Sneak peek: The Kangaroo Islanders – A story of South Australia before colonisation 1823

Thanks to our friends at Wakefield Press, here is a sneak peek into The Kangaroo Islanders – A story of South Australia before colonisation 1823, written by W.A. Cawthorne, edited and introduced by Rick Hosking.

‘On the southern seaboard of the vast continent of Australia, and nearly midway between the two extremes of the east and west coasts, there are two remarkable gulfs penetrating the land to a distance of two hundred miles and dividing the great colony of South Australia into two unequal portions.

The gulfs lie parallel to each other, and, besides being the only indentations of any magnitude, except the Gulf of Carpentaria, in the whole seacoast of Australia – some 7000 miles – they make a strong resemblance to each other. Both trend northwards, the eastern shore of both present, half way, extensive sand flats of immense area, while their western shores are bolder, with deeper water and finer harbours.

The larger, Spencer Gulf, is double the length and breadth of the smaller, Gulf St. Vincent, being 200 miles by 100, whereas the latter is 100 miles by 50. The French exploring expedition that unexpectedly met Flinders in the Bay now called, from that circumstance, Encounter Bay, named these gulfs Josephine and Napoleon. The peninsula that divides them is some 25 miles broad, and is of similar shape to that of Italy. The heads of both the gulfs consist of large mangrove swamps, and for half their length the eastern shore have no definite coast-line, but an extended, ill-defined, and exceedingly irregular margin of mangrove swamp from a quarter of a mile to five miles in breadth.

Through this swamp, meander to apparently interminable distances deep water channels, which, shaded by the thick foliage of the mangrove, present scenes of unsurpassed exotic beauty.

At the entrance to the smaller gulf – the most easterly of the two, and on the eastern shores of which the capital of the province is now situated – lies a large and most interesting island, named Kangaroo Island in 1802 by Captain Flinders, from the numbers of that animal observed on its shores. It is nearly 120 miles long, and has an average breadth of from 30 to 50 miles, and a uniform coastline for at least two-thirds of its entire seaboard, of bold, perpendicular cliffs that chill the heart of the mariner in calm or storm. A landing place in 30 miles is about the average accommodation, and even then landing is frequently negotiated with extreme difficulty.’

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