Two Expeditions into the Interior of Southern Australia Complete
Charles Sturt

Part 5 out of 8

decided opinion on the latter. If you ask a stockman what kind of a
country lies, either to his right, or to his left, he is sure to condemn
it, unless it will afford the most abundant pasture. Accustomed to roam
about from one place to another, these men despise any but the richest
tracts, and include the rest of the neighbourhood in one sweeping clause
of condemnation. Thus I was led to expect, that we should pass over a
country of the very worst description, between Underaliga and the
Morumbidgee. Had it been similar to that midway between Yass and
Underaliga, we should, in truth, have found it so; but it struck me, that
there were many rich tracts of ground among the valleys of the former, and
that the very hills had a fair covering of grass upon them. What though
the soil was coarse, if the vegetation was good and sufficient? Perhaps
the greatest drawback to this part of the interior is the want of water;
yet we crossed several creeks, and remarked some deep water holes, that
can never be exhausted, even in the driest season. Wherever the situation
favoured our obtaining a view of the country on either side of us, while
among these hills, we found that to the eastward lofty and mountainous;
whilst that to the westward, had the appearance of fast sinking into
a level.


A short time before we reached the Morumbidgee, we forded a creek, which
we crossed a second time where it falls into the river. After crossing it
the first time we opened a flat, on which the marks of sheep were
abundant. In the distance there was a small hill, and on its top a bark
hut. We were not until then aware of our being so near the river, but as
Mr. O'Brien had informed me that he had a station for sheep, at a place
called Juggiong, by the natives, on the immediate banks of the river, I
did not doubt that we had, at length, arrived at it. And so it proved. I
went to the hut, to ascertain where I could conveniently stop for the
night, but the residents were absent. I could not but admire the position
they had taken up. The hill upon which their hut was erected was not more
than fifty feet high, but it immediately overlooked the river, and
commanded not only the flat we had traversed in approaching it, but also a
second flat on the opposite side. The Morumbidgee came down to the foot of
this little hill from the south, and, of course, running to the north,
which latter direction it suddenly takes up from a previous S.W. one, on
meeting some hills that check its direct course. From the hill on which
the hut stands, it runs away westward, almost in a direct line, for three
miles, so that the position commands a view of both the reaches, which are
overhung by the casuarina and flooded-gum. Rich alluvial flats lie to the
right of the stream, backed by moderate hills, that were lightly studded
with trees, and clothed with verdure to their summits. Some moderate
elevations also backed a flat, on the left bank of the river, but the
colour of the soil upon the latter, as well as its depressed situation,
showed clearly that it was subject to flood, and had received the worst of
the depositions from the mountains. The hills behind it were also bare,
and of a light red colour, betraying, as I imagined, a distinct formation
from, and poorer character than, the hills behind us. At about three miles
the river again suddenly changes its direction from west to south, for
about a mile, when it inclines to the S.E. until it nearly encircles the
opposite hills, when it assumes its proper direction, and flows away to
the S.W.


We crossed the Underaliga creek a little below the stock hut, and encamped
about a mile beyond it, in the centre of a long plain. We were surrounded
on every side by hills, from which there was no visible outlet, as they
appeared to follow the bend of the river, with an even and unbroken
outline. The scenery around us was wild, romantic, and beautiful; as
beautiful as a rich and glowing sunset in the most delightful climate
under the heavens could make it. I had been more anxious to gain the banks
of the Morumbidgee on this occasion, than I had been on a former one to
gain those of the Macquarie, for although I could not hope to see the
Morumbidgee all that it had been described to me, yet I felt that on its
first appearance I should in some measure ground my anticipations of
ultimate success. When I arrived on the banks of the Macquarie, it had
almost ceased to flow, and its current was so gentle as to be scarcely
perceptible. Instead, however, of a river in such a state of exhaustion,
I now looked down upon a stream, whose current it would have been
difficult to breast, and whose waters, foaming among rocks, or circling in
eddies, gave early promise of a reckless course. It must have been
somewhat below its ordinary level, and averaged a breadth of about 80
feet. Its waters were hard and transparent, and its bed was composed of
mountain debris, and large fragments of rock. As soon as the morning
dawned, the tents were struck and we pursued our journey. We followed the
line of the river, until we found ourselves in a deep bight to the S.E.
The hills that had been gradually closing in upon the river, now
approached it so nearly, that there was no room for the passage of the
drays. We were consequently obliged to turn back, and, moving along the
base of the ranges, by which we were thus apparently enclosed, we at
length found a steep pass, the extreme narrowness of which had hidden it
from our observation. By this pass we were now enabled to effect our
escape. On gaining the summit of the hills, we travelled south for three
or four miles, through open forests, and on level ground. But we
ultimately descended into a valley in which we halted for the night. On a
closer examination of the neighbourhood, it appeared that our position was
at the immediate junction of two valleys, where, uniting the waters of
their respective creeks, the main branch declines rapidly towards the
river. One of these valleys extended to to the S.W., the other to the
W.N.W. It was evident to us that our route lay up the former; and I made
no doubt we should easily reach Whaby's station on the morrow.


We were now far beyond the acknowledged limits of the located parts of the
colony, and Mr. Whaby's station was the last at which we could expect even
the casual supply of milk or other trifling relief. Yet, although the
prospect of so soon leaving even the outskirts of civilization, and being
wholly thrown on our own resources, was so near, it never for a moment
weighed upon the minds of the men. The novelty of the scenery, and the
beauty of the river on which they were journeying, excited in them the
liveliest anticipations of success. The facility with which we had
hitherto pushed forward blinded them to future difficulties, nor could
there be a more cheerful spectacle than that which the camp daily
afforded. The animals browzing in the distance, and the men talking over
their pipes of the probable adventures they might encounter. The loads
had by this time settled properly, and our provisions proved of the very
best quality, so that no possible improvement could have been made for the


On the morrow we pushed up the southernmost of the valleys, at the
junction of which we had encamped, having moderate hills on either side of
us. At the head of the valley we crossed a small dividing range into
another valley, and halted for the night, on the banks of a creek from the
westward, as we found it impossible to reach Whaby's station, as we had
intended, before sunset. Nothing could exceed the luxuriance of the
vegetation in this valley, but the water of the creek was so impregnated
with iron, as to be almost useless. Being anxious to obtain a view of the
surrounding country, I ascended a hill behind the camp, just as the sun
was sinking, a time the most favourable for the object I had in view. The
country, broken into hill and dale, seemed richer than any tract I had as
yet surveyed; and the beauty of the near landscape was greatly
heightened by the mountainous scenery to the S. and S.E. Both the
laxmania, and zanthorea were growing around me; but neither appeared to be
in congenial soil. The face of the hill was very stony, and I found, on
examination, that a great change had taken place in the rock-formation,
the granite ranges having given place to chlorite schist.

We reached Whaby's about 9 a.m. of the morning of the 27th, and received
every attention and civility from him. The valley in which we had slept
opened upon an extensive plain, to the eastward of which the Morumbidgee
formed the extreme boundary; and it was in a bight, and on ground rather
elevated above the plain, that he had fixed his residence. He informed
me that we should have to cross the river, as its banks were too
precipitous, and the ranges too abrupt, to admit of our keeping the right
side; and recommended me to examine and fix upon a spot at which to cross,
before I again moved forward, expressing his readiness to accompany me as
a guide. We accordingly rode down the river, to a place at which some
stockman had effected a passage,--after a week's labour in hewing out a
canoe. I by no means intended that a similar delay should occur in our
case, but I saw no objection to our crossing at the same place; since its
depth, and consequent tranquillity, rendered it eligible enough for that


The Dumot river, another mountain stream, joins the Morumbidgee opposite
to Mr. Whaby's residence. It is little inferior to the latter either in
size or in the rapidity of its current, and, if I may rely on the
information I received, waters a finer country, the principal
rock-formation upon it being of limestone and whinstone. It rises amidst
the snowy ranges to the S.E., and its banks are better peopled than those
of the stream into which it discharges itself. Of course, such a tributary
enlarges the Morumbidgee considerably: indeed, the fact is sufficiently
evident from the appearance of the latter below the junction.

During our ride with Whaby down its banks, we saw nothing but the richest
flats, almost entirely clear of timber and containing from 400 to 700
acres, backed by ranges that were but partially wooded, and were clothed
with verdure to their very summits. The herds that were scattered over the
first were almost lost in the height of the vegetation, and the ranges
served as natural barriers to prevent them from straying away.


On the following morning, we started for the place at which it had been
arranged that we should cross the Morumbidgee, but, though no more than
five miles in a direct line from Whaby's house, in consequence of the
irregularity of the ground, the drays did not reach it before noon. The
weight and quantity of our stores being taken into consideration, the task
we had before us was not a light one. Such, however, was the industry of
the men, that before it became dark the whole of them, including the drays
and sheep, were safely deposited on the opposite bank. We were enabled to
be thus expeditious, by means of a punt that we made with the tarpaulins
on an oblong frame. As soon as it was finished, a rope was conveyed across
the river, and secured to a tree, and a running cord being then fastened
to the punt, a temporary ferry was established, and the removal of our
stores rendered comparatively easy. M'Leay undertook to drive the horses
and cattle over a ford below us, but he did not calculate on the stubborn
disposition of the latter, and, consequently, experienced some difficulty,
and was well nigh swept away by the current. So great was his difficulty,
that he was obliged to land, to his great discomfiture, amidst a grove of
lofty nettles. Mulholland, who accompanied him, and who happened to be
naked, was severly stung by them. The labour of the day was, however,
satisfactorily concluded, and we lay down to rest with feelings of entire

A great part of the following day was consumed in reloading, nor did we
pursue our journey until after two o'clock. We then passed over tracks on
the left of the river of the same rich description that existed on its
right; they were much intersected by creeks, but were clear of timber,
and entirely out of the reach of floods. At about seven miles from where
we started, we found ourselves checked by precipitous rocks jutting into
the stream, and were obliged once more to make preparations for crossing
it. Instead of a deep and quiet reach, however, the Morumbidgee here
expanded into a fretful rapid; but it was sufficiently shallow to admit of
our taking the drays over, without the trouble of unloading them. There
was still, however, some labour required in cutting down the banks, and
the men were fully occupied until after sunset; and so well did they work,
that an hour's exertion in the morning enabled us to make the passage with
safety. On ascending the right bank, we found that we had to force
through a dense body of reeds, covering some flooded land, at the base of
a range terminating upon the river; and we were obliged, in order to
extricate ourselves from our embarrassments, to pass to the N.W. of the
point, and to cross a low part of the range. This done, we met with no
further interruptions during the day, but travelled along rich and clear
flats to a deep bight below an angle of the river called Nangaar by the
natives; where we pitched our camp, and our animals revelled amid the most
luxuriant pasture. Only in one place did the sandy superficies upon the
plain indicate that it was there subject to flood.

The Morumbidgee from Juggiong to our present encampment had held a general
S.S.W. course, but from the summit of a hill behind the tents it now
appeared to be gradually sweeping round to the westward; and I could trace
the line of trees upon its banks, through a rich and extensive valley in
that direction, as far as my sight could reach. The country to the S.E.
maintained its lofty character, but to the westward the hills and ranges
were evidently decreasing in height, and the distant interior seemed fast
sinking to a level. The general direction of the ranges had been from N.
to S., and as we had been travelling parallel to them, their valleys were
shut from our view. Now, however, several rich and extensive ones became
visible, opening from the southward into the valley of the Morumbidgee,
and, as a further evidence of a change of country from a confused to a
more open one, a plain of considerable size stretched from immediately
beneath the hill on which I was to the N.W.


The Morumbidgee itself, from the length and regularity of its reaches, as
well as from its increased size, seemed to intimate that it had
successfully struggled through the broken country in which it rises, and
that it would henceforward meet with fewer interruptions to its course. It
still, however, preserved all the characters of a mountain stream; having
alternate rapids and deep pools, being in many places encumbered with
fallen timber, and generally running over a shingly bed, composed of
rounded fragments of every rock of which the neighbouring ranges were
formed, and many others that had been swept by the torrents down it. The
rock formation of the hills upon its right continued of that chlorite
schist which prevailed near Mr. Whaby's, which I have already noticed, and
quartz still appeared in large masses, on the loftier ranges opposite, so
that the geology of the neighbourhood could not be said to have undergone
any material change. It might, however, be considered an extraordinary
feature in it, that a small hill of blue limestone existed upon the left
bank of the river. The last place at which we had seen limestone was at
Yass, but I had learned from Mr. Whaby, that, together with whinstone, it
was abundant near a Mr. Rose's station on the Dumot, that was not at any
great distance. The irregularity, however, of the intervening country,
made the appearance of this solitary rock more singular.

Although the fires of the natives had been frequent upon the river, none
had, as yet, ventured to approach us, in consequence of some
misunderstanding that had taken place between them and Mr. Stuckey's
stockmen. Mr. Roberts' stockmen [these men had lately fixed themselves
on the river a little below Mr. Whaby's], however, brought a man and a boy
to us at this place in the afternoon, but I could not persuade them to
accompany us on our journey--neither could I, although my native boy
understood them perfectly, gain any particular information from them.

In consequence of rain, we did not strike the tents so early as usual.
At 7 a.m. a heavy thunder storm occurred from the N.W. after which the
sky cleared, and we were enabled to push forward at 11 a.m., moving on a
general W.N.W, course, over rich flats, which, having been moistened by
the morning's showers, showed the dark colour of the rich earth of which
they were composed. Some sand-hills were, however, observed near the
river, of about fifteen feet in elevation, crowned by banksias; and the
soil of the flats had a very partial mixture of sand in it. How these
sand-hills could have been formed it is difficult to say; but they
produced little minor vegetation, and were as pure as the sand of the
sea-shore. Some considerable plains were noticed to our right, in
appearance not inferior to the ground on which we were journeying. At noon
we rose gradually from the level of these plains, and travelled along the
side of a hill, until we got to a small creek, at which we stopped, though
more than a mile and a half from the river. The clouds had been gathering
again in the N.W. quarter, and we had scarcely time to secure our flour,
when a second storm burst upon us, and it continued to rain violently for
the remainder of the day.


From a small hill that lay to our left Mr. M'Leay and I enjoyed a most
beautiful view. Beneath us to the S. E. the rich and lightly timbered
valley through which the Morumbidgee flows, extended, and parts of the
river were visible through the dark masses of swamp-oak by which it was
lined, or glittering among the flooded-gum trees, that grew in its
vicinity. In the distance was an extensive valley that wound between
successive mountain ranges. More to the eastward, both mountain and
woodland bore a dark and gloomy shade, probably in consequence of the
light upon them at the time. Those lofty peaks that had borne nearly
south of us from Pouni, near Yass, now rose over the last-mentioned
ranges, and by their appearance seemed evidently to belong to a high and
rugged chain. To the westward, the decline of country was more observable
than ever; and the hills on both sides of the river, were lower and more
distant from it. Those upon which we found ourselves were composed of
iron-stone, were precipitous towards the river in many places, of sandy
soil, and were crowned with beef-wood as well as box. The change in the
rock-formation and in the soil, produced a corresponding change in the
vegetation. The timber was not so large as it had been, neither did the
hills any longer bear the green appearance which had distinguished those
we had passed to their very summits. The grass here grew in tufts amidst
the sand, and was of a burnt appearance as if it had suffered from


Some natives had joined us in the morning, and acted as our guides; or it
is more than probable that we should have continued our course along the
river, and got enbarrassed among impediments that were visible from our
elevated position; for it was evident that the range we had ascended
terminated in an abrupt precipice on the river, that we could not have
passed. The blacks suffered beyond what I could have imagined, from cold,
and seemed as incapable of enduring it as if they had experienced the
rigour of a northern snow storm.

The morning of the 2nd December was cloudy and lowering, and the wind
still hung in the N.W. There was truly every appearance of bad weather,
but our anxiety to proceed on our journey overcame our apprehensions,
and the animals were loaded and moved off at 7 a.m. The rain which had
fallen the evening previous, rendered travelling heavy; so that we got on
but slowly. At 11, the clouds burst, and continued to pour down for the
rest of the day. On leaving the creek we crossed the spine of the range,
and descending from it into a valley, that continued to the river on the
one hand, and stretched away to the N.W. on the other, we ascended some
hills opposite to us, and moved generally through open, undulating forest
ground, affording good pasturage.


One of the blacks being anxious to get an opossum out of a dead tree,
every branch of which was hollow, asked for a tomahawk, with which be cut
a hole in the trunk above where he thought the animal lay concealed. He
found however, that he had cut too low, and that it had run higher up.
This made it necessary to smoke it out; he accordingly got some dry grass,
and having kindled a fire, stuffed it into the hole he had cut. A raging
fire soon kindled in the tree, where the draft was great, and dense
columns of smoke issued from the end of each branch as thick as that from
the chimney of a steam engine. The shell of the tree was so thin that I
thought it would soon be burnt through, and that the tree would fall; but
the black had no such fears, and, ascending to the highest branch, he
watched anxiously for the poor little wretch he had thus surrounded with
dangers and devoted to destruction; and no sooner did it appear, half
singed and half roasted, than he seized upon it and threw it down to
us with an air of triumph. The effect of the scene in so lonely a forest,
was very fine. The roaring of the fire in the tree, the fearless attitude
of the savage, and the associations which his colour and appearance,
enveloped as he was in smoke, called up, were singular, and still dwell
on my recollection. We had not long left the tree, when it fell with a
tremendous crash, and was, when we next passed that way, a mere heap of


Shortly before it commenced raining, the dogs started an emu, and took
after it, followed by M'Leay and myself. We failed in killing it, and I
was unfortunate enough to lose a most excellent watch upon the occasion,
which in regularity was superior to the chronometer I had with me.

As there was no hope of the weather clearing up, I sent M'Leay and one of
the blacks with the flour to the river, with directions to pile it up and
cover it with tarpaulins, as soon as possible, remaining myself to bring
up the drays. It was not, however, until after 4 p.m. that we gained the
river-side, or that we were enabled to get into shelter. Fraser met with a
sad accident while assisting the driver of the teams, who, accidentally,
struck him with the end of the lash of his whip in the eye, and cut the
lower lid in two. The poor fellow fell to the ground as if he had been
shot, and really, from the report of the whip, I was at first uncertain
of the nature of the accident.


We had gradually ascended some hills; and as the sweep of the valley led
southerly, we continued along it until we got to its very head; then,
crossing the ridge we descended the opposite side, towards a beautiful
plain, on the further extremity of which the river line was marked by the
dark-leafed casuarina. In spite of the badness of the weather and the
misfortunes of the day, I could not but admire the beauty of the scene.
We were obliged to remain stationary the following day, in consequence
of one of the drays being out of repair, and requiring a new axle-tree.
I could hardly regret the necessity that kept us in so delightful a spot.
This plain, which the natives called Pondebadgery, and in which a station
has since been formed, is about two miles in breadth, by about three and
a-half in length. It is surrounded apparently on every side by hills. The
river running E. and W. forms its southern boundary. The hills by which we
had entered it, terminating abruptly on the river to the north-east, form
a semi-circle round it to the N.N.W. where a valley, the end of which
cannot be seen, runs to the north-west, of about half a mile in breadth.
On the opposite side of the river moderate hills rise over each other, and
leave little space between them and its banks. The Morumbidgee itself,
with an increased breadth, averaging from seventy to eighty yards,
presents a still, deep sheet of water to the view, over which the
casuarina bends with all the grace of the willow, or the birch, but with
more sombre foliage. To the west, a high line of flooded-gum trees
extending from the river to the base of the hills which form the west side
of the valley before noticed, hides the near elevations, and thus shuts in
the whole space. The soil of the plain is of the richest description, and
the hills backing it, together with the valley, are capable of depasturing
the most extensive flocks.

Such is the general landscape from the centre of Pondebadgery Plain.
Behind the line of gum-trees, the river suddenly sweeps away to the south,
and forms a deep bight of seven miles, when, bearing up again to the N.W.
it meets some hills about 10 miles to the W.N.W. of the plain, thus
encircling a still more extensive space, that for richness of soil, and
for abundance of pasture, can nowhere be excelled; such, though on a
smaller scale, are all the flats that adorn the banks of the Morumbidgee,
first on one side and then on the other, as the hills close in upon them,
from Juggiong to Pondebadgery.


It is deeply to be regretted that this noble river should exist at such a
distance from the capital as to be unavailable. During our stay on the
Pondebadgery Plain, the men caught a number of codfish, as they are
generally termed, but which are, in reality, a species of perch. The
largest weighed 40lb. but the majority of the others were small, not
exceeding from six to eight. M'Leay and I walked to the N.W. extremity of
the plain, in order to ascertain how we should debouche from it, and to
get, if possible, a view of the western interior. We took with us two
blacks who had attached themselves to the party, and had made themselves
generally useful. On ascending the most westerly of the hills, we found it
composed of micaceous schist, the upper coat of which was extremely soft,
and broke with a slaty fracture, or crumbled into a sparkling dust beneath
our feet. The summit of the hill was barren, and beef-wood alone grew on
it. The valley, of which it was the western boundary, ran up northerly for
two or three miles, with all the appearance of richness and verdure. To
the south extended the flat I have noticed, more heavily timbered than we
had usually found them, bounded, or backed rather, by a hilly country,
although one fast losing in its general height. To the W.N.W. there was a
moderate range of hills on the opposite side of an extensive valley,
running up northerly, from which a lateral branch swept round to the
W.N.W. with a gradual ascent into the hills, which bore the same
appearance of open forest, grazing land, as prevailed in similar tracts to
the eastward. The blacks pointed out to us our route up the valley, and
stated that we should get on the banks of the river again in a direction
W. by N. from the place on which we stood. We accordingly crossed the
principal valley on the following morning, and gradually ascended the
opposite line of hills. They terminate to the S.E. in lofty precipices,
overlooking the river flats, and having a deep chain of ponds under them.
The descent towards the river was abrupt, and we encamped upon its banks,
with a more confined view than any we had ever had before. There was an
evident change in the river; the banks were reedy, the channel deep and
muddy, and the neighbourhood bore more the appearance of being subject to
overflow than it had done in any one place we had passed over. The hills
were much lower, and as we gained the southern brow of that under which we
encamped, we could see a level and wooded country to the westward. The
line of the horizon was unbroken by any hills in the distance, and the
nearer ones seemed gradually to lose themselves in the darkness of the

The two natives, whom the stockmen had named Peter and Jemmie, were of
infinite service to us, from their knowledge of all the passes, and the
general features of the country. Having, however, seen us thus far on the
journey from their usual haunts, they became anxious to return, and it was
with some difficulty we persuaded them to accompany us for a few days
longer, in hopes of reward. The weather had been cool and pleasant; the
thermometer averaging 78 of Fahrenheit at noon, in consequences of which
the animals kept in good condition, the men healthy and zealous. The sheep
Mr. O'Brien had presented to us, gave no additional trouble; they followed
in the rear of the party without attempting to wander, and were secured at
night in a small pen or fold. No waste attended their slaughter, nor did
they lose in condition, from being driven from ten to fifteen miles daily,
so much as I had been led to suppose they would have done.


Character of the Morumbidgee where it issues from the hilly country--
Appearance of approach to swamps--Hamilton Plains--Intercourse with the
natives--Their appearance, customs, &c.--Change in the character of the
river--Mirage--Dreariness of the country--Ride towards the Lachlan river
--Two boats built and launched on the Morumbidgee; and the drays, with
part of the men sent back to Goulburn Plains.


From our camp, the Morumbidgee held a direct westerly course for about
three miles. The hills under which we had encamped, rose so close upon our
right as to leave little space between them and the river. At the distance
of three miles, however, they suddenly terminated, and the river changed
its direction to the S.W., while a chain of ponds extended to the
westward, and separated the alluvial flats from a somewhat more elevated
plain before us. We kept these ponds upon our left for some time, but, as
they ultimately followed the bend of the river, we left them. The blacks
led us on a W. by S. course to the base of a small range two or three
miles distant, near which there was a deep lagoon. It was evident they
here expected to have found some other natives. Being disappointed,
however, they turned in towards the river again, but we stopped short of
it on the side of a serpentine sheet of water, an apparent continuation of
the chain of ponds we had left behind us, forming a kind of ditch round
the S.W. extremity of the range, parallel to which we had continued to
travel. This range, which had been gradually decreasing in height from the
lagoon, above which it rose perpendicularly, might almost be said to
terminate here. We fell in with two or three natives before we halted, but
the evident want of population in so fine a country, and on so noble a
river, surprised me extremely. We saw several red kangaroos in the course
of the day, and succeeded in killing one. It certainly is a beautiful
animal, ranging the wilds in native freedom. The female and the kid are of
a light mouse-colour. Wild turkeys abound on this part of the Morumbidgee,
but with the exception of a few terns, which are found hovering over the
lagoons, no new birds had as yet been procured; and the only plant that
enriched our collection, was an unknown metrosideros. In crossing the
extremity of the range, the wheels of the dray sunk deep into a yielding
and coarse sandy soil, of decomposed granite, on which forest-grass
prevailed in tufts, which, being far apart, made the ground uneven, and
caused the animals to trip. We rose at one time sufficiently high to
obtain an extensive view, and had our opinions confirmed as to the level
nature of the country we were so rapidly approaching. From the N. to
the W.S.W. the eye wandered over a wooded and unbroken interior, if I
except a solitary double hill that rose in the midst of it, bearing
S. 82 degrees W. distant 12 miles, and another singular elevation that
bore S. 32 degrees W. called by the natives, Kengal. The appearance to the
E.S.E. was still that of a mountainous country, while from the N.E., the
hills gradually decrease in height, until lost in the darkness of
surrounding objects to the northward. We did not travel this day more than
13 miles on a W. by N. course. The Morumbidgee, where we struck it, by its
increased size, kept alive our anticipations of its ultimately leading us
to some important point. The partial rains that had fallen while we were
on its upper branch, had swollen it considerably, and it now rolled along
a vast body of water at the rate of three miles an hour, preserving a
medium width of 150 feet; its banks retaining a height far above the usual
level of the stream. A traveller who had never before descended into the
interior of New Holland, would have spurned the idea of such a river
terminating in marshes; but with the experience of the former journey,
strong as hope was within my breast, I still feared it might lose itself
in the vast flat upon which we could scarcely be said to have yet entered.
The country was indeed taking up more and more every day the features of
the N.W. interior. Cypresses were observed upon the minor ridges, and the
soil near the river, although still rich, and certainly more extensive
than above, was occasionally mixed with sand, and scattered over with the
claws of crayfish and shells, indicating its greater liability to be
flooded; nor indeed could I entertain a doubt that the river had laid a
great part of the levels around us under water long after it found that
channel in which nature intended ultimately to confine it. We killed
another fine red kangaroo in the early part of the day, in galloping after
which I got a heavy fall.

The two blacks who had been with us so long, and who had not only exerted
themselves to assist us, but had contributed in no small degree to our
amusement, though they had from M'Leay's liberality, tasted all the
dainties with which we had provided ourselves, from sugar to concentrated
cayenne, intimated that they could no longer accompany the party. They had
probably got to the extremity of their beat, and dared not venture any
further. They left us with evident regret, receiving, on their departure,
several valuable presents, in the shape of tomahawks &c. The last thing
they did was to point out the way to us, and to promise to join us on our
return, although they evidently little anticipated ever seeing us again.

In pursuing our journey, we entered a forest, consisting of box-trees,
casuarinae, and cypresses, on a light sandy soil, in which both horses and
bullocks sunk so deep that their labour was greatly increased, more
especially as the weather had become much warmer. At noon I altered my
course from N.W. by W. to W.N.W., and reached the Morumbidgee at 3 in the
afternoon. The flats bordering it were extensive and rich, and, being
partially mixed with sand, were more fitted for agricultural purposes than
the stiffer and purer soil amidst the mountains; but the interior beyond
them was far from being of corresponding quality. We crossed several
plains on which vegetation was scanty, probably owing to the hardness of
the soil, which was a stiff loamy clay, and which must check the growth of
plants, by preventing the roots from striking freely into it. The river
where we stopped for the night appeared to have risen considerably, and
the fish were rolling about on the surface of the water with a noise like
porpoises. No elevations were visible, so that I had not an opportunity of
continuing the chain of survey with the points I had previously taken.


As we proceeded down the river on the 8th, the flats became still more
extensive than they had ever been, and might almost be denominated plains.
Vegetation was scanty upon them, although the soil was of the first
quality. About nine miles from our camp, we struck on a small isolated
hill, that could scarcely have been of 200 feet elevation; yet, depressed
as it was, the view from its summit was very extensive, and I was
surprised to find that we were still in some measure surrounded by high
lands, of which I took the following bearings, connected with the present

A High Peak.....N. 66 E. distance 40 miles.
Kengal ........ N. 110 E. distant.
Double Hill ... S. 10 W. distant.

To the north, there were several fires burning, which appeared rather the
fires of natives, than conflagrations, and as the river had made a bend to
the N.N.W., I doubted not that they were upon its banks. From this hill,
which was of compact granite, we struck away to the W.N.W., and shortly
afterwards crossed some remarkable sand-hills. Figuratively speaking, they
appeared like islands amidst the alluvial deposits, and were as pure in
their composition as the sand on the sea-shore. They were generally
covered with forest grass, in tufts, and a coarse kind of rushes, under
banksias and cypresses. We found a small fire on the banks of the river,
and close to it the couch and hut of a solitary native, who had probably
seen us approach, and had fled. There cannot be many inhabitants
hereabouts, since there are no paths to indicate that they frequent this
part of the Morumbidgee more at one season than another.

On the 9th, the river fell off again to the westward, and we lost a good
deal of the northing we had made the day before. We journeyed pretty
nearly equidistant from the stream, and kept altogether on the alluvial
flats. As we were wandering along the banks of the river, a black started
up before us, and swam across to the opposite side, where he immediately
hid himself. We could by no means induce him to show himself; he was
probably the lonely being whom we had scared away from the fire the day
before. In the afternoon, however we surprised a family of six natives,
and persuaded them to follow us to our halting place. My boy understood
them well; but the young savage had the cunning to hide the information
they gave him, or, for aught I know, to ask questions that best suited his
own purposes, and therefore we gained little intelligence from them.

Every day now produced some change in the face of the country, by which it
became more and more assimilated to that I had traversed during the first
expedition. Acacia pendula now made its appearance on several plains
beyond the river deposits, as well as that salsolaceous class of plants,
among which the schlerolina and rhagodia are so remarkable. The natives
left us at sunset, but returned early in the morning with an extremely
facetious and good-humoured old man, who volunteered to act as our guide
without the least hesitation. There was a cheerfulness in his manner,
that gained our confidence at once, and rendered him a general favourite.
He went in front with the dogs, and led us a little away from the river
to kill kangaroos, as he said. At about two miles we struck on an
inconsiderable elevation, which the party crossed at the S.W. extremity.
I ascended it at the opposite end, but although the view was extensive, I
could not make out the little hill of granite from which I had taken my
former bearings, and the only elevation I could recognise as connected
with them, was one about ten miles distant, bearing S. 168 W. I could
observe very distant ranges to the E.N.E. and immediately below me in that
direction, there was a large clear plain, skirted by acacia pendula,
stretching from S.S.E. to N.N.W. The crown and ridges of the hill on which
I stood, were barren, stony, and covered with beef-wood,
the rock-formation being a coarse granite. The drays had got so far ahead
of me that I did not overtake them before they had halted on the river at
a distance of ten miles.


The Morumbidgee appeared, on examination, to have increased in breadth,
and continued to rise gradually. It is certainly a noble stream, very
different from those I had already traced to their termination. The old
black informed me that there was another large river flowing to the
southward of west, to which the Morumbidgee was as a creek, and that we
could gain it in four days. He stated that its waters were good, but that
its banks were not peopled. That such a feature existed where he laid it
down, I thought extremely probable, because it was only natural to expect
that other streams descended from the mountains in the S.E. of the island,
as well as that on which we were travelling. The question was, whether
either of them held on an uninterrupted course to some reservoir, or
whether they fell short of the coast and exhausted themselves in marshes.
Considering the concave direction of the mountains to the S.E., I even
at this time hoped that the rivers falling into the interior would unite
sooner or later, and contribute to the formation of an important and
navigable stream. Of the fate of the Morumbidgee, the old black could give
no account. It seemed probable, therefore, that we were far from its

I had hitherto been rather severe upon the animals, for although our
journey had not exceeded from twelve to fifteen miles a day, it had been
without intermission. I determined, therefore, to give both men and
animals a day of rest, as soon as I should find a convenient place. We
started on the 11th with this intention, but we managed to creep over
eight or ten miles of ground before we halted. The country was slightly
undulated, and much intersected by creeks, few of which had water in them.
The whole tract was, however, well adapted either for agriculture, or
for grazing, and, in spite of the drought that had evidently long hung
over it, was well covered with vegetation. We had passed all high lands,
and the interior to the westward presented an unbroken level to the eye.
The Morumbidgee appeared to hold a more northerly course than I had
anticipated. Still low ranges continued upon our right, and the cypress
ridges became more frequent and denser; but the timber on the more open
grounds generally consisted of box and flooded-gum. Of minor trees, the
acacia pendula was the most prevalent, with a shrub bearing a round nut,
enclosed in a scarlet capsule, and an interesting species of stenochylus.
I had observed as yet, few of the plants of the more northern interior.


In this neighbourhood, the dogs killed an emu and a kangaroo, which came
in very conveniently for some natives whom we fell in with on one of the
river flats. They were, without exception, the worst featured of any I had
ever seen. It is scarcely possible to conceive that human beings could
be so hideous and loathsome. The old black, who was rather good-looking,
told me they were the last we should see for some time, and I felt that if
these were samples of the natives on the lowlands, I cared very little how
few of I them we should meet.


The country on the opposite side of the river had all the features of that
to the north of it, but a plain of such extent suddenly opened upon us to
the southward, that I halted at once in order to examine it, and by
availing myself of a day of rest, to fix our position more truly than we
could otherwise have done. We accordingly pitched our tents under some
lofty gum-trees, opposite to the plain, and close upon the edge of the
sandy beach of the river. Before they were turned out, the animals were
carefully examined, and the pack-saddles overhauled, that they might
undergo any necessary repairs. The river fell considerably during the
night, but it poured along a vast body of water, possessing a strong
current. The only change I remarked in it was that it now had a bed of
sand, and was generally deeper on one side than on the other. It kept a
very uniform breadth of from 150 to 170 feet--and a depth of from 4 to 20.
Its channel, though occasionally much encumbered with fallen timber, was
large enough to contain twice the volume of water then in it, but it had
outer and more distant banks, the boundaries of the alluvial flats, to
confine it within certain limits, during the most violent floods, and to
prevent its inundating the country.


With a view to examine the plain opposite to us, I directed our horses to
be taken across the river early in the morning, and after breakfast,
M'Leay and I swam across after them. We found the current strong, and
could not keep a direct line over the channel, but were carried below the
place at which we plunged in. We proceeded afterwards in a direction
W.S.W. across the plain for five or six miles, before we saw trees on the
opposite extremity, at a still greater distance. We thus found ourselves
in the centre of an area of from 26 to 30 miles. It appeared to be
perfectly level, though not really so. The soil upon it was good,
excepting in isolated spots, where it was sandy. Vegetation was scanty
upon it, but, on the whole, I should conclude that it was fitter for
agriculture than for grazing. For I think it very probable, that those
lands which lie hardening and bare in a state of nature, would produce
abundantly if broken up by the plough. I called this Hamilton's plains,
in remembrance of the surgeon of my regiment. The Morumbidgee forms its
N.E. boundary, and a creek rising on it, cuts off a third part on the
western side, and runs away from the river in a southerly direction. This
creek, even before it gets to the outskirts of the plains, assumes a
considerable size. Such a fact would argue that heavy rains fall in this
part of the interior, to cut out such a watercourse, or that the soil is
extremely loose; but I should think the former the most probable, since
the soil of this plain had a substratum of clay. I place our encampment on
the river in latitude 34 degrees 41 minutes 45 seconds S., and in East
longitude 146 degrees 50 minutes, the variation of the compass being
6 degrees 10 minutes E.


On our return to the camp we found several natives with our people, and
among them one of the tallest I had ever seen. Their women were with them,
and they appeared to have lost all apprehension of any danger occurring
from us. The animals were benefited greatly by this day of rest. We left
the plain, therefore, on the 13th with renewed spirits, and passed over a
country very similar to that by which we had approached it, one well
adapted for grazing, but intersected by numerous creeks, at two of which
we found natives, some of whom joined our party. Our old friend left us in
quest of some blacks, who, as he informed Hopkinson, had seen the tracks
of our horses on the Darling. I was truly puzzled at such a statement,
which was, however, further corroborated by the circumstance of one of the
natives having a tire-nail affixed to a spear, which he said was picked
up, by the man who gave it to him, on one of our encampments. I could not
think it likely that this story was true, and rather imagined they must
have picked up the nail near the located districts, and I was anxious to
have the point cleared up. When we halted we had a large assemblage of
natives with us, amounting in all to twenty-seven, but I awaited in vain
the return of the old man. The night passed away without our seeing him,
nor did he again join us.

We started in the morning with our new acquaintances, and kept on a
south-westerly course during the day, over an excellent grazing, and, in
many places, an agricultural country, still intersected by creeks, that
were too deep for the water to have dried in them. The country more
remote from the river, however, began to assume more and more the
character and appearance of the northern interior. I rode into several
plains, the soil of which was either a red sandy loam, bare of vegetation,
or a rotten and blistered earth, producing nothing but rhagodiae,
salsolae, and misembrianthemum.

We fell in with another tribe of blacks during the journey, to whom we
were literally consigned by those who had been previously with us, and who
now turned back, while our new friends took the lead of the drays. They
were two fine young men, but had very ugly wives, and were for a long time
extremely diffident. I found that I could obtain but little information
through my black boy,--whether from his not understanding me, or because
he was too cunning, is uncertain. One of these young men, however,
clearly stated that he had seen the tracks of bullocks and horses, a long
time ago, to the N.N.W. in the direction of some detached hills, that were
visible from 20 to 25 miles distant. He remembered them, he said, as a
boy, and added that the white men were without water. It was, therefore,
clear that he alluded to Mr. Oxley's excursion, northerly from the
Lachlan, and I had no doubt on my mind, that he had been on one of that
officer's encampments, and that the hills to the north of us were those
to the opposite base of which he had penetrated. I was determined,
therefore, if practicable, to reach these hills, deeming it a matter of
great importance to connect the surveys, but I deferred my journey for a
day or two, in hopes, from the continued northerly course of the river,
that we should have approached them nearer.

In the evening we fell in with some more blacks, among whom were two
brothers, of those who were acting as our guides. One had a very pretty
girl as a wife, and all the four brothers were very good-looking young
men. There cannot, I should think, be a numerous population on the banks
of the Morumbidgee, from the fact of our having seen not more than fifty
in an extent of more than 180 miles. They are apparently scattered along
it in families. I was rather surprised that my boy understood their
language well, since it certainly differed from that of the Macquarie
tribes, but nevertheless as these people do not wander far, our
information as to what was before us was very gradually arrived at, and
only as we fell in with the successive families. Moreover, as my boy
was very young, it may be that he was more eager in communicating to those
who had no idea of them, the wonders he had seen, than in making inquiries
on points that were indifferent to him.


We passed a very large plain in the course of the day, which was bounded
by forests of box, cypress, and the acacia pendula, of red sandy soil and
parched appearance. The Morumbidgee evidently overflows a part of the
lands we crossed, to a greater extent than heretofore, though the alluvial
deposits beyond its influence were still both rich and extensive. The
crested pigeon made its appearance on the acacias, which I took to be a
sure sign of our approach to a country more than ordinarily subject to
overflow; since on the Macquarie and the Darling, those birds were found
only to inhabit the regions of marshes, or spaces covered by the acacia
pendula, or the polygonum. We had not, however, yet seen any of the latter
plant, although we were shortly destined to be almost lost amidst fields
of it.


We were now approaching that parallel of longitude in which the other
known rivers of New Holland had been found to exhaust themselves; the
least change therefore, for the worse was sufficient to raise my
apprehensions; yet, although the Morumbidgee had received no tributary
from the Dumot downwards, and was leading us into an apparently endless
level, I saw no indication of its decreasing in size, or in the rapidity
of its current. Certainly, however, I had, from the character of the
country around us, an anticipation that a change was about to take place
in it, and this anticipation was verified in the course of the following
day. The alluvial flats gradually decreased in breadth, and we journeyed
mostly over extensive and barren plains, which in many places approached
so near the river as to form a part of its bank. They were covered with
the salsolaceous class of plants, so common in the interior, in a red
sandy soil, and were as even as a bowling green. The alluvial spaces near
the river became covered with reeds, and, though subject to overflow at
every partial rise of it, were so extremely small as scarcely to afford
food for our cattle. Flooded-gum trees of lofty size grew on these reedy
spaces, and marked the line of the river, but the timber of the interior
appeared stunted and useless.


We found this part of the Morumbidgee much more populous than its upper
branches. When we halted, we had no fewer than forty-one natives with us,
of whom the young men were the least numerous. They allowed us to choose
a place for ourselves before they formed their own camp, and studiously
avoided encroaching on our ground so as to appear troublesome. Their
manners were those of a quiet and inoffensive people, and their appearance
in some measure prepossessing. The old men had lofty foreheads, and stood
exceedingly erect. The young men were cleaner is their persons and were
better featured than any we had seen, some of them having smooth hair and
an almost Asiatic cast of countenance. On the other hand, the women and
children were disgusting objects. The latter were much subject to
diseases, and were dreadfully emaciated. It is evident that numbers of
them die in their infancy for want of care and nourishment. We remarked
none at the age of incipient puberty, but the most of them under six. In
stating that the men were more prepossessing than any we had seen, I would
not be understood to mean that they differed in any material point either
from the natives of the coast, or of the most distant interior to which I
had been, for they were decidedly the same race, and had the same leading
features and customs, as far as the latter could be observed. The sunken
eye and overhanging eyebrow, the high cheek-bone and thick lip, distended
nostrils, the nose either short or acquiline, together with a stout bust
and slender extremities, and both curled and smooth hair, marked the
natives of the Morumbidgee as well as those of the Darling. They were
evidently sprung from one common stock, the savage and scattered
inhabitants of a rude and inhospitable land. In customs they differed in
no material point from the coast natives, and still less from the tribes
on the Darling and the Castlereagh. They extract the front tooth,
lacerate their bodies, to raise the flesh, cicatrices being their chief
ornament; procure food by the same means, paint in the same manner, and
use the same weapons, as far as the productions of the country will allow
them. But as the grass-tree is not found westward of the mountains, they
make a light spear of a reed, similar to that of which the natives of the
southern islands form their arrows. These they use for distant combat, and
not only carry in numbers, but throw with the boomerang to a great
distance and with unerring precision, making them to all intents and
purposes as efficient as the bow and arrow. They have a ponderous spear
for close fight, and others of different sizes for the chase. With regard
to their laws, I believe they are universally the same all over the known
parts of New South Wales. The old men have alone the privilege of eating
the emu; and so submissive are the young men to this regulation, that if,
from absolute hunger or under other pressing circumstances, one of them
breaks through it, either during a hunting excursion, or whilst absent
from his tribe, he returns under a feeling of conscious guilt, and by his
manner betrays his guilt, sitting apart from the men, and confessing his
misdemeanour to the chief at the first interrogation, upon which he is
obliged to undergo a slight punishment. This evidently is a law of policy
and necessity, for if the emus were allowed to be indiscriminately
slaughtered, they would soon become extinct. Civilised nations may learn a
wholesome lesson even from savages, as in this instance of their
forebearance. For somewhat similar reasons, perhaps, married people alone
are here permitted to eat ducks. They hold their corrobories,
(midnight ceremonies), and sing the same melancholy ditty that breaks the
stillness of night on the shores of Jervis' Bay, or on the banks of the
Macquarie; and during the ceremony imitate the several birds and beasts
with which they are acquainted. If these inland tribes differ in anything
from those on the coast, it is in the mode of burying their dead, and,
partially, in their language. Like all savages, they consider their women
as secondary objects, oblige them to procure their own food, or throw to
them over their shoulders the bones they have already picked, with a
nonchalance that is extremely amusing; and, on the march, make them beasts
of burden to carry their very weapons. The population of the Morumbidgee,
as far as we had descended it at this time, did not exceed from ninety to
a hundred souls. I am persuaded that disease and accidents consign many of
them to a premature grave.


From this camp, one family only accompanied us. We journeyed due west over
plains of great extent. The soil upon them was soft and yielding, in some
places being a kind of light earth covered with rhagodiae, in others a
red tenacious clay, overrun by the misembrianthemum and salsolae.
Nothing could exceed the apparent barrenness of these plains, or the
cheerlessness of the landscape. We had left all high lands behind us, and
were now on an extensive plain, bounded in the distance by low trees or by
dark lines of cypresses. The lofty gum-trees on the river followed its
windings, and, as we opened the points, they appeared, from the peculiar
effect of a mirage, as bold promontories jutting into the ocean, having
literally the blue tint of distance. This mirage floated in a light
tremulous vapour on the ground, and not only deceived us with regard to
the extent of the plains, and the appearance of objects, but hid the
trees, in fact, from our view altogether; so that, in moving, as we
imagined, upon the very point or angle of the river, we found as we neared
it, that the trees stretched much further into the plain, and were obliged
to alter our course to round them. The heated state of the atmosphere, and
the sandy nature of the country could alone have caused a mirage so
striking in its effects, as this,--exceeding considerably similar
appearances noticed during the first expedition. The travelling was so
heavy, that I was obliged to make a short day's journey, and when we
struck the river for the purpose of halting, it had fallen off very much
in appearance, and was evidently much contracted, with low banks and a
sandy bed. It was difficult to account for this sudden change, but when
I gazed on the extent of level country before me, I began to dread that
this hitherto beautiful stream would ultimately disappoint us.


I had deferred my intended excursion to the hills under which I imagined
Mr. Oxley had encamped, until we were out of sight of them, and I now
feared that it was almost too late to undertake it, but I was still
anxious to determine a point in which I felt considerable interest. I was
the more desirous of surveying the country to the northward, because of
the apparent eagerness with which the natives had caught at the word
Colare, which I recollected having heard a black on the Macquarie make
use of in speaking of the Lachlan. They pointed to the N.N.W., and making
a sweep with the arm raised towards the sky, seemed to intimate that a
large sheet of water existed in that direction; and added that it
communicated with the Morumbidgee more to the westward. This information
confirmed still more my impressions with regard to Mr. Oxley's line of
route; and, as I found a ready volunteer in M'Leay, I gave the party in
charge to Harris until I should rejoin him, and turned back towards the
hills, with the intention of reaching them if possible. No doubt we should
have done so had it not been for the nature of the ground over which we
travelled, and the impossibility of our exceeding a walk. We rode to a
distance of 18 miles, but still found ourselves far short of the hills,
and therefore gave up the point. I considered, however, that we were about
the same distance to the south, as Mr. Oxley had been to the north of
them, and in taking bearings of the highest points, I afterwards found
that they exactly tallied with his bearings, supposing him to have taken
them from his camp.


On our way to the river, we passed through some dense bushes of casuarinae
and cypresses, to the outskirts of the plains through which the
Morumbidgee winds. We reached the camp two or three hours after sunset,
and found it crowded with natives to the number of 60. They were extremely
quiet and inoffensive in their demeanour, and asked us to point out where
they might sleep, before they ventured to kindle their fires. One old man,
we remarked, had a club foot, and another was blind, but, as far as we
could judge from the glare of the fires, the generality of them were fine
young men, and supported themselves in a very erect posture when standing
or walking. There were many children with the women, among whom colds
seemed to prevail. It blew heavily from the N.W. during the night, and a
little rain fell in the early part of the morning. Our route during the
day, was over as melancholy a tract as ever was travelled. The plains to
the N. and N.W. bounded the horizon; not a tree of any kind was visible
upon them. It was equally open to the S., and it appeared as if the river
was decoying us into a desert, there to leave us in difficulty and in
distress. The very mirage had the effect of boundlessness in it, by
blending objects in one general hue; or, playing on the ground, it cheated
us with an appearance of water, and on arriving at the spot, we found a
continuation of the same scorching plain, over which we were moving,
instead of the stream we had hoped for.

The cattle about this time began to suffer, and, anxious as I was to push
on, I was obliged to shorten my journeys, according to circumstances.
Amidst the desolation around us, the river kept alive our hopes. If it
traversed deserts, it might reach fertile lands, and it was to the issue
of the journey that we had to look for success. It here, however,
evidently overflowed its banks more extensively than heretofore, and
broad belts of reeds were visible on either side of it, on which the
animals exclusively subsisted. Most of the natives had followed us, and
their patience and abstinence surprised me exceedingly. Some of them had
been more than twenty-four hours without food, and yet seemed as little
disposed to seek it as ever. I really thought they expected me to supply
their wants, but as I could not act so liberal a scale, George M'Leay
undeceived them; after which they betook themselves to the river, and got
a supply of muscles. I rather think their going so frequently into the
water engenders a catarrh, or renders them more liable to it than they
otherwise would be. In the afternoon the wind shifted to the S.W. It blew
a hurricane; and the temperature of the air was extremely low. The natives
felt the cold beyond belief and kindled large fires. In the morning, when
we moved away, the most of them started with fire-sticks to keep
themselves warm; but they dropped off one by one, and at noon we found
ourselves totally deserted.


It is impossible for me to describe the kind of country we were now
traversing, or the dreariness of the view it presented. The plains were
still open to the horizon, but here and there a stunted gum-tree, or a
gloomy cypress, seemed placed by nature as mourners over the surrounding
desolation. Neither beast nor bird inhabited these lonely and inhospitable
regions, over which the silence of the grave seemed to reign. We had not,
for days past, seen a blade of grass, so that the animals could not have
been in very good condition. We pushed on, however, sixteen miles, in
consequence of the coolness of the weather. We observed little change in
the river in that distance, excepting that it had taken up a muddy bottom,
and lost all the sand that used to fill it. The soil and productions on
the plains continued unchanged in every respect. From this time to the
22nd, the country presented the same aspect. Occasional groups of cypress
showed themselves on narrow sandy ridges, or partial brushes extended from
the river, consisting chiefly of the acacia pendula, the stenochylus,
and the nut I have already noticed. The soil on which they grew was, if
possible, worse than that of the barren plain which we were traversing;
and their colour and drooping state rendered the desolate landscape still
more dreary.

On the 21st, we found the same singular substance(gypsum) embedded in the
bank of the river that had been collected, during the former expedition,
on the banks of the Darling; and hope, which is always uppermost in the
human breast, induced me to think that we were fast approaching that
stream. My observations placed me in 34 degrees 17 minutes 15 seconds
S. and 145 degrees of E. longitude.


On the 22nd, my black boy deserted me. I was not surprised at his doing
so, neither did I regret his loss, for he had been of little use under any
circumstances. He was far too cunning for our purpose. I know not that the
term ingratitude can be applied to one in his situation, and in whose
bosom nature had implanted a love of freedom. We learnt from four blacks,
with whom he had spoken, and who came to us in the afternoon, that he had
gone up the river,--as I conjectured, to the last large tribe we had left,
with whom he appeared to become very intimate.

A creek coming from the N.N.W. here fell into the Morumbidgee; a proof
that the general decline of country was really to the south, although a
person looking over it would have supposed the contrary.


We started on the 23rd, with the same boundlessness of plain on either
side of us; but in the course of the morning a change took place, both in
soil and productions; and from the red sandy loam, and salsolaceous
plants, amidst which we had been toiling, we got upon a light tenacious
and blistered soil, evidently subject to frequent overflow, and fields of
polygonum junceum, amidst which, both the crested pigeon and the black
quail were numerous. The drays and animals sank so deep in this, that we
were obliged to make for the river, and keep upon its immediate banks.
Still, with all the appearance of far-spread inundation, it continued
undiminished in size, and apparently in the strength of its current.
Its channel was deeper than near the mountains, but its breadth was about
the same.

On the 24th, we were again entangled amidst fields of polygonum, through
which we laboured until after eleven, when we gained a firmer soil. Some
cypresses appeared upon our right, in a dark line, and I indulged hopes
that a change was about to take place in the nature of the country. We
soon, however, got on a light rotten earth, and were again obliged to make
for the river, with the teams completely exhausted. We had not travelled
many miles from our last camp, yet it struck me, that the river had
fallen off in appearance. I examined it with feelings of intense anxiety,
certain, as I was, that the flooded spaces, over which we had been
travelling would, sooner or later, be succeeded by a country overgrown
with reeds. The river evidently overflowed its banks, on both sides,
for many miles, nor had I a doubt that, at some periods, the space
northward, between it and the Lachlan, presented the appearance of one
vast sea. The flats of polygonum stretched away to the N.W. to an amazing
distance, as well as in a southerly direction, and the very nature of the
soil bore testimony to its flooded origin. But the most unaccountable
circumstance to me was, that it should be entirely destitute of
vegetation, with the exception of the gloomy and leafless bramble I have

M'Leay, who was always indefatigable in his pursuit after subjects of
natural history, shot a cockatoo, of a new species, hereabouts, having a
singularly shaped upper mandible. It was white, with scarlet down under
the neck feathers, smaller than the common cockatoo, and remarkable for
other peculiarities.


Two or three natives made their appearance at some distance from the
party, but would not approach it until after we had halted. They then
came to the tents, seven in number, and it was evident from their manner,
that their chief or only object was to pilfer anything they could. We
did not, therefore, treat them with much ceremony. They were an
ill-featured race, and it was only by strict watching during the night
that they were prevented from committing theft. Probably from seeing that
we were aware of their intentions, they left us early, and pointing
somewhat to the eastward of north, said they were going to the Colare,
and on being asked how far it was, they signified that they should sleep
there. I had on a former occasion recollected the term having been made
use of by a black, on the Macquarie, when speaking to me of the Lachlan,
and had questioned one of the young men who was with us at the time, and
who seemed more intelligent than his companions, respecting it.
Immediately catching at the word, he had pointed to the N.N.W., and,
making a sweep with his arms raised towards the sky had intimated,
evidently, that a large sheet of water existed in that direction, in the
same manner that another black had done on a former occasion: on being
further questioned, he stated that this communicated with the Morumbidgee
more to the westward, and on my expressing a desire to go to it, he said
we could not do so under four days. We had, it appeared, by the account of
the seven natives, approached within one day's journey of it, and, as I
thought it would he advisable to gain a little knowledge of the country to
the north, I suggested to M'Leay to ride in that direction, while the
party should be at rest, with some good feed for the cattle that fortune
had pointed out to us.


Our horses literally sank up to their knees on parts of the great plain
over which we had in the first instance to pass, and we rode from three to
four miles before we caught sight of a distant wood at its northern
extremity; the view from the river having been for the last two or three
days, as boundless as the ocean. As we approached the wood, two columns of
smoke rose from it, considerably apart, evidently the fires of natives
near water. We made for the central space between them, having a dead
acacia scrub upon our right. On entering the wood, we found that it
contained for the most part, flooded-gum, under which bulrushes and
reeds were mixed together. The whole space seemed liable to overflow, and
we crossed numerous little drains, that intersected each other in every
direction. From the resemblance of the ground to that at the bottom of the
marshes of the Macquarie, I prognosticated to my companion that we should
shortly come upon a creek, and we had not ridden a quarter of a mile
further, when we found ourselves on the banks of one of considerable size.
Crossing it, we proceeded northerly, until we got on the outskirts of a
plain of red sandy soil, covered with rhagodia alone, and without a tree
upon the visible horizon. The country appeared to be rising before us, but
was extremely depressed to the eastward. After continuing along this
plain for some time, I became convinced from appearances, that we were
receding from water, and that the fires of the natives, which were no
longer visible, must have been on the creek we had crossed, that I judged
to be leading W.S.W. from the opposite quarter. We had undoubtedly struck
below to the westward of the Colare or Lachlan, and the creek was the
channel of communication between it and the Morumbidgee, at least such was
the natural conclusion at which I arrived. Having no further object in
continuing a northerly course, we turned to the S.E., and, after again
passing the creek, struck away for the camp on a S. by W. course, and
passed through a dense brush of cypress and casuarina in our way to it.


Considering our situation as connected with the marshes of the Lachlan,
I cannot but infer that the creek we struck upon during this excursion
serves as a drain to the latter, to conduct its superfluous waters into
the Morumbidgee in times of flood, as those of the Macquarie are conducted
by the creek at the termination of its marshes into Morrisset's Chain of
Ponds. It will be understood that I only surmise this. I argue from
analogy, not from proof. Whether I am correct or not, my knowledge of the
facts I have stated, tended very much to satisfy my mind as to the LAY of
the interior; and to revive my hopes that the Morumbidgee would not fail
us, although there was no appearance of the country improving.


We started on the 26th, on a course somewhat to the N.W., and traversed
plains of the same wearisome description as those I have already
described. The wheels of the drays sank up to their axle-trees, and the
horses above their fetlocks at every step. The fields of polygonum spread
on every side of us like a dark sea, and the only green object within
range of our vision was the river line of trees. In several instances, the
force of both teams was put to one dray, to extricate it from the bed into
which it had sunk, and the labour was considerably increased from the
nature of the weather. The wind was blowing as if through a furnace, from
the N.N.E., and the dust was flying in clouds, so as to render it almost
suffocating to remain exposed to it. This was the only occasion upon which
we felt the hot winds in the interior. We were, about noon, endeavouring
to gain a point of a wood at which I expected to come upon the river
again, but it was impossible for the teams to reach it without assistance.
I therefore sent M'Leay forward, with orders to unload the pack animals as
soon as he should make the river, and send them back to help the teams. He
had scarcely been separated from me 20 minutes, when one of the men came
galloping back to inform me that no river was to be found--that the
country beyond the wood was covered with reeds as far as the eye could
reach, and that Mr. M'Leay had sent him back for instructions. This
intelligence stunned me for a moment or two, and I am sure its effect upon
the men was very great. They had unexpectedly arrived at a part of the
interior similar to one they had held in dread, and conjured up a thousand
difficulties and privations. I desired the man to recall Mr. M'Leay; and,
after gaining the wood, moved outside of it at right angles to my former
course, and reached the river, after a day of severe toil and exposure,
at half-past five. The country, indeed, bore every resemblance to that
around the marshes of the Macquarie, but I was too weary to make any
further effort: indeed it was too late for me undertake anything until
the morning.


The circumstances in which we were so unexpectedly placed, occupied my
mind so fully that I could not sleep; and I awaited the return of light
with the utmost anxiety. If we were indeed on the outskirts of marshes
similar to those I had on a former occasion found so much difficulty
in examining, I foresaw that in endeavouring to move round then I should
recede from water, and place the expedition in jeopardy, probably, without
gaining any determinate point, as it would be necessary for me to advance
slowly and with caution. Our provisions, however, being calculated to last
only to a certain period, I was equally reluctant to delay our operations.
My course was, therefore, to be regulated by the appearance of the country
and of the river, which I purposed examining with the earliest dawn.
If the latter should be found to run into a region of reeds, a boat would
be necessary to enable me to ascertain its direction; but, if ultimately
it should be discovered to exhaust itself, we should have to strike into
the interior on a N.W. course, in search of the Darling. I could not think
of putting the whale-boat together in our then state of uncertainty, and
it struck me that a smaller one could sooner he prepared for the purposes
for which I should require it. These considerations, together with the
view I had taken of the measures I might at last be forced into,
determined me, on rising, to order Clayton to fell a suitable tree, and to
prepare a saw-pit. The labour was of no consideration, and even if
eventually the boat should not be wanted, no injury would arise, and it
was better to take time by the forelock. Having marked a tree preparatory
to leaving the camp, M'Leay and I started at an early hour on an excursion
of deeper interest than any we had as yet undertaken; to examine the
reeds, not only for the purpose of ascertaining their extent, if possible,
but also to guide us in our future measures. We rode for some miles along
the river side, but observed in it no signs, either of increase or of
exhaustion. Its waters, though turbid, were deep, and its current still
rapid. Its banks, too, were lofty, and showed no evidence of decreasing
in height, so as to occasion an overflow of them, as had been the case
with the Macquarie. We got among vast bodies of reeds, but the plains of
the interior were visible beyond them. We were evidently in a hollow, and
the decline of country was plainly to the southward of west. Every thing
tended to strengthen my conviction that we were still far from the
termination of the river. The character it had borne throughout, and its
appearance now so far to the westward, gave me the most lively hopes that
it would make good its way through the vast level into which it fell, and
that its termination would accord with its promise. Besides, I daily
anticipated its junction with some stream of equal, if not of greater
magnitude from the S.E. I was aware that my resolves must be instant,
decisive, and immediately acted upon, as on firmness and promptitude at
this crisis the success of the expedition depended. About noon I checked
my horse, and rather to the surprise of my companion, intimated to
him my intention of returning to the camp, He naturally asked what I
purposed doing. I told him it appeared to me more than probable that the
Morumbidgee would hold good its course to some fixed point, now that it
had reached a meridian beyond the known rivers of the interior. It was
certain, from the denseness of the reeds, and the breadth of the belts,
that the teams could not be brought any farther, and that, taking every
thing into consideration, I had resolved on a bold and desperate measure,
that of building the whale-boat, and sending home the drays. Our
appearance in camp so suddenly, surprised the men not more than the orders
I gave. They all thought I had struck on some remarkable change of
country, and were anxious to know my ultimate views. It was not my
intention however, immediately to satisfy their curiosity. I had to study
their characters as long as I could, in order to select those best
qualified to accompany me on the desperate adventure for which I was


The attention both of M'Leay, and myself, was turned to the hasty building
of the whale-boat. A shed was erected, and every necessary preparation
made, and although Clayton had the keel of the small boat already laid
down, and some planks prepared, she was abandoned for the present, and,
after four days more of arduous labour, the whale-boat was painted and in
the water. From her dimensions, it appeared to me impossible that she
would hold all our provisions and stores, for her after-part had been
fitted up as an armoury, which took away considerably from her capacity of
stowage. The small boat would still, therefore, be necessary, and she was
accordingly re-laid, for half the dimensions of the large boat, and in
three days was alongside her consort in the river. Thus, in seven days we
had put together a boat, twenty-seven feet in length, had felled a tree
from the forest, with which we had built a second of half the size, had
painted both, and had them at a temporary wharf ready for loading. Such
would not have been the case had not our hearts been in the work, as the
weather was close and sultry, and we found it a task of extreme labour.
In the intervals between the hours of work, I prepared my despatches for
the Governor, and when they were closed, it only remained for me to select
six hands, the number I intended should accompany me down the river, and
to load the boats, ere we should once more proceed in the further
obedience of our instructions.


It was impossible that I could do without Clayton, whose perseverance and
industry had mainly contributed to the building of the boats; of the other
prisoners, I chose Mulholland and Macnamee; leaving the rest in charge
of Robert Harris, whose steady conduct had merited my approbation. My
servant, Harris, Hopkinson, and Fraser, of course, made up the crews.
The boats were loaded in the evening of Jan. 6th, as it had been
necessary to give the paint a little time to dry. On the 4th, I had sent
Clayton and Mulholland to the nearest cypress range for a mast and spar,
and on the evening of that day some blacks had visited us; but they sat on
the bank of the river, preserving a most determined silence; and, at
length, left us abruptly, and apparently in great ill humour. In the
disposition of the loads, I placed all the flour, the tea, and tobacco,
in the whaleboat. The meat-casks, still, and carpenters' tools, were put
into the small boat.

As soon as the different arrangements were completed, I collected the men,
and told off those who were to accompany me. I then gave the rest over in
charge to Harris, and, in adverting to their regular conduct hitherto,
trusted they would be equally careful while under his orders. I then
directed the last remaining sheep to be equally divided among us; and it
was determined that, for fear of accidents, Harris should remain
stationary for a week, at the expiration of which time, he would be at
liberty to proceed to Goulburn Plains, there to receive his instructions
from Sydney; while the boats were to proceed at an early hour of the
morning down the river,--whether ever to return again being a point of the
greatest uncertainty.


Embarkation of the party in the boats, and voyage down the Morumbidgee--
The skiff swamped by striking on a sunken tree--Recovery of boat and its
loading--Region of reeds--Dangers of the navigation--Contraction of the
channel--Reach the junction of a large river--Intercourse with the natives
on its banks--Character of the country below the junction of the rivers--
Descent of a dangerous rapid--Warlike demonstrations of a tribe of
natives--Unexpected deliverance from a conflict with them--Junction of
another river--Give the name of the "Murray" to the principal stream.

The camp was a scene of bustle and confusion long before day-light. The
men whom I had selected to accompany me were in high spirits, and so eager
to commence their labours that they had been unable to sleep, but busied
themselves from the earliest dawn in packing up their various articles of
clothing, &c. We were prevented from taking our departure so early as I
had intended, by rain that fell about six. At a little after seven,
however, the weather cleared up, the morning mists blew over our heads,
and the sun struck upon us with his usual fervour. As soon as the minor
things were stowed away, we bade adieu to Harris and his party; and
shortly after, embarked on the bosom of that stream along the banks of
which we had journeyed for so many miles

Notwithstanding that we only used two oars, our progress down the river
was rapid. Hopkinson had arranged the loads so well, that all the party
could sit at their ease, and Fraser was posted in the bow of the boat,
with gun in hand, to fire at any new bird or beast that we might surprise
in our silent progress. The little boat, which I shall henceforward call
the skiff, was fastened by a painter to our stern.


As the reader will have collected from what has already fallen under his
notice, the country near the depot was extensively covered with reeds,
beyond which vast plains of polygonum stretched away. From the bed of the
river we could not observe the change that took place in it as we passed
along, so that we found it necessary to land, from time to time, for the
purpose of noting down its general appearance. At about fifteen miles from
the depot, we came upon a large creek-junction from the N.E., which I did
not doubt to be the one M'Leay and I had crossed on the 25th of December.
It was much larger than the creek of the Macquarie, and was capable of
holding a very great body of water, although evidently too small to
contain all that occasionally rushed from its source. I laid it down as
the supposed junction of the Lachlan, since I could not, against the
corroborating facts in my possession, doubt its originating in the marshes
of that river. Should this, eventually, prove to be the case, the similar
termination of the two streams traced by Mr. Oxley will be a singular
feature in the geography of the interior.


We were just about to land, to prepare our dinner, when two emus swam
across the river ahead of us. This was an additional inducement for us to
land, but we were unfortunately too slow, and the birds escaped us. We had
rushed in to the right bank, and found on ascending it, that the reeds
with which it had hitherto been lined, had partially ceased. A large
plain, similar to those over which we had wandered prior to our gaining
the flooded region, stretched away to a considerable distance behind us,
and was backed by cypresses and brush. The soil of the plain was a red
sandy loam, covered sparingly with salsolae and shrubs; thus indicating
that the country still preserved its barren character, and that it is the
same from north to south. Among the shrubs we found a tomb that appeared
to have been recently constructed. No mound had been raised over the body,
but an oval hollow shed occupied the centre of the burial place, that was
lined with reeds and bound together with strong net-work. Round this, the
usual walks were cut, and the recent traces of women's feet were visible
upon them, but we saw no natives, although, from the number and size of
the paths that led from the river, in various directions across the plain,
I was led to conclude, that, at certain seasons, it is hereabouts
numerously frequented. Fraser gathered some rushes similar to those used
by the natives of the Darling in the fabrication of their nets, and as
they had not before been observed, we judged them, of course, to be a sign
of our near approach to that river.


As soon as we had taken a hasty dinner, we again embarked, and pursued our
journey. I had hoped, from the appearance of the country to the north of
us, although that to the south gave little indication of any change, that
we should soon clear the reeds; but at somewhat less than a mile they
closed in upon the river, and our frequent examination of the
neighbourhood on either side of it only tended to confirm the fact, that
we were passing through a country subject to great and extensive
inundation. We pulled up at half-past five, and could scarcely find space
enough to pitch our tents.

The Morumbidgee kept a decidedly westerly course during the day. Its
channel was not so tortuous as we expected to have found it, nor did it
offer any obstruction to the passage of the boats. Its banks kept a
general height of eight feet, five of which were of alluvial soil, and
both its depth and its current were considerable. We calculated having
proceeded from 28 to 30 miles, though, perhaps, not more than half that
distance in a direct line. No rain fell during the day, but we experienced
some heavy squalls from the E.S.E.


The second day of our journey from the depot was marked by an accident
that had well nigh obliged us to abandon the further pursuit of the river,
by depriving us of part of our means of carrying it into effect. We had
proceeded, as usual, at an early hour in the morning, and not long after
we started, fell in with the blacks who had visited us last, and who were
now in much better humour than upon that occasion. As they had their women
with them, we pushed in to the bank, and distributed some presents, after
which we dropped quietly down the river. Its general depth had been such
as to offer few obstructions to our progress, but about an hour after we
left the natives, the skiff struck upon a sunken log, and immediately
filling, went down in about twelve feet of water, The length of the
painter prevented any strain upon the whale-boat, but the consequence of
so serious an accident at once flashed upon our minds. That we should
suffer considerably, we could not doubt, but our object was to get the
skiff up with the least possible delay, to prevent the fresh water from
mixing with the brine, in the casks of meat. Some short time, however,
necessarily elapsed before we could effect this, and when at last the
skiff was hauled ashore, we found that we were too late to prevent the
mischief that we had anticipated. All the things had been fastened in the
boat, but either from the shock, or the force of the current, one of the
pork casks, the head of the still, and the greater part of the carpenter's
tools, had been thrown out of her. As the success of the expedition might
probably depend upon the complete state of the still, I determined to use
every effort for its recovery: but I was truly at a loss how to find it;
for the waters of the river were extremely turbid. In this dilemma, the
blacks would have been of the most essential service, but they were far
behind us, so that we had to depend on our own exertions alone. I directed
the whale-boat to be moored over the place where the accident had
happened, and then used the oars on either side of her, to feel along the
bottom of the river, in hopes that by these means we should strike upon
the articles we had lost. However unlikely such a measure was to prove
successful, we recovered in the course of the afternoon, every thing but
the still-head, and a cask of paint. Whenever the oar struck against the
substance that appeared, by its sound or feel to belong to us, it was
immediately pushed into the sand, and the upper end of the oar being held
by two men, another descended by it to the bottom of the river, remaining
under water as long as he could, to ascertain what was immediately within
arm's length of him. This work was, as may be imagined, most laborious,
and the men at length became much exhausted. They would not, however, give
up the search for the still head, more especially after M'Leay, in diving,
had descended upon it. Had he, by ascertaining his position, left it to us
to heave it up, our labours would soon have ended; but, in his anxiety for
its recovery, he tried to bring it up, when finding it too heavy, he let
it go, and the current again swept it away.

At sunset. we were obliged to relinquish our task, the men complaining of
violent head-aches, which the nature of the day increased. Thinking our
own efforts would be unavailing, I directed two of the men to go up the
river for the blacks, at day-light in the morning, and set the reeds on
fire to attract their notice. The day had been cloudy and sultry in the
afternoon, the clouds collecting in the N.E.: we heard the distant
thunder, and expected to have been deluged with rain. None, however,
fell, although we were anxious for moisture to change the oppressive state
of the atmosphere. The fire I had kindled raged behind us, and threw dense
columns of smoke into the sky, that cast over the landscape a shade of the
most dismal gloom. We were not in a humour to admire the picturesque, but
soon betook ourselves to rest, and after such a day of labour as that we
had undergone, I dispensed with the night guard.


In the morning we resumed our search for the still head, which Hopkinson
at length fortunately struck with his oar. It had been swept considerably
below the place at which M'Leay had dived, or we should most probably have
found it sooner. With its recovery, all our fatigues were at once
forgotten, and I ordered the breakfast to be got ready preparatory to our
reloading the skiff. Fraser and Mulholland, who had left the camp at
daylight, had not yet returned. I was sitting in the tent, when Macnamee
came to inform me that one of the frying-pans was missing, which had
been in use the evening previous, for that he himself had placed it on the
stump of a tree, and he therefore supposed a native dog had run away with
it. Soon after this, another loss was reported to me, and it was at last
discovered that an extensive robbery had been committed upon us during
the night, and that, in addition to the frying-pan, three cutlasses, and
five tomahawks, with the pea of the steelyards, had been carried away.
I was extremely surprised at this instance of daring in the natives, and
determined, if possible, to punish it. About ten, Fraser and Mulholland
returned with two blacks. Fraser told me he saw several natives on our
side of the river, as he was returning, to whom those who were with him
spoke, and I felt convinced from their manner and hesitation, that they
were aware of the trick that had been played upon us. However, as Fraser
had promised them a tomahawk to induce them to accompany him, I fulfilled
the promise.


Leaving this unlucky spot, we made good about sixteen miles during the
afternoon. The river maintained its breadth and depth nor were the reeds
continuous upon its banks. We passed several plains that were considerably
elevated above the alluvial deposits, and the general appearance of the
country induced me strongly to hope that we should shortly get out of the
region of reeds, or the great flooded concavity on which we had fixed our
depot; but the sameness of vegetation, and the seemingly diminutive size
of the timber in the distance, argued against any change for the better
in the soil of the interior. Having taken the precaution of shortening the
painter of the skiff, we found less difficulty in steering her clear
of obstacles, and made rapid progress down the Morumbidgee during the
first cool and refreshing hours of the morning. The channel of the river
became somewhat less contracted, but still retained sufficient depth for
larger boats than ours, and preserved a general westerly course. Although
no decline of country was visible to the eye, the current in places ran
very strong. It is impossible for me to convey to the reader's mind an
idea of the nature of the country through which we passed. On this day the
favourable appearances, noticed yesterday, ceased almost as soon as we
embarked. On the 10th, reeds lined the banks of the river on both sides,
without any break, and waved like gloomy streamers over its turbid waters;
while the trees stood leafless and sapless in the midst of them. Wherever
we landed, the same view presented itself--a waving expanse of reeds, and
a country as flat as it is possible to imagine one. The eye could seldom
penetrate beyond three quarters of a mile, and the labour of walking
through the reeds was immense; but within our observation all was green
and cheerless. The morning had been extremely cold, with a thick haze at
E.S.E. About 2 p.m. it came on to rain heavily, so that we did not stir
after that hour.


I had remarked that the Morumbidgee was not, from the depot downwards, so
broad or so fine a river as it certainly is at the foot of the mountain
ranges, where it gains the level country. The observations of the last two
days had impressed upon my mind an idea that it was rapidly falling off,
and I began to dread that it would finally terminate in one of those fatal
marshes in which the Macquarie and the Lachlan exhaust themselves. My hope
of a more favourable issue was considerably damped by the general
appearance of the surrounding country; and from the circumstance of our
not having as yet passed a single tributary. As we proceeded down the
river, its channel gradually contracted, and immense trees that had been
swept down it by floods, rendered the navigation dangerous and intricate.
Its waters became so turbid, that it was impossible to see objects in it,
notwithstanding the utmost diligence on the part of the men.

About noon, we fell in with a large tribe of natives, but had great
difficulty in bringing them to visit us. If they had HEARD of white men,
we were evidently the first they had ever SEEN. They approached us in the
most cautious manner, and were unable to subdue their fears as long as
they remained with us. Collectively, these people could not have amounted
to less than one hundred and twenty in number.


As we pushed off from the bank, after having stayed with them about half
an hour, the whaleboat struck with such violence on a sunken log, that she
immediately leaked on her starboard side. Fortunately she was going slowly
at the time, or she would most probably have received some more serious
injury. One of the men was employed during the remainder of the afternoon
in bailing her out, and we stopped sooner than we should otherwise have
done, in order to ascertain the extent of damage, and to repair it. The
reeds terminated on both sides of the river some time before we pulled up,
and the country round the camp was more elevated than usual, and bore the
appearance of open forest pasture land, the timber upon it being a dwarf
species of box, and the soil a light tenacious earth.


About a mile below our encampment of the 12th, we at length came upon a
considerable creek-junction from the S.E. Below it, the river increased
both in breadth and depth; banks were lofty and perpendicular, and even
the lowest levels were but partially covered with reeds. We met with fewer
obstructions in consequence, and pursued our journey with restored
confidence. Towards evening a great change also took place in the aspect
of the country, which no longer bore general marks of inundation. The
level of the interior was broken by a small hill to the right of the
stream, but the view from its summit rather damped than encouraged my
hopes of any improvement. The country was covered with wood and brush, and
the line of the horizon was unbroken by the least swell. We were on an
apparently boundless flat, without any fixed point on which to direct our
movements, nor was there a single object for the eye to rest upon, beyond
the dark and gloomy wood that surrounded us on every side.

Soon after passing this hill, the whale-boat struck upon a line of sunken
rocks, but fortunately escaped without injury. Mulholland, who was
standing in the bow, was thrown out of her, head foremost, and got a good
soaking, but soon recovered himself. The composition of the rock was
iron-stone, and it is the first formation that occurs westward of the
dividing range. We noticed a few cypresses in the distance, but the
general timber was dwarf-box, or flooded-gum, and a few of the acacia
longa scattered at great distances. In verifying our position by some
lunars, we found ourselves in 142 degrees 46 minutes 30 seconds of east
long., and in lat. 35 degrees 25 minutes 15 seconds S. the mean variation
of the compass being 4 degrees 10 minutes E. it appearing that we were
decreasing the variation as we proceeded westward.

On the 13th, we passed the first running stream that joins the
Morumbidgee, in a course of more than 340 miles. It came from the S.E.,
and made a visible impression on the river at the junction, although in
tracing it up, it appeared to be insignificant in itself. The circumstance
of these tributaries all occurring on the left, evidenced the level nature
of the country to the north. In the afternoon, we passed a dry creek also
from the S.E. which must at times throw a vast supply of water into the
river, since for many miles below, the latter preserved a breadth of
200 feet, and averaged from 12 to 20 feet in depth, with banks of from
15 to 18 feet in height. Yet, notwithstanding its general equality of
depth, several rapids occurred, down which the boats were hurried with
great velocity. The body of water in the river continued undiminished,
notwithstanding its increased breadth of channel; for which reason I
should imagine that it is fed by springs, independently of other supplies.
Some few cypresses were again observed, and the character of the distant
country resembled, in every particular, that of the interior between the
Macquarie and the Darling. The general appearance of the Morumbidgee, from
the moment of our starting on the 13th, to a late hour in the afternoon,
had been such as to encourage my hopes of ultimate success in tracing it
down; but about three o'clock we came to one of those unaccountable and
mortifying changes which had already so frequently excited my
apprehension. Its channel again suddenly contracted, and became almost
blocked up with huge trees, that must have found their way into it down
the creeks or junctions we had lately passed. The rapidity of the current
increasing at the same time, rendered the navigation perplexing and
dangerous. We Passed reach after reach, presenting the same difficulties,
and were at length obliged to pull up at 5 p.m., having a scene of
confusion and danger before us that I did not dare to encounter with the
evening's light; for I had not only observed that the men's eye-sight
failed them as the sun descended, and that they mistook shadows for
objects under water, and VICE-VERSA, but the channel had become so narrow
that, although the banks were not of increased height, we were involved in
comparative darkness, under a close arch of trees, and a danger was hardly
seen ere we were hurried past it, almost without the possibility of
avoiding it. The reach at the head of which we stopped, was crowded with
the trunks of trees, the branches of which crossed each other in every
direction, nor could I hope, after a minute examination of the channel,
to succeed in taking the boats safely down so intricate a passage.


We rose in the morning with feelings of apprehension, and uncertainty;
and, indeed, with great doubts on our minds whether we were not thus early
destined to witness the wreck, and the defeat of the expedition. The men
got slowly and cautiously into the boat, and placed themselves so as to
leave no part of her undefended. Hopkinson stood at the bow, ready with
poles to turn her head from anything upon which she might be drifting.
Thus prepared, we allowed her to go with the stream. By extreme care and
attention on the part of the men we passed this formidable barrier.
Hopkinson in particular exerted himself, and more than once leapt from the
boat upon apparently rotten logs of wood, that I should not have judged
capable of bearing his weight, the more effectually to save the boat.
It might have been imagined that where such a quantity of timber had
accumulated, a clearer channel would have been found below, but such was
not the case. In every reach we had to encounter fresh difficulties. In
some places huge trees lay athwart the stream, under whose arched branches
we were obliged to pass; but, generally speaking, they had been carried,
roots foremost, by the current, and, therefore, presented so many points
to receive us, that, at the rate at which we were going, had we struck
full upon any one of them, it would have gone through and through the
boat. About noon we stopped to repair, or rather to take down the remains
of our awning, which had been torn away; and to breathe a moment from the
state of apprehension and anxiety in which our minds had been kept during
the morning. About one, we again started. The men looked anxiously out
ahead; for the singular change in the river had impressed on them an idea,
that we were approaching its termination, or near some adventure. On a
sudden, the river took a general southern direction, but, in its tortuous
course, swept round to every point of the compass with the greatest
irregularity. We were carried at a fearful rate down its gloomy and
contracted banks, and, in such a moment of excitement, had little time to
pay attention to the country through which we were passing. It was,
however, observed, that chalybeate-springs were numerous close to the
water's edge. At 3 p.m., Hopkinson called out that we were approaching
a junction, and in less than a minute afterwards, we were hurried into a
broad and noble river.


It is impossible for me to describe the effect of so instantaneous a
change of circumstances upon us. The boats were allowed to drift along at
pleasure, and such was the force with which we had been shot out of the
Morumbidgee, that we were carried nearly to the bank opposite its
embouchure, whilst we continued to gaze in silent astonishment on the
capacious channel we had entered; and when we looked for that by which we
had been led into it, we could hardly believe that the insignificant gap
that presented itself to us was, indeed, the termination of the beautiful
and noble stream, whose course we had thus successfully followed. I can
only compare the relief we experienced to that which the seaman feels on
weathering the rock upon which be expected his vessel would have
struck--to the calm which succeeds moments of feverish anxiety, when the
dread of danger is succeeded by the certainty of escape.

To myself personally, the discovery of this river was a circumstance of a
particularly gratifying nature, since it not only confirmed the justness
of my opinion as to the ultimate fate of the Morumbidgee, and bore me out
in the apparently rash and hasty step I had taken at the depot, but
assured me of ultimate success in the duty I had to perform. We had got on
the high road, as it were, either to the south coast, or to some
important outlet; and the appearance of the river itself was such as to
justify our most sanguine expectations. I could not doubt its being the
great channel of the streams from the S.E. angle of the island. Mr. Hume
had mentioned to me that he crossed three very considerable streams, when
employed with Mr. Hovell in 1823 in penetrating towards Port Phillips, to
which the names of the Goulburn, the Hume, and the Ovens, had been given;
and as I was 300 miles from the track these gentlemen had pursued, I
considered it more than probable that those rivers must already have
formed a junction above me, more especially when I reflected that the
convexity of the mountains to the S.E. would necessarily direct the waters
falling inwards from them to a common centre.

We entered the new river at right angles, and, as I have remarked, at the
point of junction the channel of the Morumbidgee had narrowed so as to
bear all the appearance of an ordinary creek. In breadth it did not exceed
fifty feet, and if, instead of having passed down it, I had been making my
way up the principal streams, I should little have dreamt that so dark and
gloomy an outlet concealed a river that would lead me to the haunts of
civilized man, and whose fountains rose amidst snow-clad mountains. Such,
however, is the characteristic of the streams falling to the westward of
the coast ranges. Descending into a low and level interior, and depending
on their immediate springs for existence, they fall off, as they increase
their distance from the base of the mountains in which they rise, and in
their lower branches give little results of the promise they had
previously made.

The opinion I have expressed, and which is founded on my personal
experience, that the rivers crossed by Messrs. Hovell and Hume had
already united above me, was strengthened by the capacity of the stream we
had just discovered. It had a medium width of 350 feet, with a depth of
from twelve to twenty. Its reaches were from half to three-quarters of a
mile in length, and the views upon it were splendid. Of course, as the
Morumbidgee entered it from the north, its first reach must have been
E. and W., and it was so, as nearly as possible; but it took us a little
to the southward of the latter point, in a distance of about eight miles
that we pulled down it in the course of the afternoon. We then landed and
pitched our tents for the night. Its transparent waters were running over
a sandy bed at the rate of two-and-a-half knots an hour, and its banks,
although averaging eighteen feet in height, were evidently subject to


We had not seen any natives since falling in with the last tribe on the
Morumbidgee. A cessation had, therefore, taken place in our communication
with them, in re-establishing which I anticipated considerable difficulty.
It appeared singular that we should not have fallen in with any for
several successive days, more especially at the junction of the two
rivers, as in similar situations they generally have an establishment. In
examining the country back from the stream, I did not observe any large
paths, but it was evident that fires had made extensive ravages in the
neighbourhood, so that the country was, perhaps, only temporarily
deserted. Macnamee, who had wandered a little from the tents, declared
that he had seen about a dozen natives round a fire, from whom (if he
really did see them) he very precipitately fled, but I was inclined to
discredit his story, because in our journey on the following day, we
did not see even a casual wanderer.


The river maintained its character, and raised our hopes to the highest
pitch. Its breadth varied from 160 to 200 yards; and only in one place,
where a reef of iron-stone stretched nearly across from the left bank,
so as to contract the channel near the right and to form a considerable
rapid, was there any apparent obstruction to our navigation. I was sorry,
however, to remark that the breadth of alluvial soil between its outer and
inner banks was very inconsiderable, and that the upper levels were poor
and sandy. Blue-gum generally occupied the former, while the usual
productions of the plains still predominated upon the latter, and showed
that the distant interior had not yet undergone any favourable change.
We experienced strong breezes from the north, but the range of the
thermometer was high, and the weather rather oppressive than otherwise.
On the night of the 16th, we had a strong wind from the N.W., but it
moderated with day-light, and shifted to the E.N.E., and the day was
favourable and cool. Our progress was in every way satisfactory, and if
any change had taken place in the river, it was that the banks had
increased in height, in many places to thirty feet, the soil being a red
loam, and the surface much above the reach of floods. The bank opposite to
the one that was so elevated, was proportionably low, and, in general, not
only heavily timbered, but covered with reeds, and backed by a chain of
ponds at the base of the outer embankment.


About 4 p.m., some natives were observed running by the river side behind
us, but on our turning the boat's head towards the shore, they ran away.
It was evident that they had no idea what we were, and, from their
timidity, feeling assured that it would be impossible to bring them to a
parley, we continued onwards till our usual hour of stopping, when we
pitched our tents on the left bank for the night, it being the one
opposite to that on which the natives had appeared. We conjectured that
their curiosity would lead them to follow us, which they very shortly did;
for we had scarcely made ourselves comfortable when we heard their wild
notes through the woods as they advanced towards the river; and their
breaking into view with their spears and shields, and painted and prepared
as they were for battle, was extremely fine. They stood threatening us,
and making a great noise, for a considerable time, but, finding that we
took no notice of them, they, at length, became quiet. I then walked to
some little distance from the party, and taking a branch in my hand, as a
sign of peace, beckoned them to swim to our side of the river, which,
after some time, two or three of them did. But they approached me with
great caution, hesitating at every step. They soon, however, gained
confidence, and were ultimately joined by all the males of their tribe.
I gave the FIRST who swam the river a tomahawk (making this a rule in
order to encourage them) with which he was highly delighted. I shortly
afterwards placed them all in a row and fired a gun before them: they were
quite unprepared for such an explosion, and after standing stupified and
motionless for a moment or two, they simultaneously took to their heels,
to our great amusement. I succeeded, however, in calling them back, and
they regained their confidence so much, that sixteen of them remained with
us all night, but the greater number retired at sunset.

On the following morning, they accompanied us down the river, where we
fell in with their tribe, who were stationed on an elevated bank a short
distance below--to the number of eighty-three men, women, and children.
Their appearance was extremely picturesque and singular. They wanted us to
land, but time was too precious for such delays. Some of the boldest of
the natives swam round and round the boat so as to impede the use of the
oars, and the women on the bank evinced their astonishment by mingled
yells and cries. They entreated us, by signs, to remain with them, but, as
I foresaw a compliance on this occasion would hereafter be attended with
inconvenience, I thought it better to proceed on our journey, and the
natives soon ceased their importunities, and, indeed, did not follow or
molest us.


The river improved upon us at every mile. Its reaches were of noble
breadth, and splendid appearance. Its current was stronger, and it was fed
by numerous springs. Rocks, however, were more frequent in its bed, and in
two places almost formed a barrier across the channel, leaving but a
narrow space for the boats to go down. We passed several elevations of
from 70 to 90 feet in height, at the base of which the stream swept along.
The soil of these elevations was a mixture of clay (marl) and sand, upon
coarse sandstone. Their appearance and the manner in which they had been
acted upon by water, was singular, and afforded a proof of the violence of
the rains in this part of the interior. From the highest of these, I
observed that the country to the S.E. was gently undulated, and so far
changed in character from that through which we had been travelling;
still, however, it was covered with a low scrub, and was barren and

About noon of the 18th, we surprised two women at the water-side, who
immediately retreated into the brush. Shortly after, four men showed
themselves, and followed us for a short distance, but hid themselves upon
our landing. The country still appeared undulated to the S.E.; the soil
was sandy, and cypresses more abundant than any other tree. We passed
several extensive sand-banks in the river, of unusual size and solidity,
an evident proof of the sandy nature of the interior generally. The vast
accumulations of sand at the junctions of every creek were particularly
remarkable. The timber on the alluvial flats was not by any means so large
as we had hitherto observed it; nor were the flats themselves so extensive
as they are on the Morumbidgee and the Macquarie. Notwithstanding the
aspect of the country which I have described, no POSITIVE change had as
yet taken place in the general feature of the interior. The river
continued to flow in a direction somewhat to the northward of west,
through a country that underwent no perceptible alteration. Its waters,
confined to their immediate bed, swept along considerably below the level
of its inner banks; and the spaces between them and the outer ones, though
generally covered with reeds, seemed not recently to have been flooded;
while on the other hand, they had, in many places, from successive
depositions, risen to a height far above the reach of inundation. Still,
however, the more remote interior maintained its sandy and sterile
character, and stretched away, in alternate plain and wood, to a distance
far beyond the limits of our examination.

About the 21st, a very evident change took place in it. The banks of the
river suddenly acquired a perpendicular and water-worn appearance. Their
summits were perfectly level, and no longer confined by a secondary
embankment, but preserved an uniform equality of surface back from the
stream. These banks, although so abrupt, were not so high as the upper
levels, or secondary embankments. They indicated a deep alluvial deposit,
and yet, being high above the reach of any ordinary flood, were covered
with grass, under an open box forest, into which a moderately dense scrub
occasionally penetrated. We had fallen into a concavity similar to those
of the marshes, but successive depositions had almost filled it, and no
longer subject to inundation, it had lost all the character of those
flooded tracts. The kind of country I have been describing, lay rather to
the right than to the left of the river at this place, the latter
continuing low and swampy, as if the country to the south of the river
were still subject to inundation. As the expedition proceeded, the left
bank gradually assumed the appearance of the right; both looked water-worn
and perpendicular, and though not more than from nine to ten feet in
height, their summits were perfectly level in receding, and bore
diminutive box-timber, with widely-scattered vegetation. Not a single
elevation had, as yet, broken the dark and gloomy monotony of the
interior; but as our observations were limited to a short distance from
the river, our surmises on the nature of the distant country were
necessarily involved in some uncertainty.


On the 19th, as we were about to conclude our journey for the day, we saw
a large body of natives before us. On approaching them, they showed every
disposition for combat, and ran along the bank with spears in rests, as if
only waiting for an opportunity to throw them at us. They were upon the
right, and as the river was broad enough to enable me to steer wide of
them, I did not care much for their threats; but upon another party
appearing upon the left bank, I thought it high time to disperse one or
the other of them, as the channel was not wide enough to enable me to keep
clear of danger, if assailed by both, as I might be while keeping amid the
channel. I found, however, that they did not know how to use the advantage
they possessed, as the two divisions formed a junction; those on the left
swimming over to the stronger body upon the right bank. This, fortunately,
prevented the necessity of any hostile measure on my part, and we were
suffered to proceed unmolested, for the present. The whole then followed
us without any symptom of fear, but making a dreadful shouting, and
beating their spears and shields together, by way of intimidation. It is
but justice to my men to say that in this critical situation they evinced
the greatest coolness, though it was impossible for any one to witness
such a scene with indifference. As I did not intend to fatigue the men by
continuing to pull farther than we were in the habit of doing, we landed
at our usual time on the left bank, and while the people were pitching the
tents, I walked down the bank with M'Leay, to treat with these desperadoes
in the best way we could, across the water, a measure to which my men
showed great reluctance, declaring that if during our absence the natives
approached them, they would undoubtedly fire upon them. I assured them it
was not my intention to go out of their sight. We took our guns with us,
but determined not to use them until the last extremity, both from a
reluctance to shed blood and with a view to our future security. I held a
long pantomimical dialogue with them, across the water, and held out the
olive branch in token of amity. They at length laid aside their spears,
and a long consultation took place among them, which ended in two or three
wading into the river, contrary, as it appeared, to the earnest
remonstrances of the majority, who, finding that their entreaties had no
effect, wept aloud, and followed them with a determination, I am sure, of
sharing their fate, whatever it might have been. As soon as they landed,
M'Leay and I retired to a little distance from the bank, and sat down;
that being the usual way among the natives of the interior, to invite to
an interview. When they saw us act thus, they approached, and sat down by
us, but without looking up, from a kind of diffidence peculiar to them,
and which exists even among the nearest relatives, as I have already had
occasion to observe. As they gained confidence, however, they showed an
excessive curiosity, and stared at us in the most earnest manner. We now
led them to the camp, and I gave, as was my custom, the first who had
approached, a tomahawk; and to the others, some pieces of iron hoop. Those
who had crossed the river amounted to about thirty-five in number.
At sunset, the majority of them left us; but three old men remained at
the fire-side all night. I observed that few of them had either lost their
front teeth or lacerated their bodies, as the more westerly tribes do. The
most loathsome diseases prevailed among them. Several were disabled by
leprosy, or some similar disorder, and two or three had entirely lost
their sight. They are, undoubtedly, a brave and a confiding people, and
are by no means wanting in natural affection. In person, they resemble the
mountain tribes. They had the thick lip, the sunken eye, the extended
nostril, and long beards, and both smooth and curly hair are common among
them. Their lower extremities appear to bear no proportion to their bust
in point of muscular strength; but the facility with which they ascend
trees of the largest growth, and the activity with which they move upon
all occasions, together with their singularly erect stature, argue that
such appearance is entirely deceptive.


The old men slept very soundly by the fire, and were the last to get up in
the morning. M'Leay's extreme good humour had made a most favourable
impression upon them, and I can picture him, even now, joining in their
wild song. Whether it was from his entering so readily into their mirth,
or from anything peculiar that struck them, the impression upon the whole
of us was, that they took him to have been originally a black, in
consequence of which they gave him the name of Rundi. Certain it is, they
pressed him to show his side, and asked if he had not received a wound
there--evidently as if the original Rundi had met with a violent death
from a spear-wound in that place. The whole tribe, amounting in number to
upwards of 150, assembled to see us take our departure. Four of them
accompanied us, among whom there was one remarkable for personal strength
and stature.--The 21st passed without our falling in with any new tribe,
and the night of the 22nd, saw us still wandering in that lonely desert
together. There was something unusual in our going through such an extent
of country without meeting another tribe, but our companions appeared to
be perfectly aware of the absence of inhabitants, as they never left
our side.

Although the banks of the river had been of general equality of height,
sandy elevations still occasionally formed a part of them, and their
summits were considerably higher than the alluvial flats.


It was upon the crest of one of these steep and lofty banks, that on the
morning of the 22nd, the natives who were a-head of the boat, suddenly
stopped to watch our proceedings down a foaming rapid that ran beneath.
We were not aware of the danger to which we were approaching, until we
turned an angle of the river, and found ourselves too near to retreat.
In such a moment, without knowing what was before them, the coolness of
the men was strikingly exemplified. No one even spoke after they became
aware that silence was necessary. The natives (probably anticipating
misfortune) stood leaning upon their spears upon the lofty bank above us.
Desiring the men not to move from their seats, I stood up to survey the
channel, and to steer the boat to that part of it which was least impeded
by rocks. I was obliged to decide upon a hasty survey, as we were already
at the head of the rapid. It appeared to me that there were two passages,
the one down the centre of the river, the other immediately under its
right bank. A considerable rock stood directly in own way to the latter,
so that I had no alternative but to descend the former. About forty yards
below the rock, I noticed that a line of rocks occupied the space between
the two channels, whilst a reef, projecting from the left bank, made the
central passage distinctly visible, and the rapidity of the current


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