Narrative of the overland expedition of the, by F. and A. Jardine

Chapter I.

Start from Rockhampton — Alexander Jardine explores the Einasleih — Newcastle Range — Pluto Creek — Canal Creek — Basaltic Plateau — Warroul Creek — Parallel Creek — Galas Creek — Porphyry Islands — Alligators’ tracks — Bauhinia Plains — Discovers error as to River Lynd — Return — The Nonda — Burdekin duck — Simon’s Gap — Arrival of the cattle — Preparation for final start.

On the 14th of May, 1864, the overland party which was to take cattle to the new settlement at Cape York, was started by Mr. Frank Jardine, from Rockhampton, under the charge of his brother Alexander. It comprised ten persons, with thirty-one horses. The instructions were to travel by easy stages to Port Denison, and there wait the arrival of the Leader. In the following month, Mr. Jardine, senior, taking with him his third son John, sailed for Brisbane, and shortly after from thence to Somerset, Cape York, in the Eagle, barque, chartered by the Government, for transport of material, etc., arriving there at the end of June.

Mr. Frank Jardine, taking with him the surveyor attached to the expedition, Mr. A. J. Richardson, arrived at Bowen by sea, about the middle of July, when the party was again moved forward, he himself starting off to make the purchase of the cattle. Five more horses were purchased on account of the Government in Bowen, for Mr. Richardson, making a total of forty-two. The prevalence of pleuro-pneumonia made it a matter of some difficulty for Mr. F. Jardine to get suitable stock for his purpose, and caused considerable delay. Arrangements having at length been made with Mr. William Stenhouse, of the River Clarke, the party was divided at the Reedy Lake Station, on the Burdekin, Mr. A. Jardine moving forward with the pack horses and equipment, leaving the Leader with Messrs. Scrutton and Cowderoy, and three black boys to muster and fetch on the cattle. The advance party started on the 17th August, and arrived at Carpentaria Downs, the station of J. G. Macdonald, Esq., on the 30th. This was at that time the furthest station to the North West, and was intended to be made the final starting point of the expedition, by the permission of Mr. Macdonald, from whom the party received much kindness. On their way they were joined by Mr. Henry Bode, a gentleman who was in search of country to occupy with stock. After remaining in camp at Carpentaria Downs for a few days, Mr. A. Jardine decided on utilizing the interval, which must elapse before his brother could re-join him with the cattle, by exploring the country ahead, so as to facilitate the march of the stock on the final start. Accordingly, leaving the camp in charge of Mr. Richardson, with Mr. Binney, and two black boys, he started on the 3rd of September, taking with him the most trusty of his black boys, “old Eulah,” and one pack-horse, and accompanied by Mr. Bode, who took advantage of the opportunity to have a look at the country. As Mr. Bode had his own black boy with him, the party comprised four, with two pack-horses, carrying provision for three weeks. About the same time Mr. Macdonald started with a party of three to find a road for his stock to the Gulf, where he was about to form a station; the account of which trip has been published by that gentleman.

The stream on which Carpentaria Downs station is situated was supposed to be the “Lynd” of Leichhardt and was so called and known; but as this was found to be an error, and that it was a tributary of the Gilbert, it will be distinguished by the name it subsequently received, the Einasleih. Keeping the right bank of the river which was running strongly two hundred yards wide, the party travelled six miles to a small rocky bald hill, under which they passed on the north side; and thence to a gap in a low range, through which the river forces its way. Travelling down its bed for a quarter-of-a-mile, they crossed to its left bank, on to a large level basaltic plain; but here the extent of the rocky ground made the travelling so bad for the horses, although shod, that it was impossible to proceed, and the river was therefore re-crossed. Five miles more of rough travelling over broken stony ironbark ridges, brought them to a second gorge, formed by two spurs of a range, running down to the river banks on either side, where they camped, having made about 15 miles on a general course of N.W. by N. To the south of this gorge, and running parallel with the river, is a high range of hills, which received the name of the Newcastle Range. (Camp I.)

‘September’ 4. — Resuming their journey, the party passed through a gap in the northern spur, described yesterday, about a quarter-of-a-mile from the camp. From this gap a point of the range on the south side was sighted, running into the river, and for this they steered. At 4 miles a small lagoon was passed, 300 yards out from the river, and a quarter-of-a-mile further on, a broad, shallow, sandy creek(then dry), which was named “Pluto Creek.” At 8 miles a small rugged hill was passed on the left hand, and the point of the range steered for reached at 9. At 12 a large well-watered creek was crossed, and the party camped at the end of 18 miles on a similar one. The general course N.N.W., and lay chiefly over very stony ridges, close to the river banks. The timber was chiefly box, iron-bark, and melaleuca, the latter growing in the shallow bed, in which also large granite boulders frequently occurred. Though shallow, it contained fine pools and reaches of water, in some of which very fine fish were observed. Eighteen miles (Camp II.)

‘September’ 5. — After crossing the creek, on which they had camped, at its junction, the party followed down a narrow river flat for four miles, to where a large sandy creek joins it from the north. The steepness of its banks and freedom from fallen timber, suggested the name of “Canal Creek” — it is about 80 yards wide. Two miles further down a small creek joins, and at 12 miles a high rocky hill was reached. From this hill a bar of granite rock extends across the river to a similar one on the south side. A fine view was obtained from its summit showing them the course of the river. Up to this point the course had been N.W. After passing through a gap, immediately under and on the north of the rocky hill they were forced by the river into a northerly course for two miles, at which they crossed a spur of the range running into it, so rugged that they were obliged to lead their horses. Beyond this they emerged on to a basaltic plain, timbered with box and bloodwood, and so stony as to render the walking very severe for the horses. The basalt continued for the rest of the day. At about 18 miles a large creek was crossed, running into an ana-branch. The banks of the river which border the basaltic plain are very high and steep on both sides. Running the ana-branch down for four miles, the camp was pitched, after a tedious and fatiguing day’s march. (Camp III.)

‘September’ 6. — The ana-branch camped on last night being found to run parallel to the course of the river, received the name of Parallel Creek. Its average width is about 150 yards, well watered, and full of melaleucas and fallen timber. The country on its north bank down to its junction with the river 20 miles from the junction of Warroul Creek, is broken into ridges of quartz and sand-stone, stony, and poorly grassed. That contained between its south bank and the river, the greatest width of which is not more than three miles, is a basaltic plateau, terminating in precipitous banks on the river, averaging 50 feet in perpendicular height. To avoid the stones on either side, there being no choice between the two, the party travelled down the bed of Parallel Creek the whole day. At about 9 miles stringy bark appeared on the ridges of the north bank. Large flocks of cockatoo parrots (’Nymphicus Nov. Holl.’) were seen during the day, and a “plant” of native spears was found. They were neatly made, jagged at the head with wallaby bones, and intended for throwing in the Wommerah or throwing stick. At the end of 20 miles the party reached the junction of Parallel Creek with the river and encamped. The general course was about N.W. (Camp IV.)

‘September’ 7. — The party was now happily clear of the basaltic country, but the travelling was still none of the best, the first nine miles of to-day’s stage being over stony ridges of quartz and iron-stone, interspersed with small, sandy, river flats. At this distance a large creek of running water was crossed, and the camp pitched at about two miles from its junction with the Einasleih. The creek received the name of Galaa Creek, in allusion to the galaa or rose cockatoo (’Cacatua Rosea’), large flocks of which were frequently seen. The junction of Galaa Creek is remarkable for two porphyritic rock islands, situated in the bed of the river, which is here sandy, well watered, and about 300 yards wide. The grass was very scarce, having been recently burned. The timber chiefly iron-bark and box. Course N.W. 1/2 W., distance 10 miles (Camp V.)

‘September’ 8. — To-day the river was followed down over low broken stony ranges, having their crests covered with “garrawan” scrub for 5 miles, when the party was gratified by an agreeable change in the features of the country. Instead of the alternative of broken country, stony ridges, or basaltic plains they had toiled over for nearly 80 miles, they now emerged on to fine open well-grassed river flats, lightly timbered, and separated by small spurs of ridges running into them. A chain of small lagoons was passed at 12 miles, teeming with black duck, teal, wood duck, and pigmy geese, whilst pigeons and other birds were frequent in the open timber, a sure indication of good country. At 13 miles a small creek was crossed, and another at 18, and after having made a good stage of 25 miles the party again camped on the Einasleih. At this point it had increased to a width of nearly a mile, the banks were low and sloping, and the bed shallow and dry. It was still nevertheless, well watered, the stream, as is not unusual in many of our northern rivers, continuing to run under the surface of the sand, and requiring very slight digging or even scratching, to be got at. The general course throughout the day was about N.W.1/2W. (Camp VI.)

‘September’ 9. — The course down the river was resumed over similar country to that of yesterday. Keeping at the back of some low table-topped hills, at 5 miles the party struck a fine clear deep lagoon, about two miles in from the river, of which it is the overflow. A chain of small waterholes occurs at 12 miles, which were covered with ducks and other water-fowl, whilst immense flocks of a slate-colored pigeon were seen at intervals. They are about the same size as the Bronzewing, and excessively wild.2 The river, when again struck, had resumed running. It was still sandy and full of the graceful weeping melaleuca in the bed, where traces of alligators were observed. The country traversed throughout the day was good, but the small plains and flats were thought likely to be swampy in wet weather. Another good stage of 26 miles was made, and the party again camped on the river. The general course was due west. (Camp VII.)

2 ‘The Phaps Histrionica, or Harlequin Bronzewing.’

‘September’ 10. — Taking his course from the map he carried, shewing the river running north-west, and depending on its correctness, Mr. Jardine bore to the north-west for 15 miles, travelling over sandy honey-combed rises, and low swampy plains, when he reached a watershed to the north, which he then supposed must be the head of Mitchell waters, finding himself misled by his map and that he had left the river altogether, he turned south by west and did not reach it before the end of 8 miles on that bearing, when the party camped on a small ana-branch. The true course of the river would thus be about W. by N. Total distance 23 miles. (Camp VIII.)

‘September’ 11. — This day’s journey was over fine country. The first course was N.W. for about 5 miles, to a large round shallow lagoon, covered with quantities of wild fowl, and thence, following the direction of the river into camp about 13 miles, over a succession of large black soil plains covered with good grasses, mixed herbs, and salt bush. The principal timber being bauhinia, suggested the name of “Bauhinia Plains.” Their width back from the river extended to an average of six miles, when they were bounded by low well-grassed iron-bark ridges. The river was broad and sandy, running in two or three channels, and occasionally spreading into long reaches. Large ana-branches, plentifully watered, left the main channel running back from it from 1 to 3 miles. A great many fishing weirs were observed in the channels of the river, from which it would appear that the blacks live much, if not principally, on fish. They were well and neatly constructed. (Camp IX.)

‘September’ 12. — Alexander Jardine, having now travelled 180 miles from Carpentaria Downs, was convinced that the river he had traced this distance could not be the Lynd of Leichhardt. The reasons which forced this conclusion on him were three:— Firstly, the description of the country in no wise tallied. Secondly, the course of the river differed. And thirdly, although he had travelled further to the west than Leichhardt’s junction of the Lynd and Mitchell, he had not even been on Mitchell waters, the northern watershed he had been on, on the 10th, being that of a small creek, doubling on itself, and running into this river. Having thus set the matter at rest in his own mind, he determined to re-trace his steps, and accordingly started back this morning and camped at night at the shallow lagoon, passed the day previous. On the way they shot several ducks and a bustard. These are very numerous on the plains, but wild and unapproachable, as they most frequently are in the north. At each camp on his journey Mr. Jardine regularly marked a tree A.J. and the number of the Camp.

‘September’ 13. — The party travelled back over Bauhinia Plains, and camped on the river, near camp 8 of the outward journey. At night they went fishing, and got a number of fine perch, and a small spotted fish. Distance 24 miles.

‘September’ 14. — To-day the party saw blacks for the first time since leaving Carpentaria Downs. They “rounded them up,” and had a parley, without hostility on either side, each being on the defensive, and observing the other. They bore no distinctive character, or apparent difference to the Rockhampton tribes, and were armed with reed spears and wommerahs. For the first time also they met with the ripe fruit of the Palinaria, the “Nonda” of Leichhardt. The distance travelled was 27 miles, which brought them to the 7th camp on the outward journey.

‘September’ 15. — Following up the course of the river, the 6th camp was reached in 26 miles, where the feed was so good that Mr. Jardine determined to halt for a day and recruit the horses. On the way they again passed some natives who were fishing in a large lagoon, but shewed no hostility. They had an opportunity of seeing their mode of spearing the fish, in which they used a long heavy four-pronged spear, barbed with kangaroo bones.

‘September’ 16. — Was spent in fishing and hunting, whilst the horses luxuriated in the abundant feed. They caught some perch, and a fine cod, not unlike the Murray cod in shape, but darker and without scales. At night, there being a fine moonlight, they went out to try and shoot opossums as an addition to the larder, but were unsuccessful. They appeared to be very scarce.

‘September’ 17. — Resuming their journey, the party travelled 21 miles, to a spot about 4 miles below No. 5 camp, on Galaa Creek, and turned out. Here they met with wild lucerne in great abundance, and a great deal of mica and talc was observed in the river. During the day Mr. Jardine shot a bustard, and some fish being again caught in the evening, there was high feeding in camp at night. The bagging of a bustard, or plain turkey as it is more commonly called, always makes a red day for the kitchen. Its meat is tender and juicy, and either roasted whole, dressed into steaks, or stewed into soup, makes a grateful meal for a hungry traveller.

‘September’ 18. — Keeping out some distance from its banks to avoid the stones and deep gullies, the party followed up the river to the junction of Parallel Creek: this was traced, keeping along its bed for the same reason, by which course only they were enabled to avoid them. These, as before described, were very thickly strewn making the journey tedious and severe on the horses, so that only 14 miles were accomplished, when they camped on a large waterhole five miles above the junction. The beautiful Burdekin duck (’Tadorna Radjah’) was met with, of which Mr. Jardine shot a couple.

‘September’ 19. — Still keeping along the bed of Parallel Creek, the party travelled up its course. This they were constrained to do, in consequence of the broken and stony banks and country on the east side, whilst an abrupt wall of basalt prevented them leaving the bed on the west. At 13 miles they camped for a couple of hours in the middle of the day, on a large creek which received the name of Warroul Creek, suggested by their finding two large “sugar bags” or bees’ nests on it, “Warroul” being the name for bee in the Wirotheree or Wellington dialect. Warroul Creek runs into Parallel Creek from the south-east, joining it about half-a-mile below where it leaves the river, it being as before mentioned an ana-branch of the Einasleih. Leaving Parallel and travelling up Warroul Creek, in 8 miles they reached the gap in the range 12 miles below camp No. 2. This afterwards received the name of Simon’s Gap, and the range it occurs in, Jorgensen’s Range, after Simon Jorgensen, Esq., of Gracemere. Two miles, from the gap they struck a large round swamp which had not been observed on the down journey, the party having kept close to the river, from which it is distant two miles. This was named “Cawana Swamp” There being good grass there, they camped. Native companions (’Crus Australalasinus’) and the more rare jabiru (’Myeteria Australis’) were very numerous on it. Total distance 23 miles.

‘September’ 20. — To-day the party made the lagoon mentioned on the 4th inst., a distance of 27 miles, traversing nearly the same ground already described and camped. They again saw a mob of blacks fishing in the river, who, on seeing them, immediately decamped into the ranges on the opposite side and disappeared. The next day, Mr. Macdonald’s station, Carpentaria Downs was reached in 17 miles, the little party having travelled over nearly 360 miles of ground in 18 days. Mr. Jardine found all well at the main camp, but no sign of his brother with the cattle; fifteen days passed before his arrival, during which time Alexander Jardine plotted up the courses of his journey down the Einasleih, and submitted the plan to Mr. Richardson, without, however, shaking the gentleman’s faith as to his position, or that they were on Leichhardt’s Lynd, preferring to dispute the accuracy of the reckoning. It will be seen, however, that the explorer was right, and the surveyor wrong. It being expedient that the party should husband their rations for the journey until the final start, Mr. Macdonald kindly supplied them with what was necessary for their present wants, thus allowing them to keep their own stores intact.

On the 6th of October, Frank Jardine made his appearance with the cattle, a mob of about 250 head of bullocks and cows in good condition. The ensuing three days were spent by the brothers in shoeing the horses, a job of no little tedium and difficulty, they being the only farriers of the party. There were 42 head to shoe, many of which had never been shod before, and as the thermometer stood at 100° in the shade most of the day, their office was no sinecure; they had at first some difficulty in getting a sufficient heat, but after a little experimenting found a wood of great value in that particular. This was the apple-gum, by using which, they could if necessary get a white heat in the iron. At the end of the third day the last horse was shod, and it only remained to get the stores and gear together, and dispose them on the different packs. This was done on the 10th, on the evening of which they were ready for the final start. The party was thus composed: Frank Lacelles Jardine, Leader; Alexander Jardine, Archibald J. Richardson, Government Surveyor; C. Scrutton, R. N. Binney, A. Cowderoy, Eulah, Peter, Sambo and Barney, black boys from the districts of Rockhampton and Wide Bay; 41 picked horses and 1 mule, all in good order and condition.

Their provision was calculated to last them 4 months, and was distributed together with the tools, ammunition, and camp necessaries on 18 packs, averaging at the start about 150 lbs. each. It consisted of 1200 lbs. flour, 3 cwt. sugar, 35 lbs. of tea, 40 lbs. currants and raisins, 20 lbs. peas, 20 lbs. jams, salt, etc. The black troopers were armed with the ordinary double-barrelled police carbine, the whites carrying Terry’s breech-loaders, and Tranter’s revolvers. They had very ample occasion to test the value and efficiency of both these arms, which, in the hands of cool men, are invaluable in conflict.

The personalities of the party were reduced to a minimum, and what was supposed to be absolutely necessary, one pack (the mule’s) being devoted to odds and ends, or what are termed in bush parlance, ‘manavlins’. Three light tents only were carried, more for protecting the stores than for shelter for the party.

All were in excellent health, and good spirits, and eager to make a start.

Last updated Saturday, March 1, 2014 at 12:16