The seal is reckoned a stupid animal; but Mr. Bass noticed many signs of uncommon sagacity in them; and was of opinion that, by much patience and perseverance, a seal might be trained to fish for man; in which there is nothing, at first sight, more preposterous than the attempt to make a hawk his fowler.
The seal appeared to branch off into various species. He did not recollect to have seen them precisely alike upon any two islands in the strait. Most of them were of that kind called by the sealers hair seals; but they differed in the shape of the body, or of the head, the situation of the fore fins, the colour, and very commonly in the voice, as if each island spoke a peculiar language.
Having collected as much stock as was necessary, they stood to the northward, and on the 12th reached Port Jackson.
On delivering the account of this voyage to the governor, he named the principal discovery, which was the event of it, Bass Strait, as a tribute due to the correctness of judgment which led Mr. Bass, in his first visit in the whale boat, to suppose that the south-westerly winds which rolled in upon the shores of Western Port, could proceed only from their being exposed to the Southern Indian Ocean.
The most prominent advantage which seemed likely to accrue to the settlement from this discovery was, the expediting of the passage from the Cape of Good Hope to Port Jackson; for, although a line drawn from the Cape to 44 degrees of south latitude, and to the longitude of the south Cape of Van Diemen’s land, would not sensibly differ from one drawn to the latitude of 40 degrees, to the same longitude; yet it must be allowed, that a ship will be four degrees nearer to Port Jackson in the latter situation, than it would be in the former. But there is, perhaps, a greater advantage to be gained by making a passage through the strait, than the mere saving of four degrees of latitude along the coast. The major part of the ships that have arrived at Port Jackson have met with NE winds on opening the sea round the South Cape and Cape Pillar, and have been so much retarded by them, that a fourteen days’ passage to the port is reckoned to be a fair one, although the difference of latitude is but ten degrees, and the most prevailing winds at the latter place are from SE to S in summer, and from WSW to S in winter. If by going through Bass Strait these NE winds can be avoided, which in many cases would probably be the case, there is no doubt but a week or more would be gained by it; and the expense, with the wear and tear of a ship for one week, are objects to most owners, more especially when freighted with convicts by the run.