The colony had been established many years before any successful attempt had been made to penetrate into the interior of the country, by crossing the range of hills, known to the colonists as the Blue Mountains: these mountains were considered as the boundary of the settlements westward, the country beyond them being deemed inaccessible.
The year 1813 proving extremely dry, the grass was nearly all destroyed, and the water failed; the horned cattle suffered severely from this drought, and died in great numbers. It was at this period that three gentlemen, Lieutenant Lawson, of the Royal Veteran Company, Messrs. Blaxland, and William Wentworth, determined upon attempting a passage across these mountains, in hopes of finding a country which would afford support to their herds during this trying season.
They crossed the Nepean River at Emu Plains, and ascending the first range of mountains, were entangled among gullies and deep ravines for a considerable time, insomuch that they began to despair of ultimate success. At length they were fortunate enough to find a main dividing range, along the ridge of which they travelled, observing that it led them westward. After suffering many hardships, their distinguished perseverance was at length rewarded by the view of a country, which at first sight promised them all they could wish.
Into this Land of Promise they descended by a steep mountain, which Governor Macquarie has since named Mount York1. The valley2 to which it gave them access was covered with grass, and well watered by a small stream running easterly, and which was subsequently found to fall into the Nepean River. From Mount York they proceeded westerly eight or ten miles, passing during the latter part of the way through an open country, but broken into steep hills. Seeing that the stream before mentioned as watering the valley ran easterly, it was evident they had not yet crossed the ranges which it was supposed would give source to waters falling westerly; they had however proceeded sufficiently far for their purpose, and ascertained that no serious obstacles existed to a farther progress westward.
1 This mountain was found to be 795 feet in perpendicular height above the vale of Clwydd.
2 Named by Governor Macquarie the Vale of Clwydd.
Their provisions being nearly expended, they returned to Sydney, after an absence of little more than a month; and the report of their discoveries opened new prospects to the colonists, who had began to fear that their narrow and confined limits would not long afford pasture and subsistence for their greatly increasing flocks and herds.
His Excellency Governor Macquarie, with that promptitude which distinguishes his character, resolved not to let slip so favourable an opportunity of obtaining a farther knowledge of the interior. Mr. Evans, the deputy surveyor, was directed to proceed With a party, and follow up the discoveries already made. He crossed the Nepean River on the 20th of November, 1813, and on the 26th arrived at the termination of Messrs. Lawson, Blaxland, and Wentworth’s journey. Proceeding westward, he crossed a mountainous3 broken country, the grass of which was good, and the valleys well-watered, until the 30th, when he came to a small stream, running westerly; this stream, called by him the Fish River, he continued to trace until the 7th of December, passing through a very fine country, adapted to every purpose either of agriculture or grazing; when he met another stream coming from the southward: this latter stream he named Campbell River, and when joined with the Fish River, the united streams received the name of the Macquarie River, in honour of his excellency the present governor of New South Wales.
3 Since named Clarence Hilly Range.
Mr. Evans continued to trace the Macquarie River until December the 18th, passing over rich tracts clear of timber, well-watered, and offering every advantage which a country in its natural state can be supposed to afford. During this excursion, Mr. Evans fell in with abundance of kangaroos and emus, and the river abounded with fine fish: he saw only six natives during the whole time of his absence, viz. two women and four children, although on his return he observed many fires in the neighbourhood of the mountains. On the 8th of January, 1814, he returned to Emu Plains, having gone in the whole near one hundred miles in a direct line due west from the Nepean River.
From the report of Mr. Evans, Governor Macquarie was induced to believe that a road might be opened for the whole distance already surveyed, and was most anxious that the colony should reap as soon as possible the advantages, which the discovery of such extensive and fertile tracts seemed to open.
The ample means afforded for this purpose enabled Mr. Cox, to whose superintendence this work was entrusted, to complete a road passable for loaded carriages early in 1815. This road extended in length upwards of one hundred miles, the first fifty of which passed along a narrow ridge of the Blue Mountains, bounded on each side by deep ravines, and precipitous rocks. The road which was cut down Mount York was a work of considerable labour and magnitude, and reflected the highest credit upon all employed in it. This important task being finished, the governor resolved in person to visit a country of which so much had been said, and to judge from actual observation how far the sanguine hopes which had been entertained were likely to be realized; his excellency therefore, accompanied by Mrs. Macquarie and his suite, set out from Emu Plains on the 26th of April, 1815, and arrived on the 4th of May at a small encampment (the site of which had been previously selected), on Bathurst Plains, near the termination of Mr. Evans’s journey. Governor Macquarie having been pleased to publish for the information of the colonists such observations on the country as he deemed necessary, I shall not presume to add any thing to an account, which so clearly and accurately describes all that could be interesting or beneficial to the colonist and general inquirer.
I have therefore inserted in the Appendix the account published by the Governor in the Sydney Gazette, of the 10th of June, 1815, as affording the best and most authentic information on the subject. During the Governor’s stay at Bathurst, he despatched Mr. Evans, and a party with a month’s provisions, to explore the country to the south-west, and it is the result of that journey which led to the expedition, the direction of which was entrusted to my command.
The means which his excellency placed at my disposal were well calculated to attain the object in view, and it is a matter of the most sincere regret, that the nature and description of the country which we passed through was for the most part such as to afford few interesting objects of research or remark.
The botanical productions of the country have however in a great measure been ascertained by Mr. Allan Cunningham, the King’s botanist, who accompanied the expedition.
With respect to the construction of the chart prefixed to this Journal, it is thought proper to observe, that the situation of the principal stations of Bathurst, and the depot on the Lachlan River, were ascertained by celestial observations, and connected by a series of triangles, commencing at the latter point, and closing at Bathurst. New base lines were frequently measured, and any unavoidable errors which might arise from the nature of the country were corrected at every proper opportunity by observed latitudes; so that on the return of the expedition to Bathurst, I had the satisfaction to find the connection of the angles complete, the error in the whole survey not exceeding a mile of longitude.
The instruments chiefly used were a small theodolite by Ramsden, and Kater’s pocket compass4, with the addition of an excellent sextant, pocket chronometer, and artificial horizon. I have to lament that our mountain barometers were broken at an early stage of the expedition; the height however of some principal points had been previously obtained, and is marked on the chart; these in two instances were verified by geometrical measurement, and the difference was found to be too trilling to be noticed. The conveyance of such delicate instruments is always attended with great risk, and in our case peculiarly so, our means being only those of horseback. I am afraid that a method of constructing those instruments, so as to place them beyond the reach of injury by carriage, will always remain among the desiderata of science. I have given to our thermometrical observations the form of a chart, as affording the readiest view of the atmospherical changes which took place during our journey. The winds and weather are also more particularly noticed on the same sheet than in the narrative.
4 A most valuable instrument, combining all the advantages of the circumferentor, without being so liable to be damaged and put out of order by carriage.
It may perhaps be not superfluous to mention, that it is the intention of His Majesty’s Government to follow the course of the Macquarie River, and it is sanguinely expected that the result of the contemplated expedition will be such as to leave no longer in doubt the true character of the country comprising the interior of this vast island. It would be as presumptuous as useless to speculate on the probable termination of the Macquarie River, when a few months will (it is to be hoped) decide the long disputed point, whether Australia, with a surface nearly as extensive as Europe, is, from its geological formation, destitute of rivers, either terminating in interior seas, or having their estuaries on the coast.
Sydney, New South Wales,
Dec. 11, 1817.
On the twenty-fourth of March I received the instructions of his excellency the Governor to take charge of the expedition which had been fitted out for the purpose of ascertaining the course of the Lachlan River, and generally to prosecute the examination of the western interior of New South Wales.
On the sixth of April I quitted Sydney, and after a pleasant journey arrived at Bathurst on the fourteenth, and found that our provisions and other necessary stores were in readiness at the depot on the Lachlan River. We were detained at Bathurst by rainy unfavourable weather until the nineteenth, when the morning proving fine, the BAT horses, with the remainder of the provisions, baggage, and instruments, were sent off, we intending to follow them the ensuing morning.
Bathurst had assumed a very different appearance since I first visited it in the suite of his excellency the Governor in 1815. The industrious hand of man had been busy in improving the beautiful works of nature; a good substantial house for the superintendant had been erected, the government grounds fenced in, and the stack yards showed that the abundant produce of the last harvest had amply repaid the labour bestowed on its culture. The fine healthy appearance of the flocks and herds was a convincing proof how admirably adapted these extensive downs and thinly wooded hills are for grazing, more particularly of sheep. The mind dwelt with pleasure on the idea that at no very distant period these secluded plains would be covered with flocks bearing the richest fleeces, and contribute in no small degree to the prosperity of the eastern settlements.
The soil, in the immediate neighbourhood of Bathurst, is for the first six inches of a light, black, vegetable mould, lying on a stratum of sand, about eighteen inches deep, but of a poor description, and mixed with small stones, under which is a strong clay. The surface of the hills is covered with small gravel, the soil light and sandy, with a sub-soil of clay. The low flats on the immediate borders of the river are evidently formed by washings from the hills and valleys deposited by floods, and the overflowings of the watercourses.
Sunday, April 20. — Proceeded on our journey towards the Lachlan River. At two o’clock we arrived at the head of Queen Charlotte’s Valley, passing through a fine open grazing country; the soil on the hills and in the vale a light clayey loam, occasionally intermixed with sand and gravel: the late rains had rendered the ground soft and boggy. The trees were small and stunted, and thinly scattered over the hills, which frequently closed in stony points on the valley. The rocks a coarse granite.
Monday, April 21. — Our journey for the greater part of the way lay over stony ridges, and for the last six miles over a country much wooded with ill-grown gum and stringy bark trees (all of the eucalyptus genus); the grass good, and in tolerable plenty, and much more so than the appearance of the soil would seem to promise. At three o’clock, the horses being very much fatigued, we stopped under the point of a rocky hill for the evening.
April 22. — A clear and frosty morning. Last night was the coldest we had yet experienced, the thermometer being at six o’clock as low as 26. We felt the cold most severely, being far beyond what we had been accustomed to on the coast; the difference of temperature in twelve hours being upwards of twenty degrees of cold. Our route lay through a dull uninteresting country, thickly covered with dwarf timber, daviesia, etc. Passed under Mount Lachlan, a hill of very considerable height; a stream of water runs north-westerly under its base. Turned off a little from our track to the right, and ascended Mount Molle, whence there is a beautiful and extensive prospect from the south by the west to the north. The country (except the dividing range between the Lachlan and Macquarie Rivers, which is very lofty and irregular) rising into gentle hills, thinly timbered, with rich intervening valleys, through which flow small streams of water. I think from Mount Molle, between the points above mentioned, a distance of forty miles round may he seen; the view to the west being lost in the blue haze of the horizon, no hills appearing in that quarter. The Mount itself is a fine rich hill, favourably situated for a commanding prospect; the valleys which surround it are excellent land, well watered with running streams. We descended its west side, and stopped for the night in the valley beneath, on the banks of a small rivulet.
April 23. — A fine clear morning. At two o’clock we arrived at Limestone Creek, passing through a beautiful picturesque country of low hills and fine valleys well watered: the timber, as usual of diminutive growth, and unfit for any useful purpose. The ridges of the higher eminences were invariably stony, and about a mile and a half from the Creek, there is a narrow slip of barren country covered with small slate stones: the soil until then was on the sides of the hills of a fine vegetable mould, the more level and lower grounds a hazel-coloured stiff loam, both equally covered with grass, particularly the anthistria. The timber standing at wide intervals, without any brush or undergrowth, gave the country a fine park-like appearance. I never saw a country better adapted for the grazing of all kinds of stock than that we passed over this day. The limestone, which is the first that has hitherto been discovered in Australia, abounds in the valley where we halted; the sides and abrupt projections of the hills being composed entirely of it, and worn by the operation of time into a thousand whimsical shapes and forms. A small stream runs through the valley, which in June 1815 was dry; the bottom of this rivulet was covered with a variety of stones, but the bases of the hills which projected into it, and from which the earth had been washed, were of pure limestone of a bluish grey colour.
April 24. — A fine mild morning. A small piece of limestone which had been put in the fire last night was found perfectly calcined into the purest white lime. At eight o’clock proceeded on our journey, through a very uninteresting but good grazing country: nature here seemed to have assumed her tamest and most unvarying hue. The soil of the country we passed through was generally excellent, but the timber was still as useless as we had hitherto found it. We arrived about one o’clock at a small pond of water, where it was necessary to stop, as there was no other water nearer than the Lachlan River, which was distant about fourteen miles.
April 25. — Our course for the first seven or eight miles was through a level open country, the soil and grass indifferently good. We now ascended a hill a little to the left of the road, for the purpose of viewing the country through which the river ran: it appeared a perfect plain encompassed by moderately high hills, except in the south-east and west quarters, these being apparently the points whence and to which the river flows. The whole country a forest of eucalypti, with occasionally on the banks of the river a space clear of timber: there was nothing either grand or interesting in the view from this hill, neither did I see in any direction such high land as might be expected to give source to a river of magnitude. When we quitted the hill, we went west, to make the Lachlan River, passing for nearly six miles over a perfect level, the land poor, and in places scrubby. At two o’clock saw the river, which certainly did not disappoint me: it was evidently much higher than usual, running a strong stream; the banks very steep, but not so as to render the water inaccessible: the land on each side quite flat, and thinly clothed with small trees; the soil a rich light loam: higher points occasionally projected on the river, and on those the soil was by no means so good. The largest trees were growing immediately at the water’s edge on both sides, and from their position formed an arch over the river, obscuring it from observation, although it was from thirty to forty yards across. At four o’clock we arrived at the depot.
We had scarcely alighted from our horses, when natives were seen in considerable numbers on the other side of the river. I went down opposite to them, and after some little persuasion about twenty of them swam across, having their galengar or stone hatchet in one hand, which on their landing they threw at our feet, to show us that they were as much divested of arms as ourselves. After staying a short time they were presented with some kangaroo flesh, with which they re-crossed the river, and kindled their fires. They were very stout and manly, well featured, with long beards: there were a few cloaks among them made of the opossum skin, and it was evident that some of the party had been at Bathurst, from their making use of several English words, and from their readily comprehending many of our questions.
April 26. — Fine clear warm weather. The natives were still on the opposite bank, and five of them came over to us in the course of the morning; but remained a very short time. During the last night a few fine shrimps were caught; the soldiers stationed at the depot said they had frequently taken them in considerable numbers. During the day arranged the loads for the boats and horses, that they might be enabled to set off early the next morning.
April 27. — Loaded the boats with as much of the salt provisions as they could safely carry, and despatched them to wait at the first creek about seven or eight miles down the river until the loaded horses came, and then to assist in taking their loads over the creek; intending myself to follow with the remainder of the baggage early to-morrow morning.
The observations which were made here placed the depot in lat. 33. 40. S., and in long. 148. 21. E., the variation of the needle being 7. 47. E. The barometrical observations, which had been regularly taken from Sydney to this place, did not give us an elevation of more than six hundred feet above the level of the sea; a circumstance which, considering our distance from the west coast, surprised me much.
The few words of which we were enabled to obtain the meaning from the natives who occasionally visited its, being different from those used by the natives on the east coast, it way perhaps be interesting to insert them.
|Bulla-yega||The hair of the head.|
|Mor-aya||Bones worn in the cartilage of the nose.|
|Mada||Skins, with which they are clothed.|
|Wamb-aur||Scars, raised for ornament, or distinction, on their bodies.|
|Gum-iil||Girdles worn round the body.|
|Mem-aa||A native man.|
|Wam-aa||A kind of hornet’s-nest, which they eat.|
|Curr-eli||Timber, or trees.|
|Galu-nur||Thistles, the roots of which they eat.|
The above were all the words the meaning of which we could clearly comprehend: the words used by the natives on the coast to express the same objects have not the remotest resemblance to the above.
April 28. — Fine clear mild weather. Proceeded with the remainder of the baggage to join the boats down the river; arrived at Lewis’s Creek, which, although nearly dry when crossed by Mr. Evans in 1815, is now a considerable stream. The distance from the depot is about nine miles; the country on both banks of the river low but good: the upper levels would afford excellent grazing, but the soil is of inferior quality: the points of the low hills end alternately on each side the river. The land up both banks of Lewis’s Creek is very rich, and covered with herbage. The boats had come safely down the river, although the large boat grounded once; the river appears to me to be from three to five feet above its usual level.
Several specimens of crystallized quartz were found on the adjoining hills, also some small pieces of good iron ore.
April 29. — Proceeded on our journey down the river, directing the boats to stop at the creek which terminated Mr. Evans’s former journey. The country through which we passed this day in every respect resembles the tracts we have already gone over. The crowns and ridges of the hills are uniformly stony and barren, ending as before alternately on each side of the river; the greater proportion of good flat land lies on the south side of the river; there are however very rich and fertile tracts on this side. After riding about eight miles, we ascended a considerable hill upon our right, from the top of which we could see to a considerable distance; between the south-west and north-north-west, a very low level tract lay west of us, and no hill whatever bounded the view in that quarter. Three remarkable hummocks bore respectively S. 72. W., S. 51 1/2 W. and S. 34 1/2 W., within which range of bearing the country was uniformly level, or rising into such low hills, as not to be distinguished from the general surface. The tops of distant ranges could be discerned over low hills in the north-west, whilst, from north by the east to south, the country was broken into hill and valley. The whole of this extensive scene was covered with eucalypti, whilst on the rocky summits of the hills in the immediate neighbourhood a species of callitris was eminently distinguished. From this extensive view I named the hill Mount Prospect.
At five o’clock in the afternoon we arrived at the place where the horses had been directed to wait for the boats, but they had not arrived; the distance is at least doubled by following the immediate course of the stream, but I had calculated that its rapidity would make up for the distance, and enable the boats to keep pace with the horses.
At six o’clock the boats arrived safe, the men having had a very fatiguing row, and been obliged to clear the passage of fallen trees, and other obstructions; so that we determined to give them some repose, and halt here for the night. At half past eight o’clock proceeded down the river, intending to stop at the termination of Mr. Evans’s journey in 1815, about five miles further, for the purpose of repairing the small boat, which had sustained some slight damage in coming down the river yesterday. I rode about three miles back into the country; the callitris was here more frequent, though not of large growth; the soil is not good. In returning to the river we came upon the creek which terminated Mr. Evans’s journey, down which we travelled until we came to the river, about half a mile from which is a large shallow lagoon, full of ducks, bustards, black swans and red-hills. At twelve o’clock the horses arrived at the mouth of the creek, and the boats half an hour afterwards. The banks of the creek were very steep, and it was three o’clock before all the provisions were got over. The creek was named Byrne’s Creek, after one of the present party, who had accompanied Mr. Evans in his former journey.
May 1. — The creek fell upwards of a foot during the night, by which some of the articles in the large boat received damage. Commenced the survey of the river from this point. The flats on both sides the river were very extensive, and in general good; the same timber and grass as usual; the stream was from thirty to forty yards broad on an average. There was not even a hillock on which to ascend during this day’s route, so that our view was bounded by less than a mile on each side of the river. Traces of the natives were observed, but no natives were seen. The boats were much impeded by fallen timber: it was half past two o’clock when they arrived at the place where I intended to halt, although we had only gone between nine and ten miles.
The trees on the immediate banks of the river were very large and ramified, but few of them were useful: another species of callitris was seen to-day.
May 2. — Our journey this day was very fatiguing, the grass being nearly breast high, thick, and entangled. The soil is tolerably good within a mile and a half of the banks: I rode five or six miles out, in hopes of finding some eminence on which to ascend, but was disappointed, the country continuing a dead level, with extensive swamps, and barren brushes. The timber, dwarf box, and gum trees (all eucalypti), with a few cypresses and casuarinas, scattered here and there: few traces of the natives were seen, and none recent. Upon the swamps were numerous swans and other wild fowl. In the evening we caught nearly a hundred weight of fine fish.
May 3. — Proceeded down the river. We passed over a very barren desolate country, perfectly level, without even the slightest eminence, covered with dwarf box-trees and scrubby bushes; towards the latter part of the day a few small cypresses were seen. I think the other side of the river is much the same. We have hitherto met with no water except at the river, and a few shallow lagoons, which are evidently dry in summer. I do not know how far this level extends north and south, but I cannot estimate it at less than from ten to twelve miles on each side; but this is mere conjecture, since for the last three days I have been unable to see beyond a mile: I have, however, occasionally made excursions of five or six miles, and never perceived any difference in the elevation of the country. To-day the course of the river has been a little south of west: its windings are very frequent and sudden, fully accounting for the apparent heights of the floods, of which marks were observed about thirty-six feet above the level of the stream. At six o’clock the boats had not arrived; and as I had given directions on no account to attempt to proceed after dark, I ceased to expect them this evening.
May 4. — As soon as it was light I sent two men up the river to search for the boat: at nine o’clock one of them returned, having found it about four miles back. It appeared that the large boat had got stoved against a tree under water, and that the people were obliged to unload and haul her on shore to undergo some repairs, which they had effected; but the rain prevented them from paying her bottom. They expected to be able to proceed in an hour or two, as the weather had begun to clear up. It was fortunate that no damage had befallen any part of the boat’s lading. At twelve proceeded about three quarters of a mile down the river, and from a small eminence half a mile north of it, an extensive tract of clear country was seen, bearing N. 50. W., about two or three miles from us, having a low range of hills bounding them in the direction of S. 65. W. and N. 65. E. The river wound immediately under the hill, taking a westerly direction as far as I went, which was about three miles; its windings were very sudden, and its width and depth much the same as before. The country, as far as I could see, was precisely similar to that already passed over: the hills were slaty and barren, with a few small cypresses: in fact, I have seen them grow on no other spots so frequently as on those stony hills. The boats arrived about two o’clock.
May 5. — Proceeded down the river, ascended the eminence mentioned yesterday, and from the top of a cypress tree a very distant view of the whole country was obtained: the opening through which the river apparently runs bore S. 75 1/2 W.; the country to the south and south-west extremely low. A range of hills, lying nearly east and west, bounded the level tract on the other side of the river; these hills and two or three detached hammocks excepted, there was nothing to break the uniformity of the scene.
The country was in general poor, with partial tracts of better ground; the hills were slaty, and covered as well as the levels with small eucalypti, cypresses, and casuarinas. About a mile from this place we fell in with a small tribe of natives, consisting of eight men; their women we did not see. They did not appear any way alarmed at the sight of us, but came boldly up: they were covered with cloaks made of opossum skins; their faces daubed with a red and yellow pigment, with neatly worked nets bound round their hair: the front tooth in the upper row was wanting in them all: they were unarmed, having nothing with them but their stone hatchets. It appeared from their conduct that they had either seen or heard of white people before, and were anxious to depart, accompanying the motion of going with a wave of their hand.
About three miles from our last night’s halting-place we had to cross a small creek, the banks of which were so steep that we were obliged to unload the horses. I rode up the creek about three quarters of a mile, and came upon those extensive plains before-mentioned; the soil of this level appears a good loamy clay, but in some places very wet: it was far too extensive to permit us to traverse much of it; we saw sufficient to judge that the whole surface was similar to that we examined; it was covered with a great variety of new plants, and its margin encircled by a new species of acacia, which received the specific name of PENDULA, from its resembling in habit the weeping willow. Low hills to the north bounded this plain, whilst a slip of barren land, covered with small trees and shrubs, lay between it and the river.
It appeared to me that the whole of these flats are occasionally overflowed by the river, the water of which is forced up the creek before-mentioned, and which again acts as a drain on the fall of the water.
At four o’clock we halted for the evening, after a fatiguing day’s journey; the boats were obliged to cut their passage three or four times, and the whole navigation was difficult and dangerous: the current ran with much rapidity, and the channel seemed rather to contract than widen. We were obliged to stop on a very barren desolate spot, with little grass for the horses; but further on the country appeared even worse. The south bank of the river (as far as I could judge) is precisely similar to that which we are travelling down. The clear levels examined to-day were named the Solway Flats. Many fish were caught here, one of which weighed upwards of thirty pounds.
May 6. — Proceeded down the river. It is impossible to fancy a worse country than the one we were now travelling over, intersected by swamps and small lagoons in every direction; the soil a poor clay, and covered with stunted useless timber. It was excessively fatiguing to the horses which travelled along the banks of the river, as the rubus and anthistiria were so thickly intermingled, that they could scarcely force a passage. After proceeding about eight miles, a bold rocky mount terminated on the river, and broke the sameness which had so long wearied us: we ascended this hill, which I named Mount Amyot, and from the summit had one of the most extensive views that can be imagined. On the opposite side of the river was another hill precisely similar to Mount Amyot, leaving a passage between them for the river, and the immense tract of level country to the eastward; this hill was named Mount Stuart. Vast plains clear of timber lay on the south side of the river, and which, from our having travelled on a level with them, it was impossible for us to distinguish before. These plains I named Hamilton’s Plains, and they were bounded by hills of considerable elevation to the southward; whilst the whole level country thus bounded was honoured with the designation of Princess Charlotte’s Crescent.
To the west of Mount Amyot the view was equally extensive, being bounded only by the horizon; some high detached hills, rising like islands from the ocean, broke, in some measure, the sameness of the prospect. I estimated that in the west north-west I could see at least forty miles, and in the south south-west as far; the view in other points being slightly interrupted by low ranges of hills, rising occasionally to points of considerable elevation: none of those elevated spots was nearer than twenty-five or thirty miles, and considerable spaces of clear ground could, by the assistance of the telescope, be distinguished, interspersed amidst the ocean of trees whence those hills arise: a long broken mountain, bearing W. 32 1/2. N., was named Mount Melville; one W. 24. N. Mount Cunningham; and another, bearing S. 70. W. Mount Maude. Smoke, arising from the fires of the wandering inhabitants of these desolate regions was seen in several quarters. At four o’clock we stopped for the evening, about three miles west of Mount Amyot.
I have reason to believe that the whole of the tract named Princess Charlotte’s Crescent is at times drowned by the overflowing of the river; the marks of flood were observed in every direction, and the waters in the marshes and lagoons were all traced as being derived from the river. During a course of upwards of seventy miles not a single running stream emptied itself into the river on either side; and I am forced to conclude that in common seasons this whole tract is extremely badly watered, and that it derives its principal if not only supply from the river within the bounding ranges Of Princess Charlotte’s Crescent. There are doubtless many small eminences which might afford a retreat from the inundations, but those which were observed by us were too trifling and distant from each other to stand out distinct from the vast level surface which the crescent presents to the view. The soil of the country we passed over was a poor and cold clay; but there are many rich levels which, could they be drained and defended from the inundations of the river, would amply repay the cultivation. These flats are certainly not adapted for cattle; the grass is too swampy, and the bushes, swamps, and lagoons, are too thickly intermingled with the better portions to render it either a safe or desirable grazing country. The timber is universally bad and small; a few large misshapen gum trees on the immediate banks of the river may be considered as exceptions. If however the country itself is poor, the river is rich in the most excellent fish, procurable in the utmost abundance. One man in less than an hour caught eighteen large fish, one of which was a curiosity from its immense size, and the beauty of its colours. In shape and general form it most resembled a cod, but was speckled over with brown, blue, and yellow spots, like a leopard’s skin; its gills and belly a clear white, the tail and fins a dark brown. It weighed entire seventy pounds, and without the entrails sixty-six pounds: it is somewhat singular that in none of these fish is any thing found in the stomach, except occasionally a shrimp or two. The dimensions of this fish were as follow:
Feet. Inches. Length from the nose to the tail 3 5 Circumference round the shoulders 2 6 Fin to fin over the back 1 5 Circumference near the anus 1 9 Breadth of the tail 1 1 1/2 Circumference of the mouth opened 1 6 Depth of the swallow 1 foot.
Most of the other fish taken this evening weighed from fifteen to thirty pounds each, and were of the same kind as the above.
May 7. — A fine clear frosty morning. The horses having been much fatigued by the two last days’ journey, I determined to halt to-day instead of Saturday, as the grass was good, which is more than could be said of it for some days past. Observed the latitude to be 33. 22. 59. S.
May 8. — Proceeded down the river. Our general course was westerly, and the country, though equally level with any we had passed, improved in the quality of the soil, which, during the greater part of to-day’s route, was a good vegetable mould, the land thickly covered with small acacia and dwarf trees. On the south side of the river it was apparently the same; and the whole we passed over bore evident marks of being subject to inundations.
The banks of the river were, I think, much lower, not exceeding fifteen or twenty feet high, and they were rather clearer of timber than before. The casuarina, which used to line the banks, was now seldom seen, the acacia pendula seeming to take its place. We stopped for the night on a plain of good land, flooded, but clear of timber: large flocks of emus were feeding on it, and we were fortunate enough to kill a very large one after a fine chase. At three o’clock, the boats not having arrived, I sent a man back to look for them; at eight he returned, having found them about six miles up the river, unable to proceed until morning, having met with continual interruptions from fallen trees. These impediments in the navigation of the river obstruct our progress very materially, and its windings continue so great and frequent, that the distance travelled by land is nearly trebled by water.
May 9. — The boats not having arrived at ten o’clock, Mr. Evans proceeded with the BAT horses another stage down the river. Mr. Cunningham and I waited to bring up the boats, which shortly afterwards came in sight. We proceeded to join the horses, which we did about five o’clock, the boats having gone in that time nearly thirty-six miles, although the distance from the last station did not exceed seven in a direct line.
The country we had passed through during this day’s route was extremely low, consisting of extensive plains divided by lines of small trees: the banks of the river, and the deep bights formed by the irregularity of its course, were covered with acacia bushes and dwarf trees. The river, at the spot where we stopped, wound along the edge of an extensive low plain, being at least six miles long and three or four broad; these I called Field’s Plains, after the judge of the supreme court of this territory; they are the same which we saw from the top of Mount Amyot. The soil of these plains is a light clayey loam, very wet in many places; they were fringed round with that beautiful tree, the acacia pendula, which here seems to perform the part of the willow in Europe; the cypresses were also more frequent, and the banks of the river much lower than even those we passed yesterday. I cannot help thinking that the whole of this extensive region has been at some time or other under water, and that the present river is the drain by which the waters have been conveyed to lower grounds. It is evident that even now the plains (on those parts clear of trees) are frequently under water, and that at very high floods the wooded lands are so too, for it is almost impossible to distinguish any difference in their elevation; but the wooded lands, from being actually higher, seem to have given time for the growth of the diminutive timber with which they are covered, whereas the lower plains are too frequently covered to give time for such growth.
May 10. — The horses having strayed in the night, and it being nearly noon before they were found, I determined to make this a halting day.
These plains are much more extensive than I supposed yesterday, and many new plants were found on them. The river rose upwards of a foot during the night, and still continues to rise; a circumstance which appears very singular to me, there having been no rains of any magnitude for the last five weeks, and none at all for the last ten days. We are also certain that no waters fall into it or join it easterly for nearly one hundred and fifty miles. This rise must therefore be occasioned by heavy rains in the mountains, whence the river derives its source; but it is not the less singular, that during its whole course, as far as it is hitherto known, it does not receive a single tributary stream. Observed the latitude 33. 16. 33. S.
May 11. — The river rose about four feet during the night, and still continues to rise. Set forward on our journey down the river. About four miles and a half from this morning’s station. the river began to wash the immediate edge of the plain, and so continued to do all along. My astonishment was extreme at finding the banks of the river not more than six feet from the water: it at once confirmed my supposition that the whole of this extensive country is frequently inundated; the river was here about thirty yards broad. Mount Cunningham was at this time distant about two miles, and Mount Melville four miles; the plains winding immediately under the base of each. At twelve o’clock ascended the south end of Mount Cunningham, a small branch of the river running close under it. From this elevation our view was very extensive in every direction, particularly in the west quarter. The whole country in that direction was so low, that it might not improperly be termed a swamp, the spaces which were bare of trees being more constantly under water than those where they grew. A remarkable peaked hill bearing W. 27 1/4. N. was named Hurd’s Peak5, and a lofty hummock S. 83 1/2. W, Mount Meyrick: these were the only elevations of any consequence in the western direction. To the north, low ranges of rocky hills bounded the swamps, which on the south had a similar boundary, except that occasionally a bolder rocky projection would obtrude itself on the flat.
5 After Captain Hurd, Hydrographer to the Admiralty.
On descending from the hill, we proceeded to the point where the north-west arm is separated from the main branch, but apparently to join it in water, bearing from Mount Cunningham W. 40. N.: on arriving there we found the boats and horses. The crew of the former reported, that an equally considerable branch of the river, with that down which they had come, had turned off to the south-west, about two miles below the place where we stopped last night. After directing the horses and baggage to be got over the north-west arm, I returned to examine the branch passed by the boats, and found it at least as considerable as that which we were pursuing. I am in hopes that when again joined, the width and depth of the river will be considerably increased. At half past four returned to the tents on the north-west arm. The river (from whatever cause) was still rising, and no part of the banks was more than four feet above the level of the water. I consider that the river may have from eight to ten feet more water in it than usual: its present average depth is about eighteen feet.
The soil of these extensive plains, designated Field’s Plains, is for the most part extremely rich, as indeed might be expected, from the deposition of the quantities of vegetable matter that must take place in periods of flood. The plains are in some places even lower than the ground forming the immediate bank of the river, very soft, and difficult for loaded horses to pass over. If we had been so unfortunate as to have had a rainy season, it would have been utterly impossible to have come thus far by land. The ranges of hills are unconnected, and are rocky and barren; the swamps for the most part surrounding them. Mount Cunningham is a lofty rocky hill, about a mile and a half long, composed of granite rock, but entirely surrounded by low swampy ground.
Here we were so unfortunate as to find the barometer broken, the horse which carried the instruments having thrown his load in passing the swamps: every precaution had been taken in the packing to prevent such an accident, which was the more to be regretted, as it interrupted a chain of observations by which I hoped to ascertain the height of the country with tolerable accuracy. The last observations that were made, reduced to this place, gave us an elevation of not more than five hundred feet above the sea, or about a hundred feet lower than the country at the depot.
Since the river has been swollen, the fish have eluded us, none having been caught since yesterday morning. Two black swans were however shot on the river. Our present situation is by no means enviable: in the first place, there is every chance that the river may be lost in a multitude of branches, among those marshy flats, and farther navigation thus rendered impossible; and in the second, a rise of four feet in the river would sweep us all away, since we have not the smallest eminence to retreat to. Should the river lead through to the westward, and be afterwards joined by the branches we have passed, it may become something more interesting and encouraging: a wet or even a partially rainy season will, in my judgment, preclude us from returning by our present route, more especially if these low countries continue for any distance.
I am by no means surprised at the paucity of natives that have been seen: it would be quite impossible in wet seasons to inhabit these marshes, and equally so for them to retreat in times of flood. Their fires are universally observed near the higher grounds, and no traces of any thing like a permanent camp has hitherto been seen; but in many places on the banks quantities of pearl muscle-shells were found near the remains of fires. That large species of bittern, known on the east-coast by the local name of Native Companions, I believe from the circumstance of their being always seen in pairs, was observed, on the flats, of very large size, exceeding six feet in height: they were so shy that we were unable to shoot any.
May 12. — The fine weather still continues to favour us. The river rose in the course of the night upwards of a foot. It is a probable supposition that the natives, warned by experience of these dangerous flats, rather choose to seek a more precarious, but more safe subsistence in the mountainous and rocky ridges which are occasionally to be met with. The river and lagoons abound with fish and fowl, and it is scarcely reasonable to suppose that the natives would not avail themselves of such store of food, if the danger of procuring it did not counterbalance the advantages they might otherwise derive from such abundance.
About three quarters of a mile farther westward we had to cross another small arm of the river, running to the northward, which although now full, is, I should think, dry when the river is at its usual level. It is probable that this and the one which we first crossed join each other a few miles farther to the westward, and then both united fall into the stream which gave them existence. We had scarcely proceeded a mile from the last branch, before it became evident that it would be impossible to advance farther in the direction in which we were travelling. The stream here overflowed both banks, and its course was lost among marshes: its channel not being distinguishable from the surrounding waters.
Observing an eminence about half a mile from the south side, we crossed over the horses and baggage at a Place where the water was level with the banks, and which when within its usual channel did not exceed thirty or forty feet in width, its depth even now being only twelve feet.
We ascended the hill, and had the mortification to perceive the termination of our research, at least down this branch of the river: the whole country from the west north-west round to north was either a complete marsh or lay under water, and this for a distance of twenty-five or thirty miles, in those directions; to the south and south-west the country appeared more elevated, but low marshy grounds lay between us and it, which rendered it impossible for us to proceed thither from our present situation. I therefore determined to return back to the place where the two branches of the principal river separated, and follow the south-west branch as far as it should be navigable; our fears were however stronger than our hopes, lest it would end in a similar manner to the one we had already traced, until it became no longer navigable for boats.
In pursuance of this intention we descended the hill, which was named Farewell Hill, from its being the termination of our journey in a north-west direction at least for the present, and proceeded up the south bank of the stream. We were able to reach only a short distance from the spot where we stopped last night, having been obliged to unload the horses no less than four times in the course of the day, added to which, the travelling loaded through those dreadful marshes had completely exhausted them: my own horse, in searching for a better track, was nearly lost, and it consumed four hours to advance scarcely half a mile.
My disappointment at the interruption of our labours in this quarter was extreme, and what was worse, no flattering prospect appeared of our succeeding better in the examination of the south-west branch. I was however determined to see the present end of the river in all its branches, before I should finally quit it, in furtherance of the other objects of the expedition.
May 13. — Returned to the point whence the river separates into two branches; intending first to descend the south-west branch for some distance before the boats and baggage should move down, being unwilling the horses should undergo an useless fatigue in traversing such marshy ground, unless the branch should prove of sufficient magnitude to take us a considerable distance; conceiving it an object of the first importance that the horses should start fresh, if I should find it necessary to quit the river at this point of the coast.
May 14. — This branch of the river has fallen about a foot. Having directed the casks in the boats to be prepared for slinging on the horses, and the tools and arms to be put in order preparatory to leaving the river, I proceeded to examine the branch. After going about four miles down, it took a similar direction (north-westerly) to that which we had previously traced. The banks on both sides were a mere marsh, and about six miles down, a small arm from it supplied the marshes between this and the north-west branch. The fall of the country from the south-east to the north-west was very remarkable; the water in the branch was here nearly level with the banks, and was narrowed to a width of not more than twenty feet. Finding that it would be equally as impracticable to follow this branch as the other, I returned and commenced preparations for setting out for the coast, which I purpose not to do until Sunday, in order that the horses may be refreshed, as they will at first be most heavily laden.
My present intention is to take a south-west direction for Cape Northumberland, since should any river be formed from those marshes, which is extremely probable, and fall into the sea between Spencer’s Gulf and Cape Otway, this course will intersect it, and no river or stream can arise from these swamps without being discovered. The body of water now running in both the principal branches is very considerable, fully sufficient to have constituted a river of magnitude, if it had constantly maintained such a supply of water, and had not become separated into branches, and lost among the immense marshes of this desolate and barren country, which seems here to form a vast concavity to receive them. It is impossible to arrive at any certain opinion as to what finally becomes of these waters, but I think it probable, from the appearance of the country, and its being nearly on a level with the sea, that they are partly absorbed by the soil, and the remainder lost by evaporation.
May 15. — Mr. Cunningham made an excursion under Mount Melville, and found the country in that direction as full of stagnant water as to the north-west. Some tracts rather more raised above the usual level were barren, and covered with acacia scrubs. The natives had been recently under Mount Melville, perhaps to the number of a dozen: abundance of large pearl muscle-shells was found about their deserted fireplaces, but these shells had been apparently some months out of water.
May 16. — Felled a tree of the acacia pendula, the wood extremely hard and beautiful; a black resinous juice exuded from the heart, which much resembled the black part of the lignum vitae. Our observations placed this spot in latitude 33. 15. 34. S.; longitude 147. 16. E. and the variation of the compass 7. 0. 8. E.
May 17. — After reducing our luggage as much as possible, we sent every thing down the branch about two miles, and landed on the south shore; got every thing in readiness for proceeding on our journey to-morrow; hauled up the boats on the south bank, and secured them, together with such heavy articles as we could not take with us. The provisions occupied our whole fourteen horses, including my own, and each will still be very heavily laden.
May 18. — At nine o’clock we commenced our journey towards the coast; at three stopped within four miles of Mount Maude, on a dry creek, with occasional pools of very indifferent water. The country through which we passed from the branch was for the first three miles very low and wet, with large lagoons of water. During the latter part of the journey the country was more elevated though still level, the soil light and rotten, and overrun with the acacia pendula. The horses being very heavily laden fell repeatedly during the early part of the day. Our course was nearly south-west, and we performed about ten miles.
May 19. — At two miles passed over a low rocky range connected with Mount Maude: the remainder of our day’s journey (nearly twelve miles) lay chiefly through a barren level country, the ground rather studded than covered with grass, and that only in patches, by far the greater part producing no grass at all. The trees were chiefly cypresses, a new species of staculia, together with scrubs of the acacia pendula. The soil a light red sand, the lower levels being stronger and more clayey. We did not meet with any water, and were obliged to stop in the middle of an acacia brush, the horses being too much fatigued to proceed farther, and as the country had been lately burnt, the grass was a little better than usual. At four o’clock sent two men to search for water, and in about half an hour they returned, having found several small ponds of good water about three quarters of a mile to the south-west: the swamp appeared to extend to the northward a considerable distance. Several native huts were on the edge of one of the ponds, but they had not been recently inhabited.
May 20. — Proceeded forward south-west eleven miles through a most barren desolate country, the soil a light red sand, literally parched up with drought, there being no appearance of rain having fallen for several months. The country through which we passed being a perfect plain overrun with acacia scrubs, we could not see in any direction above a quarter of a mile; I therefore halted at two o’clock on purpose to gain time to find water before sunset, as we had seen no other signs of any on our route than a few dry pits. It is impossible to imagine a more desolate region; and the uncertainty we are in, whilst traversing it, of finding water, adds to the melancholy feelings which the silence and solitude of such wastes is calculated to inspire.
The search for water was unsuccessful, about three gallons of muddy liquid being all that could be procured: our horses and dogs, I am afraid, were the greatest sufferers.
May 21. — The water was so extremely bad that, pressed as we were by thirst, we could scarcely even by twice boiling it render it drinkable. After travelling ten or eleven miles through a country equally barren and destitute with that of yesterday, without meeting with the least appearance of water, and the horses being completely worn out, I determined to halt on a small patch of burnt grass; two of the horses had fallen several times under their loads, and nothing but the evenness of the road enabled us to reach thus far. The same level plain extended on all sides, and our view was confined to the scrubby brush around us. A small hollow lying across our track, I sent a man on horseback to trace it, in hopes it might lead to water: he returned about four o’clock with the joyful news that he had found water in a large swamp about five miles to the north-west: he also saw a native, who however ran too swiftly to allow him to come up with him. This was the first living creature of any kind we had seen since we quitted the river. Both the kangaroo and emu seem to have deserted these plains for other parts of the country better watered, and affording them more food. The horses being utterly unable to proceed without rest, I determined to remain here to-morrow to refresh them.
May 22. — The nights cold and frosty, the days warm and clear: I think it is very evident that the altitude of the country declines in a remarkable manner to the north-west; from the south-east to the south-west it appears nearly of the same elevation; and in travelling we appear to be going along an inclined plane, the lowest edges being from west to north. I went about five miles to the north-west to the place whence the water was procured; the country poor, and as barren as can well be imagined; the soil a light red sand, acacia scrubs, small box-trees, and a few miserable cypresses.
May 23. — Our route lay through a country equally bad, if not worse, than any which we had passed the preceding days: in some places it was difficult for the horses to force a passage through the brush; occasionally low stony ridges intervened, which, when viewed from higher eminences, were not to be detected from the plain out of which they rose. The soil was alternately a sterile sand and a hardened clay, without grass of any description: the country appeared to form the bottom of a dry morass, and I am convinced if the weather had not been dry for a considerable time, travelling would have been impossible. After proceeding ten miles we were obliged to stop, the horses being unable to go further. We had seen no signs of water during our route, but stopping at a stony water-course we were in hopes of finding a sufficiency to supply our wants, and on a hill at the end of it, about a quarter of a mile to the westward, water was found.
May 24. — A day of rest and preparation. The country seems to rise hereabouts and to be more broken, the ridges stony: the dwarf timber and brush very thick. In searching for the horses this morning several kangaroos and emus were seen, also the huts of a tribe of natives recently inhabited.
May 25. — The horses much refreshed, except one which is unable to carry any thing; his load was therefore obliged to be distributed among the rest, already too heavily laden. At nine o’clock set forward on our journey. At two we arrived at the base of a hill of considerable magnitude, terminating westward in an abrupt perpendicular rock from two hundred and fifty to three hundred feet high. The country we passed over was of the most miserable description; the last eight miles without a blade of grass. The acacia brushes grow generally on a hard and clayey soil evidently frequently covered with water, and I consider that these plains or brushes are swamps or morasses in wet weather, since they must receive all the water from the low ranges with which they are generally circumscribed. It is a remarkable feature in the hills of this country that their terminations are generally perpendicular westward, rising from the lower grounds round from south-west to north-west very gradually; their terminating rocky bluffs are usually two or three hundred feet high. I include in these observations not only the single detached hills, but the points of the ranges. This hill was named Mount Aiton. The country having been recently burnt, some good grass was found for the horses a little to the south-west. We therefore stopped for the night, and ascended the face of the mount for the purpose of looking around: a very large brown speckled snake was killed about half way up, which, in the absence of fresh provisions, was afterwards eaten by some of the party. On arriving at the summit we had an extensive prospect in every direction; the country was most generally level, but rose occasionally into gentle eminences bounded by distant low ranges from the south south-west to the north-west. The most considerable of these ranges were named PEEL’S RANGE, and GOULBURN’S RANGE: a very lofty hill, distant at least seventy miles, was named MOUNT GRANARD. Interspersed through the country, bounded by those ranges, were several large tracts entirely devoid of wood; these are however, I fear, only a repetition of the acacia plains of which we had lately been but too abundantly favoured. From south-west by south round to north-east were some low broken hills, with some to the east-south-east of greater magnitude; but their distance was so great as to appear but faintly in the horizon. Upon the whole the country appeared more open and somewhat better, particularly in the immediate vicinity of our station to the south-west. There were not the smallest signs of any stream, neither is-ere there any fires in the direction we had to take. Three or four fires were seen in the north-west, and recent traces of the natives were discovered near our tents. The inhabitants of these wilds must be very few, and I think it impossible for more than a family to subsist together; a greater number would only starve each other: indeed their deserted fires and camps which we occasionally saw, never appeared to have been occupied by more than six or eight persons. The scarcity of food must also prevent the raising of many children, from the absolute impossibility of supporting them until of an age to provide for themselves. We have seen so few animals, either kangaroo or emu, and the country appears so little capable of maintaining these animals, that the means of the natives in procuring food must be precarious indeed. We found just a sufficiency of water to answer our purpose in a drain from the Mount; our dogs are, however, in a wretched condition for want of food.
May 26. — The horses having strayed in the night, every man was employed in searching for them. In passing through those barren brushes yesterday, a great quantity of small iron-stones was picked up, from the size of a large pea to a hen’s-egg, all nearly round, being washed into heaps by the waters, which in time of rain sweep over those flats. The front of Mount Aiton was found to decline about fifteen degrees from the perpendicular; the rocks were composed of a hard sandy free-stone. It was eight o’clock in the evening before any of the people returned, and then only two men came back with two horses, being all they were able to find: the other three men are still absent, but they had found the track of the other horses before these men left them. The two horses were discovered in the midst of a thick brush, entangled among creeping plants and unable to get further: they must have strayed in search of water, the water at this place not being sufficient for them all. The animals were all spencilled, but such is the scarcity of both water and grass, that they will wander in search of each.
The natives have been reconnoitring us: we have several times heard them, but have been unable to see them. At sunset their fires were seen about two miles to the south-west.
May 27. — At day-light, despatched the other two men and horses to the assistance of the rest, who remained out all night.
A native was seen about half a mile from our fires: the dogs attacked him, and when called off, he ran away shouting most lustily; he was a very stout man, at least six feet high, entirely naked, with a long bushy beard: he had no arms of any kind. At two o’clock, two of the men who had been out all night returned, after an unsuccessful search, leaving three more out to pursue it in every possible direction. Water is evidently the reason of their straying, as several patches of burnt grass have been passed by them, and they would naturally return to the place where they last found it, if they could find none nearer. At sunset the men returned with nine of the horses, five being still missing: they were found ten miles on the road back, and near the place where they fed on the 24th.
May 28. — At daylight despatched four men on horseback to resume the search for the missing horses, taking with them two days’ provisions.
May 29. — At four o’clock in the afternoon the men returned, still unsuccessful.
May 30. — At seven o’clock I proceeded to the north-east with two men, whilst Mr. Evans went to the north-west. At ten I was fortunate enough to fall in with the horses about eight miles from our camp; returned with them, and prepared every thing for setting forward to-morrow morning. In one of the brushes an emu’s nest was found, containing ten eggs; our dogs also killed two small birds. Mr. Evans returned about three o’clock, having seen nothing remarkable: the country was very thick and brushy, and he was much impeded by creeping vines.
Mr. Cunningham here planted the seeds of quinces, and the stones of peach and apricot trees.
May 31. — Fine weather as usual, and at nine o’clock we set off with renewed hopes and spirits. Our first nine miles afforded excellent travelling through an open country of very indifferent soil. The trees thin and chiefly cypress, with occasionally a large sterculia, but no water whatever: at the ninth mile we entered a very thick eucalyptus brush, overrun with creepers and prickly acacia bushes. We continued forcing our way through this desert until sunset, when, finding no hopes of getting through it before dark, we halted in the midst of it, having travelled in the whole nearly twenty miles, and for the last mile been obliged to cut our way with our tomahawks.
Both men and horses were quite knocked up, and our embarrassment was heightened by the want of water for ourselves and them, as this desert did not hold out the slightest hope of finding any. No herbage of any kind grew on this abandoned plain, being a fine red sand, which almost blinded us with its dust. It was with some little hesitation that we affixed a name to this brush; but at length nothing occurred to us more expressive of its aspect than EURYALEAN. This was the first night which we had passed absolutely without water.
June 1. — A cold frosty morning. The weather during the might changed from very mild and pleasant to extreme cold; the thermometer varying 24. At daylight we loaded the horses and set forward to get out of this scrub, and endeavour to procure water and grass for the horses, which we were obliged to tie to bushes, to prevent them from straying. After going about two miles farther we cleared the thickest of it: but the country was only more open, and not in any degree more fertile. We proceeded on towards the south-east end of Peel’s range until twelve o’clock, when, having gone nearly eleven miles, the horses were unable to proceed farther with their loads. There was nothing left for us but to unload them, and separate in every direction in search of that most precious of elements, without tasting a drop of which both men and horses had now existed nearly thirty-six hours.
Water was found in three holes in the side of Peel’s range sufficient for all our necessities, and a most grateful relief it proved, particularly to the poor horses, who were nearly famished for the want of it: one of the best of our animals was so exhausted that it was with some difficulty he could be taken to the water. I wish the grass had proved equally good, but there is nothing for them but dead wire-grass (IRA). We saw no game, with the exception of three or four kangaroo rats: many beautiful small parrots were observed; and, barren as the scrub appeared to us, yet our botanists reaped an excellent harvest here; nothing being more true than that the most beautiful plants and shrubs flourish best where no grass or other herbage will grow.
June 2. — Fine and clear as usual, the nights cold. One of our best horses, mentioned yesterday as having fallen repeatedly under his load, was this morning extremely ill, having entirely lost the use of his hind quarters. Finding that he was quite unable to accompany us, and in fact unfit to do any more work, it was with extreme reluctance that I caused him to be shot, since it would have been no mercy to suffer him to linger in his present miserable condition. Observations were taken to ascertain our situation, and they placed us lat. 34. 8. 8. S., long. 146.03. E., the variation of the compass being 7. 18. E.
The hills to the southward of us are curiously composed of pudding-stone in very large masses, the lower stratum being a coarse granite intermingled with pieces of quartz, and a variety of other stones.
June 3. — Set forward on our route, passing over a rugged, barren, and rocky country for about four miles and a half, when we ascended a hill upon our right which promised a view in all directions. To the southward, south-west, and even west, the country was a perfect plain, interspersed with more of those dreadful scrubs which we had passed through. In coming from Mount Aiton to the south-east were some low ranges, with a level barren country between us and them; this hill was named Mount Caley, and the termination of Peel’s range to the southward, a lofty rocky hill, was called Mount Brogden. On descending the hill, I had the mortification to find that one of the horses, who had hitherto performed well, now sunk under his load, and was unable to proceed farther: in short, all of them appeared so debilitated, that the utmost we could promise ourselves was their proceeding three or four miles farther in search of grass and water. Directing the man to stay by his load, we proceeded towards some burnt grass which had been seen from Mount Caley, and after going about four miles farther we stopped upon it. As the ultimate success of the expedition so entirely depended upon the capability of the horses to perform the journey, it was judged advisable that they should have two or three days rest before we attempted to penetrate farther; and as we were now on a spot that at least afforded them a mouthful of fresh wire-grass, I determined, if water should be found, to remain here until Friday morning.
The country is so extremely impracticable, and so utterly destitute of the means of affording subsistence to either man or beast; water is so precarious, and when found is only the contents of small muddy holes, which under different circumstances would be rejected equally by horses and by men, that I much fear we shall not be able to proceed much further; but my mind is made up to persevere until the last horse fails us, keeping that course which, although inclining to the westward, will bring us out upon the coast upon a nearer line than Cape Northumberland, which I intended to steer for when we quitted the Lachlan River.
Sent back assistance to the man and horse left under Mount Caley, and at eight o’clock they returned.
After searching in every direction, no water was found, except in a small hole evidently dug by the natives under Mount Brogden, and containing scarcely sufficient for the people.
June 4. — Weather as usual fine and clear, which is the greatest comfort we enjoy in these deserts, abandoned as they seem to be by every living creature capable of getting out of them. I was obliged to send the horses back to our former halting-place for water, a distance of near eight miles: this is terrible for the horses, who are in general extremely reduced; but two in particular cannot, I think, endure this miserable existence much longer.
At five o’clock, two men, whom I had sent to explore the country to the south-west and see if any water could be found, returned, after proceeding six or seven miles: they found it impossible to go any farther in that direction or even south, from the thick brushes that intersected their course on every side; and no water (nor in fact the least sign of any) was discovered either by them, or by those who were sent in search of it nearer to our little camp.
No other trace of inhabitants (besides the well from which we derive our supply of water) has hitherto been seen: no game of any kind, nor grass to support any, have resulted from the various routes and observations of the different persons who were employed for that purpose during the day. I almost despair of finding any, for the country being perfectly level (some few elevated stations excepted), and the soil a deep loose red sand, the rain which falls must be immediately absorbed, and indeed it is quite impossible that water should remain on the surface of the land which we have travelled over since we have left the river.
At the period we quitted the river I considered our height above the level of the sea to be about five hundred feet, an elevation too trifling to afford a hope that any streams could rise in these regions and flow thence into the sea. In traversing these flats, the declivity, when it could be observed, was always towards the west and north-west, obliging me to believe that either the country continued a desert of sand as at present, or that its westerly inclination would cause all that part of it to consist of marshes and swamps. Since quitting the river we have not enjoyed what under any other circumstances would be called drinkable water; what was found being merely the contents of shallow mud holes, in the bottom of acacia swamps, over which the dryness of the season alone enabled us to travel. We have uniformly been obliged to strain our water before we drank it, and its taste, from the decayed vegetable matter it contained, was sour and unpleasant.
June 5. — A clear cold frosty morning: sent the horses to the watering place: if it be any way possible to get them on, it is my intention to proceed to-morrow morning, as it is almost as much labour to them to go for water as it would be to perform a short day’s journey.
From every thing I can see of the country to the south-west, it appears, upon the most mature deliberation, highly imprudent to persevere longer in that direction, as the consequences to the horses of want of water and grass might be most serious; and we are well assured that within forty miles on that point the country is the same as before passed over. In adopting a north-westerly course, it is my intention to be entirely guided by the possibility of procuring subsistence for the horses, that being the main point on which all our ulterior proceedings must hinge. It is however to be expected that as the country is certainly lower to the west and north-west than from south-east to south-west, there is a greater probability of finding water in this latter direction. In our present perplexing situation, however, it is impossible to lay down any fixed plan, as (be it what it may) circumstances after all must guide us. Our horses are unable to go more than eight or ten miles a day, but even then they must be assured of finding food, of which, in these deserts, the chances are against the existence.
Yesterday, being the King’s birthday, Mr. Cunningham planted under Mount Brogden acorns, peach and apricot-stones, and quince-seeds, with the hope rather than the expectation that they would grow and serve to commemorate the day and situation, should these desolate plains be ever again visited by civilized man, of which, however, I think there is very little probability.
Our observation placed the situation of the tent in lat. 34. 13. 33. S., long. 146. E.; the variation of the compass 8. 08. E.
June 6. — A mild pleasant morning: set forward on our journey to the westward and north-west, in hopes of finding a better country: at two o’clock halted about two miles from Peel’s range, after going about eight miles through a very thick cypress scrub; the country equally bad as on any of the foregoing days. We saw no signs of water during our route: the whole country seems burnt up with long continued drought; no traces of natives, or any game seen.
After two hours’ search a small hole of water was found at the foot of the range, sufficient for the horses, and in a hole in the rocks a little clearer was procured for ourselves.
June 7. — Set forward to the north-west, the horses being a little fresher than for some days past. Halted at four o’clock, having gone ten miles through a country which, for barrenness and desolation, can I think have no equal; it was a continued scrub, and where there was timber it chiefly consisted of small cypress: we saw no water as usual, but stopped on some burnt grass near the base of a low range of stony hills west of Peel’s range, from which we are distant eight or ten miles. These ranges abound with native dogs; their howlings are incessant, day as well as night: as we saw no game, their principal prey must be rats, which have almost undermined this loose sandy country.
As we had brought a small keg of water with us, we did not on this occasion suffer absolute want: we hope that the instinct of the horses would lead them to water in the course of the night — but we were too sanguine.
Our spirits were not a little depressed by the desolation and want that seemed to reign around us: the scene was never varied, except from bad to worse. However, the scarcity of water and grass for the horses are our greatest real privations, for the temperature is mild and equable beyond what could be expected at this season, and it is this circumstance alone that enables us to proceed: the horses are too much reduced to endure rainy weather, even if the loose soil of the country would permit us to travel over it.
June 8. — During the night there was light rain. At daylight sent out in search of water, but all our efforts proved unsuccessful. Peel’s range being the nearest high land, I determined to search the base of it, in hopes of finding water, since it was impossible that either men or horses could long endure this almost constant privation of the first necessary of life. I accordingly set off towards the range, but was prevented from making it by impenetrable scrubs: we then returned to the range a little to the west of the tent, whence we could see a considerable distance to the west and north-west; it is impossible to imagine a prospect more desolate. The whole country in these directions, as far as the eye could reach, was one continued thicket of eucalyptus scrub: it was physically impossible to proceed that way, and our situation was too critical to admit of delay; it was therefore resolved to return back to our last station on the 6th under Peel’s range, if for no other purpose than that of giving the horses water. I felt that by attempting to proceed westerly I should endanger the safety of every man composing the expedition, without any practical good arising from such perseverance: it was therefore deemed more prudent to keep along the base of Peel’s range to its termination, having some chance of finding water in its rocky ravines, whilst there was none at all in attempting to keep the level country. It was too late to pursue this resolution this evening.
June 9. — During the night heavy rain. At eight o’clock set off on our return to our halting-place of the 6th, the horses having been now forty-eight hours without water. We had scarcely proceeded a mile when it began to rain hard, and continued to do so without intermission until we stopped at the place where water had been previously found: it was by this time two o’clock, the horses failed, and the people were in little better condition, not having tasted any thing since the evening before. All our clothes were wet through, a circumstance which added greatly to the unpleasantness of our situation.
The true nature of the soil was fully developed by this day’s rain. Being in dry weather a loose light sand without any apparent consistency, it was now discovered to have a small portion of loam mixed with it, which, without having the tenacity of clay, is sufficient to render it slimy and boggy: I am quite satisfied that two days’ rain will at any time render this country impassable. The mortification and distress of mind I felt at being obliged to take a retrograde direction was heightened by seeing the horses struggling under loads far beyond their present powers, their labour rendered still more trying by the miserable country they were obliged to pass through.
June 10. — Light rain during the night, the morning fair and pleasant: upon mature deliberation it was resolved to remain here until the 13th, for the purpose of refreshing the horses. I also determined to send a detachment on before us, to endeavour to find an eligible station for us to stop at, that we might proceed with more certainty.
Mr. Cunningham named those thick brushes of eucalyptus that spread in every direction around us EUCALYPTUS DUMOSA, or the dwarf gum, as they never exceed twenty feet in height, and are generally from twelve to fifteen, spreading out into a bushy circle from their roots in such a manner that it is impossible to see farther than from one bush to the other; and these are very often united by a species of vine (cassytha), and the intermediate space covered with prickly wire-grass, rendering a passage through them equally painful and tedious
The low ranges of hills which we quitted yesterday morning we named Disappointment Hills, from our not being able to penetrate beyond them to the north-west or west, and also from our not finding any water on them; our hopes being thus disappointed of penetrating into the interior in the direction that I intended when we quitted Mount Brogden.
June 11. — A party set forward to the northward to explore our to-morrow’s route, and to endeavour to find water at some eligible station.
They returned about four o’clock, having proceeded eight or ten miles. Small holes of water were found in almost every gully. They saw several traces of the natives, but none recent: the dogs killed several kangaroo-rats, and some new species of plants were discovered.
June 12. — Fine and clear. At eight o’clock set forward on our journey along the west side of Peel’s range: we proceeded to the north, inclining westerly for about ten miles; the travelling for the horses very bad, the ground being extremely soft, the description of the country the same. The trees resembled bushes more than timber, being chiefly small cypresses, which is the prevailing wood. The grass where we stopped was very bad, but the quantity and quality of the water compensated for it. No recent marks of the natives having visited this part of the range.
June 13. — Fine mild pleasant weather. Proceeded along the foot of Peel’s range for about ten miles; we then inclined north-easterly, the range taking that direction, and after going about four miles farther we stopped for the evening: the country was wretchedly barren and scrubby, and to the north-west and west a continued eucalyptus dumosa scrub, extending as far as the eye could reach from the occasional small hills which we passed in our route.
Water was found about two miles off in the range, affording a bare sufficiency for ourselves and horses.
June 14. — Fine clear weather. Proceeded on our journey northwards: the first four or five miles was over a rocky broken country, consisting of low hills, rising westerly of Peel’s range. After going about six miles and a half the country became more open and less rocky; as the grass was here better than at our last night’s halting-place, and the water convenient and tolerable, we resolved upon stopping, particularly as I intended resting the horses to-morrow; and I was fearful if I proceeded farther I might meet with neither, and thus be obliged to continue travelling to-morrow; an exertion which the horses were not in a condition to make. Nothing can be more irksome than the tedious days’ journeys we are obliged to make through a country in which there is not the smallest variety, each day’s occurrences and scenes being but a recapitulation of the former: our patience would frequently be exhausted, were we not daily reanimating ourselves with the hopes that the morrow will bring us to a better country, and render a journey, the labour of which has hitherto been ill repaid, of some service to the colony, and of some satisfaction to the expectations which had been formed of its result.
June 15. — Observed in lat. 33. 49. 09. S., and long. 145. 54. E. Mr. Cunningham went upon Peel’s range in search of plants, and found a few new ones; the country to the north appeared hilly and broken, but no scrubs, such as obstructed our progress westward, were seen. Goulburn’s range had a remarkable appearance, being broken into peaks and singularly shaped hills. A solitary native was seen by one of our party, but he ran off with great precipitation on friendly signs being made to him to approach.
June 16. — It blew extremely hard during the night, and rained incessantly, as it still continues to do, with scarcely any intermission. This morning we had the misfortune to find one horse dead, the same that fell under his load on the 3d instant, and, as he had carried little or nothing since, he appeared to be recovering his strength. Independently of the continuance of heavy rain, which would certainly have prevented me from attempting to set forward, the ground has become so hollow and soft from the rain which fell during the night, that it was the universal opinion that the horses could not travel under their loads. It cleared up towards night, with the exception of occasional heavy showers.
June 17. — Towards morning the weather became fine, with fresh winds from the north-east; at eight o’clock set forward on our journey, the ground extremely wet and soft.
We could not proceed above ten miles when we stopped, one of the horses being completely disabled from going any farther. The line of country we passed over was rocky, barren, and miserable, the level grounds being a perfect bog; to the westward, low irregular rocky ranges, with blasted and decayed cypresses on their summits, were the only objects which presented themselves to our view. There was neither grass nor water where we stopped; of course, nothing but the absolute necessity that existed to spare the horses could induce us to halt. People were sent to search the range for water, but all their endeavours proved fruitless, after wandering in every probable direction until sunset. The coldness of the air would have prevented us from feeling much inconvenience from this privation, had it been in our power to have satisfied our hunger but salt pork, would have proved an aggravating meal without water; we therefore preferred an absolute fast to the certainty of increasing our thirst.
About sunset the wind increased to a perfect storm, accompanied by heavy showers, which prevented the horses from suffering so severely as they otherwise would.
June 18. — The weather was very tempestuous during the night: towards morning the wind somewhat abated, and left light drizzling showers. Our search after water was renewed, and so far succeeded as to procure us about a pint of rain-water each, which afforded us great relief. It did not appear that the horses had been equally successful.
Upon consultation, in our present critical situation it was resolved that Mr. Evans should proceed forward to the north-north-west until he found grass and water, and as it was evident to all that the horses were utterly incapable of proceeding with their present loads to any distance, I thought it expedient to leave half our provisions behind, and proceed to the place selected by Mr Evans, and then to send back for the remainder: in fact, there remained no alternative; reduced as the horses were in their strength, it would have been in the highest degree imprudent to have dared the almost certainty of killing them by proceeding with their usual loads.
After going about three miles we came upon a small valley which afforded both good grass and water; the latter was rain-water collected in holes at the base of the range, which was composed of a hard granite rock. In this valley we found several holes dug by the natives, for the purpose of receiving water; in some a few quarts of muddy water were found, others were quite dry. It rained almost incessantly during the whole of this day, rendering our situation extremely unpleasant.
As if to add to our misfortunes, it was now first discovered that three of the casks, which had all along been taken for flour casks, were filled with pork; and upon a minute investigation it came out, that when, on the 1st of May, the large boat had been reported to have filled from the falling of the river without any other accident, that then, in fact, three of the upper tier of casks had been washed out of her. It was impossible, at this distance of time, to exactly ascertain how such a serious loss could have happened and not have been discovered before, for the boatmen persisted in declaring that their cargo was then all safe; but, as so large a quantity could not possibly have been consumed by the party clandestinely without certain discovery, it appeared quite clear that the loss either happened on that day or on the 4th, when the large boat sunk from having been stove. In counting our casks up to this period, three, in every respect the same as the flour casks, with similar marks, had been reckoned in their lieu by us all, whilst the deficiency being then apparently in the pork was not suspected by any.
In this distressing dilemma nothing remained for us but to reduce our ration of flour in such a proportion as would leave us twelve weeks of that article, and as we had still plenty of pork, to issue an extra pound of it weekly. Since leaving the depot we had been so extremely guarded in the issue of provisions, to prevent the possibility of our suffering from any longer protraction of our journey than was expected, that never more than six pounds of flour had been issued to each person weekly, which now, from this accident coming to light, was reduced to four pounds: it was, in truth, extremely fortunate that we had thus kept within the calculated ration, as otherwise our situation would have been highly alarming.
Some of our party began even now to anticipate the resources of famine, for a large native dog being killed, it was pronounced, like lord Peter’s loaf, in the Tale of a Tub, to be true, good, natural mutton as any in Leadenhall-market, and eaten accordingly: for myself, I was not yet brought to the conversion of Martin and Jack.
The natives had been in this valley very recently, and I conjectured that they were then not far from us. In the afternoon, the rain still continuing, I sent back the strongest of the horses to bring up the provisions left behind. Towards eight o’clock the wind increased to a storm, so that the rain was forced through our tent in every part, and we were fairly washed out: this abated about ten o’clock, and the weather partially cleared up. Upon the whole this was the most uncomfortable day and night we had experienced since we quitted the depot.
June 19. — Fresh winds from the north-west, with thick small rain. The valley was now a complete bog, the hills closing on each side of it, and its widest part not exceeding two hundred yards: the soil imbibes all the water almost as fast as it falls. There was one comfort in all this bad weather; we had plenty of water, and the horses tolerable grass.
Taking advantage of a fair interval, I explored to the north-north-west about a mile, whence I had a tolerable view of the country between the showers: it was broken into very remarkable hills between the north-west by north and north-east; to the west it was more level, and having been burnt, the young grass gave it a more cheering aspect than any we had seen for some time. Bearings were taken to several remarkable hills for the purpose of connecting the survey.
Two swans passed over the valley to the north-west, which we considered as a sign that water lay in that direction.
June 20. — The weather broke up during the night, and the morning was fair and pleasant. However desirable it was that the horses should remain another day in this valley to recruit, yet, in the present unsettled state of the season, I was unwilling to lose an hour more than was absolutely necessary. We here left all the spare horse-shoes, broken axes, etc. in order to lighten the burden of the horses. This little valley received the name of Peach Valley, from our having here planted the last of our fruit-stones.
At eight we proceeded to the north-north-west, our course taking us over a broken barren country; the hills composed of rocks and small stones, the valleys and flats of sand. To the westward of our route the country was covered with scrubs of the eucalyptus dumosa; these scrubs we avoided, by keeping close along the base of Peel’s range, where the country had been lately burnt. It is somewhat singular that those scrubs and brushes seldom if ever extend to the immediate base of the hills: the washings from them rendered the soil somewhat better for two or three hundred yards. As to water, we did not see the least signs of any during the whole day. After proceeding between nine and ten miles, we stopped for the evening on some burnt grass, which existed in sufficient quantity; but, although we procured a few gallons of water for ourselves, not all our researches could find a sufficiency for the horses.
The dogs killed a pretty large emu, which was a most luxurious addition to our salt pork, of which alone we were all well satiated. I ascended the range behind the tent, and I never saw a more broken country, or one more barren. It appeared more open to the north-north-west, to which point our course will be directed to-morrow.
June 21. — Fine mild weather: at eight o’clock set forward on our journey. The farther we proceed north-westerly, the more convinced I am that, for all the practical purposes of civilized man, the interior of this country westward of a certain meridian is uninhabitable, deprived as it is of wood, water, and grass. With respect to water, it is quite impossible that any can be retained on such a soil as the country is composed of, and no watercourses, for the same reason, can be formed; for, like a sponge, it absorbs all the rain that falls, which, judging from every appearance, cannot be much. The wandering native with his little family may find a precarious subsistence in the ruts with which the country abounds; but even he, with all the local knowledge which such a life must give him, is obliged to dig with immense labour little wells at the bottom of the hills to procure and preserve a necessary of life which is evidently not to be obtained by any other method.
We proceeded through a broken irregular country for nearly six miles, when the evident weakness of the horses made it highly imprudent to attempt to proceed farther. We therefore halted under a high rocky hill, which was named Barrow’s Hill; and sent round in all directions to look for water. The goodness of Providence came to our succour when we least expected it; an ample sufficiency for the people being found near the top of the hill in the hollow of a rock.
I ascended Barrow’s Hill, and from its summit had a very extensive prospect from the west north-west round to east-north-east. To the north the country appeared perfectly level, though the horizon was skirted with distant hammocks, which could be but faintly distinguished. To the north-east were some native’s fires; and a lofty detached mountain was named Mount Flinders: a high range to the westward was named Macquarie’s Range, in honour of his excellency the Governor.
The men returned late after an unsuccessful search for water, having gone entirely round Mount Flinders. There was now nothing to be done but to drive the horses to the base of the hill under which we were encamped, and share with them the water whence we derived our own supply: it was obliged to be handed from man to man in the cooking kettle, out of which the poor animals drank; and I was happy to find that a sufficiency would still remain to supply us until Monday morning, when we intended again to set forward.
June 22. — The morning mild, but a thick drizzling rain continued until near noon, when it cleared up. The variation of the compass was 7. 45. E.
About sunset Mr. Cunningham returned from a botanical excursion to Mount Flinders; he had found many new plants on the west side of the mount, but nothing was seen from its summit which had not been previously observed from Barrow’s Hill: Frazer, our botanical soldier, also returned from Mount Bowen, in Goulburn’s Range; but was not fortunate enough to find any thing new in vegetation, as it had been lately burnt: it was, however, remarkable that the paneratium Macquarie should be found growing in great abundance at the very top; this plant never being found except near moist Places, and in the vicinity of water. At the foot of Mount Bowen, Frazer fell in with a native camp, which had not been quitted more than a day or two: among the reliques were three or four pearl muscles, such as we had observed on the river; and it is probable that these may have been the property of natives who live more immediately in that vicinity. These shells are used as knives, being ground very sharp against the rocks, and certainly for a scraper they may answer very well.
It may here be remarked, that the composition of the lofty detached hills, designated as mounts, is uniformly different from the rock composing the bases and summits of the more connected and elevated tracts, and what may more properly be termed ranges; the latter being of hard dark coloured granite, whilst the former rather resembles hard sandstone, studded with pebbles and quartz. The west side of Mount Flinders was covered with quartz, whilst the larger pieces of rock, on being broken, appeared to be an indurated sandstone.
June 23. — The watering our horses took us up so much time, that it was ten o’clock before we set forward to the northward. After proceeding about four miles, the country became much more open, extending east and west over a flat level plain, the botany of which, in every respect, resembled Field’s Plains; except that a new species of eucalyptus took place of the acacia pendula. A flock of large kangaroos was seen for the first time since we quitted the Lachlan; also many emus and bustards. Our dogs killed three kangaroos and two emus. The soil of these plains was a stiff tenacious clay, and had every appearance of being frequently under water: as we were now in the parallel of the spot where the river divided into branches, the altered appearance of the country induced us to hope that we should shortly fall in with some permanent water, and be relieved from the constant anxiety attendant on the precarious supply to which we had lately been enured.
After going eight miles and a quarter, we suddenly came upon the banks of the river; I call it the river, for it could certainly be no other than the Lachlan, which we had quitted nearly five weeks before. Our astonishment was extreme, since it was an incident little expected by any one. It was here extremely diminished in size, but was still nearly equal in magnitude to the south-west branch which we last quitted. The banks were about twelve or fourteen feet above the water, and it was running with a tolerably brisk stream to the westward. The banks were so thickly covered with large eucalypti, that we did not perceive it until we were within a very few yards of it; it appeared about thirty feet broad, running over a sandy bottom. I think it extremely probable that the waters of both the main branches, after losing a very considerable portion over the low grounds in the neighbourhood of Mount Cunningham and Field’s Plains, have again united and formed the present stream.
Our future course did not admit of any hesitation, and it was resolved to go down the stream as long as there was a chance of its becoming more considerable, and until our provisions should be so far expended as barely to enable us to return to Bathurst.
It is a singular phenomenon in the history of this river, that, in a course of upwards of two hundred and fifty miles, in a direct line from where Mr. Evans first discovered it, not the smallest rivulet, or, in fact, water of any description, falls into it from either the north or south; with the exception of the two small occasional streams near the depot, which flow from the north.
The country to the southward, in its soil and productions, explains pretty satisfactorily why no constant running streams can have sources in that direction; and it may be esteemed, as to useful purposes, a desert, uninhabitable country. A small strip along the sea-coast may possibly be better, and derive water from the low hills which are known to border on it: south of the parallel of 34. S. may therefore be considered as falling under the above designation and description of country.
The plains south of the river, and lying from Goulburn’s to Macquarie’s Range, were named Strangford Plains; and a remarkable peak south of Barrow’s Hill, Dryander’s Head.
We resolved to try if our old friends, the fish, still continued in the streams; in the course of a short time five fine ones were caught: this most seasonable refreshment had an excellent effect in raising our hitherto depressed spirits; and eternal Hope again visited us in the form of extensive lakes and a better country; and even when her companion Fear obtruded herself on our minds, the certainty of plenty of water, and the chance of a fresh meal, dispelled every remaining anxiety.
It was a matter of considerable curiosity and interest to us, in what direction the Macquarie River had run; it was clear that it had not joined the present stream, for in that case it would have been much more considerable: we were within three or four miles of the latitude of Bathurst, and it was scarcely probable that it should continue for so long a course to run parallel to the Lachlan. The whole form, character, and composition of this part of the country is so extremely singular, that a conjecture on the subject is hardly hazarded before it is overturned; every thing seems to run counter to the ordinary course of nature in other countries.
June 24. — The water is about three feet above the common level, and although the banks on both sides are certainly occasionally overflowed, there is no appearance of any fresh or flood having swollen the stream for a considerable time.
At nine o’clock we set forward down the river; our course lay westerly, and by three o’clock we had gone nearly twelve miles in that direction; when we stopped for the night on the banks of the river near the termination of Macquarie’s Range, the north point of which I named Mount Porteous.
Strangford’s Plains lay along our course the whole way; the river being hidden from our view by a thick border of trees. We observed several hollows and gulleys, which being connected with the river in times of flood, receive their waters from it; they were now dry; but the singularity consisted in the water being conveyed by them over the low lands instead of their being the channels by which the waters in rainy seasons might be drained off to the river. During our whole journey, we have never discovered in what manner any additional supply of water could be conveyed to it, as the back lands (with the exception of the ranges) were always lower than the immediate banks of the river itself; where we stopped, it was about thirty feet wide, and nearly choked up with fallen trees.
Whilst the horses were coming up, I set off, accompanied by Mr. Cunningham, for the purpose of ascending Mount Porteous: the view from it by no means repaid us for our trouble; the same everlasting flats met our eye in every direction westerly round nearly to north, in which quarter the horizon was occasionally studded with hills, at too great a distance to render them objects of interest to us. The immediate vicinity of the river was free from timber or brush in various places; and these tracts have hitherto received the particular denomination of PLAINS, which might with equal propriety be extended to the whole country. The bases of the hills and ranges were invariably a barren red sand, affording nourishment to a few miserable cypresses and eucalypti dumosa; between which, and filling up all the intermediate spaces, grows a variety of acacia and dwarf shrubs, rendering those parts nearly a thicket. Within one hundred yards of the bank of the river, and there alone, were seen the only timber trees we had met with in the country; if huge unshapen eucalypti, which would not afford a straight plank ten feet long, may be so denominated.
June 25 — Proceeded down the river, and at three o’clock halted for the night, having performed about eleven miles; the country barren, even to the very verge of the stream, which continues to run nearly west. We were obliged to keep at a small distance from the river, owing to large lagoons, partly full of water, which would have otherwise interrupted our course, or rather our multitude of courses; for I never saw a stream with such opposite windings, and no one reach was a quarter of a mile long, so that it may be said to resemble a collar of SS. The opposite plains were named Butterworth Plains.
Several new plants were the result of to-day’s research, among them a new species of amaryllis, upon which the botanists prided themselves much; for in this country few were supposed to be in existence.
June 26 — The morning cold and frosty. At nine o’clock we proceeded down the river, which inclined to the south of west for ten miles; when at three o’clock we stopped for the evening. We passed through a country to the full as barren as any we had yet seen. There were occasional clear spaces, but for the greater part thick cypress bushes, acacia, and other low shrubs, rendered it difficult for the horses to pass. On the plain, the acacia pendula again made a very fine appearance.
The timber on the intermediate banks of the stream became scarcer and smaller; and from the marks on the trees in the swamps, it sometimes overflows them to the depth of two feet; but they have now apparently been long dry, the little water remaining in the hollows or holes being a milky white.
The abundance of white cockatoos and crows, which is constantly about the banks of the river, is astonishing; the other smaller birds appear to be also common to the east coast. Since we have been on the river, no recent traces of the natives have been seen; here, as higher up the river, they rather seem to shun it, and frequent the higher grounds in preference: perhaps their food is more easily procured on those grounds than on the river, particularly as they appear unacquainted with the method of taking the fish by hook and line.
As the horses were by no means in a condition to be forced, I determined to remain here to-morrow to refresh them, and set forward again on Saturday morning.
June 27. — After breakfast, I sent two men down the river to examine our route for to-morrow: one of them crossed over to the north side, to endeavour to reach some open spaces of plains which we saw from our tent. In the course of the afternoon they both returned; one, who had gone a little way inland on this side, could make no progress for extensive swamps, covered with water of the depth of from two to four feet, and abounding with black swans and wild fowl. The other man was also unable to reach the plains on the other side for water supplied from a creek of the river, and forming an extensive and deep morass.
With these unfavourable reports before us, we determined to keep close to this bank of the river during tomorrow’s journey; and if we should he prevented by its overflowing from proceeding, to return, and endeavour to round the morasses to the southward. Latitude by observation 33. 22. S., long. 145. 24. 15. E.; and the variation of the compass 7. 30. E.
June 28. — Upon farther consideration, it appeared more advisable that the horses should proceed round the south edge of the morasses rather than be obliged to return; after keeping by the river for three or four miles, which to all appearance was as far as we should be enabled to proceed in that direction. However, that there might remain no doubt as to which was the preferable route, I adhered to my determination to go down the banks of the river myself as far as I could, and return by the route which the horses were to take. Our principal object being to keep as close to the stream as possible, with reference to the ability of the horses to travel over the ground.
The horses set forward at nine o’clock$ and I proceeded down the stream five or six miles, when I was obliged to return to the place from which I set out, being unable to cross a small drain that led from the swamps to the river. I could in no place deviate above fifty yards from the river without being bogged, the water lying in some places eighteen inches deep, and in holes, much deeper. I attempted several times to proceed southerly, intending to cross the track which I presumed Mr. Evans would be obliged to take, but I was unable to accomplish it. The route taken by Mr. Evans and the horses led along the edge of extensive morasses covered with water; we proceeded nine or ten miles, when the morasses almost assumed the appearance of lakes; very extensive portions of them being free from timber, and being apparently deep water. South of the edge of the morass along which we travelled, the country was a barren scrub, and in places very soft; the horses falling repeatedly during the day.
At the place where we stopped for the evening, I calculated that we were about five miles south of the river; on the edge of a very large lagoon, or lake. The country was so extremely low, that before I returned up the river to rejoin the horses, wishing to see what the openings on the other side were, I ascended a large gum tree, which enabled me to see that the flats opposite were similar to those on the south side. Our progress, upon the whole although we had travelled upwards of ten miles, did not exceed in a direct line five miles. The lagoons abound with water fowl, although we were not so fortunate as to obtain any; we were however amply compensated by our dogs killing a fine large emu. Various old marks of natives having visited these lakes, but none recent.
June 29. — Our course in the first instance was directed in such a manner as to compass the lagoons, which after travelling about three miles and a half to the south-west, we accomplished, and again came upon the stream; the country thence backward bore the marks of being at some periods near three feet under water, and was covered with small box-trees: the country from our rejoining the river, to the place at which we stopped for the evening, consisted of barren plains, extending on both sides of the stream to a considerable distance backward. The points of the bends of the river were universally wet swamps with large lagoons; the back land, though equally subject to flood, was now dry; but the travelling was very heavy, the ground being a rotten, red, sandy loam, on which nothing grew but the usual production of marshes. I never saw a stream with so many sinuosities; in many places a quarter of a mile would cut off at least three miles by the river. The stream was in places much contracted, sand banks stretching nearly across; its medium depth was about eight feet.
There was not the smallest eminence whence a view might be obtained, the country appearing a dead level; and although on these plains we could see for some distance all round, yet there was not a rising ground in any direction. The plains on the north side of the stream were named Holdsworthy; and those on the south, Harrington. We were lucky enough to procure two fine emus.
June 30. — The first two or three miles were somewhat harder travelling than the greater part of yesterday. Immense plains extended to the westward, as far as the eye could reach. These plains were entirely barren, being evidently in times of rain altogether under water, when they doubtless form one vast lake: they extended in places from three to six miles from the margin of the stream, which on its immediate borders was a wet bog, full of small water holes, and the surface covered with marsh plants, with a few straggling dwarf box-trees. It was only on the very edge of the bank, and in the bottoms of the bights, that any eucalypti grew; the plains were covered with nothing but gnaphalium: the soil various, in some places red tenacious clay, in others a dark hazel-coloured loam, so rotten and full of holes that it was with difficulty the horses could travel over them. Although those plains were bounded only by the horizon, not a semblance of a hill appeared in the distance; we seemed indeed to have taken a long farewell of every thing like an elevation, whence the surrounding country could be observed. To the southward, bounding those plains in that direction, barren scrubs and dwarf box-trees, with numberless holes of stagnant water, too clearly proclaimed the nature of the country in that quarter. We could see through the openings of the trees on the river that plains of similar extent occupied the other side, which has all along appeared to us to be (if any thing) the lower ground. We travelled in the centre of the plains, our medium distance from the river being from one to two miles; and although we did not go above thirteen miles, some of the horses were excessively distressed from the nature of the ground.
There was not the least appearance of natives; nor was bird or animal of any description seen during the day, except a solitary native dog. Nothing can be more melancholy and irksome than travelling over wilds, which nature seems to have condemned to perpetual loneliness and desolation. We seemed indeed the sole living creatures in those vast deserts.
The plains last travelled over were named Molle’s Plains, after the late lieutenant-governor of the territory; and those on the opposite side, Baird’s Plains, after the general to whom he once acted as aide-de-camp, and whose glory he shared. The naming of places was often the only pleasure within our reach; but it was some relief from the desolation of these plains and hills to throw over them the associations of names dear to friendship, or sacred to genius. In the evening three or four small fish were caught.
July 1. — Dark cloudy morning, with showers of rain. However desirous I was to proceed, I found that to do so would greatly injure the horses. Towards noon it cleared up, permitting me to take a tolerable observation, to ascertain our situation. I consider ourselves as peculiarly fortunate in being blessed with so dry and favourable a season; since all attempts to penetrate into the country during rain, or after an inundation of the stream, must have failed. I am quite convinced that at this place, when the banks are overflowed, the waters must extend from thirty to forty miles on each side of the stream, as we are that distance from any eminence. If there had been any nearer to the north, west, or south, we must have seen it from those extensive plains on which we have travelled for the last three days; for looking eastward, we can distinctly perceive Macquarie’s Range, from which we estimate ourselves to be about thirty-five miles west. The stream was sounded in various places during the day, and its greatest depth never exceeded seven feet; the bottom and sides a stiff bluish clay. Latitude observed 33. 32. 22. S., longitude 145. 5. 50. E.; variation of the compass 6. 49. E.
July 2. — At nine o’clock we again set forward down the stream; our course, as it has hitherto done, lay over apparently interminable plains, nothing relieving the eye but a few scattered bushes, and occasionally some dwarf box-trees: the view was boundless as the ocean, neither eminence nor hillock appearing. On the edges of the stream alone, and the lagoons that occasionally branched from it, was any thing like timber to be seen. The occasional openings on the stream enabled us to perceive, that the north side was in every respect similar to the south: I was so much deceived, by the semblance of the plains on the other side to sheets of water, that I twice went down to the edge of the stream to assure myself to the contrary.
A strong current of water must frequently pass over these plains, as is evident from the traces left by the washings of shrubs, leaves, etc. The soil was a brown hazel-coloured sandy loam, very soft and boggy; in places it was more tenacious, water still remaining in many holes. By the marks on the trees it would seem that the stream occasionally overflows its banks to the depth of three or four feet; and five miles back from it small trees were seen, that had evidently stood from twelve to eighteen inches in the water. As usual we saw no recent signs of natives having visited these parts; here and there the remains of burnt muscle-shells would denote that at certain seasons the stream is visited by them for the purpose of procuring these shell-fish: I am clearly of opinion that, in dry summers, there is no running water in the bed of the present stream, and thus it is easy for them to procure the muscles from the shallow stagnant pools which would naturally be formed at every bend of the stream. To procure any such shell-fish whilst a stream like the present is running in it, is totally impossible.
Although we did not travel above eleven miles, we were nearly seven hours in performing it. Our halting place was within a few feet of the river, and so wet and spongy, that the water sprung even from the pressure of our feet; and this has been the case nearly ever since we made the stream, though of course we chose the driest spots. Neither hunting nor fishing were successful today, but as we had become from experience not over sanguine, our expectations were not much disappointed, and the aspect of the country promised nothing.
It had been remarked by all, for some days past, that a putrid sour smell seemed to proceed from the plains, and we were at first at some loss to discover the cause of it, as there did not appear sufficient vegetable matter in a decayed state to produce such an effect. Mr. Cunningham discovered that it proceeded from decayed plants of the salsolae, which produce the same effect as decayed sea-weed does in salt marshes; in short, all the plants found in our journey over these plains are the natural productions of low wet situations.
July 3. — So thick a fog arose during the night, that in the morning we could not see in any direction above one hundred yards; this delayed us considerably, and it was the middle of the day before we could proceed.
Our course lay over the same description of country as we had previously passed. The soil in some parts a red loamy mould; in others, a dark hazel-coloured sandy soil: this last appears to have its origin in the depositions left by floods, the former being the original or prevailing soil. The plants and shrubs the same as yesterday.
Several flocks of a new description of pigeon were seen for the first time; two were shot, and were beautiful and curious. Their heads were crowned with a black plume, their wings streaked with black, the short feathers of a golden colour edged with white; the back of their necks a light flesh-colour, their breasts fawn-coloured, and their eyes red. A new species of cockatoo or paroquet, being between both, was also seen, with red necks and breasts, and grey backs. I mention these birds thus particularly, as they are the only ones we have yet seen which at all differ from those known on the east coast.6 Our visible horizon, in every direction, being merely studded with shrubs and low bushes, gave the scene a singular marine appearance. We stopped about two miles south of the river, not being able to reach it before night-fall, the marshy ground having driven us a considerable distance round.
6 See the Plates.
July 4. — During this day’s course we repeatedly attempted to gain the situation where we supposed the river to take its course, but were always disappointed; immense swamps constantly barred our attempts to travel northerly; these swamps were now covered with several feet of water, which, from the marks of dwarf trees growing in them, is sometimes three or four feet deeper. The same dead level of country still prevailed; and the sandy deserts of Arabia could not boast a clearer horizon, the low acacia bushes not in any degree interrupting the view. It was remarkable that there was always water where the dwarf box-trees grew; we might therefore be said to coast along from woody point to point, since all attempts to pass through them were uniformly defeated. The soil the same as yesterday, and most unpleasant to travel over, from the circular pools or hollows, which covered the whole plain, and which seem to be formed by whirlpools of water, having a deep hole in the bottom, through which the water appeared to have gradually drained off. It is clear that the entire country is at times inundated, and that as every thing now bears the appearance of long-continued drought, the swamps and stagnant waters are the residuum.
In the whole we proceeded upwards of fourteen miles, and stopped for the night upon the edge of one of the swamps, which are now the only places that afford any timber for firing. Some traces of natives were seen today, about three or four days old; they appeared to have been a single family of four or five persons. If there are any natives in our neighbourhood, they must have discovered us, and keep out of the way, otherwise upon these clear flats we could not avoid seeing them.
We were again fortunate enough to kill an emu, a most acceptable supply, since continued exercise gives us appetites something beyond what our ration can satisfy.
July 5. — Independently of the nature of the country rendering it altogether uninhabitable, the noxious vapours that must naturally arise during the heats of summer from these marshes (should the present surface of land on which we are now travelling be then free from water), would render the whole tract peculiarly unhealthy. Even during the short space of a fortnight, when it might be presumed that the winter’s cold had in a great degree rendered the effluvia innoxious, every person in the expedition was more or less affected by dysenterical complaints; and the putrid sour smell that constantly attended us was symptomatic of what would be its effects when rendered active by the powerful heats of summer.
Although there was no grass out of the marshes for the horses to feed upon, yet they appeared to live very tolerably upon a species of atriplex which covered the plains, and being extremely succulent was eaten with avidity by them; they certainly preferred it to the grasses which the swamps produced.
Our route lay over the same unvarying plain surface as on the preceding days, and after travelling about five miles, we again saw the line of trees growing on the banks of the stream; and having performed about ten miles more, we halted on the immediate banks of it. These were considerably lower, being about six feet above the water; the current was almost imperceptible, and the depth did not exceed four feet, and was extremely muddy; the trees growing on the banks were neither so large nor so numerous as before, and a new species of eucalyptus prevailed over the old blue gum. The north-east side was precisely of the same description of country as the south-east. A very large sheet of water or lake lay on the north-west side, opposite to the place where we made the river. The horizon was clear and distinct round the whole circle, the line of trees on the river alone excepted. From the marks on these trees, the waters appear to rise about three feet above the level of the bank; a height more than sufficient to inundate the whole country. This stream is certainly in the summer season, or in the long absence of rain, nothing more than a mere chain of ponds, serving as a channel to convey the waters from the eastward over this low tract. It is certain that no waters join this river from its source to this point; and passing, as it does, for the most part, through a line of country so low as to be frequently overflowed, and to an extent north and south perfectly unknown. but certainly at this place exceeding forty miles, it must cause the country to remain for ever uninhabitable, and useless for all the purposes of civilized man.
These considerations, added to the state of our provisions, of which, at the reduced ration of three pounds of flour per man per week, we had but ten weeks remaining, determined me to proceed no farther westward with the main part of the expedition; but as the state of the greater part of our horses was such as absolutely to require some days’ rest and refreshment, before we attempted to return eastward, I considered that it would be acting best up to the spirit of my instructions to proceed forward myself with three men and horses, and as we should carry nothing with us but our provisions, we should be enabled to proceed with so much expedition, as to go as far and see as much in three days as would take the whole party at least seven to perform.
My object in thus proceeding farther was to get so far to the westward as to place beyond all question the impossibility of a river falling into the sea between Cape Otway and Cape Bernouilli. In my opinion, the very nature of the country altogether precludes such a possibility, but I think my proceeding so far will be conclusive with those who have most strongly imbibed the conviction that a river enters the sea between the Capes in question, which was certainly an idea I also had entertained, and which nothing but the survey of a country, without either hills or permanent streams, could have destroyed.
I must observe as a remarkable feature in this singular country, that for the last fifty miles we have not seen a stone or pebble of any kind, save two, and they were taken out of the maws of two emus. I am now firmly persuaded that there are no eminent grounds in this part of the country, until these low sandy hills7 which bound the south-western coast-line are reached; and these, in my judgment, are the only barriers which prevent the ocean from extending its empire over a country which was probably once under its dominion.
7 From Encounter Bay to this slight projection (Cape Bernouilli), the coast is little else than a bank of sand, with a few hummocks on the top, partially covered with small vegetation, nor could any thing in the interior country be distinguished above the bank. Flinder’s Voy. Vol. I. p. 197.
July 6. — A fine and pleasant morning; one of the horses was found dead, the greater part of the others in a very weakly state.
July 7. — At eight o’clock, taking with me three men, I proceeded to follow the course of the stream; I attempted in the first instance to keep away from the banks, but was soon obliged to join them, as the morasses extended outwards and intersected my proposed course in almost every direction. About three miles and a half from the tent, a large arm extended from the north bank to a considerable distance on that side; the banks continually getting lower, and before we had gone six miles it was evident that the channel of the stream was only the bed of a lagoon, the current now being imperceptible, with small gum trees growing in the middle. Three miles farther the morasses closed upon us, and rendered all farther progress impossible. The water was here stagnant. The large trees that used to be met with in such numbers up the stream were entirely lost, a few diminutive gums being the only timber to be seen: the height of the bank from the water-line was three feet six inches; and the marks of floods on the trunks of the trees rose to the height of four feet six inches, being about one foot above the level of the surrounding marshes. It would appear that the water is frequently stationary at that height for a considerable time, as long moss and other marks of stagnant waters were remaining on the trunks and roots of the trees, and on the long-leaved acacia, which was here a strong plant. There could not be above three feet water in this part of the lagoon, as small bushes and tufts of tea grass were perceptible. The water was extremely muddy, and the odour arising from the banks and marshes was offensive in the extreme. There were only four different kinds of plants at this terminating point of our journey, viz. the small eucalyptus, the long-leaved acacia, the large tea grass, and a new diaeceous plant which covered the marshes, named polygonum junceum. It is possible that the bed of the lagoon might extend eight or ten miles farther, but I do not think it did, as the horizon was perfectly clear in all directions, a few bushes and acacia trees, marking the course of the lagoon, excepted.
Had there been any hill or even small eminence within thirty or forty miles of me they must now have been discovered, but there was not the least appearance of any such, and it was with infinite regret and pain that I was forced to come to the conclusion, that the interior of this vast country is a marsh and uninhabitable. How near these marshes may approach the south-western coast, I know not; but I do not think that the range of high and dry land in that quarter extends back north-easterly for any great distance; it being known, that the coast from Cape Bernouilli to the head of Spencer’s Gulf is sandy and destitute of water.8
8 The view from the top of Mount Brown (in lat. 32. 30. 15. S. and lon. 138. 0. 3/4. E. head of Spencer’s Gulf) was very extensive, its elevation not being less than three thousand feet; but neither rivers nor lakes could be perceived, nor any thing of the sea to the south-eastward. In almost every direction the eye traversed over an uninterruptedly flat woody country, the sole exceptions being the ridge of mountains, extending north and south; and the water of the gulf to the south-westward. Flinder’s Voy. Vol. I. p. 159.
Perhaps there is no river, the history of which is known, that presents so remarkable a termination as the present: its course in a straight line from its source to its termination exceeds five hundred miles, and including its windings, it may fairly be calculated to run at least twelve hundred miles; during all which passage, through such a vast extent of country, it does not receive a single stream in addition to what it derives from its sources in the eastern mountains.
I think it a probable conjecture that this river is the channel by which all the waters rising in those ranges of hills to the westward of Port Jackson, known by the name of the Blue Mountains, and which do not fall into the sea on the east coast, are conveyed to these immense inland marshes; its sinuous course causing it to overflow its banks on a much higher level than the present, and in consequence, forming those low wet levels which are in the very neighbourhood of the government depot. Its length of course is, in my opinion, the principal cause of our finding any thing like a stream for the last one hundred miles, as the immense body of water which must undoubtedly be at times collected in such a river must find a vent somewhere, but being spent during so long a course without any accession, the only wonder is, that even those waters should cause a current at so great a distance from their source; everything however indicates, as before often observed, that in dry seasons the channel of the river is empty, or forms only a chain of ponds. It appears to have been a considerable length of time since the banks were overflowed, certainly not for the last year; and I think it probable they are not often so: the quantity of water must indeed be immense, and of long accumulation, in the upper marshes, before the whole of this vast country can be under water.
My intention to penetrate farther westward being thus frustrated, I returned to the tent about three o’clock, and determined, should the horses appear sufficiently recovered and refreshed, finally to quit this western part of the country on Thursday next; a few days rain would prevent us from ever quitting it, but we have been bountifully favoured by Providence with a season of continued fair and pleasant weather, which could hardly have been expected, and which alone could have enabled us to decide so satisfactorily, if it can be called satisfaction to prove the negative of the existence of any navigable rivers in this part of Australia.
July 8. — Observed the sun’s magnetic amplitude in rising from the clear horizon of the plain, a circumstance that rarely can occur in any country unless such a one as the present; it strongly marks the. horizontal level which seems to run now from east to west.
Mean lat. of our tent 33 degrees 53 minutes 19 seconds S. Comp. long. 144 33 50 E. Mean variation 7 25 00 E.
Situation of the spot where the stream ceased to have a current.
Lat 33 degrees 57 minutes 30 seconds S. Long. comp. 144 23 00 E. Do. do. 144 31 15 E.
No hill or eminence in a south-west direction terminating in lat. 34. 22. 12. and in long. 143. 30. 00. E. which is the calculated extent of our visible clear horizon.
The afternoon proved cloudy, with occasional showers: prepared every thing for our return eastward on the morrow.
July 9. — The morning fair and pleasant, but cold, the ground being covered with hoar-frost. At half-past eight we set out on our return eastward, every one feeling no little pleasure at quitting a region which had presented nothing to his exertions but disappointment and desolation. Under a tree near the tent, inscribed with the words “Dig under,” we buried a bottle, containing a paper bearing the date of our arrival and departure, with our purposed course, and the names of each individual that composed the party. I cannot flatter myself with the belief, however, that European eyes will ever trace the characters either on the tree or the paper; but we deposited the scroll as a memorial that the spot had been once in the tide of time visited by civilized man, and that should Providence forbid our safe return to Bathurst, the friends who might search for us should at least know the course we had taken.
About two o’clock we arrived at our halting-place of the 4th; and there being no place convenient for pitching our tent within six or seven miles farther on, we determined to remain here.
July 10. — Observed the variation of the compass by amp., at sun-rising, to be 7. 47. E., by Kater’s compass. The horses having strayed, it was nearly eleven o’clock before we could set out, and between four and five o’clock we stopped at our halting-place of the 3d. On our way we passed a raised mound of earth which had somewhat the appearance of a burial-place; we opened it, but found nothing in it except a few ashes, but whether from bones or wood could not be distinguished; a semicircular trench was dug round one side of it, as if for seats for persons in attendance.
July 11. — At nine, again set forward on our return up the river, and it was near four o’clock before we arrived at a convenient halting-place on its banks, the river presented a most singular phenomenon to our astonished view. That river which yesterday was so shallow that it could be walked across, and whose stream was scarcely perceptible, was now rolling along its agitated and muddy waters nearly on a level with the banks: whence this sudden rise, we could not divine, any more than we could account for the non-appearance of a fresh twenty miles lower down; unless the marshes which we have traced for the two last days, at a distance from the river, should have absorbed the waters in passing, or unless the extremely winding course should so protract and retard the current of them as to cause a considerable time to elapse before a flood in the upper parts could reach the lower. We considered ourselves as extremely fortunate in having quitted our station of the 8th a day or two before it was originally intended, as we should otherwise have been in considerable danger.
The present height of the bank above the level of the stream is four feet nine inches.
A singular instance of affection in one of the brute creation was this day witnessed. About a week ago we killed a native dog, and threw his body on a small bush: in returning past the same spot to-day, we found the body removed three or four yards from the bush, and the female in a dying state lying close beside it; she had apparently been there from the day the dog was killed, being so weakened and emaciated as to be unable to move on our approach. It was deemed mercy to despatch her.
A tomb similar in form to that which we observed yesterday being discovered near our halting-place of this day, I caused it to be opened: it is as a conical mound of earth about four feet high in the centre, and nearly eight feet long in the longest part, exactly in the centre, and deep in the ground: we at first thought we perceived the remains of a human body, which had been originally placed upon sticks arranged transversely, but now nearly decayed by time; nothing remained of what we took for the body but a quantity of unctuous clayey matter. The whole had the appearance of being not recent, the semicircular seats being now nearly level with the rest of the ground, and the tomb itself overgrown with weeds. The river fell about three inches in the course of the night.
July 12. — It is impossible that any weather can be finer than that which we are favoured with. For days together the sky is unobscured by even a single cloud, and although the air is cold and sharp, yet the dryness of the atmosphere amply repays us for any little inconvenience we sustain from the cold. At nine, we again set forward on our return up the river, and at three arrived on its banks, having performed about twelve miles. The river had fallen about one foot in the course of the day. The horses being much fatigued by the heavy travelling over the flats, and many of them being very sorely galled in the back, I propose halting to-morrow to refresh them. We were this day once more cheered by the sight of rising ground; Macquarie’s Range just appearing above the horizon, distance about forty miles; and we felt that we were again about to tread on secure and healthy land, with a chance of procuring some sort of game, which would now be very acceptable, our diet being entirely confined to pork and our morsel of bread. The weather is far too cold for us to have any hopes of procuring fish; all our attempts to catch them for the last fortnight being unsuccessful. The odour from the river and marshes was most fetid, and was, I think, even stronger than that which we had before experienced.
July 13. — In the course of the day the river fell upwards of a foot.
July 14. — The river fell about eighteen inches. We found that the horses had again strayed, and they were not found and brought home until past sunset, having wandered about in search of food from eight to twelve miles in various directions. As the people had of course separated in the search, three men still remained out; and being fearful that the darkness of the night might prevent them from finding the camp, fired several musquets, and kindled a fire upon the plains. It was twelve o’clock before they were fortunate enough to regain the tents.
July 15. — At three, having travelled about twelve miles, halted on the stream for the evening. The dogs killed an emu.
July 16. — Cloudy, but mild and pleasant. We retraced this day much of the same ground which we travelled on the 28th ult. The horses were frequently up to their shoulders in deep holes, to the danger of breaking their own limbs, or those of their leaders or riders. There is a uniformity in the barren desolateness of this country, which wearies one more than I am able to express. One tree, one soil, one water, and one description of bird, fish, or animal, prevails alike for ten miles, and for one hundred. A variety of wretchedness is at all times preferable to one unvarying cause of pain or distress.
We halted on the margin of one of the swamps, after travelling about eleven miles, which it took eight hours to accomplish.
July 17. — Part of the horses again strayed; these delays in such a country try our patience to the very utmost, and their very rambling is the sole means of their being kept alive. It was past eleven before we could set out, and the rain that had fallen during the night rendered our track so extremely soft that it was with difficulty the horses could proceed. At three we halted for the evening on a large lagoon near the river, having gone about nine miles and a quarter.
July 18. — At nine proceeded onwards towards Macquarie’s Range; and at four, we halted at the place we rested at on the 24th ult. For the first time since we left Cypress Hill we heard natives on the other side of the river, but they kept out of our sight.
July 19. — At nine we proceeded up the river, and at three arrived at the spot where we first reached the river on the 23d ult. The fresh in the river was still considerable, being from three to five feet above its apparent usual level.
July 20. — Rested the horses to-day, having had a hard week’s work, and the weather being unfavourable. Confirmed my intention of returning to Bathurst instead of the depot on the Lachlan, for the following reasons. The route up the Lachlan would be difficult and very tedious, not to say impracticable, without the assistance of boats in crossing the two principal creeks; and if it should have proved wet and rainy, it would be nearly impossible to travel over the low-lands with loaded horses. Again, our return by the route outward would not afford us any additional knowledge of the country, and presuming this river to be the Lachlan, the course and the country in the neighbourhood of the Macquarie would still remain unknown. To return to Bathurst by a northerly course would enable us to trace the Macquarie to a very considerable distance; it would give us a knowledge of the country at least two hundred miles below Bathurst; and although the difficulties we may meet with in the attempt are of course unknown to us, yet I consider it a far preferable route to returning by the Lachlan, the difficulties of which are known, and I think we may reach one station as soon as the other.
To-morrow, therefore, I am resolved to set forward again up the stream, and take the earliest opportunity to cross it; when, should the inclination of its course be such as to give reason to believe it to be the Macquarie, we shall continue on the north bank the whole way to Bathurst: but, on the contrary, should its course leave it no longer in doubt that it is the Lachlan again rising from the marshes under Mount Cunningham, we shall quit its banks, and, taking a north-easterly course, endeavour to fall in with the Macquarie, which having found, I shall pursue my first intention of keeping along its banks until we arrive at Bathurst. The river has risen in the course of the night and morning about eighteen inches. We killed this day a red kangaroo, and three emus.
July 21. — The stream has risen nearly eighteen inches in the night. It is extremely puzzling whence such a body of water can come thus suddenly. There must have been a great deal of rain in the eastern mountains, and the accumulated waters can be only now bending their way to the lower grounds; should the winter have proved wet to the eastward, it will undoubtedly solve the problem.
At half past eight o’clock we proceeded up the river, which during our day’s journey trended nearly north. Both banks appeared equally low: that on which we were travelling extended to the base of Goulburn’s Range, and was wet and barren. About two miles from our night’s encampment, we ascended a low stony hill, from which the country northerly was broken into detached hills; to the east was Goulburn’s Range, and to the north-west the country was low without any rising grounds as far as we could see. The sameness which had so wearied us during the last month was somewhat relieved by the various rising hills and low ranges which were scattered over the otherwise level surface of the country. A hill bearing N. 15 E. received the name of Mount Torrens; it stood quite detached. Two of the men, who were about a mile ahead of the main party, fell in with a small native family, consisting of a man, two women and three children, the eldest about three years old. The man was very stout and tall; he was armed with a jagged spear, and no friendly motions of the men (who were totally unarmed) could induce him to lay it aside, or suffer them to approach him: during the short time they were with him, he kept the most watchful eye upon them; and when the men calling the dogs together were about to depart, he threw down with apparent fierceness the little bark guneah which had sheltered him and his family during the night, and made towards the river, calling loudly and repeatedly, as if to bring others to his assistance: he was quite naked, except the netted band round the waist, in which were womerahs. The women were covered with skins over their shoulders, and the two younger children were slung in them on their backs.
There was a very considerable fresh in the stream, and its windings to-day were singularly remarkable, insomuch that it was frequently taken for two different rivers; necks of land near a mile long, but not one hundred yards wide, being the only separation between several of the reaches. At three o’clock we halted on its banks, having travelled eleven miles and a half.
July 22. — The river had risen during the night upwards of a foot, and was now about eight feet from the banks; its breadth from thirty to fifty feet, whilst its apparent usual channel could not exceed from fifteen to twenty. The calls of the natives were heard this morning on the opposite side of the river. At nine o’clock we again proceeded up the river, which to-day trended east by north. About four miles east from our last station, we ascended a stony mount being near the north-east extreme of Goulburn’s Range: the country to the north-east and round to east was without any eminences of magnitude, but several rising chains of low hills were scattered over the general surface of the country; they were mostly bare of trees, being stony and barren. It is impossible to imagine a worse tract of country than that through which our route lay this day; to the very edges of the stream, it was a barren acacia scrub intermingled with cypresses and dwarf box-trees. The flats were uniformly swampy, and covered with bushes (rhagodea); the hills instead of grass were clothed with gnapthalium. We repeatedly saw the river in our course, but I could find no eligible place to cross it, as the trees which would have suited our purpose for bridges were now, in consequence of the fresh or flood, in the very middle of the stream. The banks where the rising grounds came immediately on the river were high and of a red loamy clay, and when this was the case the opposite banks were seen to be low in proportion: when we halted for the night, they were not above five or six feet, and I think there must have been from ten to twelve feet more water in the bed of the stream than usual. Bad as the travelling was even close to the stream, it was still worse about two miles back from it; several small scrubs of the eucalyptus dumosa and prickly shrubs were passed through by the men who had taken out the dogs in search of game; and from the hill we first ascended, we observed several very extensive scrubs to the northward, of the same description. At half past three we halted for the night, having gone about eleven miles.
July 23. — The river had fallen a little during the night. At nine o’clock we again set forward: the country became extremely low and marshy, far more so than any we had passed over east of Macquarie’s Range. These marshes extended so far southerly that to have gone round them would have led us far from our purposed course without answering any useful purpose, and although we judged that at first they might not extend above three or four miles back, yet we soon had reason to change that opinion. The river had led us upon a general course nearly east about six miles, when about half a mile from the bank southerly, a very extensive lake was formed, extending about east-south-east and west-north-west from three to four miles, and being about a mile and a half wide. Excepting the sheet of water on the north side near the termination of the stream, this was the only one we had seen that could justly be entitled to the denomination of lake. We crossed over a low wet swamp, by which its overflowings are doubtless re-conveyed to the river. This lake was joined to another more easterly, but much smaller. We could not form any correct judgment how far the marshy ground extended south-east of it; but the country was low and level as far as Mount Byng, and a low range extended north-easterly from it. We now kept the banks of the stream, till at the tenth mile we ascended a small hill a mile south of it, from which Mount Byng bore N. 12. E. Close under the hill ran a considerable branch of the river, which certainly supplied the lakes and lower grounds with water; on the other side of this arm, the country was low, and apparently marshy as far as we could see. On examination I found it would be extremely difficult to cross this branch, as the water was too shallow to swim the horses over, and the ground so soft that they could not approach the banks within several yards. I therefore determined to get upon the river nearly where this branch separated from it, and endeavour to construct a bridge, by which we might convey the provisions and baggage over: as to the horses, they could easily swim across.
The course of the river during the day had been nearly due east, but from the separation of the branch it seemed to take a more northerly direction; the banks were very low, and never exceeded five feet from the water. Occasional points of land somewhat more elevated than the general surface would of course make them in Places a little higher; but we could not discover any marks which denoted a greater rise than six feet, or six feet six inches, above the present level. When we halted in the evening, the stream was running with great rapidity. The water did not appear to have either risen or fallen during the day; but all the trees which would have best answered our purposes were now several feet in the water. We had however no alternative but to cross somewhere in this neighbourhood, as we were fearful of entangling ourselves in marshy ground by proceeding farther up this bank; and to attempt to penetrate, or even to round, the marshes to the southward, (if it were practicable,) would take up more time (without being of any service) than we could spare. Experience had made us too well acquainted with the nature of these marshes to run any needless risks; and we had besides great hopes that we should find better travelling to the northward, which as the river seemed inclined to come from that point would also be a great convenience to us, as I did not purpose to quit its banks as long as it continued to run any thing north of east.
As to the soil and general description of country passed over this day, the low-lands were all swamps covered with atriplex bushes, and where the land was a little more elevated, the soil was sandy and barren, covered with acacias, dodonaeae, small cypresses and dwarf box-trees. Our course was E. 4. N. 6 3/4 miles; but by the windings of the river, we had measured nearly 12 miles. The lake I named Campbell Lake, in honour of Mrs. Macquarie’s family name.
July 24. — At day-light we attempted to construct our bridge near to the place where we were encamped, but as fast as the trees were felled they were swept away by the rapidity of the current; the breadth on an average being now, by reason of the flood, nearly sixty feet, and the trees on the immediate or proper banks being several feet in the water: we were therefore obliged to fell trees farther inland, and these, as before remarked, were swept away, falling short of the land on the opposite side.
All our attempts to construct a bridge during the day were fruitless, as the flood was too violent to allow the trees to take firm hold: in searching the banks of the stream for a proper place for our purpose, an arm nearly as large as the main branch up which we had travelled was discovered about a mile down the stream on the north side; it ran to the north-north-west, and then apparently trended more westerly. Thus is this vast body of water, all originating in the Eastern or Blue Mountains, conveyed over these extensive marshes, rendering uninhabitable a tract which they might reasonably be expected to fertilize.
Finding that in the present high state of the water we could not succeed in crossing the river, at least near our present station, and that if we returned lower down we should experience a farther difficulty in crossing the north-west arm recently seen, it was judged best to try if we could get over the branch on the south side, and swim the horses over in the main stream near the mouth of the branch. We could not, however, find any tree on this side that would reach across; although it was quite dark before we gave over the attempt for the night.
July 25. — Every means was again employed in constructing the bridge over the south-west branch. The stream had fallen but a few inches, and continues to fall too slowly to permit us to entertain any hopes of crossing it in this vicinity.
Our bridge was finished by one o’clock, but it being too late to cross the horses and baggage this evening, I went in company with Byrne on horseback to view the country to the southward. After going about two miles and a quarter south of the tent, we were most agreeably surprised with the sight of a very fine lake; we rode down to its shores, which on this side were hard and sandy beaches. On the south side the shores were bolder, being red clay cliffs. We now found that the creek or arm which I had supposed to be the source whence Campbell Lake was supplied, had not any communication with it, but supplied the lake we now saw: a low ridge of hills, bare of trees except small cypresses in clumps, lying between the two lakes, which were distant from each other two or three miles. Finding I might obtain a better view by going to the point of these bare hills about five miles westward, I rode thither along the margin of the lake, but quitted it to ascend the hill, which was about two miles and a half from it. The hill was but low in comparison with Goulburn’s Range and other hills in the vicinity, but was sufficiently elevated to afford me the most varied and noble prospect I had seen in New South Wales The expanse of water was too large and winding to be seen in one point of view, but it broke in large sheets from east to west for upwards of six miles; its medium breadth being from two and a half to three miles: it was bounded six or seven miles from its eastern extremity by a low range of hills connected with Mount Byng, and from the dark broken woody appearance of the country in that direction, I felt assured that the stream came from a more northerly quarter. To the westward was Goulburn’s Range, distant about five or six miles; its bold rocky peaks of lofty elevation forming a striking contrast to the dead level of the country southerly, in which however Mount Aiton appeared like a blue speck on the horizon. To the northward was Mount Granard, the highest of a very elevated range, it having been seen at a distance of seventy-two miles from Mount Aiton; and to the north-north-east were extensive open flats; in one place, bearing N. 17. E., I thought I could distinguish water. Between the hill on which I stood and the stream, Campbell Lake wound along the plain, but its width did not allow it to be so conspicuously seen as the present one. To the south-east and round to the north-east the country was covered with dark foliage of the eucalyptus, intermixed with the cypress; whilst to the south-west, as far as the base of Goulburn’s Range, it was more open, with gentle hills clothed with a few small cypresses. These hills were rocky and barren, the lower grounds a red loamy clay; but the intermingled light and shade formed by the different description of trees and shrubs, the hills, but above all, the noble lake before me, gave a character to the scenery highly picturesque and pleasing.
From this eminence I took the following bearings to objects connected in the survey, viz.
The highest point of Goulburn’s Range N. 225 degrees distance 5 or 6 miles.
Do. Do. Mount Aiton 143
Table Hill 116
Mount Byng 114
West extreme of the lake N. 106. 30. distance 2 1/2 miles.
East Do. Do. N. 65. distance 5 or 6 miles
Highest point of Mount Granard N. 341
Extremes of extensive flats from N. 346 1/2 to N. 10.
distance 12 or 14 miles, the last point being also the
extreme of a low range.
Appearance of water or a lake N. 17 degrees
Mount Torrens N. 294 1/2
Mount Davidson N. 317 1/2
Bluff point of the clear hill on which I stand, and to which bearings had been previously taken to ascertain its situation, N. 186, distance 3/4 Mile.
Low range of hills extending from Mount Byng to N. 55.; nearest part of that range, N. 81, distance 8 or 9 miles.
I came back to the tent at half-past four o’clock and it was extremely satisfactory to us to find, on laying the different bearings down on the chart, that the connection of the survey with Mount Aiton corresponded to less than a mile of longitude, although it had extended on a most varied course from that point between three and four hundred miles.
The water in the stream has remained stationary throughout the day.
July 26. — Mr. Evans set out to view the lake and take some sketches, whilst I remained to forward the horses and baggage over the arm of the river, by which time I expected he would return, so as to enable us to proceed at least a few miles farther up. By half-past eleven we had got the horses and every other thing safely over, and they proceeded up the river. Mr. Evans did not return until half-past one to the bridge, having been highly gratified with his excursion to the lake, of which he had taken two views.
After proceeding to the north-east about three miles, through a low, wet, and barren country, which is at times from eighteen inches to two feet under water, we came upon another fine lake about a mile distant from the river. This lake was not so large as the last, but was nevertheless a fine sheet of water, about three miles long and one and a half or two miles wide; the opposite or south shore was much more elevated than that near the river, which had here extremely low banks, the water in the stream not being above four feet below them; the marks of flood upon the trees were also upwards of three feet higher. The cypress-tree grew very thick and strong on the opposite side of the lake, casting a dark shade over its transparent waters, which, though certainly originating in the river, had not received any supply for apparently a considerable time. The land from hence to the place where we stopped for the night was very low and much flooded, with fine, deep, clear lagoons winding round almost every bend of the stream; the soil was also much better, having more the appearance of fertility than any we had seen for some time. About one and a half or two miles from the river a thick cypress brush bordered the low lands, and was of course free from floods. The small dwarf box-tree still, however, continued to be the prevailing wood, and covered, as usual, the more wet and boggy portions of the low land. The north-west side appeared to be higher, and the banks, as much at least as we could see of them, seemed of better soil. A large native’s canoe having been found hauled tip near to the spot on which we stopped, appearing to me sufficiently strong to be capable of transporting ourselves and baggage to the opposite side of the river, I determined to make trial of it for that purpose, and if found practicable to cross at once, rather than wait the chance of the waters falling sufficiently to enable us to construct a bridge, where, in the event of failing in that design, no friendly canoe might be at hand to assist us.
The waters in the stream had not fallen at all, and were about four or five feet from the banks, continuing to run with great rapidity. The first lake seen yesterday was named the Regent’s Lake, in honour of His Royal Highness the Prince Regent.
A superb scarlet flower, named kennedia speciosa, was found on the shore of the first named lake. The course of the river this day was north-east, and our distance five miles and a half, although we had travelled upwards of eight and three-quarters.
July 27. — As soon as it was light, our little canoe was launched; but our hopes and expectations had been too sanguine as to her capability: sufficiently strong and buoyant to contain one person, more was too much for her; I therefore of necessity abandoned the design, and at half-past nine o’clock again proceeded up the strewn. The fresh did not in the least diminish, but I thought rather rose than fell. A line which had last night been thrown into the stream, with little hope or expectation of catching any thing, was found, when taken up this morning, to have hooked a very fine fish. Since the flood we had almost ceased to think of fish, as we never had the least success in our trials.
The river, as we had conjectured it would, trended this day again to the north-east. The country passed over was low and nearly level. The points and immediate banks were deeply flooded, forming extensive morasses, and there were generally between them and the drier and more elevated land deep serpentine lagoons, the water in which was clear and transparent, it having been apparently a long time since that of the river had filled them. The back land was a red sandy loam, very light, covered with acacia bushes, spear-wood, and small cypresses; the only herbage, a coarse tea-grass; and yet I do not think the kind of soil which appears to be the universal one upon the drier lands, can be strictly called barren: I have seen apparently much worse soils in a state of cultivation. We crossed one or two large plains, clear of wood and even bushes; the soil a stiff tenacious clay, which, though not flooded by the river, retains all the water that falls upon it, there being no descent or fall by which it can be conveyed to its natural drain, the river. These plains were now dry and hard, and having been lately burnt, the coarse natural herbage springing up fresh, gave them a pleasing green appearance. One or two beautiful new shrubs in seed and flower were found to-day, to the great satisfaction of the botanists, who had not lately made many very splendid or valuable additions to their collections.
A party of natives was seen on the opposite side of the river, consisting of one man, two lads, and two women; they disappeared as soon as they observed us.
The flood had swollen the stream to a considerable breadth; it was at least sixty feet wide at the spot where we stopped, and was about six feet below the banks.
July 28. — The waters in the stream continue stationary. There must have been heavy rains to the eastward, to maintain at this height such a body of water. As to the rains that fall westward of the Blue Mountains, I am clearly of opinion, that they are in no way auxiliary in forming this stream. The soil, the general level surface, without a single water-course north or south, prove that all the waters which fall are quickly absorbed; and I think it very probable that rain falls here extremely seldom, and never simultaneously with the rain of the eastern coast and mountains.
The day was full of cross accidents, and ended in the separation of the expedition for the first time. The river turned suddenly north, whilst extensive swamps ran out from it to the south-east, backed by thick scrubby land, which we afterwards found, having taken another sudden bend into the north-west, to be at a considerable distance, and which we had some difficulty in finding at all, the smaller plains being separated from the larger one by lagoons, edged with trees similar to those on the banks of the river.
Not having been able to find the rest of my companions this evening, I halted with three men on the spot where we reached the river, firing muskets, that if any of the missing party were near, they might be enabled to join us in the morning.
The bendings of the river were singularly remarkable, trending suddenly from south-east by east to north-north-west, and then back to the north and north-east; I mean the principal bending in the general course, for the smaller ones were as usual innumerable.
Of the swamps, which in places, extended from eight to ten miles from the river south-east and south, some parts were dry and others under water; and there were occasionally large lagoons covered with innumerable wild fowl of various descriptions. Great numbers of native companions, bustards, and emus, were seen on the plains, Which, at the termination of our day’s journey, were of a better and drier description than usual. The north-east hills bounding them were low, thinly studded with trees, and although rocky on the summits, were covered with green tea-grass. The flood in the river was very high, but from the appearance of the banks, which were about five feet from the water, I did not think it had risen much in the course of the day.
July 29. — At day-light sent a man on horseback to search for our missing companions up the river, as we thought we had heard a musquet in that direction in reply to one of ours. The man shortly returned, having met with two men whom I had seen yesterday looking for their horses; they had been joined by Mr. Cunningham, and had encamped about half a mile higher up the stream than ourselves: of Mr. Evans’s party, consisting besides himself of five men, they had heard or seen nothing, nor had they fallen in with any of their marks. At half-past eight o’clock I proceeded with the horses up the river to join the two men, expecting also that Mr. Evans would certainly return downwards when he found that we did not join him. It was twelve o’clock before we found him, and we then proceeded up the river, whilst one man and myself went to a clear hill in the range of Mount Byng, and from which we expected a good prospect. We passed over a large plain, washed by the river; the soil, a stiff red clayey loam, long parched by drought; the sides of the hill light red sandy loam. Small blue gum-trees, box, cypress, and a multitude of acacia shrubs of various species, were the usual productions of the drier and more elevated grounds.
Our expectations of an extensive prospect from the top of the hill were not disappointed: we had a distinct view round the compass. The river wound close under the foot of the hill, and trending to the south-east through low marshy grounds covered with atriplex bushes and the acacia pendula, evidently and distinctly showed that it originated in the separated branches of the Lachlan, which it is probable united fifteen or twenty miles below Mount Cunningham, forming the present stream. The north-east side of the river was equally low and marshy. All the points which had been set at Mount Cunningham were distinctly recognised, and bearings being now taken to them, served to correct and prove the survey. The bearings taken from this hill, named Piper’s Hill, were as follows by the theodolite:
Mount Cunningham E. 9 deg. 20 min. S. Mount Meyrick S. 67 10 E. Mount Maude S. 62 0 E. Table Hill S. 4 30 E. Line of Mount Byng, called Watson Taylor’s range E. 7 0 W. Mount Granard N. 79 0 W. Mount Barrer N. 68 0 W. about the same distance as Mount Granard. Extreme of a high range from N. 59 1/2 W., to N. 24 1/2 W.; nearest extreme distance about thirty miles, westward 45. Extremes of another range from N. 10. W., to N. 2. W., about twelve miles long; another range, N. 3. E. to N. 50 1/2 E Hurd’s Peak, N. 72. E.; a mount north of it (Mount Hawkins), N. 71. 15. E.; a distant one, N. 86 1/2 E (Mount Riley). Low ranges in N. 44. E., N. 35. E. and N. 26 1/2 E., all the intermediate spaces being low level land.
On descending, we waited on the stream till the arrival of Mr. Evans, about half-past three o’clock, when we halted.
It was determined that as we had now ascertained the course of the Lachlan, from the depot to its termination, any farther trace of it, running as it did from the south-east, would take us materially out of our purposed course to Bathurst, without answering any good purpose, at the same time that we should entangle ourselves in the mushy grounds which had been seen both from Mount Cunningham, Farewell Hill, and our present station; and that therefore we should immediately proceed to construct a raft on which we might transport our provisions and baggage across the river, afterwards taking such a course as we deemed most likely to bring us to the Macquarie river, and so keep along its banks to Bathurst. This work, and the task of getting the baggage over, will take two days to accomplish.
The stream where we stopped was about four feet from the banks, running with much rapidity; and I think the flood in it has rather increased than abated.
Almost directly under the hill near our halting-place, we saw a tumulus, which was apparently of recent construction (within a year at most). It would seem that some person of consideration among the natives had been buried in it, from the exterior marks of a form which had certainly been observed in the construction of the tomb and surrounding seats. The form of the whole was semicircular. Three rows of seats occupied one half, the grave and an outer row of seats the other; the seats formed segments of circles of fifty, forty-five, and forty feet each, and were formed by the soil being trenched up from between them. The centre part of the grave was about five feet high, and about nine long, forming an oblong pointed cone.9
9 See the drawing
I hope I shall not be considered as either wantonly disturbing the remains of the dead, or needlessly violating the religious rites of an harmless people, in having caused the tomb to be opened, that we might examine its interior construction. The whole outward form and appearance of the place was so totally different from that of any custom or ceremony in use by the natives on the eastern coast, where the body is merely covered with a piece of bark and buried in a grave about four feet deep, that we were induced to think that the manner of interring the body might also be different. On removing the soil from one end of the tumulus, and about two feet beneath the solid surface of the ground, we came to three or four layers of wood, lying across the grave, serving as an arch to bear the weight of the earthy cone or tomb above. On removing one end of those layers, sheet after sheet of dry bark was taken out, then dry grass and leaves in a perfect state of preservation, the wet or damp having apparently never penetrated even to the first covering of wood. We were obliged to suspend our operation for the night, as the corpse became extremely offensive to the smell, resolving to remove on the morrow all the earth from the top of the grave, and expose it for some time to the external air before we searched farther.
July 30. — Employed in preparing dead cypress-trees for the timber of the raft. The rain continued throughout the day without intermission. and prevented us from making much progress with it. This morning we removed all the earth from the tomb and grave, and found the body deposited about four feet deep in an oval grave, four feet long and from eighteen inches to two feet wide. The feet were bent quite up to the head, the arms having been placed between the thighs. The face was downwards, the body being placed east and west, the head to the east.10
10 “Nay, Cadwal, we must lay his head to the east; my father has a reason for it.”— CYMBELINE.
It had been very carefully wrapped in a great number of oppossum skins, the head bound round with the net usually worn by the natives, and also the girdle: it appeared after being enclosed in those skins to have been placed in a larger net, and then deposited in the manner before mentioned. The bones and head showed that they were the remains of a powerful tall man. The hair on the head was perfect, being long and black; the under part of the body was not totally decayed, giving us reason to think that he could not have been interred above six or eight months. Judging from his hair and teeth, he might have been between thirty and forty years of age: to the west and north of the grave were two cypress-trees distant between fifty and sixty feet; the sides towards the tomb were barked, and curious characters deeply cut upon them, in a manner which, considering the tools they possess, must have been a work of great labour and time. Having satisfied our curiosity, the whole was carefully re-interred, and restored as near as possible to the station in which it was found. The river fell in the course of the day near two feet.
July 31. — Again employed in the construction of our raft, which I hope will be completed sufficiently early to-morrow to allow us time to get every thing over, and encamp on the other side. The river fell about two feet in the course of the day, and still continues to fall rapidly. The dogs were very successful, killing three emus and a small kangaroo.
August 1. — Still employed on the raft, which will be ready for use about one o’clock. The river fell a foot during the night, but the trees that would have been useful to us are still under water. The mean of the different observations made here gave the following results.
Mean lat. 33 deg. 04 min. 02 sec. S. Comp. long. 146 31 50 E. Variation 7 23 00 E.
The series of triangles by which the longitude from our situation on the 17th of May has been computed, corresponds precisely with the bearings taken from this station to the principal objects forming their bases, and whose relative situation on the chart had been fixed on the 17th of May; it was extremely satisfactory to find in so extensive a survey that the angles should thus so completely verify our situation.
Our raft was finished and launched by one o’clock; its capability of carrying any burden we had to put upon it fully answered our expectations; but here its utility ended, the violence of the current caused by the high flood or the stream rendered all our labour abortive, as no exertions we were capable of making could enable us to get it across the stream. We had stretched a line across the river by which to tow it over, but the men were not able to withstand the force of the current acting on the body of the raft; they let go their line and were carried about three quarters of a mile down, when they were brought up by some trees and got safe on shore, making the raft fast. The flood had been slowly subsiding all day, giving us hopes that we should still be enabled to fell some trees for a bridge, which was now our only resource, as it was considered most advisable to use our utmost efforts to cross here rather than go farther up the stream.
August 2. — Cloudy weather with heavy rain during the night, which still continues. We commenced felling some trees, which we were in hopes would answer our purpose, our anxiety to cross being very great; as it is probable, from the long continued fine weather we have experienced until lately, that the rainy season in this part of the country may shortly set in, which would extremely embarrass and distress us.
We were again disappointed in our hopes of crossing by means of trees, as the flood which still continued swept them away as soon as felled. I sent Byrne up the stream to endeavour to find a better Place; but he returned in the afternoon without any success: he reported that about three or four miles above the tent a branch joined the stream, that he had travelled up it six or seven miles, but not far enough to say where it quitted the main stream; the low plains were several inches under water from the present rain; and the ground that appeared the driest was the worst to travel on, being a wet, loose, sandy bog. As the flood continued rapidly to subside, we resolved upon again trying the raft to-morrow morning; all hands were accordingly sent to tow her up, which was accomplished by night.
August 3. — A bleak cold morning, with continued small rain. At day-light we set to work with our raft: and after many trials had the satisfaction to find that we should succeed in getting over our baggage. Whilst Mr. Evans superintended this work, I rode up the river with Byrne to see the branch: I found it but an inconsiderable one, being merely a lagoon, except in times of flood like the present, when it appears nearly as large as the parent stream; it forms an island ten or twelve miles long, and from two to four broad. The impossibility of our travelling up this side was demonstrated, as well as the nature of these lower grounds or clear plains, which retain all the water that falls upon them, the little inequalities forming shallow pools. It was much better travelling over them, than on a low ridge of hills a couple of miles from the river on which I returned; the soil of the latter being so loose and boggy as to render it difficult for the horses to proceed.
On my return I found considerable progress had been made in transporting our luggage, and by four o’clock every thing was safely crossed; our little bark was however completely water logged, and at last would scarcely support a single man, though when first launched, three or four might venture in her with safety.
As I think the state of the seasons in New South Wales may serve to explain, at least partially, why there are no running streams in the western parts of it, it may be worth while to make some little inquiry into that subject. It appears to me that it can never rain simultaneously westward of the Blue Mountains and on the coast, for these reasons: first, That the Lachlan and Macquarie Rivers, being the sole channels by which the waters falling on the Blue Mountain range are conveyed westward to the low-lands, are always flooded in times of great rains in those mountains and on the coast; secondly, that the winter, that is to say, the period between March and August, is the time when the rains are most to be expected, and have most generally fallen on the east coast, and which so falling would naturally cause a flood in the streams above mentioned; thirdly, that in the summer season, or from September to February, which is certainly the driest period of the year, the rains fall westward of the Blue Mountains; but falling upon flat sandy land without any watercourses, do not in the smallest degree add to the waters of the Lachlan or Macquarie, which are then consequently in a state nearly if not entirely stagnant. It is at this season, therefore, that these streams are visited by the natives, as they are then enabled to procure the shell and other fish which abound in them. The tracks and impressions made by the feet of the natives were certainly made when the ground was very soft and marshy, whilst their guneahs were merely the branches of trees, and erected in places which we found to be swamps, but which in summer would, in comparison with the plains, be dry ground, the waters from them being drained off into the river.
The Blue Mountain range is by far the highest in New South Wales; the ranges westerly, though high when viewed from the low grounds from which they rise, cannot in any respect be compared with them.
In the summer, the north-east and south-east winds coming from the sea are forced over these mountains, and the vapours with which they are charged are attracted by the lower ranges westerly, and converted into rain. In the winter, the prevailing winds on the coast and inland, as is evident from the trees on the tops of the hills, are from south-west to north-west. In the winter, these westerly winds blowing over a vast extent of country, and coming with great violence on the Blue Mountains, confine those clouds and vapours which would occasion rain, to the vicinity of the coast, and the eastern side of the mountains. A wet summer on the east coast would occasion a flood in the Lachlan at that season; and should the rains then be attended with easterly winds, causing rain on the western side also, the whole low country must be under water for a double reason. This is a circumstance which, I think, could seldom happen, otherwise the consequence to the miserable natives must be dreadful.
It may be remembered that for nearly two years (viz. 1814 and 1815), scarcely a drop of rain fell on the east coast of New South Wales; and when the country about Bathurst was first visited, it bore marks of being similarly affected by drought. The last summer was a very wet one on the east coast; at the depot on the Lachlan, during that period when the rains were heaviest (in February), the people enjoyed the finest weather, at the same time the river was constantly flooded, sometimes rising to a great height in the most sudden manner.
Since the present expedition has been out it has generally enjoyed dry, clear weather, otherwise we could not have travelled. Our meteorological journal will, when compared with one kept at Sydney, throw farther light upon this subject; and I merely hazard the above ideas as hints for a more general and extended view of the natural causes which seem to govern the seasons in this truly singular country.
Another proof (if more were wanting) that the river is only periodically full and flowing, I think may be derived from the numberless windings of the stream, setting aside the general course. If the water was always running, it would doubtless have forced a straighter channel through the soft, loose, sandy, loamy country through which it flows; it being also remembered that there is not a single stone or rock to be found along the whole banks of the river: the few low rocky hills that terminate upon it, either have a narrow slip of soft land between their base and the river, or the country is flat to a considerable distance on the opposite shore. Its windings and sudden bends are so remarkable, that I am sure I under estimate it, when I consider that on a straight line of ten miles from point to point, the water passes over twenty-five miles; in many places, from thirty to thirty-five would be within the truth.
The animals differing from those in the neighbourhood of Bathurst are but few: the principal is a new species of red kangaroo; a smaller species of the same, having a head delicately formed, called by us the rabbit-kangaroo. Two other birds besides the pigeon and cockatoo beforementioned may be noticed: we suppose them to be both birds of night, being only heard at that time; neither of them was seen: one was remarkable for exactly imitating the calls of the natives, the other the short sharp bark of the native dog, insomuch that our dogs were constantly deceived by the noise.
August 4. — Proceeded to the north-east by east, intending to keep that course for two or three days, to clear us of the low grounds north of the Lachlan, before we bent more easterly for Bathurst; the above course would also carry us so far northward, as to ensure our falling in with the Macquarie at a considerable distance from the settlement, and also enable us to discover if any similar streams had their source westerly of the high range from whence the coal river derives its source, as we shall then be some miles north of that port.
Our route lay through a low wet country for the first eight or ten miles, the flats covered with the acacia pendula; the last three miles were rather more elevated: the soil in general a loose, red, sandy loam, with small cypress, box, and acacia trees; a few acres in patches had been burned, occasionally relieving the eye from the otherwise barren scrubby appearance of the country. We passed through two or three small eucalyptus scrubs, and upon getting out of one, having gone thirteen miles and a quarter, we fortunately happened to fall in with a native well, containing a few gallons of water sufficient for our own supply; whilst the open level land which the scrub led to having been burnt, we hoped would afford succulent herbage sufficient for the horses, and prevent them from suffering from the want of water. Our course was N. 69 E. thirteen miles.
August 5. — The water for our breakfast drained our little well to the dregs. Hoping that we should be more fortunate in this day’s route, at half past eight o’clock we again set forward, on the same point as yesterday.
The first four miles of our course led through one of those dreadful scrubs of eucalyptus dumosa, and prickly grass, which we had often before experienced; it was on rather an elevated plain, and, exclusive of the difficulty of forcing a passage through it, was extremely boggy and distressing to the horses. After passing through it, the country for five or six miles farther was more open, the same elevated plain or level still continuing, being thinly studded with box and cypress trees, with abundance of acacia and other shrubs: the soil a loose, red, sandy loam. At the tenth mile we providentially found a small muddy hole of water which, bad as it was, refreshed both men and horses extremely; fearing, from the appearance of the country, that we should not find any water farther on, we filled our small keg, containing nearly three gallons, which would at all events free us from absolute want. We went four miles farther through the same desert country, when evening drawing on, and the small trees and shrubs becoming thicker, we thought it best to stop before we again encountered an eucalyptus brush; which not affording the smallest fodder for the horses, would, added to the want of water, render them in all probability unable to take either us or themselves out of the desert in which we were.
The spot we halted on afforded some dry tea-grass and a few syngeneceous shrubs; and praying for a heavy dew to moisten them, we hoped the animals would not on the whole fare much worse than ourselves.
The rain which had fallen while we were on the river was not perceptible here; indeed I think sufficient to deluge any other country must fall, before it is seen on the surface of such a soil as prevails in this part of New South Wales. A little rain renders it however so soft and slimy as to make it difficult to travel over; and I should conjecture, from the milky whiteness of the water in the holes we have seen, that it rests on a substratum of white clay three or four feet below the surface; the water holes at least had that bottom, although their margins were of the red, sandy loam before mentioned.
An accident happened to the vessel containing the mercury of the artificial horizon, by which the greater part was lost, leaving scarcely sufficient for use. It had been a matter of surprise to me that such a misfortune had not occurred sooner, the box containing the instruments, etc., being so shaken by the horse forcing his way through the scrubs, that I considered myself extremely fortunate not to have been deprived of the use of them long before. To carry barometers, and other delicately constructed mathematical instruments, safely through such a journey as the present is impossible. Our course made good was N. 68 E., distance thirteen miles and a half. The evening fine and clear.
August 6. — Proceeded on our course, which led us for nine or ten miles through what might be termed an open forest country, with respect to the timber growing on it, but it was overrun with mimosa and acacia bushes, many of which were coming into flower, relieving in some measure the sombre foliage of the cypress and box trees which were scattered among them: it was rather an elevated tract that we travelled through, with such gentle rises and descents as to be almost imperceptible from a level surface. I ascended a hill about three miles north of the road, but could see nothing remarkable in any direction, the whole appearing irregularly broken into low hills and valleys, thickly clothed with small trees and bushes. At the eighth mile we came upon a small waterhole, which our poor horses soon emptied; again at the tenth mile, just at the commencement of a very broken stony range, we also found a few gallons of water, which the horses also enjoyed, it being much too muddy for our use; and besides, we had hopes that after passing the range of hills in which we were about to enter, we should find water on the other side. The range continued in short broken hills for upwards of three miles and a half, and led through such a country as distressed both men and horses exceedingly: the surface was covered with small quartz stones, without herbage of any kind. The box and cypress trees disappeared, and their place was supplied by a numerous species of iron bark, between which the acacia, mimosa, and a new prickly acacia rendered it almost impossible to force a passage: after enduring this for upwards of three miles and a half, we began to descend, by keeping a more easterly course; but before we could come into a better country, either for grass or water, we were obliged to halt for the night, being too much fatigued to proceed farther.
Our search after water was not attended with success, but the ground being extremely boggy, we were in hopes of procuring a little by digging. Our spade, which had so unfortunately been left at Bathurst, would now have been of the most essential service, but the carpenter’s adze proved a useful substitute. Choosing a place which seemed most likely to have received the drainings of the hills, and on which a little rain-water still remained, we dug a tolerably good well, and in a few hours were rewarded by obtaining near a quart of thick muddy water per man, which by boiling, skimming, and straining, was rendered palatable to persons who must otherwise have gone without their dinner or breakfast the next morning, it being impossible to eat either our bread or pork without something to quench our thirst.
The soil of the country passed over was of the same red, sandy description as on former days; the hills were covered with small pieces of broken white quartz, and occasionally a large granite rock showed itself from beneath the surface. The botanical productions of the hills seemed also to undergo a considerable change, indicating, as we would fain hope, that a better country is not far off. Several new plants were acquired today, some of which were very beautiful. Our course made good was N. 71. E., distance thirteen miles and a half.
August 7. — The horses suffered much from want of food and water; but it is absolutely necessary to proceed and get into a better country with all the expedition which we are capable of using, and which the nature of this country will allow. It is some consolation to us that the horses are but lightly loaded, by reason of our not being now encumbered with much provisions, and are consequently enabled to travel farther and better. At half past eight o’clock we again set forward, and for four miles and a quarter continued to pass through the same thick, barren country as yesterday, the ground being absolutely covered with acacia of various species, some extremely beautiful; after which the country became more open; the grass had been burnt, and the marks of the mogo or stone hatchet on the trees, made by the wandering natives of these deserts in search of food, gave us renewed hopes of soon coming to water. A rose-hill parrot was seen for the first time for many months, and we were farther fortunate in killing a fine kangaroo. The country seemed to improve as we advanced, and at the ninth mile, as we had been gradually ascending, we were gratified by an open prospect to the eastward, which showed low gentle hills and valleys thinly studded with trees. The broom-grass, now dead, gave them a white appearance, and, contrasted with the acacia in full flower, and the darker foliage of the trees, gave the whole the most pleasing and varied aspect. To the north-west round to the north, the country was nearly the same; but from north to north-east by east, it was more broken into low barren hills; the tops and sides covered with iron bark, and cypress growing among the interstices of the granite rocks. We had however seen no water, but there was something in the aspect of the whole country that flattered our hopes of finding it in some of the valleys that lay in our course; nor were we disappointed: after going rather more than four miles farther, through a very open country, thickly covered with broom-grass (killed by the frost), we ascended a rocky hill of moderate elevation, connected with others lying east and west: opposite to us was a low rocky range, the summits of which were clothed with iron bark and casuarina trees. We saw from this hill Mount Melville bearing N. 175., Mount Cunningham N. 189 1/2., Mount Maude N. 192., a round mount N. 218., named Mount Riley, a gap in a range N. 283., distance about thirty miles: descending into the valley we found plenty of water, to our great relief, as the horses were quite exhausted, and without this seasonable supply would have been altogether unable to proceed farther. The grass in the valley, although perished by the winter’s frost, was very tolerable, and the worn out state of the horses made me determine to remain here to-morrow, to recruit them a little before we proceeded farther.
The country we have passed through this day afforded some of the most beautiful specimens of acacia which we had yet seen, at the same time that they were quite new in the species. The soil however was still of the same description, red and sandy, but for the last five or six miles more firm and compact; many of the plants were recognized as having been originally seen in the neighbourhood of the Macquarie River, and not since: this, with the more generally open appearance of the country, gave us hopes that in a few days we should be fortunate enough to fall in with that stream, which would free us from any farther apprehensions of suffering from want of water; for in that event it is my intention to keep in its immediate vicinity until our arrival at Bathurst. Our course made good was N. 71. E., distance thirteen miles and a quarter.
August 8. — Made the usual observations to ascertain our situation, the result of which placed us in lat. 32. 47. 58. S., long. 147. 23. E., and the variation of the needle 5. 20. E. The valley in which we encamped is enclosed by forest hills on all sides but the east, affording us plenty of water from what is, even at this dry season, a perceptible stream. The grass however was quite killed by the frost, and, although abundant, did not afford such nourishment to the horses as their condition required, insomuch that if we fall in with a part of the country that has been burnt in the course of to-morrow’s route, I shall give them a day’s rest.
Kangaroos of a very large size abound in every direction around us: our dogs killed one weighing seventy or eighty pounds, which proved a great and refreshing acquisition to us.
To the valley I gave the name of Emmeline’s Valley, and the hill from which we corrected our survey with Mount Melville and Mount Cunningham, Macnamara’s Hill. The day was clear and mild, and in the course of it some new and fine plants were procured.
August 9. — The morning fine and pleasant. At half past eight we left the valley, intending still to keep our course north of east, as the most likely point on which to make the Macquarie River, from which, judging by the botanical productions of that stream, we cannot be very far.
For three or four miles the country was tolerably open and good, being clothed with luxuriant broom-grass. The cypress trees of good dimensions; but no signs of water. For the remainder of our day’s journey, we passed over tracts of low barren ridges covered with brush, and iron bark trees, and open valleys; the country was of moderate elevation, but still we were not so fortunate as to find any water, although every slope was searched. After having travelled fourteen miles, during the latter part of which it rained hard, I thought it most advisable to stop, as we had just passed through a thick brush into a more open country, which would afford the horses something to eat; the rain, which still continued, relieving us from apprehension of their suffering much from want of water. As to ourselves, we had taken our now usual precaution to fill our keg, which gave us a pint each for our evening consumption, and the same quantity for breakfast the next morning.
In the course of the day the stirculia heterophylla was very abundant, and we remarked that the cypresses were those originally known as the callitris australis, and not of either of the other two species, which were common in the neighbourhood of the Lachlan. The brushes and scrubs were the only places that afforded any thing to the researches of the botanists; the open lands being covered with grass, and the shrubs being of acacias whose species had been already often seen on this side of the Blue Mountain range.
August 10. — The morning proved clear and mild, and at nine we again proceeded; as it was impossible to remain in a place that did not afford us any water, and not good grass.
The country continued open forest land for about three miles, the cypress and the bastard box being the prevailing timber; of the former many were useful trees. We seemed neither ascending nor descending, but travelling on somewhat of an elevated plain. The broom-grass was very luxuriant, being four or five feet high; the soil, as before, a light, red, sandy loam. To this open tract succeeded three miles of barren brush land, covered with clumps of small cypresses, iron barks, and acacias; the slightest elevation or ascent was always stony, and in one or two places large masses of granite rock were observed. We have hitherto seen no other signs of this being an inhabited country than the marks usually made by the natives in ascending the trees, and none of these were very recent. It is probable that they may see us without discovering themselves, as it is much more likely for us to pass unobserved the little family of the wandering native, than that our party, consisting of so many men and horses, not travelling together, but sometimes separated a mile or two, should escape their sight, quickened as it is by constant exercise in procuring their daily food.
At the end of the brush we came upon a large chain of ponds, the fall of water in which being north, induced us to believe that the Macquarie could not be far distant: we proceeded down them about a mile, when the situation offering us all we could wish for, we halted for the night, it being past two o’clock, determining to remain here to-morrow for the sake of the horses.
The country on the east side of this chain of ponds was again an open forest as far as we could see in that direction; which however was not very far, as we were nearly on a level. I rode down the ponds Six or seven miles, hoping to fall in with their junction with the river. Two or three miles from our halting-place the ground became very scrubby, and was much over-run with brush and small pines; there were marks of flood in the watercourse of the ponds, from eight to ten feet high. I saw several shags, ducks, herons, cranes, and other birds that frequent low or watery situations, but the night coming on obliged me to return.
August 11. — Along the banks of these ponds, several transitory encampments of the natives were found, but none that had been inhabited within these four or six months; by all of them were found abundance of the pearl muscle-shell so common on the Lachlan. The soil, as far as we examined round our tents, east of the ponds, was a good sandy loam. The timber very open, and if the country had been divested of the numerous acacia bushes with which the face of it was covered, it would be impossible to wish for land more lightly timbered: the grass anthistiria was very luxuriant. The ponds appear to have not been flooded for a very considerable time, the water in many being of a milky whiteness, and the dry channels are overrun with reeds and grass. These ponds were called Coysgaine’s Ponds, and by our observations the tent was in lat. 32. 44. 29. S., long. 147. 46. 30. E., mean variation 7. 18. E.
August 12. — Proceeded on our course, which, as I hoped and expected we were not far from the Macquarie River, was altered to north-east, for the purpose of joining it lower down than our former course would have done; being anxious to know as much of the country in the vicinity of the river as our time and circumstances would permit. An open forest country with tolerably good soil continued for nearly five miles, when we suddenly came upon a large swampy plain surrounded by the acacia pendula. Water was still remaining on several parts of it, and we had no doubt from its whole appearance that it would lead immediately to the river; from the south-west edge of this plain (which was six or seven miles round), we had a distant prospect of a very lofty mountainous range to the eastward, named Harvey’s Range; the north extreme of which bore north, and the highest part N. 94. This range was by far the highest we had seen westward of the Blue Mountains. and its elevation could be very little if at all inferior. Crossing this plain and pursuing our north-easterly course, we entered a poor barren country covered with box trees, and low acacia shrubs; our hope of meeting the river was however disappointed. We travelled upwards of six miles through this box scrub, when coming to two or three holes of good water I thought it advisable to halt, rather than proceed a mile or two farther, which was the utmost we could have done; and then in all probability, be obliged to halt at a spot that would not afford us that necessary article.
The inclination of the loftier trees, particularly the cypress trees, for these two or three days past, denoted the strength and prevalence of the south-west and westerly winds: this is more easily discernible from the tops of low ranges; the western side of the tree being generally deprived of its branches, and the trunk bent in a remark-able manner to the north-east. This inclination and prevalence of the winds was not observed in any particular degree westward of Mount Cunningham, and was most remarkable in that elevated range of country lying between the depot on the Lachlan and Bathurst; and which elevated tract continues with little interruption to the western base of the Blue Mountain range, on which there is not a single tree that does not denote prevalence of the westerly wind.
August 13. — Again set forward, intending to keep a north-easterly course through the day, when if we do not fall in with the river, our future course will be directed more easterly; as we shall be then full seventy miles north of Bathurst, and north of the parallel of Port Stephens. The country through which our course led us to-day was of various description, the first three miles and a half being indifferent forest land, open with respect to timber, but much overrun with small acacia bushes; at the end of this tract was a small stream of water in ponds, having its course in the lofty range east-south-east of us, and which was not very distant from us; this stream was named Allan Water, and its stream was northerly. The next four miles north-east of this burn was through a barren scrubby country, full of dry water-holes, and thickly covered with the casuarina filifolia, box trees, and acacia bushes. The cypress seemed to shun this kind of barren clayey soil, and was more prevalent and flourishing on the open forest land where the soil was light and loamy, and covered with luxuriant broom-grass; this was the case for the last few miles, which consisted of a very good tract of land. The cypresses here grew into very handsome timber, and indeed were the only useful wood, as the box tree was usually stunted and crooked. At the end of twelve miles we found a small spring of water that supplied some ponds, which also run northerly. The grass being pretty good, although old, we determined to halt for the evening, as the horses were not all arrived having had a considerable detour to make in crossing Allan Water. On the banks of that burn many heaps of the pearl muscle-shells were found, and marks of flood about eight feet. We have for several days past seen no signs of any natives being recently in this part of the country; the marks on the trees, which were the only marks we saw, being several months old, and never seen except in the vicinity of water. Marks of the natives’ tomahawks were to us certain signs of approaching water.
August 14. — We had now come from the river Lachlan upwards of an hundred miles in a north-east direction, without being so fortunate as to fall in with the Macquarie; we were also near seventy miles north of Bathurst, and much about the same distance west of it: it was therefore evident that the Macquarie must have taken at least a north. north-west course from the place where it was last seen; how much farther north it had gone, of course we were ignorant: it is however probable, from the watercourses we have lately passed leading northerly, that the above point would be nearly the course which it has taken. To travel farther to the north-east would lead us very far from our proper route to Bathurst; farther indeed than we had provisions to enable us to travel, having only from Saturday next enough for fourteen days at a reduced allowance; and that time I calculated would be barely sufficient to take us to Bathurst on a direct course, presuming no local obstacles to arise. These considerations induced me to alter our course to east, which however would be nearly at right angles with that which we imagined the river to have taken, and would therefore enable us to reach it perhaps as soon as on any other course, as we could only infer its probable situation from the nature of the country over which we travelled. At half past eight o’clock, we again set forward on the above course (east): it led us generally through a good open grazing country for about eight miles, when it became more broken and hilly; these hills were all covered with grass, their summits and sides rocky, with small stones: the colour of the soil had been apparently getting darker for some miles, and was now a light, hazel-coloured, sandy loam. The small blue eucalyptus, so common in the neighbourhood of Bathurst, again made its appearance, taking the place of the box tree; iron and stringy barks of small size were also common on the tops and sides of the hills: two Sydney or coast plants were also seen. Between the eighth and ninth mile we ascended a small hill, whence we had a distant view from the south round by the west to north, taking in that tract of country over which we had passed. Not a hill or eminence of any kind broke the dead level surface of the country in those quarters; and the day was so clear, that had any been within sixty or seventy miles they must have been seen. From the east to the south was the lofty range before mentioned, and now distant five or six miles: it was broken and rocky; iron bark trees were however growing on the very summit. To the north-east and north our view was not more than ten or eleven miles, being broken into low grassy hills of pretty much the same elevation with that on which we stood. The smoke of several natives’ fires were seen in the range to the eastward, and some to the north-west. Proceeding about four miles farther to the eastward among those hills, we halted in a pretty valley, having a small run of water in it falling northerly. We had just pitched our tent when hearing the noise of the stone-hatchet made by a native in climbing a tree, we stole silently upon him, and surprised him just as he was about to descend: he did not perceive us until we were immediately under the tree; his terror and astonishment were extreme. We used every friendly motion in our power to induce him to descend, but in vain: he kept calling loudly, as we supposed for some of his companions to come to his assistance; in the mean time he threw down to us the game he had procured (a ring-tailed opossum), making signs for us to take it up: in a short time another native came towards us, when the other descended from the tree. They trembled excessively, and, if the expression may be used, were absolutely INTOXICATED with fear, displayed in a thousand antic motions, convulsive laughing, and singular motions of the head. They were both youths not exceeding twenty years of age, of good countenance and figure, but most horribly marked by the skin and flesh being raised in long stripes all over the back and body; some of those stripes were full three-quarters of an inch deep, and were so close together that scarcely any of the original skin was to be seen between them. The man who had joined us, had three or four small opossums and a snake, which he laid upon the ground, and offered us. We led them to our tent, where their surprise at every thing they saw clearly showed that we were the first white men they had met with; they had however either heard of or seen tomahawks for upon giving one to one of them, he clasped it to his breast and demonstrated the greatest pleasure. After admiring it for some time they discovered the broad arrow, with which it was marked on both sides, the impression of which exactly resembles that made by the foot of the emu; it amused them extremely, and they frequently pointed to it and the emu skins which we had with us. All this time they were paying great attention to the roasting of their opossums, and when they were scarcely warm through, they opened them, and, taking out the fat of the entrails, presented it to us as the choicest morsel; on our declining to receive it they ate it themselves, and again covered up the opossums in the hot ashes. When they were apparently well done, they laid them, the snake, and the things we had presented them with, on the ground, making signs that they wished to go; which of course we allowed them to do, together with their little store of provisions and such things as we were able to spare them. The collection of words which we had made at the depot on the Lachlan, we found of no use, as they did not understand a single one. They had neither of them lost the upper front tooth, though apparently men grown.
August 15. — We were somewhat disappointed in not seeing anything more of our native acquaintances, as we hoped the treatment and presents they had received would have induced them to return to us with their companions, as they had endeavoured to make us understand by signs they would. At eight we proceeded on an easterly course, when a mile of gently rising ground brought us to the edge of a fine valley, in which was a chain of ponds connected by a small stream; alternate hills and valleys of the best description of pasture land: the soil, a rich, light, sandy loam, continued until we halted, at the end of eleven miles, in a spacious, well-watered valley; where to our great surprise we found distinct marks of cattle tracks: they were old, and made when the ground was soft from rain, as appeared from the deep impression of their feet. These cattle must have strayed from Bathurst, from which place we were now distant in a direct line between eighty and ninety miles. From several of the hills over which our route led us, we had the most extensive and beautiful prospects; from thirty to forty miles round, from the north to south, the country was broken in irregular low hills thinly studded with small timber, and covered with grass: the whole landscape within the compass of our view was clear and open, resembling diversified pleasure grounds irregularly laid out and planted. The animation of the whole scenery was greatly increased by the smoke of the natives’ fires arising in every quarter, distinctly marking that we were in a country which afforded them ample means of subsistence; far different from the low deserts and morasses to the south-west.
The tops of the hills were generally stony (granite of different degrees and qualities), but the broom-grass grew strongly and abundantly in the interstices. We never descended a valley without finding it well watered, and although the soil and character of the country rendered it fit for all agricultural purposes, yet I think from its general clearness from brush, or underwood of any kind, that such tracts must be peculiarly adapted for sheep-grazing; there being no shelter for native dogs, which are so destructive and annoying in other more thickly wooded parts of the country. In the fine valley where we pitched our tents, our dogs had some excellent runs, and killed two large kangaroos; the clearness of the country affording us a view of the chace from the beginning to the end.
Some of the baggage horses, which were a mile or two behind the others, came up to the tents, with nine natives, who had joined them on the road: they were entirely unarmed, and there was but one mogo, or stone hatchet, among them; we had reason to suppose that their women and children were at no great distance, as they were observed to hide themselves when the men were first seen. The greater part of them had either seen or heard of white men, as they were neither alarmed nor astonished at what they saw. I should think that the loss of the front upper tooth is not common to every tribe, as several of these men retained it, although others were without it; the wearing a stick, or bone, through the cartilage of the nose, appeared common to all of them. They remained about an hour with us: we gave them the fore-quarter of a kangaroo, and putting our remaining pork into a bag, we distributed the iron hoops of the keg in small pieces among them; these were received with as much pleasure as an European would have felt at being presented with the like quantity of gold. It was impossible distinctly to make out anything that they wished to express, by reason of the variety of their gestures; but their frequent pointing to the south-east (the direction of Bathurst), induced us to believe that they thought we were going there, a conjecture which we did all in our power to confirm. Wishing, if possible, to learn if they knew anything of the river, a fishing hook was given to one of them, but he did not seem to understand the use of it until Mr. Evans drew the resemblance of a fish, and made signs that the hook was to take it, when they immediately understood him, and pointing to the east made signs that the fish were there; but our endeavours to learn the distance of the river were wholly fruitless. They appeared a harmless, inoffensive race of people, extremely cautious of giving offence, and never touching anything until they had first by signs obtained permission. Many of the words collected at the depot were known to them, others were not; but ignorant as we of course were of each other’s meaning, we found it a vain task to endeavour to learn their names of things. To collect a vocabulary of words in a strange language, it is in some measure necessary that the party who is to afford the knowledge should understand for what purpose he is questioned, which it was impossible to make these simple creatures comprehend. They left us about an hour before sunset, highly gratified with their adventure.
August 16. — Quitted the valley (which was named Mary’s Valley) on our eastern course, anxiously hoping that we should reach the river in the course of the day. We had heard last night and this morning the screams of the white cockatoo, which we have always looked upon as a certain sign of approaching water.
The same fine grazing tract of country continued over irregular hills and valleys for about four miles, when ascending a high hill (named Mount Johnston), a little upon our left, we had a very extensive view to the north-east and east. In the former quarter, a beautiful range of hills stretching north and south, bounded at a distance of about eight miles the fine extensive valley before us; under those hills we would fain have found the Macquarie, fancying that we could distinguish the haze arising from water. To the northward, two hills skirted the valley at a distance of six or seven miles, which might be about the medium width of it from north to south, in which quarter a rocky range, clothed with pines and iron-bark, prevented us from seeing to any great distance; to the east and south-east, the same low irregular country appeared, thinly covered with trees and grass.
Desirous of ascertaining if our conjectures were well founded in respect to the river, we altered our course, which was east, to north-east, keeping down the south side of the valley or plain, which we had seen from Mount Johnston. A finer or more fertile country than that we passed through for about four miles and a half cannot be imagined: the soil, a light brown, sandy loam, covered with broom-grass from four to five feet high. After travelling the above distance, we most unexpectedly came upon a stream, which from its high grassy banks and rocky bottom we were obliged to conclude must be the river we were in search of; but so diminished in magnitude that the motion of the water connecting the long chains of reedy ponds, was so slow as scarcely to entitle it to the appellation of a living stream. The whole country from where we quitted the Lachlan to this spot had borne evident marks of long continued drought, and in no part was it more apparent than in the present stream which was so much smaller than it was at Bathurst, even after the great drought in 1815, that after going up it three or four miles, I began to entertain great doubts of its being the same, hoping that it might be one of the channels which must convey the waters from the high ranges of hills, lying nearly midway between the Lachlan and the Macquarie Rivers.
Observing a fine and extensive flat on the opposite side of the stream, which having been formerly burnt, was now covered with good grass, we crossed over at a place not ankle deep, and about six or eight feet wide, over a bottom of sand and stone, and halted for the evening; intending also to remain the ensuing day, to refresh the horses, as they had performed an excellent and continued week’s work, and much required it.
On reaching the present stream numerous cattle tracks were observed, and although not very recent, I do not think they were more than four or six months old, since the marks of young cattle were among them; it is probable they were those that have been missing for a length of time from the government herds at Cox’s River, and are now straying wild through this beautiful country, abounding in every thing that can tempt them to remain here.
The plants on the banks and in the stream were precisely similar to those on the Macquarie in the vicinity of Bathurst; but I have observed that no certain conclusions can be drawn from a similarity between the botanical productions of two places, a truth which has been exemplified more than once in the course of this Journal.
August 17. — During the whole day the weather did not permit me to make the usual observations; it was not however uselessly passed, as the country was examined several miles to the north-east and east of our tents, and every report concurred as to the general beauty and goodness of the tracts passed over. Mr. Evans and myself ascended a high grassy hill about a mile and a half north of the tent, and the prospect round was highly pleasing. The general appearance of the country southerly made me still adhere to the opinion I entertained that the stream along which we were travelling would prove to derive its source from a very lofty range in that direction; whilst the Macquarie would be found still farther to the eastward, in which quarter I must have deceived myself greatly, if we do not find a stream superior to the present; and my hopes in that respect are much strengthened when I consider that we are not above fifty miles in a straight line from the spot where Mr. Evans left the Macquarie, a strong and powerful stream, and that too in a season as long and even longer dry than the present one. In these hopes and expectations I shall continue an easterly course until nearly on the meridian of Bathurst, when they must either be realized, or the negative indisputably established, that there are no considerable rivers rising in the interior of New South Wales. From the hill on which we stood, bearings were taken to the most remarkable objects, which were but few; for the country, as far as the eye could reach, was a continued series of low grassy hills and valleys; the whole thinly covered with wood, and in many places entirely bare of it. The hills to the southward and south-west on the west side of the stream, and immediately bordering on it, were rocky and irregular; a few cypresses were growing on their sides and summits. We named the hill on which we stood Mount Elizabeth, and the extensive flats or plains north of it, and on the east side of the stream, McArthur’s Plains.
The tracks of cattle were observed in various places on these plains, some very recent, perhaps not a month old. A fish was also caught, of the species common both to the Lachlan and the Macquarie. The soil of the country round, is far as we had time to examine it, was a rich, light, sandy loam, most abundantly covered with long broom-grass: the rocks and stones on the hills were granite of various qualities. Nothing was found new to the botanists; in truth, this is not a country adapted to their pursuits.
August 18. — In pursuance of the intention formed yesterday of still continuing an easterly course, we again set forward at half past eight o’clock.
The general description of country was nearly the same as that which we passed over on preceding days; several pieces of limestone were found, which proved of good quality. On going between three and four miles, ascending a range of hills which lay directly across our course, we had a prospect of a fine and spacious valley, bounded to the east by low grassy hills; there was every appearance of a watercourse being in it, but it was distant five or six miles, and our access to it was rendered difficult by lofty rocky hills forming deep and irregular glens, so narrow that I feared we should not be able to follow their windings, the rocks rising in such vast perpendicular shapes as seemingly to debar our passage. After some little hesitation, we found a place down which the horses might descend in safety. This being accomplished, we traversed the bottom of the glen along all its windings for nearly three miles and a half: a fine stream of pure water was running through it. Here, doubtful of being able before dark to gain the valley we were in search of we halted for the night. It is impossible to imagine a more beautifully romantic glen than that in which we lay. There was just level space on either side of the stream for the horses to travel along, the rocks rising almost perpendicularly from it to a towering height, covered with flowering acacia of various species, whose bright yellow flowers were contrasted and mingled with the more sombre foliage of the blue gum and cypress trees: several new plants were also found, of beautiful descriptions.
The stream in the glen running north-easterly encouraged us to hope that we should ultimately be rewarded by finding a considerable stream in the valley, which was the cause of our deviation from our more direct course to Bathurst. The glen which was to afford us access to it, we named Glenfinlass: it might, perhaps, be properly termed the glen of many windings, as it was formed of several detached lofty hills; between each of which deep ravines were formed, communicating in times of rain their waters to this main one.
August 19. — Full of the hopes entertained yesterday, at half past eight o’clock we pursued our course down Glenfinlass. A mile and a half brought us into the valley which we had seen on our first descending into the glen: imagination cannot fancy anything more beautifully picturesque than the scene which burst upon us. The breadth of the valley to the base of the opposite gently rising hills was, between three and four miles, studded with fine trees, upon a soil which for richness can nowhere he excelled; its extent north and south we could not see: to the west it was bounded by the lofty rocky ranges by which we had entered it; this was covered to the summit with cypresses and acacia in full bloom: a few trees of the sterculia heterophylla, with their bright green foliage, gave additional beauty to the scene. In the centre of this charming valley ran a strong and beautiful stream, its bright transparent waters dashing over a gravelly bottom, intermingled with large stones, forming at short intervals considerable pools, in which the rays of the sun were reflected With a brilliancy equal to that of the most polished mirror. I should have been well contented to have found this to be the Macquarie River, and at first conceived it to be so. Under this impression, I intended stopping upon its banks for the remainder of the day, and then proceeding up the stream southerly. Whilst we were waiting for the horses to come up we crossed the stream, and wishing to see as much of the country on its banks northerly, as possible, I proceeded down the stream, and had scarcely rode a mile when I was no less astonished than delighted to find that it joined a very fine river, coming from the east-south-east from among the chain of low grassy hills, bounding the east side of the valley in which we were. This then was certainly the long sought Macquarie, the sight of which amply repaid us for all our former disappointments. Different in every respect from the Lachlan, it here formed a river equal to the Hawkesbury at Windsor, and in many parts as wide as the Nepean at Emu Plains. These noble streams were connected by rapids running over a rocky and pebbly bottom, but not fordable, much resembling the reaches and falls at the crossing place at Emuford, only deeper: the water was bright, and transparent, and we were fortunate enough to see it at a period when it was neither swelled beyond its proper dimensions by mountain floods, nor contracted by summer droughts. From its being at least four times larger than it is at Bathurst, even in a favourable season, it must have received great accessions of water from the mountains north-easterly; for from the course it has run from Bathurst, and the number of streams we have crossed all running to form it from the south and south-west, I do not think it can receive many more from that quarter between us and Bathurst, at least of sufficient strength to have formed the present river.
Reduced as our provisions were, we could not resist the temptation of halting in this beautiful country for a couple of days, to allow us time to ascertain its precise situation, and to ride down the banks of the river northerly as far as we could go and return in one day. The banks of the river in our neighbourhood were low and grassy, with a margin of gravel and pebble stones; there were marks of flood to the height of about twelve feet, when the river would still be confined within its secondary banks, and not overflow the rich lands that border it. Its proper width in times of flood would be from six to eight hundred feet, its present and usual width is about two hundred feet. The blue gum trees in the neighbourhood were extremely fine, whilst that species of eucalyptus, which is vulgarly called the apple tree, and which we had not seen since we quitted the eastern coast, again made its appearance on the flats, and of large size; as was the casuarina filifolia, growing here and there on its immediate banks.
The day throughout was as fine as could be imagined, and it was spent with a more cheerful feeling than we had experienced since we quitted the depot on the Lachlan. The river running through the valley was named Bell’s River, in compliment to Brevet Major Bell, of the 48th Regiment; the valley Wellington Valley; and the stream on which we halted on Sunday, Molle’s Rivulet.
August 20. — The day proved as favourable as could be wished, and the observations placed our situation in lat. 32. 32. 45. S., and our compared long. 148. 51. 30. E., the variation of the needle being 8. 38. 38. E. A valuable discovery was made in the course of the day by the men who were out with the dogs, the hills bounding the east side of Wellington Vale being found of the purest limestone, of precisely similar quality with that found at Limestone Creek. We were never due north of that place, and it is more than probable that the same stratum extends on the same meridian through the country.
August 21 — At eight o’clock, accompanied by Mr. Evans and Mr. Cunningham, set out on our intended excursion down the Macquarie River. Crossing Bell’s River in the valley, we came in a mile to where the steep rocky hills forming the west side of the vale advance their perpendicular cliffs directly over the river. These hills we soon rounded, and entered the vale north of them: I shall not in this place attempt to describe the rich and beautiful country that opened to our view in every direction. Alternate fine grazing hills, fertile flats and valleys, formed its general outline; whilst the river, an object to us of peculiar interest, was sometimes contracted to a width of from sixty to eighty feet between rocky cliffs of vast perpendicular height, and again expanded into noble and magnificent reaches of the width of at least two hundred feet, washing some of the richest tracts of land that can be found in any country; the banks were in those reaches low and shelving, and covered with pebbles, whilst even at the highest floods secondary banks restrained the river from doing the smallest damage: these secondary banks might be from six to eight hundred feet in width, and I think the highest marks of flood did not exceed twenty feet perpendicular. The rapids were usually formed by small stony islands, which. dividing the stream rendered it shoaler in those places than in others, but they never extended above one hundred yards, and were none of them fordable. Limestone of the best quality and of various species abounded; and it appeared to me to be as common as the other stone forming the hills, which was a fine and hard granite. We passed through this charming country for upwards of twelve miles, the course of the river during that time being nearly north, and from appearances we thought it must continue in that direction for a considerable distance farther. A perpendicular limestone rock overhanging the river terminated our excursion; adjoining to this rock (which was called Hove’s Rock, from its being covered with a beautiful new species of hovia), a stratum of fine blue-slate was found. A little lower down, the bank on the east side was formed of perpendicular red earth cliffs at least sixty feet high, extending along the reach nearly three quarters of a mile; this bank was named Red Bank: a fine grassy hill thinly covered with wood rose eastward of it.
The timber was unusually fine, consisting chiefly of very large and straight blue guns; beautiful large casuarina trees were occasionally growing at the very edge of the water. The tops and sides of the rocky precipices on the west side of Wellington Vale were clothed with cypress trees, which had all the appearance of the pinus silvestris, that adorns the mountains and glens of Scotland. It was nearly five o’clock before we returned to our tent, highly gratified with our day’s excursion.
Nothing can afford a stronger contrast than the two rivers, Lachlan and Macquarie; different in their habit, their appearance, and the sources from which they derive their waters, but above all differing in the country bordering on them; the one constantly receiving great accession of water from four streams, and as liberally rendering fertile a great extent of country; whilst the other, from its source to its termination, is constantly diffusing and extenuating the waters it originally receives over low and barren deserts, creating only wet flats and uninhabitable morasses, and during its protracted and sinuous course is never indebted to a single tributary stream. The contrast indeed presents a most remarkable phenomenon in the natural history of the country, and will furnish matter in other parts of this Journal, for such conclusions as my observations have enabled me to form.
August 22 — Among the other agreeable consequences that have resulted from discovering the river in this second Vale of Tempe, may be enumerated, as not the least, the abundance of fish and emus with which, we have been supplied; swans, and ducks, were also within our reach, but we had no shot. Very large muscles were found growing among the reeds along some of the reaches; many exceeded six inches in length, and three and a half in breadth. Traces of cattle were found in various places as low as Hove’s Rock, which are now doubtless straying through the country.
Our horses have recruited themselves exceedingly within the last ten days, and being lightly laden, I have great hopes of being enabled to reach Bathurst before our provisions are altogether expended; we have now left but four pounds and a half of flour, and the same quantity of pork per man; our chief dependence must be on the success of our dogs for any additional supplies, and in such a country as the present, we have no fear of being in want of food.
We had scarcely laden our horses and began to proceed up the river, when the rain recommenced, and continuing without intermission, obliged us to halt after we had gone about six miles; which we did upon a reach of the river, that for magnitude and extent equals if not surpasses any in the Hawkesbury, and exceeds that much admired one on the Nepean River, winding round Emu Plains. The country on both sides was of the greatest possible fertility, and beautifully diversified by hills and open valleys. Timber is good, and in two places where the hills on this side nearly closed on the river, immense quantities of fine limestone were again found, the rocks being entirely composed of it. The rapids were few and unimportant, and occasioned as usual by the river dividing into two channels forming small islets. They did not appear to me to impede in any manner the navigation of the river; the open reaches had apparently depth to float the largest vessels, and there was certainly breadth sufficient for that purpose. Nothing in fact can be imagined grander or more beautiful than we have hitherto found the river, and that too so near Bathurst that no reasonable expectation could have been formed of finding it such as we did. Many good specimens of agate forming on granite were found on the hills, chiefly where the limestone appeared in the largest and most continued stratum. We indulged ourselves in the probable speculation, that where limestone was found in such abundance as in this country, quarries of marble would also be discovered not far beneath the surface, as is usual in other countries most abounding in this useful stone. Fish and emus were procured in great quantities in the course of the afternoon.
August 23 — The last allowance of our provisions was now distributed, and at half past eight o’clock we proceeded up the river, which this day might be said to come through a mountainous country. Rocky points of hills frequently terminated on the river and occasionally opened into fine valleys and flats: in every valley a watercourse conveyed the waters from the back country to the river. I think the north bank was most frequently the lower: several small runs of water also fell in on that side. The hills, uniformly stony and rocky as they were, were covered with good grass to their summits. The scenery on the river was beautifully picturesque, and more magnificent reaches cannot be found in any river; these were interrupted in their uniform course by rapids, which having a much greater fall than any we had seen lower down, would materially impede the navigation of the river by boats farther than this station, up to which point I conceive it navigable. No falls had yet been seen that boats could not easily pass over; but in seasons of greater drought than the present, some difficulty might be experienced.
The travelling was excessively bad along the sides and points of the hills; and as we had every reason to believe the country was much lower back from the river, I determined to quit its immediate banks, and endeavour to make a more direct course than we found it possible to do in following its windings, which, even if it were practicable, our provisions will not permit.
August 24. — A very thick fog arising from the river prevented us from setting forward until nearly ten o’clock, till when we could not see fifty yards in any direction. Taking the earliest opportunity to quit the river, we passed through a mountainous tract of country extremely irregular and stony, but full of springs of water, and good grass. We found it impossible to accomplish more than eight or nine miles, the tops of the hills standing quite detached and unconnected into regular ranges. We seemed ascending the ranges, which in some measure separate the country farther westward from the river; as it was much lower in a direction from south-south-west to north-west, and appeared to be fine open grazing land. At four o’clock, we halted in a small valley for the evening. Our course made good on a variety of bearings was 8. 6. W., seven miles.
August 25. — We again set forward, hoping soon to clear these lofty hills, among which we seemed to be entangled: four or five miles, on various courses, through a very rugged, but grassy country, freed us from the dividing range, as we found by the streams all running westerly, and apparently joining the river in Wellington Vale. Just before we descended what we considered the principal range, we saw Mount Lachlan bearing south from this point; and we were enabled for the remainder of the day to make a direct course towards Bathurst, through a good open grazing country of gentle hills and dales, abounding in beautiful rivulets, having their rise in the mountains east of us, which bending round to the west and north-west, and watering the finest districts in their course, contribute their waters to the Macquarie.
The country now passed over was generally good, and although the hills were stony, yet the soil upon them was equal to the flats or valleys, and covered with grass. We saw no good timber, it consisting chiefly of small box trees, thinly scattered over the sides and tops of the hills. There was plenty of kangaroos and our valuable dogs killed two fine ones.
Coarse gravel and small slate were the most common stones, but the bottoms of the rivulets were composed of a species of black jade. Quartz was very frequent.
Few traces of natives have been observed, either on the river, or since we quitted it. The population of this country must be extremely small: as the natives derive their chief support from opossums, squirrels, and rats, which are known to frequent barren scrubs and hollow trees, such neighbourhoods are unquestionably frequented by them in preference to the open country and river banks. It must be a mere accident that enables the natives to kill either a kangaroo or emu: as to fish, they certainly are ignorant of the manner of taking them by hook and line.
August 26. — At eight o’clock we proceeded on our course towards Bathurst. The country throughout the day’s journey was extremely hilly, with steep descents into fine valleys, in every one of which was a running stream. It appeared to me, that we were pursuing a course which, intersecting the streams near their sources, rendered our road much more irregular and difficult than it would have been either a few miles farther westward, or even on the immediate banks of the river, the line of which we several times saw during the day. The country north-east of the river was very elevated and broken. The tops and sides of even the most mountainous parts were covered with grass, and thinly clothed with wood.
Many of the valleys were composed of extremely rich soil: the hills were also generally good land and covered with grass; though there were occasionally barren stony summits, and ridges producing nothing but iron and stringy bark trees of diminutive growth. These tracts were however too inconsiderable in extent, to be considered other than what ought naturally to be expected in such an irregular tract as that which we travelled over.
Had not the appearance of the country round the Macquarie, where we first reached it, fully accounted for its magnitude, the course we have pursued since would satisfactorily have explained the cause; it is in point of fact a country of running waters: on every hill we found a spring, and in every valley a rivulet, either flowing directly north-east to the river, or taking a course westerly to join the river in Wellington Vale. Of the waters that may fall into it from the north-east we were of course ignorant, but the appearances of the country indicated that they were at least as numerous as from the south-west.
After proceeding a few miles, we halted for the night in an extensive valley, watered by a rivulet running through it directly to the river, from which I think we were distant six or seven miles.
August 27. — Nothing could be more delightful than the climate and the temperature of the season.
At eight o’clock we took our road through a very rugged and broken country. The glens were enclosed on either side by almost perpendicular rocks, mostly slate of fine quality, mixed with coarse granite. In these glens or defiles were fine running streams. The declivity and steepness of the road delayed our progress, in seeking for better paths for the horses; and after riding a few miles we came to the edge of a very steep glen or valley, at the point of junction of two large streams, the largest coming from the south-west, the other from the north-west. Both united formed a very powerful stream, rushing with great impetuosity over a rocky bottom, with frequent falls or rapids. The hills being on both sides too steep even for the men to descend in safety, we were obliged to pursue the ridge of them up the north-west river, until we found a place where we could descend and cross, which we did about five o’clock in the afternoon with considerable difficulty. So steep indeed was the side on which we now were, that we could not find a level space sufficient to pitch our tent upon. The rocks consisted chiefly of slate and coarse granite intermixed. There appeared in each river to be more water than usual; and marks of flood were visible at a height exceeding eighteen feet.
Finding that we were entangled among the streams of the Macquarie, I determined on the morrow to proceed by the mountains dividing the north-west and south-west rivers; and if they should lead me considerably westward before their junction, to cross the south-west river, which, from its apparent direction and vicinity to Bathurst, I considered to be the only stream of consequence which we should find between our present station and that place.
Rugged and uneven as the country generally was during this day’s journey, there was considerable intermixture of the good with the barren; many portions consisting of excellent pasture land, and even the rocky hills were divested of the appearance of being so barren as they actually are, by being covered with shrubs and grass intermingled among the box and small gum trees, that find support between the interstices of the stones.
August 28. — At eight o’clock we proceeded on our journey, and pursuing the ridge which separated the two streams, we found that their general direction was from the southward, opening, as we advanced, into fine valleys, rounding gentle rising hills, thinly wooded and covered with grass. The ridge itself was chiefly of slate-rock, intermixed with masses of coarse siliceous granite. We followed the ridge for about six miles, when we descended into the valley through which the south-west rivulet ran, and after travelling about four miles farther, we crossed it when it was running a strong stream. Waiting for the horses at this spot, I took the opportunity of ascending a very lofty conical hill, forming part of the range bounding the north-east side of the valley. From this hill our hopes and expectations were gratified by a view of Bathurst Plains, which I estimated to be distant about twenty-two miles, bearing on the course we were pursuing. A Journal is but ill calculated to be the record of the various hopes and fears, which doubtless in some degree pervaded every mind upon this intelligence: these feelings, whatever they might be, were soon to be realized, and in an absence from our friends and connections of nineteen weeks how much might have occurred in which we were all deeply interested!
After travelling about three miles farther, we stopped for the evening, under expectations that we might possibly reach Bathurst on the morrow.
From the hill whence I saw Bathurst the view in every direction (except north-east, where it was bounded by a range of equal height between me and the river) was very extensive; the country to the southward and south-west was broken into low grassy hills with four intervening valleys. The rivulets derive their main supply from those hills, and from the range upon which we had travelled the greater part of the day: almost every hollow contained a running stream, having its source in springs near the summit of the hills.
Stringy bark trees were seen most generally on barren ridges, the larger sized blue gums in the valleys. In the evening the weather was unsettled with flying showers.
August 29. — At eight o’clock we proceeded towards Bathurst, hoping to reach it by the evening; this we effected between eight and nine o’clock, passing over a very hilly country with numerous running streams, joining the river near Pine Hill, and afterwards keeping along its banks.
The hospitable reception which we met with from Mr. Cox went far to banish all present care from our minds: relieved, as they were, by the knowledge that our friends were well, we almost forgot in the hilarity of the moment, that nineteen harassing weeks had elapsed since we last quitted it.
Although the winter at Bathurst, we learnt, had been cold and severe, there had not been much rain; little or none had fallen in the depot on the Lachlan, although the people there had observed some very high floods in the river; one particularly that would nearly correspond with the time when an unexpected fresh surprised us on our return down the Lachlan on the 11th of July.
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:59