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only by coasting vessels from Sydney engaged in the
Colonial Cedar trade. In latitude 27° 55' S., in More-
ton Bay, we find the fourth of these rivers, called the
Kumera-Kumera or Arrowsmith, which is navigable
for small vessels fourteen miles from its entrance ; the
fifih, also within the Bay, and a much larger river, be-
ing the Logan, in latitude 27° 45' S., of which the
principal tributaries form the drainage of Mount Lind-
say, and the country towards the coast-range. To
what distance from its mouth this river may be navig-
able for steamb oats, I have not ascertained, as it is
still very much out of the usual track of persons visit-
ing Moreton Bay. The sixth river is the Brisbane, in
latitude 27^® S. ; it is navigable for steamboats, and
actually navigated by these vessels for seventy-five
miles from its mouth, to the head of the navigation of



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14 COOKSLANl).

the Bremer River, one of its tributaries, which lies
more directly in the course of persons travelling to the
interior than the principal stream : the latter is navig-
able for a considerable distance, at least fifty miles
higher up. The seventh is the Pine River, in latitude
27° 10' S., and is similar to the Arrowsmith. The
eighth is the Cabulture or Deception River, towards
the northern extremity of the Bay, but whether it is
navigable or not, I have not ascertained. The ninth
is the Marootchy-Doro or Black Swan River, in lati-
tude 26° 45' S. — evidently, from the width of its es-
tuary, a considerable stream, and available for steam
navigation, but as yet unexplored. The tenth is the
Wide Bay River, in latitude 25° 55' S. It is navig-
able for fifty miles from its mouth. The eleventh is
the Dunkelba River, un visited as yet by any white
man, with the exception of a Scotch convict from
Moreton Bay, who had lived for many years among
the black natives of that part of the colony. Accord-
ing to that individual, of whom I shall have occasion
to speak more particularly hereafter, it is a consider-
able stream, available for steam navigation, and re-
markable for the quantity of cedar on its banks.
The twelfth is the Boyne River, which falls into the
sea at Port Curtis, or Keppel Bay, in latitude 23° 59 f S.
This river was ascertained to be navigable in the lower
part of its course, by the late John Oxley, Esq., Sur-
veyor-General of New South Wales, so long ago as
the year 1823; but so little interest has been taken
since that period by our Colonial authorities in the
progress of Geographical discovery along the coasts of
Australia^ that it remains as yet unexplored. It rises
far inland to the southward, and must pursue a course
of at least 300 miles.*

It must therefore be evident, beyond all controversy,

* There are two other Rivers outside the Bay, near the
South Passage, called the Barrow and the Perry, of the same
character as the Kumera-Kumera, being both practicable for
boats, and abounding with cedar, which is always an indication of
good land.



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GEOGRAPHICAL FEATURES. 15

that the territory of Cooksland, supposing it to extend
from the 30th degree of South latitude to the Tropic
of Capricorn, is supplied, to an extraordinary exteiit,
not only with streams of water, but with rivers avail-
able for the purposes of navigation. One has only to
cast his eye over the map of the country, appended
to this volume, and drawn by Robert Dixon, Esq., for
several years the resident Government-Surveyor of the
Moreton Bay District, to be satisfied that the whole
extent of country, in so far as explored to the north-
ward, between the Coast-Range of mountains and the
ocean, is covered with a complete net-work of streams
of water ; many of which, rising as they do at an ele-
vation of several thousand feet on the forest-clad
heights of Mount Warning, Mount Lindsay, and the
other lofty eminences of the District, emerge from the
dark mountain-glens of their birth, clear as crystal,
and delightfully cool even in the hottest season of a semi-
tropical year. In fact, notwithstanding the generally
received calumny to which the great " South Land"
has hitherto been subjected in Europe, as being desti-
tute of " springs of water," and to a vast extent hope-
lessly barren and unavailable for the purposes of man,
I can fearlessly challenge any European geographer to
point to any tract of country of equal extent with that
of Cooksland, and within the same parallels of lati-
tude in either hemisphere, on the coast of which there is
a greater number either of streams of water, or of rivers
available for inland navigation.

But the principal Geographical feature of this por-
tion of the Australian territory is the Bay, from which
the northern district of the colony of New South Wales
has hitherto derived its name. Moreton Bay was dis-
covered by Captain Cook in the month of May 1770,
but could only be examined in a very cursory manner
by that celebrated navigator. Li the year 1799, how-
ever. Captain Hunter, the second Governor of New
South Wales, being a Captain in the Navy, and an en-
thusiast in the prosecution of maritime discovery, des-
patched Lieutenant, afterwards Captain Flinders, an-



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1 6 COOKSLAND.

Other distinguished navigator, second only to Captain
Cook, in a small Colonial vessel, to examine this Bay
more minutely, as also another opening considerably to
the northward, which Captain Cook had also indicated
on the chart, and named Harvey^s Bay, leaving it un-
certain whether either afforded any navigable inlet into
the interior. The result of this voyage must have
grieatly disappointed the sanguine, but not unreason-
able hopes of that enterprising mariner and worthy
man, Governor Hunter ; but it affords one of the most
instructive lessons for the guidance of future Govern-
ments, whether Imperial or Colonial, in the department
of geographical discovery, that perhaps the whole an-
nals of British maritime enterprise afford. In running
to the northward. Captain Flinders discovered, and lay
at anchor for nearly twenty-four hours in Shoal Bay,
into which the Clarence River, the largest yet dis-
covered on the east coast of Australia, disembogues,
and which he examined in a cursory manner, but with-
out discovering that important river, although he was
quite close to its entrance. In times of flood, the rivers
of Australia bring down vast quantities of earthy mat-
ter which they deposit along the bottom of any bay or
other expanse of salt water at their mouth ; and these
bays or lakes, if at all sheltered from the full sweep of
the ocean-waves, are gradually filled up, and become
at length solid land, leaving a deep-water channel for
the flow of the river. Had Captain Flinders happen-
ed to hit upon the channel in this particular instance,
he would doubtless have followed it up through all its
windings, till he had found the mouth of the river ; but
he merely found a shoal bay, with a fringe of gloomy
mangrove trees along its shores, and reported ac-
cordingly, that " all was barren !" In like manner,
in pursuance of Governor Hunter's instructions, Cap-
tain Flinders entered Moreton Bay by what is called
the Northern Passage, and passing several of the low
islands with which it is studded, got right abreast of
the entrance of the Brisbane River ; which, however,
being concealed from his view from the vessel's deck



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GEOGRAPHICAL FEATUBB8. 17

by two low flat islands at its mouth, whidi he named
the Fishermen's Islands, he deemed the Bay unworthy
of any further examination, and reported to the Grover-
nor on his return, that it afforded no inlet into the
land. Nay, so confident on this point was Captain
Flinders, that he summed up his Report to GrOTemor
Hunter in the following Words : — " I must acknow-
ledge myself to have been disappointed in not being
able to penetrate into the interior of New South Wales
by either of the openings examined in this expedition ;
but however mortifying the conviction might be, it
was then an ascertamedfact^ that no river of importance
intersects the east coast between the 24th and 89th de-
grees of South latitude."* This too confident asser-
tion of so high an authority in all matters relating to
maritime discovery was but indifierent encouragement
for exploratory expeditions from the Colony along the
coast to the northward ; and accordingly the Brisbane
and the Boyne Rivers — ^the latter of which empties it-
self within a mile of the northern limit of the line of
coast indicated by Captain Flinders — were only dis-
covered accidentally by the late Mr. Oxley, when
searching for something else still farther north, in the
year 1 823 ; while the Clarence River was nut dis-
covered tiU the year 1838, when some sawyers hap-
pened to light upon it unexpectedly, when searching
for cedar for the Sydney market, along the rivers to
the northward.

In explanation, however, of what might otherwise
be regarded as a strange instance (or rather three such
instances) of inadvertency on the part of Captain Flin-
ders, it must be observed, that it is quite impossible to
discover the outlets of many of the Austi-alian rivers,
or even the entrances of some of the best harbours of
the country, from the deck of a vessel off the coast.
A minute examination must be made— of course in a
whale-boat — of every nook and corner along the coast,

♦ Flindebs' Voyages to the Terra Australis, — Introduction
p. Q02.



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18 COOKSLAND.

before the navigator can venture upon so sweeping an
assertion as that of Captain Flinders in the instance in
question.

Moreton Bay is not formed, as its name might sug-
gest, by a mere sinuosity or indentation of the land,
but by three islands running nearly parallel to the
coast, and so disposed as to form, with the main, a
large salt-water lake or inland sea. Of the three is-
lands, the southernmost or Stradbroke Island is thirty
miles in length, and about ^yg in breadth. It lies due
north and south, and its southern extremity consists of
a mere sand spit which runs out for about twelve miles
parallel to the mainland, and affords an entrance for
boats, called the South Passage, which is occasion-
ally practicable also for steam navigation. To the
northward of Stradbroke Island, and separated from it
by a navigable channel of nearly a mile in width, is
Moreton Island, running due north for about twenty
miles with an average breadth of three miles. The
third island is Bribie's Island, the Yarun of the natives,
and is about seventeen miles in length, and two or
three in breadth ; and as the south end of Bribie's Is-
land — which lies close in-shore, leaving a narrow chan-
nel between it and the land, called the Pumice-Stone
River, or Bribie's Island Passage — lies between the
north end of Moreton Island and the main, there is a
wide entrance into the Bay, called the North Entrance,
between the two islands, being about eight miles across,
with four miles of a deep water channel, in which the
soundings are from five to six fathoms. Hitherto the
Southern Entrance, between Stradbroke and Moreton
Islands, has been the one usually taken by steamboats
and coasting vessels ; but as the sea breaks fearfully on
the bar, which has only a depth of water of three and
a-half fathoms, in bad weather, the North Entrance,
which is practicable for vessels of the greatest draught
of water at all times, must evidently be the principal
entrance for the future. So little attention, however,
has hitherto been paid to the interests of commerce and
navigation in this most important district by the four



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GEOOBAPHICAI. FEATURES. 19

Soldier-Officers who have successively been governors
of the colony of New South Wales for the last twenty-
two jesrs^ since the discovery of the Brisbane River,
and the formation of the Penal Settlement of Moreton
Bay, that this principal entrance into that noble inlet
had never been surveyed up to the period of my re-
turn to Sydney, from a tour to the northward, in the
month of December 1845. I had returned on that oc-
casion by the Shamrock, a very superior iron steam-
boat, of 200 tons, (belonging to the Hunter's River
Navigation Company) which occasionally visits More-
ton Bay in the wool season. On getting out into the
Bay frx)m the Brisbane River, the wind was quite fiur
for our voyage, and we could have got into the Pacific
to avail ourselves of it in a few hours by the North
Entrance, had the deep-water channel by that entrance
been only surveyed and buoyed off. But as this indis-
pensable operation had not been performed, although
the Local Grovemment had had a Convict Establish-
ment of occadonally upwards of a thousand men at the
Settlement, with all the necessary apparatus for main-
taining maritime conmiunication with the district for
twenty years, we had to lie for two whole days inside
the soudiem or inferior entrance, till the suH*, which
was then breaking fearfrilly on the bar from the effects
of a recent gale, had sufficiently subsided to enable us
to get out into the open sea.^

Moreton Bay is sixty miles long and about twenty
wide. It is studded with islands, especially towards its
southern extremity, where it gradually narrows to a
mere river in appearance. A few of these islands are
high land, and capable of great improvement, as Peel's

* The Bramble and Castlereagh, two tenders of H. M. Sur-
veying Ship, Fly, Captain Blackwood, which has recently been
surveying Uie navigable channel towards Torres Straits, were
despatched from Sydney, on the 21st December 1845, to com-
plete that important Survey ; and at the instance of Captain
Wickham, R.N., Police Magistrate at Moreton Bay, they were
to touch there on their way, and spend a /<no daj^s only in survey-
ing the North Entrance into the Bay.



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20 COOKSLAND.

Island and St Helena Island ; the lattei; of which re-
ceived its name in the penal times of the settlement,
from the circumstance of a black-fellow, who had been
named Napoleon by the convicts, having been placed
upon it by way of punishment for some crime or mis-
demeanour : the others are low, muddy, covered with
mangroves, and merely in process of formation from
the gradual deposits of the Brisbane, the Logan, and
the other rivers that empty themselves into 3ie Bay.
The three islands that form the Bay to seaward, are
all hopelessly sterile — ^at least in regard to productions
at all useful for man ; for they are all covered with in-
digenous vegetation, suited, doubtless, to the soil, or
rather sand and climate. The roots of the Cyprus
pine from More ton Island are in high estimation at
Brisbane Town for ornamental furniture and fancy ca-
binet-work — ^for. which, from their rich and beautifril
appearance, they are well adapted, and would doubt-
less bring a high price in London or Paris.

To the northward of Moreton Bay, there is a long
island called Frazer s Island, parallel to the coast-line,
about sixty-five miles in length, with an average
breadth rf ten miles ; the northern half of which, being
abreast oJ^-a bight in the mainland, gave the latter the
appearance of a deep bay, and induced Captain Cook
to designate it accordingly, Hervey's Bay, anticipating,
doubtless, that a river would be discovered at its head.
In this anticipation, we have seen, Governor Hunter
concurred ; but when it was ascertained that the land
forming the east side of the bay was merely an island,
the idea of finding a river on that part of the coast was
at once abandoned. The southern half of Frazer's Is-
land forms a long narrow sound that will doubtless
prove available for coasting navigation, and Wide Bay,
into which the river of that name empties itself, is si-
tuated at its southern extremity in latitude 25° 55' S.
Frazer's Island received its name from Captain Frazer,
of the ship Stirling Castle, a Scotch vessel, which has
obtained some celebrity in New South Wales, from
having brought out t© the colony, at my particular in-



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GEOOBAPHICAL FEATURES. 21

Stance, a number of Scotch mechanics, the first free
immigrants of this class, to erect the requisite buildings
for an Academical Institution in Sydney, in the year
1831. On a subsequent voyage to the Colony, Cap-
tain Frazer was unfortunately wrecked on the Barrier
Reef, on his way to India. He reached the coast, how-
ever, in his boat ; but it was only to experience a more
awful fate, for he was seized by the black natives on
hid landing, and inhumanly murdered with most of
his crew. Frazer s Island is rather of indifferent cha-
racter, in point of soil and general capabilities in the
estimation of Europeans ; but it is an excellent fishing
station, and abounds in the other requisites of Aborigi-
nal life. It is consequently very populous — the num-
ber of Aborigines on the ialand being estimated at not
fewer than 2000.

The next inlet to the northward of Frazer's Island,
that requires to be noticed, is Port Curtis, situated
in latitude 24"* S. or thereby. It was discovered, and
partially surveyed by Captain Flinders in the course
of his voyages of discovery along the coasts of
Australia, early in the present century, and the fol-
lowing is the account given of it by that eminent
navigator: — "This part of the east coast had been
passed in the night by Captain Cook, so that both the
openings escaped his notice, and the discovery of the
Port fell to our lot. In honour of Admiral Sir Eoger
Curtis, who had commanded at the Cape of Good
Hope, and been so attentive to our wants, I gave to it
the name of Port Curtis, and the island which pro-
tects it from the sea, in fact forms the Port, was called
Facing Island. It is a slip of rather low land, eight miles
in length, and from two to half a mile in breadth,
having Gatcombe Head for its southern extremity."

" The Northern Entrance to Port Curtis is accessible
only to boats ; but ships of any size may enter the
Port by the southern opening."

" The country round Port Curtis is overspread with
grass, and produces the eucalyptus^ and other trees
common to this coast ; yet the soil is either sandy or



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22 COOKSLAND.

covered with loose stones, and generally incapable of
cultivation. Much of the shores and the low islands
are overspread with mangroves."

" Granite, streaked red and black, and cracked in all
directions, appeared to be the common stone in the
upper parts of the Port ; but a stratified argillaceous
stone was not unfrequent."

" Traces of inhabitants were found upon all the shores
where we landed ; they subsist partly on turtle, and
possess bark canoes and scoop-nets. Fish seemed to
be plentiftil ; the shores abound with oysters, amongst
which, in the upper parts of the Port, was the kind
producing pearls.*' *

This locality was afterwards visited by Mr. Oxley, in
search of a suitable place for the establishment of a new
Penal Settlement in the year 1823 ; and on that occasion
Mr. O. discovered an important river, of which discovery
the following account is taken from the Observations
of Mr. Uniacke, a gentleman of gi*eat promise, who had
accompanied Mr. Oxley on his expedition to the north-
ward, but who died shortly after his return in Syd-
ney. During the examination of Port Curtis, Mr.
Uniacke observes : " On our arrival on board, the
master reported that he had discovered a fine fresh
water river emptying itself by an outlet which was
visible astern of the vessel to the southward. From
his account Mr. Oxley was induced to defer our depar-
ture to Port Bowen for another day, in order to have
an opportunity of viewing it himself. Accordingly Mr.
Stirling and he started early the next day, while I re-
mained behind to collect specimens of minerals on
Facing Island for the Governor. Late in the evening
they returned, having proceeded up the river to about
where the tide rea<jhed, and Mr. Oxley deemed it of
sufficient consequence to remain three or four days more,
in order to examine the country more minutely.
Accordingly the next morning early we again left the

* A Voyage to Terra AustnUis, &&, by Matthew Flinders,
Captain R.N., II. 19, 20.



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GEOGRAPHICAL FEATURES. 23

vessel, taking three days* provisions, and proceeded
with our boat about twelve miles up the river, where
we pitched our tent on a bank about forty feet above
the level of the water. The soil here was of the richest
description, and calculated to grow cotton, sugar, in-
digo, and all other Indian productions. There were,
however, marks of the flood having reached at least
fifteen feet higher than the level of our encampment,
owing to which, the whole surface was covered about
two inches deep with drift sand. Indeed, the floods
here in the rainy seasons must be tremendous, as we
observed in many of the trees, at least sixty feet above
the level of the water, the wrack which had been de-
posited by successive inundations. On^ the banks we
saw three or four diflerent kinds of timber, but the
small quantity rendered them unimportant. The river
was covered with multitudes of teals, widgeons and wild
ducks, and on the banks I shot two swamp pheasants
(» pretty black bird not unlike the English pheasant in
shape), a very beautiful species of small deer not known
in Sydney, and a kind of owl that none of us had seen
before. Shortly after dinner we proposed to go to rest,
with an intention of proceeding farther up the river at
a very early hour the next morning."

" We turned out the moment it was light, despatched
our breakfast, and, getting into the boat, proceeded
about six miles further up the river. The country
through which we passed this day was similar to what
we had seen the day before. The timber, however,
was becoming larger and more plentiftil. In many
places the right bank of the river was composed of a
remarkably fine slate, while the left was a hard close-
grained grey granite, and the soil everywhere rich and
fertile. Before we returned we ascended a high hill,
on the left from which we had a beautiful and exten-
sive view of the river for many miles, through a rich
brush country, the banks in many parts well clothed
with timber."

" To the river which we discovered here Mr. Oxley
gave the name of the Boyne. It empties itself into



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24 COOHSLAND.

Rodd's Bay, Port Curtis, and its mouth is in lat. 23°
59f S., long. 151°34'45"E."»

" Keppel Bay (situated in lat. 23* 30' S. and 150* 55'
E.) was discovered and named," observes Captain Flin-
ders, "by Captain Cook, who sailed past it in 1770/'

"The country round Keppel Bay mostly consists
either of stony hills or of very low land covered with
salt swamps and mangroves."

" Mention has been made of the ridge of hills by
which the low land on the south side of the bay is
bounded. The upper parts of it are steep and rocky,
and may be a thousand or perhaps fifteen hundred feet
high, but the lower sloping sides are covered with
wood. Mount Larcom and the hills within the ridge
are clothed with trees nearly to the top ; yet the aspect
of the whole is sterile. The high land near the western
arm, though stony and shallow in soil, is covered with
grass and trees of moderate growth ; but the best part
of the country was that near Cape Keppel ; hill and
dale are there well proportioned, the grass is of a bet-
ter kind and more abundant, the trees are thinly scat-
tered, and there is very little underwood. The lowest
parts are not mangrove swamps, as elsewhere, but
pleasant-looking vaUies, at the bottom of which are
ponds of fresh water frequented by flocks of ducks.
Cattle would find here a tolerable abundance of nutri-
tive food, though the soil may perhaps be nowhere
suflSciently deep and good to afford a productive return
to the husbandman."!

I have purposely deferred saying anything for the
present on the country to the westward of the chain of
mountains commonly called the Coast Bange. The
rivers that empty themselves into the Pacific along
the whole coast of Cooksland are merely the drainage
of the country lying to the eastward of that range ; and
when it is is^en into consideration that on this part of



♦ Geographical Memoirs on New South Wales, by yarious
hands. London, 1825.
t Flinders, II. 28,29.



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GEOGRAPHICAL FEATUBES. 25

the Australian continent that range is not more than
sixty miles from the coast, it will doubtless be matter
of surprise to those who have hitherto been led to re-
gard Australia as a land of drought and barrenness,
that the system of drainage in that part of the territory
is really so complete and extensive.



Online LibraryJohn Dunmore LangCooksland in north-eastern Australia: the future cottonfield of Great ... → online text (page 2 of 47)