In the morning it blew so fresh from the eastward that Captain Dixon did not like to move the vessel until 2 p.m., when we stood to the south for about four miles, and came to anchor in four fathoms. Taking the life-boat and cutter, both well-manned, we pulled south to the shore about three miles, the water gradually shoaling until at half a mile from the shore the boats grounded on a sandbank, from which we walked, through mud, shells, and coral, to a belt of mangroves about fifty yards through, behind which rose a sandbank about thirty feet high, covered with flowers and coarse grass; from this to the foot of a range of rugged metamorphic sandstone, a distance of half a mile, was an open, undulating, loamy plain, covered with grass just arriving at maturity, a few small wattles, hakea, and white-gum trees. As the sun had now set, we had only just time to ascend a few hundred feet up the rocky ridge, from which elevation could be discerned a sheet of water about a mile to the eastward, which we attempted to reach, but it became so dark that it was found better to return to the boats, which were now high and dry. By 8 p.m. the tide had risen sufficiently to admit of Captain Dixon's return to the Dolphin, while I remained with a portion of my own party to make further examination in the morning; the leaky state of the cutter keeping one of us bailing through the night.
With Messrs. Turner, Brown, Harding, and Brockman, landed at 7 a.m., and walked to the sheet of water observed last night, but found it only a tidal inlet, terminating in a salt marsh. Continuing on our course for five miles to the south-east, across a grassy plain, the soil being a light brown loam, with occasional patches of quartz and gneiss pebbles, and beds of limestone in irregular nodules, in an hour and a half arrived at a deep stony watercourse, containing some small pools of brackish water. This stream was followed up to the southward about a mile, but found to be dry, and did not appear to come from a greater distance than twenty miles. This river was named the Nickol. The country to the south not being very promising, we turned to the westward, recrossing the plain more to the south, passing several hollows, in which the rainwater had very recently rested, leaving a rich alluvial deposit from which had sprung up a splendid sward of grass, which was still quite green. Not meeting with water in this direction, and the party not being yet in full training, we were glad to return to the boat, which was reached by 2 p.m.; the tide being now in, enabled her to come in close to the beach, the rise being found to be about sixteen feet. By 5.0 we had returned to the ship, all tolerably well fatigued with our first day's march on shore.
INTERVIEW WITH NATIVES.
Not being satisfied to land the horses on a shore devoid of water, I determined to attempt a landing in a small sandy cove in the high rocky shore on the west of the bay, which we had been afraid to enter during the gale on the 12th. Leaving the ship with two boats and provisions for the day, we pulled for the little cove about four miles distant, bearing west by north. For the first three miles the soundings did not show less than three fathoms, with an even sandy bottom, the last mile shoaling gradually to the beach; the landing being easily effected, as there now was but little surf. The shore was found to be generally very sandy, a low flat valley extending from the head of the cove across the isthmus about two miles to Mermaid Strait, where it terminated in a muddy mangrove creek. In about half an hour several wells were found, some containing rather brackish water, but one, about eight feet deep, in a hollow under a steep range of bare volcanic and granite hills, not more than 200 yards from the beach, was found to contain an abundant supply of good water; grass being plentiful and of fine quality in the valleys under the hills. Our principal requirements being now satisfied, it only remained to bring the ship in near enough to land the horses. On our return to the Dolphin we found that she had been visited by two natives, who had paddled off on logs of wood, shaped like canoes, not hollow, but very bouyant, about seven feet long and one foot thick, which they propelled with their hands only, their legs resting on a little rail made of small sticks driven in on each side. At first they were afraid to come on board, but on friendly signs being made, they ascended the ladder that had been put down for them. They were both fine-looking men, of about forty years of age, above the middle stature, one measuring six feet four inches, and the other five feet eight inches; their hair straight and black, teeth regular, and general features characteristic of the tribes on the west coast; their bodies were rather more spare, and had not on them a vestige of clothing. The Champion Bay dialect was quite incomprehensible to them; they, however, knew the use of both biscuit and tobacco, some of which was given them. After remaining several hours on board, they took their departure for the eastern shore of the bay, distant at least six miles, promising by signs to repeat their visit the next day. It is worthy of remark that neither of these natives were circumcised, or had lost the front teeth, as is common on this coast further to the eastward. Their fearlessness and confidence in the good faith of Europeans would lead to the impression that this was not their first acquaintance with vessels on the coast. It was not far from this place that Captain P.P. King had a visit from natives similarly equipped more than forty years ago. While on shore to-day several new and very beautiful plants and flowers were observed, amongst them one in particular, which, without exception, is the handsomest shrub I have ever seen in Australia; in form the plant resembles a large chandelier, with a series of branches springing from a centre stem in sets of five each; on these are short erect stems a few inches apart, carrying five beautiful deep crimson dragon flowers, nearly three inches in length, grouped like lustres, producing a very gorgeous effect; the leaves of the plant are elegantly formed, like those of the mountain ash, and are of a rich green. A purple flowering bean, the seeds of which are the size of the English horse-bean, is here found in abundance, and are eaten by the natives. Melons similar to those formerly seen by me on the Gascoyne, several varieties of brachychiton, a small variety of the adansonia, three or four different kinds of convolvulus (one of which runs along the sands near the beach with arms sometimes as much as forty yards in length), acacias, sterculia, and a variety of eucalyptus resembling a stunted red-gum, are also found growing among the hills in small quantities.
ACCIDENT FROM CARELESS USE OF FIREARMS.
Early this morning the Dolphin was moved to within three miles of the cove visited yesterday, and anchored in two and a half fathoms at the lowest water, the landing place bearing west by north. By 11.0 a.m. the first pair of horses were hoisted out and placed in the water under the counter of the cutter, two other boats assisted in towing us to the shore, which occupied about an hour; the horses, on landing, being scarcely able to stand, from the length of time they were in the water. On reaching the beach, a serious accident occurred to Mr. Hearson, the second mate of the vessel, resulting from the negligence of James the farrier, who, notwithstanding my repeated cautions to all the members of the Expedition to keep snappers on the locks of the guns, had omitted to do so, in consequence of which, on its being handed out, the hammer caught on the gunwale of the boat and discharged a ball through both the hips of the mate, causing him to fall in the water, which circumstance fortunately tended materially to stop the haemorrhage; he was immediately carried to a sheltered spot, and a tent pitched over him. On examining the wound, I found the ball had entered the right posterior, passing close below the joint, and taking an oblique direction through the lower edge of the pelvis, made its exit in front of the left thigh, between the femoral artery and the principal tendon, without injuring either. This mishap and the freshening of the breeze prevented our landing any more horses to-day, the remainder of it being spent in making a camp and attending to the comfort of our wounded companion, who occasioned me some anxiety, as the treatment must entirely devolve upon myself, who possessed but a very limited amount of experience in matters of this nature.
Four more horses were safely landed this morning, and we were returning to the vessel for another pair when a party of fourteen natives made their appearance at the camp. At first they came boldly up, but on a gun being discharged as a signal for my recall, they appeared much alarmed, although they would not go away. Our numbers being small, I determined not to allow them to enter the camp, on account of their propensity to thieving, and the few that could now be spared to guard the stores was insufficient to keep a constant watch on their stealthy movements; I therefore tried at first to make them understand that we had taken possession for the present, and did not want their company; they were, however, very indignant at our endeavours to drive them away, and very plainly ordered us off to the ship. It was very evident that our forbearance was mistaken for weakness, and that mischief was preparing. I accordingly took hold of one of the most refractory, and compelled him to march off at double-quick time, when they all retired to some rocky hills overlooking our camp, from which it was necessary to dislodge them. Taking Mr. Brown with me, we climbed the first hill, which made them retreat to the next. Resting ourselves for a few minutes, and taking a view of the surrounding country, we were just on the point of returning to the camp, when we observed three armed natives stealing down a ravine to the horses, evidently with hostile intentions, as they shipped their spears on getting close enough to throw; we did not, however, give them time to accomplish their object, as we ran down the hill in time to confront them, on which they took to the rocks. Seeing that it was now time to convince them we were not to be trifled with, and to put a stop at once to what I saw would otherwise terminate in bloodshed, we both took deliberate aim and fired a couple of bullets so close to the principal offender, that he could hardly escape feeling the effects of the fragments of lead, as they split upon the rocks within a few feet of his body. After dark, it set in to rain heavily for an hour, when lights were observed moving in the direction of our horses, but the sentries being on the alert, no further attempt was made to molest us.
Two more horses were landed this morning; but rain setting in from the north-west with a strong easterly wind below, a stop was put to landing any more to-day.
19th May (Sunday).
It had rained both heavily and continuously during the night; but as our tents were good, we did not experience much inconvenience from it, and it gave a fair prospect of finding a good supply of water on our contemplated trip into the interior. Mr. Hearson's wound was progressing favourably, and I was in consequence enabled to go off to the ship and procure a few additional comforts. On our return two more horses were brought ashore, reducing the number on board to one-half.
We succeeded in landing six more horses during the day; the great distance they had to be swam ashore made the process very slow and fatiguing, some of the horses being scarcely able to stand for some time after landing. This morning I made a rough survey of the cove and surrounding hills, and while so employed observed seventeen natives pass across the shoals at low water, carrying nets but no weapons; they did not appear to fear us, or inclined to come up to the camp; nor did we offer them any encouragement, as in the present exposed state of our camp they would have been very troublesome.
In the evening Mr. Brown and myself rode across the isthmus to Mermaid Strait, and found it to form a very fine and romantic-looking little harbour, surrounded by a bold rocky coast, giving it much more the appearance of an inland lake than an open strait. I have no doubt but that it would afford an excellent harbour; there is, however, reason to think it is equally difficult of access from the main with the cove upon which our camp is, as a wide expanse of marsh land appears to extend all round behind the hills that bound it to the southward.
The last four horses were landed this morning, as also the instruments and remainder of the stores required for our first journey. The farrier, with two assistants, was kept busily employed all day shoeing horses.
PREPARATIONS FOR JOURNEY INLAND.
The forge was in full employ during the day, and great progress made with the shoeing and preparations for our departure. Accompanied by Mr. Brown, I rode out to-day to reconnoitre, and seek for a pass through the hills that encompassed our camp; the only practical outlet we found to be through some very rocky ravines to the south-west, where at about five miles we found—what I had for some time suspected to be the case—that the whole of the isthmus upon which we had landed was cut off from the mainland by an extensive salt-water marsh, commencing at the bottom of Nickol Bay and running parallel to the general line of coast, at least as far as Enderby Island. Skirting the northern edge of the marsh for several miles to the westward, we found it gradually getting wider and deeper; we accordingly returned to the narrowest part, and rode into it for about half a mile, the water being very shallow, and the bottom sufficiently firm to carry us, although with considerable labour to the horses. Finding it was getting late, we determined to try and return to the camp round by the head of Nickol Bay, and succeeded in climbing over the rocks and boulders that encumber this portion of the coast, until we were within a quarter of a mile of the camp, when the tide came in upon us so quickly that, after having been repeatedly thrown down by the surf, we were compelled to leave the horses jammed up in the rocks just above high-water mark, and proceeded on foot to the camp.
At 3.0 a.m., the tide having fallen sufficiently, Messrs. Brown and Harding were enabled to bring in the horses left imprisoned last night. During the day, all the arrangements for our departure were completed, and in the afternoon Mr. Hearson was removed to the Dolphin, having been kept on shore since the accident, to be constantly under my own attendance; he was now rapidly recovering, although much reduced. Wrote instructions for the guidance of Captain Dixon and Mr. Walcott during the absence of the expedition, the latter gentleman being left in charge of the stores, and to make such observations as the means at his disposal should admit of.
Landed at daylight, intending to make a start, as it was the Queen's birthday; but owing to some of the horses having rambled, we did not succeed in getting them all in and saddled up before 2.0 p.m., when three or four of the horses that had not been accustomed to carrying packs commenced playing up and scattering their loads in all directions, straining and otherwise injuring several of the pack-saddles, which detained us until so late in the day that I deemed it best to return to camp, and as the forge had not been removed to the ship, to shorten some of the saddle-irons, to render them less liable to injury, which was otherwise a great improvement.
The re-adjustments having been satisfactorily accomplished, we made a fair start this morning by 9.0 a.m., and arrived on the edge of the marsh by 11.30, where, having first taken a survey of the several channels from the summit of a high granite hill, we entered the waste of mud at a point where it did not appear to be more than two miles wide; an hour's struggle carried us fairly through on to terra firma, only one horse having to be assisted by the removal of his load. After resting an hour and a half for dinner, we resumed our route in a south direction, across an extensive low grassy plain of red clayey loam, passing over a few rocky ridges at sunset, and at 6 p.m. encamped on a dry creek twenty yards wide, water being found in some clay-pans in the adjoining plain. Camp 2.
Being Sunday, the camp was only moved a mile further to a fine pool of water in a river eighty yards wide, with beautiful grassy banks, which I named the Maitland; it comes from the south-east, and may probably have a course of sixty miles, coming through a plain five or six miles wide, the greater part of which is occasionally inundated by floods from the interior. Cockatoos and other game were plentiful, sixteen of the former being killed by Mr. Brockman at one shot; they were white, with orange-tinted feathers in the crest, similar to those on the Murchison and Gascoyne Rivers. It may be as well here to observe that upon first starting a regular routine of duty had been established in the party, the care and loading of five horses being told off to each two of the party, as they could lift on opposite packs simultaneously, and their being all numbered, everyone could at once know the loads under his charge. The night was also divided into eight watches, commencing at 8 p.m. and ending at 6 a.m.; the duty of the first watch being to cook the bread for the following day, and the last to have breakfast ready in the morning by the time it was light enough to see. By this arrangement no time was lost, and everyone knew what was under his particular charge. Camp 3.
Having determined in the first instance to strike to the westward, with a view to cutting any large rivers coming from the interior that might serve to lead us through the rocky hills that hemmed us in in that quarter, we this morning took a south-south-west by south course to 11.40 a.m. when we crossed a dry stream-bed sixty yards wide, coming out of the granite ranges to the southward, the country becoming more barren as we edged upon the spurs of the rocky hills. At 2.0 p.m. we halted on the banks of another stream-bed of the same size as the last, when it came on to rain; resuming our march at 4.10, steering west to 6.0, when we encamped on a dry gully, with a little feed near it. Having pitched the tents, it continued to rain until 11.0 p.m., when a sudden rush of water swept down the valley, filling the watercourse and carrying away our fire, and before we had time to remove the baggage to higher ground, we had a foot of water in the camp. Fortunately nothing was lost or injured, and it only served as a useful lesson for the future. Camp 4.
The early part of the day was employed drying the stores, so that we did not make a start until late. Four and a half hours' travelling over stony country, principally covered with triodia, but containing several patches of good grass, brought us to another river fifty yards wide, in which were a few pools. This stream was followed up to 5 p.m., when we left it, and halted on an open plain close to some shallow clay-pans containing rainwater; our course for the day having been about south-west eleven miles. Camp 5.
Latitude 21 degrees 7 minutes.
By an azimuth of the sun's centre taken this morning, the magnetic variation was observed to be about 20 minutes west. Steering north 230 degrees east magnetic, soon brought us out of the hills into a plain extending as far as the eye could reach to the north-west, with a few patches of good grass upon it, but mostly covered with triodia, which was now just ripe, yielding fine heads of seed, which the horses are very fond of. At thirteen miles struck the channel of a considerable river coming from the south. As this offered us a fair prospect of working inland, and we had already attained nearly to longitude 116 degrees, or about the meridian of the mouth of the Alma, the stream was followed up for an hour, its average breadth being over 200 yards. At 4.40 encamped at a fine spring on the bank of a deep pool, under a cliff of metamorphic sandstone nearly 300 feet high; a cane, much resembling a Spanish red, growing in considerable quantities near the water. Camp 6.
Latitude 21 degrees 18 minutes; longitude 116 degrees 4 minutes.
SURPRISE A CAMP OF NATIVES.
Soon after starting this morning, we came upon a camp of fifteen or twenty natives, on the bank of a deep reach of water, hemmed in by steep rocky hills, up which they hastily scrambled on our approach, and on reaching the summit, tried by various gestures to express their disapproval of our visit, but would not hold any parley with us. At five miles the river turned abruptly to the north-east, through a precipitous rocky defile, which induced us to make an attempt to cut across and strike the river some miles higher up; but after being for some time involved in impracticable ravines, we were again obliged to have recourse to the bed of the river, although encumbered with beds of large stones, over which the horses had great difficulty in travelling; so that by sunset we had not accomplished more than six miles in a direct east by south line from last night's camp. Camp 7.
Latitude 21 degrees 19 minutes 29 seconds.
The general course of the river during the day was very little to the south of east, its banks still maintaining the same rocky and precipitous character, marks of inundation being frequently observed at the height of thirty feet above the present stream, which now was only running gently in a channel not more than thirty yards wide, but when in flood occupying the whole of the valley, which averages a quarter of a mile in width. The larger pools are lined with flags and reeds, and contain numbers of small fish resembling trout, similar to those found in the Lyons and Gascoyne Rivers. A very handsome tree, resembling an ash, grew on the margin, bearing a beautiful white flower, four to five inches across, having on the inside a delicate tinge of yellow, and yielding a sweet scent like violets. Several natives were met in the course of the day, but would not come near us; in one instance, however, we came upon one so suddenly that he had only time to jump into a pool to escape being surrounded by the party. After calling for some time most lustily for his friends, he gradually crept away amongst the canes and disappeared. Only one tributary of any size was observed to join the river in the course of the day's march, and that came in from the southward. At 5.20 p.m. halted on the banks of a deep pool, surrounded by fine cajeput-trees and flooded-gum, grass being plentiful for our horses. Camp 8.
ENCOUNTER DIFFICULT COUNTRY.
There was a decided improvement in the appearance of the valley as we continued to ascend the river, the deep pools were more continuous, and grass more abundant; the high lands on either bank still, however, retained their rugged outlines, and were clothed with little else but triodia. Travelling along the bed of the river was nevertheless difficult and dangerous for the horses, on account of the immense quantity of rounded boulders of water-worn rocks that occupied a large portion of the channel, and frequently jammed the horses into narrow passes, where they could not be extricated without meeting with very severe falls, which very soon crippled more than one of them; their shoes also began to be wrenched off by being caught in the deep clefts of the rocks, very soon expending all the extra sets brought with us. Just before coming to our night's halt a large stream-bed, forty yards wide, was observed to come in from the southward. Camp 9.
Latitude 21 degrees 28 minutes 18 seconds; longitude 116 degrees 31 minutes by account.
2nd June (Sunday).
Having abundance of feed and water, we gladly availed ourselves of it to make it a day of rest; it also afforded me an opportunity to ascertain the rate of the chronometer, which, as I had reason to expect, had gone very irregularly since landing.
Made an early start, and as the valley of the river was not quite so rugged as that we had passed over during the last two or three days, by noon we had accomplished about eight miles, the course of the river still being very little from the southward of east; we had not, therefore, made much progress towards the Lyons River (our more immediate destination), and to quit the valley was out of the question, as there is no feed or water out of it within a reasonable distance. Both the valley and surrounding country are destitute of trees, and bold hills of metamorphic sandstone frequently jut out into the valley, and terminate in perpendicular cliffs 200 or 300 feet high. Towards the evening the river had been coming from the northward of east. Camp 10.
Latitude 21 degrees 27 minutes 48 seconds.
During the forenoon the river became much hemmed in by steep rocky hills, the bed being a succession of rapids, over a bare, rocky channel; but after the noon halt the stream came more from the south-east, with wide grassy flats on either side, in many parts very boggy, and producing Melaleuca leucodendron, with tall, straight stems, and a variety of eucalyptus, resembling Eucalyptus piperita. White sandstone and shales began to make their appearance on the banks, and the water in the river had a saline taste. Several of the horses began to show signs of being much distressed, by falling and sticking fast in the mud, from which they had not strength to extricate themselves, even after being relieved of their loads. Ducks were plentiful, and tolerably tame. Camp 11.
Latitude 21 degrees 33 minutes 55 seconds; longitude 117 degrees 2 minutes by account.
Having marked a large double-stemmed gum-tree with NAE and the date, we made a start up the river, but at about a mile found the valley narrow in until the channel of the river, which was here full of water, was walled in on both banks by perpendicular cliffs, from which we were compelled to turn back nearly to our last night's camp. During the last two days we had caught an occasional glimpse of an elevated range of hills extending for many miles parallel to the river and about ten miles to the southward, which rendered it probable that some change would now be found in the character of the back country, enabling us to travel without being so frequently retarded by the rocks and bends of the river. A suitable spot was accordingly selected for ascending out of the valley, which was accomplished with some difficulty, when the country was observed to be intersected for many miles by deep ravines, terminating, however, to the south in a level plain, extending to the base of the range already referred to. After four hours' heavy toiling, we at length reached the summit of the plain, water having been found in one of the rocky gullies by the way. For the first half-mile, on entering the plain or tableland, the ground was stony and covered with stunted acacia, but it very quickly changed into a rich clayey loam, yielding a splendid crop of kangaroo and other grasses, melons, and small white convolvulus, yielding a round black seed the size of a pea, which we found scattered over nearly the whole surface of the plain for miles together. In the lower parts of the flat rainwater appeared to have remained in shallow clay-pans until very recently, killing much of the grass, which was replaced by atriplex bushes. As we approached the foot of the range the ground became stony and covered with triodia; good grass was still, however, to be found in the ravines leading out of the hills, and as our object was now to shape a course to the southward, we followed up one of the most promising valleys, in the hope that it might lead us through the range; we were, however, disappointed in finding that, after pushing some distance up very steep and rocky passes, they all terminated in cliffs of horizontal sandstone, running in parallel bands one above another to the height of 500 or 600 feet, and frequently extending without a break for ten or fifteen miles along the face of the range. The horses being much fatigued by the climb from the valley of the river, we encamped at 3.10 p.m., within the hills, and without water. Camp 12.
FINE GRASSY PLAIN. FORTESCUE RIVER.
A light drizzling rain came on early in the morning, but not enough to supply the horses, who rambled so far during the night in search of it that it was noon before they were all collected. Quitting the range, which had been named after one of the most liberal promoters of the expedition, Hamersley Range, we took a north-east course, crossing over twelve or fourteen miles of beautiful open grassy plain, in many parts the kangaroo-grass reaching above the horses' backs; the soil being of the richest clay-loam, occasionally containing beds of singular fragments of opaline rocks, resembling ancient lava. By 5.30 p.m. we reached the river again, several miles above the deep glen that had checked our course on the 5th. The valley having again opened out, gave us easy access to its banks, which were here a rich black peat soil, containing numerous springs. Here was first observed a very handsome fan-palm, growing in topes, some of them attaining to the height of forty feet and twenty inches diameter, the leaves measuring eight to ten feet in length. The river had again opened into deep reaches of water, and contained abundance of fish resembling cobblers, weighing four and five pounds each. The whole character of the country was evidently changing for the better; and as I have no doubt that at no distant period it will become a rich and thriving settlement, I named the river the Fortescue, after the Under Secretary of State for the Colonies, under whose auspices the expedition took its origin, and the large expanse of fertile plain that lies between the river and the Hamersley Range, Chichester Downs.
A quarter of a mile up the river brought us to a fine tributary from the south, running strong enough to supply a large mill. This had to be traced up for two miles before we could find a ford; it was found to take its rise in several deep pools, fed by springs issuing out of the plains crossed yesterday. Some powerful springs were also observed to flow into the river from the northward, through a dense forest of melaleuca, with a rank undergrowth of canes, flags, etc. At five miles the river again presented a wide reach of water several miles in length, after which it all at once broke up into numerous channels, wandering through a forest of white-gum, well grassed, the soil being highly fertile. Owing to my having been accidentally trodden upon by one of the horses, we were obliged to encamp early, having only made about twelve miles. Camp 14.
Latitude 21 degrees 40 minutes 42 seconds; longitude by account 117 degrees 17 minutes east.
Following up the channel upon which we had encamped, in about an hour it was lost in open grassy plains, which we continued to traverse until noon, when we struck on a well-defined stream-bed, which had branched off a mile or two south of last night's camp. Grass and water being abundant, we halted till 2, when we resumed an easterly route to 5.30, over rather stony plains, yielding triodia. Encamped after dark without water or feed, tying the horses up short to prevent their rambling, having accomplished about twenty miles in an east-south-east direction during the day. Camp 12.
Latitude 21 degrees 49 minutes 40 seconds.
9th June (Sunday).
Less than a mile this morning brought us to a grassy channel containing water, which was followed up for a short distance, when we halted for the remainder of the day to refresh our tired and famished horses. Camp 16.
A NATIVE CHILD.
The channel of the river was still followed for several miles to the eastward, when it again disappeared in open plains extending to the base of the Hamersley Range, which still continued to run parallel to the river at about seven miles distance to the southward. Pools of water were occasionally found in channels scooped out of the alluvial soil of which the plains were composed—the waters of the Fortescue, during the period of the summer rains, spreading over the country for miles and leaving a rich deposit of alluvial mud, adding greatly to its fertility. In the course of the afternoon we came suddenly on a party of natives, digging roots. One woman, with a child of about five years of age, hid close to our line of march, and did not move until she was afraid of being run over by the pack-horses, when she ran away, leaving the child gazing upon the monster intruders with a look of passive wonder. It was a poor, ill-conditioned-looking object, suffering from a cutaneous disorder. On giving it a piece of damper, it quickly began to devour it, tearing it to fragments with its sharp and attenuated fingers, with all the keenness of a hawk. We left it standing with a lump of bread in each hand, where its mother would no doubt find it when she came to see what had been left of it by the large dogs, as the aborigines of this part of Australia call our horses. Travelling on till late, we encamped in an open grassy plain, without water. Camp 17.
Latitude 21 degrees 55 minutes 57 seconds; longitude 118 degrees 3 minutes.
Four miles to the south-east we came upon a pool of brackish water, surrounded with bulrushes, in a channel coming from the south of the Hamersley Range, again apparently offering us a chance of getting to the southward. We accordingly struck for the gorge out of which this stream came, and succeeded in penetrating for three miles up a very rocky gully, filled with some of the harshest triodia we had yet encountered, and had to halt for the night in a narrow pass, where there was scarcely room to tie up our horses. Camp 18.
Latitude 22 degrees 12 minutes 52 seconds.
ASCEND THE RANGES.
One of the horses having slipped his halter during the night, Messrs. Brown and Brockman returned down the gully to track it up, while we made an attempt to follow up the deep defile in which we were hemmed, but a quarter of a mile brought us to an impassable barrier of cliffs. Retracing our steps about a mile, we again made an attempt more to the eastward, and this time succeeded in reaching a considerable stream-bed, which ultimately proved to be the main channel of the Fortescue, and led us through the range. Resting till noon, Messrs. Brown and Brockman overtook us with the missing horse, when we resumed our route up the bed of the river to the southward, until again brought to a dead stand by the whole bed of the stream being occupied by deep pools of water, fed by numerous strong springs. As it was getting late in the day, I left the party to form a camp, while I climbed the hills to get a view of the country in advance. A laborious ascent of nearly an hour brought me to one of the highest summits of the range, at an elevation of about 2700 feet above the sea, and 700 above the bed of the river. From this hill I had a fine view to the southward, and observed that by following up a small dry ravine to the south-east there would be a fair prospect of reaching a large extent of open level plain that came within two or three miles of the camp in that direction. To the east and south-east the range was lofty and mountainous, while to the south and south-west stretched open grassy plains, occasionally interrupted by bold detached hills, apparently of the same formation as the Hamersley Range. On descending to the camp, I started a fragment of rock of a few tons weight, which rushed with fearful velocity towards the deep gorge in which the horses were feeding. After carrying all before it for a quarter of a mile, it made a clear spring over a cliff 200 feet in depth, and plunged into the waters below with a sound like thunder, inducing a belief at the camp that a large portion of cliff had fallen. Fortunately it did not produce an estampede, which I had known to have been caused on another occasion by a similar occurrence. Camp 19.
Latitude 22 degrees 15 minutes; longitude 118 degrees 4 minutes 30 seconds.
Availing ourselves of the observations made yesterday, we succeeded, after a hard scramble of two hours, in getting through the remaining portion of the range, our horses having learned to climb like goats, or they never would have accomplished the passage. The plain appears to have a considerable elevation above those to the northward, and is drained by several deep breaks through the Hamersley Range. Resuming a south-south-west course to latitude 22 degrees 26 minutes 32 seconds, we passed at first over some very stony land, yielding little else besides triodia and stunted acacia; but for the last six or seven miles was a rich alluvial clay, covered with very fair pasture, and water was found in abundance in pools in the bed of a watercourse coming from the south-east. Camp 20.
Latitude 22 degrees 26 minutes 58 seconds.
On our first landing at Nickol Bay the nights had been very mild, but we now began to feel them cold and bracing. This was partly owing to the increased elevation of the country we were now travelling over; the south-east wind coming off the mountainous country was very keen, and almost frosty early in the morning. Our course this day was at first over tolerably good country, which gradually became more and more rocky, the ridges increasing in elevation until the aneroid barometer fell to 27.33, giving an altitude of 2400 feet above the sea. Night overtook us in a deep rocky ravine, where we had much difficulty in keeping the pack-horses together, and were at last compelled to unload them amongst rocks in the bed of a dry watercourse trending to the westward; a little grass being procurable in the vicinity. Fortunately water had been met with at noon, so that we were not pressed for want of it. Camp 21.
Latitude 22 degrees 41 minutes 43 seconds.
Following the gully upon which we had encamped, it led us to the westward, over a rocky line of country, until 1 p.m., when not meeting with any water, and the horses showing great weakness and symptoms of distress from the loss of their shoes, it was found desirable to quit the main gully and try and find feed and water up a promising tributary coming from the north with the view of ultimately falling back on the plains under the Hamersley Range, should we fail to meet with water sooner; fortunately, however, in an hour we came upon a small supply amongst rocks, surrounded by some tolerable feed. Had we failed to find this timely relief, it is probable that not more than half the horses would have been able to carry their loads to the nearest known waterhole. Camp 22.
16th June (Sunday).
This day of rest was alike acceptable to man and horse, and afforded me an opportunity, after reading prayers to the party, to clear a set of lunar distances, by which I found that the chronometer would have placed us forty miles to the west of our true position. I had long since observed that it could not be trusted under even ordinary variations of temperature, but could procure no other, the Acting Surveyor-General having declined to supply me with either of the two chronometers belonging to his department that could be relied on, and in consequence I now found I should be compelled to have recourse entirely to lunar observations and triangulation for the compilation of the maps, which would add very much to the amount of labour and liability to error. Several crested pigeons, white cockatoos, and crested quail or partridges, were shot as they came to drink at the waterhole.
The horses had so far recovered after the day's rest that we were enabled to resume a south-west course, following down the bed of the stream to latitude 22 degrees 51 minutes, the country slightly improving towards evening; but we again had to encamp without water, having, however, obtained a small quantity in some gravel at noon. The hills to the east of our track rose about 1000 feet above the bed of the watercourse, and consisted of metamorphic sandstones and shales, intersected by whinstone dykes, their summits being capped with red conglomerate. In one place the river had cut through a ridge of altered rocks, and exhibited a very singular contortion of the strata, the laminae being crippled up into an arch of 100 feet high, showing a dip on each flank of 45 degrees, forming a cave beneath running for some distance into the hill. Camp 23.
Continuing to follow the stream-bed south-west for eight or nine miles, we came upon a patch of very green grass, on which we halted, to allow the horses the benefit, on account of their not having had any water since noon yesterday. In the meanwhile, accompanied by Mr. Brown, I started off and walked to a prominent hill six miles to the south, to get a view of the surrounding country. From the summit of this hill, which we found to have an elevation of 700 or 800 feet, we procured a valuable round of bearings, and had a distant view of the country to the southward. Level plains and detached ranges of moderate elevation appeared to be the general character of the country towards the Lyons River. We returned to the party by 3.0 p.m., and were glad to find that during our absence water had been found in shallow clay-pans a mile to the westward, to which we moved over and encamped. Camp 24.
Latitude 22 degrees 56 minutes 23 seconds; longitude by account 117 degrees 21 minutes.
We were unable to proceed this day, owing to my having eaten some of the dwarf mesembryanthemum, which I had formerly observed to be used as food by the natives on the Gascoyne, but which had produced with me violent headache and vomiting. The horses were, however, enjoying excellent feed; and I contrived to work up my map and clear a lunar.
Started at 7.25 a.m. with nineteen horses, having been obliged to leave behind a horse belonging to Mr. Lennard, so lame that he could not move. Following the stream-bed nearly west for ten miles, came upon a pool of permanent water containing flags—the first we had met with since quitting the Hamersley Range. This was of great value, as there was no water that could be depended upon on our return, in the last sixty miles. Pushing on quickly for twelve miles further, the river entered a wide plain, in which was some tolerable feed; we had again, however, to halt for the night without water.
DEPOT CAMP ON THE HARDEY RIVER.
Although the size of the channel of the river we had been following down for the last sixty miles had considerably increased both in width and depth, yet very little water had been found in it, and as it took a decided turn in its course this morning to north-west, after two hours' ride, without observing any change, and there being every appearance of its keeping the same course for the next twenty miles, I was convinced that it could not be a tributary to either the Edmund or Lyons, which I had at first hoped it might prove. The barometer also ranged too high for it to be at a sufficient elevation to admit of it flowing into either of those rivers, as the elevation of the Lyons at the confluence of the Alma is at least of the same altitude above the sea. Having named the river the Hardey, we fell back upon the pools passed yesterday, where I had decided upon forming a depot camp at which to rest the weakest horses, while with a lightly equipped party I proposed to complete the expedition of the country intervening between this and the Lyons River. Camp 26.
Latitude 22 degrees 58 minutes 28 seconds; longitude 117 degrees 10 minutes.
In accordance with the plan decided upon yesterday, I started this day accompanied by Messrs. Brown, Harding, and Brockman, with three pack-horses, conveying eight days' provisions and fourteen gallons of water. Twelve miles on the south-south-west course, over a very stony country, brought us to a deep stream-bed trending in the same direction, which we pursued for thirteen miles, the country gradually improving until the channel was lost in an open plain of rich soil, covered with fine green grass. Several pools of rainwater of a deep red colour, but fresh and sweet, gave us a good camp for the night; a set of Stellar observations giving the latitude 23 degrees 19 minutes 16 seconds. To the south, at about six miles distance, lay a bold range of hills, running nearly east and west with many sharp summits, having an average elevation of from 600 to 1000 feet above the plain, and extending for twelve or fifteen miles to the eastward, while to the west it was lost in numerous broken hills of lesser elevation. Camp 27.
ASHBURTON RIVER. CAPRICORN RANGE.
As to pass the eastern end of the range appeared likely to take us too much off our course, we struck for what appeared to be a break in the hills about seven miles to the south-west. The first five miles was across an open grassy plain, at times subject to inundation, which brought us to the bank of a fine river, containing permanent reaches of fresh water, lined with canes, the channel generally being from 100 to 200 yards wide, with a depth of forty feet; it was now barely running, but it was quite evident that it was too large for either the Alma or Edmund, and its bed must be at least 200 feet below the level of those rivers. We, however, determined to follow it so long as it ran to the south of west, which it did until it came in contact with the range observed yesterday, when it altered its course to west-north-west, and appeared to continue that direction for many miles, probably until joined by the Hardey, when, in all likelihood, it continues its course direct to Exmouth Gulf. Anxious, as I naturally was, to continue the examination of this promising river, time and the condition of our horses' feet did not permit us to do so with advantage. Naming it the Ashburton, after the noble President of the Royal Geographical Society, we quitted its verdant banks, and took a south course up a stony ravine, which led us into the heart of the range, where we soon became involved amongst steep rocky ridges of sharp slaty schist, which very quickly deprived the horses of many of their remaining shoes, and retarded our progress so much that by nightfall we found ourselves to be in only latitude 23 degrees 28 minutes 15 seconds, hemmed in on all sides by rugged country yielding little else but small acacia-trees and triodia. A little water and grass was, however, obtained in the bed of a stream tributary to the Ashburton. The summits of the hills passed over during the day had been seen from the Lyons River in 1858, and were now named the Capricorn Range. Camp 28.
A rather rough ride of four hours to the south-east brought us to a watercourse sixty yards wide, trending to the north-north-east, in which we found pools of water lined with reeds and flags. This was traced up to the southward till 3.0 p.m., when we entered a deep gorge in a sandstone range, the bed of the stream becoming very stony and full of melaleuca-trees; it, however, contained many fine pools and strong running springs, with a small supply of grass. There was now a fair prospect of our reaching the Lyons, as the range we were now entering must contain the sources of the Edmund, which river has a much more restricted course than was originally supposed. Camp 29.
Latitude 23 degrees 42 minutes 15 seconds.
The country continued hilly for about ten miles, when we arrived at the summit of a granite and sandstone tableland, at the extreme sources of the watercourse we had been following up. From this point we had at last the satisfaction of observing the bold outlines of Mount Augustus, bearing south-south-east about thirty miles, while more to the westward could be discerned the summits of Mounts Phillips and Samuel, and yet more to the right the southern face of the Barlee Range. Descending to the south across an open plain, we struck for a remarkable gorge in a granite range (the only one now between us and the Lyons), at which we arrived by sundown. On examining this singular gorge, it was found to be an almost perpendicular cut through a narrow ridge nearly 300 feet in depth, the length of the pass not exceeding 200 yards, the plain on each side being nearly on the same level. From the summit of this pass the course of the stream could be traced across the fertile flats of the Lyons until it was lost in the numerous channels of that river, and I was able to obtain bearings to many well-remembered objects noticed on my former visit to this part of the country. Camp 30.
Latitude 23 degrees 56 minutes 45 seconds.
RETURN TO DEPOT.
As we had only four days' rations left, and no further object could be attained by advancing further south, unless there had been time to examine the present condition of the pasture in the vicinity of Mount Augustus, we marked several trees on the north side of the gorge close to a pool, and retraced our steps to within a mile of our camp of the 24th, having improved upon our outward track by keeping rather more to the eastward. Camp 31.
Instead of returning by the rough route by which we came through the Capricorn Range, we followed the stream to the north-north-east, through a good country all the way to the Ashburton, which river it joined in latitude 22 degrees 26 minutes, passing through the end of the range one mile south of the junction. In this pass we encamped on a fine deep pool, in which we caught a small quantity of fish, showing the water to be permanent. Camp 32.
Making an early start, we soon crossed the Ashburton, and rode twelve miles across open plains, thinly timbered and yielding a large quantity of good pasture, principally of kangaroo-grass, which here grew to the height of six feet. Resting for several hours at the waterholes of the 22nd, at 4.30 p.m. we resumed our route, having filled our water-kegs, and pushed on to within sixteen or seventeen miles of the depot, encamping amongst some good grass on our outward route, but without any water except what we carried with us. Camp 33.
Giving our horses rather more than a gallon of water each, we made an early start just as it came on to rain, which was the first shower we had experienced since the 27th May; it continued until noon, but not heavy enough to leave any surface-water on the parched and thirsty loam. Keeping more to the westward than our outward track, we escaped much of the stony ground then passed over, and arrived at the depot camp by 2 p.m.
30th June (Sunday).
Remained in camp and read prayers to the party.
The horses left at the depot were much improved by their nine days' rest, and had we been provided with more shoes for them, I should have at once returned to the Ashburton, and traced that river up to the eastward, as it offered a fine opportunity of penetrating to the south-east probably at least another 100 miles; and our provisions on a reduced allowance would admit of our remaining out forty days longer; but the lameness of many of the horses and lacerated condition of their fetlocks convinced me that, should we meet with any more difficulties or rough country before obtaining a fresh supply of shoes, much valuable time would be lost, and we should probably fail to get many of the horses back. I therefore deemed it more prudent to return at once by a shorter route more to the eastward so soon as we had repassed the Hamersley Range, and, obtaining a refit at the bay, to throw all our remaining time into the second trip. We accordingly to-day returned to camp 24, where we found the horses left there on the 20th June sufficiently recovered to accompany the party, although incapable of carrying a load. The remainder of the day was devoted to obtaining bearings and adding to the triangulation of the many remarkable summits visible from this part of the country.
The country generally being very rough, except on the banks of the Hardey, on our outward track, we found it desirable to return along it, more particularly as there was a better prospect of procuring water by so doing. At about twenty miles we found a little water under a cliff in the bed of the stream, and halted for the night. Camp 34.
Latitude 22 degrees 32 minutes 13 seconds.
Still returning on our old track, at five miles I stopped to ascend a very remarkable hill which had formed an important point in the triangulation of this part of the country, to which had been given the name of Mount Samson. Sending the party onward to wait for me at camp 22, I commenced the ascent of the mount, which proved something more than I had calculated upon, as it occupied more than an hour's sharp toil to arrive at its summit; when gained, however, it amply repaid the trouble, as from it I could discern almost every prominent hill or peak within sixty or seventy miles, and amongst them the mountain which on a former occasion I had procured a bearing to from Mount Augustus, at a distance of 124 geographical miles, and which I now named Mount Bruce, after the gallant commander of the troops, who has always warmly supported me in carrying out explorations. This part of the country I believe to be the most elevated in north-west Australia—Mount Samson having an altitude of not less than 1000 feet above the valley of the Hardey, while Mount Bruce and the mountainous country to the eastward rose to a considerable height above its summit, which, by comparisons from the aneroid barometer, would give not less than 4000 feet for the elevation of those ranges. Having completed my observations, I descended the hill with somewhat greater speed than it took to climb it, and was met at the foot by Messrs. Brown and Harding, who had waited for me with a horse. In less than an hour we overtook the rest of the party at Camp 22, when the additional horses at once drank up all the remaining water left in the rocks; resting, therefore, less than an hour, we moved on, taking a north course, over a very rocky but highly fertile country of trap formation, the grass just now being much dried up. At sundown we halted in an open grassy flat, on which no water could be found, although it is probable there is plenty in the vicinity, as emus and cockatoos were numerous; one of the former walked boldly up to the horses, and was fired at, but without effect. Camp 35.
OPEN GRASSY PLAINS. PASS HAMERSLEY RANGE.
Travelling at a rapid pace on an average north-east course for upwards of twenty miles, over plains mostly of rich loam, well grassed, and extending to the southern foot of the Hamersley Range, we came upon a low range of sandstone hills, covered with acacia bushes and triodia, extending for three or four miles, when we again emerged on open plains, in which was found a deep channel, thirty yards wide, containing pools of rainwater retained in the clay. The amount of fine pasture country passed over during the day could not be less than 200,000 acres; and although we had not time to go in search for it, I have no doubt that abundance of water will be found in the deep gorges of the range skirting the plain. This tract of country is, I imagine, well suited for the growth of either cotton or sugar, as it is apparently well-irrigated during the summer months, and the soil is remarkably rich and strong, while its limits to the westward are at present unknown, and most probably continues to skirt the hills for at least thirty or forty miles. Halted at the waterholes about four miles to the west of the pass through the Hamersley Range. Camp 36.
Two hours brought us to the head of the pass, which we entered by a ravine a little more to the northward than on our outward route, and by so doing saved a preliminary ascent of nearly 200 feet, and a similar amount of descent, making a very successful passage through the range without experiencing the same difficulties we had formerly met with, and by 3 p.m. found ourselves once more in the open grassy country that forms the Chichester Downs. At 6 p.m. encamped in an open flat without water. Camp 37.
PROCEED TOWARDS THE COAST.
Started at 7.30 a.m., and in an hour came upon a pool of water in one of the numerous channels into which the Fortescue is here divided, and at seven miles struck the bulrush spring passed on the 11th June. From this the river was followed down for thirteen miles, through grassy clay plains, thinly timbered with white-gum. Encamped on a pool, in latitude 21 degrees 53 minutes 4 seconds, about five miles north of a very remarkable bold projection of the Hamersley Range. Camp 38.
7th July (Sunday) was kept as a day of rest.
The horses strayed so far back on our tracks during Sunday night that by the time they were brought in it was too late to make a start with advantage, as we were now about to enter a new tract of country, by striking for the coast somewhere between Breaker Inlet and Depuch Island. As a knowledge of this part of the country would greatly assist us in starting on the second division of our exploration, I availed myself of the delay here to fix by triangulation many of the summits and prominent spurs of the Hamersley Range, and take observations for the variation of the needle, which I found to be about 1 degree east by the prismatic compass I had in use.
Our horses again gave us some trouble to find them, so that we did not start until 10.30 a.m. Two hours' sharp travelling across the plain brought us to the foot of low hills of trap and sandstone, covered with triodia; good feed being, however, plentiful in the valleys, although now rather dry. Tracing up a small tributary to the Fortescue, at sunset we halted on a small rocky pool near its source, in latitude 21 degrees 41 minutes 40 seconds. Several pools, supplied by springs coming from under the superstratum of sandstone, were passed during the day. Camp 39.
Longitude 117 degrees 47 minutes.
For seven miles the country continued gently to ascend, the sandstone giving place to trap boulders, yielding a very rich soil, clothed with short green grass and melons, the soil being too stony for agricultural purposes, although I have seen country of a similar appearance in the island of Mauritius producing fine crops of sugar. Some of the melons weighed as much as five or six ounces, and were passably good eating, although rather bitter. At noon the country dropped suddenly to the northward, and we descended a deep rocky ravine, in which we soon found water and grass. Travelling now became difficult and sometimes dangerous to the horses; rugged and semi-columnar metamorphic sandstone cliffs hemmed in the ravines on either side, while large rounded boulders of trap-rock filled the bed of the stream, which in several places was running. We had a rather indifferent camp in latitude 21 degrees 29 minutes 10 seconds, the camp at Nickol Bay bearing west-north-west, distant seventy-five miles by account. Camp 40.
The stream we were upon continued to take a northerly course for eight or ten miles down a valley from 200 to 300 feet in depth, where it is diverted to the eastward for about the same distance by a cross range of black volcanic hills of loose ragged rocks, totally devoid of vegetation. The channel receiving several tributaries, here becomes a succession of fine open pools of water from eighty to 150 yards in width. We halted for the night on a wide bed of bare sand and rocks, the only feed being in the channel of the river, to which was now given the name of Sherlock. Camp 41.
This morning the river resumed a north-north-west course, and very soon led us into an open plain, rather sandy in character, the channel dividing into several branches separating miles apart, the stream of water issuing from the hills soon being absorbed in the sandy bed; but a well-defined line of verdant trees served well to mark the course of the channels through the plain for many miles. Selecting the one that appeared the most promising, it was traced down to latitude 21 degrees 6 minutes 43 seconds, where we encamped on a shallow pool of brackish water—the only one seen during the day. Several natives were found here, employed capturing partridges by means of nets constructed out of the leaf of the triodia neatly twisted and netted in the same way as done by ourselves, the mesh varying from one to five inches, according to the purpose to which it is applied. It was very singular to observe the mode in which they induced the birds to enter the nets, or rather cages, prepared for them. In the first instance they place ragged bushes all round the small pools, with the exception of a few spaces five or six feet wide, from which openings they stick in a double row of twigs, arching so as to meet overhead in the centre one or two feet from the ground; these little avenues lead away for several yards, and then terminate with a net thrown over a few light sticks at the end. The birds first alight on the margin of the pool, but after drinking, do not take flight at once, but run up the only opening, which leads them first under the arch of twigs and finally into the net, which is then drawn to by the hunter lying in wait under a few bushes. In this way they must capture a large amount of game, judging by the quantity of feathers around some of the waterholes. Camp 42.
Two miles north the river turned west, and kept that course for seven or eight miles, through a poor sandy and stony tract of country, and was then joined by a fine channel coming from the south. Near the junction are two reaches of water, half a mile long each and a rifle-shot across, containing a quantity of ducks and other water-fowl, amongst which our sportsmen were very successful, along with other game bagging the only two swans we had seen since landing; a number of fine fish, like cobblers, were also caught, weighing from 1 to 5 pounds a-piece. As it was Saturday, and our horses were showing unmistakable signs of knocking up, we halted for the rest of the day. Camp 43.
Latitude 21 degrees 6 minutes 5 seconds; longitude 117 degrees 32 minutes 30 seconds.
14th July (Sunday).
After reading prayers, Messrs. Brown, Harding, and myself walked to the summit of the range of black volcanic hills that skirted the western bank of the river at about a mile distant. These hills consist of ragged scoria, elevated 300 to 400 feet above the plain, and are nearly destitute of vegetation. At their summits are deep fissures, the heat of the eruptive rocks from beneath having been sufficient to convert the trap and sandstone rocks into a deep bluish-grey scoria, having a specific gravity of nearly four; but we did not observe any instance of the actual overflow of lava, and consequently there was a want of the fertilising properties in the soil resulting from it that usually accompanies volcanic formations. A native dog had left a litter of pups under a heap of stones not eighteen inches beneath our feet, but such was the sharpness and ponderability of the fragments of rock that it fairly baffled our attempts to unhouse them. A valuable round of bearings was procured from this spot, Depuch Island being seen bearing north 14 degrees east, distant about twenty-eight miles.
EXTENSIVE GRASSY PLAINS.
We resumed our course down the Sherlock, the stony nature of the country telling severely upon our horses' feet, who in other respects were in very tolerable condition. We had not proceeded more than three or four miles when Mr. Brockman's horse, Rocket, gave in, and could not move another step, the hoof being fairly worn through; leaving him close to a pool of water amongst plenty of feed, I hoped he might possibly recover by the time we returned from the bay. Below this the channel became sandy and dry, and we only procured a little water at night in a clay-hole. Plains extended from the river to the north and eastward as far as the eye could reach, only interrupted by occasional detached hills of granite or volcanic trap, the feed being generally coarse and the soil poor. Camp 44.
Latitude 20 degrees 54 minutes 45 seconds.
NATIVES FISHING WITH NETS.
Leaving the valley of the river on a north-west course, in half an hour we came upon an open plain of rich clayey loam, covered with a fine even sward of good grass, on which were feeding large flocks of pigeons and white cockatoos; this change in the character of the soil being ascribable to the occasional overflow of the river, leaving a deposit of rich mud. This plain extends as far as we could see to the north and east, a few widely-scattered topes of trees being the only objects breaking the monotony of the sea of grass. To the north-west was a strong line of large timber, for which we steered. At three miles we entered the wood, and found it to contain the main channel of the Sherlock, in which were a few small pools of rainwater. Crossing the bed of the river on the same course, we soon came upon another branch coming from the south-west, which was named the George. Immediately below the junction of the two streams the river opened out into reaches of brackish water, evidently under the influence of the spring tides. From this point the left bank was followed down to within three or four miles of the sea, when, the country becoming low and flat, the grass coarse, and no fresh water procurable, we quitted the Sherlock and struck to the west for six or seven miles, crossing several salt-water creeks, until we were compelled to turn to the southward to avoid a channel much larger and deeper than the rest, at which a party of natives were engaged drawing their nets, but ran away on our approach. A little further on the plain became more fertile, and we found a small pool of rainwater in the clay, at which we encamped. There is no doubt but that the Sherlock and the creek we were upon discharged their waters, by the numerous creeks shown on Captain King's charts, fifteen or sixteen miles to the west of Depuch Island. Camp 45.
Latitude 20 degrees 52 minutes 15 seconds; longitude 117 degrees 15 minutes.
RETURN TO NICKOL BAY.
By observation of the sun at rising, the variation of the needle was found to be 1 degree 10 minutes east. We were now about forty miles from Nickol Bay; and as it was very doubtful whether water would be procurable in that distance, I became very anxious on account of the horses, as, should the country prove stony, I was quite certain they could not perform the journey in less than three days; I therefore determined upon following up a leading valley towards the Maitland River, with the intention, in the event of not finding water or a pass through the heavy mass of hills that back Cape Lambert, of pushing through the upper branches of that river, and by a round of sixty or seventy miles to approach the bay by our outward track; fortunately, however, in the course of the day we fell in with some small pools of rainwater, which enabled us to advance about eighteen miles over tolerably even plains, well grassed, our night halt being without water. Camp 46.
From our position, and the observations I had made of the country on the eastern shores of Nickol Bay, I was satisfied that the breadth of stony ranges lying between us and our destination did not exceed eight or ten miles, which we therefore now determined to venture upon, although at great risk to the horses, some of which now walked upon stones as they would over red-hot coals. Entering the range by a small ravine, three hours' scramble over sharp rocks brought us out on the head of a small tributary to the Nickol River, the sufferings of the horses in crossing the range being quite painful to witness; they all, however, succeeded in getting through, and as a little water was found in the bed of the stream, we were enabled to push on late, and cross the marsh at the head of the bay before it was quite dark, the departing rays of the setting sun having first favoured us with a glimpse of the Dolphin, riding at anchor on the deep-blue waters of the bay—a sight which was welcomed with no small satisfaction by the little band of weary travellers. Camp 47.
The camp was easily aroused by the morning watch, as there was now only six miles between us and the landing-place in Hearson cove, the horses appearing to partake of the general activity; so that it was only 10.0 a.m. when we arrived on our old camping ground, which we found occupied by ten or a dozen natives, engaged mending their nets. Coming upon them suddenly, they would not stop to carry off their gear, although not half an hour before they had been employed assisting a boat's crew from the Dolphin, in loading with wood and water. A rifle-shot soon recalled the boat, which was not a mile from the shore, when we were glad to learn that Mr. Hearson was fast recovering from his wound, and that all had been going on well since our departure. From Mr. Walcott I ascertained that he had been able to establish a friendly understanding with the natives who frequented the western side of the bay, and that they had been made useful in filling up the ship's water and wood, for which service they had been rewarded by a suitable distribution of biscuit. In one instance the natives on the eastern shore of the bay had shown a hostile tendency on the occasion of a boat landing on the reef to gather shells. One of the seaman, who had wandered from the rest, was chased into the sea, and menaced with spears and clubs until he was up to his neck in water, when the boat came to his rescue, the officer in charge of her firing a shot over their heads to drive them off. Mr. Walcott had also been successful in obtaining a very useful vocabulary of native words and other interesting particulars from the aborigines, as also many botanical specimens, shells, etc.—amongst the latter some very fine pearl-oysters, from which several pearls of good colour had been obtained, but appeared to be principally valuable on account of the size and beauty of the mother-of-pearl, which averaged six inches diameter, with more than half an inch in thickness of solid shell.
PARTY REFIT FOR JOURNEY TO EASTWARD.
The forge, stores, and other additional supplies having been landed, and the party set to work shoeing horses, repairing saddle-bags, etc., I proceeded with Mr. Walcott and Mr. Angel in the boat to make a rough survey of the coves on the western side of the bay, with a view to selecting a suitable spot from which to re-embark the horses on our return from the next trip, as it would be too late in the season by that time to venture the trip overland to Champion Bay. I found that a good anchorage existed, with three fathoms at low water, one mile off the little cove from which the ship had been watered, and is approachable at all times, except in strong east or south-east gales, when a heavy swell sets in across the bay, rendering a landing unsafe. The fresh water runs down a rocky gully at the north-west corner of the cove, at the north end of a small patch of sandy beach, and the supply appears tolerably abundant; it is, however, rather difficult of access towards the end of the dry season, as the water has then to be carried over the rocks in small baracas fifty or sixty yards to the boats, but from the setting in of the rains to the end of August it runs down strongly at high-water mark. I walked back overland to the camp with Mr. Walcott, the distance being about four miles, heading by the way another deep cove, the margin of which was lined with a broad belt of mangroves.
21st to 28th July.
Was fully taken up in shoeing horses, making spare shoes, refitting and packing stores, etc., ready for our trip to the eastward, my own time being principally taken up in roughly plotting the country already explored, so as to secure all the information obtained, in the event of any accident occurring to my field-books.
Everything being in readiness for our departure, I gave Captain Dixon instructions to wait for us in the bay to the 10th December, and in the event of our not then returning, Mr. Walcott would land one of the ship's iron tanks, and bury in it a quantity of stores, at a spot already agreed upon; the Dolphin would then proceed to Fremantle. It blew so fresh all the morning that I could not land until 3 p.m., when we quickly saddled up and proceeded three miles to a waterhole up in the volcanic hills, as it was probable we should have a very long day's march tomorrow without water. As we had now only nineteen horses, and one of these so low in condition as not to be able to carry a load, we could only take with us eighty-seven days' rations, at the rate of one pound of flour, seven ounces of meat, and four ounces of sugar per man per diem; we were, however, well provided with ammunition, and thirty spare sets of horse-shoes, with nails sufficient for at least two removes, the horses themselves being shod at starting with extra strong shoes tipped with steel. We had now only seven saddle-horses, so that one of the party was always on foot by turns of an hour each. It had been originally intended that the Dolphin should proceed to Roebuck Bay and meet us there; but it was now so late in the season that I did not deem it prudent to run the risk of removing her to an unknown anchorage, where it was possible we might not be able to reach, and thus lay ourselves open to the probability of a very embarrassing uncertainty. The result proved we had adopted the right course. Bivouac.
DIFFICULTY IN CROSSING MUD FLATS.
This morning we crossed the marsh with some difficulty, as all the pack-horses but three fell and stuck in the mud, until we transferred their loads to our own backs and carried them through half a mile of the softest part. The operation detained us so long that we did not make more than eighteen miles, when we found a little water left in the pool seen on the 18th. Camp 48.
Started at 8 a.m., following our old tracks to 3.30 p.m., when we turned to the south up a stream-bed crossed on the 17th. At the gorge where it issued from the granite ranges we found a fine pool of permanent water and abundance of beautiful green grass. This stream was now named the Harding, and, as the packs were heavy, we remained here the rest of the afternoon. Camp 49.
A FERTILE PLAIN.
Passing under the northern foot of the granite ranges on an easterly course for sixteen miles, we came upon a fine reach of open water in a branch of the creek on which we had encamped on the 16th July. This pool was a valuable discovery, as it would not only form a useful halting place on our return, but, from being in the middle of a fertile plain containing at least from 15,000 to 20,000 acres of arable land equal in quality to the Greenough Flats, the whole could, if necessary, be easily irrigated from this large natural reservoir, the highest part of the plain not being thirty feet above the water-level at the driest period of the year. This fine tract of country, in connection with the lands already seen almost adjoining on the eastern bank of the Sherlock, would in itself support a larger population than is at present contained in the whole of the colony of Western Australia. We had seen more kangaroos on these plains than on any other portion of our route; one that was shot resembled the Osphranter, and was in very good order, the fur much thicker and softer than the common kangaroo of the western coast, and of a pale mouse colour. It weighed about forty-five pounds. Camp 50.
Latitude 21 degrees 54 minutes 18 seconds.
Proceeding eastward over grassy plains and stony ridges, at thirteen miles we struck the Sherlock only two miles below the pool at which we had left the horse Rocket, and hoped to find him improved by the rest; but, on approaching the spot, the presence of crows and a wild dog gave indications of a different fate; we found him partly devoured within a few yards of where we left him, inflammation of the feet having most probably produced mortification. Pushing on till sunset, we arrived at our old camping ground (Camp 43) at the bend of the Sherlock. Camp 51.
ASCEND THE SHERLOCK RIVER.
Followed up the left bank of the Sherlock to Camp 42, and found a little water still remaining in the bird-cage pools, where we halted for two hours. At 1.30 p.m. resumed an easterly route across a sandy plain, yielding little but hakea and triodia. Five miles brought us to a large branch of the Sherlock coming from the south-east, in which were several small permanent pools, surrounded by flags, at which we halted. Camp 52.
Latitude 21 degrees 7 minutes.
4th August (Sunday).
Although the feed here was very indifferent, yet, as we had again entered unexplored country, I was glad to make it a day of rest before entering upon the rather unpromising tract of country that lay in the outward route.
Making a rather late start, on account of the horses having strayed very far in search of feed, we steered for a bold range bearing east-south-east, distant about twenty miles. At four miles crossed a dry channel coming from the south-south-east, and continued our course over a poor tract of country, covered with triodia and a few acacia, large bare red granite rocks cropping out here and there. At one of these was a small waterhole, near which a native was hunting mice. Although at first alarmed, he soon told us, in answer to our inquiries, that we should find no water to the east, but plenty to the south, which we found to be correct, as we had to halt, after a very long day's march, in a dry ravine in the ranges for which we had been making. Camp 53.
Latitude 21 degrees 10 minutes 35 seconds.
RECONNOITRE THE COUNTRY AHEAD.
Having reconnoitred the country for some miles ahead overnight without finding water, it was no use leading our horses further into the rugged defiles, where we might get entangled for many hours; we accordingly struck to the south-west for four miles, when we came on a rocky pool of permanent water in the south-east branch of the Sherlock, just at the point where it emerges from the hills. Having watered the horses and given them an hour's rest, we followed up the stream to the south-east for seven miles, when it divided into numerous small dry ravines in the heart of an elevated range of granite, capped with metamorphic sandstone; water having only been met with within the first mile from where we struck it. Camp 54.
The horses requiring water, we fell back upon the pool passed yesterday, where I decided upon leaving the bulk of the party for the day or two, while I explored the country for a pass to the eastward. Camp 55.
Latitude 21 degrees 14 minutes 28 seconds.
Taking with me Mr. Brown and Mr. Harding mounted, and one pack-horse carrying water, we struck through the hills to the eastward, and at six miles came upon a stream-bed that led us to the north-east fifteen or sixteen miles, when, finding it contained no water, we resumed an easterly course over an open sandy and stony plain, covered with triodia, for twelve miles, and encamped in poor feed without water. Camp 56.
Latitude 21 degrees 4 minutes.
THE YULE RIVER.
A heavy dew having fallen during the night, our horses were much refreshed, and we were enabled to proceed with the scanty supply of water carried with us. In an hour we struck upon the channel of a river with a sandy bed, 300 yards wide, in which were a few pools of water, under a bold sandstone bluff, rising abruptly 300 feet from the plain. From the summit of this hill the river was observed to trend to the north-north-west for eight or ten miles, and to come upon a gap in a granite range four miles to the south-south-east, towards which we now turned our steps, across extensive beds of soft drift-sand brought down by the river. Cajeput and acacia trees occupied a large portion of the channel, and it was not until reaching the gorge in the range that grass was met with in sufficient quantities to supply our wants. Several large pools, teeming with water-fowl, occupied the whole of the valley, which here was fully a quarter of a mile wide. The remainder of the day I devoted to sketching and triangulating the country, while the horses were enjoying the benefit of the fine feed. Camp 57.
Latitude 21 degrees 6 minutes 26 seconds.
As this river, from its magnitude, afforded a fair chance of working to the south-east, I determined to bring forward the rest of the party. Having named this river the Yule, we returned to the depot party by a somewhat shorter cut, making it in about thirty miles, which we accomplished by sundown.
11th August (Sunday).
Party resting. Observed a set of lunars, which placed us in longitude 118 degrees 3 minutes east, the rate of the chronometer being still so irregular as to be almost useless.
To-day the whole party proceeded twenty-four miles towards the Yule, finding a small pool of water in a rocky ravine by the way which we had missed on our former trip. Bivouacked in an open grassy plain six miles short of the river.
Moved on to our camp of the 9th, and halted there for the remainder of the day. The latitude by meridian altitude of the sun I found to be 21 degrees 6 minutes 22 seconds.
As travelling near the river was found to be very laborious, on account of the vast beds of loose drift-sand thrown up by the summer floods, we steered to the south-south-east for a pass in the ranges about twenty miles distant, through which the river was supposed to come, but on reaching the hills, the river was observed to the westward; we accordingly altered our course to south-west, and struck it at about six miles; the character of the river being still the same, the aggregate width of the several channels amounting to nearly half a mile; water being procured in them by digging a few inches in the sand. The country passed over during the day was an open plain of light sandy loam, interspersed with bare granite rocks, cropping out at intervals of a few miles. Giant ant-hills of from ten to sixteen feet in height, and thirty to forty feet in circumference (a few of which had already been met with on our first trip), were here remarkably conspicuous, on account of their size and bright brick-red colour. An emu was shot during the day, while running at full speed, at the range of over 200 yards. Camp 58.
Latitude 21 degrees 23 minutes 23 seconds.
One of the horses was missing this morning, so we did not start until 10 a.m., when the river was followed up to the south-east through country the same as yesterday; halting for the night in latitude 21 degrees 32 minutes 13 seconds. Camp 59.
Our average course to-day was nearly east, occasionally crossing channels coming from the south-east. Towards evening we found that the main channel, which it had been our intention to have followed, had escaped our observation to the southward, and we were only on a comparatively small tributary coming from a rugged range of hills to the eastward. Our object for the present not being to push too far into the interior, this tributary was followed until it broke up into numerous small valleys, in one of which water was obtained by digging three feet in the sand, amongst tolerable feed, the country having much improved in the course of the day. Camp 60.
Latitude 21 degrees 34 minutes.
Soon after starting this morning we came upon a camp of natives, but we could not prevail upon any of them to stop and hold parley with us. Four hours' travelling over rather rocky ground led us well into the range, which we found to consist of granite, capped with metamorphic sandstones and broken up by dykes of variegated jasper. In a deep ravine at the foot of a cliff we found a small pool of beautiful clear spring water, which was very acceptable, as the sun had now acquired considerable power, and the grasses were beginning to get very dry food for our horses. During the halt at this spring Mr. Harding and myself ascended the highest part of the range, which was found to be 500 or 600 feet above the plain. From this elevation I was enabled to select our onward route, and obtain bearings to several useful summits for triangulation—a few hills to the south-south-east being visible at the distance of sixty or seventy miles, which no doubt form part of the continuation of the Hamersley Range. Resuming an east course, the culminating point of the range was soon passed, when we descended to the eastward down some deep and remarkably picturesque rocky glens, in which were found several springs and pools of water, leading down to a fine grassy flat, in which were growing some fine large flooded-gum trees. Camp 61.
18th August (Sunday).
Found our latitude 21 degrees 36 minutes 8 seconds; longitude 119 degrees 13 minutes east by account.
THE STRELLEY RIVER.
The country being very hilly, it was found best to follow down the stream upon which we had encamped, although it trended to the north of east. In a few miles the valley opened out with fine pools of permanent water, covered with numerous flights of ducks, and at eight miles it joined a wide valley from the south, down which flowed a river, divided into several channels, containing many fine pools from 50 to 200 yards wide, which were still running gently from one to another. The banks, although well grassed, were very rocky, rendering travelling excessively fatiguing to our heavily-loaded pack-horses, several of them being bruised and strained while jumping from rock to rock, the clefts being too deep and narrow for them to walk between, and the ranges bordering the valley were too steep to admit of our leaving the river, which we were compelled to follow down to latitude 21 degrees 26 minutes 52 seconds. Camp 62.
The river, which had been named the Strelley, continued to hold a northerly course; we therefore availed ourselves of a smoother valley coming in from the east to resume our old course. At nine miles we met with a stream 100 yards wide coming from the south-east, evidently tributary to the Strelley, and taking its rise in elevated granite ranges with black volcanic ridges protruding through them, but not to any considerable height above the general level of the country. After a few hours' scramble over these ridges we came upon a small stream trending east, containing several springs, surrounded by high grass and flags, gradually leading us by sunset into a deep pass, walled in by cliffs and bluffs from 100 to 300 feet high; the stream, having joined several larger ones from the southward, now occupying nearly the whole width of the valley. We encamped in one of the wildest and most romantic-looking spots to be found in this part of Australia, to which we gave the name of Glen Herring, from a fish bearing a resemblance to a herring being found in the stream. Camp 63.
Latitude 21 degrees 20 minutes 35 seconds.
THE SHAW RIVER. NORTON PLAINS.
With some difficulty we wended our way down the intricate windings of the glen for six miles in a north-east direction, when it opened out into grassy flats, turning to the northward. Leaving it at this point, a mile east brought us to the bank of a fine open river-bed 200 yards wide, down which a little water was still flowing, the country on its banks becoming much more promising and grass plentiful. This river I named the Shaw, and some beautiful grassy plains through which it came for twenty or thirty miles to the southward Norton Plains, after the talented Secretary of the Royal Geographical Society. In the afternoon a large tributary from the south-east was followed up for some miles, when, turning to the south, we quitted it to follow an open valley leading east towards a bold granite and schistose range, under which we encamped late without finding water. Camp 64.
Latitude 21 degrees 20 minutes.
As we did not find water for some distance to the eastward under the foot of the hills, we turned to the south-east, quickly emerging from the hills upon the Norton Plains, and at two miles came upon the stream quitted last evening, to which the name of Emu Creek had been given. It had altered its course, and was again coming from the east, and contained several fine springs. This creek was followed up for the rest of the day through a rather indifferent country, and, towards nightfall, led us into a deep rocky ravine, in which we encamped, a small supply of water being obtained from holes in the rocks. Camp 65.
Latitude 21 degrees 28 minutes.
As we advanced, the ravine divided into many branches coming from an elevated tableland to the southward; we therefore again resumed an easterly course for five or six miles, over rugged hills, and descended by a gully trending north-east, which led us in a few miles into open plains. Skirting the northern foot of the range until after dark, we encamped on a small watercourse, in which we obtained water by digging under some granite rocks. Camp 66.
Latitude 21 degrees 23 minutes 30 seconds.
The horses having suffered much amongst the rocks during the last few days, I determined to follow the southern edge of the plain until a stream could be met with to lead us to the south-east. A few miles brought us to a small watercourse running gently from some springs in the plain, which, contrary to our expectations, ran into the ranges to the south-east instead of coming out of them. As here there was plenty of green grass and water, and the horses were not looking well, we encamped early in the entrance of the gorge. Camp 67.
Latitude 21 degrees 20 minutes 13 seconds.
25th August (Sunday).
Longitude by observation 120 degrees 17 minutes; variation 30 minutes east.
The stream we were upon led us about five miles south-east through the hills, and then joined a river coming from the southward, 100 yards wide, which was followed down on an average course of east-north-east to latitude 21 degrees 18 minutes; reeds and rank grass lining its banks in many parts, while in others granite boulders and banks of drift-sand offered considerable impediments to travelling. Camp 68.
The river took us on a northerly course nine or ten miles, receiving many large tributaries, several of them still running slightly, forming altogether a stream of some importance, which, on account of the large extent of pastoral and agricultural lands afterwards found on its banks lower down, and its many fine tributaries, I named the DeGrey, in honour of the noble lord who took a lively interest in promoting the objects of the expedition. As the object at present in view was to push to the south-east, we left this promising river and resumed an east-south-east course for five or six miles into a hilly country, and encamped in a gully with rather scanty feed, a little water being obtained by digging. Camp 69.
We soon became involved in deep ravines, which led up into high tableland, the summit of which was no sooner attained than we had again to descend equally precipitous gullies to the eastward, the horses sliding down amongst the loose rocks and stones with a velocity that threatened immediate destruction; they all, however, arrived safe at the bottom, although in so exhausted a state that two of them had very shortly after to be left behind, while we pushed on with the rest in search of water and feed, which was not met with until late in the day. After a short rest I sent Messrs. Brown and Brockman back for the two beaten horses, while I moved the party on a mile further to a fine spring in a grassy flat, where we encamped. Camp 70.
Latitude 21 degrees 9 minutes 3 seconds.
EXTENSIVE GRASSY PLAINS.
The two horses left yesterday were brought into camp early in the day, and as they were too weak to carry their loads, they were placed on our saddle-horses, one of the party by turns having to walk. As the season was rapidly advancing, we could not venture to incur any delay, much as the horses required rest, and accordingly resumed an east course late in the day. At five miles came upon a sandy stream-bed fifty yards wide, trending to the north-east, beyond which the country opened out into an extensive plain of white waving grass—to the north uninterrupted by a single elevation, while to the east and south, at eight or ten miles distant, rose ranges of granite hills, capped with horizontal sandstones. It was not until some time after dark that we arrived near the opposite edge of the plain, when we came upon a river 200 yards wide, running to the northward. The long drought had reduced it to a few shallow pools, running from one to the other through the deep sand in the bed; magnificent cajeput-trees lined the banks, and grass was in abundance. Camp 71.
We did not start till late, as Mr. Brown had to go back some little distance for his horse, which had been again left behind overnight, knocked up. As it would have been useless, in the present condition of our horses, to attempt at once to enter the ranges to the east, we determined to follow up the river for a few days to the south-south-east and by so doing secure feed and water, and give the poor animals a chance of recovering their strength; we therefore followed the river up for seven or eight miles, through fine open forest country, and encamped near a deep pool, in which were caught ten or twelve dozen of small trout, which, with cockatoos and ducks, afforded an important addition to our ration of only seven ounces of meat. This river was named the Oakover. Camp 72.
For nearly ten miles the river continued to lead us to the eastward of south; it then divided, the main channel coming from the south-west; we, however, followed the eastern branch until quite satisfied that it contained no water, and then fell back to the westward, striking the river near some cliffs, at the foot of which water was plentiful. Although only 1 p.m., I determined to halt for the remainder of the day, as it was too late to make an attempt to enter the hills without giving the horses the advantage of some hours' feed and rest. It also afforded me leisure to make astronomical observations and work up the plans of our route. A set of lunar distances, very carefully taken, placed the camp in longitude 121 degrees 3 minutes 30 seconds east, while that by account, carried on by triangulation and dead-reckoning from the Sherlock, placed us four and a half miles more to the westward; the latitude being 21 degrees 23 minutes 43 seconds. Camp 73.
1st September (Sunday).
A march of three hours across the plains to the eastward brought us to the foot of the range, which we entered by a tolerably easy pass, and soon came upon a pool of water in a tributary to the Oakover, the mouth of which had been passed on our ascent of that river. Here we halted for two hours, and then resumed our route through steep and rocky hills, containing numerous fine springs. It was not until 7 p.m. that we finally got through the ranges, and emerged upon open sandy plains of vast extent, no object being observable from north-north-east round to south-south-east except low ridges of red drift-sand, in many parts nearly bare of vegetation. A large party of natives were encamped upon the watercourse down which we descended to the plain. Not wishing to alarm them, we passed the waterholes from which they were supplied, and proceeded a mile farther, but had in consequence to camp without water, although amongst abundance of grass. Camp 74.