Part 2 out of 8
escape. (See Appendix 1.1.)
BURNING HILL OF WINGEN.
At three P.M. we reached a spot favourable for encamping, the Kingdon
brook forming a broad pool, deep enough to bathe in, and the grass in the
neighbourhood being very good. The burning hill of Wingen was distant
about four miles. This phenomenon appears to be of the same character as
that at Holworth, in the neighbourhood of Weymouth, described by
Professor Buckland and Mr. De la Beche in the following terms: "It is
probable that in each case rainwater acting on iron pyrites has set fire
to the bituminous shale; thus ignited it has gone on burning at Holworth
unto the present hour, and may still continue smouldering for a long
series of years, the bitumen being here so abundant in some strata of the
shale, that it is burnt as fuel in the adjoining cottages; the same
bituminous shale is used as fuel in the village of Kimmeridge, and is
there called Kimmeridge coal."* Wingen, the aboriginal name, is derived
from fire. The combustion extends over a space of no great extent (see
Plate 5) near the summit of a group of hills, forming part of a low chain
which divides the valley of Kingdon Ponds from that of Page's River. Thin
blue smoke ascends from rents and cracks, the breadth of the widest
measuring about a yard. Red heat appears at the depth of about four
fathoms. No marks of any extensive change appear on the surface, near
these burning fissures, although the growth of large trees in old cracks
on the opposite slope, where ignition has ceased, shows that this fire
has continued for a very considerable time, or that the same thing had
occurred at a much earlier period. In the form of the adjacent hills I
observed nothing peculiar, unless it be a contraction not very common of
the lower parts of ravines. The geological structure is, as might be
expected, more remarkable. Other summits of the range are porphyritic,**
but the hills of Wingen present a variety of rocks, within a small space.
In the adjacent gullies to the south of the hill, we find clay of a grey
mottled appearance, and shale containing apparently a small quantity of
decomposed vegetable matter; and near the fissure then on fire, occurred
a coarse sandstone with an argillaceous basis. To the north-west, in a
hollow containing water which drains from beneath the part ignited, is a
coarse sandstone, in some places highly charged with decomposed felspar,
and containing impressions of spirifers. The hill nearest to the part on
fire, on the south-west (b) consists of basalt with grains apparently of
olivine; and on a still higher hill, on the east (a) I found ironstone. A
small hill (c) connecting these two, and nearest to the part actually
burning, appears to consist of trap-rock, and is thickly strewed with
agates. The hills on the opposite or south side of the valley are
composed of compact felspar, with acicular crystals of glassy or common
felspar and grains of hornblende, crevices of the stone being coated with
films of serpentine or green earth.
(*Footnote. Volume 4 part 1 Second Series Geological Transactions,
Professor Buckland and Mr. De la Beche on the Geology of the
neighbourhood of Weymouth.)
(**Footnote. The porphyry of a hill three miles south of Wingen, consists
of a base of reddish-brown compact felspar, with embedded crystals of
common felspar and disseminated carbonate of lime.)
APPROACH LIVERPOOL RANGE.
The party in proceeding crossed several deep gullies in the neighbourhood
of the burning hill; and the road continued to be well marked. At length
we began to ascend the chain of hills, which connects Wingen with Mount
Murulla and the Liverpool range. On gaining the summit of this range we
overlooked Wingen, whose situation was faintly discernible by the light
blue smoke. Three years had elapsed since my first visit to these
slumbering fires. The ridge we were crossing was strewed with fallen
trees; and broken branches with the leaves still upon them marked the
effects of some violent and recent storm. We descended to a beautiful
valley of considerable extent, watered by Page's river, which rises in
the main range. We reached the banks of this stream at four P.M. and
encamped on a fine flat. The extremities from the mountains on the north
descend in long and gradual slopes, and are well covered with grass. This
was already eaten short by sheep. Two babbling brooks water the flat at
the part where we pitched our tents, and which is opposite to Whalan's
station; one of these being the river Page, or Macqueen's River; the
other known only as The Creek. The space between them is flat, and
apparently consists of a soil of excellent quality. The heat of the day
was excessive, the thermometer 80 degrees at sunset.
Mount Murulla is a remarkable cone of the Liverpool range, and being
visible from Warrawolong, is consequently an important point in the
general survey of the colony.
From Murulla, the range we had crossed extends eastward, enclosing the
valley in which we were encamped, and which gives birth to the river
Page. Our way now lay westward, towards the head of this valley, in order
to cross by the usual route, the higher and principal range, which still
lay to the north. We traversed, this day, six miles of the valley, and
encamped beside a remarkable rock, near to which the track turned
northward. I rode a little beyond our bivouac, and chanced to fall in
with a tribe of natives from Pewen Bewen on Dart Brook, one of whom
afterwards visited our camp, but he could tell us little about the
interior country. The whole of the valley appears to consist of good
land, and the adjacent mountains afford excellent sheep pasture. In the
evening, a native of Liverpool plains came to our tents; I gave him a
tobacco-pipe, and he promised to show me the best road across them.
Thermometer at sunset 84 degrees.
CROSS LIVERPOOL RANGE.
This morning we ascended Liverpool range, which divides the colony from
the unexplored country. Having heard much of this difficult pass, we
proceeded cautiously, by attaching thirteen bullocks to each cart, and
ascending with one at a time. The pass is a low neck, named by the
natives Hecknaduey, but we left the beaten track (which was so very steep
that it was usual to unload carts in order to pass) and took a new route,
which afforded an easier ascent. All had got up safely, and were
proceeding along a level portion, on the opposite side of the range, when
the axle of one of the carts broke, and it became necessary to leave it,
and place the load on the spare packhorses, and such of the bullocks,
taken out of the shafts, as had been broken in to carry packsaddles.
A SICK TRIBE.
We reached at length, a watercourse called Currungai, and encamped upon
its bank, beside the natives from Dart Brook, who had crossed the range
before us, apparently to join some of their tribe, who lay at this place
extremely ill, being affected with a virulent kind of smallpox. We found
the helpless creatures, stretched on their backs, beside the water, under
the shade of the wattle or mimosa trees, to avoid the intense heat of the
sun. We gave them from our stock some medicine; and the wretched
sufferers seemed to place the utmost confidence in its efficacy. I had
often indeed occasion to observe, that however obtuse in some things, the
aborigines seemed to entertain a sort of superstitious belief, in the
virtues of all kinds of physic. I found that this distressed tribe were
also strangers in the land, to which they had resorted. Their meekness,
as aliens, and their utter ignorance of the country they were in, were
very unusual in natives, and excited our sympathy, especially when their
demeanour was contrasted with the prouder bearing and intelligence of the
native of the plains, who had undertaken to be my guide.
Here I at length drank the water of a stream, which flowed into the
unexplored interior; and from a hill near our route I beheld, this day,
for the first time, a distant blue horizon, exactly resembling that of
At an early hour we continued the journey towards the plains, guided by
the natives, and along a cart track, which led towards some cattle
stations. We crossed a low ridge of rich earth, in which were embedded
nodules of limestone, and fragments of trap-rock. After passing several
extremities of ridges, of a similar description, all being branches from
high ranges on our left, we came upon a portion of the plains. This
expanse of open level country, extended in a northerly direction, as far
as human vision could reach; and being clear of trees, presented a
remarkable contrast to the settled districts of the colony. The soil of
these plains looked rich, the grass was good, and herds of cattle
browsing at a distance, added pastoral beauty, to that which had been
recently a desert.
We now turned from the track, we had thus far followed in a
west-south-west direction, and parting from our friends, the natives, who
insisted on our keeping the track, we again entered the woods, by turning
a little to the north. My object, in proceeding in this direction, was to
reach the bank of Peel's river at Wallawoul; that stream having been laid
down as holding a northerly course, and consequently I had reason to
believe that it would lead to any greater river flowing to the
north-west, as reported by The Barber. But independently of this
consideration, it was expedient to travel along its right bank, which
commanded access to the high ranges on the east, and would therefore
secure the party from any danger of obstruction from floods. I soon came
on another path, and a line of marked trees, which a native, whom I met,
said was the road from Palmer's to Loder's station. We next arrived at a
deep dry bed, which in wet seasons must be filled by a very considerable
stream, but in that time of drought, it was not until after riding up and
down a considerable distance in search of water, that I at length found
some ponds. The native name of this channel is Nuzabella. We crossed its
bed, in order to encamp at a shady spot, where the long grass had been
burnt a short while before. In other parts the grass reached to the heads
of the horses, and at this time was so liable to catch fire, and was so
frequently set on fire by the natives, that with our stock of ammunition,
the situation of the camp required particular attention. The bullocks
were much fatigued with this day's journey, the thermometer having stood
at 96 degrees in the shade, and at sunset, and even during part of the
night, it was as high as 90 degrees.
At twilight, on enquiring, as usual, if the horses had been tethered and
spancelled, I was informed that seven had set off, and that one of the
men, Worthington, who went after them, had not returned. The weather had
been so oppressive during the whole journey, that I determined on resting
the cattle next day. This I did not mention however to the men, but I
ordered all the good bush hands to be off in search at daybreak. The care
of cattle, and particularly of horses on such journeys, requires great
attention; to stand idle on a fine morning, unable to proceed, until by
some fortunate chance, stray cattle or horses are discovered in a
boundless forest, is like a calm on the line, irksome enough; but there
is also the risk of losing the men sent in pursuit who, even after coming
on the objects of their search, may be unable afterwards to find the
camp, especially when there may be no watercourse to lead them to it.
The weather still very sultry. The horses were brought in at a
quarter-past eight by Worthington, who had traced them up the valley to
two miles above our former encampment. The rich soil in this valley is
nearly as deep as the bed of the rivulet, which is twenty feet lower than
the surface; a substratum of gravel, similar to that in the bed of the
watercourse, appears in the bank; the pebbles, consisting chiefly of
trap-rock, seemed to be the water-worn debris of the Liverpool range. The
cattle and horses being at rest, we were occupied this day in making
various observations with our instruments, trying the rate of the
chronometer, etc. A thundercloud and a little rain afforded some relief
from the excessive heat of the atmosphere. The night was very calm; but
the mosquitoes were numerous and troublesome.
A road or track, which we found about half a mile east from the camp, led
us very directly, on the bearing of 335 degrees, to Loder's station,
distant about six miles from our encampment. Here stood a tolerable house
of slabs, with a good garden adjoining it, in charge of an old stockman
and his equally aged wife. This man was named by the blacks Longanay
(Long Ned).* The station was situated on a fine running stream called the
Cuerindie, and the state of the sheep and cattle about it proved the
excellence of the pasture. We passed the limits of the territory open to
the selection of settlers, in crossing the Liverpool range; and the more
remote country is not likely to come into the market soon. Such stations
as this of Loder were held therefore only by the right of pre-occupancy,
which has been so generally recognised among the colonists themselves,
that the houses, etc. of these stations are sometimes disposed of for
valuable considerations, although the land is liable to be sold by the
(*Footnote. His wife, whom the natives had told me of as a white gin, was
perhaps the only white woman then dwelling beyond the mountains. She was
enveloped in numerous flannel petticoats, and presented a singular
contrast to the undraped slender native females, some of whom with
children I saw about the place, and who appeared to be treated by her
with great kindness.)
NATIVE GUIDE AND HIS GIN.
A native named Jemmy, whom I met with here, agreed to conduct me by the
best way for carts to Wallamoul on the Peel, for which service I
undertook to reward him with a tomahawk.* It was necessary, that we
should ford the Cuerindie, which flows to the north-west, and
notwithstanding the steepness of its banks, we effected a passage without
difficulty, guided by Jemmy. One mile beyond this, another creek lay in
our way. It was smaller, but much more formidable and difficult to cross,
for the bottom and banks consisted of blue-mud or clay, half-hardened on
the surface, yet soft and yielding below. It was not without considerable
delay, that we effected the passage, for a wheel of one of the carts
stuck fast in the mud, and it was necessary to dig away the earth in
front of the other wheel before we could release the vehicle. At length
everything was got across, and we fortunately met no other impediment for
six miles. We then crossed the channels of two rivulets, neither of which
contained any water. At half-past four I wished to encamp, and the
natives having at length found a green mantling pool in the bed of the
united channel of the two watercourses, we pitched our tents, at a place
called Burandua. Bad as the water seemed to be, Jemmy soon obtained some
which was both clear and cool, by digging a hole in the sand near the
pool. This native was a quiet and sensible fellow--he steadily pursued
the course he recommended for the wheelbarrows, as he termed our carts;
and answered all my queries briefly and decidedly, either by a nod of
assent, or the negative monosyllable Bel, with a shake of the head. His
walk was extremely light and graceful; his shoulders were neatly knit,
and the flowing luxuriance of his locks was restrained by a bit of
half-inch cord, the two ends hanging, like a double queue, halfway down
his back. He was followed by his gin and a child, which she usually
carried on her back, although it seemed old enough and able to walk.
(*Footnote. A small axe used for numerous purposes by the natives of
The air of evening was very refreshing, and the sun set with peculiar
brilliancy. We had travelled during the whole day on good soil, and the
ploughed appearance of the surface was very remarkable in various places,
particularly a little to the south of Loder's station, where the hollows
seemed to terminate in a common channel. I noticed also that the
direction of all the watercourses was towards the north-west, and it was
evident that the streams occasionally overflowed their banks.
This morning the party was ready to proceed soon after five o'clock, but
the barometer got out of order while I was using it in the dry bed of the
rivulet, and some time was lost in an unsuccessful attempt to repair it.
This derangement of the instrument was very unfortunate at so early a
stage of our journey.
After travelling about seven miles and a half we perceived, on our left,
an open valley in which a numerous herd of cattle was feeding; and one
mile further on, we came upon a fine little stream, which was rather
difficult to cross, owing to the steepness of the banks. As the men were
at work taking the carts over one by one, the native and I were amused
with a large black snake, which was swimming about. On his casting a
stone at it the snake glided swiftly towards him, and the poor fellow
took to his heels, cautioning me to keep off, saying it would kill my
horse. But he soon returned to the charge, and having succeeded in
stunning it with stones, it was at length cut in two with my sabre. On
measuring this snake I found it to be nine inches in circumference, and
eight feet and a half in length.
Beyond that rivulet the country appeared tolerably open and level, so
that we could pursue our course in one direction nearly eight miles. The
most conspicuous hill on our right, was named by the native Barragundy.
It was visible during the whole of our day's journey. We at length
entered upon an open and grassy plain, and found in the skirts of the
wood beyond it, a channel containing water in abundance, and which was
known to the natives as Carrabobbila.* Beyond this channel arose a peaked
and picturesque range, whereof the highest summit was named Turi.
(*Footnote. Even before my men had seen this spot, the native name, in
their mouths, was corrupted into Terrible Billy!)
MODES OF DRINKING AU NATUREL.
The water, when we encamped, was hot and muddy, but the blacks knew well
how to obtain a cool and clean draught, by first scratching a hole in the
soft sand beside the pool, thus making a filter, in which the water rose
cooled but muddy. They next threw into this some tufts of long grass,
through which they sucked the cooler water thus purified also from the
sand or gravel. I was very glad to follow the example, and I found the
sweet fragrance of the grass an agreeable addition to the luxury of
drinking. But during the heat of the forenoon I had observed the female
quenching her thirst with still greater satisfaction, by rushing into a
pool, and drinking as she sat immersed up to the lip.
From Loder's station, we had travelled thus far on our way to Peel's
river, without having any road or track to follow, and I had marked the
trees along our line of route, which certainly seemed favourable for a
cart-road in that direction. Near Carrabobbila, we came upon the track
leading to Wallamoul, which was more circuitous, passing by other cattle
stations in the plains.
WOODS ON FIRE.
During the last three days of our journey, the woods were burning before
us, but fortunately the fire was one day's march in advance of our party,
and thus the flames had cleared everything away before our arrival, so
that our camp was not exposed to danger. This evening however, the
country seemed on fire all around us. The weather was calm and sultry,
particularly when the day closed in, and a very heavy storm, accompanied
by thunder, broke over us in the night.
The morning was cloudy; and the rain, which we anxiously looked for, at
length came down, and soon checked the progress of the flames. On this
account, as well as on that of the want of water, it afforded
providential relief to us, for the hills we were about to cross had been
all in a blaze during the night. Trees lay smoking as we passed; several
gullies were difficult for the passage of carts, and detained the party
in its ascent.
CROSS THE TURI RANGE.
But at length we reached the top of this pass, and crossed the range,
which appeared to be continuous, thus separating the basin of the Peel
from that of the waters falling to Liverpool plains. We were agreeably
surprised to find that the opposite side of these hills, and the whole
face of the country beyond them, presented a very different appearance
from that through which we had passed. A gently sloping extremity lay
before us for eight miles in the direction of our proposed route, and we
were relieved from all the difficulties of crossing gullies, which had
impeded our ascent on the other side of the range. We encamped at some
waterholes, where this slope terminated in an extensive forest flat; over
the whole of which, as my sable guide informed me, there was no other
water at that time.
The grass on this side of the hills was good: and almost all the timber
consisted of box (eucalyptus). The heights which we had crossed appeared
to extend from the Liverpool range to the northward, as far as could be
seen; but the native told me, that it soon terminated on the river
Callala (or Peel) whose course, he said, turned westward (as he pointed);
a fact corroborating so far, the statements of The Bushranger.
ARRIVE ON THE RIVER PEEL.
The weather cleared up at about six A.M.: and we travelled across a good
soil, throughout the whole of this day's journey. The country appeared
but thinly wooded, and without any hill or watercourse. After a journey
of thirteen miles, we reached the bank of the Peel at Wallamoul, the
lowest cattle station upon this river. It was occupied by Mr. Brown, who
had there about 1600 head of cattle. I gave to Jemmy, our excellent
guide, the promised tomahawk, also a knife to Monday his brother, whom he
met here. The river was so low that Mr. White and I passed over easily on
a tree which the flood had laid across it. The current however was
strong; and the men having been furnished from our stock with a few hooks
and lines, caught three large fishes by sunset. I met, at this place,
with some intelligent natives, from whom I learnt, that the spot where
Mr. Oxley crossed the Peel on his journey, was about two miles lower
At an early hour this morning, one of our men caught a fish, which
weighed eighteen pounds; but, according to the natives, this was no
uncommon size. These fishes are most erroneously called cod by the
colonists, although they certainly very much resemble cod in taste. The
flakes are firmer than sea cod, and equally white, the fish affording a
very light and palatable food. When dried in the same manner as the
Newfoundland cod, in which state I have tasted this fish at Bathurst, I
could not perceive any difference either in flavour or appearance.
Being at length about to enter the Terra incognita, I deemed it expedient
to repack our stores, in order that the load might be made as light and
compact as possible, and that we might pass with less difficulty over
whatever description of ground we were destined to encounter. With this
view, I directed the flour to be started from casks into bags, and made
such arrangements as tended materially to lessen the bulk of our
provisions and other necessary stores. Having questioned the natives with
regard to the course of the Peel, I learnt that, instead of flowing
northward, as hitherto supposed, it took a westerly direction, and was
soon joined by the Muluerindie, a river coming from the north-east. The
natives further assured me that there was a good ford below the junction
of these streams at a place called Wallanburra; and I determined to
proceed to this ford, as it was not advisable, with the Muluerindie
beyond, to cross the river above the junction.
ANOTHER NATIVE GUIDE.
Being anxious to procure another guide, the overseer at Wallamoul brought
me a native named Mr. Brown, who agreed to accompany our party on
condition that he should receive blankets for himself and his gin, and a
tomahawk, the latter being a small hatchet, which is so valuable a
substitute for their stone hatchet that almost all natives within reach
of the colony have them, even where the white man is known as yet only by
name--or as the manufacturer of this most important of all implements to
the Australian native.
EXPLORE THE PEEL.
Mr. Finch having joined us on the previous evening, without procuring the
supply of flour that I had expected, I despatched him back this morning
to the Hunter's River district, with directions to procure as much flour,
tea, and sugar as he could pack on six bullocks, and to follow along my
line of marked trees with all possible speed. I furnished him with an
official letter to Mr. Dixon, in which I instructed that surveyor to
supply him with any article he could possibly spare from his own
equipment, without impeding the service on which he was engaged.
And now our arrangements being as complete as we could hope to make them,
under existing circumstances, we broke up our encampment at eight A.M.,
and proceeded in the interesting pursuit of the course of the Peel River.
Enter an unexplored region.
Situation of Mr. Oxley's camp on the Peel.
Westward course of the river.
Acacia pendula first seen.
Other trees near the river.
Junction of the Peel and Muluerindie.
View from Perimbungay.
Ford of Wallanburra.
Plains of Mulluba.
View from Mount Ydire.
Hills seen agree with The Bushranger's account.
The river Namoi.
Stockyard of The Bushranger.
View from Tangulda.
Cutting through a thick scrub.
Want of water.
Impeded by a lofty range of mountains.
Marks of natives' feet.
A grilled snake.
View on ascending the range of Nundewar.
Proposed excursion with packhorses.
Native guide absconds.
The range impassable.
Return to Tangulda.
Prepare to launch the boats on the Namoi.
ENTER AN UNEXPLORED REGION.
We advanced with feelings of intense interest into the country before us,
and impressed with the responsibility of commencing the first chapter of
its history. All was still new and nameless, but by this beginning, we
were to open a way for the many other beginnings of civilised man, and
thus extend his dominion over some of the last holds of barbarism.
SITUATION OF MR. OXLEY'S CAMP ON THE PEEL.
About a mile and a half below Wallamoul, we crossed a small open plain,
and I was informed that Mr. Oxley encamped on its southern side, and had
afterwards forded the Peel at no great distance from the spot.
WESTWARD COURSE OF THE RIVER.
We crossed a succession of gentle slopes, without any gully or
watercourse between them. After travelling about eight miles in a
north-west direction, we came upon the Peel, having thus cut off a great
bend of the river. From that point our route was west and even to the
southward of west, until we again encamped near the river, after a
journey of fifteen miles. Some flats crossed by the party this day
appeared to be subject to inundations. One gully only had impeded our
carts. It was about a mile short of the encampment, and it was called
Goora by the natives. It had evidently been long dry, had steep banks,
and its bottom consisted of gravel and sand. The banks of the Peel, thus
far, are composed chiefly of extensive flats of good land, thinly wooded,
and occasionally flooded by the river.
Only a few of the flats however are quite clear of trees, but where the
ground is open, the soil appears to be rich, and presents the same
characters which I noticed elsewhere. We saw a numerous family of
kangaroos this day, but although the dogs were let loose, such was the
length of the grass, that they could not see the game. The morning had
been clear, but the sky in the afternoon was overcast by a thunderstorm,
with a strong gale of wind. At sunset, the weather cleared up, and the
sky became again serene.
The sun rose clear, and the party were in motion at seven o'clock. This
day I discovered that the native had sent back his gin early in the
morning, a circumstance which I regretted, for the woman had an
intelligent countenance, and having been brought from the country towards
which we were travelling, she might have been of service to us.
When we had proceeded a few miles, the quick eye of Mr. Brown
distinguished the head of a kangaroo peeping at us over the long grass.
On discharging my rifle at it, the animal, as he supposed, bounded off;
but as I had taken very steady aim, I ran to the spot, and there found,
to the astonishment of our guide, the kangaroo at which I had aimed lying
dead, the ball having passed through the throat and neck. The kangaroo
which leapt about on the discharge of the piece, was another which had
not been previously in sight, and appeared to have been the mate of that
which fell. The distance was considerable, and the shot fortunate, as
being well calculated to strengthen Mr. Brown's confidence, who had only
seen previously the heavy old muskets carried by stockmen. He surveyed
with great attention the percussion lock and heavier barrel of the rifle,
surprised, no doubt, at its superior make and accuracy.
Our course was still westward, and thus we occasionally touched upon the
bends of the river. Adjacent to one sharp angle, we met with a rather
singular formation of little hills formed by projecting strata, the
strike extending in the direction of North 30 West, and the dip being to
the east, at an angle of about 30 degrees.
The rock appeared to consist in some parts of a buff calcareous
sandstone, calcareous tuff; and, more abundantly, of limestone of a
peculiar aspect, presenting at first sight the appearance of porphyry,
but consisting of a base of compact limestone, with disseminated portions
of calcareous spar, principally due to fragments of crinoidea. At a lower
part in the same rock, less compact, I found a beautiful chalcedonic
cast, apparently of a terebra. The calcareous sandstone consisted of
grains of quartz cemented by calcareous spar, and contained fragments of
shells of the littorina or turbo.*
(*Footnote. Also a sriated shell (Plate 4 figure 5) near to Buccinum
globulare of Phillips, Volume 2nd 16 and 15; but Mr. Sowerby thinks it is
different, and more probably a Littorina, and would call it L. filosa.)
Acacia pendula FIRST SEEN.
On crossing another low ridge beyond this we descended to a valley in
which I saw, for the first time, that beautiful shrub of the interior,
the Acacia pendula. The foliage is of a light green colour and it droops
like the weeping willow; the bark is rough, and the trunk seldom exceeds
nine inches in diameter. The wood of this graceful tree is sweet-scented,
of a rich dark-brown colour, and being very hard, it is in great request
with the natives for making their boomerangs and spearheads. It appears
to grow chiefly on flats which are occasionally inundated.
OTHER TREES NEAR THE RIVER.
During this day's journey we also met with the Callitris pyramidalis, a
tree which in external appearance closely resembles some kinds of
pine-tree. The wood is of a rich yellow hue, very compact, and possesses
a very agreeable perfume; it grows on the drier parts of the country. We
found lofty bluegum-trees (eucalyptus) growing on the flats near the
Peel, whose immediate banks were overhung by the dense umbrageous foliage
of the casuarina, or river-oak of the colonists.
JUNCTION OF THE PEEL AND MULUERINDIE.
We encamped on the river at the foot of a small hill named Perimbungay.
In this very interesting position I could at leisure continue from the
hill my observations of the country before us, while the cattle were at
rest and feeding. The Muluerindie had joined the Peel about a mile above,
and the united streams here flowed along a reach of most promising
extent. Mr. Brown said it was so deep that the natives could never dive
to the bottom. The ford of Wallanburra, by which we were to cross this
river, was only a short way below, and the summit of Perimbungay
commanded a view of the country beyond it. The bank here presented a
section of at least 50 feet of rich earth; and flats of this character,
of more or less width, occur between the river and the hills. In the left
bank at the camp I found a conglomerate rock, consisting of water-worn
fragments of serpentine and trap, cemented by calcareous spar. The men
were very successful in fishing; the cod-perch which they caught weighing
upwards of nine pounds each (See figure 1 Plate 6). With such abundance
of fish, and also the kangaroo, I hoped to feast Mr. Brown, but he set no
value on food so common to him, preferring flour to all things else,
while this was precisely the article which I was most unwilling to spare.
He ate about two pounds and a half of flour daily, yet I considered his
services of so much value, that I felt loth to lessen his allowance; for
with all this he seldom seemed satisfied. He came to me however in the
afternoon, pointing to his protuberant stomach, and actually declaring
that, for once at least, he did not wish any more.
VIEW FROM PERIMBUNGAY.
To avoid as much as possible the heat which had proved very distressing
to the cattle, I ordered the party to prepare to move off this morning
soon after sunrise; and while the people were packing up and loading, I
again ascended Perimbungay. The range we had crossed at Turi was near us
to the westward, and a conical hill, called Uriary, in the direction of
Turi, was the most prominent feature to the south-west. The Peel
continued its course westward, passing through this range, which
presented a more defined and elevated outline where it continued beyond
the river. The highest summits there were Periguaguey, bearing west by
south, and Waroga. Turial, a hill still more remote, bore
west-north-west; and between it and Waroga appeared an opening, which I
judged therefore to be the best direction for our route, after crossing
the Peel, for I saw that it was impossible to pass to the westward of
that range at any part nearer the river; but by that opening we could
pursue the further course of the Peel, as the nature of the country
permitted. The land immediately beyond the Peel was inviting enough; one
green hill arose from a level country which lay between the river and the
base of these hills. The waters of the Peel, and the shady trees
overhanging its banks, were visible for several miles; and the varying
outlines of wood, tinted with the delicate lights, around which the deep
grey shadows of early morning were still slumbering, contrasted finely
with the rugged rocks of the hill on which I stood, already sharpened by
the first rays of the rising sun. This hill consisted of trap-rock.
FORD OF WALLANBURRA.
The passage between it and the river was not very safe for the carts, so
that we made a detour on leaving the camp, and did not again see the Peel
until we arrived near the ford of Wallanburra, distant from Perimbungay 4
1/4 miles. The bed of the river was here broad and gravelly; and the
banks on each side were low, qualities most essential to a good ford, but
by no means common on the Peel. Two emus, the first we had seen on this
journey, were drinking on the opposite side, as we approached the ford,
but they ran away on seeing the party. The current was strong, though the
water did not reach above the axles of the carts, and by half-past seven
A.M. everything was safe on the other side of the Peel. On quitting the
immediate banks of the river, we passed through a forest of the tree
resembling pine (Callitris) with bushes of the Acacia pendula
interspersed. There was also a tree new to us, having a small round leaf.
PLAINS OF MULLUBA.
After proceeding six miles, we reached the borders of an extensive open
tract, named Mulluba. It could scarcely bear the usual designation of
plain (the term applied in New South Wales to almost all land free from
trees) for the undulations were as great as those which occur between
London and Hampstead, and, indeed, the whole territory bore a remarkable
resemblance to an enclosed and cultivated country. The ridges, of the
kind already described, I observed in directions, both with the slopes,
and across them, exactly resembling furrows in fallow land. Trees grew in
rows, as if connected with field enclosures, and parts, where bushes or
grass had been recently burnt, looked red or black, thus contributing to
the appearance of cultivation. The soil was, indeed, well worthy of being
cultivated, for it consisted of a rich black mould, so loose and deep
that it yawned in cracks, as if for want of feet to tread it down. It
appeared very probable however that in wet weather such parts of the
country might be too soft for the passage of carts. I then supposed the
ridge on our left might be that called Hardwick's range, by Oxley; its
general direction being about 20 degrees westward of north. We at length
reached the remarkable opening in that range, which I had observed from
Perimbungay, and passing through it, over a narrow flat, we arrived at a
low woody country westward of these ranges. Having now travelled sixteen
miles, I was anxious to encamp here, but we could not, at first, find any
watercourse; and one small, dry channel appeared to be the only line of
drainage in wet weather from the extensive open country of Mulluba. It
struck me at the time that much might be done to remedy the natural
disadvantages, whether of a superfluity of water lodging on the plains in
rainy seasons, or of too great a scarcity of moisture in dry weather.
Channels might be cut in the lines of natural drainage, which would serve
to draw off the water from the plains, and concentrate and preserve a
sufficient supply for use in times of drought, when it would not be
VIEW FROM MOUNT YDIRE.
We had followed the dry channel for about a mile and a half in search of
water, without much prospect of finding any, when we came to a rocky
part, which still contained, in several pools, more indeed than
sufficient for all our wants, and here we gladly encamped. The range no
longer intercepted our view to the westward, and I lost no time in
ascending one of its pointed summits, named Ydire, accompanied by Mr.
White, and our guide, Mr. Brown. From this hill, the view extended far
and wide over the country to the westward. The most conspicuous feature
in that landscape was a lofty flat-topped hill in the middle distance,
being somewhat isolated, and on the western border of a plain which
extended from our position to its base. The native name of this was
A singular-looking pic, someway northward of Boonalla, next drew my
attention. This, according to my sable authority, was Tangulda. A
meandering line of trees bounded an open part of the intervening plain,
and marked the course, as my guide informed me, of the Namoi.
HILLS SEEN AGREE WITH THE BUSHRANGER'S ACCOUNT.
Now the hills I have just mentioned and the course of this river had been
exactly described by The Bushranger, and the scene made me half believe
I determined to proceed to the pic of Tangulda, this being the course
also recommended by my guide as the best for the continued pursuit of the
Liverpool plains, which appear to the colonists as if boundless to the
northward, were now so far behind us that their most northern limits were
barely visible to the southward, in two faint yellow streaks. The basin
in which these plains are situated belongs however to the Namoi, which
receives all their waters; and, in the extensive landscape before me,
there appeared to be an opening near Tangulda, through which the whole of
these waters probably passed to the north-west.
The Bushranger's tale was that he had reached the Kindur, or large river,
by proceeding north-east by north from Tangulda. I then perceived only a
few low hills to the eastward of that pic: circumstances which rendered
the account of his journey beyond it also probable.
I had scarcely time to complete a sketch of these hills before the sun
went down. Mr. White took bearings of the principal summits, and at the
same time obtained their respective names from the native. The range that
we had ascended consisted of porphyry, having a base of fawn-coloured
compact felspar, with grains of quartz, and crystals of common felspar.
We reached the tents, distant from the hill a mile and a half, as night
came on. The moon soon rose in cloudless splendour, and received our
particular attention, for we were uncertain how soon we should be
compelled to depend on the chronometer alone for the longitude, which
thus far we had been enabled to connect with the survey of the colony by
means of Barragundy and other hills towards Liverpool range.
We proceeded over a perfectly level surface, wooded rather thickly with a
broad-leaved eucalyptus, and the Acacia pendula. The air was cool, and a
most refreshing breeze met us in the face during the whole of this day's
journey; the thermometer at sunrise was only 52 degrees.
THE RIVER NAMOI.
After travelling upwards of ten miles we crossed the corner of an open
plain, and five miles further on we reached the bank of the river Namoi,
and encamped about noon. This stream, having received the Conadilly from
the left bank, had here an important appearance: the breadth of the water
was 100 feet, its mean depth 11 3/4 feet; the current half a mile per
hour, and the height of the banks above the water 37 feet. The course of
the Muluerindie, from the junction of the Peel to that of the Conadilly,
is somewhat to the southward of west. Below the junction of the
Conadilly, where the well-known native name is the Namoi, it pursues a
north-west course. The men threw in their lines, but caught during the
day only two fishes, similar to those we obtained at Perimbungay. The
alluvial bed of the stream consisted of marl, fragments of red quartz,
and other rocks. A very hard yellow calcareous sandstone also occurred in
Leaving the ground at an early hour, the party travelled for about two
miles along the riverbank, the stream appearing deeper and broader as we
proceeded. Six miles on we came upon a narrow branch from the river,
which we avoided by turning a little to the right.
STOCKYARD OF THE BUSHRANGER.
We next reached a very large stockyard which the natives said had
belonged to George The Barber, meaning The Bushranger. We saw besides the
remains of a house, the gunyas, or huts, of a numerous encampment of
natives; and the bones of bullocks were strewed about in great abundance,
plainly enough showing the object of the stockyard, and that of The
Barber's alliance with the aborigines of these parts. The whole country
was on fire; but although our guide frequently drew our attention to
recent footmarks, we could not discover a single native.
We encamped near this stockyard, beside a lagoon of still water which was
as broad and deep as the main stream. The water was nearly on a level
with the surface of the surrounding country, and was obviously supplied
from the overflowings of the Namoi, then at some distance to the
We caught some small fish, two of them being of a rather singular kind,
resembling an eel in the head and shape of the tail, although as short in
proportion to their thickness as most other kinds of fish. (Figure 2
Plate 6.)* We found granular felspar in the bank.
(*Footnote. For a description of this fish see note to Chapter 1.5
VIEW FROM TANGULDA.
The pic of Tangulda lay due north of our camp, distant about two miles;
and in the afternoon I set out on foot to ascend it, accompanied by Mr.
White and the carpenter. On approaching its base, the bold rocks near the
summit were reddened by the rays of a sun setting in smoke; while the
whole mass of woody hill below that summit seemed more imposing, as it
overhung a level country, which had no visible horizon. We reached the
top at a little after four P.M. by a steep and rocky ascent; and although
the atmosphere was dim, the view was very important. I saw the Namoi's
course through a cluster of hills, between which it passed to a lower
country in the north-west. These hills were connected on the right bank
with the pic on which we stood, and with a low range in the east and
north-east, whose western extremities appeared to terminate on the vale
of the Namoi, as far northward as I could then see them in perspective.
The Barber had positively stated that the only practicable way to the big
river was north-east by north from Tangulda; and it now appeared that the
lowest part of this range lay exactly in that direction. Some bold and
remarkable hills appeared at no great distance to the right of that line;
but the country between Tangulda and the lowest part of that horizon
seemed so level or gently undulating that I felt it my duty, before I
traced the Namoi further, to explore the country in the direction so
particularly described by The Bushranger. On my return to the camp in the
evening, I made a drawing of the eel-fish, which we had caught early in
the day. (Figure 2 Plate 6.)
We now quitted the line of the Namoi, and proceeded in the direction
north-east by north from Tangulda. We thus continued our route in a
straight line up a long valley, until at ten A.M. we reached the crest of
the low range previously mentioned. The rock consisted of a calcareous
breccia, with water-worn pebbles. The carts had ascended to the crest
without difficulty, and the descent to the country beyond was equally
favourable. Halfway down, the dogs killed a female kangaroo, with a
nearly full-grown young one, which she retained to the last, within her
pouch. The death of no animal can excite more sympathy than that of one
of these inoffensive creatures. The country beyond the low range was more
open for two miles; the only trees being ironbark.
CUTTING THROUGH A THICK SCRUB.
At 15 miles we met an impenetrable scrub of forest oak (casuarina)
through which no passage appearing near, we were compelled, hot as the
day was, to cut our way with axes where the trees were smallest and least
numerous. We thus cleared our course for a mile and a half, when we had
the good fortune to see once more an open forest before us, and after a
journey of eighteen miles the party encamped on a dry watercourse, but
without much prospect of finding any water. We had carried eleven gallons
from our last camp, but the men had already experienced the full benefit
of this, in cutting through the scrub, during a hot wind, after having
travelled fifteen miles.
When the camp was fixed, I rode forward with Mr. White and the native,
and soon entered an extensive valley beyond which I could just perceive,
through the general smoke, a majestic chain of mountains extending to the
westward. I never felt less love for the picturesque than at that time,
for grand as the outline was, I could perceive no opening by which I
could hope to cross it.
WANT OF WATER.
Our present urgent want however was water, and fortunately, at a distance
of upwards of four miles from the camp, we reached the stream watering
that valley, and which we thankfully saluted with our parched lips, its
waters being cool and clear.
MARKS OF NATIVES' FEET.
Imprinted on their sandy margin however our native guide discovered,
apparently with horror, the fresh traces of human feet. The trees bore
numerous marks of the mogo or stone hatchet, the use of which
distinguishes the barbarous from the civil blackfellows, who all use iron
tomahawks. Although Mr. Brown made the woods echo with his cooeys their
inhabitants remained silent and concealed, a circumstance which seemed to
distress him very much.
On returning to the party, we received the agreeable intelligence that
some very good water had been found in a deep hole within a short
distance of the tents. The supply however was not sufficient for the
bullocks, which were consequently restless, and seemed so much disposed
to ramble during the night that two men placed in charge found it
extremely difficult to keep them together. This difficulty suggested the
plan which I on subsequent occasions adopted, of confining these animals
at night, within a temporary stockyard of ropes tied between trees.
We left the ground at six A.M. and in an hour and half arrived at the
stream of the valley, which I now named Maule's river. Here, leaving Mr.
White with the party to encamp, that the cattle might be watered and
refreshed during the day, I proceeded with the native and two men to
examine the mountains before us.
A GRILLED SNAKE.
As we advanced along a rising ground, the native discovered a dog, and on
following it to a little brook, we came to a fire, with a large snake
roasting upon it; and a wooden water-vessel on the ground beside it. The
reptile was evidently the intended breakfast of somebody whom our
approach had disturbed. Mr. Brown soon discovered that the fugitives were
females, and, following their track, he found a bag, apparently thrown
down in hasty flight. He called loudly and repeatedly, at the same time
tracing the footsteps through the long grass into a rocky glen, but no
IMPEDED BY A LOFTY RANGE OF MOUNTAINS.
We placed the grilled snake, as it seemed quite cooked, within the wooden
bowl, and we left also a head-band (uluguer) which we had found near the
fire, and we then continued our journey up the mountains. This range
consisted of a different rock from any I had seen in the country, a
chocolate-coloured trapean conglomerate. A very dark colour distinguished
these rocky masses, which terminated in pointed obelisks, or were broken
into bold terraces of dismal aspect. In the little stream were many
pebbles of vesicular trap, probably an amygdaloid with the kernels
decomposed, but containing particles of olivine; also pebbles of a
syenitic compound, consisting of quartz, hornblende, and felspar; and of
compact felspar, mottled green and white, the green colour probably being
due to chlorite or green earth, and they enclosed also decomposed
crystals of mica and hornblende.
VIEW ON ASCENDING THE RANGE OF NUNDEWAR.
After climbing about one mile and a half, we reached a lofty summit,
where I hoped to obtain a view beyond the range, or at least to discover
how it might be crossed, but I was disappointed. Distant summits, more
lofty and difficult of access, obstructed our view towards the east,
north, and even west; while the only link connecting the hill we had
gained with those still higher was a very bold, naked rock, presenting a
perpendicular side, at least 200 feet in height. To proceed further in
that direction was therefore quite out of the question. (See Plate 7.)
As we descended, we came suddenly on an old woman who, as soon as she saw
us, ran off in terror. I ordered the two men who accompanied me to keep
back, until Mr. Brown could overtake and tell her that we intended no
harm; and she was easily persuaded, after a brief conversation with our
guide, to allow us to come near. She presented a most humiliating
specimen of our race: a figure shortened and shrivelled with age,
entirely without clothing, one eye alone saw through the dim decay of
nature, several large fleshy excrescences projected from the side of her
head like so many ears and the jawbone was visible through a gash or scar
on one side of her chin. The withered arms and hands, covered with earth
by digging and scraping for the snakes and worms on which she fed, more
resembled the limbs and claws of a quadruped. She spoke with a low nasal
whine, prolonged at the end of each sentence; and this our guide imitated
in speaking to her. The mosquitoes tormented her much, as appeared from
her incessantly slapping her limbs and body. Mr. Brown's conversation
seemed animated on some subject, but not, as I at last suspected, on that
most important to us; for, when I enquired, after he had spoken a long
time, what she said of The Barber and the way across the mountains, he
was obliged to commence a set of queries, evidently for the first time.
She said horses might pass, pointing at the same time further to the
eastward--but our guide seemed unwilling to put further questions, saying
she had promised to send at sunset to our tents two young boys, who could
inform us better. Even in such a wretched state of existence, ornaments
had their charms with this female, though the decency of covering was
wholly disregarded. Around her brow she had kangaroo teeth fastened to
the few remaining hairs, and a knot of brown feathers decorated her right
temple. The roasting snake, which we had seen in the morning, belonged,
as we now learned, to this witch of the glen.
PROPOSED EXCURSION WITH PACKHORSES.
The boys did not visit us in the evening as Mr. Brown had expected; and
he appeared unusually thoughtful, when I found him sitting alone by the
waterside, at some distance from the camp. I was then making arrangements
for carrying across the range the bulk of our provisions and equipment on
packhorses and bullocks, intending to leave the remainder of our stores
at this spot, in charge of two men armed; but of this measure Mr. Brown
did not approve.
NATIVE GUIDE ABSCONDS.
When the packhorses had been loaded and we were about to start, leaving
the remainder of our provisions in charge of two men, we discovered that
our native guide was missing. I had promised him for his services a
tomahawk, a knife, and a blanket, and as I supposed he was already far
beyond his own beat, he might have had the promised rewards, by merely
asking for them. We had always given him plenty of flour, also his choice
of any part of the kangaroos we killed. It had been observed by the men
that the intelligence received from the old woman had made him extremely
uneasy, and he had also expressed to them on the previous evening his
apprehensions about the natives in the country before us. I was very
sorry for the loss of Mr. Brown. He was very comical, as indeed these
half-civilised aborigines generally are; he liked to be close-shaved,
wore a white neckcloth, and declared it to be his intention of becoming,
from that time forward a whitefellow. I concluded that he had returned to
his own tribe; and that he had been unwilling to acknowledge to me his
dread of the myall tribes. We proceeded up the valley, or to the
eastward, with the pack animals, and endeavoured to pass to the
northward, where we found a valley in that direction, but at length it
became impossible to go forward with some of the bullocks, which were not
used to carry packsaddles.
THE RANGE IMPASSABLE.
The passage was almost hopeless, indeed it was so bad that I was at
length convinced it might be easier to pass to the northward in ANY other
direction than this, and that it would not be prudent to struggle with
such difficulties, and separate my party for the purpose of crossing a
range, which, for all I could see, might be easily turned by passing
between its western extremity and the river Namoi.
RETURN TO TANGULDA.
We had now tried the course pointed out by The Bushranger, and, having
found that it was wholly impracticable, I determined upon returning to
Tangulda, and by pursuing the Namoi to endeavour to turn this range and
so enter the region beyond it. With this resolution I moved back to the
depot, which we left in the morning, and having reached it, made
preparations to retrace our course. Mr. White followed Maule's river for
some miles to the westward, so that we could judge of the direction in
which it fell into the Namoi. This evening as Burnett, the carpenter, was
seated beside a pool with his gun, silently engaged in watching some
ducks, two natives approached on the opposite side to fill a small vessel
with water, they looked around very cautiously, as if conscious that we
were near, but Burnett very prudently did not allow them to see him.
The whole party having started early, we this day reached the former
encampment near Tangulda, a distance of twenty-one miles, in seven hours.
I set out before the party moved off, in order to mark the line of route
for the carts, and to fix on a spot for the camp. I rode over firm and
level ground, on a bearing of 295 degrees, which I knew would bring me to
the little hill observed from Tangulda, where the Namoi passes to the
lower country beyond. The morning was so foggy that I could see none of
the hills. The perfume from the recently burnt bushes of Acacia pendula
was most fragrant, and, to me, quite new. At six miles I came upon the
river which was flowing rapidly northward. Its deeper bed and sparkling
waters looked very different from the stagnant lagoon we had left that
morning. The grass along the banks was excellent, and on the little hill
beside the river hung pines (Callitris pyramidalis) in abundance. Lofty
bluegum-trees grew on the margin of the stream, and the place, upon the
whole, seemed favourable for the formation of a depot, where I might
leave the cattle to refresh while proceeded down the Namoi in the canvas
boats, with the materials for constructing which, we were provided. This
river was the channel of the united waters of the Peel, Muluerindie and
Conadilly. Some of these streams traversed extensive plains, subject to
inundation, but the low rocky hills in this neighbourhood afforded
perfect security. The country smoked around us on all sides; and the
invisible blacks, The Barber's allies, were not well disposed towards us,
but in a position like this our depot would be secure.
PREPARE TO LAUNCH THE BOATS ON THE NAMOI.
I accordingly made preparations for constructing our boats and launching
them on the Namoi as soon as possible. With four adjoining trees cut off
at equal height, we formed a saw-pit, and a small recess which had been
worked in the bank by the floods served as a dock in which to set up and
float the boats. We had fixed upon this spot because it appeared more
favourable for launching than that higher up the river, where the water
was shallower, and drift timber lay across it.
The course of the Namoi, as far as it could be traced from the hill, was
northward, and the evening being clear, I could perceive very plainly in
the same direction, the western extremity of the range, which we had so
needlessly endeavoured to cross.
Fires in the Bush.
Rocks of Bullabalakit.
Bees load my rifle with honey.
Embark on the Namoi in canvas boats.
Impediments to the navigation.
Boat staked, and sinks.
The leak patched.
She again runs foul of a log.
Resolve to proceed by land.
Pack up the boats, and continue the journey.
Pass the western extremity of Nundewar Range.
Trap-hill on plains.
Cut through a scrub.
Meet a tribe of Natives.
Again obliged to cut our way.
Fortunate discovery of water.
The party in distress for want of water.
Water found next day.
Excessive heat and drought.
Description of the woods.
Meet with natives.
Cross the dry bed of a river.
A friendly native with his family.
Reach the Gwydir.
Cross it with one man.
Prevented by a native with spears, from shooting a kangaroo.
Re-cross the river.
This morning all hands were at work. Some good pinetrees were brought to
the saw-pit, and one laid upon it. The sailors were set to paint the
inside of the canvas for the boats; The Doctor to clear out the dock
previous to laying down the keel, etc.; and the bullock-drivers and smith
to make a stockyard.
FIRES IN THE BUSH.
At 11 A.M. I discovered the grass near our tents to be on fire, but with
the assistance of the people it was fortunately extinguished. All the
country beyond the river was in flames, and indeed, from the time of our
arrival in these parts, the atmosphere had been so obscured by smoke that
I could never obtain a distinct view of the horizon. The smoke darkened
the air at night, so as to hide the stars, and thus prevented us from
ascertaining our latitude. One spark might have set the whole country on
our side in a blaze, and then no food would remain for the cattle, not to
mention the danger to our stores and ammunition. Fires prevailed fully as
extensively at great distances in the interior, and the sultry air seemed
heated by the general conflagration. In the afternoon I took my rifle and
explored the course of the river some miles downwards, an interesting
walk where probably no white man's foot had ever trod before. I found a
flowery desert, the richest part of the adjacent country being quite
covered with a fragrant white amaryllis in full bloom.* The river widened
into smooth deep reaches, so that I felt sanguine about our progress with
the boats. In returning, I examined the hills on the right bank. One,
named Einerguendi by Brown, consisted of compact felspar, coloured green
by chlorite, with grains of quartz and acicular crystals of felspar.
(Footnote. Calostemma candidum, Lindley manuscripts; foliis...tubo
perianthii limbo multo breviore, corona truncata dentibus sterilibus
nullis, umbellis densis, pedicellis articulatis exterioribus multo
ROCKS OF BULLABALAKIT.
The hill immediately over our camp was Bullabalakit, and consisted partly
of granular felspar, probably tinged greenish with chlorite; and partly
of concretionary porphyry, the concretions being mottled red and white,
and containing grains of quartz and crystals of common felspar; the white
concretions resisting the action of the atmosphere stood in relief on the
weather surface; I noticed also a vein of amethystine quartz.
December 24 and 25.
Ribs and thwarts were necessary to distend the canvas boats, and though
we had brought only moulds of each sort, yet we had tools and hands to
make them when required. We also sawed the pine wood into thin planks to
form a floor in each boat, whereon to lay our stores. We made the ribs of
bluegum (eucalyptus). The weather was excessively hot, yet the men worked
hard at the saw-pit notwithstanding; but all our activity was in danger
of being fruitless, for the river each day fell about four inches!
At half-past one P.M. the first boat was launched on the Namoi, and the
keel of the second immediately laid down. The delay occasioned by the
preparation of these boats was more irksome as the waters of the river
continued to subside.
Amongst the objects, which in this country were quite new to me, were the
insects continually buzzing about my tent. Of these, a fly as large as a
small bee, and of a rich green and gold colour, being a species of
stilbum, occasionally surprised me with a hum almost as musical as the
tones of an Eolian harp.
BEES LOAD MY RIFLE WITH HONEY.
But the habits of the bees were very remarkable, judging from a singular
circumstance which occurred respecting my rifle, for I found that a
quantity of wax and honey had been deposited in the barrel, and also in
the hollow part of the ramrod. I had previously observed one of these
bees occasionally enter the barrel of the piece, and it now appeared that
wax and honey had been lodged immediately above the charge, to the depth
of about two inches. The honey was first perceived in the hollow part of
the ramrod; and although an empty, double-barreled gun lay beside the
rifle, neither wax nor honey was found in either of its tubes. The bee,
which I frequently observed about my tent, was as large as the English
bee, and had a sting.
This day I sent off one of the men (Stephen Bombelli) with a despatch for
the government at Sydney, giving an account of our journey thus far, and
stating my intention of descending the Namoi in the boats. Bombelli was
mounted on horseback, armed with a pistol, and provided with food for
twelve days, being sufficient to enable him to carry the despatch to
Pewen Bewen, and to return to the depot which I had arranged to establish
EMBARK ON THE NAMOI IN CANVAS BOATS.
We launched the second boat, and having loaded both, I left two men in
charge of the carts, bullocks and horses, at Bullabalakit, and embarked,
at last, on the waters of the Namoi, on a voyage of discovery.
IMPEDIMENTS TO THE NAVIGATION.
We passed along several reaches without meeting any impediment, but, at
length, an accumulation of drift timber and gravel brought us up at a
spot where two large trees had fallen across the stream from opposite
banks. From the magnitude of these trunks and others which, interwoven
with rubbish and buried in gravel, supported them, I anticipated a long
delay, but the activity of the whole party was such that a clear passage
was opened in less than half an hour. The sailors swam about like frogs,
and swimming, divided with a cross-cut saw trees under water. I found I
could survey the river as we proceeded by measuring, with a pocket
sextant, the angle subtended by the two ends of a twelve feet rod held in
the second boat, at the opposite end of each reach, the bearing being
observed at the same time. By referring to one of Brewster's tables, the
angle formed by the rod of twelve feet, I ascertained thus the length of
each reach. This operation occasioned a delay of a few seconds only, just
as the last boat arrived in sight of each place of observation.
Several black swans floated before us, and they were apparently not much
alarmed even at the unwonted sight of boats on the Namoi. The evenness of
the banks and reaches, and the depth and stillness of the waters were
such that I might have traced the river downwards, at least so far as
such facilities continued, had our boats been of a stronger material than
BOAT STAKED, AND SINKS.
But dead trees lay almost invisible under water, and at the end of a
short reach where I awaited the reappearance of the second boat, we heard
suddenly confused shouts, and on making to the shore, and running to the
spot, I found that the boat had run foul of a sunken tree and had filled
almost immediately. Mr. White had, on the instant, managed to run her
ashore, across another sunken trunk, and thus prevented her from going
down in deep water opposite to a steep bank. By this disaster our whole
stock of tea, sugar, and tobacco, with part of our flour and pork, were
immersed in the water, but fortunately all the gunpowder had been stowed
in the first boat.
THE LEAK PATCHED.
This catastrophe furnished another instance of the activity of the
sailors; the cargo was got out, and the sunken boat being hauled up, a
rent was discovered in the canvas of her larboard bow. This the sailmaker
patched with a piece of canvas; a fire was made; tar was melted and
applied; the boat was set afloat, reloaded, and again underway in an hour
and a half.
SHE AGAIN RUNS FOUL OF A LOG.
Once more upon the waters everything seemed to promise a successful
voyage down the river, but our hopes were doomed to be of short duration,
for as I again awaited the reappearance of the second boat, a shout
similar to the first again rose, and on running across the intervening
land within the river bend, I found her once more on the point of going
down, from similar damage sustained in the STARBOARD bow.
RESOLVE TO PROCEED BY LAND.
It was now near five P.M., and the labours of the day had been sufficient
to convince me that the course of the Namoi could be much more
conveniently traced at that time by a journey on land than with boats of
canvas on the water. We pitched our tents; and on plotting my work I
found we were distant, in a direct line, only about two miles from
The cattle from the depot camp arrived at nine A.M., four men having been
sent there early this morning to bring them with the carts and horses to
the place where we had disembarked.
The tea, sugar, and biscuit, having got wet in the sunken boat, I was
compelled to halt this day in order to dry these articles if possible, in
the sun, and the heat being very intense, we were tolerably successful.
The sugar, in a liquid state, was laid out in small quantities on
tarpaulins; the tea was also spread out thinly before the sun, and thrown
about frequently--and thus we were enabled, by the evening, to pack it up
quite dry in canisters; the whole having lost in weight two and a half
pounds. The sugar had crystallised sufficiently to be put up again,
without any danger of fermentation. During many days I had anxiously
watched the smoky red hot sky for some appearance of rain: no dew
nourished the grass, which had become quite yellow, and the river upon
which I set my hopes was rapidly drying up. In my tent the thermometer
generally reached 100 degrees of Fahrenheit during the day. At length the
welcome sound of thunder was heard, and dark clouds cooled the atmosphere
long before sunset. These clouds at length poured a heavy shower on the
yawning earth; flakes of ice or hail accompanied it, and we enjoyed a
cool draught of iced water, where the air had just before been nearly as
warm as the blood.
In emptying the water out of the sunken boat we found a crayfish
resembling those which I had seen in the freshwater lagoons about Lake
George; the remains of this crustacean were also abundant there, at
places where water had been but very temporarily lodged.*
(Footnote. A species of Astacus, which, as far as I am aware, comes very
close to the common European crayfish.)
PACK UP THE BOATS, AND CONTINUE THE JOURNEY.
We dismantled our boats, packing up the canvas, and in the hollow of a
large tree I buried my collection of geological specimens, that we might
be loaded as lightly as possible.
Quitting this spot at seven A.M. we continued on a bearing of 20 degrees
west of north, and passed through a scrub of Acacia pendula, in which
grew some eucalypti. At two and three-quarter miles we entered on a
spacious open plain which appeared to extend westward to the river, a
distance of about two miles. We crossed the more elevated and eastern
part of this plain. We next entered a scrub of Acacia pendula, which at
seven miles opened into a forest of apple-trees and other eucalypti. We
soon after reached Maule's creek, the passage of which, on account of its
steep banks, cost us an hour and a half. This induced me to encamp there,
influenced also by the apprehension of a want of water, at any convenient
distance beyond it. On first approaching water I had frequently an
opportunity of observing that the worst characters have the least control
over their appetites, in cases of extreme privation. It was a standing
order, which I insisted on being observed, that no man should quit the
line of route to drink without my permission. There was one,
notwithstanding, who never could, in cases of extremity, resist the
temptation of water, and who would rush to it, regardless of
consequences. Now this man continued to be an irreclaimable character,
and in six years after he had lost all the advantages he gained by his
services on this occasion. The morning had been calm and very hot, but at
three P.M. the sun was obscured, to our inexpressible relief, and clouds
full of thunder at length overcast the whole sky; only a few drops of
rain fell about six P.M.; and at ten the heavens became clear, the air
however was cool and refreshing.
PASS THE WESTERN EXTREMITY OF NUNDEWAR RANGE.
January 1, 1832.
We proceeded on the same bearing, travelling over a very level surface.
As we approached the western extremity of the great range, we touched on
an open plain, whereof the soil was very rich. The greater portion of it
lay on the left, or westward of our route, or towards the river. After
crossing it we again entered a thin scrub of Acacia pendula, which having
been recently burnt was open and favourable for passing through. We
afterwards crossed a succession of gentle undulations, and through an
opening, along the bottom of one valley, I obtained a view over the flat
country to the westward. The most remarkable feature was a naked ridge of
yellowish rock which rose abruptly from the woody country, as if it
overhung the river. I wished much to examine that singular mass, but we
were proceeding with little prospect of finding water, and we had
impassable scrubs before us, as well as rocky hills on our right. A
valley at length appeared in our route, and in which from the nature of
the mountains at its head, I hoped to find water. In this I was however
disappointed, for the channel, although of considerable depth, was quite
dry, and I in vain searched its bed for at least a mile upwards. At ten
miles the most western head of the range of Nundewar bore north, its low
western extremity being distant only about a quarter of a mile. We were
about to cross some offsets from the range, when a thick scrub or brush
obstructed our further progress in that direction. I entered it and
penetrated about a mile and a half without discovering any indication of
water, or any opening through which the carts might pass. The weather was
extremely warm, and as we had come a long journey, I determined to encamp
once more on the Namoi; and turning westward I followed a line of flats
and hollows, which led me to the nearest bend of that river. We
calculated we had travelled twenty-one miles, although the distance by
latitude and angles taken on the hills is less. Thermometer 97 degrees in
the shade. Where we encamped the river was shallow, with many dead trees
in the channel; but a little lower down it formed a deep, broad, and
extensive reach. The latitude as ascertained by the stars Aldebaran and
Rigel was 30 degrees 24 minutes 44 seconds South.
We pursued a north-west course after getting clear of the river, my
object being to keep within reach of it, if possible, in case of scarcity
of water. Yet with such a range on our right this was not much to be
apprehended; indeed, our line of exploration was as favourable as could
be wished, having a river on one hand, and a lofty range on the other;
the country between presenting no impediment to our progress northward.
At about two miles we crossed a small watercourse with some pools in it,
and half a mile further the broad bed of a river, the course of which was
towards the Namoi, but it did not contain much water. It could not be a
long river in either direction, though the width, the height of banks,
and the large water-worn stones in its bed, gave it the appearance of
being at times a considerable stream. Some caution was necessary at both
these watercourses in passing the carts over, the banks of both being
steep; we crossed them however without much delay. We next ascended, by a
gradual slope, a low ridge, which had on its summit a species of the
eucalyptus with yellow bark, presenting a striking contrast to other
trees, the line between them being also well defined. The rock consisted
of red sandstone, the first I had seen to the northward of Liverpool
range. On descending, which we did by a gentle slope, the scrub became
gradually thin, and at length opened to a clear verdant surface,
extending far to the north and west. It was now obvious that nothing
could obstruct our progress into the regions beyond the great range. On
the contrary, a beautiful open country lay at its base, reaching quite
round it to the north-east. A fresh cooling breeze from the north-west
fanned our faces as we beheld, for the first time, that fine country. The
recollection of the rocks which we had endeavoured to cross further east
perhaps heightened its beauty in our eyes, but the great range itself
formed a sublime horizon on the east, some of the summits having very
remarkably pointed or castellated forms.
One tree of an uncommon genus grew on the borders of the plain, and about
a mile to the west one solitary hill stood in this plain, like an island
in the sea. It was flat-topped, with a few trees on the summit. The
uncommon tree was covered with a yellow blossom, the leaf was dark green
and shining, and the wood was white.* The low country, which seemed most
to promise water, was still distant, while the course of the Namoi was
receding from our route as I had reason to believe from the position of
the low ridge which I had crossed. An opening in the distance westward
seemed to mark its course.
(*Footnote. See the Journal of my next Journey Chapter 2.8.)
I was still disposed to pursue a middle direction between the mountains
and the river (35 degrees West of North) but I bore in mind the necessity
for turning these ranges, so as to pass into that part of the country
beyond them at which we should have arrived if we had crossed them where
we first attempted, in order to determine the question as to the
existence of the large river there, as stated by The Barber.
A rather elevated but grassy plain afforded little prospect of water
being near at the time we were about to halt and rest, after a long
journey, and I had directed the men to pitch the tents, despairing of
reaching water that day, when I suddenly came upon a deep pool. I was
truly sensible of the goodness of Providence, considering that this was
to all appearance the only water within many miles, and on a plain where
I had no reason to expect it. I could not then see how the pond was
Neither was this all our good fortune, for having directed Jones (one of
the men ablest at fishing) to try the pond, to the no small amusement of
the others; he nevertheless drew out in a short time a good dish of
crayfish (or lobsters, as they termed them). We had also killed a
kangaroo that morning, which enabled us to feed our famished dogs, so
that our entry on this new region could not have been more auspicious.
TRAP-HILL ON PLAINS.
In the afternoon I walked to the isolated hill of the plain, and found
that it consisted of trap-rock, a solid mass projecting from the earth,
with little or no soil upon it. Its greater elongation extended due north
and south, conformable to the direction of most of the other summits I
had ascended. The steepest side was towards the east, and its height was
50 feet above the plain. From this hill I perceived another like it, due
south, and distant about half a mile.
The dead silence of the solitary plains around me was broken by the sound
of a distant thunderstorm which was then exhausting itself on the
Nundewar range, while the sun was setting in perfect tranquillity on the
unbroken horizon of the west. Afterwards the night was dark and stormy,
and at ten it began to rain, a circumstance rather alarming to us then,
considering the nature of the soil of these plains, which a few days'
rain must have rendered nearly impassable.
A fine serene morning, although the eastern mountains still echoed under
clouds of thunder. We left the Lobster Pond at six, and continued our
route in the direction of 35 degrees west of north for the first twelve
CUT THROUGH A SCRUB.
Having reached, at length, the northern limits of the plain, we
encountered, after passing through some slight woods of Acacia pendula
and eucalyptus, a thick brush through which we were obliged to open a way
with axes for a mile and a half.
MEET A TRIBE OF NATIVES.
While engaged in this work, one of the men said he heard voices. On
gaining once more the opener forest, we saw two newly felled trees which
had been cut with an iron axe or tomahawk; and immediately after we
perceived the natives at a little distance. They were hurrying off, but
being most anxious to conciliate them and gain if possible some
information respecting the country, I sent Dawkins, who was an eager
volunteer on the occasion, forward to them, and he prevailed on several
to stop and speak to him, while their women and children decamped. When
they seemed no longer disposed to run, I ventured forward; but those who
had got round Dawkins, on seeing me approach, made off, one by one, until
none remained when I rode up to Dawkins, except a young man. Not a word
was understood on either side, yet our new acquaintance talked fluently,
and also repeated what we said to him. He carried no spear or weapon,
with the exception of three little sticks, which he held in the left
hand; neither did he wear any dress or ornament, nor was his skin much
scarified. His features were not bad, and they wore an expression of
extreme good nature. We now regretted more than ever the absence of Mr.
Brown, as with his assistance we might now have learnt so much respecting
the rivers and the country before us. The tribe appeared to consist of
about thirty individuals; those who remained, at a distance, carried
spears, and were evidently much afraid of us. The string of low slang
words which the natives nearer the colony suppose to be our language,
while our stockmen believe they speak theirs, was of no use here. In vain
did Dawkins address them thus: "What for you jerran budgerry
whitefellow?" "Whitefellow brother belong it to blackfellow."* Neither
had the piece of tobacco, which he had put in the stranger's mouth, any
effect in bringing intelligible words out of it, although the poor fellow
complacently chewed the bitter weed. He readily ate some bread which was
given him, and on presenting him with a halfpenny he signified by gesture
that he should wear it at his breast, a fashion of the natives nearer the
colony. I placed in his hand a small tomahawk, the most valuable of gifts
to his tribe; and leaving him enriched thus, we quietly continued our
journey, that the tribe might see our purpose had no particular reference
to them, and that they had no cause for alarm, as our behaviour to the
young man must have sufficiently testified.
(*Footnote. Meaning: Why are you afraid of a good white man? The white
man is the black man's brother.)
We soon after entered another extensive plain on which the rich soil,
when we had got halfway across, changed to a stiff clay, the grass
marking the change by a difference of colour, being red on the clay and
quite green on the other soil. This clay occupied the highest part of the
plain. Passing through another scrub of Acacia pendula we reached a still
more extensive plain, and while we were crossing it I was informed, by
the carpenter, that the wheels of one of the carts were falling to pieces
and required immediate repair. We accordingly halted, and some wedges
were driven into them. The thermometer here stood at 97 degrees.
AGAIN OBLIGED TO CUT OUR WAY.
A brush of Acacia pendula also bounded this plain on the north; and
beyond it we entered a scrub of forest-oak (casuarina) which was so very
thick that we were compelled to halt the carts until a way could be cut
through it for upwards of two miles; beyond that distance however the
brush opened into patches of clearer ground. We had changed our course to
north in the large plain, and had preserved this direction in cutting
through these scrubs. It was now four P.M., and during the whole journey
from six A.M., we had seen no water; the day also was exceedingly warm,
and I was riding in advance of the party, and looking at some elevated
ground in an opening of the wood with thoughts of encamping there, but
very doubtful whether we should ever see water again.
FORTUNATE DISCOVERY OF WATER.
When almost in despair I observed a small hollow with an unusually large
gumtree hanging over it; and my delight under such circumstances may be
imagined, when I perceived on going forward, the goodly white trunk of
the tree reflected in a large pond. A grassy flat beside the water proved
quite a home to us, affording food for our cattle, and rest from the
fatigues of that laborious day. We found these ponds in situations which
seemed rather elevated above the adjacent plains, at least their
immediate banks were higher; hence we usually came upon them where we
least expected to see water, before we were acquainted with this
peculiarity of the country. The pond where we now encamped was connected
with several others that were dry, but it was quite impossible at that
time to discover which way the current ran in times of flood. The
latitude was 30 degrees 6 minutes 30 seconds South. In the evening the
sky was illuminated so much by an extensive fire in the woods near us
that the light was clearer in our camp than the brightest moonlight.
Continuing due north, we just avoided some thick scrubs, which either on
the right or left would have been very difficult to penetrate. The woods
opened gradually however, into a thick copse of Acacia pendula, and at
the end of three miles we reached the eastern skirts of an extensive open
plain, the ground gently undulating. At 4 3/4 miles, on ascending a
slight eminence, we suddenly overlooked a rather deep channel, containing
abundance of water in ponds, the opposite banks being the highest ground
visible. The vast plains thus watered consist chiefly of a rich
dark-coloured earth, to the depth of 30 or 40 feet. Unabraded fragments
of trap are not uncommon in the soil of these plains, and I imagined
there was a want of symmetry in the hollows and slopes as compared with
features more closely connected with hills elsewhere. At 8 1/2 miles,
perceiving boundless plains to the northward, I changed the direction of
our route 24 degrees east of north. The plains extended westward to the
horizon, and opened to our view an extensive prospect towards the
north-east, into the country north of the range of Nundewar, a region
apparently champaign, but including a few isolated and picturesque hills.
Patches of wood were scattered over the level parts, and we hastened
towards a land of such promising aspect. Water however was the great
object of our search, but I had no doubt that I should find enough in a
long valley before us, which descended from the range on the east. In
this I was nevertheless mistaken; for although the valley was well
escarped, it did not contain even the trace of a watercourse.
Crossing the ridge beyond it, to a valley still deeper, which extended
under a ridge of very remarkable hills, we met with no better success;
nor yet when we had followed the valley to its union with another, under
a hill which I named Mount Frazer, after the botanist of that name.
THE PARTY IN DISTRESS FOR WANT OF WATER.
No other prospect of relief from this most distressing of all privations
remained to us, and the day was one of extraordinary heat, for the
thermometer, which had never before been above 101 degrees on this
journey, now stood at 108 degrees in the shade. The party had travelled
sixteen miles, and the cattle could not be driven further with any better
prospect of finding water. We therefore encamped in this valley while I
explored it upwards, but found all dry and desolate. Mr. White returned
late, after a most laborious but equally fruitless search northward, and
we consequently passed a most disagreeable afternoon. Unable to eat, the
cattle lay groaning, and the men extended on their backs watched some
heavy thunderclouds which at length stretched over the sky; the very
crows sat on the trees with their mouths open.
The thunder roared and the cloud broke darkly over us, but its liquid
contents seemed to evaporate in the middle air. At half-past seven a
strong hot wind set in from the north-east and continued during the
night. Thermometer 90 degrees. I was suddenly awoke from feverish sleep
by a violent shaking of my tent, and I distinctly heard the flapping of
very large wings, as if some bird, perhaps an owl, had perched upon it.
The sun's rays were scorching before his red orb had cleared the horizon,
but ere he appeared the party was in motion. No dew had fallen, yet even
the distressed bullocks and horses seemed to participate in the hope
which led us forward. With one accord men and quadrupeds hastened from
the inhospitable valley, common sufferers from the want of an element so
essential to the living world. Continuing on the same bearing of 24
degrees east of north we reached the highest part of some clear ground,
at about two miles from where we had encamped, and from this spot I
obtained an extensive view over the country before us. The ground sloped
for several miles towards a line of trees beyond which a steep ridge
extended parallel to that line, and upwards to the mountains, evidently
enclosing a channel of drainage, so that I ventured at once, on seeing
this, to assure the men that I saw where we should meet with water. The
way to it was all downhill, open and smooth; while the Nundewar range,
now to the southward, presented, on this northern side, a beautiful
variety of summits.
WATER FOUND NEXT DAY. DISCOVER A SMALL RIVER.
I galloped impatiently towards the line of wood, and found there a
meandering channel full of water, with steep banks of soft earth,
apparently a small river, and I hastened back with the welcome
intelligence to the men. The extreme heat and the fatigue of travelling
could not have been borne much longer. One man (Woods) had been left
behind at his own request, being unable even to ride, from violent pains
in his stomach; another was also so ill that he could not walk; the
bullocks still drew, but with their tongues protruding most piteously. I
sent a man on horseback back with a kettleful of water to Woods. The
cattle being unyoked rushed to the stream, and in half an hour we were
all comfortably encamped, with good grass beside us for the cattle. The
bottom of this small river-channel was in no part gravelly, but consisted
of soft earth, in which however the cattle did not sink very deep.
Fragments of flint, basalt, and quartz, apparently not worn by attrition,
abound in the adjacent soil. The general direction of the watercourse
appeared to be about 36 degrees north of west.
At a pond above our camp the carpenter shot two ducks of a kind not
previously seen by us, having a purple speck on the head, behind the ear.
We had now arrived in the country beyond the mountains which we had in
vain attempted to cross, having found an open and accessible way round
them; it remained to be ascertained whether the large river, as described
by The Bushranger, was near; according to him it was the first river to
be met with after crossing the range north-east by north of Tangulda.
At four P.M. the thermometer stood at 101 degrees. The latitude was
ascertained in the evening to be 29 degrees 50 minutes 29 seconds South.
The morning was rather cool, with clouds and distant thunder. We now
proceeded in a northerly direction until we were impeded by scrub, about
three miles from the camp. Through this we cut our way, keeping as
closely in the northern direction as the openings would allow. At length
the wheels of one of the carts, and the axle of another, became
unserviceable, and could not be repaired, unless we halted for two days.
As they could only be dragged a few miles further, I went forward as soon
as we got clear of the scrubs, which extended three miles, in search of
water for an encampment. I came upon a slight hollow and followed it
down, but it disappeared on a level plain, bounded on each side by rising
grounds. One dry pond encouraged my hopes, and I continued my search
along a narrow flat, where the grass had been recently on fire. From this
point, and while pursuing a kangaroo, I came upon a well marked
watercourse with deep holes, but all these were dry. Tracing the line of
these holes downwards to where the other flat united with it I found,
exactly in the point of junction, as I had reason to expect, a deep pool
of water. Once more therefore we could encamp, especially as two very
large ponds on a rocky bed were found a little lower than that water
first discovered. This element was daily becoming more precious in our
estimation, and I had reason to be very anxious about it, on account of
Mr. Finch, who was following in our track. The spot on which we encamped
was covered with rich grass, and enclosed by shady casuarinae and thick
brush. The prospect of two days' repose for the cattle on that verdure,
and under these shades, was most refreshing to us all. It was, indeed, a
charming spot, enlivened by numbers of pigeons, and the songs of little
birds, in strange, but very pleasing notes.
Here I again remarked that among these casuarinae scrubs the eucalyptus,
so common in the colony, was only to be seen near water; so that its
white shining bark and gnarled branches, while they reminded us of home
at Sydney, also marked out the spots for fixing our nightly home in the
EXCESSIVE HEAT AND DROUGHT.
The night had been unusually hot, the thermometer having stood at 90
degrees, and there had not been a breath of wind. Few of the men had
slept. Thus even night, which had previously afforded us some protection
from our great enemy, the heat, no longer relieved us from its effects;
and this incessant high temperature which weakened the cattle, dried up
the waters, destroyed our wheels, and nourished the fires that covered
the country with smoke, made humidity appear to us the very essence of
existence, and water almost an object of adoration. No disciple of
Zoroaster could have made proselytes of us. The thermometer ranged from
96 to 101 degrees during the day, and during the last five nights had
stood as high as 90 degrees between sunset and sunrise. From the time the
party left Sydney rain had fallen on only one day. We left each friendly
waterhole in the greatest uncertainty whether we should ever drink again,
and it may be imagined with what interest, under such circumstances, I
watched the progress of a cloudy sky. It was not uncommon for the heavens
to be overcast, but the clouds seemed to consist more of smoke than moist
vapour. The wind, from the time of our first arrival in the country, had
blown from the north or north-west, and the bent of trees, at all
exposed, showed that these were the prevailing winds.
DESCRIPTION OF THE WOODS.
The country when seen from an eminence appeared to be very generally
wooded, but the lower parts were perfectly clear, or thinly strewed with
bushes, and slender trees, chiefly varieties of acacia. The principal
wood consisted of casuarinae which grew in thick clumps, or scrubs, and
very much impeded, as has already been stated, our progress in any given
direction. I found that these scrubs of casuarinae grew generally on
rising grounds, and chiefly on their northern or eastern slopes. We saw
little of the callitris tribe, after we had crossed the first hill beyond
our last camp on the Namoi. On the contrary, these casuarinae scrubs and
grassy plains seemed to characterise the country to the westward and
northward of the Nundewar range, as far, at least, as we had yet
penetrated. The course of this chain of ponds appeared to be parallel to
that on which we had previously encamped, 36 degrees North of West. A
yellow, highly calcareous sandstone occurred in the bed and banks of this
stream, forming a stratum from two or three feet in thickness, and in
parts of the upper surface nodules of ironstone were embedded.
On examining our wheels, we found that the heat had damaged them very
much, some of the spokes having shrunk more than an inch. The carpenter
managed however to repair them this day.
The morning was cool and pleasant, with a breeze from the west. We left
the ponds (named Wheel Ponds) exactly at six A.M., and, after travelling
a mile, entered a scrub through which we were compelled to cut a lane
with axes, for three miles; when at length the wood opened, and some
trees of that species of eucalyptus called box grew on the flats. At five
miles from our camp I shot a kangaroo.
MEET WITH NATIVES.
At seven miles, as we entered a forest,* we heard the sound of the
natives' hatchets, and we saw soon after their fires at a distance. We at
length came unawares upon a native in a tree, for he was so busy at work
cutting out an opossum, that he did not see us, until we were very near
him. A gin and child gave the alarm, upon which he stared at the strange
assemblage with a look of horror, and immediately calling to the female
in an authoritative tone, she disappeared in the woods. He then threw a
club, or nulla-nulla, to the foot of the tree, and ascended to the
highest branch. I called to him, and made such signs as I thought most
likely to give him confidence and remove his apprehensions of harm; but
apparently to no purpose, for his reply was "Ogai!" pronounced in a loud
imperative tone. I thought it best to proceed quietly on our way;
whereupon he descended and ran off, having picked up two spears which lay
near the tree. We heard calls in various directions, and witefellow
pronounced very loudly and distinctly. Witefellow, or wite ma, appears to
be their name (of course derived from us) for our race, and this
appellation probably accompanies the first intelligence of such strangers
to the most remote, interior regions.
(*Footnote. A forest means in New South Wales, an open wood, with grass.
The common bush or scrub consists of trees and saplings, where little
grass is to be found.)
CROSS THE DRY BED OF A RIVER.
We soon after came upon the bank of a river-course, in the bed of which,
although deep, broad, and gravelly, there was no water; its general
direction was westward. At eight miles we entered upon an extensive, open
plain, which reached to the horizon in the direction of 10 degrees West
of North. We crossed it, continuing our journey northward, until a thick
scrub obliged me to turn to the east.
A FRIENDLY NATIVE WITH HIS FAMILY.
At thirteen miles, being again in a wood, we heard the native axe at
work, and, naturally eager to communicate with or even see the faces of
fellow-creatures in these dismal solitudes, I allowed Dawkins to go
towards them unarmed, that he might, at least by signs, ascertain where
water was to be found. A considerable time having elapsed without his
reappearance, I went after him, and found him in communication (by signs)
with a very civil native, who had just carried a quantity of wild honey
to his gin and child, having first offered some to Dawkins. This man
betrayed no signs of fear, neither had he any offensive weapons, but he
refused to accompany Dawkins to the rest of the party, rather inviting
the latter, by signs, to accompany him. For water, he pointed both to the
north-east and south-west, and all around, as if it had been abundant;
numerous pigeons and kangaroos also showed that there was some at no
great distance; nevertheless we were doomed to pass another night without
any, after a long day's journey.
On quitting the wood where we met the native we crossed a plain which
appeared to slope westward. Night was coming on, and I directed my course
towards some tall trees, where we found a hollow, but no water remained
in it; yet here we were nevertheless obliged to encamp. Some of the men
who had set out in search of water had not returned when it became dark;
but on our sending up a rocket they found their way to the camp, although
they had not succeeded in their search for water.
From this camp the summits of the Nundewar range were still visible, and
very useful in determining our longitude. One cone in particular (Mount
Riddell) promised from its height to be a landmark still on these
northern plains. (See below, outline of summits as seen on 12th January.)
REACH THE GWYDIR.
Continuing our journey at half-past five A.M. over the clear plain, we
came upon several ponds, distant not more than a mile from where we had
passed the night. We lost no time in watering the cattle and proceeding.
At half a mile beyond I perceived on the right some very green grass by
the edge of a hollow, overhung by spreading eucalypti. I found there a
fine lagoon of considerable extent, and brim-full of the purest water.
There were no reeds, but short grass grew on the brink, and near the
shore a few waterlilies. Here we filled our keg and kettles. We next
crossed some slightly rising ground, and high in the branches of the
trees I perceived, to my astonishment, dry tufts of grass, old logs, and
other drift matter! I felt confident that we were at length approaching
something new, perhaps the large river, the Kindur of The Bushranger. On
descending by a very gentle slope, a dark and dense line of gigantic
bluegum-trees (eucalyptus) growing amid long grass and reeds, encouraged
our hopes that we had at length found the big river. A narrow tract of
rich soil covered with long grass and seared with deep furrows
intervened. I galloped over this, and beheld a broad silvery expanse,
shaded by steep banks and lofty trees. In this water no current was
perceptible, but the breadth and depth of channel far exceeded that of
the Namoi. Nevertheless this was not the Kindur as described by The
Barber, but evidently the Gwydir of Cunningham, as seen by him at a
higher part of its course. We were exactly in the latitude of the Gwydir,
the course of which was also westward. It was however a very new feature
of the country to us, and after so much privation, heat and exposure the
living stream and umbrageous foliage gave us a grateful sense of
abundance, coolness, and shade. Trees of great magnitude give a grandness
of character to any landscape, but especially to river scenery. The blue
gum (eucalyptus) luxuriates on the margin of rivers, and grows in such
situations to an enormous size. Such trees overhung the water of the
Gwydir, forming dense masses of shade, in which white cockatoos
(Plyctolophus galeritus) sported like spirits of light.
CROSS IT WITH ONE MAN.
As soon as I had fixed on the camp I forded the river, accompanied by
Woods carrying my rifle. The water where I crossed did not reach above
the ankle, but the steepness of the banks on each side was a great
obstacle to the passage of my horse. I proceeded due north, in search of
rising ground, but the whole country seemed quite level. After crossing
an open plain of about two miles in length, I entered a brush of Acacia
pendula, and soon after I arrived at an old channel or hollow scooped out
PREVENTED BY A NATIVE WITH SPEARS FROM SHOOTING A KANGAROO.
As I approached a line of bushes I saw a kangaroo which sat looking at my
horse until we were very near it, and I was asking Woods whether he
thought we could manage to carry it back if I shot it; when my horse,
suddenly pricking his ears, drew my attention to a native, apparently
also intent on the kangaroo, and having two spears on his shoulder. On
perceiving me he stood and stared for a moment, then taking one step
back, and swinging his right arm in the air, he poised one of his spears,
and stood stretched out in an attitude to throw. He was a tall man,
covered with pipe-clay, and his position of defiance then, as he could
never have before seen a horse, was manly enough. It was not prudent to
retire at that moment, although I was most anxious to avoid a quarrel. I
therefore galloped my horse at the native, which had the desired effect;
for he immediately turned, and disappeared at a dog-trot among the
RE-CROSS THE RIVER.
By going forward I gained a convenient cover, which enabled me to retire
upon the river without seeming to turn, as in fact I did, to avoid
further collision with the natives at so great a distance from the party.
The bed of the river was flat, and consisted of small pebbles, not much
worn by attrition, and mixed with sand. Many dead trees lay in parts of
the channel. The average breadth of the water was forty-five yards; the
breadth from bank to bank seventy-two yards; and the perpendicular height
of the banks above the water twenty-seven feet.
In the afternoon the natives appeared on the opposite bank, and were soon
after heard calling out "Witefellow, Witefellow." Dawkins advanced
quietly to the riverbank to speak to them and encourage them to cross;
but they disappeared as soon as they saw him.
The Barber had stated that the large river was the first water to be met
with after crossing the range in the direction of north-east by north
from Tangulda. We had reached the country beyond that range by going
round it; and had at length found, after crossing various dry channels,
not the great river described by him, but only the Gwydir of Cunningham.
It remained for me to trace this into the interior, as far as might be
necessary to ascertain its ultimate course; with the probability, also,
of discovering its junction with some river of greater importance.
Change the route to trace the course of the Gwydir.
A native village of bowers.
Effect of sudden moisture on the wheels.
Tortuous course of the Gwydir.
Lines of irrigation across the plains.
The party impeded by the soft state of the surface.
Lagoons near the river.
Reach a broad sheet of water.
Position of the party.
The common course of the river, and the situation of the range
Nondescript tree and fruit.
Plains of rich soil, beautifully wooded.
Small branches of the Gwydir.
Much frequented by the natives.
Laughable interview of Dawkins with a tribe.
Again reach the Gwydir.
A new cucumber.
Cross the river and proceed northward.
A night without water.
Water discovered by my horse.
Native weirs for catching fish.
Arrive at a large and rapid river.
Send back for the party on the Gwydir.
Abundance of three kinds of fish.
Preparations for crossing the river.
Natives approach in the night.
View from one tree fastened to another.
Mr. White arrives with the party and lost man.
Detained by natives.
Mr. White crosses the river.
Marks of floods on trees.
Man lost in the woods.
Natives' method of fishing.
Mr. White's account of the river.
CHANGE THE ROUTE TO TRACE THE COURSE OF THE GWYDIR.
The line of our route to this river described no great detour, and the
trees being marked, as also the ground, by the cartwheels, Mr. Finch
could have no difficulty in following our track THUS far. We were now
however to turn from a northern, to a western course, and I accordingly
explained this to Mr. Finch in a letter which I deposited in a marked
tree, as arranged with him before I set out.