Journals of Australian Explorations
A C and F T Gregory
Part 4 out of 8
or 500 feet elevation, the country to the south again becoming very
fertile, and clothed with a rich sward of kangaroo-grass; at ten miles we
struck the Shaw River, coming from the south-east, with a broad, deep,
and well-defined channel, in which were many fine pools of water. Below
the confluence of the rivers the DeGrey widened out considerably, turning
rather more to the northward, and seven miles further was joined by the
Strelley, in latitude 20 degrees 16 minutes, and longitude 119 degrees 5
minutes east; the river being diverted to the northward by a rugged range
of volcanic hills; its course being now direct for Breaker Inlet, which
was distant about eighteen miles. Camp 89.
MAGNETIC ROCKS RENDER THE COMPASS USELESS.
As it was very important that I should obtain a round of bearings before
proceeding any further, the country having for some days past been too
flat to afford many opportunities for triangulation. I to-day started
with Messrs. Harding and Brown to ascend the ranges that lie to the west
of the river. A scramble of three miles over very rugged rocks brought us
to the highest point, which was found to be not more than 500 feet above
the sea; our journey, however, turned out to be fruitless, the magnetic
attraction of the volcanic rocks of which the hills are composed being so
great as to reverse the needle, which varied so much that I could not
even make use of the compass to take angles, and I had omitted to bring a
sextant. Kangaroos were numerous among these hills, but we did not
succeed in shooting any; they appear to be similar to those seen on the
plains near the Sherlock. The view we had of the country was very
extensive. To the south is a vast gently-undulating plain, only
occasionally interrupted by detached granite and sandstone peaks; while
narrow green lines of trees intersecting the plain in various directions
indicate the watercourses coming from the distant ranges, and wander in
wide sandy channels towards the sea; the course of the Strelley being
easily distinguished for many miles. To the north the eye could trace the
broad sandy bed of the DeGrey, trending towards Breaker Inlet, the
position of which was only distinguishable by the margin of deep-blue
mangroves that line it, and the whole of the extremity of the delta
formed by the alluvial deposits brought down by the river. To the east
and west of this is a wide expanse of alluvial flats, covered in most
parts with rich, waving grass, the sameness of the scenery being relieved
by detached patches of open park-like forest of flooded-gum. Returning to
the camp by noon, the remainder of the day was devoted by me to bringing
up the arrears of mapping, etc., and by the party generally in providing
a supply of fish and ducks, which here were found to be very plentiful.
By 7 a.m. we were once more tracing down the DeGrey through the flats
seen yesterday. At eight miles the river divided into two channels of
nearly equal width, the eastern one being followed to latitude 20 degrees
5 minutes 16 seconds, travelling being very heavy, on account of the
numerous rat-holes that completely undermine the banks of the river for
more than a quarter of a mile back on either side. For the last few miles
the water in the river was decidedly brackish, and at our camp was
evidently influenced by the tides; we, however, procured some tolerably
good water by sinking a well in a sandbank in the dry portion of the
channel, which here was about 300 yards wide. Camp 90.
SUDDEN RISE OF TIDE.
This morning we found the water in the well quite salt, in consequence of
the tide having risen during the night; and as our horses required water,
it was found desirable to fall back upon some of the fresh pools to form
a camp, while a day or two could be devoted to the examination of this
fertile and interesting tract of country. We accordingly crossed the
channel and proceeded westward for nearly three miles, when we came upon
the other branch, which proved eventually to join again several miles
below, forming an island containing some 8000 or 9000 acres of alluvial
flat soil, covered with a quantity of mixed grasses. To this was given
the name of Ripon Island. The western channel was found to be over 300
yards wide, and to contain several fine reaches of open water, some fresh
and others slightly brackish; they were all teeming with ducks and a
great variety of water-fowl. Having selected a suitable spot for a camp,
I started with Messrs. Brown and Harding to examine the country towards
the inlet. At a little more than two miles we crossed the river between
two pools of salt water, subject to the influence of the tides, and
proceeded northward over an open grassy flat for two miles further, when
the grass gave place to samphire and small mangrove bushes, which
gradually thickened to dense mangroves, cut up by deep muddy creeks,
which put a stop to proceeding further in that direction. Here we
observed several remarkable stacks of dead mangroves, evidently piled
together by the natives, but for what purpose we could not ascertain,
unless to escape upon from the tide when fishing. Having gained firm
ground, we made a detour more to the eastward, and at last succeeded in
reaching the bank of the river close to the head of the inlet. The tide
being at the ebb, I was able to walk over the mud and sand to the mouth
of the river, and obtain bearings to Points Larrey and Poissonier, and
observe the character of the entrance, from which I formed the opinion
that the breakers seen by Captain Stokes when surveying this portion of
the coast, and which deterred him from entering the inlet, were nothing
more than the sea-rollers meeting a strong ebb tide setting out of the
DeGrey, possibly backed up by freshes from the interior which would, from
a river of this size, occasion a considerable commotion where the tide
amounts to twenty feet; at any rate, I could not observe any rocks, and
there appeared to be a channel with at least five or six feet of water in
it at low tide. For the first mile the river has a breadth of from 400 to
800 yards, and would admit with the tide vessels of twelve or fourteen
feet draft of water with perfect safety up as far as Ripon Island, where
they could lie completely sheltered in all weathers quite close to the
shore, which here has steep banks twenty to thirty feet high; they would
however, be left aground at low water, as we did not observe any pools in
this part of the river. I had only just time to complete my observations
when the roaring of the incoming tide warned me that no time was to be
lost in returning to the horses, which were nearly a mile higher up the
river. Although I ran part of the way, the mud creeks filled up so
rapidly, there was some risk of my being cut off from the shore and
having to take up a roost on the top of the mangroves until the tide
fell; I had time, however, to observe that the head of the tide carried
with it thousands of fish of great variety, amongst them a very
remarkable one from three to six inches in length, in form resembling a
mullet, but with fins like a flying-fish; it is amphibious, landing on
the mud and running with the speed of a lizard, and when frightened can
jump five or six feet at a bound; I did not, however, succeed in
capturing one for a specimen. Swarms of beautiful bright-crimson crabs,
about two inches diameter, were to be seen issuing from their holes to
welcome the coming flood, on which was borne a great number of sea-fowl,
who, it was evident, came in for an abundant feast in the general
turmoil. Mounting our horses, that had stood for the last two hours
without touching a mouthful of the rank grass around them for want of
water, we returned to the camp by a different route, through open grass
flats bordering the deep reaches of water that encompass the north-west
side of Ripon Island.
SCARCITY OF WATER NEAR THE WEST.
Accompanied by the same party, but with three fresh horses, we again
started to explore the plains eastwards towards Mount Blaze. For several
miles after leaving the island the country continued of the same fertile
character as that passed over yesterday, and is at times subject to
inundation from the river; but as we receded from the influence of the
floods the soil became lighter and the grass thinner, with patches of
triodia and samphire. At twelve miles we entered a patch of open grassy
forest, extending for some miles; but as there was no promise of
obtaining water, and the day was calm and sultry, we turned to the
northward in the hope that water might be procurable under the low
sand-hills that line this portion of the coast. In this we were, however,
disappointed, as the fall of the country terminated in mangroves and
salt-water creeks, between which and the sea is a narrow ridge of low
sand-hills. Amongst them we observed many tracks of natives; but did not
discover any water. The sea here is apparently very shallow for many
miles off shore, more than half a mile of mud and sandbank being left dry
at low water. Resting the horses for two hours, we returned to camp by a
more direct route, passing for several miles over a plain of rich black
mould, covered with a short sward of bright-green grass, the native fires
having swept off the dry grass a few weeks previously; and although there
had been no rain since, the heavy dews that fell during the night in
these latitudes had been sufficient to produce a rapid growth.
As I expected to meet with some difficulties for want of water between
this and the Yule River, I thought it best to give the horses the benefit
of a little rest before resuming our homeward route. Some of the party
were also deriving much benefit from the abundance of fresh game, as they
had been suffering from debility, brought on most probably by
over-exertion while traversing the heavy country of the interior. While
here we obtained several additions to our small collection of
birds--amongst them a beautiful wader, the size of a large snipe, the
head being covered by a remarkable membranous hood or sheath of a rich
gamboge-yellow, resembling the leaf of a flower falling back from the
beak, and lying close over the feathers, protecting them when the beak is
plunged into the sand after food; they had also a remarkable sharp horn
or claw projecting forward from the last joint of the wing, with which
they can fight when attacked by birds of prey. A very handsome bird was
also shot resembling a flamingo, the body being about the size, and in
plumage like a pelican; the head and neck of a deep rich purple, and
formed like the flamingo; the legs bright red, long and slender; it flies
extended to its greatest length, measuring six feet two inches, and
across the wings seven feet two inches; its weight being only 11 pounds.
A white heron, with bird-of-paradise feathers on its back, was
occasionally seen, but only one specimen procured.
29th September (Sunday).
DELTA OF THE DEGREY RIVER.
We made an early start up the river, and at three miles struck out into
the plains to the westward, where we found a large extent of open flat,
yielding grass and atriplex, and timbered in many parts with
flooded-gums. At ten miles we came upon a deep reach of water flowing to
the north-west, which must empty itself into the sea four or five miles
to the south-west of Spit Point, forming an island of a portion of the
delta of the DeGrey, containing between 90,000 and 100,000 acres of
alluvial land. This channel was followed up, and found to come from the
river, close to the junction of the Strelley, and must be a very
considerable outlet for the water during the summer rains. I regretted
much not having time to trace this branch of the DeGrey to its mouth, as
it might be found to be navigable, and afford a fine site for a seaport
town. Fresh water is abundant, and building stone procurable in any
quantity being found in the immediate vicinity on land superior to
inundation. We remained at the junction the rest of the day. Camp 92.
THE STRELLEY RIVER.
As the plains were now dry and parched, we determined to follow up the
Strelley to the ranges before striking west to the Yule. At first the
river spread out into so many wide grassy channels that it was difficult
to trace it; but at four or five miles collected into one bed, about 100
yards wide, in which were a few small pools. Up to this point the country
had been fertile, the soil being an alluvial clay, resulting from
volcanic rocks; but after getting clear of the line of hills, the soil
became poor and hungry, yielding little else but triodia and acacia
bushes; water was procured in several places in the course of the day's
march; our course having been nearly due south. Camp 93.
Latitude 20 degrees 32 minutes 30 seconds.
The river led us this morning a little to the eastward of south, through
a country very similar to yesterday. Late in the day we crossed a
considerable tributary coming from the south-east, which was now quite
dry, and takes its rise in a bold range of granite hills now visible to
the southward, at the distance of ten or twelve miles, and forms a part
of the main tableland of this part of the coast; the plain we had been
passing over being only a sea-flat, with a few detached ranges widely
scattered over its surface. The river now began to trend to the westward,
granite rocks showing themselves on the surface in large masses. Water
was occasionally procurable, which was very important, as the horses
could not travel many hours without it, although the heaviest packs were
reduced below 100 pounds. We had now only six saddle-horses, so that two
of the party had to walk by turns for an hour at a time. We halted late
in latitude 20 degrees 45 minutes 17 seconds. Camp 94.
Started at 6.30 a.m., and in an hour came upon a fine pool in the
granite, which was very acceptable, as we had encamped overnight without
any water. The channel of the river here deepened considerably, was full
of rocks, and contained plenty of water. Skirting the ranges for some
distance, several tributaries joined from the southward. The country,
although rocky, improved much in general appearance; grass was abundant,
and game frequently met with. At night we encamped on a small pool in the
bed of the river about five miles from the foot of the range. Cockatoos
and pigeons came in great numbers to drink at the pool about sundown.
Latitude 20 degrees 56 minutes 33 seconds, longitude 119 degrees 10
minutes by account.
Made an early start, and travelled four miles on a south-west course,
when the river divided into two channels, the main one coming from a deep
gorge to the south-south-east, exactly in the direction in which we had
left the Strelley on our outward route, at a distance of about thirty
miles; identifying the stream with some degree of certainty. Taking the
western branch, which would lead us towards the Yule, we followed it up
until long past noon into a hilly country, without meeting with water;
we, however, saw a large extent of fine grazing land which would make an
excellent summer station when the flats were inundated. Having rested
during the heat of the day, which had lately become rather oppressive, we
resumed a westerly course, having run out the head watercourses of the
western branch of the Strelley. A few miles brought us to a considerable
stream-bed trending to the north-west, which was followed down till some
time after dark, having procured a few gallons of water from a native
well in the bed of a creek. To-day we had travelled for nine hours, and
accomplished a distance of twenty-two miles, the longest day's march we
had made for many weeks past. Early in the day we had noticed what we
took for a great number of native fires springing up in all directions,
and quickly to die away again; we, however, found it to be a number of
whirlwinds, carrying with them huge columns of charcoal and dust, which
traversed the plains sometimes for miles before they broke. Camp 96.
Latitude 21 degrees 4 minutes.
REACH THE YULE RIVER.
Our computed distance from the Yule was now only twenty-one miles, and
the country promised well for travelling; but the long march yesterday,
and the short allowance of water, rendered it very doubtful whether some
of the horses would hold out long enough to reach it; we therefore had
our breakfast before daylight, and as soon as we could see resumed our
route to the westward. At five miles we crossed a sandy channel, 200
yards wide, full of cajeput and gum trees, but as we did not soon find
any water in it, pushed on at a rapid pace, and in two miles more crossed
a similar channel, 100 yards wide, trending north-west and running
parallel to the first; beyond this the ground became rocky for a few
miles, and by the time we had gone rather more than twelve miles, Mr.
Burges' mare, Lucy, could go no further; giving her half a-gallon of
water out of the little stock carried with us, I left Messrs. Brown and
Harding to bring her on when rested, and with the rest of the party
continued our route. A mile or two further, and another horse, Bob, was
knocked up and left behind, having also had some water given him. With
considerable difficulty we succeeded in getting the rest of the horses on
to the Yule by 1.30 p.m., making it close to our camp of 13th August. Had
the distance been ten miles further, probably not more than three or four
of the horses would have ever reached it, so much were they reduced in
strength. On reaching the pool, several of the horses, notwithstanding
our efforts to prevent them, rushed headlong into the water with their
packs on, and drank so much of it that it was with great difficulty we
could drag them out again. In the course of the afternoon Messrs. Brown
and Harding came in with the horse Bob, but had not been able to get the
mare on more than two or three miles; being anxious, however, not to lose
her, I sent McCourt and James with two of the strongest horses, carrying
four gallons of water for her, after which they succeeded in getting her
into camp by midnight. Camp 97.
6th October (Sunday).
Moved a short distance down the river to camp 57 for better feed.
CROSS DRY COUNTRY TO SHERLOCK RIVER.
As the distance from the Yule to the last known permanent water on the
eastern branch of the Sherlock is over twenty-five miles, and our means
of carrying water very limited since abandoning our largest pair of kegs
in the retreat on the 8th September, I to-day set to work and soldered up
a number of preserved-meat tins that had been carefully opened and kept
for this purpose, putting a small spout to each; eight of these (4-pound
tins) we found to contain something over four gallons, which, added to
our water belts and the two remaining kegs, would provide for the
conveyance of twelve gallons of water, which I hoped would prove
sufficient to enable us to pass the dry tract of country in safety, as it
would allow half a gallon to each horse and an ample supply for the party
for two days. I also succeeded in repairing the aneroid barometer, which
had been crushed nearly flat by the fall of a horse; fortunately,
however, without injury to the vacuum vase.
Having rearranged the loads and lightened them by leaving hid amongst the
rocks a pack-saddle and sixty pounds weight of horse-shoes and nails, at
3.45 p.m. we commenced a retreat on our outward tracks of the 13th
August, travelling to 7.15 p.m., when we encamped on a patch of tolerably
good grass in the plain at the foot of a volcanic range, without any
signs of water near us. Camp 98.
We were up before daylight, and by 6 a.m. had our breakfast, and were
again on our march, visiting a waterhole seen on our outward route, but
now found to be quite dry. We pushed on at the best speed of our horses,
which was now not much over two miles an hour, to 10.0, when the heat of
the day began to tell on the jaded animals; we therefore halted for an
hour to give the horses half a gallon of water each, after which they
travelled on much more briskly, so that by a little past noon we
succeeded in reaching the large pool in the eastern Sherlock, near Camp
55; some of the horses were, however, so much exhausted that we had some
difficulty in getting them to move for the last mile, although entirely
relieved of their loads. Camp 55a.
Although the horses were by no means in a fit state to continue the
march, yet grass was so scarce, on account of the native fires having
here swept it off, that we found it best to push on for the springs at
Following down the banks of the stream, we found several pools not yet
dried up, which proved a great help to our horses; before noon, however,
the mare Lucy again gave in, and was finally abandoned, as there was but
little chance of her ever reaching the bay; it is possible she may live
to be picked up by some future travellers, although too old to last many
years. By 1.0 p.m. we reached the springs at Camp 52, and found an ample
supply of water, but the grass was here also much parched up; we,
however, remained for the rest of the day.
This morning our route was resumed down the eastern Sherlock, tracing a
portion that had not been before examined, and which was now found to be
well supplied with water and grass; cockatoos and pigeons being seen in
large numbers feeding on the banks. As we approached the junction of the
two branches of the river we met a party of ten or twelve natives, who
came boldly up to us, which was the only time we had known them to do so
since quitting Nickol Bay. Hoping to gain some useful information from
them, they were allowed to follow us to our old camp of 2nd August, where
there are the large fish-pools, of which they gave us the native names.
We were not quite so successful in procuring game here as on the former
visit, although as much fish was caught as could be consumed while it was
good. The natives kept rather aloof while we were shooting on the river,
but after dusk eight or ten came to the camp, unarmed, evidently on a
thieving excursion, and although narrowly watched, managed to carry off a
portion of Mr. Hall's kit, which, however, he recovered next morning, on
paying them an early visit, finding the articles buried under some rushes
in their camp.
THEY SET THE GRASS ON FIRE.
We were now getting so near our destination that, although provisions
were getting low, we could afford to give the party a whole day's rest,
while I was enabled roughly to plot out some more of my work and write up
the journal, which, from having my time constantly taken up with more
pressing duties, had fallen sadly into arrears. The natives again came to
see what they could steal, but this time were made to sit outside a line
drawn on the sand, some twenty paces from the camp--an arrangement they
appeared highly to disapprove of, giving expression to their
dissatisfaction in a manner anything but polite; finding, however, that
we were inattentive to their impertinence so long as they confined it to
harmless display, they watched their opportunity, and suddenly set fire
to the grass in several places at once around the camp, and ran off as
hard as they could. As this was an open act of hostility that it was
necessary they should be chastised for, although I did not wish seriously
to hurt them, they were allowed to run to a suitable distance, when a
charge of small shot was fired after them, a few of which taking effect
in the rear of the principal offender, induced him, on meeting some of
the party out shooting, to make an apology, and try to lay the blame of
the theft of the previous day on the dogs.
13th October (Sunday).
As the distances between the several watering places on the homeward
route were too much to perform without intermediate halts, and the heat
of the noon-day sun rather oppressive, it was found better to start from
the pools late in the day, so as to make the halts without water during
the cool of the night, travelling only very late in the evening and early
in the morning. We accordingly did not start this afternoon until 4 p.m.,
and travelled on to 8.45, encamping in an open grassy plain under Black
Hill--a volcanic eminence, the position of which is shown on the
Admiralty charts. Camp 99.
By 6 a.m. we were again on the move, and in an hour gained the banks of
the George, which takes its rise in the volcanic hills to the southward.
In its channel was an abundant supply of water, with many fine healthy
trees overshadowing the pools. By 9.0 we arrived at our old camp (50),
where we rested to 4.15 p.m., when we resumed and travelled on till
nearly 8.0, encamping on the open grassy plains near the Harding River.
REACH THE HARDING RIVER. FLYING FOXES.
An early start enabled us to accomplish the remaining six miles to the
Harding by 8.30, where we halted for the remainder of the day, as it was
not unlikely that we might have to travel the remaining thirty miles into
the bay without finding any more water. As we had now only four days'
rations left, and it was uncertain, in the present low condition of our
horses, how long it might take us to reach the ship, the sportsmen of the
party made the best use of the halt to procure game, while I proceeded to
convert some more of the empty meat-tins into water-canisters, increasing
our means for the transport of water to eighteen gallons, with which we
had a fair prospect of getting in all the horses, even though no more
should be found on the route. Our camp was enlivened this evening by the
continued screeching of a number of large bats, which kept up a vigorous
fight in the trees overhead the greater part of the night,
notwithstanding our shooting ten or twelve of them. They were very fat,
but emitted such an intolerable odour that it would require even an
explorer to be hard pressed before he could make a supper of them, either
roasted or boiled.
This morning set in intensely hot, by noon the thermometer standing at
107 degrees in the shade, and at 3 p.m., when placed on a sandbank in the
sun, rose to 178 of Fahrenheit; on the setting in of the westerly breeze
it, however, fell at once to 96 degrees, and by 4.30 p.m. we were enabled
to resume our route without feeling in any way inconvenienced by the
temperature. We did not now attempt to pass through the rocky ranges so
far to the eastward as on our outward route, but kept more to the
westward along the open grassy valley, until opposite the narrowest part
of the range, when, turning sharp to the north, we very quickly passed
over the rocky portion of the hills, only encountering a few miles of
extra rampant triodia, which was anything but pleasant to walk through,
especially leading the party after dark. Following down a small
watercourse for several miles, it at length joined the Nickol River, in
which we shortly after found a small quantity of water in the bottom of
what had been a pool, but which towards the close of the dry season
sometimes goes dry; here we halted for a few hours to rest. Camp 101.
LAST DAY'S JOURNEY.
Without waiting for daylight, by 2.10 a.m. we were again on the move, as
there was now a fair chance of getting all the remaining horses into the
bay, if we did but avoid travelling during the heat of the day. In an
hour the hills were cleared, and it was now all open plain as far as the
marsh at the head of Nickol Bay. By the time the morning broke we were in
full view of the bay and several islands of the Archipelago, the long
black hull of our ocean-home riding at anchor on the now placid waters
forming by no means the least pleasing feature of the scene to those who
had not seen a vestige of civilisation for many months. After halting for
nearly two hours for breakfast, and to distribute the water amongst the
horses, we again moved rapidly on, crossing the marsh with some
difficulty, owing to the spring-tide having been recently over it, and at
1 p.m. arrived on our old ground at Hearson Cove, where we found a boat
and party from the ship waiting for us, James having been despatched by a
shorter route to signalize our return. Everything had gone on
satisfactorily during our absence. The vessel's water-tanks had been kept
filled up, ensuring a supply for our horses on the homeward voyage, as it
would be utterly impossible at this season of the year, with the animals
in such low condition, to attempt the overland route to Champion Bay.
Amongst other discoveries during our absence was a bed of pearl-oysters
at the head of the bay, from which the crew of the Dolphin had procured
several tons of very fine mother-of-pearl, besides a small number of
pearls varying in size from one to four carats.
The party was fully occupied in clearing out the well and packing up
saddles and outfit for shipment. It was also found that deepening the
well had caused the water to become brackish, so much so that we had to
bring water by boat from the spring at which the ship had been filled up;
the horses however still managed to drink the well-water, although it
produced great thirst. I have no doubt but that, had we had time to sink
a fresh well closer to the foot of the hills, we should have obtained
fresh water, as several ravines terminate there in a beautiful grassy
flat, where a large proportion of the rainwater brought down from the
hills sinks into the soil, from whence it gradually drains down and
supplies the wells in the salt strata. I was disappointed to find that
the cotton plants, that had thriven so well on first being sown, had been
burnt in consequence of some of the sailors having thoughtlessly set fire
to the adjoining grass; had they not been killed, by this time they would
probably have been in flower, as their growth was very rapid.
EASTERN PART OF NICKOL BAY.
As it was necessary to give the horses a few days' rest previous to
swimming them off to the ship, I started this morning in the life-boat,
accompanied by Captain Dixon and Messrs. Brown, Harding, and Walcott, to
examine the eastern shores of the bay, for the purpose of ascertaining
whether a more suitable spot for a landing place and site for a future
town could be found in that quarter. Leaving the Dolphin at 5.30 a.m., we
ran to the eastward with a light south wind, passing, at six miles, two
small islands in the mouth of the small bay into which the Nickol River
discharges itself. These islands had been visited already by Mr. Walcott,
and I gave them the name of Pemberton and Walcott Islands. Continuing to
run along the shore towards Cape Lambert, the soundings gave from two to
three fathoms, with a good bottom of mud and sand, but the landing was
generally indifferent and rocky until we came to within about nine miles
of the cape, when a deep opening was passed, affording good shelter and
landing for small craft. Two miles further we landed in a small rocky
cove for breakfast, which gave me an opportunity of climbing a hill and
examining the surrounding country, which proved very dry and rocky. A
little further we passed a bold headland, against the extremity of which
rested a singular flying buttress, forming half an arch of fifty or sixty
feet span, and from thirty to forty feet in height. Turning this
headland, another opening was observed, which we entered with the tide,
and soon found that it communicated with the first one, forming an island
of some extent and elevation, to which was given the name of Dixon
Island. We continued to beat down the channel, which had an average width
of over half a mile, until late in the evening, when we came to anchor in
eleven feet of water.
At daylight we found ourselves high and dry, only a narrow channel a few
yards wide being left. Having walked over the mud to Dixon Island to
breakfast, the vicinity was examined for water, but without success. At 6
a.m. the tide came in again so rapidly that it was not without some
little difficulty that we gained our boat, when the wind set in so
strongly from the south-west that, after several hours' almost
ineffectual attempts to work to windward, we again landed not two miles
from our last night's anchorage, the character of the country being
equally unfavourable for landing, as it was cut up by deep mangrove
creeks running far up the valleys into the steep rocky hills, forming a
difficult and unpromising country. The breeze having moderated and
shifted a point more to the westward, we again attempted to beat out into
the bay, but by 9 p.m. had not made more than three miles, when we landed
for the night, leaving two of the party in charge of the boat to keep her
off the rocks when the tide fell.
The wind and tide being now in our favour, by 3.30 a.m. we took to our
boat, and arrived on board the Dolphin by 10, when she was very soon got
underweigh for the purpose of taking her closer in to ship the horses;
light and variable winds, however, prevented our working more than a mile
nearer the landing cove by sundown, when we dropped anchor for the night.
With a light west wind the Dolphin was worked into eleven feet water, one
and a quarter miles off the point near the cove; the vessel drawing over
ten feet, brought the mud up to the surface in our wake. Eight horses
were soon swam off without much difficulty, as we all had now some little
experience in this sort of work.
EMBARK FOR FREMANTLE.
By 2 p.m. the remaining six horses and equipment of the Expedition were
all safely shipped, and a conspicuous intimation of our sojourn on the
coast having been painted in large white letters on a pile of granite
rocks near the south corner of the cove, we took our final departure,
getting the Dolphin underweigh by 4, with a light westerly wind, which
carried us through the passage between Hauy and Delambre Islands by 7,
when we hauled up and stood to north-north-west.
The wind still holding to the west, we made but little progress, the
Dolphin being only a good sailer in smooth water, or running before the
Latitude 19 degrees 12 minutes south at noon.
By noon observations we were only in latitude 18 degrees 42 minutes;
longitude 113 degrees 32 minutes.
The wind veering slightly to the south, we were able to make by noon to
latitude 18 degrees 46 minutes 30 seconds; longitude 111 degrees 47
minutes 30 seconds.
From this time to the 3rd November the winds continued to blow almost
uninterruptedly from the south and eastward, which carried us as far west
as longitude 101 degrees east, and latitude 31 degrees south, where we
met with westerly winds, which enabled us to run up to within sight of
Cape Naturaliste by the 8th.
By 10 a.m. we were off Rottnest Island, when the pilot came on board and
took us to the anchorage in Gage's Roads by noon. Having given
instructions to Mr. Turner for the landing of the horses, etc., I landed
with Messrs. Brown, Harding, and Hall, all of whom were, at their desire,
at once released from the duties of the Expedition. Proceeded by steamer
Had an interview with His Excellency the Governor, and reported the safe
return of the party and general results of the Expedition.
Commander North-West Australian Expedition.
Perth, 6th February, 1862.
Adopting the course which I have found most convenient on similar
occasions, I now proceed to offer a few remarks on the general features,
productions, and natural capabilities, etc., of the country traversed by
the Expedition, which could not, without disadvantage, have been
introduced into the foregoing narrative. These remarks have already
appeared at the conclusion of my report published on the 18th November,
1861, but are equally applicable to the present publication.
Commencing with its geographical and geological peculiarities, that
portion of the country that came under our observation consists of a
succession of terraces, rising inland for nearly 200 miles, more or less
broken up by volcanic hills towards the coast. The first belt averages
from ten to forty miles in width from the sea, and is a nearly level
plain, slightly ascending to the southward, with an elevation of from 40
to 100 feet, the soil being generally either light loam or strong clays,
according as it is the result of the disintegration of the granite rocks
that occasionally protrude above its surface, or of volcanic rocks of
black scoria that frequently interrupt the general level; hills of this
nature also constitute the greater portion of the more elevated islands
off the coast, Cape Lambert, and the promontory that shelters the western
side of Nickol Bay. The generality of these rocks do not, however, yield
so rich a soil as might be expected from their origin. This is owing to
the absence of actual lava, the eruptive heat having nearly been
sufficient to convert the superincumbent primary and tertiary rocks into
a vitreous scoria, having a specific gravity of 3.2, and is highly
indestructible in its texture.
Proceeding inland for the next fifty or sixty miles is a granite country
that has been originally capped with horizontal sandstones, and has an
elevation of about 1000 feet. This range terminates to the southward in
level plains of good soil, the produce of the next series of more
elevated country, while towards the northern edges the granite and
sandstones have undergone great changes through the action of numerous
trap dykes, that have greatly disturbed its surface, producing
metamorphic rocks, some resembling jasper, and others highly cellular and
In about latitude 22 degrees, on the meridian of Nickol Bay, we came upon
another and more elevated range trending away to the south-east, having
an altitude of 2500 feet above the sea. This, unlike the last section,
has a southern escarpment of 500 or 600 feet, and consists of horizontal
sandstones and conglomerates, which have comparatively undergone little
change, and has an average breadth of eight or ten miles, the southern
flank being bordered by fertile valleys of strong loamy clays, merging
gradually to the southward into stony ridges and hills, some having an
elevation of nearly 4000 feet, the culminating point being attained at
Mount Bruce, in latitude 22 degrees 30 minutes.
From this point the country gradually falls to the Ashburton, the bed of
which river, in the same meridian as the bay, is about 1600 feet above
the sea, and the adjoining ranges not above 2200 feet, or about the same
as the country on the Gascoyne, Lyons, and Upper Murchison.
Of minerals I was unable to discover any traces, except iron. Quartz
reefs occasionally traversed the country in a north-north-east and
south-south-west direction, or nearly the same as the mineral lodes at
Champion Bay; but I could not find any instance in which this rock
offered much to indicate the probable existence of gold, it being far
surpassed in this respect by the rocks on the Upper Murchison. Coal does
not appear likely to be found within the limits of the country passed
over, unless towards the easternmost point attained by the Expedition.
With respect to the harbours on the coast, I can only speak of Nickol Bay
and the anchorage under Rosemary and the adjacent islands. The former I
consider only second to King George's Sound, as it can be entered in all
weathers, either from the north or north-east, and there is reason to
believe that a safe passage exists between Legendre and Dolphin Islands,
leading into Mermaid Straits, where there appears to be an excellent
harbour at all seasons of the year.
The soundings towards the eastern and western shores of Nickol Bay, taken
at low water, show sufficient depth for vessels of considerable tonnage
to lie within a cable's length of the shore, the bottom being fine sand
and soft mud. Towards the head of the bay the water is much shallower,
not carrying more than two fathoms two miles from the shore. No reefs are
known to exist in this bay, except quite close into land.
In making the running survey of the western promontory I found that all
to the north of Sloping Head was an island, having a boat channel between
from half a mile to a mile wide. To the outer portion I therefore gave
the name of Dolphin Island.
The tides are tolerably regular, and average sixteen feet, but at the
spring they rise twenty-one feet, on which occasions the whole of the
western promontory, including the high lands for several miles to the
westward, are entirely cut off by the sea, the other opening being under
Enderby Island--a circumstance that greatly detracts from the value of
these otherwise fine harbours, as it would require two miles of causeway
to connect the best landing place, where water is to be found, with the
The average declination of the needle throughout this district I found to
be 1 degree east, the result of many amplitudes and azimuths; there is,
however, in the vicinity of many of the volcanic hills great local
Of the climate I can only say that during the five months we remained on
the coast we never experienced the same inconvenience from it that we
frequently have done within the limits of the settled districts of the
colony; the weather was, however, principally fine, and the sky clear
during our stay, only two showers having occurred--one at the latter end
of May and the other in June. The meteorological register kept at Nickol
Bay shows the following results, from observations taken at all hours of
the day and night:--
COLUMN 1: MONTH IN WHICH THERMOMETER READING WAS RECORDED.
COLUMN 2: MAXIMUM.
COLUMN 3: MINIMUM.
May : 80 : 65.
June : 76 : 63.
July : 78 : 56.
August : 80 : 54.
September : 83 : 65.
October : 92 : 70.
Under the peculiar circumstance of the thermometer being placed on a
sandbank in the sun during the hot days in October, it rose to 178
degrees of Fahrenheit, whilst the lowest it ever fell to was up in the
hills, in July, when it was 2 degrees below freezing just before sunrise.
The winds continued to blow almost uninterruptedly from the east and
south-east during the first four months, veering to the south-south-east
and south and occasionally to the north-east. Latterly the wind was
alternately south-east in the morning, and north-west or westerly in the
afternoon; the sky becoming frequently overcast, and every appearance of
the near approach of the rainy season, which it has been observed by
navigators and explorers to do about the beginning of November, and
continue to March.
Amongst the natural productions I would first briefly refer to the beds
of the pearl oysters, as they are likely to become of immediate
commercial importance, considerable numbers having been gathered by the
crew of the Dolphin at their leisure time, the aggregate value of which,
I am told, is between 500 and 600 pounds; besides pearls, one of which
has been valued by competent persons at 25 pounds. The limits of the bed
are as yet undefined, but there is good reason to believe, from the
position of it, that with proper apparatus ships could soon be loaded
Sandalwood was found in small quantities, very highly scented, but too
widely scattered to become of much importance as an article of export.
Of indigenous fruits, etc., we observed the adansonia, or gouty-stemmed
tree of Sir G. Grey (nearly allied to the baobab or monkey bread-fruit of
Southern Africa), sweet and water melons similar to those formerly seen
by me on the Lyons River, but of much larger size; a small gourd; a wild
fig, well-tasted; and a sweet plum, very palatable, were found in
I have already spoken of the palms which grow on the bank of the
Fortescue; they are very handsome and grow to the height of forty feet,
but not having brought in any specimens, they have not yet been
identified as to their variety.
Tobacco does not grow so luxuriantly here as on the Lyons River, but the
natives collect it, and after preparation, chew it; but we did not on any
occasion observe them to smoke.
Many beautiful flowers were also collected, which will be forwarded to
some of the most eminent botanists, to be described and classified.
It now only remains for me to give an opinion on the capabilities of the
country for colonisation. It would be almost impossible to particularise
the positions or define the limits of country adapted for grazing
purposes beyond the reference already made to them. The total amount of
land available for this purpose within the limit of our route I should
estimate at not less than two or three millions of acres, and of this I
may safely say 200,000 are suitable for agricultural purposes, the
greater portion of which lies on the two flanks of the Hamersley Range,
on the banks of the DeGrey and its tributaries, and on the Lower
Of the fitness of this district for the growth of wool, which, on account
of its being an intertropical country, it is generally supposed it would
be unsuitable, I would remark that its elevation above the sea appears
likely to obviate the objection, and render it probable that sheep may
not degenerate in the same way they are found to do in other tropical
countries; at any rate, flocks are now being pushed over on to the same
latitude in Queensland, and we do not hear of the wool-grower complaining
that such is the case there.
As to its fitness for the growth of cereals, it is quite possible that
wheat and barley may not come to the same degree of perfection they do in
the more temperate latitudes of Australia, but there is no reason to
doubt its capability of growing sufficient grain for the support of a
What it appears more highly qualified for than anything else is the
growth of cotton--a question which at the present juncture cannot be lost
sight of. From my personal observation of the cultivation of this plant
in Egypt, and the attention I have recently paid to this subject while in
Europe, I feel confident that a very considerable portion of the arable
lands on the DeGrey and Sherlock are precisely the soils adapted for the
production of this valuable commodity. As, however, I purpose to make
this the subject of a more lengthy paper at a future period, I will not
now venture to enlarge upon it.
As the number and disposition of the aborigines is likely to have some
effect on the first settlement of a district, I would give it as my
opinion that these people will not prove particularly troublesome to the
settlers, if properly and fairly treated. They are not numerous, and
appear very willing to take employ under Europeans, and will no doubt
soon be made as useful as in the other districts. In stature they rather
exceed the usual standard, some of them measuring two or three inches
over six feet.
In bringing my report to a close, I would wish to observe, that although
the results of the Expedition have fallen short of my sanguine hopes with
regard to Geographical discovery, and will, I am afraid, in some degree
disappoint the anticipations of the eminent Geographers who have lent
their valuable aid in promoting the undertaking, yet I cannot but hope
that the large amount of additional fertile country it has brought to our
knowledge will compensate in some degree for the deficiency. I am,
however, unable to refrain from again expressing my opinion, that had not
so many concurrent circumstances combined to retard the departure of the
Expedition until so late in the season, and it had arrived on the coast
at the time originally recommended by the Geographical Society, it would,
in all probability, have resulted in the full accomplishment of the
object they had in view.
It now devolves upon me to perform the pleasing duty of recording my
entire satisfaction with the manner in which the whole of the members of
the Expedition put forward their best energies in the performance of
their respective functions. To Mr. Turner I am indebted for the care
bestowed on the management of the store department, which came under his
immediate charge. To Messrs. Brockman and Hall, J. McCourt, and James,
are due my acknowledgments for the cheerful alacrity with which they
performed the duties allotted to them.
Of Messrs. Maitland, Brown and J. Harding I cannot speak too highly.
Accompanying me on all the extra services upon which I was engaged, they
had to endure privations of no ordinary description, which they met with
a spirit of steady fortitude deserving of the highest praise. Of the
valuable services rendered to the Expedition and to science by Mr. P.
Walcott I have already had occasion to refer, and I sincerely hope that
his talents and zeal in the pursuits of Botany and Natural History may
meet a more substantial reward than the thanks which are justly due to
him and those gentlemen who have given their time and talents
gratuitously in the service of their fellow-colonists.
To Captain Dixon and the officers and crew of the Dolphin every praise is
due for the assistance which on all occasions they promptly afforded in
aiding the Expedition, and for which I gladly avail myself of the present
opportunity to return them my best thanks.
In conclusion, permit me to tender Your Excellency my acknowledgments for
the readiness with which you have acceded to my various suggestions in
carrying out the arrangements of the Expedition since the passing of the
vote of money in aid by the local legislature.
VOCABULARY OF THE ABORIGINAL LANGUAGE AT NICKOL BAY.
BY MR. P. WALCOTT.
COLUMN 1: ENGLISH.
COLUMN 2: ABORIGINAL.
Emu : Galiberie.
Kangaroo : Peckoora.
Kangaroo (Rock) : Noordee.
Barbed spear : Bilara.
Common spear : Wera Wera.
Foot : Jinna.
Sleep : Gnaree.
Water : Baba.
Sit down : Barnee Boongoo.
Come here : Gokie.
Eastern tribes : Kakardi.
Hair of head : Knuggnura.
Twine : Bingooro.
Nose : Moola.
Tongue : Talee.
Cockle (unio) : Yoondo.
Ears : Kulka.
Scars on the arms, etc. : Waarbungabo.
Red ochre or wilgee : Marder.
Sand : Narnoo.
Bean (scarlet runner) : Koordala.
Toe nail : Mindee.
Oyster (rock) : Jibboor.
Oyster (pearl) : Weerdee.
Grass : Warabo.
Fishing net : Takaroo.
Fetch or bring : Takora.
Acacia : Baragoon.
Breadfruit tree : Tangoola.
Gourd or calabash : Guabooraam.
Firewood : Tamara.
Granite rock : Caragnoo.
Come : Gokee.
Go : Wakkie.
Cowrie or Cypraea : Weelungooroo.
Sun : Yanda.
Biscuit : Mardomurrie.
Sea shag : Toorna.
Native dog : Wanga.
Vomit : Kalkalubata.
Knife : Chumberrie.
Horse : Gnoormiee.
Sponge : Banga.
Axe : Carama.
Black wattle : Eringgna.
Snake : Walee.
Tobacco : Gaanaree.
Convolvulus : Yaabin.
Scarlet trefoil : Beeban.
Hungry : Kamoongoo.
Knee : Manboor.
Shin : Kojaee.
Thigh : Woolagallu.
Eyelash : Gneearee.
Forehead : Wara.
Lip : Walee.
Knuckles : Munjee.
Elbow : Yarna Mangoola.
Big toe : Guangnaree.
Seaweed : Binda.
Smoke : Choochoo.
Ribs : Boonggna.
Fly : Boroo.
Clouds : Yoonggnoo.
Rain : Bandaroo.
Scoop shell : Bera.
Iron : Tanga Tanga.
Boat : Kajuree.
Sneeze : Kanjeerneo.
Sugar : Kungknara.
NORTH AUSTRALIAN EXPEDITION.
1855 TO 1856.
ORIGIN OF THE EXPEDITION.
The circumstances which led to the organisation of the Expedition for
exploring Northern Australia, and the special objects of the Imperial
Government in undertaking it, are best detailed in the following Despatch
from His Grace the Duke of Newcastle, Secretary of State for the
Colonies, to Captain Fitzgerald, Governor of Western Australia:--
The Honourable the Secretary of State for the Colonies, to the Governor
of Western Australia.
31st August, 1854.
You will probably have been rendered aware by the reports of the
Parliamentary Debates of last session, and from other sources, that Her
Majesty's Government have been long considering the project of
despatching an exploring expedition to lay open, if favoured with
success, more of the interior of the great Australian Continent than the
many energetic but partial attempts hitherto made have succeeded in
This scheme originated with the Council of the Royal Geographical
Society, who corresponded with the Colonial Department on the subject of
it during last winter. But it was ultimately considered by Her Majesty's
Government that the importance of the subject rendered it more advisable
that the expedition should be undertaken under their own
superintendence, and as a matter of public concern; and Parliament has
now placed at their disposal a sum of 5000 pounds for the purpose, and
will undoubtedly give further assistance should it be requisite.
Great difficulties have, however, presented themselves as to the
necessary arrangements. The hostilities in which the country is involved
have necessarily directed the time and thoughts, not of Her Majesty's
Government only, but also of many of those whose professional knowledge
and experience might have been of the greatest assistance, in another
direction. Of the distinguished Australian explorers now in this country
some are incapacitated by reason of health, and others by the
circumstance of their services being required in other directions, from
taking the command.
It would, however, be a matter of regret if, now that the money has been
voted and the preparations partially made, the Expedition was not able to
start at the best period for commencing operations next year, which on
the northern coast of Australia seems generally thought to be from
February to April.
I enclose copies of certain portions of the correspondence which took
place early in the present year between the Colonial Department and
Captain Stokes and Mr. Sturt, who were consulted in order to obtain the
benefit of their advice, and the former of whom I had at one time the
hope to secure for the command of the Expedition.
You will collect from these documents that the general view of those who
have considered the subject appears to be that Moreton Bay would be a
convenient rendezvous for the land portion of the Expedition; that they
might be conveyed by sea to the mouth of the Victoria River, on the
north-west coast; that it would be advantageous, if possible, that they
should act in concert with a Government vessel, which might be employed
in surveying operations in the Gulf of Carpentaria and neighbourhood,
while the land explorers were engaged in the interior.
SELECTION OF COMMANDER.
Her Majesty's Government are, however, fully aware that such projects,
especially where they involve so much combination, can only be submitted
generally to the leader of such an expedition, to whom great latitude
must be left as to the mode of carrying his instructions into execution.
They have now come to the determination of offering the command of the
land expedition to Mr. A.C. Gregory, Assistant Surveyor, in Western
Australia. They have been induced to take this course both by the very
high testimonials which have been given to the abilities and fitness of
this gentleman for the purpose by such authorities as they have been able
to consult in England, and also by your own reports concerning him,
particularly that contained in your despatch of the 6th January, 1852.
Should Mr. Gregory accept the charge, which I trust, notwithstanding its
arduous and responsible nature, you will find him ready to do, it is the
wish of Her Majesty's Government that without waiting for further
instructions he should proceed immediately to Sydney, where he will find
such instructions awaiting him, and where his party will be organised.
You are authorised to supply Mr. Gregory with the necessary funds for
this purpose, which will be repaid to the Local Government, from the
If you are aware of any persons in your Government well qualified and
willing to serve under Mr. Gregory in subordinate capacities, or if he
has himself any assistants whom he would be anxious to engage, you are at
liberty to place them at his disposal; but it must be understood that
this permission does not apply to persons who are to take charge of
scientific departments of the Expedition, as there are already gentlemen
of this class with whom her Majesty's Government have been in
correspondence; any such person who may wish to join the Expedition can
do so only as a volunteer.
Copy of this despatch has been transmitted by the same mail to Sir
Charles Fitzroy, and likewise to the other Australian Governors. Sir
Charles Fitzroy will therefore be fully prepared to receive Mr. Gregory,
and to render him all assistance in his power; and I have every reason to
hope for the zealous co-operation of the several local Legislatures and
Governments in a scheme intended for the development of the vast and
unknown resources of their common Continent.
You will, on receiving this despatch, immediately communicate with Mr.
Gregory, and if he should accept the command of the Expedition, inform
both the Secretary of State for the Colonies and Sir Charles Fitzroy, and
the other Australian Governments, immediately of his having done so, and
of his intended movements.
I have, etc.,
JOURNAL OF THE NORTH AUSTRALIAN EXPLORING EXPEDITION, BY A.C. GREGORY.
The preliminary arrangements for the North Australian Exploring
Expedition being complete, the stores, equipment, and a portion of the
party were embarked at Sydney in the barque Monarch and schooner Tom
Tough, and sailed for Moreton Bay on the 18th July, 1855, and on the 22nd
anchored at the bar of the Brisbane River. The next day the Monarch
attempted to enter the river, but being taken by the Government Pilot
half a mile to the east of the channel over the bar, grounded, and was
not got off till the 26th, when she entered the river. The steamer
Ballarat was engaged to tow the Monarch up to the town of Brisbane; but
having struck on a rock near Ipswich, sank, and the steamer Hawk was
engaged to tow up the river. The Hawk, however, proved to be of
insufficient power, and it was then decided to embark the horses and
sheep, which had been collected by Mr. H.C. Gregory, at Eagle Farm.
HORSES EMBARKED AT MORETON BAY.
The horses having been got on board the Monarch on the 31st July, and the
sheep the next day, the steamer Bremer was employed to tow her over the
Bar. It was evident, however, that the Bremer did not intend to do this,
for she slacked the tow-line, and then steamed ahead full speed and
snapped the hawser, and went off without any explanation.
Having removed a quantity of stores from the Monarch to the Tom Tough, so
as to reduce the draft of the former, on the 8th August warped over the
bar and went over to Moreton Island, where about three tons of water were
taken in from the fresh-water creeks near the Pilot Station.
On the 12 August weighed and left Moreton Bay; and this being the last
point of communication with the civilised world, the Expedition might be
considered to commence on this date.
The party consisted of eighteen persons, as follows: commander A.C.
Gregory; assistant commander, H.C. Gregory; geologist, J.S. Wilson;
artist and storekeeper, J. Baines; surgeon and naturalist, J.R. Elsey;
botanist, F. Mueller; collector and preserver, J. Flood; overseer, G.
Phibbs; stockmen, etc., C. Humphries, R. Bowman, C. Dean, J. Melville, W.
Dawson, W. Shewell, W. Selby, S. Macdonald, H. Richards, J. Fahey. The
livestock comprised fifty horses and 200 sheep.
The provisions consisted of flour, salt pork, preserved beef, rice, peas,
preserved potatoes, sago, sugar, tea, coffee, vinegar, limejuice, etc.,
calculated to supply the party on full rations for eighteen months.
On 13th August passed Breaksea Spit, and Port Curtis next morning, the
weather being fine with south-east winds; reached Port Albany on 26th.
Landed on Albany Island, which is principally of sandstone formation
rising into hills of moderate elevation, the soil generally poor and
sandy covered with bush and small trees, with a few open grassy patches.
Fresh water was found in a small cove 100 yards north from the
landing-place on the sandy beach; the supply was so small as to be of
little use, and the position inconvenient of access.
The mainland appeared to be covered with much dense bush, and the rocky
sandstone hills did not indicate that the country was of any great value
either for agricultural or pastoral purposes.
Port Albany is a narrow, but deep channel between Albany Island and the
mainland of Cape York. It is easy of ingress and egress; but is neither
safe or convenient, owing to the great rapidity of the current which sets
through with the tide.
Some canoes with natives came to the vessels. They evidently have
frequent communication with vessels passing through the Straits, and are
well acquainted with the use and name of tobacco, which they smoke in
large bamboo pipes. Their arms consisted of spears, bows, and arrows. The
canoes, formed of a single tree, rudely hollowed out, and fitted with
Left Port Albany, and, passing through Endeavour Strait, were favoured
with a light easterly wind as far as Port Essington, which was sighted on
September 1st, and after passing through Dundas Strait anchored for the
The following morning passed Vernon Island with a light breeze. At 9.50
p.m. the Monarch grounded on a rocky reef off the entrance of Port
Patterson, the master of the vessel not having made due allowance for the
indraught of the tide. Unfortunately this occurred at the top of the
spring tide, and the result was that, though every exertion was made to
warp the vessel off, the tide did not rise sufficiently to float her
until the 10th September, when, by cutting off the false keel and
levelling the surface of the rock, we succeeded in hauling her off, with
comparatively little damage, as the weather continued calm during the
whole of this anxious period.
As the vessel lay on her side at low tide, the position of the horses was
extremely inconvenient, and they suffered a greater amount of injury
during these eight days than on the whole of the preceding voyage, and it
is to this that the subsequent loss of so large a number of the horses is
to be attributed; for though only two died on board the vessel, the
others became so excessively weak that some had not the strength to go
through the fatigue of landing and the journey from Point Pearce to the
Victoria River, and at the same time the supply of forage was so reduced
that it became necessary to land the horses immediately on reaching Point
Pearce, and before the place could be examined for the best landing.
LAND AT THE ENTRANCE OF VICTORIA RIVER.
After getting off the reef, light winds and calms delayed the voyage to
the Victoria River; but as the Tom Tough worked along the coast better
than the Monarch, I went on with the schooner to examine the entrance of
the river. Ascending the Victoria to Blunder Bay, found that the locality
was not suited for landing horses, and therefore returned to Treachery
Bay, near which Mr. H.C. Gregory had discovered abundance of grass and
water under Providence Hill of Captain Stokes; commenced landing the
horses on the 18th; but, in consequence of the strong tides and extensive
mangrove flats, great difficulties were encountered, the horses having to
swim more than two miles from the vessel to the shore, and were so
exhausted that three were drowned, one lost in the mud and mangroves, and
one went mad and rushed into the bush and was lost. Having transferred
the stores to the Tom Tough, on the 24th the Monarch sailed for
Singapore. Mr. Wilson was instructed to proceed in the schooner up the
Victoria River, and to establish a camp at the highest convenient
position on the bank of the river, while I proceeded overland with Mr. H.
Gregory, Dr. Mueller, and seven of the men, hoping, by easy journeys of
eight to ten miles per day, to give the horses time to partially recover
the effects of the voyage.
MACADAM RANGE. RUNNING STREAM OF FRESH WATER.
1st October, 1855.
Accompanied by Mr. H. Gregory, I left the camp to search for a
practicable route by which we could cross the MacAdam range; but, after
proceeding about a mile, shot an emu, with which we returned to camp, and
again started at 7.10 a.m., pursuing a south-east course, crossed a stony
ridge, and at 8.0 a.m. came on a creek about twenty yards wide, with good
pools of water and a grassy margin, but the country generally barren and
stony. After several ineffectual attempts, we ascended the hills to the
south-east of the creek, and traversed a very broken country of sandstone
formation till 11.0 a.m., when we reached the head of a creek trending to
the southward; this was followed down till 1.0 p.m. when we halted an
hour, and again proceeded till 4.30 p.m., the country being very poor and
rising into rocky hills on both banks of the creek; we then entered a
wide grassy flat destitute of trees, extending six miles north to south,
and fifteen miles east to west; on the south side there appeared to be a
creek or river, which we supposed to be the Fitzmaurice River. This plain
was bounded on all sides by steep rocky hills of sandstone of barren
aspect. Returned up the creek till 6.0 p.m. and halted for the night. The
day was hot and sultry, though a heavy thundershower somewhat cooled the
air. The MacAdam Range is of sandstone, the strata of which dip about 30
degrees to the south, in which direction, as we advanced, the rock was
more slaty, and broke into rhomboidal fragments. Water is abundant in the
creeks, but the grass is scanty, and the rough surface of the sandstone
and rocky ravines renders the country difficult to traverse. Timber is
scarce, chiefly small-sized eucalypti; the cotton-tree was observed in a
few of the valleys.
Returning to the camp we attempted to follow one of the creeks down to
the plain on the north-west side of the range, but found the ravine too
steep and rocky for the horses to pass, and were compelled to retrace our
steps and cross several steep and rocky hills, reaching the camp at 2.0
p.m., at which time the thermometer stood at 94 degrees in the shade and
114 degrees in the sun.
Three of the horses had strayed, and this detained us till 11.0 a.m.,
when I started with the party, leaving Mr. H. Gregory and Bowman to look
for the missing animals. Proceeding in a south-east direction to the
crossing of the first creek, ascended the MacAdam Range, and steered
east-south-east to the second creek; the course was then north-east and
east to the head of the creek tributary to the Fitzmaurice River, and
then encamped at 3.45 p.m. At the highest point on this day's route the
aneroid stood at 29.40, and at the camp 29.55; thermometer, 88 degrees.
The higher points of the range did not exceed 100 before the highest
By a meridian altitude of a Cygni, the latitude 14 degrees 33 minutes 26
At 10.0 a.m. Messrs. H. Gregory and Bowen reached the camp with one of
the missing horses, and, having obtained some provisions, returned to
search for the other two horses. At noon started with the party, and
followed down the creek in a south-south-east direction till 4 p.m., and
encamped at the termination of the hilly country. One of the horses,
Madman, showed symptoms of illness a short time before we started, and in
crossing the creek half a mile above where we encamped he fell down and
in less than three minutes died. This was a serious loss, as this animal
was one of the most serviceable of our horses, having stood the voyage
without losing his condition. The cause of death we were unable to
ascertain; but the probability is that some poisonous plants existed at
the place where we encamped last night.
By a meridian altitude of a Cygni, the latitude of the camp was 14
degrees 39 minutes 26 seconds. Thermometer: Sunrise, 80 degrees; at 11
a.m., 93 degrees; wet bulb, 80 degrees.
This morning I started with C. Dean to examine the country to the east;
after traversing the plain for two hours, came to a running stream ten
yards wide, but the current very slow. The vegetation on its banks was
very luxuriant, presenting a striking contrast to the surrounding
country. Followed the creek to the east and south for one and a half
miles, when it changed to a salt creek, joining the Fitzmaurice River. We
then steered south-east to a detached conical hill, which consisted of
the same hard fine-grained sandstone as the ranges near the camp.
Steering north-east and east for three miles along a salt creek, came to
the termination of the salt water, where we saw four natives digging
roots; on observing us they decamped. Our course was now south-east to a
range of rocky hills, which we could not ascend with our horses from
their steep and rocky character. We therefore steered north-west to a
green patch of bushes in the plain, and at two miles came to a small
lagoon 200 yards long and 30 yards wide, on which were numerous ducks and
other water-fowl. Here we halted for one and a half hours, and then by a
north-west and west course, passing through grassy plains and patches of
forest, reached the camp at 8.30 p.m. Thermometer, 78 degrees to 104
Started at 8.10 a.m. with the whole party, and, steering east to the
running creek, crossed it at the head of the salt water, and proceeding
up the stream three-quarters of a mile, encamped. Near the creek we saw a
native man and two women, who were much alarmed at the sudden appearance
of the party, and retreated across the plain.
By a meridian altitude of a Cygni, the latitude was 14 degrees 40 minutes
4 seconds at this camp.
At 8.0 a.m. steered an easterly course, crossing the grassy plain, beyond
which we passed a low stony ridge thinly wooded with small trees; at 9.40
crossed a deep watercourse, with waterholes and grassy flats, and at
10.15 p.m. came to a second creek, which was followed up to the
east-north-east till 11.20, when we halted at a small patch of grass; at
1 p.m. I rode to the north and east to seek a more suitable spot for an
encampment, and having found a grassy flat and pool of good water one and
a half miles higher up the creek, the party moved on to it at 4 p.m.
Taking Dean with me, I proceeded to the south of the camp to ascertain
the most convenient ascent of the rocky hills which bounded the plain.
Following a small valley into the hills, after two hours' ride came to a
creek trending to the south, the valley of which afforded a practicable
line of route. We therefore returned to the camp at noon. At 3.0 p.m.
started with the party, and moved the camp to the creek found in the
morning. Thermometer, 114 degrees at 1 p.m.
Started at 8.0 a.m., accompanied by Dean, and followed the creek through
a rocky valley between sandstone ranges, the strata of which dip to the
west at a high angle--30 degrees to 40 degrees; at 10.15 a.m. came to the
tide waters of the creek, and after crossing several stony ridges which
came close to the bank of the creek, at 11.30 a.m. reached a small
running stream with a patch of good grass; here we halted for two hours,
and then returned to camp; which we reached at 5.0 p.m., and found that
Mr. H. Gregory and Bowman had arrived with the two stray horses, having
found them about ten miles to the north-west of the camp, at the reedy
swamp from which they strayed. Thermometer, 6 a.m., 77 degrees; noon, 114
degrees; 6 p.m., 92 degrees.
ENCOUNTER STEEP ROCKY RANGES.
At 7.50 a.m. started with the whole party, and proceeded down the creek
to the head of the salt water, and then by a detour among the rocky hills
reached the running creek visited yesterday, and encamped at 11.0 a.m.; I
then started with Mr. H. Gregory in a southerly direction, and after an
hour's ride came to the Fitzmaurice River, which varied from 100 to 300
yards in width, the general course nearly east and west; the channel was
full of rocks and banks which were dry at low water, the rise of the tide
nearly twenty feet. The hills which bounded the valley of the creek we
had descended terminated in an abrupt rocky ridge which left no passage
between it and the river; we therefore returned about half a mile to the
north, and, after a toilsome ascent of nearly an hour, crossed the ridge
and halted at a small spring on its eastern side till 2.0 p.m., when we
proceeded up the river, crossing two small dry creeks; after a fruitless
search for a suitable spot to which the camp could be moved, there being
no fresh water in the creeks, we turned towards the camp, but could not
cross the range, as we everywhere encountered steep rocks and ravines,
and were glad to extricate ourselves from the hills at 9.0 p.m., when we
bivouacked in a grassy flat.
At 4.30 a.m. resumed the attempt to cross the range, and at length found
a practicable route for the pack-horses, passing a small spring of water
at 7.0 a.m., and reached the camp at 8 a.m.; during our absence one of
our best pack animals had died, apparently from poison. At 2.0 p.m. the
party started to cross the range; but the horse Drummer was so weak that
he fell several times, and we were at length compelled to abandon him.
Having crossed the hills to the Fitzmaurice River, we proceeded up the
valley and halted at a salt creek seven or eight yards wide, there being
a little green grass on its banks.
Latitude by observation b Pegasi and a Andromedae 14 degrees 47 minutes
HORSES BITTEN BY ALLIGATORS. CROSS THE FITZMAURICE RIVER.
During the night the horses were several times disturbed, but it was not
till morning that the cause was ascertained, when we found that they had
been attacked by the alligators, and three were severely bitten and
scratched. At 8.0 a.m. started to follow up the river; but the rocky
hills approached so close to its banks as to leave no passage, and we had
to ascend the range, which was not an easy task; after three hours of
severe toil under a scorching sun we reached a more practicable country,
and at 3.30 p.m. encamped on the bank of the river, above the influence
of the tide, fifty yards wide. Two of the horses had been left about a
mile from the camp quite exhausted, but at sunset they were brought in to
Latitude by observation a Cygni 14 degrees 51 minutes 37 seconds.
At 7.0 a.m. crossed to the left bank of the river at a stony bar where
the water formed a rapid twenty yards wide and two feet deep; we then
followed the river up for half an hour and altered the course to
south-south-east, along a running creek ten to twenty yards wide; at 8.5
a.m. crossed a running stream from the west; at 10.30 a.m. two of the
horses were completely exhausted, but having rested them at a pool of
water, one revived, but were compelled to leave the other. We then
proceeded, but were obliged to return to the creek about a mile higher
up, as several of the horses began to fail, and though we rested till 3.0
p.m., the second horse was unable to proceed, and was therefore
abandoned. Since these horses were landed they have not had strength to
rise without assistance, and it has been necessary to even watch them
while feeding to lift them up when they fall down from exhaustion.
Continuing our route, the valley was about two miles wide, with
flat-topped hills bounding it on the east and west; there were a few
pools of water in the creek, but the country was poor and stony with a
few patches of grass; at 5.0 p.m. encamped.
Latitude by meridian altitude of a Cygni 15 degrees 1 minute 10 seconds.
Started at 6.30 a.m. and pursued a south course till 8.0 a.m., when we
crossed the ridge at the source of the creek and ascended some stony
gullies to the south-west; at 10.40 a.m. halted at a small waterhole in a
small creek. Re-commenced our journey at 3.0 p.m., and followed a valley
to the south-east; but finding the country in that direction unsuited for
our object, turned to the west and reached the creek again at 5.15 p.m.;
followed it till 6.0 p.m. to the south-west, and encamped. There was
abundance of water in the creek, and the rank growth of the grass on its
immediate banks proved a great impediment to the horses. The back
country, however, was very rough and stony, thinly timbered with
white-gum eucalyptus of small size, and nearly destitute of leaves; and
though the whole country was grassy, it was so much parched by the
intense heat that it presented a very sterile aspect; at 4.30 p.m. there
was a heavy thundershower.
As the creek below the camp trended to the west and entered a deep rocky
gorge in the sandstone range, we steered south at 7.0 a.m., crossing
several stony ridges with small gullies and creeks trending west; at
10.20 a.m. crossed the highest ridge, and observed a succession of low
stony ridges occupying the space between us and the Sea Range.
Descending, we reached a creek, on the bank of which we halted at 11.30
a.m. Here we caught several small fish in a deep pool in the creek.
Resuming our route down the creek at 2.30 pm, the average course was
south-west till 5.30, when we were encamped at a large deep pool or reach
of water three-quarters of a mile long and fifty yards wide, supplied by
a small stream. Great numbers of large bats were seen hanging in the
trees on the margin of the creek, some of which we shot; the flesh was
white and was eaten, but it had an unpleasant flavour. The country during
this day's journey has not been so hilly as yesterday, and near the camp
the trees have retained a few leaves. The soil, however, shows no
improvement, being universally stony, and though well-grassed, the
country is useless for any purpose than feeding stock. The gouty-stemmed
tree (adansonia) is more frequent on the banks of the creeks; pandanus
and fig trees prevail near the water, and eucalypti on the hills.
Latitude 15 degrees 17 minutes 50 seconds.
THE VALLEY OF THE VICTORIA RIVER.
Resumed our journey down the creek at 7.0 a.m., the general course
south-south-west; the country became so steep and rocky that at 8.0 we
left the valley and steered south, crossing several stony hills with
rocky ravines, which were so rugged that they were scarcely passable. At
11.0 sighted the Victoria River, about six miles below Kangaroo Point;
but, on attempting to descend the range, was intercepted by a deep valley
bounded by sandstone cliffs 50 to 100 feet high; following the valley to
the east and north-east in search of a break by which we could descend,
but without success. At 3.0 p.m. one of the horses was so completely
exhausted that he could proceed no farther; I therefore halted the party,
and was examining the cliff to ascertain the best place for lowering one
of the party by a rope into the valley for the purpose of procuring water
from the pool which was visible 300 feet below us, when I found a small
spring on the top of the cliff, at which we encamped. As soon as the
horses were unsaddled, Mr. H. Gregory and myself proceeded to examine the
valley to the east, but had not gone more than a mile when we observed a
column of smoke rise from the camp, followed by a sheet of flame, which
extended in a few seconds to the side of the adjacent hill. We therefore
returned to the camp to subdue the fire, and, if possible, save some of
the grass for the horses, which, with great difficulty, we succeeded in
doing; but though checked, the fire had extended many miles over the
country, and kept us busy all night. This fire originated for want of due
precaution in clearing the grass around the fire at the camp, though the
cook had been cautioned on the subject.
At 5.0 a.m. left the camp with Mr. H. Gregory, and recommenced the search
for a practicable descent into the valley, and about two miles from the
camp found a break in the cliff. The hill was, however, so steep and
rocky that it was necessary to form a path for the horses, and while Mr.
H. Gregory returned, and was bringing up the party from the camp, I
employed myself in filling up chasms with stones and removing rocks from
the path, the steepness of the declivity greatly facilitating their
removal, as it required but little force to hurl rocks of several tons
weight into the valley below. Fortunately, we accomplished the descent
without any accident, and reached the base of the hill at 11.30 a.m.
Descending the creek, which occupied the lower part of the valley, for
about two miles, encamped at a small pool of water. I then rode down the
bank of the Victoria River, and ascertained that we were about six miles
below Kangaroo Point. Returning to the camp, procured fresh horses, and,
accompanied by Mr. H. Gregory, proceeded to Kangaroo Point, reaching the
spot appointed for leaving a notice of the movements of the party in the
schooner just as it fell dark, and though we found a small tree notched
with an axe, there was nothing to guide us in any further search, and we
At daylight recommenced our search for some memorandum for our guidance
to the camp or vessel, but only found five or six small trees cut with an
iron axe, and the remains of a large fire; but if any memorandum had been
left, there was no mark left for our guidance in the search for it, and I
felt disappointed that my instructions had been so inefficiently carried
into effect. As it was doubtful whether the vessel had proceeded up the
river, I decided on continuing our route to some convenient spot for a
camp near Steep Head, and accordingly returned to the party. The southern
face of Sea Range is very abrupt and surmounted by a cliff of red
sandstone 50 to 100 feet high, the whole height of the hills about 500
feet, the range being the edge of an elevated tableland, the upper strata
being hard sandstone in horizontal beds which rest on soft shales which
appear to be somewhat inclined; but its surface was so covered by
fragments of the upper rocks that no satisfactory data was obtained. The
soil of the level land between the Victoria and the Sea Range is very
poor, and either sandy or covered with fragments of rock; there is no
water, and the grass is very coarse and blady. Many flights of cockatoos
came to drink at the pools near the camp, and about fifty were shot
during the day.
ASCEND THE VICTORIA RIVER.
Started at 7.0 a.m. and followed the river up to Kangaroo Point, and then
by an easterly course ascended the salt-water creek which joins the
Victoria at this point; at 4.0 p.m. we reached the termination of the
salt water, beyond which it divided into several small dry channels, in
one of which we found a small pool of fresh water, at which we encamped
at 4.15. The result of our shooting this day was one turkey, one hawk,
and thirty-nine cockatoos. The country near the creek is brown loam; but
as the hills are approached the soil is very stony, but well covered with
grass, and very thinly wooded with small eucalypti, which were nearly
destitute of foliage. To the south of the creek the country appeared to
be of somewhat better character.
THE TOM TOUGH WRECKED.
At 7.0 a.m. steered north 160 degrees east till 10.0, over a level grassy
plain wooded with small eucalypti and melaleuca, etc., the soil varying
from a brown loam to a strong clay; altering the course to 190 degrees,
we passed some low stony ridges, and at 11.30 halted in a dry gully to
rest the horses during the heat of the day; at 3.0 p.m. again started and
steered to the south-west for half an hour, when we camped at a sandy
creek in which there was a shallow waterhole. At 4.0 I left the camp with
Mr. H. Gregory and proceeded west-south-west to the river, which we
reached at 5.45, and then followed it up for half an hour, when we
observed a tent and boat on the opposite side of the river. Having
hobbled the horses, we crossed over to the camp, which was established at
a small spring, and found Mr. Elsey and two of the men in charge. Mr.
Elsey informed me that the schooner had grounded on the bank below
Mosquito Flat, and had received considerable damage. Fourteen of the
sheep had been brought up to the camp, and the boat was expected up that
evening with another lot of sheep. I now ascertained that a bottle had
been buried near the marked trees at Kangaroo Point, and a pencil-mark
made on one of the trees indicating its position, but this mark had
escaped our observation. In the evening Messrs. Baines and Flood and one
of the men arrived at the camp in the long-boat, bringing twelve sheep,
having lost several on the passage up the river in consequence of
detention on the shoals near the Dome. The whole stock of provisions at
the camp consisting of ten pounds flour, ten pounds pork, six pounds
sugar, and twelve pounds beef, I was unable to send the required supplies
to the party in charge of the horses, and the sheep were too poor to be
fit for food. The Tom Tough reached Entrance Island on the 25th
September, and the next day anchored off Rugged Ridge; on the 27th was
proceeding up the river, and grounded on a ledge of rocks on the south
side of the river, about six miles below Mosquito Flats; and from that
date was never sufficiently afloat to be under control, but gradually
drifted up to about two and a half miles below Curiosity Peak. From the
time of getting on the rocks she had leaked considerably, and a large
quantity of stores had been destroyed or damaged, there being at one time
four feet of water in the hold; but by nailing battens and tarred
blankets over the open seams the leaks had been greatly reduced. The
stock of water on board the schooner having been exhausted during her
detention, Mr. Wilson had sent the boat up to Palm Island to bring down a
supply; but having greatly miscalculated the time requisite for this
expedition up the river, the distance being sixty miles, the sheep had
been kept several days without a sufficient supply of water, and a great
number had died.
Proceeding down the river with Messrs. Baines and Flood in the long-boat,
the tide being unfavourable, we only reached Kangaroo Point.
Started at 2.0 a.m., and reached the schooner at 11.0 a.m., having been
delayed by the flood tide. The vessel had not moved during the last four
tides, and the leaks had in some degree stopped. She was so deeply bedded
in the sand that, though the bank was dry at three-quarter ebb, I could
not examine her bottom. The deck beams, however, were strained and
broken, and it was evident that the vessel had been much damaged by
resting on her centre, when the current had worked deep holes at the head
and stern. Only fifty-five sheep remained on board, and those in a
miserable condition. At 5.0 p.m. despatched Mr. Flood in the gig with one
month's provisions for the party at the camp; 8.0 p.m. the tide rose to
five feet on the bank, but the vessel only just floated in the hollow in
which she lay.
At 8.0 a.m. the tide rose to six feet on the bank, and the schooner was
moved her own length towards the channel in shore; at 10.0 a.m. the tide
ebbed, and she settled on an even keel. Mr. Baines having informed me
that Overseer Humphries had refused to assist in pumping the schooner on
the 9th, he had, therefore, put him off duty till Mr. Wilson returned, on
the 14th, when he was put on duty again. I therefore fined him one week's
pay. The night tide did not rise so high as in the morning. Landed to
search for fresh water, and found a small spring on the bank of the river
at the upper end of the stony beach, three and a half miles below
Curiosity Peak; this spring is below high-water mark, but at half tide
boats can approach close to it, there being deep water close to the bank.
Landed at 2 a.m. to procure water, having opened a well at the spring;
filled two casks and returned to the vessel at 7. At 9.30 the schooner
floated, and we moved her to about a mile above Curiosity Peak, where she
again grounded on a bank; while afloat the pumps had to be kept
constantly at work. With the night tide we floated over the bank; but the
breeze failing, she was swept against the shore two and a half miles
above Curiosity Peak, and before the kedge could be laid out the tide
The morning tide did not rise sufficiently to allow us to cross the
banks; but the schooner was warped into a better position in the channel,
about one mile higher up the river. Landed the sheep and drove such as
could walk to the waterhole at our camping place, one mile north of the
Dome, and left a party in charge, consisting of Dr. Mueller, Mr. Wilson,
Overseer Humphries, and W. Selby. Fifty sheep were landed, but only
forty-four reached the waterhole, and of these one died during the night.
The night tide rose eight feet, and we moved the schooner to the right
bank of the river off Broken Hill and anchored in the channel. Before the
full moon the tides have been higher during the day, but as the time of
full moon approaches the higher tide is at night.
At 10.0 a.m. weighed and ran up the river with the flood to the
commencement of the reach below Kangaroo Point, when the schooner
grounded on a bank. Proceeded with Mr. Baines in the gig to the sheep
camp with the intention of moving the sheep across the river and then
driving them to the upper camp, but found them so weak that this
arrangement was not practicable. Returned to the vessel.
At 3 a.m. the vessel floated, and she was moved about a mile above
Kangaroo Point, when we anchored in three and a half fathoms. At noon
weighed, and with a light breeze from the west and north till a
thunder-squall from the south-east compelled us to come to anchor one
mile below Sandy Island; a change of wind enabled us to move on to Sandy
At 2 a.m. weighed, and towed the schooner to the upper end of the spit
off Sandy Island, when she grounded, but was warped off at 4; the wind
and tide were now adverse, and we therefore anchored in two fathoms.
There is two fathoms in the channel past Sandy Island, but a reef of
rocks extend from the left bank of the river, which renders it necessary
to keep close to the edge of the shoal off the island.
TOM TOUGH REACHES DEPOT CAMP.
At 2 a.m. weighed with the flood, and towed the schooner up the river
about four miles; at 6.30 a light northerly breeze enabled us to stem the
ebb tide, and at 9.40 the schooner was moored at the camp, in two
fathoms, close to the bank. Having obtained a supply of water, I
despatched Mr. Baines, with Phibbs, Shewell, and Dawson, in the gig to
bring up the sheep, the long-boat also going down the river with a crew
from the vessel to bring up the kedge anchor and warp from Alligator
Island, and also to assist in bringing up the sheep. In the evening there
was a fine breeze from the east, and the thermometer fell to 65 degrees
during the night. A few days before our arrival one of the kangaroo dogs
had been seized by an alligator, and instantly drowned. The horses had
been brought to the camp by the ford at Steep Head, and were looking
Commenced the erection of a shed to protect the stores, as it is
necessary to land the cargo of the schooner to effect repairs. The
keelson is broken seven feet before the mainmast, three of the deck beams
are broken in the centre, and the knees are strained, and the bolts
drawn; there is also reason to think that the floor timbers are
fractured, and some of the timbers broken in her bends.
Messrs. Wilson, Baines, and Mueller, with the party in charge of the
sheep, arrived at 7 a.m., bringing the remainder of the sheep, twenty-six
in number, eleven having been drowned from want of proper care in bailing
the boat, which consequently sunk during the night. Such of the party as
are not otherwise engaged are employed in the erection of the store shed.
Being desirous to examine the river above Steep Head, commenced fitting
the portable boat, but found that the heat of the climate had destroyed
the seams of three of the air cells, and the boat is therefore
unserviceable. The general character of the materials of which inflated
boats are constructed precludes any effectual repairs, as the intense
heat of the sun decomposes the varnish with which the canvas is covered;
it first becomes soft and adhesive, and then changes to a substance like
tar, which does not consolidate with a lower temperature. Adjusted the
S. Macdonald was reported for being asleep on his watch during last
night; reprimanded him for this neglect of duty. Several of the sheep
escaped from the fold last night; some have been found, but eight are
missing. Commenced thatching the store; landed maize, bran, and other
stores from the schooner. Though the thermometer stood at 100 degrees in
the shade, yet a westerly breeze renders it cool enough to work. Mr.
Baines employed repairing the portable boat; Richards clearing a plot of
ground near the spring for a garden.
DAMAGE TO PROVISIONS.
Continued to discharge the cargo of the schooner; at the request of the
master of the Tom Tough, examined sixteen small and four large casks of
bread, which had been damaged by salt-water; the whole of this bread was
found to be quite destroyed and unfit for use. Although the large casks
had been carefully coopered in Sydney, yet the hot climate had opened the
joints, and as there were three to five feet of water in the vessel when
aground in the lower part of the river, the bread was completely
saturated. The leakage of the schooner has been much reduced, and now
only requires pumping every six hours. The dryness of the air has
increased from 10 to 20 degrees of evaporation, and the heat is not so
oppressive, though the mean temperature exceeds 85 degrees. Heavy
thunder-clouds are visible on the horizon, and the lightning is frequent
in the early part of the night, especially to the east. Since the spring
tides the river has gradually fallen, and is now four feet lower than low
water at the full and change, and it does not vary more than one and a
half feet in the twenty-four hours. A small spring of water has been
found below high-water mark close to the landing place.
Completed thatching the store; continued landing stores from the
schooner; coopering the flour-barrels. Towards evening there was a strong
breeze from the north, which suddenly veered to the west, with thunder
and a little rain. The sheep are visibly gaining flesh, and the horses
have improved, but they are still unfit for work, as the grass is very
dry and not in a state to fatten animals.
4th November (Sunday).
The sky was overcast in the afternoon with a strong north-west breeze,
and every indication of approaching rain.
Landing stores from the schooner; general duties; light shower at 3 p.m.;
evening cloudy. By observed altitudes on the meridian, the latitude of
the camp 15 degrees 34 minutes 30 seconds.
Messrs. H. Gregory, Elsey, and Mueller, with two men and the master of
the schooner, proceeded up the river in the gig to ascertain the most
convenient spot for procuring timber for the repair of the vessel; the
men variously employed coopering casks, fencing garden, etc. Towards
evening the sky was overcast, and a slight shower fell at 4 p.m., the
thermometer varying from 85 degrees, 100 degrees, 90 degrees. Mosquitoes
are very numerous in the evenings. Received from Mr. Wilson a copy of his
diary while in charge of the party on board the schooner ascending the
Victoria River. In going down to the well Richards fell down among the
reeds, and a splinter entered his wrist, passing under the skin for one
and a half inches; but no material injury has occurred, though the wound
will disable him for a few days.
Men employed coopering the flour-casks, fencing the garden, completing
the store, and general camp duties. The party which went up the river
yesterday in search of timber for the repair of the vessel returned in
the evening, having found some suitable melaleuca-trees on the bank of
the creek below Steep Head. The afternoon was again cloudy, with much
lightning in the evening.
Men employed clearing away the grass and bushes around the camp, landing
cargo from the schooner, plotting map of route from Point Pearce to the
Party employed as before.
Party employed as before. On unpacking the rice and peas, found that 720
pounds of rice and half a bushel of peas were destroyed by salt-water,
and much more damaged; much of the sugar is damaged; but as it is not
prudent to open casks, the quantity lost cannot be ascertained. Wrote to
the master of the Tom Tough, requesting information with reference to a
complaint by Mr. Wilson, that on the 30th September his signals for a
boat to bring him to the schooner had been disregarded.
11th November (Sunday).
TIMBER FOR REPAIRS OF VESSEL.
Mr. H. Gregory, with Shewell and Dawson, accompanied Captain Gourlay to
Steep Head to cut timber for the repair of the schooner. Erected a forge
and continued the preparation of the garden, etc. Last night one of the
sheep was strangled by getting entangled in the net which formed the
sheep-pen. Received from the master of the Tom Tough a letter replying to
my queries of the 10th instant. It appears that on the 30th September,
while the schooner was aground in the lower part of the Victoria, Mr.
Wilson landed to search for fresh water at Mosquito Flat; having made
some indefinite arrangements with Mr. Elsey to signalize for a boat,
should he require it, to return to the vessel; but he omitted to acquaint
either the master of the schooner, or Mr. Baines, who was next in command
to Mr. Wilson. The result was that when the signals were made there was
some uncertainty whether they were fires lighted by Mr. Wilson as signals
for a boat, and some delay ensued in preparing the boat, when it was
found that the tide had fallen so much that there was not sufficient
water to float the boat over the intervening sand-banks, and at low water
Mr. Wilson waded across the deeper channels and walked over the dry banks
to the vessel. As the affair appeared to be complicated with some private
misunderstanding between the parties, and Mr. Wilson had neglected to
make proper arrangements with the master of the vessel, I deemed it
desirable that the investigation should not proceed any farther.
Mr. Baines having succeeded in repairing the portable boat, I made
preparation for an excursion up the river, as the horses were still unfit
for the work of exploration, and I hoped to be able to cross the shallows
which had obstructed Captain Stokes. Richards' arm does not progress in a
favourable manner, and it is therefore necessary that Mr. Elsey should
remain at the camp to attend to his case. The party proceeding with the
boats will therefore consist of Mr. Wilson, Mr. Baines, Mr. Flood, and
myself. Men employed as before, and the general duties of the camp.
Party employed as before. At 3.30 p.m. I left the camp and proceeded to
the creek, where the timber party were at work, reaching their bivouac at
7.30; six logs had been cut twenty to twenty-five feet long and twelve to
fourteen inches square; the timber is a melaleuca with a broad leaf
(Melaleuca leucodendron). The gum timber is generally unsound and
Returned to the principal camp with Mr. H. Gregory at 11.0 a.m., and at 2
p.m. started in the indiarubber boat with Messrs. Wilson, Baines, and
Flood; at 8.0 p.m. reached the creek near Steep Head, and remained at the
camp of the timber party for the night.
Started at 6.30 a.m. and crossed the shallows at Steep Head without much
difficulty--as the tide was high, the water was six to eight inches deep.
Three miles above Steep Head we observed three natives watching us, but
they did not approach. At 10.0 a.m. reached Palm Island, which is only a
bank of shingle with a few pandanus and melaleuca trees growing on it
without a single palm-tree of any kind. One of the boats having been
injured, hauled her up for repairs. Mr. Baines shot three whistling ducks
on the island; they were very good eating. While at our dinner a native
approached the bank of the river and came to us, and a parley commenced
which was rather unintelligible, and when he found that he could not make
himself understood by words, resorted to the language of signs, and
expressed his contempt of us in an unmistakable manner. Having repaired
the leak in the boat, we again moved up the river, but at one and a half
miles came to a dry bar of rock, over which the boats were carried, and
we passed a shallow pool of brackish water half a mile long to a second
bar of greater breadth, and then entered a deep reach; but the day was so
far advanced that we took advantage of a level rocky ledge and
INDIARUBBER BOATS FAIL.
Proceeded up the river about a mile and came to a dry bank of shingle and
rocks, which extended for at least a mile, and over which it was not
practicable to carry the boats, which had been much injured in crossing
the rocky bars yesterday, the heat having destroyed the texture of the
waterproof canvas. I therefore decided not to expend any more time on
this excursion, but return to the camp. We observed some blacks watching
us from some thick scrub; but they did not approach near enough to hold
any communication. At 2.0 p.m. commenced the return down the river and
reached Palm Island after dark and bivouacked.
At 3.0 a.m. there was a slight shower, and at 6.0 a.m. proceeded down the
river, having dragged the boats over the shingle bank at Steep Head,
where there was scarcely one inch of water; halted at the creek where the
timber had been cut, to procure water for breakfast, and then sailed down
the river and encountered a heavy squall, with thunder and lightning,
just as we approached the camp; the rain continued nearly throughout the
night. Captain Gourlay informed me that on the 16th three blacks had
visited his party while cutting timber, and that in the evening some
noise was heard, and being taken for the voices of the blacks, they had
taken to the boat with great precipitation and returned to the schooner;
the mosquitoes have nearly disappeared.
Sent a party, consisting of Phibbs, Humphries, Shewell, Selby, and
Dawson, to assist the master of the schooner in bringing the timber down
the river; Richards' arm is somewhat better, but not progressing
favourably; Fahey is on the sick list; the rain having moistened the
grass, the horses did not come in for water to-day; the weather continues
very hot, generally 90 degrees at sunrise and 105 degrees at noon in the
Commenced shoeing the horses and made preparations for a journey up the
Victoria, to reconnoitre the country previous to starting for the
Fahey, being convalescent, was employed as cook; Mr. H. Gregory, Mr.
Flood, Bowman, and Melville, shoeing horses; Dean making charcoal for the
forge; in the afternoon there was a heavy thundershower; the flies are
very troublesome and annoy the horses so much that they will not stand
quiet to be shod, and some of the horses are nearly blind in consequence
of the flies crawling into their eyes.
Shoeing horses, fitting saddles, etc.; the schooner leaks about seven
inches per hour, and as the master is absent with the greater part of the
crew, procuring timber, I have afforded assistance from the party at the
camp, to assist in keeping the vessel dry.
EXPLORE THE UPPER VICTORIA.
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