Part 3 out of 8
spears on getting close enough to throw; we did not, however, give them
time to accomplish their object, as we ran down the hill in time to
confront them, on which they took to the rocks. Seeing that it was now
time to convince them we were not to be trifled with, and to put a stop
at once to what I saw would otherwise terminate in bloodshed, we both
took deliberate aim and fired a couple of bullets so close to the
principal offender, that he could hardly escape feeling the effects of
the fragments of lead, as they split upon the rocks within a few feet of
his body. After dark, it set in to rain heavily for an hour, when lights
were observed moving in the direction of our horses, but the sentries
being on the alert, no further attempt was made to molest us.
Two more horses were landed this morning; but rain setting in from the
north-west with a strong easterly wind below, a stop was put to landing
any more to-day.
19th May (Sunday).
It had rained both heavily and continuously during the night; but as our
tents were good, we did not experience much inconvenience from it, and it
gave a fair prospect of finding a good supply of water on our
contemplated trip into the interior. Mr. Hearson's wound was progressing
favourably, and I was in consequence enabled to go off to the ship and
procure a few additional comforts. On our return two more horses were
brought ashore, reducing the number on board to one-half.
We succeeded in landing six more horses during the day; the great
distance they had to be swam ashore made the process very slow and
fatiguing, some of the horses being scarcely able to stand for some time
after landing. This morning I made a rough survey of the cove and
surrounding hills, and while so employed observed seventeen natives pass
across the shoals at low water, carrying nets but no weapons; they did
not appear to fear us, or inclined to come up to the camp; nor did we
offer them any encouragement, as in the present exposed state of our camp
they would have been very troublesome.
In the evening Mr. Brown and myself rode across the isthmus to Mermaid
Strait, and found it to form a very fine and romantic-looking little
harbour, surrounded by a bold rocky coast, giving it much more the
appearance of an inland lake than an open strait. I have no doubt but
that it would afford an excellent harbour; there is, however, reason to
think it is equally difficult of access from the main with the cove upon
which our camp is, as a wide expanse of marsh land appears to extend all
round behind the hills that bound it to the southward.
The last four horses were landed this morning, as also the instruments
and remainder of the stores required for our first journey. The farrier,
with two assistants, was kept busily employed all day shoeing horses.
PREPARATIONS FOR JOURNEY INLAND.
The forge was in full employ during the day, and great progress made with
the shoeing and preparations for our departure. Accompanied by Mr. Brown,
I rode out to-day to reconnoitre, and seek for a pass through the hills
that encompassed our camp; the only practical outlet we found to be
through some very rocky ravines to the south-west, where at about five
miles we found--what I had for some time suspected to be the case--that
the whole of the isthmus upon which we had landed was cut off from the
mainland by an extensive salt-water marsh, commencing at the bottom of
Nickol Bay and running parallel to the general line of coast, at least as
far as Enderby Island. Skirting the northern edge of the marsh for
several miles to the westward, we found it gradually getting wider and
deeper; we accordingly returned to the narrowest part, and rode into it
for about half a mile, the water being very shallow, and the bottom
sufficiently firm to carry us, although with considerable labour to the
horses. Finding it was getting late, we determined to try and return to
the camp round by the head of Nickol Bay, and succeeded in climbing over
the rocks and boulders that encumber this portion of the coast, until we
were within a quarter of a mile of the camp, when the tide came in upon
us so quickly that, after having been repeatedly thrown down by the surf,
we were compelled to leave the horses jammed up in the rocks just above
high-water mark, and proceeded on foot to the camp.
At 3.0 a.m., the tide having fallen sufficiently, Messrs. Brown and
Harding were enabled to bring in the horses left imprisoned last night.
During the day, all the arrangements for our departure were completed,
and in the afternoon Mr. Hearson was removed to the Dolphin, having been
kept on shore since the accident, to be constantly under my own
attendance; he was now rapidly recovering, although much reduced. Wrote
instructions for the guidance of Captain Dixon and Mr. Walcott during the
absence of the expedition, the latter gentleman being left in charge of
the stores, and to make such observations as the means at his disposal
should admit of.
Landed at daylight, intending to make a start, as it was the Queen's
birthday; but owing to some of the horses having rambled, we did not
succeed in getting them all in and saddled up before 2.0 p.m., when three
or four of the horses that had not been accustomed to carrying packs
commenced playing up and scattering their loads in all directions,
straining and otherwise injuring several of the pack-saddles, which
detained us until so late in the day that I deemed it best to return to
camp, and as the forge had not been removed to the ship, to shorten some
of the saddle-irons, to render them less liable to injury, which was
otherwise a great improvement.
The re-adjustments having been satisfactorily accomplished, we made a
fair start this morning by 9.0 a.m., and arrived on the edge of the marsh
by 11.30, where, having first taken a survey of the several channels from
the summit of a high granite hill, we entered the waste of mud at a point
where it did not appear to be more than two miles wide; an hour's
struggle carried us fairly through on to terra firma, only one horse
having to be assisted by the removal of his load. After resting an hour
and a half for dinner, we resumed our route in a south direction, across
an extensive low grassy plain of red clayey loam, passing over a few
rocky ridges at sunset, and at 6 p.m. encamped on a dry creek twenty
yards wide, water being found in some clay-pans in the adjoining plain.
Being Sunday, the camp was only moved a mile further to a fine pool of
water in a river eighty yards wide, with beautiful grassy banks, which I
named the Maitland; it comes from the south-east, and may probably have a
course of sixty miles, coming through a plain five or six miles wide, the
greater part of which is occasionally inundated by floods from the
interior. Cockatoos and other game were plentiful, sixteen of the former
being killed by Mr. Brockman at one shot; they were white, with
orange-tinted feathers in the crest, similar to those on the Murchison
and Gascoyne Rivers. It may be as well here to observe that upon first
starting a regular routine of duty had been established in the party, the
care and loading of five horses being told off to each two of the party,
as they could lift on opposite packs simultaneously, and their being all
numbered, everyone could at once know the loads under his charge. The
night was also divided into eight watches, commencing at 8 p.m. and
ending at 6 a.m.; the duty of the first watch being to cook the bread for
the following day, and the last to have breakfast ready in the morning by
the time it was light enough to see. By this arrangement no time was
lost, and everyone knew what was under his particular charge. Camp 3.
Having determined in the first instance to strike to the westward, with a
view to cutting any large rivers coming from the interior that might
serve to lead us through the rocky hills that hemmed us in in that
quarter, we this morning took a south-south-west by south course to 11.40
a.m. when we crossed a dry stream-bed sixty yards wide, coming out of the
granite ranges to the southward, the country becoming more barren as we
edged upon the spurs of the rocky hills. At 2.0 p.m. we halted on the
banks of another stream-bed of the same size as the last, when it came on
to rain; resuming our march at 4.10, steering west to 6.0, when we
encamped on a dry gully, with a little feed near it. Having pitched the
tents, it continued to rain until 11.0 p.m., when a sudden rush of water
swept down the valley, filling the watercourse and carrying away our
fire, and before we had time to remove the baggage to higher ground, we
had a foot of water in the camp. Fortunately nothing was lost or injured,
and it only served as a useful lesson for the future. Camp 4.
The early part of the day was employed drying the stores, so that we did
not make a start until late. Four and a half hours' travelling over stony
country, principally covered with triodia, but containing several patches
of good grass, brought us to another river fifty yards wide, in which
were a few pools. This stream was followed up to 5 p.m., when we left it,
and halted on an open plain close to some shallow clay-pans containing
rainwater; our course for the day having been about south-west eleven
miles. Camp 5.
Latitude 21 degrees 7 minutes.
By an azimuth of the sun's centre taken this morning, the magnetic
variation was observed to be about 20 minutes west. Steering north 230
degrees east magnetic, soon brought us out of the hills into a plain
extending as far as the eye could reach to the north-west, with a few
patches of good grass upon it, but mostly covered with triodia, which was
now just ripe, yielding fine heads of seed, which the horses are very
fond of. At thirteen miles struck the channel of a considerable river
coming from the south. As this offered us a fair prospect of working
inland, and we had already attained nearly to longitude 116 degrees, or
about the meridian of the mouth of the Alma, the stream was followed up
for an hour, its average breadth being over 200 yards. At 4.40 encamped
at a fine spring on the bank of a deep pool, under a cliff of metamorphic
sandstone nearly 300 feet high; a cane, much resembling a Spanish red,
growing in considerable quantities near the water. Camp 6.
Latitude 21 degrees 18 minutes; longitude 116 degrees 4 minutes.
SURPRISE A CAMP OF NATIVES.
Soon after starting this morning, we came upon a camp of fifteen or
twenty natives, on the bank of a deep reach of water, hemmed in by steep
rocky hills, up which they hastily scrambled on our approach, and on
reaching the summit, tried by various gestures to express their
disapproval of our visit, but would not hold any parley with us. At five
miles the river turned abruptly to the north-east, through a precipitous
rocky defile, which induced us to make an attempt to cut across and
strike the river some miles higher up; but after being for some time
involved in impracticable ravines, we were again obliged to have recourse
to the bed of the river, although encumbered with beds of large stones,
over which the horses had great difficulty in travelling; so that by
sunset we had not accomplished more than six miles in a direct east by
south line from last night's camp. Camp 7.
Latitude 21 degrees 19 minutes 29 seconds.
The general course of the river during the day was very little to the
south of east, its banks still maintaining the same rocky and precipitous
character, marks of inundation being frequently observed at the height of
thirty feet above the present stream, which now was only running gently
in a channel not more than thirty yards wide, but when in flood occupying
the whole of the valley, which averages a quarter of a mile in width. The
larger pools are lined with flags and reeds, and contain numbers of small
fish resembling trout, similar to those found in the Lyons and Gascoyne
Rivers. A very handsome tree, resembling an ash, grew on the margin,
bearing a beautiful white flower, four to five inches across, having on
the inside a delicate tinge of yellow, and yielding a sweet scent like
violets. Several natives were met in the course of the day, but would not
come near us; in one instance, however, we came upon one so suddenly that
he had only time to jump into a pool to escape being surrounded by the
party. After calling for some time most lustily for his friends, he
gradually crept away amongst the canes and disappeared. Only one
tributary of any size was observed to join the river in the course of the
day's march, and that came in from the southward. At 5.20 p.m. halted on
the banks of a deep pool, surrounded by fine cajeput-trees and
flooded-gum, grass being plentiful for our horses. Camp 8.
ENCOUNTER DIFFICULT COUNTRY.
There was a decided improvement in the appearance of the valley as we
continued to ascend the river, the deep pools were more continuous, and
grass more abundant; the high lands on either bank still, however,
retained their rugged outlines, and were clothed with little else but
triodia. Travelling along the bed of the river was nevertheless difficult
and dangerous for the horses, on account of the immense quantity of
rounded boulders of water-worn rocks that occupied a large portion of the
channel, and frequently jammed the horses into narrow passes, where they
could not be extricated without meeting with very severe falls, which
very soon crippled more than one of them; their shoes also began to be
wrenched off by being caught in the deep clefts of the rocks, very soon
expending all the extra sets brought with us. Just before coming to our
night's halt a large stream-bed, forty yards wide, was observed to come
in from the southward. Camp 9.
Latitude 21 degrees 28 minutes 18 seconds; longitude 116 degrees 31
minutes by account.
2nd June (Sunday).
Having abundance of feed and water, we gladly availed ourselves of it to
make it a day of rest; it also afforded me an opportunity to ascertain
the rate of the chronometer, which, as I had reason to expect, had gone
very irregularly since landing.
Made an early start, and as the valley of the river was not quite so
rugged as that we had passed over during the last two or three days, by
noon we had accomplished about eight miles, the course of the river still
being very little from the southward of east; we had not, therefore, made
much progress towards the Lyons River (our more immediate destination),
and to quit the valley was out of the question, as there is no feed or
water out of it within a reasonable distance. Both the valley and
surrounding country are destitute of trees, and bold hills of metamorphic
sandstone frequently jut out into the valley, and terminate in
perpendicular cliffs 200 or 300 feet high. Towards the evening the river
had been coming from the northward of east. Camp 10.
Latitude 21 degrees 27 minutes 48 seconds.
During the forenoon the river became much hemmed in by steep rocky hills,
the bed being a succession of rapids, over a bare, rocky channel; but
after the noon halt the stream came more from the south-east, with wide
grassy flats on either side, in many parts very boggy, and producing
Melaleuca leucodendron, with tall, straight stems, and a variety of
eucalyptus, resembling Eucalyptus piperita. White sandstone and shales
began to make their appearance on the banks, and the water in the river
had a saline taste. Several of the horses began to show signs of being
much distressed, by falling and sticking fast in the mud, from which they
had not strength to extricate themselves, even after being relieved of
their loads. Ducks were plentiful, and tolerably tame. Camp 11.
Latitude 21 degrees 33 minutes 55 seconds; longitude 117 degrees 2
minutes by account.
Having marked a large double-stemmed gum-tree with NAE and the date, we
made a start up the river, but at about a mile found the valley narrow in
until the channel of the river, which was here full of water, was walled
in on both banks by perpendicular cliffs, from which we were compelled to
turn back nearly to our last night's camp. During the last two days we
had caught an occasional glimpse of an elevated range of hills extending
for many miles parallel to the river and about ten miles to the
southward, which rendered it probable that some change would now be found
in the character of the back country, enabling us to travel without being
so frequently retarded by the rocks and bends of the river. A suitable
spot was accordingly selected for ascending out of the valley, which was
accomplished with some difficulty, when the country was observed to be
intersected for many miles by deep ravines, terminating, however, to the
south in a level plain, extending to the base of the range already
referred to. After four hours' heavy toiling, we at length reached the
summit of the plain, water having been found in one of the rocky gullies
by the way. For the first half-mile, on entering the plain or tableland,
the ground was stony and covered with stunted acacia, but it very quickly
changed into a rich clayey loam, yielding a splendid crop of kangaroo and
other grasses, melons, and small white convolvulus, yielding a round
black seed the size of a pea, which we found scattered over nearly the
whole surface of the plain for miles together. In the lower parts of the
flat rainwater appeared to have remained in shallow clay-pans until very
recently, killing much of the grass, which was replaced by atriplex
bushes. As we approached the foot of the range the ground became stony
and covered with triodia; good grass was still, however, to be found in
the ravines leading out of the hills, and as our object was now to shape
a course to the southward, we followed up one of the most promising
valleys, in the hope that it might lead us through the range; we were,
however, disappointed in finding that, after pushing some distance up
very steep and rocky passes, they all terminated in cliffs of horizontal
sandstone, running in parallel bands one above another to the height of
500 or 600 feet, and frequently extending without a break for ten or
fifteen miles along the face of the range. The horses being much fatigued
by the climb from the valley of the river, we encamped at 3.10 p.m.,
within the hills, and without water. Camp 12.
FINE GRASSY PLAIN. FORTESCUE RIVER.
A light drizzling rain came on early in the morning, but not enough to
supply the horses, who rambled so far during the night in search of it
that it was noon before they were all collected. Quitting the range,
which had been named after one of the most liberal promoters of the
expedition, Hamersley Range, we took a north-east course, crossing over
twelve or fourteen miles of beautiful open grassy plain, in many parts
the kangaroo-grass reaching above the horses' backs; the soil being of
the richest clay-loam, occasionally containing beds of singular fragments
of opaline rocks, resembling ancient lava. By 5.30 p.m. we reached the
river again, several miles above the deep glen that had checked our
course on the 5th. The valley having again opened out, gave us easy
access to its banks, which were here a rich black peat soil, containing
numerous springs. Here was first observed a very handsome fan-palm,
growing in topes, some of them attaining to the height of forty feet and
twenty inches diameter, the leaves measuring eight to ten feet in length.
The river had again opened into deep reaches of water, and contained
abundance of fish resembling cobblers, weighing four and five pounds
each. The whole character of the country was evidently changing for the
better; and as I have no doubt that at no distant period it will become a
rich and thriving settlement, I named the river the Fortescue, after the
Under Secretary of State for the Colonies, under whose auspices the
expedition took its origin, and the large expanse of fertile plain that
lies between the river and the Hamersley Range, Chichester Downs.
A quarter of a mile up the river brought us to a fine tributary from the
south, running strong enough to supply a large mill. This had to be
traced up for two miles before we could find a ford; it was found to take
its rise in several deep pools, fed by springs issuing out of the plains
crossed yesterday. Some powerful springs were also observed to flow into
the river from the northward, through a dense forest of melaleuca, with a
rank undergrowth of canes, flags, etc. At five miles the river again
presented a wide reach of water several miles in length, after which it
all at once broke up into numerous channels, wandering through a forest
of white-gum, well grassed, the soil being highly fertile. Owing to my
having been accidentally trodden upon by one of the horses, we were
obliged to encamp early, having only made about twelve miles. Camp 14.
Latitude 21 degrees 40 minutes 42 seconds; longitude by account 117
degrees 17 minutes east.
Following up the channel upon which we had encamped, in about an hour it
was lost in open grassy plains, which we continued to traverse until
noon, when we struck on a well-defined stream-bed, which had branched off
a mile or two south of last night's camp. Grass and water being abundant,
we halted till 2, when we resumed an easterly route to 5.30, over rather
stony plains, yielding triodia. Encamped after dark without water or
feed, tying the horses up short to prevent their rambling, having
accomplished about twenty miles in an east-south-east direction during
the day. Camp 12.
Latitude 21 degrees 49 minutes 40 seconds.
9th June (Sunday).
Less than a mile this morning brought us to a grassy channel containing
water, which was followed up for a short distance, when we halted for the
remainder of the day to refresh our tired and famished horses. Camp 16.
A NATIVE CHILD.
The channel of the river was still followed for several miles to the
eastward, when it again disappeared in open plains extending to the base
of the Hamersley Range, which still continued to run parallel to the
river at about seven miles distance to the southward. Pools of water were
occasionally found in channels scooped out of the alluvial soil of which
the plains were composed--the waters of the Fortescue, during the period
of the summer rains, spreading over the country for miles and leaving a
rich deposit of alluvial mud, adding greatly to its fertility. In the
course of the afternoon we came suddenly on a party of natives, digging
roots. One woman, with a child of about five years of age, hid close to
our line of march, and did not move until she was afraid of being run
over by the pack-horses, when she ran away, leaving the child gazing upon
the monster intruders with a look of passive wonder. It was a poor,
ill-conditioned-looking object, suffering from a cutaneous disorder. On
giving it a piece of damper, it quickly began to devour it, tearing it to
fragments with its sharp and attenuated fingers, with all the keenness of
a hawk. We left it standing with a lump of bread in each hand, where its
mother would no doubt find it when she came to see what had been left of
it by the large dogs, as the aborigines of this part of Australia call
our horses. Travelling on till late, we encamped in an open grassy plain,
without water. Camp 17.
Latitude 21 degrees 55 minutes 57 seconds; longitude 118 degrees 3
Four miles to the south-east we came upon a pool of brackish water,
surrounded with bulrushes, in a channel coming from the south of the
Hamersley Range, again apparently offering us a chance of getting to the
southward. We accordingly struck for the gorge out of which this stream
came, and succeeded in penetrating for three miles up a very rocky gully,
filled with some of the harshest triodia we had yet encountered, and had
to halt for the night in a narrow pass, where there was scarcely room to
tie up our horses. Camp 18.
Latitude 22 degrees 12 minutes 52 seconds.
ASCEND THE RANGES.
One of the horses having slipped his halter during the night, Messrs.
Brown and Brockman returned down the gully to track it up, while we made
an attempt to follow up the deep defile in which we were hemmed, but a
quarter of a mile brought us to an impassable barrier of cliffs.
Retracing our steps about a mile, we again made an attempt more to the
eastward, and this time succeeded in reaching a considerable stream-bed,
which ultimately proved to be the main channel of the Fortescue, and led
us through the range. Resting till noon, Messrs. Brown and Brockman
overtook us with the missing horse, when we resumed our route up the bed
of the river to the southward, until again brought to a dead stand by the
whole bed of the stream being occupied by deep pools of water, fed by
numerous strong springs. As it was getting late in the day, I left the
party to form a camp, while I climbed the hills to get a view of the
country in advance. A laborious ascent of nearly an hour brought me to
one of the highest summits of the range, at an elevation of about 2700
feet above the sea, and 700 above the bed of the river. From this hill I
had a fine view to the southward, and observed that by following up a
small dry ravine to the south-east there would be a fair prospect of
reaching a large extent of open level plain that came within two or three
miles of the camp in that direction. To the east and south-east the range
was lofty and mountainous, while to the south and south-west stretched
open grassy plains, occasionally interrupted by bold detached hills,
apparently of the same formation as the Hamersley Range. On descending to
the camp, I started a fragment of rock of a few tons weight, which rushed
with fearful velocity towards the deep gorge in which the horses were
feeding. After carrying all before it for a quarter of a mile, it made a
clear spring over a cliff 200 feet in depth, and plunged into the waters
below with a sound like thunder, inducing a belief at the camp that a
large portion of cliff had fallen. Fortunately it did not produce an
estampede, which I had known to have been caused on another occasion by a
similar occurrence. Camp 19.
Latitude 22 degrees 15 minutes; longitude 118 degrees 4 minutes 30
Availing ourselves of the observations made yesterday, we succeeded,
after a hard scramble of two hours, in getting through the remaining
portion of the range, our horses having learned to climb like goats, or
they never would have accomplished the passage. The plain appears to have
a considerable elevation above those to the northward, and is drained by
several deep breaks through the Hamersley Range. Resuming a
south-south-west course to latitude 22 degrees 26 minutes 32 seconds, we
passed at first over some very stony land, yielding little else besides
triodia and stunted acacia; but for the last six or seven miles was a
rich alluvial clay, covered with very fair pasture, and water was found
in abundance in pools in the bed of a watercourse coming from the
south-east. Camp 20.
Latitude 22 degrees 26 minutes 58 seconds.
On our first landing at Nickol Bay the nights had been very mild, but we
now began to feel them cold and bracing. This was partly owing to the
increased elevation of the country we were now travelling over; the
south-east wind coming off the mountainous country was very keen, and
almost frosty early in the morning. Our course this day was at first over
tolerably good country, which gradually became more and more rocky, the
ridges increasing in elevation until the aneroid barometer fell to 27.33,
giving an altitude of 2400 feet above the sea. Night overtook us in a
deep rocky ravine, where we had much difficulty in keeping the
pack-horses together, and were at last compelled to unload them amongst
rocks in the bed of a dry watercourse trending to the westward; a little
grass being procurable in the vicinity. Fortunately water had been met
with at noon, so that we were not pressed for want of it. Camp 21.
Latitude 22 degrees 41 minutes 43 seconds.
Following the gully upon which we had encamped, it led us to the
westward, over a rocky line of country, until 1 p.m., when not meeting
with any water, and the horses showing great weakness and symptoms of
distress from the loss of their shoes, it was found desirable to quit the
main gully and try and find feed and water up a promising tributary
coming from the north with the view of ultimately falling back on the
plains under the Hamersley Range, should we fail to meet with water
sooner; fortunately, however, in an hour we came upon a small supply
amongst rocks, surrounded by some tolerable feed. Had we failed to find
this timely relief, it is probable that not more than half the horses
would have been able to carry their loads to the nearest known waterhole.
16th June (Sunday).
This day of rest was alike acceptable to man and horse, and afforded me
an opportunity, after reading prayers to the party, to clear a set of
lunar distances, by which I found that the chronometer would have placed
us forty miles to the west of our true position. I had long since
observed that it could not be trusted under even ordinary variations of
temperature, but could procure no other, the Acting Surveyor-General
having declined to supply me with either of the two chronometers
belonging to his department that could be relied on, and in consequence I
now found I should be compelled to have recourse entirely to lunar
observations and triangulation for the compilation of the maps, which
would add very much to the amount of labour and liability to error.
Several crested pigeons, white cockatoos, and crested quail or
partridges, were shot as they came to drink at the waterhole.
The horses had so far recovered after the day's rest that we were enabled
to resume a south-west course, following down the bed of the stream to
latitude 22 degrees 51 minutes, the country slightly improving towards
evening; but we again had to encamp without water, having, however,
obtained a small quantity in some gravel at noon. The hills to the east
of our track rose about 1000 feet above the bed of the watercourse, and
consisted of metamorphic sandstones and shales, intersected by whinstone
dykes, their summits being capped with red conglomerate. In one place the
river had cut through a ridge of altered rocks, and exhibited a very
singular contortion of the strata, the laminae being crippled up into an
arch of 100 feet high, showing a dip on each flank of 45 degrees, forming
a cave beneath running for some distance into the hill. Camp 23.
Continuing to follow the stream-bed south-west for eight or nine miles,
we came upon a patch of very green grass, on which we halted, to allow
the horses the benefit, on account of their not having had any water
since noon yesterday. In the meanwhile, accompanied by Mr. Brown, I
started off and walked to a prominent hill six miles to the south, to get
a view of the surrounding country. From the summit of this hill, which we
found to have an elevation of 700 or 800 feet, we procured a valuable
round of bearings, and had a distant view of the country to the
southward. Level plains and detached ranges of moderate elevation
appeared to be the general character of the country towards the Lyons
River. We returned to the party by 3.0 p.m., and were glad to find that
during our absence water had been found in shallow clay-pans a mile to
the westward, to which we moved over and encamped. Camp 24.
Latitude 22 degrees 56 minutes 23 seconds; longitude by account 117
degrees 21 minutes.
We were unable to proceed this day, owing to my having eaten some of the
dwarf mesembryanthemum, which I had formerly observed to be used as food
by the natives on the Gascoyne, but which had produced with me violent
headache and vomiting. The horses were, however, enjoying excellent feed;
and I contrived to work up my map and clear a lunar.
Started at 7.25 a.m. with nineteen horses, having been obliged to leave
behind a horse belonging to Mr. Lennard, so lame that he could not move.
Following the stream-bed nearly west for ten miles, came upon a pool of
permanent water containing flags--the first we had met with since
quitting the Hamersley Range. This was of great value, as there was no
water that could be depended upon on our return, in the last sixty miles.
Pushing on quickly for twelve miles further, the river entered a wide
plain, in which was some tolerable feed; we had again, however, to halt
for the night without water.
DEPOT CAMP ON THE HARDEY RIVER.
Although the size of the channel of the river we had been following down
for the last sixty miles had considerably increased both in width and
depth, yet very little water had been found in it, and as it took a
decided turn in its course this morning to north-west, after two hours'
ride, without observing any change, and there being every appearance of
its keeping the same course for the next twenty miles, I was convinced
that it could not be a tributary to either the Edmund or Lyons, which I
had at first hoped it might prove. The barometer also ranged too high for
it to be at a sufficient elevation to admit of it flowing into either of
those rivers, as the elevation of the Lyons at the confluence of the Alma
is at least of the same altitude above the sea. Having named the river
the Hardey, we fell back upon the pools passed yesterday, where I had
decided upon forming a depot camp at which to rest the weakest horses,
while with a lightly equipped party I proposed to complete the expedition
of the country intervening between this and the Lyons River. Camp 26.
Latitude 22 degrees 58 minutes 28 seconds; longitude 117 degrees 10
In accordance with the plan decided upon yesterday, I started this day
accompanied by Messrs. Brown, Harding, and Brockman, with three
pack-horses, conveying eight days' provisions and fourteen gallons of
water. Twelve miles on the south-south-west course, over a very stony
country, brought us to a deep stream-bed trending in the same direction,
which we pursued for thirteen miles, the country gradually improving
until the channel was lost in an open plain of rich soil, covered with
fine green grass. Several pools of rainwater of a deep red colour, but
fresh and sweet, gave us a good camp for the night; a set of Stellar
observations giving the latitude 23 degrees 19 minutes 16 seconds. To the
south, at about six miles distance, lay a bold range of hills, running
nearly east and west with many sharp summits, having an average elevation
of from 600 to 1000 feet above the plain, and extending for twelve or
fifteen miles to the eastward, while to the west it was lost in numerous
broken hills of lesser elevation. Camp 27.
ASHBURTON RIVER. CAPRICORN RANGE.
As to pass the eastern end of the range appeared likely to take us too
much off our course, we struck for what appeared to be a break in the
hills about seven miles to the south-west. The first five miles was
across an open grassy plain, at times subject to inundation, which
brought us to the bank of a fine river, containing permanent reaches of
fresh water, lined with canes, the channel generally being from 100 to
200 yards wide, with a depth of forty feet; it was now barely running,
but it was quite evident that it was too large for either the Alma or
Edmund, and its bed must be at least 200 feet below the level of those
rivers. We, however, determined to follow it so long as it ran to the
south of west, which it did until it came in contact with the range
observed yesterday, when it altered its course to west-north-west, and
appeared to continue that direction for many miles, probably until joined
by the Hardey, when, in all likelihood, it continues its course direct to
Exmouth Gulf. Anxious, as I naturally was, to continue the examination of
this promising river, time and the condition of our horses' feet did not
permit us to do so with advantage. Naming it the Ashburton, after the
noble President of the Royal Geographical Society, we quitted its verdant
banks, and took a south course up a stony ravine, which led us into the
heart of the range, where we soon became involved amongst steep rocky
ridges of sharp slaty schist, which very quickly deprived the horses of
many of their remaining shoes, and retarded our progress so much that by
nightfall we found ourselves to be in only latitude 23 degrees 28 minutes
15 seconds, hemmed in on all sides by rugged country yielding little else
but small acacia-trees and triodia. A little water and grass was,
however, obtained in the bed of a stream tributary to the Ashburton. The
summits of the hills passed over during the day had been seen from the
Lyons River in 1858, and were now named the Capricorn Range. Camp 28.
A rather rough ride of four hours to the south-east brought us to a
watercourse sixty yards wide, trending to the north-north-east, in which
we found pools of water lined with reeds and flags. This was traced up to
the southward till 3.0 p.m., when we entered a deep gorge in a sandstone
range, the bed of the stream becoming very stony and full of
melaleuca-trees; it, however, contained many fine pools and strong
running springs, with a small supply of grass. There was now a fair
prospect of our reaching the Lyons, as the range we were now entering
must contain the sources of the Edmund, which river has a much more
restricted course than was originally supposed. Camp 29.
Latitude 23 degrees 42 minutes 15 seconds.
The country continued hilly for about ten miles, when we arrived at the
summit of a granite and sandstone tableland, at the extreme sources of
the watercourse we had been following up. From this point we had at last
the satisfaction of observing the bold outlines of Mount Augustus,
bearing south-south-east about thirty miles, while more to the westward
could be discerned the summits of Mounts Phillips and Samuel, and yet
more to the right the southern face of the Barlee Range. Descending to
the south across an open plain, we struck for a remarkable gorge in a
granite range (the only one now between us and the Lyons), at which we
arrived by sundown. On examining this singular gorge, it was found to be
an almost perpendicular cut through a narrow ridge nearly 300 feet in
depth, the length of the pass not exceeding 200 yards, the plain on each
side being nearly on the same level. From the summit of this pass the
course of the stream could be traced across the fertile flats of the
Lyons until it was lost in the numerous channels of that river, and I was
able to obtain bearings to many well-remembered objects noticed on my
former visit to this part of the country. Camp 30.
Latitude 23 degrees 56 minutes 45 seconds.
RETURN TO DEPOT.
As we had only four days' rations left, and no further object could be
attained by advancing further south, unless there had been time to
examine the present condition of the pasture in the vicinity of Mount
Augustus, we marked several trees on the north side of the gorge close to
a pool, and retraced our steps to within a mile of our camp of the 24th,
having improved upon our outward track by keeping rather more to the
eastward. Camp 31.
Instead of returning by the rough route by which we came through the
Capricorn Range, we followed the stream to the north-north-east, through
a good country all the way to the Ashburton, which river it joined in
latitude 22 degrees 26 minutes, passing through the end of the range one
mile south of the junction. In this pass we encamped on a fine deep pool,
in which we caught a small quantity of fish, showing the water to be
permanent. Camp 32.
Making an early start, we soon crossed the Ashburton, and rode twelve
miles across open plains, thinly timbered and yielding a large quantity
of good pasture, principally of kangaroo-grass, which here grew to the
height of six feet. Resting for several hours at the waterholes of the
22nd, at 4.30 p.m. we resumed our route, having filled our water-kegs,
and pushed on to within sixteen or seventeen miles of the depot,
encamping amongst some good grass on our outward route, but without any
water except what we carried with us. Camp 33.
Giving our horses rather more than a gallon of water each, we made an
early start just as it came on to rain, which was the first shower we had
experienced since the 27th May; it continued until noon, but not heavy
enough to leave any surface-water on the parched and thirsty loam.
Keeping more to the westward than our outward track, we escaped much of
the stony ground then passed over, and arrived at the depot camp by 2
30th June (Sunday).
Remained in camp and read prayers to the party.
The horses left at the depot were much improved by their nine days' rest,
and had we been provided with more shoes for them, I should have at once
returned to the Ashburton, and traced that river up to the eastward, as
it offered a fine opportunity of penetrating to the south-east probably
at least another 100 miles; and our provisions on a reduced allowance
would admit of our remaining out forty days longer; but the lameness of
many of the horses and lacerated condition of their fetlocks convinced me
that, should we meet with any more difficulties or rough country before
obtaining a fresh supply of shoes, much valuable time would be lost, and
we should probably fail to get many of the horses back. I therefore
deemed it more prudent to return at once by a shorter route more to the
eastward so soon as we had repassed the Hamersley Range, and, obtaining a
refit at the bay, to throw all our remaining time into the second trip.
We accordingly to-day returned to camp 24, where we found the horses left
there on the 20th June sufficiently recovered to accompany the party,
although incapable of carrying a load. The remainder of the day was
devoted to obtaining bearings and adding to the triangulation of the many
remarkable summits visible from this part of the country.
The country generally being very rough, except on the banks of the
Hardey, on our outward track, we found it desirable to return along it,
more particularly as there was a better prospect of procuring water by so
doing. At about twenty miles we found a little water under a cliff in the
bed of the stream, and halted for the night. Camp 34.
Latitude 22 degrees 32 minutes 13 seconds.
Still returning on our old track, at five miles I stopped to ascend a
very remarkable hill which had formed an important point in the
triangulation of this part of the country, to which had been given the
name of Mount Samson. Sending the party onward to wait for me at camp 22,
I commenced the ascent of the mount, which proved something more than I
had calculated upon, as it occupied more than an hour's sharp toil to
arrive at its summit; when gained, however, it amply repaid the trouble,
as from it I could discern almost every prominent hill or peak within
sixty or seventy miles, and amongst them the mountain which on a former
occasion I had procured a bearing to from Mount Augustus, at a distance
of 124 geographical miles, and which I now named Mount Bruce, after the
gallant commander of the troops, who has always warmly supported me in
carrying out explorations. This part of the country I believe to be the
most elevated in north-west Australia--Mount Samson having an altitude of
not less than 1000 feet above the valley of the Hardey, while Mount Bruce
and the mountainous country to the eastward rose to a considerable height
above its summit, which, by comparisons from the aneroid barometer, would
give not less than 4000 feet for the elevation of those ranges. Having
completed my observations, I descended the hill with somewhat greater
speed than it took to climb it, and was met at the foot by Messrs. Brown
and Harding, who had waited for me with a horse. In less than an hour we
overtook the rest of the party at Camp 22, when the additional horses at
once drank up all the remaining water left in the rocks; resting,
therefore, less than an hour, we moved on, taking a north course, over a
very rocky but highly fertile country of trap formation, the grass just
now being much dried up. At sundown we halted in an open grassy flat, on
which no water could be found, although it is probable there is plenty in
the vicinity, as emus and cockatoos were numerous; one of the former
walked boldly up to the horses, and was fired at, but without effect.
OPEN GRASSY PLAINS. PASS HAMERSLEY RANGE.
Travelling at a rapid pace on an average north-east course for upwards of
twenty miles, over plains mostly of rich loam, well grassed, and
extending to the southern foot of the Hamersley Range, we came upon a low
range of sandstone hills, covered with acacia bushes and triodia,
extending for three or four miles, when we again emerged on open plains,
in which was found a deep channel, thirty yards wide, containing pools of
rainwater retained in the clay. The amount of fine pasture country passed
over during the day could not be less than 200,000 acres; and although we
had not time to go in search for it, I have no doubt that abundance of
water will be found in the deep gorges of the range skirting the plain.
This tract of country is, I imagine, well suited for the growth of either
cotton or sugar, as it is apparently well-irrigated during the summer
months, and the soil is remarkably rich and strong, while its limits to
the westward are at present unknown, and most probably continues to skirt
the hills for at least thirty or forty miles. Halted at the waterholes
about four miles to the west of the pass through the Hamersley Range.
Two hours brought us to the head of the pass, which we entered by a
ravine a little more to the northward than on our outward route, and by
so doing saved a preliminary ascent of nearly 200 feet, and a similar
amount of descent, making a very successful passage through the range
without experiencing the same difficulties we had formerly met with, and
by 3 p.m. found ourselves once more in the open grassy country that forms
the Chichester Downs. At 6 p.m. encamped in an open flat without water.
PROCEED TOWARDS THE COAST.
Started at 7.30 a.m., and in an hour came upon a pool of water in one of
the numerous channels into which the Fortescue is here divided, and at
seven miles struck the bulrush spring passed on the 11th June. From this
the river was followed down for thirteen miles, through grassy clay
plains, thinly timbered with white-gum. Encamped on a pool, in latitude
21 degrees 53 minutes 4 seconds, about five miles north of a very
remarkable bold projection of the Hamersley Range. Camp 38.
7th July (Sunday) was kept as a day of rest.
The horses strayed so far back on our tracks during Sunday night that by
the time they were brought in it was too late to make a start with
advantage, as we were now about to enter a new tract of country, by
striking for the coast somewhere between Breaker Inlet and Depuch Island.
As a knowledge of this part of the country would greatly assist us in
starting on the second division of our exploration, I availed myself of
the delay here to fix by triangulation many of the summits and prominent
spurs of the Hamersley Range, and take observations for the variation of
the needle, which I found to be about 1 degree east by the prismatic
compass I had in use.
Our horses again gave us some trouble to find them, so that we did not
start until 10.30 a.m. Two hours' sharp travelling across the plain
brought us to the foot of low hills of trap and sandstone, covered with
triodia; good feed being, however, plentiful in the valleys, although now
rather dry. Tracing up a small tributary to the Fortescue, at sunset we
halted on a small rocky pool near its source, in latitude 21 degrees 41
minutes 40 seconds. Several pools, supplied by springs coming from under
the superstratum of sandstone, were passed during the day. Camp 39.
Longitude 117 degrees 47 minutes.
For seven miles the country continued gently to ascend, the sandstone
giving place to trap boulders, yielding a very rich soil, clothed with
short green grass and melons, the soil being too stony for agricultural
purposes, although I have seen country of a similar appearance in the
island of Mauritius producing fine crops of sugar. Some of the melons
weighed as much as five or six ounces, and were passably good eating,
although rather bitter. At noon the country dropped suddenly to the
northward, and we descended a deep rocky ravine, in which we soon found
water and grass. Travelling now became difficult and sometimes dangerous
to the horses; rugged and semi-columnar metamorphic sandstone cliffs
hemmed in the ravines on either side, while large rounded boulders of
trap-rock filled the bed of the stream, which in several places was
running. We had a rather indifferent camp in latitude 21 degrees 29
minutes 10 seconds, the camp at Nickol Bay bearing west-north-west,
distant seventy-five miles by account. Camp 40.
The stream we were upon continued to take a northerly course for eight or
ten miles down a valley from 200 to 300 feet in depth, where it is
diverted to the eastward for about the same distance by a cross range of
black volcanic hills of loose ragged rocks, totally devoid of vegetation.
The channel receiving several tributaries, here becomes a succession of
fine open pools of water from eighty to 150 yards in width. We halted for
the night on a wide bed of bare sand and rocks, the only feed being in
the channel of the river, to which was now given the name of Sherlock.
This morning the river resumed a north-north-west course, and very soon
led us into an open plain, rather sandy in character, the channel
dividing into several branches separating miles apart, the stream of
water issuing from the hills soon being absorbed in the sandy bed; but a
well-defined line of verdant trees served well to mark the course of the
channels through the plain for many miles. Selecting the one that
appeared the most promising, it was traced down to latitude 21 degrees 6
minutes 43 seconds, where we encamped on a shallow pool of brackish
water--the only one seen during the day. Several natives were found here,
employed capturing partridges by means of nets constructed out of the
leaf of the triodia neatly twisted and netted in the same way as done by
ourselves, the mesh varying from one to five inches, according to the
purpose to which it is applied. It was very singular to observe the mode
in which they induced the birds to enter the nets, or rather cages,
prepared for them. In the first instance they place ragged bushes all
round the small pools, with the exception of a few spaces five or six
feet wide, from which openings they stick in a double row of twigs,
arching so as to meet overhead in the centre one or two feet from the
ground; these little avenues lead away for several yards, and then
terminate with a net thrown over a few light sticks at the end. The birds
first alight on the margin of the pool, but after drinking, do not take
flight at once, but run up the only opening, which leads them first under
the arch of twigs and finally into the net, which is then drawn to by the
hunter lying in wait under a few bushes. In this way they must capture a
large amount of game, judging by the quantity of feathers around some of
the waterholes. Camp 42.
Two miles north the river turned west, and kept that course for seven or
eight miles, through a poor sandy and stony tract of country, and was
then joined by a fine channel coming from the south. Near the junction
are two reaches of water, half a mile long each and a rifle-shot across,
containing a quantity of ducks and other water-fowl, amongst which our
sportsmen were very successful, along with other game bagging the only
two swans we had seen since landing; a number of fine fish, like
cobblers, were also caught, weighing from 1 to 5 pounds a-piece. As it
was Saturday, and our horses were showing unmistakable signs of knocking
up, we halted for the rest of the day. Camp 43.
Latitude 21 degrees 6 minutes 5 seconds; longitude 117 degrees 32 minutes
14th July (Sunday).
After reading prayers, Messrs. Brown, Harding, and myself walked to the
summit of the range of black volcanic hills that skirted the western bank
of the river at about a mile distant. These hills consist of ragged
scoria, elevated 300 to 400 feet above the plain, and are nearly
destitute of vegetation. At their summits are deep fissures, the heat of
the eruptive rocks from beneath having been sufficient to convert the
trap and sandstone rocks into a deep bluish-grey scoria, having a
specific gravity of nearly four; but we did not observe any instance of
the actual overflow of lava, and consequently there was a want of the
fertilising properties in the soil resulting from it that usually
accompanies volcanic formations. A native dog had left a litter of pups
under a heap of stones not eighteen inches beneath our feet, but such was
the sharpness and ponderability of the fragments of rock that it fairly
baffled our attempts to unhouse them. A valuable round of bearings was
procured from this spot, Depuch Island being seen bearing north 14
degrees east, distant about twenty-eight miles.
EXTENSIVE GRASSY PLAINS.
We resumed our course down the Sherlock, the stony nature of the country
telling severely upon our horses' feet, who in other respects were in
very tolerable condition. We had not proceeded more than three or four
miles when Mr. Brockman's horse, Rocket, gave in, and could not move
another step, the hoof being fairly worn through; leaving him close to a
pool of water amongst plenty of feed, I hoped he might possibly recover
by the time we returned from the bay. Below this the channel became sandy
and dry, and we only procured a little water at night in a clay-hole.
Plains extended from the river to the north and eastward as far as the
eye could reach, only interrupted by occasional detached hills of granite
or volcanic trap, the feed being generally coarse and the soil poor. Camp
Latitude 20 degrees 54 minutes 45 seconds.
NATIVES FISHING WITH NETS.
Leaving the valley of the river on a north-west course, in half an hour
we came upon an open plain of rich clayey loam, covered with a fine even
sward of good grass, on which were feeding large flocks of pigeons and
white cockatoos; this change in the character of the soil being
ascribable to the occasional overflow of the river, leaving a deposit of
rich mud. This plain extends as far as we could see to the north and
east, a few widely-scattered topes of trees being the only objects
breaking the monotony of the sea of grass. To the north-west was a strong
line of large timber, for which we steered. At three miles we entered the
wood, and found it to contain the main channel of the Sherlock, in which
were a few small pools of rainwater. Crossing the bed of the river on the
same course, we soon came upon another branch coming from the south-west,
which was named the George. Immediately below the junction of the two
streams the river opened out into reaches of brackish water, evidently
under the influence of the spring tides. From this point the left bank
was followed down to within three or four miles of the sea, when, the
country becoming low and flat, the grass coarse, and no fresh water
procurable, we quitted the Sherlock and struck to the west for six or
seven miles, crossing several salt-water creeks, until we were compelled
to turn to the southward to avoid a channel much larger and deeper than
the rest, at which a party of natives were engaged drawing their nets,
but ran away on our approach. A little further on the plain became more
fertile, and we found a small pool of rainwater in the clay, at which we
encamped. There is no doubt but that the Sherlock and the creek we were
upon discharged their waters, by the numerous creeks shown on Captain
King's charts, fifteen or sixteen miles to the west of Depuch Island.
Latitude 20 degrees 52 minutes 15 seconds; longitude 117 degrees 15
RETURN TO NICKOL BAY.
By observation of the sun at rising, the variation of the needle was
found to be 1 degree 10 minutes east. We were now about forty miles from
Nickol Bay; and as it was very doubtful whether water would be procurable
in that distance, I became very anxious on account of the horses, as,
should the country prove stony, I was quite certain they could not
perform the journey in less than three days; I therefore determined upon
following up a leading valley towards the Maitland River, with the
intention, in the event of not finding water or a pass through the heavy
mass of hills that back Cape Lambert, of pushing through the upper
branches of that river, and by a round of sixty or seventy miles to
approach the bay by our outward track; fortunately, however, in the
course of the day we fell in with some small pools of rainwater, which
enabled us to advance about eighteen miles over tolerably even plains,
well grassed, our night halt being without water. Camp 46.
From our position, and the observations I had made of the country on the
eastern shores of Nickol Bay, I was satisfied that the breadth of stony
ranges lying between us and our destination did not exceed eight or ten
miles, which we therefore now determined to venture upon, although at
great risk to the horses, some of which now walked upon stones as they
would over red-hot coals. Entering the range by a small ravine, three
hours' scramble over sharp rocks brought us out on the head of a small
tributary to the Nickol River, the sufferings of the horses in crossing
the range being quite painful to witness; they all, however, succeeded in
getting through, and as a little water was found in the bed of the
stream, we were enabled to push on late, and cross the marsh at the head
of the bay before it was quite dark, the departing rays of the setting
sun having first favoured us with a glimpse of the Dolphin, riding at
anchor on the deep-blue waters of the bay--a sight which was welcomed
with no small satisfaction by the little band of weary travellers. Camp
The camp was easily aroused by the morning watch, as there was now only
six miles between us and the landing-place in Hearson cove, the horses
appearing to partake of the general activity; so that it was only 10.0
a.m. when we arrived on our old camping ground, which we found occupied
by ten or a dozen natives, engaged mending their nets. Coming upon them
suddenly, they would not stop to carry off their gear, although not half
an hour before they had been employed assisting a boat's crew from the
Dolphin, in loading with wood and water. A rifle-shot soon recalled the
boat, which was not a mile from the shore, when we were glad to learn
that Mr. Hearson was fast recovering from his wound, and that all had
been going on well since our departure. From Mr. Walcott I ascertained
that he had been able to establish a friendly understanding with the
natives who frequented the western side of the bay, and that they had
been made useful in filling up the ship's water and wood, for which
service they had been rewarded by a suitable distribution of biscuit. In
one instance the natives on the eastern shore of the bay had shown a
hostile tendency on the occasion of a boat landing on the reef to gather
shells. One of the seaman, who had wandered from the rest, was chased
into the sea, and menaced with spears and clubs until he was up to his
neck in water, when the boat came to his rescue, the officer in charge of
her firing a shot over their heads to drive them off. Mr. Walcott had
also been successful in obtaining a very useful vocabulary of native
words and other interesting particulars from the aborigines, as also many
botanical specimens, shells, etc.--amongst the latter some very fine
pearl-oysters, from which several pearls of good colour had been
obtained, but appeared to be principally valuable on account of the size
and beauty of the mother-of-pearl, which averaged six inches diameter,
with more than half an inch in thickness of solid shell.
PARTY REFIT FOR JOURNEY TO EASTWARD.
The forge, stores, and other additional supplies having been landed, and
the party set to work shoeing horses, repairing saddle-bags, etc., I
proceeded with Mr. Walcott and Mr. Angel in the boat to make a rough
survey of the coves on the western side of the bay, with a view to
selecting a suitable spot from which to re-embark the horses on our
return from the next trip, as it would be too late in the season by that
time to venture the trip overland to Champion Bay. I found that a good
anchorage existed, with three fathoms at low water, one mile off the
little cove from which the ship had been watered, and is approachable at
all times, except in strong east or south-east gales, when a heavy swell
sets in across the bay, rendering a landing unsafe. The fresh water runs
down a rocky gully at the north-west corner of the cove, at the north end
of a small patch of sandy beach, and the supply appears tolerably
abundant; it is, however, rather difficult of access towards the end of
the dry season, as the water has then to be carried over the rocks in
small baracas fifty or sixty yards to the boats, but from the setting in
of the rains to the end of August it runs down strongly at high-water
mark. I walked back overland to the camp with Mr. Walcott, the distance
being about four miles, heading by the way another deep cove, the margin
of which was lined with a broad belt of mangroves.
21st to 28th July.
Was fully taken up in shoeing horses, making spare shoes, refitting and
packing stores, etc., ready for our trip to the eastward, my own time
being principally taken up in roughly plotting the country already
explored, so as to secure all the information obtained, in the event of
any accident occurring to my field-books.
Everything being in readiness for our departure, I gave Captain Dixon
instructions to wait for us in the bay to the 10th December, and in the
event of our not then returning, Mr. Walcott would land one of the ship's
iron tanks, and bury in it a quantity of stores, at a spot already agreed
upon; the Dolphin would then proceed to Fremantle. It blew so fresh all
the morning that I could not land until 3 p.m., when we quickly saddled
up and proceeded three miles to a waterhole up in the volcanic hills, as
it was probable we should have a very long day's march tomorrow without
water. As we had now only nineteen horses, and one of these so low in
condition as not to be able to carry a load, we could only take with us
eighty-seven days' rations, at the rate of one pound of flour, seven
ounces of meat, and four ounces of sugar per man per diem; we were,
however, well provided with ammunition, and thirty spare sets of
horse-shoes, with nails sufficient for at least two removes, the horses
themselves being shod at starting with extra strong shoes tipped with
steel. We had now only seven saddle-horses, so that one of the party was
always on foot by turns of an hour each. It had been originally intended
that the Dolphin should proceed to Roebuck Bay and meet us there; but it
was now so late in the season that I did not deem it prudent to run the
risk of removing her to an unknown anchorage, where it was possible we
might not be able to reach, and thus lay ourselves open to the
probability of a very embarrassing uncertainty. The result proved we had
adopted the right course. Bivouac.
DIFFICULTY IN CROSSING MUD FLATS.
This morning we crossed the marsh with some difficulty, as all the
pack-horses but three fell and stuck in the mud, until we transferred
their loads to our own backs and carried them through half a mile of the
softest part. The operation detained us so long that we did not make more
than eighteen miles, when we found a little water left in the pool seen
on the 18th. Camp 48.
Started at 8 a.m., following our old tracks to 3.30 p.m., when we turned
to the south up a stream-bed crossed on the 17th. At the gorge where it
issued from the granite ranges we found a fine pool of permanent water
and abundance of beautiful green grass. This stream was now named the
Harding, and, as the packs were heavy, we remained here the rest of the
afternoon. Camp 49.
A FERTILE PLAIN.
Passing under the northern foot of the granite ranges on an easterly
course for sixteen miles, we came upon a fine reach of open water in a
branch of the creek on which we had encamped on the 16th July. This pool
was a valuable discovery, as it would not only form a useful halting
place on our return, but, from being in the middle of a fertile plain
containing at least from 15,000 to 20,000 acres of arable land equal in
quality to the Greenough Flats, the whole could, if necessary, be easily
irrigated from this large natural reservoir, the highest part of the
plain not being thirty feet above the water-level at the driest period of
the year. This fine tract of country, in connection with the lands
already seen almost adjoining on the eastern bank of the Sherlock, would
in itself support a larger population than is at present contained in the
whole of the colony of Western Australia. We had seen more kangaroos on
these plains than on any other portion of our route; one that was shot
resembled the Osphranter, and was in very good order, the fur much
thicker and softer than the common kangaroo of the western coast, and of
a pale mouse colour. It weighed about forty-five pounds. Camp 50.
Latitude 21 degrees 54 minutes 18 seconds.
Proceeding eastward over grassy plains and stony ridges, at thirteen
miles we struck the Sherlock only two miles below the pool at which we
had left the horse Rocket, and hoped to find him improved by the rest;
but, on approaching the spot, the presence of crows and a wild dog gave
indications of a different fate; we found him partly devoured within a
few yards of where we left him, inflammation of the feet having most
probably produced mortification. Pushing on till sunset, we arrived at
our old camping ground (Camp 43) at the bend of the Sherlock. Camp 51.
ASCEND THE SHERLOCK RIVER.
Followed up the left bank of the Sherlock to Camp 42, and found a little
water still remaining in the bird-cage pools, where we halted for two
hours. At 1.30 p.m. resumed an easterly route across a sandy plain,
yielding little but hakea and triodia. Five miles brought us to a large
branch of the Sherlock coming from the south-east, in which were several
small permanent pools, surrounded by flags, at which we halted. Camp 52.
Latitude 21 degrees 7 minutes.
4th August (Sunday).
Although the feed here was very indifferent, yet, as we had again entered
unexplored country, I was glad to make it a day of rest before entering
upon the rather unpromising tract of country that lay in the outward
Making a rather late start, on account of the horses having strayed very
far in search of feed, we steered for a bold range bearing
east-south-east, distant about twenty miles. At four miles crossed a dry
channel coming from the south-south-east, and continued our course over a
poor tract of country, covered with triodia and a few acacia, large bare
red granite rocks cropping out here and there. At one of these was a
small waterhole, near which a native was hunting mice. Although at first
alarmed, he soon told us, in answer to our inquiries, that we should find
no water to the east, but plenty to the south, which we found to be
correct, as we had to halt, after a very long day's march, in a dry
ravine in the ranges for which we had been making. Camp 53.
Latitude 21 degrees 10 minutes 35 seconds.
RECONNOITRE THE COUNTRY AHEAD.
Having reconnoitred the country for some miles ahead overnight without
finding water, it was no use leading our horses further into the rugged
defiles, where we might get entangled for many hours; we accordingly
struck to the south-west for four miles, when we came on a rocky pool of
permanent water in the south-east branch of the Sherlock, just at the
point where it emerges from the hills. Having watered the horses and
given them an hour's rest, we followed up the stream to the south-east
for seven miles, when it divided into numerous small dry ravines in the
heart of an elevated range of granite, capped with metamorphic sandstone;
water having only been met with within the first mile from where we
struck it. Camp 54.
The horses requiring water, we fell back upon the pool passed yesterday,
where I decided upon leaving the bulk of the party for the day or two,
while I explored the country for a pass to the eastward. Camp 55.
Latitude 21 degrees 14 minutes 28 seconds.
Taking with me Mr. Brown and Mr. Harding mounted, and one pack-horse
carrying water, we struck through the hills to the eastward, and at six
miles came upon a stream-bed that led us to the north-east fifteen or
sixteen miles, when, finding it contained no water, we resumed an
easterly course over an open sandy and stony plain, covered with triodia,
for twelve miles, and encamped in poor feed without water. Camp 56.
Latitude 21 degrees 4 minutes.
THE YULE RIVER.
A heavy dew having fallen during the night, our horses were much
refreshed, and we were enabled to proceed with the scanty supply of water
carried with us. In an hour we struck upon the channel of a river with a
sandy bed, 300 yards wide, in which were a few pools of water, under a
bold sandstone bluff, rising abruptly 300 feet from the plain. From the
summit of this hill the river was observed to trend to the
north-north-west for eight or ten miles, and to come upon a gap in a
granite range four miles to the south-south-east, towards which we now
turned our steps, across extensive beds of soft drift-sand brought down
by the river. Cajeput and acacia trees occupied a large portion of the
channel, and it was not until reaching the gorge in the range that grass
was met with in sufficient quantities to supply our wants. Several large
pools, teeming with water-fowl, occupied the whole of the valley, which
here was fully a quarter of a mile wide. The remainder of the day I
devoted to sketching and triangulating the country, while the horses were
enjoying the benefit of the fine feed. Camp 57.
Latitude 21 degrees 6 minutes 26 seconds.
As this river, from its magnitude, afforded a fair chance of working to
the south-east, I determined to bring forward the rest of the party.
Having named this river the Yule, we returned to the depot party by a
somewhat shorter cut, making it in about thirty miles, which we
accomplished by sundown.
11th August (Sunday).
Party resting. Observed a set of lunars, which placed us in longitude 118
degrees 3 minutes east, the rate of the chronometer being still so
irregular as to be almost useless.
To-day the whole party proceeded twenty-four miles towards the Yule,
finding a small pool of water in a rocky ravine by the way which we had
missed on our former trip. Bivouacked in an open grassy plain six miles
short of the river.
Moved on to our camp of the 9th, and halted there for the remainder of
the day. The latitude by meridian altitude of the sun I found to be 21
degrees 6 minutes 22 seconds.
As travelling near the river was found to be very laborious, on account
of the vast beds of loose drift-sand thrown up by the summer floods, we
steered to the south-south-east for a pass in the ranges about twenty
miles distant, through which the river was supposed to come, but on
reaching the hills, the river was observed to the westward; we
accordingly altered our course to south-west, and struck it at about six
miles; the character of the river being still the same, the aggregate
width of the several channels amounting to nearly half a mile; water
being procured in them by digging a few inches in the sand. The country
passed over during the day was an open plain of light sandy loam,
interspersed with bare granite rocks, cropping out at intervals of a few
miles. Giant ant-hills of from ten to sixteen feet in height, and thirty
to forty feet in circumference (a few of which had already been met with
on our first trip), were here remarkably conspicuous, on account of their
size and bright brick-red colour. An emu was shot during the day, while
running at full speed, at the range of over 200 yards. Camp 58.
Latitude 21 degrees 23 minutes 23 seconds.
One of the horses was missing this morning, so we did not start until 10
a.m., when the river was followed up to the south-east through country
the same as yesterday; halting for the night in latitude 21 degrees 32
minutes 13 seconds. Camp 59.
Our average course to-day was nearly east, occasionally crossing channels
coming from the south-east. Towards evening we found that the main
channel, which it had been our intention to have followed, had escaped
our observation to the southward, and we were only on a comparatively
small tributary coming from a rugged range of hills to the eastward. Our
object for the present not being to push too far into the interior, this
tributary was followed until it broke up into numerous small valleys, in
one of which water was obtained by digging three feet in the sand,
amongst tolerable feed, the country having much improved in the course of
the day. Camp 60.
Latitude 21 degrees 34 minutes.
Soon after starting this morning we came upon a camp of natives, but we
could not prevail upon any of them to stop and hold parley with us. Four
hours' travelling over rather rocky ground led us well into the range,
which we found to consist of granite, capped with metamorphic sandstones
and broken up by dykes of variegated jasper. In a deep ravine at the foot
of a cliff we found a small pool of beautiful clear spring water, which
was very acceptable, as the sun had now acquired considerable power, and
the grasses were beginning to get very dry food for our horses. During
the halt at this spring Mr. Harding and myself ascended the highest part
of the range, which was found to be 500 or 600 feet above the plain. From
this elevation I was enabled to select our onward route, and obtain
bearings to several useful summits for triangulation--a few hills to the
south-south-east being visible at the distance of sixty or seventy miles,
which no doubt form part of the continuation of the Hamersley Range.
Resuming an east course, the culminating point of the range was soon
passed, when we descended to the eastward down some deep and remarkably
picturesque rocky glens, in which were found several springs and pools of
water, leading down to a fine grassy flat, in which were growing some
fine large flooded-gum trees. Camp 61.
18th August (Sunday).
Found our latitude 21 degrees 36 minutes 8 seconds; longitude 119 degrees
13 minutes east by account.
THE STRELLEY RIVER.
The country being very hilly, it was found best to follow down the stream
upon which we had encamped, although it trended to the north of east. In
a few miles the valley opened out with fine pools of permanent water,
covered with numerous flights of ducks, and at eight miles it joined a
wide valley from the south, down which flowed a river, divided into
several channels, containing many fine pools from 50 to 200 yards wide,
which were still running gently from one to another. The banks, although
well grassed, were very rocky, rendering travelling excessively fatiguing
to our heavily-loaded pack-horses, several of them being bruised and
strained while jumping from rock to rock, the clefts being too deep and
narrow for them to walk between, and the ranges bordering the valley were
too steep to admit of our leaving the river, which we were compelled to
follow down to latitude 21 degrees 26 minutes 52 seconds. Camp 62.
The river, which had been named the Strelley, continued to hold a
northerly course; we therefore availed ourselves of a smoother valley
coming in from the east to resume our old course. At nine miles we met
with a stream 100 yards wide coming from the south-east, evidently
tributary to the Strelley, and taking its rise in elevated granite ranges
with black volcanic ridges protruding through them, but not to any
considerable height above the general level of the country. After a few
hours' scramble over these ridges we came upon a small stream trending
east, containing several springs, surrounded by high grass and flags,
gradually leading us by sunset into a deep pass, walled in by cliffs and
bluffs from 100 to 300 feet high; the stream, having joined several
larger ones from the southward, now occupying nearly the whole width of
the valley. We encamped in one of the wildest and most romantic-looking
spots to be found in this part of Australia, to which we gave the name of
Glen Herring, from a fish bearing a resemblance to a herring being found
in the stream. Camp 63.
Latitude 21 degrees 20 minutes 35 seconds.
THE SHAW RIVER. NORTON PLAINS.
With some difficulty we wended our way down the intricate windings of the
glen for six miles in a north-east direction, when it opened out into
grassy flats, turning to the northward. Leaving it at this point, a mile
east brought us to the bank of a fine open river-bed 200 yards wide, down
which a little water was still flowing, the country on its banks becoming
much more promising and grass plentiful. This river I named the Shaw, and
some beautiful grassy plains through which it came for twenty or thirty
miles to the southward Norton Plains, after the talented Secretary of the
Royal Geographical Society. In the afternoon a large tributary from the
south-east was followed up for some miles, when, turning to the south, we
quitted it to follow an open valley leading east towards a bold granite
and schistose range, under which we encamped late without finding water.
Latitude 21 degrees 20 minutes.
As we did not find water for some distance to the eastward under the foot
of the hills, we turned to the south-east, quickly emerging from the
hills upon the Norton Plains, and at two miles came upon the stream
quitted last evening, to which the name of Emu Creek had been given. It
had altered its course, and was again coming from the east, and contained
several fine springs. This creek was followed up for the rest of the day
through a rather indifferent country, and, towards nightfall, led us into
a deep rocky ravine, in which we encamped, a small supply of water being
obtained from holes in the rocks. Camp 65.
Latitude 21 degrees 28 minutes.
As we advanced, the ravine divided into many branches coming from an
elevated tableland to the southward; we therefore again resumed an
easterly course for five or six miles, over rugged hills, and descended
by a gully trending north-east, which led us in a few miles into open
plains. Skirting the northern foot of the range until after dark, we
encamped on a small watercourse, in which we obtained water by digging
under some granite rocks. Camp 66.
Latitude 21 degrees 23 minutes 30 seconds.
The horses having suffered much amongst the rocks during the last few
days, I determined to follow the southern edge of the plain until a
stream could be met with to lead us to the south-east. A few miles
brought us to a small watercourse running gently from some springs in the
plain, which, contrary to our expectations, ran into the ranges to the
south-east instead of coming out of them. As here there was plenty of
green grass and water, and the horses were not looking well, we encamped
early in the entrance of the gorge. Camp 67.
Latitude 21 degrees 20 minutes 13 seconds.
25th August (Sunday).
Longitude by observation 120 degrees 17 minutes; variation 30 minutes
The stream we were upon led us about five miles south-east through the
hills, and then joined a river coming from the southward, 100 yards wide,
which was followed down on an average course of east-north-east to
latitude 21 degrees 18 minutes; reeds and rank grass lining its banks in
many parts, while in others granite boulders and banks of drift-sand
offered considerable impediments to travelling. Camp 68.
The river took us on a northerly course nine or ten miles, receiving many
large tributaries, several of them still running slightly, forming
altogether a stream of some importance, which, on account of the large
extent of pastoral and agricultural lands afterwards found on its banks
lower down, and its many fine tributaries, I named the DeGrey, in honour
of the noble lord who took a lively interest in promoting the objects of
the expedition. As the object at present in view was to push to the
south-east, we left this promising river and resumed an east-south-east
course for five or six miles into a hilly country, and encamped in a
gully with rather scanty feed, a little water being obtained by digging.
We soon became involved in deep ravines, which led up into high
tableland, the summit of which was no sooner attained than we had again
to descend equally precipitous gullies to the eastward, the horses
sliding down amongst the loose rocks and stones with a velocity that
threatened immediate destruction; they all, however, arrived safe at the
bottom, although in so exhausted a state that two of them had very
shortly after to be left behind, while we pushed on with the rest in
search of water and feed, which was not met with until late in the day.
After a short rest I sent Messrs. Brown and Brockman back for the two
beaten horses, while I moved the party on a mile further to a fine spring
in a grassy flat, where we encamped. Camp 70.
Latitude 21 degrees 9 minutes 3 seconds.
EXTENSIVE GRASSY PLAINS.
The two horses left yesterday were brought into camp early in the day,
and as they were too weak to carry their loads, they were placed on our
saddle-horses, one of the party by turns having to walk. As the season
was rapidly advancing, we could not venture to incur any delay, much as
the horses required rest, and accordingly resumed an east course late in
the day. At five miles came upon a sandy stream-bed fifty yards wide,
trending to the north-east, beyond which the country opened out into an
extensive plain of white waving grass--to the north uninterrupted by a
single elevation, while to the east and south, at eight or ten miles
distant, rose ranges of granite hills, capped with horizontal sandstones.
It was not until some time after dark that we arrived near the opposite
edge of the plain, when we came upon a river 200 yards wide, running to
the northward. The long drought had reduced it to a few shallow pools,
running from one to the other through the deep sand in the bed;
magnificent cajeput-trees lined the banks, and grass was in abundance.
We did not start till late, as Mr. Brown had to go back some little
distance for his horse, which had been again left behind overnight,
knocked up. As it would have been useless, in the present condition of
our horses, to attempt at once to enter the ranges to the east, we
determined to follow up the river for a few days to the south-south-east
and by so doing secure feed and water, and give the poor animals a chance
of recovering their strength; we therefore followed the river up for
seven or eight miles, through fine open forest country, and encamped near
a deep pool, in which were caught ten or twelve dozen of small trout,
which, with cockatoos and ducks, afforded an important addition to our
ration of only seven ounces of meat. This river was named the Oakover.
For nearly ten miles the river continued to lead us to the eastward of
south; it then divided, the main channel coming from the south-west; we,
however, followed the eastern branch until quite satisfied that it
contained no water, and then fell back to the westward, striking the
river near some cliffs, at the foot of which water was plentiful.
Although only 1 p.m., I determined to halt for the remainder of the day,
as it was too late to make an attempt to enter the hills without giving
the horses the advantage of some hours' feed and rest. It also afforded
me leisure to make astronomical observations and work up the plans of our
route. A set of lunar distances, very carefully taken, placed the camp in
longitude 121 degrees 3 minutes 30 seconds east, while that by account,
carried on by triangulation and dead-reckoning from the Sherlock, placed
us four and a half miles more to the westward; the latitude being 21
degrees 23 minutes 43 seconds. Camp 73.
1st September (Sunday).
A march of three hours across the plains to the eastward brought us to
the foot of the range, which we entered by a tolerably easy pass, and
soon came upon a pool of water in a tributary to the Oakover, the mouth
of which had been passed on our ascent of that river. Here we halted for
two hours, and then resumed our route through steep and rocky hills,
containing numerous fine springs. It was not until 7 p.m. that we finally
got through the ranges, and emerged upon open sandy plains of vast
extent, no object being observable from north-north-east round to
south-south-east except low ridges of red drift-sand, in many parts
nearly bare of vegetation. A large party of natives were encamped upon
the watercourse down which we descended to the plain. Not wishing to
alarm them, we passed the waterholes from which they were supplied, and
proceeded a mile farther, but had in consequence to camp without water,
although amongst abundance of grass. Camp 74.
Latitude 21 degrees 21 minutes 30 seconds.
NATIVE HEAD-DRESS. ENTER THE SANDY DESERT.
This morning we returned to the native encampment for water, and found
that they had already deserted it, leaving many of their things
behind--amongst others, a very singular head-dress, shaped like a helmet.
It consisted of a circular band, made of twisted grass, the size of the
head, into which were stuck ten or twelve upright twigs, brought together
into a point two feet high, which was woven like an open basket, with
yarn made of opossum fur; the whole no doubt being considered highly
ornamental by the wearers, but of not the least service as an article of
protection for the head, either from the sun or in war. Having watered
the horses, we entered the sand-plain, travelling between the ridges,
which ran in straight lines parallel to each other at the distance of
several hundred yards apart, the sand being thrown by the south-east
gales into acute ridges thirty to sixty feet high, their direction being
almost invariably north 109 degrees east. Travelling to 2.15 p.m., we got
over about eighteen miles, the valleys yielding little else but triodia,
with occasional patches of stunted gum forest, in which was found a
little good grass, on which were feeding flights of pigeons and a variety
of parrot new to us, but which I believe to be the golden-backed parakeet
(Psephotus chrysopterygius) of Gould. As no water could be found, and
many of the horses gave signs of being greatly distressed, no change
being observable in the country for many miles ahead, a few very distant
ranges being the only objects visible, we were obliged to have recourse
to the only safe expedient of falling back and forming a depot. Resting
to 5.10, we commenced a retreat until 7.20, having been obliged to
abandon a horse of Mr. Brown's, quite exhausted. Camp 75.
At 6.30 a.m. resumed our retreat, and by noon arrived at the waterhole of
the 2nd, having left two more horses behind, which, however, Mr. Brown
and myself carried out water to in the course of the evening and drove
them in during the night.
Leaving the party to rest, I walked ten or twelve miles round to the
south-south-eastward, along the foot of the range, in search of water,
and to ascertain if a better line of country could be found in that
direction, but it continued to maintain the same arid appearance, and I
only came on one pool in a gully four miles from the camp. Depot.
Leaving Mr. Turner and four of the party in depot, with instructions to
remain there three days, and then fall back upon the Oakover, where there
was much better feed, I started with Messrs. Brown and Harding, taking
six of the strongest horses, sixteen days' rations and six gallons of
water, and steered south-south-east along the ranges for six or eight
miles, looking for some stream-bed that might lead us through the plains,
but was disappointed to find that they were all lost in the first mile
after leaving the hills, and as crossing the numerous ridges of sand
proved very fatiguing to the horses, we determined once more to attempt
to strike to the eastward between the ridges, which we did for fifteen
miles, when our horses again showed signs of failing us, which left us
the only alternative of either pushing on at all hazards to a distant
range that was now just visible to the eastward, where, from the numerous
native fires and general depression of the country, there was every
reason to think a large river would be found to exist, or to make for
some deep rocky gorges in the granite hills ten miles to the south, in
which there was every prospect of finding water. In the former case the
travelling would be smoothest, but the distance so great that, in the
event of our failing to obtain water, we probably should not succeed in
bringing back one of our horses; while, in the latter, we should have to
climb over the sand ridges, which we had already found so fatiguing; this
course, however, involved the least amount of risk, and we accordingly
struck south four miles, and halted for the night. Camp 76.
REPULSED FOR WANT OF WATER. INTENSE HEAT.
The horses did not look much refreshed by the night's rest; we, however,
divided three gallons of water amongst them, and started off early, in
the hope of reaching the ranges by noon; but we had not gone three miles
when one of the pack-horses, that was carrying less than forty pounds
weight, began to fail, and the load was placed upon my saddle-horse; it
did not, however, enable him to get on more than a couple of miles
further, when we were compelled to abandon him, leaving him under the
shade of the only tree we could find, in the hope that we might bring
back water to his relief. Finding that it would be many hours before the
horses could be got on to the hills, I started ahead on foot, leaving
Messrs. Brown and Harding to come on gently, while I was to make a signal
by fires if successful in finding water. Two hours' heavy toil through
the sand, under a broiling sun, brought me to the ranges, where I
continued to hunt up one ravine after another until 5.0 p.m. without
success. Twelve hours' almost incessant walking, on a scanty breakfast,
and without water, with the thermometer over 100 degrees of Fahrenheit,
began to tell upon me rather severely; so much so that, by the time I had
tracked up my companions (who had reached the hills by 1.0 p.m., and were
anxiously waiting for me), it was as much as I could do to carry my rifle
and accoutrements. The horses were looking truly wretched, and I was
convinced that the only chance of saving them, if water was not found,
would be by abandoning our pack-saddles, provisions, and everything we
could possibly spare, and try and recover them afterwards if practicable;
we therefore encamped for the night on the last plot of grass we could
find, and proceeded to make arrangements for an early start in the
morning. There was still remaining a few pints of water in the kegs,
having been very sparing in the use of it; this enabled us to have a
little tea and make a small quantity of damper, of which we all stood in
much need. Camp 77.
At 4.0 a.m. we were again up. Having disposed of our equipment and
provisions, except our riding-saddles, instruments, and firearms, by
suspending them in the branches of a large tree, we divided a pint of
water for our breakfast, and by the first peep of dawn were driving our
famished horses before us at their best speed toward the depot, which was
now thirty-two miles distant. For the first eight miles they went on
pretty well, but the moment the sun began to have power they flagged
greatly, and it was not long before we were obliged to relinquish another
horse quite unable to proceed. By 9.0 a.m. I found that my previous day's
march, and the small allowance of food I had taken, was beginning to have
its effects upon me, and that it was probable I could not reach the depot
until next morning, by which time the party left there were to fall back
to the Oakover; I therefore directed Mr. Brown, who was somewhat fresher
than myself, to push on for the camp and to bring out fresh horses with
water, while Mr. Harding and myself would do our best to bring on any
straggling horses that could not keep up with him. By dark we had
succeeded in reaching to within nine miles of the depot, finding
unmistakable evidence towards evening of the condition to which the
horses taken on by Mr. Brown were reduced, by the saddles, guns, hobbles,
and even bridles, scattered along the line of march, which had been taken
off to enable them to go on a few miles further.
EFFECTS OF WANT OF WATER.
At dawn Mr. Harding and myself got up from our beds of sand stiff and
giddy, but much refreshed by the cold night air. In four or five miles we
met Mr. Brown with fresh horses and a supply of water, having succeeded
in reaching the depot at 8 p.m. the night before, with only one horse. We
were now enabled to proceed with the tracking up of the horses left
overnight, which, after resting some hours, had commenced to ramble in
search of water; Mr. Brown returning on our route and recovering the
saddles and firearms left the previous evening, the stores abandoned the
day before being too far off to attempt their recovery. By 8.30 p.m. we
had all returned to the depot, having tracked up the three missing
horses, the two left at the furthest point being too distant to carry
relief to without incurring the risk of further loss. I cannot omit to
remark the singular effects of excessive thirst upon the eyes of the
horses; they absolutely sunk into their heads until there was a hollow of
sufficient depth to entirely bury the thumb in, and there was an
appearance as though the whole of the head had shrunk with them,
producing a very unpleasant and ghastly expression. Depot camp.
We were only able to move the camp a mile to another waterhole, for the
sake of a little better feed. Bivouac.
COMMENCE RETURN JOURNEY.
On taking into consideration the reduced number and strength of our
horses, it was quite evident that we had but little prospect of being
able to cross the tract of dry sandy country that had already occasioned
us so much loss and trouble; yet there were many reasons to stimulate us
to make the attempt. Not only had we now attained to within a very few
miles of the longitude in which, from various geographical data, there
are just grounds for believing that a large river may be found to exist,
draining Central Australia, but the character of the country appeared
strongly to indicate the vicinity of such a feature; added to which, the
gradual decline in the elevation of the country, notwithstanding our
increasing distance from the coast, tended towards the same conclusion.
Nor should we omit the strong evidences that the remarkable ridges of
drift-sand which encumbered the plains must in the first instance, have
been brought from the interior by water, and then have been blown by the
strong prevailing south-east winds across the country in a direction at
least 50 degrees from that which they originally came from; this, with
the clean water-worn appearance of the sand, the bold outlines of the
hills seen to the far east, and the number of native fires observed in
the same direction, must all tend to support the hypothesis that the
western half of Australia is probably drained by a large river in about
this meridian. I could not, therefore, help regretting more than ever
that we should be driven back at such an interesting spot; but mature
reflection convinced me that any further attempt with our present means,
at this period of the year, was almost certain to be attended with the
most disastrous results; I therefore decided upon adopting the only other
useful course open to us--that of examining down to the sea the rivers
already discovered. With this in view, we to-day fell back five or six
miles across the ranges to a tributary to the Oakover, called the Davis,
when one of the horses became so crippled by a strain in the loins that
we were obliged to halt to give him a chance of recovery, affording me
leisure to verify our position by observing another set of lunar
distances, which I found to agree well with those formerly taken ten
miles to the westward. Camp 78.
DOWN THE OAKOVER RIVER.
We commenced the descent of the Davis, having much difficulty in getting
along the sick horse, as it required the united strength of the party to
lift him on his legs every time he fell, which he at last did so
frequently that I ordered him to be shot, as it was hopeless to attempt
to bring him on, and if left, he must have died of starvation. By 2.0
p.m. we reached the junction of the stream we were upon with the Oakover,
and halted two miles south of Camp 72; most of the party being now
dismounted, shoe-leather was beginning to get very scarce with us. Camp
This day we only travelled eight miles down the Oakover, and encamped
near a deep creek, in which was caught a good haul of fish. Camp 80.
The feed was so good on this river that we were able to proceed to-day to
latitude 20 degrees 59 minutes 33 seconds; the country improving much,
grassy flats extending for some miles to the northward, the channel of
the river being augmented by the junction of the large tributary crossed
on our eastward track on the afternoon of the 29th August. Camp 81.
15th September (Sunday).
Remained in camp to rest the horses. A few natives were seen near the
camp during the day.
After running four or five miles further north, the Oakover turned to the
north-west for fourteen miles, having a clear sandy or stony bed from 150
to 200 yards wide, water and grass being plentiful, and the country
generally being open forest, with a pleasing appearance. Camp 82.
Latitude 20 degrees 46 minutes.
The course of the river was followed for about seventeen miles in a
westerly direction, the bed widening out to 300 or 400 yards, the water
being now confined to a sandy channel not above 150 yards in width, the
depth of the valley through which it runs being about forty feet; timber
of white-gum and cajeput is tolerably plentiful on the banks, the soil of
which is a red loam of considerable depth. Many of the pools are lined
with tall reeds. Camp 83.
Latitude 20 degrees 41 minutes 32 seconds.
REACH THE DEGREY RIVER. ABUNDANCE OF FISH.
Started at 6.40 a.m. and in two and a half hours entered a deep and
wild-looking gorge, at which point it formed a junction with the DeGrey,
coming from the south-south-east, through a beautiful level tract of open
grassy country, a broad belt of flooded-gum trees growing for some
distance back on either side. Passing through the gorge, which was a
quarter of a mile wide and about a mile long, we came upon a camp of
natives, who, as usual, quickly dispersed without giving us an
opportunity of showing them that we intended them no harm. The river here
contains a fine reach of deep water, upon which was a large quantity of
whistling ducks and other water-fowl. Two miles lower down we halted on
the banks of a deep creek coming in from the northward; the rest of the
day being employed re-stuffing pack-saddles, etc., while some of the
party caught a quantity of fine fish--amongst them an eel, which,
however, was allowed to escape, being taken for a water-snake by one of
the party who had never seen one before. A large kind of bat, or vampire,
was first observed here, measuring about two feet across the wings. Camp
We continued to follow down the DeGrey for about eighteen miles in a
west-north-west direction, through open grassy plains extending for many
miles on either bank, the channel of the river still maintaining the same
sandy character, and with abundance of water in its bed. Camp 85.
Latitude 20 degrees 36 minutes 30 seconds.
There was little or no change in the appearance of the country for the
eighteen or twenty miles that the river was traced down during to-day. We
encamped on the bank of a wide and deep reach of water more than a mile
long, surrounded by tall reeds. Fish were caught here in great abundance.
Latitude 20 degrees 31 minutes 48 seconds.
Shortly after starting we crossed the bed of a tributary coming in from
the southward, with a shallow sandy channel 200 yards wide, which must
drain the high ranges between the DeGrey and Shaw Rivers, which we passed
over on our outward track. In many places we began to observe patches of
triodia in the midst of the alluvial plains through which the river
continued to run, and distant ranges were observed both to the north and
south. Towards sundown we surprised a large party of natives encamped in
a dry channel of the river, and approached so near before we were
discovered that we had separated a young child from the rest of the
party, which was observed by the mother, who remained while the rest of
the natives made a hasty retreat; it was not long, however, before an
aged warrior returned to her aid, with his spear shipped, and came
forward in a very menacing attitude to recover the child, who stood by us
with a look of the most perfect unconcern. Finding we took no notice of
his threats, he threw down his weapon, and, walking up to the boy, caught
him up in his arms and bore him off, with a look of triumph, to his
companions. No attempt was made to carry away their supper, which was
ready prepared in a number of wooden scoops, and consisted of fish, rats,
beans, grass-seed cakes, and a beverage made with some oily seed pounded.
Leaving everything undisturbed, we pushed on for another mile, so as to
prevent their being afraid of returning to their evening repast. Camp 87.
Latitude 20 degrees 25 minutes 15 seconds.
ATTEMPT TO SPEAR HORSES.
Being Sunday, we only moved a mile lower down the river to a fine reach
of water, on the banks of which was a rich sward of green grass for our
horses. Shortly after we had made ourselves comfortable for the day we
were startled by six of the horses coming into camp at a gallop in their
hobbles, followed by eighteen armed natives. Everyone sprang to their
arms in a moment, which caused the intruders to fall back. I tried to
make them comprehend that we did not approve of the horses being hunted;
but as they would not go away, and they had a strong party concealed in
the brushwood, I fired at a tree to show them the use of our arms. The
moment they heard the report of the rifle and saw the splinters fly, they
took to their heels and did not again trouble us. We afterwards found a
spear sticking in the ground in the track of the horses, having evidently
be thrown while in pursuit. Camp 88.
Latitude 20 degrees 25 minutes; longitude 119 degrees 21 minutes.
The river soon passed round the southern foot of a range of hills of 400