In the neighbourhood of Breaksea Spit in May, 1819, we experienced a fresh gale from the westward, after which it veered to south-east with thick rainy weather: and in the neighbourhood of Cape Capricorn, in June, 1821, we had a fresh gale from the north-east. Among the Northumberland Islands, we have experienced westerly winds, but they blew in light breezes with fine weather. Even as far as Cape Grafton the wind cannot be said to be steady. To the north of this point, however, the winds are always constant from the southward, and seldom or ever veer to the westward of south, or to the eastward of South-East by East; they generally are from South-South-East: fresh winds cause the weather to be hazy, and sometimes bring rain, which renders the navigation among the reefs in some degree dangerous. In my last voyage up the coast, on approaching Cape York, the weather was so thick that we could not see more than a quarter of a mile ahead; we, however, ran from reef to reef, and always saw them in sufficient time to alter the course if we were in error. In such a navigation cloudy dull weather is, however, rather an advantage than otherwise, because the reefs, from the absence of the glare of the sun, are more distinctly seen, particularly in the afternoon, when the sun is to the westward. Later in the season (August 1820) we had more settled weather, for the wind seldom veered to the southward of South-South-East, or eastward of East-South-East; and this weather accompanied us from Breaksea Spit, through Torres Strait.
The best time for passing up this coast is in April and the beginning of May, or between the middle of August and latter end of October; in the months of June and July, the passage is not apparently so safe, on account of the changeable weather that may be encountered, which to a stranger would create much anxiety, although no real danger. Strict attention to these directions and confidence in the chart, with a cautious lookout will, however, neutralize all the dangers that thick weather may produce in this navigation.
The tides and currents in this part are not of much consequence. The rise of tide is trifling, the flood-tide sets to the North-West, but at a very slow rate. In the neighbourhood of the reefs, the stream sometimes sets at the rate of a knot or in some cases at two knots, but for a small distance it is scarcely perceptible. There appeared rather to be a gentle drain of current to the North-West.
HERVEY’S BAY and BUSTARD BAY have been already described by Captains Cook and Flinders. We did not enter either, so that I have nothing to offer in addition to the valuable information of those navigators (Hawkesworth volume 3 page 113 and 117; and Flinders Introduction cci. and volume 2 page 9 et seq.)
LADY ELLIOT’S ISLAND is a low islet, covered with shrubs and trees, and surrounded by a coral reef, which extends for three-quarters of a mile from its north-east end; the island is not more than three-quarters of a mile long, and about a quarter of a mile broad; it is dangerous to approach at night, from being very low. It is situated thirty miles North 53 degrees West (magnetic) from the extremity of Breaksea Spit (as laid down in Captain Flinders’ chart); its latitude is 24 degrees 6 minutes, and its longitude 152 degrees 45 minutes 15 seconds.