PREPARATIONS FOR A RIDE TO THE NORTH-WEST. — DESPATCH LEFT WITH THE PARTY STATING WHAT HAD BEEN DONE. — ASCEND EAST SHOULDER OF MOUNT PLUTO. — PASSAGE TO THE WESTWARD. — NAME OF THE WARREGASCERTAINED. — THE RIVER NIVE. — ITS COURSE TURNS SOUTHWARD. — CROSS A LOW RANGE. — PLAINS OF THE VICTORIA DISCOVERED. — EXTENSIVE DOWNS TRAVERSED. — RIVER SPREADS INTO VARIOUS CHANNELS. — TRIBUTARIES JOIN IT FROM THE N. E. OR RIGHT BANK. — THE RIVER ALICE. — NATIVE CAMP. — A TRIBE SURPRISED WHILE BATHING. — LOWEST POINT OF THE RIVER REACHED. — RETURN BY THE LEFT BANK. — TRIBUTARIES FROM THE SOUTH. — GOWEN RANGE. — ENTER OUTWARD TRACK. — PROVISIONS EXHAUSTED. — ASCEND WEST SHOULDER OF MOUNT PLUTO. — RETURN TO THE CAMP AT THE PYRAMIDS. — NEW PLANTS COLLECTED THERE DURING MY ABSENCE.
6TH AND 7TH SEPTEMBER. — It being necessary to rest and refresh the horses for a few days before setting out with the freshest of them, all being leg-weary, I determined to halt here four clear days; and during these two, I completed my maps, and took a few rough sketches of scenery within a few miles of the camp. The whole of the grass had been assiduously burnt by the natives, and a young crop was coming up. This rendered the spot more eligible for our camp, both because the young grass was highly relished by the cattle, and because no dry grass remained to be set fire to, which, in the case of any hostility on the part of the natives, is usually the first thing they do. Thermometer, at sunrise, 33°; at noon, 68°; at 4 P.M., 64°; at 9, 40°; — with wet bulb, 31°.
8TH AND 9TH SEPTEMBER. — I employed my time these two days in writing a despatch to the governor of New South Wales, giving a detailed account of my proceedings and discoveries down to the present time; that in the event of any misfortune befalling me or the very small party now to accompany me, this despatch should be forthcoming, as I intended to leave it at this depôt camp. On the 8th, heavy clouds gathered over us, and a fine heavy shower fell, a circumstance most auspicious for our intended ride; but it was of brief duration; and, although the sky continued overcast even until the evening of the 9th, no rain fell, in sufficient quantity to fill the water-courses. It was, however, enough to produce dew for some mornings to come. Thermometer, at sunrise of the 8th, 53°; at noon, 55°; at 4 P. M., 57°; at 9, 50°; — with wet bulb, 46°; and at sunrise of the 9th, 39°; at noon, 77°; at 4 P.M., 70°; at 9, 52°; — with wet bulb, 45°.
10TH SEPTEMBER. — I set out on a fine clear morning, with two men and Yuranigh mounted, and leading two pack-horses carrying my sextant, false horizon, and a month’s provisions. Returning, still up the valley, along our old track to Camp XLIII., I there struck off to the S.W., following up a similar valley, which came down from that side. This valley led very straight towards Mount Pluto, the nearest of the three volcanic cones, which I had already intersected from various points. The other two I had named Mount Hutton and Mount Playfair. These three hills formed an obtuse-angled triangle, whereof the longest side was to the north-west, and, therefore, I expected that there the elevated land might be found to form an angle somewhat corresponding with the directions of the two shorter sides; in which case, it was probable that, to the westward of such an angle in the range, I might find what had been so long the object of these researches, viz., a river flowing to the Gulf of Carpentaria. We reached Mount Pluto, at the distance given by my former observations as far as could be ascertained by the mode of measurement I employed then; which was by counting my horse’s paces. On ascending the mountain on foot, I found a deep chasm still between me and the western summit, which was not only the highest, but the only part clear of bushes. A thick and very thorny scrub had already so impeded my ascent, that the best portion of the afternoon was gone, before I could return to the horses; and I resolved, therefore, to continue my ride, and to defer the ascent and observation of angles from the summit, until my return from the unknown western country, which we were about to explore; the search for water that night being an object of too much importance to be longer deferred. We, accordingly, passed on by the southward and westward of the mountain, following a watercourse, which led first N. W., then north, and next E. of N.; to where it at length joined one from the west, up which I turned, and continued the search for water until darkness obliged us to halt. During that search for water, my horse fell with me into a deep hole, so concealed and covered with long grass, that we both wholly disappeared from those following; and yet, strange to say, without either of us being in the least hurt. We encamped where there was, at least, good grass; but — no water.
11TH SEPTEMBER. — Within 400 yards of the spot where we had slept, we found a small pond. The water was of that rich brown tint so well known to those with whom water is most precious, and to whom, after long custom, clear water seems, like some wines, to want body. Here we had breakfast, and we took also a bagful of water100 with us. This timely supply relieved me from the necessity for following up the windings of some water-course; and I could proceed in a straight direction, westward. We passed, at first, through rather thick scrub, until, at length, I perceived a sharp pic before me, which I ascended. It consisted of trap rock, as did also the range to which it belonged, being rather a lateral feature thereof. Mount Hutton, Mount Pluto, and Mount Playfair, were all visible from it, as were also Mounts Owen and Faraday. The connections extended westward; for to the W.N.W. the broken cliffs at the head of the Salvator and the Claude, were not very distant, and these I was careful to avoid. A range immediately westward of this cone, was higher than it, and extended from Mount Playfair. To cross that range at its lowest part, which bore 26° W. of S., was our next object. We found the range covered with brigalow and other still more impervious scrubs. On the crest, the rock consisted of clay ironstone. The centigrade thermometer stood, at noon, at 30° 5’ equal to 87°, of Fahrenheit; the height above the sea we made 2032 feet. Beyond this crest, we encountered a scrub of matted vines, which hung down like ropes, and pulled some of us off our horses, when it happened that any of these ropes were not observed in time in riding through the thicket. A very dense forest of young Callitris trees next impeded us, and were more formidable than even the vines. The day was passed in forcing our way through these various scrubs, the ground declining by a gentle slope only. We next found firmer soil underfoot, that where the Callitris scrub grew having been sandy, and we saw at length, with a feeling of relief, that only brigalow scrub was before us; we ascended gravelly hills, came upon a dry water-course, and then on a chain of ponds. Near one of these ponds, sate an old woman, beside a fire, of course, although the weather was very warm; and a large net, used for taking emus, hung on a brigalow bush close by. The men were absent, looking for food, as we partly conjectured, for little could Yuranigh make out of what she said, besides the names of some rivers, to which I could point with the hand. I was surprised to find that here, the name for water was “Narran,” the name for it in the district of the Balonne being “Nadyeen,” whereas the word for water amongst the tribes of the Darling is Kalli. That the “Narran” river and swamp are named from this language of tribes now dwelling much further northward, seems obvious; and, as the natives on the Darling know little of the “Narran” or its swamp, it may be inferred that there the migration of native tribes has been progressive from south to north; the highest known land in Australia being also to the southward of the Darling. The chain of ponds, according to the old woman, was named “Cùnno,” and ran into the “Warreg” which, as she pointed, was evidently the name of the river we had formerly traced downwards from near Mount P. P. King. I left the “Cùnno,” and plunged into the brigalow to the northward, thus crossing a slightly elevated range, where we found a little water-course falling N.N.W. By following this downwards, we found water in it, as twilight grew obscure, and gladly halted beside it for the night, in latitude 25° S.
100 [A thick flour-bag covered outside with melted mutton-fat.]
12TH SEPTEMBER. — At 7 A.M. the thermometer was 59°; our height then above the sea has been ascertained to have been 1787 feet. Continuing to follow down the brigalow creek, we found that it joined a chain of ponds running N.E., and these we traced in the contrary direction, or upwards, as far as seemed desirable. We struck off from that water-course, first to the N.W., then to the W., arriving soon at a steep low ridge of clay ironstone, which was covered thick with brigalow. We crossed that low ridge, and, at a distance of about a mile and a half beyond, met another acclivity still more abrupt and stony. This we also ascended, and found upon it a “malga” scrub: the “malga” being a tree having hard spiky dry branches, which project like fixed bayonets, to receive the charge of ourselves, horses, and flour-bags; but all which formidable array we nevertheless successfully broke through, and arrived at the head of a rocky gully, falling N.W. Down this, however, we attempted in vain to pass, and in backing out we again faced the “malga,” until, seeing a flat on the right, I entered it, and there fell in with the water-course again. It led us many miles, generally in a N.W. direction, and contained some fine ponds, and entered, at length, a little river, whose banks were thickly set with large yarra trees. The general course of this river was W.N.W., until it was joined by one coming from the N., and at the junction there was a deep broad pond of clear water. At this we watered our horses, and passed on to encamp under some rocky hills, three quarters of a mile to the N.N.W. of that junction, in latitude 24° 52’ 50” S. The temperature at noon this day, on the highest part of the ridge we crossed, was 84°; the height there above the sea, 1954 feet; and at 3 P.M., in channel of water-course, the thermometer stood at 89°; the height there above the sea being 1778 feet.
13TH SEPTEMBER. — At 7 A.M. the thermometer stood at 38°; the height above the sea was found to be 1659 feet. I verily believed that THIS river would run to Carpentaria, and I called it the Nive, at least as a conventional name until the native name could be ascertained, in commemoration of Lord Wellington’s action on the river of that name; and, to the tributary from the north, I gave the name of Nivelle. Pursuing the united channel downwards, we traversed fine open grassy plains. The air was fragrant from the many flowers then springing up, especially where the natives had burnt the grass. Among them were MORGANIA GLABRA; EREMOPHILA MITCHELLII; a singular little POLYGONUM with the aspect of a TILLOEA; two very distinct little FRANKENIAS101, and a new scabrous HALORAGIS with pinnatifid leaves.102 The extensive burning by the natives, a work of considerable labour, and performed in dry warm weather, left tracts in the open forest, which had become green as an emerald with the young crop of grass. These plains were thickly imprinted with the feet of kangaroos, and the work is undertaken by the natives to attract these animals to such places. How natural must be the aversion of the natives to the intrusion of another race of men with cattle: people who recognise no right in the aborigines to either the grass they have thus worked from infancy, nor to the kangaroos they have hunted with their fathers. No, nor yet to the emus they kill FOR their fathers ONLY; these birds being reserved, or held sacred, for the sole use of the old men and women!
101 [F. SCABRA (Lindl. MS.); undique scabro-tomentosa, foliis linearibus margine revolutis non ciliatis, floribus solitariis pentameris, calycibus patentim pilosis. F. SERPYLLIFOLIA (Lindl. MS.); tomentosa hispida, foliis oblongis planis longè ciliatis, floribus solitariis subcapitatis pentameris, calycibus patentim hispidis.]
102 [H. ASPERA (Lindl. MS.) caule angulato foliis fructuque scabris, foliis alternis oppositisque linearibus acutis apice pinnatifidis, floribus distanter spicatis monoicis pendulis, stigmatibus plumosis, fructu subgloboso.]
The river pursued a course to the southward of west for nine miles, but it turned afterwards southward, eastward, and even to the northward of E. After tracing it thus twenty-two miles, without seeing any water in its bed (which was broad, but every where choked with sand), we were obliged to encamp, and endure this privation after a very warm and laborious day. Where the natives obtained water themselves, quite puzzled Yuranigh, for we passed by spacious encampments of theirs, and tracts they had set fire to, where trees still lay smoking.
14TH SEPTEMBER. — The temperature at 7 this morning was 72° of Fahrenheit; the height above the sea, of the river bed, as subsequently determined by Captain King, 1470 feet. With the earliest light, I had laid down my survey of this river, by which the course appeared to have turned towards the S.E. This not being what was desired, I took a direct northerly course through the scrub, towards a hill on the left bank, whence I had seen, on our way down, a rocky gap to the N.W. in a brigalow range. After a ride of eight miles, by which we cut off the grand curve in the river’s course, we arrived at this hill. I hoped to have found water near the spot, in a sharp turn in the river which I had not examined, and near which, on the day before, I had seen two emus, under a bank covered with brigalow scrub. Nor was I disappointed, for after finding traces of a recent current into the river-bed at that point, I discovered, at less than a hundred yards up, a fine pond of precious OPAL— I mean not crystal, but that fine bluey liquid which I found always so cool and refreshing when it lay on clay in the shady recesses of brigalow scrubs, a beverage much more grateful to our taste than the common “crystal spring.” Here, then, we watered our impatient horses, and enjoyed a wash and breakfast — the men (two old soldiers) being D’ACCORD in one sentiment of gratitude to a bountiful Providence for this water. Like “a giant refreshed with wine,” we next set out for the gap to the north-west, and passed through an open brigalow scrub, ascending very gradually, during a ride of three miles, to where I at length could discover that the fall was in the other direction. At this point, I observed the barometer, which indicated our height above the sea to be 1812 feet. Fahrenheit’s thermometer stood then (5 P.M.) at 86°. The dry channel of a water-course had afforded us an opening through the scrub, and had also guided us to the highest part of the ground. The fresh prints of the feet of three men in the smooth bare sand, told us that the same natives whose track Yuranigh had seen in the river we traced yesterday, were now going in the same direction as ourselves, and just before us; for the smell of their burning fire-sticks, and even small portions of burning embers which had dropped, made this evident. The higher ground was flat, and on it the rosewood acacia grew amongst the brigalow. The rocky gap (in a ridge) was still distant at least three miles; the sun nearly set, and not a blade of grass visible amongst the brigalow bushes. But what was all this to the romantic uncertainty as to what lay beyond! With eager steps we followed a slight channel downwards; found that it descended more rapidly than the one by which we had ascended; that it also increased, and we were guided by it into a little valley, verdant with young grass, while yet the red sky over a departed sun shone reflected from several broad ponds of water. This seemed to us a charming spot, so opportunely and unexpectedly found, and we alighted on a fine grassy flat by the margin of a small lagoon, where stood a most graceful group of bushes for shelter or shade. After sunset, the sky was overcast with very heavy clouds; the air was sultry, and we expected rain.
15TH SEPTEMBER. — As soon as daylight appeared I hastened towards the gap, and ascended a naked rock on the west side of it. I there beheld downs and plains extending westward beyond the reach of vision, bounded on the S. W. by woods and low ranges, and on the N. E. by higher ranges; the whole of these open downs declining to the N. W., in which direction a line of trees marked the course of a river traceable to the remotest verge of the horizon. There I found then, at last, the realization of my long cherished hopes, an interior river falling to the N. W. in the heart of an open country extending also in that direction. Ulloa’s delight at the first view of the Pacific could not have surpassed mine on this occasion, nor could the fervour with which he was impressed at the moment have exceeded my sense of gratitude, for being allowed to make such a discovery. From that rock, the scene was so extensive as to leave no room for doubt as to the course of the river, which, thus and there revealed to me alone, seemed like a reward direct from Heaven for perseverance, and as a compensation for the many sacrifices I had made, in order to solve the question as to the interior rivers of Tropical Australia. To an European, the prospect of an open country has a double charm in regions for the most part covered with primaeval forests, calling up pleasing reminiscences of the past, brighter prospects for the future — inspiring a sense of freedom, especially when viewed from the back of a good horse:—
“A steed! a steed! of matchless speede, A sword of metal keene — All else to noble minds is drosse, All else on earth is meane!” — OLD SONG.
I hastened back to my little party (distant a mile and a half from the gap), and immediately made them mount to follow me down the watercourse, which, as I had seen from the rock, would lead us into the open country. The little chain of ponds led westward, until the boundless downs appeared through the woods; a scene most refreshing to us, on emerging from so many thick scrubs. Our little river, after crossing much open plain, fell into another coming from E.S.E., and columns of smoke far in the N.W. showed that there was water, by showing there were inhabitants. The grass on these downs was of the richest sort, chiefly PANICUM LOEVINODE, and I was not sorry to recognise amongst it, SALSOLOE, and the ACACIA PENDULA, amongst the shrubs. As we followed the river downwards, the open downs appeared on the W.N.W. horizon as if interminable. This river, unlike that I had called the Nive, had no sand in its bed, which consisted of firm clay, and contained deep hollows, and the beds of long reaches, then, however, all dry, while abundance of large UNIO shells lay upon the banks, and proved that the drought was not of common occurrence. The general course of the river I found to be about W.N.W. true. We continued to follow it through its windings all day, which I certainly should not have done, but for the sake of water, as our progress downwards was thus much retarded. Towards evening, Corporal Graham discovered water in a small tributary coming from the S.E., while Yuranigh found some also in the main channel, where that tributary fell into it. We encamped on Graham’s ponds, as this was called, and turned our horses loose on the wide plain, up to the knees in grass half dry, half green, that they might be the more fit “for the field tomorrow.” The sky had been lowering all day, and the heat was intense; but during the night, the air was delicious for sleeping in, under heaven’s canopy and protection.
16TH SEPTEMBER. — The “gorgeous curtains of the East” over grandly formed clouds harmonised well with my sentiments on awaking, again to trace, as if I had been the earliest man, the various features of these fine regions of earth. At 7 A.M. the temperature was 63°; and (from observations registered then) the height above the sea has been found to be 1216 feet. Throughout the day we travelled over fine downs and plains covered with the finest grass, having the river on our right. Beyond it, we saw hills, which seemed to be of greater height in proportion as we descended with the river. Some were much broken, and appeared to present precipices on the other side. A broad valley extended westward from between the farthest of these broken ranges, which range seemed to be an offshoot from one further eastward. On examining the river, below the supposed junction of a tributary from the east, I found its character altered, forming ponds amongst brigalow trees. Water was, however, scarce. We fortunately watered our horses about 3 P.M., at the only hole we had seen that day, a small muddy puddle. The ACACIA PENDULA formed a belt outside the brigalow, between the river and the open plains, and many birds and plants reminded us of the Darling; the rose cockatoo and crested-pigeon, amongst the former; SALSOLOE and SOLANUM amongst the latter. At length, we saw before us, to the westward, bold precipitous hills, extending also to the southward of west. A thunder storm came over us, and night advancing, we halted without seeing more, for that day, of the interesting country before us, and having only water enough for our own use, the product of the shower. No pond was found for the horses, although we had searched for one, many miles in the bed of the river. Still, the remains of mussel shells on the banks bore testimony that water was seldom so scarce in this river, flowing as it did through the finest and most extensive pastoral region I had ever seen.
17TH SEPTEMBER. — The temperature at seven this morning was 57°; our height above the sea 1112 feet. “Like the gay birds that” awoke us from “repose” we were “content,” but certainly not “careless of tomorrow’s fare;” for unless we found water today, “tomorrow” had found us unable either to proceed or return! Trusting wholly to Providence, however, we went forward, and found a pond in the river bed, not distant more than two miles from where we had slept. In making a cut next through a brigalow scrub, towards where I hoped to hit the river, in a nearly westerly direction, I came out upon open downs, and turned again into a brigalow scrub on my right. After travelling a good many miles, N.W., through this scrub, we arrived on the verge of a plain of dead brigalow; and still pursuing the same course, we came out, at length, upon open downs extending far to the northward. I continued to ride in that direction to a clear hill, and from it I obtained a view of a range of flat-topped hills, that seemed to extend W.N.W.; the most westerly portion of these being the steep-sided mass seen before us yesterday. They now lay far to the northward, and the intervening country was partly low and woody, and partly consisted of the downs we were upon. But where was the river? Yarra trees and other indications of one appeared nearest to us in an easterly direction, at the foot of some well-formed hollows on that side the downs. Towards that point I therefore shaped my course, and there found the river — no longer a chain of dry ponds in brigalow scrub, but a channel shaded by lofty yarra trees, with open grassy banks, and containing long reaches full of water. White cockatoos shrieked above us; ducks floated, or flew about, and columns of smoke began to ascend from the woods before us. This was now, indeed, a river, and I lost no time in following it downwards. The direction was west; then north-west, tolerably straight. Water was abundant in its bed; the breadth was considerable, and the channel was well-marked by bold lofty banks. I remarked the salt-bush of the Bogan plains, growing here, on sand-islands of this river. The grass surpassed any I had ever seen in the colony in quality and abundance. The slow flying pelican appeared over our heads, and we came to a long broad reach covered with ducks, where the channel had all the appearance of a river of the first magnitude. The old mussle shells (UNIO) lay in heaps, like cart-loads, all along the banks, but still we saw none of the natives. Flames, however, arose from the woods beyond the opposite bank, at once in many directions, as if by magic, as we advanced. At 3 P.M. Fahrenheit’s thermometer in the shade stood at 90°. Towards evening, we saw part of the bed dry, and found it continuously so, as night came on. The sun had set, while I still anxiously explored the dry recesses of the channel in search of water, without much hopes of success, when a wild yell arose from the woods back from the channel, which assured us that water was near. Towards that quarter we turned, and Yuranigh soon found a fine pond in a small ana-branch, upon which we immediately halted, and took up our abode there for the night. It may seem strange that so small a number could act thus unmolested by the native tribes, but our safety consisted chiefly in the rapidity of our movements, and their terror of strangers wholly unknown, perhaps unheard of, arriving on the backs of huge animals, or centaurs whose tramp they had only heard at nightfall. Like Burns’s “Auld Nick,”
——“rustling through the boortrees comin’ Wi’ eerie sought!”
our passage was too rapid to admit of any design for attack or annoyance being concocted, much less, carried into effect; next night we hoped to sleep thirty miles off, where our coming would be equally unexpected by natives. Latitude, 24° 34’ 30” S.
18TH SEPTEMBER. — At 7 A.M. the temperature of the air was 72°; the height of the spot above the sea, 995 feet. Keeping along the river bank for some miles, I found its general course to be about N.W.; and seeing clear downs beyond the right bank, I crossed, and proceeded towards the highest clear hill on the horizon. There I obtained a distant view of the ranges intersected yesterday, and of their prolongations. That to the northward of the river, whose general direction to the point already fixed had been 22° W. of N., there formed an angle, and continued, as far as I could judge by the eye, nearly northward. The range to the southward of the river also turned off, extending nearly to the southward. These two limits of the vast valley, thus receding from the river so as to leave it ample room to turn and wind on either side, amidst its accompanying woods, through grassy downs of great extent, obliged me to explore its course with closer attention. From another clear hill on these downs, to which I next proceeded, I thought I perceived the line of another river coming from ranges in the N.E., and expecting it would join that whose course we had thus far explored, I proceeded in a nearly N.W. direction over open downs towards the line of trees. I found therein a fine pond of water, the soil of the downs consisting of stiff clay. MESEMBRYANTHEMUM and various SALSOLOE appeared in some parts. My horses being rather jaded, I halted rather early here, and laid down my journey, protracting also the angles I had observed of the points of distant ranges. Latitude, 24° 27’ 27” S. I found by the barometer that we were already much lower than the rivers Salvator and Claude, and the upper part, at least, of the Belyando; while we were still remote from the channel we were pursuing.
19TH SEPTEMBER. — The thermometer at 7 A.M. stood at 57°. The height of these ponds above the sea was 861 feet. Young, I think, has said, that a situation might be imagined between earth and heaven, where a man should hear nothing but the thoughts of the Almighty; but such a sublime position seems almost attained by him who is the first permitted to traverse extensive portions of earth, as yet unoccupied by man; to witness in solitude and silence regions well adapted to his use, brings a man into more immediate converse with the Author both of his being, and of all other combinations of matter than any other imaginable position he can attain. With nothing but nature around him; his few wants supplied almost miraculously; living on from day to day, just as he falls in with water; his existence is felt to be in the hands of Providence alone; and this feeling pervades even the minds of the least susceptible, in journeys like these. Those splendid plains where, without a horse, man seems a helpless animal, are avoided, and are said to be shunned and disliked by the aboriginal man of the woods. Even their lonely inhabitant, the emu, seems to need both wings and feet, that he may venture across them. We travelled nearly west over plains; then through a brigalow scrub, two miles in breadth; emerging from which, on a perfectly level plain of very rich soil, we turned rather to the southward of west, to where the distant line of river-trees seemed most accessible. Bushes of ACACIA PENDULA skirted this plain; and, passing through them, we crossed a track of nearly half a mile wide of soft sand, evidently a concomitant feature of the river. We next traversed a belt of firm blue clay, on which a salsolaceous bush appeared to be the chief vegetation; and, between it and the river, was another belt of sand a mile broad, on which grew a scrub of rosewood acacia. The river there ran in four separate channels, amongst various trees; brigalow and yarra being both amongst them. I crossed these channels, and continued westward that I might ascend a hill on the downs beyond. From that eminence, no hill was visible on any part of the horizon, which everywhere presented only downs and woods. Far in the S.W. a hollow admitted of a very distant view, which terminated in downs beyond a woody valley. The course of our river appeared to be N.W., as seen by Yuranigh, from a tree we found here. In that direction I therefore proceeded; recrossing the river, where, in a general breadth of about 400 yards, it formed five channels. The grass was more verdant here, and the ponds in these small separate channels seemed likely to contain water. We continued N. W. across fine clear downs, where we found the heat so intense, (Centigrade thermometer, 37°, or 99° of Fahrenheit,) that I halted two hours under the shade of a small clump of trees. When we continued our ride in the afternoon, three emus that had been feeding on the downs came inquisitively forward; curiosity, apparently inspiring them with more courage than even the human inhabitants. Unfortunately for these birds, our bacon had become so impalatable that a change of diet was very desirable, and Graham, therefore, met them half-way on his horse; the quadruped inspiring more confidence in the bird. It was curious to witness the first meeting of the large indigenous bird and large exotic quadruped — such strange objects to each other! on the wide plains where either of them could
——“overtake the south wind.”
One of the emus was easily shot from the horse’s side, and, that evening being the Saturday night of a very laborious week, we were not slow in seeking out a shady spot by the side of a pond in the river bed. There my men had a feast, with the exception of Yuranigh; who, although unable to eat our salt bacon, religiously abstained from eating emu flesh, although he skinned the bird and cut it up, SECUNDUM ARTEM, for the use of the white men. The channel of the river was still divided here, amongst brigalow bushes. We only reached it by twilight. Thermometer, at 6 P.M., 86°. Height above the sea, 758 feet.
20TH SEPTEMBER. — At 7 A.M. the thermometer was 78°. Water appearing to be more constant now in the river, I ventured to pursue its general course in straighter lines, across the fine open downs, which lay to the eastward of it. Beyond these I perceived lines of wood as belonging to another river; and, on advancing in that direction, I first encountered a great breadth of brigalow scrub; next, we entered a rosewood scrub, redolent with blossom; then an open forest, in which we found the deep well-formed channel of a river coming from the eastward. The bottom was rocky, and bore marks of a recent current. This river also spread into branches: we crossed three, and then again entered upon open downs. Next we crossed a well-defined line of deep ponds, with yarra trees, and coming from E.N.E. over the downs; and three miles further on, we crossed another coming from N.E., on which, finding a good lagoon, I encamped early, that the men might have time to cook for themselves some of the emu, and that the horses might also have some sufficient rest. Latitude, 24° 12’ 42” S. Thermometer, at 1 P.M., 86°. Height above the sea, 724 feet.
21ST SEPTEMBER. — Thermometer at 6 A.M., 63°. I found that the various tributaries to the river channel had imparted to it a greater tendency westward; but we fell in with it again six miles to the westward of where we had passed the night. Its character was the same — a concatenation of ponds amongst brigalow; but these seemed better filled with water, apparently from the more decided slopes and firmer soil of the adjacent country. The course next turned considerably to the southward of west, while one ana-branch separating from it, ran about westward. I found an open plain between these, across which I travelled; until, again meeting the southern branch, we crossed it where it seemed to turn more to the northward. The day was warm, and I halted two hours under the shade of some trees, where I laid down our journey on paper, and found we were making great progress towards Carpentaria, across a very open country. We were no longer in doubt about finding water, although in the heart of Australia, surrounded by an unbroken horizon. On proceeding, we passed some large huts near the river, which were of a more substantial construction, and also on a better plan than those usually set up by the aborigines of the south. A frame like a lean-to roof had first been erected; rafters had next been laid upon that; and, thereupon thin square portions of bark were laid, like tiles. A fine pond of water being near, we there spancelled our horses and lay down for the night. At 5 P.M. the thermometer was at 82°. Height above the sea, 707 feet.
22D SEPTEMBER. — Thermometer, at 6 A.M., 58°. This was no sandybedded river like others we had discovered. The bed still consisted of firm clay, and now the rich vegetation on the banks presented so much novelty, that, without the means of carrying an herbarium, I was nevertheless tempted to select a bouquet of flowers for Dr. Lindley, and carry them amongst my folded maps. The very herbage at this camp was curious. One plant supplied an excellent dish of vegetables. There were others resembling parsley, and having the taste of water-cresses with white turnip-like roots. Here grew also a dwarf or tropical CAPPARIS. Among the grasses was a tawny ERIANTHUS, apparently the same as that formerly seen on the banks of the Bogan, and the curious DANTHONIA PECTINATA, gathered in Australia Felix in 1836. There was also amongst the grasses a PAPPOPHORUM, which was perhaps the P. GRACILE, formerly collected in the tropical part of New Holland by Dr. Brown; and a very remarkable new species of the same curious genus, with an open narrow panicle, and little branches not unlike those of a young oat.103 The river again formed a goodly continuous channel. Its most splendid feature, the wide open plains, continued along its banks, and I set out on this, as we had indeed on all other mornings since we made the discovery, intensely interested in the direction of its course. We had not prolonged our journey very far across the plains, keeping the trees of the river we had left visible on our right, when another line of river trees appeared over the downs on our left. Thus it seemed we were between two rivers, with their junction before us, for the ground declined in that direction. And so we found it. At about seven miles from where we had slept, we arrived at the broad channel of the first river we had traced down, whose impetuous floods had left the trees half bent to the earth, and clogged with drift matter; not on any narrow space, but across a deep section of 400 yards. The rocks in the channel were washed quite bare, and crystal water lay in ponds amongst these rocks. A high gravelly bank, crowned with brigalow, formed the western margin, but no brigalow could withstand the impetuous currents, that evidently, at some seasons, swept down there. It was quite refreshing to see all clear and green, over so broad a water-worn space. The junction with the northern river took place just below, and I continued my journey, not a little curious to see what sort of a river would be formed by these channels when united. I found the direction of the course to be about N.W., both running nearly parallel. About three miles on I approached the united channel, and found the broad, deep, and placid waters of a river as large as the Murray. Pelican and ducks floated upon it, and mussle-shells of extraordinary size lay in such quantities, where the natives had been in the habit of eating them, as to resemble snow covering the ground. But even that reach seemed diminutive when compared with the vast body of water whereof traces had, at another season, been left there; these affording evidence that, although wide, they had still been impetuous in their course. Verdure alone shone now, over the wide extent to which the waters sometimes rose. Beyond that channel lay the almost boundless plains, the whole together forming the finest region I had ever seen in Australia. Two kinds of grass grew on these plains; one of them a brome grass, possessing the remarkable property of shooting up green from the old stalk.
103 [P. AVENACEUM (Lindl. MS.); aristis 9 inaequalibus scabris infra medium plumosis, paniculâ pilosâ angustâ interruptâ ramulis inferioribus demum refractis, spiculis 3-floris, glumis pubescentibus multistriatis, paleis villosis, foliis. . . . ..]
The bees were also new to Yuranigh, who drew my attention to their extreme smallness; not much exceeding in size a knat or mosquito. Nevertheless, he could cut out their honey from hollow trees, and thus occasionally procure for us a pleasant lunch, of a waxy compound, found with the honey, which, in appearance and taste much resembled fine gingerbread. The honey itself was slightly acid, but clear and fine flavoured.
I hoped the deep reach would have been continuous, as it looked navigable, even for steamers, but it continued so only for a few miles, beyond which the channel contained ponds only. I finally alighted beside one of these ponds, which was so large, indeed, that the colonists would have called it a lagoon; this one being high above the river channel, on a verdant plain. As yet, we had not seen a single inhabitant of this El Dorado of Australia. At 2 P.M. thermometer 88°. Height above the sea 712 feet.
23D SEPTEMBER. — At 7 A.M. thermometer 59°. Latitude 24° 2’ S. New flowers perfumed the dry bed of this river, and these showed, in their forms and structure, that nature even in variety is infinite. I regretted I could not collect specimens. Our only care now, was the duration of our provisions. Water was less a subject of anxiety with me now, than it had been at any period of the journey. We had made the Emu eke out our little stock, and my men (two old soldiers) were willing to undergo any privation that might enable me to prolong my ride. This day completed half the month, but I was determined to follow the course of this interesting river at least four days longer. The back of one of our pack horses had become so sore, that he would no longer endure a load; we threw away the pack saddle, and divided his load, so as to distribute it in portions, on some of the saddle horses and the other pack animal. The course of the river towards the west, and our limited time, obliged me to stride over as much of the general direction as possible. I crossed the river, and travelled across open downs. I saw the tops of its Yarra trees on my left. At about four miles, we crossed what seemed a large river, but which must have been only an ana-branch from the main stream. We next traversed a fine open down of six miles; the soil, a firm blue clay with gravel, and on this grew two varieties of grass which I had seen nowhere else. The valley I next approached, contained the channel of a river flowing towards our river; a tributary, which evidently bore impetuous floods into it, sometimes. This also ran in three channels. I called it the Alice.
As this new river was likely to turn the main stream off to the westward or south, I travelled west by compass over vast downs, finely variegated with a few loose trees like a park, but extending on all sides to the horizon. Where I looked for the main channel, I saw rising ground of this kind; and meeting with another small river, with a stoney bed and water in it, I bivouacqued, for the day was very hot; the thermometer, at 3 P.M., 90° in the shade. The pond here was much frequented by pigeons, and a new sort of elegant form and plumage, was so numerous that five were killed at two shots. The head was jet-black, the neck milkwhite, the wings fawn-colour, having lower feathers of purple. I had no means of preserving a specimen, but I took a drawing of one.104 Height above the sea here, 826 feet.
104 [By which I find it has been named GEOPHAPS HISTRIONIEA.]
24TH SEPTEMBER. — I continued to seek the river across extensive downs, in many parts of which dead brigalow stumps remained, apparently as if the decay of that species of scrub gave place to open ground. I turned now to the S.W., and became anxious to see the river again. At length we came upon a creek, which I followed down, first to the S.W. and next southerly, until it was time to alight, when we established our bivouac by a large lagoon in its bed, in latitude 24° 3’ 30” S. Thermometer, at 3 P.M. 98°. Height above the sea, 688 feet.
25TH SEPTEMBER. — At 6 A.M. the thermometer stood at 73°. We ought to have been retrogressive yesterday, according to the time calculated on for our stock of provisions; but we could not leave the river without tracing it to the furthest accesible point. We still continued, therefore, to follow the water-course which had brought us thus far, expecting at every turn to find its junction with the river, whose course had obviously turned more than usual to the southward. We fell in with a larger tributary from the N. W.; after which junction, the tributary took a more westerly direction than the minor channel which brought us to it. We thus came upon a large lagoon, beside which were the huts of a very numerous tribe of natives, who appeared to have been there very recently, as some of the fires were still burning. Well beaten paths, and large permanent huts, were seen beyond that encampment; and it was plain that we had entered the home of a numerous tribe. I should have gladly avoided them at that time, had not a sight of the river been indispensable, and the course of the creek we were upon, the only certain guide to it. Level plains extended along its banks, and I had been disappointed by the appearance of lofty Yarra trees, which grew on the banks of large lagoons. On approaching one of these, loud shrieks of many women and children, and the angry voices of men, apprised me that we had, at length, overtaken the tribe; and, unfortunately, had come upon them by surprise. “AYA MINYÀ!” was vociferated repeatedly, and was understood to mean, “What do you want!” (What seek ye in the land of Macgregor!) I steadily adhered to my new plan of tactics towards the aborigines, and took not the slightest notice of them, but steadily rode forward, according to my compass bearing. On looking back for my men, I saw one beckoning me to return. He had observed two natives, with spears and clubs, hide themselves behind a bush in the direction in which I was advancing. On my halting, they stole away, and, when a little further on, I perceived an old white-haired woman before me, on seeing whom I turned slightly to one side, that we might not frighten her or provoke the tribe. The whole party seemed to have been amusing themselves in the water during the noon-day heat, which was excessive; and the cool shades around the lagoon looked most luxuriant. Our position, on the contrary, was anything but enviable. With jaded horses scarcely able to lift a leg, amongst so many natives, whose language was incomprehensible, even to Yuranigh. I asked him whether we might not come to a parley with them, and see if they could understand him. His answer was brief; and, without turning even his head once to look at them:—“You go on!” which advice, quite according with my own notions, founded on experience, I willingly went on. Even there, in the heart of the interior, on a river utterly unheard of by white men, an iron tomahawk glittered on high in the hand of a chief, having a very long handle to it. The anxious care of the females to carry off their children seemed the most agreeable feature in the scene, and they had a mode of carrying them on the haunch, which was different from anything I had seen. Some had been digging in the mud for worms, others searching for freshwater muscles; and if the whole could have been witnessed unperceived, such a scene of domestic life amongst the aborigines had been worth a little more risk. The strong men assumed a strange attitude, which seemed very expressive of surprise; having the right knee bent, the left leg forward, the right arm dropping, but grasping clubs; the left arm raised, and the fingers spread out. “Aya, aya, minyà!” they continually shouted; and well might they ask what we wanted! Hoping they would believe us to be Centaurs, and include the two old pack-horses in counting our numbers, I had not the slightest desire to let them know us more particularly; and so travelled on, glad, at length, to hear their “Aya minyàs” grow fainter, and that we were leaving them behind. About five miles further south, the perfume from the liliaceous banks of the river was the first indication of its vicinity. We found it full 400 yards broad, presenting its usual characteristics — several separate channels and ponds of water; there, according to the barometer, the height above the sea was only 633 feet; the temperature at 3 P. M., in the shade, 99° of Fahrenheit. We watered our horses, crossed, and plunged into the brigalow beyond, where I meant to steal a march upon the noisy tribe; who, by that time, probably were sending to call in their hunting parties, that they might follow our track. Their mode of killing a kangaroo may best exemplify their tactics towards strangers; whose path in the same manner could be followed by day, and sat down beside at night, to be again tracked in the morning, until the object of pursuit could be overtaken. The brigalow beyond the river grew on a rising ground of sharpedged red gravel, and, from a small opening, I saw the course of the river running nearly northward. Here, then, I turned towards the east to travel home by ascending the left bank, with the intention to cut off the great sweep which the river described, as we had found on tracing it down; and, in hopes we should so intercept any tributaries it might receive from that side. At dusk, I met with one containing a fine lagoon, and near this I fixed my bivouac. Yuranigh most firmly objected to our sitting down close by the water, saying we might there be too easily speared by the wild natives who were then, probably, on our track; but he did not object to my bivouac on the more open plain adjacent, one man keeping a good look-out. I called these, Yuranigh’s ponds. Latitude, 24° 19’ 2” S.
26TH SEPTEMBER. — At 6 A. M. the thermometer stood at 61°. My horse was quite leg-weary, and I was very loath to force him on, but one day’s journey further was indispensable. We traversed open plains and passed through patches of brigalow of an open kind of scrub. The surface was grassy, but very gravelly; indeed it was, in many places, so devoid of mould as to resemble a newly Macadamized road — the fragments being much of that size, and in general of a reddish colour, consisting, for the most part, of a red siliceous compound. In a ride of twenty-six miles, we saw no country much better, and I was obliged to conclude that the left bank was by no means so good as the country on the right, or to the northward of the river. We arrived, however, by nightfall, at a goodly water-course, in which we providentially found a pond, and encamped; resolved there to rest our horses next day, (being Sunday,) and most thankful to Him to whom the day was dedicated. Latitude 24° 12’ 37” S. Thermometer, at 6 P.M., 92°.
27TH SEPTEMBER. — Thermometer, at 6 A. M., 68°. On laying down my work on paper, I found we had made a most favourable cut on the way homewards, our old bivouac of the 21st inst., being about due east from us, and distant not quite fifteen miles; the great tributary from the S.E. passing between, upon which we could depend for a supply of water, if it should be required.
It would appear that the finer the climate, and the fewer man’s wants, the more he sinks towards the condition of the lower animals. Where the natives had passed the night, no huts, even of bushes, had been set up; a few tufts of dry grass only, marked the spot where, beside a small fire, each person had sat folded up, like the capital letter N; but with the head reclining on the knees, and the whole person resting on the feet and thigh-joints, clasped together by the hands grasping each ankle. Their occupation during the day was only wallowing in a muddy hole, in no respect cleaner than swine. They have no idea of any necessity for washing themselves between their birth and the grave, while groping in mud for worms, with hands that have always an unpleasant fishy taint that clings strangely to whatever they touch. The child of civilization that would stain even a shoe or a stocking with one spot of that mud, would probably be whipt by the nurse: savage children are not subject to that sort of restraint. Whether school discipline may have any thing to do with the difference so remarkable between the animal spirits of children of civilised parents and those of savages, I shall make no remark; but that the buoyancy of spirit and cheerfulness of the youth amongst the savages of Australia, seem to render them agreeable companions to the men on their hunting excursions, almost as soon as they can run about. If the naturalist looks a savage in the mouth, he finds ivory teeth, a clean tongue, and sweet breath; but in the mouth of a white specimen of similar, or indeed less, age, it is ten to one but he would discover only impurity and decay, however clean the shoes and stockings worn, or however fine the flour of which his or her food had consisted. What, then, is civilization in the economy of the human animal? one is led to inquire. A little reflection affords a satisfactory answer. Cultivated man despises the perishable substance, and pursues the immortal shadow. Animal gratification is transient and dull, compared to the acquisition of knowledge — the gratification of mind — the raptures of the poet, or the delight of the enthusiast, however imaginary. It is true that, amongst civilized men, substance is still represented by the yellow ore, and that the votaries of beauty “bend in silken slavery;” but are not beauty or gold as dust in the balance, substantial though they be, when weighed in lofty minds against glory or immortality? When the shadow he pursues is worth more, and is more enduring than the substance, well might it be said that “Man is but a shadow, and life a dream.” Such were my reflections on this day of rest, in the heart of a desert, while protected from the sun’s rays by a blanket, and in some uncertainty how long these dreams under it would continue undisturbed.
“The mind is its own place, and in itself Can make a heaven of hell: a hell of heaven!”
Thermometer, at 6 P. M., 90°.
28TH SEPTEMBER. — Thermometer, at 6 A. M., 63°. The horses were much refreshed by that day’s repose, and we this morning continued our journey in an easterly direction, over downs and through open scrubs, meeting no impediment from brigalow. We crossed the various branches of a considerable tributary coming from E.S.E., the only water seen this day, besides the great river; which we met with, exactly where, according to its general course, it was to be looked for. We crossed it, and encamped on the right bank of the northern river, at the place where I had previously crossed.
This day I had discovered, from the highest parts of the downs, a range to the S. W., and was able to intersect some of the principal hills, and so determine its place and direction. I named the most westerly feature, Mount Gray; the lofty central mass, the Gowen Range, and a bold summit forming the eastern portion, Mount Koenig. I had now obtained data sufficient to enable me to determine the extent of the lower basin of the river, by laying down the position and direction of the nearest ranges. The last-mentioned appeared flat-topped, and presented yellow cliffs like sandstone. At 6 P.M., the temperature was 81°.
29TH SEPTEMBER. — At 6 A.M., the thermometer was 59°. Re-crossing the river, I travelled, in a straight line, towards my camp of 19th September: thus, performing in one, the journeys of two former days. We crossed the main channel we had previously traced down, thus identifying it. The country was, in general, open; the downs well covered with grass, and redolent with the rich perfume of lilies and strange flowers, which grew all over them amongst the grass. We arrived at the spot I sought, and there encamped. Our provisions were nearly out; the sun having reduced the men’s sugar, and melted the bacon, which had been boiled before we set out. This was an unfortunate blunder. Bacon, in such warm weather, should be carried uncooked, and our’s might have then been very good. The men jocosely remarked, that, although we had out-manoeuvred the natives, the weather had been so hot that, nevertheless, we could not “save our bacon.” Thermometer, at 5 P.M., 83°.
30TH SEPTEMBER. — Thermometer, at 7 A.M., 67°. I found, by my map, that I might very much shorten the homeward route to next camp (that of 18th September), by travelling towards it in a straight line across the downs. We accordingly set out on the bearing of 5½° S. of E., and hit the spot exactly at a distance of eighteen miles; arriving early, so as to afford some good rest to our horses. We crossed open downs chiefly, passed through a narrow belt of brigalow (about a mile wide), and twice crossed a tributary to the river, which tributary we thus discovered. The water-course on which we had again encamped, arose in open downs of fine firm clay, and it was pleasant to see a great river thus supplied by the waters collected only amongst the swelling undulations and valleys of the country through which it passed, like the rivers of Europe. The river we had discovered, seemed, in this respect, essentially different from others in Australia, which usually arise in mountains, and appear to be rather designed to convey water into regions where it is wanting, than to carry off any surplus from the surfaces over which they run.
1ST OCTOBER. — Our track back across the downs, brought again into view the Northern range, and I now named the prominent mountain at its salient, Mount Northampton, in honour of the noble marquis at the head of the Royal Society. The range to the southward also appeared above the trees of the valley, and I gave the name of Mount Inniskillen to the salient mountain, which appeared so remarkable a feature to us on first advancing into that region, from the eastward. We again reached the river this day, after traversing the wide plains. Its woods still resounded with the plaintive cooing of a dove, which I had not seen elsewhere. At a distance, the sound resembled the distant cooy of female natives, and we at first took it for their voices until we ascertained whence these notes came. I had arrived at a fine reach of the river, and while watering the horses, preparatory to leaving its banks, (to make a short cut on our former route,) when a pair of these birds appeared on a bough over head, so near that I could take a drawing, by which I have since ascertained the bird to have been GEOPELIA CUNEATA.
But the river we were about to leave required a name, for no natives could be made to understand our questions, even had they been more willing than they were to communicate at all. It seemed to me, to deserve a great name, being of much importance, as leading from temperate into tropical regions, where water was the essential requisite — a river leading to India; the “nacimiento de la especeria,” or REGION WHERE SPICES GREW: the grand goal, in short, of explorers by sea and land, from Columbus downwards. This river seemed to me typical of God’s providence, in conveying living waters into a dry parched land, and thus affording access to open and extensive pastoral regions, likely to be soon peopled by civilised inhabitants. It was with sentiments of devotion, zeal, and loyalty, that I therefore gave to this river the name of my gracious sovereign, Queen Victoria. There seemed to be much novelty in the plants along its banks. The shells of the fresh-water mussle (UNIO), which lay about the old fires of the natives, exceeded in size any we had seen elsewhere. I measured one, and found it six inches long, and three and a half broad. On the plains near this spot, grew a beautiful little ACACIA, resembling A. PENDULA, but a distinct species, according to Mr. Bentham.105 We crossed the open downs and our former route, hastening to make the tributary river before night. We reached the channel by sunset; the moon was nearly full, and we continued to search in the bed for water, until we again fell in with our former track, near the place where we had watered our horses on the morning of the 17th September. On hastening to the pond, we found the intense heat of the last twelve days had dried it up, and we were obliged to encamp without water; a most unpleasant privation after a ride of thirty miles, under an almost vertical sun. The river must receive a great addition below this branch from the Northampton ranges, entering probably about that great bend we had this day cut off; leaving the deep reaches formerly seen there, on our left, or to the northward. An uncommon drought had not only dried up the waters of this river, but killed much of the brigalow scrub so effectually, that the dead trunks alone remained on vast tracts, thus becoming open downs.
105 [A. VICTORIAE (Benth. MS.) glabra, glauca, ramulis teretibus, phyllodiis linearibus subfalcatis obtusis basi angustatis crassis enervibus, glandulâ prope basin immersâ, pedunculis glaberrimis gracilibus racemosis capitulo parvo 12-20-floro multoties longioribus.]
2D OCTOBER. — At 6 A.M. the thermometer gave a temperature of 59°. The height above the sea was 1081 feet. In tracing back our old track, I sent Corporal Graham to examine a part of the river channel likely to contain water, and the report of his pistol some time after in the woods, welcomer than sweetest music to our ears just then, guided us to the spot, where he had found a small pond containing enough for all our wants. For the men, having no more tea or sugar, a good drink was all that was required; the poor fellows prepared my tea not the less assiduously, although I could have had but little comfort in drinking it under such circumstances, without endeavouring to share what was almost indivisible. We this day performed a long journey, reaching our former bivouac, of the 16th September, on Graham’s creek, at an early hour. Three emus were seen feeding close by; but, although several attempts were made to get near them, with a horse stalking, we could not kill any of them.
3D OCTOBER. — Soon after we had quitted our bivouac, the emus were again seen on the plains. I could not deny the men the opportunity thus afforded them of obtaining some food; for, although they concealed their hunger from me, I knew they were living on bread and water. Graham succeeded in wounding one of the birds, which, nevertheless, escaped. He then chased a female followed by about a dozen young ones, towards us, when we caught three. It had occurred to me this morning, to mark and number the bivouacs we had occupied thus far, for the purpose of future reference, when any other party might proceed, or be sent again, into this country. I had, therefore, cut the number 73 on a tree at this bivouac of 3d October, under the initials N.S.W. We pursued a straight course over the downs, east by compass, until we joined our old route along the water-course, from our camp near the gap, and this brought us back, at an early hour to that spot, where I marked a tree with the figures 72.
4TH OCTOBER. — We recrossed the brigalow range, (where the temperature, at 9 A.M., was 79°,) and alighted by the pond at the junction of the Nivelle and Nive; near where we had passed the night of the 12th September. This day we again saw the CALLITRIS; a tree so characteristic of sandy soils, but of which we had not observed a single specimen in the extensive country beyond. Marked 71 on a tree.
5TH OCTOBER. — Soon after we left our bivouac, I saw in the grass before me, a large snake. This was rather a novelty to us, being almost the first we had seen in these northern regions of Australia. I dismounted, and went forward to strike it with a piece of wood. Yuranigh did the same, both missed it, when it unexpectedly turned upon us, took a position on higher ground beside a large tree, then descended with head erect, moving nimbly towards the horses, and the rest of the party. The deadly reptile glided straight to the forefeet of my horse, touched the fetlock with his head, but did not bite; then passed to the hind legs and did the same, fortunately the horse stood quietly. The snake darted thence towards one of the men, who was about to throw a stick at him, and was next in the act of pursuing Yuranigh, when Graham gave him a charge of small shot, which crippled his movements until he could be despatched. This snake was of a brown colour, red spotted on the belly, about six feet long, and five inches in circumference. I had never before known any Australian snake to attack a party, but we had certainly brought the attack on ourselves. We made a good cut on our former circuitous route when tracing down the river Nive, and arrived at our former bivouac at an early hour. This was fortunate, as all the ponds, formerly full of good water, had, in the interim, dried up; and I proceeded to cross the scrubby range, by pursuing a straight direction towards Mount Pluto. But some magnetic influence so deranged my compass, that, on reaching the crest of the range, I found that mountain bore nearly east instead of N. E. N. I saw three of my fixed points, however, by which, with my pocket sextant, I could ascertain our true position, which proved to be very wide of my intended course. It was, like many other accidental frustrations of my plans in this journey, an aberration that did us good, for we had thereby avoided the bad scrub formerly passed through, and also a rocky part of the range. We next descended into a valley in which, after following down a dry watercourse two miles, we found a fine pond of water, exactly as the sun was setting. This day I had shot a curious bird, somewhat resembling a small turkey, in a tree. The feathers were black; the head was bare and red. This fowl was apparently of the galinaceous tribe. The flesh was delicious, and afforded a most timely dinner to the party. A numerous body of natives had followed our former track across the rocky ranges we traversed this day, as appeared by their foot-marks, and Yuranigh also discovered, in the same manner, that three natives had this morning preceded us on our return; nevertheless we saw none of these denizens of the woods.
6TH OCTOBER. — Thermometer, at 6 A. M., 48°. Height above the sea, 696 feet. This day we hoped to rejoin the party at the camp of the Pyramids; but the journey was long, and it included an ascent of Mount Pluto, from which I had still to observe some important angles. I marked this bivouac, with 70 cut on a tree, the two last being, respectively marked, 71 and 72, as already stated; these numbers continuing the series from LXIX, my lowest camp on the Belyando.
The scrub is thick about these volcanic ranges, but on the downs and plains of Central Australia, that impediment disappears. My men and myself were in rags from passing through these scrubs, and we rejoiced at the prospect of rejoining, this day, our countrymen at the Pyramids. I found a fine open forest between the ponds where we had formerly passed the night, and Mount Pluto; and we crossed several water-courses, the grass on their banks being green and young, because the old grass had been burnt off by the natives. These water-courses form the highest sources of the Salvator. We were at no very considerable elevation above the sea where we had slept (696 feet), yet we found the air on the mountains much cooler than that of the interior plains. There was much Callitris in the woods passed through this day; and the soil, although well covered with grass, was sandy. I ascended Mount Pluto by the N. W. side, where the loose fragments of trap, on a very steep slope, obstruct the growth of a thorny scrub, covering other parts of the mountain sides. The view from the summit was very favourable for my purpose, and I passed an hour and a half in taking angles on all distant points. Mount Owen and Mount Kilsyth were both visible; Buckland’s Table-land in the East, and some of the recently discovered ranges in the west, were just visible across the trap-rock range, which connected Mount Playfair with Mount Hutton; which range almost shut out the view to the westward. In the S. W., some very remarkable features appeared to terminate westward, in abrupt cliffs over a low country, into which the Maran (as far as known), the Warrego, and the Nive, seem to carry their waters. What that country is, was a most interesting point, which I was very reluctant to leave still a mystery. No volcanic hills appeared to the westward of this trio, which thus seem to mark the place where the upheaving forces have most affected the interior structure of Australia. The temperature on Mount Pluto, at noon, was 90°; and the elevation above the sea, 2420 feet.
On descending to where I had left the horses, we mounted, and struck into the old outward track; but we had difficulty in following it, although it was not above a month old. We saw many kangaroos to the eastward of Mount Pluto, but could not get a shot at any. I had seen much smoke in the direction of our camp, and was anxious about the safety of the party left there. We reached it before sunset, and were received with loud cheers. All were well, the natives had not come near, the cattle were in high condition. Mr. Stephenson had a fine collection of insects, and some curious plants. My man Brown had contrived to eke out the provisions so as to have enough to take us back to Mr. Kennedy. The grass looked green and luxuriant about the camp, and the spot proved a most refreshing home both to us and to our jaded horses, on whose backs we had almost constantly been for nearly a month. The party had collected specimens of XEROTES LEUCOCEPHALA; BOSSIOEA CARINALIS; the purple INDIGOFERA AUSTRALIS; XEROTES MULTIFLORA; the DODONOEA HIRTELLA of Miquel, a hairy shrub with pinnated leaves; EVOLVULUS LINIFOLIUS; GOODENIA PULCHELLA Benth.; HIBBERTIA CANESCENS; these had been found on the rocky ground near the camp, some on the sides, and even near the summits of the pyramids. On the sandy flats at the foot of these hills, were gathered, AJUGA AUSTRALIS; DAMPIERA ADPRESSA, a gay, though, almost leafless herb, with blue flowers nestling in grey wool; three miles below the camp a species of VIGNA, closely allied to V. CAPENSIS Walp., was found; and among the larger forest trees was a Eucalyptus, allied to, but probably distinct from, the E. SIDEROXYLON A. Cunn.
The LABICHEA DIGITATA was now in fruit; the JACKSONIA SCOPARIA formed a shrub, ten or twelve feet high, occupying sandy places, and having much resemblance to the common broom of Europe. The ACACIA CUNNINGHAMII grew about the same height; the GREVILLEA LONGISTYLA was seen on the sandstone, forming a shrub seven or eight feet high; and there also grew the pretty ZIERIA FRAZERI106; the DODONOEA MOLLIS was a small shrub six feet high, whereof the fruit was now ripe; the LEUCOPOGON CUSPIDATUS, also small. A PIMELEA near P. LINIFOLIA formed a shrub, only two feet high, growing on the rocks; the HOVEA LANCEOLATA, grew ten feet high in similar situations; the LEPTOSPERMUM SERICATUM was still abundant on the sandstone rocks, and amongst these also grew the POMAX HIRTA, a plant six inches high.
106 [Z. FRASERI (Hook. MS.); ramulis junioribus puberulis, foliis impunctatis brevissime petiolatis, foliolis lanceolatis acutis marginibus leviter revolutis subtus pallidis pubescenti-sericeis, pedunculis trifloris folio brevioribus. — Very distinct from all other ZIERIOE. Detected by Fraser on Mount Lindsay.]
At the base of these mountains, a slight variety of ACACIA VISCIDULA formed a bush twelve feet high; a variety of BORONIA BIPINNATA formed a small upright shrub, with flowers larger than usual; and much finer specimens were now also found, of the white and red flowered BORONIA ERIANTHA; the DODONOEA PEDUNCULARIS was loaded with its fruit; the SCHIDIOMYRTUS TENELLUS, or a new species nearly allied to it, formed a shrub six feet high. A variety of AOTUS MOLLIS, with rather less downy leaves and rather smaller calyxes; the ACACIA LONGISPICATA, with its silvery leaves and long spikes of yellow blossoms, acquired a stature of twelve feet, at the foot of the rocks; and small specimens of the beautiful LINSCHOTENIA DISCOLOR, which we had also observed, in a finer state, near Mount Pluto. The LABICHEA DIGITATA was abundant in sheltered ravines amongst the rocks; and, also, the DODONOEA ACEROSA, loaded with its four-winged reddish fruit, formed a shrub there four feet high. On the flats at the base of these ranges, grew the stiff, hard leaved, glutinous TRIODIA PUNGENS, with fine erect panicles of purple and green flowers (the first occasion this, on which I had seen this plant in flower). The BRUNONIA SERICEA continued to appear; also a minute species of ALTERNANTHERA. The DIANELLA STRUMOSA formed a coarse, sedgy herbage, relieved by its large panicles of blue flowers; and a fine species of Dogbane near TABERNOEMONTANA, and probably not distinct from that genus, according to Sir William Hooker. A shrub, five feet high, which proved to be a new species of ACACIA, also grew at the foot of the precipices107; a new and very distinct species of LOGANIA108; a new RUTIDOSIS, a tall herbaceous perennial109; a fine, new, long leaved GREVILLEA, with yellow flowers.110 A woolly-leaved KERAUDRENIA, with inconspicuous flowers111; and, in the open forest, a pretty species of Comesperm, about five feet high, with rosy flowers, and smooth or downy stems; it was allied to C. RETUSA.112
107 [A. UNCIFERA (Benth. MS.) molliter velutino-pubescens, ramulis subteretibus, stipulis subulatis caducissimis, phyllodiis falcatoellipticis v. oblique oblongis utrinque acutis uncinato-mucronatis minute 1-2 — glandulosis, racemis polycephalis phyllodio paullo longioribus, capitulis multifloris tomentosis. — Near A. CALEYI and A. VESTITA. Phyllodia from an inch and a half to two inches long, half an inch broad, resembling much in shape those of A. MYRTIFOLIA.]
108 [L. CORDIFOLIA (Hook. MS.); herbacea erecta estipulata glabra, foliis cordato-acuminatis sessilibus 3-5-nerviis, racemis corymbosis axillaribus terminalibusque in paniculam contractam terminalem foliosam magis minusve congestis.]
109 [R. ARACHNOIDEA (Hook. MS.); elata, arachnoideo-tomentosa, foliis remotis lanceolatis acuminatis calloso-cuspidatis, panicula laxa, ramis longis polycephalis, capitulis aggregatis, involucris ovatis. — A widely distinct species from the only hitherto described species of this genus (R. HELICHRYSOIDES), both in the leaves and flower-heads.]
110 [G. JUNCIFOLIA (Hook. MS.); ramis angulatis pubescenti-sericeis, foliis rigidis angustissime linearibus elongatis semiteretibus acutis glabris marginibus revolutis, racemis ovatis multifloris, pedicellis perianthiisque sericeis, ovariis sessilibus longissime albosericeis, stylis glabris, folliculis oblique ovatis sericeo-tomentosis.]
111 [K.? INTEGRIFOLIA (Hook. MS.); foliis oblongo-lanceolatis apiculatis subtus pannoso-tomentosis marginibus costa nervisque glandulosis. — In this the styles are connected at the apex, free below. The capsule is deeply 5-lobed. The anthers are remarkably curved outwards, like a horse-shoe, which is not the case in true KERAUDRENIA. W. I. H.]
112 [C. SYLVESTRIS (Lindl. MS.); erecta a basi divisa, caulibus pubescentibus glabrisve, foliis oblongis mucronatis, racemis corymbosis terminalibus, bracteis deciduis, corollae lobo medio integerrimo.]
On the rocky slopes, or crests, were found, also, various new plants which have been since described, viz. A small shrub, with leaves from three to four inches long, found to be a new species of CONOSPERMUM113; a small shrubby species of LABICHEA114; an inconspicuous shrub, two feet high, was a new species of MICRANTHEUM, allied to M. ERICOIDES, Desf.115; a downy DODONOEA, very near D. PEDUNCULARIS, but with thinner truncated leaves, and more glutinous fruit116; and, on the edge of the mountain, grew a curious new Acacia, resembling a pine tree117, but with the stature of a shrub, and a GREVILLEA, forming a shrub seven or eight feet high.118
113 [C. SPHACELATUM (Hook. MS); foliis linearibus subfalcatis sphacelatoapiculatis molliter incano-pubescentibus inferne longe attenuatis uninerviis paniculis pedunculatis corymbosis, floribus bracteisque sericeis.]
114 [L. RUPESTRIS (Benth. MS.) glabra vel vix in partibus novellis puberula, foliis sessilibus plerisque trifoliolatis, foliolis lineari-oblongis spinosomucronatis coriaceis marginatis terminali lateralibus bis pluriesve longiore, antheris subaequalibus conformibus.]
115 [M. TRIANDRUM (Hook. MS.); foliis cuneatis solitariis, floribus masculis triandris.]
116 [D. PUBESCENS (Lindl. MS.); minutissime pubescens, viscosa, foliis brevibus apice triangularibus tridentatis truncatisque, capsulis tetrapteris pedunculatis alis rotundatis.]
117 [A. PINIFOLIA (Benth. MS.) glabra ramulis teretibus, phyllodiis erectosubincurvis longe lineari-filiformibus nervo utrinque prominenti subtetragonis breviter pungenti-mucronatis, pedunculis solitariis brevissimis, capitulis multifloris, sepalis spathulatis liberis v. vix basi cohaerentibus. — Very near A. PUGIONIFORMIS, but the phyllodia are five, six, or more inches long, being longer even than in A. CALAMIFOLIA. It differs from the latter species in the inflorescence and calyx.]
118 [G. LONGISTYLA (Hook. MS.); ramis pubescentibus, foliis longissime linearibus acutis basi attenuatis margine subrevolutis supra glabris subtus albo-tomentosis, racemis oblongo-ovatis, perianthiis glandulosis, ovariis semiglobosis stipitatis sericeo-hirsutissimis, stylo longissimo glabro. — Leaves a span and more long; flowers rather large, apparently purple.]
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