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Title: The Australian Explorers - Their Labours, Perils, and Achievements
Author: Grimm, George
Language: English
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THE

AUSTRALIAN EXPLORERS

THEIR

LABOURS, PERILS, AND ACHIEVEMENTS

BEING A NARRATIVE OF DISCOVERY FROM THE LANDING OF CAPTAIN COOK TO THE
CENTENNIAL YEAR

BY

GEORGE GRIMM, M.A.

MINISTER OF ST. PAUL'S, BALMAIN WEST, SYDNEY; AND TUTOR IN APOLOGETICS
AND SYSTEMATIC THEOLOGY TO THE PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH OF NEW SOUTH WALES

GEORGE ROBERTSON & COMPANY MELBOURNE AND SYDNEY 1888



TO THE MEMORY

OF THE LATE

JOHN DUNMORE LANG, D.D.

IN GRATEFUL REMEMBRANCE

OF MUCH PLEASANT INTERCOURSE

THIS VOLUME IS AFFECTIONATELY INSCRIBED



PREFACE.


The story of the exploration of Australia is one which we cannot
willingly let die. There are many reasons for keeping alive the
remembrance of such heroic deeds. It is due to the memory of those men
who took their lives in their hands, and, in many cases, laid their
bones in the desert; it is an act of gratitude on our part, who have
entered on their labours; and it is a kind of information indispensable
to every Australian who desires to know the history of his country. And
yet there is great danger of their being practically forgotten. The time
when the harvest of discovery was reaped has faded into the past, and a
generation is growing up not well informed on these most interesting
adventures and achievements. Nor are the sources of information easily
obtainable by those who purposely put themselves on the search. The
journals of the explorers, never too plentiful, have now become scarce.
They are only occasionally met with in private hands, where they are,
for good reasons, held as a treasure. A considerable number of these
works are to be found in the Sydney School of Arts, but they have been
withdrawn from circulation, and are now kept for special reference only,
in a glass case, under lock and key. The Government Library contains
the best collection extant, but even there it has been deemed necessary
to adopt restrictive regulations, with the view of giving the books a
longer lease of existence. This scarcity of the sources of information,
and these restrictions which fence in the few that remain, may be
accepted as a sufficient plea for the effort here made to popularize the
knowledge they contain. But I would warn the reader not to expect from
this small volume what it does not profess to give. In no sense does it
pretend to be elaborate or exhaustive. I have had to study brevity for
another reason than its being the soul of wit. It would have been a
pleasant task to write long descriptions of Australian scenery, and to
follow the explorers even into the by-paths of their journeys; but the
result would have been just what I have had to avoid--a bulky volume.
Yet, such as it is, I hope the book will be found acceptable to the man
of business, who can neither afford to be ignorant of this subject nor
find time to enter into its minutiæ; to the youth of our country, who
cannot obtain access to the original sources; and to the general reader,
who desires to be told in simple, artless language the main outlines of
this fascinating story.

Having written on a subject in no way connected with my profession, I
may be allowed to say, in a word, how my thoughts came to be diverted
into this channel. Probably they would never have been so directed to
any great extent had it not happened that the path of duty led me into
the tracks of several of the most eminent explorers. In earlier days it
was my lot to travel, in the service of the Gospel, most extensively in
the interior of Queensland, principally on the lines of the Condamine,
the Dawson, the Balonne, the Maranoa, and the Warrego rivers. In these
situations it was natural to wish for information as to the way and
manner in which those pastoral regions had been opened up for
settlement. Not much was to be gleaned from the occupants themselves;
but it fortunately happened that Sir Thomas Mitchell's journal fell into
my hands when amidst the scenes of one of his most splendid discoveries,
the Fitzroy Downs, and almost under the shadow of his well-named Mount
Abundance. The taste then obtained was sufficient to whet the appetite
for more, and the prosecution of this favourite study has issued in what
I may be permitted to call a tolerable acquaintance with the exploration
of Australia. About seven or eight years ago I wrote a series of papers
on this subject for the _Sydney Mail_, bringing the history down to the
expedition of Burke and Wills. The proprietors of that journal have
kindly permitted me to make use of my former articles in the preparation
of this work; but of this permission, for which I would here record my
thanks, I have availed myself only to a moderate extent. The whole has
been rewritten, some inadvertencies have been corrected, and the history
in its main outlines brought down to the present time. Although my
principal concern has been with the land explorers, I have, in the
introduction, given a sketch of the discoveries made on our coasts by
the navigators. So much was necessary to the completeness of my plan,
and also because the achievements of both to some extent dovetail into
one another. In the arrangement of the succeeding chapters I have
followed the chronological order, except in a very few cases where a
more important principle of classification will be obvious to the
reader.

As regards authorities, I have spared no pains to get at the original
sources of information, and have succeeded in all but a few unimportant
exceptions. In these cases I have derived some help from interviews with
surviving relatives of the explorers and several very old colonists. I
have also been indebted for further light to works of acknowledged merit
which have been for some time before the public--notably, to the Rev. J.
E. Tenison Woods's "Exploration of Australia," and to Mr. Howitt's
"Discoveries in Australia, Tasmania, and New Zealand." My best
acknowledgments are also due to the Honourable P. G. King, Esq., M.L.C.,
for the excellent notes he has written on the discoveries made by his
distinguished father, Admiral King.

That this small volume may be found to afford pleasant and profitable
reading is the earnest wish of

THE AUTHOR.

BALMAIN WEST, SYDNEY, _18th May, 1888_.



CONTENTS.


PAGE

INTRODUCTION--THE AUSTRALIAN NAVIGATORS 1

CHAPTER I.

THE PIONEERS OF THE BLUE MOUNTAINS 25

CHAPTER II.

EVANS'S DISCOVERY OF THE LACHLAN AND MACQUARIE 34

CHAPTER III.

OXLEY'S EXPEDITION TO THE LACHLAN AND MACQUARIE 37

CHAPTER IV.

HUME AND HOVELL'S EXPEDITION FROM LAKE GEORGE TO PORT PHILLIP 45

CHAPTER V.

ALLAN CUNNINGHAM'S EXPLORATIONS 53

CHAPTER VI.

CAPTAIN STURT'S THREE EXPEDITIONS 66

CHAPTER VII.

EYRE'S ADVENTUROUS JOURNEY ALONG THE GREAT AUSTRALIAN BIGHT 96

CHAPTER VIII.

SIR THOMAS MITCHELL'S FOUR EXPEDITIONS 110

CHAPTER IX.

KENNEDY'S DISASTROUS EXPEDITION TO CAPE YORK 144

CHAPTER X.

LEICHHARDT'S EXPEDITIONS TO PORT ESSINGTON AND INTO THE INTERIOR 152

CHAPTER XI.

MR. A. C. GREGORY'S EXPEDITION TO THE NORTH-WEST INTERIOR 163

CHAPTER XII.

BURKE AND WILLS'S EXPEDITION ACROSS THE AUSTRALIAN CONTINENT 167

CHAPTER XIII.

SEARCH EXPEDITIONS IN QUEST OF BURKE AND WILLS 182

CHAPTER XIV.

JOHN M'DOUALL STUART'S EXPEDITIONS IN THE SOUTH, TO THE CENTRE, AND
ACROSS THE CONTINENT 194

CHAPTER XV.

COLONEL WARBURTON'S JOURNEY ACROSS THE WESTERN INTERIOR 210

CHAPTER XVI.

THE HON. JOHN FORREST'S EXPLORATIONS IN WESTERN AUSTRALIA 219

CHAPTER XVII.

MR. ERNEST GILES'S EXPLORATIONS IN CENTRAL AND WESTERN AUSTRALIA 228

CHAPTER XVIII.

OTHER EXPLORERS IN WESTERN AUSTRALIA--CONCLUSION 237



THE AUSTRALIAN EXPLORERS.



INTRODUCTION: PIONEER NAVIGATORS.


The eastern coast of New Holland, as Australia was then called, was
discovered by Captain Cook, while engaged in the first of his voyages
round the world. Leaving Cape Farewell, in New Zealand, on the 13th of
March, 1770, and steering a north-westerly course, on the 18th of April
he found the new continent rise into view in one of its south-eastern
headlands, which was then named Point Hicks, but is now known as Cape
Conran, and reckoned within the territory of Victoria. Henceforward the
_Endeavour_ was navigated along the coast to its most northern limit. In
these southern waters no practicable landing-place was observed till
Botany Bay was reached. Here the good ship came to anchor, and nearly a
week was passed amidst the strangest sights and scenes. This brief
interlude being over, the northern voyage was resumed in quest of
further discoveries. Scarcely had the Botany Heads faded from the view
when another large inlet was sighted from the deck of the vessel, but,
unhappily, not visited. The point of observation being miserably
inadequate, the great navigator was all unconscious of his being abreast
of the finest harbour of the world, and having given it the name of Port
Jackson, in honour of a distinguished English friend, held on his course
without pause or delay. For a while all went well with the navigator,
but in an hour when no danger was expected a cry of "breakers ahead"
brought to everyone on board a sense of extreme peril. By dint of the
captain's superior seamanship, and his perfect command over the crew,
the ship was turned from the rocks in a critical moment, and the
expedition rescued from a disastrous termination. The locality of this
threatened calamity was marked by a projection of the land, overhung by
a conspicuous hill, to which Cook gave the respective names of Point
Danger and Mount Warning, positions which the reader will recognize as
now forming the coastal boundary between New South Wales and Queensland.
But the _Endeavour_ was not to finish her voyage without making a still
closer acquaintance with misfortune. Having unconsciously approached a
hidden danger in the far north, she landed bodily on a reef, and
sustained most serious damage. It was only after the sacrifice of much
valuable cargo that she could be floated, and then it taxed all the
skill of the captain and the utmost energies of his crew to bring her to
the nearest anchorage. The port of safety, reached with so much
difficulty, proved to be the mouth of a small river, which has since
borne the name of the Endeavour. The repair of the crazy vessel
occupied a period of six weeks, during which "Jack ashore" enjoyed
rather exciting holidays, making his first acquaintance with the
kangaroo and other grotesque oddities of the Australian fauna. Having
again put to sea, only one stage more remained, and this over, the great
navigator reached Cape York, the extreme northern limit of this new
territory. Cook succeeded in his object to a degree that must have
surpassed his most sanguine anticipations, and now took care that his
labours should not be in vain, but redound to the benefit of his
country. All that was wanting was a declaration of ownership, and this
he accordingly made on the spot: "As I am now about to quit the eastern
coast of New Holland, which I have coasted from 38° latitude to this
place, and which I am confident no European has ever seen before, I once
more hoist the English colours (although I have already taken possession
of the whole eastern coast by the name of New South Wales, from its
great similarity to that part of the principality of Wales), in the
right of my sovereign, George III., King of Great Britain."

This welcome gift fell into the hands of the nation in a time of need.
Transportation to Virginia having come to an end through the revolt of
the American colonies, the English gaols were being filled to overflow
with criminals, and a new outlet was imperatively required. Somewhere in
the world a place had to be found for a penal settlement. The
publication of Cook's discoveries came in the nick of time, and
delivered the Government from embarrassment. It was resolved accordingly
to establish a crown colony at Botany Bay, which had been fully and only
too favourably described by the circumnavigator. On the 18th of March,
1787, a fleet consisting of eleven ships, carrying 757 convicts and 200
soldiers, was despatched under the command of Captain Phillip, a retired
military officer. The voyage being somewhat circuitous, its destination
was not reached till the 18th of January following. Less than a week
sufficed to show that Cook's picture of Botany had more of colour than
correctness. The shores were found to be shallow, the roadstead exposed,
and the adjacent land ill suited to the purpose in view. Without loss of
time, the Governor, with his assistants, proceeded to examine the
capabilities of Port Jackson, which had been cursorily seen at a
distance by Cook and dismissed in a single sentence of his otherwise
copious narrative. The exploration issued in unmeasured satisfaction and
surprise. The party returned to the encampment with the tidings of a
harbour with a hundred coves, on the ample bosom of which all the navies
of Europe might ride at anchor. Orders to decamp were issued forthwith,
and the removal of the nascent colony was the work of but a day or two.
The spot selected for the permanent home is contiguous to the modern
Circular Quay, and was recommended for acceptance by a clear and limpid
stream that glided on its course underneath the indigenous copse. The
infant colony had its baptism of hardship, but was able to survive the
struggle for existence. The inauguration took place on the 7th of
February, 1788, when the settlement was formally proclaimed a crown
colony, in circumstances of no small state and ceremony.

The passion for discovery soon took possession of the new arrivals, and
the adventurous Governor placed himself in the front of this enterprise.
To us who live in times when Australia has ceased to be an unknown land,
their efforts in this direction may appear to have been small and the
results insignificant, but it should not be forgotten that the horizon
was at that time the limit of discovery, even in meagre outline, whilst
an accurate survey had scarcely proceeded a couple of miles beyond the
settlement. On the 2nd of May the Governor and party sailed off in the
long-boat for the purpose of exploring Broken Bay, which had been seen
and named by Captain Cook, but not entered. It proved to be the entrance
to a large river, expanding to an immense width, and abounding in
exquisite natural scenery. Having crossed the bar, three distinct
divisions of Broken Bay were explored, and to the last of which they
gave the name of Pitt Water, in honour of the far-famed English premier.
Next year this success was followed up with the exploration of the river
(the Hawkesbury) which here enters the sea. Large tracts of rich
alluvial land were found on both sides. In a short time hence these
fertile flats became the homes of an industrious agricultural
population, who frequently saved Sydney from the horrors of famine. This
voyage of discovery was continued as far as Richmond Hill (the
Kurrajong), from which position the chasm in the mountains was
distinctly seen, and the sentries which guard its entrance named the
Carmarthen and Lansdown Hills.

It was the exploration of the coast-line, however, that principally
engaged the attention of the infant colony, and for this work two men of
rare ability stepped to the front. In 1795, just seven years after the
foundation of the colony, Captain Hunter, having been appointed Governor
in succession to Captain Phillip, arrived in Port Jackson with the
_Reliance_ and the _Supply_, bringing George Bass as surgeon and Matthew
Flinders in the capacity of midshipman. These adventurous and truly
kindred spirits lost no time in girding themselves up for the work of
discovery. They had been barely a month in the country when the
colonists saw them start on their first expedition. Taking only a boy
for general service, and embarking in a boat not more than eight feet
long--very suitably named the _Tom Thumb_--they sailed round to Botany
Bay, thence up George's River, which was now explored for 20 miles
beyond what was previously known. The results were, the opening up of
much available land and the commencement of a new settlement under the
name of Bankstown, which is still retained. But the success attending
this adventure was eclipsed by next year's discoveries, which were
achieved under similar difficulties. The tiny _Tom Thumb_, with its
crew of three all told, again left Port Jackson for the purpose of
examining a large river which was supposed to enter the ocean to the
south of Botany Bay. Having stood out to sea in order to catch the
current, the voyagers unwittingly passed the object of their search and
were carried far southward. Bad weather now supervened; the little craft
was tossed like a cork on the billows, and finally beached in a heavy
surf with the loss of many valuables on board. Being now in want of
water, the party were compelled to leave the rock-bound coast and steer
still further south, in the hope of finding a more favourable locality.
Eventually they cast anchor about two miles beyond the present town of
Wollongong, in an inlet which, in commemoration of this incident, still
bears the name of the Tom Thumb Lagoon. The blacks, it was ascertained,
called the district Allourie, which has, doubtless, been transformed
into the more euphonious Illawarra. On the homeward voyage Bass and
Flinders made a seasonable discovery of a snug little shelter, which
they called Providential Cove, but which is now generally known by the
native name, Wattamolla. About four miles further north they were
fortunate at last in hitting upon the real object of their search. It
proved to be a large sheet of water stretching several miles inland, and
presented the appearance of a port rather than a river. The natives
spoke of it as "Deeban," but it is now called Port Hacking, it is
believed in acknowledgment of the services of a pilot of that name.
Having accomplished far more than the object they had in view, the
daring seamen returned to Sydney Cove, after passing through a
succession of perils and privations which give to their narrative the
character, not of sober history, but of wild romance.

The next important expedition was carried out under the sole conduct of
Bass. On his own petition the Governor furnished him with a whale-boat,
carrying a crew of six seamen and provided with supplies for six weeks
only. With so slender an equipment this born adventurer sailed from Port
Jackson on a voyage of 600 miles, along a little-known and possibly
perilous coast. One lovely summer evening, which happened to be the 3rd
of December, 1797, the little whaler with its stout-hearted crew bore
round the South Head, and bravely turned its prow towards its unknown
destination. Scarcely had the familiar landmarks dropped out of sight
when the elements engaged in tempestuous fury, and the storm drove the
adventurers to seek shelter first at Port Hacking, next at Wattamolla,
and again near Cook's Red Point, on the Illawarra coast. The headland,
under the lee of which the vessel took refuge, stands a little to the
south of Lake Illawarra, and still bears the name of Bass' Point. Not
long after the voyage was resumed he discovered the embouchure of a
river in an inferior harbour, which he called Shoalhaven, believing it
deserved no better name. Jervis Bay was next entered, but this was no
discovery, for it had been previously explored by Lieutenant Bowen,
whose name is still preserved in an island lying near the entrance.
Bass, however, had the good luck to discover Twofold Bay--a scene of
never-failing beauty, and a place of importance in our early history.
Passing rapidly southward he rounded Cape Howe, and first noticed the
Long Beach, but was unable to identify Point Hicks. He was now 300 miles
from Sydney, and whatever remained of the voyage was along an absolutely
unknown coast. Some important discoveries were made at various points,
but the most valuable portion of his labours was the exploration of
Western Port. Here he remained thirteen days, during which this
commodious harbour was carefully examined and fully described. A leading
object of the voyage had been to settle the question of the suspected
insularity of Van Diemen's Land. Bass had really solved the problem
without knowing it, for he had passed through the strait which now bears
his name. That it was detached from the continent his own bearings
rendered almost a certainty. To do more was impossible in the
circumstances. He had already been seven weeks from Sydney, which had
been left with only six weeks' provisions. These, though eked out by an
occasional supply of fish and fowl, were nearly exhausted, and the
homeward voyage was made on the shortest course. During an absence of
eleven weeks he had examined the coast for 600 miles south of Port
Jackson, the latter half of which had been utterly unknown up to the
time of this expedition.

There still remains for review another memorable voyage of discovery,
undertaken by Bass and Flinders conjointly in the year 1798. The object
of this expedition was to demonstrate the existence of the probable
strait and the consequent insularity of Van Diemen's land; and the way
it was proposed to accomplish this double object was to sail through the
channel and circumnavigate the island. Bent on this adventure Bass and
Flinders left Sydney Cove on the 7th October, in the _Norfolk_, a good
sea-going sloop of 25 tons burthen. The run over the known waters was
made purposely in haste, because the time was limited. Their cruise in
the channel disclosed a large number of islands, the haunts of myriads
of sea-fowl, particularly the sooty petrel, which, though far from
savoury, served as an article of food. This strange bird was found, like
the rabbit, to burrow in the ground, where it was easily captured in the
evening. Flinders says it was simply necessary to thrust in the whole
length of the arm into the hole, whence one would be almost certain to
bring out a petrel--or a snake. The alternative was not a pleasant one,
but the commander had to husband up the provisions and the sailors were
not unwilling to run the risk. The circumnavigation of Van Diemen's Land
(Tasmania) commenced at the northern point, known as Cape Portland.
Nothing specially remarkable occurred till a point was reached which
they named Low Head, immediately after which the _Norfolk_ entered an
arm of the sea more than a mile in width. This appeared to be a
discovery of sufficient importance to devote sixteen days to its
exploration. It proved to be the embouchure of what is now known as the
River Tamar, on which Launceston, the second town of the island, is
built. The discoverers sailed up the estuary, following its course for
many miles inland. It was found to be alive with aquatic fowls,
particularly black swans, sometimes numbering 500 in a flock. This
unexpected diversion proved rich sport, and afforded a pleasant
interlude to the monotony of life at sea. But the expedition was not for
play, but work, and the ship was again upon her course. After a short
sail to the westward they found themselves rounding the north-west cape,
and with glad hearts could perceive the shore trending away for many a
league to the south. The problem was already virtually solved.
"Mr. Bass and myself," says Flinders, "hailed it with joy and mutual
congratulation, as announcing the completion of our long-wished-for
discovery of a passage into the southern Indian Ocean." This fortunate
issue of their labours marked an epoch both in the history of discovery
and the progress of international commerce. The circuitous route round
the south of Van Diemen's Land could henceforth be avoided, and in our
day the intervening strait has become the ordinary highway for the
Australian trade. It being still deemed advisable to carry out the
instructions to the letter, the circumnavigation of the island was
prosecuted with varying interest. In the southern parts some valuable
discoveries were made, and errors of previous observers corrected. In
consequence of unfavourable weather the run along the eastern coast was
made for the most part out of sight of land, but on the 6th of January
it was found they had completely rounded Van Diemen's Land, and so
brought their work to an end. The time allotted for the expedition
having also expired, the heroic navigators returned to Sydney, bringing
the welcome intelligence that doubt was no longer possible concerning
the insularity of Tasmania, and the practicability of the intervening
channel as a highway of commerce. The merit of this latter discovery is
almost equally due to both navigators, but with a generosity which
reflects credit, and is as noble as it is rare, Flinders prevailed on
Governor Hunter to call it Bass' Strait.

What had now been done for the island of Van Diemen's Land by Bass and
Flinders conjointly was next to be achieved for the continent of
Australia by Flinders single-handed. Before his time much had been done
in enterprises of discovery on numerous and distant parts of the coast
by various commanders and by different nations; but as these efforts had
been conducted under no comprehensive plan, there was no continuous line
of exploration, and accordingly the discoveries hitherto made were known
only as _disjecta membra_, lying at wide intervals in the Southern
Ocean; but whether they were the extremities of one and the same
continent, or a cluster of sporadic islands, there was not yet
sufficient evidence to show. To settle this question was the true
mission of Matthew Flinders, and the method he adopted was to
circumnavigate the whole territory, keeping so near the land as to have
his eye on the raging surf, except when the darkness of the night and
the wildness of the weather rendered this purpose impracticable. On the
very day of his death the printing-press issued a record of his labours
in a couple of goodly quartos entitled "A Voyage to Terra Australis."
This name was proposed for the new country as a fair and likely means of
overcoming an acknowledged difficulty. The Dutch had long ago discovered
the western coast and called the country New Holland, whereas the
English, having performed a similar service for the eastern side, gave
the name of New South Wales to this and the parts adjacent. Herein lay
the difficulty; to call the whole continent New Holland seemed unfair to
the English, whilst it appeared equally unjust to the Dutch to give the
entire country the name of New South Wales. Flinders thought Terra
Australis would be a reasonable compromise, but added, in an
all-important footnote--"Had I permitted myself any innovation upon the
original term, it would have been to convert it into AUSTRALIA, as being
more agreeable to the ear and an assimilation to the other great
portions of the earth." The suggestion was a most fortunate one, in
spite of the innovation, and the remark shows that, among other and
greater obligations, we are indebted to this navigator for the name of
our country.

On the 18th of July, 1801, Flinders sailed from Spithead in the
_Investigator_ for the circumnavigation of Australia. The continent was
first sighted on the 6th of December at the old landmark of the Leeuwin,
which had hitherto been believed to be an island, but was now found to
be connected with the mainland, and henceforth known as _Cape_ Leeuwin.
Having visited King George's Sound, the run was next made along the
Great Australian Bight to Fowler's Bay and Nuyt's Archipelago. Other
navigators had visited this part and examined it with more or less
attention. All the knowledge gained in the next stage had the merit of
original discoveries. Foremost among these were Spencer and St. Vincent
Gulfs, with Yorke Peninsula intervening, and a large island lying nearly
opposite. On the latter they found no human inhabitants, but marsupials
and seals were seen in prodigious numbers, and hence the explorers gave
it the name of Kangaroo Island. Having never met with any of Adam's
children till now, the denizens of the island showed no timidity in the
presence of the strangers, nor expected any harm; and this indifference
was observed to continue much longer with the kangaroos than with the
seals. Flinders was of opinion that the kangaroos mistook their visitors
for a variety of seals, but the seals soon became too knowing to
confound them with kangaroos. A little sharp experience led both classes
of animals to regard the intruders as deadly enemies. From that hour
confidence departed and fear took its place. Shortly after the
navigator left this island a very memorable incident occurred. A sailor
from the mast-head reported a white rock in sight. On a nearer view it
proved to be the sails of a ship--of all things surely the last to be
expected in this unknown quarter of the world. Both vessels met in these
strange waters, and then the apparition turned out to be the French ship
the _Geographe_, also on a voyage of discovery, under the command of
Captain Baudin. The jealous Frenchman ill concealed his vexation on
meeting with a rival who had reaped the harvest of discovery over so
many leagues of a coast-line which he believed himself to be the first
to visit. Nor was jealousy his only or his worst fault. This
unscrupulous navigator had the audacity to proceed as an explorer in
unknown waters, and lay claim to discoveries which the Englishman had
just made. Flinders, on the contrary, acted like the model of integrity
which he was. He maintained the right of prior discovery in respect to
all the places he had been the first to visit, leaving to Baudin an
undisputed claim on such as he had already examined. This is the reason
why the names of localities to the westward of this point are
predominantly English, while those lying to the east are French. To the
place of meeting, as being a sort of double discovery, Flinders gave the
name of Encounter Bay. A minute examination of the remaining portions of
this coast having been rendered unnecessary, in consequence of Baudin's
cruise, Flinders now pushed on to Bass' Strait and entered an inlet
which he supposed to be Western Port. This conjecture turned out to be
a mistake, for the place, so far as Flinders was concerned, proved to be
a new discovery. Subsequently, however, he ascertained that the inlet
had been visited about ten weeks earlier by Lieutenant Murray, who had
given it the name of Port Phillip. Perceiving the importance of the
place, Flinders wisely devoted one week to the examination of the bay
and the exploration of the immediate neighbourhood. Having seen so many
capabilities of land and water, he put on record his opinion that "a
settlement would probably be made at Port Phillip some time after." This
hesitating prophecy was uttered as late as the year 1802, and the
locality in question is the site on which the great city of Melbourne
now stands, with its population of 300,000 souls! Having again stood out
to sea, the _Investigator_ was soon abreast of Western Port, the utmost
limit of Bass's discoveries, and now the vessel was considered to be in
known waters. A direct run was accordingly made for Port Jackson, and
Sydney was reached on the 1st of May, 1802.

Philip Gidley King was at that time governor of New South Wales, and
Flinders had the good fortune to find in him both the courtesy of a
gentleman and the kindness of a friend. Permission having been obtained
from the Admiralty, the Governor placed the _Lady Nelson_ at the service
of the indefatigable navigator, and in every possible way encouraged his
enterprise. Being thus supplied with all requisites which the young
settlement could furnish, the _Investigator_, accompanied by the _Lady
Nelson_ as tender, resumed the voyage of circumnavigation under
promising auspices. Since the time of Cook the north-eastern coast had
been visited in various parts by different navigators, but much yet
remained to be done before a correct map could be drawn up, and Flinders
had it among his instructions to supply the deficiencies of his
predecessors wherever that might be possible. Having taken the trouble
to find out what portions of the coast Cook had passed in the night, he
made it his business to keep a sharp look-out on such localities, and in
this way became the discoverer of Curtis Bay and other inlets of
considerable importance. He was able also to correct many of Cook's
observations, and being provided with better instruments, supplied, in
not a few cases, the shortcomings of several other predecessors. But his
most valuable services in this quarter were his observations on the
Great Barrier Reef, which for more than a thousand miles runs nearly
parallel with the northern coast, and had hitherto been viewed as the
terror of navigators. To pierce this obstruction and get out into the
open sea was an undertaking of so much intricacy that seamen were
accustomed to call it "threading the needle." Even Cook, prince of
navigators as he was, failed in the attempt. Flinders persevered till he
discovered a safe gap in the mighty rampart, and showed succeeding
navigators an easy escape from a grave difficulty. An outside course was
then followed to the extreme north. Having now passed through the
Endeavour Strait, Flinders came to anchor in the Gulf of Carpentaria,
where he found a new scene for his energies and a rich field of
discovery awaiting him.

The Gulf of Carpentaria had been early visited by the Dutch navigators,
but its exploration--if this word could be applied at all--had been
conducted in a desultory and piecemeal fashion. Its turn had come at
last, and the same painstaking service was to be rendered here which had
made the south and eastern coasts so correctly known. Flinders found the
gulf defined on the chart by a vague and hesitating coast-line, which
turned out, in most cases, to be more imaginary than according to
nature, and he left it so accurately described that his successors have
been able to add little to his careful investigations. In this patient
research four months were consumed, during which period he examined the
whole coast from end to end, including Arnheim Bay. The three seaboards
of Australia, south, east, and north, had now been explored in the
_Investigator_. It need not, therefore, occasion surprise to hear of her
showing signs of decay. This matter had to be attended to before
commencing the survey of the western coast, which was meant to be as
thorough as that of the other three had been. After making a call at
Timor with despatches, a rapid run was made for Port Jackson by the
western coast, but out of sight of land. Cape Leeuwin, the point from
which the circumnavigation had started, was reached on the 13th of May,
1803, and thus the heroic undertaking was virtually accomplished.
Shipwreck, tragic sufferings, and diabolical treachery cut off the
possibility of any further exploration of the western coast by Matthew
Flinders.

The work which was thus left imperfect through a long series of
misfortunes was afterwards resumed, and very satisfactorily completed,
by another distinguished navigator, Captain, and subsequently Admiral
King. He played a prominent part in this period of our history, and was
much beloved for his sterling qualities both of head and heart. He made
four voyages to the western coast, in every one of which excellent
service was rendered to the cause of exploration. The following
interesting abstract of his discoveries has been kindly furnished by his
son, the Hon. P. G. King, M.L.C.:--

"On the 4th of February, 1817, Lieutenant Philip Parker King, of the
Royal Navy, the only son of Captain Philip Gidley King, the third
Governor of New South Wales, was appointed by the Lords Commissioners of
the Admiralty to carry out a survey of the then unexplored parts of the
'coasts of New South Wales,' which comprised from Arnheim Bay, near the
western entrance of the Gulf of Carpentaria, westward, and southward as
far as the South-West Cape, including the opening or deep bay called Van
Diemen's Bay, and the cluster of islands called the Rosemary Islands,
and the inlets behind them. He was also to examine the coast between
Cape Leeuwin and Cape Gasselin in M. De Freycinet's chart, and to
complete the circumnavigation of the 'continent.'

"The Governor of the colony was directed to place at his disposal any
suitable vessel for his purpose, and accordingly the _Mermaid_, a cutter
recently arrived from India, of 84 tons burden, was placed under his
charge. Mr. F. Bedwell and Mr. John Septimus Roe (afterwards
Surveyor-General of Western Australia) were his assistants, and Mr.
Allan Cunningham, the botanical collector, specially appointed by Sir
Joseph Banks, the botanist of Cook's expedition. The chief of the Broken
Bay tribe of aborigines, 'Boon-ga-ree,' accompanied the little
expedition, and much service was obtained from him in the various
interviews with the natives.

"Taking advantage of the westerly monsoon, the _Mermaid_ commenced her
work, leaving Port Jackson on the 22nd of December, 1817, and,
proceeding by Bass' Strait, arrived off the North-West Cape on the 10th
of February. The favourable wind lasted till the beginning of March,
when the south-east monsoon obliged the vessel to be worked to the
eastward, for the purpose of running before it on her work. Having
examined the coast and islands as far as Depuch Bay, the survey was
resumed at the Goulburn Islands. Port Essington was examined; also, Van
Diemen's Gulf and the Alligator River. A survey was made of the northern
shore of Melville Island and Apsley Strait, till the 31st of May, when,
provisions drawing to an end and water failing, the little vessel
stretched across 'the Great Australian Strait' to Timor, and anchored
off the Dutch settlement of Coepang on the 4th of June. On the 19th
Montebelle and Barrow Islands were surveyed. Dysentery now attacked the
ship's company, and further work had to be given up for this, Lieutenant
King's first voyage, which, lasting 31-1/2 weeks, terminated in his
return to Port Jackson on the 29th of July.

"The winds not proving favourable for the passage through Torres Strait
by the eastern coast till February in the following year, 1819, a voyage
was made in the interval to Van Diemen's Land, and a survey was made of
Macquarie Harbour, on the west coast, and a departure was taken for the
second voyage on the 8th of May, during which a running survey was made,
including an examination of the entrance of Port Macquarie, from the
entrance of the inner passage through the Barrier Reefs at Breaksea Spit
to the Endeavour River, thence northerly as far as Cape York. A stretch
was now made across the Gulf of Carpentaria, and various parts of the
coast to the westward were examined, and Cambridge Gulf and Admiralty
Gulf were discovered and surveyed. A second visit had to be made to
Coepang to obtain supplies, to enable the vessel to return to Port
Jackson, where they arrived on the 12th December, after an absence of 35
weeks. During this voyage a survey had been made of 540 miles of the
northern coast, in addition to 500 on the previous expedition, as well
as on this occasion making a running survey on the eastern coast of 900
miles.

"The third expedition comprised a further survey of the 900 miles just
alluded to, and of the north-west coast in various parts. It may be
noteworthy that the cutter was rigged on this occasion with rope made in
New South Wales from New Zealand flax (_phormium tenax_). The third
voyage was completed on the 9th of December, 1820, having occupied a
period of 25-1/2 weeks.

"For the fourth voyage it was found necessary to purchase a larger
vessel, and, accordingly, Captain King, who had now received his
promotion, found himself in command of a brig of 170 tons, which was
thereafter called the _Bathurst_. The coast northwards to Torres Strait
was further examined. The Mauritius was visited, and the west coast
examined from Rottnest Island to the Buccaneers' Archipelago. The
_Bathurst_ returned to Port Jackson on the 25th of April, 1822, after an
absence of 344 days. Captain King was then ordered by the Admiralty to
return to England, to prepare his charts and journals for publication.

"It is impossible in such a short _résumé_ of his voyages to allude to
the numerous and interesting interviews with the aborigines which he
fell in with, further than to state that they were always conducted with
a desire to establish friendly relations. Captain King's services were
approved by the Admiralty, as he was entrusted with another command of
two vessels, to survey the southern coasts of South America."

From 1839 to 1845 the survey of the north-western coasts was continued
with the _Beagle_, first under the command of Captain Wickham, and
subsequently of Lieutenant Stokes. Soon after arriving from England, in
the close of 1837, the coast was examined from Roebuck Bay to King's
Sound, during which cruise the Fitzroy River was discovered and
navigated for 90 miles from its entrance. In another voyage to the north
the coast was explored in the vicinity of Port Essington, which was
found to be a spacious harbour. Whilst examining Clarence Strait they
made the important discovery of the Adelaide River, which was
subsequently described by Mr. J. M'Douall Stuart as one of the best
possible situations for a new settlement. Port Darwin was also
discovered during this voyage. The _Beagle_ now proceeded to Cambridge
Gulf, and discovered the Victoria and Fitzmaurice Rivers. The former was
navigated for 50 miles, and rather hastily described as one of the
finest rivers of Australia. The run was now made to Swan River, and
thence, after a cruise among the islands, to Port Jackson. In June,
1841, the _Beagle_ again left Sydney, to examine the southern coast of
the Gulf of Carpentaria. Some important discoveries were made during
this cruise. A fine river, which the explorers named the Flinders, was
found, and navigated for 30 miles. On the 1st of August they discovered
the Albert. Having ascended to a splendid sheet of water, which was
named Hope Reach, they found themselves in the midst of enchanting
scenery, which Captain Stokes thus describes:--"It was as glorious a
prospect as could greet the eye. A magnificent sheet of water lay before
us in one unbroken expanse, resembling a smooth translucent lake. Its
gentle repose harmonized exquisitely with the slender, motionless boughs
of the drooping gums, palms, and acacias that clustered on the banks,
and dipped their feathery foliage in the limpid stream that, like a
polished mirror, bore within its bosom the image of the graceful
vegetation by which it was bordered. The report of our guns, as they
dealt destruction among the quails that here abounded, rolled for the
first time along the waters of the Albert, breaking in on the hush of
stillness that appeared to reign over all like the presence of a spirit.
The country which stretched away from either bank was an extensive
plain, covered with long, coarse grass, above which was occasionally
seen the head of a kangaroo, listening with its acute ear to our
approach." It was not possible to ascend much higher than this reach, on
account of the fallen timber which blocked the channel. The explorers
then landed on immense plains, which, perhaps with too hasty judgment,
they named the Plains of Promise. During this voyage they had examined
the Gulf coast for 200 miles, making the discovery of twenty inlets and
two large rivers.



CHAPTER I.

THE PIONEERS OF THE BLUE MOUNTAINS.


Persons who have yet to make their acquaintance with the early history
of New South Wales will learn with surprise that the colony had been
founded for almost a quarter of a century before the Blue Mountain
barrier was crossed. For so long a period it was scarcely possible to
proceed more than forty miles from Sydney in any direction. Many a
despairing look must those early settlers have cast on the frowning
ramparts of the range, which, leaving only a narrow margin between
itself and the sea, threatened to convert the cradle of the colony into
a Procrustes' bed, to which its dimensions would have to conform in the
future, as they had done in the past. This sense of confinement was the
harder to bear that it was met with in a land of freedom; and many a
time did the caged eagle dash itself with fruitless rage against the
bars of its prison. A record of the unsuccessful attempts to get beyond
the main range would form a heroic chapter of our history, and one, too,
of which we might well feel proud, if there is any truth in the saying
that in great undertakings it is glorious even to fail. Within four
months after the arrival of the "first fleet" our annals present a
picture of Governor Phillip and party struggling laboriously westward
to the gorges of the mountains. In 1793 Lieutenant Dawes, with Captains
Trench and Paterson, put forth equally persistent, but just as
unsuccessful, efforts to scale the sandstone cliffs and reach the
interior. During this year, also, H. Hacking, of the _Sirius_, with two
companions, penetrated twenty miles into the mountains, passing over
eighteen or nineteen ridges or gullies, and returned to the settlement
after an absence of seven days. Three years later George Bass, the
famous, though unprofessional, navigator and discoverer of the strait
which still bears his name, did all that marvels of perseverance could
accomplish in the hope of forcing a passage by way of the valley of the
Grose. Taking a party on whose courage he could rely, Bass had his feet
armed with iron hooks that he might scale the cliffs, after the manner
of a spider, and made his men lower him with ropes into the outlying
chasms. But it was all in vain. After fifteen days of heroic endeavour,
he returned to Sydney, bringing the cold comfort of impossibility of
transit. Bass assured his fellow-colonists that a passage over the Blue
Mountains did not exist, even for a person on foot. It is possible that
this strong statement was disproved almost immediately after. A
tradition, not too well authenticated, speaks of a convict of the name
of Wilson actually crossing the mountains in 1799. With another advance
we get better footing, and read of a Lieutenant Barrellier making a
similar attempt, but only to add another name to the list of failures.
Two years later an effort of a more promising character was made by a
botanist of the name of Cayley, who pushed his way into the heart of the
mountains as far as the present Numantia, where he erected a cairn of
stones to mark the furthest limit of exploration to the west. He left
his rude monument without a name, but Governor Macquarie, in a sportive
mood, called it "Cayley's Repulse," and by this brand it is still
remembered by old colonists. The late Dr. Lang thus refers to it in his
"History":--"The place was pointed out to me by a respectable settler of
the Bathurst district on crossing the mountains for the first time in
the year 1826. It is certainly a most remarkable locality, nothing being
visible in any direction but immense masses of weather-beaten sandstone
rocks, towering over each other in all the sublimity of desolation;
quite a deep chasm, intersecting a lofty ridge covered with blasted
trees, seems to present an insurmountable barrier to all further
progress."

At this outpost discovery appears to have stood still for a considerable
period. If further attempts were entered on in the succeeding years very
little has been said about them. The settlers must have made up their
minds for the time being to submit to the inevitable and reconcile
themselves to the situation with the best consolation they could find.
But a pressing emergency assailed them before long which aroused the
slumbering energy and led to another assault on the western ramparts. A
continuous drought had succeeded equally disastrous floods in the
Hawkesbury. The live stock of the settlement had by this time increased
to 65,121 sheep, 21,343 horned cattle, and 1,891 horses, and all these
had to be kept during a season of drought on an area of 80 miles by 40,
the greater part of which in the best of times was hopelessly sterile.
In this trying situation it became very manifest that one of two
alternatives had to be faced--either the Blue Mountain barrier must be
forced at all hazards and a way found into the interior, or, should this
prove to be absolutely impossible, the surplus stock would have to be
removed from the colony, if they were not to perish from starvation. The
crisis was a serious one, but it happily called forth an effectual
remedy. Three most capable men now came to the front to scale the
mountain ramparts from which so many assailants had already been cast
down; and now, at last, fortune was pleased to smile on the enterprise.
The foremost of this memorable trio was Gregory Blaxland, a native of
Kent, and born of an old English family in 1779. The second on the
expedition was William Lawson, who was formerly lieutenant in the 102nd
regiment, but had latterly retired to "Veteran Hall," his own country
seat near Prospect. These two leaders, on whom the whole responsibility
devolved, were joined by a third person, then wholly unknown, but who
afterwards made for himself a name not to be forgotten in New South
Wales. This was the embryo patriot and statesman, William Charles
Wentworth. Blaxland was now in his 35th year, Lawson about the same
age, but Wentworth was barely out of his 'teens, and professedly joined
the expedition in a freak of youthful adventure.

This memorable expedition, consisting of the three parties named,
together with four attendants, a few pack horses, and several hunting
dogs, left Blaxland's farm, at South Creek, on the 11th of May, 1813.
The same afternoon the Nepean was crossed at Emu Ford, and the first
encampment made the same evening at the foot of the mountains which had
so long marked the western boundary of the settlement. The plan they
resolved to follow was to adhere to the dividing ridge or watershed
between the Warragumby and Grose Rivers, being careful to head all the
tributaries departing to the right or to the left. This determination
proved the secret of their ultimate success, and put the explorers in
possession of the only key to the situation. Next morning the Emu Plains
were left behind and the ascent of the mountains commenced. The high
land of Grose Head is noted as being about seven miles to the
north-east, and the place where the ascent began must have been
considerably to the north of the present Zig-zag, and near the starting
point of the original Bathurst-road. Having scaled the steepest part of
the ridge, here about 800 feet high, the travellers were careful to head
all the watercourses on both sides, in the hope of finding that the
highest ground would also be continuous. The first day's progress
amounted to a little over three miles, generally in a south-western
direction, and the night's encampment was made at the head of a deep
gully, where a small supply of water was found in the rock. Next morning
a start was made about 9 o'clock. After proceeding about a mile they had
the good luck to hit upon a large tract of forest land. Here was
discovered the track of a European, who had marked the trees. This belt
of open country ceased about two miles ahead, at which point further
progress was obstructed by impenetrable brushwood. The remainder of the
day having been consumed in fruitless efforts to round this obstacle,
the night was spent in the former position. Next morning the axes were
early at work hewing a track through the scrub, which could neither be
avoided nor penetrated. This step-by-step progress had to be endured for
five miles, until a more open patch was reached. Nor was this an
exceptional case. A great part of the route over the mountains had in
like manner to be laid open by the axe, thus making it necessary to
travel three times over the same ground. First, the track had to be cut
out; next, they had to return for the horses; and then the real advance
was made for another stage. On the fifth day the brushwood proved so
formidable that their progress did not exceed two miles. The following
day was Sunday, and the explorers enjoyed the Sabbath rest as much as
any toil-worn slave that ever breathed. On the 17th the horses were
loaded with a supply of grass, as the country was becoming still more
inhospitable, and an advance of seven miles was made through a track
which the axe had laid open. But the windings of the watershed now
appeared interminable, and the real progress, if measured in a straight
line, was small indeed. Yet it was only by this tedious course that the
mountains could be crossed, if crossed at all. The locality of the next
encampment was destitute of water, and what could be obtained in the
vicinity had to be carried up a precipitous cliff 600 feet in height.
The horses had to shift as they best could for that evening. To
aggravate matters, if such a thing were possible, a more serious
obstacle now rose in front of the intrepid explorers. The ridge, which
was their only hope, contracted to a width of 20 feet, and appeared to
terminate in a huge rock rising 30 feet directly in front. But
perseverance, which overcomes all things, brought them safely over this
barrier too. Wednesday, the 19th, was a red-letter day, for they now
reached the summit of the second elevation of the main range. The site
also was suitable for a camp, and offered a good supply of grass and
water. Next day a five-mile stage was accomplished, and the camp formed
on the margin of a lagoon with a small stream of water running through
it. Here the horses were left till the men had cut another day's march
through the scrub. Soon after the ridge began to widen, but proved to be
more rocky than ever. From the 22nd to the 28th the advance was made at
much the same rate and without any incidents calling for particular
remark. At last the pioneers had the inexpressible satisfaction of
finding themselves on the western fall of the mountains. But the slopes
facing the interior were exceedingly rugged, and a practicable descent
was nearly despaired of. After much difficulty a barely feasible one was
discovered, by means of which the party got clear of the mountains and
found themselves in a lovely valley, afterwards called the Yale of
Clwydd, and now well known as the site of the town of Hartley.

Now, at last, the Blue Mountains had been crossed, but the pioneers
continued their journey a short distance further, to make sure that
every obstacle had been overcome. After leaving the range they advanced
two miles to the westward on the same day, and encamped on the bank of a
fine stream, probably what was afterwards known as the Rivulet, and now,
by an absurd blunder in spelling, the River Lett. The last encampment
was made on another brook, since called Farmer's Creek, but not from any
connection with the farming interest. Here Sir Thomas Mitchell lost his
favourite horse "Farmer," and considered the event of sufficient
importance to have its remembrance preserved in the name of the creek.
From this outpost of the expedition Blaxland went forth on the last
afternoon of May, 1813, and ascended a neighbouring hill, from the top
of which he beheld a magnificent expanse of pastoral country,
sufficient, in his reckoning, to meet the wants of the colony for thirty
years to come. This being the extreme point reached in this enterprise,
Governor Macquarie paid the leader a well-merited compliment in
associating the name of Blaxland with this memorable peak.

The object of the journey being now happily attained, it was judged
unnecessary to travel further. Twenty days had been spent in forcing a
passage through the formidable mountain barrier, and the progress had
been so slow that not much more than three miles per day had been
averaged. The actual distance travelled along this tortuous ridge was
reckoned at fifty miles, and eight more had been added on the other
side. The return journey calls for no detailed remarks. The explorers
were greatly fatigued, in very poor health, and their clothes had been
torn to rags. Their outward track had been too laboriously hewn through
the brushwood to be difficult to find on their return. The colonists at
Sydney hailed with welcome the tidings of this signal success, and lost
no time in turning the wished-for discovery to practical account.



CHAPTER II.

SURVEYOR EVANS'S DISCOVERY OF THE LACHLAN AND MACQUARIE RIVERS AND THE
BATHURST PLAINS.


Delighted with the success which had rewarded the Blue Mountain
enterprise, Governor Macquarie took prompt action in following up this
conquest over nature's barrier. A new and very capable man was now ready
to enter the field. This was Mr. George W. Evans, who at that time
filled the office of Deputy-Surveyor. His name occupies an honourable
place in our early annals. It were to be wished we had fuller
particulars of this first effort of his in the exploration of the colony
than are now to hand. The following brief sketch embodies all that is
really known on this subject:--He was absent only seven weeks on his
first journey, and in 21 days had penetrated 98 miles beyond the most
advanced camp of his predecessors. This new explorer crossed the Nepean
at Emu Ford on the 20th of November, 1813, and, six days after, arrived
at the termination of the journey of the Blue Mountain pioneers.
Proceeding westward, he crossed a well-grassed but broken and rugged
country, which was subsequently called the Clarence Hilly Range. By the
30th he had reached the dividing ridge which forms the watershed between
the eastern and western streams. Soon after this he discovered, in a
well-grassed valley, the head waters of a stream that abounded in fish,
and hence received the name of the Fish River. He continued to trace it,
winding its course through a fine country, suitable for agricultural and
grazing purposes, till the 7th of December, when it was joined by
another stream, which he named the Campbell. To the river which was thus
formed by these tributaries he gave the name of the Macquarie, after the
Governor, but the natives called it the Wambool. Continuing on the lead
of the Macquarie, he followed it through rich alluvial land--the
Bathurst Plains--destitute of timber, but abounding in game. During the
whole journey Evans met with only six natives, but saw the smoke of
their encampments in many places. He returned to Sydney on the 8th of
January, 1814. After a short interval he was again sent out to the same
district, with a small party and one month's provisions. During this
second journey Limestone Creek was discovered and explored; but its
chief result was the discovery of another large river, which he called
the Lachlan, after the Christian name of the Governor. The Lachlan and
the Macquarie formed an enigma to the early geographers. Their sources
were in the same neighbourhood, but both flowed towards the interior and
kept diverging from one another during every mile of their known course.

The proper sequel to Evans's discoveries was the formation of a road
over the mountains to Bathurst Plains. This was done in the same year by
gangs of convicts under the command of one Cox, in an incredibly short
space of time, as tradition reports. This road, 100 miles in length, was
formally opened in May, 1815, by the Governor and Mrs. Macquarie, who
rode the whole distance on horseback. Bathurst was then laid out, and
has ever since continued to be one of the most flourishing places in the
colony, as might well be expected from a town which commands 50,000
acres of first-class land within a radius of ten miles.



CHAPTER III.

OXLEY'S EXPEDITIONS TO THE LACHLAN AND MACQUARIE RIVERS.


The passion for exploration was not yet allowed to slumber.
Deputy-Surveyor Evans's discovery of the Bathurst Plains, with two
promising rivers, only whetted the desire for further knowledge. It was
presumed that the Lachlan and the Macquarie united their waters in some
part of their course and finally disembogued in an unknown part of the
eastern coast. But all this was mere conjecture, which required to be
cleared up by actual exploration. A new expedition was accordingly set
on foot by the Governor, and a fit person appointed to the post of
leader. This was the Surveyor-General, John Oxley, R.N., who appears to
have been both an able and amiable man, combining the _fortiter in re_
with the _suaviter in modo_. Allan Cunningham, who was his close
associate, always spoke of Oxley in terms of admiration and endearment.
Among other meritorious services he had the credit of giving to New
South Wales the first map of her immense territories, a task for which
he was well qualified by extensive colonial travel in his official
capacity.


I.

This expedition, as finally organized under the conduct of Oxley,
consisted of Allan Cunningham, as king's botanist, Charles Frazer, as
colonial botanist, William Parr, as mineralogist, and eight others. On
the 20th of April, 1817, all the members of the expedition met at a
store depôt on the bank of the Lachlan River, which had been fixed as
the point of departure. The details of their weary wanderings have been
recorded only at too great length in Oxley's published journals. The
author in the commencement of his work apologized for the uneventful
character of the narrative, and if this was necessary when enthusiasm
for exploration was at fever heat, the reader of the present day is not
likely to consider it superfluous. The fault, however, did not lie with
the writer, but is to be attributed to the uninteresting materials which
form the staple of his bulky volumes. The country he had to traverse
soon turned out to be singularly tame and tedious. The sea coast, with
its never-ending scenes of beauty, had been left far behind; the
mountain ranges, with their vast and varied grandeur, had sunk below the
horizon, and in place of both were found only the dull and dreary plains
of the Australian bush. Were it not that the whole of the country was
new, this record of daily travel would read like the diary of a
conscientious but uneventful life. It will be desirable, therefore, to
touch only on the chief points of the narrative.

Starting from the point previously indicated, the party proceeded on
their travels along the southern bank of the river. Wild fowl appeared
in large numbers, offering excellent sport. The natives also were met
with more frequently than would have been agreeable had they been
disposed to be troublesome, which, fortunately, they were not. The one
thing which surprised the explorers was the behaviour of the Lachlan,
which, after showing itself a goodly river of a hundred feet in width,
threatened to end its career in a most undignified fashion. This it very
soon did, as they believed, by resolving itself into a succession of
marshes, to which they gave the name of the Lachlan Swamps. Being unable
to trace the river any further, Oxley now resolved to abandon the
enterprise and return home by a different route. He made up his mind,
accordingly, to make for the southern coast, which he hoped to strike
about Cape Northumberland, and thence reach Sydney by sea. In this
direction the course was steered till the 4th of July, when further
progress became extremely difficult, from the sterility of the country
and almost interminable forests of mallee, which Oxley, in a play of the
imagination, named the Euryalean scrub. At last it became apparent to
all that they would have to return to the Lachlan, through the want of
water, if for no other cause, and this was now done. The retrograde
movement was singularly unfortunate. Had they proceeded only twenty
miles further the Murrumbidgee would have been discovered, with its
never-failing volume of water. But, in their ignorance, it was otherwise
determined, and a laurel lost to the wreath of this distinguished
explorer. Nineteen weary days were consumed on this return journey, at
the end of which the Lachlan was reached, a long distance below the
swamps from which it had emerged, and was flowing in a strong current
confined within high banks. Waterfowl were again seen and caught in
abundance. Fish also were plentiful, some of them--the "Murray
cod"--weighing sixty or seventy pounds. This good fortune induced the
explorers to continue their journey down the river, in the hope of
reaching some satisfactory result. This expectation was not realized.
They were again landed among swamps and marshes, which were now regarded
for certain as the termination of the Lachlan, and the exploration was
conducted no further in this direction. Here, for the second time, Oxley
narrowly missed discovering the Murrumbidgee, from which he was distant
not more than two days' journey. The Lachlan had now been followed for
about 500 miles from the place where the expedition had started, and it
was resolved to proceed no further. A return was now made to Bathurst in
an oblique direction, with the intention of striking the Macquarie at a
point considerably below the place where it had first been seen by
Evans. Some important discoveries were made during this cross-country
cut. The Elizabeth River, Bell's River, and the Rivulet were met with
and named. Most important of all was the discovery of Wellington Valley,
an extensive tract of the finest country, well suited to all the
purposes of civilized man, and diversified with scenery of great
beauty. After travelling 150 miles from the lower swamps of the Lachlan
the Macquarie was struck about 50 miles below the place where it had
been seen by Evans. It was a river of good promise, and Oxley was
strongly inclined to follow it, as he had done the Lachlan, but the
slender remnant of provisions forbade the attempt. The expedition,
therefore, made for Bathurst, which was reached on the 29th of August,
after an absence of nineteen weeks. The distance travelled from start to
finish amounted to 1,200 miles.


II.

Undeterred by the difficulties incurred on the Lachlan, Oxley, during
the following year (1818), engaged in a similar expedition for the
exploration of the lower course of the Macquarie. Tracing the unknown
stream to the westward, he found himself led out of the region of hills
into a country presenting a dead and monotonous level. Here the river
began to lose its well-defined course and to spread its waters over the
dreary expanse. With great difficulty, he succeeded in distinguishing
the river from the lake for a short distance onward, after which further
effort in a wide waste of water was to no purpose. Now, at last, he lost
sight of land and trees altogether, though again able to discern the
current of the Macquarie in a stream three feet deep winding in and out
among thickets of reeds, which here grew to a gigantic height. Oxley
conjectured he had now reached the commencement of an inland sea--a
phantom which long played fast and loose with those who loved to
speculate on the mysterious regions of Central Australia. In this pet
fancy the explorer, like many other theorists, was quite mistaken, for
this delusive expanse of water was not even the termination of the
Macquarie River. Ten years later Captain Sturt succeeded in tracing it
for 66 miles further, and found it ending its dubious career in the
River Darling.

Two courses were now open to the expedition--either to return home
disappointed, or strike out in a new direction and make fresh
discoveries. The latter alternative was adopted. During an earlier part
of the journey their attention had been drawn to a lofty range of dark
mountains lying athwart the northern horizon. The march was now towards
this prominent landmark of the unknown domain of nature. Before it was
reached, and after the expedition had been out for about two months,
progress was arrested by the discovery of a river running in high flood.
This was named the Castlereagh, and a safe passage was obtained after a
short delay. There remained a weary journey to the range which had so
long loomed in the distance, and was reached after much difficulty,
owing to the boggy character of the ground. One of the principal
elevations was ascended, from which a magnificent prospect was obtained,
and the height ascertained to be about 3,000 feet. Oxley gave to this
chain the name of the Arbuthnot Range, but it is still most generally
known as the Warrambungle Mountains. The course of the expedition was
now directed toward the east, in the hope of ultimately reaching the
coast somewhere northward of Sydney. This purpose was rewarded by the
discovery of the Liverpool Plains, the most valuable find that had
hitherto fallen to the lot of any explorer. This is a splendid area of
first-class land, consisting of level country embracing about 17,000
square miles, supposed to have formed in past ages the bed of a small
inland sea. The next discovery was the Namoi River, called after Sir
Robert Peel by Oxley, but it is still best known under the native
designation. After traversing the Liverpool Plains the expedition
entered upon the very dissimilar New England country, and experienced
fatiguing travel in mountain ranges, which was rewarded by the discovery
of another river, named the Apsley. One of the loftiest peaks in this
region was ascended by Oxley, and found to be about 6,000 feet in
height. From the crown of this mountain giant he was gratified with a
glimpse of the Pacific Ocean, and very fittingly gave to his position
the name of Mount Seaview. Shortly after the descent from this monarch
of the mountains another important river was met with. Oxley called it
the Hastings, in memory of the notorious Governor-General of India, and
here, for once, the name has stuck. This river was now followed to the
sea and the entrance named Port Macquarie, hitherto unknown to
Europeans. The exploring party, having now done their work so well,
resolved to make for home by travelling along the coast. Difficulties
undreamt of were encountered in the indentation of the shore and the
estuaries of the rivers, one of which, the Manning, was now first
discovered. These obstacles might well have proved insuperable but for
their good luck in meeting with a boat, probably the relic of a wreck,
which was stranded and half-buried in the sand. The welcome treasure was
carried on their shoulders for 90 miles, and put to use in crossing
estuaries as they came in the way. With this unexpected help in time of
need the party were enabled to reach Port Stephens. This harbour had
been discovered by Surveyor Grimes and was now well known. Thence
conveyance was obtained by sea to Newcastle, where the toil-worn
adventurers found themselves once more within the pale of civilization.



CHAPTER IV.

HUME AND HOVELL'S EXPEDITION FROM LAKE GEORGE TO PORT PHILLIP.


Sir Thomas Brisbane succeeded to the Government of New South Wales on
the 1st of December, 1821. The work of exploration, which had received
such extraordinary impulse under Macquarie, was taken up with
corresponding zeal by the new Governor. The southern limit of discovery
at this period stood somewhere about Lake George; and public attention
was largely directed to the unknown country lying beyond this outpost.
The passion for exploration in this quarter had been discouraged, but
not suppressed, by a rash and unwarranted statement made by Oxley in the
journal he had given to the world. "We had demonstrated beyond a doubt,"
said he, "that no river could fall into the sea between Cape Otway and
Spencer's Gulf--at least, none deriving its waters from the eastern
coast--and that the country south of the parallel of 34 deg., and west
of the meridian 147 deg. 30 min. was uninhabitable and useless for all
the purposes of civilized man." This singularly unfortunate assertion
should have been affirmative instead of negative, for the principal
rivers of the continent enter the sea within the limits here specified,
and some of the largest tracts of good land in Australia are enclosed by
these lines of longitude and latitude. Governor Brisbane, fortunately,
was not convinced by this so-called demonstration, and felt disposed to
have the question practically tested. With this object in view, he
proposed to the late Alexander Berry, himself no mean explorer, to land
a small party of convicts at Cape Howe or Wilson's Promontory, with
instructions, under promise of reward, to find their way overland to
Lake George as they best could, and ultimately to Sydney. Mr. Berry
cordially fell in with the proposal, and recommended as leader of the
party a young man who had already made his mark as a bushman. The
latter, however, demurred to the plan of the expedition, wishing it to
start from Lake George and work its way overland to Western Port, in
Bass' Strait. This suggestion was adopted without scruple or delay, and
the offer of his services gladly accepted.

This young man's name was Hamilton Hume. He was a native of the colony,
having been born at Parramatta in 1797. In those early days educational
facilities were few, and it fell out from this cause that Hume owed all
the learning he possessed to the instructions of his kind mother. In
after life he was more indebted to his instincts than to his education.
A bushman, like a poet, is born, not made; and Hume, before leaving his
'teens, proved that genius for exploration was part of his nature. In
company with his brother, and when but fifteen years of age, he
discovered the district of Berrima, and shortly after completely
explored that part of the country. In 1817 he passed the southern
boundary of the known territory, and, in conjunction with Surveyor
Meehan, made the discovery of Lake Bathurst and the Goulburn Plains.
Again, in the year 1821, he proceeded further out, along with several
mates, and came upon the Yass Plains. All these discoveries, however
valuable for stockholders, may be regarded as but tentative essays in
the work of exploration in comparison with what was to follow; yet they
must have been highly advantageous in qualifying Hume for the arduous
expedition on which his fame must chiefly rest.

While the necessary preparations for this undertaking were afoot, Mr.
Berry intimated to the Governor that another person was desirous of
being associated with Hume in the position of leader. This was Captain
Hovell, of Minto, a retired shipmaster. Having been a professional
navigator, he was presumed to be able to reckon longitude and latitude,
an accomplishment which the defectively-educated Hume, with all his
bushmanship, did not possess. The two men being thus furnished with
complementary qualifications, their association in the conduct of the
expedition was counted as a certain advantage. This was surely a
reasonable expectation; but the event proved that a greater mistake
could not have been made. The two leaders, like jealous rivals,
quarrelled from the start, kept wrangling throughout the expedition,
and, after it was over, maintained a bitter feud, till death put an end
to their animosity. The principal share in this work, and credit for the
results, have been claimed by both, and it is not easy to satisfy
oneself as to the real merits of the case. All things considered, the
balance of evidence is in favour of Hume, and he shall have the more
prominent place in the following sketch of the expedition.

However favourable the Government might be to the progress of discovery,
a poor provision was made for this long and perilous journey. The chief
burden of the equipment fell upon the explorers themselves, who were ill
able to bear the strain. Hume keenly felt the sacrifice of a favourite
iron plough in order to purchase supplies. One way or other, a tolerable
provision was forthcoming; and then the explorers, accompanied by six
servants, started on the pioneer journey on the 17th of October, 1824.
At the close of the first day's march they encamped on the bank of a
river near the site of the present town of Yass. From the 19th to the
22nd the expedition was detained in its progress by the Murrumbidgee. In
the preceding year this river had been first seen by Europeans in its
upper course in the Monaro country; but for all that Hume had virtually
the merit of being the discoverer. The Murrumbidgee was found to be in
high flood, and threatened an effectual bar to further progress. But
difficulty aroused this explorer to Herculean effort. Being supplied
with a provision-cart, Hume took off the wheels, and, with the help of a
tarpaulin, improvised it into a rough-and-ready punt, which, assisted by
one of the men, he dragged across the swollen river. Another day's
march brought them to the Narrengullen Meadows, where the party
encamped for two nights. Again proceeding southward, the Tumut River was
discovered, and crossed without difficulty. Soon after, the expedition
was saluted by a splendid surprise. From the summit of a ridge, a little
before noon on a clear and beautiful day, the magnificent amphitheatre
of the Australian Alps, robed in snow, burst upon the view, and was now
first seen by civilized men. About this time, or shortly before, it
became evident to Hume that it would be necessary to direct the line of
march more to the west, in order to avoid the Snowy Mountains. From this
proposal Hovell dissented. Both leaders continued obstinate, and each
persisted in following a different course with his respective adherents.
A division of property had now become inevitable, and the principle of
partition seems to have been that primitive one in virtue of which the
stronger gets the larger share. There being only one frying-pan
remaining, each of the stalwart leaders simultaneously caught hold of
this handy domestic article, and the poor pan went to pieces in the
struggle, the result being such as would have followed the adoption of
Solomon's advice to halve the living child. The separation of the
leaders was not so irremediable as the division of the frying-pan.
Hovell soon discovered the folly of schism, and, better thoughts
prevailing, returned to re-unite his party with Hume's.

After this incident nothing calling for special mention occurred till
the 16th of November, which was signalled by the discovery of the
principal river of Australia. Here was an agreeable surprise, coming as
it did in defiance of the prediction of Oxley, who was reckoned the
highest authority of the period. Hume called this river after his
father; but, forgetful of this fact, Captain Sturt, having hit it in its
lower course, gave it the name of the Murray, by which it is now known
through its whole length. The party who thus found themselves brought to
a stand-still naturally looked upon the crossing of so large a river as
a formidable undertaking, and some even insisted on regarding it as the
limit of the expedition--perhaps homesickness also was beginning to
prevail over their ardour for exploration. Hume was inflexible, as
usual, threatening to throw one of the remonstrants into the river if he
would not cross over of his own free will. The menace was effectual, and
the heroic leader had the satisfaction of seeing the whole of the
expedition on the other side of the Murray, having escaped without a
hitch or accident. Soon after, a tributary, the Mitta Mitta, was
reached, and crossed by means of a float constructed of wattles, and
covered with a tarpaulin. Turning its course more to the westward, the
expedition continued to advance towards the attainment of its object.
Passing near the site of the present Beechworth, the Ovens and Goulburn
Rivers were crossed without serious difficulty. In fact, the whole
journey up to this point had been remarkably uneventful for an
Australian tour of exploration. But for the leaders' quarrels and
separations it might have sunk into a rather tame and monotonous affair.
Now at length, however, a Titanic obstacle had to be encountered. Mount
Disappointment (of which Mount Macedon is a continuation) stretched
across the track, as if to defy further progress. For a while they nobly
persevered in hewing their way through the dense, tangled, and
apparently interminable brushwood, being animated by the assurance of
Hume that the opposing barrier could be nothing else than the Dividing
Range, which betokened the near termination of their labours.
Unfortunately the life and soul of the expedition, now more than ever
indispensable to its success, here met with a disabling accident from a
stake. The way through the scrub had to be abandoned, and a more
circuitous route followed. The most serious difficulty on the march was
a boggy creek in the locality where the town of Kilmore now stands. Here
again an attempt was made to throw up the undertaking and return home.
Hume, feeling certain in his own mind that they could not have much
further to go, entered into a compact with the discontents, engaging to
turn back in the course of two or three days should the goal of the
journey fail to come in view within that period. On the same day, the
13th December, the Dividing Range, in this part known as the Big Hill,
was finally crossed, and all difficulties came to an end. Hume, having
proceeded a short way in advance, and keeping an anxious look-out,
observed an opening in the mountains and a falling of the land toward
the south. This was a clear token heralding the approach to the close
of their wanderings. Hume, alone as he was, gave way to an outburst of
gladness, and awoke the echoes of the ranges with his lusty cheers. His
men came speedily round him and shared his joy. Their fatigues and
disappointments were henceforth things to be remembered, but no longer
felt. The same evening they encamped on the splendid Iramoo Downs,
having the ramparts of the range at their backs, and in three days more
saw the long-desired billows of the ocean rolling at their feet. Having
reached the close of the journey, they formed the last encampment within
twelve miles of the present town of Geelong, after travelling, since
their start from Lake George, not less than 670 miles.



CHAPTER V.

ALLAN CUNNINGHAM'S EXPLORATIONS.


Few visitors to the Sydney Botanic Gardens can fail to notice a memorial
obelisk standing on a shady islet in the lower grounds. This monument,
as the inscription declares, was erected in memory of Allan Cunningham,
an eminent botanist, and for some time curator of these Gardens. But
beyond the scanty information here given, very little is now generally
known of the life and work of this worthy man. Restrained by that
modesty which is so often a concomitant of real genius, he shrank from
publicity during his own brief and busy lifetime; and posterity, ever
too forgetful of the obligations of the past, have allowed his
achievements to lapse into unmerited oblivion. This is flagrant
ingratitude which should be brought to an end by a generous endeavour to
resuscitate a heroic and patriotic memory.

Allan Cunningham was born at Wimbledon, England, on the 13th of July,
1791, and was of Scotch extraction on the father's side. Being
designated for the bar he entered in due time upon the legal profession,
but soon abandoned it as uncongenial to his tastes and habits. The study
of botany proved an irresistible fascination to young Allan, who soon
became a proficient in this science. Having been introduced to Sir
Joseph Banks, he obtained, through his influence, an appointment as
King's Botanist for Australia, with the view of furnishing the Royal
Gardens at Kew with a collection of new plants from the southern
hemisphere. He sailed, accordingly, for his destination; and, after
spending a short time in Brazil, landed in New South Wales, probably in
December, 1816. As noticed in a preceding chapter he was associated with
Oxley in his expeditions to the Lachlan and Macquarie rivers, and it was
during these wanderings that the young botanist conceived a passion for
exploration which did not leave him till the day of his death. This tour
being ended, Cunningham returned to Parramatta, where he fixed his home,
so far as he had one, during his life in Australia.

In the close of 1817, the _Mermaid_, under the command of Captain,
afterwards Admiral, King, was preparing to leave Port Jackson on a
voyage of discovery on the western coast of Australia. Cunningham, to
his intense satisfaction, received a letter from Sir Joseph Banks,
directing him to join this expedition, in the interest of botanical
science. Sailing through Bass' Strait the _Mermaid_ came to anchor in
King George's Sound and other harbours, which proved to be well suited
for the botanist's purpose, and yielded 300 species of new plants. With
this spoil he came home fully satisfied. His next essay in this field
was an excursion to Illawarra, which was always a favourite district
with him. But this ramble was only an interlude. In 1819 he again
joined Captain King in an expedition to the Macquarie Harbour, on the
western coast of Van Diemen's Land (Tasmania), where also he collected
many valuable specimens for the Kew Gardens. Soon after he was again
associated with the same navigator on another voyage to the
north-western coast. Still two more expeditions to the same coast were
undertaken and successfully carried out within the next two years. The
results in every case were highly successful, and the boundaries of
science gained further extension from these enterprises.

Having spent four years on these voyages with King, Cunningham became
inoculated with the spirit of adventure, and thirsted for an exploit on
his own account. The feat he proposed to himself was to open a practical
route from Bathurst to the Liverpool Plains. This splendid district, as
already narrated, had been discovered by Oxley three years previously;
but he had entered it from the western side--so to speak, by the back
door--on his journey from the marshes of the Macquarie. The discovery
had, consequently, been useless, and the Liverpool Plains were as yet
known only by name. Sir Thomas Brisbane, the Governor of the day,
entered heartily into Cunningham's scheme, having clearly understood the
importance of the object in view. Orders for an equipment were issued to
the full extent of the explorer's requirements. All things being ready
by the 31st of March, 1823, the party, consisting of the leader, with
five men, and five pack-horses, carrying provisions for ten weeks, left
Parramatta for Bathurst, which was reached on the 5th of April, and then
the northward journey commenced. After many weary stages, during which
the patience of the men and the strength of the horses were severely
tried, they reached the Warrambungle Mountains, which form the southern
boundary of the Liverpool Plains; but the difficulty in finding a
passage through this barrier appeared to be insuperable. The first
fortnight was spent to no purpose in attempting to discover an opening
on the south-eastern side. Almost in despair, the party retraced their
steps and fell back on a former encampment on the Goulburn River, the
principal tributary of the Hunter. Provisions were now getting short,
and the allowance had to be reduced; but, in spite of all these
dispiriting circumstances, Cunningham still resolved to prosecute his
enterprise by making another struggle to find an entrance from a
different point. Turning now to the north-west, and searching along the
front of the range, he succeeded at last, on the 5th of June, in
discovering a gap which afforded a good passage into the Liverpool
Plains. To this entrance he gave the name of Pandora's Pass, believing
it would become the chief if not the only means of communication between
the settlers at Bathurst and the Hunter River and the occupants of the
plains. The following memorandum was buried in a valley immediately
below the pass:--

"After a very laborious and harassing journey from Bathurst, a party,
consisting of five persons, under the direction of Allan Cunningham,
H.M. Botanist (making the sixth individual), having failed of finding a
route to the Liverpool Plains, whilst tracing the south base of the
barrier mountains (before us, north), so far as 50 miles to the eastward
of this spot, at length, upon prosecuting their research under this
great mountain belt, north by west from this tree, to the very extensive
levels connected with the above-mentioned plains, of which the
southernmost of the chain is distant about 11 or 12 miles N.N.W. from
this valley, and to which a line of trees has been carefully marked,
thus opening an unlimited, unbounded, and seemingly well-watered country
N.N.W. to call forth the exertions of the industrious agriculturist and
grazier, for whose benefit the present labours of the party have been
extended.... Buried for the information of the first farmers who may
venture to advance so far to the northward as this vale; of whom it is
requested that this document may not be destroyed, but carried to the
settlement at Bathurst, after opening the bottle."

This memorandum was found a few years ago, and the explorer's directions
carried out. The object of the expedition being now accomplished, the
party returned on the homeward track, and Allan Cunningham reached
Parramatta on the 21st of July, 1823.

In the next important enterprise he is found associated with Oxley,
exploring the country around Moreton Bay. They surveyed the Brisbane
River, pushing up the stream as far as was practicable in their boat.
It turned out to have but a short course, and they were disappointed in
their expectation of being carried for some distance into the interior.
Yet this labour had the negative value of satisfying the public that the
Brisbane was not one of the great rivers of Australia. The King's
Botanist again found rich spoil for the Royal Gardens at Kew.

During the winter months of 1825, being again bent on travel, Cunningham
started for a northern tour. Leaving Parramatta, he crossed the
Hawkesbury and proceeded towards Wollombi, one of the tributaries of the
Hunter River. Still pushing ahead he reached Mount Danger, then
Pandora's Pass, and entered upon the Liverpool Plains. These he now
found to be a region of swamps and marshes as the consequence of a rainy
season. Having crossed this district as best he could, the ardent
traveller pressed on through Camden Valley and reached Dunlop's Head, at
no great distance from the River Darling, which, with a little
presentiment, he might soon have discovered and anticipated Captain
Sturt. But as the country was now beginning to dip perceptibly, being in
many places covered with water, which had accumulated during recent wet
weather, he deemed prudence the better part of valour, and abandoned a
hopeless enterprise. He was again in his own home by the 17th of June,
having travelled in all about 700 miles.

After a short season of rest, during which New Zealand was visited,
this untiring scientist returned to the colony and offered himself for
further exploration with renewed zest and zeal. The time was opportune,
for the Governor had been anxiously looking about for a suitable leader
to conduct an expedition to the distant north. Cunningham's offer was
therefore eagerly accepted, and ample provision made for his
requirements. All things being ready, the start was made on the 30th of
April, 1827, with six picked men and eleven heavily-laden horsemen. The
route skirted the western flank of the Liverpool Plains, and by the 11th
of May the party entered upon ground hitherto untrodden by civilized
man. A fine valley now opened to view, and was named the Stoddart, in
remembrance of an old friend of the explorer's. The Namoi River was next
forded, and by the 25th the hilly country on the west had sunk into the
plain. The scene that now lay before them will be best described in the
words of the leader of the expedition. "A level open interior of vast
expanse, bounded on the north and north-west by a distant horizon, broke
suddenly on our view. At north-west, more particularly, it was evident
to all of us that the country had a decided dip, and in that bearing the
line of sight extended over a great extent of densely wooded or brushed
land, the monotonous aspect of which was here and there relieved by a
brown patch of plain; of these some were so remote as to appear a mere
speck on the _ocean_ of land before us, on which the eye sought
anxiously for a rising smoke as indicative of the presence of the
wandering aborigines, but in vain; for, excepting in the immediate
neighbourhood of a river of the larger magnitude, these vast solitudes
may be fairly said to be almost entirely without inhabitants. We had now
all the high grounds on our right, or to the east of us, and before us,
to the north, a level wooded country." These plains which ran out
towards the western interior, having turned out to be drier than was
expected, the line of route was now directed more to the north and
north-west, with the result of discovering and crossing the Dumaresq
River, within a few days. The course next lay for some time through a
poor and inhospitable country in which the jaded horses fared badly
enough. By the 5th of June, this sterile belt was left behind, and now
the eyes of the patient explorers rested on one of the finest regions
they had ever beheld. For many a league north, east, and west the field
of vision was filled with a panorama of boundless plains, rolling downs,
and azure mountain ranges. This magnificent territory, rivalling a
principality in size, was clad with luxuriant vegetation and generally
well watered. The name Darling Downs was subsequently bestowed on this
fine country in honour of Governor Darling, and it now forms one of the
most valued possessions in the colony of Queensland. The average
elevation of this table-land Cunningham found to be about 1,800 feet
above sea-level. Had this worthy man performed no other public service
during his lifetime, the discovery of the Darling Downs would have
given him a strong claim on the gratitude of posterity.

Having now sufficiently realized the aim of the northern expedition,
Allan Cunningham ceased to push farther in that direction, and made
eastward for the coast. Here also was made an important discovery on a
smaller scale in the unexpected appearance of a fertile valley, with a
river of greater size than a mountain stream. To both the valley and the
river he gave the name of Logan, in compliment to the commander of the
penal settlement at Brisbane. The expedition tarried for some time in
this lovely vale, where both men and beasts of burden enjoyed
much-needed repose. Cunningham himself, who scarcely understood what
rest meant, botanized as usual, and examined the physical configuration
of the country. On a fine morning he scaled one of the impending peaks,
from the summit of which he obtained a comprehensive view of the
situation and its surroundings. To the south-east, at the distance of 60
or 70 miles, the towering cone of Mount Warning, the sailor's beacon,
rose in impressive grandeur; while towards the north-east the environs
of Moreton Bay were plainly visible. This latter revelation made it
obvious that the proper route to the Darling Downs would be from Moreton
Bay, by the Brisbane River, and through the Main Range. Hence it became
a matter of the first importance to find a passage through the
mountains, if within the bounds of possibility. An effort was
accordingly made, and an opening, as he believed, discovered, but its
complete verification had to be deferred till another opportunity. The
homeward journey was resumed on the 16th of June. On the 30th, the
Dumaresq River was crossed 50 miles above the outward bound track of the
expedition. In ten days more a large river was reached, and is now
well-known under the native name Gwydir. They next came upon a wooded
tract, reached by a descent of 1,200 feet, a sore task for the weary
horses. On the 19th the party were again on the Liverpool Plains, and a
few days' more travelling brought them to their welcome homes. They had
journeyed over 800 miles, and been absent thirteen weeks. One noteworthy
incident connected with the tour was the paucity of native inhabitants
met with in any of the districts. Only five times, from first to last,
had the black-fellows put in an appearance, and even then the explorers
had seen nothing but the colour of their skin.

Cunningham's health now began to give way, and he longed to return to
old England, to end his days in the land of his birth; but, before doing
so, he planned and executed another exploring excursion to Moreton Bay.
His principal object was to obtain certain evidence of the existence and
practicability of the pass, which he believed to have been already
discovered. After much rough work he had the good fortune to set this
question at rest and point out a passage into the Darling Downs, as he
had formerly done into the Liverpool Plains. This pass still retains
the name of Cunningham's Gap. The following succinct but sufficient
notice is found in the explorer's own notes:--"This pass, or door of
entrance from the sea-coast to a beautiful pastoral country of undefined
extent, seen from this point, was this day (25th August, 1828) visited
by Allan Cunningham and a convict servant, and the practicability of a
high road being constructed through it at some future day was most fully
ascertained. The pass is in latitude 23° 3' S., and longitude 152° 26'
E., and distant 54 statute miles from Brisbane Town." Four years later
he was able to carry out his purpose of returning to England; but his
heart was in Australia all the while, and he became impatient to get
back to its sunny skies and balmy air. On being offered the situation of
Colonial Botanist he accepted the appointment, and returned to the land
of so many of his labours; but his new office was not what he expected.
Besides keeping the Botanic Gardens, which would, alone, have been a
most congenial occupation, he was required to act as landscape gardener
for the upper classes and take charge of one hundred convicts, forty of
whom were lodged in the barracks within the Gardens, and for whose good
behaviour the curator was alone responsible. In addition to all this
drudgery he was compelled to grow vegetables for the Government
officials. Such servitude was breaking his heart, and it can surprise no
one to find him throwing up the appointment in disgust. This undignified
treatment of a man of shining merits is tartly alluded to in the
_Sydney Mail_ of the 29th January, 1838:--

"THE BOTANICAL, ALIAS THE KITCHEN GARDEN.--We have had frequently to
call the attention of the colonists to the fact that a kitchen garden,
under the pretence of a botanic garden, is supported in Sydney at an
expense of from £800 to £1,000 a year. We scarcely ever walk through
this garden without seeing some servant with a basket, carrying off
vegetables or fruit for Mrs. This or Mrs. That, the wife of some
official. Can't these people go to market and purchase their supplies as
independent persons do, instead of poaching on what is really public
property. Seriously we do say that such an impudent job should be done
away with. It is, in fact, so barefaced that Mr. Cunningham would no
longer consent to remain a mere cultivator of official turnips and
cabbages, and accordingly he has resigned the management of the Botanic
Garden in disgust."

This valuable life was now fast hastening to its close. Twenty-five
years of incessant labour, often performed under the most trying
circumstances, broke down a constitution never particularly robust, and
feeling this to be the case, Allan Cunningham retired from public view
into his own hired house--but only to die. At the early age of 48 years,
perceiving the hand of death to be upon him, he calmly resigned himself
to the will of his Maker, and died as becomes a Christian. He expired on
the 27th of June, 1839. Admiral King, who had stood his firm friend
during the quarter of a century of Cunningham's active life, refers to
his own bereavement in these touching words:--"Alas, poor Allan! He was
a rare specimen, quite a genus of himself; an enthusiast in Australian
geography; devoted to his own science, botany; a warm friend, and an
honest man; and, to crown all, when the time came, he resigned himself
into the arms of his Saviour without a murmur."



CHAPTER VI.

CAPTAIN STURT'S THREE EXPEDITIONS.


The next hero that steps to the front is Charles Sturt, captain of the
39th regiment, which was stationed at Sydney in the early days of our
history. He stands, beyond all question, in the first rank of Australian
explorers. His single compeer, Sir Thomas Mitchell, was more fortunate
in discovery, but it may be doubted whether he excelled Captain Sturt in
real capability for this work. The future historian will probably decide
the rival claims by bracketing the two names as holding a joint first in
Australian exploration. Naturally brave, resolute, and patient in
labour, Sturt was, moreover, a man of varied culture and extensive
scientific acquirements. As an officer in the army he had been
accustomed to command, and at no time did he experience any difficulty
in managing the several exploring parties under his charge, although
they were mostly drawn from the ordinary convict element at Port
Jackson. This influence over others may have been due to natural tact
even more than to acquired habit, but in either case it proved a
valuable qualification, and served him in good stead with the native
population as well as with his own men. His heroism often brought him
into situations of extreme peril, being sometimes environed with savages
well armed and out of all proportion to the number of his own men; but
his adroitness never failed to extricate himself and party from the most
imminent danger. Scarcely any of our explorers opened up so much of the
interior, or so frequently came into contact with savage tribes, and yet
his humane disposition preserved him all through his career from
shedding the blood of a single individual of that unhappy race which
others, with less excuse, have not scrupled to shoot down like dogs.
When stooping under the weight of years, with a constitution enfeebled
by heroic exertions, and so afflicted with blindness as to be unable to
finish his narrative without the aid of an amanuensis, the veteran
explorer devoutly thanked God that, amid all his critical encounters and
hair-breadth escapes, he had been saved from the necessity of shedding a
drop of blood from the veins of the Australian aborigines.


I.

As early as the year 1818 the Macquarie River had been explored as far
as practicable by John Oxley, the Surveyor-General. This indefatigable
traveller had traced its course into the far interior till it seemed
lost and appeared to terminate in a series of swamps, overgrown with
dense reeds. All his efforts to proceed further westward proved
unavailing, and he turned aside to other work, being under the
impression that he had seen all that was visible of the Macquarie. Like
some others of his time, Oxley had taken up with the idea of a
mediterranean sea which was supposed to cover the interior of Australia;
and such being his opinion, it was natural to fancy he had reached its
margin in those swamps of seemingly indefinite extent into which the
Macquarie poured its flood. During the next ten years Cunningham had
pushed as far north as the Darling Downs, while Hume and Hovell had been
equally successful in forcing their way south to Port Phillip; but out
west no progress was made beyond the goal of Oxley's explorations. But
ignorance of the interior hung like a cloud over the settlement, a vague
feeling of mystery kept curiosity awake, and a general desire began to
be expressed for fresh explorations in that direction. The times, too,
which in other respects happened to be signally disastrous, appeared to
be just as favourable for such an enterprise. A drought of several
years' standing was then devastating the colony; but this misfortune,
which brought ruin to the doors of so many settlers, seemed, strangely
enough, to be a strong recommendation to start an exploring expedition.
It had been Oxley's misfortune to examine the country during an
exceptionally wet season, and it was conjectured that floods had laid
under water the low-lying country on the further reaches of the
Macquarie, and thus interposed a temporary obstruction to the westward
advance of exploration. But now, after a drought of long standing, it
was hoped that the swamps, if not dried up, would at least be so much
reduced as to render the much-desired object more likely to be
accomplished.

Governor Darling, accordingly, determined on sending out another
expedition. In the all-important question of a leader, he was singularly
fortunate in selecting Captain Sturt. The latter took as his associates
Mr. Hamilton Hume, who had already gained his own laurels in
exploration, Staff-Surgeon M'Leod, two soldiers, and eight convicts. The
instructions received from headquarters were, generally, to follow up
the discoveries of Oxley, to endeavour to ascertain the "fate" of the
Macquarie, and to put forth the utmost effort to penetrate westward to
the furthest possible limit.

All the material requisites for the expedition were forwarded to
Wellington Valley, which at that time was the outpost of civilization
toward the west, and Sturt was instructed to form his depôt at Mount
Harris, which had been Oxley's most advanced encampment ten years
earlier. All preparations being made, the party left Sydney on the 10th
of September, 1828, under the command of Captain Sturt, who only a week
previously had followed the remains of Oxley to the grave. After a few
days of uneventful travelling through the settled territory, Wellington
Valley was reached, and, by the 10th of December, the explorers were
encamped at Mount Harris, the _ne plus ultra_ of their predecessors, and
near the supposed termination of the Macquarie River. Although ten years
had passed away, traces of the old camp were easily found. From the
summit of the mountain a good prospect towards the interior was
obtained, and a tolerably favourable impression left on the minds of
Sturt and Hume. The marshes were seen to be dried up in some places
altogether, and in others very much contracted, and, as the bed of the
river continued to be well defined, there did not appear to be much
difficulty in pushing the limit of discovery considerably beyond the
line at which it had stood for ten years past.

Following the course of the Macquarie for some miles westward, it was
found to enter a swamp of considerable size. As the sluggish current was
the only clue to lead them through this ambiguous tract of land and
water, it was deemed indispensable to keep to the channel at all hazards
as it meandered through the marshes. For this purpose Sturt here turned
to account a good-sized boat which had, with a wise foresight, been
provided among the travelling requisites. But their progress by water
proved to be less expeditious than it had been on the land, for the
channel wriggled like a snake, and the navigation was provokingly
hindered by snags. Gradually the course of the river became better
defined, but only to lose itself again in a labyrinth of creeks and
marshes. Puzzled and bewildered, with no hope of further progress in the
boat, Sturt and Hume resolved to make separate excursions to the right
and left, each taking his own complement of followers. Many hardships
had to be endured from heat and drought, while the results were not very
considerable. Sturt rode over 200 miles of desert country and was much
fatigued. The principal discoveries made about this time were Oxley's
Table-land and New Year's Creek, mistaken by the explorers for a branch
of the Macquarie, but which was in reality the Bogan River. Eventually
both sections of the expedition reunited and bravely struck out for the
interior, giving defiance to thirst and fatigue, and devoutly wishing
for something to turn up. They had not far to go till this desire was
realized. At a moment when they were not thinking of it, the foremost of
the party found their progress stopped on the bank of one of the
principal rivers in Australia. Its ample channel extended to seventy or
eighty yards in breadth, and its bosom was covered with wild fowl of
every wing. Almost perishing with thirst, both man and beast rushed down
the shelving bank, and in a moment were gulping down the water of the
welcome stream. Never did travellers meet with so "bitter" a
disappointment. "I shall never forget," says Sturt, "the cry of
amazement or the look of terror with which they cried out to inform me
that the river was so salt as to be unfit to drink." The cup of relief
was dashed from their lips, and they were left to the most gloomy
reflections on the future supply of this element. They conjectured, not
unnaturally, that this saline quality must be derived from near contact
with the sea, and anxiously watched for the slightest indications of a
rising or a falling tide, but to no purpose. The cause was afterwards
traced to briny springs in the river's banks, which must have been a
temporary occurrence, for the same inconvenience is not met with now.
The discovery in all other respects was clearly perceived to be of the
utmost value, and went far to annihilate the pet theory of an inland
sea, which thus kept receding further and further from human ken. It was
already evident that this noble river must play a principal part in the
drainage of the western slope of the mountain ranges, and we now know
that it forms the backbone of the river system of eastern Australia and
the highway of intercolonial commerce. Sturt, therefore, paid Governor
Darling no mean compliment in associating his name with this grand
discovery and calling it the Darling River.

The expedition now followed the lead of the River Darling for about
sixty-six miles. As the country continued to be inhospitable, the blacks
troublesome, and the supply of water precarious, it was resolved to
proceed no further in that direction. A return was accordingly made to
the depôt at Mount Harris, which was reached partly by way of New Year's
Creek, or the Bogan River, without any serious mishap being encountered.

Among the secondary instructions given to the expedition was a direction
to push northwards, if baffled and driven back from the western
interior. They had not failed in that quarter by any means, but as their
work there was finished, and a good supply of provisions left, it was
thought advisable to attempt a journey to the Castlereagh, which was
simply known to exist. In this effort they were again successful.
Having travelled by way of Morriset's Ponds, a sufficient supply of
water was obtained to help them on to the Castlereagh, where, of course,
it was expected to be abundant, seeing that Oxley had been able to cross
it after some delay and with much difficulty. But this anticipation was
doomed to disappointment. The bed of the river was found to be as dry as
dust. The explorers, after a long search, hit upon only one small pool
in the sand which yielded but a temporary supply. The Castlereagh was
now traced towards its supposed junction with the Darling for the
distance of 100 miles, 45 of which were destitute of water. But their
perseverance was rewarded with a second view of the Darling, which was
struck about 90 miles above the point where the original discovery had
been made. The stream here swarmed with fish, but was still salt and
unfit to drink. Having crossed over to the further side, a dash was made
by a short excursion into the interior, which proved, like the other
side, to be a parched wilderness. The state of the country as observed
throughout this journey is thus summed up in Sturt's narrative:--"So
long had the drought continued that the vegetable kingdom was almost
annihilated, and minor vegetation had almost disappeared. In the creeks
weeds had grown and withered and grown again, and young saplings were
now rising in their beds nourished by the moisture that still remained;
but the largest forest trees were drooping, and many were dead. The
emus, with outstretched necks, gasping for breath, searched the
channels of the river for water in vain; and the native dog, so thin
that it could hardly walk, seemed to implore some friendly hand to
despatch it. How the natives subsisted it was difficult to say, but
there was no doubt of the scarcity of food amongst them." Surely this
was no place to loiter in after the work was fairly accomplished.
Contenting themselves with the substantial discoveries already made, the
explorers resolved to return to the haunts of civilization. They soon
found themselves in the lovely Wellington Valley, from which the
expedition had been absent four months and a half. After another journey
through the settled districts, each of the weary wanderers reached his
home, no one having sustained any injury to life or limb during this
long and hazardous enterprise.


II.

Captain Sturt enjoyed but a very limited repose after the fatigues of
the Macquarie expedition. He had returned to Sydney about the beginning
of May, 1829, and in September of the same year his undying enthusiasm
was once more gratified with instructions from headquarters to get ready
for a full exploration of the Murrumbidgee. The Macquarie and the
Lachlan, terminating their respective courses in miserable swamps, or
being believed to do so, had proved delusive guides to the interior of
the continent. But the colonists were resolved to know the heart of
Australia at all hazards. It was still believed that some river must
lead thither, all previous disappointments notwithstanding. The
Murrumbidgee alone remained as an untried experiment, and the little
that was yet known of this river gave hope of a successful result. It
had been first seen by two military officers, Currie and Ovens, on their
discovery of the Monaro country in 1823, and in the year following it
was crossed with difficulty by Hume and Hovell on their journey to Port
Phillip. Here, at last, was a stream something like those of other
countries, rising in the Alpine mountain-land, and flowing with a strong
and rapid current in that direction to which the eyes of explorers were
being so anxiously turned. It was determined, therefore, to equip
another expedition, under the command of Captain Sturt, to explore its
unknown course, for the purpose of ascertaining whether it emptied
itself into an inland sea or found its way to the southern or to the
eastern coast. The party, under Sturt's leadership, consisted of Mr.
George Macleay, son of the Colonial Treasurer, Mr. Frazer, botanist, and
six others. Among other requisites a whale-boat was provided, which
eventually proved of the utmost service to the purpose in view.

The expedition left Sydney, in full force and high spirits, on the 3rd
November, 1829. Goulburn Plains were reached by the 15th, and on the
25th the Murrumbidgee was struck, not far from Jugiong. The appearance
of the stream was quite up to Sturt's expectations, but the rugged
country on its banks delayed the passage of the drays, and their
progress was not very rapid. In a little time they reached the junction
of the Dumot (Tumut) River, which considerably increased the volume of
the Murrumbidgee, and this addition was accepted as a good omen. In
their course along the river, sometimes on one side and sometimes on the
other, occasional plains were traversed, extending from 400 to 700 acres
in extent, and wholly devoid of timber. Lower down the river one of much
larger size was reached, and here the explorers were not sorry to make a
short break in the journey. The natives called this plain Pondebadgery.
Its size was three and a half by two miles, the soil being rich and the
scenery exquisite. On one side was the bend of the river, here 80 yards
wide, and abounding in fish, one of which was found to weigh 40 pounds.
Hamilton Plains were next discovered, and named after a favourite
staff-surgeon. The expedition, it was believed, had now come within 25
miles of the most southern point attained by Oxley. This notable
explorer, having reached the swamps of the Lachlan, and being thus
driven to his wits' end, resolved to strike southward and make for the
coast, but want of water determined him to return to the Lachlan, after
weeks of toilsome travel; whereas, had he only pushed on another 25
miles, the Murrumbidgee would have been discovered, and a new era opened
in Australian exploration. Sturt attempted to connect the surveys of
Oxley's expedition with his own, but was not successful. As travelling
continued to be slow and difficult, it was resolved to launch the boat
and build a skiff to convey the provisions. This was accordingly done,
some of the party being at the same time sent back to Goulburn with the
drays. Seven days having been consumed in these preparations, the
remainder of the party boldly committed themselves to the stream. Sturt
had a strong presentiment that the Murrumbidgee would join some other
river, and hoped to find it navigable for his boat during the remainder
of its course. On the following day a serious mishap occurred. The skiff
was sunk by a snag, and the provisions, after being much damaged, had to
be recovered by diving. The enterprise was a hazardous one at the best.
What with rapids at one time and snags at another, their lives on
several occasions were in real jeopardy. But the longest lane has its
turning, and this tortuous channel also had an end. On the seventh day
after taking to the boat the bed of the river became strangely
contracted, and the current so powerful that, in place of rowing, all
their strength was needed to steady the boat, which was borne along with
the swiftness of an arrow, and in another moment shot forth impetuously
into the broad reach of the finest river in Australia. "It is impossible
for me," says Sturt, "to describe the effect of so instantaneous a
change of circumstances upon us. The boats were allowed to drift along
at pleasure, and such was the force with which we had been shot out of
the Murrumbidgee that we were carried nearly to the bank opposite its
embouchure whilst we continued to gaze in silent astonishment on the
capacious channel we had entered, and when we looked for that by which
we had been led into it we could hardly believe that the insignificant
gap that presented itself to us was indeed the termination of the
beautiful stream whose course we had thus successfully followed. I can
only compare the relief we experienced to that which the seaman feels on
weathering the rock upon which he expected that his vessel would have
struck, to the calm which succeeds moments of feverish anxiety, when the
dread of danger is succeeded by the certainty of escape." This was
indeed a noble river. Its width was 350 feet, its depth not less than
12, and its current was running at the rate of two and a half knots an
hour. The discoverers believed they had now obtained ample reward for
all their toils and trials. This was the same river which had been
discovered and crossed by Hume and Hovell where the town of Albury now
stands, but between that point, where it had been first seen by
civilized man, and the part now visited by Sturt, it had received so
many tributaries as to make it a much larger and, in a sense, another
river. Sturt called it the Murray, after the Imperial Colonial
Secretary, but the original discoverer had named its upper course the
Hume in memory of his father. For a time these names were confined to
the respective parts of the river; and Dr. Lang censured Count
Strzelecki for departing from this usage in his published work. General
practice has now deserted the Doctor and followed the Count.

The number and persistent hostility of the aborigines formed a serious
obstacle to the progress of this expedition. It was computed that no
fewer than 4,000 were met with on the Murray. They were a low type even
for Australian savages, and did not give evidence of a single redeeming
quality. Addicted to every vice, living in the deepest sink of
bestiality, with bodies in many cases rotting with disgusting diseases,
they presented a loathsome spectacle, and were avoided whenever
possible. Even when not disposed to be openly hostile, their presence at
the camp was a terrible nuisance, and they were generally persuaded to
leave, or hunted away. Sometimes they would rally their forces, and then
prove not only troublesome but really dangerous. Like all savages they
were adepts in deceit, and could wait their opportunity when a purpose
had to be served. By dint of numbers and strategy together, they nearly
succeeded on one occasion in annihilating the expedition. So long as the
river maintained its usual width the boat was tolerably safe in the
middle of the channel, for the spears of the savages were nearly
harmless when they reached the centre of the stream, but their progress
was rapidly approaching a spit which stretched far into the channel, and
this position was seen to be occupied by blacks numbering more than
fifty to one of Sturt's party. The situation was awfully critical, and
in a few minutes more appeared to be positively desperate, for the boat
grounded in shoal-water, and the explorers were at the mercy of the
savages. Happily at this juncture some other natives, who had
previously been friendly to the white men, arrived on the scene, and,
through a somewhat barbarous style of intercession, prevailed with their
sable fraternity in the interest of Sturt, and the murderous attack was
immediately abandoned.

Travel through an unknown country is usually a series of surprises, and
it was no ordinary one that was now in store for the explorers. The spit
which had threatened to be so disastrous proved to be an embankment
silted up by the entrance of another large river into the Murray. Sturt
had already been looking out for the junction of the Darling, which he
had discovered on the previous expedition; and the question now to be
determined was whether this could be the embouchure of the same river.
He had struck the Darling at two points only a few months before, and at
both places its water had been found too salt to drink; here, however,
it was quite fresh; but in all other respects appearances were in favour
of this river, and the Darling Sturt maintained it to be. For years
after his decision was disputed, and even ridiculed by an authority of
no less weight than Sir Thomas Mitchell. Subsequent exploration finally
settled the question in Sturt's favour. The river was and could have
been no other but the Darling, and thus another important problem of
Australian geography was satisfactorily solved.

Day after day the boat, with its adventurous crew, glided down the
united stream of the Murray and the Darling. Sometimes they passed over
wide and long reaches, stretching out for many miles, but occasionally,
too, much difficulty was experienced in clearing the rapids. For a
considerable part of the course the banks were high and steep, but
usually picturesque. The country, so far as could be judged from a
passing boat, was mostly of the poorest quality, offering scarcely a
patch likely to reward the labour of the farmer. In one respect Sturt
was the most unfortunate of the explorers. From first to last he hardly
ever had the good luck to hit upon a large tract of fine country, the
Alexandrina district excepted. His mission seemed to be the discovery of
deserts, and of these he made known more than enough to give Australia a
bad name. Such being Sturt's ill-fortune, it is not surprising to find
him indulging in gloomy views regarding the great interior; but even in
these forebodings he fell short of Oxley, who was quite a Cassandra in
his way. In the introduction to his narrative the Captain tries to
account for the predominance of poor land in this outlying region of the
world, and is inclined to attribute it to the want of decaying vegetable
matter, as the trees seldom shed their leaves, and the little that is
supplied from this or other sources being usually destroyed by bush
fires. But Australia is not the desert land which Sturt imagined, or
even portrayed, as will be seen further on. Its richest lands were yet
locked up, and this same explorer was unconsciously preparing the key by
which they were to be opened to private enterprise and the public
benefit. Between the entrance of the Darling and what is now known as
the Great Bend an important tributary was observed to fall in from
either side. The one from the north Sturt called the Rufus, in honour of
Mr. George Macleay, the second on the expedition. Probably the reader
fails to perceive the point of the compliment. It lies just here: Mr.
Macleay possessed a splendid head of red hair, and _rufus_ being the
Latin for red, down it went for the name of the river. The Captain,
notwithstanding his sombre tinge, must have had a quiet vein of humour
in his composition. The other tributary was called the Lindsay, after a
gentleman of that name who was then Acting-Governor of the colony. On
gaining the lower reaches of the Murray it was observed to widen
rapidly, and at the 35° 15' of S. latitude expanded into a magnificent
lake 60 miles long and 50 in width, which was named Alexandrina, in
honour of the young princess, who soon after became Queen Victoria. When
the far end of the lake had been reached, persistent but unavailing
attempts were made to get the boat to sea. Before leaving Sydney it had
been arranged to send a small vessel to St. Vincent Gulf to wait for the
expedition, that being the most likely quarter for it to turn up if its
course should be directed towards the southern coast. The appointed
rendezvous was not far off, and the explorers had every reason to strive
to reach it; but it was to no purpose that they wearied themselves in
the effort. The narrow and tortuous channel which connected Lake
Alexandrina with Encounter Bay was impracticable even for a boat. It
was, therefore, necessary to return by the way they had come. This was
an awfully serious matter. They had now been 32 days in the boat, during
which one-half of the provisions had been consumed. If the depôt on the
Murrumbidgee was to be reached on the remaining moiety, it could only be
by rowing up the river in the same period of time they had taken to
glide down the current. This appeared to be scarcely possible, but all
their strength was put forth, and they displayed such pluck and
perseverance as shed enduring lustre on the heroism of Australian
exploration. "Our journeys," writes Sturt, "were short, and the head we
made against the stream but trifling. The men had 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, and their faces became haggard,
their persons emaciated, their spirits wholly sank--nature was so
completely overcome that, from mere exhaustion, they frequently fell
asleep during their painful and almost unceasing exertions. 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 any 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 last lost his senses. We first
observed this from his incoherent conversation, but eventually from his
manner. He related the most extraordinary tales, and fidgetted about
eternally in the boat." In such a plight did they reach the depôt on the
Murrumbidgee. Altogether 88 days were spent in the boat, and the
distance travelled could not have been less than 4,000 miles. The rest
of the journey was performed by easy stages, the party arriving in
Sydney on the 25th of May, after an absence of almost seven months.


III.

The discovery of a rich territory on Lake Alexandrina, was made in 1830,
and before another decade had passed away the settlement of South
Australia was established in this promising region. By a singular
fatality, Sturt, as an explorer, had the infelicity of stumbling
continually upon deserts, or on tracts only a shade better; but the
termination of the Murray, which he had navigated so courageously,
brought him to the borders of an ample area of the richest land in
Australia. In these circumstances it was natural for him to evince a
special fondness for the locality which had been the most fortunate, as
it was also the latest, of his discoveries. The retired explorer
accordingly settled down with his family in this chosen haunt, with the
intention of making his permanent home in the young colony of South
Australia. He received a civil appointment as Surveyor-General, which
enabled him to live in comparative quiet and comfort, and he was highly
respected for his great services to Australia in general. After so many
years of retirement, probably no one expected to hear anything further
of Charles Sturt as an explorer. It could not, therefore, fail to
produce a feeling of surprise when it became known that after fourteen
years' repose he had sought and obtained from Lord Stanley the necessary
requisites for another expedition into the interior. He had again become
fired with his old ambition, and was now covetous of the honour of being
the first European to plant his foot on the centre of Australia. All
things being in readiness for this heroic undertaking, Sturt left
Adelaide on the 15th of August, 1844, with a party of fourteen men,
amply provisioned. He chose the route of the Darling and Murray rivers,
which he proposed to follow till the outskirts of civilization were
reached. The Murray was struck at "Murrundi," the residence at that time
of another noted explorer, Mr. E. J. Eyre, who had recently accomplished
his adventurous journey round the Great Australian Bight, and the river
valley was thereafter traversed as far as the junction of the
Williorara, a locality better known now under the name of the Laidley
Ponds. This place was becoming known to overlanders, and it was hoped
it might prove a suitable site for the first depôt; but this expectation
was hardly justified by personal inspection, and it became evident that
the expedition must proceed at once into the interior. Sturt accordingly
gathered his party around him, and, having engaged in appropriate
devotional exercises, in which he committed himself and his men to the
watchful care of Almighty God, launched bravely forth into the perils of
the wilderness. Some distance ahead a mountain chain was visible, to
which the name of Stanley, or Barrier Range, was afterwards given. The
march was at first directed towards these heights, in the hope that a
river might be discovered on the opposite fall which would lead into the
interior. Here again expectation was doomed to disappointment, and the
expedition was forced to proceed along the range, where water alone was
to be found. Gradually the mountains sank into the plains to the
northward, and it was resolved to strike out for the centre from this
point, taking the risk of obtaining a sufficient supply of water at
tolerable intervals. The country traversed in this direction proved to
be cheerless and sterile in the extreme, and the journey was tedious and
trying to a corresponding degree. Nevertheless, the party pressed
forward, doing their best to deserve success. But it was to no purpose.
The country became still more inhospitable, and water utterly failed. It
was evident that the object of the expedition could not be reached by
this route, and Sturt, wearied in body and chafed in spirit, was
compelled to retreat to the mountains on his outward track. This was his
first repulse from the centre of Australia.

A return was made to the depôt, which had fortunately been established
not far from the range, in a lovely oasis in the desert. No reader of
the narrative of the expedition can soon forget the strange incidents of
this depôt in the Rocky Glen, which unexpectedly became the prison-house
of the whole party for six months. The supply of water here was good and
abundant, though not inexhaustible; and this advantage was of supreme
importance, as a drought of unparalleled severity was fast closing in
upon the expedition. Being wearied and worn out by the toilsome journey
to the northward, Sturt resolved to give his men a brief breathing time
in this favoured spot; and when this temporary repose was ended he
found, to his consternation, that his retreat was cut off, while it was
equally impossible to advance. Here is his own description of the heat
and misery they had to undergo:--"The tubes of the thermometer burst,
the bullocks pawed the ground to get a cooler footing, the men's shoes
were scorched as if by fire, their finger nails were brittle as glass;
the lead dropped from the pencil, the ink dried in the pen, as Sturt
wrote up his daily journal; the drays almost fell to pieces, the screws
loosened in their boxes, the horn handles of the instruments and their
combs split, the wool on the sheep and their own hair ceased to grow."
Many persistent efforts were made on every side to find a way of
escape; but all to no purpose, for the drought had closed them in as
effectually as a besieging army. There was no help for it but to make
the best of their misfortune until rain came to the rescue. Fortunately
they had sufficient feed and plenty of water for their live stock, and
for such mercies they were truly thankful. As the summer advanced it was
found necessary to seek a partial refuge from the scorching rays of the
sun in an underground chamber, which had been constructed for this
purpose. The imprisonment had, at the same time, a few negative
advantages. For one thing, the completeness of their isolation formed a
sufficient safeguard against the assaults of the barbarous tribes of the
interior; for the same calamity which prevented the one party from
getting away equally prohibited the other from approaching this oasis in
the desert. During the six months' detention only one blackfellow had
been able to put in an appearance, and not till reduced to the last
extremity of hunger and thirst. The poor emaciated creature was
prevailed upon to remain for the present; but, having free access to the
explorers' mutton, he grew tolerably fat in the course of a fortnight,
when, with the usual gratitude of the barbarian, he turned his back upon
his benefactors and took the way that pleased him best. The accounts of
the interior which Sturt received from this and other aborigines he had
previously encountered were disheartening in the extreme, and it was
impossible to abstain from gloomy forebodings during this period of
enforced incarceration. But whether they were to have any more
travelling or not was becoming more and more a matter of bare
probability. The herbage of the valley had become reduced to mere dust,
and the water had diminished so ominously as to make it apparent that,
unless rain fell within a month, the party would certainly find their
graves in the Rocky Glen, as one of them had already done. But the
future had better things in store, and did not longer withhold them. In
one of those sudden changes so characteristic of the Australian climate
the sky assumed its curtain of clouds and burst in a storm of rain,
which deluged the valley. The roar of the rushing water, Sturt avers,
was the sweetest music that ever fell upon his ear. That welcome
thunderstorm was the key which opened the door of the prison and gave
liberty to the captives.

This happy release was followed by a period of successful
travelling--not, indeed, void of difficulty, but yet without much of
stirring incident. Another depôt was formed, which is well known under
the name of the Park. Having enjoyed a short breathing time here, the
expedition again proceeded eastward, and touched on the northern
extremity of Lake Torrens. A survey of this part having been made, in
accordance with special instructions, they returned to the Park Depôt,
which was reached just twelve months after Sturt had left Adelaide. As
time was thus rapidly passing away, he now resolved to put forth all his
strength in a bold effort to reach the summit of his ambition and place
his foot on the centre of Australia. Wishing to have as little
encumbrance as possible, he divided his party, and, having picked three
of the best men, started for the goal of his weary journeys, leaving the
remainder in the depôt. Day after day this forlorn hope toiled on. Plain
succeeded plain over a dreary expanse of interminable country, redeemed
only by a series of parallel watercourses, which afforded a sufficient
supply of that indispensable element. One important creek was crossed,
but had to be abandoned, as it headed in a wrong direction. Happily, a
sufficient compensation was found in the discovery of another creek,
which they called the Eyre, after the adventurous explorer; and this
godsend in the wilderness they were able to follow for a long distance.
It was after they were compelled to leave it that they entered upon the
stern realities of travel in the untrodden interior. The country now
assumed an aspect so sterile and forbidding as to place it out of
comparison with anything which Sturt, the discoverer of deserts, had
previously witnessed. For a space of 20 miles nothing was found but a
series of sand-ridges succeeding one another with the monotonous
regularity of the waves of the sea. The fatigue which had to be endured
in crossing this inhospitable tract was indescribable. It greatly
weakened the strength of the party, and it was only the hope of soon
meeting a change of country which lured them on. Nor was this
expectation doomed to disappointment, for a change they met with at a
moment's notice. All of a sudden the jaded explorers found a stony
desert springing up beneath their feet and stretching away as far as the
eye could reach, while it included within its ghastly embrace more than
half the horizon. The suddenness of the appearance of this spectre of
desolation struck them mute with surprise and horror. One of Sturt's
attendants was the first to break the silence, which he did by raising
his hands and exclaiming--"Good heavens! did ever man see such country?"
Probably he never did. It is worse even than the African Sahara. It is
beyond the power of words to describe it as it stands in its lone and
dread reality. Sturt's Stony Desert is one unbroken expanse of
desolation, a wilderness of red ferruginous sandstone, undergoing
perpetual disintegration, constituting a natural ruin on a gigantic
scale, without a single redeeming feature. Barrenness has marked this
region for her own, and will ever hold it as a special possession. No
life can subsist within its borders; the foot of the savage is not upon
its wastes, and the whole region is still and silent as the grave. Such
is the dark picture as drawn by the explorer himself. Happily a better
acquaintance has led to a more favourable opinion; though the land of
spinifex, it produces other vegetation of nutritive and even fattening
properties. The Stony Desert proper consists of many patches, but
probably none will be found to be very extensive. The stout hearts of
the explorers quailed but for a moment. Be the consequence what it
might, they determined to go forward, and the first night found them
encamped in the desert without a drop of water. Their only hope of
safety consisted in expeditious travel out of this scene of desolation.
It was found to extend 50 miles, and when the party reached the other
side, they were in a condition which can be more easily conceived than
described. Here again they entered upon a similar belt of sand-ridges
such as they had found flanking the Stony Desert on the other side.
These, unhappily, were succeeded by another region of sand, utterly
destitute of water. Their sufferings, which had formerly been great,
were now intolerable. It became apparent that further progress was
impracticable, and it was just a question whether retreat was
possible--certainly it could not remain so much longer with such heat
and drought as were then prevailing. The necessity of retreat was thus
forced upon them, but it was a very painful one. They had now travelled
more than 400 miles from the depôt (and such travelling!) and could they
only have advanced another 150 miles they would have pitched their camp
in the centre of Australia, the darling object of so many heroic
sacrifices. Their reluctance to yield to this last dictate of necessity
was extreme. A member of the expedition has pictured Sturt as he sat on
one of the sand dunes with his face buried in his hands for a whole
hour, while the struggle was going on in his own mind. It was not in
nature, indeed, to yield without a mighty conflict. But inexorable
necessity had to be obeyed notwithstanding, and thus valuable lives
were saved. This was his second repulse from the centre of Australia.
Nothing is more admirable in the character of Sturt than his magnanimity
under adversity. However keenly he may have felt his disappointment, his
mind retained its accustomed tranquillity, and during the retreat he
went on laying down the bearings of his route for the guidance of others
who might follow and obtain the palm he had been compelled to resign. He
reached the depôt, where he had left the remainder of his party, on the
2nd October, 1845, having been absent seven weeks and travelled more
than 800 miles.

After a short period of rest and refreshment this chivalrous explorer,
who amid all his heavy misfortunes was certainly _tenax propositi_, to
the surprise and regret of his party conceived the design of making one
more attempt to reach the centre of Australia. He now determined on
trying the line of the creek he had formerly discovered, and now called
after Strzelecki, in the hope of its giving him sufficient northing to
bring him within a practicable distance of the object for which the
expedition had been sent. Strzelecki's Creek was found to answer his
purpose so long as it lasted, and at its termination led to the
discovery of another of much greater importance. To this new river Sturt
gave the name of Cooper's Creek, after a distinguished South Australian
judge. Unfortunately it flowed nearly east and west, and, therefore, had
to be abandoned in the prosecution of a northern route. Leaving the
plains which extended for some distance from the banks of Cooper's
Creek, Sturt again encountered the ominous sand-ridges of which he had
had sufficient experience on the former journey, and these being
traversed, his hard fate again landed him on the edge of the Stony
Desert. His destiny seemed ever mocking him with deserts, but this was
the last he ever discovered. Having swept the unvarying horizon long and
patiently with his telescope, and finding no break in the terrible
monotony, he turned back for the third and last time from the effort to
accomplish the dream of his life. After so many magnanimous sacrifices,
he finally and for ever waived the palm of reaching the centre of the
continent, which, sixteen years later, was won by a member of the same
expedition, Mr. J. M'Douall Stuart, whose march to the coveted spot
reads in comparison like a holiday excursion. The party now fell back
upon Cooper's Creek, which was traced upwards for a considerable
distance. It is a remarkable circumstance that Sir Thomas Mitchell was
exploring its upper waters about the same time. But nothing could be
more diverse than the two descriptions of the same stream. Mitchell's is
quite _couleur de rose_, and Sturt's has probably been tinged with the
effect of his own misfortunes. While the one gave it the name of
Cooper's Creek, as already noticed, the other called it the Victoria,
after the Queen. This was most unfortunate, as there is another Victoria
River on the west coast. However, both designations are now generally
superseded by the native name of Barcoo.

It is unnecessary to enter into details respecting the homeward
expedition. The outward track was followed as closely as possible to
Laidley Ponds, and thence to Adelaide. The water was rapidly drying up,
and the retreat had to be conducted like the forced marches of an army.
The men were nearly all ill, more or less, and some of them, being
unable to walk, had to be carried long distances. Latterly, the leader
of the expedition seems to have been the chief sufferer. Long exposure
to the glaring reflection of the sun on the sandy wastes had ruined his
eyesight, and not long afterwards he became permanently blind. Even now
his constitution was completely shattered, and he had to be laid on a
bed of leaves and conveyed from the interior in a cart, from which
sufferings he never fully recovered. Such was Charles Sturt, after
fifteen months' wanderings in the deserts of our country; and henceforth
this heroic and much-enduring man disappeared from the stage of
Australian history, of which he had been long a distinguished ornament.
He retired on a pension of £600 from the South Australian Legislature,
and died at Cheltenham in 1869.



CHAPTER VII.

EYRE'S ADVENTUROUS JOURNEY ALONG THE GREAT AUSTRALIAN BIGHT.


Edward John Eyre, the son of a Yorkshire clergyman, was born in the year
1815. A youthful passion for the heroic led him to chose the military
profession; but, having failed to obtain a commission, he turned his
attention to the colonies, and came to Sydney in 1833, with the slender
capital of £400. Part of this sum was spent in obtaining colonial
experience, in which he graduated so high as to become the leader in a
new Australian enterprise. The newly founded settlements of Port Phillip
(subsequently Victoria) and South Australia had created a great demand
for stock, all of which had hitherto been carried by sea, and, on
reaching their destination, were sold at famine prices. Young Eyre
conceived the practicability of an overland route, and proceeded to
prove it to a demonstration. In the first of these journeys he took
1,000 sheep and 600 head of cattle from the Monaro district, in New
South Wales, to Adelaide, in South Australia, by way of the Murray
River, and reaped a handsome pecuniary reward in the sale of the stock.
Smaller men followed in the wake of this born adventurer, making
overlanding the most paying game in Australia, till a glut was produced
in the southern markets. Success having followed Eyre in the new path
his enterprise had struck out, he was soon in possession of sufficient
funds to begin squatting on his own account. He purchased the station
"Murrundi," on the Lower Murray, where he resided for several years,
acting also as magistrate and protector of the aborigines. Occasionally,
too, he varied the monotony of bush life by feats of exploration into
the unknown territory, thus keeping alive the spirit of adventure, and
unconsciously qualifying himself for the romantic enterprise which will
transmit his name to distant posterity.

Up to the year 1840 Western Australia remained completely isolated from
the other colonies, and could be approached only by sea. But as that
country was now being extensively occupied, it was of great importance
also to the settlers in the south to find an overland route from
Adelaide, and it was believed the time had come when a successful effort
could be made. The obstacles which barred the way were enormous, and for
that epoch insuperable; but so little were they suspected by the South
Australians that the proposed journey was regarded as a pleasure
excursion, and it was considered advisable to lighten the expense of the
expedition by sending over a quantity of stock with the pioneer
explorers! The one man who could correct this public delusion was Mr.
Eyre, for he knew enough of the outlying country to feel safe in
predicting the failure of the proposed undertaking. By both speech and
pen he laboured to oppose the misguided enthusiasm, and succeeded in
preventing a certain waste of treasure and a very probable sacrifice of
human life. But it was far from his desire to see so much ardour for
exploration run to waste, and now that the colony was in high feather
for discovery, Eyre made a successful effort to divert it into what he
considered a more profitable channel. Very little was yet known of the
country to the north. Why not strike out in this direction now, and make
a bold attempt to reach the centre of Australia from the city of
Adelaide? One argument alone was sufficient, and with it Eyre prevailed.
He offered to be the leader of the expedition, providing one-third of
its expense from his own pocket. Nothing remained now but to get on with
the preparations.

On the 20th of June, 1840, a well-provisioned party consisting of eight
persons, with Eyre in command, supported by two other Europeans, Scott
and Baxter, left Adelaide under favourable auspices, and in high hopes
of exploring a large portion of the interior if more cherished results
should prove unattainable; but, as the event proved, only to meet with
crushing disappointment. Lake Torrens was as yet very imperfectly known,
and Eyre, misled by refraction, conceived it to be an immense sheet of
water in the shape of a horse-shoe, within the bend of which he supposed
the expedition was being entrapped. The curve, in reality, was described
by a chain of mud lakes partly covered with water, and partly encrusted
with salt. Passages are now found, at intervals, between these mud
lagoons, but Eyre had not the good luck to hit on one of them. Aroused
by the energy of despair, he next determined to round this impenetrable
barrier, and struck out to the eastward, for an isolated peak which he
called Mount Hopeless. The name corresponded to the reality, for the
outlook from its summit revealed nothing but a barren and burning
desert, which forced the expedition to fall back by a western route to
the southern coast.

Headquarters now remained for some time at Streaky Bay, on the eastern
shoulder of the Great Australian Bight. Taking a subdivision of the
party, he again and again endeavoured to round the head of the Bight in
the hope of finding better country, which would open a favourable route
towards the interior. Here, too, his expectations were baffled in this
latter respect, and even Eyre had to abandon his pet project in utter
despair. But he was of too dauntless a temperament to brook the idea of
returning to Adelaide without accomplishing something worthy of
remembrance. His next move was competent only to a madman or a hero. It
was a serious attempt to lead an expedition from the encampment on
Fowler's Bay to King George's Sound, along the Great Australian Bight, a
journey of more than 1,500 miles over the worst country under the sun.
He proposed to proceed with his present party unbroken, if Governor
Gawler would allow the government cutter to advance to Cape Arid, a sort
of half-way station, and there await the expedition, with a supply of
provisions. The Governor refused the use of the vessel in connection
with so romantic a proposal, except for the purpose of bringing the
entire party back to Adelaide, and so putting an end to what he must be
excused for regarding as a mad freak. But Eyre was a man born to lead,
not to be led, and determined to stick to his purpose, with help or
without it. Yet, being conscious of the extreme peril that lay on the
very face of the undertaking, he resolved to risk the sacrifice of no
European's life but his own, and made preparations to send home Scott
and Baxter in the cutter. Baxter, an old and faithful servant, who had
been overseer on Eyre's station, persisted in clinging to his master,
whether for life or death. And, alas! it was for the latter. The party,
as thus reduced, consisted of only two white men and three black boys,
one being an old favourite named Wylie. A few horses and sheep, together
with a limited supply of provisions, made up the sum total of the
expedition.

Never before was an enterprise of such overwhelming difficulty engaged
in by reasonable men. This section of the southern coast was yet
scarcely known. The navigators Nuyts and Flinders had cruised over its
waters, gazing with mysterious awe on its weather-beaten cliffs, rising
to the precipitous height of 400 or even 600 feet above the water. At
intervals along the base the waves had undermined this Titanic sea-wall,
causing it to fall in many a yawning breach, the _debris_ of which
completely obstructed the passage between the rocks and the sea in the
few places where such a convenience might have been previously possible.
The crown of these cliffs had not yet been trodden by the white man's
foot, and the reports of the sparse aborigines were enough to freeze the
ardour of the most adventurous in the heroic age of Australian
exploration. On this border-land of earth and sea contending winds had
deposited the dust particles borne on their wings, and rolled them
together in heaps, to be met with at long and dreary intervals. These
sand-hills, resting on a limestone formation, retained at their base a
small supply of water, to be reached only by painstaking, and often
painful, digging. For the greater part of the way no other water was to
be found on this barren and inhospitable region of parched-up Australia.

From Cape Adieu, where leave had been taken of the cutter and its
passengers, to the first stage at the head of the Bight, the
difficulties were manageable--for this part of the route had been
traversed and supplies hidden for future use--but, this over, they had
to be faced in all their appalling magnitude. The sand-hills were found
to be so far apart that it was impossible to bring the stock from the
one to the other without intermediate supply. When the sheep, and
sometimes the horses, could travel no further, one or two of the parties
had to be left in charge while others pushed forward in search of water,
and then returned with what supply they could bring, when the animals
were driven on to the station. The discouragements were infinite and the
labour superhuman. Eyre alone was equal to the strain, and he owed it
more to his indomitable spirit than to his natural strength. It was a
sore trial to perceive even Baxter to be giving way and wishing to
return; but as this seemed to threaten certain death, he kept to his
resolution, and persevered against all hope of a successful issue, so
desperate had the aspect of affairs now become. The few sheep having
dwindled away with ominous rapidity, it had become necessary to kill
several of the horses and eat them, although they furnished little but
skin and bone. Matters having come to extremities, the baggage had to be
reduced to the smallest proportions, and most of the valuables were
thrown away in the wilderness to lighten the burden of carriage. Their
sufferings from want of water now became indescribable. Man and beast
were compelled to travel three or four days without getting a mouthful.
With only one exception, none had been found but in the sand-hills for
the distance of 800 miles, and how hard it was to reach it there has
already been described. Even the dew on the sparse patches of grass was
put in requisition, as may be learned from the following extract from
the journal of the expedition:--"Leaving the overseer to search for the
horses, which had strayed, I took a sponge and went to try to collect
some of the dew which was hanging in spangles on the grass and shrubs.
Brushing these with the sponge, I squeezed it, when saturated, into a
quart-pot, which in an hour's time I filled with water. The native boys
were occupied in the same way, and, by using a handful of fine grass
instead of a sponge, they collected about a quart among them. Having
taken the water to the camp and made it into tea, we divided it amongst
the party, and never was a meal more truly relished, although we ate the
last morsel of bread we had with us, and none knew when we might again
enjoy either a drink of water or a mouthful of bread. We had now
demonstrated the practicability of collecting water from the dew. I had
often heard from the natives that they were in the habit of practising
this plan, but had never before actually witnessed its adoption."

But the climax was yet to come. To privations and difficulties the crime
of treachery and murder was now to be added. Two of the blacks proved
unfaithful, and shot the overseer, Baxter, in cold blood, apparently for
the purpose of deserting with as much of the provisions as they could
lay hands on, perhaps after the murder of the leader himself. The words
in which Eyre describes the anguish of his situation exceed the highest
efforts of tragedy, and show how fact may become stranger than fiction.
"The night was cold, and the wind blowing hard from the south-west,
whilst scud and nimbus were passing very rapidly by the moon. The horses
fed tolerably well, but rambled a good deal, threading in and out among
the many belts of scrub which intersected the grassy openings, until I
scarcely knew exactly where our camp was, the fires having apparently
expired some time ago. It was now half-past ten, and I headed the horses
back in the direction in which I thought the camp lay, that I might be
ready to call the overseer to relieve me at eleven. Whilst thus engaged
and looking steadfastly around among the scrub to see if I could
anywhere detect the embers of our fires, I was startled by a sudden
flash, followed by the report of a gun, not a quarter of a mile away
from me. Imagining that the overseer had mistaken the hour of the night,
and not being able to find me or the horses had taken that method to
attract my attention, I immediately called out, but no answer was
returned. I got alarmed, and, leaving the horses, hurried up towards the
camp as rapidly as I could. About a hundred yards from it I met the King
George's Sound native (Wylie) running towards me, and in great haste and
alarm, crying out, 'Oh, Massa! oh, Massa, come here!' but could gain no
information from him as to what had occurred. Upon reaching the
encampment, which I did in about five minutes after the shot was fired,
I was horror-struck to find my poor overseer lying on the ground
weltering in his blood, and in the last agonies of death. Glancing
hastily around the camp, I found it deserted by the two younger native
boys, whilst the scattered fragments of our baggage, which I left
carefully piled under the oilskin, lay thrown about in wild disorder,
and at once revealed the cause of the harrowing scene before me. Upon
raising the body of my faithful but ill-fated follower, I found that he
was beyond all human aid; he had been shot through the left breast with
a ball; the last convulsions of death were upon him, and he expired
almost immediately after our arrival. The frightful, the appalling truth
now burst upon me that I was alone in the desert. He who had faithfully
served me for many years, who had followed my fortunes in adversity and
prosperity, who had accompanied me in all my wanderings, and whose
attachment to me had been his sole inducement to remain with me in this
last and, to him, alas! fatal journey, was now no more. For an instant,
I was almost tempted to wish that it had been my fate instead of his.
The horrors of my situation glared upon me in such startling reality as
for an instant almost to paralyze the mind. At the dead hour of night,
in the wildest and most inhospitable wastes of Australia, with the
fierce wind raging in unison with the scene of violence before me, I was
left with a single native, whose fidelity I could not rely upon, and who
for aught I knew might be in league with the other two, who were perhaps
even now lurking about with the view of taking away my life as they had
done that of the overseer. Three days had passed away since we left the
last water, and it was very doubtful when we might find any more. Six
hundred miles of country had to be traversed before I could hope to
obtain the slightest aid or assistance of any kind, whilst I knew not
that a single drop of water or an ounce of flour had been left by these
murderers from a stock that had previously been so small. Though years
have now passed away since the enactment of this tragedy, the dreadful
horrors of that time and scene are recalled before me with frightful
vividness, and make me shudder when I think of them. A lifetime was
crowded into those few short hours, and death alone may blot out the
impression they produced."

To give decent burial to the body of a friend whom death only could
separate would have been a melancholy satisfaction, but even this slight
tribute of affection was denied by the situation. No grave could be dug,
for sheet-rock, stretching far and wide, formed the adamantine pavement
of this horrible place. Wrapt in a blanket for its winding-sheet, the
corpse was left in this lonely wilderness, where it lay undisturbed till
it was stumbled on quite recently by the district mailman. On a calmer
view of the position, Eyre discovered that the ruffians had left him
only forty pounds of flour, a little tea and sugar, and four gallons of
water. Such was the provision for two men against a journey of 600
miles! Nothing, however, could be gained by delay in this awful scene,
and every consideration counselled an immediate departure--most of all,
the knowledge that the two murderers were skulking in the neighbourhood
with the probable design of taking Eyre's life. A start was made without
further loss of time. Another horse was killed for food, but the animal
having been poor and sickly, its flesh did not agree with them, and ill
health supervened. When thus brought face to face with the last
extremity, a sudden vision of deliverance nearly overwhelmed them with
joy. Coming unexpectedly on an opening in the Bight, first a boat and
then a ship at anchor rushed upon the view. A closer acquaintance proved
the apparition to be a French whaling-vessel, under the command of
Captain Rossiter, whose name is fittingly perpetuated in the same little
bay. The unlooked-for visitors were hospitably entertained and lodged
for twelve days in the ship, till they were sufficiently recruited for
the remainder of the journey. With renewed strength, and a fresh supply
of provisions, the march through the desert was once more resumed, for
the indomitable explorer would not even yet abandon the project. Though
hardship had now lost its sting, more difficulties had yet to be
encountered than might have been expected, but they were of a different
kind from the preceding. Water became only too plentiful, for a wet
season had set in, and the travellers had often to wade rather than to
walk. But the end of this terrible journey drew on apace. To their
unspeakable joy the mountains on the further side of King George's Sound
began to loom in the distance, and Wylie, who was a native of that
district, now for the first time showed some confidence in his leader,
whom he never expected to bring him back to his home. The welcome sight,
in truth, inspired both the black and the white man with fresh life; for
they had to make only one more effort, and, this over, their weary feet
found rest in the hospitable settlement of Albany. The heroic endurance
displayed during this journey stands without a parallel in history, but
it led to nothing but a barren triumph over stupendous difficulties. Had
Eyre kept further inland he would have found a better route and opened
up a more profitable country. This discovery had to wait for another and
more fortunate explorer. The present expedition, by hugging the shore,
travelled over a tract of country that was seen to be utterly useless
for the wants of civilization. So patent was this fact to Mr. Eyre
himself that he justified the publication of his narrative by the
strange argument that no one had traversed this wilderness before and he
was perfectly sure none would ever do it again.

Henceforward Edward John Eyre was known to fame--but not to fortune.
Being subsequently appointed Governor of Jamaica, he fell heir to an
upheaval of disorder, which culminated in open rebellion. This
insurrection Eyre put down with an iron hand. Some accused him of
needless severity, while others justified his conduct as an act of
imperative necessity. The hero-worshipper, the late Thomas Carlyle,
defended him bravely, and was seconded by many sympathizers of less
note, who came to the rescue with pen and purse. This perilous journey
of former years was justly pleaded in Mr. Eyre's favour, but his friends
weakened their case by confounding the Great Australian Bight with the
Gulf of Carpentaria! Though exonerated by a commission of inquiry, the
Governor was recalled, and for four years thereafter harassed by a
bitter prosecution, which he probably found harder to endure than his
terrible journey on the Great Australian Bight.



CHAPTER VIII.

SIR THOMAS MITCHELL'S FOUR EXPEDITIONS.


This eminent explorer was a native of Scotland, having been born at
Craigend, Stirlingshire, in 1792. He chose the army for his profession,
and served under Wellington, in the Peninsular war, from 1808 till its
close. His career appears to have been a most creditable one. He had a
hand in laying out the famous Torres Vedras lines, which gave a fatal
check to the ambition of Napoleon. Mitchell left the service with the
rank of Major, receiving also a medal and five clasps. Having emigrated
to New South Wales, he was appointed Surveyor-General, an office which
had fallen vacant by the death of Mr. John Oxley. Being an active and
adventurous man, he threw himself, heart and soul, into the cause of
exploration. Mitchell was the most successful of all the explorers, and
had the good fortune to open up the magnificent territory which now
forms the colony of Victoria. He was the leader of four great
expeditions, which shall now be briefly related in the order of their
occurrence.


I.

Among the notabilities of the old convict days there are not many who
will be longer remembered than George Clarke, better known, in his own
time, as "George the Barber." This runaway convict having taken to
bushranging and cattle-stealing as naturally as the duck makes for the
water, had also shown himself an adept in the arts which elude the
detective. Passing beyond the bounds of settlement, which had now
extended 300 miles to the north of Sydney, he fixed his headquarters and
erected a stockyard for stolen cattle on the further side of the
Liverpool Plains. Here he abjured the last vestige of civilization and
associated himself with the aborigines, having become a conformist in
the first degree. He doffed every article of clothing, blackened his
skin, and even scarified his flesh, in order to appear a naked savage
pure and simple. But the compliment does not seem to have been
reciprocated. He was successful, indeed, in gaining the hearts of two
black gins, who followed him and his fortunes as far as fate would
permit; but the sable brotherhood did not take kindly to the intruder.
Hearing he was wanted by the police to answer for his cattle-stealing
propensities, they lent a hand to the progress of civilization, and
delivered up this spurious brother, who was forthwith lodged in Bathurst
gaol. Of all the men in the world this runaway convict, who had enjoyed
the sweets of liberty, both in the savage and the civilized life, would
be the last to brook the restraints of confinement, and it is no
surprise to find him casting about for the means of deliverance. The
most feasible way of accomplishing his object undoubtedly lay in the
plan which his native cunning led him to adopt. Popular excitement was
then at fever heat on the exploration of the unknown territory. Sturt
had recently returned from an expedition in which he had opened up more
than 2,000 miles of country on the lower Murrumbidgee and Murray rivers,
and had, consequently, given a great impulse to the exploring
enterprise. Now was the time for "George the Barber" to tell his secret
from Bathurst gaol. Having passed beyond a range of mountains to the
northward of the Liverpool Plains, so his story ran, he had discovered a
magnificent river which the natives called the "Kindur." It traversed a
splendid country, was itself navigable throughout, and having followed
its course on two different occasions, it led him through the heart of
Australia to the north coast, without ever turning to the south. Men
readily believe what they wish to be true, and such a river as here
described was the very thing wanted in order to open up a waterway to
Carpentaria. The story accordingly commanded general attention, and most
people believed it contained a sufficient degree of verisimilitude to
warrant the expense of a special exploring expedition to put it to the
proof.

Major Mitchell was now in the place where he would feel the impulse for
exploration with all its force, and so fell in most heartily with the
popular excitement. Putting the most favourable construction upon the
"Barber's" story, and believing that it contained, at least, a
substratum of truth, he expressed his readiness to go in search of the
"Kindur," provided the Acting-Governor, Sir Patrick Lindsay, would
supply the necessary outfit. This request was readily granted, and Major
Mitchell left Sydney on the 24th November, 1831, to run a wild-goose
chase or make a great discovery. It was not necessary to organize the
expedition before starting, as the country was now settled so far to the
north, and final arrangements were accordingly postponed till a nearer
approach was made to the unknown land. The early part of the journey was
pretty much in the style of a pleasure excursion. The would-be explorer
of the "Kindur" passed northward to Parramatta, where he was shown, as a
great novelty, the first olive-tree planted in the colony. The
Hawkesbury was crossed at Wiseman's Ferry, and in due course the
Wollombi, a tributary of the Hunter, was reached. Soon after he
proceeded to make up his party, which, when completed, consisted of two
gentlemen volunteers, named White and Finch, and fifteen convicts, all
of whom, the leader avers, were ready to face fire and water in the hope
of regaining that liberty which they had forfeited by transgressing the
laws of their country. The expedition having been thus organized and
supplied with every requisite, moved northward, passing near
Muswellbrook, and crossing the Hunter without meeting with anything
particularly worthy of notice, until they came upon the burning hill of
Wingen, which attracted their attention as a remarkable curiosity. It is
not a volcano, but a mountain of coal or shale, on fire underneath,
which sends forth volumes of smoke through the rents in its surface. On
the 5th of December the ascent of the Liverpool Range was gained and a
commanding view of the plains obtained. This fine tract of country had
been discovered by Oxley, explored by Cunningham, and was now found to
be largely occupied by pioneer squatters. The Peel River was struck at
Wallamoul, about two miles above the spot where Oxley had first crossed
it, and here was found the last station, owned by a squatter of the name
of Brown, and containing 1,600 head of cattle. The route of the
expedition was now directed towards the lower course of the river, where
it becomes known under the native name of the Namoi. The euphonious
"Namoi" was music to the ear of Mitchell, for the bushranger had spoken
of a river of this name, and was the first to make it known under this
designation. The Major was gratified to find this slight confirmation of
the story that had brought him so far from home, and hastened to make it
known to the authorities in Sydney, that "George the Barber" might have
the benefit; and a real benefit it was, for it saved him from the
gallows. Having failed to obtain his liberty when his information was
acted on, this noted criminal, in his desperation, succeeded in sawing
the irons off his feet, and in this way made good his escape from
incarceration. But the law has long arms, and the "Barber," being again
clutched within their iron grasp, was condemned to suffer the last
penalty, from which doom he was saved by the timely arrival of
Mitchell's letter.

The _terra incognita_ now was entered upon, and the first object that
drew the attention of the explorers was the old stockyard of the
bushranger, which, doubtless, was too near a neighbour of Brown's cattle
station. About two miles distant the Pic of Tangulda rose to a
conspicuous elevation. This was one of the landmarks of the prisoner's
tale. The "Kindur" was to be reached by proceeding north-east, over a
range of mountains which were visible from this position. Mitchell
directed his march accordingly; but, after several days of distressing
travel, found the mountains to be impracticable, and was compelled to
return to his former camp. Now, for the first time, grave doubts began
to fill his mind regarding the truth of the convict's story. No other
course being open, he determined on launching a canvas boat and making
an effort to sail down the Namoi, to see what fortune had in store for
him. The attempt was scarcely well made when it had to be abandoned, on
account of snags and shoals in the stream; but the change of position
was sufficient to make it apparent that the mountain-chain which could
not be crossed might now be turned. This achievement was next
successfully accomplished, and Mitchell at length found himself on their
northern flanks. These mountains bore the native name of "Nundawar,"
and, in respect of their outward appearance, had been described
sufficiently well by the bushranger. But now came the crucial test of
his truth or falsehood. According to the same story the "Kindur" was the
first river to be reached beyond these mountains, and, one way or other,
the question could not now have long to wait for an answer. A river of
some kind was the very thing wanted by the explorers, for they had
passed through a rugged and waterless country. Were they now, at last,
to drop upon the "Kindur?" Such a discovery would have been doubly
welcome, for it would have relieved them from present distress, and
proved the goal of a journey which, it was hoped, would place the laurel
crown on the brow of the Major and sound the trumpet of freedom to his
fifteen convict attendants. The 9th of January arrived, and this day was
destined to feast the eyes of the weary travellers with the sudden
appearance of a noble river, broader and deeper than the Namoi, and one
of which Australia might well be proud. Was this the "Kindur" at last?
Not for a moment. It flowed in the wrong direction, and lost much of its
volume in its downward course; and Mitchell soon satisfied himself that
it was nothing else than one of the many tributaries of the Darling. In
fact, it had not the merit of an original discovery. This was the
Gwydir, which had been crossed long ago by Allan Cunningham. Mitchell
turned from it in disgust and made for the north, in the hope of hitting
upon some discovery really worthy of the expedition. He was rewarded, in
so far that he discovered an important river, called the Karaula by the
natives, but now better known as the Macintyre. Further exploration
proved this stream to be one of the head-waters of the Darling, and,
therefore, useless for the purpose of one who was seeking a
water-channel to the Gulf of Carpentaria.

Mitchell's only hope of retrieving himself now lay in crossing the
Darling, and making an inroad upon the interior; but the feasibility of
this course was suspended on a doubtful contingency. Fearing his
provisions would not hold out so long as would be necessary, he had,
before leaving the Peel River, sent Finch back to the Hunter district
for fresh supplies, and the future of the expedition depended on this
forlorn hope. Finch returned about the time expected, but only to bring
a tale of disaster instead of a supply of provisions. All had gone well
till they had got beyond the Liverpool Plains, when water began to fail
them. Finch had gone on to search the country in advance, and on
returning found his party murdered and the camp sacked. This was a
crowning calamity. Mitchell, of course, now saw that it would be
impossible to proceed further, and it was even very doubtful whether
they could return in safety. A wet season was setting in, and 200 miles
of flooded country lay between them and their homes. Their return,
accordingly, was conducted after the manner of a retreating army, and
the similitude was all the more striking because they were harassed by
hostile tribes of aborigines. But the settled districts were soon
reached, and there was no further difficulty in making Port Jackson. It
was, indeed, a disappointment to the authorities, as it had been to
Mitchell, to find they had been duped by "George the Barber." Yet the
expedition had opened up a vast extent of pastoral country, and on the
whole was fairly successful as an exploring enterprise.


II.

Major Mitchell, full of enterprise, was again in the field of discovery
in 1835. His failure in the affair of the "Kindur" had not discouraged
him, and the experience incidentally gained was an excellent preparation
for the more arduous work of the future. Public attention had again
turned from the north to the westward of the colony, and another attempt
was to be made to lift the veil which still shrouded so much of the
interior. At the request of the British Government, Mitchell willingly
undertook the conduct of an expedition to the Bogan and the Darling, in
order to set at rest some geographical problems which were still
attached to the course of these rivers.

More than any of the other explorers, Mitchell believed in large and
liberally equipped expeditions, here probably erring by excess, and he
resolved that the present should not be deficient in either respect. The
party, all told, consisted of twenty-four persons--Major Mitchell as
leader, Richard Cunningham, brother to the more celebrated Allan
Cunningham, botanist and explorer, a young surveyor of the name of
Larmer, and twenty-one convict servants, nine of whom had been
connected with the "Kindur" search. The material resources consisted of
two boats, several drays, a good contingent of horses, bullocks, and
sheep, together with an ample supply of provisions. The start was made
from Parramatta on the 9th of March; but the work of exploration proper
did not commence till they reached Buree, a frontier station near Mount
Canobolas, about 170 miles from Sydney.

Having taken his observations from the summit of this mountain, Mitchell
fixed his direction on the bearing of 60° west of north, judging he
would thus find a practicable route, and strike the Bogan somewhere in
its upper course. The result answered his expectation. On the 13th of
April he crossed the Goobang, a tributary of the Lachlan, and in two
days more the Bogan was reached. Here a most lamentable event occurred,
which cast its dark shadow over the whole of their future wanderings.
Richard Cunningham, the botanist of the expedition, had been too much in
the practice of leaving the party for the "pursuit of flora," and now
failed to find his way back to the camp. For a long time no trace of the
missing man could be found; but after a most diligent search tracks both
of himself and of his horse were observed. These were followed for 70
miles, but to no purpose; distressing suspicions also began to arise,
pointing to foul play on the part of the natives. But nothing definite
could be arrived at, and after a fortnight's fruitless searching and
tracking, the expedition was sorrowfully compelled to hold on its
course. Subsequently it was decisively ascertained that Cunningham,
ready to perish of hunger and thirst, had sought refuge with the blacks,
by four of whom he was savagely murdered in his sleep. A full
investigation was made by Captain Zouch, who had been despatched from
Sydney on this business. He succeeded in discovering the dead man's
bones, which were decently interred, and a suitable monument was erected
on the scene of this diabolical murder. Three of the perpetrators of the
crime were also arrested; but, through the remissness of the constable
in charge, two of them managed to escape.

The explorers still kept the line of the Bogan, moving off and on to its
banks according as the want of water, or the desire to cut off an
observed elbow, more particularly directed their course. By the 20th of
May the expedition had arrived at the Pink Hills, where the best grazing
land was met with since the commencement of the journey. From this point
Oxley's Table-land, a well-known landmark with former explorers, was
plainly visible. On the 25th they were gratified by the discovery of the
junction of the Bogan and the Darling rivers. The former of these,
though only now brought into prominent notice, had been known to exist
for many years past. It was first discovered by Hamilton Hume in
connection with Sturt's expedition to the Macquarie, and was then called
New Year's Creek. Much later its upper course had been traced by a Mr.
Dixon for 67 miles, and the exploration of its whole length was thus
completed by Major Mitchell in 1835. The Bogan was found to head from
the Hervey Range, and this explorer had the good fortune to discover its
termination in the Darling River after a sinuous course of 250 miles. At
best it is only a third or fourth-class river; but, as it traverses a
tolerably good grazing country, its basin has become fully occupied for
squatting purposes.

The junction of these two rivers now became an important landmark for
the remainder of the journey, and the place has ever since played a
conspicuous part in the opening up and settlement of the back country.
The position consists of an elevated plateau overlooking a reach of the
river a mile and a half in length, with a hill situated near a sharp
turn at the lower end of the reach. Having now travelled 500 miles from
Sydney, the whole party were in need of rest, and Mitchell wisely
resolved on fixing a permanent depôt here. Intending to leave some of
his men while engaged in the exploration of the lower course of the
river, he considered it an act of prudence to enclose the depôt with a
stockade, as he was not yet sufficiently acquainted with the natives of
the Darling to trust them with any degree of confidence. A stockade was
accordingly constructed of rough logs, and to this, his first attempt at
bush fortification, he gave the name of Fort Bourke, in compliment to
the Governor of the colony. Such was the beginning of Bourke, the now
famous centre of our back country settlement, and the present terminus
of the Great Western Railway of New South Wales.

Two boats, as already noticed, had been brought all the way from Sydney
as part of the furniture of the expedition, and the time seemed to have
arrived for their being turned to account. Being found to be in perfect
order they were forthwith christened the _Discovery_ and the
_Resolution_, and launched on the feeble current of the Darling. But
hope was excited to no purpose. The stream was too low and the channel
too much impeded to permit of navigation even with the smallest craft,
and the undertaking was no sooner initiated than it had to be abandoned.
The former plan of the expedition had again to be adopted, and the
progress on the Darling was very similar to what it had been on the
Bogan. The country traversed was found to be inferior as a whole, only
moderately valuable for pastoral purposes, and nowhere adapted for
agriculture to any considerable extent. The incidents in this part of
the march were neither numerous nor striking. The usual privations
arising from want of water were hardly known, as the explorers were
never far from the banks of a running stream which takes rank among the
foremost in Australia. The saltness of the Darling, which proved such an
inconvenience to Sturt, was found by Mitchell to exist in a much less
degree, which shows that it must have arisen in part from temporary
causes.

If Mitchell's narrative is not so rich in thrilling incidents as a
sensational reader could have wished, it is especially valuable as a
record of the manners and customs of the aborigines of those districts,
as they appeared to the eye of this intelligent and observant traveller.
Sometimes the description is so life-like that we are almost cheated
into the belief of a visible reality, and it is impossible to be
indifferent to the exhibition, although the whole race has now well-nigh
passed away. The account is very generally the reverse of Captain
Sturt's, notwithstanding that both of these eminent explorers must have
had in view substantially the same tribes. The judicious reader will
scarcely be disposed to agree unreservedly with the Captain when he
depicts them as the "most miserable wretches" under the sun; neither
will he care to subscribe to the unqualified language of the Major, who
describes them as "happy" savages. Truth seldom lies in extremes, and it
is to the utmost extreme that these authorities have gone, each in his
own way, as determined largely, perhaps, by his idiosyncrasies. But the
ethnologist, in particular, will be thankful for the literary photograph
of these vanishing tribes which has been preserved in the pages of this
journal. The general reader, too, will gladly observe some curious
incidents of aboriginal life in the interior of Australia. Mitchell
specially notices their adroitness in procuring the wild honey of the
bush. With great tact they first attached a piece of light down to the
bee, which, on being released, would be sure to make straight for its
nest. To discover this secret, the blackfellow engaged in hot pursuit;
and, as his eye must be constantly on the tiny insect, there would, of
course, be frequent tripping, and many an awkward fall on mother earth,
but the excitement was too great to permit of anything short of a
serious accident being noticed. Another characteristic of the untutored
savages was their unwillingness to recognize the right of a white man to
hold property--it was all _meum_ and no _tuum_ with them. For a while
Mitchell tried to satisfy them with liberal gifts, but giving only
increased the craving for more; and, what was worse, this liberality on
the part of the strangers began to be construed as an indication of
fear, and then the demands were more impudently pressed than ever, which
caused these gifts, very properly, to cease altogether. And now their
thieving propensities broke out beyond all bounds. Mitchell, like Apollo
when Mercury filched his bow, hardly knew whether to smile at the
adroitness of the thief or wax indignant at the loss of his property.
The cunning, craft, and success of these barbarians went almost beyond
credence. Not only their hands were busy, but their very feet and toes
picked up the strangers' tools as they walked over them. This latter
practice was considered a real accomplishment, and these savages seemed
to have a genuine contempt for the clumsy white-fellows who could not
use their "feet fingers." Barring this troublesome propensity, the
native tribes did not cause much inconvenience to the expedition until
it got as far down the Darling as the Menindie quarter, where a serious
embroglio occurred, which occasioned the shedding of aboriginal blood,
and compelled the explorers to desist from the further prosecution of
their journey. For this untoward event, however, Mitchell was not to
blame, and he regretted he had to deal with convicts who were so
difficult to control. The local tribes having thus become exasperated, a
somewhat hasty retreat had to be made to the central depôt at Bourke,
after 300 miles of the Darling had been traversed, and little doubt
being left as to the remainder of the course till the junction with the
Murray.


III.

The exploration and settlement of Victoria are quite recent events in
the history of Australia. Important discoveries had been made on the
seaboard by Bass and Flinders in the close of the last and the beginning
of the present century; but they had no effect in attracting population.
Hume and Hovell made an overland journey from Lake George to Port
Phillip in 1824, and brought to light an enormous extent of fine
territory near the southern coast; yet the country remained unvisited by
civilization for another ten or twelve years. The original settlers came
from Tasmania, and were crowded out of the old rather than attracted to
the new home. The first arrival seems to have been Edward Henty, who
effected a settlement at Portland Bay in 1834. Next year John Batman, a
native of Parramatta, who had latterly resided in Tasmania, crossed
Bass' Strait, and fixed his headquarters on Indented Head. He bargained
with the natives for 600,000 acres of the best land in exchange for a
few blankets, knives, and such-like commodities. He was followed in
three months' time by another of the name of Fawkner, who, leaving "King
John" in undisputed possession of Indented Head, pitched his tent on the
site of the present city of Melbourne.

So much and nothing more was accomplished in the settlement of the
premier part of Australia, when Major Mitchell crossed the Murray, and
astonished the world by a series of splendid discoveries in what is now
the famous colony of Victoria. The surprise was the more telling on this
account, that the revelations resulted from a mere accident, and were
aside from the proper object of the expedition. The explorations of
Mitchell during the preceding year, which had so largely supplemented
the earlier discoveries of Sturt on the Darling, very naturally excited
public interest, and created a desire for another expedition. The River
Darling was now pretty well known, with the exception of about 200 miles
from Menindie to the junction with the Murray; but this latter river was
not yet explored higher up than its confluence with the Murrumbidgee.
These two objects being now to be prosecuted, instructions were given to
Major Mitchell to organize another expedition; and into this project, it
is needless to say, the gallant Major entered with his accustomed
enthusiasm.

This expedition, numbering twenty-four persons, amply provisioned, and
destined to be the most fortunate in the annals of exploration, left the
rendezvous near Mount Canobolas, on the outskirts of settlement, on the
17th of March, 1836. The first movement was made towards the old
position at the station of Buree, and then the route was followed to the
Lachlan. This river, as well as the Murrumbidgee, which was reached on
its lower course, had previously been explored, and Mitchell had not
much to add that was new or striking. When he conceived he was
approaching the junction with the Murray, a depôt was formed beside an
excellent sheet of water, to which the name of Lake Stapylton was given.
Mitchell now divided his party, and, taking an escort, struck out boldly
for the Darling, which was still 100 miles distant. The usual
difficulties of this kind of travelling were encountered; but no one
knew better how to overcome them than this intrepid explorer. The
junction of the two chief rivers of Australia was reached without loss
of time--a position which Mitchell says he recognized at once from a
drawing of Captain Sturt's. This compliment Sturt duly acknowledged,
remarking at the same time that it was the only praise he had ever
received from Sir Thomas Mitchell, and he was afraid in this case it was
not very well deserved, as the drawing had been made from a verbal
description, and by an Edinburgh clergyman who had never visited
Australia! The expedition was in great danger here from an exasperated
tribe of blacks who kept hanging upon the rear, and only waited for an
opportunity to strike a decisive blow. The aspect of matters was so
threatening that Mitchell resolved to abandon the Darling, and fall back
upon his alternative instructions, which directed him to explore the
upper courses of the Murray. But the hostile tribe was now between his
own party and the depôt, which was 100 miles away. Their number was
rapidly increasing, and their attitude growing more menacing every day.
A conflict could not be much longer averted, and Mitchell, as a military
man, was not willing to allow the enemy to choose the most suitable time
for the attack. The men under his command appear to have understood his
intentions, and, without waiting for orders, fired upon the tribe. Seven
were killed, and the multitude dispersed. It was a severe remedy, but
also a very effectual one, for this tribe never attempted to cause them
further annoyance.

On arriving at Lake Stapylton, Mitchell had the satisfaction of finding
that the depôt had been unmolested, a circumstance which relieved his
mind from considerable anxiety. The situation of the depôt was
ascertained to be about ten miles from the junction of the Murrumbidgee
with the Murray. The latter was crossed about a mile higher up, and the
united expedition started again with the intention of exploring this
interesting but unknown river. From this purpose they were soon diverted
by the discovery of an important tributary, which seemed to lead them
into a better country than the Murray was likely to do. After losing or
leaving this creek another was discovered, of still greater importance,
to which Mitchell gave the name of the Loddon, from the marked
resemblance he thought it possessed to its namesake in the old home. The
country consisted of open downs, and was the richest Mitchell had seen
since he had left Sydney. The plains were covered with anthistirium, or
kangaroo grass, which bent under the breeze like a field of oats. The
country was so lightly timbered that the explorers could scarcely find
fuel to make a fire at several of their places of encampment. This
district also yielded many new and beautiful plants, which greatly
enriched the botanical collection. Mitchell next ascended Mount Hope, a
peak which he so named because he expected to obtain a view of the
southern ocean from its summit. This anticipation was not realized, but
he enjoyed the prospect of an unlimited reach of the class of country he
had already discovered. Another hill, called the Pyramid, from its
peculiar form, afforded also an excellent view, and raised in Mitchell a
transport of joy. He could scarcely find words to describe the
magnificence of the scene, or express the delight he felt on account of
his own good fortune. "The scene," says he, "was different from anything
I had ever before witnessed, either in New South Wales, or elsewhere--a
land so inviting, and still without inhabitants. As I stood, the first
intruder on the sublime solitude of these verdant plains, as yet
untouched by flocks or herds, I felt conscious of being the harbinger of
many changes there; for our steps would soon be followed by the men and
the animals for which it seemed to be prepared." And again--"We had at
length discovered a country ready for the immediate reception of
civilized man, and fit to become eventually one of the great nations of
the earth. Unencumbered with too much wood, yet possessing enough for
all purposes; with an exuberant soil under a temperate climate; bounded
by the sea-coast and mighty rivers, and watered abundantly by streams
from lofty mountains, this highly interesting region lay before me, with
all its features new and untouched as they fell from the hands of the
Creator. Of this Eden it seemed I was the only Adam; and it was indeed a
sort of paradise to me, permitted thus to be the first to explore its
mountains and streams--to behold its scenery--to investigate its
geological character--and finally, by my survey, to develop those
natural advantages all still unknown to the civilized world, but yet
certain to become at no distant date of vast importance to a new
people." No prophet ever spoke truer words than these.

Soon after the Loddon, the Avoca and the Avon Water were discovered.
These streams irrigated the same kind of country as that which had
lately been traversed. This tract was evidently an exception to a rule
which prevails throughout Australia. Good land is usually poorly
supplied with water, while well-watered country is generally of little
account in point of fertility; but here for once was a district which
was equally distinguished for the abundance of its streams and the
excellence of its soil. The explorers now took a direction more to the
eastward, to reach a lofty mountain-chain which appeared to be about 40
miles distant. This range forms a division between the northern and the
southern waters, and is really the extremity of the coast range.
Mitchell called these the Grampians, from a supposed resemblance to a
chain of the same name in the Southern Highlands of Scotland. Taking two
of his best men, he next ascended Mount William, a peak which rises
4,500 feet above the sea and is the highest in the group. The weather
being unfavourable to the object in view, it was found necessary to
spend a miserably cold night upon its summit, and the exposure
permanently injured the health of his two companions, who had followed
the explorer on three expeditions. An excellent view was obtained at
last, and another great landmark, Mount Arapiles, was fixed upon as the
next object toward which they were to move. This was a bold and isolated
mountain lying westward of the range. Five streams had to be crossed in
passing over the intermediate tract, and these were subsequently found
to unite and form the Wimmera. It was hoped this important river would
lead them to the ocean, but it turned to the northward and flowed into
the interior. The tract of country next discovered presented a very
singular aspect. The surface, as far as the eye could reach, was studded
with lakes, which differed greatly in size, but were circular in form.
Their number must have been prodigious; from one point of view no fewer
than twenty-seven were counted. Most of these circular lakes were
brackish to the taste, and many too salt to be fit for use.

The extremity of the Grampians had now been reached, and the range was
being successfully turned, when the explorers saw before them a fine
open country, trending away towards the Southern Ocean. The travelling
was often heavy on the soft soil, and they had to be satisfied with six
miles a day as the average rate of progress; nevertheless, the object in
view was being steadily accomplished, and no country was ever traversed
which was richer in the charming incidents of travel. July the 31st was
a red-letter day for Mitchell, for it brought the welcome discovery of a
fine river, which led the party to the breakers of the Southern Ocean.
Its width was 120 feet, with an average depth of 12 feet, and from first
to last it continued to flow through the most picturesque scenery. The
discoverer gave it the name of the Glenelg, in compliment to the
Secretary of State for the Colonies. The track of the expedition kept as
closely as possible to the left bank of the river, which with many
windings was found to be steadily making southward. One of the most
remarkable features of the Glenelg is the number of feeders which it
receives from both sides of its basin. These occasionally flowed through
deep ravines, which made travelling difficult for the drays. But the
scenery is described as being exquisite. Mitchell put the English
language on the rack to make it express his conception of the lovely
scenes which daily met his eye. Either of the valleys of the Wando or
the Wannon might well pass for a modern Tempe. On the 12th of August the
Rifle Range was reached, and from one of the heights Mount Gambier, near
Cape Northumberland, was plainly seen, and this was accepted as
sufficient evidence that the sea could not be very far distant. After
receiving another tributary, which was named the Stokes, the river,
affected also by the proximity to the ocean, became so much increased in
size as to induce Mitchell to launch the boat which had been brought
from Sydney. A depôt was accordingly formed at this position which was
called Fort O'Hare. Mitchell took two-thirds of his men, and, after a
few days' pleasant sail, landed safely at the mouth of the Glenelg.

Before returning to Sydney it was thought advisable to make a short
journey to Portland Bay, for the sake of examining the intervening
country. In this excursion various streams were discovered and crossed,
such as the Crawford, the Fitzroy, and the Surrey; and the prominent
peaks, Ellerslie, Clay, and Kincaid, were ascended or sighted. The
country generally was swampy in the flats, and poor in the higher
grounds, until Portland was reached, where the soil was found to be of
the best possible description. Here a great surprise was in store for
the explorers. They had stumbled by mere chance on the newly-formed
station of Edward Henty, from Tasmania, who generously supplied them
with provisions for the homeward journey.

Going still forward, Mitchell kept for a considerable time on the
southern fall of the range, in the hope of finding a pass which would be
generally available. Such an opening he was fortunate enough to
discover, near the foot of Mount Byng, which he safely passed through,
barring an accident to his travelling gear. While this was being
repaired, he made an excursion to a prominent height about 30 miles to
the south, in the hope of being able to catch a glimpse of Port Phillip,
and thus enable him to connect his surveys with this important position.
To this height he gave the name of Mount Macedon, and from its summit
was able to observe some of the topographical features of what is now
the site, or the immediate neighbourhood, of Melbourne, and also white
sails or tents, which most likely were the encampments of Batman and
Fawkner, who had been in their new home only a few months.

In returning, the Campaspe River was discovered, and other tributaries
of the Murray, made known by Hume and Hovell, were crossed without
difficulty. The most serious obstacle was the passage of the Murray; but
it was passed without accident or mishap, although it was 80 yards in
width. Some rugged country had to be encountered before the Murrumbidgee
was crossed. But this was the _ultimus labor_ of the expedition, for the
settled territory had now been reached. Mitchell accordingly reckoned
this outpost the termination of his journey; and it had not been a short
one. He had travelled over 2,400 miles of country, and was seven months
in the bush. But he had been more fortunate than any of his
predecessors; nor, indeed, has his success been eclipsed to this day.
For this splendid service he was worthily rewarded with the honour of
knighthood from the British Crown.


IV.

The good fortune which had followed Sir Thomas Mitchell throughout his
three earlier expeditions did not forsake him during this one, which
proved to be the last and most arduous of the series. It was his
ambition this time to cross the continent and open an overland route to
the distant Carpentaria. Of all men living, he was the most likely to
accomplish this task. He did not, indeed, attain the desire of his
heart, but in all other respects his expedition was eminently
successful, and forms a memorable epoch in the history of exploration.
The party mustered at the old rendezvous of Buree, in the Western
District, which, though no longer the outpost of settlement, was yet a
convenient starting-point. Mitchell chose for his second in command Mr.
Edmund B. Kennedy, the unfortunate explorer who, several years later,
was killed by the blacks when leading a disastrous expedition in Cape
York Peninsula. The rest of the party were mostly convicts from Port
Jackson, who had volunteered their services in the hope of obtaining
their freedom. The little army, consisting of two dozen able-bodied men,
amply provisioned, left Buree on the 15th of December, 1845. The old
route was followed for a considerable way, and in a short time the
Hervey Range, containing the sources of the Bogan, was crossed without
serious difficulty. For a long distance westward the country was now
occupied by squatters, but many of the outsiders had already succumbed
to the hostility of the Darling blacks, who had speared their cattle and
otherwise harassed them beyond the limit of human endurance. Ten years
had now passed away since Mitchell led his preceding expedition through
these parts, and the abortive attempts at settlement were the principal
changes observable in the general aspect of the country. One very
remarkable minor feature was the appearance of couch-grass and
horehound, which had sprung up around the stockyards. Mitchell was quite
positive in asserting that no specimen of these plants could have been
found in the district before the white men settled there.

The party suffered from want of water till Nyngan was reached, on the
16th January, and then one difficulty was quickly followed by another.
Most of the men were seized with eye-blight, and compelled to remain in
camp longer than was convenient for the object of the expedition. But
they were again on the move as soon as circumstances would permit, the
march being now directed towards the Macquarie. Meanwhile an encampment
was made on the Canonbar, a tributary of the Bogan. While resting here
the saltbush became an object of curiosity, and some interesting
experiments were made with this singular plant of the interior plains.
The tiny leaves were found to be a tolerable substitute for vegetables
after boiling, by which process a yield of pure salt was obtained in the
proportion of one ounce to the pound. The condition of the stock also
bore witness to the fattening quality of the same plant.

After a few days of eventful travel by way of Sturt's Duck Ponds, the
Macquarie River was struck a few miles below Mount Harris, which had
been an important landmark for explorers since the time of Oxley. The
channel was dry, but the blacks reported a heavy flood as near at hand.
Mitchell had often heard of sudden inundations appearing in an arid part
of the country, and was anxious to witness so singular a visitation.
Late in the still evening there fell upon his ear a dull murmur as of
distant thunder, speedily followed by a cracking and crashing of trees,
and in a few minutes more the river was overflowing its banks in a
wide-spreading flood. The phenomenon is described as being grand in the
extreme, and of so improbable a character as scarcely to be credited
unless it had been witnessed.

On the 27th the Castlereagh was reached, and the next day the party
found themselves on the banks of the Darling. For many miles in both
directions the river at this period was studded with pastoral
settlements. Having crossed at Warley, near one of the stations,
Mitchell now struck out for the Narran, the nearest point of which was
reckoned to be about 35 miles distant. The intervening space was found
to consist of choice pastoral country, covered with tall kangaroo grass.
Commissioner Mitchell, son of the explorer, had previously traversed
these parts, and this expedition soon "pulled up" his tracks. The line
of the Narran River having thus been already explored, it was traversed
as expeditiously as possible, and this part of the journey was over by
the beginning of April, when the Balonne (pronounced Baloon) was
sighted. Mitchell described it as the finest river he had seen in
Australia, with the exception of the Murray. The current was very
slight, but the water stretched out in long and beautiful reaches. The
march was once more resumed, and the party moved along the line of this
river till St. George's Bridge was reached, where the width expanded to
120 yards. At this point there is a chain of rocks stretching from bank
to bank, which has always the appearance, and sometimes the convenience,
of a natural bridge. It was this circumstance which led to its being
called St. George's Bridge, a name which it still retains in common with
the flourishing township that has sprung up in the vicinity.

While enjoying a short interval of repose in this enchanting situation,
Mitchell had the pleasure of receiving a despatch from headquarters
containing a brief account of Leichhardt's successful journey to Port
Essington. Being somewhat jealous of his rival, and, it may be,
concerned for his own laurels, he determined on making a redoubled
effort to cross the continent and discover a more practicable route
than Leichhardt had been able to find. Leaving Kennedy in charge of the
depôt at St. George, he took a light party and pushed forward, having
given instructions to the rest to follow his tracks when the stock
should be sufficiently recruited for travel. One day's march brought the
advance party to the junction of another important river, which was
afterwards found to be the Maranoa. But they still kept the line of the
Balonne as far as the Cogoon, a considerable tributary, which was now
followed. This led the explorers into a splendid district, known
afterwards as the Fitzroy Downs, near the centre of which the town of
Roma now stands. This fine region was studded with isolated
mountain-peaks, one of which Mitchell hastened to ascend. The prospect
obtained from its summit was magnificent, and the pasture so abundant on
this height as to suggest the name of Mount Abundance, which it has ever
since retained. At a short distance the three-peaked Bindango, standing
near its fellow, Bindeygo, formed most picturesque features in the
landscape. It was on Mount Abundance that the first bottle-tree was
discovered. This is the strangest product of the Australian forest, and
Sir Thomas was disposed to regard it as a _lusus naturæ_ in the
vegetable kingdom.

The telescope again brought into view a range of hills. Mitchell, bent
on reaching Carpentaria, had for some time been disappointed in not
finding the division of the northern waters, and fervently hoped this
distant range would prove to be the dividing line. This watershed was to
him, through the whole journey, what the horizon is to the
traveller--always appearing near and ever receding. Many a weary day did
he toil on, sustained by this expectation, but it kept mocking him to
the last, and he went to his grave without having crossed the coveted
watershed. But for the present he enjoyed the pleasures of hope. Leaving
Mount Abundance he soon discovered the Amby, which, being followed, led
on to the Maranoa, whose junction with the Balonne he had previously
discovered. Here he established another depôt and waited for Kennedy,
making in the meantime several short excursions in various directions.
Not far from this depôt a squatting station was subsequently formed, and
more recently an important town has been built, in both of which the
name of Mitchell has been perpetuated. Kennedy having brought up his
party in excellent condition, the experiment which had been so
successfully made at St. George's Bridge was repeated here--the leader
again setting out for the north with a small equipment and a four
months' supply of provisions. The natives in this quarter were not
disposed to stand on friendly terms with the strangers, and usually kept
at a safe distance. One inconvenience only Mitchell regretted. Many
interesting natural features were observed, especially mountain-peaks,
which he would gladly have made known under the aboriginal names.
Failing in this, his favourite custom, he called them after some of the
leading men of the time, as Owen, Faraday, Buckland, and P. P. King. As
an exception, he named one of the heights Mount Aquarius, in remembrance
of a very seasonable supply of water it had furnished for his party.
This difficulty now seemed to be overcome for some time by the discovery
of the Nive and the Nivelle, important tributaries of a large river.
This was the Warrego, which would have been followed had it not
persisted in taking a course which would have led them in the opposite
direction to Carpentaria.

The country to the northward continued to rise till it reached an
elevation of something like 1,500 feet. Being also of a mountainous
character, it was fondly hoped that here, at least, would be found the
long-sought watershed. This anticipation was rather confirmed by the
discovery of a beautiful stream, now called Salvator Rosa, which flowed
northward with a clear and musical current. This pleasing delusion
lasted only one day, for on the morrow the lovely river ended its course
in a reedy lake, on the opposite side of which a channel was found, but
it contained no water at that time. This is one of the heads of the
Nogoa, a river trending too much to the east to suit Sir Thomas's
purpose. Other discoveries of streams or watercourses were made soon
afterwards, two of the principal being named the Claude and the Balmy
Creek. These designations are suggestive of pleasant associations, and,
while speaking well for the country, sufficiently prove that the
expedition had its share of enjoyment as well as the usual experience
of toil and fatigue.

The 21st of July was rendered memorable by the discovery of the
Belyando, a fine river, heading towards the north, and offering a better
promise of leading to the Gulf. In this expectation, it was eagerly
followed, and in four days conducted the explorers across the Tropic of
Capricorn. In many parts the country was excellent, stretching out in
splendid downs, which squatters have long since applied to a lucrative
purpose, but in other places the axe had to be used to clear a path
through the brigalow scrubs. In common with other explorers, Mitchell
has noticed that "the Australian rivers have all distinguishing
characteristics, which they seem to possess from their source to their
termination." The Belyando was no exception. It was found throughout its
course to have an unfortunate propensity for splitting into channels,
which were often difficult to trace through the thick scrub; but, as a
compensation, these branches afforded excellent facilities for storage
of water against dry seasons. Many days of persevering travel gave the
party a good northing, but, after passing over three and a half degrees
of latitude, it began to be evident that the Belyando also was going to
deceive them. It had been steadily, and latterly very decisively, making
for the east, thus leaving no hope of conducting the expedition to
Carpentaria. Mitchell rightly conjectured that it must be the tributary
which Leichhardt had seen joining the Suttor, and, with a crushing
feeling of disappointment, determined to change his front and return
home.

Having still a sufficient store of provisions, he was unwilling to
continue his homeward track, and resolved to follow up a river to the
westward, which took its rise in the high ground previously mentioned.
It was found to lead through first-class pasture land, and this
excursion resulted in opening up a large area of squatting country. Many
tributaries were noticed to fall in on either side, particularly the
Alice, which came from the north. The main river was followed till it,
too, left no hope of leading to the coveted north. Soon after Sir Thomas
gave up the search altogether, and set his face in earnest for the
settled districts, which he reached, after no long interval, by way of
the Mooni River and the Liverpool Plains. Having failed to enter into
communication with the aborigines, he was unable to ascertain the native
name of the river which had led him so far to the west. It was the last
of his great discoveries, and he called it after the name of the Queen,
an unfortunate designation, as there is another Victoria River on the
west coast. About the same period Captain Sturt was exploring on another
part of this river, and gave it the name of Cooper's Creek. The natives
called it the Barcoo, and by this name it is now generally known
throughout its whole course.



CHAPTER IX.

KENNEDY'S DISASTROUS EXPEDITION TO CAPE YORK.


This chapter is from first to last a tale of woe. The history of
exploration, tragic as it has so often been, contains no parallel to the
expedition which is now to be described. Of the thirteen brave men who,
full of hope, set forth on this memorable journey, only three starved
and emaciated shadows of humanity returned to tell the story of their
miserable sufferings. The disaster produced in Sydney an impression
which was the more saddening as a successful issue had been confidently
expected. The leader, Mr. Edmund B. Kennedy, was supposed to be a
thoroughly capable person. He had formerly been taken from the Survey
Department and placed second in command of the northern expedition of
Sir Thomas Mitchell, whose discoveries on the Barcoo and the Warrego he
had subsequently followed up on his own account. So great care had been
taken in selecting the most promising leader, for this reason, simply,
that the colony was now passionately in earnest on this business. The
rising importance and threatening attitude of Port Phillip made it more
than ever necessary to discover, if possible, a practicable route to
some northern port which might serve as an _entrepôt_ for the trade with
India. Mitchell, after doing his best, had failed to supply this want.
Leichhardt had, indeed, been more successful, for he had actually
reached Port Essington; but his track was too rough and circuitous to
serve the purpose of commerce. Another effort to reach the same object
was now to be made on a modified plan. To simplify the process, it was
proposed to land a party of explorers at Rockingham Bay, with
instructions to proceed overland to Port Albany, near Cape York, in the
extreme north. This was the primary object, and if it could be attained,
other advantages might follow in the opening up of new country, and the
eventual connection of the survey with those of Leichhardt and Mitchell.

The enterprise commenced with unfavourable omens. The voyage to
Rockingham Bay was tempestuous, and extended over the unusual period of
twenty-one days. By the 1st day of June, 1848, the adventurers had
escaped from the perils of the sea, and committed themselves to the
guardianship of a land inhabited as yet only by savages. A hazardous
journey of six months lay between them and Port Albany, while their only
resource against starvation consisted of 1 ton of flour, 90 lbs. of tea,
and 600 lbs. of sugar, together with a few sheep, which were soon almost
wholly lost. It was arranged that a relief vessel should be waiting at
Cape York to receive the explorers at the end of their journey, and it
was promised also that an attempt would be made to communicate with them
at Princess Charlotte Bay, if they could engage to reach that place by
the month of August. With these arrangements and understandings the
_Tam o' Shanter_ spread sail, and left Kennedy with his heroic dozen to
battle with difficulties, known and unknown, as they best could. These
unhappily commenced at once, and never ceased till nearly all this brave
band found rest in the arms of death. The ground on which the landing
had been effected was covered with interminable swamps, and five
precious weeks were spent in turning these, before any northing could be
made. It was the misfortune of this ill-provisioned party to encounter
within a short compass nearly all the obstacles which have beset
Australian explorers, and these, truly, have been neither few nor small.
Scarcely had the maze of marshes been left behind when impenetrable
thickets threatened to bar further progress. These first visitors to
York Peninsula found the scrubs entangled and interlaced by a new
creeper which is now known under the name of _Calamus Australis_, and
this novelty proved to be a scourge of the first magnitude. For days in
succession the axe had to be used to cut a passage through this
exquisite specimen of nature's lattice-work, and then the severed
tendrils, furnished as they were with curved spines, and made the
plaything of the wind, kept hooking the flesh of the men at work, who
were thus subjected to perpetual annoyance. But a more serious enemy now
began to hang upon the rear. The blacks, having assumed a threatening
attitude for some time past, at last appeared in strong force, painted
and armed for the fight. Outward signs of friendship were still kept
up; but it was too evident that they were bent on mischief, and only
waited a fit opportunity for a decisive assault. When least expected a
spear was thrown into the camp, which Kennedy determined to accept as a
challenge, and gave battle. This decision was exceedingly unfortunate,
as it led to extremities at once. Men like Sturt would have tried every
conceivable shift before allowing matters to come to the _dernier
ressort_, and might have gained their object by the mere sound of a gun.
But Kennedy ordered his men to load and fire upon the savages at once.
Four or five of the ringleaders fell, and the rest retreated for the
present; but only to nurse their wrath and meditate revenge. Here was
the beginning of another train of sorrows, for the barbarians never
ceased to dog Kennedy's steps till their enmity was quenched in his
blood.

The progress of the expedition was slow and unsatisfactory. Cases of
individual sickness occasioned irritating delays, and physical
hindrances became more frequent than ever. A considerable part of the
route lay between the spurs of the range which would have to be crossed
before Cape York was reached. It was with great difficulty that the
drays carrying the provisions had been brought over the rugged country,
and it had sometimes been necessary to lower them into the ravines by
means of ropes. As the journey ahead looked still more precipitous, it
was judged impracticable to take them much further, and with great
reluctance Kennedy resolved on exchanging this mode of conveyance for
pack-horses. Everything that could be spared was accordingly abandoned,
for the animals were now too poor to carry heavy loads. In this manner
and under such difficulties a fresh start was made. Amid so many
discouragements only one gleam of hope sustained the heroic adventurers.
They were now nearing Princess Charlotte Bay, the appointed rendezvous
for themselves and the succour which was promised from the sea. But they
had been delayed too long to admit of this assistance being confidently
relied on. August was fixed as the time of meeting, but October had now
come, and they began to be uneasy lest the vessel should have given them
up and returned. These fears, as the issue proved, were only too well
founded. The hapless wanderers, standing on the precipices of the range,
scanned the inhospitable coast for miles around this lonely
trysting-place; but instead of the wished-for help, now a question of
life and death, they were met by nothing but blank despair. With heavy
hearts the explorers again set their faces towards Cape York, now
knowing for certain that they must either reach this goal or lay their
bones in the wilderness. Unhappily, the difficulties of travel thickened
more and more, and it became painfully evident to Kennedy that he would
have to leave the greater part of his men and strike out with all speed,
in the hope of returning with assistance. Provisions, too, had become
alarmingly short, and under any circumstances starvation seemed all but
inevitable. The camp was now on Pudding-pan Hill, in the vicinity of
Weymouth Bay, and it was determined to leave eight men in this depôt for
the present. All the provisions that could be spared were 28 lbs. of
flour and a couple of horses, which were only walking skeletons. Kennedy
reckoned on reaching Port Albany in about a fortnight, and started with
a light party of four men, including an aboriginal of tried fidelity
named Jacky Jacky. The remainder of this history is derived from the
barely intelligible language of poor Jacky. It appears that for the
first three weeks very unsatisfactory progress was made, much precious
time being lost in consequence of a gun accident. One of the men being
thus rendered unfit for travel, and another required to nurse him,
Kennedy resolved to divide his party a second time. He accordingly left
three men near Shelborne Bay, and, with only Jacky to accompany him,
determined to make a life-and-death struggle to bring succour from Port
Albany. But his own strength was rapidly failing, and the hostility of
the blacks, who had so long hung upon his rear, was daily assuming a
more deadly aspect. This misfortune was the more to be regretted as this
tedious and toilsome journey was almost at an end. From one of the
heights Kennedy caught a glimpse of Port Albany, with its neighbouring
island, and pointed them out to his dusky companion. But his life's
journey was still nearer its close. The blacks were gathering in
hundreds. An ineffectual attempt was tried to elude their vigilance by
camping in the scrub without a fire, but they again made their presence
known by hurling the deadly spear. Jacky made a rush to rally the
horses, which, frantic with their wounds, had begun to dash through the
scrub, and, on returning, found his master had been speared, surrounded,
and robbed. A feeble resistance was offered to the assault of the
savages, but it had little effect, and was soon over. Jacky thought
Kennedy was dying fast, and asked if he was now going to leave him. He
said he was fatally wounded, and, having given a brief order concerning
his papers, breathed his last in the arms of his faithful attendant.
Such was the end of Mr. E. B. Kennedy, a man who has left his mark on
our history, and will be honoured by posterity as one of the most
heroic, if not the most judicious, and certainly the least fortunate, of
the Australian explorers.

Jacky, being now alone, and more dead than alive, made his way as best
he could to Port Albany. His progress was sometimes less than a mile per
day, but he struggled on in the hope of finding the promised vessel.
Almost six months had passed away since the party of thirteen
disembarked at Rockingham Bay. It was within two days of Christmas, and
those in charge of the ship were debating with themselves whether it was
worth while waiting any longer, when a poor emaciated creature was
observed to drag himself from the forest and make signs to the vessel.
Being conveyed on board, his tale of woe was soon told, in such words as
he could use. The gravity of the situation became apparent immediately,
and the order was given at once to hoist sail for Shelborne Bay, in the
hope of being able to rescue the three men who had been left at
Pudding-pan Hill. The search was unsuccessful. No trace of these
unfortunates could then, or has ever since been discovered. There still
remained the depôt at Weymouth Bay, where the necessities of the eight
men left there could not be otherwise than urgent in the extreme, if
they were still alive. All haste was made to the rescue. The eight were
all found, but six of them were dead. The two survivors were more like
ghosts than human beings of flesh and blood. The tale of miseries which
they had to relate was heartrending. In addition to the lingering
horrors of starvation, they had to endure incessant attacks from the
blacks, who, knowing they had them in their power, enjoyed a savage
delight in prolonging the distress of their victims. Yet it appears that
the half-dozen eventually died of hunger, a fate which the survivors
must inevitably have shared if relief had been much longer delayed.
Having been too weak to bury their dead companions, this sacred duty was
performed by the ship's crew, who thereafter hastened homeward with the
miserable remains of Kennedy's heroic but ill-starred expedition.



CHAPTER X.

LEICHHARDT'S EXPEDITIONS TO PORT ESSINGTON AND INTO THE INTERIOR.


Dr. Ludwig Leichhardt, who was born in Germany and educated in France,
came to Australia in the year 1840. He commenced his career in Sydney as
a lecturer on botany, his favourite science, and became immediately
popular. Naturally fond of travel, and being eager for enterprise,
Leichhardt took to the bush, where he earned his fame and lost his life.
His first essays in exploration were made in the country lying between
Brisbane and Wide Bay, which he traversed specially in the interests of
botanical and geological science. In these adventures he was associated
for the most part with the blacks, who welcomed him as a benefactor on
account of his medical skill, of which he gave them the full benefit
without fee or reward.

Having accomplished his object in this part of the country, Leichhardt
returned to Sydney, where he found public opinion strongly excited on
the question of exploration. Sir Thomas Mitchell, having led three
expeditions into the interior with great success, was mainly
instrumental in creating this outburst of enthusiasm, which called for
other enterprises of a like nature and purpose. At this period, also, a
keen desire was manifested for an overland route to Carpentaria as a
highway, so far, to India, which was supposed to offer an unlimited
market for Australian horses. Already a settlement had come into
existence at Port Essington, which was reckoned a suitable _entrepôt_
for the prospective traffic. The one thing wanted was an overland route
to this place, and it was generally thought the time had come when an
attempt should be made to discover it. Sir Thomas Mitchell was again to
the front, expressing himself ready for the undertaking, with Dr.
Leichhardt as second in command. He had already arranged to proceed to
his old depôt at Fort Bourke and to strike north for Carpentaria. But a
fatal obstacle was unexpectedly interposed. Sir George Gipps, being in a
bad humour with his advisers, refused to confirm the vote for supplies
which the Council had unanimously passed, and, as a natural consequence,
the whole project fell to the ground. This was a sore blow to
Leichhardt, but it did not unman him. Despairing of help or countenance
from the Governor, he volunteered to lead an expedition to Port
Essington on his own account if private liberality should prove itself
equal to the occasion. In a very short time sufficient resources were
forthcoming, and Leichhardt now set himself to redeem his promise.


I.

In this expedition it was resolved to start from Moreton Bay and keep
the eastern fall of the main range, thus avoiding the parched-up
interior and following a route which was likely to furnish an adequate
supply of water. Leichhardt could never have been far beyond the reach
of the sea-breeze--a circumstance which caused Mitchell to speak of him,
rather contemptuously, as a "timid coaster." The party, consisting of
ten persons, with seven months' provisions, made an auspicious start
from Brisbane, and had reached the outskirts of settlement by the 1st of
October, 1844. Crossing the Darling Downs, the River Condamine was
followed as far as practicable, after which a dividing range was
traversed and the Dawson River discovered. It flowed through a
magnificent valley, which was soon after proved to be an excellent
pastoral district. When it turned too much to the east a more northerly
course was steered, which led to the discovery of Palm-Tree Creek, in a
splendid valley abounding in palms, and hence the name. The next stage
was much impeded by brigalow scrub, but a succession of lagoons supplied
the party with plenty of water and excellent game. Zamia Creek followed
in the line of discovery, bounded by the Expedition Range, which was
crossed, and Comet Creek discovered soon after. This latter led on to
the Mackenzie, which had to be abandoned in a short time, as it flowed
too much to the east. The picturesque Peak Range was now passed. The
mountains not only appeared magnificent in point of scenery, but were
believed also to contain precious stones. Leichhardt says:--"A profusion
of chalcedony and fine specimens of agate were observed in many places
along the basaltic ridges." On the 13th of February they discovered an
important river, which was named the Isaacs, but it was not followed, as
the course was again directed towards the mountains. Shortly after they
had the good fortune to come upon the Suttor, which brought them to the
Burdekin. This was the best discovery yet made, as it served them for a
guide over more than two degrees of latitude. When this river also left
them for the coast, their route was directed more inland, with a view of
reaching Carpentaria. In this cross-country journey a conspicuous
mountain observed in the distance received the name of Mount Lang,
"after Dr. Lang, the distinguished historiographer of New South Wales."
A few unimportant creeks having been crossed, they found themselves on
the western fall, and discovered one of the Gulf rivers, which was named
the Lynd. Here, and at several later camps, the explorers were treated
with a visit from some awfully pertinacious intruders. "We had scarcely
left our camp," says Leichhardt, "when swarms of crows and kites took
possession of it, after having given us a fair fight during the previous
days whilst we were drying the meat. Their boldness was, indeed,
remarkable; and if the natives had as much we should soon have to quit
our camps." In this district a botanical novelty, in the form of a
bread-fruit tree, was found, and used to some advantage. As the Lynd did
not lead in the most suitable direction, it was left, and a straight
line taken to the Gulf. This was the occasion of the discovery of
another river, which was called the Mitchell, in honour of the
distinguished explorer; but it, too, was given up for a shorter course.
In this quarter a deplorable accident occurred. The camp was attacked
during night by the blacks, when Gilbert, the naturalist to the
expedition, was killed. From this point the journey was continued round
the head of the Gulf. Numerous rivers were crossed, some of which had
been long before discovered by exploring navigators, and others were now
for the first time brought to light. Among the latter were the Gilbert
and the Roper, both receiving names in honour of members of the
expedition. The Roper River had many tributaries, one of which was
called Flying-Fox Creek, from the myriads of these creatures which had
chosen it for their haunt. Leichhardt says:--"I went with Charley and
Brown to the spot where we had seen the greatest number of flying-foxes,
and whilst I was examining the neighbouring tree, my companions shot 67,
of which 55 were brought to our camp, which served for dinner, supper,
and luncheon." By the 24th of November the expedition had crossed the
watershed between the streams flowing into the Gulf and those heading
for the Indian Ocean. After much toilsome travel, the South Alligator
River was reached, about 60 miles from its mouth and 140 from Port
Essington. In this locality the waterfowl are described as being seen,
not in crowds, but in "clouds." "Here," says Leichhardt, "we should
have been tolerably comfortable but for a large green-eyed fly, which
was extremely troublesome to us, and which scarcely allowed our poor
horses to feed." In order to avoid some bad, rocky ground, the party
turned to the south and struck the East Alligator River. The last stage
of the journey was travelled under the direction of a native guide, and
the goal of the expedition reached in safety. After a month's rest in
this settlement, Leichhardt found a schooner bound for Port Jackson, and
embraced this opportunity of returning to Sydney by sea. His unexpected
appearance there seemed like an apparition from the other world. For a
long time he had been given up for lost, and a search expedition had
already come back unsuccessful. The citizens of Sydney at once
instituted a public subscription for Leichhardt and his associates, who
had thus travelled over 3,000 miles in fifteen months. The amount
reached the figure of £1,500, which was supplemented by a Government
grant of £1,000. The Royal Geographical Societies, also, hastened to
show their appreciation of the explorer's labours by presenting him with
their gold medals. These rewards had been as honestly earned as they
were handsomely made. The route he had laid open was, indeed, useless
for the purpose intended, as being impracticable for traffic, and
inferior to others which have since been discovered, but the expedition
brought to the knowledge of the colonists an immense extent of excellent
country, which was speedily occupied by pastoral tenants.


II.

A short period of repose sufficed to recruit the wearied explorer and
brace him up for future effort. Now more enthusiastic than ever,
Leichhardt conceived the heroic idea of traversing the entire continent
at its greatest width, starting from Moreton Bay and proceeding through
the deserts to Swan River in Western Australia. He was now in possession
of some private means, and his zeal was again supported by numerous
friends. This new expedition consisted of nine persons, and his
equipment, especially under the head of live stock, was provided on the
largest scale the colony had yet witnessed. These consisted of 108
sheep, 270 goats, 40 bullocks, 15 horses, and 15 mules. His plan was to
follow his former route for a few hundred miles, and then bear off to
the westward. All went tolerably well till the Dawson country was
passed, after which wet weather became a serious hindrance. At Comet
Creek the party began to suffer from fever and ague, but still pushed on
to the Mackenzie, where they found themselves in a deplorable plight.
The resources had been wasted, not so much as a dose of medicine being
left for the sick. No one being able to attend to the sheep and cattle,
the whole were irretrievably lost. It now became evident to Leichhardt,
as it had been for some time to his companions, that it would be the
part of madness to attempt the unknown desert so ill-furnished with
supplies. Conquered by dire necessity, Leichhardt returned home with a
heavy heart, after a fruitless journey of seven months. The expedition
had proved a total failure, and, as the old track had been followed, the
journey added nothing to what was already known of the distant parts of
the country.


III.

In the meantime Sir Thomas Mitchell had made a fourth exploring
expedition, and on this occasion had done his best to discover an
interior route to Carpentaria. He failed, however, in this object; but
in all other respects the undertaking had been eminently successful. In
one quarter the tracks of the two explorers had approached within a
short distance of one another, and Leichhardt, being in possession of a
considerable salvage from the wreck of his second expedition, proposed
to examine the intervening district--a fine territory, now known as the
Fitzroy Downs. This was a small undertaking for so great an explorer.
Nor was it a very necessary one either, for the squatters were already
in possession of the country, and the crack of the stockman's whip
suggested to Leichhardt the propriety of returning home and preparing
for an enterprise more worthy of his well-won reputation.


IV.

Arrangements were again made in earnest for crossing the continent to
Swan River, all being ready to set out from Moreton Bay with a party of
only six men, provisioned for a journey which was calculated to extend
over two or three years. The second in command was one Classan,
brother-in-law to Leichhardt, who had just arrived from Germany to join
the expedition. The late Rev. W. B. Clarke, being surprised at so
peculiar an arrangement, asked the "new chum" what qualifications he
possessed for the most perilous enterprise hitherto attempted in
Australia? Classan replied that he was a seaman who had suffered
shipwreck, and was, therefore, well fitted to endure hardship! In this
expedition Leichhardt resolved to abandon his old route for that of Sir
Thomas Mitchell, which he proposed to follow as far as the bend of the
Victoria (Barcoo), and then turn westward. He seems to have fallen into
this track near Mount Abundance, in the neighbourhood of the present
town of Roma, in Queensland. It is not possible to trace the expedition
much further, nor is there any hope of the veil of mystery ever being
lifted. Here are Leichhardt's last words to the civilized world, as
written from M'Pherson's station, on the Cogoon, under date of 3rd
April, 1848:--"I take the last opportunity of giving you an account of
my progress. In eleven days we travelled from Mr. Burrell's station, on
the Condamine, to Mr. M'Pherson's, on the Fitzroy Downs. Though the
country was occasionally very difficult, yet everything went on very
well. My mules are in excellent order, my companions in excellent
spirits. Three of my cattle are footsore, but I shall kill one of them
to-night, to lay in our necessary stock of dried beef. The Fitzroy
Downs, on which we travelled for about 22 miles from east to west, is,
indeed, a splendid region, and Sir Thomas Mitchell has not exaggerated
their beauty in his account. The soil is pebbly and sound, richly
grassed, and, to judge from the myalls, of the most fattening quality. I
came right on to Mount Abundance and passed over a gap in it with my
whole train. My latitude agreed well with Mitchell's. I fear that the
absence of water in the Fitzroy Downs will render this fine country, to
a great degree, unavailable. I observe the thermometer daily at 6 a.m.
and 8 p.m., which are the only convenient hours. I have tried the wet
thermometer, but am afraid my observations will be very deficient. I
shall, however, improve on them as I proceed. The only serious accident
that has happened was the loss of a spade, but we were fortunate enough
to make it up at this station. Though the days are still very hot, the
beautiful clear nights are cool and benumb the mosquitoes, which have
ceased to trouble us. Myriads of flies are the only annoyance we have.
Seeing how much I have been favoured on my present progress, I am full
of hopes that our Almighty Protector will allow me to bring my darling
scheme to a successful termination." This last communication,
unfortunately, says nothing about the direction in which he intended to
travel, and his route henceforth is a matter of pure conjecture. After
years of weary waiting Mr. Hovenden Hely was sent to search for his
tracks, but without avail. Hely was played upon by the blacks, who
pretended to show him several of Leichhardt's camping grounds, and
finally the bones of the murdered party. They turned out, however, to be
mutton-bones, and the search ended in nothing. Mr. A. C. Gregory,
himself a distinguished explorer, led two expeditions with the same
object in view, and discovered a tree marked "L," which may or may not
have been made by Leichhardt. Walker, when searching for Burke and
Wills, believed he had found some traces of the missing expedition; but
these marks were again successfully contested by Landsborough. Still
later a Mr. Skuthorpe, in a most mercenary fashion, tried to persuade
the public, and especially the Government of New South Wales, that he
had discovered certain relics of the expedition, including Leichhardt's
journal in good preservation; but the affair was looked upon as an
imposition, and nothing further has transpired. It cannot be said with
certainty that a single trace of Leichhardt has been discovered since he
wrote his letter from the Fitzroy Downs.



CHAPTER XI.

MR. A. C. GREGORY'S EXPEDITION TO THE NORTH-WEST INTERIOR.


The part of the continent which shall next engage our attention is the
north-west interior. Up to this period of our history very little had
been known of this quarter, except along the seaboard and, in sparse
places, for a few miles inland. The Victoria had been discovered in 1840
by Captain Stokes, who described it as a rival to the Murray, and,
moreover, sailed up its channel for 50 miles without reaching the head
of the navigation. By this waterway it was thought possible to reach the
north-western interior, in which some traces of Leichhardt might be met
with. The conduct of this expedition was entrusted to Mr. A. C. Gregory,
a very capable explorer, and a man of scientific attainments. His party
numbered eighteen persons, including his brother, Mr. H. Gregory, Mr.
Wilson, geologist, and the now famous Baron Von Mueller as botanist. The
party took with them 50 horses and 200 sheep. The _Tom Tough_ and the
_Monarch_ landed the expedition on the Plains of Promise, near the head
of the Gulf of Carpentaria, on the 24th September, 1855. The _Monarch_
then returned to Moreton Bay, while the _Tom Tough_ sailed round to the
Victoria, having received orders to wait for the rest of the party, who
were to proceed overland. In six days they made the Macadam Range, and
in eight more came on to the Fitzmaurice River. At this camp the horses,
which had already been greatly reduced in number, were bitten by
alligators, and three of them died. On reaching the Victoria the _Tom
Tough_ was not to be seen, as she had been driven ashore elsewhere and
had sustained severe injury. On the 3rd of January, 1856, Mr. Gregory
started with eight men and followed up the Victoria for 100 miles. In
latitude 16° 26' S. it split into two branches, each of which was in
succession traced up to the vanishing point. The explorers then struck
forth into the desert, proceeding on a southerly course. A journey of
300 miles brought them, on the 22nd of February, to a promising creek,
to which they gave the name of Sturt, in memory of the eminent explorer.
To their intense disappointment, this clue also failed them, for Sturt's
Creek finally resolved itself into a sheet of salt water, to which they
gave the appropriate designation of Lake Termination. Two mountains in
this neighbourhood were called Mount Mueller and Mount Wilson, after the
botanist and the geologist of the expedition. Once more the terrible
salt desert lay before the baffled explorers. "Nothing," says the
leader, "could have been more forbidding than the long, straight lines
of drift-sand which, having nearly an east and west direction, rose
beyond each other like the waves of the sea; and though the red glare of
the sand was partially concealed by a scanty growth of spinifex, the
reflection from its surface caused the passing clouds to be coloured a
deep purple. We had long passed the limit to which the tropical rains of
the north-west coast extend, and the country south of 19° seemed only to
be visited by occasional thunderstorms. Thus for a few miles the grass
would be fresh and green, then there would be a long interval of dry,
parched country, where no rain appeared to have fallen for a
twelve-month. The channel of the creek also decreased in size, and the
frequent occurrence of salicornia indicated the saline nature of the
soil; the water became brackish, then salt, and finally spread out and
terminated in the dry bed of a salt lake, a mile in diameter, which
communicated with a second, of larger size, nine miles long and five
wide. Though now quite dry, there were marks of water having stood for
considerable periods, of from 10 to 15 feet deep, as the shells of
mussels in their natural position were abundant more than a mile from
the ordinary bank of the lake, showing that a large tract of country is
sometimes inundated. As the mussels are a species which live in fresh
water, it is evident that at such times the lake is not salt, but it
would appear that as the waters evaporate and recede they become saline,
as the shells found within the limits of the lake were of other species
which affect brackish or salt water." One more attempt to make for the
south proved abortive, and, with many regrets, Gregory returned to the
depôt, after having penetrated within 730 miles of Sturt's most
advanced camp towards the centre of Australia.

Falling back upon alternative instructions, the leader now left the
Victoria, and, making his way across Arnheim's Land, reached the River
Roper. The track of Leichhardt round the southern shores of the Gulf was
followed for the most part. The Plains of Promise were crossed, but
Gregory scarcely agreed with Stokes in his unqualified praise of this
country. From the Albert River he resolved to seek for a better track to
Moreton Bay than Leichhardt's. The Flinders was reached on the 8th of
September, between which river and the Gilbert some good country was
discovered. The latter was traced for 180 miles of its course. The
Burdekin was reached by the 16th of October, and a fortnight later its
junction with the Suttor. Gregory traced the Belyando to 22°, thus
connecting the routes of Mitchell and Leichhardt with his own. Passing
the Mackenzie and the Comet, the Dawson River was reached by the 15th of
November. The course was then made to Brisbane through the Burnett
district, a journey of 400 miles. The parties in this expedition had
been absent sixteen months from the haunts of civilization. They had
travelled 2,000 miles by sea and 5,000 by land.



CHAPTER XII.

BURKE AND WILLS'S EXPEDITION ACROSS THE AUSTRALIAN CONTINENT.


The golden age of Australian exploration dates from 1860. The preceding
half-century is rich in heroic efforts put forth in this direction, and
bears witness to many a conquest over the mysterious interior as the
fruit of much self-sacrifice. Yet these results, as a class, were of a
secondary character, only sometimes answering the hopes of the explorers
themselves, and not doing so at all when these expectations rose to the
ambition of crossing the continent. But those days of comparative
failure are now over, and 1860 marks the commencement of a bright and
glorious era for the explorers of this hitherto dark continent. Within
the space of the next two years Australia was crossed no fewer than six
times, by as many expeditions. The foremost place in time, as well as
interest, belongs to Burke and Wills, and for this reason the story of
their victory and sufferings will form the subject of the present
chapter.

Victoria has the credit of this expedition. The movement originated in
the offer of £1,000 by Mr. Ambrose Kyte, on condition of this sum being
doubled by voluntary subscriptions. The terms were soon complied with,
after which the Government generously came to its aid by a vote of
£5,500. The arrangements were undertaken by a committee of the Royal
Society, and, as the funds were ample, it was determined to equip the
expedition on the most liberal scale. As a new feature in exploration,
two dozen camels were imported from India, and every provision was made
to secure the object on which the young colony had set its heart. The
only difficulty that remained was to find a competent leader. After much
delay had been occasioned through unsuccessful negotiation, the command
was finally given to an enthusiastic volunteer named Robert O'Hara
Burke. This remarkable man was a native of Ireland, but was educated in
Belgium, and had served as an officer in the Austrian cavalry. He
subsequently returned to the "Green Isle," and entered the constabulary
force. Having emigrated to Australia he received a similar appointment,
and held the position of inspector of police when this new honour was
conferred upon him. He was a brave and generous man--few, indeed, have
been more heroic and faithful--but, as he possessed little acquaintance
with Australian exploration, and was destitute of special qualifications
for the work, his appointment has generally been regarded as a mistake
on the part of the committee. The position of second in command, with
the office of astronomical observer, was conferred on William John
Wills, who had been born in Devonshire as late as 1834. He came out to
Australia while a mere youth, and for a time had to betake himself to
the humble occupation of shepherd, but being well educated and
possessing excellent gifts of head and heart, he soon rose to the
position of a government surveyor, and afterwards obtained the
honourable office of assistant astronomer in the Melbourne Observatory.

The expedition, when fully organized, consisted of 15 men and 24 camels,
with twelve months' provisions, weighing in all 21 tons. The start was
made from Melbourne on the 20th of August, 1860--an imposing spectacle,
which has yet left its impression on the memories of many of the older
inhabitants of that city. By the committee's direction, they were to
march first to the Darling, next to the Lower Barcoo (Cooper's Creek),
and then strike northward for the Gulf of Carpentaria. Melbourne had
been left too late in the season, and this disadvantage was aggravated
by delays occasioned by the unwieldiness of the expedition and
insubordination on the part of some of the men. At length Menindie, on
the Darling, was reached. The name is new in the history of exploration,
but the locality is in the neighbourhood of Laidley Ponds, a quarter
which was then well known to the readers of Sturt and Mitchell. Burke
formed a depôt here, in which he left the greater part of his men and
some beasts of burden to recruit from the fatigues of their toilsome
journey. Taking Wills, together with six men and 15 camels, he made his
arrangements for a quick journey across to the Barcoo. It had been his
intention to follow Sturt's old track, but he was dissuaded from his
purpose by a Mr. Wright, superintendent of a neighbouring pastoral
station, who told him of a better route further to the north, and
volunteered to conduct the party over it in person. Both the advice and
the offer were accepted; nor did experience fail to justify the change
of plan. Travelling was agreeable on this new route, and water found at
intervals of not more than 20 miles. The march from Menindie to
Torowotto was little short of a pleasure excursion, and Burke, with the
generosity which was part of his nature, now associated Wright
permanently with the expedition, giving him the position of third in
command. Being no longer needed as a guide, he was sent back from this
place to the depôt on the Darling, with orders to bring forward the
heavy supplies with all convenient speed. The advance party continued
their progress into the interior, and, on the 11th of November, struck
the Barcoo, which was followed until a suitable place was found where
they might encamp till the arrival of Wright with the remainder of the
expedition. The delay proved to be longer than had been expected; and,
that the time might not be altogether lost, some explorations were made
in the surrounding country, and several promising routes to the Gulf
were examined with little satisfactory result. Worst of all, some of the
camels were lost, and although much time was consumed in the search,
they were never seen again by the explorers. Wright's delay was becoming
as vexatious as it seemed to be inexcusable. Six weeks had passed away
since he left Burke, and yet the whole distance from Menindie to the
encampment on the Barcoo had been traversed by the advance party in
twenty-two days. Chafed and irritated almost to madness under the
disappointment, Burke determined to endure it no longer, and resolved
"to dash into the interior, and cross the continent at all hazards." For
this purpose he again divided his party, taking with himself Wills and
two others, named King and Gray, together with six camels, one horse,
and twelve weeks' provisions. The camp was now transformed into a
permanent depôt, in which were left four men, six camels, and four
horses. One of the party named Brahe was put in command, with
instructions to erect a stockade as a means of defence against the
natives, and to detain Wright after his arrival with supplies. Burke was
now entering upon the real difficulties of his gigantic undertaking, and
had at command only a mere fraction of the means which he had brought
out of Melbourne. But of hope and courage he had lost nothing. On the
16th of December he took leave of Brahe and his men, telling them, with
his wonted generosity, that if he were not back in three months, they
might consult for their own welfare as should appear to be necessary.

Burke and Wills, together with their brave companions King and Gray, now
plunged into the unknown deserts and shaped their course for
Carpentaria. During the earlier stage the whole party rode on the camels
or the one horse that accompanied them, but the animals got weary, and
it became necessary to trudge it on foot. Burke and Wills walked ahead,
carrying a rifle and a revolver, while King and Gray followed with the
beasts of burden. Their progress was necessarily slow, even though they
had not encountered serious obstacles of a physical kind. Comfort, or
anything approaching to it, was utterly unknown. Night after night the
toil-worn wanderers encamped _sub Jove frigido_, without tents or
covering of any sort. Yet these hardships were endured without murmur or
regret. Burke is reported to have said he would not care though he had
only a shirt on his back, if so be that he could cross Australia. It is
impossible to give ample details of this northward journey, for the
materials are scanty. Burke was not much of a literary character, and
found it too irksome a task to keep a diary. Wills was vastly superior
in this respect, but yet his journal, otherwise so satisfactory, is
defective here. This much is certain, that they pursued a north-westerly
course through the interior, by way of what was afterwards known as
M'Kinlay Range, discovering and naming Gray and Wills creeks, Mount
Standish, and other topographical positions which have since become
prominent landmarks. By the 27th of January they had crossed the
northern watershed and come on to the Cloncurry, which led them to the
Flinders. This river was mistaken for the Albert, but was scrupulously
followed, in the hope that it would lead to the Gulf. After six weeks'
absence from the Barcoo signs of the neighbourhood of the ocean began to
appear. The waters of the Flinders became brackish, and gradually
widened into an estuary. A sight of the ocean would have gladdened the
eyes of the explorers beyond measure, but a forest of mangroves deprived
them of this gratification. Nevertheless, they had reached the mouth of
the Flinders, and were within the limits of the rise and fall of the
tide. The object which had cost so many sacrifices was accomplished at
last, _and the continent of Australia traversed from end to end_.

The condition of the explorers was now pitiable in the extreme, and
never were men more in need of rest or had better deserved it; but to
rest here meant to perish, for only a fag-end of the rations was left,
and if they were to see the Barcoo depôt again, it must be by subsisting
on the merest pittance for the next two months. For this reason no time
was lost at the Gulf, and the return journey was commenced on the 21st
February. The weather happened to set in wet, which was a real
misfortune, as it added immensely to the inconvenience of travel, seeing
their strength was almost spent. The camels broke down and had all to be
abandoned except two, which were also in a weakly state. The one horse
which had been brought from the depôt was killed and eaten, to save the
provisions. In addition to all the other evils sickness began to affect
them, and Gray was so ill that he had to be strapped on the back of a
camel. The poor fellow, driven by starvation, had lately been caught
appropriating more than his share of the provisions, and was chastised
by Burke for the offence--an act of discipline which might have been
spared, for poor Gray was not to eat much more of the little store. Day
after day he was carried forward on the journey, but each night found
him getting weaker, and it was necessary to make a halt to let him die.
He breathed his last in a lonely wilderness, sacrificing his life
without a murmur to the cause which he loved not less than his master
did. His three surviving companions mournfully buried him in the desert
with such strength as was still left them, but were so exhausted with
the labour of digging his grave as to require a day's rest before
attempting to renew the journey. They, too, must have succumbed to their
troubles but for the sustaining power of hope, which told them the
longed-for depôt could not now be far distant. Other indications also
pointed the same way, and in four days after leaving Gray's grave their
eyes were gladdened with the sight of the familiar landmarks of the old
camping ground on the Barcoo. Burke gathered up all his remaining
strength and made the desert ring with "cooeys" for his former comrades,
and listened for a reply; but, _horresco referens_, no response was
returned but the echo of his own voice. Could it be possible that the
depôt was abandoned, and the miserable men left to perish in the
wilderness? The appalling thought was quickly succeeded by the
experience of the more terrible reality. The place of the encampment was
plainly visible, and the stockade still standing, but no human being to
break the solitude. Man could not suffer a more crushing disappointment;
and it is not surprising to hear that Burke now completely broke down.
But, after a short interval, one ray of hope sprang up from the depth of
despair. A marked tree happened to catch the eye of one of the
explorers, which contained the inscription, "Dig three feet westward."
Wills and King immediately began to excavate, but Burke was too much
unmanned to render any assistance. The hole was found to contain a chest
with some supplies and a letter of explanation. This unhappy day in the
experience of the explorers was the 21st of April, and the letter was
eagerly opened to ascertain what time Brahe and his men had left. The
date was also the 21st of April, at noon--in fact, the ink was scarcely
dry, for the letter had been written only seven hours before it fell
into the hands of Burke. It stated, in explanation, that they had
remained in the depôt four months; that Wright had not come with the
supplies from Menindie; that the blacks were troublesome and their own
provisions exhausted. Moreover, as Burke had engaged to return in three
months, they considered, at the end of four, that he must have perished
or taken another route.

What was to be done? To remain in the abandoned depôt was to perish, for
the amount of provisions could only afford a very temporary relief.
Wills recommended an immediate move in the direction of Menindie, on the
track of Brahe and party; but Burke was strongly in favour of making for
South Australia, whose pastoral stations now reached as far as Mount
Hopeless. At first sight there seemed reason in this advice. Burke
argued that it was impossible to overtake Brahe in their emaciated
condition; that Menindie was 400 miles from the depôt, whereas Mount
Hopeless was only 150; and that the Barcoo River might be expected to
supply them with water for the most of the route. The course to Mount
Hopeless was accordingly adopted. Thinking the depôt might possibly be
visited by a relief party, they took the precaution of burying a letter
at the foot of the marked tree, stating the direction they had taken,
adding that their weak condition rendered it impossible to travel more
than four or five miles a day; but, by a strange oversight, left no
external indications which would lead such a relief party to conclude
that the place had been visited by the explorers. Having taken the
handful of provisions, Burke, Wills and King, together with the two
surviving camels, started for the most northern settlement of South
Australia, striving to make the shortest course, and coming on to the
river only when water failed them elsewhere. One of the camels,
unfortunately, got bogged, and had to be shot, after two days' labour
had been spent in trying to extricate it. As much of its flesh as could
be recovered was dried and added to the small and rapidly diminishing
store of provisions. They managed to save a little, also, through an
occasional present of fish from the native tribes, who, fortunately,
were very friendly. But a great and unexpected misfortune now befell the
unhappy explorers. The Barcoo, which had been reckoned on to supply them
with water, split up into several channels and lost itself in the
desert. One branch after another was followed for some distance, but
with no other result than the consumption of their provisions and the
loss of the one surviving camel. They were now reduced to dire extremity
through want of both food and water, and debated with themselves whether
they should continue the journey or return and encamp on the nearest
waterhole in the river, and endeavour to get subsistence from the
blacks. It was difficult to say how much ground had been travelled over,
but they supposed it must be somewhere about 45 miles. In reality it was
about double that distance; and if they could have made another good
day's journey to the south they would have seen Mount Hopeless raise its
friendly head above the horizon. But, by another of those fatal
decisions which haunted this expedition, they resolved to abandon their
journey and return to the banks of the river. Fighting against despair
even yet, they conceived a faint hope that the depôt might have been
visited in the interim, and Wills, with the consent and advice of Burke
and King, walked back, as he was able, to see if any relief had arrived.
He reached the end of his journey on the 30th of May, but found no one
there, and saw no indications which could lead him to think the place
had been visited since his own party had left. Sorrowful at heart, but
brave in spirit to the last, Wills again retraced his steps, and
returned to his companions in a very exhausted condition; but he could
not have reached them at all without the help of the blacks. All three
were now destitute, and, with the exception of an occasional present of
fish, had nothing in the shape of provisions. But even yet there
appeared to be one resort which lay between them and death by
starvation. The country abounded with a plant called nardoo, the seeds
of which, when pounded and baked into a cake, were eaten by the natives.
The starving explorers adopted the same practice, in the hope of still
further prolonging their existence. But a little experience proved that
the nardoo cakes, although allaying the pangs of hunger, contained
little nourishment, and the heroic sufferers had now fallen into the
last stage of starvation. If they were to live at all, it was evident
they must cast themselves on the blacks, and trust to their charity.
Dreadful as the alternative was, they agreed to adopt it, for life is
sweet, even in the wilderness. But just here an insuperable difficulty
intervened, for the blacks were not at hand and had to be sought out.
Burke and King had yet strength to walk a mile, or perhaps two, in a
day. But poor Wills could walk no more, and yet he was willing that his
companions should go and save themselves, if too late to save him. They
put together a rude shelter, and left to seek the blacks, after taking
a sorrowful departure, which could hardly fail to be final, for his
life was visibly ebbing away. But they were not to go far. On the second
day Burke succumbed, and felt his end to be at hand. He was a brave man,
yet he shrank from the idea of dying alone, and entreated King to stay
with him until all was over. His dying request was religiously observed
by his trusty friend, who held him in his arms till he breathed his
last. Seeing he could render no more assistance there, King returned to
see how it was with Wills. It was all peace, for he, too, lay quietly
asleep in the arms of Death. Beside his dead body lay his journal, in
which he had made his last entry with his trembling hand, noting the
aspect of the weather, and added, with a stroke of pleasantry even yet,
that he was just like Mr. Micawber, waiting for something to turn up.
Such was the end of William John Wills, the most amiable and
noble-minded of Australia's explorers. His life was one of singular
promise, and great things might have been expected from him had he not,
unhappily, perished in his youth. He was only 27 years of age when he
fell a sacrifice to the incompetency of others whom he served or
trusted. The disconsolate King was now alone in the wilderness, with his
dead leaders on either side of him. Having performed his last duties to
the departed, as best he could, he sought and found his sable
benefactors, who received him as one of themselves, and proved by their
conduct that hospitality towards the distressed is a virtue which even
savages can exercise.

Having seen the last of Burke and Wills, and left King safe for the
present in the hands of the friendly aborigines, let us return to the
Barcoo depôt, in the hope of finding some explanation of the mystery
which enshrouds that most unlucky centre of operations. Brahe, as has
been already noticed, took his departure on the 21st of April, bound for
Menindie. He had travelled only eight days when Wright was met coming
on, _at last_, with the bulk of the supplies for the expedition. After a
brief consultation the two leaders resolved to come on to the Barcoo
depôt, which they reached in another eight days. Burke and party had
been there during the interval, but as they left no external marks,
Wright and Brahe, after a few minutes' cursory examination, concluded
the depôt had not been visited, and almost immediately took their
departure for Melbourne, without putting themselves to the trouble of
opening the hole at the foot of the marked tree, where the explorers'
letter was concealed. Again the place was left without any external
indications for the direction of their friends, who might return, and
when the depôt was visited by Wills, about a fortnight later, he
concluded, in the absence of such indications, that no one had been
there since his own party left.

Almost everyone connected with this expedition is to blame in some
degree for the disasters in which it ended. The committee at Melbourne
went to sleep, and were aroused to vigorous action when it was too late.
Burke and party were at fault in leaving the depôt for Mount Hopeless
without making some external marks which might catch the eye of anyone
who should come with supplies. Brahe and Wright were guilty of
unpardonable neglect in finally leaving the Barcoo depôt without opening
the _cache_, to see whether the depôt chest of provisions had been taken
or not. But the real author of the disasters was Wright, who loitered
four months at Menindie, while the heroic explorers were slowly dying of
starvation. He alleged in his defence that Burke had asked him to remain
until his own appointment was confirmed by the Melbourne committee. But
this is extremely improbable, and is contradicted by Burke's own
despatches. For the shortcomings of the others a tolerable excuse may be
made, but for the cruel conduct of Wright there is neither justification
nor defence, for all the evidence saddles him with the responsibility of
the horrible tragedy in which this once splendid expedition closed its
career.



CHAPTER XIII.

SEARCH EXPEDITIONS IN QUEST OF BURKE AND WILLS.


As time passed on and no trustworthy tidings of the missing explorers
could be obtained, anxiety on the part of the Melbourne public became
unbearable. An active search was demanded with an urgency which was not
to be resisted. A manifold effort was soon put forth on an unprecedented
scale, and in this enterprise Victoria was materially assisted by the
sister colonies. This combined action marks the meridian of Australian
exploration, which, when finished, left little more to be done in the
eastern half of the continent. Within the space of two years--from 1860
to 1862--it was crossed no fewer than six times, in as many different
directions, by exploring parties. The search expeditions all took the
field about the same time. Alfred Howitt was despatched from Melbourne
on the footsteps of Burke and Wills; John M'Kinlay was sent from
Adelaide to search the Barcoo and surrounding districts; Frederick
Walker was commissioned to start from Rockhampton and proceed to the
north; while William Landsborough was instructed to begin at
Carpentaria, and examine the country to the southward as far as might be
necessary. With a view to the support of all these parties, as
opportunity might offer, Captain Norman was sent with the _Victoria_ to
form a relief depôt on the Albert River, at the Gulf of Carpentaria.
There are thus four search expeditions which call for a brief review.


I.

Mr. Alfred W. Howitt, son of William and Mary Howitt, so well known to
the literature of their country, was sent from Melbourne to the Barcoo
(Coopers Creek), by the route which had been taken by the missing
expedition. Near Swan Hill he met Brahe, returning with the intelligence
that Burke and Wills had not appeared at the depôt. Proceeding by way of
Menindie and Poria Creek the Barcoo was reached on the 8th September,
1861, and the depôt at Fort Wills on the 13th. The _cache_, on being
opened, was found to contain papers showing that the explorers had been
there since returning from Carpentaria. The members of the expedition
having thereafter dispersed in different directions in quest of
information, one of them soon came back with the welcome news that King
had been found. The sequel had better be given in Howitt's own
words:--"I immediately went across to the blacks' wurleys, where I found
King, sitting in a hut which the natives had made for him. He presented
a melancholy appearance, wasted as a shadow, and hardly to be
distinguished as a civilized being but by the remnant of clothes upon
him. He seemed exceedingly weak, and I found it occasionally difficult
to follow what he said. The natives were all gathered round, seated on
the ground, looking with a most gratified and delighted expression. I
camped where the party had halted, on a high bank, close to the water,
and shall probably remain here ten days, to recruit King before
returning." The story, as given by King, is soon told. From the time he
saw his companions dead to the day he was discovered by Howitt's party
he had been about two months and ten days in the wilderness. He remained
by himself some days before going to the blacks. Upwards of two months
had thus been spent with the aborigines. Though desiring to be quit of
him at first, they afterwards became very well reconciled to his
company. On the whole they behaved very well to the white stranger. As
soon as King was able to walk he proceeded seven miles down the creek
with the relief party, and showed them the remains of Wills, which he
had buried under the sand. At a distance of about eight miles further
they found also the body of Burke, which was now interred with due
solemnity. The object of the expedition having been thus accomplished,
preparation was made for the return to Melbourne, but before starting
the camp of the natives was again visited, and some presents
distributed, in acknowledgment of their humane treatment of the forlorn
King.

Soon after this party returned home, a second expedition was organized,
under the same leader, to bring the bodies of Burke and Wills to
Melbourne. After reaching the Barcoo, a considerable time was spent in
the further exploration of the surrounding country. The Stony Desert
was visited, and a horse captured which had been lost by Captain Sturt
18 or 19 years before. Having at length taken possession of the bodies,
they first conveyed them to Adelaide, by the route which the explorers,
when living, had wished in vain to travel. This part of the journey was
traversed in seven days. The remains of the two men who had been the
first to cross Australia were thence conveyed to Melbourne, where they
were interred with every mark of respect for their noble characters, and
many a token of regret for the neglect which had left them to perish in
the wilderness.


II.

Although the object which called forth all the search expeditions was
completely attained by the first alone, it is yet worth while to give
some attention to the other three, on account of their indirect services
in the work of exploration. We shall take next in order the South
Australian effort. On the 16th of August, 1861, Mr. John M'Kinlay was
despatched from Adelaide, with a party of 10 men, 4 camels, 24 horses,
12 bullocks, and 100 sheep. Blanchewater, 400 miles distant, was crossed
at Baker's station. The journey thence to Lake Hope was made through a
dry and stony country. From this part all the way to Sturt's Stony
Desert the country was poor, but contained an abundance of lakes and
creeks, which were well supplied with fish. Leaving a depôt at Lake
Buchanan, M'Kinlay set out for the Barcoo, again passing through a
region of lakes. In the country now visited a number of natives were
found wearing pieces of European clothing. A white man's grave was
pointed out by the blacks and opened by the explorers. It was really
Gray's grave, but they were as yet in ignorance of the true facts of the
case, and were, moreover, grossly misled by the aborigines, who pointed
to a lake and told them they had killed and eaten white men there.
M'Kinlay, hastily concluding that this must have been the end of the
missing expedition, called the place Lake Massacre, and reported
accordingly to the authorities at Adelaide. Fearing that they intended
to make the like quick despatch with himself and party, M'Kinlay
commanded his men to fire upon them, which made the whole lot decamp.
This was an unfortunate misapprehension, for the blacks, instead of
meaning to be hostile, were only giving expression to their joy after a
fashion of their own. It was, in fact, the same tribe that had treated
King so well, and they must have been terribly surprised by such an
abrupt termination to friendly intercourse. But, in the presence of such
strangers as they had encountered, it was a risky thing to boast of
killing and eating white men. Having returned to the depôt on Lake
Buchanan, and thence sent to Blanchewater for supplies, M'Kinlay
received correct information regarding the fate of the missing
expedition. There was, therefore, no need of doing anything more in this
connection; but, being well supplied with all necessaries, he wisely
resolved to continue his journey of exploration across the continent. On
the 17th of December they were again on the march, heading in a
north-easterly direction, which led them through a country barren in
soil, but abounding in lakes much frequented by waterfowl. These lakes
were quite as much a distinguishing feature of this region as the
springs had been of the country discovered by M'Douall Stuart to the
east of Lake Eyre--soon to be noticed. Further travelling was rendered
difficult, first by excessive rain, and next by intolerable heat.
Christmas Day was spent at a splendid lake, called Jeannie, which was
found to be the haunt of innumerable waterfowl. Here many natives were
observed pounding the nardoo seed between two stones, which was then
baked and roasted on the ashes. At this camping-ground good feed was
found for the stock, and the men also were supplied with abundance of
fish by the blacks. During the night their sable neighbours proved
rather too noisy, but when a rocket was sent up it had the effect of
causing a dead silence till morning. The next stage led on to another
lake, but it was through a country containing little vegetation except
polygonum, samphire, and saltbush. One journey more brought them to a
magnificent lake, which M'Kinlay called the Hodgkinson, after the second
leader of the expedition. A three-days' excursion from this centre ended
in the discovery of quite a number of lakes, abounding in excellent
fish. The expedition had now spent four months in a region of lakes,
full or dry, with many creeks and flooded hollows. This was a great
surprise in a country which bordered so closely on Sturt's Stony Desert,
and is still one of the enigmas of the physical geography of Australia.
On the 6th of January a fresh departure was made for the north, but,
after weeks of fruitless toil in the midst of a drought, a return had to
be made to Lake Hodgkinson, where it was resolved to remain in camp till
rain fell. During this enforced delay M'Kinlay, unable to brook
idleness, took a small party and made an assault on Sturt's Stony
Desert, intimating that he might be absent for three weeks. Four days
proved to be quite enough, as he met with nothing but dry lakes, red
sand-hills, and bare stones, although he had penetrated 57 miles into
this solitude. Having returned to the camp there was nothing but the
unpleasant experience of waiting for rain, while the provisions were
running down with an uncomfortable rapidity. Here, too, the blacks,
presenting themselves in companies of 400 or 500, were anything but
agreeable neighbours. The explorers also had to put up with heat, flies,
ill-health, and all manner of inconveniences, till the 10th of February,
when rain came and released them from confinement. They had now to
flounder in the mud through a country which is described as utterly bare
of grass, like a field which had been ploughed and harrowed, but not
sown. On the 13th an old camp of Burke's was passed, and by the 7th of
next month Sturt's Stony Desert was left behind their backs. Towards the
middle of March some tracts of well-grassed country were reached, and
named the Downs of Plenty. During the remainder of this month, also,
they traversed a tolerably good country, which seemed, however, to be
bordered by deserts. Tropical Australia was now entered upon, and during
the whole of April the course lay through the most luxuriant vegetation.
About the beginning of May the track of Burke on the Cloncurry was
crossed. The Leichhardt River was reached during the same month. Here
the country was simply magnificent, the grass being up to the horses'
necks. Another stage brought the expedition to Stokes's Plains of
Promise. Finally, on the 18th, they advanced to the tidal waters of the
Gulf of Carpentaria, but dense forests of mangrove forbade their
approach to the shore. Under date of the 19th of May, and while resting
in the 60th camp, M'Kinlay wrote as follows:--"I consider we are now
about four or five miles from the coast. There is a rise in the river
here of six and two-thirds feet to-day, but yesterday it was a foot
higher. Killed the three remaining sheep, and will retrace our steps on
the 21st." These were the last of the 100 sheep which were started with
the expedition. M'Kinlay had the credit of being the first to take sheep
across the continent of Australia. They now made for the coast of the
Pacific, which was struck at Port Denison, but not till a thousand
obstacles were overcome and nearly all the camels and horses eaten to
keep themselves alive.


III.

On the same errand Mr. Frederick Walker, Commander of Native Police, was
sent from Rockhampton to the Albert River by the Queensland authorities.
Taking a party of mounted troopers, he proceeded to Bauhinia Downs, on
the Dawson, where the expedition was finally organized on the 7th
September, 1861. The River Nogoa was reached on the 16th, after which he
pushed on through Walker's Pass to the River Nivelle. By the 27th he had
made the Barcoo, which was followed down for three days, during which
traces both of Gregory and Leichhardt were discovered. From the Barcoo a
passage was made to the Alice through much spinifex country. After
crossing the watershed between the Alice and the Thomson, a fine
tributary of the latter, called the Coreenda, was met with. By the 16th
of October they had got into a country of high mountains, where the
natives were observed to be armed with iron axes and tomahawks. Some
traces of Leichhardt were also found in this quarter. The advance was
now continued through a hilly country in a north-west direction to lat.
21°, where they fell in with the head-waters of the Barkly, a large
tributary, or a main section, of the Flinders River, which led them
through splendid country. Another fine tributary of the Flinders was
soon after discovered, and called the Norman, in honour of the captain
of that name who was in command of the depôt on the Albert. Nothing
further of special interest occurred till the 30th of October, when
they were attacked by a large party of armed natives. Walker commanded
his men to fire upon them, when a dozen of these unfortunate creatures
fell under his guns. There is reason to fear that the leader's
experience as an officer of black troopers had led him to hold the lives
of the aborigines too cheap and to forget that they were human beings,
of the same blood and brotherhood as ourselves. The explorers now
followed the Norman River, but had to dig in its channel for water. On
the 25th of November they reached the junction of the Norman and the
Flinders, the latter of which being a large and beautiful river. Here
the track of Burke and Wills was discovered, leading south, but could
not be followed till fresh supplies were obtained from the depôt on the
Albert. Early in December the expedition came on to the Leichhardt, and
then to the Albert River, the latter flowing over plains and flooded low
flats, where the tracks of several other explorers were seen. On the 7th
the depôt was reached and found to be under the superintendence of
Captain Norman. Walker had thus made the journey in three months and
twelve days from Rockhampton. In point of celerity, our annals of
exploration contain nothing to beat this record. After passing thirteen
days at the depôt, Walker started anew to follow up the track of Burke
and Wills which he had been fortunate enough to discover. He succeeded
in running it southward to the ninth camp of the missing expedition,
when it ceased to be discernible, in consequence of the abundance of
vegetation and the obliterating action of floods. Thinking Burke had
turned off to make for the east coast, Walker altered his course to the
same quarter, and made a vain attempt to follow him up. After much
harassing travel he struck the Burdekin River, at Strathalbyn station,
where his troubles came to an end. Making next for Port Denison, he
proceeded thence to Rockhampton, which was reached on the 5th of June.
The journey had thus occupied five months and two weeks. Burke and Wills
were not found, of course, but much good country was discovered and the
geography of Northern Australia materially advanced.


IV.

The last of these efforts to bring relief to the missing explorers was
Mr. William Landsborough's expedition. The honour of being a _search_
party has frequently been denied to this enterprise. Landsborough was
plainly accused of having interested objects in view; and it must be
confessed that his journal contains little to refute this charge, for it
scarcely ever alludes to Burke and Wills, nor would any reader be likely
to suspect that its author was in search of anyone in particular. Be
this as it may, in cannot be doubted that, in all other respects, this
expedition was a most fortunate one, and excelled all the rest in the
extent of fine country which it brought to light. To the leader himself
it must have seemed more like a vacation tour than a perilous journey
through an unknown land. With a party of three white men and three
blacks, Landsborough sailed from Moreton Bay to Carpentaria on the 24th
of August, 1861. Starting from the shores of the Gulf, he explored the
Albert River, under different names, for about 120 miles. This tract of
country being exceedingly dry, and the blacks troublesome, he was
compelled to return to the depôt on the Albert. Captain Norman told him
that Walker had been there reporting the discovery of Burke's track on
the Flinders. This route was accordingly followed from the Gulf to the
source of the river, but neither the tracks of Walker nor Burke were
found. After leaving the Flinders, the Thomson was followed, and then
Cooper's Creek (Barcoo) was reached on the 19th of April. From this
position to the settled districts a route was found without
difficulty--indeed, with great ease to Landsborough. On the 21st of May,
being 103 days from the start, Williams's station, on the Warrego, was
reached, where intelligence was first received regarding the fate of
Burke and Wills. The remainder of the journey across the continent was
made by the Darling River and Menindie to Melbourne. It proved of the
highest value to the squatting interest, and led to the occupation of an
immense extent of country for squatting purposes. After an experience of
twenty years in Australia, Landsborough testified that the best land he
had seen was in the district of Carpentaria.



CHAPTER XIV.

JOHN M'DOUALL STUART'S EXPEDITIONS IN THE SOUTH, TO THE CENTRE, AND
ACROSS THE CONTINENT.


The brave adventurer who is next to engage our attention must be placed
in the front rank of explorers. John M'Douall Stuart was excelled by
none, and equalled by few, in the special qualities which command
success in the arduous enterprise to which he devoted his life. As a
practical bushman he probably stands without a rival. From first to last
he spent over twenty years in the exploration of Australia, during which
time he was the leader of six expeditions, in all of which he made
important discoveries, and never failed to bring home his men, who had
put their lives in his keeping. He first served under a great master,
Captain Sturt, whom he accompanied in the capacity of draughtsman to the
expedition which started for the centre of Australia in 1844. His own
responsible and eminently successful labours in the same field will be
sketched in the sequel. It is not too much to claim for M'Douall Stuart
the palm of martyrdom in the cause which lay so near his heart. It is
true that after his work was done he was not left without honours, and
also rewards, both in land and money, but by that time he had lost the
capacity for enjoying any of these things. From his last journey he
returned, or rather was carried, more dead than alive, racked with the
pains of scurvy, contracted in the centre of the continent, which he was
the first to discover. He subsequently rallied a little, but never
recovered his health, and died in England in 1869.


I.

The first of Stuart's journeys was undertaken on the solicitation, and
also at the expense, of his friend Mr. Wm. Finke, and had for its object
the discovery of new pastoral country in the unknown territory to the
west and north-west of Lake Torrens. On the 10th of June, 1858, Stuart
started from Mount Eyre with only two men, a white man and a
blackfellow, taking with him a small complement of horses and a too
scanty allowance of provisions. The first section of the journey, which
was rugged and sterile, lay to the west of Lake Torrens, whose surface
was occasionally sighted. Water was found at moderate distances on this
part of the route, but the rough and stony country proved a serious
difficulty to the horses, which were imperfectly shod. This contingency
had been strangely overlooked, and no shoes had been provided for the
journey. The blackfellow, who was supposed to know this country
intimately, soon got bewildered, and proved of no service for the
purpose he was intended to forward. The leader, being thus thrown upon
his own resources, was also greatly inconvenienced in shaping his
course by the frequent and extraordinary illusions of the mirage of the
desert. Referring to one of these perplexing occasions he says:--"I
think we have now made the dip of the country toward the south, but the
mirage is so powerful that little bushes appear like great gum-trees,
which makes it very difficult to judge what is before us; it is almost
as bad as travelling in the dark. I never saw it so bright or so
continuous as it is now; one would think the whole country was under
water." Failing to obtain the object of his search in the north-west,
Stuart now directed his journey to the south and east, exploring the
central region between Lake Torrens and Lake Gairdner. In this quarter
some small patches of fairly good country were found, but the water, in
the few places where it was met with, proved to be as bitter as the sea.
The blackfellow now, thinking it time to shift for himself, took the way
that pleased him best, leaving only the white man, Foster, to assist
Stuart in the thick of his difficulties. Hope of a successful issue to
their labours was now fast ebbing from the breasts of these indomitable
adventurers. After journeying hither and thither for 1,000 miles, they
had failed in the prime object of the expedition, their provisions were
rapidly disappearing, and the horses were too footsore to travel an
ordinary day's march. At this stage the monotony of the scene was broken
by a high mountain coming into view, which Stuart named Mount Finke, and
from the summit of which he ventured to hope for a better prospect, or,
if not, to alter his course. "If I see nothing from the top of the mount
to-morrow," said he, "I must turn down to Fowler's Bay for water for the
horses.... As I could not remain quiet, I got on one of the lower spurs
of Mount Finke to see what was before me. The prospect is gloomy in the
extreme. I could see a long distance, but nothing met the eye but a
dense scrub, as black and dismal as midnight." From this mount,
accordingly, a straight course was steered to the sea-coast, during
which every camping-place is marked on the map by the name of "desert."
In the matter of provisions, they had for some time been reduced to one
meal a day, and toward the close of the journey it was found that only
two more remained to carry them a distance of 100 miles. In this dire
extremity they were glad to feed on kangaroo mice, which, happily, were
here to be found in great abundance. They are described as elegant
little creatures, about four inches in length, of the shape of a
kangaroo, with a tail terminating in a sort of brush. By means of this
resource against starvation the explorers were enabled to cross the
remaining stages of the desert, and so reached the habitations of
civilized men.


II.

Mr. Stuart was the first explorer who reached the centre of Australia.
The journey which led to this memorable achievement is worthy of
detailed narration; but before entering upon this story it may be
proper to say a few words on two preliminary essays in exploration,
which, in some measure, opened the way to this much-desired result.

About six months after his return from his first expedition, this
indefatigable explorer started on a new journey to examine the extensive
territory lying to the north of Lake Torrens and the east of Lake Eyre.
This country proved, in some respects, a surprise to Australian
discovery. It turned out to be unusually well watered, being furrowed at
moderate intervals by a series of creeks, some of which were entitled to
the name of rivers. But its most astonishing feature consisted in the
myriads of springs, in groups ranging from two or three to more than a
dozen in number. Some of these sent forth a stream of water which might
have turned a mill-wheel, and continued to run a mile from the source.
From this circumstance the whole territory has, not inaptly, been called
the "spring" country. Another dominant feature was seen in the
extraordinary abundance of quartz reefs, many of which bore plain
indications of being auriferous, but, of course, could not be fairly
tested by any appliances which were then to hand. Towards the close of
the same year (1859) another journey was made to this part of Australia,
when more accurate surveys were obtained, and the boundaries of a number
of squatting runs laid down. In both of these expeditions important
service was rendered to the better knowledge of this country, but they
were especially valuable as furnishing Stuart with an advanced
starting-point for his heroic project of crossing the continent from
south to north. This arduous, but happily successful, enterprise will
now be described in its main outlines.

This expedition, which consisted of only three men and thirteen horses,
set out on the 2nd of March, 1860, from Chambers's Creek, a valuable
water supply which had been discovered by Stuart in 1858. For some time
his course lay through an extensive tract of country which, though yet
unoccupied, had become well known to this, its first explorer. Toward
the northern part they followed the River Neale, which furnished plenty
of water, and led them into the unknown country. The next important
creeks to be discovered and crossed were the Hamilton, the Stephenson,
and the Finke. After crossing the latter there began to heave into sight
a strange and striking mountain structure, which presented the
appearance of a locomotive engine with its funnel. "We proceeded," says
the journal, "towards this remarkable pillar through heavy sand-hills
covered with spinifex, and, at 12 miles from last night's camp, arrived
at it. It is a pillar of sandstone, standing on a hill upwards of 100
feet high. From the base of the pillar to its top is about 150 feet,
quite perpendicular, and it is 20 feet wide by 10 feet deep, with two
small peaks on the top. I have named it Chambers's Pillar, in honour of
James Chambers, Esq., who has been my great supporter in all my
explorations." Much good country had been traversed before this point
was reached; indeed, the whole of this route was a surprise in this
respect, as it had been expected to land them in a great central desert.
Instead of finding a barren wilderness, the continuation of the journey
brought them into another splendid tract, watered by a creek named the
Hugh, which, after being followed for a long distance, terminated in a
high mountain-chain. To scale its rugged flanks and penetrate the dense
thickets of mulga proved to be a most formidable task, their clothes and
skin being torn in forcing a passage through the living and the dead
timber. This range--the James--was succeeded by two other chains, which
were named the Waterhouse and the M'Donnell Ranges, the latter of which
have since become a well-known landmark in the history of more recent
explorations. Stuart thus describes the view he obtained from the north
gorge of these mountains:--"From the foot of this for about five miles
is an open grassy country, with a few small patches of bushes. A number
of gum-tree creeks come from the ranges and seem to empty themselves in
the plains. The country in the ranges is as fine a pastoral hill-country
as a man could wish to possess--grass to the top of the hills, and
abundance of water through the whole of the ranges." Still heading
northward, the expedition reached a position, on the 22nd of April,
which is very memorable in the annals of Australia. The goal which had
proved the incitement to so many sacrifices during a long period of our
history was now reached at last. Mr. Stuart was standing in the centre
of the continent. This achievement, of which he might well have been
proud, is intimated by the following modest entry in his diary:--"To-day
I find by my observation of the sun--111° 0' 30''--that I am now camped
in the centre of Australia. I have marked a tree and planted the British
flag there. There is a high mount about two miles and a half to
north-north-east. I wish it had been in the centre; but on it,
to-morrow, I will raise a cone of stones and plant the flag there and
name it Central Mount Stuart." This ceremony was performed on the day
following, when a fine view was obtained from the summit of this, high
mountain. The aspect of the central region of Australia must have been a
surprise to the first discoverer, for it falsified the prophecies of
half a century. The centre of Australia was as much a matter of
curiosity and conjecture in our early history as the North Pole is at
the present time. Oxley was first in the field, with his pet theory of
an inland sea. This conjecture received its quietus from Sturt, but it
was only to make room for the opposite fallacy of a stony desert. Now,
at last, when the veil was lifted and the reality disclosed, it turned
out to be just that which nobody had prophesied and few had ventured to
expect. It was simply a fine country, abounding in grass, and fairly
supplied with water. Both now and afterwards it was used by Stuart as a
recruiting-ground for his toil-worn expedition. Leaving part of his
little force here for the present, the leader made a tentative effort
to ascertain whether there was any practicable route out west to the
Victoria River. Finding none, he returned, and kept steering his former
course. As if the centre had been the natural goal of the journey, he
met with nothing but difficulties in the attempt to penetrate further to
the north. He himself had fallen a victim to scurvy, which was only
slightly relieved by the native cucumber, his only resource. Water
became even harder to find. The horses, also, which were too much of the
cart breed, did not well stand a hard pinch. Above all, the blacks, who
had never been friendly, became the more hostile the further the
expedition advanced. The crisis was reached when they made an encampment
on Attack Creek. Here the aborigines set fire to the grass, and tried
every stratagem to separate the explorers from their horses, after which
there would soon have been an end to the expedition. Failing in this
device, they next mustered their forces and attacked the strangers in
the proportion of ten to one. Even so, they had to come off second best
for the time being. Nevertheless, Stuart deemed it scarcely prudent to
oppose himself to a tribe of warlike blacks in the centre of Australia,
with an army consisting of two men, all told, himself being
commander-in-chief. Nothing further remained but to submit to the
inevitable, which he accordingly did, and returned to the most northern
settlements of South Australia.


III.

Mr. Stuart reached Adelaide in October, 1860. When it became known that
he had encamped in the centre of Australia and pushed his way
considerably further north, the public enthusiasm again rose to fever
heat in the cause of exploration. The Parliament, which never failed in
its duty in this business, again came forward with a vote of £2,500 to
provide for another and a larger expedition, which was speedily
organized, with the old and well-tried explorer for its leader. He took
with him seven men, thirty horses, and thirty weeks' provisions. The
former route was followed, with a little deviation, as far as Attack
Creek, the scene of the previous repulse. In all his journeys Stuart had
the shrewdness to search out and follow up mountain-systems, as being
the physical conformation most likely to furnish the needful supply of
water. Still on the look-out for this good fortune, Attack Creek had not
been far left in the rear when an elevated chain--the Whittington
Range--was discovered, and followed for a long distance. It led them on
to Tomkinson's Creek, containing a large supply of water, which
served as a base for immediate operations, and was afterwards
turned to good account as a retreat in time of difficulty. Another
mountain-system--named the Warburton--was met with in the next stage of
the journey. Like the former, it was heading too much to the north to
suit Stuart's intention of making for the Victoria River, on the
western coast. Breaking away from the mountains, repeated attempts were
made to find a route in the required direction. The high lands soon
shaded away into an interminable, but very fertile champaign country,
which received the name of Sturt's Plains, in honour of the "father of
Australian exploration." But it proved to be absolutely arid, and
blocked on all sides by impenetrable scrubs, varied only by low red
sand-hills. Through these impervious scrubs, on the west, a passage
would have to be forced, or the expedition must end in failure. The
latter alternative was not to be thought of till every expedient had
been exhausted. Leaving a portion of his force in the depôt, Stuart,
three several times, started with a light party to pierce his way
through the most forbidding obstacles he had ever experienced in his
journeys. It was with the greatest difficulty the horses could be
brought to face this formidable barrier; and when forced to do so, the
animals were injured and the explorers' clothes torn to shreds. It was
hard to persevere in the face of such sacrifices; yet it was done
manfully enough, and might have been crowned with success but for the
absolute failure of water. The furthest point reached in these assaults
on the impervious west was only a hundred miles distant from Gregory's
last camp on the Camfield; and if this short space could have been
bridged over the final aim of the expedition would have been easily
attained. To accomplish this object, Stuart did all that man could do in
such a situation. Nothing could be more admirable than the pluck and
perseverance displayed in this conflict with the impossible. But he,
too, like all mortals, had to yield to stern necessity. With a heavy
heart he turned his back on the coveted north-west and retreated to the
old camping-ground on the Tomkinson. Even yet unwilling to leave any
alternative untried, he now modified his plan, and proposed to strike
north for the Gulf of Carpentaria, if such a course might be possible.
This, unhappily, it proved not to be. His path was effectually barred in
this direction also. After the most desperate effort nothing remained
but to abandon the enterprise and return to the haunts of civilization.
The following entry in his journal shows with how much regret this
retreat was forced upon him:--"It certainly is a great disappointment to
me not to be able to get through, but I believe I have left nothing
untried that has been in my power. I have tried to make the Gulf and the
river (Victoria) both before rain fell and immediately after it had
fallen, but the results were the same--_unsuccessful_. I shall commence
my homeward journey to-morrow morning. The horses have had a severe
trial from the long journeys they have made, and the great hardships and
privations they have undergone. On my last journey they were one hundred
and six hours without water." So ended this second heroic effort to
cross the continent. Notwithstanding his defeat, Stuart had succeeded in
penetrating one hundred miles beyond the furthest point reached on the
previous journey. His most advanced position was lat. 17° long. 133°.


IV.

Now, at last, we are to see the reward of perseverance. If Fortune has
any favour for the brave, it was time to smile on John M'Douall Stuart.
Two noble efforts had ended in failure, but this third attempt was to be
crowned with complete success, and land the explorer on the much-coveted
shores of the Indian Ocean. A month had not elapsed since his return
from the second journey when the Government of South Australia
despatched him on his third and final expedition. Being provided with
reinforcements, he left the settled districts in January, 1862, and by
the 8th of April had reached Newcastle Water, the most northern
camping-ground of the former journey. Without loss of time he made a
renewed attempt to pierce the north-western scrub and carve his way to
the Victoria River. But again his Herculean struggles proved to be only
wasted effort. This route was accordingly abandoned, finally and for
ever, as being absolutely impracticable. The line of march was now
directed to the north, with a view of cutting the track of Leichhardt's
and Gregory's discoveries, and thus gaining the Roper River, which
enters the Gulf of Carpentaria. This new project proved more easy in the
accomplishment than he had ventured to expect. There were, of course,
stubborn obstacles to be overcome; but water, the great requirement,
was found at manageable intervals, bringing the party on, by a
succession of ponds, first to the Daly Waters, and thence to an
important river, which was named the Strangway. This bridge over the
wilderness conducted them to the much-desired Roper River. It is
described as a noble stream, draining a magnificent country, and
exceeding in volume any the explorers had hitherto seen. This clue
having been followed in the direction of its source, led the expedition
a long way towards its destination on the shores of the Indian Ocean.
After it failed them by turning too far to the north, only a short
intervening tract had to be crossed before the Adelaide River, one of
the known western streams, was reached. Again the route lay through some
of the finest country in Australia, containing much that was new both in
flora and fauna. The valley of this river was constantly revealing to
the eyes of the strangers some botanical surprise--giant bamboos,
fairy-like palms, and magnificent water-lilies on the placid bosom of
its longer reaches. There was only one drawback, and that a rather
serious one. It was the paradise of mosquitoes, which made a common prey
of the intruders, allowing them no rest by night, and leaving mementos
of their attachment that could not be forgotten during the day. But
through pleasure and pain the expedition pushed on towards the
attainment of its purpose. The leader so managed the last stage as to
make the conclusion of the journey a surprise to his men. He knew the
ocean to be near at hand, but kept the good news a secret till his party
should be in a position to behold it with their own eyes. "At eight
miles and a half," says he, "we came upon a broad valley of black
alluvial soil, covered with long grass. From this I can hear the wash of
the sea. On the other side of the valley, which is rather more than a
quarter of a mile wide, is growing a line of thick heavy bushes, very
dense, showing that to be the boundary of the beach. Crossed the valley
and entered the scrub, which was a complete network of vines. Stopped
the horses to clear a way, while I advanced a few yards on the beach,
and was gratified and delighted to behold the waters of the Indian
Ocean, in Van Diemen's Gulf, before the party with the horses knew
anything of its proximity. Thring, who rode in advance of me, called out
'The sea!' which so took them all by surprise, and they were so
astonished, that he had to repeat the call before they fully understood
what was meant. They then immediately gave three long and hearty
cheers.... I dipped my feet and washed my hands, as I had promised the
late Governor, Sir Richard McDonnell, I would do if I reached it. Thus I
have, through the instrumentality of Divine Providence, been led to
accomplish the great object of the expedition, and to take the whole
party safely as witnesses to the fact, and through one of the finest
countries man could wish to behold. From Newcastle Water to the
sea-beach the main body of the horses have been only one night without
water, and then got it the next day." The Union Jack was now hoisted,
and near the foot of a marked tree there was buried, in a tin, a paper
containing the following inscription:--"The exploring party under the
command of John M'Douall Stuart arrived at this spot on the 25th day of
July, 1862, having crossed the entire continent of Australia, from the
Southern to the Indian Ocean, passing through the centre. They left the
city of Adelaide on the 26th day of October, 1861, and the most northern
station of the colony on the 21st day of January, 1862. To commemorate
this happy event they have raised this flag, bearing his name. All well.
God save the Queen!" Burke and Wills had crossed the same continent to
the Gulf of Carpentaria nearly eighteen months earlier, but this
achievement in no way detracts from the merit of Stuart's success, for
his journey was entirely independent of their, or any other, expedition.
The felicitous termination of this splendid enterprise marks a principal
era in the history of Australian exploration. It led directly to three
important results--the annexation of the northern territory to South
Australia, the establishment of a colonial settlement at Port Darwin,
and the construction of the transcontinental telegraph along almost the
whole route of this expedition.



CHAPTER XV.

COLONEL WARBURTON'S JOURNEY ACROSS THE WESTERN INTERIOR.


M'Douall Stuart's crowning feat in exploration was soon turned to good
account. The idea of a transcontinental telegraph now passed from the
realms of Utopia and became a realized fact. The commercial interests of
Australia had been urgently in need of communication with the
Indo-European lines already existing, but the great desert of the
interior was believed to interpose an impenetrable barrier. Now, at
last, this misconception, which had been founded on ignorance, was
removed by Stuart, who discovered a belt of good country stretching
across the interior and reaching to the Indian Ocean. Along this route,
with few deviations, the line runs from the Adelaide extension in the
south to Port Darwin in the north. In this most creditable enterprise,
which was completed in 1872, South Australia spent £370,000, and
rendered excellent service to the exploration, as well as to the
commercial interests, of Australia. Here was a new base-line for
explorers, intersecting the continent from end to end. This advantage
was not long in being put to practical use. In South Australia the
question of further exploration began to be agitated as soon as the line
was opened. The Government was importuned for means to provide for an
expedition to cut through the western interior, starting from the
telegraph line at the centre of the continent. No aid was obtained from
this quarter; nevertheless, the projected tour of discovery did not fall
through, for two private gentlemen, the Hon. Thomas Elder and Mr. W. W.
Hughes, now came forward and offered to bear the expense of the
expedition. The next important step was the choice of a leader, who was
happily found in Colonel P. E. Warburton. This brave man was born in
Cheshire, England, in 1813. He was early trained for the military
profession, and served in India from 1831 to 1853. About the latter date
he came out to South Australia, where he was appointed Commissioner of
Police, and subsequently held the position of Commandant of the
volunteer forces till 1874. During these later years he had been engaged
in several essays in exploration, in which he rendered good service to
his country and prepared himself for the perilous, but successful,
journey with which his name will ever be associated.

The proper starting-point for the expedition was fixed for Alice
Springs, a station on the overland telegraph, situated almost in the
centre of Australia; and it was the leader's intention to make for the
city of Perth, in the west, by the most direct course that could be
found--a purpose which came to be considerably modified under the
pressure of a terrible necessity. The rendezvous, 1,120 miles distant
from Adelaide, was reached by way of Beltana, along a route now
beginning to be pretty well known, and all was prepared for the start by
the 15th of April, 1873. The expedition, now first in the line of march,
consisted of Colonel Warburton as leader, R. Warburton (his son), J. W.
Lewis, D. White, two Afghans, and a black boy. The only beasts of burden
were camels, which amounted to seventeen in number, and the supply of
provisions was calculated to last for six months. The route for a short
distance northward kept the line of the telegraph, till the Burt Creek
was reached, after which it deflected toward the west. The difficulties
which beset this journey began at the beginning and continued to its
close, only increasing in severity with terrible consistency. Want of
water compelled them again and again to retreat to former encampments,
thus causing a great part of the route to be travelled over two or three
times. From this cause the eastern boundary of South Australia had to be
crossed three times before permanent progress could be made in the
proper course. From first to last the country proved to be a barren
waste, without creek or river affording a supply of water. In the
earlier part of the journey an occasional oasis was met with containing
permanent lakelets, at which the explorers would gladly have lingered to
recruit themselves and rest the camels; but this delay meant consumption
of the provisions, which it soon became evident were too scanty from the
first. Warburton wisely resolved to feel his way as he proceeded through
the desert by sending scouts in advance to search for water. This was
seldom found, except in extremely sparse wells, which were used by the
aborigines, and sometimes indicated by the smoke of their camps, but in
hardly a single instance was direct information obtained from the
blacks. The native wells in the sand not unusually indicated, rather
than contained, water, and had often to be excavated to much greater
depth. In this way, for the most part, was the desert crossed. When
water was announced, an advance was made one stage further and a search
party again sent out. It often happened that no water could be found by
the scouts after the most exhausting search, further progress being thus
rendered impossible. In these cases there was no help for it but to
change the direction, as far as their object would permit, and seek
another tentative route. This was indescribably trying to their spirits,
but the other alternative was to perish in the sand. On some few
occasions the clouds came to their relief and burst in thunderstorms.
Even when only a slight shower fell, a few buckets of water were secured
by spreading a tarpaulin on the ground. On the 9th of May a deep glen
was found in a range of hills. Here was an excellent supply of water,
shaded by basalt rocks, rising to the height of 300 ft. Here, too, the
weary wanderers rested for a few days, as also at Waterloo Wells, a
little ahead, for which they had to pay a penalty in the permanent loss
of four camels, which suddenly decamped. They were tracked for a hundred
miles, but never recovered. Hitherto their progress had been slow and
discouraging. They had travelled 1,700 miles, but were yet at no great
distance from Alice Springs. Nor was the outlook any more encouraging.
Day after day it was the same weary journeying over spinifex ridges and
sandy valleys, without any indication of the fine country they had hoped
to discover; but, to their credit be it said, no one even hinted about
giving up the enterprise. By the 17th of August a notable stage in their
progress was reached. Warburton ascertained that he could not be more
than ten miles distant from the most southern point reached by Mr. A. C.
Gregory in 1856. The Colonel ascended a neighbouring hill to see if he
could catch a glimpse of Termination Lake, into which Sturt's Creek had
been found to empty itself. This salt lake was concealed by a range of
sand-hills; but Warburton verified his position, and thus had virtually
connected his own survey from the centre with the Gregory discoveries in
the north. Advancing slowly, but surely, towards the west, a fine
freshwater lake was discovered on the 30th. It abounded in waterfowl,
which were more easily shot than recovered, as they had no means of
reaching them in the water. From this point onward their troubles began
to thicken with ominous rapidity. Eight of the seventeen camels were
gone, while the stock of provisions, too, began to appear uncomfortably
small, and had to be dealt out with a niggardly hand. It now became
evident to the Colonel that the original plan of proceeding to Perth
was impracticable, and he resolved to head further to the north, so as
to strike the Oakover River and save the expedition. Their troubles were
truly most afflicting in this great and terrible wilderness. The heat
and toil of travelling wore them out by day, and myriads of black ants
deprived them of their sleep at night. They were now living on camels'
flesh, dried in the sun, the only sauce being an occasional bird which
fell to their guns. By the 2nd of November they had been reduced to dire
extremity, both of famine and thirst. The Oakover was estimated to be
about 150 miles distant, and it was resolved to make a rush for it,
taking their chance of an accidental discovery of water to keep them in
life, for it was now a question of mere life and death. Respecting this
latter and awfully perilous stage of the journey, it will be better to
let Colonel Warburton speak for himself. The following extracts are from
the entries in his journal as made during the crisis of his sufferings,
when hope was fast giving place to despair:--"We killed our last meat on
the 20th October; a large bull camel has, therefore, fed us for three
weeks. It must be remembered that we have had no flour, tea, or sugar,
neither have we an atom of salt, so we cannot salt our meat. We are
seven in all, and are living entirely upon sun-dried slips of meat which
are as tasteless and innutritious as a piece of dead bark.... We have
abandoned everything but our small supply of water and meat, and each
party has a gun.... We are hemmed in on every side: every trial we make
fails; and I can now only hope that some one or more of the party may
reach water sooner or later. As for myself, I can see no hope of life,
for I cannot hold up without food and water. I have given Lewis written
instructions to justify his leaving me, should I die, and have made such
arrangements as I can for the preservation of my journal and maps.... My
party, at least, are now in that state that, unless it please God to
save us, we cannot live more than 24 hours. We are at our last drop of
water, and the smallest bit of dried meat chokes me. I fear my son must
share my fate, as he refuses to leave me. God have mercy upon us, for we
are brought very low, and by the time death reaches us we shall not
regret exchanging our present misery for that state in which the weary
are at rest. We have tried to do our duty, and have been disappointed in
all our expectations. I have been in excellent health during the whole
journey, and am so still, being merely worn out from want of food and
water. Let no self-reproaches afflict any respecting me. I undertook
this journey for the benefit of my family, and I was quite equal to it
under all the circumstances that could be reasonably anticipated, but
difficulties and losses have come upon us so thickly for the last few
months that we have not been able to move. Thus, our provisions are
gone; but this would not have stopped us could we have found water
without such laborious search. The country is terrible. I do not
believe men ever traversed so vast an extent of continuous desert." They
were, indeed, brought to the last extreme of misery. But man's extremity
is God's opportunity. A search party found a good well about twelve
miles distant, which supplied all their necessities, and saved their
lives. Another fortnight brought the forlorn wanderers to a creek with a
good store of water at intervals. This proved to be a tributary of the
Oakover, to the banks of which they were thus led by such stages as
could be travelled in their deplorably emaciated condition. The
outskirts of civilization were all but reached. The pastoral station of
De Grey was believed to be only a few days' travelling down the river,
and a small detachment was sent to implore succour. The distance was
really 170 miles, and three weary weeks had to be spent in hoping
against hope till relief arrived. Help did come in abundance, and as
speedily as was possible in the circumstances. The toils of the
wilderness wanderings were now over; all that remained was a terrible
retrospect. It was reckoned they had not travelled less than 4,000
miles, including deviations and retreats when further advance became
impracticable through want of water. The result, looked at from an
explorer's point of view, was, of course, a flat disappointment. Some
had confidently expected to hear of a good pastoral country being
discovered in the western interior which would prove a new home to the
enterprising squatter, and be depastured by myriads of flocks and
herds. Instead of this wished-for discovery, Colonel Warburton had to
follow in the wake of Captain Sturt, and tell yet another tale of an
arid desert with dreary ridges of sand succeeding each other like the
waves of the sea--a country of no use to civilized, and very little to
savage, man. Yet, even so, a good service had been rendered to the
knowledge of Australian geography. Where the truth has to be known it is
something even to reach a negative result. If the western interior is a
desert, it is a real gain to have this fact ascertained and placed on
record. Another question set at rest by this expedition is the
incomparable superiority of camels in Australian exploration, in point
of endurance and in making long stages without water. A horse requires
to be watered every twelve hours, but a camel will go without it for ten
or twelve days on a pinch. This was not the first time they had been
tried in Australia. Burke and Wills started with more "ships of the
desert" than Warburton; but the mismanagement which involved that
enterprise in fatal disaster deprived the experiment of a fair chance of
success. Warburton's was pre-eminently the camel expedition of
Australia. The result justified the means. With all the aid of these
invaluable beasts of burden the expedition, indeed, was brought to the
very brink of ruin; but without them everyone must inevitably have
perished.



CHAPTER XVI.

THE HON. JOHN FORREST'S EXPLORATIONS IN WESTERN AUSTRALIA.


This distinguished explorer is a native of West Australia, and an honour
to his country. He is a man of ability, well educated, and thoroughly
competent for the work to which he has devoted so much of his time and
attention. In early life he entered the Survey Department, where his
services were appreciated and rewarded by an appointment, in 1876, to
the office of Deputy Surveyor-General. Mr. Forrest has gained
imperishable laurels in the field of exploration. His services in the
three following expeditions entitle him to a high position among the
Australian explorers. A short notice of each is all that our space
permits.


I.

About the close of 1868 a report reached Perth to the effect that
natives in the eastern districts knew of a party of white men who had
been murdered some twenty years earlier. This rumour was strongly
confirmed by a gentleman who had penetrated into the interior in search
of sheep-runs. He reported that his native guide had assured him he had
been to the very spot where the murder had been committed, and had seen
the remains of white men. His story was very circumstantial, stating
that it was on the border of a large lake, and that the white men were
killed while making damper. He volunteered, moreover, to conduct any
party to the scene of the murder. The story possessed a sufficient
likeness to truth to impose on grave and sober-minded men. Among these
was Baron Von Mueller, of Melbourne, who organized a party to proceed to
the spot, in the hope of finding the remains of Leichhardt's expedition.
He intended to take the lead himself, but this purpose he had to change,
through business engagements, and the expedition accordingly was placed
under the command of Mr. John Forrest. The route lay to the north-east
from Perth. The party was able to penetrate 250 miles in advance of
former expeditions. This was, so far, another gain to the knowledge of
Australian geography; but the new country was found to be unsuitable for
pastoral or agricultural purposes. In regard to its principal object,
the expedition turned out a complete failure, adding only one other
proof of the utter worthlessness of aboriginal testimony. The
blackfellow who had led them out with such confidence made some
significant admissions as they proceeded on the journey. First, he had
not, properly speaking, been at the place himself, or seen the relics,
but had heard of them from others of the black fraternity; then, again,
he could not be sure whether they were the bones of men or horses--more
likely, perhaps, the latter. Finally, it was pretty clearly ascertained
that the whole story had originated from the remains of a number of
horses which had belonged to the explorer Austin, and were poisoned in
that neighbourhood. No traces of Leichhardt were found in that quarter,
nor is it at all probable that he had penetrated so far west.


II.

Almost immediately after returning from the search after Leichhardt, Mr.
Forrest was put in command of a second expedition. Governor Weld was
anxious to obtain a more accurate survey of the southern coast between
Perth and Adelaide, with a view to telegraphic connection. The largest
and most difficult part of the route lay along the Great Australian
Bight, which had been traversed with terrible suffering by Mr. E. J.
Eyre thirty years previously. Since that time a little more information
had been gained, tending to lessen the horrors of travel in that
forbidding region; and Port Eucla, a valuable harbour, had been
discovered just within the eastern boundary of West Australia. But the
whole of the southern country from Perth to Adelaide required to be
examined afresh for the object which was now contemplated. Mr. John
Forrest was easily persuaded to lead this expedition, which consisted of
his brother, Mr. Alexander Forrest, as second in command, Police
Constable M'Larty, a farrier, and two aboriginals. A small schooner, the
_Adur_, was despatched, to wait with supplies at Esperance Bay,
Israelite Bay, and Port Eucla--an arrangement which greatly lessened
the difficulties and dangers of the expedition. After reaching the Great
Bight the party followed, in a reverse direction, the line of Eyre's
journey, keeping a little more inland, though they were never more than
thirty miles from the sea. So far as the old explorer's tracks were
followed, Forrest had the advantage of finding an occasional supply of
water as indicated on the chart, and when he deviated from this route he
was well rewarded by the discovery of better, and sometimes of really
first-class country. The season, though too dry, seems to have been less
so than when Eyre encountered the perils of this region, and for this
reason occasional surface water was found, in very limited quantities.
Yet on several of the long waterless stages both men and horses were
near their last gasp in the agonies of thirst. From Port Eucla an
attempt was made to penetrate for some distance to the north, in the
interest of discovery. The land appeared, and has since been proved, to
be of the best quality, but absolute want of water compelled the
explorers to beat a retreat when they had proceeded only about thirty
miles inland. The expedition again started on its proper course and
rounded the head of the Bight. Soon an escort was in readiness from
South Australia, which led them through the Gawler Ranges to the city of
Adelaide. The party had started on the 30th of March, 1870, and their
destination was reached on the 27th of August--not half the time Mr.
Eyre had required for a much shorter journey. This new adventure in
exploration was highly successful. A practicable route for the telegraph
having been found, the line was constructed in the course of another
year or two, thus connecting Perth with the intercolonial and also with
the European telegraphic systems. Fine reaches of the best pastoral
country were examined or indicated lying to the north of the wretched
seaboard, the only drawback being the absence of permanent water. This
difficulty is now being overcome by boring, by which means an ample
supply is obtained at a reasonable depth. The latest proposal is to run
a railway from Perth to Port Eucla, with probable extension to Adelaide.
A syndicate has offered to construct it on the land-grant system,
engineers are presently engaged on the survey, and its completion may be
accepted as one of the great events of the near future.


III.

Mr. John Forrest's third expedition was much more arduous, as it was
also of greater geographical importance, than either of the preceding.
Before the transcontinental telegraph was fully completed, he proposed
to the authorities at Perth to lead an exploring party across the centre
of Western Australia from Champion Bay to the route of the new line, on
condition of a grant from the Treasury of £400 for expenses, himself
engaging to provide another £200. The proposal was gladly accepted, and
no time was lost in making the necessary preparations. His party, as
finally organized, consisted of Alexander Forrest, five whites, two
aboriginals, and twenty-one horses. It being resolved to keep the line
of the Murchison to its sources, the start was made from Geraldton,
Champion Bay, on the 1st of April, 1874. For some time the course lay to
the south of the river, which was not joined till the 23rd, after which
beautifully grassed country was travelled over. The Murchison in its
upper waters divided into several channels, causing some perplexity. One
of these was selected, and followed as far as it served their purpose,
and then the course was directed to the watershed. Now they found
themselves in a dry, barren land, which afforded the scantiest supply of
water, and only after laborious search--sometimes not even then.
Occasionally, but only at long intervals, a good native well was
reached, when the temptation to rest for several days was irresistible.
To the most noted of these Mr. Forrest gave the name of the Weld
Springs, in honour of the Governor, who ever did his utmost to forward
the exploration of the interior. The encampment at Weld Springs was not
an unbroken pleasure. The blacks were numerous in the neighbourhood, and
irreconcilably hostile. Finding his party assailed with murderous
intent, Forrest, seeing it had become a question of self-defence, fired
upon the natives, and some blood was shed. But for this act of stern
necessity, it is evident that the explorers must have perished. This
pleasant spot was but an oasis in a great desert, which became the more
inhospitable the further they penetrated into its secrets. For 600
miles they had to thread their way through a wilderness of spinifex,
sometimes also approaching the verge of despair through want of water,
in search of which the scouts had always to scour the country. In this
desert the natives were seldom seen, and still more rarely could they be
induced to come within speaking distance. At one place they decamped on
the first appearance of the intruders on their desert home, leaving a
whole kangaroo roasting on the fire. This would have been quite a
godsend for Warburton and his party, but happily the present expedition
was never reduced to such dire necessity. In another respect, too,
Forrest seems to have had better luck than his brother explorers. During
the latter part of his journey a kind of fig-tree (_Ficus platypoda_)
was occasionally met with, producing an agreeable fruit about the size
of a bullet. Such a discovery in the wilds of Australia is nothing short
of a marvel. Nature has reserved few such favours for this country. Yet
still better fortune was at hand. It became evident, first by faint and
then by very plain indications, that they were coming on the tracks of
Europeans. Only a short time previously Mr. Giles and Mr. Gosse had
separately been out in these parts, but had to return for want of water.
Still, a marked tree or an old camping-ground was an inspiring object,
seeing they had been made by travellers who had started from the
opposite end of the journey. Much yet remained to be done, but the
ground was now got over with much better heart. The monotony of the
desert-wandering had been much relieved in a manner highly creditable to
Mr. Forrest. Here, as in all his explorations, he remembered the Sabbath
day to keep it holy. Regularly, as the Sunday came round, divine service
was read in the camp. Even the old habit of a good Sunday dinner was not
forgotten. People in different circumstances might not have thought the
cheer much to be envied; but hunger is the best sauce. If a pigeon or a
parrot could be secured at the seasonable time it was reserved as a
special treat for the Sunday dinner. But better things were in store.
Perseverance had not much longer to wait for its reward. Following the
tracks of the preceding explorers, they came on to the Marryat River,
which led them on to the Alberga, and this clue finally conducted the
weary wanderers to the long-desired telegraph line. The journal of the
expedition contains the following entry for the 27th August,
1874:--"Continued east for about twelve miles, and then E.N.E. for three
miles, and reached the telegraph line between Adelaide and Port Darwin,
and camped." [The 104th camp from the start.] "Long and continued cheers
came from our little band as they beheld at last the goal to which we
have been travelling for so long. I felt rejoiced and relieved from
anxiety; and in reflecting on the long time of travel we had performed
through an unknown country, almost a wilderness, felt very thankful to
that good Providence that had guarded and guided us so safely through
it." A well-beaten track had now been made along the telegraph line,
which the party followed, proceeding to the south. In a day or two the
Peak station was reached. From this point the journey to Adelaide was
made by easy stages. Forrest's track lay a long way south of
Warburton's, and threw a streak of light across another dark region of
the western half of Australia. The results of the journey are thus
summed up in the explorer's own words:--"The whole of the country, from
the settled districts near Champion Bay to the head of the Murchison, is
admirably suited for pastoral settlement, and in a very short time will
be taken up and stocked; indeed, some has already been occupied. From
the head of the Murchison to the 129th meridian, the boundary of our
colony, I do not think will ever be settled. Of course, there are many
grassy patches, such as at Windich Springs, the Weld Springs, all round
Mount Moore, and other places; but they are so isolated, and of such
extent, that it would never pay to take stock to them. The general
character of this immense tract is a gently undulating spinifex
desert--_Festuca (Triodia) irritans_, the spinifex of the desert
explorers, but not the spinifex of science. It is lightly wooded ... and
there is a great absence of any large timber."



CHAPTER XVII.

MR. ERNEST GILE'S EXPLORATIONS IN CENTRAL AND WESTERN AUSTRALIA.


Mr. Ernest Giles is a native of Bristol, in England. As soon as his
education was finished he rejoined his father and family, who had
preceded him to Australia. He very early developed a passion for
exploration, and gained valuable experience in connection with various
expeditions which he served in a subordinate capacity. His own fame as
an explorer rests securely on the following enterprises:--


I.

Shortly after the construction of the Port Darwin telegraph, Mr. Giles
made a persevering attempt to lead a small party from Chambers's Pillar
to the sources of the Murchison River. The expenses were provided partly
by himself and partly by Baron Von Mueller, of Melbourne. The party
consisted of Messrs. Giles, Carmichael, and A. Robinson, with fifteen
horses and one dog. The start was made about the middle of August, 1872.
For the early part of the journey the River Finke was followed, but it
led them into a rugged, mountainous country, in which travelling was
difficult. The scenery was often charming, as one glen after another was
explored. Palm-Tree Glen, in particular, called forth unceasing
admiration on account of the multitude of wild flowers which were "born
to blush unseen and waste their sweetness on the desert air." "I
collected to-day," says Mr. Giles, "and during the other days since we
have been in this glen, a number of most beautiful flowers, which grow
in profusion in this otherwise desolate glen. I am literally surrounded
by fair flowers of many a changing hue. Why Nature should scatter such
floral gems in such a sterile region is difficult to understand; but
such a variety of lovely flowers of every colour and perfume I have
never met with previously. They alone would have induced me to name this
the Glen of Flowers, but having found in it also so many of the stately
palm-trees, I have called it the Glen of Palms." During a further
advance among the outlying spurs of the M'Donnell Ranges, the Finke was
left, or lost, and laborious search had often to be made for water. The
mountains were high, but no creek was found with a longer course than
twelve miles. The peaks often assumed strange and fantastic shapes, as
the explorers have indicated by such names as Mount Peculiar, Haast's
Bluff, &c. The following quotation from the journal shows how they were
straitened at this time through want of water. After finding a little in
the hollow of a rock, just sufficient to save life, Mr. Giles says:--"It
was necessary to try to discover more water if possible, so, after
breakfast, I walked away, but, after travelling up gullies and gorges,
hills and valleys, I had to return quite unsuccessful, and I can only
conclude that this water was permitted by a kind Providence to remain
here in this lovely spot for my especial benefit.... I have, in
gratitude, called it Mount Udor, as being the only one in this region
where a drop of that requisite element was to be obtained. And when I
left the udor had departed also." This incident occurred at the
twenty-first camp from Chambers's Pillar. From this point a persevering,
but unsuccessful, effort was made to strike out west in the direction of
a chain named Ehrenberg's Mountain. Want of water again forced the party
back on Mount Udor. A more southerly route led to the important
discovery of a great saltwater lake, which was called Amadeus, after the
then King of Spain, son of Victor Emanuel. Beyond this long, but
comparatively narrow, sheet of water, a conspicuous mountain, named
Olga, specially attracted the attention of Mr. Giles, who was anxious to
reach it by rounding the lake. But this labour was prevented by an
incident which, unhappily, caused the purpose of the expedition to
collapse. Robinson had been seized with homesickness, and the infection
reached Carmichael, who obstinately refused to proceed any further.
Giles tried the effect of moral suasion, which was the only weapon
available for a volunteer. He pleaded the large supply of provisions,
the importance of the enterprise, and the ignominy of turning back. But
it was to no purpose. Carmichael had made up his mind and would listen
to no arguments. Giles was now compelled to direct his march back to
the telegraph line, "a baffled and beaten man." During this inglorious
retreat the course lay by the Peterman, the Palmer, and the Finke
rivers, and by this route the original camp No. 1 was reached. Here is
the conclusion of the whole matter in Mr. Giles's own words:--"My
expedition was over. I had failed in my object (to penetrate to the
sources of the Murchison River) certainly, but not through any fault of
mine, as I think any impartial reader of my journal will admit.... We
travelled to the eastward along the course of the River Finke
(homeward), and passed a few miles to the south of Chambers's Pillar,
which had been my starting-point. I had left it but twelve weeks and
four days to the time I re-sighted it, and during that interval I had
traversed and laid down about a thousand miles of country. My expedition
thus early ends. Had I been fortunate enough to have fallen upon a good,
or even fair, line of country, the distance I actually travelled would
have taken me across the continent."


II.

A second attempt was made by the same explorer shortly after his return
from the first. The funds being provided by the liberality of the
Victorian colonists, a light party, consisting of Messrs. Giles,
Tietkens, Gibson, and Andrews, with twenty-four horses, were despatched
for the purpose of crossing the western half of Australia. They left the
telegraph road at the junction of the Stevenson and Alberga creeks on
the 4th of August, 1873. The latter was followed for some distance
westward, after which, by a short cross-country route to the north, the
Hamilton River was reached, and taken as a guide so far as was
practicable. This journey led to the discovery of four remarkable
mountain-chains. The first of these was named Anthony Range. From one of
the summits they beheld a sea of mountains, countless in number, many of
which presented the most comically fantastic shapes and forms which the
imagination can conceive. Ayer's Range was next reached, and an equally
commanding view obtained from one of its heights. The next was the
Musgrave Range, occupying a central position in a far-reaching expanse
of good country. Here the natives were encountered in a hostile
attitude, but were beaten off by the superior arms of four white men.
After a journey of 400 miles they reached Mt. Olga, which had been
sighted on the former expedition. In this neighbourhood also, they found
the tracks of Mr. Gosse, a contemporary explorer, which led to a
deviation from the proposed route. In Cavanagh's Range a depôt was
established, as a basis for tentative explorations in a forbidding tract
of country. About 110 miles from this centre they made a welcome
discovery of a waterfall of 150 feet, sending forth a musical roar as it
fell, and scattering around a plentiful shower of spray. This gladdening
apparition in the desert received the name of the Alice Falls. The
country in the immediate neighbourhood was also well grassed. This
place has doubtless a future in store for it. Turning more to the north,
in the direction of a broken country, another splendid range, named the
Rawlinson, was discovered. It extended to 60 miles in length, with a
breadth of five or six. The peaks were remarkably pointed and jagged.
From this position an attempt was made to strike out in a north-westerly
direction, but bad fortune compelled them to return after Mt.
Destruction had been reached. Four of the horses had been lost in a
journey of ninety miles; water was not to be found; the natives were
troublesome; and the eye could discern nothing ahead but spinifex desert
and rolling sand-hills. A return to the Rawlinson Range was, therefore,
imperative. Having again rested for a little, another determined effort
was made to force a passage due west across the interior and strike the
outposts of settlement in Western Australia. All was done that man could
do, but impossibilities are not to be accomplished. The western flanks
of the Rawlinson Range faded away into a barren and waterless desert.
Giles and Gibson had, as a gigantic effort of perseverance, penetrated
98 miles into this inhospitable waste. But no further could they go.
Here, on the 23rd of April, the utmost bourne of the expedition was
reached. One of the two horses here knocked up and died. This was the
last time Gibson was seen. Giles did his utmost to bring him help, but
he was never found. His bones lie somewhere in that awful wilderness,
which to this day bears his name. When the furthest point was reached
better fortune seemed to loom in the distance. Another range of lofty
mountains was descried athwart the western horizon, which he called the
Alfred and Marie, after the Duke and Duchess of Edinburgh. They might as
well have been in the moon so far as Mr. Giles was concerned in his now
pitiable plight. His own reflections were deplorably bitter:--"The hills
bounding the western horizon were between thirty and forty miles away,
and it was with extreme regret that I was compelled to relinquish a
further attempt to reach them. Oh, how ardently I longed for a camel;
how ardently I gazed upon the scene! At this moment I would even my
jewel eternal have sold for power to span that gulf that lay between.
But it could not be; situated as I was, I was compelled to retreat, and
the sooner the better." Such was his destiny. After almost twelve
months' wanderings in the wilderness, three of the four explorers
escaped with their lives, and reached the central telegraph line on the
13th of July.


III.

Such battling with relentless fortune would have extinguished the spirit
of adventure in most men. In the case of Mr. Giles it fanned it into a
brighter flame. Refusing to be baffled, his noble perseverance was at
length rewarded with a double journey across the western half of the
continent. This expedition was fitted out by Sir Thomas Elder, of
Adelaide, who supplied him with nineteen camels and provisions for
eighteen months. The party consisted of Messrs. Giles, Tietkens, Young,
A. Ross, P. Nicholls, Selah (an Afghan), and a black boy. The route
proposed was from Youldah to Perth, and the start was made on the 27th
July, 1875. This, though a successful, was a very trying journey. They
crossed desert after desert for a distance of 1,500 miles. On one
occasion they were reduced to the last extremity of thirst, and saved
from perishing by the happy discovery of a spring in the Great Victoria
Desert, 600 miles from the out-settlements of Western Australia. They
reached Perth on the 10th November, having travelled a distance of 2,575
miles in about five months. The following is Mr. Giles's summary of the
journey:--"The expedition has been successful, yet the country traversed
for more than a thousand miles in a straight line was simply an
undulating bed of dense scrub, except between the 125th and 127th
meridians, the latitude being nearly the 30th parallel. Here an arm of
the Great Southern Plain ran up and crossed our track, which, though
grassy, was quite waterless. The waters were, indeed, few and far
between throughout. On one occasion, a stretch of desert was encountered
in which no water was obtainable for 325 miles, which only the
marvellous sustaining powers of Mr. Elder's all-enduring beasts enabled
us to cross. The next desert was only 180 miles to a mass of granite,
where I saw natives for the first time on the expedition. They attacked
us there, but we managed to drive them off. Mount Churchman was now only
160 miles distant, and we found water again before reaching it. We
struck in at Toora, an out-station, where the shepherd was very
hospitable. At other homesteads we were most kindly welcomed." By
another journey, in a reverse direction, across the western interior,
Mr. Giles returned to the central telegraph, which for so long had
formed his base of operations. Leaving Perth on the 13th of January,
1876, he pushed north, and struck the Ashburton River, thence passed
through 150 miles of desert, and from the opposite side reached the
Alfred and Marie Range, from which he had been so piteously thrust back
in 1873. He soon after reached the Rawlinson Range, which he had
discovered on that same expedition. Being now in a known country, he
passed safely through it, and reached the Peak telegraph station on the
23rd of August, 1876. His journey thence to Adelaide was ordinary travel
in the Australian bush.



CHAPTER XVIII.

OTHER EXPLORERS IN WESTERN AUSTRALIA.--CONCLUSION.


There still remain a considerable number of the explorers of Western
Australia, whose achievements, though inferior to the foregoing, would
have called for particular notice had this been an exhaustive work. A
very brief outline of the journeys of the most prominent is all that can
be attempted here. We shall begin with Captain, afterwards Sir George,
Grey, so well known in later times as a New Zealand statesman. From 1837
to 1840 he was occupied with two expeditions for the exploration of the
country lying between the coast and the first range. Both journeys were
exceedingly hazardous--none more so in this department of history.
During the first Prince Regent's River was explored; but the most
important result was the discovery of the River Glenelg, which was
described as one of the finest in Australia. The second expedition was
directed to Shark's Bay, which was reached in February, 1839. The most
important discovery during this journey was the River Gascoyne. The
expedition was soon overtaken by terrible misfortunes, which compelled
the party to make for Swan River by the quickest route. The first
attempt was made in a small boat, which got no further than Gantheaume
Bay, where it was dashed to pieces on the beach. To save their lives
they had now to walk on foot along an inhospitable coast for 300 miles,
with no more provisions than twenty pounds of flour and one pound of
pork to each man. Grey struggled along and gave a heroic example to the
men under his charge. When he arrived at Perth he looked like a spectre,
and his most intimate friends did not know him. He has himself told us
what was the secret of his moral strength:--"It may be asked," he said,
"if, during such a trying period, I did not seek from religion that
consolation which it is sure to afford. My answer is, yes; and I further
feel assured that but for the support I derived from prayer and frequent
perusal of the Scriptures, I should never have been able to have borne
myself in such a manner as to have maintained discipline and confidence
among the rest of the party; nor in my sufferings did I ever lose the
consolation derived from a firm reliance upon the goodness of
Providence. It is only those who go forth into perils and dangers,
amidst which human foresight and strength can but little avail, and who
find themselves day after day protected by an unseen influence, and ever
and anon snatched from the very jaws of destruction by a power which is
not of this world, who can at all estimate the knowledge of one's own
weakness and littleness, and the firm reliance and trust upon the
goodness of the Creator which the human heart is capable of feeling."

The next in order is Mr. J. S. Roe, Surveyor-General of Western
Australia. With a party of six men, eleven horses, and four months'
provisions, he started from York in September, 1848, for the southern
part of the colony. Leaving the last stations of the River Avon, he went
S. 1/2 S. in a direction which had not yet been explored. In a short
time he got into a poor country, which contained the heads of the Avon,
the Williams, the Arthur, and other rivers. In 45 miles further he came
to the Pallinup River, the last water which had been crossed by Eyre on
his journey along the Great Bight. He followed it to the neighbourhood
of Cape Riche, the latter part of this stage being through a
well-grassed country. Here a squatting station was found, and a
much-needed rest obtained. The next effort was to make the Bremer Range.
In the intervening part, a river, the Jeeramungup, was discovered in a
good tract of country, which was again succeeded by poor land. The
Bremer Range was reached by the 3rd November. There was a hard journey
thence to the Russell Range, which was near Eyre's country, and of the
same description. The coast was reached opposite the Recherche
Archipelago. Roe had now travelled 1,000 miles from Swan River, and
found it necessary to return, and in doing so kept very much to Eyre's
track as far as Cape Riche. The most important result of this journey
was the discovery of several seams of coal. The return to Perth was made
by way of the Pallinup River. The party had been absent 149 days, and
travelled 1,800 miles.

The third explorer who shall be briefly noticed is Mr. R. Austin, who
was Assistant Surveyor-General. He was despatched by the Government to
search for gold in the country north and east of the settled districts.
The party consisted of ten men, twenty-seven horses, and 120 days'
provisions. By the 10th of July, 1854, they had left the head of Swan
River, and entered on a wretchedly poor country, in which all the bushes
were dead. Another fifty miles' travel brought them to a table-land with
some high mountains, the most conspicuous of which received the name of
Mt. Kenneth. Soon after a severe mishap befell the expedition. The
horses having eaten a poisonous plant, twenty-four died within a few
hours, leaving the explorers in a very helpless condition. They pushed
on, nevertheless, and displayed an admirable perseverance. On the 24th
of August they reached a magnetic hill, which was called Mt. Magnet, and
returned for rest to Recruit Flat. The country next traversed lay
between the Great Salt Lake and West Mt. Magnet, dry, rough, and stony
throughout. One curious discovery was a cave with life-like figures of
animals drawn by the aborigines. Some similar exhibitions of savage art
had previously been discovered by other explorers in the north and west.
The party came again to poisonous bushes, and the horses had to be
watched night and day. Thence, taking a westward course, they got within
fifty miles of Shark's Bay, when want of food compelled them to retreat
to the Geraldine mines on the Murchison River. Here the party broke up,
some returning to Perth by sea and the rest overland. The expedition
failed in its principal object; nor was it in other respects much of a
success.

It would be unpardonable to close this list without mention of Mr. F. T.
Gregory's services in the exploration of West Australia. In April, 1858,
he led an expedition from the Geraldine mines to examine the country
between the Gascoyne River and Mt. Murchison. This effort was attended
with much success. At least a million acres of good land were
discovered--quite a Godsend for this colony, which is so rich in
deserts. The principal places discovered and named were Mt. Nairn,
Lockyer Range, Lyons River, the Alma, and Mt. Hall.

*       *       *       *       *

It is but right to add that the exploration of the interior has been
largely indebted to private enterprise, of which there is no particular
record. The pioneer squatters, in search of "fresh fields and pastures
new," have not been afraid to invade unknown territories, nor have they
gone without their reward. When a fine patch of country has been
discovered they have usually been quite willing to sacrifice their merit
as explorers to the caresses of private fortune, being mindful, perhaps,
of the old proverb which tells us "the crow would have more to eat if he
were less noisy over his food." The same cause has been helped on, also,
by the search for gold, than which nothing will entice man further from
home, or collect them in greater crowds. In this way much available
country has lately been opened up in the Kimberley district of Western
Australia, and the process is still going on, with many promising
prospects. It is extremely probable that this northern region will soon
be reckoned one of that colony's most valuable possessions, both in the
squatting and the mining interests.

As the combined result of all the foregoing agencies, Australia has
virtually ceased to be an unknown land by the close of the first century
of our history. Even the great desert of Western Australia, real or
supposed, has been crossed again and again, while lesser enterprises,
issuing from all sides, have carried the fringe of the known territory
further and further inland. Even yet the spirit of exploration keeps
awake, and refuses to rest so long as a patch of the interior remains to
be examined. While these sheets are passing through the press an
exploring party, supported again by Adelaide, are preparing for the
interior, in order to wrest from its grasp such secrets as it may yet
retain.

It is pleasing to observe how a better acquaintance with Australia, both
in the way of discovery and settlement, is surely leading on to the
belief that it will yet be the home of a numerous population. For a long
period it was reckoned unfit to be the habitation of civilized man,
except along the seaboards. The want of water, and continuous deserts,
were supposed to have placed the interior beyond the pale of
settlement. But experience has already revealed a system of
compensations by which this hasty judgment has come to be reversed, and
the back country settled by a thriving population. There are deserts,
indeed, in which one might search in vain for a blade of grass, but they
contain many patches of nutritious shrubs, which not only keep alive,
but even fatten, stock. Water, too, is scarce, but, by another of these
admirable compensations, it is capable of being stored in any quantity,
and for any length of time, without becoming putrid--an advantage
unknown to the home countries. The rainfall, moreover, is very scant
--perhaps not more than seven inches per annum in the far interior--but
then the recent borings with the diamond drill have shown that an
abundant supply may be obtained from subterranean sources. The latest
announcement made to us, now standing on the threshold of the centennial
year, is the most encouraging of all. By the ticking of the telegraph we
learn that an experiment at Barcaldine, in Queensland, has brought to
the surface of the bore a daily discharge of something approaching to
100,000 gallons of water fit for all purposes. Experience is ever
revealing new relations of material adaptability. There is a sympathy
between a country and its inhabitants, which may have a deeper
foundation than the fancy of the poet. The land and the people are the
complements of one another. "God made the earth to be inhabited," and
there is now no fear of Australia being an exception to the rule.



INDEX.


Aborigines, 67, 79, 88, 103, 106, 123, 125, 127, 128, 136, 140, 147,
149, 150, 162, 179, 186, 191

Abundance, Mt., 160, 161

Adelaide, 97 River, 23, 207

Albany, Port, 145, 149

Albert R., 23, 182, 193

Alexandrina, L., 82

Alice R., 143

Amadeus, L., 230

Arnheim B., 18

Austin, Mr. R., 240

Australia, why so called, 13 Western, 97 Crossing, 209, 210 Centre of,
197, 201

_Australis, Calamus_, 146


Balonne R., 138

Barcoo R., 95, 143

Bass's Discoveries, 6-19 Strait, 11, 12

Bathurst, Plains of, 30, 67-70 Laid out, 36

Batman, John, 126

Baudin, 15

Belyando R., 142

Bight, Great Australian, 99-101, 221

Blacks--_see_ Aborigines

Blaxland, Gregory, 28

Blue Mts., 25-33 Unsuccessful attempt to cross, 25-27 Crossed, 28-33

Bogan R., 71, 119-121

Botany B., 1

Bottle Trees, 139

Bourke, Fort, 121

Bridge, St. George's, 138

Brisbane R., 57

Broken B., 5

Burdekin R., 166

Burke, R. O'Hara, 168 and Wills, 169-181

Byng, Mt., 134


Camels, 169, 213, 215, 218

Campaspe R., 134

Carpentaria, 135, 193 Gulf of, 18, 173, 189

Castlereagh R., 42, 73

Condamine R., 154

Clark, George, _alias_ "George the Barber," 111

Coal, Discovery of, 239

Cogoon R., 139

Convicts, 135

Cook, Capt., 1-3

Cooper's Ck., 93

Creek, Chambers's, 199 Attack, 202

Cunningham, Allan, 53-65 Richard, 119-120 Gap, 63

Curtis B., 17


Danger Point, 2

Darling Downs, 60-61 R., 71, 72, 80, 122, 137

Darwin, Port, 209

Dawson R., 154

Depôt Glen, 87

Desert, Gibson's, 233-234

Disappointment, Mt., 51

Droughts, 73, 74, 87


Eden, a new, 130

Encounter Bay, 15

_Endeavour_, ship, 1, 2 R., 2

Essington, Port, 221

Eucla, Port, 221

Euryalean Scrub, 39

Evans, Surveyor, 34-36

Eyre, E. J., 85, 96-119 Creek, 90


Falls, Alice, 232

Fawkner, J. P., 126

Farmer's Ck., 32

Finke, Mt., 196, 197

Fish R., 35

Fitzmaurice R., 23, 164

Fitzroy Downs, 139, 159

Fleet, First, 4

Flinders' Discoveries, 6-19 R., 22, 23, 191, 193

Floods, Sudden, 137

Forrest, Hon. John, 219-228

Foxes, Flying, 156


Garden, Sydney Botanic, 63-64

George's R., 6

Giles, Ernest, 228-276

Gipps, Sir George, 153

Gosse, Mr., 225

Glenelg R., 132

Grampians, 132

Gregory, A. C., 163-166

Grey, Sir George, 237, 238


Hacking, Port, 7

Harris, Mt., 69

Hawkesbury R., 5

Hely, Hovenden, 161, 162

Henty, Edward, 125, 133

Hicks, Point, 1

Hastings R., 43

Hopeless, Mt., 177

Horses Poisoned, 240

Hovell, Capt., 47-52

Howitt, Alfred, 183-185

Hume, Hamilton, 46-52


Illawarra, 7

Iramoo Downs, 52

Isaacs, R., 155


Jackson, Port, 2

Jervis B., 8


Kangaroo Island, 14 Grass, 129 Rats, 155

Karaula R., 116

Kennedy, E. B., 135, 139, 144, 151

Kimberley, 242

Kindur R., 112

King, Governor, 16 Admiral, 19-23 Explorer, 171 Found with the blacks,
184

Kites, Plague of, 155

Kyte, Ambrose, 167


Lachlan R., 35, 38-40 Swamps, 39

Lakes, 131, 132, 185, 186

Landsborough, 182, 192, 193

Lang, Mt., 155

Lawson, William, 28

Leeuwin, Cape, 14

Leichhardt, 152-162, 220, 221

Liverpool Plains, 43

Loddon R., 129

Logan R., 61

Lynd R., 155


Macedon, Mt., 134

Mackenzie R., 154

Macquarie R., 35, 41, 42 Port, 43 Swamps, 41, 42, 70

Manning R., 44

Maranoa R., 139

Massacre, L., 186

M'Kinlay, John, 182, 185-189

Melbourne, 16

Menindie, 169

Mirage, 196

Mitchell, Sir Thomas, 80, 110-143

Moreton B., 154

Mosquitoes, 207

Murchison R., 224

Murrumbidgee R., 48, 75

Murray R., 50, 77-84, 128, 134


Namoi R., 43, 115

Nardoo, 178, 186

New South Wales, why so called, 3 Foundation of, 4

Nive R., 141

Nivelle R., 141

Nogoa R., 141

Norman R., 190, 191 Captain, 182, 191


Oakover R., 215

Overlanding, 96

Oxley, John, 37-44, 69 His Journal, 38 His unfortunate prediction, 45


Palms, Glen of, 229

Pandora's Pass, 56

Petrel, Sooty, 10

Pillar, Chambers's, 199

Phillip, Port, 16

Plant, Poisonous, 240

Portland B., 133

Promise, Plains of, 23


Rawlinson Range, 233

Reef, Great Barrier, 17

Religion, Powerful support of, 238

Roe, J. S., 238, 239

Roper R., 206, 207

Rossiter B., 107

Rufus R., why so called, 82


Saltbush, 136, 137

Sea, Inland, supposed existence of, 42, 201

Seaview, Mt., 43

Shoalhaven, 8

Snowy Mts., 49

Soil, Poor, accounted for, 81

Sound, King George's, 107

"Spring" Country, 198

Squatters, Pioneer, 136, 159

Stapylton, L., 127

Stephens, Port, 44

Stokes, Capt., 23

Stony Desert, 90, 93, 94, 188

Strzelecki's Ck., 93

Stuart, John M'Douall, 194-209 Central Mt., 201

Sturt, Capt., 66-95, 166 Ck., 164 Plains, 204

Sunday Services, 226 Dinner, 226

Sydney Harbour, 4


Telegraph, Transcontinental, 209

Termination, L., 164

Territory, Northern, 209

Torrens, L., 98, 99, 195

Transportation, 3

Tumut R., 49

Twofold B., 9


Van Diemen's Land (Tasmania) circumnavigated, 10-12

Victoria, 125-135 R., 23, 143, 163, 164, 202


Walker, Frederick, 182, 190-192

Warrego R., 141

Warburton, Colonel, 210-218

Warning, Mt., 2

Water, How found, 102, 103 Searching for, 213 Subterranean, 243 Caught
during shower by tarpaulin, 213

Weld, Governor, 224 Springs, 224

Wellington Valley, 40

Wells, Native, 213

Wentworth, W. C., 28

Western Port, 9

Wickham, Capt., 23

William, Mt., 131

Wills, W., 168, 169

Wimmera R., 131


Yass Plains, 47

York, Cape, 145


George Robertson and Co., Printers, Melbourne and Sydney.





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