Part 6 out of 8
clear and bright we succeeded in reaching the first pool of water at 8.30
p.m.; this was one mile above Camp 42, the water at which had dried up,
though four feet deep on the 24th February. The pool at which we now
camped appears to be permanent; it is 100 yards wide and 300 long, the
water three feet deep close to the bank. Ducks were numerous, and I shot
four in the morning. An easterly breeze continued through the day, and as
usual there were a few clouds towards sunset. Unfortunately, the dry
weather had warped the scale of the thermometer to such an extent that it
broke the tube.
DENISON PLAINS. WATER DRYING UP.
We were again delayed by trifling circumstances, and did not leave the
camp until 7.40 a.m., but having nearly cleared the desert the weather
was comparatively cool. Steering an average course north-east, traversed
the wide grassy plains on the right bank of Sturt's Creek, to which the
name of Denison's Plains was given. At 2.0 p.m. camped at a small pool in
the polygonum flat, which was all that remained of the water which had
covered the flat to the extent of three-quarters of a mile in breadth,
and was running when we passed down last month. Our course this day
showed the great extent of the grassy plains to the north-west, as we did
not see the limit at any point in that direction. Cool breeze from east
with thin clouds all day.
Left the camp at daylight and proceeded to Camp 40 on the outward route,
and halted for the remainder of the day to rest the horses, as a heavy
stage lay before us across the dry country. Large flocks of cockatoos
came to the pool at this camp, and we shot thirty-three, which was a very
welcome addition to our provisions. Strong easterly wind; passing clouds.
Steered north 60 degrees east at 6.35 a.m., and followed up the course of
the creek, crossing the right bank at 9.0, when there was nothing but the
polygonum flat to mark its course; at 10.30 altered the course to nearly
east, passing a large sheet of brackish water, which appeared deep and
permanent at the lower end, but shallow at the upper part; at 11.20
encamped at a small pool of fresh water in a back channel, the creek
being brackish, and we were anxious to procure a supply of good water
before proceeding further, as the next three stages of the outward track
were now destitute of water. Strong easterly breeze; light clouds.
At 5.55 am steered 110 degrees; at 6.20 struck a small creek with steep
banks; altered the course to 90 degrees, crossing two small watercourses
from the north with a little water in the deeper portions of their beds,
the general character of the country box flats and open grassy plains
near the creek. At 7.25 entered a large grassy plain extending north and
east for ten miles, and at 9.15 halted at a small watercourse which
retained a little water in a grassy hollow, our object in halting thus
early being to enable us to start fresh in the afternoon, and, should the
country continue open, to push on through the night, by which the water
could be reached before the heat of the sun was too great for travelling.
At 3.5 resumed our march and traversed level grassy plains extending one
to five miles on each side of our route; at 7.0 observed a native fire
about two miles to the north, from which we concluded that water existed
at no great distance, and at 7.15 were fortunate in finding a pool of
rainwater in a slight depression of the plain, and encamped. We could not
find sufficient wood near the camp to boil our tea, but were satisfied
with the discovery of a sufficient supply of water.
We were again in the saddle at 5.15 a.m., and continuing our course north
73 degrees east, reached the limit of the open plain, which turned to the
south-east and extended to the horizon; at 6.40 entered the wooded
country which bounded the plain, and the soil changed from a rich
clay-loam to sandy and gravelly soil with fragments of sandstone, the
vegetation consisting of small white-gum trees, shrubby acacia, and
triodia, with a few patches of grass. The country gradually rose till
9.25, when we came to an abrupt descent into the valley of Sturt's Creek,
but the country did not improve in character till 10.20, when we came to
the grassy flats; at 10.50 camped at a large open pool of water in the
bed of the creek. On the pools there were large flights of whistling
ducks, but so wild that they could not be approached within range of our
guns. Moderate breeze from east with light clouds from south-east during
the day. The weather has for the past ten days been so misty that I have
not been able to get a good set of lunar distances, and it is useless to
observe unless under circumstances favourable for accuracy.
5.35 a.m. found us again travelling up the creek on a northerly course;
at 7.20 changed the course north-east by north, and at 11.30 camped about
a mile below Camp 35. The hill at the bend of the creek proved to be
basaltic, with a stratum of ironstone conglomerate resting on it. The
pools of water in the bed of the creek were much reduced and all the
smaller ones dried up.
23rd March (Sunday).
The feed and water not being in sufficient quantity to permit of our
resting at this camp, we followed up the creek nearly on the outward
course. A few miles above the creek a party of blacks came out of the
creek and commenced a distant parley, but on one of the party approaching
them they picked up their spears they had secreted in the grass and ran
away into the bed of the creek. After six and a half hours' journey
camped at the lower end of the pool, where we had halted on the 15th
February; near the northern bend of the creek we passed a fine deep pool,
which appears to retain water through the dry season. All the smaller
pools had dried up, and the larger ones had sunk two feet since we were
here in February.
As the horses had not had a day's rest for some time past, we remained at
the camp to refresh them before attempting to cross the dry country which
divides the southern waters from those flowing to the north-west coast.
As the nearest water which we knew to exist was now fifty miles to the
east, and the country in that direction very bad travelling, we were now,
however, eighty miles in a direct line from the depot camp, and as that
course would take us over new and unexplored country I determined to
attempt a direct route.
1700 FEET ABOVE SEA LEVEL.
At 6.20 a.m. steered north 40 degrees east, and, leaving Sturt's Creek,
traversed open grassy plains till 9.5, when we entered a wooded country,
with white-gum trees and underwood, acacia, triodia, and patches of
grass; the soil a poor sandy red loam. At 11.0 passed to the south of an
extensive grassy plain trending to the north-west; at 12.30 p.m. halted
to ease the horses' backs from their loads, and resumed our route at
1.40, and at 2.0 crossed a ridge of stony country which the aneroid
showed to be about 1700 feet above the sea level, and was the highest
spot yet visited by the Expedition. At 2.20 altered the course to east,
and followed a slight depression till 4.0, when we came to a dry
watercourse trending north-west; this was traced down in search of water
till 6.30, when we halted for the night, without finding any water. The
day being very calm and hot, the horses were very much distressed for
want of water; but as there was a little green grass on the bank of the
creek, they were able to feed for a few hours during the night.
Latitude by Leonis 17 degrees 35 minutes 6 seconds.
Proceeded down the creek, and at 7.20 a.m. came to a small pool of water,
which the horses consumed in the space of a few minutes, but farther on
came to a more abundant supply, and some of the pools appeared to be
permanent, having a belt of water-pandanus and reeds round them; below
this the channel was perfectly dry and sandy, but was much enlarged by
numerous tributary gullies. At 12.50 p.m. came to a shallow pool, at
which we camped. The country through which this creek passes is poor and
stony, low hills of sandstone schist and limestone rising immediately
behind the narrow strip of grassy land, which is fertilised by the
overflow of the creek in the rainy season. The vegetable productions of
the country seemed to be limited to a few small gum-trees, shrubby
acacia, and triodia, with an occasional patch of grass. At the camp the
bed of the creek was about forty yards wide, with banks fifteen feet
high; the general course appeared to be north-west, a direction which
renders it probable that it flows into Cambridge Gulf.
Latitude by Pollux 17 degrees 25 minutes 31 seconds.
SIXTY MILES WITHOUT WATER.
At 6.0 a.m. left the camp and steered a course north 60 degrees east,
gradually ascending among hills of schist and sandstone till 8.20, when
we reached the level tableland. The principal trees were white-gum and
silver-leafed ironbark, the soil a red loam of varying character, well
grassed, but with patches of triodia, which affects a poor gravelly soil
or deep sand. The country was now so nearly level that scarcely any rise
or fall was discoverable, though the aneroid showed some slight
undulations; at 1.15 p.m. halted for an hour, and at 6.0 camped in a
patch of green grass, which enabled the horses to feed though they had no
water. The weather was clear and hot during the day with a light easterly
breeze, the night cloudy and very warm.
At 5.10 a.m. resumed our course north 60 degrees east through a grassy
forest of ironbark and bloodwood, with patches of small acacia and
triodia. At 7.45 entered a series of open plains covered with high grass.
The plains continued till 10.0, when we passed through an open gum
forest, and the country declined to the east, and at 11.15 came on a
small watercourse, which was dry and sandy. This we followed down to the
north-east till 11.40, when it passed through a rocky gorge in a
sandstone ridge, which rose at an angle of 30 degrees to the south-west
and 40 degrees to the north-east, the latter being the dip of the strata.
In this rocky gorge we could see some pools of water, but they were quite
inaccessible from that side of the ridge, and we had to make a
considerable detour to the south before we could descend to the plain
below, and found a fine pool of water at the termination of the gorge, at
which we halted and watered our thirsty horses. As we were now only two
hours' ride from the depot camp, we after a short rest started again at
3.10 p.m., and at 5.15 reached the depot camp, where we were welcomed by
Mr. Baines and his party, and I was glad to find them all enjoying good
health, and that the horses were in excellent condition. They had been,
however, somewhat annoyed by the blacks, who had made frequent attempts
to burn the camp, and also the horses, by setting fire to the grass, and
on some occasions had come to actual hostilities, though by judicious
management none of the party had been injured; nor was it certain that
any of the blacks had been wounded, though it had been necessary to
resort to the use of firearms in self-defence and for the protection of
Returned our surplus provisions into store, when we found that the pieces
of pork, originally four pounds weight each, were reduced to one-fifth of
the original weight, as the long continuance of heat had melted the whole
of the fat. Our ration had therefore been one pound flour, one-fifth
pound salt pork, and two ounces sugar per diem. Mr. H. Gregory and Bowman
rode out to round in the horses.
Latitude by Regulus and e Argus 17 degrees 2 minutes.
30th March (Sunday).
Read prayers to those of the party who were in camp, some of the men
having been sent out to attend to the horses. Mr. Baines having handed me
his journal, I regret to find that he has been compelled to make an entry
regarding Mr. Flood, who had refused to attend to his order to carry arms
while on watch at night on the 18th March. I therefore called on Mr.
Flood for any statement he had to make in extenuation of his conduct. His
replies were, however, extremely unsatisfactory, and only attempted to
excuse the act on account of some private misunderstanding with Mr.
Baines some months previous, and that the order to wear his pistol was
given before he had time to put on his clothes. There had, however, been
a distinct refusal to obey the orders of the officer in charge of the
party, and those orders were neither vexatious or unreasonable, as they
were simply in enforcement of well-established regulations. I therefore
cautioned Mr. Flood that unless his future conduct was more satisfactory
than it had hitherto been I should remove his name from the list of
officers taking command in the Expedition, according to the general
orders of the 27th August, 1855. The weather continues cloudy and calm,
and, though the temperature is not extreme, it is very oppressive.
Examining and packing stores in readiness for the exploration of the
valley of the Victoria to the east of the depot. Found the stores in good
condition, though the bags had been much injured by the rats and white
ants. Although in some respects it would be more convenient to move the
party at once to the bank of the Victoria before examining the country
beyond, yet as the horses were now accustomed to the run near the depot,
and the huts and stockyard rendered the station a more safe and
convenient spot than any we could elsewhere select, I therefore decided
on leaving the party here until I had explored the country to the east,
and then move the whole party down the right bank of the river, by which
the number and magnitude of the tributaries from the east would be
ascertained, as this was an important point with reference to the
contemplated journey to the Gulf of Carpentaria.
Preparing equipment for a light party to explore the country to the east
of the camp; shod six horses, and packed eighteen days' provisions for
four persons. The weather continues cloudy, with light variable winds.
EXPLORE EAST OF THE DEPOT.
At 6.45 am started from the depot with Messrs. H. Gregory, Baines, and
John Fahey, taking four riding and two pack horses, carrying eighteen
days' rations, etc. Steered east over an undulating grassy country of
basaltic formation with occasional sandstone ridges; the soil was
generally good, but very stony. I had already traversed this country, and
as the day was very misty with much rain, nothing worthy of further
record was observed. At 1.30 p.m. altered the course to east-south-east,
and at 3.15 camped on a large creek trending north-east, in the bed of
which were large pools of a permanent character. The hills were basaltic,
but the creeks having cut through the rocks and excavated the sandstone,
the valleys were not of such a fertile character as the plains and
ridges. Timber was wholly absent, and only a few small trees were seen at
intervals on the hills. The morning was cloudy with light rain, but it
cleared towards sunset.
Latitude by e Argus 17 degrees 4 minutes 6 seconds.
Resumed our route at 6.30, and steered east-south-east to a basaltic
hill, which we reached at 7.40; from the summit a great extent of country
was visible, but there were no marked features, as the broken ranges and
isolated hills were nearly similar to each other. The whole country
appeared to be a nearly level basaltic plain, with masses of sandstone
rising 100 to 200 feet above its surface, while the valleys of the creek
were excavated to the depth of 100 feet. The country was well grassed,
but very stony; but this, though very inconvenient to the traveller, does
not render it less valuable for pasture, as stony land always stands
feeding better than any other. At 8.20 altered the course to nearly east
towards a low ridge of hills. The plain was well grassed till 12.50 p.m.,
when the sandstone prevailed on the surface and triodia prevailed in the
valleys. At 1.50 followed down a rocky ravine, and at 2.15 encamped.
THE VICTORIA RIVER.
At 6.5 a.m. left the camp and followed the gully to the east-south-east;
at 7.0 crossed a sandstone ridge, and beyond it a large creek from the
south-west, in the bed of which there were some fine pools of water. We
then ascended to a basaltic plain, and altered the course to south-east;
at 8.0 the country gradually declined to the east, and sandstone was the
prevailing rock, but grass was abundant. At 9.40 reached the Victoria,
the course from south-south-west to north-north-east; the river had
ceased to run and was now only in large pools; crossed to the right bank
and steered south half an hour, and camped on the bank of a creek from
south-south-east; at noon the sky was overcast, and at 2 p.m. it
commenced raining and continued till 4.30, with thunder; heavy dew at
night. After it commenced raining the aneroid fell 0.10, but rose again
before it ceased. In this part of Australia neither wind nor rain appear
to affect the atmospheric pressure to any great extent.
ECLIPSE OF THE SUN.
The result of the rain yesterday was a thick fog this morning, and when
we left the camp at 5.50 a.m. we could not see 100 yards, and we
traversed the basaltic plain in an east course till 7.0, when the fog
cleared away and we found ourselves at the foot of some low rocky hills
of basalt, over which we travelled north 70 degrees east. These hills
were very rough and stony, but covered with excellent grass. We then
entered a basaltic plain, richly grassed and less stony than usual. At
9.30 crossed a basaltic ridge and entered a large valley trending to the
north and east; at 10.10 ascended a rocky hill about 150 feet high, and
got bearings of the ranges, etc. The country appeared to consist of
grassy hills and plains, extending twenty to thirty miles to the north
and east. To the south a range of basalt and sandstone hills intercepted
the view. Steered east from the hill, and traversed an undulating
country, the rocks being basalt, sandstone schist, and jasper; the basalt
forming the higher ground, though on the banks of the creek the jasper
rested on the basalt. At 2.10 p.m. encamped on a large creek with a
gravelly channel twenty yards wide. Fahey obtained a large quantity of
mussels from the pools in the creek; they proved an excellent addition to
our supper, though rather deficient in flavour. The weather was cloudy,
and, though there was an occasional sight of the sun, we could observe
neither the commencement or end of the solar eclipse. I was therefore
unable to avail myself of it for correcting the longitude.
Latitude by e Argus 17 degrees 9 minutes 6 seconds.
Left the camp at 6.10 a.m. and steered east over a grassy plain; at 7.25
crossed some wide channels from the south-east, forming a large creek; at
8.15 turned south-east and followed the creek till noon. It then turned
south, and at 12.15 p.m. we camped at a shallow pool of muddy water. The
creek was here divided into several small channels, in which only a few
pools of water remained. The whole of the country traversed this day was
nearly level, well grassed, and very open. Basalt and jasper are the
Latitude by Regulus and Argus 17 degrees 15 minutes 45 seconds.
As the creek appeared to come from the south and not to have a long
course, but to rise in the low sandstone ranges which were visible in
that direction, it was useless to follow it farther; we therefore steered
northwards to intercept any streams which might join the Victoria River
lower down its course, and, after travelling over open grassy ridges of
basalt for six hours, at 12.25 p.m. camped at a small gully, in which
there were some small pools, which appeared to be supplied by springs.
The country for five to ten miles to the east of our track appeared open
and grassy, basalt being the prevailing rock.
RUNNING WATER. FINE PASTORAL COUNTRY.
At 6.0 a.m. left the camp, and steered an average west-north-west course
over an undulating grassy country of basaltic formation; at 11.45 reached
the bank of the creek, which formed fine pools fifty yards wide, with
fine open grassy country on both sides, well suited for stock. Followed
the creek west till 1.5 p.m., when we crossed to the left bank and
Latitude by Regulus and Argus 16 degrees 59 minutes.
Continued our route down the creek in a northerly direction, leaving the
camp at 6.15 a.m., and at 7.55 reached its junction with the Victoria.
The river had high banks and formed deep reaches of water, with a dense
growth of pandanus, melaleuca, flooded-gum, and other trees in the dry
portions of the channel; the country on both banks was basaltic, and rose
gradually into fine grassy downs; the soil very stony, but a good dark
loam; sandstone showed where the river had cut through the basalt, which
is not of any great thickness. At 2.35 p.m. camped on a back channel of
the river, as the principal channel was difficult of access from the
steep bank and dense growth of reeds. Although the upper part of the
Victoria had long ceased to run, this part of the river was flowing with
a strong stream ten yards wide and six feet deep.
Latitude by Regulus and Argus 16 degrees 45 minutes 30 seconds.
Continued our route at 6.5 a.m., and followed the river northward till
8.10, when it turned to the north-west; the country consisted of nearly
level grassy plains of various elevations, separated by low rocky ridges
of sandstone and basalt, the whole well grassed, except some small
patches where triodia prevailed; at 11.0 altered the course to average
north-west by west, and at 1.30 p.m. camped at a small gully with a
little water remaining from a recent shower. The horses suffered much
from the heat, as the air was very moist; at 1.40 there was a shower of
rain, and the temperature was reduced from 95 degrees to 84 degrees.
Latitude by Vega 16 degrees 35 minutes 8 seconds.
Started from the camp at 6.30 a.m., steering west-south-west; at first
sandstone prevailed, and triodia replaced the grass, but at two miles
again entered the basaltic country, which was well grassed but very
stony, and forming flat-topped hills of small elevation; the basalt
appeared to be interstratified with sandstone, the latter much altered at
the line of contact. At 9.15 came on the bank of the river, which was
running in a deep channel with a dense line of pandanus, fig-trees,
terminalia, flooded-gum, and melaleuca; followed the valley of the river
to the north-west till noon, and camped at the foot of the hill which we
had ascended, at the most southern point attained in December, 1855;
ascended the hill and took the bearings, as on the former occasion the
rain had obscured the features of the country.
Latitude by Leonis and Argus 16 degrees 27 minutes 30 seconds.
Having connected this part of our route with that of December last, at
6.20 a.m. commenced our return up the river, crossing to the left bank at
7.15; the water was running strong twenty yards, and one to two feet
deep; in examining the ford my horse trod on the back of a large
alligator, which seemed to be equally astonished as the horse at this
unexpected meeting; I then proceeded up the river a mile and a half and
halted, as Mr. H. Gregory, who I had sent to examine the river in another
part, had not come up with the party, but he shortly after overtook us,
having found a good ford lower down the river; at 4.0 p.m. resumed our
journey, and at dusk encamped in the bed of a large creek, which joined
the Victoria from the south-south-west; at 7.0 it commenced raining, and
there were frequent showers till midnight, with thunder and lightning.
As the creek in which we bivouacked seemed to come from the south-west,
we followed the valley in that direction; at 6.40 a.m. the hills
receding, the grassy flats appeared to extend to the Wickham River and
form a continuation of Hutt Plains; the creek now came from the
south-south-west and had some fine pools of water in the channel; at 2.10
p.m. camped at a shallow pool in the grassy flat, as the water in the
creek was not very easy of access owing to the dense masses of reeds and
grass. The hills which bound the valley of the creek are basalt,
sandstone, and schist. In the level ground near the creek the grass was
five to nine feet high, and greatly impeded our horses. The day was cool
and cloudy with some light showers at night. The aneroid barometer was
completely put out of adjustment by the principal lever having been moved
from its position by a violent shake in crossing one of the deep gullies.
At 6.10 a.m. resumed our journey up the creek in a southerly direction,
the valley gradually narrowing, and in one part of the sandstone rocks
came close to the banks of the creek, leaving scarcely space to pass
between them and the deep pools of water; at 12.30 p.m. camped on the
right bank. The basaltic hills appeared to turn to the south-east, and we
now entered the sandstone country. The valley of this creek appears to
offer the best line of access to the upper part of the valley of the
Victoria, as it is nearly level from Hutt Plains to 10.40 in this day's
journey, beyond which point drays would have to ascend the hills and turn
to the south-east to reach Roe's Downs, which is the finest part of the
country yet examined. A short distance below our camp we saw several
native paintings on the sandstone rocks; they consisted of rude outlines
of fish and snakes, some in red ochre and others in white clay. Mr.
Baines sketched some of the most remarkable.
Latitude by Argus 16 degrees 55 minutes.
At 6.25 a.m. recommenced our journey and followed the creek, which turned
to the west, and the country became extremely rugged, and at length, as
the valley became impassable, we ascended the hills and steered
south-west across a very rocky sandstone country to the basaltic plains.
Changing the course to west-north-west, crossed two tributary creeks, and
at 3.40 p.m. camped on the bank of the creek, which was now much reduced
in size. The country to the north of the creek consisted of very rough
and rocky hills of red sandstone, extremely barren in appearance, while
to the south it rose into the basaltic plain which forms Roe's Downs.
Latitude by Argus 17 degrees 6 seconds.
Resumed our journey at 6.45 a.m. and travelled in a west by north course
towards a remarkable basaltic hill, which I called Mount Sanford,
traversing a fine open grassy country till 1.0 p.m., when we camped on a
creek with permanent pools of water. The rough stony country has rendered
the horses quite footsore, and their legs are much cut and bruised by
constantly falling over the large rocks in crossing the deep ravines and
Latitude by Vega 16 degrees 59 minutes 38 seconds.
RETURN TO DEPOT CAMP.
Started at 6.25 a.m. and reached Mount Sanford at 7.30, the country
passed being sandstone producing triodia and a little grass. The hill is
of basalt with a flat top, but is based on sandstone; its form is nearly
a truncated cone 150 feet high and 300 feet in diameter at the top.
Having taken angles to the surrounding hills, we descended and steered
south-west and west to the depot camp at 1.0 p.m. During our absence Dr.
Mueller had found full employment in collecting the plants in the
vicinity of the camp, and the rest of the party had been fully occupied
in the care of the horses and duties of the camp. I was glad to find that
they had not been again molested by the blacks.
Preparing maps of the late excursion to the east of the depot; party
preparing for the return to principal camp.
Party employed as before.
20th April (Sunday).
A fine cool breeze from the south, with thin clouds.
Several of the horses had strayed some distance from the camp, and we did
not start till 12.30 p.m., when we steered north by west till 5.15 p.m.
and camped at a small creek in a deep rocky valley; the country after
leaving the basaltic plain was very rocky, the hills composed of schist
with a superstratum of red sandstone; grass was abundant in the valley,
but the hills produced little but triodia and small gum-trees.
START FOR MAIN CAMP.
At 6.45 a.m. steered east down the creek one mile to its junction with
Depot Creek, which was followed north and north-north-east till 8.40. The
back country rose into sandstone hills covered with triodia; but there
were good grassy flats on the bank of the creek. The creek then entered a
rocky gorge about 100 yards wide, with cliffs upward of 100 feet high on
each side. With some difficulty we forced our way through the dense
growth of reeds and brush, among huge masses of rock and deep pools of
water, till 10.10, when we reached a more open part of the valley. The
creek now turned to east-north-east, and the wide valley was bounded by
low schist hills to the north and the sandstone range we had just passed
to the south; except in the lower part of the valley and a few small
patches on the hills the country was very poor and stony, triodia taking
the place of the grass; water was abundant in the bed of the creek, where
it formed large permanent pools, between which there was a small stream
of running water in the upper part of the creek, but lower down the
channel was dry between the pools; at 1.0 p.m. camped on the right bank
of the creek; crossed to the left bank of the creek at 6.20 p.m. and
followed it north-east one hour, when the creek turned east and our
course was over stony ridges; it was now found that one of the horses was
missing, having been lost in one of the dense thickets on the bed of the
creek. Mr. H. Gregory therefore returned to search for the lost animal,
and we halted till 9.20, and then went on with the party, leaving Mr.
Baines to wait on the track till Mr. Gregory came up; at 10.20 p.m.
reached the Wickham River and followed it down to the junction of Depot
Creek, which we crossed at noon, and camped in a grassy flat about a mile
lower down; at 2.0 am Mr. H. Gregory and Mr. Baines came into the camp,
but had not been able to find the missing horse; at 3.0 a.m. Mr. H.
Gregory and Bowman started to look for the horse.
At 10.30 Mr. H. Gregory brought in the pack-horse lost yesterday.
Fortunately, this horse was not carrying a load, and though the saddle
got under the horse's belly nothing was injured.
Followed the river down from 7.40 a.m. till 2.30 p.m. and encamped at
9.10 p.m.; crossed a large tributary creek from the south; the country
was grassy near the river, but rose into rocky hills with flat tops at a
short distance from it; light rain from 4.0 a.m. till 1.0 p.m., with
light easterly breeze.
CROSS THE VICTORIA RANGE. STOKES' RANGE.
Continued the route along the right bank of the Wickham from 7.45 a.m.
till 3.15 p.m., the general course east-north-east, and camped; after
passing the gorge in the sandstone range, which was very narrow and
rocky, the country opened into level plains. The best line of route to
the upper part of the Wickham is near Mount Warburton, as the sandstone
hills which form the rocky gorge are detached; the day was cool and
cloudy, with a strong easterly breeze in the morning, and it commenced
raining at sunset.
At 7.25 a.m. left the camp and steered east to the Victoria River, but as
we could not find a fording place, turned north to the Wickham, and
encamped on its banks at 12.25. The bank of the Victoria being so densely
covered with reeds that the water was not accessible; at noon I rode out
with Mr. H. Gregory to search for a ford, as I wished to keep on the
right bank of the river to ascertain what tributary streams joined from
the east; after three hours' search found a practicable ford and returned
to the camp after dark. In the afternoon the blacks were heard calling on
the left bank of the Wickham, near the camp, but were not seen, owing to
the thick brush and reeds which filled the bed of the river.
At 7.25 a.m. steered south to the Victoria and reached the ford at 8.35,
and at 9.0 a.m., having accomplished the passage of the river with only a
few slight accidents, followed the right bank of the Victoria downwards
till 1.15 p.m., and encamped on the eastern side of the Victoria; the
country was level and well grassed for several miles back, and then rose
into the sandstone range to the south and basaltic hills to the east.
At 7.10 a.m. steered north-east over a nearly level grassy basaltic
country with low hills to the east of our route; at 8.0 a.m. altered the
course to north and traversed a fine grassy country with table hills of
basalt resting on chert and sandstone; crossed one creek from the
south-east with a muddy channel fifteen yards wide; at 2.0 p.m. changed
the course to north 300 degrees east, and at 4.15 p.m. reached the bank
of the Victoria; but it was so steep that the horses could not approach
the water, and therefore followed it to the rocky ford east-south-east
from Mount Sandiman and encamped.
Crossed the left bank of the river at 7.0 a.m., but one of the horses
injured his leg among the rocks, and the wound had to be sewn up, which
delayed us till 8.20 a.m., when we steered north-west to Jasper Creek,
which, after much labour in forcing a passage through the reeds, we
crossed at 11.25 a.m., and at 12.55 p.m. encamped on the bank of the
Victoria, at the commencement of the rocky gorge through Stokes' Range.
Proceeded down the river, leaving the camp at 6.50 a.m., and at 2.15 p.m.
encamped a short distance above our camp of the 8th December, 1855.
Continued route from 6.45 a.m. till 1.0 p.m., and encamped one mile above
our bivouac of the 28th December.
Resumed our journey at 6.45 a.m. and followed the left bank of the river
till 10.10 a.m., when we encamped at the spot where we crossed the
Victoria on the 28th November, 1855; at 2.0 p.m. crossed the river with
Mr. H. Gregory, and rode to the east to examine a large creek which
joined the Victoria two miles below the camp. The creek was thirty to
forty yards wide, with high muddy banks covered with reeds, and the marks
of floods were fifty feet above its present level; the general appearance
was that of a stream having a course of forty to fifty miles. The wide
flat on the left bank of the creek was well grassed; but the valley was
bounded by steep sandstone hills covered with triodia and scrub; returned
to the camp at 5.0 p.m.
As we should have to pass this camp on our route to the Gulf of
Carpentaria, I deposited 100 pounds of flour and a quantity of shot and
lead, horse-shoes, etc., in a cleft in the rocks, and covered them with
large stones, and then set the grass on fire to deface our tracks; at
8.15 a.m. left the camp and proceeded along our former track till noon,
and camped on a small creek two miles east-south-east from Bynoe Range.
Left the camp at 8.10 a.m. and steered north 240 degrees east over a
level grassy country, wooded with bauhinia, acacia, and eucalypti--the
latter being more abundant as we advanced; at 1.0 p.m. the country
changed to low rocky ridges of chert and limestone, and at 2.0 p.m.
encamped at a small creek trending north-west, and in which a few small
muddy pools of water remained. At noon we passed a party of five or six
blacks, who shouted to us from a distance, but would not approach within
200 yards. They were armed with spears, and seemed to be on their return
from hunting, as the grass was on fire to the south.
At 7.20 resumed our journey, and steering west crossed a fine creek with
fine pools and water-pandanus growing on the banks. We then traversed a
very rocky country, at the southern base of the sandstone range, till
11.0, when we came to a more level and grassy country, consisting of
chert ridges. At noon steered north 300 degrees east down the valley of a
small creek, and soon entered a deep valley bounded on both sides by
steep sandstone hills. At 1.0 p.m. turned north 320 degrees east, and at
2.20 camped at a shallow pool in the bed of the creek, which was now in
the limestone rock.
REACH THE MAIN CAMP.
At 7.30 a.m. resumed our journey down the valley to the junction of the
creek with the Victoria River, which we followed down, crossing the ridge
at Steep Head at 10.20, and reached the principal camp at 5.30 p.m.,
where we were welcomed by Mr. Elsey, who was in charge, Mr. Wilson being
absent down the river at the schooner, which had been laid on the shingle
bank near the Dome to complete repairs. I was glad to learn that all the
men belonging to the Expedition were in good health, except Richards,
whose hand was still in a very unsatisfactory state, though better than
when we left in January. The crew of the schooner had not been so
fortunate, as the carpenter, John Finlay, had died, and three of the men
were so ill that they had been left at the camp to be under the immediate
care of the medical officer. This great amount of sickness is owing to
the combined effects of previous disease and the inferior quality of the
provisions with which the vessel is supplied. It appears that through
damage by salt water and want of good management the provisions, which
should have been sufficient for two years, are now reduced to salt beef
of inferior quality and tea, the Expedition having had to furnish flour,
rice, sugar, peas, and pork, as also medical stores, for the sick men. In
consequence of the reduced number of the crew of the Tom Tough, Mr.
Wilson had found it necessary to furnish men to assist in working the
schooner, as well as to effect repairs.
Much of the grass near the camp having been burnt, I sent the horses to
the creek, three miles above the camp. Party employed in general duties
of the camp. Twenty-nine sheep remained; they are now in fair condition;
the average weight forty to forty-five pounds. They would probably have
been much fatter had they been judiciously shepherded, but they had been
kept close to the camp, where the feed had been eaten off closely. The
natives have been frequently at the camp in small parties, and on these
occasions were very quiet in their demeanour, but had made hostile
demonstrations when met by small detached parties of the Expedition; and
on one occasion Mr. Wilson had deemed it necessary to fire at them; but
only one of the blacks appears to have been wounded, with small shot, in
the arm, as he was afterwards seen at the camp.
11th May (Sunday).
Preparing maps, arranging stores, etc.
Drawing maps of the late journey and preparing for the Expedition to the
THE TOM TOUGH REFITTED.
Preparing maps, sifting flour, packing specimens, burning charcoal for
the forge, preparing horse-shoes. At 6 p.m. Mr. Wilson returned in the
boat from the Tom Tough. One of the boys belonging to the schooner was
brought to the camp for medical treatment, as he was suffering from
scurvy. The Tom Tough had been moored below the shoals, and was now
moored in a secure position below Curiosity Peak. All the leaks had been
secured, and she now only made about half an inch of water per hour. The
crew of the vessel have been so much reduced by sickness that it will be
necessary to send men on board to assist in refitting the vessel and
procure a supply of wood and water. As it is necessary to replace the
stores destroyed or damaged by salt-water, it appears desirable that the
Tom Tough should proceed to the Gulf of Carpentaria via Coupang, in the
island of Timor, where a supply of rice and sugar can be procured for the
Expedition, and the vessel will be enabled to complete her stores. It
appears desirable that the land party should refit with all possible
despatch for the journey to the Gulf of Carpentaria, in order to take
advantage of the cool season, and there is reason to expect that the
horses will be sufficiently recruited in strength towards the end of
June. I am, therefore, in hope that the party will be able to leave the
Victoria before the expiration of the ensuing month. A small party of
natives came to the camp in the morning and bartered a few trifles, and
Continued preparation of maps; party employed in preparations for the
journey to the Gulf of Carpentaria, camp duties, and preparing oakum for
the schooner. Having found that the pork had been so much reduced in
weight during the late journey, I made some experiments in the
preparation of meat biscuits by mixing the preserved fresh beef with
flour in equal proportions, with satisfactory results, as the reduction
in weight by baking was 33 per cent.
Party employed as before.
Party employed as before.
18th May (Sunday).
Messrs. Wilson, Elsey, and Mueller being desirous of proceeding up the
Baines River to collect specimens, etc., made the necessary arrangements
for the same, and they therefore proceeded in the boat with Phibbs,
Humphries, and Shewell to the schooner; the men were then to return to
the camp with a cargo of stores; and Messrs. Wilson, Elsey, and Mueller
were to proceed up Baines' River in the small boat which they were to
obtain from the schooner. Richards is in charge of the sheep; Macdonald
cook during the week; Bowman and Melville in charge of horses; Dean
preparing saddle-bags and harness; Fahey and Selby burning charcoal and
general camp duties.
Party employed as before. The weather continues fine, with southerly
Party employed as before.
Party employed as before. At noon the boat returned from the schooner
with stores; Captain Gourlay also came up in the gig to the camp; he
informed me that the schooner now only made ten inches of water per day,
and that she would be ready for sea so soon as the upper seams were
caulked, and that he considered her perfectly seaworthy for the purpose
of the expedition.
Party employed as before.
Despatched the boat to the schooner with three cases containing
sationery, tobacco, clothing, etc. Captain Gourlay returned to the Tom
25th May (Sunday).
PREPARATIONS FOR JOURNEY EASTWARD.
Party employed preparing equipment for the journey to the Gulf of
Party employed as before. Messrs. Wilson, Elsey, and Mueller returned
with the long-boat and gig from the schooner, having been about thirty
miles up Baines' River to the south-west of Curiosity Hill. Mr. Wilson
brought a native in the boat from Stony Spit.
Party employed as before, and packing stores to be put on board the
Party employed as before.
1st June (Sunday).
Party employed preparing saddlery and equipment for the journey to the
Gulf of Carpentaria.
Mr. Baines proceeded in the boat to the schooner (which was now anchored
below the shoals), conveying a quantity of stores. Boat's crew: Phibbs,
Humphries, Dean, and Selby; remainder of party at the camp employed as
before. Preparing map of route up the Victoria River, etc.
Party employed as before, namely, shoeing horses, restuffing saddles, and
other preparations for journey to the Gulf of Carpentaria. Received from
Mr. Wilson a journal of his proceedings from 31st January to 3rd March,
and 1st April to 14th May.
Party at camp employed as before. Mr. Baines returned with the gig.
Boat's crew: Phibbs, Humphries, Dean, Selby, and Dawson, also one of the
seaman belonging to the schooner; received a note from the master of the
Tom Tough, complaining that Dawson had used abusive language to Mr.
Gourlay; but as it appeared that considerable provocation had been given,
I only reprimanded Dawson for his conduct. Mr. Baines informed me that on
the 4th instant he had landed early in the day from the schooner, in
company with Captain Gourlay, Dawson, and one of the seamen (Adams), for
the purpose of bartering with a party of natives, about twenty in number.
The blacks having been allowed to come close to the boat, stole a
tomahawk, and on Adams making a demonstration of detaining one of their
number until the stolen article was returned, one of the blacks seized
his gun and tried to wrest it from him; but, Captain Gourlay approaching,
he ran into the bush, and the rest of the blacks retired; the party then
returned to the schooner. The tomahawk was afterwards found in the water
near where the boat had landed.
Party employed as before; the shoeing of the horses progresses rapidly,
Mr. H. Gregory and Bowman shoeing five horses each day, although some of
them are very restive.
Mr. Elsey proceeded in the gig with Phibbs, Humphries, Selby, and Adams,
conveying the two sick men and boy belonging to the schooner crew to the
Tom Tough. Mr. Wilson requested me to hold an investigation into the
circumstances attending the landing of a party from the Tom Tough on the
4th instant, to traffic with the blacks, as he deemed it very imprudent,
when so large a number of natives were assembled on the shore, to land
with only four persons, though they were all armed; and adverted to the
possible results of such a proceeding, which he said might have
terminated the hitherto undisturbed harmony which had been maintained by
the parties in his charge during my absence in their intercourse with the
aborigines, and stated that he considered the evidence of men who were
not present, but on board the schooner at the time of the party landing,
was more to be relied on than Mr. Baines' statement, which had been made
before the officers generally. As Mr. Baines had minutely detailed the
whole transaction to me, and nothing farther was alleged by Mr. Wilson,
who appeared to be actuated by no friendly feelings towards Mr. Baines,
and my investigation would have only been an expression of a want of
confidence in the veracity of Mr. Baines, which I could not entertain, I
informed Mr. Wilson that I did not see any necessity for the
investigation suggested. Party employed preparing equipment, shoeing
horses, baking meat biscuits, etc. Rain at night.
8th June (Sunday).
MAKE MEAT BISCUITS.
Completed shoeing the horses; party employed making small tents and
saddle-bags, fitting pack-saddles, baking biscuits; Dr. Mueller
collecting and arranging botanical specimens.
ARRANGEMENT OF PARTY.
Party employed as before, and preparing extra shoes for the horses, etc.
Mr. Elsey returned with the gig from the schooner; boat's crew: Phibbs,
Humphries, and Selby; the sick men had reached the vessel without any
serious difficulty, although the boat grounded on the banks, and was
thereby detained till next tide, and thus kept them several hours exposed
to the rain.
Party employed as before.
Completed baking 300 pounds of preserved beef and 300 pounds of flour
into biscuits, which weighed 480 pounds when dry. A 6-pound tin of beef,
with the soup and fat, was added to 6 pounds of flour, 1 ounce of salt
(no water being used), and the whole made up into dough and baked in the
ordinary form of sea biscuits; the result was 8 pounds, and thus 1 1/4
pounds contained 1 pound of flour and 1 pound of meat.
Mr. Baines proceeded with Phibbs, Humphries, and Selby in the gig to the
Tom Tough, with stores not required at the camp, and for the purpose of
returning with soap and other stores required for the outfit of the land
expedition. Party employed as before. Mr. Wilson completed and furnished
to me a sketch of the Western branch of the Victoria River, which had
been discovered by Mr. Baines in December, 1855, while searching for
stray horses, and which I had then named after him. Preparing maps, etc.,
for transmission to the Governor-General of Australia.
Wrote to Governor-General, reporting progress of the North Australian
Expedition. Party employed as before; set of spare horse-shoes completed.
15th June (Sunday).
The weather has been remarkably cool and clear for several days, the
temperature at sunrise 48 to 52 degrees.
Mr. Baines returned from the schooner with the gig and long-boat (boat's
crew as before) bringing the stores required for the land party. Party at
the camp preparing equipment for expedition to the Gulf of Carpentaria.
Mr. Wilson requested to be informed whether I had decided to attach him
to the party which was to be organised at the Gulf of Carpentaria for the
exploration of the country towards Moreton Bay, and in reply I informed
him that so many unforeseen circumstances might occur before reaching the
Albert River to require me to modify any arrangements made at the present
time, that I should not select the individuals to form that party till we
reached the Albert River. Received from Mr. Wilson a letter stating that
unless I would now decide that he was to form one of the party proceeding
from the Albert River overland to Moreton Bay, he was desirous of
resigning his appointment of geologist to the North Australian
Expedition. Wrote to Mr. Wilson in reply, stating that I could not comply
with his request.
Preparing copies of letters to Governor-General of Australia for
transmission to the Secretary of State for the Colonies. Party preparing
for journey to the Gulf of Carpentaria. Received from Mr. Wilson a letter
stating that he declined to perform any further duties as an officer of
the North Australian Expedition unless I complied with certain conditions
therein named. Wrote to Mr. Wilson in reply, and informed him that he was
henceforth suspended from any command in the Expedition. As I could not
now include Mr. Wilson in the party proceeding to the Albert River by
land, I requested Dr. Mueller to prepare to take Mr. Wilson's place in
Issued a general order, Number 4, suspending Mr. Wilson from any further
command in the exploring party till further orders. Party employed as
before--preparing equipment. Received from Mr. Wilson a letter relative
to his being suspended from any further command in the party.
Wrote to Mr. Baines instructing him to take charge of the portion of the
North Australian Expedition proceeding in the Tom Tough to the Albert
River. Preparing equipment for explorations towards the Gulf of
Wrote to the Governor-General of Australia, forwarding copies of
correspondence with Mr. Wilson. Wrote to Secretary of State for the
Colonies forwarding copies of despatches to the Governor-General. Wrote
to master of Tom Tough schooner, instructing him to proceed to Coepang
for supplies, and thence to Albert River. Wrote to Mr. Baines two letters
of instructions; inspected equipment, and fitted the saddles of the party
proceeding overland to the Gulf of Carpentaria. Wrote to Mr. Wilson a
letter in reply to his communication of the 18th.
START FOR GULF OF CARPENTARIA.
At 10.0 a.m. left the principal camp on the Victoria with a party
consisting of Messrs. H. Gregory, Elsey, and Dr. Mueller, Robert Bowman,
Charles Dean, and J. Melville, seven saddle and twenty-seven pack horses,
conveying five months' provisions of salt pork and meat biscuits, and six
months' supply of flour, tea, sugar, coffee, etc., twenty-six pounds of
gunpowder, sixty pounds bullets, 1 hundredweight shot, 5000 caps, etc.
Proceeding up the left bank of the Victoria, crossed the ridge at back of
Steep Head, and at 3.15 p.m. camped about three-quarters of a mile above
it on the bank of the river.
22nd June (Sunday).
At 7.30 a.m. left the camp and followed the river up for ten miles, and
then along a small creek four miles south-south-east; but the country
proving very steep and rocky, returned one mile and camped at 3 p.m.
Left the camp at 7.0 a.m., and returned down the valley of the creek to
the river, and kept along the bank of the Victoria to the junction of
Beagle Creek. We ascended for five miles, and camped at 11.0, as there
was no water between this point and the Victoria at Bynoe Range on the
Beagle Valley route, and the distance was too great to be commenced at
this late hour of the day.
Started at 7.0 a.m., and steered east through an open box forest nearly
level and well grassed. The grass had been burnt off by the blacks, but
had shot up to a foot in height. Passed to the south of the Fitzroy
Range; the valley between it and Stokes' Range similar to Beagle Valley,
and about four miles wide. Keeping close to Stokes' Range, passed behind
some of the detached hills at 4.20 p.m. Reached our old camp of the 5th
May, and found the stores we had left secreted in the rocks undisturbed.
Having distributed the stores which had been left here in May among the
several pack-horses, at 7.15 a.m. resumed our route up the river, and
crossed to the right bank two miles above the creek we intended to
ascend, and camped at 11.0. Marked a large gum-tree Delta V.
Latitude by b and a2 Centauri 15 degrees 39 minutes 17 seconds.
LEAVE THE VICTORIA RIVER.
Left the camp at 7.0 a.m., and followed the creek upwards to the
east-south-east for five miles. The valley was about one mile wide, with
fine grassy flats, bounded by sandstone cliffs 50 to 200 feet high, and
forming tableland with deep ravines. The valley now turned to the east
and east-north-east; some small tributaries joined the creek from the
south-east, the sandstone cliffs disappeared, and the outline of the
hills became rounded and rose about 300 feet above the creek. Shallow
pools of water with dry shingle between, and an occasional deep
waterhole, characterised the channel of the watercourse. At 1.30 p.m.
camped on the left bank of the creek in an open grassy flat; the higher
land very stony and indifferent.
Latitude by Canopus 15 degrees 40 minutes 49 seconds.
The temperature was lower at sunrise this morning than on any other day
since landing in North Australia, being only 41 degrees. A little dew on
the grass, and a light air from the east. At 6.50 a.m. started and
followed up the creek to the east-north-east till 1.0 p.m., when we
camped at a deep pool of water 20 yards wide and 200 yards long. Our
attempts to procure fish were unsuccessful. The country consisted of low
stony hills, thinly wooded, and the flats of the creek from a quarter to
three quarters of a mile wide continued to be well grassed. On the north
side of the creek a few miles back the hills rose to a greater elevation,
and formed table-topped hills; some with cliffs of sandstone near the
summits, and others smooth grassy slopes. The latter, from the colour of
the grass, appeared to be of trap formation, and fragments of this rock
were found in the bed of the creek. Soft shales were exposed in the
gullies and on the sides of the hills, and were overlaid compact gray
Latitude by b Centauri, a2 Centauri and Arcturus 15 degrees 37 minutes 15
Left the camp at 7.15 a.m., and followed up the creek to the
east-north-east till noon, when we reached the last water in its channel
near a steep range of sandstone hills, or rather tablelands; the country
traversed was an undulating plain of trap formation resting on gray
sandstone; it is thinly wooded, and well grassed; water was abundant in
the creek below the camp; above the channel was dry, and soon divided
into small gullies; in the afternoon ascended a hill three-quarters of a
mile north-west of the camp; the lower portion was a dark compact trap or
basalt, and the summit a horizontal bed of sandstone about 200 feet above
the camp; the country to the north was very level, and only occasionally
interrupted by flat-topped sandstone hills, the view extending at least
thirty miles; to the south and south-west a country of trap formation
extended for twenty miles, and to the east the tableland rose about 300
feet above the camp, and was composed of the same strata as the hill
ascended, but surmounted by the ferruginous conglomerate, which is the
highest rock of the new red sandstone series.
Latitude by b Centauri, a Centauri and Arcturus 15 degrees 33 minutes 13
ARNHEIM LAND. DALY RIVER.
At 6.45 a.m. left the camp with Mr. H. Gregory to reconnoitre the country
to the east; ascending the tableland, steered east till 10.0 through a
level forest of stringybark and other eucalypti; the soil a light
gravelly loam, but well grassed; we then turned north-north-east for one
hour, along a shallow watercourse, and then east through level forest
country till 3.20 p.m., when we reached a small stream-bed trending
north-north-east, tracing it through wide grassy flats, which were on
fire; at 4.40 found a small pool of water, where we halted for the night.
As this appeared to be a spot to which the party could be advanced with
safety, we left our bivouac at 6.50 a.m.; returning across the tableland,
reached the camp at 4.30 p.m.
At 6.40 a.m. started an average course of 80 degrees magnetic, and
reached the waterholes in the small creek at 3.30 p.m. with the whole
party, and camped at our bivouac of the 29th June.
Latitude by b Centauri 15 degrees 30 minutes 19 seconds.
At 6.30 a.m. left the camp and followed the creek down to the
east-north-east till 11.0 a.m.; it then turned more to the northward, and
was nearly lost in wide level flats covered with high grass; the back
country level stringybark forest, with good grass; at 2.25 p.m. the
channel of the creek again collected, and we found a small waterhole
twenty yards long and four feet deep, at which we camped; here we
observed the fires of a party of blacks who had camped at the waterhole
the previous day; small heaps of mussel-shells lay at intervals along the
banks of the creek, though the channel was perfectly dry; but it appears
that during the last wet season less rain has fallen than usual, and the
soil has not been fully saturated, and consequently the waterholes have
dried up sooner than in average years; although from the level character
and geological features of the country, we are now on the tableland which
divides the waters flowing to the north-west coast from those which fall
into the Gulf of Carpentaria, the elevation of the country does not
exceed 800 feet above the sea.
Latitude by Centauri and Arcturus 15 degrees 18 minutes 33 seconds.
Starting at 7.30 a.m., followed the creek to the north-east by east till
8.25, when it was joined by a small creek from the south; thus increased
water was abundant in the bed of the creek, but the pools were shallow
and not permanent. Grassy flats extended for a mile on each bank of the
creek, beyond which the level forest of stringybark, bloodwood, and box
was well grassed; the soil a good red loam. In a few spots fragments of
limestone and agate were strewed over the surface, and an occasional
ridge of ironstone conglomerate was crossed on which the grass was
indifferent. At 12.45 p.m. camped in a wide grassy flat, where the grass,
having been burnt early in the season, had sprung up again quite fresh
Latitude by a2 Centauri 15 degrees 11 minutes 24 seconds; variation of
compass 2 degrees 10 minutes east.
We were again in the saddle at 7.10 a.m., and, steering 70 degrees
magnetic, diverged from the creek, traversing a level grassy forest of
stringybark with abundance of green grass; at 8.0 turned north-east; the
forest became more open, and the stringybark was replaced by bloodwood
and box; limestone rock was frequent, and rendered the surface of the
country very rough; and frequent depressions of the surface appeared to
result from the falling-in of the roofs of caverns beneath which were
farther indicated by deep clefts and holes in the rock, into which the
surface waters flow during the rains. At 11.0 a.m. turned north, and at
noon again struck the creek, which gradually turned to the
north-north-east; limestone formed the banks, and only one small pool was
seen till 4.50 p.m., when we found a little water in the sandy bed of a
tributary creek from the south-south-east, at which we encamped. On the
bank of the creek we this day first observed the casuarina, which is so
frequent on the banks of the creeks trending towards the Gulf of
Latitude by Arcturus and a Coronae Borealis 14 degrees 54 minutes 2
As the course of the creek was to the north-west, and we had already been
driven further north than was desirable, we left the creek and followed
up the tributary to the east-south-east, leaving the camp at 7.5 a.m. The
channel was soon lost on the wide grassy flats, in one of which was a
fine waterhole covered with nymphae, near which a party of blacks were
encamped. On our approach most of the women decamped with their bags and
nets containing their valuables, while the men stood spear in hand gazing
on the strange sight, as we passed them. Continuing up the creek, the
course of which was only marked for some distance by the nature of the
vegetation, which indicated occasional inundations, it again formed a
shallow irregular channel in the centre of an open box flat, and at 1.30
p.m. camped at a small waterhole in the channel.
Latitude by meridian altitude of the sun 14 degrees 55 minutes 15
The small size of the creek affording little prospect of water nearer to
its source, and as Mr. H. Gregory was suffering from a severe attack of
fever, which rendered travelling unadvisable, I proceeded with Charles
Dean to examine the country to the east-south-east. Leaving the camp at
7.0 a.m., steered 120 degrees magnetic; at eight crossed a sandstone
ridge covered with acacia scrub, and again descended into the valley of
the creek, passing some fine grassy plains, and at 11.0 ascended the
level tableland, the edge of which was covered with acacia scrub, beyond
which we passed a level flat acacia scrub and small trees, and at noon
entered a stringybark forest with occasional patches of bloodwood,
leguminous ironbark, and sterculia. The soil varied from a brown loam to
ironstone gravel, and in a few spots ferruginous conglomerate was
visible. On the loamy soil the grass was good and abundant, but the
gravel was covered with spiny treraphis. This tableland was so level that
no declivity could be detected during the continuance of our day's
journey, which lasted till 5.30, when we bivouacked without water; by
taking the precaution of letting the horses feed on the outward track,
and secreting ourselves after dark in the high grass, we passed the night
without the necessity of keeping watch after midnight.
Our horses having strayed back on the track, we carried our saddles and
tracked them about two miles, and then mounting our horses steered north
for some miles; but all was level forest without any sign of the
existence of water, except a few cockatoos. I then turned to the
south-west; crossing the outward track, and at length came on a shallow
watercourse trending west, a ridge of rocks having confined the channel
to a narrow space; three small waterholes were discovered in which a
little water remained; below this the creek turned south-south-east, and
I again turned towards the camp; but night overtaking us in the
stringybark forest, we passed to the south of the camp without observing
Having ascertained that we had passed the position of the camp, turned to
the north-east and reached the camp at 11.20. Mr. H. Gregory was somewhat
recovered, but very weak from a violent attack of fever. During my
absence a small party of blacks had visited the camp and had bivouacked a
short distance up the creek.
Moved the camp to the waterholes twelve miles south-east, and in the
afternoon rode down the creek with Mr. Elsey; the creek turned to the
south-south-east for a mile and a half, and was lost on a level flat,
from which a channel trended to the west, which was again lost in a level
flat extending to the west several miles. Heavy showers at night.
Accompanied by Mr. Elsey, I proceeded to reconnoitre the country to the
south-east, and at 7.45 a.m. steered 130 degrees, gradually ascending the
tableland, and which was openly wooded with bloodwood, box, and
white-gum; acacia and sterculia occasionally appearing. The soil was
brown sandy loam with a few ridges of sandstone rock of white colour;
grass had been abundant, but was now burnt off. The small white-ant nests
from two to five feet high were very numerous; at 12.40 p.m. a slight
depression in the country was observed, and limestone appeared, and deep
hollows were frequent. One of these hollows which I examined was thirty
yards in diameter and fifteen feet deep; in the centre was a deep cleft
of fifteen feet more, which extended to the east and west under the
surface with a width of three feet; at 3.0 struck a small creek trending
east-north-east with a few small pools of water in the channel; in
following down the creek in search of a sufficient supply of water for
the horses, we passed some blacks sitting at a fire near the creek; at
3.30 came to a pool sufficient for the supply of the whole party, below
which the channel was dry; returning to the pool we met the blacks
following our tracks, but, observing us, they ran away, and on being
followed hid themselves; having unsaddled, we commenced our dinner and
soon saw the blacks watching us from their hiding places, and after some
time spent in making signs, they were induced to approach, the oldest of
the party feigning to weep bitterly till they got close to us, when we
commenced an attempt at conversation, and they appeared to recognise some
few words of the language of the Victoria River. Their spears were formed
of reeds with large heads of white sandstone, and also with three wooden
points for fishing. They were circumcised and had their front teeth
remaining; at 5.0 steered to the west-north-west for one hour, and
bivouacked to secure ourselves from an attack during the night.
At 6.30 a.m., resumed our route towards the camp, and reached it about
1.0 p.m., without observing anything of farther remark.
Latitude by a2 Centauri 15 degrees 2 minutes 49 seconds.
ABSENCE OF WATERCOURSES.
The grass near the camp having been burnt off, the horses had scattered
very much, and could not be collected and saddled before 10.0 a.m., when
we followed our track of yesterday and reached the pool of water at
sunset. The country was so level, although we were crossing the watershed
between the north-west coast and the Gulf of Carpentaria, that the
aneroid only varied from 29.55 to 29.62, and even of this change the
greater part was caused by alteration of the temperature. The geological
character of this portion of the country differs slightly from that of
the Victoria River. The upper stratum is a bed of ironstone conglomerate
about twenty feet thick, this rests on sandstone, the upper part of which
is highly ferruginous, then passes away into a variegated sandstone
imperfectly stratified, changing into a hard siliceous sandstone which is
white and breaks with a conchoidal fracture; this rests on a hard cherty
sandstone similar to that of the Victoria River. In this rock many
depressions occur, which is apparently caused by the roofs of caverns
falling in and there are usually deep fissures in the rock at the bottom
of these hollows, in which all the water that drains into them is
absorbed; in some places the sandstone resting on the limestone has sunk
many feet below the general level, with areas varying from one to ten
acres, sometimes sloping towards a centre ten to thirty feet below the
plain, and in other spots with abrupt rocky banks five to eight feet high
and a perfectly level bottom. The level character of the country is
unfavourable for investigations of this nature, and the thickness of the
several strata not easily determined; but I think that the collective
thickness of the several strata above the limestone does not exceed 100
feet. The porous nature of the lower rocks preclude the existence of
permanent surface water by draining the whole of the upper part of the
tableland, while it forms strong springs in the lower ground towards the
banks of the Roper River, where the limestone is exposed on the surface.
Latitude by a Coronae Borealis 15 degrees 14 minutes 31 seconds.
WHITE MAN'S CAMP.
13th July (Sunday).
Leaving the camp at 8.30 a.m., proceeding down the creek, mistook a
tributary for the main creek; following it south for two hours, when it
spread into small gullies, and we had to return to the creek, which had
now a northerly course, and at 4.25 camped about three miles from our
starting point in the morning. The country passed over was of a very poor
character, stiff clay flats, with melaleuca scrub in the valley, while
low but steep ridges of sandstone rose to the east, and were timbered
with stringybark and bloodwood, etc.; to the south the country seemed to
rise slightly, but was very poor and sandy. The smoke of bush fires were
visible to the south, east, and north, and several trees cut with iron
axes were noticed near the camp. There was also the remains of a hut and
the ashes of a large fire, indicating that there had been a party
encamped there for several weeks; several trees from six to eight inches
diameter had been cut down with iron axes in fair condition, and the hut
built by cutting notches in standing trees and resting a large pole
therein for a ridge; this hut had been burnt apparently by the subsequent
bush fires, and only some pieces of the thickest timber remained
unconsumed. Search was made for marked trees, but none found, nor were
there any fragments of iron, leather, or other material of the equipment
of an exploring party, or of any bones of animals other than those common
to Australia. Had an exploring party been destroyed here, there would
most likely have been some indications, and it may therefore be inferred
that the party had proceeded on its journey. It could not have been a
camp of Leichhardt's in 1845, as it is 100 miles south-west of his route
to Port Essington, and it was only six or seven years old, judging by the
growth of the trees; having subsequently seen some of Leichhardt's camps
on the Burdekin, Mackenzie, and Barcoo Rivers, a great similarity was
observed in regard to the mode of building the hut, and its relative
position in regard to the fire and water supply, and the position in
regard to the great features of the country was exactly where a party
going westward would first receive a check from the waterless tableland
between the Roper and Victoria Rivers, and would probably camp and
reconnoitre ahead before attempting to cross to the north-west coast.
This creek is named Elsey Creek on the map.
Resuming our journey at 8.10 a.m., steered north-east down the valley of
the creek, which I named Elsey Creek, after the surgeon of the
expedition. Its course was generally to the north-east, but spreading
into lagoons and swampy flats, became very tortuous and irregular. It
then changed to a very winding reach of water fifty to sixty yards wide,
with low banks covered with reeds and tall melaleuca-trees, beyond which
was a belt of pandanus growing on the drier ground. Many small springs
rose in the limestone rock and ran into the creek, on the banks of which
large quantities of mussel-shells showed the frequent camps of the
blacks. The banks of the creek and springs were so soft and boggy that
our horses could not approach the water, and we followed its banks in
search of a spot where they could drink in safety, till 4.0, without
success, and having camped, had to water the horses with our leather
Latitude by a2 Centauri and a Coronae Borealis 15 degrees 5 minutes 35
Leaving our camp at 7.10 a.m., steered north-east till 9.0, over level
country, which appeared to be very swampy in the rainy season; altered
the course to 10 degrees magnetic, and crossed a small dry watercourse
which proved to be a continuation of Elsey Creek. At 11.0 turned 60
degrees magnetic, and shortly came on the bank of a fine river with banks
thirty to forty feet high, and fine reaches of water fifty to eighty
yards wide; at 11.45 camped at the junction of Elsey Creek and the river,
which appears to be the Roper of Dr. Leichhardt. The fan-palm was
frequently seen on the banks of Elsey Creek, where it obtained a height
of fifty to eighty feet, and had a thicker stem and produced a more
palatable vegetable than the species growing on the banks of the Victoria
KILL AN EMU.
At 7.5 a.m. recommenced our journey, following down the Roper River east
and north-east; about a mile below the camp the limestone rocks formed a
bar, over which the river ran with a rapid current ten yards wide and two
feet deep; the banks became lower and the surface of the country
extremely level. The overflows of the river had formed shallow lagoons,
in which the nelumbium or gigantic water-lily was first seen. A ridge of
low sandstone hills came close to the left bank, and on the right a vast
level plain, covered with high grass and reeds, extending two or three
miles back. This plain is evidently inundated during the wet season,
though the soil was now dry and full of deep cracks. The river divided
into several small shallow channels full of reeds, and each with a small
stream of water, the deep green of the vegetation along the course of the
running water contrasting strongly with the parched vegetation of the
other portions of the plain. Clumps of melaleuca occurred at intervals,
and at a distance appeared like low hills. At 2.0 p.m. camped at the end
of a low basaltic ridge, which approached the bank of the river from the
south. A range of flat-topped hills extended to the north-east from the
river, about eight miles distant, to the north-west of the camp; they
appeared wooded, and 200 to 300 feet high. Bowman rode down a young emu,
which supplied us with a meal of fresh meat.
Latitude by a Coronae Borealis 14 degrees 50 minutes 56 seconds.
At 7.0 a.m. steered east-south-east, following the bank of the river for
a mile, when, to avoid the high grass and reeds, altered the course to
south-east till 8.10; then steering 100 degrees magnetic till 9.25, when
we camped on a small waterhole, there being abundance of water. The river
appears to turn to the north and enter a range of hills, which trends
north and south a few miles to the east of our camp. The country
traversed this day is all well grassed and thinly timbered with
terminalia, box, and silver-leafed ironbark; trap-rock visible in several
places, and the soil was a good red loam. The metallic barometer has a
second time suddenly deviated from the aneroid barometer, and the form of
the vacuum vessel has visibly altered, the construction being too slight
to bear the motion of the pack-horse, though one of the steadiest animals
had been selected to carry the instruments, and they are always
surrounded with blankets.
Latitude by meridian altitude of the sun 14 degrees 53 minutes 16
As this was a suitable camp for resting the party, and grass was
abundant, I rode to the south-east with Mr. H. Gregory to look for a
route towards the head of the Wickham River; our course was along a
valley between the trap hills to the west and a sandstone range to the
east. About eight miles reached a creek trending north-east; its channel
was dry and sandy, but after some search found a small pool of water in a
side channel; casuarina and flooded-gum trees grew on the banks of the
creek, and there was some good grass on the flats, which were limited by
sandstone hills densely wooded with acacia of the same species as that
seen on the lower part of Sturt's Creek. After an hour's halt at the pool
of water we returned to camp.
The horses having scattered much during the night, it was 8 a.m. before
they were collected and saddled; we then followed our track of yesterday
to the pool in the creek, eight miles south-east, reaching it at 11.45.
The sandstones here showed a decided dip to the west, at angles varying
from 5 degrees to 30 degrees, and the trap-rocks only extended five miles
from the previous camp. In the afternoon five natives were observed
watching the camp, and finding they were observed by us came up to the
party, but could not be induced to speak a single word; they soon after
retired. They had no spears, and were followed by a small dog. Their
teeth were entire, but they were all circumcised. At 8.0 p.m. the blacks
were detected stealing into the camp, and, though we called upon them to
retire, only hid themselves in the grass; but as it was absolutely
necessary for our own safety to dislodge them from their position, I
caused a gun to be fired in the air, hoping that they would retire, but
they commenced to ship their spears, and I therefore ordered a charge of
shot to be fired at them, which had the desired effect of compelling them
to retreat. What their object was in thus approaching the camp at night,
unless for hostile purposes, we had no means of ascertaining; but the
aboriginal Australian considers it an act of positive hostility to
approach a camp in silence at night.
Latitude by a Coronae Borealis 14 degrees 59 minutes 6 seconds.
Starting at 7.30 a.m., steered south-east over an undulating sandstone
country, well grassed, but very stony and thinly wooded; a low range of
rocky hills, nearly parallel to our route, lay to the south-west, and at
11.20 a.m. we camped at a fine running stream in a rocky ravine in this
range; the grass was, however, very dry and inferior near the range.
Latitude by a Coronae Borealis 15 degrees 4 minutes 31 seconds.
The horses had shown an unusual desire to stray during the night, and as
we had reason to apprehend a visit from the blacks, they were kept close
to the camp; at 6.20 a.m. steered south-east, crossing a tableland about
250 feet above the camp, and at 8.0 a.m. descended by a rocky gully, in
which was a fine spring, into a grassy valley, which varied from a few
yards to a mile in breadth, bounded by sandstone hills, the strata of
which were not well defined, but appeared to have a considerable dip to
the west-south-west; in the upper part of the valley the creek was well
supplied with water, but as we advanced into the lower ground the channel
was dry, though increased to twenty yards wide and ten to fifteen feet
deep; at 11.15 a.m. one of the horses, Prince, was observed to be unwell,
and at 1.20 p.m. a second horse, Bob, was noticed to be suffering from
illness, having bled them, we proceeded down the creek in search of water
at which the party could halt, and found a small waterhole at 2.20 p.m.,
but the two sick horses dropped dead about 150 yards before reaching it;
their loads had been previously removed to the saddle-horses; as soon as
the camp had been formed Mr. Elsey and Dr. Mueller examined the dead
horses to ascertain the cause of death, and it appeared from the state of
extreme inflammation of the stomachs that they had eaten some poisonous
plant; but the food was too much comminuted to admit of the plants eaten
Latitude by a Coronae Borealis 15 degrees 12 minutes 46 seconds.
At 7.10 a.m. resumed our journey down the valley of the creek to the east
and east-north-east, passing a fine lagoon with nelumbium and a number of
pelicans; at 8.30 a.m. crossed two large creeks and passed a second
lagoon, 70 yards by 300 yards. The principal creek now turned to the
north, and our course was along the foot of a sandstone range 200 feet
high, till 12.40 p.m., when, altering the course to south-east, we
ascended the range and crossed the level sandy tableland covered with
scrub; descending to the south, found a small dry watercourse in an open
valley, and followed it in search of water to the north-west till 4.0
p.m., when we found a small pool of rainwater, at which we camped.
Latitude by a Trianguli Australis 15 degrees 13 minutes 6 seconds.
The horses had strayed so far in search of green grass that we did not
start till 10.30 a.m., when we steered south-east, crossing a spur of the
tableland which lay to the south-west; then crossing several valleys and
small watercourses trending to the north-east, camped at a shallow
waterhole at 3.20 p.m. The country was of sandstone formation and the
soil very poor, melaleuca scrubs prevailing on the lower ground, and
eucalypti, acacia, and grevillia on the hills; to the south-west the
hills were rocky, with a rounded outline, but to the north-east they were
flat-topped and of less height. The sandstones are often at a
considerable angle, but in no general direction, a thin bed of
ferruginous conglomerate rests on hard gray sandstone, imperfectly
stratified, beneath which shales of various colours exist; on the exposed
surface of the shales observed an efflorescence of sulphate of magnesia.
Latitude by a Coronae Borealis and a Trianguli Australis 15 degrees 18
minutes 48 seconds.
SCARCITY OF GRASS.
Resuming our route at 7.20 a.m., steered south-east and ascended a
sandstone range with horizontal strata and very abrupt on the south-east
side. Entering a wide valley, crossed two small watercourses, the second
of which was running apparently from springs, as several clumps of the
melaleuca grew on the slope of the sandstone hills from which they came.
Crossing a second spur of the tableland, descended to a small creek with
waterholes and narrow grassy flats, the general character of the country
being very poor and scrubby.
Latitude by a Coronae Borealis and a Trianguli Australis 15 degrees 38
minutes 56 seconds.
At 7.40 a.m. left the camp, and steered south-east through a succession
of miserable scrubs of eucalypti, grevillia, acacia, and jacksonia, with
patches of melaleuca. At 1.30 p.m. crossed a ridge of steep sandstone
rocks, and gradually descended till 2.55, when we camped on a small gully
coming from the south, and in which a little water remained, and on the
bank some dry grass of very inferior kind. Since leaving the Roper River
the general character of the country has been worthless; the small size
of the watercourses indicating an arid country to the south-west of our
route. Few traces of blacks have been seen, though vast columns of smoke
rise to the east and south-east; animals or birds are rarely seen. The
rocky nature of the country has caused the horses' shoes to wear out
rapidly, and the day seldom passes without having to replace the shoes of
several of the horses.
Latitude by a Coronae Borealis and a Trianguli Australis 15 degrees 40
minutes 19 seconds.
At 8.0 a.m. steered south-east, soon entering a scrub of acacia,
melaleuca, and grevillia, with a few eucalypti; the soil sandy, with a
few blocks of gray sandstone; some small dry watercourses trended to the
north. At noon crossed a large creek trending to the south-south-east
through a very rocky valley, and the whole country was very barren and
rocky. At 2.35 p.m. recrossed the creek, which here turned to the east
and north-east. After following it down for an hour, found a small patch
of grass, and encamped. The bed of the creek was very rocky and well
supplied with water in shallow pools.
Latitude by a Coronae Borealis and a Trianguli Australis 15 degrees 50
minutes 2 seconds.
27th July (Sunday).
Resumed our route at 7.0 a.m., crossing a very rocky ridge of hills, in
descending which one of the horses wedged his foot into a cleft of the
rock, and falling down, was only released by beating the rock away with
an axe. Fortunately, though much cut and bruised, there was no serious
injury. With some difficulty we extricated ourselves from these rocky
ridges, and, crossing a large creek, entered a level plain covered with
melaleuca scrub. Crossing two sandy creeks fifteen and twenty yards wide
with shallow pools, at noon reached a barren range of white sandstone
hills, rising about 250 feet. Beyond this entered an open grassy plain,
with clumps of melaleuca-trees, indicating the existence of springs of
water, one of which we reached at 1.25 p.m., and encamped. The country
passed is of a worthless description, there being very little grass, and
the soil very poor and stony. The sandstones are of gray colour, and not
regularly stratified; but where it could be ascertained the bedding was
horizontal, and the lamina dipping 20 degrees to 30 degrees to the north,
but often in the opposite direction. These sandstones are at least 200
feet thick, and rest on soft shales of white-brown and green colour.
Latitude by a Trianguli Australis 15 degrees 55 minutes 20 seconds.
The indifferent character of the country having caused the horses to
stray in search of better food, we were delayed till 8.30 a.m., when we
steered south-east over several low ridges of sandstone, wooded with
white and paper-bark gum, with triodia in the hollows. Small dry
watercourses trended to the north-east and north. At 10.20 crossed a
creek ten yards wide, with pools of water, and at 1.5 p.m. a second of
the same size, which trended to the east, was followed till 1.50, when a
small pool of water and a little grass enabled us to camp. The country
continues to be of a bad description, and covered with scrub, though of a
more open nature than before, the soil more gravelly, melaleuca less
frequent, and eucalypti and triodia more abundant. The rock is a coarse
gray sandstone, thick bedded with horizontal strata, the lamina dipping
30 degrees to north-east generally; but varying much, the peculiar
marking on the surface of the rock resembling the rippling of water, is
frequent, forming grooves two to four inches wide and half an inch deep.
Latitude by a Trianguli Australis 15 degrees 59 minutes 45 seconds.
A dense fog was the unusual cause of delay in collecting our horses, as
they could not be seen more than a few yards distant. At 8.45 a.m.
steered south-east through scrubs of melaleuca, acacia, grevillia, and
eucalypti; at 11.0 the country became more open, and entering a grassy
plain extending five to eight miles to the east, where it was bounded by
a low range of hills; to the south-west a level forest of white-gum ran
parallel to our route. The soil was a brown clay-loam with pebbles of
sandstone; a few box and bauhinia trees grew on the plain; the grass had
been burnt off and sprung up again very green. At 1.20 p.m. came on a
large dry creek trending north-east; it had several channels twenty yards
wide with loose sandy beds, and was bordered by casuarina, melaleuca, and
flooded-gum trees; following down the creek, at 1.15 camped at a shallow
pool in one of the side channels. About three miles before we reached the
camp Dr. Mueller had fallen some distance behind the party; but as this
was a frequent occurrence in collecting botanical specimens, it was not
observed till we reached the creek, when he was out of sight; after
unsaddling the pack-horses I was preparing to send in search of him, when
he came up to the camp, the cause of delay having been that his horse had
knocked up. This was unfortunate, as the load of one of the pack-horses
had to be distributed among the others, in order to remount the doctor,
who requires stronger horses than any other person in the party, having
knocked up four since January, while not one of the other riding-horses
had failed, though carrying heavier weights.
Latitude by a Trianguli Australis 16 degrees 7 minutes 50 seconds.
There being abundance of good grass at this camp, we remained this day to
shoe some of the horses and repair harness, etc., and rest the horses;
nor was I sorry to get a day of comparative rest, as I had been in the
saddle every day since leaving the Victoria on the 21st June. Eleven of
the horses were re-shod.
A SPRING OF GOOD WATER.
Leaving the camp at 7.40 a.m., pursued a south-east course, soon leaving
the grassy flats of the creek and entering a melaleuca scrub; at 8.20
ascended the tableland by a gentle slope; the country was now sandy with
much bush of acacia, grevillia, and bossiaca, with triodia in the more
open part of the forest, which consisted of paper-bark gums. The
prevailing rock was ironstone conglomerate, and hard white sandstone
sometimes appeared; after 10.0 the country declined to the south, and we
passed through a belt of cypress scrub; at 1.15 p.m. altered the course
to east-south-east; crossed a rough sandstone ridge and came on a deep
valley with sandstone cliffs on each side; with some difficulty descended
the rocks and reached a small watercourse which was quite dry; but
observing some very green trees about a mile to the north-west at the
foot of the rocks, turned towards them and found a fine spring of water
flowing from the face of the cliff; selecting a suitable spot, encamped
at 2.30. Near this spring were several huts constructed in the rudest
manner by heaping branches together. From the summit of the hill the view
extended thirty miles to the north-east, but no marked features were
visible, the country only undulating slightly. The country too became
more open and travelling easier, but no other improvement has been
Latitude by a Trianguli Australis 16 degrees 17 minutes 5 seconds.
At 7.30 a.m. left the camp and followed the valley to the south till
9.15, when a break in the sandstone cliffs which bounded the valley
enabled us to ascend the hills and pursue our course to the south-east,
crossing several ridges of sandstone, the strata dipping to the west, and
becoming more shaly as we proceeded. Descending into a valley with a dry
creek fifteen yards wide, the rocks on the south-east slope cherty
limestone alternating with thin beds of shale, the strata dipping 20
degrees to 30 degrees west. The summit had a thin horizontal bed of
ironstone conglomerate through which masses of white sandstone protruded.
This limestone country was well grassed, and thinly timbered with
eucalypti of small growth; at 1.20 p.m. altered the course to north-east
and followed down a gully in search of water; but though it gradually
enlarged to a considerable creek and we continued our search till 7.0, we
were compelled to encamp without water. I then walked down the creek two
miles, but only found one moist spot in which, by digging, a few pints of
water were obtained.
At 6.5 a.m. resumed our search for water, and following the creek
north-east for two hours reached a small muddy pool of rainwater, at
which we encamped. The country near the creek was very level, and
thinly-wooded low hills were visible in the distance to the south-east
Latitude by a Trianguli Australis 16 degrees 16 minutes 25 seconds.
The water at this pool near our camp being nearly consumed, and nothing
but thick mud remaining, we proceeded down the creek in search of a
better supply; but it was not until we had followed its dry sandy bed for
three hours that we attained our object, and encamped at a small pool in
one of the back channels, the principal bed of the creek being perfectly
dry. The country near the creek continues very level, and well grassed,
but distant rocky hills are visible in almost every direction. In
approaching the Gulf of Carpentaria heavy dews and fogs have become more
frequent in the mornings, when it is usually calm. About 10.0 a.m. a
breeze usually sets in from the eastward, varying from north to
south-east; at sunset it falls calm, but commences again at 8.0 p.m. and
blows moderately from the eastward for one or two hours; very thin misty
clouds are frequent, and render the heat oppressive when they prevail.
According to my reckoning, we are now only fifty miles from the
sea-coast, and therefore much nearer Dr. Leichhardt's track than I could
wish to traverse the country; but, however desirable a more inland route
might be, it is evident, from the small size of the watercourses hitherto
crossed, that we have been skirting a tableland which is doubtless a
continuation of the desert into which we followed Sturt's Creek, and the
small altitude of the country in which the watercourses trending towards
the Gulf take their rise precludes the existence of any considerable
drainage towards the interior.
Latitude by a Trianguli Australis 16 degrees 14 minutes 45 seconds.
THE MCARTHUR RIVER.
The general course of the creek being northerly, and our distance from
the McArthur about 20 miles on the chart, steered south-east from 6.35
a.m., crossing many rocky sandstone ridges and hills, the strata of which
dipped 20 degrees to 40 degrees to the west. At noon from one of the
higher ridges saw the valley of the McArthur River to the south-east;
continuing our course, descended a small dry watercourse till 4.0 p.m.,
when we reached a large creek with a belt of casuarina, melaleuca and
eucalypti along its banks. The channel was dry and sandy, about twenty
yards wide, but showed the marks of high floods. Following the creek down
for three-quarters of an hour found a small pool just sufficient for the
supply of the party. Just below our camp a creek fifteen yards wide
joined the principal one from the south, and, from the general lay of the
country, it was evident that we were now on the McArthur River of
Leichhardt; but though from the steepness of the banks the floods
frequently rise thirty to forty feet, the creek did not bear the
character of one which would take its rise at any great distance inland
of our track. The country passed over was very thinly wooded with
eucalypti of small growth, seldom more than one and a half feet in
diameter and fifty feet high; a few leguminous ironbark, and sterculia
were scattered on the hills, with much triodia and little grass. After
crossing the highest ridge at 11.0 a.m. the sandstone strata were
variously inclined, but generally to the west or north-east at high
angles, except on the immediate bank of the McArthur, where the
sandstones were horizontal. To the south-west of our route the country
rose into stony hills of very barren aspect, but to the north the country
appeared to be wooded.
Latitude by Vega 16 degrees 25 minutes 11 seconds.
The country to the south-east being very rocky and broken, we followed
down the river, leaving the camp at 7.20 a.m., the general course
north-east; the sandstone hills rose abruptly from the bank of the river,
the sandstone rock being frequently worn away in a partial manner, so as
to leave isolated columns sometimes three feet in diameter and thirty
feet high; a few miles below the camp a few pools of water were seen, but
there was no grass near them, and we continued our route for four hours,
and camped at a shallow pool with a small patch of grass on the bank of
the river; the principal channel of the river was only twenty-three yards
wide, but in times of flood the side channels carry off the greater
portion of the water, which rises nearly forty feet; considerable
quantities of mussel-shells lay at the old camps of the blacks along the
bank of the river.
Latitude by meridian altitude of the sun 16 degrees 18 minutes 41
seconds; longitude by lunar distances 136 degrees 21 minutes.
At 7.25 a.m. resumed our journey on a south-east course, over a miserable
sandy country, with stunted eucalypti, grevillia, and triodia; at 11.0
reached a range of broken sandstone hills, which, with great difficulty
and risk to the horses, we crossed in an east-south-east direction; but
though the direct distance was only three miles, the deep ravines and
rocks delayed us for three hours, and we were glad to emerge into an open
valley, in which we camped at 2.30 p.m.; in the deep ravines of the
sandstone hills water was abundant, but inaccessible for our horses, from
the steep and rocky character of the country; a few small white-gum trees
and triodia formed almost the entire vegetation; the rock is gray
sandstone in horizontal beds with cleavage lamina, which varied so much
in angle and direction that no general direction could be assigned, the
cleavage of the upper beds often being the reverse of those immediately
below them; the beds were from one to four feet thick, and the lamina
half an inch to two inches, the grain very even and moderately fine.
Latitude by Vega 16 degrees 24 minutes 20 seconds.
Resumed our journey at 7.10 a.m. on an average east-south-east course,
along the foot of a rocky range of sandstone hills; at 8.30 came on a
deep rocky creek, with long pools of water trending to the north; as our
horses required rest, and the country ahead appeared very barren and
rocky, we encamped.
Steering a south-east course from 6.50 a.m., crossed a sandy tableland,
with paper-bark and melaleuca with broad leaves; passed a small creek
with pools trending north-east, and at 10.0 a low rocky ridge; then
descended into a wide valley, with melaleuca and a few box-trees. At 1.25
camped on a large sandy creek with two channels ten yards wide, with low
sandy banks; one channel was dry, but the other had a few small pools in
it; a line of melaleuca and flooded-gum trees marked its course along the
valley. When in flood the waters of the creek are 100 yards wide and ten
to fifteen feet deep. The grass was inferior, but from having been burnt
had grown up fresh and green.
Latitude by a Trianguli Australis 16 degrees 34 minutes 44 seconds.
IRON TOOLS USED BY NATIVES.
Starting at 6.40 a.m., traversed an undulating sandstone country on a
south-east course till 1.15 p.m., when we came on a large dry sandy
creek, which we followed to the north-north-east till 1.50, when we found
a shallow pool, at which we encamped. This creek had a sandy channel ten
yards wide, with low banks, subject to flood to the breadth of fifty to
eighty yards. Pandanus, melaleuca, and flooded-gum grow on its banks. The
country generally is poor and stony, with paper-bark, gum, bloodwood, and
narrow-leafed melaleuca. Shortly after reaching the creek the horse
Monkey knocked up, though only carrying a pack-saddle since the 30th
July; I therefore left the saddle, having removed all such portion of the
fittings which might hereafter be useful. A few yards from our camp we
found some spears and water vessels, which had been hidden under some
sheets of bark by the blacks, who evidently were out hunting, as we heard
them calling to each other in the afternoon, though they were not seen.
These water vessels were formed by hollowing out a block of wood in the
shape of a canoe, and had a capacity of three gallons, and it was evident
that they possess tools of iron as also of stone.
Latitude by a Trianguli Australis 16 degrees 42 minutes 50 seconds;
longitude by lunar distances 136 degrees 28 minutes.
As there was a sufficient supply of grass and water, remained at the camp
to rest the party. The morning was cloudy, but cleared up about 9 a.m.,
and I observed a set of lunar distances. Dean brought in some jasper from
a hill one mile north-west of the camp. He also reported that the creek
appeared to trend to the north for eight or ten miles.
We continued a south-east route at 7.40 a.m., ascending hills of
limestone and sandstone, with an upper bed of basalt, which on the higher
land to the south-west was again covered by sandstone. The trap or basalt
was much decomposed, and contained fragments of lower rocks. At 1.40 p.m.
camped on a fine but small creek, with permanent pools of water in a
rocky channel from five to thirty yards wide. The country was well
grassed and openly wooded with box, sterculia, leguminous ironbark, and
Latitude by a Trianguli Australis 16 degrees 51 minutes 55 seconds.
At 6.50 a.m. resumed a south-east course, traversing a broken country
with limestone, chert, sandstone, and trap hills, deeply cut by dry
watercourses. The grass was abundant and good, though triodia appeared on
the higher ridges; at 7.0 crossed a small river, with fine permanent
pools of water in a rocky bed ten to thirty yards wide. The floods rise