Ernest Favenc.

The Explorers of Australia and their Life-work online

. (page 8 of 23)
Online LibraryErnest FavencThe Explorers of Australia and their Life-work → online text (page 8 of 23)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


which stood a solitary hill that he named Mount Abundance. It is in his
description of this region in his journal that we first find an allusion
to the bottle tree.

The party wandered on over a low watershed and came down out on to a
river which, from its direction and position, he surmised to be the
Maranoa, the stream he had not followed. At this new point it was full of
deep reaches of water, and drained a tract of most pleasing land. On its
banks he determined to await Kennedy's arrival.

Kennedy overtook him on the 1st of June, bringing from Sir Thomas's son
Roderick despatches which had reached the party after the leader's
departure. Amongst other items of news in the despatches was the report
of Leichhardt's return, and of the hearty reception that he had been
accorded in Sydney. One piece of random information, a mere floating
newspaper surmise, but enough to arouse Mitchell's suspicious temper,
annoyed him greatly. "We understand," it ran, "the intrepid Dr.
Leichhardt is about to start another expedition to the Gulf, keeping to
the westward of the coast ranges."

As this seemed to indicate an intention of trespassing on Mitchell's
present field of operations, he naturally felt some resentment not likely
to be allayed by such a paragraph as the following: "Australia Felix and
the discoveries of Sir Thomas Mitchell now dwindle into comparative
insignificance."

Again leaving Kennedy, he set out to make a very extended excursion.
Traversing the country from the head of the Maranoa, he discovered the
Warrego River. Keeping north, over the watershed, for a time he fondly
imagined that he had reached northward-flowing waters; but the direction
of the rivers that he found, the Claude and the Nogoa, soon convinced him
of his error, and that he was on rivers of the east coast. Even when he
had reached the Belyando, a river which he named and followed down for a
short distance, he still deluded himself that he had reached inland
waters. Intensely mortified at finding that he was on a tributary of the
Burdekin, and approaching the ground already trodden by Leichhardt, he
returned to the head of the Nogoa, once more subdivided his party, and
formed a stationary camp to await his return from a westward trip.

This time, however, he was blessed with the most splendid success. He
found the Barcoo, a river that seemed to him to promise all he sought
for. The direction of its upper course easily led him to believe that it
was an affluent of the Gulf of Carpentaria, and after tracing it for some
distance he returned to camp. The newly-discovered river he named the
Victoria, thinking it would prove to be the same as that found by Captain
Stokes on his survey expedition. It was on the Barcoo, or Victoria, that
Mitchell first noticed the now famous grass that bears his name. On their
return journey, they followed down the Maranoa, and at the old camp at
St. George's Bridge, they were told by the natives that white men had
visited the place during their long absence. It was a singular and
welcome feature of Mitchell's discoveries that they had always proved to
be adjacent to civilisation, and to be suitable for immediate occupation.

The discovery of the Barcoo was the last feather in the cap of the
Surveyor-General. He was doomed to learn soon that it was not the river
of his dreams, but only the head waters of that central stream discovered
by Sturt, Cooper's Creek; but meanwhile the delusion must have been very
gratifying.

In 1851 Mitchell was sent out to report on the Bathurst goldfields, and
on a subsequent visit to England he took with him the first specimen of
gold and the first diamond found in Australia. He was for a short time
one of the members for the Port Phillip electorate, but resigned, as he
found faithful discharge of the duties to be incompatible with his
office. He patented the boomerang screw propeller, and was the author of
many educational and other works, including a translation of the Lusiad
of Camoens. Although a strict martinet in his official duties, and
subject to a choleric temper, he was strenuous in his devotion to the
advancement of Australia, among whose makers he must always occupy a
proud position. He died on the 5th of October, 1855, at Carthona, his
private residence at Darling Point, Sydney, New South Wales. His wife was
a daughter of Colonel Blount.



CHAPTER 8. THE EARLY FORTIES.


8.1. ANGAS McMILLAN AND GIPPSLAND.

Angas McMillan, who was the discoverer of what is now so widely-known as
Gippsland, in Victoria, was a manager of the Currawang station, in the
Maneroo district. On the 20th of May, 1839, he started from the station
on a trip to the southward to look for new grazing land. He had with him
but one black boy, named Jimmy Gibbu, who claimed to be the chief of the
Maneroo tribe, so that if the party was small, it was very select. On the
fifth day McMillan got through to the country watered by the Buchan
River, and, from the summit of an elevation which he called Mount
Haystack, he obtained a most satisfactory view over the surrounding
region. The next night, McMillan, awakened by a noise, found Jimmy Gibbu
bending over him with a nulla-nulla in his hand. Fortunately, McMillan's
pistol was within easy reach, and, presenting it at Jimmy's head, he
compelled him to drop the nulla-nulla, and to account for his suspicious
attitude. Jimmy confessed to a fear of the Warrigals, or wild blacks of
that region, to acute home-sickness, and to a general unwillingness to
proceed further.

McMillan examined the country he had found, and having judged it to be
very desirable pastoral land, he returned home. He then formed a new
station for Mr. Macalister on some country he had found on the Tambo
River, and went himself on another trip of discovery. This time he had
four companions with him, two friends named Cameron and Matthews, a
stockman, and a black boy. they followed the Tambo River down its course
through fine grazing country, both plains and forest, until in due course
it led them to the point of its embouchure in the lakes of the south
coast. He named Lake Victoria, and then directed his course to the west,
where he discovered and named the Nicholson and Mitchell rivers. He was
so deeply impressed with the resemblance of the country he had just been
over to some parts of Scotland, that he called the district by the now
obsolete name of Caledonia Australis. On January the 23rd, 1840, he was
out again and discovered and named the Macalister River, and pushed on as
far west as the La Trobe River. This addition of rich pastoral regions to
the already settled districts was altogether due to Angas McMillan's
energy, and is now known as Gippsland, being named officially after Sir
George Gipps, the Governor who had the amusing eccentricity of insisting
that all the towns laid out during his term of office should have no
public squares included within their boundaries, being convinced that
public squares encouraged the spread of democracy.

8.2. COUNT STRZELECKI.

Count Strzelecki's expedition through Gippsland with the discovery of
which district he is commonly and wrongly credited, was due to the
literary and geographical work he had undertaken, as he was gathering
material for his well-known work, The Physical Description of New South
Wales, Victoria, and Van Diemen's Land. He ascended the south-east
portion of the main dividing range, and named the highest peak thereof
Kosciusko, after a fancied resemblance in its outline to that Polish
patriot's tomb at Cracow.

On the 27th of March, 1840, he reached the cattle station on the Tambo
whither McMillan had just returned, and was directed by him on to his
newly-discovered country. Strzelecki pushed through to Western Port,
meeting with some scrubby and almost inaccessible country during the last
stages of his journey. His party had to abandon both horses and packs,
and fight its way through a dense undergrowth on a scanty ration of one
biscuit and a slice of bacon per day, varied with an occasional native
bear. It was here that the Count, who was an athletic man, found that his
hardy constitution stood the party in good stead. So weakened and
exhausted were his companions, that it was only by constant encouragement
that he urged them along at all. When forcing their way through the
matted growth of scrub, he often threw himself bodily upon it, breaking a
path for his weary followers by the mere weight of his body. It was in a
wretched condition that they at last reached Western Port.

8.3. PATRICK LESLIE.

In 1840 Patrick Leslie, who has always been considered the father of
settlement on the Darling Downs, started with stock from a New England
station, then the most northerly settled district in New South Wales, and
formed the first station on the Condamine River, actually before that
river had been identified as a tributary of the Darling. There was a
general impression that the Condamine flowed north and east, and finally
found its way through the main range to the Pacific. In 1841, Stuart
Russell, who closely followed Leslie as a pioneer, followed the river
down for more than a hundred miles to the westward, and in the following
year it was traced still further, and the Darling generally accepted as
its final destination.

8.4. LUDWIG LEICHHARDT.

[Illustration. Ludwig Leichhardt.]

Leichhardt is the Franklin of Australia, around whose name has ever clung
a tantalising veil of mystery and romance. Truth to tell, his claim as a
leading explorer rests solely on his first and undoubtedly fruitful
expedition. But for his mysterious fate mention of his name would not
stir the hearts of men as it does. Had he returned from his final venture
beaten, it must have been to live through the remainder of his life a
disappointed and embittered man. Far better for one of his temperament to
rest in the wilderness, his grave unknown, but his memory revered.

Leichhardt was born at Beskow, near Berlin, and studied at Berlin.
Through an oversight he was omitted from the list of those liable to the
one year of military service, and the sweets of exemption tempted him to
evade the three-year military course. The consequence was that he was
prosecuted as a deserter, and sentenced in contumaciam. Afterwards,
Alexander von Humboldt succeeded, by describing his services to science
on his first expedition in Australia, in obtaining a pardon from the
King. By a Cabinet Order, Leichhardt received permission to return to
Prussia unpunished. When the order arrived in Australia, he had already
started on his last expedition.

Dr. Leichhardt appears to have been a man whose character, to judge from
his short career, was largely composed of contradictions and
inconsistencies. Eager for personal distinction, with high and noble
aims, he yet lacked that ready sympathy and feeling of comradeship that
attract men. Leichhardt's followers never desired to accompany him on a
second expedition. Yet strange to say, he was capable of inspiring firm
friendship in such men as William Nicholson and Lieutenant Robert Lynd.

When he left on his first exploring expedition, on which he was
successful owing to the luck of the novice, people generally predicted -
and with much reason - that he would fail. But when he set out on his
second and disastrous journey, universally applauded and with his name on
everybody's lips, it was never doubted but that he would succeed.

[Map. Leichhardt's Route 1844 and 1845, Mitchell's Route 1845 and 1846,
and Kennedy's Route 1847 and 1848]

On his first expedition he was insufficiently equipped, had but
inexperienced men with him, and was a bad bushman himself. In fact the
journal of the trip reads to a man accustomed to bush life like the fable
of The Babes in the Wood; yet he managed to blunder through. On his
second expedition he was amply provided, and most of his companions were
experienced men, but it proved a miserable fiasco.

His great confidence in himself led him to ignore or undervalue the fact,
patent to others, that he was no bushman either by instinct or training.
And he seemed to prefer for companions men like himself, who could not
detect this failing, as is evident from a letter written by him to W.
Hull, of Melbourne, with reference to a young man who was anxious to join
his party. In this letter he enumerates the qualities that he considers
necessary in a follower: -

"Activity, good humour, sound moral principle, elasticity of mind and
body, and perfect willingness to obey my orders, even though given
harshly...I have been extremely unfortunate in the choice of my former
companions."

The last remark is an unworthy one, and of course applies to the
companions of his second expedition. He does not include a knowledge of
open-air life amongst his qualifications, nor the needful bushmanship;
and apparently in Leichhardt's opinion, a useless man of good moral
principle would be as acceptable to an explorer as a good bushman of
doubtful morality. It causes one to inquire whether the devoted men who
toiled for Sturt, private soldiers and prisoners of the Crown, were men
of sound moral principle? This extract affords an insight into
Leichhardt's failures. He wanted only those men who would blindly and
ignorantly obey and believe in him. For a man of Leichhardt's
temperament, such men were not to be found: he had missed the fairy gift
at birth - all the essentials of good leadership.

Stuart Russell, in his Genesis of Queensland, cites his shrewd old
stockman's opinion of Dr. Leichhardt, as he was just before his first
trip. The station from which Leichhardt started on that occasion was near
Russell's, so that the man spoke from personal knowledge: "It's my belief
that if Dr. Leichhardt do it at all, 'twill be more by good luck than
management. Why, sir, he hasn't got the knack of some of us; why it comes
like mother's milk to some. I can't tell how or why, but it does. Mark my
words, sir, Dr. Leichhardt hasn't got it in him, and never will have."

Two invaluable qualities in an explorer, apart from his scientific
attainments, Leichhardt possessed. These were courage and determination;
necessary no doubt, but not sufficient in themselves to carry through an
expedition to success. He lacked tact, and was deficient in practical
knowledge of the bush, and especially in what is known as bushmanship.
One fixed idea of his was, that in dry country if one can only keep on
far enough one is bound to come to water: a theory plausible enough if it
could be carried out to its logical conclusion; but the application of
which often involves a physical impossibility. And it must be taken into
consideration that Leichhardt had never travelled in the dry country of
the interior, but that what small experience he possessed had been gained
on the fairly well-watered coast. He asserts in his journal that cattle
and horses trust entirely to the sense of vision for finding water, and
not to the sense of smell. The exact reverse is of course the case.

The character of the lost explorer will thus be seen to have militated
strongly against his success when he came to be pitted against the - to
him - unknown dangers of a dry season in the far interior. But his fatal
self-confidence led him to challenge the desert, thinking that he must
succeed where better men had been denied even the hope of success. When
his last expedition comes to be reviewed, a more detailed discussion of
the probabilities of a successful issue to it will be made. Poor
Leichhardt, with all his moods and caprices, it would have been strange
if he had not shown some appreciation of humour. Let us quote his
description of his sudden and unexpected arrival in Sydney, after the
Port Essington expedition.

"We did come to Sydney, it was quite dark; we did go ashore, and then I
thought to see my dear friend Lynd. So I went up George Street to the
barracks. And then I went to his quarters to his window. He was dressing
himself; I did put in my head; he did jump out of the other window and I
stood there wondering. Soon many people did come round, and did look, Oh
so timid. I did not know all. And there was such a greeting. I was dead,
and was alive again. I was lost, and was found."

But in thus reviewing Leichhardt's aptitude - or rather inaptitude -
for the work, and commenting upon his shortcomings, we must do him the
fullest justice by paying homage to the sincerity of his belief in
himself and his mission. In that belief he was honestly loyal. His
conception of his duty was of the highest, and in its interest he would,
and did, make every sacrifice in his power. If some prescient tongue
could have told Leichhardt that the end of his quest would be an unknown
death, he would have accepted the fate without a murmur, provided his
death benefited geographical discovery.

As the man of science in a party under a capable leader, Leichhardt would
have achieved greater success than many men who have filled that
position; as the leader himself he was, of necessity, an absolute
failure.

Leichhardt arrived in New South Wales in 1842, and after some botanical
excursions about the Hunter River district, he travelled overland to
Moreton Bay, and there occupied himself with short expeditions in the
neighbourhood, pursuing his favourite study of physical science. When the
subject of the exploration of the north was mooted, he was desirous of
securing the position of naturalist, but the delay in forming the
projected expedition disappointed him, and he resolved to try and
organise a private one. In this he received very little encouragement. He
persevered, however, and eking out his own resources by means of private
contributions, both in money and stock, he managed to get a party
together. On the 1st of October, 1844, he left Jimbour station on the
Darling Downs, on the trip that was destined to make his name as an
explorer. His preparations were on a much smaller scale than Mitchell's.
Considering the importance of the undertaking, his party was absurdly
small. He had with him six white and two black men, seventeen horses,
sixteen head of cattle and four kangaroo dogs; and his supply of
provisions was equally meagre. His plan of starting from Moreton Bay to
Port Essington differed considerably from Mitchell's proposed journey to
the Gulf from Fort Bourke, but although longer and more roundabout, it
would be a safer route for his little party to adopt, as they would keep
to the comparatively well-watered coastal lands. Leaving the Condamine,
he crossed the northern watershed, and struck the head of one of the main
tributaries of the Fitzroy River, which he named the Dawson. Thence he
passed westward into a region of fine pastoral country, which he named
the Peak Downs. Here he named the minor waters of the Planet and the
Comet, and Zamia Creek. On the 10th of January, 1845, he found the
Mackenzie River, and thence crossed on to and named the Isaacs, a
tributary of the Fitzroy coming from the north. This river they followed
up till they crossed the watershed on to the head waters of the Suttor
River. They followed this stream down until it brought them to the
Burdekin, Leichhardt's most important discovery.

Up the valley of this river they travelled, until they reached the head,
where, at the Valley of Lagoons, they crossed the watershed on to the
waters of the Gulf of Carpentaria. Here, for some unknown reason,
Leichhardt went far too much to the north, which necessitated a long
detour around the south-eastern corner of the Gulf. It was while they
were retracing a southern course along the eastern shore of the Gulf that
the naturalist Gilbert met his fate. Up to this time they had been so
little troubled with the natives that they had ceased almost to think of
a possible hostile encounter with them. This fancied immunity was broken
in a most tragic manner on the night of the 28th of June, 1845. It was a
calm, quiet evening, and the party were peacefully encamped beside a
chain of shallow lagoons. The doctor was thinking out his plans for the
next few days, Gilbert was planting a few lilies he had gathered, as was
his nightly habit when any flowers were available. Roper and the others
were grouped around the fire warding off the attacks of the mosquitoes.
Suddenly about seven o'clock a shower of spears was thrown among the
unarmed men, and Gilbert was almost instantly killed, Roper and Calvert
being seriously wounded. The whites rushed for their guns, but
unfortunately not one weapon was ready capped, and it was some time
before any of them could be discharged, when a volley caused the blacks
to scamper off. It is most astonishing that the whole of the members of
the party were not cut down in one dreadful massacre.

The body of the murdered naturalist was buried at the fatal camp, but the
grave was left unmarked, and a large fire built and consumed above it to
hide all traces of it from the natives. The river where this sad mishap
occurred now bears the name of Gilbert.

From the scene of this tragedy, which ordinary precautions would have
avoided, the party proceeded around the southern shore of the Gulf,
keeping a short distance above tidal waters; but their progress was slow
and painful on account of the two wounded men. Most of Leichhardt's names
are still retained for the rivers of the Gulf which he crossed, the
Leichhardt itself being an exception. This river he mistook for the
Albert, so named by Captain Stokes during his marine survey of the north
coast. A.C. Gregory rectified the error in after years, and gave the
river the name of the lost explorer for whom he was then searching. With
fast-dwindling supplies, lagging footsteps, and depressed spirits, the
expedition travelled slowly on to the south-west corner of the Gulf
where, in crossing a large river, the Roper, four of the horses were
drowned in consequence of the boggy banks. This misfortune so limited
their means of carriage that Leichhardt had to sacrifice the whole of his
botanical collection. On the 17th of December, 1845, the worn-out
travellers, nearly destitute of everything, reached the settlement of
Victoria, at Port Essington, and the long journey of fourteen months was
over.

This expedition, successful as it was in opening up such a large area of
well-watered country, attracted universal attention both to the
gratifying economic results and to the hitherto untried leader. He was
enthusiastically welcomed back to Sydney, and dubbed by journalists the
prince of explorers. But what captivated public fancy was a certain halo
of romance that clung to the journey on account of the reported death of
Leichhardt, a report that gained general credence. His unexpected return
invested him with a romance which - fortunately for his reputation -
the total and absolute disappearance of himself and company in 1848 has
but the more richly coloured. Enthusiastic poets gush forth in song, and
a more substantial reward was raised by public and private subscriptions
and shared among the expedition in due proportions.

Encouraged by these encomiums on his success, and perhaps a little
intoxicated by the general acclamation, Leichhardt now conceived the
ambitious idea of traversing the continent from the eastern to the
western shore; keeping as far as possible on the same parallel of
latitude. This was a bold project, coming as it did so soon after Sturt
had returned to Adelaide from his excursion into the interior with a
terrible tale of thirst and suffering. But this time the hero of the hour
experienced no difficulty in obtaining funds and other necessary aids.
The party, when organised, travelled from the Hunter River to the
Condamine, taking with them their outfit of mules, cattle, and goats.
When the expedition departed from Darling Downs, they numbered seven
white men and two natives, with 270 goats, 180 sheep, 40 bullocks, 15
horses, and 13 mules. There were besides an ample outfit and provisions
calculated to last the explorers on a two years' journey; for it was
estimated that the expedition would be absent from civilisation for that
time.

Instead of setting out westwards from the initial point in a direction
where Leichhardt could reasonably expect fair travelling country for some
distance, he proceeded along his old track north to the Mackenzie and
Isaacs Rivers. What induced him to adopt this course is uncertain. He
explained to one of his party that it was to verify some former
observations; or he may have had some dim notion that by keeping to the
tropical line he would gain some climatic assistance. Whatever the cause,
the result was disastrous. The wet season and monsoonal rains caught the


1 2 3 4 5 6 8 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23

Online LibraryErnest FavencThe Explorers of Australia and their Life-work → online text (page 8 of 23)