomahawks..." (99)

"Captain Norman made a present today to the natives of Bentinck Island, which was very valuable to them i.e. the FIREFLY with two oars, in gratitude for which these black devils tried to spear him. At two o'clock we left this lonely part of the world, and steered first to Bountiful Island, which we reached at seven in the morning." (100) This account by Henne is somewhat enigmatic - the FIREFLY itself was abandoned in the Albert without ceremony, at a spot clearly shown in Surveyor George Phillips' field notes.


June - Burketown established as a commercial port with the arrival of the JACMEL PACKET chartered and loaded by R. Towns & Co. from Sydney. She carried "a wide assortment of cargo including pigs. dogs, fowls, houses and stores, drays and rations of rum and other spirits." (101)

Sep. 1 - J.C. White. the police magistrate at Warwick, writes to the Colonial Secretary. (102) suggesting the establishment of a port on Sweers Island in conjunction with a convict settlement, as such a development " ... will materially tend to advance our progress, by its occupation of the intervening country and the extensions of our Squatters operations. It must not however be forgotten that unless a Port is opened for the reception of Supplies and Shipment of Produce, the newly formed Stations cannot possibly be rendered profitable as Land carriage is totally out of the question, and that fact alone precludes the idea of attempting Sheep Farming to any extent." (103)

Dec, 6 - Ellis Read placed on-going advertisements on the front page of the 'Port Denison Times' to announce that he is establishing large stores at the Albert River.

Dec. 8 - POLICEMAN (Captain Till) departs for the Albert River from Bowen (104) returning to Bowen with eight passengers on 8 April 1866. (105)



The schooner MARGARET-AND-MARY arrives in the Albert bringing with it an epidemic known as 'Gulf Fever' - either malaria, yellow fever or typhoid. Within a few days virtually the entire crew was dead and in no time, around 100 persons were recorded to have died. (106) That the MARGARET-AND-MARY brought 'Gulf Fever' from Java is widely stated (e.g. Pike 1978) although the 'Port Denison Times' of January 17 states that the MARGARET-AND-MARY (Captain Smight) arrived in Bowen from Sydney on January 16 with one passenger - Mrs. Smight. She left "with a full general cargo for the Albert River consigned to Messr. J. O'Connor and Jas. Sutherland".

Apr. 22 - Landsborough, as the first Police Magistrate for Burketown, and Lt. Uhr with eight troopers from the Queensland Native Mounted Police arrived in Burketown, having left Rockhampton on 22 December 1865. On arrival, "Mr. Uhr and I visited the township and learned that Mrs. Conner, the wife of one of the principal storekeepers was dead. Sixty people were sick and all who could were leaving the place". (107)

Apr. 24 - ELLISMERE (Captain Lake) departs Bowen with 13 passengers for the Albert. (108)

Apr. 26 - Earnest Henry arrived in "Burketown and went to the only hotel, where he found six or seven men, all of whom he knew, amongst them Landsborough, the explorer, who had been appointed Government Resident, Police Magistrate, Collector of Customs, etc. Henry found that there had been a great deal of sickness, and some 25 persons had died within a very short time, and he thought there had never been more than 60 residents. Everyone who had been there any time looked pale and thin." (109)

Landsborough arranged for the removal of most residents to Sweers Island aboard the MARGARET-AND-MARY. After watching the schooner weigh anchor, he and Earnest Henry depart for Sweers Island in the pilot boat accompanied by George "Phillips (the surveyor), Borthwick (sick) a coxswain, Spillings, a half-caste native of Canada, and a native of the west coast of Africa". (110) En route down the Albert River, they camped with J.G. Macdonald, who was pursuaded to accompany them to Sweers Island.

Apr. 28 - The schooner LILLY (Captain Ellis) leaves Bowen 'for the Albert with 15,000 feet sawn timber'. (111)

Apr. 29 - Ellis Read's advertisement for his stores on the front page of the 'Port Denison Times' first stated "Albert River and Sweer's Island".

Apr. 30 - After an extremely rough passage, during which the surveyor lost all of his equipment, Landsborough's party arrives at Sweers Island "about the middle of the day, at a spot where Landsborough came round in the VICTORIA ...... 5 years previous to this time. There were the remains of an old turtle paddock, and a well with good water in it, though a little brackish. Here we made our camp." (112) On revisiting the Island after five years, Landsborough writes "it is as beautiful an island as I ever visited. It is about 6 miles long and wherever you go you cannot go far without seeing a beautiful beach, which invites a plunge - or a fine site for houses The country is high downs and a few fine trees with thick foliage". (113)

Henry describes the island as "in the centre are some nice downs extending to the east side, but at the north and south ends there is a good deal of scrubby country." (114)

May 1 "... we landed near the northern end of Sweer's island and walked to the eastern side and found what is put down in the chart as a lake - ascertained that it was a marine plain which would make a good racecourse ....... The northern end as well as the southern end of Sweer's Island is rather thickly wooded. In the course of one walk we saw several pigeons, cockatoos and bustards. Although shy Mr. Henry succeeded in shooting some cockatoos and a bustard". (115)

May 2 - "Mr. Henry walked round the southern end of the island. At a bay at the southern base of Mt. Inspection we saw 3 rafts. They were simply bundles of dry saplings ...... In our absence 3 blacks paid our camp a visit ...... They ran away on seeing Mr. Phillips " (116)

Henry describes the rafts as "made of mangrove stems, the thick ends placed at the stern and the thin at the bows, both ends are lashed they are shaped something like a canoe. and the bottom filled with grass, but they must be half full of water when afloat, for there is nothing to prevent it coming in, they are very small and have but one paddle each, also made of mangrove stakes." (117)

May 3 - 'This morning seven blacks came towards the camp ..... On the northern end of the Island we saw some fine big trees near a dry water course. I daresay there is some surface water near there for we saw a great number of birds but I should not think it was permanent, as we saw a well now filled up that had been sunk by the blacks". (118)

May 6 - "As the vessel with the sick people had not made its appearance, Landsborough determined to go back to Burketown, L. wanted to leave a camp on Sweers I. and me to stop in charge, but as I was anxious to start back overland he took all hands. Started at daylight, after we had gone some 8 miles we sighted a sail behind us close to Sweers Island, so we returned and found it to be Macdonald's boat with some of his people, and some sick, they had come over thinking we would be out of provisions. They reported the vessel still at Burketown." (119)

Writing to the Minister for Lands and Works, Landsborough (120) reports that "I have the honor to state that as Mr. J.G. Macdonald has informed me this evening that he starts tomorrow for Port Denison and has kindly promised to take any letters thither I take the opportunity of writing a few lines to you..... By the same opportunity I send a letter to His Excellency the Governor explaining my reasons for forming a settlement at this place. And as you have no doubt heard how unhealthy the season has been on the mainland I hope you will approve of my having done so .... This place I believe will always be one of the most healthy stations as it gets a fresh seabreeze from whatever direction it blows. But under any circumstances there should be a settlement at this place as there is no place better situated for being the main sea port of Carpentaria ... The Honorable Colonial Secretary kindly promised to send me a house similar with the exception of a few improvements to that which was built for the settlement at Cape York but it has not arrived. I hope however you will send it to me as soon as an opportunity occurs. Also a watchhouse ... I will go as regularly and as often as I can to the main land. At present I have to have an extra man occasionally as I have only the pilot, the coxswain and the constable and two of the native police. These 5 men have had the fever and only one or two of them are fit far a days work. I hope however that you will give me authority to engage additional men .., I have only been a week here and the stores etc have not yet arrived, I expect them by the schooner MARGARET AND MARY which has left the township formed by Mr. J.G. Macdonald on the Albert River for this place ..."

May 12 - "In the course of one walk we observed stone enclosures made on the beach where the rocks naturally assisted their formation but yet as the dikes were two feet high and are about a hundred yards in extent they must have been raised with considerable labour and I thought it not unlikely that they were made by a more industrious people than the aborigines generally are. They might have been made by the natives of Timor if they ever come here. These enclosures would always catch some fish and sometimes with a little trouble a great number might be caught in them." (121)

May 26 - The schooner LILLY arrives at the Albert from Bowen and Landsborough purchases 25 sheep which were landed onto Sweers Island on the 30-31 May. (122)

May 29 - Landsborough provides a general report on the Sweers Island settlement to the Colonial Secretary in Brisbane. (123) He reports that "... almost everyone was sick in this region and that I had (a month ago), employed the schooner the MARGARET AND MARY that was leaving here for Sydney to transport on her way hither the pilot, the constable and their wives with Government stores to Sweer's Island. Such however, was the sickness on board the schooner that although drawing but six feet of water she has only now succeeded in reaching the landing that is situated six miles from this place. The pilot having remained on board several weeks and finding no probability of shifting and in addition being unable to render any assistance from sickness availed himself ... of the kind offer of Mr Macdonalds boat to transport himself and a number of other sick people to Sweer's Island. I regret to say that some of them were very weak. The pilots wife, Mrs Blakeney had to be carried on shore. Shortly after the arrival of the boat on the island, there was a squally night (a very unusual circumstance I believe for that region) and as it was not sufficiently moored it was driven on shore and received damage amounting to about ten pounds. It is my painful duty to report the death of Mrs Williams the wife of the Constable. She died on board the MARGARET AND MARY under very distressing circumstances having none but sick people to attend upon her. Her death struck people more as from her healthy blooming appearance a short time previously she was the last person of whom anyone would entertained any misgivings. She was much respected as she had kindly tended on many sick people. Her husband buried her at this place and is now very sick himself and cannot at present go with me to Sweer's Island.

From the pilot the coxwain and constable not having sent in their vouchers they have been without pay since leaving Brisbane. I have been unable to assist them in this matter since I came for in the hurry of leaving for Sweer's Island the package of stationary (and other things as well) was put on board the schooner unbroken. The flour that was sent by the schooner the POLICEMAN, for the constabulary and native police force was very much damaged on board. This is very unfortunate especially as the constabulary and native police are compelled to use it.

I believe that I am correct in stating that the whole of the surveyors party, the constabulary and the native police force without exception each have suffered more or less from the new settlement fever or from fever and ague. I however hope that although many of them are incapable for duty that none of them are dangerously ill. Among the residents on the Albert, sickness is still prevalent. Up to the present time as many as 27 cases have terminated fatally, which is calculated by one of the oldest residents to be one in every five! The people are still dying but there is every probability that there will be few fresh cases likely to terminate fatally. It is said that people are not now apt to catch any worse disorder than fever and ague but that I believe even is a horrible complaint more especially when there is no quinine or any other equally potent medicine to stay its progress. One would suppose that the country would be healthy now. The nights are delightfully cool, apparently more so than I have felt them at this season as far south as Rockhampton. The country is very dry, without hardly a wet swamp anywhere and hardly any mosquitoes have been seen for some months. Any residents that have spoken to me on the subject of the settlement of Sweer's Island approve of it as the depot for the supplying of the future townships of the mainland and speak of it as likely to be a great place eventually as it presents the only anchorage for vessel of any size in the Gulf.

I should therefore recommend that a township be at once surveyed there.

The people are also anxious that sites for townships should be fixed on the mainland. This I consider would be premature until Capt. Nares makes a survey of the rivers ... The residents in favour of having a township at this place that they have choosen say it is as healthy as any place within 50 miles on the mainland. I am not prepared to say that such is not the case at present. But I think there can be little doubt that such will not be the case when the country is stocked - which will soon be the case as this is one of the finest pastoral districts in Australia - again much of the sickness has its origin from the people and more generally using food that requires much colder air than we hitherto had and much harder work than we are inclined to take to enable us to digest it.

Until lately fresh meat could seldom be obtained, but I am glad to say that sheep can now be purchased - the price of the sheep like everything else here is very high. I purchased lately 25 at 18/- a head and they will cost me at least six shillings a head to get them taken at present to Sweer's Island.

Allow me to give you the price asked for certain stores. The most of which I have purchased at the following rates and have been even told that they have been sold to me for a less rate than that charged to the public. Salt beef - 5d a pound, Flour - 6d, Tea - 5/-, Sugar - 9d, Rice - 6d, Shelled peas - 1/-, Dried apple - 1/-, Negrohead Tobacco - 12/-, 2lb tins of carrots - 5/- each, Double width inferior cakes - 3/6 a yard, Blutcher boots - 17/6 a pair, Handsaws, inferior - 13/-. Other things not so commonly required at much decrease in rates.

Mr Wentworth Uhr is a very zealous officer and as his pay is very low for this region I have the honour to recommend that he should be promoted. The LILLY a small schooner has arrived, she is a tender of the ELLESMERE. Her Commander expects to meet the ELLESMERE in a few days at Sweer's Island.

I put up a flagstaff on the top of Inspection Hill, which is 105 feet high with the idea that if a vessel came in sight of it the Commander of it would be led to suppose that there was a settlement on the island...

Jun. 4 - 'The ELLISMERE arrived. I was glad that Mr. Reid liked the Island, and was glad that I had formed a settlement upon it. He said he would have a receiving store erected at this place." (124)

Jun. 8 - "The CITY OF MELBOURNE" commenced discharging cargo." (125)

Jul. 14 - The RESTLESS arrived bringing papers and other cargo from Bowen. (126)

Jul. 19 - Surveyor Phillips writes to A.C. Gregory, now the Government Surveyor, from Sweers Island to report that "I have the honor to inform you that I have commenced to cut up a portion of Sweer's Island into town and Suburban Allotments. There is a general opinion here that the land will bring a good price. You will see by my last report of the 11th June that a period of some six weeks has elapsed since I last started to perform my present work - the whole of that time I was laid up with fever - and besides having returned to Burketown to procure a fresh supply of rations, tools tents etc. No earlier opportunity of returning offered. As only two of my old hands remained with me, one of whom is now in a very dangerous state, I was obliged to employ two men, one an a/c of his still being very weak consented to work for the wages allowed, the other I was obliged to engage at 35/- per week with rations. This is pretty reasonable - when labouring men are requiring one pound per day for their work." (127)

As a result of the outbreak, Sweers Island replaces Burketown as the official government centre with all vessels trading to the Gulf region calling at Carnarvon, which was laid out and surveyed during 19th July to mid-August 1866 by the Engineer in Charge of Surveys. George Phillips.

Aug. 8 - Frederick Robert Mueller (alias Walters), a carpenter, died and was buried on Sweers Island of 'Typhus Fever', according to the informant T. Blakeney, Custom House Officer, Sweer's Island'. (128) On the death certificates of his two eldest children, his occupation is given as 'surveyor' and 'government surveyor'. (129) suggesting he was the assistant to Phillips in laying out Carnarvon.

Nov. - The schooner CAROLINE left Sweers Island for southern ports but was not seen again. (130) However, according to Pike (131) "the schooner CAROLINE left Burketown on 16 November 1866 with bales of wool, and ... did not reach Bowen until the 19th [January 1867], after a voyage of two months around the Gulf".

[Pike on p.168 also mentions prisoners escaping "from the log lock- up on Sweers Island" after having been arrested by Lieutenant Wentworth D'Arcy Uhr.]

[During this period, Sweers Island vegetation would have undergone significant changes as all kinds of stock were introduced to the island as well as human habitation and its associated removal of trees for fuel and timber. During 1866, R. Towns sent consignments worth £ 218/2/9 to Ellis Read, the Sweers Island storekeeper. (132)]

Dec. 7 - George F. Sandrock succeeds William Landsborough as sub- collector of customs. (133)


Apr. 2 - 'The mail has brought out word of the sale of land on Sweer's Island - the town is to be Carnarvon - the allotments are principally 1/2 acres = upset price £8/- per acre. Sale to be held here on the 2nd April next. I think the land will go cheap - there'll be but little competition for it ..... I believe that there is a great future for the town of Carnarvon." (134)

The names of many of the families associated with the settlement of Carnarvon are recorded on the 'Plan of Town of Carnarvon and Suburban Allotments - Sweers Island' the coloured original of which is in the Sunmap Cadastral Map Section. This survey map delineates the location of the 'Sweers Island' tree and the grave of Gunner Frost. It also reveals that Donald McLennan, the publican of Carnarvon whose gravestone dated 4 February 1876 still exists on Sweers Island, was one of the original settlers, having both a town lot and a 3 acre suburban allotment.

The purchasers of Town allotments were:

F. Adam
P.. Armstrong
R. Back
W. Beakem
C. Bradley
F. Braizie
J.B. Brodle
T. Brodle
E. H. Buchanan
J.E. Byrne
G.S. Caird
M.A. Campbell.
J. Cassady
G.E. Dalrymple
A.C. Doutty
P. Driscal
E.R Edkins
H.J. Edkins
R. Ellis
O. Ethridge
J.R Feguson
J. Frazer
R. Garrie
C. Garry
J. Hardie
A.S. Holmes
H. Hooley
A. Kirkpatrick
J. Lalor C.H.
G. Longstaff
A.G. Manson
W.A. McDonald
D. McLennan
H. McRead
G. Mecham
T.E.H. Meier
J. Moore
M. Moloney
R.R. Morissett
C. Palmer
R. Morton
G.W. Nathan
G. Phillips
R. Rannin
E. Read
L. Read
N. Renstrom
A. Rowling
G. Sargeant
J.P. Sharkey
H.A.T. Sharkey
J. Strew
B. Swan
A.B. Thomas
G.A. Tissington
R. Towns
J. Travers
E.K. Uhr
W.D.A. Uhr

The purchasers of Suburban allotments included:

J.A. Bradley
G.S. Caird
M. Campbell
A.C. Doutty
J. Hardle
W. Landsborough
D. McLennan
F.J. McLennan
J. O'Connor
E. Read
N. Renstrom
J. Travers
W.D. Uhr
C. Hutton
M. Wood

Aug. 22 - Captain Francis Cadell of the Screw Steamer EAGLE (200 tons) had been commissioned by the South Australian Government to explore in detail the rivers of the Gulf of Carpentaria and Arnhem Land and he departed Sydney on April 2, 1867 accompanied by the steam tender FIREFLY. (135) Arriving off Sweers Island on the 22nd August, the island is described by the EAGLE's carpenter as "... the headquarters of the Gulph Settlements, Mr. Sandrock the Collector of Customs and Mr. Landsburgh the Explorer he is the Police Magistrate for the settlement. We had a visit from some of the people they a bottle or two with them to treat the Ships Crew. They seem a good drinking lot in this part. The Settlers are chiefly from Brisbane, Rockhampton and Port Denison. The people on the Island looked very healthy. It is the watering place for Burke Town. There is some new looking houses. They were mostly sent from Brisbane. It belongs to the Queensland Government and still they want to take from N.S.Wales the Clarence and Richmond Rivers but the Home Government told the Queensland people they had the largest tract of country - next day we sailed for the Albert River" (136)

While at the Albert River the crew of the EAGLE "met the PIONEER from Burke Town bound to Sweers Island, She was manned by South Sea Islanders." (137)

Sep. 2 - Returning to Sweers Island on the 1st September, Robinson reports that "... the schooner CAPTAIN COOK had arrived from Sydney with general stores" and that they "sailed from Sweers Island about the 2nd of September 1867 for the westward". (138)

The brothers T.A. and Benjamin Gulliver, on instructions from Baron F. von Mueller, travelled aboard the EAGLE and collected plants for him around Sweers Island, the Gilbert, Norman and Flinders Rivers in the Gulf of Carpentaria and at Caledon Bay. "Specimens collected on this voyage were sent to von Mueller and cited by George Bentham in his 'Flora Australiensis'. Among the specimens collected on this journey was Ectrosia gulliveri named by von Mueller, and the curious 'love grass' Heterachne gulliveri named by Bentham in their honour and now proven to be a fine pasture grass." (139)


Jan. 1 - Henry Baker (140) was appointed as 'tidewaiter and locker' with the customs service, joining a coxwain and 2 boatmen under the sub-collector.

Feb. 17 - Surveyor Phillips writes from Sweers Island to A.C. Gregory, seeking "permission to leave this district and proceed to Brisbane in order to obtain medical advice" (141) for a severe inflammation of his right eye which had been causing problems for nearly a year. Permission was granted and Phillips returned to Brisbane by 4th November 1868. He became well respected in the surveying and engineering professions, and held the Gulf seat of Carpentaria in the Legislative Assembly between 1893 and 1896. (142)

May - Settlers from Sweers Island settle on the site of a new township on the Norman River laid out by William Landsborough and Surveyor George Phillips in January. Early settlers included Dr. Borck, A. McLennan, hotelkeeper; Ellis Read, Peter Armstrong, David Swan, Charles B. Hely and John Edgar Byrne, In a short time, Normanton outgrew Burketown. "The Norman River was full of crocodiles and at least one kanaka was taken while unloading one of Town's vessels at the river bank." (143)

Sep. - PIONEER sails from Burketown to Sweers Island for a banquet at the Alhambra Hotel attended by William Landsborough and G.F. Sandrock, Collector of Customs. During the course of the banquet, "the brig GOVERNOR, owned by Towns and Co., was wrecked without loss of life on a reef a mile offshore, Amongst those on board was Lieutenant Coward of the Native Mounted Police." (144) The GOVERNOR, a vessel of 147 tons and built in 1843, had been employed at Sweers Island as a store ship for transhipment of wool to vessels bound from Sydney to London (145)

Sep. 17 - From the records required to be provided under The Polynesian Labourers Act 1868 (Qld.), 150 kanakas were landed on Sweers Island from the 132 ton schooner SPUNKIE (Captain John Rees; Recruiting Agent H.H. Hunter) on this day. (146)

LEICHHARDT ships wool at Sweers Island. (147)

A sketch of the INVESTIGATOR tree was drawn by S.G. MacDonald on his visit to Sweers Island in 1868, It was still alive and the name 'INVESTIGATOR' and date 1803 were quite legible. (148)

Oct. - Towns and Co. were reported to be establishing regular communications between Sweers Island and Batavia, The barque XULA loaded wool and tallow at Sweers Island direct for London. Captain Till, in the schooner CLARA, loaded wool, tallow, hides and skin. (149)

Nov. - Towns writes to purchase land on the Sweers Island to establish a permanent warehouse.

By the end of the year, " ... at the township of Carnarvon on Sweers Island ... all had deserted but the Government officials and their families and one Chinaman. Shipowners, skippers and consignees, finding that the retention of the Customs House and other government offices on Sweers Island was an inconvenience to them, hoped that the government would remove those offices." (150)


Feb, 22 - The Chief Inspector of Sheep ((P, R Nordow) writes to the Minister for Lands that "... an outlay of £120 for fencing - in addition to wire and a few articles - is asked for in order to make the quarantine available for the reception and dressing of imported sheep... During last year 41 imported sheep were landed at Sweers Island and should scab be introduced there the consequences in such a far off District would be disastrous... From enquiries made at ... Messr. Towns & Co agents here ... I find that the articles required could be landed at Sweers Island for the sum of £85... 1 would therefore suggest that the sum of £200 which has been placed on the Estimates for 1869, for repairs to Quarantines, should be devoted to this purpose. As twelve months working of the act has shown that this sum will not be required for the present, in the erection of Quarantine premises at either of the ports of Maryborough, Gladstone or Mackay, whilst the Quarantine sheds at Brisbane, Rockhampton and Bowen are in a fair state of repair." (151)

Mar, 4 - 'The Secretary for Public Lands recommends that a sum of £200 which had been placed on the Estimates for 1869 for repair for Sheep Quarantine should be devoted for fencing in and furnishing a Quarantine at Sweers Island." (152)


Nov. 29 - J.M. Thompson, the Secretary for Public Lands, provides information to the Colonial Secretary Mr. A.H. Palmer In support of an application to the Imperial Government that jurisdiction over offshore islands be vested in the Colonial Government: 'The whole of the north east coast is studded with islands some of which are valuable with deposits of Guano, whilst others have recently been found rich in minerals. Several islands also exist in the gulf of which Wellesley, Bentinck and Sweers Island may be mentioned as the most important, Sweers island appearing from its good harbour and salubrious climate a most eligible place for a settlement. It is the site of a township, and was for a long time the residence of the Government staff of this colony in the gulf..... it will be advantageous that these numerous islands ... should be subject to some authority, more especially the riches which many of them contained, will necessarily attract adventurous and may be a lawless population.... At one time some of the islands in the gulf were licensed as squatting runs. An application is now under consideration to take all these islands for Cotton growing." (158)


Sweers Island largely deserted in favour of Normanton which had been selected as the new centre for government administration. By and large, Carnarvon had ceased to function and only a few families, including the Creffieids, "who keep cattle, goats and sheep on the island" remained until 1897. (159)

G.F. Sandrock, the collector of customs, had from 150 - 200 head of cattle grazing on the island. (160)

Apr. 19 - Bartley Fahey succeeded George Sandrock as sub-collector of customs at Sweers Island. (161)

May 30 - Her Majesty's letters patent, granting jurisdiction over all islands within sixty miles of the coast of Queensland, came into effect. (162)

October 25 - An incident took place on the island in which shots were fired at several Bentinck Islanders presumed to be involved in stealing sheep and goats.


January 25 - Perhaps to emphasise the newly created jurisdictional muscle, Aulaire Morisset, the police magistrate for the Norman District, on instructions from the Colonial Secretary, held a magisterial inquiry on Sweers Island into the reported shooting of a number of Bentinck Islanders. (163)

Depositions of witnesses were taken from John Farrell who was employed in the pilot service; Robert Christrison, customs boat coxswain and a resident of the island for the previous four years, and Ah Foo, sometimes called Jimmy. (164) From these depositions it seemed that on 25 October, these three men together with a McCarthy had seen a group of Aborigines land on Sweers Island and after a series of confrontations, spears were thrown and shots were fired. The Police Magistrate concluded that it was not shown that any lives were taken and that it appeared that the Aborigines were the aggressors. (165)


Nov. 19 - John Thomas McManus (166) succeeded B. Fahey as sub- collector of customs at Sweers Island, although Fahey did not leave the island until 5 January 1875. (167)


Feb. 4 - Donald McLennan, the licensed publican on the Island, dies of "liver complaint" and is buried at Carnarvon. 

Continued on Page 3.

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