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4 corrections, most recently by peter-macinnis - Show corrections


[From our own Correspondent.] Perth, February 10.

The schooner Pet has just arrived at Fre- mantle from the North-West, and brings news of a very serious character. Our north-west coast is unfortunately subject to

occasional very severe hurricanes, called   locally willy-willies. Some years ago the buildings at the Government head-quarters,   Roebourne, were completely destroyed by one of these whirlwinds, but for some time past no great damage to property has been done. These willy-willies always give notice of their approach, and the vessels of the pearling fleet hastily seek shelter. It ap- pears that during the first week in January last the Nautilus, Adela, Sarah, Fortescue, Banangara, Alpha, Morning Star, Florence, Ethel, Emma, Kate, and Yule, all pearling vessels, were at work on the "Mary Anne   Patch," a pearling ground about thirty miles west of the Fortescue River. On the 6th of the month the glass began to fall, and the weather, assumed a threatening aspect. The Nautilus and Ethel sought shelter in a mangrove creek, which was considered safe anchorage in all weathers. What subsequently happened I will give in the words of Mr. John Brookman, master of the Nautilus:—" On the morning of the 7th the weather looked very stormy* and the glass began to fall steadily and the wind to increase. By 8 a.m. it was blowing a hard gale, and the atmosphere was thick and heavy. Shortly after 9 as the gale increased a sea began to rise and the Ethel commenced dragging. I was then riding by one anchor with about twenty fathoms of chain, and when the Ethel dragged I let go the clasp anchor and paid out on both chains until I had fifty fathoms on the working and thirty on the clasp chain. Shortly after this the Ethel dragged by us, and disappeared in the gloom. The gale had now increased to a hurricane, and we could only get about by crawling on our hands and knees. The glass was below 27 deg., and still going down, and though it was not yet noon it was so dark that it was difficult to dis- tinguish objects at more than a few   yards distance. We now began to drag, and entered the mangroves about 200 yards up the creek. Here we lost our rudder. The mangroves were now all round us, and waving ten or twelve feet above our heads, and the vessel was grind- ing and crushing them on all sides. All at once I felt the vessel give a great roll, and the water came up along the deck to the combing of the main hatch. She, however, righted again, and I then noticed that the man- groves had entirely disappeared. This was   about 1 p.m., and the glass was down to about 26°50. A. few minutes after this she gave another roll, and capsized. This must have been in the height of the gale.   After clinging to the wreck until about   5 in the afternoon it suddenly fell a     dead calm, and the darkness cleared away enough to enable us to make out the land. After some difficulty we succeeded in righting and parttially bailing out our dingy, which had been fortunately lashed to the mast by a strong new painter, and got those of the hands into it who were unable to swim. We all managed to get ashore, with the exception of one poor fellow, a native, whom we found next day entan- gled in a chain. On the bank we found Mr. Hall and Mr. O'Grady, of the Ethel, and a few natives. O'Grady's son, a lad of six- teen, had not turned up, and thay feared he was drowned. It appears that, the Ethel stove and sank soon after entering the mangroves, and they had been clinging to the mangroves; for hours, and were all together, when the mangroves disappeared, when they all struck out in the direction, as they hoped,   of the shore. But it was so dark that they could not see each other. The gale now recommenced with if possible, greater violence than ever from the westward, and we had to make a rush for the hills, distant nearly half a mile. Here, huddled together, we passed a terrible night. In the morning, which broke fine, we all started for the scene of the disaster. We managed to get a fire and roasted some birds which had perished in the storm. The body of poor young O'Grady was found in the marsh. He was much bruised, and appeared to have had a hard struggle for life. In thinking over the whole mattr, and judging from the appearance of eyery- thing this morning I am quite convinced that we must have had a large tidal wave, which carried us over the mangroves and then overturned us, as it was done sud- denry. One minute they were waving many feet above the deck, and the next had entirely disappeared. From the mast-head of the Ethel to-day I can see large gaps through the range of hills along the coast, and the country appears inundated for miles inland." When Mr. Brookman wrote this account of the disaster he did not know what had beconce of the other vessels of the fleet, but the Pet on her way down ascertained that, with the sole exception of the Yule, which was not very much. damaged, every one of them was a total wreck. Under the circumstances, it is almost incredible that the loss, of life should have been so small as it was—three white men, young O'Grady, Mr. Dow, owner of the Morning Star, and "Dutch Peter," sailor on board the Florence, with some few natives, completing the list of casualties. Coming down the coast the Pet saw in some places several tiers of sandhills com- pletely washed away ; and in the direction of the Ashburton an entire transformation seemed to have taken place in the appear- ance of the country—a large part of which was covered with water. Quantities of turtle, sharks, and shoals of fish were found some distance inland,   and the effects of the storm generally were altogether unprecedented. I have also heard that a Mr. Cusack, who lately took up country north of the Ashburton, has had his stock completely destroyed. This, how- ever, wants confirmation, and I hope may not be true, but great anxiety is felt in re- gard to station property on the Ashburton River, and further news is eagerly looked for.

This terrible storm is another argument in favor of extending telegraphic communi- cation to our north-western settlements. The occupation of the country now almost continuous from the Champion Bay Mines to the Fitzroy, and yet for all news from this vast stretch of occupied

pastoral country we are entirely dependent upon miserable coasters. The develop- ment of Forrest's new Kimberley district, which promises to be a great success, will make the necessity for increased facilities of communication still more urgent If half the people who have applied for land on the Fitzroy flats have any intention of using it, an important pastoral community will very soon spring up in that distant fertile district. When the applications were opened on the first of this month it was found that they embraced altogether twenty-nine millions of acres. A large number, however, were for the same tracts of country, some favorite spots having been applied for more than twenty times over by dif- ferent persons. Rival claims were settled by lot, and the 29,000,000 of acres were reduced to eight actually mapped There is plenty of room still for disappointed applicants. Nearly al tiie fine, well-grassed hilly lands be tween the Fitsroy and Collier Bay ar vacant, and this piece of country lying west of the Leopold range, will, in my opinion, wove healthier as a sheep-walk than the Fitzroy flats. It is also as accessible, if not mere so, than the valley of the Fitzroy, Collier Bay being a better harbor, I believe, than asy to be found in King's Sound. The action of the Intercolonial Confer ence at Sydney in regard to our so called Western Australian immigration policy has occupied public attentiou considerably of late, and since South Australia joined in the representation made to the Imperial Government urging that this policy should be reversed, I think that a few words from your Western Aus tralian correspondent on this subject may aot bo inopportune. Did our neighbors understand the circumstances of the case more clearly, I doubt whether m great a cry would hare been made about so very little wool. Wes tern Australia in natural characteristics is perfectly distinct from any other portion of the continent. The southern settled part of the colony is very poor, and the early colonists had a hard struggle for existence. When matters wen at their want the Imperial Government was petitioned to establish a penal set* tlement in the territory, in order that Imperial expenditure might assist the people in their great poverty, and the result of the importation of convicts was a large increase of general prosperity. For some years the colony did fairly weLL Important and useful public works were undertaken, works which without convict labor could never have been attempted, and the wisdom «f the step which the colonists had taken was made clearly apparent. Just, however, when we were about to reap very substantial benefit from our penal establishment—at a time when the con victs were at work upon our main lines of toad, when much-required harbor im provements were projected, and we had reason to believe that in a few years, notwithstanding her intrinsic poverty, and the small number of her inhabitants, the colony would be in possession of many of tkose necessaries and conveniences which, unaided, she might have longed for in vain, ■—the Eastern colonies interfered, remon strated with the Home Government against the transportation of convicts to any port of Australia, and our supply of what to us was free and moat nrofitapse labor, was suddenly cat off. We oon thu with equanimity. We acknowledged that this remonstrance tram the point of view taken up by our neighbors, was not altogether unreason able. Convicta, when they had obtained their freedom, were certainly apt to change their quarters, and transfer their notalwaya desirable pretence to the eastern provinces. And we did not suffer much at first. The convicts already in the colony were numerous, and the decrease in Imperial expenditure was gradual. But of late yean want of labor has been •evenly felt. The Area of settlement has enormously extended, while the population lias remained almost stationary. The labor market up north is partly supplied by the native population, but in the southern districts good labor has become both scarce and dear. We have done all we could to promote immigration* For yean past we have been granting free passages to immigrants from TftngUnd. but with what result? la a vast majority of cases so soon as these immigrants have bad time to look about them they become discontented with the country, disappointed at finding tkat gold is not to be picked up in the streets without labor, and hearing of higher wages and more attractive prospects elsewhere they ship off for Adelaide and Melbourne. In despair we have abandoned this policy, finding that our money has simply been thrown sway, and have resorted to a system of nomination, by which we obtain a small but steady increase to our per manent population. This system, however, by no means meets the urgent requirements of the labor market, and in 1878 we tried as as experiment the introduction of a few Chinese coolies from Singapore. This trial was eminently successful though the number introduced was only fifty. The eoolui were found first-class, sober, Steady servants, far better than the average whites, and last year the Legislature de- Cided to import: a few more. It was consi dered that by this means our pressing need Might be temporarily met in a" very satisfactory manner, and you may imagine {hat it was with no great feeling of gratitude that we found our neighbors again taking up arms against us, mda Mcosd time endeavoring to cut us off from the only labor supply we found available. The reason given for this action is simply absurd. The form of tfiussntsfiuii to the Imperial Oovern ■nt says:—"lt cannot be expected that the people who object to receiving Chinese isungrants direct from China will submit to their arrival by way of Western Aus taa?a/ r Were there the slightest chance cf their having to wifr""* to anything of the kind this colony would be as ready to Mquiesce b the reasonableneas of the re monstrance as it was when by a similar re aumatranee our supply of convicts was cut off. But Chinese are not arriving here in large numbers—there is nothing to attract them in large numbers. Every Chinaman who comes has to be specially sent for, and returned after the period for which he en gaged has elapsed. There are probably aot more than a hundred in the colony altogether at the present time, and there is not the slightest intention of introducing pore than are required to meet the immediate demands of the local labor market Why, therefore, the Eastern colonies should think it necessary to interfere with action which we have taken under very special circum stances—action by which they cannot in the remotest degree be affected—l certainly fail to see. And so great was the annoyance here when Sir Henry Parkes's motion was made known that much indig nation was expressed at our Government not having at once withdrawn the Western Australian representative.

* I would rather vote for a long-eared donkey tinnier you/ said an independent voter to a Galraton candidate. «O, come, now! yon ought not to allow yourself to be so uflnenoed by family ties," responded the candidate. The voter has been pawling his head ever since to 2nd oat why the crowd laughed. Jurtas a traveller was writting his name on the register of a tVea««nworth Hotel a bed-bug appeared and took its way across the page. The msa paused and remarked, "I'vebeen bled by BWo* fleas, bitten by Kansas City spiders, and mterriewed by Fort Bcott greybacks, bat Til be dsned if ever I was in a place before where the bed-bog* looked over the hotel register to fnd oat wLere your room we*."