Part 7 out of 8
of the boat, or the rise of the river, would inevitably be attended with
calamity. To think of reducing our rations of only three quarters of a
pound of flour per diem, was out of the question, or to hope that the men,
with less sustenance than that, would perform the work necessary to ensure
their safety, would have been unreasonable. It was better that our
provisions should hold out to a place from which we might abandon the boat
with some prospect of reaching by an effort a stock station, or the plain
on which Robert Harris was to await our return, than that they should be
consumed before the half of our homeward journey should be accomplished.
Delay, therefore, under our circumstances, would have been imprudent
PATIENCE OF THE MEN--RE-ENTER THE MURRAY.
On the other hand, it was sufficiently evident to me, that the men were
too much exhausted to perform the task that was before them without
assistance, and that it would be necessary both for M'Leay and myself,
to take our share of labour at the oars. The cheerfulness and satisfaction
that my young friend evinced at the opportunity that was thus afforded him
of making himself useful, and of relieving those under him from some
portion of their toil, at the same time that they increased my sincere
esteem for him, were nothing more than what I expected from one who had
endeavoured by every means in his power to contribute to the success of
that enterprise upon which he had embarked. But although I have said thus
much of the exhausted condition of the men,--and ere these pages are
concluded my readers will feel satisfied as to the truth of my
statement--I would by no means be understood to say that they flagged for
a moment, or that a single murmur escaped them. No reluctance was visible,
no complaint was heard, but there was that in their aspect and appearance
which they could not hide, and which I could not mistake. My object in
dwelling so long upon this subject has been to point out our situation and
our feelings when we re-entered the Murray. The only circumstance that
appeared to be in our favour was the prevalence of the south-west wind,
by which I hoped we should be assisted in running up the first broad
reaches of that river. I could not but acknowledge the bounty of that
Providence, which had favoured us in our passage across the lake, and I
was led to hope that its merciful superintendance would protect us from
evil, and would silently direct us where human foresight and prudence
failed. We re-entered the river on the 13th under as fair prospects as
we would have desired. The gale which had blown with such violence in the
morning gradually abated, and a steady breeze enabled us to pass our first
encampment by availing ourselves of it as long as day light continued.
Both the valley and the river showed to advantage as we approached them,
and the scenery upon our left (the proper right bank of the Murray)
was really beautiful.
Valley of the Murray--Its character and capabilities--Laborious progress
up the river--Accident to the boat--Perilous collision with the natives
--Turbid current of the Rufus--Passage of the Rapids--Assisted by the
natives--Dangerous intercourse with them--Re-enter the Morumbidgee--
Verdant condition of its banks--Nocturnal encounter with the natives--
Interesting manifestation of feeling in one family--Reach the spot where
the party had embarked on the river--Men begin to fail entirely--
Determine to send two men forward for relief--Their return--Excursion on
horseback--Reach Pondebadgery Plain, and meet the supplies from the
colony--Cannibalism of the natives--Return to Sydney--Concluding remarks.
VALLEY OF THE MURRAY.
The valley of the Murray, at its entrance, cannot be less than four miles
in breadth. The river does not occupy the centre but inclines to either
side, according to its windings, and thus the flats are of greater or less
extent, according to the distance of the river from the base of the hills.
It is to be remarked, that the bottom of the valley is extremely level,
and extensively covered with reeds. From the latter circumstance, one
would be led to infer that these flats are subject to overflow, and no
doubt can exist as to the fact of their being, at least partially, if not
wholly, under water at times. A country in a state of nature is, however,
so different from one in a state of cultivation, that it is hazardous to
give an opinion as to its practical availableness, if I may use such a
term. I should, undoubtedly, say the marshes of the Macquarie were
frequently covered with water, and that they were wholly unfit for any one
purpose whatever. It is evident from the marks of the reeds upon the
banks, that the flood covers them occasionally to the depth of three feet,
and the reeds are so densely embodied and so close to the river side that
the natives cannot walk along it. The reeds are the broad flag-reed
(arundo phragmatis), and grow on a stiff earthy loam, without any
accompanying vegetation; indeed, they form so solid a mass that the sun
cannot penetrate to the ground to nourish vegetation. On the other hand,
the valley of the Murray, though covered with reeds in most places, is not
so in all. There is no mark upon the reeds by which to judge as to the
height of inundation, neither are they of the same kind as those which
cover the marshes of the Macquarie. They are the species of round reed of
which the South-sea islanders make their arrows, and stand sufficiently
open, not only to allow of a passage through, but for the abundant growth
of grass among them. Still, I have no doubt that parts of the valley are
subject to flood; but, as I have already remarked, I do not know whether
these parts are either deeply or frequently covered. Rain must fall
simultaneously in the S.E. angle of the island in the inter-tropical
regions, and at the heads of all the tributaries of the main stream, ere
its effects can be felt in the lower parts of the Murray. If the valley of
the Murray is not subject to flood, it has only recently gained a height
above the influence of the river, and still retains all the character of
flooded land. In either case, however, it contains land that is of the
very richest kind--soil that is the pure accumulation of vegetable matter,
and is as black as ebony. If its hundreds of thousands of acres were
practically available, I should not hesitate to pronounce it one of the
richest spots of equal extent on earth, and highly favoured in other
respects. How far it is available remains to be proved; and an opinion
upon either side would be hazardous, although that of its liability to
flood would, most probably, be nearest to truth. It is, however, certain
that any part of the valley would require much labour before it could be
brought under cultivation, and that even its most available spots would
require almost as much trouble to clear them as the forest tract, for
nothing is more difficult to destroy than reeds. Breaking the sod would,
naturally, raise the level of the ground, and lateral drains would, most
probably, carry off all floods, but then the latter, at least, is the
operation of an advanced stage of husbandry only. I would, however,
observe that there are many parts of the valley decidedly above the reach
of flood. I have, in the above observations, been particularly alluding to
the lowest and broadest portions of it. I trust I shall be understood as
not wishing to over-rate this discovery on the one hand, or on the other,
to include its whole extent in one sweeping clause of condemnation.
On the 14th, the wind still continued to blow fresh from the N.W.
It moderated at noon, and assisted us beyond measure. We passed our first
encampment, but did not see any natives.
CORDIALITY OF THE NATIVES.
On the 15th, the wind was variable at daylight, and a dense fog was on the
river. As the sun rose, it was dissipated and a light breeze sprung up
from W.S.W. We ran up the stream with a free sheet for six hours, when we
stopped for a short time to get the kettle boiled. Four natives joined us,
but with the exception of the lowest tribe upon the right bank, we had not
seen any number. We were extremely liberal to this tribe, in consequence
of the satisfaction they evinced at our return. We had alarmed them much
on our passage down the river by firing at a snake that was swimming
across it. We, at first, attempted to kill it with the boat-hook, but the
animal dived at our approach, and appeared again at a considerable
distance. Another such dive would have ensured his escape, but a shot
effectually checked him, and as the natives evinced considerable alarm, we
held him up, to show them the object of our proceedings. On our return,
they seemed to have forgotten their fright, and received us with every
demonstration of joy. The different receptions we met with from different
tribes are difficult to be accounted for.
The country appeared to rise before us, and looked more hilly to the N.W.
than I had supposed it to be. Several fine valleys branched off from the
main one to the westward, and, however barren the heights that confined
them were, I am inclined to think, that the distant interior is fertile.
The marks of kangaroos were numerous, and the absence of the natives would
indicate that they have other and better means of subsisting in the back
country than what the river affords.
In the evening, we again ran on for two hours and a half, and reached the
first of the cliffs.
On the 16th, we were again fortunate in the wind, and pressed up the river
as long as day-light continued. At the termination of our journey, we
found ourselves a day's journey in advance. This inspirited the men, and
they began to forget the labours they had gone through, as well as those
that were before them.
On the 17th, we again commenced pulling, the wind being at north, and
contrary. It did not, however, remain in that quarter long, but backed at
noon to the S.W., so that we were enabled to make a good day's journey,
and rather gained than lost ground.
REMARKABLE CLIFF--GEOLOGICAL REMARKS.
Having left the undulating hills, at the mouth of the valley behind us,
we passed cliff after cliff of fossil formation: they had a uniform
appearance as to the substance of which they were composed, and varied
but little in colour. Having already examined them, we thought it
unnecessary to give them any further special attention, since it was
improbable we should find anything new. In turning an angle of the river,
however, a broad reach stretched away before us. An alluvial flat extended
to our left, and a high line of cliffs, that differed in no visible
respect from those we had already passed, rose over the opposite side of
the river. The cliffs faced the W.N.W., and as the sun declined, his beams
struck full upon them. As we shot past, we were quite dazzled with the
burst of light that flashed upon us, and which gave to the whole face of
the cliff the appearance of a splendid mirror. The effect was of course
momentary; for as soon as we had passed the angle of refraction, there was
nothing unusual in its appearance. On a nearer approach, however, it
appeared again as if studded with stars. We had already determined on
examining it more closely, and this second peculiarity still further
excited our curiosity. On landing, we found the whole cliff to be a mass
of selenite, in which the various shells already noticed were plentifully
embedded, as in ice. The features of the cliff differed from any we had
previously remarked. Large masses, or blocks of square or oblong shape,
had fallen to its base, and its surface was hard, whereas the face of the
majority of the other cliffs was soft from the effect of the atmosphere;
and the rock was entirely free from every other substance, excepting the
shells of which it was composed. We of course collected some good
specimens, although they added very considerably to the weight of our
The morning of the 18th was calm and cloudless. The wind, of which there
was but little, came from the north, and was as usual warm. We availed
ourselves of a favourable spot to haul our boat on shore under one of the
cliffs upon the proper left of the river, and cleaned her well both
inside and out.
LABORIOUS ASCENT OF THE BOAT.
The breezes that had so much assisted as from the lake upwards, had now
lost their influence, or failed to reach to the distance we had gained.
Calms succeeded them, and obliged us to labour continually at the oars.
We lost ground fast, and it was astonishing to remark how soon the men's
spirits drooped again under their first efforts. They fancied the boat
pulled heavily, and that her bottom was foul; but such was not the case.
The current was not so strong as when we passed down, since the river had
evidently fallen more than a foot, and was so shallow in several places,
that we were obliged to haul the boat over them. On these occasions we
were necessarily obliged to get out of her into the water, and had
afterwards to sit still and to allow the sun to dry our clothes upon us.
The unemployed consequently envied those at the oars, as they sat
shivering in their dripping clothes. I was aware that it was more from
imagination than reality, that the men fancied the boat was unusually
heavy, but I hesitated not in humouring them, and rather entered into
their ideas than otherwise, and endeavoured to persuade them that she
pulled the lighter for the cleaning we gave her.
A tribe of natives joined us, and we had the additional trouble of
guarding our stores. They were, however, very quiet, and as we had broken
up our casks, on leaving the coast, we were enabled to be liberal in our
presents of iron hoop, which they eagerly received. We calculated that we
should reach the principal junction in about fifteen days from this place.
The natives left us to pursue our solitary journey as soon as the boat was
reloaded. Not one of them had the curiosity to follow us, nor did they
appear to think it necessary that we should be attended by envoys. We
stopped for the night upon the left bank; and close to a burial-ground
that differed from any I had ever seen. It must have been used many years,
from the number of bones that were found in the bank, but there were no
other indications of such a place either by mounds or by marks on the
trees. The fact, therefore, is a singular one. I have thought that some
battle might have been fought near the place, but I can hardly think one
of their battles could have been so destructive.
IMPEDED BY SHOALS.
We had now only to make the best of our journey, rising at dawn, and
pulling to seven and often to nine o'clock. I allowed the men an hour from
half-past eleven to half-past twelve, to take their bread and water. This
was our only fare, if I except an occasional wild duck; but these birds
were extremely difficult to kill, and it cost us so much time, that we
seldom endeavoured to procure any. Our dogs had been of no great use, and
were now too weak to have run after anything if they had seen either
kangaroos or emus; and for the fish, the men loathed them, and were either
too indifferent or too much fatigued to set the night-lines. Shoals
frequently impeded us as we proceeded up the river, and we passed some
rapids that called for our whole strength to stem. A light wind assisted
us on two or three of these occasions, and I never failed hoisting the
sail at every fitting opportunity. In some parts the river was extremely
shallow, and the sand-banks of amazing size; and the annoyance of dragging
the boat over these occasional bars, was very great. We passed several
tribes of blacks on the 19th and 20th; but did not stop to communicate
I believe I have already mentioned that shortly after we first entered the
Murray, flocks of a new paroquet passed over our heads, apparently
emigrating to the N.W. They always kept too high to be fired at, but on
our return, hereabouts, we succeeded in killing one. It made a good
addition to our scanty stock of subjects of natural history. It is
impossible to conceive how few of the feathered tribe frequent these
distant and lonely regions. The common white cockatoo is the most
numerous, and there are also a few pigeons; but other birds descend only
for water, and are soon again upon the wing. Our botanical specimens were
as scanty as our zoological, indeed the expedition may, as regards these
two particulars, almost be said to have been unproductive.
COMPILATION OF THE CHART.
When we came down the river, I thought it advisable to lay its course down
as precisely as circumstances would permit: for for this purpose I had a
large compass always before me, and a sheet of foolscap paper. As soon as
we passed an angle of the river, I took the bearings of the reach before
us, and as we proceeded down it, marked off the description of country,
and any remarkable feature. The consequence was, that I laid down every
bend of the Murray River, from the Morumbidgee downwards. Its creeks, its
tributaries, its flats, its valleys, and its cliffs, and, as far as I
possibly could do, the nature of the distant interior. This chart was,
of course, erroneous in many particulars, since I had to judge the length
of the reaches of the river, and the extent of its angles, but I corrected
it on the scale of the miles of latitude we made during the day, which
brought out an approximate truth at all events. The hurried nature of our
journey would not allow me to do more; and it will be remembered that my
observations were all siderial, by reason that the sextant would not
embrace the sun in his almost vertical position at noon. Admitting,
however, the imperfection of this chart, it was of inconceivable value and
comfort to us on our return, for, by a reference to it, we discovered our
place upon the river, and our distance from our several encampments.
And we should often have stopped short of them had not the chart shown us
that a few reaches more would bring us to the desired spots. It cheered
the men to know where they were, and gave them conversation. To myself it
was very satisfactory, as it enabled me to prepare for our meetings with
the larger tribes, and to steer clear of obstacles in the more difficult
navigation of some parts of the stream.
On the 21st, by dint of great labour we reached our camp of the 2nd
February, from which it will be remembered the Murray took up a southerly
course, and from which we likewise obtained a first view of the coast
ranges. The journey to the sea and back again, had consequently occupied
us twenty days. From this point we turned our boat's head homewards; we
made it, therefore, a fixed position among the stages into which we
divided our journey. Our attention was now directed to the junction of the
principal tributary, which we hoped to reach in twelve days, and
anticipated a close to our labours on the Murray in eight days more from
that stage to the Morumbidgee.
CURRENT OF THE MURRAY.
The current in the Murray from the lake, to within a short distance of
this singular turn in it, is weak, since its bed is almost on a level with
the lake. The channel, which, at the termination, is somewhat more than
the third of a mile across, gradually diminishes in breadth, as the
interior is gained, but is nowhere under 300 yards; while its depth
averages from eighteen to thirty feet, within a foot of the very bank.
The river might, therefore, be navigated by boats of considerable burden,
if the lake admitted of the same facility; but I am decidedly of opinion,
that the latter is generally shallow, and that it will, in the course of
years, be filled up by depositions. It is not, however, an estuary in any
sense of the word, since no part of it is exposed at low water, excepting
the flats in the channel, and the flat between the lake and the sea.
ACCIDENT TO THE BOAT.
On the 23rd, we stove the boat in for the first time. I had all along
anticipated such an accident, from the difficulty of avoiding obstacles,
in consequence of the turbid state of the river. Fortunately the boat
struck a rotten log. The piece remained in her side, and prevented her
filling, which she must, otherwise, inevitably have done, ere we could
have reached the shore. As it was, however, we escaped with a little
damage to the lower bags of flour only. She was hauled up on a sand bank,
and Clayton repaired her in less than two hours, when we reloaded her
and pursued our journey. It was impossible to have been more cautious than
we were, for I was satisfied as to the fate that would have overtaken the
whole of us in the event of our losing the boat, and was proportionably
MOLESTED BY THE NATIVES.
At half-past five we came to an island, which looked so inviting, and so
quiet, that I determined to land and sleep upon it. We consequently, ran
the boat into a little recess, or bay, and pitched the tents; and I
anticipated a respite from the presence of any natives, as did the men,
who were rejoiced at my having taken up so snug a berth. It happened,
however, that a little after sunset, a flight of the new paroquets
perched in the lofty trees that grew on the island, to roost; when we
immediately commenced the work of death, and succeeded in killing eight or
ten. The reports of our guns were heard by some natives up the river, and
several came over to us. Although I was annoyed at their having discovered
our retreat, they were too few to be troublesome. During the night,
however, they were joined by fresh numbers, amounting in all to about
eighty, and they were so clamorous, that it was impossible to sleep.
NATIVES BECOME TROUBLESOME.
As the morning broke, Hopkinson came to inform me that it was in vain that
the guard endeavoured to prevent them from handling every thing, and from
closing in round our camp. I went out, and from what I saw I thought it
advisable to double the sentries. M'Leay, who was really tired, being
unable to close his eyes amid such a din, got up in ill-humour, and went
to see into the cause, and to check it if he could. This, however, was
impossible. One man was particularly forward and insolent, at whom M'Leay,
rather imprudently, threw a piece of dirt. The savage returned the
compliment with as much good will as it had been given, and appeared quite
prepared to act on the offensive. At this critical moment my servant came
to the tent in which I was washing myself, and stated his fears that we
should soon come to blows, as the natives showed every disposition to
resist us. On learning what had passed between M'Leay and the savage,
I pretended to be equally angry with both, and with some difficulty forced
the greater part of the blacks away from the tents. I then directed the
men to gather together all the minor articles in the first instance, and
then to strike the tents; and, in order to check the natives, I drew a
line round the camp, over which I intimated to them they should not pass.
Observing, I suppose, that we were on our guard, and that I, whom they
well knew to be the chief, was really angry, they crept away one by one,
until the island was almost deserted by them. Why they did not attack us,
I know not, for they had certainly every disposition to do so, and had
their shorter weapons with them, which, in so confined a space as that on
which we were, would have been more fatal than their spears.
They left us, however; and a flight of red-crested cockatoos happening to
settle on a plain near the river, I crossed in the boat in order to shoot
one. The plain was upon the proper left bank of the Murray. The natives
had passed over to the right. As the one channel was too shallow for the
boat, when we again pursued our journey we were obliged to pull round to
the left side of the island. A little above it the river makes a bend to
the left, and the angle at this bend was occupied by a large shoal,
one point of which rested on the upper part of the island, and the other
touched the proper right bank of the river. Thus a narrow channel,
(not broader indeed than was necessary for the play of our oars,) alone
remained for us to pass up against a strong current. On turning round the
lower part of the island, we observed that the natives occupied the whole
extent of the shoal, and speckled it over like skirmishers. Many of them
had their spears, and their attention was evidently directed to us.--As we
neared the shoal, the most forward of them pressed close to the edge of
the deep water, so much so that our oars struck their legs. Still this did
not induce them to retire. I kept my eye on an elderly man who stood one
of the most forward, and who motioned to us several times to stop, and at
length threw the weapon he carried at the boat. I immediately jumped up
and pointed my gun at him to his great apparent alarm. Whether the natives
hoped to intimidate us by a show of numbers, or what immediate object they
had in view, it is difficult to say; though it was most probably to seize
a fitting opportunity to attack us. Seeing, I suppose, that we were not to
be checked, they crossed from the shoal to the proper right bank of the
river, and disappeared among the reeds that lined it.
TREACHERY OF THE NATIVES.
Shortly after this, eight of the women, whom we had not before noticed,
came down to the water side, and gave us the most pressing invitation to
land. Indeed they played their part uncommonly well, and tried for some
time to allure us by the most unequivocal manifestations of love.
Hopkinson however who always had his eyes about him, observed the spears
of the men among the reeds. They kept abreast of us as we pulled up the
stream, and, no doubt, were anticipating our inability to resist the
temptations they had thrown in our way. I was really provoked at their
barefaced treachery, and should most undoubtedly have attacked them, had
they not precipitately retreated on being warned by the women that I was
arming my men, which I had only now done upon seeing such strong
manifestations of danger. M'Leay set the example of coolness on this
occasion; and I had some doubts whether I was justified in allowing the
natives to escape with impunity, considering that if they had wounded any
one of us the most melancholy and fatal results would have ensued.
We did not see anything more of the blacks during the rest of the day,
but the repeated indications of hostility we perceived as we approached
the Darling, made me apprehensive as to the reception we should meet from
its numerous population; and I was sorry to observe that the men
anticipated danger in passing that promising junction.
Having left the sea breezes behind us, the weather had become oppressive;
and as the current was stronger, and rapids more numerous, our labour was
proportionably increased. We perspired to an astonishing degree, and gave
up our oars after our turn at them, with shirts and clothes as wet as if
we had been in the water. Indeed Mulholland and Hopkinson, who worked
hard, poured a considerable quantity of perspiration from their shoes
after their task. The evil of this was that we were always chilled after
rowing, and, of course, suffered more than we should otherwise have done.
RE-PASS THE LINDESAY.
On the 25th we passed the last of the cliffs composing the great fossil
bed through which the Murray flows, and entered that low country already
described as being immediately above it. On a more attentive examination
of the distant interior, my opinion as to its flooded origin was
confirmed, more especially in reference to the country to the S.E. On the
30th we passed the mouth of the Lindesay, and from the summit of the sand
hills to the north of the Murray overlooked the flat country, through
which I conclude it must run, from the line of fires we observed amid the
trees, and most probably upon its banks.
We did not fall in with the natives in such numbers as when we passed down
to the coast: still they were in sufficient bodies to be troublesome.
It would, however, appear that the tribes do not generally frequent the
river. They must have a better country back from it, and most probably
linger amongst the lagoons and creeks where food is more abundant. The
fact is evident from the want of huts upon the banks of the Murray, and
the narrowness of the paths along its margin.
RE-PASSED THE RUFUS.
We experienced the most oppressive heat about this time. Calms generally
prevailed, and about 3 p.m. the sun's rays fell upon us with intense
effect. The waters of the Murray continued extremely muddy, a circumstance
we discovered to be owing to the turbid current of the Rufus, which we
passed on the 1st of March. It is, really, singular whence this little
stream originates. It will be remembered that I concluded it must have
been swollen by rains when we first saw it; yet, after an absence of more
than three weeks we found it discharging its waters as muddy as ever into
the main stream; and that, too, in such quantities as to discolour its
waters to the very lake. The reader will have some idea of the force of
the current in both, when I assure him that for nearly fifty yards below
the mouth of the Rufus, the waters of the Murray preserve their
transparency, and the line between them and the turbid waters of its
tributary was as distinctly marked as if drawn by a pencil. Indeed,
the higher we advanced, the more did we feel the strength of the current,
against which we had to pull.
DIFFICULTIES AT THE RAPIDS.
A little below the Lindesay, a rapid occurs. It was with the utmost
difficulty that we stemmed it with the four oars upon the boat, and the
exertion of our whole strength. We remained, at one time, perfectly
stationary, the force we employed and that of the current being equal.
We at length ran up the stream obliquely; but it was evident the men were
not adequate to such exertion for any length of time. We pulled that day
for eleven successive hours, in order to avoid a tribe of natives who
followed us. Hopkinson and Fraser fell asleep at their oars, and even the
heavy Clayton appeared to labour.
We again occupied our camp under the first remarkable cliffs of the
Murray, a description of which has been given in page 128 of this work.
[GEOLOGICAL EXAMINATION.] Their summit, as I have already remarked forms a
table land of some elevation. From it the distant interior to the S.S.E.
appears very depressed; that to the north undulates more. In neither
quarter, however, does any bright foliage meet the eye, to tell that a
better soil is under it; but a dark and gloomy vegetation occupies both
the near and distant ground, in proof that the sandy sterile tracts,
succeeding the river deposits, stretch far away without a change.
A little above our camp of the 28th of January, we fell in with a large
tribe of natives, whose anxiety to detain us was remarkable. The wind,
however, which, from the time we lost the sea breezes, had hung to the
S.E., had changed to the S.W., and we were eagerly availing ourselves of
it. It will not he supposed we stopped even for a moment. In truth we
pressed on with great success, and did not land to sleep until nine
o'clock. As long as the wind blew from the S.W., the days were cool, and
the sky overcast even so much so as to threaten rain.
The least circumstance, in our critical situation, naturally raised my
apprehensions, and I feared the river would be swollen in the event of
any heavy rains in the hilly country; I hoped, however, we should gain the
Morumbidgee before such a calamity should happen to us, and it became
my object to press for that river without delay.
OBSTACLES TO THE NAVIGATION--DANGEROUS RAPIDS.
Although we had met with frequent rapids in our progress upwards, they had
not been of a serious kind, nor such as would affect the navigation of the
river. The first direct obstacle of this kind occurs a little above a
small tributary that falls into the Murray from the north, between the
Rufus and the cliffs we have alluded to. At this place a reef of coarse
grit contracts the channel of the river. No force we could have exerted
with the oars would have taken us up this rapid; but we accomplished the
task easily by means of a rope which we hauled upon, on the same principle
that barges are dragged by horses along the canals.
As we neared the junction of the two main streams, the country, on both
sides of the river, became low, and its general appearance confirmed the
opinion I have already given as to its flooded origin. The clouds that
obscured the sky, and had threatened to burst for some time, at length
gave way, and we experienced two or three days of heavy rain. In the midst
of it we passed the second stage of our journey, and found the spot lately
so crowded with inhabitants totally deserted. A little above it we
surprised a small tribe in a temporary shelter; but neither our offers nor
presents could prevail on any of them to expose themselves to the torrent
that was falling. They sat shivering in their bark huts in evident
astonishment at our indifference. We threw them some trifling presents and
were glad to proceed unattended by any of them.
PERILOUS ASCENT OF THE RAPIDS.
It will be remembered that in passing down the river, the boat was placed
in some danger in descending a rapid before we reached the junction of the
Murray with the stream supposed by me to be the Darling. We were now
gradually approaching the rapid, nor did I well know how we should
surmount such an obstacle. Strength to pull up it we had not, and I feared
our ropes would not be long enough to reach to the shore over some of the
rocks, since it descended in minor declivities to a considerable distance
below the principal rapid, in the centre of which the boat had struck.
We reached the commencement of these rapids on the 6th, and ascended the
first by means of ropes, which were hauled upon by three of the men from
the bank; and, as the day was pretty far advanced, we stopped a little
above it, that we might attempt the principal rapid before we should be
exhausted by previous exertion. It was fortunate that we took such a
precaution. The morning of the 7th proved extremely dark, and much rain
fell. We commenced our journey in the midst of it, and soon gained the
tail of the rapid. Our attempt to pull up it completely failed. The boat,
as soon as she entered the ripple, spun round like a toy, and away we went
with the stream. As I had anticipated, our ropes were too short; and it
only remained for us to get into the water, and haul the boat up by main
force. We managed pretty well at first, and drew her alongside a rock to
rest a little. We then recommenced our efforts, and had got into the
middle of the channel. We were up to our armpits in the water, and only
kept our position by means of rocks beside us. The rain was falling, as if
we were in a tropical shower, and the force of the current was such, that
if we had relaxed for an instant, we should have lost all the ground we
had gained. Just at this moment, however, without our being aware of their
approach, a large tribe of natives, with their spears, lined the bank,
and took us most completely by surprise. At no time during this anxious
journey were we ever so completely in their power, or in so defenceless a
situation. It rained so hard, that our firelocks would have been of no
use, and had they attacked us, we must necessarily have been slaughtered
without committing the least execution upon them. Nothing, therefore,
remained for us but to continue our exertions. It required only one
strong effort to get the boat into still water for a time, but that effort
was beyond our strength, and we stood in the stream, powerless and
ASSISTED BY THE NATIVES.
The natives, in the meanwhile, resting on their spears, watched us with
earnest attention. One of them, who was sitting close to the water, at
length called to us, and we immediately recognised the deep voice of him
to whose singular interference we were indebted for our escape on the
23rd of January. I desired Hopkinson to swim over to him, and to explain
that we wanted assistance. This was given without hesitation; and we at
length got under the lea of the rock, which I have already described as
being in the centre of the river. The natives launched their bark canoes,
the only frail means they possess of crossing the rivers with their
children. These canoes are of the simplest construction and rudest
materials, being formed of an oblong piece of bark, the ends of which are
stuffed with clay, so as to render them impervious to the water. With
several of these they now paddled round us with the greatest care, making
their spears, about ten feet in length,(which they use at once as poles
and paddles,) bend nearly double in the water. We had still the most
difficult part of the rapid to ascend, where the rush of water was the
strongest, and where the decline of the bed almost amounted to a fall.
Here the blacks could be of no use to us. No man could stem the current,
supposing it to have been shallow at the place, but it was on the contrary
extremely deep. Remaining myself in the boat, I directed all the men to
land, after we had crossed the stream, upon a large rock that formed the
left buttress as it were to this sluice, and, fastening the rope to the
mast instead of her head, they pulled upon it. The unexpected rapidity
with which the boat shot up the passage astonished me, and filled the
natives with wonder, who testified their admiration of so dextrous a
manoeuvre, by a loud shout.
It will, no doubt, have struck the reader as something very remarkable,
that the same influential savage to whom we had already been indebted,
should have been present on this occasion, and at a moment when we so much
needed his assistance. Having surmounted our difficulties, we took leave
of this remarkable man, and pursued our journey up the river.
It may be imagined we did not proceed very far; the fact was, we only
pushed forward to get rid of the natives, for, however pacific, they were
always troublesome, and we were seldom fitted for a trial of temper after
the labours of the day were concluded. The men had various occupations
in which, when the natives were present, they were constantly interrupted,
and whenever the larger tribes slept near us, the utmost vigilance was
necessary on the part of the night-guard, which was regularly mounted as
soon as the tents were pitched. We had had little else than our flour to
subsist on. Hopkinson and Harris endeavoured to supply M'Leay and myself
with a wild fowl occasionally, but for themselves, and the other men,
nothing could be procured to render their meal more palatable.
GOOD CONDUCT OF THE MEN.
I have omitted to mention one remarkable trait of the good disposition of
all the men while on the coast. Our sugar had held out to that point; but
it appeared, when we examined the stores, that six pounds alone remained
in the cask. This the men positively refused to touch. They said that,
divided, it would benefit nobody; that they hoped M'Leay and I would use
it, that it would last us for some time, and that they were better able to
submit to privations than we were. The feeling did them infinite credit,
and the circumstance is not forgotten by me. The little supply the
kindness of our men left to us was, however, soon exhausted, and poor
M'Leay preferred pure water to the bitter draught that remained. I have
been some times unable to refrain from smiling, as I watched the distorted
countenances of my humble companions while drinking their tea and eating
The ducks and swans, seen in such myriads on the lake, seldom appeared on
the river, in the first stages of our journey homewards. About the time of
which I am writing, however, a few swans occasionally flew over our heads
at night, and their silvery note was musically sweet.
From the 10th to the 15th, nothing of moment occurred: we pulled regularly
from day-light to dark, not less to avoid the natives than to shorten our
journey. Yet, notwithstanding that we moved at an hour when the natives
seldom stir, we were rarely without a party of them, who followed us in
spite of our efforts to tire them out.
MOLESTED BY NATIVES.
On the 15th, we had about 150 at our camp. Many of them were extremely
noisy, and the whole of them very restless. They lay down close to the
tents, or around our fire. I entertained some suspicion of them, and when
they were apparently asleep, I watched them narrowly. Macnamee was walking
up and down with his firelock, and every time he turned his back, one of
the natives rose gently up and poised his spear at him, and as soon as
he thought Macnamee was about to turn, he dropped as quietly into his
place. When I say the native got up, I do not mean that he stood up, but
that he raised himself sufficiently for the purpose he had in view. His
spear would not, therefore, have gone with much force, but I determined
it should not quit his hand, for had I observed any actual attempt to
throw it, I should unquestionably have shot him dead upon the spot.
The whole of the natives were awake, and it surprised me they did not
attempt to plunder us. They rose with the earliest dawn, and crowded round
the tents without any hesitation. We, consequently, thought it prudent to
start as soon as we had breakfasted.
FRASER IN DANGER.
We had all of us got into the boat, when Fraser remembered he had left his
powder-horn on shore. In getting out to fetch it, he had to push through
the natives. On his return, when his back was towards them, several
natives lifted their spears together, and I was so apprehensive they
would have transfixed him, that I called out before I seized my gun; on
which they lowered their weapons and ran away. The disposition to commit
personal violence was evident from these repeated acts of treachery; and
we should doubtless have suffered from it on some occasion or other, had
we not been constantly on the alert.
We had been drawing nearer the Morumbidgee every day. This was the last
tribe we saw on the Murray; and the following afternoon, to our great joy,
we quitted it and turned our boat into the gloomy and narrow channel of
its tributary. Our feelings were almost as strong when we re-entered it,
as they had been when we were launched from it into that river, on whose
waters we had continued for upwards of fifty-five days; during which
period, including the sweeps and bends it made, we could not have
travelled less than 1500 miles.
Our provisions were now running very short; we had, however, "broken the
neck of our journey," as the men said, and we looked anxiously to gaining
the depot; for we were not without hopes that Robert Harris would have
pushed forward to it with his supplies. We were quite puzzled on entering
the Morumbidgee, how to navigate its diminutive bends and its encumbered
channel. I thought poles would have been more convenient than oars; we
therefore stopped at an earlier hour than usual to cut some. Calling to
mind the robbery practised on us shortly after we left the depot, my mind
became uneasy as to Robert Harris's safety, since I thought it probable,
from the sulky disposition of the natives who had visited us there, that
he might have been attacked. Thus, when my apprehensions on our own
account had partly ceased, my fears became excited with regard to him and
RE-ENTER THE MORUMBIDGEE.
The country, to a considerable distance from the junction on either side
the Morumbidgee, is not subject to inundation. Wherever we landed upon its
banks, we found the calistemma in full flower, and in the richest
profusion. There was, also, an abundance of grass, where before there had
been no signs of vegetation, and those spots which we had condemned as
barren were now clothed with a green and luxuriant carpet. So difficult is
it to judge of a country on a partial and hurried survey, and so
differently does it appear at different periods. I was rejoiced to find
that the rains had not swollen the river, for I was apprehensive that
heavy falls had taken place in the mountains, and was unprepared for so
much good fortune.
FEAST ON A SWAN.
The poles we cut were of no great use to us, and we soon laid them aside,
and took to our oars. Fortune seemed to favour us exceedingly. The men
rallied, and we succeeded in killing a good fat swan, that served as a
feast for all. I imagine the absence of mud and weeds of every kind in
the Murray, prevents this bird from frequenting its waters.
On the 18th, we found ourselves entering the reedy country, through which
we had passed with such doubt and anxiety. Every object elicited some
remark from the men, and I was sorry to find they reckoned with certainty
on seeing Harris at the depot, as I knew they would be proportionally
depressed in spirits if disappointed. However, I promised Clayton a good
repast as soon as we should see him.
LOSE ONE OF OUR DOGS.
I had walked out with M'Leay a short distance from the river, and had
taken the dogs. They followed us to the camp on our return to it, but the
moment they saw us enter the tent, they went off to hunt by themselves.
About 10 p.m., one of them, Bob, came to the fire, and appeared very
uneasy; he remained, for a short time, and then went away. In about an
hour, he returned, and after exhibiting the same restlessness, again
withdrew. He returned the third time before morning dawned, but returned
alone. The men on the watch were very stupid not to have followed him,
for, no doubt, he went to his companion, to whom, most likely, some
accident had happened. I tried to make him show, but could not succeed,
and, after a long search, reluctantly pursued our journey, leaving poor
Sailor to his fate. This was the only misfortune that befell us, and we
each of us felt the loss of an animal which had participated in all our
dangers and privations. I more especially regretted the circumstance for
the sake of the gentleman who gave him to me, and, on account of his
superior size and activity.
ENCOUNTER WITH NATIVES.
With the loss of poor Sailor, our misfortunes re-commmenced. I anticipated
some trouble hereabouts, for, having succeeded in their hardihood once,
I knew the natives would again attempt to rob us, and that we should have
some difficulty in keeping them off. As soon as they found out that we
were in the river, they came to us, but left us at sunset. This was on the
21st. At nightfall, I desired the watch to keep a good look out, and
M'Leay and I went to lie down. We had chosen an elevated bank for our
position, and immediately opposite to us there was a small space covered
with reeds, under blue-gum trees. About 11, Hopkinson came to the tent to
say, that he was sure the blacks were approaching through the reeds.
M'Leay and I got up, and, standing on the bank, listened attentively.
All we heard was the bark of a native dog apparently, but this was, in
fact, a deception on the part of the blacks. We made no noise, in
consequence of which they gradually approached, and two or three crept
behind the trunk of a tree that had fallen. As I thought they were near
enough, George M'Leay, by my desire, fired a charge of small shot at them.
They instantly made a precipitate retreat; but, in order the more
effectually to alarm them, Hopkinson fired a ball into the reeds, which we
distinctly heard cutting its way through them. All was quiet until about
three o'clock, when a poor wretch who, most probably, had thrown himself
on the ground when the shots were fired, at length mustered courage to get
up and effect his escape.
In the morning, the tribe kept aloof, but endeavoured, by the most earnest
entreaties, and most pitiable howling, to gain our favour; but I
threatened to shoot any that approached, and they consequently kept at a
respectful distance, dogging us from tree to tree. It appeared, therefore,
that they were determined to keep us in view, no doubt, with the intention
of trying what they could do by a second attempt. As they went along,
their numbers increased, and towards evening, they amounted to a strong
tribe. Still they did not venture near us, and only now and then showed
themselves. Our situation at this moment would have been much more awkward
in the event of attack, than when we were in the open channel of the
Murray; because we were quite at the mercy of the natives if they had
closed upon us, and, being directly under the banks, should have received
every spear, while it would have been easy for them to have kept out of
sight in assailing us.
APPARENT OBSTRUCTION OF THE CHANNEL.
It was near sunset, the men were tired, and I was looking out for a
convenient place at which to rest, intending to punish these natives if
they provoked me, or annoyed the men. We had not seen any of them for some
time, when Hopkinson, who was standing in the bow of the boat, informed me
that they had thrown boughs across the river to prevent our passage.
I was exceedingly indignant at this, and pushed on, intending to force the
barrier. On our nearer approach, a solitary black was observed standing
close to the river, and abreast of the impediment which I imagined they
had raised to our further progress. I threatened to shoot this man, and
pointed to the branches that stretched right across the stream. The poor
fellow uttered not a word, but, putting his hand behind him, pulled out a
tomahawk from his belt, and held it towards me, by way of claiming our
acquaintance; and any anger was soon entirely appeased by discovering that
the natives had been merely setting a net across the river which these
branches supported. We, consequently, hung back, until they had drawn it,
and then passed on.
MANOEUVRES OF THE NATIVES TO ROB THE BOAT AT NIGHT.
The black to whom I had spoken so roughly, cut across a bight of the
river, and walking down to the side of the water with a branch in his
hand, in mark of confidence, presented me with a fishing net. We were
highly pleased at the frank conduct of this black, and a convenient place
offering itself, we landed and pitched our tents. Our friend, who was
about forty, brought his two wives, and a young man, to us: and at length
the other blacks mustered courage to approach; but those who had followed
us from the last camp, kept on the other side of the river. On pretence of
being different families, they separated into small bodies, and formed a
regular cordon round our camp. We foresaw that this was a manoeuvre, but,
in hopes that if I forgave the past they would desist from further
attempts, M'Leay took great pains in conciliating them, and treated them
with great kindness. We gave each family some fire and same presents, and
walked together to them by turns, to show that we had equal confidence in
all. Our friend had posted himself immediately behind our tents, at twenty
yards distance, with his little family, and kept altogether aloof from the
other natives. Having made our round of visits, and examined the various
modes the women had of netting, M'Leay and I went into our tent.
It happened, fortunately, that my servant, Harris, was the first for
sentry. I told him to keep a watchful eye on the natives, and to call me
if any thing unusual occurred. We had again chosen a lofty bank for our
position; behind us there was a small plain, of about a quarter of a mile
in breadth, backed by a wood. I was almost asleep, when my servant came to
inform me, that the blacks had, with one accord, made a precipitate
retreat, and that not one of them was to be seen at the fires. I impressed
the necessity of attention upon him, and he again went to his post.
shortly after this, he returned: "Master," said he, "the natives are
coming." I jumped up, and, taking my gun, followed him, leaving my friend
George fast asleep. I would not disturb him, until necessity required, for
he had ever shown himself so devoted to duty as to deserve every
consideration. Harris led me a little way from the tents, and then
stopping, and pointing down the river, said, "There, sir, don't you see
them?" "Not I, indeed, Harris," I replied, "where do you mean? are you
sure you see them?" "Positive, sir," said he; "stoop and you will see
them." I did so, and saw a black mass in an opening. Convinced that I saw
them, I desired Harris to follow me, but not to fire unless I should give
the word. The rascals would not stand our charge, however, but retreated
as we advanced towards them. We then returned to the tents, and,
commending my servant for his vigilance, I once more threw myself on my
bed. I had scarcely lain down five minutes, when Harris called out,
"The blacks are close to me, sir; shall I fire at them?" "How far are
they?" I asked. "Within ten yards, sir." "Then fire," said I; and
immediately he did so. M'Leay and I jumped up to his assistance. "Well,
Harris," said I, "did you kill your man?" (he is a remarkably good shot.)
"No, sir," said he, "I thought you would repent it, so I fired between the
two." "Where were they, man?" said I. "Close to the boat, sir; and when
they heard me, they swam into the river, and dived as soon as I fired
between them." This account was verified by one of them puffing as he rose
below us, over whose head I fired a shot. Where the other got to I could
not tell. This watchfulness, on our part, however, prevented any further
attempts during the night.
I was much pleased at the coolness of my servant, as well as his
consideration; and relieving him from his post, desired Hopkinson to take
it. I have no doubt that the approach of the natives, in the first
instance, was made with a view to draw us off from the camp, while some
others might rob the boat. If so, it was a good manoeuvre, and might have
NATIVES DESERT THEIR WEAPONS--INGENUOUS CONDUCT OF A NATIVE.
In the morning, we found the natives had left all their ponderous spears
at their fires, which were broken up and burnt. We were surprised to find
that our friend had left every thing in like manner behind him--his
spears, his nets, and his tomahawk; but as he had kept so wholly aloof
from the other blacks, I thought it highly improbable that he had joined
them, and the men were of opinion that he had retreated across the plain
into the wood. On looking in that direction we observed some smoke rising
among the trees at a little distance from the outskirts of the plain, and
under an impression that I should find the native at the fire with his
family, I took his spears and tomahawk, and walked across the plain,
unattended into the wood. I had not entered it more than fifty yards when
I saw a group of four natives, sitting round a small fire. One of them,
as I approached, rose up and met me, and in him I recognised the man for
whom I was seeking. When near enough, I stuck the spears upright into the
ground. The poor man stood thunderstruck; he spoke not, he moved not,
neither did he raise his eyes from the ground. I had kept the tomahawk out
of his sight, but I now produced and offered it to him. He gave a short
exclamation as his eyes caught sight of it, but he remained otherwise
silent before me, and refused to grasp the tomahawk, which accordingly
fell to the ground. I had evidently excited the man's feelings, but it is
difficult to say how he was affected. His manner indicated shame and
surprise, and the sequel will prove that both these feelings must have
possessed him. While we were thus standing together, his two wives came
up, to whom, after pointing to the spears and tomahawk, he said something,
without, however, looking at me; and they both instantly burst into tears
and wept aloud. I was really embarrassed during so unexpected a scene,
and to break it, invited the native to the camp, but I motioned with my
hand, as I had not my gun with me, that I would shoot any other of the
blacks who followed me. He distinctly understood my meaning, and intimated
as distinctly to me that they should not follow us; nor did they. We were
never again molested by them.
I left him then, and, returning to the camp, told M'Leay my adventure,
with which he was highly delighted. My object is this procedure was to
convince the natives, generally, that we came not among them to injure or
to molest them, as well as to impress them with an idea of our superior
intelligence; and I am led to indulge the hope that I succeeded. Certain
it is, that an act of justice or of lenity has frequently, if well timed,
more weight than the utmost stretch of severity. With savages, more
particularly, to exhibit any fear, distrust, or irresolution, will
inevitably prove injurious.
But although these adventures were happily not attended with bloodshed,
they harassed the men much; and our camp for near a week was more like an
outpost picquet than any thing else. This, however, terminated all
attempts on the part of the natives. From henceforth none of them followed
us on our route.
BREACH THE DEPOT.
At noon, I stopped about a mile short of the depot to take sights. After
dinner we pulled on, the men looking earnestly out for their comrades whom
they had left there, but none appeared. My little arbour, in which I had
written my letters, was destroyed, and the bank on which out tents had
stood was wholly deserted. We landed, however, and it was a satisfaction
to me to see the homeward track of the drays. The men were sadly
disappointed, and poor Clayton, who had anticipated a plentiful meal, was
completely chop fallen. M'Leay and I comforted them daily with the hopes
of meeting the drays, which I did not think improbable.
Thus, it will appear, that we regained the place from which we started in
seventy-seven days, during which, we could not have pulled less than 2000
miles. It is not for me, however, to make any comment, either on the
dangers to which we were occasionally exposed, or the toil and privations
we continually experienced in the course of this expedition. My duty is,
simply to give a plain narrative of facts, which I have done with
fidelity, and with as much accuracy as circumstances would permit. Had we
found Robert Harris at the depot, I should have considered it unnecessary
to trespass longer on the patient reader, but as our return to that post
did not relieve us from our difficulties, it remains for me to carry on
the narrative of our proceedings to the time when we reached the upper
branches of the Morumbidgee.
DISAPPOINTED OF SUPPLIES.
The hopes that had buoyed up the spirits of the men, ceased to operate as
soon as they were discovered to have been ill founded. The most gloomy
ideas took possession of their minds, and they fancied that we had been
neglected, and that Harris had remained in Sydney. It was to no purpose
that I explained to them that my instructions did not bind Harris to come
beyond Pondebadgery, and that I was confident he was then encamped upon
We had found the intricate navigation of the Morumbidgee infinitely more
distressing than the hard pulling up the open reaches of the Murray, for
we were obliged to haul the boat up between numberless trunks of trees,
an operation that exhausted the men much more than rowing. The river had
fallen below its former level, and rocks and logs were now exposed above
the water, over many of which the boat's keel must have grazed, as we
passed down with the current. I really shuddered frequently, at seeing
these complicated dangers, and I was at a loss to conceive how we could
have escaped them. The planks of our boat were so thin that if she had
struck forcibly against any one branch of the hundreds she must have
grazed, she would inevitably have been rent asunder from stem to stern.
COMPLETE EXHAUSTION OF THE MEN--ONE LOSES HIS SENSES.
The day after we passed the depot, on our return, we began to experience
the effects of the rains that had fallen in the mountains. The Morumbidgee
rose upon us six feet in one night, and poured along its turbid waters
with proportionate violence. For seventeen days we pulled against them
with determined perseverance, but human efforts, under privations such as
ours, tend to weaken themselves, and thus it was that the men began to
exhibit the effects of severe and unremitting toil. Our daily journeys
were short, and the head we made against the stream but trifling. The men
lost the proper and muscular jerk with which they once made the waters
foam and the oars bend. Their whole bodies swung with an awkward and
laboured motion. Their arms appeared to be nerveless; their faces became
haggard, their persons emaciated, their spirits wholly sunk; nature was so
completely overcome, that from mere exhaustion they frequently fell asleep
during their painful and almost ceaseless exertions. It grieved me to the
heart to see them in such a state at the close of so perilous a service,
and I began to reproach Robert Harris that he did not move down the river
to meet us; but, in fact, he was not to blame. I became captious, and
found fault where there was no occasion, and lost the equilibrium of my
temper in contemplating the condition of my companions. No murmur,
however, escaped them, nor did a complaint reach me, that was intended to
indicate that they had done all they could do. I frequently heard them in
their tent, when they thought I had dropped asleep, complaining of severe
pains and of great exhaustion. "I must tell the captain, to-morrow," some
of them would say, "that I can pull no more." To-morrow came, and they
pulled on, as if reluctant to yield to circumstances. Macnamee at length
lost his senses. We first observed this from his incoherent conversation,
but eventually from manner. He related the most extraordinary tales, and
fidgeted about eternally while in the boat. I felt it necessary,
therefore, to relieve him from the oars.
Amidst these distresses, M'Leay preserved his good humour, and endeavoured
to lighten the task, and to cheer the men as much as possible. His
presence at this time was a source of great comfort to me. The uniform
kindness with which he had treated his companions, gave him an influence
over them now, and it was exerted with the happiest effect.
DESPATCH TWO MEN TO PONDEBADGERY.
On the 8th and 9th of April we had heavy rain, but there was no respite
for us. Our provisions were nearly consumed, and would have been wholly
exhausted, if we had not been so fortunate as to kill several swans. On
the 11th, we gained our camp opposite to Hamilton's Plains, after a day of
severe exertion. Our tents were pitched upon the old ground, and the marks
of our cattle were around us. In the evening, the men went out with their
guns, and M'Leay and I walked to the rear of the camp, to consult
undisturbed as to the moat prudent measures to be adopted, under our
embarrassing circumstances. The men were completely sunk. We were still
between eighty and ninety miles from Pondebadgery, in a direct line, and
nearly treble that distance by water. The task was greater than we could
perform, and our provisions were insufficient. In this extremity I thought
it best to save the men the mortification of yielding, by abandoning the
boat; and on further consideration, I determined on sending Hopkinson and
Mulholland, whose devotion, intelligence, and indefatigable spirits,
I well knew, forward to the plain.
The joy this intimation spread was universal, Both Hopkinson and
Mulholland readily undertook the journey, and I, accordingly, prepared
orders for them to start by the earliest dawn. It was not without a
feeling of sorrow that I witnessed the departure of these two men, to
encounter a fatiguing march. I had no fears as to their gaining the plain,
if their reduced state would permit them. On the other hand, I hoped they
would fall in with our old friend the black, or that they would meet the
drays; and I could not but admire the spirit and energy they both
displayed upon the occasion. Their behaviour throughout had been such as
to awaken in my breast a feeling of the highest approbation. Their
conduct, indeed, exceeded all praise, nor did they hesitate one moment
when I called upon them to undertake this last trying duty, after such
continued exertion. I am sure the reader will forgive me for bringing
under his notice the generous efforts of these two men; by me it can never
ABANDON AND BURN THE BOAT.
Six days had passed since their departure; we remaining encamped. M'Leay
and myself had made some short excursions, but without any result worthy
of notice. A group of sand-hills rose in the midst of the alluvial
deposits, about a quarter of a mile from the tents, that were covered with
coarse grasses and banksias. We shot several intertropical birds feeding
in the latter, and sucking the honey from their flowers. I had, in the
mean time, directed Clayton to make some plant cases of the upper planks
of the boat, and then to set fire to her, for she was wholly
unserviceable, and I felt a reluctance to leave her like a neglected log
on the water. The last ounce of flour had been served out to the men, and
the whole of it was consumed on the sixth day from that on which we had
abandoned the boat. I had calculated on seeing Hopkinson again in eight
days, but as the morrow would see us without food, I thought, as the men
had had a little rest it would be better to advance towards relief than to
await its arrival.
MEN RETURN WITH SUPPLIES.
On the evening of the 18th, therefore, we buried our specimens and other
stores, intending to break up the camp in the morning. A singular bird,
which invariably passed it at an hour after sunset, and which, from its
heavy flight, appeared to be of unusual size so attracted my notice, that
in the evening M'Leay and I crossed the river, in hope to get a shot at
it. We had, however, hardly landed on the other side, when a loud shout
called us back to witness the return of our comrades.
They were both of them in a state that beggars description. Their knees
and ankles were dreadfully swollen, and their limbs so painful, that as
soon as they arrived in the camp they sunk under their efforts, but they
met us with smiling countenances, and expressed their satisfaction at
having arrived so seasonably to our relief. They had, as I had foreseen,
found Robert Harris on the plain, which they reached on the evening of the
third day. They had started early the next morning on their return with
such supplies as they thought we might immediately want. Poor Macnamee
had in a great measure recovered, but for some days he was sullen and
silent: sight of the drays gave him uncommon satisfaction. Clayton gorged
himself; but M'Leay, myself and Fraser could not at first relish the meat
that was placed before us.
It was determined to give the bullocks a day of rest, and I availed myself
of the serviceable state of the horses to visit some hills about eighteen
miles to the northward. I was anxious to gain a view of the distant
country to the N.W., and to ascertain the geological character of the
hills themselves. M'Leay, Fraser, and myself left the camp early in the
morning of the 19th, on our way to them. Crossing the sand hills, we
likewise passed a creek, and, from the flooded or alluvial tracks, got on
an elevated sandy country, in which we found a beautiful grevillia. From
this we passed a barren ridge of quartz-formation, terminating in open box
forest. From it we descended and traversed a plain that must, at some
periods, be almost impassable. It was covered with acacia pendula, and the
soil was a red earth, bare of vegetation in many places. At its extremity
we came to some stony ridges, and, descending their northern side, gained
the base of the hills. They were more extensive than they appeared to be
from our camp; and were about six hundred feet in height, and composed of
a conglomerate rock. They were extremely barren, nor did the aspect of the
country seem to indicate a favourable change. I was enabled, however, to
connect my line of route with the more distant hills between the
Morumbidgee and the Lachlan. We returned to the camp at midnight.
MEET WITH THE DRAYS.
On the following morning we left our station before Hamilton's Plains.
We reached Pondebadgery on the 28th, and found Robert Harris, with a
plentiful supply of provisions. He had everything extremely regular, and
had been anxiously expecting our return, of which he at length wholly
despaired. He had been at the plain two months, and intended to have moved
down the river immediately, had we not made our appearance when we did.
I had sent M'Leay forward on the 20th with letters to the Governor, whose
anxiety was great on our account. I remained for a fortnight on the plain
to restore the men, but Hopkinson had so much over-exerted himself that it
was with difficulty he crawled along.
In my despatches to the Governor, from the depot, I had suggested the
policy of distributing some blankets and other presents to the natives on
the Morumbidgee, in order to reward those who had been useful to our
party, and in the hope of proving beneficial to settlers in that distant
part of the colony. His Excellency was kind enough to accede to my
request, and I found ample means for these purposes among the stores that
Harris brought from Sydney.
We left Pondebadgery Plain early on the 5th of May, and reached Guise's
Station late in the afternoon. We gained Yass Plains on the 12th, having
struck through the mountain passes by a direct line, instead of returning
by our old route near Underaliga. As the party was crossing the plains I
rode to see Mr. O'Brien, but did not find him at home.
INSTANCE OF CANNIBALISM.
While waiting at his hut, one of the stockmen pointed out two blacks to me
at a little distance from us. The one was standing, the other sitting.
"That fellow, sir," said he, "who is sitting down, killed his infant child
last night by knocking its head against a stone, after which he threw it
on the fire and then devoured it." I was quite horror struck, and could
scarcely believe such a story. I therefore went up to the man and
questioned him as to the fact, as well as I could. He did not attempt to
deny it, but slunk away in evident consciousness. I then questioned the
other that remained, whose excuse for his friend was that the child was
sick and would never have grown up, adding he himself did not PATTER (eat)
any of it.
Many of my readers may probably doubt this horrid occurrence having taken
place, as I have not mentioned any corroborating circumstances. I am
myself, however, as firmly persuaded of the truth of what I have stated as
if I had seen the savage commit the act; for I talked to his companion who
did see him, and who described to me the manner in which he killed the
child. Be it as it may, the very mention of such a thing among these
people goes to prove that they are capable of such an enormity.
We left Yass Plains on the 14th of May, and reached Sydney by easy stages
on the 25th, after an absence of nearly six months.
* * * * *
To most of my readers, the foregoing narrative will appear little else
than a succession of adventures. Whilst the expedition was toiling down
the rivers, no rich country opened upon the view to reward or to cheer the
perseverance of those who composed it, and when, at length, the land of
promise lay smiling before them, their strength and their means were too
much exhausted to allow of their commencing an examination, of the result
of which there could be but little doubt. The expedition returned to
Sydney, without any splendid discovery to gild its proceedings; and the
labours and dangers it had encountered were considered as nothing more
than ordinary occurrences. If I myself had entertained hopes that my
researches would have benefited the colony, I was wholly disappointed.
There is a barren tract of country lying to the westward of the Blue
Mountains that will ever divide the eastern coast from the more central
parts of Australia, as completely as if seas actually rolled between them.
In a geographical point of view, however, nothing could have been more
satisfactory, excepting an absolute knowledge of the country to the
northward between the Murray and the Darling, than the results of the
expedition. I have in its proper place stated, as fairly as I could, my
reasons for supposing the principal junction (which I consequently left
without a name) to be the Darling of my former journey, as well as the
various arguments that bore against such a conclusion.
Of course, where there is so much room for doubt, opinions will be
various. I shall merely review the subject, in order to connect subsequent
events with my previous observations, and to give the reader a full idea
of that which struck me to be the case on a close and anxious
investigation of the country from mountain to lowland. I returned from the
Macquarie with doubts on my mind as to the ultimate direction to which the
waters of the Darling river might ultimately flow; for, with regard to
every other point, the question was, I considered, wholly decided. But,
with regard to that singular stream, I was, from the little knowledge I
had obtained, puzzled as to its actual course; and I thought it as likely
that it might turn into the heart of the interior, as that it would make
to the south. It had not, however, escaped my notice, that the northern
rivers turned more abruptly southward (after gaining a certain distance
from the base of the ranges) than the more southern streams: near the
junction of the Castlereagh with the Darling especially, the number of
large creeks joining the first river from the north, led me to conclude
that there was at that particular spot a rapid fall of country to the
The first thing that strengthened in my mind this half-formed opinion, was
the fall of the Lachlan into the Morumbidgee. I had been told that
Australia was a basin; that an unbroken range of hills lined its coasts,
the internal rivers of which fell into its centre, and contributed to the
formation of an inland sea; I was not therefore prepared to find a break
in the chain--a gap as it were for the escape of these waters to the
Subsequently to our entrance into the Murray, the remarkable efforts of
that river to maintain a southerly course were observed even by the men,
and the singular runs it made to the south, when unchecked by high lands,
clearly evinced its natural tendency to flow in that direction.
Had we found ourselves at an elevation above the bed of the Darling when
we reached the junction of the principal tributary with the Murray, I
should still have had doubts on my mind as to the identity of that
tributary with the first-mentioned river; but considering the trifling
elevation of the Darling above the sea, and that the junction was still
less elevated above it, I cannot bring myself to believe that the former
alters its course. It is not, however, on this simple geographical
principle that I have built my conclusions; other corroborative
circumstances have tended also to confirm in my mind the opinion I have
already given, not only of the comparatively recent appearance above
the ocean of the level country over which I had passed, but that the true
dip of the interior is from north to south.
In support of the first of these conclusions, it would appear that a
current of water must have swept the vast accumulation of shells, forming
the great fossil bank through which the Murray passes from the northern
extremity of the continent, to deposit them where they are; and it would
further appear from the gradual rise of this bed, on an inclined plain
from N.N.E. to S.S.W., that it must in the first instance, have swept
along the base of the ranges, but ultimately turned into the above
direction by the convexity of the mountains at the S.E. angle of the
coast. From the circumstance, moreover, of the summit of the fossil
formation being in places covered with oyster shells, the fact of the
whole mass having been under water is indisputable, and leads us naturally
to the conclusion that the depressed interior beyond it must have been
under water at the same time.
It was proved by barometrical admeasurement, that the cataract of the
Macquarie was 680 feet above the level of the sea, and, in like manner,
it was found that the depot of Mr. Oxley, on the Lachlan, was only 500,
there being a still greater fall of country beyond these two points.
The maximum height of the fossil bank was 300 feet; and if we suppose a
line to be drawn from its top to the eastward, that line would pass over
the marshes of the two rivers, and would cut them at a point below which
they both gradually diminish. Hence I am brought to conclude that in
former times the sea washed the western base of the dividing ranges, at or
near the two points whose respective elevations I have given; and that
when the mass of land now lying waste and unproductive, became exposed,
the rivers, which until then had pursued a regular course to the ocean,
having no channel beyond their original termination, overflowed the almost
level country into which they now fall; or, filling some extensive
concavity, have contributed, by successive depositions, to the formation
of those marshes of which so much has been said. I regret extremely, that
my defective vision prevents me giving a slight sketch to elucidate
whet I fear I have, in words, perhaps, failed in making sufficiently
Now, as we know not by what means the changes that have taken place on the
earth's surface have been effected, and can only reason on them from
analogy, it is to be feared we shall never arrive at any clear
demonstration of the truth of our surmises with regard to geographical
changes, whether extensive or local, since the causes which produced them
will necessarily have ceased to operate. We cannot refer to the dates when
they took place, as we may do in regard to the eruptions of a volcano,
or the appearance or disappearance of an island. Such events are of minor
importance. Those mighty changes to which I would be understood to allude,
can hardly be laid to the account of chemical agency. We can easily
comprehend how subterranean fires will occasionally burst forth, and can
thus satisfactorily account for earthquake or volcano; but it is not to
any clashing of properties, or to any visible causes, that the changes of
which I speak can be attributed. They appear rather as the consequences of
direct agency, of an invisible power, not as the occasional and fretful
workings of nature herself. The marks of that awful catastrophe which so
nearly extinguished the human race, are every day becoming more and more
visible as geological research proceeds. Thus, in the limestone caves at
Wellington Valley, the remains of fossils and exuviae, show that their
depths were penetrated by the same searching element that poured into the
caverns of Kirkdale and other places. They are as gleams of sunshine
falling upon the pages of that sublime and splendid volume, in which the
history of the deluge is alone to be found; as if the Almighty intended
that His word should stand single and unsupported before mankind: and when
we consider that such corroborative testimonies of his wrath, as those I
have noticed, were in all probability wholly unknown to those who wrote
that sacred book, the discovery of the remains of a past world, must
strike those under whose knowledge it may fall with the truth of that
awful event, which language has vainly endeavoured to describe and
painters to represent.
Environs of the lake Alexandrina--Appointment of Capt. Barker to make a
further survey of the coast near Encounter Bay--Narrative of his
proceedings--Mount Lofty, Mount Barker, and beautiful country adjacent--
Australian salmon--Survey of the coast--Outlet of lake to the sea--
Circumstances that led to the slaughter of Capt. Barker by the natives--
His character--Features of this part of the country and capabilities of
its coasts--Its adaptation for colonization--Suggestions for the
furtherance of future Expeditions.
ENVIRONS OF THE LAKE ALEXANDRINA.
The foregoing narrative will have given the reader some idea of the state
in which the last expedition reached the bottom of that extensive and
magnificent basin which receives the waters of the Murray. The men were,
indeed, so exhausted, in strength, and their provisions so much reduced by
the time they gained the coast, that I doubted much, whether either would
hold out to such place as we might hope for relief. Yet, reduced as the
whole of us were from previous exertion, beset as our homeward path was by
difficulty and danger, and involved as our eventual safety was in
obscurity and doubt, I could not but deplore the necessity that obliged me
to re-cross the Lake Alexandrina (as I had named it in honour of the heir
apparent to the British crown), and to relinquish the examination of its
western shores. We were borne over its ruffled and agitated surface with
such rapidity, that I had scarcely time to view it as we passed; but,
cursory as my glance was, I could not but think I was leaving behind me
the fullest reward of our toil, in a country that would ultimately render
our discoveries valuable, and benefit the colony for whose interests we
were engaged. Hurried, I would repeat, as my view of it was, my eye never
fell on a country of more promising aspect, or of more favourable
position, than that which occupies the space between the lake and the
ranges of St. Vincent's Gulf, and, continuing northerly from Mount Barker,
stretches away, without any visible boundary.
It appeared to me that, unless nature had deviated from her usual laws,
this tract of country could not but be fertile, situated as it was to
receive the mountain deposits on the one hand, and those of the lake upon
FURTHER EXAMINATION OF THE COAST.
In my report to the Colonial Government, however, I did not feel myself
justified in stating, to their full extent, opinions that were founded on
probability and conjecture alone. But, although I was guarded in this
particular, I strongly recommended a further examination of the coast,
from the most eastern point of Encounter Bay, to the head St. Vincent's
Gulf, to ascertain if any other than the known channel existed among the
sand-hills of the former, or if, as I had every reason to hope from the
great extent of water to the N.W., there was a practicable communication
with the lake from the other; and I ventured to predict, that a closer
survey of the interjacent country, would be attended with the most
beneficial results; nor have I a doubt that the promontory of Cape Jervis
would ere this have been settled, had Captain Barker lived to complete his
CAPT. BARKER'S SURVEY.
The governor, General Darling, whose multifarious duties might well have
excused him from paying attention to distant objects, hesitated not a
moment when he thought the interests of the colony, whose welfare he so
zealously promoted, appeared to be concerned; and he determined to avail
himself of the services of Captain Collet Barker, of the 39th regiment,
who was about to be recalled from King George's Sound, in order to satisfy
himself as to the correctness of my views.
Captain Barker had not long before been removed from Port Raffles, on the
northern coast, where he had had much intercourse with the natives, and
had frequently trusted himself wholly in their hands. It was not, however,
merely on account of his conciliating manners, and knowledge of the temper
and habits of the natives, that he was particularly fitted for the duty
upon which it was the governor's pleasure to employ him. He was, in
addition, a man of great energy of character, and of much and various
Orders having reached Sydney, directing the establishment belonging to
New South Wales to be withdrawn, prior to the occupation of King George's
Sound by the government of Western Australia, the ISABELLA schooner was
sent to receive the troops and prisoners on board; and Captain Barker was
directed, as soon as he should have handed over the settlement to Captain
Stirling, to proceed to Cape Jervis, from which point it was thought he
could best carry on a survey not only of the coast but also of the
This excellent and zealous officer sailed from King George's Sound, on the
10th of April, 1831, and arrived off Cape Jervis on the 13th. He was
attended by Doctor Davies, one of the assistant surgeons of his regiment,
and by Mr. Kent, of the Commissariat. It is to the latter gentleman that
the public are indebted for the greater part of the following details;
he having attended Captain Barker closely during the whole of this short
but disastrous excursion, and made notes as copious as they are
interesting. At the time the ISABELLA arrived off Cape Jervis, the weather
was clear and favourable. Captain Barker consequently stood into
St. Vincent's Gulf, keeping, as near as practicable, to the eastern shore,
in soundings that varied from six to ten fathoms, upon sand and mud.
His immediate object was to ascertain if there was any communication with
the lake Alexandrina from the gulf. He ascended to lat. 34 degrees
40 minutes where he fully satisfied himself that no channel did exist
between them. He found, however, that the ranges behind Cape Jervis
terminated abruptly at Mount Lofty, in lat. 34 degrees 56 minutes, and,
that a flat and wooded country succeeded to the N. and N.E. The shore of
the gulf tended more to the N.N.W., and mud flats and mangrove swamps
prevailed along it.
INVITING COUNTRY--MOUNT LOFTY.
Mr. Kent informs me, that they landed for the first time on the 15th, but
that they returned almost immediately to the vessel. On the 17th, Captain
Barker again landed, with the intention of remaining on shore for two or
three days. He was accompanied by Mr. Kent, his servant Mills, and two
soldiers. The boat went to the place at which they had before landed, as
they thought they had discovered a small river with a bar entrance. They
crossed the bar, and ascertained that it was a narrow inlet, of four miles
in length, that terminated at the base of the ranges. The party were quite
delighted with the aspect of the country on either side of the inlet,
and with the bold and romantic scenery behind them. The former bore the
appearance of natural meadows, lightly timbered, and covered with a
variety of grasses. The soil was observed to be a rich, fat, chocolate
coloured earth, probably the decomposition of the deep blue limestone,
that showed itself along the coast hereabouts. On the other hand, a rocky
glen made a cleft in the ranges at the head of the inlet; and they were
supplied with abundance of fresh water which remained in the deeper pools
that had been filled by the torrents during late rains. The whole
neighbourhood was so inviting that the party slept at the head of the
MOUNT LOFTY AND ITS ENVIRONS.
In the morning, Captain Barker proceeded to ascend Mount Lofty,
accompanied by Mr. Kent and his servant, leaving the two soldiers at the
bivouac, at which he directed them to remain until his return. Mr. Kent
says they kept the ridge all the way, and rose above the sea by a gradual
ascent. The rock-formation of the lower ranges appeared to be an
argillaceous schist; the sides and summit of the ranges were covered with
verdure, and the trees upon them were of more than ordinary size. The view
to the eastward was shut out by other ranges, parallel to those on which
they were; below them to the westward, the same pleasing kind of country
that flanked the inlet still continued.
In the course of the day they passed round the head of a deep ravine,
whose smooth and grassy sides presented a beautiful appearance. The party
stood 600 feet above the bed of a small rivulet that occupied the bottom
of the ravine. In some places huge blocks of granite interrupted its
course, in others the waters had worn the rock smooth. The polish of these
rocks was quite beautiful, and the veins of red and white quartz which
traversed them, looked like mosaic work. They did not gain the top of
Mount Lofty, but slept a few miles beyond the ravine. In the morning
they continued their journey, and, crossing Mount Lofty, descended
northerly, to a point from which the range bent away a little to the
N.N.E., and then terminated. The view from this point was much more
extensive than that from Mount Lofty itself. They overlooked a great part
of the gulf, and could distinctly see the mountains at the head of it to
the N.N.W. To the N.W. there was a considerable indentation in the coast,
which had escaped Captain Barker's notice when examining it. A mountain,
very similar to Mount Lofty, bore due east of them, and appeared to be the
termination of its range. They were separated by a valley of about ten
miles in width, the appearance of which was not favourable. Mr. Kent
states to me, that Capt. Barker observed at the time that he thought it
probable I had mistaken this hill for Mount Lofty, since it shut out the
view of the lake from him, and therefore he naturally concluded, I could
not have seen Mount Lofty. I can readily imagine such an error to have
been made by me, more especially as I remember that at the time I was
taking bearings in the lake, I thought Captain Flinders had not given
Mount Lofty, as I then conceived it to be, its proper position in
longitude. Both hills are in the same parallel of latitude. The mistake on
my part is obvious. I have corrected it in the charts, and have availed
myself of the opportunity thus afforded me of perpetuating, as far as I
can, the name of an inestimable companion in Captain Barker himself.
Immediately below the point on which they stood, Mr. Kent says, a low
undulating country extended to the northward, as far as he could see.
It was partly open, and partly wooded; and was every where covered with
verdure. It continued round to the eastward, and apparently ran down
southerly, at the opposite base of the mount Barker Range. I think there
can be but little doubt that my view from the S.E., that is, from the
lake, extended over the same or a part of the same country. Captain Barker
again slept on the summit of the range, near a large basin that looked
like the mouth of a crater, in which huge fragments of rocks made a scene
of the utmost confusion. These rocks were a coarse grey granite, of which
the higher parts and northern termination of the Mount Lofty range are
evidently formed; for Mr. Kent remarks that it superseded the schistose
formation at the ravine we have noticed--and that, subsequently, the sides
of the hills became more broken, and valleys, or gullies, more properly
speaking, very numerous. Captain Barker estimated the height of Mount
Lofty above the sea at 2,400 feet, and the distance of its summit from the
coast at eleven miles. Mr. Kent says they were surprised at the size of
the trees on the immediate brow of it; they measured one and found it to
be 43 feet in girth. Indeed, he adds, vegetation did not appear to have
suffered either from its elevated position, or from any prevailing wind.
Eucalypti were the general timber on the ranges; one species of which,
resembling strongly the black butted-gum, was remarkable for a scent
peculiar to its bark.
The party rejoined the soldiers on the 21st, and enjoyed the supply of
fish which they had provided for them. The soldiers had amused themselves
by fishing during Captain Barker's absence, and had been abundantly
successful. Among others they had taken a kind of salmon, which, though
inferior in size, resembled in shape, in taste, and in the colour of its
flesh, the salmon of Europe. I fancied that a fish which I observed with
extremely glittering scales, in the mouth of a seal, when myself on the
coast, must have been of this kind; and I have no doubt that the lake is
periodically visited by salmon, and that these fish retain their habits of
entering fresh water at particular seasons, also in the southern
Immediately behind Cape Jervis, there is a small bay, in which according
to the information of the sealers who frequent Kangaroo Island, there is
good and safe anchorage for seven months in the year, that is to say,
during the prevalence of the E. and N.E. winds.
SURVEY OF THE COAST.
Captain Barker landed on the 21st on this rocky point at the northern
extremity of this bay. He had, however, previously to this, examined the
indentation in the coast which he had observed from Mount Lofty, and had
ascertained that it was nothing more than an inlet; a spit of sand,
projecting from the shore at right angles with it, concealed the month of
the inlet. They took the boat to examine this point, and carried six
fathoms soundings round the head of the spit to the mouth of the inlet,
when it shoaled to two fathoms, and the landing was observed to be bad,
by reason of mangrove swamps on either side of it. Mr. Kent, I think, told
me that this inlet was from ten to twelve miles long. Can it be that a
current setting out of it at times, has thrown up the sand-bank that
protects its mouth, and that trees, or any other obstacle, have hidden its
further prolongation from Captain Barker's notice? I have little hope that
such is the case, but the remark is not an idle one.
Between this inlet and the one formerly mentioned, a small and clear
stream was discovered, to which Captain Barker kindly gave my name. On
landing, the party, which consisted of the same persons as the former one,
found themselves in a valley, which opened direct upon the bay. It was
confined to the north from the chief range by a lateral ridge, that
gradually declined towards and terminated at, the rocky point on which
they had landed. The other side of the valley was formed of a continuation
of the main range, which also gradually declined to the south, and
appeared to be connected with the hills at the extremity of the cape.
The valley was from nine to ten miles in length, and from three to four in
breadth. In crossing it, they ascertained that the lagoon from which the
schooner had obtained a supply of water, was filled by a watercourse that
came down its centre. The soil in the valley was rich, but stony in some
parts. There was an abundance of pasture over the whole, from amongst
which they started numerous kangaroos. The scenery towards the ranges was
beautiful and romantic, and the general appearance of the country such as
to delight the whole party.
Preserving a due east course, Captain Barker passed over the opposite
range of hills, and descended almost immediately into a second valley that
continued to the southwards. Its soil was poor and stony, and it was
covered with low scrub. Crossing it, they ascended the opposite range,
from the summit of which they had a view of Encounter Bay. An extensive
flat stretched from beneath them to the eastward, and was backed, in the
distance, by sand hummocks, and low wooded hills. The extreme right of the
flat rested upon the coast, at a rocky point near which there were two or
three islands. From the left a beautiful valley opened upon it. A strong
and clear rivulet from this valley traversed the flat obliquely, and fell
into the sea at the rocky point, or a little to the southward of it.
The hills forming the opposite side of the valley had already terminated.
Captain Barker, therefore, ascended to higher ground, and, at length,
obtained a view of the Lake Alexandrina, and the channel of its
communication with the sea to the N.E. He now descended to the flat, and
frequently expressed his anxious wish to Mr. Kent that I had been one of
their number to enjoy the beauty of the scenery around them, and to
participate in their labours. Had fate so ordained it, it is possible the
melancholy tragedy that soon after occurred might have been averted.
OUTLET OF LAKE TO THE SEA.
At the termination of the flat they found themselves upon the banks of the
channel, and close to the sand hillock under which my tents had been
pitched. From this point they proceeded along the line of sand-hills to
the outlet; from which it would appear that Kangaroo Island is not
visible, but that the distant point which I mistook for it was the S.E.
angle of Cape Jervis. I have remarked, in describing that part of the
coast, that there is a sand-hill to the eastward of the inlet, under which
the tide runs strong, and the water is deep. Captain Barker judged the
breadth of the channel to be a quarter of a mile, and he expressed a
desire to swim across it to the sand-hill to take bearings, and to
ascertain the nature of the strand beyond it to the eastward.
It unfortunately happened, that he was the only one of the party who could
swim well, in consequence of which his people remonstrated with him on the
danger of making the attempt unattended. Notwithstanding, however, that
he was seriously indisposed, he stripped, and after Mr. Kent had fastened
his compass on his head for him, he plunged into the water, and with
difficulty gained the opposite side; to effect which took him nine minutes
and fifty-eight seconds. His anxious comrades saw him ascend the hillock,
and take several bearings; he then descended the farther side, and was
never seen by them again.
CIRCUMSTANCES ATTENDING THE LOSS OF CAPTAIN BARKER.
For a considerable time Mr. Kent remained stationary, in momentary
expectation of his return; but at length, taking the two soldiers with
him, he proceeded along the shore in search of wood for a fire. At about
a quarter of a mile, the soldiers stopped and expressed their wish to
return, as their minds misgave them, and they feared that Captain Barker
had met with some accident. While conversing, they heard a distant shout,
or cry, which Mr. Kent thought resembled the call of the natives, but
which the soldiers positively declared to be the voice of a white man.
On their return to their companions, they asked if any sounds had caught
their ears, to which they replied in the negative. The wind was blowing
from the E.S.E., in which direction Captain Barker had gone; and, to me,
the fact of the nearer party not having heard that which must have been
his cries for assistance, is satisfactorily accounted for, as, being
immediately under the hill, the sounds must have passed over their heads
to be heard more distinctly at the distance at which Mr. Kent and the
soldiers stood. It is more than probable, that while his men were
expressing their anxiety about him, the fearful tragedy was enacting which
it has become my painful task to detail.
Evening closed in without any signs of Captain Barker's return, or any
circumstance by which Mr. Kent could confirm his fears that he had fallen
into the hands of the natives. For, whether it was that the tribe which
had shown such decided hostility to me when on the coast had not observed
the party, none made their appearance; and if I except two, who crossed
the channel when Mr. Kent was in search of wood, they had neither seen nor
heard any; and Captain Barker's enterprising disposition being well known
to his men, hopes were still entertained that he was safe. A large fire
was kindled, and the party formed a silent and anxious group around it.
Soon after night-fall, however, their attention was roused by the sounds
of the natives, and it was at length discovered, that they had lighted a
chain of small fires between the sand-hill Captain Barker had ascended and
the opposite side of the channel, around which their women were chanting
their melancholy dirge. It struck upon the ears of the listeners with an
ominous thrill, and assured them of the certainty of the irreparable loss
they had sustained. All night did those dismal sounds echo along that
lonely shore, but as morning dawned, they ceased, and Mr. Kent and his
companions were again left in anxiety and doubt. They, at length, thought
it most advisable to proceed to the schooner to advise with Doctor
Davies. They traversed the beach with hasty steps, but did not get on
board till the following day. It was then determined to procure assistance
from the sealers on Kangaroo Island, as the only means by which they could
ascertain their leader's fate, and they accordingly entered American
Harbour. For a certain reward, one of the men agreed to accompany Mr. Kent
to the main with a native woman, to communicate with the tribe that was
supposed to have killed him. They landed at or near the rocky point of
Encounter Bay, where they were joined by two other natives, one of whom
was blind. The woman was sent forward for intelligence, and on her return
gave the following details:
ACCOUNT OF HIS MURDER.
It appears that at a very considerable distance from the first sand-hill,
there is another to which Captain Barker must have walked, for the woman
stated that three natives were going to the shore from their tribe, and
that they crossed his tract. Their quick perception immediately told them
it was an unusual impression. They followed upon it, and saw Captain
Barker returning. They hesitated for a long time to approach him, being
fearful of the instrument he carried. At length, however, they closed upon
him. Capt. Barker tried to soothe them, but finding that they were
determined to attack him, he made for the water from which he could not
have been very distant. One of the blacks immediately threw his spear and
struck him in the hip. This did not, however, stop him. He got among the
breakers, when he received the second spear in the shoulder. On this,
turning round, he received a third full in the breast: with such deadly
precision do these savages cast their weapons. It would appear that the
third spear was already on its flight when Capt. Barker turned, and it is
to be hoped, that it was at once mortal. He fell on his back into the
water. The natives then rushed in, and dragging him out by the legs,
seized their spears, and indicted innumerable wounds upon his body;
after which, they threw it into deep water, and the sea-tide carried it
Such, we have every reason to believe, was the untimely fate of this
amiable and talented man. It is a melancholy satisfaction to me thus
publicly to record his worth; instrumental, as I cannot but in some
measure consider my last journey to have been in leading to this fatal
catastrophe. Captain Barker was in disposition, as he was in the close
of his life, in many respects similar to Captain Cook. Mild, affable, and
attentive, he had the esteem and regard of every companion, and the
respect of every one under him. Zealous in the discharge of his public
duties, honourable and just in private life; a lover and a follower of
science; indefatigable and dauntless in his pursuits; a steady friend,
an entertaining companion; charitable, kind-hearted, disinterested,
and sincere--the task is equally difficult to find adequate expressions of
praise or of regret. In him the king lost one of his most valuable
officers, and his regiment one of its most efficient members. Beloved as
he was, the news of his loss struck his numerous friends with sincere
grief, but by none was it more severely felt than by the humble individual
who has endeavoured thus feebly to draw his portrait.
From the same source from which the particulars of his death were
obtained, it was reported that the natives who perpetrated the deed were
influenced by no other motive than curiosity to ascertain if they had
power to kill a white man. But we must be careful in giving credit to
this, for it is much more probable that the cruelties exercised by the
sealers towards the blacks along the south coast, may have instigated the
latter to take vengeance on the innocent as well as on the guilty. It will
be seen, by a reference to the chart, that Captain Barker, by crossing the
channel, threw himself into the very hands of that tribe which had evinced
such determined hostility to myself and my men. He got into the rear of
their strong hold, and was sacrificed to those feelings of suspicion, and
to that desire of revenge, which the savages never lose sight of until
they have been gratified.
FEATURES OF THE COUNTRY, AND CAPABILITIES OF THE COAST.
It yet remains for me to state that when Mr. Kent returned to the
schooner, after this irreparable loss, he kept to the south of the place
at which he had crossed the first range with Captain Barker, and travelled
through a valley right across the promontory. He thus discovered that
there was a division in the ranges, through which there was a direct and
level road from the little bay on the northern extremity of which they had
last landed in St. Vincent's Gulf, to the rocky point of Encounter Bay.
The importance of this fact will be better estimated, when it is known
that good anchorage is secured to small vessels inside the island that
lies off the point of Encounter Bay, which is rendered still safer by a
horse shoe reef that forms, as it were, a thick wall to break the swell of
the sea. But this anchorage is not safe for more than five months in the
year. Independently of these points, however, Mr. Kent remarks, that the
spit a little to the north of Mount Lofty would afford good shelter to
minor vessels under its lee. When the nature of the country is taken into
consideration, and the facility of entering that which lies between the
ranges and the Lake Alexandrina, from the south, and of a direct
communication with the lake itself, the want of an extensive harbour will,
in some measure, be compensated for, more especially when it is known that
within four leagues of Cape Jervis, a port little inferior to Port
Jackson, with a safe and broad entrance, exists at Kangaroo Island. The
sealers have given this spot the name of American Harbour. In it, I am
informed, vessels are completely land-locked, and secure from every wind.
Kangaroo Island is not, however, fertile by any means. It abounds in
shallow lakes filled with salt water during high tides, and which, by
evaporation, yield a vast quantity of salt.
I gathered from the sealers that neither the promontory separating
St. Vincent from Spencer's Gulf, nor the neighbourhood of Port Lincoln,
are other than barren and sandy wastes. They all agree in describing Port
Lincoln itself as a magnificent roadstead, but equally agree as to the
sterility of its shores. It appears, therefore, that the promontory of
Cape Jervis owes its superiority to its natural features; in fact, to the
mountains that occupy its centre, to the debris that has been washed from
them, and to the decomposition of the better description of its rocks.
Such is the case at Illawarra, where the mountains approach the sea; such
indeed is the case every where, at a certain distance from mountain
ADAPTION OF THIS PART OF THE COUNTRY FOR COLONISATION.
From the above account it would appear that a spot has, at length, been
found upon the south coast of New Holland, to which the colonist might
venture with every prospect of success, and in whose valleys the exile
might hope to build for himself and for his family a peaceful and
prosperous home. All who have ever landed upon the eastern shore of
St. Vincent's Gulf, agree as to the richness of its soil, and the
abundance of its pasture. Indeed, if we cast our eyes upon the chart, and
examine the natural features of the country behind Cape Jervis, we shall
no longer wonder at its differing in soil and fertility from the low and
sandy tracks that generally prevail along the shores of Australia. Without
entering largely into the consideration of the more remote advantages that
would, in all human probability, result from the establishment of a
colony, rather than a penal settlement, at St. Vincent's Gulf, it will be
expedient to glance hastily over the preceding narrative, and, disengaging
it from all extraneous matter, to condense, as much as possible, the
information it contains respecting the country itself; for I have been
unable to introduce any passing remark, lest I should break the thread of
an interesting detail.
The country immediately behind Cape Jervis may, strictly speaking, be
termed a promontory, bounded to the west by St. Vincent's Gulf, and to the
east by the lake Alexandrina, and the sandy track separating that basin
from the sea. Supposing a line to be drawn from the parallel of 34 degrees
40 minutes to the eastward, it will strike the Murray river about 25 miles
above the head of the lake, and will clear the ranges, of which Mount
Lofty and Mount Barker are the respective terminations. This line will cut
off a space whose greatest breadth will be 55 miles, whose length from
north to south will be 75, and whose surface exceeds 7 millions of acres;
from which if we deduct 2 millions for the unavailable hills, we shall
have 5 millions of acres of land, of rich soil, upon which no scrub
exists, and whose most distant points are accessible, through a level
country on the one hand, and by water on the other. The southern extremity
of the ranges can be turned by that valley through which Mr. Kent returned
to the schooner, after Captain Barker's death. It is certain, therefore,
that this valley not only secures so grand a point, but also presents a
level line of communication from the small bay immediately to the north of
the cape, to the rocky point of Encounter Bay, at both of which places
there is safe anchorage at different periods of the year.
HINTS FOR FUTURE EXPEDITIONS.
The only objection that can be raised to the occupation of this spot, is
the want of an available harbour. Yet it admits of great doubt whether the
contiguity of Kangaroo Island to Cape Jervis, (serving as it does to break
the force of the prevailing winds, as also of the heavy swell that would
otherwise roll direct into the bay,) and the fact of its possessing a safe
and commodious harbour, certainly at an available distance, does not in a
great measure remove the objection. Certain it is that no port, with the
exception of that on the shores of which the capital of Australia is
situated, offers half the convenience of this, although it be detached
between three and four leagues from the main.
On the other hand it would appear, that there is no place from which at
any time the survey of the more central parts of the continent could be so
effectually carried on; for in a country like Australia, where the chief
obstacle to be apprehended in travelling is the want of water, the
facilities afforded by the Murray and its tributaries, are indisputable;
and I have little doubt that the very centre of the continent might be
gained by a judicious and enterprising expedition. Certainly it is most
desirable to ascertain whether the river I have supposed to be the Darling
be really so or not. I have stated my objection to depots, but I think
that if a party commenced its operations upon the Murray from the
junction upwards, and, after ascertaining the fact of its ultimate course,
turned away to the N.W. up one of the tributaries of the Murray, with a
supply of six months' provisions, the results would be of the most
satisfactory kind, and the features of the country be wholly developed.
I cannot, I think, conclude this work better than by expressing a hope,
that the Colonial Government will direct such measures to be adopted as
may be necessary for the extension of our geographical knowledge in
Australia. The facilities of fitting out expeditions in New South Wales,
render the expenses of little moment, when compared with the importance of
the object in view; and although I am labouring under the effects of
former attempts, yet would I willingly give such assistance as I could to
carry such an object into effect.
APPENDIX No. I.
GEOLOGICAL SPECIMENS FOUND TO THE SOUTH-WEST OF PORT JACKSON.
Considering the nature of the country over which the first expedition
travelled, it could hardly have been expected that its geological
specimens would be numerous. It will appear, however, from the following
list of rocks collected during the second expedition, that the geological
formation of the mountains to the S.W. of Port Jackson is as various as
that to the N.W. of it is mountainous. The specimens are described not
according to their natural order, but in the succession in which they
were found, commencing from Yass Plains, and during the subsequent stages
of the journey.
Sandstone, Old Red.--Found on various parts of Yass Plains.
Limestone, Transition.--Colour dark grey; composes the bed of the Yass
River, and apparently traverses the sandstone formation. Yass Plains lie
170 miles to the S.W. of Sydney.
Sandstone, Old Red.--Again succeeds the limestone, and continues to the
N.W. to a considerable distance over a poor and scrubby country, covered
for the most part with a dwarf species of Eucalyptus.
Granite.--Colour grey; feldspar, black mica, and quartz: succeeds the
sandstone, and continues to the S.W. as far as the Morumbidgee River,
over an open forest country broken into hill and dale. It is generally on
these granite rocks that the best grazing is found.
Greywacke.--Colour grey, of light hue, or dark, with black specks.
Soft.--Composition of a part of the ranges that form the valley of the
Serpentine.--Colour green of different shades, striped sulphur yellow;
slaty fracture, soft and greasy to the touch. Forms hills of moderate
elevation, of peculiarly sharp spine, resting on quartz. Composition of
most of the ranges opposite the Doomot River on the Morumbidgee, in
lat. 35 degrees 4 minutes and long. 147 degrees 40 minutes.
Quartz.--Colour snow-white; formation of the higher ranges on the left
bank of the Morumbidgee, in the same latitude and longitude as above;
showing in large blocks on the sides of the hills.
Slaty Quartz, with varieties.--Found with the quartz rock, in a state
Granite.--Succeeds the serpentine, of light colour; feldspar decomposed;
mica, glittering and silvery white.
Sandstone, Old Red.--Composition of the more distant ranges on the
Morumbidgee. Forms abrupt precipices over the river flats; of sterile
appearance, and covered with Banksias and scrub.
Mica Slate.--Colour dark brown, approaching red; mica glittering.
The hills enclosing Pondebadgery Plain at the gorge of the valley of the
Morumbidgee, are composed of this rock. They are succeeded by
Sandstone.--Which rises abruptly from the river in perpendicular cliffs,
of 145 feet in height.
Jasper and quartz.--Colour red and white. Forms the slope of the above
sandstone, and may be considered the outermost of the rocks connected with
the Eastern or Blue Mountain Ranges. It will be remembered that jasper and
quartz were likewise found on a plain near the Darling River, precisely
similar to the above, although occurring at so great a distance from each
Granite.--Light red colour; composition of a small isolated hill, to all
appearance wholly unconnected with the neighbouring ranges. This specimen
is very similar to that found in the bed of New-Year's Creek.
Breccia.--Silicious cement, composed of a variety of pebbles. Formation of
the most WESTERLY of the hills between the Lachlan and Macquarie Rivers.
This conglomerate was also found to compose the minor and most westerly of
the elevations of the more northern interior.
Chrystallized Sulphate of Lime.--Found embedded in the deep alluvial soil
in the banks of the Morumbidgee River, in lat. 34 degrees 30 minutes S.,
and long. 144 degrees 55 minutes E. The same substance was found on the
banks of the Darling, in lat. 29 degrees 49 minutes S., and in
long. 145 degrees 18 minutes E.
A reference to the chart will show that the Morumbidgee, from the first of
the above positions, may be said to have entered the almost dead level of
the interior. No elevation occurs to the westward for several hundreds of
miles. A coarse grit occasionally traversed the beds of the rivers, and
their lofty banks of clay or marl appear to be based on sandstone and
granitic sand. The latter occurs in slabs of four inches in thickness,
divided by a line of saffron-coloured sand, and seems to have been
subjected to fusion, as if the particles or grains had been cemented
together by fusion.
The first decided break that takes place in the level of the interior
occurs upon the right bank of the Murray, a little below the junction of
the Rufus with it. A cliff of from 120 to 130 feet in perpendicular
elevation here flanks the river for about 200 yards, when it recedes from
it, and forms a spacious amphitheatre that is occupied by semicircular
hillocks, that partake of the same character as the cliff itself; the face
of which showed the various substances of which it was composed in
horizontal lines, that if prolonged would cut the same substance in the
hillocks. Based upon a soft white sandstone, a bed of clay formed the
lowest part of the cliff; upon this bed of clay, a bed of chalk reposed;
this chalk was superseded by a thick bed of saponaceous earth, whilst the
summit of the cliff was composed of a bright red sand. Semi-opal and
hydrate of silex were found in the chalk, and some beautiful specimens of
brown menelite were collected from the upper stratum of the cliff.
A little below this singular place, the country again declines, when a
tertiary fossil formation shows itself, which, rising gradually as an
inclined plain, ultimately attains an elevation of 300 feet. This
formation continues to the very coast, since large masses of the rock were
observed in the channel of communication between the lake and the ocean;
and the hills to the left of the channel were based upon it. This great
bank cannot, therefore, average less than from seventy to ninety miles in
width. At its commencement, it strikingly resembled skulls piled one
on the other, as well in colour as appearance. This effect had been
produced by the constant rippling of water against the rock. The softer
parts had been washed away, and the shells (a bed of Turritella) alone
Plate 1, Figures 1, 2, and 3, represent the selenite formation.
Plate 2, represents a mass of the rock containing numerous kinds of
shells, of which the following are the most conspicuous:
* * *
The following is a list of the fossils collected from various parts of
this formation, from which it is evident that a closer examination would
lead to the discovery of numberless species.
FIG.1 Eschara celleporacea.
2 ------- piriformis.
3 ------- UNNAMED.