Part 5 out of 8
when we changed our route to north, that I determined, although my
sprained ankle was painful, to examine again, and still more extensively,
the country into which such a deviation must have led him.
MY SEARCH SOUTH-SOUTH-WEST 40 MILES.
I proceeded in a south-south-west direction (or South 17 degrees West by
compass) or on a intermediate line between our route and the north-west
line by which I had explored that country on the nineteenth, the men
cooeying as before.
We explored every open space; and we looked into many bushes, but in
I continued my journey far to the southward in order to ascertain what
water was nearest in that direction, as it was probable, were any found,
that Mr. Cunningham, if alive, must have reached it, and I had in vain
sought his track on the other side of the country. I soon came to
undulating ground or low hills of quartzose gravel without any grass,
consisting of unabraded small angular fragments of quartz. I observed a
few trees of the ironbark eucalyptus and pines or callitris on the
highest grounds. At twenty miles from our camp we crossed a grassy flat,
in which we at length found a chain of ponds falling to the
south-south-east, and also about them were recent marks of natives.
INTERVIEW WITH TWO NATIVES.
At length I espied two at a distance as I proceeded along the valley. In
vain we cooeyed and beckoned to them to approach; it was clear they would
not come to us; on seeing which I left the men and horses and walked
towards them, carrying a green bough before me. They seemed at once to
understand this emblem of peace; for as soon as I was near enough for
them to see it they laid down their spears and waddies, and sat down on
the ground to receive me. Not a word however could they understand, being
evidently quite strangers to the colonists. They were both rather old
men, but very athletic, and of commanding air and stature, the body of
one was painted with pipe-clay, that of the other with yellow ochre; and
through these tints their well-defined muscles, firm as those of some
antique torso, stood out in bold relief in the beams of the setting sun.
The two made a fine group on which dress would have been quite
superfluous, and absolutely a blot on the picture.
No gesture of mine could convey the idea with which I wished so much to
impress them, of my search for ANOTHER WHITE MAN, and after using every
kind of gesture in vain, I made a bow in despair and departed. They rose
at the same time, apparently glad (from fear) to see me going, and
motioned as if to say you may depart now, we are friends. One of them who
sat behind and who appeared to be the older of the two had a bone-handled
table-knife stuck in the band over his forehead; one had also an iron
tomahawk. The rest of the tribe were concealed about, as we heard their
cooeys, but no others ventured to appear. I thought I could not give them
further proof of no harm being intended to them than by quietly going on
my way, and I hoped that this friendly demonstration might remove any
apprehensions respecting Cunningham if he chanced to meet the tribe. The
greatest danger to be apprehended from natives is on a stranger first
approaching them when, chiefly from fear, they are apt to act on the
Continuing on the same line I crossed another small watercourse falling
north-east; and beyond it were hills of mica-schist and quartz, which
sloped rather boldly to the southward. We then entered one of the finest
tracts of forest land I ever saw. It was there three miles in width, and
bounded on the south by another low hill of quartzose gravel, the soil of
which was indifferent. We at last tied up our horses on a little patch of
forest land, and laid down under a few boughs, as it was quite dark and
began to rain.
RANGE OF PORPHYRY.
After a fruitless ride of twelve more miles still further southward in
pursuit of distant columns of smoke, we turned our horses' heads towards
the camp on a bearing of North 56 degrees East, in which direction some
summits appeared. We crossed much good whinstone land, and arrived at a
small ridge where I ascended a hill consisting of a reddish granite or
porphyry. From this height I again saw Harvey's and Croker's ranges and
various hills to the southward, but I was disappointed in the view of the
western horizon, which was confined to a very flat-topped woody range. I
took as many angles as I could from a round pinnacle of porphyry which
barely afforded standing room.
From this hill we saw smoke near another eminence which bore North 36
degrees East, distant about seven miles; and in that direction we
proceeded (as it led homewards) but twilight overtook us as we crossed
its side, on which the bushes appeared to have been recently burnt.
This hill consisted of a rock resembling felspar, and was connected with
the former, which was of granite, by low hills consisting of schistus and
trap. The former had good grass about it, and produced a chain of
well-filled ponds, but here we found no water, having arrived so late.
The country in general was (in point of grass at least) much better than
the rotten ground on the banks of the Bogan. The water also, although
scarce, was much better, and I heartily regretted that it was not in my
power to proceed, according to my original plan, along this higher
ground, in my progress towards the Darling.
Early this morning I ascended the hill although much incommoded by my
sprained ankle, which obliged me to ride my horse over rocks to the very
summit. I could perceive no more smoke. The Canobolas were just visible
to the right of Mount Juson. The height on which I stood seemed to be the
furthest interior point of this chain whence those hills could be seen.
We left the summit at nine o'clock, and proceeded towards our route on a
bearing of North 17 degrees East. At ten miles we halted to allow the
horses to pick some green grass in a casuarina scrub; and then, after
riding two miles further, we reached our marked route, at about three
miles back from Bullock creek. We saw no traces on it of the men I had
sent back, for which I was at a loss to account; but I readily turned
every circumstance, even my own ill success, in favour of the expectation
that I should find Mr. Cunningham in the camp on my return: thus hope
grew even out of disappointment.
MR. CUNNINGHAM'S TRACK FOUND.
There however I learned that the two men sent back had at length found
Mr. Cunningham's track exactly where we had at first so diligently sought
for it, and that they had traced it into the country which I had twice
traversed in search of him in vain, and, more distressing than all, that
they had been compelled to leave the track the preceding evening for want
of rations! They had been however sent back to take it up, and we
anxiously awaited the result.
Late in the evening the two men (The Doctor and Murray) returned, having
lost all further trace of Mr. Cunningham in a small oak scrub. They had
distinctly seen the track of the dog with him, and that of his own steps
beside those of the horse, as if he had been leading it.
MR. LARMER AND A PARTY SENT TO TRACE IT.
Early this morning I despatched Mr. Larmer and The Doctor, Muirhead and
Whiting, supplied with four days' provisions and water. The party was
directed to look well around the scrub, and on discovering the track to
follow it, wherever it led, until they found Mr. Cunningham or his
remains; for in such a country I began to despair of discovering him
alive after so long an absence. They did not return until the evening of
the 28th, when all they brought of Mr. Cunningham was his saddle and
bridle, whip, one glove, two straps, and a piece of paper folded like a
letter inside of which were cut (as with a penknife) the letters N.E.
MR. CUNNINGHAM'S TRACK FOLLOWED FOR 70 MILES, HIS HORSE FOUND DEAD.
Mr. Larmer reported that, having easily found the track of the horse
beyond the scrub, they had followed it until they came to where the horse
lay dead, having still the saddle on and the bridle in its mouth; the
whip and straps had been previously found, and from these circumstances,
the tortuous track of the horse, and the absence of Mr. Cunningham's own
footsteps for some way from where the horse was found; it was considered
that he had either left the animal in despair, or that it had got away
from him. At all events it had evidently died for want of water; but the
fate of its unfortunate rider was still a mystery.
HIS OWN FOOTSTEPS TRACED.
It appeared from Mr. Larmer's map of Mr. Cunningham's track that he had
deviated from our line after crossing Bullock creek, and had proceeded
about fourteen miles to the north-west where marks of his having tied up
his horse and lain down induced the party to believe that he had there
passed the first dreary night of his wandering.
From that point he appeared to have intended to return and, by the zigzag
course he took, that he had either been travelling in the dark, or
looking for his own track, that he might retrace it. In this manner his
steps actually approached within a mile of our route, but in such a
manner that he appeared to have been going south while we were travelling
north (on the 18th). Thus he had continued to travel southward, or
south-south-west, full 14 miles, crossing his own track not far from
where he first quitted our route. On his left he had the dry channel
(Bullock creek) with the water-gumtrees (eucalypti) full in view, though
without ever looking into it for water.* Had he observed this channel and
followed it downwards he must have found our route; and had he traced it
upwards he must have come upon the waterholes where I had an interview
with the two natives, and thus, perhaps, have fallen in with me. From the
marks of his horse having been tied to four different trees at the
extreme southern point which he reached, it appeared that he had halted
there some time, or passed there the second night. That point was not
much more than half a mile to the westward of my track out on the 21st.
From it he had returned, keeping still more to the westward, so that he
actually fell in with my track of the 19th, and appeared to have followed
it backwards for upwards of a mile, when he struck off at a rightangle to
(*Footnote. These trees being remarkable from their white shining trunks,
resembling those of beech trees; a circumstance to which, as connected
with the presence of water, I had just before drawn his attention.)
It was impossible to account for this fatal deviation, even had night, as
most of the party supposed, overtaken him there. It seemed that he had
found my paper directing him to trace my steps backwards, and that he had
been doing this where the paper marked N.E. had been found, and which I
therefore considered a sort of reply to my note. If we were right as to
the nights, this must have taken place on the very day on which I had
passed that way, and when my eye eagerly caught at every dark-coloured
distant object in hopes of finding him! After the deviation to the
north-west it appears that Mr. Cunningham made some detours about a clear
plain, at one side of which his horse had been tied for a considerable
time, and where it is probable he had passed his third night, as there
were marks where he had lain down in the long dry grass. From this point
only his horse's tracks had been traced, not his own steps which had
hitherto accompanied them; and from the twisting and turning of the
course to where it lay dead, we supposed he had not been with the horse
after it left this place. The whip and straps seemed to have been trod
off from the bridle-reins to which Mr. Cunningham was in the habit of
tying his whip, and to which also the straps had been probably attached,
to afford the animal more room to feed when fastened to trees.
To the place therefore where Mr. Cunningham's own steps had last been
seen I hastened on the morning of the 29th April with the same men,
Muirhead and Whiting, who had so ably and humanely traced all the tracks
of the horse, through a distance of 70 miles.
The spot seemed well chosen as a halting-place, being at a few trees
which advanced beyond the rest of the wood into a rather extensive plain:
a horse tied there could have been seen from almost any part around, and
it is not improbable that Mr. Cunningham left the animal there fastened,
and that it had afterwards got loose, and had finally perished for want
We soon found the print of Mr. Cunningham's footsteps in two places: in
one, coming towards the trees where the horse had been tied, from a thick
scrub east of them; in the other, leading from these trees in a direction
straight northward. Pursuing the latter steps we found them continuous in
that direction and, indeed, remarkably long and firm, the direction being
preserved even through thick brushes.
This course was direct for the Bogan; and it was evident that, urged by
intense thirst, he had at length set off with desperate speed for the
river, having parted from his horse, where the party had supposed. That
he had killed and eaten the dog in the scrub, whence his footsteps had
been seen to emerge was probable, as no trace of the animal was visible
beyond it; and as it was difficult otherwise to account for his own
vigorous step, after an abstinence of three days and three nights. I then
regretted that I had not at the time examined the scrub but, when we were
at his last camp (the trees on the plain) we were most interested in Mr.
Cunningham's further course.
This we traced more than two miles, during which he had never stopped,
even to look behind towards the spot where, had he left his horse, he
might still have seen him. Having at length lost the track on some very
hard ground we exhausted the day in a vain search for it.
MR. LARMER MEETS A TRIBE.
On returning to the camp I found that Mr. Larmer, whom I had sent with
two armed men down the Bogan, had nearly been surrounded, at only three
miles from our camp, by a tribe of natives carrying spears. Amongst these
were two who had been with us on the previous day, and who called to the
others to keep back. They told Mr. Larmer that they had seen Mr.
Cunningham's track in several parts of the bed of the Bogan; that he had
not been killed but had gone to the westward (pointing down the Bogan)
with the Myall (i.e. wild) Blackfellows. Thus we had reason to hope that
our friend had at least escaped the fate of his unfortunate horse by
reaching the Bogan. This was what we wished; but no one could have
supposed that he would have followed the river downwards, into the jaws
of the wild natives, rather than upwards. His movements show that he
believed he had deviated to the eastward of our route rather than to the
westward; and this mistake accounts for his having gone down the Bogan.
Had he not pursued that fatal course, or had he killed the horse rather
than the dog, and remained stationary, his life would have been saved.
The result of our twelve days' delay and search was only the discovery
that, had we pursued our journey down the Bogan, Mr. Cunningham would
have fallen in with our track and rejoined us; and that, while we halted
for him, he had gone ahead of us, and out of reach.
THE FOOTSTEPS TRACED INTO THE CHANNEL OF THE BOGAN.
I put the party in movement along the left bank of the Bogan, its general
course being north-west, and about five miles from our camp we crossed
the same solitary line of shoe-marks, seen the day before, and still
going due north! With sanguine hopes we traced it to a pond in the bed of
the river, and the two steps by which Mr. Cunningham first reached water,
and in which he must have stood while allaying his burning thirst, were
very plain in the mud! The scales of some large fish lay upon them, and I
could not but hope that even the most savage natives would have fed a
white man circumstanced as Mr. Cunningham must then have been. Overseer
Burnett, Whiting and The Doctor proceeded in search of him down the river
while the party continued, as well as the dense scrubs of casuarinae
permitted, in a direction parallel to its course. Just as we found Mr.
Cunningham's footsteps a column of smoke arose from the woods to the
southward, and I went in search of the natives, Bulger accompanying me
with his musket. After we had advanced in the direction of the smoke two
miles it entirely disappeared, and we could neither hear nor see any
other traces of human beings in these dismal solitudes. The density of
the scrubs had obliged me to make some detours to the left, so that I did
not reach the Bogan till long after it was quite dark. Those who had gone
in search of Mr. Cunningham did not arrive at our camp that night
although we sent up several skyrockets and fired some shots.
The party came in from tracing Mr. Cunningham's steps along the dry bed
of the Bogan, and we were glad to find that the impressions continued.
There appeared to be the print of a small naked foot of someone either
accompanying or tracking Mr. Cunningham. At one place were the remains of
a small fire, and the shells of a few mussels, as if he had eaten them.
It was now most desirable to get ahead of this track, and I lost no time
in proceeding, to the extent of another day's journey, parallel to the
Bogan or, rather, so as to cut off a great bend of it.
DEATH OF THE KANGAROO.
We crossed some good undulating ground, open and grassy, the scenery
being finer, from the picturesque grouping and character of the trees,
than any we had hitherto seen. On one of these open tracts I wounded a
female kangaroo at a far shot of my rifle, and the wretched animal was
finally killed after a desperate fight with the dogs.
There is something so affecting in the silent and deadly struggle between
the harmless kangaroo and its pursuers that I have sometimes found it
difficult to reconcile the sympathy such a death excites with our
possession of canine teeth, or our necessities, however urgent they might
The huntsman's pleasure is no more, indeed, when such an animal dies thus
before him, persecuted alike by the civilised and the savage. In this
instance a young one, warm from the pouch of its mother, frisked about at
a distance, as if unwilling to leave her, although it finally escaped.
The nights were cold, and I confess that thoughts of the young kangaroo
did obtrude at dinner, and were mingled with my kangaroo-steak.
As we turned to our right in the afternoon in search of the Bogan, we
encountered some casuarina scrub, to avoid which we had to wind a little,
so that we only made the river at dusk, and at a part of the bed which
was dry. Water, as we afterwards found, was near enough upwards, but the
two parties sent in the evening having by mistake both sought for it in
the other direction, we had none till early in the morning.
FIVE NATIVES BROUGHT TO ME WITH A SILK HANDKERCHIEF IN THEIR POSSESSION.
Five natives were brought to me by Whiting and Tom Jones, on suspicion;
one of them having a silk pocket-handkerchief which they thought might
have belonged to Mr. Cunningham.
The native wore it fastened over his shoulders, and seemed so careless
about our scrutiny that I could not think he had obtained the
handkerchief by any violence; and still less from Mr. Cunningham, as it
was engrained with a smoky tinge, apparently derived from having been
long in his possession. No mark was upon it, and the only information we
could obtain as to where they got it, was the answer "old fellow," and
pointing to the north-east. As these men had been at some out-station of
ours and could speak a little English, and as they had a young kangaroo
dog called by them olony (Maloney) I did not think at the time that the
handkerchief had belonged to Mr. Cunningham; and the men appointed to
attend him declared they had never seen that handkerchief in his hands.
These five natives were overtaken suddenly at a waterhole two miles lower
down the Bogan. The name of him with the handkerchief was Werrajouit,
those of the other four Yarree Buckenba and Tackijally Buckenba
(brothers) Youimooba, and Werrayoy (youths). The most intelligent was
Tackijally, and even he understood but little, not enough to comprehend
anything I said about the white man lost in the bush.
To secure their goodwill and best services however I immediately gave
them three tomahawks; and when Yarree Buckenba took a new handkerchief
from my pocket I presented him with it. They accompanied us when we moved
forward to encamp nearer water.
THE PARTY HALT AT CUDDULDURY.
We passed a small pond, the name of which was Burdenda, and afterwards
came to Cudduldury where we encamped with the intention of making what
further search we could for Mr. Cunningham.
INTERVIEW WITH THE KING OF THE BOGAN.
While the men were pitching the tents at this place I rode with the
natives, at their request, towards some ponds lower down. There, by their
cooeys and their looks, they seemed to be very anxious about somebody in
the bush beyond the Bogan. I expected to see their chief; at all events
from these silent woods something was to emerge in which my guides were
evidently much interested, as they kept me waiting nearly an hour for
The unseen genius of the wood.
At length a man of mild but pensive countenance, athletic form, and
apparently about fifty years of age, came forth, leading a very fine boy,
so dressed with green boughs that only his head and legs remained
uncovered; a few emu-feathers being mixed with the wild locks of his
hair. I received him in this appropriate costume, as a personification of
the green bough, or emblem of peace.*
(*Footnote. The Grecians used to supplicate with green boughs in their
hands, and crowns upon their heads, chiefly of olive or laurel, whence
Mite nemus circa ----
Vittatae laurus, et supplicis arbor olivae.)
One large feather decked the brow of the chief; which with his nose, was
tinged with yellow ochre. Having presented the boy to me, he next
advanced with much formality towards the camp, having Tackijally on his
right, the boy walking between, and rather in advance of both, each
having a hand on his shoulder.
The boy's face had a holiday look of gladness, but the chief remained so
silent and serious, without however any symptoms of alarm, that my
recollections of him then, and as he appeared next day, when better
acquainted, are as of two distinct persons.
To this personage all the others paid the greatest deference, and it is
worthy of remark that they always refused to tell his name, or that of
several others, while those of some of the tribe were familiar in our
mouths as household words. The boy, who was called Talambe Nadoo, was not
his son; but he took particular care of him. This tribe gloried in the
name of Myall, which the natives nearer to the colony apply in terror and
abhorrence to the wild blackfellows, to whom they usually attribute the
most savage propensities.
Not a word could this chief of the Myalls speak besides his own language;
and his slow and formal approach indicated that it was undoubtedly the
first occasion on which he had seen white men. It was evident at once
that he was not the man to wander to stock-stations; and that, whatever
others of his race might do, he preferred an undisputed sway:
Far from the cheerful haunt of men and herds.
Numbers of the tribe came about us, but they retired at the chief's
bidding. Not one however except those first met with in the Bogan, could
speak any of the jargon by which the natives usually communicate with the
MUIRHEAD AND WHITING SENT TO EXAMINE THE DRY CHANNEL OF THE RIVER.
We could not make them understand that we were in search of one of our
party who was lost; neither could Muirhead and Whiting, who were
returning to follow up Mr. Cunningham's track, prevail on any of these
natives to accompany them.
The two men having departed to take up Mr. Cunningham's track, I must
here observe that the footsteps had not been discovered in the Bogan,
either at our last camp or at this, although Whiting and Tom Jones had
been in search of them when they found the man with a handkerchief; it
was therefore most important to ascertain, if possible, where and under
what circumstances the footsteps disappeared. The skill with which these
men had followed the slightest impressions was remarkable; and I fixed my
hopes on the result of their further exertions.
SEARCH EXTENDED TO THE PLAINS OF THE LACHLAN.
I cannot say that I then expected they would find Mr. Cunningham,
conceiving it was more probable that he had left the Bogan and gone
northward towards our stations on the Macquarie, a river distant only a
short day's journey from the Bogan. My anxiety about him was embittered
with regret at the inauspicious delay of our journey which his
disappearance had occasioned; and I was too impatient on both subjects to
be able to remain inactive at the camp. I therefore set out, followed by
two men on horseback, with the intention of reconnoitring the country to
the southward, taking with us provisions for two days. After riding 17
miles, the first eight through thick scrub, we came into a more open and
elevated country where we saw pigeons, as sign that water was not distant
on some side of us. The hills were covered with a quartzose soil,
containing angular fragments. The Callitris pyramidalis and the Sterculia
heterophylla were among the trees. At 19 miles we crossed some dry ponds
in open forest ground, and we then continued along fine flats for five
miles more, when we again intersected the dry bed of the creek.
CAMP OF NATIVES.
Still pursuing the same direction, and having the watercourse near us on
the left, we passed (at the distance of 26 miles) some native fires; but
I was too anxious to examine the country before me to stop, although I
saw some of the natives seated by them.
PASS THE NIGHT IN A HOLLOW WITHOUT WATER.
We soon after ascended a low ridge of mica-slate; beyond which we came
again on the dry creek, and after crossing it several times we finally
lay down for the night in its bed (which afforded the best grass) 33
miles from the party at Cudduldury. Although this watercourse was
perfectly dry throughout yet it was an interesting feature in a valley
enclosed on each side by undulating hills of mica-slate; and I thought of
continuing in its course next morning, in hopes it might at last lead to
some chain of ponds falling westward.
Our horses had fared but indifferently as to grass, and they had no water
until this morning when we spared to each about half a gallon of what we
carried; but this supply seemed only to make them more thirsty. As soon
as it was clear daylight we continued in the direction of the creek; but
although its bed deepened and at one place (much trodden by the natives)
we discovered a hole which had only recently dried up, still we found no
water. Further on the recent marks of the natives and their huts also
were numerous; but how they existed in this parched country was the
question! We saw that around many trees the roots had been taken up, and
we found them without the bark and cut into short clubs or billets, but
for what purpose we could not then discover. At eleven o'clock I changed
my course to 300 degrees from north and, after travelling about three
miles in that direction, I descried a goodly hill on my left, and soon
after several others, one of which was bare of trees on the summit. After
so long a journey over unvarying flats, we had at length come rather
unawares, as it seemed, into a hilly country, the heights of which were
bold, rocky, and of considerable elevation. I should estimate the summit
of that which we ascended was 730 feet above the lower country at its
base. The dry creek which had led us towards these hills from such a
distance northward, had vanished through them somewhere to our left; and,
bold as the range was, still we could see no better promise of water than
what this seemed to afford.
VIEW TOWARDS MOUNT GRANARD.
The summit up which we forced our horses over very sharp rocks commanded
a most extensive and magnificent view of hills, both eastward and
westward. The country in the north, whence we had come, was nevertheless
higher, although the horizon there was unbroken. Southward the general
line of horizon was a low level on which the hills terminated, as if it
had been the sea. There, I had no doubt, flowed the river Lachlan, and,
probably, one of the highest of the hills was Mount Granard of Oxley.
Towards the east the most elevated hill bore 142 degrees 30 minutes from
North, and was at a distance of about 12 miles. It was a remarkable mass
of yellow rock, naked and herbless, as if nature there had not yet
finished her work. That hill had an isolated appearance; others to the
westward were pointed, and smoke arose from almost every summit, even
from the highest part of the mass on which we stood. Some sharp-edged
rocks prevented us from riding to where the smoke appeared, and I was too
lame to go on foot. No natives were visible, and I could not comprehend
what they could be all about on the various rugged summits whence smoke
arose; as these people rather frequent valleys and the vicinity of ponds
of water. The region I now overlooked was beautifully diversified with
hill and dale, still I could not discover much promise of water; but as
smoke ascended from one flat to the westward I conjectured that we might
there find a pool, but it was too far distant to be then of use to us.
The general direction of hills appeared to be 318 degrees from north;
that of the continuation westward of the flat higher land, North 343
degrees. A broad and extensive smoke was rising from the country where we
had slept and towards which I was about to return by a direct course from
this hill (North 56 degrees East).
A SECOND NIGHT WITHOUT WATER.
Accordingly we travelled until night overtook us in an extensive
casuarina scrub, where we tied our horses, and made our fire, after a
ride of at least 40 miles.
AWOKE BY THE FOREST ON FIRE.
During the night we were made aware, by the crackling of falling timber,
that a conflagration was approaching, and one of us by turns watched,
while the others slept with their arms at hand. The state of our horses,
from want of water, was by no means promising for the long journey which
was necessary to enable us to reach home next day; a circumstance on
which the lives of these animals in all probability depended, especially
as the grass here was very indifferent. We had also little more than a
pint of water for each horse; and it was difficult to give that scanty
allowance to any one of the animals in sight of the others, so furious
were they on seeing it.
Proceeding in search of our first day's track we entered almost
immediately the burning forest. We perceived that much pains had been
taken by the natives to spread the fire, from its burning in separate
Huge trees fell now and then with a crashing sound, loud as thunder,
while others hung just ready to fall, and as the country was chiefly open
forest, the smoke, at times, added much sublimity to the scenery.
INTERVIEW WITH THREE NATIVES.
We travelled five miles through this fire and smoke, all the while in
expectation of coming unawares upon the natives who had been so busy in
annoying us. At length we saw the huts which we had passed the day
before, and soon after three natives, who immediately got behind trees as
we advanced; but although one ran off, yet the others answered my cooey,
and I went towards them on foot, with a green branch. They seemed busy,
digging at the root of a large tree; but on seeing me advance they came
forward with a fire-stick and sat down; I followed their example, but the
cordiality of our meeting could be expressed only by mutual laughing.
They were young men, yet one was nearly blind from ophthalmia or filth. I
called up one of my men and gave a tomahawk to the tallest of these
youths, making what signs I could to express my thirst and want of water.
ROOTS OF TREES SUCKED BY THE NATIVES.
Looking as if they understood me, they hastened to resume their work, and
I discovered that they dug up the roots for the sake of drinking the sap.
It appeared that they first cut these roots into billets, and then
stripped off the bark or rind, which they sometimes chew, after which,
holding up the billet and applying one end to the mouth, they let the
juice drop into it. We now understood for what purpose the short clubs
which we had seen the day before had been cut. The youths resumed their
work the moment they had received the tomahawk without looking more at us
or at the tool. I thought this nonchalance rather singular, and
attributed their assiduity either to a desire to obtain for us some of
the juice, which would have been creditable to their feelings; or to the
necessity for serving some more powerful native who had set them to that
work. One had gone, apparently to call the tribe, so I continued my
journey without further delay. We soon regained our track of the first
day, and I followed it with some impatience back to the camp.
HORSES REACH THE CAMP WITH GREAT DIFFICULTY.
My horse had been ill on the second day, and as this was the third on
which it, as well as the others, had gone without water, they were so
weak that, had we been retarded by any accident another night in the
bush, we must have lost them all. They could be driven on only with
difficulty, nevertheless we reached the camp before sunset.
PART OF MR. CUNNINGHAM'S COAT FOUND.
The tidings brought by the men sent after Mr. Cunningham's footsteps were
still most unsatisfactory. They had followed the river bed back for the
first twelve miles from our camp without finding in it a single pond.
They had traced the continuation of his track to where it disappeared
near some recent fires where many natives had been encamped. Near one of
these fires they found a portion of the skirt or selvage of Mr.
Cunningham's coat; numerous small fragments of his map of the colony;
and, in the hollow of a tree, some yellow printed paper in which he used
to carry the map. The men examined the ground for half a mile all around
without finding more of his footsteps, or any traces of him besides those
mentioned. It was possible and indeed, as I then thought, probable, that
having been deprived by the natives of his coat, he might have escaped
from them by going northward towards some of the various cattle stations
on the Macquarie. I learnt that when the men returned with these vestiges
of poor Cunningham, there was great alarm amongst the natives, and
movements by night, when the greater part of the tribe decamped, and
amongst them the fellow with the handkerchief who never again appeared.
The chief, or king (as our people called him) continued with us, and
seemed quite unconscious of anything wrong. This tribe seemed too far
from the place where the native camp had been to be suspected of any
participation in the ill treatment with which we had too much reason to
fear Mr. Cunningham had met. As we had no language to explain even that
one of our party was missing, I could only hope that, by treating these
savages kindly, they might be more disposed, should they ever see or hear
of Mr. Cunningham, to assist him to rejoin us. To delay the party longer
was obviously unnecessary; and indeed the loss of more time must have
defeated the object of the expedition, considering our limited stock of
I therefore determined on proceeding by short journeys along the Bogan,
accompanied by these natives, not altogether without the hope that Mr.
Cunningham might still be brought to us by some of them.
Continue along the Bogan, guided by the natives.
Their caution in approaching the haunts of others.
Their accurate knowledge of localities.
Introduced to the Bungan tribe.
Superiority of the King how displayed.
A true savage.
The king of the Bogan takes his leave.
Beauty of the shrubs.
Dangerous consequence of surprising a native.
Wounded native led to our camp.
His confidence gained by kind treatment.
Mr. Larmer's excursion to it.
Narrow escape from the loss of the cattle.
The party followed by a clamorous tribe.
Their various complexions.
A native visitor.
Soft earth of the plains.
Ride to the Darling.
The water sweet.
The party encamps on a favourable position on the river.
CONTINUE ALONG THE BOGAN, GUIDED BY THE NATIVES.
Guided by Tackijally we proceeded, crossing the Bogan for the first time
and travelling along its right bank to Bugubada, a distance of eight
Proceeded, again accompanied by Tackijally, under the orders of the king,
who compelled him to go, although he seemed very unwilling or lazy. The
advantage of having such guides was that being now uncertain as to the
further course of the Bogan, which had taken a great bend northward, we
could thus make straight for each proposed waterhole without following
the bends of the river. The knowledge of the people was so exact as to
localities that I could ascertain in setting out the true bearing of
those places by the direction in which they pointed; and in travelling on
such a bearing any obstacle in the way was sure to be avoided by
following the suggestions of the natives. In this manner we now
THEIR CAUTION IN APPROACHING THE HAUNTS OF OTHERS.
Another great advantage gained in the company of the natives was our
being perfectly safe from the danger of sudden collision with a tribe.
Their caution in approaching waterholes was most remarkable; for they
always cooeyed from a great distance, and even on coming near a thick
scrub they would sometimes request me to halt until they could examine
it. This day we passed, in the channel of the Bogan, a long and deep
reach or lagoon, called Muda, of which the natives had made much mention;
but to have remained at this water would have made the day's journey too
short; so we proceeded to a smaller hole named Walwadyer, having crossed
and recrossed the dry channel of the Bogan.
Tackijally, who had of late steadily conducted us to water, came up when
we were ready to start, and showed me the direction in which I was to
find water at the end of the day's journey which appeared to be, as he
pointed, 343 degrees. He then held up the opossum skins of his cloak,
making signs in that manner that he went to seek opossums, but should
rejoin us afterwards.
We twice crossed the Bogan in the first half mile, and then traversed an
open plain, the surface of which was flat, firm, and nearly bare. As we
reached the northern skirts the king, with Talambe Nadoo and Tackijally,
THEIR ACCURATE KNOWLEDGE OF LOCALITIES.
At four miles we passed a good pond called Daumbwan. We encamped further
on at a place called Murrebouga where there was a large pond, the direct
distance from Walwadyer being 5 1/4 miles; and it was a curious test of
the accuracy of the native's local knowledge that, although he
recommended this pond of Murrebouga by merely pointing in its direction,
I had, by following with compass the course indicated, hit the very pond
to which he meant us to go.
INTRODUCED TO THE BUNGAN TRIBE.
Again guided by Tackijally we travelled towards Darobal, the distance
being 7 1/4 miles. We several times crossed the bed of the Bogan, and in
this day's journey we were joined by Dalumbe Tuganda and others of the
Bungan tribe to whom the chief was anxious to introduce us.
SUPERIORITY OF THE KING HOW DISPLAYED.
We had this day an opportunity of witnessing his superiority in those
qualifications by which he was, no doubt, distinguished among the savage
tribes. We had overtaken a strong man with a bad countenance, prowling
along through the bush; and being, as it appeared, a friend of the
king's, he continued with us. An opossum in a tree had baffled all the
endeavours of himself and some young men to get at it, when they cooeyed
for the king. Our royal friend came, climbed the tree in an instant, and
after a cursory examination, dropped some small sticks down the hollow of
the trunk; then listening, he pointed, as by instinct, to a part of the
tree much lower down where, by making a small incision, the others
immediately got the animal out.
We moved (on 345 degrees) for Nyngan, which we reached at half-past
twelve. We passed on our left Borribilu, and there I was introduced by
the king to a new tribe. On first espying these people seated under a
tree at a great distance near the river-bank, he directed my attention
that way by using the same gestures which he was accustomed to make in
giving me notice of a kangaroo or emu.
I accordingly left my horse, going cautiously forward with my rifle. The
chief however kept by me, anxiously calling out with a pathetic voice
"Myen, myen," which words, as I afterwards learnt, meant Men! men! But it
was not until a thought had passed in my mind of firing among the group,
that I had the good fortune to discover my mistake. The figures seated
and covered with grey clay had very much the resemblance of a grey
species of kangaroo which we had often seen on the Bogan. I then went
forward with him, and was received with the most demure inattention; that
is to say, by the natives sitting cross-legged, with their eyes fixed on
the ground, which it appeared was their formal mode of expressing respect
or consideration for strangers when first received.
Nyngan was a long pond of water on which were many ducks, and those birds
called in the colony native companions.
A TRUE SAVAGE.
The blacks sat down at a fire nearer to us than usual, and the strong man
with a bad countenance particularly attracted my attention.
I prevailed on him to sit until I sketched his face; for which piece of
civility I gave him a tomahawk. Late at night, when I was about to go to
sleep, he came softly up to my tent, demanding something in a whisper. I
showed him my rifle, and gave the man on watch strict orders to look
sharp. This savage was twice afterwards caught about the carts during the
night, and in the morning he was seen pointing out to other natives the
cart on which the flour was placed. I never saw a worse countenance on
any native; and I was deprived even of the slight comfort of a doubt as
to poor Cunningham's fate on looking at it.
THE KING OF THE BOGAN TAKES HIS LEAVE.
The king, who had most kindly accompanied us on every day's journey from
Cudduldury, carefully pointing out the open parts of the country, and the
waterholes on which to encamp, this morning took leave of us, having
previously been at some pains to introduce us to the Bungan tribe. These
last natives did not however so well understand our wants; and I was then
rather inclined to be rid of them, and push on at a faster rate than they
would allow me. I therefore refused to halt as they wished at Condurgo,
and proceeded. Our new acquaintance followed until the dogs started after
some kangaroos, and having been long absent, I sent in search of them,
when some of the natives were caught carrying off a kangaroo which the
dogs had killed, and others were decoying our animals away with them. On
the kangaroo being brought to me I gave it to the tribe, in hopes that
they would remain to eat it, and thus leave us to pursue our journey.
They followed us however carrying the kangaroo, until they came to a bend
of the Bogan where they suddenly disappeared. We finally encamped on an
open plain with tolerable pasture, and near a waterhole in the river bed.
The evening was cloudy for the first time since I had been with the party
from the commencement of the expedition; and a smart shower fell during
We set off early, travelling over rather open ground so that we were able
to pursue the river course without difficulty, and we encamped near it on
a plain, after a journey of fourteen miles. Just as we reached the spot
which I had chosen for the camp, several kangaroos appeared, although we
had seen none previously during the day. I hunted them with the dogs
while the people were pitching the tents; and the largest was killed some
way from our camp, in a scrub; so that it was necessary to bring two men
to carry it home--no bad prize after the party had been living, for some
time, on salt provisions.
BEAUTY OF THE SHRUBS.
We started early and the morning was beautifully serene and clear. The
shrubs which gracefully fringed the plains were very picturesque in their
outline, and the delicate tints of their green foliage contrasted
beautifully with the more prevailing light grey tinge, and with white
stems and branches; while the warmer green of one or two trees of
Australian rosewood relieved the sober greyish green of the pendent
acacia. At 5 1/2 miles the river took a westerly bend, the ground on its
banks being higher than usual. From a tree at this point two small hills
(supposed to be the Twins) bore west-north-west distant about twelve
miles. At 9 miles 35 chains the south of the Twins bore 258 degrees,
distant about four miles; at 10 miles 28 chains, the southern of the
Twins bore 249 degrees, the northern 252 degrees; and we encamped on
reaching the creek, after a journey of fifteen miles. We had a fine view
of the supposed Twins as we proceeded; and I found water on making the
river where I wished to encamp.
At daylight we set off for the hills (which I judged to be the Twins of
Sturt) distant 8 1/4 miles. I found a group of small hills, composed of
quartz rock, the strata of which were highly inclined, and the strike
extended north-west and south-east. From the highest, which is the
southern hill, I looked in vain for New Year's range; the horizon in that
direction being quite unbroken; hence I concluded that this could not be
the Twins, and I named it Mount Hopeless. Several remarkable hills
appeared however to the west and south-west, on all of which I took
bearings with the theodolite. Their surface was naked and rocky, only a
few trees consisting of pine (or callitris) and some dwarf gumtrees
appearing on them; but the country within two miles of their base was
more densely wooded than that nearer the Bogan. There were Callitris
pyramidalis, Acacia longifolia, and eucalyptus amongst the trees, and the
soil contained fragments of quartz mixed with red earth. I heard from the
summit the mogo of a native at work on some tree close by, but saw
neither himself nor the smoke of his fire. I returned in time to put the
party in motion by twelve o'clock; and after a journey of 8 1/4 miles we
encamped, as usual, near the left bank of the Bogan. Water seemed more
abundant in this part of the river, for, on the three last occasions, we
had found some as soon as we approached the bank. The pond near our
present encampment was large and deep, and there were others above and
DANGEROUS CONSEQUENCE OF SURPRISING A NATIVE.
As the party were pitching the tents I was, according to my usual custom,
in the bed of the Bogan with the barometer, when I heard, as from a pond
lower down, some hideous yells, then a shot, and immediately afterward
our overseer shouting "hold him!" I hurried up the bank and saw a native
running, bleeding, and screaming most piteously. He was between me and
our tents, which were beyond some trees, and quite out of sight from the
Bogan; but one or two men, on their way for water, soon drew near. The
overseer came to me limping, and stated that, on approaching the pond
with his gun looking for ducks, this native was there alone, sitting with
his dog beside a small fire; that, as soon as he saw Burnett, he yelled
hideously, and running at him in a furious manner up the bank, he
immediately threw a fire-stick and one of his boomerangs, the latter of
which struck Burnett on the leg, the other having passed close over his
shoulder. The native still advancing upon him with a boomerang, he
discharged his piece in his own defence, alarmed, as any man must have
been, under such circumstances. The native kept calling out loudly and
pathetically, but he had now ceased running, perhaps from seeing the
cattle ahead of him. Notwithstanding the entreaties of the men that I
should not go within reach of his missiles, I advanced with a green
branch in my hand towards this bleeding and helpless child of nature.
HIS CONFIDENCE GAINED BY KIND TREATMENT.
Upon seeing this he immediately ceased calling out, seemed to ask some
question, and then at once threw aside the weapons which he held, and sat
down on the ground. On my going up to him, I found he had received the
shot on various parts of his body, but chiefly on his left hand and wrist
which were covered with blood.
WOUNDED NATIVE LED TO OUR CAMP.
I with difficulty prevailed on him to go with me to the tents, making
signs that I wished to dress his wounds. This The Doctor immediately did,
applying lint and Friars balsam to them. During the operation he stared
wildly around him, at the sheep and bullocks, horses, tents, etc. It was
evident he had never seen, perhaps scarcely even ever heard of, such
animals as he now saw, and certainly had never before seen a white man. I
gave him a piece of bread which he did not taste, saying he should take
it to Einer (his gin or wife). He knew not a word of the low jargon
usually taught the natives by our people; but he spoke incessantly in his
own purer language, scarcely a word of which we understood, beyond you,
two gins, fire, doctor (coradje) and to sleep. One circumstance, very
trifling certainly, to mention here, may serve however to show the
characteristic quickness of these people. He had asked for a bit of fire
to be placed beside him (the constant habit of the naked aborigines) and,
on seeing a few sparks of burning grass running towards my feet, he
called out to me "we, we" (i.e. fire, fire!) that I might avoid having my
clothes burnt. This consideration in a savage, amid so many strange
objects, and while suffering from so many new and raw wounds received
from one of us, was, at least, an instance of that natural attentiveness,
if I may so call it, which sometimes distinguishes the aborigines of
Australia. This man of the woods at length by gestures asked my
permission to depart, and also that he might take a fire-stick; and, in
going, he said much which, from his looks and gestures, I understood as
expressive of goodwill or thanks, in his way. He further asked me to
accompany him till he was clear of the bullocks, and thus he left us.
This unfortunate affair arose solely from our too suddenly approaching
the waterholes where the tribes usually resort. We had observed the
caution with which those natives who guided us always went near such
places, by preceding us a good way and calling out; I determined
therefore in future to sound my bugle where I meant to encamp, that the
natives might not be surprised by our too sudden approach, but have time
to retire if they thought proper to do so.
We moved off early, and travelled sixteen miles, when we reached some
good ponds on the Bogan; having passed a remarkable bend in that river to
After proceeding a few miles on our route this morning we saw from a
tree, in the skirt of a plain, a range bearing North 331 degrees. The
bends of the creek sent me much to the westward of that direction: and we
crossed some rotten or hollow ground which delayed the carts. On
proceeding beyond this we came to a fire where we heard natives shouting,
and we then saw them running abreast of us, but I did not court a closer
acquaintance. Soon after, seeing an extensive tract of soft, broken, or
rotten ground before me, I took to the left, in order to gain a plain,
where the surface was firm. On reaching this plain, the dogs killed two
kangaroos, and a little further the soil changing, became red and firm,
with some dry ponds, and though there was little timber yet I had never
before seen several of the kinds of trees. A little before sunset we
reached a slight eminence consisting of a compound of quartz and felspar,
and from it I had a view of New Year's Range of Hume, bearing North 97
degrees, and of a higher range to the west of it. We finally encamped
without water on a fine, open, forest flat, about two miles southward of
the former range.
TRACES OF CAPTAIN STURT'S VISIT.
At two miles from our bivouac we crossed a small rill descending to the
south-east from hills which might be New Year's range. At 5 1/4 miles we
encamped on the Bogan, the most northern but one of five hills supposed
to be the New Year's range, bearing 240 degrees. From this point the
northern extremity of the ridge extending from the hills bore 25 degrees.
At twelve o'clock I went to these heights, and on the first I ascended I
found several stumps of pine (or Callitris pyramidalis) which had been
cut down with an axe, the remains of them being still visible amongst the
ashes of a fire. I was thus satisfied that this was the hill on which
Captain Sturt's party burnt the trees when a man was missing. Still
however a better range to the westward was unaccounted for; but, on
ascending a hill which was still higher and whose rocky crest was clear
of trees, I was able to identify the whole by the bearings of the high
land as given in Captain Sturt's book, and by the strip of plain visible
in the south, which had appeared to that traveller to resemble the bed of
a rapid river. This plain happened to be the one we had crossed the day
before, and I had then observed the waterholes, also mentioned, and that
they had been long dry. No traces besides those already noticed remained
of the visit of the first discoverers of New Year's range.
During my absence three natives had been near the camp, two old men and
one very strong and tall young one. They appeared very much afraid, and
barely remained to receive the flag of truce (a green branch) sitting
with their eyes fixed on the ground and retiring soon after. I do not
think any water could be found nearer than the Bogan at this time,
although I observed hollows between the hills where it would probably
remain some time after rain, and where, I suppose, Captain Sturt's party
found it. I made the latitude of the camp to be 30 degrees 26 minutes 24
seconds, and that of the hill 30 degrees 27 minutes 45 seconds.
We moved off to the northward, and at seven miles came upon the river
where there was a reach for about a mile of deep water; and soon after we
attained that part of it where the bed was of granite, but quite dry. The
bank was here unusually even, like that of a canal, having also little
wood; no polygonum or rhagodia appeared there. Soon after we traversed a
soil composed of gravel, about the size of stones broken for roads; the
fragments were a good deal rounded, and all of granite. We finally
encamped on the river after crossing its usual belt of soft hollow
ground, which was rather distressing to the bullocks. The roads of the
natives frequenting this part of the Bogan were well beaten, but none of
the inhabitants made their appearance.
We started at the usual hour, keeping first to the south of west, in
order to clear the ground near the Bogan, and then on 300 degrees. I
obtained from several parts of the route bearings on the hills west by
south of New Year's range, and which were higher and more conspicuous
than the latter.
We came upon a bend of the river with good waterholes at 11 3/4 miles,
and encamped as usual on the clearest ground near it.
We moved forwards on the bearing of west-north-west until, at 5 1/2
miles, we reached the top of the Pink Hills, where, for the first time, I
saw Oxley's Tableland, bearing 5 degrees south of west, and distant
apparently about thirteen or fourteen miles, also Druid's Mount, bearing
10 1/2 degrees west of north. Seeing the first-mentioned hill so near, I
should have made for it, had I felt certain that water remained in the
swamp mentioned by Captain Sturt, and that the bullocks could reach the
hill before night. But they were now proceeding slowly and half tired;
and I considered it, upon due reflection, to be more advisable to go in a
north-west direction towards the Bogan. On the western slope of these
hills we found some of the pinks in flower, from which probably they have
been named. There was also an unusual verdure about the grass, and a
fragrance and softness in the western breeze which seemed to welcome us
to that interior region, and imparted a mildness to the air, while
picturesque clouds in the western sky led active fancy into still finer
regions under them.
We finally encamped on a plain about a mile from the Bogan where the
highest of Oxley's Tableland bore 250 degrees from north, being distant
eighteen miles. We had now reached a better country for grass than we had
seen since we left Buree; and there was still a verdure in the blade and
stalk, as well as a fulness in the tufts, which looked well for our poor
cattle after a continuous journey of sixteen days.
MR. LARMER'S EXCURSION TO IT.
The party halted in this plain while Mr. Larmer went to Oxley's Tableland
to ascertain if the swamp there contained water. Having to take some
observations and bring up an arrear of various other matters, I could not
then visit that hill, though I wished much to do so. I found its latitude
to be 30 degrees 11 minutes 15 seconds South, and longitude 146 degrees
16 minutes 9 seconds East. The extreme lowness of the country and of the
bed of the Bogan, which was now, according to the barometer, near the
level of the sea, left little room to doubt that the Darling could be
much above that level. Mr. Larmer's report, on returning in the evening
after a ride of forty miles, was by no means in favour of Oxley's
Tableland as a place even of temporary encampment, there being no longer
any swamp containing water; on the contrary, the only water that he could
discover about the hill, after much search on and around it, was a small
spring in a hollow on the northern side. His account of the surrounding
country was equally unfavourable, for he stated that it was very brushy,
and without good grass.
NARROW ESCAPE FROM THE LOSS OF THE CATTLE.
Now it was obvious that had we, according to a suggestion sent to the
government by Captain Sturt, proceeded on the 20th of May to Oxley's
Tableland, trusting to find abundance of water, the loss of our cattle
would have been inevitable. To have reached that point we must have made
one long day's journey, and the distance thence to the nearest part of
the Bogan could not have been accomplished in another. On the third day,
the two preceding having been passed without water, the animals would
have been unable to go further.
The specimen brought from the hill by Mr. Larmer appeared to be a
I continued my journey along the Bogan, and in crossing and recrossing it
once we passed several reaches of water. The country was generally open,
and we encamped on another fine grassy plain after travelling about
twelve miles. This day, in chasing an emu, I dropped a telescope which
had been in my possession twenty-four years, having used it in the survey
of many a field of battle.
THE PARTY FOLLOWED BY A CLAMOROUS TRIBE.
We proceeded as usual. The calls of the natives, first heard at a
distance in the woods, having become more loud and at length incessant, I
answered them in a similar tone; and having halted the carts I galloped
over a bit of clear rising-ground towards the place whence the voices
came, followed by five men.
A tribe of eighteen or twenty natives were coming forward, but the sight
of my horse galloping made those in the rear turn back, when I
immediately alighted and walked towards them with a green tuft. The two
foremost and strongest of the party came forward, and when I sat down
they advanced with boomerangs in hand. Seeing that they retained these
weapons, I arose, upon which they, understanding me immediately, threw
the boomerangs aside. I then went up to the two in advance, the tribe
following behind. The leader had lost an eye, and the three principal men
seemed very strong fellows. I invited them to come forward, but they
hesitated until my escort, which was still some way back, sat down. I
mounted my horse to show the animal's docility, and thus remove their
dread of it; but they immediately turned to run, whereupon I alighted and
led their chief a little nearer, but they were very unwilling to approach
my party. At length I presented the one-eyed leader with a tomahawk, and
they all sat down. This native seemed a manly intelligent fellow. To all
which he appeared to comprehend of what I said his answer was "Awoy,"
accompanied by a nod, as if he had said "O yes." On my mentioning
Goindura Gally, and making the signs of paddling a canoe, he pointed
immediately to the westward. This term I understood from the Bungan tribe
to mean saltwater; water being kally, gally, or gallo. So bungan gallo
was the name of the lower Bogan, and Bogan gallo that of the upper Bogan.
Goindura I understood to mean salt, in consequence of that word having
been used by the chief of the Bogan when I showed him some salt.
THEIR VARIOUS COMPLEXIONS.
Among the tribe we now communicated with there appeared a greater variety
of feature and complexion than I had ever seen in aboriginal natives
elsewhere; most of them had straight brown hair, but others had Asiatic
features, much resembling Hindoos, with a sort of woolly hair.
There were two old men with grey beards who sat silent; and one who
maintained a very ceremonious face seemed intent on preserving decorum,
for he silenced a boy with a slight blow who had eagerly spoken while I
was endeavouring to remind them of the former exploring party. After they
had sat a very short time and I had pointed out the direction in which I
was proceeding, they arose and went away, and we continued our journey.
After we had advanced a mile or two a deep reach of the Bogan appeared on
our right, or northward; and one of the natives, followed by others who
remained at some distance behind, came up to tell us there was water. We
accordingly gave the cattle some, and then went on, finally encamping on
a bit of plain near the Bogan where Oxley's Tableland bore about
south-south-east, and having travelled nearly twelve miles. Observed
latitude 33 degrees 3 minutes 29 seconds South.
The party moved this morning about seven miles towards the west until
Oxley's Tableland bore 125 degrees. We travelled chiefly across plains
destitute of grass; and from which we had good views of that strangely
named hill, never seen by Oxley, and in fact, not a tableland.
A NATIVE VISITOR.
A native came after us, bearing a small piece of canvas which had been
thrown away at the former camp. He accompanied us during the rest of the
day's journey, and I gave him a tomahawk, and a seventh part of my old
sword blade. He continued at the camp, and asked for everything he saw,
but we took care not to understand him.
SOFT EARTH OF THE PLAINS.
All over these plains the ground was so soft, being quite clear of roots
or sward, that the cartwheels sunk very deep in it. The soil nevertheless
appeared to be excellent, although it was naked like fallow land, for the
roots of the umbelliferous plants which grew there had so little hold
that they were easily set loose by the winds and lay about the surface.
At dark five natives advanced along our track, shouting, but remaining at
a distance. I sent two men to them (one with a fire-stick) in order to
tell them we were going to sleep. Two of the party were old men, one
having hoary hair, and all five carried spears, which they stuck in the
ground, and sat down as soon as our people went up to them. After that
interview they decamped towards the Bogan.
Early this morning the same men came to a tree, at some distance from the
tents. I went to them and showed them my watch, compass, etc.; when they
pointed to the northward, making motions by which I supposed they meant
to represent three courses of the sun; and I therefore concluded that
they had seen me on the Karaula three years before.
RIDE TO THE DARLING.
I then gave them a piece of my broken sword, and set off with a party on
horseback to see the river Darling. By half-past ten I made this river at
a distance of eight miles from our camp, by riding first three miles
west, and then five in the direction of 20 degrees north of west by
compass. The people with me immediately declared it was our old
acquaintance the Karaula, unaltered in a single feature. Here we saw the
same description of broken earthy banks; the same kind of lofty trees,
and the long, deep, and still reaches, so characteristic of a lengthened
and slumbering course.
THE WATER SWEET.
But the great question to be determined was the quality of the water,
which, appearing to me from the top of the bank, very transparent, and of
a greenish tinge, and without any indication of a current, I did not
doubt was salt, as when first discovered in nearly the same latitude by
Sturt. I was however so agreeably surprised, on descending the steep
bank, to find the taste perfectly sweet, that I began to doubt if this
river could be The Darling, thinking, from the difference in the
longitude especially, that it might still be the lower part of the Bogan,
the course of which continued westward, and on my right as I rode from
the camp. I proceeded some distance down the river, and found the reaches
to extend first west-north-west, next north-north-east (half a mile) then
south-west by south (1 1/2 miles); I was at length satisfied that this
was indeed the river Darling, and I was no less gratified in perceiving a
slight current in it with no obstruction for our boats as far as I had
yet examined. The paths of the natives were fresh-trodden, but we saw
none of them, and I returned towards the camp, where I arrived by two
P.M. The bed of the Darling at the place where we reached it could not be
elevated more, according to the state of the barometrical column (as
compared at the time with that of my barometer as it had stood at
Parramatta bridge) than 250 feet above the level of the sea.
NATIVES AFRAID OF THE SHEEP.
I found that the natives whom I had left at the camp no longer remained
there, having quitted it soon after my departure, apparently afraid of
A party of our friends the natives again made their appearance; and five
of them, including the three who had visited us yesterday, took their
stations under the same tree, while a number of gins and children
remained on the border of the scrub, half a mile off. Just before the
camp broke up I went to them and gave a tomahawk to an old grey-haired
man. The chief spokesman was a ferocious forward sort of savage, to whom
I would rather have given anything than a tomahawk, from the manner in
which he handled my pockets. My horse awaited me and I by signs explained
to them that I was going. I suspect that Watta is their familiar name for
the Darling from their use of this word on any sign being made in
reference to the river.
THE PARTY ENCAMPS ON A FAVOURABLE POSITION ON THE DARLING RIVER.
We proceeded on a bearing of 251 degrees until at 15 miles and 45 chains
we reached the bank of the Darling. The cattle had been at some places
rather distressed from the heaviness of the ground, having had scarcely
any food for the last two days except a hard, dry, composite plant which
usurped the place of grass. The camp I had left, which was in other
respects a fine position, could not possibly have served as a depot for
the cattle. We were extremely fortunate however in the place to which the
bounteous hand of providence had led us. Abundance of pasture; indeed
such excellent grass as we had not seen in the whole journey, covered the
fine open forest ground on the bank of the river! There were four kinds
but the cattle appeared to relish most a strong species of anthisteria,
or kangaroo grass. But the position to which we had come, on so straight
a line, reaching it however only at sunset, surpassed anything I had
expected to find on this river. It consisted of the highest ground in the
neighbourhood, rising gradually from the lower levels by which we had
approached the river to an elevated and extensive plateau overlooking a
deep and broad reach. This was covered or protected on the north by a
green swamp which was again shut in by an extensive bend of the Darling.
On the west and north-west there was little timber in the way; and the
whole place seemed extremely favourable for the object about which I was
then most anxious, namely, the establishment of a secure depot and place
Rain at last.
Named Fort Bourke.
Visited by the natives.
Mortality among them from smallpox.
Results of the journey.
Friendly disposition of a native.
Presents to natives.
They become importunate.
We leave the depot and embark in the boats.
Slow progress down the river.
Return to the depot.
Natives in canoes.
Excursion with a party on horseback.
A perfumed vegetable.
Interview with natives.
Present them with tomahawks.
Unsuccessful search for Mr. Hume's marked tree.
Ascend D'Urban's group.
Promising view to the southward.
A burnt scrub full or spinous dead boughs.
A night without water.
Return to the camp.
The party proceeds down the Darling.
Surprise a party of natives.
Mr. Hume's tree found.
Fall in the Darling.
Surprised by a party of natives.
Emu killed by the dogs.
Meet the Puppy tribe.
Ascend Dunlop's range.
High land discovered to the westward.
Grass pulled and piled in ricks by the natives.
Hills beyond the Darling.
Interview with the Red tribe.
The Puppy tribe.
How to avoid the sandy hills and soft plains.
Visit a hill beyond the Darling.
View from its summit.
RAIN AT LAST.
During the night the wind blew and rain fell for the first time since the
party left the colony. As we had been travelling for the last month on
ground which must have become impassable after two days of wet weather,
it may be imagined what satisfaction our high position gave me when I
heard the rain patter. The morning being fair I reconnoitred the course
of the river and the environs of our camp, and at once selected the spot
on which our tents then stood for a place of defence, and a station in
which the party should be left with the cattle. The boats were
immediately lowered from the carriage, and although they had been brought
500 miles across mountain ranges and through trackless forests, we found
them in as perfect a state as when they left the dockyard at Sydney.
Our first care was to erect a strong stockade of rough logs, that we
might be secure under any circumstances; for we had not asked permission
to come there from the inhabitants, who had been reported to be numerous,
and who would of course soon make their appearance. All hands were set to
fell trees and cut branches, and in a very short time a stockade was in
progress, capable of a stout resistance against any number of natives.
NAMED FORT BOURKE.
As the position was in every respect a good one, either for its present
purpose or, hereafter perhaps, for a township, and consequently was one
important point gained by this expedition, I named it Fort Bourke after
His Excellency the present Governor, the better to mark the epoch in the
progress of interior discovery.
VISITED BY THE NATIVES.
This morning some natives appeared on the opposite bank of the river,
shouting and calling, but keeping at a respectful distance from the
bullocks, some of which had already crossed. At length they ventured over
and, on my going to meet them, they sat down about 200 yards from the
tents. The party consisted of four men and a boy, followed by seven women
and children who sat at a little distance behind.
MORTALITY AMONG THEM FROM SMALLPOX.
The men carried no spears and looked diminutive and simple; most of them
had had the smallpox, but the marks were not larger than pin heads. I
found they had either seen or heard of Captain Sturt's party for,
pointing to the sun, they showed me that six revolutions of that source
of heat had elapsed since the visit of others like us. Other gestures,
such as a reference to covering, and expressions of countenance, made
their indications of the lapse of time plain enough. It seemed to me that
the disease which it was understood had raged among them (probably from
the bad water) had almost depopulated the Darling, and that these people
were but the remains of a tribe. The females were numerous in proportion
to the males, and they were not at all secluded by the men, as in places
where the numerical proportions were different. All these natives (with
the exception of the boy) had lost the right front tooth. They had a very
singular mode of expressing surprise, making a curious short whistle by
joining the tongue and lips. The gins were hideous notwithstanding they
were rouged with red ochre, by way, no doubt, of setting off their
charms. I gave to one man a piece of my sword blade, and to another a
tomahawk, which he carefully wrapped in the paper in which I had kept it,
and he seemed much pleased with his present. They pointed to the west as
the general course of the river.
RESULTS OF THE JOURNEY.
The results of our journey thus far were, first, the survey of the Bogan,
nearly from its sources to its junction with the Darling. This I
considered no trifling addition to Australian geography; for the
knowledge of the actual course of a long river, however diminutive the
channel, may often determine to a great extent the character of the
country through which it passes. In the present instance it may be
remarked that, had Captain Sturt considered the course of this river when
he named the lower part of it New Year's Creek, the idea that the plains
which he saw to the southward of New Year's range formed the "channel of
a broad and rapid river" never could have occurred to him; for the basin
of the Bogan being bounded on the west by a succession of low hills, no
other river could have been reasonably looked for in such a direction.
Again, the connection of that chain of low hills with the higher lands of
the colony, being thus indicated by the course of the Bogan, it is not
probable that this traveller, had he been aware of the fact, would have
described New Year's range, which is about the last of these hills, as
"the FIRST elevation in the interior of Eastern Australia, to the
westward of Mount Harris." On the contrary, the divergent lines of the
Bogan and the Lachlan might rather have been supposed to include a hilly
country which, increasing in height in proportion as its breadth thus
became greater, would naturally form that high ground so likely to
separate the Upper Darling from the valley of the Murray.
Secondly. The continuous course of the Bogan into the Darling being thus
at length determined, Duck creek, a deeper chain of ponds in the level
country nearer to the Macquarie, could only be considered the final
channel for the waters of that river in their course towards the Darling;
and it only remained to be ascertained on our return at what point these
waters of the Macquarie separated during its floods from the main stream.
Thirdly. The non-existence of any swamp under Oxley's Tableland furnished
another proof of the extreme vicissitudes of climate to which that part
of Australia is subject. This spot had been specially recommended to
government by Captain Sturt as the best place for my depot, on account of
the water to be found there, whereas we had found that vicinity so dry
that had I relied too implicitly on the suggestion I must, as already
observed, in all probability, have lost the cattle.
Fourthly. The water of the Darling, which when discovered had been salt,
was now fresh, thus proving that there was on this last occasion a
greater abundance of water in the river; while the swamp dried up, proved
that less remained upon the surface than when this country had been
The geological character of the country was obvious enough, the hills
consisting of quartz rock and that fine-grained red sandstone which
characterises the most barren regions of New South Wales. Below this rock
granite appeared in the bed of the Bogan precisely at the place where
this river, after a long course nearly parallel to the Macquarie, at
length takes a remarkable turn westward towards the Darling.
FRIENDLY DISPOSITION OF A NATIVE.
We this day completed the stockade and had felled most of the timber near
it; and I was glad to find that the blacks had already resumed their
usual occupations. One of those, whom I saw yesterday, while passing down
the river today on a piece of bark, perceived Mr. Larmer fishing, upon
which he approached the riverbank, and after throwing to him a fish which
he had caught, continued in his frail bark to float down the stream. This
was a most prepossessing act of kindness, and I begged Mr. Larmer to
endeavour to recognise the man again and show our sense of it by suitable
EMBARK IN THE BOATS.
This morning we launched the boats and one of them, which had never
floated before, was called by the men The Discovery. I therefore named
the other The Resolution, telling them that they had now the names of
Captain Cook's two ships for our river-navigating vessels. Most of the
loads were also arranged today for embarkation, including three months'
rations: three months supplies were also left for the garrison, besides a
store of one month for the whole party, to serve for the journey home.
This day our Vulcan presented me with a good blade, forged on the Darling
and tempered in its waters. We were fortunate in our blacksmith, for he
also made some good pikes or spearheads, which he mounted on long poles,
to be carried in the boats.
PRESENTS TO NATIVES.
The same natives with an old man and a very wild-looking young one,
covered with red ochre, total gules, came to their tree, and I went to
them. I gave the old man a spike-nail sharpened, but he asked for a
tomahawk, and I then gave him one.
THEY BECOME IMPORTUNATE.
This last gift only made our visitors more importunate; but I at length
left them to attend to more important matters. Soon after, the man to
whom I first gave a tomahawk beckoned me to come to him again, and I went
up with my rifle, demanding what more he wanted; whereupon he only
laughed, and soon after pulled my handkerchief from my pocket. I restored
it to its place in a manner that showed I disliked the freedom taken with
it. I then sent a ball into a tree a good way off, which seemed to
surprise them; and having made them understand that such a ball would
easily pierce through six blackfellows, I snapped my fingers at one of
their spears, and hastened to the camp. I considered these hints the more
necessary as the natives seemed to think us very simple fools who were
ready to part with everything. Thus enlightened as to the effect of our
firearms these thankless beggars disappeared; although several gins and
some men still sat on the opposite bank, observing our boats.
WE LEAVE THE DEPOT AND EMBARK IN THE BOATS.
Everything being ready I embarked with Mr. Larmer and 14 men, leaving the
depot in charge of Joseph Jones (assistant overseer) and six other men,
armed with four muskets and as many pistols. We proceeded well enough
some way down the river, but at length a shallow reach first occasioned
much delay, and afterwards rocks so dammed up the channel that it was
necessary to unload and draw the boats over them.
SLOW PROGRESS DOWN THE RIVER.
Our progress was thus extremely slow, notwithstanding the activity and
exertions of the men, who were almost constantly in the water, although a
bitter cold wind blew all day. By sunset we had got over a bad place
where there was a considerable fall, when, on looking round the point, we
found that the bed of the river was full of rocks, to the extent of
nearly a mile. I therefore encamped only a few miles from the depot, the
latitude being 30 degrees 9 minutes 59 seconds South.
RETURN TO THE DEPOT.
These unexpected impediments to our progress down the river determined me
to return to the depot with the boats, and afterwards to explore its
course on horseback until I could discover more of its character and
No time had yet been lost, for the horses and cattle had required some
rest; and the depot was still desirable as a place of defence while I
proceeded down with the horses. We had however acquired such a knowledge
of the bed, banks, and turnings of the river at this part as could not
have been otherwise obtained. The water being beautifully transparent the
bottom was visible at great depths, showing large fishes in shoals,
floating like birds in mid-air. What I have termed rocks are only patches
of ferruginous clay which fill the lowest part of the basin of this
river. The bed is composed either of that clay or of a ferruginous
sandstone exactly similar to that on the coast near Sydney, and which
resembles what was formerly called the iron-sand of England, where it
occurs, as before stated, both as a fresh and saltwater formation. At the
narrows the quantity of running water was very inconsiderable, but
perhaps as much as might have turned a mill. It made some noise among the
stones however although at the very low level of this river compared to
its distance from the known coasts it could not fall much. I was
nevertheless unwilling to risk the boats among the rocks or clay banks,
and accordingly decided on returning to the camp.
We proceeded up the river with the boats, re infecta, and reached the
depot about two o'clock, where we found all things going on as I had
NATIVES IN CANOES.
As we pulled up the river two natives appeared at a distance in one of
the long reaches, fishing in two small canoes. On observing our boats
they dashed the water up, paddling with their spears, and thus scudding
with great rapidity to the right bank, where they left their canoes and
instantly disappeared. These vessels were of the simplest construction;
so slight indeed that it seemed to us singular how a man could float in
one, for it was merely a sheet of bark, with a little clay at each end;
yet there was a fire besides in each, the weather being very cold. A
native, when he wishes to proceed, stands erect and propels the canoe
with the short spear he uses in fishing; striking the water with each end
alternately, on each side of the canoe, and he thus glides very rapidly
EXCURSION WITH A PARTY ON HORSEBACK.
I set off with four men on horseback to examine the river downwards,
proceeding first two miles on a bearing of 151 degrees, and then
south-west. At about 20 miles we made an angle of the river where the
left bank was 50 feet high. None of the usual indications of the
neighbourhood of the Darling appeared here. No flats of Polygonum
junceum, nor falls in the ground. The river was evidently encroaching on
this high bank which consisted of red sandy earth to the depth of ten
feet. Below this stratum was clay mixed with calcareous concretions. The
opposite bank was lower and very grassy; and the water in the river was
brackish; but a small spring oozing from the rocks above-mentioned, at
about two feet above the water of the river, was perfectly sweet. From
this bend the highest point of D'Urban's group bore 151 degrees (from
north). About one half of the way which we had come today lay across
plains, the last portion we crossed containing several hollows, thickly
overgrown with the Polygonum junceum. Between these low parts the ground
was rather more elevated than usual, especially where D'Urban's group
bore 163 degrees (from north). The undulations were probably connected
with that range, and their position afforded some clue to the western
bends of the river. We passed in a scrub a young gin and a boy. They did
not begin to run until we stood still and had called to them for some
time. As there was still light to spare I proceeded onward, travelling
west-south-west, and with difficulty regained sight of the river at dusk.
Here the water was still more brackish but quite good enough for use; and
we passed the night in a hollow by the riverside.
At an angle of the river, below the gully in which we had slept, a rocky
dyke crossed the stream in a north-north-west direction. It consisted of
a very hard ferruginous sandstone resembling that on the eastern coast.
This must have been another of the many impediments to our boat
navigation had we proceeded by water, and from the general appearance of
the river I was satisfied that a passage with boats could not have been
attempted in its present state with any prospect of getting soon down. We
travelled on, without seeing the river, from seven until twelve,
following a south-west course, then due west, and in this direction we
crossed the broad dry bed of a watercourse coming from the south-east,
having previously observed high ground on the left.
A PERFUMED VEGETABLE.
The bed of this watercourse was covered with a plant resembling clover or
trefoil, but it had a yellow flower, and a perfume like that of
woodrooffe.* A fragrant breeze played over this richest of clover fields
and reminded me of new-mown hay. The verdure and the perfume were new to
my delighted senses, and my passion for discovering something rich and
strange was fully gratified, while my horse, defying the rein, seemed no
less pleased in the midst of so delicious a feast as this verdure must
have appeared to him. The ground seemed to rise before me, and I was
proceeding with the intention of ascending the nearest elevation to look
for the Darling when I suddenly came upon its banks, which were higher,
and its bed was broader and deeper than ever!
(*Footnote. See below for Dr. Lindley's description of this plant.)
INTERVIEW WITH NATIVES.
We had also arrived on it at a point occupied by a numerous tribe of
blacks, judging by the number of fires which we saw through the trees.
Their roads appeared in all directions, and their gins were fishing in
the river at a distance. In short, the buzz of population gave to the
banks at this place the cheerful character of a village in a populous
country. Conscious of the alarm our first appearance was likely to
produce, although I could not suppose that all the inhabitants would run
off, I hastened to the water edge with our horses (for they had not drunk
that morning) in order that we might, after refreshing them, recover a
position favourable for a parley with whoever might approach us. I was
much pleased, though surprised, to find the water again quite fresh, and
its current still sustained.* Our appearance caused less alarm than I had
even expected. A sturdy man hailed me from a distance and came boldly up,
followed by another very athletic, though old, individual, and six
younger men with an old woman. I alighted and met them after sending, at
their request, the horses out of sight. With difficulty I persuaded them
at length to go near the horses; but I endeavoured in vain to gain any
information as to the further course of the river. The Callewatta was
still their name for it, as it was higher up. I observed here that the
old woman was a loquacious and most influential personage, scarcely
allowing the older of the men to say a word.
(*Footnote. See below.)
PRESENT THEM WITH TOMAHAWKS.
The curiosity of these people was too intense to admit of much attention
on their part, at that time, either to our words or gestures so, after
giving them a tomahawk and two large nails, and refusing to let them have
my pocket-handkerchief (no unusual request, for such natives always found
it out) I mounted, and we galloped off to the eastward, their very
singular mode of expressing surprise being audible until we were at some
distance. On reaching that point in my track where I had in the morning
changed the direction of my ride, I took off to the north-north-east, in
search of the river, and at six miles we reached a branch of it where it
formed an island. We did not arrive here until long after sunset and
were, consequently, in an unpleasant state of ignorance as to the
locality, but we made our fire in a hollow, as on the preceding night,
and could only rely on the surrounding silence for security. The result
of the excursion thus far was that I ascertained that angle of the river
which I first made on this tour to be the part nearest of all to
D'Urban's group; that its general course thence to the lowest position at
which I had seen it (the direct distance being 21 miles) is nearly two
points more to the westward than the course from the depot; and that,
even at such a distance from Oxley's Tableland and D'Urban's group, the
line of the river is evidently influenced by these heights, thus
rendering it probable that it might be found to turn still more towards
the west or north-west on its approaching any other hills situated on the
(*Footnote. See below.)
I awoke thankful that we had been again guided to a solitary and secure
place of rest. That no tribe was near admitted of little doubt after we
had seen the morning dawn and found ourselves awake for, had our fire
been discovered by any natives, it was very unlikely that any of us had
been permitted to wake again.
UNSUCCESSFUL SEARCH FOR MR. HUME'S MARKED TREE.
Being within a mile and a half of where Captain Sturt and Mr. Hume had
turned (as indicated by the bearing given by the former of D'Urban's
group, namely 58 degrees East of South) I looked along the riverbank for
the tree described by the former as having Mr. Hume's initials cut upon
it, but without success, and at ten o'clock I left the river and rode on
the same bearing to D'Urban's group. The thick scrub, having been
previously burnt, presented spikes like bayonets, which reduced our
hurried ride to a walking pace, our horses winding a course through it as
the skeleton trees permitted. In an unburnt open place I found one
solitary specimen of a tree with light bluish-green leaves, and a taste
and smell resembling mustard. It was no less remarkable for its rare
occurrence and solitary character than for the flavour of its wood and
remarkable foliage. I could obtain no seeds of it.*
(*Footnote. See description of this plant as discovered in a better state
on the banks of the Murray, Volume 2 Chapter 3.6. June 5. Gyrostemon.)
ASCEND D'URBAN'S GROUP.
I ascended the highest and most southern summit, anxiously hoping to
obtain a view of Dunlop's range. The view was most satisfactory. I beheld
a range, the first I had seen since I lost sight of Harvey's. It was
extensive and descended towards the river from the south-east, being a
different kind of feature from the various detached hills which cannot
form basins for rivers on these dead levels, nor even supply springs.
PROMISING VIEW TO THE SOUTHWARD.
Dunlop's range certainly was not high, but its undulating crest,
vanishing far in the south-east, showed its connection with the high
ground south of the Bogan; and a long line of smoke skirting its northern
base afforded fair promise of some river or chain of ponds near which a
native population could live. The course of the Darling was clearly
marked out by its extensive plains and the darker line of large trees
vanishing far in the west. Beyond, or westward of the river, no high
ground appeared, no Berkley's range as shown on the map, unless it might
be a slight elevation, so very low and near as to be visible above the
horizon, only from the foot of the hill on which I then stood. A few
detached hills were scattered over the country between me and the Bogan;
and of these Oxley's Tableland was the most remarkable, being a finer
mass by far than Mount Helvelyn. This ridge, the features of which are
rather tame, consists of two hills (a and b) the principal or southern
summit (a) being 910 feet, the other 660 feet, above the plain at their
base. These heights are 2 1/2 miles from each other, which distance
comprises the whole extent of D'Urban's group, in the line of its summits
between north-east and south-west.
The steep and rocky face of the ridge thus formed is towards the river,
or westward. Eastward lower features branch off, and are connected by
slight undulations with some of the otherwise isolated hills in that
quarter. Towards the base is a very fine-grained sandstone, and at the
summit I found a quartzose rock, possessing a tendency to break into
irregular polygons, some of the faces being curved. There are a few
stunted pines on the higher crest, but the other parts are nearly bare.
The highest point of Helvelyn (which I take to be the southern summit) is
distant from the nearest bend of the Darling 17 2/6 miles, on a line
bearing 151 degrees from North, and from the highest part of Oxley's
Tableland, which bears 43 degrees from North (variation 6 degrees 30
minutes East) it is distant 39 miles. At this summit the western
extremity of Dunlop's range forms with Oxley's Tableland an angle
coinciding with the general course of the Darling, which flows through
the adjacent plains at an average distance of about 16 miles from each of
A BURNT SCRUB FULL OR SPINOUS DEAD BOUGHS.
It was nearly sunset when I mounted my horse at the foot of Helvelyn,
intending to return to the Darling for, there being no other water in the
whole country at that time, my intention was to travel back to this river
by moonlight. I had found however during my ride to this hill, that the
intervening country was covered by a half-burnt scrub, presenting sharp
points between which we could scarcely hope to pass in safety by
moonlight with our horses, since even in daylight we could not proceed
except at a very slow pace. The half-burnt branches were armed with
points so sharp as to penetrate, in one instance, the upper part of my
horse's hoof, and in another, a horse's fetlock, from which a portion was
drawn measuring more than an inch.
A NIGHT WITHOUT WATER.
I therefore determined to pass the night at a short distance from the
foot of this hill, on a spot where I found some good grass.
RETURN TO THE CAMP.
We proceeded to the Darling where we could, at length, have breakfast and
water the horses. Returning from the river along our track to the camp I
arrived there at seven in the evening with two of the men, the others
having fallen behind on account of their horses. The latter however came
in not long after, although it had been found necessary to leave one poor
horse tied in the bush near the camp until sent for early next morning.
On our way back we discovered that a native having a very large foot had
followed our track for fifteen miles from where we had first alarmed the
gin; it was therefore probable that he had not been far from where we
slept in the hollow on the first evening.
THE PARTY LEAVES FORT BOURKE.
We broke up our encampment on the position which I had selected for a
depot (and which had served as such during our short absence down the
river) and after proceeding two miles on the bearing of 151 degrees, in
order to clear the river, we followed my previous track to the
THE PARTY PROCEEDS DOWN THE DARLING.
The ground crossed by the party this day consisted chiefly of plains with
little scrub; and when we had travelled 12 1/2 miles, it appearing open
towards a bend in the river, we made for the tall trees (our
never-failing guides to water) on a bearing of 248 degrees. We reached
the Darling at 14 1/4 miles and encamped near it.
SURPRISE A PARTY OF NATIVES.
As we approached this spot, and while I was reconnoitring the bank for
the purpose of marking out the camp, I came suddenly upon a party of
natives, one of whom giving a short cooey first made me aware of the
circumstance. Burnett went towards them with a branch; but they hastily
gathered up their things and fled. The party appeared to consist of two
men and five women, and it doubtless belonged to the same tribe as the
gins we had previously seen; and the men were probably those who had
traced us so far. The river water was brackish; and in the bank was a bed
of calcareous concretions which some of the men supposed to be bones.
Striking again into the original south-west track by leaving the river on
a bearing of 202 degrees we arrived on the eastern bend of it, where we
had before breakfasted, and where we now heard natives, as if hastily
making their escape. Continuing the journey to the next bend lower down
we encamped at the head of the same gully in which I slept on the night
between the 4th and 5th of June.
On passing through the bush this day we fell in with a tree that was new
to me. It appeared to be very near Acacia eglandulosa (De C.) but the
branches had so graceful a character that I was tempted to draw it while
I awaited the arrival of the carts, whose progress through the spinous
scrub already mentioned was very slow. The wood of this acacia was hard
and of a dark brown colour. We gathered some stones of the fruit: and we
brought away its stem also.
The knowledge which I had acquired in my ride down the Darling now
enabled me to follow the most desirable route in order to avoid the
scrub, and travel along the plains near its banks. At five miles and
twelve chains we approached a bend of the river, and found there the
remains of a large hut, in the construction of which an axe had been
used. It therefore occurred to me that we might be near the tree where
Captain Sturt had turned from the Darling, and I found that the northern
head of D'Urban's group bore nearly 58 degrees East of South, the bearing
given by him of this group.
MR. HUME'S TREE FOUND.
I therefore looked along the riverbank for the tree in question, but
without success. In crossing a dry watercourse some miles further on it
occurred to me that this might be the one at the mouth of which Mr. Hume
had cut his name. I therefore sent overseer Burnett and The Doctor to
trace the channel down, and to look for a tree so marked. They found at
the mouth of the creek a very large and remarkable gumtree, and on the
side next the river the letters H.H. appeared, although the cross-line of
one H had grown out. The letters seemed to have been cut with a tomahawk,
and were about five inches in length. The men cut my initials also on
that tree, which to my regret I was prevented from seeing by a desire to
attain a certain point with the party which I was consequently obliged to
lead. We travelled for this purpose until after sunset, and then encamped
at a distance of about a mile and a half to the southward of a bend of
CATARACT IN THE DARLING.
Here the river formed a cataract of about two feet, falling over some
argillaceous ironstone: and as the waters glittered in the moonlight I
listened with awe to the unwonted murmur of this mysterious stream which
poured through the heart of a desert, by its single channel, that element
so essential to the existence of all animals. One of the men (Robert
Whiting) had examined the river a mile and a half above the fall, and
found the water there so very salt that he could not drink it, and he
therefore proceeded downwards to this fall, where it proved to be good.
SURPRISED BY A PARTY OF NATIVES.
In the morning, while examining the river below the fall, some natives
hailed me from the opposite side, and soon afterwards, having slyly swum
the river, they stole suddenly upon us while I sat drawing the cataract.
One of our men heard them creeping along the bank above us, whereupon the
whole party stood up and laughed. Among them I recognised the old man
whom I had seen a few days previously on my excursion lower down the
river. There was another old man who was more intelligent and less
covetous than the rest. I gave him a clasp-knife with which he appeared
much pleased, making the most expressive gestures of friendship and
kindness by clasping me around the neck, and patting my back. The number
of this tribe amounted to about twenty. I remarked among them an old
woman having under her especial care a very fine-looking young one. They
had swum across the river with as little inconvenience as if they had
only stepped over it. The teeth and shape of the mouth of the young
female were really beautiful, and indeed her person and modest air
presented a good specimen of Australian womanhood. On leaving us they
loudly pronounced a particular word which I as often repeated in reply;
and they pointed to the earth and the water, giving us to understand in
every way they could that we were welcome to the water, which they
probably considered their own.
EMU KILLED BY THE DOGS.
As we crossed a plain the dogs set off after three emus, the pursued and
the pursuers disappearing in the woods. Some time after, while passing
through a scrub, we came upon the dogs standing quietly beside a dead
emu. If not the first killed by them, it was at least the first that fell
into our hands; and if this were the only one they had killed it was
singular enough that the capture should have happened exactly in the line
of our route. This acquisition we considered a favourable omen on our
approaching the hills, for we had begun to despair of obtaining any of
these swift though gigantic birds, inhabitants of the plains.
At length we reached rising ground, rather a novelty to us; and I
continued my course across a ridge which appeared to be connected on the
south with Dunlop's range. It consisted of a very hard conglomerate
composed of irregular concretions of milk-white quartz, in a ferruginous
basis, with apparently compact felspar weathering white. It seemed the
same kind of rock which I found nearest to the Karaula, in latitude 29
degrees.* On this hill we encamped for the night, the bend of the river
nearest to us bearing north-north-east, and being distant about two
miles. It was almost sunset before we took up our ground, and we had
still to seek the nearest way to the river, through woods. Such occasions
tried the nettle of my men; but he who, at the close of such days, was
the first to set out for the river, with his bucket in hand, and musket
on shoulder, was the man for me. Such men were Whiting, Muirhead, and The
Doctor; and although I insisted on several going together on such an
errand, I had some trouble to prevent these from setting out alone. The
river made a sharp turn northward, and at the bend the water was deeper
and broader than we had seen it elsewhere. The taste was perfectly sweet.
(*Footnote. See below.)
We travelled for several miles over stony ground which gradually rose to
a hill on our right, and then declined rapidly to the river. Descending
at length to the level ground, we passed through much scrub which
terminated on a plain, bounded on the side opposite to us by the large
gumtrees or eucalypti, the never-failing indicators of the river. The
stream there ran in a rather contracted channel, and over a sandy bed.
Its course was to the southward, in which direction extensive plains
appeared to stretch along its bank.
MEET THE PUPPY TRIBE.
As I approached the river a tribe of natives who were seated very near me
at their fires, under a large tree, called out. We communicated in the
usual manner, but I could learn nothing from them about the general
course of the Darling lower down. I gave them a clasp-knife and two young
pups of a good breed for killing kangaroos. They expressed astonishment
at everything (no common trait in the aborigines) and I was obliged to
sit cross-legged before a very old chief nearly blind while he examined
my dress, shirt, pockets, etc. This tribe, like the others, was not at
We proceeded until we arrived under the north-western extremity of
Dunlop's range, when we encamped on the margin of a small lagoon,
evidently the remains of some flood which had been produced by the
overflowing of the river, only half a mile distant to the north-west. The
lagoon was more convenient to us for watering our cattle than the river,
the left bank of which, adjacent to our camp, was broken to a much
greater distance back than I had observed it to be anywhere higher up.
ASCEND DUNLOP'S RANGE.
The wheels of the two carts requiring some repairs, and it being also
necessary to shoe several horses, I thought it advisable to rest the
party this day: I wished also to ascend Dunlop's range. On climbing to
the top I found that it consisted of a chain of hills composed of a very
hard sandstone, or quartz rock, similar to that of D'Urban's group. The
summit was bare, not only of trees but even of grass, or any vegetation.
This nakedness was however the more favourable for my chief object, which
was to obtain a view of the distant country. The weather was not very
auspicious, the sky being cloudy, and slight showers fell occasionally.
The height of these hills is not considerable, the summit of that which I
ascended was about 528 feet above the plains. It was seven miles to the