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Voyages in the Southern Hemisphere, Vols. II - IIIVoyaging Accounts
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23 August 1770

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James Cook
Joseph Banks
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Description of New South Wales


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CHAP. VIII. Departure from New South Wales; a particular Description of the Country, its Products, and People: A Specimen of the Language, and some Observations upon the Currents and Tides.

OF this country, its products, and its people, many particulars have already been related in the course of the narrative, being so interwoven with the events, as not to admit of a separation. I shall now give a more full and circumstantial description of each, in which, if some things should happen to be repeated, the greater part will be found new.

New Holland, or, as I have now called the eastern coast, New South Wales, is of a larger extent than any other country in the known world that does not bear the name of a continent: the length of coast along which we sailed, reduced to a strait line, is no less than twenty-seven degrees of latitude, amounting to near 2000 miles, so that its square surface must be much more than equal to all Europe. To the southward of 33 or 34, the land in general is low and level; farther northward it is hilly, but in no part can be called mountainous, and the hills and mountains, taken together, make but a small part of the surface, in comparison with the vallies and plains. It is upon the whole rather barren than fertile, yet the rising ground is chequered by woods and lawns, and the plains and vallies are in many places covered with herbage: the soil however is frequently sandy, and many of the lawns, or savannahs, are rocky and barren, especially to the northward, where, in the best spots, vegetation was less vigorous than in the southern part of the country; the trees were not so tall, nor was the herbage so rich. The grass in general is high, but thin, and the trees, where they are largest, are seldom less than forty feet asunder; nor is the country inland, as far as we could examine it, better clothed than the sea coast. The banks of the bays are covered with mangroves, to the distance of a mile within the beach, under which the soil is a rank mud, that is always overflowed by a spring tide; farther in the country we sometimes met with a bog, upon which the grass was very thick and luxuriant, and sometimes with a valley, that was clothed with underwood: the soil in some parts seemed to be capable of improvement, but the far greater part is such as can admit of no cultivation. The coast, at least that part of it which lies to the northward of 25° S. abounds with fine bays and harbours, where vessels may lie in perfect security from all winds.


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© Derived from Vols. II-III of the London 1773 edition: National Library of Australia call no. FERG 7243, pages 622 - 623, 2004
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