Chapter 3 - Fair Wind, Not So Fair
Many times people make mistakes and they regret them, yet they learn from their misfortunes. Australia was a British colony and was in a transformation stage. This beautiful land was a colony for Great Britain’s convicts. In the winter of 1851 something changed the colony forever. Gold was discovered and the rush was on. The 1850’s brought all kinds of people to Australia from all over the world like many of the other gold rushes.
The veteran prospectors came from California after the gold rushes of 1849. Jan Kociumbas, Australian historian, noted, “With emigrant arrivals in the new colony leaping from around 11,000 in 1851 to over 90,000 per year in 1852 and 1853, it was Victoria which bore the brunt of this new experiment in using gold as the catalyst for colonization.” In December 1857 Kirkman’s ship, the Fair Wind, arrived in the port of Victoria.
There was only one polite comment that Kirkman wrote home to his family in March of 1858 and it was that he had a very pleasant trip to Melbourne that took 63 days. After his arrival to Australia, he wanted to return directly back to America. A dissatisfied Kirkman wrote, “I have spent considerable money to come here and think I shall spend a little more to get back.” He tried his hardest to accept this new land, but it was not meant for him. Kirkman explained,
“I think I shall go to California in a couple of months. In fact I am sure I shall unless something good turns would say once for all that the Americas are the countries for me. I don’t like the laws of this country nor the people. As to this colony I assure you there is a great deal of poverty at the same I had much rather be here than in the great land monopoly.”
Kirkman only had enough time to engage in two occupations. He most likely wanted to try his luck in mining for gold, but once he arrived to Australia he regarded it as a very precarious undertaking not like California.“I made up my mind the first week not to dig at all events. I had then bought a pick and shovel, but I sold them for half of what I paid for them,” Kirkman admitted.
After his first six weeks in the colony, he decided to get a job driving a spring cart and sell cider. He operated the cart for most of March 1858. He produced the cider and sold it himself to people within the communities. He confessed that he could have done better, but the weather was getting very cool since Australia’s winter was coming fast. People would only drink the beverage in warm weather so Kirkman would soon be looking for another job. He indicated, “My present business is getting very dull and I have just engaged to work in a store. Wages are to be about two pounds per week and of course I am not going to work for that long and I assure you.” Kirkman had made up his mind that it was about time to leave.
In April or May of 1858 Kirkman journeyed back toward San Francisco, but he had one more adventure to complete before he would arrive in America. It was a blessing in disguise that his ship would port in the Sandwich Islands for nine days that would deeply impress Kirkman. He wrote home with all of the exciting details about the island’s tropical environment and people. He observed everything from the orange trees to the pomegranates to the banana trees. He devoured numerous other tropical fruits and wished he could take his family a cart load-it would only have cost six dollars.
Kirkman marveled at the native peoples of the Sandwich Islands also. This may have been the first and only time in his life that he had been on an island with another race of people. A curious Kirkman noted, “The inhabitants are a healthy race, dark complexion, a little prone to indolence as the inhabitants of these tropical regions generally are.” He studied their everyday lifestyles too. “They know no winter. It is common for them to go in the water everyday as it is to go to bed. I frequently saw the mother with an infant in the water,” examined Kirkman.
On the way back to America Kirkman passed by the Society Islands and he remarked that they were equally as pretty as the Sandwich Islands. Once he arrived back in California, he became aware of the news of the gold strikes in the Fraser River area of British Columbia. Miners were bustling about packing for their trip to Canada and Kirkman was left with another important decision. Should he venture to another gold rush and take his chances on finding a fortune? He definitely was a risk taker and no one could deny that, but after his experiences in Australia, anything could be better.