Narrative of an expedition into Central Australia, by Charles Sturt

Chapter 2

Preparations for departure — arrival at Moorundi — native guides — names of the party — Sir John Barrow’s minute — reports of Laidley’s ponds — climate of the Murray — progress up the river — arrival at Lake Bonney — grassy plains — Camboli’s home — tragical events in that neighbourhood — Pulcanti — arrival at the Rufus — visit to the native families — return of Mr. Eyre to Moorundi — departure of Mr. Browne to the eastward.

Entertaining the views I have explained in my last chapter, I wrote in January, 1843, to Lord Stanley, at that time Her Majesty’s principal Secretary of State for the Colonies, tendering my services to lead an expedition from South Australia into the interior of the Australian continent. As I was personally unknown to Lord Stanley, I wrote at the same time to Sir Ralph Darling, under whose auspices I had first commenced my career as an explorer, to ask his advice on so important an occasion. Immediately on the receipt of my letter, Sir Ralph addressed a communication to the Secretary of State, in terms that induced his Lordship to avail himself of my offer.

In May, 1844, Captain Grey, the Governor of South Australia, received a private letter from Lord Stanley, referring to a despatch his Lordship had already written to him, to authorise the fitting out of an expedition to proceed under my command into the interior. This despatch, however, did not come to hand until the end of June, but on the receipt of it Captain Grey empowered me to organise an expedition, on the modified plan on which Lord Stanley had determined.

Aware as I was of the importance of the season in such a climate as that of Australia, I had written both to the Secretary of State, and to Sir Ralph Darling, so that I might have time after the receipt of replies from Europe, in the event of my proposals being favourably entertained, to make my preparations, and commence my journey at the most propitious season of the year, but my letter to Sir Ralph Darling unfortunately miscarried, and did not reach him until three months after its arrival in England. The further delay which took place in the receipt of Lord Stanley’s despatch, necessarily threw it late in the season before I commenced my preparations for the long and trying task that was before me. By the end of July, however, my arrangements were completed, and my party organised, and only awaited the decision of Mr. John Browne, the younger of two brothers who were independent settlers in the province, whose services I was anxious to secure as the medical officer to the expedition, to fix on the day when it should leave Adelaide.

On the 4th of the month (August), I saw Mr. W. Browne, who informed me that his brother had determined to accept my proposals, and that he would join me with the least possible delay; upon which I felt myself at liberty to make definitive arrangements, and to direct that the main body of the expedition should commence its journey on Saturday, the 10th. On the morning of that day I attended a public breakfast, to which I had been invited by the colonists, at the conclusion of which the party, under the charge of Mr. L. Piesse (who subsequently acted as storekeeper) proceeded to the Dry Creek, a small station about five miles from Adelaide. At that place he halted for the night. Mr. Browne not having yet joined me, I kept Davenport, one of the men, who was to attend on the officers, with a riding horse for his use, and the spring cart (in which the instruments were to be carried), for the purpose of forwarding his baggage to the Murray, on the banks of which the party was to muster.

I have said that on the 10th of August I attended a public breakfast, to which I and my party had been invited by the colonists, on the occasion of our quitting the capital. I may be permitted in these humble pages to express my gratitude to them for the kind and generous sympathy they have ever evinced in my success in life, as well as the delicacy and consideration which has invariably marked the expression of their sentiments towards me. If, indeed, I have been an instrument, in the hands of Providence, in bringing about the speedier establishment of the province of South Australia, I am thankful that I have been permitted to witness the happiness of thousands whose prosperity I have unconsciously promoted. Wherever I may go, to whatever part of the world my destinies may lead me, I shall yet hope one day to return to my adopted home, and make it my resting-place between this world and the next. When I went into the interior I left the province with storm-clouds overhanging it, and sunk in adversity. When I returned the sun of prosperity was shining on it, and every heart was glad. Providence had rewarded a people who had borne their reverses with singular firmness and magnanimity. Their harvest fields were bowed down by the weight of grain; their pastoral pursuits were prosperous; the hills were yielding forth their mineral wealth, and peace and prosperity prevailed over the land. May the inhabitants of South Australia continue to deserve and to receive the protection of that Almighty power, on whose will the existence of nations as well as that of individuals depends!

Not having had time as yet to attend to my own private affairs, I was unable to leave Adelaide for a few days after the departure of Mr. Piesse. A similar cause prevented Mr. James Poole, who was to act as my assistant, from accompanying the drays. On the 12th Mr. Browne arrived in Adelaide, when he informed me that he had remained in the country to give over his stock, and to arrange his affairs, to prevent the necessity of again returning to his station. He had now, therefore, nothing to do but to equip himself, when he would be ready to accompany me. When I wrote to Mr. Browne, offering him the appointment of medical officer to the expedition, I was personally unacquainted with him, but I was aware that he enjoyed the respect and esteem of every one who knew him, and that he was in every way qualified for the enterprise in which I had invited him to join. Being an independent settler, however, I doubted whether he could, consistently with his own interests, leave his homestead on a journey of such doubtful length as that which I was about to commence. The spirit of enterprise, however, outweighed any personal consideration in the breast of that resolute and intelligent officer, and I had every reason to congratulate myself in having secured the services of one whose value, under privation, trial, and sickness, can only be appreciated by myself.

The little business still remaining for us to do was soon concluded, and as Mr. Browne assured me that it would not take more than two or three days to enable him to complete his arrangements, I decided on our final departure from Adelaide on the 15th of the month; for having received my instructions I should then have nothing further to detain me. That day, therefore, was fixed upon as the day on which we should start to overtake the party on its road to Moorundi. The sun rose bright and clear over my home on the morning of that day. It was indeed a morning such as is only known in a southern climate; but I had to bid adieu to my wife and family, and could but feebly enter into the harmony of Nature, as everything seemed joyous around me.

I took breakfast with my warm-hearted friend, Mr. Torrens, and his wife, who had kindly invited a small party of friends to witness my departure; but although this was nominally a breakfast, it was six in the afternoon before I mounted my horse to commence my journey. My valued friend, Mr. Cooper, the Judge, had returned to Adelaide early in the day, but those friends who remained accompanied us across the plain lying to the north of St. Clare, to the Gawler Town road, where we shook hands and parted.

We reached Gawler Town late at night, and there obtained intelligence that the expedition had passed Angus Park all well. I also learnt that Mr. Calton, the master of the hotel, had given the men a sumptuous breakfast as they passed through the town, and that they had been cheered with much enthusiasm by the people.

On the 16th we availed ourselves of the hospitality of Mrs. Bagot, whose husband was absent on his legislative duties in Adelaide, to stay at her residence for a night. Nothing however could exceed the kindness of the reception we met from Mrs. Bagot and the fair inmates of her house.

On the 17th we turned to the eastward for the Murray, under the guidance of Mr. James Hawker, who had a station on the river. At the White Hut, Mr. Browne, who had left me at Gawler Town, to see his sister at Lyndoch Valley, rejoined me; and at a short distance beyond it, we overtook the party in its slow but certain progress towards the river. At the Dust Hole, another deserted sheep station on the eastern slope of the mountains, I learnt that Flood, an old and faithful follower of mine, whom I had added to the strength of the expedition at the eleventh hour, was at the station. He was one of the most experienced stockmen in the colonies, and intimately acquainted with the country. I had sent him to receive over 200 sheep I had purchased from Mr. Dutton, which I proposed taking with me instead of salt meat. He had got to the Dust Hole in safety with his flock, and was feeding them on the hills when I passed. The experiment I was about to make with these animals was one of some risk; but I felt assured, that under good management, they would be of great advantage. Not however to be entirely dependent on the sheep, I purchased four cwt. of bacon from Mr. Johnson of the Reed Beds, near Adelaide, by whom it had been cured; and some of that bacon I brought back with me as sweet and fresh as when it was packed, after an exposure of eighteen months to an extreme of heat that was enough to try its best qualities. I was aware that the sheep might be lost by negligence, or scattered in the event of any hostile collision with the natives; but I preferred trusting to the watchfulness of my men, and to past experience in my treatment of the natives, rather than to overload my drays. The sequel proved that I was right. Of the 200 sheep I lost only one by coup de soleil. They proved a very valuable supply, and most probably prevented the men from suffering, as their officers did, from that fearful malady the scurvy.

I had them shorn before delivery, to prepare them for the warmer climate into which I was going. And I may here remark, although I shall again have to allude to it, that their wool did not grow afterwards to any length. It ceased indeed to grow altogether for many months, nor had they half fleeces after having been so long as a year and a half unshorn.

I did not see Flood at the Dust Hole; but continuing my journey, entered the belt of the Murray at 1 p.m., and reached Moorundi just as the sun set, after a ride of four hours through those dreary and stunted brushes.

My excellent friend, Mr. Eyre, had been long and anxiously expecting us. Altogether superior to any unworthy feeling of jealousy that my services had been accepted on a field in which he had so much distinguished himself, and on which he so ardently desired to venture again, his efforts to assist us were as ceaseless as they were disinterested. Whatever there was of use in his private store, whether publicly beneficial or for our individual comfort, he insisted on our taking. He had had great trouble in retaining at Moorundi two of the most influential natives on the river to accompany us to Williorara (Laidley’s Ponds). Mr. Eyre was quite aware of the importance of such attachees, and had spared no trouble in securing their services. Their patience however had almost given way, and they had threatened to leave the settlement when fortunately we made our appearance, and all their doubts as to our arrival vanished. Nothing but jimbucks (sheep) and flour danced before their eyes, and they looked with eager impatience to the approach of the drays.

These two natives, Camboli and Nadbuck, were men superior to their fellows, both in intellect and in authority. They were in truth two fine specimens of Australian aborigines, stern, impetuous, and determined, active, muscular, and energetic. Camboli was the younger of the two, and a native of one of the most celebrated localities on the Murray. It bears about N.N.E. from Lake Bonney, where the flats are very extensive, and are intersected by numerous creeks and lagoons. There, consequently, the population has always been greater than elsewhere on the Murray, and the scenes of violence more frequent. Camboli was active, light-hearted, and confiding, and even for the short time he remained with us gained the hearts of all the party.

Nadbuck was a man of different temperament, but with many good qualities, and capable of strong attachments. He was a native of Lake Victoria, and had probably taken an active part in the conflicts between the natives and overlanders in that populous part of the Murray river. He had somewhat sedate habits, was restless, and exceedingly fond of the FAIR sex. He was a perfect politician in his way, and of essential service to us. I am quite sure, that so long as he remained with the party, he would have sacrificed his life rather than an individual should have been injured. I shall frequently have to speak of this our old friend Nadbuck, and will not therefore disturb the thread of my narrative by relating any anecdote of him here. It may be enough to state that he accompanied us to Williorara, even as he had attended Mr. Eyre to the same place only a few weeks before, and that when he left us he had the good wishes of all hands.

In the afternoon of the day following that of our arrival at Moorundi, Mr. Piesse arrived with the drays, and drew them up under the fine natural avenue that occupies the back of the river to the south of Mr. Eyre’s residence. Shortly afterwards Davenport arrived with the light cart, having the instruments and Mr. Browne’s baggage. Flood also came up with the sheep, so that the expedition was now complete, and mustered in its full force for the first time, and consisted as follows of officers, men, and animals:—

Captain Sturt, LEADER.
Mr. James Poole, ASSISTANT.
Mr. John Harris Browne, SURGEON.
Mr. M’Dougate Stuart, DRAFTSMAN.
Mr. Louis Piesse, STOREKEEPER.
Daniel Brock, COLLECTOR.
George Davenport, Joseph Cowley, SERVANTS
Robert Flood, STOCKMAN.
David Morgan, WITH HORSES.
Hugh Foulkes, John Jones, —— Turpin, William Lewis, sailor, John Mack, BULLOCK DRIVERS
John Kerby, WITH SHEEP.

11 horses; 30 bullocks; 1 boat and boat carriage; 1 horse dray; 1 spring cart; 3 drays. 200 sheep; 4 kangaroo dogs; 2 sheep dogs.

The box of instruments sent from England for the use of the expedition had been received, and opened in Adelaide. The most important of them were two sextants, three prismatic compasses, two false horizons, and a barometer. One of the sextants was a very good instrument, but the glasses of the other were not clear, and unfortunately the barometer was broken and useless, since it had the syphon tube, which could not be replaced in the colony. I exceedingly regretted this accident, for I had been particularly anxious to carry on a series of observations, to determine the level of the interior. I manufactured a barometer, for the tube of which I was indebted to Captain Frome, the Surveyor-General, and I took with me an excellent house barometer, together with two brewer’s thermometers, for ascertaining the boiling point of water on Sykes’ principle. The first of the barometers was unfortunately broken on the way up to Moorundi, so that I was a second time disappointed.

It appears to me that the tubes of these delicate instruments are not secured with sufficient care in the case, that the corks placed to steady them are at too great intervals, and that the elasticity of the tube is consequently too great for the weight of mercury it contains. The thermometers sent from England, graduated to 127 degrees only, were too low for the temperature into which I went, and consequently useless at times, when the temperature in the shade exceeded that number of degrees. One of them was found broken in its case, the other burst when set to try the temperature, by the over expansion of mercury in the bulb.

The party had left Adelaide in such haste that it became necessary before we should again move, to rearrange the loads. On Monday, the 18th, therefore I desired Mr. Piesse to attend to this necessary duty, and not only to equalize the loads on the drays, and ascertain what stores we had, but to put everything in its place, so as to be procured at a moment’s notice.

The avenue at Moorundi presented a busy scene, whilst the men were thus employed reloading the drays and weighing the provisions. Morgan, who had the charge of the horse cart, had managed to snap one of the shafts in his descent into the Moorundi Flat, and was busy replacing it. Brock, a gunsmith by trade, was cleaning the arms. Others of the men were variously occupied, whilst the natives looked with curiosity and astonishment on all they saw. At this time, however, there were not many natives at the settlement, since numbers of them had gone over the Nile, to make their harvest on the settlers.

On Monday I sent Flood into Adelaide with despatches for the Governor, and with letters for my family, as well as to bring out some few trifling things we had overlooked, and as Mr. Piesse reported to me on that day that the drays were reloaded, I directed him, after I had inspected them, to lash down the tarpaulines, and to warn the men to hold themselves in readiness to proceed on their journey at 8 a.m. on the following morning — for, as I purposed remaining at Moorundi with Mr. Eyre until Flood should return, I was unwilling that the party should lose any time, and I therefore thought it advisable to send the drays on, under Mr. Poole’s charge, until such time as I should overtake him. The spirit which at this time animated the men ensured punctuality to any orders that were given to them. Accordingly the bullocks were yoked up, and all hands were at their posts at early dawn. As, however, I was about to remain behind for a few days, it struck me that this would be a favourable opportunity on which to address the men. I accordingly directed Mr. Poole to assemble them, and with Mr. Eyre and Mr. Browne went to join him in the flat, a little below the avenue. I then explained to them that I proposed remaining at Moorundi for a few days after their departure. I thought it necessary, in giving them over into Mr. Poole’s charge, to point out some of the duties I expected from them.

That in the first place I had instructed Mr. Poole to mount a guard of two men every evening at sunset, who were to remain on duty until sun-rise; that I expected the utmost vigilance from this guard, and that as the safety of the camp would depend on their attention, I should punish any neglect with the utmost severity. I then adverted to the natives, and interdicted all intercourse with them, excepting with my permission. That as I attributed many of the acts of violence that had been committed on the river to this irritating source, so I would strike the name of any man who should disobey my orders in this respect off the strength of the party from that moment, and prevent his receiving a farthing of pay; or whoever I should discover encouraging any of the natives, but more particularly the native women, to the camp. I next drew the attention of the men to themselves, and pointed out to them the ill effects of discord, expressing my hope that they would be cheerful and ready to assist one another, and that harmony would exist in the camp; that I expected the most ready obedience from all to their superiors; and that, in such case, they would on their part always find me alive to their comforts, and to their interests. I then confirmed Mr. Piesse in his post as store-keeper; gave to Flood the general superintendence of the stock; to Morgan the charge of the horses, and to each bullock-driver the charge of his own particular team. To Brock I committed the sheep, with Kirby and Sullivan to assist, and to Davenport and Cowley (Joseph) the charge of the officers’ tents. I then said, that as they might now be said to commence a journey, from which none of them could tell who would be permitted to return, it was a duty they owed themselves to ask the blessing and protection of that Power which alone could conduct them in safety through it; and having read a few appropriate prayers to the men as they stood uncovered before me, I dismissed them, and told Mr. Poole he might move off as soon as he pleased. The scene was at once changed. The silence which had prevailed was broken by the cracks of whips, and the loud voices of the bullock-drivers. The teams descended one after the other from the bank on which they had been drawn up, and filed past myself and Mr. Eyre, who stood near me, in the most regular order. The long line reached almost across the Moorundi flat, and looked extremely well. I watched it with an anxiety that made me forgetful of everything else, and I naturally turned my thoughts to the future How many of those who had just passed me so full of hope, and in such exuberant spirits, would be permitted to return to their homes? Should I, their leader, be one of those destined to remain in the desert, or should I be more fortunate in treading it than the persevering and adventurous officer whose guest I was, and who shrank from the task I had undertaken. My eyes followed the party as it ascended the gully on the opposite side of the flat, and turned northwards, the two officers leading, until the whole were lost to my view in the low scrub into which it entered. I was unconscious of what was passing around me, but when I turned to address my companions, I found that I was alone. Mr. Eyre, and the other gentlemen who had been present, had left me to my meditations.

In the afternoon Kusick, one of the mounted police, arrived with despatches from the Governor, and letters from my family. He had met Flood at Gawler Town, whose return, therefore, we might reasonably expect on the Friday.

Amongst the first purchases that had been made was a horse for the service of the expedition, which had not very long before been brought in from Lake Victoria, Nadbuck’s location, distant nearly 200 miles from Adelaide, where he had been running wild for some time. This horse was put into the government paddock at Adelaide when bought, but he took the fence some time during the night and disappeared, nor could he be traced anywhere. Luckily, however, Kusick had passed the horses belonging to the settlers at Moorundi, feeding at the edge of the scrub upon the cliffs, and amongst them had recognised this animal, which had thus got more than 90 miles back to his old haunt. He had, however, fallen into a trap, from which I took care he should not again escape; but we had some difficulty in running him in and securing him.

Prior to the departure of the expedition from Adelaide, a considerable quantity of rain had fallen there. Since our arrival at Moorundi also we could see heavy rain on the hills, although no shower fell in the valley of the Murray. Kusick informed us that he had been in constant rain, and it was evident, from the dense and heavy clouds hanging upon them, that it was still pouring in torrents on the ranges. We feared, therefore, and it eventually proved to be the case, that Flood would not be able to cross the Gawler on his return to us. He was, in fact, detained a day in consequence of the swollen state of that little river, but swam his horse over on the following day, at considerable risk both to himself and his animal. He did not, in consequence, reach us until Saturday. In anticipation, however, of his return on that day, we had sent Kenny, the policeman stationed at Moorundi who was to accompany Mr. Eyre, up the river in advance of us at noon, with Tampawang, the black boy I intended taking with me, and had everything in readiness to follow them, as soon as Flood should arrive. He did not, however, reach Moorundi until 5 p.m. It took me some little time to reply to the communications he had brought, but at seven we mounted our horses, and leaving Flood to rest himself, and to exchange his wearied animal for the one we had recovered, with Tenbury in front, left the settlement. The night was cold and frosty, but the moon shone clear in a cloudless sky, so that we were enabled to ride along the cliffs, from which we descended to one of the river flats at 1 a.m. and, making a roaring fire, composed ourselves to rest.

It may here be necessary, before I enter on any detail of the proceedings of the expedition, to explain the general nature of my instructions, the object of the expedition, and the reasons why, in some measure, contrary to the opinion of the Secretary of State, I preferred trying the interior by the line of the Darling, rather than by a direct northerly route from Mount Arden.

As the reader will have understood, I wrote, in the year 1843, to Lord Stanley, the then colonial minister, volunteering my services to conduct an expedition into Central Australia. It appeared to his Lordship as well as to Sir John Barrow, to whom Lord Stanley referred my report, that the plan I had proposed was too extensive, and it was therefore determined to adopt a more modified one, and to limit the resources of the expedition and the objects it was to keep in view, to a certain time, and to the investigation of certain facts. After expressing his opinion as to the magnitude of the undertaking I had contemplated, “There is, however,” says Sir J. Barrow, in a minute to the Secretary of State, “a portion of the continent of Australia, to which he (Captain Sturt) adverts, that may be accomplished, and in a reasonable time and at a moderate expense.

“He says, if a line be drawn from lat. 29 degrees 30 minutes and long. 146 degrees, N.W., and another from Mount Arden due north, they will meet a little to the northward of the tropic, and there, I will be bound to say, a fine country will be discovered. On what data he pledges himself to the discovery of this fine country is not stated. It may, however, be advisable to allow Mr. Sturt to realize the state of this fine country.

“This, however, is not to be done by pursuing the line of the Darling to the latitude of Moreton Bay, which would lead him not far from the eastern coast, where there is nothing of interest to be discovered, nor does it appear advisable to pursue the Darling to the point to which he and Major Mitchell have already been, for this reason. His preparations will, no doubt, be made at Adelaide; from thence to the point in question is about 600 miles, and from this point to the fine country, a little beyond the tropic, is 700 miles, which together make a journey of 1300 miles. Now a line directly north from Adelaide, through Mount Arden, to the point where it crosses the former in the fine country, is only 800 miles, making a saving, therefore, of 500 miles, which is of no little importance in such a country as Australia.

“But Mr. Sturt assigns reasons for supposing that a range of mountains will be found about the 29th parallel of latitude, and Mr. Eyre, whilst exploring the Lake he discovered to the northward of the Gulf of St. Vincent, Adelaide, notices mountains to the N.E., in about the latitude of 28 degrees. Supposing, then, a range of mountains to exist about that parallel, their direction will probably be found to run from N.E. to S.W., which is that generally of the river Darling and its branches; and in this case it may reasonably be concluded that these mountains form the division of the waters, and that all the branches of the several rivers (some of them of considerable magnitude) which have been known to fall into the bays and gulfs on the W. and N.W. coasts, between the parallels of 14 degrees and 21 degrees, have their sources on the northern side of this range of mountains; but, even if no such range exists, it is pretty evident, from what we know of the southern rivers, adjuncts chiefly of the Darling, that somewhere about the latitudes of 28 degrees or 29 degrees the surface rises to a sufficient height to cause a division of the waters, those on the northern side taking a northerly direction, and those on the southern side a southerly one.

“To ascertain this point is worthy of a practical experiment in a geographical point of view, as the knowledge of the direction that mountains and rivers take, the bones and blood vessels of bodies terrestrial give us at least a picture of the body of that skeleton. To these Mr. Sturt will no doubt direct his particular attention, as constituting the main object of such an expedition, and these, with the great features of the country, its principal productions in the animal and vegetable part of the creation, the state and condition of the original inhabitants, will render a great service to the geography of the southern part of Australia.”

On this memorandum the Secretary of State observes, in a private letter to Captain Grey, that came to hand before the receipt of Lord Stanley’s public despatch:—

“In considering Sir John Barrow’s memorandum, enclosed in my public despatch, you will see that a strong opinion is expressed against ascending the Darling in the first instance, and in favour of making a direct northerly course from Adelaide to Mount Arden. I do not wish this to be taken as an absolute injunction, because I am aware that there may be local causes why the apparently circuitous route may after all be the easiest for the transport of provisions, and may really facilitate the objects of the expedition. In like manner I do not wish to be understood as absolutely prohibiting a return by Moreton Bay, extensive as that deviation would be, if it should turn out that the exploration of the mountain chain led the party so far to the eastward as to be able to reach that point by a route previously known to Captain Sturt or to Major Mitchell, more easily than they could return on their steps down the Darling. What Captain Sturt will understand as absolutely prohibited, is any attempt to conduct his party through the tropical regions to the northward, so as to reach the mouths of any of the great rivers. The present expedition will be limited in its object, to ascertaining the existence and the character of a supposed chain of hills, or a succession of separate hills, trending down from N.E. to S.W., and forming a great natural division of the continent; to examining what rivers take their source in those mountains, and what appears to be their course; to the general lie of the country to the N.W. of the supposed chain; and to the character of the soil and forests, as far as can be ascertained by such an investigation as shall not draw the party away from their resources, and shall make the south the constant base of their operations.”

I presume, from the tenor of Sir John Barrow’s memorandum, that he was not fully aware of the insurmountable difficulties the course he recommends presented. Valuing his judgment as I did on such an occasion, and anxious as I was to act on the suggestions of the Secretary of State, the strongest grounds could alone have made me pursue a course different to that which had been recommended to me. Certainly the fear of any ordinary difficulty would not have influenced me to reject the line pointed out, but I felt satisfied that if Lord Stanley and Sir John Barrow could be made aware of the nature of the country to the north of Mount Arden, and the reasons why I considered it would be more advantageous to take the line of the Darling, they would have concurred in opinion with me. I would myself much rather have taken the line by Mount Arden, since it would have been a greater novelty, and I would have precluded the chance of any collision with the natives of the Darling, more especially at that point to which I proposed to go, and at which Sir Thomas Mitchell had had a rupture with them in 1836. The journeys of Mr. Eyre had, however, proved the impracticability of a direct northerly course from Mount Arden. Such a course would have led me into the horseshoe of Lake Torrens; and although I might have passed to the westward of it, I could hope for no advantage in a country such as that which lies to the north of the Gawler Range. On the other hand, the Surveyor-General of South Australia had attempted a descent into the interior from the eastward, and had encountered great difficulties from the want of water. Local inquiry and experience both went to prove the little likelihood of that indispensable element being found to the north of Spencer’s Gulf. It appeared to me also that Sir John Barrow had mistaken the point on the Darling to which I proposed going. It was not, as he seems to have conjectured, to any point to which I had previously been, but to an intermediate one. It is very true that if I had contemplated pushing up the Darling to Fort Bourke, the distance would have been 600 miles, and that, too, in a direction contrary to the one in which I was instructed to proceed; but to Laidley’s Ponds, in lat. 32 degrees 26 minutes 0 seconds S. and long. 142 degrees 30 minutes W., (the point to which I proposed to go) the distance would have been a little more than 300 miles. It was from this point that Sir Thomas Mitchell retreated after his rupture with the natives in 1836; because, as he himself informs us, he just then ascertained that a small stream joined the Darling from the westward a little below his camp, and he likewise saw hills in the same direction.

In consequence of the inhospitable character of the country to the north, I had turned my attention to the above locality, and had been assured by the natives, both of the Murray and the Darling, that the Williorara (Laidley’s Ponds) was a hill stream, that it came far from the N.W., that it had large fish in it, and that its banks were grassy. It struck me, therefore, that it would be a much more eligible line for the expedition to run up the Darling to lat. 32 degrees 26 minutes, and then to trace the Williorara upwards into the hills, with the chance of meeting the opposite fall of waters, rather than to entangle myself and waste my first energies amidst scrub and salt lagoons. As I understood my instructions and the wishes of the Secretary of State, I was to keep on the 138th meridian (that of Mount Arden) until I should reach the supposed chain of mountains, the existence of which it was the object of Lord Stanley to ascertain, or until I was turned aside from it by some impracticable object. Lake Torrens being due north of Mount Arden would, if I had taken that line, have been direct in my way, and I should have had to turn either its eastern or its western flank. The Surveyor-General, Captain Frome, had tried the former, but although he went considerably to the eastward into the low and desert interior before he turned northwards, he still found himself entangled in that sandy basin, so that it appeared to me that I should do little more than clear it on the course I proposed to take.

As the reader, however, will learn in the perusal of these pages, I was wholly disappointed in the character of the Williorara. Where that channel joins the Darling, the upward course of that river is to the north-east; and as that was a course directly opposite to the one I felt myself bound to take, I abandoned it and took at once to the hills. At my Depot Prison, in lat. 29 degrees 40 minutes, and in long. 141 degrees 30 minutes E., I hoped that we had sufficiently cleared the north-east limit of Lake Torrens; but when on the fall of rain we resumed our labours, we measured 131 3/4 miles with the chain before we arrived on the shore of a vast sandy basin, which I could not cross, and to the northward of which I could not penetrate. Thus disappointed in my attempt to gain the 138th meridian on a westerly course, as well as in my anticipation of finding Lake Torrens connected with some more central feature, it appeared to me that I could not follow out my instructions better than by attempting to penetrate towards the centre of the continent on a north-west course, for it was clear that if there were any ranges or any mountain chains traversing the interior from north-east to south-west I should undoubtedly strike them; but that if no such chains existed the proposed course would take me to the Tropic on the meridian of 138 degrees, and would enable me to determine the character of the interior, and more central regions of the continent. In this attempt I succeeded in gaining the desired meridian, but failed in reaching the Tropic. My position was about 500 miles north of Mount Arden, 60 miles from the Tropic, and somewhat less than 150 to the eastward of the centre of the Australian continent. Forced back to my depot a second time, from the total failure both of water and grass, in the quarter to which I had penetrated with the above objects in view, having passed the centre in point of latitude, I again left it on a due north course to ascertain if there were any ranges or hills between my position and the Gulf of Carpentaria, as well as to satisfy myself as to the character and extent of a stony desert I had crossed on my last excursion. That iron region however again stopped me in my progress northwards, and obliged me to fall back on a place of safety. For fourteen months I kept my position in a country which never changed but for the worse, and from which it was with difficulty that I ultimately escaped; but as the minuter details of the expedition will be given in the subsequent pages of this work, any mention of them here would be superfluous. I shall only express my regret that we were unable to make the centre or to gain the Tropic. As regards the objects for which the expedition was fitted out, I hope it will be granted that they were accomplished, and that little doubt can now be entertained as to the non-existence of the mountain chains, the supposed existence of which I was sent to ascertain. It would, however, have gratified me exceedingly to have crossed into the Tropic, to have decided my own hypothesis as to the fine country I ventured to predict would be found to exist beyond it. My reasons for supposing which I thought I had explained in my first letter to the Secretary of State, but as it would appear from an observation in Sir John Barrow’s memorandum, that I had not done so, I deem it right briefly to record them here.

I had observed on my first expedition to the Darling, in 1828, when in about lat. 29 degrees 30 minutes S. that the migration of the different kinds of birds which visit the country east of the Darling during the summer, was invariably to the W. N. W. Cockatoos and parrots that whilst staying in the colony were known to frequent elevated land, and to select the richest and best watered valleys for their temporary location, passed in flights of countless number to the above-mentioned point. I had also observed, during my residence in South Australia, that several of the same kind of birds annually visited it, and that they came directly from the north. I had seen the PSYTACUS NOVAE HOLLANDIAE and the SHELL PARROQUET following the line of the shore of St. Vincent Gulf like flights of starlings in England, and although intervals of more than a quarter of an hour elapsed between the passing of one flight and that of another, they all came from the north and followed in the same direction. Now, although I am quite ready to admit that the casual appearance of a few strange birds should not influence the judgment, yet I think that a reasonable inference may be drawn from the regular and systematie migration of the feathered races. Now, if we were to draw a line from Fort Bourke to the W. N. W., and from Mount Arden to the north, we should find that they would meet a little to the northward of the Tropic, and as I felt assured of two lines of migration thus tending to the same point, there could be little doubt but that the feathered races migrating upon them rested at that point, for a time, so I was led to conclude that the country to which they went would in a great measure resemble that which they had left — that birds which delighted in rich valleys, or kept on lofty hills, surely would not go into deserts and into a flat country; and therefore it was that I was led to hope, that as the fact of large migrations from various parts of the continent to one particular part, seemed to indicate the existence either of deserts or of water to a certain distance, so the point at which migration might be presumed to terminate would be found a richer country than any which intervened. On the late expedition, I accidentally fell into the line of migration to the north-west, and birds that I was aware visited Van Diemen’s Land passed us, after watering, to that point of the compass. Cockatoos would frequently perch in our trees at night, and wing their way to the north-west after a few hours of rest; and to the same point wild fowl, bitterns, pigeons, parrots, and parroquets winged their way, pursued by numerous birds of the Accipitrine class. From these indications I was led still more to conclude that I might hope for the realization of my anticipations if I could force my own way to the necessary distance.

During our stay at Moorundi, the weather had been beautifully fine, although it rained so much in the hills. A light frost generally covered the ground, and a mist rose from the valley of the Murray at early dawn; but both soon disappeared before the sun, and the noon-day temperature was delicious — nothing indeed could exceed the luxury of the climate of that low region at that season of the year, August.

Sunset on the Murray

We had directed Kenny, the policeman, and Tampawang, to bivouac in the valley in which we ourselves intended to sleep, but we saw nothing of them on our arrival there. The night was bitter cold, insomuch that we could hardly keep ourselves warm, notwithstanding that we laid under shelter of a blazing log. As dawn broke upon us, we prepared for our departure, being anxious to escape from the misty valley to the clearer atmosphere on the higher ground. At eight a.m. we passed the Great Bend of the Murray, and I once more found myself riding over ground every inch of which was familiar to me, since not only on my several journeys down and up the river had I particularly noticed this spot, but I had visited it in 1840 with Colonel Gawler, the then Governor of South Australia; who, finding that he required relaxation from his duties, invited me to accompany him on an excursion he proposed taking to the eastward of the Mount Lofty Range, for the purpose of examining the country along the shores of Lake Victoria and the River Murray, as far as the Great Bend. It was a part of the province at that time but little known save by the overlanders, and the Governor thought that by personally ascertaining the capabilities of the country contiguous to the Murray, he might throw open certain parts of it for location. Being at that time Surveyor-General of the Province, I was glad of such an opportunity to extend my own knowledge of the province to the north and northeast of Adelaide, more especially as this journey gave me an opportunity to cross from the river to the hills westward of the Great Bend. Not only was the land on the Murray soon afterwards occupied to that point, but Colonel Gawler and I also visited the more distant country on that occasion. Since my return, indeed, from my recent labours, the line of the Murray is occupied to within a short distance of the remoter stations of the colony of New South Wales, and there can be no doubt but that in the course of a few years the stock stations from the respective colonies will meet. I was afraid, when I came the second time down the Murray, that I had exaggerated the number of acres in the valley, but on further examination, it appears to me that I did not do so; for as the traveller approaches Lake Victoria the flats are very extensive, but more liable to inundation than those on the higher points of the river, for being so little elevated above the level of the water, especially those covered with reeds, the smallest rise in the stream affects them. Lake Victoria, although it looks like a clear and open sea, as you look from the point of Pomundi, which projects into it to the south, is after all exceedingly shallow, and is rapidly filling up from the decay of seaweed and the deposits brought into it yearly by the floods of the Murray. No doubt but that future generations will see that fine sheet of water confined to a comparatively narrow bed, and pursuing its course through a rich and extensive plain. When such shall be the case, and that the strength of the Murray shall be brought to bear in one point only, it is probable its sea mouth will be navigable, and that the scenery on this river will be enlivened by the white sails of vessels on its ample bosom. I can fancy that nothing would be more beautiful than the prospect of vessels, however small they might be, coming with swelling sails along its reaches. It may, however, be said, that it will be a distant day when such things shall be realized. There is both reason and truth in the remark; but Time, with his silent work, has already raised the flats in the valley of the Murray, and as we are now benefiting by his labours, so it is to be hoped will our posterity. However that may be, for it is a matter only of curious speculation, nothing will stay the progress of improvement in a colony which has received such an impulse as the province of South Australia. As men retain their peculiarities, so, I believe, do communities; and where a desirable object is to be gained, I shall be mistaken if it is lost from a want of spirit in that colony. Purposing, however, to devote a few pages to the more particular notice of the state of South Australia, and the prospects it holds out to those who may desire to seek in other lands more comforts and a better fortune than they could command in their native country, I shall not here make any further observation.

The morning, which had been so cold, gradually became more genial as the sun rose above us, and both Mr. Eyre and myself forgot that we had so lately been shivering, under the influence of the more agreeable temperature which then prevailed.

As we turned the Great Bend of the Murray, and pursued an easterly course, we rode along the base of some low hills of tertiary fossil formation, the summits of which form the table land of the interior. We were on an upper flat, and consequently considerably above the level of the water as it then was. In riding along, Tenbury pointed out a line of rubbish and sticks, such as is left to mark the line of any inundation, and he told us, that, when he was a boy, he recollected the floods having risen so high in the valley as to wash the foot of these hills. He stated, that there had been no previous warning; that the weather was beautifully fine, and that no rain had fallen; and he added that the natives were ignorant whence the water came, but that it came from a long way off. According to Tenbury’s account, the river must have been fully five and twenty feet higher than it usually rises; and judging from his age, this occurrence might have taken place some twenty years before. As we proceed up the Darling, we shall see a clue to this phenomenon. But why, it may be asked, do not such floods more frequently occur? Is it that the climate is drier than it once was, and that the rains are less frequent? There are vestiges of floods over every part of the continent; but the decay of debris and other rubbish is so slow, that one cannot safely calculate how long it may have been deposited where they are so universally to be found.

After passing the Great Bend, as I have already stated, we turned to the eastward and overtook Mr. Poole at noon, not more than eight miles distant. Some of the bullocks had strayed, and he had consequently been prevented from starting so early as he would otherwise have done. The animals had, however, been recovered before we reached the party, and were yoked up; we pushed on therefore to a distance of nine miles, cutting across from angle to angle of the river, but ultimately turned into one of the flats and encamped for the night. We passed during the day through some low bushes of cypresses and other stunted shrubs, but they were not so thick as to impede our heavy drays, by the weight of which every tree they came in contact with was brought to the ground. A meridian altitude of Vega placed us in lat. 34 degrees 4 minutes 20 seconds S., by which it appeared that we had made four miles of southing, the Great Bend being in lat. 34 degrees. Kenny and Tampawang had joined the party before we overtook it, and Flood arrived in the course of the afternoon. The cattle had an abundance of feed round our tents, and near a lagoon at the upper end of the flat. The thermometer stood at 40 degrees at 7 p.m., with the wind at west.

On the morning of the 26th we availed ourselves of the first favourable point to ascend from the river flats to the higher ground, since it prevented our following the windings of the river and shortened our day’s journey. In doing this we sometimes travelled at a considerable distance from the Murray — the surface of the country was undulating and sandy, with clumps of stunted cypress trees, and eucalyptus dumosa scattered over it. Low bushes of rhagodia, at great distances apart, were growing on the more open ground; the soil, consisting of a red clay and sand, only superficially covering the fossil formation beneath it. At 11 a.m. we entered a dense brush of cypress and eucalypti growing in pure sand. Fortunately for us the overlanders had cut a passage through it, so that we had a clear road before us, but the drays sunk deep into the loose sand in which these trees were growing, and the bullocks had a constant strain on the yoke for six miles. We then broke into more open ground, and ultimately reached the river in sufficient time to arrange the camp before sunset, although we had 2 1/2 miles to travel on a S.W. course before we found a convenient place to stop at. Our course during the day having been S.S.E., we had thus been obliged to turn back upon it, but this was owing to the direction the river here takes and was unavoidable. At 6 p.m. the thermometer stood at 55 degrees of Farenheit, the barometer at 30.000, and the boiling point of water by two thermometers with a difference of 2 degrees 212 minutes and 214 minutes, respectively, our distance from the sea coast being about 120 {180 in published text} miles as the crow flies.

It was generally thought in Adelaide that having started so late in the season, I should experience some difficulty in getting feed for the cattle. From my experience, however, of the seasons in the low region through which the Murray flows, I had no such anticipation. The only fear I had, was, that we should be shut out from flats of the river by the floods, as I knew it would be on the rise at the time we should be upon it. To this point, however (and I may add, with few exceptions), we found an abundance of feed, both along the line of the Murray and the Darling, but at our present encampment our animals fared very indifferently, in consequence of the poor nature of the soil. Our tents were pitched at the northern extremity of a long flat, between the river and a serpentine lagoon, which left but a narrow embankment between itself and the stream. The soil of the flat was a cold white clay, on which there was scarcely any vegetation, so that the cattle wandered and kept us about an hour after our appointed hour of starting. There had been a sharp frost during the night, and the morning was bitterly cold. At sunrise the thermometer stood at 29 degrees, the dew point being 43 degrees, and the barometer at 29.700.

When we left this place, our course, for the first three miles, was along the embankment separating the river from the lagoon, and I remarked that although there was so little vegetation on the ground, there were some magnificent trees on the bank of the river itself, which gradually came up to the north-east. At three miles, however, our further course along the flats was checked by the hills of fossil formation, which approached the river so closely as to leave no passage for the drays between it and them. We were, therefore, obliged to ascend to the upper levels, in doing so we were also obliged to put two teams, or sixteen bullocks, to each dray, and even then found it difficult to master the ascent.

Referring back to a previous remark, I would observe that the Murray river is characterised by bold and perpendicular cliffs of different shades of yellow colour, varying from a light hue to a deep ochre. These cliffs rise abruptly from the water to the height of 250 and occasionally 300 feet. They occur first on one side of the river, and then on the other, there being an open or a lightly-timbered flat on the opposite side, with a line of trees almost invariably round it, especially along the river. These flats are backed, at uncertain distances, by the fossil formation, as by a natural inclosure — sometimes it rises perpendicularly from the flats, but more generally assumes the character of sloping hills. The cliffs occasionally extend, like a wall, along the river for two or three miles, and look exceedingly well; but their constant recurrence, at length fatigues the eye. At the point at which we had now arrived this remarkable formation ceases, or, as we are going up the river, I should perhaps be more correct if I said, begins. Above it a long line of hills, broken by deep and rugged stony gullies, and with steep sides, extends to the eastward (that also being the upward course of the river). On gaining the crest of these hills we found ourselves, as usual, on a flat table land, notwithstanding the broken faces of the hills themselves. There was only a narrow space between them, and a low thick brush of eucalyptus to the north. The soil was, as usual, a mixture of clay and sand, with small rounded nodules of limestone. From this ground, the view to the south as a medium point, was over as dark and monotonous a country as could well be described. There was not a single break in its sombre hue, nor was there the slightest rise on the visible horizon; both to the eastward and westward we caught glimpses of the Murray glittering amidst the dark foliage beneath us, but it made no change in the character of the landscape.

We kept on the open ground, just cutting the heads of the gullies, and advanced eight miles before we found a convenient spot at which to drive the cattle down to water, and feed in the flats below, and into which it appeared impracticable to get our drays. I halted, therefore, on the crest of the hills, and sent Flood and three other men to watch the animals, and to head them back if they attempted to wander. In the afternoon we went down to the river, and on crossing the flat came upon the dray tracks of some overland party, the leader of which had taken his drays down the hills, notwithstanding the apparent difficulty of the attempt. But what is there of daring or enterprise that these bold and high-spirited adventurers will shrink from?

I had hoped that the more elevated ground we here occupied, would have been warmer than the flats on which we had hitherto pitched our tents, but in this I was disappointed. The night was just as cold as if we had been in the valley of the Murray. At sunrise the thermometer stood at 27 degrees, and we had thick ice in our pails.

At five miles from this place, having left the river about a mile to our right, we arrived at the termination of this line of hills. They gradually fell away to the eastward and disappeared; nor does the fossil formation extend higher up the Murray. It here commences or terminates, as the traveller is proceeding up or down the stream. A meridian altitude on the hill just before we descended, placed it in lat. 34 degrees 9 minutes 56 seconds, so that we had still been going gradually to the south. At the termination of the hills, the Murray forms an angle in turning sharp round to that point, and after an extensive sweep comes up again, so as to form an opposite angle; the distance between the two being 14 or 15 miles, and from the ground on which we stood the head of Lake Bonney bore E. 5 degrees S., distant six miles.

On descending from these hills we fell into the overland road, but were soon turned from it by reason of the floods, and obliged to travel along a sandy ridge, forming the left bank of a lagoon, running parallel to the river, into which the waters were fast flowing; but finding a favourable place to cross, at a mile distant, we availed ourselves of it, and encamped on the river side. In the afternoon we had heavy rain from the west. During it, Mr. James Hawker, a resident at Moorundi, joined us, and took shelter in our tents. He had, indeed, kept pace with us all the way from the settlement in his boat, and supplied us with wild fowl on several occasions.

We had showers during the night, but the morning, though cloudy, did not prevent our moving on to Lake Bonney, distant, according to our calculation, between four and five miles. To determine this correctly, however, I ordered Mr. Poole to run the chain from the river to the lake. We had seen few or no natives as yet; but expecting to find a large party of them assembled at Lake Bonney, Mr. Eyre went before us with Kenny and Tenbury, leaving Nadbuck and Camboli to shew us the most direct line to the mouth of the little channel which connects Lake Bonney with the Murray, at which I purposed halting. The greater part of our way was through deep sandy cypress brushes, so that the cattle had a heavy pull of it. We reached our destination at 1 p.m., where we found Mr. Eyre, with eight or nine natives, all, who were then in the neighbourhood.

The back-water of the Murray was fast flowing into the lake, which already presented a broad expanse of water to the eye. It was covered with wild fowl of various kinds, and there were several patches of reeds in which they were feeding.

As I purposed stopping for a day or two, to rest the bullocks, I directed Mr. Poole to survey the lake, whilst I undertook to lay down the creek or channel connecting it with the river, in which service I enlisted Mr. Hawker, who had formerly been on the survey, and whose name I gave to the creek on the completion of our work.

Lake Bonney is a shallow sandy basin, which is annually filled by the Murray; and as it rises, so, to a certain extent, it falls with the river, until at length, being left very shallow, it is soon dried up. The Hawker being too small to discharge the water equally with the fall of the river, has a current in it after the river has lowered considerably, for which reason I thought, when I passed it on my second expedition, that it had been a tributary; but such is not the case — Lake Bonney receiving no water save from the Murray. To the south of it, or next the river, the ground is low, grassy, and wooded; but on every other side the lake is confined by a low sand hill, of about fifteen feet in height, behind which there is a barren flat covered with salsolaceous plants, and exactly resembling a dry sea marsh, if I may say so. The more distant interior is alternate brush and plain, and exceedingly barren. The day after we arrived, however, Tenbury, with the dogs, killed four large kangaroos and as he saw many more, it is to be presumed that thereabouts they are pretty numerous. The lake is ten miles in circumference. Hawker’s Creek, taking its windings, is nearly six in length. The latitude of our camp was 34 degrees 13 minutes 42 seconds S.; its longitude 140 degrees 26 minutes 16 seconds. On September 1st. the thermometer, at 8 A. M. and at noon, stood at 48 degrees and 60 degrees respectively; the barometer at 29.750, and the boiling point was 212 degrees nearly, thus indicating that we had risen but a few feet above the level of the sea. We left Lake Bonney on the 3rd of September, and crossing the bank of sand by which it is confined, traversed the flat behind it for about three miles, when we ascended some feet, and entered a low brush that continued for nearly nine miles, with occasional openings in it to that angle of the river which is opposite to the one at the end of the fossil formation.

Our camp at this place was on one of the prettiest spots on the Murray. Our tents were pitched on some sloping ground, sheltered from the S.W. wind. The feed was excellent, and the soil of better quality than usual. We had a splendid view of the river, which here is very broad and flanked on the right by a dark clay cliff, which is exceedingly picturesque. On the opposite side of the stream there is an extensive, well wooded and grassy flat of beautiful and park-like appearance. Altogether it was a cheerful and pleasant locality, and we were sorry to leave it so soon. Our observations placed us in lat. 34 degrees 11 minutes 12 seconds S. and in long. 140 degrees 39 minutes 42 seconds E. From this point the general course of the Murray is much more to the north than heretofore, so that on leaving it we had more of northing in our course than anything else. Some strange natives brought up our cattle for us, to whom I made presents; but although so kindly disposed, they did not follow us. Indeed, the natives generally, seemed to regard our progress with suspicion, and could not imagine why we were going up the Darling with so many drays and cattle. Our sheep had now become exceedingly tame and tractable; they followed the party like dogs, and I therefore felt satisfied that I had not done wrong in bringing them with me. We travelled on the 4th, over harder and more open ground than usual, having extensive polygonium flats to our right. There were belts of brush however on the plains, the soil and productions of which were sandy and salsolaceous. At 4 1/2 miles we struck a lagoon, and coming upon a creek at 13 miles, we halted, although the feed was bad, as the cattle were unable to get to the river flats in consequence of the flooded state of the creek itself.

On the 5th we travelled through a country that consisted almost entirely of scrub on the poorest soil. However, we were now approaching that part of the river at which the flats (extensive enough) are intersected by numerous creeks and lagoons, so that our approach to the Murray was likely to be cut off altogether. At 3 1/2 miles we again struck the creek on the banks of which we had slept, and as it was the point at which the native path from Lake Bonney also strikes it, I halted to take a meridian altitude, which placed it in 34 degrees 4 minutes 5 seconds S. We had allowed our horses to go and feed with their bridles through the stirrups, and were sitting on the ground when we heard a shot, and a general alarm amongst them, insomuch that we had some difficulty in quieting them, more especially Mr. Poole’s horse. It was at length discovered that one of that gentleman’s pistols had accidentally gone off in the holster, to the dismay of the poor animal. Fortunately no damage was done.

After noon, we pushed on, and at a mile crossed a creek, where we found a small tribe of scrub natives, one of whom had a child of unusual fatness: its flesh really hung about it; a solitary instance of the kind as far as I am aware. We then traversed good grassy plains for about two miles, when we fell in with another small tribe on a second creek: our introduction to which was more than ordinarily ceremonious. The natives remained seated on the ground, with the women and children behind them, and for a long time preserved that silence and reserve which is peculiar to these people when meeting strangers; however, we soon became more intimate, and several of them joined our train. Our friend Nadbuck was very officious (not disagreeably so, however), on the occasion, and shewed himself a most able tactician, since he paid more attention to the fair than his own sex, and his explanation of our movements seemed to have its due weight.

We soon passed from the grassy plains I have mentioned, to plains of still greater extent, and still finer herbage. Nothing indeed could exceed the luxuriance of the grass on these water meadows, for we found on crossing that the floods were beginning to incroach upon them. These were marked all over with cattle tracks, many of them so fresh that they could only have been made the night before, but independently of these there were others of older date. The immense number of these tracks led me to inquire from the natives if there were any cattle in the neighbourhood, when they informed me that there were numbers of wild cattle in the brushes to the westward of the flats, and that they came down at night to the river for water and food. The grass upon the plain over which we were travelling was so inviting, that I determined to give the horses and bullocks a good feed, and turning towards the river with Mr. Eyre, I directed Mr. Poole and Mr. Browne to try the brushes with Flood and Mack, for a wild bullock, whilst we arranged the camp. We scarcely had time to do this, however, when Mr. Browne returned to inform me that soon after gaining the brush they had fallen in with a herd of about fifty cattle, out of which they had singled and shot a fine animal, and that on his way back to the camp the dogs had killed a large kangaroo. Upon this I sent Morgan with the cart to fetch in the quarters of the animal, and desired the natives to go with him to benefit by what might be left behind, and to feast on the kangaroo. The beast the party had killed fully justified Mr. Browne’s account of it, and its fine condition proved the excellent nature of the pastures on which it had fed. We had not killed many of the sheep, as I was anxious to preserve them, since they had given us little or no trouble, so that I was led to hope that by ordinary care they would prove a most valuable and important stock.

We were here unable to approach the river, and therefore encamped near a creek, the banks of which were barren enough; however, as we had stopped for the benefit of the cattle it was of no consequence. But although on this occasion they were absolutely up to their middles in the finest grass, the bullocks were not satisfied, but with a spirit of contradiction common to animals as well as men they separated into mobs and wandered away; the difficulty of recovering them being the greater, because of the numerous tracks of other cattle in every direction around us. We recovered them, however, although too late to move that day, and it is somewhat remarkable to record, that this was the only occasion on which during this long journey we were delayed for so long a time by our animals wandering. Had it not been for Tampawang, whose keen eye soon detected the fresher tracks, we might have been detained for several days.

As Mr. Browne had been on horseback the greater part of the day, I left him in the camp with Mr. Poole, both having been after the cattle, and in the afternoon walked out with Mr. Eyre, to try if we could get to the river, but failed, for the creeks were full of water, and our approach to it or to the nearer flats was entirely cut off. So intersected indeed was this neighbourhood, that we got to a point at which five creeks joined. The scene was a very pretty one, since they formed a sheet of water of tolerable size shaded by large trees. The native name of this place was “Chouraknarup,” a name by no means so harmonious as the names of their places generally are. We had not commenced any collection at this time, there being nothing new either in the animals or plants, but I observed that everything was much more forward on this part of the river than near Lake Bonney, although there was no material difference between the two places in point of latitude. A meridian altitude of the sun gave our latitude 34 degrees 1 minutes 33 seconds S., and one of Altair 34 degrees 2 minutes 2 seconds S.

The night of the 6th Sept. was frosty and cold, and we had thick ice in the buckets. We left our camp on a N. by E. course, at 8 o’clock on the morning of the 7th, and at 4 miles struck the river, where its breadth was considerable, and it looked exceedingly well. The flooded state of the creeks however prevented our again approaching it for several days. Shortly after leaving the river we turned more to the eastward, having gained its most northern reach. About noon we fell in with a few natives, who did not trouble themselves much about us, but we found that their backwardness was rather the result of timidity at seeing such a party than anything else. We traversed large and well-grassed flats almost all day long, and ultimately encamped on the banks of a creek of some size, opposite to our tents the floods had made an island, on which we put our cattle for security during the night.

Mr. Eyre and I were again disappointed in an attempt to gain the banks of the Murray, but we returned to the camp with a numerous retinue of men, women, and children, who treated us to a corrobori at night. The several descriptions which have been given by others of these scenes, might render it unnecessary for me to give my account of such here; but as my ideas of these ceremonies may differ from that of other travellers, I shall trespass on the patience of my readers for a few moments to describe them. However rude and savage a corrobori may appear to those to whom they are new, they are, in truth, plays or rather dramas, which it takes both time and practice to excel in. Distant tribes visiting any other teach them their corrobori, and the natives think as much of them as we should do of the finest play at Covent Garden. Although there is a great sameness in these performances they nevertheless differ. There is always a great bustle when a corrobori is to be performed, and the men screw themselves up to the acting point, as our actors do by other means than these poor creatures possess. On the present occasion there was not time for excitement; our’s was as it were a family corrobori, or private theatricals, in which we were let into the secrets of what takes place behind the scenes. A party of the Darling natives had lately visited the Murray, and had taught our friends their corrobori, in which, however, they were not perfect; and there was consequently a want of that excitement which is exhibited when they have their lesson at their fingers’ ends, and are free to give impulse to those feelings, which are the heart and soul of a corrobori.

We had some difficulty in persuading our friends to exhibit, and we owed success rather to Mr. Eyre’s influence than any anxiety on the part of the natives themselves. However, at last we persuaded the men to go and paint themselves, whilst the women prepared the ground. It was pitch dark, and ranging themselves in a line near a large tree, they each lit a small fire, and had a supply of dry leaves to give effect to the acting. On their commencing their chanting, the men came forward, emerging from the darkness into the obscure light shed by the yet uncherished fires, like spectres. After some performance, at a given signal, a handful of dry leaves was thrown on each fire, which instantly blazing up lighted the whole scene, and shewed the dusky figures of the performers painted and agitated with admirable effect, but the fires gradually lowering, all were soon again left in obscurity.

But, as I have observed, for some reason or other the thing was not carried on with spirit, and we soon retired from it; nevertheless, it is a ceremony well worth seeing, and which in truth requires some little nerve to witness for the first time.

We had now arrived at Camboli’s haunt, and were introduced by him to his wife and children, of whom he seemed very proud; but a more ugly partner, or more ugly brats, a poor Benedict could not have been blessed with. Whether it was that he wished to remain behind, for he had not been very active on the road, or taken that interest in our proceedings which Nadbuck had done; or that our praises of his wife and pickaninnies had had any effect I know not, but he would not leave his family, and so remained with them when we left on the following morning. The neighbourhood of our camp was, however, one of great celebrity — since in it some of the most remarkable and most tragical events had taken place. It was near it that the volunteers who went out to rescue Mr. Inman’s sheep, which had been seized by the natives to the number of 4,000, were driven back and forced to retreat; not, I would beg to be understood, from want of spirit, but because they were fairly overpowered and caught in a trap. The whole of the party, indeed, behaved with admirable coolness, and one of them, Mr. Charles Hawker, as well as their leader, Mr. Fidd, shewed a degree of moderation and forbearance on the occasion that was highly to their credit. Here also was the Hornet’s Nest, where the natives offered battle to my gallant friend, Major O’Halloran, whose instructions forbade his striking the first blow. I can fancy that his warm blood was up at seeing himself defied by the self-confident natives; but they were too wise to commence an attack, and the parties, therefore, separated without coming to blows. Here, or near this spot also, the old white-headed native, who used to attend the overland parties, was shot by Miller, a discharged soldier, I am sorry to say, of my own regiment. This old man had accompanied me for several days in my boat, when I went down the Murray to the sea coast in 1830, and I had made him a present, which he had preserved, and shewed to the first overland party that came down the river, and thenceforward he became the guide of the parties that followed along that line. He attended me when I came overland from Sydney, in 1838, on which occasion he recognised me, and would sleep no where but at my tent door. He was shot by Miller in cold blood, whilst talking to one of the men of the party of which unfortunately he had the charge; but retribution soon followed. Miller was shortly afterwards severely wounded by the natives; and, having aneurism of the heart, was cautioned by his medical attendant never to use violent exercise; but, disregarding this, when he had nearly recovered, he went one day to visit a friend at the gaol in which he ought to have been confined, and in springing over a ditch near it, fell dead on the other side, and wholly unprepared to appear before that tribunal, to which he will one day or other be summoned, to answer for this and other similar crimes.

About a dozen natives followed us from our camp, on the morning of the 8th. We again struck the creek, on which we had rested, and which had turned to our right at 2 1/2 miles on an east by south course, and followed along its banks, until it again trended too much to the south. We crossed alluvial flats of considerable extent, on which there was an abundance of grass. Just at the point at which we turned from the creek, we ascended a small sand hill, covered with the amaryllis, then beautifully in flower. The latitude of this little hill, from which the cliffs on the most northern reach of the Murray bore N. 170 degrees E. distant four miles, was 33 degrees 57 minutes 11 seconds; so that the Murray does not extend northwards beyond latitude 34 degrees 1 minutes or thereabouts. We again struck the creek, the course of which had been marked by gum-trees, at six miles, and were forced by it to the N.E., but ultimately turned it and descended southwards to the river; but as we were cut off from it we encamped on a lagoon of great length, backed by hills of a yellow and white colour, the rock being a soft and friable sandstone, slightly encrusted with salt. We had, shortly before we halted, passed a salt lagoon in the centre of one of the grassy flats, but such anomalies are not uncommon in the valley of the Murray. That part of the river which I have described, from the point where we shot the bullock to this lagoon, appeared to me admirably adapted for a cattle station, and has since been occupied as such.

As I have observed, the lagoon on which we encamped was backed by hills of 150 or 200 feet elevation, which were covered with thick brush wood. The flat between us and these hills was unusually barren, and all the trees at the side of the lagoon were dead. Whether this was owing to there being salt in the ground or to some other cause, there was here but little grass for the cattle to eat, so that, although they were watched, twenty of them managed to crawl away, and we were consequently delayed above an hour and a half after our usual hour of starting, and commenced our day’s journey wanting two of our complement, but we stumbled upon them in passing through the brush, in which they were very comfortably lying down. We travelled for about six miles through a miserable undulating country of sand and scrub. At noon we were abreast of a little sandy peak that was visible from our camp, and is a prominent feature hereabouts. This peak Mr. Browne and I ascended, though very little to our gratification, for the view from it was as usual over a sea of scrub to whatever quarter we turned. The peak itself was nothing more than a sandy eminence on which neither tree or shrub was growing, and the whole locality was so much in unison with it, that we called it “Mount Misery.” After passing this hill, and forcing through some stunted brush, we debouched on open plains and got once more on the overland road, which was distinctly marked by a line of bright green grass, that was springing up in the furrows the drays had left. This road took us to the edge of a precipitous embankment, from which we overlooked the river flowing beneath it. This embankment was 60 or 70 feet high, and presented a steep wall to the river; for although the Murray had lost the fossil cliffs it was still flanked by high level plains on both sides, and cliffs of 100 or 120 feet in height, composed of clay and sand, rose above the stream, the faces of which presented the appearance of fretwork, so deeply and delicately had they been grooved out by rains. The soil of this upper table land was a bright red ferruginous clay and sand. The vegetation was chiefly salsolaceous, but there was, notwithstanding, no want of grass upon it, though the tufts were very far apart. If our cattle had fared badly at our last camp, they had no reason to complain at this; for we encamped on a beautifully green flat, about seven miles short of the Rufus, and about eight from the nearest point of Lake Victoria. There were now seventeen natives in our train, amongst whom was one of remarkable character. This was “Pulcanti,” who was engaged in, wounded and taken prisoner at an affair on the Rufus, to which I shall again have to allude.

Whilst the police were conveying this man handcuffed to Adelaide, he threw himself off the lofty cliffs at the Great Bend into the river beneath, and attempted to escape by swimming across it, but he was recaptured and taken safe to Adelaide, where subsequent kind treatment had considerable influence on his savage disposition. His attempt to escape was of the boldest kind, and was spoken of with astonishment by those who witnessed it, but so desperate an act only proved how much more these people value liberty than life. I am sure that bold savage would have submitted to torture without a groan; he was the most repulsive native in aspect that I ever saw, and had a most ferocious countenance. The thick lip and white teeth, the lowering brow, and deep set but sharp eye, with the rapidly retiring forehead all betrayed the savage with the least intellect, but his demeanour was now quiet and inoffensive.

Mr. Eyre again preceded us to the Rufus, with Kenny and Tenbury; for although we had been disappointed in seeing any natives at Lake Bonney, it was hardly to be doubted but that we should find a considerable number at Lake Victoria.

We joined Mr. Eyre about noon at the junction of the Rufus with the Murray, and which serves like Hawker’s Creek as a channel of communication between that river and the Murray. Here Mr. Eyre had collected 69 natives, who were about to go out kangarooing when he arrived. They had their hunting spears and a few waddies, but no other weapons.

We had now arrived at Nadbuck’s native place, and he left us to join his family, promising still to accompany us up the Darling. A principal object Mr. Eyre had in joining me had been to distribute some blankets to those natives who, living in the distance, seldom came to Moorundi to benefit by the distribution of food and clothing there. In the position we now occupied we were flanked by the Rufus to our left, and had the Murray in front of us. The ground in our rear and to our right was rather bushy, and numerous Fusani, covered with fruit, were growing there; Lake Victoria being about four miles to our rear also. Considering the spirit of the natives on this part of the Murray, the position was not very secure, as we were too confined; but I had no apprehension of any attack from them, they having for some time shewn a more pacific disposition, and against whom we were otherwise always well prepared. As soon, therefore, as the tents were pitched, we walked together along the bank of the Rufus to its junction with the lake, but not seeing any of the native families we turned back, until observing some young men on the opposite side of the channel we called to them, and one of them ferried us over in a canoe. We had then a long round of visits to make to the different families of the natives, since they were all encamped on the eastern or opposite side of the Rufus.

The first huts to which we went happened to be that of our friend Nadbuck, and he introduced us, as Camboli had done, to his wives and children, of whom the old gentleman was very proud. We then visited eleven other huts in succession, after which we returned to the place where the canoe had been left, with twelve patriarchs, to whom Mr. Eyre (wisely selecting the oldest) intended making some presents. We were again ferried across the Rufus, the current setting strong into Lake Victoria at the time, and had well nigh gone down in our frail bark, to the infinite amusement of our Charon. We had just time, however, to reach the bank and to get out of her when she went down.

It was at this particular spot that the natives sustained so severe a loss when Pulcanti was taken. They got between two fires, that of Mr. Robinson’s party of overlanders, with whom they had been fighting for three days; and a party of police who, providentially for Mr. Robinson, came up just in time to save him from being overwhelmed by numbers. Astonished at finding themselves taken in flank, the blacks threw themselves into the Rufus, and some effected their escape, but about forty fell, whose grave we passed on our way back to the camp.

The natives who accompanied us pointed out the mound to Mr. Eyre and myself as we walked along, and informed us that thirty of their relatives laid underneath; but they did not seem to entertain any feelings of revenge for the loss they had sustained.

On the morrow, my worthy friend left me, on his return to Moorundi, together with Kenny and Tenbury, and a young native of the Rufus. We all saw them depart with feelings of deep regret; but Mr. Eyre had important business to attend to which did not admit of delay.

A little before Mr. Eyre mounted his horse, I had sent Mr. Browne, with Flood and Pulcanti, to the eastward, to ascertain how high the backwaters of the Murray had gone up the Ana-branch of the Darling, since that ancient channel laid right in our way, and I was anxious if possible to run up it, rather than proceed to the river itself, as being a much nearer line. In the afternoon Mr. Poole and I moved the camp over to the lake, and on the following day I directed him to ascertain its circumference, as we should be detained a day or two awaiting the return of Mr. Browne.

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