The Burdekin — Transition From the Depository to the Primitive Rocks — Thacker’s Range — Wild Figs — Geological Remarks — The Clarke — The Perry.
As this place afforded every convenience for killing and curing another bullock, we remained here for that purpose from the 29th March to the 2nd of April. The weather was favourable for our operations, and I took two sets of lunar observations, the first of which gave me longitude 146 degrees 1 minutes, and the second, 145 degrees 58 minutes. The mornings were generally either cloudless, or with small cumuli, which increased as the day advanced, but disappeared at sunset; the wind was, as far as I could judge, northerly, north-easterly, and easterly.
April 2. — The Suttor was reported by Charley to be joined by so many gullies and small creeks, running into it from the high lands, which would render travelling along its banks extremely difficult, that I passed to the east side of Mount McConnel, and reached by that route the junction of the Suttor with the newly discovered river, which I called the Burdekin, in acknowledgment of the liberal assistance which I received from Mrs. Burdekin of Sidney, in the outfit of my expedition. The course of this river is to the east by south; and I thought that it would most probably enter the sea in the neighbourhood of Cape Upstart. Flood marks, from fifteen to eighteen feet above the banks, showed that an immense body of water occasionally sweeps down its wide channel.
I did not ascend Mount McConnel, but it seemed to be composed of a species of domite. On the subordinate hills I observed sienite. The bed of the river furnished quite a collection of primitive rocks: there were pebbles of quartz, white, red, and grey; of granite; of sienite; of felspathic porphyry, hornblende, and quartz-porphyry; and of slate-rock.
The morning was cloudless. In the afternoon, heavy cumuli, which dissolved towards sunset; a strong wind from the north and north by east.
A very conspicuous hill, bearing E.N.E. from the junction of the rivers, received the name of Mount Graham, after R. Graham, Esq., who had most liberally contributed to my expedition.
Mr. Gilbert found a large calabash attached to its dry vine, which had been carried down by the waters. Several other very interesting cucurbitaceous fruits, and large reeds, were observed among the rubbish which had accumulated round the trees during the flood.
April 3. — We travelled up the Burdekin, in a north-north-west direction, to latitude 20 degrees 31 minutes 20 seconds. The country was hilly and mountainous; the soil was stony; and the banks of the river were intersected by deep gullies and creeks. The forest vegetation was the same as that on the lower Suttor. Among the patches of brush which are particularly found at the junction of the larger creeks with the river, we observed a large fig-tree, from fifty to sixty feet high, with a rich shady foliage; and covered with bunches of fruit. The figs were of the size of a small apple, of an agreeable flavour when ripe, but were full of small flies and ants. These trees were numerous, and their situation was readily detected by the paths of the natives leading to them: a proof that the fruit forms one of their favourite articles of food. The drooping tea trees, which had increased both in number and size, grew in company with an arborescent Calistemon, along the water’s edge; and a species of Eucalyptus, somewhat resembling Angophora intermedia, was discovered at this spot: it occurs frequently to the northward, and is common round the gulf of Carpentaria. The small Acacia tree of Expedition Range was frequently seen in the forest, and was covered with an amber-coloured gum, that was eatable, but tasteless: Hakea lorea (R. Br.), and Grevillea ceratophylla (R. Br.); the Ebenaceous tree, and that with guava-like fruit (lareya), were all numerous. The bed of the river was covered with the leguminous annual I noticed at the Suttor; it grew here so high and thick that my companions were unable to see me, though riding only a few yards from them.
Rock frequently crops out in the bed of the river, and in the neighbouring hills. Several hills at the right bank were formed by a kind of thermantide of a whitish grey, or red colour, and which might be scratched easily with a penknife. Other conical hills or short ranges, with irregular rugged crests, were composed of granite of many varieties, red and white, fine grained without hornblende, or containing the latter substance, and changing into sienite; and, at one place, it seemed as if it had broken through Psammite. I observed quartzite in several localities, and a hard pudding-stone extending for a considerable distance. We were, no doubt, on the transition from the depository to the primitive rocks; and a detailed examination of this interesting part of the country would be very instructive to the geologist, as to the relative age and position of the rocks.
A small fish, with yellow and dark longitudinal lines, and probably belonging to the Cyprinidae, was caught. Wind prevailed from the northward: the forenoon was cloudless; heavy cumuli in the afternoon.
We travelled at first on the right side of the river; but its banks became so mountainous and steep, and the gullies so deep, that we were compelled to cross it at a place where it was very deep, and where our horses and cattle had to swim. Many of our things got wet, and we were delayed by stopping to dry them.
April 4. — We moved our camp to latitude 20 degrees 24 minutes 12 seconds, a distance of about nine miles N.W. by N. We passed several granitic peaks and ranges; one of which I ascended, and enjoyed an extensive view. The character of the country changed very little: open narrow-leaved Ironbark forest on a granitic sand, full of brilliant leaflets of mica. Some deep creeks came from the eastward. To the west and north-west nothing was to be seen but ridges; but high imposing ranges rise to the north and north-east. At one spot, large masses of calcareous spar were scattered over the ground; they were probably derived from a vein in the granite.
Three black ducks, (Anas Novae Hollandiae) were shot. Tracks of native dogs were numerous; and a bitch came fearlessly down to the river, at a short distance from our camp. Our kangaroo dog ran at her, and both fell into the water, which enabled the bitch to escape.
April 5. — We re-crossed the river, which was not very deep, and travelled about nine miles N. 75 degrees W. The river flows parallel to a high mountain range, at about three or four miles from its left bank. I named this after Mr. Robey, another friendly contributor to my outfit. A large creek very probably carries the waters from this range to the Burdekin, in latitude 20 degrees 23 minutes. The country was very ridgy and hilly; and we found it exceedingly difficult to proceed along the river. We observed the poplar-gum again in the open forest, and a fine drooping loranthus growing on it. Pandanus was also very frequent, in clusters from three to eight trees. The clustered fig-tree gave us an ample supply of fruit, which, however, was not perfectly mellow.
Veins of calcareous spar and of quartz were again observed. I ascended a lofty hill, situated about a mile and a half to the west of our encampment, and found it composed of felspathic porphyry, with a greyish paste containing small crystals of felspar; but, in the bed of the river, the same rock was of a greenish colour, and contained a great number of pebbles of various rocks, giving it the aspect of a conglomerate; but recognisable by its crystals of felspar, and from its being connected with the rock of the hill. From the top of the hill, which is wooded with a silver-leaved Ironbark, I saw a very mountainous country to the N.N.W. and northward, formed into detached ranges and isolated peaks, some of which were apparently very high; but to the north-west and west no ranges were visible.
A thunder-storm threatened on the 4th, but we had only some light showers: the morning of the 5th was very hot, and the afternoon rainy. Wind from north and north-east. Nights clear.
April 6. — We travelled about ten miles N. 35 degrees W. over a ridgy, openly timbered, stony and sandy country, and crossed several sandy creeks, in which a species of Melaleuca, and another of Tristania were growing. No part of the country that we had yet seen, resembled the northern parts of New England so much as this. The rock was almost exclusively granitic isolated blocks; detached heaps, and low ridges composed of it were frequently met with in the open forest. We passed two small hillocks of milkwhite quartz; fragments of this rock, as well as of calcareous spar, were often observed scattered over the ground. The river here made a large bend to the northward, still keeping parallel to Robey’s Range, or a spur of it; and, when it again turned to the westward, another fine high range was visible to the north by east and north-east of it; which I named “Porter’s Range,” in acknowledgment of the kindness of another of the contributors to my expedition. Its latitude is about 20 degrees 14 minutes.
April 7. — Travelled about ten miles N. 70 degrees W. The country became more level, more open, and better grassed; the gullies were farther apart, and headed generally in fine hollows. Two large creeks joined the river from the westward; and a still larger one came from the northward, and which probably carries off the water from the country round a fine peak, and a long razorback mountain which we saw in that direction. North-west of Porter’s Range, and between it and the razorback, were two small peaks. The timber is of the same kind, but larger. The poplar-gum was more frequent, and we always found patches of fine grass near it; even when all the surrounding Ironbark bark forest was burnt. The large clustered fig-trees were not numerous along the river; we perhaps passed from three to five in the course of a day’s journey; though young ones, without fruit, were often seen.
Heavy clouds gathered during the afternoon of the 6th, and it rained throughout the night; the wind was from N. and N.E. In the morning of the 7th some drops of rain fell, but the weather cleared up during the day; wind easterly. The moon changed this day, and we experienced a heavy thunder-storm during the afternoon.
April 8. — We travelled about nine miles N. 70 degrees W., to latitude 20 degrees 9 minutes 11 seconds. The river made a bend to the southward, and then, at a sharp angle, turned again to the north-west. At this angle a large creek joined it from the south; another instance of creeks joining larger channels, coming in a direction almost opposite to their course. Two other creeks joined the Burdekin during this stage; one from the south-west, and another from the north. The grass was particularly rich at these junctions. The river became considerably narrower, but still had a fine stream. Thunder-storms had probably fallen higher up its course, causing a fresh; for its waters, hitherto clear, had become turbid. Narrow patches of brush were occasionally met with along its banks, and I noticed several brush trees, common in other parts of the country. Besides the clustered fig, and another species with rough leaves and small downy purple fruit, there were a species of Celtis; the Melia Azederach (White Cedar); a species of Phyllanthus, (a shrub from six to ten feet high); an Asclepiadaceous climber, with long terete twin capsules; and several Cucurbitaceae, one with oblong fruit about an inch long, another with a round fruit half an inch in diameter, red and white, resembling a gooseberry; a third was of an oblong form, two inches and a half long and one broad; and a fourth was of the size and form of an orange, and of a beautiful scarlet colour: the two last had an excessively bitter taste. The night and morning were cloudy, with a southerly wind, but it cleared up at eleven o’clock. Cumuli in the afternoon, with wind from the south-east.
From our camp we saw a range of hills, bearing between N. 5 degrees W. and N. 10 degrees W.; they were about three miles distant. I called them “Thacker’s Range,” in acknowledgment of the support I received from — Thacker, Esq., of Sidney.
April 9. — We travelled about nine miles W. by N., and made our latitude 20 degrees 8 minutes 26 seconds. The western end of Thacker’s Range bore N.E. Two large creeks joined the river from the south and south-west. The country was openly timbered; the Moreton Bay ash grew along the bergue of the river, where a species of Grewia seemed its inseparable companion. The flooded-gum occupied the hollows and slopes of the river banks, which were covered with a high stiff grass to the water’s edge, and the stream was fringed with a thicket of drooping tea trees, which were comparatively small, and much bent by the force of floods, the probable frequency of which may account for the reduced size of the tree. The ridges were covered with rusty Gum and narrow-leaved Ironbark. An Erythrina and the Acacia of Expedition Range were plentiful. The grass was rich and of various species. The granite rock still prevailed. A felspathic rock cropped out near the second creek, where I met with a dark rock, composed of felspar and horneblende (Diorite.) Our camp was pitched at the foot of a series of small conical hills, composed of porphyry. A larger range to the southward of it was also porphyritic, very hard, as if penetrated by quartz, and containing small crystals of flesh-coloured felspar. Sienite cropped out on the flats between these two ranges. I commanded a most extensive view from the higher range. High and singularly crenelated ranges were seen to the south-west; detached peaks and hills to the westward; short ranges and peaks to the north; and considerable ranges between north and north-east. A river was observed to join the Burdekin from the ranges to the south-west.
Numerous kangaroos were seen bounding over the rocky slopes to the grassy glens below. A stunted silver-leaved Ironbark covered the hills.
April 10. — The night was very cold, particularly towards morning, and the dew heavy; the morning was calm; a breeze from the south-east set in at nine o’clock a.m.; cumuli formed about eleven o’clock, and became very heavy during the afternoon.
The country over which we travelled about eight miles N. by W., was one of the finest we had seen. It was very open, with some plains, slightly undulating or rising into ridges, beautifully grassed and with sound ground. We crossed the river I had seen the preceding day from the hill, and found it running. Two large creeks, one from the right and the other from the left, also joined the Burdekin. I observed Pegmatite of a white colour, and hornblende Porphyry and Diorite. A shrubby Clerodendron and an arborescent Bursaria, covered with white blossoms, adorned the forest. The latitude was 20 degrees 0 minutes 36 seconds.
April 11. — We continued our journey up the river, in a W.N.W. direction, for about ten miles. The first part of our journey lay through a most beautiful country. The hollows along the river were covered with a dense sward of various grasses, and the forest was open as far as the eye could reach. Farther on, however, we occasionally met with patches of Vitex scrub, and crossed some stony ridges. A small river joined from the north-east, at about a mile and a half from the last camp, and also two large creeks from the south-west. I ascended the hills opposite our camp, and looked over an immense and apparently flat country, out of which small peaks and short ranges rose. The hills on which I stood were composed of Pegmatite, with patches of white Mica in large leaflets. During the journey we found granite changing into gneiss, diorite, and quartz rock.
On the rocky crest of the hill, I gathered the pretty red and black seeds of a leguminous climbing shrub (Abrus precatorius). Phonolithic or basaltic pebbles made me suppose that we were near to a change of country. Our latitude was 19 degrees 58 minutes 11 seconds.
April 12. — We had scarcely travelled a mile and a half, when we had to cross a large creek, which increased in size higher up. Box-tree flats and open Vitex scrub extended along its banks, and the latter, according to Mr. Roper’s account, changed into dense Bricklow scrub. At the junction of the creek and the river, we came on a dyke of basalt, the flat summit of which was so rough that we were compelled to travel along the flats of the creek, which for a long distance ran parallel to the Burdekin. The soil on the basalt was so shallow that it sustained only a scanty vegetation of grass and some few scattered narrow-leaved Ironbark trees. We crossed this dyke, however, and at about three miles descended from it into a fine narrow-leaved Ironbark flat, extending along the river, in which another large creek from the south-west joined the Burdekin. The flat was bounded by hills of limestone, cropping out in large blocks, with visible stratification, but without fossils. Having passed the third creek in the course of this day’s journey, we encamped on the commencement of another basaltic dyke. The bed of the creek was full of blocks of Sienite, of hornblende Porphyry, of greenish Pegmatite, and of cellular Basalt. The river here formed a large sheet of water; large masses of a white Sienite protruded out of it, opposite the junction of the creek. The opposite bank exhibited a very perfect and instructive geological section of variously bent and lifted strata of limestone, which was afterwards found to contain innumerable fossils, particularly corals and a few bivalve shells. The Rev. W. B. Clarke, of Paramatta, kindly undertook to examine the fossils brought from this locality. One he determined to be an undescribed species of Cyathophyllum, and has done me the honour to give my name to it.* The others belonged principally to the following genera, viz., Asterias, Caryophyllea, and Madrepora. The right bank of the river rose into steep cliffs of basalt, under which the clustered fig tree, with its dense foliage, formed a fine shady bower. The basaltic dyke was about a mile and a half broad, and I followed it about five miles up the river. Its summit was flat, rough, and rocky; at the distance of four miles from our camp it receded a little from the river, and there limestone was observed, crowded with fossils like that on the opposite side of the river. Two miles farther, the bed of the river was formed by a felspathic rock, with beautiful dendrites. A small island, with a chain of lagoons on one side, and with the river on the other, was also composed of this rock, in contact with, and covered by, basalt in several places. There were small falls and rapids in several parts of the river. A beaten foot-path of the natives, and many fire-places, showed that this part of it was much frequented by them. Wallabies were very numerous between the cliffs of the felspathic rock; and the fine fig trees along the banks of the river were covered with ripe fruit. The river made a wide sweep round the left side of a large limestone hill, whilst a chain of deep basaltic water-holes continued on its right. The basalt ceased to the westward of the limestone hill, and was succeeded by considerable flats of Ironbark, Moreton Bay ash, and Bloodwood. The Capparis still exhibited a few showy flowers. I examined the country thus far on the 12th April, after the camp had been formed; on returning, I took with me a large supply of ripe figs, of which we partook freely, and which caused several of us to suffer severely from indigestion, though we had frequently eaten small quantities of them without inconvenience.
April 13. — We avoided the field of basalt by moving up the creek we last crossed, about four miles, and by crossing over to the flats of the river where the basalt terminated. These flats, however, were again interrupted by a basaltic dyke, over which we were compelled to travel, as the steep banks of the river were on one side, and black bare rocks, forming sometimes regular walls with a dense scrub between them, prevented us from turning to the other. After descending from the basalt, we crossed a good-sized creek from the south-west, and travelled over a fine open country to lat. 19 degrees 49 minutes 41 seconds.
Two hills were close to the left side of the Burdekin, which, at their base, were joined by a large running creek from the N.N.W. From the limestone hill of yesterday, no other hill was visible to the westward, though ranges and isolated hills lay to the north and north-east, and a high blue mountain to the south-west.
Some days ago I found, for the first time, Spathodea alternifolia (R. Br.), which we continued to meet with throughout the remainder of our journey. I saw but one flower of it, but its falcate seed-vessels, often more than a foot long, were very numerous. Pandanus spiralis was frequent. The box (Eucalyptus), on the flats along the creek, the soil of which is probably formed of the detritus of basaltic rock, had a lanceolate glossy leaf, uniting the character of the box with glossy orbicular leaves growing generally on the whinstone soil of the northern parts of the colony, and of the box with long lanceolate leaves which prefers stiff flats on the tributary creeks of the Hunter. A Bottle-tree with a Platanus leaf (Sterculia?) grew in the scrub on the field of basalt, and was in full blossom. A pretty species of Commelyna, on the flats, a cucurbitaceous plant with quinquepalmate leaves and large white blossoms, grew along the river, the approaches of which were rendered almost inaccessible by a stiff high grass. Charley brought me the long flower-stalk of Xanthorrhaea from some ridges, which were, doubtless, composed of sandstone.
Two kangaroos were seen; they were of middle size, and of a yellowish grey colour, and seemed to live principally about the basaltic ridges.
The cooee of natives had been heard only once during our journey along the banks of the Burdekin; and the traces of their former presence had not been very frequently observed. Large lagoons full of fish or mussels form a greater attraction to the natives than a stream too shallow for large fish, and, from its shifting sands, incapable of forming large permanent holes. Wherever we met with scrub with a good supply of water, we were sure of finding numerous tracks of the natives, as game is so much more abundant where a dense vegetation affords shelter from its enemies.
April 14. — Last night, at seven o’clock, a strong breeze set in from the northward, and continued for about an hour, when it became perfectly calm. If this was the same breeze which we had observed at the Mackenzie at eight o’clock, and which set in earlier and earlier, as we travelled along the Isaacs and Suttor (though it was less regular in these places) until we felt it at about six o’clock, we were now most evidently receding from the eastern coast.
We travelled in a N. 60 degrees W. direction to lat. 19 degrees 45 minutes 36 seconds. A basaltic ridge, similar to those we had passed, extended in an almost straight line from south-east to north-west; it was covered with a scanty vegetation, with a few small narrow-leaved Ironbark trees and Erythrinas; the river now approached it, now left it in wide sweeps enclosing fine narrow-leaved Ironbark flats. To the south-west side of this ridge or dyke, the soil is basaltic, with box-trees and open Vitex scrub. The sharp conical hills of the white ant, constructed of red clay, were very numerous. A very perfect bower of the bower-bird was seen in a patch of scrub trees.
In a gully, a loose violet coloured sandstone cropped out, over which the basalt had most evidently spread. Farther on, the ridge enlarged and formed small hillocks, with bare rock cropping out at their tops; — a form of surface peculiar to the basaltic or whinstone country of this colony.
Charley shot the sheldrake of Port Essington, (Tadorna Rajah). The singular hissing or grinding note of the bower bird was heard all along the river; the fruit of the fig trees growing near, which seemed to supply it with its principal food during this part of the year.
April 15. — One of our bullocks had gone back on our tracks, and thereby prevented our starting so early as usual. We travelled in a N. 40 degrees W. direction to latitude 19 degrees 41 minutes 25 seconds. The basaltic country continued, and apparently extended a great distance from the river. The flats along the latter were less extensive. Sandstone cropped out in deep gullies, and in the bed of the river; it was naturally soft and coarse, but where it rose into hillocks near basalt, it changed into a fine baked sandstone, resembling quartzite, which, when in contact with the igneous rock, looked like burnt bricks. Near our camp, a dyke or wall of the aspect of a flinty red conglomerate, crossed the river from south-west to north-east. I believe that this rock belongs to the porphyries of Glendon, and of the upper Gloucester. We continued to feel the breeze, or rather a puff of wind, between 7 and 8 o’clock at night; it was often very strong and cold, and prevented the mosquitoes from molesting us.
April 16. — We proceeded north by west to latitude 19 degrees 32 minutes, and crossed several gullies coming from the basaltic ridges: these, however, receded far from the river, and large box and Ironbark flats took their place for about three miles, when the ridges re-appeared. Between four and five miles from the bar of red rock above mentioned, a fine large creek joined the Burdekin from the westward. The box and Ironbark forest was interrupted by slight rises of limestone full of corals; and by a higher hill of baked sandstone, at the foot of which a limestone hill was covered with a patch of Vitex scrub. The strata of the limestone seemed to dip to the southward.
The opposite banks of the river were ridgy, but openly timbered, and this fine country, with its well grassed flats, and its open ridges, seemed to extend very far on both sides. Messrs. Gilbert and Roper went to the top of the hill, and saw ranges trending from west to north, with that crenelated outline which I had before seen and mentioned: they distinguished a large valley, and the smoke of several fires of the natives along the range. A large lagoon was at the western foot of the hill on which they were. A large creek was seen, by Brown, to join the Burdekin from the north-east, at a short mile from our encampment. A baked sandstone and pudding-stone of a white colour projected into the river at the place, which not only exhibited the transition from one rock into the other, but it showed the action of igneous rocks on both, and gave a clue to the nature of the red rock I described yesterday. In the thicket which covered the rock, I observed Pomaderris of Moreton Bay. In decreasing our latitude, both Mr. Gilbert and myself were inclined to think that, whenever a bird or a plant disappeared, it was owing to that circumstance. In this, however, we were frequently mistaken: trees and herbaceous plants disappeared with the change of soil, and the decrease of moisture, and the birds kept to a certain vegetation: and, as soon as we came to similar localities, familiar forms of plants and birds re-appeared. Almost all the scrub-trees of the Condamine and Kent’s Lagoon were still to be seen at the Burdekin; and the isolated waters near grassy flats were visited by swarms of little finches, which Mr. Gilbert had observed at Port Essington, and which, in all probability, belonged to the whole extent of country between that place and the region of the tropics. This slight change of vegetation, and particularly of the inland Flora, from south to north, is no doubt connected with the uniformity of the soil and climate: and the immense difference which exists between the eastern and western coast, has led men of science and of observation, not without good reason, to infer that this continent was originally divided into two large islands, or into an archipelago, which have been united by their progressive, and, perhaps, still continued, elevation. As an exception, however, to this remark, a very sudden change of the Flora was observed, when we entered into the basin of the gulf of Carpentaria, after leaving the eastern waters, although the Flora of the north-west coast and Port Essington, was little different from that of the gulf.
April 17. — We travelled about nine miles N. 40 degrees W. On our way we passed a hill of baked sandstone, and several gullies. About five miles from our last camp, a large creek joined the river; beyond that creek, the country was, without exception, open, and rather of a more undulating character; the flats were somewhat rotten: the river became narrower, but was still running strong; and numerous ducks sported on its shady pools.
April 18. — Last night we had a very cold north-easterly wind, and, during the day, some few drops of drizzling rain. We travelled about N. by W. to latitude 19 degrees 18 minutes 16 seconds. After passing some gullies, we came into a more broken and hilly country; the river formed here a large anabranch. The Ironbark trees, which timbered the extensive flat along the river, became much finer; but the soil was rotten: the poplar-gum grew on the stiff soil of the hollows. About six miles from our last camp, we came to ranges of high hills of a conical form, and with rounded tops, striking from west to east, and then entered a narrow valley, bounded on each side by rocky hills. Mr. Roper observed a rugged country to the northward, and a fine high range to the south-east. The whole country from the large flat to our camp, was composed of felspathic porphyry, containing crystals of felspar, and accidentally of quartz, in a paste varying in colour and hardness. In the bed of the river, I still found pebbles of pegmatite, granite, quartz, and basalt; indicating that a country of varied character was before us.
The stream wound its way from one side of the broad sandy bed to the other; and those parts where it flowed, were generally very steep, and covered with a dense vegetation, whilst, on the opposite side, the banks sloped gently into the broad sands. Among the shrubs and grasses, a downy Abutelon was easily distinguished by its large bright yellow blossoms.
My Blackfellows procured several messes of ducks; and Brown brought me a piece of indurated clay with impressions of water-plants.
April 19. — Continuing our journey in a north-west direction, we passed over some very rocky hills, composed of indurated clay, and thin strata of sandstone, and pudding-stone. By moving along the foot of a range of high hills, we avoided all those deep gullies which intersected the banks of the river, and travelled with ease through a flat, well grassed Ironbark forest. The hills were covered, as usual, with stunted silver-leaved Ironbark. A large creek came from the range, and entered the river. A good section on its right bank exposed to view the strata of indurated clay and sandstone; and I was induced to believe that coal might be found below them. As we were passing over the flat between the creck and the river, we saw a native busily occupied in burning the grass, and eagerly watching its progress: the operation attracted several crows, ready to seize the insects and lizards which might be driven from their hiding places by the fire. Mr. Calvert, Brown, and Charley, rode nearly up to the man before he was aware of their approach; when he took to his heels, and fled in the greatest consternation.
Upon reaching the river, at about eight miles from our last camp, we found that it was joined by another river of almost the same size as the Burdekin: it had a stream, and came from the northward, whilst the course of the Burdekin at this place was from the west to east. From the junction a long range trended to the north-east, and moderate ranges bounded the valley of the river from the northward; another range extended along the left side of the Burdekin above the junction; and basaltic ridges, which had broken through the sandstone, approached on its right. The cucurbitaceous plant with palmate leaves, bore a fruit of the size of a large orange, of a fine scarlet colour when ripe; its rind is exceedingly bitter, but the seeds are eaten by birds. Mr. Phillips found a flesh-coloured drupaceous oblong fruit, about half an inch long, with a very glutinous pericarp, containing a slightly compressed rough stone: in taste it resembled the fruit of Loranthus, and the birds, particularly the coekatoos, appeared very fond of it. We all ate a great quantity of them, without the slightest injury. It grew on a small tree, and had a persistent calyx.
April 20. — We travelled in a N. 80 degrees W. course to latitude 19 degrees 9 minutes 88 seconds. Rocky ranges frequently approached the river, and deep and intricate gullies descended from them to the latter. Our progress was consequently very difficult, and we were compelled to ascend a very high hill to avoid its slopes towards the river, which were too steep for us to cross. As a recompense, however, for the difficulty of the ascent, I had the pleasure of finding some very interesting plants on its summit; particularly a small Acacia with verticillate leaves, which Dr. Binoe, the surgeon of H. M. S. Beagle, had found on the north-west coast; and two other Acacias equally new to me, and which were afterwards found to extend to the heads of the South Alligator River. From this hill we had a magnificent view of the country before us: it was enclosed on all sides by high mountain ranges, of which one in particular overtopped the rest. Porphyry was observed on several spots; indurated clay frequently; and, on the top of the hill below which we encamped, I found quartz porphyry, and at the foot a psammite? which I had met several times associated with talc-schiste.
April 21. — We continued our journey in a S. 50 degrees W. course to latitude 19 degrees 13 minutes. The country became still more mountainous; we passed, notwithstanding, many large well grassed flats, on which the timber grew to a greater size than we had observed it at the lower part of the river. The poplar-gum was very frequent in the hollow, and low stiff flats extended parallel to the river. The prevailing rock was talc-schiste, alternating with layers of psammite. On the hills and in the creeks, I frequently observed conglomerate, with many pieces of quartz.
The drooping Hakea of Kent’s Lagoon (Hakea lorea, R. Br.; Grevillea lorea, R. Br. Prodr. Nov. Holl. I. p. 380) was in blossom; and on the rocky slopes I found a new species of Hakea, having linear lanceolate leaves with axillary fascicules of small brownish flowers: it was an arborescent shrub, from three to six feet high; and is nearly allied to H. arborescens (R. Br. Prodr. p. 386).
A high imposing range was visible to the northward.
April 22. — We travelled about nine miles west, making our latitude 19 degrees 12 minutes. Ranges ran parallel to the river at different distances: we left a very fine one to the south-west and south, from which the large creek we passed about two miles from our last camp, probably descends. Three miles farther, a river as large or even larger than the Burdekin, joins the latter from the westward and south-west — the Burdekin coming down from the north-west. I was doubtful which of the two rivers I ought to follow; but finding, after a close examination, that the north-west branch was running, whilst the south-west one contained only large, long, but unconnected reaches of water, I determined upon following the north-west branch. I called the south-west branch the “Clarke,” in compliment to the Rev. W. B. Clarke of Paramatta, who has been, and is still, most arduously labouring to elucidate the meteorology and the geology of this part of the world. About three miles above the junction, a creek of considerable size joined the Burdekin from the northward. Wherever the ridges approached the banks of the river, gullies which were scrubby at their heads, became numerous. After having encamped, I rode over to the “Clarke,” to examine the intervening country. The flat along the Burdekin was about two miles and a half broad, and was skirted by silver-leaved Ironbark ridges. In approaching the Clarke, we came to a low basaltic range, which bounded its fine broad openly timbered valley to the northward. The bed of the river was formed by talc-schiste, in strata, the strike of which was from north by west to south by east, standing almost perpendicular, with a slight dip to the eastward. The stream was perpendicular on the line of striking. The pebbles in its bed were mostly basaltic, baked sandstone, conglomerate, quartz, sienite, and porphyry. I had observed the valley of this river from a high hill near our last camp, and had distinguished many headlands, which I now think were the bluff terminations of lateral basaltic ranges. The valley was bounded on its southern side by a long low range.
The blue mountain parrot was very frequent near our camp.
I have mentioned a small round eatable tuber, which I found in the basket of a native gin on the 2nd January. I here found it to be the large end of the tap root of a Potamogeton, or a plant nearly allied to that genus; I found it with another interesting water-plant, with foliated spikes of blue flowers, in a small water-hole near our last camp.
April 23. — We travelled about north-west to latitude 19 degrees 4 minutes 41 seconds, over a succession of fine flats; one or two of which were almost exclusively timbered with poplar-gum, which always indicated a sound stiff soil. These flats were separated by shallow gullies, and some Casuarina creeks, which come probably from the dividing ridges of the two rivers. Ridges and ranges were seen on both sides, at different distances. The Casuarina became more frequent along the banks of the river. It was rather remarkable that the Moreton Bay ash, which is so abundant along the Burdekin, was altogether wanting at the Clarke. Several lagoons were observed at the foot of the ridges; and near them we saw two flocks of the harlequin pigeon (Peristera histrionica). Talc-schiste cropped out in one of the deep creeks. Whilst travelling on the Burdekin, with the exception of some ducks and a few kangaroos, we had seen but very little game; but yesterday, when riding to the Clarke, two flocks of kangaroos passed me: a proof that the country is not so destitute of game as I had thought. The waters are inhabited by four varieties of fish; one was probably a Gristes, about eight inches long, and from one and a half to two inches broad, of a lanceolate shape, with bright yellow spots all over the body; a second smaller than Gristes, with dark stripes; a third about a foot long, and three inches broad, belonging to the Percidae; and a fourth, a small fish, which seemed to be allied to the Cyprinidae. Larger fish exist, probably, in the deep rocky basins of water which we occasionally passed; but we never succeeded in catching any; nor did we hear any of the splashing, which was so incessant during the night at the Mackenzie. The shell and bones of the turtle indicated its presence in the shady ponds fringed by drooping tea trees. Large holes in the banks immediately above the water, were probably inhabited by water rats or lizards. A common carpet snake was killed. Whenever we passed through open Vitex scrub, with its stiff loamy soil, we were sure of meeting a great number of the conical constructions of the white ant: they were from one to three feet high, very narrow, and tapering to a sharp point.
April 24. — To-day we travelled along the river over an open country, intersected by some gullies; the course of the river was, for about four miles, from north to south, and, at that distance from our camp, was joined by a river coming from the northward, which I now take the liberty of naming the “Perry,” after Captain Perry, Deputy Surveyor–General, who has most kindly mapped my route from the rough plans sketched during the journey. The Burdekin here comes from the westward, and made a large bend round several mountains, composed of quartz porphyry, with a sub-crystalline felspathic paste. The latitude was 19 degrees 1 minutes (Unclear:)18.
April 25. — We travelled almost due west, about nine miles along the river, our latitude being 19 degrees 1 minutes 3 seconds. Our route lay through a fine well grassed country; the grass being very dense: at a distance from the river, I observed box flats, and poplar-gum flats; the latter are probably swampy during the rainy season. A good sized creek joined the Burdekin; a range of high hills extended along its left side, and its right became equally hilly as we approached our camping place. After establishing our camp, and making the necessary preparations, we killed one of our little steers, and found it in excellent condition. The graziers will judge by this simple fact, how well the country is adapted for pastoral pursuits; particularly when it is remembered that we were continually on the march, and had frequently to pass over very rocky ranges, which made our cattle footsore; and that the season was not the most favourable for the grass, which, although plentiful, was very dry. The steer gave us 120 lbs. of dried beef.
In this place I observed and calculated three sets of lunar observations; one gave longitude 144 degrees 4 minutes, and the other longitude 144 degrees 14 minutes. As usual, we greased our harness, although not without considerable discussion, as to whether it would not be more advisable to eat the fat than to apply it to the leather; we also repaired our packs and pack-saddles, and put every thing in travelling order.
On the 29th April we started from our killing camp, and travelled about seven miles N. 70 degrees W.; making our latitude 18 degrees 59 minutes. The ranges now approached the banks of the river, and retarded our progress very much.
April 30. — In consequence of Charley’s statement, that the banks of the river in advance were so steep and rocky that it would be impossible for us to pass, I left the river side, and crossed over the ranges, and had a very heavy stage for my bullocks; which I regretted the more, as Mr. Calvert and Brown, who returned to our last camp for a sword, had found the route by the river quite practicable. The ranges were composed of a Psammite, which was frequently baked, probably by neighbouring out-bursts of igneous rock. Several familiar forms of plants were discovered; also a new Eucalyptus, with a glaucous suborbicular subcordate leaf, and the bark of the rusty gum: a stunted or middle-sized tree, which grew in great abundance on the ranges. We passed a fine large but dry Casuarina creek, coming from the westward, with a broad sandy bed. A large tree, with dark green broad lanceolate stinging leaves, grew on its banks; it resembled the nettle tree, but belonged to neither of the two species growing in the bushes of the east coast.
Our last day’s travelling had not advanced us more than five miles in a straight line, and we had not made any northing, our latitude being again 18 degrees 59 minutes; but we had left the mountains behind us, and had travelled, during the latter part of the stage, over well grassed, openly timbered flats. The ranges on the left side of the river extended several miles farther, but gradually sunk into a level country.
* The following description of the fossiliferous limestone of the Burdekin, was communicated to me by the Rev. W. B. Clarke, F.G.S.
This rock consists of a semi-crystalline, greyish-brown marble, very like some varieties of Wenlock limestone.
The most conspicuous fossil is a coral, which appears to belong to the family of Cyathophyllidae. The genus is perhaps new; but this the want of specimens with which to compare it, does not allow me the means of verifying. It may, however, be classed provisionally as Cyathophyllum, to which in many respects it bears a great resemblance; and although it is somewhat contrary to the present rules of classification to assign a specific name from a person, yet, in order to do honour to my friend on account of his skill, diligence, and zeal as a naturalist, as well as a traveller, and as this is the first fossil coral brought away by the first explorer of the region in which its habitat is found, I venture to name it C. Leichhardti.
The description may be given as follows:
Cells concavely cylindrical, not dichotomous (thus distinguished from Caryophyllia), grouped but separate, laterally if at all proliferous.
Corallum beautifully stellular, formed by 30–35 slightly spirally-curving or regular radiating lamellae, which meet in a central point or overlap on a latitudinal axial line, and are divided by rectangular or outwardly convex and upwardly oblique dissepiments, which become, occasionally, indistinct or obsolete near the centre, thus not assuming the usual characteristic of Cyathophyllum, but rather one of Strombodes.
Surface longitudinally striated, the cellular structure being hidden in calcareous spar; the striae formed by the coalescing lamellae, which, at the extremities, seem to be occasionally denticulated, owing to the matrix interrupting their passage to the edge. This resembles what takes place in some Astraeidae.
The interior has more the features of Acervularia than Cyathophyllum; but there are patches of broken transverse septa in the rock which exhibit the features of the latter.
Associated with this is a branching coral, a fragment of which, in a small angle of one of the surfaces of the stone, exhibits the characters of Favosites. There are also traces of casts of Spirifers, one of which is near to S. Pisum of the Wenlock rocks. (Silur. Syst. pl. xiii. f. 9).
The description here given is deduced from the natural appearances under the lens, and not from artificial or regular sections. But the specimen admits of a partial substitute for this; for the surface is worn down and roughly polished, as is the case with all the exposed surfaces of ancient limestones in Australia; the result probably of the acidulous properties of rain water, or of the atmosphere, which, in a tropical climate, where violent showers alternate with great drought, is capable of producing various sensible changes in rocks in a long series of ages. Many rocks of limestone in New South Wales, even harder than the Burdekin marble, are actually grooved in short parallel furrows, over wide surfaces, and along their sides, by some similar agency.
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