The Settlement at Port Jackson, by Watkin Tench


Travelling Diaries in New South Wales.

From among my numerous travelling journals into the interior parts of the country, I select the following to present to the reader, as equally important in their object, and more amusing in their detail, than any other.

In April 1791 an expedition was undertaken, in order to ascertain whether or not the Hawkesbury and the Nepean, were the same river. With this view, we proposed to fall in a little above Richmond Hill*, and trace down to it; and if the weather should prove fine to cross at the ford, and go a short distance westward, then to repass the river and trace it upward until we should either arrive at some spot which we knew to be the Nepean, or should determine by its course that the Hawkesbury was a different stream.

[*Look at the map for the situation of this place (Unfortunately, there is no map accompanying this etext. Ed.)]

Our party was strong and numerous. It consisted of twenty-one persons, viz. the governor, Mr. Collins and his servant, Mr. White, Mr. Dawes, the author, three gamekeepers, two sergeants, eight privates, and our friends Colbee and Boladeree. These two last were volunteers on the occasion, on being assured that we should not stay out many days and that we should carry plenty of provisions. Baneelon wished to go, but his wife would not permit it. Colbee on the other hand, would listen to no objections. He only stipulated (with great care and consideration) that, during his absence, his wife and child should remain at Sydney under our protection, and be supplied with provisions.

But before we set out, let me describe our equipment, and try to convey to those who have rolled along on turnpike roads only, an account of those preparations which are required in traversing the wilderness. Every man (the governor excepted) carried his own knapsack, which contained provisions for ten days. If to this be added a gun, a blanket, and a canteen, the weight will fall nothing short of forty pounds. Slung to the knapsack are the cooking kettle and the hatchet, with which the wood to kindle the nightly fire and build the nightly hut is to be cut down. Garbed to drag through morasses, tear through thickets, ford rivers and scale rocks, our autumnal heroes, who annually seek the hills in pursuit of grouse and black game, afford but an imperfect representation of the picture.

Thus encumbered, the march begins at sunrise, and with occasional halts continues until about an hour and a half before sunset. It is necessary to stop thus early to prepare for passing the night, for toil here ends not with the march. Instead of the cheering blaze, the welcoming landlord, and the long bill of fare, the traveller has now to collect his fuel, to erect his wigwam, to fetch water, and to broil his morsel of salt pork. Let him then lie down, and if it be summer, try whether the effect of fatigue is sufficiently powerful to overcome the bites and stings of the myriads of sandflies and mosquitoes which buzz around him.

Monday, April 11, 1791. At twenty minutes before seven o’clock, we started from the governor’s house at Rose Hill and steered* for a short time nearly in a north-east direction, after which we turned to north 34 degrees west, and steadily pursued that course until a quarter before four o’clock, when we halted for the night. The country for the first two miles, while we walked to the northeast, was good, full of grass and without rock or underwood. Afterwards it grew very bad, being full of steep, barren rocks, over which we were compelled to clamber for seven miles, when it changed to a plain country apparently very sterile, and with very little grass in it, which rendered walking easy. Our fatigue in the morning had, however, been so oppressive that one of the party knocked up. And had not a soldier, as strong as a pack-horse, undertaken to carry his knapsack in addition to his own, we must either have sent him back, or have stopped at a place for the night which did not afford water. Our two natives carried each his pack, but its weight was inconsiderable, most of their provisions being in the knapsacks of the soldiers and gamekeepers. We expected to have derived from them much information relating to the country, as no one doubted that they were acquainted with every part of it between the sea coast and the river Hawkesbury. We hoped also to have witnessed their manner of living in the woods, and the resources they rely upon in their journeys. Nothing, however, of this sort had yet occurred, except their examining some trees to see if they could discover on the bark any marks of the claws of squirrels and opossums, which they said would show whether any of those animals were hidden among the leaves and branches. They walked stoutly, appeared but little fatigued, and maintained their spirits admirably, laughing to excess when any of us either tripped or stumbled, misfortunes which much seldomer fell to their lot than to ours.

[*Our method, on these expeditions, was to steer by compass, noting the different courses as we proceeded; and counting the number of paces, of which two thousand two hundred, on good ground, were allowed to be a mile. At night when we halted, all these courses were separately cast up, and worked by a traverse table, in the manner a ship’s reckoning is kept, so that by observing this precaution, we always knew exactly where we were, and how far from home; an unspeakable advantage in a new country, where one hill, and one tree, is so like another that fatal wanderings would ensue without it. This arduous task was always allotted to Mr. Dawes who, from habit and superior skill, performed it almost without a stop, or an interruption of conversation: to any other man, on such terms, it would have been impracticable.]

At a very short distance from Rose Hill, we found that they were in a country unknown to them, so that the farther they went the more dependent on us they became, being absolute strangers inland. To convey to their understandings the intention of our journey was impossible. For, perhaps, no words could unfold to an Indian the motives of curiosity which induce men to encounter labour, fatigue and pain, when they might remain in repose at home, with a sufficiency of food. We asked Colbee the name of the people who live inland, and he called them Boorooberongal; and said they were bad, whence we conjectured that they sometimes war with those on the sea coast, by whom they were undoubtedly driven up the country from the fishing ground, that it might not be overstocked; the weaker here, as in every other country, giving way to the stronger.

We asked how they lived. He said, on birds and animals, having no fish. Their laziness appeared strongly when we halted, for they refused to draw water or to cleave wood to make a fire; but as soon as it was kindled (having first well stuffed themselves), they lay down before it and fell asleep. About an hour after sunset, as we were chatting by the fire side and preparing to go to rest, we heard voices at a little distance in the wood. Our natives caught the sound instantaneously and, bidding us be silent, listened attentively to the quarter whence it had proceeded. In a few minutes we heard the voices plainly; and, wishing exceedingly to open a communication with this tribe, we begged our natives to call to them, and bid them to come to us, to assure them of good treatment, and that they should have something given them to eat. Colbee no longer hesitated, but gave them the signal of invitation, in a loud hollow cry. After some whooping and shouting on both sides, a man with a lighted stick in his hand advanced near enough to converse with us. The first words which we could distinctly understand were, ‘I am Colbee, of the tribe of Cadigal.’ The stranger replied, ‘I am Bereewan, of the tribe of Boorooberongal.’ Boladeree informed him also of his name and that we were white men and friends, who would give him something to eat. Still he seemed irresolute. Colbee therefore advanced to him, took him by the hand and led him to us. By the light of the moon, we were introduced to this gentleman, all our names being repeated in form by our two masters of the ceremonies, who said that we were Englishmen and ‘budyeeree’ (good), that we came from the sea coast, and that we were travelling inland.

Bereewan seemed to be a man about thirty years old, differing in no respect from his countrymen with whom we were acquainted. He came to us unarmed, having left his spears at a little distance. After a long conversation with his countrymen, and having received some provisions, he departed highly satisfied.

Tuesday, April 12th, 1791. Started this morning at half past six o’clock, and in two hours reached the river. The whole of the country we passed was poor, and the soil within a mile of the river changed to a coarse deep sand, which I have invariably found to compose its banks in every part without exception that I ever saw. The stream at this place is about 350 feet wide; the water pure and excellent to the taste. The banks are about twenty feet high and covered with trees, many of which had been evidently bent by the force of the current in the direction which it runs, and some of them contained rubbish and drift wood in their branches at least forty-five feet above the level of the stream. We saw many ducks, and killed one, which Colbee swam for. No new production among the shrubs growing here was found. we were acquainted with them all. Our natives had evidently never seen this river before. They stared at it with surprise, and talked to each other. Their total ignorance of the country, and of the direction in which they had walked, appeared when they were asked which way Rose Hill lay; for they pointed almost oppositely to it. Of our compass they had taken early notice, and had talked much to each other about it. They comprehended its use, and called it ‘naamoro,’ literally, “to see the way”; a more significant or expressive term cannot be found.

Supposing ourselves to be higher on the stream than Richmond Hill, we agreed to trace downward, or to the right hand. In tracing, we kept as close to the bank of the river as the innumerable impediments to walking which grow upon it would allow. We found the country low and swampy; came to a native fireplace, at which were some small fish-bones; soon after we saw a native, but he ran away immediately. Having walked nearly three miles we were stopped by a creek which we could neither ford, or fall a tree across. We were therefore obliged to coast it, in hope to find a passing place or to reach its head. At four o’clock we halted for the night on the bank of the creek. Our natives continued to hold out stoutly. The hindrances to walking by the river side which plagued and entangled us so much, seemed not to be heeded by them, and they wound through them with case; but to us they were intolerably tiresome. Our perplexities afforded them an inexhaustible fund of merriment and derision: Did the sufferer, stung at once with nettles and ridicule, and shaken nigh to death by his fall, use any angry expression to them, they retorted in a moment, by calling him by every opprobrious name* which their language affords.

Boladeree destroyed a native hut today very wantonly before we could prevent him. On being asked why he did so, he answered that the inhabitants inland were bad; though no longer since than last night, when Bereewan had departed, they were loud in their praise. But now they had reverted to their first opinion; so fickle and transient are their motives of love and hatred.

[*Their general favourite term of reproach is ‘goninpatta’, which signifies ‘an eater of human excrement’. Our language would admit a very concise and familiar translation. They have, besides this, innumerable others which they often salute their enemies with.]

Wednesday, April 13th, 1791. We did not set out this morning until past seven o’clock, when we continued to trace the creek. The country which we passed through yesterday was good and desirable to what was now presented to us. It was in general high and universally rocky. ‘Toiling our uncouth way’, we mounted a hill, and surveyed the contiguous country. To the northward and eastward, the ground was still higher than that we were upon; but in a south-west direction we saw about four miles. The view consisted of nothing but trees growing on precipices; not an acre of it could be cultivated. Saw a tree on fire here, and several other vestiges of the natives. To comprehend the reasons which induce an Indian to perform many of the offices of life is difficult; to pronounce that which could lead him to wander amidst these dreary wilds baffles penetration. About two o’clock we reached the head of the creek, passed it and scrambled with infinite toil and difficulty to the top of a neighbouring mountain, whence we saw the adjacent country in almost every direction, for many miles. I record with regret that this extended view presented not a single gleam of change which could encourage hope or stimulate industry, to attempt its culture. We had, however, the satisfaction to discover plainly the object of our pursuit, Richmond Hill, distant about eight miles, in a contrary direction from what we had been proceeding upon. It was readily known to those who had been up the Hawkesbury in the boats, by a remarkable cleft or notch which distinguishes it. It was now determined that we should go back to the head of the creek and pass the night there; and in the morning cut across the country to that part of the river which we had first hit upon yesterday, and thence to trace upward, or to the left. But before I descend, I must not forget to relate that to this pile of desolation on which, like the fallen angel on the top of Niphates, we stood contemplating our nether Eden, His Excellency was pleased to give the name of Tench’s Prospect Mount.

Our fatigue to-day had been excessive; but our two sable companions seemed rather enlivened than exhausted by it. We had no sooner halted and given them something to eat than they began to play ten thousand tricks and gambols. They imitated the leaping of the kangaroo; sang, danced, poised the spear and met in mock encounter. But their principal source of merriment was again derived from our misfortunes, in tumbling amidst nettles, and sliding down precipices, which they mimicked with inimitable drollery. They had become, however, very urgent in their inquiries about the time of our return, nd we pacified them as well as we could by saying it would be soon, but avoided naming how many days.

Their method of testifying dislike to any place is singular: they point to the spot they are upon, and all around it, crying ‘weeree, weeree’ (bad) and immediately after mention the name of any other place to which they are attached (Rose Hill or Sydney for instance), adding to it ‘budyeree, budyeree’ (good). Nor was their preference in the present case the result of caprice, for they assigned very substantial reasons for such predilection: “At Rose Hill,” said they, “are potatoes, cabbages, pumpkins, turnips, fish and wine; here are nothing but rocks and water.” These comparisons constantly ended with the question of “Where’s Rose Hill? Where?” on which they would throw up their hands and utter a sound to denote distance, which it is impossible to convey an idea of upon paper.

Thursday, April 14th, 1791. We started early and reached the river in about two hours and a half. The intermediate country, except for the last half mile, was a continued bed of stones, which were in some places so thick and close together that they looked like a pavement formed by art. When we got off the stones, we came upon the coarse river sand beforementioned.

Here we began to trace upward. We had not proceeded far when we saw several canoes on the river. Our natives made us immediately lie down among the reeds, while they gave their countrymen the signal of approach. After much calling, finding that they did not come, we continued our progress until it was again interrupted by a creek, over which we threw a tree and passed upon it. While this was doing, a native, from his canoe, entered into conversation with us, and immediately after paddled to us with a frankness and confidence which surprised every one. He was a man of middle age, with an open cheerful countenance, marked with the small pox, and distinguished by a nose of uncommon magnitude and dignity. He seemed to be neither astonished or terrified at our appearance and number. Two stone hatchets, and two spears he took from his canoe, and presented to the governor, who in return for his courteous generosity, gave him two of our hatchets and some bread, which was new to him, for he knew not its use, but kept looking at it, until Colbee shewed him what to do, when he eat it without hesitation. We pursued our course, and to accommodate us, our new acquaintance pointed out a path and walked at the head of us. A canoe, also with a man and a boy in it, kept gently paddling up abreast of us. We halted for the night at our usual hour, on the bank of the river. Immediately that we had stopped, our friend (who had already told us his name) Gombeeree, introduced the man and the boy from the canoe to us. The former was named Yellomundee, the latter Deeimba. The ease with which these people behaved among strangers was as conspicuous, as unexpected. They seated themselves at our fire, partook of our biscuit and pork, drank from our canteens, and heard our guns going off around them without betraying any symptom of fear, distrust or surprise. On the opposite bank of the river they had left their wives and several children, with whom they frequently discoursed; and we observed that these last manifested neither suspicion or uneasiness of our designs towards their friends.

Having refreshed ourselves, we found leisure to enter into conversation with them. It could not be expected that they should differ materially from the tribes with whom we were acquainted. The same manners and pursuits, the same amusements, the same levity and fickleness, undoubtedly characterised them. What we were able to learn from them was that they depend but little on fish, as the river yields only mullets, and that their principal support is derived from small animals which they kill, and some roots (a species of wild yam chiefly) which they dig out of the earth. If we rightly understood them, each man possesses two wives. Whence can arise this superabundance of females? Neither of the men had suffered the extraction of a front tooth. We were eager to know whether or not this custom obtained among them. But neither Colbee nor Boladeree would put the question for us; and on the contrary, showed every desire to wave the subject. The uneasiness which they testified, whenever we renewed it, rather served to confirm a suspicion which we had long entertained, that this is a mark of subjection imposed by the tribe of Cameragal, (who are certainly the most powerful community in the country) on the weaker tribes around them. Whether the women cut off a joint of one of the little fingers, like those on the sea coast, we had no opportunity of observing. These are petty remarks. But one variety struck us more forcibly. Although our natives and the strangers conversed on a par and understood each other perfectly, yet they spoke different dialects of the same language; many of the most common and necessary words used in life bearing no similitude, and others being slightly different.

English     Name on the sea coast     Name at the Hawkesbury

The Moon           Yeneeda                Condoen
The Ear            Gooree                 Benna
The Forehead       Nullo                  Narran
The Belly          Barang                 Bindee
The Navel          Muneero                Boombong
The Buttocks       Boong                  Baylee
The Neck           Calang                 Ganga
The Thigh          Tara                   Dara
The Hair           Deewara                Keewara

That these diversities arise from want of intercourse with the people on the coast can hardly be imagined, as the distance inland is but thirty-eight miles; and from Rose Hill not more than twenty, where the dialect of the sea coast is spoken. It deserves notice that all the different terms seemed to be familiar to both parties, though each in speaking preferred its own*.

[*How easily people, unused to speak the same language, mistake each other, everyone knows. We had lived almost three years at Port Jackson (for more than half of which period natives had resided with us) before we knew that the word ‘beeal’, signified ‘no’, and not ‘good’, in which latter sense we had always used it without suspecting that we were wrong; and even without being corrected by those with whom we talked daily. The cause of our error was this. The epithet ‘weeree’, signifying ‘bad’, we knew; and as the use of this word and its opposite afford the most simple form of denoting consent or disapprobation to uninstructed Indians, in order to find out their word for ‘good’, when Arabanoo was first brought among us, we used jokingly to say that any thing, which he liked was ‘weeree’, in order to provoke him to tell us that it was good. When we said ‘weeree’, he answered ‘beeal’, which we translated and adopted for ‘good’; whereas he meant no more than simply to deny our inference, and say ‘no’— it is not bad. After this, it cannot be thought extraordinary that the little vocabulary inserted in Mr. Cook’s account of this part of the world should appear defective — even were we not to take in the great probability of the dialects at Endeavour River and Van Diemen’s land differing from that spoken at Port Jackson. And it remains to be proved that the animal called here ‘patagaram’ is not there called ‘kangaroo’.]

Stretched out at ease before our fire, all sides continued to chat and entertain each other. Gombeeree shewed us the mark of a wound which he had received in his side from a spear. It was large, appeared to have passed to a considerable depth, and must certainly have been attended with imminent danger. By whom it had been inflicted, and on what occasion, he explained to Colbee; and afterwards (as we understood) he entered into a detail of the wars, and, as effects lead to causes, probably of the gallantries of the district, for the word which signifies a woman was often repeated. Colbee, in return for his communication, informed him who we were; of our numbers at Sydney and Rose Hill, of the stores we possessed and, above all, of the good things which were to be found among us, enumerating potatoes, cabbages, turnips, pumpkins, and many other names which were perfectly unintelligible to the person who heard them, but which he nevertheless listened to with profound attention.

Perhaps the relation given by Gombeeree, of the cure of his wound, now gave rise to the following superstitious ceremony. While they were talking, Colbee turned suddenly round and asked for some water. I gave him a cupful, which he presented with great seriousness to Yellomundee, as I supposed to drink. This last indeed took the cup and filled his mouth with water, but instead of swallowing it, threw his head into Colbee’s bosom, spit the water upon him and, immediately after, began to suck strongly at his breast, just below the nipple. I concluded that the man was sick; and called to the governor to observe the strange place which he had chosen to exonerate his stomach. The silent attention observed by the other natives, however, soon convinced us that something more than merely the accommodation of Yellomundee, was intended. The ceremony was again performed; and, after having sucked the part for a considerable time, the operator pretended to receive something in his mouth, which was drawn from the breast. With this he retired a few paces, put his hand to his lips and threw into the river a stone, which I had observed him to pick up slily, and secrete. When he returned to the fireside, Colbee assured us that he had received signal benefit from the operation; and that this second Machaon had extracted from his breast two splinters of a spear by which he had been formerly wounded. We examined the part, but it was smooth and whole, so that to the force of imagination alone must be imputed both the wound and its cure. Colbee himself seemed nevertheless firmly persuaded that he had received relief, and assured us that Yellomundee was a ‘caradyee’, or ‘Doctor of renown’. And Boladeree added that not only he but all the rest of his tribe were ‘caradyee’ of especial note and skill.

The Doctors remained with us all night, sleeping before the fire in the fullness of good faith and security. The little boy slept in his father’s arms, and we observed that whenever the man was inclined to shift his position, he first put over the child, with great care, and then turned round to him.

Friday, April 15th, 1791. The return of light aroused us to the repetition of toil. Our friends breakfasted with us, and previous to starting Gombeeree gave a specimen of their manner of climbing trees in quest of animals. He asked for a hatchet and one of ours was offered to him, but he preferred one of their own making. With this tool he cut a small notch in the tree he intended to climb, about two feet and a half above the ground, in which he fixed the great toe of his left foot, and sprung upwards, at the same time embracing the tree with his left arm. In an instant he had cut a second notch for his right toe on the other side of the tree into which he sprung, and thus, alternately cutting on each side, he mounted to the height of twenty feet in nearly as short a space as if he had ascended by a ladder, although the bark of the tree was quite smooth and slippery and the trunk four feet in diameter and perfectly strait. To us it was a matter of astonishment, but to him it was sport; for while employed thus he kept talking to those below and laughing immoderately. He descended with as much ease and agility as he had raised himself. Even our natives allowed that he was a capital performer, against whom they dared not to enter the lists; for as they subsist chiefly by fishing they are less expert at climbing on the coast than those who daily practice it.

Soon after they bade us adieu, in unabated friendship and good humour. Colbee and Boladeree parted from them with a slight nod of the head, the usual salutation of the country; and we shook them by the hand, which they returned lustily.

At the time we started the tide was flowing up the river, a decisive proof that we were below Richmond Hill. We had continued our march but a short time when we were again stopped by a creek, which baffled all our endeavours to cross it, and seemed to predict that the object of our attainment, though but a very few miles distant, would take us yet a considerable time to reach, which threw a damp on our hopes. We traced the creek until four o’clock, when we halted for the night. The country, on both sides, we thought in general unpromising; but it is certainly very superior to that which we had seen on the former creek. In many places it might be cultivated, provided the inundations of the stream can be repelled.

In passing along we shot some ducks, which Boladeree refused to swim for when requested, and told us in a surly tone that they swam for what was killed, and had the trouble of fetching it ashore, only for the white men to eat it. This reproof was, I fear, too justly founded; for of the few ducks we had been so fortunate as to procure, little had fallen to their share except the offals, and now and then a half-picked bone. True, indeed, all the crows and hawks which had been shot were given to them; but they plainly told us that the taste of ducks was more agreeable to their palates, and begged they might hereafter partake of them. We observed that they were thoroughly sick of the journey, and wished heartily for its conclusion: the exclamation of “Where’s Rose Hill, where?” was incessantly repeated, with many inquiries about when we should return to it.

Saturday April 16th, 1791. It was this morning resolved to abandon our pursuit and to return home; at hearing of which our natives expressed great joy. We started early; and reached Rose Hill about three o’clock, just as a boat was about to be sent down to Sydney. Colbee and Boladeree would not wait for us until the following morning, but insisted on going down immediately to communicate to Baneelon and the rest of their countrymen the novelties they had seen.

The country we passed through was, for the most part, very indifferent, according to our universal opinion. It is in general badly watered. For eight miles and a half on one line we did not find a drop of water.


Having eluded our last search, Mr. Dawes and myself, accompanied by a sergeant of marines and a private soldier, determined on another attempt, to ascertain whether it lay on the Hawkesbury or Nepean. We set out on this expedition on the 24th of May, 1791; and having reached the opposite side of the mouth of the creek which had in our last journey prevented our progress, we proceeded from there up to Richmond Hill by the river side; mounted it; slept at its foot; and on the following day penetrated some miles westward or inland of it until we were stopped by a mountainous country, which our scarcity of provisions, joined to the terror of a river at our back, whose sudden rising is almost beyond computation, hindered us from exploring. To the elevation which bounded our research we gave the name of Knight Hill, in honour of the trusty sergeant who had been the faithful indefatigable companion of all our travels.

This excursion completely settled the long contested point about the Hawkesbury and Nepean. We found them to be one river. Without knowing it, Mr. Dawes and myself had passed Richmond Hill almost a year before (in August 1790), and from there walked on the bank of the river to the spot where my discovery of the Nepean happened, in June 1789. Our ignorance arose from having never before seen the hill, and from the erroneous position assigned to it by those who had been in the boats up the river.

Except the behaviour of some natives whom we met on the river, which it would be ingratitude to pass in silence, nothing particularly worthy of notice occurred on this expedition.

When we had reached within two miles of Richmond Hill, we heard a native call. We directly answered him and conversed across the river for some time. At length he launched his canoe and crossed to us without distrust or hesitation. We had never seen him before; but he appeared to know our friend Gombeeree, of whom he often spoke. He said his name was Deedora. He presented us with two spears and a throwing-stick, and in return we gave him some bread and beef. Finding that our route lay up the river, he offered to accompany us and, getting into his canoe, paddled up abreast of us. When we arrived at Richmond Hill it became necessary to cross the river; but the question was, how this should be effected? Deedora immediately offered his canoe. We accepted of it and, Mr. Dawes and the soldier putting their clothes into it, pushed it before them, and by alternately wading and swimming, soon passed. On the opposite shore sat several natives, to whom Deedora called, by which precaution the arrival of the strangers produced no alarm. On the contrary, they received them with every mark of benevolence. Deedora, in the meanwhile, sat talking with the sergeant and me. Soon after, another native, named Morunga, brought back the canoe, and now came our turn to cross. The sergeant (from a foolish trick which had been played upon him when he was a boy) was excessively timorous of water, and could not swim. Morunga offered to conduct him, and they got into the canoe together; but, his fears returning, he jumped out and refused to proceed. I endeavoured to animate him, and Morunga ridiculed his apprehensions, making signs of the ease and dispatch with which he would land him; but he resolved to paddle over by himself, which, by dint of good management and keeping his position very steadily, he performed. It was now become necessary to bring over the canoe a third time for my accommodation, which was instantly done, and I entered it with Deedora. But, like the sergeant, I was so disordered at seeing the water within a hair’s breadth of the level of our skiff (which brought to my remembrance a former disaster I had experienced on this river) that I jumped out, about knee-deep, and determined to swim over, which I effected. My clothes, half our knapsacks, and three of our guns yet remained to be transported across. These I recommended to the care of our grim ferrymen, who instantaneously loaded their boat with them and delivered them on the opposite bank, without damage or diminution.

During this long trial of their patience and courtesy — in the latter part of which I was entirely in their power, from their having possession of our arms — they had manifested no ungenerous sign of taking advantage of the helplessness and dependance of our situation; no rude curiosity to pry into the packages with which they were entrusted; or no sordid desire to possess the contents of them; although among them were articles exposed to view, of which it afterwards appeared they knew the use, and longed for the benefit. Let the banks of those rivers, “known to song”, let him whose travels have lain among polished nations produce me a brighter example of disinterested urbanity than was shown by these denizens of a barbarous clime to a set of destitute wanderers on the side of the Hawkesbury.

On the top of Richmond Hill we shot a hawk, which fell in a tree. Deedora offered to climb for it and we lent him a hatchet, the effect of which delighted him so much that he begged for it. As it was required to chop wood for our evening fire, it could not be conveniently spared; but we promised him that if he would visit us on the following morning, it should be given to him. Not a murmur was heard; no suspicion of our insincerity; no mention of benefits conferred; no reproach of ingratitude. His good humour and cheerfulness were not clouded for a moment. Punctual to our appointment, he came to us at daylight next morning and the hatchet was given to him, the only token of gratitude and respect in our power to bestow. Neither of these men had lost his front tooth.


Which I ever undertook in the country I am describing was in July 1791, when Mr. Dawes and myself went in search of a large river which was said to exist a few miles to the southward of Rose Hill. We went to the place described, and found this second Nile or Ganges to be nothing but a saltwater creek communicating with Botany Bay, on whose banks we passed a miserable night from want of a drop of water to quench our thirst, for as we believed that we were going to a river we thought it needless to march with full canteens.

On this expedition we carried with us a thermometer which (in unison with our feelings) shewed so extraordinary a degree of cold for the latitude of the place that I think myself bound to transcribe it.

Monday, 18th July 1791. The sun arose in unclouded splendor and presented to our sight a novel and picturesque view. The contiguous country as white as if covered with snow, contrasted with the foliage of trees flourishing in the verdure of tropical luxuriancy*. Even the exhalation which steamed from the lake beneath contributed to heighten the beauty of the scene. Wind SSW. Thermorneter at sunrise 25degrees. The following night was still colder. At sunset the thermometer stood at 45 degrees; at a quarter before four in the morning, it was at 26degrees; at a quarter before six at 24 degrees; at a quarter before seven, at 23 degrees; at seven o’clock, 22.7 degrees; at sunrise, 23 degrees, after which it continued gradually to mount, and between one and two o’clock, stood at 59.6 degrees in the shade. Wind SSW. The horizon perfectly clear all day, not the smallest speck to be seen. Nothing but demonstration could have convinced me that so severe a degree of cold ever existed in this low latitude. Drops of water on a tin pot, not altogether out of the influence of the fire, were frozen into solid ice in less than twelve minutes. Part of a leg of kangaroo which we had roasted for supper was frozen quite hard, all the juices of it being converted into ice. On those ponds which were near the surface of the earth, the covering of ice was very thick; but on those which were lower down it was found to be less so, in proportion to their depression; and wherever the water was twelve feet below the surface (which happened to be the case close to us) it was uncongealed. It remains to be observed that the cold of both these nights, at Rose Hill and Sydney, was judged to be greater than had ever before been felt.

[*All the trees of New South Wales, may I apprehend, be termed evergreen. For after such weather as this journal records, I did not observe either that the leaves had dropped off, or that they had assumed that sickly autumnal tint, which marks English trees in corresponding circumstances.]

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