As the creek below the camp trended to the west and entered a deep rocky gorge in the sandstone range, we steered south at 7.0 a.m., crossing several stony ridges with small gullies and creeks trending west; at 10.20 a.m. crossed the highest ridge, and observed a succession of low stony ridges occupying the space between us and the Sea Range. Descending, we reached a creek, on the bank of which we halted at 11.30 a.m. Here we caught several small fish in a deep pool in the creek.
Resuming our route down the creek at 2.30 pm, the average course was south-west till 5.30, when we were encamped at a large deep pool or reach of water three-quarters of a mile long and fifty yards wide, supplied by a small stream. Great numbers of large bats were seen hanging in the trees on the margin of the creek, some of which we shot; the flesh was white and was eaten, but it had an unpleasant flavour. The country during this day's journey has not been so hilly as yesterday, and near the camp the trees have retained a few leaves. The soil, however, shows no improvement, being universally stony, and though well-grassed, the country is useless for any purpose than feeding stock. The gouty-stemmed tree (adansonia) is more frequent on the banks of the creeks; pandanus and fig trees prevail near the water, and eucalypti on the hills.
Latitude 15 degrees 17 minutes 50 seconds.
THE VALLEY OF THE VICTORIA RIVER.
Resumed our journey down the creek at 7.0 a.m., the general course south-south-west; the country became so steep and rocky that at 8.0 we left the valley and steered south, crossing several stony hills with rocky ravines, which were so rugged that they were scarcely passable. At 11.0 sighted the Victoria River, about six miles below Kangaroo Point; but, on attempting to descend the range, was intercepted by a deep valley bounded by sandstone cliffs 50 to 100 feet high; following the valley to the east and north-east in search of a break by which we could descend, but without success. At 3.0 p.m. one of the horses was so completely exhausted that he could proceed no farther; I therefore halted the party, and was examining the cliff to ascertain the best place for lowering one of the party by a rope into the valley for the purpose of procuring water from the pool which was visible 300 feet below us, when I found a small spring on the top of the cliff, at which we encamped. As soon as the horses were unsaddled, Mr. H. Gregory and myself proceeded to examine the valley to the east, but had not gone more than a mile when we observed a column of smoke rise from the camp, followed by a sheet of flame, which extended in a few seconds to the side of the adjacent hill. We therefore returned to the camp to subdue the fire, and, if possible, save some of the grass for the horses, which, with great difficulty, we succeeded in doing; but though checked, the fire had extended many miles over the country, and kept us busy all night. This fire originated for want of due precaution in clearing the grass around the fire at the camp, though the cook had been cautioned on the subject.
At 5.0 a.m. left the camp with Mr. H. Gregory, and recommenced the search for a practicable descent into the valley, and about two miles from the camp found a break in the cliff. The hill was, however, so steep and rocky that it was necessary to form a path for the horses, and while Mr. H. Gregory returned, and was bringing up the party from the camp, I employed myself in filling up chasms with stones and removing rocks from the path, the steepness of the declivity greatly facilitating their removal, as it required but little force to hurl rocks of several tons weight into the valley below. Fortunately, we accomplished the descent without any accident, and reached the base of the hill at 11.30 a.m. Descending the creek, which occupied the lower part of the valley, for about two miles, encamped at a small pool of water. I then rode down the bank of the Victoria River, and ascertained that we were about six miles below Kangaroo Point. Returning to the camp, procured fresh horses, and, accompanied by Mr. H. Gregory, proceeded to Kangaroo Point, reaching the spot appointed for leaving a notice of the movements of the party in the schooner just as it fell dark, and though we found a small tree notched with an axe, there was nothing to guide us in any further search, and we therefore bivouacked.
At daylight recommenced our search for some memorandum for our guidance to the camp or vessel, but only found five or six small trees cut with an iron axe, and the remains of a large fire; but if any memorandum had been left, there was no mark left for our guidance in the search for it, and I felt disappointed that my instructions had been so inefficiently carried into effect. As it was doubtful whether the vessel had proceeded up the river, I decided on continuing our route to some convenient spot for a camp near Steep Head, and accordingly returned to the party. The southern face of Sea Range is very abrupt and surmounted by a cliff of red sandstone 50 to 100 feet high, the whole height of the hills about 500 feet, the range being the edge of an elevated tableland, the upper strata being hard sandstone in horizontal beds which rest on soft shales which appear to be somewhat inclined; but its surface was so covered by fragments of the upper rocks that no satisfactory data was obtained. The soil of the level land between the Victoria and the Sea Range is very poor, and either sandy or covered with fragments of rock; there is no water, and the grass is very coarse and blady. Many flights of cockatoos came to drink at the pools near the camp, and about fifty were shot during the day.
ASCEND THE VICTORIA RIVER.
Started at 7.0 a.m. and followed the river up to Kangaroo Point, and then by an easterly course ascended the salt-water creek which joins the Victoria at this point; at 4.0 p.m. we reached the termination of the salt water, beyond which it divided into several small dry channels, in one of which we found a small pool of fresh water, at which we encamped at 4.15. The result of our shooting this day was one turkey, one hawk, and thirty-nine cockatoos. The country near the creek is brown loam; but as the hills are approached the soil is very stony, but well covered with grass, and very thinly wooded with small eucalypti, which were nearly destitute of foliage. To the south of the creek the country appeared to be of somewhat better character.
THE TOM TOUGH WRECKED.
At 7.0 a.m. steered north 160 degrees east till 10.0, over a level grassy plain wooded with small eucalypti and melaleuca, etc., the soil varying from a brown loam to a strong clay; altering the course to 190 degrees, we passed some low stony ridges, and at 11.30 halted in a dry gully to rest the horses during the heat of the day; at 3.0 p.m. again started and steered to the south-west for half an hour, when we camped at a sandy creek in which there was a shallow waterhole. At 4.0 I left the camp with Mr. H. Gregory and proceeded west-south-west to the river, which we reached at 5.45, and then followed it up for half an hour, when we observed a tent and boat on the opposite side of the river. Having hobbled the horses, we crossed over to the camp, which was established at a small spring, and found Mr. Elsey and two of the men in charge. Mr. Elsey informed me that the schooner had grounded on the bank below Mosquito Flat, and had received considerable damage. Fourteen of the sheep had been brought up to the camp, and the boat was expected up that evening with another lot of sheep. I now ascertained that a bottle had been buried near the marked trees at Kangaroo Point, and a pencil-mark made on one of the trees indicating its position, but this mark had escaped our observation. In the evening Messrs. Baines and Flood and one of the men arrived at the camp in the long-boat, bringing twelve sheep, having lost several on the passage up the river in consequence of detention on the shoals near the Dome. The whole stock of provisions at the camp consisting of ten pounds flour, ten pounds pork, six pounds sugar, and twelve pounds beef, I was unable to send the required supplies to the party in charge of the horses, and the sheep were too poor to be fit for food. The Tom Tough reached Entrance Island on the 25th September, and the next day anchored off Rugged Ridge; on the 27th was proceeding up the river, and grounded on a ledge of rocks on the south side of the river, about six miles below Mosquito Flats; and from that date was never sufficiently afloat to be under control, but gradually drifted up to about two and a half miles below Curiosity Peak. From the time of getting on the rocks she had leaked considerably, and a large quantity of stores had been destroyed or damaged, there being at one time four feet of water in the hold; but by nailing battens and tarred blankets over the open seams the leaks had been greatly reduced. The stock of water on board the schooner having been exhausted during her detention, Mr. Wilson had sent the boat up to Palm Island to bring down a supply; but having greatly miscalculated the time requisite for this expedition up the river, the distance being sixty miles, the sheep had been kept several days without a sufficient supply of water, and a great number had died.
Proceeding down the river with Messrs. Baines and Flood in the long-boat, the tide being unfavourable, we only reached Kangaroo Point.
Started at 2.0 a.m., and reached the schooner at 11.0 a.m., having been delayed by the flood tide. The vessel had not moved during the last four tides, and the leaks had in some degree stopped. She was so deeply bedded in the sand that, though the bank was dry at three-quarter ebb, I could not examine her bottom. The deck beams, however, were strained and broken, and it was evident that the vessel had been much damaged by resting on her centre, when the current had worked deep holes at the head and stern. Only fifty-five sheep remained on board, and those in a miserable condition. At 5.0 p.m. despatched Mr. Flood in the gig with one month's provisions for the party at the camp; 8.0 p.m. the tide rose to five feet on the bank, but the vessel only just floated in the hollow in which she lay.
At 8.0 a.m. the tide rose to six feet on the bank, and the schooner was moved her own length towards the channel in shore; at 10.0 a.m. the tide ebbed, and she settled on an even keel. Mr. Baines having informed me that Overseer Humphries had refused to assist in pumping the schooner on the 9th, he had, therefore, put him off duty till Mr. Wilson returned, on the 14th, when he was put on duty again. I therefore fined him one week's pay. The night tide did not rise so high as in the morning. Landed to search for fresh water, and found a small spring on the bank of the river at the upper end of the stony beach, three and a half miles below Curiosity Peak; this spring is below high-water mark, but at half tide boats can approach close to it, there being deep water close to the bank.
Landed at 2 a.m. to procure water, having opened a well at the spring; filled two casks and returned to the vessel at 7. At 9.30 the schooner floated, and we moved her to about a mile above Curiosity Peak, where she again grounded on a bank; while afloat the pumps had to be kept constantly at work. With the night tide we floated over the bank; but the breeze failing, she was swept against the shore two and a half miles above Curiosity Peak, and before the kedge could be laid out the tide fell.
The morning tide did not rise sufficiently to allow us to cross the banks; but the schooner was warped into a better position in the channel, about one mile higher up the river. Landed the sheep and drove such as could walk to the waterhole at our camping place, one mile north of the Dome, and left a party in charge, consisting of Dr. Mueller, Mr. Wilson, Overseer Humphries, and W. Selby. Fifty sheep were landed, but only forty-four reached the waterhole, and of these one died during the night. The night tide rose eight feet, and we moved the schooner to the right bank of the river off Broken Hill and anchored in the channel. Before the full moon the tides have been higher during the day, but as the time of full moon approaches the higher tide is at night.
At 10.0 a.m. weighed and ran up the river with the flood to the commencement of the reach below Kangaroo Point, when the schooner grounded on a bank. Proceeded with Mr. Baines in the gig to the sheep camp with the intention of moving the sheep across the river and then driving them to the upper camp, but found them so weak that this arrangement was not practicable. Returned to the vessel.
At 3 a.m. the vessel floated, and she was moved about a mile above Kangaroo Point, when we anchored in three and a half fathoms. At noon weighed, and with a light breeze from the west and north till a thunder-squall from the south-east compelled us to come to anchor one mile below Sandy Island; a change of wind enabled us to move on to Sandy Island.
At 2 a.m. weighed, and towed the schooner to the upper end of the spit off Sandy Island, when she grounded, but was warped off at 4; the wind and tide were now adverse, and we therefore anchored in two fathoms. There is two fathoms in the channel past Sandy Island, but a reef of rocks extend from the left bank of the river, which renders it necessary to keep close to the edge of the shoal off the island.
TOM TOUGH REACHES DEPOT CAMP.
At 2 a.m. weighed with the flood, and towed the schooner up the river about four miles; at 6.30 a light northerly breeze enabled us to stem the ebb tide, and at 9.40 the schooner was moored at the camp, in two fathoms, close to the bank. Having obtained a supply of water, I despatched Mr. Baines, with Phibbs, Shewell, and Dawson, in the gig to bring up the sheep, the long-boat also going down the river with a crew from the vessel to bring up the kedge anchor and warp from Alligator Island, and also to assist in bringing up the sheep. In the evening there was a fine breeze from the east, and the thermometer fell to 65 degrees during the night. A few days before our arrival one of the kangaroo dogs had been seized by an alligator, and instantly drowned. The horses had been brought to the camp by the ford at Steep Head, and were looking well.
Commenced the erection of a shed to protect the stores, as it is necessary to land the cargo of the schooner to effect repairs. The keelson is broken seven feet before the mainmast, three of the deck beams are broken in the centre, and the knees are strained, and the bolts drawn; there is also reason to think that the floor timbers are fractured, and some of the timbers broken in her bends.
Messrs. Wilson, Baines, and Mueller, with the party in charge of the sheep, arrived at 7 a.m., bringing the remainder of the sheep, twenty-six in number, eleven having been drowned from want of proper care in bailing the boat, which consequently sunk during the night. Such of the party as are not otherwise engaged are employed in the erection of the store shed. Being desirous to examine the river above Steep Head, commenced fitting the portable boat, but found that the heat of the climate had destroyed the seams of three of the air cells, and the boat is therefore unserviceable. The general character of the materials of which inflated boats are constructed precludes any effectual repairs, as the intense heat of the sun decomposes the varnish with which the canvas is covered; it first becomes soft and adhesive, and then changes to a substance like tar, which does not consolidate with a lower temperature. Adjusted the aneroid barometer.
S. Macdonald was reported for being asleep on his watch during last night; reprimanded him for this neglect of duty. Several of the sheep escaped from the fold last night; some have been found, but eight are missing. Commenced thatching the store; landed maize, bran, and other stores from the schooner. Though the thermometer stood at 100 degrees in the shade, yet a westerly breeze renders it cool enough to work. Mr. Baines employed repairing the portable boat; Richards clearing a plot of ground near the spring for a garden.
DAMAGE TO PROVISIONS.
Continued to discharge the cargo of the schooner; at the request of the master of the Tom Tough, examined sixteen small and four large casks of bread, which had been damaged by salt-water; the whole of this bread was found to be quite destroyed and unfit for use. Although the large casks had been carefully coopered in Sydney, yet the hot climate had opened the joints, and as there were three to five feet of water in the vessel when aground in the lower part of the river, the bread was completely saturated. The leakage of the schooner has been much reduced, and now only requires pumping every six hours. The dryness of the air has increased from 10 to 20 degrees of evaporation, and the heat is not so oppressive, though the mean temperature exceeds 85 degrees. Heavy thunder-clouds are visible on the horizon, and the lightning is frequent in the early part of the night, especially to the east. Since the spring tides the river has gradually fallen, and is now four feet lower than low water at the full and change, and it does not vary more than one and a half feet in the twenty-four hours. A small spring of water has been found below high-water mark close to the landing place.
Completed thatching the store; continued landing stores from the schooner; coopering the flour-barrels. Towards evening there was a strong breeze from the north, which suddenly veered to the west, with thunder and a little rain. The sheep are visibly gaining flesh, and the horses have improved, but they are still unfit for work, as the grass is very dry and not in a state to fatten animals.
4th November (Sunday).
The sky was overcast in the afternoon with a strong north-west breeze, and every indication of approaching rain.
Landing stores from the schooner; general duties; light shower at 3 p.m.; evening cloudy. By observed altitudes on the meridian, the latitude of the camp 15 degrees 34 minutes 30 seconds.
Messrs. H. Gregory, Elsey, and Mueller, with two men and the master of the schooner, proceeded up the river in the gig to ascertain the most convenient spot for procuring timber for the repair of the vessel; the men variously employed coopering casks, fencing garden, etc. Towards evening the sky was overcast, and a slight shower fell at 4 p.m., the thermometer varying from 85 degrees, 100 degrees, 90 degrees. Mosquitoes are very numerous in the evenings. Received from Mr. Wilson a copy of his diary while in charge of the party on board the schooner ascending the Victoria River. In going down to the well Richards fell down among the reeds, and a splinter entered his wrist, passing under the skin for one and a half inches; but no material injury has occurred, though the wound will disable him for a few days.
Men employed coopering the flour-casks, fencing the garden, completing the store, and general camp duties. The party which went up the river yesterday in search of timber for the repair of the vessel returned in the evening, having found some suitable melaleuca-trees on the bank of the creek below Steep Head. The afternoon was again cloudy, with much lightning in the evening.
Men employed clearing away the grass and bushes around the camp, landing cargo from the schooner, plotting map of route from Point Pearce to the Victoria River.
Party employed as before.
Party employed as before. On unpacking the rice and peas, found that 720 pounds of rice and half a bushel of peas were destroyed by salt-water, and much more damaged; much of the sugar is damaged; but as it is not prudent to open casks, the quantity lost cannot be ascertained. Wrote to the master of the Tom Tough, requesting information with reference to a complaint by Mr. Wilson, that on the 30th September his signals for a boat to bring him to the schooner had been disregarded.
11th November (Sunday).
TIMBER FOR REPAIRS OF VESSEL.
Mr. H. Gregory, with Shewell and Dawson, accompanied Captain Gourlay to Steep Head to cut timber for the repair of the schooner. Erected a forge and continued the preparation of the garden, etc. Last night one of the sheep was strangled by getting entangled in the net which formed the sheep-pen. Received from the master of the Tom Tough a letter replying to my queries of the 10th instant. It appears that on the 30th September, while the schooner was aground in the lower part of the Victoria, Mr. Wilson landed to search for fresh water at Mosquito Flat; having made some indefinite arrangements with Mr. Elsey to signalize for a boat, should he require it, to return to the vessel; but he omitted to acquaint either the master of the schooner, or Mr. Baines, who was next in command to Mr. Wilson. The result was that when the signals were made there was some uncertainty whether they were fires lighted by Mr. Wilson as signals for a boat, and some delay ensued in preparing the boat, when it was found that the tide had fallen so much that there was not sufficient water to float the boat over the intervening sand-banks, and at low water Mr. Wilson waded across the deeper channels and walked over the dry banks to the vessel. As the affair appeared to be complicated with some private misunderstanding between the parties, and Mr. Wilson had neglected to make proper arrangements with the master of the vessel, I deemed it desirable that the investigation should not proceed any farther.
Mr. Baines having succeeded in repairing the portable boat, I made preparation for an excursion up the river, as the horses were still unfit for the work of exploration, and I hoped to be able to cross the shallows which had obstructed Captain Stokes. Richards' arm does not progress in a favourable manner, and it is therefore necessary that Mr. Elsey should remain at the camp to attend to his case. The party proceeding with the boats will therefore consist of Mr. Wilson, Mr. Baines, Mr. Flood, and myself. Men employed as before, and the general duties of the camp.
Party employed as before. At 3.30 p.m. I left the camp and proceeded to the creek, where the timber party were at work, reaching their bivouac at 7.30; six logs had been cut twenty to twenty-five feet long and twelve to fourteen inches square; the timber is a melaleuca with a broad leaf (Melaleuca leucodendron). The gum timber is generally unsound and worthless.
Returned to the principal camp with Mr. H. Gregory at 11.0 a.m., and at 2 p.m. started in the indiarubber boat with Messrs. Wilson, Baines, and Flood; at 8.0 p.m. reached the creek near Steep Head, and remained at the camp of the timber party for the night.
Started at 6.30 a.m. and crossed the shallows at Steep Head without much difficulty—as the tide was high, the water was six to eight inches deep. Three miles above Steep Head we observed three natives watching us, but they did not approach. At 10.0 a.m. reached Palm Island, which is only a bank of shingle with a few pandanus and melaleuca trees growing on it without a single palm-tree of any kind. One of the boats having been injured, hauled her up for repairs. Mr. Baines shot three whistling ducks on the island; they were very good eating. While at our dinner a native approached the bank of the river and came to us, and a parley commenced which was rather unintelligible, and when he found that he could not make himself understood by words, resorted to the language of signs, and expressed his contempt of us in an unmistakable manner. Having repaired the leak in the boat, we again moved up the river, but at one and a half miles came to a dry bar of rock, over which the boats were carried, and we passed a shallow pool of brackish water half a mile long to a second bar of greater breadth, and then entered a deep reach; but the day was so far advanced that we took advantage of a level rocky ledge and bivouacked.
INDIARUBBER BOATS FAIL.
Proceeded up the river about a mile and came to a dry bank of shingle and rocks, which extended for at least a mile, and over which it was not practicable to carry the boats, which had been much injured in crossing the rocky bars yesterday, the heat having destroyed the texture of the waterproof canvas. I therefore decided not to expend any more time on this excursion, but return to the camp. We observed some blacks watching us from some thick scrub; but they did not approach near enough to hold any communication. At 2.0 p.m. commenced the return down the river and reached Palm Island after dark and bivouacked.
At 3.0 a.m. there was a slight shower, and at 6.0 a.m. proceeded down the river, having dragged the boats over the shingle bank at Steep Head, where there was scarcely one inch of water; halted at the creek where the timber had been cut, to procure water for breakfast, and then sailed down the river and encountered a heavy squall, with thunder and lightning, just as we approached the camp; the rain continued nearly throughout the night. Captain Gourlay informed me that on the 16th three blacks had visited his party while cutting timber, and that in the evening some noise was heard, and being taken for the voices of the blacks, they had taken to the boat with great precipitation and returned to the schooner; the mosquitoes have nearly disappeared.
Sent a party, consisting of Phibbs, Humphries, Shewell, Selby, and Dawson, to assist the master of the schooner in bringing the timber down the river; Richards' arm is somewhat better, but not progressing favourably; Fahey is on the sick list; the rain having moistened the grass, the horses did not come in for water to-day; the weather continues very hot, generally 90 degrees at sunrise and 105 degrees at noon in the shade.
Commenced shoeing the horses and made preparations for a journey up the Victoria, to reconnoitre the country previous to starting for the interior.
Fahey, being convalescent, was employed as cook; Mr. H. Gregory, Mr. Flood, Bowman, and Melville, shoeing horses; Dean making charcoal for the forge; in the afternoon there was a heavy thundershower; the flies are very troublesome and annoy the horses so much that they will not stand quiet to be shod, and some of the horses are nearly blind in consequence of the flies crawling into their eyes.
Shoeing horses, fitting saddles, etc.; the schooner leaks about seven inches per hour, and as the master is absent with the greater part of the crew, procuring timber, I have afforded assistance from the party at the camp, to assist in keeping the vessel dry.
EXPLORE THE UPPER VICTORIA.
Preparing equipment for the party proceeding to explore the Victoria River, towards the upper part of its course; the grass has become quite green and fresh water is also abundant, which has caused some of the horses to stray beyond the usual feeding ground on the Whirlwind Plains.
Mr. H. Gregory and Mr. Flood brought in the stray horses, having found them beyond Sandy Island. The timber party returned to the camp with four logs of timber, which are intended to strengthen the keelson. While at work at the creek where the timber was procured the party had been twice visited by the blacks; these intrusions were neither decidedly friendly or hostile, but they stole some small articles which had been imprudently left lying near one of the logs of timber while the party was employed elsewhere; about 10.0 a.m. the blacks set fire to the grass about 200 yards from the camp, and then retired. At 2.0 p.m., left the camp, accompanied by Messrs. H. Gregory, Wilson, and Mueller, with seven horses and twenty days' provisions, the object being to examine the country through which the exploring party will have to travel on the route to the interior; at 6 a.m. bivouacked at Timber Creek; in the principal channel of the creek there were many small pools of water, and the grass was fresh and green on the flats. Except on the banks of the river and creeks, the country is very poor and stony; the geological structure of the country is the same as at Sea Range—the same bands of sandstone cliff resting on soft shales, the strata being horizontal; but beneath the shales chert and coarse siliceous limestone were exposed, and fragments of jasper are frequent. The principal timber is white-gum of small size, and the cotton-tree (cochlospermum), which sometimes attains the thickness of nine to twelve inches. Though grass is abundant on every description of soil, yet the greater part is of inferior descriptions and dries up completely at this season.
Latitude by altitude of Achernar, 15 degrees 39 minutes 43 seconds.
Started at 5.45 a.m., and followed the creek to the south-south-east; it rapidly decreased in size, branching into small gullies, so that we had some difficulty in finding water for a midday halt. The flats on the bank of the creek are in some parts nearly a mile wide, well grassed and openly timbered; the hills are of sandstone, but chert and coarse limestone were frequently seen on the lower ridges. At noon halted at a small pool of rainwater. The day was cloudy and cool, the thermometer only 90 degrees at 2 p.m. At 3.0 resumed our route up the creek, which soon terminated in small gullies rising in stony ridges; as there was no appearance of water to the south, the course was changed to south-east and east, in which direction we followed down a gully, and at 7.20 halted at a small waterhole.
Starting at 6.15 a.m., steered first north 70 degrees east and then 60 degrees till 3 p.m., traversing a level grassy box-flat extending along the northern side of a rocky sandstone range. At 3.0 p.m. reached the south-west end of the Fitzroy Range, which is a narrow ridge of sandstone hills ten miles long and one to two miles broad; at the north end of the range we found a small pool of rainwater, and, having watered the horses, pushed on towards the Victoria River, at the base of Bynoe Range; but although the country was level, we were so much retarded by the soft nature of the soil that the river was not reached till sunset, and the banks of the river were so steep that the water was not accessible for the horses, and we therefore encamped at a small hole of muddy rainwater. Our camp was about four miles above the furthest point attained by Captain Stokes, and consequently in Beagle Valley which we had traversed for more than thirty miles, the greater part of which was well grassed and openly wooded with box, bauhinia, and acacia. The Fitzroy Range is almost isolated, and there is a level plain five or six miles wide to the south-east, beyond which there is a high sandstone range surmounted by an almost unbroken cliff of sandstone near the summit, and which appeared to be quite impassable.
Steering east-south-east through grassy flats for one hour and a half, found that the river had turned to the northward round a steep hill, but continuing our course, crossed a low stony ridge and again approached the river, the banks of which were so steep that the horses could not get to the water, and therefore followed it two miles and encamped on a stony bar where the water was easy of access. The valley of the river is much contracted by the steep sandstone hills, which come close on both banks. In the bed of the river several fragments of jasper and black shale were found, the latter appearing to belong to the coal formation. A slight shower in the afternoon cooled the air, and the temperature was only 92 degrees at sunset, and the wet bulb 79 degrees.
Latitude by Achernar 15 degrees 36 minutes 29 seconds.
DEEP GORGE IN TABLELAND.
Started at 6.15 a.m. and followed the river, which first came from the east, then south-east and south-west till 10.40, when we crossed to the right bank and halted. The valley of the river is much narrower, and does not exceed half a mile, and is bounded by cliffs of sandstone varying from 50 to 300 feet high. The waters of the river occasionally rise 100 feet, as the marks of the floods extended to the base of the cliffs; the regular channel of the river is about 200 feet wide, the water forming deep reaches often more than a mile long and separated by dry stony bars of shingle and rock. The sandstone is thicker here than towards Steep Head, but there is no change in the geological character, except that the chert-beds are not exposed. The tracks of several natives were observed, but they were not seen by us; at 2.0 p.m. resumed the journey up the river in a generally south direction, and at 4.30 encamped, but had great difficulty in forcing our way through the reeds to procure water.
Latitude by meridian altitude of a Persei 15 degrees 41 minutes 54 seconds.
Left the camp at 6 a.m. and continued the route up the river to the south till 10.10, when we halted till 2.15 p.m., and then proceeded on till 4.45, and encamped at a small pool of rainwater, the bank of the river being so steep and covered with high reeds that the water is scarcely accessible. The valley of the river is still bounded by sandstone cliffs; but as the strata are horizontal, and the bed of the river rises, the shales are not much exposed, and the alluvial banks reach to the base of the cliffs, which are so continuous that I have not yet seen a spot where we could have ascended the tableland in which the valley is excavated. Several tributary gullies having passed, but none worthy of special notice. Fragments of trap-rock are frequent in the bed of the river, and one specimen contained traces of carbonate of copper; at 6.0 thermometer 92 degrees, aneroid 29.80, at the camp—sixty feet above the river.
Latitude by meridian altitude of Achernar 15 degrees 50 minutes 30 seconds.
VALLEY SUDDENLY WIDENS.
Resumed our route up the river at 5.40 a.m., the general course south; there being no change in the character of the country till 10.0, when the hills receded and the cliffs ceased; at 10.30 halted at a small pool in a back channel of the river. At noon the thermometer stood at 100 degrees in the shade, and the aneroid 29.75—forty feet above the river. Starting again at 2.0 p.m., soon entered an extensive plain extending to the east, south, and west; followed a large creek to the south-west till 6.15, and encamped.
Latitude by meridian altitude of Achernar 16 degrees 2 minutes 30 seconds.
At 5.40 a.m. crossed the creek and steered east to the foot of a rocky hill, but not seeing the principal branch of the Victoria, returned to the creek and then steered south-south-west till 10.0 a.m., when we crossed two small creeks, in the second of which we found a pool of water surrounded by reeds (typha), and halted during the heat of the day. The country traversed was first a stony ridge, on which several small stone huts had been erected, but scarcely of sufficient size for a man to enter, and the roofs were only formed by a few pieces of wood and a little grass; they consist of a wall three feet high, in the form of a horseshoe, about three feet in diameter inside; the entrances of some had been closed with stones and afterwards partially opened, and I can only conjecture that, as the practice of carrying the bones of their deceased relatives prevails in this part of Australia, it is probable that these erections are used as temporary sepulchres. After crossing this stony ridge entered a level plain of clay, much fissured by the sun, and in some parts covered with fragments of jasper and sandstones; as the creek was approached limestone prevailed, but the exposed portion seemed to be formed by a rearrangement of the broken fragments of older rocks, which were visible in the gullies. The water at which we halted appeared to be supplied by a spring, and not to be the retention of rainwater. At 3.15 p.m. proceeded in a westerly direction in search of the principal branch of the creek, which we reached at 4.0 p.m., but found it much reduced in size, not exceeding fifteen yards in width; followed it up for an hour, and camped at a small but deep pool of water, which is evidently supplied by a spring in the limestone rocks, which form the banks of the creek.
Latitude by meridian altitude of Achernar 16 degrees 10 minutes.
Having filled our water-bags, we left the camp at 6.40 a.m., and steered a course of north 200 degrees east towards a range of hills composed of jasper rock, the highest point of which we reached at 10.0. The aneroid stood at 29.15; thermometer 94 degrees. Three miles to the south-west of this range the country rose into an elevated tableland higher than the Jasper Range; towards this we continued our route, following a small watercourse which gradually turned to the east. Finding the country very dry and rocky, and no prospect of finding a spot where the tableland could be ascended, we returned to the waterhole at which we camped last night.
At 6.0 a.m. were again in the saddle, and steering north till 7.20, ascended an isolated hill of trap-rock rising abruptly in the centre of the open plain about 200 feet. Having taken bearings of the surrounding ranges, steered north 30 degrees east till 10.30, across a level grassy plain to the creek, which, though much larger than at the camp, was destitute of water; but following its course downwards, at 10.50 halted at a small pool. Judging from the height that drift-wood was lodged in the branches of the trees, the floods rise about fifty feet; the regular channel is thirty yards wide; on the banks red, green, and white shales are exposed, but the bed of the creek is generally sandy. A large tributary appears to join this creek from the west, in which direction a large valley extends fifteen miles. At 3 p.m. steered east, and passed to the south of a remarkable sandstone hill, which we named Mount Sandiman, and at 5.30 reached the bank of the Victoria coming from the south-south-east; followed it up for one mile and encamped where a ledge of rock gave easy access to the water. In the evening there was a slight shower, and a heavy thunderstorm passed to the north.
About 5.45 resumed our journey up the river, passing through wide grassy flats and over a sandstone ridge which was covered with triodia; from this ridge there was an extensive view of the country to the south and east, but no hills of greater elevation than the sandstone tableland were visible, and for twenty miles the valley of the river expanded into a wide plain thinly timbered with box-trees. Continuing a south-south-east course through a fine grassy country till 10.0, halted in a patch of green grass. The elevation of this part of the valley of the Victoria is not great, as the barometer stood at 29.77 forty feet above the river; thermometer, 101 degrees. The soil on the bank of the river is good and well-grassed, but the inundations during the rainy season extend on each side of the river several miles. The strata of the sandstone, where exposed, dip to the north, but there is no alteration in the character of the rocks. Abundance of portulaca grew near our halting place, and furnished us with an agreeable vegetable; this plant was afterwards found over the whole of Northern Australia, and proved a very valuable article of food. At 3.20 continued our route, and at 5.30 bivouacked at a small pool of rainwater in one of the back channels of the river, the banks of which were inconveniently covered with high reeds. During the night there was continuous light rain till 4.0 a.m.
ABUNDANCE OF FISH.
Continued our route up the river to the south-south-west from 5.45 a.m. till 10.45, passing through open grassy box flats; a low grassy range approached the right bank and again receded; to the west a range of broken hills rose to 500 feet parallel to our course and five miles distant. Halted in the bed of the river, which formed fine reaches of water, with dry sand-bars between; caught several catfish and perch; mussels were abundant, the form of the shell much longer than I have before seen in the other parts of the river. At noon: Barometer, 29.80; thermometer, 104 degrees; at 3.0 p.m.: Barometer, 29.65; thermometer, 93 degrees. At 3.30 steered south from the right bank of the river, which turned to the westward; crossed some fine grassy country thinly timbered with box, and at 4.50 came to the southern branch of the river. This branch trended to the north-east, and consequently joins at a point lower down than where we crossed, the junction not having been observed. These two branches of the Victoria are so nearly equal in apparent size that it will remain for future examination to determine which is to be considered the tributary. Crossing to the right bank, we followed it upwards along the foot of the high land for half an hour, and encamped in the bed of the river.
Latitude by meridian altitude of Achernar 16 degrees 26 minutes.
RETURN DOWN THE VICTORIA.
The day commenced with a heavy thundershower, which continued for several hours; but the rain not being quite so heavy at 6 a.m., we started and proceeded along the bank of the river to a hill about one and a half miles south-west of the bivouac. On ascending the hill, we found that though the elevation and position accommodated a fine view in fine weather, yet the rain at the present time obscured all distant objects, but the country to the south and west consisted of flat-topped sandstone hills with large open valleys between; to the east the view was obstructed by rising ground, while to the north lay the vast grassy plain which we had traversed during the last two days. The western branch of the river turned to the west-south-west along the foot of the sandstone ranges, its course being marked by a line of green trees, which contrasted strongly with the white grass on the open plains on its banks. The south branch of the river appeared to come from a valley trending south-south-east, but the thick mist obscured that part of the country. As we had now examined the country sufficiently to enable the main party to advance a whole degree of latitude without any great impediment, and ascertained the general character of the country and the nature of the obstacles to be encountered, and on which the equipment of the party would in some measure depend, we turned our steps towards the principal camp, crossing the western branch of the river at 9.50, and reached our camp of the 4th at 3.20 p.m. The rain this morning cooled the air to 74 degrees at 9 a.m. and 85 degrees at sunset.
Resumed our journey down the river, following the outward track from 5.40 a.m. till 11.0, when we halted till 3.25 p.m. Thermometer at noon 102 degrees, with a cool southerly breeze; wet bulb, 78 degrees. Resuming our route, crossed to the right bank of the river, and bivouacked at the termination of the plains.
At 5.45 a.m. proceeded down the right bank of the river, which was very rocky and steep; we therefore crossed to the left bank, and at 11.0 halted one mile above the bivouac of the 29 ultimo. Between 2.0 and 3.0 p.m. there was a heavy thunderstorm, when half an inch of rain fell; at 3.45 resumed our journey, and encamped about four miles lower down the river.
Followed the left bank of the river from 6.0 to 11.0 a.m.; found the travelling less stony and intersected by gullies than the right bank; at 3.50 p.m. resumed our route, and at 6.30 encamped.
Travelled down the river from 5.45 till 10.0 a.m.; when we halted a quarter of a mile above the camp of the 27th November. At 2.0 p.m. a heavy thundershower cooled the atmosphere from 100 degrees to 77 degrees. Resumed our journey at 3.0 and at 6.30 camped in the level plain at the foot of the Fitzroy Range, on the east side, water being abundant in every hollow, and since we passed up the river there has been heavy rain in this part of the country, and several of the gullies have been running eight feet deep. Shot a turkey and three black ibis. The Fitzroy Range extends about two miles north of a line from the gorge of the river to Bynoe Range, the Victoria winding round the north end of the range, and some tributary creeks appear to join from the north, as a valley extends several miles in that direction. The rain does not appear to have been general over the country, as it often occurs that after travelling over two or three miles of green grass where the gullies show signs of recent flood, that this beautiful verdure suddenly ceases, and we again encounter a dry and parched country which exhibits all the signs of an Australian summer.
Left our camp at 5.45 a.m., and, steering west, crossed the low ridge of the Fitzroy Range, and having taken bearings of the features of the country, steered north 260 degrees east through the level plain which occupies the space between Wickham Heights and the Fitzroy Range, and which was named Beagle Valley by Captain Stokes. The soil of this plain is a brown clay, which in the dry weather crumbles into small pieces, so that the horses sink deeply into it; but in the wet season the whole is deep mud; it, however, appears to be very fertile, and produces an abundance of grass; the trees consist of bauhinia, acacia, and some eucalypti. Halting from 10.0 a.m. till 4.0 p.m. changed course to north 245 degrees east, and after traversing a grassy box flat for two hours, camped at a small watercourse with pools of rainwater in a rocky limestone channel.
Started at 5.30 a.m., and steered north 245 degrees east for one and a half hours, when we passed the high bluff of the range and changed the course north 330 degrees east, keeping three-quarters of a mile east of the remarkable hill called the Tower, by Captain Stokes, from a remarkable rock on the summit. The country was very rough and stony, though the ridge we passed over was not more than 200 or 300 feet above the river. Continuing a north-north-west course, at 9.45 reached the bank of the Victoria, which was followed on a course of 200 degrees till 10.10, when a large creek joined the river; this creek drains nearly the whole of Beagle Valley, and takes its rise in the north-west slope of Stokes' Range. The course was then westerly till 12.15 p.m., when we encamped in a grassy flat one-third of a mile from the river. Marked a large adansonia tree 12 on its south side.
Leaving our bivouac at 5.30 a.m., followed the valley of the river, passing the ridge at back of Steep Head at 10.0., and halted at Timber Creek at 11.0. The heavy rains which occurred in Beagle Valley do not appear to have extended to this part of the country, and the grass is still dry and withered. At 2.30 p.m. resumed our route and reached the principal camp at 6.30, and found the party all well, except Richards, who was still suffering severely from the injury to his wrist. Mr. Baines was absent, having started on Wednesday in search of two horses which had strayed to the westward.
Messrs. Baines and Bowman returned with the stray horses, having found them on the bank of a small river fifteen miles to the west of the camp. This river, which I named the Baines River, has considerable pools of fresh water in its bed, which comes from the south-west, and flows into the large salt-water creek above Curiosity Peak. On one occasion Messrs. Baines and Bowman had halted to rest during the heat of the day, when they observed some blacks creeping towards them in the high grass; but, on finding they were observed, retired and soon returned openly with augmented numbers and approached with their spears shipped; but Mr. Baines and his companion having mounted their horses, galloped sharply towards them, and the blacks retreated with great precipitation. Mr. H. Gregory brought in the greater part of the horses; but as they had scattered very much in search of green grass, many of the horses were ten miles from the camp. Men employed cutting and carrying timber for the repair of the schooner, which work is progressing satisfactorily; computing astronomical observations.
Party employed as before. One of the mares is reported to have foaled a fine filly. Thundershowers are frequent, and the country near the camp is clothed with verdure. Rode out with Mr. H. Gregory and Mr. Baines to bring in some horses which had strayed, and which, after several hours' tracking, we found and brought to the camp. The horses are now much improved, and, with the exception of three which are still very weak, are now in a serviceable condition, though few are capable of carrying heavy loads or performing long journeys; but as grass and water are now abundant for the first 100 miles of the route towards the interior, I hope that by travelling easy stages the horses will improve, and preparations are being made for commencing the journey early in January. The country being impracticable for drays, and as the sheep cannot be driven with advantage, owing to the high grass and reeds, it is necessary to constitute the party so that the whole equipment can be conveyed by pack-horses, to accomplish which the party proceeding to the interior must not exceed nine in number, for which the horses are capable of conveying five months' provisions and equipment. The remaining half of the party will have full employment in the repair of the schooner and care of the stores—points of vital importance to the Expedition. It is therefore proposed to make the following division of the party, which, under existing circumstances, appears to me the most eligible.
PREPARATIONS FOR EXPEDITION.
The exploring party to consist of the following: Commander, A. Gregory; assistant commander, H. Gregory; artist, T. Baines; botanist, F. Mueller; collector, J. Flood; overseer, G. Phibbs; farrier, R. Bowman; harness-maker, C. Dean; stockman, J. Fahey.
The party remaining in charge of the principal camp: Geologist, J.S. Wilson; surgeon, J.R. Elsey; overseer, C. Humphries; stockmen, Dawson, Shewell, Selby, Macdonald, Richards, Melville.
Preparing a map of the late journey up the Victoria, shoeing horses, and other preparations for the expedition into the interior.
Party employed as before.
Removing the bones from the salt pork which is to form part of the provisions of the exploring party; the reduction in weight is 17 per cent. Packing flour in double canvas bags, containing forty or fifty pounds each. In the centre of each bag of flour one pound of gunpowder is placed as the most secure from accidents. Shoeing horses, etc., as before. At 10 o'clock last night it commenced raining, and continued till daybreak; the day has been cool and cloudy.
Party employed as before; killed one of the sheep, which weighed thirty-eight pounds. During last night it rained for four hours, and there have been showers to-day.
Preparing for explorations as before. The river commenced running, but is still brackish. The weather is cloudy, with frequent showers; the country is becoming very soft and boggy.
Frequent heavy showers, especially at night. Mr. Wilson, Dr. Mueller, and Selby went down the river to examine Sea Range and procure specimens of rocks and plants. The repairs of the schooner requiring some broad iron, I had the ironwork of one of the drays appropriated to the purpose, as there was no iron of a suitable size on board the vessel. Party employed shoeing horses, fitting saddles, and general preparations of equipment for the exploring party.
Two of the horses have again strayed to the westward, and Mr. H. Gregory and Bowman were employed nearly the whole day in tracking them, and succeeded in bringing them in at night. The river is quite fresh, and running with a current from one to two miles per hour. Since the commencement of the rainy weather the general health of the party has improved; but this, perhaps, is due to the reduction of temperature, combined with greater regularity of habits and diet. Richards' arm is, however, in a very unsatisfactory state, though this is more the result of general ill-health than the original extent of actual injury.
Preparing equipment, etc., as before. Dr. Mueller and Mr. Wilson returned in the boat from Sea Range. They report the river to be fresh at Sandy Island. Frequent heavy showers, which rendered the ground so soft that the horses cannot be hobbled without danger of their getting bogged, and it is scarcely possible to ride after them to herd them.
Christmas day. Frequent heavy showers throughout the day and night. Killed a sheep; the weight, 38 1/2 pounds.
Preparing equipment; fitting spare shoes for the horses, etc. Frequent showers.
Packing stores, fitting saddles, etc. This has been the first fine day during the past week, having had only a single shower during the twenty-four hours.
FLOOD IN THE RIVER.
Party employed as before. The schooner was moved into the stream, as the drift-wood collected in large quantities, and could not be easily cleared away from the bows when moored near the bank. The water of the river is very muddy, and has risen about six feet above the ordinary high-water mark. The current is about two miles per hour. In winding chronometer 2139, the chain, which was much corroded, broke, and the force of the recoil of the spring snapped it in so many places that I had to splice six of the links.
As before—preparing equipment, etc.
30th December (Sunday).
Preparing tracings of maps, etc., completed the preparations for the exploration of the interior.
1st January, 1856.
Wrote to Mr. Wilson, enclosing instructions for the guidance of the officer in charge of the camp on the Victoria. Wrote to the master of the Tom Tough instructions relative to the movements and repair of the Tom Tough, etc. Received from Mr. Wilson a letter requesting to be informed why he had been selected to take charge of the party at the principal camp. Wrote to Mr. Wilson in reply to his letter of this day's date. Having completed the preparations for the journey into the interior, the horses were saddled, and the party was on the point of starting, when a gun was fired on board the schooner, and the horses took fright and rushed wildly into the bush; and it was only after a hard gallop of two miles that they could be turned and driven back to the camp. Many of the saddles and loads were torn off by the horses having run against trees, and, as they had scattered very much, it took some time to collect the bags which had fallen from the horses, and four bags of provisions could not be found. A few of the straps of the colonial-made pack-saddles had given way, but there was no other damage done to them; but the English-made saddle was shaken to pieces. The party were occupied in the evening repairing damages.
Completed the repair of the saddlery, etc. broken yesterday; two of the missing bags were found, but a heavy shower having obliterated the tracks of the horses, two bags of sugar and sago were lost.
All arrangements being complete, the party commenced their journey at 11 a.m., and, proceeding up the river to Timber Creek, encamped there at 3.0 p.m.
The following is a memorandum of the arrangements and equipment of the party:
The Party: Commander, A.C. Gregory; assistant-commander, H.C. Gregory; artist, T. Baines; botanist, F. Mueller, collector, J. Flood; overseer, G. Phibbs; farrier, R. Bowman; harness-maker, C. Dean; stockman, J. Fahey.
Horses: 27 pack-horses with pack-saddles; 3 pack-horses with riding-saddles; 6 riding-horses.
Provisions for five months: Flour, 1,470 pounds; pork, 1200 pounds; rice, 200 pounds; sago, 44 pounds; sugar, 280 pounds; tea, 36 pounds; coffee, 28 pounds; tobacco, 21 pounds; soap, 51 pounds. Total, 3,330 pounds.
Equipment: Instruments, clothing, tents, ammunition, horseshoes, tools, etc., 800 pounds; saddle-bags and packages, 400 pounds; saddles, bridles, hobbles, etc., 900 pounds. Total, 5,430 pounds.
SENTRIES AT NIGHT.
The total weight was thus about two and a half tons, which, distributed on thirty horses, gave a load of 180 pounds each horse. Each person had a stated number of horses in his special charge, and was responsible for the proper care of the loads and equipment, the saddles and loads being all marked with numbers. A watch was constantly kept through the night, each person being on sentry for two hours in regular rotation, except myself, as I had to make astronomical observations at uncertain hours. The cook was on watch from 2.0 till 4.0 a.m., and having prepared breakfast, the party concluded this meal at daybreak, and thus the most valuable part of the day was not lost.
Started at 7 a.m. and followed up the creek; but Dr. Mueller having wandered away into the rocky hills and lost himself, I halted at the first convenient spot, having despatched several of the party to search for him, but it was not till 4 p.m. that the Doctor reached the camp. At noon there was a shower of rain, which reduced the temperature to 92 degrees.
The day broke with a heavy shower, which continued till 7.30 a.m., when it was followed by a cool breeze from the west; at 8.30 steered north 150 degrees east magnetic up the valley of the creek till 11.0, when, crossing a low rocky ridge, we descended into Beagle Valley, and, steering 160 degrees till 2.10 p.m., halted at a small creek. The country is now covered with fine grass, and water is abundant, though the smaller watercourses have ceased to flow. In the evening walked to a hill about a mile from the camp; it was only 150 feet high, but gave a fine view of the distant ranges.
It rained continuously during the night, with thunder and lightning. At 8.0 a.m. steered 160 degrees and soon came on a small creek with water-pandanus on its banks; followed it to the south-south-east; at 11.0 crossed it and changed the course to south-east, and at 11.30 encamped in a small gully; I then went with Mr. H. Gregory to look for a practicable ascent of Stokes' Range; having been successful in the search, we returned to the camp at 6 p.m. There are few spots where this range can be ascended, as a line of cliffs run along the brow of the hills varying from 10 to 100 feet in height. While on the hill we saw a few blacks, but they did not approach; the day was cloudy and cool, clearing after sunset.
Latitude by Canopus and Capella 15 degrees 59 minutes 57 seconds.
The day again commenced with heavy showers, which lasted till 7 a.m. At 7.30 started on a course of 120 degrees; reached the foot of the sandstone range at 8.50, and the summit at 9.30, the tableland on the top of the range being intersected by deep ravines trending to the south-west; we steered east till 11.40, when we came to a deep valley trending east-south-east; having made the necessary observations for elevation, commenced the descent of the hills, which was practicable in few places, as the valley was walled-in by steep hills crowned by sandstone cliffs 20 to 100 feet in height, with only an occasional break. At 1.0 p.m. reached the base of the hill, and encamped at a small gully. The summit of the range is nearly a level tableland, the undulations not exceeding 100 feet, but is intersected by deep ravines with perpendicular sides, which vary from 100 to 600 feet in depth. The upper rock is sandstone, and the soil on it very poor and sandy, producing small eucalypti, hakea, grevillia, and a sharp spiny grass (triodia); this is the spinifex of Captain Sturt and other Australian explorers. The character of the country is similar to that of the interior of some parts of the western coast.
Latitude by Capella 15 degrees 59 minutes 32 seconds.
JASPER CREEK. GRASSY COUNTRY.
Heavy rain till 7.0 a.m.; at 7.15 started and followed down the valley of the creek to south-south-east and south till 9.0, when it joined a larger valley trending east, in which a large creek in high flood obstructed our course. As the water was too deep to ford, we fixed a rope to a branch of a tree and passed the packs over the stream. This was accomplished at 3.0 p.m., and the water having also sunk a foot, the horses crossed over, and we encamped on the south side of the creek. The valleys are well grassed, and vary from a quarter to three-quarters of a mile in width, the hills rising steeply from the base to near the summit, where they are crowned by a sandstone cliff 20 to 150 feet high; the summits are level, or nearly so, as the valleys are only deep ravines excavated in the tableland. The valley of the larger creek appears to expand about five miles to the west of the camp, and the hills all rounded in their outline.
A light shower at night was followed by a cool cloudy morning. At 6.50 a.m. followed down the creek to the east, and crossed to the left bank to avoid a rocky hill. On attempting to cross lower down, one of the pack-horses was carried down the stream some distance by the force of the current, and the saddle-bags were recovered a quarter of a mile below. The valley contracted as we proceeded, and at length the steep cliff left no passage on the left bank, and we had to return one and a half miles up the creek and cross to the right bank, when our course was again obstructed by a large tributary, which was crossed with some difficulty, and we passed through the rough rocky gorge of the creek, where the cliff approached the bank of the stream so closely that there was scarcely space for a horse to pass. At 12.10 p.m. camped on the bank of the creek at the termination of the hilly country, and, ascending a rocky elevation, obtained a view of the valley of the Victoria, and ascertained that we were on one of the branches of Jasper Creek. The afternoon and night were showery.
Started at 6.30 a.m. and steered south-east, leaving the creek to the north; the country soon changed to a level plain well-grassed, but, owing to the late rain, very soft and muddy; at 10.20 passed to the north end of Jasper Range, and came to a creek fifteen yards wide trending north-east. Having forded the creek, camped on the right bank. The soil of the country traversed this day is a good brown loam on the plains, but rough and stony on the hills. The trees are of a small size, principally box and bauhinia. Sandstone is the prevailing rock, sometimes passing into jasper, and also into chert and coarse limestone. Small veins of quartz intersected the jasper, and contained small crystals of sulphuret of copper and iron.
Latitude by Aldebaran and Capella, 116 degrees 6 minutes 54 seconds; variation of compass, 3 degrees 6 minutes east.
One of the mares having foaled in the night, she was not fit for a day's journey; we therefore remained at the camp, and employed the day in repairing and adjusting the saddles, and other works of indispensable nature; marked a large gum-tree NAE, 11 Jan., 1856.
The night was fine, with a heavy dew and a light breeze from the south. At 6.15 a.m. steered north 150 degrees east over the level country which extends along the east side of Jasper Range; the soil is stony, but well grassed, and the fine weather had allowed the surface to become firm, so that the horses were not often bogged. At 12.25 p.m. camped on a small creek between the Fitzgerald and Jasper Ranges; marked a gum-tree at camp Number 9. The general character of this part of the country is good and well suited for stock, though not equal to the basaltic country to the eastward on the Victoria. Hard sandstone, jasper, and coarse limestone are the prevailing rocks.
Latitude by Aldebaran, Saturn, and a Orionis 16 degrees 16 minutes 22 seconds.
The night cool and clear; thermometer 62 degrees at sunrise with heavy dew; steering an average south course from 6.40 a.m. till 11.25, reached the western branch of the Victoria River and encamped. The country traversed was nearly level and well grassed and thinly wooded with eucalypti and bauhinia; the soil is brown loam with small fragments of limestone; the river was running strong, but not in flood; the greatest rise this season had been only ten feet, and the usual flood-marks were twenty feet higher.
Latitude by Aldebaran and Capella 16 degrees 25 minutes 12 seconds.
Followed the river to the west-south-west, crossing two large tributary creeks from the north-west, approaching the sandstone ranges on the western side of the plain; the soil did not improve, but became very sandy; the country is thinly wooded with box-trees and bauhinia of small size; grass is abundant and good. At noon one of the pack-horses, Sam, knocked up, and his load being transferred to one of the riding-horses, he was left to rest while we sought a suitable spot for a camp, and at 12.15 p.m. halted at a small gully, as the bank of the river was unsafe for the horses, being very boggy. Sent back for the horse Sam, and brought him to camp; ascended the hill to the north-west of the camp to take bearings, but no important features of the country were visible; in ascending the hill the aneroid (B) fell from 29.62 to 28.55 degrees, and on descending only rose to 28.80 degrees, the estimated height being 300 feet; as this indicated a change in form of the metal of the instrument, I re-adjusted it to the aneroid (A), 29.45 degrees. The continuance of fine weather and forward state of the grass led to the supposition that the wet season had already terminated, though only two months have elapsed since the first rains. It is probable that the wet season is much shorter in the interior than on the coast, and at no great distance inland the tropical wet season will cease altogether, as Captain Sturt, in latitude 26 degrees, only observed a fall of rain in the month of August; but this might be exceptional, as in the case of Dr. Leichhardt, who never encountered a rainy season during the journey to Port Essington.
Latitude by Aldebaran and Capella 16 degrees 27 minutes 20 seconds.
Started at 6.45 a.m. and followed the river to the west-south-west; the hills coming close to the bank for some miles, caused the journey to be slow and difficult; crossed two large creeks coming from the west-north-west, the second seventy yards wide; at 10.35 encamped in a fine grassy flat. The course of the river was now more from the south, and the valley expanded into a plain several miles wide.
As several of the horses required a day's rest, at 6.0 a.m. I started with Mr. H. Gregory to examine the country to the southward, and followed the river through a fine grassy plain till 10.0, when it entered the sandstone ranges, and the valley contracted to half a mile; the hills were steep, but the level ground in the valley, except where intersected by gullies, was good travelling and well grassed. The river is much reduced in size and the water is confined to the smaller channels of the principal bed; the water is clear, and had not that muddy appearance which characterises it lower down. The geological character of the rocks is unchanged; but the bed of the river being less deeply excavated, the lower beds of limestone and jasper are not so largely developed, the summit of the hills are not quite as level, and large blocks of sandstone, the remains of an upper stratum, gives the country a very rugged appearance. Returned to the camp at 6.30 p.m. In the evening there was a heavy thunder-squall from the north, but the weather cleared at midnight.
LOSE A HORSE.
Started at 7.5 a.m. and steered a south-west course till 10.30 a.m., passing over a level grassy flat the whole distance; but the soil became more sandy as we proceeded up the river; there is very little wood of any description; the few trees that exist are white-stem eucalypti and a few acacia with pinnate leaves; the horse Sam is very weak, and two other horses are lame and can scarcely travel; since the 3rd of January the distance travelled has not exceeded ten miles per diem; water and grass everywhere abundant, and the loads not heavy, yet the greater part of the horses appear to be unable to perform a greater amount of work.
Latitude by Aldebaran 16 degrees 36 minutes 43 seconds.
Some of the horses having strayed towards our last camp, we were detained till 8.10 a.m. and then steered south for three miles; the sandstone hills here closed in on each side of the river, scarcely leaving a passage at the base of the steep rocks; here the horse Sam fell into a pool of water, and when extricated could not stand; this having caused considerable delay, we encamped in a grassy flat half a mile farther on; in the evening sent Bowman and Dean to bring the horse to the camp, but they found him dead; marked a tree near camp 14.
The night was fine, with heavy dew, the temperature 73 degrees at sunrise; having collected the horses and saddled at 6.45 a.m., left the camp and followed the valley of the river on an average south-west course, crossing a large creek from the north-west; the valley of the river expanded to three miles and then narrowed to one mile, and the course of the river was nearly west till 10.50 a.m., when we encamped; the soil of the valley is a brown loam, producing abundance of grass; but the hills, though less rocky, are more barren than lower down the river; the character of the channel of the river has altered, and has the appearance of a stream which continues to run late into the dry season, as the channels are narrow and fringed with pandanus, melaleuca, and other trees which grow near permanent water; the banks are of less height and the timber on them grows to a greater size than lower down the valley; at 1.0 p.m. the thermometer 100 degrees, and the wet bulb 76 degrees, indicating 24 degrees of evaporation.
CROSS THE WICKHAM RIVER.
Left the camp at 6.55 a.m. and followed the river in a west-north-west direction till 8.5, when we crossed at a ledge of rocks which caused a fall of about one foot, the water being twenty yards wide and one to two feet deep; but above and below the rapid the river formed fine reaches seventy yards wide; the course was now west-south-west till 9.0 a.m., when the river turned west, and at 10.50 came to a large stony creek from the south-west, at which we encamped; the country on the banks of the river rises gradually as it recedes, and, except within the influence of the floods, is poor and stony, producing little besides a sharp grass (triodia)—this is the spinifex of some Australian explorers—a few small gum-trees and bushes. As we progress towards the interior the wet season appears to have been of less duration and the fall of rain less, yet the great heat has forced the vegetation towards maturity, and many of the grasses have already ripened their seeds, while there are many other indications of the dry season having fairly set in; the wind is steadily from the south and south-east, and is very dry; the sky is clear and bright, and the creeks have ceased to run; the almost total absence of birds or animals shows that we are approaching the limits of the dry summer season of the southern interior; in the afternoon rode out with Mr. H. Gregory to examine the country, and found that the river came through a gorge in the sandstone range; this gorge is two miles long, a quarter of a mile wide, and 400 feet deep, with nearly perpendicular sides, the winter channel of the river occupying nearly the whole breadth, and intersecting the otherwise flat bottom of the valley with dry sandy channels and long pools of water; beyond the gorge the valley opened, but the view was intercepted by hills.
A HORSE KILLED.
Resumed our journey at 7.10 a.m., and, following the right bank of the river nearly west through the gorge, at 9.0 entered an open valley, through which the river came from the south-west; but at 10.0 we entered a second defile, which, from the inclined strata of sandstone, was almost impassable for the horses. In crossing some soft ground between the rocks one of the horses fell on a sharp stump, and was deeply wounded in the belly. The wound was sewn up; but the injury was so severe that the horse died in the night. Having extricated ourselves from this ravine, we encamped at the foot of a sandstone hill, the strata of which dipped 60 degrees to the south-west. Ascending the hill, which was about 300 feet high, the country appeared more level to the south, rising into sandstone ranges at ten miles distance. The course of the river was from west-south-west, the channel being bounded by sandstone cliffs 100 to 200 feet high. The general aspect of the country was wretched in the extreme, as little besides a few small gum-trees and triodia clothed the rugged surface of the red sandstone. The weather continues fine, with only an occasional cloud or flash of lightning in the early part of the night. The temperature is increasing, being 104 degrees at 1.0 p.m. Some catfish and a small tortoise were caught in the river.
At 7.0 a.m. continued our route up the river; but, to avoid the deep ravines on its banks, made a sweep to the south, and at noon encamped in a grassy flat on the bank of the river. The country traversed was very barren and rocky, and the horses had great difficulty in crossing the deep ravines; many of their shoes were torn from their feet during the day's journey. The highest ridge crossed was 500 feet above the bed of the river, the height of which is approximately 500 feet above the sea-level, and thus the general level of the tableland may be considered to be 1000 feet above the sea. The general course of the river being from the west, it appears advisable to reconnoitre the country to the south.
Latitude by Capella 16 degrees 47 minutes 58 seconds.
RECONNOITRE TO THE SOUTH.
Leaving the camp in charge of Dr. Mueller, at 6.30 a.m. started in a southerly direction, accompanied by Messrs. H. Gregory and Baines, taking with us four horses and six days' rations, etc.; after clearing the deep rocky gullies near the river, we passed over a more level country with some fine open plains covered with fine grass, but the intervening ridges were very stony; at 9.45 a.m. reached the highest part of the range, and the country declined to the south-east, and intersected by deep rocky ravines trending towards a large valley, which is probably drained by the southern branch of the Victoria; the course was now south-east, descending to the valley of a creek, through a very barren and rugged sandstone country, producing little besides stunted eucalypti, acacia, and triodia. At 11.15 a.m. halted at the creek, and resumed our route at 3.0 p.m., and followed the valley to the south-east till 4.40 p.m., when it turned east through a rocky gorge between cliffs 150 feet high; but notwithstanding the dense bush of pandanus, fallen rocks and deep muddy channel of the creek, we succeeded in forcing our way through the gorge of the creek, and bivouacked in the open valley below at 5.30 p.m., there being a fine patch of grass in the flat, though the surrounding country is rocky and barren. The sandstone rocks show a great disturbance and dip at all angles and directions, so that no general angle or strike could be determined; the upper rocks, however, show a new feature in a coarse conglomerate of fragments of the lower sandstones and a few fragments of basalt; some of the enclosed pieces of rock are nearly a foot in diameter, and are mostly angular, though occasionally round; this rock forms a horizontal bed of 100 feet in thickness. Towards evening the sky was clouded, with lightning to the east, but no rain.
At 6.0 a.m. crossed the creek, and steered south-east over broken sandstone ridges till 8.0, when we entered a plain of basaltic formation covered with good grass, and where the ground was not entirely composed of fragments of rock the soil was a rich black loam; crossing the large creeks trending north, at 10.0 a.m. halted on the second. These creeks appear to rise in a steep range of sandstone hills which bound the basaltic plains to the west, about two miles from our track. At 3.0 p.m. resumed our route and traversed the trap plain for one and a half hours, and bivouacked in a small gully; the country on both sides of our track seems to be of trap formation for several miles, and then rises into sandstone hills with flat tops. The basaltic rock of this plain is not of great thickness, as the sandstone rose in a few spots above its surface and formed small islands covered with coarse vegetation, surrounded by the open grassy plain. The basalt seems to have been poured out into the valley after it had been excavated in the sandstone, and not to have been much disturbed subsequently. The surface of the plain is very stony, and the horses' feet were much injured by the roughness of the rock.
STONE SPEAR HEADS.
The night was cloudy, and it was not till after daybreak that I could get observations for latitude by altitudes of Venus and b Centauri. At 6.5 a.m. were again in the saddle, and steered south-east to a rocky hill, which we reached at 7.0; the hill was sandstone, rising about 150 feet above the trap plain; from the summit the view was extensive, but from the broken nature of the country to the east nothing could be traced of either the courses of creeks or rivers; to the south the trap plain rose to a greater elevation than the summit of the hill we were on, and was surmounted by table hills of sandstone at ten miles distance to the east and north-east; the country appeared to consist of plains of basaltic formation, well grassed, and very thinly wooded. Leaving this hill at 8.0, followed a dry rocky creek to the east and north-east, through basaltic plains with sandstone hills and ridges, till 10.30, and halted during the heat of the day. At this place the bed of the creek had been cut through the basalt into the sandstone, exposing a fine section of the junction of the two rocks; the sandstone was much altered at the line of contact, and, having been deeply cracked, the basalt had filled the fissures of the older rock. This altered sandstone and also a white quartz-like rock are much used by the natives for the heads of their spears; and during this day's journey great quantities of broken stones and imperfect spear heads were noticed on the banks of the creek. At 3.45 p.m. recommenced our journey, and proceeded down the creek to the north-east till 6.30, and bivouacked.
Latitude by Capella, Saturn, and Canopus 17 degrees 24 seconds.
Having ascertained that the party could be moved across the range to the basalt plains with advantage, commenced our return to the camp by a westerly route across the plain, which rose gently for ten miles, and was well grassed, but thinly wooded; the soil was stony, with fragments of altered sandstone and basalt. On the higher part of the plain there were several hills of trap-rock, forming flat-topped ridges trending north and south; the highest of these we named Mount Sanford, and the plains Roe's Downs. The country now generally sloped to the bank of the creek near the western limit of the plain, at which, after six hours' ride, we halted at 11.35. The banks of the creek are of trap-rock; but the sandstone is exposed in the bed; the pools of water are deep and apparently permanent. At 4.0 resumed our route and passed over about one mile of sandstone, and then two miles of basalt, and bivouacked at a small gully at the western limit of the valley.
At 5.30 a.m. steered north-north-west, over several ridges of sandstone, till we struck our outward track, which we followed with some deviations to the camp, which was reached at 2.0 p.m. The evening was cloudy with a smart thunder-shower. Dr. Mueller informed me that he had traced the river about six miles to the west-south-west, but that beyond that point it appeared to come from the north-west, in which direction there was a low range of hills.
Having collected the horses, at 7.15 a.m. steered south to the rocky creek, and followed it down to the rocky gorge and encamped. As the valley was completely walled in by steep rocks, it appeared to be a suitable spot for a depot camp, as it would prevent the horses from straying; and, from the rapidity with which the water in the creeks was drying up, it became desirable that no time should be lost in pushing to the head of the Victoria while it was practicable to cross the ranges in which it was supposed to rise; but as many of the horses were quite unfit for the journey, it became necessary to leave them in some convenient spot while a small party pushed on with a light equipment.
FORM A DEPOT CAMP.
Preparing equipment for the party proceeding to the interior and making arrangements for the formation of the depot camp; the party to consist of myself, Mr. H. Gregory, Dr. Mueller, and C. Dean, Mr. Baines remaining at the depot in charge. Selected eleven of the strongest horses and had them re-shod; fitted four with riding and seven with pack saddles. The following provisions were packed for the journey: 150 pounds pork, 300 pounds flour, 50 pounds rice, 10 pounds sago, 8 pounds tea, 6 pounds coffee, 48 pounds sugar.
Left the camp at 7.30 a.m. and steered an average course south-south-east till 10.20, over stony ground, at the junction of the sandstone and trap formation, and camped at a fine running creek which came from a rocky gorge in the sandstone range to the west of our course. Messrs. Baines and Bowman, who had accompanied us thus far, returned to the camp, which I had instructed him to move to this creek as better for the horses, as one of them had shown symptoms of poison, and I feared to leave them in that locality. A severe attack of the fever, from which I had been suffering since the beginning of the month, precluded our proceeding farther this day, as I had at first intended. At 5 p.m. it commenced raining, and continued till midnight with incessant thunder and lightning.