— qua nulla pedum vestigia ducunt,
Nulla rotae currus testantur signa priores. — GROTIUS.
TO THE RIGHT HON. ROBERT PEEL, M. P. ONE OF HIS MAJESTY’S MOST HONOURABLE PRIVY COUNCIL, etc. etc. etc.
THIS JOURNAL IS MOST RESPECTFULLY INSCRIBED, BY HIS VERY FAITHFUL AND OBLIGED HUMBLE SERVANT, THE AUTHOR.
Sydney, New South Wales, July 21, 1819.
The general appearance of the country of New South Wales and the magnitude of the Macquarie River, as seen on the return of the expedition in 1817, had caused the most sanguine expectation to be entertained, that either a communication with the ocean, or interior navigable waters, would be discovered by following its course. The important benefits that would result to the colony in the event of such an expectation being realized, determined his Excellency Governor Macquarie to lose no time in fitting out a second expedition, which should have the elucidation of this point for its principal object. This expedition was also entrusted to my direction. I had scarcely a doubt of ultimate success, and set out with a confidence which nothing short of ocular demonstration could destroy. The result of our voyage down the Macquarie River, and the conjectures which naturally arose in my mind founded upon observations of its apparent termination, together with our subsequent journey to the east coast, will be found in the following pages.
In the map which accompanies the present Journal, every bounding range to the westward is laid down, from which it will appear that the north-west interior is nearly a perfect plain; the lower parts of which are certainly in most seasons under water. The highest land we crossed lies in lat. 31. S., and long. 151. 10. E. From this apparently dividing or principal range, the country gradually declines to the north-west; when, the hills terminating abruptly, the level land commences, over which is discharged all the waters that have their rise in this dividing range; and also those waters which rising in the hills (for they cannot with propriety be termed mountains) to the south-west, have the Lachlan River for their channel.
The nature of the country will be best explained by a reference to the Journal; generally speaking, it is fine and open. The bounding high lands to the north-west seem to take a direction nearly parallel with the coast line, and the evident declension of the country northerly affords strong ground for belief, that if those interior waters have any outlet to the sea 11, it will be found in that direction; and I think the probability is that the waters falling westerly, will there approach the high tracts of country, much nearer than they do to the south-west. The whole country to the north of our track appeared so extremely open and practicable, that it offers in my opinion but few obstructions to a series of triangles being carried over it; the longest sides of which, being traced along the bounding high lands to the north-west, and carried as far northerly as the isthmus, which separates the gulf of Carpentaria from the sea to the eastward, would effectually set at rest all questions as to the existence of an interior sea. Farther north than this point, there can be no reasonable expectation of finding either waters or an outlet.
11 The observations made in the recent voyage of Lieutenant King along the west and north coasts preclude every reasonable hope of any opening being found on those coasts. The voyage which he is at present prosecuting will doubtless determine that point beyond all future question.
So few natives were seen in the interior, that those extensive regions can scarcely be described as inhabited; some scattered families comprise the entire population, and the scanty remarks we were enabled to make satisfied us of the strict identity of this race of human beings with those of the coast. The same method of procuring their food, the same arms and utensils, are common to both. This remarkable similarity in the natives of different tribes extends also to the animal and vegetable productions of the country: the eucalyptus and casuarina; the kangaroo and the emu, with their various species, alike inhabit the cold regions of Van Diemen’s land, and the warmer latitudes within the tropics.
A short description of the most remarkable plants collected during the expedition by Mr. Charles Frazier, the government collector, is added to this Journal; and although the result as to the principal object of the expedition has not been answerable to the expectation which was entertained when it set out, yet when the general knowledge obtained of so considerable a portion of this extensive country is considered, it is hoped that it has not been undertaken and performed in vain; and that the field which it has opened to the colonists will be attended with ultimate benefit both to them and to the parent country.
Sydney, July 17, 1819.
May 20, 1818. Having received his Excellency the Governor’s instructions for the conduct of the expedition intended to examine the course of the Macquarie River, and every preparation having been made at the depot in Wellington Valley for that purpose, I quitted Sydney in company with Dr. Harris (late of the 102nd foot), and after a pleasant journey, arrived at Bathurst on the 25th. Our little arrangements having been completed by the 28th, we again set forward with the baggage horses and men that were to compose the expedition.
We at first kept nearly upon the track pursued by us on our return from the first expedition in August last; but on approaching Wellington Valley, keeping a little more to the westward, we avoided much of that steep and rugged road which we then complained of; the country being quite open, the valleys and flats good, the hills limestone rock. We did not meet with the slightest interruption, and arrived at the depot on the 2nd of June, where we found the boats, etc. in perfect readiness for our immediate reception.
June 4. — Got all the horses and provisions over to the north side of the river, and made every preparation to pursue our journey on the morrow. The river rose about a foot during the day. The accident which had befallen our barometer during the former expedition not being repaired, we are of course deprived of means to make any observations on the height of the country above the sea, otherwise than by careful observation of the several falls or rapids: I do not think that our station here is much above four hundred feet below the level of Bathurst.
June 5. — About one o’clock the weather cleared up a little, when Lewis with the boat-builder’s party set out on their return to Bathurst, taking with them three of the worst of the horses, and leaving with us nineteen. The river rose but little during the day: it is quite high enough for our purpose. A new species of fish was caught, having four smellers above and four under the mouth; the hind part of it resembled an eel; it had one dorsal fin, and four other fins, with a white belly; it measured twenty-one inches and a half, and weighed about two pounds three quarters.
June 6. — Proceeded down the river about four miles, when the boats were finally laden. The river in Wellington Valley had been swelled by the late rains, insomuch that the water below its junction with the Macquarie was quite discoloured. From the fineness of the soil, the rain had made the ground very soft, rendering it difficult for the horses to travel.
June 7. — Proceeded on our journey, both boats and horses being very heavily laden with our stores and provisions. The river rose but little. Our day’s journey lay generally over an open forest country, with rich flats on either side of the river: high rocky limestone hills ended occasionally in abrupt points, obliging the horses to make considerable detours. The hills were very stony, and so light was the soil upon them, that the rain rendered the ground very soft. The river had many fine reaches, extending in straight lines from one to three miles, and of a corresponding breadth. The rapids, although frequent, offered no material obstruction to the boats. The current in the long reaches was scarcely perceptible, and it appears to me that the difference of elevation between this station and the last is not considerable.
June 8. — The river expanded into beautiful reaches, having great depth of water, and from two to three hundred feet broad, literally covered with water-fowl of different kinds: the richest flats bordered the river, apparently more extensive on the south side. The vast body of water which this river must contain in times of flood is confined within exterior banks, and its inundations are thus deprived of mischief. About six miles down the river, a freestone hill ended on the north side of the river: I mention this, as the only stone of that description I had yet seen. The trees were of the eucalyptus (apple tree), and on the hills a few of the callitris macrocarpa12 were seen: the trees would furnish large and useful timber. Between eight and nine miles lower, passed the mouth of Molle’s rivulet, now a fine stream. At four o’clock halted for the evening on rather an elevated spot, overlooking the rivulet, and a most luxuriant country, on the south side of the river, well clothed with wood. The boats, during this day’s work, met with no obstructions that were not easily avoided; the rapids were not so numerous, neither were they so shoal as in the vicinity of the depot. Our sportsmen provided us with plenty of kangaroos, and a swan.
12 Callitr. Vent decad.
June 9. — This day the river ran to the north-west by north; about six miles below our halting-place it received Mary’s River, a pretty little stream. The country on the north side which we passed over was of various description; the hills barren and stony, with dwarf eucalypti, or gums, casuarinae, and a few of the sterculia heterophylla; the country hilly and open: some of the flats on the banks of the river were extensive and rich, and apparently not subject to floods. On the south side of the river, the country was more generally a rich flat, backed by distant hills; to the south-west, stony eminences occasionally ended on the river. On the hills many specimens of agate, iron-stone, and jasper were procured, also some flint; the low stones of the river produced the same: abundance of fine freestone was every where seen. The general elevation of the country still continues high; the river pours along a vast body of water; there is no fresh in it, and it is not in any respect above its usual level. The rapids are caused by the river dividing into two channels, forming small islands; the water here runs with great rapidity on a rocky and stony bottom, but of considerable depth; the obstructions solely arising from trees which have been washed by the floods from the banks, and which on the subsidence of the water have remained in the narrows. The character of this river is in every respect different from the Lachlan; its waters are pure and transparent, with no marks of flood; it derives its source and continuance from springs and additional streams, and is in no way dependent upon rains for its permanent existence.
June 10. — Remained at this station for the purpose of refreshing the people and horses. Examined the country to the north-east for a few miles; it differed but little from that already passed over, in point of quality of soil, but was broken into irregular hills and valleys, without rising into any one distinguishing or remarkable hill: the surface of the country seemed elevated, and rising to the eastward. The soil for the most part a reddish light mould, the hills covered with small stones, the trees dwarf gum, box, a few cypresses and casuarinae; the soil well covered with grass. Kangaroos, fish, and swans, were the produce of this day’s sport, so that we enjoyed all the necessaries, and many of the luxuries of life.
June 11. — Proceeded down the river about eight miles, meeting with no obstructions of any consequence: the water had risen about a foot in the last night, and now ran with considerable rapidity, particularly in the narrows. It is by no means desirable that the river should rise any higher; there is abundance of water for our purposes, any addition would only partially cover the stumps of trees and increase our danger; at present we see and avoid them. After travelling six miles we came to a small river running from the eastward; there was at this time a fresh in it, so that we had to unload the horses and use the boats to transport our baggage over. It was three o’clock before we had got every thing across, we therefore halted for the evening. The country passed through was of the finest description, and apparently equally good on the opposite side; rich flats bounded by gentle hills were on each side of the small river, which received the name of Erskine River, after the present lieutenant governor of the colony. These flats were covered with the species of eucalyptus called apple tree, but (like the other trees) of small size. While we were employed in crossing the river, I rode up it about three miles through a similar country. I went to the north-east; the country gently rose, and was generally of an excellent soil, well watered and fit for all purposes of cultivation, with partial exceptions of stony and brushy ridges. Many hills and elevated flats were entirely clear of timber, and the whole had a very picturesque and park-like appearance. I hailed Erskine River as a good omen of ultimate success: it was the first stream we had met with falling from the eastward, and was a proof to me that the Macquarie was the natural reservoir or channel for the waters from the north-east, as I knew it to be from the south. We had as yet seen no inhabitants, and very few signs that the country is inhabited at all. Fish, flesh, and fowl are abundant, but there are no human beings to enjoy them but ourselves: native dogs are in considerable numbers, and keep up during the night a continual howling.
June 12. — We this day passed over a very beautiful country, thinly wooded, and apparently safe from the highest floods; the river had considerable windings, but was of noble width and appearance; the rapids were few, and offered no obstruction; its medium width from one hundred and fifty to two hundred and fifty feet, and in many reaches much more. On one of the higher back ridges there are some good iron bark trees, with abundance of cypress; the apple, blue gum, and box, were the principal trees growing on the flats. Kangaroos were in very great numbers: our dogs took four; they were of that species called by Dr. Smith macropus elegans, and are very rare on the east coast. The stones and rocks were generally hard whinstone, or freestone, the former in large masses; the beach, of pebbles of all colours and kinds, from quartz to sandstone. About a mile from our resting-place, we passed the mouth of the small rivulet named in the former journey Elizabeth’s Burn; the stream now in it was inconsiderable.
June 13. — Our route during this day’s journey was generally over a very level country, the land three or four miles back from the river very inferior to that on the borders of it, being covered with small trees and brush; the soil a light, red loam. The rich flats on the banks on either side were not flooded, and were of the best quality: these flats seemed more extensive on the south than the north side of the river, and were bounded by the fine hills, which were passed over on the return of the expedition last year. About five miles from our last night’s resting-place, we fell in with a small rivulet from the north-east, which I named after Major Taylor, of the 48th regiment. On the west side of it, we came suddenly upon a couple of native families; they, however, with the exception of an old man, and a boy who was up a tree, made their escape. No entreaties could bring the boy down; he seemed, in fact, as well as the old man, petrified with terror. The man was possessed of the remains of an iron tomahawk, which he had fitted as a mogo, or native axe. I think it probable he became possessed of this treasure through others of his countrymen who had visited the party in Wellington Vale, as it was clear he had never seen white people before. The man made repeated attempts to induce us to depart, which to his great joy we shortly did. The left side of this man’s body was one continued ulcer, occasioned most likely by a burn. The river wound upon every point of the compass, and its breadth was much contracted by shoals and rapids running over a rocky bottom: the stream ran with great velocity, and the boat experienced no interruptions. The banks were very high and wide, and although the marks of flood were observed to upwards of thirty feet, the waters were confined to the actual bed of the river, without flooding the lands on either side. Large masses of coarse granite were in the river where we stopped for the evening; it was of a different species from any we had hitherto seen, and the bases of the hills ending on the river seemed to be composed of it.
June 14.-I had determined to halt this day, for the purpose of verifying our situation by survey, but was prevented by rain of great violence throughout the day, accompanied by strong winds from the north-west; this confined us to our tents.
June 15. — Our journey lay over alternate rich flats and barren stony scrubs; the country irregular, and the banks much elevated: the land to the north-west and north, as far as we could see, (ten or twelve miles) broken into bare, irregular hills and valleys. On the south side of the river the flats were more extended; thick coppices, and tracts of barren land, were also observed on that side. About four miles down the river large blocks of granite were scattered in its bed, and formed the base of the surrounding hills, the tops of which were covered with different kinds of stone, cemented or fused together by the action of fire: many of those stones were beautifully crystallised, and the appearance of some kind of mineral was evident. The river sometimes swept along in fine reaches, then, becoming contracted into narrow rocky channels, rushed through those straits with extreme violence, rendering it difficult to steer the boats clear of the obstructions that presented themselves on every side: the large boat struck twice in those narrows. The water has fallen considerably, and it does not appear to be even now at its usual level; its quality is very hard. The granite we fell in with four miles below our last encampment was of a totally different species, being much finer and closer grained, with small black specks thickly intermingled in the mass; some freestone was also seen. The botany of the country was in all respects the same as observed on our journey homewards last year; the grassy nature of the herbage preventing any material addition to our collection. Kangaroos were in great numbers, and continued to furnish us with a welcome addition to our rations.
June 16. — Our day’s route was as usual over a very flat though rich country, thickly wooded with good timber of the eucalyptus and angophora species, with some fine cypresses in the looser soils, and back from the river. The country, although flat, appears considerably elevated, and is neither flooded nor swampy; the opposite side apparently of the same kind. We fell in with another small camp of natives; the women and children withdrew before we came up with them: among the men (seven in number) we recognised four whom we had seen on the last expedition at Mary’s Rivulet; the recognition was mutual, and they seemed highly pleased with it: they accompanied us about eight miles farther to our evening’s encampment, where being gratified with some kangaroo, and undergoing the operation of shaving, (at their earnest request, after seeing one of their number disencumbered of an immense beard) they left us at sunset to join their families, which were probably at no great distance. About four miles above our encampment, on the immediate banks of the river, we discovered a large mass of saponaceous earth; I at first took it to be a fine pipeclay, but on examination, it appears to possess all the valuable qualities of fuller’s earth; and a piece of woollen cloth being partially greased, and then rubbed over with the earth, the grease was perfectly extracted and the cloth left entirely clean. Among this earth, small white pieces of a hard marly substance were found, and appeared either to be pure lime, or to contain a very considerable portion of it. On one of the beaches a small shell was found, which was unanimously adjudged to be a marine production; at least, we had never before seen any fresh-water shell resembling it. The river fell during the last night and the course of this day very considerably, and is, I think, below its proper level; there is however an ample sufficiency of water for our boats: the chief dangers are from stumps and branches of trees in the narrows; and what previously to the great fall in the water we could have passed over without difficulty, now occasions us some anxiety and trouble. The course the river took to-day was considerably to the north.
June 17. — A very severe frost, the ice a quarter of an inch thick. About a mile down the river, we saw a native burial-place or tomb, not more than a month old; the characters carved on the trees were quite fresh: the tomb had no semicircular seats, but in other respects was similar to those seen on our last journey. The country still continued perfectly level, the greater part extremely good and rich; back from the river it was occasionally marshy, with barren rocky scrubs; the timber large, and generally good: we could not see beyond a mile on the opposite side, but the country there appeared much the same. One of the men, who was some distance ahead of the horses, saw a large party of the natives, who fled at his approach, and swam the river; there were upwards of twenty men, besides women and children: the moment they were safely across, they brandished their waddies and spears in token of defiance: this was the first time any of the natives were seen armed, or in any way hostilely inclined. The river ran to the north-west by north over a bottom of rock and sand: in point of depth, it was amply sufficient for much larger boats than ours; but it was impossible always to avoid concealed dangers, over which the waters did not cause the slightest ripple. The large boat struck on a sharp rock, and with such violence as to stave her bottom; she was immediately unladen, and temporarily repaired without injury to the cargo. Although the river is extremely low, there is a very large body of water in it; the outer banks are nearly a quarter of a mile wide, and far out of the reach of flood, the marks of which were, to our extreme astonishment, observed nearly fifty feet high. We have not seen during these last two days any hill or other eminence; the country within our sight and observation being perfectly level.
June. 18. — As we were on the point of setting forward, a large party of natives made their appearance on the opposite side of the river: they set up a most hideous and discordant noise, making signs, as well as we could understand them, for us to depart and go down the river. After beating their spears and waddies together for about a quarter of an hour, accompanied by no friendly gestures, they went away up the river, while we pursued our course in an opposite direction. We had hitherto met with no obstructions in the navigation, except such as arose from the wrecks of successive floods lodging in the narrows; these were easily overcome: the course of the river to-day for nearly six miles was a fine and even stream, from forty to fifty yards wide, and from eight to sixteen feet deep, over a bottom of rock and sandy gravel; when a reef of rocks at once interrupted our progress in the laden boats, the water breaking with such violence over them, that I was afraid they would be greatly endangered even when light. The horses had stopped at a cataract about three quarters of a mile lower down, and it appeared that the rocky shoal extended to that distance, when a fall of five feet over a bed of rocks would have stopped the boats altogether. The horses were immediately unladen and sent to bring the cargos of the two boats, which being accomplished, we got them safely over the shoals by the cataracts; when hauling them over land about two hundred yards, they were again launched into deep water. The country on either side during this days journey was by no means so good as it had hitherto generally been, being very brushy, and thickly timbered, chiefly with the species of eucalyptus called box, and another kind appearing to be different from those frequently observed. The banks of the river were very high; and, notwithstanding the country was perfectly level, it was far above the reach of any flood. The body of water falling over the cataract was surprising, the low state of the river being considered, and this incident instead of discouraging us increased our already sanguine hopes, that its termination would not deceive the expectations we could not avoid indulging.
June 19. — The boats during their progress this day did not experience any obstruction, the river winding in fine though narrow reaches, over a bottom of sand and occasionally rock; the depth from eight to sixteen feet. The country still continued perfectly level, but generally of excellent soil: two or three miles back from the river north-east, there were several extensive plains, without any timber on them, and in many places water was on the surface, probably occasioned by the heavy rain on the 14th instant; since these flats, and indeed all the country we had hitherto travelled over, were quite clear of any floods from the river. The banks of the river are, I think, ten or twelve feet lower than they are fifteen or twenty miles higher up; the floods evidently do not rise to so great a height, not exceeding, as far as we can judge, sixteen feet. I do not think the timber is either so large or so good as we had hitherto found it; but there is a great quantity of it, chiefly box, and a species of blue gum. Although at such a distance from the Lachlan, we have recognised most of the plants found in its vicinity: in all other respects the neighbourhood of the two rivers is totally dissimilar; and in nothing more observable than in the rivers themselves. The water in the river continues so extremely hard as to render it difficult to raise a lather from soap; it is also very pure and transparent.
June 20. — The night cold, a sharp frost congealing some standing water by the river’s side. The river rose upwards of a foot during the night, and still continues gradually to rise. Having gone upwards of one hundred and twenty-five miles from Wellington Valley, I thought it advisable that the two men who accompanied us for that purpose should return to Sydney with an account of our proceedings, agreeably to the governor’s instructions. Despatched two other men on horseback to the north-east, with directions to go as far as possible in that direction, and to return by sunset; which they did, and reported that they had been from fourteen to sixteen miles, through a very fine though level country: the brushes were of small extent, and communicated with the finest tracts, chiefly of forest land thinly wooded: no marks were seen of any floods either from the river or land side, and these flats were watered by chains of ponds or watercourses, which doubtless when overflowed communicate with the river. Abundance of kangaroos and emus.
June 21. — The result of the observation this day gave for our situation lat. 31. 49. 60. S., long. 147. 52. 15. E., and the variation 8. 22. E.
June 22. — Completed the necessary papers for the governor’s information, and made all ready to proceed on our journey tomorrow. The river in these last two days has risen between two and three feet.
June 23. — Having despatched Thomas Thatcher and John Hall to Bathurst, with an account of our progress, the expedition set forward down the river. For four or five miles there was no material change in the general appearance of the country from what it had been on the preceding days, but for the last six miles the land was very considerably lower, interspersed with plains clear of timber, and dry. On the banks it was still lower, and in many parts it was evident that the river floods swept over them, though this did not appear to be universally the case. The far greater part of the last six miles was covered with shrubs, and the acacia pendula. These unfavourable appearances threw a damp upon our hopes, and we feared that our anticipations had been too sanguine. The river continued nearly as before, but much narrower, and more winding, in some measure accounting for the great height of the floods which we observed fifty or sixty miles back, where the river was probably four times as wide: we missed with regret the striking characteristics which had hitherto distinguished it, the sandy and gravelly beaches, and rocky points; though there was certainly the same volume of water which had originally given me such strong hopes that it could never be dissipated over marshes. The banks are no more than twenty feet high in their most elevated places, and the probability is, that all our doubts, speculations, and hopes, will be clearly decided within the week; the soil is of the richest quality, but the flatness of the land, and want of any eminence, are great drawbacks upon the bounties of nature: not but there are numerous spaces above the reach of either land or river flood, which would offer secure retreats to the inhabitants of these singular regions. Several new birds were seen to-day of very beautiful plumage; none however were procured, so as to enable me to describe them. We also saw the crested pigeon, and grey and red parrot of the Lachlan; some fine and singular plants also enriched our collection: it would seem as if nature here delighted in wasting her most beautiful productions upon the “desert air,” rather than placing them in situations where they would become more easily accessible to the researches of science and taste.
June 24. — The country was still extremely flat, and perfectly overrun with acacias, dwarf box (eucalyptus), some species of suffruticore atriplex 13, and other shrubs; and intersected by nunumerous extensive lagoons now quite dry, but which when the river is about one-third full, convey the water back over vast plains and levels for the most part clear of every kind of brush, and on the fall of the waters these lagoons act as drains to the lands. The brushes were most numerous and perplexing in the neighbourhood of the river, a course we were obliged to keep, in order not to part company with the boats. The country two or three miles along the banks of the river was only partially flooded, the land being much lower at a greater distance from it; the most part of the soil was a rich, alluvial deposition from floods. Except on those clear plains which occasionally occurred on the sides of the river, we could seldom see beyond a quarter of a mile. Byrne, who was at the head of the hunting party, surprised an old native man and woman, the former digging for rats, or roots, the other lighting a fire: they did not perceive him till he was within a few yards of them, when the man threw his wooden spade at Byrne, which struck his horse; then taking his old woman by the hand, they set off with the utmost celerity, particularly when they saw the dogs, of which they seem to entertain great fears. In the evening, natives were heard on the opposite side of the river, but none came within view. There was no alteration in the appearance or size of the river during this day’s course; the banks were in no respect lower: it ran with great rapidity over a sandy bottom, and was from six to thirty feet deep; the water still clear, and remarkably hard.
13 Other genera of chenopodeae likewise exist on these plains, of which some salsolae, and that curious lanigerous shrub sclerolaena paradoxa of Mr. Brown, with spinous fruit, are most remarkable.
June 25. — The weather cold, but fine: the thermometer is about 28 degrees, and I think from this extraordinary degree of cold so far to the north, that notwithstanding the lowness of the surrounding country (as compared to its relative situation with the river), that we are still at a considerable elevation above the sea. In our last journey, three degrees farther south, we experienced at the same season no such cold, the weather being equally fine and clear as at present. The appearance of the country was much the same as yesterday; the whole ground we passed over being liable to flood, and covered with eucalyptus or gum tree, acacia pendula, and various other species of that extensive genus, one of which appeared quite new but not in flower. Four or five miles back from the river (east), the country rises and is not flooded, the soil being there much inferior, but covered with fine cypresses: notwithstanding this tract was much higher than that more immediately on the river, there was no eminence from which we could look around. The banks of the river are much lower than yesterday, scarcely exceeding twelve feet high; the floods are low in proportion, and I did not see any mark showing that the rise of water ever exceeded a foot above the banks. The river did not offer the slightest obstruction, and was from twenty to twenty-four feet deep. There is probably from two to three feet more in it than usual; the breadth varies considerably, in some places not more than sixty feet, in others two hundred. All the lagoons (though very deep), in the neighbourhood of the river are quite dry, and appearances indicate that the country has not been flooded for years. Emus and kangaroos are in abundance; but we have lately caught no fish, owing most likely to the coldness of the weather: various birds altogether unknown to us were seen; and although the leading plants were the same as those found through nearly the whole of Australia, new ones were daily met with. The river has continued inclining to the northward: its course to-day was north-north-west.
June 26. — The country this day was as various as can be imagined; low but not level; in some places covered with the acacia pendula, chenopodeae, and polygonum juncium; in others, with good gum and box trees. The whole, with few exceptions, appeared liable to flood. Four or five miles back the country imperceptibly rises, and is free from river floods; but the hollows, proceeding from the inequalities of its surface, are in rainy seasons the reservoirs of the land floods. The whole country was now perfectly dry, and must have been so for a long period: it would indeed have been impossible, had the season been wet, to have kept company with the boats. The river itself continues undiminished, and is a fine stream, with nothing to impede the navigation; its windings, however, are very considerable. The banks appear lower by nearly three feet than yesterday: there are still no marks of flood rising upon the land above a foot on either side: the depth of the stream is from twenty to twenty-four feet, breadth from sixty to one hundred and sixty, and its current is about a mile and a half per hour. The river has fallen yesterday and to-day nearly eighteen inches.
June 27. — The river continues to fall. We had gone about five miles through a country as low and brushy as usual, when we were agreeably surprised with the view of a small hill about a mile to the eastward: we hastened to it, in hopes that we should find that the country rose to the north-east; we however saw nothing but another hill still higher, about three miles to the north-north-west, in the direction of the river. The hill, or rather rock, we had just quitted, was about a quarter of a mile long by half a quarter broad, and about seventy feet high; it was nothing but granite, having the sides and summit covered with broken pieces of a fine and very compact species of the same mineral. We named it Welcome Rock; for any thing like an eminence was grateful to our sight. From the summit of the hill seen to the north-north-west our view was very extensive; but nothing indicated either a speedy change of country or a termination of the river. To the westward, the land was a perfect level, with clear spaces or marshes interspersed amidst the boundless desert of wood. To the east, a most stupendous range of mountains, lifting their blue heads above the horizon, bounded the view in that direction, and were distant at least seventy miles, the country appearing a perfect plain between us and them. From north-west to north-east nothing interrupted the horizontal view, except a hill similar to the one we were on, about five miles distant to the north-north-west. Extended as was our prospect, it did not afford much room for satisfactory anticipation; and there was nothing that gave us reason to believe that any stream, either from the east or west, joined the river for the next forty miles at least. The hill from which this view was taken was named Mount Harris, after my friend, who accompanied the expedition as a volunteer; that to the north-north-west, Mount Forster, after Lieutenant Forster, of the Navy; and the lofty range before mentioned to the eastward was distinguished by the name of Arbuthnot’s Range, after the Right Hon. C. Arbuthnot, of His Majesty’s Treasury. The two first mentioned hills are entirely of granite, from one and a half to two miles long, by half a mile to one mile wide: their formation must be considered a most singular geological phenomenon, detached as they are by an immense space from all mountainous ranges, and rising from the midst of a soft alluvial soil. Small pieces of granite were in several places thrown into heaps, as if by human means; and their whole surfaces were covered with similar pieces, detached from the solid mass to which they had once belonged. If I might hazard a conjecture, I should attribute to them a volcanic origin: I think, on examination, their constituent parts will be found to have undergone the action of fire, by which they have been fused together. To those conversant in the structure of the earth, and with the means used by nature to accomplish her purposes, these singular hills may offer a subject for curious inquiry. The natives appear numerous in these regions of apparent desolation: we fell in with several parties in the course of the day, in the whole probably not less than forty, and many fires were seen to the north. Being a mile or two ahead of our party in a thick brush, I came suddenly upon three men; two ran off with the greatest speed; the third, who was older and a little lame, first threw his firestick at me, and next (seeing me still advance) a waddie, but with such agitation, that though not more than a dozen paces distant, he missed both me and my horse. I returned to my party, and in company with them surprised the native camp; we found there eight women and twelve children, just on the point of departing with their infants in their cloaks on their backs: on seeing us, they seized each other by the hand, formed a circle, and threw themselves on the ground, with their heads and faces covered. Unwilling to add to their evident terror, we only remained a few minutes, during which time the children frequently peeped at us from beneath their clothes; indeed, they seemed more surprised than alarmed: the mothers kept uttering a low and mournful cry, as if entreating mercy. In the camp were several spears, or rather lances, as they were much too ponderous to be thrown by the arm; these were jagged: there were also some elamongs (shields), clubs, chisels, and several workbags filled with every thing necessary for the toilet of a native belle; namely, paint and feathers, necklaces of teeth, and nets for the head, with thread formed of the sinews of the opossum’s tail for making their cloaks. The men belonging to the camp were heard shouting at no great distance: their affection for their families was not, however, sufficiently powerful to induce them to attempt their rescue from the hands of such unfabulous centaurs, as we doubtless appeared to them. The boats met with no interruption, the river continuing a fine and even stream, running at the rate of a mile and a half per hour: it was in places very narrow, and our astonishment would have been excited that such a channel should contain the powerful body of water falling into it, if we had not found its medium depth to be from twenty to thirty feet. The height of the banks is not more than seven feet above the water, and they appeared to have been flooded to that height. It did not seem that back from the river, beyond three or four miles, the country was ever flooded, except by the waters which would fall on its surface in rainy seasons; it was, however, now quite dry, and the hollows of the surface bore evidence of a long continued drought. The course of the river still continued to the north-north-west. The rocks composing Mount Harris are apparently basaltic, the whole seeming to have been shot up in points. the angles of which are complete. The stones are very heavy and compact, and when dashed against each other were extremely sonorous.
June 28. — Remained here this day for the purpose of rest and refreshment: the grass and country poor, and covered with acacia trees and small eucalypti in our immediate vicinity. Despatched two men to view the country to the north-east. The botanical collector crossed the river and ascended Mount Forster, on which he was fortunate enough to procure many plants seemingly new: he thought he saw a branch of the river separating from it and running to the north-west, whilst the river itself continued to go northerly. The account brought by the men in the evening was far from flattering; they had been out ten or twelve miles to the north and east, and found the country as bad as can be imagined; in fact, a dry morass, with higher land, free from floods, but overrun with brushes, among which a few pines were scattered: they saw no water, and but little game of any kind.
June 29. — As we proceeded down the river, the country gradually became much lower in its immediate vicinity; and between four and five miles from our resting-place it was even with the banks, and in some places overflowed them. All travelling near the river with horses was at once interrupted, and this was the more perplexing as it rendered the communication with the boats uncertain, and liable to be cut off altogether. Finding that those marshes were only impassable for a mile or little more from the river, and that occasionally we could approach within one hundred yards of it, the horses were directed to keep round the edge of them, making for the river whenever practicable, and firing guns to let the boats know our situation. At two o’clock in the after. noon we stopped, after going about ten miles and a half, about one hundred and fifty yards from the river. which we could not approach nearer by reason of wet and boggy marshes; in fact, the place where we stopped is of the same description, but now (fortunately for us) dry. The country north-east of us, along the dry edge of which we were obliged to keep, is as bad as possible, being in wet seasons full of water-holes, and consequently impassable. The river still continues undiminished, as we find that the branches and small streams that frequently run from it join it again at short distances, and that they owe their existence at this time to the full state of the river, which is certainly some feet above its usual level. The breadth and depth of the river were various throughout the day: in the places where it overflowed its banks, there was not more than from ten to twelve feet; in others, where it ran very broad, but was confined within them, fifteen feet; and in narrower places, under the same circumstances, upwards of twenty feet. Thus it seemed to vary with the capacity of the channel to contain its waters, which were very muddy, the current running at a medium rate of a mile per hour. The boats arrived at about half past four o’clock, meeting nothing to interrupt them.
June 30. — After making every arrangement that we could devise to ensure our keeping company with the boats, we proceeded down the river. Our progress was, however, interrupted much sooner than I anticipated; for we had scarcely gone six miles, and never nearer to the river than from one to two miles, when we perceived that the waters which had overflowed the banks were spreading over the plains on which we were travelling, and that with a rapidity which precluded any hope of making the river again to the north-west by north, in which direction we imagined it to run for some distance, when its course appeared to take a more northerly direction. Our situation did not admit of hesitation as to the steps we were to pursue. Our journey had, in fact, been continued longer than strict prudence would have warranted, and the safety of the whole party was now at stake: no retreat presented itself except the station we left in the morning, and even there it was impossible that we could, with any regard to prudence, remain longer than to carry the arrangements which I had in contemplation into effect. The horses were therefore ordered back, and two men succeeded, after wading through the water to the middle, in making the river about three miles below the place they set out from. Fortunately the boats had not proceeded so far, and on their coming up were directed to return. The boats arrived at sunset, having had to pull against a strong current. The river itself continued, as usual, from fifteen to twenty-five feet deep, the waters which were overflowing the plains being carried thither by a multitude of little streams, which had their origin in the present increased height of the waters above their usual level. The river continued undiminished, and presented too important a body of water to allow me to believe that those marshes and low grounds had any material effect in diffusing and absorbing it: its ultimate termination, therefore, must be more consonant to its magnitude. These reflections on the present undiminished state of the river would of themselves have caused me to pause before I hastily quitted a pursuit from the issue of which so much had naturally been expected. For all practical purposes, the nature of the country precluded me from indulging the hope, that even if the river should terminate in an inland sea, it could be of the smallest use to the colony. The knowledge of its actual termination, if at all attainable, was, however, a matter of deep importance, and would tend to throw some light on the obscurity in which the interior of this vast country is still involved. My ardent desire to investigate as far as possible this interesting question, determined me to take the large boat, and with four volunteers to proceed down the river as long as it continued navigable; a due regard being had to the difficulties we should have to contend with in returning against the stream. I calculated that this would take me a month; at all events, I determined to be provided for that period, which indeed was the very utmost that could be spared from the ulterior object of the expedition.
July 1. — The water not rising. Employed in making every preparation to proceed on the voyage down the river to-morrow morning. On mature deliberation, it was resolved that on my departure, the horses with the provisions should return back to Mount Harris, a distance of about fifteen miles, as the safety of the whole would be endangered by a longer stay at this station, and to that point I fixed to return with the large boat. It was determined, that during my absence Mr. Evans should proceed to the north-east from fifty to sixty miles, and return upon a more northerly course, in order that we might be prepared against any difficulties that might occur in the first stages of a journey to the north-east coast. The only one which I contemplated in a serious point of view, was the probable want of water until we came in contact with high land, and I hoped this might be partially provided against by Mr. Evans’s expedition. The horses were all in good condition, and, from the length of time I expected to be absent, the baggage would be reduced to the smallest possible compass, and the cooper would have time to diminish the pork casks, which were far too heavy for the horses, being intended for boats only; for it had not been contemplated that the nature of the country would so soon deprive us of water carriage.
July 2. — I proceeded down the river, during one of the wettest and most stormy days we had yet experienced. About twenty miles from where I set out, there was, properly speaking, no country; the river overflowing its banks, and dividing into streams which I found had no permanent separation from the main branch, but united themselves to it on a multitude of points. We went seven or eight miles farther, when we stopped for the night upon a space of ground scarcely large enough to enable us to kindle a fire. The principal stream ran with great rapidity, and its banks and neighbourhood, as far as we could see, were covered with wood, encreasing us within a margin or bank. Vast spaces of country clear of timber were under water, and covered with the common reed14, which grew to the height of six or seven feet above the surface. The course and distance by the river was estimated to be from twenty-seven to thirty miles, on a north-north-west line.
14 Arundo phragmites. Linn.
July 3. — Towards the morning the storm abated, and at daylight we proceeded on our voyage. The main bed of the river was much contracted, but very deep, the waters spreading to the depth of a foot or eighteen inches over the banks, but all running on the same point of bearing. We met with considerable interruption from fallen timber, which in places nearly choked up the channel. After going about twenty miles, we lost the land and trees: the channel of the river, which lay through reeds, and was from one to three feet deep, ran northerly. This continued for three or four miles farther, when although there had been no previous change in the breadth, depth, and rapidity of the stream for several miles, and I was sanguine in my expectations of soon entering the long sought for Australian sea, it all at once eluded our farther pursuit by spreading on every point from north-west to north-east, among the ocean of reeds which surrounded us, still running with the same rapidity as before. There, was no channel whatever among those reeds, and the depth varied from three to five feet. This astonishing change (for I cannot call it a termination of the river), of course left me no alternative but to endeavour to return to some spot, on which we could effect a landing before dark. I estimated that during this day we had gone about twenty-four miles, on nearly the same point of bearing as yesterday. To assert positively that we were on the margin of the lake or sea into which this great body of water is discharged, might reasonably be deemed a conclusion which has nothing but conjecture for its basis; but if an opinion may be permitted to be hazarded from actual appearances, mine is decidedly in favour of our being in the immediate vicinity of an inland sea, or lake, most probably a shoal one, and gradually filling up by immense depositions from the higher lands, left by the waters which flow into it. It is most singular, that the high-lands on this continent seem to be confined to the sea-coast, or not to extend to any great distance from it.
July 7. — I returned with the boat late last night, and was glad to find that every thing had been removed to Mount Harris. Mr. Evans had not yet set out on his journey, but intends to do so to-morrow.
July 8. — Mr. Evans set forward to the north-east, taking with him eight or ten days’ provisions, which I hoped would be sufficient to enable him to form a competent idea of the country we should now have to travel over. In the mean time we employed ourselves in diminishing our baggage, and setting aside eighteen weeks’ provisions on a reduced ration, which was the utmost the horses could take; the remainder serving us for consumption during our stay here.
July 18. — During the last week the weather was very variable and unsettled, with constant gales from the north-west round to the south-west, and occasional heavy rain. We had reason to congratulate ourselves on the change of our situation: a delay of a few days would have swept us from the face of the earth. On the 10th, the river began to rise rapidly, and on the 15th, in the evening it was at its height, laying the whole of the low country under water, and insulating us on the spot on which we were; the water approaching within a few yards of the tent. Nothing could be more melancholy and dreary than the scene around us; and although personally safe, we could not contemplate without anxiety the difficulties we might expect to meet with, in passing over a country which the waters would leave wet and marshy, if not impracticable. By this morning the waters had retired as rapidly as they had risen, leaving us an outlet to the eastward, though I feared that to the north-east the waters would still remain. In the evening Mr. Evans returned, after an interesting though disagreeable journey. His horses were completely worn out by the difficulties of the country they had travelled over. His report, which I shall give at length, decided me as to the steps that were now to be pursued; and I determined on making nearly an easterly course to the river which he had discovered, and which was now honoured with the name of Lord Castlereagh. This route would take us over a drier country, and the river being within a short distance of Arbuthnot’s range, would enable me to examine from those elevated points the country to the north-east and east; and to decide how far it might be advisable to trace the river, which it is my present inclination to do as long as its course continues to the eastward of north. From Mr. Evans’s Journal, it will be perceived that the waters of the Macquarie have flowed to the north-east, and still continued flowing among the reeds, which forced him to alter his course. The circumstance of the river and other large bodies of water crossed by Mr. Evans all flowing to the north, seems to bear out the conclusion that these waters have but one common reservoir.
July 19. — A tempestuous night, with thunder, lightning, and rain. Impressed with the important use we should be able to make of our boats, it was determined to construct a carriage for the small one, which we did by the afternoon. Our labour was wasted; for we were altogether unable to contrive any harness by which the horses could draw it: we were therefore reluctantly obliged to relinquish our intention.
July 20. — The morning was fine; and after much contrivance, we succeeded in taking with us whatever was essential to our future security, and the whole of the provisions except two casks or flour. The horses were, however, very heavily laden, carrying at least three hundred and fifty pounds each; a weight which I was fearful the description of country we had to pass over would render still more burthensome. We had, however, relinquished every thing that was not indispensable, and the saddle horses were equally laden with the others. Mount Harris, under which we had remained for the last fortnight, is in lat. 31. 18. S., long. 147. 31. E. and variation 7. 48. On the summit of the hill we buried a bottle, containing a written scheme of our purposed route and intentions, with some silver coin. Our course during the day was east by north, by compass, over a level country intersected with marshes, over which the horses travelled with the utmost difficulty, and not without repeated falls. Considering how heavily they were laden, I was unwilling to press them at this early period of our journey, and halted after going seven miles on the above course. From Mount Harris, bearings were taken to the most remarkable elevations in Arbuthnot’s Range, as follows:
Mount Exmouth, (northern extreme of the range) N. 79. E. Mount Harrison, (centre) N. 85. E. Vernon’s Peake N. 88. E.
July 21 — Proceeded on the same course, through a country of alternate brush and marsh: whatever obstacles the former opposed to the progress of the horses, were nothing to the distress occasioned by the latter, in which they sank up to their knees at every step; I could not suffer them to proceed farther than seven miles, which, indeed, was not accomplished without severe labour. It is a singular feature in this remarkable country, that the botany and soil are in all respects the same as two hundred and fifty miles farther to the south-west, presenting nothing new to our researches. Passed a very large chain of ponds now running to the north-east, and named them Wallis’s Ponds, after my friend, Captain Wallis, of the 46th regiment.
July 22. — We passed over much the same country as yesterday, but having a large proportion of cypress forest. After travelling nearly ten miles, we halted on the edge of a very extensive flat, from three to four miles in diameter, covered with water. From this plain we had an excellent view of Arbuthnot’s Range, which, from so low and level a country, appears of vast height. The horses failed much during the day, and several of them were severely wrung with their burthens.
July 23. — The weather continues remarkably fine and favourable to our progress over these plains. Our course to-day was chiefly through a thick brush of acacia and cypresses; a few trees of the eucalyptus and casuarina were intermixed. The marshy ground was not so frequent, and we effected between eight and nine miles, when we stopped on a small chain of ponds but now a running strean, doubtless having its rise in the marshy grounds a few miles south of us: its course was to the north. We saw and shot several unknown birds within these few days, but the botanical sameness continues. These ponds were named Morrissett’s Ponds, after Capt. Morrissett, of the 48th regiment.
July 24. — About a mile and a half from last night’s station, we crossed another small stream similar in all respects to Morrissett’s Ponds. Our course was alternately over wet flats and dry brushes; but in the latter we met with difficulties which we did not anticipate, namely, dry bogs of a most dangerous description; they are from thirty to forty yards broad, and the apparent firmness of their surface treacherously conceals the danger beneath. One was discovered before the horses were too far advanced to retreat, and by unlading them, we passed safely over.
The horses were upon the other before we discovered the extent of our danger, and it was only by instantly cutting away their loads and harness, and by the exertion of all hands, that they were dragged out; but they were so exhausted by the struggles they had themselves made, that I found it would be highly imprudent to proceed farther, though we had only gone five miles and a half. Such of the horses as had not come up, their loads being carried over, crossed the bog half a mile higher, where the ground was somewhat firmer. We had this day the misfortune to find two of our horses much strained in their hind quarters. The soil of the brushes is in general a light, sandy loam; on the plains it is an alluvial mould, on a substratum of clay: the water on these plains is seldom deeper than the ankles, but travelling over them is very wearisome. Arbuthnot’s Range was in sight during the whole day. The country was so generally level, that it was impossible to discern any inequality in it. The waters however, ran with a pretty brisk stream northerly.
July 25. — At nine o’clock we set forward with anxious hopes of reaching Castlereagh River in the course of the day; we struggled for nine miles through a line of country that baffles all description: we were literally up to the middle in water the whole way, and two of the horses were obliged to be unladen to get them over quicksand bogs. Finding a place sufficiently dry to pitch our tent on, though surrounded by water, we halted, both men and horses being too much exhausted to proceed farther. Mr. Evans thinking we could not be very far from the river, went forwards a couple of miles, when he came upon its banks. This same river, which last Wednesday week had been crossed without any difficulty, was now nearly on a level with its first or inner bank: and its width and rapidity precluded all hope of our being able to cross it until its subsidence. This was most perplexing intelligence, our situation being such that we could neither retreat nor advance beyond the bank of the river, which Mr. Evans represented as being both higher and drier ground, and to all appearance sufficiently elevated to protect us from the flood should it increase: thither I determined to remove in the morning, and to take such further measures as might be deemed advisable in our present hazardous situation. Since Mr. Evans re-crossed the river, we have had no rain in our immediate neighbourhood sufficient to cause the sudden rise, which therefore must be attributed to heavy falls among the mountains to the east-south-east, from whence I have no doubt it derives its source. It was most providential that Mr. Evans and his companions crossed the river when they did; a single day might have proved fatal to them. We would fain lessen to our own imagination the dangers which surround us, and eagerly grasp at every circumstance that tends in any way to enliven our future prospects. That Providence, whose protection has hitherto been so beneficently extended to us, will, we confidently hope, continue that protection, and lead us in safety to our journey’s end.
Owing most probably to the violent motion it experienced, my chronometer stopped: this accident was the more to be lamented, as the watch with which I was furnished by the crown had also stopped, and we had now nothing to regulate our time by.
July 26. — We passed a dreadful night; the elements seemed to be bursting asunder, and we were almost deluged with rain. Towards noon the weather partially cleared tip. Our design of moving was however rendered abortive: we found it impossible to bring the horses near the tents to lade them, and the rain recommencing with great violence, continued throughout the day. An inmate of an alarming description took up its lodging in our tent during the last night, probably washed out of its hole by the rain: a large diamond snake was discovered coiled up among the flour bags, four or five feet from the doctor’s bed.
July 27. — This morning the weather cleared up just in time to enable us to retreat to the river banks in safety, for we were washed out of the tent. The provisions and heavy baggage were carried by the people to a firmer spot of ground, at which place the horses being lightly laden, we got every thing transported to the river by one o’clock. Castlereagh River is certainly a stream of great magnitude; its channel is divided by numerous islands covered with trees: it measured in its narrowest part one hundred and eighty yards, and the flood that had now risen in it was such as to preclude any attempt to cross it. The outer banks were good firm land, apparently free from floods, and extending not more on this side than a quarter of a mile, when it became wet and marshy: the banks were from twelve to seventeen feet high, and gradually sloped to the water. The trees on this firm margin of land were a species of eucalyptus, cypresses, and the sterculia heterophylla, with a few casuarinae. This river doubtless discharges itself into that interior gulf, in which the waters of the Macquarie are merged: to that river it is in no respect inferior, and when the banks are full, the body of water in it must be even still more considerable. Towards evening I thought the waters were falling, which was an event we anxiously looked for, to enable us to proceed to Arbuthnot’s Range, from the heights of which we hoped for an interesting view. Natives appear to be numerous; their guniahs (or bark-huts) are in every direction, and by their fire-places several muscle-shells of the same kind as those found on the Lachlan and Macquarie Rivers were seen. Game (kangaroos and emus), frequenting the dry banks of the river, were procured in abundance.
July 28. — The river during the night had risen upwards of eight feet; and still continued rising with surprising rapidity, running at the rate of from five to six miles per hour, bringing down with it great quantities of driftwood and other wreck. The islands were all deeply covered, and the whole scene was peculiarly grand and interesting. The sudden rise probably was caused by the heavy rains of the preceding days; but great must be the sources from whence so stupendous a body of water is supplied, and equally grand must be that reservoir, which is capable of containing such an accumulation of water as is derived from this and the Macquarie Rivers; not to mention the supplies from the occasional streams which had their sources in the marshes which we have crossed. The water was so extremely thick and turbid, that we could not use it; but were forced to send back to the marshes for what we wanted. At night, the river seemed at its greatest height.
July 29. — The waters this day subsided rapidly. It is evident that there has been no flood in the river for a very considerable period prior to the present one, there being no marks of wreck or rubbish on the trees or banks. Now the quantity of matter is astonishing, and, such as must take some years to remove. The rapid rise and fall in the water would seem to indicate that neither its source nor its embouchure can be at any great distance. The former is probably not far east of Arbuthnot’s Range.
August 2. — It was not until this morning that the river had fallen sufficiently to allow us to ford it. Though the morning was unpromising with slight rain, it was not deemed prudent to lose a moment in passing it, while in our power; and by one o’clock every thing was safely over, to our great satisfaction. Before this, it had begun to rain hard, and it continued to do so throughout the day, and great part of the night. Our observations place this part of Castlereagh River in lat. 31. 14. 14. S., long. 148. 18. E., variation 8. 14. E.
August 3. — A dark cloudy morning. At nine o’clock proceeded on our eastern course towards Arbuthnot’s Range. The river had risen in the night so considerably, that had we delayed until this morning, we should have been unable to pass it. The rain had rendered the ground so extremely soft and boggy, that we found it impossible to proceed above three-quarters of a mile on our eastern course. We therefore returned, resolving to keep close to the river’s edge, until we should be enabled to sound the vein of quagmire, with which we appeared to be hemmed in. In this attempt we were equally unfortunate, the horses falling repeatedly: one rolled into the river, and it was with difficulty we saved him: my baggage was on him, and was entirely spoiled; the chart case and charts were materially damaged, and our spare thermometer broken: we therefore unladed the horses where they stood, and the men carried the provisions to a firmer spot, where they were reladen. We again proceeded easterly, and for upwards of a mile we travelled up to our knees in water and mud: the horses were here stopped by running waters from the marshes, encircling a spot of comparatively dry ground; they were again unladen, and with the utmost difficulty we got every thing safe over. Both men and horses were so much exhausted by the constant labour they had undergone, that I determined to halt, in order to restore our baggage to some order. Our ardent hopes are fixed upon the high lands of Arbuthnot’s Range, which I estimate to be about twenty miles off. The intermediate country, we fear, will be one continued morass.
August 4. — Proceeded on our journey. In the seven miles and a half which we accomplished to-day, the water and bog were pretty equally divided; and a plain covered with the former was a great relief both to men and horses, since an apparently dry brush, or forest, was found a certain forerunner of quicksands and bogs. The natives appear pretty numerous: one was very daring, maintaining his ground at a distance armed with a formidable jagged spear and club, which he kept beating against each other, making the most singular gestures and noises that can be imagined: he followed us upwards of a mile, when he left us, joining several companions to the right of us. Emus and kangaroos abound, and there is a great diversity of birds, some of which have the most delightful notes, particularly the thrush.
August 5. — At three o’clock we were obliged to give up all attempts to proceed farther this day; it was with the utmost difficulty we accomplished six miles: for the last half mile, the horses were not on their legs for twenty yards together. This, too, was in the middle of an apparently dry forest of iron bark and cypress trees: the surface gave way but little to the human tread, but the horses were scarcely on it before the water sprang at every step, and the ground sank with them to their girths. In this dilemma, it was agreed to rest for the night, and in the morning endeavour to proceed to the nearest hill, which appeared to be distant about two miles and a half, with very light loads upon the best track we could find, and then return for the remainder of the baggage and stores. A foreknowledge of the difficulties we should have to encounter would certainly have prevented me from attempting to reach these mountains; the nature of this country baffles all reasonable expectation and conjecture, and that which appears one thing at a distance, has a quite different form and aspect when more nearly approached. Neither rivers, brushes, nor marshes, seem to make the least difference in the vegetation of this singular tract: a dreary uniformity pervades alike its geology and its botany.
August 6. — At eight o’clock the horses set forward with half the baggage; with considerable difficulty they at length reached the hill, and were immediately sent back for the remainder of the stores. The hill was about three miles from our camp, and from it a view of Arbuthnot’s Range was obtained, distant nine or ten miles: its elevated points were extremely lofty, and of a dark, barren, and gloomy appearance; the rocks were of a dark grey, approaching to black, and from their crevices, a few stunted trees protruded themselves. It was half past three o’clock before every thing was removed to the foot of the hill, when it was much too late to think of proceeding, anxious as we were to arrive at the main range itself. We killed this day one of the largest kangaroos we had seen in any part of New South Wales, being from one hundred and fifty to one hundred and eighty pounds weight. These animals live in flocks like sheep; and I do not exaggerate, when I say that some hundreds were seen in the vicinity of this hill; it was consequently named Kangaroo Hill: several beautiful little rills of water have their source in it, but are soon lost in the immeasurable morass at its base.
August 7. — About a mile from Kangaroo Hill, after crossing a marshy plain, we came to a limestone rock, spreading in smaller pieces over a low hill. It is somewhat remarkable, that this stone should again be found precisely under the same meridian as seen on the Lachlan and Macquarie Rivers: the same stratum appears to have run from south to north, upwards of two hundred miles. This hill is certainly its northern termination, since beyond it the low and marshy plains of the interior commence. At one o’clock we arrived under the hill which Mr. Evans had previously ascended: at this spot I intended to remain a couple of days, as well to refresh the horses, as for the purpose of ascending Mount Exmouth, from whence I promised myself an extensive view of the country over which our intended route lay. On ascending the hill before mentioned, I was surprised with the remarkable effect which the situation appeared to have on the compass. The station I had chosen was the highest part, and nearly the centre of the hill; placing the compass on the rock before me, the card flew round with extreme velocity, and then suddenly settled at opposite points, the north point becoming the south. Astonished at such a phenomenon, I made the following observations. The compass on the rock, Mount Exmouth, bore S. 60. W. (its true bearing being N. 75. E.), and on raising it gradually to the eye, the card was violently agitated, and the same point now bore N. 67. E. About one hundred yards farther south, the compass was again placed on the rock; the effect on the compass was very different, Mount Exmouth bore E. 48. S., and the tent in the valley beneath S. 74. W. The card on raising the compass was rather less agitated than before, and from the eye, Mount Exmouth bore N. 77. E., and the tent S. 15. W., the true bearing of the latter being S. 13 1/2. W. Thus the magnetic fluid seemed on this spot to have less influence on the needle, than on the spot where its power was first observed; and at a short distance from the base of the hill the needle regained its natural position. The rocks, when broken, were of a dark iron grey: they did not appear to contain any iron, for when tried at the tent, the magnet had no power over them. I could not discern any regular stratum of rock, the hill being covered with large detached stones, many of which formed figures of five and six sides: the evening was too far advanced to permit any farther observations to be made.15 Observed the variation of the needle by azimuth, to be 6. 22. E.
15 The island of Cannay, one of the Hebrides, affects the needle in a nearly similar manner. A rock in it is named The Loadstone Rock.
August 8. — We set off early this morning to ascend Mount Exmouth, distant four or five miles: at its base we crossed a pretty stream of water, having its source in the Mount; it took us nearly two hours of hard labour to ascend its rugged summits: we were however amply gratified for our trouble by the extensive prospect we had of the surrounding country. Directing our view to the west, Mount Harris and Mount Forster, whose elevations do not exceed from two to three hundred feet, were distinctly seen at a distance of eighty-nine miles. These two spots excepted, from the south to the north it was a vast level, resembling the ocean in extent and appearance. From east-north-east to south, the country was broken and irregular; lofty hills arising from the midst of lesser elevations, their summits crowned with perpendicular rocks, in every variety of shape and form that the wildest imagination could paint. To this grand and picturesque scenery, Mount Exmouth presented a perpendicular front of at least one thousand feet high, when its descent became more gradual to its base in the valley beneath, its total elevation being little less than three thousand feet. To the north-east commencing at N. 33. E., and extending to N. 51. E., a lofty and magnificent range of hills was seen lifting their blue heads above the horizon. This range was honoured with the name of the Earl of Hardwicke, and was distant on a medium from one hundred to one hundred and twenty miles: its highest elevations were named respectively Mount Apsley, and Mount Shirley. The country between Mount Exmouth and this bounding range was broken into rugged hills, and apparently deep valleys, and several minor ranges of hills also appeared. The high lands from the east and south-east gradually lessened to the north-west, when they were lost in the immense levels, which bound the interior abyss of this singular country; the gulf in which both water and mountain seem to be as nothing. Mount Exmouth seems principally composed of iron-stone; and some of the richest ore I had yet seen was found upon it. On its sides were many different stones; but its perpendicular cliffs were of a dark bluish grey colour, shining when broken, very heavy, and close grained. Mount Harris, and Mount Exmouth, are composed of distinct materials, and in their formation bear not the slightest resemblance to each other; the granite of the former being more allied to the hills to the south-south-east of it, from which however it is distant at least one hundred miles, a perfect level filling up the intermediate space. Many new, and otherwise interesting subjects of the indigenous botany were discovered on the hills: among which were a species of persoonia, not previously observed, some xanthorrhaeae or grass trees, and two or three coast plants. The heteromorphous sterculia of the interior, and some species of eucalyptus of very stunted growth covered its sides, which however for a considerable distance were not deficient in grass. Sandstone was found in large masses in the rivulet at its base, with pebbles of various colours, and of species none of which was found on the mount itself. It was near four o’clock before we returned to the tent, highly gratified with our excursion.
August 9. — In the course of the day, I again ascended Loadstone Hill, and repeated the experiments made on Friday, with the same results. Several different stations on the summit were tried, and the needle was variously affected; the spot where the phenomenon was first observed seemed to have the greatest effect on the needle. A common sewing needle was strongly rubbed with a magnet, and balanced on the point of the rock, when it was much agitated, and the point flew round from the north to the south. The needle of the circumferenter, taken out of the box, was affected in a similar manner, only that when balanced on the rock, the fluid did not possess sufficient power to turn the point more than one point of the circle instead of quite round, as when balanced in the compass box. A compound magnet was laid on the rock, and applied to it in different ways, but it did not seem in any manner affected by the power which had so surprised us with its effect on the compass. The weather within the last week has become perceptibly warmer: the thermometer being seldom under 70 degrees at noon. The fires of the natives were seen at no great distance from us; and they seem to attend upon our motions pretty closely. The observations made here placed us in lat. 31. 13. S., long. 148. 41. 30. E., and I estimate the mean variation to be about 7 1/2 easterly. We found that no reliance could be placed on bearings taken with the compass on heights in this vicinity, and I am fearful that the bearings taken from Mount Exmouth will require verification, a difference of 4 degrees being observed in some, when compared with other bearings, which could not be supposed to be affected by the magnetic fluid.
August 10. — Proceeded on our journey: our course for the first six or seven miles being to the north-north-east, and afterwards north-east half east, which latter course I intended to steer for some time. It was the best day’s travelling we had experienced since quitting the Macquarie River, being generally over low strong ridges, the sides and summits of some of which were very thick brush of cypress trees, and small shrubs, particularly the last two miles. We stopped for the evening in an extensive low valley north of Mount Exmouth, and running under its base, bounded on the north-east by low forest hills. To the south the hills were rocky, abrupt, and precipitous. On the whole we accomplished eleven miles.
August 11. — Our route lay over low valleys of considerable extent of open forest ground, but so soft and boggy, that it was with difficulty we made any progress: it would seem that much rain had fallen here lately, and completely saturated the soil, which is a light, sandy mould. In these valleys there are small streams of water, having their origin in the surrounding hills; they all terminate northerly. We could accomplish but seven miles on a north-east by east course. In the evening we had an awful storm of thunder and lightning, accompanied with torrents of rain. The reverberation of sound among the hills was astonishing. The natives continue in our vicinity unheeded, and unheeding: even the noise of their mogo upon the trees is a relief from the otherwise utter loneliness of feeling we cannot help experiencing in these desolate wilds.
August 12. — We found that we could not maintain our direct course, as the low ground was so boggy, that the horses were altogether unable to move on it. Keeping therefore the banks of the little stream where the ground was firmer, we reached the chain of hills bounding the valley to the southward: we wound along the base of the hills on a variety of courses, not being able to quit them twenty yards without being bogged. Finding that the hills trended too much to the south-west, we kept down the bed of a small stream for two or three miles, and halted on a fine apple tree flat of rich land, watered by a very fine small stream, which was joined by the one we came down. The main strewn ran to the northward. The apple tree flats are uniformly of firm hard ground, while the soil on which grow the iron-bark, pine, and box, is as invariably a loose sand, rendered by the rain a perfect quicksand. These bogs are the more provoking, as without such impediments the country is clear and open, and as favourable for travelling over as could be wished: we have had any thing but a dry season, and it is to the heavy rain which might naturally be expected to fall near high mountains, that our present difficulties must be ascribed. We travelled between nine and ten miles, but our course made good was nearly south-east only five miles. A few new plants were found: the hills were a mere bed of iron ore.
August 13. — We proceeded at our usual hour; and did not halt till near sunset, but accomplished no more than six miles, in the course of which the horses were obliged to be unladen, and the men carried the loads upwards of half a mile before the horses could be got across the quicksands. They are indeed properly so termed, consisting of two or three inches of light mould, on about eighteen inches of loose sand, the whole covering a rocky or stony bottom. On treading on them, water would fly up several inches; and it was with difficulty men could pass over them, much less horses. Quicksands of a similar nature prevented our reaching a small creek running under a high craggy ridge of hills; we therefore stopped at the edges of them, every body completely worn out. The appearance of the country passed over was most desolate and forbidding, but quite open, interspersed with miserable rocky crags, on which grew the cypress and eucalyptus. On the more level portions of the country, a new and large species of eucalyptus, and another of its genus (the iron bark), were the principal if not the only trees. Many of the rocks were pointed and basaltic, but the general species was a coarse sandstone. Miserable as the country was in other respects, it was fruitful in new plants.
August 14. — As it rained hard during the night, and the rain still continued to fall in thick showers, I thought it advisable to rest.
August 15. — Cloudy, with strong winds from the south-east. We crossed the creek about two miles from our resting-place, but soon found that any attempt to advance in that quarter would be abortive, the morass and quicksands extending into the very water, and denying all egress. We therefore recrossed the rivulet about a mile more northerly with better success, and succeeded in gaining some stony hills, which, with two or three intervening marshy valleys, continued for the rest of the day’s route; the latter part being up very high, rocky, barren hills, with narrow defiles. From these heights we descended into a pretty valley of considerable extent, and, to our great joy, of sound, firm soil, with plenty of good grass: the water however was strongly impregnated with iron, so that we could hardly drink it. This valley, which we named Wiltden Valley, was enclosed on all sides except the north, by lofty, rocky hills of coarse sandstone, adorned with various species of acacia in full bloom, with a vast variety of other flowering shrubs of the most beautiful and delicate description, adding greatly to our botanical collection. We accomplished in the whole twelve or thirteen miles, about six of which were in the direction of our proper course.
August 16. — We had hardly begun to lade the horses, when the rain recommenced with greater violence than in the night, and effectually prevented us from proceeding. The country presents sufficient obstructions to our progress, not to render the delay caused by a day’s rain a matter of much inquietude. The loss of time is of little consideration, when compared with the soft and boggy ground which such heavy falls leave. A species of banksia was seen to-day under the same meridian as on the Macquarie. It would seem that particular productions of the vegetable as well as of the mineral kingdom run in veins nearly north and south through the country. This peculiarity has been remarked of other plants, besides the species of banksia.
August 17. — Our course this day led us over a barren, rocky country, consisting of low stony ranges, divided by valleys of pure sand, and usually wet and marshy: latterly we appear to be descending from a considerable height, to a lower country to the north-east. The whole was a mere scrub covered with dwarf iron barks, apple trees, and small gums; the soil scarcely any thing but sand, on which grass grew in single detached roots. The horses fell repeatedly in the course of the day, and they were now so weak that they sank at every soft place. Between four and five o’clock, after travelling about ten hours, we stopped at a small drain of water for the night, having accomplished nearly eleven miles. In our track we saw no signs of natives, and the country seemed abandoned of every living thing. Silence and desolation reigned around.
August 18. — It is impossible to describe in adequate language the different trying obstructions we encountered during this day’s journey: after meeting and overcoming many minor difficulties of bog and quicksand, we had accomplished nearly eleven miles, and were looking out for a place to rest, when we entered a very thick forest of small iron barks which had been lately burnt; and their black stems and branches, with the dull bluish colour of their foliage, gave the whole a singularly dismal and gloomy appearance. So thick was the forest that we could hardly turn our horses, nor could the sun’s rays penetrate to the sandy desert on which these trees grew. Without the usual appearances of a bog, our horses were in an instant up to their bellies, and the difficulties we had in extricating them would hardly obtain belief. In this dilemma, scarcely able to see which way to turn, we traversed the margin of this extensive quicksand for nearly three miles in a direction contrary to our course, before we could find firm ground or water for the horses, which we did not effect till sunset; and then (as for the last three days) there was nothing for them to eat but prickly grass, which possesses no nourishing qualities. This fare, after their hard labour, reduces them daily.
August 19. — After wandering about the whole day without gaining any thing on our course, for the quicksands kept us revolving as it were in a circle, the exhaustion of the horses obliged us to stop. It was painful to behold them, after being disencumbered of their loads, lay themselves down like dogs about us: it was the fourth day that they had been without grass, and they preferred the tender branches of shrubs, etc., to the prickly grass. The backs of the greater part of them were, notwithstanding every care, dreadfully galled, so that they could, when first saddled, scarcely stand under their burdens. These quicksands lie in the hollows between the low irregular hills, which rise on this otherwise level country: their point of discharge is uniformly north-westerly. The union of many of these minor drains forms occasionally a large one, and the points of the hills which meet upon them afford the only means of crossing them. It was evident that the early part of the winter had been very wet., and the late rains had probably been the cause of these morasses, which still continued to drain themselves off in running water. This region must at all times be impassable from opposite causes: in wet seasons it is a bog; in dry ones, there is no water. Finding, as above remarked, that northerly and north-east the country declined as it were to nothing, it was resolved to pursue a more easterly course than that hitherto followed; and instead of attempting to go round the morasses which we might meet with to the north, to follow them southerly, a course which in time must certainly take us to a more elevated country. Such a road is rendered now absolutely necessary by the condition of the horses. Our dogs, which had so long contributed to our support, had been for the last four days dependant upon us for theirs, and we were too much indebted to their exertions not to share our meals with them with cheerfulness. These woods abound with kangaroo rats, and it is singular that, pinched as the dogs were, they would not touch them even when cooked.
August 20. — This day after travelling upwards of nine miles, and having pushed the horses at the risk of their lives through two minor branches of the bog, what was our mortification to find, that we were within a few hundred yards of the spot we set out from! We had first attempted to cross the main bog northerly, and afterwards kept along its edge southerly; and the result was, that we found it to extend in a complete circle around us. From a slight rise in the centre of it, we could see the country to the north-east, north, and north-west, low and uneven; Hardwicke’s Range distant about forty miles, bounding it between the north and east. The result of this day’s exertion quite subdued our fortitude, and for a moment a feeling nearly allied to despair had possession of our minds. We knew not which way to turn ourselves. To return to Arbuthnot’s Range, and again undergo what it had cost us so much to overcome, could not be thought of for a moment; but upon that mature reflection which our serious situation demanded, it was deemed the most prudent plan to return so far back as would enable us to reach the higher lands to the south-east. This we expected to do by Saturday evening: twenty miles back we had left land of considerable elevation; and we could only hope that in its vicinity we should find a dry ridge on which to accomplish our purpose, and occasionally a patch of country in which the horses might find subsistence; for they were at present very much reduced.
August 23. — We returned yesterday to Parry’s Rivulet, within twelve miles of Weltden Valley, which was the whole distance we had gone in the direction of our course towards the coast, although we had travelled during the week upwards of seventy miles. The weather for the last four days has been extremely tempestuous, with slight showers of hail and rain: the winds were chiefly from the west and north-west, the temperature being extremely cold for the latitude and season. The observations of to-day place this station in lat. 30. 57. 20., long. 149. 20. E. Variation 8. 42. E.
August 24. — We were a little surprised at finding that a severe frost had taken place during the night, and that the thermometer was now as low as 28 degrees. Ice lay within a few yards of our fire, of the thickness of a dollar. Our course throughout the day was southerly, and led us up the banks of Parry’s Rivulet. We experienced fewer difficulties than on any day since we had entered this desert, and accomplished between nine and ten miles, at the end of which we entered a small valley of good forest ground with tolerable grass; though early in the day, the horses needed refreshment too much, not to induce me to stop here for the remainder of it: as we could not at the utmost have gone above two miles farther. This valley, and the appearance of forest hills to the southward, gave us strong hopes that by continuing our present course for a day or two longer we should get into a better line of country, and be enabled to resume our easterly course. Parry’s Rivulet was here a series of large ponds, near which were traces of natives, but of old date. In this desert, we have never met with any signs that can lead us to believe it has ever been before crossed by any human being.
August 25. — A smart frost during the night: the morning fine and clear. At eight o’clock we proceeded on our route, taking a more easterly direction according to circumstances. Between three and four miles from our camp, we had an extensive view to the east and south-east, and saw with extreme satisfaction a lofty chain of fine forest hills thinly timbered, bearing east-south-east of us; and distant fourteen or fifteen miles. To the east were extensive flats, bare of timber, and apparently either composed of white sand, or covered with dead grass; our distance would not enable us to distinguish which: these flats were bounded by remote rising hills seemingly clear and open. A high peak, bearing north, was named Kerr’s Peak; and a very lofty mount, under which the west extremity of the plains lay, was named Mount Tetley: and the westernmost remarkable hill in the chain first mentioned, Whitwell Hill. The bogginess and ruggedness of our route, for the remainder of the day, sufficiently tried our strength: we accomplished however thirteen miles, and halted in a small valley about four miles south of Whitwell Hill. This valley was bounded east and west by rocky hills, but the soil was better, and the grass of good quality. The base of these hills was of close-grained white-coloured granite, or whinstone: the summits of good freestone: on the sides several good pieces of iron ore were picked up.
August 26. — While Mr. Evans proceeded with the horses on an eastern course for Mount Tetley, Dr. Harris and myself went towards the spacious valley at the foot of Whitwell Hill. This we soon reached, and travelled down its centre, along the banks of a beautiful stream of water which fertilized and drained it. The extent of this valley towards the south-west, we could not discover, as its windings were lost among the forest hills in that direction. We went down to the east between seven and eight miles, when we rejoined the horses at the base of an elevated conical hill, standing detached at its east entrance, which was here four or five miles wide. On ascending this hill, the view which was on all sides presented to our delighted eyes was of the most varied and exhilarating kind. Hills, dales, and plains of the richest description lay before us, bounded to the east by fine hills, beyond which were seen elevated mountains. To the north-east an extensive valley, from eight to ten miles wide, led to Hardwicke’s Range, being a distance of about thirty-five miles. In this great valley were numerous low hills and plains, thinly studded with timber, and watered by the stream, down the banks of which we had travelled. From its eastern side, these low hills gradually rose to a loftier elevation: but were still thinly timbered, and covered with grass. To the east-south-east, and south-east, clear plains extended to the foot of very lofty forest hills, at a medium distance of from twenty-five to forty miles. These were the plains seen on our yesterday’s route, and which we feared were sand. We found them to consist of a rich dry vegetable soil; and although, from their vast extent, they may, as a whole, be properly denominated plains, yet their surfaces were slightly broken into gentle eminences with occasional clumps, and lines of timber. Their white appearance was occasioned by the grass having been burnt early in the year, and the young growth killed by the frosts. The little rivulet, that watered the north-west side of this track of country, had overflowed within these few days; but the ground left by the retreating waters was as firm and solid, as those parts which had not been touched. The sides of the hills were of the same black mould, stony towards their summits, and the higher eminences rocky. The rocks were of a very hard whinstone, the stratum nearly perpendicular, or rather standing up in regular basaltic figures, similar to those on Loadstone Hill. These valleys and hills abound with kangaroos, and on the plains numbers of emus were seen. We seemed to be once more in the land of plenty, and the horses as well as men had cause to rejoice at the change, from the miserable harassing deserts through which we had been struggling for the last six weeks, to this beautiful and fertile country. From the hill on which we stood, bearings were taken to the most remarkable points and objects connected with the survey; and the most distinguished, in point of beauty or singularity of appearance, were honoured with distinctive appellations. The valley down which we had travelled was called Lushington’s Valley (after the Secretary to His Majesty’s Treasury); the extensive one to the north-east, leading to Hardwicke’s Range, Camden Valley (after the noble Marquis); the plains to the east and south-east were honoured with the name of Lord Liverpool; the hills bounding Lushington’s Valley, on the south side, Vansittart’s Hills, after the Chancellor of the Exchequer; while several less remarkable hills were designated after persons endeared to our recollections by early friendship. A great variety of new plants rewarded the exertions of our botanist, in ascending Mount Tetley; and many, hitherto only known on the coast, were discovered on the hills and in the valleys: the acacia pendula was also seen; it had hitherto been the usual characteristic of wet lands, but it was here growing on the most dry and elevated situations. The timber on the plains and hills was chiefly those species of eucalyptus called apple tree, box, and gum trees; and on the banks of the rivulet were a few large casuarina. So much time was consumed in ascending hills and examining the country, that we did not go more than ten miles on a direct course: it was however time well bestowed. Three native fires were seen in Lushington’s Valley, but the whole of this part of the country appears to be very thinly inhabited; a few wandering families making up the total of its population. The small rivulet in Lushington’s Valley was named Yorke’s Rivulet, in honour of Sir J. S. Yorke.
August 27. — Pursuing our course to the eastward, towards the range of low hills bordering the plains in that quarter, between five and six miles, we came to a fine stream of water, crossing the plains from the south to the north. There had been a flood in this rivulet within these few days, marks of which were observed about fifteen feet high; but still within the banks. It appears that the plains are chiefly flooded from Yorke’s Rivulet, the remaining waters of which, together with rain-water, were in several places still standing on the surface; but not to the extent that the horizontal level of these plains would have led me to suppose would probably be the case. The far greater portion was a rich dry soil, and that the water is never permanent on any part of them is clearly demonstrated by the total absence of any aquatic or bog plants. From this rivulet, the three main branches of these immense plains were clearly visible to the east by south-south-east, and north-east. Of the extent of the two former, we could only judge from the lofty bounding chains of hills in those quarters; and which we could not estimate to be nearer than from forty-five to fifty miles. Hardwicke’s Range bounded these to the north-east, with many intervening beautiful hills and valleys. We found the distance across the plains to the hill where we stopped, to be upwards of fourteen miles on an east line. Chains and ridges of low forest hills, which gradually rise from the horizontal level, are scattered over these plains, and stand for the most part detached like islands; varying the scenery in a most picturesque manner, as they are generally clothed with wood of apple tree, cypress, and other species of eucalyptus, intermingled with various acacias in full flower. Mr. Evans ascended Mount Tetley to take bearings from it. He found the compass to be affected in a similar manner to that remarked on Loadstone Hill; the north point of it when placed on the rock, becoming the south. This remarkable alteration of the needle was also observed on several other hills in this vicinity, but in a less degree; the bearings generally varying from two to three points from the truth. On the hill under which we stopped this evening, named View Hill, the needle varied three points. In consequence of the heavy rains and recent floods, travelling on many parts of these plains was very heavy; the soil being a rick loose loam, of a dark red approaching to a black colour, but of great apparent fertility and strength: some hundreds of kangaroos and emus were seen in the course of the day. We killed several, the dogs being absolutely fatigued with slaughter: the game was by no means shy, but came close up to us, as if to examine us. Indeed I do not think they are much disturbed by natives, of whom we have seen few signs in this neighbourhood. The stream crossing the plains was named Bowen’s Rivulet, in honour of Commissioner Bowen, of the Navy Board.
August 28. — The season continues to get warm and sultry. We pursued an east-north-east course during our day’s journey, leading us through a fine open forest country generally level in the direction of our course, but rising into forest hills to the north and south of us. At eight miles, ascending from this level, we saw the great plains which extend along the line of our course, and are separated from us by a rich open country of hill and vale, distant four or five miles. A branch from these plains led to the north-east across our course, and was distant five or six miles. We proceeded in the whole ten miles, and stopped in a pretty forest valley, with plenty of water and good grass. The stones composing the hills were very various, sometimes different species of granite, then sandstone, and on others loose slate. On View Hill we found particularly rich iron stone. The soil was uniformly good, and covered with grass; the country by no means thickly timbered, chiefly with box, and a few cypresses.
August 29. — On our departure we almost immediately descended a rocky and steep hill, covered with cypress and small brush; from thence we descended upon a level forest country, which continued for the remainder of our journey (seven and a half miles), to the edge of the extensive flat which we had seen yesterday. As we should not have been able to cross it before nightfall, I thought it better to remain where there was plenty of grass and water. From our tent we had a singularly picturesque and pleasing prospect. To the north, Hardwicke’s Range, distant between forty and fifty miles: the country broken into low forest hills and plains to its base. To the north-east, east, and south-east, our view was bounded by beautiful forest hills seldom rising to any great elevation, thinly wooded, and covered with grass. These hills bounded the plains, and varied in distance from ten to thirty miles. To the north-east the country was lowest, but appeared good and open: that part of the plain near which we encamped was wet and marshy; and the horizontal level of the whole appeared to warrant the supposition that at some (perhaps not distant) period, these vast plains formed chains of inland lakes, which the washings from the hills have now nearly filled up; as the water at present does not exceed a few inches in depth, and is only partially spread on the surface, forming but a moderate proportion of the whole. In dry seasons there is evidently none: the hills passed over this day were of a curious species of pudding-stone and freestone. The hills on the opposite side of the plains were named Melville Hills, in honour of the first Lord of the Admiralty; and the valley at the extremity of it leading to Hardwicke’s Range, Barrow’s Valley, after one of the secretaries of that board.
August 30. — A day of rest and refreshment to ourselves and horses. Game abounds, and our dogs abundantly supply us. The observations made here, place our situation in lat. 31. 7., long. 150. 10. E.
August 31. — We were agreeably disappointed, in finding that the wet marshy ground did not extend above three quarters of a mile, the remainder being dry firm land of the richest description: at six miles we crossed a considerable stream, running to the north through Barrow’s Valley: this stream, divided the plain into nearly two equal parts, it being ten miles and a half across. This stream had been very recently flooded, and the water, yet muddy, had not subsided within its proper level; the height of the banks from fifteen to twenty feet. On the east side of the plain, we found the marsh extend about one mile and a quarter from the forest ground which borders it; though wet, it was now strong ground, and might easily be laid dry. On quitting the plains we entered a very fine open forest flat, through which we proceeded a mile and a half, and encamped for the evening under a lofty hill named Mount Dundas, by a small spring of excellent water. Ascending this mountain, we found that the country in the line of our course was high, broken forest land, the easternmost ranges of which (distant from thirty-five to forty miles) appeared to have a stream running under them, by reason of the thick haze which rose from the valley beneath. To the north bending round to the north-east, the country was beautifully picturesque, consisting of low, open forest hills, bounded by higher chains of hills that formed the southern side of the spacious valley under Hardwicke’s Range; through which I no longer doubted that a considerable stream had its course, since all the waters we had hitherto crossed ran in that direction. A great many smokes, arising from the fires of the natives, were seen to the north-east and north. To the south-east, south, and south-west, our view extended over that vast tract of level champaign country intermingled with hills, sometimes rising into lofty peaks, as has already been described. The abundance of game, such as emus, and kangaroos, and of wild ducks on the stream, was wonderful: our dogs after severe battles killed two emus, who however tore one of them very dangerously. We called the river which divided and watered the plain Field’s River, in honour of the Judge of the Supreme Court.
September 1. — We pursued our course to the east-north-east, winding through rich valleys bounded by lofty forest hills for seven miles; when by a gentle descent we entered a rich and spacious vale, bounded on the east by very high hills, and on the west by others less elevated. At twelve miles we stopped at some ponds near the centre of the vale. The hills were very stony, of various species — granite, freestone, and pudding-stone; they were however well covered with grass, and quite clear and open; the valleys and levels excellent, with good timber, chiefly apple tree, box, and gum. On the higher ridges of the hills, and occasionally on their sides, were many fine cypresses: there was nothing grand or imposing in the scenery; but it was simple and attractive from its richness and extent: the hills sometimes rose into singular forms which were continually changing in our progress, and appeared well calculated to afford an ample range of sheep pasture. The extensive vale in which we stopped was named Goulburn Vale, in honour of the under Secretary of State for the colonies.
September 2. — Our expectations of finding a river to the eastward, were this day verified: after passing for eleven miles across this beautiful vale, we came to a deep and rapid stream running to the north, through the valley whose eastern side it waters: finding it too deep to be forded, we constructed a bridge across a narrow part of it, by felling such large trees as would meet, by which the baggage was taken over: the horses were swum across. One of the men, foolishly attempting to swim over on a horse, nearly paid for his imprudence with his life: as he could not swim, he was carried down the stream near a quarter of a mile, and was several minutes under water. His body being providentially washed across a log, was the means of his preservation. It was late in the afternoon before our passage across was effected, so that we halted on the banks. This was the largest interior river (with the exception of the Macquarie and Castlereagh), which we had yet seen. It would be impossible to find a finer or more luxuriant country than it waters: north and south, its extent is unknown, but it is certainly not less than sixty miles, whilst the breadth of the vale is on a medium about twenty miles. This space between the bounding hills is not altogether level, but rises into gentle inequalities, and independently of the river is well watered; the grass was most luxuriant; the timber good and not thick: in short, no place in the world can afford more advantages to the industrious settler, than this extensive vale. The river was named Peel’s River, in honour of the Right Hon. Robert Peel. A great many new plants were found to-day and yesterday, chiefly of the orchis tribe16: we saw numbers of the ornithorynchus, or water mole, in the river, also a few turtle: we were not successful in obtaining any fish, so that we were unable to decide whether it contained the same species as the Macquarie.
16 Orchideae of Juss. and BROWN.
September 3. — After passing over a fine and gently rising country for between four and five miles, we ascended a very lofty chain of hills, being the eastern boundary of Goulburn Vale; these hills were of good soil, and covered with excellent grass to their very summits. Ascending two of the highest ridges, several circular orifices were observed on them about twelve feet in diameter, and five feet deep. Great quantities of small stones resembling basaltes were in heaps round the edges, at a little distance from which the stones were perpendicular, and firmly bedded in the earth; many of them regular six-sided figures, and all fractured into laminae, from two to nine inches in thickness. The rocks upon this range were of a peculiarly hard quality, and of a deep blue colour, approaching to black when broken. The country easterly appeared broken into a series of rocky detached hills: and on descending this range, we found an immediate change in the quality of the soil, being in the valleys of a light coarse sand, the surface covered with gritty particles as from pulverised coarse granite. The difference in the rocks composing the hills was here very remarkable, being a very coarse granite of the same description as in the neighbourhood of Bathurst, scattered in immense masses both in the valleys and on the hills; and our astonishment was more than once excited at the causes which could have effected their removal from their primitive bed. On a hill near which we encamped, was a single mass of granite apparently thrown up perpendicularly from the bosom of the earth: it was twenty-six feet high and had six distinct sides, ending in an irregular point at the summit, and was forty-eight feet in circumference. The valleys, though sandy, afforded us plenty of good grass and water, and the hills furnished abundant employment for the botanical collector.
September 4. — After leaving the valley in which we encamped, we entered one much more extensive, and communicating with Goulburn Vale. Between five and six miles on our route, we reached a beautiful small river coming from the eastward and joining Peel’s River, of which it appears to be a principal branch. For the remainder of the day’s journey, we proceeded up the fine valley which this stream watered, bounded on the north and south by lofty and fertile hills covered with rich herbage, having numerous smaller valleys and streams terminating in this principal valley. The whole scenery was thinly clothed with wood, and occasionally a bold craggy promontory terminating at the river gave it a diversity, which its general softness of feature or outline required: there were no principal ranges of hills, but they broke in and upon each other, forming the utmost variety of shape. The rocks and stones which composed the bases and summits of these hills, were not less various than their form: scarcely two were alike. Granite, coarse porphyry, freestone, and whinstone were frequently found on the same hill, and the beds of the streams were of every variety of pebble. This fine stream received the name of Cockburn River.
September 5. — Our course this day sometimes led us over very elevated ridges, and at other times through deep and rich valleys. Some of these hills were at least three thousand feet in height, and clothed with grass to their summits. Others of the less elevated were entirely free from rocks, and of the finest soil. The timber chiefly box, with some few trees of another species of eucalyptus called stringy bark, and cypress. A number of small streams watered the deep valleys to the north and south, falling into Cockburn River. Large quantities of quartz were in various places, as also good flint, which was found in large masses in the bed of Cockburn River, and also in small pieces on the hills. This was the second flint that has been discovered in New South Wales. We halted in a small and beautiful valley near Cockburn River, after having accomplished nine miles.
September 6. — A day of rest. The observations place this station in lat. 31. 04. 35 S., long. 151. 05. 30. E., variation 9. 58. E.
September 7. — The morning clear and fine. At half past seven o’clock we proceeded on our journey: in the whole course of it, we never experienced more precipitous travelling than during the first six miles. Travellers, less accustomed to meet difficulties, might perhaps have been a little alarmed at traversing such steep and shelving hills, the loose stones on which added to the insecurity of our footing. Nevertheless we found it extremely pleasant, from the romantic beauty of the scenery and the freshness of the verdure. We had been ascending an extremely elevated country for the last thirty miles; and I was in great hopes of soon reaching the point of division between the eastern and western waters. By a tolerably easy acclivity, we gained that which I took to be the highest of these congregated hills, in hopes it might possibly lead into a main range. From its summit we had a very extensive prospect over the country we had left, and also to the southward, in which direction the land appeared broken and hilly, and but thinly clothed with timber. To the east and north-east it appeared far less broken, and certainly less elevated than the ridge we were on. This ridge soon expanded to a broad surface of open forest land, and proceeding on it to the east about a mile, we perceived in the valley beneath us a considerable and rapid stream running to the north, and afterwards apparently taking a more easterly direction. A more remarkable change in the outward appearance of a country was perhaps never before witnessed. In less than a mile, the timber had entirely changed from the bastard box to another kind of eucalyptus, called common blue gum, which grew in great luxuriance in the country before us. Until now this species had never been seen except on the immediate banks of running streams. In the course of the day, great quantities of fine stringy bark were also seen. The soil, instead of the light black mould, which had been the general covering of the country, was now changed to a stiff tenacious clay; and although well clothed with grass, its less luxuriant growth evidently showed the difference of soil not to be favourable. From this hill or range we descended very gradually for nearly two miles to the river before seen, and up the banks of which we proceeded about a mile farther, when we halted for the evening. The country was perfectly open, though much covered with fallen timber; the banks of the river sloping and quite clear of timber; and being within one hundred miles of the sea coast, I had a strong belief that we had descended from the highest land, and that we should meet with no dividing ranges in the course of our future progress. It is impossible to form any certain conclusion at present, as to the course taken by this stream. Whether it finds its way to the coast, or is lost like the other streams of this country, will, I think, in a great measure depend upon the fact of our having crossed the highest ranges of the country. One of the men who had taken the dogs out after kangaroos fell in with a party of natives, among whom were some women and children. Two of the men accompanied him to the tent. It was evident from the whole tenor of their behaviour that they had previously heard of white people (most probably from the settlement at New Castle); their appearance was most miserable, their features approached deformity, and their persons were disgustingly filthy: their small attenuated limbs seemed scarcely able to support their bodies; and their entire person formed a marked contrast to the fine and manly figures of their brethren in the interior. We gave them a small turtle which we had just caught in the river, and they sat down to dress it instantly. In fact, their cooking was very simple; the fire soon separated the shell from the meat, which with the entrails was devoured in a few minutes. Some of the people went to visit their camp, where they found eight or ten men, but the women and children were sent away. The same jealousy of women exists throughout the interior. The great number of fallen trees was in some measure accounted for by the men observing about a dozen trees on fire near this camp, no doubt the more easily to expel the opossums, rats, and other vermin which inhabit their hollows. We were not successful with our lines, though the depth and breadth of the river had made us a little sanguine. There did not appear any great marks of flood; none was seen exceeding five feet in height, which led us to conclude its source was not very distant. This river was named Sydney, as we this day crossed the meridian of that town.
September 8. — We proceeded up Sydney River to the south-east about three miles before we could find a convenient Place to Cross, as the stream ran with great rapidity over a rocky bottom. The country on either side sloped to the river with gradual declension, and was an open forest country. On crossing the river, we passed through some noble forests of stringy bark, growing generally on the sides and ridges of stony barren hills: thew forests extended above two miles from the east of the river., after which the country became perfectly open, and of a level, or rather alternately rising surface. To the north and north-east the river was beautiful, the same description of country extending as far as the eye could reach, with no elevated points or ridges to obstruct it. Indeed I am clearly of opinion, that if we had kept a more northerly course from Lushington Valley, we should have avoided the rugged though fine country we have passed through for the last two days. The determination of all the hills and slopes is northerly, and the rivers which we have crossed have also taken the same direction. We proceeded about nine miles farther through the finest open country, or rather park, imaginable; the general quality of the soil excellent, though of a strong and more tenacious description than farther westerly. We halted in a fine and spacious valley, where art, so far as it is an auxiliary of beauty, would have been detrimental to the fresher and simpler garb of nature. This valley was watered by a fine brook, and at a a distance of a mile we saw several fires, at which appeared many natives: upon discovering us, however, they immediately departed. I think that the most fastidious sportsman would have derived ample amusement during our days journey. He might without moving have seen the finest coursing, from the commencement of the chase to the death of the game: and when tired of killing kangaroos, he might have seen emus hunted with equal success. We numbered swans and ducks among our acquisitions, which in truth were caught without much exertion on our part, or deviating, in the least from our course. Granite and a hard whinstone were the most predominant among the stones; small pieces of quartz, and loose rotten slates covered the tracks, on which grew some of the finest stringy bark trees I ever saw. Indeed the other timber, which consisted chiefly of common blue gum, was far larger than usually seen on forest lands. That species of casuarina called the beef wood (or she oak), was also seen to-day for the first time: it is in part a coast tree, and sufficiently denoted that we were approaching the sea. Observed the variation of the compass to be 8. 51. E.
September 9. — In the night we had a severe frost, which in the morning was succeeded by a dense fog. We found however that it was confined to the valley, for on ascending the hills, the prospect was clear and open. We passed over a beautiful and well-watered country for about six miles, when we came on the rivulet which we had quitted in the morning; but now, by the addition of several brooks from the valleys, increased to a considerable stream. Its banks were quite clear of timber, and expanded into extensive sheets of water, which added greatly to the beauty of the scenery. This stream running to the east southeast verified the conjecture that we had passed the dividing range of hills, and that this and most probably Sydney River (much superior in magnitude) were coast streams. Crossing the former, we ascended a hill on the opposite side, from whence the river’s course was seen to the south-east, running through a fine and open country. To the northward and north-east the prospect was equally satisfactory, the hills being connected by long and easy slopes, which would have rendered their ascent a matter of little difficulty had our course lain over them. After crossing the river, the country still continued open, but the soil was not so good, and we found that we were ascending in a gradual manner. For the last five miles the country was thickly timbered with stringy bark and gum trees, the soil bad, and crossed by numerous wet hollows, which showed we were nearly on the summit of a level and extensive range of hills. We accomplished fourteen miles with much ease, and halted for the evening in a thick stringy bark forest, where there was worse entertainment for both man and horse than we had experienced for some weeks.
September 10. — A tempestuous morning, with occasional showers of small rain, prevented us from quitting our camp. In the intervals of fair weather, I walked to a hill about one mile off, being the highest part of the range we were upon. Our prospect from it was exceedingly grand and picturesque. The country from north to south-east was broken into perpendicular rocky ridges, and divided longitudinally by deep and apparently impassable glens. The rocks were covered with climbing plants, and the glens abounded with new and beautiful ones. Our collector descended one of those nearest to us, and was amply repaid by the acquisition of nearly sixty most desirable plants, some of which appeared even to constitute new genera. The rocks were covered with epidendra17, bignoniae, or trumpet-flowers, and clematides, or virgin’s bower, of which last genus three species apparently new were discovered. Far different was the character of these glens from the rugged and barren blue mountain ranges: fine open forest land ended abruptly on the precipices. The bottoms were of the richest soil, the rocks instead of being of a coarse sandstone were of a hard texture, and of a blue shining appearance when broken. The country eastward of these glens appeared very lofty, and much broken; but as in the direction of our course, we should have some miles of good open country to travel over, we had strong hopes that our difficulties would prove greater in contemplation than reality. Among the timber in these glens were some of the stateliest stringy bark trees that we had ever beheld: in fact, the timber altogether is unusually good. To the south-west and north-west, the country is low and beautifully diversified by long sloping hills.
17 Of the genera cymbidium and dendrobium of Swartz.
September 11. — Our course for near eight miles led us along a broad and very elevated ridge of poor forest land, intermixed with brush; when we were stopped from proceeding farther eastward by the deep chasm or glen, which we had seen at a distance yesterday. This tremendous ravine runs near north and south, its breadth at the bottom does not apparently exceed one hundred or two hundred feet, whilst the separation of the outer edges is from two to three miles. I am certain that in perpendicular depth it exceeds three thousand feet. The slopes from the edges were so steep and covered with loose stones, that any attempt to descend even on foot was impracticable. From either side of this abyss, smaller ravines of similar character diverged, the distance between which seldom exceeded half a mile. Down them trickled rills of water, derived from the range on which we were. We could not however discern which way the water in the main valley ran, as the bottom was concealed by a thicket of vines and creeping plants. From the range on which we were, we could distinctly see the coast line of hills. The country between us and the coast was of an equal elevation, and appeared broken and divided by ravines and steep precipices. We continued along the edge of this ravine southerly for about four miles, when we halted for the day. Our only hope of being enabled to cross this barrier depends upon our pursuing a southerly course, when if the waters run northerly, the dividing range between them and Hunters River will permit us again to turn easterly. If on the contrary they run southerly, their junction with Hunter’s River will equally (it is to be hoped) facilitate that object.
September 12. — We were obliged during the whole of this day’s journey, to keep along the ridge bordering on the glen. It is impossible to form a correct idea of the wild magnificence of the scenery without the pencil of a Salvator. Such a painter would here find an ample field for the exercise of his genius. How dreadful must the convulsion have been that formed these glens! The principal glen led us to the westward: there were others that fell into it from the southward; but we perceived that the waters in it ran north-easterly, which gave us strong hopes of soon being enabled to head it. Several times in the course of the day we attempted to descend on foot; but after getting with much difficulty a few hundred yards, we were always stopped by perpendicular precipices. Scarcely a quarter of a mile elapsed without a spring from the top of the ridge crossing our track, forming at its entrance into the main glen a vast ravine. The ridge along which we travelled was, as might be expected, very stony. It was otherwise open forest land, thickly timbered with large, stringy bark trees, casuarinae, and a large species of eucalyptus. Kangaroos abounded on it, and the tracks of emus were also seen.
September 13. — We were too anxious to find a passage across this river (for such we now perceived it to be), to permit us to rest this day. We proceeded on a variety of courses to avoid the deep ravines or glens which conducted numerous small streams of water to the principal one. Our road was very rugged, and our elevation sometimes very considerable, every part heavily timbered. Our course, which led us chiefly west, now terminated at one of the most magnificent waterfalls we had ever seen. The water was precipitated over a perpendicular rock at least one hundred and fifty feet in height in one unbroken sheet, falling into a large reservoir about one third down the whole declivity: hence it wound its way through the glen for about half a mile farther, when it joined the main stream. This grand fall was called Beckett’s Cataract, in honour of the Judge Advocate General. It now commenced raining so heavily that we were obliged to stop on the spot, though by no means an eligible situation. We had not seen any place where there had been the slightest possibility of descending; but as we were not many miles from the river which we crossed on Wednesday last, we knew that this rugged country must soon end.
September 14. — The weather preventing us from proceeding, parties were sent out to search the banks of the glen, for a place by which to descend and cross it. Two of the people traced it up so far as to ascertain that the river which we had crossed on Wednesday was the same which had so embarrassed us. It entered the glen in a fall of vast height: above, there was no difficulty in crossing it, the country being clear and open, and of moderate height. A kangaroo was chased to this fall, down which he leapt and was dashed to pieces; like the hero of Wordsworth’s “Hartleap Well.” It is wonderful that the dogs escaped the same fate. We had been also successful in finding a passage nearer to the tent. About a mile above Beckett’s Cataract, a pass was discovered by which we might descend, and the opposite side appeared equally favourable. It appears that we have been hitherto deceived respecting the magnitude of the river which runs through the glen, owing to the vast height from which it was viewed, and to our being seldom within a mile of it. The geologist would here have a most interesting field for research, and would doubtless be enabled to account for those natural phenomena, which, from their defiance of all rule, perplex us so greatly. These mountains abound with coal and slate. The dip of the rocks on this side (the north) of the glen, is about twenty degrees to the west.
September 15. — We first attempted the pass nearest to us, and which was reported to be practicable. The horses with tolerable ease descended the first ridge, which was about one third down; but it was impossible to proceed a step farther with them: indeed we had the utmost difficulty to get them back again. Three of them actually rolled over, and were saved only by the trees from being precipitated to the bottom. Quitting this place, we proceeded up the glen, into which many small streams fell from the most awful heights, forming so many beautiful cascades. After travelling five or six miles, we arrived at that part of the river at which, after passing through a beautiful and level though elevated country, it is first received into the glen. We had seen many fine and magnificent falls, each of which had excited our admiration in no small degree, but the present one so far surpassed any thing which we had previously conceived even to be possible, that we were lost in astonishment at the sight of this wonderful natural sublimity, which perhaps is scarcely to be exceeded in any part of the eastern world. The river, after passing through an apparently gentle rising and fine country, is here divided into two streams, the whole width of which is about seventy yards. At this spot, the country seems cleft in twain, and divided to its very foundation: a ledge of rocks, two or three feet higher than the level on either side, divides the waters in two, which, falling over a perpendicular rock two hundred and thirty-five feet in height, forms this grand cascade. At a distance of three hundred yards, and an elevation of as many feet, we were wetted with the spray which arose like small rain from the bottom: the noise was deafening; and if the river had been full, so as to cover its entire bed, it would have been perhaps more awfully grand, but certainly not so beautiful. After winding through the cleft rocks about four hundred yards, it again falls in one single sheet upwards of one hundred feet, and continues in a succession of smaller falls about a quarter of a mile lower, where the cliffs are of a perpendicular height, on each side exceeding one thousand two hundred feet, the width at the edges about two hundred yards. From thence it descends as before described until all sight of it is lost, from the vast elevation of the rocky hills which it divides and runs through. The different points of this deep glen seem as if they would fit into the opposite fissures which form the smaller glens alternately on either side. The whole is indeed a grand natural spectacle, and is an indubitable mark of the vast convulsions which this country must at one period have undergone. The rocks are all slate, the upper romanae of which are of a light brown colour, rotten, and easily separated. Nearer the base or surface of the water they are of a dark blue, and of a firmer texture. The waters are quite discoloured, owing to the nature of the bed over which they run, the soluble particles of coal among the slate tinging them a dark brown. This fine fall is not more than five miles below the place where we crossed the river on the 9th instant, and we were doubtless prevented from hearing the noise of the waters, by the numerous smaller falls in the vicinity. This most magnificent fall and the river itself were respectively named Bathurst and Apsley, in honour of the Noble Secretary of State for the colonies. Although a week had elapsed in effecting the passage of this river, we could not consider it as entirely lost, especially as it enabled us to ascertain that its direction was to the coast; and we hoped that the nature of the country would permit us to fix its embouchure.
September 16. — The weather for some days past has been very unseasonable, cold and tempestuous, with frequent heavy and continued showers of rain: this remarkable coldness of temperature in such a latitude (31 degrees,) I cannot but attribute to the considerable elevation of the country above the sea, being certainly between four and five thousand feet. We proceeded to the south-east during this day’s journey, on purpose to avoid the broken land in the vicinity of the river. It was good travelling though hilly: the soil, for the most part, a poor clay; and the timber not so good or large as usual. There was however much good land, particularly in the valleys, through every one of which a stream of water took its course to the river. At twelve miles, we halted on the banks of a considerable and rapid stream watering an extensive and wide valley. The many waters which fall into Apsley River must very considerably increase its magnitude; and I am in hopes after it has cleared this mountainous tract and we again fall in with it, that we shall find it a useful as well as fine stream. The river on which we encamped was named Croker’s River, in honour of the First Secretary of the Admiralty.
September 17. — We proceeded on an easterly course during this day’s journey; and seven miles from Croker’s River crossed a smaller stream running to the north-east. For the first ten miles the country was very poor and badly timbered, with barren stony hills; but from the last mentioned stream to our halting-place, at the end of twelve miles, though the land was hilly the soil was excellent, consisting of a rich, dark mould. The hills were particularly rich and thickly clothed with fine timber, blue gum, and stringy bark. We halted on the side of a hill, from the top of which we could see a great distance to the north and east. In the first quarter, lofty hills were seen from eighty to one hundred miles off, and generally very irregular. To the east the land was elevated, but more divided by sloping valleys, and we augured that at least for thirty miles in the direction of our course, we should not meet with any such serious obstruction as the last: indeed we imagined we could trace the course of the river nearly on a parallel line with us. We this day saw a solitary native, but I believe we were indebted for the sight rather to the circumstance of his being deprived of the use of his limbs than to his boldness or curiosity. Two or three families had been encamped on the spot where we found him, but they had all departed. He seemed more astonished than alarmed at the sight of our cavalcade, and expressed his wonder in a singular succession of sounds, resembling snatches of a song. His countenance was mild and pleasing, and was entirely divested of the ferocity we had seen expressed in the visages of some of his countrymen: he had lost the upper front tooth, and I think it was probable that he had heard of such beings as ourselves before. He was a miserable object: several ribs on his left side had been broken; his back was twisted, which apparently had been the means of depriving him of the use of his limbs, as no injury could be discovered about them.
September 18. — During the night and this morning it has continued to blow a perfect equinoctial storm. We were in constant dread that some of the branches of the trees which surrounded us would fall on the tent. Proceeding on our course to the east-north-east, we did not advance above a mile and a half before a small stream running to the north-east through a very steep and narrow valley obliged us to alter our course more southerly, which we did, and soon entered a forest of stringy bark and blue gum trees of immense size and great beauty. The soil on which they grew was a rich vegetable mould covered with fern trees18 and small shrubs. We found that this part of the country was intersected by deep valleys, the sides of which were clothed with stately trees, but of what kind we were ignorant: creepers and smaller timber trees, all of species not previously noticed by us, grew so extremely thick that we found it impossible to penetrate through them. We therefore continued along the edge of those valleys, our progress much impeded by the vast trunks of fallen trees in a state of decay, some of which were upwards of one hundred and fifty feet long, without a branch, as straight as an arrow, and from three to eight and ten feet in diameter. The forest through which we travelled appeared to be an elevated level or plain, and at three o’clock in the afternoon, after proceeding three or four miles to the westward, we cleared this truly primeval forest, and descended into a small valley of open ground, through which ran the stream we had crossed in the morning. Indeed we were not more than two miles south of the place we had quitted. Our hope of proceeding without much interruption was thus disappointed: the gloominess of the weather, and the constant showers that fell, so impeded our view and distorted its objects, that what appeared plain and practicable at a distance of two or three miles, when approached was found impassable. I think it probable, however, that our most serious obstructions will be the thickness of the timber, rotten trees, and creeping plants; the soil is so rich and free from rocks, that I do not think the steepness of the descents will greatly endanger us. The wind, which had been extremely violent all day, was now accompanied by heavy showers; and we thought ourselves extremely fortunate in not being obliged to encamp in the forest. The storm as the evening advanced increased to almost a hurricane, with torrents of rain. Since Apsley River had been ascertained to take a direction coast-wise, the principle which governed the direction of our course had been to endeavour to make a port on the coast laid down in lat. 30. 45. S., and which I had an idea might probably receive this river, now increased by a multitude of smaller streams, and if so, that it might serve as a point of communication with the fine country in the interior. It is true this port is marked as a bar harbour; but I knew that it had never been examined, and I was aware how possible it was for a harbour to appear closed by a reef from a ship sailing at a distance along the coast. At all events the point was worth ascertaining; and notwithstanding the repeated disappointments we had experienced in attempting a north-easterly course, I shall, if we are enabled to clear the deep valleys we are at present embarrassed with, persevere for some time longer. I consider it every way important to know into what part of the coast these waters are discharged.
18 Alsophila australis of Brown.
September 19. — The storm continued to rage with unabated violence throughout the night and the whole of this day, accompanied by torrents of rain and hail: the weather was also extremely cold and bleak; the thermometer in the mornings and evenings being not more than 5 or 6 degrees above the freezing point: indeed, the season much nearer resembles the winter of a far more southern latitude than the spring of lat. 31.
September 20. — Towards the morning the storm abated, but throughout the day it was dark and gloomy, with passing showers. In the present state of the weather we did not think it prudent to attempt penetrating through the thick forests which we knew were before us, and our horses would be the better for rest. The botanical collector descended into one of the valleys nearest to us, and found the sides of it clothed with the timber before mentioned: it was quite new to us. Some of the flower and seed were procured, as it was generally found in full flower, which gave these stately trees a richness and beauty I had never seen equalled. A great variety of other equally interesting plants was also found, some of them new species of timber. The valleys were of the richest soil, having a small run of water in their bottoms. Observed the variation by evening azimuth to be 10. 39. E.
September 21. — With a severe frost, the morning and day were finer than usual, though the weather was very unsettled. We accomplished seven miles on a south-east by east course, through a very heavily wooded country; the timber generally of the best description, and the soil, with some partial exceptions, was equally good and rich. It was, however, so thickly covered with ferns and bushes among the trees, with vines running from them, that in many places we found it difficult to pass. Our course was accidentally such as to avoid all the deep valleys but two, the descents of which were extremely difficult. In them strong streams of water ran to the north-east, no doubt joining the main river. From the hill over one of the streams near which we halted the coast line of hills was plainly seen; and we appeared to have but a rugged journey before us. Our horses too were so extremely weak and crippled, that the short distance we are enabled to travel is accomplished with pain and difficulty. We were forced to leave one of them about a mile and a half from our resting-place, as he was utterly unable even to walk without his load. which was distributed among the others. Some natives’ fires were seen about two miles to the north-east of us in the same valley.
September 22. — A dark tempestuous morning. Sent back for the horse we left yesterday afternoon: he was somewhat recovered, and may perhaps live to reach the coast, the point whither our hopes have long pointed, and where I trust the horses will experience some relaxation from their present incessant but necessary labour. We had no choice in the route we pursued this day, taking that which appeared most practicable for men and horses: it was a continued ascending and descending of the most frightful precipices, so covered with trees and shrubs and creeping vines, that we frequently were obliged to cut our way through: at the bottom of one of these, we left the sick horse in a dying state. To add to our perplexities, it rained incessantly, and was so thick and dark, that towards evening it was with difficulty we could see sufficient of our way to avoid being dashed to pieces. About two hours before sunset, after a descent of upwards of five thousand feet, we found ourselves at the bottom of the glen, through which ran a small stream; but a passage down it was impossible, as it fell over rocky precipices to a still greater depth. The opposite side was a mountain equally steep with the one we had just descended. The horses were also so weak that it was impossible they could take their loads up it, and there was no possibility of remaining on the spot, since there was neither grass nor room even to lie down. All the heavy baggage was therefore obliged to be left behind, and by unremitted exertion we were enabled to gain a small spot of ground, formed by the mountains retiring from the immediate descent to the gulf below. It was, however, near eight o’clock before this was accomplished; and we were after all obliged to leave two of the horses below, as all our attempts to move them were fruitless, even when unladen; a circumstance which we lamented the more, as they were on a spot that did not afford a blade of grass. The rain ceasing, was succeeded about nine o’clock by one of the severest storms of wind I ever remember to have witnessed; and for the first time perhaps during the journey, we were alarmed for our personal safety. The howling of the wind down the sides of the mountain, the violent agitation of the trees, and the crash of falling branches, made us every instant fear that we should be buried under the ruins of some of the stupendous trees which surrounded us.
September 23. — Towards midnight the storm abated, and allowed us to pass the remainder of the night in comparative comfort. The morning broke fair, and as the state of the horses would not permit us to attempt ascending the mountain with the baggage to-day, I contented myself with dispatching them for the provisions left last night at the bottom of the precipice, and to get up if possible the two remaining horses, whilst Mr. Evans and myself should explore the range, and endeavour to find out a somewhat more practicable route. We proceeded to ascend the mountain, the summit of which was near two miles distant, and in many places extremely difficult and abrupt. We however remarked on our road seven native huts, which increased our hopes that these mountains would lead by a comparatively easy descent to the coast line of country. Bilboa’s ecstasy at the first sight of the South Sea could not have been greater than ours, when on gaining the summit of this mountain, we beheld Old Ocean at our feet: it inspired as with new life: every difficulty vanished, and in imagination we were already at home. We proceeded sufficiently far to discover, that although our descent would be both difficult and dangerous, it would not be impracticable. The country between us and the sea was broken into considerable forest hills and pleasing valleys, down the principal of which we could distinguish a small stream taking its course to the sea. To the north and south the country was mountainous and broken beyond any thing we had seen. Indeed, some idea of those barrier mountains may be formed from the circumstance, that although we could distinctly see the ocean, and the waving of the coast line, (which within the distance of ten or twelve miles from the beach appeared low), yet we were still nearly fifty miles from it. I estimated the height of this mountain at between six and seven thousand feet; and yet the country north and south appeared equally elevated. Numerous smokes arising from natives’ fires announced a country well inhabited, and gave the whole picture a cheerful aspect, which reflected itself on our minds; and we returned to the tents with lighter hearts and better prospects. In removing the baggage left at the bottom of the hill a short quarter of a mile, a most distressing accident occurred. A mare, one of the strongest we had, in bringing up a very light load, not a quarter of her usual burden, and when within one hundred yards of the tent, literally burst with the violent exertion which the ascent required. In this shocking state, with her entrails on the ground, she arrived at the tent, when, to put an end to her agonies, she was shot. This was a serious loss to us, in addition to that which we suffered on the day before: and three more horses were so worn, that I scarcely expected to force them along even unladen. It must not be supposed that we attempted to climb these hills in a direct line; it would have been scarcely possible for a man to do it: we wound round them in every practicable direction; and the loose rich soil of which they were generally composed, together with the thickness of the timber, by preventing our falling, favoured our progress. In the course of the afternoon I tried the angle of elevation and depression on various parts, and found it to be from 30 to 35 and even 40 degrees. By the same means we found that the mountain which we had descended yesterday evening exceeded four thousand seven hundred feet in height on those angles. The mountain we shall have to ascend to-morrow is very considerably higher; but, with one or two exceptions, the ascents are not so abrupt. After the provisions were brought up, all hands were sent to cut a road for the horses through the brushes which surrounded the bottoms of the steepest ascents, and without which it would have been impossible for them to pass laden; the vines which crossed each other in various directions forming an almost impenetrable barrier. It may seem superfluous to speak of soil and timber among such mountains as these; yet I will say that except where the rocks presented a perpendicular face, and along the highest ridges, the soil was light and good. The timber consisted of blue gum and stringy bark, and forest oak19 of the largest dimensions: the gorges of the valleys were covered with loose small stones, and in those gorges all the trees which are usually found in places of a similar description in the district of the Five Islands (with the exception of the red cedar), were to be met with. The stones and rocks were mixed with a considerable portion of quartz, and were generally in loose detached masses of various sizes. The mountain from whence we first saw the ocean was named Sea View Mount, and I should think might be distinctly seen by ships at some distance from the coast.
19 Casuarina torulosa.
September 24. — At eight o’clock the horses began to ascend the mountain, and it was twelve before we reached the summit, a distance of exactly two miles. How the horses descended I scarcely know; and the bare recollection of the imminent dangers which they escaped, makes me tremble. At one period of the descent, I would willingly have compromised for a loss of one third of them, to ensure the safety Of the remainder. It is to the exertions and steadiness of the men, under Providence, that their safety must be ascribed. The thick tufts of grass and the loose soil also gave them a surer footing, of which the men skillfully availed themselves. The length of the descent was two measured miles and three quarters, and upon first, an angle of depression of 40 degrees for one thousand two hundred and fifty-four feet: we then slightly ascended 4 or 6 degrees for four thousand six hundred and twenty, and from thence the descent, in a continued straight line, to the run of water at the base, was on the various angles of 28, 32, 35, 40, and 46 degrees, eight thousand five hundred and eighty feet; from whence I deduce the perpendicular height to be nearly six thousand feet, which is certainly underrated. The descent terminated in a very narrow steep valley, down which we proceeded for near three quarters of a mile, when the small stream before mentioned joined a very considerable one seen yesterday from Sea View Mount; and the valley opening, we halted on the banks of the river on a spot which afforded us plenty of excellent grass, and was in other respects favourable for that rest which the horses required before they could resume their journey. One of the horses when about a third down the mountain was quite incapable of proceeding, we therefore were obliged to leave him for the night, with the loads of two other horses. It was past four o’clock before we arrived at our halting-place, having been exactly three hours and a half in descending.
September 25. — Despatched the men to bring down the horse and the baggage left on the mountain yesterday. They returned in the afternoon with both, but the horse was scarcely able to stand. In the course of the day examined the valley a few miles, when we found that it opened considerably four or five miles down; the hills previously thereto being very steep, but covered with grass, and abounding with kangaroos. It was therefore determined to move farther down the river to-morrow, instead of remaining here two days as originally proposed. In the present reduced state of the horses, we were obliged to make short stages with frequent halts, in hopes of sufficiently recruiting their strength so as to proceed with greater expedition along the coast.
September 26. — We proceeded between four and five miles down the river, which was named Hastings River, in honour of the Governor General of India; the vale gradually opening to a greater width between steep and lofty hills, the soil on which was very stony, but rich, and covered with fine grass two or three feet high. At the place where we stopped, small rich flats began to extend on either side, and confirmed our hopes that we should find a more regular country as we approached the sea. The route which we had travelled lay over steep and sharp points of mountains ending on the river, but did not offer any great obstruction. Yet we were obliged to leave the horse which had failed the day before, half-way, as he dropped through utter weakness, though unladen. These valleys and hills are astonishingly rich in timber of various kinds, many new, and their botanic supplies were inexhaustible. Indeed our cargo now principally consists of plants.
September 27. — The morning fine and clear. Sent back for the horse left yesterday, which with some difficulty was brought to the tent. Observed our latitude to be 31. 23. 10. S., longitude by estimation 152. 8. E., variation 8. 22. E. We this day cleaned all the arms, and put our military appointments in order to guard against any hostile attempts that might be made by the natives, who are reported to be in this quarter numerous and treacherous.
September 28. — As we proceeded down the river, the vale still continued to open on either hand, the hills receding from each bank of the stream from two to three miles. The land on the more elevated spots, and irregular low hills, was strong but of good soil, covered with grass: the flats which occurred alternately on both sides of the river were very rich, the grass long and coarse; the timber, blue gum and apple tree. As the points of the higher hills sometimes closed on the river, we found it convenient to cross it, which in the course of the day we did no less than three times. In the hollows of the higher hills were thick brushes of the same description as those at the Five Islands. About six miles and a half down the river it was joined by a considerable stream from the northward, running through a fine and spacious valley. The accession of this water materially altered the appearance of the river, as it began to form long and wide reaches, with alternate rapids over a shingly bottom. The northern stream was named Forbes’s River, in honour of the Marquis of Hastings’ nephew. Although our proximity to the sea seemed to preclude the probability of Hastings River being joined by any other considerable waters; yet its present size made us a little anxious to find that it had a serviceable discharge into the ocean. The ground over which we travelled being very favourable to the weak state of the horses, we accomplished between eight and nine miles. Kangaroos abounded; four were this day killed. Marks of flood were observed to the height of sixteen feet, but the river appeared now to be in its lowest state, and the sides of the barren mountains showed that there had been no rain of any consequence for a considerable time.
September 29. — The country we passed through is what is generally known in New South Wales as open forest land, with occasionally small flats on the river: steep hills sometimes ended on the river, and north and south of us were detached ranges of a similar description. The whole face of the country was abundantly covered with good grass, which, having been burnt some time, now bore the appearance of young wheat. Six miles down the river it was joined by a fine stream from the southward, apparently watering a spacious valley. We crossed this, and named it Ellenborough River, in honour of the Chief Justice of England. We proceeded about three miles farther before we halted at the edge of a thick detached brush20, which came nearly down to the water’s edge. In this brush was a quantity of fine red cedar trees, affording us reason to hope, that this valuable wood might, as we advanced to the coast, be found in yet greater abundance. The timber generally might be termed heavy, consisting of blue gum, stringy bark, and iron bark, with fine forest oaks. The stones on the surface of the land were hard and splintery, being principally of coarse quartz; some hard sandstone was also seen: the rocks in the river were of a fine dark blue colour, singularly hard and slippery. Although we had seen no natives, there were abundant signs of them. This season probably is better calculated for them to procure their food on the coast than in the woods.
20 Many very beautiful shrubs inhabit these shaded thickets, of which the following may serve as a specimen. Tetranthera dealbata, BROWN’S PRODR.; Cryptocarya glaucescens, BR., genera of laurinae. The Australian sapota fruit, Achras australis, BR.; Cargillia australis, a date plum. Myrtus trinervia of Smith, and Ripogonum album, BR.
September 30. — Our progress this day was greatly impeded by thick brushes, which, covering the sides of the hills, ended on the river: some of them were upwards of a mile in extent, and we were obliged to cut a road to enable the horses to pass through them. There were several rich flats on both sides of the river; the hilly projections ending alternately at the several bends of the stream. The obstruction offered by the brushes excepted, the road was no wise difficult: the hills were stony, with rocky summits: the river’s course was over large rocks and pebbles; it was fordable in several places, with intervening deep reaches. It was late in the afternoon before we had accomplished six miles, and halting on a flat bounded easterly by extensive brush, I resolved to cross the river. There appears to be plenty of fish in it; we caught six fine perch, weighing above two pounds each, in a very short time. The timber continues heavy and good: we saw however but little cedar after passing the first brush.
October 1. — Our travelling to-day was nearly the same as yesterday. The windings of the river were very sudden, and its banks were most generally covered with a thick brush, which in some places extended back a considerable distance. Between those brushes the ground was open forest with good grass, casuarina or beefwood, and large timber: the hills as usual stony. Near our halting-place a remarkable rocky range of hills was seen to the east-south-east of great height, and presenting nearly a perpendicular front to the north-west. Between east-north-east and east by south, with the imperfect view which we could obtain from the low hills we were traversing, it appeared but slightly broken, the higher ranges breaking off to the north-east and south-east, leaving a spacious valley through which we conjectured the river flowed. Near us were a few cedar trees, and marks of flood exceeding twenty feet, but confined to the bed of the river. On the whole we accomplished near eight miles, but scarcely five were in the direction of the sea, which we still estimate to be from twenty to twenty-five miles distant in a direct line.
October 2. — In order to avoid the brushes, which lined the banks of the river, we kept at some distance from it to the south, which led us under the high rocky peaked hill mentioned yesterday. Our road was however by no means bettered, and I afterwards regretted that I did not keep close to the river. It is proper to mention that the brush land is of the richest description, being composed entirely of vegetable mould, the produce of decayed trees for ages: it is singularly well watered; every little valley has its run to the river. A great deal of cedar was seen to-day, and the more common timber was very large and good; the forest ridges between the brushes were well clothed with grass. We have hitherto seen no natives, though they are certainly numerous, as their frequent recently deserted camps witness: we are not very anxious for better proof. The leeches in the bushes were very troublesome, and made many plentiful meals at our expense: this would probably have done us no great harm, but the wounds which they made usually festered and became painful sores. Our botanical collector ascended the peaked hill on our left, and had a most extensive prospect. The river, winding a few miles below our station of this evening, was distinctly seen to the coast, which he did not estimate to be above fifteen or eighteen miles off. The account which he gave of the interesting prospect, and the circumstance of its being the only eminence between us and the coast from whence any object could be distinguished, determined me to ascend it the ensuing morning, and ascertain the principal points in this beautiful country. We travelled this day in the whole near six miles in an east-south-east course, the horses being very weak, and a road needing to be cut for them nearly the whole way, the last mile excepted, which was open forest land.
October 3. — Soon after daylight, accompanied by the botanist, I returned to the peaked hill, leaving the horses with Mr. Evans to proceed to the north-east. Certainly a more beautiful and interesting view is not often seen. The spacious valley, through which the river flowed, extends along the coast from Smoaky Cape to the Three Brothers, and its width north of me was above eight miles, gradually narrowing to the base of Sea View Mount where we first entered it, and which bore west by north. Wide and extensive valleys stretched to the west-south-west, and south-south-west, under its base on either side, the hills in which were of moderate height, and of open forest land. To the north by east, though high land was seen at a distance of near sixty miles, the general face of the country was low with moderate and regular elevations, the highest lands being immediately behind the capes and projecting points into the sea. But the object that most interested me in this extensive survey was the appearance of the river: at a distance of seven or eight miles north-east of me, it opened into wide reaches extending to the sea, which it seemed after a winding course to enter nearly east, or in about the situation assigned by Captain Flinders to a lake across the entrance of which there appears to be a bar. The country on its banks, and within the limits before mentioned, appeared very brushy and low; the banks themselves seeming to be the highest ground. I conjectured that the river’s extending itself to such a considerable breadth, was probably caused by the tide-water; and I could not help entertaining the strongest hope from its appearance that it would prove navigable, whatever its entrance might be. To the north of the river, a few miles from it, appeared lagoons, or swamps, probably having some beach communication with the sea. Another large lake was also seen to the south-east, under the Three Brothers. Several other small patches I thought might possibly prove to be marshes between my station and the coast; the country in its immediate vicinity appearing too low to afford drainage. Descending the hill, I proceeded after the horses, passing for nearly three miles through a good open forest country; the timber large, with numerous casuarinae. At the entrance of a brush I met the horses returning, having been prevented from continuing their easterly course by a large tea-tree swamp, full of water. We therefore pursued a more northerly course, with the hope and intention of making the river near the wide reaches, which I had seen from the hill. From the forest land we immediately entered a thick brush, and after cutting our way for near two miles, the evening advancing, I thought it best to send back the horses to the forest land, where there was plenty of grass, and proceeded myself with some men to cut the road to the river; an object, which in about another mile we effected. We happened to make it near the spot wished for. The tide was going out, the water having fallen near three feet; though not perfectly good it was drinkable, and would doubtless be sweet at low-water. A small island here divides the river into two branches: below the island the water appeared very deep, as did also the north side of the island. Its breadth might be nearly a quarter of a mile; both banks were very thick of brush, and the soil rich. About three quarters of a mile down the reach, the bank on the southern side appears to become a little more open, and, as I intended halting tomorrow, I determined to cut a road to it, and clear the way as far as possible down the banks before we proceeded on Monday. Our distance from this spot to the coast line did not exceed eight or ten miles. It was nearly dark before we returned to the place which we had fixed to encamp on, amidst abundance of fine grass and good water.
October 4. — We could distinctly hear, during the night, the murmurs of the surf on the beach, and the sound was most grateful to our ears, as the welcome harbinger of the point to which eighteen weeks of anxious pilgrimage had been directed. I accompanied the men who had been appointed to cut the road along the banks of the river. We had performed about a mile when we were stopped by a large stream from the southward. It was therefore necessary to carry the road along the banks, which we did for nearly two miles, when we left of for the day and returned to our tent. I caused the main branch of the river to be sounded near the junction of the southern branch which I had named King’s River, (after my friend who is now surveying the coast of this continent), and found, at one third ebb, four fathoms. King’s River appeared equally deep, and was about one hundred yards broad; the water at this time of the tide brackish: the country covered with brush, the soil very rich; and a few ceder trees were scattered among the other timber. The vines were of enormous size, and in many instances had entirely enveloped the trees to which they had attached themselves, a small part of their trunks only being here and there visible.
October 5. — Sent a party to cut the road up King’s River. After advancing between four and five miles, a small piece of forest ground was discovered, which determined me to remove the horses and baggage thither, since the distance which the people had to go to their work occasioned much delay. A great many natives’ canoes were seen on the river to-day fishing, and as the use of these canoes to cross King’s River would have been very desirable, we endeavoured to tempt their owners to visit us, but without success; it being out of our power to make them understand our meaning.
October 6. — We set out this morning with an intention of proceeding up the west bank of King’s River by the road already cut, but before we had arrived at it, two natives in a canoe were induced to cross over to us. Their vessel we detained, making them a present of a tomahawk. The moment they saw one of the horses (which happened to be a white one), descending the bank for the purpose of being unladen, they made signs expressive of their idea, that we were going to put the horses in the canoe, which they immediately quitted and swam to the opposite shore. As it was extremely probable that many smaller branches would fall into King’s River, I determined to cross it at its mouth, and so proceed along the banks of the main river. It was two o’clock before we had got every thing over, when, upon examining the road which we had to travel, we found that about half a mile lower down another small stream joined the river. To this latter stream we therefore cut a road, keeping the canoe for farther use. By its means we found that after we should cross this last stream, we should get into an open forest country, with good grass: and we hoped that we should meet with no farther obstructions in our progress, which the thickness of the country and the intersection of streams rendered extremely tedious. The river at low-water was sufficiently fresh for us to drink. From the limited observations I was enabled to make, the depth at that time of tide was from two to three fathoms, and the rise of tide was five feet: but the tides appeared very irregular, being evidently influenced by the great body of fresh water in the river. What land we saw or passed over was a rich vegetable mould; the brush extremely thick on both sides, with fine timber of various kinds. I do not think the higher forest ground was more than a mile or two back from us. King’s River, and that which we shall cross tomorrow, are formed by numerous smaller runs of water from the valleys in the higher grounds to the southward and south-west.
October 7. — We crossed the small stream mentioned yesterday, by the help of our friendly canoe, in safety. The horses however having had little or nothing to eat the night preceding, I halted for a couple of hours to refresh them. The horse which had been so weakly, that nothing but the short stages we were obliged to make enabled him to keep up with us, in crossing the stream landed on a small muddy patch, dry at low water: here he fell, and all our efforts were unavailing to carry him to the forest-land, where I intended to leave him for the chance of recovery. To prevent a more lingering death, I now caused him to be shot. We afterwards proceeded near four miles, through an excellent open forest country, with low rising hills well watered, and plenty of good grass and timber. We halted near a large lagoon, deriving its source from springs in the valleys southerly and south-west, having an outlet to the river, which having bent considerably to the north-westward, we have not seen since we quitted its banks this morning. The weather for some days back has been remarkably fine, and we find the brushes a great protection from the heat of the sun, which is now becoming very powerful.
October 8. — We proceeded on our course, passing over for upwards of three miles a good and open country: the river three or four miles north of us. We soon afterwards came to a very large fresh water lagoon on our left, several miles in circumference, with smaller branches from the valleys, which emptied itself into the river: its point of discharge we could not discern. At five miles we were stopped by a large run of fresh water, which, from its proximity to the sea, we conjectured fell into the lower part of the harbour. At this place we were obliged to construct a bridge, which we did by two o’clock, sufficiently large and strong to take over the laden horses. During the time we were thus employed, we heard the natives’ call close to us; and, on being answered, they immediately presented themselves to the number of ten, taking great care to show us, by lifting up their hands and clapping them together, that they were perfectly unarmed. Seeing them not disposed to approach near us, I went towards them, when they all retired to a greater distance except three or four, among whom I recognised the young man from whom we had borrowed the canoe. I made them several presents of fish hooks, and kangaroo skins, but could not get them to approach within a hundred yards of us. After a short interval I left them, and mounting a horse, they on seeing me took to their heels and ran as for their lives. They were all handsome, well-made men, stout in their persons, and showing evident signs of good living. Crossing this run, we passed over an excellent and rich country; alternately thick brush and clear forest, with small streams of water for near four miles more, when, to our great joy and satisfaction, we arrived on the sea-shore about half a mile from the entrance of what we saw (with no small pleasure), formed a port to the river which we had been tracing from Sea View Mount. Thus, after twelve weeks travelling over a country exceeding three hundred and fifty miles, in a direct line from the Macquarie River, without a single serious fatality, we had the gratification to find that neither our time nor our exertions had been uselessly bestowed; and we trusted that the limited examination, which our means would allow us to make of the entrance of this port, would ultimately throw open the whole interior to the Macquarie River, for the benefit of British settlers. We pitched our tent upon a beautiful point of land, having plenty of good water and grass; and commanding a fine view of the interior of the port and surrounding country. I purpose to remain here until Monday, by which period I expect to be enabled to complete (as far as possible, without the assistance of boats), the examination of the harbour’s mouth.
October 11. — Our time for these last two days has been occupied in making a sketch of the entrance into the river, and, as far as our limited means would permit, in ascertaining its capability to receive small vessels. The entrance between the sand-rollers and over the bay appeared sufficiently deep for vessels whose draught of water might not exceed ten or twelve feet; and when within the bar, a deeper though narrow channel seemed to afford safe means of communication with part of the country traversed by us, on the 3rd and 4th inst. The nature of the country in the immediate vicinity of this port and river has already been described; and should the channel, which, as far as we are able to judge, appears safe and sufficiently deep, hereafter prove to be so, I indulge the hope, that the knowledge we have obtained will be beneficial to the interests of the colony; and facilitate the settlement of a rich and valuable tract of country. The natives in the vicinity of the port appeared very numerous: they kept, however, on the other side of the harbour, and seemed by no means inclined to have closer communication with us. We however prevailed on four young men to come over; and by making them small presents of hooks, lines, etc., this shyness has soon worn off. They were evidently acquainted with the use of fire-arms; if any of the people took up a musket they immediately ran off, and it was only by laying it down that they could he prevailed upon to return, showing by every simple means in their power their dread of its appearance.
The port abounds with fish: the sharks were larger and more numerous than I ever before observed in any place. We caught one very large one, which we offered to the natives, but they would not touch it. making signs that it would make them ill: our people however found no bad effects from eating it.
The forest hills and other rising grounds in the neighbourhood are covered with large kangaroos; and the marshes, which in some places border on the port, afford shelter and support to innumerable wild fowl. Independent of Hastings River, the whole country is generally well-watered, and there is a fine spring at the very entrance into the port.
I named this inlet, Port Macquarie, in honour of His Excellency the Governor, the original promoter of these expeditions.
October 12. — We quitted Port Macquarie at an early hour on our course homewards, with all those feelings which that word even in the wilds of Australia can inspire. We kept at a distance from the sea shore for nearly six miles; the country was exceedingly rich, the timber large with frequent brushes. Just before we came on the beach, we observed an extensive freshwater lagoon, running for several miles behind the beach, bounded on the west by forest land of good appearance; a strip of sandy land about three quarters of a mile wide dividing it from the sea. At the back of Tacking Point rises a small stream of fresh water, which flows into the lagoon. The country is of moderate height. After travelling near fifteen miles, we stopped at the extremity of a sandy beach on a point of good land, with an excellent spring of water rising on it, about four miles north of the northernmost of the Three Brothers. Tacking Point, bearing N. 25 1/4 E. Two of our remaining three dogs, had been for the last two days deprived of the use of their limbs: one died this morning; the other, we brought on horseback with us, willing, if possible, to save the life of a valuable and faithful servant. We conjecture that something they had eaten in the woods must have caused so universal a paralysis.
October 13. — Crossing the point of land on which we had been encamped, we came to a sandy beach, on which we travelled three miles and a half. At the end of it was an opening safe for boats, (and probably for small craft at high water), into an extensive lake. As we had no canoe by which to cross over, we were obliged to keep along its north shore with an intention of going round it. The lake formed a large basin with a deep channel, which as it approached the base of the northern Brother narrowed into a river-like form, and in the course of a mile it again expanded from the north-north-west to the south-west, to a very great extent. The land on its eastern side was low and marshy (fresh water). To the north and north-west, it was bounded by low forest hills covered with luxuriant grass; and to the southward and south-west extended along apparently the same description of country, nearly to the western base of the Second Brother. The ranges of high, woody hills laid down by Captain Flinders dwindle when approached into low unconnected forest hills. The Northern Brother, the highest of the three, is a long hill of moderate elevation, and is seen from such a distance in consequence of the other parts of the country being comparatively low. The timber was chiefly black butted gum21, stringy bark, turpentine tree, and forest oak22. The stones are chiefly a hard sandstone. On the lake were great numbers of black swans, ducks, etc. Various small inlets from the lake much impeded us, and after travelling near seven miles along its shores, we halted for the evening near a small spring of fresh water, in a good rising grass country. The easternmost highest part of the North Brother was S. 4. W. From the observed amplitude of the sun at rising this morning, the variation was found to be 9. 33. E.
21 Species of eucalyptus
22 Casuarina torulosa
October 14. — We were considerably delayed in our progress this day by salt water inlets, which occasioned us much trouble to cross, and at length we were altogether stopped by a very wide and deep one, near the west end of the lake: it was too late in the day to take any measures for crossing it this evening; we therefore pitched our tents on the banks near a swamp of fresh water which borders on it and the lake, from which we were distant about one mile and a half. The inlet was brackish, and must have a considerable body of fresh water near its head. In our route we had disturbed a large party of natives, some of whom were busily employed in preparing bark for a new canoe. There were several canoes on the lake, in which they all fled in great confusion; leaving their arms and utensils of every description behind them. One of the canoes was sufficiently large to hold nine men, and resembled a boat; of course we left their property untouched, though we afterwards regretted we did not seize one of their canoes, which we might easily have done. We however determined to send back in the morning for the unfinished canoe, and try our skill in completing it for use. The ground passed over for the last six miles was hilly and very stony, but covered with excellent timber of all descriptions, and also good grass. There were plenty of kangaroos, but we had but one dog able to run; so that we succeeded in killing only a small one.
October 15. — A party was sent back early this morning to secure the canoe, while we examined the river. The people returned in the course of the forenoon unsuccessful, as the natives had removed it with all their effects in the course of the night, throwing down and destroying their guniahs or bark huts. We also found that about a mile higher up the river, a branch from it joined that which we last crossed about two miles back, making an island of the ground we were upon. The main branch continued to run to the north-north-west, and north-west. We therefore lost no time in returning part of the way to the entrance into the haven, (which we named after Lord Camden), where we proposed to construct a canoe. The natives seem very numerous, but are shy: we saw many large canoes on the lake, one of which would be quite sufficient for our purposes.
October 18. — On Friday we returned to the entrance of the haven, and immediately commenced our endeavours to construct a canoe: our first essays were unsuccessful, but by Saturday night we had a bark one completed, which we hoped would answer our purpose; though I think if the natives saw it they would ridicule our rude attempts. This morning, the ebb tide answering, we commenced transporting our luggage, and in three hours every thing was safe over. A very serious misfortune however occurred in swimming the horses across: two of them were seized with the cramp near the middle of the channel, one with difficulty gained the shore, the other sank instantly and was seen no more; he was one of our best and strongest horses, and even now their weak state can ill afford a diminution in their number. This haven appears to have a perfectly safe entrance for boats and small craft at all times of tide, except at dead low water with a strong surge from the eastward, when it slightly breaks, but is still quite safe for boats if not for larger vessels. When we were in it, there appeared a safe and deep channel through the sand shoals which spread over it: the channel also appeared deep leading into the inner haven. There is plenty of fresh water in swamps, on almost every part of the shore on which we were. The higher lands abound with good timber, the points nearest the sea being covered with Banksia integrifolia, of large dimensions, fit for any kind of boat timber. It is high water full and change at ten minutes after nine, and the tide appears to rise between four and six feet. From a point near the entrance, several bearings were taken; and we also saw another large lake, or perhaps fresh water lagoon, Under the southernmost of the Three Brothers. A sunken rock was also discovered off to sea, lying upwards of two miles from the next point southerly of us, and bearing S. 5. W.: a deep clear channel lies between it and the shore. At one o’clock we departed, and by sunset had accomplished near fourteen miles of our journey. We saw the large lake under the Brothers from a high point on the coast very clearly, and found that on the north it was bounded by the North Brother, and separated from the sea by a strip of low marshy land about three quarters of a mile wide. This lake I think is a fresh water one: it was named Watson Taylor’s Lake. The country west and southerly of the Brothers consisted of low forest hills; and a range of hills of moderate height, the entrance of which bore west-south-west distant twenty or twenty-five miles, ended near Cape Hawke, the country being to that range very low with marshes. A strip of sandy land half a mile wide bounds the shore, on which is good grass and water. On the beach where we halted we found a small boat nearly buried in the sand, but quite perfect. It had belonged to a Hawkesbury vessel, belonging to one Mills, which had been lost some time ago, and the crew of which perished. We halted on the beach, the South Brother bearing W. 32. N., and the Reef N. 53 1/2. E., and which we now saw extended near three quarters of a mile north and south, and lying two marine miles from the shore. It appears dangerous, since in fine weather (as to-day) the north part of the reef only breaks occasionally.
October 19. — Proceeded on our journey up the coast: on attempting to cut off a point of land which would have saved us a distance of some miles, we found that the low part of the country was an entire fresh water swamp, interspersed with thick barren brushes, in all respects resembling the country between Sydney and Botany Bay. We therefore returned again on the beach, and crossing nearer to the point in question found the remains of a hut, which had evidently been constructed by Europeans, the saw and axe having been employed on it. About four miles farther on the beach, towards Cape Hawke, our progress was stopped by a very extensive inlet, the mouth of which was nearly a mile wide. It was near high water, and the sea broke right across with tremendous violence, affording us little hope, circumstanced as we were, of being able to effect a passage. As we had always experienced the difficulty, not to say impracticability of attempting to go round such inlets as these. we stopped about half a mile inside the entrance, on a spot affording good grass and water for the horses, the greater part of which were entirely knocked up; insomuch that I began to fear we would take very few of them to Newcastle. It being early in the day, a party proceeded to explore the shores of the inlet, to ascertain if it was possible for us to proceed round it. After several hours’ examination, and walking from six to eight miles, we were obliged to give up all intention of proceeding circuitously; and found that our efforts must be directed to effect a passage near the entrance, since numerous fresh water runs having their source in deep and impassable swamps or lagoons, presented an insurmountable barrier to the horses. The main inlet extended in two wide and extensive branches to the south-west and west, the termination of which could not be seen, the water being apparently deep; and the country to the westward rising into forest hills. In this perplexing situation, with no other prospect before us but that of effecting our own passage in a bark canoe, and being obliged to leave the horses behind us; since the width of the channel (which at low water we had the satisfaction to perceive did not exceed a quarter of a mile) and the extreme rapidity of the tide, which ran at the rate of at least three miles per hour, precluded all reasonable hope that, in their present weak state, they would have strength to swim over. In this state, the boat which had been washed on the beach suddenly occurred to us. It was true that we were twelve or fourteen miles distant from it, and that we should have to carry her that distance on men’s shoulders, but to persons in our situation such difficulties were as nothing. It was therefore determined that twelve men should depart before day, and use their efforts to bring her to the tent, whilst those that remained to take care of the horses and baggage should be preparing materials to give her such repair as must necessarily be required. We had now fully experienced how little dependance can be placed on the best marine charts, to show all the inlets and openings upon an extensive line of coast. Perhaps no charts can be more accurate than those published by Captain Flinders, the situation of the principal headlands and capes, with the direction of the coast, being laid down with the most minute attention to truth; but the distance at which he was obliged to keep, although it did not prevent him from laying the coast line down with an accuracy of outline sufficient for all nautical purposes, did not allow him to perceive openings which, though doubtless of little consequence to shipping, yet present the most serious obstacles to travellers by land; and of which, if they had been laid down in the chart, I should have hesitated to have attempted the passage without some assistance from the seaward, or means wherewith to have constructed boats. From our station on the north shore of the inlet, the extreme of Cape Hawke bore south 7 1/2. W., and the highest part of the Southern Brother, north 161. W.: a break in the land between high ranges of hills bore west, and was distant from seventeen to twenty miles. Black swans are very numerous on this inlet: few marks of the natives having remained here for any time were observed, at least on this side; recent marks of two men having traversed the shore being all that were seen.
October 20. — At four o’clock the people set out to bring the boat, and at two o’clock they had brought her safely to the tent, having gone in that time upwards of twenty-six miles, thirteen of which they carried a twelve feet boat on their shoulders; a proof how much may be effected by a steady perseverance. In fact, I had no occasion to be anxious for the result of any measure which at all depended on their personal exertions. We had the satisfaction to find that the boat would be easily repaired, wanting little besides caulking and oars, and we did not lose a moment in commencing the necessary operations. It has blown a gale of wind from the south all day, the surge breaking across the inlet with extreme violence: within the bar the water is very deep, and in moderate weather at flood tides there is doubtless a boat passage over the bar; for, notwithstanding the break, there appears a sufficient depth of water. Whatever channel there may be is on the north side of the entrance. I think, from the height of the rise of tide (between four and seven feet), and the rapidity with which it runs, that this inlet must penetrate a very considerable distance into the country; and probably the lake which we took to be fresh water under the two Southern Brothers, may be a principal branch of this lake. It appears to be high water at the full and change at about forty minutes after nine.
October 22. — Yesterday was employed in giving the boat such repairs as our means permitted. Before six o’clock this morning we had transported a good part of the baggage, when, the tide answering, we began towing the horses over, which we safely effected by half past eight. I consider the discovery of this boat most providential, for without its assistance we should never have been able to transport the horses: being obliged to cross near the entrance, the force of the tide and their own weakness would have swept them among the breakers, and they would consequently have perished. We lost no time in pursuing our journey up the coast, and had by four o’clock accomplished six miles, when, to our great mortification, another inlet barred our progress. The southerly gale. attended with incessant rain, had by this time increased to such a degree, that we could take no steps this evening to cross it. By the time the tents were pitched every thing was drenched with rain; and I think we felt the cold it occasioned more severely than on any similar occasion. I should be of opinion that this inlet communicated with the one we last crossed, as branches from each take such courses as would, I think, cause them to unite. The last inlet was named Harrington Lake, in honour of the noble earl of that title.
October 23. — The storm continued through the night. Late in the morning we had intervals of fine weather, when all our strength was immediately despatched to bring up our little boat, as we found that we could not cross without its aid. When the people returned with the boat, it blew with such violence that we dared not venture to cross in her. We however moved a little nearer the point of entrance, to be more conveniently situated when the weather should clear up. The men voluntarily undertook to carry the boat on their shoulders until we should pass Port Stephens — a service, reduced as their strength was by constant exertion, I should have been unwilling to impose on them, however it might facilitate our future progress.
October 24. — The weather was so extremely unfavourable (blowing in violent squalls with almost constant rain), that it was near dark before we got every thing safely over. I had sent on in the morning to examine the beach for a few miles, and another inlet was discovered about four miles in advance. We named this lake Farquhar’s Lake, after Sir Walter.
October 25. — From the southern point of entrance into this lake the following bearings were taken. The highest part of the South Brother, north 6. E.; ditto North Brother, north 18. E.; Cape Hawke, south 3. E. We set forward at our usual hour. At a mile along the beach we found the wreck of a small vessel, which was recognised to be the Jane, of Sydney, belonging to Mills, before mentioned as the owner of the boat in our possession. It being low water when we arrived at the lagoon seen yesterday, we crossed it at the mouth, without unlading the horses. We proceeded along the beach for six or seven miles farther, when we turned off to the westward to cut off a point of land, and entered an excellent rising forest country, with rich thick brushes, bordering the coast line. We travelled in the whole about nine miles and a half, and halted about three quarters of a mile from the beach, from a point of which (one mile south-south-east of us), we saw Cape Hawke bearing east 73. S., distant six or eight miles; and at the extremity of a long curving sandy beach, about six miles west of the same point, there was an opening which, from the appearance of the country, we thought might probably form a lake.
October 26. — Two miles and a half farther travelling brought us again on the beach, along which we went for near seven miles more, when the opening or lake seen from the point yesterday obliged us to make use of our boat. On the opposite side to us we saw the wreck of the brig Governor Hunter, now nearly covered with sand, at high water the tide washing over her. We had got the horses and great part of the luggage safely over, and I was on the point of setting out to look for a place to turn the horses on (the immediate margin of the bay being a swampy brush); when an alarm was given, that the natives had speared one of the people. Previous to crossing, we had seen them in great numbers on the side opposite to us, probably to the amount of seventy of all ages; but on seeing us launch our boat, they got into canoes and went two or three miles farther up the lake, still keeping on the south side. On the north side we did not see any natives, and although on both sides of the lake we were prepared for them, had they shown themselves in numbers on the beach, yet all were not on their guard against individual treachery. One of the men, William Blake, had entered the brushes about a hundred yards from the rest of the people on the north side, with the design of cutting a cabbage palm: he had cut one about half through, when he received a spear through his back, the point of it sticking against his breast bone. On turning his head round to see from whence he was attacked, he received another, which passed several inches through the lower part of his body: he let fall the axe with which he was cutting, and which was instantly seized by a native, the only one he saw; and it was probably the temptation of the axe that was the principal incitement to the attack. Blake was immediately put into the boat and sent over to the south side, where the doctor was, who fortunately succeeded in extracting both the spears; but from the nature of the wounds, his chance of recovery was considered very doubtful. It was so late before every thing was got over, that we were obliged to remain on the spot close to the wreck of the Governor Hunter. The natives before dark had assembled in great numbers, and we could count twelve or fourteen fires from their camps. United as we were, we had little to fear from their attacks, particularly in the night; and we remained so short a time at any place, that we did not give them time to make any concerted attack. The country west and south-west of this lagoon is rising forest land of pleasant appearance; but the shores are flat, with thick brushes and steep fresh water swamps. The lagoon itself is at low water nothing but a sand shoal, with narrow and shallow channels. The surf beats quite across the entrance, and though at high water a small vessel might beat over the bar, it would be a mere chance if she escaped being lost upon the sand-rollers inside, the surf breaking with a flood tide and easterly wind full half a mile within the outer bar. The tides run near four miles per hour, and the rise is from five to eight feet. From the south side of the entrance into the lake the highest part of the North Brother bore north 15. E.; ditto of the South Brother, north 8. 10. E. The point of land of the bay northerly, distant seven or eight miles north 8. 30. E.; and a high bluff point or projection southerly, north 163. 30. E.
October 27. — We did not make much progress this day, being greatly embarrassed by the thick brushes which border on the coast in the vicinity of Cape Hawke, and fresh water swamps near the edge of the lake. There was, however, a good deal of forest land, and the brushes grew in good soil. We halted in the afternoon, having gone only four miles (Cape Hawke bearing east distant two miles and a half), on a piece of forest land surrounded by brush, through which, however, in the course of the evening we cut a road to the beach, to the southward of Cape Hawke. From a hill on that line we saw that the lake was much more extensive than it was first supposed to be, reaching in a southerly direction to the base of the forest hills, which run a north-west line from the next point of south of Cape Hawke, and within a quarter of a mile of the beach. To the north-west we could trace it upwards of twenty miles, winding among forest hills and a generally fine looking country. The lake was studded with numerous islands of forest lands, the interior of the lake being apparently deep water with sandy beaches to the main and islands. The whole appearance of the lake was extremely picturesque and beautiful.
October 28. — This day’s journey afforded tolerably good travelling, with the exception of the last two miles, when, quitting the beach, we ascended a high hill over the lake, and again descended to a small bay under a point of land south of Cape Hawke, where we halted for the evening: having accomplished ten miles. Although we were obliged to halt the greater part of the day, the extreme heat of the weather, combined with the motion of the horse, rendered it impossible for our poor wounded man to proceed. From this point Cape Hawke bore North Peak on Ditto 357., highest part of the South Brother, N. 1. E.; North Brother, N. 7. E.; line of coast westerly, N. 306.; a point N. 328 1/2 mile; ditto N. 136 1/2. E.; ten or twelve chains islet of Sugarloaf Point, N. 168. The rocks off ditto, N. 173. Sugarloaf Point, 174 1/2.
October 29. — The coast projecting into bold and perpendicular headlands obliged us to keep at a distance from it, and travel over an elevated range, from whence we saw that an extensive series of lakes, probably forming one large one, continued at the back of the coast line nearly as far as Blackhead. At five miles we descended from the range on a small beach which terminated our day’s journey; the nature of the coast line preventing us from travelling along it. I therefore went with two men to mark out a road for the horses to the beach on the south-west side of Sugarloaf Point. The line we were obliged to pursue, led us through a most miserable scrubby country, formed into irregular steep hills of white sand, without a blade of grass, or herbage of any kind; but with abundance of small black butted gums, red gums, etc. We found the road across, to be too far for us to attempt this evening. Indeed it was near sunset when I returned to the tent. The natives are extremely numerous along this part of the coast; these extensive lakes, which abound with fish, being extremely favourable to their easy subsistence: large troops of them appear on the beaches, whilst their canoes on the lakes are equally numerous. In the morning their fires are to be observed in every direction: they evidently appear to shun us, and we have no wish for a farther acquaintance. When we stopped for the night, the lake was only separated from the sea by a narrow neck of sand, and at spring tides, with an easterly wind, it must be forced over it. This neck of sand appears likely to be occasionally washed away, and to form a shallow opening into this portion of the lake. Its principal entrance I expect to find southerly; we however observed no tides in it, which makes us conclude it will have but a shoal entrance. From this point, the Sugarloaf Point, and island of it in one, bore N. 14 1/2, and the direction of the lake was N. 275.
October 30. — We passed for five miles and a half through the country described yesterday, when we arrived on the beach south-west of the Sugarloaf Point. The rock off ditto bearing N. 88. E.; Shoal of ditto, 120., and Blackhead, N. 212 1/2; we went nearly six miles farther on the beach, and halted near a rocky point for the evening. This beach was a peculiarly productive one to us; a great number of fine fish resembling salmon, had been pursued through the surf by larger fish, and were left dry by the retiring tide: we picked up thirty-six, and a welcome prize they proved to us. We had just got the tents pitched, when a number of unarmed natives appeared upon the hill near us, and among them a woman and a child. As they came in peace, so in peace were they received. They approached the tents without any hesitation, and in the course of an hour, their numbers amounted to upwards of thirty, men, women, and children. Most of these people seemed to have been at Newcastle, and appeared a friendly and peaceable set. We did all in our power to continue these good dispositions by shaving the men, cutting the hair of the children, and bestowing on them such little articles as we could spare; not without a hope, that our kindness might be of service to others, who might under different circumstances be thrown among them. They were so far from showing the least jealousy of their women, that every circumstance indicated that their favours might be purchased: however that may be, we did not avail ourselves of this privilege. Kindling their fires close to our tents, they seemed to have taken up their quarters for the night. The weather had appeared to threaten rain, and as they all departed about ten o’clock, it was attributed to the circumstance of their being without shelter; and we expected a friendly visit from them in the morning. From this station, Blackhead bore N. 197.; and the island off Sugarloaf Point, N. 70. E. The peak over the north entrance into Port Stephens, N. 211.
October 31. — The rain of the night still continuing in the morning, and the tide not being sufficiently low to let us pass round the head, we did not set off so early as usual. Dr. Harris and Mr. Evans had gone to bathe near the point, and within one hundred and fifty yards of the tent. Mr. Evans had already bathed and had began to dress himself, when four natives, whom we recognised as being among those whom we had treated so kindly yesterday, made their appearance with their spears in their hands, in the attitude of throwing them from the cliffs above. There was scarcely time to parley with them, when a spear was thrown at Mr. Evans, Dr. Harris having leaped down the rock into the sea, and escaped to the tent under its shelter. The spear fortunately missed Mr. Evans, and he likewise escaped with the loss of his clothes, by following the doctor’s example. On the alarm being given they were pursued, but they had disappeared among the brush on the hill. This instance of their treachery redoubled our circumspection, and our situation here being favourable for their attacks, I determined to pass over the brow of the hill with the horses — a road which from its extreme steepness, I had been willing to avoid by waiting for the tide; and orders were given to collect the horses and proceed on our route. Whilst this was doing, and as I was sitting in the tent with Dr. Harris and Mr. Evans writing this Journal, a shower of spears from the height above was thrown at the tent, one of which passed directly over my shoulder, and entered the ground at my feet: the others lodged around the tent, and among the people who were getting ready the baggage, but providentially without doing any harm. We had stationed men to watch the hill, but the appearance of the natives and the flight of their spears was so instantaneous, that they had not time to alarm us. To enable us therefore to proceed in safety it was necessary to clear the hill, which was soon done; for on our ascending that hill, they took their station on another more distant. We travelled unmolested along the beach for upwards of twelve miles, when we halted for the evening on a small point of clear land, which at high water was an island. Here we found ourselves secure: we had however but just unladen, when three natives were seen coming along the beach from the side of Port Stephens. We knew that the party which had behaved so treacherously had gone that way, and we suspected that these men were sent to see whether we were disposed to resent their conduct: they appeared unarmed, each holding up a fish as a peace offering to us: but when they were within three hundred yards of us, they stopped, and not receiving any encouragement from us to advance, after halting a few minutes, they returned with all speed along the beach to their companions. I had determined if they had approached nearer to have made an example of them: and for the future, never to suffer them to come near us at all. I was very much surprised to find that Blackhead proved to be an island, with a good passage, at least a mile and a half wide, between it and the main. There appears excellent anchorage and shelter under it, and indeed it seems a far better and more convenient roadstead than Port Stephens, being safe from all winds, with a passage either from north or south. The relative positions of the points and islands on this part of the coast, by no means correspond with, nor does the longitude of Port Stephens agree with that assigned to Sugarloaf Point by Captain Flinders, who commenced at that point; Port Stephens, and this part, of the coast, being laid down from other authorities. From this point, the north head of Port Stephens bore N. 199.; Sugarloaf Point N. 45. E; and several other bearings were taken for a sketch of the channel between Blackhead Island, and the main.
November 1. — We departed early in the morning, and at three O’clock arrived at Port Stephens. The natives had assembled in considerable numbers at the back of the beach, and being armed, we suspected their intention to be, to throw at us from the bank and brush as we passed. On the advance of four men who were sent to clear the bank of them, they quickly retired, and did not show themselves again until we had passed. They appeared to be as cowardly as treacherous: and I am convinced, that all the mischief they do, arises from a misplaced confidence in their seeming friendly dispositions. A single person of his guard is sure to fall a sacrifice to their thirst for plunder. As we were unable to pass this port without the assistance of a large boat, it was determined that Mr. Evans and three men should cross the port in our own boat and proceed to Newcastle, from which settlement we were distant about thirty-six miles; and procure such aid as the commandant could afford us, together with a supply of provisions, our own being nearly exhausted.
November 5. — Mr. Evans and party set forward at day-light on Monday morning, and arrived the same evening at Newcastle. The commandant, Captain Wallis of the 46th regiment, lost not a moment in dispatching a large boat with an abundance of every comfort that could be acceptable to travellers in our situation. We had also the satisfaction to learn generally the welfare of our friends in Sydney.
Last updated Monday, December 22, 2014 at 10:53