# 39722

HORSBURGH, James

India Directory, or Directions for sailing to and from the East Indies, China, New Holland, Cape of Good Hope, Brazil, and the interjacent ports:

$5,000.00 AUD

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Compiled chiefly from original journals at the East India House, and from observations and remarks, made during twenty-one years experience navigating in those seas … … Volume First [and Volume Second]. London : printed for the author, and sold by Kingsbury, Parbury, and Allen, booksellers to the Honorable East India Company, no. 7, Leadenhall Street, 1826-1827. Third edition. Two volumes bound in one, quarto (270 x 220 mm), contemporary half black calf over sea-green cloth ruled in gilt (boards lightly marked, corners a little worn), spine in compartments decorated and lettered in gilt (expertly restored); original marbled pastedowns and endpapers; verso of front endpaper with the ownership inscription of ‘W. J. Boyce, Marine Surveyor, Newcastle, N. S. Wales, 1850, Agent for Smyth’s Marine Assurance of Sydney, 1850, Agent for Lloyd’s Association of Underwriters, Melbourne, 1850, Marine Surveyor for Dutch Underwriters, 1850‘; verso of second preliminary blank with Boyce’s presentation inscription, dated at Newcastle, 31 December 1869, recording his presentation of this book to Captain Charles Hook, Ship Dunkeld, honouring his ‘success in making a series of quick voyages, almost unprecedented during the last twelve months in the Inter-colonial Trade. This work is an ancient friend of mine and could not be better dedicated by your Sincere Friend, W. J. Boyce‘; below this Boyce has written ‘Australia folio 566‘, referring Hook to the first page of the Australian section, which has sailing directions for the coastal waters of New South Wales; the recto of the same leaf is inscribed in a later 19th-century hand ‘Charles Hook who died in the year of 1872 [in error, for 1870] / John McCaffery who died January 13 1883 / Kate Hook who died in year of 1870′; at the head of the Preface leaf is inscribed the full name of the original owner, William Thomas Boyce; Volume 1. pp. [4 blanks], [8], i-xxvi, 1-503, [1 blank], 1-16 (Appendix); Volume 2. pp. [8], 1-642, [4 blanks]; each volume has a separate title page; leaves with browning, scattered foxing, and occasional ink stains (no loss of text), small pressed seaweed specimen loosely enclosed.

This copy of the third edition of hydrographer James Horsburgh’s India Directory has a fascinating association with the port of Newcastle, New South Wales, and with a maritime disaster that occurred in the waters off the southeastern coast of Victoria, whose story ends with a desperate message in a bottle….

During the 1850s and 1860s, marine surveyor William James Boyce, in addition to acting as agent at the port of Newcastle for a number of different marine insurance entities, was also master of the local steam dredge Hunter (see, for example, The Maitland Mercury and Hunter River General Advertiser, 5 March 1859).

The person to whom Boyce presented his treasured copy of Horsburgh’s India Directory – his ‘ancient friend’, as he refers to it – was Charles Hook, master of the Dunkeld, a wooden barque of 390 tons built in Nova Scotia in 1863. In the latter part of the 1860s, the Dunkeld – with the (to us) somewhat amusingly named Captain Hook in command – was in constant work as a cargo vessel on the southeastern Australian seaboard, plying between Port Phillip and Newcastle, where Hook also resided with his family. Hook, however, was only the new custodian of Boyce’s copy of India Directory for a brief few months after Boyce had gifted it to him in Newcastle in January 1870. He evidently did not take the book on board the Dunkeld when she departed Newcastle for Melbourne, carrying a cargo of coal, on 6 June that year, for what would prove to be her fateful last voyage: the Dunkeld disappeared without trace after a possible last sighting by the crew of the Ceres about 40 miles east of Wilson’s Promontory on 27 June 1870 (Australasian Underwater Cultural Heritage Database).

How ironic then, that the pages in this book to which Boyce directs Hook’s attention (in his annotation beneath the presentation inscription) are those which contain the instructions for navigating in those very same coastal waters where the Dunkeld was lost – indeed, the first paragraph of this section concerns the waters between Wilson’s Promontory and Cape Howe!

In the aftermath of the tragedy, members of the public in both Newcastle and Melbourne made financial contributions to a fund established in aid of the widows and orphans of the Dunkeld‘s small crew. The following notice appeared in The Newcastle Chronicle, 25 February 1871:

BARQUE Dunkeld. –The following has been handed to us for publication :— ‘We the undersigned propose to divide the monies collected for the widows and orphans of the crew of the late barque Dunkeld, amounting to £32 0s. 6d., as follows :— ‘ Say one half £16 to be divided between three widows, the other £16 to be divided amongst the children (six). Collected in Melbourne, £27 3s. 6d.; Collected in Newcastle, £4 17s., total, £32 0s. 6d. Mrs. Hook’s share £5 6s. 8d., one child, £2 13s. 5d. ; Mrs Morgan’s share £5 6s. 8d., five children, £13 .7s Id. ; Mrs Johnson’s share £5 6s. 8d. Signed, W. F. Weatherill, J. D. Langley, D. T. Allen.

Just a few days earlier, on 20 February 1871, a sensational piece of news relating to the possible fate of the Dunkeld was reported in The Geelong Advertiser:

A New Zealand paper, the Otago Daily Times, reports that a vinegar bottle was lately picked up in Addis Bay, among a lot of similar waifs. This particular bottle, however, attracted attention, and it was found to contain a scrap of paper, on which was written: – “Aug 13, 7-. Ship ‘Dunkeld’. We are foundering. The ship is sinking fast. There is no chance of saving her. Captain Hook.”

That these were genuinely the desperate last words written by the captain of the doomed vessel, or whether the message in a bottle was a cruel hoax, must remain a matter of conjecture. What is certain, though, is that this unexpected coda in the Dunkeld narrative transforms Charles Hook’s copy of Horsburgh’s India Directory into the tangible relic of an unsolved Australian maritime mystery.