Australia, its history and present condition
by William Pridden
1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8     Next Part
Home - Random Browse

Transcriber's Notes: 1) Morrumbidgee/Murrumbidgee each used on several occasions and left as in the original. 'Morrumbidgee' is the aboriginal name for the Murrumbidgee. 2) Used on numerous occasions, civilisation/civilization; civilised/civilized; civilising/civilizing; uncivilised/uncivilized: left as in the original. 3) Same with variations of colonisation/colonization, and a few other "z" words that should be "s" words in their English form.

* * * * *

The Englishman's Library. XXVI.





"Truth, in her native calmness and becoming moderation, shall be the object of our homage and pursuit; and we will aim at the attainment of knowledge for the improvement of our reason, and not for the gratification of a passion for disputing."—Address of the Bp of Australia in 1841 to the Church of England Book Society.



* * * * *


A few words by way of Preface are requisite, in order that the objects of the present Work may be stated to the reader, and that he may also be made acquainted with the sources whence the information here communicated is derived, and from consulting which he may still further inform himself concerning Australia. The aim of the writer of the following pages has been,—while furnishing a description of some of the most flourishing and interesting settlements belonging to the British Crown, which, at the same time, exhibit in contrast to each other the two extremes of savage and civilised life;—to call the attention of his countrymen, both at home and in the colonies, to the evils which have arisen from the absence of moral restraint and religious instruction in colonies of civilised and (nominally) christian men. And although it must in many ways be a disadvantage that the person professing to describe a particular country should have gained all his knowledge of it from the report of others, without ever having himself set foot upon its shores; yet, in one respect at least, this may operate advantageously. He is less likely to have party prejudices or private interests to serve in his account of the land to which he is a total stranger. In consequence, probably, of his being an indifferent and impartial observer, not one of our Australian colonies wears in his eye the appearance of a perfect paradise; but then, on the other hand, there is not one of those fine settlements which prejudice urges him to condemn, as though it were barren and dreary as the Great Sahara itself. And the same circumstance—his never having breathed the close unwholesome air of colonial party-politics—will render it less likely that his judgment respecting persons and disputed opinions should be unduly biassed. There will be more probability of his judging upon right principles, and although his facts may (in some instances, unavoidably) be less minutely accurate than an inhabitant of the country would have given, yet they may be less coloured and less partially stated. Instead of giving his own observations as an eye-witness, fraught with his own particular views, he can calmly weigh the opposite statements of men of different opinions, and between the two he is more likely to arrive at the truth. With regard to the present Work, however impartial the author has endeavoured to be, however free he may be from colonial passions and interests, he does not wish to deceive the reader by professing a total freedom from all prejudice. If this were desirable, it is impossible; it is a qualification which no writer, or reader either, possesses. But thus much may be stated, that all his prejudices are in favour of those institutions with which it has pleased God to bless his native land. In a volume that is intended to form part of a series called "The Englishman's Library," it may be permitted, surely, to acknowledge a strong and influencing attachment to the Sovereign, the Church, and the Constitution of England.

The object and principles of the present volume being thus plainly set forth, it remains only to mention some of the sources whence the information contained in it is derived. To the Travels of Captain Grey on the western coast of New Holland, and to those of Major Mitchell in the interior, the first portion of this Work is deeply indebted, and every person interested in the state of the natives, or fond of perusing travels in a wild and unknown region, may be referred to these four volumes,[1] where they will find that the extracts here given are but a specimen of the stores of amusement and information which they contain. Captain Sturt's "Expeditions" and Mr. Oxley's "Journal" are both interesting works, but they point rather to the progress of discovery in New Holland than to the actual state of our local knowledge of it. Dr. Lang's two volumes upon New South Wales are full of information from one who has lived there many years, and his faults are sufficiently obvious for any intelligent reader to guard against. Mr. Montgomery Martin's little book is a very useful compendium, and those that desire to know more particulars concerning the origin of the first English colony in New Holland may be referred to Collins's account of it. Various interesting particulars respecting the religious state of the colonies in Australia have been derived from the correspondence in the possession of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts, free access to which was allowed through the kind introduction of the Rev. C. B. Dalton. Many other sources of information have been consulted, among which the Reports of the Parliamentary Committee upon Transportation, in 1837 and 1838; and that of the Committee upon South Australia, in 1841, must not be left unnoticed. Neither may the work of Judge Burton upon Religion and Education in New South Wales be passed over in silence; for, whatever imperfections may be found in his book,[2] the facts there set forth are valuable, and, for the most part, incontrovertible, and the principles it exhibits are excellent. From the works just mentioned the reader may, should he feel inclined, verify for himself the facts stated in the ensuing pages, or pursue his inquiries further. In the meantime, he cannot do better than join the author of the little book which he holds in his hand, in an humble and earnest prayer to Almighty God, that, in this and in every other instance, whatever may be the feebleness and imperfection of human efforts, all things may be made to work together for good towards promoting the glory of God, the extension of Christ's kingdom, and the salvation of mankind.

[1] Published, all of them, by T. and W. Boone, London, to whom it is only just to acknowledge their kindness in permitting the use that has been made of these two publications in the first portion of the present Work.

[2] See Dr. Ullathorne's Reply to Burton, especially at p. 5, where it appears that the judge was not quite impartial in one of his statements. Dr. Ullathorne himself has, in his 98 pages, contrived to crowd in at least twice as many misrepresentations as Burton's 321 pages contain. But that is no excuse. The Romish Church may need, or seem to need, such support. The cause defended by Judge Burton needs it not.



[Page 1.]

Subject of the Work—Discovery and Situation of New Holland—Its Interior little known—Blue Mountains—Conjectures respecting the Interior—Van Diemen's Land, or Tasmania.


[Page 8.]

The Bush described—Remains of it near Sydney—North-western Coast of New Holland—Sandy Columns and Fragments—Recollections of Home—Gouty Stem Tree—Green Ants—Fine Volcanic District—Cure for Cold—Travelling in the Rainy Season—Rich sequestered Valleys— Plains near the Lachlan—Falls of the Apsley—Beauties of Nature enjoyed by Explorers—Aid afforded by Religion—Trials of Travellers in the Bush—Thirst—A Christian's Consolations—Plains of Kolaina, or Deceit—Bernier Island—Frederic Smith—A Commander's Cares—Dried Streams—Return from a Journey in the Bush—Outsettlers—Islands on the Australian Coast—Kangaroo Island—Coral Reefs and Islets.


[Page 42.]

Forbidding aspect of coast no argument against inland beauty and fertility—River Darling—The Murray—Other Rivers of New Holland— Contrasts in Australia—The Lachlan, Regent's Lake, &c.—Sturt's Descent down the Murray—His Return—Woods—Difficulties and Dangers of Bush travelling—Wellington Valley—Australia Felix—Conclusion.


[Page 72.]

Comparative advantages of Europeans over Savages—Degraded condition of Natives of New Holland—Total absence of Clothing—Love of Ornaments—Peculiar Rites—Ceremony of knocking out a Tooth—Hardships of Savage Life—Revengeful Spirit—Effect of Native Songs in exciting Anger—Cruelty—Courage—Indifference to accounts of Civilized Life— Contempt of its ways—Treatment of Women—Family Names, and Crests— Language—Music.


[Page 97.]

Means of Subsistence—A Whale Feast—Hunting the Kangaroo—Australian Cookery—Fish—Seal Catching—Turtles—Finding Opossums—Birds— Pursuit of the Emu or Cassowary—Disgusting Food of the Natives— Vegetables—By-yu Nuts—Evils of European Settlements in cutting off the native supply of Food—Native Property in Land—Inhabitants of Van Diemen's Land—A word of Advice to Christian Colonists.


[Page 120.]

First Shyness of Natives natural—Their perplexity between European Customs and their own—Health and Longevity—Old Age—Funereal Rites—Belief in Sorcery—The Boyl-yas—Various modes of Interment—Tombs—Riches of a Native—Bodily Excellences—Secrecy— Quickness of Sight, &c.—Kaiber and the Watch—The Warran Ground— Various Superstitions—Mischief of bad Example, for which the British nation is responsible—The Church, the right Instrument, and the only one that will be found successful, for civilising the Australian Tribes, if they are ever to be civilised.


[Page 149.]

Bennillong—Barangaroo's Funeral—The Spitting Tribe—Mulligo's Death— The Corrobory—Peerat and his Wives—Woga's Captivity—Ballooderry and the Convicts—Native Hospitality and Philosophy—The Widow and her Child—Miago.


[Page 186.]

Infancy of New South Wales an interesting subject to Englishmen—Arrival, in 1788, of the Sirius, and the Supply at Botany Bay—Settlement commenced in the Harbour of Port Jackson—Character of the Convicts—Influence of Religion—Particulars respecting the Chaplain— His peculiar situation and efforts—A Gold Mine pretended to be found— Supply of Food precarious—Farming—Failure of Provisions—Erection of a Flag-staff at the entrance of Port Jackson—Activity of Governor Phillip—Emigration to Norfolk Island—Loss of the Sirius— Departure of the Supply for Batavia—Arrivals from England—Cruel treatment of Convicts on board—Paramatta founded—Arrival of the Second Fleet—State of Agriculture—The Chaplain's bounty abused— Attendance at Divine Service—A Church built—Its subsequent fate— Scarcity of Provisions, and great Mortality—Profligacy of Convicts— Harvest of 1792—Departure of Governor Phillip—Major Grose's government—Captain Paterson's—Various occurrences—Drunkenness—Love of Money—Spirit of Gambling.


[Page 216.]

Arrival of Governor Hunter—His efforts for reformation—Advancement of the Colony towards supplying its own wants—Wild Cattle found—Coal discovered—Governor's regulations—Incendiarism—Natives troublesome—Difficulties in governing New South Wales—Crimes common—Laxity of public opinion—The gaols at Sydney and Paramatta purposely set on fire—Departure of Governor Hunter—Captain King succeeds him—Norfolk Island abandoned—Sketch of Norfolk Island—Settlement of Van Diemen's Land—Free Settlers—Philip Schoeffer—The Presbyterian Settlers at Portland Head—Resignation of Governor King—Captain Bligh his successor—Great Flood of the Hawkesbury—Unpopularity of the Governor—Seizure of his person—Rebellion—Usurpation—Arrival of a new Governor, Colonel Macquarie—Improvements in his time—Road-making—Passage across the Blue Mountains—Public Buildings—Patronage of Emancipists—Discoveries in the Interior, and Extension of the Colony—Continued neglect of the spiritual need of the Colonists—Governor Macquarie's Departure—His own statement of the progress of the Settlement under his administration.


[Page 243.]

Subject stated—Day-dreams of Colonization—Local divisions of New South Wales—Its Counties—Cumberland—Camden—Illawarra and the Cow Pastures—Argyle—Bathurst—Northumberland—Coal Pits—Hunter's River—Remaining Counties—Sydney—Port Jackson—Buildings, &c. of Sydney—Commerce—Public Press—Paramatta—Windsor—Liverpool— Conclusion.


[Page 266.]

Description of Van Diemen's Land—Its local Divisions—Its general Character and Aspect—Hobart Town—Launceston—Other Australian Colonies—Port Phillip—South Australia—Adelaide—Western Australia— Its Towns—North Australia.


[Page 286.]

Climate of Australia—Drought—Agriculture—Flocks and Herds—Government of the Colonies—Discontent—Means of National Improvement—Bishopric of Australia—Tribute of Thanks justly due to the Whig Government— Effects of a Bishop being resident in New South Wales—Educational provision made by George the Fourth—Dr. Lang's Account of it—Judge Burton's—Church and School Corporation, established in 1826; suspended in 1829; dissolved in 1833—Causes of this change of Policy— Conclusion.


[Page 307.]

Inhabitants of Australian Colonies—What seed has been there sown— Elements of Society in the Penal Colonies—Convicts—System of Assignment—Public Gangs—Mr. Potter Macqueen's Establishment—Norfolk Island and its horrors—These have been mitigated of late years—Means of reforming Convicts—Prevalence of Vice among them—The class of Convicts called specials described.


[Page 325.]

Emancipists—Their general Character—Their conduct in the Jurors' Box no argument in favour of bestowing upon them a Representative Government—Free Population—Ancient Nobility of Botany Bay—Prevailing taste in New South Wales and Van Diemen's Land—Love of Gain—Land Sharks—Squatters—Overlanders.


[Page 338.]

Importance of Religion—The Lord's Day—Habits of duly observing it nearly lost among many of the inhabitants of our Australian Colonies—Opposition to Improvement—Religious strife prevails where religious union is needed—Sir R. Bourke's novel system of religious Establishments—Its practical working—Efforts of the Church coldly seconded or else opposed, by Government—Petty Persecutions—Similar opposition to National Religious Education as to National Church— Blunders respecting the Irish System of Education in 1836—Attempt in 1840 to banish the Creed and Catechism from Protestant Schools having Government support—Schools of a higher rank in New South Wales—King's School, Paramatta—Sydney College—The Australian College—The Normal Institution—Proposed College at Liverpool—Other Schools—Population of New South Wales in 1841—Emigration—Conclusion.


PAGE Map of Australia Frontispiece Reduced Map of Van Diemen's Land 1 Travellers in the Bush 8 Explorers finding the Bed of a dried-up River 42 Opossum Hunting 97 Natives of the Murray Islands in Boats 120 Sydney in its Infancy—View from the South 186 North View of Sydney 243 Hobart Town 266 Cape Pillar, near the Entrance of the Derwent, Van Diemen's Land 286 Conveying Cattle over the Murray, near Lake Alexandria 325

* * * * *


The vast tract of country which it is the object of the present volume to describe in its leading features, both moral and natural, may be said to consist of two islands, besides many small islets and coral reefs, which lie scattered around the coasts of these principal divisions. The larger island of the two, which from its size may well deserve the appellation of a continent, is called New Holland, or Australia; and is supposed to be not less than three-fourths of the extent of the whole of Europe. The smaller island, so well known by the names of Van Diemen's Land, or Tasmania, (from those of the discoverer, Tasman, and the Dutch governor of Batavia, Van Diemen) is not to be compared in size to the other, being about equal in magnitude to Ireland, and, like that island, abounding in fine and excellent harbours. Although, strictly speaking, the name of Australia is confined to the former of these two islands, yet it may be understood to include the smaller island also; and under this name it is proposed to make the reader familiar with the chief objects of curiosity in the natural world, and likewise with the state of human society, whether savage or civilised, in the two islands of New Holland and Van Diemen's Land, so far as both of these have been hitherto known and explored.

It is by no means certain what nation may justly lay claim to the honour of the discovery of New Holland, the coasts of which were probably seen by the Spaniards, Quiros or Torres, in 1606, and are by some supposed to have been known to the Spanish and Portuguese yet earlier than this date, but were not regularly discovered until the Dutch, between the years 1616 and 1627, explored a considerable portion of the northern and western shores of that vast island, to which they gave the name of their own country, Holland. To the Spaniards this land was known by the names of Terra Australis Incognita, (The Unknown Southern Land,) or Australia del Espiritu Santo, (The Southern Land of the Holy Spirit,) the meaning of which last name does not exactly appear, unless it arose from the discovery of Quiros having been made a little before Whitsuntide. Since that time the coasts of this immense island, extending, it is said, to no less than 8000 miles, have been gradually explored, although they still remain in some parts very imperfectly known. Indeed, it was only in the year 1798 that Van Diemen's Land was discovered to be an island separated from New Holland, of which before that time it had been thought to form a large projection or promontory.

New Holland is situated in the vast ocean extending to the south and east of the Spice Islands, and it lies about even with the lower part of the continent of Africa, only at an immense distance due east of it. Its extreme points of latitude are 39 degrees and 10 1/2 degrees S., and of longitude 112 degrees and 153 degrees 40 minutes E. from Greenwich, so that it includes in its huge extent climates both tropical and temperate, but none that are decidedly cold. It must be remembered, indeed, that the countries south of the equator become colder at the same latitude than those that extend towards the north; but, nevertheless, the nearest point towards the South Pole, 39 degrees, nearly answering to the situation of Naples in the northern hemisphere, cannot be otherwise than a mild and warm climate. The shape of New Holland is very irregular, its coast being much broken and indented by various great bays and smaller inlets; but it has been estimated to have a width from E. to W. of 3000 miles, and a breadth from N. to S. of 2000, containing altogether not less than three millions of square miles. Of course, it is impossible, in so large an extent of country, that the interior parts of it should have been explored during the few years in which any portion of it has been occupied by Europeans. Accordingly, almost all the inland tracts are still a vast blank, respecting which very little is known, and that little is far from inviting. Indeed many hindrances oppose themselves to the perfect discovery of these inland regions, besides those common obstacles, to encounter and overcome which every traveller who desires to explore new, wild, and savage countries, must have fully made up his mind.

First among the peculiar difficulties which have opposed the Australian explorer is the height and ruggedness of that chain of mountains, called, in the colony of New South Wales, the Blue Mountains, which form a mighty barrier of more or less elevation along most parts of the eastern coast of New Holland, sometimes approaching as nearly as 30 miles to the sea, and at other places falling back to a distance of 60 or nearly 100 miles. These mountains are not so very high, the loftiest points appearing to exceed but little the height of Snowdon in Wales, or Ben Nevis in Scotland; but their rugged and barren nature, and the great width to which they frequently extend, render it no very easy matter to cross them at all. Indeed, although the settlement of New South Wales was founded in 1788, it was not before 1813 that a route was discovered across those vast ranges which shut in the colony to the west. Frequently had the passage over the Blue Mountains been attempted before, but never with any success; and the farthest point which had been reached, called Caley's Repulse, was a spot that almost seemed to forbid man's footsteps to advance beyond it. Nothing was to be seen there in every direction but immense masses of weather-beaten sandstone-rock, towering over each other in all the sublimity of desolation; while a deep chasm, intersecting a lofty ridge covered with blasted trees, seemed to cut off every hope of farther progress. But all these difficulties have now long since been got over, and stage-coaches are able to run across what were a few years ago deemed impassable hills. Yet, when this dreary barrier of barren mountains has been crossed, another peculiar hindrance presents itself to the exploring traveller. In many parts of the interior of New Holland, which have been visited, the scarcity of water is such that the most distressing privations have been endured, and the most disagreeable substitutes employed. And yet, strange to say, the very same country, which sometimes affords so few springs, and of which the streams become dried up into chains of dirty pools, and at last into dry ravines and valleys, is, occasionally, subject to extreme floods from the overflowing of its rivers, and then offers a new obstacle to the traveller's progress in the shape of extensive and impassable marshes! To these difficulties must be added the usual trials of adventurous explorers, the dangers and perplexities of a journey through pathless forests, the want of game of any kind in the barren sandstone districts, the perils sometimes threatened by a visit from the native inhabitants, and, altogether, we shall have reason rather to feel surprise at what has been done in the way of inland discovery in New Holland, than to wonder that so much remains yet undone.

In consequence of the interior portions of the country remaining still unknown, fancy has been busy in forming notions respecting them, and one favourite supposition has been that there exists somewhere in the central part of New Holland an immense lake or inland sea; but of this no proof whatever can be produced, so that it can only be said that it may be so. Certainly, unless some such means of communication by water, or some very large navigable river, should exist, it is hardly possible to imagine how the extensive tracts of inland country can ever become civilized or inhabited by Europeans. And of that portion which has been visited a considerable extent of country appears to be shut out by the natural barrenness of its soil and sandstone-rocks from any prospect of ever supplying food to the colonies of civilized man. So that, while the whole of New Holland is an interesting country from its natural peculiarities, and even the desolate portion of it adds, by its very desolation, a deep interest to the adventures of those persons who have had the courage to attempt to explore it; yet the chief prospects of Australia's future importance seem to be confined to its line of coast,—no narrow limits in an island so extensive. Hence the colonies now flourishing on the eastern, southern, and western shores of New Holland, especially on the first, will form a chief object of attention in the present work; although, as will be seen by its contents, the "bush," or wild country, and its savage inhabitants, will be by no means overlooked.

Respecting Van Diemen's Land much need not be here said, although, however small in comparative extent, its population was in 1836 above half of that of the whole colony of New South Wales. It is, therefore, and always will be, an important island, though, from its mountainous character and confined limits, it cannot, of course, be expected to keep pace with the increasing population of the sister colony. Van Diemen's Land was discovered in 1642, by the Dutchman, Tasman, who first sailed round its southern point, and ascertained that the great Southern Land, or Australia, did not extend, as it had been supposed, to the South Pole. The island was apparently overlooked, until, in 1804, a colony was founded there by the English, and it was taken possession of in the name of his Britannic majesty. Since that time, with the exception of those early hardships to which all colonies seem liable, it has been flourishing and increasing. To many Englishmen its colder climate, (which is yet sufficiently mild,) and its supposed resemblance in appearance and productions to their native land, have appeared preferable to all the advantages which the larger island possesses. Van Diemen's Land is divided from New Holland on the north by Bass's Straits, its extreme points of latitude are 41 deg. 20', and 43 deg. 40' S., and of longitude 144 deg. 40', and 148 deg. 20' E. Its shape is irregular, being much broken by various inlets, but its greatest extent from N. to S. is reckoned to be about 210 miles, and from E. to W. 150 miles, containing a surface of about 24,000 square miles. The native inhabitants of this smaller island have entirely disappeared before the superior weapons and powers of civilised man.



All that country, which remains in a state of nature uncultivated and uninclosed, is known among the inhabitants of the Australian colonies by the expressive name of the Bush.[3] It includes land and scenery of every description, and, likewise, no small variety of climate, as may be supposed from the great extent of the island of New Holland. Accordingly, without indulging in surmises concerning the yet unknown parts, it may be safely said, respecting those which have been more or less frequently visited and accurately explored, that the extremes of rural beauty and savage wildness of scenery,—smiling plains and barren deserts, snowy mountains and marshy fens, crowded forests and bare rocks, green pastures and sandy flats,—every possible variety, in short, of country and of aspect may be found in that boundless region which is all included under the general appellation of the Bush. To enter into a particular or regular description of this is clearly no less impossible than it would be tedious and unprofitable. And yet there are many descriptions of different portions of it given by eye-witnesses, many circumstances and natural curiosities belonging to it, and related to us upon the best authority, which are likely to please and interest the reader, who can see and adore God everywhere, and is capable of taking delight in tracing out and following the footsteps of Almighty Wisdom and Power, even in the wilderness and among the mountain-tops. It is proposed, therefore, to select a few of the pictures which have been drawn by the bold explorers of the Bush, so as to give a general idea of the character, the scenery, the dangers, and the privations of that portion of the Australian islands. And, having first become familiar and acquainted with these, we shall be better able to set a just value, when we turn to the state of the colonies and their inhabitants, upon that moral courage, that British perseverance and daring, which have, within the memory of man, changed so many square miles of bush into fertile and enclosed farms; which have raised a regular supply of food for many thousands of human beings out of what, sixty years ago, was, comparatively speaking, a silent and uninhabited waste. When the troops and convicts, who formed the first colony in New South Wales, landed at Port Jackson, the inlet on which the town of Sydney is now situated, "Every man stepped from the boat literally into a wood. Parties of people were everywhere heard and seen variously employed; some in clearing ground for the different encampments; others in pitching tents, or bringing up such stores as were more immediately wanted; and the spot, which had so lately been the abode of silence and tranquillity, was now changed to that of noise, clamour, and confusion."[4]

[3] It is supposed that the word "Sin," applied to the wilderness mentioned in Exodus xvi. 1, and also to the mountain of "Sinai," has the same meaning, so that the appellation of "Bush" is no new term.

[4] Collins' "Account of the Colony of New South Wales," p. 11.

And still, even near to the capital town of the colony, there are portions of wild country left pretty much in their natural and original state. Of one of these spots, in the direction of Petersham, the following lively description from the pen of a gentleman only recently arrived in the colony, may be acceptable. "To the right lies a large and open glen, covered with cattle and enclosed with bush, (so we call the forest,) consisting of brushwood and gigantic trees; and, above the trees, the broad sea of Botany Bay, and the two headlands, Solander and Banks, with a white stone church and steeple, St. Peter's New Town, conveying an assurance that there are Englishmen of the right sort not far from us. And now we plunge into the thicket, with scarcely a track to guide our steps. I have by this time made acquaintance with the principal giants of the grove. Some are standing, some are felled; the unmolested monarchs stand full 200 feet high, and heave their white and spectral limbs in all directions; the fallen monsters, crushed with their overthrow, startle you with their strange appearances; whilst underfoot a wild variety of new plants arrest your attention. The bush-shrubs are exquisitely beautiful. Anon a charred and blackened trunk stops your path: if you are in spirits, you jump over all; if you are coming home serious, weary, and warm, you plod your way round. Well,—in twenty minutes' time you reach a solitary hut,—the first stage of the walk: you pass the fence, the path becomes narrow,—the bush thickens round you,—it winds, it rises, it descends: all on a sudden it opens with a bit of cleared ground full twenty yards in extent, and a felled tree in the midst. Here let us pause, and, kneeling on the turf, uncovered, pour forth the voice of health, of cheerfulness, and gratitude to Him who guides and guards us on our way. And now, onward again. The land falls suddenly, and we cross a brook, which a child may stride, but whose waters are a blessing both to man and beast. And now we rise again; the country is cleared; there is a flock of sheep, and a man looking after them; to the left, a farmhouse, offices, &c.; before us the spire of St. James's, Sydney, perhaps three miles distant, the metropolitan church of the new empire, and, a little to the right, the rival building of the Roman church. Beneath us lies Sydney, the base-born mother of this New World, covering a large extent of ground, and, at the extreme point of land, the signal station, with the flags displayed, betokening the arrival of a ship from England. Till now we have met with no living creature, but here, perhaps, the chaise with Sydney tradesman and his wife, the single horseman, and a straggler or two on foot, begin to appear."

The general appearance of the coast of New Holland is said to be very barren and forbidding, much more so than the shores of Van Diemen's Land are; and it thus often happens that strangers are agreeably disappointed by finding extreme richness and fertility in many parts of a country, which at their first landing afforded no such promises of excellence. One of the most dreary and most curious descriptions of country is to be met with on the north-western shores of New Holland, quite on the opposite coast to that where the principal English colony is situated. The daring explorer of this north-western coast, Captain Grey, has given a fearful account of his dangers and adventures among the barren sandstone hills of this district. Its appearance, upon his landing at Hanover Bay, was that of a line of lofty cliffs, occasionally broken by sandy beaches; on the summits of these cliffs, and behind the beaches, rose rocky sandstone hills, very thinly wooded. Upon landing, the shore was found to be exceedingly steep and broken; indeed the hills are stated to have looked like the ruins of hills, being composed of huge blocks of red sandstone, confusedly piled together in loose disorder, and so overgrown with various creeping plants, that the holes between them were completely hidden, and into these one or other of the party was continually slipping and falling. The trees were so small and so scantily covered with leaves that they gave no shelter from the heat of the sun, which was reflected by the soil with intense force, so that it was really painful to touch, or even to stand upon, the bare sandstone. Excessive thirst soon began to be felt, and the party, unprepared for this, had only two pints of water with them, a portion of which they were forced to give to their dogs; all three of these, however, died of exhaustion. After a vain search of some hours, at length the welcome cry of "Water!" was heard from one of the party; but, alas! upon scrambling down the deep and difficult ravine where the water ran, it was found to be quite salty, and they were compelled to get up again as well as they could, unrefreshed and disheartened. After following the course of the deep valley upwards about half a mile, they looked down and saw some birds ascending from the thick woods growing below, and, knowing these white cockatoos to be a sure sign of water very near, the weary party again descended, and found a pool of brackish water, which, in their situation, appeared to afford the most delicious draughts, although they shortly afterwards paid the penalty of yet more intolerable thirst, arising from making too free with a beverage of such quality.

The nature of the country near Hanover Bay, where the party belonging to Captain Grey was exploring, is most remarkable. The summits of the ranges of sandstone hills were generally a level sort of table-land, but this level was frequently broken and sometimes nearly covered with lofty detached pillars of rock, forming the most curious shapes in their various grouping. In one place they looked like the aisle of a church unroofed, in another there stood, upon a huge base, what appeared to be the legs of an ancient statue, from which the body had been knocked away; and fancy might make out many more such resemblances. Some of these time-worn sandy columns were covered with sweet-smelling creepers, and their bases were hidden by various plants growing thickly around them. The tops of all were nearly on a level, and the height of those that were measured was upwards of forty feet. The cause of this singular appearance of the country was at length discovered by the noise of water running under the present surface, in the hollows of the sandstone, and gradually carrying away the soil upon which the top surface rests. Formerly, no doubt, the level of the whole country was even with the tops of the broken pillars, and much higher; and hereafter what is now at the surface will give way beneath the wasting of the streams that flow below, and no traces of its present height will be left, except in those places where the power of the water is less felt, which will rear up their lofty heads, and bear witness by their presence of the ruin that will have taken place.

In wandering through a country of this description, how natural does the following little remark of Captain Grey appear! A plant was observed here, which, in appearance and smell, exactly resembled the jasmine of England; and it would be difficult to give an idea of the feeling of pleasure derived from the sight of this simple emblem of home. But, while the least plant or tree that could remind them of home was gladly welcomed, there were many new and remarkable objects to engage the attention of the travellers. Among these the large green ants, and the gouty stem tree may be particularly noticed. The ants are, it would seem, confined to the sandstone country, and are very troublesome. The gouty stem tree is so named from the resemblance borne by its immense trunk to the limb of a gouty person. It is an unsightly but very useful tree, producing an agreeable and nourishing fruit, as well as a gum and bark that may be prepared for food. Upon some of these trees were found the first rude efforts of savages to gain the art of writing, being a number of marks, supposed to denote the quantity of fruit gathered from the tree each year, all but the last row being constantly scratched out, thus:

But, miserable as the general appearance of that part of the north-western coast of New Holland undoubtedly is, yet are there many rich and lovely spots to be found in its neighbourhood; and, further inland, vast tracts of fertile country appear to want only civilised and Christian men for their inhabitants. What is wanting in the ensuing picture but civilisation and religion, in order to make it as perfect as any earthly abode can be? "From the summit of the hills on which we stood," (says Captain Grey) "an almost precipitous descent led into a fertile plain below; and, from this part, away to the southward, for thirty to forty miles, stretched a low, luxuriant country, broken by conical peaks and rounded hills, which were richly clothed with grass to their very summits. The plains and hills were both thinly wooded, and curving lines of shady trees marked out the courses of numerous streams." This beautiful prospect was over a volcanic district, and with the sandstone which they were just leaving, they were bidding farewell to barrenness and desolation. It was near this beautiful spot, and in a country no less rich and delightful, that the party of adventurers was overtaken by the violent rains, which occur in those hot climates, and which struck the men with so great chill, that they were driven to make trial of an odd way of getting warm. Some of them got into a stream, the waters of which were comparatively warm, and thus saved themselves from the painful feeling arising from the very cold rain falling on the pores of the skin, which had previously been opened by continued perspiration.

The rains appear during the wet season to fall very heavily and constantly in North-Western Australia, and though a good supply of these is an advantage to an occupied country, well provided with roads, it is a great cause of trouble to first explorers who have to find a ford over every stream, and a passage across every swamp, and who often run the risk of getting into a perfectly impassable region. Of this sort, alike differing from the barren sandstone and the volcanic fertile country, was a third track through which Captain Grey endeavoured to pass. A vast extent of land lying low and level near the banks of the river Glenelg,[5] and well fitted, if properly drained, for the abundant growth of useful and valuable produce, was found, during the rainy season, to be in the state of a foul marsh, overgrown with vegetation, choking up the fresh water so as to cause a flood ankle-deep; and this marshy ground, being divided by deep muddy ditches, and occasionally overflown by the river, offered, as may be supposed, no small hindrances to the progress of the travellers. In some places it was quite impossible, from the thickly-timbered character of its banks, to approach the main stream; in others they appeared to be almost entirely surrounded by sluggish waters, of which they knew neither the depth nor the nature of their banks. Elsewhere, unable to cross some deep stream, the explorers were driven miles out of their way, and sometimes even in their tents, the water stood to the depth of two or three inches. On one occasion, when the party was almost surrounded by swamps, their loaded ponies sank nearly up to the shoulders in a bog, whichever way they attempted to move, and from this spot they had two miles to travel before they could reach the nearest rising ground. The river Glenelg was at this time overflowing its banks, and, to the natural alarm of men wandering in its rich valley, drift-wood, reeds, grass, &c. were seen lodged in the trees above their heads, fifteen feet beyond the present level of the water, affording a proof of what floods in that country had been, and, of course, might be again. However, this very soil in so warm a climate, only about sixteen degrees south of the equator, would be admirably fitted for the cultivation of rice, which needs abundance of moisture. But little do the peaceful inhabitants of a cultivated country, well drained, and provided with bridges and good roads, think of the risk and hardships undergone by the first explorers of a new land, however great its capabilities, and whatever may be its natural advantages.

[5] This river must not be confounded with another of the same name in South Australia.

But it was not in the plain country alone, that Captain Grey found spots of great richness and fertility, as the following description of the happy vallies frequently found among the mountain-ranges may testify: One may be chosen as a specimen of many. At its northern end it was about four miles wide, being bounded on all sides by rocky, wooded ranges, with dark gullies from which numerous petty streams run down into the main one in the centre. The valley gradually grows narrow towards the south, and is bounded by steep cliffs betwixt which the waters find an outlet. Sometimes a valley of this kind, most beautiful, most productive, will contain from four to five thousand acres of nearly level land, shut out from the rest of the world by the boundary of hills that enclose it. How great a contrast to these lovely vallies does the description, given by another traveller in a different district, present! Nothing, according to Mr. Oxley's account, can be more monotonous and wearying, than the dull, unvarying aspect of the level and desolate region through which the Lachlan winds its sluggish course. One tree, one soil, one water, and one description of bird, fish, or animal, prevails alike for ten miles, and for a hundred. And, if we turn from this to a third picture of desolation mingled with sublimity, the contrast appears yet more heightened. Among the hills behind Port Macquarrie on the eastern coast, Mr. Oxley came suddenly upon the spot where a river, (the Apsley,) leaves the gently-rising and fine country through which it had been passing, and falls into a deep glen. At this spot the country seems cleft in twain, and divided to its very foundation, a ledge of rocks separates the waters, which, falling over a perpendicular rock, 235 feet in height, form a grand cascade. At a distance of 300 yards, and an elevation of as many feet, the travellers were wetted with the spray. After winding through the cleft rocks about 400 yards, the river again falls, in one single sheet, upwards of 100 feet, and continues, in a succession of smaller falls, about a quarter of a mile lower, where the cliffs are of a perpendicular height, on each side exceeding 1,200 feet; the width of the edges being about 200 yards. From thence it descends, as before described, until all sight of it is lost from the vast elevation of the rocky hills, which it divides and runs through. The different points of this deep glen, seem as if they would fit into the opposite openings forming the smaller glens on either side.[6]

[6] See Oxley's Journal, p. 299.

Amid scenery like that which has now been described, varying from grandeur to tameness, from fertility to barrenness, from extreme beauty to extreme ugliness, but always possessing, at least, the recommendation of being new, the wanderers in the Bush are delighted to range. There is a charm to enterprising spirits in the freedom, the stillness, and even in the dangers and privations, of these vast wilds, which, to such spirits, scenes of a more civilised character can never possess. If it be true,—and who has never felt it to be so?—that

"God made the country and man made the town,"

much more distinctly is God's power visible in the lonely wastes of Australia, much more deeply do men feel, while passing through those regions, that it is His hand that has planted the wilderness with trees, and peopled the desert with living things. Under these impressions men learn to delight in exploring the bush, and when they meet, as they often do, with sweet spots, on which Nature has secretly lavished her choicest gifts, most thoroughly do they enjoy, most devotedly do they admire, their beauty. In travelling some miles to the northward of Perth, a town on the Swan River, Captain Grey fell in with a charming scene, which he thus describes: "Our" station, "this night, had a beauty about it, which would have made any one, possessed with the least enthusiasm, fall in love with a bush life. We were sitting on a gently-rising ground, which sloped away gradually to a picturesque lake, surrounded by wooded hills,—while the moon shone so brightly on the lake, that the distance was perfectly clear, and we could distinctly see the large flocks of wild fowl, as they passed over our heads, and then splashed into the water, darkening and agitating its silvery surface; in front of us blazed a cheerful fire, round which were the dark forms of the natives, busily engaged in roasting ducks for us; the foreground was covered with graceful grass-trees, and, at the moment we commenced supper, I made the natives set fire to the dried tops of two of these, and by the light of these splendid chandeliers, which threw a red glare over the whole forest in our vicinity, we ate our evening meal; then, closing round the fire, rolled ourselves up in our blankets, and laid down to sleep."

The very same feeling of religion, which heightens the pleasures and gives a keener relish to the enjoyments of life in these lonely places, can also afford comfort, and hope, and encouragement under those perils and privations which first explorers must undergo. Religion is the sun that brightens our summer hours, and gives us, even through the darkest and most stormy day, light, and confidence, and certainty. And when a small body of men are left alone, as it were, in the wilderness with their God, whatever occurs to them, whether of a pleasing or of a trying character, is likely to lift up their souls to their Maker, in whom "they live and move, and have their being." When the patient traveller, of whose adventures in Western Australia so much mention has been made, had waited weather-bound on a lonely coast, never before trodden by the foot of civilised man, until eight days had been consumed in watching to no purpose the winds and the waves,—when, at a distance of thousands of miles from their native country, and many hundreds of miles from the nearest English colony, he and his little party were wasting strength and provisions in a desert spot; from which their only means of escaping was in one frail boat, which the fury of the sea forbade them to think of launching upon the deep,—when the men, under these circumstances, were becoming more and more gloomy and petulant, where was it that the commander sought and found consolation? It was in religion. And the witness of one who has successfully gone through trials of this kind, is well deserving of the utmost attention. "I feel assured," says Captain Grey, in his account of this trial of patience, "that, but for the support I derived from prayer, and frequent perusal and meditation of the Scriptures, I should never have been able to have borne myself in such a manner as to have maintained discipline and confidence amongst the rest of the party; nor in all my sufferings did I ever lose the consolation derived from a firm reliance upon the goodness of Providence. It is only those who go forth into perils and dangers, amidst which human foresight and strength can but little avail, and who find themselves, day after day, protected by an unseen influence, and ever and again snatched from the very jaws of destruction, by a power which is not of this world, who can at all estimate the knowledge of one's own weakness and littleness, and the firm reliance and trust upon the goodness of the Creator, which the human breast is capable of feeling. Like all other lessons which are of great and lasting benefit to man, this one must be learned amid much sorrowing and woe; but, having learned it, it is but the sweeter from the pain and toil which are undergone in the acquisition."

The mention of these trials to which travellers in the bush are peculiarly liable, brings naturally to mind that worst of all privations, a want of water, to which they are so frequently exposed. The effects of extreme thirst are stated to have been shown, not merely in weakness and want, in a parched and burning mouth, but likewise in a partial loss of the senses of seeing and hearing. Indeed, the powers of the whole frame are affected, and, upon moving, after a short interval of rest, the blood rushes up into the head with a fearful and painful violence. A party of men reduced to this condition have very little strength, either of mind or body, left them, and it is stated, that, in cases of extreme privation, the worst characters have always least control over their appetites.[7] Imagine men marching through a barren and sandy country, a thirsty land where no water is, at the rate of about two miles in an hour and a quarter, when, suddenly, they come upon the edge of a dried-up swamp, and behold the footmark of a native, imprinted on the sand,—the first beginning of hope, a sign of animal life, which of course implies the means of supporting it. Many more footsteps are soon seen, and some wells of the natives are next discovered, but alas! all appear dry. Kaiber, a native companion of the party, suddenly starts up from a bed of reeds, where he has been burying his head in a hole of soft mud, with which he had completely swelled himself out, and of which he had helped himself to pretty well half the supply. It is so thick that it needs straining through a handkerchief, yet so welcome, after three days and two nights of burning thirst, under a fierce sun, that each man throws himself down beside the hole, exclaiming "Thank God!" and then greedily swallows a few mouthfulls of the liquid mud, declaring it to be the most delicious water, with a peculiar flavour, better than any that had ever before been tasted by him. Upon scraping the mud quite out of the hole, water begins slowly to trickle in again.[8] As might be expected, game abounds here, driven by the general dryness of the country to these springs. But the trembling hand of a man worn down by fatigue and thirst is not equal to wield a gun, or direct its fire to any purpose; so it seems as if thirst were escaped for a time, in order that hunger might occupy its place. At length, however, the native kills a cockatoo, which had been wounded by a shot; and this bird, with a spoonful of flour to each man, and a tolerable abundance of liquid mud, becomes the means of saving the lives of the party.

[7] See Mitchell's Three Expeditions in Australia, vol. i. p. 38.

[8] An expedient used by the natives in Torres Strait, on the northern coast of Australia, for getting water, may here be noticed, both for its simplicity and cleverness. "Long slips of bark are tied round the smooth stems of a tree called the pandanus, and the loose ends are led into the shells of a huge sort of cockle, which are placed beneath. By these slips the rain which runs down the branches and stem of the tree is conducted into the shells, each of which will contain two or three pints; thus, forty or fifty placed under different trees will supply a good number of men."—FLINDERS' Voyage to Terra Australis, vol. ii. p. 114.

A different plan for improving the water that is hot and muddy, is thus detailed by Major Mitchell. To obtain a cool and clean draught the blacks scratched a hole in the soft sand beside the pool, thus making a filter, in which the water rose cooled, but muddy. Some tufts of long grass were then thrown in, through which they sucked the cooler water, purified from the sand or gravel. I was glad to follow their example, and found the sweet fragrance of the grass an agreeable addition to the luxury of drinking.

Such is the picture, taken from life, of some of the privations undergone, during dry seasons, in certain portions of the bush, and we must, at the risk of being tedious, repeat again the witness of a military man, of one who has seen much of the world, respecting the best source of comfort and support under these distressing trials. At such times, upon halting, when the others of the party would lie wearily down, and brood over their melancholy state, Captain Grey would keep his journal, (a most useful repository of facts,) and this duty being done, he would open a small New Testament, his companion through all his wanderings, from which book he drank in such deep draughts of comfort, that his spirits were always good. And on another occasion, he shared the last remaining portion of provision with his native servant; after which he actually felt glad that it was gone, and that he no longer had to struggle with the pangs of hunger, and put off eating it to a future hour. Having completed this last morsel, he occupied himself a little with his journal, then read a few chapters in the New Testament, and, after fulfilling these duties, he felt himself as contented and cheerful as ever he had been in the most fortunate moments of his life.

As in life, those objects which we have not, but of which we think we stand in need, are ever present to our fancy, so in these thirsty soils the mere appearance of that water, of which the reality would be so grateful, is frequently known to mock the sight of man. A remarkable specimen of this was seen at the plains of Kolaina (Deceit), in North-Western Australia. From a sand hill, not very far from the coast, was seen a splendid view of a noble lake, dotted about with many beautiful islands. The water had a glassy and fairy-like appearance, and it was an imposing feeling to sit down alone on the lofty eminence, and survey the great lake on which no European eye had ever before rested, and which was cut off from the sea by a narrow and lofty ridge of sandy hills. It was proposed at once to launch the boats upon this water, but a little closer survey was thought prudent, and then it proved that the lake was not so near as it had seemed to be, and that there were extensive plains of mud and sand lying between it and the rising ground. It appeared to be about a mile distant, and all were still certain that it was water they saw, for the shadows of the low hills near it, as well as those of the trees upon them, could be distinctly traced on the unruffled surface.[9] As they advanced, the water retreated, and at last surrounded them. The party now saw that they were deceived by mirage,[10] or vapour, which changed the sandy mud of the plains they were crossing into the resemblance, at a distance, of a noble piece of water. In reading the history of mankind, how often may we apply this disappointment to moral objects! how very frequently do the mistaken eyes of mortals eagerly gaze upon the mirage raised by falsehood, as though they were beholding the living waters of truth itself! What appearance, indeed, does the whole world present to one who rests upon the everlasting hill of the gospel,—the rock upon which Christ's church has been built,—except it be that of one vast plain of Kolaina, or deceit? It was no long time after the explorers of the north-western coast of New Holland had been mocked by the mirage or vapour which has just been spoken of, that they had a fearful lesson of the vain and shadowy nature of human hopes and expectations. When they had first arrived off the coast, on that expedition, they had chosen an island, named Bernier Island, upon which to bury, for the sake of safety, their stores and provisions, so that they might return to them whenever it should be necessary. Bernier Island is a barren spot, formed of limestone, shells, and sand, and without a single tree or blade of grass upon it, but only wretched, scrubby bushes, amidst which the light sand and shells are drifted by the winds. Such was the remote spot, surrounded by the ocean's waves, yet not very far from the main shore, upon which it was resolved to conceal their store of necessaries, secure, as it was supposed, from every enemy. In little more than three weeks, during which the adventurers had gone through many perils, and much stormy weather, they returned again, not without some difficulty, to their stores. But on approaching Bernier Island with their boat they scarcely knew it again, so vast a difference had the recent storms made in its outward appearance, so fearful were the pranks which the hurricane had played upon a land which was, in fact, nothing but loose sand, heaped upon a bed of limestone. The place where their stores had been securely left was gone, the remains of the flour-casks, salt provisions, &c. were scattered about in various directions; and the whole spot so entirely altered that it could hardly be ascertained, except by the fragments that were seen near it. How to get back again to Swan River, the nearest British settlement, without provisions, without water, without strength, was indeed a perplexing inquiry, and to answer this the leader of the party, having left his companions for a while, set himself seriously to work. Sitting down upon a rock on the shore, he felt the gale blowing fiercely in his face, and the spray of the breakers dashing over him; nothing could be more gloomy and dreary. Inland, no objects were to be seen but a mere bed of rock covered with drifting sand, on which were growing stunted, scrubby bushes; and former experience taught him, that no fresh water was to be found in the island. Several plans of escape, all apparently alike hopeless, offered themselves to his mind, and, more fully to compose himself, he took forth his constant companion in the wilderness, and read a few chapters of Holy Writ. Contentment and resignation were thus in some degree gained, and he soon joined the rest of the party, having resolved upon that plan, which God's providence and mercy finally enabled him to carry out, without losing, from a party of twelve, constantly exposed during a very long journey to most dreadful toils, hunger, and thirst, more than one man only, who died at no great distance from the English colony. That one person was a youth of eighteen years of age, who had come out from England, led solely by an enterprising spirit, and not with any view of settling. On the return of the party under Captain Grey towards Swan River, they were so sadly pinched by want of provisions, and by thirst, that five of them were obliged to start with their leader, in order to reach the British colony by forced marches, and Frederick Smith, the youthful adventurer, was one of those that remained behind. After undergoing extreme trials, which from his age he was less able to bear than the others, he, at last, became quite worn out, and sat down, one evening, on a bank, declaring that he could go no further. He was behind the rest of the party, and the man who was with him went and told his companions that he thought Smith was dying. The next morning that man went back for him; but, being himself very weak, he did not go far enough, at all events he did not find him. Probably, the poor sufferer had crawled a little out of the track, for, afterwards, when a party was sent from Swan River in search of him, they traced, with the help of a native, his footsteps up a bare sand hill to the height of twelve or fourteen feet, and there, turning about to the left, they found the object of their search stretched lifeless upon his back, in the midst of a thick bush, where he seemed to have laid down to sleep, being half wrapped up in his blanket.[11] All his little articles of baggage were very near him, and, from the posture in which he was found, it appeared that the immediate cause of his death was a rush of blood to the head, which would occasion no great suffering in his last moments. A grave was scraped in the sand by the searching party, and Frederic Smith was buried in the wilderness wherein he had died, and which he had been among the first to explore, about seventy-six miles northward of the Swan River. The grave was made smooth, and a piece of wood found upon the neighbouring beach was placed at its head, and then the solitary spot was forsaken for ever by the mourning companions of the departed youth, who left

"Heaven's fresh gales, and the ocean's wave, Alternate to sigh o'er the wanderer's grave."[12]

[9] "The most singular quality of this vapour or mirage, as it is termed, is its power of reflection; objects are seen as from the surface of a lake, and their figure is sometimes changed into the most fantastic shapes."—CRICHTON'S Arabia, vol. i. p. 41.

[10] See two other curious accounts of the effects of mirage and refraction in Sturt's Expeditions in Australia, vol. ii. pp. 56 and 171.

[11] The artless description of this sad discovery, given by one of the natives who accompanied the party, may be not unworthy of the reader's notice. "Away we go, away, away, along the shore away, away, away, a long distance we go. I see Mr. Smith's footsteps ascending a sand-hill, onwards I go regarding his footsteps. I see Mr. Smith dead. We commence digging the earth. Two sleeps had he been dead; greatly did I weep, and much I grieved. In his blanket folding him, we scraped away the earth. We scrape earth into the grave, we scrape the earth into the grave, a little wood we place in it. Much earth we heap upon it—much earth we throw up. No dogs can dig there, so much earth we throw up. The sun had just inclined to the westward as we laid him in the ground."—GREY'S Travels in Western Australia, vol. ii. p. 350.

[12] See a like melancholy history of the death of Mr. Cunningham, in Mitchell's Three Expeditions, vol. i. p. 180, et seq. How thrilling must have been the recollections of his fellow-travellers in the wilderness at the simple incident thus related: "In the bed of the river, where I went this evening to enjoy the sight of the famished cattle drinking, I came accidentally on an old footstep of Mr. Cunningham in the clay, now baked hard by the sun. Four months had elapsed, and up to this time the clay bore the last records of our late fellow-traveller."

It was only six weeks before this untimely end of the young explorer, that he had set out, full of hope, on the long journey by the coast, which the party made on their return, and had been a leading character in such beautiful pictures of life in the Australian wilderness as this which is given by his friend Captain Grey. "We soon found ourselves at the foot of a lofty cascade, down which a little water was slowly dropping; and, on climbing to its summit, it appeared to be so well fitted for a halting-place for the night, that I determined to remain there. The men made themselves comfortable near the water-holes, and Mr. Smith and myself crept into a little cave, which occasionally served as a resting-place for the natives, the remains of whose fires were scattered about. A wild woodland and rocky scenery was around us; and when the moon rose and shed her pale light over all, I sat with Mr. Smith on the edge of the waterfall, gazing by turns into the dim woody abyss below, and at the red fires and picturesque groups of the men, than which fancy could scarcely imagine a wilder scene."

It is no uncommon mistake, with persons who ought to know better, to magnify the toils and hardships endured by the body, while those labours and anxieties that the mind undergoes are disregarded and forgotten. Every man engaged in an exploring party in the bush, for instance, has his severe trials to go through, but their trials are not to be compared to those of the commander of the party. How often when the rest are sleeping must he be watchful? How frequently, while others are gay, must he feel thoughtful! These remarks may easily be applied to the following description of the coast near Shark's Bay, in the N. W. of the island of New Holland. There was great beauty in the scenery, both the sky and the water had that peculiar brilliancy about them to be seen only in fine weather, and in a very warm climate. To the west lay a boundless extent of sea, to the eastward was a low shore fringed with trees, not only down to the water's edge, but forming little green knots of foliage in the ocean itself; behind these trees were low wooded hills, and in front of them were numbers of pelicans and water-fowl. There was only about three feet depth of clear transparent water, through which were seen many beautiful and large shells, and various strange-looking fish, at some of which last one or other of Captain Grey's men would sometimes make an attack, while loud peals of laughter would rise from the rest, when the pursuer, too anxious to gain his object, would miss his stroke at the fish, or, stumbling, roll headlong in the water. The fineness of the day, the novelty of the scenery, and the rapid way they were making, made the poor fellows forget past dangers, as well as those they had yet to undergo. But this was more than their commander was able to do. "My own meditations," adds Captain Grey, "were of a more melancholy character, for I feared that the days of some of the light-hearted group were already numbered, and would soon be brought to a close. Amid such scenes and thoughts we were swept along, while this unknown coast, which so many had anxiously yet vainly wished to see, passed before our eyes like a dream, and ere many more years have hurried by, it is possible that the recollection of this day may be as such to me."

Among the wonders of Nature to be met with in the Australian bush, the large rivers occasionally dried up to their very lowest depth by the extreme drought, are very remarkable. Few natural objects can equal in beauty and utility a river in its proper state,—

"Though deep, yet clear; though gentle, yet not dull; Strong without rage, without o'erflowing full;"

but few can exceed in terror and destruction a large river in time of flood; while nothing, surely, can surpass in horror and desolation the same object when its stream is wasted, its waters disappeared, its usefulness and beauty alike gone. This spectacle is, fortunately, but rarely seen, except in Australia, and even there only after very dry seasons. One river seen in this state consisted of several channels or beds, divided from each other by long strips of land, which in times of flood become islands; the main channel was about 270 yards in breadth, and the height of its bank was about fifteen feet. After the exploring party had passed the highest point in the channel to which the tide flowed from the sea, this huge river bed was perfectly dry, and looked the most mournful, deserted spot imaginable. Occasionally water-holes were found eighteen or twenty feet in depth, and it is from these alone that travellers have been enabled to satisfy their thirst in crossing over the unexplored parts of the bush, where no water could elsewhere be obtained. Still, notwithstanding the extreme drought by which they were surrounded, the strangers could see by the remaining drift wood, which had been washed high up into the neighbouring trees, what rapid and overpowering currents sometimes swept along the now dry channel.

On another occasion the same singular object is powerfully described, and the feelings of men, who had long been in need of water, at beholding a sight like this can scarcely be imagined. Beneath them lay the dry bed of a large river, its depth at this point being between forty and fifty feet, and its breadth upwards of 300 yards; it was at times subject to terrible floods, for along its banks lay the trunks of immense trees, giants of the forest, which had been formerly washed down from the interior of the country; yet nothing now met their craving eyes but a vast sandy channel, which scorched their eyeballs, as the rays of the sun were reflected back from its white, glistening bed. Above and below this spot, however, large pools of water were found, and even here, when a hole of a few inches depth was scraped in the dry channel, it soon became filled with water which oozed into it from the sand. At another stream, which the same exploring party afterwards fell in with, they were less successful, and found all the pools entirely dry. The sun was intensely hot, and the poor men grew faint for want of water, while it heightened their sufferings, that they stood upon the brink of a river, or wandered along its banks with eager, piercing eyes, and an air of watchfulness peculiar to those who seek for that on which their lives depend. One while they explored a shallow, stony part of the bed, which was parched up and blackened by the fiery sun: their steps were slow and listless, and it was plainly to be seen how faint, weak, and weary they were; the next minute another pool would be seen ahead, the depth of which the eye could not at a distance reach; now they hurried on towards it with a dreadful look of eager anxiety—the pool was reached—the bottom seen; but, alas! no water: then they paused, and looked one at the other with an air of utter despair. The order to march from this distressing spot was unwillingly and slowly obeyed. So fondly does the human soul cling to the very faintest semblance of hope, that the adventurers would rather have wandered up and down these barren and arid banks, in vain search after water, than tear themselves away by one bold effort from the deceitful expectations held out to them by the empty channel.

It was on his return from a journey attended by perils and privations like these, that Captain Grey relates the following simple occurrence, which may help to make men value more highly, or rather prize more justly, the many little comforts they may possess: The Captain had left some of his men behind, and was hastening with all speed to the settlement of Perth, in Western Australia, in order to get assistance and necessaries for them. Starting an hour and a half before daylight, he reached the hut of Williams, the farthest settler, north of Perth, in time to find the wife and another woman at breakfast. He had known Mrs. Williams, and, forgetting how strangely want and suffering had changed his appearance for the worse, he expected her to remember him again. But he was mistaken for a crazy Malay, nicknamed Magic, who used to visit the houses of the out-settlers. Hurt at his reception, "I am not Magic," exclaimed he. "Well then, my good man, who are you?" inquired they, laughing. "One who is almost starved," was his solemn reply. "Will you take this, then?" said the hostess, handing him a cup of tea she was raising to her lips. "With all my heart and soul, and God reward you for it," was the answer; and he swallowed the delicious draught. Who can fail of being reminded, upon reading this anecdote, of those gracious and beautiful words of his Redeemer—"Whosoever shall give you a cup of water to drink in my name, because ye belong to Christ, verily I say unto you, he shall not lose his reward"? (Mark ix. 41.)

The mention of the out-settler's hut, in which Captain Grey met with this small, but most acceptable, kindness, may serve to remind us of an object, which, although not, strictly speaking, belonging to the bush, is, nevertheless, very frequently seen in that part of the wild country which is most visited,—the portions of it which are adjoining to the British settlements. In these parts of the bush the small hut of the humble out-settler may often be espied; and, while we speak of the toils and privations frequently undergone by this class of people at first, we must not forget that they are thus opening to themselves a way to future wealth and comfort. Nor, be it recollected, is the condition of an out-settler in the Australian bush any more a fair average specimen of that of the inhabitants of the colonies than the owner of a mud-hovel raised on some English heath would be of the inhabitants of the parish in which he happens to dwell. One strong difference may be seen in the two cases. In England the cottager must, in all likelihood, live and die a cottager, as his fathers have done before him, and his children will after him; whereas, in the Australian colonies, with prudence and the Divine blessing, (without which a man can do well nowhere) the humble out-settler may gradually, yet rapidly, grow up into the wealthy and substantial farmer and landowner. Bearing in mind these facts, the following sketch of the premises of an out-settler on the river Williams, at the back of the Swan River settlement, in Western Australia, may be at once instructive, and not unsuitable to the subject of this chapter. The house was made of a few upright poles, to which, at the top, cross poles were fastened, and a covering of rude thatch tied upon the whole. It was open at both ends, and exposed to the wind, which, as the situation was high, was very unpleasant. Here, however, were the elements of future riches, a very large flock of sheep, in fair condition, also a well-supplied stock-yard, and cattle in beautiful order; while upwards of twenty dogs, for hunting the kangaroo, completed the establishment. The settlers were four in number, and, except four soldiers quartered about sixteen miles from them, there were no other Europeans within fifty miles of the spot. All stores and necessaries were sent from a distance of 120 miles, through a country without roads, and exposed to the power of the native inhabitants. In this but might be seen a lively picture of the trials occasionally endured by first settlers; they had no flour, tea, sugar, meat, or any provision whatever, except their live stock and the milk of their cattle, their sole dependence for any other article of food being the kangaroo dogs, and the only thing their visitors were able to do to better their situation was to leave them some shot. All other circumstances were on the same scale with them, and one, supposing them to have been faithful members of the Church of their native land, must have been the most grievous privation of all:—

"The sound of the church-going bell Those valleys and rocks never heard; Never sighed at the sound of a knell, Nor smiled when a sabbath appear'd."

They had but one old clasp knife; there was but one small bed, for one person, the others sleeping on the ground every night, with little or no covering; they had no soap to wash themselves or their clothes, yet they submitted cheerfully to all these privations, considering them to be necessary consequences of their situation. Two of these out-settlers were gentlemen, not only by birth, but also in thought and manner; nor can it be doubted that they were really happier than many an idle young man to be seen lounging about in England, a burden to himself and to his friends. Idleness and vice have often in England been the means of levelling with the dust the lordly mansion, whilst industry, in the wilds of Australia, can rear a comfortable dwelling on the very spot where once stood the hut of the out-settler.

Scattered round the shores of New Holland at various distances are many small islands and rocks, the prevailing appearance of which is that of extreme barrenness. On many of these it would seem that no human beings had ever set their feet before the Europeans, and especially the English, explored those coasts. In several parts the natives were without any means of conveyance across even a narrow arm of the sea, and thus the brute creation were left in a long and undisturbed possession of many of the isles which lie near the main land. In the more barren and miserable of these the bird called the sooty petrel, and the seal, are the principal animals to be found, whilst in those that are somewhat more fruitful, kangaroos, also, and emus are to be found; the smaller breed of kangaroos being usually met with in the smaller islands, and the larger species on the main land or in islands of a greater extent. The following short account, by Captain Flinders, may serve as a specimen of the lesser isles: Great flocks of petrels had been noticed coming in from the sea to the island, and early next morning, a boat was sent from the ship to collect a quantity of them for food, and to kill seals, but the birds were already moving off, and no more than four seals, of the hair kind, were procured. Upon the men going on shore, the island was found to be a rock of granite, but this was covered with a crust of limestone or chalk, in some places fifty feet thick. The soil at the top was little better than sand, but was overspread with shrubs, mostly of one kind, a whitish velvet-like plant, amongst which the petrels, who make their nests underground, had burrowed everywhere, and, from the extreme heat of the sun, the reflection of it from the sand, and frequently being sunk half way up the leg in these holes, the sailors, little used to difficulties in land-travelling, were scarcely able to reach the highest hill near the middle of the island. It was in the neighbourhood of scattered sandy spots of this description that the sailors of Captain Flinders would often endeavour successfully to improve their ordinary fare by catching a few fish. On one occasion they were very much hindered by three monstrous sharks, in whose presence no other fish dared to appear. After some attempts, and with much difficulty, they took one of these creatures, and got it on board the ship. In length it was no more than twelve feet three inches, but the body measured eight feet round. Among the vast quantity of things contained in the stomach was a tolerably large seal, bitten in two, and swallowed with half of the spear sticking in it, with which it had probably been killed by the natives. The stench of this ravenous monster was great, even before it was dead; and, when the stomach was opened, it became intolerable.

Quite contrary, in many respects, to these sandy islands, and yet but little superior to them in fruitfulness, are some of those which were visited by the same enterprising voyager on the eastern coast of Australia. Their shores were very low, so much so, that frequently a landing is impossible, and generally very difficult, on account of the mud; and often a vast quantity of mangrove trees are found growing in the swamps that surround the shores, and choking the soil with a rank vegetation. On one of these islands when a landing had been effected without a very great deal of trouble, and a rising ground was reached, the sides of this little eminence were found to be so steep, and were so thickly covered with trees and shrubs, bound together and interlaced with strong plants, resembling vines in their growth, that all attempts to reach the top of the hill were without success. It appeared to be almost easier to have climbed up the trees, and have scrambled from one to another upon the vines, than to have threaded a way through the perplexing net-work formed by these plants, beneath which all was darkness and uncertainty.

There are, however, some few islands, which promise to become, at a future time, inhabited and cultivated spots, being neither so entirely naked, nor yet so choked up by a poor and hungry vegetation concealing a thin soil, as those already described. Of these more smiling spots the large island, off the western coast, called Kangaroo Island, may serve for a specimen. A thick wood covered almost all that part of the island which was seen from the ship by Captain Flinders, but the trees that were alive were not so large as those lying on the ground, nor as the dead trees still standing upright. Those upon the ground were so abundant, that, in ascending the higher land, a considerable part of the walk was upon them. No inhabitants were seen in the island, but yet it seemed, from the appearance of the trees, as though, at the distance of some years, the woods had been destroyed by fire. The soil, so far as it was seen, was thought very good, and the trees bore witness of this by their size and growth; yet so frequently do travellers, like doctors, disagree, that another explorer, Captain Sturt, pronounces this spot to be not by any means fertile. The quantity of kangaroos found here was remarkable enough to give a name to the island; and so entirely were these harmless animals strangers to the power of man, that they suffered themselves to be approached and killed without any efforts to escape. Captain Flinders, on the first day of landing, killed ten, and the rest of his party made up the number to thirty-one taken on board in the course of the day, the least weighing 69 and the largest 125 lbs. The whole ship's company were employed that afternoon in skinning and cleaning the kangaroos, and a delightful feast they afforded to men who for four months had scarcely tasted any fresh provisions. Never, perhaps, had the dominion held here by these creatures been before disturbed; the seals, indeed, shared it with the kangaroos on the shores, but they seemed to dwell peacefully together, each animal occasionally wandering into the haunts of the other, so that a gun fired at a kangaroo upon the beach would sometimes bring forth two or three bellowing seals from underneath bushes a good deal further from the water-side. The seal, indeed, was the most knowing creature of the two, for its actions bespoke that it distinguished the sailors from kangaroos, whereas the latter not uncommonly appeared to mistake them for seals. Indeed it is curious to trace the total absence of all knowledge of man in these distant isles of Australia. In another island a white eagle was seen making a motion to pounce down upon the British sailors, whom it evidently took for kangaroos, never, probably, having seen an upright animal, (except that, when moving upon its hind legs,) and naturally, therefore, mistaking the men for its usual prey.

In another part of Kangaroo Island, which was afterwards visited, a large piece of water was discovered at the head of a bay, and in this water an immense number of pelicans were seen; upon some small islets were found many young birds yet unable to fly, and upon the surrounding beach a great number of old ones were seen, while the bones and skeletons of many lay scattered about. So that it appeared to be at once the breeding-place and death-bed of these birds, who, in the hidden bosom of a quiet lake, in an uninhabited island, had long continued to extend their race, generation after generation retiring to the same spot where they were first brought to light, and there ending their days in tranquillity. In this part of the island kangaroos were less plentiful than in the other, but the soil appeared equally promising, and in all likelihood, before many years have flown by, trees, seals, kangaroos, and pelicans will all be forced to give up their old domains, and be destroyed before the pressing wants and daring spirit of the British emigrant. One important hindrance is noticed by Flinders,—the scarcity of water,—but the presence of so many animals shows that there is an abundance somewhere, though he could find but a scanty supply in one single spot. In Kangaroo Island only one accident occurred which showed any disposition or power on the part of its old inhabitants to wage war with the intruders. One of the sailors having attacked a large seal without proper caution, was so severely bitten in the leg, that he was not merely laid up in consequence of this hurt, but was obliged to be discharged, three months afterwards, when the ship was refitted at Sydney.

In addition to the numerous barren rocks and the few tolerably large wooded islands, which encircle the shores of Australia, there is a third description of isles or rocks, which must not be passed over altogether without notice. The substance called coral is well known in Europe, but with us the name connects itself with very different objects from those to which it is related in Australia. Here female ornaments and toys for infants are almost the only objects to be seen that are formed of coral; there it forms the most stupendous rocks or reefs, which serve frequently for a foundation to islands of no mean size; indeed, in one part of the north-eastern coast of Australia, the coral reefs are known to extend not less than 350 miles in a straight line, without a single opening of any magnitude occurring in them.

Among these, surrounded by dangers, did Captain Flinders sail, during fourteen days, for more than 500 miles before he could escape into less perilous seas. Upon landing on one of these reefs, when the water was clear, the view underneath, from the edge of the rocks, was extremely beautiful. Quite a new creation, but still not unlike the old, was offered to the view. There appeared wheat-sheaves, mushrooms, stags' horns, cabbage-leaves, and a variety of other forms, glowing under water with brilliant tints, of every shade betwixt green, purple, brown, and white; equalling in beauty and surpassing in grandeur the most favourite flower-bed of the curious florist. These appearances were, in fact, different sorts of coral, and fungus, growing, as it were, out of the solid rock, and each had its own peculiar form and shade of colouring, but yet the spectators, who knew their ship to be hemmed in by rocks of this material, while considering the richness of the scene, could not long forget with what power of destruction it was gifted.

The cause of these coral rocks and islands, which are slowly, but certainly, increasing, is a very small marine insect, by which the substance called coral is formed. These work under water, generation after generation contributing its share in the construction of what, in the course of ages, becomes a solid rock, exalting its head above the face of the surrounding waters, and rising sometimes from the depth of 200 fathoms, and perhaps even more. To be constantly covered with water seems necessary to these minute animals, for they do not work, except in holes upon the reef, beyond low-water-mark; but the coral and other broken remains thrown up by the sea lodge upon the rock and form a solid mass with it, as high as the common tides reach. The new bank is not long left unvisited by sea-birds; salt-plants take root upon it, and a kind of soil begins to be formed; a cocoa-nut,[13] or the seed of some other tree, is thrown on shore; land-birds visit it, and deposit the seeds of fresh shrubs or trees; every high tide, and still more every gale, adds something to the bank; the form of an island is by degrees assumed; and, last of all, comes man to take possession.

[13] "A cluster of these trees would be an excellent beacon to warn mariners of their danger when near a coral reef, and at all events their fruit would afford some wholesome nourishment to the ship-wrecked seamen. The navigator who should distribute 10,000 cocoa-nuts amongst the numerous sand banks of the great ocean and Indian Sea, would be entitled to the gratitude of all maritime nations, and of every friend of humanity."—FLINDERS' Voyage to Terra Australis, vol. ii. p. 332.



It needs only a single glance at the map of New Holland to see that, like most other countries, and even more than most others, the coasts are well known, while the interior parts are comparatively undiscovered, and, to a great extent, totally so. And, although a much more minute description of the shores of this immense island might easily be given, although we might accompany Flinders or King in their navigation of its intricate seas, and survey of its long line of coast, yet this part of the subject must necessarily be passed over without detaining us any further. A very considerable portion of the sea-coast of New Holland is not much unlike that in the Gulph of Carpentaria, in the north part of the island, where, when Captain Flinders had reached the highest spot he could find in 175 leagues of coast,—this loftiest hill did not much exceed the height of the ship's masthead! And where the shores are not of this exceedingly level character, they are usually sterile, sandy, and broken, so as to offer rather an uninviting aspect to the stranger. It is obvious that, in either case, whether the coast be flat or barren, there may be many beautiful and lovely districts within a day's journey inland; and nothing is more absurd than to take exception against the whole of a country merely because its borders and boundaries are forbidding. In the case of New Holland, it is true, the same sort of barrenness extends itself very much into the interior of the land; but, if we pursue the patient footsteps and daring discoveries of those few Europeans who have penetrated far into its inland parts, we shall find many interesting scenes described, and much both of the sublime and beautiful in nature brought before us.

One of the principal scenes on which have been displayed the perseverance and courage of the explorers of the interior is the banks of the river Darling. This stream, which has its source on the western side of the long range of mountains running parallel with the coast, and called in the colony the Blue Mountains, carries off the drainage of an immense extent of country, to the westward and north-westward of New South Wales. In fact, except in the southern parts of that colony, where the Lachlan and Murrumbidgee carry off the waters which do not fall eastwards to the coast, all the streams that rise upon or beyond the Blue Mountains, and take a westerly direction, finally meet together in the basin of the Darling.[14] It might be imagined that a river into which is carried the drainage of so extensive a district would be always well supplied with water, and so it would be in other countries, but the streams of New Holland are altogether different from those in other parts of the world. Comparatively, indeed, the Darling does assert its superiority over most of the other water-courses of that country; for, at a season when their channels were, in general, absolutely without water, or dwindled down into mere chains of muddy ponds, the Darling still continued to wind its slow current, carrying a supply of excellent water through the heart of a desert district. Along the weary plains by which its course is bounded, it proceeds for not less than 660 miles,[15] without receiving, so far as is known, a single tributary stream; and, from its waters being occasionally salt, it is supposed to owe its support, in its reduced state during very dry seasons, chiefly to natural springs. Its bed is, on an average, about sixty feet below the common surface of the country. There are no traces of water-courses on the level plains, and it would appear that, whatever moisture descends from the higher grounds, which (where there are any at all,) are seldom less than twelve miles from the Darling, must be taken up by the clayey soil, so as scarcely to find its way down to the river, except it be by springs. The average breadth of the stream at the surface, when low, is about fifty yards, but oftener less than this, and seldom more. The fall of the country through which it passes, in that part of its course through the interior, which was first explored by Major Mitchell, is very trifling; and it is the opinion of that officer, that the swiftness of its course never exceeds one mile per hour, but that it is in general much less. At the time of the Major's expedition, the water actually flowing, as seen at one or two shallow places, did not exceed in quantity that which would be necessary to turn a mill. But, with all this scantiness of supply during the dry season then prevailing,[16] the marks of tremendous inundations were plain upon the surface of the country, frequently extending two miles back from the ordinary channel of the waters. And everywhere the banks of the river displayed the effect of floods in parallel lines, marking on the smooth sloping earth the various heights to which the waters had at different periods arisen. The surface of the plains nearest the river is unlike any part of the earth's face that the travellers had elsewhere seen. It was clear of vegetation, like a fallow-field, but less level, and quite full of holes, big enough to receive the whole leg, and sometimes the body, of the unfortunate persons who might slip into them. Galloping or trotting in such a country was out of the question, and as the surface of this dry and cracked soil was soft and loose, it was very fatiguing for draught. Six of the bullocks accompanying the expedition never returned from the Darling. Yet, how much preferable was the country, even in this state, to that in which a flood would have placed it; for, had rainy weather, or any overflowing of the river, happened, travelling upon the banks of the Darling would have become absolutely impossible.

1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8     Next Part
Home - Random Browse