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The History of Australian Exploration from 1788 to 1888 by Ernest Favenc

Part 2 out of 10

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of depôts of provisions, to further his return.

"Cayley is just gone on an excursion, and you will see by his letters he
is undertaking a still longer one. As he keeps all his knowledge to
himself, I am hopeful you are benefited by it, and I hope much good will
result from his journeys, which he is now determined on persevering in. I
informed you of the refusal he gave me and Mr. Brown to his going in the

George Cayley was a botanist sent out by Sir Joseph Banks to collect for
Kew Gardens. He was industrious and painstaking in his vocation, but
sadly overburdened with vanity. He made one important journey to the Blue
Mountains, with the usual result. He erected a cairn of stones at the
furthest point he reached, which Governor Macquarie afterwards christened
"Cayley's Repulse."

To return to Barraillier. Governor King, in the same, letter, further

"I have informed you in my several letters of the great use Ensign
Barraillier, of the New South Wales Corps, was to me and the public.
First, in going to the southward, and surveying the coast from Wilson's
Promontory to Western Port, next, in surveying. Hunter's River, where he
went twice, and since then in making useful observations about the
settlement, and in making a partial journey to the mountains, which was
introductory to his undertaking the journey he afterwards performed, but
which I was obliged to effect by a ruse, as Col. Paterson had very
ill-naturedly informed me that officers being at all detached from their
regimental duty was contrary to some instructions he had from the Duke of
York. In consequence I was obliged to give up his services after this
unhandsome claim, but claimed him as my AIDE-DE-CAMP, and that the object
of discovery should not be relinquished, I sent him on an embassy to the
King of the Mountains."

This idea of an embassy to the King of the Mountains is about as unique
an incident in the history of exploration as can be imagined. Whether
Barraillier reached this fancied potentate or not we are left in
ignorance. Governor King says:--

"He was gone six weeks, and penetrated one hundred and thirty-seven miles
among the mountains beyond the Nepean. His journal being wrote in such an
unintelligible hand, I have not been able to get it translated or copied,
but have sent it open under your address to Lord Hobart. . . . I have not
had time to decipher and read it, but am satisfied from what M.
Barraillier has done and seen, that passing these barriers, if at all
practicable, is of no great moment to attempt any further at present, as
it is now well ascertained that the cattle have not, nor cannot, make any
progress to the westward, unless they find a passage to the northward or
southward of those extensive and stupendous barriers. I intend sending M.
Barraillier to Port Jarvis very soon, to penetrate into the interior from
thence, if Col. Paterson is not advised to prevent it."

From this it will plainly be seen how completely the colonists had given
themselves up to the dominion of the overshadowing range that stayed
their western progress. It required the stern hand of necessity to compel
them to at last force that "stupendous barrier," as King terms it.

Meanwhile, the presence of the French ships under Baudin, had created
uneasiness in Governor King's mind, rumour and gossip had magnified their
intentions into a sinister claim being about to be established upon Van
Dieman's Land or the south coast of New Holland. In 1802, King had sent
home to Sir Joseph Banks his idea of the importance of King's Island, and
the adjacent harbour of Port Phillip.

"Port Phillip is also a great acquisition, and as I have urged the fixing
of a settlement in the latter place, I am anxious to begin it, but
unfortunately I have no person I can send there equal to the charge.
Policy certainly requires our having a settlement in these Straits."

No lack of zeal for the future supremacy of the British flag in these
seas can be charged upon the founders of the colony, in fact, Governor
King sent a small schooner under command of a midshipman after M. Baudin,
with secret orders to watch their movements, and, if necessary, hoist the
King's colours and land a corporal's guard at any place where the French
appeared likely to make a demonstration.

Port Phillip was discovered by Lieutenant Murray, of the Lady Nelson, in
1802. Surveyor-General Grimes went there with him, and during the survey
he made, is reported to have camped on the spot where Melbourne now
stands. The port was discovered three times independently in the same
year. First by Murray, next by Baudin, and again by Flinders. Colonel
Collins, formerly of Norfolk Island, was dispatched in the year that
Governor King wrote his letter (1803) to found a township. He at once
declared the country unfit for settlement, with scarcely any examination;
and it was immediately abandoned in favour of Van Dieman's Land.

The results of efforts at inland discovery were now but slight. Flinders
on the south coast had sailed up Spencer's Gulf, and from Mount Brown at
the head a fine view was obtained, but nothing more.

"Neither rivers nor lakes could be perceived, nor anything of the sea to
the south-eastward. In almost every direction the eye traversed over an
uninterruptedly flat, woody country; the sole exceptions being the ridge
of mountains extending north and south, and the water of the gulph to the

Compared with the great size of the island continent, it will be seen
that but an insignificant portion had, by the end of the eighteenth
century come under the sway of colonisation. The rivers Hawkesbury,
Nepean, and Grose, with other minor tributaries in the neighbourhood of
Sydney. To the north, the river Hunter, and to the south, the district
now known as the Illawarra. This was the sum total of the known country
inside the coastal line; and with all the wish to extend their knowledge
of their wide domain, the administrative demands of the little colony
pressed too heavily on the authorities to permit them to devote much time
to extended exploration.


The great drought of 1813--The development of country by stocking--
Blaxland, Lawson, and Wentworth cross the Blue Mountains--Reach
the head of coast waters and return--Surveyor Evans sent out--Crosses the
watershed and finds the Macquarie River--Construction of road over the
range--Settlement of Bathurst--Visit of Governor Macquarie--Second
expedition under Evans--Discovery of the Lachlan River--Surveyor-General
Oxley explores the Lachlan--Finds the river terminates in swamps--Returns
by the Macquarie--His opinion of the interior--Second expedition down the
Macquarie--Disappointment again--Evans finds the Castlereagh--Liverpool
Plains discovered--Oxley descends the range and finds Port Macquarie--
Returns to Newcastle-Currie and Ovens cross the Morumbidgee--Brisbane
Downs and Monaroo--Hume and Hovell cross to Port Phillip--Success of
the expedition.

The first ten years of the present century were singularly devoid of
excursions inland. The strip of country between the range and the sea,
sufficing for the immediate wants of the settlers, and the discovery of
the Hunter River having opened so much new country for their use, no
actual necessity compelled them at this period to go further a-field.
This lack of urgent need, combined with the bad success that had attended
all efforts to penetrate the mountains, had somewhat damped the ardour of
the colonists.

But throughout these years the stock steadily increased, and the severe
drought in 1813 led some of the settlers to make another attempt to find
out new pasture lands.

The victory that at last crowned the struggle may be said to have at once
inaugurated a new phase of exploration The days of expeditions on foot,
when each man carried his own supply of provisions, and the limit of
their journey only extended a little over a hundred miles, were past.
Horses were now destined to play an important part in the outfit of the
explorer, and take their share of sacrificing their lives in the cause.

The results gained by these first journeys were far from promising;
always hoping to find a navigable river, or rivers, through the interior,
the colonists found themselves most unexpectedly baffled. Having
discovered the head waters of large streams flowing on a western course,
with a sufficient depth of water for boat navigation, it appeared
conclusive that to follow them down would in course of time lead the
party doing so to the sea; the only probable obstacle which would come in
the way would be falls. But the rivers led them into shallow stagnant
swamps, with no limit within ken; the outskirts, so they deemed, of an
inland sea.

Across here Oxley wrote, DESERT; unfitted ever to sustain settlement, and
in doing this he did not err more glaringly than many later pioneers. It
must be borne in mind that the characteristics of the inland plain were
all new to the travellers who first ventured to enter its confines. They
had not won the key of the desert; the fashion in which nature adapted
herself to climatic decrees was a lesson still to be learnt. Oxley spoke
honestly when, in bitter disappointment, he prophesied the future of the
great plain to be that of an unprofitable waste, wherein the work of
men's hands and the cunning of their brains would avail nothing; but he
spoke hastily and almost thoughtlessly. The great plain had its glorious
mission to fulfil, but the secret, like all things worth knowing, was one
that took time and labour to solve; not in one or two generations was it
to be done.

There was one great factor in the reclamation of the desert that Oxley
could not take into his calculations--for he did not know its power--the
sure, if gradual change wrought by stocking. Under the ceaseless tread of
myriad hoofs, the loose, open soil was to become firm and hard, whilst
fresh growths of herb and grass followed the footsteps of the invading
herds. The shaking bogs and morasses were to become solidified, and the
waters that permeated them to retreat into well defined chains of ponds
and lagoons. This the first explorer could not foresee, he was
disheartened by what he found, and unwitting of the change that was to
follow he gave a hostile verdict. But although it did not fall to his lot
to trace out the great system of the Murray watershed, he had, at any
rate, the proud satisfaction of achieving the first stage.

Governor Macquarie, whose name has been sown broadcast over so much of
New South Wales, was a man bent on the development of the colony as
rapidly as possible, and although the defects in his administration have
been severely criticised, exploration received at his hands every
encouragement, and during his tenure of office, the first steps were
taken to open up the vast field of inland discovery. We must now remember
that the adaptability of the country to pastoral occupation was fully
recognised. The days when famine was imminent if the fleet from England
did not duly arrive had passed away. The future of the colony was
assured, provided fresh outlets could be opened up.

In 1813, the prolonged drought to which the little settlement had been
subjected, led to a most serious view being taken of the future. The
stock had now attained dimensions, when the yearly increase was something
considerable, compared to the narrow strip of grazing lands that
supported the herds. It was an evident necessity to find fresh territory
speedily, or great loss would inevitably ensue. Three of the settlers
interested in stock-breeding, made another attempt to cross the range
during this year. They were: William Charles Wentworth, whose name is so
familiar to Australians, Lieutenant Lawson, of the Royal Veteran Company,
and Mr. Gregory Blaxland. They crossed the Nepean at Emu Plains, and
attempted to follow up a main spur forming the watershed of the Grose,
and for a time successfully pursued its twists and windings, keeping to
the crown of the ridge. At last, like all their predecessors, they began
to get entangled in the intricate net-work of deep gullies that rendered
straightforward travelling so difficult in this region. Like them, they
commenced to think advance impossible, and to speak of turning back.
Passages had to be cut through the thick brushwood for their pack horses,
circuitous roads found around steeps too precipitous to scale, and the
purpose of the journey seemed hopelessly lost. They had succeeded in
crossing the first outwork of the mountains, but the Main Range had yet
to be won. At length they fortunately hit upon a dividing spur, leading
to the westward, and this they perseveringly followed, until they were
rewarded by reaching the summit, and seeing below them a comparatively
open valley, and beyond, chains of hills, broken it is true, but only
trifling compared to what they had passed over. It was a work of time and
much labour to gain access to this valley. The mountain they had ascended
was steep and rugged, and great care had to be exercised in descending.
But fatigue was not much thought of with their hopes so happily

At the bottom of the valley they found a running stream and good pasture,
beyond this point they proceeded about six or eight miles in order to
ascertain the extent of their discoveries, and then returned, having been
absent one month.

The creek found by Blaxland and party was one of the tributaries of the
Nepean, so that granted that a range had been crossed, access had been
only obtained to the higher waters of a coast river. But although this
important journey fell short of one of the great aims of western
exploration, namely the discovery of a river flowing to the west, it was
the immediate cause of the expedition being undertaken that led to the
finding of the Macquarie.

George William Evans, Deputy-Surveyor of Lands, can certainly claim the
honour of first discovering an Australian inland river; but Blaxland and
his companions led the way across the hardest portion of the course.

As may well be believed, the tidings brought back by the exploring party
created great excitement in the small community. No longer would the
mountainous barrier frown defiance at them; for over thirty years it had
successfully resisted all their attempts, but its time had come; the
march to the west had at last commenced. On receipt of the news, Governor
Macquarie sent out Mr. Evans with a party to at once follow up this
discovery and find out what lay beyond. Evans crossed the Nepean on the
20th of November, and in six days arrived at the spot where the last
party had turned back. Striking westward, he found a broken, hilly
country, which was, however, well grassed and watered, presenting little
hindrance to his progress, and on the 30th of the month, he struck the
head of a stream holding a distinctly western course. Following this
down, he found it joined by another from the south, and below the
junction he gave the new found river the name of the Macquarie.

So promising was the country that he continued his course until the 18th
December, when finding the river, now of a fair magnitude, still flowing
steadily north-west, and not being prepared for a very prolonged absence,
he turned back and retraced his steps, arriving at the Nepean on the 8th
January, 1814. Strange to say, during the whole time of his absence in
this hitherto untrodden waste, the only natives seen by the party were
four women and two children.

This most successful termination of the work commenced by Messrs.
Blaxland, Lawson, and Wentworth, and the confirmation of the hopes that
had been entertained, led to more active steps being at once initiated.

Mr. Cox was entrusted with the superintendence of the work of
constructing a public road across the range, following much the same
route as that taken by the first explorers; and this work was completed
early in the year 1815, and on the 26th April of the same year the
Governor and a large staff set out to visit the new territory, and
arrived there on the 4th May.

Meantime, Mr. Evans was again sent out to the south-west, and once more
he was successful, returning with tidings of the discovery of the Lachlan
River. He was absent nearly a month, and met the Governor and suite on
their arrival at Bathurst Plains.

The course of the Lachlan being nearly due west, it was selected as
the most likely river of the two to lead immediately to the navigable
waters of the interior, which everybody now firmly believed in; but a
delay of nearly two years occurred before an expedition was formed to
carry into effect the purpose of following it down with boats.

Meantime, the settlers took every advantage of this new outlet for their
energies. Cattle and sheep were pushed out, and some of the land put
under tillage. Buildings rapidly sprang up, and, favoured by a beautiful
site, the township of Bathurst soon presented an orderly appearance.
Private enterprise had also been at work elsewhere, and the early pioneer
graziers were now making south from the settlement towards the Shoalhaven
River and the intermediate country. It was down here that young Hamilton
Hume, the first native-born explorer to take the field, was then gaining
his bushcraft. Hume was a son of the Rev. Andrew Hume, who held an
appointment in the Commissariat Department, and came to the colony in the

The future explorer was born at Parramatta in 1797, so that he was but
seventeen when, in 1814, he made his maiden effort in the country around
Berrima, in company with his brother and a black boy; and-in the year
following he again made an excursion in this district. In 1816 his father
conducted Dr. Throsby to new country that the energy of his sons had
discovered; and in March, 1817, at the time when Oxley was about starting
on his Lachlan expedition, Hume, at the request of Governor Macquarie,
went with Mr. Surveyor Meehan and Mr. Throsby on an expedition as far as
the Shoalhaven River. Here, in consequence of some dispute with Mr.
Meehan, Mr. Throsby left the party, and, accompanied by a black boy, made
his way to Port Jarvis.

Meehan and Hume continued their journey, and discovered Lake George, Lake
Bathurst, and the country called Goulburn Plains.

But the trip undertaken by Mr. Oxley at this time, leading as it did to
such unexpected results, claims our first attention. As the party were to
take boats with them, boat builders were sent up to Bathurst, thence to
proceed to the river and build the necessary craft. A depôt having been
formed on the Lachlan River, on the 6th of April, 1817, Mr. Oxley left
Sydney to join his party there, and arrived at this depôt on the 25th of
the same month, having been detained a short time at Bathurst. On the 1st
of May, Mr. Oxley reached the limit of Mr. Evans' journey in 1815, a
small creek which they christened Byrne Creek; from here the work of
exploration commenced.

The following is a list of the men comprising, this, the first most
important expedition in the annals of exploration:--

"John Oxley, chief of the expedition; George William Evans, second in
command; Allan Cunningham, King's botanist; Charles Fraser, colonial
botanist; William Parr, mineralogist; George Hubbard, boat builder; James
King, 1st boatman and sailor; James King, 2nd horseshoer; William Meggs,
butcher; Patrick Byrne, guide and horse leader; William Blake, harness
mender; George Simpson, for chaining with surveyors; William Warner,
servant to Mr. Oxley."

They had with them two boats and fourteen bât (pack) and riding horses.

Following the bank of the river the party met with no obstruction to
their progress for twelve days, save the usual accidents and delays
incidental to travelling in an unexplored region. Oxley's opinion of the
value of the new district had, as is evident from his journal, been
steadily decreasing since leaving the depôt. The flatness of the country,
the numerous branches of the river and the want of height visible in
its banks, seemingly depressed him very much. On the 6th of May he

"I have reason to believe that the whole of the extensive tract of
country, named Princess Charlotte's Crescent" (about 130 miles west of
Bathurst), "is at times drowned by the overflowing of the river; the
marks of floods were observed in all directions, and the waters in the
marshes and lagoons were all traced as being derived from the river.
During a course of upwards of seventy miles, not a single running stream
emptied itself into the river on either side; and, I am forced to
conclude, that in common seasons this whole tract is extremely badly
watered, and that it derives its principal, if not only supply, from the
river within the bounding ranges of Princess Charlotte's Crescent. There
are doubtless many small eminences which might afford a retreat from the
inundations, but those which were observed by us were too trifling and
distant from each other to stand out distinct from the vast level surface
which the crescent presents to the view. The soil of the country we passed
over was a poor and cold clay; but there are many rich levels which, could
they be drained and defended from the inundations of the river, would
amply repay the cultivation. These flats are certainly not adapted for
cattle; the grass is too swampy, and the bushes, swamps, and lagoons are
too thickly intermingled with the better portions, to render it a safe or
desirable grazing country. The timber is universally bad and small; a few
misshapen gum trees on the immediate banks of the river may be considered
as exceptions."

On the 12th of May, their, as yet, uninterrupted course down the river
received an abrupt check.

"We had scarcely proceeded a mile from the last branch before it became
evident that it would be impossible to advance farther in the direction
in which we were travelling. The stream here overflowed both banks, and
its course was lost among marshes, its channel not being distinguishable
from the surrounding waters.

"Observing an eminence about half a mile from the south side, we crossed
over the horses and baggage" (by aid of the boats) "at a place where the
water was level with the banks, and which, when within its usual channel,
did not exceed thirty or forty feet in width; its depth even now being
only twelve feet.

"We ascended the hill, and had the mortification to perceive the
termination of our research, at least down this branch of the river. The
whole country from the west, north-west, round to the north, was either a
complete marsh or lay under water, and this for a distance of twenty-five
or thirty miles in those directions. To the south and south-west the
country appeared more elevated, but low, marshy grounds lay between us
and it, which rendered it impossible for us to proceed thither from our
present situation. I therefore determined to return back to the place
where the two branches of the principal river separated, and follow the
south-west branch as far as it should be navigable. Our fears were,
however, stronger than our hopes, lest it would end in a similar manner
to, the one we had already traced, until it became no longer navigable
for boats.

"In pursuance of this intention we descended the hill, which was named
Farewell Hill, from its being the termination of our journey in a
north-west direction, at least for the present, and proceeded up the
south bank of the stream."

The investigation of the south-west branch proving equally
unsatisfactory, Oxley determined to leave the river and strike for the
coast in the neighbourhood of Cape Northumberland, anticipating that on
this course he would intersect any river rising in these marshes and
falling into the sea between Spencer's Gulf and Cape Otway. The boats
were hauled up on the south bank and secured, together with such articles
as they could not take with them; and at nine o'clock on May 18th, the
journey to the coast commenced.

From having too much water the party now found themselves straitened for
want of it, and the journey, too, began to tell upon the horses. Thick
scrubs of eucalyptus brush, overrun with creepers and prickly acacia
bushes, soon helped to bar the way, and when they at last reached the
point of a range, which they named Peel Range, Oxley reluctantly
abandoned his idea of making for the coast in a south-west direction, and
turned north. Wearily he writes:--

"June 4. Weather as usual fine and clear, which is the greatest comfort
we enjoy in these deserts abandoned by every living creature capable of
getting out of them. I was obliged to send the horses back to our former
halting place for water, a distance of near eight miles this is terrible
for the horses, who are in general extremely reduced but two in
particular cannot, I think, endure this miserable existence much longer.

"At five o'clock, two men whom I had sent to explore the country to the
south-west and see if any water could be found, returned after proceeding
six or seven miles; they found it impossible to go any farther in that
direction or even south, from the thick bushes that intersected their
course on every side; and no water (nor, in fact, the least sign of any)
was discovered either by them or by those who were sent in search of it
nearer our little camp."

* * * * *

"June 5. From everything I can see of the country to the south-west, it
appears, upon the most mature deliberation, highly imprudent to persevere
longer in that direction, as the consequences to the horses of want of
grass and water might be most serious; and we are well assured that
within forty miles on that point the country is the same as before passed
over. In adopting a north-westerly course, it is my intention to be
entirely guided by the possibility of procuring subsistence for the
horses, that being the main point on which all our ulterior proceedings
must hinge. It is, however, to be expected that as the country is
certainly lower to the west and north-west than from south-east to
south-west, there is a greater probability of finding water in this
latter direction. In our present perplexing situation, however, it is
impossible to lay down any fixed plan, as (be it what it may)
circumstances after all must guide us. Our horses are unable to go more
than eight or ten miles a day, but even then they must be assured of
finding food, of which, in these deserts, the chances are against the

"Yesterday being the King's birthday, Mr. Cunningham planted under Mount
Brogden acorns, peach and apricot stones, and quince seeds, with the
hope, rather than the expectation, that they would grow and serve to
commemorate the day and situation, should these desolate plains be ever
again visited by civilised man, of which, however, I think there is very
little probability.

"June 6. A mild pleasant morning: set forward on our journey to the
westward and north-west, in hopes of finding a better country."

* * * * *

"June 8th. The whole country in these directions, as far as the eye could
reach, was one continued thicket of eucalyptus scrub. It was physically
impossible to proceed that way, and our situation was too critical to
admit of delay; it was therefore resolved to return back to our last
station on the 6th, under Peel's Range, if for no other purpose than that
of giving the horses water. I felt that by attempting to proceed westerly
I should endanger the safety of every man composing the expedition,
without any practical good arising from such perseverance, It was
therefore deemed more prudent to keep along the base of Peel's Range to
its termination, having some chance of finding water in its rocky
ravines, whilst there was none at all in attempting to keep the level

We have now seen how Oxley, prevented from following the river down by an
overflow amongst the marshes, turned south-west, only to be driven back
by impenetrable scrubs and general aridity. He struck north, with the
hope of shortly regaining the too well watered country he had left. The
fixed idea of the utterly useless nature of the country is ever present
in his mind as he proceeds. On the 21st June he writes:--

"The farther we proceed north-westerly the more convinced I am hat for
all the practical purposes of civilised man the interior of this country,
westward of a certain meridian, is uninhabitable, deprived as it 5 of
wood, water and grass."

A sweeping and hasty condemnation this, considering that he threshold of
the interior had been scarcely more than crossed.

On the 23rd of June the travellers suddenly and unexpectedly came upon
the river again, an incident, as the leader says, little expected by any

The next day they started once more to follow down the stream, with
brighter hopes of better success, until, on the 7th of July, progress was
once more arrested, and Oxley turned back recording in his journal:--

"It is with infinite regret and pain that I was forced to come to the
conclusion that the interior of this vast country is a marsh, and

The party now retraced their steps to the eastward, disgusted with the
want of success that had attended their efforts, and the dreary monotony
of their surroundings.

"There is a uniformity in the barren desolateness of this country which
wearies one more than I am able to express. One tree, one soil, one
water, and one description of bird, fish, or animal prevails alike for
ten miles and for one hundred. A variety of wretchedness is at all times
preferable to one unvarying cause of pain or distress."

On the 4th of August, being then satisfied of their position on the
river, and knowing that a further course along its bank would only lead
them amongst the swamps that had stayed their downward journey, it was
determined to strike to the northeastward, in order to avoid this low
country and, if possible, reach the Macquarie River and follow it up to
the settlement of Bathurst. After experiencing some difficulty in
manufacturing a raft out of pine logs, whereby to cross their baggage
over, Oxley and his party left the Lachlan.

They endured for some time a repetition of their struggles in the south
for grass and water, and then the explorers reached fertile and
well-watered country; and, on the 19th of August, halted on the bank of
the Macquarie, which river Oxley found to equal his fondest hopes. They
now turned their steps homeward, and arrived at Bathurst on the evening
of the 29th of August.

Convinced that, in the Macquarie, he had now discovered the highway into
the interior, Oxley writes:--

"Nothing can afford a stronger contrast than the two rivers, Lachlan and
Macquarie; different in their habit, their appearance, and the sources
from which they derive their waters, but, above all, differing in the
country bordering on them; the one constantly receiving great accession
of water from four streams, and as liberally rendering fertile a great
extent of country, whilst the other, from its source to its termination,
is constantly diffusing and diminishing the waters it originally receives
over low and barren deserts, creating only wet flats and uninhabitable
morasses, and during its protracted and sinuous course, is never indebted
to a single tributary stream."

Oxley having successfully carried through the Lachlan expedition, was at
once selected to command a similar one down the Macquarie, on which, now
that the former river had so disappointed expectations, men's hopes were
fixed. Oxley seems to have been particularly unhappy in his deductions,
every guess hazarded by him as to the future utility of the country he
passed over, or the probable nature of the farther interior, was
incorrect; and now the Macquarie was to refuse to bear his boat's keel to
the westward; after the same manner as the Lachlan.

In those days men had not yet mastered the idea that the physical
formation of Australia was not to be worked out on the same lines as that
of other countries; they looked vainly for a river with a wide and noble
opening, and none being found on the surveyed coast, conjecture placed it
far away in a few leagues of unexplored shore line on the north-west. The
constancy with which the southern coast had been examined, precluded all
idea from men's minds that the entrance to this long sought river was
there. No, it must be yet undiscovered to the westward. Wentworth says:--

"If the sanguine hopes to which the discovery of this river (the
Macquarie) has given birth, should be realised, and it should be found to
empty itself into the ocean on the north-west coast, which is the only
part of this vast island that has not been accurately surveyed, in what
mighty conceptions of the future greatness and power of this colony, may
we not reasonably indulge? The nearest distance from the point at which
Mr. Oxley left off, to any part of the western coast, is very little
short of two thousand miles. If this river, therefore, be already of the
size of the Hawkesbury at Windsor, which is not less than two hundred and
fifty yards in breadth, and of sufficient depth to float a seventy-four
gun ship, it is not difficult to imagine what must be its magnitude at
its confluence with the ocean: before it can arrive at which it has to
traverse a country nearly two thousand miles in extent. If it possess the
usual sinuosities of rivers, its course to the sea cannot be less than
from five to six thousand miles, and the endless accession of tributary
streams which it must receive in its passage through so great an extent
of country will without doubt enable it to vie in point of magnitude with
any river in the world."

It may, therefore, well be imagined that it was in a most sanguine spirit
that Oxley undertook his second journey.

As before, a party had been sent ahead to build boats, and get everything
in readiness, and, on the 6th June, 1818, he started on his second
expedition into the interior. He had with him, as next in command, the
indefatigable Evans, Dr. Harris, who volunteered, Charles Frazer,
botanist, and twelve men, eighteen horses, two boats, and provisions for
twenty-four weeks.

On the 23rd of the month, having reached a distance of nearly 125 miles
from the depôt in Wellington Valley, without the travellers experiencing
more obstruction than might have been expected, two men, Thomas Thatcher
and John Hall, were sent back to Bathurst with a report to Governor
Macquarie, as had been previously arranged.

No sooner had the two parties separated, one with high hopes of their
future success, the others bearing back tidings of these confident hopes,
than doubt and distrust entered the mind of the leader. In his journal,
written not twenty-four hours after the departure of his messengers, he

"For four or five miles there was no material change in the general
appearance of the country from what it had been on the preceding days,
but for the fast six miles the land was very considerably lower,
interspersed with plains clear of timber, and dry. On the banks it was
still lower, and in many parts it was evident that the river floods swept
over them, though this did not appear to be universally the case. . . .
These unfavourable appearances threw a damp upon our hopes, and we
feared that our anticipations had been too sanguine."

In his after report to the Governor, forwarded by Mr. Evans to Newcastle,
he writes:--

"My letter, dated the 22nd June last, will have made your Excellency
acquainted with the sanguine hopes I entertained from the appearance of
the river, that its termination would be either in interior waters or
coastwise. When I wrote that letter to your Excellency, I certainly did
not anticipate the possibility that a very few days farther travelling
would lead us to its termination as an accessible river."

So short-lived were the hopes he had entertained.

On the 30th June, after, for many days, finding the country becoming
flatter and more liable to floods, Oxley found himself almost hemmed in
by water, and had to return with the whole party to a safer encampment,
where a consultation was held. It was decided to send the horses and
baggage back to Mount Harris, a small elevation some fifteen miles higher
up the river, whilst Oxley himself, with four volunteers and the large
boat, proceeded down the river, taking with them a month's provisions.
During his absence, Mr. Evans was to proceed to the north-east some sixty
miles, and return upon a more northerly course, this being the direction
the party intended taking if the river failed them.

Let us see how Oxley fared.

"July 2. I proceeded down the river, during one of the wettest and most
stormy days we had yet experienced. About twenty miles from where I set
out, there was, properly speaking, no country; the river overflowing its
banks, and dividing into streams, which I found had no permanent
separation from the main branch, but united themselves to it on a
multitude of points. We went seven or eight miles farther, when we
stopped for the night, upon a space of ground scarcely large enough to
enable us to kindle a fire. The principal stream ran with great rapidity
and its banks and neighbourhood as far as we could see, were covered with
wood, inclosing us within a margin or bank, vast spaces of country clear
of timber were under water, and covered with the common reed, which grew
to the height of six or seven feet above the surface. The course and
distance by the river was estimated to be from twenty-seven to thirty
miles, on a north-west line.

"July 3rd. Towards the morning the storm abated, and at daylight we
proceeded on our voyage. The main bed of the river was much contracted,
but very deep, the waters spreading to a depth of a foot or eighteen
inches over the banks, but all running on the same point of bearing. We
met with considerable interruption from fallen timber, which in places
nearly choked up the channel. After going about twenty miles we lost the
land and trees: the channel of the river, which lay through reeds, and
was from one to three feet deep, ran northerly. This continued for three
or four miles further, when although there had been no previous change in
the breadth, depth, and rapidity of the stream for several miles, and I
was sanguine in my expectations of soon entering the long sought for
Australian sea, it all at once eluded our further search by spreading on
every point from northwest to northeast, amongst the ocean of reeds that
surrounded us still running with the same rapidity as before. There was
no channel whatever amongst these reeds, and the depth varied from five
to three feet. This astonishing change (for I cannot call it a
termination of the river), of course, left me no alternative but to
endeavour to return to some spot on which we could effect a landing
before dark. I estimated that on this day we had gone about twenty-four
miles, on nearly the same point of bearing as yesterday. To assert
positively that we were on the margin of the lake or sea into which this
great body of water is discharged might reasonably be deemed a conclusion
which has nothing but conjecture for its basis; but if an opinion may be
permitted to be hazarded from actual appearances, mine is decidedly in
favour of our being in the vicinity of an inland sea or lake, most
probably a shoal one, and gradually filling up by immense depositions
from the higher lands, left by the waters which flow into it. It is most
singular that the high lands on this continent seem to be confined to the
sea coast or not to extend to any distance from it."

Satisfied that to the westward nothing more could be done in the way of
exploration, Oxley returned to Mount Harris, where a temporary depôt was
formed. Mr. Evans immediately started on a trip to the north-east; he was
absent ten days, during which time he discovered the Castlereagh River.

The weather had set in wet and stormy, the rivers kept rising and
falling, and the level country was soft and boggy, excessively tiring to
their jaded horses; moreover, in consequence of the boats being now left
behind, the packs were greatly increased in weight.

On the 20th July, the whole of the party bade adieu to the Macquarie,
which they had once trusted to so fondly, and commenced their journey to
the eastern coast, making in the first place for Arbuthnot's Range.
Before leaving, a bottle was buried on Mount Harris, containing a written
scheme of their proposed route and intentions, with some silver coin.

On July 27th, they reached the bank of the Castlereagh, after a hard
struggle through the bogs and swamps. The river was flooded, and must
have risen almost directly after Mr. Evans crossed it on his homeward
route. It was not until the 2nd of August that the waters fell
sufficiently to allow them to cross. Still steering for the range, their
course lay across shaking quagmires, or wading through miles of water;
constantly having to unload and reload the unfortunate horses, who could
scarcely get through the bog without their packs. Before reaching the
range, the party camped at the small hill, previously ascended by Mr.
Evans. Here they found the compass strangely affected: on placing it on a
rock the card flew round with extreme velocity, and then suddenly settled
at opposite points, the north point becoming the south. A short distance
from the base of the hill the needle regained its proper position. This
hill received the name of Loadstone Hill.

Crossing Arbuthnot Range round the northern base of Mount Exmouth, the
explorers, although still terribly harassed by the boggy state of the
country, found themselves in splendid pastoral land. Hills, dales, and
plains of the richest description lay before them, and from the
elevations the view presented was of the most varied kind; this tract of
country was called by Oxley Liverpool Plains. On Mount Tetley, and many
of the hills about, the same variations of the compass were observed as
had formerly been noticed on Loadstone Hill. Through this beautiful
district the party now had a less arduous journey than before, and their
horses were able to regain some of their lost strength.

On the 2nd of September, they crossed a river which they named the Peel
River, and here one of their number narrowly escaped drowning. Still
pushing eastward, and continuing to travel through beautiful grazing
country Oxley was suddenly stopped by a deep glen running across his

"This tremendous ravine runs near north and south, its breadth at the
bottom does not apparently exceed one hundred or two hundred feet, whilst
the separation of the outer edges is from two to three miles. I am
certain that in perpendicular depth it exceeds three thousand feet. The
slopes from the edges were so steep and covered with loose stones that
any attempt to descend even on foot was impracticable. From either side
of this abyss, smaller ravines of similar character diverged, the
distance between which seldom exceeded half-a-mile. Down them trickled
small rills of water, derived from the range on which we were. We could
not, however, discern which way the water in the main valley ran, as the
bottom was concealed by a thicket of vines and creeping plants."

This barrier turned them to the south, and afterwards to the west again;
on the way, they met with a grand fall one hundred and fifty feet in
height, which they named Becket's Cataract. At the head of the glen they
found another fall which they estimated at two hundred and thirty feet in
height; crossing above this cataract, which was called Bathurst's Fall,
the eastern course was once more resumed, and tempests and storms found
them wandering amongst the deep ravines and gloomy forests of the coast
range, seeking for a descent to the lower lands.

On the 23rd of September, Oxley, accompanied by Evans, ascended a
mountain to try and discover a practicable route, and from there caught
sight of the sea.

"Bilboa's ecstasy at the first sight of the South Sea could not have been
greater than ours when, on gaining the summit of this mountain, we beheld
Old Ocean at our feet: it inspired us with new life: every difficulty
vanished, and in imagination we were already home."

Now commenced the final descent, and a perilous one it was:--

"How the horses descended I scarcely know; and the bare recollection of
the imminent dangers which they escaped makes me tremble. At one period
of the descent I would willingly have compromised for a loss of one third
of them to ensure the safety of the remainder. It is to the exertions and
steadiness of the men, under Providence, that their safety must be
ascribed. The thick tufts of grass and the loose soil also gave them a
surer footing, of which the men skilfully availed themselves."

They were now on a river running direct to the sea, which was named the
Hastings River, and which the party followed down with more or less
trouble until they reached a port at the mouth of it, which the explorer,
after the fashion of the day, immediately dubbed Port Macquarie. It is an
unfortunate thing for New South Wales that such an absence of originality
with regard to naming newly discovered places was displayed by the
travellers of that time.

On the 12th of October, the wanderers made a final start for home,
commencing a toilsome march along the coast south. Stopped and
interrupted for a time by many inlets and creeks, they at last came upon
a boat buried in the sand, which had belonged to a Hawkesbury vessel,
lost some time before; this boat they carried with them as far as Port
Stephens, where they arrived on the 1st of November, using it to
facilitate the passage of the salt water arms. During the latter part of
this wearisome journey, they were much harassed by unprovoked attacks by
the natives, and one of the men, William Black, was dangerously wounded,
being speared through the back and in the lower part of the body.

Oxley had thus, after innumerable hardships and dangers, brought his
party, with the exception of the wounded man, back in safety to the
settlements. True he had not fulfilled the mission he was dispatched on,
but he had discovered large tracts of valuable land fit for settlement;
he had crossed the formidable coast range far away to the north, and
established the fact that communication between his newly discovered port
and the interior was practicable. Oxley's expeditions were both well
equipped and well carried out, he also had the assistance of able and
zealous coadjutors, each or any of them being capable of assuming the
leadership in case of misfortune. His travels may be said to inaugurate
the series of brilliant exploits in the field of exploration that we are
about to enter on.

In 1819, Messrs. Oxley and Meehan, accompanied by young Hume, made a
short excursion to Jarvis Bay, Oxley returning by sea, his companions

The era of the pioneer squatter had now commenced henceforth exploration
and pastoral enterprise went hand in hand. North and south of the new
town of Bathurst, the advance of the flocks and herds went on; Oxley's
report may have somewhat checked a westerly migration, but the stay in
that direction was not doomed to last long. Northward, to and beyond the
Cugeegong River and the fertile valley of the Upper Hunter, southward,
towards the mysterious Morumbidgee, which was now reported as having been
found by the settlers, pressed the pioneers. It is not known who was the
first discoverer of this river. Hume, in company with Throsby, must have
been close to it during their various excursions, and in 1821 Hume
discovered Yass Plains, almost on its bank. It was, however, destined to
be the future highway to the undiscovered land of the west.

In 1822 Messrs. Lawson and Scott attempted to reach Liverpool Plains,
Oxley's great discovery, from Bathurst; they were, however, unable to
penetrate the range that formed the southern boundary of the Plains, and
returned, having discovered a new river at the foot of the range, which
they named the Goulburn.

In 1823, Oxley, Cunningham, and Currie were all in the field in different

On the 22nd of May, Captain Mark John Currie, R.N., accompanied by
Brigade-Major Ovens, and having with them Joseph Wild, a notable bushman,
started on an exploratory trip south of Lake George. On the 1st of June,
they came to the Morumbidgee, as it was then called, and followed up the
bank of it, looking for a crossing. The day before they had caught sight
of a high range of mountains to the southward, partially snow-topped. In
their progress along the river they came to fine open downs and plains,
which, with the singularly bad taste, which still, unfortunately, holds
sway, Currie immediately named after the then Governor, "Brisbane Downs;"
although but a short time before they had learnt from the aborigines the
native name of Monaroo. Fortunately, in this instance, Monaroo has been
preserved, and Brisbane Downs forgotten.

On the 6th June they crossed the river, and found the open country still
stretching south, bounded to the west by the snowy mountains they had
formerly seen, and to the east by a range that they took to be the coast
range. Their provisions being limited, they turned back, and reached
Throsby's farm of Bong-Bong on the 14th of the same month.

Cunningham, meantime, during the months of April, May, and June, was
busily engaged in the country north of Bathurst. He had two purposes in
view--his pursuit as a botanist, and the discovery of a pass through the
northern range on to Liverpool Plains, which Lieutenant Lawson had been
unable to find. On reaching the range he searched vainly to the eastward
for any valley that would enable him to pierce the barrier, and had to
retrace his steps and seek more to the west. Here he came upon a pass,
which he called Pandora's Pass, [See Appendix.] and which he found to be
practicable as a stock route to the plains. He returned to Bathurst on
the 27th of June.

In October, Oxley started from Sydney on a very different kind of
expedition to those lately undertaken by him. His mission now was to
examine the inlets of Port Curtis, Moreton Bay, and Port Bowen, with a
view to forming penal establishments there. On the 21st of October,
therefore, 1823, he left in the colonial cutter MERMAID, accompanied by
Messrs. Stirling and Uniacke. At Port Macquarie, Oxley had the pleasure
of seeing the settlement that had so rapidly sprung up on his
recommendation of the suitability of the port. Further on, they
discovered and named the Tweed River. On the 6th November, the MERMAID
anchored in Port Curtis. Here the party remained for some time, and found
and christened the Boyne River. Oxley's report was unfavourable.

"Having," he says, "viewed and examined with the most anxious attention
every point that afforded the least promise of being eligible for the
site of a settlement, I respectfully submit it as my opinion, that Port
Curtis and its vicinity do not afford such a site; and I do not think
that any convict establishment could be formed there that would return
either from the natural productions of the country, or as arising from
agricultural labour, any portion of the great expense which would
necessarily attend its first formation."

As it was too late in the season to examine Port Bowen, the MERMAID went
south, entered Moreton Bay, and anchored off the river that Flinders had
christened Pumice Stone River, heading from the Glass House Peaks. Here a
singular adventure occurred:--

"Scarcely was the anchor let go," writes Mr. Uniacke, "when we perceived
a number of natives, at the distance of about a mile, advancing rapidly
towards the vessel; and on looking at them with the glass from the
masthead, I observed one who appeared much larger than the rest, and of a
lighter colour, being a light copper, while all the others were black."

This light-coloured native turned out to be a white man, one Thomas
Pamphlet. In company with three others he had left Sydney in an open
boat, to bring cedar from the Five Islands, but, being driven out to sea
by a gale, they had suffered terrible hardships, being (so he stated) at
one time twenty-one days without water, during which time one man had
died of thirst. Finally they were wrecked on Moreton Island, and had
lived with the blacks ever since--a period of seven months. Pamphlet
informed them that his two companions were named Finnegan and Parsons,
and that they had started to make for Sydney, overland, but, after going
some fifty miles, he (Pamphlet) returned, and shortly afterwards was
joined by Finnigan, who had quarrelled with Parsons. The latter was never
heard of.

Next day Finnegan turned up, and both he and Pamphlet, agreeing that at
the south end of the bay there was a large river. Messrs. Oxley and
Stirling started the following morning in the whale boat to look for it;
taking Finnegan with them. They found the river, and pulled up it about
fifty miles, being greatly satisfied with the discovery. Not being
provided for a longer trip, Oxley turned back at a point he named
Termination Hill, which he ascended and from which he obtained a fine
view of the further course of the river. Still haunted by his inland lake
theory, and as usual drawing erroneous deductions, he writes:--

"The nature of the country, and a consideration of all the circumstances
connected with the appearance of the river, justify me in entertaining a
strong belief that the sources of the river will not be found in
mountainous country, but rather that it flows from some lake, which will
prove to be the receptacle of those interior streams crossed by me during
an expedition of discovery in 1818."

This river Oxley named the Brisbane, and taking with them the two rescued
men, the MERMAID set sail for Sydney, where the party arrived on December
13th. With regard to the shipwrecked men, it may be here mentioned that
their conviction at the time they were found was, that they were to the
south of Sydney, somewhere in the neighbourhood of Jarvis Bay.

Oxley's work and his life too were now almost at a close. He died at
Kirkham, his private residence, near Sydney, on the 25th of May, 1828. He
had been essentially a successful explorer, for although he had not in
every case attained the issue aimed at, he had always brought his men
back in safety, and had opened up vast tracts of new country. [See

The journey made by Messrs. Hume and Hovell across to Port Phillip has a
character of its own, being the first successful trip undertaken from
shore to shore, from the eastern to the southern coast. The expedition
originated from a somewhat wild idea that entered the head of that
unpopular governor Sir Thomas Brisbane.

Surveyor-General Oxley, not having determined the question as to whether
any large rivers entered the sea between Cape Otway and Spencer's Gulf,
excepting to his own satisfaction, Sir Thomas Brisbane bit upon the
scheme of landing a party of prisoners near Wilson's Promontory, and
inducing them, by the offer of a free pardon and a land grant, to find
their way to Sydney overland; and that they should have a better chance
of eventually turning up, it was recommended that an experienced bushman
should be put in charge of them. The flattering, if somewhat dangerous,
offer of this position was made to Mr. Hume, who, on consideration,
declined it; he, however, offered to conduct a party from Lake George,
then the outermost station, or nearly so, to Western Port, if the
Government provided necessary assistance. The Government accepted h is
offer, but forgot to provide the assistance. This caused much delay and
vexation, and Mr. Hovell, offering to join the party and find half the
necessary men and cattle, the Government agreed to do something in the
matter. This something amounted to six pack-saddles and gear, one tent of
Parramatta cloth, two tarpaulins, a suit of slop clothes each for the
men, two skeleton charts for tracing their journey, a few bush utensils,
and the following promise: a cash payment for the hire of the cattle
should any important discovery be made. This money was refused on the
return of the party, and Mr. Hume states that he had even much difficulty
in obtaining tickets-of-leave for the men, and an order to select 1,200
acres of land for himself. Mr. Hovell was a retired shipmaster, who had
been for some time settled in Australia. Each of the leaders brought with
them three men, so that the strength of the expedition was eight men in
all. They had with them two carts, five bullocks, and three horses.

On October 14th, 1824, the party left Lake George. On reaching the
Murrumbidgee they found it flooded, and after waiting three days, and the
river continuing the same, an attempt was made to cross, and by means of
the body of a cart rigged up as a punt with a tarpaulin, they succeeded.

On the south side of the river they found the country broken, and
somewhat difficult to make good progress through, but it was all well
grassed and adapted to grazing purposes. Here, as might have been
anticipated, they soon had to leave their carts behind, and pack their
cattle for the remainder of their journey. Following the Murrumbidgee,
after a short distance they left it for a south-west course, which still
led them through hills and valleys rich with good grass and running

On November 8th, they were destined to enjoy a sight never before
witnessed by white men in Australia. Ascending a range, in order to get a
view of the country ahead of them, they suddenly came in front of
snowcapped mountains. There, under the brilliant sun of an Australian
summer's day, rose lofty peaks that might have found a fitting home in
some far polar clime, covered as they were for nearly one-fourth of their
height with glistening snow.

Skirting this range, which was called the Australian Alps, the
travellers, after eight days wandering through the spurs of the lofty
mountains they had just seen, came on a fine flowing river, which Mr.
Hume named after his father the "Hume," destined to be afterwards called
the Murray when visited lower down.

Failing to find a ford, a makeshift boat was constructed by the aid of
the useful tarpaulin, and the passage of the Hume safely accomplished.
Still passing through good available country watered by fine flowing
streams, on the 24th they crossed the Ovens River, and on the 3rd of
December they came to another river, which they called the Hovell (now
the Goulburn), and on the 16th of the same month reached the sea shore,
near where Geelong now stands. Two days afterwards they commenced their
return, and on the 18th January arrived at Lake George.

This exploration had a great and lasting bearing on the extension of
Australian settlement. A few years after one of the highest authorities
then in the colony had deemed the western interior, beyond a certain
limit, unfitted for human habitation; and expressed his opinion that the
monotonous flats over which he vainly looked for any rise, extended
almost to the sea coast--snow-clad mountains, feeding innumerable
streams, were discovered to the south of his track.

The successful and arduous expedition led by the young native-born
explorer, had the twofold effect of exposing Oxley's fallacies, and
teaching a lesson of caution to future explorers not to indulge hastily
in general condemnation. This lesson, however, has not been heeded; the
history of Australian exploration being a history of conclusions drawn
one year, to be falsified the next. Hume's journey to Port Phillip at
once added to the British-Colonial Empire millions of acres of arable land
watered by never-failing rivers, with a climate calculated to foster the
growth of almost any species of fruit or grain.

It is a pity that in concluding the review of an expedition, fraught with
so much benefit to the colony, and carried out with so much courage,
hardihood, and facility of resource, that it cannot also be said, and
marked with the same cheerful spirit that pervaded those of Oxley's, but
unfortunately, the evil feeling of jealously that would arise from the
presence of two leaders, showed plainly throughout in petty and
undignified squabbles, which, in after days, led to paper warfare between
the two explorers. It is painful, if amusing, to read of the disagreement
as to their course in very sight of the lately discovered Australian
Alps, and how, on agreeing to separate and divide the outfit, it was
proposed to cut the tent in half, and the only frying-pan was broken by
both parties pulling at it.

Thomas Boyd, the only survivor of the party in 1883, who was then
eighty-six years old, was the first white man to cross the Murray, which
he did, swimming it with a line in his mouth. In the year named he signed
a document, giving the credit of taking the party through in safety to
Hume. Boyd himself was one of the most active members of the expedition,
and always to the front when there was any work to be done.

The training that Hume received in this, and his former journey,
admirably qualified him to become the companion of Sturt in his first
expedition when he discovered the other great artery of the Murray
system, the Darling. The young explorer was thus singularly fortunate in
having his name connected with the discovery of two of the most important
rivers in Australia. In the trip just narrated he and his companion,
Hovell, had arrested the hasty conclusion that was being formed as to the
aridity of the interior. The result of their expedition held out high
hopes for any future explorer, and the report they brought in was
afterwards fully confirmed by Major Mitchell.


Settlement of Moreton Bay--Cunningham in the field again--His discoveries
of the Gwydir, Dumaresque, and Condamine Rivers--The Darling Downs, and
Cunningham's Gap through the range to Moreton Bay--Description of the
Gap--Cunningham's death--Captain Sturt--His first expedition to follow
down the Macquarie--Failure of the river--Efforts of Sturt and Hume to
trace the channel--Discovery of New Year's Creek (the Bogan)--Come
suddenly on the Darling--Dismay at finding the water salt--Retreat to
Mount Harris--Meet the relief party--Renewed attempt down the Castlereagh
River--Trace it to the Darling--Find the water in that river still
salt--Return--Second expedition to follow the Morumbidgee--Favourable
anticipations--Launch of the boats and separation of the party--Unexpected
junction with the Murray--Threatened hostilities with the natives--Averted
in a most singular manner--Junction of large river from the North--Sturt's
conviction that it is the Darling--Continuation of the voyage--Final
arrival at Lake Alexandrina--Return voyage--Starvation and fatigue--
Constant labour at the oars and stubborn courage of the men--Utter
exhaustion--Two men push forward to the relief party and return with

In 1824, in consequence of the favourable report of Surveyor Oxley, a
penal settlement was formed at Moreton Bay, but it was speedily removed
to a better site on the Brisbane River, where the capital of Queensland
now stands. The natives bestowed upon the abandoned settlement the name
of "Umpie Bong," [Literally, dead houses] which name is still preserved
as Humpybong.

In 1825 Major Lockyer made a long boat excursion up the Brisbane River,
and the stream being somewhat swollen by floods, he was able to
penetrate, according to his own account, nearly one hundred and fifty

He was much taken with the promising nature of the country, both on the
Brisbane and its tributary, the Bremer, and great hopes, happily
fulfilled, were entertained of the success of the new settlement. During
this year Mr. Cunningham had undertaken another journey to Liverpool
Plains. Threading the pass he had formerly discovered and named Pandora's
Pass, he crossed the plains, and ascended and examined the table land to
the north, returning to Bathurst.

In 1827 this explorer, whose industry never flagged, started on the most
eventful trip he ever made, destined to considerably affect the immediate
progress of the new colony established at Moreton Bay. On the 30th of
April he left Segenhoe Station, on the Upper Hunter, and on crossing
Oxley's 1818 track to Port Macquarie, at once entered on the unexplored
northern region. On the 19th May, after traversing a good deal of
unpromising country, a fertile valley was entered, which led the
travellers on to the banks of the Gwydir River, one of Cunningham's most
important discoveries. He next found and named the Dumaresque River, and
finally emerged on the beautiful plateau, thenceforth known as the
Darling Downs, where the Condamine River received its name, after the
Governor's aide-de-camp. Cunningham's description of this tract of
pastoral country is very glowing:--

"Deep ponds, supported by streams from the highlands immediately to the
eastward, extend along their central lower flats. The lower grounds thus
permanently watered present flats which furnish an almost inexhaustible
range of cattle pasture at all seasons of the year; the grass and
herbage generally exhibiting in the depth of winter an extreme luxuriance
of growth. From these central grounds rise downs of a rich black and dry
soil, and very ample surface; and as they furnish abundance of grass and
are conveniently watered, yet perfectly beyond the reach of those floods
which take place on the flats in a season of rain, they constitute a
sound and valuable sheep pasture."

Here Cunningham halted for some time, with the view of ascertaining the
practicability of a passage across the range to Moreton Bay.

In exploring the mountains immediately above the tents of the encampment,
a remarkably excavated part of the main range was discovered, which
appeared likely to prove available as a pass. Upon examination, the gap
was found to be rugged and broken, partially blocked with fallen masses
of rocks, and overgrown by scrub and jungle. Beyond these impediments,
which could soon be removed, the gap now known as Cunningham's Gap was
apparently available as affording a descent to the lower coast lands.
Relinquishing any further attempts for the present, either through the
mountains or to the western interior, Cunningham returned to the Hunter,
crossing and re-crossing his outward track. He was absent oil this
expedition thirteen weeks.

The following year the discoverer of the Darling Downs, accompanied by
his old companion, Charles Frazer, Colonial Botanist, proceeded by sea to
Moreton Bay with the intention of starting from the settlement and
connecting with his camp on the Darling Downs by way of Cunningham's Gap.
In this attempt he was also accompanied by the Commandant, Captain Logan.
The party followed up the Logan River, and partly ascended Mount Lindsay,
a lofty and remarkable mountain on the Dividing Range. They were,
however, unsuccessful in finding the Gap on this occasion. Cunningham,
however, immediately started from Limestone Station on the Bremer, now
the town of Ipswich, and this time was quite successful. On the 24th Of
August he writes:--

"About one o'clock we passed a mile to the southward of our last
position, and, entering a valley, we pitched our tents within three miles
of the gap we now suspected to be the Pass of last year's journey.

"It being early in the afternoon, I sent one of my people (who, having
been one of my party on that long tour, knew well the features of the
country lying to the westward of the Dividing Range) to trace a series of
forest ridges, which appeared to lead directly up to the foot of the
hollow-back of the range.

"To my utmost gratification he returned at dusk, having traced the ridge
about two and a-half miles to the foot of the Dividing Range, whence he
ascended into the Pass and, from a grassy head immediately above it,
beheld the extensive country lying west of the Main Range. He recognised
Darling and Canning Downs, patches of Peel's Plains, and several
remarkable points of the forest hills on that side, fully identifying
this hollow-back with the pass discovered last year at the head of
Miller's Valley, notwithstanding its very different appearance when
viewed from the eastern country."

The next day, accompanied by one man, Cunningham ascended the pass that
bears his name. Following the ridges, they arrived in about two and
three-quarter miles to the foot of the Gap.

"Immediately the summit of the pass appeared broad before us, bounded on
each side by most stupendous heads, towering at least two thousand feet
above it.

"Here the difficulties of the Pass commenced. We had now penetrated to
the actual foot of the Pass without the smallest difficulty, it now
remained to ascend by a steep slope to the level of its entrance. This
slope is occupied by a very close wood, in which red cedar, sassafras,
palms, and other ornamental inter-tropical trees are frequent. Through
this shaded wood lye penetrated, climbing up a steep bank of a very rich
loose earth, in which large fragments of a very compact rock are embedded.
At length we gained the foot of a wall of bare rock, which we found
stretching from the southward of the Pass.

"This face of naked rock we perceived (by tracing its course northerly)
gradually to fall to the common level, so that, without the smallest
difficulty, and to my utmost surprise, we found ourselves in the highest
part of the Pass, having fully ascertained the extent of the difficult
part, from the entrance into the wood to this point, not to exceed four
hundred yards."

In this comparatively easy manner was the main range crossed, and access
at once obtained from the coastal districts to the rich inland slope--a
startling result when compared with the years of labour and baffled hope
wasted on the Blue Mountains before victory was won.

In the following year (1829) Cunningham went on his last expedition, to
the source of the Brisbane River, and this work concluded ten years of
constant and unceasing labour in the cause of exploration. He died in
Sydney ten years afterwards, on the 27th of June, leaving behind an
undying name, both as a botanist and ardent explorer. During his own
travels, and whilst sailing with Captain King, he had seen more of the
continent than any man then living.

Captain Charles Sturt, of the 39th Regiment! What visions are conjured up
when this name comes on the scene! Cracked and gaping plains, desolate,
desert and abandoned of life, scorched beneath a lurid sun of burning
fire, waterless, hopeless, relentless, and accursed: that is the picture
he draws of the great interior. He had followed up Oxley's footsteps and
exposed the fallacies into which that explorer had fallen, and erred just
as egregiously himself. True, like Oxley, he was the sport of the
seasons. Oxley had followed the rivers down when, year after year, the
regular rainfall had made them navigable for his boats, and had finally
lost them in oceans of reeds. Sturt came when the land was smitten with
drought, and the rivers had dwindled down to the tiniest trickle.

"In the creeks weeds had grown and withered, and grown again and young
saplings were now rising in their beds, nourished by the moisture that
still remained; but the large forest trees were drooping and many were
dead. The emus, with outstretched necks, gasping for breath, searched the
channels of the rivers for water, in vain; and the native dog, so thin
that he could hardly walk, seemed to implore some merciful hand to
dispatch him."

Such was Sturt's description of the state of the country.

In 1828, the year that witnessed his first expedition, no rain had fallen
for two years, and it seemed as though it would never fall again. The
thoughts of the colonists turned to that shallow ocean of reeds to the
westward wherein Oxley had lost the Macquarie, and it was thought that
now would be the time to verify its existence or find out what lay
beyond. Captain Sturt was appointed to take command, and with him went
Hamilton Hume, who had so successfully crossed to Port Phillip. The party
consisted, besides, of two soldiers and eight prisoners of the crown, two
of whom were to return with dispatches. They had with them eight riding
and seven pack horses, two draught and eight pack bullocks. They had also
with them a small boat rigged up on a wheeled carriage.

It would be uninteresting to follow the party over the already known
ground to Mount Harris where Oxley had camped in 1818; this place Sturt
and his men reached on the 20th December, 1828.

"As soon as the camp was fixed, Mr. Hume and I rode to Mount Harris, over
ground subject to flood and covered for the most part by the polygonum,
being too anxious to defer our examination of the neighbourhood even a
few hours. Nearly ten years had elapsed since Mr. Oxley pitched his tents
under the smallest of the two hills into which Mount Harris is broken.
There was no difficulty in hitting upon his position. The trenches that
had been cut round the tents were still perfect, and the marks of the
fire places distinguishable; while the trees in the neighbourhood had
been felled, and round about them the staves of casks, and a few tent
pegs were scattered. Mr. Oxley had selected a place at some distance from
the river on account of its then swollen state. I looked upon it from the
same ground and could not discern the waters in the channel, so much had
they fallen below their ordinary level. On the summit of the great
eminence which we ascended, there remained the half-burnt planks of a
boat, some clenched and rusty nails, and an old trunk; but my search for
the bottle Mr. Oxley had left was unsuccessful.

"A reflection arose to my mind, on examining these decaying vestiges of a
former expedition, whether I should be more fortunate than the leader of
it, and how far I should be enabled to penetrate beyond the point which
had conquered his perseverance. Only a week before I left Sydney I had
followed Mr. Oxley to the tomb. A man of uncommon quickness and of great
ability. The task of following up his discoveries was not less enviable
than arduous; but, arrived at that point at which his journey may be said
to have terminated and mine only to commence, I knew not how soon I
should be obliged, like him, to retreat from the marshes and exhalations
of so depressed a country. My eye turned instinctively to the north-west,
and the view extended over an apparently endless forest. I could trace
the river line of trees by their superior height, but saw no appearance
of reeds save the few that grew on the banks of the stream."

Satisfied, after consultation with his companion Hume, that there was no
obstacle to their onward march, they left their position, intending, as
Sturt says, "to close with the marshes."

The night of the first day found them camped amongst the reeds, which
they came upon sooner than they expected, and the next day they halted
for the purpose of preparing the dispatches for the Governor. On the
morning of the 26th, the journey was resumed, the two messengers leaving
for Bathurst, the rest proceeding onward until checked by finding
themselves in the great body of the marsh, which spread in boundless
extent around them.

"It was evidently," says the leader, "lower than the ground on which we
stood; we had, therefore, a complete view of the whole expanse, and there
was a dreariness and desolation pervading the scene which strengthened as
we gazed upon it."

Under the circumstances, an advance with the main body of the party was
considered unwise, and it was determined to launch the boat, and try and
follow the course of the river, whilst a simultaneous attempt was made to
penetrate the reed bed to the north. Accordingly Sturt, with two men,
started in the boat, and Hume and two more struck north.

Sturt's boating expedition came very quickly to a close. In the afternoon
of the day he started:--

" . . . the channel which had promised so well, without any change in
its breadth or depth, ceased altogether, and while we were yet lost in
astonishment at so abrupt a termination of it the boat grounded."

All search was fruitless, and mysteriously and completely baffled as
Oxley had been, so was his successor, and there was nothing for it but to
return to camp.

Hume had been more successful. He reported finding a serpentine sheet of
water to the northward, which he did not doubt was the channel of the
river. He had pushed on, but was checked by another of the seemingly
inevitable marshes.

On the 28th the camp was shifted to this lagoon, and the boat was
launched once more; without result. The new-found channel was soon lost
in reeds and shallows. Forced to halt again, Hume went to the north-east
to scout, and Sturt went north-west, each accompanied, as before, by two
men. They left the camp on the last day of the year.

After sunset on the first day, Sturt struck a creek of considerable size
leading northerly, having good water in its bed. The next day, after
passing through alternate plain and brush for eighteen miles, a second
creek was found, inferior to the first both in size and the quality of
the water; it too ran northerly. Crossing this creek, after a short halt,
they travelled through stony ridges and open forest, and at night camped
on the edge of a waterless plain, after a hot and thirsty ride; here one
of the men, noticing the flight of a pigeon, found a small puddle of rain
water that just sufficed them. Next day, the country steadily improving
in appearance, they made west by south for an isolated mountain with
perpendicular sides, from the top of which Sturt trusted to see something
hopeful ahead. He was disappointed, the country was monotonous and level,
and no sign of a river could be seen. They camped that night at a small
swamp, and next morning Sturt turned back, like Oxley, coming to the
conclusion that:--

"Yet upon the whole, the space I traversed is unlikely to become the
haunt of civilised man, or will become so in isolated spots, as a chain
of connection to a more fertile country; if such a country exist to the

Hume had not returned when the party reached the main camp on the 5th of
January; the next day he made his appearance. He reported having
travelled, on various courses, about thirty miles N.N.W. over an
indifferent country. He had anticipated meeting with the Castlereagh, but
had been forced to conclude that that river had taken a more northerly
course than Mr. Oxley had supposed. He went westward, and across fine
far-stretching plains, but saw no sign of the Macquarie River having
re-formed, crossing nothing but small 'reeks or chains of ponds.

Most of the men, including Hume, complaining of sickness, he camp was
shifted four miles to the north, on to a chain of ponds reported by Hume.
This creek they followed down, when it disappointed them by disappearing
in the marsh. Without water, they continued skirting the low country
until fatigue compelled them to stop, when, by digging shallow wells in
the reeds, they obtained a small supply. From here they made their way by
a different route to the hill that had terminated Sturt's late trip, and
which he had christened Oxley's Tableland. Here they rested a few days,
and Sturt and Hume, with two men, made another excursion westward, but
without result.

Their only resource now was to make north to a creek that they had
followed down on their way to Oxley's tableland, and see where it would
lead them.

On the 31st January they came upon this creek, which was called by them
New Year's Creek, now the Bogan, and the next day they suddenly found
themselves on the brink of a noble river:--

"The party drew up upon a bank that was from forty to forty-five feet
above the level of the stream. The channel of the river was from seventy
to eighty yards broad, and enclosed an unbroken sheet of water, evidently
very deep, and literally covered with pelicans and other wild fowl. Our
surprise and delight may better be imagined than described. Our
difficulties seemed to be at an end, for here was a river that promised
to reward all our exertions, and which appeared every moment to increase
in importance to our imaginations. Coming from the N.E. and flowing to
the S.W., it had a capacity of channel that proved that we were as far
from its source as from its termination. The paths of the natives on
either side of it were like trodden roads, and the trees that overhung it
were of beautiful and gigantic growth.

"The banks were too precipitous to 'allow of our watering the cattle, but
the men descended eagerly to quench their thirst, which a powerful sun
had contributed to increase; nor shall I ever forget the cry of amazement
that followed their doing so, or the looks of terror and disappointment
with which they called out to inform me that the water was so salt as to
be unfit to drink. This was indeed too true. On tasting it, I found it
extremely nauseous, and strongly impregnated with salt, being apparently
a mixture of sea and fresh water. . . Our hopes were annihilated at the
moment of their apparent realisation. The cup of joy was dashed out of
our hands before we had time to raise it to our lips."

Finding fresh feed lower down the river, the party halted for the benefit
of the cattle, who, unable to drink the water, soaked their bodies in it.
Meantime, although the tracks of the natives were abundant, they looked
in vain for any of them. Fortunately, that night Hume found a pond of
fresh water, and the party were refreshed once more. The phenomena of the
salt river was puzzling to Sturt, though too familiar now to excite
wonder; the long continued drought having lowered the river so that the
brine springs in the banks preponderated over the fresh water, was of
course the explanation, and it is a common characteristic of inland
watercourses. The size of the river and the saltness of its water,
however, partly convinced Sturt that he was near its confluence with an
inland sea; so for six days they moved slowly down the river, finding,
however, no change in its formation, until the discovery of saline
springs in the bank convinced the leader that the saltness was of local

Leaving the party encamped at a small pool of fresh water, Sturt and Hume
pushed ahead to look for more, but without success. Before leaving they
were startled, one afternoon, by a loud report like a distant cannon, for
which they could in noway account, as the sky was clear and without a
cloud. [These strange reports have since been frequently heard, often at
the same moment, at places more than a hundred miles apart. The cause is
generally ascribed to atmospheric disturbances.]

The advance was now checked, no fresh water could be found on ahead, and
their animals were weak and exhausted. Sturt christened the river the
Darling, and gave the order to retreat.

As they again approached Mount Harris on the Macquarie, where they
expected to find a relief party with fresh supplies, fears began to be
entertained regarding the safety of those who might be awaiting them at
the depôt. The reed beds were in flames in all parts, and the few natives
they met displayed a guilty timidity, and one was observed with a jacket
in his possession. Their fears were, however, fortunately vain, the
natives had made one attempt to surprise the camp, but it had been
frustrated, and the relief party had now been some three weeks awaiting
the return of the explorers.

Sturt rested for some days, during which time Hume made a short western
trip.. to the south of the marsh land. He reported that for thirty miles
the country was superior to anything they had yet seen, and exceedingly
well watered; beyond that distance the plains and brush of the remote
interior again resumed their sway.

On the 7th March the party struck camp and made for the Castlereagh, the
relief going back to Bathurst. On the 10th they reached the Castlereagh,
and found it apparently without a drop of water in its bed. From here
downwards the old harassing hunt for water commenced once more, and as
they descended the river they were further puzzled by the intricate
windings of its course and the number of channels that intersected the
depressed country they were travelling through. On the 29th they again
struck the Darling, ninety miles above the spot where they had discovered

"This singular river still preserved its character so strikingly that it
was impossible not to have recognised it in a moment. The same steep
banks and lofty timber, the same deep reaches, alive with fish, were here
visible as when we left it. A hope naturally arose to our minds, that if
it was unchanged in other respects, it might have lost the saltness that
rendered its waters unfit for use; but in this we were disappointed-even
its waters continued the same."

Fortunately the adventurers were not this time in such unhappy straits
for water as before, so that the disappointment was less intense. Knowing
what they might expect if they followed the Darling down south, the party
at once halted. It was evident that to the east and north-east, the
rigorous drought had put its mark on the land, from the fact that large
bodies of natives driven in from that direction were congregated round
the few permanent waters left. A reconnoitring expedition across the
Darling to the N.W. was accordingly determined on, to see if any advance
into the interior was possible, and after a camp had been formed Sturt
and Hume started on the quest. No encouragement to proceed resulted. By
four p.m. they found themselves on a plain that stretched far away and
bounded the horizon.

"It was dismally brown, a few trees only served to mark the distance. Up
one of the highest I sent Hopkins on, who reported that he could not see
the end of it, and that all around looked blank and desolate. It is a
singular fact that during the whole day we had not seen a drop of water
or a blade of grass.

"To have stopped where we were would, therefore, have been impossible;
to have advanced would probably have been ruin. Had there been one
favourable circumstance to have encouraged me with the hope of success I
would have proceeded. Had we picked up a stone, as indicating our
approach to high land, I would have gone on; or had there been a break in
the country, or even a change in the vegetation; but we had left all
traces of the natives behind us, and this seemed a desert they never
entered--that not even a bird inhabited. I could not encourage a hope of
success, and therefore gave up the point, not from want of means, but a
conviction of the inutility of any further efforts. If there is any blame
to be attached to the measure it is I who am in fault; but none who had
not like me traversed the interior at such a season would believe the
state of the country over which I had wandered. During the short interval
I had been out, I had seen rivers cease to flow before me and sheets of
water disappear, and had it not been for a merciful Providence should,
ere reaching the Darling, have been overwhelmed by misfortune.

"I am giving no false picture of the reality. So long had the drought
continued that the vegetable kingdom was almost annihilated, and minor
vegetation had disappeared."

Once more the order to retreat from the inhospitable Darling was given,
and the weary march home recommenced. On their way they traced and
followed a defined channel, or depression, formerly crossed by Hume, and
ascertained it to be the outflow of the Macquarie Marshes. On the 7th of
April, 1829, they reached Mount Harris.

The mystery of the Macquarie was now, to a certain extent, cleared up,
but there still remained another riddle to solve in the course and outlet
of the Darling. Sturt, the discoverer of this river, was destined to find
the answer to this problem as well.

We have now traced the gradual extension of exploration to the westward,
and seen a river system growing up, as it were, piece by piece, as the
result of these expeditions; it may, therefore, be as well to continue to
follow up Captain Sturt's expeditions, and note how the Murray and its
tributary streams were gradually elaborated, before touching upon events
at this time occurring afar on the south-west coast of the continent.

The desire to ascertain the course of the Darling naturally became a
subject of great interest so soon as the result of Captain Sturt's
expedition was known; and the Macquarie and Lachlan rivers having failed
to afford a means of reaching the interior, it was determined to try the
Morumbidgee. The fact that this river derived its supply from the highest
known mountains, and was independent, to a large extent, of the
periodical rainfall, was a great inducement to hope for success.

Almost exactly a year after he had started on his journey down the
Macquarie, Captain Sturt left Sydney, on his Morumbidgee expedition, on
the 3rd of November, 1829.

Hume, was not, on this occasion, able to accompany the party, his own
affairs on his farm needing his attention; doubtless in spirit he was
often with them, and it would have been but fitting had the discoverer of
the Murray or Hume, been one of the party to first trace its downward
course. In Hume's place went George M'Leay, the son of the then Colonial
Secretary, Alexander M'Leay; with them also went Harris, Hopkinson, and
Fraser, members of the Macquarie expedition,

To our modern eyes the appearance of the troop that marched out of
Sydney, early that summer morning, would have looked strange indeed.

"At a quarter before seven the party filed through the turnpike gate, and
thus commenced its journey with the greatest regularity. I have the scene
even at this distance of time, vividly impressed upon my mind, and I have
no doubt the kind friend who was with me on the occasion bears it as
strongly on his recollection. My servant Harris, who had shared my
wanderings, and had continued in my service for eighteen years, led the
advance with his companion Hopkinson; nearly abreast of them the
eccentric Frazer stalked along, wholly lost in thought. The two former
had laid aside their military habits, and had substituted the
broad-brimmed hat, and the bushman's dress in their place, but it was
impossible to guess how Frazer intended to protect himself from the heat
or damp, so little were his habiliments suited for the occasion. He had
his gun over his shoulder, and his double shot belt as full as it could
be of shot, although there was not a chance of his expending a grain
during the day. Some dogs Mr. Maxwell had kindly sent me followed close
at his heels, as if they knew his interest in them, and they really
seemed as if they were aware that they were about to exchange their late
confinement for the freedom of the woods. The whole of these formed a
kind of advanced guard. At some distance in the rear the drays moved
slowly along, on one of which rode the black boy; Robert Harris, whom I
had appointed to superintend the animals generally, kept his place near
the horses, and the heavy Clayton, my carpenter, brought up the rear."

It will be needless to follow the progress of the party through the
settled districts that now extended to the banks of the Morumbidgee: on
the 27th, we find them preparing to start from Mr. Whaby's station, the
last outpost of civilization. From thence they followed the river down,
maintaining constant and friendly intercourse with the natives on the
banks. For some time they passed through rich available country, and at
one point they made a slight excursion to the north to connect with
Oxley's most southerly limit; although they did not actually verify it,
Sturt was of the opinion that they were within at least twenty miles of
the range seen by Oxley. Still following the river they now found its
course leading them amongst the plains and flat country with which they
were so well acquainted, and naturally travelled in the constant dread of
the stream conducting them to the lame and impotent conclusions of the
Macquarie and Lachlan.


Sturt now was constantly haunted with the thought of once more finding
himself baffled and perplexed in some vast region of flooded country,
without a defined system of channels. Every time he looked at the river
he imagined that it had fallen off in appearance, feeling certain that
the flooded spaces over which he was travelling would soon be succeeded
by a country overgrown with reeds. The flats of polygonum stretched away
to the N.W., and to the S., and the soil itself bore testimony to its
flooded origin. Some natives here met with spoke of the COLARE, a name
which Sturt had beard before, and which he took to mean the Lachlan, from
the direction in which the blacks pointed. These men indicated that they
were but one day's journey from it. Sturt and M'Leay, therefore, rode to
the north to examine the country; they found a creek of considerable
size, and from its appearance and the nature of the surrounding flats,
deemed it to be a similar channel from the Lachlan marshes to the
Morumbidgee, as the one Sturt and Hume had formerly noticed to the north,
leading from the great marsh of the Macquarie to the Darling. In point of
fact they actually crossed the Lachlan, and went some distance beyond it,
passing close to Oxley's lowest camp, as the natives afterwards testified
to Major Mitchell.

The extract from the Major's journal bearing on the subject runs thus:--

"The natives further informed me that three men on horseback, who had
canoes (boats) on the Murrumbidgee, had visited the Lachlan thereabouts
since, and that after crossing it, and going a little way beyond, they
had returned."

Sturt mentioned seeing the fires of the natives during this trip, but he
did not see them, although it was evident that they had a good look at

On the 26th of December, it seemed that their gloomiest hopes were to be
realised. Traversing plains like those described before, Sturt says:--

"The wheels of the drays sank up to their axle-trees, and the horses
above their fetlocks at every step. The fields of polygonum spread on
every side of us, like a dark sea, and the only green object within range
of our vision was the river line of trees. In several instances the force
of both teams was put to one dray, to extricate it from the bed into
which it had sunk, and the labour was considerably increased from the
nature of the weather. The wind was blowing as if through a furnace, from
the N.N.E., and the dust was flying in clouds, so as to render it almost
suffocating to remain exposed to it. This was the only occasion upon
which we felt the hot winds in the interior. We were, about noon,
endeavouring to gain a point of a wood at which I expected to come upon
the river again, but it was impossible for the teams to reach it without
assistance. I therefore sent M'Leay forward with orders to unload the
pack animals as soon as he should make the river, and send them back to
help the teams. He had scarcely been separated from me twenty minutes,
when one of the men came galloping back to inform me that no river was to
be found--that the country beyond the woods was covered with reeds as far
as the eye could reach, and that Mr. M'Leay had sent him back for
instructions. This intelligence stunned me for a moment or two, and I am
sure its effect upon the men was very great. They had unexpectedly
arrived at a part of the interior similar to one they held in dread, and
conjured up a thousand difficulties and privations. I desired the man to
recall Mr. M'Leay; and, after gaining the wood, moved outside of it at
right angles to my former course, and reached the river, after a day of
severe toil and exposure at half-past five. The country, indeed, bore
every resemblance to that around the marshes of the Macquarie, but I was
too weary to make any further effort; indeed it was too late for one to
undertake anything until the morning."

The following day, accompanied by his friend, Sturt proceeded to examine
the river. He found it still running strong, without any sign of
diminution in its flow, but the reedy flats were so dense and thick that
no passage for the teams was practicable. At noon the leader halted, and
announced his intention of returning to camp. He had come to the
determination to construct the whaleboat he had with him in sections, to
send the teams back, and, with six men and Mr. M'Leay, to start down the
river, and follow it wherever it went; whether ever to return again or
not was for the future to determine.

Clayton, the carpenter, was at once set to work upon the boat, or boats,
for a tree was felled, a sawpit rigged up, and a small boat half the size
of the whaleboat built. Everybody worked hard, and in seven days the
boats were afloat, moored alongside a temporary wharf, ready for loading.
Six men were then chosen to form the crew, who were about to undertake
one of the most eventful and important voyages in Australia's history.
They were Clayton, the carpenter, Mulholland and Macnamee, the three
soldiers, Harris, Hopkinson and Fraser, the leader, and M'Leay--eight in
all. The remainder of the party, under Robert Harris, were to remain
stationary one week, in case of accident, then to proceed to Goulburn
Plains and await instructions from Sydney.

On the 7th of January, 1830, the voyagers started, towing the smaller
boat, the men all in high spirits at the wide prospect of adventure
before them.

Going with the stream they made rapid progress, using only two oars, but
the first day did not suffice to carry them clear of the reeds, in fact,
at night when they landed to camp, they could scarcely find room to pitch
their tents. On the second day, an accident happened to the skiff they
were towing; she struck on a log, and immediately sank with all the
valuable cargo she carried. Two days were spent in recovering the things,
as the boat had gone down in twelve feet of water, and during the time
they were so employed, the blacks robbed the camp of many articles.

Once more on the move, they found the river still winding its way through
a flat expanse of reeds, and threatening to end as the other rivers had
done. On the afternoon of the next day a change for the better took
place; the reeds on both sides of the river terminated, and the country
became more elevated, and bore the appearance of open forest pasture
land; a tributary creek of considerable size joined the river from the
S.E., and the spirits of the voyagers rose again. More tributaries now
came in from the south-east, and the dangers of navigation increased, the
river being full of snags and fallen timber, and the utmost care had to
be used to keep the boat clear. On the second day of this distressing
work, they were destined to meet with a surprise.

"About one we again started. The men looked anxiously ahead, for the
singular change in the river had impressed on them the idea that we were
approaching its termination, or near some adventure. On a sudden the
river took a general southern direction, but, in its tortuous course,
swept round to every point of the compass with the greatest irregularity.
We were carried at a fearful rate down its gloomy and contracted banks,
and in such a moment of excitement, had little time to pay attention to
the country through which we were passing. It was, however, observed that
chalybeate springs were numerous close to the water's edge. At three
p.m., Hopkinson called out that we were approaching a junction, and in
less than a minute afterwards we were hurried into a broad and noble

"It is impossible to describe the effect of so instantaneous a change
upon us. The boats were allowed to drift along at pleasure, and such was
the force with which we had been shot out of the Morumbidgee, that we
were carried nearly to the bank opposite its embouchure, whilst we
continued to gaze in silent astonishment on the capacious channel we had
entered; and when we looked for that by which we had been led into it, we
could hardly believe that the insignificant gap that presented itself to
us was indeed the termination of the beautiful and noble stream whose
course we had thus successfully followed."

Sturt had now succeeded beyond his hopes--his bold adventure had been
rewarded even sooner than he could have expected. He felt assured that at
last he floated on the stream destined to bear him to the sea. The key to
the river system of the south-east portion of the continent was in his
grasp, and all former fallacies and fanciful theories were answered for
good. The voyage down the Murray, as this river was named, after Sir
George Murray, then the bead of the Colonial Department, now continued
free from some of the difficulties that had beset them in the
Morumbidgee. The natives again made their appearance, and were constantly
seen every day, some betraying great timidity, others appearing more
curious than frightened. Four of these natives accompanied them for two
days, during which time the explorers narrowly suffered wreck in a rapid
in the river.

They now approached the confluence of the Darling, although of course
they were not then able to verify the supposition that it was their old
friend, and at this point one of the most singular adventures ever
narrated in the intercourse with native tribes happened.

The wind was fair, and with the sail set, the boat was making rapid way
when, at the termination of a long reach, they observed a line of
magnificent trees, of green and dense foliage. A large number of blacks
were here assembled, and apparently with no friendly intentions, armed,
painted, and shouting defiance. Anxious to avert hostilities, Sturt
steered straight for them, thinking to make friends; but when almost too
close to avoid a meeting, he could see that the matter was serious. The
blacks had their spears poised for throwing, and their women were behind
with a fresh supply. The sail was lowered and the helm put about, and the
boat passed down the stream, the natives running along the bank, keeping
pace with them, shouting and attempting to take aim.

To add to their danger the river shoaled rapidly, and a sandspit appeared
ahead, projecting nearly two thirds of the way across the channel, and on
this spit the blacks now gathered with tremendous uproar, evidently
determined to make an assault on the boat as she ran the gauntlet through
the narrow passage. Amongst the four blacks who had accompanied them for
two days was one of superior personal strength and stature. These men had
left the camp of the whites the night before, and it was believing in
their presence in the crowd before them that led Sturt to disregard the
hostile demonstrations.

A battle now seemed inevitable. Arms were distributed to the crew, and
orders given how to act when the emergency arose.

We will let Sturt tell his own story:--

"The men assured me they would follow my instructions, and thus prepared,
having already lowered the sail, we drifted onwards with the current. As
we neared the sand-bank, I stood up and made signs to the natives to
desist, but without success. I took up my gun, therefore, and cocking it,
had already brought it down to a level; a few seconds more would have
closed the life of the nearest savage. The distance was too trifling for
me to doubt the fatal effects of the discharge; for I was determined to
take deadly aim, in hopes that the fall of one man might save the lives
of many. But at the very moment when my hand was on the trigger, and my
eye was along the barrel, my purpose was checked by M'Leay, who called to
me that another party of blacks had made their appearance upon the left
bank of the river. Turning round, I observed four men at the top of their
speed. The foremost of them, as soon as he got ahead of the boat, threw
himself from a considerable height into the water. He struggled across
the channel to the sandbank, and in an incredibly short space of time
stood in front of the savage, against whom my aim had been directed.
Seizing him by the throat, he pushed him backwards, and forcing all who
were in the water upon the bank, he trod its margin with a vehemence and
an agitation that were exceedingly striking. At one moment pointing to
the boat, at another shaking his clenched hand in the faces of the most
forward, and stamping with passion on the sand; his voice, that was at
first distinct, was lost in hoarse murmurs. Two of the four natives
remained on the left bank of the river, the third followed his leader
(who proved to be the remarkable savage I have previously noticed) to the
scene of action. The reader will imagine our feelings on this occasion;
it is impossible to describe them. We were so wholly lost in interest at
the scene that was passing, that the boat was allowed to drift at

"We were again aroused to action by the boat suddenly striking upon a
shoal, which reached from one side of the river to the other. To jump out
and push her into deep water was but the work of a moment with the men,
and it was just as she floated again that our attention was withdrawn to
a new and beautiful stream, coming apparently from the north. . . . A
party of about seventy blacks were upon the right bank of the newly
discovered river, and I thought that by landing amongst them I might make
a diversion in favour of our late guest, and in this I succeeded. The
blacks no sooner observed that we had landed than curiosity took the
place of anger. All wrangling ceased, and they came swimming over to us
like a parcels of seals . . . It was not until after we had returned to
the boat, and had surveyed the multitude on the sloping bank above us
that we became fully aware of the extent of our danger, and of the almost
miraculous intervention of Providence in our favour. There could not have
been less than six hundred natives upon that blackened sward."

After presenting their friend who had acted so effectively on their
behalf, and whose energetic conduct and prompt interference to preserve
peace is unparalleled in native annals, with suitable gifts and refusing
them to the other chiefs, the boat's crew proceeded to examine the new
river they had discovered at such a critical moment.

Pulling easily up for a short distance they found it preserved a breadth
of one hundred yards, and a depth of rather more than twelve feet, The
banks were sloping and grassy, crowned with fine trees, and the men
exclaimed that they had got into an English river.

To Sturt himself the moment was a supreme one; was it, or was it not that
mysterious Darling, whose course through the far interior had been a
subject of speculation ever since its discovery? He felt sure that it

"An irresistible conviction impressed me that we were now sailing on the
bosom of that very stream from whose banks I had been twice forced to
retire. I directed the Union jack to be hoisted, and giving way to our
satisfaction we all stood up in the boat and gave three distinct cheers.
It was an English feeling, an ebullition, an overflow, which I am ready
to admit that our circumstances and situation will alone excuse. The eve
of every native had been fixed upon that noble flag, at all times a
beautiful object, and to them a novel one, as it waved over us in the
heart of the desert. They had until that moment been particularly
loquacious, but the sight of that flag and the sound of our voices hushed
the tumult, and while they were still lost in astonishment, the boat's
head was turned, the sail was sheeted home, both wind and current were in
our favour, and we vanished from them with a rapidity that surprised even
ourselves, and which precluded every hope of the most adventurous among
them to keep up with us."

Once Pore down the now united streams of the Murray and the Darling the
party made rapid progress, landing occasionally to inspect the country,
but finding always a boundless flat on either side of them.

Provisions now began to get scarce with them, the barrels of salt pork
that had been in the skiff when she sank in the Morumbidgee had their
contents damaged by the admission of the fresh water. The fish, though
abundant, were more than unattractive to their palates, and the men took
no trouble to set the night lines. The strictest economy had, therefore,
to become the order of the day. The skiff being only a drag to them, she
was broken up, and burnt for the sake of the nails and iron-work.

On the 24th of January, the whale-boat continued its voyage alone, and
the record from day to day was only broken by their intercourse with the
different tribes, with whom a regular system of communication was now
established. Deputies were sent ahead, from one tribe to another, to
prepare them for the visit of the strangers. These deputies, by cutting
off the numerous bends of the river, were enabled to travel much quicker
than did Sturt, frequently doing easily in one day what it took the boat
two to accomplish. Their black friends were, however, becoming rather a
nuisance; little or no information could be obtained from them, and the
constant handling and embracing, which they had from policy to submit to,
became horribly distasteful to all of them, particularly as Sturt
describes all the tribes he met with as being beyond the average filthily
dirty, and eaten up with skin diseases.

On the 25th, the wanderers thought they sighted a range to the N.W., and
the blacks confirmed it, pointing in that direction when Hopkinson piled
up some clay in imitation of mountains.

On the 29th, the leader calculated that they were still one hundred and
fifteen miles from the coast, and as they had been now twenty-two days on
the river, their return began to be a matter for serious thought. From
what he saw of the country, Sturt imagined that it was, for the most
part, barren and sandy, and would never be utilised. But, of course, he
had little or no opportunities, travelling as he did, of forming a
correct judgment.

The cliffs on the river bank now showed fossilized sea shells in their
strata; chains of hills, too, became visible, and one of the natives,
[This old native, after the settlement of the country, was shot in cold
blood by one of the South Australian police.] an old man who had taken a
strange fancy to Hopkinson, described the roaring of the sea and the
height of the waves, showing that he had visited the coast. None, it may
be certain, were more glad than the leader to hear of their proximity,
for his thoughts were always busy with the failing condition of his men,
and the accumulating difficulties of his return.

True, it had been partly arranged that a vessel should proceed to the
south coast, but Sturt had little hope of meeting her, even if one had
been sent. The frequent bends in the river greatly delayed their advance,
but they were cheered by the flight of sea-gulls over their heads. The
river, too, widened day after day, and a constant strong wind from the
S.W., raised a chopping sea that almost stopped their way; the blacks they
met all assured them that the ocean was at hand. On the 9th February,
Sturt landing to examine the country, saw before him the lake that
terminated the Murray. He had reached his goal, thirty-three days after
separating from his party, at the Morumbidgee. Crossing the lake the
little band landed on the southern shore, and ascertained that the
communication between it and the sea was impracticable on account of its
extreme shallowness; they found their position to be in Encounter Bay,
east of Spencer's Gulf, and from what they saw it was evident that no
ship could enter it during the prevalence of the S.W. winds. All hope of
a safe return centred in themselves. The thunder of the surf, that they
had so longed for, brought no message of succour, but rather warned the
lonely men to hasten back, while yet some strength remained to them; and
above all they were surrounded by hostile blacks. Sturt had now a
terrible task before him. His men were weakened and on half rations;
there was every probability that the fickle natives might be troublesome
on their homeward route, and worst of all they would have to fight the
steady current of the river the whole way; nor would their spirits be
cheered by any hope of novelty or discovery. Under these gloomy auspices
Sturt re-entered the Murray on his return on the 13th February.

The homeward journey is simply a record of unrelaxed toil day after day,
Sturt and M'Leay taking their turn at the oar like the rest; added to
which the blacks gave them far more trouble than before. At the fall
above the junction of the Darling they once more met the friend who had
saved them from coming into conflict with the natives on the 24th
January; he and some of his tribe assisted them to get the boat up the
rapids. On the 20th of March they reached the camp on the Morumbidgee
from whence they had started, but it was now abandoned, and the hope that
the relief party had pushed down there to meet them was destroyed; there
was nothing for it but to pull on, but human nature was rapidly giving
way; the men though falling asleep at their oars never grumbled, but

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