Three Expeditions into the Interior of Eastern Australia, Vol 2 (of 2)
Part 3 out of 8
to feed at the earliest dawn.
It had rained heavily during the night so that water was no longer
scarce. The canoe brought from Waljeers had been placed to receive the
rain and conduct it into a cask which was thus filled.
TWO MEN MISSING.
On getting up I learnt that two men had set off in quest of water and had
been absent all night. That they should have taken this step without
first asking permission was wrong, but that nobody had mentioned the
circumstance to me till then was still more vexatious as, by firing shots
and throwing up rockets, these men might have found their way back in the
dark. I was very glad however to hear them at length answer our shots,
and not at all sorry to see them come in thoroughly drenched with the
empty kettles on their shoulders. After this I learnt, when we were about
to start, that six of the bullocks had got away; Piper however managed to
trace and bring them back. The weather then cleared up and we proceeded,
in a south-west direction as nearly as patches of scrub permitted, in
search of the Murrumbidgee; for I was then convinced, from the different
appearance of the country, that we had got beyond the junction of the
Lachlan. On passing the scrubs we crossed a plain of the same kind which
we had so often met. It sloped towards a belt of large trees in a flat,
where we also saw reeds, the ground there being very soft and heavy for
the draught animals. Passing this flat we again reached firm ground with
stately yarra trees; and charming vistas through miles of open forest
scenery had indeed nearly drawn me away from the bearing which was
otherwise most likely to hit the river.
REACH THE MURRUMBIDGEE.
I however continued to follow it and, in the midst of such scenery
without being at all aware that I was approaching a river, I suddenly saw
the water before me and stood at last on the banks of the Murrumbidgee.
This magnificent stream was flowing within eight feet of its banks with
considerable rapidity, the water being quite clear; and it really
exceeded so much my expectations (surpassing far the Darling and all the
Australian rivers I had then seen) that I was at first inclined to think
it could be nothing less than the Murray which, like the Darling, might
have been laid down too far to the west. At all events I was delighted to
find that this corner of Australia could supply at least one river worthy
of the name. After thirsting so long amongst the muddy holes of the
Lachlan I witnessed, with no slight degree of satisfaction, the jaded
cattle drinking at this full and flowing stream, resembling a thing of
life in its deep and rippling waters. Now at length there was an end to
the privations we had so often suffered from want of water; and the bank
was also clothed with excellent grass--a pleasing sight for the cattle.
Reeds appeared in patches back from the river but, unlike the banks of
the Darling, the best and clearest ground was on the immediate margin of
NATIVES ON THE OPPOSITE BANK.
Piper, with that keenness of vision so peculiar in savages, soon descried
some natives on the other side, and pointed out to me a tribe filing in a
straggling line through the woods at a distance. I made him cooey to
them, they answered the call, and in a short time appeared on the
opposite bank. Our first interview with these sons of the woods was
highly creditable to them. They advanced in a numerous group, but in a
silent and submissive manner, each having a green bough twined round the
waist or in his hand. They sat down on the opposite bank and The Widow,
having taken a position exactly facing them, held a parley which
commenced before I could get to the spot. It was now that we learnt the
full value of this female, for it appeared that while some diffidence or
ceremony always prevents the male natives, when strangers to each other,
from speaking at first sight, no such restraint is imposed on the gins;
who with the privilege of their sex are ever ready to speak, and the
strangers as it seemed to answer; for thus at least we held converse with
this tribe across the river. Our female guide, who had scarcely before
ventured to look up, stood now boldly forward and addressed the strange
tribe in a very animated and apparently eloquent manner; and when her
countenance was thus lighted up, displaying fine teeth and great
earnestness of manner, I was delighted to perceive what soul the woman
possessed, and could not but consider our party fortunate in having met
with such an interpreter.
THEY SWIM ACROSS.
At length the strangers proposed swimming over to us and we invited them
to do so.
AFRAID OF THE SHEEP.
They then requested that those wild animals, the sheep and horses, might
be driven away, at which The Widow and Piper's gin laughed heartily, but
they were removed accordingly. The warriors of the Murrumbidgee were
about to plunge into the angry flood, desirous, no doubt, of showing off
like so many Caesars before these females, but their fears of the sheep,
which they could not hide, must have said little for their prowess in the
eyes of the damsels on our side of the water. The weather was cold, but
the stranger who first swam across bore in one hand a piece of burning
wood and a green branch. He was no sooner landed than he converted his
embers into a fire to dry himself. Immediately after him followed a
grey-haired chief (of whom I had heard on the Lachlan) and two others. It
appeared however that Piper did not at first understand their language,
saying it was "Irish"; but it happened that there was with this tribe a
native of Cudjallagong (Regent's lake) and it was rather curious to see
him act as interpreter between Piper and the others.
THEIR REPORTS ABOUT THE JUNCTION OF THE DARLING.
We learnt that the Murrumbidgee joined a much larger river named the
Milliwa, a good way lower down, and that these united streams met, at a
still greater distance, the Oolawambiloa, a river from the north which
received a smaller one, bringing with it all the waters of Wamboul (the
Macquarie). These natives proposed to amuse us with a corrobory dance, to
which I did not object, but they postponed it until the following
SEARCH UP THE RIVER FOR JUNCTION OF THE LACHLAN.
Having been very anxious to complete my survey of the Kalare by
determining the true situation of its junction with the Murrumbidgee, I
set out this morning with the intention of tracing this river upwards to
that point, which I thought could not be at a greater distance than ten
or twelve miles. We sought it however in vain, until darkness put a stop
to our progress after we had measured full twenty miles. We lay down by
the riverside and, although entirely without either food or shelter,
determined to prosecute our search at daylight next morning.
COURSE OF THE MURRUMBIDGEE.
Having laid down our work on the map last evening (by the light of the
fire) I found that we were to the eastward, not only of our late camp
where we had wanted water, but also even of our last camp on the Lachlan,
and to the southward of it thirteen miles. It thus appeared that the
river had taken a very extraordinary turn to the south or south-east,
probably near our last encampment upon it. After measuring three miles
further this morning, by which I was enabled to intersect a low hill in
the situation where I expected to find the Kalare, and being then on a
bend of the Murrumbidgee whence I could see no other indication of it
save the line of trees some miles off, in which however it no doubt was,
the whole intervening space being covered with Polygonum junceum, I was
content with intersecting the point where that line joined the
Murrumbidgee, chiefly out of consideration for the men who were with me.
It was well that I then determined to return, for one man became so
faint, when within a few miles of the camp, that the two others had to
remain with him until I rode forward to it and sent back the doctor with
something for them to eat.
The course of the Murrumbidgee, as far as I traced it in that excursion,
appeared to be about west, and I distinctly saw, from the highest point I
attained on that river, rising ground at a great distance also bearing
east. Under these circumstances it was obvious that the long course of
the river Lachlan is in no part better defined than where it enters the
basin of the Murrumbidgee. Water, which had been so scarce in other
parts, was abundant where its channel and immediate margins assumed the
reedy character of the greater river. So far from terminating in a lagoon
or uninhabitable marsh, the banks of the Lachlan at fifty miles below the
spot where Mr. Oxley supposed he saw its termination as a river, are
backed on both sides by rising ground, until the course turns finally
southward into the Murrumbidgee.
TRIBE FROM CUDJALLAGONG VISITS THE CAMP IN MY ABSENCE.
On my arrival at the camp I found that six of the party mounted had set
out in search of me at midday. A strong tribe had arrived soon after my
departure and, in conjunction with those natives whom we found there, it
had been molesting the camp during the whole of the night. On first
coming up the men composing it boldly approached the fires and took their
seats, demanding something to eat.
MOVEMENTS OF THE TRIBE.
It appeared that they had followed our cart track downwards, having with
them a native of Cudjallagong. They inquired particularly why Majy had
gone to the junction of the Kalare with so few people; and they gave a
very unfavourable account of the tribe at that place. This alarmed Mr.
Stapylton, and when he observed the tribe set off in the morning, back
along the cart track, he despatched the party on horseback under Burnett
with orders to observe the movements of the tribe, to look for my track
and, if possible, to join me. The party returned to the camp about eight
in the evening, to my great satisfaction, for I had been apprehensive
that they might have proceeded to seek me at the junction and I had
despatched two men to recall them as soon as I returned.
CAUGHT FOLLOWING MY STEPS.
Burnett reported when he returned that he had found our track after
making a considerable circuit five or six miles from the camp; and as
Piper, who accompanied him, was tracing my steps homewards, on perceiving
some natives running along it, he concluded that we were just before them
and sounded the bugle, when they proved to be the tribe before mentioned,
all armed with spears. What their object was I cannot say, for three of
them had been trotting along the footmarks, while the rest of the tribe
in a body kept pace abreast of them. On hearing the bugle it appeared
that they seemed much alarmed and drew up at a distance.
PIPER QUESTIONS THEM.
They would not allow Piper to approach them, but one at length came
forward and informed him that Majy was gone home. Piper was so dubious
about this that he insisted on examining the points of their spears.
During the nights passed at this camp the natives were on the alert, so
that their various movements, cooeys, and calls kept the party in a state
of watchfulness, aware, as experience had taught us, of their thieving
propensities. Some rockets sent up about the time I was expected on the
evening of our absence had however scared them a little; and it is
probable that the man from Cudjallagong had given them new ideas about
soldiers. Piper's watchword, also, when taking up his carabine, usually
was "Bell gammon soldiers."* They left the neighbourhood of our camp on
my return and we saw no more of the tribe which had followed me.
(*Footnote. Meaning Soldiers are no joke!)
The Murrumbidgee compared with other rivers.
Heaps of stones used in cooking.
High reeds on the riverbank.
Riverbanks of difficult access.
Best horse drowned.
Cross a country subject to inundations.
Traverse a barren region at some distance from the river.
Another horse in the river.
Lagoons preferable to the river for watering cattle.
High wind, dangerous in a camp under trees.
Serious accident; a cartwheel passes over The Widow's child.
Graves of the natives.
Choose a position for the depot.
My horse killed by the kick of a mare.
Proceed to the Darling with a portion of the party.
Reach the Murray.
Its breadth at our camp.
Meet with a tribe.
Discover the natives to be those last seen on the Darling.
Harassing night in their presence.
Rockets fired to scare them away.
They again advance in the morning.
Men advance towards them holding up their firearms.
They retire, and we continue our journey.
Again followed by the natives.
Danger of the party.
Long march through a scrubby country.
Night without water or grass.
Again make the Murray.
Strange natives visit the camp at dusk.
THE MURRUMBIDGEE COMPARED WITH OTHER RIVERS.
The night had been stormy with rain so that I had not been able to
ascertain the latitude of the point at which we had reached this
important river. It was Sunday and, although the two men sent after
Burnett's party had come in early enough, we remained in the same camp. I
had already been struck with the remarkable dissimilarity between the
Murrumbidgee and all the interior rivers previously seen by me,
especially the Darling. The constant fulness of its stream, its
water-worn and lightly-timbered banks, and the firm and accessible nature
of its immediate margin, unbroken by gullies, were all characters quite
the reverse of those which I had seen elsewhere. Whatever reeds or
polygonum might be outside, a certain space along the river was almost
everywhere clear, probably from its constant occupation by the natives.
HEAPS OF STONES USED IN COOKING.
One artificial feature not observed by me in other places distinguishes
the localities principally frequented by the natives, and consists in the
lofty mounds of burnt clay or ashes used by them in cooking. The common
process of natives in dressing their provisions is to lay the food
between layers of heated stones; but here, where there are no stones, the
calcined clay seems to answer the same purpose, and becomes better or
harder the more it is used. Hence the accumulation of heaps resembling
small hills.* Some of them were so very ancient as to be surrounded by
circles of lofty trees; others, long abandoned, were half worn away by
the river which, in the course of ages, had so far changed its bed that
the burnt ashes reached out to mid-channel; others, now very remote from
the river, had large trees growing out of them.
(*Footnote. And Jacob said unto his brethren, Gather stones: and they
took stones, and made a heap, and they did eat there upon the heap.
Genesis 31:46. "Thevenot describes the way of roasting a sheep, practised
by the Armenians, by which also the use of smoky wood is avoided; for
having flayed it, they cover it again with the skin, and put it into an
oven upon the quick coals, covering it also with a good many of the same
coals, that it may have fire under and over to roast it well on all
sides; and the skin keeps it from being burnt." Harmer. Whoever has seen
the Australian natives cook a kangaroo must recognise in this description
the very same process.)
HIGH REEDS ON THE RIVERBANK.
I saw the first of these heaps when near the end of the last day's
journey along the Lachlan, where this river partook of the reedy
character of the Murrumbidgee. I understood that the balyan or
bulrush-root which is the chief food of the natives there is prepared in
those kilns when a family or tribe are together. I ascertained the name
of the place to be Weyeba; its latitude is 34 degrees 21 minutes 34
seconds South; longitude 143 degrees 56 minutes 27 seconds East.
We commenced our journey down the Murrumbidgee. Our route passed
occasionally through reeds as we cut off the bends of the river; but they
formed no serious impediment although they stood so high that we
occasionally experienced some difficulty in following each other through
them. Having found, after surveying the river a few miles down, that the
general course was about south-west, as I had also found it to be above
our camp, I followed that direction as a general line of route, leaving
the river at length at some distance to the left. The country looked
well, lofty yarra trees and luxuriant grass giving it the appearance of
fine forest land; but most of these trees bore marks of inundation, and
the water appeared to have reached several feet up their trunks. At
length I came on a native path conducting westward; but as it led to
rising ground with Atriplex halimoides, etc., I bent our course to the
south and reached the river at sunset.
Burnett and Piper followed the native path until they came to the bed of
a fine lake about half a mile across, and they met some natives who told
them that the name of it was Weromba. Mr. Stapylton also discovered a
small lake of the same sort near our route and south of the other. Both
sheets of water, like that of Waljeers, were surrounded by a ridge of
rising ground consisting of the red earth of the dry plains, and it was
covered with the salsolaceous shrubs peculiar to them. These lakes seem
to be supplied only from the highest floods of the river, and to
constitute a remarkable and peculiar feature in the character of the
surface. I had been informed of a very large one of the same kind named
Quawingame near the left bank of the Lachlan, and not far from its
junction with the Murrumbidgee; but the singular turn of the
first-mentioned river prevented me from seeing it.
As we drew near the river I perceived the huts of a tribe with a fire
smoking before each. I immediately sent back for the gins, but before
they could come up the natives whom we saw there noticed us and
immediately disappeared among the reeds, shrieking as if they had been
mad. Our females soon after approached their huts and called on them to
return, but in vain.
RIVERBANKS OF DIFFICULT ACCESS. BEST HORSE DROWNED.
A misfortune befel us this evening which made the party better aware of
the treacherous nature of the banks of this part of the Murrumbidgee. I
had just time before it got dark to find a place where the cattle could
approach the water, the banks being almost everywhere water-worn and
perpendicular, and consequently inaccessible and dangerous to animals in
descending to drink. To this point I had sent the sheep, and the men were
leading the horses also towards it when the foremost, which unfortunately
was the best, made a rush to the water at a steeper place, and fell into
the river. He swam however to the other side but, in returning, sank in
the middle of the stream, never to rise again. He had winkers on and I
think it probable that he had put his foot into a short rein which was
attached to the collar. This horse was of the Clydesdale breed and drew
the cart containing my instruments throughout the journey along the
Darling last year. His name was Farmer--an unfortunate appellation for
surveying horses--for Farmer's Creek, in the new road to Bathurst, was
named after another horse which fell there and broke his neck while I was
marking out the line.
CROSS A COUNTRY SUBJECT TO INUNDATIONS.
The land adjacent to the river was of the richest quality; and the grass
on it was luxuriant and the forest scenery fine. The lofty trees
certainly bore marks of inundation one or two feet high; but as land
still higher was not far distant it cannot be doubted, notwithstanding
its liability to become flooded, that the soil might supply the wants of
an industrious population; especially as its spontaneous productions are
the chief support of the aboriginal inhabitants.
TRAVERSE A BARREN REGION AT SOME DISTANCE FROM THE RIVER.
A beautiful morning. The latitude of this camp being exactly that of the
most southern bend of the river in Arrowsmith's map, I ventured upon a
course nearly west in order to clear the bends. The lofty trees I had
seen before me were found to be situated, not on the banks of the river,
but amongst scrubs. We afterwards came to sandhills and extensive tracts
covered with that most unpleasing of shrubs to a traveller, the
Eucalyptus dumosa, and the prickly grass mentioned by Mr. Oxley. We
traversed ridges of sand rising perhaps sixty feet above the plains,
nearer the river; and, when viewed from trees, the same kind of country
seemed unlimited in all directions. I therefore travelled
south-south-west and afterwards southward; until we once more entered
among the yarra trees on the more open ground by the river, and encamped
after a journey of about twelve miles. The country we had this day
traversed was of so unpromising a description that it was a relief to get
even amongst common scrubs, and escape from those of the Eucalyptus
dumosa. This species is not a tree but a lofty bush with a great number
of stems, each two or three inches in diameter; and the bushes grow
thickly together, having between them nothing but the prickly grass in
large tufts. This dwarf wood approached to the very river, where we
encamped without leaving an intermediate plain, as on the Lachlan. In
this country, however dreary it appeared, we found a beautiful grevillea
not previously seen by us.
During the day we saw also a great many kangaroos and killed two of them.
ANOTHER HORSE IN THE RIVER.
Notwithstanding every precaution in watering the cattle, and at a place
selected too as the best that could be found after a careful examination
of two miles of the river, one of the horses fell in; but on this
occasion it was safely got out again. The abundance of water, though a
novelty to us, was a source of new trouble and anxiety from the danger
our cattle were in of being drowned, owing to the precipitous banks and
soft mud of the river. This peril was indeed so imminent that in the
morning it was thought most prudent to water all the horses with a
bucket, and not to risk the loss of the bullocks by suffering them to
drink at all.
Being determined to keep the river in sight, we this day continued our
journey along its margin. I found we could follow the general course
without entering bends by travelling at the base of a second bank, which
seemed to divide the yarra-tree flats from the scrubby ground behind.
LAGOONS PREFERABLE TO THE RIVER FOR WATERING CATTLE.
We came thus upon some rainwater in the clay of the plains which, being
sufficient to satisfy the bullocks, we gladly availed ourselves of the
opportunity it afforded of watering them without unyoking. After
proceeding about three miles further we saw a lagoon between us and the
Murrumbidgee. It resembled a bend of the river, and contained abundance
of water on which were three pelicans and a number of ducks. When we had
travelled nearly far enough to encamp, we came on two other lagoons of
the same kind, similarly situated and both containing water. The grass
being good, I determined to pitch our tents between them, as the cattle
might thus be watered for one night at least without the risk of being
bogged or drowned. These lagoons looked like different bends of a river,
although we saw the ends of both and passed on firm ground between them.
It was evident however that they could only be supplied by the
inundations of the river. On this day we killed a kangaroo.
HIGH WIND, DANGEROUS IN A CAMP UNDER TREES.
During the night the weather was tempestuous; at three A.M. it blew a
hurricane and the rain fell heavily afterwards. I was not sorry when the
wind abated for we were so confined for room between the two lagoons that
my tent had been pitched, and most of our encampment placed, unavoidably
under a large yarra tree, a very unsafe position during high winds, but
fortunately no branches fell. In the morning, after proceeding about a
mile, another lagoon lay before us, which was full of water and indeed
terminated in the river. We avoided it by turning to the right and
gaining the higher ground above the level of floods. We continued along
this upper land, thus crossing two small plains; but soon after, being
apprehensive of going too far from the river, we again entered the open
forest of yarra trees which marked so distinctly its immediate margin. At
3 1/2 miles we passed a bend of the river, full of dead trees, the banks
being quite perpendicular and loose. After reaching another bend three
miles further we noticed two lagoons, apparently the remains of an
ancient channel of the river; and at ten miles we came upon a creek as
capacious as the Lachlan and full of large ponds of water. Mr. Stapylton
examined this creek some way up and he found that it came from the
north-east; and on arriving at a favourable place I crossed with the
party and encamped, the day having been very rainy and cold. We soon
discovered that this channel was only a branch of one from the north and,
the latter being very deep, I determined to halt next day, that its
course might be explored while the men made a fit passage across it for
This morning the weather appeared beautifully serene; and the barometer
had risen higher than I had ever seen it on this side of the mountains.
Mr. Stapylton, who left the camp in the morning, returned about sunset
after exploring the creek through a very tortuous course, more or less to
the northward of west. He had also ascertained that it supplied a small
lake about eight miles to the westward of our camp, whence he had
perceived its course bending again towards the river, of which he in fact
considered it only a branch: and I therefore concluded that the ponds of
water so abundant in it were but the remains of a flood in the
A good passageway having been made, we crossed the watercourse and
proceeded towards Lake Stapylton as I understood that there we might
easily recross. I was informed by Burnett that when the journey commenced
this morning the gins in the bush had not responded to Piper's call until
after such a search as convinced him that both intended to leave the
party. He said that in such cases the law of the aborigines was that the
two first attempts of a wife to leave her husband might be punished by a
beating, but that for the third offence he might put her to death. On the
way we traversed the head of a creek somewhat similar to the last, at a
place where it was nearly level with the plain although, just below, it
contained a fine reach of water obviously supplied by the river.
SERIOUS ACCIDENT; A CARTWHEEL PASSES OVER THE WIDOW'S CHILD.
Here an unfortunate accident befel the little native child Ballandella
who fell from a cart and, one of the wheels passing over, broke her
thigh. On riding up I found The Widow her mother in great distress,
prostrate in the dust with her head under the limb of the unfortunate
child. I made the doctor set it immediately; but the femora having been
broken very near the socket, it was found difficult to bandage the limb
so as to keep the bone in its place. Every care however was taken of the
poor little infant that circumstances would allow; and she bore the pain
with admirable patience though only four years old. In her cries on first
meeting with the accident she was heard to call for Majy, a curious
instance of this child's sense at so early an age.
I found that the ground near the lake afforded so good a position for a
depot that I encamped upon it with the intention of ascertaining what
grass the neighbourhood afforded, and how the situation was likely to
answer this purpose in other respects. It had been latterly my intention
to leave the carts, boats, and most of the cattle in a depot at the
junction of the Murrumbidgee and Murray; and to proceed with two light
carts only and a month's provisions to complete the survey of the
Darling. We were now, I considered, within three days' journey, at most,
of that junction (according to Arrowsmith's map) and as these rivers were
dangerous to the cattle, and their banks much frequented by the natives,
such a place as this seemed more convenient and secure for a temporary
GRAVES OF THE NATIVES.
On the rising ground near our camp were several graves, all inclosed in
separate parterres of exactly the same remarkable double or triple ridges
as those first seen on the lower part of the Lachlan. There were three of
these parterres all lying due east and west. On one, evidently the most
recent, the ashes of a hut appeared over the grave. On another, which
contained two graves (one of a small child) logs of wood mixed with long
grass were neatly piled transversely; and in the third, which was so
ancient that the enclosing ridges were barely visible, the grave had sunk
into a grassy hollow. I understood from The Widow that such tombs were
made for men and boys only, and that the ashes over the most recent one
were the remains of the hut which had been burnt and abandoned after the
murder of the person whose body was buried beneath had been avenged by
the tribe to whom the brother or relative keeping it company above ground
CHOOSE A POSITION FOR THE DEPOT.
This morning the bullock-drivers gave so favourable an account of the
pasture that I determined to leave a depot there and to set out next
morning with the rest of the party for the Darling. The day was therefore
passed in making the necessary arrangements. I proposed leaving Mr.
Stapylton with eight trusty men; and to take with me the rest, consisting
of fifteen, including Burnett and Piper. I calculated on being absent
four weeks at most; and rations for the supply of the party for that time
were immediately weighed out and packed, along with our tents, in two
light carts which were to be drawn by five bullocks each. Thus I expected
to be able to travel fifteen miles a day; and to have the men in better
order for dealing with the fire-eaters of the Darling than when they were
all occupied as bullock-drivers, carters, etc. etc.
MY HORSE KILLED BY THE KICK OF A MARE.
Before I got up this morning I was informed that the same unlucky mare
which had already caused the death of one of the horses had just broken
the thigh of my own horse; and thus I was forced to have it shot when it
was in better condition than usual, having been spared from working much
for some time that it might be fresh for this excursion. Such an
inauspicious event on the morning of my intended departure for the
Darling was by no means encouraging. I left The Widow at the depot camp,
having given directions that she should have rations and that every care
should be taken of the child whose broken limb had been set and bound to
a board in such a manner that the little patient could not, by moving,
disturb the bone in healing. Mr. Stapylton was aware of the necessity for
preventing The Widow from going back just then, lest she might have
fallen into the hands of any pilfering tribe likely to follow us. The
accident which had befallen Ballandella (of whom she was very fond) was
however likely to be a tie on her, at least until our return; for it
would have been very injurious to have moved the child in less than
several weeks. A stockyard was to be erected for the cattle that they
might be brought up there every night during our absence; and the men
appointed to remain at the depot were told off in watches for the cattle
PROCEED TO THE DARLING WITH A PORTION OF THE PARTY.
Mr. Stapylton and I then separated with a mutual and most sincere wish
that we should meet again as soon as possible. The position of the camp
was excellent, being on the elevated edge of a plain overlooking an
extensive reach of water, and surrounded with grass in greater abundance
and variety than we had seen in any part for some time.
During our progress this day we were for some miles in danger of being
shut in by the creek extending from the lake, as it increased
prodigiously and at length resembled a still reach of the Murrumbidgee
itself. After crossing it several times I was fortunate enough to be able
to keep the right bank, by which we got clear, passing along the edge of
a slight fall which looked like the berg of the main stream.
REACH THE MURRAY.
At 7 1/2 miles we crossed ground of a more open character than any we had
seen for some days; and it appeared to belong to the river margin, as it
was marked by some yarra trees. On approaching this river I judged, from
the breadth of its channel, that we were already on the banks of the
Murray. Thus without making any detour, and much sooner than I had reason
to expect from the engraved map, we had reached the Murray, and our depot
thus proved to be in the best situation for subsequently crossing that
river at its junction with the Murrumbidgee, as originally intended.
Leaving a little plain on our right, we entered the goborro or box-forest
with the intention of keeping near the river; but from this we had to
recede on meeting with a small but deep branch of the stream with some
water in it. Proceeding next directly towards some high trees at the
western extremity of the plains, we reached a favourable bend of the
Murray and there encamped.
ITS BREADTH AT OUR CAMP. DESCRIPTION OF ITS BANKS.
This magnificent stream was 165 yards broad, its waters were whitish, as
if tinged with some flood; the height of the red bank, not subject to
inundation, was 25 feet and by comparing these measurements with the
Murrumbidgee, which at Weyeba was 50 yards wide, with banks 11 feet high
(and that seemed a fine river) some idea may be formed of the Murray.* At
the place where we encamped the river had no bergs, for its bank
consisted of the common red earth covered with the acacia bushes and
scrub of the interior plains. The land at the point opposite was lower
and sandy, and a slight rapid was occasioned in the stream by a ridge of
(*Footnote. See comparative sections of these and other rivers to one
scale on the General Map in Volume 1.)
It was quite impossible to say on what part of the Murray, as laid down
by Captain Sturt, we had arrived; and we were therefore obliged to feel
our way just as cautiously as if we had been upon a river unexplored. The
ground was indeed a tolerable guide, especially after we found that this
river also had bergs which marked the line of separation between the
desert plain or scrub and the good grassy forest-land of which the
river-margin consisted. As we proceeded I found it best to keep along the
bergs as much as possible in order to avoid ana-branches* of the river.
Where the bergs receded forest land with the goborro or dwarf-box
intervened. In travelling over ground of this description we crossed, at
two miles from the camp, a dry creek or branch, and another at a mile and
a quarter further.
(*Footnote. Having experienced on this journey the inconvenient want of
terms relative to rivers I determined to use such of those recommended by
Colonel Jackson in his able paper on the subject, in the Journal of the
Royal Geographical Society for 1833, as I might find necessary. They are
Tributary: Any stream adding to the main trunk.
Ana-branches: Such as after separation unite.
Berg, bergs: Heights now at some distance, once the immediate banks of a
river or lake.
Bank: That part washed by the existing stream.
Border: The vegetation at the water's edge, forest trees, or quays of
Brink: The water's edge.
Margin: The space between the brinks and the bergs.)
MEET WITH A TRIBE.
Soon after we entered a small plain bounded on the west by another dry
channel, and beyond this we were prevented from continuing in the
direction in which I wished to travel by a creek full of water, obliging
us to turn northward and eastward of north until I at length found a
crossing-place, and just as we perceived smoke at some distance beyond
the other bank. To this smoke Piper had hastened, and when I reached a
plain beyond the creek I saw him carrying on a flying conversation with
an old man and several gins who were retiring in a north-west direction
to a wood about a mile distant.
This wood we also at length reached, and we found that it encircled a
beautiful lake full sixteen miles in circumference and swarming with
natives both on the beach and in canoes.
The alarm of our arrival was then resounding among the natives whom I saw
in great numbers along its western shores. This lake, like all those we
had previously seen, was surrounded by a ridge of red earth, rather
higher than the adjacent plains, and it was evidently fed, during high
floods, by the creek we had crossed. I travelled due west from the berg
of this lake along the plain which extended in that direction a mile and
three-quarters. We then came to another woody hollow or channel in which
I could at first see only a field of polygonum, although we soon found in
it a broad deep reach of still water. In tracing it to the left or from
the lake towards the river, we found it increased so much in width and
depth, after tracing it three-quarters of a mile, that a passage in that
direction seemed quite out of the question. Many of the natives who had
followed us in a body from the lake overtook us here. They assured Piper
that we were near the junction of this piece of water with the Millewa
(Murray) and that in the opposite direction, or towards the lake, they
could show us a ford. We accordingly turned and we came to a narrow place
where the natives had a fish-net set across. On seeing us preparing to
pass through the ford, they told Piper that, at a point still higher up,
we might cross where the channel was dry. Thither therefore we went, the
natives accompanying us in considerable numbers, but each carrying a
green bough. Among them were several old men who took the most active
part and who were very remarkable from the bushy fulness and whiteness of
their beards and hair; the latter growing thickly on the back and
shoulders gave them a very singular appearance, and accorded well with
that patriarchal authority which the old men seem to maintain to an
astonishing degree among these native tribes. The aged chiefs from time
to time beckoned to us, repeating very often and fast at the same time
"goway, goway, goway," which, strange to say, means "come, come, come."
Their gesture and action being also precisely such as we should use in
calling out "go away!" We crossed the channel at length where the bed was
quite dry, and pitched our tents on the opposite side.
DISCOVER THE NATIVES TO BE THOSE LAST SEEN ON THE DARLING.
It will however be readily understood with what caution we followed these
natives when we discovered, almost as soon as we fell in with them, that
they were actually our old enemies from the Darling! I had certainly
heard, when still far up on the Lachlan, that these people were coming
down to fight us; but I little expected they were to be the first natives
we should meet with on the Murray, at a distance of nearly two hundred
miles from the scene of our former encounter. There was something so
false in a forced loud laugh, without any cause, which the more plausible
among them would frequently set up, that I was quite at a loss to
conceive what they meant by all this uncommon civility. In the course of
the afternoon they assembled their women and children in groups before
our camp, exactly as they had formerly done on the Darling; and one or
two small parties came in, whose arrival they seemed to watch with
particular attention, hailing them while still at a distance as if to
prevent mistakes. We now ascertained through Piper that the tribe had
fled precipitately from the Darling last year to the country westward,
and did not return until last summer, when they found the two bullocks we
left there; which, having become fat, they had killed and eaten. We also
ascertained that some of the natives then in the camp wore the teeth of
the slaughtered animals, and that they had much trouble in killing one of
them, as it was remarkably fierce. This we knew so well to the character
of one of the animals that we had always supposed it would baffle every
attempt of these savages to take it.
In the group before me were pointed out two daughters of the gin which
had been killed, also a little boy, a son. The girls exactly resembled
each other and reminded me of the mother. The youngest was the handsomest
female I had ever seen amongst the natives. She was so far from black
that the red colour was very apparent in her cheeks. She sat before me in
a corner of the group, nearly in the attitude of Mr. Bailey's fine statue
of Eve at the fountain; and apparently equally unconscious that she was
naked. As I looked upon her for a moment, while deeply regretting the
fate of her mother, the chief who stood by, and whose hand had more than
once been laid upon my cap, as if to feel whether it were proof against
the blow of a waddy, begged me to accept her in exchange for a tomahawk!
HARASSING NIGHT IN THEIR PRESENCE.
The evening was one of much anxiety to the whole party. The fiendish
expression of some of these men's eyes shone horribly, and especially
when they endeavoured to disguise it by treacherous smiles. I did not see
the tall man nor the mischievous old one of last year; but there were
here many disposed to act like them. One miserable-looking dirty aged man
was brought forward, and particularly pointed out to me by the tribe. I
accordingly showed him the usual attention of sitting down and smoothing
the ground for him.* But he soon requested me to strip, on which I arose,
mindful of a former vow, and perceiving the blacksmith washing himself, I
called him up and pointed out the muscles of his arm to the curious sage.
The successor and brother, as the natives stated, of king Peter, was also
looking on, and I made Vulcan put himself into a sparring attitude and
tip him a touch or two, which made him fall back one or two paces, and
look half angry. We distinctly recognised the man who last year threw the
two spears at Muirhead; while on their part they evidently knew again
Charles King who, on that occasion, fired at the native from whose spears
Tom Jones so narrowly escaped.
(*Footnote. Instead of handing a chair the equivalent of politeness with
Australian natives is to smooth down or remove with the foot any sharp
spikes or rubbish on the ground where you wish your friend to be seated
Night had closed in and these groups hung still about us, having also
lighted up five large fires which formed a cordon around our camp. Still
I did not interfere with them, relying chiefly on the sagacity and
vigilance of Piper whom I directed to be particularly on the alert. At
length Burnett came to inform me that they had sent away all their gins,
that there was no keeping them from the carts, and that they seemed bent
Piper also took alarm and came to me inquiring, apparently with a
thoughtful sense of responsibility, what the Governor had said to me
about shooting blackfellows. "These," he continued, "are only Myalls"
(wild natives). His gin had overheard them arranging that three should
seize and strip him, while others attacked the tents. I told him the
Governor had said positively that I was not to shoot blackfellows unless
our own lives were in danger. I then went out--it was about eight
o'clock--and I saw one fellow, who had always been very forward, posted
behind our carts and speaking to Piper's wife.
ROCKETS FIRED TO SCARE THEM AWAY.
I ordered him away, then drew up the men in line and when, as
preconcerted, I sent up a rocket and the men gave three cheers, all the
blacks ran off, with the exception of one old man who lingered behind a
tree. They hailed us afterwards from the wood at a little distance where
they made fires, saying they were preparing to corrobory and inviting us
to be present. Piper told them to go on, and we heard something like a
beginning to the dance, but the hollow sounds they made resembled groans
more than any sort of music, and we saw that they did not, in fact,
proceed with the dance. It was necessary to establish a double watch that
night and indeed none of the men would take their clothes off. The most
favourable alternative that we could venture to hope for was that a
collision might be avoided till daylight.
THEY AGAIN ADVANCE IN THE MORNING.
The night passed without further molestation on the part of the natives;
but soon after daybreak they were seen advancing towards our camp. The
foremost was a powerful fellow in a cloak, to whom I had been introduced
by king Peter last year, and who was said to be his brother. Abreast of
him, but much more to the right, two of the old men, who had reached a
fallen tree near the tents, were busy setting fire to the withering
branches. Those who were further back seemed equally alert in setting
fire to the bush and, the wind coming from that quarter, we were likely
soon to be enveloped in smoke. I was then willing that the barbarians
should come again up, and anxious to act on the defensive as long as
possible; but when I saw what the old men were about I went into my tent
for my rifle and ordered all the men under arms. The old rascals, with
the sagacity of foxes, instantly observed and understood this movement
MEN ADVANCE TOWARDS THEM HOLDING UP THEIR FIREARMS.
I then ordered eight men to advance towards the native camp, and to hold
up their muskets as if to show them to the natives, but not to fire
unless attacked, and to return at the sound of the bugle.
THEY RETIRE, AND WE CONTINUE OUR JOURNEY.
The savages took to their heels before these men who, following the
fugitives, disappeared for a time in the woods but returned at the bugle
call. This move, which I intended as a threat and as a warning that they
should not follow us, had at least the effect of giving us time to
breakfast, as Muirhead observed on coming back to the camp.
AGAIN FOLLOWED BY THE NATIVES. DANGER OF THE PARTY.
We afterwards moved forward on our journey as usual; but we had scarcely
proceeded a mile before we heard the savages in our rear and, on my
regaining the Murray, which we reached at about three miles, they were
already on the bank of that river, a little way above where we had come
upon it and consequently as we proceeded along its bank they were behind
us. They kept at a considerable distance; but I perceived through my
glass that the fellow with the cloak carried a heavy bundle of spears
He comes, not in peace, O Cairbar:
For I have seen his forward spear. Ossian.
LONG MARCH THROUGH A SCRUBBY COUNTRY.
We were then upon a sloping bank or berg,* which was covered backwards
with thick scrub; below it lay a broad reach of still water in an old
channel of the river and which I, for some time, took to be the river
itself. It was most painfully alarming to discover that the knowledge
these savages had acquired of the nature of our arms, by the loss of
several lives last year, did not deter them from following us now with
the most hostile intentions.
(*Footnote. See above.)
We had endeavoured to prevent them, by the demonstration of sending the
men advancing with firearms, yet they still persisted; and Piper had
gathered from them that a portion of their tribe was still before us. Our
route lay along the bank of a river, peopled by other powerful tribes;
and at the end of 200 miles we could only hope to reach the spot where
the party already following in our rear had commenced the most unprovoked
hostility last season. I had then thought it unsafe to divide my party,
it was already divided now, and the cunning foe was between the two
portions; a more desperate situation therefore than this half of my party
was then in can scarcely be imagined. To attempt to conciliate these
people had last year proved hopeless. Our gifts had only excited their
cupidity, and our uncommon forbearance had only inspired them with a poor
opinion of our courage; while their meeting us in this place was a proof
that the effect of our arms had not been sufficient to convince them of
our superior strength. A drawn battle was out of the question, but I was
assured by Piper and the other young natives that we should soon lose
some of the men in charge of the cattle. Those faithful fellows, on whose
courage my own safety depended--some of them having already but narrowly
escaped the spears of these very savages on the former journey. We soon
discovered that the piece of water was not the river, by seeing the
barbarians passing along the other side of it; and I thereupon determined
to travel on as far as I could. The river taking a great sweep to the
southward, we proceeded some miles through an open forest of box or
goborro; and when I at length met with sandhills and the Eucalyptus
dumosa I continued to travel westward, not doubting but that I should
reach the Murray by pursuing that course. We looked in vain however
during the whole day for its lofty trees, and in fact crossed one of the
most barren regions in the world.
NIGHT WITHOUT WATER OR GRASS.
Not a spike of grass could be seen and the soil, a loose red sand, was in
most places covered with a scrub like a thick-set hedge of Eucalyptus
dumosa. Many a tree was ascended by Burnett, but nothing was to be seen
on any side different to what we found where we were. We travelled from
an early hour in the morning until darkness and a storm appeared to be
simultaneously drawing over us. I then hastened to the top of a small
sandhill to ascertain whether there was any adjacent open space where
even our tents might be pitched, and I cannot easily describe the
dreariness of the prospect that hill afforded. No signs of the river were
visible unless it might be near a few trees which resembled the masts of
distant ships on a dark and troubled sea; and equally hazardous now was
this land navigation, from our uncertainty as to the situation of the
river on which our finding water depended, and the certainty that,
wherever it was, there were our foes before us, exulting perhaps in the
thought that we were seeking to avoid them in this vile scrub. On all
sides the flat and barren waste blended imperceptibly with a sky as
dismal and ominous as ever closed in darkness. One bleak and sterile spot
hard by afforded ample room for our camp; but the cattle had neither
water nor any grass that night.
A heavy squall set in and such torrents of rain descended as to supply
the men with water enough; and indeed this was not the only occasion
during the journey when we had been providentially supplied under similar
It appeared that we had not, even in that desert, escaped the vigilance
of the natives, for Piper discovered, within three hundred yards of our
camp, the track of two who, having been there on the preceding evening,
had that morning returned towards the river. At an early hour we yoked up
our groaning cattle and proceeded, although the rain continued for some
time. I pursued by compass the bearing of the high trees I had seen,
though they were somewhat to the northward of west.
AGAIN MAKE THE MURRAY.
Exactly at five miles a green bank and, immediately after, the broad
expanse of the Murray, with luxuriantly verdant margins, came suddenly in
view on the horizon of the barren bush in which we had travelled upwards
of twenty-three miles, and which here approached the lofty bank of the
river. The green hill I had first seen afforded an excellent position for
our camp; and as the grass was good I halted for the rest of the day to
refresh the cattle.
STRANGE NATIVES VISIT THE CAMP AT DUSK.
Towards evening the natives were heard advancing along our track, and
seven came near the camp but remained on the river margin below, which
from our post on the hill we completely overlooked. Piper went to these
natives to ascertain if they were our enemies from the lake. He
recognised several whom he had seen there, and he invited them to come up
the hill; but when I saw them I could not, from their apparently candid
discourse, look upon them as enemies. They said that the tribe which we
had seen at Benanee did not belong to that part of the country, but had
come there to fight us, on hearing of our approach. One of them, who had
been seen at the lake, asked Piper several times why I did not attack
them when I had so good an opportunity, and he informed us that they were
the same tribe which intended to kill another white man (Captain Sturt)
in a canoe, at the junction of the rivers lower down. They also informed
us, on the inquiry being made, that the old man who then behaved so well
to the white men was lately dead, and that he had been much esteemed by
his tribe. I desired Piper to express to them how much we white men
respected him also. I afterwards handed to these people a fire-stick and,
pointing to the flat below, gave them to understand, through Piper, that
the tribe at Benanee had behaved so ill and riotously about our camp that
I could not allow any natives to sit down beside us at night.
New and remarkable shrub.
Darling tribe again.
Their dispersion by the party.
Cross a tract intersected by deep lagoons.
Huts over tombs.
Another division of the Darling tribe.
Barren sands and the Eucalyptus dumosa.
Plants which grow on the sand and bind it down.
Aspect of the country to the northward.
Strange natives from beyond the Murray.
They decamp during the night.
Reach the Darling and surprise a numerous tribe of natives.
Piper and his gin explain.
Search for the junction with the Murray.
Return by night.
Followed by the natives.
Horses take fright.
Break loose and run back.
Narrow escape of some men from natives.
Failure of their intended attack.
Different modes of interment.
Reduced appearance of the Darling.
Desert character of the country.
Return of the party.
Surprise the females of the tribe.
Junction of the Darling and Murray.
Effect of alternate floods there.
NEW AND REMARKABLE SHRUB.
In the scrub adjoining our camp we found a new and remarkably beautiful
shrub bearing a fruit, the stone of which was very similar to that of the
quandang (Fusanus acuminatus) although there was no resemblance either in
the form of the tree or of the flower. This shrub was not unlike the
weeping willow in its growth, and the fruit, which grew at the
extremities of the drooping branches, had the shape of a pear and a black
ring at the broad end. The crop then on the tree was unripe, and was
probably a second one; the flower was also budding, and we hoped to see
the full blossom on our return. Only three or four of these trees were
seen, and they were all on the hill near our encampment. Here likewise
grew a new shrubby species of Xerotes, with hard rush-like leaves, but
allied to X. gracilis.*
(*Footnote. X. effusa, Lindley manuscripts; acaulis, foliis linearibus
longissimis semiteretibus margine scabris dorso striatis: apice dentato
tabescente, panicula mascula effusa abbreviata, bracteis acuminatis
scariosis pedicello brevioribus.)
DARLING TRIBE AGAIN.
We proceeded on our journey as usual, but had not gone far when we heard
the voices of a vast body of blacks following our track, shouting
prodigiously, and raising war cries. It now became necessary for me to
determine whether I was to allow the party under my charge to be
perpetually subject to be cut off in detail by waiting until these
natives had again actually attacked and slain some of my people, or
whether it was not my duty, in a war which not my party, but these
savages, had virtually commenced, to anticipate the intended blow. I was
at length convinced that, unless I could check their progress in our rear
and prevent them from following us so closely, the party would be in
danger of being compelled to fight its way back against the whole savage
population, who would be assembled at that season of drought on the banks
of the large rivers. But in order to ascertain first whether this was the
hostile tribe I sent overseer Burnett with Piper and half the party into
the scrub which skirted our line of route. We were travelling along the
berg or outer bank of the river, a feature which not only afforded the
best defensive position but also guided me in tracing the river's course.
It was also in many parts the only ground clear of timber or bushes and
therefore the best for travelling upon. I directed the men to allow the
tribes to pass along our track towards me, as I intended to halt with the
carts after crossing the low hill. Piper recognised from this scrub the
same people he had seen at Benanee.
DISPERSION OF THE DARLING TRIBE BY THE PARTY.
The natives however having immediately discovered our ambuscade by the
howling of one of their dogs, halted and poised their spears; but a man
of our party (King) inconsiderately discharging his carabine, they fled
as usual to their citadel, the river, pursued and fired upon by the party
from the scrub. The firing had no sooner commenced than I perceived from
the top of the hill which I ascended some of the blacks, who appeared to
be a very numerous tribe, swimming across the Murray. I was not then
aware what accidental provocation had brought on this attack without my
orders, but it was not the time to inquire; for the men who were with me,
as soon as they heard the shots of their comrades and saw me ascend the
hill, ran furiously down the steep bank to the river, not a man remaining
with the carts. The hill behind which these were posted was about a
quarter of a mile from the river, and was very steep on that side, while
on the intervening space or margin below lofty gum trees grew, as in
other similar situations. By the time I had also got down, the whole
party lined the riverbank, the men with Burnett being at some distance
above the spot at which I reached it. Most of the natives were then near
the other side, and getting out while others were swimming down the
stream. The sound of so much firing must have been terrible to them and
it was not without effect, if we may credit the information of Piper who
was afterwards informed that seven had been shot in crossing the river,
and among them the fellow in the cloak, who at Benanee appeared to be the
chief. Much as I regretted the necessity for firing upon these savages,
and little as the men might have been justifiable under other
circumstances for firing upon any body of men without orders, I could not
blame them much on this occasion; for the result was the permanent
deliverance of the party from imminent danger. Our men were liable in
turn to be exposed singly while attending the cattle, which often
unavoidably strayed far from the camp during the night; and former
experience had, in my mind, rendered the death of some of these men
certain. I was indeed satisfied that this collision had been brought
about in the most providential manner; for it was probable that, from my
regard for the aborigines, I might otherwise have postponed giving orders
to fire longer than might have been consistent with the safety of my men.
Such was the fate of the barbarians who, a year before, had commenced
hostilities by attacking treacherously a small body of strangers, which,
had it been sent from heaven, could not have done more to minister to
their wants than it did then, nor endured more for the sake of peace and
goodwill. The men had then been compelled to fire in their own defence
and at the risk of my displeasure. The hostility of these savages had
also prevented me from dividing my party, and obliged me to retire from
the Darling sooner than I might otherwise have done. It now appeared that
they had discovered this, judging from their present conduct, and
unappalled by the effect of firearms, to which they were no longer
strangers, they had boastingly invaded the haunts of other tribes, more
peaceably disposed than themselves, for the avowed purpose of meeting and
attacking us. They had persisted in following us with such bundles of
spears as we had never seen on other occasions, and they were on the
alert to kill any stragglers, having already, as they acknowledged,
destroyed two of our cattle.
This collision took place so suddenly that no man had thought of
remaining at the heads of the horses and cattle, as already stated; nor
was I aware of this until, on returning to them, I found the reins in the
hands of Piper's gin; a tall woman who, wrapped in a blanket, with
Piper's sword on her shoulder, and having a blind eye, opaque and white
like that of some Indian idol, presented rather a singular appearance as
she stood the only guardian of all we possessed. Her presence of mind in
assuming such a charge on such an occasion was very commendable, and
seemed characteristic of the female aborigines.
I gave to the little hill which witnessed this overthrow of our enemies
and was to us the harbinger of peace and tranquillity the name of Mount
CROSS A TRACT INTERSECTED BY DEEP LAGOONS.
The day's journey was still before us. On leaving the river we soon
encountered a small creek or ana-branch* and, though I made a practice of
avoiding all such obstructions by going round rather than crossing them,
yet in the present case I was compelled to deviate from my rule on
finding that this creek would take me too far northward. Soon after, we
approached a lagoon and during the whole day, turn wherever we would, we
were met by similar bodies of water or, as I considered them, pools left
in the turnings and windings of some ana-branch formed during high floods
of the river. Nevertheless I managed to preserve a course in the desired
direction; and at length we encamped on the bank of several deep ponds
which lay in the channel of a broad watercourse. I was anxious to avoid
if possible being shut up between ana-branches and the river lest, as the
river seemed rising, I might be at length surrounded by deep water. I was
in some uncertainty here about the actual situation of the Murray and our
position was anything but good; for it was in the midst of scrubby
ground, and did not command, in any way, the place where alone grass
enough was to be found for the cattle. The bergs of the river were not to
be seen, although the river itself could not be distant; for the whole
country traversed this day was of that description which belongs to the
margin of streams, being grassy land under an open forest containing
goborro and yarra trees. These are seldom found in that region at any
considerable distance from the banks of the river, the whole interior
country being covered with Eucalyptus dumosa and patches of the pine or
(*Footnote. See above.)
A thick fog hung over us in the morning but it did not impede our
progress. For the first three miles our way was along the banks of the
channel or lagoon beside which we had passed the night. It then crossed a
polygonum flat and several dry hollows, beyond which I at length saw the
rising ground of the river-berg and, immediately after, the river itself,
flowing by the base of a precipitous red cliff in which the scrubby flat
country we were travelling upon abruptly terminated. We had cut off a
great bend of the Murray by our intricate journey among the lagoons; and
had again reached the river precisely at the point most desirable.
HUTS OVER TOMBS.
On this upper ground we observed several tombs, all enclosed within
parterres of the same boat-like shape first seen by us on the day we
traced the Lachlan into the basin of the Murrumbidgee. Two of the tombs
here consisted of huts, very neatly and completely thatched over, the
straw or grass being bound down by a well-wrought net. Each hut had a
small entrance on the south-west side, and the grave within was covered
with dry grass or bedding on which lay however some pieces of wood. There
was a third grave with coverings of the same kind, but it was not so
neatly finished, nor was it covered with net.* There were also graves
without any covering; one where it appeared to have been burnt; and two
old-looking graves were open, empty, and about three feet deep.
(*Footnote. Isaiah 45:4. Who remain among the graves.] "The old Hebrews
are charged by the prophet Isaiah with remaining among the graves and
lodging in the monuments." See Lewis' Origines Hebraeae volume 3 page
ANOTHER DIVISION OF THE DARLING TRIBE.
We had not proceeded far through the scrub on the top of the precipice
overhanging the river when the usual alarm term "the natives" was passed
along to me from the people in the rear of our party. Piper had been told
that we should soon see the other division of the Darling tribe, which
was still ahead of us; and I concluded that these natives belonged to it
and were awaiting us at this point where, as they had foreseen, we were
sure to come upon the river. Four or five advanced up to us while the
rest followed among the bushes behind. I recognised two men whom I saw
last year on the Darling. They begged hard for axes and held out green
boughs, but I had not forgotten the treachery of their burning boughs on
our former interview and, thinking I recognised the tall man who had been
the originator of the war, I went up to him with no very kind feeling;
but I was informed he was only that man's brother. My altered manner
however was enough for their quick glance; and indeed one of the best
proofs that these natives belonged to the Darling tribe was the attention
with which they watched me when they asked for tomahawks, and their
speaking so much to Piper about Majy. Of the evil tendency of giving
these people presents I was now convinced, and fully determined not to
give more then. This resolution the natives having discovered very
acutely, their ringleaders vanished like phantoms down the steep cliffs,
and we heard no more of the rest. It is possible that this portion of the
tribe had not then received intelligence of what had befallen the others
or they would not have advanced so boldly up. Be that as it may they
followed us no more, having probably heard in the course of the day from
the division of the tribe which we had driven across the Murray.
BARREN SANDS AND THE EUCALYPTUS DUMOSA. PLANTS WHICH GROW ON THE SAND AND
BIND IT DOWN.
The river taking a turn to the southward, we again entered the dumosa
scrub but it was more open than we had seen it elsewhere. The soil
consisted of barren sand; there was no grass, but there were tufts of a
prickly bush which tortured the horses and tore to rags the men's clothes
about their ankles. I observed that this bush and the Eucalyptus dumosa
grew only where the sand seemed too barren and loose for the production
of anything else; so loose indeed was it that, but for this dwarf tree
and prickly grass, the sand must have drifted so as to overwhelm the
vegetation of adjacent districts, as in other desert regions where sand
predominates. Nature appears to have provided curiously against that evil
here by the abundant distribution of two plants so singularly adapted to
such a soil. The root of the Eucalyptus dumosa resembles that of a large
tree; but instead of a trunk only a few branches rise above the ground,
forming an open kind of bush, often so low that a man on horseback may
look over it for miles. The heavy spreading roots however of this dwarf
tree and the prickly grass together occupy the ground and seem intended
to bind down the sands of the vast interior deserts of Australia. Their
disproportioned roots also prevent the bushes from growing very close
together and, the stems being leafless except at the top, this kind of
eucalyptus is almost proof against the running fires of the bush. The
prickly grass resembles at a distance, in colour and form, an overgrown
bush of lavender; but the pedestrian and the horse both soon find that it
is neither lavender nor grass, the blades consisting of sharp spikes
which shoot out in all directions, offering real annoyance to men and
On ascending a small sandhill about three P.M. I perceived that I could
not hope to reach the river in the direction I was pursuing. Accordingly
I turned to the left and, entering a rather extensive valley which was
bounded on the south by the river-bergs at a distance of three or four
miles, we encamped on the immediate bank of the Murray shortly before
sunset. There was little grass about the river for the ferruginous
finely-grained sandstone formed still the riverbank, and was exactly
similar to the arenaceous rock on the eastern coast.
The river had more the appearance of having a flood in it now than at the
time we first made it, and here we caught some good cod-perch (Gristes
peelii) one weighing seventeen pounds. As we came along the lagoons in
the morning of this day we shot a new kind of duck.
The broad slopes of the river-berg, or second bank, were generally
distinguished by a strip of clear ground which we found the best for
travelling upon; and it afforded us also the satisfaction of overlooking
the friendly river at a greater or less distance on the left. The Murray
meandered between the opposite bergs of the valley or basin which was
here about four miles wide.
ASPECT OF THE COUNTRY TO THE NORTHWARD.
From a hill situated between the river and the scrub I this day saw, for
the first time since we left the Lachlan, a ridge on the horizon. It
appeared to the northward, the west end being distant about seven miles;
and it was long, flat, and not much higher than the surrounding country.
An extensive plain reminded us of those on the Darling and in the more
hollow part of it I perceived the dry bed of a lake, bordered by some
verdure. On proceeding I observed that the bergs fell off; and we
descended into a valley where a line of yarra trees enveloped a dry
creek, very much resembling the one seen by us on the Darling and named
Clover-creek. Crossing this dry course we soon regained the berg of the
river, and found it as favourable to our progress as before but, being of
red sand, I at length led the party along the firm clay at the base of
the higher ground.
STRANGE NATIVES FROM BEYOND THE MURRAY.
As the dogs were chasing a kangaroo across a bit of open flat four
natives appeared at the other side. They came frankly up to us and they
were well painted, broad white patches marking out the larger muscles of
the breasts, thighs, and arms, and giving their persons exactly the
appearance of savages as I have seen them represented in theatres. Their
hair was of a reddish hue and they were altogether men of a different
make from the tribe of the Darling. We accordingly allowed them to remain
in the camp which I took up on the margin of the Murray soon after our
meeting with them. They told us that a creek named Bengallo joined the
Murray amongst the numerous lagoons where we had been encamped two days
before; and they supposed it came from the hills near the Bogan, because
natives from that river sometimes came to the Murray by the banks of the
creek. They also informed us that the name of a river to the southward
was Perrainga; and (if we understood each other rightly by Piper's
interpretation) their name for lake Alexandrina was Kayinga: a lake which
however had, according to them, a wide deep outlet to the sea.
THEY DECAMP DURING THE NIGHT.
During that night it rained heavily and the natives left us, without
notice, during an interval of fair weather. There was much scrub about
the river and I was not quite satisfied with the position of our camp,
but a strict watch was always kept up, and we had excellent watch-dogs,
no bad protection against the midnight treachery of the aborigines.
REACH THE DARLING AND SURPRISE A NUMEROUS TRIBE OF NATIVES.
We heard our new acquaintance cooeying in the bush but we gave no
attention to them and proceeded on our journey. The smooth and verdant
escarp of the river-berg guided us, while the river itself was sometimes
at hand and sometimes four miles off. This day I recognised several
shrubs which I had seen before only on the Darling. At length the berg
terminated altogether in a smooth round hill beyond which lay a low woody
country, intersected by lines of yarra trees in almost every direction. I
thought I perceived in one of these lines the course of the Darling
coming into the extensive valley from the northward; and the old hands
exclaimed, when they saw the bare plains to the north-west of our camp,
that we had got upon the Darling at last. Beyond this valley to the
south-westward I perceived that the bergs of the opposite bank of the
Murray were continuous and advanced to a point about west-south-west.
Upon the whole I was satisfied that we were near the junction of the two
rivers; and we encamped on the lower extremity of the point, already
mentioned, which overlooked a small lagoon and was not above three
hundred yards from an angle of the Murray.
I now ventured to take a north-west course in expectation of falling in
with the supposed Darling. We crossed first a plain about two miles in
breadth, when we came to a line of yarra trees which enveloped a dry
creek from the north-east, and very like Clover-creek. We next travelled
over ground chiefly open, and at four miles crossed a sandhill on which
was a covered tomb, after the fashion of those on the Murray. On
descending from the sand-ridge we approached a line of yarra trees which
overhung a reach of green and stagnant water. I had scarcely arrived at
the bank when my attention was drawn to a fire about a hundred yards
before us and from beside which immediately sprung up a numerous tribe of
blacks who began to jump, wring their hands, and shriek, as if in a state
of utter madness or despair.
PIPER AND HIS GIN EXPLAIN.
These savages rapidly retired towards others who were at a fire on a
further part of the bank, but Piper and his gin, going boldly forward,
succeeded at length in getting within hail and in allaying their fears.
SEARCH FOR THE JUNCTION WITH THE MURRAY.
While he was with these natives I had again leisure to examine the
watercourse upon which we had arrived. I could not consider it the
Darling as seen by me above, and so little did it seem the sister stream
to the Murray as described by Sturt that I at first thought it nothing
but an ana-branch of that river. Neither did these natives satisfy me
about Oolawambiloa, by which I had supposed the Darling was meant but
respecting which they still pointed westward. They however told Piper
that the channel we had reached contained all the waters of Wambool (the
Macquarie) and Callewatta (the upper Darling) and I accordingly
determined to trace it up at least far enough to identify it with the
latter. But I thought it right that we should endeavour first to
recognise the junction with the Murray as seen by Captain Sturt. The
natives said it was not far off; and I accordingly encamped at two
o'clock that I might measure back to that important point. Thirteen
natives set out as if to accompany us, for they begged that we would not
go so fast. Three of them however soon set off at full speed as if on a
message; and the remaining ten fell behind us. We had then passed the
camp of their gins and I supposed at the time that their only object was
to see us beyond these females, Piper being with us.
RETURN BY NIGHT.
I pursued the river through a tortuous course until sunset when I was
obliged to quit it and return to the camp by moonlight without having
seen anything of the Murray. I had however ascertained that the channel
increased very much in width lower down and, when it was filled with the
clay-coloured water of the flood then in the Murray, it certainly had the
appearance of a river of importance.
FOLLOWED BY THE NATIVES.
The country to the eastward seemed so dry and scrubby that I could not
hope in returning to join Mr. Stapylton's party or reach the Murray by
any shorter route than that of our present track; and I therefore
postponed any further survey back towards the junction of the Darling and
Murray until I should be returning this way. We accordingly proceeded
upwards and were followed by the natives. They were late in coming near
us however which Piper and his gin accounted for as follows: As soon as
it was known to them, the day before, that we were gone to the junction,
the strong men of the tribe went by a shorter route; but they were thrown
out and disappointed by our stopping short of that promising point. There
they had passed the night and, having been busy looking for our track in
the morning, the earth's surface being to them a book they always read,
they were late in following our party.
Kangaroos were more numerous and larger here than at any other part we
had yet visited. This day one coming before me I fired at it with my
rifle; and a man beside me, after asking my permission, fired also. The
animal nevertheless ran amongst the party behind, some of whom hastily
and without permission discharged their carabines also.
HORSES TAKE FRIGHT.
At this four horses took fright and ran back at full speed along our
track. Several of the men who went after these horses fell in with two
large bodies of natives coming along this track, and one or two men had
nearly fallen into their hands twice.
BREAK LOOSE AND RUN BACK.
Tantragee (McLellan) when running at full speed pursued by bands of
savages escaped only by the opportune appearance of others of our men who
had caught the horses and happened to come up.
NARROW ESCAPE OF SOME MEN FROM NATIVES.
The natives then closed on our carts, and accompanied them in single
files on each side; but as they appeared to have got rid of all their
spears I saw no danger in allowing them to join us in that manner.
Chancing to look back at them however, when riding some way ahead, the
close contact of such numbers induced me to halt and call loudly,
cautioning the men, upon which I observed an old man and several others
suddenly turn and run and, on my going to the carts, the natives fell
back, those in their rear setting off at full speed.
FAILURE OF THEIR INTENDED ATTACK.
Soon after I perceived the whole tribe running away, as if a plan had
been suddenly frustrated. Piper and his gin, who had been watching them
attentively, now came up and explained to me these movements. It appeared
that the natives entertained the idea that our clothes were impervious to
spears, and had therefore determined on a trial of strength by suddenly
overpowering us, for which purpose they had planted (i.e. hidden) their
spears and all encumbrances, and had told off for each of us six or eight
of their number, whose attack was to be sudden and simultaneous. A
favourable moment had not occurred before they awoke my suspicions; and
thus their motives for sudden retreat were to be understood. That party
consisted of strong men, neither women nor boys being among them; and
although we had little to fear from such an attack, having arms in our
hands, the scheme was very audacious and amounted to a proof that these
savages no sooner get rid of their apprehensions than they think of
aggression. I had on several occasions noticed and frustrated
dispositions apparently intended for sudden attacks, for the natives
seemed always inclined to await favourable opportunities, and were
doubtless aware of the advantage of suddenness of attack to the
assailants.* Nothing seemed to excite the surprise of these natives,
neither horses nor bullocks, although they had never before seen such
animals, nor white men, carts, weapons, dress, or anything else we had.
All were quite new to them and equally strange, yet they looked at the
cattle as if they had been always amongst them, and they seemed to
understand at once the use of everything.
(*Footnote. For a proof of this see extract from Sydney Herald of May
21st 1838 in Appendix 2.3.)
We continued our journey and soon found all the usual features of the
Darling; the hills of soft red sand near the river covered with the same
kind of shrubs seen so much higher up.
DIFFERENT MODES OF INTERMENT.
The graves had no longer any resemblance to those on the Murrumbidgee and
Murray, but were precisely similar to the places of interment we had seen
on the Darling, being mounds surrounded by and covered with dead branches
and pieces of wood.* On these lay the same singular casts of the head in
white plaster which we had before seen only at Fort Bourke.** It is
indeed curious to observe the different modes of burying adopted by the
natives on different rivers. For instance on the Bogan they bury in
graves covered like our own and surrounded with curved walks and
ornamented ground.*** On the Lachlan under lofty mounds of earth, seats
being made around them. On the Murrumbidgee and Murray the graves are
covered with well thatched huts containing dried grass for bedding and
enclosed by a parterre of a particular shape, like the inside of a
whale-boat.**** On the Darling, as above stated, the graves are in
mounds* covered with dead branches and limbs of trees, and are surrounded
by a ditch, which here we found encircled by a fence of dead limbs and
(*Footnote. See Plate 16 volume 1.)
(**Footnote. See Volume 1.)
(***Footnote. See Plate 20 volume 1.)
(****Footnote. See above.)
REDUCED APPEARANCE OF THE DARLING.
As we proceeded the sandhills became more numerous and their surface
softer; while the scrub was at length so close that it was difficult to
follow any particular bearing in travelling through it. Near the river
the surface was broken up by beds of dry lagoons which evidently became
branches of the main stream in times of flood; and the intervening ground
was covered with Polygonum junceum. At length I reached an angle of the
river and encamped on a small flat beside a sandhill. Here the Darling
was only a chain of ponds and I walked across its channel dry-shod, the
bed consisting of coarse sand and angular fragments of ferruginous
sandstone. The width and depth between the immediate banks were about the
same as I had found them in the most narrow and shallow parts during my
former journey. While I stood on the adverse side or right bank of this
hopeless river I began to think I had pursued its course far enough. The
identity was no longer a question.
DESERT CHARACTER OF THE COUNTRY.
The country on its banks in this part presented also the same unvaried
desert features that it did in the districts examined by us during the
preceding year. The Murray, unlike the Darling, was a permanent river,
and I thought it advisable to exhaust no more of my means in the survey
of deserts but rather employ them and the time still at my disposal in
exploring the sources of that river, according to my instructions and in
hopes of discovering a better country. My anxiety about the safety of the
depot brought me more speedily to this determination. During the wet and
cold weather there might be less activity among the savage natives, but
it was not probable that the tribe which had collected 500 men to attack
Captain Sturt would be quiet in my rear after having lost some of their
number. To be in detached parties amongst a savage population was
perilous in proportion to the length of time we continued separate; and I
did not feel warranted in exhausting all my means in order to attain, by
a circuitous route, the point where my survey ought to have commenced;
while a second duty for which the means now left were scarcely adequate
remained to be performed. I had already reached a point far above where
any boat could be taken, or even any heavy carts; and nothing was to be
gained by following the river further.
The natives were heard by Piper several times during the day's journey in
the woods beyond the river, as if moving along the right bank in a route
parallel with ours; but they did not appear near our camp, although their
smoke was seen at a distance.
For several days the barometer had been falling and this morning the
weather was rainy and cold.
RETURN OF THE PARTY.
After tracing the further course of the Darling for some distance and
obtaining, during an interval of sunshine, a view from a sandhill which
commanded a very extensive prospect to the northward, I commenced the
retrograde movement along our route, which was but too deeply visible in
the sand. From what Piper had said the men expected an engagement during
the morning; and it was doubtful, on account of the wetness of the day,
whether their pieces would go off if the natives came on; but fortunately
we continued our journey unmolested. We reached our former encampment
notwithstanding the unfavourable state of the ground, and again pitched
our tents upon it. We found among the scrubs this day a new curious
species of Baeckea with extremely small scattered leaves not larger than
grains of millet, plano-convex and covered with pellucid dots.*
(*Footnote. B. crassifolia, Lindley manuscripts; glaberrima, foliis
subrotundis oblongisque obtusis plano-convexis crassis, floribus
solitariis axillaribus pedicellatis cernuis, laciniis calycinis
marginatis integerrimis petalis integris brevioribus.)
SURPRISE THE FEMALES OF THE TRIBE.
The natives had not again appeared, so that Piper's conjecture that they
were moving up the river by the opposite bank with a view to assemble the
tribes higher up appeared to be correct. Their gins had been left at
their old camp; for as the party crossed a flat not far from it, and I
fired at a kangaroo, their voices were immediately heard, signal columns
of smoke arose in the air, and they hurried with their children to the
opposite side of the Darling. From this astonishment on their part at our
appearance, and especially from their flight, knowing well then who we
were, it was not improbable that they knew the men were absent on some
mischievous scheme affecting us.
JUNCTION OF THE DARLING AND MURRAY.
I struck out of the former line of route for the purpose of extending my
measurement to the junction of the rivers, and thus at length found the
Darling within a zone of trees which I had formerly taken for the line of
the Murray. The banks were high and the channel was also much broader
here. After tracing this river about four miles I found that the still
but turbid backwater from the larger stream nearly reached the top of the
grassy bank of the other. At length I perceived the Murray before me
coming from the south-south-east, a course directly opposed to that in
which I had followed the Darling for a mile. Both rivers next turned
south-west, then westward, leaving a narrow tongue of land between, and
from the point where they both turned westward to their junction at the
extremity of this ground between them, I found that the distance was
exactly three-quarters of a mile. A bank of sand extended further and, on
standing upon this and looking back, I recognised the view given in
Captain Sturt's work and the adjacent localities described by him. The
state of the rivers was no longer however the same as when this spot was
first visited. All the water visible now belonged to the Murray, whose
course was rapid, while its turbid flood filled also the channel of the
Darling, but was there perfectly still. We were then distant about a
hundred miles from the rest of the party who, before we could join them,
might have had enough to do with the natives. I thought that in case it
might ever be necessary to look for us, this junction was the most likely
spot where traces might be sought; and I therefore buried near the point,
beside a tree marked with a large M and the word Dig, a phial in which I
placed a paper containing a brief statement of the circumstances under
which we had arrived there, and our proposed route to the depot, adding
also the names of the men with me. As the ground was soft it was not
necessary to dig but merely to drop the phial into a hole made with the
scabbard of my sabre; and I hoped that the bottle would escape in
consequence the notice of the natives.
EFFECT OF ALTERNATE FLOODS THERE.
The greater width and apparently important character of the Darling near
its mouth may perhaps be accounted for by supposing that floods do not
always occur in it and the Murray at the same time. The remoteness of the
sources of the two rivers and the consequent difference of climate may
occasion a flood in the one, while the waters of the other may be very
low. That this is likely to happen sometimes may be inferred from the
difference between the relative state of the atmosphere on the eastern
coast and on the Darling. This difference seems to have been so
considerable during the last journey as materially to have affected our
barometrical measurements taken simultaneously with observations at
Sydney. When the bed of the greater river is also the deepest any flood
descending by the other channel when the larger stream is low must flow
with greater force into that which is deeper, and in a soft and yielding
soil may thus increase the width of its own channel. On the contrary a
flood coming down the greater river while the minor channel may happen to
be dry must first flow upwards some miles and so fill this channel and,
being thus affected both by the rising and subsidence of the greater
stream, this process would have had a tendency to deepen and widen the
lower part of the Darling.
Return along the bank of the Murray.
Appearance of rain.
Chance of being cut off from the depot by the river floods.
A savage man at home.
Tributaries of the Murray.
A storm in the night.
Traverse the land of lagoons before the floods come down.
Traces of many naked feet along our old track.
Camp of 400 natives.
Narrow escape from the floods of the river.
Piper overtakes two youths fishing in Lake Benanee.
Description of the lake.
Great rise in the waters of the Murray.
Security of the depot.
Surrounded by inundations.
Cross to it in a bark canoe made by Tommy Came-last.
Search for the junction of the Murrumbidgee and Murray.
Mr. Stapylton reaches the junction of the rivers.
Reception by the natives of the left bank.
Passage of the Murray.
Heavy rains set in.
Row up the Murray to the junction of the Murrumbidgee.
Commence the journey upwards, along the left bank.
Picturesque scenery on the river.
Country improves as we ascend the river.
A region of reeds.
The water inaccessible from soft and muddy banks.
Habits of our native guides.
Natives very shy.
Piper speaks to natives on the river.
Good land on the Murray.
Wood and water scarce.
Junction of two branches.
RETURN ALONG THE BANK OF THE MURRAY.
Returning from the junction towards our last camp on the Murray we again
crossed, when within a mile of that position, the dry channel we had seen
on proceeding towards the north-west. It contained some deep lagoons on
which were pelicans, but we crossed it where the bed was quite dry and
where it presented, like many other parts occasionally under water,
striking proofs of the uncertainty of seasons in these parts of
Australia. Numerous dead saplings of eight or ten years growth stood
there, having evidently flourished in that situation until the water
again filled this channel, after so long an interval of drought, and
On reaching the firm ground beyond we came upon some old graves which had
been disturbed, as the bones protruded from the earth. Piper said that
the dead were sometimes dug up and eaten; but this I could not believe.
By three P.M. we again occupied the remarkable point where we had
formerly encamped. It is at this point (Mount Lookout on the map) that
the berg of the Murray terminates on the basin of the Darling and thus
commands, as before observed, an extensive view over the woody country to
the westward. It would be an important position in any kind of warfare,
and during my operations I felt as strong upon it with my party as if we
had been in a citadel. I had now, I hoped, again got between the junction
tribes and our old enemies, though the latter were still between us and
our depot; and thus any danger of the junction tribes uniting with those
up the Murray was less to be apprehended. Piper however discovered the
track of a considerable number who had proceeded up the river the day
before. Indeed all the tracks of natives he found led upwards and, seeing
no longer any of them there, we felt more anxious about the safety of the
APPEARANCE OF RAIN. CHANCE OF BEING CUT OFF FROM THE DEPOT BY THE RIVER
The barometer had been falling gradually from the 1st instant, and this
was another source of anxiety to me; for we were in no small danger of
being separated from the other party by any such rise of the river as
might be expected after a heavy fall of rain.
Notwithstanding the unpromising state of the mercurial column the night
had been fair, and in the morning the sky was clear. We lost no time in
moving on and we continued until we were four miles beyond our former
camp; and then crossing Golgol creek we occupied a clear point of land
between it and the Murray.
A SAVAGE MAN AT HOME.
As I was reconnoitring the ground for a camp I observed a native on the
opposite bank and, not being seen by him, I watched awhile the habits of
a savage man at home. His hands were ready to seize any living thing; his
step, light and noiseless as that of a shadow, gave no intimation of his
approach; and his walk suggested the idea of the prowling of a beast of
prey. Every little track or impression left on the earth by the lower
animals caught his keen eye, but the trees overhead chiefly engaged his
attention; for deep in the heart of some of the upper branches he
probably hoped to find the opossum on which he was to dine. The wind blew
cold and keenly through the lofty trees on the river margin, yet that
broad brawny savage was entirely naked. Had I been unarmed I had much
rather have met a lion than that sinewy biped; but situated as I was,
with a broad river flowing between us while I overlooked him from a high
bank, I ventured to disturb his meditations with a loud halloo: he stood
still, looked at me for about a minute, and then retired with that easy
bounding step which may be termed a running walk, and exhibits an
unrestrained facility of movement, apparently incompatible with dress of
any kind. It is in bounding lighting at such a pace that, with the
additional aid of the woomerah, an aboriginal native can throw his spear
with sufficient force and dexterity to kill the emu or kangaroo, even
when at their speed. One or two families of natives afterwards appeared
hutted on the riverbank nearly opposite to our camp, and Piper opened a
conversation with them across the river. These people had heard nothing
of what had befallen the Benanee tribe. They had some years before seen
white men go down and return up the river in a large canoe; and Piper
also learnt from them that the Millewa (Murray) had now a flood in it,
having for some time previous been much lower than it was then; but they
assured Piper, apparently with exultation, that it flowed always.
TRIBUTARIES OF THE MURRAY.
The name of the creek we had just crossed was Golgol, and it came from
the low range of the same name which I had observed on May 29. From what
these natives said of Bengallo creek I thought it might be that branch of
the Lachlan, already mentioned as Boororan, flowing westward under
Warranary and other hills between the Murrumbidgee and the Darling.
A STORM IN THE NIGHT.
Rain had fallen during the night but the day was favourable though
cloudy. I ventured on a straight line through the sand and bushes of
Eucalyptus dumosa in order to cut off some miles of our beaten track,
which was nearer the river and rather circuitous. We crossed some
sandhills, the loose surface of which was bound down only by the prickly
grass already described. From these hills the view was extensive and
bounded on all sides by a perfectly level horizon. On one of them a
solitary tree drew my attention and, on examining it, I discovered with
much satisfaction that it was of that singular kind I had only once or
twice seen last year in the country behind the Darling. The leaves, bark,
and wood tasted strongly of horse-radish. We now obtained specimens of
its flower and seed, both of which seemed very singular.* By the more
direct route through the scrub this day, with what we gained yesterday,
we were enabled to reach, at the usual hour for encamping, the red cliffs
near the spot where we formerly met the second division of the Darling
tribe. I took up a position on the western extremity of the broken bank,
overlooking an angle of the river, and commanding a grassy flat where our
cattle would be also secure. The weather became very boisterous after
sunset, and our tents were so much exposed to the fury of the wind that
at one time I thought they would be blown into the river. The waters
continuing to rise, the Murray now poured along nearly on a level with
its banks, and how we should cross or avoid:
The mosses, waters, slaps, and stiles
that lay between us and the depot, if the river rose much longer, was a
question for which I was prepared. On the other hand the very cold and
boisterous weather was in our favour as being opposed to any assembling
of the tribes at points of difficulty along the line of our track, as
they certainly ought to have done as good tacticians, for they never lost
sight of our movements while we were in that country.
(*Footnote. A new and genuine species of Gyrostemon. Gyrostemon pungens,
Lindley manuscripts; foliis rhomboideis acutis glaucis in petiolum
angustatis. The capsules are arranged in a single verticillus and
consequently this species will belong to Gyrostemon as distinguished from
Codonocarpus by Mr. Endlicher.)
TRAVERSE THE LAND OF LAGOONS BEFORE THE FLOODS COME DOWN.
It had rained heavily during the night but the morning was clear. As we
continued our journey the natives were heard in the woods although none
appeared. Fortunately for our progress the floods had not reached the
lagoons, and we succeeded in passing the whole of this low tract, so
subject to inundations, without difficulty; and we finally encamped
within four miles of the ground where we had been obliged to disperse the
Darling tribes. We pitched our tents on the eastern side of the lagoon
where we found an agreeable shelter from the storm in some scrub which,
on former occasions, we should not have thought so comfortable a
neighbour. We could now enter such thickets with greater safety; and in
this we found a very beautiful new shrubby species of cassia, with thin
papery pods and numbers of the most brilliant yellow blossoms. On many of
the branches the leaflets had fallen off and left nothing but the flat
leafy petioles to represent them. The pods were of various sizes and
forms, on which account, if new, I would name it C. heteroloba.*
(*Footnote. C. heteroloba, Lindley manuscripts; foliolis bijugis
linearibus carnosis cito deciduis apice mucronulatis recurvis, glandula
parva conica inter omnia, petiolo compresso herbaceo nunc aphyllo
mucronulato, racemis paucifloris folio brevioribus, leguminibus oblongis
planis obtusis papyraceis continuis aut varie strangulatis.)
The ground had been so heavy for travelling during some days that the
cattle much needed rest; and as I contemplated the passage, in one day of
that dumosa scrub, occupying twenty miles along the tract before us, I
made this journey a short one, moving only to our old encampment of May
26. The scrub here seemed more than usually rich in botanical novelties
for, besides the Murrayana tree, we found a most beautiful Leucopogon
allied to L. rotundifolius of Brown, with small heart-shaped leaves
polished on the upper side and striated on the lower, so as to resemble
the most delicate shell-work.* Piper discovered, on examining the ground
where we had repulsed the Darling tribes, that they had left many of
their spears, nets, etc. on our side of the river, and had afterwards
returned for them, also that a considerable number did not swim across,
but had retired along the riverbank. Upon the whole it was estimated that
the numbers then in our rear amounted to at least one hundred and eighty.
(*Footnote. L. cordifolius, Lindley manuscripts; ramulis pubescentibus,
foliis sessilibus subrotundis planis patentibus cordatis mucronatis
margine scabris supra laevigatis subtus striatis, floribus solitariis
TRACES OF MANY NAKED FEET ALONG OUR OLD TRACK.
As soon as daylight appeared this morning we commenced our long journey
through the scrub; and we discovered to our surprise, by the traces of
innumerable feet along our track, that the natives had not, as I till
then supposed, come along the riverbank, but had actually followed us
through that scrub. They have nevertheless a great dislike to such parts,
not only because they cannot find any game there, but because the prickly
spinifex-looking grass is intolerable against their naked legs. While we
were encamped in the scrub on May 25 they must have also passed that
stormy night there, without either fire or water. On our way through it
now we discovered a new hoary species of Trichinium, very different from
Brown's Tr. incanum.* The cattle, though they were jaded, accomplished
the journey before sunset, and we halted beside the large lagoon adjacent
to that part of the river which was within three miles of our former
camp, being the spot where the natives, in following us from lake
Benanee, first emerged from the woods. The weather being still
boisterous, we occupied a piece of low ground where we were sheltered
from the west or stormy quarter by the river berg.
(*Footnote. Tr. lanatum, Lindley manuscripts; incano-tomentosum, caule
corymboso, foliis obovatis cuneatisque, capitulis hemisphericis lanatis,
bracteis dorso villosis.)
CAMP OF 400 NATIVES.
On the brow of this height and just behind our camp I counted the remains
of one hundred and thirty-five fires at an old encampment of natives and,
as one fire is seldom lighted for less than three persons, there must
have been at least four hundred. The bushes placed around each fire
seemed to have been intended for that temporary kind of shelter required
for only one night.
We proceeded this morning as silently as possible, for we were now
approaching the haunts of the enemy, and I wished to come upon them by
surprise, thinking that I might thereby sooner ascertain whether any
misfortune had befallen the depot.
NARROW ESCAPE FROM THE FLOODS OF THE RIVER.
Two creeks lay in our way and, from the flood then in the Murray, it was
likely that they might be full of water, and the savages prepared to take
advantage of the difficulty we should then experience in crossing them.
The first channel we arrived at, which was quite dry when we formerly
crossed, was now brimful of the muddy water of the Murray and before we
reached its banks we heard the voices of natives on our right. We forded
it however without annoyance, the water reaching only to the axles of the
carts, but the current was very strong and FROM the river, that is to
say, upwards. We next reached our old camp where we had passed that
anxious night near Benanee. Here to my great satisfaction and indeed
surprise, I found the bed of the larger creek, which occasioned us so
great a detour when we first met the natives, still quite dry at our old
crossing-place; being in the same state in which it was then, although
the flood water was now fast approaching it. We got over however with
ease and at length again traversed the plain which skirts the lake; and
we were glad to find that tranquillity prevailed along its extensive
PIPER OVERTAKES TWO YOUTHS FISHING IN LAKE BENANEE.
I perceived only one or two natives fishing, and I took Piper down to the
beach to speak to them, being desirous also to examine at leisure this
fine sheet of water. We found on arriving there that other natives had
run off from some huts on the shore, but Piper pursued those in the lake,
for the purpose of obtaining information about the tribe, until they ran
so far out into the water that they seemed at length up to their ears,
and I was really afraid that the poor fellows, who were found to be only
boys, would be drowned in endeavouring to avoid him. I could scarcely
distinguish them at length from the numerous waterfowl floating around.
In vain I called to their pursuer to come back, Piper was not to be
baffled by boys, and continued to walk through the water like a giant,
brandishing a short spear, or, as the boys would probably say to their
Black he stood as night,
Fierce as ten furies, terrible as hell,
And shook a dreadful dart.
At length, when apparently near the centre of the lake, he overtook one;
and while leading him towards the shore he ascertained that the Darling
tribe had returned to the lake only on the day before, having been ever
since their dispersion on the 27th May until this time, on the opposite
bank of the Murray. That they were then fishing in a lagoon near the
river (where in fact we afterwards saw smoke and heard their voices) and
that they had despatched three messengers to a portion of the tribe on
the upper Darling, with the news of what had befallen them, of our
progress in that direction, and requesting them to join them as soon as
possible at the lake.
DESCRIPTION OF THE LAKE.
I perceived that the depth of water in this basin did not then in any
part exceed 8 or 10 feet, although the surface was probably 20 feet below
the level of the sandy beach, thus making 28 or 30 feet the extreme depth
when full. Now that I could examine it at leisure, I found that this fine
lake was much more extensive than I had at first supposed. The breadth
was about four miles, and I could see along it in a westerly direction at
least six miles. Part of the north-western shore seemed to be clear of
trees but well covered with grass, and to slope gently towards the water.
The whole was surrounded by a beach consisting of fine clean quartzose
sand. This was an admirable station for a numerous body like that from
the Darling. The cunning old men of that tribe seemed well aware that
there they could neither be surrounded nor surprised; the approach to the
lake from the river being also covered in both directions by deep creeks,
passable only at certain places. Their choice of such a position was
creditable to their skill in strategy, and consistent with their thorough
knowledge of localities. I could spare no time to look at the country
beyond this lake (or northward) as I wished to do. From what we learnt
however we were satisfied that the depot was safe, and this fact relieved
me from much anxiety. We had still to cross that creek or ana-branch
which apparently supplies the lake, although it was then still dry. I had
observed that such ana-branches* were deepest at the lower mouths, as if
the river floods entered first there and flowed upwards; although before
the river reached its maximum a strong current would probably set
downwards in the same channel, which would thus become at last a branch
of the main stream.
RETURN TO THE DEPOT.
We reached our former camp on the Murray by 3 P.M., and once more pitched
our tents on the bank of this river. By comparing its height, as measured
formerly, with as much of it as remained above the waters, I found that
it had risen eight feet and a half. We were then within a short day's
journey of the depot but anxious enough still to know if it were safe.
We started early and, by crossing a small plain, cut off half a mile of
our former route. When within a few miles of the camp of Mr. Stapylton we
heard a shot, and soon discovered that it was fired by one of the men
(Webb) rather a mauvais sujet, who had been transgressing rules by firing
at a duck. We learnt from him however the agreeable news that the depot
had not been disturbed.
GREAT RISE IN THE WATERS OF THE MURRAY.
It was now cut off from us by a deep stream which filled the creek it
overlooked and which flowed with a considerable current towards the
Murray, having also filled Lake Stapylton to the brim.
SECURITY OF THE DEPOT.
Mr. Stapylton and his party were well; and during the whole time that we
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