The "Eblana", Captain Hall, whose arrival we reported yesterday, spoke the brig "Gratitude", from Arbroath to this port, on the 4th of May, in latitude 38° 6' south, and longitude 48° east, 152 days out, all well. On the 17th of the same month, the "Eblana" passed St. Paul's Island, and, in consequence of the appearance of a signal fire, a visit was made to the island, which was found to be inhabited. Captain Hall has obliged us with a copy of his log for that day, which we at present refrain from publishing, as an opportunity exists of comparing opinions with the captain of the "Nora Creina", which vessel is reported to have put in there for repairs, previously
to Captain Hall's visit.

( "The Argus", Melbourne, 27 June 1854 )

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ST. PAUL'S ISLAND - PIRATES OR PIONEERS


We give below the copy of the log of the barque "Eblana", Captain Hall, to which reference was made in our issue of Tuesday. We had expected that our inquiries would have elicited some further information on the subject, but we have not succeeded; and in publishing the statements we give an opportunity for those to come forward who can throw any light on the matter. It is usually understood that
the island is uninhabited.


Thursday, May 17th, 1854


At 30 min. p.m., on passing the N.E. end of St. Paul's Island, every eye watching carefully lest there might be any shipwrecked seamen on it ( remembering the sad disaster we had read an account of before leaving England relative to the
Amsterdam Island ), a fire was suddenly observed to be lighted on the hill as soon
as the ship opened the bay, from which volumes of smoke and flame burst forth, causing the greatest excitement on board our vessel, as the thought very naturally struck us that it was a signal of distress, and we all mentally thanked God for this seeming providence in bringing us there as a means of deliverance to those on the island. The steering sails were immediately taken in, the ensign hoisted to gladden the hearts of the supposed sufferers, and the ship's course made toward the island, every preparation being made in the meantime for the reception of the still
supposed sufferers. But the feelings of all on board can be better judged than described when - as the vessel approached the island direct for the spot where the signal was made from, every heart beating, every eye straining its nerves in order
to discover a living being on some point or rocky eminence, but all in vain. The ship being now within half a mile of the shore - we got our boat out, and sent her with
the second officer and two seamen to bring on board all there might be on the
island, requesting the second officer to hoist our flag on an oar as a signal, when
he landed, if our conjectures were correct. The vessel in the meantime was tacked
off and on, keeping as close in shore as prudent. The boat was observed to pass round a breakwater just distinguishable from the ship, and supposed to have been formed by nature, all eyes still searching the beach and cliffs, anxious to get sight
of something human - some wondering, others conjecturing the why and wherefore the signalizers themselves were not to be seen.

 

St. Paul's Island

After, however, a longer time had elapsed without the signal from our boat being given as arranged, the excitement on board became truly great, alarm for our own men being now the predominant feeling. At length our boat was seen to emerge
from behind the breakwater, and in a few minutes was alongside, the officer
reporting as follows :-

That there were four men on the island, who, not in the least dreaming that the simple compliment, "thank you," was due to us as some acknowledgement for our anxiety and trouble for them, at once declined our offer to take then off the island, and land them in Melbourne. And, in answer to the inquiries as to what they were doing there, said they had been there six and a half years. That they had been left there by their captain, whose vessel was to have returned in a year, but, had not.
On being informed of our conjectures relative to themselves when we saw the
signal, they, with a meaning smile, said "they thought the flames would lead us to think so;" but pretended the fire was an accident, and declined a repeated offer to take them, assigning as a reason that "they still expected their vessel would return, or that their owner would send for them, as they had six and a half year's pay to receive."

They wanted for nothing. Bread, spirits, and tobacco at times were scare with them. They had plenty of water and potatoes; and vegetables of every description they
had an abundance of, sending us a sample of potatoes, with an offer to supply us with any quantity of them, and a cask or two of water, if we would come on shore
for them, taking bread, spirits, or tobacco, in exchange. They had four houses,
neatly formed and thatched, with tons of potatoes out of and in the earth, plenty
of fish, a seal hanging before the door of one house, a ship's (bell?)-bit and bell at another door, and a flagstaff erected, which of course could only be seen after entering the bay. There were three capstans, a large whaleboat, a ship's long-boat, apparently new, and a small punt. There were eight capstan-bars near one capstan, and a small vessel of about eighty tons lying on the beach, which they were
breaking up for firewood. They had every comfort in their houses, - French bed(heads?), chests of drawers, with a magnificent library of books, various guns,
but said they were short of powder and shot. There were only three men to be seen,
- one who talked good English said the fourth was up at the fire; while another of them, who was talking to one of our men in French ( our man being a Jerseyman ), distinctly said there were only three men on the island, and asked our man
particulars respecting our cargo, the number of our crew, if we had any passengers; and during the conversation said they had observed a schooner in December off
the island, which they set down to be their own vessel, but that a gale of wind
came on at night, and the next morning they discovered fragments of a wreck on
the east end of the island, which they imagined belonged to their vessel, as they
had not seen or heard of her since. They shewed documents stating that the screw steamer "Nora Creina" and schooner "St. Kitts" had both put in there - one for
repairs in February last ( the steamer ), and was supplied with a new rudder, proceeding in fourteen days. The "St. Kitts" had been supplied with provisions
only a week previous.

St. Paul's Island

These statements may all be correct, as also may be the history these islanders
give of themselves; but there is such a discrepancy in the statements of the two
men who were in conversation with our second officer and seaman, that, connected as it is with other singular and remarkable circumstances in the whole affair, we are inclined to think them other than such as they wish themselves to appear. In the
first place it will be observed they tell our men they had seen our vessel since daylight in the morning; and although they light this fire ( even allowing it to be "accidentally" ), which spreads in volumes of flames up the hills and over the land with such rapidity as seems to threaten the entire demolition of the island, yet
they never once approach a cliff, or any part of the island or beach, to shew themselves, which was an easy matter for them to do, and equally easy for us to have seen them, had they done so; but, on the contrary, are only seen and brought out of their houses when our men are actually landed, and bellowing with all their might, "House, ahoy!" when out all three come, smoking their pipes, comfortablly appareled, and with seeming indifference as to whether there was or was not
another human being within thousands of miles of them. Again, their meaning
looks and smiles at each other, when reminded that we had taken the fire so suddenly lighted as the vessel opened the bay as a signal of distress, they
replying that "they thought it would lead us to think so," palpably shews that it
was in reality lighted as a decoy; for it seemed at such variance with their never allowing themselves to be seen until our men landed. Their apparent apathy
previous to the boat reaching the shore, and their expressed desire that we should send on shore again, though it was then approaching sunset, with other various remarkable and singular circumstances, such as a schooner being beached to such height as ( from description ) the sea had not done, and three dozen men ( much
less three or four men ) could not do; the capstan and bars apparently in use; the whale-boat ( large ) which they could very easily have come off to the ship with,
and one could naturally suppose they would have been but too glad of an
opportunity of doing, if their statements as to the length of time they had been there, &c., &c., was correct; also the punt and ship long-boat (new) with the breakwaters on each side made by human hands and art, not by nature, and consequently would require many hands to aid in a work of such magnitude, there being, in addition, a regular platform made for loading, the flagstaff and bell ropes necessary for all purposes, woodwork newly painted, the beautifully furnished
library of books, quite new in appearance, excellently bound and gilt - the various luxuries which might be supposed at variance with, and impossible to obtain under, such professed circumstances;- all of which lead us to suppose, and almost feel satisfied there is a communication with the island which no one but those
connected can possibly be aware of; leading us further to think there may be a
vessel cruising thereabouts, ready to capture small craft, such as our vessel ( as there are many similar sized bound east ); and the island appears a capital place
as a redevous for pirates. If such conjectures are correct, they are certainly worthy
of notice; but such, as a matter of course, could not be found out without some
steps were taken by Government for the purpose of looking into the affair. While,
on the other hand, if the men are really what they represent themselves, it is, in
our opinion, none the less worthy of notice, for whatever trouble or expense might
be incurred would meet with a sufficient set off and recompense ( as far as
shipping is concerned ) in the benefits which might be derived through not only
giving publicity to it, but also in encouraging the islanders to a still further
cultivation of the land, and enable them to supply vessels in passing with
provisions, should they have had a long passage, receiving in exchange such
articles as they themselves might require. The present produce of the island is - potatoes, cabbages, parsnips, and celery, in abundance. There are, they also said, deer and goats in plenty, with no scarcity of water. Surely then there are sufficient inducements for a vessel to call, when she may have been detained through
contrary winds, and thereby likely to run short of provisions if she has passengers.
As far as we are concerned, we had not the slightest knowledge, or even an idea, that the island was inhabited, and we doubt whether it is at all known, unless the captains of the "Nora Creina" or "St. Kitts" may have made it public.

We spoke the brig "Gratitude" from Arbroath, Scotland in 48° east longitude, then one hundred and fifty-two days out; and there are frequently such long passages among small vessels. How beneficial to such vessels would a supply at St. Paul's
be in the one instance! yet how fearful to contemplate the consequences such a
call might be to the "Gratitude" when she sighted the island, as she intended
doing, according to Captain Eason's intention, we having spent the day with him
on board his vessel, and he in ours, the day as above named and following day,
when we were becalmed!


"Gratitude"


ARMSTRONG R. HALL


Signed - W. D. Hall, Commander.


( "The Argus", Melbourne, 1 July 1854 )

 

 


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