Part 4 out of 10
direction in which he wished to proceed. This was the Stony Desert. That
night they camped in it, and the next morning came to an earthy plain,
with here and there a few bushes of polygonum growing beside some stray
channel, in some of which they, luckily, found a little muddy rain water
still left. When they camped at night they sighted, for a short time,
some hills to the north, and, on examining them through the telescope,
saw dark shadows on their faces as if produced by cliffs. Next day they
made for these hills, in the hope of finding a change of country and feed
for their horses; but they were disappointed. Sand ridges in terrible
array once more rose up before them. "Even the animals," says Sturt,
"appeared to regard them with dismay."
Over plains and sand dunes, the former full of yawning cracks and holes,
the party pushed on, subsisting on precarious pools of muddy water and
fast-sinking native wells; until, on the 3rd of September, Flood, the
stockman, who was riding ahead, held up his hat and called aloud to them
that a large creek was in sight.
On coming up the others saw a beautiful watercourse, the bed of which was
full of grass and water. This creek Sturt called Eyre's Creek, and it was
one of the most important discoveries he made in this region. Along this
watercourse they made easy stages until the 7th, when the creek was lost,
and the water in the lagoons near the bank was found to be intensely
salt. After repeated efforts to continue his journey, which only led him
amongst the everlasting sand hills, separated by plains encrusted with
salt, Sturt came to the erroneous conclusion that he was at the head of
the creek, and further progress impossible. Had he but known it, he was
within reach of permanently watered rivers, along which he could have
travelled as far north as he wished. But there was neither sign nor clue
afforded him; his men were sick, and his retreat to the depôt most
precarious; there was nothing for it but to fall back again, and after a
toilsome journey they reached the depôt, or Fort Grey as they had
christened it, on the 2nd October.
Sturt now made up his mind for a final effort due north, and in company
with Stuart and two fresh men, he started on the 9th of October; and on
the second day reached Strzelecki Creek, which was the name they had
given to the first creek crossed on their late expedition. On the 13th,
they arrived at the banks of a magnificent channel with grassy banks,
fine trees and abundant water; this was the now well-known Cooper's
Creek, one of the most important rivers of the interior, its tributaries
draining the southern slopes of the dividing watershed in the north.
Sturt on reaching this unexpected discovery was uncertain whether to
follow its course to the eastward, or persevere in his original intention
of pushing to the north. A thunder storm falling at the time made him
adhere to his original course, and defer the examination of the new river
until his return. In seven days after leaving Cooper's Creek, he had the
negative satisfaction, as he expected, of gazing over the dreary waste of
the stony desert, unchanged and forbidding as ever. They crossed it, and
were again turned back by sand hill and salt plain, and forced to retrace
their steps to Cooper's Creek. This creek Sturt followed upward for many
days, but finding it did not take him in the direction he desired to go,
and moreover, the large broad channel that they first came to, became
divided into many small ones, which ran through flooded plains, making
the travelling most tiring on their exhausted horses; he reluctantly
turned back. They had found the creek well populated with natives, and
the prospects of getting on were apparently better than they had ever met
with before, but both Sturt and his men were weak and ill, and his horses
thoroughly tired out, and also he was not sure of his retreat.
Following Cooper's Creek back, they found that the water had dried up so
rapidly that grave fears were entertained that Strzelecki's Creek, their
main reliance in going back to the depôt, would be dry. Fortunately, they
were in time to find a little muddy fluid left, just enough to serve
them. Here they experienced a hot wind that forced them to camp the whole
day, although most anxious to get on.
"We had scarcely got there," writes Sturt, "when the wind, which had
been blowing all the morning hot from the north-east, increased to a
gale, and I shall never forget its withering effects. I sought shelter
behind a large gum tree, but the blasts of heat were so terrific, that I
wondered the very grass did not take fire. This really was nothing ideal;
everything, both animate and inanimate, gave way before it; the horses
stood with their backs to the wind, and their noses to the ground,
without the muscular strength to raise their heads; the birds were mute,
and the leaves of the tree under which we were sitting, fell like a snow
shower around us. At noon, I took a thermometer, graduated to 127
degrees, out of my box, and observed that the mercury was up to 125.
Thinking that it had been unduly influenced, I put it in the fork of a
tree close to me, sheltered alike from the wind and the sun. In this
position I went to examine it about an hour afterwards, when I found that
the mercury had risen to the top of the instrument, and that its further
expansion had burst the bulb, a circumstance that, I believe, no
traveller has had to recount before."
Let the reader remember when reading the above description, which has
been so much quoted, that the man who wrote it was in such a weakened
condition, that he had no energy left to withstand the hot wind, and that
the shade they were cowering under was of the scantiest description.
They had still a journey of eighty-six miles, back to Fort Grey, with
little prospect of any water being found on the way. After a long and
weary ride they reached it only to find that, owing to the bad state of
the water, Browne had been compelled to fall back on to their old camp at
the Depôt Glen.
"We reached the plain just as the sun was descending, without having
dismounted from our horses for fifteen hours, and as we rode down the
embankment into it, looked around for the cattle, but none were to be
seen. We looked towards the little sandy mound on which the tents had
stood, but no white objects there met our eye; we rode slowly up to the
stockade and found it silent and deserted. I was quite sure that Mr.
Browne had had urgent reasons for retiring. I had, indeed, anticipated
the measure. I hardly hoped to find him at the Fort, and had given him
instructions on the subject of his removal; yet, a sickening feeling came
over me when I saw that he was really gone; not on my own account, for,
with the bitter feelings of disappointment with which I was returning
home, I could calmly have laid my head on that desert, never to raise it
Riding day and night, Sturt at last reached the encampment, so exhausted
as to be hardly able to stand:--
"When I dismounted, I had nearly fallen forward. Thinking that one of the
kangaroo dogs, in his greeting, had pushed me between the legs, I turned
round to give him a slap, but no dog was there, and I soon found out that
what I had felt was nothing more than strong muscular action, brought on
Now came the question of their final escape. The water in the Depôt Creek
was so much reduced that they feared that there would be none left in
Flood's Creek, and if so, they were once more imprisoned. Browne
undertook the long ride of one hundred and eighteen miles, which was to
decide the question. Preparations had to be made for his journey by
filling a bullock skin with water, and sending a dray with it as far as
possible; and on the eighth day he returned.
"'Well Browne,' said Sturt, who was helpless in his tent, 'what news? Is
it to be good or bad?' 'there is still water in the creek,' replied
Browne, 'but that is all I can say; what there is, is as black as ink,
and we must make haste, for in a week it will be gone.'"
The boat that was to have floated on the inland sea, was left to rot at
the Depôt Glen, all the heaviest of the stores abandoned., and the
retreat of over two hundred miles to the Darling commenced.
More bullock skins were fashioned into bags, to carry water for the
stock, and with their aid, and that of a kindly shower of rain, they
crossed the dry stage to Flood's Creek in safety. Here they found the
vegetation more advanced, and with care, and constant activity in looking
out for water on ahead, they gradually left behind them the scene of
their labours and approached the Darling; Sturt having to be carried on
one of the drays, and lifted on and off at each stoppage.
On the 21st December, they arrived at the camp of the relief party, under
Piesse, at Williorara, and Sturt's last expedition came to an end.
As he has often been termed the father of Australian exploration, it may
be as well to look back on the result of his life-long labours. His
burning desire to reach the heart of the continent had constantly led him
into dangers and difficulties that other explorers shunned, and
unfortunate as he always was in his seasons, he brought back a forbidding
report of the, usefulness of the country he had discovered, which led to
its gradual settlement, only after long years had passed, and men had
grown accustomed to the desert, and laughed at its terrors; finding that
experience robbed them of their first effect.
Sturt found the Darling, and traced the Murray to its mouth, thus
discovering the great arteries of the water system of the most populated
part of Australia, leaving the details to be filled in by others. In the
interior he was the finder of Eyre's Creek and Cooper's Creek; one of the
tributaries of the latter was soon afterwards discovered by Mitchell,
and named by him the Victoria, now called the Barcoo. In these two
creeks, as he called them, on account of the absence of flowing water in
their beds, Sturt unwittingly crossed the second and only other great
inland river system of the continent. In the basin he traversed, in which
these creeks lost their character, he was riding over the united beds of
the Barcoo, the Thomson, the Diamentina, and the Herbert, west of whose
waters nothing in the shape of a defined system of drainage exists, until
the rivers of the western coast are reached. As a scientific explorer
then, whose object was to unravel the mystery of the interior, solve, if
possible, the question of its strange peculiarity, and trace out its
physical formation, Sturt may well be held the first and greatest. His
success, perhaps, was greater than he himself imagined, he came back
dispirited with failure but as before he had found the broad outlines of
the plan of the drainage of the great plains, to be afterwards completed
by the discoveries of the tributary streams.
In addition to his longing to be the first to reach the centre of
Australia, Sturt fondly hoped that once past the southern zone of the
tropics, he would find himself in a country blessed with a heavier and
more constant rainfall; as it was impossible for him to know at that
time, that the force of the north-west monsoon was expended on the
northern coast, and none of the tropical deluge found its way with any
degree of regularity to the thirsty inland slope; this theory appeared
on the face of it, feasible. Although an after knowledge may have now
enabled us to see the mistakes he made, and to regard his descriptions of
the uninhabitable nature of the interior as exaggerated, it must be
admitted that others in the same place and circumstances would have made
similar errors, and drawn equally false conclusions.
In taking leave of this explorer, another short extract from his journal
will best show the character of the man of whom Australians should be so
"Circumstances may yet arise to give a value to my recent labours, and my
name may be remembered by after generations in Australia, as the first
who tried to penetrate to its centre. If I failed in that great object, I
have one consolation in the retrospect of my past services. My path
amongst savage tribes has been a bloodless one, not but that I have
often been placed in situations of risk and danger, when I might have
been justified in shedding blood, but I trust I have ever made allowances
for human timidity, and respected the customs of the rudest people."
The next prominent figure in the history of this time is Leichhardt,
whose unknown fate has been the cause of so much sentiment clinging about
Dr. Ludwig Leichhardt arrived in the colony in 1842, and travelled to
Moreton Bay overland, where he occupied himself for two years in short
excursions in the neighbourhood, pursuing his favourite study of physical
science. Leichhardt was born in Beskow, near Berlin, and studied in
Berlin. Through a neglect, he was excluded from the one-year military
service, and thereby induced to escape from the three-yearly service. The
consequence was, that he was pursued as a deserter and sentenced IN
Afterwards, Alexander Von Humboldt succeeded, by representing his
services to science on his first expedition in Australia, in obtaining a
pardon from the King. By a Cabinet order Leichhardt received permission
to return to Prussia unpunished. This order, whether of any value to
Leichhardt or not, came too late. When it arrived in Australia he had
already started on his last expedition.
When the expedition was projected from Fort Bourke, on the Darling, to
the Gulf of Carpentaria or Port Essington, he was desirous of securing
the position of naturalist thereon; the delay in the starting of it
disappointed him, and he made up his mind to attempt one on his own
account, a project in which he received little encouragement. He
persevered, however, and eking out his own resources, by means of private
contributions he managed to get a party together, and on the 1st of
October, 1844, he left Jimbour, on the Darling Downs, with six whites and
two blacks, 17 horses, 16 head of cattle, and four kangaroo dogs; his
other supplies being proportionately meagre.
As Leichhardt's journal of this trip has been so widely read, and as it
does not possess the same striking interest as that of Sturt's, from the
more accessible nature of the country travelled through, and the absence
of the constantly threatening dangers overhanging both Sturt and Eyre, a
shorter account of the progress of the expedition will be found most
His plan of starting from the Moreton Bay district, and proceeding to
Port Essington, differed considerably from that proposed by Sir Thomas
Mitchell. The course adopted by Leichhardt, although longer and more
roundabout than that suggested from Fort Bourke, would be safer for his
little band, keeping as it would, more to the well-watered coastal
districts, and avoiding the constant separations entailed upon parties
traversing the interior.
Leaving the head waters of the Condamine, the river which receives so
many of the tributary streams of the Darling Downs, Leichhardt struck a
river, which he named the Dawson, thence he passed westward, on to the
fine country of the Peak Downs, whereon he named the minor waters of the
Comet, Planet, and Zamia Creeks.
On the 10th of January, 1845, the Mackenzie River was discovered, and
here the Doctor and the black boy, Charlie, managed to get lost for two
or three days, a faculty which apparently most of the party happily
possessed. Following up the Isaacs River, a tributary of the Fitzroy,
they crossed the head of it on to the Suttor; the only variation in the
monotonous record of the daily travel being the occasional capture of
game, and the mutinous conduct of the two black boys, who at various
times essayed to leave the party and shift for themselves, but were on
each occasion glad to return.
Following down the Suttor, they arrived at the Burdekin, the largest
river on the east coast, discovered by Leichhardt, up the valley of which
they travelled, until they crossed the dividing watershed between the
waters of the east coast and the Gulf of Carpentaria, on to the head of
the Lynd, which river they followed to its junction with the Mitchell.
Finding the course of this river leading them too high north, on the
eastern shore of the Gulf, they left it, and struck to the sea coast,
intending to follow round the southern coast at a reasonable distance
inland. Up to this time they had been so little troubled by the natives,
that they had ceased almost to think of meeting with any hostility from
On the night of the 28th June, 1845, they were encamped at a chain of
shallow lagoons, when soon after seven o'clock, a shower of spears was
thrown into the camp, wounding Messrs. Roper and Calvert, and killing Mr.
Gilbert instantly. So unprepared were the party, that the guns were
uncapped, and it was some time before three or four discharges made the
blacks take to their heels. The body of the naturalist was buried at the
camp, but his grave was unmarked, as in order to prevent the blacks from
disinterring it, a large fire was lit over the grave to hide its site.
From this unfortunate camp the party proceeded slowly with the two
wounded men for some days. A strange incident, scarcely credible,
happened during their tramp round the Gulf. One night a blackfellow
walked deliberately up to the fire round which the party were assembled,
having seemingly mistaken it for his own. On discovering his mistake, he
immediately climbed up a tree, and raised a horrible din, lamenting,
sobbing, and crying, until they all removed to a short distance and
afforded him a chance of which he eagerly availed himself, of escaping.
Leichhardt followed round the Gulf shores, naming the many rivers he
crossed after friends or contributors to his expedition, or where he
could identify them, retaining the names of the coast surveys. On the 6th
of August, he reached a river which he mistook for the Albert, of Captain
Stokes, but which now bears his name, being so christened by A. C.
Gregory, who rectified his error. On this occasion, Leichhardt did not
err so widely as Burke and Wills did subsequently, when they mistook the
mouth of the Flinders for the Albert. With decreasing supplies and
increasing fatigue, they at last reached the large river in the
south-west corner of the Gulf, which he named the Roper, and here he had
the misfortune to lose four horses, and had to sacrifice the whole of his
botanical collection--a heavy loss. On the 17th December, when very near
the last of everything, they arrived at the settlement of Victoria, at
Port Essington, and their long journey of ten months was over.
This expedition, successful as it was in opening up such a large area of
well watered country, attracted universal attention, and enthusiastic
poets broke forth into song at Leichhardt's return, as they already had
done at his reported death. He was heartily welcomed back to Sydney, and
dubbed by journalists the "Prince of Explorers." But, perhaps, better
still, a solid money reward was raised by both public and private
subscription, and shared amongst the party, in due proportions. During
his journey, Leichhardt had discovered many important rivers draining
large and fertile areas. The principal being the Dawson, the Mackenzie,
the Suttor, the Burdekin, and its many tributaries. The numerous streams
of the Gulf of Carpentaria, and others that have since become almost
household words in Australian geography. He was singularly fortunate on
this occasion; although, judging by his after career, the luck which had
carried him through from Moreton Bay to Port Essington deserted him
suddenly and completely. His route had been through a country so easy to
penetrate and well watered, that on one night only, had the party camped
without water. The blacks, with the exception of the time when Mr.
Gilbert was killed, were neither troublesome nor hostile, beyond
occasionally threatening them. Game was fairly plentiful, and compared
with the obstacles that beset Sturt, Eyre, and Mitchell, the footsteps of
the explorers had been through a garden of Eden.
But what took the public fancy the most was a certain halo of romance
surrounding the journey, partly from the report of the death of the
traveller having been circulated, and partly from the trip having been
successful in reaching the goal aimed at, and attaining the results
desired, namely, an available and habitable route to the settlement at
Port Essington. All these circumstances, combined with the very slender
means which had enabled the young and enthusiastic explorer to succeed,
threw around Leichhardt's reputation a glamour, which, fortunately for
his reputation, the mystery surrounding the total and absolute
disappearance of himself and party, in 1848, has deepened, and kept alive
until this day.
Leichhardt added a long string of discoveries to his name during this one
trip, and had his other attempts been as successful in proportion, he
would have taken the first place in the history of Australian discovery,
but it was not to be so, and on this undoubtedly fruitful expedition his
fame now stands.
Before Leichhardt's return, Sir Thomas Mitchell had started on his
long-delayed journey, which, in the main, had the same purpose in view as
Leichhardt's. This expedition had been long talked of. In 1841,
communications between Governor Gipps and Captain Sturt had taken place
on the subject, and in December of the same year, Eyre, not long back
from his journey to King George's Sound, wrote, offering his services.
[See Appendix.] To this the Governor replied that he would be glad to
avail himself of Mr. Eyre's services, provided that no prior claim to the
post was advanced by Captain Sturt. He also desired Eyre's views as to
the expense of the party.
Eyre estimated that the sum of five thousand pounds would, he thought, be
sufficient to fully cover every expense, including the hire of a vessel
(to meet the party on the north coast), and the payment of the wages of
the men and the salaries of the surveyor and draughtsman. But the colony
was not in a mood to indulge in such expense, and nothing was done just
In 1843, Major Mitchell submitted A plan of exploration to the Governor,
who promised to consult the Legislative Council who approved, and voted a
sum of one thousand pounds towards the expenses. The Governor referred
the matter to Lord Stanley, who gave a favourable reply; but still the
matter was delayed.
In the beginning of the following year (1844), Eyre again made an offer
of his services, intimating that now the altered circumstances of the
colony would allow it to be carried through at a much cheaper rate. His
offer was, however, declined, on account of the Surveyor-General, to whom
the honour rightfully belonged, being in the field.
In 1845, the Council increased the exploration fund to two thousand
pounds, and Sir George Gipps instructed Major Mitchell to start.
The views of Sir Thomas were in favour of obtaining a road to the foot of
the Gulf, instead of Port Essington, on account of reducing the land
journey considerably, and also there being such a reasonable probability
that a large river would be found flowing northward into it.
In a letter which the Surveyor-General received from Mr. Walter Bagot
[See Appendix.] about this time, mention is made of the blacks reporting
a large river west of the Darling, running to the north or north-west.
As, however, the natives do not seem very clear in their knowledge of the
difference between flowing from and flowing to, it was probable that
Cooper's Creek, not then discovered by Sturt, was the foundation of the
legend, or possibly the Paroo.
During the earlier part of the year, Commissioner Mitchell (a son of Sir
Thomas) made an exploration towards the Darling, and the discoveries of
the Narran, the Balonne, and the Culgoa have been attributed to him; but,
as will be seen by Bagot's letter, they were known to the settlers a year
before; no special interest beyond this is to be found in the narrative
of the journey.
On the 15th of December, 1845, Sir Thomas Mitchell started from Buree,
his old point of departure, at the head of the small army with which he
was once more going to vanquish the wilderness. Mounted videttes,
barometer carrier, carter, and pioneer, etc., etc., were amongst the list
of his subordinates. Well might poor Leichhardt say, when thinking over
his slender resources:--
"Believe me, that one experienced and courageous bushman is worth more
than the eight soldiers Sir Thomas intends to take with him. They will be
an immense burthen, and of no use."
But Sir Thomas thought otherwise; without soldiers he considered that
certain failure awaited the rash explorer; discipline and method were the
sheet anchors of his exploratory existence, every tent in his camp was
pitched by line, and every dray had its station. With the fated Kennedy
as second, and Mr. W. Stephenson as surgeon and collector, he had also
with him twenty-eight men, eight bullock drays, three horse drays, and
two boats; and thus accompanied, he marched to the north.
Sir Thomas Mitchell struck the Darling much higher than Fort Bourke, the
state of the country at this time of the year rendering this change in
his plan needful. It was not until he was across the Darling that he was
outside the settled districts, so rapidly had the country been stocked
since last he was there, and even then he was on territory that his son
had lately explored.
The first river the party struck, west of the Darling, was the Narran,
and this was followed up until the Balonne was reached, which Mitchell
pronounced the finest river in Australia, with the exception of the
Murray. Beyond this, they made the Culgoa, and, crossing it, struck the
river again above the separation of the two streams, which from thence
upwards preserved the name of the Balonne.
On the 12th April, they reached the natural bridge of rocks on the
Balonne, where the township of St. George now stands, long known as St.
George's Bridge; and from here Sir Thomas advanced with a light party,
leaving Kennedy to follow on his tracks with the remainder, after a rest
of three weeks.
Soon after leaving the camp, Mitchell crossed the junction of the
Maranoa, but did not at that time like its appearance, and only followed
it a few miles, returning and keeping the course of the Balonne until
they reached the junction of the Cogoon from the westward, when they
followed the course of that river, which led them into a beautiful
pastoral district around a solitary hill, which the leader named Mount
Abundance, and here Mitchell first noticed the bottle tree.
Passing over a low range from the Cogoon, after crossing some tributary
streams, Sir Thomas found a river with a northerly and southerly course,
full of fine reaches of water, which retained its native name of the
Maranoa, being supposed to be the same as the junction before noticed.
Here they awaited the arrival of Kennedy with the heavy waggons and main
On the 1st of June, the party was reunited, and the leader prepared for a
fresh excursion. Before Kennedy left the first depôt, at which, it will
be remembered, he was to remain six weeks, he received dispatches from
Commissioner Mitchell to Sir Thomas, by which that gentleman learnt of
the success of Leichhardt's expedition.
Major Mitchell has been accused of regarding Leichhardt's success with
jealous eyes, but that can scarcely be the case; true, he was of a
slightly imperious temper, but he must have felt far too secure of his
own reputation to fear any man's rivalry. The hasty and 'impatient
remarks he was occasionally betrayed into would, no doubt, be the natural
result of a man of his temperament reading such paragraphs in the Sydney
newspapers as those he has quoted in his journal:--
"Australia Felix and the discoveries of Sir Thomas Mitchell now dwindle
into comparative insignificance."
"We understand the intrepid Dr. Leichhardt is about to start another
expedition to the Gulf, keeping to the westward of the coast ranges."
The last item would be especially annoying, as it would indicate an
intention of trespassing on Mitchell's then field of operation.
On the 4th, the Surveyor-General started, intending to be away from the
depôt for at least four months. He followed up the Maranoa, and crossing
the broken tableland at its head, reached the Warrego, afterwards
explored by Kennedy. From this river Mitchell struck north, feeling
inclined to think that he was at last on the long looked for dividing
watershed that separated the northern from the southern flow.
On the 2nd July, they discovered a fine running stream that soon
broadened into a river, and eventually into a lake, called by Mitchell
Lake Salvator, the river receiving the same name. Travelling along the
basin of the head-waters of the Nogoa, which, however, turned too much to
the eastward for his purpose, crossing the Claude and the fine country
known as Mantuan Downs, Mitchell ascended a dividing range, and struck
the head of the Belyando--one of the main tributaries of the Burdekin so
lately discovered by Leichhardt. Following it down through the thick
brigalow scrub, which is a marked feature of this river and its companion
the Suttor, of Leichhardt, the party crossed the southern tropic on the
25th July, being, as Mitchell says, the first to enter the interior
beyond that line. In this he rather overlooked the fact, which he must
have known, that Leichhardt's track was only a few miles to the eastward,
and also what he did not then know, that he was not in the interior but
still on coast waters.
On the 10th August, the camp was visited by some natives, who did not
appear of the most friendly disposition. They apparently called the river
Belyando, which name was adopted. On their getting noisy and troublesome,
they were ignominiously put to flight by the dogs charging them. At this
point Mitchell had reluctantly to alter his preconceived opinions and
conjectures, and come to the conclusion that the northern fall of the
waters was still to be looked for to the westward, and that a further
continuance on his present course would lead him on to Leichhardt's
track. Disappointed, he gave the order to turn back, and on the last days
of August they were once again on the Nogoa tributaries.
At the foot of the range Mitchell established a second depôt, and on the
10th September started with the black boy and two men for a month's trip
to the westward. On this trip, he must receive the credit of initiating
the now commonly used water-bag for carrying water. His, it must be
confessed, was a very crude one, being only a thick flour bag, covered
outside with melted mutton fat.
The second day they met some natives, and from one old woman learnt the
names of some of the neighbouring streams, particularly the Warrego,
which river they had crossed on their outward way. The first river he
encountered was the Nive, and again he, as usual, flattered himself that
he was at the head of Gulf waters, little thinking that he was on the
most northern tributary of the Darling. A small tributary was called the
Nivelle. A short day's ride convinced him that this river ran too much to
the south-east, and he turned to the north through the scrub, and on the
morning of the 15th September, was rewarded with the splendid outlook
that has since greeted so many wayfarers on emerging from the Nive scrub.
In his journal he says:--
"I there beheld downs and plains extending westward beyond the reach of
vision, bounded on the S.W. by woods and low ranges, and on the N.E. by
higher ranges, the whole of these open downs declining to the N.W., in
which direction a line of trees marked the course of a river traceable to
the remotest verge of the horizon. There I found then, at last, the
realization of my long-cherished hopes--an interior river falling to the
N.W. in the heart of an open country, extending also in that direction.
. . . From the rock where I stood, the scene was so extensive, as to
leave no room for doubt as to the course of the river, which thus and
there revealed to me alone, seemed like a reward direct, from Heaven for
perseverance, and as a compensation for the many sacrifices I had made
in order to solve the question as to the interior rivers of tropical
Once more the victim of a too sanguine belief, he followed tip his
discovery by at once commencing to trace down the river that ran through
this new-found paradise. He had made a great contribution to Australian
geography, as great as what he hoped for; but if he had been told the
truth he would scarcely have been satisfied. He had found the upper
tributaries of the second great river system of the interior, as Sturt
-had found its lower outflow, and he had thrown open the wonderful
western prairies, but he was as far from the Gulf as ever.
Light-hearted and satisfied, the party rode on for days through the
beautiful undulating downs country. On the 22nd September, we find in his
journal a notice of the new kind of grass, which was in future to be so
highly prized and to bear his name:
"Two kinds of grass grew on these plains, one of them, a brome grass,
possessing the remarkable property of shooting up green from the old
On the 23rd, they crossed and named the Alice, and on the 26th, being
fully satisfied, and their provisions running short turned back.
Mitchell for once, in honour of such a discovery, departed from his usual
custom, which was the healthy plan of giving "good, sonorous native
names" to the most noticeable features, and called the river the
Victoria. On the 6th of October they reached the depôt camp, and found
The return to the main depôt, left in charge of Kennedy, was soon
accomplished, and on the 19th this was reached, and the occupants found
safe and unmolested, although the absence of Mitchell had now extended
over the four months. As a proof of the capabilities of the country he
had travelled over, Mitchell brought back all his animals in first-rate
condition, having lost only one horse, and that was through an accident.
The final return was made down the yet unexplored Maranoa, at the head of
which the depôt had been fixed so long; and on the 4th November they
arrived at the Balonne, having passed through splendidly-grassed and
well-watered country the whole way. The party took up their old camp at
St. George's Bridge, where they learnt from the natives that a party of
whites had been in the neighbourhood during their absence. Kennedy was
dispatched to inspect the Mooni ponds, or river, which they understood
was to the eastward of them. He found them occupied by cattle stations to
within a day's ride of the camp, so that the explorer's work may be
considered as at an end.
This expedition, it may well be supposed, fully confirmed Mitchell's
reputation. Once more he had been the means of assuring the colonists
that away towards the setting sun the flocks and herds might advance
unchecked, so far as he had been, and as he thought, across the great
continent. Added to which, he felt convinced, and expected the public
also to feel the same, that along the banks of the Victoria was the great
high road to the north coast.
This was the last expedition of the Surveyor-General, and the year before
concluded the active work of his old rival in the field, Charles Sturt.
Both men had done wonders in the cause of exploration; but the genii of
plentiful seasons and bountiful vegetation seems to have been the
forerunner of Sir Thomas, whilst a demon of drought and aridity stalked
in front of Sturt.
Kennedy traces the Victoria in its final course south--Re-named the
Barcoo--First notice of the PITURI chewing natives--Leichhardt's second
Expedition--Failure and Return--Leichhardt's last Expedition--His
absolute disappearance--Conjectures as to his fate--Kennedy starts from
Rockingham Bay to Cape York--Scrubs and swamps--Great exertions--Hostile
natives--Insufficiency of supplies provided--Dying horses--Main party
left in Weymouth Bay--Another separation at Shelburne Bay--Murder of
Kennedy at the Escape River--Rescue of Jacky the black boy--His pathetic
tale of suffering--Failure to find the camp at Shelburne Bay--Rescue of
but two survivors at Weymouth Bay--The remainder starved to death--Von
Mueller in the Australian Alps--Western Australia--Landor and Lefroy, in
1843--First expedition of the brothers Gregory, in 1846--Salt lakes and
scrub--Lieutenant Helpman sent to examine the coal seam discovered--Roe,
in 1848--His journey to the east and to the south--A. C. Gregory attempts
to reach the Gascoyne--Foiled by the nature of the country--Discovers
silver ore on the Murchison--Governor Fitzgerald visits the mine--Wounded
by the natives--Rumour of Leichhardt having been murdered by the
blacks--Hely's expedition in quest of him--Story unfounded--Austin's
explorations in Western Australia--Terrible scrubs--Poison camp--
Determined efforts to the north--Heat and thirst--Forced to return.
The importance of deciding the final course of the Victoria was at once
recognised, and Kennedy was chosen to lead a lightly equipped party.
However convinced Sir Thomas Mitchell was of the affluent of the Victoria
being in the Gulf of Carpentaria, others did not at once fall in with
the notion. It was evident that the vast flooded plains, and many
channels of Cooper's Creek absorbed immense quantities of water from the
interior, and apparently this water came from the north-east. What more
probable than that the Victoria was lost there.
Kennedy followed the old track to the river, found by Mitchell, and
reaching his lowest camp on the 13th of August, commenced to run the
river down from there. On the first day's journey he met a native, from
whom he learnt the aboriginal name of the Victoria, the BARCOO.
On the 15th Kennedy noticed with anxiety that the valley of the river
certainly fell to the south, and that ever since it had turned from its
northerly course, it was making for the point where Sturt turned back on
Cooper's Creek. He consequently began to dread that he might follow the
course of it, so far as not to be able to carry out the second part of
his instructions, namely, to look for a road to the Gulf, not having
enough means with him for both journeys. He decided to follow with two
men along the Barcoo, far enough to the south to leave no doubt about its
not being a north coast river. After two days' journey, the direction of
the Barcoo turned west, and even north of west, and the bed contained
fine reaches of water, one hundred, and one hundred and twenty yards
wide. Kennedy turned back for the whole of his party, considering that
his duty was to follow such a river, no matter in what direction it led
On the 30th August, they came upon a large tributary from the N.N.E.,
which was named the Thomson, and they found the country very different
from the grassy plains of the upper reaches.
Finally, the river led them amongst plains gaping with fissures,
grassless and waterless, where the only change in the flat character of
the country was the sandhill formation, that exactly agreed with Sturt's
description. In fact, it was now evident to Kennedy that the only result
of his journey would be to connect with that explorer's most northerly
and easterly point, and, however satisfactory or unsatisfactory this
might be, it was scarcely worth risking the lives of his party, and the
certain loss of his horses to attain. Grass, or feed of any sort, had now
failed them for several days, and at last they could find no more water.
They were confronted with the desert described by Sturt with such
terrible accuracy, and there was nothing to be gained by entering into a
struggle with it. Kennedy turned back quite satisfied that the end of the
Victoria was in Cooper's Creek.
As the nomenclature of these watercourses is rather conflicting, and they
were the field of many subsequent explorations, it may be as well to
mention that the Victoria (now the Barcoo) joins Kennedy's Thomson, which
still retains its name, and below the junction the united stream is
always now called Cooper's Creek. Thus, as the residents out there tell
you, IT TAKES TWO RIVERS IN THAT PART OF AUSTRALIA TO MAKE A CREEK.
A noticeable incident here occurs in Kennedy's journal. Writing on the
11th September, he says:--
"A curious fact I observed here is, that the men chew tobacco; it is, of
course, in a green state, but it is strong and hot."
This was almost, certainly, the PITURI plant, which the natives of the
interior chew, and then bury in the sand, where the heat of the sun
causes it to ferment; it is then chewed as an intoxicant, the natives
carrying a plug behind their car in their hair. It is offered to a
stranger as an especial compliment, and great is the affront if this
toothsome morsel is declined. It only grows in certain localities, far
west of where Kennedy saw the natives using it, and the blacks of the
locality where it is found barter it away with other tribes, by which
means it is found at a considerable distance from where it grows. Amongst
the natives there are PITURI and NON-PITURI chewers.
On his downward journey Kennedy, to ease his horses as much as possible,
had buried a great quantity of flour and sugar. On his return he found
that the natives had discovered it, and wantonly emptied it out of the
bags into the hole, reducing it to a mixture of earth and flour that was
completely useless. This loss prevented Kennedy from making his intended
excursion to the Gulf. The party started back, and on his way Kennedy
picked up his carts, which he had also buried. He was just in time; a
native, probably one of the burglars already mentioned, had been
examining and sounding the ground but a short time before the party
On reaching the head of the Warrego, Kennedy determined to follow it
down, and ascertain whether it was a southerly or westerly flowing river.
They followed the Warrego south, through fine grazing country, the river
being full of splendid reaches of water, but at last it failed them,
running out in flat country in waterless channels. From here they struck
across easterly to the Culgoa, which river they reached after a ride of
seventy miles without water, over a barren country, timbered with pine
and brigalow. Here they were delayed getting the carts across this dry
track, and lost six horses from heat and thirst. Thus vanished the high
hopes entertained of the Victoria River.
Meantime, Leichhardt, encouraged by his first success, had received
liberal support from the public to enable him to start on a new
expedition, which at once was to settle the question of the nature of the
interior, the ambitious project being nothing less than to traverse the
continent from the eastern to the western shore, on much the same
parallel of latitude if possible.
The party travelled overland from the Hunter River to the Darling Downs,
bringing with them their outfit of mules, cattle, and goats. On December
10th, 1846, the expedition left Mr. Stephens' station on the Condamine,
the members then consisting of seven whites and two blacks. Of stock,
they had two hundred and seventy goats, one hundred and eighty sheep,
forty bullocks, fifteen horses, and thirteen mules. This stock, with
their flour, tea, sugar, etc., was to last them on a two years' journey.
It is almost needless to go into particulars concerning this unfortunate
trip. They never succeeded in getting away from the old Port Essington
track. The rains came down on them in the sickly brigalow scrubs of the
Dawson and Mackenzie. Fever was the result, and they had no medicines
with them--a strange omission. Their only coverings during the wet were
two miserable calico tents. Their life, as told by members of the party,
consisted of semi-starvation, varied by gorging and feasting on killing
days, in which the Doctor apparently set the example; in fact, his
character throughout comes out in anything but an amiable light, and one
is led to wonder how anyone so destitute of tact and readiness of
resource ever achieved the journey to Port Essington, favoured even as he
was on that occasion by circumstances and seasons. Suffice it to say, to
end the miserable story, that, having first lost their sheep and goats,
then their cattle and most of their horses and mules, they turned up on
the 6th of July at Chauvel's station on the Condamine, having done
nothing but wander about on the old track and eat their supplies.
On reaching the station, Dr. Leichhardt was put in possession of the
finding of the Victoria, the Maranoa, &c., and being anxious to examine
the country between Sir Thomas Mitchell's track and his own, he, in
company with Mr. Isaacs and three of his late companions, left Stuart
Russell's station on a short excursion, during which he crossed to the
Balonne and back, making some subordinate discoveries.
Still persisting in his idea of crossing the continent, and fearful that
he might be forestalled, he made great efforts to get together a small
party of some sort to make another attempt. He succeeded; but this time
his party was neither so well provided nor so large. In fact, very little
is known of the members constituting it. The Rev. W. B. Clarke, speaking
of this final trip, says:--
"The parties who accompanied Leichhardt were, perhaps, little capable of
shifting for themselves in case of any accident to their leader. The
second in command, a brother-in-law of Leichhardt, came from Germany to
join him just before starting, and he told me, when I asked him what his
qualifications for the journey were, that he had been at sea, had
suffered shipwrecks, and was, therefore, well able to endure hardship. I
do not know what his other qualifications were."
For some inexplicable reason, this man, whose name was Classen or
Klausen, has always been selected as the hero of the many tales that have
been brought in of a solitary survivor of the party living in captivity
with the natives; probably, because his was the only name besides
Leichhardt's generally known and remembered.
The lost expedition is supposed to have consisted of six whites and two
blacks. The names known are those of the Doctor himself, Classen, Hentig,
Stuart, and Kelly. He had with him fifty bullocks, thirteen mules, twelve
horses, and two hundred and seventy goats, beside the utterly inadequate
allowance of eight hundred pounds of flour, one hundred and twenty pounds
of tea, some sugar and salt, and two hundred and fifty pounds of shot and
forty of powder.
His last letter [See Appendix.] is dated the 3rd of April, 1848, from
McPherson's station on the Cogoon, but in it he speaks only of the.
country traversed, and says nothing of his intended route. Since the
residents of this outlying station lost sight of him and his men, no clue
to his fate has ever been found. The total evanishment not only of his
men but of the animals (especially the goats) that accompanied him, is
one of the strangest mysteries of our mysterious interior.
Leichhardt's expressed intention was to endeavour to skirt the edge of
the desert--which was then supposed to exist in the centre--to the
northward, seizing the first opportunity of penetrating it, and then
making for Perth. From what we now know, it is quite impossible to guess
how much or little of this programme was carried out, as the existence or
non-existence of what he would consider a desert would entirely depend
upon what the season had been like immediately before his arrival.
The perusal of his journal to Port Essington, impresses one with the
opinion that, considering his scientific training, he was singularly
deficient in observation. In one place he writes that horses and bullocks
never showed that instinctive faculty of detecting water so often
mentioned by travellers, and that they seem to be guided entirely by
their sight when in search of it--an assertion which seems incredible on
the part of a man with any bush training at all. If Leichhardt had ever
had to steady a thirsty mob of cattle during a pitch dark night, with a
strong wind blowing from water, or even across the damp bed of a lagoon
or river, miles and miles away, he would soon have found out by what
sense cattle are guided in their search for water.
Although one does not want to harshly criticise these obvious errors in
the very rudiments of bush-craft, they serve to indicate how likely he
would have been, if entrapped in dry country, to commit a mistake that
would sacrifice his men. And one cannot but believe that he relied quite
as much on the chapter of accidents to pull him through as upon his own
helpfulness or experience. Of the causes that led to the destruction or
dispersion of the whole of the party it is next to impossible to hazard a
guess. The completeness of the disappearance is the most the puzzling
part of the mystery. Had they been killed by the natives, relics of the
explorers would long since have been recovered from them. In some shape
the iron work of the implements they had with them would have survived.
Many have tried to explain it by imagining them swept away by a flood
when camped on flat country, but this is scarcely likely, for even then,
on the subsidence of the waters, the blacks would have found something of
their belongings. Thirst was most likely the agent of their destruction,
and fire completed the work.
Once across the waters that wend their sluggish way into the lake
district of South Australia, Leichhardt and his followers would be in the
great region of fragmentary watercourses; rivers and creeks, when met
with, pursuing no definite courses--now lost in miles of level country,
now reforming again for a brief existence, but always delusive and
disappointing. Here they would one day find themselves in a position that
left them no other chance but the slender one of still pushing forward
into the unknown. Probably it was during one of the cycles of rainless
years that periodically visit the continent. Led on mile after mile,
following the dry bed of one creek, to lose it in some barren flat,
whereon the withered stalks of blue-bush alone told of a time of past
vegetation; again picking up another creek, to lose it in like manner,
knowing that to retrace their steps was impossible; making at last for a
hazy, blue line in the distance that turned out to be spinifex and
stunted forest; trusting still that this might indicate a change that
would lead them to higher country and to water, they would struggle
forward, weak and disorganised.
Then would come the beginning of the end. As they pressed on, the forest
became scantier, and the spinifex higher, spikier, and harder to march
through. One by one their animals had fallen and died, and the desperate
resort of drinking the blood had been tried by some. What little water
they had in their canteens was fast evaporating. Still some of them would
keep heart. The ground was getting stonier, and bare patches of rock were
constantly passed; surely they must be getting on higher country; they
were doubtless ascending the gradual rise of one of the inland
watersheds, and suddenly they hoped the ground would break away at their
feet in deep gullies and ravines; below they would see the tops of green
trees, shading some quiet waterhole. How anxiously they looked out for
any sign of life that might be a good augury of this, but none could be
Since leaving the open country, even the tireless kites had deserted them;
all around was silent, still, and lifeless. It was useless to stop to
rest, the ground was blistering to the touch, and there was no shade
anywhere. Then came night, but no change; throughout the long watches,
the radiance of the stars was never blurred by clouds. Some of the men
slept and dreamt of streams of clear, cold water, awaking only to greet
the dawn of another day of blinding, stifling heat, heralded by the faint
sultry sigh of the hot wind. And as the day grew hotter and hotter some
lost their reason, and all lost hope. Then came the end; they separated
and straggled away in ones and twos and fell and died. Day after day the
terrible and pitiless sun .looked down at them lying there, and watched
them dry and shrivel into mummies, and still no rain fell on the earth.
By day the sky was clear and bright, and by night the stars unclouded.
Years may have passed; higher and higher grew the spinifex, and its long
resinous needles entangled themselves in each other, unchecked by fire
for no black hunters came there in that season of drought, and the men's
bodies lay there, growing more and more unlike humanity, scorched by the
seven times heated earth beneath, and the glaring sun above untouched,
save by the ants, those scavengers of the desert, or the tiny bright-eyed
lizards. At last, the thunder clouds began to gather afar off, and when
they broke, a few wandering natives ventured into the woods, living for a
day or two on the uncertain rainfall. This failing, they retired again,
leaving perhaps, a trail of fire behind them. Then this fire, fed by the
huge banks of flammable spinifex, the growth of many years, spread into a
mighty conflagration, the black smoke covering half the heavens. The
hawks and the crows fled before it, swooping down on the vermin that were
forced to leave the shelter of log and bush. The great silence that had
reigned for so long was broken by the roar, and crash, and crackle of a
sea of flames; and beneath this fiery blast every vestige of the lost
explorers vanished for ever.
When, on the blackened ground, fell heavy rain once more, the spinifex
sprang up, fresh and green to look at, only in spots here and there,
where a human body had fertilised the soil, it was greener than
So Leichhardt drops out of Australian history, and with every succeeding
year the chances of finding any trace grow more remote.
Expeditions have been started in search of him, but without result, and
the tale of their efforts will be told in their proper order.
As if the year 1848, when Europe seemed convulsed with some strange
tempest of riot and turmoil, should not be unmarked in Australia, two of
the most disastrous expeditions in the annals of exploration started
during its course. One, Leichhardt's, as we have just seen, vanished, and
all must have perished. Of the other, under Kennedy, two ghastly famished
spectres, that had once been white men, and a naked blackfellow, alone
were rescued out of thirteen.
The same impulses that led to Mitchell's and Leichhardt's northern
journeys, started Kennedy on his fatal venture up the eastern slope of
the long peninsula that terminates in Cape York. The desire to find a
road to the north coast, so that an available chain of communication
should exist between the southern settlements and a northern seaport.
Kennedy started from Sydney on board the barque TAM O'SHANTER, on the
29th of April, 1848. He had twelve men in his party, including Mr. Carron
as botanist, one of the survivors who published the account of the trip,
and Mr. Wall, naturalist. Their outfit consisted of twenty-eight horses
and one hundred sheep, besides the other necessary rations, carts, &c.
The instructions were to land at Rockingham Bay, and examine the eastern
coast of the peninsula, to Port Albany in the extreme north, where a ship
would meet and receive them. Such was the programme, alas for the
On the 30th of May, they landed in Rockingham Bay, with the loss of one
horse, and Kennedy made his first acquaintanceship with the tropical
jungles of northern Queensland (that now is), including the terrible
lawyer vine [Calamus Australis.] and the stinging tree. The first, a vine
with long hooks and spurs on it, that once fast, seem determined never to
let go again; the stalk being as tenacious and tough as wire, and
binding the scrub trees together so as to render advance impossible
without first cutting a way. The other, a tree with broad leaves, the
sting produced by touching which is so painful that horses, who on first
being stung have plunged about and been stung all over, have died from
the fever and inflammation caused.
These scrubs, marshy ground, salt water creeks, and high mountain ranges,
all inhabited by hostile natives, formed the pleasant prospect before
From the very commencement almost, the monotonous record of Carron's
journal commences day after day thus--"Cutting scrub all day." Through
these marshes and swamps Kennedy strove to make for the ranges, hoping at
least to find clearer country to travel through. Often during this time,
he must have thought of his last journey over the boundless prairies of
the Barcoo, and sighed at the contrast. The natives, too, began to annoy
the travellers, and at last they were fired on and four killed and
On the 18th July, the carts were abandoned, and they went on with
twenty-six pack horses, their sheep being reduced to fifty, and these
were rapidly falling away, as well as the horses, on the sour coast
grasses. They fared no better when they reached the range, or the spurs
of the Main Range, for the scrub still hemmed them in, and roads up and
down the rugged hills were hard to find; then to add to all, rain set
On the 14th August, Carron took charge of the stores instead of Niblet,
who had been very extravagant with them, and also sent in false returns;
the allowance of flour was now reduced, and hopes were entertained that
with care it would hold out; but at first the supply provided was
insufficient. The horses too, began to knock up, and one after another
they were left behind dead or dying.
Crossing the dividing watershed, the party for some time travelled along
the heads of rivers running into the Gulf of Carpentaria, finding it a
great improvement in every way--thence they crossed back on to the
waters of the east coast once more, and their horses still giving in, one
by one, they fell back on them as an article of diet.
On the 9th of November, Kennedy realised that struggling on with the
whole of his party meant death by starvation to all, so he determined to
push ahead with three men and the black boy to Port Albany, and send back
relief by water. Port Albany, in the Pass of that name, being the
rendezvous agreed upon with the relief vessel. The camp was selected on
the top of a hill, fully visible from Weymouth Bay, and Mr. Carron put in
charge of it.
On the 13th, Kennedy started with the best seven of the horses leaving
the eight men in camp to await his return, or the relief boat. The only
account ever received of his journey came from the lips of the black boy
Jacky-Jacky, the sole survivor.
His story ran that three weeks after leaving Weymouth Bay they reached
Shelburne Bay, after cutting through a great deal of scrub and crossing
many rivers and creeks. Here Costigan accidentally shot himself, and
became very weak from loss of blood, so Luff, [Luff; the man mentioned
here, was with Kennedy on his Barcoo expedition, and some of the trees on
the Warrego, marked "L," and ascribed to Leichhardt, were probably some
of his marking.] another of the men, being ill, Kennedy left the third
man, Dunn, to look after them, and one horse for food; he and the boy
making a desperate effort to reach Cape York and send back succour. But
it was in vain. They reached the Escape River, and were in sight of
Albany Island, when they met a number of blacks who were apparently
friendly, although Jacky mistrusted them. Then came the end. Jacky's
story has been often told, but it will bear repetition.
"I and Mr. Kennedy watched them that night, taking it in turns every hour
that night. By-and-by I saw the blackfellows. It was a moonlight night,
and I walked up to Mr. Kennedy and said, 'There is plenty of blackfellows
now.' This was in the middle of the night. Mr. Kennedy told rue to get my
"The blacks did not know where we slept as we did not make a fire. We
both sat up all night. After this, daylight came, and I fetched the
horses and saddled them. Then we went on a good way up the river, and
then we sat down a little while, and then we saw three blacks coming
along our track, and then they saw us, and one ran back as hard as he
could run, and fetched up plenty more, like a flock of sheep almost. I
told Mr. Kennedy to put the saddles on the horses and go on; and the
blacks came up and they followed us all day. All along it was raining,
and I now told him to leave the horses, and come on without them, that
the horses made too much track. Mr. Kennedy was too weak, and would not
leave the horses. We went on this day until towards the evening; raining
hard, and the blacks followed us all day, some behind, some planted
before. In fact, blackfellows all around, following us. Now we went into
a little bit of scrub, and I told Mr. Kennedy to look behind always.
Sometimes he would do so, and sometimes he would not do so, to look out
for the blacks. Then a good many blackfellows came behind in the scrub,
and threw plenty of spears, and hit Mr. Kennedy in the back first. Mr.
Kennedy said to me, 'Oh, Jacky Jacky shoot 'em! shoot 'em!' Then I
pulled out my gun and fired, and hit one fellow all over the face with
buck shot. He tumbled down, and got up again, and again, and wheeled
right round, and two blacks picked him up and carried him away. They went
a little way and came back again, throwing spears all round, more than
they did before-very large spears.
"I pulled out the spear at once from Mr. Kennedy's back, and cut the jag
with Mr. Kennedy's knife. Then Mr. Kennedy got his gun and snapped, but
the gun would not go off. The blacks sneaked all along by the trees, and
speared Mr. Kennedy again in the right leg, above the knee a little, and
I got speared in the eye, and the blacks were now throwing always, never
giving over, and shortly again speared Mr. Kennedy in the right side.
There were large jags to the spears, and I cut them out and put them in
my pocket. At the same time we got speared the horses got speared too,
and jumped and bucked about and got into the swamps. I now told Mr.
Kennedy to sit down while I looked after the saddle bags, which I did,
and when I came back again I saw blacks along with Mr. Kennedy. I then
asked him if he saw the blacks with him. He was stupid with the spear
wounds, and said, 'No.' I then asked him where was his watch? I saw the
blacks taking away watch and hat as I was returning to Mr. Kennedy. Then
I carried Mr. Kennedy into the scrub. He said 'Don't carry me a good
way.' Then Mr. Kennedy looked this way, very bad (Jacky rolling his
eyes). Then I said to him don't look far away, as I thought he would be
frightened. I asked him often, are you well now, and he said, 'I don't
care for the spear wound in my leg, Jacky, but for the other two spear
wounds in my side and back, and I am bad inside, Jacky.' I told him
blackfellow always die when he got spear in there (the back). He said,
'I am out of wind, Jacky.' I asked him (Mr. Kennedy), are you going to
leave me? And he said, 'Yes, my boy, I am going to leave you.' He said,
'I am very bad, Jacky you take the books, Jacky, to the Captain, but not
the big ones, the Governor will give you anything for them.' I then tied
up the papers. He then said, 'Jacky, you give me paper and I will write.'
I gave him paper and pencil and he tried to write, and he then fell back
and died, and I caught him as he fell back, and held him, and I then
turned round myself and cried. I was crying a good while until I got
well, that was about an hour, and then I buried him.
"I digged up the ground with a tomahawk, and covered him over with logs
and grass and my shirt and trousers. That night I left him near dark. I
would go through the scrub, and the blacks threw spears at me, a good
many, and I went back again into the scrub. Then I went down the creek
which runs into Escape River, and I walked along the water in the creek,
very easy, with my head only above water to avoid the blacks and get out
of their way. In this way I went half a mile. Then I got out of the creek
and got clear of them, and walked on all night nearly, and slept in the
bush without a fire."
This was the sad tale. It took poor starving Jacky thirteen days to get
to Port Albany, short as the distance comparatively was. He lived on what
small vermin he could catch, climbing trees every now and again to look
for Port Albany and the ship. He carried the saddle bags, with Kennedy's
papers, for some distance, but had to leave them hidden in a log.
Immediately that Jacky's story was told to the people of the ARIEL, the
schooner awaiting Kennedy's party at Port Albany, sail was made for
Shelburne Bay to rescue the three men left there. A canoe was captured
which contained articles that left little doubt of the fate of the
unfortunates. The camp, however, was too far inland to reach without a
very strong party, and as it seemed certain that help was too late, and
there were eight men, whom Jacky described as being scarcely able to
crawl, awaiting relief at Weymouth Bay, sail was again made there.
The wretched men at Weymouth Bay had fared but badly. Douglas died first,
and he was buried; a rite which the party had afterwards to leave
unperformed, through sheer weakness. Taylor died next and was buried by
the side of Douglas.
Meantime, the blacks behaved in an inexplicable manner, at times they
would approach and offer the whites tainted fish as if to make friends,
and then come up with spears poised, and every token of hostility,
compelling the weary watchers to stand on their guard, expecting an
attack. Carpenter was the next to die, and he was buried with the others.
On the 1st December a schooner was seen in the Bay; and joyfully the flag
was hoisted and some rockets let off after dark. But she sailed away,
never having seen the signals, and the agony of the disappointed men can
be imagined. On the 28th December, Niblet and Wall died, and the blacks
came and surrounded the camp and threatened the two helpless survivors,
hardly able to stand up and hold their guns.
On the 30th, Goddard crawled out to try and shoot some pigeons, and
Carron sat with a pistol in his hand, to give him warning if the blacks
approached. Let him tell the end.
"About an hour after he was gone I could see some natives running over
the hill towards me. I fired a pistol immediately, but before Goddard
could get back they were into the camp, and handed me a piece of paper
very much dirtied and torn, but I was sure by their manner that there was
a vessel in the bay. It proved to be a note to me from Captain Dobson,
but I could only read part of it, it was so covered with dirt. I was for
a minute or two almost senseless from the hope of being relieved from our
miserable condition. I made them some presents, and wrote a note to
Captain Dobson and sent them away with it. I easily made them understand
what I wanted, but I soon saw that they had other intentions. I saw a
great number of natives coming in all directions, well armed. I saw two
from strange tribes amongst them. One man that I gave an old shirt to,
and put it on him, I saw him take it off and pick up his spears. We were
expecting every minute to be attacked by these treacherous villains,
when, to our great joy, we saw Captain Dobson, Dr. Vallack, Jacky (the
black boy), and another man who had received a spear wound in his arm
(Barrett), so that he could offer no resistance to the blacks, coming
across the creek. These men had risked their own lives by coming about
three miles through mangroves and thick scrub (surrounded by not less
than a hundred natives, well armed), with a hope of saving some of us
The camp had to be vacated in such a hurry in consequence of the
threatened attack, that nothing was saved but a few instruments and
This was the end of a most unfortunate expedition from the first landing.
Against the impassable nature of the line of march, and the hostile
inhabitants, the harassed explorers had to combat from the first. Their
horses were not acclimated, so they soon wasted away, and when sickness
laid its hand upon the men they were doomed. The one brightening touch in
the whole gloomy picture is the simple devotion shown by poor Jacky: "He
then fell back and died, and I caught him as he fell back and held him,
AND THEN I TURNED ROUND MYSELF AND CRIED," was the funeral oration over
the brave and unfortunate Kennedy.
The brig FREAK was chartered by the Government to make another
examination of the coast. The remains of the men at Weymouth Bay were
reinterred, and search made for the missing men at Shelburne Bay, but
they were never found. Some of the papers secreted by Jacky were
recovered, but Kennedy's body had been taken away. This was all that was
In the south of Australia, in 1847, Baron von Mueller was engaged in many
explorations, in some still unknown parts of the continent down there.
These travels were undertaken for botanical and geographical purposes
combined, partly in the province of South Australia, and latterly amongst
the many unexplored recesses of the Australian Alps. The culminating
points of several of the highest mountains in Australia were fixed, and
their geographical positions accurately defined amongst them being Mount
To the west coast once again. Still trusting that perseverance would be
finally rewarded, the colonists on Swan River kept making vigorous
attempts to penetrate what they would fain consider was only a desert
belt bounding their territory.
In 1843 a small private party, consisting of Messrs. Landor and Lefroy,
made a short excursion from York, being absent a fortnight. They came
across several shallow lakes, both salt and fresh, but their journey was
not recompensed by the discovery of any good country.
In 1846 we first come across the name of Gregory in the annals of
exploration. There were three brothers of this name, led by the eldest,
A. C. Gregory, who as a scientific explorer so greatly distinguished
himself in after life. On the 7th August, 1846, they started from Bolgart
Spring, the furthest stock station to the eastward.
Their equipment was of the slenderest, and they only took about two
months supply of rations. On leaving the settled districts they at once
found themselves in the barren country, that had so often stopped the
outward march of the pioneers, and their first discovery was a swampy
lake (fresh) on the edge of a small patch of better country, but this
quickly passed, and they entered into the salt lake region, through which
they pushed until they reached a range of granite hills, forming the
watershed of the coast streams. Turning somewhat to the northward, they
kept along these hills for the sake of the rain water to be found amongst
the rocks, until, striking again to the east, they encountered an
extensive salt lake or swamp; attempting to cross which their horses were
bogged, and only extricated with difficulty.
This lake was found afterwards to be of great size, and to fairly hem
them in to the eastward, so after several disappointments they turned to
the westward to examine some of the streams crossed by Grey during his
unfortunate expedition to Shark's Bay. On the head of one of these rivers
(the Arrowsmith), which from the uncertainty of Grey's chart, they were
unable to clearly identify; they found a seam of coal. This was the only
discovery of any importance that they made, the rest of their journey was
over very impoverished country, covered with scrub and sand, with here
and there salt flats and lakes. They returned to Bolgart Spring on the
On hearing of the coal discovery the Government sent Lieutenant Helpman
in the schooner CHAMPION, to Champion Bay, which place he reached at the
end of the year, accompanied by one of the Gregorys. They landed the cart
and horses, and on the 12th December reached the scene of the coal find.
They soon filled their cart with coal, and returned by a somewhat
different track to the schooner. F. Gregory making a detour to the
northward without any noteworthy result.
Not yet disappointed in the hope of finding country worth settling to the
eastward, Surveyor-General Roe started from York on the 14th September,
1848; he had with him six men, (including H. Gregory) and twelve horses,
with over three months' provisions. It will be unnecessary to follow them
over the salt lake country which they inevitably met with soon after
leaving civilization, or the outskirts of it Their first attempts beyond
were unsuccessful; they were successively turned from their course by
scrub of the densest character, and sandy plains, so they at last made
for the south coast, where they rested for a while at one of the small
On the 18th, they again started, following the upward course of the
Pallinup River, which was the last stream crossed by Eyre before reaching
Albany, on his Great Bight expedition. They ascended a branch coming from
the north-east, and for a time travelled through well grassed and
promising valleys, but afterwards found themselves once more in the
scrubs and sandy plains of the desert. Catching sight of a granite hill
to the eastward, they proceeded there, but from its summit the outlook
was as gloomy as ever. Fortunately the weather had been showery, and the
want of water was not felt so much as the total absence of feed. Still,
on to the eastward their difficulties increased at every step. To the
impassable thickets and desolate plains was now added the absence of
fresh water, and it was not until after days of privation that they
reached some elevated peaks, where a little grass and water were found.
Their course was now to the south-east, towards the range sighted by
Eyre, and named the Russell Range, and a desperate struggle commenced
with the barren country through which they had to work their way. So
weakened were the horses, and such was the nature of the belts of scrub,
that it took them three days to accomplish fifty miles, and after being
four days and three nights without water for the horses, they reached a
rugged granite hill, called Mount Riley, where they got a scant supply.
From here, their journey to the Russell Range, fifty miles away, was but
a repetition of their former hardships. Nothing but continuous scrub;
sometimes the thickets were too dense to attempt a passage, even with
the axes, and long detours had to be made. At last, with worn-out horses,
they reached the Russell Range, and every hope they had entertained of a
change for the better was blasted. The range was a mass of naked rocks,
and from the summit nothing but the interminable sea of scrub and the
distant ocean, was visible. Fortunately, they got a little grass and
water, which saved the lives of their animals.
From the Russell Range, Roe's homeward track was not far removed from
Eyre's, so that no fresh geographical features could be expected, or were
discovered, with the exception of another coal seam in one of the rivers
running into the south coast. On the 2nd February, 1849, the
Surveyor-General reached Perth.
During the time this last expedition had been endeavouring to proceed
east, A. C. Gregory was put in charge of a party to make for the north,
and ascertain the value of the country reported by Grey as existing on
the Gascoyne. On his way, Gregory reported favourably of the country
around Champion Bay, which had been extolled by Gray, and subsequently
condemned by Captain Stokes. Beyond the Murchison, he did not succeed in
penetrating any considerable distance; being turned back at all points,
after repeated attempts, by the tract of impervious scrub that intervened
between the Murchison and the Gascoyne. He therefore returned, without
seeing the latter river, having attained a distance of three hundred and
fifty miles north of Perth. On their return to the Murchison, a vein of
galena was discovered, and the river traced upwards and downwards for a
considerable distance. They reached Perth on the 17th November.
The following month Governor Fitzgerald, accompanied by A. C. Gregory,
Bland, and three soldiers, went by sea to Champion Bay, and landing some
horses, proceeded inland to examine the new mineral discovery. The lode
was found to be more important than was at first supposed.
On their return journey to Champion Bay, an affray occurred with the
natives. The blacks followed them for some time, their numbers constantly
increasing, until fifty well-armed natives were present; in a thick scrub
they succeeded in surrounding the whites, and commenced hostilities. The
party found it necessary to resort to their firearms, and the Governor
fired the first shot, bringing down the leading native, who had just
thrown a spear at Gregory. A shower of spears then fell amongst the group
of explorers, and the Governor was speared through the leg. The natives
were, however, kept at bay, and that afternoon they reached the beach and
embarked on board the schooner.
This was the second time an Australian Governor had been wounded by the
natives, the first occasion being when Captain Arthur Phillip was
Fears now began to be entertained in the other colonies as to the safety
of Leichhardt and his party, and, in consequence of these fears being
augmented by the tales and rumours that drifted in from the outside
districts, gathered from the natives (referring to the murder of a party
of whites to the westward), it was decided to equip an expedition to try
and ascertain the truth of these reports.
The party was put in charge of Mr. Hovenden Hely, a former companion of
Leichhardt on his second expedition, and in the beginning of 1852 he left
Sydney on the search, his instructions being to act as circumstances
should determine him.
About forty miles from Mitchell's Mount Abundance he met with the first
of a series of native statements that were destined to keep luring him
forward on a false scent. The story, as usual, was most circumstantial,
and did credit to the imaginations of the authors; two blacks offered to
conduct Hely to the scene of the massacre, and under their guidance he
started, It was a very dry season, and when they reached Mitchell's old
depôt camp on the Maranoa, where, it will be remembered that his party
were encamped for four months, nothing of the fine sheet of water
mentioned by him was seen; it had shrunk to a shallow pool in a bed of
sand. Here the two guides insisted that the murder had taken place,
pointing to the remains of Mitchell's encampment as a proof thereof. This
naturally led Hely to disbelieve their statement, but the blacks added
such details to the original story as almost again convinced him. The
most minute search, however, resulted in nothing, and one of the natives
managed to make his escape. The other then altered his version of the
affair, and shifted the scene of the tragedy to the westward again, and
the party struck north-west to the Warrego.
More blacks were met with who confirmed the tale, and one guided them to
a water hole in a brigalow scrub, which she said was the place where the
tragedy was enacted. She also stated that she was present, and entered
into a most minute description of the affair, describing the whole
attack. Not the vestige of a trace could be found to give any colour to
her story, but ten miles down the river an unmistakeable camping ground
was found. There was a tree marked L, the letter being roughly cut into
the bark, and inside the letter, X V A was carved; also there were
indications that proved that a party of whites had been camped there
during wet weather.
Still led on by the natives, Hely at last reached the Nivelle River, when
his guides deserted him, and he returned.
On the Warrego he found another camp with a marked tree, exactly similar
to the first one, the X V A being repeated, so that it could not have
been intended to mean any distinguishing number. He also noticed amongst
the natives some tomahawks formed from the battered gullet plates of
saddles. His search served only to deepen the mystery around Leichhardt's
The meaning of the marked tree discovered on the Warrego is perplexing,
both on account of the recurring letters and its connection with an old
camping ground of some white party. Mitchell's party were camped in the
neighbourhood for some time; his camps were marked from XLI. to XLIll.,
but the weather was fine and dry during his stay. Kennedy encamped twice
in the locality, and he had with him a man named Luff, whereas no name in
Mitchell's camp began with L; but he, too, crossed the river when the
weather was dry, and no bushman could possibly make a mistake about the
state of the country during the time a large party had remained
stationary in a certain position.
The most likely explanation is that these marks had nothing whatever to
do with either Mitchell, Kennedy or Leichhardt, having probably been
made by some private party out run hunting.
This futile effort to track up the lost explorer has led us away from
Western Australia, where again the desert country was to be encountered,
and again fruitlessly.
In 1854, Mr. Robert Austin, Assistant Surveyor-General, was given charge
of a party to search for available pastoral country, and also (for now
the gold fever was at its height), to examine the interior for auriferous
They started from the head of the Swan River, on a northeasterly course,
and on the 16th of July, reached the Cow-cowing Lake, reported by the
aborigines, and hoped by the colonists, to be a sheet of fresh water in
the Gascoyne valley. The take proved to be dry, and the bed covered with
salt incrustation, showing its character when full. Thence Austin made
directly north, and passed through the wretchedly-repellent country that
seemed fated to always cross the path of the western explorer; he
directed his course to a distant range of table-topped hills and peaks.
Here they found feed and water, and named the highest point Mount
Kenneth, after one of the party, Mr. Kenneth Brown. From thence to the
north-east they traversed stony plains, broken by sandstone and ironstone
ridges, and intersected by the dry beds of sandy watercourses; and in
this country, one of the worst possible misfortunes happened to them.
Their horses got on to a patch of poison plant, and nearly the whole of
them were laid up in consequence, and unfit for work. Some few escaped,
but the greater number never recovered the effects of the weed, and many
died. Pushing hastily on to a safer place to recruit, Austin found
himself so crippled by this accident, that he had to abandon all but his
most necessary stores for no less than fourteen of the horses having
They now turned north-west to make for Shark's Bay, where a vessel was to
be sent to render them assistance or bring them away, as should be
Their course to Shark's Bay led them over country that offered them no
temptation to linger on the way. On the 21st September they found a cave
in the face of a cliff, in which were drawings similar to those seen by
Gray near the Prince Regent's River. Near this cave was a spring, and,
while resting at this camp, one of the party, a young man named Charles
Farmer, accidentally shot himself in the arm, and in spite of the most
careful attention, the poor fellow died of lock-jaw, in terrible agony.
He was buried at the cave spring camp, and the highest hill in the
neighbourhood called Mount Farmer after him. Thus two lonely mountains in
the desert interior watch over the graves of men who first saw them-Mount
Poole and Mount Farmer.
They now got on to the head waters of the Murchison, or rather the dry
channels of these tributaries, and at last reached the Murchison itself;
a river with a deep-cut channel, but perfectly dry. Beyond this their
efforts were in vain, they fought their way to within a hundred miles of
Shark's Bay, but they had then been so long without water that it was
courting certain death to proceed. Even during the retreat to the
Murchison the lives of the horses were only saved by the party
accidentally finding a small native well in a most unexpected situation,
namely, in the middle of a bare ironstone plain.
Pushing on ahead of his party, Austin reached the Murchison twenty-five
miles south-west of his former course, but the river was the same, or
worse, tantalising him with pools of salt water.
A desperate search was made to the southward, during a day of fierce and
terrible heat, and when in utter despair they, on the second day, made
for some small hills that they sighted, providentially, they found both
water and grass. The whole of the party were then moved to this spot,
which out of gratitude was named Mount Welcome.
Nothing daunted by the sufferings he had undergone, Austin now made
another attempt to reach Shark's Bay. On their way to the Murchison they
captured an old native, and took him with them to point out the watering
places of the blacks. At first he was able to show them one or two that
they would probably have missed, but after they had crossed the Murchison
and got some distance to the westward, the watering places the native had
relied on were found to be dry, and it was only after the most acute
sufferings from thirst, and the loss of some more horses, that they
managed to straggle back to Mount Welcome. Austin's conduct during these
terrible marches seems to have approached the heroic. When his companions
fell off one by one and laid down to die, and the native inhabitant of
the wilds was cowering weeping under a bush, he managed to reach the
little well that the blackfellow had formerly shown them, and without
resting, tramped back with water to revive his exhausted comrades.
Arrived at Mount Welcome, they found the water there on the point of
giving out, and weak as they all were, an instant start had to be made
for the Geraldine mine, where a small settlement had been formed to work
the galena lode discovered by Gregory. The prospect before them was most
discouraging; to the mine the distance was one hundred and sixty miles,
and to the highest point on the Murchison, where Gregory had found water,
which would be their first stage, was ninety miles, but it had to be
done. They started at midnight, and by means of forced marches,
travelling day and night, reached Gregory's old camp on the river; having
fortunately found a small supply of water at one place on the way. From
this point they followed the river down, obtaining water from springs in
the banks, and on the 20th November arrived at the mine, where they were
warmly entertained. From thence they returned, some by sea and some by
land, to Perth.
Austin's exploration had led to no profitable result. The large lake
(Moore), that had so hampered Gregory, was found to be an arm or outlet
of the still larger Cow-cowing, and that was about all. The upper
Murchison had not turned out at all well, and the whole summary of the
journal amounts to repetitions of daily struggles with a barren and
waterless district, under the fiery sun of the southern summer.
Austin thought that eastward of his limit the country would improve, but
subsequent explorations have not borne this out. He had singularly hard
fortune to contend against; after the serious loss he sustained in
having his horses poisoned, an accident that the greatest care will not
always prevent, he was pitted against some of the worst country in
Australia--dry, impenetrably scrubby, and barren; and this, too, during
the hottest part of the year. That he succeeded in bringing his party
safely through such difficulties, was in itself a most wonderful
A. C. Gregory's North Australian expedition in 1855-56, accompanied by
Baron Von Mueller and Dr. Elsey--Disappointment in the length of 'the
Victoria--Journey to the Westward--Discovery of Sturt's Creek--Its course
followed south--Termination in a salt lake--Return to Victoria River
--Start homeward, overland--The Albert identified--The Leichhardt
christened--Return by the Burdekin and Suttor--Visit of Babbage to Lake
Torrens--Expedition by Goyder--Deceived by mirage--Excitement in
Adelaide--Freeling sent out--Discovers the error--Hack explores the
Gawler Range--Discovers Lake Gairdner--Warburton in the same
direction--Swinden and party west of Lake Torrens--Babbage in the Lake
District--His long delay--Warburton sent to supersede him--Rival claims
to discovery--Frank Gregory explores the Gascoyne in Western Australia
--A. C. Gregory follows the Barcoo in search of Leichhardt--Discovery
of a marked tree--Arrival in Adelaide--The early explorations of M'Dowall
Stuart--Frank Gregory at Nickol Bay--Discovers the Ashburton--Fine
pastoral country--Discovers the De Grey and Oakover Rivers--Turned back
by the desert--Narrow escape.
In 1855, public interest was once more excited in the mysterious
disappearance of Leichhardt; this brought forward the question of further
exploration in the interior, and some generous offers were made by
private individuals to provide money for the outfit of a party. The
English Government, however, working through New South Wales, took the
matter in hand and furnished the necessary funds.
The command was given to A. C. Gregory, who had with him the celebrated
botanist, Dr. Mueller, and his brother H. C. Gregory. Mr. Elsey, surgeon
and naturalist, Mr. Baines, artist, and the requisite number of men made
the party up to a total of eighteen. Their live stock consisted of horses
The plan of the expedition was to proceed north to the Victoria River,
which from the report of Captain Stokes was then considered an important
stream, and probably a means of easily gaining the interior.
On the 18th July, 1855, they left Sydney for Moreton Bay, in the barque
MONARCH, attended by the schooner TOM TOUGH. At Moreton Bay they took on
board the remainder of the party, with fifty horses and two hundred
sheep, and after some accidents caused by the MONARCH running on a reef,
reached Point Pearce at the mouth of the Victoria River, on the 24th
September. Here the horses were landed, much weakened by their voyage,
and Gregory, Dr. Mueller, and seven men proceeded to the upper part of
the Victoria overland, leaving the schooner to work her way up the river
with the sheep on board. The land party first made the Macadam Range, so
named by Stokes, thence they went to the Fitzmaurice River, where their
horses were attacked by alligators and three of them severely wounded;
and on the 10th of October they reached the Victoria, and rejoined the
remainder of the party. Unfortunately, troubles had now set in, the
schooner was aground on a bank eight miles below the camp, and having
sprung a leak a considerable quantity of stores were damaged; the sheep,
too, had been foolishly kept penned up on board, and so many had died
that when finally landed the number was reduced to about forty. All this
considerably weakened Gregory's resources.
An attempt to ascend the river in an india-rubber boat was a failure, the
craft not being adapted to surmount the obstacles encountered in the
shape of rocky bars. On the 24th of November, Gregory, with his brother,
Dr. Mueller, and Wilson, followed the Victoria to the south, on
horseback. The party reached latitude 161 south, finding the tributary
sources of the river to flow from fine open plains, and level forest
country, all well grassed. From this point they returned to camp.
On the 3rd January, 1856, another start was made, with a much larger
party, consisting of eight men and thirty horses. On reaching their old
point below the 16th parallel, a depôt camp was formed, and accompanied
by Dr. Mueller, his brother, and one man, Gregory advanced south. The
head of the Victoria was found sooner than expected, and crossing the
watershed, and following down some small creeks running south through the
tableland, they reached a grassy plain in which these watercourses were
lost; beyond, the country was sandy and barren. A westerly course was
then kept, and on the 15th the head of a creek was reached, which
turning at first northerly, afterwards kept a distinct S.W. course for
about three hundred miles. The country passed through for a large portion
of the upper part was good available pastoral land, but as the lower part
of the creek was reached a more desert formation took its place, and at
last the creek terminated in extensive salt lakes. Beyond this point no
continuation of the channel could be found, and Gregory too easily
recognised the aspect of the desert country that had baffled him before.
The creek was named Sturt's Creek, and a prominent hill, parallel with
the lowest salt lake was called Mount Mueller. The party then retraced
their steps; the water on which they depended in Sturt's Creek drying up
so rapidly as to render more extended exploration very hazardous. They
rejoined their companions at the depôt camp on the Victoria, and making
a detour to the eastward, followed down the Wickham, a considerable
tributary of the Victoria, to its junction with that river.
Arrangements were now made for the homeward journey by way of the Gulf of
Carpentaria; the TOM TOUGH having been repaired and caulked, started for
Timor, to obtain more provisions, and then return and meet the party at a
rendezvous appointed on the Albert River. The land party consisted of the
leader and his brother, Dr. Mueller, Elsey, and three men. They started
on the 21st June.
Following up an eastern tributary of the Victoria, they crossed on to a
creek running into the Roper, which was called the Elsey, and on this
creek a camp was found, which suggested the idea that it had been
occupied by whites. It consisted of the framework of a substantial-looking
hut, of a different shape to that usually made by the natives; but no
marked trees were found, nor anything more seen to confirm the
supposition. Thence the party followed down the Roper for some distance,
and then crossing the head waters of the Limmen Bight River, skirted
the Gulf at some considerable way south of Leichhardt's track, crossing
the same rivers that he did, only higher up on their courses. They
struck the Nicholson far above where it had been so named by Leichhardt,
and following it down reached the rendezvous at the Albert River
(which is the outlet of the Nicholson), but the schooner had not arrived.
Gregory determined not to wait, but to proceed home overland. He buried a
note at the foot of a marked tree for the information of the schooner
people when they should arrive, and on the 3rd of September started. Two
days' journey from the true Albert, they reached a stream which
Leichhardt had erroneously taken for that river, and many of the errors
in his map may be traced as being due to this cause.
This also has led to a good deal of confusion about the Plains of Promise
so much vaunted by Captain Stokes, Leichhardt mistaking the level country
on the river that bears his name for the spot. Gregory, who rightly
identified the place, professes great disappointment with them compared
to what he had been led to expect. Since then many conflicting opinions
have been given as to their value. Settlement, however, as it generally
does, decided the question; they have been found to be very suitable for
cattle, but quite unadapted for sheep breeding. Stokes gave them a taking
name, which probably led to a false estimate being entertained, as the
country is in no way superior to the district to the eastward.
On the morning Gregory left the Leichhardt his party was attacked by the
blacks, who were, however, easily repulsed, the leading native being shot
in the short struggle. The Flinders was crossed on the 9th of September,
but Gregory did not think that it gave promise of draining a very large
extent of country. Instead, therefore, of following it up, and thereby
lessening his journey, and discovering the beautiful pastoral downs that
this most important river flows through, he wandered away to the north,
and followed up the Gilbert River, thus duplicating, only further to the
south, the eccentric course of Leichhardt. The dividing watershed was
crossed on the basaltic plateau at the head of the Burdekin, and this
stream was traced to the Suttor junction, where Leichhardt first struck
it. They travelled on up the Suttor, and also up the Belyando, connecting
with Major Mitchell's track. Their course then lay through the country
traversed by Leichhardt on both his expeditions, watered by the Mackenzie
and the Comet, and on the 22nd November the party reached a station on
the Dawson owned by Messrs. Fitz and Connor.
This successful conclusion to such an extensive expedition as he had
undertaken, stamped Gregory as possessing the highest qualifications for
an explorer. His travels embraced journeys extending over a distance of
nearly five thousand miles, and he was absent in all sixteen months. His
equipment certainly was of the very best, but a series of unfortunate
accidents, which could not have been prevented, left him nearly as short
as some of his brother explorers had been. One thing about this journey
of Gregory's has always been regretted--the short and scanty record which
he published, it being little more than a list of dates, and the
distances daily travelled. However we may lament this reticence from a
man of Gregory's ability and reputation, it is a pity that his example in
this respect had not been followed by some of the explorers of the last
During Gregory's absence Australia bad lost her renowned explorer Sir
Thomas Mitchell. He died on the 15th October, near Sydney. He had served
on the staff of the Duke of Wellington during the Peninsular War, and in
addition to his energy and activity in the field, was a well read and
The unsolved puzzle of the extent, direction, and boundaries of Lake
Torrens still occupied the attention and exercised the minds of the South
Australian colonists. It seemed almost like a region of enchantment, so
conflicting were the accounts brought in by different parties, and so
contradictory the statements made.
In 1851, two squatters in search of a run, Messrs. Oakden and Hulkes,
pushed out to the western side of Lake Torrens, and according to their
account found a most favourable land. They discovered a lake of fresh
water, surrounded with good country; and the natives told them of other
lakes to the north-west; also 'introducing descriptions of strange
animals, whose appearance could have only been equalled by that of the
JIMBRA, or apes, of Western Australia, which ruthless animals, according
to blackfellows' legend, devoured the survivors of Leichhardt's party, as
they straggled into the confines of that colony. Their horses giving in,
Oakden and Hulkes returned; but although they applied for a squatting
license for the country they had visited, it was not then settled or
stocked. In 1856 Mr. Babbage made some explorations on the field to the
north, traversed by Eyre and Frome. He penetrated to the plains which
were supposed to occupy the central portion of the horseshoe; but, more
successful than his predecessors, he found permanent water in a gum
creek, and saw some fair-sized sheets of water, one of which he named
Blanche Water, or Lake Blanche.
Some excursions to the south-east led to the discovery of some more fresh
water and well-grassed pastoral country, and the natives directed him to
a crossing-place in that portion of Lake Torrens that had been sighted in
1845, by Messrs. Poole and Browne, of Captain Sturt's party. Babbage,
however, failed to find the place, and lost his horse in the attempt to
In 1857, a Mr. Campbell made an excursion to the west of Lake Torrens,
and discovered a creek with fresh water in it, which he called the
Elizabeth. He finally came to Lake Torrens which he found in the same
condition as other explorers had done--surrounded by barren country.
In April of the same year, a survey in the country where Babbage had been
exploring was conducted by Deputy Surveyor-General Goyder, and he
certainly got into the land of enchantment. A few miles north of Blanche
Water he found many springs bubbling out of the ground, around a fine
lagoon, and north was an isolated hill, which he named Weathered Hill.
From the summit of this hill he had a fine specimen of the effect
produced by refraction. To the north, or thereabouts, he saw a belt of
gigantic gum-trees show out, beyond which appeared a sheet of water with
elevated lands on the far side, while to the east was another large lake;
all this, however, was but the glamourie of the desert. The gigantic
gum trees dwindled down to stunted bushes, and the rising ground to broken
clods of earth.
But the greatest surprise was reserved for the time Goyder actually
reached Lake Torrens, for he found the water quite fresh. He described it
as stretching from fifteen to twenty miles to the north-west, with a
water horizon; an extensive bay forming to the southward, while to the
north a bluff headland and perpendicular cliffs were clearly discerned
with a telescope. From the appearance of the flood-marks, Goyder came to
the conclusion that there was little or no rise and fall in the lake,
inferring therefrom that its size would absorb the flood waters without
showing any variation of level.
No wonder that the good people of Adelaide were overjoyed when they heard
the news. The threatening desert that hemmed in their fair province on
the north had been suddenly converted into the promised land. Colonel
Freeling, the Surveyor-General, immediately started out, taking with him
both a boat and an iron punt with which to float on these new-found
What must have been the public feeling when a letter was received from
the Surveyor-General, saying that the cliffs the headlands, and the
grassy shores, where all built up on the basis of the mirage. The elfs
and sprites of this desolate region had been playing a hoax on the former
It will be remembered in Sturt's expedition, how Poole came back and
reported confidently having seen the inland sea, and how Gray on the west
coast led his companions a tramp, after a receding lake that they never
overtook, it is scarcely to be wondered at then, that Goyder was
deceived, more particularly after finding the water of Lake Torrens
fresh, when it had always been represented as salt.
On reaching the lake, Freeling found the water almost fresh, but one of
Goyder's men who was with him said that the water had already receded
half a mile. An attempt to float the punt was made, but after dragging it
through mud and a few inches of water for a quarter of a mile; the idea
was abandoned. Freeling, and some of the party then started to wade
through the slush, but after getting three miles, found no water deeper
than six inches. Some of the more adventurous went further still, but
only to meet with a like result. The Surveyor-General returned a
disappointed man, and the unavailability of Lake Torrens was confirmed.
During this time--1857--Mr. Hack started with a party from Streaky Bay to
examine the Gawler Ranges of Eyre, and investigate the country west of
Lake Torrens. He reached the Gawler Range and examined the country very
patiently, finding numerous springs, and large plains of both grass and
saltbush, also sighting a large salt lake (Lake Gairdner). On the whole,
his report was a very favourable one.
Simultaneously with Hack's trip, a party under Major Warburton, was out
in the same direction, in fact Hack's party crossed Warburton's track on
one or two occasions. Warburton's account was contradictory of Hack's; he
reported the country dry and arid, and found very little to say in favour
Of the two men, however, it is probable that Hack's experience enabled
him to judge with most truth of the value of land seen under unfavourable
This year of 1857 was rife with explorations in South Australia. A party
of settlers consisting of Messrs. Swinden, Campbell, Thompson, and Stock
set out, and at about seventy miles from the head of Spencer's Gulf,
found fine pastoral country, and a permanent waterhole, PERNATTY. To the
northward they came upon the Elizabeth, formerly discovered by Campbell,
and here from want of provisions they returned. A month afterwards
Swinden started again from PERNATTY, and found available pastoral land
north of the Gawler Ranges, which became known as Swinden's country.
During this year, also, Messrs. Miller and Dutton explored the country at
the back of Fowler's Bay. Forty miles to the north they saw treeless
plains stretching far inland, but they found no permanent water.
Warburton afterwards reported deprecatingly of this country, but Messrs.
Delisser and Hardwicke in their turn stated that it was first-class
pastoral land, if water could be obtained. Judging from Major Warburton's
career as an explorer, he seemed quite unable to judge correctly of the
value of country when seen under an adverse season, and it is only one of
the many instances of the necessity of a STATION training to adequately
fit a man to pronounce definite judgment on the availability or
non-availability of country. One of Warburton's suggestions to the South
Australian Government was to explore the interior-which had proved such a
difficult nut to crack--by means of the POLICE. One has to know the
country well to fully appreciate the exquisite humour of this suggestion.
Before referring to two expeditions, both of great importance, one under
A. C. Gregory, and the other by Frank Gregory, it may be as well to
pursue the fortunes of the Lake Torrens explorers to the end.
In 1858, the South Australian Government voted a sum of money to fit out
a party to continue the northern explorations. This party was put under
the leadership of Mr. Babbage, and his instructions were to examine the
country between Lake Torrens and the lately-discovered Lake Gairdner, and
to survey and map the respective western and eastern shores of the two
lakes, so as to remove for the future any doubts as to their true
formation and position. This alone, apart from any more extended
explorations, meant a work of considerable time; but, unfortunately for
Babbage, the survey work was generally regarded as but of secondary
importance, and the public looked eagerly forward to hearing of the
discovery of new pasture lands, especially as the outfit had been on a
most liberal scale. Considerable delay (whether avoidable or not, it is
scarcely worth while to discuss) happened during the outset of this
expedition; for, although the party was reported ready on the 11th
February, the end of August found Babbage back in Port Augusta having
passed the intervening months in surveying the shores of the two large
lakes, and making short excursions to the westward, over a country that
had been several times traversed by private parties looking for land. At
Port Augusta he was considerably surprised to find that his second in
command, Harris, had started south to Adelaide, with a great many of the
horses and drays. Babbage pursued, and overtook them at Mount Remarkable,
after riding one hundred and sixty miles. Here he found that fresh
instructions had been issued by the Government, and forwarded by Charles
Gregory, lately arrived with his brother from the north.
The explanation was, that A. C. Gregory's expedition in search of
Leichhardt had arrived in Adelaide during Babbage's absence, and it
having been successfully conducted with the aid of packhorses only, the
South Australian Government came to the conclusion that Babbage would
manage just as well without the drays, and engaged, and sent Charles
Gregory to join him, and inform him that his expedition was in future to
be conducted in a like manner. Not finding Babbage at his camp, Gregory
had started the drays and draught horses home on his own authority.
Babbage ordered his men back, but they refused to go; so after writing
to the Government, complaining of the treatment he had received, he
returned north with a small party and six months' provisions. He arrived
at the boundary of his late surveys, and pushing on reached Chambers'
Creek, so named by Stuart, who had discovered it during Babbage's absence
at Lake Gairdner.
This creek, which Babbage called Stuart's Creek, he traced to a large
salt lake, which he christened Lake Gregory, now known as Lake Eyre. From
here he made to a range which he called Hermit Range, but from its summit
could see no sign of Lake Torrens, and came to the just conclusion that
it did not extend so far. West of Lake Eyre the explorers found a hot
spring, and afterwards many more were discovered.
Meantime, Major Warburton had been sent to supersede Babbage, and during
the time the latter gentleman was making these discoveries, Warburton was
searching for him. This result had come about partly through the
appearance of Babbage at Mount Remarkable, and partly through the return
of Messrs. Stuart and Forster, who reported good country beyond Babbage's
furthest, which naturally made the public think that that explorer should
have been the first to find it.
On arriving at the camp on the Elizabeth, Warburton, who had C. Gregory
with him as a second, found Babbage absent, so he sent Gregory after him
to bring him back, and after waiting some time, determined to go himself,
and a comical sort of hunt commenced, ending in Warburton coming up with
Babbage at Lake Eyre, and there carrying out the duty imposed upon him,
in a manner that says little for his generosity of spirit.
During this game of hunt-the-slipper, Warburton had made some minor
discoveries on his own account. He had come upon fairly good country west
of the lakes, and had found the springs which he christened Beresford
Springs; he also discovered the Douglas, a creek which afterwards
greatly assisted Stuart to push forward, and a range which he called the
Davenport Range. He had got north-west of where Babbage was, and in fact
afterwards disputed that explorer's claim to the discovery of Lake Eyre.
It seems only in keeping with the paradoxical nature of our continent
that this blundering expedition should have been so conducive in
establishing the great geographical fact that had so long puzzled the
colonists, namely, the definite size and shape of Lake Torrens. No longer
was this terror of the north to extend its encircling arms against all
advancement. Henceforth, its isolated character was decided, and the
supposed continuations known under independent names.
Of the whole conduct of the expedition, the less said the better; the
Government instructions were vacillating and contradictory; Babbage was
slow and apathetic, Warburton pompous and arbitrary; and in the end the
affair was further degraded by an old-womanish wrangle between the two
explorers as to the priority of certain discoveries.
During this year, Surveyor Parry had advanced into what was then supposed
to be the horseshoe of Lake Torrens, and found in many places both fresh
water and fairly available country.
This time it is with more cheering tidings that we turn once again to the
work of exploration in Western Australia.
On the 16th April, during this same year of 1858, when some exploring
tarantula seemed to have bitten all the colonies, Frank Gregory left the
Geraldine mine on the Murchison, where it will be remembered the gallant
Austin and party arrived in such a critical state, to endeavour to reach
the Gascoyne and the upper reaches of the coast rivers.
Following up the Murchison for some distance, Gregory, finding but little
feed, although the country was not quite so scrubby as usual, struck
north-east, and coming to a large channel with a due northern course,
followed it down, and on the 3rd of May, to his great joy, reached the
long-sought Gascoyne. It was flowing from the eastward and running west,
but soon changed its course to the north, thence north-west, thence west
and south until the junction of a large river from the north-west was
reached. From this junction the Gascoyne ran due west straight for
Shark's Bay, and on the 17th May, Gregory reached the mouth of the river.
Returning, he explored the tributary from the north-west, which he named
the Lyons, and which he followed for a considerable distance, until he
came to a high mountain, three thousand five hundred feet above sea
level, which he called Mount Augustus. From the summit he had a splendid
view north and east, and traced the course of the river far to the
eastward. Turning southeast, and crossing tributaries of the Gascoyne,
and the main river itself, they reached another lofty hill-Mount
Gould--from the top of which Gregory thought he could infer the course of
the Murchison for nearly one hundred miles.
Following the Murchison down, they arrived at the Geraldine mine, having
in the space of a little over two months completed a trip which resulted
in the most favourable manner. Good pastoral country, well-watered, the
great want of the settlers, had been discovered, only awaiting the
finding of an available port to at once invite settlement. After so many
bitter disappointments this was a much-needed encouragement to the
Still in the fruitful year of 1858, we must accompany the elder brother,
A. C. Gregory, on his Barcoo expedition. This expedition was organised in
order to search for some traces of the course of Leichhardt's party, and
although there was little hope of finding him, or any of his party, still
alive, there was a great probability of at least ascertaining the route
he had travelled, and possibly rescuing part of his journals.
The freshly awakened interest in the fate of the lost party may or may
not have sprung from the story of a convict, in confinement in Sydney,
which has since been repeated with various alterations.
This man, whose name was Garbut, started a wild and improbable legend
about the existence, in the interior, of a settlement of escaped
convicts, amongst whom Leichhardt and his band were held prisoners, lest
they should reveal the whereabouts of the runaways. Of course such a
story, which might have obtained credence in the very early days, was at
once scouted; but it, at any rate, turned public attention to the strange
fact that, in spite of the many explorations of the past ten years, no
sign nor token of the missing men had ever been seen.
A. C. Gregory then with his brother and seven men started on the quest.
They were equipped for rapid travelling, taking with them only pack
horses to carry their provisions. The leader followed the now well-known
track to the Warrego, and crossing the head of the Nive, reached the
Barcoo waters on the 16th April. If the marked trees seen by Hely were
Leichhardt's there was a great probability that they would thus be on his
tracks to the west, and a sharp look-out was kept on both sides of river,
which resulted in the discovery in about 241 deg. south latitude, and 145
deg. east longitude, of a tree marked L, on the eastern bank, and in the
neighbourhood were stumps of trees, felled by an axe. Although Leichhardt
could not have foreseen his fate, it is unfortunate that he did not mark
his trees in a more unmistakeable manner, for a mysterious L without date
seems to turn up in all parts of our continent.
This memorial of the visit of some white men Gregory thought might be
Leichhardt's, especially as the letter was very large, after the manner
of some of the trees marked on that explorer's former journeys. It may be
as well to mention here that this was all that was found, and the journey
henceforth was only one of pure exploration.
The travellers found the country suffering under a long-continued drought,
and feed for the horses very hard to get. Necessarily, Gregory's picture
of it is very different to Sir Thomas Mitchell's; but it would be
scarcely worth while to compare the two statements now, considering that
the reputation of the land as one of the best sheep-breeding districts in
Australia has long since been established.
Knowing what Kennedy had encountered on the lower part of the river, and
anticipating finding more traces of Leichhardt to the westward. Gregory,
on reaching the Thomson, followed that river up for some distance, but
turned back disheartened at the want of grass, although the river was
running from recent rains. It must be remembered that he was there in the
beginning of the winter, when there is little or no spring in the grass,
even after heavy rain.
Returning to the junction of the two rivers, he followed down the united
stream, and soon found himself involved in the same difficulties that had
beset Kennedy. The river broke up into countless channels, running
through barren, fissured plains. Toiling on over these, with an
occasional interlude of sand hills, Gregory at last reached that portion
of Cooper's Creek visited by Sturt. This he now followed down to where
Strzelecki's Creek left the main stream and carried off some of the