Part 5 out of 8
Preparing equipment for the party proceeding to explore the Victoria
River, towards the upper part of its course; the grass has become quite
green and fresh water is also abundant, which has caused some of the
horses to stray beyond the usual feeding ground on the Whirlwind Plains.
Mr. H. Gregory and Mr. Flood brought in the stray horses, having found
them beyond Sandy Island. The timber party returned to the camp with four
logs of timber, which are intended to strengthen the keelson. While at
work at the creek where the timber was procured the party had been twice
visited by the blacks; these intrusions were neither decidedly friendly
or hostile, but they stole some small articles which had been imprudently
left lying near one of the logs of timber while the party was employed
elsewhere; about 10.0 a.m. the blacks set fire to the grass about 200
yards from the camp, and then retired. At 2.0 p.m., left the camp,
accompanied by Messrs. H. Gregory, Wilson, and Mueller, with seven horses
and twenty days' provisions, the object being to examine the country
through which the exploring party will have to travel on the route to the
interior; at 6 a.m. bivouacked at Timber Creek; in the principal channel
of the creek there were many small pools of water, and the grass was
fresh and green on the flats. Except on the banks of the river and
creeks, the country is very poor and stony; the geological structure of
the country is the same as at Sea Range--the same bands of sandstone
cliff resting on soft shales, the strata being horizontal; but beneath
the shales chert and coarse siliceous limestone were exposed, and
fragments of jasper are frequent. The principal timber is white-gum of
small size, and the cotton-tree (cochlospermum), which sometimes attains
the thickness of nine to twelve inches. Though grass is abundant on every
description of soil, yet the greater part is of inferior descriptions and
dries up completely at this season.
Latitude by altitude of Achernar, 15 degrees 39 minutes 43 seconds.
Started at 5.45 a.m., and followed the creek to the south-south-east; it
rapidly decreased in size, branching into small gullies, so that we had
some difficulty in finding water for a midday halt. The flats on the bank
of the creek are in some parts nearly a mile wide, well grassed and
openly timbered; the hills are of sandstone, but chert and coarse
limestone were frequently seen on the lower ridges. At noon halted at a
small pool of rainwater. The day was cloudy and cool, the thermometer
only 90 degrees at 2 p.m. At 3.0 resumed our route up the creek, which
soon terminated in small gullies rising in stony ridges; as there was no
appearance of water to the south, the course was changed to south-east
and east, in which direction we followed down a gully, and at 7.20 halted
at a small waterhole.
Starting at 6.15 a.m., steered first north 70 degrees east and then 60
degrees till 3 p.m., traversing a level grassy box-flat extending along
the northern side of a rocky sandstone range. At 3.0 p.m. reached the
south-west end of the Fitzroy Range, which is a narrow ridge of sandstone
hills ten miles long and one to two miles broad; at the north end of the
range we found a small pool of rainwater, and, having watered the horses,
pushed on towards the Victoria River, at the base of Bynoe Range; but
although the country was level, we were so much retarded by the soft
nature of the soil that the river was not reached till sunset, and the
banks of the river were so steep that the water was not accessible for
the horses, and we therefore encamped at a small hole of muddy rainwater.
Our camp was about four miles above the furthest point attained by
Captain Stokes, and consequently in Beagle Valley which we had traversed
for more than thirty miles, the greater part of which was well grassed
and openly wooded with box, bauhinia, and acacia. The Fitzroy Range is
almost isolated, and there is a level plain five or six miles wide to the
south-east, beyond which there is a high sandstone range surmounted by an
almost unbroken cliff of sandstone near the summit, and which appeared to
be quite impassable.
Steering east-south-east through grassy flats for one hour and a half,
found that the river had turned to the northward round a steep hill, but
continuing our course, crossed a low stony ridge and again approached the
river, the banks of which were so steep that the horses could not get to
the water, and therefore followed it two miles and encamped on a stony
bar where the water was easy of access. The valley of the river is much
contracted by the steep sandstone hills, which come close on both banks.
In the bed of the river several fragments of jasper and black shale were
found, the latter appearing to belong to the coal formation. A slight
shower in the afternoon cooled the air, and the temperature was only 92
degrees at sunset, and the wet bulb 79 degrees.
Latitude by Achernar 15 degrees 36 minutes 29 seconds.
DEEP GORGE IN TABLELAND.
Started at 6.15 a.m. and followed the river, which first came from the
east, then south-east and south-west till 10.40, when we crossed to the
right bank and halted. The valley of the river is much narrower, and does
not exceed half a mile, and is bounded by cliffs of sandstone varying
from 50 to 300 feet high. The waters of the river occasionally rise 100
feet, as the marks of the floods extended to the base of the cliffs; the
regular channel of the river is about 200 feet wide, the water forming
deep reaches often more than a mile long and separated by dry stony bars
of shingle and rock. The sandstone is thicker here than towards Steep
Head, but there is no change in the geological character, except that the
chert-beds are not exposed. The tracks of several natives were observed,
but they were not seen by us; at 2.0 p.m. resumed the journey up the
river in a generally south direction, and at 4.30 encamped, but had great
difficulty in forcing our way through the reeds to procure water.
Latitude by meridian altitude of a Persei 15 degrees 41 minutes 54
Left the camp at 6 a.m. and continued the route up the river to the south
till 10.10, when we halted till 2.15 p.m., and then proceeded on till
4.45, and encamped at a small pool of rainwater, the bank of the river
being so steep and covered with high reeds that the water is scarcely
accessible. The valley of the river is still bounded by sandstone cliffs;
but as the strata are horizontal, and the bed of the river rises, the
shales are not much exposed, and the alluvial banks reach to the base of
the cliffs, which are so continuous that I have not yet seen a spot where
we could have ascended the tableland in which the valley is excavated.
Several tributary gullies having passed, but none worthy of special
notice. Fragments of trap-rock are frequent in the bed of the river, and
one specimen contained traces of carbonate of copper; at 6.0 thermometer
92 degrees, aneroid 29.80, at the camp--sixty feet above the river.
Latitude by meridian altitude of Achernar 15 degrees 50 minutes 30
VALLEY SUDDENLY WIDENS.
Resumed our route up the river at 5.40 a.m., the general course south;
there being no change in the character of the country till 10.0, when the
hills receded and the cliffs ceased; at 10.30 halted at a small pool in a
back channel of the river. At noon the thermometer stood at 100 degrees
in the shade, and the aneroid 29.75--forty feet above the river. Starting
again at 2.0 p.m., soon entered an extensive plain extending to the east,
south, and west; followed a large creek to the south-west till 6.15, and
Latitude by meridian altitude of Achernar 16 degrees 2 minutes 30
At 5.40 a.m. crossed the creek and steered east to the foot of a rocky
hill, but not seeing the principal branch of the Victoria, returned to
the creek and then steered south-south-west till 10.0 a.m., when we
crossed two small creeks, in the second of which we found a pool of water
surrounded by reeds (typha), and halted during the heat of the day. The
country traversed was first a stony ridge, on which several small stone
huts had been erected, but scarcely of sufficient size for a man to
enter, and the roofs were only formed by a few pieces of wood and a
little grass; they consist of a wall three feet high, in the form of a
horseshoe, about three feet in diameter inside; the entrances of some had
been closed with stones and afterwards partially opened, and I can only
conjecture that, as the practice of carrying the bones of their deceased
relatives prevails in this part of Australia, it is probable that these
erections are used as temporary sepulchres. After crossing this stony
ridge entered a level plain of clay, much fissured by the sun, and in
some parts covered with fragments of jasper and sandstones; as the creek
was approached limestone prevailed, but the exposed portion seemed to be
formed by a rearrangement of the broken fragments of older rocks, which
were visible in the gullies. The water at which we halted appeared to be
supplied by a spring, and not to be the retention of rainwater. At 3.15
p.m. proceeded in a westerly direction in search of the principal branch
of the creek, which we reached at 4.0 p.m., but found it much reduced in
size, not exceeding fifteen yards in width; followed it up for an hour,
and camped at a small but deep pool of water, which is evidently supplied
by a spring in the limestone rocks, which form the banks of the creek.
Latitude by meridian altitude of Achernar 16 degrees 10 minutes.
Having filled our water-bags, we left the camp at 6.40 a.m., and steered
a course of north 200 degrees east towards a range of hills composed of
jasper rock, the highest point of which we reached at 10.0. The aneroid
stood at 29.15; thermometer 94 degrees. Three miles to the south-west of
this range the country rose into an elevated tableland higher than the
Jasper Range; towards this we continued our route, following a small
watercourse which gradually turned to the east. Finding the country very
dry and rocky, and no prospect of finding a spot where the tableland
could be ascended, we returned to the waterhole at which we camped last
At 6.0 a.m. were again in the saddle, and steering north till 7.20,
ascended an isolated hill of trap-rock rising abruptly in the centre of
the open plain about 200 feet. Having taken bearings of the surrounding
ranges, steered north 30 degrees east till 10.30, across a level grassy
plain to the creek, which, though much larger than at the camp, was
destitute of water; but following its course downwards, at 10.50 halted
at a small pool. Judging from the height that drift-wood was lodged in
the branches of the trees, the floods rise about fifty feet; the regular
channel is thirty yards wide; on the banks red, green, and white shales
are exposed, but the bed of the creek is generally sandy. A large
tributary appears to join this creek from the west, in which direction a
large valley extends fifteen miles. At 3 p.m. steered east, and passed to
the south of a remarkable sandstone hill, which we named Mount Sandiman,
and at 5.30 reached the bank of the Victoria coming from the
south-south-east; followed it up for one mile and encamped where a ledge
of rock gave easy access to the water. In the evening there was a slight
shower, and a heavy thunderstorm passed to the north.
About 5.45 resumed our journey up the river, passing through wide grassy
flats and over a sandstone ridge which was covered with triodia; from
this ridge there was an extensive view of the country to the south and
east, but no hills of greater elevation than the sandstone tableland were
visible, and for twenty miles the valley of the river expanded into a
wide plain thinly timbered with box-trees. Continuing a south-south-east
course through a fine grassy country till 10.0, halted in a patch of
green grass. The elevation of this part of the valley of the Victoria is
not great, as the barometer stood at 29.77 forty feet above the river;
thermometer, 101 degrees. The soil on the bank of the river is good and
well-grassed, but the inundations during the rainy season extend on each
side of the river several miles. The strata of the sandstone, where
exposed, dip to the north, but there is no alteration in the character of
the rocks. Abundance of portulaca grew near our halting place, and
furnished us with an agreeable vegetable; this plant was afterwards found
over the whole of Northern Australia, and proved a very valuable article
of food. At 3.20 continued our route, and at 5.30 bivouacked at a small
pool of rainwater in one of the back channels of the river, the banks of
which were inconveniently covered with high reeds. During the night there
was continuous light rain till 4.0 a.m.
ABUNDANCE OF FISH.
Continued our route up the river to the south-south-west from 5.45 a.m.
till 10.45, passing through open grassy box flats; a low grassy range
approached the right bank and again receded; to the west a range of
broken hills rose to 500 feet parallel to our course and five miles
distant. Halted in the bed of the river, which formed fine reaches of
water, with dry sand-bars between; caught several catfish and perch;
mussels were abundant, the form of the shell much longer than I have
before seen in the other parts of the river. At noon: Barometer, 29.80;
thermometer, 104 degrees; at 3.0 p.m.: Barometer, 29.65; thermometer, 93
degrees. At 3.30 steered south from the right bank of the river, which
turned to the westward; crossed some fine grassy country thinly timbered
with box, and at 4.50 came to the southern branch of the river. This
branch trended to the north-east, and consequently joins at a point lower
down than where we crossed, the junction not having been observed. These
two branches of the Victoria are so nearly equal in apparent size that it
will remain for future examination to determine which is to be considered
the tributary. Crossing to the right bank, we followed it upwards along
the foot of the high land for half an hour, and encamped in the bed of
Latitude by meridian altitude of Achernar 16 degrees 26 minutes.
RETURN DOWN THE VICTORIA.
The day commenced with a heavy thundershower, which continued for several
hours; but the rain not being quite so heavy at 6 a.m., we started and
proceeded along the bank of the river to a hill about one and a half
miles south-west of the bivouac. On ascending the hill, we found that
though the elevation and position accommodated a fine view in fine
weather, yet the rain at the present time obscured all distant objects,
but the country to the south and west consisted of flat-topped sandstone
hills with large open valleys between; to the east the view was
obstructed by rising ground, while to the north lay the vast grassy plain
which we had traversed during the last two days. The western branch of
the river turned to the west-south-west along the foot of the sandstone
ranges, its course being marked by a line of green trees, which
contrasted strongly with the white grass on the open plains on its banks.
The south branch of the river appeared to come from a valley trending
south-south-east, but the thick mist obscured that part of the country.
As we had now examined the country sufficiently to enable the main party
to advance a whole degree of latitude without any great impediment, and
ascertained the general character of the country and the nature of the
obstacles to be encountered, and on which the equipment of the party
would in some measure depend, we turned our steps towards the principal
camp, crossing the western branch of the river at 9.50, and reached our
camp of the 4th at 3.20 p.m. The rain this morning cooled the air to 74
degrees at 9 a.m. and 85 degrees at sunset.
Resumed our journey down the river, following the outward track from 5.40
a.m. till 11.0, when we halted till 3.25 p.m. Thermometer at noon 102
degrees, with a cool southerly breeze; wet bulb, 78 degrees. Resuming our
route, crossed to the right bank of the river, and bivouacked at the
termination of the plains.
At 5.45 a.m. proceeded down the right bank of the river, which was very
rocky and steep; we therefore crossed to the left bank, and at 11.0
halted one mile above the bivouac of the 29 ultimo. Between 2.0 and 3.0
p.m. there was a heavy thunderstorm, when half an inch of rain fell; at
3.45 resumed our journey, and encamped about four miles lower down the
Followed the left bank of the river from 6.0 to 11.0 a.m.; found the
travelling less stony and intersected by gullies than the right bank; at
3.50 p.m. resumed our route, and at 6.30 encamped.
Travelled down the river from 5.45 till 10.0 a.m.; when we halted a
quarter of a mile above the camp of the 27th November. At 2.0 p.m. a
heavy thundershower cooled the atmosphere from 100 degrees to 77 degrees.
Resumed our journey at 3.0 and at 6.30 camped in the level plain at the
foot of the Fitzroy Range, on the east side, water being abundant in
every hollow, and since we passed up the river there has been heavy rain
in this part of the country, and several of the gullies have been running
eight feet deep. Shot a turkey and three black ibis. The Fitzroy Range
extends about two miles north of a line from the gorge of the river to
Bynoe Range, the Victoria winding round the north end of the range, and
some tributary creeks appear to join from the north, as a valley extends
several miles in that direction. The rain does not appear to have been
general over the country, as it often occurs that after travelling over
two or three miles of green grass where the gullies show signs of recent
flood, that this beautiful verdure suddenly ceases, and we again
encounter a dry and parched country which exhibits all the signs of an
Left our camp at 5.45 a.m., and, steering west, crossed the low ridge of
the Fitzroy Range, and having taken bearings of the features of the
country, steered north 260 degrees east through the level plain which
occupies the space between Wickham Heights and the Fitzroy Range, and
which was named Beagle Valley by Captain Stokes. The soil of this plain
is a brown clay, which in the dry weather crumbles into small pieces, so
that the horses sink deeply into it; but in the wet season the whole is
deep mud; it, however, appears to be very fertile, and produces an
abundance of grass; the trees consist of bauhinia, acacia, and some
eucalypti. Halting from 10.0 a.m. till 4.0 p.m. changed course to north
245 degrees east, and after traversing a grassy box flat for two hours,
camped at a small watercourse with pools of rainwater in a rocky
Started at 5.30 a.m., and steered north 245 degrees east for one and a
half hours, when we passed the high bluff of the range and changed the
course north 330 degrees east, keeping three-quarters of a mile east of
the remarkable hill called the Tower, by Captain Stokes, from a
remarkable rock on the summit. The country was very rough and stony,
though the ridge we passed over was not more than 200 or 300 feet above
the river. Continuing a north-north-west course, at 9.45 reached the bank
of the Victoria, which was followed on a course of 200 degrees till
10.10, when a large creek joined the river; this creek drains nearly the
whole of Beagle Valley, and takes its rise in the north-west slope of
Stokes' Range. The course was then westerly till 12.15 p.m., when we
encamped in a grassy flat one-third of a mile from the river. Marked a
large adansonia tree 12 on its south side.
Leaving our bivouac at 5.30 a.m., followed the valley of the river,
passing the ridge at back of Steep Head at 10.0., and halted at Timber
Creek at 11.0. The heavy rains which occurred in Beagle Valley do not
appear to have extended to this part of the country, and the grass is
still dry and withered. At 2.30 p.m. resumed our route and reached the
principal camp at 6.30, and found the party all well, except Richards,
who was still suffering severely from the injury to his wrist. Mr. Baines
was absent, having started on Wednesday in search of two horses which had
strayed to the westward.
Messrs. Baines and Bowman returned with the stray horses, having found
them on the bank of a small river fifteen miles to the west of the camp.
This river, which I named the Baines River, has considerable pools of
fresh water in its bed, which comes from the south-west, and flows into
the large salt-water creek above Curiosity Peak. On one occasion Messrs.
Baines and Bowman had halted to rest during the heat of the day, when
they observed some blacks creeping towards them in the high grass; but,
on finding they were observed, retired and soon returned openly with
augmented numbers and approached with their spears shipped; but Mr.
Baines and his companion having mounted their horses, galloped sharply
towards them, and the blacks retreated with great precipitation. Mr. H.
Gregory brought in the greater part of the horses; but as they had
scattered very much in search of green grass, many of the horses were ten
miles from the camp. Men employed cutting and carrying timber for the
repair of the schooner, which work is progressing satisfactorily;
computing astronomical observations.
Party employed as before. One of the mares is reported to have foaled a
fine filly. Thundershowers are frequent, and the country near the camp is
clothed with verdure. Rode out with Mr. H. Gregory and Mr. Baines to
bring in some horses which had strayed, and which, after several hours'
tracking, we found and brought to the camp. The horses are now much
improved, and, with the exception of three which are still very weak, are
now in a serviceable condition, though few are capable of carrying heavy
loads or performing long journeys; but as grass and water are now
abundant for the first 100 miles of the route towards the interior, I
hope that by travelling easy stages the horses will improve, and
preparations are being made for commencing the journey early in January.
The country being impracticable for drays, and as the sheep cannot be
driven with advantage, owing to the high grass and reeds, it is necessary
to constitute the party so that the whole equipment can be conveyed by
pack-horses, to accomplish which the party proceeding to the interior
must not exceed nine in number, for which the horses are capable of
conveying five months' provisions and equipment. The remaining half of
the party will have full employment in the repair of the schooner and
care of the stores--points of vital importance to the Expedition. It is
therefore proposed to make the following division of the party, which,
under existing circumstances, appears to me the most eligible.
PREPARATIONS FOR EXPEDITION.
The exploring party to consist of the following: Commander, A. Gregory;
assistant commander, H. Gregory; artist, T. Baines; botanist, F. Mueller;
collector, J. Flood; overseer, G. Phibbs; farrier, R. Bowman;
harness-maker, C. Dean; stockman, J. Fahey.
The party remaining in charge of the principal camp: Geologist, J.S.
Wilson; surgeon, J.R. Elsey; overseer, C. Humphries; stockmen, Dawson,
Shewell, Selby, Macdonald, Richards, Melville.
Preparing a map of the late journey up the Victoria, shoeing horses, and
other preparations for the expedition into the interior.
Party employed as before.
Removing the bones from the salt pork which is to form part of the
provisions of the exploring party; the reduction in weight is 17 per
cent. Packing flour in double canvas bags, containing forty or fifty
pounds each. In the centre of each bag of flour one pound of gunpowder is
placed as the most secure from accidents. Shoeing horses, etc., as
before. At 10 o'clock last night it commenced raining, and continued till
daybreak; the day has been cool and cloudy.
Party employed as before; killed one of the sheep, which weighed
thirty-eight pounds. During last night it rained for four hours, and
there have been showers to-day.
Preparing for explorations as before. The river commenced running, but is
still brackish. The weather is cloudy, with frequent showers; the country
is becoming very soft and boggy.
Frequent heavy showers, especially at night. Mr. Wilson, Dr. Mueller, and
Selby went down the river to examine Sea Range and procure specimens of
rocks and plants. The repairs of the schooner requiring some broad iron,
I had the ironwork of one of the drays appropriated to the purpose, as
there was no iron of a suitable size on board the vessel. Party employed
shoeing horses, fitting saddles, and general preparations of equipment
for the exploring party.
Two of the horses have again strayed to the westward, and Mr. H. Gregory
and Bowman were employed nearly the whole day in tracking them, and
succeeded in bringing them in at night. The river is quite fresh, and
running with a current from one to two miles per hour. Since the
commencement of the rainy weather the general health of the party has
improved; but this, perhaps, is due to the reduction of temperature,
combined with greater regularity of habits and diet. Richards' arm is,
however, in a very unsatisfactory state, though this is more the result
of general ill-health than the original extent of actual injury.
Preparing equipment, etc., as before. Dr. Mueller and Mr. Wilson returned
in the boat from Sea Range. They report the river to be fresh at Sandy
Island. Frequent heavy showers, which rendered the ground so soft that
the horses cannot be hobbled without danger of their getting bogged, and
it is scarcely possible to ride after them to herd them.
Christmas day. Frequent heavy showers throughout the day and night.
Killed a sheep; the weight, 38 1/2 pounds.
Preparing equipment; fitting spare shoes for the horses, etc. Frequent
Packing stores, fitting saddles, etc. This has been the first fine day
during the past week, having had only a single shower during the
FLOOD IN THE RIVER.
Party employed as before. The schooner was moved into the stream, as the
drift-wood collected in large quantities, and could not be easily cleared
away from the bows when moored near the bank. The water of the river is
very muddy, and has risen about six feet above the ordinary high-water
mark. The current is about two miles per hour. In winding chronometer
2139, the chain, which was much corroded, broke, and the force of the
recoil of the spring snapped it in so many places that I had to splice
six of the links.
As before--preparing equipment, etc.
30th December (Sunday).
Preparing tracings of maps, etc., completed the preparations for the
exploration of the interior.
1st January, 1856.
Wrote to Mr. Wilson, enclosing instructions for the guidance of the
officer in charge of the camp on the Victoria. Wrote to the master of the
Tom Tough instructions relative to the movements and repair of the Tom
Tough, etc. Received from Mr. Wilson a letter requesting to be informed
why he had been selected to take charge of the party at the principal
camp. Wrote to Mr. Wilson in reply to his letter of this day's date.
Having completed the preparations for the journey into the interior, the
horses were saddled, and the party was on the point of starting, when a
gun was fired on board the schooner, and the horses took fright and
rushed wildly into the bush; and it was only after a hard gallop of two
miles that they could be turned and driven back to the camp. Many of the
saddles and loads were torn off by the horses having run against trees,
and, as they had scattered very much, it took some time to collect the
bags which had fallen from the horses, and four bags of provisions could
not be found. A few of the straps of the colonial-made pack-saddles had
given way, but there was no other damage done to them; but the
English-made saddle was shaken to pieces. The party were occupied in the
evening repairing damages.
Completed the repair of the saddlery, etc. broken yesterday; two of the
missing bags were found, but a heavy shower having obliterated the tracks
of the horses, two bags of sugar and sago were lost.
All arrangements being complete, the party commenced their journey at 11
a.m., and, proceeding up the river to Timber Creek, encamped there at 3.0
The following is a memorandum of the arrangements and equipment of the
The Party: Commander, A.C. Gregory; assistant-commander, H.C. Gregory;
artist, T. Baines; botanist, F. Mueller, collector, J. Flood; overseer,
G. Phibbs; farrier, R. Bowman; harness-maker, C. Dean; stockman, J.
Horses: 27 pack-horses with pack-saddles; 3 pack-horses with
riding-saddles; 6 riding-horses.
Provisions for five months: Flour, 1,470 pounds; pork, 1200 pounds; rice,
200 pounds; sago, 44 pounds; sugar, 280 pounds; tea, 36 pounds; coffee,
28 pounds; tobacco, 21 pounds; soap, 51 pounds. Total, 3,330 pounds.
Equipment: Instruments, clothing, tents, ammunition, horseshoes, tools,
etc., 800 pounds; saddle-bags and packages, 400 pounds; saddles, bridles,
hobbles, etc., 900 pounds. Total, 5,430 pounds.
SENTRIES AT NIGHT.
The total weight was thus about two and a half tons, which, distributed
on thirty horses, gave a load of 180 pounds each horse. Each person had a
stated number of horses in his special charge, and was responsible for
the proper care of the loads and equipment, the saddles and loads being
all marked with numbers. A watch was constantly kept through the night,
each person being on sentry for two hours in regular rotation, except
myself, as I had to make astronomical observations at uncertain hours.
The cook was on watch from 2.0 till 4.0 a.m., and having prepared
breakfast, the party concluded this meal at daybreak, and thus the most
valuable part of the day was not lost.
Started at 7 a.m. and followed up the creek; but Dr. Mueller having
wandered away into the rocky hills and lost himself, I halted at the
first convenient spot, having despatched several of the party to search
for him, but it was not till 4 p.m. that the Doctor reached the camp. At
noon there was a shower of rain, which reduced the temperature to 92
The day broke with a heavy shower, which continued till 7.30 a.m., when
it was followed by a cool breeze from the west; at 8.30 steered north 150
degrees east magnetic up the valley of the creek till 11.0, when,
crossing a low rocky ridge, we descended into Beagle Valley, and,
steering 160 degrees till 2.10 p.m., halted at a small creek. The country
is now covered with fine grass, and water is abundant, though the smaller
watercourses have ceased to flow. In the evening walked to a hill about a
mile from the camp; it was only 150 feet high, but gave a fine view of
the distant ranges.
It rained continuously during the night, with thunder and lightning. At
8.0 a.m. steered 160 degrees and soon came on a small creek with
water-pandanus on its banks; followed it to the south-south-east; at 11.0
crossed it and changed the course to south-east, and at 11.30 encamped in
a small gully; I then went with Mr. H. Gregory to look for a practicable
ascent of Stokes' Range; having been successful in the search, we
returned to the camp at 6 p.m. There are few spots where this range can
be ascended, as a line of cliffs run along the brow of the hills varying
from 10 to 100 feet in height. While on the hill we saw a few blacks, but
they did not approach; the day was cloudy and cool, clearing after
Latitude by Canopus and Capella 15 degrees 59 minutes 57 seconds.
The day again commenced with heavy showers, which lasted till 7 a.m. At
7.30 started on a course of 120 degrees; reached the foot of the
sandstone range at 8.50, and the summit at 9.30, the tableland on the top
of the range being intersected by deep ravines trending to the
south-west; we steered east till 11.40, when we came to a deep valley
trending east-south-east; having made the necessary observations for
elevation, commenced the descent of the hills, which was practicable in
few places, as the valley was walled-in by steep hills crowned by
sandstone cliffs 20 to 100 feet in height, with only an occasional break.
At 1.0 p.m. reached the base of the hill, and encamped at a small gully.
The summit of the range is nearly a level tableland, the undulations not
exceeding 100 feet, but is intersected by deep ravines with perpendicular
sides, which vary from 100 to 600 feet in depth. The upper rock is
sandstone, and the soil on it very poor and sandy, producing small
eucalypti, hakea, grevillia, and a sharp spiny grass (triodia); this is
the spinifex of Captain Sturt and other Australian explorers. The
character of the country is similar to that of the interior of some parts
of the western coast.
Latitude by Capella 15 degrees 59 minutes 32 seconds.
JASPER CREEK. GRASSY COUNTRY.
Heavy rain till 7.0 a.m.; at 7.15 started and followed down the valley of
the creek to south-south-east and south till 9.0, when it joined a larger
valley trending east, in which a large creek in high flood obstructed our
course. As the water was too deep to ford, we fixed a rope to a branch of
a tree and passed the packs over the stream. This was accomplished at 3.0
p.m., and the water having also sunk a foot, the horses crossed over, and
we encamped on the south side of the creek. The valleys are well grassed,
and vary from a quarter to three-quarters of a mile in width, the hills
rising steeply from the base to near the summit, where they are crowned
by a sandstone cliff 20 to 150 feet high; the summits are level, or
nearly so, as the valleys are only deep ravines excavated in the
tableland. The valley of the larger creek appears to expand about five
miles to the west of the camp, and the hills all rounded in their
A light shower at night was followed by a cool cloudy morning. At 6.50
a.m. followed down the creek to the east, and crossed to the left bank to
avoid a rocky hill. On attempting to cross lower down, one of the
pack-horses was carried down the stream some distance by the force of the
current, and the saddle-bags were recovered a quarter of a mile below.
The valley contracted as we proceeded, and at length the steep cliff left
no passage on the left bank, and we had to return one and a half miles up
the creek and cross to the right bank, when our course was again
obstructed by a large tributary, which was crossed with some difficulty,
and we passed through the rough rocky gorge of the creek, where the cliff
approached the bank of the stream so closely that there was scarcely
space for a horse to pass. At 12.10 p.m. camped on the bank of the creek
at the termination of the hilly country, and, ascending a rocky
elevation, obtained a view of the valley of the Victoria, and ascertained
that we were on one of the branches of Jasper Creek. The afternoon and
night were showery.
Started at 6.30 a.m. and steered south-east, leaving the creek to the
north; the country soon changed to a level plain well-grassed, but, owing
to the late rain, very soft and muddy; at 10.20 passed to the north end
of Jasper Range, and came to a creek fifteen yards wide trending
north-east. Having forded the creek, camped on the right bank. The soil
of the country traversed this day is a good brown loam on the plains, but
rough and stony on the hills. The trees are of a small size, principally
box and bauhinia. Sandstone is the prevailing rock, sometimes passing
into jasper, and also into chert and coarse limestone. Small veins of
quartz intersected the jasper, and contained small crystals of sulphuret
of copper and iron.
Latitude by Aldebaran and Capella, 116 degrees 6 minutes 54 seconds;
variation of compass, 3 degrees 6 minutes east.
One of the mares having foaled in the night, she was not fit for a day's
journey; we therefore remained at the camp, and employed the day in
repairing and adjusting the saddles, and other works of indispensable
nature; marked a large gum-tree NAE, 11 Jan., 1856.
The night was fine, with a heavy dew and a light breeze from the south.
At 6.15 a.m. steered north 150 degrees east over the level country which
extends along the east side of Jasper Range; the soil is stony, but well
grassed, and the fine weather had allowed the surface to become firm, so
that the horses were not often bogged. At 12.25 p.m. camped on a small
creek between the Fitzgerald and Jasper Ranges; marked a gum-tree at camp
Number 9. The general character of this part of the country is good and
well suited for stock, though not equal to the basaltic country to the
eastward on the Victoria. Hard sandstone, jasper, and coarse limestone
are the prevailing rocks.
Latitude by Aldebaran, Saturn, and a Orionis 16 degrees 16 minutes 22
The night cool and clear; thermometer 62 degrees at sunrise with heavy
dew; steering an average south course from 6.40 a.m. till 11.25, reached
the western branch of the Victoria River and encamped. The country
traversed was nearly level and well grassed and thinly wooded with
eucalypti and bauhinia; the soil is brown loam with small fragments of
limestone; the river was running strong, but not in flood; the greatest
rise this season had been only ten feet, and the usual flood-marks were
twenty feet higher.
Latitude by Aldebaran and Capella 16 degrees 25 minutes 12 seconds.
Followed the river to the west-south-west, crossing two large tributary
creeks from the north-west, approaching the sandstone ranges on the
western side of the plain; the soil did not improve, but became very
sandy; the country is thinly wooded with box-trees and bauhinia of small
size; grass is abundant and good. At noon one of the pack-horses, Sam,
knocked up, and his load being transferred to one of the riding-horses,
he was left to rest while we sought a suitable spot for a camp, and at
12.15 p.m. halted at a small gully, as the bank of the river was unsafe
for the horses, being very boggy. Sent back for the horse Sam, and
brought him to camp; ascended the hill to the north-west of the camp to
take bearings, but no important features of the country were visible; in
ascending the hill the aneroid (B) fell from 29.62 to 28.55 degrees, and
on descending only rose to 28.80 degrees, the estimated height being 300
feet; as this indicated a change in form of the metal of the instrument,
I re-adjusted it to the aneroid (A), 29.45 degrees. The continuance of
fine weather and forward state of the grass led to the supposition that
the wet season had already terminated, though only two months have
elapsed since the first rains. It is probable that the wet season is much
shorter in the interior than on the coast, and at no great distance
inland the tropical wet season will cease altogether, as Captain Sturt,
in latitude 26 degrees, only observed a fall of rain in the month of
August; but this might be exceptional, as in the case of Dr. Leichhardt,
who never encountered a rainy season during the journey to Port
Latitude by Aldebaran and Capella 16 degrees 27 minutes 20 seconds.
Started at 6.45 a.m. and followed the river to the west-south-west; the
hills coming close to the bank for some miles, caused the journey to be
slow and difficult; crossed two large creeks coming from the
west-north-west, the second seventy yards wide; at 10.35 encamped in a
fine grassy flat. The course of the river was now more from the south,
and the valley expanded into a plain several miles wide.
As several of the horses required a day's rest, at 6.0 a.m. I started
with Mr. H. Gregory to examine the country to the southward, and followed
the river through a fine grassy plain till 10.0, when it entered the
sandstone ranges, and the valley contracted to half a mile; the hills
were steep, but the level ground in the valley, except where intersected
by gullies, was good travelling and well grassed. The river is much
reduced in size and the water is confined to the smaller channels of the
principal bed; the water is clear, and had not that muddy appearance
which characterises it lower down. The geological character of the rocks
is unchanged; but the bed of the river being less deeply excavated, the
lower beds of limestone and jasper are not so largely developed, the
summit of the hills are not quite as level, and large blocks of
sandstone, the remains of an upper stratum, gives the country a very
rugged appearance. Returned to the camp at 6.30 p.m. In the evening there
was a heavy thunder-squall from the north, but the weather cleared at
LOSE A HORSE.
Started at 7.5 a.m. and steered a south-west course till 10.30 a.m.,
passing over a level grassy flat the whole distance; but the soil became
more sandy as we proceeded up the river; there is very little wood of any
description; the few trees that exist are white-stem eucalypti and a few
acacia with pinnate leaves; the horse Sam is very weak, and two other
horses are lame and can scarcely travel; since the 3rd of January the
distance travelled has not exceeded ten miles per diem; water and grass
everywhere abundant, and the loads not heavy, yet the greater part of the
horses appear to be unable to perform a greater amount of work.
Latitude by Aldebaran 16 degrees 36 minutes 43 seconds.
Some of the horses having strayed towards our last camp, we were detained
till 8.10 a.m. and then steered south for three miles; the sandstone
hills here closed in on each side of the river, scarcely leaving a
passage at the base of the steep rocks; here the horse Sam fell into a
pool of water, and when extricated could not stand; this having caused
considerable delay, we encamped in a grassy flat half a mile farther on;
in the evening sent Bowman and Dean to bring the horse to the camp, but
they found him dead; marked a tree near camp 14.
The night was fine, with heavy dew, the temperature 73 degrees at
sunrise; having collected the horses and saddled at 6.45 a.m., left the
camp and followed the valley of the river on an average south-west
course, crossing a large creek from the north-west; the valley of the
river expanded to three miles and then narrowed to one mile, and the
course of the river was nearly west till 10.50 a.m., when we encamped;
the soil of the valley is a brown loam, producing abundance of grass; but
the hills, though less rocky, are more barren than lower down the river;
the character of the channel of the river has altered, and has the
appearance of a stream which continues to run late into the dry season,
as the channels are narrow and fringed with pandanus, melaleuca, and
other trees which grow near permanent water; the banks are of less height
and the timber on them grows to a greater size than lower down the
valley; at 1.0 p.m. the thermometer 100 degrees, and the wet bulb 76
degrees, indicating 24 degrees of evaporation.
CROSS THE WICKHAM RIVER.
Left the camp at 6.55 a.m. and followed the river in a west-north-west
direction till 8.5, when we crossed at a ledge of rocks which caused a
fall of about one foot, the water being twenty yards wide and one to two
feet deep; but above and below the rapid the river formed fine reaches
seventy yards wide; the course was now west-south-west till 9.0 a.m.,
when the river turned west, and at 10.50 came to a large stony creek from
the south-west, at which we encamped; the country on the banks of the
river rises gradually as it recedes, and, except within the influence of
the floods, is poor and stony, producing little besides a sharp grass
(triodia)--this is the spinifex of some Australian explorers--a few small
gum-trees and bushes. As we progress towards the interior the wet season
appears to have been of less duration and the fall of rain less, yet the
great heat has forced the vegetation towards maturity, and many of the
grasses have already ripened their seeds, while there are many other
indications of the dry season having fairly set in; the wind is steadily
from the south and south-east, and is very dry; the sky is clear and
bright, and the creeks have ceased to run; the almost total absence of
birds or animals shows that we are approaching the limits of the dry
summer season of the southern interior; in the afternoon rode out with
Mr. H. Gregory to examine the country, and found that the river came
through a gorge in the sandstone range; this gorge is two miles long, a
quarter of a mile wide, and 400 feet deep, with nearly perpendicular
sides, the winter channel of the river occupying nearly the whole
breadth, and intersecting the otherwise flat bottom of the valley with
dry sandy channels and long pools of water; beyond the gorge the valley
opened, but the view was intercepted by hills.
A HORSE KILLED.
Resumed our journey at 7.10 a.m., and, following the right bank of the
river nearly west through the gorge, at 9.0 entered an open valley,
through which the river came from the south-west; but at 10.0 we entered
a second defile, which, from the inclined strata of sandstone, was almost
impassable for the horses. In crossing some soft ground between the rocks
one of the horses fell on a sharp stump, and was deeply wounded in the
belly. The wound was sewn up; but the injury was so severe that the horse
died in the night. Having extricated ourselves from this ravine, we
encamped at the foot of a sandstone hill, the strata of which dipped 60
degrees to the south-west. Ascending the hill, which was about 300 feet
high, the country appeared more level to the south, rising into sandstone
ranges at ten miles distance. The course of the river was from
west-south-west, the channel being bounded by sandstone cliffs 100 to 200
feet high. The general aspect of the country was wretched in the extreme,
as little besides a few small gum-trees and triodia clothed the rugged
surface of the red sandstone. The weather continues fine, with only an
occasional cloud or flash of lightning in the early part of the night.
The temperature is increasing, being 104 degrees at 1.0 p.m. Some catfish
and a small tortoise were caught in the river.
At 7.0 a.m. continued our route up the river; but, to avoid the deep
ravines on its banks, made a sweep to the south, and at noon encamped in
a grassy flat on the bank of the river. The country traversed was very
barren and rocky, and the horses had great difficulty in crossing the
deep ravines; many of their shoes were torn from their feet during the
day's journey. The highest ridge crossed was 500 feet above the bed of
the river, the height of which is approximately 500 feet above the
sea-level, and thus the general level of the tableland may be considered
to be 1000 feet above the sea. The general course of the river being from
the west, it appears advisable to reconnoitre the country to the south.
Latitude by Capella 16 degrees 47 minutes 58 seconds.
RECONNOITRE TO THE SOUTH.
Leaving the camp in charge of Dr. Mueller, at 6.30 a.m. started in a
southerly direction, accompanied by Messrs. H. Gregory and Baines, taking
with us four horses and six days' rations, etc.; after clearing the deep
rocky gullies near the river, we passed over a more level country with
some fine open plains covered with fine grass, but the intervening ridges
were very stony; at 9.45 a.m. reached the highest part of the range, and
the country declined to the south-east, and intersected by deep rocky
ravines trending towards a large valley, which is probably drained by the
southern branch of the Victoria; the course was now south-east,
descending to the valley of a creek, through a very barren and rugged
sandstone country, producing little besides stunted eucalypti, acacia,
and triodia. At 11.15 a.m. halted at the creek, and resumed our route at
3.0 p.m., and followed the valley to the south-east till 4.40 p.m., when
it turned east through a rocky gorge between cliffs 150 feet high; but
notwithstanding the dense bush of pandanus, fallen rocks and deep muddy
channel of the creek, we succeeded in forcing our way through the gorge
of the creek, and bivouacked in the open valley below at 5.30 p.m., there
being a fine patch of grass in the flat, though the surrounding country
is rocky and barren. The sandstone rocks show a great disturbance and dip
at all angles and directions, so that no general angle or strike could be
determined; the upper rocks, however, show a new feature in a coarse
conglomerate of fragments of the lower sandstones and a few fragments of
basalt; some of the enclosed pieces of rock are nearly a foot in
diameter, and are mostly angular, though occasionally round; this rock
forms a horizontal bed of 100 feet in thickness. Towards evening the sky
was clouded, with lightning to the east, but no rain.
At 6.0 a.m. crossed the creek, and steered south-east over broken
sandstone ridges till 8.0, when we entered a plain of basaltic formation
covered with good grass, and where the ground was not entirely composed
of fragments of rock the soil was a rich black loam; crossing the large
creeks trending north, at 10.0 a.m. halted on the second. These creeks
appear to rise in a steep range of sandstone hills which bound the
basaltic plains to the west, about two miles from our track. At 3.0 p.m.
resumed our route and traversed the trap plain for one and a half hours,
and bivouacked in a small gully; the country on both sides of our track
seems to be of trap formation for several miles, and then rises into
sandstone hills with flat tops. The basaltic rock of this plain is not of
great thickness, as the sandstone rose in a few spots above its surface
and formed small islands covered with coarse vegetation, surrounded by
the open grassy plain. The basalt seems to have been poured out into the
valley after it had been excavated in the sandstone, and not to have been
much disturbed subsequently. The surface of the plain is very stony, and
the horses' feet were much injured by the roughness of the rock.
STONE SPEAR HEADS.
The night was cloudy, and it was not till after daybreak that I could get
observations for latitude by altitudes of Venus and b Centauri. At 6.5
a.m. were again in the saddle, and steered south-east to a rocky hill,
which we reached at 7.0; the hill was sandstone, rising about 150 feet
above the trap plain; from the summit the view was extensive, but from
the broken nature of the country to the east nothing could be traced of
either the courses of creeks or rivers; to the south the trap plain rose
to a greater elevation than the summit of the hill we were on, and was
surmounted by table hills of sandstone at ten miles distance to the east
and north-east; the country appeared to consist of plains of basaltic
formation, well grassed, and very thinly wooded. Leaving this hill at
8.0, followed a dry rocky creek to the east and north-east, through
basaltic plains with sandstone hills and ridges, till 10.30, and halted
during the heat of the day. At this place the bed of the creek had been
cut through the basalt into the sandstone, exposing a fine section of the
junction of the two rocks; the sandstone was much altered at the line of
contact, and, having been deeply cracked, the basalt had filled the
fissures of the older rock. This altered sandstone and also a white
quartz-like rock are much used by the natives for the heads of their
spears; and during this day's journey great quantities of broken stones
and imperfect spear heads were noticed on the banks of the creek. At 3.45
p.m. recommenced our journey, and proceeded down the creek to the
north-east till 6.30, and bivouacked.
Latitude by Capella, Saturn, and Canopus 17 degrees 24 seconds.
Having ascertained that the party could be moved across the range to the
basalt plains with advantage, commenced our return to the camp by a
westerly route across the plain, which rose gently for ten miles, and was
well grassed, but thinly wooded; the soil was stony, with fragments of
altered sandstone and basalt. On the higher part of the plain there were
several hills of trap-rock, forming flat-topped ridges trending north and
south; the highest of these we named Mount Sanford, and the plains Roe's
Downs. The country now generally sloped to the bank of the creek near the
western limit of the plain, at which, after six hours' ride, we halted at
11.35. The banks of the creek are of trap-rock; but the sandstone is
exposed in the bed; the pools of water are deep and apparently permanent.
At 4.0 resumed our route and passed over about one mile of sandstone, and
then two miles of basalt, and bivouacked at a small gully at the western
limit of the valley.
At 5.30 a.m. steered north-north-west, over several ridges of sandstone,
till we struck our outward track, which we followed with some deviations
to the camp, which was reached at 2.0 p.m. The evening was cloudy with a
smart thunder-shower. Dr. Mueller informed me that he had traced the
river about six miles to the west-south-west, but that beyond that point
it appeared to come from the north-west, in which direction there was a
low range of hills.
Having collected the horses, at 7.15 a.m. steered south to the rocky
creek, and followed it down to the rocky gorge and encamped. As the
valley was completely walled in by steep rocks, it appeared to be a
suitable spot for a depot camp, as it would prevent the horses from
straying; and, from the rapidity with which the water in the creeks was
drying up, it became desirable that no time should be lost in pushing to
the head of the Victoria while it was practicable to cross the ranges in
which it was supposed to rise; but as many of the horses were quite unfit
for the journey, it became necessary to leave them in some convenient
spot while a small party pushed on with a light equipment.
FORM A DEPOT CAMP.
Preparing equipment for the party proceeding to the interior and making
arrangements for the formation of the depot camp; the party to consist of
myself, Mr. H. Gregory, Dr. Mueller, and C. Dean, Mr. Baines remaining at
the depot in charge. Selected eleven of the strongest horses and had them
re-shod; fitted four with riding and seven with pack saddles. The
following provisions were packed for the journey: 150 pounds pork, 300
pounds flour, 50 pounds rice, 10 pounds sago, 8 pounds tea, 6 pounds
coffee, 48 pounds sugar.
Left the camp at 7.30 a.m. and steered an average course south-south-east
till 10.20, over stony ground, at the junction of the sandstone and trap
formation, and camped at a fine running creek which came from a rocky
gorge in the sandstone range to the west of our course. Messrs. Baines
and Bowman, who had accompanied us thus far, returned to the camp, which
I had instructed him to move to this creek as better for the horses, as
one of them had shown symptoms of poison, and I feared to leave them in
that locality. A severe attack of the fever, from which I had been
suffering since the beginning of the month, precluded our proceeding
farther this day, as I had at first intended. At 5 p.m. it commenced
raining, and continued till midnight with incessant thunder and
Being able to mount my horse, at 8 a.m. left the camp and steered a
course south-east by south, along the foot of the sandstone range--the
basalt plain extending to the north-east. At 12.45 p.m. camped on a
shallow watercourse trending to the south-south-west. The whole of the
country to the east of our track, except some isolated hills, appear to
be covered with excellent grass. The evening was raining, with continuous
Steered north 160 degrees east from 6.25 a.m. till 7.0 across the
basaltic plain, then crossed a large creek trending east, in which there
were some large pools of water. We then entered the sandstone country,
and crossed several rocky ridges; at 9.10 we had a good view from one of
the ridges to the north and east. Fine grassy plains extended almost to
the horizon, to the south the country consisted of sandstone ranges, and
to the south-east large grassy plains and rocky ridges appeared to
alternate with each other. Changing the course to south-east, traversed a
fine plain covered with grass, beyond which was a rocky ridge, and then a
second plain, in which we halted at 11.10, as I was unable to keep on my
horse, owing to an attack of fever. At 2 p.m. again proceeded, and after
crossing some rugged country with deep rocky ravines, at length reached a
large creek, at which we encamped, though there was nothing but reeds and
triodia for the horses to eat.
Left the camp at 6 a.m. and followed the creek up for three-quarters of
an hour before we could find a crossing place; the course was then
south-south-east over very broken sandstone country; at 9.50 halted in a
grassy valley to feed the horses, and at 2.30 p.m. resumed our route
south-east, crossed a sandstone ridge, and descended into a wide valley,
the centre of which was occupied by a basaltic plain, at the edge of
which we encamped at 3.55 p.m.
At 6.0 a.m. ascended the trap plain and steered north 190 degrees east;
at 6.45 a.m. came to a large creek from the west, which joined the
Victoria three-quarters of a mile to the east; but the deep and rocky
character of the valley, or rather ravine, in which it ran precluded our
approaching it, and we had to turn to the west, and descend from the
basalt to the sandstone before the creek could be passed. Continuing an
average south course, at 10.10 a.m. came to the Victoria River; the whole
channel did not exceed 150 yards in breadth, of which only twenty to
fifty were now occupied by water, and the rest by dry rocks and gravel,
overgrown by bushes. With great difficulty we followed the river upwards,
and were compelled to follow up a tributary creek for about a mile, and
then encamped. Near this camp I saw the crested pigeon of Western
Australia for the first time in this part of Australia.
Latitude by Leonis 17 degrees 41 minutes.
Left the camp at 5.55 a.m. and steered nearly south for six hours, and
then encamped on the bank of the Victoria River, at the end of a fine
deep pool seventy yards wide, but at the lower end the water was
contracted into a shallow rapid ten yards wide. The country traversed is
of basaltic formation in the valley, but the hills are of sandstone, and
rise on each side from 200 to 300 feet, and the whole appearance of the
country shows that there has been little change in the form of the
surface since the basalt was poured into the valley. On the banks of a
small creek we saw a flock of tribonyx--a bird which has created some
speculation as to its proper habitat, as it often makes its appearance in
large numbers at the Swan River, on the western coast.
Latitude by Canopus 17 degrees 52 minutes 19 seconds.
THUNDERSTORM AND SQUALL.
Started at 5.55 a.m., and steered south-west, keeping parallel to the
river at about a mile from it, as the creeks cut so deeply into the rock
near the river that they are impassable; at 9.20 a.m. crossed to the
right bank of the river, and continued a south-west course, but found the
country exceedingly rough and rocky, and therefore turned to the
north-west to the river, and at 11.30 a.m. camped at a fine pool of
water. In the afternoon we were visited by a sudden thunder-squall;
fortunately the tents had not been set up, or they must have been blown
to pieces. The valley of the river has contracted to about fifteen miles,
and turns to the west, but a branch seems to come from the south, and a
second from the north-west. The country is, however, nearly level, and it
is difficult to ascertain the limits of the valley, as many portions of
the original tableland exist as detached hills and ridges. Though the
horses are well shod, they are becoming lame and footsore from
continually travelling over rough and stony country, as more than half of
the last 100 miles has been so completely covered with fragments of rock
that the soil, if any exists, has been wholly concealed.
Leaving the camp at 6.20 a.m., steered south up the valley of a large
creek. At first the ground was very rough and rocky, but as we proceeded
it became more level and sandy--the bed of the creek being worn in the
basalt, and the hills of sandstone conglomerate rising 100 to 200 feet.
Except on the bank of the creek, there was no grass, the hills being
covered with triodia. Encamped in a grassy flat at 11.30 a.m.
Latitude by Pollux 18 degrees 48 seconds.
CROSS WATERSHED TO INTERIOR. HOOKER'S CREEK.
At 6.30 resumed our journey to the south-south-west, and reached the head
of the creek at 8.0 a.m. Ascending the tableland by an abrupt slope of
100 feet, our course was south one mile, when the southern slope was
reached, and a large shallow valley extended across our course, beyond
which a vast and slightly undulating plain extended to the horizon with
scarcely a rising ground to relieve its extreme monotony. Descending by a
very gentle slope into the valley, at 9.40 a.m. crossed a small
watercourse trending south-east, and then passed through a plain densely
covered with kangaroo-grass seven to nine feet high, and at 10.40 a.m.
encountered the level sandy country beyond, which was covered with
triodia and small acacia and gum trees, or rather bushes. Seeing little
prospects of either water or grass to the southward, turned east to the
creek, at which we encamped at 12.30 p.m. The bed of the creek was dry,
except a few shallow pools of rainwater, and there had been so little
rain this season that no water had flowed down the channel. A level
grassy flat extended nearly a mile on each side of the creek, which
indicated the extent of occasional inundations, beyond which the country
was very sandy and covered with small gum-trees, acacia, and triodia.
Latitude by Pollux 18 degrees 3 seconds.
The country to the south being so level and barren that we could not
expect to find either water or grass in that direction, at 6.0 a.m.
steered north 110 degrees east along the course of the creek, which
turned somewhat to the north of our track for a few miles; but at 8.0
again came on its banks. The country was very barren and sandy, with
small trees of silver-leafed ironbark and triodia, except on the
inundated flats of the creek, which were well grassed and thinly wooded
with box-trees. The course of the creek was now nearly south-east, but
the channel decreased in size, and was quite dry till 10.0 a.m., when we
reached a fine pool which had been filled by a tributary gully. Here we
halted and shot several ducks. At 2.45 p.m. resumed our route, and at
3.20 came to a level grassy flat, on which the channel of the creek was
completely lost. Crossing the flat to the east, the country was quite
level and sandy; therefore turned to the north, where there seemed to be
a slight depression, and at 4.50 came to a shallow pool of rainwater, at
which we encamped. Frequent showers during the night.
THE DESERT INTERIOR.
On winding the chronometers this morning, found the chain of 2139, by
Arnold, was broken. Taking advantage of the cool cloudy morning, we
steered south at 6.5 a.m. to ascertain if the water of the creek, after
spreading on the grassy flat, collected again and found an outlet to the
southward, but found the ground rise in that direction; observed a slight
hollow to the west, for which we steered, but found it terminate on the
sandy plain, and the country became a perfect desert of red sand, with
scattered tufts of triodia and a few bushes of eucalypti and acacia. At
noon, finding it hopeless to proceed further into the desert, we turned
our steps to the north-north-east, and returned to our camp of last
night. In returning to the camp we ascended a slight elevation, from
which there was an uninterrupted view of the desert from east to
south-west. The horizon was unbroken; all appeared one slightly
undulating plain, with just sufficient triodia and bushes growing on it
to hide the red sand when viewed at a distance. The day was remarkably
cool and cloudy; the temperature at noon 86 degrees. Though the rain at
the camp had been abundant during the previous night, it had not extended
more than five miles into the desert, which is more remarkable, as the
clouds were moving to the south.
TURN TO THE WEST.
As the horses required a day's rest, we remained at our camp, which
enabled us to repair our saddles and perform other necessary work.
Repaired the chronometer and one of the aneroid barometers, which had
been broken by the motion of one of the pack-horses. As there was no
practicable route to the south, and the sandstone hills to the north
seemed to diminish in elevation to the east, I decided on following the
northern limit of the desert to the west till some line of practicable
country was found by which to penetrate the country to the south. In
selecting a westerly route I was also influenced by the greater elevation
of the country on the western side of the Victoria, and the fact that all
the larger tributaries join from that side of the valley. It is also
probable that, should the waters of the interior not be lost in the sandy
desert, they will follow the southern limit of the elevated tract of
sandstone which occupies north-west Australia from Roebuck Bay to the
Gulf of Carpentaria, both of which points are nearly in the same latitude
as our present position, from which it may be assumed that the line of
greatest elevation is between the 17th and 18th parallels. None of the
rivers crossed by Leichhardt are of sufficient magnitude to drain the
country beyond the coast range, and therefore any streams descending from
the tableland to the south will either be absorbed in the sandy desert or
follow the southern limit of the sandstone and flow into the sea to the
south-west of Roebuck Bay. There is, however, reason to expect that, as
the interior of north-west Australia is partly within the influence of
the tropical and partly the extra-tropical climates, it does not enjoy a
regular rainy season; and though heavy rain doubtless falls at times, it
is neither sufficiently general or regular to form rivers of sufficient
magnitude to force their way through the flat sandy country to the coast.
Latitude by Capella 18 degrees 20 minutes 49 seconds.
At 6.30 a.m. proceeded up the creek, and at 12.30 p.m. camped at a
shallow pool of rainwater on the flat, the channel of the creek being
dry. On the northern bank of the creek we passed a small lagoon with a
great number of duck and other water-fowl on it. The afternoon was
cloudy, with a fresh breeze from south-east.
Latitude by Pollux 18 degrees 15 minutes 26 seconds.
Three of the horses having strayed some distance, we did not start till
7.0 a.m., when we steered an average course of north 300 degrees east
till 11.45 a.m., when we camped at a small pool of water in the bed of
the creek, which was reduced to a small gully; for the first four miles
we traversed the grassy flats of the creek, after which we passed over a
level sandy country producing nothing but triodia, stunted eucalypti, and
acacia till we again approached the creek, where the grassy flat was
nearly half a mile wide, but of inferior character.
Latitude by b Tauri 18 degrees 9 minutes 44 seconds.
At 6.50 a.m. followed the valley of the creek to the west, passing some
fine flats with high grass, but the country generally very poor and
thinly wooded with white-gum and silver-leafed ironbark; at 10.40 halted
at a small waterhole at the foot of a low granite ridge; at 3.0 p.m.
ascended the granite hills, which rose abruptly 100 to 150 feet above the
plain, and extended about five miles to the south and east; to the west
the sandstone covered the granite and formed a level tableland or plain;
to the north a valley trended to the west, on the northern side of which
the hills appeared to be granitic. Returning to the camp, examined a deep
rocky ravine and found some small pools of water which might last for
nearly another month.
Latitude by Castor and Pollux 18 degrees 11 minutes 20 seconds.
PIGEONS AND SEA-GULLS.
Leaving the camp at 6.0 a.m., steered an average course of north 300
degrees east; crossing the granite ridge, we entered a level sandy
country with much scrub, which was traversed till 8.40, when we entered a
wide grassy plain extending to the north-west, in which direction we
steered till 2.10 p.m., when we halted at a small muddy puddle two inches
deep and three yards wide. Then rode on with Mr. H. Gregory to search for
a larger supply of water, and found a shallow pool about a mile distant,
to which the party moved and encamped. Although this pool was not 100
yards long and six inches deep, a large flock of ducks, snipe, and small
gulls, were congregated at it, several thousand pigeons of species new to
us came to drink. These pigeons keep in flocks of from ten to more than a
thousand, feeding on the seeds of the grass on the open plains, as they
never alight on trees. They are somewhat larger than the common
bronze-wing; the head is black, with a little white at the base of the
beak and behind the eye; back pale brown; breast, blue; throat marked
with white; wings with white tips to the feathers and a small patch of
bronze; tail short, tip white; feet, dull red. The evening and night were
At 6.5 a.m. followed a line of small trees and bushes which grew on the
lower part of the grassy plain and indicated the course of the water in
the wet season, and at 9.0 came to the head of a small creek trending
north-west. Water was now abundant and formed large pools, and at 11.15
camped on the right bank of the creek at a pool a quarter of a mile long
and fifty yards wide. This spot seemed to be much frequented by the
natives, and large quantities of mussel-shells lay around their fires.
The plain traversed this morning was well grassed; the soil a stiff clay
loam; this plain extended three to six miles on each side of the track,
and was bounded by a low-wooded country, which, in some parts, rose
nearly 100 feet above the plain. In the lower part of the plain we
observed the salt-bush (atriplex) and a species of rice; but as it was
only just in ear, we could not judge of the quality of the grain. In the
afternoon there was a fine breeze from the east which lasted till 8.0
p.m., the sky being cloudy.
Latitude by Canopus and Pollux 17 degrees 53 minutes 50 seconds.
At 6.25 a.m. resumed our journey down the creek, which turned first west
and then south-west, and at 12.20 p.m. encamped at a small pool; on the
right bank of the creek wide grassy plains extended from three to five
miles back towards a low-wooded ridge, but on the left bank the scrubby
country came close to the creek.
Latitude by a Orionis, Canopus and Pollux 17 degrees 59 minutes 40
17th February (Sunday).
As the water and grass were abundant on this camp, we were not compelled
to move on in search of these requisites, and were enabled to observe it
as a day of rest.
Resumed our journey at 6.30 a.m., and steered an average south-west
course till 11.10, and then south till 12.25 p.m., and again camped on
the creek. The country consisted of wide grassy plains on the bank of the
creek, without trees and well grassed; beyond the plains, at one to six
miles distance, low-wooded ridges were visible; but the general aspect of
the whole was extremely level. A great number of ducks and a few geese
were seen on some of the pools in the creek.
Latitude by Canopus 18 degrees 4 minutes 40 seconds.
Commenced our day's journey at 6.0 a.m., followed the bank of the creek
till 8.15, thence south-south-west till noon, when the course was altered
to south-south-east to close in with the creek, but found that the
channel was completely lost on the level grassy plain, and at 1.40 p.m.
encamped at a small puddle of muddy water as thick as cream. Before the
creek was lost in the level plain it spread into some large, though
shallow pools, which swarmed with ducks of several species, but
principally the whistling duck. The grassy plain gradually extended to a
greater breadth, and the back country was so nearly level that it
scarcely rose above the grassy horizon, while to the south the country
was so level that the clumps of bushes appeared like islands, and the
grassy plain extended to the horizon. Near one of the waterholes in the
creek we surprised a native, who was sitting at his fire with a couple of
women, who decamped with all possible despatch. Several smokes have been
observed to the south and south-west, which shows that water must exist
in that direction, though it may not be in sufficient quantity to supply
our horses. The morning was cloudy, and at midnight there was a heavy
shower of rain. Judging from the general appearance of the country, the
waters of the creek, after spreading over the plain, must escape to the
westward, as the grass has been bent in that direction by the current
last year, but there has been so little rain this season that the channel
of the creek has not been filled.
As it appeared that the waters of the creek trended to the west in the
wet season, at 6.5 a.m. we steered north 250 degrees east, through a
level forest of box-trees, with abundance of good grass; the soil brown
loam with fragments of limestone; the shower last night had left many
shallow pools of water on the surface. At 8.40 a.m. passed a small swampy
salt flat covered with salicornia; at 9.10 came on the grassy plain which
we skirted on a west course, but as it turned to the north-west, again
changed the course to 320 degrees; the plain was now reduced to about a
mile in width, and we therefore crossed it in search of a definite
channel, but without success, though there were some slight indications
that during inundation the water flowed to the north-west. At 11.50 we
camped at a shallow puddle of rainwater, on the north side of the plain.
From the camp, till 8.0 a.m., the grass, though very backward, showed
that there had been sufficient rain to cause it to spring; but as we
proceeded it was perfectly dry and parched up, as at the end of the dry
season, showing that little or no rain had fallen for many months in this
part of the country. The day was cloudy, with thunder, and was followed
by a heavy shower at night, which prevented my ascertaining the latitude
ENTER WESTERN AUSTRALIA.
As we were now three days' journey from the last water which could be
depended on for more than a few days, and the channel of the creek had
been so completely lost on the plain that it was uncertain whether the
marks of inundations near this camp had been caused by the creek flowing
to the west, or by some tributary flowing to the east, I determined to
attempt a south-west course, in the hope that, should the country prove
rocky, the heavy showers might have collected a sufficient quantity of
water to enable us to continue a southerly route, and accordingly
selected the most prominent point of the rising ground to the south of
our position, and at 6.5 a.m. started north 235 degrees east. After
leaving the open plains we entered a grassy box forest, which continued
to the foot of the hills, which we reached at 8.0. The slope of the hills
proved very scrubby, with small eucalypti and acacia, the soil red sand
and ironstone gravel; at 9.0 reached the highest part of the hills for
many miles round. To the south the country was slightly depressed for ten
or fifteen miles, and then rose into an even ridge or plain, the whole
country appearing to be covered with acacia and eucalyptus scrub. To the
west and north the view was more extended; the low ridge of sandstone
hills extended to the west-north-west, on the northern side of the grassy
flats for thirty miles, and only broken by a large valley from the north.
Throughout its whole extent this range appeared to rise to 150 or 200
feet above the plain, and had the appearance of being the edge of a level
tableland. South of the grassy plain, the western limit of which was not
seen, the country rose gradually to eighty or 100 feet, and presented an
extremely level and unvaried appearance. It was evident that our only
chance of farther progress was to follow the grassy plain to the west
till some change in the country rendered a southerly course practicable,
it being probable that some creek from the north might join the grassy
plain, and that the channel which had been lost might be reformed. At
9.30 steered north-west, and at 12.30 p.m. cleared the acacia scrub, and
at 1.30 reached the bank of the creek, which had formed a channel twenty
yards wide, with pools of water, which was brackish; but we were too glad
to find any water which we could use without detriment to object to it
because it was not agreeable in taste, and therefore encamped. We have
thus been a second time compelled to make a retrograde movement to the
north after reaching the same latitude as in the first attempt to
penetrate the desert; but I did not feel justified in incurring the
extreme risk which would have attended any other course, though following
the creek is by no means free from danger, as very few of the waterholes
which have supplied us on the outward track will retain any water till
the time of our return. The weather was calm and hot in the early part of
the day, and in the afternoon it clouded over, and there was a slight
shower of rain. According to our longitude, by account, we have this day
passed the boundary of Western Australia, which is in the 129th meridian.
Latitude by Canopus and Procyon 18 degrees 26 minutes.
Leaving the camp at 5.40 a.m., followed the creek to the west-south-west
and crossed a small gully from the south; at 11.30 a.m. camped at a fine
pool of water in a small creek from the south, close to its junction with
the principal creek, which we named after Captain Sturt, whose researches
in Australia are too well known to need comment; the grassy plains
extended from three to ten miles on each side of the creek, which has a
more definite channel than higher up, there being some pools of
sufficient size to retain water throughout the year; the plain is bounded
on the north by sandstone hills 100 to 200 feet high, and there is also a
mass of hilly country to the south, the highest point of which was named
Mount Wittenoon; about noon a thunder-shower passed to the east and up
the creek on which we were encamped, and though the channel was then dry
between the pools, at 4.0 p.m. it was running two feet deep; the grass is
much greener near this camp, and there has evidently been more rain here
than in any part of the country south of Victoria yet visited; a fresh
southerly breeze in the morning, thunderstorms at noon, night cloudy with
At 5.50 a.m. resumed our journey down the creek, the general course first
south-west and changing to the south-south-west; the channel was
gradually lost on the broad swampy flat, which was overgrown with
polygonum and atriplex, etc., and had a breadth of half a mile to a mile,
being depressed about ten feet below the grassy plain; the grassy plain
also extended to about fifteen miles wide, the hills decrease in height,
and the whole country is so level that little is to be seen but the
distant horizon, scarcely in any part rising above the vast expanse of
waving grass. At 10.50 a.m. camped at a shallow puddle of muddy water,
just sufficient to supply the horses; I walked about a mile into the
polygonum flat, but could not find any water, though the ground was soft
and muddy in a few spots. Mr. H.C. Gregory, when rounding up the horses
in the evening, saw eight blacks watching us; we therefore went out to
communicate with them; but they hid themselves in the high bushes and
grass. The night was clear, and I took a set of lunar distances, which
the cloudy weather had prevented for more than a week, though I had been
able to get altitudes for latitude.
Latitude by Canopus, Castor and Pollux 18 degrees 39 minutes 54 seconds.
EFFECT OF SEASONS ON APPEARANCE OF COUNTRY.
At 6.0 a.m. resumed our journey down the creek, which spread into a broad
swampy flat about a mile wide, and covered with atriplex, polygonum, and
grass, the general trend south-west; at 7.30 crossed a large watercourse
from the south-east, with a dry sandy channel, no water having flowed
down it this season; at 9.0 a.m. crossed to the right bank of the creek;
there were many shallow muddy channels and one with running water four
yards wide and one foot deep; the largest channel was near the right
bank, but, except a large shallow pool, it was dry. As we advanced the
country showed effects of long-continued drought, and though the creek
contained some large shallow pools, the channel was dry between, the dry
soil absorbing the whole of the water which was running in the channel
above; at 11.50 camped at what appeared to be the termination of the
pools of water, as the channel was again lost in a perfectly level flat.
Great numbers of ducks, cockatoos, cranes, and crows frequented the banks
of the creek above the camp, and appeared to feed on the wild rice which
was growing in considerable quantities in the moist hollows, as also a
species of panicum; to the south-east of the creek there is a level
box-flat which extends two to three miles back to the foot of some low
sandy ridges covered with triodia and a few small eucalypti; to the
north-west and west the grassy plain extended to the horizon, with
scarcely even a bush to intercept the even surface of the waving grass.
Latitude by Canopus and Pollux 18 degrees 45 minutes 45 seconds.
The small number of water-fowl which passed up or down the creek during
the night indicated that water was not abundant below our present
position, and we were therefore prepared for a dry country, in which we
were not disappointed, for leaving the camp at 6.15 a.m. we traversed a
level box-flat covered with long dry grass; at 9.10 a.m. again entered
the usual channel of the creek, which was now a wide flat of deeply
cracked mud with a great quantity of atriplex growing on it, but which
had lost all the leaves from the long continuance of the dry weather. The
flat was traversed by numerous small channels from one to two feet deep,
but they were all perfectly dry and had not contained water for more than
a year; there were, however, marks of inundations in previous years, when
the country must have exhibited a very different appearance, and had it
been then visited by an explorer, the account of a fine river nearly a
mile wide flowing through splendid plains of high grass, could be
scarcely reconciled with the facts I have to record of a mud flat deeply
fissured by the scorching rays of a tropical sun, the absence of water,
and even scarcity of grass. The creek now turned to the south, and we
followed the shallow channels till 12.30 p.m., when we fortunately came
to a small pool which had been filled by a passing thunder-shower, and
here we encamped during the day; a fresh breeze at times blew from the
south-east and south, and the air was exceedingly warm; thermometer 106
degrees at noon, but being very dry, was not very oppressive.
Latitude by Canopus, Castor and Pollux 18 degrees 55 minutes 45 seconds.
As the course of the creek was uncertain, we steered south at 5.45 a.m.
across the atriplex plain, and at 6.35 reached the ordinary right bank of
the creek, which was low and gravelly, covered with triodia and small
bushes; we then passed a patch of white-gum forest, and at 8 entered a
grassy plain which had been favoured by a passing shower; green grass was
abundant, and even some small puddles of water still remained in the
hollows of the clay soil. At 10.50 came on the creek, which had collected
into a single channel and formed pools, some of which appeared to be
permanent, as they contained small fish. At one of these pools we
encamped at 11.10. The channel of the creek is about fifteen feet below
the level of the plain, and is marked by a line of small flooded-gum
trees, the atriplex flat has ceased, and the soil is a hard white clay,
producing salsola and a little grass; the morning clear with a moderate
easterly breeze, afternoon cloudy with a few drops of rain at night.
Latitude by Canopus and Pollux 19 degrees 7 minutes 30 seconds.
Resumed our journey down the creek at 6.5 a.m., when it turned to the
west and formed a fine lake-like reach 200 yards wide, with rocky banks
and sandstone ridges on both sides of the creek; at 11.0 camped at the
lower end of a fine reach trending south: the general character of these
reaches of water is that they are very shallow and are separated by wide
spans of dry channel, the water being ten feet below the running level.
The country is very inferior, and the grassy flats are reduced to very
narrow limits, and the hills are red sandstone, producing nothing but
small trees and triodia.
Latitude by Canopus and Pollux 19 degrees 12 minutes 20 seconds.
At 6.0 a.m. we were again in the saddle, following a creek which had an
average west-south-west course, but the channel was soon lost in a wide
grassy flat, with polygonum and atriplex, in this flat were some large
detached pools of water, 50 to 100 yards wide and a quarter to half a
mile long, although the dry season had reduced them to much narrower
limits than usual, as they were now eight to ten feet below the level of
the plain; at 11.45 camped at a large sheet of water, just above a
remarkable ridge of sandstone rocks on the right bank of the creek.
Ducks, pelicans, spoonbills, etc., were very numerous, but so wild that
they could scarcely be approached within range of our guns; until the
present time it has been doubtful whether the creek turned towards
Cambridge Gulf, the interior, or to the coast westward of the Fitzroy,
but the first point being now 220 nautic miles to the north, and the
general course of Sturt's Creek south-west, such a course is not
probable, and it therefore only remains to determine whether it is lost
in the level plains of the interior, or finds an outlet on the north-west
coast. The careful and minute surveys of the coast from the Victoria
River to Roebuck Bay show that no rivers exist of such magnitude as the
Sturt would attain in passing through the ranges to the coast, nor does
the general abrupt character of the coast-line favour the supposition
that any interior waters would find an outlet in this space. That the
elevation of this part of the creek is sufficient to enable it to form a
channel to the north-west coast is shown by the barometric measurement:
the dividing ridge between the head of the Victoria and Hooker's Creek is
about 1200 feet, at the head of Sturt's Creek 1,370 feet, and our present
camp 1100 feet; thus the average fall of Sturt's Creek has been 270 feet
in 180 miles, or one and a half feet per mile. Now the distance to
Desault Bay (which appears the most probable outlet) is 370 miles, and
allowing an increase of 500 for deviations, there would be more than two
feet descent per mile, which would be sufficient for the maintenance of a
channel. Should the creek turn to the south and enter the sandy desert
country, the water would soon be absorbed, especially as the wet season
at the upper part of the creek occurs when the dry season is prevailing
in the lower part of its course. That it does lose itself in a barren
sandy country is, I fear, the most probable termination of the creek, and
that a level country exists for many miles on each side of our route is
shown by the small number and size of the tributary watercourses.
Latitude by Canopus, Castor and Pollux 19 degrees 18 minutes 10 seconds.
Leaving the camp at 5.40 a.m., traced the creek to the south-west for
about three miles. It formed fine reaches of water fifty to 100 yards
wide; but the channel terminated suddenly in a level flat, covered with
polygonum, atriplex, and grass. In this flat we passed some large shallow
pools of water; at 7.30 the creek turned to the west round the north end
of a rocky sandstone hill, and was joined by a tributary gully from the
north, below which point the channel was a well-defined sandy bed, with
long parallel waterholes on each side, but very little water remained at
this time; at 9.15 the course of the creek changed to south by west, and
passed through a level flat timbered with flooded-gum trees; it was about
one mile wide and well grassed, but completely dried up for want of rain.
The back country was thinly wooded with white-gum, and gently rising as
it receded, forming sandstone hills about 100 feet high of extremely
barren appearance; at 11.45 camped at a small muddy pool which would last
only for a few days. A strong breeze from the west commenced early in the
day, and gradually changed to the south. Thermometer, 109 degrees in the
coolest shade that could be found.
Latitude by Canopus and e Argus 19 degrees 28 minutes 5 seconds.
DESERT OF RED SAND.
Our horses having strayed farther than usual in search of better grass,
we were delayed till 6.20 a.m., when we steered a south by west course
down the valley of the creek. Immediately below the camp the country
beyond the effect of inundation changed to a nearly level plain of red
sand, producing nothing but triodia and stunted bushes. The level of this
desert country was only broken by low ridges of drifted sand. They were
parallel and perfectly straight, with a direction nearly east and west.
At 11.50 camped at a fine pool of water three to five feet deep and
twenty yards wide. That we had actually entered the desert was apparent,
and the increase of temperature during the past three days was easily
explained; but whether this desert is part of that visited by Captain
Sturt, or an isolated patch, has yet to be ascertained, and the only hope
is that the creek will enable us to continue our course, as the nature of
the country renders an advance quite impracticable unless by following
Latitude by Canopus, Castor and Pollux 19 degrees 40 minutes 45 seconds.
Left our camp at 6.30 a.m., and steered south-west by west, which soon
took us into the sandy desert on the left bank of the creek. Crossing one
of the sand ridges, got a sight of a range of low sandstone hills to the
south-east, the highest of which I named Mount Mueller, as the doctor had
seen them the previous evening while collecting plants on one of the
sandy ridges near the camp. At 10.15 again made the creek, which had
scarcely any channel to mark its course; the wide clay flat bearing marks
of former inundations was the only indication visible. At 12.35 p.m.
camped at a small muddy pool, the grass very scanty and dry. Traces of
natives are frequent. Large flights of pigeons feed on the plains on the
seeds of grass. A flock of cockatoos was also seen.
Latitude by Canopus and Pollux 19 degrees 51 seconds 12 minutes.
At 5.30 a.m. started and followed the creek on a general course
south-west. There was a very irregular channel sometimes ten yards wide
and very shallow, and then expanding into pools fifty yards wide. The
sandy plain encroached much on the grassy flats, and reduced the winter
course of the creek to half a mile in breadth. At 8.0 the course was
changed to south, and at 10.15 camped at a swamp, which was nearly dry,
and covered with beautiful grass. The country differed in character from
that seen yesterday, there being a few scattered white-gum trees and
patches of tall acacia. Salsola and salicornia are also very abundant,
and show the saline nature of the soil.
Latitude by Canopus and Pollux 20 degrees 2 minutes 10 seconds.
Left the camp at 5.50 a.m., and steered south-west over a very level
country, with shallow hollows filled with a dense growth of acacia, and
at 7.30 struck the creek with a sandy channel and narrow flats, covered
with salsola and salicornia. The pools were very shallow, and gradually
became salt, and at 10.15 it spread into the dry bed of a salt lake more
than a mile in diameter. This was connected by a broad channel with a
pool of salt-water in it, with a second dry salt lake eight miles in
diameter. As there was little prospect of water ahead and the day far
advanced, we returned to one of the brackish pools and encamped. The
country passed was of a worthless character, and so much impregnated with
salt that the surface of the ground is often covered with a thin crust of
Latitude by e Argus 20 degrees 10 minutes 40 seconds.
Started from the camp at 5.45 a.m., and steered south-south-east through
the acacia wood to the lake, and then south by east across the dry bed of
the lake towards a break in the trees on the southern side. Here we found
a creek joining the lake from the south-west, in which there were some
shallow pools. We then steered east, to intersect any channel by which
the waters of the lake might flow to the south or south-east, and passing
through a wood of acacia entered the sandy desert. As some low rocky
hills were visible to the east we steered for them. At 2.10 halted half a
mile from the hills, and then ascended them on foot. They were very
barren and rocky, scarcely eighty feet above the plain, formed of
sandstone, the strata horizontal. From the summit of the hill nothing was
visible but one unbounded waste of sandy ridges and low rocky hillocks,
which lay to the south-east of the hill. All was one impenetrable desert,
as the flat and sandy surface, which could absorb the waters of the
creek, was not likely to originate watercourses. Descending the hill,
which I named Mount Wilson, after the geologist attached to the
expedition, we returned towards the creek at the south end of the lake,
reaching it at 9.30.
As the day was extremely hot and the horses required rest and food, we
remained at the camp. Ducks were numerous in some of the pools, but so
wild that only two were shot. The early part of the day was clear, with a
hot strong breeze varying from west to south-east. At 1 p.m. there was a
heavy thunder-squall from the south-east, which swept a cloud of salt and
sand from the dry surface of the lake. The squall was followed by a
Latitude by Canopus 20 degrees 16 minutes 22 seconds.
DRY BEDS OF SALT LAKES.
As I had frequently observed that in the dry channels of creeks
traversing very level country a heavy shower in the lower part of its
course often causes a strong current of water to rush up the stream-bed
and leave flood marks, which would mislead a person examining them in the
dry season, it seemed probable that this must be the case with the creek
entering the salt lake at its south-west angle, as it might be the outlet
of the lake when filled by Sturt's Creek flowing into it, though in
ordinary seasons the flow of water would be into the lake; accordingly I
decided on following the creek and ascertain its actual course. Leaving
the camp at 5.50 a.m., steered nearly south-west along the general course
of the creek till 7.30, when it turned to the north and entered the dry
bed of a lake. As the beds of the two lakes were lower than the channel
between them, the water during the last heavy rains had flooded both ways
from the central part of the channel. Having skirted the lake on the west
to intercept any watercourses which might enter or leave the lake on that
side, we came to a large shallow channel with pools of water--some fresh
and others salt--with broad margin of salicornia growing on the banks; at
11.0 camped at a small pool of fresh water. The soil of the country on
the bank of the creek is loose white sand with concretions of lime,
covered with a dense growth of tall acacia, with salsola and a little
grass in the open spaces.
TERMINATION OF STURT'S CREEK.
Started at 6.5 a.m. and traced the creek into a salt lake to the west,
but this was also dry. After some search we found a creek joining on the
northern side and communicating with a large mud plain, partly overgrown
with salicornia, and with large shallow pools of muddy water two to three
inches deep. On the northern side the plain narrowed into a sandy creek
with shallow pools, the flow of the water being decidedly from the
northward. At 12.15 p.m. camped at a shallow pool, near which there was a
little grass, the country generally being sandy and only producing
triodia and acacia. Thus, after having followed Sturt's Creek for nearly
300 miles, we have been disappointed in our hope that it would lead to
some important outlet to the waters of the Australian interior; it has,
however, enabled us to penetrate far into the level tract of country
which may be termed the Great Australian Desert.
Latitude by Pollux and e Argus 20 degrees 4 minutes 5 seconds.
Left our camp at 6.35 a.m., and followed the creek up for half an hour,
and then steered east to Sturt's Creek, which we reached at 9.5, the
country being level, sandy, and covered with triodia and acacia in small
patches; we then steered a southerly course down the creek till 11.0, and
camped at the large brackish pool.
COMMENCE RETURN TO DEPOT. HOT WINDS.
We had observed that a creek appeared to join the salt lake to the
north-east angle. There yet remained a possibility that the waters of the
lake might find an outlet to the east and pass north of Mount Wilson; we
therefore steered east from the camp at 6.45 a.m. and passed close to the
south of a small salt lake (dry) three-quarters of a mile in diameter,
and then traversed a level sandy country thickly wooded with acacia and a
few white-gum trees. At 8.15 struck a small grassy watercourse with broad
shallow pools; this we followed down to the south-south-west to the large
salt lake, close to which it was joined by a small sandy creek coming
from the east. Having reached the bank of the lake at 10.0, steered south
along its shore till 11.15, when its shore trended to the
west-south-west, and there was a small well-defined bank without any
break to the point which had been the limit of our examination from the
southern part of the lake, and thus determined that there was no outlet
for the water to the eastward. As the whole country to the south was one
vast sandy desert, destitute of any indications of the existence of
water, it was clear that no useful results could arise from any attempt
to penetrate this inhospitable region, especially as the loss of any of
the horses might deprive the expedition of the means for carrying out the
explorations towards the Gulf of Carpentaria. I therefore determined on
commencing our retreat to the Victoria River while it was practicable, as
the rapid evaporation and increasing saltness of the water in this arid
and inhospitable region warned us that each day we delayed increased the
difficulty of the return, and it was possible that we were cut off from
any communication with the party at the depot by an impassable tract of
dry country, and might be compelled to maintain ourselves on the lower
part of the creek till the ensuing rainy season. Returned to the creek at
the north-east angle of the lake and encamped. The morning was cloudy
with a strong hot wind from the east and south-east; the night calm and
At 6.10 a.m. left the camp and followed the creek to the
north-north-east, but it soon spread into a number of small gullies,
which drained a patch of clay land. At 7.0 steered north through a wood
of acacia growing on loose sandy soil. Entering the open sandy plain at
8.15, a few small white-gum trees were scattered over this part of the
plain, which was quite level, the loose sand being covered with triodia,
which partially concealed the glaring red colour of the ground. Observing
a low abrupt hill a little to the east of our course, deviated towards
it, and ascended it at 10.0. It was less than 100 feet above the plains,
and composed of the same sandstone which prevails over the whole of the
country south of the Victoria. The view was cheerless in the extreme.
From north 26 degrees east to north 166 degrees east, the country was a
level plain with small isolated or grouped hills of red sandstone, but
not forming any definite ranges; the even height and peculiar table
summits appear to indicate that they are only small remaining portions of
a sandstone tableland or plain nearly the whole of which has been
removed, the strata, however, had a dip to the east of one or two
degrees. The vegetation on this part of the country was reduced to a few
stunted gum-trees, hakea bushes, and triodia, the whole extremely barren
in appearance. The remaining portion of the horizon was one even straight
line; not a hill or break of any kind was visible, and, except the narrow
line of the creek, was barren and worthless in the extreme, the red soil
of the level portions of the surface being partially clothed with triodia
and a few small trees, or rather bushes, rendered the long straight
ridges of fiery-red drifting sand more conspicuous. The wind being
strong, we observed the smoke of several fires along the course of
Sturt's Creek, and also one near Mount Mueller, to the north-east,
indicating the existence of natives in that direction, and doubtless of
water in that locality, as it was a day's journey from the creek. Our
course was now north 340 degrees east, and on approaching the creek
passed through a patch of casuarina forest, which was remarkable, as they
are the only trees of this genus we had seen on the coast since landing
at the Victoria, though abundant in all other parts of Australia. At 1.35
p.m. reached Sturt's Creek and halted at our camp of the 2nd March; there
was a strong hot wind from the east during the day.
Resumed our route at 5.50 a.m. and steered north 20 degrees east till
8.0, then 40 degrees and 60 degrees till 1.0 p.m., when we encamped at a
shallow pool of water near the creek, and about three miles above camp
48, as the route only traversed the level flats near the creek. Nothing
worthy of further notice was seen, the channel being split into small
hollows, some of which retained a little water. The grass was much dried
up and limited to the flat near the creek, the more remote portions being
covered with triodia. The day was hot and nearly calm, but at noon we
were benefited by a few passing clouds, and at 6.0 p.m. a dry
thunderstorm cooled the air from 100 degrees to 93 degrees, but the
temperature rose at 8.0 to 96 degrees.
At 5.50 steered north 10 degrees east, crossing the creek several times,
and at 10.0 turned to the north-north-east and north-east, crossing the
sandstone hills, round which the creek turns at a right angle, and at
12.10 p.m. camped on the creek near our track of the 29th February.
Nearly all the pools of water had dried up, and the water at the camp had
become brackish; some of the pools, however, must be permanent, as there
were small fish in them. A great party of natives appeared to be
travelling up the creek, as fresh fires are constantly seen to the
north-east along its course. A cool breeze from the west to north-east
moderated the heat, the temperature at 2 p.m. 103 degrees; passing clouds
from the east in the afternoon.
FOLLOW UP STURT'S CREEK.
Resumed our route and followed the creek upwards from 5.50 a.m. till 1.50
p.m., when we camped about three miles south-west of camp 45 at the first
pool before the atriplex flat. A short distance above the camp we crossed
a large sandy creek, which proved to be the cause of the change in the
character of Sturt's Creek below that point. As our route was at a
greater distance from the creek than in tracing it down, it gave a better
opportunity of ascertaining the nature of the country beyond the
influence of inundation; to the north-west a vast plain traversed by low
ridges of gravel and drift sand, clothed with a scanty growth of triodia
and a few hakea bushes, rose gradually from the creek, but on the
south-east a more abrupt sandstone slope terminated in a similar plain of
somewhat greater elevation, and showed that we were still within the
bounds of the desert. Moderate breeze from the north-west changing to
north-east; passing clouds; a slight shower at 11.0 p.m.
Resumed our route at 5.50 a.m., steering north 40 degrees east, one hour
into the triodia plain, then north 60 degrees east till 9.20 a.m., when
we reached the first large pool in the creek, and rounding the bend
camped at one of the narrow pools above the sandstone ridges. The water
in the larger pools had sunk from six inches to a foot since we had
passed downwards, and almost all the pools were now dry. The morning
clear and cool, with clouds and light showers in the afternoon
accompanied by thunder.
As there was no water in the creek for the next thirty-three miles, we
filled the water-bags and prepared for an early start; but unfortunately
the horses had strayed farther than usual, which delayed us till 7.0
a.m., when following nearly the outward route, passed close to camp 43,
the waterhole at which was dry, and at 1.0 p.m. halted under the shade of
a few acacia-trees during the heat of the day, and resumed our journey at
3.0 p.m., following the south-east side of the plain through which the
creek flows. The ground was stony and bad travelling, but as the moon was