National Library of Australia

Log of HMS Alligator

Francis Meynell Log of HMS Alligator 1838–1840manuscript; 33.0 x 21.5cmNorthern Territory Library
Log of HMS Alligator 1838–1840

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The log of HMS Alligator records the story of Port Essington, Britain’s third attempt at establishing a foothold in northern Australia, following unsuccessful attempts at Melville Island and Raffles Bay.

The purpose was threefold: to provide security for British possessions and trade; to replenish supplies of ships sailing from England and India to New South Wales and New Zealand; and to trump the French who, it was feared, were planning their own north coast settlement.

Ultimately a failure, Port Essington was the longest-lived of the three settlements: surviving from 1838 until 1849. The site had been ill chosen—too far away from prized shipping routes. The malaria, suffocating humidity, interminable wet season and termites made living conditions intolerable. After a devastating hurricane, things rapidly worsened. Finally abandoned, its population had never exceeded 78. About 20 years later, Palmerston (modern-day Darwin), was established.

The 190-page log, kept by Midshipman Francis Meynell, covers the period from 22 May 1838 to 9 September 1840. It describes the voyage from Rio de Janeiro to Port Essington and the first six months of the settlement.

The Log of HMS Alligator has been digitised by The Northern Territory Library.