Part 7 out of 8
mile wide and a mile and a half long; in which, although the surface was
of clay, there was no appearance of water ever having lodged, a
circumstance for which we could only account by supposing that much rain
seldom falls, at any season, in this part of the interior. We next
entered a scrub of dwarf casuarinae, and Myoporum montanum (R. Br.) the
latter bush prevailing so as to form a thick scrub at the foot of the
hills, and even upon them.
RIDE TO GREENOUGH'S GROUP. VIEW FROM THE SUMMIT.
The range, like all those which I had examined near the Darling, was of
exactly the same kind of rock as D'Urban's group, Dunlop's range, etc.
etc., namely quartz rock breaking naturally into irregular polyhedrons,
but at the base I noticed ferruginous sandstone. The summit afforded a
very extensive view of the country to the eastward, which rose towards a
range extending south-east and north-west, its two extremities bearing
103 and 122 degrees from north. At the foot of which a blue mist might be
supposed to promise a river or chain of ponds in an ordinary season; and
a rather high and isolated range of yellow rock, in the direction of
Oxley's Mount Granard, seemed to overlook some extensive piece of water
or spacious plain to the south of it. An intervening valley appeared also
to form a basin falling southwards, but immediately beyond the group I
was upon a vast extent of country, not low, but without any prominent
features, although chequered with plain and bush, stretched far to the
eastward. There were no large trees visible on any side, but a thick
scrub of bushes covered much of the country. Upon the whole I considered
that in a wet season we might have travelled straight home, as there were
many dry waterholes in the surface where it consisted of clay, but that,
unless rain fell, it would be wiser, considering the exhausted state of
our cattle, to keep to the beaten track, for the animals travelled much
better upon it, and going back or homewards along that track, was more
convenient in various respects than to travel where there was no road at
all. As it now became necessary to distinguish the different ranges on my
map I attached to this remarkable cluster of hills the name of Mr.
Greenough, a gentleman who has done so much in uniting geology with
geography, to the great advantage of both.
BARTER WITH NATIVES BEYOND THE DARLING.
On returning to the camp I found that two natives had been in
communication with our party on the river during my absence; and that
overseer Burnett had made a good brargain, having obtained from one of
them a very well made net in exchange for a clasp knife, with which the
native seemed much pleased. These visitors were young men, carrying each
a net, and seemed to belong to the other side of the river.
THE RED TRIBE AGAIN. THEIR IMPORTUNITY.
Soon after I returned our old friends of the Red tribe came up in a body
of about twelve, carrying boughs. It was near sunset, and still they
showed no disposition to go back to the river, but on the contrary they
seemed about to make up their fires and remain with us for the night. As
their calls for tomahawks were incessant it was easy to foresee that it
would soon be necessary to frighten them away with our guns if they were
allowed to continue near us. I therefore directed Burnett to point to the
river, and request them to go thither to sleep, which they at length did.
We also took care not to allow them to come close to the carts, to
prevent which several men met them at a little distance, where they took
NEW SPECIES OF CAPER EATEN BY THE NATIVES.
On the bank of the river at this place we found beside the native fires
the remains of a fruit,* different from any I had seen before. It seemed
to be of a round shape, with a rind like an orange, and the inside, which
appeared to have been eaten, resembled a pomegranate. We here lost a
bullock, which fell into a deep part of the river and was drowned, having
been too weak to swim to the other side.
(*Footnote. Since ascertained to have been Capparis mitchellii, Lindley
manuscripts. See below.)
IMPORTUNITY OF THE RED TRIBE.
Early this morning the Red tribe come up and again begged for tomahawks.
It was evident now how injudicious we had been in giving these savages
presents; had we not done so we should not have been so much importuned
by them. To avoid their solicitations, which were assuming an insolent
tone, evinced by loud laughing to each other at our expense, we loaded
and moved off as quickly as possible, and they remained behind to examine
the ground which we had quitted. Upon the whole however the conduct of
this tribe was much better than that of any we had seen lower down the
river. They brought no arms, and had never attempted any warlike
demonstrations, or to come forward when told to keep back; neither did
they follow us. We got over our journey by two o'clock and encamped near
the old ground of June 23. Here the bed of the Darling consisted of
ferruginous clay with grains of sand.
We proceeded by the beaten route and pitched our tents within about a
mile of our former camp. The cattle being very weak I was desirous to
avoid some soft ground near that position by taking a shorter cut next
morning. The part of the river adjacent to this spot was fordable, the
bed consisting of a variety of sandstone composed of small siliceous
grains cemented by decomposed felspar.
The day being clear and the party within thirteen or fourteen miles of
Mount Macpherson, a fine hill beyond the river (bearing 301 1/2 degrees
from North) I determined to give the cattle a day's rest, and to ascend
that hill in order to take another look at the western interior beyond
the Darling. I thought I might thus be enabled to fix many of the points
observed from Mount Murchison, or at all events to ascertain the nature
of the country to the north-west.
CROSS THE DARLING.
I accordingly crossed the Darling with four men, and proceeded straight
for the hill over a very open country and plains which were tolerably
firm. On my way however I saw nothing new as to ground. The clay plains
were bounded by a ridge of red sand (extending south-west and north-east)
at a distance of four miles. On this ridge were divers casuarinae and
beyond it was a low polygonum hollow, and a watercourse in which water
evidently sometimes ran north-east (!) and a duck-net stake, fixed
opposite to a tree, still remained there. It appeared that in all these
side channels or tributaries of the Darling the water flowed upwards, or
FROM the river, a circumstance not unlikely to happen where the main
channel rolls the accumulated waters of distant regions through absorbent
plains on which partial rains can have but little effect.
At about eight miles we reached firm gravel consisting of small and very
hard stones, precisely similar in character and position to that near
Mount Murchison. The pebbles were mixed with red earth which also formed
part of the lower features connected with the height before us. We
crossed a deep gully, the bed of a creek in rainy seasons, but which had
now been long dried up. The very hard sandstone still appeared, weathered
to a purple colour; the lower part was most ferruginous, and not so hard
as above; in the creek below I observed a red crust of clay and nodules
NEW SPECIES OF CASSIA.
There were several rocky and deep ravines in the side of the principal
height, and in these the oat-grass, or anthisteria, appeared (for the
first time since we had left the upper Bogan) also several plants which
were new to me, and among them a bush of striking beauty, with a rich
yellow flower, being a species of cassia.*
(*Footnote. This plant was found by Mr. Cunningham in 1817 on Mount
Flinders, when he called it C. teretifolia. Dr. Lindley had described it
C. teretifolia, Cunningham manuscripts; incano-tomentosa, foliis pinnatis
5-6-jugis eglandulosis: foliolis teretibus filiformibus obtusis,
paniculis terminalibus, ramulis corymbosis sub-5-floris, bracteolis
ovatis obtusis concavis calycibusque tomentosis.)
VIEW FROM THE SUMMIT OF MOUNT MACPHERSON.
The summit of Mount Macpherson was clear but did not afford the view I
expected. The height consisted of some ridges which did not appear much
higher further to the westward: those in that direction being connected
with the summit, and also with each other, and extending to the north and
south, prevented me from seeing almost any of the features observed from
Mount Murchison, which hill was barely visible. The only striking feature
I could perceive east of the Darling was Greenough's group, which rose
upon the horizon, level on that side, save where one or two summits of
the higher ground to the eastward just appeared to break the sharpness of
the bounding line. But the flatness of the north-western line of vision
was still more remarkable, and it was difficult to understand how the
basin of the Darling, which appeared so narrow below, could find limits
there. The country to the northward, if not a dead level, was varied by
only some slight undulations, and it was partially covered with stunted
bushes, alternating with a few naked plains. As far as I could see with
my glass no smoke appeared to rise from the vast extent visible in that
direction. After taking the bearings of the different points we returned
and recrossed the Darling about sunset. At the base of the hill we met
with several kangaroos, and had some shots (with bullets) at a very tame
bustard. There was a rocky channel where water can be but seldom scarce.
We saw none but, from the presence of kangaroos, we thought that there
must have been some very near the hill. This hill I named Mount
Macpherson after the collector of internal revenue at Sydney.
Proceeded on our journey by our former route and arrived by four P.M. at
our old camp of the 18th and 19th June, which we again occupied. We were
still at a loss to know for what purpose the heaps of one particular kind
of grass* had been pulled and so laid up hereabouts. Whether it was
accumulated by the natives to allure birds, or by rats, as their holes
were seen beneath, we were puzzled to determine. The soft ground retained
no longer the footsteps imprinted on it by the haymakers, whoever they
had been. The grass was beautifully green beneath the heaps and full of
seeds, and our cattle were very fond of this hay. I found there also two
other kinds of grass which were equally new to me, the one being an
Andropogon allied to A. bombycinus; the other apparently a species of
(*Footnote. Panicum laevinode, Lindley manuscripts; for description see
Continued along our route to our former camp of 17th June.
RAIN AGAIN THREATENS.
Two smart showers of about two minutes duration each fell during the
night, but the wind which had been blowing from the north-west was so
parching that the canvas of our tents was quite dry by daybreak. The sky
was overcast with heavy clouds in the morning but by noon it became
clear. We travelled so as to make a short cut on our two days' journey of
the 16th and 17th June, and thus, at about eight miles, we made that part
of the river which we had seen formerly when nearly three miles from it,
and here we encamped. As we crossed the plain on which the last kangaroo
had been killed we saw many fresh tracks of these animals; and the dogs
took after one which they killed, as appeared by their mouths when they
ABSENCE OF KANGAROOS AND EMUS ON THE DARLING.
It may be observed that lower down on the Darling we saw neither
kangaroos nor emus, a sufficient proof of the barrenness of the adjacent
country. This day the ground somewhat resembled forest land, and we saw
one or two trees of substantial timber of the description which the
colonists term mahogany.
We proceeded in a direction by which we reached our former route after
four miles travelling; and at a distance of five miles more we came to a
spot near the river where we encamped with the intention of avoiding next
morning the detour we made on approaching the camp, when we formerly
occupied the spot in the bend of the river.
THE OCCA TRIBE AGAIN.
As soon as our people approached the bank we met with a gin and two young
girls, upon which they called to an old man, who soon came up. He
appeared no way alarmed, and seemed to have seen us before. The fatal
tea-kettle again attracted the attention of a gin, and she pointed it out
to her grey lord and master who, pronouncing the well-known word "Occa"
(give) reminded us of the greedy tribe in whose precincts we had now
arrived, and which was in fact distinguished by the name of the Occa
boys, from their constant use of the word, and coveting everything they
saw. The old man however continued his journey down the river without
obtaining the kettle, or yet a knife which he also demanded from one of
our men whom he saw cutting tobacco.
We continued in a northern direction till we cut upon the route to our
last camp, and we thus avoided two bad miles without lengthening the
journey to the next of our former encampments, which we reached in good
time to allow the cattle to feed.
We set off about eight this morning and reached by five P.M. our
encampment of the 12th and 13th of June. On the way the ranges on our
right, as they rose in view, afforded some relief to our eyes, so long
accustomed to a horizon as flat as the ocean; and a gentle cooling breeze
from the east felt very different from the parching west winds to which
we had been exposed. This day and the one before were warm, and breathed
most gratefully of spring. We recrossed a gravel bed of irregular
fragments of quartz and flint at the base of some slight hills which
reach from the range to the river. Between these undulations were soft
plains the surface of which was cracked and full of holes; and it seemed
that the torrents which fall from the hills are imbibed by this thirsty
earth. As we approached our camp the dogs were sent after two emus, and
at dusk one of them returned having killed his bird, though we did not
find it until early next morning. The emu came to hand however in good
time even then, for the men had been long living on salt provisions. Our
former lagoon had become a quagmire of mud and we were forced to send for
water from the river. The pigeons and parrots which swarmed about this
hole at dusk, the quantity of feathers, and the tracks of emus and
kangaroos around it, showed how scarce this essential element had become
in the back country. At such small pools water becomes an object of
desire and contest and, so long as it lasts, these spots in times of
scarcity are invariably haunted by that omnivorous biped man, to whom
both birds and quadrupeds fall an easy prey. We however during a sojourn
of more than two months in the Australian wilderness had been abundantly
supplied with the finest water from that extraordinary river which we had
been tracing, and without which those regions would be deserts,
inaccessible to and uninhabitable by either man or beast.
RESOLVE TO AVOID THE NATIVES.
As the last journey had been a long one and we had some rough ground
before us, we rested a day here while the blacksmith repaired one of the
cartwheels. The calls of the natives were heard very early in the
morning, and two fellows came to our men on the river, impudently
demanding tomahawks; but little attention was paid to them, and they did
not visit the camp. We had no longer any desire to communicate with the
aborigines, for we had too long in vain held out to them the olive branch
and made them presents; and as we could not hope to gain their friendship
we were resolved to brook no longer the sight of their burning brands and
other gestures of hostility; still less were we inclined to give
tomahawks on demand, since our presents had not been received with that
sense of obligation which might have been shown by any class of human
beings, however savage. I therefore now determined to avoid the natives
wherever I could and, if they came near the party, to encourage their
approach as little as possible.
We continued along our old route, but at about seven miles we cut off a
considerable angle in that point of it where we formerly saw the Puppy
tribe, and were thus enabled to pass two miles beyond our former ground,
and to pitch our tents near the river. At this encampment we perceived
smoke arising from the same native bivouac which I visited in my journey
on horseback before the party left Fort Bourke. From this smoke and other
circumstances it would appear that some of the tribes on the Darling are
not migratory, but remain, in part at least, the gins and children
possibly, at some particular portion of the river. This seems probable
too, considering how much better they must thus become acquainted with
the haunts of the fishes which are here their chief food. The ground we
now occupied was upon the whole the best piece of country, in point of
soil, that I had seen upon the Darling. Dunlop's range was just behind,
an extremity of it extending to the river, at three miles west from our
camp. Three miles further eastward our old route was crossed by a hollow
which appeared to be the outlet of an extensive watercourse coming from
the south-east, along the base of Dunlop's range, or the low country
between it and D'Urban's group. We had scarcely started this morning when
the dogs killed another emu, and in the course of the day we passed and
recognised the spot where our first emu was killed. Thus in one day on
our outward journey we had traversed the country in which all the emus we
had ever killed on the Darling, three in number, had been found.
The hill which we crossed in our route consisted of a different sort of
rock from any of those that we had seen further down the Darling, being a
splintery quartz in which the grains of sand or quartz are firmly
embedded in the siliceous cement.
HINTS TO AUSTRALIAN SPORTSMEN.
The morning was calm and sultry but we continued the homeward route along
our former track, and over a fine, firm plain. As soon as we had crossed
what may be termed Dunlop's creek (the dry hollow above-mentioned) we
started four kangaroos; of which the dogs first killed one which we got,
and afterwards another, in a scrub into which they had pursued the rest.
These two were the only kangaroos that we killed on this river; and the
circumstance afforded another proof of the superiority of the grass in
the adjacent country compared with that lower down. Neither these animals
nor emus can approach the Darling (owing to the steepness of its banks)
except by descending in the dry channels of watercourses, or by gullies;
hence probably their appearance near Dunlop's creek, which affords an
easy means of access; and hence also perhaps the chief motive for the
establishment of the native camp in that neighbourhood, from the facility
afforded for killing the animals as they approached to drink. Of the
kangaroo and emu it may be observed that any noise may be made in hunting
the latter without inconvenience; but that the less made in chasing the
former the better. The emu is disposed to halt and look, being, according
to the natives, quite deaf; but having an eye proportionally keen. Thus
it frequents the open plains, being there most secure from whoever may
invade the solitude of the desert. The kangaroo on the contrary bounds
onward while any noise continues; whereas, if it be pursued silently, it
is prone to halt and look behind, and thus to lose distance. Dogs learn
sooner to take the kangaroo than the emu, although young ones get sadly
torn in conflicts with the former. But it is one thing for a swift dog to
overtake an emu, and another thing to kill, or even seize it. Our dogs
were only now learning to capture emus, although they had chased and
overtaken many. To attempt to lay hold by the side or leg is dangerous,
as an emu could break a horse's leg with a kick; but if a dog fastens
upon the neck, as good dogs learn to do, the bird is immediately
overthrown and easily killed. The flesh resembles a beef-steak, and it
has a very agreeable flavour, being far preferable to that of the
MEET THE FORT BOURKE TRIBE.
We passed our old camp of the 10th of June and, taking a new route thence
in a north-east direction, we avoided a bad scrub, and encamped in fine
open ground on the river. We were soon hailed by some of our old friends
of the Fort Bourke tribe, by far the best conducted natives that we had
seen on the Darling. They asked our men for tomahawks, and I had
instructed them to explain that for three large cod-perch they should
have one in exchange. We could catch none of these fishes ourselves,
which was rather singular as some of our poor fellows were indefatigable
in making the attempt every night, with hook and line and all kinds of
bait. The natives seemed to understand our wants and they promised to
bring us fish in the morning. At sunset the wind changed to the
south-west and the sky became overcast: the air also was cooler, and
after such heat as that which we experienced today, at this season, a
fall of rain might have been expected; but I felt less apprehensive here,
from four months' experience of the climate of the interior.
Early this morning a number of natives came near our camp, but without
bringing any fish. The man to whom the promise of a tomahawk had been
made was not however amongst them. I went up to the party when we were
about to continue our journey, and I recognised one of the Fort Bourke
tribe, the total gules man, who had formerly appeared very shy and timid.
Now however in half a minute his hand was in my pocket; on which I
instantly mounted my horse and rode on. We crossed the tracks of our
horses' feet on my first excursion, and entered a plain where we struck
into the old route. In this plain we saw three emus and killed one after
a hard run.
MR. HUME'S TREE.
On coming to the hollow which leads to the tree marked with Mr. Hume's
initials (and which may therefore be called Hume's Creek) I measured with
the chain its channel to the river so as to connect the tree with the
survey. I found that it bore due north from where our route crossed this
hollow, the distance being sixty-nine chains. We reached our camp of the
9th of June by half-past two o'clock and took up the same ground.
We continued our journey along the old track to our camp of the 8th of
June where we once more rested for the night. This was a very convenient
station, being nearly on the margin of the river, the bank of which,
consisting of concretionary limestone, afforded easy access for the
cattle to the water while surrounding hollows supplied them with plenty
of grass. I was now enabled to reduce the cattle guard from four to two
men, which was a great relief to them. The backward journey allowed me a
little time to look about me, and the river scenery here was fine. Indeed
the position of our camp was most romantic, being a little eminence in
the midst of grassy hollows, and recesses of the deepest shade, covered
by trees of wild character and luxuriant growth.
RETURN TO FORT BOURKE.
The whole party was ready to start early this morning and we proceeded in
good time, in hopes of reaching our old home at Fort Bourke. Our dogs
caught two of the largest kind of kangaroo as we crossed the plains. The
cattle, although now weak, seemed also eager to get back to their old
pasture on which they had fed so long formerly. We accomplished by four
P.M. the journey of fourteen miles. From Fort Bourke we had been absent
two months and two days, having travelled during that time over 600
miles, even in DIRECT distance.
DESCRIPTION OF THAT POSITION.
On our return from the lower country this place looked better than ever
in our eyes. The whole of the territory seen by us down the river did not
present such another spot, either for security, extent of good grazing
land, or convenient access to water. The fort was uninjured except that
the blacks had been at infinite pains to cut out most of the large spike
nails fastening the logs of which the block-house was constructed. We all
felt comparatively at home here; and indeed we were really about halfway
to our true home, for we had retraced about 300 miles and were not more
than the same distance from Buree, which is only 170 miles from Sydney.
The cattle had done so well that I resolved to give them two days' rest;
and more could not be afforded them as the weather, though beautiful,
might change, and we had some very soft ground still to go over. It was
remarkable that the water of the river, which for the last three days'
journey had been brackish, was here again, as formerly, as pure and sweet
as any spring water. Fort Bourke consists of an elevated plateau
overlooking a reach of the river a mile and a half in length, the hill
being situated near a sharp turn at the lower end of the reach. At this
turn a small dry watercourse, which surrounds Fort Bourke on all sides
save that of the river, joins the Darling, and contains abundance of
The plateau consists of about 160 acres of rich loam, and was thinly
wooded before it was entirely cleared by us in making our place of
defence. There are upon it various burying-places of the natives, who
always choose the highest parts of that low country for the purpose of
interment, their object being probably the security of the graves from
floods. The tribe frequenting that neighbourhood consists of a very few
inoffensive individuals, less mischievous, as already observed, than any
we had seen on the banks of the Darling.
SALTNESS OF THE DARLING. THE RIVER SUPPORTED BY SPRINGS.
We were about to leave, at last, this extraordinary stream on which we
had sojourned so long, enjoying abundance of excellent water in the heart
of a desert country. From the sparkling transparency of this water, its
undiminished current, sustained without receiving any tributary
throughout a course of 660 miles, and especially from its being salt in
some places and fresh at others, it seems probable that the river, when
in that reduced state, is chiefly supported by springs. It would appear
that the saltness occurs in the greatest body of water where no current
was perceptible, and as this was excessive when the river was first
discovered, it may be attributed to saline springs, due to beds of
rock-salt in the sandstone or clay. The bed of the river is on an average
about sixty feet below the common surface of the country. To this depth
the soil generally consists of clay in which calcareous concretions and
selenite occur abundantly; but at some parts the clay, charged with iron,
forms a soft kind of rock in the bed or banks of the river. There are no
traces of watercourses on these level plains such as might be expected to
fall from the hills behind; though the latter contain hollows and
gullies, which must in wet seasons conduct water to the plains. The
distance of such heights from the river is seldom less than twelve miles;
and it would appear that the intervening country is of such an absorbent
nature that any water falling in torrents from the hills is imbibed by
the soft earth, or is received in the deep broad cracks which sear the
hollow parts, and in wet seasons must take up much water and retain it,
until either evaporated or sunk to lower levels. The water may thus be
absorbed and retained for a considerable time, or until it is carried by
slow drainage into the river, especially where the lower parts of such
plains are shut in by hills approaching the channel. Thus, where the
extremity of Dunlop's range shot forward into the wide level margin, we
found that the water had lost all taste of salt, a circumstance most
easily accounted for by supposing that springs, being more abundant there
from the near vicinity of the hills, had diluted the water which we had
found salt higher up. That some tributary or branch joins the river from
the opposite bank, at or near the sweep it describes round the hill, is
not unlikely. I could not conveniently examine that part from our side,
and hence it remains doubtful whether the problem admits of such easy
TRACES OF FLOODS.
The marks of high floods were apparent on the surface, frequently to the
extent of two miles back from the ordinary channel. Within such a space
the waters appear to overflow and then to lodge in hollows (covered with
Polygonum junceum) and which were at the time of our visit full of
yawning cracks. Such parts of the surface would naturally be the first
saturated in times of flood, and the last to part with moisture in
seasons of drought. I observed that there was less of that kind of low
ground where the water was saltest, which was to the westward of
EXTENT OF THE BASIN OF THIS RIVER.
The basin of the Darling, which may be considered to extend, in parts, at
least, to the coast ranges on the east, appears to be very limited on the
opposite or western side; a desert country from which it did not receive,
as far as I could discover, a single tributary of any importance. A
succession of low ridges seemed there to mark the extent of its basin,
nor did I perceive in the country beyond any ranges of a more decidedly
The average breadth of the river at the surface of the water, when low,
is about fifty yards, but oftener less than this, and seldom more.
Judging from the slight fall of the country and the softness and evenness
of the banks (commonly inclined to an angle with the horizon of about 40
degrees) I cannot think that the velocity of the floods in the river ever
exceeds one mile per hour, but that it is in general much less. At this
time the water actually flowing, as seen at one or two shallow places,
did not exceed in quantity that which would be necessary to turn a mill.
The banks everywhere displayed one peculiar feature, namely the effect of
floods in parallel lines, marking on the smooth sloping earth the various
heights to which the waters had in different floods arisen.
Some of the hollows behind the immediate banks on both sides contained
lagoons; in several of these reeds had taken the place of water; in
others the first coating of vegetation which the alluvium receives on
exposure to the sun consisted of fragrant herbs, and amongst them we
found the scented trefoil (calomba*) which proved an excellent
anti-scorbutic vegetable when boiled. It was found however only at three
(*Footnote. Trigonella suavissima, for the description of which plant see
SURFACE OF THE PLAINS.
The surface of the plains nearest the river is unlike any part of the
earth's face that I have elsewhere seen. It is as clear of vegetation as
a fallow field, but it has greater inequality of surface and is full of
holes. The soil is just tenacious enough to crack, when the surface
becomes so soft and loose that the few weeds which may have sprung up
previous to desiccation seldom remain where they grow, being blown out by
the slightest wind. Over such ground it was very fatiguing to walk, the
foot at each step sinking to the ankle, and care being necessary to avoid
holes always ready to receive the whole leg, and sometimes the body. It
was not very safe to ride on horseback even at a walk, and to gallop or
trot in that country was quite out of the question. The labour which this
kind of ground cost the poor bullocks, drawing the heavy carts, reduced
them to so great a state of weakness that six never returned from the
Darling. The work was so heavy for the two first teams on our advancing
into these regions that one team was rendered quite unserviceable by
leading; but on returning we found the beaten track much easier for the
whole party. Notwithstanding these disadvantages we were much indebted to
Providence for the continued dryness of the winter; for although it
seemed then as if nothing short of a deluge could have completed the
saturation, there were also many proofs that great inundations sometimes
occurred; and it was still more obvious that had rainy weather, or any
overflowing of the river happened, we could no longer have travelled on
the banks of the Darling.
GEOLOGY OF THE DARLING.
The rocks about the surface of this country are few and simple. Besides
the clay nothing occurred in the river bed except calcareous concretions,
selenite, and in some parts sandstone similar to that seen at the base of
almost all the hills. Back from the river the first elevation usually
consisted of hillocks of red sand, so soft and loose that the cattle
could scarcely draw the carts through. The clay adjacent to the sand was
firmer than any clay seen elsewhere on the plains because the sand there
acted like a sponge, taking up the water from the adjacent clay which
consequently preserved its tenacity at all seasons. This edge of clay
along the skirts of plains at the base of the red sand ridges I found the
most favourable ground for travelling upon. Still further back gravel,
consisting of fragments, not much water-worn, of various hard rocks,
appeared, forming low undulations towards the base of more remote hills
which consist of a very hard sandstone. I may here mention however that
the extremity of Dunlop's range which, by approaching the river, there
occupied the place of the hard gravel in other situations, seemed to be
composed of the same rock of which much of that gravel consisted.
Of the hills in general it may be observed that those on the left bank
are most elevated at the higher parts of the river, whereas those on the
right bank rise to greatest height towards the lower parts of the river,
as far as explored by us. The plains extend on each side of the channel
to a distance of six or seven miles and are in general clear of timber.
That deep and extensive bed of clay, so uniformly filling the basin of
this river, has every appearance of a mud deposit.
WOODS AND GRASSES.
Behind the plains the country is sparingly wooded except by the stunted
bush (Myoporum montanum) which forms a thick scrub, especially on the
side of the low hills. On the riverbank trees peculiar to it grow to so
large a size that its course may be easily traced at great distances; and
they thus facilitated our survey most materially. These gigantic trees
consist of that species of eucalyptus called bluegum in the colony; and
their searching roots seem to luxuriate in the banks of streams, lakes,
or ponds, so that the thirsty traveller soon learns to recognise the
shining trunk and white, gnarled arms, as the surest guides to water. The
alluvial portion of the margin of the Darling is narrow, and in most
places overgrown with the dwarf box, which is another species of
eucalyptus. In it are hollow places as already observed, covered with the
Polygonum junceum, which is an unsightly leafless bush or bramble. Grass
is only to be found on the banks of the river and, strictly speaking, the
margin only can be considered alluvial, for this being irrigated and
enriched by the floods it is everywhere abundantly productive of grass,
though none may appear in the back country.
GUM ACACIA ABUNDANT.
In the ground beyond the plains some casuarinae and eucalypti are
occasionally seen in the scrubs which grow on the red sand, and an acacia
with a white stem and spotted bark there grows to a considerable size,
and produces much gum. Indeed gum acacia abounds in these scrubs, and
when the country is more accessible may become an article of commerce.
The plants were in general different from those nearer the colony, and
though they were few in number, yet they were curious. Of grasses I
gathered seeds of twenty-five different kinds, six of which grew only on
the alluvial bank of the Darling. Among them were a poa, and the Chloris
truncata, and Stipa setacea of Mr. Brown. The country was nevertheless
almost bare, and the roots, stems, and seeds, the products of a former
season, were blown about on the soft face of the parched and naked earth
where the last spring seemed indeed to have produced no vegetation
excepting a thin crop of an umbelliferous weed.
GENERAL CHARACTER OF THE NATIVES.
The character and disposition of the natives may be gathered from the
foregoing journal of our progress along the river. It seldom happened
that I was particularly engaged with a map, a drawing, or a calculation,
but I was interrupted by them, or respecting them. It was evident that
our presents had the worst effect, for although they were given with
every demonstration of goodwill on our part, the gifts seemed only to
awaken on theirs a desire to destroy us, and to take all we had. While
sitting in the dust with them, conformably to their custom, often have
they examined my cap, evidently with no other view than to ascertain if
it would resist the blow of a waddy. Then they would feel the thickness
of my dress and whisper together, their eyes occasionally glancing at
their spears and clubs. The expression of their countenances was
sometimes so hideous that after such interviews I have found comfort in
contemplating the honest faces of the horses and sheep; and even in the
scowl of the patient ox I have imagined an expression of dignity when he
may have pricked up his ears, and turned his horns towards these wild
specimens of the lords of creation. Travellers in Australian deserts will
find that such savages cannot remain at rest when near, but are ever
ready and anxious to strip them by all means in their power of
everything, however useless to the natives. It was not until we proceeded
en vainqueur that we knew anything like tranquillity on the Darling; and
I am now of opinion that to discourage at once the approach of such
natives would tend more to the safety of an exploring party than
presenting them with gifts. These rovers of the wilds seem to consider
such presents as the offerings of fear and weakness; and I attribute much
of their outrageous conduct to such mistaken notions and their
incorrigible covetousness, against which the best security, unfortunately
for them and us, appeared to be to keep them at a distance.
The further we descended the river the more implacably savage we found
the blacks. I have already remarked that the more ferocious had not lost
their front teeth, and that those we had seen on the Upper Darling had
all lost one tooth. Indeed it was precisely where we first witnessed the
inauspicious ceremony of the green branch burnt and waved at us in
defiance that we first found natives who retained both front teeth. A
considerable portion of the river, quite uninhabited, lay between these
fire-throwers and the less offensive natives, and there was a difference
in the pronunciation, at least, if not in the words, of the tribes.
The old men on the Darling are by far the most expert at stealing; and
notwithstanding my marks of respect to them in particular, they were not
the less the instigators and abettors of everything wrong. A mischievous
old man is usually accompanied by a stout middle-aged man and a boy; thus
the cunning of the old one, the strength of him of middle age, and the
agility of the youth are combined with advantage; both in their
intercourse with their neighbours and in seeking the means of existence.
The old man leads, as fitted by his experience to do so; and he has also
at his command, by this combination, the strength and agility of the
THEIR MEANS OF EXISTENCE.
The natives of the Darling live chiefly on the fish of the river, and are
expert swimmers and divers. They can swim and turn with great velocity
under water, and they can both see and spear the largest fish, sometimes
remaining beneath the surface a considerable time for this purpose. In
very cold weather however they float on pieces of bark; and thus also
they can spear the fish, having a small fire beside them in such a bark
NETS USED BY THEM.
They also feed on birds, and especially on ducks, which they ensnare with
nets, in the possession of every tribe. These nets are very well worked,
much resembling our own in structure, and they are made of the wild flax
which grows in tufts near the river. These are easily gathered by the
gins, who manage the whole process of net-making. They give each tuft
(soon after gathering it) a twist, also biting it a little, and in that
state it is laid about on the roof of their huts until dry. Fishing nets
are made of various similar materials, being often very large; and
attached to some of them I have seen half-inch cordage which might have
been mistaken for the production of a rope-walk. But the largest of their
nets are those set across the Darling for the purpose of catching ducks
which fly along the river in considerable flocks. These nets are strong,
with wide meshes; and when occasion requires they are stretched across
the river from a lofty pole erected for the purpose on one side to some
large opposite tree on the other. Such poles are permanently fixed,
supported by substantial props, and it was doubtless one of them that
Captain Sturt supposed to have been erected to propitiate some deity.
The native knows well the alleys green through which at twilight the
thirsty pigeons and parrots rush towards the water; and there, with a
smaller net hung up, he sits down and makes a fire ready to roast the
birds which may fall into his snare.
These savages have a power of manipulating with their toes so as to do
many things surprising to men who wear shoes.* This power they acquire
chiefly by ascending trees from infancy, their mode of climbing depending
as much on the toes as the fingers. With the toes they gather freshwater
mussels (unio) from the muddy bottom of the rivers or lagoons; and the
heaps of these shells beside their old fireplaces, which are numerous
along the banks, show that this shellfish is the daily food of at least
the gins and children. In their attempts to steal from us their feet were
much employed. They would tread softly on any article, seize it with the
toes, pass it up the back, or between the arm and side, and so conceal it
in the armpit, or between the beard and throat.
Morruda, yerraba, tundy kin arra,
Morruda, yerraba, min yin guiny wite ma la.
Song of Wollondilly natives; meaning:
On road the white man walks with creaking shoes;
He cannot walk up trees, nor his feet-fingers use.)
The hoary old priest of the Spitting-tribe was intense on tricks of this
kind, assisted by his people, and while he was thus plotting or effecting
mischief he chanted that extraordinary hymn to some deity, or devil. It
was evident that these people were actuated by superstitious ideas of
some kind; but which, judging by their acts, had no connection with any
good principle. When the two old men paced thrice round our lowest
position on the Darling, chanting their song, throwing their arms to the
sky, and rubbing themselves with dust, arrangements were no doubt in
progress for the destruction of strangers, of whose goodwill towards them
they had seen abundant proofs, not only in our conduct, but in the useful
presents we had made them. They had no grounds for any suspicion of
danger from us; yet, that these ceremonies were observed the better to
ensure success in the plans for our destruction admitted of little doubt,
for they were connected with all their hostile movements. Yet even in
defence of such an implacable disposition towards the civilised intruder,
much may be urged. No reflecting man can witness the quickness and
intelligence of the aborigines as displayed in their instant
comprehension of our numerous appliances without feelings of sympathy. He
must perceive that these people cannot be so obtuse as not to anticipate
in the advance of such a powerful race the extirpation of their own, in a
country which barely affords to them the means of existence. Such must be
the conclusion in their minds, although it is to be hoped that the
results of our invasion may be different; and that if these savage people
do not learn habits of industry, a breed of wild cattle may at least
compensate them for the loss of the kangaroo and opossum.
The population of the Darling seemed to have been much reduced by
smallpox, or some cutaneous disease which must have been very virulent,
considering their dirty mode of living; and its violence was indeed
apparent in the marks on those who survived.
CONDITION OF THE FEMALES.
Considering the industry and skill of their gins or wives in making nets,
sewing cloaks, mussel fishing, rooting, etc., and their patient
submission to labour, always carrying the bags which contain the whole
property of the family, the great value of a gin to one of these lazy
fellows may be easily imagined. Accordingly the possession of them
appears to be associated with all their ideas of fighting; while on the
other hand the gins have it in their power on such occasions to evince
that universal characteristic of the fair, a partiality for the brave.
Thus it is that after a battle they do not always follow their fugitive
husbands from the field, but frequently go over, as a matter of course,
to the victors, even with young children on their backs; and thus it was,
probably, after we had made the lower tribes sensible of our superiority,
that the three gins followed our party, beseeching us to take them with
Depending chiefly on the river for subsistence, they do not wander so
much as those who hunt the kangaroo and opossum in the higher country
near our colony. Hence the more permanent nature of the huts on the
Darling; and it would appear that different tribes occupy different
portions of the river. The Spitting tribe desired our men to pour out the
water from the buckets, as if it had belonged to them; digging at the
same time a hole in the ground to receive it when poured out; and I have
more than once seen a river chief, on receiving a tomahawk, point to the
stream and signify that we were then at liberty to take water from it, so
strongly were they possessed with the notion that the water was their
We saw no kangaroos lower down than Dunlop's range, neither did we see
any emus. In the red sandhills were many burrows of the wombat, but these
also became scarce as we proceeded downwards.
SINGULAR HABITS OF A RAT.
A species of rat* was remarkable for the ingenious fabric it raised to
secure itself from the native dog or birds of prey. The structure
consisted of a rick or stack of small branches, commonly worked around
and interlaced with some small bush, the whole resembling a pile laid for
one of the signal fires so much used by the natives. As these heaps of
dead boughs drew the attention of our dogs we at length examined several
of them and always found a small nest in the centre occupied by the same
kind of rat. This animal had ears exactly resembling those of a small
rabbit, soft downy wool and short hind legs; indeed but for the tail it
might have passed for a small rabbit.
(*Footnote. Conilurus constructor. Ogilby.)
SECURITY OF A SPECIES OF ANTS.
The work of an ant peculiar to the country also attracted our attention.
Instead of a mound these insects made a habitation or excavation under
the surface, about six feet in diameter, and it was quite smooth, level
and clean, as if constantly swept. It was also nearly as hard as stone;
and the only access to it was by one or two small holes. This surface
was, to us, on first advancing into the interior, one of its wonders.
Thus this variety of ant dwells securely at some depth below, for nothing
less than a pickaxe can penetrate to the larvae; but those of another
variety of the common kind which construct mounds are eaten by the native
females and children, who carry wooden shovels for the purpose of digging
The bronze-wing pigeon was here as elsewhere the most numerous of that
kind of bird. Next in abundance was the crested pigeon which seems more
peculiar to these low levels. There were large flocks of a brown pigeon
with a white head, and not an uncommon bird elsewhere; also a small
species of dove with very handsome plumage. The large black cockatoo was
sometimes seen, and about the riverbanks the common white cockatoo with
yellow top-knot (Plyctolophus galeritus). The smaller bird of this genus
with a scarlet and yellow crest and pink wings (Plyctolophus leadbeateri)
was rarely noticed, and it appeared to come from a distance, flying
usually very high. The pink-coloured wings and glowing crest of this
beautiful bird might have embellished the air of a more voluptuous
region; and indeed, from its transient visits, it did not seem quite at
home on the banks of the Darling. The plumage of several kinds of parrots
was extremely rich, and even the small birds were clothed in pink and
blue. But the air, however much adorned by the feathered race, had its
thieves, as well as the earth. The crows were amazingly bold, always
accompanying us from camp to camp. It was absolutely necessary to watch
our meat while in kettles on the fire and, on one occasion,
notwithstanding our cook's vigilance, a piece of pork weighing three
pounds was taken from a boiling pot and carried off by one of these
birds! The hawks were equally voracious. A pigeon had been no sooner shot
by Burnett than an audacious hawk carried it away and, as if fearless of
a similar fate, he flew but a very short distance from the fowler before
he had taken half the feathers off.
The species of fish most abundant in the Darling is the Gristes peelii,
or cod-perch, and they are caught of a very large size by the natives. We
also saw the thick-scaled mud-tasted fish (Cernua bidyana, see above). We
did not on this occasion see that very remarkable fish, the Eel-fish
(Plotosus tandanus) so abundant in the higher parts of the river. The
water was too clear and the weather too cold for fishing with bait, one
of each of the two species first mentioned caught during our first
occupation of Fort Bourke, being all we ever procured.
APPREHENDED SCARCITY OF WATER ON LEAVING THE DARLING.
No rain had fallen during the four months which had elapsed since we left
the colony, and it was probable that the ponds of the Bogan, many of
which our cattle had drunk up during our advance, would not afford a
sufficient supply of water, nor even be numerous enough on the route for
our daily wants, considering the short stages we were obliged to travel
on account of the exhausted cattle.
SIX OF THE CATTLE DEAD FROM EXHAUSTION.
We had already lost six bullocks on our return journey, some having got
bogged, and others having lain down from weakness, never to rise. For
three hundred miles we were now to depend on the ponds of the Bogan, and
again to contend with the scarcity of water, a disadvantage from which we
had been quite free while on the banks of the Darling.
REST OF TWO DAYS AT FORT BOURKE.
Having at length two days of leisure, I was anxious to complete my
surveys of this river. I found that the distance from D'Urban's group to
Mr. Hume's tree, the furthest point attained by Captain Sturt, was 17
miles and 22 chains, not 33 miles as stated by that traveller; and that
the highest summit of D'Urban's group bore from it 53 degrees East of
South not 58 degrees East of South, the latter bearing, as given by
Sturt, being probably a clerical or typographical error.
VISITED BY THE FORT BOURKE TRIBE.
About ten A.M. the calls of the natives were heard, and four or five came
towards the camp asking for tomahawks. I sent two of our people to them,
but they were restless and importunate; soon after I saw them running,
having set the grass on fire. We then sallied forth in pursuit to make
them retire across the Darling, but they had crossed ere we saw them. I
believe these were strangers, for the gins of the Fort Bourke tribe
continued all the while quietly to fish for mussels in the river without
taking notice of them.
The party leaves the Darling.
Natives approach the camp during the night.
Scared by a rocket.
Discovery of a Caper-tree.
The kangaroos and emus driven away by the natives.
Difference between the plains of the Darling and Bogan.
Extreme illness of one of the party.
New Year's range.
Three natives remind us of the man wounded.
Another man of the party taken ill.
Beauty of the scenery.
Mr. Larmer traces Duck Creek up to the Macquarie.
A hot wind.
Talambe of the Bogan Tribe.
Tombs of Milmeridien.
Another bullock fails.
Successful chase of four kangaroos.
Natives of the Bogan come up.
Two red-painted natives.
Uncertainty of Mr. Cunningham's fate.
Mr. Larmer overtakes the party.
Result of his survey.
Send off a courier to Sydney.
Marks of Mr. Dixon.
Tandogo Creek and magnificent pine forest.
Hervey's range in sight.
Improved appearance of the country.
Meet the natives who first accompanied us.
Arrive at a cattle station.
Learn that Mr. Cunningham had been killed by natives.
Character of the river Bogan.
Native inhabitants on its banks.
Their mode of fishing.
Manners and customs.
Prepare to quit the party.
Plan of encampment.
Leave the party and mark a new line of ascent to Hervey's range.
Get upon a road.
Arrive at Buree.
THE PARTY LEAVES THE DARLING.
This morning we finally quitted Fort Bourke and the banks of the Darling
to return by our former route along the Bogan. We halted within a mile of
our previous encampment, and again drank of the waters of that river, but
from a very shallow pond, that which we formerly had recourse to being
NATIVES APPROACH THE CAMP DURING THE NIGHT.
We continued the journey most prosperously, all things considered, and
bivouacked beside a large pond two miles beyond our ground of the 23rd
May. We saw natives all about, but they did not venture too near us. I
supposed they were of the tribe which formerly behaved so well when we
passed these ponds. About eight P.M. however we perceived numerous
fire-sticks approaching among the bushes; and though I counted nine in
motion yet I heard no noise. I directed the men to be silent, curious to
know what these people meant to do. At length, when the lights had
approached within 150 yards of our camp, everyone suddenly disappeared;
the bearers preserving all the while the most perfect silence. I then
thought it advisable to scare these natives away, supposing that they
were lurking about our camp with the intention to steal.
SCARED BY A ROCKET.
I accordingly placed some men with instructions to rush forward shouting
as soon as I should send up a rocket. Its ascent and our sudden
accompanying noise had no doubt a tremendous effect on the natives, for
even in the morning they remained at a respectful distance.
We began to discover some signs of vegetation in the earth. Blades of
green grass appeared among the yellow stalks, and on the plains we found
a new species of Danthonia;* the whole country indeed already wore a
better appearance than on any part of the Darling. We passed our station
of 22nd May about a mile and encamped close to a good pond. Several
natives' huts were near, at which the fires were still burning; the
inhabitants having fled; but I forbade the men to go near these huts, or
touch a stone hatchet and some carved boomerangs which had been left
behind. A native dog lay as if watching these implements; and it barked
on my approaching one of the huts, a circumstance unusual in one of these
animals. Soon after four natives came up shouting, and two of them having
advanced in front, sat down, but we took no notice of them, thinking that
they had followed from the last camp, and belonged to the fire-stick
visitors; they called back the fugitives however and encamped together on
a pond lower down.
(*Footnote. Danthonia lappacea, Lindley manuscripts; spicis geminatis
foliis brevioribus, palea inferiore sericea cornea; laciniis lateralibus
foliatis divaricatis arista rigida brevioribus.)
As we moved off about eight this morning the blacks hung about in groups
but we paid no attention to them. We had now, happily for both parties,
arrived where the natives had probably heard of firearms, and of the
numerous white men beyond the hills, neither were the blacks of these
parts ever known to behave like the savages on the lower Darling. I
sought in vain for my lost telescope during this day's journey; the
natives having probably found it, as the whole line of our track was much
marked with their footsteps. We reached our former camp of May 20 and 21
by two o'clock, and again pitched our tents near that spot.
Nineteen of our bullocks had strayed during the night, but were found
about seven miles back, in a scrub near the Bogan. We did not therefore
start until ten o'clock, but were able nevertheless to cross the Pink
hills, and reach our ground of May 19.
DISCOVERY OF THE CAPER-TREE.
Today I fell in with a tree of which I saw but a single specimen during
my former journey,* and I had observed only a sickly one before during
this expedition. It bore a yellow flower, and fruit resembling a small
pomegranate, on a hooked stalk. I had unfortunately omitted to gather
specimens of it when seen by me in flower in 1831; and now I could not
procure any of the seeds, every rind being hollow, and the interior
destroyed apparently by insects. I considered this a very remarkable tree
as well from its rare occurrence as on account of its fruit, of which the
natives appear to make some use.
(*Footnote. See above.)
The Pink hills, as I have already mentioned, consist of the diluvial
gravel, and their position at the point separating the tributary basin of
the Macquarie and Bogan from the channel of the Darling is just where
such a deposit might be produced.
I was more successful in my search this morning for seeds of the fruit
above-mentioned; and I was surprised to find many specimens of the tree
in the scrub through which we had previously passed without observing
them. On one plant we found some fruit apparently full-grown, but not
ripe; and on others perfect specimens of the last year's crop, including,
of course, the seeds. The fruit resembles a small lemon but has within
small nuts or stones enveloped in a soft pulp, and the whole has an
agreeable perfume. We also found some specimens of the flower, rather
faded.* We reached our old encampment of May 18 by three o'clock.
(*Footnote. My friend Dr. Lindley considers this one of the most
interesting plants brought home by me, and has described it as follows:
Capparis Mitchellii, Lindley manuscripts; stipulis spinosis, foliis
obovatis supra glabris, pedunculis floris solitariis clavatis foliis
brevioribus, fructu sphaerico tomentoso. A fine specimen of Capparis
related to C. sandwichiana.)
When all were ready to start it was discovered that one bullock was
missing; the two men who had been in charge of the cattle all night were
sent in search of it, while the party proceeded towards our former camp
of May 17. As our route between these camps traversed the great bend
where the course of the Bogan changes from north to west-north-west I was
enabled to cut off four miles by travelling North 145 degrees East a part
of the way.
THE KANGAROOS AND EMUS DRIVEN AWAY BY THE NATIVES.
We crossed some undulating ground with an open forest upon it in which we
killed two large kangaroos. We supposed, on account of this success, that
we had outwitted the blacks by our cross course; for we had reason to
suspect that they proceeded ahead of us along our old track and drove off
the emu and kangaroo as we seldom saw either. We however surprised two
natives cutting away at an opossum's hole in a tree at some distance to
our left; and on seeing us they made off with great speed towards the
northern bend of the river and our former route.
DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE PLAINS OF THE DARLING AND BOGAN.
On reaching our old encampment we discovered new beauty in the plains on
the Bogan when compared with those on the banks of the Darling. There we
dreaded plains, the surface being soft and uneven. Here on the contrary
they delighted the eye with their great levelness, while the firmer
surface was no less agreeable to the foot. The grass also had been so
cleanly burnt off that the surface resembled a floor, and although such a
piece of perfect level country, extending for miles, was by no means a
common feature, it was perhaps more striking to us, on coming from the
soft plains, on account of its firmness, neither hoofs nor wheels leaving
any impression upon it. The two men came in with the stray bullock soon
after the tents were pitched, and thus our party was again in a state to
EXTREME ILLNESS OF ONE OF THE PARTY.
One of the men, Robert Whiting, who had been long afflicted with the
black scurvy, continued to get weaker daily; and it seemed very doubtful
whether his life could be preserved until we should reach a station where
vegetables might be procured. In other respects he was as well off as if
in a hospital; the proper medicines were given to him, he was kept warm
in a tent, and on the journey he was conveyed in a covered van. He was
however sinking daily, all his teeth were dropping out, and yet, poor
fellow, he had been, when in health, one of the most indefatigable of the
party, and had been also with me on my journey to the northward. He did
not look the same man on this occasion from the first setting out; and it
was evident that he had brought the disease from an ironed gang where it
had been prevalent some time before.
NEW YEAR'S RANGE.
Following our old route we crossed the extremities of New Year's range,
and at the rocky point where it was first seen by us I obtained bearings
on it, and several other heights to the westward which I had seen also
from that range. The sky was obscured this morning by a kind of smoky
haze which brought with it a smell of burning grass. It was evident that
either the Macquarie marshes or some other extensive tract to the
eastward was on fire, as the wind blew from that quarter. The obscurity
continued during the whole of the day, and the smell also. As we crossed
the plain, which appeared to Captain Sturt like a "broad and rapid
river," the dogs killed an emu, and thus we were now pretty well supplied
with fresh meat. We at length encamped where we first came to the creek,
after descending from New Year's range, having found a good pond there.
Early this morning we were all awakened by the unwonted sound of THUNDER,
the first we had heard after having been 4 1/2 months in the interior.
The wind had been high during the night, but a dead calm preceded the
rumbling peals which were first heard at a great distance. Soon however
we had the cloud near enough in all its glory, with lightning playing
above and about us, until the atmosphere seemed one continued blaze of
light; the rain also fell heavily for a short time. At daylight the sky
was cloudy, and it seemed that the drought was about to break up; at
least this was the most remarkable change in the weather which we had met
with on the journey; and as we were doubtful about the state of the ponds
of the Bogan I was well pleased with the prospect of rain. We proceeded
to the old camp of May 15, where we again pitched our tents. There was
not much rain during the day, but about sunset a heavy cloud accompanied
by thunder and a squall broke over us. Soon after the wind lulled, the
sky became clear, and in the morning we found ice on the water; the
atmosphere having resumed its usual serenity.
THREE NATIVES REMIND US OF THE MAN WOUNDED. FRIENDLY INTERVIEW.
Early this morning the cooeys of three natives were heard. On meeting
them they went through the usual formalities; an old man fixing his eyes
on the ground with due decorum. They could say budgery; and by their
repeating this word they appeared, in our eyes, infinitely less savage
than the natives on the Darling. They also plainly alluded to the man
wounded with small shot at the encounter which took place on our formerly
occupying the next camp up the Bogan. We understood them to allude to
this event by their tapping rapidly with the finger over the arm and
shoulder; and then pointing towards the place where the unfortunate
rencontre happened. We had been more than usual on our guard in returning
towards the haunts of a tribe where we had, although unwillingly, done
such mischief; but these fellows seemed, by their laughing, to advert to
it as a good joke, and we therefore concluded that the poor fellow had
recovered. They asked for nothing, and on retiring made signs that they
were going towards the hills, or westward. We travelled towards our
former camp of May 14, but the distance being sixteen miles it was too
much for our weak animals. We halted therefore four miles short of it;
and though we turned a mile off the route to the eastward in search of
the Bogan we did not find it until after we had encamped, and then at
nearly a mile further to the eastward still.
ANOTHER MAN OF THE PARTY TAKEN ILL.
Another man of the party, Johnston, who was rather aged, began to show
symptoms of the black scurvy, which made him walk lame. This might be
partly attributed to the rancidity of the salt pork rather than the
saltness, as it had been in a great measure spoiled by having been taken
out of the proper barrels and put without brine into the water casks
before I joined the party. The two men now afflicted with scurvy were
precisely those who ate this pork most voraciously; and consequently its
effect soonest became apparent upon them.
Acacia pendula. BEAUTY OF THE SCENERY.
The weather again quite serene. We continued our march and, passing our
former camp of the 14th, reached that of May 13 by two P.M. The ponds in
which we had before found water were now dried up; but we fortunately
discovered others a little distance higher. At two miles onward from the
camp of May 14 we saw bushes of Acacia pendula for the first time since
we had previously passed that place. The locality of that beautiful shrub
is very peculiar, being always near but never within, the limits of
inundations. Never far from hills yet never upon them. These bushes,
blended with a variety of other acacias and crowned here and there with
casuarinae, form very picturesque groups, especially when relieved with
much open ground. Indeed the beauty of the sylvan scenery on the lower
Bogan may be cited as an exception to the general want of pictorial
effect in the woods of New South Wales. The poverty of the foliage of the
eucalyptus, the prevailing tree, affords little of mass or shadow; and
indeed seldom has that tree, either in the trunk or branches, anything
ornamental to landscape. On these plains, where all surrounding trees and
shrubs seemed different from those of other countries, the Agrostis
virginica of Linnaeus, a grass common throughout Asia and America, but
new to me in Australia, grew near the scrubs. Here also grows a new
species of Eleusine, being a very tall nutritious grass.*
(*Footnote. E. marginata, Lindley manuscripts; culmo tereti glabro,
foliis glabris, ligula nulla, spicis digitatis strictis, spiculis
subsexfloris, palea inferiore carinata mucronata marginata.)
Retracing still our former steps, we reached a pond on the Bogan 3 1/2
miles short of our camp of May 12. There I fixed the camp in open ground
and near good grass, with the intention of resting for two days; this
repose having become absolutely necessary for the purpose of refreshing
our exhausted cattle.
MR. LARMER TRACES DUCK CREEK UP TO THE MACQUARIE.
Being near the route of Mr. Hume when he proceeded westward from Mount
Harris and crossed two creeks, of which the Bogan was one; I was desirous
of ascertaining the source of the other, whose channel he had found
intermediate between this river and the Macquarie. Being occupied in
completing my plans of the Darling preparatory to my immediate return to
the colony, I instructed Mr. Larmer to proceed on a survey of that creek
by tracing from our next camp (that of May 12) on a bearing of 102
degrees East of North, until he reached it, and then to follow it up. Mr.
Larmer took with him five men and a week's provisions, also a copy of our
recent survey of the Bogan, with Mr. Oxley's Macquarie; and I instructed
him to rejoin the main party at Cudduldury, the camp where I calculated
we should arrive about the probable time of his return.
A HOT WIND.
The morning was calm but about noon a hot wind set in, blowing very
strongly from the north-north-west, the thermometer stood at 86 degrees,
but by sunset at 80 degrees. I had been sensible of a parching and
unseasonable dryness and warmth in the winds from that quarter throughout
the winter, while farther in the interior; and it may be inferred from
these hot winds blowing so early in the season that the drought and the
absence of any humidity in the climate prevailed to a very great extent
over the interior regions. This is what I should expect to find in the
central parts of Australia, from the nature of that portion which I had
seen and the state of the weather throughout the winter. An almost
perpetual sunshine had prevailed, dry cirro-cumulus clouds had arisen
indeed sometimes, but no point of the earth's surface was of sufficient
height to attract them or to arrest their progress in the sky. There
seemed neither on the earth nor in the air sufficient humidity to feed a
cloud. Dew was very uncommon, the moisture from the one or two slight
showers, which did reach the ground, was measured out in this shape upon
the vegetation on the mornings immediately succeeding their fall. The hot
wind of the Bogan met with no antidote as in Sydney, where the heat of a
similar wind is usually moderated towards evening by a strong south-west
breeze. On the Bogan the wind was oppressively hot during the night, and
lulled only towards morning.
Our cattle moved on in the morning, apparently much better for the rest
and the grass on which they had fed here. We reached in good time a small
open plain, distant about two miles from our camp of May 11, and halted
close by a pond in the bed of the Bogan.
TALAMBE OF THE BOGAN TRIBE.
At this point there were several fires, but the natives had run off on
our approach; at sunset however a young man came frankly up to our camp,
when we recognised Talambe, one of those who had accompanied the king of
the Bogan. We were all very glad to meet with an old acquaintance, even
of this kind and colour; and although he could only say budgery, this was
something, after the total want of any common terms with the savages we
had lately seen; and really the mild tone of voice and very different
manner of this native and others of his tribe, who came up next morning,
made us feel comparatively at home, although still not very far from
TOMBS OF MILMERIDIEN.
Several natives came up with Talambe in the morning, and they accompanied
us on our route. As we passed a burial-ground called by them Milmeridien
I rode to examine it and, on reaching the spot, these natives became
silent and held down their heads. Nor did their curiosity restrain them
from passing on, although I unfolded my sketch-book which they had not
seen before, and remained there half an hour for a purpose of which they
could have had no idea. The burying-ground was a fairy-like spot in the
midst of a scrub of drooping acacias. It was extensive and laid out in
walks which were narrow and smooth, as if intended only for sprites; and
they meandered in gracefully curved lines among the heaps of reddish
earth which contrasted finely with the acacias and dark casuarinae
around. Others gilt with moss shot far into the recesses of the bush,
where slight traces of still more ancient graves proved the antiquity of
these simple but touching records of humanity. With all our art we could
do no more for the dead than these poor savages had done. As we
approached Nyngan we crossed a plain on which we killed a kangaroo which
afforded a seasonable supply, for our stock of pork was nearly exhausted;
and two men were now so ill as to require to be carried in the light
covered waggon. We encamped at Nyngan near a large pond of water.
ANOTHER BULLOCK FAILS.
One of the bullocks had sunk in the mud while drinking at the pond, and
when at length it was drawn out it was so weak as to be unable to stand.
I therefore halted this day in hopes he would recover before next
Our friends the blacks had been rather forward during the night, and
throughout this day they lay about my tent pointing to their empty
stomachs, and behaving in a contemptuous manner, although we had given
them most of our kangaroo. At length I determined to send them off, if
this could be done without quarrelling with them. I directed Burnett to
take some men with fixed bayonets and march in line towards them. This
move answered very well, the natives receded to a distance, perfectly
understanding our object; but there sat down, and made their fires. Only
two came up next morning, again pointing to their stomachs; but I knew
from experience that to feed them was to retain them permanently in our
camp and now I did not want them, and had no food to spare.
The bullock could not be made to rise and we were after all obliged to
leave him. When we proceeded the natives remained behind, of course
intending to kill and eat the poor animal.
SUCCESSFUL CHASE OF FOUR KANGAROOS.
This day in crossing a plain I saw, with my glass, the head of a kangaroo
in the grass at a distance. We ran the dogs towards it, when two got up.
One dog, named Nelson, killed the smallest and threw it over his head,
all the while keeping his eye on the other, which he immediately pursued
and also killed. He then saw and took after a third, a very large forest
kangaroo; and this also he seized and fought with, until Burnett got up
to his assistance. About three miles further a fourth kangaroo was seen
and killed by the same dog, so that we obtained abundance of fresh
provisions for several days. We encamped in our old position of the 9th
NATIVES OF THE BOGAN COME UP.
In the evening some natives whom we had formerly seen with the king of
the Bogan came up with two very timid old men. We gave them some
kangaroo, and they behaved very well, retiring to a fire at some distance
in order to cook it and pass the night.
We were accompanied in our travels this morning, first by several young
natives, and afterwards by a chief who came before us rather
ceremoniously, and halted in an open plain, until I went up to him. His
costume was rather imposing, consisting of a network which confined his
hair into the form of a round cap, having in the front a plume of white,
light feathers; a rather short cloak of opossum skins was drawn tightly
around his body with one hand, his boomerangs and waddy being grasped
fast in the other. (See Plate 21.)
As we crossed the large plain within the bend of the Bogan, and where its
course changes from west to near north, our eyes were refreshed with the
sight of a crop of green grass growing in all the hollow parts, some rain
having recently fallen there. We encamped on our old ground at Walwadyer.
The natives whom we last met with and had entertained at our camp, with a
view to obtain their assistance in finding water at the end of this day's
journey, took to their heels exactly when the carts started this morning;
carrying off with them a little native boy, an orphan, whom we had
washed, scrubbed, dressed, and carried on a cart, meaning to take him
with us to the colony. We proceeded as far as our next camp, called
Bugabada, where, finding some water, I halted until I could ascertain the
distance to the next pool. For this purpose I sent a party to Cudduldury
with directions to meet Mr. Larmer (who had been instructed to rejoin the
party at that place this day) and to let him know where we were. They
returned at sunset without having either found water or seen Mr. Larmer.
As I knew the Bogan was dry for many miles above Cudduldury I made
arrangements for carrying on a supply next day, that we might proceed to
some ponds on this river, distant about twenty-five miles. Still it was
impossible for the party to reach that point in one day, and the water we
could carry would not be enough for our cattle. At nine P.M. however
distant thunder was heard, the sky became overcast and several smart
showers fell during the night, thus affording most providentially a
prospect of dew on the following night, which would refresh the horses
TWO RED-PAINTED NATIVES.
Two natives came towards our camp, having hideous countenances and being
savagely painted with crimson on the abdomen and right shoulder; the nose
and cheek-bones were also gules, and some blazing spots were daubed, like
drops of gore, on the brow. The most ferocious-looking wore round his
brow the usual band newly whitened. He, like all those more savage
natives, had neither a word nor even a smile for us.
UNCERTAINTY OF MR. CUNNINGHAM'S FATE.
The other my men recognised to be Werrajouit, the native who formerly had
in his possession the handkerchief which was supposed to have belonged to
Mr. Cunningham. I thought that if that gentleman had really been
sacrificed, some of these fellows had been guilty of his murder; but we
were still uncertain of his fate; and perhaps his life had been saved by
some of these very natives whom the men were now much inclined to seize
as his destroyers. A gin and child were brought to us that we might give
some clothes to the latter, a practice we had foolishly encouraged at the
first interviews; so that they almost persecuted me with young children,
expecting that they should receive something. This gin had an English
haversack, and Burnett, by my orders, examined the contents; but he found
nothing likely to have belonged to Mr. Cunningham except a piece of
cloth. This search was made after they had disappointed us respecting a
waterhole and when the man who had promised to be our guide had decamped.
All the ponds in which we had found water before were dry, nor could we
obtain it elsewhere, although Burnett had examined the Bogan to Burdenda.
I knew by the result of our former search for Mr. Cunningham that no
water was to be procured down the bed of the river for many miles; and I
therefore cut off four miles of this day's route and continued our
journey as far as possible, having provided against a night without
water by carrying as much in barrels as supplied the whole party, and
afforded half a gallon to each of the horses and bullocks. We encamped on
a grassy plain, about five miles on in our journey of the 1st of May.
MR. LARMER OVERTAKES THE PARTY.
I sent Burnett and two men forward to examine some ponds beyond our
former camp of the 30th of April, while the rest of the party followed.
Mr. Larmer overtook us during this day's journey, having last night been
encamped with his party only three miles behind us.
RESULT OF HIS SURVEY.
He had found in Duck creek long reaches, like canals, full of excellent
water, and covered with wildfowl of every description. On its banks grew
large gumtrees like those on the Darling; and he had traced this channel
to a large lagoon near the Macquarie, the bed of which was found to be
quite dry. Many small watercourses led from the Macquarie into Duck
creek, which indeed appeared to be the lowest channel of this river, the
general fall of the country being to the westward. The identity of the
two channels was further established by the quartzose sand found in both.
It appears that a low range of firm ground separates the Bogan from Duck
creek, the bed of which and all the land between it and the Macquarie
consists of an alluvial soil altogether different, according to Mr.
Larmer, from any we had seen on the Darling. This surface was covered
with a luxuriant green crop of grass, a sight which we had not enjoyed on
this journey, and there were also numerous kangaroos and emus, for whose
absence from the plains of the Bogan we could not previously account.
Mr. Larmer's men were still seven miles behind him, and had had no water
since they left the Macquarie two days previously, nor much to eat, for
they had carried rations for seven days only, and this was the ninth
since they quitted the camp. We therefore sent back a man with a loaf and
a kettle of water, and he met them four miles behind the party. We
continued the journey four miles beyond our old camp, to a pond which the
overseer had found, and was then the nearest water to our former
position. To this pond the cattle came on tolerably well after having
travelled fourteen miles, and having passed the previous night almost
without water. The party was at length reunited here; and we had now
passed the so much-dreaded long dry part of the bed of the Bogan. An old
native and a boy, apparently belonging to the Myall tribes, came in the
evening, but we could learn nothing from them. They were covered with
pieces of blanket, and the man used a Scotch bonnet as a bag. They said
they had been to Buckenba where there were five white men.
TRACES OF MR. CUNNINGHAM.
In the bed of the river where I went this evening to enjoy the sight of
the famished cattle drinking, I came accidentally on an old footstep of
Mr. Cunningham, in the clay, now baked hard by the sun. Four months had
elapsed since we had traced his steps, and up to this time the clay bore
these last records of our late fellow-traveller!
The old man with a hideous mumping face again came up, and took his place
at one of our fires, having sent the boy on some message, probably to
bring others of his tribe or tell them of our movements. I asked him
about Mr. Cunningham but could only obtain evasive answers, and I thought
it best to order him peremptorily to quit our camp. This I did in loud
terms, firing a pistol at the same time over his head. He walked off
however with a firm step, and with an air which I thought rather
dignified under the circumstances. Early this morning I sent overseer
Burnett on before us with three of the party to look for water, leaving
the cattle and the men who came in yesterday to rest until 10 A.M. Today
and yesterday we once more beheld a sky variegated with good swelling
clouds, and enjoyed a fresh breeze from the south-west. The sight even of
such a sky was now a novelty to us, and seemed as if we had at last got
home. We had in fact already ascended five hundred feet above the level
of the plains of the interior, and were approaching the mountains. At
eleven we proceeded and struck into our old track where it touched on the
Bogan, and we crossed its channel half a mile beyond where we had been
encamped so long when looking for Mr. Cunningham. On this day's journey
we again intersected his footsteps; and I could not avoid following them
once more to the pond on the Bogan where he must have first drunk water
after a thirst and hunger of four or five days! There was water still
there, though it had shrunk two yards from its former margin; but not the
impression of a native's foot appeared near it, nor any longer the traces
of Mr. Cunningham. I was now about to follow the Bogan further up in
order to make sure of water, and thus to leave our track, with the
intention of falling into it again at Cogoorduroy or Cookopie Ponds. We
had now passed the scene of Mr. Cunningham's distresses, and I judged
that a man on horseback might travel safely along our old route with
despatches. We had been about five months shut out from all communication
with the colony, and I was eager to avail myself of the first safe
opportunity of sending to the government a report of our progress.
SEND OFF A COURIER TO SYDNEY.
We were still about 120 miles from Buree, a distance which could be
travelled over on horseback in three days, and William Baldock, who was
in charge of the horses, was very willing to be the courier. The party
was to proceed by a new route in the morning, consequently I had only the
night for writing all my letters.
I sent off my courier at ten A.M., having ordered him positively not to
encamp at waterholes, but only to let his horse drink, fill his own horn,
and choose his resting-places at a distance from any water. He was also
instructed to ask any natives he might meet with if they had met the
other whitefellows, etc. This last being a ruse to prevent the tribes
from annoying him, which they were more likely to do when they saw him
The Doctor and two men were sent forward at an early hour along the banks
of the Bogan in search of waterholes. We followed in the same direction,
crossing to the right bank at that very pond at the junction of Bullock
creek which saved the lives of the cattle after they had thirsted two
days (April 16). We finally encamped on some good pools after a journey
of seven miles. The Doctor joined us long after it was dark and reported
that he had found plenty of water all along the bed of the river as far
as he had proceeded, which was about ten miles higher, in a direct line.
MARKS OF MR. DIXON.
Near where we encamped the marks of Mr. Dixon's cattle and horses were
very plainly visible, and by their depth we perceived how very wet and
soft the ground had then been.
TANDOGO CREEK AND MAGNIFICENT PINE FOREST.
We set forward on a bearing of east-south-east, which I took to be the
general direction of the Bogan, considering the position of Croker's
range on the east, and that of the hills in the south, which I had
traced. We travelled through forests of magnificent pine trees (Callitris
pyramidalis) and crossing, at twelve miles further, a dry creek which
appeared to be that of Tandogo, we encamped on the Bogan where there was
a good pond of water. This abundance was the more acceptable as we had
now left behind a part of the bed of this little river which for thirty
miles was quite dry; the total want of water there being chiefly owing to
the absorbent nature of the subsoil. We were now drawing towards its
sources amongst the hills, and the same scarcity no longer prevailed. The
height and girt of some of the callitris trees were very considerable.
Thus we found that Australia contains some extensive forests of a very
good substitute for the cedar of the colony (Cedrela toona, R. Br.) which
is to be found only in some rocky gullies of the Coast range and is
likely to be exhausted in a short time. The Acacia pendula adorned the
immediate banks of the Bogan, but the grass was old and dry, being a crop
of two years' growth; the cattle consequently did not feed well on it,
and at last grew so weak that they could not be worked more than four
hours, and thus our progress was limited to about eight miles a day.
HERVEY'S RANGE IN SIGHT.
We followed the bearing of 139 1/2 degrees as the direction in which we
were most likely to find the Bogan, considering its general course and
the position of the hills to the southward. After travelling eight miles
a sight of the highest point of Hervey's range enabled me at once to
determine my place on the map.
IMPROVED APPEARANCE OF THE COUNTRY.
We then proceeded on the bearing of 103 degrees, and made the Bogan at a
spot where its banks were beautiful, and the grass of better quality than
any we had seen for some time. The Acacia pendula grew there in company
with the pine (or callitris) the casuarina and eucalyptus, besides many
smaller trees in graceful groups, the surface being very smooth and
Proceeding in a south-south-east direction we crossed, at seven miles, a
creek, which I took for that of Tandogo, and thereupon turned towards the
south-east. After a journey of eleven miles we encamped about
three-quarters of a mile from the Bogan on a spot where we found
excellent grass. We had now arrived where the pasturage was so much
better than any we had seen that we could not doubt that a greater
quantity of rain had fallen here than in the regions where we had been.
The improvement was obvious, not alone in the quality of the grass, but
in the birds, the woods, the clouds, and distant horizon, which all
bespoke our approach to a more habitable region than that in which we had
so long been wandering. We crossed some fine sloping hills and found on
the Bogan a rich flat, somewhat resembling those tracts of black soil
which are so much prized on some of the larger rivers of the colony. A
hot wind blew from the north and now brought with it smoke and an
overcast sky, which in the evening turned to nimbus clouds. A south-west
wind (the usual antidote to the hot winds of Sydney) came in the evening,
and some genial showers fell during the night.
A drizzling rain fell early in the morning but about midday the weather
cleared up. We had not proceeded far before I was stopped by the Bogan,
the course of which I found at length to come more from the south. I had
been fortunate in the line which I had pursued as the supposed direction
of this river, above the part previously surveyed. This was on the
bearing of 139 1/2 degrees, and chosen after considering the position of
hills and other circumstances relative, and I now found that this line
nearly cut through our three last camps on the river. We were at length
to turn southward, and this still appeared to be the main channel,
judging by the breadth of the bed and the long deep ponds of water.
Indeed we had no longer any apprehensions about finding water while
travelling along the main channel; and this day we crossed over ground
well covered with grass.
MEET THE NATIVES WHO FIRST ACCOMPANIED US.
During our progress along this unsurveyed part of the Bogan we had
several times heard the natives and called to them, but they could not be
induced to come near us. Today however I saw smoke at a distance, and
hastened towards it with Burnett who succeeded (although the rest of the
tribe fled) in intercepting one individual between him and me who proved
to be our old friend Bultje, the very intelligent native who had formerly
been our guide. The rest of the tribe soon returned, and gathering around
us they all seemed much amused with our relation (and representations) of
the conduct of the Myall blackfellows on the Darling. They could not
afford any explanation of those ceremonies which appeared to be as
strange to them as they had been to us. The only observation of Bultje,
on learning that some of them had been shot, was "Stupid whitefellows!
why did you not bring away the gins?" We eagerly enquired whether he knew
anything of one whitefellow of ours who had been lost, but he appeared
surprised to hear it.
ARRIVE AT A CATTLE STATION.
He told us however that we were near a cattle station where two white men
had been recently established, having come from the colony along our
track over the mountains. I hastened towards the dwelling of these white
men, and the symmetrical appearance of their stockyard fence, when it
first caught my eye, so long accustomed to the wavy lines of simple
nature, looked quite charming as a work of art. Our hearts warmed at the
very sight of the smoking chimney; and on riding up to the hut I need not
say with what pleasure I recognised two men of our own race. On seeing my
pedestrian companions however, armed, feathered, and in rags; these white
men were growing whiter, until I briefly told them who we were, and that
we really were not bushrangers. They said a bushranger on horseback had
been seen in that country only a few days before by the natives, at whom
he had fired a pistol when they had nearly caught him at a waterhole. I
was glad to ascertain the fact, even in this shape, that my courier
Baldock, whom they of course meant, had got safely so far with my
LEARN THAT MR. CUNNINGHAM HAD BEEN KILLED BY NATIVES.
One of these men having but lately left the settled districts had seen in
the newspapers an account of one of my party having been killed by
natives; and he stated that the names of four natives and two gins were
mentioned, adding that the person murdered was supposed to have been my
man in charge of the sheep. My informant also pointed towards where the
white man was said to have been killed, as indicated by the blacks; and
this was exactly where our distressing loss befell us. I was also
informed that the natives thereabouts were now in dread of the arrival of
soldiers, and thus, for the first time, I learned that poor Cunningham
had really been murdered by these savages. Intelligence of this kind
often travels in exaggerated shapes through the medium of the natives;
and I had lately been anxious to see some of them, as many of those so
near the colony can speak very well. Now we understood why the Bogan was
deserted. The non-appearance of the chief who had been so obsequious on
our going down was perhaps a suspicious circumstance when connected with
the fact that a silk handkerchief had been seen on the first of that
tribe whom we met, and the strange movements and bustle which took place
among those at our camp at Cudduldury during my absence of four days.
The station which we had reached was occupied by the cattle of Mr. Lee of
Bathurst; the two stockmen, for such the white men proved to be, seemed
to have enough to do to keep the natives in good humour as the only means
of finding the cattle or securing their own safety among the savage
tribes. With the latter object probably in view they seemed to have
encouraged the expectation of soldiers on the part of the natives about
them. Soldiers have been too seriously instrumental in the civilisation
of the aborigines, wherever they have become civil, to be soon forgotten;
and the warfare by which the Bathurst settlers were first established in
security would be remembered, no doubt, with some apprehension of the
consequences of this last act of barbarism. The stockmen informed me that
I should meet with another cattle station which had been established by
Mr. Pike where my route crossed Goobang creek. The fact that the stock of
the settlers already extends over all available land within reach of the
present limits of location is clearly exhibited by the speedy occupation
of these two stations. They are placed on the only two good tracts of
land crossed by our party before we reached the arid plains of the
interior. Even my boat depot on the Namoi, the terra incognita made known
only by my first despatch, was immediately after occupied as a cattle-run
by the stock-keepers of Sir John Jamieson.
The Bogan still coming from the south-east, we continued our journey in
that direction for four miles beyond the cattle station and then halted.
Near this camp two branches of the Bogan united, and the one which came
from the eastward appeared to contain most water. I calculated that we
were within eleven miles of Cookopie; a pond in our old track at which we
had encamped on the 13th of April, and which bore south-east from this
camp. Here we killed our last remaining sheep but one: and it was worthy
of remark that, after travelling upwards of 1100 miles, it was found to
be fatter and weigh more by two pounds than any of those which had been
previously killed as we proceeded, although the best had been always
selected for slaughter. It appears thus how well a wandering and
migratory life agrees with sheep in this hemisphere, as of old in the
other. Ours gave very little trouble, and at length became so tame that
they followed the horses or cattle like dogs. The sheep were leanest on
the Darling, and on their way back their improved appearance was
Accompanied by four natives and a boy we continued our journey, and as my
reckoning since I deviated from our old route had been by time only, I
allowed a black named Old-Fashioned and the boy to guide us to Cookopie.
In going south-west we soon crossed the first creek, and for some way
could not proceed on the bearing which led to the other as the natives
pointed, and which had the best ponds in it. At length its course came
more from the northward, and we travelled on good, open, forest-land,
until our guides brought us directly to the very pond of water beside
which we formerly encamped. We had travelled but nine miles, which was
two miles less than I reckoned the distance to be, a pleasant discovery
in our present case when even the proposed journey for the day, although
short, had appeared too much for the very weak condition of our animals.
I had indeed thought of going up the first creek in order to join our
route at Coogoorduroy; but we had now been so fortunate as to gain, by a
journey of nine miles, the point which, had we gone round by
Coogoorduroy, must have been the end of our second day's journey. We had
here the satisfaction of recognising the track of my courier's horse
tracing our foot-marks homewards at a good fast pace. This pond was
nearly dry, the little water remaining being thick and green. It was more
however than I expected to find, and it was quite sufficient for our
By resting here it was in my power to reach, by another day's travelling,
Goobang creek, where the ponds were deep and clear and the grass good.
This pond of Cookopie appeared to be near the head of a small run of
water arising in hills behind Pagormungor, a trap hill distant only five
or six miles along our route homeward.
This morning Fahrenheit's thermometer stood at 23 degrees, and the pond
was frozen three-quarters of an inch thick. There was however so little
water left that only three of the bullocks could be supplied before
starting. The natives who had promised to go on with us nevertheless
remained behind; but we proceeded by our old route to Goobang creek, and
encamped on its left bank nearly a mile above where we had crossed it
formerly. Here the grass was superior to any we had seen lower down;
numerous fresh tracks of cattle were visible on the ground, and the water
lay deep and clear in ponds, surrounded by reeds. There were no reeds
about the waterholes of the Bogan; and we had in fact this day left that
river, and reached the sources of the Lachlan, to which stream the
Goobang must sometimes be an important tributary. The ground separating
these waters, which must travel towards the distant channels of such
spacious basins as those of the Lachlan and Darling, consists here only
of some low hills of trap-rock, connected with gently sloping ridges of
mica schist. The country on the Goobang or Lachlan side appears to be the
best; for the grass grows there much more abundantly, and the beds of the
streams appear to be much more retentive.
CHARACTER OF THE RIVER BOGAN.
All the water which we had used during five months belonged to the basin
of the Darling, but today we again tasted of that from channels which led
towards the Lachlan. The chief sources of the Bogan arise in Hervey's
range, and also in that much less elevated country situated between the
Lachlan and the Macquarie. The uniformity of the little river Bogan from
its spring to its junction with the Darling is very remarkable. In a
course of 250 miles no change is observable in the character of its
banks, or the breadth of its bed, neither are the ponds near its source
less numerous or of less magnitude than those near its junction with the
principal stream. Mr. Dixon estimated the velocity of the current at four
miles per hour where its course is most westerly. There are few or no
pebbles in its bed, and no reeds grow upon the banks, which are generally
sloping and of naked earth but marked with lines of flood similar to
those of the Darling. It has often second banks and, as near that river,
a belt of dwarf eucalypti, box, or rough gum encloses the more stately
flooded-gumtrees with the shining white bark which grow on the immediate
borders of the river. It has also its plains along the banks, some of
them being very extensive; but the soil of these is not only much firmer,
but is also clothed with grass and fringed with a finer variety of trees
and bushes than those of the Darling. Yet in the grasses there is not
such wonderful variety as I found in those on the banks of that river. Of
twenty-six different kinds gathered by me there I found only four on the
Bogan, and not more than four other varieties throughout the whole
course. It appeared that where land was best and grass most abundant the
latter consisted of one or two kinds only, and on the contrary that where
the surface was nearly bare the greatest variety of grasses appeared, as
if nature allowed more plants to struggle for existence where fewest were
NATIVE INHABITANTS ON ITS BANKS.
The aboriginal inhabitants of the banks of the Bogan include several
1. Near the head of the river is the tribe of Bultje, composed of many
intelligent natives, who have acquired a tolerable knowledge of our
language; the number of this tribe is about 120. One, or in some cases
two, of the front teeth of males is extracted on arriving at the age of
2. The next is the Myall tribe, who inhabit the central parts about
Cudduldury, at the great bend of the Bogan to the northward. These
natives can scarcely speak a word of our language, and they have several
curious customs. Some of the young men are gaily dressed with feathers,
are all called by one name, Talambe, and great care is taken of them. The
chief and many of the tribe say they have no name, and when any others
are asked the names of such persons they shake their heads, and return no
answer. The tribes in various parts of the colony give the name of Myall
to others less civilised than themselves, but these natives seemed to
glory in the name, and had it often in their mouths. They were the only
natives I ever knew who acknowledged that they were Myalls; and I can say
of them, as far as our own intercourse enabled me, that they were the
most civil tribe we ever met with. They do not extract the front teeth.
3. The Bungan tribe, with whom the one last mentioned made us acquainted,
inhabits the Bogan between Cambelego and Mount Hopeless. They are perhaps
less subtle and dissimulating than the Myalls, and if possible more
ignorant than they of our language and persons. Yet the Bungans came
forth from their native bush to meet us with less hesitation, observing
at the same time that downcast formality which is the surest indication
of the natives' respect for the stranger, and ignorance of the manners of
white men, especially when accompanied, as in this instance, with an
openness of countenance and a frankness of manner far beyond the arts of
(*Footnote. I have since been informed by an officer who had been some
time in Canada that he noticed, when on shooting excursions with the
Indians, that they observed a somewhat similar silence on meeting with
Lower down the Bogan we saw so little of the inhabitants that I cannot
characterise the tribes, although there appear to be two more, the haunts
of one being eastward of New Year's range, those of the other to the
north of the Pink hills. Both these tribes appeared to be of rather an
inoffensive and friendly disposition than otherwise, although quite
ignorant of our language. They were terrified at the sight of our cattle,
and even still more afraid of the sheep.
Unlike the natives on the Darling these inhabitants of the banks of the
Bogan subsist more on the opossum, kangaroo, and emu than on the fish of
THEIR MODE OF FISHING.
Here fishing is left entirely to the gins, but it is performed most
effectually and in the simplest manner. A movable dam of long, twisted
dry grass through which water only can pass is pushed from one end of the
pond to the other, and all the fishes are necessarily captured. Thus
when, at the holes where a tribe had recently been, if my men began to
fish any natives who might be near would laugh most heartily at the
MANNERS AND CUSTOMS.
The gins also gather the large freshwater mussel which abounds in the mud
of these holes, lifting the shell out of the mud with their toes. There
is a small cichoraceous plant with a yellow flower named tao by the
natives, which grows in the grassy places near the river, and on its root
the children chiefly subsist. As soon almost as they can walk a little
wooden shovel is put into their hands, and they learn thus early to pick
about the ground for those roots and a few others, or to dig out the
larvae of ant-hills. The gins never carry a child in arms as our females
do, but always in a skin on the back. The infant is seized by an arm and
thrown with little care over the shoulders, when it soon finds its way to
its warm berth, holding by the back of the mother's head while it slides
down into it. These women usually carry besides their children, thus
mounted, bags containing all the things which they and the men possess,
consisting of nets for the hair or for catching ducks; whetstones;
yellow, white, and red ochre; pins for dressing and drying opossum skins,
or for net-making; small boomerangs and shovels for the children's
amusement; and often many other things apparently of little use to them.
PREPARE TO QUIT THE PARTY.
On this creek the grass was excellent and today, for the first time, we
saw cattle from the colony. As our own required rest and I wished to
examine the state of the equipment, arms, ammunition, and stores previous
to my leaving the party, as I now intended soon to do, I determined on
halting here for three days previous to ascending Hervey's range. I also
wished to amend that part of our traced line by returning in advance of
the party and marking out a better direction for the ascent of the carts;
and to find out also, if possible, some water which should be at a
convenient distance for a day's journey from the present camp.
When on first advancing I overlooked this lower country the sun had
nearly set, and I was anxious the expedition should reach the valley and
find water before darkness set in; the descent from these heights was
thus made without selection and at a point which happened to be rather
too abrupt. To ascend it was a still more difficult labour now that our
cattle were much weaker and would be also exhausted by the fatigue of a
I was occupied nearly the whole of this day in examining the ration
accounts and taking an inventory of the equipment, stores, etc. We had
made five months' rations serve the party nearly six months by a slight
alteration of the weights; this having been thought the best expedient
for making our provisions last till the end of the journey, availing
myself of the experience of my former travels in the interior when I
found that the idea of reduced rations was disheartening to men when
undergoing fatigue. The sheep which we took with us as livestock had
answered the purpose remarkably well, having, as already stated, rather
mended than otherwise during the journey. Their fatness however varied
according to the nature of the countries passed through. They became soon
very tame, and the last remaining sheep followed the man in charge of it,
and bleated after HIM when all his woolly companions had disappeared.
The two boats mounted on the carriage were still in a perfect state; and
although we had not derived much advantage from them, still in no
situation had they appeared a superfluous portion of our equipment.
Possessing these we crossed the low soft plains and dry lagoons of the
Darling without any apprehension of being entirely cut off by floods,
while we were always prepared to take advantage of navigable waters had
we found any of that description.
PLAN OF ENCAMPMENT.
The carriage with the boats, mounted on high and covered with tarpaulin,
when placed beside the carts according to our plan of encampment, formed
a sort of field-work in which we were always ready for defence. We
adhered to this which had been arranged not less with a view to general
convenience than for defensive purposes. The carts were drawn up in one
line with the wheels close to each other (see the woodcut); and parallel
to it stood the boat carriage, room being left between them for a line of
men. We had thus at all times a secure defence against spears and
boomerangs in case of any general attack. The light waggons and tents
were so disposed as to cover the flanks of our car-borne citadel, keeping
in mind other objects also, as shown on the plan.
The two light carts (9) covered one flank, the men's tents (5, 5) the
other. These light carts carried the instruments, canteens, trunks, and