A Source Book Of Australian History
by Compiled by Gwendolen H. Swinburne
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I submit this volume to the public in the hope that it may increase the amount of interest usually shown in Australian History by deepening the general knowledge of the subject, and illustrating it by those vivid details which arrest the attention and enable the student to visualize past events.

The number of events described in a Source Book must necessarily be smaller than that in histories of another type; but the aim is to place the student in contact with the evidence of history in order that he may become his own historian by drawing his own deductions from the contemporary records. The greatest historian can find no materials ulterior to such as are here presented, for there is nothing ulterior to them but the deeds themselves. They are the records written by the men who gave their life and health to lay the foundation of Australia's greatness—by Phillip, weakening under the racking cares of the infant state; by Sturt in the scorching desert, as the last duty of an exhausting day. They are aglow with the heat of action; they are inspiring in their quiet modesty and strength.

In order to give greater continuity to the volume, short introductions have been placed at the head of each selection. It has been impossible to quote in full all the documents of which use has been made, but fuller information may be obtained by reference to the "source" mentioned at the head of each selection. The editor or author of the source and its date of publication are shown in order to facilitate further research.

The Source Book has been compiled with attention to the requirements of schools, and it is hoped that teachers in Australia will avail themselves of the opportunity to introduce the study of history from contemporary documents, and thus in this respect bring Australia into line with the other countries where source books are already familiar. The section on discovery and exploration may with advantage be used in the study of geography.

My thanks are due to the proprietors of the "Times" for permission to quote certain pages from "The Times History of the War in South Africa," and "The Times History of the War and Encyclopaedia," and also for the "Dispatch from a Special Correspondent at the Dardanelles," printed in the "Times," 7 May 1915.

It is with great pleasure that I acknowledge my indebtedness to Professor Scott, of Melbourne University (at whose suggestion the work was undertaken), for his interest and advice; and to Arthur Wadsworth, Esq., Chief Librarian for the Parliament of the Commonwealth, for his courteous assistance.

























































Source.—Tasman's Journal (edited by Heeres), pp. 1, 11-16

The Spaniard Torres was probably the first European to sight Australia (Cape Yorke); but Tasman was the first who consciously discovered the Great South Land. In his search for fresh fields for trade, he came upon Tasmania and New Zealand.

Journal or description drawn up by me, ABEL JAN TASMAN, of a Voyage made from the town of Batavia in E. India for the discovery of the unknown Southland, in the year of our Lord 1642, the 14th of August. May God Almighty vouchsafe his Blessing on this work. AMEN.

Note.—Days reckoned from midnight to midnight. Longitude calculated from meridian of Peak of Teneriffe.

Item the 23rd Nov.—Good weather with a south-easterly wind and a steady breeze; in the morning, we found our rudder broken at top in the tiller hole; we therefore hauled to windward under reduced sail and fitted a cross beam to either side. By estimation the west side of Nova Guinea must be North of us.

Item the 24th do. Good weather and a clear sky. In the afternoon about 4 o'clock we saw land bearing East by North of us; at about 10 miles distance by estimation. The land we sighted was very high. Towards evening we also saw S.S.E. of us three high mountains, and to the N.E. two more mountains, but less high than those to southward. This land being the first we have met with in the South sea and not known to any European nation, we have conferred on it the name of Anthoony Van Diemenslandt, in honor of the Hon. Governor-General, our illustrious master, who sent us to make this discovery; the islands circumjacent so far as known to us, we have named after the Hon. Councillors of India.

Item 28th do. In the evening we came under the shore. There are under the shore some small islands one of which looks like a lion.

Item 29th do. In the morning were still near the rock which looks like a lion's head. Towards noon passed two rocks; the most westerly looks like Pedra Branca, which lies on the coast of China, the most easterly, looking like a high rugged tower, lies about 16 miles out from the mainland. Ran through between these rocks and the land. We came before a way which seemed likely to afford a good anchorage upon which we resolved to run into it. We again made for the shore, the wind and current having driven us so far out to sea that we could barely see the land.

Item 1st Dec. We resolved that it would be best and most expedient to touch at the land, the sooner the better; both to get better acquainted with the land and secure refreshment for our own behoof. About one hour after sunset we dropped anchorage in a good harbour, for all of which it behooves us to thank God Almighty with grateful hearts.

Item 2nd do. Early in the morning we sent our own pilot Major Francoys Jacobz in command of our pinnace manned with 4 musketeers and 6 rowers, all of them furnished with pikes and side arms together with the cockboat of the Zeehaen, with one of her second mates and six musketeers in it, to a bay situated N.W. of us at upwards of a mile's distance in order to ascertain what facilities (as regards fresh water, refreshments, timber and the like) may be available there. About three hours before nightfall the boats came back, bringing various samples of vegetables, which they had seen growing there in great abundance, some of them in appearance not unlike a certain plant growing at the Cabo de Bona Esperance, and fit to be used as pot-herbs; and another species with long leaves and brackish taste strongly resembling persil de mer or samphou. The pilot Major and second mate of the Zeehaen made the following report, to wit:

That they had rowed the space of upwards of a mile round the said point where they had found high but level land, covered with vegetation and not cultivated but growing naturally (by the will of God) abundance of excellent timber and a gently sloping watercourse in a barren valley; the said water though of good quality being difficult to procure, because the watercourse is so shallow that the water could be dipped with bowls only.

That they had heard certain human sounds, and also sounds resembling the music of a small trump or a small gong not far from them though they had seen no one.

That they had seen two trees about 2 or 2-1/2 fathoms in thickness measuring from 60-65 feet from the ground to the lowermost branches, which trees bore notches made with flint implements, the bark having been removed for the purpose; these notches forming a kind of steps to enable persons to get up the trees and rob birds' nests in their tops were fully five feet apart; so that our men concluded that the natives here must be of very tall stature or must be in possession of some sort of artifice for getting up the said trees. In one of the trees these notched steps were so fresh and new that they seemed to have been cut less than four days ago.

That on the ground they discovered the footprints of animals, not unlike those of a tiger's claws. They also brought on board a small quantity of gum, of a seemingly very fine quality, which had exuded from trees, and bore some resemblance to gum-lac.

That at one extremity on the point of the way they had seen large numbers of gulls, wild ducks, and geese, but had perceived none further inward though they had heard their cries, and had found no fish except different kinds of mussels forming small clusters in various places.

That the land is pretty generally covered with trees, standing so far apart that they allow a passage everywhere and a look-out to a great distance, so that when landing, our men could always get sight of natives or wild beasts unhindered by dense shrubbery or underwood, which would prove a great advantage in exploring the country.

That in the interior they had in several places observed numerous trees which had deep holes burnt into them at the upper end of the foot while the earth had here and there been dug out with the fist so as to form a fireplace; the surrounding soil having become as hard as flint through the action of fire.

A short time before we got sight of our boats returning to the ships, we now and then saw clouds of dense smoke rising up from the land (it was nearly always north of us) and surmised this must be a signal given by our men because they were so long coming back.

When our men came on board again, we inquired of them whether they had been there and made a fire, to which they returned a negative answer; adding, however, that at various times and points in the wood they had also seen clouds of smoke ascending. So there can be no doubt there must be men here of extraordinary stature.

Item 3rd Dec. In the afternoon we went to the S.E. side of this bay, in the boats, having with us pilot Major Francoys Jacobz, Skipper Gerrit Janz, Isack Gilseman, supercargo on board the Zeehaen, subcargo Abraham Cooman and our master carpenter Pieter Jacobz; we carried with us a pole with the Company's mark carved into it, and a Prince flag to be set up there that those who shall come after us may become aware we have been here, and have taken possession of the said land as our lawful property. When we had rowed about half-way with our boats it began to blow very stiffly, and the sea ran so high that the cockboat of the Zeehaen was compelled to pull back to the ships, while we ran on with our pinnace.

When we had come close inshore in a small inlet the surf ran so high that we could not get near the shore without running the risk of having our pinnace dashed to pieces. We then ordered the carpenter aforesaid to swim to the shore alone with the pole and the flag.

We made him plant the said pole with the flag at the top, into the earth, about the centre of the bay near four tall trees easily recognizable and standing in the form of a crescent, exactly before the one standing lowest. This tree is burnt in just above ground and is in reality taller than the other three, but it seems to be shorter because it stands lower on the sloping ground. Our master carpenter, having in the sight of myself Abel Janz Tasman, skipper Gerrit Janz and subcargo Abraham Cooman performed the work entrusted to him, we pulled with our pinnace as near the shore as we ventured to do; the carpenter aforesaid thereupon swam back to the pinnace through the surf. This work having been duly executed, we pulled back to the ships, leaving the above-mentioned as a memorial for those who shall come after us, and for the natives of this country who did not show themselves though we suspect some of them were at no great distance and closely watching our proceedings.

Item 4th Dec. In the evening we saw a round mountain bearing N.N.W. of us at about 8 miles' distance.

Item 5th do. The high round mountain which we had seen the day before bore now due W. of us at 6 miles' distance. At this point the land fell off to the N.W. so that we could no longer steer near the coast here, seeing that the wind was almost ahead. We therefore convened the Council and the second mates, with whom after due deliberation we resolved, and subsequently called out to the officer of the Zeehaen that pursuant to the resolution of the 11th ultimo, we should direct our course due east, and on the said course run to the full longitude of 195 deg., or the Salamonis Islands. Set our course due east in order to make further discoveries.

[This course brought them to New Zealand.]


Source.—The Voyages and Adventures of Captain William Dampier (published 1776). Vol. II, pp. 134-40

Dampier was an Englishman who had joined a company of American buccaneers. They arrived in May 1698 on the Western coast of Australia, which was by this time fairly well known to the Dutch under the name of New Holland.

New Holland is a very large tract of land. It is not yet determined whether it is an island or a main continent; but I am certain that it joins neither to Asia, Africa nor America. This part of it that we saw is all low even land, with sandy banks against the sea, only the points are rocky, and so are some of the islands in this bay.

The land is of a dry sandy soil, destitute of water, except you make wells; yet producing divers sorts of trees, but the woods are not thick, nor the trees very big. Most of the trees that we saw are dragon-trees as we supposed, and these too are the largest trees of any there.

They are about the bigness of our large apple-trees, and about the same height, and the rind is blackish and somewhat rough. The leaves are of a dark colour; the gum distils out of the knots or cracks that are in the bodies of the trees. We compared it with some gum dragon, or dragon's blood, that was on board, and it was of the same colour and taste. The other sorts of trees were not known by any of us. There was pretty long grass growing under the trees, but it was very thin. We saw no trees that bore fruit or berries.

We saw no sort of animal, nor any track of beast, but once, and that seemed to be the tread of a beast as big as a mastiff dog. Here are a few small land-birds, but none bigger than a black-bird and but few sea fowls.

Neither is the sea very plentifully stored with fish, unless you reckon the manatee and turtle as such. Of these creatures there is plenty, but they are extraordinary shy, though the inhabitants cannot trouble them much, having neither boats nor iron.

The inhabitants of this country are the miserablest people in the world. The Hodmadods of Monomatapa, though a nasty people yet for wealth are gentlemen to these, who have no houses and skin garments, sheep, poultry, and fruits of the earth, ostrich eggs etc. as the Hodmadods have; and setting aside their human shape, they differ but little from brutes. They are tall, straight-bodied and thin, with small long limbs. They have great heads, round foreheads and great brows. Their eyelids are always half closed to keep the flies out of their eyes, being so troublesome here, that no fanning will keep them from coming to one's face, and without the assistance of both hands to keep them off, will creep into one's nostrils and mouth too, if the lips are not shut very close. So that from their infancy being thus annoyed with these insects, they never open their eyes as other people; and therefore they cannot see far, unless they hold up their heads, as if they were looking at somewhat over them.

They have great bottle noses, pretty full lips, and wide mouths. The two fore-teeth of their upper jaw are wanting in all of them, men and women, old and young; whether they draw them out, I know not, neither have they any beards. They are long-visaged, and of a very unpleasing aspect, having no one graceful feature in their faces. Their hair is black, short and curled, like that of the negroes, and not long and lank like the common Indian. The colour of the skin, both of their faces and the rest of their body, is coal black, like that of the negroes of Guinea.

They have no sort of clothes, but a piece of the rind of a tree tied like a girdle about their waists, and a handful of long grass or three or four small green boughs, full of leaves, thrust under their girdle to cover their nakedness.

They have no houses, but lie in the open air, without any covering, the earth their bed, and the heaven their canopy. Their only food is a small sort of fish, which they get by making wares of stone, across little coves, or branches of the sea; every tide bringing in the small fish, and there leaving them for a prey to these people, who constantly attend there to search for them at low water. This small fry I take to be the top of their fishery; they have no instruments to catch great fish, should they come; and such seldom stay to be left behind at low water; nor could we catch any fish with our hooks and lines all the while we lay there.

In other places at low water they seek for cockles, mussels, and periwinkles; of these shell-fish there are fewer still, so that their chief dependence is on what the sea leaves in their wares, which, be it much or little, they gather up, and march to the place of their abode. There the old people, that are not able to stir abroad, by reason of their age, and the tender infants, wait their return: and what providence has bestowed upon them, they presently broil on the coals, and eat in common. Sometimes they get as many fish as make them a splendid banquet; and at other times they scarce get every one a taste; but be it little or much that they get, every one has his part, as well the young and tender, and the old and feeble who are not able to go abroad, as the strong and lusty.

How they get their fire I know not; but probably, as Indians do out of wood. I have seen the Indians of Bon-Airy do it, and have myself tried the experiment. They take a flat piece of wood that is pretty soft, and make a small dent in one side of it, then they take another hard round stick, about the bigness of one's little finger, and sharpening it at one end like a pencil, they put the sharp end in the hole or dent of the soft flat piece, and then rubbing or twirling the hard piece between the palms of their hands, they drill the soft piece till it smokes, and at last takes fire.

These people speak somewhat through the throat, but we could not understand one word that they said. We anchored, as I said before, January 5th, and seeing men walking on the shore, we presently sent a canoe to get some acquaintance with them, for we were in hopes to get some provisions among them. But the inhabitants, seeing our boat coming, ran away and hid themselves. We searched afterwards three days in hopes to find the houses, but found none, yet we saw many places where they had made fires. At last being out of hopes to find their habitations, we searched no further but left a great many toys ashore, in such places that we thought that they would come. In all our search we found no water, but old wells on the sandy bays.

At last we went over to the islands, and there we found a great many of the natives; I do believe there were forty on one island, men women and children. The men at our first coming ashore, threatened us with their lances and swords, but they were frightened, by firing one gun, which we fired purposely to scare them. The island was so small that they could not hide themselves; but they were much disordered at our landing, especially the women and children, for we went directly to their camp. The lustiest of the women, snatching up their infants, ran away howling, and the little children ran after, squeaking and bawling, but the men stood still. Some of the women and such of the people as could not go from us, lay still by a fire making a doleful noise, as if we had been coming to devour them; but when they saw we did not intend to harm them, they were pretty quiet, and the rest that fled from us at our first coming, returned again. This, their place of dwelling, was only a fire, with a few boughs before it, set up on that side the wind was of.

After we had been here a little while, the men began to be familiar, and we cloathed some of them, designing to have some service of them for it; for we found some wells of water here, and intended to carry two or three barrels of it on board. But being somewhat troublesome to carry on the canoes, we thought to have made these men carry it for us and therefore we gave them some cloathes; to one an old pair of breeches; to another a ragged shirt; to the third a jacket that was scarce worth owning; which yet would have been very acceptable at some places where we had been, and so we thought they might have with these people. We put them on them, thinking that this finery would have brought them to work heartily for us; and our water being filled in small long barrels, about six gallons each, which were made purposely to carry water in, we brought these, our new servants, to the wells and put a barrel on each of their shoulders for them to carry to the canoe. But all the signs we could make were to no purpose, for they stood like statues, without motion, but grinned like so many monkeys, staring one upon another, for these poor creatures seem not accustomed to carry burdens; and I believe that one of our ships-boys of ten years old, would carry as much as one of them; so we were forced to carry our water ourselves, and they very fairly put the cloathes off again, and laid them down as if cloathes were only to work in. I did not perceive that they had any great liking to them at first, neither did they seem to admire anything that we had.

At our first coming, before we were acquainted with them, or they with us, a company of them who lived on the main, came just against our ship, and standing on a pretty bank, threatened us with their swords and lances, by shaking them at us; at last the captain ordered the drum to be beaten, which was done of a sudden with much vigour, purposely to scare the poor creatures. They, hearing the noise ran away as fast as they could drive, and when they ran away in haste, they would cry, gurry, gurry, speaking deep in the throat. Those inhabitants also that live on the main, would always run away from us; yet we took several of them. For, as I have already observed, they had such bad eyes, that they could not see us till we came close to them. We always gave them victuals, and let them go again but the islanders, after our first time of being among them, did not stir for us.


Source.—Cook's Journal (edited by Wharton, 1893), pp. 237-249, 311-312

Captain Cook was the first Englishman to search for the Great South Land. After observing the transit of Venus, he made extensive explorations in New Zealand, and then sailed West, to seek the East Coast of New Holland.

April 1770. Thursday 19th. At 5, set the topsails close reef'd and 6, saw land, extending from N.E. to W., distance 5 or 6 leagues, having 80 fathoms, fine sandy bottom. The Southernmost land we had in sight, which bore from us W 3/4 S., I judged to lay in the latitude of 38 deg. 0' S., and in the Long. of 211 deg. 7' W. from the Meridian of Greenwich. I have named it Point Hicks, because Lieutenant Hicks was the first who discovered this land. To the Southward of this Point we could see no land, and yet it was clear in that quarter and by our Long. compared with that of Tasman's, the body of Van Diemen's Land ought to have bore due South from us. The Northernmost land in sight bore N. by E. 1/2 E., and a small island lying close to a Point on the main bore W., distant 2 Leagues. This Point I have named Cape Howe; it may be known by the trending of the Coast, which is N. on the one side, and S.W. on the other.

Saturday, 28th. At daylight in the morning we discovered a Bay which appeared to be tolerably well sheltered from all winds, into which I resolved to go with the ship, and with this view sent the Master in the Pinnace to sound the entrance.

Sunday, 29th. Saw as we came in, on both points of the Bay, several of the natives and a few huts; men, women, and children, on the S. shore abreast of the ship, to which place I went in the boats in hopes of speaking with them, accompanied by Mr. Banks, Dr. Solander, and Tupia. As we approached the shore they all made off, except two men, who seemed resolved to oppose our landing. As soon as I saw this I ordered the boats to lay upon their oars, in order to speak to them; but this was to little purpose, for neither us nor Tupia could understand one word they said. We then threw them some nails, beads, etc., ashore, which they took up, and seemed not ill-pleased with, in so much that I thought that they beckoned us to come ashore, but in this we were mistaken, for as soon as we put the boat in they again came to oppose us, upon which I fired a musket between the two, which had no other effect than to make them retire back, where bundles of their darts lay, and one of them took up a stone and threw it at us, which caused my firing a second musket, load with small shot; and although some of the shot struck the man yet it had no other effect than making him lay hold on a target. Immediately after this we landed, which we had no sooner done than they throw'd two darts at us; this obliged me to fire a third shot, soon after which, they both made off, but not in such haste but what we might have taken one; but Mr. Banks being of opinion that the darts were poisoned, made me cautious how I advanced into the woods. We found here a few small huts made of the bark of trees, in one of which were four or five small children with whom we left some strings of beads, etc. A quantity of darts lay about the huts; these we took away with us. Three canoes lay upon the beach, the worst, I think, I ever saw; they were about 12 or 14 feet long, made of one piece of the bark of a tree, drawn or tied up at each end, and the middle kept open by means of stick by way of thwarts. After searching for fresh water without success, except a little in a small hole dug in the sand, we embarked and went over to the N. point of the Bay, where in coming in we saw several people; but when we landed now there was nobody to be seen. We found here some fresh water, which came trinkling down and stood in pools among the rocks; but as this was troublesome to come at I sent a party of men ashore in the morning to the place where we first landed, to dig holes in the sand, by which means and a small stream they found fresh water sufficient to water the ship. The string of beads, etc., we had left with the children last night were found lying in the huts this morning; probably the natives were afraid to take them away.

Tuesday, May 1st. This morning a party of us went ashore to some huts not far from the watering-place, where some of the natives are daily seen; here we left several articles, such as cloth, looking glasses, combs, beads, nails, etc.; after this we made an excursion into the Country, which we found diversified with woods, lawns, and marshes. The woods are free from underwood of every kind, and the trees are at such a distance from one another, that the whole country, or at least a great part of it, might be cultivated without having to cut down a single tree. We found the soil everywhere, except in the marshes, to be a light white sand, and produceth a quantity of good grass, which grows in little tufts about as big as one can hold in one's hands, and pretty close to one another; in this manner the surface of the ground is coated. In the woods between the trees, Dr. Solander had a bare sight of a small animal something like a rabbit, and we found the dung of an animal which must feed upon grass, and which, we judge, could not be less than a deer; we also saw the track of a dog, or some such like animal. We met with some huts and places where the natives had been, and at our first setting out one of them was seen; the others had, I suppose, fled upon our approach. I saw some trees that had been cut down by the natives with some sort of a blunt instrument, and several trees that were barked, the bark of which had been cut by the same instrument; in many of the trees, especially the Palms, were cut steps of about 3 or 4 feet asunder for the conveniency of climbing them. We found 2 sorts of gum, one sort of which is like gum-dragon, and is the same, I suppose, Tasman took for gum-lac; it is extracted from the largest tree in the woods.

Thursday, 3rd. After this we took water, and went almost to the head of the Inlet, where we landed and travelled some distance inland. We found the face of the country much the same as I have before described, but the land much richer, for instead of sand, I found in many places a deep black soil, which we thought was capable of producing any kind of grain. At present it produceth besides timber, as fine meadow as ever was seen; however, we found it not all like this, some few places were very rocky, but this, I believe to be uncommon.

Sunday, 6th. The great quantity of plants Mr. Banks and Dr. Solander found in this place, occasioned my giving it the name of Botany Bay. During our stay in this harbour I caused the English colours to be displayed ashore every day, and an inscription to be cut out upon one of the trees near the watering-place, setting forth the ship's name, date, etc. Having seen everything the place afforded, we at daylight in the morning, weighed with a light breeze at N.W. and put to sea, and the wind soon after coming to the Southward, we steered along shore N.N.E., and at noon were about 2 or 3 miles from the land, and abreast of a bay, wherein there appeared to be a safe anchorage, which I called Port Jackson. It lies 3 leagues to the Northward of Botany Bay.


Wednesday, 22nd Aug. Gentle breezes at E. by S. and clear weather. We had not steered above 3 or 4 miles along shore to the Westward before we discovered the land ahead to be Islands detached by several Channels from the main land; upon this we brought to, to wait for the Yawl, and called the other boats on board, and after giving them proper instructions sent them away again to lead us through the channel next the main, and as soon as the yawl was on board, made sail after them with the ship. Before and after we anchored we saw a number of people upon this Island, armed in the same manner as all the others we have seen, except one man, who had a bow, and a bundle of arrows, the first we have seen upon this coast. From the appearance of the people we expected they would have opposed our landing; but as we approached the shore they all made off, and left us in peaceable possession of as much of the island as served our purpose. After landing, I went upon the highest hill, which, however, was of no great height, yet no less than twice or thrice the height of the ship's mastheads; but I could see from it no land between S.W. and W.S.W. so I did not doubt but there was a passage. I could see plainly that the lands laying to the N.W. of this passage were composed of a number of islands of various extent, both for height and circuit, ranged one behind another as far to the Northward and Westward as I could see, which could not be less than 12 or 14 leagues.

Having satisfied myself of the great probability of a passage thro' which I intend going with the ship, and therefore may land no more upon this Eastern Coast of New Holland, and on the Western side I can make no new discovery, the honor of which belongs to the Dutch Navigators, but the Eastern Coast from the Lat. of 38 deg. S. down to this place, I am confident, was never seen or visited by any European before us; and notwithstanding I had in the name of His Majesty taken possession of several places upon this coast, I now once more hoisted English colours, and in the name of His Majesty King George the Third, took possession of the whole Eastern Coast from the above Lat. down to this place by the name of New Wales, together with all the Bays, Harbours, Rivers, and Islands, situated upon the said coast; after which we fired three volleys of small arms, which were answered by the like number from the ship.

This done, we set out for the ship, but were some time in getting on board on account of a very rapid ebb tide, which set N.E. out of the passage.


Source.—Voyage to Terra Australis (Matthew Flinders, 1814), Introduction, pp. xcvi-xcvii, cxix-cxliii

The first coastal explorations after the establishment of Sydney were conducted by Bass and Flinders. Together they discovered the Hunter River; Bass in a second voyage discovered Western Port; and again together they sailed through Bass Strait, proving Tasmania to be an island.

1795. On arriving at Port Jackson, in September it appeared that the investigation of the coast had not been greatly extended beyond the three harbours; and even in these some of the rivers were not altogether explored.

In Mr. George Bass, surgeon of the Reliance, I had the happiness to find a man whose ardour for discovery was not to be repressed by any obstacle, nor deterred by danger; and with this friend a determination was formed of completing the examination of the East Coast of New South Wales, by all such opportunities as the duty of the ship and procurable means could admit.

Projects of this nature, when originating in the minds of young men, are usually termed romantic; and so far from any good being anticipated, even prudence and friendship join in discouraging, if not in opposing them. Thus it was in the present case; so that a little boat of eight feet long, called Tom Thumb, with a crew composed of ourselves and a boy, was the best equipment to be procured for the first outset. In the month following the arrival of the ships, we proceeded round in this boat, to Botany Bay; and ascending George's River, one of two which falls into the Bay, explored its winding course about twenty miles beyond where Governor Hunter's survey had been carried.

The sketch made of this river and presented to the Governor with the favourable report of the land on its borders, induced His Excellency to examine them himself shortly afterward; and was followed by establishing there a new branch of the colony, under the name of Banks' Town.

1796. We sailed out of Port Jackson early in the morning of March 25, and stood a little off to sea to be ready for the sea breeze.

The sea breeze, on the 27th, opposed our return; and learning from two Indians that no water could be procured at Red Point, we accepted their offer of piloting us to a river which, they said, lay a few miles further southward, and where not only fresh water was abundant, but also fish and wild ducks. These men were natives of Botany Bay, whence it was that we understood a little of their language, whilst that of some others was altogether unintelligible. Their river proved to be nothing more than a small stream, which descended from a lagoon under Hat Hill, and forced a passage for itself through the beach; so that we entered it with difficulty even in Tom Thumb. Our two conductors then quitted the boat to walk along the sandy shore abreast, with eight or ten strange natives in company.

After rowing a mile up the stream, and finding it to become more shallow, we began to entertain doubts of securing a retreat from these people, should they be hostilely inclined; and they had the reputation at Port Jackson of being exceedingly ferocious, if not cannibals. Our muskets were not yet freed from rust and sand, and there was a pressing necessity to procure fresh water before attempting to return northward. Under these embarrassments we agreed upon a plan of action, and went on shore directly to the natives. Mr. Bass employed some of them to assist in repairing an oar which had been broken in our disaster, whilst I spread the wet powder out in the sun. This met with no opposition, for they knew not what the powder was; but when we proceeded to clean the muskets, it excited so much alarm that it was necessary to desist.

On inquiring of the two friendly natives for water, they pointed upwards to the lagoon; but after many evasions our barica was filled at a hole not many yards distant.

The number of people had increased to near twenty, and others were still coming, so that it was necessary to use all possible expedition in getting out of their reach. But a new employment arose upon our hands; we had clipped the hair and beards of the two Botany Bay natives at Red Point; and they were showing themselves to the others, and persuading them to follow their example. Whilst, therefore, the powder was drying, I began with a large pair of scissors to execute my new office upon the eldest of four or five chins presented to me; and as great nicety was not required, the shearing of a dozen of them did not occupy me long. Some of the more timid were alarmed at a formidable instrument coming so near to their noses, and would scarcely be persuaded by their shaven friends to allow the operation to be finished. But when their chins were held up a second time, their fear of the instrument—the wild stare of their eyes—and the smile which they forced, formed a compound upon the rough savage countenance, not unworthy the pencil of a Hogarth. I was almost tempted to try what effect a little snip would produce; but our situation was too critical to admit of such experiments.

Everything being prepared for a retreat, the natives became vociferous for the boat to go up to the lagoon; and it was not without stratagem that we succeeded in getting down to the entrance of the stream, where the depth of water placed us out of their reach.

In 1798 Mr. Bass sailed (in a whaleboat) with only six weeks' provisions; but with the assistance of occasional supplies of petrels, fish, seal's flesh, and a few geese and black swans, and by abstinence he had been enabled to prolong his voyage beyond eleven weeks. His ardour and perseverance were crowned, in despite of the foul winds which so much opposed him, with a degree of success not to have been anticipated from such feeble means. In three hundred miles of coast from Fort Jackson to the Ram Head he added a number of particulars which had escaped Captain Cook; and will always escape any navigator in a first discovery, unless he have the time and means of joining a close examination by boats, to what may be seen from the ship.

Our previous knowledge of the coast scarcely extended beyond the Ram Head; and there began the harvest in which Mr. Bass was ambitious to place the first reaping-hook. The new coast was traced three hundred miles; and instead of trending southwards to join itself to Van Diemen's Land, as Captain Furneaux had supposed, he found it, beyond a certain point, to take a direction nearly opposite, and to assume the appearance of being exposed to the buffetings of an open sea. Mr. Bass, himself, entertained no doubt of the existence of a wide strait, separating Van Diemen's Land from New South Wales; and he yielded with the greatest reluctance to the necessity of returning, before it was so fully ascertained as to admit of no doubt in the minds of others. But he had the satisfaction of placing at the end of his new coast, an extensive and useful harbour, surrounded with a country superior to any other known in the southern parts of New South Wales.

A voyage expressly undertaken for discovery in an open boat, and in which six hundred miles of coast, mostly in a boisterous climate, was explored, has not, perhaps, its equal in the annals of maritime history. The public will award to its high-spirited and able conductor, alas! now no more, an honorable place in the list of those whose ardour stands most conspicuous for the promotion of useful knowledge.

1798. Mr. Bass had been returned a fortnight from his expedition in the whaleboat; and he communicated all his notes and observations to be added to my chart. There seemed to want no other proof of the existence of a passage between New South Wales and Van Diemen's Land, than that of sailing positively through it; but however anxious I was to obtain this proof, the gratification of my desire was required to be suspended by a voyage to Norfolk Island in the Reliance.

In September following, His Excellency, Governor Hunter, had the goodness to give me the Norfolk, a colonial sloop of twenty-five tons with authority to penetrate behind Furneaux's Islands; and should a strait be found, to pass through it, and return by the south end of Van Diemen's Land. Twelve weeks were allowed for the performance of this service, and provisions for that time were put on board; the rest of the equipment was completed by the friendly care of Captain Waterhouse of the Reliance.

I had the happiness to associate my friend Bass in this new expedition, and to form an excellent crew of eight volunteers from the King's ships.


The south-west wind died away in the night; and at six next morning, Dec. 9, we got under way with a light air at south-east. After rounding the north-east point of the three-hummock land, our course westward was pursued along its north side.

A large flock of gannets was observed at daylight, to issue out of the Great Bight to the southward; and they were followed by such a number of the sooty petrels as we had never seen equalled. There was a stream of from fifty to eighty yards in depth, and of three hundred yards or more in breadth; the birds were not scattered, but flying as compactly as a free movement of their wings seemed to allow; and during a full hour and a half, this stream of petrels continued to pass without interruption, at a rate little inferior to the swiftness of the pigeon. On the lowest computation, I think the number could not have been less than a hundred millions; and we were thence led to believe that there must be, in the large bight, one or more uninhabited islands of considerable size.

From the north-east point of the three-hummock land, the shore trended W. 1 deg. N. three miles; then S. 39 deg. W. four miles, to a rocky point forming the south-west extremity of what was then ascertained to be Three-hummock Island. The channel which separates it from the land to the west is, at least, two miles in width, and is deep; so that it was difficult to conjecture how the Indians were able to get over to the island. It was almost certain that they had no canoes at Port Dalrymple, nor any means of reaching islands lying not more than two cable lengths from the shore; and it therefore seemed improbable that they should possess canoes here. The small size of Three-hummock Island rendered the idea of fixed inhabitants inadmissible; and whichever way it was considered, the presence of men there was a problem difficult to be resolved.

The coast on the west side of the channel lies nearly south, and rises in height as it advances towards the cliffy head, set on the 6th p.m. The north end of this island is a sloping rocky point; and the first projection which opened round it, was at S. 32' W., five or six miles. Beyond this there was nothing like mainland to be seen; indeed, this western land itself had very little the appearance of being such, either in its form, or in its poor starved vegetation. So soon as we had passed the north sloping point, a long swell was perceived to come from the South-west, such as we had not been accustomed to for some time. It broke heavily upon a small reef, lying a mile and a half from the point, and upon all the western shores; but although it was likely to prove troublesome, and perhaps dangerous, Mr. Bass and myself hailed it with joy and mutual congratulation, as announcing the completion of our long-wished-for discovery of a passage into the Southern Indian Ocean.

We had a fine breeze at east; and our course was directed for a small, rocky island, which lies W. 1/2 N. 6 miles from the north point of the barren land. This land appeared to be almost white with birds; and so much excited our curiosity and hope of procuring a supply of food, that Mr. Bass went on shore in the boat whilst I stood off and on, waiting his return. No land could be seen to the northward, and the furthest clearly distinguishable in the opposite direction was a steep island at the distance of four leagues.

Mr. Bass returned at half past two, with a boat-load of seals and albatrosses. He had been obliged to fight his way up the cliffs of the islands with the seals, and when arrived at the top, to make a road with his clubs amongst the albatrosses. These birds were sitting upon their nests, and almost covered the surface of the ground, nor did they any otherwise derange themselves for the new visitors, than to peck at their legs as they passed by. This species of albatross is white on the neck and breast, partly brown on the back and wings, and its size is less than many others met with in that sea, particularly in the high southern latitudes. The seals were of the usual size, and bore a reddish fur, much inferior in quality to that of the seals at Furneaux's Islands.

Albatross Island, for so it was named, is near two miles in length, and sufficiently high to be seen five or six leagues from a ship's deck: its shores are mostly steep cliffs.

The north-west cape of Van Diemen's Land, or island as it might now be termed, is a steep black head, which, from its appearance, I call Cape Grim. It lies nearly due south, four miles from the centre of Trefoil, in latitude 40 deg. 44'; the longtitude will be 144 deg. 43' East, according to the position of Albatross Island made in the Investigator. There are two rocks close to Cape Grim, of the same description with itself. On the north side of the Cape the shore is a low sandy beach, and trends north-eastward three or four miles; but whether there be sufficient depth for ships to pass between it and Barren Island, has not, I believe, been yet ascertained. To the south of the Cape the black cliffs extend seven or eight miles, when the shore falls back eastward to a sandy bay of which little could be perceived.

1799. To the strait which had been the great object of research, and whose discovery was now completed, Governor Hunter gave, at my recommendation, the name of Bass Strait. This was no more than a just tribute to my worthy friend and companion, for the extreme dangers and fatigues he had undergone in first entering it in the whale-boat, and to the correct judgment he had formed from various indications, of the existence of a wide opening between Van Diemen's Land and New South Wales.


Source.—Voyage to Terra Australis (Matthew Flinders, 1814), pp. 36-37, 60-61, 211-220, 229-231

In recognition of his services Captain Flinders was given command of the Investigator in which to prosecute the exploration of Terra Australis. He sailed along the South coast and up the East, to Port Jackson: subsequently, he circumnavigated the continent and suggested its present name.

October 16th, 1801. At daybreak we expected to see the highland of the Cape (of Good Hope), but the weather being hazy, it could not be distinguished until eight o'clock.

At this time we had not a single person on the sick list, both officers and men being fully in as good health as when we sailed from Spithead. I had begun very early to put in execution the beneficial plan first practised and made known by the great Captain Cook. It was in the standing orders of the ship, that on every fine day the deck below and the cockpits should be cleared, washed, aired with stoves, and sprinkled with vinegar. On wet and dull days they were cleaned and aired without washing. Care was taken to prevent the people from sleeping upon deck, or lying down in their wet clothes; and once in every fortnight or three weeks, as circumstances permitted, their beds, and the contents of their lockers, chests, and bags, were exposed to the sun and air. On the Thursday and Sunday mornings the ship's company was mustered, and every man appeared clean shaved and dressed; and when the evenings were fine, the drum and fife announced the forecastle to be the scene of dancing; nor did I discourage other playful amusements which might occasionally be more to the taste of the sailors, and were not unseasonable.

Within the tropics, lime juice and sugar were made to suffice as antiscorbutics; on reaching a higher latitude, sour krout and vinegar were substituted; the essence of malt was reserved for the passage to New Holland, and for future occasions. On consulting with the surgeon, I had thought it expedient to make some slight changes in the issuing of the provisions. Oatmeal was boiled for breakfast four days in the week instead of three; and when rice was issued after the expenditure of the cheese, it was boiled on the other three days. Pease soup was prepared for dinner four days a week as usual; and at other times two ounces of portable broth, in cakes, to each man, with such additions of onions, pepper, etc., as the different messes possessed, made a comfortable addition to their salt meat. And neither in this passage, nor, I may add, in any subsequent part of the voyage, were the officers or people restricted to any allowance of fresh water. They drank freely at the scuttled cask, and took away, under the inspection of the officer of the watch, all that was requisite for culinary purposes; and very frequently two casks of water in the week were given for washing their clothes. With these regulations, joined to a due enforcement of discipline, I had the satisfaction to see my people orderly and full of zeal for the service in which we were engaged; and in such a state of health, that no delay at the Cape was required beyond the necessary refitment of the ship, and I still hoped to save a good part of the summer season upon the south coast of Terra Australis.


On Dec. 30th our wooding and the watering of the ship were completed, the rigging was refitted, the sails repaired and bent, and the ship unmoored. Our friends, the natives, continued to visit us; and the old man with several others being at the tents this morning, I ordered a party of marines on shore to be exercised in their presence. The red coats and white crossed belts were greatly admired, having some resemblance to their own manner of ornamenting themselves; and the drum, but particularly the fife, excited their astonishment, but when they saw these beautiful red and white men with their bright muskets, drawn up in a line, they absolutely screamed with delight; nor were their wild gestures and vociferation to be silenced but by commencing the exercise, to which they paid the most earnest and silent attention. Several of them moved their hands involuntarily in accordance with the motions; and the old man placed himself at the end of the rank, with a short staff in his hand, which he shouldered, presented, grounded, as did the marines their muskets, without, I believe, knowing what he did. Before firing, the Indians were made acquainted with what was going to take place; so that the volleys did not excite much terror.


Monday, April 26th, 1802. On coming within five miles of the shore at eleven o'clock, we found it to be low and mostly sandy; and that the bluff head, which had been taken for the north end of an island, was part of a ridge of hills rising at Cape Schanck. We then bore away westward, in order to trace the land round the head of the deep bight.

On the west side of the rocky point there was a small opening with breaking water across it; however, on advancing a little more westward the opening assumed a more interesting aspect, and I bore away to have a nearer view. A large extent of water presently became visible within side; and although the entrance seemed to be very narrow, and there were in it strong ripplings like breakers, I was induced to steer in at half-past one; the ship being close upon the wind, and every man ready for tacking at a moment's warning; the soundings were irregular between 6 and 12 fathoms, until we got four miles within the entrance, when they shoaled quick to 2-3/4.

The extensive harbour we had thus unexpectedly found I supposed must be Western Port, although the narrowness of the entrance did by no means correspond with the width given to it by Mr. Bass. It was the information of Captain Baudin, who had coasted along from thence with fine weather, and had found no inlet of any kind, which had induced this supposition; and the very great extent of the place, agreeing with that of Western Port, was in confirmation of it. This however was not Western Port, as we found next morning; and I congratulated myself on having made a new and useful discovery, but here again I was in error. This place, as I afterwards learnt at Port Jackson, had been discovered ten weeks before by Lieutenant John Murray, who had succeeded Captain Grant in command of the Lady Nelson. He had given it the name of Port Phillip, and to the rocky point on the east side of the entrance, that of Point Nepean.

Before proceeding any higher with the ship, I wished to gain some knowledge of the form and extent of this great piece of water; and Arthur's seat being more than a thousand feet high and near the water side, presented a favourable station for the purpose. After breakfast I went away in a boat, accompanied by Mr. Brown and some other gentlemen, for the Seat. I ascended the hill and to my surprise found the Port so extensive, that even at this elevation its boundary to the northward could not be distinguished. The western shore extended from the entrance ten or eleven miles in a northern direction, to the extremity of what from its appearance I called Indented Head; beyond it was a wide branch of the port leading to the westward, and I suspected might have a communication with the sea; for it was almost incredible that such a vast piece of water should not have a larger outlet than that through which we had come.

Another considerable piece of water was seen, at the distance of three or four leagues; as it appeared to have a communication with the sea to the south, I had no doubt of its being Mr. Bass' Western Port.

Saturday, May 1st. At day-dawn I set off with three of the boat's crew, for the highest part of the back hills called Station Peak. One or two miles before arriving at the feet of the hills, we entered a wood where an emu and a kangaroo were seen at a distance; and the top of the Peak was reached at ten o'clock. I saw the water of the Port as far as N.75 E., so that the whole extent of the Port, north and south, is at least thirty miles.

I left the ship's name on a scroll of paper, deposited in a small pile of stones upon the top of the peak; and at three in the afternoon, reached the tent, much fatigued, having walked more than twenty miles without finding a drop of water.

Sunday, 2nd May. I find it very difficult to speak in general terms of Port Phillip. On the one hand it is capable of receiving and sheltering a larger fleet of ships than ever yet went to sea; whilst on the other, the entrance on its whole width is scarcely two miles, and nearly half of it is occupied by rocks lying off Point Nepean, and by shoals on the opposite side. The depth in the remaining part varies from 6 to 12 fathoms; and this irregularity causes the strong tides, especially when running against the wind, to make breakers, in which small vessels should be careful of engaging themselves; and when a ship has passed the entrance, the shoals are a great obstacle to a free passage up the Port.

No runs of fresh water were seen in my excursions; but Mr. Grimes, Surveyor-General of New South Wales, afterwards found several, and in particular a small river falling into the Northern head of the Port. The country surrounding Port Phillip has a pleasing and in many parts a fertile appearance; and the sides of some of the hills and several of the valleys are fit for agricultural purposes. It is in great measure country capable of supporting cattle, though better calculated for sheep.

Were a settlement to be made at Port Phillip, as doubtless there will be sometime hereafter, the entrance could be easily defended; and it would not be difficult to establish a friendly intercourse with the natives, for they are acquainted with the effect of firearms, and desirous of possessing many of our conveniences.

In the woods are the kangaroo, the emu or cassowary, paroquets, and a variety of small birds; the mud banks are frequented by ducks and some black swans, and the shores by the usual sea fowl common to New South Wales. The range of the thermometer was between 61 and 67 and the climate appeared to be as good and agreeable as could well be desired in the month corresponding to November. In 1803, Colonel C. Collins of the Marines was sent out from England to make a new settlement in this country, but he quitted Port Phillip for the South end of Van Diemen's Land, probably from not finding fresh water for a colony sufficiently near to the entrance.


On the 4th of June the ship was dressed with colours, a royal salute fired, and I went with the principal officers of the Investigator to pay my respects to His Excellency the Governor and Captain-General in honour of His Majesty's birthday. On this occasion a splendid dinner was given to the colony; and the number of ladies and civil, military, and naval officers, was not less than forty, who met to celebrate the birth of their beloved Sovereign in this distant part of the earth.

Captain Baudin arrived in the Geographe on the 20th, and a boat was sent from the Investigator to assist in towing the ship up to the cove, it was grievous to see the miserable condition to which both officers and crew were reduced by scurvy; there being not more out of 170, according to the Commander's account, than twelve men capable of doing their duty. The sick were received into the Colonial Hospital; and both French ships furnished with everything in the power of the Colony to supply. Before their arrival the necessity of augmenting the number of cattle in the country had prevented the Governor from allowing us any fresh meat; but some oxen belonging to Government were now killed for the distressed strangers; and by returning an equal quantity of salt meat, which was exceedingly scarce at this time, I obtained a quarter of beef for my people. The distress of the French navigators had indeed been great, but every means were used by the Governor and the principal inhabitants of the colony, to make them forget both their sufferings and the war which existed between the two nations.

July. His Excellency Governor King, had done me the honour to visit the Investigator, and to accept of a dinner on board; on which occasion he had been received with the marks of respect due to his rank of Captain-General; and shortly afterwards, the Captains Baudin and Hamelin, with Monsieur Peron and some other French officers, as also Colonel Paterson, the Lieutenant-Governor, did me the same favour; when they were received under a salute of 11 guns. The intelligence of peace which had just been received contributed to enliven the party; and rendered our meeting more particularly agreeable. I showed to Captain Baudin my charts of the South Coast, containing the part first explored by him, and distinctly marked as his discovery. He made no objection to the justice of the limits therein pointed out; but found his portion to be smaller than he had supposed, not having before been aware of the extent of the discoveries previously made by Captain Grant.

After examining the Chart, he said, apparently as a reason for not producing any of his own, that his charts were not constructed on board the ship; but that he transmitted to Paris all his bearings and observations, with a regular series of views of the land and from them the charts were to be made at a future time.


Had I permitted myself any innovation upon the original term (Terra Australis), it would have been to convert it into Australia, as being more agreeable to the ear, and an assimilation to the names of the other great portions of the earth.


Source.—A Journal of a Tour of Discovery across the Blue Mountains, N.S.W. (Blaxland, 1823), Introduction and pp. 1, 22, 29-34

For many years the settlement in N.S.W. was confined to the coastal plains, owing to the impassability of the Blue Mountains. In 1813 Gregory Blaxland, accompanied by Wentworth and Lawson, accomplished the passage, and opened vast plains for settlement.


London, Feb. 10th 1823.

Dear Sir,

Feelings of gratitude for your kind attention to me in the early part of life, have induced me to dedicate to you the following short Journal of my passage over the Blue Mountains, in the colony of New South Wales, under the persuasion that it will afford you pleasure at all times to hear that any of your family have been instrumental in promoting the prosperity of any country in which they may reside, however distant that country may be from the immediate seat of our Government.

Devoid as it is of any higher pretensions than belong to it as a plain unvarnished statement, it may not be deemed wholly uninteresting, when it is considered what important alterations the result of the expedition has produced in the immediate interests and prosperity of the Colony. This appears in nothing more decidedly than the unlimited pasturage already afforded to the very fine flocks of Merino Sheep, as well as the extensive field opened for the exertions of the present, as well as future generations. It has changed the aspect of the Colony, from a confined insulated tract of land, to a rich and extensive continent.

This expedition, which has proved so completely successful, resulted from two previous attempts. One of these was made by water, by His Excellency the Governor, in person, whom I accompanied.

The other expedition was undertaken by myself, attended by three European servants and two natives, with a horse to carry provisions and other necessities. We returned sooner than I intended, owing to one man being taken ill. This journey confirmed me in the opinion, that it was practicable to find a passage over the mountains, and I resolved at some future period to attempt it.

Soon after, I mentioned the circumstance to His Excellency the Governor, who thought it reasonable, and expressed a wish that I should make the attempt. Having made every requisite preparation, I applied to the two gentlemen who accompanied me, to join in the expedition, and was fortunate in obtaining their consent.

To these gentlemen I have to express my thanks for their company and to acknowledge that without their assistance I should have had but little chance of success.

The road which has since been made deviates but a few rods in some places from the line cleared of the small trees and bushes, and marked by us. Nor does it appear likely that any other line of road will ever be discovered than at the difficult and narrow passes that we were fortunate to discover, by improving which a good carriage road has now been made across the mountains. Mount York is the Western summit of the mountains, the vale Clwyd, the first valley at their feet from which a mountain (afterwards named Mount Blaxland by His Excellency Governor Macquarie) is about eight miles; which terminated our journey.

I remain, dear sir, most respectfully, Your affectionate nephew, G. BLAXLAND.

On Tuesday, May 11, 1813, Mr. Gregory Blaxland, Mr. William Wentworth, and Lieutenant Lawson, attended by four servants, with five dogs and four horses, laden with provisions, ammunition, and other necessaries, left Mr. Blaxland's farm at the South Creek, for the purpose of endeavouring to effect a passage over the Blue Mountains, between the Western River, and the River Grose.

On the following morning (May the 12th) as soon as the heavy dew was off, which was about nine a.m., they proceeded to ascend the ridge at the foot of which they had camped the preceding evening. After travelling about a mile on the third day in a west and north-west direction, they arrived at a large tract of forest land, rather hilly, the grass and timber tolerably good. They computed it as two thousand acres. Here they found a track marked by a European, by cutting the bark of the trees. They had not proceeded above two miles, when they found themselves stopped by a brushwood, much thicker than they had hitherto met with. This induced them to alter their course, and to endeavour to find another passage to the westward, but every ridge which they explored proved to terminate in a deep rocky precipice, and they had no alternative but to return to the thick brushwood, which appeared to be the main ridge, with the determination to cut a way through for the horses the next day.

On the next morning, leaving two men to take care of the horses and provisions, they proceeded to cut a path through the thick brushwood, on what they considered as the main ridge of the mountains, between the Western River, and the River Grose. They now began to mark their track by cutting the bark of the trees on two sides. Having cut their way for about five miles, they returned in the evening to the spot on which they had encamped the night before. The fifth day was spent in prosecuting the same tedious operation, but, as much time was necessarily lost in walking twice over the track cleared the day before, they were unable to cut away more than two miles further. They found no food for the horses the whole way.

On Sunday, they rested and arranged their future plans. They had reason, however, to regret this suspension of their proceedings, as it gave the men leisure to ruminate on their danger, and it was for some time doubtful whether, on the next day, they could be persuaded to venture farther.

On Wednesday, the 19th, the party moved forward, bearing chiefly west, and west-south-east. They now began to ascend the second ridge of the mountains, and from this elevation they obtained for the first time an extensive view of the settlements below.

At a little distance from the spot at which they began the ascent, they found a pyramidical heap of stones, the work, evidently, of some European, one side of which the natives had opened, probably in the expectation of finding some treasure deposited in it. This pile they concluded to be the one erected by Mr. Bass, to mark the end of his journey. That gentleman attempted some time ago to pass the Mountains, and to penetrate into the interior, but having got thus far, he gave up the undertaking as impracticable, reporting, on his return, that it was impossible to find a passage even for a person on foot. Here, therefore, the party had the satisfaction of believing that they had penetrated as far as any European had been before them.

[This, however, proved to be Caley's Cairn.]

May 21st.—Their progress the next day was nearly four miles. They encamped in the middle of the day at the head of a well-watered swamp, about five acres in extent; pursuing, as before, their operations in the afternoon. In the beginning of the night the dogs ran off and barked violently. At the same time something was distinctly heard to run through the brushwood, which they supposed to be one of the horses got loose; but they had reason to believe afterwards that they had been in great danger—that the natives had followed their tracks, and advanced on them in the night, intending to have speared them by the light of their fire, but that the dogs drove them off.

On the top of this ridge they found about two acres of land clear of trees, covered with loose stones and short coarse grass, such as grows on some of the commons of England. Over this heath they proceeded about a mile and a half, and encamped by the side of a fine stream of water, with just wood enough on the banks to serve for firewood. From the summit they had a fine view of all the settlements and country eastwards, and of a great extent of country to the westward and south-west. But their progress in both the latter directions was stopped by an impassable barrier of rock, which appeared to divide the interior from the coast as with a stone wall, rising perpendicularly out of the side of the mountain. In the afternoon they left their little camp in the charge of three of the men, and made an attempt to descend the precipice by following some of the streams of water, or by getting down at some of the projecting points where the rocks had fallen in; but they were baffled in every instance. In some places the perpendicular height of the rocks above the earth below could not be less than four hundred feet.

On the 28th they proceeded about five miles and three-quarters. Not being able to find water, they did not halt till five o'clock, when they took up their station on the edge of the precipice. To their great satisfaction they discovered, that what they had supposed to be sandy, barren land below the mountain, was forest land, covered with good grass, and with timber of an inferior quality. In the evening they contrived to get their horses down the mountain by cutting a small trench with a hoe, which kept them from slipping, where they again tasted grass for the first time since they left the forest land on the other side of the mountain. They were getting into miserable condition. Water was found about two miles below the foot of the mountain. In this day's route little timber was observed fit for building.

On the 29th, having got up the horses and laden them, they began to descend the mountain at seven o'clock, through a pass in the rock about thirty feet wide, which they had discovered the day before, when the want of water put them on the alert. Part of the descent was so steep that the horses could but just keep their footing, without a load, so that, for some way the party were obliged to carry the packages themselves. A cart-road might, however, easily be made by cutting a slanting trench along the side of the mountain, which is here covered with earth.

They reached the foot at nine o'clock a.m., and proceeded two miles, mostly through open meadow land, clear of trees, the grass from two to three feet high. They encamped on the bank of a fine stream of water. The natives, as observed by the smoke of their fires, moved before them, as yesterday. The dogs killed a kangaroo, which was very acceptable, as the party had lived on salt meat since they caught the last. The timber seen this day appeared rotten and unfit for building.

The climate here was found very much colder than that of the mountain or of the settlements on the east side, where no signs of frost had made its appearance when the party set out. During the night the ground was covered with a thick frost, and a leg of the kangaroo was quite frozen.

They now conceived that they had sufficiently accomplished the design of their undertaking, having surmounted all the difficulties which had hitherto prevented the interior of the country from being explored, and the Colony from being extended. They had partly cleared, or, at least, marked out a road by which the passage of the mountain might easily be effected. Their provisions were nearly exhausted, their clothes and shoes were in very bad condition, and the whole party were ill with bowel complaints. These considerations determined them, therefore, to return home by the track they came. On Tuesday, the 1st of June, they arrived at the foot of the mountain which they had descended, where they encamped for the night.

The following day they began to ascend the mountain at seven o'clock, and reached the summit at ten; they were obliged to carry the packages themselves part of the ascent.

They encamped in the evening at one of their old stations. On the 3rd, they reached another of their old stations. Here, during the night, they heard a confused noise arising from the eastern settlements below, which, after having been so long accustomed to the death-like stillness of the interior, had a very striking effect. On the 4th, they arrived at the end of their marked track, and encamped in the forest land where they had cut the grass for their horses. One of the horses fell this day with his load, quite exhausted, and was with difficulty got on, after having his load put on the other horses. The next day, the 5th, was the most unpleasant and fatiguing they had experienced. The track not being marked, they had great difficulty in finding their way back to the river, which they did not reach till four p.m. o'clock. They then once more encamped for the night to refresh themselves and the horses. They had no provisions now left except a little flour, but procured some from the settlement on the other side of the river. On Sunday, the 6th of June, they crossed the river after breakfast, and reached their homes all in good health. The winter had not set in on this side of the mountain, nor had there been any frost.


Source.—Hovell's Journal, 1837, pp. 25-27, 39-42, 72-73

The country between Botany Bay and Bass Strait was unexplored until 1824, when Messrs. Hume and Hovell set out to discover if it were suitable for settlement. They encountered difficulties among the Australian Alps, discovered the Hume (Murray) River and reached Port Phillip. Oct. 2nd, 1824—Jan. 16th, 1825.

Sat., Nov. 6th. They had now (it was noon) unexpectedly reached the S.W. extremity of the ridge or spine, which here terminates in an abrupt and very steep descent: the view from this spot consists of a valley (immediately in their front, S.) extending in the direction S.W., and varying from one to two miles in breadth. Along the centre of this valley runs a small stream, and near by the stream is a broken mountainous country: the view is closed by mountains, both of a different form (peaked) and of an infinitely greater height than any which they had yet seen. They now descended the table range, pursuing the zig-zag course of one of the tributaries of the stream which they had observed in the valley, taking its rise in these mountains, not far below the spot at which they commence making their descent.

At six o'clock in the evening they arrive in the valley. At seven, having still pursued their course along the same branch, they come to the main stream. In effecting the descent from these mountains, they had nearly lost one of the party, as well as a bullock; the animal had fallen when it had reached about two-thirds down the mountain in consequence of a stone slipping under its feet, and in its fall it had forced down with it the man who was leading it. But their fall was intercepted by a large tree, and the man as well as the animal was thus prevented from being dashed to pieces. The man, however, unfortunately was much hurt.

Never was the great superiority of bullocks to horses (in some respects) for journeys of this description more observable than in the passage of this difficult and dangerous ascent. The horses it had become indispensable to unload, and to conduct each separately with great care; but if one of the bullocks be led the rest follow; the horse is timid and hurried in its action in places where there is danger; the bullock is steady and cautious. If the latter slip in its ascent, or if the acclivity be too steep for its usual mode of progression, the animal kneels down, and scrambles up in this posture. If it be descending, and it become placed in a similar predicament, it sits down, and turns its head round towards the ascent, as if to balance its body. For the crossing of unsound or boggy ground, the structure of its hoof is particularly adapted, while the foot of the horse, on the contrary, is ill suited for this purpose, and for which the fears and consequent agitation of the animal renders it unfit.

(Bullocks ought, when used for these journeys, to be shod; their feet, otherwise, are very liable to become disabled.)

Tuesday, Nov. 16th. Soon after sunrise they recommence their journey, having proceeded three and a half miles S. (the land gradually sloping as they advanced), arrive suddenly on the banks of a fine river. This was named "The Hume."

This beautiful stream is found to be not less than 80 yards in breadth, apparently of considerable depth; the current at three miles an hour; the water, for so considerable a stream, clear.

The river itself is serpentine, the banks clothed with verdure to the water's edge, their general height various, but seldom either more or less than eight or nine feet, inclined or precipitous, as they happen by the bending of the stream to be more or less exposed to the action of the current. On each side of the river is a perpetual succession of lagoons extending generally in length from one to two miles, and about a quarter of a mile in breadth. These, which are situate alternately on each side of the river, within those elbows and projections which are formed by its windings, often for miles together, preclude any approach to its banks. Each of these lagoons was furnished with an inlet from the river and an outlet into it.

In general, the spaces between the lagoons and the river are thickly wooded (the trees consisting principally of the blue gum of a large growth), and are overgrown with vines of various descriptions, and the fern, the peppermint, flax plant, and currajong. The fern, currajong, and the flax flourish here in abundance, and the peppermint plant (which they had not seen in any other part of the country) seems to surpass, both in odour and taste the species that is generally produced in our gardens.

From the flax-plant the natives, as they afterwards discover, make their fishing-lines and nets for carrying their travelling gear and provisions.

Unable to devise any means of crossing the river, and in hope of discovering some practicable ford, they now commence their progress down the stream, proceed three miles and a half, and then halt. At half-past two they resume their route, but are soon compelled from the continual succession of lagoon and swamp to return to some higher land, about two miles from the river.

[Crossing the river with difficulty, they travelled southwards for four weeks.]

Thursday, Dec. 16th.—This morning they cross the river or creek without difficulty, the water not taking the cattle more than chest high. They now proceed S.W. by S. through the plains about six miles, when they are struck with an appearance respecting which they cannot decide whether it is that of burning grass or of distant water.

They now therefore, having altered their course to the south, at four o'clock, have the gratification satisfactorily to determine, that the appearance which had just created so much doubt is that of the latter object, and which leaving the river a short distance, and directing their march from S.W. to SS.W. they soon ascertain to be part of the sea—the so long and ardently desired bourn of their labours. They now again alter their course to south-west and travel six miles in that direction along the shore, over excellent land, but clear of timber. On the downs, or plains to-day they had seen several flocks of emus and wild turkeys. The water near the shore was covered with waterfowl of various descriptions, some of which were new to them, and by the time they had halted for the night, they had procured an ample supply of black swans and ducks. They stopped for the night at seven o'clock in a small wood, at a mile from the beach, but where there was no fresh water, having travelled to-day, they supposed, upwards of twenty miles.

Friday, Dec. 17th. They proceed this morning from the beach in a direction about N.N.W. three or four miles in quest of water, when they arrive on the banks of a creek, where they have the good fortune to find abundance of good water and of grass. Here they remain the day, in order to refresh the cattle, who are not a little in want of this timely relief, more particularly as it is proposed to commence their return to-morrow. This determination of so soon retracing their steps, though it cost them much regret, had become indispensable, not only from the extreme scantiness of their remaining supplies, and the certainty of the many difficulties they would have to encounter, but still more so from consideration that the mere circumstance of a fall of rain by swelling the streams, might, in the weak and ill-provided state to which the whole party were reduced, render their return altogether impracticable. (Four weeks' flour at reduced allowance and a small quantity of tea and sugar, but no animal food; independently of which, the ropes and other material employed for crossing streams were now almost utterly unfit for use.)


Source.—Expeditions in Australia (Sturt, 1833), Vol. I pp. 1-2, 29, 45, 73, 85-87.

The reedy marshes in which the Lachlan and the Macquarie appeared to end blocked Western exploration until the protracted drought of the twenties convinced Sturt and Hume that they would be passable. Accordingly an expedition was formed which was to solve the long debated problem of the character of the interior.

The year 1826 was remarkable for the commencement of one of those fearful droughts to which we have reason to believe the climate of New South Wales is periodically subject. It continued the two following years with unabated severity. The surface of the earth became so parched up that minor vegetation ceased upon it. Culinary herbs were raised with difficulty, and crops failed even in the most favourable situations. Settlers drove their flocks and herds to distant tracts for pasture and water, neither remaining for them in the located districts. The interior suffered equally with the coast, and men at length began to despond under so alarming a visitation. It almost appeared as if the Australian sky were never again to be traversed by a cloud.

But, however severe for the colony the seasons had proved, or were likely to prove, it was borne in mind at this critical moment that the wet and swampy state of the interior had alone prevented Mr. Oxley from penetrating further into it in 1818.

The immediate fitting out of an expedition was therefore decided upon, for the express purpose of ascertaining the nature and extent of that basin into which the Macquarie was supposed to fall, and whether connection existed between it and the streams falling westerly. As I had early taken a great interest in the geography of New South Wales, the Governor was pleased to appoint me to the command of this expedition.

Dec. 3. The first part of our journey was over rich flats, timbered sufficiently to afford a shade, on which the grass was luxuriant; but we were obliged to seek open ground, in consequence of the frequent stumbling of the cattle.

We issued, at length, upon a plain, the view across which was as dreary as can be imagined; in many places without a tree, save a few old stumps left by the natives when they fired the timber, some of which were still smoking in different parts of it. Observing some lofty trees at the extremity of the plain, we moved towards them, under an impression that they indicated the river line. But on this exposed spot the sun's rays fell with intense power upon us, and the dust was so minute and penetrating, that I soon regretted having left the shady banks of the river.

Dec. 31. I had no inducement to proceed further into the interior. I had been sufficiently disappointed in the termination of this excursion, and the track before me was still less inviting. Nothing but a dense forest, and a level country, existed between me and a distant hill. I had learnt, by experience, that it was impossible to form any opinion of the probable features of so singular a region as that in which I was wandering, from previous appearances, or to expect the same result, as in other countries, from similar causes. In a geographical point of view, my journey had been more successful, and had enabled me to put to rest for ever a question of much previous doubt. I had gained a knowledge of more than 100 miles of the western interior, and had ascertained that no sea, indeed, that little water existed on its surface; and that, although it is flat generally, it still has elevations of considerable magnitude upon it.

Although I had passed over much barren ground, I had likewise noticed soil that was far from poor, and the vegetation upon which in ordinary seasons would, I am convinced, have borne a very different aspect.

Yet, upon the whole, the space I traversed is unlikely to become the haunts of civilized man, or will only become so in isolated spots, as a chain of connection to a more fertile country; if such a country exist to the westward.

[A report of better country to the North induced Sturt to turn in that direction.]

Jan. 14. Nothing could exceed in dreariness the appearance of the tracks through which we journeyed on this and the two following days. The creek on which we depended for a supply of water, gave such alarming indications of a total failure that I at one time had serious thoughts of abandoning my pursuit of it. We passed hollow after hollow that had successively dried up, although originally of considerable depth; and, when we at length found water, it was doubtful how far we could make use of it. Sometimes in boiling, it left a sediment nearly equal to half its body; at other times it was so bitter as to be quite unpalatable. That on which we subsisted was scraped up from small puddles, heated by the sun's rays; and so uncertain were we of finding water at the end of the day's journey, that we were obliged to carry a supply on one of the bullocks. There was scarcely a living creature, even of the feathered race, to be seen to break the stillness of the forest. The native dogs alone wandered about, though they had scarcely strength to avoid us; and their melancholy howl, breaking in upon the ear at the dead of night, only served to impress more fully on the mind the absolute loneliness of the desert.

Jan. 31. We came upon a creek, but could not decide whether it was the one for which we had been searching, or another. It had flooded-gum growing upon its banks, and, on places apparently subject to flood, a number of tall straight saplings were observed by us. We returned to the camp, after a vain search for water, and were really at a loss what direction next to pursue. The men kept the cattle pretty well together, and, as we were not delayed by any preparations for breakfast, they were saddled and loaded at an early hour. The circumstance of there having been natives in the neighbourhood, of whom we had seen so few traces of late, assured me that water was at hand, but in what direction it was impossible to guess. As the path we had observed was leading northerly, we took up that course, and had not proceeded more than a mile upon it, when we suddenly found ourselves on the bank of a noble river. Such it might in truth be called, where water was scarcely to be found. The party drew up upon a bank that was from forty to forty-five feet above the level of the stream. The channel of the river was from seventy to eighty yards broad, and enclosed an unbroken sheet of water, evidently very deep, and literally covered with pelicans and other wild fowl. Our surprise and delight maybe better imagined than described. Our difficulties seemed to be at an end, for here was a river that promised to reward all our exertions, and which appeared every moment to increase in importance, to our imagination. Coming from the N.E., and flowing to the S.W., it had a capacity of channel that proved that we were as far from its source as from its termination. The paths of the natives on either side of it were like well-trodden roads; and the trees that overhung it were of beautiful and gigantic growth.

Its banks were too precipitous to allow of our watering the cattle, but the men eagerly descended to quench their thirst, which a powerful sun had contributed to increase, nor shall I ever forget the looks of terror and disappointment with which they called out to inform me that the water was so salt as to be unfit to drink! This was, indeed, too true; on tasting it, I found it extremely nauseous, and strongly impregnated with salt, being apparently a mixture of sea and fresh water. Whence this arose, whether from local causes, or from a communication with some inland sea, I know not, but the discovery was certainly a blow for which I was not prepared. Our hopes were annihilated at the moment of their apparent realization. The cup of joy was dashed out of our hands before we had time to raise it to our lips. Notwithstanding this disappointment, we proceeded down the river, and halted at about five miles, being influenced by the goodness of the feed to provide for the cattle as well as circumstances would permit. They would not drink of the river water, but stood covered in it for many hours, having their noses alone exposed above the stream. Their condition gave me great uneasiness. It was evident they could not long hold out under the excessive thirst, and unless we should procure some fresh water, it would be impossible for us to continue our journey.

Mr. Hume, with his usual perseverance, walked out when the camp was formed; and at a little distance from it, ascended a ridge of pure sand, crowned with cypresses. From this he descended to the westward, and, at length, struck upon the river, where a reef of rocks crossed its channel and formed a dry passage from one side to the other; but the bend which the river must have taken appeared to him so singular, that he doubted whether it was the same beside which we had been travelling during the day. Curiosity led him to cross it, when he found a small pond of fresh water on a tongue of land, and immediately afterwards, returned to acquaint me with the welcome tidings. It was too late to move, but we had the prospect of a comfortable breakfast in the morning.

On the 6th February we journeyed again through a barren scrub, although on firmer ground, and passed numerous groups of huts. At about eight miles from our last encampment, we came upon the river where its banks were of considerable height. In riding along them Mr. Hume thought he observed a current running, and he called to inform me of the circumstance. On a closer examination we discovered some springs in the very bed of the river, from which a considerable stream was gushing, and from the incrustation around them, we had no difficulty in guessing at their nature; in fact, they were brine springs, and I collected a quantity of salt from the brink of them.

After such a discovery we could not hope to keep our position. No doubt the current we had observed on first reaching the river was caused by springs that had either escaped our notice, or were under water. Here was at length a local cause for its saltness that destroyed at once the anticipation and hope of our being near its termination, and, consequently, the ardour with which we should have pressed on to decide so interesting a point.

We calculated that we were forty miles from the camp, in a S.W. direction, a fearful distance under our circumstances, since we could not hope to obtain relief for two days. Independently, however, of the state of the animals, our spirits were damped by the nature of the country, and the change which had taken place in the soil, upon which it was impossible that water could rest; while the general appearance of the interior showed how much it suffered from drought. On the other hand, although the waters of the river had become worse to the taste, the river itself had increased in size and stretched away to the westward, with all the uniformity of a magnificent canal, and gave every promise of increasing importance; while the pelicans were in such numbers upon it as to be quite dazzling to the eye. Considering, however, that perseverance would only involve us in extricable difficulties, and that it would also be useless to risk the horses, since we had gained a distance to which the bullocks could not have been brought I intimated my intention of giving up the further pursuit of the river, though it was with extreme reluctance that I did so.

As soon as we had bathed and finished our scanty meal, I took the bearings of D'Urban's Group, and found them to be S.58 E. about thirty-three miles distant; and as we mounted our horses, I named the river the "Darling," as a lasting memorial of the respect I bear the Governor.

I should be doing injustice to Mr. Hume and my men if I did not express my conviction that they were extremely unwilling to yield to circumstances, and that, had I determined on continuing the journey, they would have followed me with cheerfulness, whatever the consequences might have been.


Source.—Expeditions in Australia (Sturt, 1833), Vol. II, pp. 6, 8-69, 85-86, 111, 151-187, 204-217, 219.

On his first expedition Sturt had proved that the interior was dry. He then attempted to find the destination of the Morumbidgee and the Darling. Travelling down the Morumbidgee he discovered the Murray and followed it to its termination, 1829.

Dec. 27th. M'Leay and I started at an early hour on an excursion of deeper interest than any we had as yet undertaken; to examine the reeds, not only for the purpose of ascertaining their extent, if possible, but also to guide us in our future measures. We rode some miles along the river side, but observed in it no signs either of increase or of exhaustion. Everything tended to strengthen my conviction that we were still far from the termination of the river. I was aware that my resolves must be instant, decisive, and immediately acted upon, as on firmness and promptitude at this crisis the success of the expedition depended. About noon I checked my horse, and rather to the surprise of my companion, intimated to him my intention of returning to the camp. He naturally asked what I purposed doing. I told him that it appeared to me more than probable that the Morumbidgee would hold its course good to some fixed point, now that it had reached a meridian beyond the known rivers of the interior. It was certain, from the denseness of the reeds, and the breadth of the belts, that the teams could not be brought any further, and that, taking everything into consideration, I had resolved on a bold and desperate measure, that of building the whaleboat, and sending home the drays.

Our appearance in camp so suddenly surprised the men not more than the orders I gave. They all thought I had struck on some remarkable change of country, and were anxious to know my ultimate views. It was not my intention, however, immediately to satisfy their curiosity. I had to study their characters as long as I could in order to select those best qualified to accompany me on the desperate adventure for which I was preparing.

[Sturt accordingly built the whaleboat and embarked on the river.]

Jan. 14th. The men looked anxiously out ahead, for the singular change in the river had impressed on them an idea that we were approaching its termination, or near some adventure. On a sudden, the river took a general southern direction, but, in its tortuous course, swept round to every point of the compass with the greatest irregularity. We were carried at a fearful rate down its gloomy and contracted banks, and, in such a moment of excitement, had little time to pay attention to the country through which we were passing. It was, however, observed that chalybeate springs were numerous close to the water's edge. At 3 p.m. Hopkinson called out that we were approaching a junction, and in less than a minute afterwards we were hurried into a broad and noble river.

It is impossible for me to describe the effect of so instantaneous a change upon us. The boats were allowed to drift along at pleasure, and such was the force with which we had been shot out of the Morumbidgee that we were carried nearly to the bank opposite its embouchure, whilst we continued to gaze in silent astonishment at the capacious channel we had entered; and when we looked for that by which we had been led into it, we could hardly believe that the insignificant gap that presented itself to us was, indeed, the termination of the beautiful and noble stream whose course we had thus successfully followed. I can only compare the relief we experienced to that which the seaman feels on weathering the rock upon which he expected his vessel to have struck, to the calm which succeeds moments of feverish anxiety, when the dread of danger is succeeded by certainty of escape.

Jan. 23rd. Not having as yet given a name to our first discovery, I laid it down as the Murray River in compliment to the distinguished officer Sir George Murray, who then presided over the Colonial Department, not only in compliance with the known wishes of His Excellency, General Darling, but also in accordance with my own feelings as a soldier.

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