Journals of Australian Explorations
A C and F T Gregory
Part 2 out of 8
the Chapman at 6.5, and arrived at the camp at 7.15.
Left the camp at 7.40 a.m., steering north-west. Made the stream
previously called the Buller at 9.0; followed it downwards to the
south-south-west till 11.0, when it became evident that, instead of being
the Buller, it was the north branch of the Chapman. The land on its banks
was not generally good, although some fine patches of grass were seen.
Leaving the stream, we ascended Moresby's Range; the valleys and sides of
the hills were covered with fine grass, and the sandstone rocks were rich
with fossil remains of shells and wood. With some difficulty we descended
the western face of the hills; after which, an hour's ride over a scrubby
plain brought us to the mouth of the Chapman River, running strongly over
a ledge of limestone rock into the sea. We crossed the river, and over to
the usual landing-place in Champion Bay; we then returned to the Chapman,
and halted for the night.
Two of the horses having broken from their tether during the night, we
were obliged to put the three saddles on the remaining horse, and proceed
to track the stray horses; after tracking them about two miles, we found
them on their way back to the camp. We then rode along the western foot
of Moresby's Range, and ascended Mount Fairfax; after taking sketches and
bearings, we steered for the encampment, and reached it about 2.0 p.m.
Messrs. Burges, Walcott, and Bedart rode out this morning to examine the
grassy hills on the south side of the Chapman River, and on their return
reported the country to be of a generally good grassy character.
NATIVES STEAL FRYING-PAN.
Left the encampment at 8.0 a.m. and steering 200 degrees magnetic over
alternately grassy and scrubby hills of granite sandstone, crossed the
Chapman at 9.40. Our course then lay nearly parallel to the river till
noon; the land on the river was indifferent and thinly grassed, but rose
into good grassy hills about a mile from the river. We then entered a
level scrubby plain, extending from the Victoria Range to the sea. At
12.30 p.m. altered the course to 175 degrees magnetic, and at 1.5 to 139
degrees magnetic. At 1.15 the plain became grassy, and the soil good
(with the exception of a few patches of York gum, the only trees were
wattles), and by a rough estimate contained about 8,000 acres of good
grassy land; on the north bank of the Greenough River, which we reached
at 3.15, the channel was about seventy yards wide, but dry and sandy; nor
did we observe any sign of its having run during the past winter. A
little below where we struck the river it turned to the south-east;
following it in that direction till 3.45 we bivouacked, obtaining a
scanty supply of water by digging in the sand. Shortly after halting, a
party of about thirty natives came up, and appeared friendly; they told
us that there was a fine spring at some distance to the westward, but we
could not obtain any other useful information, as their dialect differs
considerably from that spoken in the settled districts, although some few
words are the same. They encamped a short distance from us, and in the
night stole our frying-pan, to dig a well, but returned it next morning
before the theft was discovered.
THE IRWIN RIVER.
At 7.10 a.m. resumed our course south-east, along the eastern side of the
grassy plain. The scrubby hills gradually approached on each side; at
9.30 the good land terminated, the estimate being 2,000 acres on the
south bank of the Greenough River. The country then became sandy,
producing little besides scrub and a few banksia trees. At 10.0 passed
about one mile west of Mount Hill; passed a small pool of water in a
watercourse trending south-west. At 12.50 p.m. altered the course to 170
degrees magnetic; at 3.0 entered a thick forest of York gum; at 3.25
changed the course to 130 degrees magnetic and entered a grassy flat
extending to the Irwin River, which we reached at 3.55, and following it
upwards till 4.15, bivouacked on the left bank in a large flat. Shortly
before reaching the river a large party of natives came up with us, after
tracking the horses for some distance. Seventy or eighty men came to the
bivouac, and, with the exception of one man who shipped a spear, making a
demonstration of throwing it at us, they evinced a desire for the more
peaceable amusement of eating damper and fat bacon. A few of the natives
spoke a little English, having been for a short time in the settled
districts. At sunset they retired to the other side of the river, and all
appeared quiet when my watch commenced at 10.30; but at midnight I
detected a native crawling up amongst the thick grass about ten yards
from the back of the tents. He lay quiet till I almost turned him out of
his hiding-place with the muzzle of my gun, when he took to his heels,
but I did not consider it prudent either to fire at or capture him.
The natives being too numerous to allow any of the party leaving the camp
to examine the country around without incurring greater risk than seemed
prudent, we left our bivouac at 7.45 a.m. and steered north 170 degrees
east magnetic over sandy hills, covered with short scrub. After two hours
the country became nearly level, with small patches of swampy ground,
which would be very wet in the rainy season, but was at present quite
dry; the rising grounds were sand, covered with short scrub with a few
scattered banksia trees. At 5.40 p.m. struck the left bank of the stream
which has been considered to be the Arrowsmith River of Captain Grey,
though I have now some reason to doubt its identity. The banks of the
stream are sandstone and sand, and the channel scarcely three yards wide,
with a strip of grassy thicket twenty yards in width along the stream,
which is the only feed near the river, as the plain through which it runs
produces nothing but scrub and banksia with a few grass-trees. We
bivouacked a short distance below the spot where we first struck the
stream, which was still running.
Our horses having but a very scanty feed at this place, we moved down the
stream to obtain better grass for them before crossing the sand-plains
which lay to the south. After following the stream west for two hours,
encamped in a small grassy flat, below which the stream ceased to run,
the water being wholly absorbed by the sandy soil, which has a substratum
of limestone of recent formation.
SEVENTY MILES OF SAND PLAIN.
Accompanied by Mr. Bedart, rode to the westward; passing over sandy
plains and ridges for four hours, came to the beach, which we followed
northwards for three hours, hoping to meet with the mouth of the stream
on which our camp was placed. Not perceiving any signs of it, we turned
to the east, and after an hour's struggle through a thick jungle, we came
on a wet grassy flat, on which the stream seemed to be lost. Steering a
general course of south-south-east, we arrived at 9.10 p.m. at the camp,
after a ride of thirteen and a quarter hours, and the country traversed
almost wholly worthless sand and scrub.
5th November (Sunday).
Remained at our encampment to rest the horses. Read prayers.
Leaving our encampment at 7.10 a.m., we steered north 170 degrees east
magnetic, along the limits of the low scrubby limestone hills which
extend along this part of the coast. To the east the level sandy plain
extended from eight to ten miles, and then rose into high sandstone
hills, covered with scrub and destitute of trees; but at the junction of
the limestone and sandstone formation, along which lay our route, were
several small lagoons and swamps of fresh water, with grassy margins. At
10.0 altered the course to southward; the line of swamps trending to
south-south-west, we entered the level sandy plain. At noon passed a
shallow pool of rainwater in a slight depression of the plain, and
shortly after crossed two small watercourses trending west; a little
brackish water remained in the deeper portions of their channels. The
effect of refraction on this level country, when heated by the midday
sun, was so great as to cause many of the low sandy ridges to appear like
large lakes and inlets of the sea, as in some instances the more distant
hills were obscured by its effects. At 2.45 p.m. we reached the sandstone
range, and at 3.5 halted in a small patch of grass around a native well
of good water, which had the appearance of retaining water throughout the
summer. While here we obtained several additions to our small collection
MOUNTS PERON AND LESUEUR.
At 7.20 a.m. resumed our journey southwards, over a high and somewhat
rugged range of sandstone hills; passed a short distance to the east of
Mounts Peron and Lesueur. The valleys were wooded with red and white-gum
of large growth, but the hills produced little besides coarse scrub. At
2.20 p.m. passed a large mound spring; at 2.45 crossed the Hill River of
Captain Grey; the land on its banks, with the exception of a few grassy
hills on the northern side, was very scrubby and indifferent. Ascending
the high sandstone country on the south side of the river, we halted at
5.35 in a sandy valley trending north-west, in which we found a small
patch of grass around a native well; but we were not much in want of
water, being completely drenched by a heavy shower of rain just after we
Resumed our journey at 8.0 a.m., steering north 105 degrees east magnetic
over a range of high scrubby sandstone hills. At 1.15 p.m. crossed a
small stream-bed trending westwards in a wide scrubby valley. At 3.5,
having ascended the hills to the south of the valley, observed a
remarkable sandstone hill which I passed on a previous excursion from Mr.
Lefroy's station at Welbing. Altering the course to 170 degrees magnetic,
we passed the hill; at 5.45 halted in a fine grassy flat on the banks of
a small brook-course trending west, in which we found abundance of water
in small pools. As we were only forty miles west of Mr. Lefroy's station
at Welbing, and the country in that direction already examined, I
instructed Mr. C.F. Gregory to proceed with the party and pack-horses to
Welbing and thence by the road to Perth, while, accompanied by Mr.
Bedart, I pursued a more direct but less eligible course for pack-horses.
THE MOORE RIVER.
Leaving the rest of the party at the bivouac, at 9.50 a.m., in company
with Mr. Bedart, we steered a general course of south by east magnetic
over hills of sandy loam, producing a little grass and thickly timbered
with red-gum. Passed several extensive grassy valleys, with many fine
patches of rich limestone land on their slopes. At 2.0 p.m. the grass was
replaced by scrub, and at 3.30 entered the wide scrubby valley of the
Moore River, which we reached at 4.20. After some delay in crossing the
river, in consequence of one of the horses falling down in the mud, from
which we had some trouble to extricate him, we bivouacked about one mile
below the spot where we first made the river.
Leaving the Moore River we steered south by west, and after traversing a
nearly level sandy plain, producing banksia and scrub, with many lagoons
and swamps, in eight hours' riding reached the Norcott or Gingin Brook.
The banks were low and swampy; after a short search found a suitable
place for crossing, and having swam the horses across, we halted for the
night on the left bank.
Started at 7.0 a.m., steering east by south magnetic; ascended the
western Wilbinga Hill at 9.0, and traversing a rough limestone country,
with several reedy swamps, reached Lake Nowergup at 2.50 p.m., and at 4.0
halted on the western side of the Wanaginup Swamp.
12th November (Sunday).
Once more in the saddle, and following the road past Wonneroo, arrived in
Perth at 2.30 p.m.
Mr. C.F. Gregory having accompanied the party to the Victoria Plains,
proceeded with Private W. King by the Bindoon road to Perth, where he
arrived on the 17th.
The total distance travelled in this expedition was, in round numbers,
1,500 miles, and the extreme point reached in latitude 27 degrees south,
350 miles from Perth in a direct line; and the period we were engaged in
the expedition was ten weeks.
HIS EXCELLENCY GOVERNOR CHARLES FITZGERALD'S EXPEDITION TO THE GERALDINE
CHAMPION BAY TO MURCHISON RIVER.
Sailed from Fremantle in the Champion for Champion Bay, where we arrived
on the 3rd, swam the ponies on shore, and encamped at the mouth of the
His Excellency the Governor came on shore, when the party, consisting of
the Governor, Mr. Bland, and myself, with three soldiers of the 96th
regiment, and the Governor's servant, started at 7.15 a.m., steering
north-east, crossed Moresby's flat-topped range at 9.0, made the North
Chapman at 10.0, followed the stream upward till 11.50, the general
course north-east by north. One native man and two women came up, and
then retired to the other side of the river, watching our proceedings.
Having dined, we started again at 2.25 p.m., steering a general north
course over an indifferent scrubby country till 4.40, when we halted for
twenty minutes to examine the black shale-like soil which was seen on a
former occasion, but on digging it proved to be only alluvial soil
resting on sand; from this spot we steered north 330 degrees magnetic
over high sandy hills covered with scrub; the country gradually improved,
and at 7.0 we halted for the night in a small grassy gully trending
north-west, obtaining water in a native well.
Started at 6.40 a.m., continuing the same course as yesterday evening
over a succession of grassy hills of granitic formation till 11.10, when
we halted on the eastern branch of the Bowes River; several natives
shortly came to the encampment, and having eaten some biscuit and pork
which we offered to them, retired in the evening to the opposite side of
the stream-bed, keeping a close watch on us from behind some large rocks;
a strict watch was therefore maintained by us during the night.
This morning the natives commenced by throwing stones at the men who went
down for the water, but we did not see any method of resenting it, except
by expressing our disapprobation in words, and at 5.35 a.m. we started on
a north-north-west course, the natives followed for about a mile, and
continued throwing stones at the party. The country passed over was
generally grassy granite hills till 9.0, when we ascended the high
tableland between the valley of the Bowes and Hutt rivers, which last we
reached at 10.25, and halted during the heat of the day on a pool of
brackish water; at 3.20 p.m., again started, and following the river
downwards, in a general course 310 degrees magnetic, at 6.10 bivouacked
at the spot where we had before halted on the 17th October; the water in
the pools brackish, but by digging near a moist bank obtained abundance
of fresh water.
THE GERALDINE LEAD MINE.
Left our bivouac at 5.50 a.m., and steered north-east over high sandy
downs, covered with coarse scrub; at 10.30 entered the valley of the
Murchison River; at noon halted at our bivouac of the 24th September,
obtained some brackish water by digging in the sand of the small
stream-bed. Having dined, we resumed our journey at 2.30 p.m., and
bivouacked about 5.0 on the left bank of the Murchison, 500 yards below
the large lead vein, obtaining good water in the sandy bed of the river
by digging a few inches, the pools being all salt. While the men were
preparing the tents, etc., the Governor proceeded to examine the vein of
lead, which we traced to a greater distance than on the former occasion
of its discovery, the water having sunk two feet, exposing many portions
of the vein which were before covered.
Examined the lead vein, tracing it 320 yards in a direction north 30
degrees east magnetic, along the bed of the Murchison River, which was
nearly dry; clearing the sand and loose stones from the surface, found it
to vary from eight to twenty-four inches in width, the general average
being twelve inches, the dip to the west-north-west at an angle of about
80 degrees from the horizon. Throughout the whole length the lead vein
appeared to be one solid mass of galena; the northern end either
terminates or alters its direction close to a vein of schistose rock,
which intersects the adjacent rocks; to the south the lode was covered by
several feet of sand, which prevented its being traced further, as we had
not time to remove it; the whole of the vein which was traced was
included within the banks of the river, and the greater portion was
covered by shallow water. One specimen of galena showed traces of copper.
The rock which prevails on each side of the vein is a hard compact
gneiss, abounding with garnets, some of which are of good colour, but
mostly full of flaws; the stratification of the gneiss is somewhat
confused, but it generally dips at a high angle (sometimes nearly
perpendicular) to the westward, the strike being north and south. The
facilities which the position of the lode offers for mining are not very
great, as it occupies the lowest part of the valley, and steam power
would be requisite to free the mine from water, and at the same time,
unless the small boat-harbour near the mouth of the Hutt River, or
Gantheaume Bay (both within thirty miles), be found suitable for the
purpose, Champion Bay, distant sixty-two miles in a direct line to the
south, is the nearest port where the ore could be shipped. In the evening
the Governor examined the spot where Mr. Walcott had discovered the small
pieces of lead ore about two and a half miles below the lode, but as most
of the pieces had been picked up on that occasion, we could only find a
few fragments of it.
Left the encampment at 4.40 a.m., and steering about south-west, made our
former bivouac on the Hutt River about 1.0 p.m., and halted for the rest
of the day.
Started at 4.50 a.m., steering 160 degrees magnetic over sandy country;
passed a small grassy valley at 8.0; halted on the north branch of the
Bowes at 10.10 on a small pool of brackish water; dined and resumed our
route at 2.40 p.m.; steered south over a grassy country till 6.10, when
we halted for the night on a tributary stream to the Bowes; obtained
fresh water by digging, the pools being very small and brackish.
CONFLICT WITH NATIVES. GOVERNOR SPEARED.
Left the bivouac at 5.15 a.m., steering 175 degrees magnetic over an
indifferent country till 6.40, when we crossed the south branch of the
Bowes, the country improving. Here we saw several natives, who at first
hid themselves, but finding that we saw them, came after us. At first
they did not exceed eight or ten in number, but, being joined by several
other parties, gradually increased till they exceeded fifty, when they
altogether changed their friendly manner, and began to bring up their
spears. At 6.15 we passed to the west of King's Table Hill, and as the
country was covered with dense wattle thickets, the natives took
advantage of the ground, and having completely surrounded the party,
commenced first to threaten to throw their spears, then to throw stones,
and finally one man caught hold of Mr. Bland by the arm, threatening to
strike him with a dowak; another native threw a spear at myself, though
without effect; but before I could fire at him, the Governor, perceiving
that unless some severe example was made the whole party would be cut
off, fired at one of the most forward of our assailants, and killed him;
two other shots were fired by the soldiers, but the thickness of the
bushes prevented our seeing with what effect. A shower of spears, stones,
kylies, and dowaks followed, and although we moved to a more open spot,
the natives were only kept off by firing at any that exposed themselves.
At this moment a spear struck the Governor in the leg just above the
knee, with such force as to cause it to protrude two feet on the other
side, which was so far fortunate, as it enabled me to break off the barb
and withdraw the shaft. The Governor, notwithstanding his wound,
continued to direct the party, and although the natives made many
attempts to approach close enough to reach us with their spears, we were
enabled, by keeping on the most open ground, and checking them by an
occasional shot, to avoid their attacks in crossing the gullies. They
followed us closely for seven miles, after which they were only seen
occasionally, following in our track. Having reached the beach, we were
enabled to travel more rapidly, and although one of the ponies knocked
up, we reached Champion Bay at 3.30 p.m., and got the party and horses on
board the Champion by 5.0, where we were gladly welcomed by Lieutenant
Helpman. About sunset the natives came down to the beach, concealing
themselves behind the bushes, whilst a single unarmed native stood on the
beach, and called to us to come on shore, no doubt in the hope of making
a sudden attack on the boat should we venture to do so.
THE MURCHISON RIVER.
THE UPPER MURCHISON RIVER.
In the month of March, 1857, Mr. Surveyor F.T. Gregory, while engaged on
the survey of the lower part of the Murchison, observed that the river
came down in flood, though there had been no rain for several months near
the coast, and taking advantage of such a favourable opportunity of
extending the exploration of the country beyond the point at which
previous explorers had been driven back for want of water and grass, he
proceeded up the Murchison, accompanied by his assistant, Mr. S. Trigg,
following the course of the river for 180 miles. For the last fifty miles
the condition of the vegetation showed that there had been heavy rains
which had caused the floods in the lower part of the river.
The following is an abstract of Mr. Gregory's report to the
Surveyor-General, as published at the time in the Perth Gazette:--
We last week intimated that an exploratory trip had lately been made into
the interior eastward of the Geraldine Mine. We have now the pleasure and
satisfaction of laying before our readers some details of one of the most
unassuming explorations, yet important in its results, which has ever
been undertaken in this colony. In the latter end of March last, Mr.
Assistant Surveyor F. Gregory and Mr. S. Trigg started from the Geraldine
Mine with two horses and sixteen pounds of flour, to trace the Murchison
to its source, and returned after thirteen days' absence. Mr. Gregory has
made a short report of his journey to the Surveyor-General, from which we
have been kindly furnished with the following extract:--
While at the Geraldine Mine I availed myself of the circumstance of the
Murchison being in flood to ascend that river and complete the sketch of
the unexamined portions, as also to gain any additional information that
might facilitate the exploration of the country between this and the
Gascoyne River. The fact that the natives describe a considerable tract
of grassy country extending northward from the head of the Murchison,
plentifully supplied with water, was an additional incentive to ascertain
from whence the inundation came.
TROPICAL RAINY SEASON. GOOD PASTORAL COUNTRY.
Accompanied by Mr. S. Trigg, I proceeded up the river about 180 miles, at
which point it ceased to run; we then ascended a hill in the vicinity of
600 or 700 feet elevation above the plain, which I have since found to
be, beyond a doubt, Mount Murchison of Austin; unfortunately I was unable
to procure a copy of his map or journal, and was thus prevented from
laying out my route to the greatest advantage by pushing more to the
northward and going over more new ground. As it is, the only information
I have been able to gain, beyond completing the plan of the river, is
that the principal fall of rain had been eastward of the 116th degree of
longitude, and that the tract of country between the great South Bend and
Mount Murchison, which proved barely capable of supporting Mr. Austin's
small party of horses in November, 1854, is now yielding a pasture nearly
equal to the average of the Champion Bay district, and in some parts most
luxuriant, the grass having scarcely arrived at maturity was perfectly
green; this remarkable change in the character of the country is, I am
inclined to think, not entirely confined to this year in particular, but
that from meteorological causes this district has not unfrequently the
benefit of tropical rains falling during the months of January and
February, although not always in sufficient quantity to cause the river
to flow as low as the settled districts.
It has already been observed by many persons that during the summer
months the prevailing sea breezes divide the northerly currents of vapour
about 100 miles inland from the west coast, preventing the rain from
falling throughout the same parallel of latitude.
As near the eastern limits of my route the Murchison throws off two
branches nearly equal in magnitude to the main stream, I am induced to
imagine that its extreme source does not lie more than sixty or seventy
miles beyond that point, and had it not been that I did not feel
justified in abstracting so large a portion of time from the regular
surveys of this district, there is no doubt but that I could with every
facility have completed the exploration of the country as far as the
Gascoyne in two or three weeks.
On comparing the tracing of the Murchison, which I now enclose, with Mr.
Austin's route, it will be observed that there is a difference of
seventeen miles in latitude, and something more in longitude throughout
the eastern portion, a discrepancy which I am at a loss to account for,
as my dead-reckoning to both the outward and inward track agree well with
my cross-bearings; my latitudes were, however, taken only with a pocket
sextant with a treacle horizon, and might therefore not be implicitly
relied on. I have, however, preferred plotting my route exactly as booked
in the field, leaving the existing error to be cleared up at some future
From Mr. Trigg, who arrived on Wednesday by the Preston from Champion
Bay, we have gathered the following additional particulars:--
The outward route was on the south bank of the river Murchison; the first
sixty miles was but indifferent, but there were many spots of grass,
sufficient to maintain travelling herds or flocks; afterwards the soil on
the banks of the river improved and were continuously grassy, the general
width being about half a mile. About latitude 26 degrees 50 minutes,
longitude 116 degrees east, two large branches, almost if not quite equal
to the main stream, join the Murchison from the eastward. About Mr.
Austin's Mount Welcome the grass was found very luxuriant--from two to
three feet high, and between there and Mount Murchison the country is
described by Mr. Trigg to be very beautiful, and the soil superior to any
he had previously seen in the colony, and equal to the best land in
Victoria. Mount Murchison itself is an immense mass of quartz with
granite round the base; this differs from Mr. Austin's description, but
that gentleman does not appear to have ascended the hill. From the summit
three high lands were observable, one an isolated peak fifty miles east,
the others to the north and north-east apparently more distant; so far as
could be seen, the country to the east and north-east appeared scrubby
and indifferent. The return was on the north side of the Murchison; and
here a large extent of good grassy land was found, not on the bank, but a
mile and a half from the river, and reaching four or five miles in width
to the base of some hills, and reaching westward to the large northerly
bend of the river in longitude 115 degrees 30 minutes about forty miles
from the Geraldine Mine; the good land in all cases was very flat, the
soil a red loam, which when dry was very open; the whole country is
singularly infested with white ants, of which every tree living or dead
appeared to have its colony. Mr. Trigg regards the country around Mount
Murchison as auriferous.
The striking difference there is between this account of the country on
the Murchison and that given by Mr. Austin may be accounted for in
several ways: first, Mr. Austin does not appear to have crossed, but
skirted the country intervening between Mount Welcome and Mount
Murchison, but he describes the land about the latter as improving, and
found water; while it was the feed and water at Mount Welcome which, in
all probability, saved his party from perishing. The land on the north
side, spoken of so favourably by Mr. Trigg, was not seen by Mr. Austin,
and also his party was so exhausted that it was out of his power to
diverge from a direct line in order to examine the nature of the country
on either side; whereas Messrs. Gregory and Trigg made such an
examination whenever any favourable appearance presented itself, and thus
determined the quantity of valuable land for a distance of six or seven
miles on each side of the river, and have thus been the means of
conferring on the Colony one of the greatest benefits it has received
since the northern district was first opened by Mr. A. Gregory.
PERTH TO CHAMPION BAY.
In consequence of the very satisfactory results of the exploration of the
Upper Murchison River by Messrs. Gregory and Trigg in 1857, a number of
settlers in the northern districts subscribed horses and equipment for an
exploring party to examine the country still further to the east and
north, and with the sanction of the Government, the Expedition was placed
under the command of Mr. F.T. Gregory, the result being the discovery of
a considerable area of available country on the Gascoyne and Lyons
Rivers, as described in Mr. Gregory's journal, of which the following is
MR. F. GREGORY'S REPORT.
Perth, July 26, 1858.
In accordance with the instructions conveyed in your letter of the 15th
March, authorising me to take command of the Expedition to Shark's Bay,
in course of organisation by the northern settlers, I have the honour to
furnish the following report of our proceedings while in that service,
for the information of His Excellency the Governor.
The preliminary arrangements having been completed, and the heavy portion
of the stores forwarded by sea to Champion Bay, I left Perth on the 26th
March, accompanied by Mr. James Roe as second in command, chainer
Fairburn having started the previous day with the team and light
equipment of the Expedition.
Proceeding by way of Toodyay to the Irwin River, the party were joined by
Mr. W. Moore with three horses; passing on by way of Champion Bay, we
arrived a Koobijawanna, the point of general rendezvous, by the 10th of
April. On the 12th the remainder of the stores arrived from Champion Bay,
the party being augmented to six persons by the addition of Mr. C. Nairn
and Dugel, an aboriginal policeman. This day and the following were
occupied in weighing and packing stores, shoeing horses, etc.
The equipment of the Expedition being completed (with the exception of
one horse to be procured at the Geraldine Mine), we moved on to
Yanganooka, passing the Geraldine Mine on the 16th, and bivouacked on the
Murchison River, six miles above the mine, having obtained the additional
horse, making in all six saddle and six pack horses; our supplies
consisting of sixty days' rations, on a scale of one and a half pounds of
flour, eight ounces of pork, four ounces of sugar, and half an ounce of
tea per diem, the party being all well armed and furnished with
The mean of our observations with the Aneroid barometer gives 575 feet
for the elevation of this part of the river above the sea.
ASCEND THE MURCHISON RIVER.
17th April to the 25th April.
Was occupied in ascending the Murchison River by easy stages to the
junction of the Impey, the highest point attained by me last year. The
only observations worthy of remark were that the inundation had not been
so great as that which occurred the previous summer, the grass up to this
point not being by any means so abundant as I had found it on my former
visit; the volume of water now running in the bed of the river being,
however, at this time about the same, although none of the tributaries,
including the Roderick and Impey, had been in flood, little or no rain
having fallen to the west of the 117th degree of longitude, except to the
north of latitude 26 degrees.
I availed myself of the opportunity afforded to make several additions
and corrections to the map of this part of the country, verifying the
correction made by me last year in the latitude of Mount Murchison and
adjacent hills. By an improved series of triangulation and a carefully
observed set of lunar distances, I am inclined to place Mount Murchison
in about longitude 116 degrees 30 minutes east, which makes it more
nearly approximate to the longitude formerly given by Mr. Austin.
The variation of the compass I found by several amplitudes to be 2
degrees 30 minutes west. The bed of the Murchison River is here about
1,077 feet above the sea. In addition to the fish and game formerly
observed on this part of the river, we met with large flocks of the
gallinule, which have for so many years excited the curiosity of the
colonists as to their habitat; from subsequent observations it is evident
they come from much further to the north-eastward. But one party of
natives had as yet been seen, consisting of eight or ten, who chased our
native Dugel to the camp while out shooting, but it was difficult to
ascertain whether with hostile intentions. From this time to our return
we regularly mounted sentry during the night, and no one was allowed to
quit the party any distance alone--a precautionary measure the necessity
of which was fully borne out by the sequel.
From our camp, which was situated about eight miles west of Mount
Murchison, we fairly commenced the exploration of unknown country.
Following the river nearly north-north-east for fourteen miles it turned
abruptly to the east; we, however, held our course, which at four miles
further brought us to the foot of Mount Narryer, which we ascended, and
procured a valuable round of angles from its summit. This hill has an
altitude of 1,688 feet above the sea, and is formed by the eruption of a
coarse dark-coloured crystalline trap through a base of amorphous
sandstone, the direction of the range of which it forms a part being
nearly north and south. Skirting round the north end of this range, we
struck east over a stony plain, thinly grassed amongst open wattles, and
at five miles again came upon the Murchison some time after dark. The
pools here were somewhat larger than for many miles below, being from
sixty to eighty yards wide and half a mile in length, the water in them
becoming decidedly brackish; samphire, atriplex, and other salsolaceous
plants being abundant on the banks.
We only advanced nine miles, owing to Mr. Moore and Dugel having to
return for one of the water-beakers, which had been torn off the
pack-saddle the previous night in a thicket. Towards our bivouac, which
was in latitude 26 degrees 23 minutes 38 seconds, the country near the
river improved much, the channel of the river becoming very shallow; the
water had spread over the flats for more than half a mile on either side,
large flooded-gum trees growing abundantly with a fine sward of grass
beneath, the soil being a rich brown clay loam. Gallinule and cockatoos
were in large flocks feeding on the grass seeds, which were now nearly
To latitude 28 degrees 7 minutes the river continued to come from north
by east through an extensive plain, bounded on the west by a low range of
trap and granite hills, at an average distance of six or seven miles,
while to the eastward only a few distant peaks were visible, flooded-gum
growing plentifully for more than a mile back from the river, on flats of
tolerably good pasture. Receding somewhat further from the river, the
country opens out into extensive plains yielding but little grass;
atriplex bush and thinly scattered stunted acacia and melaleuca trees
forming almost the entire vegetation.
A few miles nearly north brought us to where a considerable tributary
joins the Murchison from the north, the river trending first north-east,
then east, and finally towards the afternoon it came from the southward
of east, our bivouac being only seven miles north of the previous night,
while we had made nearly eighteen miles of easting. The bed of the river
had gradually become more rocky as we ascended, gneiss with quartz dykes
passing through it and yielding a large quantity of salt, rendered the
running water of the river scarcely drinkable; the only fresh water was
found in the back channels filled by the late inundations. The ranges
which ran parallel to the river to the westward terminated some miles to
the north of the bend. Another range, apparently granitic and broken up
into detached peaks, commencing a little to the eastward of its
termination, runs east for about twenty miles at the distance of six or
seven miles from the north bank of the river.
To the eastward an elevated range with two conspicuous summits, which
were respectively named Mount Matthew and Mount Hale, terminated the view
in that direction, while to the south only a few detached peaks were
To-day we first observed a very beautiful convolvulus, which we
afterwards found to bear roots like a sweet potato, some of them more
than a pound weight and well flavoured, forming a very important article
of food to the natives. The flowers are numerous, and measure from two to
three inches in diameter, their outer edges of a dark lilac, deepening to
a rich purple at the centre, with a pale green convolute ribbing on the
outside, the stem and leaf of the plant resembling the kennedya. Mr.
Drummond, to whom I have described it, considers it an important
discovery, as by cultivation it might become a valuable addition to our
A small species of rock-melon was also found in great abundance about the
size of a pigeon's egg, somewhat bitter to the taste, but they were not
ripe; in other respects it much resembles the cultivated varieties.
The bed of the river at this night's bivouac had attained an elevation of
1,240 feet above the sea.
LEAVE THE MURCHISON FOR THE GASCOYNE RIVER.
Finding that the Murchison was leading us too much to the eastward, the
object of the expedition being to reach the Gascoyne with as little delay
as possible, we quitted the river on a north-north-east course for about
eight miles over a tolerably grassy plain, in some parts open, with
atriplex and samphire, and in others rather thickly studded with acacia
and melaleuca. Ascending a granite hill of 150 feet elevation, the plain
was observed to the eastward to extend to the horizon, only broken by one
remarkable bold trap hill at the distance of twenty miles, which was
eventually named Mount Gould, the main Murchison flowing round its
southern base, while a considerable tributary from the north-east passed
close under it to the north-west. To the north of our position the
country rose into a succession of stony ridges thinly grassed and nearly
destitute of trees; in the valleys the kangaroo grass was tolerably
plentiful and quite green--a sufficient evidence that we had now arrived
within the influence of the rains that had produced the recent
inundation, which gave us every hope of being able to push across the
country intervening between this and the Gascoyne. We accordingly altered
our course to north-west for the remainder of this and the following day,
crossing several tributaries to the Murchison, in which we found plenty
of water, and on their banks an abundant supply of grass for our horses,
the streams being generally divided from each other by low stony ridges
or plains of red sandy loam, yielding a rather scanty supply of grass.
Having rested the party the previous day, it being Sunday, in latitude 25
degrees 33 minutes 48 seconds, at a fine pool of fresh water in a stream
running south, and apparently tributary to the Murchison, we resumed our
course for three or four miles up a branch of the stream upon which we
had been encamped, which terminated at a gentle stony ascent; another
mile brought us to its summit, which proved to be the watershed between
the Gascoyne and Murchison; its elevation was found to be 1,500 feet
above the sea. From this ridge a short descent northward led us to the
head of a watercourse, which we followed in the same direction for
seventeen miles, augmented by several small tributaries; turning to the
westward, it formed a junction with another river coming from the
eastward, in latitude 25 degrees 14 minutes 23 seconds, at an elevation
of 1,144 feet above the sea.
The country through which we had passed was a nearly level and barren
plain, evenly and closely paved with small stones, amongst which a few
stunted acacia found a precarious existence; to this portion of country
we gave the characteristic name of Macadam Plains.
The river we had encamped upon the preceding night had a level sandy
channel thirty-five yards wide, with several shallow pools in its bed; a
narrow belt of flooded-gum lined either bank, which also produced
abundance of excellent feed; several of the grasses were new to us,
yielding a large quantity of seed; further back the pasture was more
scanty, and of an inferior variety of grass, the trees consisting almost
entirely of small hakea or acacia.
The features of the country are generally very tame, with the exception
of a prominent hill of considerable altitude, nearly twenty miles to the
northward, to which we gave the name of Mount Gascoyne. The summit of
another range, of less elevation, a little to the northward of west,
distant fifteen miles, was called Mount Puckford.
Having decided upon following the left bank of the river, with the view
of ascertaining what tributaries might joint from the southward, we this
morning took our course for Mount Puckford, touching frequently upon the
bends of the river, which soon found a junction with a large channel
coming from the eastward, which ultimately proved to be the main
Gascoyne; it was still running in a small stream in the bottom of a sandy
bed, eighty yards wide, traces of recent heavy floods being plentiful. At
ten miles the river has broken through a ridge of opaline rocks, in
irregular masses, resembling flints, lying north-east and south-west, and
a few miles further coming in contact with the south-east foot of Mount
Puckford, it doubles back round its north-east base, and there takes a
general north-west course to latitude 24 degrees 36 minutes, and
longitude 116 degrees east, which we reached by noon of the 7th, a
considerable tributary joining at this point from the northward. A
compact sandstone range, resting on a granite base (which was named the
Lockier Range, after Mr. Lockier Burgess, one of the principal promoters
of the expedition), here diverts the course of the river to the left,
which, by sundown, we found was running nearly south. The country for the
last fifty miles varies but little in character, extensive open plains
alternating with low granite ridges; the banks of the river, which here
has acquired a width of 100 yards, with a depth of forty-six feet, being
in many places stony and cut down by deep muddy creeks, rendering
travelling both slow and laborious. Several tributaries join from the
north and south, all of which had very recently ceased to run.
To the north and east were several prominent peaks and ranges of trap
hills clothed with short herbage; to the highest of the former, a single
conical peak, with deeply serrated sides, was given the name of Mount
James, after my friend and fellow-traveller, Mr. James Roe; while two
lofty summits, far to the northward, were called Mount Samuel and Mount
The principal feed was found near the banks of the rivers, the back
country still yielding only a scanty supply of a red-coloured silky grass
of little value except when quite fresh. A tree resembling the sycamore
of the Murchison, but with the leaves arranged in triplets, and the seed
pods in the form of a large bean, grows near the river and attains to two
feet in diameter, with a height of forty feet; the wood is light and
spongy, something resembling the Nuytsia floribunda, but not gummy. It is
formed by the natives into shields, and near the coast into canoes. We
also found on some of the rocky hills a tree with fruit and flowers
resembling a small fig, the leaves like a lemon, but yielding an acrid
Several new species of crested quail and dark-brown pigeons were first
observed here; the beautiful small doves, common in the northern
districts, were also seen by thousands; gallinule and the elegant
Ochaphaps plumafera (crested pigeon of the marshes) were also very
SURPRISE A NATIVE CAMP.
Pursuing our course down the left bank, we crossed several stream-beds
which drain the large tract of country between this and the Murchison.
The Gascoyne here divides into several broad sandy channels, sometimes as
much as a mile apart. Towards evening we came upon a native encampment;
few of the men appeared to have returned from their day's hunting, but we
observed upwards of thirty women and children, who ran into the bed of
the river to hide, some of the women immersing their children completely
under water occasionally to prevent their cry of alarm attracting our
attention. Although we had before met with and spoken to several natives,
this was the first opportunity we had of examining into their domestic
economy. Around their fires, of which there were many, were ranged a
number of wooden scoops capable of holding from two to four quarts; these
contained a variety of seed and roots; the most plentiful was a species
of grain like small plump drake, gathered from a grass much resembling
wheat, which is very abundant on the alluvial flats, and a root
resembling an onion not larger than a pistol bullet, a few rats, which
are very numerous in the grassy flats, and a small variety of samphire
like a Hottentot fig, formed the principal portion of their evening's
The few weapons left by the men consisted of heavy spears, with from
three to eighteen barbs cut out of the solid wood, the shaft from ten to
twelve feet in length, large shields resembling those in use by the
natives at Champion Bay, made from the sycamore, and few skins of the red
kangaroo, formed their entire camp equipment.
A NIGHT ATTACK.
Leaving everything as we found it, we passed on about two miles and
encamped for the night on a low sandy island in the bed of the river,
which was here full of flooded-gums of large growth, there being just
sufficient grass for our horses immediately around our fire. By 9 o'clock
our supper had been disposed of, and I had just completed my observations
for latitude, when we heard the shouts of a large party of natives
approaching from the direction of their camp; leaving Mr. Roe with two
others to guard the camp, I advanced with Mr. Moore and Dugel to
ascertain the object of their visit, which we soon found to be evidently
hostile, as they came on rapidly, all well armed to the number of sixty
or seventy, the women and children retiring to some rocky ground, while
the men advanced lighting the large stacks of drift which were abundant
in this part of the river. When within about forty yards they halted a
moment, as we had damped our fire and they could not exactly make out our
position. Mr. Moore was in the act of removing his horse from the front
when a fresh fire enabled them to see us, upon which ten or twelve of the
leading men shipped their spears. Being still desirous, if possible, of
avoiding a collision, I hesitated to fire upon them; but observing a
large body of them advancing with the evident intention of attacking Mr.
Roe and his little party in charge of the camp, I advanced a few steps
and fired a charge of small shot at the leading men as they were in the
act of throwing at us. The effect was instantaneous and most salutary, as
they fled with some precipitation, some of them being evidently wounded.
We mounted extra guard for the remainder of the night, but they did not
again venture to attack us.
Being Sunday, we only moved a few miles lower down the river for more
grass, and again found ourselves in close proximity to the natives. In
the course of the day several of them made their appearance at the top of
the hill overlooking the camp, but appeared afraid to molest us; they had
with them several large white dogs which were evidently of Australian
The river took a south-west course, receiving two large tributaries from
the south-east, one of ninety and the other of fifty yards in width. The
flats were wider and large trees more abundant; the recent floods had,
however, been very destructive to the pasture, and removed much of the
soil for a considerable distance back from the river. The trap hills here
ceased to appear; the last remarkable one lay about ten miles south-east
of our morning's camp, and had been named Mount Dalgetty. Our evening's
bivouac was found to be in latitude 25 degrees 14 minutes, longitude 115
degrees 30 minutes east by account, and its elevation 700 feet above the
Until noon our course along the river was nearly north-west, sandstones
beginning to crop out on the banks, and the country generally was poor
and scrubby; from our noon halt to sunset our course was nearly west, our
bivouac being in latitude 25 degrees 2 minutes. The bed of the river had
here widened out to 300 yards with an average depth of thirty feet, a
small stream running through the sand in the bottom. In addition to the
flooded-gum which grows here abundantly, we observed in the bed of the
river a melaleuca of large size, like a paper-bark tree, but having broad
leaves resembling the eucalyptus. During the night the natives were very
noisy in the vicinity, some of them approaching so close as to startle
our horses, keeping us well on the alert; the horses on this as on
several other occasions appear to have been our principal safeguard
against sudden attack.
FRIENDLY INTERVIEW WITH NATIVES.
By the time we had commenced loading our horses, a large body of natives
had collected and approached to reconnoitre our camp; I advanced towards
them to keep them in check until the loads were completed. On observing
that I came alone three natives advanced to meet me, throwing three or
four spears at me in a friendly way, which I picked up and stuck in the
ground by my side; this token at once established a good understanding,
and after an exchange of presents they followed us for many miles down
the river before quitting us. Towards nightfall several of our friends of
the morning again made their appearance with a number of strange natives,
dodging us among the deep muddy ravines which abound at this part of the
river; their manoeuvres being equivocal and unsatisfactory, we kept well
on our guard; they, however, ran off at night, on my facing about on
horseback to drive them away.
Our course during the day had been nearly west twenty-two miles, one
large tributary having joined the river from the northward, which was
afterwards named the Lyons, in honour of the gallant admiral of that
name; this accession had increased the breadth of the channel to 400
yards. As we drew towards our evening's bivouac the river entered a gorge
formed by the river cutting through the south end of a flat-topped
sandstone range of about 1,200 feet elevation above the sea, presenting
many bold and picturesque outlines and detached summits, terminating in
abrupt and almost precipitous faces; to this we gave the name of the
Kennedy Range, in honour of our present Governor.
To the south a detached mass of broken sandstone hills gradually falls
away in the distance, apparently into a barren scrub similar to those on
the banks of the lower Murchison, while to the west lay before us an
extensive plain, unbroken by a single object save a few long ridges of
red drift sand, clothed with a stunted scrub of melaleuca and acacia. The
bottom of the gorge we found to be 480 feet above the sea.
From this morning to noon of the 15th the country passed over was similar
to that first described, the sand ridges running north-west and
south-east at about a quarter of a mile apart; the river keeping a
general course of west-north-west, its channel deepening to sixty feet,
and maintaining an average width of 400 yards. Grass was only to be found
in small patches along the margin of the river; the accumulated waters of
the late inundations having been confined to one channel, had risen to
the height of forty-eight feet, carrying away many of the largest timber
trees, as also much of the soil from the banks, leaving a scene of
devastation exceeding anything of the kind I had hitherto witnessed.
A small description of Spanish reed was here first observed to grow on
the margin of the pools. Deep muddy creeks, having only short courses,
were very numerous, rendering travelling both tedious and intricate.
From noon of the 15th the country gradually opened out to a
thinly-grassed plain of light alluvial soil, atriplex bushes and acacia
widely scattered forming almost the entire vegetation; the ground, with
the exception of the bed of the river, being parched and dry, no rain
having fallen during the summer to the west of the Lyons River, in
longitude 115 degrees 30 minutes east.
Being Sunday, we only moved four miles lower down the river for better
feed, the channel widening out to 600 yards.
Early to-day the river began to throw off numerous channels to the north
and south, shedding, when in a flood, a considerable amount of water over
the adjoining plains, clothing the country in the garb of spring, the
grass growing luxuriantly along the numerous channels, atriplex and other
low bushes generally covering the plain, the lowest levels of which were
extensively covered with fields of mud from one to fourteen inches thick,
the deposit of a single inundation, yet scarcely hardened by the summer
REACH THE COAST AT SHARK'S BAY.
At twenty miles we ascended a sandy ridge of about sixty feet in height,
from which we had our first view of Shark's Bay, Babbage Island, and the
mouths of the Gascoyne, now only four miles distant.
Behind the ridge upon which we stood, and for many miles to the
south-east, the country was still under water from the recent floods,
while between us and the sea lay a low flat, on which were many patches
of acacia thicket, alternating with open grassy glades, or fields of
atriplex and samphire, terminating to the westward in a broad irregular
belt of mangroves, resting on the shallow margin of the bay.
Descending to the flat, we encamped in a rank patch of grass on the bank
of the river, about a mile above Babbage Island, the north end of which I
found to be in latitude 24 degrees 52 minutes, which is four miles north
of the position as given by Sir G. Grey.
We found no difficulty in crossing the southern mouth on to Babbage
Island; the tide being low, it was quite dry at the junction. Having,
with Mr. Roe, walked over the greater part of the island, making a rough
sketch of its outlines, and completing the requisite observations, while
the rest of the party were occupied in an unsuccessful attempt to catch
fish, we retraced our steps and crossed the main channel opposite our
last night's bivouac, where it is not more than 250 yards wide.
Continuing our course north-east for nearly a mile, we crossed several
back channels, some trending towards the Kolaina flat of Sir G. Grey,
while others were lost in the deep sandy ravines that extend for some
distance to the north of the river.
While on Babbage Island several natives had waded across the northern
mouth of the river to meet us, and had returned after a friendly
interview, in which they apparently described the recent landing of two
boats with Europeans. We now again fell in with the same natives on the
north bank, near a large encampment of women and children; the latter
quickly hid themselves on our approach, but the men assumed a threatening
attitude, following us for some distance with much clamour. As their
numbers quickly augmented, and they appeared determined to commence a
fight, we led them out on to an open plain, where, leaving the
pack-horses in charge of two of the party, four of us suddenly faced
about and charged them at a gallop. This harmless manoeuvre had the
desired effect, several of them having narrowly escaped being trodden
under foot by the horses. They were very quickly dispersed, and made no
further attempt to molest us. We encamped this night about six miles
above Babbage Island.
As our object was to explore as far to the northward as circumstances
would allow, we left the river on a north-east course; but two hours'
ride across an open plain, through which several channels ran to the
north-west, brought us to dry barren scrubs, in which it appeared
hopeless we should find either feed or water; we accordingly altered our
course to south-east, and made the river again about sundown.
RETURN UP THE RIVER.
20th to 23rd May.
Was occupied in tracing up the north bank of the river in the hope of
finding a tributary coming in from the northward; but, with the exception
of one small stream which drains the western face of the Kennedy Range,
not a single tributary was met with until we arrived at the Lyons River,
a distance of more than ninety miles from Babbage Island. The country on
the north bank differs but little from that on the south, except that
travelling was somewhat easier.
THE LYONS RIVER. ALMA RIVER.
Our horses having had a rest, the previous day being Sunday, we made an
early start, and by noon halted on the Lyons River, a short distance
above its confluence with the Gascoyne; its channel here was equal in
magnitude and similar in appearance to the main river; a small stream was
still flowing through the wide sandy bed, and gradually increased in
volume for nearly eighty miles up the river. Three miles to the north of
our midday halt Mr. Roe and myself ascended a deep sandstone peak, from
which we had a fine view of the Kennedy Range, the nearest part of which
lay about six miles to the west, extending for nearly thirty miles to the
northward; the eastern face presents an almost unbroken line of nearly
perpendicular sandstone, of probably 500 or 600 feet elevation. To the
north a few remarkable peaks served as valuable points to carry on our
triangulation, which had been continued almost uninterruptedly from Mount
Hope, on the Murchison.
To the east were several ranges of flat-topped hills, filling in the
space between the Lyons and the great southern bend of the Gascoyne;
while to the south, with the exception of a few very distant peaks, it
appeared, as far as the eye could reach, to be an uniform plain of open
but almost grassless scrub.
Having completed our round of angles, we struck south-east to a patch of
forest on the banks of the river, which we did not reach until sometime
From this point to latitude 23 degrees 56 minutes the Lyons maintains a
general course of north-north-east. The country passed over during to-day
had evidently been tolerably grassy, but the floods had been quite as
destructive here as on the Gascoyne, the bed of the river and flats for
half a mile on each side being mostly choked up or buried under fields of
fine white sand, which had been brought down by the inundations. In
several places we observed beds of gypsum and fossil shells with other
strong indications of the existence of coal in the vicinity. Bivouac in
latitude 24 degrees 41 minutes 18 seconds.
A few miles along the river brought us to a gorge in the eastern edge of
the sandstones, to the east of which it opened out into extensive plains
in some parts well grassed, and in others much washed by the river.
Several trap and granite hills were visible at some distance to the
northward and eastward. Our bivouac was in latitude 24 degrees 31 minutes
0.5 seconds, about three miles south of a bold trap-range, the summit of
which was named Mount Sandiman.
The country still maintained its variable character, travelling near the
river being exceedingly heavy on account of the sand. The morning had
been calm and sultry, but towards noon a strong breeze set in from the
north, bringing with it a dense cloud of fine red dust, against which it
was no easy matter to make head with our horses. Towards evening the
flats began to improve, and we halted for the night amongst fine grass;
melons and tobacco growing very luxuriantly. To-night it rained for about
two hours, clearing the atmosphere of its load of dust.
Resuming our course up the river, at four miles we crossed a stream-bed
forty yards wide, coming in from the north-north-west, and in the course
of the day passed over several thin beds of opaque opalline rock resting
upon the sandstone. At our camp, which was in latitude 24 degrees 0.3
minutes 0.8 seconds, granite began to make its appearance in the bed of
Our pack-horses having now been much lightened of their loads, we were
to-day for the first time able to trot for several hours; and as the
country still improved, several fine grassy valleys coming in from the
eastward, we made considerable progress.
At our noon halt Mr. Moore and myself ascended a hill of red schist of
300 or 400 feet elevation, in latitude 23 degrees 57 minutes 15 seconds,
which had been named Mount Thompson. From this hill we had an extensive
view of the surrounding country; close to the northern foot the river
divided into two nearly equal parts--one coming from the north-north-east
we named the Alma. To the north, just resting on the edge of the tropic,
lay a compact range through which there was apparently but one break, and
that was on the line of the Alma; from the southern face of this range,
which extends nearly forty miles to the eastward, numerous streams take
their rise and flow southward into the Lyons, which had altered its
course and was now coming from the east-south-east. Our intention had
been to keep our course until we had touched upon the tropic; but as the
Alma was not running, we decided upon following the main course of the
stream, and accordingly adopted an easterly course for the remainder of
the day, encamping about six miles to the east of Mount Thompson. The
river here was much narrower, with a rocky bed containing many pools of
permanent character, overshadowed by flooded-gums of large growth, much
resembling the Eucalyptus piperita of the flats of the Swan, but not
possessing the same pungent leaf.
30th May (Sunday).
Found our latitude to be 23 degrees 58 minutes 32 seconds, and longitude
111 degrees east by account.
We started off at a quick pace, clearing sixteen miles by noon, over some
fine open grassy flats, timbered for nearly a mile back from the river;
one tributary 100 yards wide having joined from the north, and a smaller
one from the south. Leaving the party busily occupied catching fish,
which were abundant in this part of the river and much resembling those
found in the Murchison, but larger, some of them being upwards of a pound
in weight, I walked with Mr. Nairn to the summit of a granite hill two
miles to the northward, from which I had a number of cross-bearings to
hills already observed from Mount Thompson. One of considerable elevation
bearing north 121 degrees 30 minutes east, distance fifty miles, lay
directly up the valley of the river, and was ultimately named Mount
Augustus, after my brother, now conducting the expedition in quest of the
remains of Dr. Leichhardt. Pushing on twelve miles further, we halted for
the night in latitude 23 degrees 59 minutes 39 seconds. Tobacco here grew
to sufficient size for manufacture, occupying many hundred acres of the
best land; a plant much resembling stramonium was also abundant on the
moist land, yielding a strongly offensive odour from its leaves.
For the first twelve miles along the river the flats much improved, and
were only occasionally broken up by stony ridges; good country was seen
to extend up the tributaries, several of which came in from the north. To
the south, at two or three miles distant, and running parallel to the
river for many miles, was an even grassy range of moderate elevation
nearly destitute of trees or bushes; the acacia and melaleuca, which had
hitherto generally covered the plains, was evidently fast giving way to
an open undulating and thinly-grassed country, the back lands being
however still too stony to yield much pasture, the summer grass being
already parched and dry, the flats alone continuing moist and verdant.
At our noon halt the main river had ceased to flow, but a tributary
coming from the north-east had a small stream still running in the bottom
of a muddy channel down which the recent floods had brought flags and
portions of bulrush, the only instance throughout the district in which
we had observed them.
The next ten miles passed over between this and sunset was chiefly an
alluvial flat, much resembling the fertile lands near the mouth of the
Greenough; the acacias and several varieties of melaleuca, amongst which
was the Callistemon phoeniceus, with its beautiful scarlet flowers, were
growing with tropical luxuriance, the soil in many places being still
saturated with moisture. A water-melon was here first observed, the fruit
not attaining to more than two inches in length, but not otherwise
differing from the cultivated kinds; we also found a fruit in shape like
a pear, three inches in length, growing on a small creeper, the interior
of the fruit consisting of a number of small flat seeds, to which were
attached a bundle of long silky fibres resembling cotton. Our bivouac was
in latitude 24 degrees 7 minutes 52 seconds, near a fine pool of fresh
water, with limestone cropping out in a thin bed on the banks; we had
frequently met with it distributed in small nodules scattered over a
large portion of the country on the Upper Murchison.
Since quitting the mouth of the Gascoyne we had seen natives almost
daily; to-night we again found ourselves in close proximity to a large
encampment of them.
Our neighbours paid us an early visit this morning, some of them
evidently bent on mischief, but were restrained by others more
prudent--not, however, before it had nearly cost one of them his life;
having pointed a spear at Mr. Moore, Dugel, whose natural instincts are
very destructive, hastily took aim at him, but fortunately pulled the
wrong trigger, which just gave his adversary time to lower his weapon; on
our mounting our horses they hastily fell back and joined their other
companions at their camp, which was just in our line of march; about
thirty of them awaited our approach with some tokens of defiance, but
most of them decamped on our coming within spear's throw.
MOUNT AUGUSTUS 3,480 FEET ABOVE SEA LEVEL.
Directing our course for Mount Augustus, we pushed on at a rapid pace
with the object of ascending it if possible before sundown; but after
riding twenty miles, we found it to be farther off than we anticipated,
and accordingly altered our course and encamped at a pool in the river
about three miles north-east of the mount, in latitude 24 degrees 20
minutes, and at an elevation of 1500 feet above the sea.
We here met with strong evidences of the cannibalism of the natives; at a
recently occupied encampment we found several of the bones of a
full-grown native that had been cooked, the teeth marks on the edges of a
bladebone bearing conclusive evidence as to the purpose to which it had
been applied; some of the ribs were lying by the huts with a portion of
the meat still on them.
Nearly the whole of the country passed over this day was an alluvial flat
extending on the south-west to the grassy range already described, while
to the north and east it extended for many miles, branching out into the
numerous valleys that drain the different ranges in that direction; the
grass and vegetation on these flats is not so rank as on that traversed
the previous day, but more even, and the soil better adapted for
agriculture; the amount of good land on this part of the Lyons River was
estimated at 150 square miles, while on the tributaries between Mount
Thompson and Mount Augustus I have no doubt that there is as much more.
Water at this time was plentiful in the numerous channels that intersect
the plain, their permanency being the only matter of doubt--our limited
acquaintance with the nature of the seasons in these latitudes does not
enable us to decide with any degree of certainty; the pools lower down
the river are unquestionably of a permanent character, but many of them
were already becoming brackish.
The quantity of game seen in this part of the country was also a
favourable indication. Turkeys, and a new variety of pigeon, having a
brown back and slate-coloured breast, on the wing resembling a tame
pigeon, congregate in flights sometimes of a thousand together; emus,
cockatoos, quail, and parakeets are also very numerous, particularly the
A gentle ascent of two and a half miles brought us to the foot of Mount
Augustus, where, leaving our horses in charge of Fairburn and Dugel, we
commenced the ascent up the only accessible point on this side of the
hill; it required two hours' heavy toil to bring us to the summit, the
barometer gradually falling until it only registered 26.10, which,
compared with the simultaneous observations kept at Champion Bay by Mr.
H. Gray, gives an elevation of 3,480 feet above the level of the sea; the
last 500 feet of the summit being clothed in thickets of melaleuca,
amongst which grew a nondescript variety of red gum-tree, the only new
thing observed in this locality. The air was fortunately very clear,
enabling us to take bearings to almost every remarkable summit within
eighty miles, and in two instances to hills more than a hundred miles
From this commanding position I was enabled to sketch in the courses of
the rivers for more than twenty miles, some of them probably taking their
rise from 60 to 100 miles still further to the eastward. To the
north-east the country continued to improve in appearance until the view
was intercepted by bold ranges of trap and granite--one of which bearing
north 32 degrees east magnetic, distant nearly 100 miles, having a sharp
volcanic outline, reared its summit above all the rest. To the south-east
the country was not quite so promising, the ridges presenting naked stony
outlines, upon which was only a little scanty grass or a few bushes; to
the south it was almost an uninterrupted plain, extending nearly as far
as the Murchison River, over which lay our homeward course. Descending
the mount, we encamped at a spring in some fine feed close at its foot.
RETURN TOWARDS SETTLEMENTS.
As we had now been out fifty-one days, and our provisions were only
calculated to last twenty-four days longer, although we had reduced our
allowance shortly after quitting the Geraldine Mine, we were reluctantly
compelled to turn our steps homewards, being still 360 miles from the
settled districts; passing, therefore, over the eastern foot of Mount
Augustus, we pursued a south-south-east course for twenty miles over
alternating grassy plains and stony ridges, and encamped on the river
with a sandy bed, in which were a few shallow pools, its trend bearing
north-north-west, and probably joins the Gascoyne near the Lockier Range.
The feed on this river, as well as on those between this and the
Murchison, was principally kangaroo-grass of strong growth; the course of
the streams being easily traceable from a distance by the flooded-gum
trees that invariably lined their margins.
A south course of ten miles over a poor stony country brought us to the
head of a stream, which, following in the same direction to latitude 24
degrees 51 minutes 52 seconds, we found plenty of feed on its banks and
pools of water in its bed, which was here thirty yards wide; the
principal features of the adjacent country being low granite ridges,
intersected by occasional quartz dykes, alternating with chlorite schist.
6th June (Sunday).
Following a south-south-east course, at six miles the stream turned to
the south-west. Passing over several miles of stony country, in latitude
24 degrees 59 minutes 32 seconds, we crossed another stream-bed forty
yards wide, running to the westward, and forming a junction with the last
at some miles distant. Towards sundown we came upon a recently inundated
plain, and a mile further struck a grassy channel thirty yards wide,
which had barely ceased running, the soil for some distance on either
bank being a strong red loam, yielding a fair supply of pasture. This
channel we afterward found to be only one of several which formed the
main branch of the Gascoyne. The observed latitude was 25 degrees 6
minutes 30 seconds, and elevation 1,740 feet above the sea.
A mile farther we came upon the main channel of the river, with a wide
shallow bed, down which a small stream was still running; the flats were
well grassed, and the flooded-gums growing for more than a mile back from
the river. To the eastward the country continued level and grassy as far
as the eye could reach; our time was, however, too limited to admit of
our making any further examination of this promising tract. A party of
twenty or thirty natives were encamped here, and were apparently living
upon the roots of the convolvulus, which grows in the vicinity in great
For fifteen miles to the south-east it continued a level plain of red
loam, tolerably well grassed and covered with an open wood of acacia; the
next eight miles was over a poor stony ridge of moderate elevation,
terminating at a large dry stream-bed, in latitude 25 degrees 24 minutes
16 seconds, with some fine kangaroo-grass on its banks.
Ten miles south, over a granite country, we struck the head of a
watercourse, which, after winding about for sixteen miles, ran close to
the western foot of Mount Gould, where we encamped at its junction with
another small stream coming from the northward. The country passed over
to-day was generally very stony until we came within a few miles of Mount
Taking our course direct for Mount Hale, the pasture rapidly improved; at
ten miles the watercourse we had been following formed a junction with
the main Murchison, coming in from the eastward. From the appearance of
the river at this point, it is probable that it takes its rise nearly
another 100 miles farther to the north-east. The next thirteen miles down
the river was fair average cattle pasture, extending for several miles to
the right and left; open flats of atriplex and samphire occurring at
The river soon divided into several channels, shedding its waters over a
fine alluvial flat, of considerable extent, yielding a rich sward of
grass, under flooded-gums of large growth. A little after noon we came
upon our outward track, and encamped at night near the north-west bend of
DOWN THE MURCHISON.
12th to 22nd June.
Was occupied in descending the river to the Geraldine Mine, cutting off
several bends of the river, and making such additions to our sketch of
the outward route as circumstances would admit.
RETURN TO PERTH.
We all arrived safe at the hospitable residence of Mr. W. Burges, on the
Irwin; the following day being occupied in making up the accounts
connected with the expedition, which, including the whole of the cash
expenditure, did not exceed 40 pounds, which sum had already been
subscribed by a few settlers interested in the undertaking.
Quitting the Irwin on the 1st of July, and proceeding by way of
Dandaragan and Toodyay, I arrived, with Mr. Roe and chainer Fairburn, in
Perth on the 10th instant, having accomplished a journey of nearly 2000
miles in 107 days.
On reviewing the foregoing report, I find it necessary to add a few
observations on subjects that could not well be introduced into the body
of the narrative.
GEOLOGY OF COUNTRY.
In the first place, viewing the geographical and geological features in
combination, the tract of country contained within the 114th and 118th
parallels of longitude, and the 24th and 27th degrees of south latitude,
may be considered as an inclined plane, the eastern edge of which has an
elevation of about 1700 feet above the level of the sea. Commencing from
the coast, the first 100 miles is almost exclusively of tertiary
sandstone formation, which the process of denudation has, in many
instances, converted into either stony or sandy tracts, rarely fertile,
except when subject to the influence of frequent inundation. This region
seldom gives rise to rivers or watercourses; the flat-topped ranges,
which are often found towards the eastern limits of this formation, do
not generally exceed 500 or 600 feet in altitude, and are only those
portions of country that have not as yet yielded to the waste of time, or
the constant action of rivers, which, rising in the higher lands more to
the eastward, rapidly abrade, and in their onward course remove the soft
and porous sandstone from their bases.
In the deeper valleys, towards the eastern edge of these sandstones thin
beds of oolitic limestone, containing numerous fossil shells,
occasionally occur; also gypsum and clayey shales, with other indications
of the probable existence of coal in the vicinity; following the series
appears a compact, fine-grained amorphous sandstone, having an almost
flinty fracture; this rock, in a few miles, gives place to granite and
gneiss, frequently broken up by the upheaval of whinstone and porphyritic
trap hills, having an elevation of from 100 to 500 feet above the plain.
As we proceeded eastward, the eruptive rocks became more numerous;
chlorite slate, veins of quartz, chert, and variegated jasper, frequently
forming the summits of the most elevated hills, while, on the general
level of the plain, are occasionally found thin beds of ancient lava.
The rivers, unlike most others in Western Australia, have nearly an even
fall throughout their entire length, amounting on an average to six feet
per mile; this, in a country subject to the sudden fall of almost
tropical rains, is what gives rise to the destructive inundations already
Of the climate and seasons so little is at present known that, allowing
all other difficulties to have been overcome, it would be very hazardous
to risk flocks and herds beyond the head of the Murchison until the
country has again been visited at a different period of the year, as it
is probably that it has as yet only been seen under the most favourable
The fluctuations of the temperature are occasionally considerable; in the
middle of June it some days amounted to 46 degrees in six
hours--registering, at 7 a.m., 36 degrees, and at 1 p.m., 82 degrees; ice
having been seen as far north as latitude 24 degrees 30 minutes.
The prevailing winds during the period of inundation appear to have been
from the south-east, as most of the trees blown down while the soil was
in a state of saturation lay with their tops to the north-west. In May
and June the winds ranged between north-east and south-east.
Of the regularity of the return of the summer rains it is at present
difficult to form a decided opinion; but, as far as observation would
admit, I am inclined to think they cannot be relied on with any degree of
certainty, to the southward of the 25th degree of latitude. The period at
which they fall being about January and February, it is a significant
fact that the grasses found buried beneath the mud during these months
had generally attained only to nearly half their growth.
AREA OF AVAILABLE COUNTRY.
With regard to the quantity and distribution of the available lands, it
will only be necessary to observe that, with the exception of 30,000 or
40,000 acres at the mouth of the Gascoyne, there is no land worth
occupying for many years to come to the west of the Lyons River; the
amount of land on this river has already been estimated at nearly 300
square miles, while on the Upper Gascoyne and its tributaries there is
probably double that quantity; this, with the lands on the Murchison near
Mount Hale, would make a total of about a million of acres.
A very important circumstance in connection with this district is the
total absence, so far as we were able to observe, of any of the varieties
of gastrolobium or euphorbia, which constitute the poisonous plants so
fatal to cattle and sheep in other parts of the colony.
The means of access to the Upper Gascoyne and Lyons is another important
matter for consideration. I am inclined to think that this district
cannot be advantageously settled until the tract of country between it
and the north coast has been explored, and a port established somewhere
between Exmouth Gulf and Depuch Island, as, should the country in that
direction fulfil its promise, the intervening space would very quickly be
filled up, and the lands on the Gascoyne become available, its distance
from the north coast being about 200 miles, while from Port Gregory or
Champion Bay would not be less than from 340 to 360 miles--a difference
of some moment in the transport of stores or produce.
From the lay of the country to the northward of the Lyons River there
does not appear to be any reason to suppose that a river of any magnitude
falls into Exmouth Gulf, as there would be hardly room for it between the
sources of the Alma and the rivers flowing to the north coast.
I cannot bring my report to a conclusion without recording my
acknowledgments to Mr. James Roe for the able and effective assistance he
has rendered me throughout the expedition, the barometrical observations
and management of the provision department having been especially under
My best thanks are also due to Mr. W.D. Moore and Mr. C. Nairn, who on
every occasion endeavoured to relieve me as much as possible from some of
the many arduous duties that usually devolve on the leader of an
exploring party. Chainer Fairburn and the native Dugel also gave general
satisfaction in the performance of their respective duties.
I may add that to the ready cooperation and unanimity that prevailed
throughout the party may in no small degree be ascribed the successful
issue of the undertaking.
I have the honour to be, Sir, etc.,
To the Honourable the Surveyor-General, etc.
ORIGIN OF EXPEDITION TO NORTH-WEST AUSTRALIA.
The important additions to geographical discovery, and the large extent
of valuable pastoral country that had been found on the Gascoyne River
and its tributaries, attracted the attention of a number of English
capitalists interested in cotton manufactures, which were then in a very
depressed condition in consequence of the civil war in America, it was
proposed to establish a new colony on the north-west coast of Australia,
having for its special object the cultivation of cotton.
Advantage was taken of the presence of Mr. F. Gregory in London to urge
on the Home Government and the Royal Geographical Society the
desirability of fitting out an expedition to proceed direct to the
north-west coast of Australia, accompanied by a large body of Asiatic
labourers, and all the necessary appliances for the establishment of a
Under the advice of Captain Roe, Surveyor-General of Western Australia,
and other gentlemen well acquainted with the subject, the scheme was
modified so as to have the country explored as a preliminary to actual
settlement, and for this purpose a grant of 2000 pounds was obtained from
the Imperial Government, to be supplemented by an equal subsidy by the
Accordingly Mr. Gregory obtained a suitable outfit for the party in
London, and early in 1861 proceeded to Western Australia to confer with
the Governor as to the requisite details; but owing to the delays caused
by a part of the funds having to be provided by a vote of the local
Legislature, the expedition did not finally leave Fremantle until 23rd
April, 1861--nearly two months later in the season than it should have
done, as the rainy season in North-west Australia terminates about the
beginning of March.
The following is an abstract of the journal and report of Mr. Gregory to
the Governor of Western Australia:--
JOURNAL OF THE NORTH-WEST AUSTRALIAN EXPLORING EXPEDITION.
20th April, 1861.
All the preliminary arrangements in Perth having been completed, and the
stores and equipment of the expedition already sent on board the barque
Dolphin, I proceeded to Fremantle and shipped the ten horses that had
been furnished by the settlers in this part of the colony; the remainder
of the hay and water being also completed by 2 p.m., we were prepared to
sail, when the agent for the vessel raised objections to our departure,
on the plea that the arrangements for the payments on account of the
charter were not satisfactory. Wrote accordingly by express to the
Private Secretary for an acknowledgment that the requisite documents were
Received reply from the Private Secretary to the effect that everything
necessary had been approved of already by the Governor; the agent would
not, however, allow the vessel to leave until he had actually received
the first instalment on account of the charter from the Colonial
Accompanied Mr. Manning and Captain Dixon to Perth, when they were
informed by the Colonial Treasurer that the money would be forthcoming on
the presentation of the accounts. Returned to Fremantle, where we were
detained for the remainder of the day to enable the agent to close his
Went on board the Dolphin at 7 a.m., and by 11 a.m. got underweigh, with
a fresh breeze from the east-north-east, and stood to the
north-north-west. The portion of the exploring party embarked at
Fremantle comprised the following persons: F.T. Gregory, commander; J.
Turner, assistant and storekeeper; E. Brockman, W.S. Hall, and J.
McCourt, assistants; and A. James, farrier. Supplies of flour, salt pork,
dried beef, preserved meat, bacon, sugar, tea, etc., sufficient for eight
months, were provided for a party of nine; three more volunteers and ten
horses having yet to be taken on board at Champion Bay.
Light winds from the north; at noon sighted land, in latitude 31 degrees
28 minutes 12 seconds south; all hands attending to horses.
Experienced variable and contrary winds; made but little progress.
Weather cloudy, winds unfavourable; had a distant view of Mount Lesueur.
Sighted Mount Hill soon after daylight, rain and squalls rendering it
difficult to distinguish the coast; the weather clearing up, ran into
Champion Bay, and came to anchor by noon, half a mile north of the jetty,
in four fathoms; landed and procured a horse from the Government
Resident, and rode out to Mr. K. Brown's station.
Procured a horse for the expedition from Mr. W. Moore, on account of
Hamersley and Company, and returned with it to the Bay.
Sent round to the rest of the subscribers of horses to the expedition;
party employed filling up ship's water-tanks.
Mr. J. Harding arrived, as a volunteer, with two horses from Mr. W.
Burges; also Mr. M. Brown, as a volunteer, with one horse. The following
gentlemen also sent horses: Messrs. J.S. Davis, 2; F. DuBoulay, 1; C. von
Bibra, 1; H. Gray, 1; M. Morrissey, 1; and J. Drummond, 12 sheep. Mr. P.
Walcott joined as a volunteer for the collection of specimens of natural
history and botany. Ship's crew employed discharging the remainder of the
cargo from England, consigned to Champion Bay.
With the assistance of a number of gentlemen who kindly volunteered their
aid, the ten additional horses were safely swum off to the Dolphin;
Captain Dixon and his crew being employed landing a steam-engine. Wrote
to His excellency the Governor, reporting intention to sail to-morrow.
CHAMPION BAY TO NICKOL BAY.
Wrote to the Secretary of the Royal Geographical Society, reporting
progress of the expedition. Transferred order for twenty sheep,
subscribed by J. Williams, to Mr. T. Burges. Took on board twelve sheep
sent by Mr. Drummond, and closed accounts at the bay. Party fitting up
mangers, etc. At 5.30 p.m. got underweigh and stood to the north-west,
the soundings for five miles varying from three and three-quarters to
seven fathoms; the sea breaking heavily for about a mile in a northerly
direction from the end of the sheltering reef, showing a much greater
extent of shoalwater than is noted on the charts. Established a routine
of watches of two hours each, for the members of the expedition to attend
upon the horses.
By observations at noon, found the latitude to be 26 degrees 53 minutes
south; longitude 112 degrees 33 minutes east. Party preparing equipment,
drying horse-slings, etc. Wind light from south-east.
Putting pack-saddles together, covering water-belts, etc.; light wind
from south, ship making from one to four knots; course north by east.
Increased allowance of water to horses from four or five gallons each, on
account of the heat of the hold. Killed a sheep.
Latitude at noon, 25 degrees 40 minutes south; longitude 112 degrees 1
5th May (Sunday).
Held Divine service; passed through several drifts of seaweed at noon, in
latitude 25 degrees 43 minutes 34 seconds south, longitude 112 degrees 5
minutes east, showing a southerly current of nearly two miles per hour;
cloudy, with light winds from south-east and south.
At noon sighted Cape Cuvier, bearing east twenty miles; latitude 23
degrees 52 minutes; longitude 112 degrees 53 minutes east; current of
nineteen miles south in twenty-four hours.
North-west Cape was visible at noon, bearing east three-quarters north,
distant twenty-five miles; our latitude being 22 degrees south; and
longitude 113 degrees 18 minutes east. The Cape appears to have an
elevation of 500 or 600 feet, and to be of a sandstone formation; the
soil back of the hills appearing good, and clothed at this period of the
year with an abundance of grass, wattles of large growth and flooded-gum
trees growing on the slopes; the character of some of the lower hills and
valleys is that of a mineral district.
Passed through many patches of drifting seaweed coming from the eastward.
Light south-east winds and cloudy weather.
Latitude 20 degrees 24 minutes south; longitude 114 degrees 37 minutes
east, at noon.
Richie's Reef cannot be in the position shown on the charts, as we sailed
over it, and saw no broken water. At noon found our latitude to be 19
degrees 58 minutes south; longitude 115 degrees 23 minutes east; light
winds from the south-east, and a current of half a mile per hour setting
to the west or north-west.
At daylight sighted Legendre Island to the south-east, distant ten miles.
Ran east-north-east till 10 a.m., with fresh breeze; tacked to south-west
with wind at east; by noon it fell calm, having fetched to within ten
miles of the north end of Delambre Island. At 5 p.m. a light wind from
the north-west enabled us to run in and drop anchor at 6.0 in thirteen
fathoms, the south end of Delambre bearing east about three miles; at
11.0 a strong breeze sprung up from the south-east, freshening to a gale
by 2 a.m. of the 11th. Tide setting to south-west at four miles per hour,
with a rise of sixteen feet.
STRONG TIDES PREVENT LANDING.
The gale continued to 11 a.m., when it moderated; the tide being full at
about noon. Got underweigh at 1 p.m., and stood to the south-west, under
topsails, stemming a strong ebb tide to 3.30, when we came to anchor in
five fathoms (sand and shells), about three miles from the western shore
of the bay, Sloping Head bearing north by east five miles. The water of
the bay is much discoloured, being of a deep reddish-brown. In passing
down the shore we observed that the whole of what is shown on the chart
as a promontory, extending to the north of Sloping Head, is an island,
with a channel nearly half a mile wide, separating it from the main; to
the outer portion was given the name of Dolphin Island. At 4 p.m. left
the ship in the life boat, accompanied by Captain Dixon, Mr. Hall, and
four men, and took soundings for six miles to the south-west down the
centre of the bay, finding five and six fathoms all the way; the water
then shoaled to three fathoms, when, being within a mile of the head of
the bay, it became dark. Pulling about two miles to the south-east, it
gradually shoaled to one foot, when we grounded, and remained there till
11 p.m., when the tide being at full we pulled for the ship, but not
seeing her lights by 1 a.m. on the 12th, and the men being much fatigued,
we lay on our oars for an hour, and then took a stretch for two miles to
the south-south-east, to get under the shelter of the south-east shore of
the bay, when, having no anchor, we lay-to till daylight, by which time
the boat had drifted into heavy rollers under the high rocky land at the
south-west head of the bay; the wind having risen so much that the boat
was only kept afloat by keeping her head to the sea. As we could not
observe any spot at which we could land without the risk of swamping the
boat and wetting our firearms, we continued pulling towards the ship, the
ebb tide assisting us until 2 p.m., when just as all hands were becoming
thoroughly tired out, a boat was sent from the Dolphin to our relief,
with a timely supply of biscuit and brandy, which, with the assistance of
a tow-line, enabled us to reach the ship by 3 p.m., very thankful that we
had escaped what at one time appeared likely to have proved a serious
In the morning it blew so fresh from the eastward that Captain Dixon did
not like to move the vessel until 2 p.m., when we stood to the south for
about four miles, and came to anchor in four fathoms. Taking the
life-boat and cutter, both well-manned, we pulled south to the shore
about three miles, the water gradually shoaling until at half a mile from
the shore the boats grounded on a sandbank, from which we walked, through
mud, shells, and coral, to a belt of mangroves about fifty yards through,
behind which rose a sandbank about thirty feet high, covered with flowers
and coarse grass; from this to the foot of a range of rugged metamorphic
sandstone, a distance of half a mile, was an open, undulating, loamy
plain, covered with grass just arriving at maturity, a few small wattles,
hakea, and white-gum trees. As the sun had now set, we had only just time
to ascend a few hundred feet up the rocky ridge, from which elevation
could be discerned a sheet of water about a mile to the eastward, which
we attempted to reach, but it became so dark that it was found better to
return to the boats, which were now high and dry. By 8 p.m. the tide had
risen sufficiently to admit of Captain Dixon's return to the Dolphin,
while I remained with a portion of my own party to make further
examination in the morning; the leaky state of the cutter keeping one of
us bailing through the night.
With Messrs. Turner, Brown, Harding, and Brockman, landed at 7 a.m., and
walked to the sheet of water observed last night, but found it only a
tidal inlet, terminating in a salt marsh. Continuing on our course for
five miles to the south-east, across a grassy plain, the soil being a
light brown loam, with occasional patches of quartz and gneiss pebbles,
and beds of limestone in irregular nodules, in an hour and a half arrived
at a deep stony watercourse, containing some small pools of brackish
water. This stream was followed up to the southward about a mile, but
found to be dry, and did not appear to come from a greater distance than
twenty miles. This river was named the Nickol. The country to the south
not being very promising, we turned to the westward, recrossing the plain
more to the south, passing several hollows, in which the rainwater had
very recently rested, leaving a rich alluvial deposit from which had
sprung up a splendid sward of grass, which was still quite green. Not
meeting with water in this direction, and the party not being yet in full
training, we were glad to return to the boat, which was reached by 2
p.m.; the tide being now in, enabled her to come in close to the beach,
the rise being found to be about sixteen feet. By 5.0 we had returned to
the ship, all tolerably well fatigued with our first day's march on
INTERVIEW WITH NATIVES.
Not being satisfied to land the horses on a shore devoid of water, I
determined to attempt a landing in a small sandy cove in the high rocky
shore on the west of the bay, which we had been afraid to enter during
the gale on the 12th. Leaving the ship with two boats and provisions for
the day, we pulled for the little cove about four miles distant, bearing
west by north. For the first three miles the soundings did not show less
than three fathoms, with an even sandy bottom, the last mile shoaling
gradually to the beach; the landing being easily effected, as there now
was but little surf. The shore was found to be generally very sandy, a
low flat valley extending from the head of the cove across the isthmus
about two miles to Mermaid Strait, where it terminated in a muddy
mangrove creek. In about half an hour several wells were found, some
containing rather brackish water, but one, about eight feet deep, in a
hollow under a steep range of bare volcanic and granite hills, not more
than 200 yards from the beach, was found to contain an abundant supply of
good water; grass being plentiful and of fine quality in the valleys
under the hills. Our principal requirements being now satisfied, it only
remained to bring the ship in near enough to land the horses. On our
return to the Dolphin we found that she had been visited by two natives,
who had paddled off on logs of wood, shaped like canoes, not hollow, but
very bouyant, about seven feet long and one foot thick, which they
propelled with their hands only, their legs resting on a little rail made
of small sticks driven in on each side. At first they were afraid to come
on board, but on friendly signs being made, they ascended the ladder that
had been put down for them. They were both fine-looking men, of about
forty years of age, above the middle stature, one measuring six feet four
inches, and the other five feet eight inches; their hair straight and
black, teeth regular, and general features characteristic of the tribes
on the west coast; their bodies were rather more spare, and had not on
them a vestige of clothing. The Champion Bay dialect was quite
incomprehensible to them; they, however, knew the use of both biscuit and
tobacco, some of which was given them. After remaining several hours on
board, they took their departure for the eastern shore of the bay,
distant at least six miles, promising by signs to repeat their visit the
next day. It is worthy of remark that neither of these natives were
circumcised, or had lost the front teeth, as is common on this coast
further to the eastward. Their fearlessness and confidence in the good
faith of Europeans would lead to the impression that this was not their
first acquaintance with vessels on the coast. It was not far from this
place that Captain P.P. King had a visit from natives similarly equipped
more than forty years ago. While on shore to-day several new and very
beautiful plants and flowers were observed, amongst them one in
particular, which, without exception, is the handsomest shrub I have ever
seen in Australia; in form the plant resembles a large chandelier, with a
series of branches springing from a centre stem in sets of five each; on
these are short erect stems a few inches apart, carrying five beautiful
deep crimson dragon flowers, nearly three inches in length, grouped like
lustres, producing a very gorgeous effect; the leaves of the plant are
elegantly formed, like those of the mountain ash, and are of a rich
green. A purple flowering bean, the seeds of which are the size of the
English horse-bean, is here found in abundance, and are eaten by the
natives. Melons similar to those formerly seen by me on the Gascoyne,
several varieties of brachychiton, a small variety of the adansonia,
three or four different kinds of convolvulus (one of which runs along the
sands near the beach with arms sometimes as much as forty yards in
length), acacias, sterculia, and a variety of eucalyptus resembling a
stunted red-gum, are also found growing among the hills in small
ACCIDENT FROM CARELESS USE OF FIREARMS.
Early this morning the Dolphin was moved to within three miles of the
cove visited yesterday, and anchored in two and a half fathoms at the
lowest water, the landing place bearing west by north. By 11.0 a.m. the
first pair of horses were hoisted out and placed in the water under the
counter of the cutter, two other boats assisted in towing us to the
shore, which occupied about an hour; the horses, on landing, being
scarcely able to stand, from the length of time they were in the water.
On reaching the beach, a serious accident occurred to Mr. Hearson, the
second mate of the vessel, resulting from the negligence of James the
farrier, who, notwithstanding my repeated cautions to all the members of
the Expedition to keep snappers on the locks of the guns, had omitted to
do so, in consequence of which, on its being handed out, the hammer
caught on the gunwale of the boat and discharged a ball through both the
hips of the mate, causing him to fall in the water, which circumstance
fortunately tended materially to stop the haemorrhage; he was immediately
carried to a sheltered spot, and a tent pitched over him. On examining
the wound, I found the ball had entered the right posterior, passing
close below the joint, and taking an oblique direction through the lower
edge of the pelvis, made its exit in front of the left thigh, between the
femoral artery and the principal tendon, without injuring either. This
mishap and the freshening of the breeze prevented our landing any more
horses to-day, the remainder of it being spent in making a camp and
attending to the comfort of our wounded companion, who occasioned me some
anxiety, as the treatment must entirely devolve upon myself, who
possessed but a very limited amount of experience in matters of this
Four more horses were safely landed this morning, and we were returning
to the vessel for another pair when a party of fourteen natives made
their appearance at the camp. At first they came boldly up, but on a gun
being discharged as a signal for my recall, they appeared much alarmed,
although they would not go away. Our numbers being small, I determined
not to allow them to enter the camp, on account of their propensity to
thieving, and the few that could now be spared to guard the stores was
insufficient to keep a constant watch on their stealthy movements; I
therefore tried at first to make them understand that we had taken
possession for the present, and did not want their company; they were,
however, very indignant at our endeavours to drive them away, and very
plainly ordered us off to the ship. It was very evident that our
forbearance was mistaken for weakness, and that mischief was preparing. I
accordingly took hold of one of the most refractory, and compelled him to
march off at double-quick time, when they all retired to some rocky hills
overlooking our camp, from which it was necessary to dislodge them.
Taking Mr. Brown with me, we climbed the first hill, which made them
retreat to the next. Resting ourselves for a few minutes, and taking a
view of the surrounding country, we were just on the point of returning
to the camp, when we observed three armed natives stealing down a ravine
to the horses, evidently with hostile intentions, as they shipped their
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