October 1st, 1788. Little material has occurred in this colony since the departure of the ships for England, on the 14th July last. On the 20th of that month His Majesty’s ship Supply, Captain Ball, sailed for Norfolk Island, and returned on the 26th August. Our accounts from thence are more favourable than were expected. The soil proves admirably adapted to produce all kinds of grain, and European vegetables. But the discovery which constitutes its value is the New Zealand flax, plants of which are found growing in every part of the island in the utmost luxuriancy and abundance. This will, beyond doubt, appear strange to the reader after what has been related in the former part of my work: and in future, let the credit of the testimony be as high as it may, I shall never without diffidence and hesitation presume to contradict the narrations of Mr. Cook. The truth is, that those sent to settle and explore the island knew not the form in which the plant grows, and were unfurnished with every particular which could lead to a knowledge of it. Unaccountable as this may sound, it is, nevertheless, incontestably true. Captain Ball brought away with him several specimens for inspection, and, on trial, by some flax-dressers among us, the threads produced from them, though coarse, are pronounced to be stronger, more likely to be durable, and fitter for every purpose of manufacturing cordage, than any they ever before dressed.
Every research has been made by those on the island to find a landing-place, whence it might be practicable to ship off the timber growing there, but hitherto none has been discovered. A plan, however, for making one has been laid before the Governor, and is at present under consideration, though (in the opinion of many here) it is not such an one as will be found to answer the end proposed.
Lieut. King and his little garrison were well when the ‘Supply’ left them: but I am sorry to add, that, from casualties, their number is already five less than it originally was. A ship from hence is ready to sail with an increase of force, besides many convicts for the purpose of sawing up timber, and turning the flax-plant to advantage.
So much for Norfolk. In Port Jackson all is quiet and stupid as could be wished. We generally hear the lie of the day as soon as the beating of the Reveille announces the return of it; find it contradicted by breakfast time; and pursue a second through all its varieties, until night, welcome as to a lover, gives us to sleep and dream ourselves transported to happier climes.
Let me not, however, neglect telling you the little news which presents itself. All descriptions of men enjoy the highest state of health; and the convicts continue to behave extremely well. A gang of one hundred of them, guarded by a captain, two subalterns and 20 marines, is about to be sent up to the head of the harbour, at the distance of 3 leagues, in a westerly direction, from Sydney Cove,