The History of Australian Exploration from 1788 to 1888.
Complied from State Documents, Private Papers and the most authentic sources of information. Issued under the auspices of the Government of the Australian Colonies.
Sydney: Turner and Henderson 1888
THE HON. SIR HENRY PARKES, G.C.M.G., C.C.I., M.P., AS THE OLDEST RULING STATESMAN IN AUSTRALIA, AND IN THE PRESENT CENTENARY YEAR THE PREMIER OF NEW SOUTH WALES, THE MOTHER COLONY, FROM WHENCE FIRST STARTED THOSE EXPLORATIONS BY LAND AND SEA, WHICH HAVE RESULTED IN THROWING OPEN TO THE NATIONS OF THE WORLD A NEW CONTINENT, NOW RAPIDLY DEVELOPING, UNDER FREE CONSTITUTIONS, A PROSPEROUS, CONTENTED, AND SELF-GOVERNING COMMUNITY, THIS HISTORY OF AUSTRALIAN EXPLORATION IS DEDICATED.
ERNEST FAVENC, SYDNEY, 1888.
A complete history of the exploration of Australia will never be written. The story of the settlement of our continent is necessarily so intermixed with the results of private travels and adventures, that all the historian can do is to follow out the career of the public expeditions, and those of private origin which extended to such a distance, and embraced such important discoveries, as to render the results matters of national history.
That private individuals have done the bulk of the detail work there is no denying; but that work, although every whit as useful to the community as the more brilliant exploits that carried with them the publicity of Government patronage, has not found the same careful preservation.
To find the material to write such a history would necessitate the work of a lifetime, and the co-operation of hundreds of old colonists; and, when written, it would inevitably, from the nature of the subject, prove most monotonous reading, and fill, I am afraid to think, how many volumes. The reader has but to consider the immense area of country now under pastoral occupation, and to remember that each countless subordinate river and tributary creek was the result of some extended research of the pioneer squatter, to realise this.
Since the hope of finding an inland sea, or main central range, vanished for ever, the explorer cannot hope to discover anything much more exciting or interesting than country fitted for human habitation. The attributes of the native tribes are very similar throughout. Since the day when Captain Phillip and his little band settled down here and tried to gain the friendship of the aboriginal, no startling difference has been found in him throughout the continent. As he was when Dampier came to our shores, so is he now in the yet untrodden parts of Australia, and the explorer knows that from him he can only gain but a hazardous and uncertain tale of what lies beyond.
But, in this utter want of knowledge of the country to be explored, where even the physical laws do not assimilate with those of other continents, lies the great charm of Australian exploration. It is the spectacle of one man pitted against the whole force of nature—not the equal struggle of two human antagonists, but the old fable of the subtle dwarf and the self-confident giant.
When the battle commenced between Sturt and the interior, he was, as he thought, vanquished, though in reality the victor.
In the history of exploration are to be found some of the brightest examples of courage and fortitude presented by any record. In the succeeding pages I have tried to bring these episodes prominently to the fore, and bestow upon them the meed of history.
In compiling this book I have had the sympathy of many gentlemen, both in this and the neighbouring colonies, and my best thanks are due to them, especially as, owing to it, I have been able to make the work perfectly authentic, and I trust, a thoroughly reliable work of reference.
Part I Rumours of the existence of a Southern Continent in the Sixteenth Century—JAVE and JAVE LA GRANDE—Authentic Discoveries and visits of the early Navigators—Torres sails between New Guinea and Terra Australis—Voyage of the DUYFHEN in 1606—Dirk Hartog on the West Coast, his inscribed plate—Restored by Vlaming—Afterwards by Hamelin—Nuyts on the South Coast—Wreck of the BATAVIA on Houtman's Abrolhos—Mutiny of Cornelis—Tasman's second voyage—Dampier with the Buccaneers—Second Voyage in the ROEBUCK—Last visit of the Dutch—Captain Cook—Flinders; his theory of a Dividing Strait—Plans for exploring the Interior—His captivity—Captain King—Concluding remarks.
Part II The Continent of Australia—Its peculiar formation—The coast range and the highest peaks thereof—The coastal rivers—The inland rivers— Difference of vegetation on the tableland and on the coast—Exception to the rule—Valuable timber of the coast districts—Animals common to the whole continent—Some birds the same—Distinct habits of others—The Australian native and his unknown origin—Water supply—Upheaval.
PART I LAND EXPLORATION
Chapter I [1788-1803]
Expeditions of Governor Phillip—Mouth of the Hawkesbury found in Broken Bay—Second expedition and ascent of the river—Expedition of Captain Tench—Discovery of the Nepean River—Lieutenant Dawes sent to cross the Nepean, and to try to penetrate the mountains—Attempt by Governor Phillip to establish the confluence of the Nepean and Hawkesbury— Failure—The identity settled by Captain Tench—Escaped convicts try to reach China—Captain Paterson finds and names the Grose River—Hacking endeavours to cross the Blue Mountains—The lost cattle found on the Cow Pastures—Bass attempts the passage of the range—Supposed settlement of a white race in the interior—Attempt of the convicts to reach it— James Wilson—His life with the natives—Discovery of the Hunter River by Lieutenant Shortland.
Chapter II [1813-1824]
The great drought of 1813—The development of country by stocking— Blaxland, Lawson, and Wentworth cross the Blue Mountains—Reach the head of coast waters and return—Surveyor Evans sent out—Crosses the watershed and finds the Macquarie River—Construction of road over the range—Settlement of Bathurst—Visit of Governor Macquarie—Second expedition under Evans—Discovery of the Lachlan River—Surveyor-General Oxley explores the Lachlan—Finds the river terminates in swamps—Returns by the Macquarie—His opinion of the interior—Second expedition down the Macquarie—Disappointment again—Evans finds the Castlereagh—Liverpool Plains discovered—Oxley descends the range and finds Port Macquarie— Returns to Newcastle-Currie and Ovens cross the Morumbidgee—Brisbane Downs and Monaroo—Hume and Hovell cross to Port Phillip—Success of the expedition.
Chapter III [to 1830]
Settlement of Moreton Bay—Cunningham in the field again—His discoveries of the Gwydir, Dumaresque, and Condamine Rivers—The Darling Downs, and Cunningham's Gap through the range to Moreton Bay—Description of the Gap—Cunningham's death—Captain Sturt—His first expedition to follow down the Macquarie—Failure of the river—Efforts of Sturt and Hume to trace the channel—Discovery of New Year's Creek (the Bogan)—Come suddenly on the Darling—Dismay at finding the water salt—Retreat to Mount Harris—Meet the relief party—Renewed attempt down the Castlereagh River—Trace it to the Darling—Find the water in that river still salt—Return—Second expedition to follow the Morumbidgee—Favourable anticipations—Launch of the boats and separation of the party—Unexpected junction with the Murray—Threatened hostilities with the natives—Averted in a most singular manner—Junction of large river from the North—Sturt's conviction that it is the Darling—Continuation of the voyage—Final arrival at Lake Alexandrina—Return voyage—Starvation and fatigue— Constant labour at the oars and stubborn courage of the men—Utter exhaustion—Two men push forward to the relief party and return with succour.
Chapter IV [to 1836]
Settlement at King George's Sound—The free colony of Swan River founded—Governor Stirling—Captain Bannister crosses from Perth to King George's Sound—Explorations by Lieutenant Roe—Disappointing nature of the interior—Bunbury, Wilson, and Moore—Settlement on the North Coast—Melville Island and Raffles Bay—An escaped convict's story—The fabulous Kindur River—Major Mitchell starts in search of it—Discovery of the Namoi—The Nundawar Range—Failure of the boats—Reach the Gwydir River of Cunningham—The KARAULA—Its identity with the Darling—Murder of the two bullock-drivers—Mitchell's return—Murder of Captain Barker in Encounter Bay—Major Mitchell's second expedition to trace the course of the Darling—Traces the Bogan to its junction with that river—Fort Bourke—Progress down the river—Hostility of the natives—Skirmish with them—Return—Mitchell's third expedition—The Lachlan followed—Junction of the Darling and the Murray reached—Mitchell's discovery of Australia Felix.
Chapter V [to 1841]
Lieutenants Grey and Lushington on the West Coast—Narrow escape—Start with an equipment of Timor ponies—Grey wounded by the natives—Cave drawings—Return, having discovered the Glenelg—Grey's second expedition—Landed at Bernier Island, in Shark's Bay, with three whale-boats—Cross to borne Island—Violent storm—Discovery of the Gascoyne—Return to Bernier Island—Find their CACHE of provisions destroyed by a hurricane—Hopeless position—Attempted landing at Gautheaume Bay—Destruction of the boats—Walk to Perth—Great sufferings—Death of Smith—Eyre and the overlanders—Discovery of Lake Hindmarsh—Exploration of Gippsland—Eyre's explorations to the north—Discovery of Lake Torrens—Disappointment in the country bordering on it—Determines to go to King George's Sound—Repeated attempts to reach the head of the Great Australian Bight—Loss of horses—Barren and scrubby country—Final determination to send back most of the party— Starts with overseer and three natives—Hardship and suffering—Murder of the overseer by two of the natives—Eyre continues his journey with the remaining boy—Relieved by the MISSISSIPPI whaler—Reaches King George's Sound.
Chapter VI [to 1846]
Explorations around Moreton Bay—Development of the Eastern Coast—The first pioneers of the Darling Downs—Stuart and Sydenham Russell—The Condamine River and Cecil Plains—Great interest taken in exploration at this period—Renewed explorations around Lake Torrens—Surveyor-General Frome—Death of Horrocks, the first explorer to introduce camels—Sturt's last expedition—Route by the Darling chosen—Poole fancies that he sees the inland sea—Discovery of Flood's Creek—The prison depot—Impossible to advance or retreat—Breaking up of the drought—Death of Poole—Fresh attempts to the north—The desert—Eyre's Creek discovered—Return and fresh attempt—Discoveries of Cooper and Strzelecki Creeks—Retreat to the Depot Glen—Final return to the Darling—Ludwig Leichhardt the lost explorer—His great trip north—Finding of the Burdekin, the Mackenzie, Isaacs and Suttor—Murder of the naturalist Gibert—Discovery of the Gulf Rivers—Arrival at Port Essington—His return and reception— Surveyor-General Mitchell's last expedition—Follows up the Balonne— Crosses to the head of the Belyando—Disappointed in that river—Returns and crosses to the head of the Victoria (Barcoo)—The beautiful Downs country—First mention of the Mitchell grass—False hopes entertained of the Victoria running into the Gulf of Carpentaria.
Chapter VII [to 1854]
Kennedy traces the Victoria in its final course south—Re-named the Barcoo—First notice of the PITURI chewing natives—Leichhardt's second Expedition—Failure and Return—Leichhardt's last Expedition—His absolute disappearance—Conjectures as to his fate—Kennedy starts from Rockingham Bay to Cape York—Scrubs and swamps—Great exertions—Hostile natives—Insufficiency of supplies provided—Dying horses—Main party left in Weymouth Bay—Another separation at Shelburne Bay—Murder of Kennedy at the Escape River—Rescue of Jacky the black boy—His pathetic tale of suffering—Failure to find the camp at Shelburne Bay—Rescue of but two survivors at Weymouth Bay—The remainder starved to death—Von Mueller in the Australian Alps—Western Australia—Landor and Lefroy, in 1843—First expedition of the brothers Gregory, in 1846—Salt lakes and scrub—Lieutenant Helpman sent to examine the coal seam discovered—Roe, in 1848—His journey to the east and to the south—A. C. Gregory attempts to reach the Gascoyne—Foiled by the nature of the country—Discovers silver ore on the Murchison—Governor Fitzgerald visits the mine—Wounded by the natives—Rumour of Leichhardt having been murdered by the blacks—Hely's expedition in quest of him—Story unfounded—Austin's explorations in Western Australia—Terrible scrubs—Poison camp— Determined efforts to the north—Heat and thirst—Forced to return.
Chapter VIII [to 1861]
A. C. Gregory's North Australian expedition in 1855-56, accompanied by Baron Von Mueller and Dr. Elsey—Disappointment in the length of 'the Victoria—Journey to the Westward—Discovery of Sturt's Creek—Its course followed south—Termination in a salt lake—Return to Victoria River —Start homeward, overland—The Albert identified—The Leichhardt christened—Return by the Burdekin and Suttor—Visit of Babbage to Lake Torrens—Expedition by Goyder—Deceived by mirage—Excitement in Adelaide—Freeling sent out—Discovers the error—Hack explores the Gawler Range—Discovers Lake Gairdner—Warburton in the same direction—Swinden and party west of Lake Torrens—Babbage in the Lake District—His long delay—Warburton sent to supersede him—Rival claims to discovery—Frank Gregory explores the Gascoyne in Western Australia —A. C. Gregory follows the Barcoo in search of Leichhardt—Discovery of a marked tree—Arrival in Adelaide—The early explorations of M'Dowall Stuart—Frank Gregory at Nickol Bay—Discovers the Ashburton—Fine pastoral country—Discovers the De Grey and Oakover Rivers—Turned back by the desert—Narrow escape.
Chapter IX [to 1861]
Across the continent, from south to north—M'Dowall Stuart's first attempt to reach the north coast—Native warfare—Chambers' Pillar— Central Mount Stuart—Singularfootprint—Sufferings from thirst— Aboriginal Freemasons—Attack Creek—Return—Stuart's second departure— The Victorian expedition—Costly equipment—Selection of a leader—Burke, and his qualifications for the post—Wills—Resignation of Landells— Wright left in charge of the main party—Burke and Wills, with six men, push on to Cooper's Creek—Delay of Wright—Burke's final determination to push on to the north coast—Starts with Wills and two men—Progress across the continent—Arrival at the salt water—Wills' account—Homeward journey—The depot deserted—Resolve to make for Mount Hopeless—Failure and return—Wills revisits the depot—Kindness of the natives—Burke and King start in search of the blacks—Death of Burke—King finds Wills dead on his return—Wright and Brahe visit the depot—Fail to see traces of Burke's return—Consternation in Melbourne—Immediate despatch of search parties—Howitt finds King—Narrow escape of trooper Lyons—Stuart in the north—Hedgewood scrub first seen—Discovery of Newcastle waters—All attempts to the north fruitless—Return of Stuart.
Chapter X [to 1863]
Stuart's last Expedition—Frew's Pond—Daly Waters—Arrival at the Sea—The flag at last hoisted on the northern shore—Return—Serious illness of the Leader—The Burke relief Expedition—John M'Kinlay—Native rumours—Discovery of Gray's body—Hodgkinson sent to Blanche Water with the news—Returns with the information of King's rescue by Howitt— M'Kinlay starts north—Reaches the Gulf coast—Makes for the new Queensland settlements on the Burdekin—Reaches the Bowen River in safety—Mystery of the camel's tracks—Landsborough's expedition— Discovery of the Gregory River—The Herbert—Return to the Albert depot— News of Burke and Wills—Landsborough reduces his party and starts home overland—Returns by way of the Barcoo—Landsborough and his critics—His work as an Explorer—Walker starts from Rockhampton—Another L tree found on the Barcoo—Walker crosses the head of the Flinders—Finds the tracks of Burke and Wills—Tries to follow them up—Returns to Queensland—Abandonment of the desert theory—Private expeditions— Dalrymple and others.
Chapter XI [to 1870]
Settlement formed at Somerset, Cape York, by the Queensland Government—Expedition of the Brothers Jardine—Start from Carpentaria Downs Station—Disaster by fire—Reduced resources—Arrive at the coast of the Gulf—Hostility of the blacks—Continual attacks—Horses mad through drinking salt water—Poison country—An unfortunate camp—Still followed by the natives—Rain and bog—Dense scrub—Efforts of the two brothers to reach Somerset—Final Success—Lull in exploration—Private parties—Settlement at Escape Cliffs by South Australia—J. M'Kinlay sent up—Narrow escape from floods—Removal of the settlement to Port Darwin—M'Intyre's expedition in search of Leichhardt—His death—Hunt in Western Australia—False reports about traces of Leichhardt—Forrest's first expedition—Sent to investigate the report of the murder of white men in the interior—Convinced of its want of truth—Unpromising country—Second expedition to Eucla—The cliffs of the Great Bight—Excursion to the north—Safe arrival at Eucla.
Chapter XII [to 1875]
The first expeditions of Ernest Giles—Lake Amadens—Determined attempts to cross the desert—Death of Gibson—Return-Warburton's expedition— Messrs. Elder and Hughes—Outfit of camels—Departure from Alice Springs—Amongst the glens—Waterloo Well—No continuation to Sturt's Creek—Sufferings from starvation—Fortunate relief from death by thirst—Arrive at the head of the Oakover—Lewis starts to obtain succour—His return—Gosse sent out by the South Australian Government— Exploring bullocks—Ayre's rock—Obliged to retreat—Forrest's expedition from west to east—Good pastoral country—Windich Springs—The Weld Springs—Attacked by the natives—Lake Augusta—Dry country—Relieved by a shower—Safe arrival and great success of the expedition—Ernest Giles in the field—Elder supplies camels—The longest march ever made in Australia—Wonderful endurance of the camels—The lonely desert—Strange discovery of water—Queen Victoria's Spring—The march renewed—Attacked by blacks—Approach the well-known country in Western Australia—Safe arrival—Giles returns overland, north of Forrest's track—Little or no result—Great drought—The western interior.
Chapter XIII [to 1884]
Further explorations around Lake Eyre—Lewis equipped by Sir Thomas Elder—He traces the lower course of the Diamantina—Expedition to Charlotte Bay under W. Hann—A survivor of the wreck of the MARIA—Discovery of the Palmer—Gold prospects found—Arrival on the east coast—Dense scrub—Return—The Palmer rush—Hodgkinson sent out—Follows down the Diamantina—Discovery of the Mulligan—Mistaken for the Herbert—Private expedition—The Messrs. Prout—Buchanan—F. Scarr—The QUEENSLANDER expedition—A dry belt of country—Native rites—A good game bag—Arrival at the telegraph line—Alexander Forrest—The Leopold Range—Caught between the cliffs and the sea—Fine pastoral country found—Arrival at the Katherine—The Northern Territory and its future.
Chapter XIV [to 1888]
The exploration of the Continent by land almost completed—Minor expeditions—The Macarthur and other rivers running into Carpentaria traced—Good country discovered and opened up—Sir Edward Pellew Group revisited—Lindsay sent out by the S.A. Government to explore Arnheim's Land—Rough country and great loss of horses—O'Donnell makes an expedition to the Kimberley district—Sturt and Mitchell's different experiences with the blacks—Difference in the East and West Coasts—Use of camels—Opinions about them—The future of the water supply— Adaptability of the country for irrigation—The great springs of the Continent—Some peculiarities of them—Hot springs and mound springs.
PART II MARITIME EXPLORATION
Chapter XV Maritime Discoveries
Chapter XVI Captain Cook compared to former Visitors—Point Hicks—Botany Bay-First natives seen—Indifference to Overtures—Abundant flora—Entrance to Port Jackson missed—Endeavour on a reef—Careened—Strange animals—Hostile natives—A sailor's devil—Possession Island-Territory of New South Wales—Torres Straits a passage—La Perouse—Probable fate discovered by Captain Dillon—M'Cluer touches Arnheim's Land—Bligh and Portlock—Wreck of the Pandora—Vancouver in the south—The D'Entrecasteaux quest—Recherche Archipelago—Bass and Flinders—Navigation and exploration extraordinary—The Tom Thumb—Bass explores south—Flinders in the Great Bight—Bass's Straits—Flinders in the Investigator—Special instructions—King George's Sound—Lossof boat's crew—Memory Cove—Baudin's courtesy—Port Phillip—Investigator and Lady Nelson on East Coast—The Gulf of Carpentaria and early Dutch navigators—Duyfhen Point—Cape Keer-Weer—Mythical rivers charted—Difficulty in recognising their landmarks—Flinders' great disappointment—A rotten ship—Return by way of West Coast—Cape Vanderlin—Dutch Charts—Malay proas, Pobassoo—Return to Port Jackson—Wreck of the Porpoise—Prisoner by the French—General de Caen—Private papers and journals appropriated—Prepares his charts and logs for press—Death—Sympathy by strangers—Forgotten by Australia—The fate of Bass—Mysterious disappearance—Supposed Death.
Chapter XVII The French Expedition—Buonaparte's lavish outfitting—Baudin in the Geographe—Coast casualties—Sterile and barren appearance—Privations of the crew—Sails for Timor—Hamelin in the Naturaliste—Explores North-Western coast—Swan River—Isle of Rottnest—Joins her consort at Coepang—Sails for Van Dieman's Land—Examination of the South-East coast of Australia—Flinders' prior visit ignored—French names substituted—Discontent among crew—Baudin's unpopularity—Bad food—Port Jackson—Captain King's Voyages—Adventures in the Mermaid—An extensive commission—Allan Cunningham, botanist—Search at Seal Islands for memorial of Flinders' visit—Seed sowing—Jeopardy to voyage—Giant anthills—An aboriginal Stoic—Cape Arnhem and west coast exploration—Macquarie Strait—Audacity of natives—Botanical results satisfactory—Malay Fleet—Raffles Bay—Port Essington—Attack by natives—Cape Van Dieman—Malay Teachings—Timor and its Rajah—Return to Port—Second Voyage—Mermaid and Lady Nelson—East Coast—Cleveland Bay—Cocoa-nuts and pumice stones—Endeavour River—Thieving natives—Geological formation of adjacent country—Remarkable coincidences—Across Gulf of Carpentaria—Inland excursion—Cambridge Gulf—Ophthalmia amongst crew—Mermaid returns to port.
Chapter XVIII King's Third Voyage—Early misadventures—Examines North-West coast closely—The Mermaid careened—Unforeseen result—Return to Sydney—The Bathurst—King's Fourth Voyage—Last of the Mermaid—Love's stratagem—Remarkable cavern—Extraordinary drawings—Chasm Island—South-West explorations—Revisits his old camp—Rich vegetation—Greville Island—Skirmish at Hanover Bay—Reminiscence of Dampier—His notes on the natives and their mode of living—Cape Leveque—Buccaneers' Archipelago—Provisions run out—Sails for the Mauritius—Survey of South-West re-commenced—Cape Chatham—Oyster Harbour anchorage—A native's toilet—Seal hunt—Friendly intercourse—Cape Inscription—Vandalism—Point Cloates not an island—Vlaming Head—Rowley Shoals—Cunningham—Botanical success—Rogers Island closely examined—Mainland traced further—An amazing escape from destruction—Relinquishment of survey—Sails for Sydney—Value of King's work—Settlement on Melville Island—Port Essington—Colonisation—Fort building—A waif—Roguish visitors—Garrison life—Change of scene—Raffles Bay—Dismal reports—Failure of attempt.
Chapter XIX Cruise of H.M.S. Beagle—Passengers Grey and Lushington—Swan River—Northern coast survey commenced—Supposed channel at Dampier's Land non-existent—Lieutenant Usborne accidentally shot—King's Sound—Effects of a rainy season—Point Cunningham—Skeleton of a native found—New discoveries—Fitzroy River explored—Exciting incident—Boat excursion to Collier Bay—Swan River—Native steward "Miago"—Amusing inspection—Meeting with the explorers at Hanover Bay—Lieutenant Grey's description of native tribes—Miago's memory—Fremantle—Needed communication—Beagle at Hobart Town—Survey work at Cape Otway—Exploration of northwest coast—Reminiscences of colonisation—Discovery of the Adelaide River—A serious comedy—Port Essington and Clarence Straits—Harbour of Port Darwin named—The Victoria River—Extravagant hopes—Land party organized—Captain Stokes speared—Return to Swan River—Beagle again North—Examination of Sweer's Island—Flinders and Albert Rivers discovered—Inland navigation—Gun accident—Native mode of burial—Fallacious Theorising—The Beagle's surveying concluded—Maritime exploration closes.
Chapter XX Nationality of the first finders of Australia—Knowledge of the Malays—The bamboo introduced—Traces of smallpox amongst the natives in the north-west—Tribal rites—Antipathy to pork—Evidence of admixture in origin—Influence of Asiatic civilisation partly visible—Coast appearance repelling—Want of indigenous food plants—Lack of intercourse with other nations—Little now left of unexplored country—Conclusions respecting various geological formations—Extent of continental divisions—Development of coastal towns—Inducements for population—Necessity of the first explorings—Pioneer squatters' efforts—First Australian-born explorer—Desert theory exploded—Fertile downs everywhere—Want of water apparently insurmountable—Heroism of explorers—Inexperience of the early settlers—Grazing possible—Rapid stocking of country—The barrenness of the "Great Bight"—Sturt, the Penn of Australia—Results—Mitchell's work—Baron von Mueller's researches—A salt lake—Stuart first man across the continent—Burke and Wills' heroism—Services of McKinlay and Landsborough—John Forrest's journeys—Camel expedition by Giles—The Brisbane Courier expedition—Further explorations—Stockdale at Cambridge Gulf—Carr-Boyd and O'Donnell open good country in Western Australia—Work done by explorers—Their characteristics—Conclusion.
The Pandora Pass Death of Surveyor-General Oxley List of Men Comprising Sir Thomas Mitchell's Party in 1846 Richard Cunningham's Fate Cave Drawings Smith, a Lad of Eighteen, Found Dead, May 8th, 1839 Eyre's Letters Extract of Letter from Major Mitchell Extract of a Letter from Mr. Walter Bagot The Last Letter Received from Dr. Leichhardt The Nardoo Plant The Finding of John King Poison Plants
Index of Names, Dates and Incidents
MAPS AND FAC-SIMILES (Not included in this eBook)
Exploratory Map of Australia Dauphin Map Map of Tasman's Track, 1644 Captain Flinders' Letter to Sir J. Banks Map of Australia in 1818 Extract from Letters—E. J. Eyre, Sir G. Gipps and Sir Thomas Mitchell Fac-simile of Signatures Fac-simile of Cave Paintings and Drawings, discovered by Lieutenant George Grey, 1838
Rumours of the existence of a Southern Continent in the Sixteenth Century—JAVE and JAVE LA GRANDE—Authentic Discoveries and visits of the early Navigators—Torres sails between New Guinea and Terra Australis—Voyage of the DUYFHEN in 1606—Dirk Hartog on the West Coast, his inscribed plate—Restored by Vlaming—Afterwards by Hamelin—Nuyts on the South Coast—Wreck of the BATAVIA on Houtman's Abrolhos—Mutiny of Cornelis—Tasman's second voyage—Dampier with the Buccaneers—Second Voyage in the ROEBUCK—Last visit of the Dutch—Captain Cook—Flinders; his theory of a Dividing Strait—Plans for exploring the Interior—His captivity—Captain King—Concluding remarks.
The charm of romance and adventure surrounding the discovery of hitherto unknown lands has from the earliest ages been the lure that has tempted men to prosecute voyages and travels of exploration. Whether under the pretext of science, religion or conquest, hardship and danger have alike been undergone with fortitude and cheerfulness, in the hope of being the first to find things strange and new, and return to civilized communities with the tidings.
In the days of Spain's supremacy, after the eyes of Europe had been dazzled with the sight of riches brought from the New World, and men's ears filled with fairy-like tales of the wondrous races discovered, it was but natural that the adventurous gallants of that age should roam in search of seas yet to be won.
Some such hope of finding a land wherein the glorious conquests of Cortes and Pizarro could be repeated, brought De Quiros on a quest that led him almost within hail of our shores. What little realization of his dreams of cities rich with temples, blazing with barbaric gold, inhabited by semi-civilized people skilled in strange arts he would have found in the naked nomads of Terra Australis, and their rude shelters of boughs and bark we now know; and perhaps, it was as well for the skilful pilot that he died with his mission unfulfilled, save in fancy. His lieutenant, Torres, came nearer solving the secret of the Southern Seas, and, in fact, reports sighting hills to the southward, which—on slight foundation—are supposed to have been the present Cape York, but more probably were the higher lands of Prince of Wales Island. In all likelihood he saw enough of the natives of the Straits to convince him that no such rich pickings were to be had, as had fallen to the lot of the lucky conquerors of Mexico and Peru. He came across none of the legendary canoes from the land of gold, deep laden with the precious metal, nor sandy beaches strewn with jewels, to be had for the gathering. He puts on record what he thought of the islanders in the few terse words, that they were "black, naked and corpulent," beyond that, they do not seem to have impressed him.
Apparently they, on their part, were not impressed at being informed that they were thenceforth subjects of the King of Spain, for their dislike to Europeans appears to have increased as the unfortunate Dutch captains, Carstens and Poole, afterwards found to their cost. Even the gracious act of His Holiness the Pope in partitioning these unknown lands between Spain and Portugal did not meet with the favourable consideration at their hands that it deserved.
The jealousy with which the maritime nations of Europe guarded their discoveries from each other has been the means of putting great difficulties in the way of tracing out the early traditions of the great South Land. The domineering Spaniard looked upon the Portugese navigator as a formidable rival in the race for trade; and the sturdy Hollander they regarded as a natural enemy and a rebel. The generous emulation of fellow-workers in the cause of scientific discovery was unknown, and the secrets of the sea were scrupulously kept.
On behalf of Dutch reticence, it may be said that the cause of the merited hatred they bore to Spain was still too fresh in their memory to allow them to divulge anything that might possibly benefit a Spaniard.
Sir William Temple, ambassador at the Hague in the time of Charles II., gives it as his opinion that "a southern continent has long since been found out." He avers that, according to descriptions he has gathered, "it is as long as Java, and is marked on the maps by the name of New Holland, but to what extent the land extends either to the south, the east, or the west, none know." He states, that he has heard it said among the Dutch that their East India Company "have long since forbidden, and under the greatest penalties, any further attempts at discovering that continent, having already more trade than they can turn to account, and fearing some more populous nation of Europe might make great establishments of trade in some of these unknown regions, which might ruin or impair what they already have in the Indies."
But although no documentary evidence has been brought to light, proving beyond all doubt the certain discovery of the South Land in the sixteenth century, we find on the old charts of the world various tracings indicating a knowledge of the existence of this continent, which would appear to have been derived from other than fabulous sources.
A shadowy claim to the honour of being the first discoverer of Terra Australis has been advanced on behalf of the Frenchman Gonneville, who sailed from Honfleur in 1503, on a voyage to the East Indies. He is said to have doubled the Cape of Good Hope, and being driven by stress of weather into an unknown sea, found a land inhabited by friendly people, with whom he stayed some time, being accompanied back to France by one of the king's sons who was desirous of studying the precepts of Christianity. The general belief, however, is that it was probably Madagascar whereon De Gonneville landed.
Another claim, based upon the authority of an ancient map, is put forward for the noted Portugese navigator Magalhaens, when in the service of the Emperor Charles V. of Spain; but there is little appertaining to the arguments advanced on behalf of this belief to render it credible.
In some of the old charts, dating back to the middle of the sixteenth century, a large country south of Java is portrayed, which from its position appears to be intended for the conjectural South Land. In all these maps the outlines of this TERRA INCOGNITA are so nearly identical that it is evident various hydrographers drew their inspirations from the same sources. The annexed tracing is a copy of a portion of one of the most ancient of these maps; the original was presented to the British Museum by Sir Joseph Banks in 1790. It is most carefully drawn, the coast line being elaborately filled in with names in French, and it is embellished with drawings of animals and men, being also ornamented with two shields bearing the arms of France. The map is undated, but was probably designed in the latter part of the reign of Francis L, for his son, the Dauphin, afterwards Henry II.
It has been alleged that Captain Cook was guided by these charts to the eastern shore of New Holland, and the similarity of some of the names thereon, such as COSTE DES HERBAIGES, and COSTE DANGEROUSE, to names given by him, has been pointed out. This allegation, however, will not stand criticism. Botany Bay, for instance, is about the last place that any one would select to bestow such a name on as COSTE DES HERBAIGES, which name would signify a rich and fertile spot, certainly not such a desolate place as Botany Bay was in Captain Cook's time. Captain Tench, one of the survey party sent there in 1789, writes in his journal:—"We were unanimously of the opinion that had not the nautical part of Mr. Cook's description been so accurately laid down, there would exist the utmost reason to believe that those who have described the contiguous country had never seen it. On the side of the harbour, a line of sea coast more than thirty miles long, we did not find two hundred acres which could be cultivated." Any approximation then in position between Botany Bay and the fabulous COSTE DES HERBAIGES must be considered as accidental.
The generally received opinion of this and the other charts is, that Java (JAVE) is fairly well laid down, and that Great Java stands for the supposed South Land. Plausible as this theory reads, it is, however, open to objection. If it be accepted, and the narrow strait the river GRANDE be looked upon as that portion of the Indian Ocean dividing Java from the north-west coast of Australia, any resemblance to the present known shape of our continent is very hard to trace, unless after a most distorted fashion. If, however, we make the necessary allowances for the many errors that would creep in from one transcription to another, and look upon JAVE and JAVE LA GRANDE as one continent intersected by a mediterranean sea, we have a fair, if rude, conception of the north coast of Australia. Moreover, let the reader imagine a south coast line drawn from BAYE PERDUE on the east to HAVRE DE SYLLA on the west, doing away with the conjectural east and west coast continuations south of those points; the deep inlet between JAVE and JAVE LA GRANDE standing for the Gulf of Carpentaria, a very passable outline of the whole continent is obtained. And it is more than probable that this view was originally suggested by this map, and from it sprang the belief current, even to the beginning of this century, that an open passage existed from the west coast, either into the Gulf of Carpentaria, or to the head of Spencer's Gulf. The other maps give no more information than this one, and the identity of their origin is obvious. One, however, has been found in the British Museum the features of which are different. It is a rough copy of an old map showing the north west portion of a continent to the south of "Java Major." It bears a legend in Portugese, of which the following is a translation:—"Nuca Antara was discovered in the year 1601 by Manoel Godinho Eredia, by command of the Viceroy Ayres de Soldanha." This would point to a Portugese discovery of Australia immediately preceding the Dutch one.
In Cornelius Wytfliet's "Descriptionis Ptolemaicae Augmentum," Louvain, 1598, the following passage is to be found:—
"The Australis Terra is the most southern of all lands; it is separated from New Guinea by a narrow strait; its shores are hitherto but little known, since, after one voyage and another, that route has been deserted, and seldom is the country visited unless when sailors are driven there by storms. The Australis Terra begins at two or three degrees from the equator, and is maintained by some to be of so great an extent that if it were thoroughly explored it would be regarded as a fifth part of the world."
The above is so vague and suppositious that it would scarcely be worth quoting, were it not for the singular mention of the narrow strait separating Australis Terra from New Guinea; for at this time Torres had not sailed through the straits, nor was the fact of his having done so known to the world until the end of the eighteenth century, when Dalrymple discovered his report amongst the archives of Manila, and did justice to his memory.
In 1605, Pedro Fernandez de Quiros, having for his second in command Luis Vaez de Torres, sailed from Callao with two well-armed vessels and a corvette. After the discovery of several islands, they came to a land which Quiros supposed to be the continent he was in search of, and therefore named it Australia del Espiritu Santo. "At one hour past midnight," says Torres, in his account of the voyage, "the CAPITANA" (Quiros' vessel) "departed without any notice given to us, and without making any signal." This extraordinary conduct was supposed to be the result of discontent and mutiny amongst the sailors, an outbreak having already taken place which was not quelled quite so firmly as Torres advocated. After vainly waiting for many days, Torres set sail, and first ascertaining that it was only an island where they had been anchored, he made his way by the dangerous south coast of New Guinea to Manila, where he arrived in 1607.
Up to the preceding year popular knowledge concerning the South Land must be looked upon as being mixed up with much that is both doubtful and hazardous. We now, however, reach the period which may be regarded as the beginning of the authentic history of the discovery of New Holland. In 1606 the yacht DUYFHEN sailed from Bantam, and, coasting along the south-west shore of New Guinea, her commander unknowingly crossed the entrance of Torres Straits, and continued his voyage along the eastern side of the Gulf of Carpentaria, under the impression that it was part of the same country. They sailed nearly to latitude 14 degrees south, when want of provisions and other necessaries compelled them to turn back. Cape Keer-Weer (Turn Again) they named the furthest point reached by them. Their report of the country was most unfavourable. They described it as being "for the greatest part desert, but in some places inhabited by wild, cruel, black savages, by whom some of the crew were murdered, for which reason they could not learn anything of the land or waters as had been desired of them."
The name of the captain of the DUYFHEN—the Columbus of the south—has not been preserved. Ten years after this visit, in 1616, Captain Dirk Hartog, in command of the ship ENDRACHT, from Amsterdam, discovered the west coast of Australia. He left a tin plate on an island in Dirk Hartog's Roads bearing the following inscription:—
"Ao 1616, den 25sten October, is hier vangecommen het schip de ENDRACHT van Amsterdam, den Oppercoopmen Gilles Mibais van Luyck; schipper Dirk Hartog, van Amsterdam, den 27sten, dito t' zeijl gegaen na Bantam, den Ondercoopman Jan Stoyn, Opperstierman Pieter Dockes, van Bil, Ao 1616."
[Translation.—On the 25th October, arrived here the ship Endraght of Amsterdam; the first merchant, Gilles Mibais, of Luyck; Captain Dirk Hartog; of Amsterdam; the 27th ditto set sail for Bantam; undermerchant Jan Stoyn, upper steersman, Pieter Dockes, from Bil, Ao, 1616.]
Captain Vlaming, of the ship GEELVINK, found this plate in 1697, and replaced it with another, on which he copied the original inscription, and added to it as follows:—
"1697. Den 4den Februaij is hier vangecommen het schip de GEELVINK van Amsterdam, den Commandeur schipper, Williem de Vlamingh, van Vlielandt, Adsistent Joan van Bremen, van Coppenhage; Opperstierman Michiel Blom van Estight, van Bremen. De Hoecker de NYPTANG, schipper Gerrit Collaert van Amsterdam; Adsistent Theodorus Heermans van de; d'Opperstierman Gerrit Gerritz, van Bremen, 't Galjoot t' WESELTJE, Gezaghabber Cornelis de Vlamingh van Vlielandt; Stierman Coert Gerritz, van Bremen, en van hier gezeilt met ons vloot den 12do voorts net Zuijtland te ondersoecken en gedestineert voor Batavia."
[Translation.—On the 4th of February, 1697, arrived here the ship GEELVINCK, of Amsterdam; Commandant Wilhelm de Vlamingh, of Welandt; assistant, Jan van Bremen, of Copenhagen; first pilot, Michiel Bloem van Estight, of Bremen. The hooker, the NYPTANGH, Captain Gerrit Collaert, of Amsterdam, Assistant Theodorus Heermans, of the same place; first pilot, Gerrit Gerritz, of Bremen; then the galliot WESELTJE, Commander Cornelis de Vlaming, of Vlielandt; Pilot Coert Gerritz, from Bremen. Sailed from here with our fleet on the 12th, to explore the South Land, and afterwards bound for Batavia.]
In 1801, the boatswain of the NATURALISTE found this plate half buried in sand, lying near an oaken post to which it had been nailed. Captain Hamelin, with rare good taste, had a new post made, and the plate erected in the old spot. Another outward bound ship, the MAURITIUS, touched on the west coast in 1618, and discovered and named the Willems River, near the Northwest Cape, probably the present Ashburton. The LEEUWIN (Lioness), visited the west coast in 1622, and the well-known reef of Houtman's Abrolhos was so-called after Frederick Houtman, a Dutch navigator of distinction who, however, never personally visited Australian shores. The next navigator to the South Land met with an untimely end. In the year 1623, Governor Coen dispatched two yachts, the PERA and the ARNHEM, on a voyage of discovery. Landing on the coast of New Guinea, Captain Jan Carstens, of the ARNHEM, and eight of his crew were murdered by the natives, but the vessels proceeded, and touched upon the north coast of New Holland, west of the Gulf of Carpentaria, still known as Arnhem's Land. A river, the Spult, is here laid down in the old charts, in the vicinity of the present Liverpool River, and there is also another opening marked the "Speult," on the eastern side of the Gulf, since determined to be the Endeavour Strait of Captain Cook,
At Arnhem's Land the yachts parted, the Pera continuing the voyage alone. Crossing the head of the Gulf she followed the course of the DUYFHEN, and passing Cape Keer-Weer, made as far south as 17 degrees, where the Staaten River is laid down. Their report was also unfavourable, and is summed up in the official dispatches of the company, thus:—"In this discovery were found everywhere shallow waters and barren coasts, islands altogether thinly peopled by divers cruel, poor, and brutal nations, and of very little use to the Dutch East India Company." Pera Head, in the Gulf, is another memorial of this voyage.
Now came the turn of the south coast of New Holland. In 1627, Captain Pieter Nuyts, in his ship the GULDE ZEEPARD, accidentally touched on the south coast. He followed it along for seven or eight hundred miles, and bestowed on it the name of Pieter Nuyts' Land. The VIANEN sighted the west coast in 1628, and kept in sight of it for some two hundred miles, reporting "a foul and barren shore, green fields; and very wild, black, barbarous inhabitants."
The wreck of the BATAVIA on Houtman's Abrolhos, in 1629, is one of the most tragic incidents in early Australian history. The BATAVIA, commanded by Commodore Francis Pelsart, was separated from her consorts by a storm, and during the night of the 4th of June struck on the rocks of Frederick Houtman. The crew and passengers were landed on one island, and two small islets in the neighbourhood, and the ship broke up. No fresh water was found, and Pelsart sailed in one of the boats in search of some on the mainland. He was unsuccessful, and finally steered for Batavia. Meanwhile, a terrible scene of riot and murder was enacted. Jerome Cornelis, the supercargo, headed a mutiny, and those refusing to join his band were in part cruelly assassinated. One company however, on one of the islets, in charge of Weybehays defended themselves valiantly, finally taking Cornelis prisoner. Fresh water was found, and the two hostile camps awaited the reappearance of Pelsart. The design of the mutineers had been to surprise Pelsart on his return, capture his vessel, and sail away on a piratical cruise. The determined front shown by Weybehays and his party, who, although unarmed, had twice defeated them with some slaughter, disarranged their plans.
When the SARDAM, with Pelsart on board, hove in sight of the Abrolhos, the smoke rising from the islands assured the captain, who was naturally tormented with anxiety, that some, at any rate survived. To their surprise, a boat came off to meet them, pulled by men dressed in rich uniforms, made from the silks and stuffs that had formed part of the BATAVIA'S cargo. Pelsart's suspicions were at once aroused, knowing as he did, that insubordination had &hewn itself even before his departure. These men were ordered to come on board unarmed, with the alternative of being sunk, and Weybehays coming off at the same time, they had no choice but to obey, and the whole of the mutineers were soon in irons. After recovering most of the treasure, with the exception of one chest, containing eight' thousand rix dollars, a consultation was held as to the fate of the murderers. It was unanimously decided that, having in view the overcrowded state of the ship, and the temptation presented by the recovered treasure, the presence of such turbulent spirits on board would be dangerous to the safety of the company. Therefore, it was thought best to try the offenders there and then, instead of taking them to Batavia. This was done, and the sentences at once carried into effect. Two men, however, were condemned to the more lingering punishment of being marooned on the mainland, there to meet a cruel death at the hands of the savages. These two blood-stained criminals were the first Europeans to leave their bones in Australia, an unhappy omen of the future. According to the instructions issued to Tasman, on his second voyage, he was directed to "enquire at the continent thereabout" (i.e., the neighbourhood of the Abrolhos) "after two Dutchmen, who, having by the enormity of their crimes forfeited their lives, were put on shore by the Commodore Francisco Pelsart, if still alive. In such case, you may make inquiries of them about the situation of those countries, and if they entreat you to that purpose, give them passage thither." He was also instructed to recover, if possible, the chest of rix dollars. Unfortunately Tasman's journal has never been discovered, and it is not known how he fared on his mission.
Captain Gerrit Tomaz Poole sailed from Banda in 1636, with the yachts KLYN, AMSTERDAM, and WESEL, to meet his death on the New Guinea coast, in the same place that had been fatal to Carstens, and in a like manner. The supercargo took charge, and prosecuted the voyage, revisiting Arnhem's Land.
A name familiar to all is that of Abel Janz Tasman. In 1644, after his discovery of Van Dieman's Land, he was sent out on a second voyage of exploration. His instructions were: "To discover whether Nova Guinea is one continent with the Great South Land, or separated by channels and islands lying between them, and also whether that New Van Dieman's Land" (Arnhem's Land) "is the same continent with these two great countries, or with one of them." He was also directed to search for the strait between New Guinea and New Holland, in a large opening said to exist in that locality. Apparently, this portion of his instructions was, for some reasons, not thoroughly carried out.
Although Tasman's journal of this voyage has never been found, we have pretty good evidence that he safely accomplished it. Dampier, in his volume of voyages, mentions having in his possession a chart laid down by Tasman, and an outline copy of the same was inlaid in the floor of the Groote Zaal, in the Stadhuys in Amsterdam. The annexed tracing is from a fairly authenticated copy of Tasman's map, with the discoveries of former navigators attached, soundings being given along that portion of the north-west coast that would have embraced Tasman's proposed track. Many of the names still retained in the Gulf of Carpentaria are significant of Tasman's visit. Vanderlin Island, after Cornelis Van der Lyn; Sweer's Island, after Salamon Sweers; Maria Island, after his supposed sweetheart, Maria Van Dieman; and Limmen Bight, after his ship, the LIMMEN. This chart may be looked on as being the first one to give a reliable and good outline of the Australian coast as then known—namely, from Endeavour Strait, in the extreme north, to the eastern limit of Pieter Nuvt's Land, on the south. The two placer, where "Ffresh" water is marked would be the Batavia River, near Cape York, and the present Macarthur River, at the head of the Gulf, the well defined headlands shown there having been resolved by Captain Flinders into a group of islands, now known as the Sir Edward Pellew Group. Tasman's ships were the LIMMEN, the ZEEMEUW, and the tender DE BRAK.
The first Englishman to land on New Holland was William Dampier in 1688. In very bad company, namely, a crew of buccaneers who left Captain Sharpe and travelled across the Isthmus of Darien, he visited the west coast of New Holland, where they remained over a month refitting and cleaning their ship. Dampier does not seem to have been on the best of terms with his shipmates, for some difference of opinion arising as to the final destination of their voyage, he "was threatened to be turned ashore on New Holland for it, which made me desist, intending, by God's blessing, to make my escape the first place I came near." His notes on this occasion refer chiefly to the natives seen, whose personal appearance and habits he considers alike equally disgusting and repulsive.
Towards the end of the year 1696, William de Vlaming, in search of the RIDDERSCHAP, a missing ship supposed to have been wrecked on the coast of New Holland, came to the Great South Land. He found and named the Swan River, this being the first mention ever made of black swans, two specimens of which were captured and taken to Batavia. At Dirk Hartog's Road, he found, as before-mentioned, the tin plate left by that captain, and after a careful examination of the coast so far as the North-west Cape, left for Batavia.
Dampier now reappears on the scene in charge of the ROEBUCK—a ship sent out by the English Government in 1699. His account of his voyage is very minute and circumstantial, but he still retains his aversion to the unfortunate natives, of whom he always speaks with the greatest scorn. Some of his statements are slightly doubtful, to say the least of it, as, for instance, one concerning the capture of a large shark, "in which we found the head and bones of a hippopotamus, [Note, below] the hairy lips of which were still sound and not putrified, and the jaw was also firm, out of which we pluckt a great many teeth, two of them eight inches long and as big as a man's thumb, small at one end and a little crooked, the rest not above half so long."
[Note: M. Malte Brun calls him "the learned and faithful Dampier," and, in corroboration of the hippopotamus story, mentions that Bailly, when exploring the Swan River, "heard a bellowing much louder than that of an ox from among the reeds on the river side, which made him suspect that a large quadruped lay somewhere near him." It is remarkable that in the several accounts of the early Dutch visits to the northern coast no mention is made of alligators, although they are so common to all the inlets and rivers of that region, the name CROCODILS EYLANDEN on one old chart being the sole exception.]
Dampier disputes the accuracy of the "draught of Tasman's" that he had with him in many particulars, and constantly advances his theory of the existence of a strait dividing New Holland into two parts, probably taking this idea, as before indicated, from the old map of the DAUPHIN.
In 1705, the ships VOSSENBACH, WAYER, and NOVA HOLLANDIA were sent out to investigate the north coast, under the command of Martin van Delft. The journals of the voyage have not been found, although a report of the notable events that happened was laid before the Governor-General of the East India Council. This was the last voyage of exploration undertaken by the Dutch, and closes the history of the early discovery of New Holland. The existence of the Southern Land was definitely established, and it remained for the English and French nations to determine its size and formation with accuracy, and fill up the gaps on the coast line.
Sixty-five years passed before Captain Cook sailed through the Endeavour Strait, finally settling the question of the separation of this continent from New Guinea, and during that period New Holland, so far as we know, was unvisited.
The association of Captain Cook with this continent is too well-known to need more than a passing reference in this introduction. He proved the insularity of the South Land, and examined the long-neglected east coast.
In. 1777, Mons. de St. Alouarn anchored near Cape Leeuwin, but no details of his visit have been preserved.
In 1791, Captain George Vancouver touched on the south coast, and gave the name of King George's Sound to that well-known harbour; thence he sailed eastward. In the following year Rear-Admiral Bruny D'Entrecasteaux, in search of the hapless La Perouse, who so narrowly missed appropriating New Holland for the French, made an elaborate survey of part of our south coast.
Before the close of the century, Bass and Flinders—fit companions—had commenced their daring exploits in the little TOM THUMB, and finally, with the sloop NORFOLK, established the existence of the strait named after the enterprising young surgeon.
In the year 1799, Flinders went north in the NORFOLK sloop, and followed up Cook's discoveries in Moreton Bay. In 18oi he was appointed to the INVESTIGATOR (formerly the XENOPHON), and sailed from Spithead on the voyage which was to render him one of the leading figures in Australian history.
Reaching Cape Leeuwin he commenced his survey of the south coast, discovering and naming the two Gulfs of Spencer and St. Vincent. The former he at one time thought would lead him through the continent into the Carpentarian Gulf. He reached Port Jackson in May, the year after he left England, and active preparations were soon afterwards commenced to prepare the ship for her long northern cruise.
In July, 1802, the INVESTIGATOR, with the LADY NELSON as tender, left Sydney Cove; the object of the voyage being to thoroughly survey the eastern and northern coasts. Flinders rounded Cape York, and after a close examination of the Gulf of Carpentaria, which, like Spencer's Gulf in the south, deluded him for a time with the false hope of affording an inlet into the interior, brought his work to an end at Cape Wessel, in consequence of the rotten state of his ship. He called at Coepang in Timor, whence, after obtaining some supplies, he made for Port Jackson by way of the west coast.
Throughout this cruise it is evident that Flinders was much impressed by the notion advanced by Dampier, that New Holland (meaning the north-west portion) was separated from the land to the south by a strait opening north of Shark's Bay. "Unless," says Dampier, "the high tides and indraught thereabout should be occasioned by the mouth of some large river, which hath often low lands on each side of the outlet, and many islands and shoals lying at its entrance; but I rather thought it a channel or strait than a river." To quote the words of Flinders:—
"This opinion he supports by a fair induction from facts, and the opening of twelve miles wide, seen by Vlaming's two vessels, near the same place, and in which they could find no anchorage, strongly corroborated Dampier's supposition."
Later information had demonstrated that the supposed strait could not lead into the great ocean eastward, as the English navigator (Dampier) had conjectured, but it was thought possible that it might communicate with the Gulf of Carpentaria, and even probable that a passage existed from thence to the unknown parts of the south coast beyond the Isles of St. Francis and St. Peters.
"In the case of penetrating the interior of TERRA AUSTRALIS, either by a great river, or a strait leading to an inland sea, a superior country, and perhaps, a different race of people might be found, the knowledge of which could not fail to be very interesting, and might prove advantageous to the nation making the discovery."
This was the goal of Flinders' ambition, the vision that haunted him always—the discovery of a mediterranean sea.
There being no ship in Port Jackson fit to continue the survey work left uncompleted by the INVESTIGATOR, Flinders determined to return to England, and obtain a suitable vessel from the Admiralty. He and twenty-two of his men and officers embarked as passengers in the PORPOISE, and left Port Jackson in company with the Batavian-bound ships CATO and BRIDGEWATER.
They sailed on the 10th of August, 1803, and on the night of the 17th, the PORPOISE and CATO struck on a reef, and became complete wrecks. The crews escaped to a sand-bank adjoining the reef, and here they were left to their fate by the third ship, the BRIDGEWATER, the captain of which vessel sailed away to Batavia, without any attempt being made to save them.
Discipline and order were, however, maintained on Wreck Reef Bank, as it was called, and Flinders, who took command after the vessel struck, proceeded to Sydney in the cutter, to obtain assistance for the remainder of the crews, who were to employ the time in constructing two decked boats from the timbers of the PORPOISE. This perilous voyage in an open boat, Flinders accomplished safely, and returned in six weeks, with two colonial schooners, the CUMBERLAND and the FRANCIS, and the ship ROLLA, bound for Canton. The shipwrecked men were taken off the bank, and Flinders started for England in the CUMBERLAND, a small schooner of but twenty-nine tons. On his way homeward he was forced to put into the Mauritius, to refit his little craft, before venturing round the Cape of Good Hope; and on the pretext that the passport he carried did not afford safe conduct to the CUMBERLAND, having been made out for the INVESTIGATOR, he was detained a prisoner in the Isle of France for over six years.
The conduct of General de Caen in this matter has been severely commented on, as it was entirely due to his personal pique and jealousy in the affair that this indignity was put upon Flinders. The generous hospitality extended by the British settlement to the French navigators at Port Jackson found no response in this rough specimen of a soldier of the revolution, who throughout the period of Flinders' detention, treated him with studied rudeness and unnecessary harshness.
For three months Flinders was kept close prisoner as a spy, and for twenty months as an ordinary prisoner of war. Still during his captivity in the Isle of France, his thoughts were constantly busied with projects for the further exploration of the great southern continent he had lately left. In addition to the chafing weariness of prolonged detention and enforced inactivity, he was constantly haunted by the dread that the French would, after examination of his papers, step in and forestall him in the matter. In a letter to Sir Joseph Banks, dated March 20th, 1806, [See fac-simile of original letter (not included in this eBook)] he mentions this fear, and adding, that disappointment and deferred hope of release have in no way damped his ardour in the cause of science, advances for consideration a scheme for exploring the interior of Australia. Though now, after more than eighty years of discovery have given us an intimate knowledge of the nature of the difficulties he would have encountered, we may smile at the somewhat crude notions of the daring navigator, we cannot refuse to recognise that a good deal of thoroughness was mixed up with his plan, simple as it reads. An incursion of five hundred miles north and south, respectively, would without doubt, if possible, have done much towards an earlier knowledge of the interior.
His dream of sailing up a deep estuary—some great water way—leading to more fertile lands than those of the coast inhabited by a superior race of natives, had vanished. As the shores of the Gulf of Carpentaria rounded his course from south to west, and from west to north, so the picture his fancy had painted faded; and he found himself compelled to fall back upon the conception of a mode of transit patriarchal in its simplicity.
"With five or six asses to carry provisions (and they can be obtained here), expeditions might be made into the interior of Australia from the head of the Gulph of Carpentaria in 18 deg., and from the head of the great gulph on the south coast in 32 deg., until the courses should nearly meet, five hundred miles each way would most probably be sufficient, since the country does not appear to be mountainous: a view of my general chart will exemplify this. In case of being again sent to Australia, I should much wish that this was a part of my instructions." [Note: Referring to Flinders' scheme for exploring Australia, it may be amusing to the reader to contrast it with one projected some years later by M. Malte Brun. In his case, the amount of material the eminent geographer considered necessary for the expedition is as excessive as that of Captain Flinders' was simple. His method for exploring the continent is this: "In order to determine these questions" (namely the different theories propounded as to the nature of the interior) "it has been proposed to send an expedition to penetrate the country from Spencer's Gulf. For such an expedition, men of science and courage ought to be selected. They ought to be provided with all sorts of implements and stores, and with different animals, from the powers and instincts of which they may derive assistance. They should have oxen from Buenos Ayres, or from the English settlements, mules from Senegal, and dromedaries from Africa or Arabia. The oxen would traverse the woods and the thickets; the mules would walk securely among rugged rocks and hilly countries; the dromedaries would cross the sandy deserts. Thus the expedition would be prepared for any kind of territory that the interior might present. Dogs also should be taken to raise game, and to discover springs of water; and it has even been proposed to take pigs, for the sake of finding out esculent roots in the soil. When no kangaroos and game are to be found the party would subsist on the flesh of their own flocks. They should be provided with a balloon for spying at a distance any serious obstacle to their progress in particular directions, and for extending the range of observations which the eye would take of such level lands as are too wide to allow any heights beyond them to come within the compass of their view. The journey might be allowed a year or eighteen months, which would be only at the rate of four or five miles per day. . . . The author of the present work" ("Universal Geography") "has discoursed this project in conversation with the enlightened and indefatigable traveller, M. Peron, who saw no insuperable obstacle to its probability, except the existence of an immense ocean of sand occupying the whole of the interior of the continent, which to him appeared extremely probable."]
But Flinders was never fated to see the interior of Terra Australis, either from the deck of a ship, or from any point of vantage; he surveyed its shores, suggested the name it now bears—Australia, and left the work of discovery, not even to this day quite completed, to other hands. But though the name of Flinders has not received the world-wide recognition that has been bestowed upon that of Cook, in Australia it should be equally honoured. The land that witnessed his long labours and heroic courage ought not to repay him with forgetfulness.
The crazy state of the INVESTIGATOR having compelled Flinders to terminate his voyage abruptly, a considerable space of coast line was still left on the north, and north-west, that had not been minutely examined. Lieutenant Phillip King, between the years 1818 and 1822, completed the survey left unfinished by Flinders, and the work of marine exploration temporarily ceased.
In looking back over the early history of Australia, the apparently careless manner in which the English became possessed of the whole of the continent is very noticeable. Although the Dutch had so long been acquainted with our shores, and the neighbourhood of their possessions in Java would have afforded them greater facilities for exploration than were held by any other nation, no attempt at colonisation was ever made by them. The apparent poverty, both of the country and the natives, offered the East India Company no inducement to extend their operations. Still, in a vague kind of way, the Dutch claim to the western portion of Australia was recognized. In the patent to the first governor at Port Jackson, the western limit of New South Wales is fixed at 13.5 deg. E. longitude, a position approximating to the boundary of New Holland as fixed by the Dutch, whereby the country was divided into New Holland and Terra Australis. This line of demarcation would bisect the present colony of South Australia. In the early part of this century, the French evidently considered that they had a well-founded claim, both to the discovery and possession of the south coast, west of Nuyts' "Island of St. Peters." The name of "Terre Napoleon" was given to it, Spencer's Gulf becoming "Golfe Bonaparte," and the Gulf of St. Vincent "Golfe Josephine." Malte Brun remarks:—
"The claims of the English have no fixed boundaries; they seem desirous of confounding the whole of New Holland under the modern name which they have given to the east coast, which was minutely explored by Captain Cook. It is worthy of remark that the French geographers had, from a comparison of the tracks navigated by Abel Tasman, previously concluded on the existence and direction of this coast itself."
But neither Dutch nor French claims were ever seriously advanced, and the whole of the continent and adjacent islands were ceded to the English in much the same happy-go-lucky fashion that we recently let slip a large portion of New Guinea. One cause of the apathy displayed was without doubt the forbidding nature of the reports published by all the navigators. The coast line had been examined, and the various inlets followed up without any important or navigable river having been brought to light, and the absence of fresh water streams in such a large continent naturally led thinking men to the conclusion that the inland slope was nothing but an arid desert, parched beneath a rainless sky. The hot winds that had been experienced on the southern coast aided this belief, and the natives when interviewed professed no knowledge beyond the limits of their tribal hunting grounds. The little colony clustered around Rose Hill, and on the shore of Sydney Cove, was shut in by the gloomy gorges and unscaleable precipices of the Caermarthen Hills, that stayed all progress to the westward, and the same frowning barrier had been found to extend north and south.
Men's imaginations were exhausted in picturing the physical appearance of the mysterious interior. Some thought it a vast level plain, where the few and sluggish rivers were lost in shallow lakes, to disappear by evaporation; others again, believed it to be an immense bed of sand where no rivers formed, and the thirsty sands absorbed the scanty rainfall; and many imagined an inland sea connected with the ocean by subterranean outlets: one and all agreed in its inhospitable nature.
There was nothing hopeful nor inspiriting in the outlook to induce men to attempt to penetrate this silent desert, save the love of adventure, and the gratification of a laudable curiosity.
The convicts, who in efforts to regain their liberty, from time to time made desperate attempts to escape, either perished miserably or, daunted by the sterile nature of the land and the hostility of the natives, returned to give themselves up, before reaching any distance from the settlement. The work of exploration was toilsome and difficult, from the lack of beasts of burden. Each member of the party had a heavy pack to carry, and when to that was added the cumbrous firearms and ammunition of those times, a day's journey was no light labour. The weary system of counting the paces all day must have considerably added to the monotony of the march. Two thousand and two hundred paces over good ground were allowed to a mile. When too, nature had barred the way with an apparently insurmountable range, it is not to be wondered at that the area of explored country was not very widely extended during the first twenty years of settlement.
In striking contrast to other portions of the world's surface that have been slowly explored and examined by the European nations, Australia has throughout retained a character of its own. From the coastal formation of most lands, fair indications could be obtained of the character of the interior. Large rivers gave evidence of a defined system of drainage, the crests of snow-topped mountain ranges in the distance were proof of whence these rivers sprang. The native tribes were of higher intelligence, had a partial knowledge of what lay beyond their immediate ken, and could show articles of barter and commerce that they had obtained from more inland residents.
Australia was a silent and sullen blank, and for a century of exploration nature has resisted, step by step, the encroachments on her stronghold, making the invaders pay toll with many a gallant life.
The Continent of Australia—Its peculiar formation—The coast range and the highest peaks thereof—The coastal rivers—The inland rivers— Difference of vegetation on the tableland and on the coast—Exception to the rule—Valuable timber of the coast districts—Animals common to the whole continent—Some birds the same—Distinct habits of others—The Australian native and his unknown origin—Water supply—Upheaval.
It was comparatively at a late period in the world's history when Australia was opened up as a field for geographical research; but, notwithstanding that the accumulated knowledge of centuries was thus brought to bear upon it, the characteristic and unique formation of the country set at naught all the approved deductions and theories of the scientific world. A paradox, or, as a clever writer recently put it, "a surviving fragment of the primitive world," with a nature contradictory and inconsistent, as compared even with itself, cut off from the rest of the globe, and left to work out the problem of its existence alone; no wonder it was only after successive generations had toiled at it, that Australia was, even in part, understood.
The interior of Australia is, as is well-known, an immense plain, having an average height of fifteen hundred to two thousand feet, with a decided tilt, or slope, towards the south-west. Round the foot of this tableland, is a terrace of lower country, varying greatly in width. The river systems of the coastal lands, lying between the sea and the foot of the tableland, were easily understood and traced, that of the interior was far more difficult.
Starting from Cape York, in the extreme north, and following down the eastern coast, the edge of the tableland is formed of ranges, often of considerable height, the gullies and spurs of which are mostly clothed with scrub and jungle of tropical growth and luxuriance; amongst the peaks of this range there are Distant Peak, 3,573 feet; Pieter Botte Mountain, 3,311 feet; Grey Peak, 3,357 feet; and the Bellender Kerr Hills, 5,433 feet high. Further south, the level is more uniform; the isolated peak of Mount Elliott—which attains a height Of 4,075 feet—forming the exception, until further south again the elevations approach to 4,250 feet. An average height of a little over two thousand feet is then maintained until the border line of Queensland is reached, and here—in Mount Lindesay—5,500 feet is met with. The New England Range maintains this altitude in many peaks, including Mount Seaview—from which point Oxley sighted the ocean-6,000 feet high. Still to the south, the mountains on the border of the plateau keep up an average of between three and four thousand feet until, at the south-east extremity of our continent, the greatest height is attained in Mount Kosciusko, falling some 700 feet short of the limit of perpetual snow, its elevation being 7,308 feet.
To the westward, many of the peaks reach altitudes of over 5,000 and 6,000 feet, until the large depression is encountered through which the great body of interior waters find their way to the sea by means of the Murray Channel.
West of this gap, the edge of the tableland is broken, and depressed, the highest crests of the coastal range rarely reaching to 3,000 feet in height, and along the shore line, facing the Great Australian Bight, it is almost non-existent.
On reaching the south-west corner of Australia, the elevated edge reforms in the Russell and Darling Ranges, and trending northward, skirting the coast, culminates in Mount Bruce, 4,000 feet above sea level. From hence, the range following the sea line is broken, rugged and precipitous, but of inconsiderable height, and when the centre of the Gulf of Carpentaria is reached, it falls away into highlands and slopes, joining the eastern ranges.
On the great plateau encircled by this range, no elevations of any moment are to be found; a kind of chain traverses the centre from north to south, but though in places presenting a bold formation, the highest altitude attained is in the Macdonnell Ranges—4,000 feet.
From the coastal range, the edge of the tableland, flow the rivers that run direct to the sea on the seaward face; but in many instances a false tableland occurs, the streams that drain which unite in forcing their way through deep gorges to the lowlands of the coast. This false tableland is conspicuous in the valley of the Upper Burdekin River on the east coast, and on the head waters of the Fitzroy, The country drained by the top tributaries of these rivers being only divided from the real tableland by a gentle ascent, whereas the descent to the coast is steep and abrupt. Most of the northern rivers, too, take their rise in a plateau that is almost on a level with the great plain, but cut their way down to the sea through gorges, instead of being lost in the interior.
It follows then, that the drainage and character of the terrace surrounding the continent, keeping to natural and known laws was at once understood, but the drainage of the plateau was more difficult to comprehend, and it is now known to be confined to two river systems only, first, that of the Darling and Murray, which rivers receive all the waters flowing to the westward of the eastern coast range, and secondly, the lake system further to the westward; the great salt lakes to the north of Spencer's Gulf receiving Cooper's Creek and its many tributaries, and also the Diamantina and Herbert; their waters being dissipated by soakage and evaporation. Westward, again, there is little doubt that no system exists, the level nature of the country and intermittent rainfall shortening the existence of the creeks before they have time to unite their flood waters in one large permanent channel.
The rivers of the eastern coast are the Kennedy, the Endeavour, the Barron, the Burdekin with its many tributaries, the Clark, the Perry, the Star, the Keelbottom, the Fanning, the Suttor (which last brings down the united waters of the Cape and Belyando), and finally after passing through the Leichhardt Range the Bowen, and the Bogie. The Fitzroy, another river of many tributaries, the Mackenzie, the Isaacs, the Nogoa, and the Dawson. Then come the Boyne, the Kolan, the Burnett (which receives another Boyne), the Mary, the Brisbane, all in the Colony of Queensland. On this coast in New South Wales, come next the Tweed, the Richmond, and the Clarence; the Macleay, the Hastings, and the Hunter. The Hawkesbury the Shoalhaven and the Clyde. The Snowy River, though rising in New South Wales, discharges itself into the sea in Victorian waters; thence we come to the Latrobe and the many minor streams that flow into the ocean instead of into the great receiver the Murray. The Glenelg and the Wannon. Then comes the Murray, the outlet of the inland waters. Westward, the rivers of the coast become smaller and less frequent, until at last they cease to exist; but on the western shore—where the coast range once more reasserts itself—we find in Western Australia, the Swan, the Irwin, the Greenough, the Murchison, and the Gascoyne, the Ashburton, the Fortescue, the De Grey, and another Fitzroy. On the north coast, we meet with the Victoria, the Daly, the Adelaide, the Alligator, the Liverpool, the Roper, the Limmen Bight, the Macarthur, the Robinson and the Calvert, the Albert—which is the outlet for the Nicholson and the Gregory—the Leichhardt and the Flinders, the Norman, the Gilbert, the Einesleigh, the Mitchell, the Archer, the Jardine, and the Batavia, which brings us back to our starting point at Cape York.
Now come the inland arteries, the streams running through the tableland and feeding the Darling and the Murray. These are the Murrumbidgee, which equals the Murray almost in importance, the Lachlan and the Darling, which brings down the waters of a hundred streams, the Macquarie, the Castlereagh, and the Bogan, the Namoi and Gwydir, the Dumaresque, the Condamine, the Maranoa, the Moonie, and the Warrego. And falling into the Murray itself, from the south are, the Ovens, the Goulburn, the Mitta Mitta, the Campaspe and the Loddon.
The other rivers of' the inland slope are the Barcoo and Thomson, forming Cooper's Creek, the Diamentina, the Burke and the Hamilton, the Herbert or Georgina, and Eyre Creek, all these end in the flats and shallows of the Great Salt Lake District.
The remaining watercourses to the westward cannot be classed in any way, their course is apparently determined by local inequalities of the surface, and although some are very considerable in appearance, their flow is so brief that it is impossible to consider them as at all forming parts of one system; the longest and most important is Sturt's Creek.
The coast country, meaning the land watered by the rivers first enumerated, has the advantage over the tableland in the matter of rainfall, and the rivers therefore possess more of the characteristics of running streams, than the chains of isolated ponds that are known as rivers in the inland slope. The climatic influence is especially noticeable in the indigenous grasses and herbage of the two regions. Mr. George Ranken, in one of his essays on Australian subjects ["The Squatting System of Australia," by "Capricornus."] draws an excellent picture of the reclamation and transformation of the forest primeval.
"The first comers in 1788, found before them, as their ships came to anchor, sandstone bluffs covered with scraggy trees and heath-like plants, with a bright blue sky above, and an elastic, buoyant atmosphere around. As they went inland, they found an endless open forest, the ground being clothed with a light, tufty grass, but it was the starved outline of European woodland scenery, for the trees rose bare and branchless from a thirsty soil, and the grass covered only half, the surface of the earth. Except the grass, and that was thin enough, though it grew everywhere, the country seemed poor in products, and looked as if it were involved in a constant struggle between droughts and floods. They would have judged it to be poor in capability also, if, on further experience, a vitality had not appeared which seemed to electrify the soil on the touch of colonisation. Imported animals, trees, and plants lived and flourished among the dingy forests, which barely yielded food enough for a few wandering savages.
"The farther they went, the greater contrast appeared, more drought and better country; and in later times, as the last of enigmas, a change of vegetation and climate seemed to follow the settler with his flocks and herds. After a few years' feeding with stock, water has been found permanently standing in country where it never stood before, and sometimes the tufty herbage has changed into a sward. The flats that used in one season to show a succession of swamps, and in another a surface of bare dusty soil, rifted with yawning cracks, has often become good level turf, intersected with runnels cut by the hoofs of the sheep and cattle."
The first invasion of the new territory across the range led to a terrible feeling of disappointment; true, that on at once crossing the crest of the watershed country was found, which being partly within the influence of the heavier fall of rain, approached in every way the perfection dreamt of by the explorers; but as progress inland was made, a change was found to take place, and, above all, the familiar indigenous grasses were lost, and replaced by what the settlers took to be nothing but worthless weeds. All the now prized edible shrubs, such as the many kinds of saltbush, the cotton-bush, &c., were amongst these despised plants; and even the very stock did not take to them, until some years of use had rendered them familiar. These drought-resisting plants were at first supposed to be confined to the inner slope of the range, but the extended exploration of the continent shows us that where the coast range loses its character of a pronounced range, and is only represented by an insignificant rise, the characteristics of the plain are continued right down to within a short distance of the sea.
This is notably the case on the north, where the Flinders River and its tributaries drain country that bears all the distinctive growth of the interior. On the south coast, west of the Murray, this is also the case, and in these parts, through the depression of the range, the climate is much drier. On the eastern coast, however, the distinction between the uplands and lowlands is strongly marked both in Queensland and New South Wales, even in those cases where the rivers rise in uplands approaching in elevation to the level of the tableland. The eastern coast of northern Queensland is, from its situation and the superior height of the coast range combined, the tropical garden of Australia, the luxuriant growth of vegetation, taking the form of dense scrubs and jungles springing from a deep, rich soil. These scrubs, of slightly varying character, form a characteristic of the whole length of the eastern seaboard, and amongst them we find much valuable timber. The cedar tree is one important feature, and the kauri pine is found in one small tract in the north of Queensland.
Further south, however, the trees grow to an enormous height in the elevated forest lands. Victoria and Western Australia are particularly noted for the giant growth of some of their trees. In Victoria the white gum (EUCALYPTUS AMYGDALINA) has been found growing to a height of over four hundred feet; the red gum (EUCALYPTUS ROSTRATA), and the blue gum (EUCALYPTUS GLOBULUS) also attain a great size in our southern colonies. In Western Australia the jarrah (EUCALYPTUS MARGINATA) and the karri (EUCALYPTUS DIVERSICOLOR) have become noted in the world as being most valuable hardwoods.
Right through the continent, from east to west, the box tree (EUCALYPTUS MALLIODORA) is to be found. On the tableland the timber is altogether of a different growth. The giants of the slopes of the seaward range are replaced by low, stunted, and crooked trees, some of them, however, possessing edible foliage. Most of the acacias are of this kind—the ACACIA PENDULA or myall, the brigalow, the mulga, and yarran. The CAESARIANSAE common all over Australia, under the name of the oak tree.
The difference between the products of the interior upland and the coastal lowland is mainly induced by the difference of climate, those grasses and herbs growing on the tableland, while repellent in appearance and colour, compared to the richer herbage of the coast, possess qualities that render them invaluable as fodder plants. Once let the grasses of the coast lose their moisture from drought, and they become sapless and worthless, but it is not so in the tableland. Months of dry weather have no effect upon the fattening properties of the shrubs; the stock, however, have to become used to feeding on them before their full value is attained.
Amongst the fauna of Australia the distinction between coast and tableland is not so well marked, most of the well-known species ranging indifferently over the whole continent. In the kangaroos, differences in size, colour and appearance can easily be detected in widely separated localities, but they do not amount to anything very noticeable to the ordinary observer. The smaller kinds, the wallaby and kangaroo rat, are common everywhere on the continent. In birds, however, the difference is great, the seeds and fruit on which some birds exist being only found in either the coastal scrubs or lowland country, whilst many of the parrots and pigeons of the interior could not live on the coast. So sharply is the line drawn in some places, that on the dividing watersheds of the east coast flocks of galar parrots and plain-pigeons will be found feeding on the western slope of a ridge, but never by any chance crossing on to the eastern.
Australia is rich in waders, and they are found all over the continent. The beautiful jabiru, or gigantic crane, is equally at home in some lonely waterhole in the far west and at the head of a coast swamp; so, too, the GRUS AUSTRALIS, or native companion, and the quaint and rich-plumaged ibis. The familiar laughing-jackass is to be found everywhere, but his peculiar note differs somewhat in different parts; a blackfellow from the south says that the laugh of the northern bird makes him feel sick, whilst the northern native says the same of the southern kingfisher. The great inland plains are the haunt of the flock-pigeon; in countless myriads, these beautiful birds come at some seasons of the year, and in the morning when flying in to the water they look like distant clouds.
The fish of the tableland differ greatly from those of the coast. In some of the inland lakes and permanent lagoons they are so fat as to be almost uneatable, and at times so plentiful and easily caught that the blackfellows scarcely trouble to get them, which is rarely the case elsewhere. The Australian native is a man with an unknown history whether he is an improvement on his remote ancestors or a degenerate descendant it is impossible to form any idea.
Whoever they were they left nothing behind them, except this wandering savage, and he has neither traditions nor customs that tell us anything of the past. The language is a perfect confusion of tongues, and dialects, words of similar sound and meaning are often found in places hundreds of miles apart; in distinct tribes wherein the rest of the language is altogether different. Their physique does not differ greatly. Perhaps in the north an admixture of Malay blood gives a handsomer cast to the features in individual cases, but the Australian native is unmistakable wherever you meet him, north, south, east or west.
The geological formation of Australia is, as is well-known very old, one third of the continent being desert sandstone with no marine fossils, but although, scantily supplied with water on the surface, there is little doubt of the immensity of the subterranean supply.
Water has been struck by boring five hundred and seventy-two feet, and risen to within ten feet of the surface, and on the Kallara run at one hundred and forty-four, where it rose twenty-six feet above the surface. Water then, will probably be found almost anywhere at a depth of six hundred feet, and a vast portion of the lightly watered plains of the interior will be worked up to their fullest capabilities by means of boring.
It is generally supposed that the first portion of Australia that rose above the sea was the south-east corner where the largest and probably the most active of our volcanoes existed; the rise of the whole continent which subsequently took place would have then left the interior a shallow inland sea, girt round with a broken chain of more or less active volcanoes. In time, these grew extinct, the sea evaporated and we were left with our present coast range, with its now lifeless peaks, and our depressed inland plateau, with its saline flats and lakes.
Expeditions of Governor Phillip—Mouth of the Hawkesbury found in Broken Bay—Second expedition and ascent of the river—Expedition of Captain Tench—Discovery of the Nepean River—Lieutenant Dawes sent to cross the Nepean, and to try to penetrate the mountains—Attempt by Governor Phillip to establish the confluence of the Nepean and Hawkesbury— Failure—The identity settled by Captain Tench—Escaped convicts try to reach China—Captain Paterson finds and names the Grose River—Hacking endeavours to cross the Blue Mountains—The lost cattle found on the Cow Pastures—Bass attempts the passage of the range—Supposed settlement of a white race in the interior—Attempt of the convicts to reach it— James Wilson—His life with the natives—Discovery of the Hunter River by Lieutenant Shortland.
As may be well supposed, the men who arrived in Australia in charge of the first party of convicts had more pressing work on hand than devoting their time to scientific exploration. Separated by half the world from the source of their supplies, in charge of a body of criminals of the most dangerous type, Arthur Phillip and his officers had no light task to perform, and every credit must be given to the little band of pilgrims who, beset by danger from within and without, brought the colony through its infancy without any tragedy happening. Apparently, these early adventurers were no whit behind travellers of the present day in bringing back wonderful tales of their discoveries whenever they essayed a trip into the unknown. One of the officers writes:—
"We found the convicts particularly happy in fertility of invention and exaggerated descriptions; hence, large fresh-water rivers, valuable ores, and quarries of limestone, chalk, and marble were daily proclaimed soon after we had landed. At first we hearkened with avidity to such accounts, but perpetual disappointments taught us to listen with caution, and to believe from demonstration only."