Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Books, poems, drama…

Two Expeditions into the Interior of Southern Australia Complete by Charles Sturt

Part 8 out of 8

Adobe PDF icon
Download this document as a .pdf
File size: 0.9 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.


9 Scutella.
10 Spatangus Hoffmanni--Goldfuss.
Tertiary, in Westphalia.
11 Echinus.


Corbula gallica--Paris basin--Tertiary.
Corbis lamellosa--Tertiary--Paris.
Venus (Cytherea) laevigata--ibid.
----- ---------- obliqua --ibid.
12 Nucula--such is found in London clay.
13 Pecten coarctatus?--Placentia.
------ various?--recent.
14 ------ species unknown.
Two other Pectens also occur.
Ostrea elongata--Deshayes.
15 Terebratula.
16 One cast, genus unknown, perhaps a Cardium.


Bulla? Plate II., fig. 2.
FIG.17 Natica--small.
18 ------ large species.
19 Trochus.
20 Turritella.
---------- in gyps.
21 Murex.
22 Buccinum?
23 Mitra.
24 ----- very short.
25 Cypraea.
26 Conus.
27 ----- (Plate II., fig. 3.)
28 Two, unknown, (Also Plate II, fig. 4.)
The above all appear to belong to the newer tertiary formations.

[Fig.17 to 27--These genera are scarcely ever, and some of them not at
all, found in any but tertiary formations.]

A block of coarse red granite forms an island in the centre of the
river near the lake, but is nowhere else visible, although it is very
probably the basis of the surrounding country.


Primitive Transition Limestone.--Light grey, striped. Altered in
appearance by volcanic action; occurs on the Ranges north of Cape Jervis.

Granite.--Colour, red; found on the west side of Encounter Bay.

Brown Spar.--South point of Cape Jervis.

Sandstone, Old Red.--East coast of St, Vincent's Gulf.

Limestone, Transition.--Colour, blue. East Coast of St. Vincent's Gulf.
Formation near the first inlet. Continuing to the base of the Ranges.

Clay Slate.--Composition of the lower part of the Mount Lofty Range.

Granite.--Fine grained, red; forms the higher parts of the Mount Lofty

Quartz, with Tourmaline.--Lower parts of the Mount Lofty Range.

Limestone Flustra, and their Corallines, probably tertiary.--From the
mouth of the Sturt, on the coast line, nearly abreast of Mount Lofty.



* * * * *


Colonial Secretary's Office, Sydney,
May 10, 1830.

His Excellency the Governor has much satisfaction in publishing the
following report of the proceedings of an expedition undertaken for the
purpose of tracing the course of the river "Morumbidgee," and of
ascertaining whether it communicated with the coast forming the southern
boundary of the colony.

The expedition, which was placed under the direction of Captain Sturt,
of his Majesty's 39th Regiment, commenced its progress down the
"Morumbidgee" on the 7th day of January last, having been occupied
twenty-one days in performing the journey from Sydney.

On the 14th January they entered a new river running from east to west,
now called the "Murray," into which the "Morumbidgee" flows.

After pursuing the course of the "Murray" for several days, the expedition
observed another river (supposed to be that which Captain Sturt discovered
on his former expedition), uniting with the "Murray" which they examined
about five miles above the junction.

The expedition again proceeded down the "Murray," and fell in with another
of its tributaries flowing from the south east, which Captain Sturt has
designated the "Lindesay;" and on the 8th February the "Murray" was
found to enter or form a lake, of from fifty to sixty miles in length,
and from thirty to forty in breadth, lying immediately to the eastward of
gulf St. Vincent, and extending to the southward, to the shore of
"Encounter Bay."

Thus has Captain Sturt added largely, and in a highly important degree,
to the knowledge previously possessed of the interior.

His former expedition ascertained the fate of the rivers Macquarie and
Castlereagh, on which occasion he also discovered a river which, there is
every reason to believe, is, in ordinary seasons, of considerable

Should this, as Captain Sturt supposes, prove to be the same river as that
above-mentioned, as uniting with the "Murray," the existence of an
interior water communication for several hundreds of miles, extending from
the northward of "Mount Harris," down to the southern coast of the colony,
will have been established.

It is to be regretted, that circumstances did not permit of a more perfect
examination of the lake, (which has been called "Alexandrina"), as the
immediate vicinage of Gulf St. Vincent furnishes a just ground of hope
that a more practicable and useful communication may be discovered in
that direction, than the channel which leads into "Encounter Bay."

The opportunity of recording a second time the services rendered to the
colony by Captain Sturt, is as gratifying to the government which directed
the undertaking, as it is creditable to the individual who so successfully
conducted it to its termination.--It is an additional cause of
satisfaction to add, that every one, according to his sphere of action,
has a claim to a proportionate degree of applause. All were exposed alike
to the same privations and fatigue, and every one submitted with patience,
manifesting the most anxious desire for the success of the expedition.
The zeal of Mr. George M'Leay, the companion of Captain Sturt, when
example was so important, could not fail to have the most salutary effect;
and the obedience, steadiness, and good conduct of the men employed, merit
the highest praise.

By his Excellency's command,


* * * * *


SIR,--The departure of Mr. George M'Leay for Sydney, who is anxious to
proceed homewards as speedily as possible, affords me an earlier
opportunity than would otherwise have presented itself, by which to make
you acquainted with the circumstance of my return, under the divine
protection, to the located districts; and I do myself the honour of
annexing a brief account of my proceedings since the last communication
for the information of His Excellency the Governor, until such time as I
shall have it in my power to give in a more detailed report.

On the 7th of January, agreeably to the arrangements which had been made,
I proceeded down the Morumbidgee in the whale boat, with a complement of
six hands, independent of myself and Mr. M'Leay, holding the skiff in tow.
The river, for several days, kept a general W.S.W. course; it altered
little in appearance, nor did any material change take place in the
country upon its banks. The alluvial flats had occasionally an increased
breadth on either side of it, but the line of reeds was nowhere so
extensive as from previous appearances I had been led to expect. About
twelve miles from the depot, we passed a large creek junction from the
N.E. which, from its locality and from the circumstance of my having been
upon it in the direction of them, I cannot but conclude originates in the
marshes of the Lachlan.

On the 11th, the Morumbidgee became much encumbered with fallen timber,
and its current was at times so rapid that I was under considerable
apprehension for the safety of the boats. The skiff had been upset on the
8th, and, although I could not anticipate such an accident to the large
boat, I feared she would receive some more serious and irremediable
injury. On the 14th, these difficulties increased upon us.--The channel
of the river became more contracted, and its current more impetuous. We
had no sooner cleared one reach, than fresh and apparently insurmountable
dangers presented themselves to us in the next. I really feared that every
precaution would have proved unavailing against such multiplied
embarrassments, and that ere night we should have possessed only the
wrecks of the expedition. From this state of anxiety, however, we were
unexpectedly relieved, by our arrival at 2 p.m. at the termination of the
Morumbidgee; from which we were launched into a broad and noble river,
flowing from E. to W. at the rate of two and a half knots per hour, over
a clear and sandy bed, of a medium width of from three to four hundred

During the first stages of our journey upon this new river, which
evidently had its rise in the mountains of the S.E., we made rapid
progress to the W.N.W. through an unbroken and uninteresting country of
equal sameness of feature and of vegetation. On the 23rd, as the boats
were proceeding down it, several hundreds of natives made their appearance
upon the right bank, having assembled with premeditated purposes of
violence. I was the more surprised at this show of hostility, because we
had passed on general friendly terms, not only with those on the
Morumbidgee, but of the new river. Now, however, emboldened by numbers,
they seemed determined on making the first attack, and soon worked
themselves into a state of frenzy by loud and vehement shouting. As I
observed that the water was shoaling fast, I kept in the middle of the
stream; and, under an impression that it would be impossible for me to
avoid a conflict, prepared for an obstinate resistance. But, at the very
moment when, having arrived opposite to a large sand bank, on which
they had collected, the foremost of the blacks had already advanced
into the water, and I only awaited their nearer approach to fire
upon them, their impetuosity was restrained by the most unlooked
for and unexpected interference. They held back of a sudden, and
allowed us to pass unmolested. The boat, however, almost immediately
grounded on a shoal that stretched across the river, over which she
was with some difficulty hauled into deeper water,--when we found
ourselves opposite to a large junction from the eastward, little
inferior to the river itself. Had I been aware of this circumstance, I
should have been the more anxious with regard to any rupture with the
natives, and I was now happy to find that most of them had laid aside
their weapons and had crossed the junction, it appearing that they had
previously been on a tongue of land formed by the two streams. I therefore
landed among them to satisfy their curiosity and to distribute a few
presents before I proceeded up it. We were obliged to use the four oars to
stem the current against us; but, as soon as we had passed the mouth,
got into deeper water, and found easier pulling, The parallel in which we
struck it, and the direction from which it came, combined to assure me
that this could be no other than the "Darling." To the distance of two
miles it retained a breadth of one hundred yards and a depth of twelve
feet. Its banks were covered with verdure, and the trees overhanging them
were of finer and larger growth than those on the new river by which we
had approached it. Its waters had a shade of green, and were more turbid
than those of its neighbours, but they were perfectly sweet to the taste.

Having satisfied myself on those points on which I was most anxious,
we returned to the junction to examine it more closely.

The angle formed by the Darling with the new river is so acute, that
neither can be said to be tributary to the other; but more important
circumstances, upon which it is impossible for me to dwell at the present
moment, mark them as distinct rivers, which have been formed by Nature
for the same purposes, in remote and opposite parts of the island. Not
having as yet given a name to the latter, I now availed myself of the
opportunity of complying with the known wishes of His Excellency the
Governor, and, at the same time, in accordance with my own feelings as a
soldier I distinguished it by that of the "Murray."

It had been my object to ascertain the decline of the vast plain through
which the Murray flows, that I might judge of the probable fall of the
waters of the interior; but by the most attentive observation I could not
satisfy myself upon the point. The course of the Darling now confirmed
my previous impression that it was to the south, which direction it was
evident the Murray also, in the subsequent stages of our journey down it,
struggled to preserve; from which it was thrown by a range of minor
elevations into a more westerly one. We were carried as far as 139 degrees
40 minutes of longitude, without descending below 34 degrees in point of
latitude; in consequence of which I expected that the river would
ultimately discharge itself, either into St. Vincent's Gulf or that of
Spencer, more especially as lofty ranges were visible in the direction of
them from the summit of the hills behind our camp, on the 2nd of February,
which I laid down as the coast line bounding them.

A few days prior to the 2nd of February, we passed under some cliffs of
partial volcanic origin, and had immediately afterwards entered a
limestone country of the most singular formation. The river, although we
had passed occasional rapids of the most dangerous kind, had maintained a
sandy character from our first acquaintance with it to the limestone
division. It now forced itself through a glen of that rock of half a mile
in width, frequently striking precipices of more than two hundred feet
perpendicular elevation, in which coral and fossil remains were
plentifully embedded. On the 3rd February it made away to the eastward of
south, in reaches of from two to four miles in length. It gradually lost
its sandy bed, and became deep, still, and turbid; the glen expanded into
a valley, and the alluvial flats, which had hitherto been of
inconsiderable size, became proportionally extensive. The Murray increased
in breadth to more than four hundred yards, with a depth of twenty feet
of water close into the shore, and in fact formed itself into a safe and
navigable stream for any vessels of the minor class. On the 6th the cliffs
partially ceased, and on the 7th they gave place to undulating and
picturesque hills, beneath which thousands of acres of the richest flats
extended, covered, however, with reeds, and apparently subject to overflow
at any unusual rise of the river.

It is remarkable that the view from the hills was always confined.--We
were apparently running parallel to a continuation of the ranges we had
seen on the 2nd, but they were seldom visible. The country generally
seemed darkly wooded, and had occasional swells upon it, but it was one
of no promise; the timber, chiefly box and pine, being of a poor growth,
and its vegetation languid. On the 8th the hills upon the left wore a
bleak appearance, and the few trees upon them were cut down as if by the
prevailing winds. At noon we could not observe any land at the extremity
of a reach we had just entered; some gentle hills still continued to form
the left lank of the river, but the right was hid from us by high reeds.
I consequently landed to survey the country from the nearest eminence, and
found that we were just about to enter an extensive lake which stretched
away to the S.W., the line of water meeting the horizon in that direction.
Some tolerably lofty ranges were visible to the westward at the distance
of forty miles, beneath which that shore was lost in haze. A hill, which I
prejudged to be Mount Lofty, bearing by compass S. 141 degrees W. More to
the northward, the country was low and unbacked by any elevations. A bold
promontory, which projected into the lake at the distance of seven
leagues, ended the view to the south along the eastern shore; between
which and the river the land also declined. The prospect altogether was
extremely gratifying, and the lake appeared to be a fitting reservoir for
the whole stream which had led us to it.

In the evening we passed the entrance; but a strong southerly wind heading
us, we did not gain more than nine miles. In the morning it shifted to the
N.E. where we stood out for the promontory on a S.S.W. course. At noon we
were abreast of it, when a line of sand hummocks was ahead, scarcely
visible in consequence of the great refraction about them; but an open sea
behind us from the N.N.W. to the N.N.E. points of the compass. A meridian
altitude observed here, placed us in 35 degrees 25 minutes 15 seconds
S. lat.--At 1, I changed our course a little to the westward, and at
4 p.m. entered an arm of the lake leading W.S.W. On the point, at the
entrance, some natives had assembled, but I could not communicate with
them. They were both painted and armed, and evidently intended to resist
our landing. Wishing, however, to gain some information from them,
I proceeded a short distance below their haunt, and landed for the night,
in hopes that, seeing us peaceably disposed, they would have approached
the tents; but as they kept aloof, we continued our journey in the
morning. The water, which had risen ten inches during the night, had
fallen again in the same proportion, and we were stopped by shoals shortly
after starting. In hopes that the return of tide would have enabled us to
float over them, we waited for it very patiently, but were ultimately
obliged to drag the boat across a mud-flat of more than a quarter of a
mile into deeper water; but, after a run of about twenty minutes, were
again checked by sand banks. My endeavours to push beyond a certain point
were unsuccessful, and I was at length under the necessity of landing upon
the south shore for the night. Some small hummocks were behind us, on the
other side of which I had seen the ocean from our morning's position;
and whilst the men were pitching the tents, walked over them in company
with Mr. M'Leay to the sea shore, having struck the coast at Encounter
Bay, Cape Jervis, bearing by compass S. 81 degrees W. distant between
three and four leagues, and Kangaroo Island S.E. extremity S. 60
degrees W. distant from nine to ten.

Thirty-two days had elapsed since we had left the depot, and I regretted
in this stage of our journey, that I could not with prudence remain an
hour longer on the coast than was necessary for me to determine the exit
of the lake. From the angle of the channel on which we were, a bright
sand-hill was visible at about nine miles distance to the E.S.E.; which,
it struck me, was the eastern side of the passage communicating with the
ocean. Having failed in our attempts to proceed further in the boat, and
the appearance of the shoals at low water having convinced me of the
impracticability of it, I determined on an excursion along the sea-shore
to the southward and eastward, in anxious hopes that it would be a short
one; for as we had had a series of winds from the S.W. which had now
changed to the opposite quarter, I feared we should have to pull across
the lake in our way homewards. I left the camp therefore at an early hour,
in company with Mr. M'Leay and Fraser, and at day-break arrived opposite
to the sand-bank I have mentioned. Between us and it the entrance into the
back water ran. The passage is at all periods of the tide rather more than
a quarter of a mile in width, and is of sufficient depth for a boat to
enter, especially on the off side; but a line of dangerous breakers in
the bay will always prevent an approach to it from the sea, except in the
calmest weather, whilst the bay itself will always he a hazardous place
for any vessels to enter under any circumstances.

Having, however, satisfactorily concluded our pursuit, we retraced our
steps to the camp, and again took the following bearings as we left the
beach, the strand trending E.S.E. 1/2 E.:--

Kangaroo Island, S.E. angle S. 60 degrees W..
Low rocky point of Cape Jervis S. 81 degrees W.
Round Hill in centre of Range S. 164 degrees W.
Camp, distant one mile S. 171 degrees W.
Mount Lofty, distant forty miles N. 9 degrees E.

Before setting sail, a bottle was deposited between four and five feet
deep in a mound of soft earth and shells, close to the spot on which the
tent had stood, which contained a paper of the names of the party,
together with a simple detail of our arrival and departure.

It appeared that the good fortune, which had hitherto attended us was
still to continue, for the wind which had been contrary, chopped round to
the S.W., and ere sunset we were again in the mouth of the river, having
run from fifty to sixty miles under as much canvass as the boat would
bear, and with a heavy swell during the greater part of the day.

The lake which has thus terminated our journey, is from fifty to sixty
miles in length, and from thirty to forty in width. With such an expanse
of water, I am correct in stating its medium depth at four feet. There is
a large bight in it to the S.E. and a beautiful and extensive bay to the
N.W. At about seven miles from the mouth of the river, its waters are
brackish, and at twenty-one miles they are quite salt, whilst seals
frequent the lower parts. Considering this lake to be of sufficient
importance, and in anticipation that its shores will, during her reign,
if not at an earlier period, be peopled by some portion of her subjects,
I have called it, in well-meant loyalty, "The Lake Alexandrina."

It is remarkable that the Murray has few tributaries below the Darling.
It receives one, however, of considerable importance from the S.E., to
which I have given the name of the "Lindesay," as a mark of respect to my
commanding-officer, and in remembrance of the many acts of kindness I have
received at his hands.

Having dwelt particularly on the nature of the country through which the
expedition has passed in the pages of my journal, it may be unnecessary
for me to enter into any description of it in this place, further than to
observe, that the limestone continued down to the very coast, and that
although the country in the neighbourhood of the Lake Alexandrina must,
from local circumstances, be rich in point of soil, the timber upon it is
of stunted size, and that it appears to have suffered from drought,
though not to the same extent with the eastern coast. It is evident,
however, that its vicinity to high lands does not altogether exempt it
from such periodical visitations; still I have no doubt that my
observations upon it will convince His Excellency the Governor, that it is
well worthy of a closer, and more attentive examination, than I had it in
my power to make.

In a geographical point of view, I am happy to believe that the result of
this expedition has been conclusive; and that, combined with the late one,
it has thrown much light upon the nature of the interior of the vast
Island; that the decline of waters, as far as the parallel of 139 degrees
E., is to the south, and that the Darling is to the N.E. as the Murray
is to the S.E. angle of the coast, the main channel by which the waters of
the central ranges are thrown or discharged into one great reservoir.

Our journey homewards was only remarkable for its labour: in conclusion,
therefore, it remains for me to add that we reached the depot on the
23rd of March.

Our sugar failed us on the 18th of February, and our salt provisions,
in consequence of the accident which happened to the skiff, on the 8th of
March; so that from the above period we were living on a reduced ration of
flour; and as we took few fish, and were generally unsuccessful with our
guns, the men had seldom more than their bread to eat.

I regretted to observe that they were daily falling off, and that although
unremitting in their exertions they were well nigh exhausted, ere we
reached the Morumbidgee.

We were from sunrise to five o'clock on the water, and from the day
that we left the depot to that of our return we never rested upon our
oars. We were thirty-nine days gaining the depot from the coast, against
a strong current in both rivers, being seven more than it took us to go
down. From the depot to this station we had seventeen days hard pulling,
making a total of eighty-eight, during which time we could not have
travelled over less than 2000 miles. I was under the necessity of stopping
short on the 10th instant, and of detaching two men for the drays, which
happily arrived on the 17th, on which day our stock of flour failed us.
Had I not adopted this plan, the men would have become too weak to have
pulled up to Pondebadgery, and we should no doubt have suffered some

This detail will, I am sure, speak more in favour of the men composing the
party than anything I can say. I would most respectfully recommend them
all to His Excellency's notice; and I beg to assure him that, during the
whole of this arduous journey, they were cheerful, zealous, and obedient.
They had many harassing duties to perform, and their patience and temper
were often put to severe trials by the natives, of whom we could not have
seen fewer than 4000 on the Murray alone.

I am to refer His Excellency the Governor to Mr. M'Leay for any more
immediate information he may require,--to whom I stand indebted on many
points--and not less in the anxiety he evinced for the success of the
undertaking, than in the promptitude with which he assisted in the labours
attendant on our return, and his uniform kindness to the men.

I have the honour to subscribe myself,
Your most obedient humble Servant,
Captain of the 39th Regt.

The Hon. the Colonial Secretary.


Book of the day: