Charles Sturt.

Two Expeditions into the Interior of Southern Australia — Complete online

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"For though most men are contented only to see a river as it runs by
them, and talk of the changes in it as they happen; when it is troubled,
or when clear; when it drowns the country in a flood, or forsakes it in a
drought: yet he that would know the nature of the water, and the causes of
those accidents (so as to guess at their continuance or return), must find
out its source, and observe with what strength it rises, what length it
runs, and how many small streams fall in, and feed it to such a height,
as make it either delightful or terrible to the eye, and useful or
dangerous to the country about it."...SIR WILLIAM TEMPLE'S NETHERLANDS.

Lord Privy Seal
&c. &c. &c.


The completion of this Work affords me the opportunity I have long desired
of thanking your Lordship thus publicly, for the kindness with which you
acceded to my request to be permitted to dedicate it to you.

The encouragement your Lordship was pleased to give me has served to
stimulate me in the prosecution of a task, which would, I fear, have been
too great for me to have accomplished in my present condition, under any
ordinary views of ambition. Indeed, labouring as I have been for many
months past, under an almost total deprivation of sight, (the effect of
exposure and anxiety of mind in the prosecution of geographical
researches,) I owe it to the casual assistance of some of my friends, that
I am at length enabled to lay these results before your Lordship and the

While I feel a painful conviction that many errors must necessarily
pervade a work produced under such unfavourable circumstances, it affords
me no small consolation to reflect that Your Lordship has been aware of my
situation, and will be disposed to grant me every reasonable indulgence.

I have the honor to be,
With the highest respect,
My Lord,
Your Lordship's
Very obedient and humble servant,

London, June, 1833.



Purpose of this Chapter - Name of Australia - Impressions of its early
Visitors - Character of the Australian rivers - Author's first view of Port
Jackson - Extent of the Colony of New South Wales - its rapid advances in
prosperity - Erroneous impressions - Commercial importance of Sydney - Growth
of fine wool - Mr. M'Arthur's meritorious exertions - Whale-fishery - Other
exports - Geographical features - Causes of the large proportion of bad
soil - Connection between the geology and vegetation - Geological features -
Character of the soil connected with the geological formation - County of
Cumberland - Country westward of the Blue Mountains - Disadvantages of the
remote settlers - Character of the Eastern coast - Rich tracts in the
interior - Periodical droughts - The seasons apparently affected by the
interior marshes - Temperature - Fruits - Emigrants: Causes of their success
or failure - Moral disadvantages - System of emigration recommended - Hints
to emigrants - Progress of inland discovery - Expeditions across the Blue
Mountains - Discoveries of Mr. Evans, Mr. Oxley, and others - Conjectures
respecting the interior.

IN 1828 AND 1829.


State of the Colony in 1828-29 - Objects of the Expedition - Departure
from Sydney - Wellington Valley - Progress down the Macquarie - Arrival at
Mount Harris - Stopped by the marshes - Encamp amidst reeds - Excursions down
the river - Its termination - Appearance of the marshes - Opthalmic
affection of the men - Mr. Hume's successful journey to the northward -
Journey across the plain - Second great marsh - Perplexities - Situation of
the exploring party - Consequent resolutions.


Prosecution of our course into the interior - Mosquito Brush - Aspect and
productions of the country - Hunting party of natives - Courageous conduct
of one of them - Mosquitoes - A man missing - Group of hills called
New-Year's Range - Journey down New-Year's Creek - Tormenting attack of the
kangaroo fly - Dreariness and desolation of the country - Oxley's Table
Land - D'Urban's Group - Continue our journey down New-Year's Creek -
Extreme Disappointment on finding it salt - Fall in with a tribe of
natives - Our course arrested by the want of fresh water - Extraordinary
sound - Retreat towards the Macquarie.


Intercourse with the natives - Their appearance and condition - Remarks on
the Salt or Darling River - Appearance of the marshes on our return -
Alarm for safety of the provision party - Return to Mount Harris - Miserable
condition of the natives - Circumstances attending the slaughter of two
Irish runaways - Bend our course towards the Castlereagh - Wallis's Ponds -
Find the famished natives feeding on gum - Channel of the Castlereagh -
Character of the country in its vicinity - Another tribe of natives -
Amicable intercourse with them - Morrisset's chain of Ponds - Again reach the
Darling River ninety miles higher up than where we first struck upon it.


Perplexity - Trait of honesty in the natives - Excursion on horseback across
the Darling - Forced to return - Desolating effects of the drought - Retreat
towards the colony - Connection between the Macquarie and the Darling -
Return up the banks of the Macquarie - Starving condition of the natives.


General remarks - Result of the expedition - Previous anticipations -
Mr. Oxley's remarks - Character of the Rivers flowing westerly -
Mr. Cunningham's remarks - Fall of the Macquarie - Mr. Oxley's erroneous
conclusions respecting the character of the interior, naturally inferred
from the state in which he found the country - The marsh of the Macquarie
merely a marsh of the ordinary character - Captain King's observations -
Course of the Darling - Character of the low interior plain - The convict
Barber's report of rivers traversing the interior - Surveyor-General
Mitchell's Report of his recent expedition.


Concluding Remarks - Obstacles that attend travelling into the interior
of Australia - Difficulty of carrying supplies - Importance of steady
intelligent subordinates - Danger from the natives - Number of men
requisite, - and of cattle and carriages - Provisions - Other arrangements -
Treatment of the natives - Dimensions of the boat used in the second


No. I. Letter of Instructions
No. II. List of Stores supplied for the Expedition
No. III. Sheep-farming Returns
No. IV. List of Geological Specimens
No. V. Official Report to the Colonial Government, (Jan. 1829.)
No. VI. Ditto (April 1829.)

(Not included in this etext)

Native Burial Place near Budda
Vice Admiral Arthur Phillip
Cataract of the Macquarie
A Selenite
Chrystallized Sulphate of Lime


Purpose of this Chapter - Name of Australia - Impressions of its early
Visitors - Character of the Australian rivers - Author's first view of Port
Jackson - Extent of the Colony of New South Wales - its rapid advances in
prosperity - Erroneous impressions - Commercial importance of Sydney - Growth
of fine wool - Mr. M'Arthur's meritorious exertions - Whale-fishery - Other
exports - Geographical features - Causes of the large proportion of bad
soil - Connection between the geology and vegetation - Geological features -
Character of the soil connected with the geological formation - County of
Cumberland - Country westward of the Blue Mountains - Disadvantages of the
remote settlers - Character of the Eastern coast - Rich tracts in the
interior - Periodical droughts - The seasons apparently affected by the
interior marshes - Temperature - Fruits - Emigrants: Causes of their success
or failure - Moral disadvantages - System of emigration recommended - Hints
to emigrants - Progress of inland discovery - Expeditions across the Blue
Mountains - Discoveries of Mr. Evans, Mr. Oxley, and others - Conjectures
respecting the interior.


When I first determined on committing to the press a detailed account of
the two expeditions, which I conducted into the interior of the Australian
continent, pursuant to the orders of Lieutenant General Darling, the late
Governor of the Colony of New South Wales, it was simply with a view of
laying their results before the geographical world, and of correcting the
opinions that prevailed with regard to the unexplored country to the
westward of the Blue Mountains. I did not feel myself equal either to the
task or the responsibility of venturing any remarks on the Colony of New
South Wales itself. I had had little time for inquiry, amidst the various
duties that fell to my lot in the ordinary routine of the service to which
I belonged, when unemployed by the Colonial Government in the prosecution
of inland discoveries. My observations had been in a great measure
confined to those points which curiosity, or a desire of personal
information, had prompted me to investigate. I did not, therefore, venture
to flatter myself that I had collected materials of sufficient importance
on general topics to enable me to write for the information of others.
Since my return to England, however, I have been strenuously urged to give
a short description of the colony before entering upon my personal
narrative; and I have conversed with so many individuals whose ideas of
Australia are totally at variance with its actual state, that I am
encouraged to indulge the hope that my observations, desultory as they
are, may be of some interest to the public. I am strengthened in this hope
by the consideration that some kind friends have enabled me to add much
valuable matter to that which I had myself collected. It is not my
intention, however, to enter at any length on the commercial or
agricultural interests of New South Wales. It may be necessary for me to
touch lightly on those important subjects, but it is my wish to connect
this preliminary chapter, as much as possible with the subjects treated of
in the body of the work, and chiefly to notice the physical structure, the
soil, climate, and productions of the colony, in order to convey to the
reader general information on these points, before I lead him into the
remote interior.


It may be worthy of remark that the name "Australia," has of late years
been affixed to that extensive tract of land which Great Britain possesses
in the Southern Seas, and which, having been a discovery of the early
Dutch navigators, was previously termed "New Holland." The change of name
was, I believe, introduced by the celebrated French geographer, Malte
Brun, who, in his division of the globe, gave the appellation of
Austral Asia and Polynesia to the new discovered lands in the southern
ocean; in which division he meant to include the numerous insular groups
scattered over the Pacific.


Australia is properly speaking an island, but it is so much larger than
every other island on the face of the globe, that it is classed as a
continent in order to convey to the mind a just idea of its magnitude.
Stretching from the 115th to the 153rd degree of east longitude, and from
the 10th to the 37th of south latitude, it averages 2700 miles in length
by 1800 in breadth; and balanced, as it were, upon the tropic of that
hemisphere in which it is situated, it receives the fiery heat of the
equator at one extremity, while it enjoys the refreshing coolness of the
temperate zone at the other. On a first view we should be led to expect
that this extensive tract of land possessed more than ordinary advantages;
that its rivers would be in proportion to its size; and that it would
abound in the richest productions of the inter-tropical and temperate
regions. Such, indeed, was the impression of those who first touched upon
its southern shores, but who remained no longer than to be dazzled by the
splendour and variety of its botanical productions, and to enjoy for a
few days the delightful mildness of its climate. But the very spot which
had appeared to Captain Cook and Sir Joseph Banks an earthly paradise, was
abandoned by the early settlers as unfit for occupation; nor has the
country generally been fount to realize the sanguine expectations of those
distinguished individuals, so far as it has hitherto been explored.


Rivers which have the widest mouths or the most practicable entrances,
are, in Europe or America, usually of impetuous current, or else contain
such a body of water as to bear down all opposition to their free course;
whilst on the other hand, rivers whose force is expended ere they reach
the sea, have almost invariably a bar at their embouchure, or where they
mingle their waters with those of the ocean. This last feature
unfortunately appears to characterise all rivers of Australia, or such of
them at least as are sufficiently known to us. Falling rapidly from the
mountains in which they originate into a level and extremely depressed
country; having weak and inconsiderable sources, and being almost wholly
unaided by tributaries of any kind; they naturally fail before they reach
the coast, and exhaust themselves in marshes or lakes or reach it so
weakened as to be unable to preserve clear or navigable months, or to
remove the sand banks that the tides throw up before them. On the other
hand the productions of this singular region seem to be peculiar to it,
and unlike those of any other part of the world; nor have any indigenous
fruits of any value as yet been found either in its forests or on its

He who has never looked on any other than the well-cultured fields of
England, can have little idea of a country that Nature has covered with an
interminable forest. Still less can he estimate the feelings with which
the adventurer approaches a shore that has never (or perhaps only lately)
been trodden by civilized man.


It was with feelings peculiar to the occasion, that I gazed for the first
time on the bold cliffs at the entrance of Port Jackson, as our vessel
neared them, and speculated on the probable character of the landscape
they hid; and I am free to confess, that I did not anticipate anything
equal to the scene which presented itself both to my sight and my
judgment, as we sailed up the noble and extensive basin we had entered,
towards the seat of government. A single glance was sufficient to tell me
that the hills upon the southern shore of the port, the outlines of which
were broken by houses and spires, must once have been covered with the
same dense and gloomy wood which abounded every where else. The contrast
was indeed very great - the improvement singularly striking. The labour and
patience required, and the difficulties which the first settlers
encountered effecting these improvements, must have been incalculable. But
their success has been complete: it is the very triumph of human skill and
industry over Nature herself. The cornfield and the orchard have
supplanted the wild grass and the brush; a flourishing town stands over
the ruins of the forest; the lowing of herds has succeeded the wild whoop
of the savage; and the stillness of that once desert shore is now broken
by the sound of the bugle and the busy hum of commerce.


The Colony of New South Wales is situated upon the eastern coast of
Australia; and the districts within which land has been granted to
settlers, extends from the 36th parallel of latitude to the 32nd, that is
say, from the Moroyo River to the south of Sydney on the one hand, and to
the Manning River on the other, including Wellington Valley within its
limits to the westward. Thus it will appear that the boundaries of the
located parts of the colony have been considerably enlarged, and some fine
districts of country included within them. In consequence of its extent
and increasing population, it has been found convenient to divide it into
counties, parishes, and townships; and indeed, every measure of the
Colonial Government of late years, has had for its object to assimilate
its internal arrangements as nearly as possible, to those of the mother
country. Whether we are to attribute the present flourishing state of the
colony to the beneficial influence of that system of government which has
been exercised over it for the last seven years it is not for me to say.
That the prosperity of a country depends, however, in a great measure,
on the wisdom of its legislature, is as undoubted, as that within the
period I have mentioned the colony of N. S. Wales has risen
unprecedentedly in importance and in wealth, and has advanced to a state
of improvement at which it could not have arrived had its energies been
cramped or its interests neglected.


There is a period in the history of every country, during which it will
appear to have been more prosperous than at any other. I allude not to the
period of great martial achievements, should any such adorn its pages, but
to that in which the enterprise of its merchants was roused into action,
and when all classes of its community seem to have put forth their
strength towards the attainment of wealth and power.


In this eventful period the colony of New South Wales is already far
advanced. The conduct of its merchants is marked by the boldest
speculations and the most gigantic projects. Their storehouses are built
on the most magnificent scale, and with the best and most substantial
materials. Few persons in England have even a remote idea of its present
flourishing condition, or of the improvements that are daily taking place
both in its commerce and in its agriculture. I am aware that many object
to it as a place of residence, and I can easily enter into their feelings
from the recollection of what my own were before I visited it. I cannot
but remark, however, that I found my prejudices had arisen from a natural
objection to the character of a part of its population; from the
circumstance of its being a penal colony, and from my total ignorance of
its actual state, and not from any substantial or permanent cause. On the
contrary I speedily became convinced of the exaggerated nature of the
reports I had heard in England, on some of the points just adverted to;
nor did any thing fall under my observation during a residence in it of
more than six years to justify the opinion I had been previously led to
entertain of it. I embarked for New South Wales, with strong prejudices
against it: I left it with strong feelings in its favour, and with a deep
feeling of interest in its prosperity. It is a pleasing task to me,
therefore, to write of it thus, and to have it in my power to contribute
to the removal of any erroneous impressions with regard to its condition
at the present moment.


I have already remarked, that I was not prepared for the scene that met my
view when I first saw Sydney. The fact was, I had not pictured to myself;
nor conceived from any thing that I had ever read or heard in England,
that so extensive a town could have been reared in that remote region, in
so brief a period as that which had elapsed since its foundation. It is
not, however, a distant or cursory glance that will give the observer a
just idea of the mercantile importance of this busy capital. In order to
form an accurate estimate of it, he should take a boat and proceed from
Sydney Cove to Darling Harbour. He would then be satisfied, that it is not
upon the first alone that Australian commerce has raised its storehouse
and wharfs, but that the whole extent of the eastern shore of the last
more capacious basin, is equally crowded with warehouses, stores,
dockyards, mills, and wharfs, the appearance and solidity of which would
do credit even to Liverpool. Where, thirty years ago, the people flocked
to the beach to hail an arrival, it is not now unusual to see from thirty
to forty vessels riding at anchor at one time, collected there from every
quarter of the globe. In 1832, one hundred and fifty vessels entered the
harbour of Port Jackson, from foreign parts, the amount of their tonnage
being 31,259 tons.

The increasing importance of Sydney must in some measure be attributed to
the flourishing condition of the colony itself, to the industry of its
farmers, to the successful enterprise of its merchants, and to particular
local causes. It is foreign to my purpose, however, to enter largely into
an investigation of these important points. To do so would require more
space than I can afford for the purpose, and might justly be considered as
irrelevant in a work of this kind. Without attempting any lengthened
detail, it may be considered sufficient if I endeavour merely to point out
the principal causes of the present prosperity (and, as they may very
probably prove) of the eventual progress of our great southern colony to
power and independence.


The staple of our Australian colonies, but more particularly of New South
Wales, the climate and the soil of which are peculiarly suited to its
production, - is fine wool. There can be no doubt that the growth of this
article has mainly contributed to the prosperity of the above mentioned
colony and of Van Diemen's Land.

At the close of the last century, wool was imported into England from
Spain and Germany only, and but a few years previously from Spain alone.
Indeed, long after its introduction from the latter country, German wool,
obtained but little consideration in the London market; and in like
manner, it may be presumed that many years will not have elapsed
before the increased importation of wool from our own possessions in
the southern hemisphere, will render us, in respect to this commodity,
independent of every other part of the world. The great improvements
in modern navigation are such, that the expense of sending the fleece
to market from New South Wales is less than from any part of Europe.
The charges for instance on Spanish and German wool, are from
fourpence to fourpence three farthings per pound; whereas the entire
charge, after shipment from New South Wales, and Van Diemen's Land, does
not exceed threepence three farthings, - and in this the dock and landing
charges, freight, insurance, brokerage, and commission, are included.


As some particulars respecting the introduction of this source of national
wealth into Australia may prove interesting to the public, I have put
together the following details of it, upon the authenticity of which they
may rely. The person who foresaw the advantage to be derived from the
growth of fine wool in New South Wales, and who commenced the culture of
it in that colony, was Mr. John M'Arthur. So far back, I believe, as the
year 1793, not long after the establishment of the first settlement at
Sydney, this gentleman commenced sheep-farming, and about two years
afterwards he obtained a ram and two ewes from Captain Kent, of the royal
navy, who had brought them, with some other stock for the supply of the
settlement, from the Cape of Good Hope, to which place a flock of these
sheep had been originally sent by the Dutch government. Sensible of the
importance of the acquisition, Mr. M'Arthur began to cross his
coarse-fleeced sheep with Merino blood; and, proceeding upon a system, he
effected a considerable improvement in the course of a few years. So
prolific was the mixed breed, that in ten years, a flock which originally
consisted of not more than seventy Bengal sheep, had increased in number
to 4,000 head, although the wethers had been killed as they became fit for
slaughter. It appears, however, that as the sheep approached to greater
purity of blood, their extreme fecundity diminished.


In 1803, Mr. M'Arthur revisited England; and there happening at the time
to be a committee of manufacturers in London from the clothing districts,
he exhibited before them samples of his wool, which were so much approved,
that the committee represented to their constituents the advantages which
would result from the growth of fine wool, in one of the southern
dependencies of the empire. In consequence of this a memorial was

Online LibraryCharles SturtTwo Expeditions into the Interior of Southern Australia — Complete → online text (page 1 of 35)