Journals of Australian Explorations
A C and F T Gregory
Part 1 out of 8
Produced by Sue Asscher
AUGUSTUS CHARLES GREGORY,
C.M.G., F.R.G.S., ETC.,
Gold Medalist, Royal Geographical Society,
FRANCIS THOMAS GREGORY,
F.R.G.S., ETC., ETC.,
Gold Medalist, Royal Geographical Society.
JAMES C. BEAL, GOVERNMENT PRINTER, WILLIAM STREET.
Numerous inquiries having been made for copies of the Journals of the
Explorations by the Messrs. Gregory in the Western, Northern, and Central
portions of Australia, and as these journals have hitherto only been
partially published in a fragmentary form, and are now out of print, it
has been deemed desirable to collect the material into one volume, for
convenience of reference, and to place on permanent record some of the
earlier attempts to penetrate the terra incognita which then constituted
so vast a portion of the Australian Continent.
Although, during the twenty-two years which have elapsed since the last
of these expeditions was undertaken, the geographical knowledge of
Australia has so far advanced as to fill in most of the details of its
physical features and set at rest the speculative opinions and theories
of early explorers, it has not been deemed desirable to alter or amend
the impressions or views recorded at the time, but simply reproduce the
journals as originally compiled.
[TABLE OF CONTENTS.
MESSRS. GREGORY'S EXPEDITION TO THE EAST AND NORTH OF SWAN RIVER. 1846.
THE SETTLERS' EXPEDITION TO THE NORTHWARD FROM PERTH, UNDER MR.
ASSISTANT-SURVEYOR A.C. GREGORY. 1848.
HIS EXCELLENCY GOVERNOR CHARLES FITZGERALD'S EXPEDITION TO THE GERALDINE
LEAD MINE. 1848.
THE MURCHISON RIVER. 1857.
GASCOYNE RIVER. 1858.
NORTH-WEST COAST. 1861.
NORTH AUSTRALIAN EXPEDITION. 1855 TO 1856.
EXPEDITION IN SEARCH OF DR. LEICHHARDT. 1857 TO 1858.
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS.
[missing frontispiece (ripped out), probably photo of A.C. Gregory.]
THE GOUTY-STEM TREE, NEAR THE DOME, ON THE RIVER VICTORIA, NORTH-WEST
MESSRS. GREGORY'S EXPEDITION TO THE EAST AND NORTH OF SWAN RIVER.
EARLY CONDITION OF WEST AUSTRALIA.
The colony of Western Australia was established in 1829; but its
isolation from the older settlement of New South Wales rendered it
necessary to import all the horses, cattle, and sheep by sailing vessels
from Tasmania, or other remote sources, while the heavy losses and
difficulties attending long sea voyages prevented any large importations
of stock--so that, though there was a fair rate of increase, the flocks
and herds of the settlers had found sufficient pasturage for the first
ten years on the banks of the Swan River and its upper valley, the Avon,
together with the coast district southward to the Vasse Inlet; but after
1840 the stock-owners began to feel that all prospect of material
increase must be relinquished unless additional pastures could be
Several public as well as private expeditions were undertaken for the
purpose of ascertaining whether in the interior or along the coast on
either side of the settlement there existed any available country, but
they had only encountered dense scrubs of acacia and eucalyptus, with
salt marshes and scarcity of fresh water in the interior. The coast to
the east had been traversed from Adelaide to King George's Sound by Mr.
Eyre, and found to be altogether unfit for settlement, while to the north
the coast presented a series of sandy plains for more than 200 miles.
It may now appear extraordinary that the earlier explorers in Australia
were so frequently unsuccessful in their endeavours to penetrate the
interior; but the scarcity of suitable horses, the unsuitable character
of the saddlery, cumbersome camp equipment, and deficiency of knowledge
regarding the seasons in the interior, all combined to defeat the first
explorers in districts which have since been traversed with comparative
In 1846 the known country had become so nearly stocked to the full extent
of its capability that the leading question of interest with the settlers
was, where new runs could be discovered; and, among many others, the
Messrs. Gregory proposed to attempt the further exploration of the
Messrs. A.C. and F.T. Gregory, who were attached to the department of the
Surveyor-General, applied for three months' leave of absence for the
purpose; but it was eventually arranged that the expedition should be
under the auspices of the Government, which provided four horses, and
voted 5 pounds for the purchase of equipment, the remainder being
supplied at private expense.
The party consisted of A.C. Gregory, F.T. Gregory, and H.C. Gregory,
provided with four horses and seven weeks' provisions, the equipment
being reduced to the least possible weight. The starting point was Mr.
T.N. Yule's station, in the Toodyay district, sixty miles north-east from
The following is a transcript of the journal:--
EXPLORATION TO EAST OF SWAN RIVER, 1846.
7th August, 1846.
Leaving Mr. Yule's farm at Boyeen Spring, passed Captain Scully's station
at Bolgart Spring at 10.15 a.m.; thence steered north 70 degrees east
over sandy downs, thinly timbered with eucalyptus; at 12.50 p.m. crossed
a small watercourse trending in the direction of our course till 2 p.m.,
when it turned south; at 3.50 p.m. halted for the night on a small stream
flowing to the south-west.
Latitude by observation 31 degrees 12 minutes 10 seconds; longitude 116
degrees 50 minutes.
At 7.5 a.m. commenced a course 70 degrees; at 8.0 crossed a granite hill
with some grass, after which the country was scrubby till 9.30, when we
entered a grassy flat timbered with casuarina; at 10.25 the country was
more open, but scrubby; at 12.45 p.m. observed a small lake bearing 10
degrees; steered on that course, and reached it at 2.10 p.m.; halted till
3.15, and then resumed our former course through a swampy country, and at
4.50 camped on the bank of another small shallow lake.
Latitude by observation 31 degrees 4 minutes 24 seconds; longitude 117
degrees 4 minutes.
At 7.35 a.m. steered on a course of 95 degrees through a scrubby country
with small wooded valleys; at noon observed several large shallow lakes
five to ten miles to the north-east; at 3 p.m. altered the course to 45
degrees, and at 3.30 to north; at 4 p.m. reached a large open flat
covered with salicornia and other salt plants, and with shallow lakes of
salt water. At the edge of the flat found a native well with good water
and a patch of grass around it, and bivouacked.
Latitude by observation 31 degrees 2 minutes 22 seconds; longitude 117
degrees 23 minutes 15 seconds.
At 7.35 a.m. left the bivouac and steered 95 degrees, passed several
small salt lagoons in a thick swampy country; at 9.15 entered a gum
forest with close underwood, which rendered travelling slow and
difficult, but it gradually became more open; at 1 p.m. observed several
lakes to the north and east, six to seven miles distant; we then passed a
succession of dense thickets and patches of gum forest till 4.25, when we
turned north, and at 5.30 halted in an open patch of grass surrounded by
Latitude by observation 31 degrees 1 minute 44 seconds; longitude 117
degrees 45 minutes 10 seconds.
At 7.25 a.m. steered north-east through gum forest; at 8.30 passed a dry
lagoon; at 9.10 changed the course to 95 degrees; the country became more
open; at 11.35 ascended an elevated ridge, and saw several bare granite
hills to the eastward; steered 75 degrees to the nearest; reached its
summit at 1.40 p.m., and halted for the remainder of the day to refresh
the horses, there being abundance of water in the hollows of the rock and
some grass around the base of the hill.
Latitude by observation 30 degrees 58 minutes 47 seconds; longitude 117
degrees 59 minutes 47 seconds.
DRY COUNTRY. GRANITE HILLS.
Leaving the bivouac at 7.30 a.m., steered 122 degrees through alternate
patches of gum forest, underwood, and grass; at 11.50 reached the summit
of a bare granite hill, from which we could see Lake Brown, bearing 93
degrees to 103 degrees, Eaglestone Hill, 100 degrees, also many other
remarkable hills and peaks. Leaving this hill at 12.15 p.m., steered 58
degrees over undulating wooded country with several small watercourses
trending to the south; at 4.30 bivouacked at a scrubby hill, near a small
pool of rainwater, on a granite rock.
Latitude by observation 30 degrees 59 minutes 54 seconds; longitude 118
degrees 17 minutes.
Resumed our course 58 degrees through level gum forest, then a spearwood
thicket, then dense underwood and patches of gum forest till 1.25 p.m.,
when we came to a native well among granite rocks; having watered the
horses, continued the course through the same description of country till
4.40, when we halted at the foot of a granite hill with plenty of
rainwater in the hollows and grass on a narrow strip between the scrub
and base of the bare rock.
Latitude by observation 30 degrees 48 minutes 34 seconds; longitude 118
degrees 40 minutes.
Started at 10.35 a.m., and steered 41 degrees through a level country,
with thickets of underwood, cypress, and gum, with some grassy patches;
at 2.20 p.m. reached a bare granite hill, at the foot of which we
Leaving the bivouac at 7.15 a.m., steered 50 degrees; at 8.50 crossed a
steep ridge of white sandy rocks resting on granite; after this the
country was grassy, with little timber, 10.30, when we entered a thick
scrub; at 11.0 observed a high granite hill bearing 50 degrees, steered
for it, and reached the summit at 12.55 p.m., descending into thick scrub
on the other side. Having climbed a tree to get a view, observed a very
remarkable peak and range of rugged hills distant about forty miles, the
highest point bearing 57 degrees; at 2.30 came to scrubby country with
only a few trees, and at 4.15 camped at a small waterhole in a granite
Latitude by observation 30 degrees 31 minutes 43 seconds; longitude 118
degrees 52 minutes.
At 7.15 a.m. resumed our march on a bearing 68 degrees, through
well-wooded country till 9.35, when we ascended a fine grassy hill of
trap-rock. From this hill several of a similar character were visible to
the southward, while to the north numerous large dry salt lakes or
marshes occupied the valley along the south-eastern declivity of which we
had travelled for the last two days; the course was then 56 degrees,
through scattered forest, with much underwood and a little grass. At noon
struck the shore of one of the lakes, the bank being composed of gypsum
and red sand, in some parts twenty feet high; following the shore of the
lake to the east till 1.15 p.m., again resumed a course 56 degrees
through dense thickets of wattle (acacia), with patches of gum forest and
cypress, the soil a red sandy loam devoid of smaller vegetation; at 5.0
halted for the night.
Latitude by observation 30 degrees 21 minutes 40 seconds; longitude 119
degrees 11 minutes.
WHIRLWINDS. RED SAND.
At 6.30 a.m. recommenced our journey 50 degrees; at 6.55 crossed a narrow
swampy patch of salicornia trending east and west; altered the course to
63 degrees, and at 7.35 crossed a deep watercourse trending to the south;
at 8.15 ascended a trap hill with a few granite rocks at the foot, among
which we found a small pool of rainwater, at which we halted for three
hours to refresh our horses, and then proceeded 40 degrees till 2.20
p.m., when we arrived at the foot of the highest hill in the range for
which we had been steering. Leaving our horses, we ascended the hill,
which was composed of trap-rock, and did not exceed 300 feet in height
above the general level of the country. From the summit several similar
ranges of trap hills were visible, extending from north to
east-south-east; to the south-east the country appeared to be a level
sandy desert without the least appearance of vegetation, while to the
west and north the smokes of many native fires were visible in the
distance. The extremely level character of the country between the ranges
to the east and north, and the immense columns of red sand or dust which
were raised by whirlwinds to a height of 200 to 500 feet, gave but little
hope of finding water in that direction. Returning to our horses at 4.20,
steered 350 degrees about three and a half miles to a small patch of
grass which had been observed from the hill, which was named Mount
Jackson. There was a small watercourse through the patch of grass, but no
water, and the country was suffering from prolonged drought.
Latitude by observation 30 degrees 12 minutes 28 seconds; longitude 119
degrees 16 minutes.
After six hours' ineffectual search for water, we were compelled to
return to the water passed early on the previous day.
Left the bivouac at 7.20 a.m. and steered 275 degrees through a scattered
gum forest with much underwood; at 9.55 came on a dry salt lagoon of
irregular form, which was crossed at 10.20; passing a native well among
flat granite rocks, the country rose gradually till 11.50, when we
arrived at a hill crowned by steep white sandstone cliffs twenty to
thirty feet high. The course was then changed to north, through dense
thickets, till 12.20 p.m., when we again turned west through a
well-wooded country, and at 3.0 camped on a high granite hill with some
patches of grass and abundance of rainwater in the hollows of the rocks.
Latitude 30 degrees 19 minutes 33 seconds; longitude 118 degrees 55
At 7.30 a.m. resumed a westerly course through dense thickets of acacia
and melaleuca, and at 5.15 p.m. bivouacked in a small patch of grass and
a small pool of rainwater on a granite rock.
Latitude 30 degrees 17 minutes 40 seconds; longitude 118 degrees 35
At 7.45 a.m. started on a course 320 degrees over an undulating country
with dense thickets and patches of cypress and gum forest; at 4.30 p.m.
bivouacked near a small hole in a rock with about two gallons of
rainwater remaining in it.
Latitude 30 degrees 5 minutes 43 seconds; longitude 118 degrees 22
At 7.35 a.m. resumed a west course through a succession of thickets, gum
forest, and scrub; at 12.30 p.m. observed a granite hill bearing 315
degrees; made for the hill, and finding some excellent grass around a
native well, at 2.15 camped.
Latitude 30 degrees 3 minutes 36 seconds; longitude 118 degrees 8
Started at 7.40 a.m. in a direction 320 degrees, over thinly-timbered
scrubby country, which gradually improved and became grassy; at 10.5
altered the course to 336 degrees, and at 1.15 p.m. reached the summit of
a granite hill from which a series of dry lakes, or salt marshes, were
visible in a wide valley trending to the north-east. A very remarkable
hill bore 316 degrees, about 35 miles distant. Steering in the direction
of this hill, found the country covered with almost impenetrable scrub of
acacia. At 4.20 halted at the foot of a high sandstone cliff, where some
deep holes in the rock retained a small quantity of rainwater.
Latitude 29 degrees 51 minutes; longitude 119 degrees 55 minutes.
Left the bivouac at 7.35 a.m. steering 312 degrees; passed over a nearly
level country timbered with cypress and eucalyptus, with patches of
acacia thicket; at 2.45 p.m. halted at a deep waterhole in a flat granite
Latitude 29 degrees 42 minutes 31 seconds; longitude 117 degrees 41
EXTENSIVE SALT MARSHES.
At 7.30 a.m. resumed our journey on the same course as yesterday, and at
9.15 came on an extensive flat covered with salicornia, which formed the
margin of an immense salt marsh or dry lake, extending to the north-east
and south-west to the horizon, but narrowing to about three miles at the
point we came to it. It was decided to attempt crossing at this place,
and, after travelling for an hour across the salicornia flat, reached the
bare salt marsh. This at first seemed firm; but, after half-a-mile, the
hard crust of salt and gypsum, which formed the surface, gave way and
three of the horses were bogged almost at the same time. After a long
ineffectual struggle to extricate themselves they were quite exhausted,
and we waded through the mud to the opposite shore, a distance of
half-a-mile, and cut some small trees, and with them, combined with
tether ropes and saddle-bags, formed two hurdles or platforms twelve feet
long and two feet wide. These with much difficulty were taken to the
horses, and by placing them alternately in front of each animal, worked
them over the soft mud, and after six hours of severe exertion succeeded
in reaching the firm ground. The hard salt crust, though apparently
strong, having once been broken, its edges gave way like thin ice. After
reaching the ground, which was dry enough to bear the weight of the
horses, we had to travel about three miles through soft dust of white
gypsum, in which we sank from one to two feet, but at length reached a
large granite rock, at the foot of which there was a little grass and on
the rock some small pools of rainwater.
Latitude 29 degrees 37 minutes 30 seconds; longitude 117 degrees 38
From the summit of the rock we had an extensive view, the lake extending
twelve miles east, fifteen miles to the south and west, eight miles to
the north and to the north-east, only bounded by the horizon. Shallow
pools of brine, varying from one to three miles in diameter, with
low-wooded and high bare granite islets, were scattered over this vast
area of white mud gypsum and salt. At 8.35 a.m. started in a southerly
direction along the shore of the lake in the hope of turning its west
side; at 10.40 altered the course to 221 degrees; and at 12.30 p.m.
camped on a grassy granite hill, about a mile from the lake.
Latitude 29 degrees 47 minutes 13 seconds; longitude 117 degrees 36
Steering a general course 200 degrees from 7.40 a.m. to 8.40, again
reached the shore of the lake, followed it south-east till 9.45, then 80
degrees till 12.15 p.m., when we halted for one and a half hours under a
very remarkable solitary gum-tree; we then steered 173 degrees till 2.20;
then 204 degrees till 3.30, when we left the lake, which trended to the
west, and, steering 250 degrees till 5.5, camped at a native well in a
small grassy valley. Some good open grassy flats were passed during the
day and a large number of wild turkeys were seen.
Latitude 29 degrees 59 minutes 4 seconds; longitude 117 degrees 39
Starting at 7.35 a.m. in a west-north-west course, at 8.45 passed several
small dry salt lagoons; at 9.0 ascended a granite hill, from the summit
of which it was discovered that further progress in this direction was
impracticable, and that we were on a peninsula, as the lake still trended
south to the horizon. We therefore turned east, and at 11.35 came on the
southern extension of the eastern branch of the lake; followed it nearly
east till noon, then north-east and north-north-east till 1.0 p.m.; then
17 degrees, leaving the lake and crossing extensive open downs till 2.5,
when a small dry salt lake was passed, and we entered thickets of acacia,
which changed to gum and cypress forest; at 3.0 came to a rich grassy
hill, then thickets and grassy patches, and at 4.0 reached the summit of
a lofty granite hill and had an extensive view over the country. On the
north side of the hill found a native well and some good grass, where we
Latitude 29 degrees 45 minutes 15 seconds; longitude 117 degrees 46
GRANITE HILLS AND GRASSY COUNTRY.
At 7.35 a.m. left the bivouac and steered 30 degrees through thickets; at
8.30 crossed our track of the 24th, and at 9.15 passed a salt marsh
trending north-west and south-east; at 12.25 p.m. altered the course to
north till 1.0; then, 37 degrees, ascended a granite hill, on which we
found a few shallow pools of rainwater; then north till 4.0 p.m., and
bivouacked in a grassy patch with a small hollow containing a little
Latitude 29 degrees 30 minutes 46 seconds; longitude 117 degrees 51
Resumed our journey at 7.35 a.m., steering north over a level country
with patches of brushwood and grass; at 10.35 ascended a steep grassy
ridge, and found ourselves at the north-east extremity of the immense
salt lake which for five days had baffled our attempts to proceed north.
The lake, which was named Lake Moore, was at this part about five miles
wide, and extended to the horizon to the south-west; to the north and
west there were many bare granite hills; changing the course to 328
degrees, at 12.55 p.m. camped at a grassy granite hill.
Latitude 29 degrees 17 minutes 56 seconds; longitude 117 degrees 47
At 7.30 a.m. steered 328 degrees for two hours through thickets of
acacia, cypress, and gum; then entered a grassy country with jam-wattle;
at 10.35 passed a granite hill and altered the course to 357 degrees, and
at 11.30 ascended a high granite hill, from which many similar hills were
visible to the north and east, and a remarkable range of trap hills about
thirty miles to the north-north-east; also some smaller trap ranges to
the north-west, from ten to thirty miles distant. At noon steered 302
degrees towards the nearest of these ranges, traversing a level plain
with brushwood and grass; at 4.45 crossed a small dry watercourse
trending west, and at 5.5 bivouacked on a granite hill, with some grass
and a fine pool of rainwater in a hollow of the rock.
Latitude 29 degrees 3 minutes 14 seconds; longitude 117 degrees 31
Resumed our route at 7.45 a.m.; at 8.45 reached the hills we had been
steering for; from the summit there was an extensive view: to the north
and west were many trap hills and several dry salt lakes; to the north
the country was level for several miles, and then rose into a low range
of granite hills, covered with brushwood and grass; at 9.20 steered 230
degrees over level country with dense thickets of acacia; at noon the
country became more open; at 1.0 passed some small dry salt lagoons, the
country more open and with some grass, and at 3.0 camped at the foot of a
granite hill, with good grass and some water oozing out of a cleft in the
Latitude 28 degrees 50 minutes 44 seconds; longitude 117 degrees 20
Leaving the bivouac at 7.40 a.m., steered 330 degrees over a succession
of grassy granite hills, with small watercourse trending to the west; at
12.40 p.m. came on a party of four aboriginals, who hastily decamped,
leaving their spears and shields behind in the hurry of retreat; they
appeared to be of rather small stature, and somewhat darker in colour
than the blacks near the Swan River. Observing a remarkable hill bearing
312 degrees about twenty miles distant, steered for it; the country
became more level, with grass and brushwood; at 3.5 turned north to a
steep granite hill, crossing a dry watercourse thirty yards wide and
sixteen feet deep trending north-west; at 4.40 halted in a gully in the
granite range, and obtained water by digging among the rocks.
Latitude 28 degrees 34 minutes 9 seconds; longitude 117 degrees 2
Started at 8.0 a.m., steering towards the hill seen yesterday, and which
now bore 307 degrees. The country was nearly a dead level, with a few
small dry watercourses trending south-west; the soil a red loam,
producing some grass and small acacias; at 10.50 came on an extensive
flat covered with salicornia, which extended to the base of the hill, the
summit of which was reached at 12.25 p.m.; from this position the flat or
marsh appeared to extend fifteen miles to the north-east, a branch also
to the north-west, in which direction the water seemed to trend, though
the dip of the country, if any, was so slight as to render it uncertain.
To the north a range of trap hills, five to ten miles distant,
intercepted the view. Having completed observations at 2.10, steered 300
degrees along the foot of a range of trap hills; at 3.50 passed a dry
salt lake on our right, and at 5.15 bivouacked on the side of a trap
hill, among some fine oat-grass growing on calcareous tufa. From the
summit of the hill we could see salt marshes continuing in a north-west
direction for many miles; all the hills within twenty miles were of a
trap formation, and therefore gave no prospect of obtaining water, the
soil being loose and the rock full of fissures; hitherto we seldom had
found water except on or near granite rocks, which serve to collect the
rainwater of even slight showers.
Latitude 28 degrees 24 minutes 20 seconds; longitude 116 degrees 42
SCARCITY OF WATER. TURN TO THE WEST.
As the horses had been twenty-four hours without water, and there was no
prospect of obtaining any to the north or west, no rain having fallen for
the past month, it was deemed advisable to return to the last bivouac,
and then, by a westerly course, attempt to make the sources of the Hutt
or Arrowsmith rivers, the mouths of which had been discovered by Captain
Grey on the coast opposite our position. Accordingly, after six hours'
ride, we got back to the well at the bivouac of the 2nd.
At 7.50 a.m. left the bivouac, and, steering 240 degrees, at 8.15 crossed
the dry watercourse trending west; at 11.0 ascended the ridge bounding
the valley; at noon found a small pool of water in a gully descending to
the westward; after this traversed a continuous thicket of acacia with
narrow strips of cypress forest, and bivouacked at 5.50 without water.
Latitude 29 degrees 47 minutes 15 seconds; longitude 116 degrees 41
At 6.45 a.m., proceeding west, ascended a granite hill, near the top of
which we found a native well, where we halted at 7.30. Having watered the
horses and breakfasted, at 9.30 resumed our journey over granite hills,
covered with brushwood and cypress with a few grassy patches; at 11.10
passed a native well; altered the course to west-south-west, crossing
three small watercourses trending north-west; and at 1.15 p.m. halted at
the foot of a bare granite hill, on the top of which there was a fine
pool of rainwater in a shallow basin of the rock.
Latitude 28 degrees 50 minutes 51 seconds; longitude 116 degrees 29
Started at 7.15 a.m. on a course 255 degrees through acacia thickets; at
10.5 crossed a narrow strip of salt marsh, which spread out into dry salt
lakes to the south; after this the country was grassy till 11.30, when we
entered a dense thicket of acacia, melaleuca, cypress, and eucalypti, the
ground gradually rising till 4.0 p.m., and then descending till 5.25,
when we crossed a small dry watercourse trending south; at 6.10
bivouacked in a gum forest without water or grass, though a large flight
of white cockatoos which roosted near seemed to indicate that water was
not far distant.
Latitude 28 degrees 58 minutes 14 seconds; longitude 116 degrees 6
Leaving the bivouac at 7.0 am steered west; at 7.20 came to a grassy
granite hill, then west-north-west to another hill, where we halted for
half an hour to look for water, but being unsuccessful, again resumed a
westerly course through acacia thickets, alternating with grassy gum
forest, till noon, when the soil changed from a red loam to ironstone
gravel; grass disappeared and was replaced by scrub; the country was much
broken and continued to rise till 4.0 p.m., when it began to descend
rapidly till 4.30, when we came to a small watercourse trending south;
following it down for half a mile, found a small pool of water and some
grass, and halted for the night, this being the only water seen for
nearly fifty miles.
Latitude 28 degrees 58 minutes 50 seconds; longitude 115 degrees 45
DISCOVER TWO SEAMS OF COAL.
At 7.30 a.m. resumed a westerly course through grassy gum forest; at 8.0
a.m. crossed a large watercourse trending south, with many shallow pools
of water; the country then became scrubby; at 9.10 crossed a granite
ridge and entered a rich grassy valley timbered with eucalypti and
raspberry-jam wattle, a small watercourse trending north. The ridge on
the west side of the valley was destitute of timber, but covered with
dense wattle brush; at 10.0 a.m. altered the course to 305 degrees, and
at 10.35 came on the head of a small stream-bed with pools of water;
following it west-north-west, at 11.30 it was joined by a running stream
four yards wide, the water being brackish, and trended to the south-west;
left it and steered west over an open scrubby country; at 12.30 p.m.
entered a dense thicket of eucalypti and acacia, the soil being formed of
fragments of granite and trap; at 1.0 p.m. entered a deep valley by an
abrupt descent, and found ourselves once more on the banks of the
brackish stream, which was much enlarged, and running through a narrow
grassy flat backed by high sandstone cliffs from 80 to 100 feet high.
Continuing our course along the river west till 1.55 p.m., when it turned
north, and at 2.20 p.m. north-west; at 3.0 p.m. the banks of the stream
became very high, and stratified in a remarkable manner, the lower rocks
in thin beds dipping to the east, while the superincumbent rocks of red
sandstone were horizontal. We therefore entered the bed of the river to
examine it, and found two seams of coal--one five feet thick and the
other about six feet thick--between beds of sandstone and shale. Having
pitched the tent and tethered the horses, we commenced to collect
specimens of the various strata, and succeeded in cutting out five or six
hundredweight of coal with the tomahawk, and in a short time had the
satisfaction of seeing the first fire of Western Australian coal burning
cheerfully in front of the camp, this being the first discovery of coal
in the western part of the Continent.
Latitude 28 degrees 57 minutes 10 seconds; longitude 115 degrees 30
At 7.20 a.m. left the camp and followed the river downwards on a general
course 250 degrees; at 7.40 crossed to the left bank, the valley opening
out and the soil improving, being formed by the decomposition of soft
shales, which contain much gypsum in fine crystals. Oat and rye grasses
were abundant, with plenty of saltbush; at 9.10 crossed to the right
bank, and steered 220 degrees to an abrupt headland on the north side of
the valley, which was here about two miles wide; the soil a stiff brown
loam, with rounded fragments of granite, flinty trap, and quartz,
resembling in appearance the French millstone burr; the grass improved,
being chiefly of perennial species. After a halt of twenty minutes to
take bearings from the hill, at 9.40 steered 200 degrees, and again
crossed the river at 11.15, and altered the course to 235 degrees; the
grassy country having a breadth of two miles. At noon ascended a sandy
ridge with a few gum-trees on the top; there the valley closed in, the
grassy flats below being only half a mile wide and backed by extensive
elevated sandy downs, covered with heath and short scrub. The course of
the river was about 230 degrees. At 1.35 p.m. ascended a remarkable red
sandstone hill, with a table summit and steep rocks on all sides nearly
blocking up the valley; at 2.15 p.m. resumed a general course of 242
degrees along the bank of the river, and at 4.5 bivouacked in a rich
grassy flat thinly timbered with white-barked eucalyptus.
Latitude 29 degrees 10 minutes 42 seconds; longitude 115 degrees 15
REACH THE SEA-COAST.
Started at 7.40 a.m., and, steering 240 degrees, crossed the river, left
the grassy flats, and entered the sandy downs; at 8.45 ascended a steep
sandstone cliff, and from the top had a distant view of the sea; the
river about one and a half miles to the south, where a large branch
joined it from the east about two miles below the bivouac. At 9.35
steered 267 degrees over open sandy downs, and at 10.35 struck the river,
running north through beautiful grassy flats timbered with York and
white-gums and wattles; there were many fine pools of water, which
appeared to be permanent. After an unsuccessful attempt to cross the
river, followed it northerly till 11.0; then west-north-west till 11.20,
and then west-south-west till 11.45, when we found a practicable crossing
to the left bank, and, steering west by south, ascended a sandy limestone
ridge; then on a west-south-west course followed the valley of the river
down to its mouth, which was reached at 3.40 p.m. The entrance of the
river was choked up with sand and rocks, and not passable for even small
boats. This river appears to be the Irwin River of Captain Grey, as this
spot is only one and a half miles to the south of the position assigned
to it on Arrowsmith's map of this part of the coast. At 4.30 left the
beach and retraced our steps to where we crossed the river at 1.30, and
bivouacked at 5.50.
Latitude 29 degrees 15 minutes 10 seconds; longitude 114 degrees 59
At 7.50 a.m. resumed our journey up the river, steering north-east till
8.25; then east along the north bank, through rich grassy flats timbered
with York gum. At 10.20 left the river and entered the sandy downs; at
10.30 crossed a small stream with some fine springs; at 11.0 changed the
course to east by south; at noon altered the course to 83 degrees,
crossing the river at 12.50 p.m., where it is joined by the east branch,
which is of equal size with the northern one; followed the east branch up
through wide grassy flats till 2.0, and camped.
The country consists of elevated sandy downs covered with heathy bushes
and a few small banksia trees, it being only on the alluvial flats of the
river that there is any grass or good soil. Large flocks of
cockatoos--white, black with white tails, and black with red tails--came
to water near the camp; some were shot, also a turkey, the flesh of which
was extremely bitter and scarcely eatable. Several kangaroos were seen on
the sandy downs.
Latitude 29 degrees 11 minutes 20 seconds; longitude 115 degrees 18
At 7.55 a.m. left the Irwin River and steered a course 160 degrees, over
open sandy downs of considerable elevation; at 11.45 halted for half an
hour and shot a kangaroo, which proved a welcome addition to the
commissariat; at 1.30 p.m. changed the course to 142 degrees, and at 2.30
came to a running stream three yards wide. This we assumed to be the
Arrowsmith River of Captain Grey, and as there was little prospect of
finding water farther on, we bivouacked, though there was only a little
grass close to the bank of the stream and the rest of the country covered
with short scrub.
Latitude 29 degrees 27 minutes 9 seconds.
Left the bivouac at 8.35 a.m., and steered 160 degrees over sandy downs
with ridges of red sandstone till 3.0 p.m., when the course was altered
to 220 degrees, following down a shallow valley; at 4.0 turned
west-south-west, and at 5.15 bivouacked in a swampy spot with some grass;
obtaining water by digging in the sand.
Latitude 29 degrees 48 minutes 10 seconds; longitude 115 degrees 32
Leaving the bivouac at 8.0 a.m., steered 214 degrees over scrubby country
with patches of gum forest; at 9.0 turned to 160 degrees, crossed a
country of sand and ironstone of considerable elevation; at 3.30 p.m.
altered the course to 170 degrees, and followed down a scrubby valley
till 5.0; then 115 degrees for half an hour, and came to a native well in
a patch of York gum-trees, where we camped. The last three hours our
progress was scarcely six miles, as one of the horses knocked up.
Latitude 30 degrees 10 minutes; longitude 115 degrees 39 minutes.
STEER SOUTH OVER SANDY DOWNS.
As there was no grass for the horses, we were compelled to push on our
journey, and at 7.20 a.m. steered 160 degrees; the country was more
broken up by valleys, the soil sand and ironstone, with heathy scrub,
banksia, and grass trees (xanthorrhoea) with a few patches of white-gum
forest; at 10.30 steered 138 degrees towards a high summit, distant
twelve miles. The horse again knocked up, but by relieving him of his
load, which was transferred to the other horses, succeeded in driving him
a few miles further. At 2.20 p.m. changed the course to 180 degrees, and
entered a level sandy piece of country, bounded on all sides by hills; at
3.40 altered the course to south-west; at 5.0 had to abandon the weak
horse and continue our route in search of water; at 5.30 passed a small
salt lake with a little grass on the margin; at 6.0, finding the country
getting worse, returned to the salt lake and camped on the western side.
Latitude 30 degrees 27 minutes 19 seconds; longitude 115 degrees 47
After digging in about twenty different places around the lake, at length
found fresh water, and then went back for the knocked-up horse, and with
some difficulty got him to the well, where we decided to rest the horses
this and the following day, before encountering the inhospitable sandy
region to the southwards.
One of the party made a short excursion to the west of the plain, and in
about three miles reached the hills, which appeared very barren and
scrubby; but after crossing the first ridge, the country was timbered
with York and red gum and a large species of acacia, producing abundance
of gum; the soil a red loam, producing some grass and abundance of the
everlasting flowers and warran, or native yam. After penetrating this
good country four miles returned to the camp, having shot a kangaroo and
Leaving the camp at 8.5 a.m., steered 160 degrees, and soon ascended the
sandy downs, which were destitute of trees, except a few banksia and
floribunda; at 11.45 crossed a valley trending to the west; at 1.15 p.m.
observed a range of wooded hills to the east and south; altered the
course towards a remarkable gorge which bore 129 degrees; at 3.30 entered
a gum forest, and at 3.50 came to a large stream-bed with many pools of
water; followed it down south, and camped at 4.20.
Latitude 30 degrees 42 minutes 39 seconds; longitude 116 degrees.
REACH THE MOORE RIVER.
Crossed the watercourse, which seemed to be a branch of the Moore River,
and steered 163 degrees from 7.30 a.m. till 8.20, when the country
improved, with grassy hills and brown loam, with fragments of granite and
trap rock; the timber York-gum and jam-wattle. This description of
country continued till 12.15 p.m., when scrub again prevailed on
ironstone hills timbered with white-gum; at 2.20 entered a valley of
better character, with quartz and granite rocks. After crossing several
rocky ridges, at 3.20 reached the main branch of the Moore River, which
we crossed, and camped. This was the first place where the poisonous
gastrolobium was observed.
Latitude 31 degrees 39 seconds; longitude 116 degrees 13 minutes.
At 7.30 a.m. followed the river upwards on a bearing of 130 degrees; at
8.0 passed a deserted sheep-station, the river coming from the north;
continued our course over broken ironstone ridges, timbered with
white-gum; at 10.0 the country became more level and sandy, and at 11.45
struck the road from Toodyay to Victoria Plains; followed the road
southerly till 4.5 p.m., and camped at a small spring.
Latitude 31 degrees 14 minutes 19 seconds; longitude 116 degrees 34
CAPTAIN GREY'S REPORT OF GOOD COUNTRY CONFIRMED.
This morning an hour's ride brought us to Bolgart Spring, after an
absence of forty-seven days, during which we had travelled 953 miles,
traversing three degrees of latitude and nearly four and a half of
The discovery of coal and country available for settlement on the coast
to the north of Swan River was deemed to be of such importance that the
Government dispatched Lieutenant Helpman in the colonial schooner
Champion to procure a sufficient quantity of the coal to admit of its
being practically tested as to quality, and also to ascertain what
facilities existed for its conveyance to a port for shipment. A volunteer
party, consisting of Lieutenant Irby, Dr. Meekleham, Messrs. Gregory and
Hazlewood, accompanied Lieutenant Helpman to Champion Bay, now the site
of Geraldton, and thence by land to the coal-seam on the Irwin River, a
distance of ninety miles, and brought down about half a ton of coal to
the vessel. This coal, though of fair quality and suitable for steam
purposes, proved, however, to be so remote from any suitable port for
shipment that it has hitherto not been available for commercial purposes.
The primary object of the voyage having been attained, it was considered
desirable to avail of the opportunity to examine the country to the
northward and ascertain its capabilities for settlement; for though
Captain, now Sir George Grey, had seen some good country on his journey
along the coast from Gantheaume Bay to Swan River, in 1839, Captain
Stokes, who landed from the Beagle subsequently and ascended Wizard Peak
about twelve miles inland, had distinctly negatived the existence of any
country capable of occupation, though, as an illustration of the
difficulty of ascertaining the real capabilities of country by partial
and hurried inspection, it may be observed that this has since become one
of the most prosperous districts of Western Australia in regard to its
pastoral, agricultural, and mining industries.
For the purpose of making this examination of the country, Messrs. A.C.
Gregory, H.C. Gregory, and Lieutenant Irby, taking three horses and three
days' provisions, left Champion Bay on the 20th December, the following
being a copy of the journal:--
20th December, 1846.
At 6.20 a.m. left the bivouac and followed the shore of Champion Bay
about a mile northerly; then steered 87 degrees over a scrubby country;
at 7.20 crossed the Chapman River; and at 8.0, being a quarter of a mile
north from Mount Fairfax, altered the course to 66 degrees, the country
being thinly covered with wattle scrub and some grass; at 8.45 crossed a
large branch of the Chapman with several small pools of water in the bed;
the country beyond was more scrubby and the soil gravelly; at 9.0 changed
the course to 18 degrees, and at 9.20 again crossed the Chapman River
just below a pool of apparently permanent water; at 9.50 crossed a
granite ridge, beyond which the country improved, with many large patches
of grass to the eastward; at 10.20 ascended a high flat-topped hill of
red sandstone resting on granite, which proved to be the eastern point of
Moresby's Flat-topped Range. From this hill Mount Fairfax and Wizard Hill
were visible to the east; grassy hills rose gradually from the Chapman
River for seven or eight miles; steering 10 degrees over grassy country,
the soil was composed of detritus of granite and trap rocks; at 11.0 came
on a large party of natives, some of whom accompanied us for about a
mile, pointing out places where we should find water. At noon turned to
the north-east and entered an extensive valley with some patches of
grass, but not generally of a good character; at 12.30 p.m. crossed a
small watercourse trending west; followed it about half a mile, and then
steered north-west over scrubby flats till 1.0, when we struck a small
stream-bed with small pools of water, and halted till 1.20, and then
followed up the stream to the north till 3.0, when we bivouacked.
At 6.35 a.m. steered north over a hilly country with scrub, grass,
York-gum, and wattle--the prevailing rocks red sandstone, quartz, and
granite; at 8.30 crossed a stream-bed with pools of brackish water
trending east, and at 8.50 entered a good grassy country which appeared
to extend ten to twelve miles to the east and north--clumps of York-gum,
jam-wattle, and sandalwood were observed on some of the hills. After
crossing several small watercourses, at 9.45 ascended an elevated sandy
tableland covered with coarse scrub; and at 10.35, not seeing any
prospect of better country, changed the course to west, and following
down a deep gully, at 11.7 came to a small pool of salt water; following
the watercourse south-south-west, at 11.25 came to a small hole dug by
the natives, in which the water was fresh, though the pools above and
below were salt. Halting till nearly 1.0 p.m., resumed a westerly course,
crossing several deep grassy valleys trending south; at 1.35 steered 211
degrees over a hilly, quartz, and granite country with very good grass;
at 2.30 again came on the stream-bed, the country improved and
well-grassed, with scattered jam and black wattle trees as far as the
country was visible; at 3.50 the stream was joined by a branch from the
east, and following it to the west-north-west till 5.0, bivouacked in the
bed of the stream, water being obtained by digging in the sand.
At 6.35 a.m. steered 220 degrees over a fine grassy country; at 7.0
ascended a small ironstone hill, from which we observed a deep valley
trending to the south-west; to the north and west the country was open
and grassy for twelve miles, presenting at one view fifty or sixty
thousand acres of fine sheep pasture. Continuing a south-west course over
granite country with some good grass, but not equal to that seen the
previous day, at 8.0 crossed a small stream-bed, which we assumed to be
the Bowes River of Captain Grey; we ascended steep limestone hills on the
west bank, and from the summit observed the large white sand patch on
Point Moore bearing 170 degrees; turning south three-quarters of a mile,
crossed the Bowes River at its mouth, which was choked up with sand; we
then steered south-east with the intention of following Captain Grey's
route to Champion Bay; but, after traversing sandy downs with limestone
rocks for four miles, one of the horses became so footsore that we
descended a deep ravine to the sea-beach, which was followed southerly,
and after crossing the dry mouth of the Buller and Chapman Rivers,
reached the landing place in Champion Bay at 1.10 p.m.
On the 23rd the party and horses were shipped on board the Champion and
reached Fremantle on the 28th.
THE SETTLERS' EXPEDITION TO THE NORTHWARD FROM PERTH, UNDER MR.
ASSISTANT-SURVEYOR A.C. GREGORY.
As the stock belonging to the settlers on the Swan River had increased to
the full extent of the pastoral capabilities of the known available
country, it became of pressing importance to push forward the exploration
of the Colony of West Australia, and accordingly, in 1848 the
Surveyor-General, Captain Roe, conducted an expedition to the south-east
of Swan River, while the settlers organised one to proceed to the north,
and made application to the Government to grant the services of Mr.
Assistant-Surveyor A.C. Gregory as the leader of the party.
THE SETTLERS' EXPEDITION TO THE NORTHWARD FROM PERTH, UNDER MR.
ASSISTANT-SURVEYOR A.C. GREGORY.
We could not do justice to the enterprise and exertions of the gentlemen
who discovered the new tract of good land to the northward in any other
way than by giving Mr. Augustus Gregory's Journal entire:--
INSTRUCTIONS TO LEADER OF THE EXPEDITION AND ITS OBJECTS.
Colonial Secretary's Office,
Perth, August 28, 1848.
I am directed by the Governor to inform you that you have been appointed
to direct the exploring expedition about to proceed northwards on account
of the zeal, energy, and enterprising spirit that have been exhibited by
you on other occasions, and called into action with credit to yourself
and advantage to the public interests. The party under your direction, it
is intended, should proceed northward as high as the Gascoyne River. (The
Gascoyne River flows into Shark Bay, in latitude 24 degrees 52 minutes
South.) It is advisable to approach that river from the eastward, about
100 miles from the coast, after proceeding in a north-easterly and
northerly direction from the country abreast of Champion Bay, it being
desirable that part of your route which lies farthest in the interior
country should be first accomplished, in order to avail yourself of the
best chance of finding water.
You will examine that river as far as it may be practicable to do, with
the view of tracing its course; of ascertaining, if possible, the nature
of the bar at the mouth of it, and the question of its being practicable
for boats, to what distance from the bar, and the nature of the soil in
the vicinity of either bank.
After having examined thus the Gascoyne River you will proceed in a
southerly direction and examine the river, as yet unnamed, about forty
miles farther south, that flows into Shark's Bay, the mouth of which was
seen by Captain Grey, and is placed by him at Point Long.
Should you proceed along the sea-shore for any distance you will pay as
much attention as your limited means will allow you to do to the
peculiarities of the coast, and of any estuaries, creeks, or roadsteads
that may present themselves.
You will bear in mind that the primary object of this expedition is the
examination of a new tract of unknown country for practical purposes, by
practical men--that, in fact, the discovery of new land of an available
kind for pasture has become a thing to be desired, of paramount
importance, and an object in the attainment of which the interests and
perhaps the fate of this colony depend.
You will thus conduct your expedition with the view of promoting this
principal object to the best of your ability. But it is hardly needful to
observe to you that this chief object may be promoted and attained
without neglecting to observe the geographical, geological, and
mineralogical features of the country you pass through; its
productions--animal and vegetable; and the character, dialects, and
customs, to some extent, of the aboriginal tribes you may fall in with.
You have been so frequently employed in exploring expeditions, though of
minor importance perhaps to the present, that you must be well aware it
is no less impolitic than cruel to come into actual collision, wantonly,
unadvisedly, and maliciously, with the natives; and, on the contrary,
that it is no less humane than politic to leave no angry recollections of
white people, where the footsteps of travellers, however few and far
between, must be expected to follow yours.
Should your route, either in proceeding on the expedition or returning,
be in the direction of that part of the Irwin River where for the
discovery of coal the colony is indebted to yourself and brothers, it
would be desirable that you should devote a short time to the examination
of the locality where it was first found; to excavation, to some moderate
extent, in the vicinity of the veins of coal of most promise; and, above
all, to the ascertainment of the fact if coal crops out, or if there be
in the soil any indications of it between the place where the mine was
discovered by you in 1846 and the seashore, in that intervening space of
about thirty-eight or forty miles, or to the northward of it in the
direction of Shark's Bay, where Dr. von Somner thought the coal-seam of
the Irwin might again make its appearance.
In the event of accident, occasioning loss of provisions and beasts of
burden, and a necessity arising for a prompt return to the settled
districts, you will bear in mind the causes of impediment on the march
which proved so disastrous to Captain Grey's party on its return from
Gantheaume Bay; the want of vigilance at night manifested in another
expedition in the murder of Lieutenant Eyre's European companion; and the
want of caution, forgetfulness of the nature of barbarians, and the
facilities for ambush afforded by a wilderness of trees and jungle, that
have led to injuries fatal to life, as in the case of Mr. Cunningham in
Sir Thomas Mitchell's expedition, and of two of his companions at another
time; and in some instances, as in those of Captain Stokes and Captain
Grey, that have led to results all but fatal to the explorers and their
expeditions; injuries suddenly and unexpectedly inflicted on individuals
straggling from the main body of their party, or venturing considerable
distances in advance of it.
You are to bear in mind that it might be of some advantage throughout
your expedition to keep a register of the depths at which water has been
found by you, and of those depths to which you have penetrated in vain
It will be requisite that you should ascertain the course of rivers of
any magnitude, and direction of chains of high land, that you may meet
with, and follow the same to some extent--at least wherever appearances
may lead you to expect improvement of soil, a richer country, or one
indicating mineral productions.
In the event of occurrences of unexpected disasters, impediments, and
unavoidable accidents, arising from loss of provisions or of horses, or
of any injury to the health or strength of the party, rendering it
utterly impracticable for the expedition to proceed as high northward as
Gascoyne River, your discretion then supplying whatever you may be
unprovided for in your instructions, you will explore as far as it is
possible for you to do, on your return, the country north of the settled
districts of York and Toodyay; so that something of utility may be
accomplished, and the great object for which this expedition was prepared
may not be wholly frustrated.
I am further to add that His Excellency's best wishes accompany your
party, and that the success of the expedition, and the return of all
engaged in it in health and safety, will be hailed by him with very
I have the honour to be, Sir,
Your obedient servant,
To A.C. Gregory, Esquire, Perth.
GENERAL REPORT OF JOURNEY.
Perth, November 20, 1848.
I have the honour to transmit, for the information of His Excellency the
Governor, the following outline of the proceedings of the exploring party
to the northward which His Excellency has been pleased to place under my
direction. I regret that we have not succeeded in reaching the Gascoyne
River, which your instructions for my guidance pointed out as the
ultimate object of the expedition; but I trust that our attempts to
render the expedition serviceable to the colony have not proved
unsuccessful, especially as the result has been the discovery of several
fine portions of good grassy land near Champion Bay, which, with the more
minute examination of the country in the vicinity which had been
previously discovered, will render available a tract of pasturage
sufficiently extensive to relieve the present overstocked districts; the
estimated quantity of land suitable for depasturing sheep being about
225,000 acres, exclusive of 100,000 acres on the Irwin, the greater
portion of which, however, is better suited to agricultural purposes. The
observations I have had the opportunity of making during this journey
have confirmed my previous opinion, that, could the party have started in
July instead of September, the chief obstacle to our progress--the want
of water--might have been avoided; and although there would have been
many minor difficulties to encounter, I feel assured that the same zeal
and energy which enabled my party to contend so long with the obstacles
which opposed their advance to the Gascoyne River, would have ensured
their success in a more favourable season. The gentlemen who formed my
party have my sincere thanks for their prompt and energetic co-operation
on all occasions; nor can I omit to mention the cheerful and trustworthy
conduct of private W. King of the 96th regiment. For minute details I beg
to refer my journal and the plans of my route, which I am plotting.
I have the honour to be, Sir,
Your obedient servant,
The Honourable the Colonial Secretary, etc.
LEAVE THE SETTLED DISTRICTS. STAMPEDE OF HORSES.
2nd September, 1848.
Started for Toodyay, with Mr. C.F. Gregory and five horses for the
expedition to Shark's Bay; bivouacked at Worrilloo.
Proceeded to Toodyay, where Messrs. L. Burges, J. Walcott, and A. Bedart
joined on the 4th, bringing six horses with them. Having had the horses
shod at Ferguson's, we continued our journey to Mr. Lefroy's station,
near Bebano, which we reached on the 7th. The following day the cart,
with our provisions, etc., arrived, accompanied by private W. King.
Having obtained another horse from Mr. Lefroy, on the 9th we left
Welbing, with ten pack and two riding horses, carrying three months'
provisions, etc. Steering north by west for the first twenty miles,
generally grassy, we entered the extensive sandy plains which occupy
almost the whole country between the Moore and Irwin rivers. The rainy
season having scarcely ended, we found both water and grass for our
horses every night; and, not meeting with any serious impediments, we
reached the upper part of the Arrowsmith Brook on the 13th. Here the
country improved, and the valleys, in which the stream takes its rise,
were estimated to contain about 10,000 acres of tolerable sheep pasture.
Early the ensuing day we entered the Irwin Plains; crossing the eastern
branches of the river, we encamped, on the 15th, on the northern branch,
three-quarters of a mile below the spot where the coal was first
discovered. The Irwin Plains presented a beautiful aspect, being covered
with rich grass and vegetation; the soil is generally good; but most of
the grasses being of the annual species, would not afford good pasturage
in the summer, and in consequence they are better suited for agriculture,
while the open character of the country would render clearing for the
plough a matter of little expense. While dinner was preparing, the
horses, being herded, suddenly started off at full speed, in consequence
of a large stone rolled down by one of the party in ascending the hill.
Two of the remaining horses were immediately saddled, and Mr. Burges and
myself started to catch them; in about a mile we came up with them at the
foot of an almost perpendicular cliff; on seeing us they started off, and
scrambling up the rocks like goats, left us far behind; we did not
overtake them for several miles, when with some difficulty we captured
one, but had the mortification of losing one of the saddled horses in
exchange. Leaving the captured horse in charge of Mr. Burges, I followed
the rest; caught another after a smart ride of three miles, but it was
not till I reached the East Irwin that I could again overtake the rest,
when, favoured by the steep bank of the stream, I succeeded in securing
our truant steeds. It was now dark, and being unable to manage nine
horses by myself, I tethered several of the wildest, and started with two
of the best for the encampment ten miles distant, which, owing to the
nature of the country, I did not reach till midnight. Mr. Burges had
arrived about an hour previous with the horse first caught. Light showers
in the morning.
Messrs. Bedart, C. Gregory, and J. Walcott started to bring in the
horses; the rest of the party was employed in repairing damages of the
harness, and at 3.0 p.m. the party returned with the horses. Slight
showers in the morning.
17th September (Sunday).
Light clouds from the south-west; thunder; rain in the evening. Read
Left the bivouac at 8.15 a.m., and followed upwards the main branch of
the Irwin to the north-north-east, through a steep and rocky valley, the
sandstone hills in some parts approaching the river, so as to render it
necessary to cross frequently with the pack-horses. The very level
character of the summits of these hills gives the country the appearance
of having been once a plain, through which the valley of the stream has
since been worn by the action of water; the upper stratum is a hard red
sandstone, resting on a softer rock of a sandy or clayey character,
beneath which the shales and rocks belonging to the coal formation show
themselves, lying in unconformable beds, and often at a very high angle.
At 9.25 the stream divided into two branches, that to the east being the
most considerable; at this spot the sandstone ceased, and we commenced
ascending the granite range, the direction of which was about
north-north-west. The soil was poor and stony, producing a little feed
for stock; but it could scarcely be made available, as the country is
completely covered with thickets of acacia of small growth. At 4 p.m.
bivouacked on a small watercourse running through a level grassy flat,
bounded on both sides by thickets of wattle.
SCRUBBY COUNTRY NORTH FROM THE IRWIN RIVER.
At 8.15 a.m. steered a nearly north course, through a country of the same
description as yesterday; crossed several small gullies trending west, in
some of which a little water still remained; at 4.20 p.m. halted for the
night at a brackish pool in a small gully trending west.
Started at 8.0 a.m., continuing a northerly course, over a similar
description of country as during the past two days, crossing three large
gullies coming from the eastward, but apparently near their source. At
3.45 halted on a large stream-bed, with a few brackish or rather salt
pools in its sandy channel, which was in some places nearly 100 yards
wide; from our encampment we observed a very remarkable peaked hill,
distant about twenty miles, and from its outline conjectured it to be
composed of the same vein of trap-rock as that which forms similar ranges
further to the eastward.
The scarcity of water and the very level appearance of the country to the
northward of our bivouac, added to the general denseness of the thicket
of acacia and cypress, rendering a continuance of a north course
unadvisable, we steered north-west from 8.30 a.m. till noon, when we
ascended a scrubby sand ridge, from which we had an extensive view;
neither hill nor valley could be discovered to the north, east, or
west--nothing but one immense sea of dense thicket of acacia and cypress
was visible in these directions; the course was therefore changed to
west, and continuing it without much alteration over a succession of low
ridges of drifted sand, the valleys being filled with dense thickets,
until 6.20 p.m., when the approach of night compelled us to bivouac in a
small patch of gum forest, which also afforded a few scattered tufts of
grass for our horses. Although this was the lowest spot passed in a
distance of more than ten miles, it was so completely dried up and
parched that a search for water was fruitless, even by digging; the
scanty allowance of very brackish water in our kegs was therefore much
relished by the party.
The night having been cloudy, and a strong breeze preventing any dew, our
horses were not much refreshed; we, however, started at 7.45 a.m., and
steering nearly west till 3.15 p.m. through a succession of dense
thickets, high scrubs, and thorny bushes, we entered open sandy downs,
and changed the course to south-west, with the intention of making the
Hutt River, should we not find any water nearer, when, almost hopeless of
procuring this essential element before the next day, we unexpectedly
came to a native well in the centre of the sandy plain; here we
bivouacked at 5.40, but, from the loose sandy soil in which the well was
dug, we could not obtain more than about two and a half gallons of water
for each horse, the sides of the well continually falling in. Strong
breeze from the north-west, and several light showers in the evening and
Having completed watering the horses, we left the well at 9.30 a.m., and
steering about north-west over undulating sandy downs, covered with
coarse scrub and patches of dense thickets, at 2.15 p.m. entered a small
gully trending north-west. The country improved, but was so thickly
clothed with wattles as to render travelling difficult; a few patches of
grass were seen in some small watercourses, in which a little water
remained. At 4.40 bivouacked on a large gully trending northwards, with
several small pools of water in a rocky bed of gneiss, containing
numerous small garnets. Strong breeze from the north-west and slight
24th September (Sunday).
Although the feed for the horses was not very abundant, yet the long
marches they had encountered the last few days made it expedient to give
them a day's rest to recruit their weary limbs. Read prayers. Strong
breeze from the north-west and slight showers during the day.
ENTER THE VALLEY OF THE MURCHISON RIVER.
Started at 8.27 a.m.; passed over poor stony hills of granite formation
and producing a little grass in tufts--the wattles growing so close
together as to render travelling difficult and tedious. At 10.45 came on
a large stream-bed, which had scarcely ceased to run; the channel was
fifty yards wide, the bed steep and rocky, and, where crossed, ran over a
dyke of trap-rock, the water slightly brackish and in long shallow pools,
with samphire on the banks. This stream must be the Murchison River, as
no other was passed for 30 miles to the northward; the effects of violent
floods were visible, but it did not bear the character of a stream rising
at any great distance inland, nor did the nature of the gravel and sand
brought down by it indicate a rich soil on its upper portion, as I did
not see anything besides fragments of siliceous rock and garnet sand. The
valley through which it ran appeared to be five or six miles wide,
extending twenty miles to the eastward, backed by sandy plains on both
sides; a few patches of grass appeared in the lower parts of the valley;
westward it seemed to contract and turn to the south-west, flanked by
steep flat-topped hills of sandstone, resting on granite rock. Continuing
north-north-east up a small valley, we passed through wattle thickets
till 1.40 p.m., when we again ascended the level sandy tableland or
plains, and changed the course to the north; the scrub increased in
density as we proceeded. At 4.25 halted for the night in a patch of good
grass, where the thicket had been burnt off by the native fires; the
sandy nature of the soil rendered the search for water unsuccessful; we
therefore contended ourselves with the allowance of one pint each.
Left the bivouac at 7.15 a.m.; course north; the country more open; 9.25
came on a large native well of good water in a slight hollow trending
westward; having watered the horses and filled the kegs, continued our
journey over sandy plains, covered with short coarse scrub; many hummocks
of loose sand, covered partially with scrub, lay on each side of our
track. At noon passed the last sandy ridge; before us lay an immense
plain, covered with thickets, and not a hill or valley could be
observed--the country seemed to settle into one vast level of dense and
almost impenetrable scrub or thicket. At 1 p.m. entered it, and continued
our route through it; although the bush-fires, which had burnt some large
patches, greatly assisted us; 4.15 not finding any grass, we steered
west, but at 5.15 were compelled to halt for the night in a dense
thicket, without a single blade of grass or even scrub of any kind which
could afford food for the horses; water it was hopeless to look for; and
after a supper of raw bacon, damper, and a pint of water each, we retired
WATERLESS COUNTRY AND DENSE SCRUB NORTH OF MURCHISON RIVER.
At 7.0 a.m. set out on a north course; at 8.5, finding the thicket almost
impassable, I ascended a cypress-tree, where a most cheerless view met my
sight to the north, east, and west; not a break was visible--nothing but
thicket in all directions, with scarcely an undulation of any kind; the
view to the north-west was most extensive--nearly twenty miles of thicket
could be seen, with a surface as level as the sea. Not considering it
prudent to proceed onwards, the thicket being too dense to advance
without the greatest difficulty, the saddle-bags being almost torn to
pieces, and the horses quite worn out with continual exertions in
dragging their packs through the thickets, we were compelled to return to
the well passed yesterday morning. The country seen to the northwards was
of too flat and sandy a character to give any hope of finding water or
grass--and without these requisites, it would be incurring great risk of
losing the horses, and of course defeating the object of the expedition;
therefore, taking advantage of the partially cleared tracts of yesterday,
we reached the watering place at 4.30 p.m.
This day we employed ourselves in repairing our pack-saddles, which it
was found necessary to restuff, as they had been padded with coarse
rushes; the saddle-bags had been torn to pieces, and the repairs of these
required more time than could be afforded in an evening's bivouac.
Started at 8.35 a.m.; pursued a general course of 310 degrees, gradually
ascending the sandy downs on the north side of the valley for three
miles; it then turned to the north of west, and we again descended, and
found the bottom occupied by a narrow samphire flat, 50 to 100 yards
wide, over which the water runs during heavy rains, but it was now dry,
and in some parts covered with a thin crust of salt; 11.26 passed a
native well of slightly brackish water, amongst loose blocks of red
sandstone; a small well was passed at 11.50; the samphire flat then
changed to a small sandy channel, among large blocks of sandstone
belonging to the coal-formation: in one place the slate also cropped out.
Abundance of brackish water lay in small pools along the course of the
stream-bed, which at 1.0 p.m. changed its direction nearly west; we
followed it through a scrubby valley, with high hills on both sides, till
4.45, when we bivouacked just below the junction of a small gully from
the northwards, with a very remarkable sandstone hill about
three-quarters of a mile south; below this spot the valley trended to the
south-west, and was bounded on the north-west by flat-tapped sandstone
Not being more than ten to fifteen miles from the sea, I steered north
330 degrees east magnetic. Starting at 8.5, and having ascended the high
land, passed through a thick line of wattles and dwarf gum, growing on
the eastern face of the limestone range, which forms the high barren
range along this part of the coast. The country was covered with thick
scrub, and some patches of gum and wattle thicket; about noon it was more
open, and ascending an elevated sandy ridge, saw apparently a high range
of hills extending north-north-west as far as Shark Bay, and terminated
by a very abrupt and detached hill; but the excessive refraction caused
by the heated and nearly level plain which intervened more than doubled
their real height. We descended gradually over a succession of sandy
hills or ridges till 2.0 p.m., when the lowest part of the plain was
reached; we found it occupied by a small patch of spear-wood; the soil
was hard dry clay, but on proceeding a little farther we found a patch of
moist ground, encircled by a ridge of sand; at one foot deep we found
water, but in such small quantity that we could only obtain sufficient
for ourselves, and should have had to wait at least two hours to have
given each horse only one gallon. Proceeding onwards, in hope of finding
a more plentiful supply, we found the country became drier and full of
circular hollows, filled with fine clumps of green wattle and a little
grass; in one of these we bivouacked at 5.0, and dug six feet for water
in red sand, but without any appearance of obtaining it even at double
REPULSED FOR WANT OF WATER.
This morning started at 7.55 a.m., and steering north-west, in hope of
finding water, at 8.40 came on dense thickets of wattle, which extended
at least seven or eight miles farther north; we therefore turned west to
avoid them; at 9.30 changed the course to 300 degrees magnetic, and with
great difficulty forced our way for two miles to a narrow strip of open
ground; 12.40 p.m. arrived at the foot of the range of hills seen
yesterday; found them to consist of limestone and sand, covered with
thick scrub; between the hills were many nearly circular hollows filled
with thickets of wattles; although the bottoms of the hollows were at
least fifty feet below the lowest part of the ridges around them, they
were quite dry, and afforded no hope of water even by digging; the
country northward appeared even less likely to afford a supply, so much
required, as it seemed to consist wholly of limestone and loose sand,
without swamps or watercourses; the nearest spot at which we could hope
to find it in this direction was the south part of Freycinet Harbour,
distant, according to the charts, about thirty miles, and great doubt
existed of the accuracy of it in this position (error having been found
in some other parts of the coast-line); nor was it certain that we could
find water on the coast, in which case the loss of our horses would be
almost a necessary consequence, several of them showing extreme fatigue.
The circumstances of the case required a prompt decision; I therefore
ordered an immediate return towards the last spot where we had seen
water. The whole party felt convinced of the necessity of returning,
though with the greatest reluctance to do so, as it seemed to put an end
to almost every hope of reaching the Gascoyne River. We followed our
route back, and halted at 5.30 in a wattle thicket.
A HORSE FINDS WATER.
Left our uncomfortable bivouac at 7.30 a.m.; steered south-east. Finding
the horses scarcely able to travel from want of water, I took the
strongest and rode over to the spot where we had obtained a little on the
30th September, to dig wells and have a supply ready, if it could be
obtained in sufficient quantity; at 11.0 arrived, and found the wells we
had dug nearly dry; by opening several trenches down to the rocks which
lay about one and a half feet below the surface, the water oozed in, and
when the party came up, at 12.0, there was about a gallon for each horse;
taking off the packs, we commenced watering: four horses had received
their small allowance, when it came to my horse Bob's turn; after
drinking his share he marched off at a smart pace, which somewhat
surprised us, as he started in the direction of what we had supposed to
be nothing but a tea-tree scrub; on following him, we found the horse
drinking at a small shallow pool of water in a hollow in the clay. This
was a very fortunate discovery, as the trenches filled with water so
slowly that a full supply could not have been obtained that night, and
the horses had been sixty-five hours without water.
SAND PLAINS AND SCRUB. RETURN TO THE MURCHISON RIVER.
This morning Mr. Burges and myself started at 7.30 a.m. in a
north-easterly course, to ascertain the practicability of proceeding in
that direction, taking two of the strongest horses. After riding four
hours over an open, scrubby sand-plain, with circular valleys, we again
fell in with thickets of wattles so dense that, although burnt by the
native fires about four years previous, they would have been impassable
for the pack-horses; but, favoured by this circumstance, we penetrated
the thicket in a north-north-west direction for about twelve miles. From
one small sandy ridge we had an extensive view, but of a most
discouraging nature; the whole country was one vast plain, covered with
dense thickets and scrub as far as the eye could reach, except to the
west-north-west, where rose a high and barren ridge, which would not have
been visible but for excessive refraction, as it must have been more than
twenty-five miles distant. The plain was still dotted over with the
remarkable circular hollows or valleys which, by their extreme dryness,
indicated a great depth of sandy soil, incapable of retaining water on
the surface even for a short time, or any probability of our obtaining it
by digging. We turned in disappointment towards the encampment, scarcely
extricating ourselves from the thickets before it became dark. Having
gained the sand-plain, we continued our return for several hours,
steering by the stars, hoping by a night march to avoid the scorching
effects of the sun, which at this season renders travelling over an
extensive sandy plain very fatiguing. Having been more than eleven hours
in the saddle, we halted for the night.
Started with the dawn, and pushing our tired and hungry horses over the
plain as fast as circumstances would admit, arrived at the encampment
before the heat of the day became excessive. During our absence two more
waterholes had been excavated, and sufficient water obtained for the
horses; but, from the great evaporation, it did not seem likely to last
longer than three or four days: the hardness of the sandstone precluded
our sinking the wells more than one and a half feet. The extreme aridity
of the country--the absence of water in consequence of the sandy nature
of the soil, which renders it impossible that watercourses should
exist--the dense and almost impassable nature of the thickets of acacia
and melaleuca of small growth, and the heat of the climate--all tend to
prove the fallacy of attempting to explore this part of the colony,
excepting during the wettest of the winter months. Under the existing
circumstances, I considered it my duty not to lead the party into a
position from which it would most probably be impracticable to extricate
ourselves without at least losing some of our horses; and even
difficulties of a more serious nature might arise, which would prevent
the more complete examination of the imperfectly known country to the
southward of our present position, more especially as a successful
advance to the northward seemed impossible.
Left the encampment at 8.10 a.m.; steered north 135 degrees east magnetic
over sandy country, covered with coarse scrub; at noon passed a narrow
strip of wooded grassy land, the soil being limestone and red loam. The
country again became scrubby, and, descending an open valley, came on a
small watercourse at 1.5 p.m., trending south; followed it
south-south-west. At 2.15 passed our bivouac of the 29th September, and
turning south-west along the stream-bed, at 4.0 came on the right bank of
the Murchison River, running through wide grassy flats, the stream
forming large pools, some of them more than a mile in length; but, with
the exception of the flats on each side of the bank, the country is poor
and scrubby, destitute of trees, and the hills high and rocky, consisting
of red sandstone, those to the west capped with limestone.
The horses being much fatigued and nearly starved, having subsisted
chiefly on scrub for the last two days, we determined to rest them for a
few days, while we examined the river towards its mouth. I started with
Mr. Bedart, and tracing the stream downwards to the south-west, reached
the sea after a ride of six hours. Excepting the flats and a narrow strip
of land on each side, the country was very indifferent, the hills being
composed of sandstone and sand, covered with coarse scrub and a gigantic
species of grass, the leaves of which, instead of affording food for
stock, were a source of great annoyance to our horses, being armed with
sharp thorny points, and was somewhat appropriately called bayonet grass
by the party. The tide flows about five miles up the river, when it is
obstructed by some slight rapids; although it seems shallow, and full of
rocks and islands, I think it is navigable for small boats. Above the
rapids the river is a succession of long reaches of water about 100 yards
wide, and wide flats covered with reeds, the roots of which seem to form
an important article of food with the natives. Many springs were seen on
the left bank, but few on the right, the water of which was of excellent
quality. After making observations of the bar, which appeared to be
practicable for whaleboats in moderate weather if the wind be south of
west, we returned along the south shore of the estuary, which is about
one and a half mile long and half a mile wide; it does not appear to be
of any great depth. My horse being quite knocked up, it was dark before
we could reach a spot where we could obtain water and grass; having come
to a convenient place, we bivouacked under a large overhanging rock, as
it promised to be a wet night.
At 6.0 a.m. we were in our saddles, but owing to the rocky nature of the
country did not arrive at the encampment till 12.30 p.m. During our
absence the party had been successful in fishing and shooting; a savoury
mess of cockatoos, swans, and ducks, with fried fish, proved a welcome
change to us, after living so many weeks on salt meat and damper.
8th October (Sunday).
The valley of the river being rocky and impassable above the camp, we
crossed to the left bank and ascended the sandy tableland; steered about
south-east from 7.45 a.m. to 11.0, when we came on the stream in a deep
valley formed by almost perpendicular red sandstone cliffs from 50 to 200
feet in height, broken at short intervals by enormous fissures (their
general direction west-north-west and nearly at right angles with the
river), which time, with the action of water, had worn into impassable
ravines, frequently extending more than half a mile back from the river,
and rendered travelling very tedious and unsafe, as it was requisite to
avoid the thick scrubs covering the higher land. The course of the river
now changed to nearly south, and preserved the same rocky and
unapproachable character till 5.0 p.m., when a break in the cliffs
enabled us to descend into the valley, although with some difficulty and
danger to the horses, which had to slide down the steep rocks at the risk
of breaking their necks, which would have been the almost certain result
of a single false step; but the descent being accomplished, they were
rewarded by an abundant supply of grass and water, the latter from a
large spring at the foot of the cliffs.
While breakfast was preparing, Mr. Burges and myself examined the right
bank of the river, and after a short search, found a practicable ascent
to the top of the cliffs, and having cleared a way through the thicket of
melaleuca on the bank of the river, returned to breakfast. At 7.50 a.m.
commenced ascending, and at 8.30 reached the summit of the rocky hills,
and steering about south-east through a succession of thickets, rocks,
yawning chasms, sand-hills, and scrub, we attained to a fine grassy flat
at 12.30 p.m. The bed of the river here quite changed its character, the
sandstones giving place to granite gneiss, with dark trap dykes
intersecting it in a northerly and southerly direction, the dip of the
strata being to the west at a very high angle, at times almost
A DEPOT CAMP. EXPLORE THE UPPER MURCHISON.
As this appeared to be a good spot for the formation of a depot, while we
examined the upper portion of the Murchison, I proceeded up the river in
company with Mr. Burges, leaving the rest of the party to guard the camp
and attend to the horses. After one hour's ride we came on our track
where we crossed the river on the 25th September, the general course of
the stream-bed being east-north-east, its channel averaging 100 yards in
width, full of rocks, small trees, and sandbanks, with many shallow
brackish pools of water, with the exception of one, which was both wide
and deep, where we halted for two hours to rest the horses; few of the
pools seemed likely to last through the heat of summer. At 1.0 p.m. we
came on a party of natives, five of whom came up to us, following us for
some distance. As they seemed to prefer mimicking our attempts to speak
the York dialect to using their own, we could not obtain much
information; they carried kylies and dowaks, but had left their spears
and shields with the rest of their party, who did not make their
appearance. At 3.0 passed several ridges of red sandstone rocks, the
strata dipping to the east-north-east at an angle of from 20 to 60
degrees. The granite rock entirely disappearing, the country became quite
level, and covered with one universal thicket of acacia and cypress,
except the very slight depression which formed a shallow valley about
three miles wide, through which the river runs in a deep channel from 80
to 100 yards wide in ordinary seasons, but when in flood must exceed 300
yards, and the rise of the water, judging from the rubbish drifted up in
former years, must exceed thirty feet. The valleys did not seem to be
more than 100 feet below the general surface of the country (which was
quite level), filled with a dense thicket of wattles; a narrow strip of
large gum-trees, growing in grassy flats close to the river, marked the
course of the stream. At 5.0 we halted for the night by a small pool of
fresh water in one of the back channels of the river, the pools in the
main bed being all brackish.
Started at 6.35 a.m., following the river, the general course being
north-north-east; no change was observed in its character. At 11.20
halted to rest the horses, and again started at 1.40 p.m. At 3.40 came on
a large party of natives at a fresh water pool; five followed us some
miles, and were not to be satisfied until we had made an exchange of part
of a handkerchief for a quantity of noolban, some dowaks, and dabbas,
some of which we accepted as a token of our friendly intentions. The
stream-bed turned east, and we followed it until 6.0, when we were halted
for the night, having the good fortune to find a little fresh water by
digging in the sand in the bed of the river, the pools being all
RETURN TO DEPOT CAMP.
At 6.15 a.m., we were again in our saddles, and continued journey up the
river--the general course north-north-east. In vain we looked for some
rising ground or hill from which we might obtain a view of the country,
but the same sandy level, covered with dense thickets of wattles, still
met the eye till 11.0, when we observed a low sandstone cliff forming the
eastern side of the valley. In this direction we steered, and after
pushing through thickets of wattle growing on stony ground, with small
patches of salsolaceous plants, we arrived at the foot of the cliff,
which was about sixty feet in height, of white sandstone, full of rounded
quartz pebbles. The top was nearly on a level with the general plane of
the country, which was of a most cheerless aspect. The valley of the
river trended to the north-north-east for eight or ten miles, then to the
east; the width appeared about five miles, and one dense thicket of
wattles seemed to fill the entire space. The rest of the country was,
without the slightest exception, level in the extreme, covered with one
universal thicket of acacia and cypress, the latter indicating the sandy
nature of the soil. As no appearance of change in the character of the
country within twenty or thirty miles was visible, and we had only two
days' provisions left (not having expected the stream to extend so far),
and the camp at sixty miles distant, we were obliged to leave the farther
examination of the river to some future explorers; but we regretted it
the less as, from the nature of the gravel and sand brought down by the
stream, there seemed great probability that it takes its rise in large
salt marshes similar to those known to exist 100 miles east of the Irwin,
if it does not actually drain them, as the general trend of the most
northerly marshes seen was in the direction of the upper part of the
Murchison. Under these circumstances, we returned to our bivouac of last
night, reaching it at 5.40 p.m.
Started at 6.25 a.m., and retracing our route down the river, came to our
bivouac of the 11th at 5.5 p.m. without any incident worthy of notice,
but surprising three or four natives asleep in the bed of the stream;
they were of the party seen on our route up the river.
15th October (Sunday).
Resumed our journey; passed two parties of natives; a few of them
followed us some distance, and having overcome their first surprise,
commenced talking in their own language, which, as far as we could
understand it, had great affinity to that spoken by the natives in the
York and Toodyay districts. After a smart ride of seven hours we arrived
at the encampment, found the rest of the party all well, and the horses
much improved by their few days' rest.
THE GERALDINE LEAD MINE DISCOVERED. THE HUTT RIVER.
The two horses we had ridden up the river requiring a day's rest, which
was also acceptable to Mr. Burges and myself, we remained at the camp and
made preparations to move on to the Hutt River the next day. Mr. Walcott
brought in some specimens of galena, which, on farther observation,
proved to be abundant.
Leaving our encampment at 9.10 a.m., we steered a southerly course,
passing over a succession of low granite hills, thickly covered with
acacia, to the exclusion of almost every other kind of vegetation, save a
few scattered tufts of grass. At noon entered the sand-plains which
occupy the high lands in this district; observed a patch of grassy land
bearing south-west; proceeding in that direction, at 1.0 p.m. came on it,
but found it to be a very small spot of grassy granite country, encircled
by sand-plains and scrub. Continuing our course, at 2.5 struck a small
stream-bed trending west-south-west; the valley in which it runs is
bounded on both sides by sandy hills, covered with scrub; some patches of
grass and wattles occupied the lower ground wherever the granite rock
showed itself; tracing the stream-bed downwards, we found many brackish
pools. At 3.45 crossed the left bank--found it running, but brackish; and
at 4.20 we bivouacked at its junction with the Hutt River, which was here
about ten yards wide, with narrow grassy flats on both banks. The hills
are of sandstone and sand, producing little besides scrub.
Started at 7.50 a.m., steering north 140 degrees east magnetic up the
valley of the Hutt, which gradually widened and improved, the hills being
grassy for an average distance of two miles back from the stream, of
granite formation, and thinly sprinkled with wattles; behind the grassy
land the country rose into sandy plains, covered with short scrub. At
9.20 crossed to the left bank; the river trended to the eastward. At
11.10 sighted King's Table Hill, bearing south magnetic. We then
descended into the rich and grassy valley of the Bowes River; this we
traversed till 4.0 p.m., when we bivouacked in a small stream tributary
to the Bowes. As the country passed over this day had not been previously
examined, we were much pleased to find it equal to the best land on the
southern branch of the Bowes, visited by the Surveyor-General and myself
on former occasions.
FINE PASTORAL COUNTRY.
Messrs. Burges, Bedart, and myself rode down the Bowes to examine the
country, and found it generally of good grassy character, suitable for
sheep; the bed of the streams being filled with broad-leaved reeds, seems
to indicate an abundant supply of water in the dry season; but the pools
were very small, and the water all brackish, not even excepting the
running streams. The hills are of gneiss, with garnets and trap-rock, the
latter producing excellent grass of various kinds, the most conspicuous
of which is a species of kangaroo-grass, but of a less woody character of
seed-stalk than that found in other parts of the colony. The extent of
land fit for sheep-feeding on this stream (it can scarcely be called a
river) I should estimate at 100,000 acres, and Mr. Burges considered it
capable of feeding about 17,000 sheep. The existence of garnets, iron
pyrites, and a mineral resembling in many of its properties plumbago,
specimens of which were found in the gneiss of this district, seems to
indicate a metalliferous formation, and I have little doubt a further
search might develop many of the present hidden sources of wealth. Near
the coast we fell in with some natives (four men and five women), who
were very friendly, but from their peculiar nature we were unable to
accept of their civilities.
Started with Messrs. Burges and Walcott to examine the upper part of the
Buller river; after passing over the country examined by Lieutenant Irby
and myself in December, 1846, we crossed the granite ridge which divides
the valley of the Buller into two nearly equal portions. We found the
land on the left bank of the eastern branch of very good and grassy
description, consisting of a range of granite hills about ten miles north
and south, and two miles in width; to the east of which the high sandy
and level plains commence in an abrupt line of sandstone slopes and
hills. Halted for the night in the east branch of the Buller, with water
in small pools and abundance of grass for our horses.
Continued the examination of the Buller Valley down to the spot where I
bivouacked on the river in December, 1846; then followed up the stream
for seven miles, where we dined, and then steering west-north-west,
arrived at the camp at 6.30 p.m. We estimated the valley of the Buller to
contain about 10,000 acres of good grassy land, and 30,000 acres of
inferior feeding country; the good land is much broken into patches by
that which is of indifferent quality. Timber is here, and also on the
Bowes, very scarce, and the little that exists is very indifferent and
22nd October (Sunday).
Messrs. Bedart and C.F. Gregory walked to the hill which lies
three-quarters of a mile west of King's Table Hill. The rock of which it
is formed appeared to belong to the coal formation, as thin seams of
black shale were seen in the rocks of which the lower strata of the hill
are composed; but the natives making their appearance, it was not
considered prudent to remain geologizing among the cliffs. Returning
towards the camp, the natives followed for some distance, and on
descending a cliff the women commenced pelting the party with stones,
apparently in revenge for the refusal of certain courteous invitations,
which perhaps are the greatest marks of politeness which they think it
possible to offer to strangers.
Left our encampment at 8.5 a.m., and steered 150 degrees magnetic over
granite hills producing wattles and good grass. At 9.40 crossed the south
branch of the Bowes, after which the country was not so well grassed,
except in the valleys. The lower hills were of granite; the higher red
sandstone of tabular form. At 11.0 the country became more sandy and
covered with short scrub, gradually rising to the south. At noon we
attained the high tableland; crossed two scrubby valleys bounded by
sandstone hills, in the first of which the black shale peculiar to the
coal formation showed itself, with a slight dip to the south. At 1.50
p.m. crossed the Buller in a rocky channel with reedy pools, apparently
of permanent character. The land improved and became grassy, and
ascending the hills on the left bank, passed Peak Hill at 2.50: this is
the highest part of the range between the Buller and Chapman. From this
we steered south down a small grassy valley; the hills with granite bases
and sandstone table summits, with excellent grass, and thinly wooded with
acacia and a few York gums. At 3.15 bivouacked in a patch of excellent
grass with water in small quantities.
A violent thunderstorm during the night was followed by a rainy and misty
morning; the weather clearing up, we walked down to the Chapman River,
which was running in a sandy channel with small shallow pools. The land
on the bank of the stream was very indifferent and sandy for about a
mile, when it rose into granite and sandstone hills, covered with
EFFECT OF REFRACTION. GREENOUGH RIVER.
Accompanied by Messrs. Burges and Walcott, I proceeded to examine the
country to the eastward of our camp. Starting at 7.20 a.m., steered east
over grassy hills, with granite bases and table summits of red sandstone,
the latter rock forming but a poor soil with scanty feed and scrub;
crossed several small gullies running into the Chapman. At 10.0 passed a
large sandy hill, covered with short scrub, and halted at 11.0 in a
grassy gully in the bottom of a wide scrubby valley; at 12.45 p.m. again
resumed our journey, and ascending the sandy downs, at 1.15 gained the
highest ridge. Before us lay the valley of the Greenough River; the white
and red sandstone cliffs, which bound the valley on the south-east, were
distorted by excessive refractions, which, as we crossed each sandy
ridge, changed their appearance, sometimes assuming the appearance of
islands with high rocky shores, then like reefs with heavy breakers,
followed by high cliffs and grassy hills; but as we approached they
assumed their true character of low rocky hills and cliffs, scarce
exceeding 200 feet in height, and generally covered with dense thickets
of acacia growing on an otherwise barren stony soil. At 3.30 came on the
right bank of the Greenough River; the bed was quite dry, and had no
appearance of having run since the winter of 1847. Following up the
stream-bed to the north-east, passed some shallow pools of salt water;
and at 4.45 observed the black coal shales at the bottom of a deep cliff,
which formed the left bank of the river. At 5.0 halted for the night,
obtaining fresh water by scraping in the sand by the side of a pool of
salt water; we also found sufficient grass for our horses on the bank of
At 7.10 a.m. left our bivouac, steering north 120 degrees east magnetic
towards a high sandstone cliff, which, after a ride of three-quarters of
an hour through thickets of acacia, we ascended; but the view was not
satisfactory, as thickets and scrubs extended over the whole of the
country. We therefore returned to the river, and followed it downwards to
the south-west by south. At 11.30 found some fresh water in a small
waterhole in the bed of the river; halted till 1.50 p.m. to refresh the
horses. The river turned south, and at 2.27 was joined by a small gully
from the west, and coming from a grassy valley. As it had run during the
last winter, it quite altered the character of the river for quarter of a
mile, filling the pools with water, and giving the grass and trees a
freshness which formed a most striking contrast with the brown and
parched appearance of the rest of the valley. At 3.55 altered the course
to 210 degrees magnetic; the country improved, many patches of grassy
land appearing in the valley, and the country became more rocky. At 5.30
crossed to the left bank, and found the river running with many large
pools of water, some more than a half a mile long and 80 to 100 yards
wide. The water was slightly brackish, being this year supplied
principally by springs, taking their rise in the new red sandstone
formation. We then followed the winding course of the river south-west
amongst high hills of sandstone, many of which were covered with
excellent grass, though the country was not generally good. At 6.20
halted for the night on the right bank of the stream, in a narrow but
rich grassy flat; heavy rain in the night.
WIZARD PEAK. CHAMPION BAY. MOUNT FAIRFAX.
Started at 7.0 a.m. and steering an average course of west by north,
ascended the high land on the north bank of the Greenough. For the first
hour the hills were of red sandstone, very steep and rocky, producing
little but coarse scrub; some of the valleys and lower hills were well
grassed; the country then improved, the hills being of the coal
formation, and the limestones forming very rich and grassy hills. At 9.40
the granite and gneiss formed a basis of the high sandstone-topped hills,
which rose about 500 feet on each side of the valley. At 10.15 crossed to
the left bank of the river, and re-crossed to the right at 11.10. The
lower parts of the valley were not so rich or well grassed as the hills,
but would afford excellent summer feed for sheep. Having dined, and given
our horses an hour's feed on the rich grass which grew in the bed of the
river (which here turned to the south), we continued our route. After an
hour's ride over rich grassy hills, reached the foot of Wizard's Peak.
Here we left our horses and ascended the hill; arrived at the summit, to
our great surprise, instead of the scrubby and sterile country described
by Captain Stokes of the Beagle, beautiful grassy hills, stretching from
north to south-east, met our view to the extent of about 20,000 acres;
had it not been certain, from bearings to Mount Fairfax and other hills,
that we were on Wizard Peak, I should have suspected its identity.
Leaving Wizard Peak at 2.30 p.m., steered north along the western foot of
the grassy range. The country to the east consists of grassy hills of
limestone, rich in fossil remains of wood and shells, with an occasional
granite hill producing coarse grass or short scrub; to the west the
country was more level, but less grassy, and in many parts scrubby. We
fell in with some of the natives, who appeared friendly disposed. Crossed
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