THE FIRST TRAVELLER IN QUEENSLAND
 ONE day in February 1846 a ship sailed out
from Sydney on its way to China. It was
a cargo boat, but, as was common in
those days, it carried a few passengers
too, and with the captain went his wife.
A fair wind blew, and all hoped for a
quick and pleasant passage.
But as the ship sailed on its way the
wind became ever stronger and fiercer,
until, when a week from home, a terrible
storm was brewing, and the ship with
bare masts was scudding before the
At last the storm calmed and the danger
seemed over. But the ship had been
driven far out of its course, and a
careful watch was kept lest it should
run upon some unknown rock or reef.
For a few days all went well, then
suddenly one night the watchman saw
something loom ahead of the ship,
whether land or dark cloud he could not
tell. Before anything could be done
there was a fearful shock, the ship
shivered from stem to stem, and then lay
Every one except the watchmen was in
bed. The shock made them spring from
their beds and rush in terror to the
deck. All was black darkness. There was
nothing to be seen around but the night
and the cruel white-crested waves. In
the darkness nothing could be done, and
so in shivering misery, the waves
lashing over the ship, men waited for
 The night seemed long, but at last a
cold, grey light crept into the sky.
Then it was seen that all around the
ship sharp points of rock showed above
the water. Upon one of these the ship
had struck. But nowhere was there the
faintest sign of land.
As soon as it was light enough, the
captain ordered the boats to be lowered.
But almost as soon as they reached the
water, they were dashed to pieces and
swept away by the savage waves.
All hope was gone, and the shipwrecked
people gave themselves up to despair.
But the captain was a man who did not
easily give way. He ordered all hands
into the cabin, and when they were
gathered he bade them pray. And so
there knelt together, three pale-faced
women and their frightened children,
with a handful of brave, rough men who
well knew that they had sailed their
last voyage upon this earth.
But the captain's calm voice and earnest
prayer put new courage into the men.
They rose from their knees and set to
work to make a raft strong enough to
live in that wild sea. Long they toiled,
cutting and sawing, hammering and
lashing spars and planks together. All
the time they worked at the risk of
their lives, for every wave swept the
At last the raft was ready, and with
great difficulty launched. What food
there was, was placed upon it. But,
alas, it was very little, for most of
the provisions had been washed overboard
or spoiled by the salt water. One cask
of water, a little brandy, and nine tins
of preserved meat, these were all that
could be found. And with this little
store the poor wrecked men set sail upon
the cruel waste of waters.
Including women and children, there
were twenty-one people upon the raft.
They knew their food would
 not last
long. They had all heard terrible tales
of shipwrecked people, who, when they
were starving, had become cannibal and
had eaten each other. So now, face to
face with death, they each promised
solemnly to keep from anything so
horrible, whatever tortures they might
At first things were just endurable.
Three tablespoonfuls of meat a day were
served out to each person, and four
little drinks of water carefully
measured. To help to eke out their
stores they caught the sea-birds which
now and again alighted upon the raft.
These they had to eat raw, but they were
looked upon as great dainties.
Three weeks passed. Both food and water
were nearly done, when a sail came in
sight. Eagerly the weak, worn crew waved
and signed. The ship was too far away
and the sailors did not see them. Hour
after hour they watched and beckoned,
but the sail grew smaller and smaller,
and at last it vanished altogether in
the dim distance, and the little raft
was left once more alone on the empty
The portion of meat, the measure of
water, grew less and less day by day,
until at last one morning there was no
more meat, and no more water left. Still
there was no sign of land, still there
was nothing all around but the cruel,
"I shall die now," said one man
wearily. And die he did.
Remembering their promise the others
quickly threw the body overboard. They
feared that the terrible pangs of hunger
which had come upon them might make them
But now, when there seemed nothing but
an awful death before them, the poor
castaways caught a fish for the first
 time. Each day after this they caught
some fish. Then rain came and eased
their terrible, burning thirst. But day
by day, unable to endure longer, some of
the company died. The children, two of
the women, and many of the men each
followed one after another.
At length, after six weeks of fearful
suffering, land came in sight. Although
they did not know it, the castaways had
reached the shores of Queensland. They
only guessed that they were somewhere on
the coast of Australia.
Now when at last the raft reached the
land, there were only seven left of all
who had set out from the ship. These
were the captain, his wife, and five
men. They were little more than
skeletons, and when they were once more
on dry land, they lay down upon the
beach and slept from sheer weakness and
Next morning the captain managed to make
a fire, at which they cooked some shark
which they had caught. It was the first
cooked meat they had eaten for more than
six weeks. Then they crawled about and
found some oysters. But they were all so
sick and faint with hunger and exposure,
that they could with difficulty drag
themselves about even in search of
Now again a sail was seen. With all the
strength they had left, they tried to
signal to it. But their efforts were in
vain. Sitting on the rocks, with despair
in their hearts, they watched the ship
slowly sail out of sight.
Three more of the party died, and
there were only four left when, to add
to the terrors of the fight with death,
a party of black fellows came upon them.
They proved, however, in their own way,
friendly. They took, it is true,
everything the shipwrecked men had left,
even to their clothes, leaving them
almost naked. But they
 brought them
roots to eat, and signed to them to join
in their wild dance called a
This, of course, the white men could not
do, and as the black fellows did not
seem very pleased at their refusal, one
of the sailors offered to sing.
This greatly delighted the savages who
sat round grimacing, while the four
wretched white people stood together and
God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform;
He plants His footsteps in the sea,
And rides upon the storm.
Thus were the white people received into
the tribe. For two years they lived with
the savages in great misery. They had
now enough to eat, it is true, but they
had to live as savages. At the end of
three years all had died except one man
called Murrell. He seemed better able to
bear the hardships, and for seventeen
years he lived among the black fellows,
talking their language and living their
life, until he forgot his own tongue and
even his own name.
But at last, after many weary years,
ships began to come, and white men, it
was told Murrell, had built a hut not
When he heard this news, Murrell decided
to try to escape from his fearful life.
So one day he set off to find the white
man's hut. Having lived so many years
under the burning sun of Queensland,
wearing no clothes, he was very brown
and very dirty too. But now when
thoughts of his old life had awakened in
him, he went to a pool and washed
himself as white as he could.
Round the white man's hut there was a
fence, and when Murrell reached it dogs
ran out barking and
 snapping at him. So,
to keep them from biting him, he climbed
upon the fence and called out as loud as
Three men lived in the hut, and at the
sound of Murrell's call, one of them
came out. He stared at this strange
being in wonder. Then, "Bill," he
cried, "here's a naked, yellow man
standing on the fence. He isn't a black
man. Bring the gun."
"Don't shoot!" cried Murrell, in terror.
"I'm a shipwrecked sailor, a British
He really meant to say "subject," but
it was so long since he had spoken
English, and he was so frightened and
excited, that he hardly knew what he was
When the men heard him speak English
they put down their gun, and brought him
into the hut, listening in astonishment
to his story. They gave him some
breakfast, but Murrell found that he no
longer liked tea; and bread, which he
had not eaten for seventeen years, now
seemed to choke him.
Murrell was, however, very glad to get
back to civilisation once more, but he
returned to his black friends to say
good-bye to them. And when they
understood that he was going to leave
them for always they were filled with
grief and cried bitterly. Murrell, too,
when he thought of all the rough
kindness they had shown to him these
many years, was sorry to say goodbye.
But the sight of white men, and the
sound of his own language, had awakened
all his old longing for home, and he
left his black friends.
He was taken to Brisbane and made much
of. He became a storekeeper, married,
and settled down to a quiet life, but
the terrible hardships he had passed
through had left him weak and feeble,
and he did not live long to enjoy his
new found comforts.
Such were the adventures of the first
 Queensland. But things
have changed. Were a traveller to land
now where Murrell was shipwrecked, he
would find pleasant homes and smiling
pastures. And perhaps on the very spot
where, seventy years ago, only the black
man hunted, where Murrell wandered naked
and miserable, he might find a train
waiting to take him back to Brisbane.