The conclusion of the harvest was productive of a slight disturbance among the Irish convicts at Toongabbie. Having, each man and woman who had been employed, received a small quantity of spirits and water, which had been ordered them, it produced at first cheerfulness and play, but terminated in riot and ill-humour; a circumstance not uncommon with that class of people. They were, however, easily separated and sent to their respective huts.
On the 19th, the Francis schooner arrived from Norfolk Island, where all were in good health. Lieutenant Shortland, who had received directions to search for Sir Charles Middleton Island and shoal, on his return produced his journal and a chart of the various traverses which he had made in quest of the island, and compared them with those made formerly by Lieutenant (now Captain) Ball in his Majesty’s armed brig Supply, who had been sent by Governor Phillip expressly on the same pursuit. The extensive range taken by those two officers in the search, and their not having met with even any indications of land near that situation, left little reason to believe in the existence of the island. That of the shoal was not so doubtful; and, although Mr. Shortland did not fall in with it, yet, as a shoal had been seen by two or three different persons near the spot in which that reef was laid down, there was much reason to believe that a dangerous bank or shoal did somewhere thereabout exist; but its exact situation in point of latitude and longitude had not yet been correctly fixed, nor was its extent supposed to be so great as was at first believed.
On the evening of the 25th, which had been duly observed as Christmas Day, the Nautilus arrived from the southward. She had been at Preservation Island, where, and among the neighbouring islands, she had been tolerably successful in seal-catching. The master left 14 of his people on the island of Cape Barren, to provide as many skins and as much oil as they could against his return. Those with which he now arrived were in a few days sold by auction.
The two whalers, the Indispensable and Britannia, which had been fishing on the coast, returned on the 29th for a few days to repair some defects and refresh their crews. They had cruised chiefly from the latitude of 32 degrees 00 minutes to 35 degrees 00 minutes, and not farther from the coast than from 20 to 30 leagues, and thought themselves rather successful for the time (only two months), the one having got 54, and the other 60 tons of spermaceti oil.
The Eliza (more wisely) put into Botany Bay, to wood and water. She, although much longer at seal had not been so successful, having got only 45 tons of oil. The master of this ship stated, that he saw off the NE part of New Caledonia a ship on shore upon a reef, the lower masts of which were above water, and one of the tops was on the mast. The weather was thick and hazy, and blew too fresh