Charles Sturt.

Two Expeditions into the Interior of Southern Australia — Volume 2 online

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Charles Sturt




"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




Introductory - Remarks on the results of the former Expedition - The
fitting out of another determined on - Its objects - Provisions,
accoutrements, and retinue - Paper furnished by Mr. Kent - Causes that
have prevented the earlier appearance of the present work.


Commencement of the expedition in November, 1829. - Joined by Mr. George
M'Leay - Appearance of the party - Breadalbane Plains - Hospitality of Mr.
O'Brien - Yass Plains - Hill of Pouni - Path of a hurricane - Character of
the country between Underaliga and the Morumbidgee - Appearance of that
river - Junction of the Dumot with it - Crossing and recrossing - Geological
character and general aspect of the country - Plain of Pondebadgery - Few
natives seen.


Character of the Morumbidgee where it issues from the hilly
country - Appearance of approach to swamps - Hamilton Plains - Intercourse
with the natives - Their appearance, customs, &c. - Change in the
character of the river - Mirage - Dreariness of the country - Ride towards
the Lachlan river - Two boats built and launched on the Morumbidgee; and
the drays, with part of the men sent back to Goulburn Plains.


Embarkation of the party in the boats, and voyage down the
Morumbidgee - The skiff swamped by striking on a sunken tree - Recovery
of boat and its loading - Region of reeds - Dangers of the
navigation - Contraction of the channel - Reach the junction of a large
river - Intercourse with the natives on its banks - Character of the
country below the junction of the rivers - Descent of a dangerous
rapid - Warlike demonstrations of a tribe of natives - Unexpected
deliverance from a conflict with them - Junction of another river - Give
the name of the "Murray" to the principal stream.


Character of the country - Damage of provisions - Adroitness of the
natives in catching fish - The skiff broken up - Stream from the
North-East supposed to be the Darling - Change of country in descending
the river - Intercourse with the natives - Prevalence of loathsome
diseases among them - Apparent populousness of the country - Junction of
several small streams - The Rufus, the Lindesay, &c. - Rainy and
tempestuous weather - Curious appearance of the banks - Troublesomeness
of the natives - Inhospitable and desolate aspect of the
country - Condition of the men - Change in the geological character of
the country - The river passes through a valley among hills.


Improvement in the aspect of the country - Increase of the river - Strong
westerly gales - Chronometer broken - A healthier tribe of
natives - Termination of the Murray in a large lake - Its extent and
environs - Passage across it - Hostile appearance of the natives - Beautiful
scenery - Channel from the lake to the sea at Encounter Bay - Reach the
beach - Large flocks of water fowl - Curious refraction - State of
provisions - Embarrassing situation - Inspection of the channel to the
ocean - Weak condition of the men - Difficulties of the return.


Valley of the Murray - Its character and capabilities - Laborious
progress up the river - Accident to the boat - Perilous collision with
the natives - Turbid current of the Rufus - Passage of the
Rapids - Assisted by the natives - Dangerous intercourse with
them - Re-enter the Morumbidgee - Verdant condition of its
banks - Nocturnal encounter with the natives - Interesting manifestation
of feeling in one family - Reach the spot where the party had embarked
on the river - Men begin to fail entirely - Determine to send two men
forward for relief - Their return - Excursion on horseback - Reach
Pondebadgery Plain, and meet the supplies from the colony - Cannibalism
of the natives - Return to Sydney - Concluding remarks.


Environs of the lake Alexandrina - Appointment of Capt. Barker to make a
further survey of the coast near Encounter Bay - Narrative of his
proceedings - Mount Lofty, Mount Barker, and beautiful country
adjacent - Australian salmon - Survey of the coast - Outlet of lake to the
sea - Circumstances that led to the slaughter of Capt. Barker by the
natives - His character - Features of this part of the country and
capabilities of its coasts - Its adaptation for colonization - Suggestions
for the furtherance of future Expeditions.


No. I. Geological Specimens found to the south-west of Port Jackson
No. II. Official Report to the Colonial Government


(Not included in this etext)

View on the Morumbidgee River
Junction of the supposed Darling with the Murray
Palaeornis Melanura, or Black Tailed Paroquet
Pomatorhinus Temporalis
Pomatorhinus Superciliosus
Chart of Cape Jervis, and Encounter Bay
Mass of Fossils of the Tertiary Formation
Genus Unknown
Chrystallized Selenite
Single Fossils of the Tertiary Formation




Remarks on the results of the former Expedition - The fitting out of
another determined on - Its objects - Provisions, accoutrements, and
retinue - Paper furnished by Mr. Kent - Causes that have prevented the
earlier appearance of the present work.


The expedition of which we have just detailed the proceedings was so
far satisfactory in its results, that it not only set at rest the
hypothesis of the existence of an internal shoal sea in southern
Australia, and ascertained the actual termination of the rivers it had
been directed to trace, but also added very largely to our knowledge of
the country considerably to the westward of former discoveries. And
although no land had been traversed of a fertile description of
sufficient extent to invite the settler, the fact of a large river such
as the Darling lying at the back of our almost intertropical
settlements, gave a fresh importance to the distant interior. It was
evident that this river was the chief drain for carrying off the waters
falling westerly from the eastern coast, and as its course indicated a
decline of country diametrically opposite to that which had been
calculated upon, it became an object of great importance to ascertain
its further direction. Had not the saline quality of its waters been
accounted for, by the known existence of brine springs in its bed, it
would have been natural to have supposed that it communicated with some
mediterranean sea; but, under existing circumstances, it remained to be
proved whether this river held on a due south course, or whether it
ultimately turned westerly, and ran into the heart of the interior. In
order fully to determine this point, it would be necessary to regain it
banks, so far below the parallel to which it had been traced as to
leave no doubt of its identity; but it was difficult to fix upon a plan
for approaching that central stream without suffering from the want of
water, since it could hardly be expected that the Lachlan would afford
such means, as it was reasonable to presume that its termination was
very similar to that of the Macquarie. The attention of the government
was, consequently, fixed upon the Morumbidgee, a river stated to be of
considerable size and of impetuous current. Receiving its supplies from
the lofty ranges behind Mount Dromedary, it promised to hold a longer
course than those rivers which, depending on periodical rains alone for
existence, had been found so soon to exhaust themselves.


The fitting out of another expedition was accordingly determined upon;
and about the end of September 1829, I received the Governor's
instructions to make the necessary preparations for a second descent
into the interior, for the purpose of tracing the Morumbidgee, or such
rivers as it might prove to be connected with, as far as practicable.
In the event of failure in this object, it was hoped that an attempt to
regain the banks of the Darling on a N.W. course from the point at
which the expedition might be thwarted in its primary views, would not
be unattended with success. Under any circumstances, however, by
pursuing these measures, an important part of the colony would
necessarily be traversed, of which the features were as yet altogether

It became my interest and my object to make the expedition as complete
as possible, and, as far as in me lay, to provide for every
contingency: and as it appeared to me that, in all likelihood, we
should in one stage or other of our journey have to trust entirely to
water conveyance, I determined on taking a whale-boat, whose dimensions
and strength should in some measure be proportioned to the service
required. I likewise constructed a small still for the distillation of
water, in the event of our finding the water of the Darling salt, when
we should reach its banks. The whale-boat, after being fitted, was
taken to pieces for more convenient carriage, as has been more
particularly detailed in the last chapter of the preceding volume.

So little danger had been apprehended from the natives in the former
journey, that three firelocks had been considered sufficient for our
defence. On the present occasion, however, I thought it adviseable to
provide arms for each individual.

Mr. Hume declined accompanying me, as the harvest was at hand. Mr.
George M'Leay therefore supplied his place, rather as a companion than
as an assistant; and of those who accompanied me down the banks of the
Macquarie, I again selected Harris (my body servant), Hopkinson, and


The concluding chapter of this volume, relative to the promontory of
St. Vincent, or Cape Jervis, has been furnished me by the kindness of
Mr. Kent, who accompanied the lamented officer to whom the further
exploration of that part of coast unhappily proved fatal. There is a
melancholy coincidence between Captain Barker's death and that of
Captain Cook, which cannot fail to interest the public, as the
information that has been furnished will call for their serious
consideration. I shall leave for their proper place, the remarks I have
to offer upon it, since my motive in these prefatory observations has
been, to carry the reader forward to that point at which he will have
to view the proceedings of the expedition alone, in order the more
satisfactorily to arrive at their results. And, although he must expect
a considerable portion of dry reading in the following pages, I have
endeavoured to make the narrative of events, some of which are
remarkably striking, as interesting as possible.


It only remains for me to refer the reader to the concluding chapter of
the preceding volume, for such general information as I have been
enabled to furnish upon the nature of the services on which I was
employed, and on the manner of conducting similar expeditions. Indeed,
I trust that this book (whatever be its defects) will be found to
contain much valuable information of a practical character, and I may
venture to affirm, that it will give a true description of the country,
and of the various other subjects of which it treats.

Notwithstanding that I have in my dedication alluded to the causes that
prevented the earlier appearance of this work, I feel it due both to
myself and the public here to state, that during these expeditions my
health had suffered so much, that I was unable to bear up against the
effects of exposure, bodily labour, poverty of diet, and the anxiety of
mind to which I was subjected. A residence on Norfolk Island, under
peculiarly harassing circumstances, completed that which the above
causes had commenced; and, after a succession of attacks, I became
totally blind, and am still unable either to read what I pen, or to
venture abroad without an attendant. When it is recollected, that I
have been unassisted in this work in any one particular, I hope some
excuse will be found for its imperfections. A wish to contribute to the
public good led me to undertake those journeys which have cost me so
much. The same feeling actuates me in recording their results; and I
have the satisfaction to know, that my path among a large and savage
population was a bloodless one; and that my intercourse with them was
such as to lessen the danger to future adventurers upon such hazardous
enterprises, and to give them hope where I had so often despaired.
Something more powerful, than human foresight or human prudence,
appeared to avert the calamities and dangers with which I and my
companions were so frequently threatened; and had it not been for the
guidance and protection we received from the Providence of that good
and all-wise Being to whose care we committed ourselves, we should, ere
this, have ceased to rank among the number of His earthly creatures.


Commencement of the expedition in November, 1829. - Joined by Mr. George
M'Leay - Appearance of the party - Breadalbane Plains - Hospitality of Mr.
O'Brien - Yass Plains - Hill of Pouni - Path of a hurricane - Character of
the country between Underaliga and the Morumbidgee - Appearance of that
river - Junction of the Dumot with it - Crossing and recrossing - Geological
character and general aspect of the country - Plain of Pondebadgery - Few
natives seen.

The expedition which traversed the marshes of the Macquarie, left
Sydney on the 10th day of Nov. 1828. That destined to follow the waters
of the Morumbidgee, took its departure from the same capital on the 3rd
of the same month in the ensuing year. Rain had fallen in the interval,
but not in such quantities as to lead to the apprehension that it had
either influenced or swollen the western streams. It was rather
expected that the winter falls would facilitate the progress of the
expedition, and it was hoped that, as the field of its operations would
in all probability be considerably to the south of the parallel of Port
Jackson, the extreme heat to which the party and the animals had been
exposed on the former journey, would be less felt on the present

As there was no Government establishment to the S.W. at which I could
effect any repairs, or recruit my supplies, as I had done at Wellington
Valley, the expedition, when it left Sydney, was completed in every
branch, and was so fully provided with every necessary implement and
comfort, as to render any further aid, even had such been attainable,
in a great measure unnecessary. The Governor had watched over my
preparations with a degree of anxiety that evidenced the interest he
felt in the expedition, and his arrangements to ensure, as far as
practicable, our being met on our return, in the event of our being in
distress, were equally provident and satisfactory. It was not, however,
to the providing for our wants in the interior alone that His
Excellency's views were directed, but orders were given to hold a
vessel in readiness, to be dispatched at a given time to St. Vincent's
Gulf, in case we should ultimately succeed in making the south coast in
its neighbourhood.


The morning on which I left Sydney a second time, under such doubtful
circumstances, was perfectly serene and clear. I found myself at 5 a.m.
of that delightful morning leading my horses through the gates of those
barracks whose precincts I might never again enter, and whose inmates I
might never again behold assembled in military array. Yet, although the
chance of misfortune flashed across my mind, I was never lighter at
heart, or more joyous in spirit. It appeared to me that the stillness
and harmony of nature influenced my feelings on the occasion, and my
mind forgot the storms of life, as nature at that moment seemed to have
forgotten the tempests that sometimes agitate her.


I proceeded direct to the house of my friend Mr. J. Deas Thomson, who
had agreed to accompany me to Brownlow Hill, a property belonging to
Mr. M'Leay, the Colonial Secretary, where his son, Mr. George M'Leay,
was to join the expedition. As soon as we had taken a hasty breakfast,
I went to the carters' barracks to superintend the first loading of the
animals. Mr. Murray, the superintendent, had arranged every article so
well, and had loaded the drays so compactly that I had no trouble, and
little time was lost in saddling the pack animals. At a quarter before
7 the party filed through the turnpike-gate, and thus commenced its
journey with the greatest regularity. I have the scene, even at this
distance of time, vividly impressed upon my mind, and I have no doubt
the kind friend who was near me on the occasion, bears it as strongly
on his recollection. My servant Harris, who had shared my wanderings
and had continued in my service for eighteen years, led the advance,
with his companion Hopkinson. Nearly abreast of them the eccentric
Fraser stalked along wholly lost in thought. The two former had laid
aside their military habits, and had substituted the broad brimmed hat
and the bushman's dress in their place, but it was impossible to guess
how Fraser intended to protect himself from the heat or the damp, so
little were his habiliments suited for the occasion. He had his gun
over his shoulder, and his double shot belt as full as it could be of
shot, although there was not a chance of his expending a grain during
the day. Some dogs Mr. Maxwell had kindly sent me followed close at his
heels, as if they knew his interest in them, and they really seemed as
if they were aware that they were about to exchange their late
confinement for the freedom of the woods. The whole of these formed a
kind of advanced guard. At some distance in the rear the drays moved
slowly along, on one of which rode the black boy mentioned in my former
volume, and behind them followed the pack animals. Robert Harris, whom
I had appointed to superintend the animals generally, kept his place
near the horses, and the heavy Clayton, my carpenter, brought up the
rear. I shall not forget the interest Thomson appeared to take in a
scene that must certainly have been new to him. Our progress was not
checked by the occurrence of a single accident, nor did I think it
necessary to remain with the men after we had gained that turn which,
at about four miles from Sydney, branches off to the left, and leads
direct to Liverpool. From this Point my companion and I pushed forward,
in order to terminate a fifty miles' ride a little sooner than we
should have done at the leisurely pace we had kept during the early
part of our journey. We remained in Liverpool for a short time, to
prepare the commissariat office for the reception, and to ensure the
accommodation, of the party; and reached Brownlow Hill a little after


As I have already described the country on this line of road as far us
Goulburn Plains, it will not be considered necessary that I should
again notice its features with minuteness.


The party arrived at Glendarewel, the farm attached to Brownlow Hill,
on the 5th. I resumed my journey alone on the 8th. M'Leay had still
some few arrangements to make, so that I dispensed with his immediate
attendance. He overtook me, however, sooner than I expected, on the
banks of the Wallandilly. I had encamped under the bluff end of
Cookbundoon, and, having been disappointed in getting bearings when
crossing the Razor Back, I hoped that I should be enabled to connect a
triangle from the summit of Cookbundoon, or to secure bearings of some
prominent hill to the south. I found the brush, however, so thick on
the top of the mountain, that I could obtain no satisfactory view, and
and M'Leay, who accompanied me, agreed with me in considering that we
were but ill repaid for the hot scramble we had had. Crossing the
western extremity of Goulburn Plains on the 15th, we encamped on a
chain of ponds behind Doctor Gibson's residence at Tyranna, and as I
had some arrangements to make with that gentleman, I determined to give
both the men and animals a day's rest. I availed myself of Doctor
Gibson's magazines to replace such of my provisions as I had expended,
as I found that I could do so without putting him to any inconvenience;
and I added two of his men to the party, intending to send them back,
in case of necessity, or, when we should have arrived at that point
from which it might appear expedient to forward an account of my
progress and ultimate views, for the governor's information.

On the 17th we struck the tents, and, crossing the chain of ponds near
which they had been pitched, entered a forest track, that gave place to
barren stony ridges of quartz formation. These continued for six or
seven miles, in the direction of Breadalbane Plains, upon which we were
obliged to stop, as we should have had some difficulty in procuring
either water or food, within any moderate distance beyond them. The
water, indeed, that we were obliged to content ourselves with was by no
means good. Breadalbane Plains are of inconsiderable extent, and are
surrounded by ridges, the appearance of which is not very promising.
Large white masses of quartz rock lie scattered over them, amongst
trees of stunted growth. Mr. Redall's farm was visible at the further
extremity of the plains from that by which we had entered them. It
would appear that these plains are connected with Goulburn Plains by a
narrow valley, that was too wet for the drays to have traversed.


Doctor Gibson had kindly accompanied us to Breadalbane Plains. On the
morning of the 18th he returned to Tyranna, and we pursued our journey,
keeping mostly on a W.S.W. course. From the barren hills over which we
passed, on leaving the plains, we descended upon an undulating country,
and found a change of rock, as well as of vegetation, upon it. Granite
and porphyry constituted its base. An open forest, on which the
eucalyptus mannifera alone prevailed, lay on either side of us, and
although the soil was coarse, and partook in a great measure of the
decomposition of the rock it covered, there was no deficiency of grass.
On the contrary, this part of the interior is decidedly well adapted
for pasturing cattle.


About 1 p.m. we passed Mr. Hume's station, with whom I remained for a
short time. He had fixed his establishment on the banks of the Lorn, a
small river, issuing from the broken country near Lake George, and now
ascertained to be one of the largest branches of the Lachlan River. We
had descended a barren pass of stringy bark scrub, on sandstone rock, a
little before we reached Mr. Hume's station, but around it the same,
open forest tract again prevailed. We crossed the Lorn, at 2 o'clock,
leaving Mr. Broughton's farm upon our left, and passed through a broken
country, which was very far from being deficient in pasture. We
encamped on the side of a water-course, about 4 o'clock, having
travelled about fifteen miles.

On the 19th, we observed no change in the soil or aspect of the
country, for the first five miles. The eucalyptus mannifera was the
most prevalent of the forest trees, and certainly its presence
indicated a more flourishing state in the minor vegetation. At about
five miles, however, from where we had slept, sandstone reappeared, and
with it the barren scrub that usually grows upon a sandy and
inhospitable soil. One of the drays was upset in its progress down a
broken pass, where the road had been altogether neglected, and it was
difficult to avoid accidents. Fortunately we suffered no further than

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Online LibraryCharles SturtTwo Expeditions into the Interior of Southern Australia — Volume 2 → online text (page 1 of 18)