Party Reduced by the Return of Mr. Hodgson and Caleb — Meet Friendly Natives — Native Tomb — The Dawson — Vervain Plains — Gilbert’s Range — Lynd’s Range — Robinson’s Creek — Murphy’s Lake — Mountainous Country — Expedition Range — Mount Nicholson — Aldis’s Peak — The Boyd.
Nov. 3. — For the past week, the heat was very oppressive during the day, whilst, at night, it was often exceedingly cold; for two or three hours before dawn, and for an hour after sunset, it was generally delightful, particularly within the influence of a cheerful cypress-pine fire, which perfumes the air with the sweet scent of the burning resin.
It had now become painfully evident to me that I had been too sanguine in my calculations, as to our finding a sufficiency of game to furnish my party with animal food, and that the want of it was impairing our strength. We had also been compelled to use our flour to a greater extent than I wished; and I saw clearly that my party, which I had reluctantly increased on my arrival at Moreton Bay, was too large for our provisions. I, therefore, communicated to my companions the absolute necessity of reducing our number: all, however, appeared equally desirous to continue the journey; and it was, therefore, but just that those who had joined last, should leave. Mr. Gilbert, however, who would, under this arrangement, have had to retire, found a substitute in Mr. Hodgson, who had perhaps suffered most by additional fatigues; so that he and Caleb, the American negro, prepared for their return to Moreton Bay. Previous, however, to their departure, they assisted in killing one of our steers, the meat of which we cut into thin slices, and dried in the sun. This, our first experiment — on the favourable result of which the success of our expedition entirely depended — kept us, during the process, in a state of great excitement. It succeeded, however, to our great joy, and inspired us with confidence for the future. The little steer gave us 65lbs. of dried meat, and about 15lbs. of fat. The operation concluded, we took leave of our companions; and although our material was reduced by the two horses on which they returned, Mr. Hodgson left us the greater part of his own equipment. The loss of the two horses caused us some little inconvenience, as it increased the loads of the animals. The daily ration of the party was now fixed at six pounds of flour per day, with three pounds of dried beef, which we found perfectly sufficient to keep up our strength.
Whenever it was necessary to delay for any time at one place, our cattle and horses gave us great trouble: they would continually stray back in the direction we came from, and we had frequently to fetch them back five, seven, and even ten miles. Mr. Hodgson’s horses had returned even to the camp of the 21st October, and three days were required to find them and bring them back. These matters caused us considerable delay; but they were irremediable. On the 30th October, towards evening, we were hailed by natives, from the scrub; but, with the exception of one, they kept out of sight. This man knew a few English words, and spoke the language of Darling Downs; he seemed to be familiar with the country round Jimba; and asked permission to come to the camp: this, however, I did not permit; and they entered the scrub, when they saw us handle our guns, and bring forward two horses to the camp. On the 3rd of November they visited us again, and communicated with us, behaving in a very friendly way: they pointed out honey in one of the neighbouring trees, assisted in cutting it out and eating it, and asked for tobacco; it was, however, impossible to make any presents, as we had nothing to spare. They particularly admired the red blankets, were terror-struck at the sight of a large sword, which they tremblingly begged might be returned into the sheath, and wondered at the ticking of a watch, and at the movement of its wheels. The greater part were young men of mild disposition, and pleasing countenance; the children remained in the distance, and I only saw two women.
According to their statements, the scrub extends to the Condamine.
The scrub was crossed in every direction by tracks of wallabies, of which, however, we could not even get a sight. The glucking bird — by which name, in consequence of its note, the bird may be distinguished — was heard through the night. They live probably upon the seeds of the cypress-pine; the female answers the loud call of the male, but in a more subdued voice.
A Gristes, about seven inches long, resembling the one described in Sir Thomas Mitchell’s journey, but specifically different from it, was caught in the water-holes of the creek, which I called “Dried-beef Creek,” in memorial of our late occupation.
A Goodenoviaceous shrub, a pink Hibiscus, and a fine prostrate Sida, were found between the camp of the 27th October and Dried-beef Creek.
Nov. 4. — Having previously examined and found a passage through the scrub, we travelled through it for about eight miles on a north by west course. The head of Dried-beef Creek, was found to be formed by separate water-holes, in a slight hollow along the scrub; and, when these disappeared, we were moving over a perfectly level land, without any sign of drainage, but occasionally passing isolated holes, now for the greater part dry. On our left, our course was bounded by a dense Bricklow scrub; but, on our right, for the first four miles, the country was comparatively open, with scattered Acacias; it then became densely timbered, but free from scrub. Farther on, however, scrub appeared even to our right. A natural opening, which had recently been enlarged by a bush fire, enabled us to pass into a dense Ironbark and cypress-pine forest; and then, bearing a little to the right, we came on a slight watercourse to the northward, which rapidly enlarged as it descended between ranges, which seemed to be the spurs of the table land we had just left.
Nov. 5. — We observed the tomb of a native near our camp. It was a simple conical heap of sand, which had been raised over the body, which was probably bent into the squatting position of the natives; but, as our object was to pass quietly, without giving offence to the aborigines, we did not disturb it. It is, however, remarkable that, throughout our whole journey, we never met with graves or tombs, or even any remains of Blackfellows again; with the exception of a skull, which I shall notice at a later period. Several isolated conical hills were in the vicinity of our camp; sandstone cropped out in the creek, furnishing us with good whetstones.
After travelling about four miles in a north-west direction, through a fine open undulating country, we came to, and followed the course of, a considerable creek flowing to the westward, bounded by extensive flooded gum-flats and ridges, clothed with a forest of silver-leaved Ironbark. Large reedy lagoons, well supplied with fish, were in its bed. Our latitude was 26 degrees 4 minutes 9 seconds.
Nov. 6. — The arrangement for loading our cattle enabled me at last to mount every one of my companions, which was very desirable; for the summer having fairly set in, and no thunder-storms having cooled the atmosphere since we left the Condamine, the fatigue of walking during the middle of the day had become very severe. From Jimba we started with a few horses without load, which only enabled us to ride alternately; but, as our provisions gradually decreased in quantity, one after the other mounted his horse; and this day I had the pleasure of seeing everybody on horseback.
We travelled along the valley of the river about ten miles, in a west-northerly course; our latitude of this day being 26 degrees 3 minutes 44 seconds Fine box and apple-tree flats were on both sides of the creek, now deserving the appellation of a “River,” and which I called the “Dawson,” in acknowledgment of the kind support I received from R. Dawson, Esq., of Black Creek, Hunter’s River. At the foot of the ridges some fine lagoons were observed, as also several plains, with the soil and the vegetation of the Downs, but bounded on the northward by impenetrable Bricklow scrub. In a watercourse, meandering through this scrub, sandstone cropped out, in which impressions of fossil plants were noticed by me. It was interesting to observe how strictly the scrub kept to the sandstone and to the stiff loam lying upon it, whilst the mild black whinstone soil was without trees, but covered with luxuriant grasses and herbs; and this fact struck me as remarkable, because, during my travels in the Bunya country of Moreton Bay, I found it to be exactly the reverse: the sandstone spurs of the range being there covered with an open well grassed forest, whilst a dense vine brush extended over the basaltic rock. The phenomenon is probably to be explained by the capability of the different soils of retaining moisture, and, at the same time, by taking into account the distance of the localities from the seacoast. I called these plains “Calvert’s Plains,” after my companion, Mr. Calvert. Farther to the westward we passed over open ridges, covered with Bastard-box and silver-leaved Ironbark: the former tree grows generally in rich black soil, which appeared several times in the form of ploughed land, well known, in other parts of the colony, either under that name, or under that of “Devil-devil land,” as the natives believe it to be the work of an evil spirit.
Nov. 7. — The first two hours of the day were cloudy, but it cleared up and became very hot; the atmosphere was hazy and sultry; cumuli with undefined outlines all round the horizon: wind from south-west and south. I travelled west by north about eight miles, along the foot of Bastard-box and silver-leaved Ironbark ridges. The country was exceedingly fine; the ground was firm; the valley from two to three miles broad, clothed with rich grass, and sprinkled with apple-tree, flooded-gum, and Bastard-box; the hills formed gentle ascents, and were openly timbered. The water-holes seemed to be constant; they are very deep, densely surrounded by reeds, and with numerous heaps of broken muscle-shells round their banks. Scrub was, however, to be seen in the distance, and formed the dark spot in the pleasant picture. Game became more frequent; and last night every body had a duck. As we were pursuing our course, Mr. Gilbert started a large kangaroo, known by the familiar name of “old man,” which took refuge in a water-hole, where it was killed, but at the expense of two of our kangaroo dogs, which were mortally wounded. As we were sitting at our dinner, a fine half-grown emu walked slowly up to us, as if curious to know what business we had in its lonely haunts; unfortunately for us, the bark of our little terrier frightened it; and, although one of my Blackfellows shot after it, it retired unscathed into the neighbouring thicket. Mr. Roper killed a Rallus, which Mr. Gilbert thought to be new. The high land from which we came, appears at present as a distant range to the south-east. Fine-grained sandstone, with impressions of leaves, was again observed, and a few pieces of silicified wood. A Thysanotus with fine large blossoms now adorns the forest. The native carrot is in seed; the Eryngium of Jimba, and a leguminous plant, prostrate with ternate leaves and bunches of yellow flowers, were frequent; several beautiful species of everlastings were occasionally seen, and the little orange-tree of the Condamine grew in the scrub.
Nov. 8. — We followed the Dawson for about eight miles lower down. About four miles from our camp, it is joined by a fine chain of ponds from the north-east. The flats on both sides are covered by open Bastard-box forest, of a more or less open character. In the rainy season, the whole valley is probably covered with water; for we frequently observed the marks of torrents rushing down from the hills; and, along the foot of the ridges, ponds and lagoons were frequent. The heat of summer had already burnt up a great part of the grasses; and it was only in the immediate neighbourhood of the river that there was any appearance of verdure. The bed of the river became drier, and changed its character considerably. Charley stated, that he had seen a large plain extending for many miles to the south-west, and a high mountain to the north. Several emus, pigeons, and ducks were seen. Mr. Calvert found concretions of marl in the creek. John Murphy caught a great number of crawfish. For the first time since leaving the Condamine, we were visited by a thunder-storm. Cumuli generally during the afternoon, with wind from the W.N.W; during the night it usually clears up.
Nov. 10. — The country along the river changed, during the last two stages, considerably for the worse. The scrub approached very near to the banks of the river, and, where it receded, a disagreeable thicket of Bastard-box saplings filled almost the whole valley: fine lagoons were along the river, frequently far above its level; the river itself divided into anabranches, which, with the shallow watercourses of occasional floods from the hills, made the whole valley a maze of channels, from which we could only with difficulty extricate ourselves. “I never saw such a rum river, in my life,” said my blackfellow Charley.
The open forest was sometimes one large field of everlasting flowers with bright yellow blossoms; whilst the scrub plains were thickly covered with grasses and vervain. Almost all the grasses of Liverpool Plains grow here. Ironstone and quartz pebbles were strewed over the ground; and, in the valley, fine-grained sandstone with layers of iron-ore cropped out.
Large fish were seen in the lagoons; but we only succeeded in catching some small fish of the genus Gristes. Muscles continued to be frequent; and we saw the gunyas of the natives everywhere, although no native made his appearance.
It was here that I first met, growing on the scrubby hills, a species of Bauhinia, either shrubby or a small shady tree, with spreading branches; the pods are flat, of a blunt form, almost one inch in breadth, and from three to four inches long. The Bricklow seems to prevent the growth of almost all other vegetation, with the exception of a small shrub, with linear lanceolate aromatic leaves. An Acacia, with long drooping, almost terete leaves, grew along the river; and Crinums grew in patches amongst the everlasting flowers, on a sandy soil. Our latitude, of the 9th November, was 25 degrees 53 minutes 55 seconds; and that of the 10th, 25 degrees 47 minutes 55 seconds, at about eleven miles north-west from the camp of the 8th November.
Until the 14th of November, we travelled down the Dawson. In order to avoid the winding course of the river, and the scrub and thickets that covered its valley, which rendered our progress very slow, we had generally to keep to the ridges, which were more open. We several times met with fine plains, which I called “Vervain Plains,” as that plant grew abundantly on them. They were surrounded with scrub, frequently sprinkled with Bricklow groves, interspersed with the rich green of the Bauhinia, and the strange forms of the Bottle-tree; which imparted to the scene a very picturesque character. From one of these plains we obtained, for the first time, a view of some well-defined ranges to the west-north-west. The general course of the river, between the latitudes of 25 degrees 41 minutes 55 seconds and 25 degrees 37 minutes 12 seconds, was to the northward; but, as it commenced to turn to the east, I was induced to cross it, and to follow my former direction to the northwest. Between those two latitudes, the river had commenced to run, which was not the ease higher up, notwithstanding it was formed by long reaches of water, upon which pelicans and ducks were abundant. Mr. Calvert and the black, Charley, who had been sent back to one of our last camping places, had, on returning, kept a little more to the north-east, and had seen a river flowing to the northward, and a large creek; both of which, probably, join the Dawson lower down. At that part of the river where it commences to run, its bed was more confined, and was fringed by Melaleucas and drooping Acacias.
Our provisions had been increased by an emu, which Charley shot; our remaining two kangaroo dogs also succeeded in catching an “old man” kangaroo on the Vervain Plains of the 14th November. I made it an invariable practice to dry the meat which remained after the consumption of the day’s allowance, and it served considerably to save our stock of dried beef, and to lengthen the lives of our bullocks. The utmost economy was necessary; — for we were constantly exposed to losses, occasioned by the pack bullocks upsetting their loads; an annoyance which was at this time of frequent occurrence from the animals being irritated by the stings of hornets — a retaliation for the injuries done to their nests, which, being suspended to the branches of trees, were frequently torn down by the bullocks passing underneath.
A large turtle was seen; and Mr. Gilbert caught two fine eels in one of the lagoons. We had thunder-storms on the 12th and 13th of November: the morning is generally cloudy, the clouds come from the north-east and north, clearing away in the middle of the day; and the afternoon is exceedingly hot.
Nov. 14. — A dense scrub, which had driven us back to the river, obliged me to reconnoitre to the north-west, in which I was very successful; for, after having crossed the scrub, I came into an open country, furnished with some fine sheets of water, and a creek with Corypha palms, growing to the height of 25 or 30 feet. The feelings of delight which I experienced when, upon emerging from the more than usually inhospitable Bricklow scrub, the dark verdure of a swamp surrounding a small lake — with native companions (Ardeaantigone) strutting round, and swarms of ducks playing on its still water, backed by an open forest, in which the noble palm tree was conspicuous — suddenly burst upon our view, were so great as to be quite indescribable. I joyfully returned to the camp, to bring forward my party; which was not, however, performed without considerable trouble. We had to follow the Dawson down to where the creek joined it; for the scrub was impassable for loaded bullocks, and, even on this detour, we had to contend with much scrub as we proceeded down the valley. It, however, became more free from scrub at every step, and opened out into flats of more or less extent on either side, skirted by hills, clothed with an open forest, rising into regular ranges. On my Reconnaissance I crossed the Gilbert Ranges, which were named after my companion Mr. Gilbert, and came on waters which fall to the eastward, and join the Dawson lower down. From the summit of an open part of the range, I saw other ranges to the northward, but covered with Bricklow scrub, as was also the greater part of Gibert’s Range. To the east, however, the view was more cheering; for the hills are more open, and the vegetation composed of the silver-leaved and narrow-leaved Ironbark trees and an open Vitex scrub. Several rocky gullies were passed, that were full of palm trees. The valley of Palm-tree Creek extends about nineteen miles from west to east The ranges which bound it to the south, I called “Lynd’s Range,” after my friend R. Lynd, Esq. Gilbert’s Range bounds it to the northward: Middle Range separates the creek from the Dawson up to their junction. Several large swamps are within the valley; one of which, the small lake which first broke upon my view, received the name of “Roper’s Lake,” after one of my companions.
Nov. 17. — We went about nine miles up the valley, on a south branch of Palm-tree Creek, which derives its waters from Lynd’s Range. The fine water-hole which I selected for our camp, was not only shaded by stately Coryphas and flooded gums, but the drooping Callistemon, the creek Melaleuca, and the Casuarina, gave to it the character of the rivers and creeks of the Moreton Bay district. It changed, however, into a shallow waterless channel, communicating with one of the large swamps which generally extend along the base of the hills. I rode up Lynd’s Range, passing plains similar to those I have before mentioned, composed of black soil intermingled with fossil wood and decomposed sandstone, and densely covered with Burr, (a composite plant) and Verbena, and scattered tufts either of Bricklow, or of Coxen’s Acacia, or of the bright green Fusanus, or of the darker verdure of Bauhinia, with here and there a solitary tree of a rich dark-green hue, from forty to fifty feet in height. From the summit I had a fine view down the valley of the Dawson, which was bounded on both sides by ranges. A high distant mountain was seen about N.N.E. from Lynd’s Range, at the left side of the Dawson.
The water-holes abounded with jew-fish and eels; of the latter we obtained a good supply, and dried two of them, which kept very well. Two species of Limnaea, the one of narrow lengthened form, the other shorter and broader; a species of Paludina, and Cyclas and Unios, were frequent. The jew-fish has the same distoma in its swimming bladder, which I observed in specimens caught in the Severn River to the southward of Moreton Bay: on examining the intestines of this fish, they were full of the shells of Limnaea and Cyclas. Large specimens of helix were frequent on the Vervain Plains, but they were only dead shells. The fat-hen (Atriplex) and the sow-thistle (Sonchus) grew abundantly on the reedy flats at the upper end of the creek; Grewia, a prostrate Myoporum, and a bean with yellow blossoms, were frequent all over the valley. Atriplex forms, when young, as we gratefully experienced, an excellent vegetable, as do also the young shoots of Sonchus. The tops of the Corypha palm eat well, either baked in hot ashes or raw, and, although very indigestible, did not prove injurious to health when eaten in small quantities. In the vicinity of the swamps of Palm-tree Creek, I noticed a grass with an ear much resembling the bearded wheat: with the exception of the cultivated Cerealia, it had the largest seed I ever met with in grasses; even my Blackfellow was astonished at its remarkable size.
During the night we experienced a strong wind from the northward, and, during the afternoon, a gust of wind and rain from west and north-west; but no thunder.
Nov. 18. — Clouds gathered from the west and north-west, a few drops of rain fell, and a few low peals of thunder were heard; but, although charged with electric fluid, and, in appearance, threatening an approaching thunder-storm, no discharge of lightning took place. We were very much annoyed and harassed, during the evening and the early part of the night, by sand-flies and mosquitoes; but the clear night grew so cold, that these great enemies of bush comforts were soon benumbed. The latitude of the camp of the 18th November was 25 degrees 30 minutes 11 seconds.
Nov. 19. — No air stirring, night very cold and bright; dew heavy; the surface of the creek covered with vapour; the water very warm.
Having no apparatus for ascertaining the height of our position above the level of the sea, this very interesting fact could not be determined; but, from the cold experienced, at a period so near the summer solstice, the elevation must have been very considerable.
We travelled during the day in a westerly direction over a level country, partly covered with reeds and fat-hen, and came to a broad sandy creek, which turned to the south-east and south. Having crossed it, we passed several large lagoons and swamps covered with plovers and ducks; and, at a short mile farther, came again on the creek, which now had a deep channel and a broad sandy bed lined with casuarinas and flooded-gum trees. I called this “Robinson’s Creek.” At its left bank, we saw a wide sheet of water, beyond which rose a range densely covered with scrub: I called them “Murphy’s Lake and Range,” after John Murphy, one of my companions.
I believe that Robinson’s Creek is a westerly water; and, if so, it is very remarkable that the heads of Palm-tree Creek, which flows to the eastward, should be scarcely a mile distant; and that the interesting space, separating the two systems of waters, should be, to all appearance, a dead level.
I had descended — from a scrubby table land, the continuation of Darling Downs — into a system of easterly waters. I had followed down the Dawson for a considerable distance, and then, following up one of its creeks, found myself again on westerly waters. I could not decide, to my entire satisfaction, whether my views were right; for the country was difficult for reconnoitring; and I was necessarily compelled to move quickly on, to accomplish the object of my expedition: but it is a very interesting point for geographical research, and I hope, if I am not anticipated by other explorers, to ascertain, at some future period, the course of these creeks and rivers.
Nov. 20. — The first part of the night till the setting of the moon was very clear; after this it became cloudy, but cleared again at sunrise, with the exception of some mackerel-sky and stratus to the north-west. During the forenoon it was again cloudy, and a thunder-storm occurred at half-past two o’clock from the north-west and west-north-west, with little rain, but a heavy gust of wind.
In travelling to the westward, along Robinson’s Creek, although two or three miles distant from it, we passed two lakes, one of which was a fine, long, but rather narrow, sheet of water, with swamps to the south-east. About six miles farther on, the country began to rise into irregular scrubby ridges; the scrub generally composed of Vitex intermingled with various forest trees. The small orange-tree, which we had found in blossom at the Condamine, was setting its fruit. Farther on, the dense Bricklow scrub compelled me to approach the banks of the creek, where we travelled over fine flats, but with a rather sandy rotten soil. The apple-tree, flooded-gum, silver-leaved ironbark, and the bastard-box grew on the flats and on the ridges. The creek was well provided with large water-holes, surrounded by high reeds.
We now entered a mountainous country; and the banks of the creek became sometimes very steep and broken by narrow gullies, rendering our progress slow and difficult. We had to wind our way through narrow valleys, and over ranges from which the descent was frequently very steep and dangerous. The latitude of our camp of the 21st November was 25 degrees 28 minutes 12 seconds; that of the 22nd was 25 degrees 25 minutes; that of the 23rd, about 32 miles west of Murphy’s Lake, was 25 degrees 27 minutes 12 seconds. Here the ranges were, for the most part, openly timbered, with the exception of the higher points, which were generally covered with vine-brush; in one of which we found the nests of the brush turkey (Talegalla Lathami), and observed the bird itself. Some considerable stretches of beautiful country were now travelled over; the leading feature being low ridges, openly timbered with the silver-leaved ironbark, covered with an abundance of grass and herbs, and furnished with large lagoons; there was also a constant supply of water in the creek itself. On the banks of the latter, a species of Sterculia grows to a large size, and is one of the most pleasing and ornamental trees of the country; it is probably different from, although nearly allied to S. heterophylla. Very disagreeable, however, was the abundance of Burr and of a spear-grass (Aristida), which attached themselves to our clothes and blankets, and entered (particularly the latter) into the very skin. I have also to mention, that a yellow Villarsia was found on one of the lakes; which were generally surrounded by high sedges. We have not seen black swans since leaving Murphy’s Lake; at which place we first saw a species of whistling duck, (Leptotarsis, Gould.)
Appearances indicated that the commencement of the ranges was a favourite resort of the “Blackfellows.” The remains of recent repasts of muscles were strewed about the larger water-holes, and, as I passed a native camp, which had only lately been vacated, I found, under a few sheets of bark, four fine kangaroo nets, made of the bark of Sterculia; also several bundles of sticks, which are used to stretch them. As I was in the greatest want of cordage, I took two of these nets; and left, in return, a fine brass hilted sword, the hilt of which was well polished, four fishing-hooks, and a silk handkerchief; with which, I felt convinced, they would be as well pleased, as I was with the cordage of their nets. It was to this spot that Mr. Pemberton Hodgson penetrated, when he afterwards followed my tracks, to ascertain the truth of the rumours, which had been carried by the blacks to Moreton Bay, of my having been either killed by the natives, or destroyed by a hurricane, which was said to have passed through the narrow valley of the confined creek.
The high mountain ranges, at the head of Robinson’s Creek, which we observed from the tops of the hills, at the entrance into the mountainous country, bore W.N.W., and N.W. from the position I now occupied. We had a thunder-storm on the 21st November, followed by continued rain and a perfect calm During the night occasional showers of rain fell; at sunrise light fleecy clouds from W.N.W.: the nights, when clear, were very cold.
Until very lately we had all suffered severely from diarrhoea, which I could not account for, othewise than by attributing it to our change of diet. Fresh meat had almost invariably affected us; but after a time our continued exposure to the air, the regularity of our movements, and constant state of exertion, rendered us more hardy, and sharpened our appetites. Iguanas, opossums, and birds of all kinds, had for some time past been most gladly consigned to our stewing-pot, neither good, bad, nor indifferent being rejected. The dried kangaroo meat, one of our luxuries, differed very little in flavour from the dried beef, and both, after long stewing, afforded us an excellent broth, to which we generally added a little flour. It is remarkable how soon man becomes indifferent to the niceties of food; and, when all the artificial wants of society have dropped off, the bare necessities of life form the only object of his desires.
One of our bullocks had torn one of the flour-bags, and about fifteen pounds of flour were scattered over the ground. We all set to work, to scrape as much of it up as we could, using the dry gum leaves as spoons to collect it; and, when it got too dirty to mix again with our flour, rather than leave so much behind, we collected about six pounds of it well mixed with dried leaves and dust, and of this we made a porridge — a mess which, with the addition of some gelatine, every one of us enjoyed highly.
No new insects, few new birds, and but few plants, attracted our attention. Mr. Gilbert’s parrot, which he first met with on the downs, was very frequent; the glucking-bird and the barking-owl were heard throughout the moonlight nights. Several native dogs were killed, and their howling was frequently heard. Only one kangaroo had been shot since we left the Dawson, although their tracks were met with every where. Charley had taken several opossums; the presence of these animals generally indicates a good country. Quails were abundant, but not worth our powder; flocks of spur-winged plovers were living at the lakes and swamps, and a shy hornbill (Scythrops) was seen and heard several times. The nests of the white ant were rarely seen; but the soldier ant, and the whole host of the others, were every where. The funnel ant digs a perpendicular hole in the ground, and surrounds the opening with an elevated wall, sloping outwards like a funnel; the presence of this insect generally indicates a rotten soil, into which horses and cattle sink beyond their fetlocks. This soil is, however, by no means a pure sand, but is well mixed with particles of clay, which allow the ant to construct its fabric. In rainy weather this soil forms the best travelling ground, and is by no means so rotten as when dry.
Large hornets of a bright yellow colour, with some black marks, made their paper nests on the stems of trees, or suspended them from the dry branches; most of us were several times severely stung by them. When found near our encampment we generally destroyed them, by quickly raising a large fire with dry grass.
A species of Gristes was abundant in the water-holes, but it was of small size: the eels have disappeared.
Nov. 25. — We travelled about eight miles, north by west, ascending a spur, from which the waters flowed, both to the south-west and to the eastward, but both collecting in Robinson’s Creek. Every time we turned to the westward we came on tremendous gullies, with almost perpendicular walls, whereas the easterly waters formed shallow valleys of a gently sloping character. The range was openly timbered with white-gum, spotted-gum, Ironbark, rusty-gum, and the cypress-pine near the gullies; and with a little dioecious tree belonging to the Euphorbiaceae, which I first met with at the Severn River, and which was known amongst us under the name of the “Severn Tree:” it had a yellow or red three-capsular fruit, with a thin fleshy pericarp, of an exceedingly bitter taste; the capsules were one-seeded. The gullies were full of bush-trees, amongst which the Bottle-tree, and the Corypha-palm were frequent. Pomaderris and Flindersia were in fruit and blossom. According to Mr. Gilbert, rock wallabies were very numerous. On a Reconnoissance I traversed the continuation of the range, which I found to be of a flat, sandy, and rotten character, having, with the exception of the Blackbutt, all the trees and other characteristics of the sandstone country of Moreton Bay: Xylomelum, Xanthorrhaea, Zamia, Leptospermum, a new species of forest oak, which deserves the name of Casuarina Villosa, for its bark looks quite villous; Persoonia falcata, R. Br., a small tree about fifteen feet high, with stiff glaucous falcate leaves, and racemose inflorescence; a dwarf Persoonia, with linear leaves, the stringy-bark, and a species of Melaleuca along the creek. In my excursion I crossed the main branch of Robinson’s Creek, and found the gullies of its right bank as steep and tremendous as those of the left. Water was very scarce. The whole country is composed of a fine-grained sandstone.
As the water-holes on the range are very few and distant from each other, they are frequented by the bronze-winged pigeons in great numbers. Mr. Gilbert shot eight of them, and Mr. Roper, John Murphy, and Charley, added to the number, so that we had a fine pigeon supper and breakfast, each having his bird — a rare occurrence in our expedition. A few drops of rain fell in the morning.
Nov. 26. — When we were waiting for our bullocks, four emus came trotting down the slope towards the camp. Messrs. Gilbert, Roper, Murphy, and Brown, having their horses ready, gave chase, and, after a dangerous gallop, over extremely rocky ground, succeeded, with the assistance of our kangaroo dog, Spring, in securing one of them. When Charley returned to the camp with the bullocks, he told us that he had found these emus walking amongst the bullocks, and that he had struck one of them with his tomahawk. On our road to the water, which I had found on my reconnoisance, about seven miles W.N.W., under a still higher range, rising at the right of Robinson’s Creek, we started a herd of eight kangaroos, when our horsemen, assisted by Spring, were again successful in taking one of them.
Nov. 27. — A thunder-storm during the night, which passed, however, to the other side of the range. After a gust of wind of short duration, we had some very light showers; so light indeed, as not to interrupt our meat-drying process.
Proceeding on our journey, we ascended the range, and travelled between four and five miles on its level summit, which was covered with open forest, interspersed with thickets of Acacias and Casuarinas. From the extremity of the range we enjoyed a very fine and extensive view. Ranges of mountains with conspicuous peaks, cupolas, and precipitous walls of rock, were observed extending at various distances from west by north to north-west. The most distant range was particularly striking and imposing; I called it “Expedition Range,” and to a bell-shaped mountain bearing N. 68 degrees W., I gave the name of “Mount Nicholson,” in honour of Dr. Charles Nicholson, who first introduced into the Legislative Council of New South Wales, the subject of an overland expedition to Port Essington; and to a sharp peak N. 66 degrees W., the name of “Aldis’s Peak,” in acknowledgment of the kind assistance received from Mr. Aldis of Sydney. We then descended, with great difficulty into a broad valley, bounded on either side by fine slopes and ridges, openly timbered with silver-leaved Ironbark. On the small well-grassed flats along the watercourse, the flooded-gum and apple-trees grew to a considerable size.
The morning was cloudy, with occasional drops of rain; but it cleared up towards noon, and, near sunset, a wall of dark clouds rose in the west, over the ranges. Thunder-storms very generally come with westerly cloudy weather, with north-westerly, and northerly winds. We busied ourselves in extracting the oil from the skin of the emu: this operation was performed by suspending it on sticks before a gentle fire, the oil dripping from it into a shallow vessel. It is of a light amber colour, and is very useful in oiling the locks of our fire-arms; it has been considered a good anti-rheumatic, and I occasionally used it for that purpose.
Mr. Gilbert skinned the tail of the kangaroo to make a bag for holding fat; but it broke and ripped so easily when dry, as to render it unfit for that purpose. We used the skins of the kangaroos to cover our flour-bags, which were in a most wretched condition. Our latitude was 25 degrees 19 minutes 19 seconds.
Nov. 28. — Charley and Brown informed us that they had followed the watercourse, and had come to a broad river with precipitous banks, which would not allow any passage for our horses and cattle; they also stated that the watercourse on which we were encamped, became a rocky gully, and that it would be impossible to cross it lower down. From this information I supposed that a river, like the Robinson, rising in many gullies of the north-east ranges, and flowing in south-west direction was before us; I, therefore, decided upon heading it. It was, however, very difficult to find a leading spur, and we frequently came on deep and impassable gullies, surrounded by a dense thicket of cypresspine, and a great variety of shrubs peculiar to sandstone rock. After travelling about nine miles in a N. 15 degrees E. direction, we came to a subordinate range, and having found, in one of its watercourses, some tolerable grass and a fine water-hole, we were enabled to encamp. Mr. Roper and Charley, who had kept a little more to the left, reported that they had been on one of the heads of the Boyd, and had seen a fine open country to the westward, and south-west. The “Boyd” was so named in acknowledgment of the liberal support I had received from Benjamin Boyd, Esq.
Amongst the shrubs along the gullies, a new species of Dodonaea, with pinnate pubescent leaves, was frequent. Towards evening we had a thunderstorm from the westward.
Nov. 29. — In reconnoitring the country in the neighbourhood of the camp, I ascended three mountains, and ascertained that there are five parallel ranges, striking from north to south, of which the three easterly ones send their waters to the eastward; whereas the two westerly ones send theirs to the Boyd, the valley of which has a south-westerly direction. To the north of the Boyd, there is a steep mountain barrier, striking from east to west. All these ranges are composed of sandstone, with their horizontal strata, some of which have a very fine grain. Impressions of Calamites were observed in one of the gullies. We also saw two kangaroos. In the water-hole near our camp, there were numerous small brown leeches, which were very keen in the water, but dropped off as soon as we lifted our feet out of it. The hornets also were very troublesome. Recent bush fires and still smoking trees betokened the presence of natives; who keep, however, carefully out of sight. This country, with its dry scrubby ranges and its deep rocky gullies, seems to be thinly inhabited; the natives keeping, probably, to the lower course of Robinson’s Creek and of the Boyd. The descent to the easterly waters is much more gentle; water remains longer in the deep rocky basins or puddled holes of its creeks, and the vegetation is richer and greener. Instead of the cypress-pine scrub, the Corypha-palm and the Casuarina grew here, and invited us to cool shaded waters; the Corypha-palm promised a good supply of cabbage. We had a thunder-storm from the southward, which turned from the range to the eastward. The two last days were cloudless and very hot; but, on the ranges, a cool breeze was stirring from the northward.
Nov. 30. — I wished to move my camp to a small water-hole about eight miles east by north, which I had found yesterday; but, though I kept more to the northward than I thought necessary, we were everywhere intercepted by deep rocky gullies. Losing much time in heading them, I ventured to descend one of the more practicable spurs, and, to my great satisfaction, my bullocks did it admirably well. The valley into which I entered was very different from these barriers; gentle slopes, covered with open forest of silver-leaved Ironbark, and most beautifully grassed, facilitated my gradual descent to the bottom of the valley, which was broad, flat, thinly timbered with flooded-gum and apple-trees, densely covered with grass, and, in the bed of the creek which passed through it, well provided with reedy water-holes. Before I ventured to proceed with my whole party, I determined to examine the country in advance, and therefore followed up one of the branches of the main creek, in a northerly direction. In proceeding, the silver-leaved Ironbark forest soon ceased, and the valley became narrow and bounded by perpendicular walls of sandstone, composed of coarse grains of quartz, rising out of sandy slopes covered with Dogwood (Jacksonia) and spotted-gum. The rock is in a state of rapid decomposition, with deep holes and caves inhabited by rock-wallabies; and with abundance of nests of wasps, and wasp-like Hymenoptera, attached to their walls, or fixed in the interstices of the loose rock. Through a few gullies I succeeded in ascending a kind of table-land, covered with a low scrub, in which the vegetation about Sydney appeared in several of its most common forms. I then descended into other valleys to the eastward, but all turned to the east and south-east; and, after a long and patient investigation, I found no opening through which we could pass with our bullocks. Although I returned little satisfied with my ride, I had obtained much interesting information as to the geological character of this singular country.
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:57