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PEEPS AT MANY LANDS
[Illustration: THE NOMAD OF THE AUSTRALIAN INTERIOR]
[Illustration: KANGAROO HUNTING. PAGE 47.]
PEEPS AT MANY LANDS
WITH TWELVE FULL-PAGE ILLUSTRATIONS
PERCY F. S. SPENCE, ETC.
ADAM AND CHARLES BLACK
CHAPTER I PAGE
AUSTRALIA, ITS BEGINNING 1
AUSTRALIA OF TO-DAY 15
THE NATIVES 33
THE ANIMALS AND BIRDS 46
THE AUSTRALIAN BUSH 63
THE AUSTRALIAN CHILD 73
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
SNOWY MOUNTAINS NEAR THE SITE OF THE FEDERAL CAPITAL viii
THE BARRIER OF THE BLUE MOUNTAINS 9
THE GARDEN STREETS OF ADELAIDE 16
COLLINS STREET, MELBOURNE 25
THE TOWN HALL, SYDNEY 32
AUSTRALIAN NATIVES IN CAPTAIN COOK'S TIME 41
THE AUSTRALIAN FOREST AT NIGHT - "MOONING" OPOSSUMS 48
A SHEEP DROVER 57
A HUT IN THE BUSH 64
SURF-BATHING - SHOOTING THE BREAKERS 73
AUSTRALIAN CHILDREN RIDING TO SCHOOL 80
THE NOMAD OF THE AUSTRALIAN INTERIOR _On the cover_
_Sketch-Map of Australia on pages vi and vii._
[Illustration: Map of Australia]
[Illustration: KOOKABURRAS. _Page_ 59.]
[Illustration: SNOWY MOUNTAINS NEAR THE SITE OF THE FEDERAL CAPITAL.
A "Sleeping Beauty" land - The coming of the English - Early
explorations - The resourceful Australian.
The fairy-story of the Sleeping Beauty might have been thought out by
someone having Australia in his mind. She was the Sleeping Beauty among
the lands of the earth - a great continent, delicately beautiful in her
natural features, wonderfully rich in wealth of soil and of mine, left
for many, many centuries hidden away from the life of civilization,
finally to be wakened to happiness by the courage and daring of English
sailors, who, though not Princes nor even knights in title, were as
noble and as bold as any hero of a fairy-tale.
How Australia came to be in her curious isolated position in the very
beginning is not quite clear. The story of some of the continents is
told in their rocks almost as clearly as though written in books. But
Australia is very, very old as a continent - much older than Europe or
America or Asia - and its story is a little blurred and uncertain partly
for that reason.
Look at the map and see its shape - something like that of a pancake with
a big bite out of the north-eastern corner. In the very old days
Australia was joined to those islands on the north - the East Indies - and
through them to Asia; but it was countless ages ago, for the animals and
the plants of Australia have not the least resemblance to those of Asia.
They represent a class quite distinct in themselves. That proves that
for a very long time there has been no land connection between Australia
and Asia; if there had been, the types of flower and of beasts would be
more nearly kindred. There would be tigers and elephants in Australia
and emus in Asia, and the kangaroo and other marsupials would probably
have disappeared. The marsupial, it may be explained, is one of the
mammalian order, which carries its young about in a pouch for a long
time after they are born. With such parental devotion, the marsupials
would have little chance of surviving in any country where there were
carnivorous animals to hunt them down; but Australia, with the exception
of a very few dingoes, had no such animals, so the marsupials survived
there whilst vanishing from all other parts of the earth.
When Australia was sundered from Asia, probably by some great volcanic
outburst (the East Indies are to this day much subject to terrible
earthquakes and volcanic outbreaks, and not so many years ago a whole
island was destroyed in the Straits of Sunda), the new continent
probably was in the shape somewhat of a ring, with very high mountains
facing the sea, and, where now is the great central plain, a lake or
inland sea. As time wore on, the great mountains were ground down by the
action of the snow and the rain and the wind. The soil which was thus
made was in part carried towards the centre of the ring, and in time the
sea or lake vanished, and Australia took its present form of a great
flat plain, through which flow sluggish rivers - a plain surrounded by a
tableland and a chain of coastal mountains. The natives and the animals
and plants of Australia, when it first became a continent, were very
much the same, in all likelihood, as now.
Thus separated in some sudden and dramatic way, Australia was quite
forgotten by the rest of the world. In Asia, near by, the Chinese built
up a curious civilization, and discovered, among other things, the use
of the mariner's compass, but they do not seem to have ever attempted to
sail south to what is now known as Australasia. The Japanese, borrowing
culture from the Chinese, framed their beautiful and romantic social
system, and, having a brave and enterprising spirit, became seafarers,
and are known to have reached as far as the Hawaiian Islands, more than
halfway across the Pacific Ocean to America; but they did not come to
Australia. The Indian Empire rose to magnificent greatness; the Empires
of Babylon, of Nineveh, of Persia, came and went. The Greeks, and the
Romans later, penetrated to Hindustan. The Christian era came, and later
the opening up of trade with the East Indies and with China.
But still Australia slept, in her out-of-the-way corner, apart from the
great streams of human traffic, a rich and beautiful land waiting for
her Fairy Prince to waken her to greatness. There had been, though, some
vague rumours of a great island in the Southern Seas. A writer of Chios
(Greece) 300 years before the Christian era mentions that there existed
an island of immense extent beyond the seas washing Europe, Asia, and
Africa. It is thought that Greek soldiers who had accompanied Alexander
the Great to India had brought rumours from the Indians of this new
land. But if the Indians knew of Australia, there is no trace of their
having visited the continent.
Marco Polo, the Venetian traveller, who explored the East Indies, speaks
of a Java Major as well as a Java Minor, and in that he may refer to
Australia; but he made no attempt to reach the land. Some old maps fill
up the ocean from the East Indies to the South Pole with a vague
continent called Terra Australis; but plainly they were only guessing,
and did not have any real knowledge.
In the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries Spanish and Portuguese sailors
pushed on bravely with the work of exploring the East Indies, and some
of their maps of the period give indications of a knowledge of the
existence of the Australian Continent. But the definite discovery did
not come until 1605, when De Quiros and De Torres, Spanish Admirals,
sailed to the East Indies and heard of the southern continent. They
sailed in search of it, but only succeeded in touching at some of the
outlying islands. One of the New Hebrides De Quiros called "Terra
Australis del Espiritu Santo" (the Southern Land of the Holy Ghost),
fancying the island to be Australia. That gave the name "Australia,"
which is all that survives to remind us of Spanish exploration.
In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries Dutch sailors set to work to
search for the new southern land, and in 1605, 1616, and 1617
undoubtedly touched on points of Australia. In 1642 Tasman - from whom
Tasmania, a southern island of Australia, gets its name - made important
discoveries as to the southern coast. He called the island first Van
Diemen's Land, after Maria Van Diemen, the girl whom he loved; but this
name was afterwards changed. Maria Island, off the coast of Tasmania,
still, however, keeps fresh the memory of the Dutch sailor's sweetheart.
But none of these nations was destined to be the Fairy Prince to waken
Australia out of her long sleep. That privilege was kept for the British
race; we cannot but think happily, for no Spanish or Dutch colony has
ever reached to the greatness and the happiness of an Australia, a
Canada, or a South Africa. It is in the British blood, it seems, to
colonize happily. The gardeners of the British race know how to "plant
out" successfully. They shelter and protect the young trees in their
far-away countries through the perils of infancy, and then let them grow
up in healthy and vigorous independence. This wise method is borrowed
from family life. If a child is either too much coddled, or too much
kept under in its young days, it will rarely grow to the best and most
vigorous manhood or womanhood. British colonies grow into healthy
nations just as British schoolboys grow into healthy men, because they
are, at an early stage, taught to be self-reliant.
It was not until 1688 that Australia was in any way explored by the
English Captain, William Dampier. His reports on the new land were not
very flattering. He spoke of its dry, sandy soil, and its want of water.
This Sleeping Beauty had a way of pretending to be ugly to the
From 1769 to 1777 Captain Cook carried on the first thorough British
exploration of Australia, and took possession of it and New Zealand for
the British Crown. In 1788, just a century after its first exploration
by a British seaman, Australia was actually occupied by Great Britain,
"the First Fleet" founding a settlement on the shores of Port Jackson,
by the side of a little creek called the Tank Stream. That was the
beginning of Sydney, at present one of the greatest cities of the
A great continent had been thus entered. The Sleeping Beauty was aroused
from the slumber of centuries. But very much had yet to be done before
she could "marry the Prince and then live happily ever afterwards." The
story of how that was done, and how Australia was explored and settled,
is one of the most heroic of our British annals. True, no wild animals
or warlike tribes had to be faced; but vast distances of land which of
itself produced little or no food for man, the long waterless stretches,
the savage ruggedness of the mountains, set up obstacles far more
awesome because more strange. Man had to contend, not with wild animals,
whose teeth and claws he might evade, nor with wild men whose weapons he
could overmatch with his own, but with Nature in what seemed always a
hostile and unrelenting mood. It almost seemed that Nature, unwilling to
give up to civilization the last of the lonely lands of the earth, made
a conscious effort to beat back the advance of exploration and
On the little coastal settlement famine was soon felt. The colonists did
not understand how to get crops from the soil. They attempted to follow
the times and the manners of England; but here they were in the
Antipodes, where everything was exactly opposite to English conditions.
There were no natural grain-crops; there were practically no
food-animals good to eat. The kangaroo and wallaby provide nowadays a
delicious soup (made from the tails of the animals), but the flesh of
their bodies is tough and dark and rank. Even so it was in very limited
supply. The early settlers ate kangaroo flesh gladly, but they were not
able to get enough of it to keep them in meat.
Communication with England, whence all food had to come, was in those
days of sailing-ships slow and uncertain. At different times the first
settlement was in actual danger of perishing from starvation and of
being abandoned in despair at ever making anything useful of a land
which seemed unable to produce even food for white inhabitants.
Fortunately, those thoughts of despair were not allowed to rule. The
dogged British spirit saved the position. The conquest of Nature in
Australia was perseveringly carried through, and Great Britain has the
reward to-day in the existence of an all-British continent having nearly
5,000,000 of population, who are the richest producers in the world from
[Illustration: THE BARRIER OF THE BLUE MOUNTAINS. PAGES 8 & 29.]
After the early settlers had learned with much painful effort that the
coast around Sydney would produce some little grain and fruit and
grass for cattle, there was still another halt in the progress of the
continent. West of Sydney, about forty miles from the coast, stretched
the Blue Mountains, and these it was found impossible to cross. No
passes existed. Though not very lofty, the mountains were savagely
wild. The explorer, following a ridge or a line of valley with
patience for many miles, would come suddenly on a vast chasm; a
cliff-face falling absolutely perpendicularly 1,000 feet or so would
declare "No road here." Nowadays, when the Blue Mountains have been
conquered, and they are traversed by roads and railways, tourists
from all parts of the world find great joy in looking upon these
wonderful gorges; but in the days of the explorers they were the cause
of many disappointments - indeed, of many tragedies. Men escaping from
the prisons (Australia was first used as a reformatory by Great
Britain) would attempt to cross the Blue Mountains on their way, as
they thought, to China and freedom, always to perish miserably in the
Finally, the Blue Mountains were conquered by the explorers Blaxland,
Lawson, and Wentworth. Two roads were cut across them, one from Sydney,
one from Windsor, about thirty miles north from Sydney. The passing of
the Blue Mountains opened up to Australia the great tableland, on which
the chief mineral discoveries were to be made, and the vast interior
plains, which were to produce merino wool of such quality as no other
land can equal.
From that onwards exploration was steadily pushed on. Sometimes the
explorers went out into the wilderness with horses, sometimes with
camels; other tracts of land were explored by boat expeditions,
following the track of one of the slow rivers. The perils always were of
thirst and hunger. Very rarely did the blacks give any serious trouble.
But many explorers perished from privation, such as Burke and Wills (who
led out a great expedition from Melbourne, which was designed to cross
the continent from north to south) and Dr. Leichhardt. Even now there
is some danger in penetrating to some of the wilder parts of the
interior of Australia without a skilful guide, who knows where water can
be found, and deaths from thirst in the Bush are not infrequent.
One device has saved many lives. The wildest and loneliest part of the
continent is traversed by a telegraph line, which brings the European
cable-messages from Port Darwin, on the north coast, to Adelaide, in the
south. Men lost in the Bush near to that line make for its route and cut
the wire. That causes an interruption on the line; a line-repairer is
sent out from the nearest repairing-station, and finds the lost man
camped near the break. Sometimes he is too late, and finds him dead.
In the west, around the great goldfields, where water is very scarce,
white explorers have sometimes adopted a way to get help which is far
more objectionable. The natives in those regions are very reluctant to
show the locality of the waterholes. The supply is scanty, and they have
learned to regard the white man as wasteful and inconsiderate in regard
to water. But a white explorer or traveller has been known to catch a
native, and, filling his mouth with salt, to expose him to the heat of
the sun until the tortures of thirst forced him to lead the white party
to a native well. But these are rare dark spots on the picture. The
records of Australian exploration, as a whole, are bright with heroism.
The early pioneer in Australia - called a "squatter" because he squatted
on the land where he chose - enjoyed a picturesque life. Taking all his
household goods with him, driving his flocks and herds before him, he
moved out into the wilderness looking for a place to settle or "squat."
It was the experience of the "Swiss Family Robinson" made real. The
little community, with its waggons and tents, its horses, oxen, sheep,
dogs, perhaps also with a few poultry in one of the waggons, would have
to live for many months an absolutely self-contained life. The family
and its servants would provide wheelwrights, blacksmiths, carpenters,
veterinary surgeons, cattle-herds, milkers, shearers, cooks,
bridge-builders, and the like. The children brought up under those
conditions won not only fine healthy frames, but an alertness of mind, a
wideness of resource which made them, and their children after them,
I am tempted, in illustration of this, to quote from a larger work of
mine, "Australia," an instance of my own observation of the "resourceful
"Without touch of cap, or sign of servility, the swagman came up.
"'Gotter a job, boss?'
"'No chance; but you can go round and get rations.'
"'I wanter job pretty bad. Times have been hard. Perhaps you recollect
me - Jim Stone. You had me once working on the Paroo.'
"It was a blazing hot day in Central Queensland on one of the big cattle
stations out from the railway line, a station which had not yet reached
the dignity of fencing. The boss remembered that Jim Stone "was a good
sort," and that it was forty miles to the next chance of a job. And
there was always something to be done on a station.
"'All right, Stone. I think I can put you on to something for a month or
"'Thanks. Start now?'
"'Look. I have got a few men on digging tanks, about thirty miles out.
It's north-north-east. You can pick up their camp?'
"'Well, I want you to take a bullock-dray out, with stores, and bring
back anything they want sent back.'
"'Yes. Where are the bullocks?'
"'I haven't got a team broken in. But there's old Scarlet-Eye and two
others broken in. You'll pick them up along that little creek there, six
miles out'; he pointed indefinitely into the heat haze on the plain,
where there seemed to be some trees on the horizon. 'Collar them, and
then you'll find the milkers' herd right back of the homestead, only a
few miles. Punch out seven of the biggest and make up your team.'
"'Yes. Where's ther dray?'
"'Behind the blacksmith's shed there. By the way, there are no yokes,
but you'll find some bar-iron and some timber at the blacksmith's shed.
Knock out some yokes. I think there's one chain. You can make up another
with some fencing wire.'
"And this Australian casual worker (at 30s. a week and rations) went his
way cheerfully. He had to find some odd bullocks six miles out, in the
flat, grey, illimitable plain; then find the herd of milkers somewhere
else in that vague vastness, and break seven of them to harness; fix up
a dray and make cattle yokes; and then go out into the depths to find a
camp thirty miles out, without a fence or a track, and hardly a tree, to
"He did it all, because to him it was quite ordinary. The
freshly-broken-in cattle had to be kept in the yokes for a week, night
and day, else they would have cleared out. That was the only real
hardship, in his opinion, and the cattle had to suffer that. He was
content to be surveyor, waggon-builder, blacksmith, subduer of beasts,
man of infinite pluck, resource, and energy, for 30s. a week and
rations! And he was a typical sample of the 'back-country Australian.'"
In the Australian Bush most children can milk a cow, ride a horse, or
harness him into a cart, snare or shoot game, kill a snake, find their
way through the trackless forest by the sun or the stars, and cook a
meal. In the cities, too, they are, though less skilled in such things,
used to do far more for themselves than the average European child.
After the squatters in Australia came the gold-diggers. Gold was
discovered in Victoria and in New South Wales. At first, strangely
enough, an effort was made to prevent the fact being known that gold was
to be found in Australia. Some of the rulers of the colony feared that
the gold would ruin and not help the country. And certainly in the very
early days of the gold-digging rushes, much harm was done to the settled
industries of the land through everybody rushing away to the diggings.
Farms were abandoned, workshops deserted, the sailors left their ships,
the shepherds their sheep, the shop-keepers their shops - all with the
gold fever. But that early madness soon passed away, and Australia got
the benefit of the gold discoverers in a great increase of population.
Most of those who came to dig gold remained to dig potatoes and other
more certain wealth out of the land.
Do you remember the tale of the ancient wise man whose two sons were
lazy fellows? He could not get them by any means to work in the
vineyard. As long as his own hands could toil he tended the vineyard,
and maintained his idle sons. But on his death-bed he feared for their
future. So he made them the victims of a pious fraud. "There is a great
sum in gold buried in the vineyard," he told them with his dying breath.
"But I cannot tell you where. You must find that for yourselves."
Tempted by the promise of quick fortune, the idle sons dug everywhere
in the vineyard to find the buried treasure. They never came across any
actual gold, but the good effect of their digging was such that the
vineyard prospered wonderfully and they grew rich from its fine crops.
So it was, in a way, with Australia. The gold discoverers did much good
by attracting people to the country in search of gold who, though they
found no gold, developed the other resources of a great country.
When the yields from the alluvial goldfields decreased there was a
great demand from the out-of-work diggers and others for land for
farming, and the agricultural era began in Australia. Since then the
growth of the country has been sound, and, if a little slow, sure. It
has been slow because the ideal of the people has always been a sound
and a general well-being rather than a too-quick growth. "Slow and
steady" is a good motto for a nation as well as an individual.
AUSTRALIA OF TO-DAY
The diggings - The Government at Melbourne - The sheep-runs - The
rabbits - The delights of Sydney.
If, by good luck, you were to have a trip to Australia now, you would
find, probably, the sea voyage, which takes up five weeks as a rule, a
little irksome. But fancy that over, and imagine yourself safely into
Australia of to-day. Fremantle will be the first place of call. It is
the port of Perth, which is the capital of West Australia. That great
State occupies nearly a quarter of the continent; but its population is
as yet the least important of the continental States, and not very much
ahead of the little island of Tasmania. Still, West Australia is
advancing very quickly. On the north it has great pearl fisheries;
inland it has goldfields, which take second rank in the world's list,
and it is fast developing its agricultural and pastoral riches.
Very soon it will be possible to leave the steamer at Fremantle and go
by train right across the continent to the Eastern cities. Now you must
travel by steamer to Port Adelaide, for Adelaide, the capital of South
Australia. It is a charming city, surrounded by vineyards, orange
orchards, and almond and olive groves. In the season you may get for a
penny all the grapes that you could possibly eat, and oranges and other
fruit are just as cheap.
Adelaide has the reputation of being a very "good" city. It was founded
largely by high-minded colonists from Britain, whose main idea was to
seek in the new world a place where poverty and its evils would not
exist. To a very large extent they succeeded. There are no slums in
Adelaide and no starving children. Everywhere is an air of quiet
[Illustration: THE GARDEN STREETS OF ADELAIDE. PAGE 16.]