JOURNALS OF TWO EXPEDITIONS INTO THE INTERIOR OF NEW SOUTH WALES, BY ORDER OF THE BRITISH GOVERNMENT IN THE YEARS 1817-18. BY JOHN OXLEY, SURVEYOR GENERAL OF THE TERRITORY AND LIEUTENANT OF THE ROYAL NAVY. WITH MAPS AND VIEWS OF THE INTERIOR, OR NEWLY DISCOVERED COUNTRY.
Production notes: * 12 items of errata listed in the book have been corrected in this eBook. * Illustrations, Maps and Charts have not been included in this eBook. * Notes included within the text have been included in square brackets  in the text at the point referenced. * Italics have been converted to upper case.
LIST OF PLATES LIST OF CHARTS INRODUCTION JOURNAL OF AN EXPEDITION IN AUSTRALIA PART I.
PREFACE JOURNAL OF AN EXPEDITION IN AUSTRALIA PART II. APPENDIX PART I. No. I. Instructions for conducting and leading first expedition. No. II Report of tour over Blue Mountains in 1815 by the Governor. No. III Letter from Oxley to Governor advising of his return from first expedition. APPENDIX PART II. No. IV Diary of Mr. Evans, from 8th to 18th of July, 1818. No. V. Governor's report on the return of Oxley from the second expedition, together with a letter from Oxley on his arrival at Port Stephens.. No. VI. Governor's report on Oxley's discovery of Port Stephens together with a letter from Oxley to the Governor on this subject. A brief abstract of the population of N.S.W in 1815, 1816 and 1817. A statement of land in cultivation, quantities of stock, etc. from 1813 to 1817 inclusive.
LIST OF PLATES (NOT INCLUDED IN THIS EBOOK).
Field Plains from Mount Aymot. The Grave of a Native of Australia. Arbuthnot's Range, from the West. Liverpool Plains. West Prospect from View Hill. Bathurst's Falls. A Native Chief of Bathurst.
LIST OF CHARTS (NOT INCLUDED IN THIS EBOOK).
Range of the Thermometer from April 9th to August 30th 1817 by John Oxley. A Chart of Part of the Interior of New South Wales, 1817. First Expedition. A Chart of Part of the Interior of New South Wales, 1818. Second Expedition. Reduced Sketch of the Two Expeditions. A Plan of Port Macquarie Including a Sketch of Part of Hastings River, on the East Coast of New South Wales. A General Statement of the Inhabitants of New South Wales as per General Muster commencing 28th September 1818, with an account of same at Van Diemmens Land. A General Statement of the Land in Cultivation etc., the quantities of Stock etc., as accounted for at the General Muster, with an account of same at Van Diemmens Land..
JOURNAL OF AN EXPEDITION IN AUSTRALIA Part I.
TO HIS EXCELLENCY LACHLAN MACQUARIE, ESQ. MAJOR GENERAL IN THE ARMY, AND CAPTAIN GENERAL AND GOVERNOR IN CHIEF IN AND OVER THE TERRITORY OF NEW SOUTH WALES AND ITS DEPENDENCIES, THE FOLLOWING JOURNAL OF AN EXPEDITION, PERFORMED UNDER HIS ADMINISTRATION AND DIRECTION, IS RESPECTFULLY INSCRIBED, BY HIS VERY OBEDIENT HUMBLE SERVANT, JOHN OXLEY.
The colony had been established many years before any successful attempt had been made to penetrate into the interior of the country, by crossing the range of hills, known to the colonists as the Blue Mountains: these mountains were considered as the boundary of the settlements westward, the country beyond them being deemed inaccessible.
The year 1813 proving extremely dry, the grass was nearly all destroyed, and the water failed; the horned cattle suffered severely from this drought, and died in great numbers. It was at this period that three gentlemen, Lieutenant Lawson, of the Royal Veteran Company, Messrs. Blaxland, and William Wentworth, determined upon attempting a passage across these mountains, in hopes of finding a country which would afford support to their herds during this trying season.
They crossed the Nepean River at Emu Plains, and ascending the first range of mountains, were entangled among gullies and deep ravines for a considerable time, insomuch that they began to despair of ultimate success. At length they were fortunate enough to find a main dividing range, along the ridge of which they travelled, observing that it led them westward. After suffering many hardships, their distinguished perseverance was at length rewarded by the view of a country, which at first sight promised them all they could wish.
Into this Land of Promise they descended by a steep mountain, which Governor Macquarie has since named Mount York [Note: This mountain was found to be 795 feet in perpendicular height above the vale of Clwydd.]. The valley [Note: Named by Governor Macquarie the Vale of Clwydd.] to which it gave them access was covered with grass, and well watered by a small stream running easterly, and which was subsequently found to fall into the Nepean River. From Mount York they proceeded westerly eight or ten miles, passing during the latter part of the way through an open country, but broken into steep hills. Seeing that the stream before mentioned as watering the valley ran easterly, it was evident they had not yet crossed the ranges which it was supposed would give source to waters falling westerly; they had however proceeded sufficiently far for their purpose, and ascertained that no serious obstacles existed to a farther progress westward.
Their provisions being nearly expended, they returned to Sydney, after an absence of little more than a month; and the report of their discoveries opened new prospects to the colonists, who had began to fear that their narrow and confined limits would not long afford pasture and subsistence for their greatly increasing flocks and herds.
His Excellency Governor Macquarie, with that promptitude which distinguishes his character, resolved not to let slip so favourable an opportunity of obtaining a farther knowledge of the interior. Mr. Evans, the deputy surveyor, was directed to proceed With a party, and follow up the discoveries already made. He crossed the Nepean River on the 20th of November, 1813, and on the 26th arrived at the termination of Messrs. Lawson, Blaxland, and Wentworth's journey. Proceeding westward, he crossed a mountainous [Note: Since named Clarence Hilly Range.] broken country, the grass of which was good, and the valleys well-watered, until the 30th, when he came to a small stream, running westerly; this stream, called by him the Fish River, he continued to trace until the 7th of December, passing through a very fine country, adapted to every purpose either of agriculture or grazing; when he met another stream coming from the southward: this latter stream he named Campbell River, and when joined with the Fish River, the united streams received the name of the Macquarie River, in honour of his excellency the present governor of New South Wales.
Mr. Evans continued to trace the Macquarie River until December the 18th, passing over rich tracts clear of timber, well-watered, and offering every advantage which a country in its natural state can be supposed to afford. During this excursion, Mr. Evans fell in with abundance of kangaroos and emus, and the river abounded with fine fish: he saw only six natives during the whole time of his absence, viz. two women and four children, although on his return he observed many fires in the neighbourhood of the mountains. On the 8th of January, 1814, he returned to Emu Plains, having gone in the whole near one hundred miles in a direct line due west from the Nepean River.
From the report of Mr. Evans, Governor Macquarie was induced to believe that a road might be opened for the whole distance already surveyed, and was most anxious that the colony should reap as soon as possible the advantages, which the discovery of such extensive and fertile tracts seemed to open.
The ample means afforded for this purpose enabled Mr. Cox, to whose superintendence this work was entrusted, to complete a road passable for loaded carriages early in 1815. This road extended in length upwards of one hundred miles, the first fifty of which passed along a narrow ridge of the Blue Mountains, bounded on each side by deep ravines, and precipitous rocks. The road which was cut down Mount York was a work of considerable labour and magnitude, and reflected the highest credit upon all employed in it. This important task being finished, the governor resolved in person to visit a country of which so much had been said, and to judge from actual observation how far the sanguine hopes which had been entertained were likely to be realized; his excellency therefore, accompanied by Mrs. Macquarie and his suite, set out from Emu Plains on the 26th of April, 1815, and arrived on the 4th of May at a small encampment (the site of which had been previously selected), on Bathurst Plains, near the termination of Mr. Evans's journey. Governor Macquarie having been pleased to publish for the information of the colonists such observations on the country as he deemed necessary, I shall not presume to add any thing to an account, which so clearly and accurately describes all that could be interesting or beneficial to the colonist and general inquirer.
I have therefore inserted in the Appendix the account published by the Governor in the Sydney Gazette, of the 10th of June, 1815, as affording the best and most authentic information on the subject. During the Governor's stay at Bathurst, he despatched Mr. Evans, and a party with a month's provisions, to explore the country to the south-west, and it is the result of that journey which led to the expedition, the direction of which was entrusted to my command.
The means which his excellency placed at my disposal were well calculated to attain the object in view, and it is a matter of the most sincere regret, that the nature and description of the country which we passed through was for the most part such as to afford few interesting objects of research or remark.
The botanical productions of the country have however in a great measure been ascertained by Mr. Allan Cunningham, the King's botanist, who accompanied the expedition.
With respect to the construction of the chart prefixed to this Journal, it is thought proper to observe, that the situation of the principal stations of Bathurst, and the depot on the Lachlan River, were ascertained by celestial observations, and connected by a series of triangles, commencing at the latter point, and closing at Bathurst. New base lines were frequently measured, and any unavoidable errors which might arise from the nature of the country were corrected at every proper opportunity by observed latitudes; so that on the return of the expedition to Bathurst, I had the satisfaction to find the connection of the angles complete, the error in the whole survey not exceeding a mile of longitude.
The instruments chiefly used were a small theodolite by Ramsden, and Kater's pocket compass [Note: A most valuable instrument, combining all the advantages of the circumferentor, without being so liable to be damaged and put out of order by carriage.], with the addition of an excellent sextant, pocket chronometer, and artificial horizon. I have to lament that our mountain barometers were broken at an early stage of the expedition; the height however of some principal points had been previously obtained, and is marked on the chart; these in two instances were verified by geometrical measurement, and the difference was found to be too trilling to be noticed. The conveyance of such delicate instruments is always attended with great risk, and in our case peculiarly so, our means being only those of horseback. I am afraid that a method of constructing those instruments, so as to place them beyond the reach of injury by carriage, will always remain among the desiderata of science. I have given to our thermometrical observations the form of a chart, as affording the readiest view of the atmospherical changes which took place during our journey. The winds and weather are also more particularly noticed on the same sheet than in the narrative.
It may perhaps be not superfluous to mention, that it is the intention of His Majesty's Government to follow the course of the Macquarie River, and it is sanguinely expected that the result of the contemplated expedition will be such as to leave no longer in doubt the true character of the country comprising the interior of this vast island. It would be as presumptuous as useless to speculate on the probable termination of the Macquarie River, when a few months will (it is to be hoped) decide the long disputed point, whether Australia, with a surface nearly as extensive as Europe, is, from its geological formation, destitute of rivers, either terminating in interior seas, or having their estuaries on the coast.
J. O. Sydney, New South Wales, Dec. 11, 1817.
ERRATA: 12 items of errata, listed in the book at this point, have been corrected in this eBook.
JOURNAL OF AN EXPEDITION IN AUSTRALIA—Part I
On the twenty-fourth of March I received the instructions of his excellency the Governor to take charge of the expedition which had been fitted out for the purpose of ascertaining the course of the Lachlan River, and generally to prosecute the examination of the western interior of New South Wales.
On the sixth of April I quitted Sydney, and after a pleasant journey arrived at Bathurst on the fourteenth, and found that our provisions and other necessary stores were in readiness at the depot on the Lachlan River. We were detained at Bathurst by rainy unfavourable weather until the nineteenth, when the morning proving fine, the BAT horses, with the remainder of the provisions, baggage, and instruments, were sent off, we intending to follow them the ensuing morning.
Bathurst had assumed a very different appearance since I first visited it in the suite of his excellency the Governor in 1815. The industrious hand of man had been busy in improving the beautiful works of nature; a good substantial house for the superintendant had been erected, the government grounds fenced in, and the stack yards showed that the abundant produce of the last harvest had amply repaid the labour bestowed on its culture. The fine healthy appearance of the flocks and herds was a convincing proof how admirably adapted these extensive downs and thinly wooded hills are for grazing, more particularly of sheep. The mind dwelt with pleasure on the idea that at no very distant period these secluded plains would be covered with flocks bearing the richest fleeces, and contribute in no small degree to the prosperity of the eastern settlements.
The soil, in the immediate neighbourhood of Bathurst, is for the first six inches of a light, black, vegetable mould, lying on a stratum of sand, about eighteen inches deep, but of a poor description, and mixed with small stones, under which is a strong clay. The surface of the hills is covered with small gravel, the soil light and sandy, with a sub-soil of clay. The low flats on the immediate borders of the river are evidently formed by washings from the hills and valleys deposited by floods, and the overflowings of the watercourses.
Sunday, April 20.—Proceeded on our journey towards the Lachlan River. At two o'clock we arrived at the head of Queen Charlotte's Valley, passing through a fine open grazing country; the soil on the hills and in the vale a light clayey loam, occasionally intermixed with sand and gravel: the late rains had rendered the ground soft and boggy. The trees were small and stunted, and thinly scattered over the hills, which frequently closed in stony points on the valley. The rocks a coarse granite.
Monday, April 21.—Our journey for the greater part of the way lay over stony ridges, and for the last six miles over a country much wooded with ill-grown gum and stringy bark trees (all of the eucalyptus genus); the grass good, and in tolerable plenty, and much more so than the appearance of the soil would seem to promise. At three o'clock, the horses being very much fatigued, we stopped under the point of a rocky hill for the evening.
April 22.—A clear and frosty morning. Last night was the coldest we had yet experienced, the thermometer being at six o'clock as low as 26. We felt the cold most severely, being far beyond what we had been accustomed to on the coast; the difference of temperature in twelve hours being upwards of twenty degrees of cold. Our route lay through a dull uninteresting country, thickly covered with dwarf timber, daviesia, etc. Passed under Mount Lachlan, a hill of very considerable height; a stream of water runs north-westerly under its base. Turned off a little from our track to the right, and ascended Mount Molle, whence there is a beautiful and extensive prospect from the south by the west to the north. The country (except the dividing range between the Lachlan and Macquarie Rivers, which is very lofty and irregular) rising into gentle hills, thinly timbered, with rich intervening valleys, through which flow small streams of water. I think from Mount Molle, between the points above mentioned, a distance of forty miles round may he seen; the view to the west being lost in the blue haze of the horizon, no hills appearing in that quarter. The Mount itself is a fine rich hill, favourably situated for a commanding prospect; the valleys which surround it are excellent land, well watered with running streams. We descended its west side, and stopped for the night in the valley beneath, on the banks of a small rivulet.
April 23.—A fine clear morning. At two o'clock we arrived at Limestone Creek, passing through a beautiful picturesque country of low hills and fine valleys well watered: the timber, as usual of diminutive growth, and unfit for any useful purpose. The ridges of the higher eminences were invariably stony, and about a mile and a half from the Creek, there is a narrow slip of barren country covered with small slate stones: the soil until then was on the sides of the hills of a fine vegetable mould, the more level and lower grounds a hazel-coloured stiff loam, both equally covered with grass, particularly the anthistria. The timber standing at wide intervals, without any brush or undergrowth, gave the country a fine park-like appearance. I never saw a country better adapted for the grazing of all kinds of stock than that we passed over this day. The limestone, which is the first that has hitherto been discovered in Australia, abounds in the valley where we halted; the sides and abrupt projections of the hills being composed entirely of it, and worn by the operation of time into a thousand whimsical shapes and forms. A small stream runs through the valley, which in June 1815 was dry; the bottom of this rivulet was covered with a variety of stones, but the bases of the hills which projected into it, and from which the earth had been washed, were of pure limestone of a bluish grey colour.
April 24.—A fine mild morning. A small piece of limestone which had been put in the fire last night was found perfectly calcined into the purest white lime. At eight o'clock proceeded on our journey, through a very uninteresting but good grazing country: nature here seemed to have assumed her tamest and most unvarying hue. The soil of the country we passed through was generally excellent, but the timber was still as useless as we had hitherto found it. We arrived about one o'clock at a small pond of water, where it was necessary to stop, as there was no other water nearer than the Lachlan River, which was distant about fourteen miles.
April 25.—Our course for the first seven or eight miles was through a level open country, the soil and grass indifferently good. We now ascended a hill a little to the left of the road, for the purpose of viewing the country through which the river ran: it appeared a perfect plain encompassed by moderately high hills, except in the south-east and west quarters, these being apparently the points whence and to which the river flows. The whole country a forest of eucalypti, with occasionally on the banks of the river a space clear of timber: there was nothing either grand or interesting in the view from this hill, neither did I see in any direction such high land as might be expected to give source to a river of magnitude. When we quitted the hill, we went west, to make the Lachlan River, passing for nearly six miles over a perfect level, the land poor, and in places scrubby. At two o'clock saw the river, which certainly did not disappoint me: it was evidently much higher than usual, running a strong stream; the banks very steep, but not so as to render the water inaccessible: the land on each side quite flat, and thinly clothed with small trees; the soil a rich light loam: higher points occasionally projected on the river, and on those the soil was by no means so good. The largest trees were growing immediately at the water's edge on both sides, and from their position formed an arch over the river, obscuring it from observation, although it was from thirty to forty yards across. At four o'clock we arrived at the depot.
We had scarcely alighted from our horses, when natives were seen in considerable numbers on the other side of the river. I went down opposite to them, and after some little persuasion about twenty of them swam across, having their galengar or stone hatchet in one hand, which on their landing they threw at our feet, to show us that they were as much divested of arms as ourselves. After staying a short time they were presented with some kangaroo flesh, with which they re-crossed the river, and kindled their fires. They were very stout and manly, well featured, with long beards: there were a few cloaks among them made of the opossum skin, and it was evident that some of the party had been at Bathurst, from their making use of several English words, and from their readily comprehending many of our questions.
April 26.—Fine clear warm weather. The natives were still on the opposite bank, and five of them came over to us in the course of the morning; but remained a very short time. During the last night a few fine shrimps were caught; the soldiers stationed at the depot said they had frequently taken them in considerable numbers. During the day arranged the loads for the boats and horses, that they might be enabled to set off early the next morning.
April 27.—Loaded the boats with as much of the salt provisions as they could safely carry, and despatched them to wait at the first creek about seven or eight miles down the river until the loaded horses came, and then to assist in taking their loads over the creek; intending myself to follow with the remainder of the baggage early to-morrow morning.
The observations which were made here placed the depot in lat. 33. 40. S., and in long. 148. 21. E., the variation of the needle being 7. 47. E. The barometrical observations, which had been regularly taken from Sydney to this place, did not give us an elevation of more than six hundred feet above the level of the sea; a circumstance which, considering our distance from the west coast, surprised me much.
The few words of which we were enabled to obtain the meaning from the natives who occasionally visited its, being different from those used by the natives on the east coast, it way perhaps be interesting to insert them.
Nh-air, The eyebrows. Whada, The ears. Ulan-gar,) The head. Nat-tang,) Anany, The beard. Morro, The nose. Er-ra, The teeth. Mill-a, The eyes. Narra, The fingers. Bulla-yega, The hair of the head. Chu-ang, The mouth. 0-ro, The neck. Bargar, The arms. Ben-ing, The breast. Bur-bing, The belly. Mille-aar, The loins. Dha-na, The thighs. Wolm-ga, The knees. Dhee-nany, The feet. Dhu-a, The back. Mor-aya, Bones worn in the cartilage of the nose. Mada, Skins, with which they are clothed. Wamb-aur, Scars, raised for ornament, or distinction, on their bodies. Gum-iil, Girdles worn round the body. Un-elenar, One night. Gow, Woman. Mar-o-gu-la, Another tribe. Mem-aa, A native man. Wam-aa, A kind of hornet's-nest, which they eat. Warenur, Fire. Curr-eli, Timber, or trees. Galu-nur, Thistles, the roots of which they eat. Gulura, The moon. Yandu, Sleep. Galen-gar,) Ori-al, ) Stone hatchets. Ta-wi-uth,)
The above were all the words the meaning of which we could clearly comprehend: the words used by the natives on the coast to express the same objects have not the remotest resemblance to the above.
April 28.—Fine clear mild weather. Proceeded with the remainder of the baggage to join the boats down the river; arrived at Lewis's Creek, which, although nearly dry when crossed by Mr. Evans in 1815, is now a considerable stream. The distance from the depot is about nine miles; the country on both banks of the river low but good: the upper levels would afford excellent grazing, but the soil is of inferior quality: the points of the low hills end alternately on each side the river. The land up both banks of Lewis's Creek is very rich, and covered with herbage. The boats had come safely down the river, although the large boat grounded once; the river appears to me to be from three to five feet above its usual level.
Several specimens of crystallized quartz were found on the adjoining hills, also some small pieces of good iron ore.
April 29.—Proceeded on our journey down the river, directing the boats to stop at the creek which terminated Mr. Evans's former journey. The country through which we passed this day in every respect resembles the tracts we have already gone over. The crowns and ridges of the hills are uniformly stony and barren, ending as before alternately on each side of the river; the greater proportion of good flat land lies on the south side of the river; there are however very rich and fertile tracts on this side. After riding about eight miles, we ascended a considerable hill upon our right, from the top of which we could see to a considerable distance; between the south-west and north-north-west, a very low level tract lay west of us, and no hill whatever bounded the view in that quarter. Three remarkable hummocks bore respectively S. 72. W., S. 51 1/2 W. and S. 34 1/2 W., within which range of bearing the country was uniformly level, or rising into such low hills, as not to be distinguished from the general surface. The tops of distant ranges could be discerned over low hills in the north-west, whilst, from north by the east to south, the country was broken into hill and valley. The whole of this extensive scene was covered with eucalypti, whilst on the rocky summits of the hills in the immediate neighbourhood a species of callitris was eminently distinguished. From this extensive view I named the hill Mount Prospect.
At five o'clock in the afternoon we arrived at the place where the horses had been directed to wait for the boats, but they had not arrived; the distance is at least doubled by following the immediate course of the stream, but I had calculated that its rapidity would make up for the distance, and enable the boats to keep pace with the horses.
At six o'clock the boats arrived safe, the men having had a very fatiguing row, and been obliged to clear the passage of fallen trees, and other obstructions; so that we determined to give them some repose, and halt here for the night. At half past eight o'clock proceeded down the river, intending to stop at the termination of Mr. Evans's journey in 1815, about five miles further, for the purpose of repairing the small boat, which had sustained some slight damage in coming down the river yesterday. I rode about three miles back into the country; the callitris was here more frequent, though not of large growth; the soil is not good. In returning to the river we came upon the creek which terminated Mr. Evans's journey, down which we travelled until we came to the river, about half a mile from which is a large shallow lagoon, full of ducks, bustards, black swans and red-hills. At twelve o'clock the horses arrived at the mouth of the creek, and the boats half an hour afterwards. The banks of the creek were very steep, and it was three o'clock before all the provisions were got over. The creek was named Byrne's Creek, after one of the present party, who had accompanied Mr. Evans in his former journey.
May 1.—The creek fell upwards of a foot during the night, by which some of the articles in the large boat received damage. Commenced the survey of the river from this point. The flats on both sides the river were very extensive, and in general good; the same timber and grass as usual; the stream was from thirty to forty yards broad on an average. There was not even a hillock on which to ascend during this day's route, so that our view was bounded by less than a mile on each side of the river. Traces of the natives were observed, but no natives were seen. The boats were much impeded by fallen timber: it was half past two o'clock when they arrived at the place where I intended to halt, although we had only gone between nine and ten miles.
The trees on the immediate banks of the river were very large and ramified, but few of them were useful: another species of callitris was seen to-day.
May 2.—Our journey this day was very fatiguing, the grass being nearly breast high, thick, and entangled. The soil is tolerably good within a mile and a half of the banks: I rode five or six miles out, in hopes of finding some eminence on which to ascend, but was disappointed, the country continuing a dead level, with extensive swamps, and barren brushes. The timber, dwarf box, and gum trees (all eucalypti), with a few cypresses and casuarinas, scattered here and there: few traces of the natives were seen, and none recent. Upon the swamps were numerous swans and other wild fowl. In the evening we caught nearly a hundred weight of fine fish.
May 3.—Proceeded down the river. We passed over a very barren desolate country, perfectly level, without even the slightest eminence, covered with dwarf box-trees and scrubby bushes; towards the latter part of the day a few small cypresses were seen. I think the other side of the river is much the same. We have hitherto met with no water except at the river, and a few shallow lagoons, which are evidently dry in summer. I do not know how far this level extends north and south, but I cannot estimate it at less than from ten to twelve miles on each side; but this is mere conjecture, since for the last three days I have been unable to see beyond a mile: I have, however, occasionally made excursions of five or six miles, and never perceived any difference in the elevation of the country. To-day the course of the river has been a little south of west: its windings are very frequent and sudden, fully accounting for the apparent heights of the floods, of which marks were observed about thirty-six feet above the level of the stream. At six o'clock the boats had not arrived; and as I had given directions on no account to attempt to proceed after dark, I ceased to expect them this evening.
May 4.—As soon as it was light I sent two men up the river to search for the boat: at nine o'clock one of them returned, having found it about four miles back. It appeared that the large boat had got stoved against a tree under water, and that the people were obliged to unload and haul her on shore to undergo some repairs, which they had effected; but the rain prevented them from paying her bottom. They expected to be able to proceed in an hour or two, as the weather had begun to clear up. It was fortunate that no damage had befallen any part of the boat's lading. At twelve proceeded about three quarters of a mile down the river, and from a small eminence half a mile north of it, an extensive tract of clear country was seen, bearing N. 50. W., about two or three miles from us, having a low range of hills bounding them in the direction of S. 65. W. and N. 65. E. The river wound immediately under the hill, taking a westerly direction as far as I went, which was about three miles; its windings were very sudden, and its width and depth much the same as before. The country, as far as I could see, was precisely similar to that already passed over: the hills were slaty and barren, with a few small cypresses: in fact, I have seen them grow on no other spots so frequently as on those stony hills. The boats arrived about two o'clock.
May 5.—Proceeded down the river, ascended the eminence mentioned yesterday, and from the top of a cypress tree a very distant view of the whole country was obtained: the opening through which the river apparently runs bore S. 75 1/2 W.; the country to the south and south-west extremely low. A range of hills, lying nearly east and west, bounded the level tract on the other side of the river; these hills and two or three detached hammocks excepted, there was nothing to break the uniformity of the scene.
The country was in general poor, with partial tracts of better ground; the hills were slaty, and covered as well as the levels with small eucalypti, cypresses, and casuarinas. About a mile from this place we fell in with a small tribe of natives, consisting of eight men; their women we did not see. They did not appear any way alarmed at the sight of us, but came boldly up: they were covered with cloaks made of opossum skins; their faces daubed with a red and yellow pigment, with neatly worked nets bound round their hair: the front tooth in the upper row was wanting in them all: they were unarmed, having nothing with them but their stone hatchets. It appeared from their conduct that they had either seen or heard of white people before, and were anxious to depart, accompanying the motion of going with a wave of their hand.
About three miles from our last night's halting-place we had to cross a small creek, the banks of which were so steep that we were obliged to unload the horses. I rode up the creek about three quarters of a mile, and came upon those extensive plains before-mentioned; the soil of this level appears a good loamy clay, but in some places very wet: it was far too extensive to permit us to traverse much of it; we saw sufficient to judge that the whole surface was similar to that we examined; it was covered with a great variety of new plants, and its margin encircled by a new species of acacia, which received the specific name of PENDULA, from its resembling in habit the weeping willow. Low hills to the north bounded this plain, whilst a slip of barren land, covered with small trees and shrubs, lay between it and the river.
It appeared to me that the whole of these flats are occasionally overflowed by the river, the water of which is forced up the creek before-mentioned, and which again acts as a drain on the fall of the water.
At four o'clock we halted for the evening, after a fatiguing day's journey; the boats were obliged to cut their passage three or four times, and the whole navigation was difficult and dangerous: the current ran with much rapidity, and the channel seemed rather to contract than widen. We were obliged to stop on a very barren desolate spot, with little grass for the horses; but further on the country appeared even worse. The south bank of the river (as far as I could judge) is precisely similar to that which we are travelling down. The clear levels examined to-day were named the Solway Flats. Many fish were caught here, one of which weighed upwards of thirty pounds.
May 6.—Proceeded down the river. It is impossible to fancy a worse country than the one we were now travelling over, intersected by swamps and small lagoons in every direction; the soil a poor clay, and covered with stunted useless timber. It was excessively fatiguing to the horses which travelled along the banks of the river, as the rubus and anthistiria were so thickly intermingled, that they could scarcely force a passage. After proceeding about eight miles, a bold rocky mount terminated on the river, and broke the sameness which had so long wearied us: we ascended this hill, which I named Mount Amyot, and from the summit had one of the most extensive views that can be imagined. On the opposite side of the river was another hill precisely similar to Mount Amyot, leaving a passage between them for the river, and the immense tract of level country to the eastward; this hill was named Mount Stuart. Vast plains clear of timber lay on the south side of the river, and which, from our having travelled on a level with them, it was impossible for us to distinguish before. These plains I named Hamilton's Plains, and they were bounded by hills of considerable elevation to the southward; whilst the whole level country thus bounded was honoured with the designation of Princess Charlotte's Crescent.
To the west of Mount Amyot the view was equally extensive, being bounded only by the horizon; some high detached hills, rising like islands from the ocean, broke, in some measure, the sameness of the prospect. I estimated that in the west north-west I could see at least forty miles, and in the south south-west as far; the view in other points being slightly interrupted by low ranges of hills, rising occasionally to points of considerable elevation: none of those elevated spots was nearer than twenty-five or thirty miles, and considerable spaces of clear ground could, by the assistance of the telescope, be distinguished, interspersed amidst the ocean of trees whence those hills arise: a long broken mountain, bearing W. 32 1/2. N., was named Mount Melville; one W. 24. N. Mount Cunningham; and another, bearing S. 70. W. Mount Maude. Smoke, arising from the fires of the wandering inhabitants of these desolate regions was seen in several quarters. At four o'clock we stopped for the evening, about three miles west of Mount Amyot.
I have reason to believe that the whole of the tract named Princess Charlotte's Crescent is at times drowned by the overflowing of the river; the marks of flood were observed in every direction, and the waters in the marshes and lagoons were all traced as being derived from the river. During a course of upwards of seventy miles not a single running stream emptied itself into the river on either side; and I am forced to conclude that in common seasons this whole tract is extremely badly watered, and that it derives its principal if not only supply from the river within the bounding ranges Of Princess Charlotte's Crescent. There are doubtless many small eminences which might afford a retreat from the inundations, but those which were observed by us were too trifling and distant from each other to stand out distinct from the vast level surface which the crescent presents to the view. The soil of the country we passed over was a poor and cold clay; but there are many rich levels which, could they be drained and defended from the inundations of the river, would amply repay the cultivation. These flats are certainly not adapted for cattle; the grass is too swampy, and the bushes, swamps, and lagoons, are too thickly intermingled with the better portions to render it either a safe or desirable grazing country. The timber is universally bad and small; a few large misshapen gum trees on the immediate banks of the river may be considered as exceptions. If however the country itself is poor, the river is rich in the most excellent fish, procurable in the utmost abundance. One man in less than an hour caught eighteen large fish, one of which was a curiosity from its immense size, and the beauty of its colours. In shape and general form it most resembled a cod, but was speckled over with brown, blue, and yellow spots, like a leopard's skin; its gills and belly a clear white, the tail and fins a dark brown. It weighed entire seventy pounds, and without the entrails sixty-six pounds: it is somewhat singular that in none of these fish is any thing found in the stomach, except occasionally a shrimp or two. The dimensions of this fish were as follow:
Length from the nose to the tail 3 5 Circumference round the shoulders 2 6 Fin to fin over the back 1 5 Circumference near the anus 1 9 Breadth of the tail 1 1 1/2 Circumference of the mouth opened 1 6 Depth of the swallow 1 foot.
Most of the other fish taken this evening weighed from fifteen to thirty pounds each, and were of the same kind as the above.
May 7.—A fine clear frosty morning. The horses having been much fatigued by the two last days' journey, I determined to halt to-day instead of Saturday, as the grass was good, which is more than could be said of it for some days past. Observed the latitude to be 33. 22. 59. S.
May 8.—Proceeded down the river. Our general course was westerly, and the country, though equally level with any we had passed, improved in the quality of the soil, which, during the greater part of to-day's route, was a good vegetable mould, the land thickly covered with small acacia and dwarf trees. On the south side of the river it was apparently the same; and the whole we passed over bore evident marks of being subject to inundations.
The banks of the river were, I think, much lower, not exceeding fifteen or twenty feet high, and they were rather clearer of timber than before. The casuarina, which used to line the banks, was now seldom seen, the acacia pendula seeming to take its place. We stopped for the night on a plain of good land, flooded, but clear of timber: large flocks of emus were feeding on it, and we were fortunate enough to kill a very large one after a fine chase. At three o'clock, the boats not having arrived, I sent a man back to look for them; at eight he returned, having found them about six miles up the river, unable to proceed until morning, having met with continual interruptions from fallen trees. These impediments in the navigation of the river obstruct our progress very materially, and its windings continue so great and frequent, that the distance travelled by land is nearly trebled by water.
May 9.—The boats not having arrived at ten o'clock, Mr. Evans proceeded with the BAT horses another stage down the river. Mr. Cunningham and I waited to bring up the boats, which shortly afterwards came in sight. We proceeded to join the horses, which we did about five o'clock, the boats having gone in that time nearly thirty-six miles, although the distance from the last station did not exceed seven in a direct line.
The country we had passed through during this day's route was extremely low, consisting of extensive plains divided by lines of small trees: the banks of the river, and the deep bights formed by the irregularity of its course, were covered with acacia bushes and dwarf trees. The river, at the spot where we stopped, wound along the edge of an extensive low plain, being at least six miles long and three or four broad; these I called Field's Plains, after the judge of the supreme court of this territory; they are the same which we saw from the top of Mount Amyot. The soil of these plains is a light clayey loam, very wet in many places; they were fringed round with that beautiful tree, the acacia pendula, which here seems to perform the part of the willow in Europe; the cypresses were also more frequent, and the banks of the river much lower than even those we passed yesterday. I cannot help thinking that the whole of this extensive region has been at some time or other under water, and that the present river is the drain by which the waters have been conveyed to lower grounds. It is evident that even now the plains (on those parts clear of trees) are frequently under water, and that at very high floods the wooded lands are so too, for it is almost impossible to distinguish any difference in their elevation; but the wooded lands, from being actually higher, seem to have given time for the growth of the diminutive timber with which they are covered, whereas the lower plains are too frequently covered to give time for such growth.
May 10.—The horses having strayed in the night, and it being nearly noon before they were found, I determined to make this a halting day.
These plains are much more extensive than I supposed yesterday, and many new plants were found on them. The river rose upwards of a foot during the night, and still continues to rise; a circumstance which appears very singular to me, there having been no rains of any magnitude for the last five weeks, and none at all for the last ten days. We are also certain that no waters fall into it or join it easterly for nearly one hundred and fifty miles. This rise must therefore be occasioned by heavy rains in the mountains, whence the river derives its source; but it is not the less singular, that during its whole course, as far as it is hitherto known, it does not receive a single tributary stream. Observed the latitude 33. 16. 33. S.
May 11.—The river rose about four feet during the night, and still continues to rise. Set forward on our journey down the river. About four miles and a half from this morning's station. the river began to wash the immediate edge of the plain, and so continued to do all along. My astonishment was extreme at finding the banks of the river not more than six feet from the water: it at once confirmed my supposition that the whole of this extensive country is frequently inundated; the river was here about thirty yards broad. Mount Cunningham was at this time distant about two miles, and Mount Melville four miles; the plains winding immediately under the base of each. At twelve o'clock ascended the south end of Mount Cunningham, a small branch of the river running close under it. From this elevation our view was very extensive in every direction, particularly in the west quarter. The whole country in that direction was so low, that it might not improperly be termed a swamp, the spaces which were bare of trees being more constantly under water than those where they grew. A remarkable peaked hill bearing W. 27 1/4. N. was named Hurd's Peak [Note: After Captain Hurd, Hydrographer to the Admiralty.], and a lofty hummock S. 83 1/2. W, Mount Meyrick: these were the only elevations of any consequence in the western direction. To the north, low ranges of rocky hills bounded the swamps, which on the south had a similar boundary, except that occasionally a bolder rocky projection would obtrude itself on the flat.
On descending from the hill, we proceeded to the point where the north-west arm is separated from the main branch, but apparently to join it in water, bearing from Mount Cunningham W. 40. N.: on arriving there we found the boats and horses. The crew of the former reported, that an equally considerable branch of the river, with that down which they had come, had turned off to the south-west, about two miles below the place where we stopped last night. After directing the horses and baggage to be got over the north-west arm, I returned to examine the branch passed by the boats, and found it at least as considerable as that which we were pursuing. I am in hopes that when again joined, the width and depth of the river will be considerably increased. At half past four returned to the tents on the north-west arm. The river (from whatever cause) was still rising, and no part of the banks was more than four feet above the level of the water. I consider that the river may have from eight to ten feet more water in it than usual: its present average depth is about eighteen feet.
The soil of these extensive plains, designated Field's Plains, is for the most part extremely rich, as indeed might be expected, from the deposition of the quantities of vegetable matter that must take place in periods of flood. The plains are in some places even lower than the ground forming the immediate bank of the river, very soft, and difficult for loaded horses to pass over. If we had been so unfortunate as to have had a rainy season, it would have been utterly impossible to have come thus far by land. The ranges of hills are unconnected, and are rocky and barren; the swamps for the most part surrounding them. Mount Cunningham is a lofty rocky hill, about a mile and a half long, composed of granite rock, but entirely surrounded by low swampy ground.
Here we were so unfortunate as to find the barometer broken, the horse which carried the instruments having thrown his load in passing the swamps: every precaution had been taken in the packing to prevent such an accident, which was the more to be regretted, as it interrupted a chain of observations by which I hoped to ascertain the height of the country with tolerable accuracy. The last observations that were made, reduced to this place, gave us an elevation of not more than five hundred feet above the sea, or about a hundred feet lower than the country at the depot.
Since the river has been swollen, the fish have eluded us, none having been caught since yesterday morning. Two black swans were however shot on the river. Our present situation is by no means enviable: in the first place, there is every chance that the river may be lost in a multitude of branches, among those marshy flats, and farther navigation thus rendered impossible; and in the second, a rise of four feet in the river would sweep us all away, since we have not the smallest eminence to retreat to. Should the river lead through to the westward, and be afterwards joined by the branches we have passed, it may become something more interesting and encouraging: a wet or even a partially rainy season will, in my judgment, preclude us from returning by our present route, more especially if these low countries continue for any distance.
I am by no means surprised at the paucity of natives that have been seen: it would be quite impossible in wet seasons to inhabit these marshes, and equally so for them to retreat in times of flood. Their fires are universally observed near the higher grounds, and no traces of any thing like a permanent camp has hitherto been seen; but in many places on the banks quantities of pearl muscle-shells were found near the remains of fires. That large species of bittern, known on the east-coast by the local name of Native Companions, I believe from the circumstance of their being always seen in pairs, was observed, on the flats, of very large size, exceeding six feet in height: they were so shy that we were unable to shoot any.
May 12.—The fine weather still continues to favour us. The river rose in the course of the night upwards of a foot. It is a probable supposition that the natives, warned by experience of these dangerous flats, rather choose to seek a more precarious, but more safe subsistence in the mountainous and rocky ridges which are occasionally to be met with. The river and lagoons abound with fish and fowl, and it is scarcely reasonable to suppose that the natives would not avail themselves of such store of food, if the danger of procuring it did not counterbalance the advantages they might otherwise derive from such abundance.
About three quarters of a mile farther westward we had to cross another small arm of the river, running to the northward, which although now full, is, I should think, dry when the river is at its usual level. It is probable that this and the one which we first crossed join each other a few miles farther to the westward, and then both united fall into the stream which gave them existence. We had scarcely proceeded a mile from the last branch, before it became evident that it would be impossible to advance farther in the direction in which we were travelling. The stream here overflowed both banks, and its course was lost among marshes: its channel not being distinguishable from the surrounding waters.
Observing an eminence about half a mile from the south side, we crossed over the horses and baggage at a Place where the water was level with the banks, and which when within its usual channel did not exceed thirty or forty feet in width, its depth even now being only twelve feet.
We ascended the hill, and had the mortification to perceive the termination of our research, at least down this branch of the river: the whole country from the west north-west round to north was either a complete marsh or lay under water, and this for a distance of twenty-five or thirty miles, in those directions; to the south and south-west the country appeared more elevated, but low marshy grounds lay between us and it, which rendered it impossible for us to proceed thither from our present situation. I therefore determined to return back to the place where the two branches of the principal river separated, and follow the south-west branch as far as it should be navigable; our fears were however stronger than our hopes, lest it would end in a similar manner to the one we had already traced, until it became no longer navigable for boats.
In pursuance of this intention we descended the hill, which was named Farewell Hill, from its being the termination of our journey in a north-west direction at least for the present, and proceeded up the south bank of the stream. We were able to reach only a short distance from the spot where we stopped last night, having been obliged to unload the horses no less than four times in the course of the day, added to which, the travelling loaded through those dreadful marshes had completely exhausted them: my own horse, in searching for a better track, was nearly lost, and it consumed four hours to advance scarcely half a mile.
My disappointment at the interruption of our labours in this quarter was extreme, and what was worse, no flattering prospect appeared of our succeeding better in the examination of the south-west branch. I was however determined to see the present end of the river in all its branches, before I should finally quit it, in furtherance of the other objects of the expedition.
May 13.—Returned to the point whence the river separates into two branches; intending first to descend the south-west branch for some distance before the boats and baggage should move down, being unwilling the horses should undergo an useless fatigue in traversing such marshy ground, unless the branch should prove of sufficient magnitude to take us a considerable distance; conceiving it an object of the first importance that the horses should start fresh, if I should find it necessary to quit the river at this point of the coast.
May 14.—This branch of the river has fallen about a foot. Having directed the casks in the boats to be prepared for slinging on the horses, and the tools and arms to be put in order preparatory to leaving the river, I proceeded to examine the branch. After going about four miles down, it took a similar direction (north-westerly) to that which we had previously traced. The banks on both sides were a mere marsh, and about six miles down, a small arm from it supplied the marshes between this and the north-west branch. The fall of the country from the south-east to the north-west was very remarkable; the water in the branch was here nearly level with the banks, and was narrowed to a width of not more than twenty feet. Finding that it would be equally as impracticable to follow this branch as the other, I returned and commenced preparations for setting out for the coast, which I purpose not to do until Sunday, in order that the horses may be refreshed, as they will at first be most heavily laden.
My present intention is to take a south-west direction for Cape Northumberland, since should any river be formed from those marshes, which is extremely probable, and fall into the sea between Spencer's Gulf and Cape Otway, this course will intersect it, and no river or stream can arise from these swamps without being discovered. The body of water now running in both the principal branches is very considerable, fully sufficient to have constituted a river of magnitude, if it had constantly maintained such a supply of water, and had not become separated into branches, and lost among the immense marshes of this desolate and barren country, which seems here to form a vast concavity to receive them. It is impossible to arrive at any certain opinion as to what finally becomes of these waters, but I think it probable, from the appearance of the country, and its being nearly on a level with the sea, that they are partly absorbed by the soil, and the remainder lost by evaporation.
May 15.—Mr. Cunningham made an excursion under Mount Melville, and found the country in that direction as full of stagnant water as to the north-west. Some tracts rather more raised above the usual level were barren, and covered with acacia scrubs. The natives had been recently under Mount Melville, perhaps to the number of a dozen: abundance of large pearl muscle-shells was found about their deserted fireplaces, but these shells had been apparently some months out of water.
May 16.—Felled a tree of the acacia pendula, the wood extremely hard and beautiful; a black resinous juice exuded from the heart, which much resembled the black part of the lignum vitae. Our observations placed this spot in latitude 33. 15. 34. S.; longitude 147. 16. E. and the variation of the compass 7. 0. 8. E.
May 17.—After reducing our luggage as much as possible, we sent every thing down the branch about two miles, and landed on the south shore; got every thing in readiness for proceeding on our journey to-morrow; hauled up the boats on the south bank, and secured them, together with such heavy articles as we could not take with us. The provisions occupied our whole fourteen horses, including my own, and each will still be very heavily laden.
May 18.—At nine o'clock we commenced our journey towards the coast; at three stopped within four miles of Mount Maude, on a dry creek, with occasional pools of very indifferent water. The country through which we passed from the branch was for the first three miles very low and wet, with large lagoons of water. During the latter part of the journey the country was more elevated though still level, the soil light and rotten, and overrun with the acacia pendula. The horses being very heavily laden fell repeatedly during the early part of the day. Our course was nearly south-west, and we performed about ten miles.
May 19.—At two miles passed over a low rocky range connected with Mount Maude: the remainder of our day's journey (nearly twelve miles) lay chiefly through a barren level country, the ground rather studded than covered with grass, and that only in patches, by far the greater part producing no grass at all. The trees were chiefly cypresses, a new species of staculia, together with scrubs of the acacia pendula. The soil a light red sand, the lower levels being stronger and more clayey. We did not meet with any water, and were obliged to stop in the middle of an acacia brush, the horses being too much fatigued to proceed farther, and as the country had been lately burnt, the grass was a little better than usual. At four o'clock sent two men to search for water, and in about half an hour they returned, having found several small ponds of good water about three quarters of a mile to the south-west: the swamp appeared to extend to the northward a considerable distance. Several native huts were on the edge of one of the ponds, but they had not been recently inhabited.
May 20.—Proceeded forward south-west eleven miles through a most barren desolate country, the soil a light red sand, literally parched up with drought, there being no appearance of rain having fallen for several months. The country through which we passed being a perfect plain overrun with acacia scrubs, we could not see in any direction above a quarter of a mile; I therefore halted at two o'clock on purpose to gain time to find water before sunset, as we had seen no other signs of any on our route than a few dry pits. It is impossible to imagine a more desolate region; and the uncertainty we are in, whilst traversing it, of finding water, adds to the melancholy feelings which the silence and solitude of such wastes is calculated to inspire.
The search for water was unsuccessful, about three gallons of muddy liquid being all that could be procured: our horses and dogs, I am afraid, were the greatest sufferers.
May 21.—The water was so extremely bad that, pressed as we were by thirst, we could scarcely even by twice boiling it render it drinkable. After travelling ten or eleven miles through a country equally barren and destitute with that of yesterday, without meeting with the least appearance of water, and the horses being completely worn out, I determined to halt on a small patch of burnt grass; two of the horses had fallen several times under their loads, and nothing but the evenness of the road enabled us to reach thus far. The same level plain extended on all sides, and our view was confined to the scrubby brush around us. A small hollow lying across our track, I sent a man on horseback to trace it, in hopes it might lead to water: he returned about four o'clock with the joyful news that he had found water in a large swamp about five miles to the north-west: he also saw a native, who however ran too swiftly to allow him to come up with him. This was the first living creature of any kind we had seen since we quitted the river. Both the kangaroo and emu seem to have deserted these plains for other parts of the country better watered, and affording them more food. The horses being utterly unable to proceed without rest, I determined to remain here to-morrow to refresh them.
May 22.—The nights cold and frosty, the days warm and clear: I think it is very evident that the altitude of the country declines in a remarkable manner to the north-west; from the south-east to the south-west it appears nearly of the same elevation; and in travelling we appear to be going along an inclined plane, the lowest edges being from west to north. I went about five miles to the north-west to the place whence the water was procured; the country poor, and as barren as can well be imagined; the soil a light red sand, acacia scrubs, small box-trees, and a few miserable cypresses.
May 23.—Our route lay through a country equally bad, if not worse, than any which we had passed the preceding days: in some places it was difficult for the horses to force a passage through the brush; occasionally low stony ridges intervened, which, when viewed from higher eminences, were not to be detected from the plain out of which they rose. The soil was alternately a sterile sand and a hardened clay, without grass of any description: the country appeared to form the bottom of a dry morass, and I am convinced if the weather had not been dry for a considerable time, travelling would have been impossible. After proceeding ten miles we were obliged to stop, the horses being unable to go further. We had seen no signs of water during our route, but stopping at a stony water-course we were in hopes of finding a sufficiency to supply our wants, and on a hill at the end of it, about a quarter of a mile to the westward, water was found.
May 24.—A day of rest and preparation. The country seems to rise hereabouts and to be more broken, the ridges stony: the dwarf timber and brush very thick. In searching for the horses this morning several kangaroos and emus were seen, also the huts of a tribe of natives recently inhabited.
May 25.—The horses much refreshed, except one which is unable to carry any thing; his load was therefore obliged to be distributed among the rest, already too heavily laden. At nine o'clock set forward on our journey. At two we arrived at the base of a hill of considerable magnitude, terminating westward in an abrupt perpendicular rock from two hundred and fifty to three hundred feet high. The country we passed over was of the most miserable description; the last eight miles without a blade of grass. The acacia brushes grow generally on a hard and clayey soil evidently frequently covered with water, and I consider that these plains or brushes are swamps or morasses in wet weather, since they must receive all the water from the low ranges with which they are generally circumscribed. It is a remarkable feature in the hills of this country that their terminations are generally perpendicular westward, rising from the lower grounds round from south-west to north-west very gradually; their terminating rocky bluffs are usually two or three hundred feet high. I include in these observations not only the single detached hills, but the points of the ranges. This hill was named Mount Aiton. The country having been recently burnt, some good grass was found for the horses a little to the south-west. We therefore stopped for the night, and ascended the face of the mount for the purpose of looking around: a very large brown speckled snake was killed about half way up, which, in the absence of fresh provisions, was afterwards eaten by some of the party. On arriving at the summit we had an extensive prospect in every direction; the country was most generally level, but rose occasionally into gentle eminences bounded by distant low ranges from the south south-west to the north-west. The most considerable of these ranges were named PEEL'S RANGE, and GOULBURN'S RANGE: a very lofty hill, distant at least seventy miles, was named MOUNT GRANARD. Interspersed through the country, bounded by those ranges, were several large tracts entirely devoid of wood; these are however, I fear, only a repetition of the acacia plains of which we had lately been but too abundantly favoured. From south-west by south round to north-east were some low broken hills, with some to the east-south-east of greater magnitude; but their distance was so great as to appear but faintly in the horizon. Upon the whole the country appeared more open and somewhat better, particularly in the immediate vicinity of our station to the south-west. There were not the smallest signs of any stream, neither is-ere there any fires in the direction we had to take. Three or four fires were seen in the north-west, and recent traces of the natives were discovered near our tents. The inhabitants of these wilds must be very few, and I think it impossible for more than a family to subsist together; a greater number would only starve each other: indeed their deserted fires and camps which we occasionally saw, never appeared to have been occupied by more than six or eight persons. The scarcity of food must also prevent the raising of many children, from the absolute impossibility of supporting them until of an age to provide for themselves. We have seen so few animals, either kangaroo or emu, and the country appears so little capable of maintaining these animals, that the means of the natives in procuring food must be precarious indeed. We found just a sufficiency of water to answer our purpose in a drain from the Mount; our dogs are, however, in a wretched condition for want of food.
May 26.—The horses having strayed in the night, every man was employed in searching for them. In passing through those barren brushes yesterday, a great quantity of small iron-stones was picked up, from the size of a large pea to a hen's-egg, all nearly round, being washed into heaps by the waters, which in time of rain sweep over those flats. The front of Mount Aiton was found to decline about fifteen degrees from the perpendicular; the rocks were composed of a hard sandy free-stone. It was eight o'clock in the evening before any of the people returned, and then only two men came back with two horses, being all they were able to find: the other three men are still absent, but they had found the track of the other horses before these men left them. The two horses were discovered in the midst of a thick brush, entangled among creeping plants and unable to get further: they must have strayed in search of water, the water at this place not being sufficient for them all. The animals were all spencilled, but such is the scarcity of both water and grass, that they will wander in search of each.
The natives have been reconnoitring us: we have several times heard them, but have been unable to see them. At sunset their fires were seen about two miles to the south-west.
May 27.—At day-light, despatched the other two men and horses to the assistance of the rest, who remained out all night.
A native was seen about half a mile from our fires: the dogs attacked him, and when called off, he ran away shouting most lustily; he was a very stout man, at least six feet high, entirely naked, with a long bushy beard: he had no arms of any kind. At two o'clock, two of the men who had been out all night returned, after an unsuccessful search, leaving three more out to pursue it in every possible direction. Water is evidently the reason of their straying, as several patches of burnt grass have been passed by them, and they would naturally return to the place where they last found it, if they could find none nearer. At sunset the men returned with nine of the horses, five being still missing: they were found ten miles on the road back, and near the place where they fed on the 24th.
May 28.—At daylight despatched four men on horseback to resume the search for the missing horses, taking with them two days' provisions.
May 29.—At four o'clock in the afternoon the men returned, still unsuccessful.
May 30.—At seven o'clock I proceeded to the north-east with two men, whilst Mr. Evans went to the north-west. At ten I was fortunate enough to fall in with the horses about eight miles from our camp; returned with them, and prepared every thing for setting forward to-morrow morning. In one of the brushes an emu's nest was found, containing ten eggs; our dogs also killed two small birds. Mr. Evans returned about three o'clock, having seen nothing remarkable: the country was very thick and brushy, and he was much impeded by creeping vines.
Mr. Cunningham here planted the seeds of quinces, and the stones of peach and apricot trees.
May 31.—Fine weather as usual, and at nine o'clock we set off with renewed hopes and spirits. Our first nine miles afforded excellent travelling through an open country of very indifferent soil. The trees thin and chiefly cypress, with occasionally a large sterculia, but no water whatever: at the ninth mile we entered a very thick eucalyptus brush, overrun with creepers and prickly acacia bushes. We continued forcing our way through this desert until sunset, when, finding no hopes of getting through it before dark, we halted in the midst of it, having travelled in the whole nearly twenty miles, and for the last mile been obliged to cut our way with our tomahawks.
Both men and horses were quite knocked up, and our embarrassment was heightened by the want of water for ourselves and them, as this desert did not hold out the slightest hope of finding any. No herbage of any kind grew on this abandoned plain, being a fine red sand, which almost blinded us with its dust. It was with some little hesitation that we affixed a name to this brush; but at length nothing occurred to us more expressive of its aspect than EURYALEAN. This was the first night which we had passed absolutely without water.
June 1.—A cold frosty morning. The weather during the might changed from very mild and pleasant to extreme cold; the thermometer varying 24. At daylight we loaded the horses and set forward to get out of this scrub, and endeavour to procure water and grass for the horses, which we were obliged to tie to bushes, to prevent them from straying. After going about two miles farther we cleared the thickest of it: but the country was only more open, and not in any degree more fertile. We proceeded on towards the south-east end of Peel's range until twelve o'clock, when, having gone nearly eleven miles, the horses were unable to proceed farther with their loads. There was nothing left for us but to unload them, and separate in every direction in search of that most precious of elements, without tasting a drop of which both men and horses had now existed nearly thirty-six hours.
Water was found in three holes in the side of Peel's range sufficient for all our necessities, and a most grateful relief it proved, particularly to the poor horses, who were nearly famished for the want of it: one of the best of our animals was so exhausted that it was with some difficulty he could be taken to the water. I wish the grass had proved equally good, but there is nothing for them but dead wire-grass (IRA). We saw no game, with the exception of three or four kangaroo rats: many beautiful small parrots were observed; and, barren as the scrub appeared to us, yet our botanists reaped an excellent harvest here; nothing being more true than that the most beautiful plants and shrubs flourish best where no grass or other herbage will grow.
June 2.—Fine and clear as usual, the nights cold. One of our best horses, mentioned yesterday as having fallen repeatedly under his load, was this morning extremely ill, having entirely lost the use of his hind quarters. Finding that he was quite unable to accompany us, and in fact unfit to do any more work, it was with extreme reluctance that I caused him to be shot, since it would have been no mercy to suffer him to linger in his present miserable condition. Observations were taken to ascertain our situation, and they placed us lat. 34. 8. 8. S., long. 146.03. E., the variation of the compass being 7. 18. E.
The hills to the southward of us are curiously composed of pudding-stone in very large masses, the lower stratum being a coarse granite intermingled with pieces of quartz, and a variety of other stones.
June 3.—Set forward on our route, passing over a rugged, barren, and rocky country for about four miles and a half, when we ascended a hill upon our right which promised a view in all directions. To the southward, south-west, and even west, the country was a perfect plain, interspersed with more of those dreadful scrubs which we had passed through. In coming from Mount Aiton to the south-east were some low ranges, with a level barren country between us and them; this hill was named Mount Caley, and the termination of Peel's range to the southward, a lofty rocky hill, was called Mount Brogden. On descending the hill, I had the mortification to find that one of the horses, who had hitherto performed well, now sunk under his load, and was unable to proceed farther: in short, all of them appeared so debilitated, that the utmost we could promise ourselves was their proceeding three or four miles farther in search of grass and water. Directing the man to stay by his load, we proceeded towards some burnt grass which had been seen from Mount Caley, and after going about four miles farther we stopped upon it. As the ultimate success of the expedition so entirely depended upon the capability of the horses to perform the journey, it was judged advisable that they should have two or three days rest before we attempted to penetrate farther; and as we were now on a spot that at least afforded them a mouthful of fresh wire-grass, I determined, if water should be found, to remain here until Friday morning.
The country is so extremely impracticable, and so utterly destitute of the means of affording subsistence to either man or beast; water is so precarious, and when found is only the contents of small muddy holes, which under different circumstances would be rejected equally by horses and by men, that I much fear we shall not be able to proceed much further; but my mind is made up to persevere until the last horse fails us, keeping that course which, although inclining to the westward, will bring us out upon the coast upon a nearer line than Cape Northumberland, which I intended to steer for when we quitted the Lachlan River.
Sent back assistance to the man and horse left under Mount Caley, and at eight o'clock they returned.
After searching in every direction, no water was found, except in a small hole evidently dug by the natives under Mount Brogden, and containing scarcely sufficient for the people.
June 4.—Weather as usual fine and clear, which is the greatest comfort we enjoy in these deserts, abandoned as they seem to be by every living creature capable of getting out of them. I was obliged to send the horses back to our former halting-place for water, a distance of near eight miles: this is terrible for the horses, who are in general extremely reduced; but two in particular cannot, I think, endure this miserable existence much longer.
At five o'clock, two men, whom I had sent to explore the country to the south-west and see if any water could be found, returned, after proceeding six or seven miles: they found it impossible to go any farther in that direction or even south, from the thick brushes that intersected their course on every side; and no water (nor in fact the least sign of any) was discovered either by them, or by those who were sent in search of it nearer to our little camp.
No other trace of inhabitants (besides the well from which we derive our supply of water) has hitherto been seen: no game of any kind, nor grass to support any, have resulted from the various routes and observations of the different persons who were employed for that purpose during the day. I almost despair of finding any, for the country being perfectly level (some few elevated stations excepted), and the soil a deep loose red sand, the rain which falls must be immediately absorbed, and indeed it is quite impossible that water should remain on the surface of the land which we have travelled over since we have left the river.
At the period we quitted the river I considered our height above the level of the sea to be about five hundred feet, an elevation too trifling to afford a hope that any streams could rise in these regions and flow thence into the sea. In traversing these flats, the declivity, when it could be observed, was always towards the west and north-west, obliging me to believe that either the country continued a desert of sand as at present, or that its westerly inclination would cause all that part of it to consist of marshes and swamps. Since quitting the river we have not enjoyed what under any other circumstances would be called drinkable water; what was found being merely the contents of shallow mud holes, in the bottom of acacia swamps, over which the dryness of the season alone enabled us to travel. We have uniformly been obliged to strain our water before we drank it, and its taste, from the decayed vegetable matter it contained, was sour and unpleasant.
June 5.—A clear cold frosty morning: sent the horses to the watering place: if it be any way possible to get them on, it is my intention to proceed to-morrow morning, as it is almost as much labour to them to go for water as it would be to perform a short day's journey.
From every thing I can see of the country to the south-west, it appears, upon the most mature deliberation, highly imprudent to persevere longer in that direction, as the consequences to the horses of want of water and grass might be most serious; and we are well assured that within forty miles on that point the country is the same as before passed over. In adopting a north-westerly course, it is my intention to be entirely guided by the possibility of procuring subsistence for the horses, that being the main point on which all our ulterior proceedings must hinge. It is however to be expected that as the country is certainly lower to the west and north-west than from south-east to south-west, there is a greater probability of finding water in this latter direction. In our present perplexing situation, however, it is impossible to lay down any fixed plan, as (be it what it may) circumstances after all must guide us. Our horses are unable to go more than eight or ten miles a day, but even then they must be assured of finding food, of which, in these deserts, the chances are against the existence.
Yesterday, being the King's birthday, Mr. Cunningham planted under Mount Brogden acorns, peach and apricot-stones, and quince-seeds, with the hope rather than the expectation that they would grow and serve to commemorate the day and situation, should these desolate plains be ever again visited by civilized man, of which, however, I think there is very little probability.
Our observation placed the situation of the tent in lat. 34. 13. 33. S., long. 146. E.; the variation of the compass 8. 08. E.
June 6.—A mild pleasant morning: set forward on our journey to the westward and north-west, in hopes of finding a better country: at two o'clock halted about two miles from Peel's range, after going about eight miles through a very thick cypress scrub; the country equally bad as on any of the foregoing days. We saw no signs of water during our route: the whole country seems burnt up with long continued drought; no traces of natives, or any game seen.
After two hours' search a small hole of water was found at the foot of the range, sufficient for the horses, and in a hole in the rocks a little clearer was procured for ourselves.
June 7.—Set forward to the north-west, the horses being a little fresher than for some days past. Halted at four o'clock, having gone ten miles through a country which, for barrenness and desolation, can I think have no equal; it was a continued scrub, and where there was timber it chiefly consisted of small cypress: we saw no water as usual, but stopped on some burnt grass near the base of a low range of stony hills west of Peel's range, from which we are distant eight or ten miles. These ranges abound with native dogs; their howlings are incessant, day as well as night: as we saw no game, their principal prey must be rats, which have almost undermined this loose sandy country.
As we had brought a small keg of water with us, we did not on this occasion suffer absolute want: we hope that the instinct of the horses would lead them to water in the course of the night—but we were too sanguine.
Our spirits were not a little depressed by the desolation and want that seemed to reign around us: the scene was never varied, except from bad to worse. However, the scarcity of water and grass for the horses are our greatest real privations, for the temperature is mild and equable beyond what could be expected at this season, and it is this circumstance alone that enables us to proceed: the horses are too much reduced to endure rainy weather, even if the loose soil of the country would permit us to travel over it.
June 8.—During the night there was light rain. At daylight sent out in search of water, but all our efforts proved unsuccessful. Peel's range being the nearest high land, I determined to search the base of it, in hopes of finding water, since it was impossible that either men or horses could long endure this almost constant privation of the first necessary of life. I accordingly set off towards the range, but was prevented from making it by impenetrable scrubs: we then returned to the range a little to the west of the tent, whence we could see a considerable distance to the west and north-west; it is impossible to imagine a prospect more desolate. The whole country in these directions, as far as the eye could reach, was one continued thicket of eucalyptus scrub: it was physically impossible to proceed that way, and our situation was too critical to admit of delay; it was therefore resolved to return back to our last station on the 6th under Peel's range, if for no other purpose than that of giving the horses water. I felt that by attempting to proceed westerly I should endanger the safety of every man composing the expedition, without any practical good arising from such perseverance: it was therefore deemed more prudent to keep along the base of Peel's range to its termination, having some chance of finding water in its rocky ravines, whilst there was none at all in attempting to keep the level country. It was too late to pursue this resolution this evening.
June 9.—During the night heavy rain. At eight o'clock set off on our return to our halting-place of the 6th, the horses having been now forty-eight hours without water. We had scarcely proceeded a mile when it began to rain hard, and continued to do so without intermission until we stopped at the place where water had been previously found: it was by this time two o'clock, the horses failed, and the people were in little better condition, not having tasted any thing since the evening before. All our clothes were wet through, a circumstance which added greatly to the unpleasantness of our situation.
The true nature of the soil was fully developed by this day's rain. Being in dry weather a loose light sand without any apparent consistency, it was now discovered to have a small portion of loam mixed with it, which, without having the tenacity of clay, is sufficient to render it slimy and boggy: I am quite satisfied that two days' rain will at any time render this country impassable. The mortification and distress of mind I felt at being obliged to take a retrograde direction was heightened by seeing the horses struggling under loads far beyond their present powers, their labour rendered still more trying by the miserable country they were obliged to pass through.
June 10.—Light rain during the night, the morning fair and pleasant: upon mature deliberation it was resolved to remain here until the 13th, for the purpose of refreshing the horses. I also determined to send a detachment on before us, to endeavour to find an eligible station for us to stop at, that we might proceed with more certainty.
Mr. Cunningham named those thick brushes of eucalyptus that spread in every direction around us EUCALYPTUS DUMOSA, or the dwarf gum, as they never exceed twenty feet in height, and are generally from twelve to fifteen, spreading out into a bushy circle from their roots in such a manner that it is impossible to see farther than from one bush to the other; and these are very often united by a species of vine (cassytha), and the intermediate space covered with prickly wire-grass, rendering a passage through them equally painful and tedious
The low ranges of hills which we quitted yesterday morning we named Disappointment Hills, from our not being able to penetrate beyond them to the north-west or west, and also from our not finding any water on them; our hopes being thus disappointed of penetrating into the interior in the direction that I intended when we quitted Mount Brogden.
June 11.—A party set forward to the northward to explore our to-morrow's route, and to endeavour to find water at some eligible station.
They returned about four o'clock, having proceeded eight or ten miles. Small holes of water were found in almost every gully. They saw several traces of the natives, but none recent: the dogs killed several kangaroo-rats, and some new species of plants were discovered.
June 12.—Fine and clear. At eight o'clock set forward on our journey along the west side of Peel's range: we proceeded to the north, inclining westerly for about ten miles; the travelling for the horses very bad, the ground being extremely soft, the description of the country the same. The trees resembled bushes more than timber, being chiefly small cypresses, which is the prevailing wood. The grass where we stopped was very bad, but the quantity and quality of the water compensated for it. No recent marks of the natives having visited this part of the range.
June 13.—Fine mild pleasant weather. Proceeded along the foot of Peel's range for about ten miles; we then inclined north-easterly, the range taking that direction, and after going about four miles farther we stopped for the evening: the country was wretchedly barren and scrubby, and to the north-west and west a continued eucalyptus dumosa scrub, extending as far as the eye could reach from the occasional small hills which we passed in our route.
Water was found about two miles off in the range, affording a bare sufficiency for ourselves and horses.
June 14.—Fine clear weather. Proceeded on our journey northwards: the first four or five miles was over a rocky broken country, consisting of low hills, rising westerly of Peel's range. After going about six miles and a half the country became more open and less rocky; as the grass was here better than at our last night's halting-place, and the water convenient and tolerable, we resolved upon stopping, particularly as I intended resting the horses to-morrow; and I was fearful if I proceeded farther I might meet with neither, and thus be obliged to continue travelling to-morrow; an exertion which the horses were not in a condition to make. Nothing can be more irksome than the tedious days' journeys we are obliged to make through a country in which there is not the smallest variety, each day's occurrences and scenes being but a recapitulation of the former: our patience would frequently be exhausted, were we not daily reanimating ourselves with the hopes that the morrow will bring us to a better country, and render a journey, the labour of which has hitherto been ill repaid, of some service to the colony, and of some satisfaction to the expectations which had been formed of its result.
June 15.—Observed in lat. 33. 49. 09. S., and long. 145. 54. E. Mr. Cunningham went upon Peel's range in search of plants, and found a few new ones; the country to the north appeared hilly and broken, but no scrubs, such as obstructed our progress westward, were seen. Goulburn's range had a remarkable appearance, being broken into peaks and singularly shaped hills. A solitary native was seen by one of our party, but he ran off with great precipitation on friendly signs being made to him to approach.
June 16.—It blew extremely hard during the night, and rained incessantly, as it still continues to do, with scarcely any intermission. This morning we had the misfortune to find one horse dead, the same that fell under his load on the 3d instant, and, as he had carried little or nothing since, he appeared to be recovering his strength. Independently of the continuance of heavy rain, which would certainly have prevented me from attempting to set forward, the ground has become so hollow and soft from the rain which fell during the night, that it was the universal opinion that the horses could not travel under their loads. It cleared up towards night, with the exception of occasional heavy showers.
June 17.—Towards morning the weather became fine, with fresh winds from the north-east; at eight o'clock set forward on our journey, the ground extremely wet and soft.
We could not proceed above ten miles when we stopped, one of the horses being completely disabled from going any farther. The line of country we passed over was rocky, barren, and miserable, the level grounds being a perfect bog; to the westward, low irregular rocky ranges, with blasted and decayed cypresses on their summits, were the only objects which presented themselves to our view. There was neither grass nor water where we stopped; of course, nothing but the absolute necessity that existed to spare the horses could induce us to halt. People were sent to search the range for water, but all their endeavours proved fruitless, after wandering in every probable direction until sunset. The coldness of the air would have prevented us from feeling much inconvenience from this privation, had it been in our power to have satisfied our hunger but salt pork, would have proved an aggravating meal without water; we therefore preferred an absolute fast to the certainty of increasing our thirst.
About sunset the wind increased to a perfect storm, accompanied by heavy showers, which prevented the horses from suffering so severely as they otherwise would.
June 18.—The weather was very tempestuous during the night: towards morning the wind somewhat abated, and left light drizzling showers. Our search after water was renewed, and so far succeeded as to procure us about a pint of rain-water each, which afforded us great relief. It did not appear that the horses had been equally successful.
Upon consultation, in our present critical situation it was resolved that Mr. Evans should proceed forward to the north-north-west until he found grass and water, and as it was evident to all that the horses were utterly incapable of proceeding with their present loads to any distance, I thought it expedient to leave half our provisions behind, and proceed to the place selected by Mr Evans, and then to send back for the remainder: in fact, there remained no alternative; reduced as the horses were in their strength, it would have been in the highest degree imprudent to have dared the almost certainty of killing them by proceeding with their usual loads.
After going about three miles we came upon a small valley which afforded both good grass and water; the latter was rain-water collected in holes at the base of the range, which was composed of a hard granite rock. In this valley we found several holes dug by the natives, for the purpose of receiving water; in some a few quarts of muddy water were found, others were quite dry. It rained almost incessantly during the whole of this day, rendering our situation extremely unpleasant.
As if to add to our misfortunes, it was now first discovered that three of the casks, which had all along been taken for flour casks, were filled with pork; and upon a minute investigation it came out, that when, on the 1st of May, the large boat had been reported to have filled from the falling of the river without any other accident, that then, in fact, three of the upper tier of casks had been washed out of her. It was impossible, at this distance of time, to exactly ascertain how such a serious loss could have happened and not have been discovered before, for the boatmen persisted in declaring that their cargo was then all safe; but, as so large a quantity could not possibly have been consumed by the party clandestinely without certain discovery, it appeared quite clear that the loss either happened on that day or on the 4th, when the large boat sunk from having been stove. In counting our casks up to this period, three, in every respect the same as the flour casks, with similar marks, had been reckoned in their lieu by us all, whilst the deficiency being then apparently in the pork was not suspected by any.