Two expeditions into the interior of southern Australia, by Charles Sturt

Chapter 1

Introductory

Remarks on the results of the former Expedition — The fitting out of another determined on — Its objects — Provisions, accoutrements, and retinue — Paper furnished by Mr. Kent — Causes that have prevented the earlier appearance of the present work.

Objects of the Expedition.

The expedition of which we have just detailed the proceedings was so far satisfactory in its results, that it not only set at rest the hypothesis of the existence of an internal shoal sea in southern Australia, and ascertained the actual termination of the rivers it had been directed to trace, but also added very largely to our knowledge of the country considerably to the westward of former discoveries. And although no land had been traversed of a fertile description of sufficient extent to invite the settler, the fact of a large river such as the Darling lying at the back of our almost intertropical settlements, gave a fresh importance to the distant interior. It was evident that this river was the chief drain for carrying off the waters falling westerly from the eastern coast, and as its course indicated a decline of country diametrically opposite to that which had been calculated upon, it became an object of great importance to ascertain its further direction. Had not the saline quality of its waters been accounted for, by the known existence of brine springs in its bed, it would have been natural to have supposed that it communicated with some mediterranean sea; but, under existing circumstances, it remained to be proved whether this river held on a due south course, or whether it ultimately turned westerly, and ran into the heart of the interior. In order fully to determine this point, it would be necessary to regain it banks, so far below the parallel to which it had been traced as to leave no doubt of its identity; but it was difficult to fix upon a plan for approaching that central stream without suffering from the want of water, since it could hardly be expected that the Lachlan would afford such means, as it was reasonable to presume that its termination was very similar to that of the Macquarie. The attention of the government was, consequently, fixed upon the Morumbidgee, a river stated to be of considerable size and of impetuous current. Receiving its supplies from the lofty ranges behind Mount Dromedary, it promised to hold a longer course than those rivers which, depending on periodical rains alone for existence, had been found so soon to exhaust themselves.

Preparations.

The fitting out of another expedition was accordingly determined upon; and about the end of September 1829, I received the Governor’s instructions to make the necessary preparations for a second descent into the interior, for the purpose of tracing the Morumbidgee, or such rivers as it might prove to be connected with, as far as practicable. In the event of failure in this object, it was hoped that an attempt to regain the banks of the Darling on a N.W. course from the point at which the expedition might be thwarted in its primary views, would not be unattended with success. Under any circumstances, however, by pursuing these measures, an important part of the colony would necessarily be traversed, of which the features were as yet altogether unknown.

It became my interest and my object to make the expedition as complete as possible, and, as far as in me lay, to provide for every contingency: and as it appeared to me that, in all likelihood, we should in one stage or other of our journey have to trust entirely to water conveyance, I determined on taking a whale-boat, whose dimensions and strength should in some measure be proportioned to the service required. I likewise constructed a small still for the distillation of water, in the event of our finding the water of the Darling salt, when we should reach its banks. The whale-boat, after being fitted, was taken to pieces for more convenient carriage, as has been more particularly detailed in the last chapter of the preceding volume.

So little danger had been apprehended from the natives in the former journey, that three firelocks had been considered sufficient for our defence. On the present occasion, however, I thought it adviseable to provide arms for each individual.

Mr. Hume declined accompanying me, as the harvest was at hand. Mr. George M’Leay therefore supplied his place, rather as a companion than as an assistant; and of those who accompanied me down the banks of the Macquarie, I again selected Harris (my body servant), Hopkinson, and Fraser.

Mr. Kent’s Report.

The concluding chapter of this volume, relative to the promontory of St. Vincent, or Cape Jarvis, has been furnished me by the kindness of Mr. Kent, who accompanied the lamented officer to whom the further exploration of that part of coast unhappily proved fatal. There is a melancholy coincidence between Captain Barker’s death and that of Captain Cook, which cannot fail to interest the public, as the information that has been furnished will call for their serious consideration. I shall leave for their proper place, the remarks I have to offer upon it, since my motive in these prefatory observations has been, to carry the reader forward to that point at which he will have to view the proceedings of the expedition alone, in order the more satisfactorily to arrive at their results. And, although he must expect a considerable portion of dry reading in the following pages, I have endeavoured to make the narrative of events, some of which are remarkably striking, as interesting as possible.

Remarks on the Present Work; Deliverance from Dangers.

It only remains for me to refer the reader to the concluding chapter of the preceding volume, for such general information as I have been enabled to furnish upon the nature of the services on which I was employed, and on the manner of conducting similar expeditions. Indeed, I trust that this book (whatever be its defects) will be found to contain much valuable information of a practical character, and I may venture to affirm, that it will give a true description of the country, and of the various other subjects of which it treats.

Notwithstanding that I have in my dedication alluded to the causes that prevented the earlier appearance of this work, I feel it due both to myself and the public here to state, that during these expeditions my health had suffered so much, that I was unable to bear up against the effects of exposure, bodily labour, poverty of diet, and the anxiety of mind to which I was subjected. A residence on Norfolk Island, under peculiarly harassing circumstances, completed that which the above causes had commenced; and, after a succession of attacks, I became totally blind, and am still unable either to read what I pen, or to venture abroad without an attendant. When it is recollected, that I have been unassisted in this work in any one particular, I hope some excuse will be found for its imperfections. A wish to contribute to the public good led me to undertake those journeys which have cost me so much. The same feeling actuates me in recording their results; and I have the satisfaction to know, that my path among a large and savage population was a bloodless one; and that my intercourse with them was such as to lessen the danger to future adventurers upon such hazardous enterprises, and to give them hope where I had so often despaired. Something more powerful, than human foresight or human prudence, appeared to avert the calamities and dangers with which I and my companions were so frequently threatened; and had it not been for the guidance and protection we received from the Providence of that good and all-wise Being to whose care we committed ourselves, we should, ere this, have ceased to rank among the number of His earthly creatures.

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