Ruined Castle Creek — Zamia Creek — Bigge’s Mountain — Allowance of Flour Reduced — Natives Spear a Horse — Christmas Ranges — Brown’s Lagoons — Thunder–Storms — Albinia Downs — Comet Creek — Native Camp.
Dec. 1. — I rode to the eastward from our camp, to ascertain how far we were from the water-hole to which I had intended to conduct my party. After having ascended the gullies, and passed the low scrub and cypress-pine thicket which surrounds them, I came into the open forest, and soon found our tracks, and the little creek for which I had steered the day before. This creek, however, soon became a rocky gully, and joined a large creek, trending to the east and south-east. Disheartened and fatigued, I returned to the camp, resolved upon following down the course of the Boyd to the south-west, until I should come into a more open country. On my way back, I fell in with a new system of gullies, south of the creek I had left, and east of the creek on which our camp was, and which I had called “The Creek of the Ruined Castles,” because high sandstone rocks, fissured and broken like pillars and walls and the high gates of the ruined castles of Germany, rise from the broad sandy summits of many hills on both sides of the valley.
When I returned to the camp, Mr. Gilbert told me, that Mr. Roper and John Murphy had been on a mountain towards the head of the main creek, north-west from our camp, and that they had seen an open country before them. I therefore started, on the 2d December, with Mr. Gilbert to examine it. Our admiration of the valley increased at every step. The whole system of creeks and glens which join “Ruined Castle Creek,” would form a most excellent cattle station. With the exception of the narrow gorge through which the main creek passes to join the Creek of Palms [Mr. Arrowsmith is of opinion that such a junction is improbable, if the author is alluding to the creek, called Palm Tree Creek, which he fell in with about 60 miles to the S.E. — Ed.] to the south-east, which might be shut by a fence not thirty yards long; and of the passable ranges to the north-west, which lead into a new country, and which form the pass seen by Roper and Murphy, it is everywhere surrounded by impassable barriers. Beautiful grass, plenty of water in the lower part of the creek, and useful timber, unite to recommend this locality for such a purpose. The creeks to the east and south-east are also equally adapted for cattle stations. After passing a stony ridge covered with spotted-gum, from which the remarkable features of the country around us — the flat-topped mountain wall, the isolated pillars, the immense heaps of ruins towering over the summits of the mountains — were visible, we descended a slope of silver-leaved Ironbark, and came to a chain of water-holes falling to the east. Travelling in a north-westerly direction, and passing over an openly timbered country, for about two miles, we came to the division of the waters, on a slight ridge which seemed to connect two rather isolated ranges. We followed a watercourse to the northward, which, at seven miles [In the original drawing the watercourse is not more than two miles long, according to Mr. Arrowsmith, so that seven miles must be a mistake. — Ed.] lower down, joined an oak-tree creek, coming from the ranges to the eastward. Here water was very scarce; the banks of the creek were covered with Bricklow scrub; and a bush-fire, which had recently swept down the valley, had left very little food for our cattle: the blady-grass, however, had begun to show its young shoots, and the vegetation, on some patches of less recent burnings, looked green. Sterculia (heterophylla?) and the Bottle-tree, were growing in the scrub; and many Wonga–Wonga pigeons (Leucosarcia picata, Gould.) were started from their roosting-places under the old trees in the sandy bed of the creek. We caught a young curlew; and Mr. Gilbert shot two Wonga–Wongas, and three partridge-pigeons (Geophaps scripta). The latter abound in the silver-leaved Ironbark forest, where the grass has been recently burned.
After having contended with scrubs, with swamps, and with mountains, we were again doomed to grapple with our old enemy, the silver-leaved Bricklow, and a prickly Acacia with pinnate leaves, much resembling the A. farnesiana of Darling Downs.
The most remarkable feature in the vegetation; however, was an aborescent Zamia, with a stem from seven to eight or ten feet high, and about nine inches in diameter, and with elongated cones, not yet ripe. In consequence of the prevalence of this plant, I called the creek “Zamia Creek.” In the fat-hen flats, over which we travelled in following the watercourse to Zamia creek, I was surprised to find Erythrina, which I had been accustomed to meet with only on the creeks, and at the outskirts of mountain brushes, near the sea-coast. The white cedar (Melia Azedarach) grows also along Zamia Creek, with casuarina, and a species of Leptospermum. On my return to the camp, I found that a party had been out wallabi shooting, and had brought in three; they were about two feet long; body reddish grey, neck mouse grey, a white stripe on each shoulder, black muzzle, and black at the back of the ear; the tail with rather long hair. The flying squirrel (Petaurus sciureus) which was not different from that of the Hunter; and a Centropus phasianellus, (the swamp pheasant of Moreton Bay), were shot.
Dec. 3. — We stopped at Ruined Castle Creek, in order to obtain more wallabies, which abounded among the rocks, and which appeared to be a new species: it approaches nearest to Petrogale lateralis of Gould, from which, however, it essentially differs. Mr. Gilbert and all our best shots went to try their luck; they succeeded in killing seven of them.
The weather was cloudy, but it cleared up during the forenoon; in the afternoon rain commenced with a perfect calm; for the last three days easterly winds have prevailed, often blowing very strong at night.
In the rocky gullies, we found the following plants: a new species of Grevillea, having pinnatifid leaves with very long divisions, the blossoms of a fine red, and the seed-vessels containing two flat seeds, surrounded by a narrow transparent membrane; Leucopogon juniperinum and lanceolatum; a Dodonaea with long linear leaves and D. triquetra, were frequent.
Dec. 4. — I went with my whole party to Zamia Creek, the latitude of which is 25 degrees 5 minutes 4 seconds, and which is about sixteen miles west by north from our last camp.
Dec. 5. — We followed Zamia Creek about six miles down. It is very winding and scrubby; the rock on its banks is a clayey flagstone (Psammite); the upper strata are more clayey, and break in many small pieces. Several hills approached the creek; and a large mountain which I called Bigge’s Mountain, in acknowledgment of the kind support of Frederic Bigge, Esq., was seen to the eastward. A large kangaroo started out of the creek, and was killed by our dogs; it appeared to be rather different from the common one, being remarkably light-coloured, with a white belly, black end of the tail, and the inside of the ear dark. We soon met with a fine reedy water-hole, with swarms of little finches fluttering about it; and, the place being suitable, I encamped for the night, and took the opportunity to repair some of our harness. The night was cloudy; the morning very fine; and the day very hot, with an occasional fresh breeze from the northward, which generally sets in about eleven o’clock. Thick cumuli came from the northward during the afternoon, but disappeared towards sunset.
Dec. 6. — After a fine night, we had a cold morning with heavy dew. From the hills near the camp, Mount Nicholson bore N. 30 degrees W. and Aldis’s Peak due north; Bigge’s Range was in sight to the eastward.
The horses had gone back to Ruined Castle Creek, about twenty-one miles distant; and the bullocks to our last camp, which, according to Charley, had been visited by the Blackfellows, who had apparently examined it very minutely. It was evident that they kept an eye upon us, although they never made their appearance. Our allowance of flour was now reduced from six pounds to five.
Dec. 7. — We travelled down Zamia Creek. The bed of the creek, though lined with many casuarinas, was entirely dry, and we did not reach a water-hole until we had travelled a distance of nine miles from the camp. Hoping that the supply of water would increase, I travelled on ward, leaving Mount Nicholson about six miles to the left. As we proceeded, the flats along the creek increased in size; and we entered a level country (which seemed unbounded towards the north-east) covered with silver-leaved Ironbark, box, and flooded-gum. We passed a large scrubby creek, coming from Mount Nicholson, and a considerable watercourse from Aldis’s Peak. On the latter, we found a fine water-hole, at which we encamped. We started a great number of kangaroos; but, unfortunately, they all escaped. The whole country was full of game.
Whilst preparing to proceed on a Reconnoissance of the neighbourhood, Charley, who had been sent for my horse, returned at full gallop, and told me that Blackfellows were spearing our horses. Fortunately Messrs. Gilbert and Calvert had just come in; and, mounting our horses, three of us hastened to the place where Charley had seen the Blacks, leaving the remainder of our party to defend the camp. We found one of our horses had been deeply wounded in the shoulder; but fortunately, the others were unhurt, and were grazing quietly. Charley saw two Blackfellows retreating into the scrub, but had seen a great number of them when he first came to the place. This event, fortunately not a very disastrous one, was so far useful, as it impressed every one with the necessity of being watchful, even when the Blackfellows were not suspected to be near.
The latitude of our camp was 24 degrees 54 minutes 19 seconds, and about seven miles from our last camp. Aldis’s Peak bore N.W. by W., distant two miles and a half; and I found that it was surrounded by a dense scrub. After following Zamia Creek for some miles, I turned to the left, and travelled about north-north-west, when the scrub opened, and we came upon open ridges, and, at about a mile and a half from the river, found some fine lagoons. The ridges, which are spurs of Aldis’s Peak and Expedition Range, disappear in the level country to the north-east. Farther on to the north-north-west, I passed some fine plains, having the black soil, the vegetation, the dry creeks and watercourses, of Darling Downs. Thick scrub seems to extend all along the foot of the range, from Aldis’s Peak to Mount Nicholson. Both these mountains are composed of basalt, containing numerous crystals of peridot.
Dec. 8. — I travelled with my whole party over the ground which I had reconnoitred yesterday, and had to go a considerable distance farther to find water. Along the scrubs there are generally chains of water-holes, which retain the water for a long time, and are soon filled by heavy thunderstorms; they are well puddled with clay, and, therefore, become dry almost exclusively by evaporation. Our camp was about eight miles N.N.W. from the last.
The feed was all parched up: the native carrot, which was so green when we passed Darling Downs, was here withered and in seed. Immense stretches of forest had been lately burned, and no trace of vegetation remained. Partridge-pigeons were very numerous, and the tracks of kangaroos and wallabies were like sheep-walks. Charley saw an emu; but an iguana and a partridge-pigeon were the only addition to our night’s mess.
The sky was covered by a thin haze, occasioned by extensive bush fires. A fine breeze, which sprung up at eleven o’clock, from the northward, made travelling very agreeable. We enjoy no meal so much as our tea and damper at luncheon, when we encamp between twelve and two o’clock. It is remarkable how readily the tea dispels every feeling of fatigue, without the slightest subsequent injury of health.
Paludinas and Unios were very frequent in the water-holes. The silver-leaved Ironbark (Eucalyptus pulverulentus) was here coming into blossom. The whole vegetation seemed to feel the heat of an almost vertical sun; and, with the exception of the fresh green of the Vitex shrub, the silver-leaved Bricklow, and those patches of young grass which had been burnt about a month before — all nature looked withered. It was very hot from nine o’clock to eleven, when the cooling northerly breeze usually sets in.
Upon reaching the place of our next camp, Mr. Roper went to cut tent-poles, but, perhaps too intent on finding good ones, unfortunately lost his way, and wandered about the bush for about five miles before we were able to make him hear our cooees. Accidents of this kind happen very easily in a wooded country, where there is no leading range or watercourse to guide the rambler, or when sufficient care is not taken to mark and keep the direction of the camp.
Dec. 9. — The haze of yesterday cleared up at sunset, after having formed two threatening masses of clouds in the east and in the west, united by a broad belt of mare’s tails across the sky. It became cloudy again, and prevented my taking observations during the night; the morning was cool and agreeable, clearing up about eleven o’clock; the northerly wind stirring, as usual. Proceeding on our journey, we travelled about nine miles W.N.W. over a Box flat, with stiff soil and melon-holes; after a few miles, it changed into an open silver-leaved Ironbark forest, with lighter soil. About six miles from our last camp, we came upon a fine creek (with Casuarinas and palm-trees), flowing from the mountains on a north-easterly course; and, about three miles further, to the W.N.W., we came to another creek, and numerous palm-trees growing near it. Following up the latter, we found a fine water-hole surrounded by reeds, and which is probably fed by a spring. The forest was well grassed; and a small Acacia, about fifteen or twenty feet high, with light green bipinnate leaves (from which exuded an amber-coloured eatable gum), formed groves and thickets within it. A Capparis, a small stunted tree, was in fruit: this fruit is about one inch long and three-quarters of an inch broad, pear-shaped and smooth, with some irregular prominent lines. Capparis Mitchelii has a downy fruit, and is common in the scrubs. A small trailing Capparis, also with oblong eatable fruit, was first observed on a hill near Ruined Castle Creek, in lat. 25 degrees 10 minutes: we met with it frequently afterwards. We were encamped in the shade of a fine Erythrina; and the Corypha-palm, Tristania, the flooded-gum, the silver-leaved Ironbark, Tripetelus, and a species of Croton, grew around us. A species of Hypochaeris and of Sonchus, were greedily eaten by our horses; the large Xeranthemum grew on the slopes, among high tufts of kangaroo grass. A species of Borage (Trichodesma zeylanica), with fine blue flowers, was first seen here; and the native raspberry, and Ficus muntia, were in fruit. In the afternoon, I went with Brown up the range, following the bed of our creek; and, having ascended a spur of sandstone, with gullies on each side, we came to a large basaltic mountain, clothed with fine open timber, and a great number of arborescent Zamias.
Dec. 10. — Accompanied by Charley, I went in search of a passage over the range. We ascended several hills in order to obtain general views, and found that the level country, over which we had travelled during the last two days, was of less extent than I had anticipated. To the north-east by east, ranges rise with the characteristic outlines of the basalt and phonolite — in peaks and long stretched flat-topped hills, with undulations openly timbered extending at their base. One valley descended to the north-north-east; another to the northward. The principal range has a direction from south-west to north-east; it is flat on the top, is well grassed and openly timbered; but, to the northward, it becomes scrubby, and also changes its geological character. After having crossed the range — without any great difficulty, with the exception of some steep places — we came on gullies going down to the north-west; and, from the rocky head of one of them, the whole country to the west and northwest burst upon us. There was a fine valley, a flat country, plains, isolated long-stretched hills, and distant ranges; the highest points of the latter bearing 77 degrees E. and 76 degrees W.; and, as I hoped to reach them by Christmas time, I called them “Christmas Ranges.” Not being able to discover a good slope on which our bullocks could travel, I descended at once into the gully, and followed it in all its windings; knowing well from experience that it is easier to find a passage up a mountain range than down it. The gully had all the characters of those of the Boyd; the same sandstone rock, the same abruptness, and the same vegetation; excepting, perhaps, a new Grevillea, with pinnatifid leaves and yellowish-white woolly flowers, which we found here. There was no water, except in some small holes full of gum leaves, which had rendered it unfit for use. After proceeding with great difficulty about three miles, we found that the gullies opened into a broad flat valley; in which fields of fat-hen, the Croton shrub, the native Tobacco, Erythrina, fine specimens of flooded-gum, Tristania, and the Moreton Bay ash, were growing in great abundance. Farther down, however, the Bricklow scrub covered the whole valley; the water-course disappeared almost entirely; and we were completely disappointed in our hopes of finding a fine country. Small plains opened on both sides of the valley, surrounded by Bricklow scrub, and with patches of Bricklow scattered over them, in which the Bottle-tree frequently made its portly appearance. A large flight of Wonga Wonga pigeons were feeding on the seeds of various species of Acacia; we shot two of them. No water was to be found in an extent of fifteen miles. The noisy call of the laughing Jackass (Dacclo gigantea) made me frequently ride back and examine more minutely those spots marked by a darker foliage; but the presence of this bird is no certain indication of water, though he likes the neighbourhood of shady creeks. I could not help thinking that a considerable creek must come from the north-west side of Mount Nicholson; and, seeing an isolated range to the south-west, I rode towards it, sure of finding water near it, if there was any to be found. We approached the range just before sunset, much tired, with two Wonga–Wongas and three iguanas at our saddles. I had just informed my Blackfellow, that I wished to encamp, even without water, when some old broken sheets of bark, remains of the frail habitations of the natives, caught my eye; a dry water-hole, though surrounded with green grass and sedges, showed that they had formerly encamped there, with water. This water-hole was found to be one of a chain of ponds extending along the edge of the scrub which covered the hill; and, on following it farther down, we came to a fine pool of water, which enabled us to encamp comfortably. Next morning, after having enjoyed an iguana, and finding several other ponds well supplied with water, we returned. In crossing several of the scrub plains before mentioned, it was agreeable to observe that the dense vegetation which covered them was not the miserable Burr and the wiry Vervain, but Senecios and Sonchus (Sowthistle), which our horses greedily snatched as they waded through them. The soil is of a dark colour, very rich, but mild; and the rock below is basaltic. Kangaroos were feeding on the plains along the scrub; and Charley fired unsuccessfully at a fine “old man.” I saw one emu, and Charley a drove of ten more. The country was remarkably rich in various kinds of game; and I was very sorry that we were not better sportsmen, to avail ourselves of so favourable a circumstance. We found a passage for our bullocks at the west side of the valley along which we had come down; the ascent was steep, but practicable. We followed the spur up to the principal range, where we found some difficulty in heading some steep gullies, which come up to the highest crest of the mountains. After some tiresome riding, I was fortunate enough to hit the head of the creek on which our party was encamped; and, following it down — over loose rocks, large boulders, and occasional steep falls — accompanied by my excellent little horse, which willingly followed wherever I led, I came into a more open country; and the report of a gun gave me the pleasing assurance that our camp was at no great distance. My Blackfellow quitted me on the range, as he had done before, on several similar occasions; and it was too evident that I could not rely upon him in times of difficulty and danger. Within the scrub on the range, we found five or six huts, lately constructed, of the natives; they come here probably to find honey, and to catch rock-wallabies, which are very numerous in the sandstone gullies. In the gully which I descended, a shrub with dark-green leaves was tolerably frequent; its red berries, containing one or two seeds, were about the size of a cherry, and very good eating when ripe. The new Grevillea, before mentioned, was also found here growing on a sandy soil; and a species of Clematis tied the shrubs into an almost impenetrable maze. The arborescent Zamia was as frequent here as on the slopes and flat tops of the basaltic mountains; it grows from six to ten feet high, and even higher, and is about a foot in diameter; and often, its dark scaly trunk, borne to the ground by the winds, raises its fine head like a reclining man.
There was a thunder-storm to the south-east and east on the 10th December. These thunder-storms are generally very local, belonging to distant valleys and ranges. Much rain had fallen at the foot of the range, but we had very little of it. Several of my companions suffered by eating too much of the cabbage-palm. The Blackfellows will doubtless wonder why so many noble trees had been felled here. One of our kangaroo-dogs followed a kangaroo, and did not return; a severe loss, as we have only one left out of five, and this one is young and diseased. Our little terrier keeps very well.
Dec. 12 — After a clear night, the morning was misty, with a wall of clouds to the westward; at nine o’clock it cleared up, and loose cumuli passed over from the east; at eleven o’clock all clouds had disappeared, and a cool breeze set in from the northward. Charley did not succeed in bringing in the horses and cattle sufficiently early for starting on the long and difficult passage over the range. Our meat was all consumed; but we wished to reserve our bullocks for Christmas, which was, in every one of us, so intimately associated with recollections of happy days and merriment, that I was determined to make the coming season as merry as our circumstances permitted. This decision being final, every one cheerfully submitted to a small allowance, and did his best to procure game. Our latitude was 24 degrees 43 minutes.
Dec. 13. — We travelled along the spur at the west and south-west side of Erythrina creek, at which we had been encamped; and, after having headed the whole system of its gullies — keeping to the right along the main range for about three miles, we came to the spur on which I and Charley had ascended on our return, and which had a general direction to the north-west. When we arrived at the foot of the range, our cattle and horses were so jaded, and the water-hole still so far off, that I encamped here, more especially as the feed was young and rich, and as I had hopes of obtaining water by digging into the sand which filled the upper part of the valley. In this, however, I did not succeed; for, upon digging about three feet deep, I came on a layer of stiff clay very hard and dry. Fortunately, however, a thunder-storm came on towards the evening, which supplied our cattle as well as ourselves with water. This was the only time we encamped without a certainty of water, during our journey from Jimba to the head of the gulf, which occupied ten months. The whole night was showery, the wind and clouds coming from all directions.
Dec. 14. — We reached the water-holes I had discovered three days previous. Our cattle were very thirsty, notwithstanding the late rain, and they rushed into the water as soon as they got sight of it.
The hills, at the foot of which we are encamped, are composed of whinstone (basalt). Pebbles of conglomerate, of flint, and of quartz deeply coloured with iron, are, however, very frequent on the slopes. It is remarkable that that part of the range which is composed of basalt, is a fine open forest, whereas the basaltic hills of the large valley are covered with dense scrub. The Myal was frequent; and the fruit of the small lemon-tree was ripe.
I followed the watercourse which connects the water-holes on which we encamped, and met every where with Bricklow scrub. Mr. Gilbert ascended the hills, and stated that the whole valley to the westward appeared like an immense sea of scrub.
A thunder-storm was forming to the north-west, but was probably deflected by the ranges.
Dec. 15. — Last night we had two thunder-storms; one rose in the west, and turned to the northward, following the Christmas Ranges; the other rose in the south, and turned to the east, probably attracted by Expedition Range. Still following the watercourse, we entered, after about four miles travelling, into the scrub. The watercourse was soon lost in the level ground, and water-holes appeared every where; the general direction of the waters seemed to be to the north-west. Four miles farther we came to a piece of open forest at the foot of a hill, which was covered with ironstone-pebbles. Here we encamped without water; but, having passed good water-holes not four miles distant, I sent Mr. Calvert and Brown to fetch some, whilst I and Charley went forward to examine the country. On my way to some ranges which I had seen to the eastward, I fell in with a dry watercourse, and, following it down for about half a mile from the camp, discovered a well-filled water-hole. The watercourse was found to join a creek with a deep and very wide bed, but dry. Muscle-shells strewed in every direction, and other appearances, indicated that, during the wet season, the whole country must be very swampy. The course of the creek was to the N. N. W., and it is joined by watercourses from the right and left; all now quite dry. After having followed the creek for about twelve miles, until sunset, without coming to the end of the scrub through which it trended, we were compelled to retrace our steps; in attempting which my companion, Charley, lost the track, but my good little horse, Jim Crow, guided us to the camp, which we reached about eleven o’clock. Mr. Calvert and Brown had not yet returned; although the report of their guns had been heard several times. The night was extremely cold, notwithstanding we were encamped under the shelter of trees: and it was therefore evident that we were at a considerable elevation above the level of the sea. The Box-tree of Jimba-flats, the Bricklow — in short, the whole vegetation of the scrubby country, west of Darling Downs, were still around us; and the Moreton Bay ash (a species of Eucalyptus)— which I had met with, throughout the Moreton Bay district, from the sea coast of the Nynga Nyngas to Darling Downs — was here also very plentiful.
Dec. 16. — Our cattle and our horses, with the exception of those we had used the night before, had strayed in search of water; but Charley found them on the sow-thistle plains, beyond our last camp. Messrs. Calvert, Murphy, and Brown, came in early this morning; they had lost their way in the dark, in consequence of remaining too long at the water-hole. They informed me that they had passed the night on an open piece of forest ground along a creek. This intelligence induced me to examine the locality: I therefore went with Brown, and found the creek, with a deep sandy, but dry bed, full of reeds; its direction being from south by west to north by east. I followed it up about eight miles, when the scrub receded from its left bank, and a fine open extensive flat stretched to the westward. I looked into the Casuarina thickets which occasionally fringed its bank, in search of water; but found none. I was frequently on the point of returning, but, induced by the presence of reeds, continued the search, until the scrub again approached the right side of the creek; and, in one of those chains of ponds which almost invariably exist at the outside of these scrubs, a small pool of water was found. This gave me fresh confidence, and I was eagerly examining the creek, when Brown exclaimed, “Plenty of water, sir! plenty of water!” and a magnificent lagoon, surrounded by a rich belt of reeds, lay before us. The natives must have been at this spot some time before, and have burned the grass; as the earth was now covered with a delicate verdure. The country appeared flat, and was so openly timbered with fine flooded gum-trees, that we could see for a considerable distance; a circumstance very favourable to us, in case of the natives proving hostile. It would appear that this place was frequently resorted to by the natives: the bark had been recently stripped in various places; the huts were in good repair, with heaps of muscle-shells and some kangaroo-bones about them. We returned to the camp with the joyous news; for I had been greatly perplexed as to the direction I ought to take. Charley returned very late with the strayed cattle, and reported that he had seen the smoke of the Blackfellow’s fires all along the western ranges. This was welcome intelligence; for we knew that their presence indicated the existence of a good country. Yesterday in coming through the scrub, we had collected a large quantity of ripe native lemons, of which, it being Sunday, we intended to make a tart; but, as my companions were absent, the treat was deferred until their return, which was on Monday morning, when we made them into a dish very like gooseberry-fool; they had a very pleasant acid taste, and were very refreshing. They are of a light yellow colour, nearly round, and about half an inch in diameter; the volatile oil of the rind was not at all disagreeable.
The chains of water-holes within the scrub are covered with a stiff star-grass, having a great number of spikes rising from the top of the stem; and several sedges crowd around the moister spots. A stiff, wiry, leafless polygonaceous plant grows in the shallow depressions of the surface of the ground, which are significantly termed by the squatters “Melon-holes”, and abound in the open Box-tree flats. A small shrubby Stenochilus with very green linear lanceolate leaves and red tubulous flowers, is frequent amongst the Bricklow.
The pools and lagoons contain Unios, Paludinas, and the lanceolate and oval Limnaeas. Fine dry weather has set in; the northerly breeze is still very regular; but the mornings, from eight to eleven, are very hot. A few mosquitoes have made their appearance, probably in consequence of the late rains. Charley killed a Diamond snake, larger than any he had ever seen before; but he only brought in the fat, of which there was a remarkable quantity. The Iguanas (Hydrosaurus, Gray) have a slight bluish tinge about the head and neck; but in the distribution of their colours, generally resemble H. Gouldii.
Mr. Gilbert found a land crab in the moist ground under a log of wood; and Mr. Calvert brought me a species of helix of a yellowish green colour.
Dec. 18. — It was with very great difficulty that we collected our horses and cattle; but we could not find one of our pack bullocks, which had concealed himself in the scrub, and, from the unfavourable situation of our camp, we were obliged to abandon it. Old bullocks, when tired, care very little about company, and even like to retire to any solitary spot, where there is good feed and water. Having nearly reached the end of our stage, we were overtaken by a thunder-storm from the south; which was followed by another from the west with very heavy rain. This was the first heavy rain to which we had been exposed, whilst on the day’s march; for thunder-storms did not generally rise till after two o’clock; at which time we were usually secured in our tents.
The fine lagoons — which I called “Brown’s Lagoons” after their discoverer — and the good feed about them, induced me to stop for the purpose of killing the fat bullock which Mr. Isaacs had given us, and of drying it like the charqui of the South Americans; instead of waiting till Christmas, as we originally intended; especially as we were ignorant of the character of the country before us. Accordingly, on the 18th at five o’clock in the morning, it was slaughtered and cut into thin slices; which, before night, were nearly dried by the powerful heat of an almost vertical sun. We enjoyed ourselves very much on this occasion, and feasted luxuriously on fried liver at breakfast, on stuffed heart for luncheon, and on a fine steak and the kidneys for supper. Those who may have lived for so long a time as we had upon a reduced fare, will readily understand with what epicurean delight these meals were discussed.
Dec. 19. — We completed our job, by melting down the fat, with which our saddles, bridles, and all our leather gear, were well greased. In the afternoon Mr. Calvert and Charley, who had been sent after the bullock we had left behind, returned with him. They had found him quietly chewing the cud, in a Bricklow grove near a small pool of water.
Dec. 20. — Whilst employed in arranging our packs, Murphy and Charley went out to examine the surrounding country. On their return they informed me that they had met with a native camp, the inhabitants of which were probably out hunting, for they had left all their things behind.
Capparis Mitchelii was found in blossom. The cockatoo parrakeet of the Gwyder River, (Nymphicus Novae Hollandiae, Gould.), the common white cockatoo, and the Moreton Bay Rosella parrot, were very numerous. We also observed the superb warbler, Malurus cyaneus of Sydney; and the shepherd’s companion, or fan-tailed fly-catcher (Rhipidura); both were frequent. Several rare species of finches were shot: and a species of the genus Pomatorhinus, a Swan River bird, was seen by Mr. Gilbert. The latitude of this encampment was found to be 24 degrees 44 minutes 55 seconds.
Dec. 21. — As our meat was not entirely dry, I thought it advisable to remain another day at this place, which was usefully occupied by packing the fat into bags made of the hide of the animal. Besides the plants above-mentioned, a beautiful blue Nymphaea was found growing in the lagoon; and around it, among the reeds and high cyperaceous plants, a small labiate, a Gomphrena, the native Chamomile, and a Bellis were growing.
The days continue very hot. At 5 P.M. we had a thunder-storm from the southward: but little rain fell. It cleared up at seven o’clock; very heavy dew in the morning.
Dec. 22. — We travelled to-day about five miles in a north-north-west direction, and encamped at the creek where Charley and his companion had seen the huts of the natives, which we found deserted. Our route lay through a flat country, timbered with true box, (small Acacias forming the underwood), along a fine lagoon on which were a number of ducks; farther on, the Bastard box prevailed, with silver-leaved Ironbark, and patches of Bricklow scrub, of Vitex and of the native lemon. A small tree (a species of Acacia) was also seen about thirty or forty feet high, with slightly drooping branches, and lanceolate deep green phyllodia about one inch.
I reconnoitred with Charley, and found that the creek soon became enveloped by scrub: to the west and south-west rose ranges of a moderate elevation, parallel to which we travelled; plains frequently interspersed with scrub, which became more dense as it approached the foot of the ranges. From these appearances I determined upon sending my party back to Brown’s Lagoons, to secure water; whilst I should examine the country in advance, in order to ascertain the extent of the scrub, in which we were entangled.
Dec. 23 — During the night we had a tremendous thunder-storm from the southward with much rain, which did not cease till after midnight, and was succeeded by a hurricane from the east. We witnessed a remarkable meteor, of a fine bluish colour, stretching from E.N.E. to W.S.W. almost parallel to the thunder-clouds. The moon, a day from its full, to the eastward, probably produced this phenomenon.
The bower of the bowerbird (Chlamydera maculata, Gould) was seen in the scrub; it is made of dry grass, and its approaches at either end were thickly strewn with snail shells and flint pebbles, which had been collected by the bird with great industry, but for what purpose we could not determine. Among the shells we found a Helix of a brownish colour and of an oval form, approaching that of Bulimus.
Whilst my companions returned to Brown’s Lagoons, Mr. Calvert and Brown remained with me to examine the country. The creek which I followed down, almost entirely disappeared; but, five miles farther on, its channel was again observed, as deep as before, and was joined by several water-courses from the Christmas Ranges. The principal channel of the creek was lined with a species of Melaleuca, with slightly foliacious bark. Several species of sedges, and nutritious grasses, grew round the holes in which the water was constant. At about fifteen miles from the camp, the creek was joined by that which I had followed for some distance on the 15th December, and, about three miles farther down, it receives another considerable tributary; and, at their junction, it is a fine sheet of water. Here the country begins to open, with large Box-flats extending on both sides. Two small creeks come in from the scrubby hills to the eastward, but, at a short distance beyond their junction, almost the whole channel disappears. Soon after, we came to another creek, to the left of the first; but it disappeared in the same manner as the other. We came upon several lagoons, and found some very fine grass: the scrub reappeared on the rising ground about six miles north from the large sheet of water. A little farther on, we came to ridges of basaltic formation, openly timbered with silver-leaved Ironbark, and richly covered with young grasses and herbs, identical with those of the Darling Downs. Water holes with fine water were found at the foot of the hills. Mimosa terminalis was frequent; numerous flights of partridge pigeons (Geophaps scripta) were also seen.
Dec. 24. — We returned towards the camp, but, through some inattention, kept too much to the eastward, and passed through a country of an extremely diversified character, and very different in appearance from that we had just left. Here we passed an extensive Myal forest, the finest I had seen, covering the hilly and undulating country, interspersed with groves of the native lemon tree; a few of which were still sufficiently in fruit to afford us some refreshment. Occasionally we met with long stretches of small dead trees, probably killed by bush fires, alternating with Bricklow thickets: and then again crossed small plains and patches of open forest ground, which much relieved the tediousness of the ride through thick scrubs, which we had frequently to penetrate with both hands occupied in protecting the face from the branches. We also crossed chains of water-holes surrounded by a coarse stargrass; these now changed into creeks with deep and irregular beds, lined with Melaleucas, and now again dwindled into shallow channels, scarcely to be recognised amidst the surrounding scrub. A week before, these holes were hopelessly dry; but a recent thunder-storm had filled them; and had also made the ground soft and heavy, and had called into life thousands of small frogs, which, by an incessant croaking, testified their satisfaction at the agreeable change.
Dec. 25. — We returned to Brown’s Lagoons, and entered our camp just as our companions were sitting down to their Christmas dinner of suet pudding and stewed cockatoos. The day was cloudy and sultry; we had had a heavy thunder-storm on Christmas eve.
Dec. 26. — During the night, scud passed from the east; in the morning we had some heavy showers without wind; it cleared up at ten o’clock, and we took advantage of four hours fair weather to travel on. We again passed the huts of the natives, and encamped about seven miles farther down the creek. We were, however, scarcely housed, when heavy showers of rain began to fall, and rendered the soil, which was a stiff loam, heavy and boggy.
Dec. 27. — Though we had hobbled our horses with straps and stirrup leathers, they had strayed, during the night, to the more open country, where they separated from each other in search of food; and it was not until after three hours search that Charley found the greater part of them. We had, however, watched the bullocks during the night, and were therefore enabled to proceed; which we did as far as the fine sheet of water before mentioned, when Charley again went in search of the missing horses, with which he returned after some time.
The showers continued until about 10 o’clock last night; at 3 A. M. the sky became clear, and continued so through the morning, except an occasional cloud from the eastward.
Mr. Calvert found a Bauhinia in blossom; which was not only different from the Bauhinia found afterwards at Comet River, but also from that of the Mitchell. Mr. Gilbert found a new species of sleeping lizard, with four lighter stripes on the dark brown ground along the back, and with dark spots on the sides. Mr. Roper shot some ducks, and I found a species of Ancylus; besides the species of Limnaea and Paludina, which we had previously met with.
Dec. 28. — We travelled over the Box-tree flat, until we reached the open basaltic ridges mentioned on the 23rd December, and kept along their base. The creek, which had disappeared on the flat, here again formed a large deep channel, lined with Melaleucas. Hollows existed along the hills, and water-holes ran in lines parallel to the creek; all now quite dry; a scrubby forest land alternated with open flats and Bricklow thickets. Water was very scarce; and having encamped my party, I started immediately to reconnoitre the country. I followed the creek to the northward, and found it lined by scrub; but the belt along its west side was narrow, and beyond it, a fine open undulating country was observed extending far to the south-west and west, in which direction the loom of distant ranges was seen. These plains, which had some patches of open forest land, were, at the request of my companion, Mr. Calvert, named “Albinia Downs.” To the north-west, the mountain with the hummock lay close before us, throwing out subordinate spurs to the westward. In riding to the most northerly end of it, I fell in with a small water-course, which led me to a large creek coming from the south-west and west-south-west, with fine Casuarinas fringing its banks and forming a dark tortuous line amongst the light green foliage of the trees on the neighbouring flats. About six miles lower down, it was joined by the scrub creek on which we were encamped.
The sandy bed of the creek was entirely dry, and we must have encamped without water after a long and fatiguing ride, had not a heavy thunder-shower supplied us; we caught the rain in our pannikins as it dropt from our extended blankets.
The thunder-storm had passed, and the sun had set, when Brown, my blackfellow, suddenly threw back the blanket under which we sat, and pointed out to me a fine comet in a small clear spot of the western sky. I afterwards learned that this comet had been observed as early as the 1st December; but our constant travelling in level forest land had prevented us from seeing it before. The creek received the appropriate name of “Comet Creek.”
Dec. 29. — Following the creek down, we found water in chains of ponds, and watercourses coming from a belt of scrub occupying the ground between the creek and the mountains. Fine, though narrow, but well-grassed flats extended along Comet Creek. We observed growing on the creek, the dwarf Koorajong (Grewia), a small rough-leaved fig tree, a species of Tribulus, and the native Portulaca. The latter afforded us an excellent salad; but was much more acid than I had found it in other parts of the country, where I had occasionally tasted it. The native melon of the Darling Downs and of the Gwyder, grew here also. Of animals, we saw several kangaroos, emus, native companions, and wallabies.
During our return to the camp, a hot wind blew from the south-west across Albinia Downs: the great extent of which sufficiently accounted for the high temperature. The only thermometer I had was unfortunately broken shortly after we started; this loss was severely felt by me throughout the journey, as we had no means of ascertaining the exact temperature. I made the latitude of our camp at Scrub Creek to be 24 degrees 25 minutes 42 seconds.
Dec. 30. — We travelled about seven miles to the north-east, crossed Comet Creek, and encamped at some water-holes, in a small creek coming out of the scrub below the range.
Our sportsmen gave chase to ten emus and a kangaroo on Albinia Downs: but the rottenness of the ground prevented their capture: rather tantalizing to hungry stomachs! I examined the basaltic rock on several spots, and found that it contained numerous crystals of Peridot. The sand in the bed of the river contains very minute particles of igneous rock. The slopes of the range of Comet Creek are composed of rich black soil, in some places without trees, in others openly timbered. Stones of a light coloured rock, with crystals of augite, pebbles of sandstone, of conglomerate, and of quartz, are scattered over the ground, or imbedded in the loamy beds of the water-courses. The belt of scrub at the foot of the slopes runs out in narrow strips towards the river, and these are separated by box-tree thickets, and open box-tree flats. A pea-plant, with ternate leaves, and fine yellow blossoms, was found near our camp: Portulaca was very abundant. The bronze-winged pigeon lived here on the red fruit of Rhagodia, and the black berries of a species of Jasmine; and seems also to pick occasionally the seed vessel of a Ruellia, which is very frequent on all the flats of Comet Creek.
During the night, a thunder-storm passed to the southward, but did not reach us; at 10 o’clock we observed very vivid lightning to the westward: the wind was from the north and north-east.
Dec. 31. — We travelled along the banks of the creek towards the north-east, but scarcely accomplished six miles, in consequence of its tortuous course. The water-hole which I had found when reconnoitring, was dried up, and we were glad to find a shallow pool, of which our thirsty cattle took immediate possession. The sand in the bed of the creek looked moist, but no water was found, after digging to a depth of five feet. The immediate neighbourhood of the creek was in some places open, in others covered with a shrubby Acacia, with long glaucous, and rather fleshy phyllodia. On both sides of the high banks are deep hollows, and chains of ponds, surrounded with reeds; but now quite dry, and covered with the dead shells of Limnaea, Paludina, and Unio.
Mr. Roper found an Agama, with light grey on the back, and a yellow belly. A small Chlamy-dophorus, (Jew lizard of the Hunter) was also seen, and is probably identical with the animal inhabiting the banks of that river. Brown accompanied me to reconnoitre the country; and we had scarcely travelled two miles along the creek, when my attention was attracted by the remains of a hut, consisting of a ridge pole, and two forked stakes, about six feet high, both having been cut with a sharp iron tomahawk. Neither of us doubted that this was the work of a white man, probably a runaway from the settlement at Moreton Bay. A few miles farther we came to an anabranch of the creek, which turned considerably to the westward. I followed it, and found a shallow watercourse that came out of the scrub, which I also examined in search of water. It led me to another deep channel within the scrub, which looked unusually green, and contained some very large water-holes; but there was no water in them. Turning round one of its bends, we saw a column of thick smoke rising from its left bank, near a fine pool of water. It was evident that a camp of natives was before us; we rode cautiously up to the water, near which we saw their numerous tracks, and then stopped to look around, but without dismounting. We were, however, very soon discovered by one of them, who, after staring at us for a moment, uttered a cry, resembling the word “whitefellow,” “whitefellow,” and ran off, followed by the whole party. We then rode up to the camp, and found their dinner ready, consisting of two eggs of the brush turkey, roasted opossums, bandicoots, and iguanas. In their “dillis,” (small baskets) were several roots or tubers of an oblong form, about an inch in length, and half an inch broad, of a sweet taste, and of an agreeable flavour, even when uncooked; there were also balls of pipe-clay to ornament their persons for corroborris. Good opossum cloaks, kangaroo nets, and dillis neatly worked of koorajong bark, were strewed about; there were also some spears, made of the Bricklow Acacia: all were forgotten in the suddenness of their retreat. I could not resist the temptation of tasting one of the eggs, which was excellent; but, as they seemed to have trusted to our generosity, I left every thing in its place, and departed. Brown thought that one of them looked like a half-caste, and, as they had called us, as far as we understood, “whitefellows,” I felt confirmed in my supposition, either that a white man was with them, or had lived among them very recently. I returned to the creek, in order to find another water-hole with water; but did not succeed, and had to encamp without it. During the night we heard the noise of a frog, “brrr, brrr;” probably a new species, for we had never heard that croak before. It seemed, however, to frighten Brown, who, like all blackfellows, is very timid after night-fall. Yesterday we met with a new leguminous shrub. It belongs to the section Cassia, and has a long pinnate leaf, the leaflets an inch long, and half an inch broad. Its pods were about a foot long, half an inch broad; and every seed was surrounded by a fleshy spongy tissue, which, when dry, gave to the pod a slightly articulate appearance. The seeds, when young, had an agreeable taste, and the tissue, when dry, was pleasantly acidulous, and was eaten by some of my companions without any ill effect, whilst others, with myself, were severely purged. To day I found the same plant in form of a tree, about thirty feet high, with a short stem, and long spreading shady branches
Last updated Monday, December 22, 2014 at 10:52