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Voyages in the Southern Hemisphere, Vol. IVoyaging Accounts
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Nova Britannia


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CHAP. VI. Discovery of a Streight dividing the Land called Nova Britannia into two Islands, with a Description of several small Islands that lie in the Passage, and the Land on each side, with the Inhabitants.

WHEN we got about four leagues off the land, after leaving this harbour, we met with a strong gale at E.S.E. a direction just contrary to that which would have favoured our getting round the land, and doubling Cape Saint Maria. We found at the same time a strong current, setting us to the N.W. into a deep bay or gulph, which Dampier calls Saint Georges Bay, and which lies between Cape Saint George and Cape Orford. As it was impossible to get round the land, against both the wind and current, and follow the track of Dampier, I was under the necessity of attempting a passage to the westward by this gulph, and the current gave me hopes that I should succeed. When I had got, therefore, about five miles to the south west of Cocoa-nut Island, I steered to the N.W. and the N.N.W. as the land trends, and had soon good reason to believe that what has been called Saint Georges Bay, and thought to be formed by two points of the same island, was indeed a channel between two islands, and so the event proved it to be.

Before it was dark, we found this channel divided by a pretty large island which I called the DUKE OF YORKS ISLAND, and some smaller islands that were scattered about it. On the southermost side of the main, or the largest of the two islands that are divided by the channel or streight, which I left in possession of its ancient name, New Britain, there is some high land, and three remarkable hills close to each other, which I called the MOTHER AND DAUGHTERS. The Mother is the middlemost and largest, and behind them we saw a vast column of smoke, so that probably one of them is a volcano: they are easily seen in clear weather at the distance of twenty leagues, and will then, by those who do not know them, be taken for islands: they seem to lie far inland, and the Mother bears about west from the Duke of Yorks Island. To the east of these hills there is a point making like a cape land, which I called CAPE PALLISER; and another to the westward, which I called CAPE STEPHENS. Cape Stephens is the northermost part of New, Britain. North of this Cape is an island, which I called the ISLE OF MAN. Cape Palliser and Cape Stephens bear about N.W. and S.E. of each other; and between them is a bay, the land of which near the water-side is low, pleasant, and level, and gradually rises, as it retires towards the Mother and Daughters, into very lofty hills, in general covered with vast woods, but having many clear spots like plantations intermixed. Upon this part of the country we saw many fires in the night, and have therefore reason to suppose that it is well inhabited. The Duke of Yorks Island lies between the two points, Cape Palliser and Cape Stephens. As it was not safe to attempt either of the passages into which the Streight was divided by this island in the dark, we brought to for the night, and kept sounding, but had no ground with one hundred and forty fathom. The Streight here, including the two passages, is about fifteen leagues broad. The land of the Duke of Yorks Island is level, and has a delightful appearance: inland it is covered with lofty woods, and near the water-side are the houses of the natives, which stand not far from each other, among groves of cocoa-nut trees, so that the whole forms a prospect the most beautiful and romantic that can be imagined. We saw many of their canoes, which are very neatly made, and in the morning, soon after I made sail, some of them came off towards the ship; but as we had a fresh gale at that time, we could not stay for them. The latitude of this island is 4° 9 S., longitude 151° 20 E.; and it is five and twenty leagues distant from Cape George. As I coasted not New Britain, but the northermost coast of the Streight, I passed through the passage that is formed by that coast, and the corresponding side of the Duke of Yorks Island, which is about eight leagues broad, and may be considered as the First Narrow of the Streight; and then steering N.W. by W. all night, we found, at day-break that we had lost sight of the southermost island, or New Britain, and having now ascertained the supposed bay to be a, Streight, I called it SAINT GEORGE S CHANNEL, and to the northern island I gave the name of NOVA HIBERNIA, or NEW IRELAND. The weather being hazey, with a, strong gale and sudden gusts, I continued, to steer along the coast of New Ireland at about the distance of six leagues from the shore, till I came off the west end of it, and then, altering our course, I steered W.N.W. I could plainly perceive, that we were set along the shore by a strong westerly current. At noon, we found by observation that we were much to the northward of the log; but as it was impossible the current could set due north, as that would be right against the land, I was obliged, for the correction of my account, to allow no less than four and twenty miles W.N.W. which is nearly as the land lies along the shore. At this time we had about half a point

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© Derived from Volume I of the London 1773 Edition: National Library of Australia call no. FERG 7243, pages 595 - 600, 2004
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