Latitude 21 degrees 21 minutes 30 seconds.
NATIVE HEAD-DRESS. ENTER THE SANDY DESERT.
This morning we returned to the native encampment for water, and found that they had already deserted it, leaving many of their things behind—amongst others, a very singular head-dress, shaped like a helmet. It consisted of a circular band, made of twisted grass, the size of the head, into which were stuck ten or twelve upright twigs, brought together into a point two feet high, which was woven like an open basket, with yarn made of opossum fur; the whole no doubt being considered highly ornamental by the wearers, but of not the least service as an article of protection for the head, either from the sun or in war. Having watered the horses, we entered the sand-plain, travelling between the ridges, which ran in straight lines parallel to each other at the distance of several hundred yards apart, the sand being thrown by the south-east gales into acute ridges thirty to sixty feet high, their direction being almost invariably north 109 degrees east. Travelling to 2.15 p.m., we got over about eighteen miles, the valleys yielding little else but triodia, with occasional patches of stunted gum forest, in which was found a little good grass, on which were feeding flights of pigeons and a variety of parrot new to us, but which I believe to be the golden-backed parakeet (Psephotus chrysopterygius) of Gould. As no water could be found, and many of the horses gave signs of being greatly distressed, no change being observable in the country for many miles ahead, a few very distant ranges being the only objects visible, we were obliged to have recourse to the only safe expedient of falling back and forming a depot. Resting to 5.10, we commenced a retreat until 7.20, having been obliged to abandon a horse of Mr. Brown's, quite exhausted. Camp 75.
At 6.30 a.m. resumed our retreat, and by noon arrived at the waterhole of the 2nd, having left two more horses behind, which, however, Mr. Brown and myself carried out water to in the course of the evening and drove them in during the night.
Leaving the party to rest, I walked ten or twelve miles round to the south-south-eastward, along the foot of the range, in search of water, and to ascertain if a better line of country could be found in that direction, but it continued to maintain the same arid appearance, and I only came on one pool in a gully four miles from the camp. Depot.
Leaving Mr. Turner and four of the party in depot, with instructions to remain there three days, and then fall back upon the Oakover, where there was much better feed, I started with Messrs. Brown and Harding, taking six of the strongest horses, sixteen days' rations and six gallons of water, and steered south-south-east along the ranges for six or eight miles, looking for some stream-bed that might lead us through the plains, but was disappointed to find that they were all lost in the first mile after leaving the hills, and as crossing the numerous ridges of sand proved very fatiguing to the horses, we determined once more to attempt to strike to the eastward between the ridges, which we did for fifteen miles, when our horses again showed signs of failing us, which left us the only alternative of either pushing on at all hazards to a distant range that was now just visible to the eastward, where, from the numerous native fires and general depression of the country, there was every reason to think a large river would be found to exist, or to make for some deep rocky gorges in the granite hills ten miles to the south, in which there was every prospect of finding water. In the former case the travelling would be smoothest, but the distance so great that, in the event of our failing to obtain water, we probably should not succeed in bringing back one of our horses; while, in the latter, we should have to climb over the sand ridges, which we had already found so fatiguing; this course, however, involved the least amount of risk, and we accordingly struck south four miles, and halted for the night. Camp 76.
REPULSED FOR WANT OF WATER. INTENSE HEAT.
The horses did not look much refreshed by the night's rest; we, however, divided three gallons of water amongst them, and started off early, in the hope of reaching the ranges by noon; but we had not gone three miles when one of the pack-horses, that was carrying less than forty pounds weight, began to fail, and the load was placed upon my saddle-horse; it did not, however, enable him to get on more than a couple of miles further, when we were compelled to abandon him, leaving him under the shade of the only tree we could find, in the hope that we might bring back water to his relief. Finding that it would be many hours before the horses could be got on to the hills, I started ahead on foot, leaving Messrs. Brown and Harding to come on gently, while I was to make a signal by fires if successful in finding water. Two hours' heavy toil through the sand, under a broiling sun, brought me to the ranges, where I continued to hunt up one ravine after another until 5.0 p.m. without success. Twelve hours' almost incessant walking, on a scanty breakfast, and without water, with the thermometer over 100 degrees of Fahrenheit, began to tell upon me rather severely; so much so that, by the time I had tracked up my companions (who had reached the hills by 1.0 p.m., and were anxiously waiting for me), it was as much as I could do to carry my rifle and accoutrements. The horses were looking truly wretched, and I was convinced that the only chance of saving them, if water was not found, would be by abandoning our pack-saddles, provisions, and everything we could possibly spare, and try and recover them afterwards if practicable; we therefore encamped for the night on the last plot of grass we could find, and proceeded to make arrangements for an early start in the morning. There was still remaining a few pints of water in the kegs, having been very sparing in the use of it; this enabled us to have a little tea and make a small quantity of damper, of which we all stood in much need. Camp 77.
At 4.0 a.m. we were again up. Having disposed of our equipment and provisions, except our riding-saddles, instruments, and firearms, by suspending them in the branches of a large tree, we divided a pint of water for our breakfast, and by the first peep of dawn were driving our famished horses before us at their best speed toward the depot, which was now thirty-two miles distant. For the first eight miles they went on pretty well, but the moment the sun began to have power they flagged greatly, and it was not long before we were obliged to relinquish another horse quite unable to proceed. By 9.0 a.m. I found that my previous day's march, and the small allowance of food I had taken, was beginning to have its effects upon me, and that it was probable I could not reach the depot until next morning, by which time the party left there were to fall back to the Oakover; I therefore directed Mr. Brown, who was somewhat fresher than myself, to push on for the camp and to bring out fresh horses with water, while Mr. Harding and myself would do our best to bring on any straggling horses that could not keep up with him. By dark we had succeeded in reaching to within nine miles of the depot, finding unmistakable evidence towards evening of the condition to which the horses taken on by Mr. Brown were reduced, by the saddles, guns, hobbles, and even bridles, scattered along the line of march, which had been taken off to enable them to go on a few miles further.
EFFECTS OF WANT OF WATER.
At dawn Mr. Harding and myself got up from our beds of sand stiff and giddy, but much refreshed by the cold night air. In four or five miles we met Mr. Brown with fresh horses and a supply of water, having succeeded in reaching the depot at 8 p.m. the night before, with only one horse. We were now enabled to proceed with the tracking up of the horses left overnight, which, after resting some hours, had commenced to ramble in search of water; Mr. Brown returning on our route and recovering the saddles and firearms left the previous evening, the stores abandoned the day before being too far off to attempt their recovery. By 8.30 p.m. we had all returned to the depot, having tracked up the three missing horses, the two left at the furthest point being too distant to carry relief to without incurring the risk of further loss. I cannot omit to remark the singular effects of excessive thirst upon the eyes of the horses; they absolutely sunk into their heads until there was a hollow of sufficient depth to entirely bury the thumb in, and there was an appearance as though the whole of the head had shrunk with them, producing a very unpleasant and ghastly expression. Depot camp.
We were only able to move the camp a mile to another waterhole, for the sake of a little better feed. Bivouac.
COMMENCE RETURN JOURNEY.
On taking into consideration the reduced number and strength of our horses, it was quite evident that we had but little prospect of being able to cross the tract of dry sandy country that had already occasioned us so much loss and trouble; yet there were many reasons to stimulate us to make the attempt. Not only had we now attained to within a very few miles of the longitude in which, from various geographical data, there are just grounds for believing that a large river may be found to exist, draining Central Australia, but the character of the country appeared strongly to indicate the vicinity of such a feature; added to which, the gradual decline in the elevation of the country, notwithstanding our increasing distance from the coast, tended towards the same conclusion. Nor should we omit the strong evidences that the remarkable ridges of drift-sand which encumbered the plains must in the first instance, have been brought from the interior by water, and then have been blown by the strong prevailing south-east winds across the country in a direction at least 50 degrees from that which they originally came from; this, with the clean water-worn appearance of the sand, the bold outlines of the hills seen to the far east, and the number of native fires observed in the same direction, must all tend to support the hypothesis that the western half of Australia is probably drained by a large river in about this meridian. I could not, therefore, help regretting more than ever that we should be driven back at such an interesting spot; but mature reflection convinced me that any further attempt with our present means, at this period of the year, was almost certain to be attended with the most disastrous results; I therefore decided upon adopting the only other useful course open to us—that of examining down to the sea the rivers already discovered. With this in view, we to-day fell back five or six miles across the ranges to a tributary to the Oakover, called the Davis, when one of the horses became so crippled by a strain in the loins that we were obliged to halt to give him a chance of recovery, affording me leisure to verify our position by observing another set of lunar distances, which I found to agree well with those formerly taken ten miles to the westward. Camp 78.
DOWN THE OAKOVER RIVER.
We commenced the descent of the Davis, having much difficulty in getting along the sick horse, as it required the united strength of the party to lift him on his legs every time he fell, which he at last did so frequently that I ordered him to be shot, as it was hopeless to attempt to bring him on, and if left, he must have died of starvation. By 2.0 p.m. we reached the junction of the stream we were upon with the Oakover, and halted two miles south of Camp 72; most of the party being now dismounted, shoe-leather was beginning to get very scarce with us. Camp 79.
This day we only travelled eight miles down the Oakover, and encamped near a deep creek, in which was caught a good haul of fish. Camp 80.
The feed was so good on this river that we were able to proceed to-day to latitude 20 degrees 59 minutes 33 seconds; the country improving much, grassy flats extending for some miles to the northward, the channel of the river being augmented by the junction of the large tributary crossed on our eastward track on the afternoon of the 29th August. Camp 81.
15th September (Sunday).
Remained in camp to rest the horses. A few natives were seen near the camp during the day.
After running four or five miles further north, the Oakover turned to the north-west for fourteen miles, having a clear sandy or stony bed from 150 to 200 yards wide, water and grass being plentiful, and the country generally being open forest, with a pleasing appearance. Camp 82.
Latitude 20 degrees 46 minutes.
The course of the river was followed for about seventeen miles in a westerly direction, the bed widening out to 300 or 400 yards, the water being now confined to a sandy channel not above 150 yards in width, the depth of the valley through which it runs being about forty feet; timber of white-gum and cajeput is tolerably plentiful on the banks, the soil of which is a red loam of considerable depth. Many of the pools are lined with tall reeds. Camp 83.
Latitude 20 degrees 41 minutes 32 seconds.
REACH THE DEGREY RIVER. ABUNDANCE OF FISH.
Started at 6.40 a.m. and in two and a half hours entered a deep and wild-looking gorge, at which point it formed a junction with the DeGrey, coming from the south-south-east, through a beautiful level tract of open grassy country, a broad belt of flooded-gum trees growing for some distance back on either side. Passing through the gorge, which was a quarter of a mile wide and about a mile long, we came upon a camp of natives, who, as usual, quickly dispersed without giving us an opportunity of showing them that we intended them no harm. The river here contains a fine reach of deep water, upon which was a large quantity of whistling ducks and other water-fowl. Two miles lower down we halted on the banks of a deep creek coming in from the northward; the rest of the day being employed re-stuffing pack-saddles, etc., while some of the party caught a quantity of fine fish—amongst them an eel, which, however, was allowed to escape, being taken for a water-snake by one of the party who had never seen one before. A large kind of bat, or vampire, was first observed here, measuring about two feet across the wings. Camp 84.
We continued to follow down the DeGrey for about eighteen miles in a west-north-west direction, through open grassy plains extending for many miles on either bank, the channel of the river still maintaining the same sandy character, and with abundance of water in its bed. Camp 85.
Latitude 20 degrees 36 minutes 30 seconds.
There was little or no change in the appearance of the country for the eighteen or twenty miles that the river was traced down during to-day. We encamped on the bank of a wide and deep reach of water more than a mile long, surrounded by tall reeds. Fish were caught here in great abundance. Camp 86.
Latitude 20 degrees 31 minutes 48 seconds.
Shortly after starting we crossed the bed of a tributary coming in from the southward, with a shallow sandy channel 200 yards wide, which must drain the high ranges between the DeGrey and Shaw Rivers, which we passed over on our outward track. In many places we began to observe patches of triodia in the midst of the alluvial plains through which the river continued to run, and distant ranges were observed both to the north and south. Towards sundown we surprised a large party of natives encamped in a dry channel of the river, and approached so near before we were discovered that we had separated a young child from the rest of the party, which was observed by the mother, who remained while the rest of the natives made a hasty retreat; it was not long, however, before an aged warrior returned to her aid, with his spear shipped, and came forward in a very menacing attitude to recover the child, who stood by us with a look of the most perfect unconcern. Finding we took no notice of his threats, he threw down his weapon, and, walking up to the boy, caught him up in his arms and bore him off, with a look of triumph, to his companions. No attempt was made to carry away their supper, which was ready prepared in a number of wooden scoops, and consisted of fish, rats, beans, grass-seed cakes, and a beverage made with some oily seed pounded. Leaving everything undisturbed, we pushed on for another mile, so as to prevent their being afraid of returning to their evening repast. Camp 87.
Latitude 20 degrees 25 minutes 15 seconds.
ATTEMPT TO SPEAR HORSES.
Being Sunday, we only moved a mile lower down the river to a fine reach of water, on the banks of which was a rich sward of green grass for our horses. Shortly after we had made ourselves comfortable for the day we were startled by six of the horses coming into camp at a gallop in their hobbles, followed by eighteen armed natives. Everyone sprang to their arms in a moment, which caused the intruders to fall back. I tried to make them comprehend that we did not approve of the horses being hunted; but as they would not go away, and they had a strong party concealed in the brushwood, I fired at a tree to show them the use of our arms. The moment they heard the report of the rifle and saw the splinters fly, they took to their heels and did not again trouble us. We afterwards found a spear sticking in the ground in the track of the horses, having evidently be thrown while in pursuit. Camp 88.
Latitude 20 degrees 25 minutes; longitude 119 degrees 21 minutes.
The river soon passed round the southern foot of a range of hills of 400 or 500 feet elevation, the country to the south again becoming very fertile, and clothed with a rich sward of kangaroo-grass; at ten miles we struck the Shaw River, coming from the south-east, with a broad, deep, and well-defined channel, in which were many fine pools of water. Below the confluence of the rivers the DeGrey widened out considerably, turning rather more to the northward, and seven miles further was joined by the Strelley, in latitude 20 degrees 16 minutes, and longitude 119 degrees 5 minutes east; the river being diverted to the northward by a rugged range of volcanic hills; its course being now direct for Breaker Inlet, which was distant about eighteen miles. Camp 89.
MAGNETIC ROCKS RENDER THE COMPASS USELESS.
As it was very important that I should obtain a round of bearings before proceeding any further, the country having for some days past been too flat to afford many opportunities for triangulation. I to-day started with Messrs. Harding and Brown to ascend the ranges that lie to the west of the river. A scramble of three miles over very rugged rocks brought us to the highest point, which was found to be not more than 500 feet above the sea; our journey, however, turned out to be fruitless, the magnetic attraction of the volcanic rocks of which the hills are composed being so great as to reverse the needle, which varied so much that I could not even make use of the compass to take angles, and I had omitted to bring a sextant. Kangaroos were numerous among these hills, but we did not succeed in shooting any; they appear to be similar to those seen on the plains near the Sherlock. The view we had of the country was very extensive. To the south is a vast gently-undulating plain, only occasionally interrupted by detached granite and sandstone peaks; while narrow green lines of trees intersecting the plain in various directions indicate the watercourses coming from the distant ranges, and wander in wide sandy channels towards the sea; the course of the Strelley being easily distinguished for many miles. To the north the eye could trace the broad sandy bed of the DeGrey, trending towards Breaker Inlet, the position of which was only distinguishable by the margin of deep-blue mangroves that line it, and the whole of the extremity of the delta formed by the alluvial deposits brought down by the river. To the east and west of this is a wide expanse of alluvial flats, covered in most parts with rich, waving grass, the sameness of the scenery being relieved by detached patches of open park-like forest of flooded-gum. Returning to the camp by noon, the remainder of the day was devoted by me to bringing up the arrears of mapping, etc., and by the party generally in providing a supply of fish and ducks, which here were found to be very plentiful.
By 7 a.m. we were once more tracing down the DeGrey through the flats seen yesterday. At eight miles the river divided into two channels of nearly equal width, the eastern one being followed to latitude 20 degrees 5 minutes 16 seconds, travelling being very heavy, on account of the numerous rat-holes that completely undermine the banks of the river for more than a quarter of a mile back on either side. For the last few miles the water in the river was decidedly brackish, and at our camp was evidently influenced by the tides; we, however, procured some tolerably good water by sinking a well in a sandbank in the dry portion of the channel, which here was about 300 yards wide. Camp 90.
SUDDEN RISE OF TIDE.
This morning we found the water in the well quite salt, in consequence of the tide having risen during the night; and as our horses required water, it was found desirable to fall back upon some of the fresh pools to form a camp, while a day or two could be devoted to the examination of this fertile and interesting tract of country. We accordingly crossed the channel and proceeded westward for nearly three miles, when we came upon the other branch, which proved eventually to join again several miles below, forming an island containing some 8000 or 9000 acres of alluvial flat soil, covered with a quantity of mixed grasses. To this was given the name of Ripon Island. The western channel was found to be over 300 yards wide, and to contain several fine reaches of open water, some fresh and others slightly brackish; they were all teeming with ducks and a great variety of water-fowl. Having selected a suitable spot for a camp, I started with Messrs. Brown and Harding to examine the country towards the inlet. At a little more than two miles we crossed the river between two pools of salt water, subject to the influence of the tides, and proceeded northward over an open grassy flat for two miles further, when the grass gave place to samphire and small mangrove bushes, which gradually thickened to dense mangroves, cut up by deep muddy creeks, which put a stop to proceeding further in that direction. Here we observed several remarkable stacks of dead mangroves, evidently piled together by the natives, but for what purpose we could not ascertain, unless to escape upon from the tide when fishing. Having gained firm ground, we made a detour more to the eastward, and at last succeeded in reaching the bank of the river close to the head of the inlet. The tide being at the ebb, I was able to walk over the mud and sand to the mouth of the river, and obtain bearings to Points Larrey and Poissonier, and observe the character of the entrance, from which I formed the opinion that the breakers seen by Captain Stokes when surveying this portion of the coast, and which deterred him from entering the inlet, were nothing more than the sea-rollers meeting a strong ebb tide setting out of the DeGrey, possibly backed up by freshes from the interior which would, from a river of this size, occasion a considerable commotion where the tide amounts to twenty feet; at any rate, I could not observe any rocks, and there appeared to be a channel with at least five or six feet of water in it at low tide. For the first mile the river has a breadth of from 400 to 800 yards, and would admit with the tide vessels of twelve or fourteen feet draft of water with perfect safety up as far as Ripon Island, where they could lie completely sheltered in all weathers quite close to the shore, which here has steep banks twenty to thirty feet high; they would however, be left aground at low water, as we did not observe any pools in this part of the river. I had only just time to complete my observations when the roaring of the incoming tide warned me that no time was to be lost in returning to the horses, which were nearly a mile higher up the river. Although I ran part of the way, the mud creeks filled up so rapidly, there was some risk of my being cut off from the shore and having to take up a roost on the top of the mangroves until the tide fell; I had time, however, to observe that the head of the tide carried with it thousands of fish of great variety, amongst them a very remarkable one from three to six inches in length, in form resembling a mullet, but with fins like a flying-fish; it is amphibious, landing on the mud and running with the speed of a lizard, and when frightened can jump five or six feet at a bound; I did not, however, succeed in capturing one for a specimen. Swarms of beautiful bright-crimson crabs, about two inches diameter, were to be seen issuing from their holes to welcome the coming flood, on which was borne a great number of sea-fowl, who, it was evident, came in for an abundant feast in the general turmoil. Mounting our horses, that had stood for the last two hours without touching a mouthful of the rank grass around them for want of water, we returned to the camp by a different route, through open grass flats bordering the deep reaches of water that encompass the north-west side of Ripon Island.
SCARCITY OF WATER NEAR THE WEST.
Accompanied by the same party, but with three fresh horses, we again started to explore the plains eastwards towards Mount Blaze. For several miles after leaving the island the country continued of the same fertile character as that passed over yesterday, and is at times subject to inundation from the river; but as we receded from the influence of the floods the soil became lighter and the grass thinner, with patches of triodia and samphire. At twelve miles we entered a patch of open grassy forest, extending for some miles; but as there was no promise of obtaining water, and the day was calm and sultry, we turned to the northward in the hope that water might be procurable under the low sand-hills that line this portion of the coast. In this we were, however, disappointed, as the fall of the country terminated in mangroves and salt-water creeks, between which and the sea is a narrow ridge of low sand-hills. Amongst them we observed many tracks of natives; but did not discover any water. The sea here is apparently very shallow for many miles off shore, more than half a mile of mud and sandbank being left dry at low water. Resting the horses for two hours, we returned to camp by a more direct route, passing for several miles over a plain of rich black mould, covered with a short sward of bright-green grass, the native fires having swept off the dry grass a few weeks previously; and although there had been no rain since, the heavy dews that fell during the night in these latitudes had been sufficient to produce a rapid growth.
As I expected to meet with some difficulties for want of water between this and the Yule River, I thought it best to give the horses the benefit of a little rest before resuming our homeward route. Some of the party were also deriving much benefit from the abundance of fresh game, as they had been suffering from debility, brought on most probably by over-exertion while traversing the heavy country of the interior. While here we obtained several additions to our small collection of birds—amongst them a beautiful wader, the size of a large snipe, the head being covered by a remarkable membranous hood or sheath of a rich gamboge-yellow, resembling the leaf of a flower falling back from the beak, and lying close over the feathers, protecting them when the beak is plunged into the sand after food; they had also a remarkable sharp horn or claw projecting forward from the last joint of the wing, with which they can fight when attacked by birds of prey. A very handsome bird was also shot resembling a flamingo, the body being about the size, and in plumage like a pelican; the head and neck of a deep rich purple, and formed like the flamingo; the legs bright red, long and slender; it flies extended to its greatest length, measuring six feet two inches, and across the wings seven feet two inches; its weight being only 11 pounds. A white heron, with bird-of-paradise feathers on its back, was occasionally seen, but only one specimen procured.
29th September (Sunday).
DELTA OF THE DEGREY RIVER.
We made an early start up the river, and at three miles struck out into the plains to the westward, where we found a large extent of open flat, yielding grass and atriplex, and timbered in many parts with flooded-gums. At ten miles we came upon a deep reach of water flowing to the north-west, which must empty itself into the sea four or five miles to the south-west of Spit Point, forming an island of a portion of the delta of the DeGrey, containing between 90,000 and 100,000 acres of alluvial land. This channel was followed up, and found to come from the river, close to the junction of the Strelley, and must be a very considerable outlet for the water during the summer rains. I regretted much not having time to trace this branch of the DeGrey to its mouth, as it might be found to be navigable, and afford a fine site for a seaport town. Fresh water is abundant, and building stone procurable in any quantity being found in the immediate vicinity on land superior to inundation. We remained at the junction the rest of the day. Camp 92.
THE STRELLEY RIVER.
As the plains were now dry and parched, we determined to follow up the Strelley to the ranges before striking west to the Yule. At first the river spread out into so many wide grassy channels that it was difficult to trace it; but at four or five miles collected into one bed, about 100 yards wide, in which were a few small pools. Up to this point the country had been fertile, the soil being an alluvial clay, resulting from volcanic rocks; but after getting clear of the line of hills, the soil became poor and hungry, yielding little else but triodia and acacia bushes; water was procured in several places in the course of the day's march; our course having been nearly due south. Camp 93.
Latitude 20 degrees 32 minutes 30 seconds.
The river led us this morning a little to the eastward of south, through a country very similar to yesterday. Late in the day we crossed a considerable tributary coming from the south-east, which was now quite dry, and takes its rise in a bold range of granite hills now visible to the southward, at the distance of ten or twelve miles, and forms a part of the main tableland of this part of the coast; the plain we had been passing over being only a sea-flat, with a few detached ranges widely scattered over its surface. The river now began to trend to the westward, granite rocks showing themselves on the surface in large masses. Water was occasionally procurable, which was very important, as the horses could not travel many hours without it, although the heaviest packs were reduced below 100 pounds. We had now only six saddle-horses, so that two of the party had to walk by turns for an hour at a time. We halted late in latitude 20 degrees 45 minutes 17 seconds. Camp 94.
Started at 6.30 a.m., and in an hour came upon a fine pool in the granite, which was very acceptable, as we had encamped overnight without any water. The channel of the river here deepened considerably, was full of rocks, and contained plenty of water. Skirting the ranges for some distance, several tributaries joined from the southward. The country, although rocky, improved much in general appearance; grass was abundant, and game frequently met with. At night we encamped on a small pool in the bed of the river about five miles from the foot of the range. Cockatoos and pigeons came in great numbers to drink at the pool about sundown. Camp 95.
Latitude 20 degrees 56 minutes 33 seconds, longitude 119 degrees 10 minutes by account.
Made an early start, and travelled four miles on a south-west course, when the river divided into two channels, the main one coming from a deep gorge to the south-south-east, exactly in the direction in which we had left the Strelley on our outward route, at a distance of about thirty miles; identifying the stream with some degree of certainty. Taking the western branch, which would lead us towards the Yule, we followed it up until long past noon into a hilly country, without meeting with water; we, however, saw a large extent of fine grazing land which would make an excellent summer station when the flats were inundated. Having rested during the heat of the day, which had lately become rather oppressive, we resumed a westerly course, having run out the head watercourses of the western branch of the Strelley. A few miles brought us to a considerable stream-bed trending to the north-west, which was followed down till some time after dark, having procured a few gallons of water from a native well in the bed of a creek. To-day we had travelled for nine hours, and accomplished a distance of twenty-two miles, the longest day's march we had made for many weeks past. Early in the day we had noticed what we took for a great number of native fires springing up in all directions, and quickly to die away again; we, however, found it to be a number of whirlwinds, carrying with them huge columns of charcoal and dust, which traversed the plains sometimes for miles before they broke. Camp 96.
Latitude 21 degrees 4 minutes.
REACH THE YULE RIVER.
Our computed distance from the Yule was now only twenty-one miles, and the country promised well for travelling; but the long march yesterday, and the short allowance of water, rendered it very doubtful whether some of the horses would hold out long enough to reach it; we therefore had our breakfast before daylight, and as soon as we could see resumed our route to the westward. At five miles we crossed a sandy channel, 200 yards wide, full of cajeput and gum trees, but as we did not soon find any water in it, pushed on at a rapid pace, and in two miles more crossed a similar channel, 100 yards wide, trending north-west and running parallel to the first; beyond this the ground became rocky for a few miles, and by the time we had gone rather more than twelve miles, Mr. Burges' mare, Lucy, could go no further; giving her half a-gallon of water out of the little stock carried with us, I left Messrs. Brown and Harding to bring her on when rested, and with the rest of the party continued our route. A mile or two further, and another horse, Bob, was knocked up and left behind, having also had some water given him. With considerable difficulty we succeeded in getting the rest of the horses on to the Yule by 1.30 p.m., making it close to our camp of 13th August. Had the distance been ten miles further, probably not more than three or four of the horses would have ever reached it, so much were they reduced in strength. On reaching the pool, several of the horses, notwithstanding our efforts to prevent them, rushed headlong into the water with their packs on, and drank so much of it that it was with great difficulty we could drag them out again. In the course of the afternoon Messrs. Brown and Harding came in with the horse Bob, but had not been able to get the mare on more than two or three miles; being anxious, however, not to lose her, I sent McCourt and James with two of the strongest horses, carrying four gallons of water for her, after which they succeeded in getting her into camp by midnight. Camp 97.
6th October (Sunday).
Moved a short distance down the river to camp 57 for better feed.
CROSS DRY COUNTRY TO SHERLOCK RIVER.
As the distance from the Yule to the last known permanent water on the eastern branch of the Sherlock is over twenty-five miles, and our means of carrying water very limited since abandoning our largest pair of kegs in the retreat on the 8th September, I to-day set to work and soldered up a number of preserved-meat tins that had been carefully opened and kept for this purpose, putting a small spout to each; eight of these (4-pound tins) we found to contain something over four gallons, which, added to our water belts and the two remaining kegs, would provide for the conveyance of twelve gallons of water, which I hoped would prove sufficient to enable us to pass the dry tract of country in safety, as it would allow half a gallon to each horse and an ample supply for the party for two days. I also succeeded in repairing the aneroid barometer, which had been crushed nearly flat by the fall of a horse; fortunately, however, without injury to the vacuum vase.
Having rearranged the loads and lightened them by leaving hid amongst the rocks a pack-saddle and sixty pounds weight of horse-shoes and nails, at 3.45 p.m. we commenced a retreat on our outward tracks of the 13th August, travelling to 7.15 p.m., when we encamped on a patch of tolerably good grass in the plain at the foot of a volcanic range, without any signs of water near us. Camp 98.
We were up before daylight, and by 6 a.m. had our breakfast, and were again on our march, visiting a waterhole seen on our outward route, but now found to be quite dry. We pushed on at the best speed of our horses, which was now not much over two miles an hour, to 10.0, when the heat of the day began to tell on the jaded animals; we therefore halted for an hour to give the horses half a gallon of water each, after which they travelled on much more briskly, so that by a little past noon we succeeded in reaching the large pool in the eastern Sherlock, near Camp 55; some of the horses were, however, so much exhausted that we had some difficulty in getting them to move for the last mile, although entirely relieved of their loads. Camp 55a.
Although the horses were by no means in a fit state to continue the march, yet grass was so scarce, on account of the native fires having here swept it off, that we found it best to push on for the springs at Camp 52.
Following down the banks of the stream, we found several pools not yet dried up, which proved a great help to our horses; before noon, however, the mare Lucy again gave in, and was finally abandoned, as there was but little chance of her ever reaching the bay; it is possible she may live to be picked up by some future travellers, although too old to last many years. By 1.0 p.m. we reached the springs at Camp 52, and found an ample supply of water, but the grass was here also much parched up; we, however, remained for the rest of the day.
This morning our route was resumed down the eastern Sherlock, tracing a portion that had not been before examined, and which was now found to be well supplied with water and grass; cockatoos and pigeons being seen in large numbers feeding on the banks. As we approached the junction of the two branches of the river we met a party of ten or twelve natives, who came boldly up to us, which was the only time we had known them to do so since quitting Nickol Bay. Hoping to gain some useful information from them, they were allowed to follow us to our old camp of 2nd August, where there are the large fish-pools, of which they gave us the native names. We were not quite so successful in procuring game here as on the former visit, although as much fish was caught as could be consumed while it was good. The natives kept rather aloof while we were shooting on the river, but after dusk eight or ten came to the camp, unarmed, evidently on a thieving excursion, and although narrowly watched, managed to carry off a portion of Mr. Hall's kit, which, however, he recovered next morning, on paying them an early visit, finding the articles buried under some rushes in their camp.
THEY SET THE GRASS ON FIRE.
We were now getting so near our destination that, although provisions were getting low, we could afford to give the party a whole day's rest, while I was enabled roughly to plot out some more of my work and write up the journal, which, from having my time constantly taken up with more pressing duties, had fallen sadly into arrears. The natives again came to see what they could steal, but this time were made to sit outside a line drawn on the sand, some twenty paces from the camp—an arrangement they appeared highly to disapprove of, giving expression to their dissatisfaction in a manner anything but polite; finding, however, that we were inattentive to their impertinence so long as they confined it to harmless display, they watched their opportunity, and suddenly set fire to the grass in several places at once around the camp, and ran off as hard as they could. As this was an open act of hostility that it was necessary they should be chastised for, although I did not wish seriously to hurt them, they were allowed to run to a suitable distance, when a charge of small shot was fired after them, a few of which taking effect in the rear of the principal offender, induced him, on meeting some of the party out shooting, to make an apology, and try to lay the blame of the theft of the previous day on the dogs.
13th October (Sunday).
As the distances between the several watering places on the homeward route were too much to perform without intermediate halts, and the heat of the noon-day sun rather oppressive, it was found better to start from the pools late in the day, so as to make the halts without water during the cool of the night, travelling only very late in the evening and early in the morning. We accordingly did not start this afternoon until 4 p.m., and travelled on to 8.45, encamping in an open grassy plain under Black Hill—a volcanic eminence, the position of which is shown on the Admiralty charts. Camp 99.
By 6 a.m. we were again on the move, and in an hour gained the banks of the George, which takes its rise in the volcanic hills to the southward. In its channel was an abundant supply of water, with many fine healthy trees overshadowing the pools. By 9.0 we arrived at our old camp (50), where we rested to 4.15 p.m., when we resumed and travelled on till nearly 8.0, encamping on the open grassy plains near the Harding River. Camp 100.
REACH THE HARDING RIVER. FLYING FOXES.
An early start enabled us to accomplish the remaining six miles to the Harding by 8.30, where we halted for the remainder of the day, as it was not unlikely that we might have to travel the remaining thirty miles into the bay without finding any more water. As we had now only four days' rations left, and it was uncertain, in the present low condition of our horses, how long it might take us to reach the ship, the sportsmen of the party made the best use of the halt to procure game, while I proceeded to convert some more of the empty meat-tins into water-canisters, increasing our means for the transport of water to eighteen gallons, with which we had a fair prospect of getting in all the horses, even though no more should be found on the route. Our camp was enlivened this evening by the continued screeching of a number of large bats, which kept up a vigorous fight in the trees overhead the greater part of the night, notwithstanding our shooting ten or twelve of them. They were very fat, but emitted such an intolerable odour that it would require even an explorer to be hard pressed before he could make a supper of them, either roasted or boiled.
This morning set in intensely hot, by noon the thermometer standing at 107 degrees in the shade, and at 3 p.m., when placed on a sandbank in the sun, rose to 178 of Fahrenheit; on the setting in of the westerly breeze it, however, fell at once to 96 degrees, and by 4.30 p.m. we were enabled to resume our route without feeling in any way inconvenienced by the temperature. We did not now attempt to pass through the rocky ranges so far to the eastward as on our outward route, but kept more to the westward along the open grassy valley, until opposite the narrowest part of the range, when, turning sharp to the north, we very quickly passed over the rocky portion of the hills, only encountering a few miles of extra rampant triodia, which was anything but pleasant to walk through, especially leading the party after dark. Following down a small watercourse for several miles, it at length joined the Nickol River, in which we shortly after found a small quantity of water in the bottom of what had been a pool, but which towards the close of the dry season sometimes goes dry; here we halted for a few hours to rest. Camp 101.
LAST DAY'S JOURNEY.
Without waiting for daylight, by 2.10 a.m. we were again on the move, as there was now a fair chance of getting all the remaining horses into the bay, if we did but avoid travelling during the heat of the day. In an hour the hills were cleared, and it was now all open plain as far as the marsh at the head of Nickol Bay. By the time the morning broke we were in full view of the bay and several islands of the Archipelago, the long black hull of our ocean-home riding at anchor on the now placid waters forming by no means the least pleasing feature of the scene to those who had not seen a vestige of civilisation for many months. After halting for nearly two hours for breakfast, and to distribute the water amongst the horses, we again moved rapidly on, crossing the marsh with some difficulty, owing to the spring-tide having been recently over it, and at 1 p.m. arrived on our old ground at Hearson Cove, where we found a boat and party from the ship waiting for us, James having been despatched by a shorter route to signalize our return. Everything had gone on satisfactorily during our absence. The vessel's water-tanks had been kept filled up, ensuring a supply for our horses on the homeward voyage, as it would be utterly impossible at this season of the year, with the animals in such low condition, to attempt the overland route to Champion Bay. Amongst other discoveries during our absence was a bed of pearl-oysters at the head of the bay, from which the crew of the Dolphin had procured several tons of very fine mother-of-pearl, besides a small number of pearls varying in size from one to four carats.
The party was fully occupied in clearing out the well and packing up saddles and outfit for shipment. It was also found that deepening the well had caused the water to become brackish, so much so that we had to bring water by boat from the spring at which the ship had been filled up; the horses however still managed to drink the well-water, although it produced great thirst. I have no doubt but that, had we had time to sink a fresh well closer to the foot of the hills, we should have obtained fresh water, as several ravines terminate there in a beautiful grassy flat, where a large proportion of the rainwater brought down from the hills sinks into the soil, from whence it gradually drains down and supplies the wells in the salt strata. I was disappointed to find that the cotton plants, that had thriven so well on first being sown, had been burnt in consequence of some of the sailors having thoughtlessly set fire to the adjoining grass; had they not been killed, by this time they would probably have been in flower, as their growth was very rapid.
EASTERN PART OF NICKOL BAY.
As it was necessary to give the horses a few days' rest previous to swimming them off to the ship, I started this morning in the life-boat, accompanied by Captain Dixon and Messrs. Brown, Harding, and Walcott, to examine the eastern shores of the bay, for the purpose of ascertaining whether a more suitable spot for a landing place and site for a future town could be found in that quarter. Leaving the Dolphin at 5.30 a.m., we ran to the eastward with a light south wind, passing, at six miles, two small islands in the mouth of the small bay into which the Nickol River discharges itself. These islands had been visited already by Mr. Walcott, and I gave them the name of Pemberton and Walcott Islands. Continuing to run along the shore towards Cape Lambert, the soundings gave from two to three fathoms, with a good bottom of mud and sand, but the landing was generally indifferent and rocky until we came to within about nine miles of the cape, when a deep opening was passed, affording good shelter and landing for small craft. Two miles further we landed in a small rocky cove for breakfast, which gave me an opportunity of climbing a hill and examining the surrounding country, which proved very dry and rocky. A little further we passed a bold headland, against the extremity of which rested a singular flying buttress, forming half an arch of fifty or sixty feet span, and from thirty to forty feet in height. Turning this headland, another opening was observed, which we entered with the tide, and soon found that it communicated with the first one, forming an island of some extent and elevation, to which was given the name of Dixon Island. We continued to beat down the channel, which had an average width of over half a mile, until late in the evening, when we came to anchor in eleven feet of water.
At daylight we found ourselves high and dry, only a narrow channel a few yards wide being left. Having walked over the mud to Dixon Island to breakfast, the vicinity was examined for water, but without success. At 6 a.m. the tide came in again so rapidly that it was not without some little difficulty that we gained our boat, when the wind set in so strongly from the south-west that, after several hours' almost ineffectual attempts to work to windward, we again landed not two miles from our last night's anchorage, the character of the country being equally unfavourable for landing, as it was cut up by deep mangrove creeks running far up the valleys into the steep rocky hills, forming a difficult and unpromising country. The breeze having moderated and shifted a point more to the westward, we again attempted to beat out into the bay, but by 9 p.m. had not made more than three miles, when we landed for the night, leaving two of the party in charge of the boat to keep her off the rocks when the tide fell.
The wind and tide being now in our favour, by 3.30 a.m. we took to our boat, and arrived on board the Dolphin by 10, when she was very soon got underweigh for the purpose of taking her closer in to ship the horses; light and variable winds, however, prevented our working more than a mile nearer the landing cove by sundown, when we dropped anchor for the night.
With a light west wind the Dolphin was worked into eleven feet water, one and a quarter miles off the point near the cove; the vessel drawing over ten feet, brought the mud up to the surface in our wake. Eight horses were soon swam off without much difficulty, as we all had now some little experience in this sort of work.
EMBARK FOR FREMANTLE.
By 2 p.m. the remaining six horses and equipment of the Expedition were all safely shipped, and a conspicuous intimation of our sojourn on the coast having been painted in large white letters on a pile of granite rocks near the south corner of the cove, we took our final departure, getting the Dolphin underweigh by 4, with a light westerly wind, which carried us through the passage between Hauy and Delambre Islands by 7, when we hauled up and stood to north-north-west.
The wind still holding to the west, we made but little progress, the Dolphin being only a good sailer in smooth water, or running before the wind.
Latitude 19 degrees 12 minutes south at noon.
By noon observations we were only in latitude 18 degrees 42 minutes; longitude 113 degrees 32 minutes.
The wind veering slightly to the south, we were able to make by noon to latitude 18 degrees 46 minutes 30 seconds; longitude 111 degrees 47 minutes 30 seconds.
From this time to the 3rd November the winds continued to blow almost uninterruptedly from the south and eastward, which carried us as far west as longitude 101 degrees east, and latitude 31 degrees south, where we met with westerly winds, which enabled us to run up to within sight of Cape Naturaliste by the 8th.
By 10 a.m. we were off Rottnest Island, when the pilot came on board and took us to the anchorage in Gage's Roads by noon. Having given instructions to Mr. Turner for the landing of the horses, etc., I landed with Messrs. Brown, Harding, and Hall, all of whom were, at their desire, at once released from the duties of the Expedition. Proceeded by steamer to Perth.
Had an interview with His Excellency the Governor, and reported the safe return of the party and general results of the Expedition.
Commander North-West Australian Expedition.
Perth, 6th February, 1862.
Adopting the course which I have found most convenient on similar occasions, I now proceed to offer a few remarks on the general features, productions, and natural capabilities, etc., of the country traversed by the Expedition, which could not, without disadvantage, have been introduced into the foregoing narrative. These remarks have already appeared at the conclusion of my report published on the 18th November, 1861, but are equally applicable to the present publication.
Commencing with its geographical and geological peculiarities, that portion of the country that came under our observation consists of a succession of terraces, rising inland for nearly 200 miles, more or less broken up by volcanic hills towards the coast. The first belt averages from ten to forty miles in width from the sea, and is a nearly level plain, slightly ascending to the southward, with an elevation of from 40 to 100 feet, the soil being generally either light loam or strong clays, according as it is the result of the disintegration of the granite rocks that occasionally protrude above its surface, or of volcanic rocks of black scoria that frequently interrupt the general level; hills of this nature also constitute the greater portion of the more elevated islands off the coast, Cape Lambert, and the promontory that shelters the western side of Nickol Bay. The generality of these rocks do not, however, yield so rich a soil as might be expected from their origin. This is owing to the absence of actual lava, the eruptive heat having nearly been sufficient to convert the superincumbent primary and tertiary rocks into a vitreous scoria, having a specific gravity of 3.2, and is highly indestructible in its texture.
Proceeding inland for the next fifty or sixty miles is a granite country that has been originally capped with horizontal sandstones, and has an elevation of about 1000 feet. This range terminates to the southward in level plains of good soil, the produce of the next series of more elevated country, while towards the northern edges the granite and sandstones have undergone great changes through the action of numerous trap dykes, that have greatly disturbed its surface, producing metamorphic rocks, some resembling jasper, and others highly cellular and scoriaceous.
In about latitude 22 degrees, on the meridian of Nickol Bay, we came upon another and more elevated range trending away to the south-east, having an altitude of 2500 feet above the sea. This, unlike the last section, has a southern escarpment of 500 or 600 feet, and consists of horizontal sandstones and conglomerates, which have comparatively undergone little change, and has an average breadth of eight or ten miles, the southern flank being bordered by fertile valleys of strong loamy clays, merging gradually to the southward into stony ridges and hills, some having an elevation of nearly 4000 feet, the culminating point being attained at Mount Bruce, in latitude 22 degrees 30 minutes.
From this point the country gradually falls to the Ashburton, the bed of which river, in the same meridian as the bay, is about 1600 feet above the sea, and the adjoining ranges not above 2200 feet, or about the same as the country on the Gascoyne, Lyons, and Upper Murchison.
Of minerals I was unable to discover any traces, except iron. Quartz reefs occasionally traversed the country in a north-north-east and south-south-west direction, or nearly the same as the mineral lodes at Champion Bay; but I could not find any instance in which this rock offered much to indicate the probable existence of gold, it being far surpassed in this respect by the rocks on the Upper Murchison. Coal does not appear likely to be found within the limits of the country passed over, unless towards the easternmost point attained by the Expedition.
With respect to the harbours on the coast, I can only speak of Nickol Bay and the anchorage under Rosemary and the adjacent islands. The former I consider only second to King George's Sound, as it can be entered in all weathers, either from the north or north-east, and there is reason to believe that a safe passage exists between Legendre and Dolphin Islands, leading into Mermaid Straits, where there appears to be an excellent harbour at all seasons of the year.
The soundings towards the eastern and western shores of Nickol Bay, taken at low water, show sufficient depth for vessels of considerable tonnage to lie within a cable's length of the shore, the bottom being fine sand and soft mud. Towards the head of the bay the water is much shallower, not carrying more than two fathoms two miles from the shore. No reefs are known to exist in this bay, except quite close into land.
In making the running survey of the western promontory I found that all to the north of Sloping Head was an island, having a boat channel between from half a mile to a mile wide. To the outer portion I therefore gave the name of Dolphin Island.
The tides are tolerably regular, and average sixteen feet, but at the spring they rise twenty-one feet, on which occasions the whole of the western promontory, including the high lands for several miles to the westward, are entirely cut off by the sea, the other opening being under Enderby Island—a circumstance that greatly detracts from the value of these otherwise fine harbours, as it would require two miles of causeway to connect the best landing place, where water is to be found, with the mainland.
The average declination of the needle throughout this district I found to be 1 degree east, the result of many amplitudes and azimuths; there is, however, in the vicinity of many of the volcanic hills great local attraction.
Of the climate I can only say that during the five months we remained on the coast we never experienced the same inconvenience from it that we frequently have done within the limits of the settled districts of the colony; the weather was, however, principally fine, and the sky clear during our stay, only two showers having occurred—one at the latter end of May and the other in June. The meteorological register kept at Nickol Bay shows the following results, from observations taken at all hours of the day and night:—
COLUMN 1: MONTH IN WHICH THERMOMETER READING WAS RECORDED. COLUMN 2: MAXIMUM. COLUMN 3: MINIMUM.
May : 80 : 65. June : 76 : 63. July : 78 : 56. August : 80 : 54. September : 83 : 65. October : 92 : 70.
Under the peculiar circumstance of the thermometer being placed on a sandbank in the sun during the hot days in October, it rose to 178 degrees of Fahrenheit, whilst the lowest it ever fell to was up in the hills, in July, when it was 2 degrees below freezing just before sunrise.
The winds continued to blow almost uninterruptedly from the east and south-east during the first four months, veering to the south-south-east and south and occasionally to the north-east. Latterly the wind was alternately south-east in the morning, and north-west or westerly in the afternoon; the sky becoming frequently overcast, and every appearance of the near approach of the rainy season, which it has been observed by navigators and explorers to do about the beginning of November, and continue to March.
Amongst the natural productions I would first briefly refer to the beds of the pearl oysters, as they are likely to become of immediate commercial importance, considerable numbers having been gathered by the crew of the Dolphin at their leisure time, the aggregate value of which, I am told, is between 500 and 600 pounds; besides pearls, one of which has been valued by competent persons at 25 pounds. The limits of the bed are as yet undefined, but there is good reason to believe, from the position of it, that with proper apparatus ships could soon be loaded with them.
Sandalwood was found in small quantities, very highly scented, but too widely scattered to become of much importance as an article of export.
Of indigenous fruits, etc., we observed the adansonia, or gouty-stemmed tree of Sir G. Grey (nearly allied to the baobab or monkey bread-fruit of Southern Africa), sweet and water melons similar to those formerly seen by me on the Lyons River, but of much larger size; a small gourd; a wild fig, well-tasted; and a sweet plum, very palatable, were found in tolerable abundance.
I have already spoken of the palms which grow on the bank of the Fortescue; they are very handsome and grow to the height of forty feet, but not having brought in any specimens, they have not yet been identified as to their variety.
Tobacco does not grow so luxuriantly here as on the Lyons River, but the natives collect it, and after preparation, chew it; but we did not on any occasion observe them to smoke.
Many beautiful flowers were also collected, which will be forwarded to some of the most eminent botanists, to be described and classified.
It now only remains for me to give an opinion on the capabilities of the country for colonisation. It would be almost impossible to particularise the positions or define the limits of country adapted for grazing purposes beyond the reference already made to them. The total amount of land available for this purpose within the limit of our route I should estimate at not less than two or three millions of acres, and of this I may safely say 200,000 are suitable for agricultural purposes, the greater portion of which lies on the two flanks of the Hamersley Range, on the banks of the DeGrey and its tributaries, and on the Lower Sherlock.
Of the fitness of this district for the growth of wool, which, on account of its being an intertropical country, it is generally supposed it would be unsuitable, I would remark that its elevation above the sea appears likely to obviate the objection, and render it probable that sheep may not degenerate in the same way they are found to do in other tropical countries; at any rate, flocks are now being pushed over on to the same latitude in Queensland, and we do not hear of the wool-grower complaining that such is the case there.
As to its fitness for the growth of cereals, it is quite possible that wheat and barley may not come to the same degree of perfection they do in the more temperate latitudes of Australia, but there is no reason to doubt its capability of growing sufficient grain for the support of a numerous population.
What it appears more highly qualified for than anything else is the growth of cotton—a question which at the present juncture cannot be lost sight of. From my personal observation of the cultivation of this plant in Egypt, and the attention I have recently paid to this subject while in Europe, I feel confident that a very considerable portion of the arable lands on the DeGrey and Sherlock are precisely the soils adapted for the production of this valuable commodity. As, however, I purpose to make this the subject of a more lengthy paper at a future period, I will not now venture to enlarge upon it.
As the number and disposition of the aborigines is likely to have some effect on the first settlement of a district, I would give it as my opinion that these people will not prove particularly troublesome to the settlers, if properly and fairly treated. They are not numerous, and appear very willing to take employ under Europeans, and will no doubt soon be made as useful as in the other districts. In stature they rather exceed the usual standard, some of them measuring two or three inches over six feet.
In bringing my report to a close, I would wish to observe, that although the results of the Expedition have fallen short of my sanguine hopes with regard to Geographical discovery, and will, I am afraid, in some degree disappoint the anticipations of the eminent Geographers who have lent their valuable aid in promoting the undertaking, yet I cannot but hope that the large amount of additional fertile country it has brought to our knowledge will compensate in some degree for the deficiency. I am, however, unable to refrain from again expressing my opinion, that had not so many concurrent circumstances combined to retard the departure of the Expedition until so late in the season, and it had arrived on the coast at the time originally recommended by the Geographical Society, it would, in all probability, have resulted in the full accomplishment of the object they had in view.
It now devolves upon me to perform the pleasing duty of recording my entire satisfaction with the manner in which the whole of the members of the Expedition put forward their best energies in the performance of their respective functions. To Mr. Turner I am indebted for the care bestowed on the management of the store department, which came under his immediate charge. To Messrs. Brockman and Hall, J. McCourt, and James, are due my acknowledgments for the cheerful alacrity with which they performed the duties allotted to them.
Of Messrs. Maitland, Brown and J. Harding I cannot speak too highly. Accompanying me on all the extra services upon which I was engaged, they had to endure privations of no ordinary description, which they met with a spirit of steady fortitude deserving of the highest praise. Of the valuable services rendered to the Expedition and to science by Mr. P. Walcott I have already had occasion to refer, and I sincerely hope that his talents and zeal in the pursuits of Botany and Natural History may meet a more substantial reward than the thanks which are justly due to him and those gentlemen who have given their time and talents gratuitously in the service of their fellow-colonists.
To Captain Dixon and the officers and crew of the Dolphin every praise is due for the assistance which on all occasions they promptly afforded in aiding the Expedition, and for which I gladly avail myself of the present opportunity to return them my best thanks.
In conclusion, permit me to tender Your Excellency my acknowledgments for the readiness with which you have acceded to my various suggestions in carrying out the arrangements of the Expedition since the passing of the vote of money in aid by the local legislature.
VOCABULARY OF THE ABORIGINAL LANGUAGE AT NICKOL BAY.
BY MR. P. WALCOTT.
COLUMN 1: ENGLISH. COLUMN 2: ABORIGINAL.
Emu : Galiberie. Kangaroo : Peckoora. Kangaroo (Rock) : Noordee. Barbed spear : Bilara. Common spear : Wera Wera. Foot : Jinna. Sleep : Gnaree. Water : Baba. Sit down : Barnee Boongoo. Come here : Gokie. Eastern tribes : Kakardi. Hair of head : Knuggnura. Twine : Bingooro. Nose : Moola. Tongue : Talee. Cockle (unio) : Yoondo. Ears : Kulka. Scars on the arms, etc. : Waarbungabo. Red ochre or wilgee : Marder. Sand : Narnoo. Bean (scarlet runner) : Koordala. Toe nail : Mindee. Oyster (rock) : Jibboor. Oyster (pearl) : Weerdee. Grass : Warabo. Fishing net : Takaroo. Fetch or bring : Takora. Acacia : Baragoon. Breadfruit tree : Tangoola. Gourd or calabash : Guabooraam. Firewood : Tamara. Granite rock : Caragnoo. Come : Gokee. Go : Wakkie. Cowrie or Cypraea : Weelungooroo. Sun : Yanda. Biscuit : Mardomurrie. Sea shag : Toorna. Native dog : Wanga. Vomit : Kalkalubata. Knife : Chumberrie. Horse : Gnoormiee. Sponge : Banga. Axe : Carama. Black wattle : Eringgna. Snake : Walee. Tobacco : Gaanaree. Convolvulus : Yaabin. Scarlet trefoil : Beeban. Hungry : Kamoongoo. Knee : Manboor. Shin : Kojaee. Thigh : Woolagallu. Eyelash : Gneearee. Forehead : Wara. Lip : Walee. Knuckles : Munjee. Elbow : Yarna Mangoola. Big toe : Guangnaree. Seaweed : Binda. Smoke : Choochoo. Ribs : Boonggna. Fly : Boroo. Clouds : Yoonggnoo. Rain : Bandaroo. Scoop shell : Bera. Iron : Tanga Tanga. Boat : Kajuree. Sneeze : Kanjeerneo. Sugar : Kungknara.
NORTH AUSTRALIAN EXPEDITION.
1855 TO 1856.
ORIGIN OF THE EXPEDITION.
The circumstances which led to the organisation of the Expedition for exploring Northern Australia, and the special objects of the Imperial Government in undertaking it, are best detailed in the following Despatch from His Grace the Duke of Newcastle, Secretary of State for the Colonies, to Captain Fitzgerald, Governor of Western Australia:—
The Honourable the Secretary of State for the Colonies, to the Governor of Western Australia.
31st August, 1854.
You will probably have been rendered aware by the reports of the Parliamentary Debates of last session, and from other sources, that Her Majesty's Government have been long considering the project of despatching an exploring expedition to lay open, if favoured with success, more of the interior of the great Australian Continent than the many energetic but partial attempts hitherto made have succeeded in developing.
This scheme originated with the Council of the Royal Geographical Society, who corresponded with the Colonial Department on the subject of it during last winter. But it was ultimately considered by Her Majesty's Government that the importance of the subject rendered it more advisable that the expedition should be undertaken under their own superintendence, and as a matter of public concern; and Parliament has now placed at their disposal a sum of 5000 pounds for the purpose, and will undoubtedly give further assistance should it be requisite.
Great difficulties have, however, presented themselves as to the necessary arrangements. The hostilities in which the country is involved have necessarily directed the time and thoughts, not of Her Majesty's Government only, but also of many of those whose professional knowledge and experience might have been of the greatest assistance, in another direction. Of the distinguished Australian explorers now in this country some are incapacitated by reason of health, and others by the circumstance of their services being required in other directions, from taking the command.
It would, however, be a matter of regret if, now that the money has been voted and the preparations partially made, the Expedition was not able to start at the best period for commencing operations next year, which on the northern coast of Australia seems generally thought to be from February to April.
I enclose copies of certain portions of the correspondence which took place early in the present year between the Colonial Department and Captain Stokes and Mr. Sturt, who were consulted in order to obtain the benefit of their advice, and the former of whom I had at one time the hope to secure for the command of the Expedition.
You will collect from these documents that the general view of those who have considered the subject appears to be that Moreton Bay would be a convenient rendezvous for the land portion of the Expedition; that they might be conveyed by sea to the mouth of the Victoria River, on the north-west coast; that it would be advantageous, if possible, that they should act in concert with a Government vessel, which might be employed in surveying operations in the Gulf of Carpentaria and neighbourhood, while the land explorers were engaged in the interior.
SELECTION OF COMMANDER.
Her Majesty's Government are, however, fully aware that such projects, especially where they involve so much combination, can only be submitted generally to the leader of such an expedition, to whom great latitude must be left as to the mode of carrying his instructions into execution.
They have now come to the determination of offering the command of the land expedition to Mr. A.C. Gregory, Assistant Surveyor, in Western Australia. They have been induced to take this course both by the very high testimonials which have been given to the abilities and fitness of this gentleman for the purpose by such authorities as they have been able to consult in England, and also by your own reports concerning him, particularly that contained in your despatch of the 6th January, 1852.
Should Mr. Gregory accept the charge, which I trust, notwithstanding its arduous and responsible nature, you will find him ready to do, it is the wish of Her Majesty's Government that without waiting for further instructions he should proceed immediately to Sydney, where he will find such instructions awaiting him, and where his party will be organised.
You are authorised to supply Mr. Gregory with the necessary funds for this purpose, which will be repaid to the Local Government, from the Commissariat chest.
If you are aware of any persons in your Government well qualified and willing to serve under Mr. Gregory in subordinate capacities, or if he has himself any assistants whom he would be anxious to engage, you are at liberty to place them at his disposal; but it must be understood that this permission does not apply to persons who are to take charge of scientific departments of the Expedition, as there are already gentlemen of this class with whom her Majesty's Government have been in correspondence; any such person who may wish to join the Expedition can do so only as a volunteer.
Copy of this despatch has been transmitted by the same mail to Sir Charles Fitzroy, and likewise to the other Australian Governors. Sir Charles Fitzroy will therefore be fully prepared to receive Mr. Gregory, and to render him all assistance in his power; and I have every reason to hope for the zealous co-operation of the several local Legislatures and Governments in a scheme intended for the development of the vast and unknown resources of their common Continent.
You will, on receiving this despatch, immediately communicate with Mr. Gregory, and if he should accept the command of the Expedition, inform both the Secretary of State for the Colonies and Sir Charles Fitzroy, and the other Australian Governments, immediately of his having done so, and of his intended movements.
I have, etc.,
JOURNAL OF THE NORTH AUSTRALIAN EXPLORING EXPEDITION, BY A.C. GREGORY.
The preliminary arrangements for the North Australian Exploring Expedition being complete, the stores, equipment, and a portion of the party were embarked at Sydney in the barque Monarch and schooner Tom Tough, and sailed for Moreton Bay on the 18th July, 1855, and on the 22nd anchored at the bar of the Brisbane River. The next day the Monarch attempted to enter the river, but being taken by the Government Pilot half a mile to the east of the channel over the bar, grounded, and was not got off till the 26th, when she entered the river. The steamer Ballarat was engaged to tow the Monarch up to the town of Brisbane; but having struck on a rock near Ipswich, sank, and the steamer Hawk was engaged to tow up the river. The Hawk, however, proved to be of insufficient power, and it was then decided to embark the horses and sheep, which had been collected by Mr. H.C. Gregory, at Eagle Farm.
HORSES EMBARKED AT MORETON BAY.
The horses having been got on board the Monarch on the 31st July, and the sheep the next day, the steamer Bremer was employed to tow her over the Bar. It was evident, however, that the Bremer did not intend to do this, for she slacked the tow-line, and then steamed ahead full speed and snapped the hawser, and went off without any explanation.
Having removed a quantity of stores from the Monarch to the Tom Tough, so as to reduce the draft of the former, on the 8th August warped over the bar and went over to Moreton Island, where about three tons of water were taken in from the fresh-water creeks near the Pilot Station.
On the 12 August weighed and left Moreton Bay; and this being the last point of communication with the civilised world, the Expedition might be considered to commence on this date.
The party consisted of eighteen persons, as follows: commander A.C. Gregory; assistant commander, H.C. Gregory; geologist, J.S. Wilson; artist and storekeeper, J. Baines; surgeon and naturalist, J.R. Elsey; botanist, F. Mueller; collector and preserver, J. Flood; overseer, G. Phibbs; stockmen, etc., C. Humphries, R. Bowman, C. Dean, J. Melville, W. Dawson, W. Shewell, W. Selby, S. Macdonald, H. Richards, J. Fahey. The livestock comprised fifty horses and 200 sheep.
The provisions consisted of flour, salt pork, preserved beef, rice, peas, preserved potatoes, sago, sugar, tea, coffee, vinegar, limejuice, etc., calculated to supply the party on full rations for eighteen months.
On 13th August passed Breaksea Spit, and Port Curtis next morning, the weather being fine with south-east winds; reached Port Albany on 26th. Landed on Albany Island, which is principally of sandstone formation rising into hills of moderate elevation, the soil generally poor and sandy covered with bush and small trees, with a few open grassy patches. Fresh water was found in a small cove 100 yards north from the landing-place on the sandy beach; the supply was so small as to be of little use, and the position inconvenient of access.
The mainland appeared to be covered with much dense bush, and the rocky sandstone hills did not indicate that the country was of any great value either for agricultural or pastoral purposes.
Port Albany is a narrow, but deep channel between Albany Island and the mainland of Cape York. It is easy of ingress and egress; but is neither safe or convenient, owing to the great rapidity of the current which sets through with the tide.
Some canoes with natives came to the vessels. They evidently have frequent communication with vessels passing through the Straits, and are well acquainted with the use and name of tobacco, which they smoke in large bamboo pipes. Their arms consisted of spears, bows, and arrows. The canoes, formed of a single tree, rudely hollowed out, and fitted with outriggers.
Left Port Albany, and, passing through Endeavour Strait, were favoured with a light easterly wind as far as Port Essington, which was sighted on September 1st, and after passing through Dundas Strait anchored for the night.
The following morning passed Vernon Island with a light breeze. At 9.50 p.m. the Monarch grounded on a rocky reef off the entrance of Port Patterson, the master of the vessel not having made due allowance for the indraught of the tide. Unfortunately this occurred at the top of the spring tide, and the result was that, though every exertion was made to warp the vessel off, the tide did not rise sufficiently to float her until the 10th September, when, by cutting off the false keel and levelling the surface of the rock, we succeeded in hauling her off, with comparatively little damage, as the weather continued calm during the whole of this anxious period.
As the vessel lay on her side at low tide, the position of the horses was extremely inconvenient, and they suffered a greater amount of injury during these eight days than on the whole of the preceding voyage, and it is to this that the subsequent loss of so large a number of the horses is to be attributed; for though only two died on board the vessel, the others became so excessively weak that some had not the strength to go through the fatigue of landing and the journey from Point Pearce to the Victoria River, and at the same time the supply of forage was so reduced that it became necessary to land the horses immediately on reaching Point Pearce, and before the place could be examined for the best landing.
LAND AT THE ENTRANCE OF VICTORIA RIVER.
After getting off the reef, light winds and calms delayed the voyage to the Victoria River; but as the Tom Tough worked along the coast better than the Monarch, I went on with the schooner to examine the entrance of the river. Ascending the Victoria to Blunder Bay, found that the locality was not suited for landing horses, and therefore returned to Treachery Bay, near which Mr. H.C. Gregory had discovered abundance of grass and water under Providence Hill of Captain Stokes; commenced landing the horses on the 18th; but, in consequence of the strong tides and extensive mangrove flats, great difficulties were encountered, the horses having to swim more than two miles from the vessel to the shore, and were so exhausted that three were drowned, one lost in the mud and mangroves, and one went mad and rushed into the bush and was lost. Having transferred the stores to the Tom Tough, on the 24th the Monarch sailed for Singapore. Mr. Wilson was instructed to proceed in the schooner up the Victoria River, and to establish a camp at the highest convenient position on the bank of the river, while I proceeded overland with Mr. H. Gregory, Dr. Mueller, and seven of the men, hoping, by easy journeys of eight to ten miles per day, to give the horses time to partially recover the effects of the voyage.
MACADAM RANGE. RUNNING STREAM OF FRESH WATER.
1st October, 1855.
Accompanied by Mr. H. Gregory, I left the camp to search for a practicable route by which we could cross the MacAdam range; but, after proceeding about a mile, shot an emu, with which we returned to camp, and again started at 7.10 a.m., pursuing a south-east course, crossed a stony ridge, and at 8.0 a.m. came on a creek about twenty yards wide, with good pools of water and a grassy margin, but the country generally barren and stony. After several ineffectual attempts, we ascended the hills to the south-east of the creek, and traversed a very broken country of sandstone formation till 11.0 a.m., when we reached the head of a creek trending to the southward; this was followed down till 1.0 p.m. when we halted an hour, and again proceeded till 4.30 p.m., the country being very poor and rising into rocky hills on both banks of the creek; we then entered a wide grassy flat destitute of trees, extending six miles north to south, and fifteen miles east to west; on the south side there appeared to be a creek or river, which we supposed to be the Fitzmaurice River. This plain was bounded on all sides by steep rocky hills of sandstone of barren aspect. Returned up the creek till 6.0 p.m. and halted for the night. The day was hot and sultry, though a heavy thundershower somewhat cooled the air. The MacAdam Range is of sandstone, the strata of which dip about 30 degrees to the south, in which direction, as we advanced, the rock was more slaty, and broke into rhomboidal fragments. Water is abundant in the creeks, but the grass is scanty, and the rough surface of the sandstone and rocky ravines renders the country difficult to traverse. Timber is scarce, chiefly small-sized eucalypti; the cotton-tree was observed in a few of the valleys.
Returning to the camp we attempted to follow one of the creeks down to the plain on the north-west side of the range, but found the ravine too steep and rocky for the horses to pass, and were compelled to retrace our steps and cross several steep and rocky hills, reaching the camp at 2.0 p.m., at which time the thermometer stood at 94 degrees in the shade and 114 degrees in the sun.
Three of the horses had strayed, and this detained us till 11.0 a.m., when I started with the party, leaving Mr. H. Gregory and Bowman to look for the missing animals. Proceeding in a south-east direction to the crossing of the first creek, ascended the MacAdam Range, and steered east-south-east to the second creek; the course was then north-east and east to the head of the creek tributary to the Fitzmaurice River, and then encamped at 3.45 p.m. At the highest point on this day's route the aneroid stood at 29.40, and at the camp 29.55; thermometer, 88 degrees. The higher points of the range did not exceed 100 before the highest ridge crossed.
By a meridian altitude of a Cygni, the latitude 14 degrees 33 minutes 26 seconds.
At 10.0 a.m. Messrs. H. Gregory and Bowen reached the camp with one of the missing horses, and, having obtained some provisions, returned to search for the other two horses. At noon started with the party, and followed down the creek in a south-south-east direction till 4 p.m., and encamped at the termination of the hilly country. One of the horses, Madman, showed symptoms of illness a short time before we started, and in crossing the creek half a mile above where we encamped he fell down and in less than three minutes died. This was a serious loss, as this animal was one of the most serviceable of our horses, having stood the voyage without losing his condition. The cause of death we were unable to ascertain; but the probability is that some poisonous plants existed at the place where we encamped last night.
By a meridian altitude of a Cygni, the latitude of the camp was 14 degrees 39 minutes 26 seconds. Thermometer: Sunrise, 80 degrees; at 11 a.m., 93 degrees; wet bulb, 80 degrees.
This morning I started with C. Dean to examine the country to the east; after traversing the plain for two hours, came to a running stream ten yards wide, but the current very slow. The vegetation on its banks was very luxuriant, presenting a striking contrast to the surrounding country. Followed the creek to the east and south for one and a half miles, when it changed to a salt creek, joining the Fitzmaurice River. We then steered south-east to a detached conical hill, which consisted of the same hard fine-grained sandstone as the ranges near the camp. Steering north-east and east for three miles along a salt creek, came to the termination of the salt water, where we saw four natives digging roots; on observing us they decamped. Our course was now south-east to a range of rocky hills, which we could not ascend with our horses from their steep and rocky character. We therefore steered north-west to a green patch of bushes in the plain, and at two miles came to a small lagoon 200 yards long and 30 yards wide, on which were numerous ducks and other water-fowl. Here we halted for one and a half hours, and then by a north-west and west course, passing through grassy plains and patches of forest, reached the camp at 8.30 p.m. Thermometer, 78 degrees to 104 degrees.
Started at 8.10 a.m. with the whole party, and, steering east to the running creek, crossed it at the head of the salt water, and proceeding up the stream three-quarters of a mile, encamped. Near the creek we saw a native man and two women, who were much alarmed at the sudden appearance of the party, and retreated across the plain.
By a meridian altitude of a Cygni, the latitude was 14 degrees 40 minutes 4 seconds at this camp.
At 8.0 a.m. steered an easterly course, crossing the grassy plain, beyond which we passed a low stony ridge thinly wooded with small trees; at 9.40 crossed a deep watercourse, with waterholes and grassy flats, and at 10.15 p.m. came to a second creek, which was followed up to the east-north-east till 11.20, when we halted at a small patch of grass; at 1 p.m. I rode to the north and east to seek a more suitable spot for an encampment, and having found a grassy flat and pool of good water one and a half miles higher up the creek, the party moved on to it at 4 p.m.
Taking Dean with me, I proceeded to the south of the camp to ascertain the most convenient ascent of the rocky hills which bounded the plain. Following a small valley into the hills, after two hours' ride came to a creek trending to the south, the valley of which afforded a practicable line of route. We therefore returned to the camp at noon. At 3.0 p.m. started with the party, and moved the camp to the creek found in the morning. Thermometer, 114 degrees at 1 p.m.
Started at 8.0 a.m., accompanied by Dean, and followed the creek through a rocky valley between sandstone ranges, the strata of which dip to the west at a high angle—30 degrees to 40 degrees; at 10.15 a.m. came to the tide waters of the creek, and after crossing several stony ridges which came close to the bank of the creek, at 11.30 a.m. reached a small running stream with a patch of good grass; here we halted for two hours, and then returned to camp; which we reached at 5.0 p.m., and found that Mr. H. Gregory and Bowman had arrived with the two stray horses, having found them about ten miles to the north-west of the camp, at the reedy swamp from which they strayed. Thermometer, 6 a.m., 77 degrees; noon, 114 degrees; 6 p.m., 92 degrees.
ENCOUNTER STEEP ROCKY RANGES.
At 7.50 a.m. started with the whole party, and proceeded down the creek to the head of the salt water, and then by a detour among the rocky hills reached the running creek visited yesterday, and encamped at 11.0 a.m.; I then started with Mr. H. Gregory in a southerly direction, and after an hour's ride came to the Fitzmaurice River, which varied from 100 to 300 yards in width, the general course nearly east and west; the channel was full of rocks and banks which were dry at low water, the rise of the tide nearly twenty feet. The hills which bounded the valley of the creek we had descended terminated in an abrupt rocky ridge which left no passage between it and the river; we therefore returned about half a mile to the north, and, after a toilsome ascent of nearly an hour, crossed the ridge and halted at a small spring on its eastern side till 2.0 p.m., when we proceeded up the river, crossing two small dry creeks; after a fruitless search for a suitable spot to which the camp could be moved, there being no fresh water in the creeks, we turned towards the camp, but could not cross the range, as we everywhere encountered steep rocks and ravines, and were glad to extricate ourselves from the hills at 9.0 p.m., when we bivouacked in a grassy flat.
At 4.30 a.m. resumed the attempt to cross the range, and at length found a practicable route for the pack-horses, passing a small spring of water at 7.0 a.m., and reached the camp at 8 a.m.; during our absence one of our best pack animals had died, apparently from poison. At 2.0 p.m. the party started to cross the range; but the horse Drummer was so weak that he fell several times, and we were at length compelled to abandon him. Having crossed the hills to the Fitzmaurice River, we proceeded up the valley and halted at a salt creek seven or eight yards wide, there being a little green grass on its banks.
Latitude by observation b Pegasi and a Andromedae 14 degrees 47 minutes 18 seconds.
HORSES BITTEN BY ALLIGATORS. CROSS THE FITZMAURICE RIVER.
During the night the horses were several times disturbed, but it was not till morning that the cause was ascertained, when we found that they had been attacked by the alligators, and three were severely bitten and scratched. At 8.0 a.m. started to follow up the river; but the rocky hills approached so close to its banks as to leave no passage, and we had to ascend the range, which was not an easy task; after three hours of severe toil under a scorching sun we reached a more practicable country, and at 3.30 p.m. encamped on the bank of the river, above the influence of the tide, fifty yards wide. Two of the horses had been left about a mile from the camp quite exhausted, but at sunset they were brought in to the camp.
Latitude by observation a Cygni 14 degrees 51 minutes 37 seconds.
At 7.0 a.m. crossed to the left bank of the river at a stony bar where the water formed a rapid twenty yards wide and two feet deep; we then followed the river up for half an hour and altered the course to south-south-east, along a running creek ten to twenty yards wide; at 8.5 a.m. crossed a running stream from the west; at 10.30 a.m. two of the horses were completely exhausted, but having rested them at a pool of water, one revived, but were compelled to leave the other. We then proceeded, but were obliged to return to the creek about a mile higher up, as several of the horses began to fail, and though we rested till 3.0 p.m., the second horse was unable to proceed, and was therefore abandoned. Since these horses were landed they have not had strength to rise without assistance, and it has been necessary to even watch them while feeding to lift them up when they fall down from exhaustion. Continuing our route, the valley was about two miles wide, with flat-topped hills bounding it on the east and west; there were a few pools of water in the creek, but the country was poor and stony with a few patches of grass; at 5.0 p.m. encamped.
Latitude by meridian altitude of a Cygni 15 degrees 1 minute 10 seconds.
Started at 6.30 a.m. and pursued a south course till 8.0 a.m., when we crossed the ridge at the source of the creek and ascended some stony gullies to the south-west; at 10.40 a.m. halted at a small waterhole in a small creek. Re-commenced our journey at 3.0 p.m., and followed a valley to the south-east; but finding the country in that direction unsuited for our object, turned to the west and reached the creek again at 5.15 p.m.; followed it till 6.0 p.m. to the south-west, and encamped. There was abundance of water in the creek, and the rank growth of the grass on its immediate banks proved a great impediment to the horses. The back country, however, was very rough and stony, thinly timbered with white-gum eucalyptus of small size, and nearly destitute of leaves; and though the whole country was grassy, it was so much parched by the intense heat that it presented a very sterile aspect; at 4.30 p.m. there was a heavy thundershower.