THE MAKERS OF AUSTRALASIA.
EARLY VOLUMES (IN PREPARATION).
CAPTAIN COOK and his Predecessors in Australasian Waters, by REGINALD FORD, F.R.G.S., Member of the British National Antarctic Expedition.
GOVERNOR PHILLIP and his Immediate successors, BY F.M. BLADEN, Chief Librarian, Public Library, Sydney.
EDWARD GIBBON WAKEFIELD, by THE EDITOR.
SIR GEORGE GREY, by JAMES COLLIER, sometime Librarian, General Assembly Library, Wellington.
EXPLORERS OF AUSTRALIA
AND THEIR LIFE-WORK.
Explorer, and Author of The History of Australian Exploration, The Geographical Development of Australia, Tales of the Austral Tropics, The Secret of the Australian Desert, etc., and Voices of the Desert (Poems).
In presenting to the public this history of those makers of Australasia whose work consisted in the exploration of the surface of the continent of Australia, I have much pleasure in drawing the reader's attention to the portraits which illustrate the text. It is, I venture to say, the most complete collection of portraits of the explorers that has yet been published in one volume. Some of them of course must needs be conventional; but many of them, such as the portrait of Oxley when a young man, and of A.C. Gregory, have never been given publicity before; and in many cases I have selected early portraits, whenever I had the opportunity, in preference to the oft published portrait of the same subject when advanced in years.
There are many who assisted me in the collection of these portraits. To Mr. F. Bladen, of the Public Library, Sydney; Mr. Malcolm Fraser, of Perth, Western Australia; Mr. Thomas Gill, of Adelaide; Sir John Forrest; The Reverend J. Milne Curran; Mr. Archibald Meston; and many others my best thanks are due. In fact, in such a work as this, one cannot hope for success unless he seek the assistance of those who remembered the explorers in life, or have heard their friends and relatives talk familiarly of them. Let me particularly hope that from these pages our youth, who should be interested in the exploration of their native land, will form an adequate idea of the character of the men who helped to make Australia, and of some of the adverse conditions against which they struggled so nobly.
The published Journals of all the Explorers of Australia. Reports of Explorations published in Parliamentary Papers. History of New South Wales, from the Records. (Barton and Bladen.) Account of New South Wales, by Captain Watkin Tench. Manuscript Diaries of Blaxland, Lawson and Wentworth. Manuscript Diaries of G.W. Evans. (Macquarie and Lachlan Rivers.) The Pioneers of Victoria and South Australia, by various writers. Contemporaneous Australian Journals of the several States. Private letters and memoranda of persons in all the States. Manuscript Diary of Charles Bonney. Pamphlets and other bound extracts on the subject of exploration. The Year Book of Western Australia. Records of the Geographical Societies of South Australia and Victoria. Russell's Genesis of Queensland. Biographical Notes, by J.H. Maiden. Spinifex and Sand, by David Carnegie.
In introducing this book, I should like to commend it to its readers as giving an account of the explorers of Australia in a simple and concise form not hitherto available.
It introduces them to us, tells the tale of their long-tried patience and stubborn endurance, how they lived and did their work, and gives a short but graphic outline of the work they accomplished in opening out and preparing Australia as another home for our race on this side of the world.
The battle that they fought and won was over great natural difficulties and obstacles, as fortunately there were no ferocious wild beasts in Australia, while the danger from the hostility of the aborigines (though a barbarous people) was with care and judgment, with a few exceptions, avoided.
Their triumph has resulted in peaceful progress and in permanent occupation and settlement of a vast continent.
Of all the Australian explorers the fate of Leichhardt — "the Franklin of Australia," as the author so justly terms him — is alone shrouded in mystery. "No man knoweth his sepulchre to this day." His party of six white men (including Leichhardt) and two black boys, with 12 horses, 13 mules, 50 bullocks, and 270 goats, have never been heard of since they left McPherson's station on the Cogoon on 3rd April, 1848; and although there have been several attempts to unravel the mystery, there is scarcely a possibility of any discovery in regard to their fate ever being made.
There can be no doubt that the fascination concerning the work of the early explorers of Australia will gather strength as it goes. Hitherto we have been too close to them rightly to appreciate what was done. This book therefore comes at an opportune time, and is a valuable record. The author has already done a great service to Australian explorations by his writings, and in the present instance has added to our obligation to him by condensing the records into a smaller compass, and by that means has brought it within convenient limits for use in schools and for general readers.
Of the explorers of Australia, eleven have been honoured by being placed on the Golden Roll (Gold Medallists) of the Royal Geographical Society of London; Edward John Eyre being the first to receive the honour in 1843, and Ernest Giles being the eleventh and last to receive it in 1880. In the order of Nature one generation passeth away and another generation cometh, and so it comes to pass that every one on the Golden Roll except myself has gone to the undiscovered country from whose bourn no traveller returns.
That the Australian people will always remember the deeds of those, who, in their day and generation, under arduous and difficult conditions devoted themselves to the exploration of the Continent goes without saying, and I, who in bygone years had the honour of assisting in the task, heartily wish that such fruit may be born of those deeds that Australia will continue to increase and flourish more and more abundantly, and thus fulfil her destiny as the great civilising and dominating power in the Southern Seas.
The Bungalow, Hay Street, Perth, Western Australia, January 7th, 1908.
INTRODUCTION, by Sir John Forrest.
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS.
TABLE OF CONTENTS.
PART 1. EASTERN AUSTRALIA.
CHAPTER 1. ORIGINS. 1.1. Governor Phillip. 1.2. Captain Tench. 1.3. The Blue Mountains: Barallier. 1.4. The Blue Mountains: Blaxland.
CHAPTER 2. GEORGE WILLIAM EVANS. 2.1. First Inland Exploration. 2.2. The Lachlan River. 2.3. The Unknown West.
CHAPTER 3. JOHN OXLEY. 3.1. General Biography. 3.2. His First Expedition. 3.3. The Liverpool Plains. 3.4. The Brisbane River.
CHAPTER 4. HAMILTON HUME. 4.1. Early Achievements. 4.2. Discovery of the Hume (Murray).
CHAPTER 5. ALLAN CUNNINGHAM. 5.1. Coastal Expeditions. 5.2. Pandora's Pass. 5.3. The Darling Downs.
CHAPTER 6. CHARLES STURT. 6.1. Early Life. 6.2. The Darling. 6.3. The Passage of the Murray.
CHAPTER 7. SIR THOMAS MITCHELL. 7.1. Introductory. 7.2. The Upper Darling. 7.3. The Passage of the Darling. 7.4. Australia Felix. 7.5. Discovery of the Barcoo.
CHAPTER 8. THE EARLY FORTIES. 8.1. Angas McMillan and Gippsland. 8.2. Count Strzelecki. 8.3. Patrick Leslie. 8.4. Ludwig Leichhardt.
CHAPTER 9. EDMUND B. KENNEDY. 9.1. The Victoria River and Cooper's Creek. 9.2. A Tragic Expedition.
CHAPTER 10. LATER EXPLORATION IN THE NORTH-EAST. 10.1. Walker in Search of Burke and Wills. 10.2. Burdekin and Cape York Expeditions.
PART 2. CENTRAL AUSTRALIA.
CHAPTER 11. EDWARD JOHN EYRE. 11.1. Settlement of Adelaide and the Overlanders. 11.2. Eyre's Chief Journeys.
CHAPTER 12. ATTEMPTS TO REACH THE CENTRE. 12.1. Lake Torrens Pioneers and Horrocks. 12.2. Charles Sturt.
CHAPTER 13. BABBAGE AND STUART. 13.1. B. Herschel Babbage. 13.2. John McDouall Stuart.
CHAPTER 14. BURKE AND WILLS.
CHAPTER 15. BURKE AND WILLS RELIEF EXPEDITIONS AND ATTEMPTS TOWARDS PERTH. 15.1. John McKinley. 15.2. William Landsborough. 15.3. Major P.E. Warburton. 15.4. William Christie Gosse.
CHAPTER 16. TRAVERSING THE CENTRE. 16.1. Ernest Giles. 16.2. W.H. Tietkins and Others.
PART 3. WESTERN AUSTRALIA.
CHAPTER 17. ROE, GREY, AND GREGORY. 17.1. Roe and the Pioneers. 17.2. Sir George Grey. 17.3. Augustus C. Gregory.
CHAPTER 18. A.C. AND F.T. GREGORY. 18.1. A.C. Gregory on Sturt's Creek and the Barcoo. 18.2. Frank T. Gregory.
CHAPTER 19. FROM WEST TO EAST. 19.1. Austin. 19.2. Sir John Forrest. 19.3. Alexander Forrest.
CHAPTER 20. LATER WESTERN EXPEDITIONS. 20.1. Cambridge Gulf and the Kimberley District. 20.2. Lindsay and the Elder Exploring Expedition. 20.3. Wells and Carnegie in the Northern Desert. 20.4. Hann and Brockman in the North-West.
INDEX OF NAMES OF PERSONS.
INDEX OF PLACE NAMES.
Captain Charles Sturt, aged about 54 years. From the painting by Crossland.
Gregory Blaxland. Statue of Gregory Blaxland, Lands Office, Sydney.
George William Evans. Discoverer of the Macquarie and Lachlan Rivers.
John Oxley. From a portrait in the possession of Mrs. Oxley, of Bowral. The portrait was presented to Mrs. King, widow of Governor King, in 1810, and signed by him.
The Lachlan River at the point where Oxley left it on the 4th August, 1818, and struck North-East to gain the Macquarie River and follow that river up to Bathurst. Photo by the Reverend J.M. Curran.
Hamilton Hume, in his later life.
Memorial to Allan Cunningham, Botanical Gardens, Sydney.
The Darling River, at Sturt's first view point. Photo by the Reverend J. Milne Curran.
Junction of the Darling and Murray Rivers.
Sir Thomas Mitchell.
A Chief of the Bogan River Tribe. Photo by the Reverend J.M. Curran.
John Frederick Mann. Born 1819, died September 7th, 1907, at Sydney. The last survivor of a Leichhardt expedition.
Edmund B. Kennedy.
Wild Blacks of Cape York signalling.
Frank L. Jardine.
Alec W. Jardine.
Statue of John McDouall Stuart, in the Lands Office, Sydney.
Edward John Eyre.
John Ainsworth Horrocks.
Sturt's Depot Glen. The Glen, eroded in vertical silurian slate, is less than a mile long. Poole rests by the creek where the gorge opens quite abruptly on to a vast cretaceous plain. Photo by the Reverend J.M. Curran.
Poole's Grave and Monument, near Depot Glen, Tibbuburra, New South Wales. Photo by the Reverend J.M. Curran.
B. Herschel Babbage. Born 1815; died 1878.
John McDouall Stuart.
Robert O'Hara Burke. From a photograph in the possession of E.J. Welch, of the Howitt Relief Expedition.
William John Wills. From a photograph in the possession of E.J. Welch, of the Howitt Relief Expedition.
Scenes on Cooper's Creek (After Howitt). 1. Burke's Grave. 2. Where King was Found. 3. Grave of Wills.
John King. From a photo in the possession of E.J. Welch.
Edwin J. Welch, second in command of the Howitt Relief Expedition, and the first man to find King.
Burke and Wills Monument Statue, Melbourne.
Major P.E. Warburton.
William Christie Gosse, Deputy Surveyor-General of South Australia.
Baron Sir Ferdinand von Mueller.
A Camel Caravan in an Australian Desert.
W.H. Tietkins, 1878.
John Septimus Roe, First Surveyor-General of West Australia.
Sir George Grey.
Rock Painting, North-Western Australia.
Augustus C. Gregory, 1880. Photo, Freeman, Sydney.
Frank T. Gregory.
John Forrest in 1874.
Members of the Exploring Expedition, Geraldton to Adelaide, 1874. Standing, left to right: Tommy Pierre, Tommy Windich, James Kennedy, James Sweeny. Seated, left to right: Alexander Forrest (Second in Command), John Forrest (In Command).
W. Carr-Boyd and Camel. Photographed at Laverton, Western Australia, October, 1906.
Sir Thomas Elder, G.C.M.G. Photo: Duryea, Adelaide.
L.A. Wells. Photo: Duryea, Adelaide.
David Wynford Carnegie.
Frank Hann. Explorer of the North-West, and discoverer of a stock route between South Australia and Western Australia. Photo: Mathewson, Brisbane.
Aboriginal Rock Painting on the Glenelg River. From a photograph by F.S. Brockman.
Typical Australian Explorers of the early Twentieth Century.
MAPS AND PLANS.
1. Routes of Blaxland, Wentworth, and Lawson (1813); Evans (1813); Oxley (1817, 1818, 1823); and Sturt (1828 and 1829).
2. Routes of Hume and Hovell (1824); Sturt (1829 and 1830); and Mitchell (1836).
3. Routes of Sturt (1829 and 1830); and Hume and Hovell (1824).
4. Routes of Leichhardt (1844 and 1845); Mitchell (1845 and 1846); and Kennedy (1847 and 1848).
5. Routes of Eyre (1840 and 1841).
6. Basin of Lake Torrens, supposed extent and formation of.
7. Route of Sturt's Central Australian Expedition (1844 to 1846).
8. Routes of Stuart (1858 to 1862); and Burke and Wills (1860 and 1861).
9. Routes of Grey (1836, 1837 and 1839); Forrest (1869, 1870, 1874, 1879); and Giles (1873).
CHAPTER 1. ORIGINS.
1.1. GOVERNOR PHILLIP.
Arthur Phillip, whose claim to be considered the first inland explorer of the south-eastern portion of Australia rests upon his discovery of the Hawkesbury River and a few short excursions to the northward of Port Jackson, had but scant leisure to spare from his official duties for extended geographical research. For all that, Phillip and a few of his officers were sufficiently imbued with the spirit of discovery to find opportunity to investigate a considerable area of country in the immediate neighbourhood of the settlement, and, considering the fact that all their explorations at the time had to be laboriously conducted on foot, they did their work well.
The first excursion undertaken by Phillip was on the 2nd of March, 1788, when he went to Broken Bay, whence, after a slight examination, he was forced to return by the inclemency of the weather. On the 15th of April he made another attempt to ascertain the character and features of the unknown land that he had taken possession of. Landing on the shore of the harbour, a short distance from the North Head, he started on a tour of examination, and, in the course of his march, penetrated to a distance of fifteen miles from the coast. At this point he caught sight of the distant range that was destined to baffle for many years the western progress of the early settlers. Phillip, on this his first glimpse of it, christened the northern elevations the Caermarthen Hills, and the southern elevations the Lansdowne; and a remarkable hill, destined to become a well-known early landmark, he called Richmond Hill. In the brief view he had of this range, there was suddenly born in Phillip's mind the conviction that a large river must have its source therein, and that upon the banks of such a river, the soil would be found more arable than about the present settlement. He at once made up his mind to try and gain the range on a different course.
A week later he landed at the head of the harbour and directed his march straight inland, hoping to reach either the mountains, which he knew to be there, or the river in whose existence he firmly believed. Disappointment dogged his steps; on the first day a belt of dense scrub forced his party to return and when, on the morrow, they avoided the scrub by following up a small creek and got into more thinly timbered country, their slow progress enabled them to accomplish only thirty miles in five days. By that time, they were short of provisions; there was no river visible, and the range still looked on them from afar. What cheered them was the sight of some land that promised richly to reward the labour of cultivation.
It was not until the 6th of June, 1789, that Phillip resumed his labours in the field of exploration. The Sirius had then returned from the Cape of Good Hope, and he could reckon on the assistance of his friend, Captain Hunter, to re-investigate Broken Bay with the vessel's boats. Accordingly, two boats were sent on to Broken Bay with provisions, where they were joined by the Governor and his party, who had marched overland. Besides Phillip, the party consisted of Captain Hunter and two of his officers, Captain Collins, Captain Johnston, and Surgeon White.
For two days they were engaged in examining the many inlets and openings of the Bay, and on the third, they chanced upon a branch that had before escaped their notice. They proceeded to explore it, and found the river of which Phillip had dreamed. The next day, renewed examination proved that it was indeed a noble river, with steep banks and a depth of water that promised well for navigation.
After their return to Sydney Cove, preparations were at once made to follow up this important discovery. On the 28th of June, Phillip, again accompanied by Hunter, left the Cove, having made much the same arrangements as before. There was a slight misunderstanding with regard to meeting the boat; but, after this was cleared away, the party soon floated out on to the waters of the new-found river. They rowed up the river until they reached the hill that Phillip, at a distance, had christened Richmond Hill. On traversing a reach of the stream, the main range, that as yet they had only dimly seen in the distance, suddenly loomed ahead of them, frowning in rugged grandeur close upon them, as it seemed. Struck with admiration and astonishment at this unexpected revelation of the deep ravines and stern and gloomy gorges that scored its front, over which hung a blue haze, Phillip, almost involuntarily, named them on the moment; the Blue Mountains. Next morning the explorers ascended Richmond Hill, from whose crest they looked across a deep, wooded valley to the mountains still many miles away. After a hasty examination of the country on the banks of the river, Phillip and his band returned to the settlement, he having now realised his brightest hopes and anticipations.
On the 11th of April, 1791, Phillip again started on an expedition, the object of which was a closer inspection of the Blue Mountains. He was accompanied this time by Captain Tench and Lieutenant Dawes; the latter, in December, 1789, had been sent out with a small party to reach the foot of the range, but had succeeded in approaching only within eleven miles of the Mountains, whence he was forced to retire by the rugged and broken nature of the country. On the present occasion, they reached the river two days after leaving Rose Hill. They followed it for another two days, but made no further discoveries, being greatly delayed by the constant detours around the heads of small tributary creeks, too deep to cross in the neighbourhood of the river.
This was the last exploring expedition undertaken by Governor Phillip. Considering that his health was not robust, and that the work entailed was of a specially arduous nature, his personal share in exploring the country about the little settlement was noteworthy. It proved him to possess both the foresight and the energy necessary in an explorer.
1.2. CAPTAIN TENCH.
In the month of June, 1789, Captain Watkin Tench, who, during his short sojourn in the infant colony showed himself as zealous in exploration as he was keen in his observations, started from the newly-formed redoubt at Rose Hill, of which he was in command, on a short excursion to examine the surrounding country. This trip, inspired by Tench's ardent love of discovery, became a noteworthy one in the annals of New South Wales. It was made during the month that witnessed the discovery of the Hawkesbury River. On the second day after his party left Rose Hill, they found themselves early in the morning on "the banks of a river, nearly as broad as the Thames at Putney, and apparently of great depth, the current running very slowly in a northerly direction."
This river, at first known as the Tench, was afterwards named the Nepean by Phillip, when its identity as a tributary of the Hawkesbury had been confirmed. Two other slight excursions were made by Tench in company with Lieutenant Dawes, who was in charge of the Observatory, and ex-surgeon Worgan. In May, 1791, Tench and Dawes started from Rose Hill and confirmed the supposition that the Nepean was an affluent of the Hawkesbury, a matter over which there had been some doubt since its first discovery by Tench. Tench returned to England in H.M.S. Gorgon, in December, 1791.
The names of Paterson, Johnson, Palmer, and Laing are also connected with exploration on the upper Hawkesbury.
1.3. THE BLUE MOUNTAINS: BARALLIER.
The exploration of that portion of Australia which was accessible by the scanty means of the early settlers was for many years impeded by the stern barrier of the mountains, and most of their efforts in the direction of discovery were aimed at surmounting the range that defied their attacks. Among the many whose attempts were signalised only by failure were the gallant Bass, whose name, for other reasons, will never be forgotten by Australians, the quarrelsome and pragmatic Cayley, and the adventurous Hack. Amongst them there was one, however, whose failure, read by the light of modern knowledge, was probably a geographical success. This was Francis Barallier, ensign in the New South Wales corps, who was encouraged by Governor King to indulge his ardent longing for discovery. By birth a Frenchman, Barallier had received his ensigncy by commission on the 13th of February, 1801, having done duty as an ensign since July, 1800, by virtue of a government general order issued by Governor Hunter. In August, 1801, he had been appointed by Governor King military engineer, in place of Captain Abbott resigned. In February, 1802, he was succeeded by Lieutenant George Bellasis, an artillery officer. Besides his expeditions to the Blue Mountains, he did much surveying with Lieutenant James Grant in the Lady Nelson. In 1804, he went to England and saw service in several regiments, distinguishing himself greatly in military engineering, amongst his works being the erection of the Nelson Column in Trafalgar Square, the designer of which was Mr. Railton. Barallier died in 1853.
Peron, the French naturalist, tells us that when in Sydney in October, 1802, he persuaded Governor King to fit out a party to attempt the passage of the mountains, and that a young Frenchman, aide-de-camp to the Governor, was intrusted with the leadership. He returned, however, without having been able to penetrate further than his English predecessors.
On the following month, however, Barallier set out from Parramatta, on his famous embassy to the King of the Mountains. This fictitious embassy arose from the fact that Colonel Paterson having refused Barallier the required leave, King claimed him as his aide-de-camp, and sent him on this embassy. Barallier started with four soldiers, five convicts, and a waggon-load of provisions drawn by two bullocks. He crossed the Nepean and established a depot at a place known as Nattai, whence the waggon was sent back to Sydney for provisions, Barallier, with the remainder of his men and a native, pushing out westwards. After this preliminary examination he returned to the depot, and made a fresh departure on the 22nd of November, and, continuing mostly directly westwards, he reached a point (according to his chart) about one hundred and five miles due west from Lake Illawarra. If this position is even approximately correct, he must have been at the very source of the Lachlan River.
I give a few extracts from his diary, which was not even translated until the Historical Records of New South Wales were collected by Mr. F.M. Bladen. They refer to the crossing of the range.
"On the 24th of November, I followed the range of elevated mountains, where I saw several kangaroos. This country is covered with meadows and small hills, where trees grow a great distance apart...I resumed my journey, following various directions to avoid obstacles, and at 4 o'clock I arrived on the top of a hill where I discovered that the direction of the chain of mountains extended itself north-westerly to a distance which I estimated to be about thirty miles, and which turned abruptly at right angles. It formed a barrier nearly north and south, which it was necessary to climb over...At 7 o'clock I arrived on the summit of another hill, from where I noticed three openings: the first on the right towards North 50 West; the other in front of me, and which appeared very large, was west from me; and the third was South 35 West.
...This discovery gave me great hope, and the whole of the party appeared quite pleased, thinking that we had surmounted all difficulties, and that we were going to enter a plain, the apparent immensity of which gave every promise of our being able to penetrate far into the interior of the country...At six o'clock I found myself at a distance of about two miles from the western passage...I was then only half-a-mile from the passage, and I sent on two men in order to discover it, instructing them to ascend the mountain to the north of this passage...I waited till 7 o'clock for my two men, who related to me, that after passing the range which was in front of us we would enter an immense plain, that from the height where they were on the mountain, they had caught sight of only a few hills standing here and there on this plain, and that the country in front of them had the appearance of a meadow...At daybreak I left with two men to verify myself the configuration of the ground, and to ascertain whether the passage of the Blue Mountains had really been effected. I climbed the chain of mountains north of us. When I had reached the middle of this height the view of a plain as vast as the eye could reach confirmed to me the report of the previous day...I discovered towards the west and at a distance which I estimated to be forty miles, a range of mountains higher than those we had passed...From where I was, I could not detect any obstacle to the passage right to the foot of those mountains...After having cut a cross of St. Andrew on a tree to indicate the terminus of my second journey, I returned by the same route I had come."
Barallier concludes his diary by mentioning another projected expedition over the mountains from Jervis Bay. But no record of such a journey has ever come to light.
[Map. Routes of Blaxland, Wentworth, and Lawson (1813); Evans (1813); Oxley (1817, 1818, 1823); and Sturt (1828 and 1829).]
1.4. THE BLUE MOUNTAINS: BLAXLAND.
Whether Barallier succeeded or not in reaching the summit of the mountains, the verdict accepted at that date was that they had not been passed; and until the year 1813, they were regarded as impenetrable. The narrative of the crossing of these mountains, and the chain of events that led up to the successful attempt is widely known, but only in a general way. It is for this reason that a longer and more detailed account is given in these pages; and as the expedition was successful in opening up a way to the interior of the Continent, it is fitting that its leader and originator, Gregory Blaxland, should be classed amongst the makers of Australasia.
Blaxland was born in Kent, in 1771, and arrived in the colony in 1806, accompanied by his wife and three children. He settled down to the congenial occupation of stockbreeding, on what was then considered to be a large scale. Finding that his stock did not thrive so well in the immediate neighbourhood of the sea coast, and wanting more land for pasturing his increasing herds, he made anxious enquiries in all directions as to the possibility of crossing the Blue Mountains inland. Nobody would entertain such a suggestion, the failures had been too many: every one to whom he broached the subject declared it to be impossible, prophesying that the extension of the settlement westward would forever be obstructed by their unscalable heights. Blaxland, however, was not intimidated by these disheartening predictions; and, in 1811, he started out on a short journey of investigation, in company with three Europeans and two natives. On this trip he found that by keeping on the crowning ridge or dividing water-shed between the streams running into the Nepean and those that fed what he then took to be an inland river, he got along fairly well. Some time afterwards he accompanied the Governor in a boat excursion up the Warragamba, a tributary of the Nepean, and though there were no noteworthy results, it convinced Blaxland that, could he follow his former tactics of adhering to the leading ridge that formed the divide between the tributaries of the northern bank of this river and the affluents of the Grose, a tributary of the Hawkesbury, he would attain his object and reach the highlands. It will thus be seen that Blaxland acted with a definite and well-thought-out mode of procedure; and that the ridge he selected for the attempt was chosen with judgment based on considerable knowledge of the locality, which he gained from many talks with the men who hunted and frequented the foothills of the range. Finally, when he had arranged his plan of assault, he confided his intention to two friends, Lieutenant William Lawson and William Charles Wentworth, whose names are associated with his in the conquest of the Mountains. They both consented to accompany him, and agreed to follow his idea of stubbornly following one leading spur. Blaxland's former expedition had convinced him that the local knowledge of the natives did not extend far enough to be of any service, and they therefore did not take any aborigines with them. They took pack-horses, however, which proves that the party started with a well-founded faith in their ultimate success, and gave no heed to the terrifying descriptions of former travellers.
The besetting hindrance to their progress was the low scrub of brushwood that greatly delayed the pack-horses. This obstacle was overcome only by patiently advancing before the horses every afternoon, and cutting a bridle-track for the succeeding day's stage. Thus literally, the way that ultimately led into the interior was won by foot, and the little pioneering band eventually descended into open grazing country at the head of what is now known as the Cox River. The outward and return trip occupied less than one month's time; which speaks volumes for the wise choice of route; but what says more, is the fact that no better natural, upward pathway has since been found.
A synopsis of Blaxland's journal is given here, commencing with a few quoted lines of preamble:—
"On Tuesday, May 11th, 1813, Mr. Gregory Blaxland, Mr. William Wentworth and Lieutenant Lawson, attended by four servants, with five dogs and four horses laden with provisions and other necessaries, left Mr. Blaxland's farm at South Creek for the purpose of endeavouring to affect a passage over the Blue Mountains, between the Western River* and the River Grose...The distance travelled on this and subsequent days was computed by time, the rate being estimated at about two miles per hour."
*[Footnote.] The Warragamba.
They camped at the foot of the ridge that was to witness the last struggle between man and the Mountains. On the first day, they did three miles and a half in a direction varying from south-west to west-north-west, and that night obtained a little grass for the horses, and some water in a rocky hole.
The heavy dews in the morning retarded any attempts at early departures, as the thick wet brush rendered it difficult to drive the horses, so that, as a rule, it was nine o'clock before they were able to strike camp. The ridge, still favouring the direction of west and north-west, on the third day they arrived at a tract of land, hilly, but with tolerable grass on it. Here they found traces of a former white visitant in the shape of a marked-tree line. Two miles from this point, they met with a belt of brushwood so dense that for the first time they were forced to alter their course; but the subordinate spurs on either side ending in rocky precipices, they had to return and again confront the scrub. In these circumstances, they made up their minds to rely upon axe and tomahawk to win a way, and so next morning fell to work cutting a passage for the horses. The ascent was also now becoming steep and rough, and on this day some of the horses fell while struggling up with their loads.
The first day's work gained for them five miles, but at the end of their toil they had to retrace their weary way back to the last night's camp. The next day they cleared the track for only two miles further ahead; so much time being wasted in walking backwards and forwards to the work. There was no grass amongst the scrub that encompassed them, and when, on Monday, they determined to move the camp equipage forward, they packed the horses with as much cut-grass as they could put on them. This amounted to, according to Lawson's diary, about two hundred pounds weight for each horse, which, in addition to their ordinary loads, must have been a very weighty packload for uphill work. However, according to Blaxland, "they stood it well." They obtained no water for their animals that night, and what they wanted for their own requirements had to be painfully carried up a cliff about six hundred feet in height. On the succeeding day they suddenly came on what at first appeared to be an impassable barrier. The ridge which they had so pertinaciously followed, had, for the last mile narrowed and dwindled down into a sharp razor-backed spur, flanked with rugged and abrupt gullies on either slope. Across this narrow way now stretched a perpendicularly-sided mass of rock, which seemed effectually to bar their path. The removal of a few large boulders however, revealed an aperture which, after some labour, they widened sufficiently to allow the pack-horses to squeeze through.
Once through they began to ascend what they estimated to be the second tier of the Mountains. Shortly after they left camp that morning they came on a pile of stones, or cairn, evidently the work of some European, which they attributed to Bass. They were much elated at the thought that they had now passed beyond the limit of any previous attempt.*
*[Footnote.] This cairn was afterwards named Cayley's Repulse by Governor Macquarie: but recent research goes to show that Cayley followed the valley of the Grose, and was many miles to the north of where the cairn was found. According to Flinders, Bass was not on the high ridge traversed by Blaxland and party.
They could now look round with triumph on the panorama spread beneath their view, and from the superior elevation which they had obtained, they took the bearings of several noticeable landmarks that they had seen before only from the flat country. The labour of cutting a path each day for the horses for the next day's march had, however, still to be continued; but the crest of the ridge was again wider, though the gullies on each side were as steep as before. That night, in camp, the dogs were uneasy throughout the night, and several times gave tongue and aroused the sleepers, tired with their day's work. From what they found afterwards, they had good reason to believe that the blacks had been lurking around meditating an attack.
They then passed over the locality known in the present day as Blackheath, and soon afterwards had their course diverted to the northward by what Blaxland terms "a stone wall rising perpendicularly out of the side of the mountain." This they tried to descend, but without success, and so kept on along its brow. Undergrowth still delayed them, and they still had to spend their energies in hewing a passage, until on the 28th of the month, they camped on the edge of the steep descent that had lately marched beside them. The decline was, however, not quite so abrupt, and the face no longer composed of solid rock. They paused to overlook what lay before them and immediately below, and found the view more gratifying than they had anticipated. What they had at first taken for sandy barren soil proved now, on nearer inspection, to be forest-land fairly covered with a good growth of grass. The horses not having tasted fresh grass for some days, they cut a slanting trench across the sloping face of the descent in order to afford the horses some sort of foot-hold, and managed to get them down to a little feed that evening.
Next morning they were up and away early, and reached the foot of the mountain (Mount York) at 9 a.m., having had to carry the pack-loads down most of the way themselves, as it was too steep for laden horses to preserve their balance with safety. The actual base of the mountain was reached through a gap in the rocks, some thirty feet in width.
They now found themselves on what was then termed meadow land, drained by the upper tributaries of the Warragamba; and this country presenting no serious obstacle to their further progress, they rightly concluded that they had now surmounted every difficulty. They followed the mountain stream up for some distance and, at the furthest point they reached, ascended a high sugar-loaf hill, which surveyor Evans, who followed in their footsteps, called Mount Blaxland. From the summit they had an extensive view all around, and Blaxland described the character of the country they saw in the following words: "Forest and grass land, sufficient to support the stock of the colony for the next thirty years."
Just here, let us compare this prophecy with a similar one made by Evans a few months afterwards, on the pasture lands of the upper Macquarie: "The increase of stock for some hundred years cannot overrun it."
The provisions of the explorers were now nearly expended; their apparel, especially their footgear, was in rags and tatters; on the other hand, the work that they had set themselves to do was well done. They had vanquished the Blue Mountains. Their return was uneventful. After breakfast on the 6th of June, they crossed the Nepean, their provisions, with the exception of a little flour, being quite consumed. We thus see how in the end the impenetrable range, that had so long overawed the colonists with its frown, was overcome, with slight difficulty, when local experience combined with method, was arrayed against it. To liken the former expeditions to Blaxland's is to compare a few headlong assaults with a well-conceived and skilfully worked-out attack. The men themselves write slightingly of the feat. Blaxland says: "the passage of the Blue Mountains might be easily effected." Lawson's opinion of the mountain is: "that there would be no difficulty in making a good road"; and Wentworth's verdict is: "that the country they reached is easy of access." Evans, who was hot upon their trail, gives as his opinion: "that there are no hills on the ridge that their ascent or descent is in any way difficult."
The tidings brought back by the party of successful pioneers created the greatest excitement in the little colony. No longer would the mountainous barrier stand defiantly in their western path. For over thirty years it had laughed at their puny efforts to cross its rugged crest, but its time had come at last; the way to the unknown west was now open, and rejoicingly the settlers prepared to follow on the explorers' trail. What the mysterious interior might hold, they could not imagine; but the gates thereto being thrown wide at last, its secrets would be soon known to them.
Blaxland died on the 3rd of January, 1853, having lived long enough to witness the wonderful advance in settlement due to his energies.
CHAPTER 2. GEORGE WILLIAM EVANS.
2.1. FIRST INLAND EXPLORATION.
George William Evans, Deputy-Surveyor of Lands, came forward at this stage as the most prominent figure in Australian exploration. To him is due the honour, without dispute or cavil, of being the first discoverer of an Australian river flowing into the interior. For some reason he has never received adequate recognition of his important explorations, and he is well-nigh forgotten by the people of New South Wales, the state that has benefited most by his labours. After Oxley's second expedition, his name appears to have been overshadowed by his official superior's. Yet his work was invariably successful, and his labour in the field unremitting.
Evans was born in England, at Warwick, in 1778. When a young man he went to the Cape of Good Hope, where he obtained an appointment in the dockyard, and while there he married his first wife, Janet Melvill. In 1802 he was appointed Deputy Surveyor-General, and came to Australia in H.M.S. Buffalo, in order to take up his official duties. It was while he held this post that he carried out his work of exploration.
When he returned from these explorations, he resumed his duties as Deputy Surveyor-General only, until he was permanently settled in Tasmania, where he remained in office until the year 1825, when he resigned in disgust at his treatment by his superiors.
Evans lived at a time when official jealousies were rife, and men in position often heedless of the justice or veracity of their statements when influenced by party rancour. The machinations of a cabal led by Governor Arthur, and an effort made to deprive him of his well-deserved pension, necessitated Evans's departure for England to defend his claims. In this he was only partially successful, for the pension which it was understood was for life, was stopped in 1832. He returned to Tasmania, and passed the rest of his days at his residence, Warwick Lodge, at the head of Newtown Bay. He died at the age of seventy-four, and is buried in the old cemetery, Hobart; his second wife, Lucy Parris, rests in the same grave.
Evans was a clever draughtsman, and some of his sketches of the country explored are reproduced in Oxley's journal. He also published a book entitled History and Description of the Present State of Van Diemen's Land.
It was on Saturday, the 20th of November, 1813, that Evans, in charge of five men, one of whom had been with Blaxland's party, started from the point of forest land on the Nepean known as Emu Island. He lost no time in following the tracks of the late expedition, leaving the measurement until his return. On Friday, the 26th, he reached Blaxland's furthest point, and thenceforward passed over new ground. It is somewhat amusing to note that his opinions of the country when on his outward way and on his homeward, are widely divergent. He candidly and ingenuously writes, after he has been on the table-land:—
"What appeared to me fine country on my first coming to it, looks miserable now after returning from so superior and good a country."
On Tuesday, the 30th of November, he gained a ridge that he had had in view for some time, though he had been "bothered" by the hills in his efforts to reach it. From this ridge he caught a tantalising view, a glimpse of the outskirts of the vast interior.
There before him, the first white man to look upon the scene, lay the open way to two thousand miles of fair pasture-lands and brooding desert-wastes — of limitless plains and boundless rolling downs — of open grassy forests and barren scrubs — of solitary mountain peaks and sluggish rivers; and, though then hidden from even the most brilliant imagination, the wondrous potentialities latent in that silent and untrodden region. If a vision of the future had been vouchsafed Deputy-Surveyor Evans as he stood and gazed — a vision of all that would cover the spacious lands before and beyond him before one hundred years had passed away — the entry he made in his diary would surely have reflected in its style his flight of imagination. Instead, we have the prosaic statement:—
"I came to a very high mount, when I was much pleased with the sight westward. I think I can see 40 miles which had the look of open country."
In a pleasant valley, he came upon a large "riverlett," and on its banks they camped. There they shot ducks and caught "trout" — as he called the Murray Cod — the first of the species to tickle the palate of a white man; fine specimens, too, weighing five and six pounds. As he proceeded further and further, he became enchanted with the scenery: "The handsomest I have yet seen, with gently-rising hills and dales well-watered" — and he finally notes that language failed him to describe it adequately.
Evans named the river that led him through this veritable land of promise the Fish River, and a river which joined its waters with it from the south he called the Campbell River. The united stream he christened, as in duty bound, the Macquarie. Unimpeded in his course, he followed the Macquarie until he was 98 1/2 measured miles — for they had been chaining since passing the limit of the first explorers — from the termination of Blaxland's journey. He then decided to return; for he had gained all the information he had been sent to seek; and though game was plentiful, his party were without shoes, and the horses were suffering from sore backs.
Thus was concluded in a most satisfactory manner the first journey of exploration into the interior. Evans constantly saw, during his progress, unmistakeable traces of the natives; but he interviewed only a small party of five. This representative band of the inland aborigines of Australia was composed of two lubras and some picaninnies, both the women being blind of the right eye.
The party reached the Nepean on their return journey on the 8th of January, 1814. Mr. Cox was immediately intrusted with the superintendence of the work of making a public road over the range, following closely the same route as that taken by Blaxland's party. This work was completed in the year 1815, and on the 26th of April of the same year, Governor Macquarie and a large staff set out to visit the newly-found territory. The Governor arrived at the recently-formed town of Bathurst on the 4th of May; but before his arrival Evans had been again ordered out on another exploring expedition to the south-west.
2.2. THE LACHLAN RIVER.
Evans started from Bathurst on the 13th of May, 1815. He commenced his journey along the fine flat country then known as Queen Charlotte Vale, maintaining a southerly course for a day or two; but finding himself still amongst the tributaries of the Campbell River, he retraced his steps some twelve or fourteen miles in order to avoid a row of rocky hills. He then struck out more to the westward. On Thursday, the 23rd, he came to a chain of ponds bearing nearly north-west, and from a commanding ridge saw before him a prospect as gratifying as some of the scenes viewed on his former trip.
"I never saw a more pleasing-looking country. I cannot express the pleasure I feel in going forward. The hills we have passed are excellent land, well-wooded. To the south, distant objects are obscured by high hills, but in the south-west are very distant mountains, under them appears a mist as tho' rising from a river. It was the like look round to the west, but beyond the loom of high hills are very faintly distinguished."
This was the first view Evans obtained of the Lachlan valley. The ponds he had met with gradually grew into a connected stream: other ponds united with them from the north-east, and he writes: "they have at the end of the day almost the appearance of a river." On the 24th he came to a creek which joined "the bed of a river rising in a North 30 East direction, now dry except in hollow places. It is fully 70 feet wide, having a pebbly bottom; on each side grow large swamp-oaks."
On Thursday, the 1st of June, this river holding a definite course to the westward, and he being clear of the points of the hills, which hitherto had hindered him greatly, he determined to return, as he was running short of provisions.
"To-morrow I am necessitated to return, and shall ascend a very high hill I left on my right hand this morning. I leave no mark here more than cutting trees. On one situated in an angle of the river on a wet creek bearing north I have deeply carved EVANS, 1st JUNE, 1815."*
*[Footnote.] This tree, a tall and sturdy gum, flourished for over ninety years, and when in its prime was, unfortunately, owing to the spread of agricultural settlement, inadvertently ring-barked and killed. It must have been a fine tree when marked by the explorer, and though dead it is still standing at the date of the publication of this book. In 1906, the shield of wood bearing the inscription, was cut off by Mr. James Marsh, of Marshdale, and is now preserved in the Australian Museum in Sydney, New South Wales. It is the oldest marked-tree in the whole of Australasia.
On the next morning Evans ascended the hill he alluded to, and from the summit enjoyed a most extended view of the surrounding country, which he compared to a view of the ocean. On his way back to Bathurst, he bestowed upon the new river the name it now bears. A short passage in his diary, written during his return, is of peculiar interest, as it contains the first mention of snow seen in Australia by white men. On Thursday, the 8th of June, he writes:—
"The mountains I observed bearing north-west are covered with snow; I thought on my way out that their tops looked rather white. To-day it was distinguished as plain as ever I saw snow on the mountains in Van Diemen's Land. I never felt colder weather than it has been some days past. We have broken ice full two inches thick."
On the 12th of June the party returned to Bathurst, and Evans had by that time accomplished two of the most momentous journeys ever made in Australia. It was not his actual discoveries alone that brought him fame, but the vast field for settlement these discoveries opened up. The independent explorations of Surveyor Evans ceased after his discovery of the Lachlan; thenceforward he served Australia as second to Lieutenant Oxley.
2.3. THE UNKNOWN WEST.
The settlers of that day took every advantage of the new outlets for their energies, thrown open to them by the recent successful explorations. Cattle and sheep were rapidly driven forward on to the highlands, and, favoured by a beautiful site, the town of Bathurst soon assumed an orderly appearance. Private enterprise had also been at work elsewhere. The pioneer settlers were making their way south; the tide of settlement flowed over the intermediate lands to the Shoalhaven River; and in the north they had commenced the irresistible march of civilization up the Hunter River.
It was in the Shoalhaven district that young Hamilton Hume, the first Australian-born explorer to make his mark in the field, gained his bushcraft.
Governor Macquarie, during his term of office, did his best to foster exploration; and it was fortunate that the first advance into the interior occurred when there was a Governor in Australia who did not look coldly upon geographical enterprise.
The men who entered first upon the task of solving the geographical problems of the interior of the Australian continent were doomed to meet with much bitter disappointment. The varying nature of the seasons caused the different travellers to form contrary and perplexing ideas, often with regard to the same tract of country. What appeared to one man a land of pleasant gurgling brooks, flowing through rich pastures, appeared to another as a pitiless desert, unfit for human foot to venture upon. Oxley, who traversed what is now the cream of the agricultural portion of the state of New South Wales, speaks of the main part of it in terms of the bitterest condemnation. His error was of course rather a mistake in judgment than the result of inaccurate observation.
Some of the colonists nursed far fonder hopes, and the general opinion seemed to be that these western flowing rivers would gather in tributaries, and having swollen to a size worthy of so great a continent, seek the sea on the west coast. W.C. Wentworth, who certainly was capable of forming an opinion deserving consideration, wrote thus of the then untraced Macquarie River:—
"If the sanguine hopes to which the discovery of this river (the Macquarie) has given birth should be realised, and it should be found to empty itself into the ocean in the north-west coast, which is the only part of this vast island that has not been accurately surveyed, in what mighty conceptions of the future power and greatness of this colony may we not reasonably indulge? The nearest point at which Mr. Oxley left off to any part of the western coast is very little short of two thousand miles. If this river therefore be already of the size of the Hawkesbury at Windsor, which is not less than two hundred and fifty yards in breadth, and of sufficient depth to float a seventy-four gun ship, it is not difficult to imagine what must be its magnitude at its confluence with the ocean, before it can arrive at which it has to traverse a country nearly two thousand miles in extent. If it possesses the usual sinuosities of rivers, its course to the sea cannot be less than from five to six thousand miles, and the endless accession of tributary streams which it must receive in its passage through so great an extent of country will, without doubt, enable it to vie in point of magnitude with any river in the world."
It was to realise such ambitious hopes as these that Oxley went forth to penetrate into the interior.
CHAPTER 3. JOHN OXLEY.
3.1. GENERAL BIOGRAPHY.
Oxley was born in England in the early part of 1781. In his youth he entered the navy, saw active service in many parts of the world, and rose to the rank of Lieutenant. He came to Australia in January, 1812, and was appointed Surveyor-General.
Throughout his career in Australia, Oxley would seem to have won the friendship and respect of all he came in contact with. Captain Charles Sturt, in the journal of his first expedition, wrote of him as follows:—
"A reflection arose to my mind, on examining these decaying vestiges of a former expedition, whether I should be more fortunate than the leader of it, and how far I should be able to penetrate beyond the point which had conquered his perseverance. Only a week before I left Sydney I had followed Mr. Oxley to the tomb. A man of great quickness and of uncommon ability. The task of following up his discoveries was no less enviable than arduous."
These thoughts were suggested to Sturt when standing at one of Oxley's old camps, and coming from such a man carry great weight.
The following obituary notice of Oxley appeared in the Government Gazette of May 27th, 1828.
"It would be impossible for his Excellency, consistently with his feelings, to announce the decease of the late Surveyor-General without endeavouring to express the sense he entertains of Mr. Oxley's services, though he cannot do justice to them.
"From the nature of this colony, the office of Surveyor-General is amongst the most important under Government; and to perform its duties in a manner Mr. Oxley has done for a long series of years is as honourable to his zeal and abilities as it is painful for the Government to be deprived of them.
"Mr. Oxley entered the public service at an early period of his life, and has filled the important situation of Surveyor-General for the last sixteen years.
"His exertions in the public service have been unwearied, as has been proved by his several expeditions to explore the interior. The public have reaped the benefit while it is to be apprehended that the event, which they cannot fail to lament, has been accelerated by the privations and fatigues of these arduous services. Mr. Oxley eminently assisted in unfolding the advantages of this highly favoured colony from an early stage of its existence, and his name will ever be associated with the dawn of its advancement. It is always gratifying to the Government to record its approbation of the services of meritorious public officers, and in assigning to Mr. Oxley's name a distinguished place in that class to which his devotion to the interests of the colony has so justly entitled him, the Government would do honour to his memory in the same degree as it feels the loss it has sustained in his death."
Oxley died at Kirkham, his private residence near Sydney, on the 25th of May, 1828. Though his judgment was at times at fault, as will be seen later on, he was essentially a successful explorer; for, although he did not in every case achieve the object aimed at, he always brought back his men without loss, and he opened up vast tracts of new country. John Oxley's personality is not very familiar, but the portrait presented to the reader in this volume was taken in the prime of his life, before he suffered the scars of doubtful battle with the Australian wilderness. It has never been published before, and is taken from the original miniature that he presented to Mrs. King, widow of Governor King, in 1810.
3.2. HIS FIRST EXPEDITION.
On this, Oxley's first journey of exploration, Evans accompanied him as second in command, and another man who has left an immortal name was also with him — Allan Cunningham, officially known as King's Botanist. Charles Fraser, well-known in connection with the early history both of New South Wales and of Western Australia, accompanied Oxley under the title of Colonial Botanist. There were nine other men in the party — boatmen, horse-tenders, and so forth; they had with them two boats and fourteen pack and riding-horses. A depot was first formed at the junction of the small creek whence Evans had turned back, and where he had marked a tree with his initials in 1815. There the boats were launched and preparations completed for the final start. On the 6th of April, 1817, Oxley left Sydney and joined his party at the depot on the 1st of May. Thence he soon commenced this most momentous journey in Australia's early annals, eager to penetrate into the unknown, and inspired with hopes of solving the mystery of the outlet of this inland river.
Disappointment marks the tone of Oxley's journal from the start; the exceeding flatness of the country, the many ana-branches of the river, the low altitude of its banks, and the absence of any large tributary streams, above all, the dismal impression made by the monotony of the surroundings, seem to have depressed Oxley's spirit. He appears to have formed the idea that the interior tract he was approaching was nothing more than a dead and stagnant marsh — a huge dreary swamp, within whose bounds the inland rivers lost their individuality and merged into a lifeless morass. A more melancholy picture could not be imagined, and with such an awesome thought constantly haunting his mind there is no wonder that he became morbid, and that the dominant tone of his journal, whilst on the Lachlan, is so hopelessly pessimistic.
"These flats," he says, "are certainly not adapted for cattle; the grass is too swampy, and the bushes, swamps, and lagoons are too thickly intermingled with the better portion to render it a safe or desirable grazing country. The timber is universally bad and small; a few misshapen gum trees on the immediate banks of the river may be considered an exception."
The channel of the river now divided, and Oxley followed the channel on the northern side, which they were skirting. But before they had progressed a mile beyond the point of divergence, they reached the spot where the river overflowed its banks and its course was lost in the marshes. It was on the 12th of May that they received this check to their as yet uninterrupted progress.
"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.
"We ascended the hill, and had the mortification to perceive that the termination of our research was reached, at least down this branch of the river. The whole country from the west, north-west, round to the north, was either a complete marsh or lay under water."
The country to the south and south-west appearing more elevated. Oxley determined to return to the place where the branches separated, and to try his fortune on the other one. This, after a while, proved as unsatisfactory as the one they had abandoned. Bitterly disappointed, Oxley altered his plans entirely. He resolved to cease trying to follow the river through this water-logged country, and determined to strike out on a direct course to the south coast in the neighbourhood of Cape Northumberland. In this way he hoped to cross any river that these dreary marshes and swamps gave birth to, and that found an outlet into the Southern Ocean, between Spencer's Gulf and Cape Otway.
This resolve was at once carried out. The boats were hauled up and secured together; all unnecessary articles were abandoned to suit the reduced means of transit; and at nine o'clock on May 18th they said farewell to this weary river and started to encounter fresh troubles under another guise. Instead of travelling in a superfluity of water they now found themselves straitened by drought, and the work began to tell upon the horses. Scrub, too, that besetting hindrance of so many Australian explorers, began to impede their onward path. Eucalyptus brush overrun with creepers and prickly acacia bushes united to bar the way, and when, after much toil and suffering, they at last reached the point of a range, which Oxley named the Peel Range, the leader had reluctantly again to change his mind and to abandon the idea of making south-west to the coast. Sick at heart of this sequence of disastrous happenings, he confided his feeling of sorrow to his journal.
"June 4th. Weather as usual fine and clear, which is the greatest comfort we enjoy in these deserts abandoned by every living creature capable of getting out of them. I was obliged to send 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 of the 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 bushes 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 our little camp.
"June 5th. From everything 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 grass and water 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...Our horses are unable to go more than eight or ten miles a day, but even they must be assured of finding food of which in these deserts the chances are against the existence."
On the following day, June 6th, Oxley, having changed his course to the west and north-west, made another effort to escape from the surroundings that so disheartened him. On the 4th of June, before leaving, Allan Cunningham planted some acorns and peach and apricot stones in honour of the King's birthday. Upon this episode Oxley remarks, that they would serve to commemorate the day and situation, "should these desolate plains be ever again visited by civilised man, of which, however, I think there is very little probability." All this only shows how the lack of experience of the paradoxical nature of the Australian interior induced Oxley to form an absurdly erroneous idea of the country in its virgin state. His observations read almost like a present-day description of the sandy spinifex desert of the north-west of Western Australia, and, in fact, the very same remark was made by Warburton in 1873, when traversing that awful desert. He confessed his uncertainty about the longitude of Joanna Spring, and says that it did not matter, as no white man would ever come into the desert again in search of the oasis.
But Oxley's troubles were increasing, and on June 8th he wrote: "The whole country in these directions, as far as the eye can reach, was one continued thicket of eucalyptus scrub. It was 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."
Forced to return once more, Oxley became thoroughly convinced of the inhabitability of the country, and it is no wonder that his condemnation was so sweeping and hasty. He wrote on June the 21st:—
"The farther we proceed westerly, the more convinced I am that for all the practical purposes of civilised man the interior of this country westward of a certain meridian is uninhabitable, deprived as it is of wood, water and grass."
Unfortunately for his fame, he then relinquished all thoughts and hopes of a southward course; for had he pushed on, posterity would have hailed his memory as the discoverer of the Murrumbidgee. But Fate decided otherwise, and dejected and baffled, he turned to follow the Peel Range north, making for the part he had left, where at least he was sure of a supply of water. The expedition suddenly came upon the river again on the 23rd of June, and hoping to find that it had modified its nature, they commenced to run it down again. The 7th of July they were forced to halt once more, when Oxley gave up all idea of tracing the Lachlan. He began his return journey, making this last desponding entry:—
"It is with infinite regret and pain that I was forced to come to the conclusion that the interior of this vast country is a marsh and uninhabitable...There is a dreary uniformity in the barren desolateness of this country which wearies one more than I am able to express. One tree, one soil, one water, and one description of bird, fish, or animal prevails alike for ten miles and for one hundred. A variety of wretchedness is at all times preferable to one unvarying cause of pain or distress."
On the 4th of August, the leader, knowing the repellant nature of the river and its swamps and morasses that lay ahead of their returning footsteps, determined to quit the Lachlan altogether, and steering a northern course, to abandon the low country, reach the Macquarie River and follow it up to the settlement at Bathurst.
The boats having been long since abandoned, it was necessary to build a raft of pine-logs wherewith to transport the baggage over the stream. They crossed in safety, and we can imagine that it was with no feelings of regret that they finally lost sight of the stream that had so persistently baffled them in all their attempts to traverse its banks.
For some days they had to struggle against the many obstacles of a new and untrodden land, but they at last emerged on to the Macquarie country, which made a pleasant and welcome contrast with the detested Lachlan.
It may be thought that too much stress has been laid upon Oxley's opinion of the Lachlan, but it was this pessimistic report that dominated the public mind for many years in its speculations as to the character of the interior.
To Oxley himself, the first glimpse of the Macquarie came like a ray of sunshine on his harassed feelings. Was he not to reap some reward for his heroic efforts along the Lachlan, to enjoy the realisation of some of his ambition as geographical discoverer? The Macquarie seemed a favourable subject for the exercise of his talents. Would it not lead him westward to the conquest of that mysterious inland country which had hitherto guarded its secrets with an invincible obstinacy? Poor Oxley, who can help rejoicing with him in his short-lived joy? Without knowing it, he was the first of a long line of brave spirits who were doomed to lose health and life in carving their way into the heart of Australia.
As they returned homeward up the bank of the Macquarie, the river seemed to him to glitter with the bright promise of a crown of success. For almost the first time the entry in his journal has a cheery ring of hope:—
"Nothing can afford a stronger contrast than the two rivers — Lachlan and Macquarie — different in their habits, their appearance, and the source from which they derive their waters, but, above all, differing in the country bordering on them; the one constantly receiving great accession of water from four streams, and as liberally rendering fertile a great extent of country, whilst the other, from its source to its termination is constantly diffusing and diminishing the water it originally receives over low and barren deserts, creating only wet flats and uninhabitable morasses, and during its protracted and sinuous course is never indebted to a single tributary stream."
3.3. THE LIVERPOOL PLAINS.
The disappointment occasioned by Oxley's return to Bathurst and his failure to trace the course of the Lachlan was in part atoned for by the high opinion he had formed of the Macquarie. A second expedition was planned, and the command again offered to the Surveyor-General.
Evans was again second, and Dr. Harris, a very able man, accompanied the party as a volunteer. Charles Fraser was botanist, but Allan Cunningham did not go. The expedition was on a slightly larger scale, there being, besides those already mentioned, twelve ordinary members, with eighteen horses and provisions for twenty-four weeks. A depot was formed at Wellington Valley, and men sent ahead to build two boats.
On June 6th, the start was made from the depot, and for the first 125 miles no obstacles nor impediments were met with. Elated by this, Oxley sent two men back to Bathurst, in accordance with instructions, bearing a favourable despatch to Governor Macquarie. But Fate was again deriding the unfortunate explorer. No sooner had the two parties separated, one with well-grounded hopes of their ultimate success, the other bearing back tidings of these confident hopes, than doubt and distrust entered into the mind of the leader. Twenty-four hours after the departure of the messengers, Oxley wrote in his journal:—
"For four or five miles there was no material change in the general appearance of the country from what it had been on the preceding days, but for the last six miles the land was considerably lower, interspersed with plains clear of timber and dry. On the banks it was still lower, and in many places it was evident that the river-floods swept over them, although this did not appear to be universally the case...These unfavourable appearances threw a damp upon our hopes, and we feared that our anticipations had been too sanguine."
And still, as Oxley went on, he found the country getting flatter and more liable to inundation, until at last, with a heart nearly as low as the country, he found himself almost hemmed in by water. In fact, it was necessary to retrace steps in order to find a place where they could encamp with safety. Upon this emergency, Oxley held a consultation with Evans and Harris, and it was decided to send the baggage and horses back to a small and safe elevation that stood some fifteen miles higher up the river, thus making a subsidiary depot camp. Oxley himself, with four volunteers in the largest of the two boats, would take a month's provisions and follow the stream as long as there was enough water to float their craft. Meanwhile, Evans, during Oxley's absence, was to make an excursion to the north-east, and return by a more northerly route, this being the direction the party intended to take, should the river fail them as the Lachlan had done on the previous journey.
It was a wet and stormy day on which Oxley started on the river voyage. For about twenty miles there was, as Oxley expresses it, "no country." The main channels being in an overflow state, the flat country which surrounded them could be recognised only by the timber growing on the banks. The clear spaces whereon no trees grew were now covered with reeds, which stood at the height of six or seven feet above the surface. That night they took refuge on a piece of land which was so nearly submerged that there was scarcely enough space on which to kindle a fire. In the morning the violence of the storm had somewhat abated, and as soon as the grey light was strong enough for them to recognise their way, they resumed their dreary journey.
Oxley still contrived to keep to what he took to be the main channel, although, as it now pursued its course amid a dense thicket of reeds, it was becoming more difficult with every succeeding mile. Oxley's seamanship, however, stood him in good stead, and although fallen logs now began to obstruct their passage, they kept doggedly on for another twenty miles. There was no diminution in the volume of the current that was now bearing them onward, and Oxley felt confident that he was approaching that hidden lake, wherein the inland waters mingled their streams, and of whose existence he thought he had now every reason to rest assured. Just as he was buoying his spirits up with these hopes, dreaming that in future he would be able proudly to say,
We were the first that ever burst Into that silent sea,
the river eluded all further pursuit by spreading out in every direction amongst the ocean of reeds that surrounded them.
Wounded to the heart at this unlooked-for disappointment, Oxley, after vainly seeking for some clue or indication by which he could continue the search, had to 'bout ship and return to the camp of the night before. He says:—
"There was no channel whatever amongst these reeds, and the depth varied from five to three feet."
Although he was still convinced that the "long sought-for Australian Sea" existed, he recognised the futility of continuing this search to the westward, in which direction some malignant genius seemed ever to persist in thwarting him; and so he regained the shelter of the depot at Mount Harris, with another tale of frustrated hopes.
Evans, on his return from his scouting expedition to the north and north-east, had a more cheerful story to tell. The weather had been wet throughout, and the impassable nature of the country occasioned thereby had hampered him greatly; nevertheless he had struggled across the worst of the flat country, and in the north-east had come to a new river, which he named the Castlereagh. He was absent ten days, and on his return Oxley determined to abandon the Macquarie, which had proved even more deceptive and elusive than the Lachlan, and to strike out for the higher lands which Evans reported having seen.
He left Mount Harris on July 20th, first burying a bottle there containing a written scheme of his intended movements, and some silver coin. Ten years afterwards, Captain Sturt made an ineffectual search for this bottle. Oxley had also buried a bottle at the point of his departure from the Lachlan. Mitchell search for it without success, and learned afterwards that it had been broken by the blacks.
On July 27th, the party reached the bank of the Castlereagh, after fighting their way through bog, quagmire, and all the difficulties common to virgin country during continued wet weather. As the direction they were steering was towards a range seen by Evans, and named Arbuthnot Range, their march was again interrupted by finding the new-found river this time running bank-high, having evidently risen immediately after Evans had crossed it on his return journey. Here, perforce, they had to stay until the water subsided, and it was not until August 2nd that the river had fallen enough to allow them to cross. The ground was still soaked and boggy, and the horses having had to carry increased pack-loads since the abandonment of the boats, the party suffered great toil and hardship in their efforts to gain Arbuthnot Range. The Range was reached, however, and rounding one end of it by skirting the base of a prominent hill which they named Mount Exmouth, the harassed explorers at last emerged upon splendid pastoral country.
As Oxley, from a commanding position, surveyed the magnificent scene spread out beneath him — gentle hills separating smiling valleys, which in their turn merged into undulating plains all ripe for settlement — he must have felt that Fate had at length relented, and granted him a measure of reward as the discoverer of this beautiful land. He called the locality Liverpool Plains, and the name has long been synonymous with pastoral prosperity. Their journey to the eastward, which carried them through the heart of this rich and highly-favoured country, was now less arduous; and though the ground was still wet from the late soaking rains, the sun shone cheerily overhead, and the horses, revelling in the abundant rich grass and succulent herbage, began to recover their strength. On September 2nd, they came to a river, which Oxley named the Peel; and here the expedition narrowly escaped the shadow of a fatality, one man being nearly drowned whilst crossing. After leaving the Peel, Oxley still continued easterly, traversing splendid open grazing country. He was now approaching the dividing water-shed of the Main Range, to the northward of that portion of it which is known at the present day as the Liverpool Range. Here the deep glens and gullies with which the seaward front is serrated, began to interfere seriously with the direct course of travel, and at the heads of many of them there were cataracts and waterfalls which compelled the wanderers to turn away to the south; and on one occasion to revert almost to the west. One of these striking natural features received the name of Becket's Cataract, and another was christened Bathurst's Falls. Once again tempests and storms beset them, and this wild weather found them wandering amongst the steep ravines and dizzy descents of the mountainous range, seeking a way leading to the lowlands.
It was on September 23rd that Oxley and Evans, while searching for a practicable route, climbed a tall peak, and from the summit caught a glimpse of the sea. It seems to have greatly impressed Oxley, and he writes in his journal of his emotions on the occasion:—
"Bilboa's ecstacy at the first sight of the South Sea could not have been greater than ours when, on gaining the summit of this mountain, we beheld Old Ocean at our feet. It inspired us with new life; every difficulty vanished, and in imagination we were already home."
The descent was attended with many perils: Oxley says that at one period he would willingly have compromised for the loss of one-third of the horses to ensure the safety of the remainder. But the men with him were tried and steady, and the thick tufts of grass and the loose soil afforded them help in securing a surer footing, of every chance of availing themselves of which the men skilfully took advantage, so that both men and horses reached the foot of the mountain — now called Mount Seaview — without mishap.
They had reached the head of a river running into the Pacific, and proceeded to follow its course down with more or less difficulty until they reached the mouth, when Oxley, judging the entrance to be navigable, named it Port Macquarie, though one should imagine that he had become tired of that name. The river was named the Hastings.
On October 12th, a toilsome march commenced, following the shore to the southward. The wearisome interruptions of the many inlets and saltwater creeks greatly fatigued and distressed his men. But at last they came upon a boat, half-buried in the sand, which had been lost some time before from a Hawkesbury coaster. This they cleaned and patched, and carried with them, utilising it during the latter stages of this weary journey to facilitate the passage of the many saltwater creeks and channels that impeded their progress. It is owing to the possession of this derelict boat that Oxley crossed the mouth of the Manning without identifying it as a river. The blacks now harassed them greatly, and it was during one of the attacks made upon the party that one of the men, named William Black, was dangerously wounded, being speared through the back and the lower part of the body. The care and conveyance of this invalided man was now added to Oxley's other anxieties, and it was with feelings of great satisfaction that on November 1st they caught sight of the rude buildings of Port Stephens. Through much hardship and privations he had brought his party back without loss.
Oxley sent Evans on to Newcastle with despatches to the governor, in which he alluded to his sanguine anticipations at the time he had sent in his last report, and their almost immediate collapse. But the discovery of Liverpool Plains compensated in some degree for the disappointment caused by the renewed failure that had attended Oxley's efforts to trace an inland river.
In the following year, 1819, the Lady Nelson, with the Surveyor-General on board, visited the newly found Port Macquarie and the Hastings River, to survey the entrance; in which task he was assisted by Lieutenant P.P. King in the Mermaid. On his return to Port Jackson, in the same year, he made a short excursion to Jarvis Bay with Surveyor Meehan, when they were accompanied by the explorer who was to win fame as Hamilton Hume. Oxley returned by boat, his companions overland.
3.4. THE BRISBANE RIVER.
It was in October, 1823, that Oxley left Sydney on the expedition that resulted in the finding of the Brisbane River, and the foundation of the settlement at Moreton Bay. He was despatched on a mission to examine certain openings on the east coast, and report on the suitability of them as sites for penal establishments. Moreton Bay, Port Curtis, and Port Bowen were selected; and Oxley left in the colonial cutter Mermaid, with Uniacke and Stirling as assistants.
As the cutter went up the coast, she called at Port Macquarie, and Oxley had the pleasure of noting the rapid growth of the settlement that had been built upon his recommendation. Further along the coast, Oxley discovered and named the Tweed River. The Mermaid reached Port Curtis on the 6th of November, and cast anchor for some time, during which Oxley made a careful examination of the locality, his opinion of it as a site for a settlement being decidedly unfavourable. He however discovered and named the Boyne River.
It being considered too late in the season to proceed and examine Port Bowen, the Mermaid went south again, and entering Moreton Bay, anchored off the river that appeared to Flinders to take its source in the Glass House Peaks, and which he had called the Pumice Stone River.
They had scarcely anchored when several natives were seen at a distance, evidently attracted by their arrival, and on examining them with the telescope, Uniacke was struck with the appearance of one of a much lighter colour than that of his companions. The next day Oxley landed and discovered that the man they had noticed was in reality a castaway white man of the name of Pamphlet. He told a singular tale.
He had left Sydney in an open boat with three others, intending to go to the Five Islands and bring back cedar. A terrible gale arose, and they were blown out to sea and quite out of their reckoning, Pamphlet being under the impression that they had come ashore south of Port Jackson. They had suffered fearful hardships in the open boat, being at one time, he averred, twenty-one days without water, during which time one man died of thirst. The boat was at last cast up on an island in the bay (Moreton Island) where they had joined the blacks, and lived amongst them ever since, a matter of seven months. The other survivors were named Finnegan and Parsons. Pamphlet informed Oxley that not long before the Mermaid arrived, the three of them had started to try and reach Sydney overland, but when they had got about fifty miles, he had turned back and the next day had been rejoined by Finnegan, who stated that he had quarrelled with Parsons. The latter was never heard of again.
Finnegan put in an appearance the next day, and Oxley naturally took the opportunity to question them as to the knowledge they had gained of the surrounding country during their enforced stay in it. On one important point both of them were confident, and this was that, in the southern portion of the bay, a large river was to be found which appeared navigable, having a strong current.
Taking Finnegan with them, Oxley and Stirling started in the whaleboat the following morning to verify this information. They found the river and pulled up it about fifty miles. Oxley was greatly pleased with such a discovery, and landing, ascended a hill which he named Termination Hill. From the top he obtained a view over a wide extent of country, through which he was able to trace the river for a long distance. Strangely enough, the hasty glimpse he thus caught of a new and untrodden part of Australia seemed to confirm his fixed belief in the final destination of the Lachlan and the Macquarie as an inland sea.
"The nature of the country and a consideration of all the circumstances connected with the appearances of the river, justify me in entertaining a strong belief that the source of the river will not be found in mountainous country, but rather that it flows from some lake, which will prove to be the receptacle of those inland streams crossed by me during an expedition of discovery in 1818."
Oxley named the river the Brisbane, and, taking aboard the two rescued men, the Mermaid set sail for Port Jackson, where she arrived on December 13th. This ended the chapter of Oxley's discoveries in the field of active exploration.
CHAPTER 4. HAMILTON HUME.
[Map. Hume and Hovell's Route 1824; Sturt's Route, 1829 and 1830; Major Mitchell's Route 1836.]
4.1. EARLY ACHIEVEMENTS.
Hamilton Hume was the son of the Reverend Andrew Hume, who came to the colony with his wife in the transport Lady Juliana, and held an appointment in the Commissariat Department. Hamilton was born in Parramatta in the year 1797, on the 18th of June. He seems to have been specially marked out by Nature for prominence as an explorer, for, from his earliest boyhood he was fond of rambling through the bush, and his father encouraged him in his desire for a free country life and his love of adventure. School facilities were lacking, but fortunately his mother attended to his education and saw to it that he did not grow up destitute of that instruction common to youth of those times and of his standing.
At the age of seventeen he made his initial effort at exploration in the country around Berrima, in company with his brother Kennedy and a black boy. They were successful in their endeavours, and found some good pastoral country. In the following year, encouraged by their success, the brothers made another excursion. In 1816, a Mr. Throsby bought some of the land that young Kennedy and Hamilton had found; and their father sent them out with him to show him the country he had purchased. John Oxley, too, held a farm in the Illawarra district, and the Surveyor-General, who must have heard of Hamilton's repute for good bushmanship, engaged him to go out with his overseer and guide the men on to the locality. Governor Macquarie also seems to have had his attention drawn to the same conspicuous quality, for he sent young Hume out with Meehan, a surveyor, and Throsby to examine the country about the Shoalhaven River. On the way, however, Throsby disagreed with Meehan about the course they should adopt, and, taking a black boy with him, left his companions and made the best of his way to Port Jervis. Meehan and Hume carried out the work as originally decided on, and then forced their way up the range, which had now seemingly been deprived of a great many of its original terrors by the hardy pioneers of the coast. On the highlands they discovered and named Lake George, a freshwater lake, and a smaller one which they called Lake Bathurst, both, strange to say, seemingly isolated.
Here we may remark on the tenacity with which the Murrumbidgee River long eluded the eye of the white man. It is scarcely probable that Meehan and Hume, who on this occasion were within comparatively easy reach of the head waters, could have seen a new inland river at that time without mentioning the fact, but there is no record traceable anywhere as to the date of its discovery, or the name of its finder. When in 1823 Captain Currie and Major Ovens were led along its bank on to the beautiful Maneroo country by Joseph Wild, the stream was then familiar to the early settlers and called the Morumbidgee. Even in 1821, when Hume found the Yass Plains, almost on its bank, he makes no special mention of the river. From all this we may deduce the extremely probable fact that the position of the river was shown to some stockrider by a native, who also confided the aboriginal name, and so it gradually worked the knowledge of its identity into general belief. This theory is the more feasible as the river has retained its native name. If a white man of any known position had made the discovery, it would at once have received the name of some person holding official sway. But this is altogether a purely geographical digression.
It was while on this expedition that Hume found the Goulburn Plains. On another occasion he went with Alexander Berry, a noted south-coast pioneer, up the Shoalhaven River, and accompanied the party when they landed and conducted different excursions. By the time he reached manhood, Hume was justly classed amongst the finest bushmen in the colony. In his after career when he led the famous expedition to the south coast, and again, when as Sturt's right hand he accompanied that explorer on the notable expedition that solved the mystery of the outflow of the inland rivers and gave to settled Australia the mighty Darling, he fully proved his right to the title.
4.2. DISCOVERY OF THE HUME OR MURRAY.
It is perhaps by his fame as leader of the party that crossed from Lake George to the Southern Ocean that Hume's name is best remembered. At that time especially it aroused anew the bright hopes for the future of the interior that Oxley's gloomy prognostications had done so much to depress. The Surveyor-General having been unable to determine the question as to whether any large river entered the sea between Cape Otway and Spencer's Gulf, a somewhat hazardous idea entered the head of the then Governor, Sir Thomas Brisbane, to land a party of convicts near Wilson's Promontory, and induce them by the offer of a free pardon and a grant of land to find their way back to Sydney overland. It was further proposed that an experienced bushman should be put in charge of them. The flattering offer of this responsible, if somewhat precarious position, was made to young Hamilton Hume who, on mature consideration declined it.
He offered, however, to conduct a party from Lake George to Western Port if the Government would provide the necessary assistance. This offer the authorities accepted, but they forgot the essential condition of furnishing assistance. Naturally, much delay and vexation were caused by this display of official ineptitude. At this juncture a retired coasting skipper, Captain William Hilton Hovell, made an offer to join the party, and find half the necessary cattle and horses. This offer aroused the Government to some sense of its responsibility, and it agreed to do something in the matter. This "something" amounted to six pack-saddles and gear, one tent of Parramatta cloth, two tarpaulins, a suit of slop clothes a-piece for the men, and an order to Hume to select 1,200 acres of land for himself. In addition, the Government generously granted the explorers two skeleton charts upon which to trace the route of their journey, some bush utensils, and promised a cash payment for the hire of the cattle should an important discovery be made. This cash payment was refused on their return, although one would have thought that the discovery of the Hume (Murray) should surely take rank as an important discovery. Hume also stated that he had much difficulty in obtaining tickets-of-leave for the men, and the confirmation of his own order to select land for himself.
Each of the leaders brought with him three men, so that the strength of the party was eight all told. Their outfit of animals consisted of five bullocks and three horses, and they had two carts with them.
Hovell was born at Yarmouth on the 26th of April, 1786. He arrived in Sydney in 1813, but after being engaged in the coasting trade with occasional trips to New Zealand, he had relinquished his career as a sailor and had settled at Narellan, New South Wales. After his exploring expedition with Hume, he settled down at Goulburn, and he died at Sydney in 1876.
On the 14th of October, 1824, Hume and Hovell left Lake George. Reaching the Murrumbidgee, they found that river flooded, and after waiting three days for the water to fall, they crossed it borne on the body of one of their carts, with the wheels detached, and with the aid of the tarpaulin, rigged like a punt. South of the Murrumbidgee the country was broken and difficult to traverse, but it was well grassed and admirably adapted for grazing purposes. As it became too rough for the passage of their carts, these were abandoned, and the baggage and rations were packed on the bullocks for the remainder of their journey.
After following the course of the Murrumbidgee for some days, the travellers turned from its bank and pursued a south-westerly direction, which led them through hills and valleys richly grassed and plenteously endowed with running streams. On the 8th of November they beheld a sight rarely witnessed before by white men in Australia. Ascending a range in order to obtain a view of the country ahead of them, they suddenly found themselves confronted with snow-capped mountains. There, under the brilliant sun of an Australian summer's day, rose the white crests of lofty peaks that might have found fitting surroundings amidst the chilling splendours of some far southern clime, robed as they were for nearly one-fourth of their height in glistening snow.
Skirting this range, which received the name of the Australian Alps, the explorers, after wandering for eight days across its many spurs, came upon a fine, flowing river, which Hume named after his father, the Hume. This river was destined to be re-named the Murray, when its course was eventually followed to the ocean.*
*[Footnote.] See Chapter 6.
There being no safe ford, a makeshift boat was constructed with the aid of the serviceable tarpaulin, and the Hume was crossed, close to the site of the present town of Albury. Still passing through good pastoral land, watered by numerous creeks, they crossed a river which was named the Ovens, and on the 3rd of December they came to another, named by them the Hovell, but now called the Goulburn; and on the 16th of December they reached their goal, the shore of the Southern Ocean, at the spot where Geelong now stands.
This expedition had a great and immediate influence on the extension of Australian settlement. Within a few years after the chief surveyor had characterised the western interior, beyond a certain limit, as unfitted for human habitation, and had expressed his opinion that the monotonous flats across which he vainly looked for any elevation extended to the sea-coast, snowy mountains, feeding the head tributaries of perennial rivers had been discovered to the southward of his track.
Hume was exceptionally fitted for the work of exploration at this particular juncture in colonial history. Born and reared in the land, he was well competent to judge justly of its merits and demerits; his opinion was not likely to be tainted by the prejudices formed and nourished in other and different climes. The history of Australian exploration was then a statement of hasty conclusions, formed perhaps under certain climatic circumstances to be falsified on a subsequent visit when the conditions were radically different. In Hume's case, there was no ill-founded conclusion of the availability of the freshly-discovered district. The journey just recorded at once added to the British Colonial Empire millions of acres of arable land watered by never-failing rivers, with a climate and altitude calculated to foster the growth of almost every species of temperate fruit or grain.
It is to be regretted that the narration of an expedition fraught with so much benefit to the young colony, and executed with so much courage, endurance, and facility of resource should be marred by any discordant note. But friendly and genial relations were endangered by the presence of two independent leaders. Divided authority here, as it nearly always does, caused petty and undignified squabbles, which were in later days elaborated into unseemly paper conflict. It is painful if somewhat amusing to read of the acrid disputes as to the course, under the very shadow of the majestic Australian Alps whose solitude had only then been first disturbed by white men; and how, on agreeing to separate and divide the outfit, it was proposed to cut the only tent in two, and how the one frying-pan was broken by both men pulling at it. Thomas Boyd, who was the only survivor of the party in 1883, and was then eighty-six years old, signed a document assigning to Hume the full credit of conducting the expedition to safety. Boyd was one of the most active members of the expedition, always to the front when there was any trying work to be done. He was the first white man to cross the Hume River, swimming over with the end of a line in his teeth.