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Joseph Banks

New Holland


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New Holland (continued)

Mr. Banks found, in the woods, an Opossum *, with two young ones sucking at her breasts.

There were many alligators on the coast, some of them very large, and we frequently saw them swimming round the ship.

We found also several sorts of snakes, ants, and a small culex, or fly, which is not bigger than a grain of sand; the bite or sting of which was venomous, and caused protuberances on the skin, which itched violently.

Of fish, we found many different sorts, and a variety of beautiful shell-fish; among them three sorts of oysters; some were found in lagoons; some adhering to the mangrove; and others along the shore: large cavalhe, or scomber; large mullets, some flat-fish, a great number of small scombri; and skate or ray-fish; one of which, that we caught, was curiously marked on the back with polygons finely coloured, and another of an orbicular figure, with a blue grey-coloured back, and white belly, which tasted like veal; some other parts like beef; and the entrails as agreeable as turtle. We caught also turtles of a bright green colour, some of which weighed near four hundred pounds †.

The natives, who were naked, though of a diminutive size, ran very swiftly, and were very merry and facetious. Their bones were so small, that I could more than span their ancles; and their arms too, above the elbow joint. The tallest we saw measured but five feet nine inches; though their slimness made them appear taller, most of them were about five feet five inches; and were painted with red and white in various figures. The colour of their skin was like that of wood-soot. They had flattish noses, moderate-sized mouths, regular well-set large teeth, tinged with yellow. Most of them had cut off the hair from their heads; but some of them wore their hair, which was curled and bushy, and their beards frizzled. On their breasts and hips were corresponding marks like ridges, or seams, raised above the rest of the flesh, which looked like the cicatrices of ill-healed wounds. Some of them were painted with red streaks across the body, and others streaked over the face with white, which they called Carbanda. Some of them had a small hair-rope about their loins, and one about an arm, made of human hair. They had also a bag that hung by their necks, which they carried shell-fish in. Their noses had holes bored in them, through which they drew a piece of white bone about three or five inches long, and two round. [See pl. XXVI fig. 13. and pl. XXVII.] One of them had his ears bored in like manner, and pieces of bone hung in them. Some of them had necklaces made of oval pieces of bright shells, which lay imbricated over one another, and linked together by two strings. The women, who did not approach nearer to us than the opposite shore, had feathers stuck on the crown of their heads, fastened, as we were informed, to a piece of gum.

* This creature has a membraneous bag near the stomach in which it conceals and carries its young when it is apprehensive of danger.

† On opening a turtle that we caught we found part of a wooden lance in it, which had gone in by the breast before the calapee.

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© Derived from the London 1773 edition printed for Stanfield Parkinson, pages 146 - 147, 2004
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