Francis Thomas Gregory.

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25th January.

The night was cloudy, and it was not till after daybreak that I could get
observations for latitude by altitudes of Venus and b Centauri. At 6.5
a.m. were again in the saddle, and steered south-east to a rocky hill,
which we reached at 7.0; the hill was sandstone, rising about 150 feet
above the trap plain; from the summit the view was extensive, but from
the broken nature of the country to the east nothing could be traced of
either the courses of creeks or rivers; to the south the trap plain rose
to a greater elevation than the summit of the hill we were on, and was
surmounted by table hills of sandstone at ten miles distance to the east
and north-east; the country appeared to consist of plains of basaltic
formation, well grassed, and very thinly wooded. Leaving this hill at
8.0, followed a dry rocky creek to the east and north-east, through
basaltic plains with sandstone hills and ridges, till 10.30, and halted
during the heat of the day. At this place the bed of the creek had been
cut through the basalt into the sandstone, exposing a fine section of the
junction of the two rocks; the sandstone was much altered at the line of
contact, and, having been deeply cracked, the basalt had filled the
fissures of the older rock. This altered sandstone and also a white
quartz-like rock are much used by the natives for the heads of their
spears; and during this day's journey great quantities of broken stones
and imperfect spear heads were noticed on the banks of the creek. At 3.45
p.m. recommenced our journey, and proceeded down the creek to the
north-east till 6.30, and bivouacked.

Latitude by Capella, Saturn, and Canopus 17 degrees 24 seconds.


26th January.

Having ascertained that the party could be moved across the range to the
basalt plains with advantage, commenced our return to the camp by a
westerly route across the plain, which rose gently for ten miles, and was
well grassed, but thinly wooded; the soil was stony, with fragments of
altered sandstone and basalt. On the higher part of the plain there were
several hills of trap-rock, forming flat-topped ridges trending north and
south; the highest of these we named Mount Sanford, and the plains Roe's
Downs. The country now generally sloped to the bank of the creek near the
western limit of the plain, at which, after six hours' ride, we halted at
11.35. The banks of the creek are of trap-rock; but the sandstone is
exposed in the bed; the pools of water are deep and apparently permanent.
At 4.0 resumed our route and passed over about one mile of sandstone, and
then two miles of basalt, and bivouacked at a small gully at the western
limit of the valley.

27th January.

At 5.30 a.m. steered north-north-west, over several ridges of sandstone,
till we struck our outward track, which we followed with some deviations
to the camp, which was reached at 2.0 p.m. The evening was cloudy with a
smart thunder-shower. Dr. Mueller informed me that he had traced the
river about six miles to the west-south-west, but that beyond that point
it appeared to come from the north-west, in which direction there was a
low range of hills.

28th January.

Having collected the horses, at 7.15 a.m. steered south to the rocky
creek, and followed it down to the rocky gorge and encamped. As the
valley was completely walled in by steep rocks, it appeared to be a
suitable spot for a depot camp, as it would prevent the horses from
straying; and, from the rapidity with which the water in the creeks was
drying up, it became desirable that no time should be lost in pushing to
the head of the Victoria while it was practicable to cross the ranges in
which it was supposed to rise; but as many of the horses were quite unfit
for the journey, it became necessary to leave them in some convenient
spot while a small party pushed on with a light equipment.


29th January.

Preparing equipment for the party proceeding to the interior and making
arrangements for the formation of the depot camp; the party to consist of
myself, Mr. H. Gregory, Dr. Mueller, and C. Dean, Mr. Baines remaining at
the depot in charge. Selected eleven of the strongest horses and had them
re-shod; fitted four with riding and seven with pack saddles. The
following provisions were packed for the journey: 150 pounds pork, 300
pounds flour, 50 pounds rice, 10 pounds sago, 8 pounds tea, 6 pounds
coffee, 48 pounds sugar.

30th January.

Left the camp at 7.30 a.m. and steered an average course south-south-east
till 10.20, over stony ground, at the junction of the sandstone and trap
formation, and camped at a fine running creek which came from a rocky
gorge in the sandstone range to the west of our course. Messrs. Baines
and Bowman, who had accompanied us thus far, returned to the camp, which
I had instructed him to move to this creek as better for the horses, as
one of them had shown symptoms of poison, and I feared to leave them in
that locality. A severe attack of the fever, from which I had been
suffering since the beginning of the month, precluded our proceeding
farther this day, as I had at first intended. At 5 p.m. it commenced
raining, and continued till midnight with incessant thunder and

31st January.

Being able to mount my horse, at 8 a.m. left the camp and steered a
course south-east by south, along the foot of the sandstone range - the
basalt plain extending to the north-east. At 12.45 p.m. camped on a
shallow watercourse trending to the south-south-west. The whole of the
country to the east of our track, except some isolated hills, appear to
be covered with excellent grass. The evening was raining, with continuous

1st February.

Steered north 160 degrees east from 6.25 a.m. till 7.0 across the
basaltic plain, then crossed a large creek trending east, in which there
were some large pools of water. We then entered the sandstone country,
and crossed several rocky ridges; at 9.10 we had a good view from one of
the ridges to the north and east. Fine grassy plains extended almost to
the horizon, to the south the country consisted of sandstone ranges, and
to the south-east large grassy plains and rocky ridges appeared to
alternate with each other. Changing the course to south-east, traversed a
fine plain covered with grass, beyond which was a rocky ridge, and then a
second plain, in which we halted at 11.10, as I was unable to keep on my
horse, owing to an attack of fever. At 2 p.m. again proceeded, and after
crossing some rugged country with deep rocky ravines, at length reached a
large creek, at which we encamped, though there was nothing but reeds and
triodia for the horses to eat.

2nd February.

Left the camp at 6 a.m. and followed the creek up for three-quarters of
an hour before we could find a crossing place; the course was then
south-south-east over very broken sandstone country; at 9.50 halted in a
grassy valley to feed the horses, and at 2.30 p.m. resumed our route
south-east, crossed a sandstone ridge, and descended into a wide valley,
the centre of which was occupied by a basaltic plain, at the edge of
which we encamped at 3.55 p.m.


3rd February.

At 6.0 a.m. ascended the trap plain and steered north 190 degrees east;
at 6.45 a.m. came to a large creek from the west, which joined the
Victoria three-quarters of a mile to the east; but the deep and rocky
character of the valley, or rather ravine, in which it ran precluded our
approaching it, and we had to turn to the west, and descend from the
basalt to the sandstone before the creek could be passed. Continuing an
average south course, at 10.10 a.m. came to the Victoria River; the whole
channel did not exceed 150 yards in breadth, of which only twenty to
fifty were now occupied by water, and the rest by dry rocks and gravel,
overgrown by bushes. With great difficulty we followed the river upwards,
and were compelled to follow up a tributary creek for about a mile, and
then encamped. Near this camp I saw the crested pigeon of Western
Australia for the first time in this part of Australia.

Latitude by Leonis 17 degrees 41 minutes.

4th February.

Left the camp at 5.55 a.m. and steered nearly south for six hours, and
then encamped on the bank of the Victoria River, at the end of a fine
deep pool seventy yards wide, but at the lower end the water was
contracted into a shallow rapid ten yards wide. The country traversed is
of basaltic formation in the valley, but the hills are of sandstone, and
rise on each side from 200 to 300 feet, and the whole appearance of the
country shows that there has been little change in the form of the
surface since the basalt was poured into the valley. On the banks of a
small creek we saw a flock of tribonyx - a bird which has created some
speculation as to its proper habitat, as it often makes its appearance in
large numbers at the Swan River, on the western coast.

Latitude by Canopus 17 degrees 52 minutes 19 seconds.


5th February.

Started at 5.55 a.m., and steered south-west, keeping parallel to the
river at about a mile from it, as the creeks cut so deeply into the rock
near the river that they are impassable; at 9.20 a.m. crossed to the
right bank of the river, and continued a south-west course, but found the
country exceedingly rough and rocky, and therefore turned to the
north-west to the river, and at 11.30 a.m. camped at a fine pool of
water. In the afternoon we were visited by a sudden thunder-squall;
fortunately the tents had not been set up, or they must have been blown
to pieces. The valley of the river has contracted to about fifteen miles,
and turns to the west, but a branch seems to come from the south, and a
second from the north-west. The country is, however, nearly level, and it
is difficult to ascertain the limits of the valley, as many portions of
the original tableland exist as detached hills and ridges. Though the
horses are well shod, they are becoming lame and footsore from
continually travelling over rough and stony country, as more than half of
the last 100 miles has been so completely covered with fragments of rock
that the soil, if any exists, has been wholly concealed.

6th February.

Leaving the camp at 6.20 a.m., steered south up the valley of a large
creek. At first the ground was very rough and rocky, but as we proceeded
it became more level and sandy - the bed of the creek being worn in the
basalt, and the hills of sandstone conglomerate rising 100 to 200 feet.
Except on the bank of the creek, there was no grass, the hills being
covered with triodia. Encamped in a grassy flat at 11.30 a.m.

Latitude by Pollux 18 degrees 48 seconds.


7th February.

At 6.30 resumed our journey to the south-south-west, and reached the head
of the creek at 8.0 a.m. Ascending the tableland by an abrupt slope of
100 feet, our course was south one mile, when the southern slope was
reached, and a large shallow valley extended across our course, beyond
which a vast and slightly undulating plain extended to the horizon with
scarcely a rising ground to relieve its extreme monotony. Descending by a
very gentle slope into the valley, at 9.40 a.m. crossed a small
watercourse trending south-east, and then passed through a plain densely
covered with kangaroo-grass seven to nine feet high, and at 10.40 a.m.
encountered the level sandy country beyond, which was covered with
triodia and small acacia and gum trees, or rather bushes. Seeing little
prospects of either water or grass to the southward, turned east to the
creek, at which we encamped at 12.30 p.m. The bed of the creek was dry,
except a few shallow pools of rainwater, and there had been so little
rain this season that no water had flowed down the channel. A level
grassy flat extended nearly a mile on each side of the creek, which
indicated the extent of occasional inundations, beyond which the country
was very sandy and covered with small gum-trees, acacia, and triodia.

Latitude by Pollux 18 degrees 3 seconds.

8th February.

The country to the south being so level and barren that we could not
expect to find either water or grass in that direction, at 6.0 a.m.
steered north 110 degrees east along the course of the creek, which
turned somewhat to the north of our track for a few miles; but at 8.0
again came on its banks. The country was very barren and sandy, with
small trees of silver-leafed ironbark and triodia, except on the
inundated flats of the creek, which were well grassed and thinly wooded
with box-trees. The course of the creek was now nearly south-east, but
the channel decreased in size, and was quite dry till 10.0 a.m., when we
reached a fine pool which had been filled by a tributary gully. Here we
halted and shot several ducks. At 2.45 p.m. resumed our route, and at
3.20 came to a level grassy flat, on which the channel of the creek was
completely lost. Crossing the flat to the east, the country was quite
level and sandy; therefore turned to the north, where there seemed to be
a slight depression, and at 4.50 came to a shallow pool of rainwater, at
which we encamped. Frequent showers during the night.


9th February.

On winding the chronometers this morning, found the chain of 2139, by
Arnold, was broken. Taking advantage of the cool cloudy morning, we
steered south at 6.5 a.m. to ascertain if the water of the creek, after
spreading on the grassy flat, collected again and found an outlet to the
southward, but found the ground rise in that direction; observed a slight
hollow to the west, for which we steered, but found it terminate on the
sandy plain, and the country became a perfect desert of red sand, with
scattered tufts of triodia and a few bushes of eucalypti and acacia. At
noon, finding it hopeless to proceed further into the desert, we turned
our steps to the north-north-east, and returned to our camp of last
night. In returning to the camp we ascended a slight elevation, from
which there was an uninterrupted view of the desert from east to
south-west. The horizon was unbroken; all appeared one slightly
undulating plain, with just sufficient triodia and bushes growing on it
to hide the red sand when viewed at a distance. The day was remarkably
cool and cloudy; the temperature at noon 86 degrees. Though the rain at
the camp had been abundant during the previous night, it had not extended
more than five miles into the desert, which is more remarkable, as the
clouds were moving to the south.


10th February.

As the horses required a day's rest, we remained at our camp, which
enabled us to repair our saddles and perform other necessary work.
Repaired the chronometer and one of the aneroid barometers, which had
been broken by the motion of one of the pack-horses. As there was no
practicable route to the south, and the sandstone hills to the north
seemed to diminish in elevation to the east, I decided on following the
northern limit of the desert to the west till some line of practicable
country was found by which to penetrate the country to the south. In
selecting a westerly route I was also influenced by the greater elevation
of the country on the western side of the Victoria, and the fact that all
the larger tributaries join from that side of the valley. It is also
probable that, should the waters of the interior not be lost in the sandy
desert, they will follow the southern limit of the elevated tract of
sandstone which occupies north-west Australia from Roebuck Bay to the
Gulf of Carpentaria, both of which points are nearly in the same latitude
as our present position, from which it may be assumed that the line of
greatest elevation is between the 17th and 18th parallels. None of the
rivers crossed by Leichhardt are of sufficient magnitude to drain the
country beyond the coast range, and therefore any streams descending from
the tableland to the south will either be absorbed in the sandy desert or
follow the southern limit of the sandstone and flow into the sea to the
south-west of Roebuck Bay. There is, however, reason to expect that, as
the interior of north-west Australia is partly within the influence of
the tropical and partly the extra-tropical climates, it does not enjoy a
regular rainy season; and though heavy rain doubtless falls at times, it
is neither sufficiently general or regular to form rivers of sufficient
magnitude to force their way through the flat sandy country to the coast.

Latitude by Capella 18 degrees 20 minutes 49 seconds.

11th February.

At 6.30 a.m. proceeded up the creek, and at 12.30 p.m. camped at a
shallow pool of rainwater on the flat, the channel of the creek being
dry. On the northern bank of the creek we passed a small lagoon with a
great number of duck and other water-fowl on it. The afternoon was
cloudy, with a fresh breeze from south-east.

Latitude by Pollux 18 degrees 15 minutes 26 seconds.

12th February.

Three of the horses having strayed some distance, we did not start till
7.0 a.m., when we steered an average course of north 300 degrees east
till 11.45 a.m., when we camped at a small pool of water in the bed of
the creek, which was reduced to a small gully; for the first four miles
we traversed the grassy flats of the creek, after which we passed over a
level sandy country producing nothing but triodia, stunted eucalypti, and
acacia till we again approached the creek, where the grassy flat was
nearly half a mile wide, but of inferior character.

Latitude by b Tauri 18 degrees 9 minutes 44 seconds.

13th February.

At 6.50 a.m. followed the valley of the creek to the west, passing some
fine flats with high grass, but the country generally very poor and
thinly wooded with white-gum and silver-leafed ironbark; at 10.40 halted
at a small waterhole at the foot of a low granite ridge; at 3.0 p.m.
ascended the granite hills, which rose abruptly 100 to 150 feet above the
plain, and extended about five miles to the south and east; to the west
the sandstone covered the granite and formed a level tableland or plain;
to the north a valley trended to the west, on the northern side of which
the hills appeared to be granitic. Returning to the camp, examined a deep
rocky ravine and found some small pools of water which might last for
nearly another month.

Latitude by Castor and Pollux 18 degrees 11 minutes 20 seconds.


14th February.

Leaving the camp at 6.0 a.m., steered an average course of north 300
degrees east; crossing the granite ridge, we entered a level sandy
country with much scrub, which was traversed till 8.40, when we entered a
wide grassy plain extending to the north-west, in which direction we
steered till 2.10 p.m., when we halted at a small muddy puddle two inches
deep and three yards wide. Then rode on with Mr. H. Gregory to search for
a larger supply of water, and found a shallow pool about a mile distant,
to which the party moved and encamped. Although this pool was not 100
yards long and six inches deep, a large flock of ducks, snipe, and small
gulls, were congregated at it, several thousand pigeons of species new to
us came to drink. These pigeons keep in flocks of from ten to more than a
thousand, feeding on the seeds of the grass on the open plains, as they
never alight on trees. They are somewhat larger than the common
bronze-wing; the head is black, with a little white at the base of the
beak and behind the eye; back pale brown; breast, blue; throat marked
with white; wings with white tips to the feathers and a small patch of
bronze; tail short, tip white; feet, dull red. The evening and night were


15th February.

At 6.5 a.m. followed a line of small trees and bushes which grew on the
lower part of the grassy plain and indicated the course of the water in
the wet season, and at 9.0 came to the head of a small creek trending
north-west. Water was now abundant and formed large pools, and at 11.15
camped on the right bank of the creek at a pool a quarter of a mile long
and fifty yards wide. This spot seemed to be much frequented by the
natives, and large quantities of mussel-shells lay around their fires.
The plain traversed this morning was well grassed; the soil a stiff clay
loam; this plain extended three to six miles on each side of the track,
and was bounded by a low-wooded country, which, in some parts, rose
nearly 100 feet above the plain. In the lower part of the plain we
observed the salt-bush (atriplex) and a species of rice; but as it was
only just in ear, we could not judge of the quality of the grain. In the
afternoon there was a fine breeze from the east which lasted till 8.0
p.m., the sky being cloudy.

Latitude by Canopus and Pollux 17 degrees 53 minutes 50 seconds.

16th February.

At 6.25 a.m. resumed our journey down the creek, which turned first west
and then south-west, and at 12.20 p.m. encamped at a small pool; on the
right bank of the creek wide grassy plains extended from three to five
miles back towards a low-wooded ridge, but on the left bank the scrubby
country came close to the creek.

Latitude by a Orionis, Canopus and Pollux 17 degrees 59 minutes 40

17th February (Sunday).

As the water and grass were abundant on this camp, we were not compelled
to move on in search of these requisites, and were enabled to observe it
as a day of rest.

18th February.

Resumed our journey at 6.30 a.m., and steered an average south-west
course till 11.10, and then south till 12.25 p.m., and again camped on
the creek. The country consisted of wide grassy plains on the bank of the
creek, without trees and well grassed; beyond the plains, at one to six
miles distance, low-wooded ridges were visible; but the general aspect of
the whole was extremely level. A great number of ducks and a few geese
were seen on some of the pools in the creek.

Latitude by Canopus 18 degrees 4 minutes 40 seconds.


19th February.

Commenced our day's journey at 6.0 a.m., followed the bank of the creek
till 8.15, thence south-south-west till noon, when the course was altered
to south-south-east to close in with the creek, but found that the
channel was completely lost on the level grassy plain, and at 1.40 p.m.
encamped at a small puddle of muddy water as thick as cream. Before the
creek was lost in the level plain it spread into some large, though
shallow pools, which swarmed with ducks of several species, but
principally the whistling duck. The grassy plain gradually extended to a
greater breadth, and the back country was so nearly level that it
scarcely rose above the grassy horizon, while to the south the country
was so level that the clumps of bushes appeared like islands, and the
grassy plain extended to the horizon. Near one of the waterholes in the
creek we surprised a native, who was sitting at his fire with a couple of
women, who decamped with all possible despatch. Several smokes have been
observed to the south and south-west, which shows that water must exist
in that direction, though it may not be in sufficient quantity to supply
our horses. The morning was cloudy, and at midnight there was a heavy
shower of rain. Judging from the general appearance of the country, the
waters of the creek, after spreading over the plain, must escape to the
westward, as the grass has been bent in that direction by the current
last year, but there has been so little rain this season that the channel
of the creek has not been filled.

20th February.

As it appeared that the waters of the creek trended to the west in the
wet season, at 6.5 a.m. we steered north 250 degrees east, through a
level forest of box-trees, with abundance of good grass; the soil brown
loam with fragments of limestone; the shower last night had left many
shallow pools of water on the surface. At 8.40 a.m. passed a small swampy
salt flat covered with salicornia; at 9.10 came on the grassy plain which
we skirted on a west course, but as it turned to the north-west, again
changed the course to 320 degrees; the plain was now reduced to about a
mile in width, and we therefore crossed it in search of a definite
channel, but without success, though there were some slight indications
that during inundation the water flowed to the north-west. At 11.50 we
camped at a shallow puddle of rainwater, on the north side of the plain.
From the camp, till 8.0 a.m., the grass, though very backward, showed
that there had been sufficient rain to cause it to spring; but as we
proceeded it was perfectly dry and parched up, as at the end of the dry
season, showing that little or no rain had fallen for many months in this

Online LibraryFrancis Thomas GregoryJournals of Australian Explorations → online text (page 20 of 32)