Being able to mount my horse, at 8 a.m. left the camp and steered a course south-east by south, along the foot of the sandstone range—the basalt plain extending to the north-east. At 12.45 p.m. camped on a shallow watercourse trending to the south-south-west. The whole of the country to the east of our track, except some isolated hills, appear to be covered with excellent grass. The evening was raining, with continuous thunder.
Steered north 160 degrees east from 6.25 a.m. till 7.0 across the basaltic plain, then crossed a large creek trending east, in which there were some large pools of water. We then entered the sandstone country, and crossed several rocky ridges; at 9.10 we had a good view from one of the ridges to the north and east. Fine grassy plains extended almost to the horizon, to the south the country consisted of sandstone ranges, and to the south-east large grassy plains and rocky ridges appeared to alternate with each other. Changing the course to south-east, traversed a fine plain covered with grass, beyond which was a rocky ridge, and then a second plain, in which we halted at 11.10, as I was unable to keep on my horse, owing to an attack of fever. At 2 p.m. again proceeded, and after crossing some rugged country with deep rocky ravines, at length reached a large creek, at which we encamped, though there was nothing but reeds and triodia for the horses to eat.
Left the camp at 6 a.m. and followed the creek up for three-quarters of an hour before we could find a crossing place; the course was then south-south-east over very broken sandstone country; at 9.50 halted in a grassy valley to feed the horses, and at 2.30 p.m. resumed our route south-east, crossed a sandstone ridge, and descended into a wide valley, the centre of which was occupied by a basaltic plain, at the edge of which we encamped at 3.55 p.m.
At 6.0 a.m. ascended the trap plain and steered north 190 degrees east; at 6.45 a.m. came to a large creek from the west, which joined the Victoria three-quarters of a mile to the east; but the deep and rocky character of the valley, or rather ravine, in which it ran precluded our approaching it, and we had to turn to the west, and descend from the basalt to the sandstone before the creek could be passed. Continuing an average south course, at 10.10 a.m. came to the Victoria River; the whole channel did not exceed 150 yards in breadth, of which only twenty to fifty were now occupied by water, and the rest by dry rocks and gravel, overgrown by bushes. With great difficulty we followed the river upwards, and were compelled to follow up a tributary creek for about a mile, and then encamped. Near this camp I saw the crested pigeon of Western Australia for the first time in this part of Australia.
Latitude by Leonis 17 degrees 41 minutes.
Left the camp at 5.55 a.m. and steered nearly south for six hours, and then encamped on the bank of the Victoria River, at the end of a fine deep pool seventy yards wide, but at the lower end the water was contracted into a shallow rapid ten yards wide. The country traversed is of basaltic formation in the valley, but the hills are of sandstone, and rise on each side from 200 to 300 feet, and the whole appearance of the country shows that there has been little change in the form of the surface since the basalt was poured into the valley. On the banks of a small creek we saw a flock of tribonyx—a bird which has created some speculation as to its proper habitat, as it often makes its appearance in large numbers at the Swan River, on the western coast.
Latitude by Canopus 17 degrees 52 minutes 19 seconds.
THUNDERSTORM AND SQUALL.
Started at 5.55 a.m., and steered south-west, keeping parallel to the river at about a mile from it, as the creeks cut so deeply into the rock near the river that they are impassable; at 9.20 a.m. crossed to the right bank of the river, and continued a south-west course, but found the country exceedingly rough and rocky, and therefore turned to the north-west to the river, and at 11.30 a.m. camped at a fine pool of water. In the afternoon we were visited by a sudden thunder-squall; fortunately the tents had not been set up, or they must have been blown to pieces. The valley of the river has contracted to about fifteen miles, and turns to the west, but a branch seems to come from the south, and a second from the north-west. The country is, however, nearly level, and it is difficult to ascertain the limits of the valley, as many portions of the original tableland exist as detached hills and ridges. Though the horses are well shod, they are becoming lame and footsore from continually travelling over rough and stony country, as more than half of the last 100 miles has been so completely covered with fragments of rock that the soil, if any exists, has been wholly concealed.
Leaving the camp at 6.20 a.m., steered south up the valley of a large creek. At first the ground was very rough and rocky, but as we proceeded it became more level and sandy—the bed of the creek being worn in the basalt, and the hills of sandstone conglomerate rising 100 to 200 feet. Except on the bank of the creek, there was no grass, the hills being covered with triodia. Encamped in a grassy flat at 11.30 a.m.
Latitude by Pollux 18 degrees 48 seconds.
CROSS WATERSHED TO INTERIOR. HOOKER'S CREEK.
At 6.30 resumed our journey to the south-south-west, and reached the head of the creek at 8.0 a.m. Ascending the tableland by an abrupt slope of 100 feet, our course was south one mile, when the southern slope was reached, and a large shallow valley extended across our course, beyond which a vast and slightly undulating plain extended to the horizon with scarcely a rising ground to relieve its extreme monotony. Descending by a very gentle slope into the valley, at 9.40 a.m. crossed a small watercourse trending south-east, and then passed through a plain densely covered with kangaroo-grass seven to nine feet high, and at 10.40 a.m. encountered the level sandy country beyond, which was covered with triodia and small acacia and gum trees, or rather bushes. Seeing little prospects of either water or grass to the southward, turned east to the creek, at which we encamped at 12.30 p.m. The bed of the creek was dry, except a few shallow pools of rainwater, and there had been so little rain this season that no water had flowed down the channel. A level grassy flat extended nearly a mile on each side of the creek, which indicated the extent of occasional inundations, beyond which the country was very sandy and covered with small gum-trees, acacia, and triodia.
Latitude by Pollux 18 degrees 3 seconds.
The country to the south being so level and barren that we could not expect to find either water or grass in that direction, at 6.0 a.m. steered north 110 degrees east along the course of the creek, which turned somewhat to the north of our track for a few miles; but at 8.0 again came on its banks. The country was very barren and sandy, with small trees of silver-leafed ironbark and triodia, except on the inundated flats of the creek, which were well grassed and thinly wooded with box-trees. The course of the creek was now nearly south-east, but the channel decreased in size, and was quite dry till 10.0 a.m., when we reached a fine pool which had been filled by a tributary gully. Here we halted and shot several ducks. At 2.45 p.m. resumed our route, and at 3.20 came to a level grassy flat, on which the channel of the creek was completely lost. Crossing the flat to the east, the country was quite level and sandy; therefore turned to the north, where there seemed to be a slight depression, and at 4.50 came to a shallow pool of rainwater, at which we encamped. Frequent showers during the night.
THE DESERT INTERIOR.
On winding the chronometers this morning, found the chain of 2139, by Arnold, was broken. Taking advantage of the cool cloudy morning, we steered south at 6.5 a.m. to ascertain if the water of the creek, after spreading on the grassy flat, collected again and found an outlet to the southward, but found the ground rise in that direction; observed a slight hollow to the west, for which we steered, but found it terminate on the sandy plain, and the country became a perfect desert of red sand, with scattered tufts of triodia and a few bushes of eucalypti and acacia. At noon, finding it hopeless to proceed further into the desert, we turned our steps to the north-north-east, and returned to our camp of last night. In returning to the camp we ascended a slight elevation, from which there was an uninterrupted view of the desert from east to south-west. The horizon was unbroken; all appeared one slightly undulating plain, with just sufficient triodia and bushes growing on it to hide the red sand when viewed at a distance. The day was remarkably cool and cloudy; the temperature at noon 86 degrees. Though the rain at the camp had been abundant during the previous night, it had not extended more than five miles into the desert, which is more remarkable, as the clouds were moving to the south.
TURN TO THE WEST.
As the horses required a day's rest, we remained at our camp, which enabled us to repair our saddles and perform other necessary work. Repaired the chronometer and one of the aneroid barometers, which had been broken by the motion of one of the pack-horses. As there was no practicable route to the south, and the sandstone hills to the north seemed to diminish in elevation to the east, I decided on following the northern limit of the desert to the west till some line of practicable country was found by which to penetrate the country to the south. In selecting a westerly route I was also influenced by the greater elevation of the country on the western side of the Victoria, and the fact that all the larger tributaries join from that side of the valley. It is also probable that, should the waters of the interior not be lost in the sandy desert, they will follow the southern limit of the elevated tract of sandstone which occupies north-west Australia from Roebuck Bay to the Gulf of Carpentaria, both of which points are nearly in the same latitude as our present position, from which it may be assumed that the line of greatest elevation is between the 17th and 18th parallels. None of the rivers crossed by Leichhardt are of sufficient magnitude to drain the country beyond the coast range, and therefore any streams descending from the tableland to the south will either be absorbed in the sandy desert or follow the southern limit of the sandstone and flow into the sea to the south-west of Roebuck Bay. There is, however, reason to expect that, as the interior of north-west Australia is partly within the influence of the tropical and partly the extra-tropical climates, it does not enjoy a regular rainy season; and though heavy rain doubtless falls at times, it is neither sufficiently general or regular to form rivers of sufficient magnitude to force their way through the flat sandy country to the coast.
Latitude by Capella 18 degrees 20 minutes 49 seconds.
At 6.30 a.m. proceeded up the creek, and at 12.30 p.m. camped at a shallow pool of rainwater on the flat, the channel of the creek being dry. On the northern bank of the creek we passed a small lagoon with a great number of duck and other water-fowl on it. The afternoon was cloudy, with a fresh breeze from south-east.
Latitude by Pollux 18 degrees 15 minutes 26 seconds.
Three of the horses having strayed some distance, we did not start till 7.0 a.m., when we steered an average course of north 300 degrees east till 11.45 a.m., when we camped at a small pool of water in the bed of the creek, which was reduced to a small gully; for the first four miles we traversed the grassy flats of the creek, after which we passed over a level sandy country producing nothing but triodia, stunted eucalypti, and acacia till we again approached the creek, where the grassy flat was nearly half a mile wide, but of inferior character.
Latitude by b Tauri 18 degrees 9 minutes 44 seconds.
At 6.50 a.m. followed the valley of the creek to the west, passing some fine flats with high grass, but the country generally very poor and thinly wooded with white-gum and silver-leafed ironbark; at 10.40 halted at a small waterhole at the foot of a low granite ridge; at 3.0 p.m. ascended the granite hills, which rose abruptly 100 to 150 feet above the plain, and extended about five miles to the south and east; to the west the sandstone covered the granite and formed a level tableland or plain; to the north a valley trended to the west, on the northern side of which the hills appeared to be granitic. Returning to the camp, examined a deep rocky ravine and found some small pools of water which might last for nearly another month.
Latitude by Castor and Pollux 18 degrees 11 minutes 20 seconds.
PIGEONS AND SEA-GULLS.
Leaving the camp at 6.0 a.m., steered an average course of north 300 degrees east; crossing the granite ridge, we entered a level sandy country with much scrub, which was traversed till 8.40, when we entered a wide grassy plain extending to the north-west, in which direction we steered till 2.10 p.m., when we halted at a small muddy puddle two inches deep and three yards wide. Then rode on with Mr. H. Gregory to search for a larger supply of water, and found a shallow pool about a mile distant, to which the party moved and encamped. Although this pool was not 100 yards long and six inches deep, a large flock of ducks, snipe, and small gulls, were congregated at it, several thousand pigeons of species new to us came to drink. These pigeons keep in flocks of from ten to more than a thousand, feeding on the seeds of the grass on the open plains, as they never alight on trees. They are somewhat larger than the common bronze-wing; the head is black, with a little white at the base of the beak and behind the eye; back pale brown; breast, blue; throat marked with white; wings with white tips to the feathers and a small patch of bronze; tail short, tip white; feet, dull red. The evening and night were cloudy.
At 6.5 a.m. followed a line of small trees and bushes which grew on the lower part of the grassy plain and indicated the course of the water in the wet season, and at 9.0 came to the head of a small creek trending north-west. Water was now abundant and formed large pools, and at 11.15 camped on the right bank of the creek at a pool a quarter of a mile long and fifty yards wide. This spot seemed to be much frequented by the natives, and large quantities of mussel-shells lay around their fires. The plain traversed this morning was well grassed; the soil a stiff clay loam; this plain extended three to six miles on each side of the track, and was bounded by a low-wooded country, which, in some parts, rose nearly 100 feet above the plain. In the lower part of the plain we observed the salt-bush (atriplex) and a species of rice; but as it was only just in ear, we could not judge of the quality of the grain. In the afternoon there was a fine breeze from the east which lasted till 8.0 p.m., the sky being cloudy.
Latitude by Canopus and Pollux 17 degrees 53 minutes 50 seconds.
At 6.25 a.m. resumed our journey down the creek, which turned first west and then south-west, and at 12.20 p.m. encamped at a small pool; on the right bank of the creek wide grassy plains extended from three to five miles back towards a low-wooded ridge, but on the left bank the scrubby country came close to the creek.
Latitude by a Orionis, Canopus and Pollux 17 degrees 59 minutes 40 seconds.
17th February (Sunday).
As the water and grass were abundant on this camp, we were not compelled to move on in search of these requisites, and were enabled to observe it as a day of rest.
Resumed our journey at 6.30 a.m., and steered an average south-west course till 11.10, and then south till 12.25 p.m., and again camped on the creek. The country consisted of wide grassy plains on the bank of the creek, without trees and well grassed; beyond the plains, at one to six miles distance, low-wooded ridges were visible; but the general aspect of the whole was extremely level. A great number of ducks and a few geese were seen on some of the pools in the creek.
Latitude by Canopus 18 degrees 4 minutes 40 seconds.
Commenced our day's journey at 6.0 a.m., followed the bank of the creek till 8.15, thence south-south-west till noon, when the course was altered to south-south-east to close in with the creek, but found that the channel was completely lost on the level grassy plain, and at 1.40 p.m. encamped at a small puddle of muddy water as thick as cream. Before the creek was lost in the level plain it spread into some large, though shallow pools, which swarmed with ducks of several species, but principally the whistling duck. The grassy plain gradually extended to a greater breadth, and the back country was so nearly level that it scarcely rose above the grassy horizon, while to the south the country was so level that the clumps of bushes appeared like islands, and the grassy plain extended to the horizon. Near one of the waterholes in the creek we surprised a native, who was sitting at his fire with a couple of women, who decamped with all possible despatch. Several smokes have been observed to the south and south-west, which shows that water must exist in that direction, though it may not be in sufficient quantity to supply our horses. The morning was cloudy, and at midnight there was a heavy shower of rain. Judging from the general appearance of the country, the waters of the creek, after spreading over the plain, must escape to the westward, as the grass has been bent in that direction by the current last year, but there has been so little rain this season that the channel of the creek has not been filled.
As it appeared that the waters of the creek trended to the west in the wet season, at 6.5 a.m. we steered north 250 degrees east, through a level forest of box-trees, with abundance of good grass; the soil brown loam with fragments of limestone; the shower last night had left many shallow pools of water on the surface. At 8.40 a.m. passed a small swampy salt flat covered with salicornia; at 9.10 came on the grassy plain which we skirted on a west course, but as it turned to the north-west, again changed the course to 320 degrees; the plain was now reduced to about a mile in width, and we therefore crossed it in search of a definite channel, but without success, though there were some slight indications that during inundation the water flowed to the north-west. At 11.50 we camped at a shallow puddle of rainwater, on the north side of the plain. From the camp, till 8.0 a.m., the grass, though very backward, showed that there had been sufficient rain to cause it to spring; but as we proceeded it was perfectly dry and parched up, as at the end of the dry season, showing that little or no rain had fallen for many months in this part of the country. The day was cloudy, with thunder, and was followed by a heavy shower at night, which prevented my ascertaining the latitude by observation.
ENTER WESTERN AUSTRALIA.
As we were now three days' journey from the last water which could be depended on for more than a few days, and the channel of the creek had been so completely lost on the plain that it was uncertain whether the marks of inundations near this camp had been caused by the creek flowing to the west, or by some tributary flowing to the east, I determined to attempt a south-west course, in the hope that, should the country prove rocky, the heavy showers might have collected a sufficient quantity of water to enable us to continue a southerly route, and accordingly selected the most prominent point of the rising ground to the south of our position, and at 6.5 a.m. started north 235 degrees east. After leaving the open plains we entered a grassy box forest, which continued to the foot of the hills, which we reached at 8.0. The slope of the hills proved very scrubby, with small eucalypti and acacia, the soil red sand and ironstone gravel; at 9.0 reached the highest part of the hills for many miles round. To the south the country was slightly depressed for ten or fifteen miles, and then rose into an even ridge or plain, the whole country appearing to be covered with acacia and eucalyptus scrub. To the west and north the view was more extended; the low ridge of sandstone hills extended to the west-north-west, on the northern side of the grassy flats for thirty miles, and only broken by a large valley from the north. Throughout its whole extent this range appeared to rise to 150 or 200 feet above the plain, and had the appearance of being the edge of a level tableland. South of the grassy plain, the western limit of which was not seen, the country rose gradually to eighty or 100 feet, and presented an extremely level and unvaried appearance. It was evident that our only chance of farther progress was to follow the grassy plain to the west till some change in the country rendered a southerly course practicable, it being probable that some creek from the north might join the grassy plain, and that the channel which had been lost might be reformed. At 9.30 steered north-west, and at 12.30 p.m. cleared the acacia scrub, and at 1.30 reached the bank of the creek, which had formed a channel twenty yards wide, with pools of water, which was brackish; but we were too glad to find any water which we could use without detriment to object to it because it was not agreeable in taste, and therefore encamped. We have thus been a second time compelled to make a retrograde movement to the north after reaching the same latitude as in the first attempt to penetrate the desert; but I did not feel justified in incurring the extreme risk which would have attended any other course, though following the creek is by no means free from danger, as very few of the waterholes which have supplied us on the outward track will retain any water till the time of our return. The weather was calm and hot in the early part of the day, and in the afternoon it clouded over, and there was a slight shower of rain. According to our longitude, by account, we have this day passed the boundary of Western Australia, which is in the 129th meridian.
Latitude by Canopus and Procyon 18 degrees 26 minutes.
Leaving the camp at 5.40 a.m., followed the creek to the west-south-west and crossed a small gully from the south; at 11.30 a.m. camped at a fine pool of water in a small creek from the south, close to its junction with the principal creek, which we named after Captain Sturt, whose researches in Australia are too well known to need comment; the grassy plains extended from three to ten miles on each side of the creek, which has a more definite channel than higher up, there being some pools of sufficient size to retain water throughout the year; the plain is bounded on the north by sandstone hills 100 to 200 feet high, and there is also a mass of hilly country to the south, the highest point of which was named Mount Wittenoon; about noon a thunder-shower passed to the east and up the creek on which we were encamped, and though the channel was then dry between the pools, at 4.0 p.m. it was running two feet deep; the grass is much greener near this camp, and there has evidently been more rain here than in any part of the country south of Victoria yet visited; a fresh southerly breeze in the morning, thunderstorms at noon, night cloudy with heavy dew.
At 5.50 a.m. resumed our journey down the creek, the general course first south-west and changing to the south-south-west; the channel was gradually lost on the broad swampy flat, which was overgrown with polygonum and atriplex, etc., and had a breadth of half a mile to a mile, being depressed about ten feet below the grassy plain; the grassy plain also extended to about fifteen miles wide, the hills decrease in height, and the whole country is so level that little is to be seen but the distant horizon, scarcely in any part rising above the vast expanse of waving grass. At 10.50 a.m. camped at a shallow puddle of muddy water, just sufficient to supply the horses; I walked about a mile into the polygonum flat, but could not find any water, though the ground was soft and muddy in a few spots. Mr. H.C. Gregory, when rounding up the horses in the evening, saw eight blacks watching us; we therefore went out to communicate with them; but they hid themselves in the high bushes and grass. The night was clear, and I took a set of lunar distances, which the cloudy weather had prevented for more than a week, though I had been able to get altitudes for latitude.
Latitude by Canopus, Castor and Pollux 18 degrees 39 minutes 54 seconds.
EFFECT OF SEASONS ON APPEARANCE OF COUNTRY.
At 6.0 a.m. resumed our journey down the creek, which spread into a broad swampy flat about a mile wide, and covered with atriplex, polygonum, and grass, the general trend south-west; at 7.30 crossed a large watercourse from the south-east, with a dry sandy channel, no water having flowed down it this season; at 9.0 a.m. crossed to the right bank of the creek; there were many shallow muddy channels and one with running water four yards wide and one foot deep; the largest channel was near the right bank, but, except a large shallow pool, it was dry. As we advanced the country showed effects of long-continued drought, and though the creek contained some large shallow pools, the channel was dry between, the dry soil absorbing the whole of the water which was running in the channel above; at 11.50 camped at what appeared to be the termination of the pools of water, as the channel was again lost in a perfectly level flat. Great numbers of ducks, cockatoos, cranes, and crows frequented the banks of the creek above the camp, and appeared to feed on the wild rice which was growing in considerable quantities in the moist hollows, as also a species of panicum; to the south-east of the creek there is a level box-flat which extends two to three miles back to the foot of some low sandy ridges covered with triodia and a few small eucalypti; to the north-west and west the grassy plain extended to the horizon, with scarcely even a bush to intercept the even surface of the waving grass.
Latitude by Canopus and Pollux 18 degrees 45 minutes 45 seconds.
The small number of water-fowl which passed up or down the creek during the night indicated that water was not abundant below our present position, and we were therefore prepared for a dry country, in which we were not disappointed, for leaving the camp at 6.15 a.m. we traversed a level box-flat covered with long dry grass; at 9.10 a.m. again entered the usual channel of the creek, which was now a wide flat of deeply cracked mud with a great quantity of atriplex growing on it, but which had lost all the leaves from the long continuance of the dry weather. The flat was traversed by numerous small channels from one to two feet deep, but they were all perfectly dry and had not contained water for more than a year; there were, however, marks of inundations in previous years, when the country must have exhibited a very different appearance, and had it been then visited by an explorer, the account of a fine river nearly a mile wide flowing through splendid plains of high grass, could be scarcely reconciled with the facts I have to record of a mud flat deeply fissured by the scorching rays of a tropical sun, the absence of water, and even scarcity of grass. The creek now turned to the south, and we followed the shallow channels till 12.30 p.m., when we fortunately came to a small pool which had been filled by a passing thunder-shower, and here we encamped during the day; a fresh breeze at times blew from the south-east and south, and the air was exceedingly warm; thermometer 106 degrees at noon, but being very dry, was not very oppressive.
Latitude by Canopus, Castor and Pollux 18 degrees 55 minutes 45 seconds.
As the course of the creek was uncertain, we steered south at 5.45 a.m. across the atriplex plain, and at 6.35 reached the ordinary right bank of the creek, which was low and gravelly, covered with triodia and small bushes; we then passed a patch of white-gum forest, and at 8 entered a grassy plain which had been favoured by a passing shower; green grass was abundant, and even some small puddles of water still remained in the hollows of the clay soil. At 10.50 came on the creek, which had collected into a single channel and formed pools, some of which appeared to be permanent, as they contained small fish. At one of these pools we encamped at 11.10. The channel of the creek is about fifteen feet below the level of the plain, and is marked by a line of small flooded-gum trees, the atriplex flat has ceased, and the soil is a hard white clay, producing salsola and a little grass; the morning clear with a moderate easterly breeze, afternoon cloudy with a few drops of rain at night.
Latitude by Canopus and Pollux 19 degrees 7 minutes 30 seconds.
Resumed our journey down the creek at 6.5 a.m., when it turned to the west and formed a fine lake-like reach 200 yards wide, with rocky banks and sandstone ridges on both sides of the creek; at 11.0 camped at the lower end of a fine reach trending south: the general character of these reaches of water is that they are very shallow and are separated by wide spans of dry channel, the water being ten feet below the running level. The country is very inferior, and the grassy flats are reduced to very narrow limits, and the hills are red sandstone, producing nothing but small trees and triodia.
Latitude by Canopus and Pollux 19 degrees 12 minutes 20 seconds.
At 6.0 a.m. we were again in the saddle, following a creek which had an average west-south-west course, but the channel was soon lost in a wide grassy flat, with polygonum and atriplex, in this flat were some large detached pools of water, 50 to 100 yards wide and a quarter to half a mile long, although the dry season had reduced them to much narrower limits than usual, as they were now eight to ten feet below the level of the plain; at 11.45 camped at a large sheet of water, just above a remarkable ridge of sandstone rocks on the right bank of the creek. Ducks, pelicans, spoonbills, etc., were very numerous, but so wild that they could scarcely be approached within range of our guns; until the present time it has been doubtful whether the creek turned towards Cambridge Gulf, the interior, or to the coast westward of the Fitzroy, but the first point being now 220 nautic miles to the north, and the general course of Sturt's Creek south-west, such a course is not probable, and it therefore only remains to determine whether it is lost in the level plains of the interior, or finds an outlet on the north-west coast. The careful and minute surveys of the coast from the Victoria River to Roebuck Bay show that no rivers exist of such magnitude as the Sturt would attain in passing through the ranges to the coast, nor does the general abrupt character of the coast-line favour the supposition that any interior waters would find an outlet in this space. That the elevation of this part of the creek is sufficient to enable it to form a channel to the north-west coast is shown by the barometric measurement: the dividing ridge between the head of the Victoria and Hooker's Creek is about 1200 feet, at the head of Sturt's Creek 1,370 feet, and our present camp 1100 feet; thus the average fall of Sturt's Creek has been 270 feet in 180 miles, or one and a half feet per mile. Now the distance to Desault Bay (which appears the most probable outlet) is 370 miles, and allowing an increase of 500 for deviations, there would be more than two feet descent per mile, which would be sufficient for the maintenance of a channel. Should the creek turn to the south and enter the sandy desert country, the water would soon be absorbed, especially as the wet season at the upper part of the creek occurs when the dry season is prevailing in the lower part of its course. That it does lose itself in a barren sandy country is, I fear, the most probable termination of the creek, and that a level country exists for many miles on each side of our route is shown by the small number and size of the tributary watercourses.
Latitude by Canopus, Castor and Pollux 19 degrees 18 minutes 10 seconds.
Leaving the camp at 5.40 a.m., traced the creek to the south-west for about three miles. It formed fine reaches of water fifty to 100 yards wide; but the channel terminated suddenly in a level flat, covered with polygonum, atriplex, and grass. In this flat we passed some large shallow pools of water; at 7.30 the creek turned to the west round the north end of a rocky sandstone hill, and was joined by a tributary gully from the north, below which point the channel was a well-defined sandy bed, with long parallel waterholes on each side, but very little water remained at this time; at 9.15 the course of the creek changed to south by west, and passed through a level flat timbered with flooded-gum trees; it was about one mile wide and well grassed, but completely dried up for want of rain. The back country was thinly wooded with white-gum, and gently rising as it receded, forming sandstone hills about 100 feet high of extremely barren appearance; at 11.45 camped at a small muddy pool which would last only for a few days. A strong breeze from the west commenced early in the day, and gradually changed to the south. Thermometer, 109 degrees in the coolest shade that could be found.
Latitude by Canopus and e Argus 19 degrees 28 minutes 5 seconds.
DESERT OF RED SAND.
Our horses having strayed farther than usual in search of better grass, we were delayed till 6.20 a.m., when we steered a south by west course down the valley of the creek. Immediately below the camp the country beyond the effect of inundation changed to a nearly level plain of red sand, producing nothing but triodia and stunted bushes. The level of this desert country was only broken by low ridges of drifted sand. They were parallel and perfectly straight, with a direction nearly east and west. At 11.50 camped at a fine pool of water three to five feet deep and twenty yards wide. That we had actually entered the desert was apparent, and the increase of temperature during the past three days was easily explained; but whether this desert is part of that visited by Captain Sturt, or an isolated patch, has yet to be ascertained, and the only hope is that the creek will enable us to continue our course, as the nature of the country renders an advance quite impracticable unless by following watercourses.
Latitude by Canopus, Castor and Pollux 19 degrees 40 minutes 45 seconds.
Left our camp at 6.30 a.m., and steered south-west by west, which soon took us into the sandy desert on the left bank of the creek. Crossing one of the sand ridges, got a sight of a range of low sandstone hills to the south-east, the highest of which I named Mount Mueller, as the doctor had seen them the previous evening while collecting plants on one of the sandy ridges near the camp. At 10.15 again made the creek, which had scarcely any channel to mark its course; the wide clay flat bearing marks of former inundations was the only indication visible. At 12.35 p.m. camped at a small muddy pool, the grass very scanty and dry. Traces of natives are frequent. Large flights of pigeons feed on the plains on the seeds of grass. A flock of cockatoos was also seen.
Latitude by Canopus and Pollux 19 degrees 51 seconds 12 minutes.
At 5.30 a.m. started and followed the creek on a general course south-west. There was a very irregular channel sometimes ten yards wide and very shallow, and then expanding into pools fifty yards wide. The sandy plain encroached much on the grassy flats, and reduced the winter course of the creek to half a mile in breadth. At 8.0 the course was changed to south, and at 10.15 camped at a swamp, which was nearly dry, and covered with beautiful grass. The country differed in character from that seen yesterday, there being a few scattered white-gum trees and patches of tall acacia. Salsola and salicornia are also very abundant, and show the saline nature of the soil.
Latitude by Canopus and Pollux 20 degrees 2 minutes 10 seconds.
Left the camp at 5.50 a.m., and steered south-west over a very level country, with shallow hollows filled with a dense growth of acacia, and at 7.30 struck the creek with a sandy channel and narrow flats, covered with salsola and salicornia. The pools were very shallow, and gradually became salt, and at 10.15 it spread into the dry bed of a salt lake more than a mile in diameter. This was connected by a broad channel with a pool of salt-water in it, with a second dry salt lake eight miles in diameter. As there was little prospect of water ahead and the day far advanced, we returned to one of the brackish pools and encamped. The country passed was of a worthless character, and so much impregnated with salt that the surface of the ground is often covered with a thin crust of salt.
Latitude by e Argus 20 degrees 10 minutes 40 seconds.
Started from the camp at 5.45 a.m., and steered south-south-east through the acacia wood to the lake, and then south by east across the dry bed of the lake towards a break in the trees on the southern side. Here we found a creek joining the lake from the south-west, in which there were some shallow pools. We then steered east, to intersect any channel by which the waters of the lake might flow to the south or south-east, and passing through a wood of acacia entered the sandy desert. As some low rocky hills were visible to the east we steered for them. At 2.10 halted half a mile from the hills, and then ascended them on foot. They were very barren and rocky, scarcely eighty feet above the plain, formed of sandstone, the strata horizontal. From the summit of the hill nothing was visible but one unbounded waste of sandy ridges and low rocky hillocks, which lay to the south-east of the hill. All was one impenetrable desert, as the flat and sandy surface, which could absorb the waters of the creek, was not likely to originate watercourses. Descending the hill, which I named Mount Wilson, after the geologist attached to the expedition, we returned towards the creek at the south end of the lake, reaching it at 9.30.
As the day was extremely hot and the horses required rest and food, we remained at the camp. Ducks were numerous in some of the pools, but so wild that only two were shot. The early part of the day was clear, with a hot strong breeze varying from west to south-east. At 1 p.m. there was a heavy thunder-squall from the south-east, which swept a cloud of salt and sand from the dry surface of the lake. The squall was followed by a slight shower.
Latitude by Canopus 20 degrees 16 minutes 22 seconds.
DRY BEDS OF SALT LAKES.
As I had frequently observed that in the dry channels of creeks traversing very level country a heavy shower in the lower part of its course often causes a strong current of water to rush up the stream-bed and leave flood marks, which would mislead a person examining them in the dry season, it seemed probable that this must be the case with the creek entering the salt lake at its south-west angle, as it might be the outlet of the lake when filled by Sturt's Creek flowing into it, though in ordinary seasons the flow of water would be into the lake; accordingly I decided on following the creek and ascertain its actual course. Leaving the camp at 5.50 a.m., steered nearly south-west along the general course of the creek till 7.30, when it turned to the north and entered the dry bed of a lake. As the beds of the two lakes were lower than the channel between them, the water during the last heavy rains had flooded both ways from the central part of the channel. Having skirted the lake on the west to intercept any watercourses which might enter or leave the lake on that side, we came to a large shallow channel with pools of water—some fresh and others salt—with broad margin of salicornia growing on the banks; at 11.0 camped at a small pool of fresh water. The soil of the country on the bank of the creek is loose white sand with concretions of lime, covered with a dense growth of tall acacia, with salsola and a little grass in the open spaces.
TERMINATION OF STURT'S CREEK.
Started at 6.5 a.m. and traced the creek into a salt lake to the west, but this was also dry. After some search we found a creek joining on the northern side and communicating with a large mud plain, partly overgrown with salicornia, and with large shallow pools of muddy water two to three inches deep. On the northern side the plain narrowed into a sandy creek with shallow pools, the flow of the water being decidedly from the northward. At 12.15 p.m. camped at a shallow pool, near which there was a little grass, the country generally being sandy and only producing triodia and acacia. Thus, after having followed Sturt's Creek for nearly 300 miles, we have been disappointed in our hope that it would lead to some important outlet to the waters of the Australian interior; it has, however, enabled us to penetrate far into the level tract of country which may be termed the Great Australian Desert.
Latitude by Pollux and e Argus 20 degrees 4 minutes 5 seconds.
Left our camp at 6.35 a.m., and followed the creek up for half an hour, and then steered east to Sturt's Creek, which we reached at 9.5, the country being level, sandy, and covered with triodia and acacia in small patches; we then steered a southerly course down the creek till 11.0, and camped at the large brackish pool.
COMMENCE RETURN TO DEPOT. HOT WINDS.
We had observed that a creek appeared to join the salt lake to the north-east angle. There yet remained a possibility that the waters of the lake might find an outlet to the east and pass north of Mount Wilson; we therefore steered east from the camp at 6.45 a.m. and passed close to the south of a small salt lake (dry) three-quarters of a mile in diameter, and then traversed a level sandy country thickly wooded with acacia and a few white-gum trees. At 8.15 struck a small grassy watercourse with broad shallow pools; this we followed down to the south-south-west to the large salt lake, close to which it was joined by a small sandy creek coming from the east. Having reached the bank of the lake at 10.0, steered south along its shore till 11.15, when its shore trended to the west-south-west, and there was a small well-defined bank without any break to the point which had been the limit of our examination from the southern part of the lake, and thus determined that there was no outlet for the water to the eastward. As the whole country to the south was one vast sandy desert, destitute of any indications of the existence of water, it was clear that no useful results could arise from any attempt to penetrate this inhospitable region, especially as the loss of any of the horses might deprive the expedition of the means for carrying out the explorations towards the Gulf of Carpentaria. I therefore determined on commencing our retreat to the Victoria River while it was practicable, as the rapid evaporation and increasing saltness of the water in this arid and inhospitable region warned us that each day we delayed increased the difficulty of the return, and it was possible that we were cut off from any communication with the party at the depot by an impassable tract of dry country, and might be compelled to maintain ourselves on the lower part of the creek till the ensuing rainy season. Returned to the creek at the north-east angle of the lake and encamped. The morning was cloudy with a strong hot wind from the east and south-east; the night calm and misty.
At 6.10 a.m. left the camp and followed the creek to the north-north-east, but it soon spread into a number of small gullies, which drained a patch of clay land. At 7.0 steered north through a wood of acacia growing on loose sandy soil. Entering the open sandy plain at 8.15, a few small white-gum trees were scattered over this part of the plain, which was quite level, the loose sand being covered with triodia, which partially concealed the glaring red colour of the ground. Observing a low abrupt hill a little to the east of our course, deviated towards it, and ascended it at 10.0. It was less than 100 feet above the plains, and composed of the same sandstone which prevails over the whole of the country south of the Victoria. The view was cheerless in the extreme. From north 26 degrees east to north 166 degrees east, the country was a level plain with small isolated or grouped hills of red sandstone, but not forming any definite ranges; the even height and peculiar table summits appear to indicate that they are only small remaining portions of a sandstone tableland or plain nearly the whole of which has been removed, the strata, however, had a dip to the east of one or two degrees. The vegetation on this part of the country was reduced to a few stunted gum-trees, hakea bushes, and triodia, the whole extremely barren in appearance. The remaining portion of the horizon was one even straight line; not a hill or break of any kind was visible, and, except the narrow line of the creek, was barren and worthless in the extreme, the red soil of the level portions of the surface being partially clothed with triodia and a few small trees, or rather bushes, rendered the long straight ridges of fiery-red drifting sand more conspicuous. The wind being strong, we observed the smoke of several fires along the course of Sturt's Creek, and also one near Mount Mueller, to the north-east, indicating the existence of natives in that direction, and doubtless of water in that locality, as it was a day's journey from the creek. Our course was now north 340 degrees east, and on approaching the creek passed through a patch of casuarina forest, which was remarkable, as they are the only trees of this genus we had seen on the coast since landing at the Victoria, though abundant in all other parts of Australia. At 1.35 p.m. reached Sturt's Creek and halted at our camp of the 2nd March; there was a strong hot wind from the east during the day.
Resumed our route at 5.50 a.m. and steered north 20 degrees east till 8.0, then 40 degrees and 60 degrees till 1.0 p.m., when we encamped at a shallow pool of water near the creek, and about three miles above camp 48, as the route only traversed the level flats near the creek. Nothing worthy of further notice was seen, the channel being split into small hollows, some of which retained a little water. The grass was much dried up and limited to the flat near the creek, the more remote portions being covered with triodia. The day was hot and nearly calm, but at noon we were benefited by a few passing clouds, and at 6.0 p.m. a dry thunderstorm cooled the air from 100 degrees to 93 degrees, but the temperature rose at 8.0 to 96 degrees.
At 5.50 steered north 10 degrees east, crossing the creek several times, and at 10.0 turned to the north-north-east and north-east, crossing the sandstone hills, round which the creek turns at a right angle, and at 12.10 p.m. camped on the creek near our track of the 29th February. Nearly all the pools of water had dried up, and the water at the camp had become brackish; some of the pools, however, must be permanent, as there were small fish in them. A great party of natives appeared to be travelling up the creek, as fresh fires are constantly seen to the north-east along its course. A cool breeze from the west to north-east moderated the heat, the temperature at 2 p.m. 103 degrees; passing clouds from the east in the afternoon.
FOLLOW UP STURT'S CREEK.
Resumed our route and followed the creek upwards from 5.50 a.m. till 1.50 p.m., when we camped about three miles south-west of camp 45 at the first pool before the atriplex flat. A short distance above the camp we crossed a large sandy creek, which proved to be the cause of the change in the character of Sturt's Creek below that point. As our route was at a greater distance from the creek than in tracing it down, it gave a better opportunity of ascertaining the nature of the country beyond the influence of inundation; to the north-west a vast plain traversed by low ridges of gravel and drift sand, clothed with a scanty growth of triodia and a few hakea bushes, rose gradually from the creek, but on the south-east a more abrupt sandstone slope terminated in a similar plain of somewhat greater elevation, and showed that we were still within the bounds of the desert. Moderate breeze from the north-west changing to north-east; passing clouds; a slight shower at 11.0 p.m.
Resumed our route at 5.50 a.m., steering north 40 degrees east, one hour into the triodia plain, then north 60 degrees east till 9.20 a.m., when we reached the first large pool in the creek, and rounding the bend camped at one of the narrow pools above the sandstone ridges. The water in the larger pools had sunk from six inches to a foot since we had passed downwards, and almost all the pools were now dry. The morning clear and cool, with clouds and light showers in the afternoon accompanied by thunder.
As there was no water in the creek for the next thirty-three miles, we filled the water-bags and prepared for an early start; but unfortunately the horses had strayed farther than usual, which delayed us till 7.0 a.m., when following nearly the outward route, passed close to camp 43, the waterhole at which was dry, and at 1.0 p.m. halted under the shade of a few acacia-trees during the heat of the day, and resumed our journey at 3.0 p.m., following the south-east side of the plain through which the creek flows. The ground was stony and bad travelling, but as the moon was clear and bright we succeeded in reaching the first pool of water at 8.30 p.m.; this was one mile above Camp 42, the water at which had dried up, though four feet deep on the 24th February. The pool at which we now camped appears to be permanent; it is 100 yards wide and 300 long, the water three feet deep close to the bank. Ducks were numerous, and I shot four in the morning. An easterly breeze continued through the day, and as usual there were a few clouds towards sunset. Unfortunately, the dry weather had warped the scale of the thermometer to such an extent that it broke the tube.
DENISON PLAINS. WATER DRYING UP.
We were again delayed by trifling circumstances, and did not leave the camp until 7.40 a.m., but having nearly cleared the desert the weather was comparatively cool. Steering an average course north-east, traversed the wide grassy plains on the right bank of Sturt's Creek, to which the name of Denison's Plains was given. At 2.0 p.m. camped at a small pool in the polygonum flat, which was all that remained of the water which had covered the flat to the extent of three-quarters of a mile in breadth, and was running when we passed down last month. Our course this day showed the great extent of the grassy plains to the north-west, as we did not see the limit at any point in that direction. Cool breeze from east with thin clouds all day.
Left the camp at daylight and proceeded to Camp 40 on the outward route, and halted for the remainder of the day to rest the horses, as a heavy stage lay before us across the dry country. Large flocks of cockatoos came to the pool at this camp, and we shot thirty-three, which was a very welcome addition to our provisions. Strong easterly wind; passing clouds.
Steered north 60 degrees east at 6.35 a.m., and followed up the course of the creek, crossing the right bank at 9.0, when there was nothing but the polygonum flat to mark its course; at 10.30 altered the course to nearly east, passing a large sheet of brackish water, which appeared deep and permanent at the lower end, but shallow at the upper part; at 11.20 encamped at a small pool of fresh water in a back channel, the creek being brackish, and we were anxious to procure a supply of good water before proceeding further, as the next three stages of the outward track were now destitute of water. Strong easterly breeze; light clouds.
At 5.55 am steered 110 degrees; at 6.20 struck a small creek with steep banks; altered the course to 90 degrees, crossing two small watercourses from the north with a little water in the deeper portions of their beds, the general character of the country box flats and open grassy plains near the creek. At 7.25 entered a large grassy plain extending north and east for ten miles, and at 9.15 halted at a small watercourse which retained a little water in a grassy hollow, our object in halting thus early being to enable us to start fresh in the afternoon, and, should the country continue open, to push on through the night, by which the water could be reached before the heat of the sun was too great for travelling. At 3.5 resumed our march and traversed level grassy plains extending one to five miles on each side of our route; at 7.0 observed a native fire about two miles to the north, from which we concluded that water existed at no great distance, and at 7.15 were fortunate in finding a pool of rainwater in a slight depression of the plain, and encamped. We could not find sufficient wood near the camp to boil our tea, but were satisfied with the discovery of a sufficient supply of water.
We were again in the saddle at 5.15 a.m., and continuing our course north 73 degrees east, reached the limit of the open plain, which turned to the south-east and extended to the horizon; at 6.40 entered the wooded country which bounded the plain, and the soil changed from a rich clay-loam to sandy and gravelly soil with fragments of sandstone, the vegetation consisting of small white-gum trees, shrubby acacia, and triodia, with a few patches of grass. The country gradually rose till 9.25, when we came to an abrupt descent into the valley of Sturt's Creek, but the country did not improve in character till 10.20, when we came to the grassy flats; at 10.50 camped at a large open pool of water in the bed of the creek. On the pools there were large flights of whistling ducks, but so wild that they could not be approached within range of our guns. Moderate breeze from east with light clouds from south-east during the day. The weather has for the past ten days been so misty that I have not been able to get a good set of lunar distances, and it is useless to observe unless under circumstances favourable for accuracy.
5.35 a.m. found us again travelling up the creek on a northerly course; at 7.20 changed the course north-east by north, and at 11.30 camped about a mile below Camp 35. The hill at the bend of the creek proved to be basaltic, with a stratum of ironstone conglomerate resting on it. The pools of water in the bed of the creek were much reduced and all the smaller ones dried up.
23rd March (Sunday).
The feed and water not being in sufficient quantity to permit of our resting at this camp, we followed up the creek nearly on the outward course. A few miles above the creek a party of blacks came out of the creek and commenced a distant parley, but on one of the party approaching them they picked up their spears they had secreted in the grass and ran away into the bed of the creek. After six and a half hours' journey camped at the lower end of the pool, where we had halted on the 15th February; near the northern bend of the creek we passed a fine deep pool, which appears to retain water through the dry season. All the smaller pools had dried up, and the larger ones had sunk two feet since we were here in February.
As the horses had not had a day's rest for some time past, we remained at the camp to refresh them before attempting to cross the dry country which divides the southern waters from those flowing to the north-west coast. As the nearest water which we knew to exist was now fifty miles to the east, and the country in that direction very bad travelling, we were now, however, eighty miles in a direct line from the depot camp, and as that course would take us over new and unexplored country I determined to attempt a direct route.
1700 FEET ABOVE SEA LEVEL.
At 6.20 a.m. steered north 40 degrees east, and, leaving Sturt's Creek, traversed open grassy plains till 9.5, when we entered a wooded country, with white-gum trees and underwood, acacia, triodia, and patches of grass; the soil a poor sandy red loam. At 11.0 passed to the south of an extensive grassy plain trending to the north-west; at 12.30 p.m. halted to ease the horses' backs from their loads, and resumed our route at 1.40, and at 2.0 crossed a ridge of stony country which the aneroid showed to be about 1700 feet above the sea level, and was the highest spot yet visited by the Expedition. At 2.20 altered the course to east, and followed a slight depression till 4.0, when we came to a dry watercourse trending north-west; this was traced down in search of water till 6.30, when we halted for the night, without finding any water. The day being very calm and hot, the horses were very much distressed for want of water; but as there was a little green grass on the bank of the creek, they were able to feed for a few hours during the night.
Latitude by Leonis 17 degrees 35 minutes 6 seconds.
Proceeded down the creek, and at 7.20 a.m. came to a small pool of water, which the horses consumed in the space of a few minutes, but farther on came to a more abundant supply, and some of the pools appeared to be permanent, having a belt of water-pandanus and reeds round them; below this the channel was perfectly dry and sandy, but was much enlarged by numerous tributary gullies. At 12.50 p.m. came to a shallow pool, at which we camped. The country through which this creek passes is poor and stony, low hills of sandstone schist and limestone rising immediately behind the narrow strip of grassy land, which is fertilised by the overflow of the creek in the rainy season. The vegetable productions of the country seemed to be limited to a few small gum-trees, shrubby acacia, and triodia, with an occasional patch of grass. At the camp the bed of the creek was about forty yards wide, with banks fifteen feet high; the general course appeared to be north-west, a direction which renders it probable that it flows into Cambridge Gulf.
Latitude by Pollux 17 degrees 25 minutes 31 seconds.
SIXTY MILES WITHOUT WATER.
At 6.0 a.m. left the camp and steered a course north 60 degrees east, gradually ascending among hills of schist and sandstone till 8.20, when we reached the level tableland. The principal trees were white-gum and silver-leafed ironbark, the soil a red loam of varying character, well grassed, but with patches of triodia, which affects a poor gravelly soil or deep sand. The country was now so nearly level that scarcely any rise or fall was discoverable, though the aneroid showed some slight undulations; at 1.15 p.m. halted for an hour, and at 6.0 camped in a patch of green grass, which enabled the horses to feed though they had no water. The weather was clear and hot during the day with a light easterly breeze, the night cloudy and very warm.
At 5.10 a.m. resumed our course north 60 degrees east through a grassy forest of ironbark and bloodwood, with patches of small acacia and triodia. At 7.45 entered a series of open plains covered with high grass. The plains continued till 10.0, when we passed through an open gum forest, and the country declined to the east, and at 11.15 came on a small watercourse, which was dry and sandy. This we followed down to the north-east till 11.40, when it passed through a rocky gorge in a sandstone ridge, which rose at an angle of 30 degrees to the south-west and 40 degrees to the north-east, the latter being the dip of the strata. In this rocky gorge we could see some pools of water, but they were quite inaccessible from that side of the ridge, and we had to make a considerable detour to the south before we could descend to the plain below, and found a fine pool of water at the termination of the gorge, at which we halted and watered our thirsty horses. As we were now only two hours' ride from the depot camp, we after a short rest started again at 3.10 p.m., and at 5.15 reached the depot camp, where we were welcomed by Mr. Baines and his party, and I was glad to find them all enjoying good health, and that the horses were in excellent condition. They had been, however, somewhat annoyed by the blacks, who had made frequent attempts to burn the camp, and also the horses, by setting fire to the grass, and on some occasions had come to actual hostilities, though by judicious management none of the party had been injured; nor was it certain that any of the blacks had been wounded, though it had been necessary to resort to the use of firearms in self-defence and for the protection of the horses.
Returned our surplus provisions into store, when we found that the pieces of pork, originally four pounds weight each, were reduced to one-fifth of the original weight, as the long continuance of heat had melted the whole of the fat. Our ration had therefore been one pound flour, one-fifth pound salt pork, and two ounces sugar per diem. Mr. H. Gregory and Bowman rode out to round in the horses.
Latitude by Regulus and e Argus 17 degrees 2 minutes.
30th March (Sunday).
Read prayers to those of the party who were in camp, some of the men having been sent out to attend to the horses. Mr. Baines having handed me his journal, I regret to find that he has been compelled to make an entry regarding Mr. Flood, who had refused to attend to his order to carry arms while on watch at night on the 18th March. I therefore called on Mr. Flood for any statement he had to make in extenuation of his conduct. His replies were, however, extremely unsatisfactory, and only attempted to excuse the act on account of some private misunderstanding with Mr. Baines some months previous, and that the order to wear his pistol was given before he had time to put on his clothes. There had, however, been a distinct refusal to obey the orders of the officer in charge of the party, and those orders were neither vexatious or unreasonable, as they were simply in enforcement of well-established regulations. I therefore cautioned Mr. Flood that unless his future conduct was more satisfactory than it had hitherto been I should remove his name from the list of officers taking command in the Expedition, according to the general orders of the 27th August, 1855. The weather continues cloudy and calm, and, though the temperature is not extreme, it is very oppressive.
Examining and packing stores in readiness for the exploration of the valley of the Victoria to the east of the depot. Found the stores in good condition, though the bags had been much injured by the rats and white ants. Although in some respects it would be more convenient to move the party at once to the bank of the Victoria before examining the country beyond, yet as the horses were now accustomed to the run near the depot, and the huts and stockyard rendered the station a more safe and convenient spot than any we could elsewhere select, I therefore decided on leaving the party here until I had explored the country to the east, and then move the whole party down the right bank of the river, by which the number and magnitude of the tributaries from the east would be ascertained, as this was an important point with reference to the contemplated journey to the Gulf of Carpentaria.
Preparing equipment for a light party to explore the country to the east of the camp; shod six horses, and packed eighteen days' provisions for four persons. The weather continues cloudy, with light variable winds.
EXPLORE EAST OF THE DEPOT.
At 6.45 am started from the depot with Messrs. H. Gregory, Baines, and John Fahey, taking four riding and two pack horses, carrying eighteen days' rations, etc. Steered east over an undulating grassy country of basaltic formation with occasional sandstone ridges; the soil was generally good, but very stony. I had already traversed this country, and as the day was very misty with much rain, nothing worthy of further record was observed. At 1.30 p.m. altered the course to east-south-east, and at 3.15 camped on a large creek trending north-east, in the bed of which were large pools of a permanent character. The hills were basaltic, but the creeks having cut through the rocks and excavated the sandstone, the valleys were not of such a fertile character as the plains and ridges. Timber was wholly absent, and only a few small trees were seen at intervals on the hills. The morning was cloudy with light rain, but it cleared towards sunset.
Latitude by e Argus 17 degrees 4 minutes 6 seconds.
Resumed our route at 6.30, and steered east-south-east to a basaltic hill, which we reached at 7.40; from the summit a great extent of country was visible, but there were no marked features, as the broken ranges and isolated hills were nearly similar to each other. The whole country appeared to be a nearly level basaltic plain, with masses of sandstone rising 100 to 200 feet above its surface, while the valleys of the creek were excavated to the depth of 100 feet. The country was well grassed, but very stony; but this, though very inconvenient to the traveller, does not render it less valuable for pasture, as stony land always stands feeding better than any other. At 8.20 altered the course to nearly east towards a low ridge of hills. The plain was well grassed till 12.50 p.m., when the sandstone prevailed on the surface and triodia prevailed in the valleys. At 1.50 followed down a rocky ravine, and at 2.15 encamped.
THE VICTORIA RIVER.
At 6.5 a.m. left the camp and followed the gully to the east-south-east; at 7.0 crossed a sandstone ridge, and beyond it a large creek from the south-west, in the bed of which there were some fine pools of water. We then ascended to a basaltic plain, and altered the course to south-east; at 8.0 the country gradually declined to the east, and sandstone was the prevailing rock, but grass was abundant. At 9.40 reached the Victoria, the course from south-south-west to north-north-east; the river had ceased to run and was now only in large pools; crossed to the right bank and steered south half an hour, and camped on the bank of a creek from south-south-east; at noon the sky was overcast, and at 2 p.m. it commenced raining and continued till 4.30, with thunder; heavy dew at night. After it commenced raining the aneroid fell 0.10, but rose again before it ceased. In this part of Australia neither wind nor rain appear to affect the atmospheric pressure to any great extent.
ECLIPSE OF THE SUN.
The result of the rain yesterday was a thick fog this morning, and when we left the camp at 5.50 a.m. we could not see 100 yards, and we traversed the basaltic plain in an east course till 7.0, when the fog cleared away and we found ourselves at the foot of some low rocky hills of basalt, over which we travelled north 70 degrees east. These hills were very rough and stony, but covered with excellent grass. We then entered a basaltic plain, richly grassed and less stony than usual. At 9.30 crossed a basaltic ridge and entered a large valley trending to the north and east; at 10.10 ascended a rocky hill about 150 feet high, and got bearings of the ranges, etc. The country appeared to consist of grassy hills and plains, extending twenty to thirty miles to the north and east. To the south a range of basalt and sandstone hills intercepted the view. Steered east from the hill, and traversed an undulating country, the rocks being basalt, sandstone schist, and jasper; the basalt forming the higher ground, though on the banks of the creek the jasper rested on the basalt. At 2.10 p.m. encamped on a large creek with a gravelly channel twenty yards wide. Fahey obtained a large quantity of mussels from the pools in the creek; they proved an excellent addition to our supper, though rather deficient in flavour. The weather was cloudy, and, though there was an occasional sight of the sun, we could observe neither the commencement or end of the solar eclipse. I was therefore unable to avail myself of it for correcting the longitude.
Latitude by e Argus 17 degrees 9 minutes 6 seconds.
Left the camp at 6.10 a.m. and steered east over a grassy plain; at 7.25 crossed some wide channels from the south-east, forming a large creek; at 8.15 turned south-east and followed the creek till noon. It then turned south, and at 12.15 p.m. we camped at a shallow pool of muddy water. The creek was here divided into several small channels, in which only a few pools of water remained. The whole of the country traversed this day was nearly level, well grassed, and very open. Basalt and jasper are the prevailing rocks.
Latitude by Regulus and Argus 17 degrees 15 minutes 45 seconds.
As the creek appeared to come from the south and not to have a long course, but to rise in the low sandstone ranges which were visible in that direction, it was useless to follow it farther; we therefore steered northwards to intercept any streams which might join the Victoria River lower down its course, and, after travelling over open grassy ridges of basalt for six hours, at 12.25 p.m. camped at a small gully, in which there were some small pools, which appeared to be supplied by springs. The country for five to ten miles to the east of our track appeared open and grassy, basalt being the prevailing rock.
RUNNING WATER. FINE PASTORAL COUNTRY.
At 6.0 a.m. left the camp, and steered an average west-north-west course over an undulating grassy country of basaltic formation; at 11.45 reached the bank of the creek, which formed fine pools fifty yards wide, with fine open grassy country on both sides, well suited for stock. Followed the creek west till 1.5 p.m., when we crossed to the left bank and encamped.
Latitude by Regulus and Argus 16 degrees 59 minutes.
Continued our route down the creek in a northerly direction, leaving the camp at 6.15 a.m., and at 7.55 reached its junction with the Victoria. The river had high banks and formed deep reaches of water, with a dense growth of pandanus, melaleuca, flooded-gum, and other trees in the dry portions of the channel; the country on both banks was basaltic, and rose gradually into fine grassy downs; the soil very stony, but a good dark loam; sandstone showed where the river had cut through the basalt, which is not of any great thickness. At 2.35 p.m. camped on a back channel of the river, as the principal channel was difficult of access from the steep bank and dense growth of reeds. Although the upper part of the Victoria had long ceased to run, this part of the river was flowing with a strong stream ten yards wide and six feet deep.
Latitude by Regulus and Argus 16 degrees 45 minutes 30 seconds.
Continued our route at 6.5 a.m., and followed the river northward till 8.10, when it turned to the north-west; the country consisted of nearly level grassy plains of various elevations, separated by low rocky ridges of sandstone and basalt, the whole well grassed, except some small patches where triodia prevailed; at 11.0 altered the course to average north-west by west, and at 1.30 p.m. camped at a small gully with a little water remaining from a recent shower. The horses suffered much from the heat, as the air was very moist; at 1.40 there was a shower of rain, and the temperature was reduced from 95 degrees to 84 degrees.
Latitude by Vega 16 degrees 35 minutes 8 seconds.
Started from the camp at 6.30 a.m., steering west-south-west; at first sandstone prevailed, and triodia replaced the grass, but at two miles again entered the basaltic country, which was well grassed but very stony, and forming flat-topped hills of small elevation; the basalt appeared to be interstratified with sandstone, the latter much altered at the line of contact. At 9.15 came on the bank of the river, which was running in a deep channel with a dense line of pandanus, fig-trees, terminalia, flooded-gum, and melaleuca; followed the valley of the river to the north-west till noon, and camped at the foot of the hill which we had ascended, at the most southern point attained in December, 1855; ascended the hill and took the bearings, as on the former occasion the rain had obscured the features of the country.
Latitude by Leonis and Argus 16 degrees 27 minutes 30 seconds.
Having connected this part of our route with that of December last, at 6.20 a.m. commenced our return up the river, crossing to the left bank at 7.15; the water was running strong twenty yards, and one to two feet deep; in examining the ford my horse trod on the back of a large alligator, which seemed to be equally astonished as the horse at this unexpected meeting; I then proceeded up the river a mile and a half and halted, as Mr. H. Gregory, who I had sent to examine the river in another part, had not come up with the party, but he shortly after overtook us, having found a good ford lower down the river; at 4.0 p.m. resumed our journey, and at dusk encamped in the bed of a large creek, which joined the Victoria from the south-south-west; at 7.0 it commenced raining, and there were frequent showers till midnight, with thunder and lightning.
As the creek in which we bivouacked seemed to come from the south-west, we followed the valley in that direction; at 6.40 a.m. the hills receding, the grassy flats appeared to extend to the Wickham River and form a continuation of Hutt Plains; the creek now came from the south-south-west and had some fine pools of water in the channel; at 2.10 p.m. camped at a shallow pool in the grassy flat, as the water in the creek was not very easy of access owing to the dense masses of reeds and grass. The hills which bound the valley of the creek are basalt, sandstone, and schist. In the level ground near the creek the grass was five to nine feet high, and greatly impeded our horses. The day was cool and cloudy with some light showers at night. The aneroid barometer was completely put out of adjustment by the principal lever having been moved from its position by a violent shake in crossing one of the deep gullies.
At 6.10 a.m. resumed our journey up the creek in a southerly direction, the valley gradually narrowing, and in one part of the sandstone rocks came close to the banks of the creek, leaving scarcely space to pass between them and the deep pools of water; at 12.30 p.m. camped on the right bank. The basaltic hills appeared to turn to the south-east, and we now entered the sandstone country. The valley of this creek appears to offer the best line of access to the upper part of the valley of the Victoria, as it is nearly level from Hutt Plains to 10.40 in this day's journey, beyond which point drays would have to ascend the hills and turn to the south-east to reach Roe's Downs, which is the finest part of the country yet examined. A short distance below our camp we saw several native paintings on the sandstone rocks; they consisted of rude outlines of fish and snakes, some in red ochre and others in white clay. Mr. Baines sketched some of the most remarkable.
Latitude by Argus 16 degrees 55 minutes.
At 6.25 a.m. recommenced our journey and followed the creek, which turned to the west, and the country became extremely rugged, and at length, as the valley became impassable, we ascended the hills and steered south-west across a very rocky sandstone country to the basaltic plains. Changing the course to west-north-west, crossed two tributary creeks, and at 3.40 p.m. camped on the bank of the creek, which was now much reduced in size. The country to the north of the creek consisted of very rough and rocky hills of red sandstone, extremely barren in appearance, while to the south it rose into the basaltic plain which forms Roe's Downs.
Latitude by Argus 17 degrees 6 seconds.
Resumed our journey at 6.45 a.m. and travelled in a west by north course towards a remarkable basaltic hill, which I called Mount Sanford, traversing a fine open grassy country till 1.0 p.m., when we camped on a creek with permanent pools of water. The rough stony country has rendered the horses quite footsore, and their legs are much cut and bruised by constantly falling over the large rocks in crossing the deep ravines and rocky ridges.
Latitude by Vega 16 degrees 59 minutes 38 seconds.
RETURN TO DEPOT CAMP.
Started at 6.25 a.m. and reached Mount Sanford at 7.30, the country passed being sandstone producing triodia and a little grass. The hill is of basalt with a flat top, but is based on sandstone; its form is nearly a truncated cone 150 feet high and 300 feet in diameter at the top. Having taken angles to the surrounding hills, we descended and steered south-west and west to the depot camp at 1.0 p.m. During our absence Dr. Mueller had found full employment in collecting the plants in the vicinity of the camp, and the rest of the party had been fully occupied in the care of the horses and duties of the camp. I was glad to find that they had not been again molested by the blacks.
Preparing maps of the late excursion to the east of the depot; party preparing for the return to principal camp.
Party employed as before.
20th April (Sunday).
A fine cool breeze from the south, with thin clouds.
Several of the horses had strayed some distance from the camp, and we did not start till 12.30 p.m., when we steered north by west till 5.15 p.m. and camped at a small creek in a deep rocky valley; the country after leaving the basaltic plain was very rocky, the hills composed of schist with a superstratum of red sandstone; grass was abundant in the valley, but the hills produced little but triodia and small gum-trees.
START FOR MAIN CAMP.
At 6.45 a.m. steered east down the creek one mile to its junction with Depot Creek, which was followed north and north-north-east till 8.40. The back country rose into sandstone hills covered with triodia; but there were good grassy flats on the bank of the creek. The creek then entered a rocky gorge about 100 yards wide, with cliffs upward of 100 feet high on each side. With some difficulty we forced our way through the dense growth of reeds and brush, among huge masses of rock and deep pools of water, till 10.10, when we reached a more open part of the valley. The creek now turned to east-north-east, and the wide valley was bounded by low schist hills to the north and the sandstone range we had just passed to the south; except in the lower part of the valley and a few small patches on the hills the country was very poor and stony, triodia taking the place of the grass; water was abundant in the bed of the creek, where it formed large permanent pools, between which there was a small stream of running water in the upper part of the creek, but lower down the channel was dry between the pools; at 1.0 p.m. camped on the right bank of the creek; crossed to the left bank of the creek at 6.20 p.m. and followed it north-east one hour, when the creek turned east and our course was over stony ridges; it was now found that one of the horses was missing, having been lost in one of the dense thickets on the bed of the creek. Mr. H. Gregory therefore returned to search for the lost animal, and we halted till 9.20, and then went on with the party, leaving Mr. Baines to wait on the track till Mr. Gregory came up; at 10.20 p.m. reached the Wickham River and followed it down to the junction of Depot Creek, which we crossed at noon, and camped in a grassy flat about a mile lower down; at 2.0 am Mr. H. Gregory and Mr. Baines came into the camp, but had not been able to find the missing horse; at 3.0 a.m. Mr. H. Gregory and Bowman started to look for the horse.
At 10.30 Mr. H. Gregory brought in the pack-horse lost yesterday. Fortunately, this horse was not carrying a load, and though the saddle got under the horse's belly nothing was injured.
Followed the river down from 7.40 a.m. till 2.30 p.m. and encamped at 9.10 p.m.; crossed a large tributary creek from the south; the country was grassy near the river, but rose into rocky hills with flat tops at a short distance from it; light rain from 4.0 a.m. till 1.0 p.m., with light easterly breeze.
CROSS THE VICTORIA RANGE. STOKES' RANGE.
Continued the route along the right bank of the Wickham from 7.45 a.m. till 3.15 p.m., the general course east-north-east, and camped; after passing the gorge in the sandstone range, which was very narrow and rocky, the country opened into level plains. The best line of route to the upper part of the Wickham is near Mount Warburton, as the sandstone hills which form the rocky gorge are detached; the day was cool and cloudy, with a strong easterly breeze in the morning, and it commenced raining at sunset.
At 7.25 a.m. left the camp and steered east to the Victoria River, but as we could not find a fording place, turned north to the Wickham, and encamped on its banks at 12.25. The bank of the Victoria being so densely covered with reeds that the water was not accessible; at noon I rode out with Mr. H. Gregory to search for a ford, as I wished to keep on the right bank of the river to ascertain what tributary streams joined from the east; after three hours' search found a practicable ford and returned to the camp after dark. In the afternoon the blacks were heard calling on the left bank of the Wickham, near the camp, but were not seen, owing to the thick brush and reeds which filled the bed of the river.
At 7.25 a.m. steered south to the Victoria and reached the ford at 8.35, and at 9.0 a.m., having accomplished the passage of the river with only a few slight accidents, followed the right bank of the Victoria downwards till 1.15 p.m., and encamped on the eastern side of the Victoria; the country was level and well grassed for several miles back, and then rose into the sandstone range to the south and basaltic hills to the east.
At 7.10 a.m. steered north-east over a nearly level grassy basaltic country with low hills to the east of our route; at 8.0 a.m. altered the course to north and traversed a fine grassy country with table hills of basalt resting on chert and sandstone; crossed one creek from the south-east with a muddy channel fifteen yards wide; at 2.0 p.m. changed the course to north 300 degrees east, and at 4.15 p.m. reached the bank of the Victoria; but it was so steep that the horses could not approach the water, and therefore followed it to the rocky ford east-south-east from Mount Sandiman and encamped.
Crossed the left bank of the river at 7.0 a.m., but one of the horses injured his leg among the rocks, and the wound had to be sewn up, which delayed us till 8.20 a.m., when we steered north-west to Jasper Creek, which, after much labour in forcing a passage through the reeds, we crossed at 11.25 a.m., and at 12.55 p.m. encamped on the bank of the Victoria, at the commencement of the rocky gorge through Stokes' Range.
Proceeded down the river, leaving the camp at 6.50 a.m., and at 2.15 p.m. encamped a short distance above our camp of the 8th December, 1855.
Continued route from 6.45 a.m. till 1.0 p.m., and encamped one mile above our bivouac of the 28th December.
Resumed our journey at 6.45 a.m. and followed the left bank of the river till 10.10 a.m., when we encamped at the spot where we crossed the Victoria on the 28th November, 1855; at 2.0 p.m. crossed the river with Mr. H. Gregory, and rode to the east to examine a large creek which joined the Victoria two miles below the camp. The creek was thirty to forty yards wide, with high muddy banks covered with reeds, and the marks of floods were fifty feet above its present level; the general appearance was that of a stream having a course of forty to fifty miles. The wide flat on the left bank of the creek was well grassed; but the valley was bounded by steep sandstone hills covered with triodia and scrub; returned to the camp at 5.0 p.m.
As we should have to pass this camp on our route to the Gulf of Carpentaria, I deposited 100 pounds of flour and a quantity of shot and lead, horse-shoes, etc., in a cleft in the rocks, and covered them with large stones, and then set the grass on fire to deface our tracks; at 8.15 a.m. left the camp and proceeded along our former track till noon, and camped on a small creek two miles east-south-east from Bynoe Range.
Left the camp at 8.10 a.m. and steered north 240 degrees east over a level grassy country, wooded with bauhinia, acacia, and eucalypti—the latter being more abundant as we advanced; at 1.0 p.m. the country changed to low rocky ridges of chert and limestone, and at 2.0 p.m. encamped at a small creek trending north-west, and in which a few small muddy pools of water remained. At noon we passed a party of five or six blacks, who shouted to us from a distance, but would not approach within 200 yards. They were armed with spears, and seemed to be on their return from hunting, as the grass was on fire to the south.
At 7.20 resumed our journey, and steering west crossed a fine creek with fine pools and water-pandanus growing on the banks. We then traversed a very rocky country, at the southern base of the sandstone range, till 11.0, when we came to a more level and grassy country, consisting of chert ridges. At noon steered north 300 degrees east down the valley of a small creek, and soon entered a deep valley bounded on both sides by steep sandstone hills. At 1.0 p.m. turned north 320 degrees east, and at 2.20 camped at a shallow pool in the bed of the creek, which was now in the limestone rock.
REACH THE MAIN CAMP.
At 7.30 a.m. resumed our journey down the valley to the junction of the creek with the Victoria River, which we followed down, crossing the ridge at Steep Head at 10.20, and reached the principal camp at 5.30 p.m., where we were welcomed by Mr. Elsey, who was in charge, Mr. Wilson being absent down the river at the schooner, which had been laid on the shingle bank near the Dome to complete repairs. I was glad to learn that all the men belonging to the Expedition were in good health, except Richards, whose hand was still in a very unsatisfactory state, though better than when we left in January. The crew of the schooner had not been so fortunate, as the carpenter, John Finlay, had died, and three of the men were so ill that they had been left at the camp to be under the immediate care of the medical officer. This great amount of sickness is owing to the combined effects of previous disease and the inferior quality of the provisions with which the vessel is supplied. It appears that through damage by salt water and want of good management the provisions, which should have been sufficient for two years, are now reduced to salt beef of inferior quality and tea, the Expedition having had to furnish flour, rice, sugar, peas, and pork, as also medical stores, for the sick men. In consequence of the reduced number of the crew of the Tom Tough, Mr. Wilson had found it necessary to furnish men to assist in working the schooner, as well as to effect repairs.
Much of the grass near the camp having been burnt, I sent the horses to the creek, three miles above the camp. Party employed in general duties of the camp. Twenty-nine sheep remained; they are now in fair condition; the average weight forty to forty-five pounds. They would probably have been much fatter had they been judiciously shepherded, but they had been kept close to the camp, where the feed had been eaten off closely. The natives have been frequently at the camp in small parties, and on these occasions were very quiet in their demeanour, but had made hostile demonstrations when met by small detached parties of the Expedition; and on one occasion Mr. Wilson had deemed it necessary to fire at them; but only one of the blacks appears to have been wounded, with small shot, in the arm, as he was afterwards seen at the camp.
11th May (Sunday).
Preparing maps, arranging stores, etc.
Drawing maps of the late journey and preparing for the Expedition to the Albert River.
THE TOM TOUGH REFITTED.
Preparing maps, sifting flour, packing specimens, burning charcoal for the forge, preparing horse-shoes. At 6 p.m. Mr. Wilson returned in the boat from the Tom Tough. One of the boys belonging to the schooner was brought to the camp for medical treatment, as he was suffering from scurvy. The Tom Tough had been moored below the shoals, and was now moored in a secure position below Curiosity Peak. All the leaks had been secured, and she now only made about half an inch of water per hour. The crew of the vessel have been so much reduced by sickness that it will be necessary to send men on board to assist in refitting the vessel and procure a supply of wood and water. As it is necessary to replace the stores destroyed or damaged by salt-water, it appears desirable that the Tom Tough should proceed to the Gulf of Carpentaria via Coupang, in the island of Timor, where a supply of rice and sugar can be procured for the Expedition, and the vessel will be enabled to complete her stores. It appears desirable that the land party should refit with all possible despatch for the journey to the Gulf of Carpentaria, in order to take advantage of the cool season, and there is reason to expect that the horses will be sufficiently recruited in strength towards the end of June. I am, therefore, in hope that the party will be able to leave the Victoria before the expiration of the ensuing month. A small party of natives came to the camp in the morning and bartered a few trifles, and then retired.