Three Expeditions into the Interior of Eastern Australia, Vol 2 (of 2)
Part 4 out of 8
had been absent the natives had never approached his camp. Such singular
good fortune was more than I could reasonably have expected, and my
satisfaction was complete when I again met Stapylton and saw the party
once more united. The little native Ballandella's leg was fast uniting,
the mother having been unremitting in her care of the child. Good grass
had also been found so that the cattle had become quite fresh and indeed
SURROUNDED BY INUNDATIONS. CROSS TO IT IN A BARK CANOE MADE BY TOMMY
I was ferried over Stapylton's creek in a bark canoe by Tommy Came-last
who also, by the same simple means, soon conveyed every article of
equipment and the rest of the party across to the depot camp.
We had now got through the most unpromising part of our task. We had
penetrated the Australian Hesperides, although the golden fruit was still
to be sought. We had accomplished so much however, with only half the
party, that nothing seemed impossible with the whole; and to trace the
Murray upwards and explore the unknown regions beyond it was a charming
undertaking when we had at length bid adieu forever to the dreary banks
of the Darling.
SEARCH FOR THE JUNCTION OF THE MURRUMBIDGEE AND MURRAY.
The first object of research was the actual junction of the Murrumbidgee
with the Murray. I knew that the creek on which I had fixed the depot
camp came from the former and entered the latter; and that our depot thus
stood on a tract surrounded by water, being between the creek and the
main stream. We were already in fact on a branch-island, immediately
adjacent to the junction we were in search of and, as I intended to
across the Murray either at or below that point, I determined to make an
excursion in search of it next morning.
Riding southward I reached a bend of the river about two miles from our
camp. While tracing the stream upwards from that point we saw some
natives running away from their fires. One of them however held up a
green branch in each hand and, though as he ran he answered Piper, and a
gin had left a heavy bag near us, yet he could not be prevailed on to
stop. When Piper took the bag to the tribe he was obliged to follow them
nearly a mile, when a number at length stood still together, but at a
considerable distance from us, and kept incessantly calling for
tomahawks. From the number of huts along the riverbank it was obvious
that the inhabitants were numerous, and I was therefore the more
surprised that our depot could have continued so long near them without
their discovering it. After following the river upwards of eight miles
without meeting with the Murrumbidgee I came to a place where it seemed
to have formerly had a different channel, and to have left a basin where
the banks of the stream were of easy access, the breadth being only 110
yards. This spot was so favourable for effecting a passage that I
determined on moving the party to it at once; and to entrust to Mr.
Stapylton the further search for the junction of the Murrumbidgee, which
could not be far from it.
MR. STAPYLTON REACHES THE JUNCTION OF THE RIVERS.
While I conducted the party to the point at which I intended to cross Mr.
Stapylton returned along our old route to where we first traversed the
now flooded creek and, by tracing it downward to the Murrumbidgee, and
that river to the Murray, he ascertained the junction to be little more
than a mile from the encampment which I had taken up with the intention
of crossing the Murray. Meanwhile no time had been lost there in pitching
the boats and sinking them in the adjacent basin of still water that the
planks might swell and unite.
I crossed early in the morning and found the opposite bank very
favourable for the cattle to get out; this being a object of much
RECEPTION BY THE NATIVES OF THE LEFT BANK.
I was met as favourably by the natives on this first passage of the
Murray as I had been on our first approach to the Murrumbidgee. A small
tribe came forward and laid a number of newly-made nets at my feet. I
declined accepting anything however save a beautifully wrought bag,
telling the owner through Piper that when the party should have passed to
that side I would give him a tomahawk in return for it.
PASSAGE OF THE MURRAY.
As soon as the day had become rather warm we endeavoured to swim the
bullocks across by driving them into the water at the mouth of the basin
where the river seemed most accessible. But the bank was soft and muddy,
and the animals, when driven into the water, got upon an island in a
shallow part, whence they could not be dislodged, much less compelled to
swim from it to the opposite shore. Not a little time was thus lost,
while only a few could be drawn over by ropes attached to the boats; and
by which process one was accidentally drowned. This was owing to the
injudicious conduct of one of the men (Webb) who gave the animal rope
instead of holding its head close aboard, so as to keep the mouth at
least above water. The drivers then represented that the rest of the
bullocks had been too long in the water to be able to cross before the
next day but, having first tried their plan, I now determined to try my
own; and I directed them to take the cattle to the steepest portion of
the bank, overhanging the narrow part of the river, and just opposite to
the few bullocks which had already gained the opposite shore.
Notwithstanding the weakness of the animals this measure succeeded for,
on driving them down the steep bank so that they fell into the water, the
whole at once turned their heads to the opposite shore and reached it in
safety. We next swam the horses over by dragging each separately at the
stern of a boat, taking care to hold the head above water. Thus by sunset
everything except one or two carts and the boat-carriage had been safely
The natives beyond the Murray were differently-behaved people from those
of the Darling for, although one group sat beside that portion of our
party which was still on the right bank, another, at a point of the
opposite shore to the eastward of our new camp, and a third near my tent
in the neck of a peninsula on which I found we had landed, not one of
them caused us any anxiety or trouble. It was to the last party that I
owed the tomahawk, and I went up with it as they sat at their fires. They
were in number about twenty and unaccompanied by any gins. The man who
had given me the bag seemed to express gratitude for the tomahawk by
offering me another net, also one which he wore on his head; and he
presented to me his son. He saw the two native boys who then accompanied
me as interpreters dressed well and apparently happy, and I had no doubt
the poor man was willing to place his own son under my care. I
endeavoured to explain that we had no more tomahawks, that we had given
none to any other tribe upon the Murray, and that our men were apt to be
very saucy with their guns if too much troubled. Experience had taught me
the necessity for thus perpetually impressing on the minds, even of the
most civil of these savages that, although inoffensive, we were strong;
an idea not easily conceived by them. They however came forward and sat
down near us until very heavy rain, which fell in the night, obliged them
to seek their huts.
HEAVY RAINS SET IN.
The morning dawned under the most steady fall of rain that I had seen
during the journey; and this happened just after new moon, a time when I
had hoped for a favourable change in the weather. Everything was got
across the river this day, and we were prepared for the survey of a new
region. I was occupied with the maps of the country which we had just
left sufficiently to be regardless of the rain, even if it had continued
to fall many days; and very thankful was I that we had got thus far
without having been impeded by the weather.
The rain ceased in the morning and the barometer had risen so much that
no more was to be apprehended then; yet the blacksmith had still some
work to do to the boat-carriage, and we were therefore obliged to halt
ROW UP THE MURRAY TO THE JUNCTION OF THE MURRUMBIDGEE.
In the afternoon I proceeded in one of the boats up the river to the
junction of the Murrumbidgee; and I ascertained that there was a fresh in
that river also. It was certainly narrower at the mouth than at Weyeba;
and here indeed some fallen trees almost crossed the stream. There was a
hollow or break in the bank of the Murray, about 100 yards lower down,
which seemed to have been once an outlet of the Murrumbidgee. The opening
formed a deep section through a stratum of ferruginous sandstone, and was
fully equal to the present breadth of the tributary river. On pulling
higher up, the Murray seemed rather smaller above this junction, although
still a splendid stream. The natives on this side told Piper that the
Darling tribe from the other had danced a corrobory with them about six
weeks before, and promised to return in one moon. They also inquired
whether Piper had seen any of that tribe as they were waiting for us
whitefellows, to which Piper answered that he had NOT. I blamed him for
this reply, and asked why he did not say that we had been obliged to fire
upon and kill some of them: but he said he could not tell them that,
because they would hate him so.
COMMENCE THE JOURNEY UPWARDS, ALONG THE LEFT BANK.
We left our encampment and commenced our travels up the left bank of the
Murray over ground which seemed much better than any we had seen on the
right bank. We crossed grassy plains bounded by sandhills on which grew
pines (callitris); and open forests of goborro (or box-tree) prevailed
very generally nearer the river. Where this tree grew we found the ground
still good for travelling upon, notwithstanding the heavy rain, in
consequence apparently of the argillaceous character of the soil; for in
the plains of red earth, which before the last fall of rain we had found
the best, the horses now sank above their fetlocks and the carts could
scarcely be dragged along. In the course of the day we passed several
broad lagoons in channels which probably were ana-branches of the river
in high floods. On the largest plain crossed by the party four emus
appeared, and one of them was killed after a fine chase by the dogs. The
river appeared to come from the east-south-east but the course was very
tortuous, and we encamped at a reach where it seemed to come from the
The most remarkable incident of this days' journey was the discovery of
an animal of which I had seen only the head among the remains found in
the caves at Wellington Valley. This animal was of the size of a young
wild rabbit and of nearly the same colour, but had a broad head
terminating in a long very slender snout, like the narrow neck of a wide
bottle; and it had no tail. The forefeet were singularly formed,
resembling those of a hog; and the marsupial opening was downwards, and
not upwards as in the kangaroo and others of that class of animals. This
quadruped was discovered on the ground by our native guides, but when
pursued it took refuge in a hollow tree from which they extracted it
alive, all of them declaring that they had never before seen an animal of
(*Footnote. The original has been deposited in the Sydney Museum but,
having shown my friend Mr. Ogilby a drawing of it, he has noticed the
discovery in the Proceedings of the Zoological Society for 1838
describing the animal as "belonging to a new genus closely allied to
Perameles, but differing in the form of the forefeet, which have only two
middle toes resembling those of a hog, and in the total absence of tail.
This genus has been named by Mr. Ogilby Chaeropus ecaudatus.)
The cattle were not brought up until ten o'clock, an unusual
circumstance, and one which curtailed the day's journey. The course of
the river compelled us to travel southward, and even to the westward of
south; but we found better ground by keeping on the open forest-land of
box or goborro, which in general occupied a very extensive space between
the river and the bergs of soft red sandhills on which grew the
SALSOLAE ON THE PLAINS.
The plains covered with salsolae which, as I have just remarked, before
the rain, were considered to afford the best surface for travelling on,
had now become so soft as to be almost impassable, at least by our
wheels, and I this day avoided them as much as I could. The margin where
the box or goborro grew was in many parts hollowed into lagoons or
ana-branches of the river, so that it was desirable to shape our line of
route as closely by the base of these bergs or sandhills as possible.
PICTURESQUE SCENERY ON THE RIVER.
On crossing the point of one of them we came upon a most romantic-looking
scene where a flood branch had left a serpentine piece of water,
enclosing two wooded islands of rather picturesque character, the whole
being overhung by the steep and bushy slope of the hill. The scenery of
some lakes thus formed was very fine, especially when their rich verdure
and lofty trees were contrasted with the scrub which covered the
sandhills nearest the river, where a variety of shrubs such as we had not
previously seen formed a curious foreground. Amongst them was a creeper
with very large pods, two of which were brought to me last year, while on
the Darling, by one of the men, who could not afterwards find the tree
again, or say what it was like. We also found one Eucarya murrayana with
young unripe fruit. (See Plate 28 which represents the general character
of the scenery on the Murray.)
The country abounded with kangaroos. On ascending some grassy ridges I
perceived a verdant plain which extended as far as I could see to the
westward. It was bounded on the south, not by scrub, but by a forest of
large trees; and the horizon beyond presented something like an outline
of hills, a refreshing sight, accustomed as we had been for several
months to a horizon as level as that of the ocean. After travelling about
three miles we were obliged to turn westward by a creek or ana-branch of
the river, having on its banks large yarra trees resembling those in the
main stream. It prevented us from approaching the Murray during the rest
of the day, and we finally encamped on its margin having found there most
Continuing along the firm ground between the bergs and this creek we
pursued a course which for some miles bore to the westward of south. We
passed through forests of the box or goborro, under which grew a
luxuriant crop of grass and two of these flats (on which we saw yarra
trees also) stretched away to the westward, breaking the elsewhere
unvaried wilderness of sandhills and scrub. On crossing one of these
forest flats we heard the sound of the natives' hatchet on some hollow
trees before us; and Piper as usual hastened forward to communicate with
them, but in vain for, as soon as they saw him, they ran like kangaroos,
leaving the fortunate opossum which they had been seeking still alive in
his hole in the tree. At length we got clear of the creek on reaching a
bend of the river not far beyond the spot where we had seen the natives.
COUNTRY IMPROVES AS WE ASCEND THE RIVER.
The Murray was flowing rapidly in a narrower channel and within two or
three feet of the top of the banks. The country appeared on the whole
superior to any that we had seen on the other side of this river. The
grassy flats backed by hills covered with callitris seemed very eligible
for cattle runs, the chief objection to them being only that the banks of
the river were so steep and yielding that the water was in general
inaccessible. The breadth seldom exceeded 60 or 70 yards; and I suspected
that we might be already above the junction of some stream on the right
bank, especially as the course came now so much from the southward.
A REGION OF REEDS.
On crossing the extremity of a sandhill, about two miles from the spot
where we afterwards encamped, I perceived that reeds covered a vast
region before us. They grew everywhere, even under the trees, and
extended back from the channel of the river as far as I could see and, no
alternative presenting itself, we endeavoured to face them. The lofty
ash-hills of the natives, used chiefly for roasting the balyan (or
bulrush) a root found only in such places, again appeared in great
numbers. We soon came upon a lagoon about a mile in circumference and
surrounded on all sides by high reeds. One or two smooth grassy hills
arose among them, but the ground, even where they grew, was as firm and
good for travelling upon as any that we had recently crossed. They were
no impediment to a man or bullock in motion, but grew to the height of
about seven or eight feet.
THE WATER INACCESSIBLE FROM SOFT AND MUDDY BANKS.
Grass was also to be found among them and I was willing to encamp there;
but the difficulty was in finding a spot where the cattle could approach
the water. The flood ran high in the deep and rapid river; yet the margin
was covered with high reeds and, although I ultimately encamped near a
small lagoon within the reeds, the cattle would not venture to drink at
it, instinctively shrinking back from the muddy margin. In the course of
the evening one animal fell into the river and was extricated with great
difficulty and after much digging in the bank. One remarkable difference
between this river and the Murrumbidgee was that, in the latter, even
where reeds most prevailed, a certain space near the bank remained
tolerably clear: whereas on this river the reeds grew most thickly and
closely on its immediate banks, thus presenting a much less imposing
appearance than the Murrumbidgee, with its firmer banks crowned with
lofty forests of yarra. Each Australian river seems to have some peculiar
character, sustained with remarkable uniformity throughout the whole
HABITS OF OUR NATIVE GUIDES.
Piper, although so far from his country, could still point directly to
it, but he had grown so homesick that he begged Burnett not to mention
Bathurst. To return except with us was quite out of the question, and as
we still receded he dragged, as the phrase is, a lengthening chain. He
studied my visage however and could read my thoughts too well to doubt
that I too hoped to return. The whole management of the chase now
devolved on him and the two boys, his humble servants; and this native
party usually explored the woods with our dogs for several miles in front
of the column. The females kept nearer the party, and often gave us
notice of obstacles in time to enable me to avoid them. My question on
such occasions was Dago nyollong yannagary? (Which way shall we go? ) to
which one would reply, pointing in the proper direction, Yalyai
nyollong-yannar! (Go that way.) Depending chiefly on the survey for my
longitude, my attention was for the most part confined to the
preservation of certain bearings in our course by frequent observations
of the pocket compass; but in conducting carts where no roads existed,
propitiating savage natives, taking bearings and angles, observing rocks,
soil and productions, so much care and anxious attention was necessary
that I believe I was indebted to the sympathy even of my aboriginal
friends for the zealous aid they at all times afforded.
Notwithstanding the obvious necessity for closely watching the cattle,
they had been suffered to ramble nine miles up the river during the
night; and were not brought back to the camp until noon. This unusual and
untoward circumstance was the more surprising as the whole country along
the riverbank was covered with good grass. Whether they had instinctively
set off towards the upper country, where most of them were bred; or that
want of water after a hard day's work had occasioned such restlessness,
it was difficult to say; but they wandered even beyond the camp that we
reached this day in a journey commenced however only at half-past 12.
NATIVES VERY SHY.
The natives peeped over the reeds at us from a considerable distance; and
some of those whom Piper saw when in search of the men with the cattle,
immediately jumped into the river, carrying their spears and boomerangs
with them. We had not proceeded above a mile and a half when I perceived
among the reeds close to the berg on which we were travelling a small,
deep and still branch of the river, apparently connected with numerous
others, in all of which the water was quite still, although it had the
same muddy colour as that flowing in the river, and they seemed to be
equally deep. These still channels wound in all directions among the
reeds. Further on the water was not even confined to such canals, large
spaces between them being inundated, and lofty gum (or yarra) trees stood
even in the water. Light appeared at length through the wood before us,
which soon terminated on a sea of reeds bounded only by the horizon. On
ascending some sandhills confining this basin of reeds on our side, I
observed a low grassy ridge with pines upon it, and forming a limit to
the reedy basin, except in a part of the horizon which bore 14 degrees
South of East. A broad sheet of water (probably only an inundation
occasioned by the late rain) filled the centre of the reedy space. About
six miles from our last camp we came upon the river flowing with a strong
current; and at its full width the water not more than a foot below the
level of the right bank. Thus the Murray seemed to flow through that
reedy expanse, unmarked in its course by trees or bushes, although one or
two distant clumps of yarra probably grew on the banks of the permanent
stream. At two miles further on these trees again grew plentifully, close
under the berg along which we travelled, and where I hoped again to see
the river. We found however that the yarras only enclosed shallow
lagoons; and on a small oasis of dry ground near one of them we encamped
for the night. A species of solanum forming a very large bush was found
this day in the scrub, also several interesting shrubs, and among them
some fine specimens of that rare one, the Eucarya murrayana. But in all
these scrubs on the Murray the Fusanus acuminatus is common and produces
the quandang nut (or kernel) in such abundance that it and gum acacia may
in time become articles of commerce in Australia.*
(*Footnote. Having brought home specimens of most of the woods of the
interior, I find that several of the acacias would be valuable for
ornamental work, having a pleasing perfume resembling that of a rose.
Some are of a dark colour of various shades and very compact; others
light-coloured and resembling in texture box or lancewood. The new caper
tree also resembles the latter so much as not to be distinguished from
it. Specimens of these woods may be seen at Hallet's, Number 83 High
The morning was frosty and clear. Soon after we left our encampment we
came to a ridge or berg, bare of trees with the exception of a fine clump
on the highest part; and behind it was an extensive flat which was also
destitute of wood, only a few atriplex bushes appearing upon it. I sent
the carts across this flat while I rode along the crest of the ridge. The
sea of reeds skirted this ridge on the north, and a meandro-serpentine
canal full of water intersected the reedy expanse in almost all
directions. The river flood had not reached it, at least if it had the
water continued unmoved by any current. I perceived some smoke arising
from the reeds at the distance of a mile, and at the extreme point of a
tongue of firmer ground which extended into them.
PIPER SPEAKS TO NATIVES ON THE RIVER.
Piper went boldly up to the fire and found three families of blacks in as
many canoes on the river. They told him there was a junction of rivers
some way ahead of us; and I understood him to say that part of these
natives had come across from Waljeers. The country opened more and more
as we proceeded, and the basin of reeds was more extensive. The bergs on
the opposite side (on which I had fixed several points) were distant on
an average about eight miles, which was the breadth therefore of that low
margin of reeds. The winding borders of this plain terminated on our side
in rich grassy flats, some of which extended back farther than I could
discover; and on two of these plains I perceived fine sheets of water,
surrounded by shining verdure and enclosed by sheltering hills clothed
with Callitris pyramidalis.
GOOD LAND ON THE MURRAY.
One or two spots seemed very favourable for farms or cattle stations. The
soil in these grassy flats was of the richest description: indeed the
whole of the country covered by reeds seemed capable of being converted
into good wheat land, and of being easily irrigated at any time by the
river. This stream was also navigable when we were there, and produce
might be conveyed by it at such seasons to the seashore. There was no
miasmatic savannah, nor any dense forest to be cleared; the genial
southern breeze played over these reedy flats which may one day be
converted into clover-fields. For cattle stations the land possessed
every requisite, affording excellent winter grass back among the scrubs
to which cattle usually resort at certain seasons; while at others they
could fatten on the rich grass of the plains, or during the summer heat
enjoy the reeds amid abundance of water. We found on these plains an
addition to the common grasses.* The fine open country afforded extensive
views, and to the eastward and south-east we saw hills with grassy sides
and crowned with callitris.
(*Footnote. An Andropogon allied to A. bombycinus.)
WOOD AND WATER SCARCE.
Through the intervening valley flowed the Murray, the course of which was
seldom visible as no trees grew along its border. Under such
circumstances we could not encamp upon the bank, neither could it be
safely approached by cattle; and our prospect of obtaining wood and
watering our animals was this day rather uncertain. At length we came
upon a path which Mr. Stapylton pursued amongst high reeds for a mile
without reaching the river as we both expected. I continued to travel
towards four trees on the side of a green hill, still at a great distance
but in the direction in which I wished to proceed.
JUNCTION OF TWO BRANCHES. SWAN HILL.
When we arrived there just before sunset we had the good fortune to find
close under the hill a bend of the Murray, and to discover the junction
of another river or branch with it at this point. Within the margin we
found a small pond quite accessible to the cattle, and behind the hill
was an extensive flat covered with the richest grass. Here therefore we
could encamp most contentedly beside a clear hill, always a desirable
neighbour, and an accessible river. We were also thus enabled to
determine the junction perhaps of two rivers, an important object in
geography. The latitude was 35 degrees 19 minutes 43 seconds South.
The lesser stream was about 50 yards wide, but below the junction the
main stream divided into two branches so that I was doubtful whether this
might not be only the termination of an ana-branch. From the falling off
of the bergs on the distant right bank, and the approach of a line of
lofty trees from the same quarter, I was almost convinced that some
junction took place thereabouts, as indeed the natives last seen had
informed us. During the day columns of smoke arose behind us in the
direction where we had seen these natives, and further eastward we
perceived a widespreading conflagration, doubtless caused by them
although this expression of ire troubled us but little so long as the
flames did not approach our route. The scrubs now receded from the river,
but the curious variety of acacias they contained still drew our
attention towards them. We found this day several which were new. One
with a rigid hard leaf, not in flower, resembled in many respects the A.
farinosa met with two days later, but it was perfectly smooth in all its
parts.* Another appeared to be related to A. hispidula, but with much
narrower leaves without the ragged cartilaginous margin of that
(*Footnote. A. sclerophylla, Lindley manuscripts; ramulis angulatis
glabriusculis, phyllodiis rigidis carnosis rectiusculis linearibus apice
latioribus mucronulatis multinerviis glabris eglandulosis, capitulis 1-2
(**Footnote. A. aspera, Lindley manuscripts; phyllodiis
oblongo-linearibus uninerviis mucronatis eglandulosis ramisque angulatis
asperrimis, capitulis 1-2 axillaribus, pedunculis villosis phyllodiis
Exploring through a fog.
Circular Lake of Boga.
Clear grassy hills.
Natives on the lake.
Scarcity of fuel on the bank of a deep river.
Different character of two rivers.
Unfortunate result of Piper's interview with the natives of the lake.
Discovery of the Jerboa in Australia.
Different habits of the savage and civilized.
A range visible in the south.
Peculiarities in the surface of the country near the river.
Water of the lakes brackish, or salt.
Natives fly at our approach.
Arrival in the dark, on the bank of a watercourse.
Dead saplings of ten years growth in the ponds.
Discovery of Mount Hope.
Enter a much better country.
Curious character of an original surface.
Native weirs for fish.
Their nets for catching ducks.
Remarkable character of the lakes.
Mr. Stapylton's excursion in search of the main stream.
My ride to Mount Hope.
View from Mount Hope.
Return of Mr. Stapylton.
Among the reeds on the point of ground between the two rivers was a
shallow lagoon where swans and other wild fowl so abounded that, although
half a mile from our camp, their noise disturbed us through the night. I
therefore named this somewhat remarkable and isolated feature Swan Hill,
a point which may probably be found to mark the junction of two fine
EXPLORING THROUGH A FOG.
I wished to devote the day to meteorological observations as prearranged
with my friends in the Colony, Mr. Dunlop and Captain King; but a thick
fog in the morning promised a day of clear settled weather, and I was
obliged to proceed; I observed the barometer however every hour during
the journey. For several miles we travelled through the mist over plains
partly covered with reeds and partly with grass. Having reconnoitred the
country on the previous evening I had no difficulty in pursuing the
direction I then chose for this day's route.
LAKES. CIRCULAR LAKE OF BOGA.
At eleven A.M. when the fog arose I perceived a low grassy ridge before
us; and a fine lake covered with black swans, ducks and other waterfowl
was afterwards discovered beyond it. We passed along the southern shore
of this lake, thus keeping it between us and the river. It was surrounded
with reeds and bulrushes, and appeared to be supplied by a small feeder
from the river, like other similar lakes which we had seen near rivers
elsewhere: but the water could pass by such small channels only during
the highest floods, for the lake was even then very low, although the
flood in the river was evidently high. This lake was about three miles in
CLEAR GRASSY HILLS.
As I ascended a grassy hill two miles beyond it I perceived on my left
another smaller lake; with no reeds about it, but with grass growing to
the water's edge; and there we also found a curious little plant covered
with short imbricated silvery leaves, but not in flower. Behind the lake,
or away from the river, was the low scrub of the back country in which I
again saw, just coming into flower, the Cassia heteroloba discovered on
the 6th instant. On reaching the top of the hill I discovered to the
eastward a third lake, much larger than either of the others, and
apparently of a different character for its banks were higher, and it
contained one or two small islets while the surface of the water was
covered with some brown aquatic weed. It was bounded on the east by a
ridge which seemed green, smooth, and quite clear of trees. A low neck of
firm ground separated the lake first seen from this; and it was also
connected with the hill on which I then stood.
NATIVES ON THE LAKE.
In one place, a narrow line of high reeds appearing likely to impede us,
Mr. Stapylton rode forward to examine it. As he reached the spot much
smoke suddenly arose, evidently from natives whom he had thus
accidentally disturbed. He nevertheless pressed forward amongst the
reeds, and soon reappeared on the green hill beyond, thus showing us
there was no obstruction, and the carts proceeded through. These reeds
enveloped a small creek or hollow through which the floods of the river
supplied the lake. In one part was a pool of water, and in another the
bottom was so soft that the united strength of two teams was necessary to
draw out the wheel of a cart which sunk into it. We found there the huts
of natives who had fled on Mr. Stapylton's approach, having left their
fishing spears, skin cloaks, shields, etc. They soon appeared on the lake
in twenty-four canoes, all making for the little isle in the centre
which, being covered with reeds, was probably their stronghold according
to their modes of warfare. The aquatic tribes, as I have elsewhere
observed, invariably take to the water in times of alarm, and from among
the reeds in their little island these people could easily throw their
spears at any assailant without being themselves exposed, or even seen.
Piper found in their huts some fragments of blue earthenware, nicely
attached with gum to threads by which it would appear that the gins wore
them in their hair as ornaments.
SCARCITY OF FUEL ON THE BANK OF A DEEP RIVER.
Being desirous to learn the native names of these lakes, and to obtain
some information respecting the rivers, I requested Piper and the two
Tommies to remain behind for the purpose of obtaining a parley if
possible. I should indeed have encamped by this lake had not the environs
been entirely destitute of wood. Before us however, although at the
distance of some miles, was a line of majestic trees which appeared to
mark the course of a river; and I had directed Mr. Stapylton to lead the
party through the reeds along an interval which appeared to be chiefly
covered with grass, and by which I expected he would arrive at the line
of high trees. Meanwhile I was occupied alone to the southward of the
lake, surveying it. Near the margin I found a small fragment of highly
DISCOVERY OF THE RIVER.
The ground traversed by the party was firm and, when I overtook it within
a mile and a half of the line of trees, we came suddenly on a river full
to the very margin, and flowing slowly to the westward, its width being
about 50 yards. Not a tree grew near it, nor did I see any indication of
a river until I reached the bank.
The ground presented an unbroken level, or declined slightly towards the
line of trees which still marked, as I supposed, the course of the
Murray. We had no means of reaching it however, nor any alternative left
but to change our route towards the east-south-east and travel along the
bank of this river, in hopes it might at last approach the trees. We
found on the contrary that it receded from them towards a country without
a single bush; and thus while the sun was setting on a raw frosty evening
we could not encamp for want of fuel, although water and grass were
abundant. One solitary group of trees seeming to be on our side of the
stream, though distant about two miles, Mr. Stapylton and myself galloped
towards them, the party following. There too we found the river,
separating us even from these trees, three very small ones only being on
our side, and likely to fall when cut into the stream. It had become
quite dark before we got to them but, by lighting some reeds, the rest of
the party found its way to us; and there we encamped, although the green
wood could not be made to burn, while the thermometer stood so low as 29
degrees. We were perhaps more sensible of the want of fuel from the
abundance so apparent on the banks of what seemed another river at so
small a distance across the open plain.
DIFFERENT CHARACTER OF TWO RIVERS.
These streams flowing so near each other seemed in this respect
distinctly different: the one being edged with only reeds, the other with
lofty trees like almost every interior river of New South Wales.
UNFORTUNATE RESULT OF PIPER'S INTERVIEW WITH THE NATIVES OF THE LAKE.
Piper came in soon after the carts arrived, bringing a sad account of his
interview with the natives. It appeared that, as soon as our party had
proceeded to some distance from the lake, twelve men sprang from among
the reeds armed with spears, boomerangs, etc., and when Piper accosted
one of them, inquiring the name of the lake "I wont tell you," was the
answer (murry coolah, i.e. very angrily). They then told him there was
"too much ask" about him, and they blamed him for bringing the
whitefellows there; adding that they did not like him; and an old man
calling to the rest to kill him, for that he was no good, two spears were
immediately thrown. These Piper parried with his carabine, and then
instantly discharged it at the foremost, wounding him in the right jaw.
The rest immediately disappeared among the reeds. The wounded savage
fell, but Piper loaded again and killed him by another shot through the
body. Such was Piper's story. I blamed him very much for firing at the
wounded man, and I regretted exceedingly the result of his interview. I
was besides most anxious to maintain a good understanding with these
The spears used on this occasion were made of reed and pointed with bones
of the emu; but we saw at their huts several heavy jagged ones of very
hard wood for the purposes of fishing. The natives wore cloaks made of
DISCOVERY OF THE JERBOA IN AUSTRALIA.
A very curious and rare little quadruped was this day found by the two
Tommies, who had never before seen such an animal. Its fore and hind legs
resembled in proportion those of the kangaroo; and it used the latter by
leaping on its hindquarters in the same manner as that animal. It was not
much larger than a common fieldmouse, but the tail was longer in
proportion to the rest of the body even than that of a kangaroo, and
terminated in a hairy brush about two inches long.* (Plate 29.)
(*Footnote. This appears to be a species of Jerboa, thus for the first
time seen by us in Australia. My friend Mr. Ogilby has described this
animal in the Linnean Transactions from my drawing and descriptions; the
specimen itself having been deposited in the Australian Museum at Sydney.
Dipus mitchellii, D. plantis subpentadactylis; corpore supra
cinereo-fusco, subtus albido; auriculis magnis, cauda longissima,
floccosa. Linnean Transactions volume page 129.)
We also discovered a beautiful new species of the Cape genus Pelargonium,
which would be an acquisition to our gardens. I named it P. rodneyanum*
in honour of Mrs. Riddell at Sydney, grand-daughter of the famous Rodney.
(*Footnote. P. rodneyanum, Lindley manuscripts; patentim pilosum, caule
subterraneo horizontali crasso fragili ramos erectos promente apice
tantum epigaeos foliosos, ramulis herbaceis erectis, foliis
ovato-oblongis sublobatis basi cuneatis obtusis grosse crenatis tenuibus
glabriusculis longipetiolatis, pedunculis erectis foliis longioribus,
umbellis tomentosis 8-10-floris demum laxis divaricatis, petalis anguste
obovatis calyce triplo longioribus, staminum tubo obliquo: sterilium 3
denticuliformibus, fortilium 2 sterilibus interjectis caeteris
DIFFERENT HABITS OF THE SAVAGE AND CIVILIZED.
At this camp where we lay shivering for want of fire, the different
habits of the aborigines and us, strangers from the north, were strongly
contrasted. On that freezing night the natives, according to their usual
custom, stripped off all their clothes previous to lying down to sleep in
the open air, their bodies being doubled up around a few burning reeds.
We could not understand how they could lay thus naked when the earth was
white with hoar frost; and they were equally at a loss to know how we
could sleep in our tents without a bit of fire to keep our bodies warm.
For the support of animal heat, fire and smoke are almost as necessary to
them as clothes are to us. The naked savage however is not without some
reason on his side, for fire is the only means he possesses to warm his
body when cold, and it is therefore the only comfort he ever knows;
whereas we require both fire and clothing and have no conception of the
intensity of enjoyment imparted to the naked body of a savage by the
glowing embrace of a cloud of smoke in winter. In summer also he may
enjoy, unrestrained by dress, the luxury of a bath in any pool when not
content with the refreshing breeze that fans his sensitive body during
the intense heat. Amidst all this exposure the skin of the Australian
native remains as smooth and soft as velvet, and it is not improbable
that the obstructions of drapery would constitute the greatest of his
objections in such a climate to the permanent adoption of a civilised
A RANGE VISIBLE IN THE SOUTH.
A night of hard frost was succeeded by a beautifully clear morning. The
refraction brought the summits of a distant range above the south-east
horizon; and the sight was so welcome to us, after having found Australia
a mere desert from the want of hills, that I was at a loss for a name to
give these that should sufficiently express my satisfaction. I found the
breadth of the river at our camp to be 50 yards; and the velocity 4
chains (or 88 yards) in 127 seconds, being something less than a mile and
a half per hour; and the height of the bank above the water to be 18
PECULIARITIES IN THE SURFACE OF THE COUNTRY NEAR THE RIVER.
The entirely open country through which the nearer river or branch
continued to flow, and the lofty and remarkable trees on the banks of the
other enabled me, in chaining along our route, to survey the course of
both by fixing points on the more distant, and tracing the nearer. At
length we approached a better-wooded country where clear green hills
appeared to our right. I ascended the highest of these and discovered a
vast plain beyond which appeared to be, or rather to have been, the bed
of an extensive lake. I was now struck with the uncommon regularity of
the curve described by the hill or ridge, having previously observed the
same peculiarity in that which overlooked the lake of the savage tribe.
We passed over some slight undulations covered with luxuriant grass, and
were not sorry to see a wood of pines (or callitris) on our left. Large
gumtrees (yarra) grew beyond and, the general course I wished to pursue
leading towards them, I hoped to reach there an angle of the river. We
found however that they hung over a small ana-branch only, in which the
muddy flood-water of the river was then flowing. This stream was
nevertheless exactly what we wanted, being safely accessible to our
cattle, which the river itself was not. We therefore pitched our tents on
a spot where there was excellent grass, and wood was again to be had in
great abundance. We found in the adjacent scrub a remarkably rigid bush
with stiff sickle-shaped blunt leaves and mealy balls of flowers not
quite expanded;* also an acacia resembling A. hispidula, but the leaves
were quite smooth and much smaller.** In approaching this spot we had
passed along a low sandy ridge, every way resembling a beach but covered
with pines and scrub. A bare grassy hill extended southward from each end
of it; and the intervening hollow containing some water was evidently the
bed of a lake, nearly dry.
(*Footnote. It is found to be an acacia related to A. multinervia. A.
farinosa, Lindley manuscripts; ramulis angulatis glabriusculis,
phyllodiis rigidis carnosis incurvis linearibus apice latioribus
mucronatis multinerviis glabris: margine superiore infra medium
glanduloso, capitulis 2-4 axillaribus breviter pedunculatis farinosis.)
(**Footnote. For description see 19th September.)
The most eastern of these smooth bare ridges was immediately above our
camp and, observing in it the regularity of curve which I had noticed in
others, I was struck with the analogy, and in these ridges being always
on the eastern shore of hollows or lakes, while the western was
irregularly indented, and was in some parts so abrupt as to have the
character of cliffs. The southern end of the ridges was generally the
WATER OF THE LAKES BRACKISH, OR SALT.
Perceiving no reeds near the lake nor any birds upon it I sent Mr.
Stapylton to taste the water, which he found to be quite salt, like that
of the sea. This and several of the other basins were surrounded by high
ground and were without any communication with the river.
NATIVES FLY AT OUR APPROACH.
I passed soon after another of these circular basins which, although much
smaller, presented similar features, and had some rather brackish water
in pools in the deepest part. During the day's journey we passed several
ridges connected with extensive basins in a similar manner, and in the
bottom of one of these I perceived Polygonum junceum growing amongst
yarra trees. On the western shore we saw the remains of large native
ash-hills. They were old and overgrown with bushes, but they proved that
this lake had once contained mussels and the balyan or bulrush, a root
eaten by the natives and cooked in such ovens as these. The other lake
was surrounded by a circle of yarra trees and had but recently become
dry, the earth in it being still without vegetation and covered with
innumerable native companions and white cockatoos. Finding no indication
of the river, notwithstanding the presence of so many yarra trees, I
turned to the east towards another line of them which appeared still more
promising. There however we encountered the dry bed only of a small creek
which we crossed, and continued eastward, passing over much grassy land,
and through much wood of the box or goborro species of eucalyptus. We
travelled thus upwards of seven miles beyond the dry creek without
discovering any sign of the river, although we had previously traced it
so far in pursuing a much more southerly direction.
NATIVES FLY AT OUR APPROACH.
The natives were heard in this wood chopping with their stone hatchets
but they fled at our approach. On entering a small plain we saw their
deserted fire on the opposite side. Beyond this another plain, still more
extensive, appeared before us, and a few yarra trees on the horizon gave
some promise of water, though not of the river.
ARRIVAL IN THE DARK, ON THE BANK OF A WATERCOURSE.
Before I reached the spot and while far ahead of the party darkness had
overtaken us; but I found there a deep creek with some water in large
ponds; and by lighting a fire the carts at length came up to us, after a
journey of nineteen miles. This seemed by moonlight such a singular place
that I was anxious for daylight to see at what we had arrived.
I expected to find the main stream not far from the ponds, but the
morning light shone over a plain which extended in a north-western
direction to the very horizon. It was bounded on the north by very
distant trees which had not the usual appearance of trees distinguishing
the river. The country on all sides seemed perfectly level, and if there
was any exception at all it was in the box forests to the southward
whence we had come, and where the land seemed lower than the plain on
which we had encamped. The bed of the creek was full twenty feet below
the general surface. The symmetry of the curves described by it was
remarkable, and it was rendered still more striking by a narrow line of
rushes which had grown on the margin of the water when it had stood at a
much higher level.
DEAD SAPLINGS OF TEN YEARS GROWTH IN THE PONDS.
A concentric border of grass of uniform breadth grew on the slope above
the rushes, and one of fragrant herbs below the line of rushes, all being
at nearly equal distances; while a single row of bare poles measuring
from three to five inches in diameter stood where a row of saplings had
grown in what had, at one time, been the very centre of the stream. These
poles were the remains of yarra trees eight or ten years old, and marked
the extent doubtless of a long period of drought which had continued
until some high flood killed them.
DISCOVERY OF MOUNT HOPE.
The grass was excellent over the whole of the plains on both sides and,
from a tree near the camp, Burnett descried a goodly hill bearing 36 1/2
degrees East of South and distant, as afterwards ascertained, twenty-two
Near our camp we found some recent fireplaces of the natives, from which
they must have hastily escaped on our approach for, in the branches of a
tree, they had left their net bags containing the stalks of a vegetable
that had apparently undergone some culinary process, which gave them the
appearance of having been half boiled. Vegetables are thus cooked, I was
told, by placing the root or plant between layers of hot embers until it
is heated and softened. The stalks found in the bag resembled those of
the potato, and they could only be chewed, such food being neither
nutritious nor palatable for it tasted only of smoke.* A very large
ash-hill, raised no doubt by repeated use in such simple culinary
operations, and probably during the course of a great many years, was
close to our camp. On its ample surface were just visible the vestiges of
a very ancient grave, once encompassed by exactly the same kind of ridges
that I had observed around the inhabited tomb near the junction of the
Lachlan and Murrumbidgee. The natives were at length seen about two miles
off on the skirts of the wood; and although I sent forward the overseer
and Piper, each carrying a large green bough, they all ran away, leaving
behind them their spears and skin cloaks.
(*Footnote. July 17 1838. This plant has at length flowered in the
Horticultural Gardens at Chiswick and proves to be a new species of
Pieris of which Dr. Lindley has favoured me with the following
description: P. barbarorum; sparse hispida, foliis ciliatis supra nitidis
scabriusculis radicalibus spathulato-lanceolatis subdentatis caulinis
oblongis sessilibus amplexi-caulibus recurvis dentatis integrisque, caule
stricto ramoso, involucri foliolis lineari-lanceolatis acutis apice vel
secus dorsum serie simplici pilorum longorum reflexorum appendiculatis,
achaeniis badiis longe rostratis transverse rugosissimis disci
While the party proceeded eastward along the bank of Moonlight creek, as
we named it, I sent Mr. Stapylton across the wide plain to ascertain, if
possible, whether the river flowed through it without the usual
indication of trees on its banks, as we had found to be the case below.
Mr. Stapylton found beyond the northern limits of the plain, amongst
yarra trees, an ana-branch only, but containing quite clear and still
The course of the creek which I in the meantime traced first led me to
the north-east where high trees seemed to mark its course, to the bed of
the river; but a smaller branch, still dry, extended southward from it,
which, on returning to the main party, I found it desirable that the
carts should cross. We next passed for three miles through a forest of
goborro, and then crossed a plain three miles in extent. Beyond the plain
we approached a promising line of lofty yarra trees, but found it shaded
only a hollow subject to inundations. Two miles and a half further we
came to another similar line of trees, and we found within its shade an
ana-branch full of clear water. A little in advance a much deeper branch
afforded a good spot for our camp, as I intended to cross it by some
means in the afternoon and seek for the river.
ENTER A MUCH BETTER COUNTRY.
The plains we had crossed this day were covered with excellent grass; and
in many places detached groups of trees gave to the country a park-like
appearance very unlike anything on the banks of the Darling.
After crossing the creek by means of a fallen tree, I found the ground
beyond to be of the richest description, with excellent grass and lofty
yarra trees growing upon it. I passed through two separate strips of high
reeds extending north-east and south-west; but I found they only
enveloped lagoons of soft mud and, seeing no appearance of the river at
two miles from the camp, I returned. We found on the hills a little bush,
very like European heaths, having the branches covered with small
three-cornered leaves and tipped with clusters of small pink flowers.*
(*Footnote. Baeckea micrantha.)
The country we passed over this day was upon the whole richer in point of
grass than any we had seen since we left Sydney; I therefore suspected
that the soil had some better rock for a basis than sandstone; and I had
reason to believe that it was limestone, from indications of subsidence
which I observed on the surface.
CURIOUS CHARACTER OF AN ORIGINAL SURFACE.
We had discovered no similar country during either of the two former
journeys. There were none of the acacia trees we had seen on the lower
Bogan; while the grasses were also different from any of those on the
Darling. A fine new species of Daviesia, very like a Grevillea and
forming a most singular bush, grew here. It had no leaves, but green
branches formed into short, broad, thick vertical plates arranged
spirally, and much lower than the little axillary clusters of flowers
which were just beginning to open.* We also met with bushes of the rare
Trymalium majoranaefolium, a hoary bush with clusters of small grey
flowers, enclosed when young in a bright, large membranous involucre.
Once or twice distant rows of lofty gumtrees appeared to indicate the
line of the river; but on approaching them we found either dry hollows or
the same ana-branch, as it seemed, on which we last encamped. I observed
at several places that the more dense box-forests near this branch of the
river were skirted with ground broken into low undulations six or eight
feet square. These appeared where there was great depth of soil, and were
probably caused by deep rents or cracks opened at the first induration of
the deposit, and subsequently modified by rain and other atmospheric
agents. This seems to be the state of the deep deposits at the present
day where, from the absence of trees, the surface of tenacious soils
remains visible. I was first struck with this effect in the clays near
the Darling where alternate saturation and desiccation seemed to check
all vegetation. On the upper parts of the Bogan also I saw these
inequalities on a very large scale, but there the hollows still exist
under dense forests of casuarinae, and are so deep and extensive that I
for some time was induced to examine them in hopes of finding water; but
from a small hole or fissure still remaining there I soon learnt that any
such search was hopeless.
(*Footnote. D. pectinata, Lindley manuscripts; glabra, aphylla, ramis
lateralibus ensiformibus crassis rigidis spinosis verticalibus pectinatim
spiralibus dorso decurrentibus racemulis glomeratis multo longioribus.)
When we had travelled some miles, the hill we had seen from the camp on
Moonlight creek bore exactly south by compass, and appeared to be about
half the distance that it was from us when discovered. At 3 1/2 miles we
again came upon the ana-branch; a slight current now appeared in it and
the water was tinged with the turbid colour of the main stream.
LAST CAMP ON THE MURRAY.
After winding around several of its turnings we encamped at one P.M.
beside a large pool. This day's journey was nearly fourteen miles.
The barometer being unusually low, and some long journeys having
prevented me from laying down my surveys of the lakes as well as having
fatigued the cattle, I halted here with the intention of filling up my
maps, refreshing the animals, and reconnoitring the country to the
south-west, in which direction a vast extent was unexplored. The river we
had endeavoured to trace thus far was now so shut in by ana-branches that
it could rarely be seen at all; but I had now brought the survey of it so
far upwards that I should be able to trace it, or its several
tributaries, downwards upon the same point when returning to the
northward, under the western extremities of the Snowy Range. I hoped then
also to obtain a better knowledge of the branches composing the Murray
than we possessed at this time.
This day I requested Mr. Stapylton to cross the piece of water where we
had encamped, and endeavour to find the river in a north-east direction;
but he ascertained that the watercourse turned northward, and to the west
of north, without entering the river, as far as he traced it. He then
returned after having followed its course five miles without falling in
with the main stream. His party saw some of the natives who could not be
induced to stop by all the calls of Piper.
NATIVE WEIRS FOR FISH.
Mr. Stapylton observed in the channel he traced a net or fence of boughs
which the natives had that morning set up; and which showed not only that
they expected a flood, but also, from the manner in which it was placed,
that the water would flow first up the channel. This circumstance, as
already observed, is not unusual in ana-branches where the lower end is
naturally on a lower level, having been worn by the currents into a
deeper channel there than at the upper end, where the water not
unfrequently leaves the river by overflowing its banks in various
channels of small depth.
THEIR NETS FOR CATCHING DUCKS.
The natives had left in one place a net suspended across the river
between two lofty trees, evidently for the purpose of catching ducks and
other waterfowl. The meshes were about two inches wide, and the net hung
down to within five feet of the surface of the stream. In order to obtain
waterfowl with this net some of the natives proceed up, and others down,
the river to scare the birds from other places and, when any flight comes
into the net, it is suddenly lowered into the water, thus entangling the
birds beneath until the natives go into the water and secure them. Among
the first specimens of art manufactured by the primitive inhabitants of
these wilds none come so near our own as the net which, even in quality,
as well as the mode of knotting, can scarcely be distinguished from those
made in Europe. As these natives possess but little besides what was
essentially necessary to their existence, we may conclude that they have
used spears for killing the kangaroo, stone-axes for cutting out the
opossum, and nets for catching birds, or kangaroos, or fish, since their
earliest occupation of Australia.* Almost every specimen of art they
possess is the result of urgent necessity. Perhaps the iron tomahawk is
the only important addition made to their implements during many
(*Footnote. Isaiah 24:17 Fear, and the pit, and the snare are upon thee.]
"These images are taken from the different methods of hunting and taking
wild beasts which were anciently in use. The snare or toils were a series
of nets enclosing, at first, a great space of ground in which the wild
beasts were known to be, and drawn in by degrees into a narrower compass
till they were at last closely shut up and entangled in them." Harmer.
This is precisely the method adopted by the Australian natives at present
for the same or similar purposes.)
REMARKABLE CHARACTER OF THE LAKES.
On laying down my survey of the country which we had lately passed over I
found that the lakes were nearly all circular or oval, and that a very
regularly curved ridge, as before stated, bounded the eastern shore of
all of them. The number of lakes or hollows of this character already
seen by us to the south-west of the Murray amounted to eleven. In three
of them the water was salt, and the greater number had no communication
with the river; but between it and the others there was a narrow creek or
gully, but accessible only to the highest floods. The northern margin of
one of the salt lakes consisted of a bank of white sand on which grew
thickly a kind of pine, different from the trees around. The channels
between the river and the lakes seemed neither to belong to the original
arrangement of watercourses, nor to ana-branches of the rivers; for they
frequently extended upwards in directions opposed to that of the river's
course. The fact being established that some of these lakes have no
obvious connection with the river, it becomes probable that they are the
remains of what the surface was before the fluviatile process began to
carry off its waters. I had no difficulty in referring to an early system
of this kind other lakes which we had seen elsewhere, the anomalous
peculiarities of which were equally remarkable. Among these were
Cudjallagong and others adjacent; Waljeers; the two smaller on the
Murrumbidgee named Weromba; also Lake Benanee and Prooa its neighbour; in
all which the peculiarities accorded with what I had observed in those on
the left bank of the Murray.
MR. STAPYLTON'S EXCURSION IN SEARCH OF THE MAIN STREAM.
The morning was clear and Mr. Stapylton set out with a party of six men
to trace, if possible, the branch on which we were encamped into the main
stream. At ten the weather became hazy; at noon the sky was overcast; and
at two P.M. a steady rain set in which continued until six P.M. when the
barometer began to rise and, the moon soon after shining out, the sky
became once more serene. A hill apparently covered with good grass was
within sight of our present camp but inaccessible from it because a reach
of deep and still water intervened. This day I sent Burnett with Piper to
the hill, and they brought me some of the soil which I found consisted of
loose red sand.
MY RIDE TO MOUNT HOPE.
The morning being fine I at length proceeded towards the hill which we
had already twice seen from great distances. It bore 206 degrees 45
minutes (from North) and was exactly ten miles from our camp. After
riding six miles through box-forest we crossed a dry creek, and
immediately entered upon an extensive plain beyond which I had the
satisfaction of seeing the hopeful hill straight before me.
This hill consisted of immense blocks of common granite composed of white
felspar and quartz and black mica; and it appeared to form the western
extremity of a low range. It was indeed a welcome sight to us all after
traversing for several months so much flat country; and to me it was
particularly interesting for, from its summit, I expected to obtain an
extensive view over the unknown region between us and the southern coast.
I accordingly named the hill Mount Hope.
On the verdant plain near its foot we found a beautiful white
anguillaria, a flower we had not seen elsewhere and which,
notwithstanding the season, was in full bloom and had a pleasing perfume.
It might indeed be called the Australian snowdrop for its hardy little
blossom seemed quite insensible to the frost.
VIEW FROM MOUNT HOPE.
On reaching the summit of Mount Hope I saw various higher hills extending
from south-south-west to west-south-west at a distance of about 35 miles.
They were not all quite connected, and I supposed them to be only the
northern extremities of some higher ranges still more remote. I perceived
along their base a line of lofty trees, but it was most apparent on the
horizon to the westward of the heights. The intervening country
consisted, as far as the glass enabled me to examine it, of open grassy
plains, beautifully variegated with serpentine lines of wood. In all
other directions the horizon was unbroken and, as the trees of the Murray
vanished at a point bearing 143 1/2 degrees from North on the border of a
very extensive plain, I concluded that an important change took place
there in the course of that river or the Goulburn (of Hovell and Hume);
for it was uncertain then which river we were near. The granitic range of
Mount Hope terminates in the plains, one or two bare rocks only
projecting above ground on the flats westward of the hill. On its summit
we found some plants quite new to us and, among the rocks on its sides, a
species of anguillaria different from that on the plains, being larger in
the stem and having a dark brown ring within the chalice, the edge of the
leaves being tinged with the same colour.* We found here again the
Baeckea micrantha seen on the 24th instant, also a remarkable new species
of Eriostemon forming a scrubby spiny bush, with much the appearance of a
Leptospermum,** and a new and very beautiful species of Pleurandra, with
the aspect of the yellow Cistus of the Algarves.*** A remarkable hill of
granite appeared 5 1/3 miles from Mount Hope, bearing 30 degrees 10
minutes West of South. It is a triangular pyramid and, being quite
isolated, it closely resembles the monuments of Egypt.
(*Footnote. Anguillaria dioica.)
(**Footnote. E. pungens, Lindley manuscripts; ramulis teretibus
pilosulis, foliis acerosis pungentibus glandulosis, pedicellis solitariis
axillaribus brevibus unifloris, staminibus glabriusculis, antheria
(***Footnote. P. incana, Lindley manuscripts; foliis linearibus obtusis
tomentosis marginibus revolutis costam tangentibus, floribus sessilibus
terminalibus, staminibus 6 ima basi monadelphis.)
Soon after my return to the camp Mr. Stapylton came in with his party,
having succeeded in finding the river by tracing the branch upwards of
thirteen miles. This branch was connected with others on both sides, so
that Mr. Stapylton was obliged at last to cross it, and make direct for
the river which, at the point where he fell in with it, was running at
the rate of 2940 yards per hour, and was 99 yards wide, being therefore
probably still the Murray itself.
RETURN OF MR. STAPYLTON.
The country which I had seen this day beyond Mount Hope was too inviting
to be left behind us unexplored; and I therefore determined to turn into
it without further delay, and to pursue the bearing of 215 degrees from
North as the general direction of our route, until we should fall in with
the line of river trees before mentioned.
The Party quits the Murray.
Beautiful country seen from it.
Discovery of the river Yarrayne.
A bridge made across it.
Covered by a sudden rise of the river.
Then cross it in boats.
Useful assistance of Piper.
Our female guide departs.
Enter a hilly country.
The widow returns to the party.
Natives of Tarray.
Their description of the country.
Discover the Loddon.
Cross a range.
The earth becomes soft and impassable, even on the sides of hills.
Discover a noble range of mountains.
Cross another stream.
General character of the country.
Proposed excursion to the mountains.
Cross a fine stream flowing in three separate channels.
A ridge of poor sandy soil.
Cross another stream.
Trap-hills and good soil.
Ascend the mountain.
Clouds cover it.
A night on the summit.
View from it at sunrise.
Descend with difficulty.
Men taken ill.
New plants found there.
Repose in the valley.
Natives at the camp during my absence.
THE PARTY QUITS THE MURRAY.
The party moved forward in the direction of Mount Hope and, leaving it on
the left, we continued towards Pyramid Hill where we encamped at about
three-quarters of a mile from its base. We were under no restraint now in
selecting a camp from any scarcity of water or grass; for all hollows in
the plains contained some water and grass grew everywhere. The strips of
wood which diversified the country as seen from the hills generally
enclosed a depression with polygonum bushes, but without any marks of
having had any water in them although, in very wet seasons, some probably
lodges there, as in so many canals, and this indeed seemed to me to be a
country where canals would answer well, not so much perhaps for inland
navigation as for the better distribution of water over a fertile country
enclosed as this is by copious rivers.
Having seen the party on the way and directed it to proceed on a bearing
of 215 degrees from North I ascended the rocky pyramidic hill, which I
found arose to the height of 300 feet above the plain.
BEAUTIFUL COUNTRY SEEN FROM IT.
Its apex consisted of a single block of granite, and the view was
exceedingly beautiful over the surrounding plains, shining fresh and
green in the light of a fine morning. The scene was different from
anything I had ever before witnessed either in New South Wales or
elsewhere. A land so inviting and still without inhabitants! As I stood,
the first European intruder on the sublime solitude of these verdant
plains as yet untouched by flocks or herds, I felt conscious of being the
harbinger of mighty changes; and that our steps would soon be followed by
the men and the animals for which it seemed to have been prepared. A
haziness in the air prevented me however from perceiving clearly the
distant horizon from that summit, but I saw and intersected those
mountains to the southward which I had observed from Mount Hope.
The progress of the party was still visible from that hill, pursuing
their course over the distant plains like a solitary line of ants. I
overtook it when a good many miles on; and we encamped after travelling
upwards of fourteen miles in one uninterrupted straight line. Our camp
was chosen on the skirts of a forest of box, having a plain on the east
covered with rich grass, and where we found some small pools of
Proceeding still on the bearing followed yesterday we reached at three
miles from our camp a fine chain of ponds. They were deep, full of water,
and surrounded by strong yarra trees. Passing them we met a small scrub
of casuarinae which we avoided; and we next entered on a fine plain in
which the anthisteria or oatgrass appeared. This is the same grass which
grows on the most fertile parts of the counties of Argyle and Murray and
is, I believe, the best Australian grass for cattle: it is also one of
the surest indications of a good soil and dry situation.
DISCOVERY OF THE RIVER YARRAYNE.
Beyond the plain the line of noble yarra trees, which I had observed from
Mount Hope, gave almost certain promise of a river; and at 6 1/2 miles
our journey was terminated by a deep running stream. The banks were steep
and about twenty feet high, but covered thickly with grass to the edge of
the water. The yarra trees grew by the brink of the stream and not on the
top of the bank. The water had a brown appearance as if it came from
melted snow but, from the equality of depth (about nine feet) and other
circumstances, I was of opinion that it was a permanent running stream.
The current ran at the rate of four chains in 122 seconds, or near 1 1/2
mile per hour; thus it would appear from what we had seen that there is
much uniformity in the velocity of the rivers, and consequently in the
general inclination of the surface. The banks of this little river were
however very different in some respects from any we had previously seen,
being everywhere covered thickly with grass. No fallen timber impeded its
course, nor was there any indication in the banks that the course was
ever in the least degree affected by such obstructions.
A BRIDGE MADE ACROSS IT.
It was so narrow that I anticipated little difficulty in making a bridge
by felling some of the overhanging trees. Finding a large one already
fallen across the stream where the slopes of the banks could be most
readily made passable, we lost no time in felling another which broke
against the opposite bank and sunk into the water. No other large trees
grew near but the banks were, at that place, so favourable for the
passage of the waggons that I determined to take advantage of the large
fallen tree; and to construct a bridge by bringing others of smaller
dimensions to it, according to the accompanying plan, and not unmindful
of the useful suggestions of Sir Howard Douglas respecting temporary
Late in the evening of this day we completed a bridge formed of short but
strong sleepers, laid diagonally to the fallen tree which constituted its
main support, and the whole was covered with earth from cuttings made in
the banks to render it accessible to the carts. At length everything was
ready for crossing and we had thus a prospect of being able to advance
beyond the river into that unknown but promising land of hill and dale.
COVERED BY A SUDDEN RISE OF THE RIVER.
This morning our bridge was no longer to be seen, the river having risen
so much during the night that it was four feet under water. Yet no rain
had fallen for five days previous, and we could account for this
unexpected flood only by supposing that the powerful shining of the sun
during the last two days had melted the snow near the sources of the
stream. At noon the water had risen fourteen feet. A whispering sound
much resembling wind among the trees now arose from it and, however
inconvenient to us, the novelty of a sudden rise in the river was quite
refreshing, accustomed as we had been so long to wander in the beds of
rivers and to seek in vain for water. Our little bridge continued to be
passable even when covered with four feet of water but, as it had no
parapets, we could not prevent some of the bullocks from going over the
side on attempting to cross when it was thus covered.
THEN CROSS IT IN BOATS.
The river still continuing to rise, we were compelled at last to launch
the boats, and by this means we effected the passage of the whole party
and equipment before sunset; the boats having been also again mounted on
the carriage the same evening. The carts and boat-carriage were drawn
through the bed of the river by means of the drag-chains which reached
from the carriage on one side to a strong team of bullocks on the other.
USEFUL ASSISTANCE OF PIPER.
This was a very busy day for the whole party, black and white; I cannot
fairly say savage and civilised for, in most of our difficulties by flood
and field, the intelligence and skill of our sable friends made the
whitefellows appear rather stupid. They could read traces on the earth,
climb trees, or dive into the water better than the ablest of us. In
tracing lost cattle, speaking to the wild natives, hunting, or diving,
Piper was the most accomplished man in the camp. In person he was the
tallest, and in authority he was allowed to consider himself almost next
to me, the better to secure his best exertions. When Mr. Stapylton first
arrived Piper came to my tent and observed that "That fellow had TWO
coats," no doubt meaning that I ought to give one of them to him! The men
he despised, and he would only act by my orders. This day he rendered us
much useful assistance in the water; for instance, when a cart stuck in
the bottom of the river, the rope by which it was to be drawn through
having broken, Piper, by diving, attached a heavy chain to it, thereby
enabling the party to draw it out with the teams.
OUR FEMALE GUIDE DEPARTS.
At this place The Widow, being far beyond her own country, was inclined
to go back and, although I intended to put her on a more direct and safe
way home after we should pass the heads of the Murrumbidgee on our
return, I could not detain her longer than she wished. Her child, to whom
she appeared devotedly attached, was fast recovering the use of its
broken limb; and the mother seemed uneasy under an apprehension that I
wanted to deprive her of this child. I certainly had always wished to
take back with me to Sydney an aboriginal child with the intention of
ascertaining what might be the effect of education upon one of that race.
This little savage, who at first would prefer a snake or lizard to a
piece of bread, had become so far civilised at length as to prefer bread;
and it began to cry bitterly on leaving us. The mother however thought
nothing of swimming, even at that season, across the broad waters of the
Millewa, as she should be obliged to do, pushing the child before her,
floating on a piece of bark.
ENTER A HILLY COUNTRY.
At the distance of about a mile to the southward a line of trees marked
the course of another channel which, containing only a few ponds, we
crossed without difficulty. Beyond it we traversed a plain five miles in
extent, and backed by low grassy hills composed of grey gneiss. The most
accessible interval between these hills still appeared to be in the
direction I had chosen at Mount Hope, as leading to the lowest opening of
a range still more distant: I therefore continued on that bearing, having
the highest of those hills to our left at the distance of five or six
miles. On entering the wood skirting the wide plain, our curiosity was
rather disappointed at finding, instead of rare things, the black-butted
gum and casuarinae, trees common in the colony. The woolly gum also grew
there, a tree much resembling the box in the bark on its trunk, although
that on the branches, unlike the box, is smooth and shining. In this wood
we recognised the rosella parrot, and various plants so common near
Sydney but not before seen by us in the interior.
At ten miles we travelled over undulating ground for the first time since
we left the banks of the Lachlan; and we crossed a chain of ponds
watering a beautiful and extensive valley covered with a luxuriant crop
of the anthisteria grass. Kangaroos were now to be seen on all sides, and
we finally encamped on a deeper chain of ponds, probably the chief
channel of the waters of that valley. A ridge of open forest-hills
appearing before us, I rode to the top of one of the highest summits
while the men pitched the tents; and from it I perceived a hilly country
through whose intricacies I at that time saw no way, and beyond it a
lofty mountain range arose in the south-west. To venture into such a
region with wheel-carriages seemed rather hazardous when I recollected
the coast ranges of the colony; and I determined to examine it further
before I decided whether we should penetrate these fastnesses, or travel
westward round them, thus to ascertain their extent in that direction and
that of the good land watered by them.
I proceeded with several men mounted towards the lofty hill to the
eastward of our route, the highest of those I had intersected from Mount
Hope and the Pyramid-hill, its aboriginal name, as I afterwards learnt,
being Barrabungale.* Nearly the whole of our way was over granite rocks.
We had just reached a naked mass near the principal summit when the
clouds, which had been lowering for some time, began to descend on the
plains to the northward, and soon closing over the whole horizon
compelled me to return, without having had an opportunity of observing
more than that the whole mass of mountains in the south declined to the
westward. This was however a fact of considerable importance with respect
to our further progress; for I could enter that mountain-region with less
hesitation as I knew that I could leave it, if necessary, and proceed
westward by following down any of the valleys which declined in that
(*Footnote. Warrabangle is a very similar name and belongs to a hill
similarly situated five degrees further to the northward. See Map.)
ASCEND BARRABUNGALE. RAINY WEATHER. EXCURSION SOUTHWARD.
The morning being rainy, I could learn nothing more by ascending
Barrabungale as I intended; but I rode into the country to the southward
in order to examine it in the direction in which I thought it most
desirable to lead the party. After passing over several well-watered
grassy flats or valleys, each bounded by open forest-hills, we crossed at
six miles from the camp a range the summit of which was covered by a low
scrub, but it did not much impede our way. Beyond this range we again
found open forest land, and we saw extensive flats still more open to our
right, in which direction all the waters seemed to fall. At length, after
travelling about twelve miles, we came upon a deep chain of ponds winding
through a flat thickly covered with anthisteria and resembling a field of
ripe grain. Smoke arose in all directions from an extensive camp of
natives but, although I cooeyed and saw them at a distance, they
continued to crouch behind trees and would not approach. I did not
disturb them further, but returned with the intention of leading the
party there the next day when I hoped to see more of these natives. An
abundance of a beautiful white or pale yellow-flowered, herbaceous plant
reminding me of the violets of Europe, to which it was nearly allied,
grew on the sides of hills.*
(*Footnote. This has been ascertained to be a new species of the genus
Pigea. P. floribunda, Lindley manuscripts; caule erecto ramoso, foliis
alternis linearibus et lineari-lanceolatis obtusis glabris, racemulis
secundis paucifloris foliis brevioribus, sepalis petalisque glandulosis
ovatis acutis, labelli lamina obovata rotundata basi bilamellata,
antheris sessilibus syngenistis apice lamina oblonga membranacea acutis,
processibus 2 corniformibus basi staminum 2 anteriorum.)
THE WIDOW RETURNS TO THE PARTY.
In the evening The Widow returned with her child on her back. She stated
that after we left our late encampment a numerous tribe arrived on the
opposite bank of the river and, seeing the fires on her side, called out
very angrily, as Piper translated her tale, "murry coola" (very angry);
inquiring who had made those fires, and that, receiving no reply (for she
was afraid and had hid herself) they danced a corrobory in a furious
style during which she and the child crept away, and had passed two
nights without fire and in the rain. Piper seemed angry at her return,
but I took particular care that she should be treated with as much
kindness as before. She was a woman of good sense and had been with us
long enough to feel secure under our protection, even from the wrath of
Piper as displayed on this occasion; and I discovered that her attempted
return home had been suggested by Piper's gin who probably anticipated a
greater share of food after The Widow's departure.
NATIVES OF TARRAY. THEIR DESCRIPTION OF THE COUNTRY.
The party moved to the creek where I had before seen the natives; and
Piper found at their fires an old woman and several boys. They said,
pointing far to the south-east, doubtless to Port Phillip, that a station
of whitefellows was there and that they had been themselves to the sea,
which was not very distant. The old woman spoke with expressive gestures
of a part of the coast she called Cadong, where the waves raged; and of a
river she named Woollamaee running into it. It appeared that the rest of
the tribe were at that time in search of opossums; but she promised that
when they returned in the evening or next day some of them should visit
This morning Piper prevailed on an old man with his gins and some boys to
come to us. The former pointed towards Cadong in the direction of 232
degrees from North and, in reply to my queries through Piper, said it was
not Geelong (Port Phillip) but a water like it; and that no white men had
ever been there. On mentioning lake Alexandrina by its native name
Keyinga, he said that it was a place filled sometimes with rain (i.e.
river-) water and not like Cadong which was saltwater. He described the
whole country before us as abounding in good water and excellent grass;
and he said that in the direction I was pursuing there was no impediment
between me and the sea coast. Piper's countenance brightened up with the
good news this man gave him; assuring me that we should "find water all
about: no more want water." In return for all this intelligence I
presented the old man with an iron tomahawk which he placed under him as
he sat; and he continued to address me with great volubility for some
time. I was told by Piper that he was merely saying how glad he was, and
enumerating (apparently with a sort of poetic fervour) the various uses
to which he could apply the axe I had given him. I left these natives
with the impression on my mind that they were quiet, well-disposed
FINE APPEARANCE OF THE COUNTRY.
Proceeding a little west of south-west we intersected this creek (Tarray)
three times, leaving it finally flowing southward and to our left, into
that of Dyoonboors which it joined at a mile and a half from where we had
been encamped. At three miles, having crossed a low ridge of forest land,
we entered a fine valley, backed on the west by romantic forest hills,
and watered by some purling brooks which united in the woods on the east.
The flat itself had a few stately trees upon it, and seemed quite ready
to receive the plough; while some round hillocks on the north were so
smooth and grassy that the men said they looked as if they had already
been depastured by sheep. From an extremity of the clear ridge I obtained
an extensive view of the mountain chain to the south-east; and I
intersected most of its summits. The whole seemed smooth (i.e. not rocky)
grassy, and thinly timbered. Crossing the lower or outer extremity of
this forest ridge, we entered another fine valley watered by a creek
which we passed at six miles from the commencement of the day's journey.
This little channel was grassy to the water's edge, and its banks were
firm and about eight feet high, the course being eastward. In the valley
I saw the Banksia for the first time since we left the Lachlan. A
calamifolia, or needle-leaved wattle, occurred also in considerable
quantity. After crossing two more brooks and some flats of fine land with
grassy forest-hills on our right, we reached the crest of a forest-range
which afforded an extensive view over the country beyond it. The surface
seemed to be low for some distance, but then to rise gradually towards
some rocky points over which were partially seen the summits of a higher
range still further southward.
DISCOVER THE LODDON.
The descent to the low country was easy for our carts; and we found there
a beautifully green and level flat, bounded on the south by a little
river flowing westward. The banks of this stream consisted of rounded
acclivities and were covered with excellent grass. The bed was 18 or 20
feet below the level of the adjacent flats and, from its resemblance in
some respects to the little stream in England, I named it the Loddon. We
encamped on its bank in latitude 36 degrees 36 minutes 49 seconds South,
longitude 143 degrees 35 minutes 30 seconds East.
By continuing the same line of route we crossed several minor rivulets,
all flowing through open grassy vales bounded by finely undulating hills.
At about three miles we came to a deep chain of ponds, the banks being
steep and covered with grass. Keeping a tributary to that channel on our
left, we passed some low hills of quartz; and a little beyond them we
crossed poor hills of the same rock bearing an open box-forest.
After travelling through a little scrub we descended on one of the most
beautiful spots I ever saw: The turf, the woods, and the banks of the
little stream which murmured through the vale had so much the appearance
of a well kept park that I felt loth to injure its surface by the passage
of our cartwheels. Proceeding for a mile and a half along the rivulet and
through a valley wholly of the same description, we at length encamped on
a flat of rich earth (nearly quite black) and where the anthisteria grew
in greater luxuriance than I had ever before witnessed in Australian
grasses. The earth indeed seemed to surpass in richness any that I had
seen in New South Wales; and I was even tempted to bring away a specimen
of it. Our dogs killed three kangaroos, and this good fortune was most
timely as I had that very morning thought it advisable to reduce the
allowance of rations.
Tracing upwards the rivulet of the vale we left this morning we passed
over much excellent grassy land watered by it, the channel containing
some very deep ponds surrounded by the white-barked eucalyptus.
CROSS A RANGE.
A hill on its bank consisted of a conglomerate in which the ferruginous
matter predominated over the embedded fragments of quartz. The ground
beyond was hilly, and we at length ascended a ridge, apparently an
extremity of a higher range. On these hills grew the varieties of
eucalypti known in the colony, such as ironbark, bluegum, and
stringybark. The lower grounds were so wet and soft, and the watercourses
in them so numerous, that I was desirous to follow a ridge as long as it
would take us in the direction in which we were proceeding; and this
range answered well for the purpose. Its crest consisted of ferruginous
sandstone much inclined, the strike extending north-north-west. I found
the opposite side much more precipitous, and that it overlooked a much
lower country. In seeking a favourable line of descent for the carts, I
climbed a still higher forest-hill on the left, which consisted chiefly
of quartz-rock. I not only recognised from that hill some lofty points to
the eastward, and obtained angles on them, but I also perceived very
rugged summits of a range at a great distance in the south-west. Having
selected among the various hills and dales before me that line of route
which seemed the best and, having taken its bearing, I returned to
conduct the carts by a pass along one side of that hill, having found it
in a very practicable state for wheel-carriages. At three miles beyond
the pass we crossed a deep creek running westward which I named the
Avoca, and we encamped on an excellent piece of land beyond it.
This day we had even better fortune in our field sports than on the one
before for, besides three kangaroos, we killed two emus, one of which was
a female and esteemed a great prize, for I had discovered that the eggs
found in the ovarium were a great luxury in the bush; and afforded us a
light and palatable breakfast for several days.
At the end of two miles on this day's journey we crossed a deep stream
running westward. The height of its banks above the water was twelve
feet, and they were covered with a rich sward. The land along the margins
of the stream was as good as that we were now accustomed to see
everywhere around us, so that it was no longer necessary to note the
goodness or beauty of any place in particular. At four miles we passed
over a forest-hill composed of mica-slate and, after crossing another
good valley at six miles, I saw before us, on gaining a low forest ridge,
other grassy hills of still greater height, connected by a rock that cost
us less trouble to ascend than I expected.
THE EARTH BECOMES SOFT AND IMPASSABLE, EVEN ON THE SIDES OF HILLS.
It was in the valleys now that we met most difficulty, the earth having
become so soft and wet that the carts could be got through some places
only by the tedious process of dragging each successively with the united
strength of several teams.
DISCOVER A NOBLE RANGE OF MOUNTAINS.
From a high forest-hill about a mile east of our route I first obtained a
complete view of a noble range of mountains rising in the south to a
stupendous height, and presenting as bold and picturesque an outline as
ever painter imagined. The highest and most eastern summit was hid in the
clouds although the evening was serene. It bore West of South 26 degrees
54 minutes; and the western extremity, which consisted of a remarkably
round hill, bore 16 degrees 30 minutes South of West. Having descended
from the range by an easy slope to the southward, we passed through a
beautiful valley in which we crossed, at a mile and a quarter from the
hills, a fine stream flowing also westward; and in other respects similar
to those we had already met. I named it Avon water and we encamped on its
CROSS ANOTHER STREAM.
At two miles and a half from the spot where we had slept we crossed
another stream flowing west-north-west which I named the Small-burn.
Beyond it the ground was good and grassy, but at this season very soft,
so that the draught was most laborious for the cattle. At seven miles we
crossed a wet flat with ponds of water standing on it, and beyond we
entered on a clay soil altogether different from any hitherto passed on
this side the Yarrayne.
About eight miles from our camp we reached a fine running brook with
grassy banks, its course being to the north-west. The bed consisted of
red-sand and gravel, and the banks were about fourteen feet high,
presenting fine swelling slopes covered with turf. On this stream, which
I named the Dos casas, I halted, as it was doubtful whether some of the
carts could be brought even so far before night, the ground having proved
soft and rotten to such a degree, especially on the slopes of low hills,
that in some cases the united strength of three teams had been scarcely
sufficient to draw them through. It was night before the last cart
arrived, and two bullocks had been left behind in an exhausted state.
GENERAL CHARACTER OF THE COUNTRY.
We had at length discovered a country ready for the immediate reception
of civilised man; and destined perhaps to become eventually a portion of
a great empire. Unencumbered by too much wood, it yet possessed enough
for all purposes; its soil was exuberant and its climate temperate; it
was bounded on three sides by the ocean; and it was traversed by mighty
rivers, and watered by streams innumerable. Of this Eden I was the first
European to explore its mountains and streams, to behold its scenery, to
investigate its geological character and, by my survey, to develop those
natural advantages certain to become, at no distant date, of vast
importance to a new people. The lofty mountain range which I had seen on
the 11th was now before us, but still distant between thirty and forty
miles; and as the cattle required rest I determined on an excursion to
its lofty eastern summit. Such a height was sure to command a view of the
country between these mountains and the sea in the direction of Lady
Julia Percy's Isles; and of that region between the range and those less
connected forest-hills I had seen to the eastward.
PROPOSED EXCURSION TO THE MOUNTAINS.
When I first discovered these mountains I perceived that the land
immediately to the eastward of them was very low and that, if I found it
necessary, I might conduct the party in that direction to the coast. I
was however more desirous to level my theodolite on that summit first,
and thus obtain valuable materials for the construction of an accurate
map of the whole country around it. I accordingly left the party encamped
and proceeded towards the mountain, accompanied by six men on horseback,
having previously instructed Mr. Stapylton to employ the men during my
absence in forming a way down the bank, and a good ford across the stream
in order that there might be no impediment to the immediate advance of
the party on my return.
Pursuing the bearing of 193 degrees we crossed, at three miles from the
camp, a deep creek similar to that on which it was placed; and the first
adventure of the morning occurred here. The fordable place was so narrow
that the horse of one of the party plunged into the deep water with its
rider who, while the animal was swimming, incautiously pulled the bridle
and of course overturned it, so that they parted company in the water,
the horse reaching one bank, the rider the other. The latter, who was my
botanical collector Richardson, took his soaking on a cold frosty morning
so philosophically, talking to his comrades as he made his way to the
bank, partly swimming, partly floating on two huge portfolios, that I
gave his name to the creek, the better to reconcile him to his wet
jacket. We entered soon after upon one of the finest tracts of grassy
forest land we had ever seen. The whole country recently crossed was
good, but this was far better, having several broad and deep ponds, or
small lakes, in the woods, and all full of the clearest water. At eight
miles I perceived a forest-hill on my left (or to the eastward) and the
country before us was so open, sloping and green, that I felt certain we
were approaching a river; and we soon came upon one, which was full,
flowing and thirty feet wide, being broader than the Yarrayne but not so
uniformly deep. Unlike the latter river, reeds grew about its margin in
some places, and its banks, though grassy and fifteen feet high, were
neither so steep as those of the Yarrayne, nor so closely shut together.
CROSS A FINE STREAM FLOWING IN THREE SEPARATE CHANNELS.
We swam our horses across, but our progress had scarcely commenced again
on the other side when it was impeded by another similar stream or
channel. In this we managed, with Piper's assistance, to find a ford but,
at less than a quarter of a mile, we met a third channel, more resembling
the first in the height of its banks and velocity of the current, and
also from its flowing amongst bushes. This we likewise forded, and
immediately after we ascended a piece of rising ground which convinced me
that we had at length crossed all the branches of that remarkable river.
It is probable we came upon it where it received the waters of
tributaries, and some of these channels might be such.
A RIDGE OF POOR SANDY SOIL.
We next fell in with some undulating ground different in many respects
from any that we had traversed during the morning. The soil was poor and
sandy; and the stunted trees and shrubs of the Blue mountains grew upon
it, instead of the novelties we expected at such a great distance from
home. We also recognised the birds common about Sydney. On reaching the
higher part of this ground (at nine miles) I again saw the mountain which
then bore 196 degrees. The intervening ground seemed to consist of a low
ridge rather heavily wooded, its crest presenting a line as level as the
ocean. At eleven miles I supposed we were upon the dividing ground
between the sea-coast country and that of the interior, and on what
appeared to be the only connection between the forest mountains to the
eastward and the lofty mass then before us. We found upon this neck huge
trees of ironbark and stringybark; some fine forest-hills appeared to the
eastward and distant only a few miles.
CROSS SEVERAL FINE STREAMS.
At the end of sixteen, eighteen, nineteen, twenty-one, and twenty-three
miles we crossed small rivers, all flowing westward, and the third over
sandstone. After passing the last or fifth stream, we halted on a very
fine open, dry and grassy flat. We found a large fallen tree which we set
on fire and passed the night, a very mild one, most comfortably on the
ground beside it, with the intention of renewing our journey at daylight
in the morning.
TRAP-HILLS AND GOOD SOIL.
On leaving our bivouac we crossed some hills of trap-rock which were
lightly wooded and covered with the finest grass in great abundance. The
scenery around them, the excellent quality of the soil, the abundance of
water and verdure, contrasted strangely with the circumstance of their
lying waste and unoccupied. It was evident that the reign of solitude in
these beautiful vales was near a close; a reflection which, in my mind,
often sweetened the toils and inconveniences of travelling through such
houseless regions. At the foot of the last hill, and about a mile on our
way, we crossed a chain of deep ponds running to the south-west. Beyond
them was a plain of the very finest open forest-land, on which we
travelled seven miles; and then came upon a river with broad deep reaches
of very clear water, and flowing towards the north-west. We easily found
a ford and, on proceeding, entered upon a tract of white sand where
banksia and casuarinae were the chief trees. There was also some good
grass but it grew rather thinly upon it. The next water we crossed was a
small mountain-torrent hurrying along to the eastward in a deep and rocky
channel overhung with bushes.
ASCEND THE MOUNTAIN.
Being now close under the mountain, we dismounted and sent our horses
back for the sake of food to the bank of the last-mentioned river. The
first part of our ascent, on foot, was extremely steep and laborious,
although it was along the most favourable feature I could find. Above it
the impediments likely to obstruct our further ascent were two high and
perpendicular rocky cliffs; but I had observed before ascending those
crevices and intervals between rocks where we might most easily effect an
ascent; and through these we accordingly penetrated without much
difficulty. The upper precipice consisted of cliffs about 140 feet in
perpendicular height. Fortunately the ablest of the men with me was a
house carpenter and, being accustomed to climb roofs, he managed to get
up and then assist the rest.
CLOUDS COVER IT.
Having gained the top of this second precipice, we found winter and
desolation under drizzling clouds which afforded but partial and
transient glimpses of the world below. The surface at the summit of the
cliffs was broad and consisted of large blocks of sandstone, separated by
wide fissures full of dwarf bushes of banksia and casuarinae. These rocks
were inclined but slightly towards the north-west and, the bushes being
also wet and curiously encrusted with heavy icicles, it was by no means a
pleasant part of our journey to travel nearly half a mile upwards, either
on the slippery rock or between fissures among wet bushes. At length
however we reached the highest point and found that it consisted of naked
sandstone. The top block was encrusted with icicles, and had become hoary
under the beating of innumerable storms. At the very summit I found a
small heath-like bushy Leucopogon, from six inches to a foot high. It was
in flower although covered with ice.* Also a variety of Leucopogon
villosus, with rather less hair than usual, and another species of the
same genus, probably new. Near the highest parts of the plateau I found a
new species of eucalyptus with short broad viscid leaves, and
(*Footnote. L. glacialis, Lindley manuscripts; ramulis pubescentibus,
foliis lineari-lanceolatis erectis contortis acutis ciliatis margine
scabris, floribus terminalibus solitaririis et aggregatis, pedicellis
pubescentibus distanter squamatis, calcibus glabris.)
(**Footnote. E. alpina, Lindley manuscripts; ramulis brevibus rigidis
angulatis, foliis alternis petiolatis ovato-oblongis viscosis basi
obliquis, umbellis axillaribus paucifloris petiolis brevioribus, operculo
hemisphaerico verrucoso inaequali tubo calycis turbinato verrucoso
A NIGHT ON THE SUMMIT.
All around us was hidden in mist. It was now within half an hour of
sunset, but the ascent had cost so much trouble, and the country this
summit commanded was so interesting to us that I was unwilling to descend
without trying whether it might not be clear of clouds at sunrise. We had
not come prepared in any way to pass the night on such a wild and
desolate spot, for we had neither clothing nor food, nor was there any
shelter; but I was willing to suffer any privations for the attainment of
the object of our ascent. One man, Richardson, an old traveller, had most
wisely brought his day's provisions in his haversack, and these I divided
equally among FIVE. No rocks could be found near the summit to shelter us
from the piercing wind and sleet.
The thermometer stood at 29 degrees, and we strove to make a fire to
protect us from the piercing cold; but the green twigs, encrusted with
icicles, could not by our united efforts be blown into a flame sufficient
to warm us. There was abundance of good wood AT THE FOOT OF THE
CLIFFS--huge trees of ironbark, stringybark and bluegum but, had we
descended, a second ascent might have appeared too laborious on a mere
chance of finding the summit clear; so we remained above. The men managed
to manufacture some tea in a tin pot, and into the water as it boiled I
plunged a thermometer which rose to exactly 95 degrees of the centigrade
scale. We got through that night of misery as well as might have been
expected under the circumstances, and we succeeded in keeping the fire
alive although, while twigs were blown into red heat at one end, icicles
remained at the other, even within a few inches of the flame. In order to
maintain it through the night we divided, at eleven o'clock, the stock of
branches which had been gathered before dark into eight parcels, this
being the number of hours we were destined to sit shivering there; and as
each bundle was laid on the dying embers we had the pleasure at least of
knowing that it was an hour nearer daylight. I coiled myself round the
fire in all the usual attitudes of the blacks, but in vain; to get warm
was quite impossible, although I did once feel something like comfort
when one of the men gave me for a seat a flat stone on which the fire had
been blown for some hours. Partial cessations in the fall of sleet were
also cheering occasionally; but the appearance of stars two hours before
daylight promised to reward our enterprise and inspired me with hope.
VIEW FROM IT AT SUNRISE.
At six o'clock the sky became clear, the clouds had indeed left the
mountain and, as soon as it was day, I mounted the frozen rock. In the
dawn however all lower objects were blended in one grey shade, like the
dead colouring of a picture. I could distinguish only a pool of water,
apparently near the foot of the mountain. This water I afterwards found
to be a lake eight miles distant and in my map I have named it Lake
Lonsdale, in honour of the Commandant then or soon after appointed at
Port Phillip. I hastily levelled my theodolite but the scene, although
sublime enough for the theme of a poet, was not at all suited to the more
commonplace objects of a surveyor. The sun rose amid red and stormy
clouds, and vast masses of a white vapour concealed from view both sea
and land save where a few isolated hills were dimly visible. Towards the
interior the horizon was clear and, during a short interval, I took what
angles I could obtain. To the westward the view of the mountain ranges
was truly grand. Southward or towards the sea I could at intervals
perceive plains clear of timber and that the country was level, a
circumstance of great importance to us; for I was apprehensive that
between these mountains and the coast it might be broken by mountain
gullies as it is in the settled colony and all along the Eastern coast.
If such had proved to be the case the carts could not have been taken
there; and I must have altered the plan of my intended route. Before I
could observe the angles so desirable clouds again enveloped the
mountain, and I was compelled to quit its summit without completing the
work. The wind blew keenly, the thermometer stood as low as 27 degrees,
and in the morning the rocks were more thickly encrusted with ice.
DESCEND WITH DIFFICULTY.
The difficulty of our descent under such circumstances was therefore
increased but no impediment could have arrested us then, the lower
regions having so many attractive charms for such cold and hungry beings.
MEN TAKEN ILL.
That night on the summit materially injured the health of two of my best
men who had been with me on all three of my expeditions. Muirhead was
seized with ague and Woods with a pulmonary complaint; and although both
recovered in a few weeks they were never so strong afterwards.
NEW PLANTS FOUND THERE.
We found upon the mountain, besides those already mentioned, various
interesting plants which we had seen nowhere else. Amongst them:
A most beautiful downy-leaved Epacris with large, curved, purple flowers,
allied to E. grandiflora but much handsomer.*
(*Footnote. E. tomentosa, Lindley manuscripts; foliis ovatis acutis
planis crassis tomentosis, floribus cernuis, corolla arcuata
infundibulari laciniis obtusis apiculatis.)
A most remarkable species of Phebalium* with holly-like leaves and bright
red flowers resembling those of a Boronia. It was related to P.
phylicifolium but quite distinct.
(*Footnote. P. bilobum, Lindley manuscripts; ramulis tomentosis, foliis
glabris cordato-ovatis retusis bilobis dentatis margine revolutis,
pedicellis axillaribus pubescentibus folio brevioribus, ovario tricorni.)
A new Cryptandra remarkable for its downy leaves.*
(*Footnote. C. tomentosa, Lindley manuscripts; undique dense tomentosa,
ramulis racemosis, foliis fasciculatis linearibus obtusis marginibus
revolutis contiguis, capitulis terminalibus congestis, calycibus
campanulatis bracteis acutis scariosis parum longioribus. Next to C.
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