[June 17, 1800] As the Walker was about a mile astern of us, we were much surprised to hear firing of musketry from her, and to see the canoes leaving her in all directions. We did not learn the cause of this until next day, when it was reported that a crow-bar had been taken from one of the party, with which a canoe made off rapidly towards the shore. It was to bring the plunderers back that several muskets were fired at them; and, I am afraid, from what the surgeon said, that several were wounded, if not killed, in the canoe.
We were extremely sorry to learn this, as it might be detrimental to other navigators passing this way. It had been much better to leave good impressions with these friendly islanders, who did not retaliate hostilities upon the Walker’s people. Having a favourable breeze during the night, next morning we were out of sight of land.
The captain wishes to keep as near the old track as possible, as the least deviation in the night exposed the ships to danger. He also drew the line on Capt. Nicholl’s charts, in case of separation; but as the Walker sailed much better than our ship, it was always in their power to keep company if they wished.
In our progress to the west, being so near the equator, we suffered much from excessive heat, particularly in the night, when we had little wind: the thermometer sometimes stood at ninety-five and one hundred. We had, however, plenty of water, the casks for the use of the prisoners on the passage out being furnished by the owners, were kept on board, when the other stores were returned at Sydney.
We saw islands and land to the south of us every day, from the 19th June until arriving off the New Guinea Cape. On the 24th we had much rain, with heavy squalls, accompanied with thunder and lightning. At day-light next morning, the Walker was not to be seen from our mast-head; it as supposed she had tacked in the night, to avoid a small low island, which our ship passed just at dusk.
In this track we passed many large trees and drifts: one tree which appeared very straight, was taken on board; but when the root had been sawed off, it was found very soft and full of worms; besides the smell was so offensive, that it was again thrown overboard. A species of cormorant were commonly perched upon these trees; which, when seen at a distance, made us at first imagine them to be canoes with people. Five or six of these birds were seen together upon one tree; they would fly away as soon as our boat approached; no doubt they were attracted by the fish that hovered about the wood.
We had the coast of New Guinea daily in sight on our left, but at too great a distance to make any observations; it appeared in many places very mountainous. On the 29th we passed the islands named, after their discover, Schouting’s Islands [Schouten Islands, named after Willem Schouten, now part of Indonesia as Kepulauan Biak]; they lie off the coast, and have many low, dangerous coral reefs about them, which had been observed, with the advantage of a nearer view, by our captain, when previously in the Cornwallis.
On the morning of the 1st July we were again joined by the Walker, who had tacked, as before supposed. Captain Nicholl and his officers now delivered their letters to us, to forward by the first opportunity for England. He intended to separate from us that evening, and proceed to Dory Harbour; the high land of which was in sight; we accordingly parted, with mutual good wishes for the safety and prosperity of each other.
Two days after this, having favourable winds, we came in sight of the Cape of Good Hope [Cape Yamarsba], the south-western extremity of New Guinea.
As something was amiss with the ship’s rudder, which could not be rectified at sea, it was judged proper to put into some place for that purpose, and at the same time to fill the empty casks with fresh water to stiffen the ship, for old sailors say, that casks once filled with salt water never become sweet again. For this object the captain steered to make a port upon the island Golilo, which was well known to him formerly. In our way thither, we passed Dampier’s Straits, having the coast of New Guinea (or Papua) on our left, and the island of Waggiou on our right; passing several islands whose names were not known. We then came in sight of Galilo, and in the evening anchored in a harbour called Osso.