A Narrative of the Expedition to Botany-Bay eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 84 pages of information about A Narrative of the Expedition to Botany-Bay.

In their persons, they are far from being a stout race of men, though nimble, sprightly, and vigorous.  The deficiency of one of the fore teeth of the upper jaw, mentioned by Dampier, we have seen in almost the whole of the men; but their organs of sight so far from being defective, as that author mentions those of the inhabitants of the western side of the continent to be, are remarkably quick and piercing.  Their colour, Mr. Cook is inclined to think rather a deep chocolate, than an absolute black, though he confesses, they have the appearance of the latter, which he attributes to the greasy filth their skins are loaded with.  Of their want of cleanliness we have had sufficient proofs, but I am of opinion, all the washing in the world would not render them two degrees less black than an African negro.  At some of our first interviews, we had several droll instances of their mistaking the Africans we brought with us for their own countrymen.

Notwithstanding the disregard they have invariably shewn for all the finery we could deck them with, they are fond of adorning themselves with scars, which increase their natural hideousness.  It is hardly possible to see any thing in human shape more ugly, than one of these savages thus scarified, and farther ornamented with a fish bone struck through the gristle of the nose.  The custom of daubing themselves with white earth is also frequent among both sexes:  but, unlike the inhabitants of the Islands in the Pacific Ocean, they reject the beautiful feathers which the birds of their country afford.

Exclusive of their weapons of offence, and a few stone hatchets very rudely fashioned, their ingenuity is confined to manufacturing small nets, in which they put the fish they catch, and to fish-hooks made of bone, neither of which are unskilfully executed.  On many of the rocks are also to be found delineations of the figures of men and birds, very poorly cut.

Of the use or benefit of cloathing, these people appear to have no comprehension, though their sufferings from the climate they live in, strongly point out the necessity of a covering from the rigour of the seasons.  Both sexes, and those of all ages, are invariably found naked.  But it must not be inferred from this, that custom so inures them to the changes of the elements, as to make them bear with indifference the extremes of heat and cold; for we have had visible and repeated proofs, that the latter affects them severely, when they are seen shivering, and huddling themselves up in heaps in their huts, or the caverns of the rocks, until a fire can be kindled.

Than these huts nothing more rude in construction, or deficient in conveniency, can be imagined.  They consist only of pieces of bark laid together in the form of an oven, open at one end, and very low, though long enough for a man to lie at full length.  There is reason, however, to believe, that they depend less on them for shelter, than on the caverns with which the rocks abound.

Project Gutenberg
A Narrative of the Expedition to Botany-Bay from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
Follow Us on Facebook