Part 9 out of 10
His raptures on this point led to a much higher estimate of the value of
this river being entertained than it deserved; and until its exploration
by Gregory, many shared Stokes' opinion as to its future importance. The
party returned in safety, and on going to weigh the anchors found them so
firmly embedded in the bottom, which must have been a quicksand, that
they had to slip both.
While anchored at the mouth of this river, Stokes went on shore to take
observations, and, when ahead of his companions, was suddenly surprised
and speared by the natives; the wound narrowly escaped being a fatal one.
By December 12th he was sufficiently recovered to bear the motion of the
ship, and sail was made for Swan River, where they arrived safely, having
made some most important discoveries. A cruise on the west coast, and to
Coepang, followed, and thence they returned by way of the west coast and
Cape Leeuwin to Adelaide.
In the beginning of June, 1841, the BEAGLE, now in charge of Captain
Stokes, Captain Wickharn having gone home on sick leave, left Sydney for
another northern cruise. On the way up the ship fell in with four
merchant vessels, which she convoyed as far as Booby Island, she herself
pursuing her way down the Gulf of Carpentaria. Their first stay of any
length was at Sweer's Island, and all the coastal inlets in the
neighbourhood were well examined, resulting in the discovery of the
Flinders River, on the 20th July, and of the Albert on the 1st of August.
On the merits of this river Stokes waxes nearly as eloquent as he did
over the Victoria, and once more indulges in excited hopes of reaching
the centre of the continent. At fifty miles from the mouth the fallen
logs stayed the progress of the boats, and the party landed and made an
excursion on foot. Stokes now saw the plains to which he gave the name of
the Plains of Promise, the position of which gave rise to so much
discussion amongst the land explorers in after years. As may be imagined,
the extent of level country, and its apparent richness, gave rise to much
enthusiastic speculation on his part, and he returned to his ship well
satisfied with his work.
During the discovery and examination of the Albert, Mr. Fitzmaurice had
been engaged to the eastward, where he found the other mouth of the
Flinders River, known as Bynoe Inlet. Unfortunately, another gun accident
resulted in his being lamed for life, a charge of shot having entered his
foot. This was the second accident while in the Gulf, a gun having burst
with Lieutenant Gore, and badly lacerated his hand.
On the banks of the Flinders a native burial tree was found:--
"On the eastern bank rose a tree, the branches of which were laden with a
most singular looking bundle or roll of pieces of wood. Struck with its
appearance, we rested our oars to observe it. Landing, I advanced for
nearer inspection towards the huge bundle of sticks before mentioned. It
seemed almost like the nest of some new bird, and greatly excited my
curiosity. As I approached a most unpleasant smell assailed me, and on
climbing up to examine it narrowly I found that it contained the decaying
body of a native.
"Within the outer covering of sticks was one of net, with an inner one of
the bark of the papyrus tree enveloping the corpse. According to the
singular practice of uncivilised peoples of providing for the wants of
those who have nothing more to do with earthly things, some weapons were
deposited with the deceased in this novel kind of mortuary habitation,
and a little beyond was a rill of water."
The BEAGLE then sailed to Booby Island, and from there to Victoria--the
settlement at Port Essington--which they found in a comparatively
flourishing state. Strange to say, Stokes, the discoverer of Port Darwin,
says of Port Essington:
"As steam communication, moreover, must soon be established between
Singapore and our colonies on the south-eastern shores of Australia, this
port, the only real good one on the north coast, will be of vast
importance as a coal depôt."
Another of the many instances of the hasty and fallacious deductions of
first discovery, a second proof of which was afforded on the arrival of
the BEAGLE at Swan River, whither, after calling at Coepang, they
directed her course. Here they found the colonists in a state of doubt as
to the existence of an inlet called Port Grey. A large number of
immigrants had arrived from England, with the intention of settling
there, but owing to the rumours of its non-existence, the name was
changed to Leschenault Inlet. Captain Stokes was asked to settle the
question, which he did by confirming the rumour that there was no Port
Grey, and that the fertile country at the back of the spot indicated had
likewise no existence. Grey, it will be remembered, reported seeing this
available country when on his return from the hair-brained expedition to
Sharks' Bay, and called it the Province of Victoria, but no subsequent
exploration ever confirmed its existence.
The work of exploration by the BEAGLE now came to an end. Her remaining
cruises in Australian waters were in the neighbourhood of the south coast
and Tasmania. The work performed by her was more intimately connected
with land exploration than that done by any other survey ship, and her
close examination of the north coast resulted in the discovery of many
important rivers. The Flinders, the Albert, the Adelaide, Victoria, and
Fitzroy, all owe their names to the commander of the BEAGLE, and with her
last cruise the maritime explorations of Australia may be said to close.
Nationality of the first finders of Australia--Knowledge of the
Malays--The bamboo introduced--Traces of smallpox amongst the natives in
the north-west--Tribal rites--Antipathy to pork--Evidence of admixture in
origin--Influence of Asiatic civilisation partly visible--Coast
appearance repelling--Want of indigenous food plants--Lack of intercourse
with other nations--Little now left of unexplored country--Conclusions
respecting various geological formations--Extent of continental
divisions--Development of coastal towns--Inducements for
population--Necessity of the first explorings--Pioneer squatters'
efforts--First Australian-born explorer--Desert theory exploded--Fertile
downs everywhere--Want of water apparently insurmountable--Heroism of
explorers--Inexperience of the early settlers--Grazing possible--Rapid
stocking of country--The barrenness of the "Great Bight"--Sturt, the PENN
of Australia--Results--Mitchell's work--Baron von Mueller's researches--A
salt lake--Stuart first man across the continent--Burke and Wills'
heroism--Services of McKinlay and Landsborough--John Forrest's
journeys--Camel expedition by Giles--The BRISBANE COURIER
expedition--Further explorations--Stockdale at Cambridge Gulf--Carr-Boyd
and O'Donnell open good country in Western Australia--Work done by
By common consent the nationality of the first navigators who landed on
our shores is awarded to the Spanish. Following them came the Dutch, and,
finally, the French and English. And, although the record of the Spanish
visit to our northern coast is but vague, the fact of their being the
first to acquaint the Western nations with the undoubted existence of a
far southern land is generally allowed. Amongst the people inhabiting the
many islands of the Malay Archipelago and portions of the mainland of
Asia, there can be little doubt that our continent was known, and
intercourse of an occasional kind carried on with its natives. That no
permanent settlement was ever formed, or probably attempted, we may
ascribe to the unpromising nature of the soil, compared to the fertile
islands left by the visitors, and the fact that the products of which
they came in search were mostly found in the sea itself, the shore only
being at times visited for obtaining fresh water or seeking shelter.
During these visits no inducements would be forthcoming for undertaking
an excursion inland. The monotonous character of the country would not
excite curiosity, and the absence of all temptation in the way of
articles of barter and traffic likely to be found, would confine their
investigations chiefly to the sea shore. A temporary camp for drying the
sea-slugs of commerce, a refuge for their crafts when the sudden storms
of the tropics broke loose, met all their requirements. It is to the
Malay ancestors of the men whose proas are still to be found fishing
among the outlying reefs of the north, that we must look for the first
discoverers of our island continent, and failing all written record or
existing monument of their doings, search amongst the natives themselves
for confirmation of the fact.
The presence of the bamboo in Arnheim's Land only, and its indigenous
nature, is strong evidence of its Malay origin. It is found in abundance
over this large promontory, and on the banks of the different rivers and
creeks. Its extensive spread and thick growth point to many centuries of
introduction, and that the Australians first obtained it from their
northern visitors is almost certain. In abandoned camps pieces of bamboo
would be left sticking in the ground, and formed, as most of their camps
are, on the sandy banks of a creek, their growth would be under
favourable circumstances, and their spread down the watercourses rapid.
Amongst all the tribes whose hunting grounds are between Cape Arnheim,
and Cambridge Gulf, the traces of small-pox can be seen unmistakeably on
many of the old men. Some are blind, and deeply pitted, others but
lightly marked. Apparently the disease has worn itself out, for only the
oldest members of the tribes have suffered. None seem to have it now, nor
are the marks of the disease to be seen on the middle-aged men. The
ravages of this scourge must have been confined to the coast tribes, as
no evidence of its having been amongst the natives of the interior is to
be found. The belt of dry country separating the aborigines of the plain
from those of the sea may have saved the former, as this belt is often
left uncrossed for years. This disease must have been brought from the
north, and the date of its introduction would probably lie many centuries
Many of their customs and tribal rites bear a close resemblance to some
that may be found in the New Testament, and are foreign to the usual
habits of the Australian blackfellow. Add to this an innate antipathy to
the flesh of swine when tasted for the first time, and it seems evident
that some of the laws and traditions of more civilised nations have
drifted down and been partly appropriated by the Australians.
In many of the sea-coast blacks of the north, sleepy eyes and
straight-cut noses are often prominent, and render some of them
especially remarkable; these features giving their faces an entirely
different aspect to the common blackfellow type adjoining them inland.
That, in the event of the wreck of a proa on the coast, some intermixture
of the races would take place, and the survivors, perhaps, pass the
remainder of their lives amongst the blacks, is quite possible, seeing
that to many of our countrymen it has happened.
The close acquaintanceship shown by the Malay bêche-de-mer fishers with
the nooks and inlets that are so thickly strewn along the coast, west of
Cape Wessell, appears to be the result of much old-world seafaring lore,
handed down from father to son. Whether the Chinese ever ventured so far
south as Australia cannot be affirmed with certainty. Accident may have
led them to our shores, but it is scarcely probable that the love of
adventure would have tempted them so far.
Taking, then, the exceptional customs common to the natives of that
portion 'of Australia still visited by the Malays, and seeing that these
customs would only be the outcome of some centuries of intercourse, it is
reasonable to suppose that from these outposts of Asiatic civilisation
came the first adventurous traders to the lone land of the south. The
distinct type of the Australian, while showing in exceptional cases the
signs of foreign blood, precludes the idea that the continent was peopled
from the north; but, at the same time, it is evident that some
rudimentary forms of a higher development drifted down in after ages from
The effect that the repellant nature of the Australian coast has had upon
the southern progress of semi-civilisation is remarkably distinct. Each
successive wave of improvement from the Asiatic continent seems to grow
weaker and weaker as it travels south, until it breaks hopelessly on
Australia. Nor is it hard to find the reason. The savage, coming from
islands where a rude cultivation of indigenous fruits, valuable in their
nature, had induced primitive land laws, and consequently settled
habitations and a defined code of laws concerning tribal rights and
boundaries, found himself amongst a nomadic race, trusting to hunting and
fishing solely for the means of existence. The soil, formed of the
denudation of the sandstone rocks, scantily fertilised here and there by
the decaying jungle, presented no field for rude agriculture, even had
the dry seasons permitted; and gave forth no native fruits, save
tasteless berries and half-poisonous roots. No knowledge of minerals would
tempt him into the semi-scorched ranges inland; he would simply see that
life after the old fashion of village existence was no longer for him,
and would become a hunter and fisher like his fellows.
It would have been of inestimable benefit to the Australians, had tribes
from the northern countries, only slightly higher than themselves in the
scale, established a permanent footing on the mainland, and gradually
worked their way throughout the land, carrying their superior knowledge
with them, and having in the extended area before them a wide field for
future development. Intermixing socially with the aborigines, they would
have in a few generations made an indelible mark upon their mental
capacity, which, after all, is only dormant; and the march of improvement
once set in motion, centuries of confirmed intercourse with races of
greater culture, and the consequent spread of new ideas would have
peopled our continent with a different race to the improvident native of
But the force of nature was against it; the new land of the south held
forth no inducements even for the pirate or marauder. In the hand to
mouth struggle for existence, not even a supply of food would be found in
a ransacked camp; no land seen tempting settlement by its luxuriant
vegetation and produce. The visitors of the straits scorned the
inhospitable coast, and returned north. Only those whom ill-fate had
deprived of the means of return stayed perforce, and lost their identity
amongst the aborigines.
The white man, when he came, looked upon the country as he would upon an
uninhabited land; the native was too far beneath him to profit by his
coming, no inter-mixture of races could take place, the difference was
too widely marked; and the aborigines of Australia were from the first
numbered amongst the doomed tribes of the earth. An earlier introduction
of the spirit of progress, however meagre in form, might have saved them.
Had our northern coasts but possessed some lure for Asiatic nations, the
story would have travelled and brought their overflowing population down
to settle the continent long before the advent of our countrymen.
It is an accepted fact that on the continent of Australia proper there is
very little unexplored territory left, and that we pretty well know what
resources, in the way of land, we have still to fall back upon. This
acceptance of our knowledge of the unsettled regions of our country is
both right and wrong. Right, inasmuch that in a general sense, arguing
from our knowledge of climatic influences in different latitudes, we can
infer the particular nature of a particular district, although untrodden
as yet by any one capable of giving us information. Wrong, in that the
geographical formations of Australia are so persistently antagonistic
that no true nor reliable deduction can always be arrived at. When I say
persistently antagonistic, I mean that the two formations common to the
interior, namely, sandstone and limestone, produce either a desert or a
rich prairie. As a rule, in the vast interior, still unvisited and
unsettled, the conditions are that the soil either grows grasses and
herbs of the most nutritive character, or such as are totally unfitted to
support graminivorous animal life. And these two conditions we may call
antagonistic, as far as our efforts at practical settlement are
concerned. When the outcrop is limestone, we may reckon on good pastoral
country, and a fair water supply. When the outcrop is the pure red
sandstone, we can hope for little else but the desert spinifex.
The distinction between these two formations is so strongly marked that
it almost seems that a hard and fast line had, in places, been drawn
between the productive and unproductive portions of Australia. That these
strange and sudden alterations occur right through the continent, we have
the evidence in the diaries of Giles and Forrest; and although we cannot
doubt that a great portion of unexplored Australia consists of country
that will never support population, we have as yet no valid reason for
condemning the whole.
The continent of Australia contains, roughly speaking, three millions of
square miles less about thirty-five thousand square miles. It may be
summarised as follows: that New South Wales contains no unexplored
country; Victoria, none; Queensland, a small portion of Cape York
Peninsula; South Australia, a considerable area; and Western Australia, a
very great deal. All the important explorations of late years have been
in the last two mentioned colonies, for the very reason that in these
colonies only the unknown exists. South Australia has at least 300,000
square miles of unexplored and partly explored country, and Western
Australia can claim more than half a million of miles just touched here
and there by the tracks of Eyre, Gregory, Giles, Forrest, and Warburton.
In speculating upon the future capabilities of this great expanse, we
must fairly weigh the testimony of these men, and, by comparison, see
what chance we have in the future of finding fresh pasture lands for the
next generation. On the whole the testimony is unfavourable, but, on
close inspection, there are strange coincidences in their diaries which
would lead one to think that, perhaps, after all the "hopeless desert"
that witnessed both their struggles and successes may yet hold secrets
worth knowing and worth seeking for. In our time we have seen how the
desert theory has been exploded in New South Wales--forced, as it were,
outside our boundaries by the mere expansion of settlement. It is but a
question of time for the mysteries of the yet unknown interior to share
the same fate, and in the solution of the unknown great possibilities
The development of the towns along the northern sea-board must
necessarily be rapid. From the sheep-growing downs of the inland plateau,
to the sugar and coffee-growing flats of the coast, the exports will be
ever on the increase, and the wants of a growing people will necessitate
ports in places that are now uninhabited. That the north will become one
of the richest portions of our continent there is no doubt; its immense
mineral wealth stands but partially revealed, while its adaptability for
settlement is practically unbounded. The progress and utilisation of the
waste lands of the north will be an interesting experiment to watch.
Nature has, to a great extent, indicated the laws of settlement that will
dominate the territory. To the capitalist she has given the rich
wool-growing slopes of the inland country, where the expenditure of money
is necessary, in order that the full value may be reaped from the land
leased; money expended in water-storage, that repays the owner in a
hundred ways. To the man of humbler means the well-watered coast
districts offer facilities for small cattle stations and selections, and
on the banks of some of the rivers the planter will soon be making a
home, whilst for the miners are the broken ranges and gullies of the
A settled Australia--that is, comparatively settled-this century may not
witness, but that it will be a fact of the future, few, who have lived in
the colonies during the last two decades, can doubt.
We may look forward to the crowning work of the future, when we shall no
longer be altogether dependent upon the caprices of climate; nor sit idly
by whilst our heritage of rainfall rushes past us into the ocean.
From the arrival of Governor Phillip with the first fleet, 1789, to the
year 1813, when Wentworth, Lawson, and Blaxland succeeded in crossing the
main range--the Blue Mountains--all attempts at exploration into the
interior had been limited, the main range proving an impenetrable
barrier. For the wants of the colony, the country up to that time found
had proved sufficient. In the neighbourhood of Sydney, the Nepean, Grose,
and Hawkesbury; to the north, the River Hunter; and to the south, the
district known now as the Illawarra. But combined with the severe drought
of 18 13, and the increase of stock, it was necessary to seek pastures
Their hopes of finding a navigable river flowing west into the sea were
never realised, although for years it was each explorer's dream. On
following a stream, they invariably found it run out into a shallow
swamp, and then thought the continent possessed an inland sea or lake.
Oxley pronounced this portion desert, and to them it then was; no thought
could enter their minds of how after years of stocking, the entire
country would change; how time and labour alone could make that vast
Directly the pass of the Blue Mountains had been won, and a public road
made across the range, settlers with their stock steadily flowed west;
the township of Bathurst sprang up, and settlement was made south towards
the Shoalhaven River. The first large expedition into the interior was
undertaken by Oxley, and he again comes to the conclusion that "the
interior westward of a certain meridian is uninhabitable, deprived, as it
is, of wood, water, and grass . . . that the interior of this vast
country is a marsh, and uninhabitable." Only the edge of the interior
crossed, it was early to come to this conclusion. But we must remember
that the party were weary and disgusted with their want of success-the
barren country, with no variety of trees, or soil; everything always the
same. Eventually they reached good, well-watered country, and turning
back from the Macquarie, delighted with the river, believed that the high
road to the interior had been found.
This trip successful, he again left to follow the Macquarie, and although
the inland sea remained undiscovered, large tracts of fertile country
were opened for settlement; moreover, he had crossed the coast range to
the north, and discovered that Port Macquarie (which, on following down
the River Hastings, he had found and named) proved a practicable route to
About this time the pioneer squatter took share with the explorer, and
settlement quickly advanced. Lawson and Scott were disappointed in their
attempt to reach Oxley's discovery of Liverpool Plains; unable to
penetrate the southern boundary of the plains, they discovered the
Goulburn River. The year 1823 found Oxley, Cunningham, and Currie, all
out in different directions; Currie to the south of Lake George,
Cunningham engaged north of Bathurst, first in his capacity of botanist,
and the discovery of a pass through the northern range on Liverpool
Plains, which Lawson and Scott had sought in vain. He found and named the
Pandora Pass, it proving practicable as a stock route.
Oxley then left Sydney in the MERMAID, to examine the inlets of Port
Curtis, Moreton Bay, and Port Bowen, with a view to forming a penal
settlement there. It was on this trip, while at Moreton Bay, that they
rescued from the blacks the two men Pamphlet and Finnigan, who had been
wrecked at Moreton Island seven months before. Oxley named the Brisbane
River. This was his last work, and he died near Sydney in 1828. His
career as an explorer was very successful. He had done much to aid the
new colony, but was ever disappointed in his hopes of reaching the inland
sea or lake, and of proving, except to his own satisfaction, whether any
large rivers entered the sea between Cape Otway and Spencer's Gulf. Then
Sir Thomas Brisbane thought of landing a party of prisoners near Wilson's
Promontory, and by offer of a free pardon and a land grant, to find their
way back to Sydney.
Mr. Hume, the first Australian-born explorer, and Mr. Hovell, took a
party from Lake George, at that time the most outside station, to Western
Port, and they were the first to see the Australian Alps. This trip
helped to prove the hasty condemnation of Oxley's "desert" theory, and
besides giving to the colony millions of acres of well-watered fertile
country, and adding another large and important river--the Murray--it
also held out far higher hopes for the future of the interior. During
this time a settlement was formed at Moreton Bay, and subsequently
removed to a better site on the Brisbane River. Cunningham, in 1827, left
on a trip destined materially to effect the immediate progress of this
new colony. Crossing Oxley's track, and entering the unexplored region,
after naming the Gwydir and Dumaresque Rivers, he finally emerged on the
Darling Downs. He was in raptures at the inexhaustible range of cattle
pasture, the permanent water, and the grass and herbage generally. Then a
passage across the range to Moreton Bay was found by way of Cunningham's
Gap, but it was not used until the next year, when, accompanied by Mr.
Frazer, colonial botanist, they proceeded by sea to Moreton Bay, and
connected the settlement with the Darling Downs. How easy was the main
range crossed here, and the fertile downs laid open, compared to the
years of labour spent on the pass of the Blue Mountains. In the year
following Cunningham made his last expedition, closing ten years of
unceasing work in the cause of exploration.
Sturt followed Oxley's tracks. He exposed some of Oxley's mistakes, but
only to make others as great; for the land was smitten with drought, and
the rivers that Oxley had followed were now mere creeks, and in passing
judgment no allowance was made for the seasons, and the country was
valued according to the standard of other countries. His descriptions of
the interior are wonderful pictures of the desolate, waterless, abandoned
desert, "I scorched beneath a lurid sun of burning fire." His mission was
to ascertain what lay beyond the shallow bed of reeds to the westward, in
which Oxley lost the Macquarie; but as suddenly and as mysteriously the
river ran out, and they were as completely baffled as Oxley had been. Dry
on all sides, nothing was found but stony ridges or open forest, the
country was monotonously level, and no sign of a river. Creek after creek
they followed, only to lose it in a marsh. Suddenly they found themselves
on the banks of a noble river, and from its size and saltness, Sturt
conjectured he was near its confluence with an inland sea; but to be
convinced in a few more days that the saltness was of local origin, fed
by saline springs. This river Sturt called the Darling. The homeward
march began, and the same harassing hunt for water; no break in the
country, or change in the vegetation; all brown, blank, and desolate; not
even inhabited by a bird-the drought had so long continued. Sturt had
found the Darling, and he it was who eventually traced its course and
outlet. Starting for that purpose the next year, they sailed down the
Murray, proving its confluence with the Darling, and on down the united
streams of the Murray and Darling with boundless flats on each side. The
river widened day by day; the flight of sea-gulls, and the chopping sea
caused by the wind, surely showed they were near the ocean. Still, Sturt
had reached his goal--the Murray ended in a lake. They had hoped that
succour would have waited them, had the ocean been reached. Now they must
re-enter the Murray while the weary party had still strength to face each
day's never-ending toil, and return to the camp on the Murrumbidgee. The
great satisfaction of having successfully followed the course of the
Murray was damped by the apparently valueless nature of the country
passed through. And this trip, while adding greatly to Australian
geography, gave a proof of the most patient endurance and courage--even
to heroism--not excelled in the many records of bravery and dangers
undergone by other explorers.
We have now looked through the reports of the country given by many men,
and become familiar with their opinions of the future of the interior;
they are almost unanimous in pronouncing it barren and uninhabitable. We
must remember it was not their want of ability, but their inexperience of
the value of the native grasses and herbs. In comparison with other
countries, they appeared worthless. They did not realize that stocking
would force the waters into natural channels, and that the stock would
bring fresh grasses in their train, getting accustomed to and, after a
while, fattening on the despised bushes and herbs. To them it was the
embodiment of a desert--irreclaimable.
During the time these explorations were in progress, a settlement had
been formed in Western Australia, and some attempt at exploration made,
but for a few years not to any great distance. No difficulties here
presented themselves to a passage through the coast range, and the
country discovered seemed fitted both for pasture and agriculture.
For many years little was done in the way of fresh expeditions, until the
year 1831. Major Mitchell in charge of a party traced the rivers,
discovered by Oxley and Cunningham; his explorations were also surveys
and the river system of the continent was partially worked out, but the
hope of a river running through the interior to the north-west coast bad
to be finally abandoned. His report of the country was also more
favourable, and his after expeditions, merely connecting surveys,
confirming and verifying previous discoveries, rather than an exploration
into the unknown. His reports were glowing of the country passed through
generally; from snow-topped mountains to level plains, watered with
permanent streams and rivers, fitted for immediate occupation of the
grazier or farmer.
Now it may be said the difficulties were overcome of entering the
interior, for it was assailed from three points; Perth on the west, Port
Phillip and St. Vincent's Gulf on the south, and from the settled parts
of New South Wales and Moreton Bay on the east. Henceforth the settler so
promptly followed the explorer, that the country became settled and
stocked almost as quickly as known, and, foot by foot, the desert driven
Grey and Lushington wishing to verify the existence or not of a large
river supposed to empty itself into the sea, at Dampier's Archipelago,
endured great hardships. They were without experience of the colonies, or
of the capabilities of the country; but as far as they could judge,
pronounced the country well grassed and timbered. Their second trip
resulted in the discovery of the Gascoigne, but little else; no great
results to compensate for their terrible suffering and privation.
Small explorations were rapidly carried on to provide for the number of
stock imported and the best stock routes; and now it was time to turn
north, to look for the inland sea and the chain of mountains--Australia's
backbone--that was supposed to exist. E. J. Eyre's discovery of Lake
Torrens turned the colonists' attention north as a practicable stock
route to Western Australia. From the sterile nature of the coast of the
bight, and the absence of any rivers emptying into the sea, it was
useless to seek in that direction. His march round the Great Bight was a
journey of terrible suffering; it certainly proved that no water flowed
into the south coast, and gave us our knowledge of the barren country
shut in by the impenetrable, monotonous cliff line that closed its
secrets against our mariners, but it gave no knowledge of the interior.
After some of his men had deserted, and the one that remained murdered,
Eyre, alone, on foot, with his stubborn courage, wearied out and
starving, followed the coast line for numberless miles. Any errors of
judgment leading to the tragic end of his expedition must needs be
overlooked in the face of the great dangers and the perseverance that
carried him through.
Sturt has been called the father of Australian exploration, and may well
be held as one of our greatest scientific explorers--his object always to
solve the mystery of the great interior; its strange peculiarity and
physical formation. He returned disappointed, baffled. But was he in
reality beaten? He was exceptionally unlucky in his seasons, and the
report of the land he brought back caused settlement to progress slowly;
only after years, when men had grown accustomed to the terrors of the
desert, and knew that experience robbed them of their effect, Sturt
found, but unwittingly, the outflow of the second river system. He longed
to be the first to reach the centre of Australia, and hoped that once
past the southern zone of the tropics he would reach a country blessed
with a heavy and constant rainfall. Always he looked back with pleasure
upon his travels, and said: "My path amongst savage tribes has been a
Next among our explorers comes Dr. Ludwig Leichhardt, and his trip from
Fort Burke, on the Darling, to the Gulf of Carpentaria, which opened up
so much well-watered country and attracted universal attention; but,
unlike Sturt, he had exceptional good fortune, travelling always through
country easy to penetrate and well watered--not one night had the party
to camp without water.
During this expedition, Sir Thomas Mitchell started with one having
almost the same end in view as Dr. Leichhardt's. He did not reach the
Gulf, but threw open our wonderful western prairies, and found the upper
tributaries of the second great river system. This was his last
expedition, and it fully confirmed his reputation. More fortunate than
Sturt, he had been favoured in having plentiful and bountiful seasons of
water and vegetation; but both men had done wonders in the cause of
exploration. Mitchell's discovery of the Victoria, along the banks of
which river he felt the high road to the north coast was found, was
continued by Kennedy, who had been second in command during the first
expedition of Sir Thomas Mitchell.
With a lightly equipped party Kennedy started to follow the course of the
Victoria. Finally the river led them into the desert described by Sturt:
"Plains gaping with fissures, grassless and waterless," and he turned
back satisfied that the Victoria had not its outflow in the Gulf of
Carpentaria, as hoped for by Sir Thomas Mitchell, but lost itself in
Cooper's Creek. The loss of flour, through the natives, prevented Kennedy
from extending his explorations towards the Gulf.
Kennedy's second trip, to examine Cape York Peninsula, ended most
disastrously. Out of his party of thirteen only two men and a black boy
were rescued. Through marshes and scrubs--seemingly the one monotonous
entry in their journal being, "Cutting scrub all day"--they endeavoured
to push their way to Port Albany, the extreme north of the Peninsula,
where a ship would meet them. Saltwater creeks and marshy ground, with
the ranges inhabited by hostile natives, was their prospect, while their
horses were rapidly failing on the sour coast grasses. From first to last
this was a most unfortunate expedition-the awful and impassable nature of
the country travelled through, the hostile blacks and loss of the horses,
and then, when sickness came upon the little band, it was doomed.
In the south, Baron von Mueller was busy exploring some of the unknown
portion of South Australia and the Australian Alps-botanical and
geographical researches combined. The heights of several of the highest
mountains in Australia were fixed, and geographical positions accurately
Leichhardt, encouraged by his successes, makes his final venture, but
what befel his party--shall we ever know? It is so late now that we can
entertain little hope of ever elucidating his fate.
In 1846, the Gregory brothers are in the west, led by A. C. Gregory, who
so distinguished himself afterwards as a scientific explorer, and in 1855
he was in command of the North Australian Expedition; with him his
brother and the celebrated botanist Baron Von Mueller. Captain Stokes
reported the Victoria as an important stream, and the probable means of
gaining access to the interior, upon which Gregory traced its course. He
professed great disappointment at the reality of Captain Stokes' "Plains
of Promise," compared to what he had been led to expect. The successful
conclusion of this expedition, which had covered nearly five thousand
miles, proves Gregory an explorer of undoubted qualifications, and it is
to he regretted that so scanty a record of his travels has been
Lake Torrens still occupied the attention of the South Australian
colonists, its probable extent and direction, and several expeditions
were undertaken to solve the question. To the south-east fresh water and
well grassed pastoral country, but Lake Torrens still remained as on its
first discovery by Eyre--a dry bed covered with a thick incrustation of
salt, and far away surrounded on all sides by barren country. Goyder
found fresh water in the lake, but its unavailability was confirmed.
M'Dowall Stuart has been recognised as the man who first crossed from sea
to sea, from the south to the north coast, and now on Stuart's track is
built the overland telegraph line, a lasting witness of his indomitable
perseverance. In his subsequent expeditions following his old tracks, he
was destined to meet success, and come to the sea near the mouth of the
Adelaide River. Stuart dipped his hands and feet in the sea, and his
initials were cut on the largest tree they could find. This was his last
trip, and he never recovered from the great suffering of his return
The expedition under Burke and Wills left amid great celebration; in
fact, it was a gala day in Melbourne, and their journey through the
settled districts one triumphant march. Their purpose was to cross to
Carpentaria. Fate seemed so propitious that one would think in irony she
laughed, as she thought of their return.
They accomplished their task; they reached the Gulf; but did not know
their exact position; and when they turned back it became a terrible
struggle for existence. In spite of the princely outfit with which they
started, short rations and great hardships was their lot, and the men
tried to live like the blacks, on fish and nardoo, and an occasional crow
or hawk which they shot. Wills met his death alone, while Burke and King
were searching for food, and to him, suffering from such extreme
exhaustion, death must have come as the "comforter." He met it as a
gallant man would, without fear. From his last entries he had given up
hope and waited calmly. Burke died the second day; when King looked at
him in the dawning light, he saw that he was really, alone. Meantime, the
rest of the party were left on Cooper's Creek, and were slowly starving
to death. Parties from all sides were now being equipped to go in search
M'Kinlay's trip across the continent did great service. It verified
Stuart's report that the country always considered as a terrible desert
was not unfit for all pastoral occupation, and, being an experienced man,
his report carried conviction.
One of the search parties for Burke and Wills was under William
Landsborough, having, through previous explorations, good knowledge of
the country; and another, in charge of Frederick Walker, composed of
native troopers. Now the eastern half of Australia was nearly all known;
it had been crossed and re-crossed from south to north; still, the
distinctive value of the country had yet to be learned, and the delusion
that the sheeps' wool would turn to hair in the torrid north to be given
up. All around the coast settlement was surely and steadily creeping, and
unoccupied country going further back every day.
On the north coast, Burketown, under the care of William Landsbrough, was
growing up, and in the north of Arnheim's Land, M'Kinlay was looking for
a suitable site to establish a port for the South Australian Government.
Somerset was formed on the mainland of Cape York Peninsula, and the
formation of this led to the expedition of the Jardine brothers. The
successful termination of their journey, when we look at the difficulties
through which they passed, and the misfortunes they had to encounter,
merits our greatest admiration; and although it did not result in the
discovery of good pastoral country, still they accomplished their object.
The overland telegraph line, and the small explorations made on either
side of it, led greatly to our knowledge of the interior.
John Forrest made his first important journey in 1869, but found no great
results in good country to the eastward of Perth. Then a journey was made
from Perth to Adelaide by way of the Great Bight--never traversed since
Eyre's journey. Owing to a better equipment, he was able to give a more
impartial report of the country passed through; for Eyre was struggling
for life, and it was natural that nature to him would then look at her
Warburton and Giles now occupied attention, and their great hope, the
country between the overland telegraph line and the western settlements.
Warburton's expedition led to the western half of the continent being
condemned as a hopeless desert. He no doubt got into a strip of barren
country, and being so occupied in pressing straight through, devoted no
time to the examination of country on either side.
Giles was twice driven back in his attempts to reach Western Australia.
Then, with an equipment of camels, made a third, and successful, attempt.
No discoveries of any importance were made; the country was suffering
from severe drought.
William Hann, one of the pioneer squatters of the North of Queensland,
took charge of a party sent by the Queensland Government to investigate
the tract of country at the base of Cape York Peninsula, both for its
mineral and other resources. Naming the Palmer, and finding here
prospects of gold, the further examination of the river resulted in the
discovery of what turned out to be one of the richest goldfields in
Again the Queensland Government sent out an expedition, under charge of
W. 0. Hodgkinson, to determine the amount of pastoral country to the west
of the Diamantina River.
Buchanan and F. Scarr next attacked the country between the overland
telegraph line and the Queensland border, and in 1878, Mr Lukin,
proprietor of the COURIER, in Brisbane, organised an expedition for the
purpose of exploring the country in the neighbourhood of a proposed
railway line, which had been inaugurated in Port Darwin, and to find the
nature, value, and geographical features of the unexplored portions.
Under the leadership of Ernest Favenc, the party started from Blackall.
This expedition had the effect of opening up a great area of good
pastoral country, nearly all of which is now stocked.
In 1883, Favenc traced the heads of the rivers running into the Gulf of
Carpentaria, near the Queensland border, and in the year following,
crossed from the Queensland border to the telegraph line, and across the
coast range to the mouth of the Macarthur River. Soon after, the South
Australian Government surveyed this river, and opened it as a port; a
good road was formed from the interior to the coast, and the settlement
of the country followed.
In Western Australia, Alexander Forrest led an expedition from the De
Grey River to the telegraph line, which they reached after a great
struggle. It was a most successful trip, and the district found contains
some of the best country in Western Australia, both for pastoral and
Stockdale, with a view to settlement, explored the country in the
neighbourhood of Cambridge Gulf. Landing there by steamer, he began the
journey, which ended in a tragedy. After a hard struggle, he reached the
McPhee's exploration east of Daly Waters may be said to conclude the
expeditions between the Queensland border and the overland line.
To complete the exploration of Arnheim's Land, the South Australian
Government fitted out an expedition under the guidance of Mr. David
Lindsay, but the country passed over was not available for pastoral
settlement, some of it being good sugar country. Messrs. Carr Boyd and
O'Donnell, undertaking another trip from the Katherine River to Western
Australia, were more fortunate in finding good country, but no
geographical discovery resulted.
Thus our island continent has been opened to us by the indomitable
courage and endurance of navigators and explorers. Can we look for
instances of greater bravery in the exploration of any other portion of
the globe? Our old navigators, with their meagre equipment, searched
minutely every portion of the coast, until the termination of the survey
of the BEAGLE, for the mouth of some river that would communicate with
the interior, as our earlier explorers hoped to find a waterway in the
wilderness through which they travelled.
The idea of the work they did, being verified as it now is, could never
have been dreamt of. Think of Flinders, in the old INVESTIGATOR, as he.
sailed from group to group of islands, and from point to point of reefs;
when he got at last through Torres Straits, and stood down the Gulf,
looking up the old land marks of the early Dutch visitors to our
shores--Duyfhen Point, the Van Alphen River, GROOTE EYLANDT, and the
rest--names still preserved, that bear witness to the brave old navigator
who visited these shores before we did. Many an anxious day and night,
doubtless, he had. Now, with steam at our command, the straits have
become the safe highway of traffic to all the leading marts of the world.
It is well for us to bear in mind that, as a rule, experienced bushmen do
find the best points of new country, and not the worst. The after result
generally is that the discoveries of the first explorers are extended,
but not improved on. Therefore, in comparing the different routes that
traverse the western half of our continent, we can safely allow that each
man found, and noted, the most promising features on his line of travel.
By close comparison of the work done by the men who have laid bare so
many of the secrets of the interior, and by deductions to be drawn from
the physical conformation and climatic peculiarities already revealed, we
may, to some extent, conjecture the possibilities of the future. With
every variety of climate between temperate and tropical, with enormous
mineral treasures--the extent of which, even at the present time, can
only be conjectured--boundless areas of virgin soils, and a coastline
dotted with good harbours and navigable rivers, we have all the elements
of a nation yet to take rank among the recognised powers of the world.
But in the interim there is much to be done. The flat and monotonous
nature of most of the continent, which is at present to a certain extent
our bane, will, when the principles of water storage, and its
distributation are fully understood, be of wonderful assistance. The
physical formation of the interior lends itself to the creation of
artificial channels, and the work of leading waterways through the great
areas of unwatered country, that for months lie useless and unproductive,
will be comparatively easy. We have always, or nearly always, our annual
floods to depend upon, and the supply furnished by them should be amply
sufficient for use. Flood water is surplus water, and its conservation
should be the thing aimed at. Many a dry watercourse, that is now but a
slight depression, could be utilised as a channel for conducting the
flood waters to the back country. What would be impossible in an island
of bold mountain ranges, becomes easy in the flats of our dry interior.
In the dry inland plains, a water supply that will relieve the frontage
from overstocking during the droughty months, means the preservation of
some of our most valuable indigenous fodder plants. The overcrowding of
stock on the natural permanent waters during dry periods, has often been
the cause of a depreciation in the natural grasses on some of our
principal rivers. And whilst this has been going on, sun-cracked lagoons
and lakes, surrounded by good, if dry, feed have been lying unnoticed and
useless, waiting for the time to come when they would be turned to
Back from the main watercourses are countless natural reservoirs, that
lie for years dry, and drought-smitten, save in an exceptional flood.
They are never filled, and the fact of supplying them with water is
In many districts of the inland slope, the rivers have sandy beds,
incapable of retaining the water for more than a few months; whilst
running parallel with them on either side, are chains of lagoons that
often run dry through the floods not being excessive enough to overflow
the banks. These lagoons are, as a rule, well calculated to hold water,
and could be brought under the influence of ordinary floods, instead of
being, as now, dependent upon extraordinary ones; thus atoning for the
insufficient retaining power of the river bed.
The present great need of Australia is the conservation of water, and the
irrigation works which have been already commenced on the banks of the
Murray River, coupled with the recent discoveries of an apparently
unlimited artesian supply on the and plains of Western Queensland,
testify alike to the recognition of the want, and to the ease with which
it may be met. One inevitable rule of settlement is that population
follows water; present prospects therefore amply justify the hope that at
no very distant date the one-time "central desert" of the first
explorers will be the centre of attraction for the fast-growing
population of the coast line; and that in the merging together of the
peoples of the colonies, now separated by merely imaginary boundary
lines, will be found the one great help to the fulfilment of the desire
of every true Australiana Federated Australia--a grand result of the
indomitable courage, heroic self-sacrifice, and dogged perseverance of
the men of all nationalities, who have established a claim to the proud
title of "Australian Explorer."
THE PANDORA PASS.
The following memorandum, written on parchment, was enclosed in a bottle,
and buried under a marked tree in the Pandora Pass:
"After a very laborious and harassing journey from Bathurst, since April
last, a party, consisting of five persons, under the direction of Allan
Cunningham, H.M. Botanist (making the sixth individual), having failed of
finding a route to Liverpool Plains, whilst tracing the south base of the
Barrier Mountains (before us north), so far as fifty miles to the
eastward of this spot, at length upon prosecuting their research under
this great mountain belt, in a westerly direction, reached this valley,
and discovered a practicable and easy passage through a low part of the
mountain belt, north by west from this tree, to the very extensive levels
connected with the abovementioned plains, of which the southernmost of
the chain is distant about eleven or twelve miles (by estimation), N.N.W.
from this valley, and to which a line of trees has been carefully marked,
thus opening an unlimited, unbounded, seemingly well-watered country,
N.N.W., to call forth the exertions of the industrious agriculturist and
grazier, for whose benefit the present labours of the party have been
extended. This valley, which extends to the S.W. and W.S.W., has been
named 'Hawkesbury Vale,' and the highest point of the range, bearing N.W.
by W. from this tree, was called 'Mount Jenkinson,' the one a former
title, and the other the family name of the noble earl whose present
title the plains bear, and which, from the southern country, this gap
affords the only passage likely to be discovered. The party in the
earlier and middle stages of their expedition encountered many privations
and local difficulties of travelling to, and in their return from the
eastward; in spite, however, of these little evils, 'a HOPE at the
bottom,' or, at this almost close of their journey, an encouragement
induced them to persevere westerly a limited distance, and thus it was
this passage was discovered. It has therefore been named 'Pandora's
Pass.' Due east and west by compass from this tree, in a direct line (by
odometrical admeasurement) were planted the fresh stones of peaches,
brought from the colony in April last, with every good hope that their
produce will one day or other afford some refreshment to the weary
farmer, whilst on his route beyond the bourne of the desirable country
north of Pandora's Pass. A like planting took place on the plains, twelve
miles distance north at the last marked trees, with similar good wishes
for their growth. A remarkably high mount above the pass east, being a
guide to the traveller advancing south from the plains, has been named
'Direction Head.' The situation of this tree is as follows:--Latitude,
observed on the 7th and 8th of June, 1832, 32 deg. 15 min. 19 sec. S; its
longitude being presumed about 149 deg. 30 min. E. The party now proceed
with the utmost despatch south for Bathurst.
"June 9th, 1823.
"Buried for the information of the first farmer who may venture to
advance so far to the northwards as this vale, of whom it is requested
this document may not be destroyed, but carried to the settlement of
Bathurst, after opening the bottle."
(See page 72.--Chapter II.)
* * * * *
DEATH OF SURVEYOR-GENERAL OXLEY.
ABSTRACT FROM THE "GOVERNMENT GAZETTE" OF MAY 27TH, 1828.
"It would be impossible for his Excellency, consistently with his
feelings, to announce the decease of the late Surveyor-General without
endeavouring to express the sense he entertains of Mr. Oxley's services,
though he cannot do justice to them.
"From the nature of this colony, the office of Surveyor-General is
amongst the most important under Government, and to perform its duties in
a manner Mr. Oxley has done for a long series of years is as honourable
to his zeal and abilities as it is painful for the Government to be
deprived of them.
"Mr. Oxley entered the public service at an early period of his life and
has filled the important situation of Surveyor-General for the last
"His exertions in the public service have been unwearied, as has been
proved by his several expeditions to explore the interior. The public
have reaped the benefit, while it is to be apprehended that the event,
which they cannot fail to lament, has been accelerated by the privations
and fatigue he endured during the performance of these arduous services.
Mr. Oxley eminently assisted in unfolding the advantages of this
highly-favoured colony from an early stage of its existence, and his name
will ever be associated with the dawn of its advancement. It is always
gratifying to the Government to record its approbation of the services of
meritorious public officers, and in assigning to Mr. Oxley's name a
distinguished place in that class to which his devotion to the interests
of the colony has so justly entitled him, the Government would do honour
to his memory in the same degree as it feels the loss it has sustained in
(See page 74.--Chapter II.)
* * * * *
LIST OF THE MEN COMPRISING SIR THOMAS MITCHELL'S PARTY ON HIS
EXPEDITION TO THE VICTORIA (BARCOO), 1846.
* * * * *
Sir T. L. Mitchell, Kt., Surveyor-General--Chief of the Expedition.
Edmund B. Kennedy, Esq., Assistant Surveyor--Second in Command.
W. Stephenson, M.R.C.S.L--Surgeon and collector of objects of
Peter M'Avoy, Charles Niblett, William Graham--Mounted videttes.
William Baldock--In charge of the horses.
John Waugh Drysdale--Store-keeeper.
Allan Bond, Edward Taylor, William Bond, William Mortimer,
George Allcot, John Slater, Richard Horton,
James Stephens, Job Stanley--Carpenters.
Isaac Reid--Sailor and chainman.
William Hunter, Thomas Smith--With the horses.
Patrick Travers--Carter and pioneer,
Douglas Arnott--Shepherd and butcher.
Arthur Bristol--Sailmaker and Sailor.
Eight drays, drawn by eighty bullocks, two boats, thirteen horses, four
private horses, and three light carts, comprised the means of conveyance,
and the party was provided with provisions for a year; two hundred and
fifty sheep (to travel with the party) constituting the chief part of the
animal food. The rest consisted of gelatine, and a small quantity of
(See page 105.--[Chapter IV.])
* * * * *
RICHARD CUNNINGHAM's FATE.
REPORT OF LIEUTENANT ZOUCH, OF THE MOUNTED POLICE, REGARDING
THE DEATH OF RICHARD CUNNINGHAM.
"Bathurst, December 7th, 1835.
"I have the honour to state that, in conforming with the instructions
contained in the Colonial Secretary's letter of the 16th October,
together with your orders, directing me to proceed to the interior for
the purpose of ascertaining the fate of Mr. Cunningham, I proceeded with
the party on the 24th of October for Buree, which place I left on the
29th, accompanied by Sandy (the native black mentioned in my
instructions). On the 2nd of November I fortunately met with two blacks
who knew the particulars of a white man having been murdered on the
Bogan, also the names and persons of the perpetrators of the deed. They
likewise offered to accompany the police to where the tribe to which the
murderers belonged were encamped. I accordingly took them as guides, and
on the evening of the 6th they informed me they could see the smoke from
the fires of the Myall blacks, on the borders of a lake called Budda.
"On arriving at the banks of the lake, we found a tribe encamped
consisting of upwards of forty men, women, and children, all of whom we
succeeded in making prisoners, without any resistance on their part.
Having questioned them as to the murder of a white man, they acknowledge
to one having been killed on the Bogan by four of their tribe, three of
whom they delivered up; the fourth, they stated, was absent on the Big
River. On searching the bags of the tribe, we found a knife, a glove,
and part of a cigar case, which the three blacks acknowledged they had
taken from the white man, and which Muirhead said he was sure belonged to
"The three murderers, whose names are Wongadgery, Boreeboomalie, and
Bureemal, stated that they and another black, about six moons ago, met a
white man on the Bogan, who came up and made signs that he was hungry;
that they gave him food, and that he encamped with them that night. The
white man repeatedly getting up during the night excited suspicion, and
they determined to destroy him the following morning, which they did by
Wongadgery going unperceived behind him and striking him on the back of
the head with a nulla-nulla. The other three men then rushing upon him
with their weapons, speedily effected their purpose.
"I then determined to proceed to the spot where the murder was committed,
which I was informed by the blacks was distant three days' journey, but,
learning from them that there was a great scarcity of water, Muirhead,
and one of the prisoners (Burreemal) as a guide across to the Bogan,
leaving the other two prisoners in charge, under the command of Corporal
Moore, to proceed to a station about thirty miles distant from
Wellington, there to await my return.
"On Tuesday, the 10th, I arrived at a place called Currindine, where the
black showed me some bones, which he said were those of a white man they
had killed, and pointed out a small portion of a coat, and also of a
Manilla hat. Being thus convinced of the truth of their statement, and
also of the spot where the melancholy event had occurred, I collected all
the remains I could discover, and having deposited them in the ground,
raised a small mound over them, and barked some of the nearest trees, as
the only means in my power of marking the spot.
"Having thus accomplished the object of my expedition, I proceeded on my
return, and on rejoining the party under Corporal Moore, I learned the
escape of the two prisoners, which took place on the night of the 11th
November, when trooper Lard was on sentry, against whom I have forwarded
a charge for neglect of duty. The fulfilment of my instructions being
thus partially defeated, I considered it my duty to proceed in search of
the runaways, and continued the pursuit, I regret to say, without
success, until I was obliged to return, our stock of provisions being
consumed. I arrived here with the party yesterday, and shall forward the
prisoner, 'Bureemal,' to Sydney, together with the articles I was enabled
to collect, supposed to have belonged to the late Mr. Cunningham.
"I have the honor to be, etc.,
"Lieut. Mounted Police."
"To CAPTAIN WILLIAMS,
"Commandant of Mounted Police."
(See page 106.--[Chapter IV.])
* * * * *
The singular cave paintings found by Lieutenant George Grey near the
Glenelg River, in Western Australia, during the expedition of 1838.
"The cave was twenty feet deep, and at the entrance seven feet high, and
about forty feet wide. As before stated, the floor gradually approached
the roof in the direction of the bottom of the cavern, and its width also
contracted, so that at the extremity it was not broader than the slab of
rock, which formed a natural seat. The principal painting in it was the
figure of a man ten feet six inches in length, clothed from the chin
downwards in a red garment, which reached to the wrists and ankles;
beyond this red dress the feet and hands protruded and were badly
"The face and head of the figure were enveloped in a succession of
circular bandages or rollers, or what appeared to be painted to represent
such. These were coloured red, yellow, and white, and the eyes were the
only features represented on the face. Upon the highest bandage or
roller, a series of lines were painted in red, but although so regularly
done as to indicate they have some meaning, it was impossible to tell
whether they were intended to depict written characters, or some ornament
for the head. This figure was so drawn on the roof that its feet were
just in front of the natural seat, whilst its head and face looked
directly down on any one who stood in the entrance of the cave, but it
was totally invisible from the outside.
* * * * *
"It would be impossible to convey in words an adequate idea of this
uncouth and savage figure; I shall, therefore, only give such a succint
account of this and the other paintings as will serve as a sort of
description. Its head was encircled by bright red rays, something like
the rays which one sees proceeding from the sun, when depleted on the
signboard of a public house; inside of this came a broad stripe of very
brilliant red, which was coped by lines of white, but both inside and
outside of this red space were narrow stripes of a still deeper red,
intended probably to mark its boundaries. The face was painted vividly
white and the eyes black; being, however, surrounded by red and yellow
lines, the body, hands and arms were outlined in red, the body being
curiously painted with red stripes and bars.
"Upon the rock which formed the left hand wall of this cave, and which
partly faced you on entering, was a very singular painting, vividly
coloured, representing four heads joined together. From the mild
expression of the countenances, I imagined them to represent females, and
they appeared to be drawn in such a manner, and in such a position, as to
look up at the principal figure which I have before described; each had a
very remarkable head dress coloured with a deep bright-blue, and one had
a necklace on. Both of the lower figures had a sort of dress, painted
with red in the same manner as that of the principal figure, and one of
them had a band round her waist. Each of the four faces was marked by a
totally distinct expression of countenance, and although none of them had
mouths, two, I thought, were otherwise rather good looking.
"The whole painting was executed on a white ground. The next most
remarkable drawing in the cave was an ellipse, three feet in length, and
one foot ten inches in breadth. The outside line of this painting was of
a deep-blue colour, the body of the ellipse being of a bright yellow,
dotted over with red lines and spots, whilst across it ran two transverse
lines of blue. The portion of the painting above described formed the
ground, or main part of the picture, and upon this ground was painted a
kangaroo in the act of feeding, two stone spear-heads, and two black
balls. One of the spear-heads was flying to the kangaroo, and one away
from it, so that the whole subject probably constituted a sort of charm,
by which the luck of an enquirer in killing game could be ascertained.
"There was another rather humorous sketch, which represented a native in
the act of carrying a kangaroo, the height of the man being three feet.
The number of drawings in the cave could not altogether have been less
than from fifty to sixty, but the majority of them consisted of men,
kangaroos, etc., the figures being carelessly and badly executed, and
being evidently a very different origin to those which I have first
"Another very striking piece of art was exhibited in the little gloomy
cavities, situated at the back of the main cavern. In these instances
some rock at the sides of the cavity had been selected, and the stamp of
a hand and arm by some means transferred to it. This outline of the hand
and arm was then painted black, and the rock about it white, so that on
entering that part of the cave it appeared as if a human hand and arm
were projecting through a crevice, admitting light."
(See page 118--Chapter V.)
* * * * *
SMITH, A LAD OF EIGHTEEN, FOUND DEAD, MAY 8TH, 1839.
The following is Warrup's account of the finding of Smith's body, the
young volunteer of Grey's party who died. Warrup was a Western Australian
native who accompanied the search party under Mr. Roe:--
"7th Day. The next day away, away, away, away, returning, on our tracks
returning, on our tracks returning. At Barramba we sit down; we eat bread
and meat; they eat fresh-water mussels; the natives eat not fresh-water
"Away, away, away, away; we reach the water of Djunjup; we shoot game.
Away, away, away, through a forest away, through a forest away; we see no
water. Through a forest away, along our tracks away. We sleep at
Ka-jil-up; rain falls; the water here is good, the horses feed, well do
the horses feed.
"Away, away; along our tracks away; hills ascending; then pleasantly
away, away, through a forest away, through a forest away; we see a
water-the water of Goonmarrup. Along the river away, along the river
away, a short distance we go, then away, away, away, through a forest
"Then along another river away, across the river away. At Meergamuny we
sleep, raising huts.
"Still we go onwards along the sea away, through the bush away, then
along the sea away, along the sea away. We see three white men, three of
them we see; they cry out, 'Where is water?' water we give them-brandy
and water we give them. We sleep near the sea.
"Away, away we go (I, Mr. Roe, and Kinchela), along the shore away, along
the shore away, along the shore away. We see a paper--the paper of Mortimer
and Spofforth. I see Mr. Smith's footsteps ascending a sand-hill; onwards
I go, regarding his footsteps. I see Mr. Smith dead. We commence digging
the earth. Two SLEEPS had he been dead; greatly did I weep, and much I
grieved. In his blanket folding him, we scraped away the earth.
"We scrape earth into the grave, we scrape the earth into the grave, a
little wood we place in it. Much earth we heap upon it-much earth we
throw up. No dogs can dig there, so much earth we throw up. The sun had
inclined to the westward as we laid him in the ground."
(See page 121.--[Chapter V.])
* * * * *
Adelaide, 4th January, 1844.
"Having observed that during the past year the subject of an overland
journey from Moreton Bay to Port Essington has again been mooted by the
Legislative Council of New South Wales, I do myself the honour of
applying to you for information as to whether the Executive Government
have any such expedition in contemplation during the present year.
"In the event of such being the case, I beg leave respectfully to offer
my services to conduct the explorations, and should his Excellency the
Governor do me the honour to confide in me so honourable and important an
employment, his Excellency may confidently rely that no effort or
exertions should be wanting on my part to ensure all practicable success.
In a former communication on the subject, I had the honour of giving a
rough estimate of the probable expense of the undertaking, if carried out
in accordance to a plan of operations and a scale of party then proposed.
The altered circumstances of the colonies would now probably enable an
equipment to be prepared at much lower prices than were then estimated
for, and I may remark that, although in my former letter to his
Excellency, Sir G. Gipps, I specified, in accordance with his
Excellency's request, the nature of the party I thought it advisable to
have, and the general line of route I deemed most likely to be
practicable, I shall be most happy to endeavour to carry out any views
his Excellency may entertain upon the subject, with any party or any
direction his Excellency may think desirable. The only point to which I
would call the attention of his Excellency the Governor, in the event of
an expedition being now in contemplation, is the great necessity there
would be for the party to take the field early in the season, so as to
have the whole winter before them for active operations; and, even then,
I feel very doubtful whether it would be possible for a party to
accomplish the whole distance to Port Essington in less than two winters,
being, as I am, strongly of opinion that it will be found quite
impracticable to travel in a tropical climate during the summer months.
"I have the honor to be,
"E. J. EYRE."
* * * * *
"Adelaide, 23rd December, 1841.
"Sir,--Having understood from Captain Sturt that your Excellency is
desirous of sending an expedition into the interior from the northeast
coast towards Port Essington, I do myself the honour of addressing your
Excellency upon the subject, as I feel a very great interest in the
investigation of the interior of this singular continent, and shall be
most ready to give my services to conduct an expedition should your
Excellency decide upon fitting one out, and confide to me that
responsible and honourable duty. In September last I met with a printed
copy of a letter addressed by your Excellency to Lord John Russell, in
which some allusion was made to your wish to send an expedition to
explore the interior, and I at once wrote to the Colonial Secretary of
Sydney to volunteer my services, but, from various causes, I am induced
to believe that my communication must have miscarried, and I now
therefore beg leave to renew that offer.
"As I am not in possession of your Excellency's views as to the nature of
the expedition it might be in contemplation to send out, or the direction
it might be considered desirable to take, I cannot do more at present
than express my willingness to engage in the undertaking generally, and
should your Excellency do me the honour of entertaining the offer I have
made, I shall be most happy, when put in possession of your Excellency's
wishes on the subject, to enter more fully into the necessary detail.
"Being now engaged in the public service at some distance inland, I
should be most anxious to have as early notice as possible of your
Excellency's reply to my proposal, so that, by giving timely notice to
the colonial Government here, no obstruction of the public service might
take place. It would also be necessary for me to be in Sydney as early as
may be practicable to prepare the equipment of the expedition in time to
take the field at the close of the summer.
"E. J. EYRE."
NOTE BY SIR GEORGE Gipps.
"Acknowledge receipt, and say I shall be happy to avail myself of
the offer of Mr. Eyre's services in the proposed expedition, provided no
prior claim be preferred by Captain Sturt, with whom I have had some
communication on the subject. The whole expense of the expedition
would be defrayed by the Government; but before I can enter into any
engagement with Mr. Eyre it will be necessary that I should be
furnished with some account of the equipment, etc., which would be
considered necessary, in order that some estimate of the expense of the
expedition may be formed.
(See page 155.--[Chapter VI.])
* * * * *
EXTRACT OF LETTER FROM MAJOR MITCHELL.
"5th September, 1845.
"In attention to your letter of yesterday, I have now the honour to
submit the outlines of my plan for the exploration of the northern
"I would therefore first beg leave to observe that my proposed line of
route is founded on views which I have always entertained respecting the
interior, but not more so than on the expediency of ascertaining the
character of that portion of the colony to the northwest of the River
Darling. To avoid unnecessary repetition, I shall annex a quotation here
from my despatch, dated Peel's River, 29th February, 1832, in which my
reasons for believing that there is a dividing range beyond the Darling,
and that a great river may be looked for beyond it, are stated at length.
I have had no occasion to alter my plans or views respecting the interior
since that time; on the contrary, subsequent experience has rather tended
to support these views. The course of the Condamine, now better known,
affords now a better indication that the high ground is in the situation
I supposed. And I annex also a communication from Walter Bagot respecting
that portion of the country beyond the Darling which is nearly opposite
to Fort Bourke, affording additional evidence of the existence of a lofty
range to the north-west, and a great river beyond it. The overflowing of
the 'Waramble' agreed so well with what I observed at the upper part of
the Darling in 1831, and near Fort Bourke in 1836, and the situation of
the range and river beyond accord so well with all that can reasonably be
assumed, as to leave no doubt in my mind as to the accuracy of Mr.
Bagot's statement, even where it is founded on that of the natives."
MINUTE BY SIR G. Gipps.
"Acknowledge receipt, and inform Sir Thos. Mitchell, that desiring to
leave him as far as possible free to act upon his own judgment in the
arduous undertaking in which he is about to embark, I do not consider it
necessary to do more than communicate to him my approval of the course
which he has proposed. Mr. Townsend will be authorised to accompany him,
and act as his next in command, and Mr. Stephenson may, should Sir Thomas
himself approve of it, be engaged at a salary of 7s. 6d. per diem from
the day of his leaving Sydney; he must, however, find his own horse.
"Mr. Townsend will, during his absence, as well as Sir Thomas Mitchell
himself, continue to receive his usual salary from the land fund, but
every other expense will be charged against the sum voted for the purpose
by the Legislative Council, which is now increased to £2,000."
(See page 156.--[Chapter VI.])
* * * * *
EXTRACT OF A LETTER OF MR. WALTER BAGOT.
"20th January, 1844.
"The country beyond the Darling for the first few miles from the river
exhibits the same features as on its southern bank, the soil blackish,
soft, and yielding; the trees principally myall, and a species of myall,
called by the squatters rosewood, interspersed with the small and gnarled
forest oak. About ten miles from the river, and nearly parallel to it, is
the Waramble, a sort of swamp, boggy, and difficult to cross after wet
weather, directly after which water remains in the holes along its
course. From thirty to forty miles beyond this is the Nareen Creek. Here,
except in very dry seasons, water stands. This I know from the Nareen
blacks coming into the Barwin only at those times when they are in much
danger from the Barwin blacks, who are extremely hostile to them. I
cannot tell where the Nareen joins the Barwin; as far as I am acquainted
with it, it is nearly parallel to it, slightly converging to the river
westward. Between the Waramble and Nareen there is no perceptible rising
ground; from the harder nature of the soil, the plain becoming more open,
and the timber straighter and larger. I have no doubt that there is a
gradual ascent. The grass is extremely luxuriant, like all the unstocked
portions of rich ground in this country, the long kangaroo grass rising
to the saddle skirts. The brigalow, which I have never seen in any but
high ground, is here too.
"I now come to the reports of the blacks, which are: That about three
days' journey of theirs (ninety miles) beyond the Barwin is a lofty range
of mountains (I have beard of these mountains also from a gentleman who
got a distant view of them from a plain near the Nareen); that a river,
called the Culgoa, runs at the foot of these mountains, which river, from
the similarity of the name, I am inclined to think, is one which empties
itself into the Barwin, about one hundred miles lower down than the
junction of the Castlereagh. I have remarked that the word Culgoa in the
Wilem dialect signifies 'waterfall,' which adds to the likelihood of its
being a mountain stream; that after crossing the mountains, which
occupies one day (thirty miles), and travelling for two days (sixty
miles), still north-west, they reach a large river, broader and deeper
than the Barwin, the waters of which river never fail. Their name for
this river I cannot now recollect. The old black, who gave the clearest
account of this river, and who was the only one I have seen who admitted
having been actually at this river, distinctly described its course to be
different from that of the Barwin, and, perhaps, north or south-west.
Might not this river be a tributary to one of the large rivers which flow
into the Gulph of Carpentaria? and if so, how well adapted for a line of
road traversing its valley to the Gulph? I have often wished, while
residing on the Barwin, to make up a party to explore the size and course
of this river, but the dangerous character of the black tribes in its
direction, with the late Iong-continued drought, were enough to prevent
(See page 156.--[Chapter VI.])
* * * * *
THE LAST LETTER RECEIVED FROM DR. LEICHHARDT.
"M'Pherson's Station, Cogoon,
"April 3, 1848.
"I Take the last opportunity of giving you an account of my progress. In
eleven days we travelled from Mr. Burell's station, on the Condamine, to
Mr. M'Pherson's, on the Fitzroy Downs. Though the country was
occasionally very difficult, yet everything went on very well. My mules
are in excellent order--my companions in excellent spirits. Three of my
cattle are footsore, but I shall kill one of them to-night, to lay in our
necessary stock of dried beef. The Fitzroy Downs, over which we travelled
for about twenty-two miles from east to west, is indeed a splendid
region, and Sir Thomas has not exaggerated their beauty in his account.
The soil is pebbly and sound, richly grassed, and, to judge from the
Myalls, of the most fattening quality. I came right on Mount Abundance,
and passed over a gap in it with my whole train. My latitude agreed well
with Mitchell's. I fear that the absence of water on Fitzroy Downs will
render this fine country to a great extent unavailable. I observe the
thermometer daily at 6 a.m. and 8 p.m., which are the only convenient
hours. I have tried the wet thermometer, but am afraid my observations
will be very deficient. I shall, however, improve on them as I proceed.
"The only serious accident that has happened was the loss of a spade, but
we are fortunate enough to make it up on this station. Though the days
are still very hot, the beautiful clear nights are cool, and benumb the
mosquitoes, which have ceased to trouble us. Myriads of flies are the
only annoyance we have.
"Seeing how much I have been favoured in my present progress, I am full
of hopes that our Almighty Protector will allow me to bring my darling
scheme to a successful termination.
"Your most sincere friend,
(See page 166.--Chapter VII.)
* * * * *
THE NARDOO PLANT.
The Nardoo appears generally to be considered the seed of the lentil, or
some other plant of the bean tribe, whereas it belongs to one of those
cryptogamic or flowerless plants, which, like ferns and mosses, do not
produce perfect seeds, but are increased by cellular bodies named spores.
It belongs to the genus MARSILLEA, order MARSILLEACEAE, and that class of
sexual or flowerless plants called Acrogens, which have distinguishable
stems and leaves, in contra-distinction to THALLOGENS, in which stems and
leaves are indistinguishable, as sea-weeds, fungi, and lichens. The part
used for food is the INVOLUCEN SPORANGIUM, or spore case, with its
contained spores, which is of an oval shape, flattened, and about
one-eighth of an inch in its longest diameter; hard and horny in texture,
requiring considerable force to crush or pound it when dry, but becoming
soft and mucila ginous when exposed to moisture. The natives pound it
between two stones, and make it into cakes like flour. The spores
vegetate in water, and root in soil at the bottom, where the plant grows
to maturity. After the water dries up, the plants die, and leave the
spore cases on, in many instances quite covering the surface of the dried
mud. It is then that they are gathered for food. On the return of
moisture, the spore cases softened, become mucilaginous, and discharge
their contents to form a fresh crop of plants. The foliage is green, and
resembles clover somewhat, being composed of three fleshy leaflets on the
top of a stalk a few inches in length.
(See page 2166.--[Chapter IX.])
* * * * *
THE FINDING OF JOHN KING.
The details connected with the rescue of John King, the sole survivor of
the Burke and Wills Expedition, have, strangely enough, never yet found
their way into print, owing to a series of minor accidents, into the
particulars of which it is not necessary to enter here.
The relief party, under the leadership of Mr. A. W. Howitt, fully
equipped and provisioned to follow the supposed track of the expedition
to the Gulf of Carpentaria, if necessary, knew nothing up to the time of
the actual finding of King of the miserable fate which had overtaken the
lost explorers; nor had they the faintest reason for supposing that they
were actually on the verge of the discovery which was to so completely
elucidate the mystery of their disappearance.
Early in September, 1861, Howitt's party reached Cooper's Creek,
accompanied by W. Brahe, a member of Burke's expedition, who had been
left in charge of the depôt at Fort Wills by Burke. He had remained there
a month over the time mentioned in his instructions; his men were
attacked by scurvy; the blacks in the neighbourhood were getting
troublesome, and his provisions getting low. He therefore planted all the
stores he could spare under a tree, marked "dig," and with them an
explanatory letter to his leader, in the event of the return of the
absent men, and retired to the depôt at Bulloo. He then started for
Melbourne to report himself, but was intercepted by Howitt and taken back
to Cooper's Creek as a guide.
King was found by Mr. Edwin J. Welch, the surveyor, and second in command
of Howitt's party, a gentleman who afterwards identified himself with
journalism, and who has been for many years favourably known in
connection with the country press as a proprietor of newspapers, both in
Northern and Western Queensland and Victoria. The following interesting
account of his first meeting with King is taken from Mr. Welch's diary:--
"13th September, 1861. Shortly after leaving camp this morning, Howitt
and I, accompanied by Brahe, rode on down the creek, ahead of the party,
to the depôt at Fort Wills, hoping against hope that we should find
Brahe's plant empty and some record of the missing men. We were doomed to
disappointment. After a careful examination of the spot, Brahe declared
that everything was as he had left it six weeks before. The CACHÉ had not
been disturbed, and nothing but a few blacks' tracks in the loose soil
existed to show that any human life had broken the solitude. We,
therefore, continued our way, wondering what could have become of them,
and discussing with keen interest the suggestions offered by each to
guide us in our future movements. . . Camped the horses and camels about
3 p.m., on the bank of a large waterhole in the creek, covered with
wild-fowl and partially surrounded by a dense growth of dead mallows of
great size and height.
"14th September. Proceeded slowly westward, along the north bank of the
creek, carefully searching for tracks. . . . Country opening out and
improving in character. Magnificent reaches of water in the creek; some
of the water quite salt, other holes containing water of a milky tint,
sweet and pleasant to the taste, while in others again, it was brackish,
and the edges were lined with petrified boughs, leaves, and some few
fish. . . . Several times during the day we noticed blacks stealthily
watching our movements from a distance, and travelling through the long
grass in the direction we ourselves were going. . . . In the afternoon,
Howitt, who had been riding well out from the creek, returned with the
news that he had struck fresh camel tracks trending northwards,
apparently those of a lost camel. . . . Another comfortable camp on the
creek, with plenty of feed.
"15th September (Sunday). Left camp at 8 a.m. Howitt, with one of the
black boys, started to run the camel track seen yesterday. I gave Sampson
(the leading man of the file) a compass bearing to follow, with
instructions to keep as closely to it as the windings of the creek would
permit, and rode on ahead, actuated by curiosity as to the movements of
our black friends of yesterday. After travelling about three miles, my
attention was attracted by a number of niggers on the opposite bank of
the creek, who shouted loudly as soon as they saw me, and vigorously
waved and pointed down the creek. A feeling of something about to happen
excited me somewhat, but I little expected what the sequel was to be.
Moving cautiously on through the undergrowth which covered the banks of
the creek, the blacks kept pace with me on the opposite side, their cries
increasing in volume and intensity; when suddenly rounding a bend, I was
startled at seeing a large body of them gathered on a sandy neck in the
bed of the creek, between two large waterholes. Immediately they saw me,
they too commenced to howl, throw their arms about, and wave their
weapons in the air. I at once pulled up, and considered the propriety of
waiting the arrival of the party, for I felt far from satisfied with
regard to their intentions. But here, for the first time, my favourite
horse--a black cob, known in the camp as 'Piggy,' a Murray Downs bred
stock horse, of good local repute, both for foot and temper--appeared to
think that his work was cut out for him, and the time arrived in which to
do it. Pawing and snorting at the noise, he suddenly slewed round, and
headed down the steep bank, through the undergrowth, straight for the
crowd, as he had been wont to do after many a mob of weaners on his
native plains. The blacks drew hurriedly back to the top of the opposite
bank, shouting and gesticulating violently, and leaving one solitary
figure, apparently covered with some scarecrow rags, and part of a hat,
prominently alone in the sand. Before I could pull up, I had passed it,
and as I passed it tottered, threw up its hands in the attitude of
prayer, and fell on the ground. The heavy sand helped me to conquer Piggy
on the level, and when I turned back, the figure had partially risen.
Hastily dismounting, I was soon beside it, excitedly asking, 'Who, in the
name of wonder, are you?' He answered, 'I am King, sir.' For a moment I
did not grasp the thought that the object of our search was attained, for
King being only one of the undistinguished members of the party, his name
was unfamiliar to me. 'King?' I repeated. 'Yes,' he said; 'the last man
of the exploring expedition.' 'What, Burke's?' 'Yes.' 'Where is he--and
Wills?' 'Dead--both dead, long ago;' and again he fell to the ground.
Then I knew who stood before me. Jumping into the saddle, I rode up the
bank, fired two or three revolver shots to attract the attention of the
party, and, on their coming up, sent the other black boy to cut Howitt's
track and bring him back to camp. We then put up a tent to shelter the
rescued man, and by degrees, as he recovered from the excitement of the
meeting, we got from him the, sad story of the fate of his leader. We got
it at intervals only, between the long rests which his exhausted
condition compelled him to take, and the main facts are, as summarised,
"'Burke, Wills, Gray, and I, left the depôt in charge of Brahe, at Fort
Wills, on the 16th December, 1860, with six camels, one horse, and
provisions for three months. The stock was in splendid condition, and we
were in high spirits. Keeping a steady course northwards, we reached salt
water and mangrove swamps on--but I can't tell you the date; you will
find it in Wills' field-books. He said it was the Gulf of Carpentaria,
and we were satisfied; we could not get through the mangroves, and never
saw the open water, but we had accomplished the object of the expedition.
One of the camels had knocked up some distance back, and we had to plant
his load, so that we were afraid to stay too long, for fear of getting
short of rations. We did not follow our own tracks all the way back, but
hurried as much as possible to reach the depôt in time. On the way back
we killed the horse and one camel for meat, and one of the camels got
away from us, so that we had only two left to finish the journey. We all
walked, and threw away everything except the rations, a gun, and the
clothes we had on. At one of the camps we buried all Mr. Wills'
instruments, but I don't remember which one it was. Gray was getting
knocked up worse and worse every day, and then he got to taking more than
his share of the flour and sugar when he got a chance. Mr. Burke
threatened him and boxed his ears for this, and when he turned in one
night, about two days before we expected to reach the depôt, he said he
felt he would not live till morning, and, sure enough, he didn't. When we
turned out at daylight, Gray was dead; so we stopped there that day, and
scooped a hole in the sand about three feet deep with our hands, and
buried him in it. The next morning we pushed on for the depôt, and when
we got there, two days after, it was deserted. The fire was still alight,
and the tracks of Brahe's party were all fresh. There was a tree marked
'DIG,' and when we were able to get at the plant we found Brahe's note,
which said they had left that morning; but we did not mind it very much,
as there was plenty to eat. Of course, we were disappointed, but Mr.
Burke said we could get back by Strzelecki's Creek to Mount Hopeless, and
so to Adelaide. We stopped at the depôt five days, which was a good spell
for ourselves and the two camels, and we felt much better. When we were
ready to start, we buried all the field-books and some letters, to let
anybody who came by know where we were going, and then covered up the
plant carefully, so that the blacks should not find it out. We went
westerly down the creek, and saw lots of blackfellows, but Mr. Burke did
not care to try and make friends with them; he said there were too many
of them, and it was no good wasting time. After we got some distance down
the creek, it was decided to cross and strike to the southward, but we
must have picked a bad place, for one of the camels got stuck in a
quicksand at the end of a waterhole, and we could not get him out,
although we worked hard for nearly twenty-four hours; so, as there was
nothing else left for it, we shot him, cut off as much meat as we could
carry, and, after drying it, started on again; but our load was so much
heavier now that we had to travel very slowly, and the other camel was
beginning to knock up. After two days more, he got so weak that he
couldn't get up off the ground, so we had to shoot him too, pack some
more of the meat, and then go on. We got on to a branch creek, which ran
in the direction we wanted to go, but after a few more miles it ran out,
and lost itself in channels in an earthy plain: so we had to go back to
the last water. We were all three beginning to feel bad now, so it was
decided to take a good spell before making another attempt. While we were
doing this the rations were getting very short, and we began to cat
nardoo the same as the blacks. Sometimes the blacks would come by and
give us a few fish, which we could not catch ourselves, and sometimes we
managed to shoot a crow or a hawk, but we had no strength to go and look
for anything. Mr. Wills, however, determined to go back to the depôt, and
see if anybody had been there, and he was away some days by himself. When
he came back, he told us that he had seen nobody, but that he had opened
the plant in the night, to bury another letter to the committee, and
carefully covered it up again. A good thing for us, it happened that the
weather was very fine, although cold at night, and we felt the cold
badly, having very few clothes. Then we shifted camp a little higher up
the creek, where there were two or three blacks' gunyahs, and Mr. Wills
got so weak that he could not move out of his at all. Mr. Burke and I
were getting very weak, too, but I was not so bad as they were, and
managed to collect and pound enough nardoo to keep us all from starving
outright. In a few days things were so bad that Wills, who was getting
worse all the time and suffering great pain, persuaded Mr. Burke and I to
go up the creek, while we had strength, and look for the blacks, as our
only chance of life. We didn't like the idea of separating, but it seemed
to be our only chance, so we made him some nardoo bread, and left it,
with a billy of water, beside him, and went away. Together, Mr. Burke and
I wandered slowly up the creek, but could not see a sign of any blacks,
and after we had gone fourteen or fifteen miles, Mr. Burke said he could
not go any farther, and lay down under a tree. I found some nardoo close
by, and had the good luck to shoot a crow. The night was very cold, and
we felt it dreadfully, and before daylight Mr. Burke said he was dying,
and told me not to try and bury him or cover up his body in any way, but
just put his pistol in his right hand. I did this, and then he wrote
something in his pocket-book, and died about two hours after sunrise.
When I was able to move, I went on again, to try and find help for Wills,
but the blacks had all disappeared. I found some nardoo in one of their
camps, though, and with this and another crow I shot, I started back to
Wills. It took me four days to get back, and when I got there I found he
was dead, too. I covered up his body with boughs and sand as well as I
could, and then rested for two days, and started off again to look for
blacks. I don't know how many days it was before I found them, but I
think a good many. At first they were very kind to me, and gave me plenty
to eat; after that they tried to drive me away, but I stuck to them, and
the women gave me some nardoo every day, and sometimes one of the men
would give me some fish. I don't know how long I have been with them, but
I think it must be about three months. I knew you were coming before I
saw you, for some strange blacks came down the creek and brought the news
to the others, and somehow I got to understand that they had seen some
white men on horses, who I knew would look for me. I could not learn to
talk to them, but I began slowly to understand what they were saying. I
think I could have lived for a long time with them, for I was all the
while getting a little bit stronger.'"
From the foregoing narrative it will be at once seen that the unfortunate
collapse of Gray, when within only two days' journey of the depôt, was
the direct cause of the death of Burke and Wills. King was a young man,
of good physique, and of a nature in which the disposition to mental
worry or anxiety had no part. The leaders had to endure this in addition
to their physical sufferings, and the bitterness of dying within the
reach of help, after having successfully accomplished the most dashing
feat ever recorded in the annals of Australian exploration. They had
performed their allotted task, and they perished miserably in the hour of
The criticisms of Australians generally, and of bushmen in particular,
were for a long time afterwards directed to the apparently unaccountable
circumstance that neither Howitt, Welch, nor Brahe detected at their
first visit to the depôt that the CACHÉ had been opened. King's narrative
showed that it had actually been twice opened, but it must be borne in
mind that on each occasion the best precautions were adopted to conceal
the fact, and thereby avoid attracting the attention of the blacks. The
unfortunate men, who were slowly starving to death on the banks of the
creek, had left no visible sign of their visit to the spot. Brahe, who
made the plant, positively asserted that it had not been interfered with,
and Howitt, therefore, wisely declined to burden himself with an
additional weight of stores for which he had no present use. Even had it
been opened on that 13th of September, the knowledge which it would have
revealed was too late to be of service, and could not have expedited the
rescue of King by more than a few hours, if at all.
(See page 219.--[Chapter IX.])
* * * * *
The properties of the Australian plants are only imperfectly known, very
few species having been chemically examined; numbers are suspected, but
have not been positively proved. The poison plant that caused such havoc
amongst the horses of both Jardine and Austin mostly affects the spinifex
country. It is a ground plant, and liable to be cropped by a horse
amongst the grass, when the animal would probably refuse to touch a bush.
Amongst the most poisonous plants known in Australia may be mentioned the
"thorny apple," DATURA STRAMONIUM, and DATURA TATULA; also the EXCAECARIA
AGALLOCHA, and LOLIUM TERMULENTUM.
The indigo plant, SWAINSONA GALEGIFOLIA, is a glabrous perennial, or
undershrub, with erect flexuose branches, sometimes under one foot,
sometimes ascending, or even climbing, to the height of several feet. The
flowers are rather large, and deep-red in the original variety; pod much
inflated, membranous one to two inches long, on a stipe varying from two
to six lines. The species varies, with light, purplish-pink flowers, S.
CORONILLAEFOLIA; and white flowers, S. ALBIFLORA. The difference in the
length of the stipes of the pod does not, as had been supposed, coincide
with the difference in the colour of the flower. This plant acts in a
peculiar way upon sheep, driving them insane until death ensues. The
sheep, however, select it as an especial tit-bit, it, apparently,
possessing an irresistible fascination for them.
The "Darling pea" SWAINSONA PROCUMBENS. Glabrous; or the young shoots and
foliage slightly silky; or sometimes pubescent, or hirsute, with
procumbent ascending, or erect stems of one to three feet. Leaflets
varying from oblong or almost linear, and one-quarter inch to half-inch
long, to lanceolate, or linear-acute, and above one inch long. Flowers:
large, fragrant, violet, or blue; pod sessile, above one inch long.
The "Pitchuri plant," ANTHOCERCIS HOPWOODII. A glabrous tree, or shrub.
Leaves: narrow-linear, acutely acuminate, with the point often recurved,
entire, rather thick, narrowed into a short petiole, two to four inches
long; fruit unknown.
"Australian Tobacco," NICOTIAN SUAVEOLENS. An erect annual, or biennial,
of one to two feet. Flowers: white, or greenish on side; sweet-scented,
especially at night.
Amongst those that are but slightly poisonous are: TYPHONIUM BROWNII, and
COLOCASIA MACRORRHIZA; the CRINUM FLACCIDUM and C. PENDUNCULATUM, both
bulbous herbs; CARCUMBUM POPULIFOLIUM and C. STILLINGIAEFOLIUM, tall
shrubs; DUBOISEA MYOPOROIDES and D. LEICHHARDTII, shrubs; ARISTOLOCHIA
praevenos, a tall, climbing shrub; A. PUBERA, a small, prostrate, or
trailing herb; CHAMAE FISTULA LAEVIGATA and C. SOPHERA, erect, glabrous
The "Nightshade," SOLANUM NIGRUM. An erect annual, or biennial, with very
spreading branches, one to nearly two feet high. Leaves: petiolate,
ovate, with coarse, irregular, angular teeth, or nearly entire, one to
two inches long. Flowers; small and white, in little cymes, usually
contracted into umbels on a common peduncle, from very short, to nearly
one inch long. Berry: small, globular, usually nearly black, but
sometimes green-yellow, or dingy-red.
The "Bean tree," CASTANOSPERMUM AUSTRALE. A tall, glabrous tree; pods
eight or nine inches long, about two inches broad; the valves hard and
thick, the spongy substance inside dividing it into three to five cells
each, containing a large, chestnut-like seed.
(See page 241.--[Chapter XI.])
INDEX OF NAMES, DATES, AND INCIDENTS
Under Captain Tobias Furneaux, in search of the South Continent, touched
on the coast of Tasmania. 1772.
Alouarn, M. de St.--
Anchored near Cape Leeuwin, but no record of his visit has been
Alt, Matthew B--
With the ships HORMUZEER and CHESTERFIELD, through Torres Straits. 1793.
"Amsterdam," (The) "Klyn," and "Wezel"--
From Banda. commanded by Gerrit Tomaz Poole; revisited Arnheim's Land.
Captain Poole was killed on the New Guinea coast. 1636.
"Arnheim" (The) and "Pera"--
On the coast of New Guinea. Captain Jan Carstens, with eight of his crew
murdered; but the vessels proceeded to, and touched on the north coast of
New Holland, west of the Gulf of Carpentaria, still known as "Arnheim's
"Assistant" (The) and "Providence"--
Under command of Captains Bligh and Portlock, through Torres Straits.
"Astrolabe" (The) and "Boussole"--
French discovery ships, under La Perouse. Anchored in Botany Bay. 1778.
"Atrevide" (The) and "Descobierte"--
Spanish Discovery ships, under command of Don Alexandra Malaspina, at
Under command of Captain Dumont D'Urville, touched at Bass's Strait.
Assistant Surveyor-General, Western Australia; in search of pastoral
country, and to examine the interior for auriferous deposits. Their
horses got on a patch of poison plant, and, in consequence, nearly the
whole of them were laid up, unfit for work; some escaped, but the greater
number died. On the return of the party to Shark's Bay, where a vessel
awaited them, they found a cave in the face of a cliff, in which were
drawings, similar to those reported by Grey near the Prince Regent's
River. One of the party (Charles Farmer) accidentally shot himself, and
died of lockjaw; he was buried at the cave spring. The exploration led to
no profitable result. 1854.
Conducted a party to explore the country between Lake Torrens and Lake
With Matthew B. Alt, in the ships HORMUZEER and CHESTERFIELD, through
Torres Straits. 1793.
Banks, Joseph (afterwards Sir)--
Accompanied Captain James Cook on his voyage of discovery to Australia,
as botanist. 1770.
Crosses from Perth to King George's Sound. 1831.
Murdered at Lake Alexandrina, the mouth of the Murray. 1832.
Albert Brodribb and Edward Hobson were the first to walk from Melbourne
to Gippsland. The present road follows their tracks. 1841.
Attempted exploration of the Blue Mountains. 1802.
Bass, Dr. George--
With Matthew Flinders, in the TOM THUMB, along the coast. 1795. And again
to Port Hacking. 1796.
Attempted exploration of the Blue Mountains. 1796-97.
In a whale-boat, with a crew of eight, round Wilson's Promontory, and
explore Western Port. Examined six hundred miles of coastline. 1797.
Bass, Dr. George, and Matthew Flinders--
In the NORFOLK; discover Bass's Straits. 1798.
Commanded by Francis Pelsart, and wrecked on Houtman's Abrolhos. 1629.
Founded Port Phillip. 1836.
In which Captain King completed his fourth and last voyage round the
Australian coast. 1820.
Baudin, Captain Nicholas--
In command of the French ships GÉOGRAPHE and NATURALISTE. 1801-2.
Beresford, W., and J. W. Lewis--
Sent by the South Australian Government to survey the country about Lake
In the FLY, continued the survey of Captains Wickham and Stokes. Made a
minute examination of the Great Barrier Reef. 1842-45.
With Lieutenant William Lawson and William Charles Wentworth; succeed in
their attempt to cross the Blue Mountains. 1813.
Bligh, Captain William--
Passed Cape York, on his way to Coepang, in the BOUNTY'S launch.
(Afterwards Governor of New South Wales.) 1791.
Bligh, Captain William, and Captain Nathan Portlook--
In the ships PROVIDENCE and ASSISTANT. Explore Torres Straits. 1792.
Discovered the Louisade Archipelago. 1768.
"Boussole" (The) and "Astrolabe"--
French discovery ships; La Perouse in command; at Botany Bay. 1778.
Visited Jervis Bay. 1796.
Bremer, Sir Gordon--
In the TAMAR to Port Essington. 1824.
Re-settles Port Essington. 1838.
Briggs, S. G.--
Second in command, and surveyor of Queenslander Trans-Continental
Expedition; leader, Ernest Favenc, from Blackall to Powell's Creek,
overland telegraph line. 1878-79.
Made an excursion from the overland line to the Queensland border;
crossed the Ranken, so called after one of the pioneers of that district,
J. C. L. Ranken. Buchanan's Creek was a most important discovery of this
trip, affording a highway and stock route to the great pastoral district
lying between the Queensland border and the overland telegraph line.
Burke, Robert O'Hara (Leader), and
William John Wills (Surveyor and Astronomer)--
Left Melbourne on August 20th, 1860, accompanied by Charles Gray and John
King, etc.; successfully cross the continent, reaching the Gulf of
Carpentaria, and then return towards the depôt formed by others of the
party on Cooper's Creek. Gray died; Burke, Wills, and King stop to bury
him by scraping a hole in the sand, and reached the depôt only to find
that Brahe and the other three men had left that morning. Stopping to
bury Gray cost Burke and his companions their lives. They could scarcely
walk, and their camels were in the same state. Gray died of exhaustion
and fatigue. Wills, who was so weak, was left lying under some boughs,
with a supply of water and nardoo, to meet his death alone. Two days
after, Burke gave in, and King found himself alone. The remains of the
explorers were eventually disinterred, and brought to Melbourne, where
they were given a public funeral. 1860-61.
West of Lake Torrens. 1857. And again with party west of Lake Eyre,
looking for pastoral country. 1857.
Carpenter, Captain Pieter--
Discovered the Gulf of Carpentaria. 1628.
Carr-Boyd, W. J. H.--
With O'Donnell, from the Katherine Station, overland telegraph line, to
Western Australia. Found good country, but no new geographical discovery.