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

Part 3 out of 10

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worked steadily, if moodily, faithful to their duty to the last. Then the
river rose, and for days they struggled vainly against it. One man went
mad, and had to be relieved from the oars. At last, when ninety miles
from Pontebadgery, the place where Sturt believed the relief party to be
camped, he determined to dispatch two men for provisions and await their

After six days, when the last ounce of flour had been served out, the men
came back with horses and drays, and all trouble was at an end. This was
on the 18th April, eighty-eight days after their departure from the
depôt, during which they had voyaged two thousand miles.

This expedition, from whatever light it is regarded, either as the most
important contribution ever made to Australian geography, or as an
example of most wonderful endurance, and patient heroism is equally one
of the most glorious records in this history. The leader and his men were
alike worthy of each other.

We have now had in review the opinion of many men on the future of the
great interior, and seen how they all alike predicted for it barrenness
and desolation. Even the satisfaction that Sturt felt at accomplishing
the descent of the Murray was qualified by a consideration of the
valueless country it flowed through. The question will naturally be
asked, how could men of such ability and more than average shrewdness
make such a gross mistake as the succeeding years have proved their
opinion to be? The principal reason will be found in their want of
experience in witnessing the development and improvement of land by
stocking, and their ignorance of the value of the vegetation they
condemned as worthless. Hume was the only man amongst them exceptionally
fitted by training to judge of the capability of the land, and we do not
often get at his direct opinion, nor is it likely that, with the memory
of the green meadow lands and sparkling waters of the Morumbidgee fresh
in his mind, it would be a very favourable one. Oxley and Sturt both
wrote smarting under disappointment, and both had been suddenly
confronted with a new and strange experience which they could associate
with nothing but the idea of a desert. That all this seemingly desolate
waste should one day have a distinctive value of its own was what they
could hardly dream of.


Settlement at King George's Sound--The free colony of Swan River
founded--Governor Stirling--Captain Bannister crosses from Perth to King
George's Sound--Explorations by Lieutenant Roe--Disappointing nature of
the interior--Bunbury, Wilson, and Moore--Settlement on the North
Coast--Melville Island and Raffles Bay--An escaped convict's story--The
fabulous Kindur River--Major Mitchell starts in search of it--Discovery
of the Namoi--The Nundawar Range--Failure of the boats--Reach the Gwydir
River of Cunningham--The KARAULA--Its identity with the Darling--Murder
of the two bullock-drivers--Mitchell's return--Murder of Captain Barker
in Encounter Bay--Major Mitchell's second expedition to trace the course
of the Darling--Traces the Bogan to its junction with that river--Fort
Bourke--Progress down the river--Hostility of the natives--Skirmish with
them--Return--Mitchell's third expedition--The Lachlan followed--Junction
of the Darling and the Murray reached--Mitchell's discovery of Australia

During the time that Oxley, Sturt, and Hume had been tracing out and
painfully discovering the watershed of the Murray, a settlement had been
formed at King George's Sound, in Western Australia, and some slight
attempts at exploration made, but of inconsiderable extent. The
settlement was entrusted to Major Lockyer, who was succeeded by Captain
Barker, destined to meet a violent death at the mouth of the Murray. In
1828, Captain Stirling, in the SUCCESS, visited the coast, and made a
close examination of the Swan River. He was accompanied by Frazer the
botanist, who had now been present at the opening of a great deal of new
country. Stirling's report was a favourable one, and the Home Government
determined to form a free colony there. In 1831, we find a communication
to the Colonial Government, notifying that the ISABELLA be dispatched to
Hobart Town, to bring up a detachment of the 63rd regiment to relieve
those of the 39th, at King George's Sound. Also, directing the withdrawal
from the present settlement of both prisoners and troops.

Stirling was then appointed Lieutenant-Governor, and to induce
immigration and settlement, the colonists were promised land in
proportion to the capital they brought into the country, and for every
labourer they brought out they received two hundred acres of land

At first, the prospects of this new colony seemed most hopeful,
exploration was pushed out to the eastward for one hundred miles, as far
as Mount Stirling, and northward for some sixty miles or so, and the
country discovered gave every promise of being fitted for both pasture
and agriculture.

Captain Bannister made a trip in 1831 from Perth, the new settlement, to
the old one of King George's Sound; and, although he made no important
discoveries, he passed through fairly available country nearly the whole
of the way.

For some reason or other, however, a period of stagnation set in, and
little more was done in the way of exploring until Lieutenant Grey took
the field in 1837. In this new settlement, so entirely opposed to Port
Jackson in situation, no difficulties of any magnitude were experienced
in passing the coast range, as had been the great obstacle of the early
explorers in New South Wales. Unfortunately, however, the comparatively
lower altitude of the Darling Range led to there being no such flow of
water inland as even those disappointing rivers the Macquarie and Lachlan
had afforded. Consequently, exploration and the ensuing occupation were,
as in the parent colony, strictly confined to the immediate neighbourhood
of the township, to the Swan River, and its tributaries, the Avon and the

Lieutenant Roe attempted several journeys to the eastward, and discovered
many salt lakes on the tableland of the interior. Messrs. Bunbury,
Wilson, and Moore made other explorations, more or less succeeding in the
purposes they had in view; but they all embraced so small an area, and so
little details have been preserved, that they cannot take any important
rank in the history of continental explorations.

During the twenties another settlement had been formed on the northern
coast of Australia; but one not destined to drag out a very long

Captain Gordon Bremer, in the TAMAR, accompanied by two transports,
sailed through Torres Straits and anchored in Port Essington, in 1824.
The port was, however, at that time condemned as a site for a settlement,
the supply of fresh water did not come up to expectations, and the dry
months of the year had set in. Bremer sailed for Melville Island, one of
twin islands lying off the coast. These islands, Melville and Bathurst,
are separated from each other by a narrow strait that Captain King, the
discoverer, mistook for a river. On Melville Island a favourable site
with abundance of fresh water was found, and the usual routine of taking
possession and forming an encampment gone through, and for a time things
seemed to prosper; the soil of the island is good, and tropical fruits
would flourish with little trouble; but hostilities commenced with the
blacks, sickness broke out, and in 1829 it was determined to abandon the
settlement, and since that date no attempt has been made to colonise this
island, although it is now stocked with the increase of the buffaloes
left behind by the TAMAR'S people.

Fort Wellington, in Raffles Bay, founded in 1826, fared no better,
although controlled during its last year by the gifted and unfortunate
Captain Barker. A blight of stagnation seemed in those days to hang over
all attempts at settlement in the tropical regions, and in three years'
time Fort Wellington was abandoned, and with it the northern coast.

Once more we must turn our attention to the southern watershed of the
Darling, and the additional links of discovery in the great network of
its tributaries.

Rumour, always busy with tales of the unknown interior, now spread a
story of a mysterious river called the Kindur, running to the north-west.
A runaway convict named Clarke, alias "the barber," brought the story up
first. He said that he had long heard of the river from the natives, and
at last determined to make his escape and follow it down to see if it
would lead him to any other country. He, therefore, took to the bush, and
started on this adventurous trip. The imaginative and highly-coloured
fabrication that he related on his return, was probably invented in order
to save his back, but at any rate it was plausible enough to induce the
Government to dispatch an expedition to investigate the matter. This was
his story. He started from Liverpool Plains, and followed a river called
by the natives the GNAMOI or NAMMOY, into which he said that Oxley's
river Peel flowed. Crossing this he struck another river, the KINDUR, and
down this stream he travelled no less than four hundred miles before it
was joined by the GNAMOI. Nothing daunted he stuck to the KINDUR, which
was broad and navigable, flowing through level country and spreading into
occasional lakes, until at last he reached the sea, but he acknowledged
that he had lost his reckoning, and whether it was five hundred or five
thousand miles he went he could not truthfully say, but he was as quite
sure upon one point, that he had never travelled south of west.

When at the mouth of the river he ascended a hill and looked out to sea
where he saw an island, inhabited, the natives told him, by
copper-coloured men who came in large canoes to the mainland for scented
wood. In addition he introduced various details of large plains, BALYRAN,
that he had crossed, and a burning mountain named COURADA. As he saw no
prospect of getting away from Australia, Clarke decided on returning.

This wild tale, and the expedition it led to, brings on the scene one of
the most noted figures of the past, Oxley's successor, Surveyor-General
Major Mitchell.

The Acting-Governor, Sir Patrick Lindesay, decided on sending out an
expedition to find out the truth of this story, thinking that, at any
rate, it would lead to the exploration of a great deal of new country.
Accordingly, Major Mitchell received instructions to take charge of the
party, and on the 21St of November, 1831, took his departure from
Liverpool Plains. On the 15th of December, he came to the Peel, and
crossing Oxley's Hardwicke Range, reached the Namoi River on the 16th.
After penetrating some distance into a range, which he called the
Nundawar Range, he made back for the Namoi, and proceeded to set up the
canvas boats he had with him, intending to try to follow the river in
them. His attempt was fruitless, one of the boats was soon snagged, and
it became evident that it would be much easier to follow the Namoi on
horseback. Leaving the river, after passing the range he had vainly tried
to cross, Mitchell, on the 9th of January, 1832, came to the river Gwydir
of Cunningham. Turning to the westward the party followed this river down
for eighty miles, when he again returned to his northern course, and came
to the largest river he had yet found. This was called, by the natives,
the KARAULA, and Mitchell descended it until convinced, by its southern
course and the junction of the Gwydir, that he was on the upper part of
Sturt's Darling.

As the junction of the Namoi could not be far distant, Mitchell had thus
laid down the course and direction of these two large rivers, although he
had as yet seen nothing of the object of his search, the Kindur.

He now prepared to move once more to the north, anxious to find a river
that did not belong to the Darling system. As, however, he was on the
point of starting, he was overtaken by his assistant-surveyor, Finch, who
was bringing on additional supplies, with the disastrous news that the
blacks had attacked his camp during a temporary absence, murdered the two
men, robbed the supplies, and dispersed the cattle. This misfortune put
a stop to the progress of the party. They returned, and having buried
the bodies of the victims, but failed to find the murderers, made their
way back to the settled districts.

This journey of Major Mitchell's helped greatly to work out the courses
of the rivers crossed by Oxley, and more especially those discovered by
Cunningham during his trip to the Darling Downs. Mitchell travelled, as
it were, a more inland but parallel track, crossing the rivers much lower
down. Thus the Field River of Oxley is the NAMOI of Mitchell,
Cunningham's Gwydir is recognised by the Surveyor-General, and is
probably the mythical KINDUR or KEINDER, whilst the last found river,
Mitchell's KARAULA, is formed by the junction of Cunningham's Dumaresque
and Condamine.

When we add to this the discovery of the Drummond Range, Mitchell's first
contribution to Australian geography was sufficiently important.

This year, 1832, was marked by the murder of Captain Barker, already
mentioned as in turn Commandant of Fort Wellington and King George's
Sound. He was returning from the latter place, after handing over charge
to Captain Stirling, and on his way home landed on the eastern shore of
St. Vincent's Gulf, to see if the waters of Lake Alexandrina, the
termination of the Murray, had an outlet in the Gulf. Being unsuccessful
he crossed the range and paid a visit to the lake. Anxious to obtain some
bearings, he swam across the channel connecting the lake with the sea in
order to ascend the sandhills on the opposite side. His companions
watched him take several bearings from the top of the hill, descend out
of view on the other side, and he was never seen again. One of the
sealers from Kangaroo Island interrogated the blacks by means of a native
woman of the island, who could speak broken English, and her account was
that Barker met three natives as he descended the sand dune, who attacked
and speared him, unarmed and naked as he was, and then cast his body in
the breakers. These natives were of the same tribes that showed such
determined hostility to Sturt when he first found the lake.

Although Sturt himself felt confident that the junction of the Murray and
Darling were satisfactorily proved by what he saw on his famous boat
excursion, he had not convinced all of the public. Major Mitchell, for
one, had an entirely different theory on the subject embracing the
existence of a. dividing range between the Macquarie and Lachlan rivers
which would entirely preclude the Darling and Murray from joining.
Time, however, proved that Sturt's instinct had not been at fault when
on reaching the junction of the two rivers in his whale-boat, he felt
convinced that he there saw the outflow of his old friend, the Darling.

It must be remembered that the explorations conducted by Major Mitchell
were also surveys, superintended by him as Surveyor-General, which will
partly explain the presence of the large body of men and equipage which
it was his custom to take with him. The roll call of the members of one
of his expeditions reads like that of an invading army. [See Appendix.]

In order to get some additional information concerning the elevated
country that Oxley had noticed to the westward between the Lachlan and
the Macquarie (on which slight foundation Major Mitchell had built his
theory of the two rivers running through distinctly different basins),
Mr. Dixon was sent out in 1833. This gentleman, however, for some reason
did not adhere to his instructions; he followed down the Macquarie for
some distance and crossed to the Bogan (Sturt's New Year's Creek), then
running strong, and having followed that river for sixty-seven miles,
returned to Bathurst; nothing new nor important came of this expedition.

In March, 1833, the party formed under the superintendence of the
Surveyor-General left Parramatta to travel by easy stages to Buree, where
they were to be overtaken by their leader. The list of the members is a
long one. We who live in the days of well-equipped small parties,
composed of reliable, experienced men only, would feel considerably
handicapped with such a retinue. In addition to Major Mitchell, Richard
Cunningham, botanist (brother to Allan Cunningham), and Mr. Larmer,
assistant surveyor, there were twenty-one men; carpenters, bullock
drivers, blacksmith, shoemaker, &c.

While still on the outskirts of settlement, an unhappy fate overtook
Cunningham, the botanist. Leaving the party, doubtless on some scientific
quest, during the morning of the 17th of April, whilst they were pushing
over a dry stage to the Bogan River, he lost his way, and was never seen

A long and painful search was immediately instituted for the missing man,
but unfortunately, through some accident, his tracks were overlooked on
the third day, and it was not until the 23rd of the month that the
footsteps were found. Mr. Larmer and three men were sent with an ample
supply of provisions to follow the tracks until they found Cunningham,
alive or dead. Three days later they returned, having found the horse he
had ridden, dead, with the saddle and bridle still on. Mitchell returned
to the search once more; the lost man's trail was again picked up, and he
was tracked to the Bogan River. They there met with some blacks who had
seen the white man's track in the bed of the river, and made the
searchers understand that he had gone to the west with the "Myall" [Wild
blacks who had not visited the settlements.] blackfellows.

All hope of finding him alive was now almost abandoned, but the pursuit
was continued until May 5th, when the men brought back tidings that they
had followed his tracks to where it disappeared near some recent fires
where many natives had been encamped. Close to one of these fires they
found a portion of the skirt or selvage of Cunningham's coat, numerous
small fragments of his map of the colony, and, in the hollow of a tree,
some yellow printed paper in which he used to carry the map. His fate was
afterwards ascertained from the blacks. [ See Appendix.]

As is unfortunately so usual in these cases, Cunningham had, by wandering
in eccentric and contradictory courses, accelerated his fate, by
rendering the work of the tracking party so much more tedious and
difficult. Had he, on finding how absolutely he was astray, remained at
the first water he reached, he would have been found.

Having done all that man could do to find his lost friend, and even
jeopardised the final success of his own expedition by the long delay of
fourteen days, Mitchell resumed his journey by easy stages down the
Bogan, and on the 25th of May reached the Darling, which was at once
recognised by all the former members of the party as the "Karaula," from
the peculiar attributes that characterised it. On tasting the water, they
were agreeably surprised to find it fresh and sweet. The state of the
country now was very different from what it was when Sturt was forced to
retreat. With that explorer's graphic account of the barren solitude that
he met with, fresh in the reader's memory, let him contrast it with what
Mitchell writes, remembering that one was encamped beside a salt stream,
and the latter writer beside a fresh water river.

"We were extremely fortunate, however, in the place to which the bounteous
hand of Providence had led us. Abundance of pasture, indeed such
excellent grass as we had not seen in the whole journey, covered the fine
forest ground on the bank of the river. There were four kinds, but the
cattle appeared to relish most a strong species of AUTHISTIRIA, or
kangaroo grass."

Finding the place eligible in every respect for the formation of a depôt,
a stockade of logs was erected and the encampment christened Fort Bourke.

The boats were launched, but the navigation of the river was found to be
impeded by shallow rapids, so the party returned to Fort Bourke, and
Mitchell with four men made an excursion down the river to the point
where Sturt and Hume turned back. D'Urbans group was also 'Visited, and
bearings taken to whatever elevations were in sight. On returning to the
depôt the camp was broken up and the whole party started down the Darling
(the CALLA-WATTA of the natives) on the 8th June. During their progress
they found the tree marked H. H. by Hume, at Sturt's limit, and they now
noticed that in places the river water was salt or brackish. On the 11th
of July, after following the course of the river for three hundred miles,
and ascertaining beyond all doubt that it must be identical with the
junction in the Murray, noticed by Captain Sturt, Mitchell determined to
return; the unvarying sameness of the country they had travelled over
holding forth no hope of any important discovery being made, in the space
intervening between their lowest camp and Sturt's junction. The natives,
too, had been an incessant cause of annoyance to them; robbing the camp
at every opportunity, and keeping the leader in constant anxiety for the
safety of any of the members of his party, whom duty compelled to leave
the main body. On the very day, almost at the very hour, when Mitchell
made up his mind to return, the first hostile collision between the two
races occurred; a collision which had only been hitherto averted by the
admirable patience of the Major and his men. On the 29th June, he

"I never saw such unfavourable specimens of the aborigines as these
children of the smoke, [Referring to their constant habit of burning the
grass.] they were so barbarously and implacably hostile, and shamelessly
dishonest, and so little influenced by reason that the more they saw of
our superior weapons and means of defence, the more they showed their
hatred and tokens of defiance."

On the morning of this day, when he had settled in his own mind the
futility of further progress, two of the men were away at the river, and
five of the the bullock drivers were also at another bend, collecting
their cattle. One of the blacks whom they had nick-named King Peter tried
to snatch the kettle of water from the hand of the man who was carrying
it; and on being resisted he struck him senseless with his nulla-nulla.
The companion of the wounded man shot King Peter in the groin, and his
majesty tumbled into the river and swam across. The tribe now advanced
against them, and two shots were fired in self defence, one of which
accidentally wounded a gin. Three men from the camp hearing the firing came
up, and one more native was shot, who was preparing to spear one of the
men. The natives retreating, the men went in search of the
bullock-drivers, whom they found endeavouring to raise a bogged bullock:
their timely arrival probably saved these men's lives, as they were
unarmed and unprepared.

War being thus declared, a careful watch was kept up, but no attack was
made, and the explorers departed unmolested.

In speaking of this skirmish, Mitchell, seemingly worked up to a
sentimental pitch by hearing some gins crying out across the river in the
night time, says:--

"It was then that I regretted most bitterly the inconsiderate conduct of
some of the men. I was indeed liable to pay dear for geographical
discovery, when my honour and character were delivered over to convicts,
on whom, although I might confide as to courage, I could not always rely
for humanity."

By his own account, as given above, the affray was provoked by the
blacks, who compelled the men to use their weapons to save their own
lives; the reflections then, on their humanity, and the danger in which
his character stood in consequence, are slightly out of place.

The travellers now retraced their steps, and beyond the delays caused by
some of the bullocks knocking up, their return journey to Fort Bourke was
unmarked by anything of interest. From Fort Bourke they returned, partly
along their outward track, to the head of the Bogan, and reached a
newly-formed cattle station belonging to Mr. Lee, of Bathurst, on the 9th
of September.

The great fact added to the geographical knowledge of Australia by the
successful termination of this trip, was the identity of the Darling with
the KARAULA on the north, and with Sturt's Murray junction on the south.
It was now satisfactorily settled that this river was the channel that
received all the tributary streams flowing westward--so far north, at any
rate, as Cunningham's researches had extended, and that therefore their
final outlet was in Lake Alexandrina, and the idea of a river winding
through the interior to the north-west coast had to be finally

This journey of Mitchell's was also instrumental in somewhat palliating
the view held of the uninhabitable nature of the far interior; although
the true character of the country had yet to be learnt and appreciated.
His stay on the banks of the Darling at least lifted from those plains
the stigma of a grassless, naked waste, intersected by a river of brine.

Mitchell, too, was a keen observer of the habits and customs of the
blacks, he was remarkably quick at detecting tribal differences and
distinctions, and his record of his intercourse with them, which occupies
so large a portion of his journals, was interesting then, when so little
had been written on the subject, and is interesting now as the account of
the white man's first incursions into the hunting ground of a fast
vanishing race.

Mitchell's next expedition took place in 1836, in the month of March. As
before, it was to be more of a connecting survey, confirming and
verifying previous discoveries, than a fresh departure into an utterly
new region; but it turned out to be productive of the most important

The Surveyor-General was informed that the survey of the Darling was to
be completed with the least possible delay, that having returned to the
point where his last journey terminated, he was to trace the Darling into
the Murray, and crossing his party over that river by means of his boats,
follow it up, and regain the colony somewhere at Yass Plains. This
programme was, however, departed from in many ways.

The new ground broken by Mitchell would thus be the Murray River above
the junction with the Morumbidgee or Murrumbidgee, as it was now called,
and it was supposed that he would be able to identify it with the Hume
River of the explorer of that name.

A long continued drought was in full force when Mitchell commenced his
preparations; horses and bullocks in good condition were in consequence
hard to obtain; but no expense was spared by the Government in providing
the animals required. On reaching Bathurst, he was informed that even the
Lachlan was dry.

In spite of the state of the weather and country, Major Mitchell departed
in high spirits. He writes:--

"I remembered that exactly that morning, twenty-four years before, I had
marched down the glacis of Elvas to the tune of 'St. Patrick's Day in the
Morning,' as the sun rose over the beleagured towers of Badajoz. Now,
without any of the 'pride, pomp, and circumstances of glorious war,' I
was proceeding on a service not very likely to be peaceful, for the
natives here assured me that the myalls were coming up 'murry coola'
[Very angry.] to meet us."

On March 17th, 1836, this start took place, but it was not until the end
of the month that he reached the limit of the cattle stations, and then
he was at the point where Oxley had left the river and turned south to
avoid the flooded marshes. Oxley wrote of a country that no living thing
would stop in if it could possibly get away; twenty years afterwards,
Mitchell writes of the same place:--

"In no district have I seen cattle so numerous as all along the Lachlan,
and, notwithstanding the very dry season, they are nearly all in good

As might have been expected, he followed down the Lachlan riding dry-shod
over the swamps and flats that had barred Oxley's progress, and finding
his lakes only green and grassy plains. Such had been the effect of the
exceptional season during which the late Surveyor-General had conducted
his explorations, that the country, save for the few land-marks afforded
by the hills here and there, could scarcely be recognised from his
description. Mitchell seems to have been strongly imbued with two leading
ideas, one being the existence of well-defined mountain chains in the
interior, forming systematic watersheds in a country where we now know
there is no system; the other that former explorers, however reliable
they might have been in their main facts, were quite at sea in any
deductions they had drawn from them, and that his theories would be
confirmed to their discomfiture.

The Surveyor-General had with him as second on this trip, Mr. Stapylton,
a surveyor, and his company consisted of Burnett, the overseer, and
twenty-two men, some of whom had been with him before.

For some reason or other he seemed particularly anxious to upset Sturt's
positive belief that the junction of the large river with the Murray
discovered by him, was the confluence of the Darling and the Murray.
During his journey down the Lachlan he returns to this idea again, and
his remarks are decidedly inconsistent with his former statements. On
turning back from following the Darling down, his words were:--

"The identity of this river with that which had been seen to enter the
Murray, now admitted of little doubt, and the continuation of the survey
to that point was scarcely an object worth the peril likely to attend

On the Lachlan, he writes:--

"I considered it necessary now to ascertain, if possible, and before the
heavy part of our equipment moved further, whether the Lachlan actually
joined the Murrumbidgee near the point where Mr. Oxley saw its waters
covering the country, or whether it pursued a course so much more to the
westward, as to have been taken for the Darling by Captain Sturt. Should
I succeed in reaching the Lachlan at about sixty miles west of my camp, I
might be satisfied that it was this river which Captain Sturt mistook for
the Darling, and then I might seek that river by crossing the range on
the north. Whereas, should I find sufficient reason to believe that the
Darling would join the Murray, I might continue my journey down the
Lachlan until I reduced the distance across to the Darling as much as the
scarcity of water might render necessary."

On the whole, then, Mitchell did not seem inclined to give Sturt any
credit for his discovery, until he had actually seen the two rivers
unite, and there could no longer be any room for doubt on the subject.

A long excursion to the westward for some days, resulted in nothing but
thirsty nights, and having finally to turn back from country bounded only
by an unbroken horizon. The descent of the Lachlan was continued, and on
May 5th, they reached Oxley's lowest point on the river, where he had
given up the quest as hopeless amid the shallow, stagnant lagoons that
then covered the face of the country. The tree marked by Oxley himself
was not found, it having been, as was ascertained, burnt down by the
blacks, and the bottle buried by him, broken by a child. Two trees were
seen marked respectively W.W. and I.W., 1817. This was the place where
Oxley left the river the second time, after his fruitless trip to the
south, and from here he struck across to the Macquarie.

Through level plains and by the beds of erstwhile lakes, the course of
the river continued, and as the party proceeded they found it abundantly
watered. From his intercourse with the native inhabitants, Mitchell was
now convinced that the Lachlan or Kalare would soon join the
Murrumbidgee, so that when on the 12th May he suddenly found himself on
the banks of a river that he thought surpassed all the Australian rivers
he had yet seen, he was not surprised.

Soon afterwards, as the Major was anxious not to encumber himself with
all his heavy waggons to the junction of the Darling, as he would have to
return again, a depôt was formed, and the men divided. Mitchell, with a
lightly equipped party following down the river, leaving Stapylton in
charge of the camp.

In a short time the advance party came to the Murray, and immediately
found themselves amongst their former enemies of the Darling, who hearing
of their approach, through the medium of other tribes, had come a
distance of over two hundred miles to settle the old score between them.
At first a kind of hollow truce was maintained, but this evidently could
not last long; for two days the natives followed the explorers, seeking
to cut off any stragglers; making the work of gathering and minding the
cattle and horses one of considerable danger.

At last Mitchell was convinced that he must read them a lesson, or lose
some of his men, and have to fight his way back, with the whole country
roused. Half the party were then sent back, under the overseer, to
conceal themselves in the scrub and allow the natives to pass on in
pursuit of the tracks; this ambuscade, however, was scented out by the
dogs accompanying the blacks, and the natives halted, poising their
spears. One of the men hastily fired, and a retreat was made for the bank
of the river by the blacks. The scrub party followed them up firing, and
no sooner did those in advance hear the sound of the shots, than they
rushed down to join in the fray, leaving the black boy's gin the sole
protector of the drays, and equipment. On his return, the Major found her
standing erect at the head of the leading horse, with a drawn sword over
her shoulder.

Her appearance was, above all, both laughable and interesting. She was a
tall, gaunt woman, with one disfigured eye, and her attitude, as she
stood there with the naked weapon in her hand, faithful guard of all
their belongings, was a picture that Mitchell did not soon forget.

The fight was soon over; in a very short space of time the over-confident
warriors of the interior were driven ignominously across the river with
the loss of seven braves. This, after invading the territory of a
friendly tribe in order to provoke a battle with the whites, and boasting
that formerly they had driven them back from the Darling, was a blow that
they could not get over, and the result was that the whites were not
again molested. It turned out that this pugnacious tribe was the same
that threatened Sturt at the Darling junction, when the energetic
interference of one man was so effectual. This remarkable savage, it
seems, was dead and his influence lost.

On the 31st May, Mitchell struck the Darling some distance above the
junction, and traced its course upwards a short way, until he again felt
convinced that it was the same river that he had been on before, He
returned and examined the junction, which he says he recognised from the
view given in Captain Sturt's work [Note, end of paragraph] and the
adjacent localities described by him. Full of anxiety for the safety of
his depôt, and considering that he had done enough to verify the outflow
of the Darling, he at once started up the Murray, and was happily
relieved by finding his camp in perfect quiet and safety.

[Note Captain Sturt, writing in 1848, and speaking of Major Mitchell's
expedition, says:--"In due time he came to the disputed junction, which
he tells us he recognised from its resemblance to a drawing of it in my
first work. As I have since been on the spot, I am sorry to say that it
is not at all like the place, because it obliges me to reject the only
praise Sir Thomas Mitchell ever gave me." The original sketch of the
junction having been lost, Sturt, who was nearly blind at the time of the
publication of his work, got the assistance of a friend, who drew it from
his verbal description.]

First fixing the junction of the Murray and Murrumbidgee, the boats were
launched, and the whole of the party crossed the Murray, and the journey
up the southern bank commenced. On the 20th of June, they reached Swan
Hill and camped at the foot of it. The country was in every way
desirable, and the progress of the party was unchecked. On the 8th of
July, the Loddon was discovered and named, and on the 10th, the Avoca.
Mitchell was now convinced that he had found the Eden of Australia, and
his enthusiasm in describing it is unbounded. On the 18th of July, he
discovered the Wimmera, and on the 31st, the Glenelg. Here he launched
his boat once more, but found his way stopped at the outset by a fall,
and the river had to be followed on land. On the 18th of August, after
many excursions, the river being now much broader, the boats were again
resorted to, and in two days they reached the coast a little to the east
of Cape Northumberland.

Returning to the camp, the expedition made east, and reached Portland
Bay, where they found a farm established by the Messrs. Henty, who had
been there then nearly two years. Here they obtained some small supplies,
and again left on their homeward journey. On the 4th September Mitchell
abandoned one of his boats, in order to lighten his equipage, as the
draught work was excessively heavy for his cattle, and one boat would
answer the purpose of crossing rivers. On the 10th, he caught sight of a
range, and named it the Australian Pyrenees, and on the 19th the party

The Major and some of the men pushed on with the freshest of the animals,
leaving Stapylton and the remainder of the party to spell for a while,
and bring the knocked-up beasts slowly on.

On the 30th, Mitchell ascended Mount Macedon, and from the top recognised
Port Phillip.

"No stockyards nor cattle were visible, nor even smoke, although at the
highest northern point of the bay I saw a mass of white objects, which
might have been either tents or vessels."

But Mitchell was not to arrive home without another fatality amongst his
party. On October 13th, when looking for a crossing in a river, one of
the men, named James Taylor, was drowned.

On the 17th, after passing through a forest, they recognised with great
satisfaction, the lofty "Yarra" trees, and the low verdant alluvial flats
of the Murray. Once across the river, the boat was sunk in a deep lagoon,
and the boat carriage left on the bank for the use of Stapylton. Three
volunteers went back to meet him, and assist in crossing the Ovens and
Goulburn. The advance party were now almost within the settled districts,
and with the safe arrival of Stapylton at the Murrumbidgee, on November
11th, the history of the discovery of AUSTRALIA FELIX ends.

Sir Thomas Mitchell had been singularly favoured during this journey, his
route had led him through a country possessing every variety of feature,
from snow-topped mountains to level plains, watered by permanently-flowing
stream and rivers; fitted, as he says, for the immediate occupation of the
grazier, and the farmer. It, therefore, was of more real benefit to the
colony than the former exploratory journeys, that had met with only
partial success in this respect.

He had well carried out his instructions, and obtained a full knowledge
of the country south of the Murray, and of the rivers there; flowing
either into that river, or into the sea; confirming the impression
already entertained of the great value of the district, and the report of
Hume and Hovell, who with their slender resources were unable to do much
in the way of extended examination.

We have seen that the brothers Henty, of Tasmania, had formed a
settlement at Portland Bay, and in 1835 the historic founding of Port
Phillip settlement by Batman took place, so that the mere extension of
settlement would soon have thrown open for settlement the splendid area
that Mitchell was just in time to claim as his discovery. The story of
Batman's compact with the blacks, by which he asserted his right to a
princely territory is too well-known to require repetition; [Note, end of
paragraph] it is scarcely necessary to add that such a preposterous
demand was neither ratified by the government, nor recognised by the

[Note: The agreement was between Messrs. Batman, Gellibrand, Swanston,
and Simpson, on the one side, and the natives were represented by
Jagajaga, Cooloolook, Bungaree, Yanyan, Mowstrip, and Mommamala, the
price was fixed at an annuity of two hundred a year, in return for
750,000 acres of land. Mr. Gellibrand afterwards perished in the bush
with a companion, Mr. Hesse, having lost himself through persisting in
keeping in the wrong direction, although warned by a guide who left them
on finding Gellibrand determined to go wrong.]

It was through the energy of the Tasmanian colonists that this settlement
of Port Phillip took place; as already noticed, Port Phillip was
abandoned, almost without the slightest examination, by Colonel Collins
in favour of Tasmania, and now, after thirty years had passed, the
abundant flocks and herds of the little island forced the owners to look
to the mainland for extended pastures.

One of the incidents of the early settlement was also the discovery of
Buckley, a white man, who having escaped from Collins' party in 1803, had
been living with the natives ever since.

In 1836 Colonel Light surveyed the shores of St. Vincent's Gulf, and
selected the site of the present city of Adelaide; Governor Hindmarsh and
a company of emigrants soon after arrived, and the colony of South
Australia was proclaimed.

The continent was now being invaded on three sides. From Perth on the
western shore, from St. Vincent's Gulf and Port Phillip on the south, and
from the settled districts of New South Wales and from Moreton Bay on the

Henceforth, the tale of exploration embraces many simultaneous
expeditions; no longer is the whole of the narrative confined to the
struggle of one man, hopelessly endeavouring to surmount the coast range,
or toiling across the western plains, anxiously watched by the little
community at Port Jackson. Each new-formed centre had their members
pushing out, month after month, and continually adding to the knowledge
of Australia.

As usual, the records of most of these private expeditions have not been
preserved, and the utmost the historian can do is to trace out the broad
lines of discovery, leaving the reader to consider the detail filled in
by the monotonous, if valuable, and untiring efforts of the pioneer
squatters. Already these men and their subordinates were close on the
footsteps of the explorers; should the adventurer remain some months
absent from civilization, he found, on his return, settlement far across
what had been the frontier line when he departed. Hundreds of lives have
been laid down in this service, under as strong a sense of duty, and
under circumstances as heroic as any of the deaths in the roll of martial
history, and the names of the victims unknown, and their graves
unhonoured. They have only been members of the great band ever forcing a
way, and smoothing a road for a commercial population, to whom their
deeds, their struggles, their hopes, and their fates are often but a
sealed book. But the feelings of a man who knows that he has founded
homes for future thousands, must be a greater recompense than any his
fellowmen could give him.


Lieutenants Grey and Lushington on the West Coast--Narrow escape--Start
with an equipment of Timor ponies--Grey wounded by the natives--Cave
drawings--Return, having discovered the Glenelg--Grey's second
expedition--Landed at Bernier Island, in Shark's Bay, with three
whale-boats--Cross to borne Island--Violent storm--Discovery of the
Gascoyne--Return to Bernier Island--Find their CACHÉ of provisions
destroyed by a hurricane--Hopeless position--Attempted landing at
Gautheaume Bay--Destruction of the boats--Walk to Perth--Great
sufferings--Death of Smith--Eyre and the overlanders--Discovery of Lake
Hindmarsh--Exploration of Gippsland--Eyre's explorations to the
north--Discovery of Lake Torrens--Disappointment in the country bordering
on it--Determines to go to King George's Sound--Repeated attempts to
reach the head of the Great Australian Bight--Loss of horses--Barren and
scrubby country--Final determination to send back most of the party--
Starts with overseer and three natives--Hardship and suffering--Murder of
the overseer by two of the natives--Eyre continues his journey with the
remaining boy--Relieved by the MISSISSIPPI whaler--Reaches King George's

An expedition, most unique in its composition, now made an attempt on the
west coast to penetrate inland, and also verify the existence or
non-existence of the large river, still currently supposed to find its
way into the sea at Dampier's Archipelago. The expedition was placed
under the command of Lieutenant Grey, Mr. Lushington acting as second in
command. It originated in England, and its members, with one exception,
were what would locally be called "new chums." The one exception was a
sailor, named Ruston, who had been with Captain King on one of his
surveying voyages; an experience that, under an older leader might have
made him a most serviceable man, but, otherwise, scarcely deserved the
stress that Grey laid upon his acquisition. Most of the equipment was
procured at the Cape of Good Hope, where a small vessel--the LYNHER--was
chartered, and the landing-place in Australia was at Hanover Bay, on the
extreme north-west coast, near the mouth of the Prince Regent's River;
though, why this particular point was chosen, does not appear quite
clear. Being becalmed a short distance from Hanover Bay, the foolish
impetuosity of the young explorers very nearly put an abrupt ending to
their journey. Grey, Lushington, and four men landed, and started to walk
across to Hanover Bay, there to be picked up again by the LYNHER. It was
December, the middle of a tropical summer, and they took with them two
pints of water. They all very soon knocked up. Grey swam across an inlet
to try and signal the schooner, and nearly lost his life doing so.
Fortunately, the the flashes of their guns, with which they kept firing
distress signals, were noticed on board, and a boat came to their rescue.
This was an inauspicious beginning.

After landing the stores, the LYNHER sailed for Timor, to procure some
ponies and other live stock, and on the 17th of January, 1838, she
returned. At the end of January, Grey and his party started from the
coast with twenty-six half-broken Timor ponies as a baggage train, and
some sheep and goats. The rainy season had set in, and the stock began to
die almost before they had well started, added to which, the party were
entangled in steep ravines and spurs from the coast range, and their
strength worn out in useless ascents and descents. On the 11th of
February, they came into collision with the natives, and Grey was
severely wounded.

On the leader recovering sufficiently to be lifted on one of the ponies,
a fresh start was made, and on the 2nd of March they were rewarded by
finding a river, which they called the Glenelg, unaware that Mitchell had
already usurped the name. The adventurers followed the course of this
river upward, traversing good country, well grassed and timbered, so far
as their limited experience allowed them to judge. Sometimes their route
was on the river's bank, and at other times by keeping to the foot of a
sandstone range that ran parallel with its course, they were enabled to
cut off some wearisome bends.

The party continued on the Glenelg for many days until they were checked
by a large tributary coming from the north, causing them to fall back on
the range, both the river and its tributary being swollen and flooded. On
this range they discovered some curious paintings and drawings in the
caves scattered amongst the rocks, also a head in profile cut in the face
of a sandstone rock. [See Appendix.] Unable to find a pass through the
mountains, which barred their western progress, and greatly weakened by
his wound, Grey determined to return, but before doing so he sent Mr.
Lushington some distance ahead, who, however, could find no noticeable
change in the country.

The expedition, therefore retraced their footsteps, and on the 15th of
April they reached Hanover Bay, and found the schooner at anchor, and
H.M.S. BEAGLE lying in the neighbouring Port George the Fourth. Thus
ended the first expedition; toil, danger, and hardships having been
incurred for little or no purpose, the discovery of the Glenelg River
being the only result obtained, and perhaps, some little experience. The
party having embarked, they sailed for the Isle of France in the
Mauritius, where they safely arrived.

In August, Grey visited the Swan River, and endeavoured to get assistance
from Sir James Stirling, the Governor, to continue his explorations; no
vessel being available, he had to wait some time before making a start,
during which delay he made short excursions from Perth into the
surrounding country.

On the 17th of February, 1839, he started once more in an American
whaler, taking with him three whale-boats. The objects of this expedition
are not very definite. The whaler was to land them and their boats at
Shark's Bay, or on one of the islands: there they intended to form a
depôt. After examining the bay, and making such incursions inland as they
found possible, they were to extend their operations to the north as long
as their provisions lasted, when they would return to the depôt and make
their way south.

The party consisted of Grey himself, four of his former companions, a
young volunteer, Mr. Frederick Smith, five other men, and a native,
twelve in all. They were landed on Bernier Island, and at once their
troubles commenced. The whaler sailed away taking with her, by an
oversight, their whole supply of tobacco; there was no water on the
island, and on the first attempt to start one of the boats was smashed up
and nearly half a ton of stores lost. The next day they landed at Dorre
Island, and that night both their boats were driven ashore by a violent

Two or three days were occupied repairing damages, and then they made the
mainland and obtained a supply of fresh water.

They landed near the mouth of a river, which, however, was dry above
tidal influence, and Grey christened it the Gascoyne. After a short
examination of the surrounding country, they pulled up the coast to the
north, and effecting a landing one night, both boats were swamped, to the
great damage of their already spoiled provisions. Here Grey ascended a
hill to look upon the surrounding country, and was so deceived by the
mirage, that he believed he had discovered a great lake studded with
islands; in company with three of his men he started on a weary tramp
after the constantly shifting vision, needless to say without reaching
it. Returning to the boats they found themselves prisoners for a time,
until the wind dropped and the surf abated a little, and here they had to
remain for a week sick, hungry and weary, and at one time threatened and
attacked by the blacks. At last a slight cessation in the gale tempted
them, and they got the boats out and made for the mouth of the Gascoyne,
where they refilled their water breakers. On March 20th, they made an
effort to fetch their depôt on Bernier Island in the teeth of the foul
weather, and reached it to find that during their absence a hurricane had
swept the island, and their hoarded stores were scattered to the winds.

Their position was now nearly desperate, the southerly winds had set in,
they had a surf-beaten shore to coast along, and no food of any sort
worth mentioning, added to which, as may be well supposed, they were all
weak and exhausted.

There was nothing for it, however, but to put out to sea again, and they
managed to reach Gautheaume Bay on the 31st of March; in attempting a
landing, the boat Grey was in was dashed on a rock, and the other boat
too received such great damage that it was impossible to repair either of
them. Nothing was now left, but to walk to Perth, and so wearied had the
men become of fighting with the wind and sea, that they even welcomed
this hazardous prospect as a change. They were about three hundred miles
from the Swan River and had twenty pounds of damaged flour, and one pound
of salt pork per man, to carry them there.

Soon after starting, a diversity of opinion sprang up about the best mode
of progressing. Grey wished to get over as much ground as possible while
their strength held out; most of the men, however, were in favour of
proceeding slowly, taking constant rests. This feeling increased so much
that, when within two hundred miles of Perth, Grey found it necessary to
take with him some picked men, and push on, leaving the others to follow
at their leisure. He reached Perth after terrible suffering and
privation, and a relief party was at once sent out, but they only found
one man, who had left the others, thinking they were travelling too slow.
Meanwhile, Walker, the second in charge, had come into Perth, and related
that, being the strongest, he had pushed on in order to get relief sent
back to the remainder. Another party, under Surveyor-General Roe, left in
search, and after some trouble in tracking the erratic wanderings of the
unfortunates, came upon them hopelessly gazing at a point of rocks, that
stopped their march along the beach, not having sufficient strength left
to climb it. They had been then three days without any water but sea
water, and a revolting substitute, which they still had in their
canteens. Poor young Smith, a lad of eighteen was dead. [ See Appendix.]
He had lain down and died two days before they were found. He was buried
in the wilderness.

During these two expeditions Grey had faced death in every shape, and
shown great powers of endurance, but the results of all his toil were but
meagre, and of no very great importance. He had crossed and named the
rivers running into the west coast, between where he abandoned his boats
and the Moore River, but in the state he was in he knew little more than
the fact that they were there, having neither strength nor resources to
follow them up and determine their courses. Grey claims the discovery of
the Gascoyne, Murchison, Hutt, Bower, Buller, Chapman, Greenough, Irwin,
Arrowsmith, and Smith Rivers. This disastrous journey may be said to have
concluded his services to Australia as an explorer, although he
afterwards, when Governor of South Australia, made an excursion to the
south-east, but it was through comparatively stocked and well-known
country in the neighbourhood of the Glenelg and Mount Gambier. Before
being appointed Governor of South Australia, he was Acting Government
Resident at Albany, King George's Sound.

Grey's mishaps, and the straits to which he reduced his party by his
occasional want of forethought and precaution, show plainly that
enthusiasm, courage, and a generous spirit of self-sacrifice are not the
only requisites in an explorer, more important even, being the long
training and teaching of experience.

Grey had given a very glowing description of the fertile appearance of a
portion of the country he passed through, and some of the colonists were
eager to make use of such a promising district. The schooner CHAMPION was
therefore directed to examine the coast and see if any of the rivers had
navigable entrances. Mr. Moore, after whom the Moore River was named, was
on board of the vessel, but no entrance was effected, although the party
rather confirmed Grey's report. Captain Stokes, of the BEAGLE, however,
soon after made a thorough examination of this part of the coast, and his
report was so unfavourable that its immediate settlement was postponed.

It follows now, that the unexplored country west of the Darling being so
much sooner reached from Adelaide than from Sydney, the former town
became the point of departure from which, in future, the expeditions for
the interior started.

But the rush for country, and the constant influx of stock from the
mother colony, led to a series of petty explorations being continually
carried on throughout the rapidly-rising district south and east of the
Murray. Some of these were undertaken in quest of new runs, others in
order to find the best and shortest stock routes; and the record of most
of them is only preserved in the memoirs Of personal friends of the

Edward John Eyre, who afterwards made the celebrated journey to Western
Australia round the head of the Great Bight, began his bush experiences
in this way. Messrs. Hawdon, Gardiner and Bonney, also about the same
time, made various trips from New South Wales to Port Phillip, and from
thence to Adelaide, and many minor discoveries were the result of those
journeys. The he outflow and courses of rivers being determined, and the
speculations of their first discoveries corrected or confirmed; as
instance of this, may be mentioned the discovery of Lake Hindmarsh, which
receives the Wimmera, River, the course of which had puzzled Mitchell
when he discovered it in July, 1836.

Eyre left Port Phillip for Adelaide early in 1838. The usual course had
been to strike to the Murray, and then to follow that river down. He
intended to try a straighter route, and for a time did well; but, at
last, finding himself in a tract of dry country, across which he could
not take the cattle with safety, he determined to follow the Wimmera
north, thinking it would take him on to the banks of the Murray, and
would probably turn out to be the Lindsay junction of Sturt. From
Mitchell's furthest point he traced it some considerable distance to the
north-west, and at last found its termination in a large swampy lake,
which he named Lake Hindmarsh, after the first Governor of South
Australia. From this lake he found no outlet; so, leaving his cattle, and
taking with him two men, he made an effort to reach the Murray. But the
country was covered with an almost impenetrable scrub, and as there was
neither grass nor water for the horses, he was forced to turn back,
reaching his camp only after a weary tramp on foot, the horses having
died. According to Eyre's chart, they were within five and twenty miles
of the Murray when they turned back. Eyre was thus forced to retrace his
steps and make for the nearest available route to the Murray, and follow
that river down.

Bonney's trip from Portland Bay to Adelaide was about a year
subsequently. He pursued a more southerly and westerly course, and
managed to get through in safety, but experienced great hardships on the
way. One of a series of lakes or marshes was found, and named Lake

At the end of November, 1839, Colonel Gawler, then Governor of South
Australia, made an excursion to the Murray, for the purpose of examining
the country around Lake Victoria, and to the westward of the great bend.
He was accompanied by Captain Sturt, then Surveyor-General of the
province. In the S.A. REGISTER of that date, the following paragraph
shows that by this time ladies had also taken up the task of exploration:

"His Excellency the Governor, accompanied by Miss Gawler and Captain and
Mrs. Sturt, left town on Friday last week on an excursion to the Murray
and the interior to the north of that river. The party is expected to be
absent several weeks."

It is to be presumed that Miss Gawler and Mrs. Sturt accompanied the
party but a short distance; the Murray at that date affording anything
but a safe camping ground. This trip, of course, did not extend
sufficiently for any important geographical discoveries to be made, but
it was unfortunately marked by one of the fatalities that are bound to be
a feature of exploration. Leaving the river they penetrated into
waterless country, and the horses knocked up. Colonel Gawler and Mr.
Bryan pushed back on the freshest animals, intending to bring back water
for the others, but on the way Bryan gave in, and the Governor had to go
on alone. On coming back with relief Bryan was nowhere to be found, a
note was pinned to his coat, which was lying on the spot where he had
been left, stating that he had gone to the south-east, much exhausted;
but although all search was made he was never found.

Meantime, we have lost sight entirely of the north coast, and the
attempts at settlement in that quarter. The little BEAGLE had been
working industriously up there; but the account of her voyage belongs to
the history of maritime discovery, where it will be found; however, on
this occasion she visited a newly-formed, or rather twice-formed,
settlement, Port Essington. This station, after the visit by Captain
Bremer, was, it will be remembered, abandoned. In 1838, its former
founder, now Sir Gordon Bremer, resettled it, and the nucleus of a
township was formed. This time it seemed, at first, more likely to
thrive; but very little was done in the way of exploration, and its
existence added nothing to our knowledge of the northern interior. From
a letter of one of the officers of the Beagle we learn that:--

"A good substantial mole, overlooked by a small battery, with some
respectable-sized houses in the rear, gives the settlement rather an
imposing appearance from the water, which I imagine is the object at
present aimed at--to make an impression on the visiting Malays, the
success of the colony depending so much on them."

Apparently the dependence of the colony was misplaced as it is scarcely
necessary to tell the reader that it has long since passed out of
existence; we shall, however, have occasion to revisit it once before its
final abandonment.

The time had now come for the completion of the work commenced by Hume
and Hovell sixteen years before, namely, the full exploration of the
south-east corner of Australia.

In 1840, McMillan, the manager of a station near the Snowy Mountains, the
property of Messrs. Buckler and M'Allister, started on a search for
country in company with two companions, Messrs. Cameron and Mathew, one
stockman and a blackfellow. Making their way through the Snowy Mountains
to the southward, they found a river running through fine grazing
country, plains and forest, until its course brought them to a large
lake; here they were forced to turn westward, and although they made
several attempts to reach the coast they did not succeed, having
continually to turn back to the range to ford the numerous rivers they
kept coming to.

Having only a fortnight's provisions with them, they were forced to
return, when within about fifty miles of Wilson's Promontory. This fine
addition to the already known territory was called Gippsland, after Sir
George Gipps, the Governor who had the disagreeable eccentricity of
insisting that all the towns laid out during his term of office should
have no public squares included in their boundaries, as he was convinced
that public squares encouraged the spread of democracy.

The rivers discovered by McMillan were named by him, but afterwards
re-named by Count Strzelecki, whose titles were retained, whilst the
rightful ones bestowed by the real discoverer are forgotten.

Doubtless Strzelecki's names, such as the La Trobe, &c., had a ring more
pleasing to the official ear.

The celebrated count followed hard on McMillan's footsteps, in fact, the
latter met him before reaching home and directed him to the country he
had just left. McMillan, having his own interests to serve, said little
or nothing about the result of his journey, not wishing to be forestalled
in the occupation of the country. Strzelecki, not being interested in
squatting pursuits, made public the value of the province as soon as he
returned, which has led to his being often erroneously considered the
discoverer of Gippsland.

Strzelecki's trip through Gippsland, in 1840, was part of the work he was
undertaking to gather materials for his now well-known book, "The
Physical Description of New South Wales, Victoria, and Van Die-man's
Land." He mounted the Alps, and named one of the highest peaks
Kosciusko, from the fancied resemblance of its outline to the patriot's
tomb at Cracow. He then pushed his way through to Western Port, crossing
the fine rivers and rich country just found by McMillan. They had to
abandon their horses and packs during the latter part of the journey, and
fight their way through a dense scrub on a scanty ration of one biscuit
and a slice of bacon per day. Here the count's exceeding hardihood stood
them in good stead; so weakened were his companions that it was only by
constant encouragement he got them along, and when forcing their way
through the matted scrub, he often threw himself bodily on it, breaking a
bath through for his weakened followers by the sheer weight of his body.
They reached Western Port in a most wretched condition, having subsisted
latterly on nothing but native bears.

In 1841, a Mr. Orr landed at Corner Inlet and traversed part of the
country surveyed by Strzelecki; he traced the La Trobe and other rivers
into a large lake fifty miles from Wilson's Promontory, and confirmed the
glowing reports of the former travellers.

We have now to bid a final farewell to the garden of Australia, where the
explorers' steps trod the alleys of shady forests of gigantic trees, or
followed the bank of some living, sparkling stream, rippling and bubbling
over its pebbly bed, amid verdant meadows and fertile valleys. No more
was the outlook to be over smiling downs backed up by the fleecy-topped
Alps, a scene that told of nothing but peace, prosperity, and all the
riches of a bountiful soil. The way of the pioneer was, in future, to
lead to the north, where the earth refused to afford him pasture for his
animals, the clouds to drop rain, and the very trees gave no shade to
protect him from the sun in its noontide wrath. Over the lonely plains of
the interior, searching for the inland sea, never to be found; for the
lofty mountain chain, the backbone of Australia, that had no existence.

On the 5th of August, 1839, E. J. Eyre, and a party consisting of an
overseer, three men and two natives, left Port Lincoln, on the western
shore of Spencer's Gulf, on an excursion to examine the country to the
westward, as far as they could penetrate. Before this he had made an
expedition to the north of Adelaide terminating at Mount Arden, an
elevation to the N.N.E. of the head of Spencer's Gulf. From this mountain
he saw a depression which he took to be the bed of a lake, covered with
mud or sand, the future Lake Torrens.

On the 25th of August, after leaving Port Lincoln, he arrived at Streaky
Bay, not having crossed a single stream or river, nor even a chain of
ponds, during a distance of nearly three hundred miles. Three springs
only had been found, and the country was covered with the dreaded
EUCALYPTUS DUMOSA scrub (mallee), and the melancholy ti-tree. It must be
remembered, however, that Eyre's track bordered closely on the sea coast,
and the country would, as is usual in Australia, be of a barren and
inhospitable character. Westward of Streaky Bay the scrub still
continued, so a depôt was formed, and taking only a black boy with him,
he reached within about fifty miles of the western limit of South
Australia. In appearance the country was more elevated, but there was
neither water nor grass, and to return was necessary; in fact, before he
got back to the depôt, he nearly lost three of his horses.

From Streaky Bay he went east, to the head of Spencer's Gulf, finding the
country on his route a little better, but still devoid of water, the
party only getting through by means of the rain which luckily fell at the
time. On the 29th of September, he reached his old camp at Mount Arden.
Here he writes:--

"It was evident that what I had taken on my last journey to be the bed of
a dry lake now contained water, and was of a considerable size; but as my
time was very limited, and the lake at a considerable distance, I had to
forego my wish to visit it. I have, however, no doubt of its being salt,
from the nature of the country, and the fact of finding the water very
salt in one of the creeks draining into it from the hills. Beyond this
lake (which I distinguished with the name of Colonel Torrens), to the
westward, was a low, flat-topped range, extending northwesterly as far as
I could see."

From here Eyre pursued his old track homeward.

The objects that now excited the attention of the colonists of South
Australia were, discovery to the northward, as to the extent of the
newfound lake, and the nature of the interior; and the possibility of the
existence of a stock route to Western Australia. Eyre, however, after his
recent experience, was convinced that the transit of stock round the head
of the Great Bight was impracticable, the sterile nature of the country
and the absence of watercourses being against it. Such a journey it was
true might be most interesting, from a geographical point of view,
showing the character of the country intervening between the two
settlements, and unfolding the secrets hidden behind the lofty and
singular cliffs at the head of the Great Bight, but for more immediate
practical results, Eyre favoured the extension of discovery to the north.
This was then the course adopted; subscriptions were raised, Eyre himself
finding one-third of the horses and expenses, and the Government and
colonists the remainder. Meantime, it turned out that the country in the
immediate neighbourhood of Port Lincoln was not altogether of of the
wretched character met with by Eyre between Streaky Bay and the head of
the Gulf.

A Captain Hawson, in company with Mr. William Smith and three other
gentlemen, made an excursion for a short distance, and found well-grassed
country and abundance of water. Where they turned back they saw a fine
valley with a running stream through the centre. This valley they named
Rossitur Vale, and the stream the Mississippi, after Captain Rossitur, of
the French whaler MISSISSIPPI--the first foreign ship in Port Lincoln,
and the man who was afterwards destined to, afford such opportune aid and
succour to Eyre.

Western Australia, however, did not seem to entertain the prospect of
overland communication with Adelaide with any degree of enthusiasm. The
PERTH GAZETTE of that time, indulges in a short article, which reads
ludicrously like an extract from the EATANSWILL GAZETTE:--

"Overland from King George's Sound, we have received papers from
Adelaide, the mail having been obligingly conveyed by Dr. Harris. In
these papers we find the proposal to open a communication between this
and South Australia. The object, further than a general exploration of
the country, appears undefined; therefore, to us, it seems of little
interest, and the steady course of the country should not be disturbed by
such wild adventurers. What is South Australia to us? They have their
self-supporting system, they have revelled in MOONSHINE long enough; and
we ought not to be such fools as to be caught by a mere puffing document
appointing gentlemen here to co-operate with the South Australian
committee. If we wish to see them, we can soon find our way, and we
require no puffing advertisements from the neighbouring colony of
high-minded pretensions. We will not be licked by the dog that has bitten
us; and we must say that every honest mind should receive with caution
any approaches from such a quarter. We put this forward advisedly, and
with a desire that such a subject may be deliberately weighed and
considered. Their flummery about the existence of a jealous feeling is
discreditable to the minds inventing and prompting it for their own
private ends."

Evidently the editor of the Perth paper had had a bad time of it, for
further on we find him still more bitter against any communication being
opened up with the sister colony. It must he remembered that Western
Australia was a free colony, and consequently the bugbear of convict
contamination was one that was always raised when the subject of opening
up a stock route with the older colonies was on the board.

On the 18th June, 1840, Eyre's preparations were ready, and he left
Adelaide after a breakfast at Government House, when Captain Sturt
presented him with a flag--the Union Jack--worked for the purpose by some
of the ladies of the colony.

It is unnecessary to follow him in detail to his former camp at Mount
Arden. He trusted that the range of hills he had called Flinders Range,
and which he had seen stretching to the north-east, would continue far
enough to take him out of the depressed country around Lake Torrens, and
in fact, as he says, form a stepping-stone into the interior. His party
was a small one for those days, consisting of six white men and two black
boys. They had with them three horse drays, and a small vessel called the
WATERWITCH, was sent to the head of the Gulf, with the heaviest portion
of their supplies.

On the arrival of this vessel, Eyre, with one black boy, made a short
trip to Lake Torrens, leaving the rest of the party to land the stores.

He started without any great hopes, and, consequently, was not much
disappointed when he found this outpost of the inland sea to be:--

" . . . the dry bed of a lake coated over with a crust of salt, forming
one unbroken sheet of pure white, and glittering brilliantly in the sun.
On stepping upon this I found that it yielded to the foot, and that below
the surface the bed of the lake consisted of a soft mud, and the further
we advanced to the westward the more boggy it got, so that at last it
became quite impossible to proceed, and I was obliged to return to the
outer margin of the lake without ascertaining whether there was water on
the surface of its bed further west or not."

At this point Lake Torrens appeared to be about fifteen or twenty miles
across, having high land bounding it to the west.

The prospect, although half expected, was dismal in the extreme. There
was no chance of crossing the lake, and to follow its shore to the north
was impossible on account of the absence of grass and water, the very
rain water turning salt after lying a short time on the saline ground.
The only chance was in Flinder's Range supplying them with a little feed
and rain water in its ravines, so to this range he struck.

It was a cheerless outlook. On one side was an impracticable lake of
combined mud and salt; in another a desert of bare and barren plains; and
on a third, a range of inhospitable rocks.

"The very stones lying upon the hills looked like the scorched and
withered scoria of a volcanic region, and even the natives, judging from
the specimen I had seen to-day, partook of the general misery and
wretchedness of the place."

Eyre steered for the most distant point of the northern range, which on
arrival he christened Mount Deception, as he had hoped from its
appearance that he would find water there, but in this he was deceived.
Subsisting as best they could on rain puddles on the plains, they at last
found a tolerably permanent hole in a small creek, and then returned to
the party at the head of the Gulf.

Arrived at the depôt, the cutter returned to Adelaide with dispatches,
and the provisions having been concealed, the whole party made for the
pool of water that Eyre and the boy had discovered. From here the leader
and the native boy made another fruitless trip to the north-west, and
although they at times discovered a few creeks with a fair amount of
water in them, the 2nd of September found Eyre on the top of a small
hill, that he appropriately named Mount Hopeless, gazing at the
mysterious lake that, as he thought, hemmed him in on three sides, even
to the east. There was no prospect visible of getting across this bed of
mud and mirage, nothing to do but leave the interior unvisited by this
route, and return to the Mount Arden depôt.

From the Mount Arden depôt he made his way down to Port Lincoln, having
finally decided to abandon his intended trip to the interior, and go
westward to King George's Sound, finding, perhaps, some outlet to the
north on the road.

He divided his party at the head of the Gulf, sending the overseer with
most of the stores and men straight across to Streaky Bay, where he
formerly bad made a depôt. At Port Lincoln he could not obtain the
supplies he wanted without sending to Adelaide; so he was, therefore,
detained some time, and on the 24th of October started for Streaky Bay,
the Governor having placed the WATERWITCH at his disposal for use in
South Australian waters. At Streaky Bay he rejoined his overseer, who had
got across the desert safely, and was anxiously expecting him. Making
another rendezvous with the cutter at Fowler's Bay, they separated to
meet again on the 20th of November.

Leaving his party encamped at Fowler's Bay, Eyre, with one native boy,
made an attempt to round the Bight, or rather to ascertain what chance he
had of taking his party round. He went two days' journey, and finding
neither grass nor water for his horses, had to return to his camp. On the
28th he made another attempt, taking with him a dray carrying seventy
gallons of water; and on the 30th they fell in with some natives, whom
they thought to induce to guide them to water; but the blacks made them
understand that there was none ahead, and so Eyre found to his cost, for,
still trying to discover some he reduced his horses so that it was only
with the greatest difficulty, and after the loss of three of the best of
them, that the party struggled back to some sandhills, where they could
obtain a little brackish water by digging; and on the 16th, having had to
send back for assistance, the explorers re-assembled at Fowler's Bay,
having done no good, and lost three valuable horses. The cutter, still in
attendance, was sent back to Adelaide for a supply of oats and bran, and
also to take back two of the men, for Eyre had determined to reduce the
number of his people, awed by the nature of the country he had met with

Tired out with the monotony of camp life, after the departure of the
cutter, he decided on another attempt, although one would have thought
the suffering his horses had already gone through would have induced him
to give them a longer rest.

On the 30th December he left camp, and that evening reached the sandhills
where he had before obtained the brackish water. Next morning they found
some natives, who told them once again that there was no water ahead. On
the 2nd January he made an attempt to the north-west, undeterred by these
warnings, but only got fourteen miles when he had to send the horses
back, and on the 5th, making another effort from this point, only got on
another seven miles. Sending the dray and horses back, Eyre, with one
white man and the black boy, went on, having buried some casks of water
against their return. A terribly hot day set in, which so completely
exhausted the whole party, that they had to encamp on the sea shore until
night fell. The next morning he sent the man back, and pushing ahead came
upon some natives digging in the sand, and with their aid watered the
horses. They also showed them some more water further on, and accompanied
them to it. Beyond this point, they said, there was no water for a ten
days' journey.

Eyre rode on some distance, and having ascertained all he could of the
nature of the country at the head of the Bight, which he had by this time
passed, he returned to the party, and they all shifted back to the old
depôt, at Fowler's Bay, on the 20th January.

On the 25th the HERO, cutter, arrived (the WATERWITCH having sprung a
leak), but her charter did not extend beyond the boundary of South
Australia, so that Eyre was unable to use her to carry his heavy stores
any further.

Under the circumstances he resolved to send nearly the whole of his party
back by the vessel, and push his way through to King George's Sound, or

In arriving at this determination, Eyre was evidently actuated by a sense
of such keen disappointment, at being baffled both to the north and the
west, that he could not bear the thought of returning to Adelaide a
beaten man. Whilst one can give a meed of admiration to the obstinate
courage that characterised this resolution, we are also astonished at his
persistence in a course that, whilst inevitably entailing the greatest
possible suffering on men and horses, could lead to no good nor useful
result. With his small party and equipment it would at best be only a
struggle for life round the coast, giving no more information than had
been acquired by the marine surveys. Even the wild attempts of Grey look
comparatively reasonable beside this march of Eyre's, Had he had any
object in view beyond the one of being the first white man to cross the
desert between the two colonies, his actions might have been excusable,
but as it was, his trip was bound to be profitless and resultless.

On the 31st January the cutter departed, and Eyre, the overseer, Baxter,
and three native boys, one having come by the HERO, were left alone to
face the eight hundred miles of desert solitude before them.

On the 24th, after a long spell, when they were about to start, the HERO
returned, bringing a request to Mr. Eyre to abandon his mad attempt and
embark himself and party on board the cutter. This he refused to do, and
on the 25th made another departure. After passing the water where they
had met the natives, they entered upon a dry and desolate tract over
which they crossed in safety, but with great suffering. Once more
relieved by a native well in the sandy beach, they pushed on, only to
encounter evil fortune; horse after horse knocked up, and it was after
six days' travelling they managed to get water once more, by digging in
the sand.

They were now about six hundred miles from King George's Sound and in a
most unenviable position, with the prospect of another one hundred mile
stage without water, and the full knowledge that retreat was impossible.
Their horses, in consequence of the repeated sufferings from thirst that
they had been forced to undergo, were so spiritless and reduced that they
could travel scarcely any distance without giving in, and yet the worst
was to come. For some time the black boys had been very sullen and
discontented, the constant hardships and fatigue, added to what they
well-knew lay before them, told upon their spirits. Once they ran away,
but hunger forced them to return; even the scanty fare at the camp was
better than the slow starvation of the bush. The overseer, too, was
afflicted with low spirits, and impressed by the forbidding character of
their surroundings. Poor fellow, some foreboding of his fate hung over

The toil that had to be gone through may be conceived by the following
short extract from Eyre's diary on March 11th, just after accomplishing
their first terrible stage after leaving the depôt:--

"At night the whole party were, by God's blessing, once more together and
in safety, after having passed over one hundred and thirty-five miles of
desert country, without a drop of water in its whole extent, and at a
season of the year the most unfavourable for such an undertaking. In
accomplishing this distance, the sheep had been six and the horses five
days without water, and both had been almost wholly without food for the
greater part of the time. The little grass we found was so dry and
withered that the parched and thirsty animals could not eat it after the
second day."

From this camp Eyre started in the hope of shortly coming to a second
supply of water that the natives had told him of, and lured on by this
idea, he got forty miles from his camp without having made the provision
that he should have done before entering on a very long stage. Coming to
the conclusion that he must have passed the water, he decided to send the
horses back to the last camp for a fresh supply before venturing further
on. At midnight the overseer and the natives started back, leaving Eyre
to mind the baggage with the scanty allowance of six pints of water to
last him for six days until their return. On the 26th of March they again
started, and at night reduced their baggage still more in the hope of
getting the tired horses through; and the next day everything was
abandoned, for still there was no prospect of water ahead.

On the night of the 29th the last drop of water that they had with them
was consumed, and the next morning water was obtained by digging in the
sand drift--their seventh day out, after travelling, by Eyre's
computation, one hundred and sixty miles. It was not until the 27th of
April that they left the camp, to enter on the last fearful push that was
to decide their fate--and did too well decide the fate of three.

Once more the line of cliffs that had for a time been broken by the
sandhills faced the ocean, and from experience Eyre knew well that he
might expect no relief when travelling along their summits.

On the evening of the 29th, the third night from their last camp, Eyre
took the first watch to look after the horses, as this was necessary
every night to prevent them rambling too far.

The night was cold, the wind blowing hard, and across the face of the
moon the scud kept rapidly driving. The horses wandered a good deal, and
kept separating in the scrub, giving the lonely man much trouble to keep
them together, and when his watch was nearly up he headed them for the
camp, intending to call the overseer to relieve him, Suddenly the
stillness of the desert was broken by the report of a gun.

Eyre was not at first alarmed, thinking it a signal of Baxter's to show
him the position of the camp; he called out in reply, but no answer was
returned; and, hastening in the direction, was met by one of the boys
running towards him crying, "Oh massa, oh massa, come here!" but beyond
that could not speak for terror.

Eyre was soon at the camp, and a glance told him that he was now indeed
alone. Baxter, wounded to death, was lying on the ground in his last
agony, and as Eyre raised his faithful companion, then in the convulsion
of death, the frightful and appalling truth burst upon him in its full

"At the dead hour of night, in the wildest and most inhospitable waste of
Australia, with the fierce wind raging in unison with the scene of
violence before me, I was left with a single native, whose fidelity I
could not rely upon, and who, for aught I knew, might be in league with
the other two, who, perhaps were, even now, lurking about to take my
life, as they had done that of the overseer. Three days had passed away
since we left the last water, and it was very doubtful when we might find
any more. Six hundred miles of country had to be traversed before I could
hope to obtain the slightest aid or assistance of any kind, whilst I knew
not that a single drop of water, or an ounce of flour, had been left by
these murderers, from a stock that had previously, been so small."

On examining the camp, Eyre found that the two boys had carried off both
double-barrelled guns, all the baked bread, and other stores, and a keg
of water. All he had left was a rifle with a ball jammed in the barrel,
four gallons of water, forty pounds of flour, and a little tea and sugar.

When he had time to collect his thoughts, Eyre judged from the position
of the body, that Baxter must have been disturbed by the boys plundering
the camp, and getting up to stop them, had been immediately shot. His
next care was to put his rifle in serviceable condition, and then as
morning broke they hastened away from the fatal camp. It was impossible
even to bury the body of his murdered companion; one vast unbroken
surface of sheet rock extended for miles in every direction. Well might
Eyre exclaim:--

"Though years have now passed away since the enactment of this tragedy,
the dreadful horrors of that time and scene are recalled before me with
frightful vividness, and make me shudder even now when I think of them. A
lifetime was crowded into those few short hours, and death alone may blot
out the impressions they produced."

That evening the two murderers re-appeared in the scrub, following the
white man and boy. Eyre attempted to get close to them, but they would
not come near, remaining at a distance, calling out to the remaining boy
(Wylie), who, however, refused to go to them. Finding himself unable to
get to close quarters with them, Eyre proceeded on his journey, and the
two boys were never seen again, and, without doubt, they soon perished
miserably of hunger and thirst.

At last, after being again seven days without water for the horses, they
reached the end of the long line of cliffs, and amongst the sand dunes
came again to a native well, and got their poor tortured horses a drink.

Moving on now in easier stages, and getting water by digging at the foot
of the different sand hills he encountered, Eyre proceeded on with better
hopes for the future; he felt confident that he was past the great belt
of and country, and that with every day the travelling would improve.

On the 8th of May, another horse was killed, and a supply of meat dried
to carry with them.

From this point water was more frequently met with, a decided change for
the better took place in the face of the country, and the wretched horses
they still had left began to pick up a little. At last, when their
rations were quite exhausted, they sighted a ship at anchor in Thistle
Cove. She turned out to be the MISSISSIPPI, whaler, Captain Rossitur, and
once more Eyre had to thank fortune for relief at a critical moment.

For ten days he forgot his sufferings, and regained some of his lost
strength, under the hospitable care of Captain Rossitur, who, it will be
remembered, was the first foreigner to anchor in Port Lincoln.

Provided with fresh clothes and provisions, with his horses newly shod,
Eyre recommenced his pilgrimage, and arrived in King George's Sound on
July 8th. Having successfully crossed from Port Lincoln to King George's
Sound, with incredible suffering, not alone to himself, but also to his
men and horses, so far as they accompanied him; added to which, his
obstinate persistence, led to the death of Baxter, who, against his own
convictions, went on with him, rather than leave him in his need.

It is generally said with regard to this journey of Eyre's, that it any
rate established the fact that no considerable creek flowed from the
interior to the south coast. But this had been pretty well-known before
by the maritime surveys, for it must be borne in mind that this portion
of the Australian shore in no way resembles the general coast line of
Australia. Granted that numbers of the largest rivers in the continent
were overlooked by the navigators, we must also remember that the
conditions here were essentially different. No fringe of low mangrove
covered flats, studded with inlets and salt-water creeks, masking the
entrance of a river, was here to be found. A bold outline of barren
cliffs, or a clean-swept sandy shore, alone fronted the ocean, and
Flinders, constantly on the alert as he always was for anything
approaching an outlet or river mouth, would scarcely have missed one
here. As for any knowledge of the interior that was gained, of course
there was none, even the conjectures of a worn out, starving man, picking
his way painfully around the sea shore, would have scarcely been of much
value. Eyre has, however secured for himself a name for courage and
perseverance, under the most terrible circumstances that could well beset
a man, and this qualification leads us to overlook his errors of
judgment. The picture of the lonely man--not separated from his fellow
creatures by the sea, as has often been the case, but by countless miles
of weary, untrodden waste, in his plundered camp, beside his murdered
companion--is one that for peculiar horror, can never be surpassed.

Eyre was warmly welcomed on his return to Adelaide, and he was
subsequently appointed police magistrate on the Murray, where his
experience and knowledge of the natives was of great service. When Sturt
started on his memorable trip to the central desert, he accompanied him
for a long distance; but his active nature found vent in other fields
than those of exploration in future.

Eyre was a man who was thoroughly distinguished by his love for the
aborigines. In after life he was appointed their protector on the Murray,
at the time when the continual skirmishes between the natives and the
overlanders used to be a matter of almost daily occurrence.

The courage that he had exemplified, and his wonderful march round the
Great Bight, was brought into force again and again, in efforts to keep
peace between the rival races. The blacks of the Murray Bend were always
notable for their warlike character, and Eyre was the most fitting man
that could have been selected for the post.


Explorations around Moreton Bay--Development of the Eastern Coast--The
first pioneers of the Darling Downs--Stuart and Sydenham Russell--The
Condamine River and Cecil Plains--Great interest taken in exploration at
this period--Renewed explorations around Lake Torrens--Surveyor-General
Frome--Death of Horrocks, the first explorer to introduce camels--Sturt's
last expedition--Route by the Darling chosen--Poole fancies that he sees
the inland sea--Discovery of Flood's Creek--The prison depôt--Impossible
to advance or retreat--Breaking up of the drought--Death of Poole--Fresh
attempts to the north--The desert--Eyre's Creek discovered--Return and
fresh attempt--Discoveries of Cooper and Strzelecki Creeks--Retreat to
the Depôt Glen--Final return to the Darling--Ludwig Leichhardt the lost
explorer--His great trip north--Finding of the Burdekin, the Mackenzie,
Isaacs and Suttor--Murder of the naturalist Gibert--Discovery of the Gulf
Rivers--Arrival at Port Essington--His return and reception--
Surveyor-General Mitchell's last expedition--Follows up the Balonne--
Crosses to the head of the Belyando--Disappointed in that river--Returns
and crosses to the head of the Victoria (Barcoo)--The beautiful Downs
country--First mention of the Mitchell grass--False hopes entertained
of the Victoria running into the Gulf of Carpentaria.

Disappointing as all the attempts to penetrate to the north had been, the
South Australians did not by any means abandon their efforts, either
public or private, to ascertain the nature and value of the interior. The
supposed horseshoe formation of Lake Torrens, presenting thus an
impassable barrier, was discouraging, but hopes were entertained that
breaks in it would be found that would afford a passage across; and
beyond, the country might prove of a less repellent character than the
district immediately around the lake.

But the east coast and the country at the back of the new settlement of
Moreton Bay, now commands our attention, Such an important discovery as
that made by Cunningham of the Darling Downs, needless to say, attracted
the attention of the graziers of the settled districts in search of fresh
pastures. The country west of the Darling having received such an
unfavourable name from the explorers who had made any efforts beyond it.
The westward march of the overlanders was checked in that direction, and
their stock spread to the north, south, and south-cast.

In March 1840, Patrick Leslie, who has always been considered the father
of settlement on the Darling Downs, left an outside station in New
England, and after a short inspection of the scene of Cunningham's
discovery, finally, in the middle of the year, settled down on the

In 1841 the Condamine River was followed for a hundred miles by Messrs.
Stuart and Sydenham Russell, from below Jimbour, the northernmost station
on a Darling Downs creek; and on the return journey some of the party
made an attempt to cross the range to the Wide Bay district, but were
prevented by the scrub. In the following month, November, the flow of the
Condamine was again picked up in the space below Turnmervil, the lowest
station on a creek above Jimbour, and the channel of the river
distinguished, where it was formerly supposed to have been for awhile
lost. An extensive tract of rich grazing country was found open and
well-watered by anabranches, with lagoons in their beds. This district
has ever since borne the well-known name of Cecil Plains, then bestowed
on it.

In 1842 Stuart Russell went from Moreton Bay to Wide Bay in a boat, and
made an examination of some of the streams there emptying into the sea.
Amongst other adventures the party picked up with an escaped convict who
had been fourteen years with the blacks. During the same year Stuart
Russell explored the country from Wide Bay to the Boyne (not the river
named by Oxley in Port Curtis), and subsequently followed and laid down
this stream throughout, crossing from inland waters on to the head of it.
Russell's work in opening up so much available country, is a fair sample
of the private explorations before referred to, which fill up such a
large space of the record of discovery, and yet have received so little
recognition that the remembrance of most of them has been quite lost, or
preserved in such a way as to be hardly looked upon as reliable history.

We are now approaching a period when the exploration of the continent was
an object of absorbing interest to all the settlements fast growing into
importance on the southern and eastern coasts. Three explorers, who may
be classed as the greatest, the most successful, and the one whose star
that rose so bright at this time was doomed to set in misfortune, were in
the field at the same time. Charles Sturt, fated once more to meet and be
defeated (if such a gallant struggle can be called defeat) by the
inexorable desert and the stern denial of its climate. Thomas Mitchell,
again the favoured of fortune, to wend his way by well-watered streams
and grassy downs and plains. And Ludwig Leichhardt, to accomplish his one
great journey through the country permeated by the rivers of the eastern
and northern coast. But before starting in company with these deathless
names, we must, for a while, return to Lake Torrens.

Eyre, it will be remembered, reached, after much labour, a hill to the
north east at the termination of the range, which he named Mount
Hopeless. From the view he obtained from the summit, he concluded that
Lake Torrens completely enclosed the northern portion of the province of
South Australia; and in fact that the province had once been an island,
as the low-lying plains probably joined the flat country west of the

In 1843, the then Surveyor-General of the colony, Captain Frome, started
to the north to ascertain as much of this mysterious lake as he could. He
reached Mount Serle, and found the dry bed of the great lake to the
eastward, as described by Eyre, but discovered an error of thirty miles
in its position, Eyre having placed it too far to the eastward. Further
north than this, Frome did not proceed; on his way back lie made two
excursions to the eastward, but found nothing but sterile and unpromising
country. He confirmed then, the existence of a lake to the eastward of
the southern point of Lake Torrens, but his explorations did not go far
to determine the identity of the two, nor their uninterrupted continuity.
Prior to this, a series of explorations, followed by settlement, had
taken place east and west of Eyre's track, between Adelaide and the head
of Spencer's Gulf. One promising expedition was nipped in the bud by the
accidental death of the leader, a rising young explorer, who had already
won his spurs in opening up fresh country in the province. This was Mr.
J. Horrocks, who formed a plan for travelling up the western side of Lake
Torrens, and then, if possible, making westward and trying to reach the
Swan River. This expedition is especially noteworthy as being the first
one in which a camel was made use of, and to Horrocks, is due the credit
of first introducing these animals as baggage carriers. When at the head
of the Gulf, and about to grapple with the unknown land to the west, his
gun accidentally went off, and he received the charge in his face. He
lived to return to the station, but died a few days afterwards.

Amongst the other pioneers who contributed more or less to spread
settlement in the province, and succeeded, may be mentioned Messrs.
Hawker, Hughes, Campbell, Robinson, and Heywood.

Perhaps, of all the journeys into the interior, none have excited more
sustained interest than Sturt's. It must be admitted that his account,
however truthful it may have appeared to him at the time, is misleading,
and overdrawn. But whilst saying this let us look at the circumstances
under which he received the impressions he has put on record.

He was a thoroughly broken and disappointed man; for six months he had
been shut up in his weary depôt prison, debarred from making any attempt
to complete his work, watching his friend and companion die slowly before
his eyes. When the kindly rains released him, he was turned back and
constantly back by a strip of desert country, that seemed to dog him
whichever way he turned. No wonder he fairly hated the place, and looked
at all things through the heated, treacherous haze of the desert plains.

When, therefore, he speaks of the awful temperature that rendered life
unbearable, and the inland slopes of Australia unfitted for human
habitation, it must be recalled that the party were weak and suffering,
liable to feel oppressive heat or extreme cold, more keenly than strong
and healthy men. In the ranges where Sturt spent his summer months of
detention, there is now one of the wonderful mining townships of
Australia, where men toil as laboriously as in a temperate zone, and the
fires of the battery and the smelting furnace burn steadily day and
night, in sight of the spot where Poole lies buried. And at the lower
levels of the shafts trickle the waters of subterranean streams that
Sturt never dreamt of. But though baffled, and unable to gain the goal he
strove for, never did man better deserve success. His instructions were
to reach the centre of the continent, to discover whether range or sea
existed there; and if the former, to note the flow of the northern
waters, but on no account to follow them down to the northern sea. As
usual, the Home Office, in their official wisdom, knew more than did the
colonists, and instructed him to proceed by way of Mount Arden; the
route already tried and abandoned by Eyre.

Sturt chose to proceed by the Darling. His plan was to follow that river
up as far as the Williorara or Laidley's Ponds, a small western tributary
of the Darling, opposite the point were Mitchell turned back, in 1835,
after his conflict with the natives. Thence he intended to strike
north-west, hoping thus to avoid the gloomy environs of Lake Torrens, and
its treacherous bed.

At Moorundi, on the Murray, he was met by Eyre, then resident magistrate
at that place, and here the party mustered and made their start.

Sturt was accompanied by Poole, as second in command, Browne, who was a
thorough bushman and an excellent surgeon, accompanied him as a friend;
with them also went McDouall Stuart, as draftsman, whose fame as an
explorer afterwards equalled that of his leader, besides twelve men,
eleven horses, thirty bullocks, one boat and boat carriage, one horse
dray, one spring cart, three bullock drays, two hundred sheep, four
kangaroo dogs, and two sheep dogs.

Eyre accompanied the expedition as far as Lake Victoria, which point they
reached on the 10th of September, 1844. Here Eyre left them, and on the
11th of October the explorers arrived at Williorara, the place where
they intended leaving the Darling for the interior. The appearance of
this watercourse very much disappointed Sturt, he had hoped from the
account of the natives to find in it a fair-sized creek, heading from a
low range, distantly visible to the north-west; instead, he found it a
mere channel for the flood water of the Darling, distributing it into
some shallow lakes, back from the river, a distance of some eight or nine
miles, Sturt, as a first step dispatched Poole and Stuart to the range,
to see if they could obtain any view of the country to the north-west.
They were absent four days, and returned with the rather startling
intelligence, that from the top of a peak in the range, Poole had seen a
large lake studded with islands.

Although in his published journal, written long afterwards, Sturt makes
light of Poole's fancied lake, which, of course, was the effect of
mirage, at that time his ardent fancy made him believe that he was on the
eve of a great discovery. In a letter to Mr. Morphett, of Adelaide, he

"Poole has just returned from the ranges. I have not time to write over
again. He says there are high ranges to the N. and N.W., and water, a sea
extending along the horizon from S.W. by S., and ten E. of N., in which
there are a number of islands and lofty ranges as far as the eye can
reach. What is all this? Are we to be prosperous? I hope so, and I am
sure you do. To-morrow we start for the ranges, and then for the waters,
the strange waters, on which boat never swam, and over which flag never
floated. But both shall ere long. We have the heart of the interior laid
open to us, and shall be off with a flowing, sheet in a few days. Poole
says the sea was a deep blue, and that in the midst of it was a conical
island of great height. When will you hear from me again?"

Poor Sturt! no boat of his was ever to float on that visionary sea, nor
his flag to wave over its dream waters.

The whole of the party now removed to a small shallow lake, the
termination of the Williorara Channel. From here he started on an
excursion to the more distant ranges reported by Poole, accompanied by
Browne and two men, went ahead for the purpose of finding water of a
sufficient permanency to remove the whole of the party, as at the lake
where they were encamped there was always the chance of becoming
embroiled with the natives. He was successful in finding what he wanted,
and on the 4th of November the main body of the expedition removed there,
now finally leaving the waters of the Darling.

The next day, Sturt and Browne, with three men and the cart, started on
another trip in search of water ahead. This they found in small
quantities, and rain coming on, Sturt returned and sent Poole out again
to search, whilst the camp was moved on. On his return he reported having
seen some shallow, brackish lakes, and caught sight of Eyre's Mount
Serle. They were now on the western slope of the Barrier Ranges, and but
for the providential discovery of a fine creek to the north, would have
been unable to retain their position. To this creek (Flood's Creek) they
removed the camp, and Sturt congratulated himself on the steady and
satisfactory progress he was making. They now left the Barrier Range, and
made for one further north, staying for some ten days at a small lagoon,
during which time an examination of the country ahead was made.

On the 27th January, 1845, they removed to a creek, heading from a small
range; at the head of this creek was a fine supply of permanent water,
and here the explorers pitched their tents, little thinking that it would
be the 17th of July following before they would be struck. Perhaps a
short description from Sturt's pen will aid the reader's imagination in
picturing the situation of the party.

"It was not, however, until after we had run down every creek in the
neighbourhood, and had traversed the country in every direction, that the
truth flashed across my mind, and it became evident to me that we were
locked up in the desolate and heated region into which we had penetrated
as effectually as if we had wintered at the Pole. It was long indeed ere
I could bring myself to believe that so great a misfortune had overtaken
us, but so it was. Providence had, in its all wise purposes, guided us to
the only spot in that wide-spread desert, where our wants could have been
permanently supplied, but had there stayed our further progress into a
region that almost appears to be forbidden ground."

* * * * *

"The creek was marked by a line of gum-trees, from the mouth of the glen
to its junction with the main branch, in which, excepting in isolated
spots, water was no longer to be found. The Red Hill (afterwards called
Mount Poole) bore N. N.W. from us, distant three and a-half miles;
between us and it there were undulating plains, covered with stones or
salsolaceous herbage, excepting in the hollows wherein there was a little
grass. Behind us were level stony plains, with small sandy undulations
bounded by brush, over which the Black Hill was visible, distant ten
miles, bearing S.S.E. from the Red Hill. To the eastward, the country was
as I have described it, hilly. Westward at a quarter of a mile the low
range, through which Depôt Creek forces itself, shut out from our view
the extensive plains on which it rises."

This then was Sturt's prison, although at first he had not realised that
in spite of every precaution, his retreat was cut off until the next

Of Sturt's existence and occupation during this dreary period little can
be said. He tried in every direction, until convinced of the uselessness
of so doing, sometimes encouraged and led on by shallow pools in some
fragmentary creek bed, at others, seeing nothing before him but hopeless
aridity. Now, too, he found himself attacked with what he then thought
was rheumatism, but proved to be scurvy, and Poole and Browne too were
afflicted in the same way.

We now come to one of the picturesque incidents that Sturt has introduced
in his narrative, and that help to fix on our memory the strangely weird
picture of the lonely band of men confronted with the unaccustomed forces
of nature in this wilderness.

"As we rode across the stony plain lying between us and the hills, the
heated and parching blasts that came upon us, were more than we could
bear. We were in the centre of the plain, when Mr. Browne drew my
attention to a number of small black specks in the upper air. These spots
increasing momentarily in size, were evidently approaching us rapidly. In
an incredibly short space of time, we were surrounded by hundreds of the
common kite, stooping down to within a few feet of us, and then turning
away after having eyed us steadily. Several approached us so closely,
that they threw themselves back to avoid contact, opening their beaks and
spreading out their talons. The long flight of these birds, reaching from
the ground into the heavens, put me strongly in mind of one of Martin's
beautiful designs, in which he produces the effect of distance by a
multitude of objects vanishing from the view."

Sturt, during his detention in the depôt, made one desperate attempt to
the north, when he succeeded in getting a mile above the 28th parallel,
but found nothing to repay him for his trouble.

And so week after week of this fearful monotony passed on without hardly
a break or change.

Once, an old native wandered to their camp. He was starving and thirsty,
looking a fit being to emerge from the gaunt waste around them. The dogs
attacked him when he approached, but he stood his ground and fought them
valiantly until they were called off; his whole demeanour was calm and
courageous, and he showed neither surprise nor timidity. He drank
greedily when water was given him, and ate voraciously, but whence he
came the men could not divine nor could he explain to them. He accepted
what was given to him, as a right expected by one fellow-being from
another, cut off in the desert from their own kin. While he stopped at
their camp he showed that he knew the use of the boat, explaining that it
was upside down, as of course it was, and pointing to the N.W. as the
place where they would want it, raising poor Sturt's hopes once more.
After a fortnight he departed as he came, saying he would come back, but
he never did.

"With him," says Sturt pathetically, "all our hopes vanished, for even
the presence of this savage was soothing to us, and so long as he
remained we indulged in anticipations as to the future. From the time of
his departure a gloomy silence pervaded the camp; we were, indeed, placed
under the most trying circumstances, everything combined to depress our
spirits and exhaust our patience. We had witnessed migration after
migration of the feathered tribes, to that point to which we were so
anxious to push our way. Flights of cockatoos, of parrots, of pigeons,
and of bitterns; birds, also, whose notes had cheered us in the
wilderness, all had taken the same high road to a better and more
hospitable region."

And now the water began to sink with frightful rapidity, and they all
thought that the end was surely coming. Hoping against hope, Sturt laid
his plans to start as soon as the drought broke up, himself to proceed
north and west whilst poor Poole, reduced to a frightful condition by
scurvy, was to be sent carefully back as the only means of saving his

On the 12th and 13th of July the rain commenced, and the siege was
raised, but Poole never lived to profit by it. Every arrangement for his
comfort was made that the circumstances permitted, but on the first day's
journey he died, and they brought his body back to the depôt and made his
lonely grave there. Sturt's way was now open. After burying his lamented
friend, he again dispatched the party that was selected to return home,
and, with renewed hope, made preparations for the northwest. He first,
however, removed the depôt to a better grassed locality, water being now
plentiful everywhere. During a short western trip, on the 4th August they
found themselves on the edge of an immense shallow and sandy basin, in
which were detached sheets of water, "as blue as indigo and as salt as
brine." This they took to be Lake Torrens, and returned to the depôt to
arrange matters for a final departure.

Stuart was left in charge of the depôt, Browne accompanying Sturt; and on
the 14th a start was made. For some days, owing to the pools of surface
water left by the recent rain, they had no difficulty in keeping a
straightforward course. The country passed over consisted of large level
plains and long sand ridges, but they crossed numerous creeks and found
more or less water in all of them, and finally got into a well-grassed,
pleasing looking country, which greatly cheered them with a prospect of
success, when, suddenly, they were confronted by a wall of sand, and for
nearly twenty miles toiled over succeeding ridges. Fortunately, they
found both water and feed, but their hopes received a sudden and complete
downfall. Nor did a walk to the extremity of one of the sand ridges serve
to raise their spirits. Sturt saw before him an immense plain, of a
dark purple hue, with its horizon like that of the sea, boundless in the

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