On reading the three sealers’ statements to the Chief Commissioner of Police in Mauritius, it becomes apparent that they had embarked at King Island, along with five Pallawah women, a child and several dogs, under the agreement with Robinson that they would also work on St. Paul’s. The fate of seamen Proudfoot and Paine are not mentioned in this document. Problems with broken rigging, sails and rapidly dwindling water and food supplies meant that Robinson decided to drop most of the crew at King George Sound to work the seal there and return to Van Diemen’s Land; the nearest port and chandler to replenish their supplies. The Hunter returned to King George Sound in March 1826 and left another whale boat with five men and presumably one or two Aboriginal women. They then sailed to Rodrigues Island near Mauritius. Captain Craig was quoted as stating that if he sailed into Mauritius and met a King’s vessel, “that the captain of the Man of War would not believe these women were free people”. So the three sealers, one child and five women were left on Rodrigues instead. (31)
The Hunter did not return to King George Sound. Because Robinson encountered financial difficulties and needed to sell the Hunter, he did not return for the abandoned men, women and children at the Isle of St. Paul or Rodrigues Island either. (32)
Two Pallawah women, a female child and a woman from the Cape Jervis area stayed in King George Sound with approximately sixteen male sealers. The crews from the Governor Brisbane worked their way from Middle Island to join the crew from the Hunter on Breaksea Island some time before October 1826. They roved the islands in whaleboats, hunting seal between the Recherche Archipelago to the east and the Swan River to the north, using Breaksea Island as their base. It appears from statements made retrospectively by the sealers that for a while they had friendly communications with the Menang people of King George Sound and that the two groups cooperated amicably in order to hunt and fish. Hamilton, one of the sealers who embarked on the Astrolabe, described the Menang to Captain d’Urville as “gentle people, kind and incapable of harm.” (33) However, this apparent mutually beneficial relationship was about to be exploited and then betrayed.
30 The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser, 12/02/1829, p. 3.
31 In this thesis, I do not expand on the extraordinary journey of the five Pallawah women and one child who lived at Rodrigues Island and Mauritius, as I must remain focussed on events at King George Sound. Among others, academics Lynette Russell and Julie Gough have written extensively on this subject. Russell, L., Roving Mariners: Australian Aboriginal Whalers and Sealers in the Southern Oceans, 1790-1870, State University of New York Press, New York, 2012. Also see Appendix 5 for letters between the Port Louis Police Department, Mauritius and the Colonial Secretary of New South Wales. CSO, Port Louis, Mauritius. 1826 – 1827.
32 Details of the Hunter’s itinerary is from a letter of information received by the Chief Commissary of Police and signed by two sealers, December 1826. Archives of Tasmania #91. (CSO 1/121/3067).