We left Sydney by the Dutch steamer William M’Kinnon, on September 20th, 1877, for Somerset. The sail inside the Barrier Reef is most enjoyable. The numerous islands passed, and the varied coast scenery make the voyage a very pleasant one—especially with such men as our captain and mates. On Sunday, the 30th, we reached Somerset, where we were met by the Bertha, with Mr. McFarlane on board of her. Mr. McFarlane was soon on board of the steamer to welcome us, and remained with us till the evening. There was very little of the Sabbath observed that day—all was bustle and confusion. Quite a number of the pearl-shelling boats were at Somerset awaiting the arrival of the steamer, and the masters of these boats were soon on and around the steamer receiving their goods.
On Tuesday, October 2nd, we left Somerset in the Bertha, for Murray Island, anchoring that night off Albany. On Wednesday night, we anchored off a sandbank, and on Thursday, off a miserable-looking island, called Village Island. On Friday, we came to York Island, where we went ashore and saw only four natives—one man and three boys. At eleven p.m. on Saturday, we anchored at Darnley Island. This is a fine island, and more suitable for vessels and landing goods than Murray, but supposed to be not so healthy. The island is about five hundred feet in height, in some parts thickly wooded, in others bare. It was here the natives cut off a boat’s crew about thirty years ago, for which they suffered—the captain landing with part of his crew, well-armed, killing many and chasing them right round the island. They never again attempted anything of the kind. As a native of the island expressed himself on the subject:—“White fellow, he too much make fright, man he all run away, no want see white fellow gun no more.” In 1871, the first teachers were landed here.
The Sunday morning was fine, and we resolved to spend a quiet forenoon on shore. We landed after breakfast, and walked through what must be in wet weather a deep swamp, to the mission house on the hill. Gucheng, the Loyalty islander, who is teacher here, looks a good determined fellow. The people seem to live not far from the mission house, so did not take long to assemble. There were about eighty at the service, including a few Australians employed by one of the white men on the island to fish for trepang. The Darnley islanders appear a much more interesting people than the Australians. Many of those present at the service were clothed. They sang very well indeed such hymns as “Come to Jesus,” “Canaan, bright Canaan,” which, with some others, have been translated into their language. Mr. McFarlane addressed them, through the teacher, and the people seemed to attend to what was said.