Extract from The Journal of Botany Volume IV, London 1842;

Transcribed from the original text
and edited by Diane Challenor 

Part 2
15th June 1820 to 25th April 1822

This extract begins at page 253 of
The Journal of Botany Volume IV 1842


King’s Third Australian Coastal Survey
Circumnavigation North from Port Jackson
aboard HMS “Mermaid”
15th June to 9th December 1820 

The third voyage of the “Mermaid” commenced on the 15th of June, under rather inauspicious circumstances; for they left Port Jackson with foul weather, which eventually increased to such a degree that, by the cutter’s plunging into a head-sea, she carried away her bowsprit, and was compelled to return to refit. On the 13th of July, they took their second departure, under the more favourable omens of a fair [p254] wind and fine weather.

Port Bowen 20th July 1820 to 22 July 1820

Their course was up the east coast, and the first place they touched at was Port Bowen. Of the botany of this place Mr Cunningham says- 

“On the grassy shores, besides a stunted species of Eucalyptus (allied to Angophora lanceolata), Banksia compar, a tree twenty feet high, bearing flowers and fruit, afforded me specimens with good seeds; but much of the botany of several parts of this coast whereon I had landed last year within the Tropic, appeared here very general; and among several of its finer subjects I perceived the Alyxia of Cape Cleveland, Mabageminata, Mimusops parvifolia for Rodd’s Bay, and Santalum venosum, in shaded situations, bearing young fruit; with Carissa ovata, still, however in no stage of fructification. 

We (Mr Hunter, the surgeon of the “Mermaid”, accompanied him) passed through brushes of Tristania sp. of Repulse Bay, and Endeavour River, among which I gathered specimens of the following genera: –

  • Hovea (allied to H. longifolia), 
  • Lasiopetalum sp., 
  • Leucopogon (probably L. imbricatus, Br.), 
  • Psychotria, sp., 
  • Xerotes arenaria? beneath rocks, 
  • Eucalyptus, two species, 
  • Pleurandra, allied to P. ericifolia, Br., 
  • Comesperma latifolia, 
  • Senecio, 
  • Gnaphalium, 
  • Croton, 
  • Tephrosia? 
  • Azorella,

Bignonia australis, rich in flower, beautified many a bare rock, with which I detected species of Acacia, not previously seen; it was covered with yellow capitula of flowers, so common to this fine genus.

Daphne Indica occasionally appeared in flower, beneath the shade of large rocks, flourishing exceedingly, the more in proportion as these situations afforded humidity, so genial to such exuberant growth. 

“I know no plants of all the Australian Proteaceae upon which one’s eye rests with so much pleasure (excepting our colonial Telopea), as it did upon a splendid arborescent Grevillea, (G. Banksii, R. Br.,) which now clothed the hills with the abundance of its kind, and now decorated the declivities with the gay richness of its crimson blossoms. Upon descending upon the shore, and doubling a bluff rocky point, covered with Dendrobium undulatum, and a few Filices, gathered last voyage, we passed a line of beach, abounding with the common purple Dolichos, Ipomea maritima, [p255] and Spinifex sericeus, at whose south extreme we entered a very shady matted thicket, consisting of many tropical trees peculiar to such umbrage, (and which we had frequently remarked during our last voyage,) of which Strychnos lucida, a species of Terminalia, Santalum ovatum, and Olea paniculata, were the most remarkable. In our return along the beach, I gathered specimens of a species of Dodonaea, seen on the shores of Rodd’s Bay last year. Euphorbia sp., Acacia polystachya, and the Casuarina of the last voyage, again afforded me ripe seeds.”

Endeavour River 27th July 1820

On 27th July, they anchored for a second time in Endeavour River. The state of the place, as compared with its last year’s appearance, is thus graphically described by Mr Cunningham.

“Grass and herbage had again densely covered the whole of the cleared spot, and some stumps of large trees that had been cut down on our first visit, had thrown out very strong and luxuriant branches, bidding fair in a year or two more to rear their head again to their usual stature. Upon walking toward the watergully, we found all was dry; and although some few plants had pushed forth their tender foliage, the general face of vegetation seemed to indicate it to be the height of the dry season. The Erythinae of these shores, (and indeed of the whole line of coast within the tropic,) at this period perfectly bare of leaves, exhibits a beautiful and striking appearance, its naked branches everywhere studded with its scarlet-flowers. I traced a line of rock gully up to the hills, but found every cavity dried up; nor did I observe any plant of moment in my subsequent route over the hills, on my way back to the vessels, excepting Grevillia gibbosa, still bearing its ripe fruit.

“In consequence of the general drought of the southern shore, a party was sent at daybreak to examine the extremity of the northern coast, where water had been observed last year. I availed myself of this opportunity of seeing that district, and accompanied the office who had charge of the boat’s crew at any early hour. We landed at the base of the [p256] hills, and found a fine stream of water escaping over the beach (sands), from which our people filled their baricas. As this operation would employ an hour, I determined upon an ascent to the summit of the lofty range of hills, whose bare naked slopes seemed however not likely to afford me much scope for botanical research. 

“Velleia pubescens is frequent on these hills, where also I gathered fine expanded flowers of Jacksonia thesioides, a small pigmy plant, and species of Indigofera. Clitoria, Hibiscus, a Grevillea (allied to G. Chrysodendron), and a shrubby species of Eucalyptus, were the more general plants observed till I had reached the ridge, whence descend certain deep ravines densely clothed with a luxuriant vegetation; these, together with the elevated cavities between what may be termed the shoulders of the hills, exhibit a vast variety of fine plants; generally however of species heretofore collected. A tree belonging to Urticeae, with large radiated laurel-shaped leaves, Seaforthia elegans, Hellenia carulea (whose luxuriant growth reminded me of the beautiful Heliconiae of South America), and some Fici previously observed, were the most prevalent plants in these shaded thickets. 

“On a second visit I detected Melastoma Banksii, bearing flowers and ripe fruit; Wormia alata, a tree delighting in humid valleys, was remarked on the rising ground verging on the swamps which were full of Ceratopteris thalictroides, (C. Australasica, Cunn. MSS.) Large specimens of Heritiera australis, with Pandanus pedunculatus in fruit, form by a union of their branches on either side of the channel of these streams, an arbour-work, essentially necessary to prevent that excess of evaporation, which otherwise would daily take place in so warm a climate. 

“In tracing a dry gully leading from the hills, I gathered seeds of Callicarpa pendunculata, specimens with fruit of a tree of Myrsineae, rising twenty feet high, and having an elliptical drupe; a species of Cylistaoverran the bushes; also Doodia media, and Lygodium semibipinnatum. 

“Upon passing the swamps, I rose to the sandy ridges, and gathered the following plants and seeds; 

  • Acacia humifusa, 
  • Glycine lampocarpa, 
  • Clerodendron costatum, [p257] a beautiful flowering shrub, 
  • Leucopogon ruscifolius, 
  • Eriostemon Banksii, 
  • Heminstemma Banksii, 
  • Melaleuca angustifolia, 
  • Dodonaea paulliniaefolia. 

At the back of the sandy ridges bounding the beach are pools of stagnant water at irregular distances, in which I gathered two species of Cyperus, with some Gramineae. 

“Being desirous to examine the sandy barren tracts near the base of Mount Cook, I quitted the vessel at nine, accompanied by a seaman whose help was afforded me by Captain King. In our route over the hills in the immediate vicinity of the anchorage, I collected a quantity of the ripe fruit of Grevillea gibbosa, now very abundantly laden with spherical capsules, as also those of Banksia dentata, containing ripe seeds of this fine tropical species. In the lower vales, grooved with water channels, which at this period we remarked as almost dry, I gathered a further supply of the berries of Melastoma Banksii, and was in the fullest hopes of being able to procure some ripe capsules of the Nymphaea, of this part of the coast. However, I could not discover the least vestige of this beautiful plant, in any of the chain of ponds we minutely examined in our route, where Philydrum lanuginosum seemed most prevalent.

“We traversed several patches of barren land, with comparatively speaking, little success; gathering however the seeds of Xyris complanata, and X. scabra, specimens of Haemodorum coccineum, with some few grasses, and fine flowering specimens of Tristanea suaveolens, Melaleuca suaveolens, Tephrosia sp., &c., &c., I had almost despaired of success, in detecting the particular spot where the bulbs of Crinum angustifolium, (?) had been observed last year; when, after crossing my track in several directions, we discovered a small strip of sand abounding with them, and having a spade with us, we dug up as many as we could conveniently carry back to the vessel, finding them in an excellent condition for removal.”

Lizard Island to Cairncross Island 5th August to 15th August 1820

On 5th of August they took leave of Endeavour River, and anchored the following day at Lizard Island, where Mr Cunningham took advantage of the detention of the vessel, and made such a collection as the island and his limited [p258] time allowed; as he also did at the following places that Captain King touched at – Cape Flinders, Pelican Island, Haggerston’s Island, and Cairncross Island; of this latter island, Mr Cunningham observes, – 

“I landed with Captain King on the western sandy point, which is covered with a small thick brush, having at its extremity a dark shaded damp wood of small extent, where I remarked the following plants; Guettarda octandra, a very luxuriant tree, having a stem (hollow) six feet diameter, and whose base is much like the spurred butt of a Ficus; Maba laurina bearing green fruits; a large species of Ficus, without fructification; Mimusops Kauki abounding in fruit; Cordyline cannaefolia; and a strong plant of luxuriant arborescent growth, suspected to be of the same natural family as seen last year, and at this time also without fructification. Several unknown twining and climbing plants ascended to the summits of the highest trees, and forming with Flagellaria indica, a strong impassable barrier. 

“I had traversed this little wood in several directions without making any discovery, or detecting any plant of importance; when, in my return to the departing boat, I found a liliaceous plant, having an elliptical nerved leaf, as in Pancratium amboinense. I hastily dug up all the bulbs of this interesting plant I could find; it grows in damp leafy shaded situations, and although not in flower, little doubt can exist of its being Mr Brown’s Calostemma alba.”

South Goulburn Island 21st August to 26th August 1820

On the 21st, the party landed again on South Goulburn Island, for the purpose of wooding and watering, and where they were as usual exposed to the mischievous attacks of the natives of that place; but, with the precaution that always pervaded Captain King’s movements, nothing serious happened to the voyagers. The greatest inconvenience that accrued was the preventing Mr Cunningham’s making extensive excursions, as any attempt to have gone to a distance, from the wood and watering parties, would inevitably have brought him into contact with the armed irritated natives, who were evidently lurking about the vicinity. 

Sim’s Island 26th August 1820

Sim’s Island was also visited again; of the results of his trip on shore, Mr Cunningham observes: [p259]

“We landed at Sansom’s head, and having a seaman to assist me, I employed him in digging up a few bulbs of Crinum angustifolium, (?) which is generally but thinly scattered over the different parts of the island, whilst I ranged over the rocks in pursuit of other botanical subjects.

Among others, I gathered seeds and specimens of the following;

  • Acacia plectocarpa, of last voyage;
  • Boerhaavia pubescens,
  • Grevillia agrifolia, 
  • Haloragis sp., allied to H. racemosa, 
  • Daviesia reclinata, 
  • Bauhinia microphylla,
  • Euphorbia sp.,
  • Sterculia sp., 
  • Anthobolus triqueter, a shrubby plant bearing red fruit;
  • Bossiaea humifusa, 

“Hoya carnosa (or nivea), a plant abundant among the rocks, appearing to suffer much from the extremes of the dry season, which however threw Flagellaria indica into an abundant flowering condition, as also the venerable Tournefortia argentea, on the north-west beach, which was literally covered with flowers and young fruit.

“A small tree of Pandanus pedunculatus had decayed male flowers, consisting of clusters of long pointed anthers, without any floral envelope, either calyx or corolla; this is the first opportunity I have had of seeing this genus in any other state than bearing fruit. 

“Several plants, among which were Pimelea punicea, Acacia Simsii, Dodonaeae and Phyllanthi, that I had gathered when I visited this island in 1818, were scarcely to be traced at this season; whilst Grevillea agrifolia furnished me with duplicate seeds.

“The Metrosideros of Port Keats and Lacrosse Island covers the more elevated parts, without however any signs of fructification.

“I descended to the opposite sandy shore of the island, where I detected a few more bulbs of Crinum angustifolium, (?) and finding its shores clothed with Casuarina equisetifolia, and Hibiscus tiliaceus, the retreat of a beautiful species of Cimex, I returned by a different route to the boat.”

Montague Sound to York Sound and Port Frederick Harbour
5th September to 20 September 1820

They afterwards touched at Montague Sound, Capstan Island, and York Sound [Port Frederick Harbour].

Among the plants more particularly mentioned or collected there, are

  • Grevillea carduifolia, G. mimosoides, G. heterophylla,
  • Boronia filicifolia, 
  • Justicia, sp., 
  • Solanum pectinatum, 
  • Tournefortia ( a third indigenous [p260] species allied to T. hirsutissima. Sw.,) a very rare plant, 
  • Loranthus acacioides, 
  • Acacia leucophaea, A. translucens, A. tetraptera, A. sericata, A. delibrata, 
  • Amyris sp., same as seen on South Goulburn Island, 
  • Cassia sp. scarcely distinct from C. foetida, Linn., and 
  • Tephrosia sp., a large robust tree, frequent among rocky chasms, proved to be 
  • Tristania macrophylla. 

Among other plants found at York Sound, was a species of:

  • Callitris crowning the cliffs with its pyramidal picturesque form, 
  • Myristica insipida, 
  • Cryptocarya triplinervis, and the 
  • Abroma fastuosa of New South Wales and the Moluccas, bearing flowers on the naked aculeated branches.

Repairs at Careening Bay, Port Nelson 21st September to 9th October 1820

At this period, a leak in the vessel caused such serious apprehension, as to render it absolutely imperative to look out for a secure harbour, where the cutter’s bottom could be examined, and her defects repaired. A situation was happily found in Port Nelson; and, in a bay, afterwards called, from circumstance, Careening Bay, the necessary repairs were accomplished. The refitting the cutter caused a detention at Careening Bay of nearly three weeks, which time was turned to good account by our botanist, who made extensive excursions in the vicinity of the Bay, the results of which I again extract from his journal.

“Towards the close of the afternoon, I landed with Captain King, and found that the hills bounding the beach had been recently fired by the natives, whose old temporary huts were standing on the sands. I traced two gullies that come down to the beach from the hills, and was gratified with the pleasing diversity in the botany of the small trees and undershrubs that shadowed the rocky edges of these water channels. 

“They were of the following genera;

  • Bauhinia sp. (appears distinct from B. microphylla), Inga sp.,
  • Santalum sp., abundantly in flower and fruit, 
  • Vitex sp. (allied to V. glabrata), an apparent species of Tristania, of arborescent growth; 
  • while Trichinium macrocephalum and Spinifex hirsutus were very frequent on the sands above the beach.

“We were fortunate in our discovery of pools of fresh water at the base of one of the gullies, whose grooved appearance fully [p261] declared the torrents that pass through it in the rainy season. As far as we advanced up this gully, were found small detached holes of fresh clear water, of an excellent quality, that appeared to be draining from one pool to another below, passing through luxuriantly green patches of grass, at once pleasing to the eye, and affording food on those barren shores to the kangaroo, whose usual appearances were observed on the rocks. 

“In these humid situations, I gathered specimens of Convolvulus quadrivalvis, and Senecio sp. Two species of Capparis abound in the brushes, of the same kind as those seen at Vansittart Bay last year; the arborescent gouty species of this genus, (Capparis gibbosa, A. Cunn.,) which was first observed on the shores of Cambridge Gulf, is frequent here, growing to an enormous size, and laden with large fruit. I measured the stem of one very remarkable tree of this species, and found it nearly twenty-eight feet in circumference, and scarcely twenty-five feet high. Some of the trees were in the earlier stages of vernation, the extremities of the naked branches appearing green, and one that I opened exhibited the character of folia quinata. The usual Proteaceous plants, Hakea arborescens, and Grevillea mimosoides, were remarked on the hills, bearing fruit; where also we notice a species of Cycas, in clumps. 

“In tracing the watergully between the hills, I gathered a few specimens, chiefly in situations extremely rocky and somewhat shaded. Centunculus polygonoides, Pittosporeae, a large round bushy shrub, having the habit of Bursaria, with the fruit of Pittosporum, covered with a close tomentum. On a small grassy patch that had escaped the ravages of the flames, I observed a fine pinnated-leaved Acacia (A. suberosa), found in imperfect state last year at Encounter Cove, Vansittart’s Bay. It bore pods which yielded some good seeds. A tree, of the natural family Urticeae, related to Antidesma, afforded me flowering specimens; Sersalisia obovata of Endeavour River, was remarked among the rocks, bearing neither flowers nor fruit. Acacia stigmataphylla forms brushes, clothing the declivities, having generally the last year’s pods; an Asparagus, [p262] probably A. fasciculatus, rambled over the tops of the small clumps of undershrubs, forming a formidable barrier, with some aculeated species of Capparis and Parsonsia velutina.

“Early this morning (September 25th), I took my departure for the day from our encampment, on an excursion inland, with Mr Hunter our surgeon, striking southerly towards the river-like water (subsequently called Rothsay water), seen from the hills above us by that gentleman yesterday. Upon passing the ridges above the tents, we shaped our course south towards the inland water seen from the hills, whence an extensive view of the country to the southward and eastward presented us with a succession of undulated hummocky land, as far as the eye could reach, till the view was lost in the distance.

“The face of the country assumed an unusually sterile aspect, which was in some measure heightened by its starved vegetation having been recently destroyed by fire, which was still raging on the slopes of some hills in the distance. We passed several ridges and dividing valleys, blackened with fire exceedingly rocky and difficult to the traveller, till we had reached the summit of a flat-topped hill, whose bluff face to the southward overhung the waters of our new river, which has a very flattering appearance, trending away to the S.S.E., bounded by remarkable elevated land, which we suppose to furnish considerable aids to its stream. 

“The starved trees and other plants of these hills, are exactly of the same description as those frequently observed on the coast, Cycas angulata, however, appearing the more general form; large groups bearing young fruit, and the male plants having the last year’s amenta. Grevillia mimosoides had produced its flowers, and would have furnished me with desirable specimens in that state, had I preceded the raging flames, which were so recent as to be still smoking where any dry sapless stump happened to be fully kindled. The stones with which the country is very thickly studded, are chiefly of a hardened sandstone, containing iron; also very fine fragments of quartz, of which [p263] some were remarkably pure. 

“From the eminence on which we stood [possibly Mount Knight named by Cunningham], several important bearings were taken, that would prove useful to the future survey of the water before us; which appeared to have its embouchure on the coast, at a supposed bay to the S.W. of the one in which we are now detained; and we observed a tolerably clear channel trending in that direction, although some ramifications were remarked to terminate in shoally flats, clothed with mangroves; and in one part a low island occupies a portion of its breadth, which is thereby materially contracted. Upon looking to the W.S.W. over the hills bounding the coast, a considerable archipelago (formed of small sand-banks or islets), invests these shores yet to be examined; and very elevated land was distinguished in that direction at a considerable distance, barely perceptible on the horizon. Large columns of black smoke arose from vivid flames upon the distant inland hills; proofs of the continued devastation going on, although perhaps not of the actual presence of natives at the particular parts whence the smoke arose. We saw no quadruped, and only the usual indications of kangaroos; of birds a few were remarked on the wing, chiefly, however of the pigeon family. 

“We were not fortunate enough to discover the least portions of fresh water, either stagnant or running; but several well-worn stony gullies that intersected our course, having their descents to the westward, suggested to us the direction in which the waters, falling on the neighbouring hills during the rainy season, make their exit. About noon, having satisfied ourselves of the existence of a small inland water and its trendings; and finding nothing interesting in a country over whose surface the flames were raging in every direction, we prepared to return to our encampment, distant about six miles N. by W., by a less difficult route, which enabled us to reach our destination in a period of three hours’ hard walking, and without adding a single specimen to my collections, excepting an imperfect one of the family of Caryophyllae. 

“On the 27th, I visited a part of the hills that had not been fired, where I gathered these specimen

  • Chionanthus axillaris of the east coast, a [p264] tree fifteen feet high, bearing the ripe fruit,
  • Caesalpinea sp., 
  • Metrosideros sp.,
  • Hibiscus sp., and 
  • Acacia stigmatophylla.
  • Grevillea mimosoides very generally bore its viscid green fruit; and some specimens that were sixteen feet high, still had old flower-spikes. 

“In returning along the rocky eastern shore of our little bay, I remarked the picturesque Pandanus pedunculatus, heavily laden with ripe fruit, of which I gathered an ample supply. This genus is not confined to intertropical climates. I have heard of its existence a few miles north of the Coal (Hunter’s) River, near Port Stephens, whence some fruit had been brought to Port Jackson, which was shown me, and I have seen the plant at Port Macquarie in lat. 31º, and about 28º to the eastward of this part of the coast. 

“This plant, therefore, has a wide diffusion through all parallels and meridians between these given points; it is most probably, however, confined (as I suspect the locality of Araucaria excelsa is) to the sea coast. Among the brushes, chiefly of Capparis sepiaria? I found a reclining slender shrub without fructification, which I suspect, from its peculiar habit, and apparent axillary umbellate inflorescence, to be another species of Capparis. I saw not traces of natives of recent appearance, either on the hills or on the western shores of the bay. In my return I secured a curious Lizard** [Chlamydosaurus Kingii] of extraordinary appearance, which had perched itself on the stem of a decayed tree. Four kinds of snakes have been observed on the shore of the bay; and although this period (September) may be considered little other than the commencement of spring or close of winter, we are remarking new insects and reptiles, creeping out of their dormitories daily. It may, however, be inferred, that were we to visit this part of the coast during the summer months, (December to May,) a great variety of [p265] subjects in Natural History, particularly of the above families, would show themselves.” 

*Araucaria Cunninghamia. Mr Cunningham at this time was not aware of the specific difference of the Norfolk Island tree, and the one seen on the eastern shores of New Holland.

** Chlamydosaurus Kingii, Gray. – King’s Survey of the Coast of Australia, Vol. ii. App. B. Reptilia, p. 424.

Bat Island and Brunswick Bay 1820

Bat Island, at the entrance of Port Nelson, afforded our botanist another rich harvest, as also did the shore of Brunswick Bay, the general character of its vegetation resembling greatly that of Careening Bay.

Port Nelson to Port Jackson 14th October to 19th December 1820

Notwithstanding the repairs the cutter had undergone, it was discovered that she was unfortunately not in a condition to stand any very rough weather, and from the quantity of water she made, and the near approach of the change of the monsoon, Captain King was reluctantly compelled to give up any further investigation of the north-west coast at this period. In consequence of this determination, they took leave of the coast on the 14th October, and on the 19th of December, they once more dropped anchor in Sydney Cove, having a very narrow escape from shipwreck in a violent gale that compelled them to take shelter in Botany Bay, after an almost miraculous deliverance from being driven on the rocks (which were only discovered by flashes of lightning), at Cape Banks, its northern head.

The lamented demise of Sir Joseph Banks 1820

On Mr Cunningham’s arrival in Sydney, he was made acquainted with the death of his patron, that beneficent promoter of science, the late lamented Sir Joseph Banks. To Mr Cunningham this intelligence proved a severe shock; for he had ever received from Sir Joseph the most flattering commendations for the results of his past labours, accompanied by warm assurance of his future countenance and friendship. 

Of this painful event, Mr Cunningham thus writes – 

“The announcement of the lamented demise of Sir Joseph Banks, after a rapid decline of health, appeared in the Sydney Gazette; and on the confirmation of it by letters from England, I immediately put on that outward garb of sorrow, which at best is but a poor indication of that heartfelt grief I even now feel for the loss we have all sustained in the departure of so firm, so excellent, and invaluable a friend. 

“I could have rejoiced to have again seen the cheering countenance of this great Maecenas; however, viewing the advanced and well-ripened age to which this illustrious person [p266] had arrived, with the infirmities attendant thereon, and the probably distant year of my return to my native country there, to enjoy the afternoon of my life, (a period I occasionally contemplate,) I scarcely could for a moment hope for such a gratification. 

“I duly received his last letter, (of date the 14th April, 1820) it was short and explicit, and to me highly gratifying – fully approving of my conduct in this country, and reporting that the various journeyings of the last six years of an active life have eventually added something to the brilliancy of the garden of our Sovereign. 

“I am particular in preserving all the letters of my superiors; but this I shall guard as I would the essential points of the religion in which I have been educated; it is the word of a dying nobleman, whose liberality had fallen alike on the just and unjust, whose kindnesses none of us can any more experience; and if, from a sight of it, I can from time to time call up the courteous sprit of its illustrious writer, to regulate my own frame of mind in the “jostlings of the world,” literally I shall be a happy man.*

*The following is the letter mentioned with such unmingled praise: –

Soho Square, 14th April, 1820
Mr Cunningham,
Sir, – I have received safe and in good condition the numerous things you have sent me, and the Royal Gardens have materially benefited by what we have had from you. I give you great credit for having the second time volunteered to go with Captain King to the north coast, we could have no account of the plants he meets with from any other quarter. I trust and hope, however, you will not be called away anymore, but will be able to attend to the inland excursions made from Sydney. I write you a short letter, because I am not well. I know of nothing more to say to you, than that I entirely approve of the whole of your conduct, as does also our worthy friend, Aiton at Kew.

Your sure Friend,
(Signed) Jos. Banks
To Mr A Cunningham, Botanical Collector
to His Majesty, George IV.

Sir Joseph Banks 14th april 1820

On a previous occasion Sir Joseph Banks evinced that kindness of heart and friendship for his protegé, in a much [p267] more efficient manner.

Governor Macquarie became possessed of a copy of a letter from Mr Cunningham to Sir Joseph Banks, (presumed to be surreptitiously taken by a convict servant of Mr Cunningham’s, who thought it would facilitate his emancipation by making friends at headquarters,) in which he had complained (and most justifiably,) of the very indifferent cases for packing his collections in that were furnished to him from the lumber yard in Sydney; and also of the very trifling assistance he received from the colonial government officers in the furtherance of his pursuits, together with the consequent entailment of heavy expenses on his various expeditions. Governor Macquarie, in a personal interview with Mr Cunningham, accused him of writing to Sir Joseph Banks, making charges against him (Governor Macquarie,) and behaved in a manner that convinced Mr Cunningham that a communication would be made to Sir Joseph Banks on the subject. Mr Cunningham wrote a plain statement of the facts to Sir Joseph Banks; Governor Macquarie also addressed him, as Mr Cunningham had anticipated, and, in answer to Mr Cunningham’s letter, Sir Joseph Banks writes thus: – 

I have received, as you told me I should, a letter from Governor Macquarie, very improperly finding fault with you for complaining of his treatment. I have answered it by telling him that nothing in your letter to me bore the shape of a complaint; and that it was your duty, agreeably to your instructions, to inform me what proportion of assistance you should receive from the constituted authorities of the colony; that Bowie had done the same thing, and that he had represented the assistance received from Lord Charles Somerset, the governor, as very considerable, he having furnished Bowie with the loan of a wagon and bullocks for his journey, by which at least £200 would be spared from his expenses. I hope and trust that my letter will induce him to give you more encouragement than he has done; if not you will recollect that he is soon to come home, and is likely to be replaced by a more scientific governor. The voyage you are now engaged in, which will have been completed ere you receive [p268] this letter, promises in my judgement the most interesting discoveries to you; it will be particularly interesting, as it is not likely the north-west country should be soon visited again, so the sole credit of all the new plants you obtain, will be entirely your own. May the success that your talents, your industry, and your activity deserve, always attend you, is the sincere wish of

Your assured good friend,
Joseph Banks

August 1818

To Mr Allan Cunningham

Sir Joseph Banks August 1818

The “Mermaid” is condemned and is replaced by the “Bathurst” 1821

The “Mermaid” having been condemned, as not seaworthy, a vessel called the “Haldane”, an India teak-built brig, of 170 tons, was purchased by the colonial government for the fulfilment of the survey. Her name, on entering His Majesty’s service, was changed to the “Bathurst”; and by her larger size, and greater accommodations, she afforded the voyagers much more room and convenience than the cutter had done.

King’s Fourth Australian Coastal Survey
Northward from Port Jackson
aboard HMS “Bathurst”
26 May 1821 to 25 April 1822 

Port Jackson Northward to the Percy Isles 26th May to 13th June 1821

After various delays, the “Bathurst” sailed from Port Jackson on the 26th of May, 1821, in company with the “Dick” merchant-vessel bound to Batavia. The first place touched at on this their fourth voyage, [it was actually the 5th voyage however AC did not count the trip to Tasmania as a voyage] was one of the Percy isles, the summits of which were crowned with stunted Araucaria (A. Cunninghamia); the plants generally were the same as those collected two years previously on one of the other islands of the same group. 

Cape Grafton to Hanover Bay 17th June to 6th August 1821

On the 18th June, they landed at Cape Grafton, the botany of which produced many interesting plants to our collector, who says, – 

“I could not but observe the extreme luxuriance of the plants on the north and north-western sides of the hills immediately connected with the ridge forming Cape Grafton, where the vegetation is affected very slightly by a tropical sun, and where a continued humidity in a mild atmosphere had induced a most exuberant growth in the plants. The larger blocks of granite that were detached from the solid mass of the range, and had found a lodgement in the abrupt declivities, were literally overwhelmed with the richest vegetation.” 

Landings were also [p269] made at Lizard Island, Cape Flinders, Clark’s Island, in which island Mr Cunningham discovered on the sides and roof of some weather-worn caves, several curious drawings by the natives; representing tolerable figures of sharks, porpoises, turtles, lizards, &c., they were executed upon a ground of red ochre (rubbed on the black schistus rock), and were delineated by dots of white argillaceous earth. 

The islands touched at on the north coast, viz., Goulburn Island, Sims’ Island, &c., all appeared to be suffering from extreme drought. 

Their consort, the ship “Dick”, parted with them on the 9th July for Calcutta, and the “Bathurst” continued her course to the westward. 

Careening Bay was revisited on the 23d, in the hopes of obtaining a supply of water; but the drought within the tropics appeared universal; for although there was a luxuriant growth of vegetation which would seem to indicate no lack of rain, still fresh water was not to be found in any of the places where last year it had been abundant; and Captain King removed his vessel to the Prince Regent’s River to take in a supply from thence. Mr Cunningham, at this period was attacked with ulcerated sore throat, which placed him must unwillingly on the sick list. 

During his indisposition, which precluded his leaving the vessel, Captain King and his officers, on all occasions when on shore, made collections of such plants that fell in their way for the benefit of the invalid, who also always despatched his servant with a vasculum to accompany the shore-going boats, whereby the productions of the coast were not entirely lost. The labour of obtaining water at the Price Regent’s River being very great, Captain King left his anchorage there on the 6h of August, and proceeded to Hanover Bay, where he had not much more success. 

Mauritius 6th August to 15th November 1821

They continued on the coast, with but very few opportunities occurring for landing on its shores, till the 26th August, on which day they made sail for the Mauritius to refit, and on the 26th September, they anchored in Port Louis. 

Mr Cunningham, whose health was very indifferent, having at this period symptoms of disordered liver [hepatitis], made the best use of his time, as far as his [p270] debilitated state of health would permit, in visiting such parts of the island as were accessible to him, as well as 

the Botanic Garden at Pamplemouse, of which he speaks in the following terms: –

“It is about seven miles from Port Louis, and is very extensive, occupying a spot of about forty acres. 

I saw there with much pleasure very many rare exotics from India, Africa, Madagascar, &c., among which were

  • Tanaecium pinnatum, Wall., thirty feet high, having racemes two feet long of red flowers, 
  • two species of Myristica, 
  • Agathophyllum aromaticum, Will., 
  • Barringtonia speciosa, 
  • Ficus elastica, 
  • Artocarpus incisa, A. integrifolia, 
  • Garcinia celebica, 
  • Caryophyllus aromaticus, 
  • Eugenia malaccensis. E. Jambos, 
  • Tectona grandis, 
  • Semecarpus anacardium, 
  • Hymenaea verrucosa, 
  • Calophyllum Calaba, 
  • Pandanus four species, 
  • Spondias mangifera, Will., 

and in Palms the garden is very rich. Sagus Ruffii, Areca Catechu, A. alba, A. madagascarensis, Lodoicea maldavica, Lab., with several others not known.”

King George’s Sound 23rd December 1821 to 6 January 1822

Having completed their supplies, the “Bathurst” sailed from Port Louis on the 15th November and anchored in King George’s Sound on the 23d December. Mr Cunningham’s health, during their stay at the Mauritius, had been far from good, and on their departure he was compelled to place himself once more on the doctors list. 

He says , “The general debility of body, deranged liver, and particularly soreness of my throat, under which I had laboured during the whole of our stay at the Isle of France, obliged me upon leaving that colony to submit to a course of mercury. I have therefore been wholly under the care of our surgeon till the evening of the 22d (December), when I was discharged from his list, although somewhat debilitated with the severity of the attack upon my liver, as well from the abstemious strictly low regimen as from the medicines used to bring about my cure. 

“It has therefore afforded me subject-matter of joy to be again restored to health, just at the moment (upon our return to the coast of New Holland,) when opportunities call forth my utmost industry, upon shores abundantly rich in the most valuable and important stores that Flora has to present [p271] me. 

“On the afternoon of the 24th [December 1821] , I landed with Captain King on the beach, where our tents had been pitched four years since, and was much surprised at the change of the vegetable kingdom on that shore: we could discover no trace of the garden which I had formerly with much labour made; the breadth of the beach had considerably diminished, by a great accumulation of decayed seaweed and other vegetable matter; and the stumps of large trees (two feet diameter), cut down in 1818, were wholly concealed from our view by the luxuriant stems that had again grown out of them, exhibiting with every shrub around, the most luxuriant growth of vegetation conceivable. 

“On the side of the wooded hill above the beach, I remarked almost every plant to be in a much more backward state than observed in January, 1818, the season on the whole being more favourable for flowering specimens that for ripened seeds. Banksia grandis and B. coccinea, the pride of the Sound, were extremely fine in flower, as were also several Leptospermae; and among the variety around, 

“I gathered the following as a commencement: –

  • Calytrix truncata, a shrub with white flowers, wanting the setae that terminate the divisions of the calyx in this genus; 
  • Lynsinema ciliatum, 
  • Comesperma, flavescens, allied to C. conferta, Lab., 
  • Hakea ceratophylla, H. florida, 
  • Opercularia vaginata, 
  • Johnsonia lupulina, 
  • a curious plant of Asphodeleae, 
  • Gastrolobium lanceolatum, 
  • Melaleuca thymoides, Lab., 
  • Petrophila rigida, 
  • Conostylis aculeata, 
  • Acacia decipiens, A. nigricans. 

“Nothing could possibly exceed the beauty of Pimelea decussata on rocks nearly washed by the sea, where Scaevola nitida was also frequent. Dasypogon bromeliifolius had perfected its young fruit: its seeds, however, were in no specimens examined ripe; as was the case with Anigozanthus, and those specimens of Patersonia I found on these shores.

“Dec. 25th. Upon the lower slopes I gathered fruit of Banksia attenuata in excellent condition, as also of B. grandis, with Dryandra formosa and D. tenuifolia. 

“In an elevated rushy bog, I detected the following plants in flower: 

“Cosmelia rubra, [p272] a very interesting plant of Epacrideae, Pimelea augustifolia, with Pleurandra purpuracea. 

“Upon the exposed, gravelly ridges, I gathered specimens of 

  • Leptomeria aphylla and L. squamulosa, 
  • Leucopogon gracilis, L. tamariscinus and L. propinquus, 
  • Daviesia physodes, 
  • Tetratheca glandulosa, Lab., 
  • Boronia cuneata, a slender plant allied to B. pilonema, Lab., 
  • Synaphea polymorpha, 
  • “a curious genus of Proteaceae, and an umbelliferous shrubby plant, very frequent beneath the shade of trees, perhaps of the proposed genus Leucolaena of Mr Brown (Xanthosia, Rudge). 
  • “Some delicate Stylideae were discovered among gramineous plants, where also I detected Conostylis setigera in flower. 
  • “Patersonia lanata sparingly bore its flowers; but their fugacity would not allow me the opportunity of conveying expanded flowers on board for examination.
  • “Some species of Haemodorum were shooting forth their lurid brown flowering stems; but none were remarked bearing flowers fully developed. 

“The summit of the ridge was wholly uninteresting, being chiefly stunted Eucalypti, Banksia grandis advancing to flower, and the arborescent Xanthorrhaea of the shores. Agreeing in habit, and producing a stem similar to this last mentioned species, exists a plant* on these hills, whose fructification has never been detected in a perfect condition for examination.

Of the many specimens I passed this morning, all bore the very decayed last year’s scapes, or bracteated spikes, with no appearance of a disposition to flower again; and indeed even in a worse condition than remarked in January, 1818, when it was my opinion that the plant has expanded flowers in April or May, and ripe fruit the following September. Any vessel, therefore touching on these shores in the winter season, might assuredly find this most remarkable and unknown plant in an interesting and very important state of flower or fruit. 

*Kingia australis, R. Br. For description and figure, vide King’s Survey of the Coast of Australia, Vol. II. App. B Botany, p. 534; also Flinders’ Voyage to Terra Australia, Vol. II. App,, p. 576.

“Having traced the narrow ridge of the highest [p273] hill above the anchorage in a northerly direction. I descended upon the eastern shore of Oyster harbour, and in passing through a shaded forest land, I was furnished by reason of the shade, with a pleasing change in the vegetation, viz.,

  • Daviesia cordata, and D. juncea,
  • Chorizema berberifolia, 
  • Bossiaea linophylla, 
  • Logania longifolia, 
  • Gompholobium heterophyllum, G. capitatum, and 
  • two species of Kennedya 
  • “In these shaded situation Anigozanthus flavida and Haemodorum spicatum were of very strong growth, with Viminaria denudata, Lasiopetalum purpureum, which grows in large brushes, afforded me ripe seed; but I was not successful in procuring fruit of Hakea amplexicaulis, frequent in these situations. 

“December 26th. In this day’s walk I gathered the following –

  • Dryandra blechnifolia, with however only decayed fructifications, whilst others of this natural family afforded me perfect specimens,
  • Synaphea dilitata, 
  • Isopogon teretifolius, 
  • Anadenia pulchella, and 
  • Dryandra plumosa, also 
  • Astroloma pallidum,
  • Lysinema conspicuum, 
  • Leucopogon verticillatus, a tall shrub, bearing white fruit, and L. carinatus,
  • Grevillea sp., a weak sub-procumbent shrub allied to but scarcely G. occidentalis, 
  • Anadenia trifida, 
  • Casuarina sp., a shrub of low stature bearing fruit.

“Of the natural family Asphodeleae, Caesia corymbosa afforded me seed and flowering specimens, as did also Tricoryne tenella, with an Arthropodium, apparently in no wise distinct from A. fimbriatum. Seemingly of the related family of Melanthaceae, and allied to Burchardia of Port Jackson, in the capsule and testa of the seed, I detected a plant bearing ripe fruit. 

“A showy Gompholobium, with linear ternate leaves and numerous ascending stems decorates these woods with its unproportionately large flowers, and is frequent with another plant that may probably be Burtonia, R.Br. The large white flowers of Scaevola striata bespangled the arid brushy declivities of the hills, and with a smaller species, S. pedunculata, furnished me with specimens. Thickets of Logania longifolia were in flower and young fruit, under whose shade grew its congener L. serpyllifolia. Passing through matted [p274] brushwood of common plants, bound together with Cassytha pubescens, we at length reached the summit of the ridge, where I detected an undescribed genus of Rutaceae, with a coloured plumose fimbriated calyx, being a second species of genus gathered last year on the north-west coast, (Anthoderris); also Leucopogon alternifolius, and L. cucullatus, Hakea undulata, and H. trifurcata, the latter a large compact shrub, difficult to detect in fruit, owing to the similarity of its capsules to one form of its leave. A. Dodonaea, with remarkably acute alae to the fruit, supplied me with good seeds. 

“With a view of avoiding the natives, whom we perceived strolling between their general encampment and the vessel, we kept [to] the leading ridge of the hills, from which we had a fine view of the distant country west of Oyster harbour. By circuitous route back, we at length arrived at an elevated spongy bog, the drainings of which having collected between the shoulders of the higher land, and formed a purling rill, I was desirous of tracing it to its exit on the beach, with a view of making some discovery likely to be useful to our commander in completing his stock of fresh water. In this bog I found the curious Cephalotus follicularis, a pitcher plant of very weak young growth, and without fructification.”*

*Vide King’s Survey of Australia, v. II. p. 154

During the remainder of their stay at King George’s Sound, Mr Cunningham landed daily, and made great accessions to his collection of specimens and seeds. 

Bathurst Island 13th January 1822

They sailed from King George’s Sound on the 8th January, 1822, and recommenced their survey at Bathurst Island, where they arrived on 13th. Mr Cunningham remarks, that 

“It is surprising that an island at so short a distance from the south-west coast should bear so small a feature of the characteristic vegetation of King George’s Sound, as not to furnish a single plant of several general of Proteaceae or Acaciae, and but a solitary plant of Leguminosae, Templetonia retusa.” 

Dirk Hartog’s Island 20th January to 26 January 1822

On the 21st, they anchored off Dirk Hartog’s island, of whose sterility Mr Cunningham says – 

“Perhaps no part [p275] of the coast we have visited can possibly exceed this island, considering its extent, for its barren parched appearance; for, upon the shores near us downs of sand of very considerable surface appeared rising to a ridge perhaps 200 feet high, in most parts extremely bare of vegetation, and those portions which were covered seemed to be burnt up with the heat of the sun. 

In a walk of two hours I gathered the following plants: –

  • Beaufortia Dampieri, A.Cunn., 
  • Artemisia sp., 
  • Westringia cinerea, 
  • Sida sp., 
  • Euphorbia eremophila, 
  • Sapindaceae, a shrub frequent in low brushwood,
  • Trichinium incanum, (discovered by Dampier,)
  • Gomphrena sp., a diffuse plant, past flowering, but bearing seed, 
  • Hibiscus capraeodorus, 
  • Podolepis tenera, and 
  • a shrub of Rutaceae, seemingly Diplolaena of Mr Brown, originally discovered and figured by Dampier,
  • and a curious procumbent plant of Capparidae.” 

They sailed from Dirk Hartog’s island on the 26th, and continued their survey of this peculiarly arid sandy coast under most unfavourable weather. 

Cygnet Bay 9th February 1822

While in Cygnet Bay, Mr Cunningham had a narrow escape off a point that bears his name: he had gone with an officer [Midshipman John Septimus Roe] in the second cutter, in hopes of landing and adding something to his collections, when a gale sprung up that nearly swamped their small vessel, and they had great difficulty in rejoining the “Bathurst”, whose cable had parted during the gale. 

Port Jackson 25th April 1822

On the 20th February, when there being no appearance of a cessation of bad weather, and their provisions also running low, Captain King was unwillingly compelled to take his departure from the coast, and after a somewhat tedious passage, arrived in Sydney Cove on 25th April. Thus terminated Mr Cunningham’s four years’ voyages with Captain King, in which the botany of a large portion of the coasts of New Holland were investigated, and many remarkable forms detected. Among others may be noticed eight new species of that interesting genus Grevillea, from the north and north-west coasts* – the only genus of Proteaceae that is abundant [p276] in tropical New Holland. 

Thus terminated Mr Cunningham’s four years’ voyages
with Captain King 25th April 1822

Thus terminated Mr Cunningham’s four years’ voyages with Captain King, in which the botany of a large portion of the coasts of New Holland were investigated, and many remarkable forms detected.

For a general detail of the botanical results of these voyages, the reader is referred to Mr Cunningham’s observations in the appendix to Captain King’s survey of the coast of Australia, entitled, A few General Remarks on the Vegetation of certain Coasts of Terra Australis, and more especially of its north-western shores. By Mr Allan Cunningham, Collector to the Royal Gardens at Kew.

Mr Cunningham separated from his commander (who was ordered to England,) with much regret; for Captain King’s kind attentions to the botanical pursuits of his compagnon de voyage, in addition to their four years’ close connexion on shipboard, had cemented a friendship that was only dissolved by the untimely death of the subject of this memoir.

*Supplementum primum Podromi Florae Novae Hollandiae, Robertus Brown, 1830, p. 17.