Fear of Crossing
Unknown artist, The Ladies want to cross a stream; In mid-stream, 1883, illustration taken from The Graphic, wood engraving on paper. Purchased with funds from public donation, 2014.Contributors
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Europeans saw canoes as frail craft, low to the water, nothing like the sturdy wooden boats they were used to. It took some convincing to get Europeans into them.
This illustration from the London based magazine The Graphic depicts a scene from station life in New South Wales in 1883. Aboriginal men are ready to guide two European women across the river on a canoe. The associated story acknowledges that the Aboriginal assistance is indispensable:
“the ladies wish to cross the river, but they are a little uneasy at the sight of the boat, and of the ebony-skinned mermen who are acting as attendants. But the truth is these blackfellows are indispensable. The boat is only a frail bark canoe, and to keep this from upsetting the balance must be very exactly maintained. Few Europeans possess the delicacy of touch and sight requisite for this, so the safest way, especially for ladies who cannot swim, is to be piloted by a couple of blackfellows, one swimming on either side of the canoe. The natives are such perfect swimmers that they can swim with both hands and feet tied together, and even if the boat were to upset its fair freight would be quite safe in the hands of these faithful black escorts.”
‘Station Life in New South Wales’, The Graphic, 22 September 1883, p.291.