Plains of Adelaide — bridges over the Torrens — site of Adelaide — government house buildings and churches — schools — police — roads — the Gawler — Barossa range — the Murray belt — Moorundi — natives on the Murray — distant stock stations — Mount Gambier district — its richness — ascent to Mount Lofty — Mount Barker district — scene in Hindmarsh Valley — proportion of soil in the province — pastoral and agricultural — Port Lincoln — climate of South Australia — range of the thermometer — salubrity.
Having, in the preceding chapter, run along the coast of South Australia, and noticed such parts as have been sufficiently examined to justify our observations, it remains for me to give an account of its interior features, of its climate, soil, mineral, and other sources of wealth, and lastly of its fitness as a colony for the peculiar habits of an English population.
The city of Adelaide, the capital of South Australia, stands on the eastern shore of St. Vincent’s Gulf, and is about six miles from the coast. Any one landing either at the old or new port, and proceeding to the capital for the first time, would perhaps be disappointed at the description of country through which he would pass. It consists indeed of extensive level plains, over the eastern extremity of which the Mount Lofty Range is visible. They are bounded southwards by a line of trees, marking the course of the river Torrens across them, but extend northwards for many miles without any visible termination. Their monotony however, is, at the present date, in some measure broken by belts of wood, and the numerous cottages that have been built upon them, with their adjoining corn-fields, have changed their aspect, and removed the appearance of loneliness which they first exhibited. Still neither the gloomy swamp over which the stranger has in the first instance to travel, on landing at the Port — or the character of the plains themselves, are calculated to raise his anticipations, as to the beauty or fertility of the interior. The first town through which he will pass after leaving the Port, is Albert Town, which has been laid out on the first available ground near the swamp. When I left the colony in May last, several tolerable buildings had been erected in Albert Town, but it was nevertheless a wretched looking and straggling place, and will never perhaps advance beyond its present state.
On his nearer approach to the capital the traveller will pass between the villages of Boden and Hindmarsh, in both of which he will observe numerous kilns of bricks. He will then enter on the Park Lands, by which North and South Adelaide are separated from each other. On this land the scene at once changes, and he will find himself riding through an open forest, shading rich, alluvial, and grassy flats; and, strictly speaking, will then be traversing the Valley of the Torrens. In May, 1847, there were four bridges over that little river. The Company’s bridge a little above the city. The Frome bridge, a light wooden structure, built by the sappers and miners, under the direction of Captain Frome, the Surveyor-General, after whom it was called. The City bridge, constructed of stone, but then incomplete, and a rude wooden bridge between Adelaide and Hindmarsh, erected by an innkeeper, with a view of drawing the traffic from the Port past his door. The City bridge, which was undertaken by contract, promised to grace the approach to Adelaide, and was intended to be the principal bridge to connect the north and south portions of the city, as well as to form the chief line to the Port and to the north. The occurrence of an unusual flood, however, in the latter part of the year 1847 deprived the good citizens of Adelaide of these necessary means of communication with the country on the right bank of the Torrens, by the injury it did to them. The Company’s bridge suffered less than any other, but was so shaken as to be impassable for several days. Aware, as I am, of the general character of the Australian streams, and seeing no reason why the Torrens should differ from others, taking into consideration, too, the reports of the natives as to the height to which the river had been known to rise in former years, and the fact that no rain had fallen since the establishment of the Colony to cause any very great or sudden flood, it appeared to me, that the place selected for the City bridge was too low. Ordinary floods so completely change the channel of the river, and make such devastation in its bed, that it is hardly to be recognised when the water subsides, so that unless the banks are high, and the soil of which they may be composed stiff enough to resist the impetuosity of the stream, I fear no bridge across the Torrens will be permanently safe.
The position and ground chosen by the first Surveyor-General of South Australia, as the site of its future capital is a remarkable instance of the quick intelligence of that officer. For although he had but little time to make his selection, a more intimate knowledge of the coast has proved that no more eligible point could have been found. Fault has, I am aware, been found with Colonel Light in this matter, but without just grounds, I think, for in no other locality could the same quantity of water have been found, or the same facility offered for the construction of those reservoirs and other works so necessary to the health and comfort of a large metropolis. A principal objection raised to the situation of Adelaide is its distance from the Port, but that we must remember is a disadvantage common to many other large and mercantile cities. The Surveyor-General seems to have been fully aware of the responsible duty that devolved upon him, and to have acted with great judgment. Port Lincoln, indeed, is a splendid harbour, one with which Port Adelaide, as far as size goes, cannot be compared, but having said this nothing farther can be advanced in its favour, for it is not only deficient in its supply of water, but the contiguous country is far from rich, whereas Adelaide is backed by one of undoubted fertility.
Established where it is, the city of Adelaide stands on the summit of the first elevated ground, between the coast and the mountain ranges.
It is separated, as the reader will have learnt, by the valley of the Torrens, and occupies the northern and southern slopes and brows of the hills on either side. The view to the westward from the more elevated parts of the city commands the whole of the plains of Adelaide, and St. Vincent’s Gulf; to the eastward, it extends over the rich and dark wooded valley of the river, the lighter wooded country at the base of the Mount Lofty Range, and the peaks and elevations of that beautiful mountain chain.
South Adelaide is on flat ground and twice the size of the northern part of the town. It has also been more extensively built upon, and is the established commercial division of the city. The Government House and all the public buildings and offices are in South Adelaide, and the streets in the vicinity of the North Terrace, have assumed a regularity and uniformity greater than any street in North Adelaide. Hindley and Rundle streets, indeed, would do no discredit to any secondary town in England. Every shop and store that is now built is of a substantial and ornamental character, and those general improvements are being made which are the best proofs of increasing prosperity and opulence.
There is scarcely any article of European produce that cannot be obtained in Adelaide, at a very little advance on home prices, nor is it necessary, or indeed advisable that Emigrants should overload themselves in going out to any of the Australian Colonies. Experience, the best monitor, leads me to give this advice, which, however, I am bound to say, I did not adopt when I went out to New South Wales; but the consequence was, that I purchased a great many things with which I could have dispensed, and that I should have found the money they cost much more useful than they proved.
King William Street divides Hindley from Rundle Street, and is immediately opposite to the gate of Government House, which is built on a portion of the Park lands, and is like a country gentleman’s house in England. It stands in an enclosure of about eight or ten acres; the grounds are neatly kept, and there is a shrubbery rapidly growing up around the House.
The Public Offices are at the corner of King William Street and Victoria Square, facing into the latter. The building is somewhat low, but a creditable edifice, to appearance at all events, although not large enough for the wants of the public service.
I am not aware that there is any other public building worthy of particular notice, if I except the gaol, which is a substantial erection occupying the north-west angle of the Park land, but is too low in its situation to be seen to advantage at any distance. Like Government House, it was built with a view to future addition, but fortunately for the colony, Government House is the first which seems to call for completion.
The number of Episcopalian Churches in Adelaide is limited to two, Trinity Church and St. John’s. The former was originally built of wood, and may be said to be coeval with the colony itself. It has of late however been wholly built of stone, and under the active and praiseworthy exertions of Mr. Farrell, the colonial chaplain, an excellent and commodious school-room has been attached to it.
Trinity Church stands on the North Terrace, and is a prominent object as you ascend from the Park lands. St. John’s is situated on the East Terrace at a greater distance, but it has a commanding view of the Mount Lofty Range, and the intervening plains. Perhaps considering that the city has not extended much in the direction of East Terrace, it may be a little too far for public convenience, but this is a question that admits of doubt. It is a neat and unostentatious brick building, at which the Rev. Mr. Woodcock performs service, whose exertions amongst the natives in the West Indies have stamped him both as a christian and a philanthropist. The two churches are calculated to hold about 1000 sittings, and the average attendance is about 900.
It may appear to the reader that the number of churches in Adelaide, where there is a population of between 8000 and 10,000 souls, is not sufficient, as is the case. Ere this however, a third church, to be called “Christ’s Church,” will have been erected in North Adelaide, where such a place of worship was much required. 500 pounds had been subscribed for the purpose in December last, and it was confidently anticipated that the further contributions of the colonists would enable the committee to commence and finish it. The arrival of the Bishop on the 24th of the above month, of which accounts have been received had given great satisfaction, and his Lordship was to begin his useful ministry on the following day (Christmas Day), by preaching at Trinity Church.
However few the Episcopalian churches in the capital of South Australia, we cannot accuse the Dissenters of a similar want of places of public worship, of which there are 9, the whole number throughout the province being 31; whilst the number of churches is 6. The Congregational chapels are calculated to accomodate 4700 communicants, the average attendance being about 2300, and are, generally speaking, good looking and ornamental buildings, and do no discredit to those who superintended their erection, and approved the places.
There is a Roman Catholic Bishop of South Australia, but he had, during the latter period of my residence in the province, been absent in Europe. The Catholic Church stands on the West Terrace, and is, perhaps, in one of the most healthy situations that could have been chosen. There is an excellent school attached to the church, which is equally open to all denominations of Christians, and is, I have understood, more numerously attended than any other in the capital. The total number of Sunday-schools in the province, in 1841, was 26, at which 617 boys and 582 girls attended. The average number of Sunday and other schools in 1845 was 55, at which 780 males and 670 female children attended.
In the year 1846, when His Excellency Colonel Robe laid the estimates on the table of the Legislative Council, its attention was drawn to the state of education and religion in the province, and after a long discussion on the subject, a grant of 2s. per head was voted to the different sects in aid of religion and education. It was left to the ministers of the Protestant Church, and to the proper officers of the other persuasions to appropriate the sum received by each, according to the last census, as they deemed best, for the promotion of one or the other of the above purposes, with the sole condition that they should render an account yearly to the Council of the manner in which the several sums had been appropriated. Yet this provision, which without interfering in the slightest degree with any religious sect, gave to the heads of each the greater power of doing good, caused very great dissatisfaction. All I can say is, that it was an instance of liberal and enlightened views of government, of which the Council of South Australia in having set the example ought to be proud.
The Legislative Council of New South Wales has since, I believe, followed its example, and I sincerely trust the good that is anticipated, will result from this proof on the part of both Governments to raise the moral and social character of the people.
In addition to the schools already noticed, there is a school for the natives on the Park lands. At this school there were in 1847, thirty-five boys and twenty-nine girls. The establishment being entirely under the superintendence of the Government, is kept in the very best order; the apartments are neat and clean, the master is patient and indulgent, and if we could hope for any improvement in the moral and social habits of the aborigines, it would be under circumstances so promising, but as I propose, in another place, to make some observations on the natives generally, it may not be necessary for me to add to the above remarks at the present moment.
Of other public buildings not under the immediate controul of the Government, the Bank of South Australia is certainly the first. It stands on the North Terrace and is a prominent and pleasing object from whatever point of view it is seen. There are, however, several other very creditable buildings in different parts of the city.
Had the city of Adelaide been laid out in the first instance on a smaller plan, it would now have been a compact and well-built town, but unfortunately it was planned on too large a scale, and it will necessarily have a straggling appearance for many years to come.
North and South Adelaide are, as I have already stated, separated from each other by the valley of the Torrens, than which nothing can be prettier. Its grassy flats are shaded by beautiful and umbrageous trees, and the scenery is such as one could not have expected in an unimproved state. The valley of the Torrens is a portion of the Park lands which run round the city to the breadth of half a mile. Nothing could have been more judicious than the appropriation of this open space for the amusement and convenience of the public, and for the establishment of those museums and institutions which tend so much to direct the taste, and promote the scientific improvement of a people.
Beyond the Park lands, the preliminary sections, of 134 acres each, extend to a certain distance — many of which have been laid out into smaller sections, and the city is surrounded by numerous villages, few of which add to its appearance. This certainly may be said of Thebarton, Hindmarsh, Boden, and several other villages, but those of Richmond, and Kensington, embosomed in trees, and picturesque in scenery, bear a strong resemblance to the quiet and secluded villages of England.
In Hindmarsh, Mr. Ridley, whose mechanical genius has been of such public utility, and whose enterprise is so well known, has established his steam flour-mill, which is the largest in the province. In addition to this, the South Australian Company has a steam-mill at the upper bridge; there are several of a smaller size in the city, and the total number of flour-mills in the Colony, including wind and water mills is twenty-two.
This general description of the capital of South Australia will perhaps suffice to shew its rapid growth during the eleven short years since the first wooden dwelling was erected upon its site.
It may be necessary for me to state that its peace and order are preserved by a body of police, whose vigilance and activity are as creditable to them as their own good conduct and cleanliness of appearance; and whilst the returns of the supreme court, and the general unfrequency of crime, prove the moral character of the working classes generally, the fewness of convictions for crimes of deeper shade amongst that class of the population from whose habit of idleness and drinking we should naturally look for a greater amount of crime, as undoubtedly proves the vigilance of the police. From the return of convictions before Mr. Cooper the Judge, it is clear that the majority of those who have been brought before him are men who have already suffered for former breach of the laws, and who, having escaped from the neighbouring Colonies, have vainly endeavoured to break themselves of former evil habits. The eyes of the police are however so steadily kept on such men, that they have little chance of escaping detection if they commit themselves, and they consequently level their aim at those who encourage them in vice, and who, in reality, are little better than themselves in morals, as knowing that, in many instances, they will not dare to bring them to punishment.
There are five principal roads leading from Adelaide; three into the interior, and two to the coast. Of the three first, one leads to the north, through Gawler Town, one as the Great Eastern Road leads to Mount Barker and the Murray, and the third running southwards, crosses the range to Encounter Bay. Of the roads leading to the coast, the one goes to the Port, the other to Glenelg. In endeavouring to give a description of the country, and enabling the reader to judge of it, I would propose to take him along each of these roads, and to point out the character and changes of the country on either side, for the one is peculiar and the others are diversified. My desire is to present such a view of the colony to the minds of my readers, as shall enable them to estimate its advantages and disadvantages. I would speak of both with equal impartiality and decision. The grounds of attachment I entertain for this colony rest not on any private stake I have in its pastoral or mineral interests, and I hope the reader will believe that my feelings towards it are such as would only lead me to speak as it really and truly should be spoken of. There is no country, however fair, that has not some drawback or other. There are no hopes, however promising, that may not be blighted; no prospects, however encouraging, that may not wither. Unfitness for the new field of enterprise on which a man may enter — unpropitious seasons, the designs of others, or unforeseen misfortunes; one or more of these may combine to bring about results very opposite from those we had anticipated. I would not therefore take upon myself the responsibility of giving advice, but enter upon a general description of the province of South Australia as a tourist, whose curiosity had led him to make inquiries into the capabilities of the country through which he had travelled, and who could therefore speak to other matters, besides the description of landscape or the smoothness of a road.
If we take our departure from Adelaide by the great Northern Road, we shall have to travel 25 miles over the plains, keeping the Mount Lofty Range at greater and less distances on our right, the plains extending in varying breadth to the westward, ere we can pull up at Calton’s Hotel in Gawler Town, where, nevertheless, we should find every necessary both for ourselves and our horses.
That township, the first and most promising on the Northern Road, is, as I have stated, 25 miles from Adelaide; and occupies the angle formed by the junction of the Little Para and the Gawler Rivers; the one coming from south-east, and the other from north-north-east; the traveller approaching from the south therefore, would have to cross the first of these little streams before he can enter the town.
Still, in its infancy, Gawler Town will eventually be a place of considerable importance. Through it all the traffic of the north must necessarily pass, and here, it appears to me, will be the great markets for the sale or purchase of stock. From its junction with the Little Para, the Gawler flows to the westward to the shores of St. Vincent’s Gulf. It has extensive and well wooded flats of deep alluvial soil along its banks, flanked by the plains of Adelaide — the river line of trees running across them, only with a broader belt of wood, just as the line of trees near Adelaide indicates the course of that river. If I except these features, and two or three open box-tree forests at no great distance from Albert Town, the plains are almost destitute of timber, and being very level, give an idea of extent they do not really possess, being succeeded by pine forests and low scrub to the north from Gawler Town.
The Gawler discharges itself into a deep channel or inlet, which, like the creek at Port Adelaide, has mangrove swamps on either side; still the inlet is capable of great improvement, and the anchorage at its mouth, so high up the gulf is safe, and if it were only for the shipment of goods, for tran-shipment at Port Adelaide, Port Gawler as it is called, would be of no mean utility, but it is probable that ships might take in cargo at once, in which case it would be to the interest of the northern settlers to establish a port there. Captain Allen and Mr. Ellis, two of the most independent settlers in the province, are the possessors of the land on both sides the Gawler, and I feel confident it is a property that will greatly increase in value. The alluvial flats along this little stream, are richer and more extensive than those of the Torrens, and they seem to me to be calculated for the production of many things that would be less successfully cultivated in any other part of the province. Apart, however, from any advantages Gawler Town may derive from the facilities of water communication, it will necessarily be in direct communication with Port Adelaide, as soon as a road is made between them. At present the drays conveying the ore and other exports are obliged to keep the great northern line to within a few miles of the city, before they turn off almost at a right angle to the Port; but there can be no doubt as to the formation of a direct line of communication with the Port from Gawler Town, if not of the establishment of a railway, ere many years shall elapse, for not only are the principal stock stations of the province, but the more valuable mines to the north of this town.
Up to this point the traveller does not quit the plains of Adelaide, the Mount Lofty Range being to the eastward of him and the plains, bounded by the mangrove swamps extending towards St. Vincent’s Gulf. Generally speaking, for their extent the soil is not good, but there are patches of alluvial soil, the deposits of creeks falling from the hills, that are rich and fertile. Yet, notwithstanding the quality of the soil, a great portion of the Adelaide plains have been purchased and are under cultivation. There is a great deficiency of surface water upon them, but it is procurable by digging wells; and Mr. Ellis I believe has rendered those parts of them contiguous to the Gawler available as sheep stations, by sinking wells for the convenience of his men and stock; neither can there be a doubt but that many other apparently unavailable parts of the province might be rendered available by the adoption of similar means, or by the construction of tanks in favourable situations.
This is a point it is impossible to urge too much on the attention of the Australian stock holder. There is generally speaking a deficiency of water in those Colonies, and large tracts of country favourable to stock are unoccupied in consequence, but the present liberal conditions on which leases of Crown lands are granted will make it worth the sheep farmer’s while to make those improvements which shall so conduce to his prosperity and comfort.
In proof of this, I would observe that I had several capacious tanks on my property at Varroville, near Sydney, for which I was indebted to Mr. Wells the former proprietor, and not only did they enable me to retain a large quantity of stock on my farm, when during a season of unmitigated drought my neighbours were obliged to drive their cattle to distant parts of the Colony — but I allowed several poor families to draw their supplies from, and to water some of their cattle at my reservoirs.
Beyond Gawler Town the country changes in character and appearance, whether you continue the northern road across the river, or turn more to the eastward, you leave the monotonous plain on which you have journeyed behind, and speedily advance into an undulating hilly country, lightly wooded withal, and containing many very rich, if not beautiful valleys. The Barossa Range and the districts round it are exceedingly pretty. Here, at Bethany, the Germans who have fled from the religious persecution to which they were exposed in their own country have settled, and given the names of several places in their Fatherland to the features around them. The Keizerstuhl rises the highest point in the Barossa Range, the outline of which is really beautiful, and the Rhine that issues from its deep and secluded valleys flows northwards through their lands.
In this neighbourhood Mr. Angas has a valuable property, as also the South Australian Company. Angas Park is a place of great picturesque beauty, and is capable of being made as ornamental as any nobleman’s estate in England. The direct road to the Murray River passes through Angas Park, but a more northerly course leads the traveller past the first of those valuable properties to which South Australia is mainly indebted for her present prosperous state. I mean the copper mines of Kapunda, the property of Captain Bagot, who, with Mr. Francis Dutton, became the discoverer and purchaser of the ground on which the principal lode has been ascertained to exist. There has been a large quantity of mineral land sold round this valuable locality, but although indications of copper are everywhere to be seen, no quantity sufficiently great to justify working had I believe been found up to the time I left the Colony. As however I shall have to give a more detailed account of the mines of South Aust ralia, it may not be necessary for me to speak of them at length in this place.
Captain Bagot is anxious to establish a township in the vicinity of Kapunda, and he will no doubt succeed, the very concourse of people round such a place being favourable to his views.
Beyond this point to the north the coast range of Mount Lofty, which thus far preserves a northerly direction, throws off a chain to the westward of that point, but the main range still continues to run up into the interior on its original bearing, rather increasing than decreasing in height. Upon it, the Razor Back Mount Brian, to the south of which is the great Burra Burra mine, and the Black Rock Hill, rise to the height of 2922, 3012 and 2750 respectively. On the more western branch of the chain, Mount Remarkable, Mount Brown, and Mount Arden, so named by Captain Flinders, form the principal features. This chain has been traced by Mr. Eyre to Mount Hopeless, in lat. 29 1/2, and has been found by him to terminate in the basin of Lake Torrens. The main range on the contrary has only been followed up to lat. 32 degrees 10 minutes, beyond which point it cannot extend to any great distance, as if it did, I should necessarily have seen something of it during my recent expedition. It is a remarkable fact that the further the northern ranges have been followed up, the more denuded of trees they have become. Immense tracts of land, through portions of which the Wakefield flows, rich in soil and abundant in pasture, have scarcely a tree upon them. The scenery round Mount Remarkable on the contrary is bold and picturesque, and much diversified by woodland.
Here again the indications of copper were so abundant, that 20,000 acres were taken as a special survey a short time before I left the Colony. The occupation of this land will necessarily extend the boundaries of location, but up to the period when the survey was taken, Mr. White, formerly a resident at Port Lincoln, was the most distant stockholder to the north.
Proceeding eastward from Angas Park, the road to the Murray river leads through a hilly country of an inferior description, portions only of it being occupied as sheep stations. From the brow of the last of these hills, the eye wanders over the dark and gloomy sea of scrub, known as the Murray belt, through which the traveller has to pass before he gains the bank of the river or the station at Moorundi. He descends direct upon the level plain over which he has to go, and after passing some pretty scenery on the banks of a creek close to which the road runs, and crossing an open interval, he enters the belt, through which it will take him four hours to penetrate. This singular feature is a broad line of wood, composed in the lower part of Eucalyptus dumosa, a straggling tree, growing to an inconsiderable height, rising at once from the ground with many slender stems, and affording but an imperfect shade. About the latitude of 34 degrees the character of the Murray belt changes — it becomes denser and more diversified. Pine trees on sandy ridges, Acacia, Hakea, Exocarpi, and many other shrubs form a thick wood, through which it is difficult to keep a correct course. Occasionally a low brush extends to the cliffs overlooking the valley of the Murray, but it may be said, that there is an open space varying in breadth from half a-mile to three miles between the Murray belt and the river. It is a flat table land about 250 or 300 feet above the level of the sea, the substratum being of the tertiary fossil formation. The surface is a mixture of red sand and clay, mixed with calcareous limestone in small rounded nodules. The very nature of this soil is heating, and the consequence is that it has little herbage at any one time. There is however a succession of vegetation, especially during the spring months, which, from the fact of the cattle being particularly fond of it, must I should imagine be both sweet and nutritious.
Any one who has ever been on the banks of the Murray will admit that it is a noble river. The description I have already given supersedes the necessity of my dwelling on it here. In another place I shall have to speak of it, not in a commercial point of view, but as a line of communication between two distant colonies, and the important part it has acted in the advancement of the province of South Australia. As a commercial river, I fear it will not be of practical utility. To prove this, it may be necessary for me to observe that the Murray runs for more than five degrees of latitude through a desert. That it is tortuous in its course, and is in many places encumbered with timber, and its depth entirely depends on the seasons. The difficulties, therefore, that present themselves to the navigation of the central Murray are such as to preclude the hope of its ever being made available for such a purpose, even admitting that its banks were located at every available point. Moorundi, the property of Mr. Eyre, the present Lieutenant-Governor of New Zealand, is ninety miles from Adelaide, and twenty-six from the N.W. bend of the Murray. It is part of a special survey of four thousand acres taken by Mr. Eyre and Mr. Gilles on the banks of the river, and in consequence of its appropriate position, was selected by Captain Grey, the then Governor of South Australia, as a station for a Resident Magistrate and Protector of the Aborigines, to fill both which appointments he nominated Mr. Eyre. There can be no doubt, either as to the foresight which dictated the establishment of this post on the banks of the Murray, or the selection of Mr. Eyre as the Resident. At the time this measure was decided on, the feelings of the natives on the river were hostile to the settlers. The repeated collisions between them and the Overlanders had kindled a deep spirit of revenge in their breasts, and although they suffered severely in every contest, they would not allow any party with stock to pass along the line of the river without attempting to stop their progress; and there can be no doubt but that, in this frame of mind, they would have attacked the station next the river if they had been left to themselves, and with their stealthy habits and daring, would have been no mean enemy on the boundaries of location. The character and spirit of these people is entirely misunderstood and undervalued by the learned in England, and the degraded position in the scale of the human species into which they have been put, has, I feel assured, been in consequence of the little intercourse that had taken place between the first navigators and the aborigines of the Australian Continent. I have seen them under every variety of circumstances — have come suddenly upon them in a state of uncontrolled freedom — have passed tribe after tribe under the protection of envoys — have visited them in their huts — have mixed with them in their camps, and have seen them in their intercourse with Europeans, and I am, in candour, obliged to confess that the most unfavourable light in which I have seen them, has been when mixed up with Europeans.
That the natives of the interior have made frequent attacks on the stations of the settlers I have no doubt; very likely, in some instances, they have done so without any direct provocation, but we must not forget their position or the consequences of the extension of boundaries of location to the aborigines themselves. The more ground our flocks and herds occupy, the more circumscribed become the haunts of the savage. Not only is this the inevitable consequence, but he sees the intruder running down his game with dogs of unequalled strength and swiftness, and deplores the destruction of his means of subsistence. The cattle tread down the herbs which at one season of the year constituted his food. The gun, with its sharp report, drives the wild fowl from the creeks, and the unhappy aborigine is driven to despair. He has no country on which to fall back. The next tribe will not permit him to occupy their territory. In such a state what is he to do? Is it a matter of surprise that in the confidence of numbers he should seek to drive those who have intruded on him back again, and endeavour to recover possession of his lost domain? It might be that the parties concerned were not conscious of the injury they were inflicting, but even that fact would not lessen the fancied right of the native to repossess himself of his lost territory. Yet on the other hand we cannot condemn resistance on the part of the white man; for it would be unjust to overlook the fearful position in which they are placed, and the terrible appearance of a party of savages working themselves up to the perpetration of indiscriminate slaughter. No doubt many parties have gone to take up stations in the interior, with the honest intention of keeping on good terms with the natives, and who in accordance with such resolution have treated them with hospitality and consideration; but, it unfortunately happens that a prolonged intercourse with the Europeans weakens and at length destroys those feelings of awe and uncertainty with which they were at first regarded. The natives find that they are men like themselves, and that their intrusion is an injury, and they perhaps become the aggressors in provoking hostilities. In such a case resistance becomes a matter of personal defence, and however much such collisions may be regretted, the parties concerned can hardly be brought to account; but, it more frequently happens, that the men who are sent to form out-stations beyond the boundaries of location, are men of bold and unscrupulous dispositions, used to crime, accustomed to danger, and reckless as to whether they quarrel, or keep on terms with the natives who visit them. Thrown to such a distance in the wild, in some measure out of the pale of the law, without any of the opposite sex to restrain their passions, the encouragement these men give to their sable friends, is only for the gratification of their passions. The seizure of some of their women, and the refusal to give them up, provokes hostility and rouses resentment, but those who scruple not at the commission of one act of violence, most assuredly will not hesitate at another. Such cases are gene rally marked by some circumstances that betray its character, and naturally rouse the indignation of the Government. If the only consequence was the punishment of the guilty, we should rejoice in such retributive justice; but, unfortunately and too frequently, it happens, that the station belongs to a stockholder, who, both from feelings of interest and humanity, has treated the natives with every consideration, and discountenanced any ill-treatment of them on the part of his servants, but whose property is nevertheless sacrificed by their misconduct.
I have been unintentionally led into this subject, in the course of my remarks on the policy of Captain Grey, in establishing the post at Moorundi. The consequences have been equally beneficial to the settlers and aborigines. The eastern out-stations of the province have been unmolested, and parties with stock have passed down the Murray in perfect safety. If any act of violence or robbery has been committed by the natives, the perpetrators have been delivered up by the natives themselves, who have learnt that it is their interest to refrain from such acts; and instead of the Murray being the scene of conflict and slaughter, its whole line is now occupied by stock-stations, and tranquillity everywhere prevails.
About seventy [FIFTEEN in published text] miles below Moorundi is Wellington, where a ferry has been established across the Murray, that township being on the direct road from Adelaide to Mount Gambier, and Rivoli Bay. A little below Wellington, Lake Victoria receives the waters of the Murray, which eventually mingle with those of the ocean, through the sea mouth.
The country immediately to the eastward of the Murray affords, in some places, a scanty supply of grass for sheep, but, generally speaking, it is similar in its soil and rock formation, and consequently in its productions to the scrubby country to the westward. The line of granite I have mentioned, in the former part of my work, as traversing or crossing the Murray below Wellington, continues through the scrub, large blocks being frequent amongst the brushes on a somewhat lower level than the tertiary fossil limestone in its neighbourhood. Round these blocks of granite the soil is considerably better, and there is a coating of grass upon it, as far as the ground consists of the decomposed rock.
About sixty miles to the E.S.E. of Wellington is the Tatiara country, once celebrated for the ferocity and cannibalism of its inhabitants, but now occupied by the settlers, who have of late crossed the Murray in considerable numbers to form stations there. The distance from Wellington to the district of Mount Gambier, said to be the fairest portion of South Australia, whether as regards its climate or its soil, is more than 200 miles. The first portion of the road, to almost the above distance, is through a perfect desert, in which, excepting during the rainy season, water is scarcely to be found, so that the journey is not performed without its privation. After passing Lake Albert the traveller has to journey at no great distance from the Coorong over a low country, once covered by the waters of the ocean, the noise of whose billows he hears through the silence of the night. The first elevation he reaches is a continuation of the great fossil bed, through which the volcanic hills, where he will ultimately arrive, have been forced up. Mount Gambier, the principal of these, is about 40 miles from the Glenelg, and 50 from Rivoli Bay. The country from either of these points is low for many miles, but well grassed, of the richest soil, and in many places abundantly timbered. Mount Gambier is scarcely visible until you almost reach its base — nor even then is its outward appearance different from other hills. On reaching its summit, however, you find youself on the brink of a crater, standing indeed on a precipice, with a small sheet of water of about half-a-mile in circumference, two hundred feet below you; the water of which is as blue as indigo, and seems to be very deep; no bottom indeed has been found at 50 fathoms. The ground round the base of Mount Gambier is very open, and you may ride your horse along it unchecked for many miles. At the lower parts, and at some distance from it, the ground is moist, and many caverns have been found in which water of the very purest kind exists, no doubt deposited in the natural reservoirs by percolation from the higher ground. The whole formation of the district, these capacious caverns, and the numerous and extensive tea-tree swamps along the coast, plainly demonstrate that they are supplied by gradual filtration, or find their way through the interstices, or cells of the lava to the lower levels.
It is generally admitted that the greater part of the land in the neighbourhood of Mount Gambier is equal to the richest soil, whether of Van Diemen’s Land or of Port Phillip, the general character indeed of this district, and the fact of its being so much farther to the south than Adelaide, its perpetual verdure and moister climate would lead to the supposition that it is capable of producing grain of the very finest quality, and there can, I think, be but little doubt that it will rival the sister colonies in its agricultural productions, and considering the nature of the soil is similar to that round the volcanic peaks in the Mediterranean, it will also produce wine of a superior description. Settlers both from the province of South Australia and neighbouring colonies have vied with each other in securing stations in this fertile, but remote district, and it would appear from the number of allotments that have been purchased in the townships which have been established on the coast that settlers are fast flocking to it.
From what has been stated it would seem that the district of Mount Gambier is adapted rather for agricultural than pastoral pursuits, and that it is consequently favourable for occupation by a rural population. Tea-tree swamps (melaleuca) are a feature, I believe, peculiar to South Australia, and generally indicate the presence of springs, and always of moisture. The soil is of the very richest quality, and there is, perhaps, no ground in the world that is more suitable for gardens, and as these swamps are both numerous and extensive in the lower country, behind Rivoli and Guichen Bays, this portion of the province promises equally fair for the growth of those European fruits which are less advantageously cultivated in the more northern parts of the province.
Returning to Adelaide, and proceeding from thence to the eastward, along the great eastern or Mount Barker line, we cross, in the first instance, the remaining portion of the plains lying between the city and the hills, to the base of which the distance is about three miles, the whole is laid out in farms, and is extensively and carefully cultivated. As you approach the hills, the country becomes lightly wooded and undulating, affording numerous sites for villas, on which many have already been erected, both by settlers and the more opulent tradesmen. Individuals indeed, residing in England, can form but a faint idea of the comforts and conveniences they enjoy, at such a distance from their native country. Being at sufficient elevation to catch the sea breeze, which passes over the plains of Adelaide, without being felt, they have almost the advantage of living near the sea coast, and the cool winds that sweep down the valleys behind them, and constitute the land breeze, ensure to them cool and refreshing evenings, when those dwelling at a lower elevation are oppressed by heat. On the first rise of the mountains is the Glen Osmond Lead Mine, which will be noticed hereafter. The Mount Barker district being more numerously settled than most other parts of the province, and being one of its most important and fertile districts, more labour has been expended on the road leading into it, than on any other in the colony. From the level of the Glen Osmond Mine, it winds up a romantic valley, with steep hills of rounded form, generally covered with grass, and studded lightly with trees on either side, nor is it, until you attain the summit of the Mount Lofty range, that any change takes place in the character of the hills or the vegetation, you then find yourself travelling through a dense forest of stringy barks, the finest of which have been levelled to the ground, with the axe, for the purpose of being sawn into planks for building, or split into rails for fencing. From Crafer’s Inn, situated under the peak of Mount Lofty, the road to Mount Barker passes through a barren country for some miles, and crosses several steep valleys, in the centre of which there are rippling streams; the summit of the ranges still continues to be thickly wooded, the ground underneath being covered with shrubs and flowers of numberless kinds and varied beauty. In illustration of this, I may observe, that the first time I crossed the Mount Lofty range, I amused myself pulling the different kinds of flowers as I rode along, and on counting them when I reached Adelaide for the purpose of arranging them in a book, found that I had no less than ninety-three varieties. The majority of these, however, consisted of papilionaceous plants, and several beautiful varieties of Orchideae. On descending to a lower level, after crossing the Onkaparinga, the scenery and the country at once change, you find yourself upon rich alluvial flats, flanked by barren rocky hills, the air during the spring being perfumed by the scent of the Tetratheca, a beautiful hill flower, at that time in splendid blossom, and growing in profusion on the tops of the hills, mingled with the Chyranthera, with its light blue blossoms; both these plants it has always appeared, are well adapted for the edges of borders, but there are not many plants in Australia that would be fit for such a purpose.
It does not appear necessary, in a work like this, to trouble the reader with an account of every village or of every valley in the districts through which I lead him; my object is to give a general and faithful description of the country only, reserving the power of drawing attention to any thing I may deem worthy of notice. Taking the district of Mount Barker therefore in its full range, I would observe, that it is one of the finest agricultural districts in the province. It abounds in very many beautiful alluvial valleys, which, when I first crossed, had grass that rose above the horses middles as they walked through it, and looked luxuriant beyond description. These valleys are limited both in length and breadth, but are level and clear; their soil is a rich alluvial deposit, and the plough can be driven from one end to the other without meeting a single obstacle to check its progress. Independently of these valleys, there are other portions of good grazing land in the Mount Barker district, but there are, nevertheless, very many stony ranges that are entirely useless even to stock. The Mount Barker district may be said to extend from the village of Nairne to Strathalbyn, on the River Angas, the latter place being 15 miles from the shores of Lake Victoria. Within the range of this district, there are also the villages of Hahansdorf and Macclesfield, the former being a German village, at no great distance from Mount Barker. Immediately to the north of the village of Nairne is Mount Torrens, the river of that name has several branches to the north-east of it as high up as Mount Gould. The first of the Company’s special surveys, and perhaps some of the finest soil in the province is in this locality. The surveys on the sources and tributaries of the Torrens are splendid properties, and the Company may well consider them as amongst the most valuable of its acquisitions; beyond the heads of the Torrens the country is more hilly and less available. There are, nevertheless, isolated spots sufficiently large for the most comfortable homesteads. From this point, a west-south-west course will soon lead the traveller into the plains of Adelaide, and at less than 10 miles after entering upon them, he will again find himself in the metropolis. Again departing from it for the southern parts of the province, he will keep the Mount Lofty range upon his left, and will really find some difficulty in passing the numberless fences which now enclose the plains. The land indeed in this line of road is more fenced than in any other direction, a reason for this may be that the road runs nearer the base of the hills, and the land is consequently better than that on the lower ground. Many very excellent farms are to be found on the banks of the Sturt and the Onkaparinga, on the latter of which the village of Noorlunga has been established, at the point where the road crosses it. The Sturt has a tortuous course, somewhat to the northward of west, and falls into the gulf at Glenelg, after spreading over the flats behind the sand-hills at that place. The direction of the road is parallel to that of the ranges, or nearly south-south-west as far as the village of Noorlunga, when it turns more to the eastward of south, for Willunga, which is 28 miles distant from Adelaide. The banks of the Onkaparinga, above the crossing place, are extremely inaccessible, insomuch that stock can hardly be driven down to water for many miles above that point. The hills however are rounded in form, grassy, and clear of trees, consequently well adapted for grazing purposes. It was at Noorlunga, which is not more than two miles from the gulf, and can be approached in boats, as high as the bridge there, that Captain Barker first landed on the South Australian shore. The country between it and Willunga is generally good, portions of it are sandy and scrubby, but Morphett’s Vale is a rich and extensive piece of land, and I can well remember before it was settled seeing several large stacks of hay that had been cut, as it then lay in a state of nature. Willunga is close under the foot of the hills, which here, trending to the south-south-west, meet the coast line extremity of the Southern Aldinga plains. Close to this point is a hill, called Mount Terrible, almost of a conical shape, over the very summit of this, in the early stages of the colony, the road led to Encounter Bay; and I shall not forget the surprise I experienced, when going to that place, on finding I could not by any possibility avoid this formidable obstacle. On the other side of Mount Terrible the country is very scrubby for some miles, until, all at once, you burst upon the narrow, but beautiful valley of Mypunga. This beautiful valley, which had scarcely been trodden by the European when I first encamped upon it, was then covered with Orchideous plants of every colour, amidst a profusion of the richest vegetation. A sweet rippling stream passed within five yards of my tent-door, and found its way to the Gulf about a mile below me to the west. It was on the occasion of my going to the sea mouth of the Murray, that I first stopped at this spot. Amongst the boat’s crew I had brought with me from Adelaide a young lad, of not more than twenty-one, who had, for some weeks before, been leading a very hard life. At Mypunga he was seized with delirium tremens, and became so exceedingly outrageous, that I was obliged to have his feet and hands tied. In the morning he was still as frantic as ever, but the policeman, under whose charge I had placed him, having imprudently loosened the cord from his ankles, he suddenly started upon his feet, and gaining the scrub, through which we had descended into the valley, with incredible swiftness, secreted himself amongst it. Nor could we, by the utmost efforts during that and the succeeding day, discover his hiding place. I was accompanied by a man of the name of Foley, a bushranger of great notoriety, who had been captured by the Adelaide police, and was sent with my party in the hope that his knowledge of the coast would be of use to me, but neither could he discover the unfortunate runaway, who, there is no doubt, subsequently perished. Beyond Mypunga, to the south, are the valleys of Yankalilla and Rapid Bay, but very little, if in any respect inferior to the first mentioned place. The country between them is, however, extremely hilly, and contains some beautifully romantic spots of ground. The rock formation of this part of the ranges is very diversified; the upper part of Rapid valley is a fine grey limestone; a little to the southward veins both of copper and lead have been discovered, and I have good reason for supposing that quicksilver will one day or other be found in this part of the province. At Willunga there is a small stream, which issues from a valley close behind the township, and appears in former times to have laid many hundred acres of the flats below under water. Their soil is composed of the very richest alluvial deposit, and has produced some of the finest crops of wheat in the province. Aldinga plains lie to the south-west of Willunga, and are sufficiently extensive to feed numerous sheep, but unavailable in consequence of the deficiency of water upon them, and are an instance of a large tract of land lying in an unprofitable state, which might, with little trouble and expense, by sinking wells in different parts, be rendered extremely valuable. On ascending the hills above Willunga, in following up the southern line of road to Encounter Bay, it leads for several miles through a stringy-bark forest, and brings the traveller upon the great sandy basin, between Willunga and Currency Creek. This gloomy and sterile feature bears a strong contrast to the rich and fertile valleys I have described, and is really a most remarkable formation in the geology of the province. At an elevation of between 600 and 700 feet this basin is surrounded on all sides by rugged stony hills, excepting to the south and south-east, in which direc tion it falls into the valley of the Hindmarsh and Currency Creek respectively. Mount Magnificent, Mount Compass, and Mount Jagged, rise in isolated groups in different parts of the basin, the soil of which is pure sand, its surface is undulating, and in many parts covered with stunted banksias, through which it is difficult to force one’s way in riding along. The Finniss rises behind Mount Magnificent, and is joined by a smaller branch from Mount Compass, as it flows from the eastward. At about 25 miles from Willunga the traveller descends into the valley of Currency Creek, and finds the change from the barren tract over which he has been riding as sudden as when he entered upon it from the rich flats of Willunga. The valley of Currency Creek is not, however, the same as those I have already described in other parts of the colony; it is prettily wooded and grassy, but continues narrow for some distance after you have entered it; a small running stream, with a rocky bed, occupying the centre of the valley, which ultimately escapes from the hills by a kind of gorge, and discharges itself into an arm of the Goolwa. The extent of good land in Currency Creek is not very great, and is bounded both to the north and south by barren scrub. Due south, at the distance from 15 to 18 miles, is Encounter Bay, the country intervening between the two points to the shores of the Goolwa is very level, the soil is light but rich, and there appeared to me to be many thousand acres that were adapted for agricultural purposes, better adapted indeed than the richer soils. Whether that view be correct or not, the valleys of the Inman and Hindmarsh immediately behind Encounter Bay would fully make up for the want of agricultural land in this part of the province. Hindmarsh valley is not of any great extent, but the soil is good, and its scenery in my humble opinion surpasses any other I remember in South Australia. I shall never, indeed, forget the beautiful effect of sunset, on a fine bold mountain at the head of it, called the Black Hill. The glowing orb was fast descending behind it to the west, and the Black Hill was cast into deep shade, whilst the sun’s rays shooting down two valleys on either side gave the grass the appearance of young wheat. The extent of arable land in the valley of the Inman is very considerable, but in point of scenery bears no comparison with the first. I do not know whether I have made it sufficiently clear that there is a high range at the back of the coast hereabouts. If not, I would observe that it runs uninterruptedly from Mount Lofty to Cape Jarvis. Opposite to Encounter Bay it occupies nearly the centre of the promontory, and consequently forms a division of the eastern and western waters, there being a considerable breadth of barren stringy-bark forest between the heads of the opposite valleys, here as on the higher parts of the ranges near Mount Lofty, from the ascent of the great eastern road to the valley of the Onkerparinga.
It is a remarkable fact, but one that I believe I have already adverted to, that the farther north, towards the valley of the Wakefield, the more denuded of timber the country becomes, until at last not a tree of any kind can be seen. These extensive and open downs are, nevertheless, well grassed, and covered with a profusion of orchideous plants. Whether, however, there is any salt present in the soil, to check the growth of the trees, it is impossible to say. Undoubtedly many of the ponds in the Wakefield, as well as other parts of the province are brackish, but the same denuded state of the country exists not any where else. These districts are far too valuable to be overlooked, and are therefore extensively occupied by cattle and sheep. My most worthy friend, Mr. Charles Campbell, and my companion Mr. John Browne, and his brother, both occupy the most distant stations to the north. Mr. Campbell has one of the finest cattle runs in the province, and my comrade, I believe, is perfectly satisfied with his run. The condition of their cattle and sheep would at all events lead to the conclusion, that neither suffer from the nature of the water they drink or the pasture on which they feed.
As regards the general appearance of the wooded portion of the province, I would remark, that excepting on the tops of the ranges where the stringy-bark grows; in the pine forests, and where there are belts of scrub on barren or sandy ground, its character is that of open forest without the slightest undergrowth save grass. The trees are more or less numerous according to the locality, as well as more or less umbrageous, a character they generally have on river flats, but the habit of the eucalyptus is, generally speaking, straggling in its branches. In many places the trees are so sparingly, and I had almost said judiciously distributed as to resemble the park lands attached to a gentleman’s residence in England, and it only wants the edifice to complete the comparison.
The proportion of good to bad land in the province has generally been considered as divisible into three parts; that is to say, land entirely unavailable — land adapted for pastoral purposes only, and land of a superior quality. On due consideration, I am afraid this is not a correct estimate, but that unavailable country greatly preponderates over the other two. If, in truth, keeping the distant interior entirely out of view, and confining our observations to those portions of the colony into which the settlers have pushed in search for runs, we look to the great extent of unavailable country between the Murray and the Mount Gambier district, along the line of the Murray belt, and the extensive tracts at the head of the Gulfs, we shall find that South Australia, from the very nature of its formation, has an undue proportion of waste land. Those parts, however, which I have mentioned as being unavailable, were once covered by the sea, and could hardly be expected to be other than we now see them, and it may, therefore, be questioned how far they ought to be put into the scale. In this view of the matter, and taking the hilly country only into account, the proportion of unavailable and of pastoral land may be nearly equal; but that of the better description will still, I think, fall short of the other two. Taking South Australia in its length and breadth, the quantity of available land is, beyond doubt, very limited, but I regard it as exceedingly good, and believe that its capabilities have by no means been ascertained. I feel satisfied, indeed, that necessity will prove, not only, that the present pastoral districts are capable of maintaining a much greater number of stock upon them than they have hitherto borne, but that the province is also capable of bearing a very great amount of population; that it is peculiarly fitted for a rural peasantry, and that its agricultural products will be sufficient to support masses of the population employed either in its mining or manufactures. In this view of the subject it would appear that Providence has adapted the land to meet its new destinies, and that nothing we can say, either in praise or censure of its natural capabilities, will have the effect of concealing either the one or the other, as time shall glide on.
On the better soils the average crop of wheat is rather over than under twenty-five bushels to the acre. In many localities, and more especially when the ground is first cropped, it exceeds forty; and on some lands, once my own, in the Reed Beds, at the termination of the Torrens’ river, five acres, which I sold to Mr. Sparshott, averaged fifty-two bushels to the acre. The Reed Beds may be said to be on the plains of Adelaide, and their very nature will account to the reader for the richness of their soil; but the soil of the plains is not generally good, excepting in such places where torrents descending from the hills have spread over portions, and covered them with an alluvial deposit to a greater or less depth. The average crop of wheat on the plains does not exceed twelve or fifteen bushels to the acre, and depends on the time when the hot winds may set in. Barley on the light sandy soil of the plains is much heavier than wheat.
In the description I have thus endeavoured to give of South Australia, I have omitted any mention of the district of Port Lincoln, chiefly because sufficient was not known of it when I sailed for England to justify my hazarding any remark. Recent advices from the colony state that a practicable line of route from Adelaide has been discovered along the western shore of Spencer’s Gulf, and therefore, the disasters that overtook early explorers in that quarter, are not likely again to occur. It is farther said, that the number of sheep now depastured on the lands behind Port Lincoln, amounts to 70,000 — a proof of the utility, if not the richness of the country — as far, however, as I am aware, the soil must be considered of an inferior description — in other respects, the Port has advantages that will always render it an agreeable, if not altogether a desirable residence. It appears to be gradually improving, but the amount of its population is still low, not more than sixty. It is frequented by American and other whalers, but the duties collected add little to the revenues of the province. Port Lincoln, however, could hardly now be abandoned, since there are considerable interests at stake there. It has been stated that copper has been found in the interior, and I see no reason why it should not exist in the mountain formation of the Gawler Range, in such case an impulse will be given to the whole district, that would even change its prospects, and increase the mercantile operations of the province.
It does not appear to be the disposition of the English settlers to try experiments on the growth of intertropical productions. It must be admitted, however, that there are not many places in South Australia where they could be cultivated with advantage; for although both the plains of Adelaide and the valley of the Murray are warm in summer, the frosts, which are sufficient to blight potatoes, would necessarily injure, if they did not destroy, perennials, whilst in the hills the cold is adverse to any plants the growth of a tropical climate, if we except those which, as annuals, come to maturity in the course of a summer; but the true reason why the growth of extraneous productions is neglected in South Australia, is the expense consequent on the state of the labour market — for no doubt many pursuits might be followed there that would be remunerative. It is exceedingly difficult, however, to lead the pursuits of a community out of their ordinary course, and it is only where direct advantages are to be gained, that the spirit of enterprise and speculation breaks forth.
The climate of South Australia is admirably adapted for the growth of fruit trees of the hardier tropical kinds, for although the tenderer kinds grow there also, they do not arrive at perfection. The loquat, the guava, the orange, and the banana, are of slow growth, but the vine, the fig, the pomegranate, and others, flourish beyond description, as do English fruit trees of every kind. It is to be observed, that the climate of the plains of Adelaide and that of the hills are distinct. I have been in considerable heat in the former at noon, and on the hills have been in frost in the evening. The forest trees of Europe will grow in the ranges, but on the plains they languish; in the ranges also the gooseberry and the currant bear well, but in the gardens on the plains they are admitted only to say you have such fruits; the pomegranate will not mature in the open air, but melons of all kinds are weeds. Yet, such trees as are congenial to the climate arrive at maturity with incredible rapidity, and bear in the greatest abundance. The show of grapes in Mr. Stephenson’s garden in North Adelaide, and the show of apples and plums in Mr. Anstey’s garden on the hills are fine beyond description, and could not be surpassed in any part of the world — it may readily be imagined, therefore, that the intermediate fruit trees, such as the peach, the nectarine, the pear, the cherry, the greengage, and others, are of the most vigorous habits. All of them, indeed, are standards, and the wood they make during one season, is the best proof that can be given of their congeniality to the soil and climate of the province.
There are in South Australia two periods of the year which are equally deceptive to the stranger. The one is when the country is burnt up and suffering under the effects of summer heat — when the earth is almost herbless, and the ground swarms with grasshoppers — when a dry heat prevails in a calm still air. The other when vegetation is springing up under the early rains and every thing is green. Arriving at Adelaide during the first period, the stranger would hardly believe that the country, at any other season of the year, would be so clothed with herbage and look so fresh; arriving at the other, he would equally doubt the possibility of the vegetable kingdom being laid so completely prostrate, or that the country could assume so withered and parched an appearance; but these changes are common to every country under a similar latitude, and it would be unjust to set them down to its prejudice, or advantage.
The following mean of heat at 2 p.m. throughout the year, will give the reader a correct idea of the range of the thermometer. I have taken 2 p.m. as being the hottest period of the day, and, therefore, nearest the truth.
|March||77||103 1/2||68 1/2|
|April||67 1/2||85||55 1/2|
|September||61||72 1/2||55 1/2|
|October||68 1/2||94 1/2||55|
The west and south-west winds are the most prevalent, blowing for 130 or 140 days in the year. During the summer months the land and sea breezes prevail along the coast, but in the interior the wind generally commences at E.N.E., and going round with the sun settles at west in the afternoon.
I need not point out to the reader, that the above table only shews the mean of the thermometer during a certain hour of the day; the temperature during the night must necessarily be much lower; the coolness of the night, indeed, generally speaking, makes up for the mid-day heat. There are some days of the year when hot winds prevails, which are certainly very disagreeable, if not trying. Their occurrence, however, is not frequent, and will be easily accounted for from natural causes. They sometimes continue for three or more days, during which time clouds of dust fill the air, and whirlwinds cross the plains, but the dryness of the Australian atmosphere considerably influences the feelings on such occasions, and certainly produces a different effect upon the system from that which would be produced at a much lower temperature in a more humid climate; for, no doubt, it is to the united effects of heat and moisture, where they more or less exist, that the healthiness or unhealthiness of a country may be ascribed. In such countries, generally speaking, either teaming vapours, or malaria from dense woods or swamps naturally tries the constitution, but to its extreme dryness, and the absence of all vegetable decay, it appears to me that the general salubrity of South-east Australia is to be attributed. So rarified, indeed, is the atmosphere, that it causes an elasticity of spirits unknown in a heavier temperature. So the hot winds, of which I have been speaking, are not felt in the degree we should be led to suppose. Like the air the spirits are buoyant and light, and it is for its disagreeableness at the time, not any after effects that a hot wind is to be dreaded. It is hot, and that is all you can say; you have a reluctance to move, and may not rest so well as usual; but the spirits are in no way affected; nor indeed, in the ordinary transactions of business does a hot wind make the slightest difference. If there are three or four months of warm weather, there are eight or nine months of the year, during which the weather is splendid. Nothing can exceed the autumn, winter, and spring of that transparent region, where the firmament is as bright as it would appear from the summit of Mount Blanc. In the middle of winter you enjoy a fire, the evenings are cold, and occasionally the nights are frosty. It is then necessary to put on warmer clothing, and a good surtout, buttoned across the breast, is neither an uncomfortable nor unimportant addition. Having said thus much of the general salubrity of the climate of South Australia, I would observe, in reference to what may be said against it, that the changes of temperature are sudden and unexpected, the thermometer rising or falling 50 degrees in an hour or two. Whether it is owing to the properties I have ascribed, that the climate of this place as also of Sydney should be fatal to consumptive habits, I do not know, but in both places I have understood that such is the case, and in both I have had reason to regret instances. It has been said that influenza prevailed last year in Adelaide to a great extent, and that it carried off a great many children and elderly persons. An epidemic, similar in its symptoms, may have prevailed there, and been severe in its progress, but it hardly seems probable that the epidemic of this country should have been conveyed through constant change of air, the best cure for such a disease, to so distant a part of the world. With all its salubrity, indeed, I believe it may be said, that South Australia is subject to the more unimportant maladies like other countries, but that there are no indigenous disorders of a dangerous kind, and that it is a country which may strictly be called one of the healthiest in the world, and will, in all probability, continue so, as long as it shall be kept clear of European diseases.
Having thus endeavoured to give a description of the general character and climate of this limited but certainly beautiful portion of the Australian continent, without encumbering my description with any remark on the principal and particular sources of wealth it possesses, which not being usual, could not, or rather would not, have been considered applicable. I hope the object I have had in view will be sufficiently clear to the reader. I have endeavoured to point out with an impartial pen, the real capabilities of the province, and the nature of those productions which are most congenial to her soil. Without undue praise on the one hand, or unjust depreciation on the other, it has been my desire to present a faithful picture of her to my readers, and I hope it will appear from what I have said, as is really and truly the case, that both in climate and other respects it is a country peculiarly adapted to the pursuits and habits of my countrymen. That its climate so far approaches that of England, as to be subject to light and partial frosts, which render it unfit for the cultivation of tropical productions, but make it essentially an agricultural country, capable of yielding as fine cereal grain as any country in the world, of whatever kind it may be — that at the same time the greater mildness of the climate makes it favourable to the growth of a variety of fruits and vegetables, independently of European fruit trees and culinary herbs, which put it in the power of the settler to secure the enjoyment of greater luxuries and comforts, than he could possibly expect to have done in his own country, except at a great expense, and that as far as the two great desiderata go, on which I have been dwelling, it is a country to which an Englishman may migrate with the most cheerful anticipations.
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 12:00