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nearest headland Cape Jervis, and the highest land
seen to the north-east Mount Lofty. Leaving Kangaroo
Island, he stood across for Cape Spencer, naming the
straits between, Investigator's Straits, and on the 29th


of February found himself in another gulf with land
right ahead as well as on both sides. A rise at the
head of the gulf he named Hummock Mount, and in
honour of the admiral who presided at the Board of
Admiralty when he left England, he called his new
discovery the Gulf of St. Vincent; the peninsula
separating the two gulfs he designated Yorke's Penin-
sula, after the Eight Honourable Charles Philip Yorke,
and a dangerous shoal at the entrance of Gulf St.
Vincent, Troubridge Shoal.

Flinders pronounced the country round the Gulf of
St. Vincent to be generally superior to that on the
borders of Spencer's Gulf, but the only notice he gives
of its eastern side, destined to become a few years
afterwards an important British settlement, was as
follows : " The nearest part of the coast was distant
three leagues, mostly low, and composed of sand and
rock, with a few small trees scattered over it; but a
few miles inland, where the back mountains rise, the
country was well clothed with forest timber, and had a
fertile appearance."

The Investigator touched once more at Kangaroo
Island, " where not less than thirty emus were seen on
shore at one time," and then proceeded through what
Flinders called Backstairs Passage and anchored in
Antechamber Bay. The headland at its eastern end,
where now a fine lighthouse stands, he named Cape
Willoughby. Leaving here, he passed three small
islands, The Pages, and soon after a report from aloft
announced a white rock ahead. "On approaching
nearer," says Flinders, " it proved to be a ship standing
towards us, and we cleared for action in case of being
attacked. The stranger was a heavy-looking ship
without any topgallant masts up, and, on colours being
hoisted, she showed a French ensign, and afterwards an
English jack forward, as we did a white flag. At half-
past five, the land being then five miles distant to the
north-east, I hove-to, and learned, as the stranger passed
to leeward with a fair wind, that it was the French
national ship Le Geographe, under the command of


Captain Nicholas Baudin. We veered round as Le
Geograplie was passing, so as to keep our broadside to
her, lest the flag of truce should be a deception, and
having come to the wind on the other tack, a boat was
hoisted out, and I went on board the French ship, which
had also hove-to." The passports of both captains were
exchanged and read, and Flinders learned that his
fellow-navigator had parted company from his consort-
ship Le Naturaliste in a heavy gale in Bass's Straits,
had lost his geographical engineer with the largest boat
and its crew, and that he had examined part of Van
Diemen's Land and part of the south coast of Australia.
The navigators communicated their discoveries to each
other, and Flinders presented Baudin with some charts.
In honour of this friendly meeting Flinders named the
locality Encounter Bay, and in passing along the
southern coast adopted the nomenclature of Baudin,
except in the case of two headlands discovered by
Grant in December, 1800, and named respectively Capes
Northumberland and Bridgewater.

Monsieur Peron, the naturalist to the French expe-
dition, pursued a very different course with regard to
the discoveries of Flinders, not only laying a claim to
them on behalf of his nation, but renaming nearly all
of them. Kangaroo Island he called L'Isle De'cres,
Spencer's Gulf Golfe Bonaparte, Gulf St. Vincent Golfe
Josephine, and so on.

This attempt to rob Captain Flinders of the honour
so justly due to him was, as we shall see, afterwards
exposed and condemned.

The first lieutenant of Le GeograpTie was far more
honourable than Monsieur Peron ; on meeting Flinders
some time after at Port Jackson, he said to the English
navigator. "Captain, if we had not been kept so long
picking up shells and catching butterflies at Van
Diemen's Land, you would not have discovered the
South Coast before us."

On the 9th of May, 1802, the Investigator anchored
at Port Jackson, where Flinders was heartily welcomed
by the Governor, to whom he communicated the im-


portant discoveries he had made, and also sent an
account of them to England by the South Sea whaler

On the 22nd of July, 1802, he sailed from Port
Jackson with the Investigator and the Lady Nelson, for
the purpose of visiting Torres Straits and the north
coast of Australia.

During this voyage with the details of which we
shall not concern ourselves here, although he explored
some portions of the Northern Territory which in 1863
was added to the province of South Australia he cir-
cumnavigated Australia and returned to Port Jackson
on the 9th of June, 1803. The Investigator was now
found to be unfit for further service, and as there was no
other vessel in the harbour ready for exploring purposes,
Flinders determined to proceed to England and lay his
charts and journals before the Lords Commissioners of
the Admiralty, and if possible obtain another ship.

A series of disasters now befell the heroic explorer.
Soon after leaving Port Jackson in the Porpoise accom-
panied by the Bridgewater and the Cato he was wrecked
on the Barrier Eeef, the Cato sharing a similar fate.
The Bridgewater escaped, and proceeded on her voyage
to India. The crews of the two wrecked vessels con-
trived to get upon a sandbank, where they remained
while Flinders returned to Sydney, a distance of seven
hundred miles, in one of the ship's boats to procure

The Governor placed two small ships at his disposal,
and with them he proceeded to the reef, and rescued all
his companions. One of the two ships was a colonial
cutter, the Cumberland, of twenty-nine tons, and on his
return to Sydney Flinders conceived the idea of pro-
ceeding in this frail craft, only a little larger than a
river- boat, to England. On making his plan known
to the Governor, it was, strange to say, favourably

Flinders proposed to put into whatever port lay in
his route for supplies of provisions and water, and
seemed to entertain no doubt of a successful issue


to his voyage ; but in course of time his little vessel
sprung a leak, and he steered to Mauritius for repairs.
But here, being unprovided with any other passport
than the one issued for the Investigator, he and liis
crew were taken prisoners. By an unlucky chance, Le
Geographe, with the members of the French expedition
who could have established his identity, had sailed from
Mauritius on the day before his arrival. Having come
from Australia, he was asked if he had seen or heard
of " Flindera " the navigator, and the Governor of the
island refused to believe his reply that he was the man,
or that any Australian Governor would have sanctioned
a voyage to England in such a small and dangerous

Flinders, therefore, was detained a prisoner, and his
papers were taken from him. For six weary years he
suffered incarceration, and was only set at liberty when,
in 1810, the island was capitulated to the English.

While Flinders was a prisoner at Mauritius, Monsieur
Peron, the naturalist of Baudin's expedition, issued
one volume of voyages and discoveries in Australia,
in which he made the audacious attempt to deprive
Flinders of the honour of his discoveries by giving
French names to most of the places the English navi-
gator had already visited and named.

This ungenerous attempt to appropriate the result of
the labours of another was unsuccessful. The account
of his discoveries which, owing to his incarceration,
Flinders was unable to publish until 1814, completely
set at rest for ever the justness of his claims, and there
is a fine ring in the generous words of the heroic sailor
when, in his published work, " Account of a Voyage to
Terra Australis," he says, " How, then, came Monsieur
Peron to advance what was so contrary to truth ? Was
he a man destitute of all principle ? My answer is,
that I believe his candour to have been equal to his
acknowledged abilities, and that what he wrote was
from an overruling authority, and smote him to the
heart, for he did not live to print his second volume."

Flinders died on the 14th of July, 1814, the very


day on which his book was published. A monument
to his memory was erected at Port Lincoln by Sir John
Franklin when he was Governor of Tasmania.

From the time that Flinders and Baudin visited anc
explored parts of the coast-line of South Australia,
several years elapsed before any further important
discoveries were made. Captain Dillon, the discoverer
of the remains of La Perouse, visited Port Lincoln and
Encounter Bay ; Captain Sutherland, in command of a
whaler, visited Kangaroo Island, which became in
process of time partly inhabited by convicts who had
escaped from the neighbouring penal settlements, and
by runaway seamen, and one Captain Jones is said
to have discovered the harbour now known as Port

In 1830, twenty-eight years after Flinders set forth
on his memorable voyages, a vast addition to the know-
ledge of Australian geography in general and of South
Australia in particular was made by the discoveries of
Captain Charles Sturt.

In September, 1829, the Government of New South
Wales, being anxious to trace the flow of the waters of
the Murrumbidgee, or of such rivers as might be con-
nected with it, instructed Captain Sturt to make the
necessary preparations for a second descent into the
interior for this purpose.

On the 14th of January, 1830, while pursuing the
objects of the expedition down the Murrumbidgee, he
came " suddenly and unexpectedly at the conflux of that
river with a noble stream, flowing," as he says, " from
east to west at the rate of two and a half knots an hour
over a clear and sandy bed of a medium width of from
three hundred to four hundred feet."

The river into which the whaleboat and her exploring
party had been launched, Captain Sturt named the
Murray after Sir George Murray, who at that time
presided over the Colonial Department. Pursuing his
onward course down the Murray, which Captain Sturt
at first supposed was the Darling a river he had
previously discovered and named after General Darling


Governor of New South Wales he arrived on the 23rd
of January, greatly to his surprise and satisfaction, at
the junction of the Darling with his new discovery,
the Murray.

The Darling at this point was found to be about
one hundred yards wide and twelve feet deep, and in
140 56" of east longitude, that is to say, just without
the boundary afterwards fixed for the province of South
Australia. In 140 29" he found another considerable
junction of a river, which he named the Lindesay, after
the colonel of his regiment. A little lower down he
passed another, which he named the Eufus, after the
red hair of his companion, Mr. (afterwards Sir George)

On the 9th of March, finding the horizon getting
clearer to the south, Captain Sturt landed to survey the
country. Eeferring to this circumstance, he wrote

"I still retained a strong impression on my mind
that some change was at hand, and on this occasion I
was not disappointed ; but the view was one for which
I was not altogether prepared. We had at length
arrived at the termination of the Murray. Immediately
below me was a beautiful lake which appeared to be a
fitting reservoir for the noble stream that had led us to
it, and which was now ruffled by the breeze that swept
over it. The ranges were more distinctly visible,
stretching from south to north, and were certainly
distant forty miles. They had a regular, unbroken
outline, declining gradually to the south, but terminating
abruptly at a lofty mountain northerly. I had no doubt
in my mind of this being the Mount Lofty of Captain
Flinders, or that the range was that immediately to the
eastward of St. Vincent's Gulf. Between us and the
ranges a beautiful promontory shot out into the lake,
being a continuation of the right bank of the Murray.
Over this promontory the waters stretched to the base
of the ranges and formed an extensive bay. To the
north-west the country was exceedingly low, but distant
peaks were just visible over it. To the south-west a
bold headland showed itself, beyond which, to the west-


ward, there was a clear and open sea visible through a
strait formed by this headland, and a point projecting
from the opposite shore. To the east and south-east
the country was low, excepting the left shore of the
lake, which was backed by some minor elevations,
crowned with cypresses. Even while gazing on this
fine scene I could not but regret that the Murray had
thus terminated, for I immediately foresaw that in all
probability we should be disappointed in finding any
practicable communication between the lake and the
ocean, as it was evident that the former was not much
influenced by tides."

The Murray at this depot, and forty miles from its
mouth, was found to be 350 yards wide, and from
twenty to twenty-five feet deep. Finding the wind
too boisterous to cross the lake, tents were pitched on
a low tract of land that stretched apparently for many
miles to the eastward. It was of the richest soil, being
a black vegetable deposit. Encouraged by the appear-
ance of the country, Captain Sturt, accompanied by
MacLeay, walked out to examine it from some hills a
little to the south-east of their camp, and found that
the flat extended over about fifty miles, and was bounded
by the elevations that continued easterly from the left
bank of the Murray to the north, and by a line of
rising ground to the south, the whole being lightly
wooded and covered with grass.

" Thirty-three days had now passed over our heads,"
says Captain Sturt, " since we left the depot on the
Murrumbidgee, twenty-six of which had been passed
upon the Murray. We had at length arrived at the
grand reservoir of those waters whose course and fate
had previously been involved in such obscurity. It
remained for us to ascertain whether the extensive
sheet of water upon whose bosom we had' embarked
had any practicable communication with the ocean,
and whether the country in the neighbourhood of the
coast corresponded with that immediately behind our
camp, or kept up its sandy and sterile character to the
very verge of the sea."


In crossing the lake a south-westerly course was
pursued, leaving the great expanse of waters to the
north-west, and the adjacent country unexplored on
the downward voyage. A neck of land extending
several miles into the lake was supposed to be an
island from the indentation which takes place near the
present township of Milang. This point, and the one
on the opposite shore, have appropriately been named
respectively Point Sturt and Point MacLeay.

When Sturt reached the shore of Encounter Bay, he
found his stock of provisions so short that he had only
just time to visit the mouth of the Murray and retrace
his steps with all possible speed. The scarcity of pro-
visions was not the only difficulty the party had to
anticipate ; some of the native tribes on the banks of
the Murray and down to the sea-coast had shown them-
selves hostile to the expedition on its downward journey,
and it was not to be expected that they would be friendly
on its return.

The whole of the voyage back was one protracted
course of suffering, but courage never flagged.

"The men were indeed so exhausted in strength,"
wrote Captain Sturt, " and their provisions so much
reduced by the time they gained the coast, that I
doubted much whether either could hold out to such
place as we might hope for relief. Yet reduced as the
whole of us were from previous exertion, beset as our
homeward path was by difficulty and danger, and in-
volved as our eventual safety was in obscurity and
doubt, I could not but deplore the necessity that obliged
me to recross the Lake Alexandrina (as I had named it,
in honour of the heir-apparent to the British Crown),
and to relinquish the examination of its western shores.
. . . We were borne over its ruffled and agitated surface
with such rapidity that I had scarcely time to view it
as we passed, but, cursory as my glance was, I could
not but think I was leaving behind me the fullest
reward of our toil in a country that would ultimately
render our discoveries valuable, and benefit the colony
for whose interests we were engaged. Hurried, I would


repeat, as my view of it was, my eye never fell on a
country of more promising aspect or of more favour-
able position than that which occupies the space between
the lake and the ranges of St. Vincent's Gulf, and con-
tinuing northerly from Mount Barker stretches away
without any visible boundary."

Exactly six months after their departure, Captain
Sturt and his gallant men were all safely back in
Sydney, but in an utterly exhausted state. They had
passed through terrible sufferings, but their indomitable
courage had prevented them from sinking into despair,
which would have resulted in certain death.

In his report to the Colonial Government of New
South Wales, Captain Sturt strongly urged that a
further examination of the coast should be made from
the most eastern coast of Encounter Bay to the head of
St. Vincent's Gulf, to ascertain with certainty if there
were any other outlet for the waters of the Murray
than the one he had discovered ; the large body of
water in the north-west part of the lake leading him
to entertain the hope that there was a channel in that

Governor Darling lost no time in carrying out this
recommendation, and determined to avail himself of the
services of Captain Collet Barker, who had been Com-
mandant at Kaffles Bay, and more recently had occupied
a similar post at the settlement in Western Australia.
He was directed to proceed to Cape Jervis and carry
on his survey from that point. He was accompanied
by Dr. Davis, an assistant-surgeon of his regiment (the
39th Foot), and Mr. Kent of the Commissariat.

On the 13th of April, 1831, the expedition arrived
off Cape Jervis and proceeded up the eastern side of
St. Vincent's Gulf.

On the 17th Captain Barker, accompanied by Mr.
Kent, his servant Mills, and two soldiers, went on
shore. They entered a narrow inlet at the base of the
Mount Lofty ranges and were delighted with the beauty
of the scenery, bearing the appearance of natural
meadows lightly timbered and covered with a variety


of grasses. Finding a rocky glen at the head of the
inlet where there was abundance of water, the party
bivouacked for the night, and on the following morning,
leaving the two soldiers at the resting-place, Captain
Barker, Mr. Kent, and the servant kept along the ridge
of the range gradually ascending in the direction of
Mount Lofty. In the course of the day they passed
round the head of a deep ravine whose smooth and
grassy sides presented a beautiful appearance. A few
miles from this ravine the party encamped for the night,
and on the following morning passed over Mount Lofty.
After sleeping another night on the ranges, they rejoined
the soldiers, who had obtained an abundant supply of
fish in the mean time. While on Mount Lofty Captain
Barker had observed an indentation in the coast to the
north-west, and now proceeded to examine it. Little,
of course, did he imagine that this inlet would, in a
few years, become the harbour of the capital of a
nourishing colony, and still less did he suppose that,
within the same period, the uninhabited plains he had
seen from the summit of Mount Lofty would be teeming
with a busy population, and be skirted with the villa
residences of the more wealthy and successful of the
colonists. Between the inlet just referred to, and the
one entered by the party on the 17th, Captain Barker
discovered a small clear stream to which he gave the
name of the " Sturt," after the gallant discoverer of
the Murray.

Captain Barker and his former land-party next went
ashore in a small bay behind Cape Jervis, and found
themselves, on landing, in a rich and fertile valley,
probably the Eapid Bay of a later date. Crossing over
the ranges, they obtained a view of Encounter Bay, and
proceeding still further to the north-east along the
summit of the hill, they saw Lake Alexandrina and the
channel of its communication witli the sea. From this
they descended towards the channel close to the sand
hillock upon which Captain Sturt had pitched his tent
before his return journey up the Murray, and then kept
along the beach until they reached the sea mouth.


Captain Barker judged the breadth of the channel to be
a quarter of a mile, and being anxious to take bearings,
and to ascertain the nature of the strand beyond it
to the eastward, he determined, notwithstanding the
remonstrances of his people, to swim across. Unfortu-
nately he was the only one of the party who could
swim well enough for the purpose. He stripped and
swam across with his compass fastened on his head, with
difficulty gaining the opposite side, and then he was
seen to ascend the hillock * and take several bearings.
He then descended on the further side and was never
seen again. For a long time his comrades waited in
anxious suspense ; then some of them heard, or thought
they heard, a sharp sudden cry. Evening advanced
without any sign of Captain Barker's return, but when
night set in the terrible explanation came. Upon the
sandhill the doomed man had ascended, the natives
had lighted a chain of small fires, around which their
women were chanting a melancholy dirge. It struck
upon the ears of the listeners with an ominous thrill,
and assured them of the irreparable loss they had

As the only means of ascertaining definitely their
leader's fate, they sought the assistance of the sealers
on Kangaroo Island, when, for a certain reward, one of
the men agreed to accompany Mr. Kent to the main-
land with a native woman who would communicate
with the tribe supposed to have committed the murder.
It transpired that the natives, fearful, it was alleged,
of the instrument Captain Barker carried in his hand,
closed upon him and speared him to death, afterwards
throwing the body into deep water, where. the sea-tide
would carry it away.

It was reported that the natives who committed this
cruel act "were influenced by no other motive than
curiosity to ascertain if they had power to kill a white
man." " But," says Captain Sturt, who wrote an
account of Captain Barker's expedition and its melan-
choly termination, " we must be careful in giving credit

* Now called Barker's Knoll.


to this, for it is much more probable that the cruelties
exercised by the sealers towards the blacks along the
south coast may have instigated the latter to take
vengeance on the innocent as well as on the guilty."
The sandhill on the right side of the mouth of the
Murray has been appropriately designated Barker's
Knoll, to commemorate the tragic event

Sad as the termination was, good was effected by the
expedition, and from the account furnished by Mr.
Kent, Captain Sturt was able to report

" It would appear that a spot has at length been found
upon the south coast of New Holland to which the
colonist might venture with every prospect of success,
and in whose valleys the exile might hope to build for
himself and for his family a peaceful and prosperous
home. All who have ever landed upon the eastern
shore of St. Vincent's Gulf agree as to the richness of
its soil and the abundance of its pastures. Indeed, if
we cast our eyes upon the chart and examine the
natural features of the country behind Cape Jervis, we
shall no longer wonder at its differing in soil and
fertility from the low and sandy tracts that generally
prevail along the shores of Australia."

The account of the discoveries of Sturt and Barker
were received with enthusiasm in Great Britain, and
led to practical steps being taken for the formation of
a settlement on the southern shores of Australia.


Online LibraryEdwin HodderThe history of South Australia from its foundation to the year of its jubilee (Volume 1) → online text (page 2 of 34)