The Governor Brisbane, owned by Kemp and Co. had brought approximately sixteen sealers to western New Holland in February 1826 as part of a sealing operation.(26) According to the sealers’ testimony to Captain d’Urville, Captain Davidson dropped six crew at Coffin Bay and another eight at Middle Island adjacent to what is now called Esperance. Davidson then sailed the schooner to Timor. By June 1826, the Hobart Town Gazette reported that the schooner was seen off the North West coast “with only two men and the master on board.”(27) By January authorities at Batavia had seized the ship and put the men under guard, suspecting them of piracy.(28) The Governor Brisbane did not return to King George Sound to pick up the sealers.
At this point I must mention a discrepancy with recorded dates. Because sealing operations were often covert, especially as seal resources were scarce in the east, their destinations were not always recorded. Some of the Breaksea Islanders told both d’Urville and Lockyer that they had been abandoned in the west for eighteen months, which would mean they arrived in the west in 1825. Others said they had been in the west for seven months. It is likely that the Governor Brisbane ventured west the previous sealing season of 1825. Advertisements placed by the owner of the Governor Brisbane in Hobart in August and September 1825, requiring an expedition fit-out and warning creditors of the crew members’ imminent departure, indicates that Kemp and Co. were planning a journey to New Holland that year.(29)
Another sealing operator deposited small groups of sealers on islands along the south coast in 1826 and, like the Governor Brisbane’s captain, the owner of the Hunter George Robinson also failed to return for his crew. However tracing the movements of the Hunter’s sealing expedition west is easier than tracing that of the Governor Brisbane. A paper trail of increasingly irate letters between authorities in Mauritius, New South Wales and Van Diemen’s Land – regarding the return of five Pallawah women, one child and several dogs from Mauritius to Van Diemen’s Land – includes a signed contract between three sealers and the owner of the Hunter, and statements regarding the Hunter’s entire western sojourn before the sealing gangs were abandoned.
After taking several crew on at King Island in Bass Strait, the Hunter sailed to King George Sound where the ship’s owner George Robinson deposited crew and a boat to ‘procure seal’. According to newspapers of the time, in September 1826, the Hunter then sailed south to the Isle of St Paul and Amsterdam Island: isolated and barren Southern Ocean islands. There, Robinson and Captain Craig left the two sealers, Proudfoot and Paine, with limited supplies and later attempted to land four more men and provisions. Due to dangerous winds and the ship being sent to leeward of the island, Craig decided to leave the Isle of St. Paul. Proudfoot and Paine were rescued from the subantarctic island nearly two years later. They had been landed without even a knife and survived by eating muttonbirds, eggs and wild celery. (30)
25 Rosenman, H., Trans. Ed. 1987, p. 31.
26 Colonial Times and Tasmanian Advertiser, 26/08/1825, p.1.
http://trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/article/2445859 (Accessed 10/06/2014)
27 Hobart Town Gazette, 10/06/1826, p.2.
http://newspapers.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/article/8791207/68002 (accessed 09/11/09).
28 The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser, 26/01/1827, p.3.
http://newspapers.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/article/2448901/679182 (Accessed 11/08/09)
“Our Readers will not confound Mr. Baxter's schooner Brisbane of Sydney. Thomas Smith master, with Messrs. Kemp and Company's, the Brisbane of this Colony, which was piratically carried off by the master Davidson (formerly mate of the ship Phoenix) from Bass's Strait to Batavia, where it was seized by the Dutch Government, and Davidson and his guilty crew placed in confinement.” Hobart Town Gazette (Tas. : 1825 - 1827) 07/10/1826 p. 2. http://trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/article/8790797 (accessed 10/06/14).
29 Colonial Times and Tasmanian Advertiser 26/08/1825, p.1 (Accessed 22 Jun 2015) http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-page678911. Colonial Times and Tasmanian Advertiser, 23/09/1825, p.1. (Accessed 22 Jun 2015) http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-page678931.
Many thanks here to Ciaran Lynch who has helped resolve the discrepancy in the dates that the Governor Brisbane sailed from VDL.