HM Bark Endeavour, May 3, 1770.
Water spouts rise up and approach the ship for the apparent purpose of investigation. With Monkhouse continuing to supply me with physic it brings on strange dreams so that I view the stealthy advance of the water spouts being put in mind of the unfortunate wife of Lot. Beset by such thoughts it becomes necessary to shake myself of the sticky webs of fantasy and turn my gaze to the land. Land.
This being the object of our secret instructions I need convincing it is not a mirage, a place imagined. Yet there is no denying that the Country has a very agreeable and promising Aspect being of moderate height and diversified with hills, ridges, planes and Valleys with some few small lawns, but for the most part the whole is cover’d with wood, the hills and ridges rise with a gentle slope. It is my pleasant duty to name the features of the new places as we proceed north. Mount Dromedary. Point Upright. The Pigeon House. Cape St George. Long Nose. Red Point. Stingrays Harbour.
And lo there hove into view figures on the shore, dark-skinned or sombrely clothed it was impossible to descry through the glass. Mr Banks in a ferment of anticipation. Specimens! Mr Banks, Mr Solander, Tupia and I set out in the Pinnace with the solemn purpose of making Connections in which venture we proved wholly unsuccessful. The natives menaced us with their darts, this despite the friendly offering of beads and mirrors etc, and it became necessary to discharge the musquet. I cannot fathom their stubborn refusal to make Connections and determined to question our shipboard philosopher.
‘Dr Solander,’ I ventured. ‘I believe you to be a man of enlightenment.’
‘You flatter me, sir.’
‘To be blunt, I am curious as to the state of Man.’
‘A curiosity we share,’ said Dr Solander and looked around the company of Scientific Gentlemen who smiled with what I imagined to be forbearance for the child in their midst.
‘Damn it, man, why does it prove impossible to make Connections with these people?’
Dr Solander looked at me over his spectacles. Was the child having a tantrum?
‘Today,’ I proceeded hauling in my sails, ‘I fired upon a man with the musquet and it had no effect as far as I could discern. Rightly a man should be afeared of a gun. This man,’ I continued, ‘Showed no more discomfort than if he had been stung by a March Fly. He seemed not to even ken the purpose of a musquet.’
‘Perhaps he needed schooling, sir, in the ways of civilisation,’ Mr Parkinson appended.
‘Aye,’ mused Banks, ‘if ever he is to be Enlightened.’
‘I will forge Connections,’ I insisted angered that I had allowed myself to become a specimen suitable for examination by a dozen eyes.
‘Most certainly you will,’ Dr Solander observed. ‘There being no argument with the language emerging from the mouth of a musquet.’
The Scientific Gentlemen chuckled.
Exiting the Great Cabin with some feeling I immediately encountered Mr Green the astronomer taking calculations from the starry night.
‘We find ourselves upside down at the bottom of the world,’ Green gently observed.
‘Is everything in this hemisphere to be an inversion?’ I asked.
‘If I may make bold by calling upon the Bard, sir, might I suggest that you have been taken in by the seeming world. Hamlet,’ Green thought it useful to add.
‘Your meaning escapes me, Mr Green.’
‘The world,’ he said, ‘is not as it seems.’
As the bark rose and fell with the swell, I considered his words.
‘There is no difference between them and us,’ Green said looking into the heavens. ‘The confusion lies in the fact that we clothe our nakedness with the tegument of illusory things. Money. Property. Power.’
I had no rejoinder as I recalled those naked figures on the shore refusing to enter into civilised intercourse.
‘Without the burden of civilisation,’ Green observed, ‘ these people are content to simply be.’
We beat north and in time come to a harbour whose rocky maw threatens to swallow us whole with its great swell. Breathing in the evening tide until the morning brings its exhalation. I have named it Port Jackson. The ship groans with the weight of the specimens taken on board by Banks. In Kew, he will recreate this whole world for the wonderment of civilised men and women who will marvel that such a place can even exist.
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