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European Discovery of Spectacle Island

Lieutenant William Bradley, first lieutenant in the SIRIUS accompanied Captain Hunter in a boat party to survey the harbour very soon after the arrival of the First Fleet in 1788. Bradley's journal reads:

"Sunday 3 (February 1788) PM ... As we proceeded up the Harbour, the natives all fled in their canoes as fast as they could. About 4 miles higher than where the Ships lay, the country was open & improved the further we went up & in most places not any underwood, Grass very long.

Monday 4th PM Follow'd many openings to the NW & passed a narrow channel into a wide space which could not be in our power to survey before night & there being assembled up here an astonishing number of the Natives all arm'd, Flats on which the Boats might ground in this channel & put us much in their power, not having any people but the Boats Crew with us & being 8 miles from the ship, Captain Hunter thought that taking the necessary precautions would employ too many of our people for us to go on with the plan we were prosecuting; we therefore returned & moored the Boats for the night at Dawes Island.

AM Went into the SW Branch found it terminated in snug coves, surrounded with Mangroves, rather shoal water.

Tuesday 5th PM Returned to the ship..."

Bradley's journal contains another entry referring to Dawes Island:

"Thursday 20th (March 1788) Captain Meredith up the Harbour & met several of the Natives on the land opposite to Dawes Island, they were & had many things from him, but after he left them, (illegible) his boat along the shore, a spear was thrown that passed near him, He levell'd his Musquet which they perceiving got behind the Trees, He fired a Ball among them on which they shouted but did not all run away..."

Bradley also mapped Dawes Island, later to be known as Spectacle Island, in his chart of Port Jackson. The Island is the "spectacle-shaped" island about one-third of the way from the top in the chart extract below.

Captain Hunter recorded that:

"It was a fairly unattractive place … two flat rock platforms, covered with scrub and divided by an isthmus 55 yards. The total area was less than 2 acres." (quoted in M. Keats, A Cautionary Tale: A Study of the Macro Bivalve and Gastropod Molluscan Fauna of Spectacle Island, Sydney Harbour, Wetlands (Australia) 16 (2), 1997.)
Bradley's 1788 Chart of Sydney Harbour

                        (William Bradley A Voyage to New South Wales 1786-1792 Ure Smith 1969)

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Robert Curran
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