John Dunmore Lang.

Cooksland in north-eastern Australia: the future cottonfield of Great ... online

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of our journey than it had at first appeared. I found, indeed, to the
westward and northward of the Sandstone Ranges, a well diver-
sified country, with abundance of grass, some water, and finely
shaped hills, in groups, and also detached cones. But the river,
leaving that lower country, forced its way amongst rocky cliffs,
where its course was traceable by the open ground along its banks
— to be steadily south-west, and receiving of course the river
** Amby," which had turned also in the same direction.

Mr. Kennedy with the main body of the party joined me on
this river, on the 1st June, and the very sandy nature of the
country before as, and the weakness of our draught oxen, deter-
mined me again to proceed in advance with a smjUl party, relying
chiefly on the horses; but this time I endeavoured to carry with
me sufficient provisions to preclude the necessity for the party to
be left at the dep6t following me further; I determined to trace
the river upwards, keeping the right bank, that I might fall in
with and follow up any tributary from the north-west; from
various elevations within thirty miles of the dep6t camp, I had
intersected many summits of lofty masses to the eastward, and
also those of a line of cones, the general direction of which ran
nearly westward, and from these I could extend my survey be-

I left the dep6t camp on the 4th June, taking with me Mr.
Stephenson, ten men, all the horses, three light carts, a dray, and
the best team of bullocks, with four months* provisions, leaving
with Mr. Kennedy sixteen men, all the bullocks, and the remain-
der of the drays and provisions. I found that two tributaries
joined the Maranoa from the west, but they arose in subordinate
sandstone ridges, and contained little water; then, in seeking
again the main channel, I found it dry and full of sand ; water
being more readily found in the sandstone gullies, which then en-
closed the river, than in the main channel. I then set out on an
extensive reconnoisance to the northward, and ascending Mount
Owen, (one of the cones in the range already mentioned,) I per-
ceived that the main channel of the Maranoa came through this
range from the mountains beyond it. The most lofty of these
mountains was remarkable fur its extreme flatness, and, having
since intersected its salients from many points in my route, so as
to determine its true place, I have named it Buckland's Table
Land. Beyond Mount Owen, T fell in with another river falling
north-west, in the midst of sandstone cliffs and gullies, but I found
soon that it turned south-west, leading through fine open plains,
into n lower interior country.

Continuing my ride north-west, while my partv were still re-
freshing the horses in a grassy gully overlooking tlie Maranoa, I
again found a chain of volcanic summits connected with a mass

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of table-land, which I named (finding none of the aborigines
there) Hope's Table Land. Between it and the still higher range
towards the coast lay a very broken sandstone country, which
was difficult to pass through with carts ; but when I had at length
discovered, beyond Hope's Table Land, the head of another
promising river falling to the north-west, we soon found a way
through which my indefatigable party led the carts and bullock-
team without the least damage. Mount P. P. King, a pomted
volcanic cone, in long. 147*37*40 E., lat. 25*9*10, is near the head
of that river,' which we followed down until it turned, as all the
others had done, to the south-west, and I was again obliged to
halt, and take a long ride to the northward, where another chain
of summits extended westward nearly under the 25th parallel of
latitude. Beyond that range, whose summits are all of trap rock,
I found deep sandstone gullies ; and, in following down one of
these, I reached an extensive grassy valley, which terminated on
a reedy lake in a more open country. The lake was supplied by
springs arising in a swamp at the gorge of the valley which sup-
ported a flowing stream of the purest water. This stream spread
into the extensive reedy lake, and, to my surprise, was absorbed
by it, at least so as to escape through some subterraneous outlet,
for the channel of the river in which the lake terminated was
dry. The country is adorned by hills of the most romantic form,
presenting outlines which surpass in picturesque beauty the fair-
est creations of the painter. Several pyramids mark the spot
where the springs were first discovered, (and whence I now
write). Lower down, appear over the woods isolated rocks re-
sembling ruined castles, temples, and gothic cathedrals. Others
have apertures through them, and the trees being also very varied
and graceful in form, and rich in colour, contribute so much to
the beauty of the scenery, that I have been induced to distinguish
the river and lake by the name of a painter. Returning to the
party, we soon brought the carts and dray down the sandstone
cliffs to the banks of the Salvator, and pursued that river down-
wards until I discovered, which was soon obvious, that its course
turned to the eastward of north, consequently that we were upon
a river falling to the eastern coast. We lost two days in vainly
endeavouring to pass westward, through dense brigalow scrub ;
but on a ride which I next took north-westward, I was more
successful, for after forcing my way through ten miles of scrub,
I came upon what seemed to me the finest region on earth —

51ains and rich black mould, on which grew in profusion the
^anioum loemnode grass, and which were finely interspersed with
lines of wood, which grew in the hollows and marked the courses
of -streams ; columns of smoke showe 1 that the country was too
good to be left uninhabited ; and, in fact, on approaching the
nearest river channel, I foimd it full of water. This river I
named the Claude, in honour of the painter of quiet pastoral
scenery, and to the downs and plains, so favourable for flocks and

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herds, I gave the name of the Mantuan Downs and Plains. I
returned to the party on the Salvator, crossed that river with it
in lat. 24-3 1*47 S., and conducted it, cutting our way through ten
miles of scrub, to the banks of the Claude. These two rivers
join at a considerable distance lower down, and form the Nogoa,
a river which, according to the natives, pursues a north-east
course to the sea, and therefore probably has its estuary on the
shores of Broad Sound or its vicinity.

We were obliged to make a bridge for the passage of our carts
across the Claude, and then we crossed a plain upon which grass
grew almost as thickly as it grew in Australia Felix ; then another
stream, also full of water, was crossed, and we ascended undulat-
ing downs on which fragments of fossil-wood were abundant in
a very rich soil. Beyond these (the Mantuan Downs) a range of
broken summits appeared, and was certainly ornamental, but
which we found to be only the upper part of a very intricate and
difficult sandstone country, wherein the beds of the gullies were
at a much lower level than the Downs and Plains. I endeavoured
to penetrate to the westward of these, but found the country on
that side quite impervious, and we next descended by an open
gently declining valley to the head of a creek falling north-west :
this creek soon took us into the heart of the sandstone gullies, so
that we could only proceed by keeping its sandy bed. Unwilling
to continue such distressing work (for the cattle especially), as it
soon became evident that this, too, belonged to the basin of the
Nogoa, I went up a valley coming from the west, and followed it
until I could reach the crest of the range, which was possible only
by climbing with hands and feet. From it, I saw to the west-
ward rocky ravines as impassable as those on the river Grose in
the mountains west of Sydney ; I found it, therefore, most ex-
pedient to continue down Balmy Creek (so called from the very
fragrant shrubs found there,) until it reached a more open coun-
try, through which we might pass to the north-west. Mr. Ste-
phenson next day saw from a rocky height an open country to
the north-west, and I lost no time in extricating the party from
the bed of Balmy Creek. We found a very favourable outlet
from that difficult country, by a pass in the gorge of which stood
a rock so much resembling a tower that, at first sight, few would
believe it the work of nature only. The glen we then entered
(named, from the tower at its entrance. Glen Turret) was very
extensive, contained abundance of good grass, and was bounded
on the east and west by very broken-topt ranges ; to the north-
ward the view was over a most distant country.

Ascending the most northerly summit of the range on the west,
(and which I named Mount Mudge), 1 perceived the rise of a
river in some ravines falling north-west, and that the very lowest
part of the whole country lay in prolongation of its course. I
could also distinctly trace a connexion between the Mudge Range
and other mountain masses to the eastward, which connecting

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feature separated the basin of the Nogoa from that of the river
which I hoped would lead uorth-west. My first camp on the
Belyando was in long. 147*17 E., lat. 24* S. The course of the
river continued north-west to so great a distance that when it at
length turned to the north and north-east, we had traced it across
two parallels of latitude, indeed to lat 21*30 S., or two degrees
within the Tropics. Your Excellency may imagine with what
disappointment I then discovered that this river, which has
brought us so far, instead of leading to the Gulf of Carpentaria^
was no other than that which Mr. Leichhardt had called << the
Cape, a river from the west."

I then ascertained that we were still on the seaward side of the
division of the interior waters; or rather that the Eastern Coast
Range, hitherto supposed to extend from Wilson's Promontory
to Cape York is only imaginary; while the estuaries of two im-
portant rivers, affording easy access from the eastern coast to
the rich plains of the interior, are realities which have remained
undiscovered. That there was no feature deserving the name of
a Coast Range to the westward of the Belyando was but too evi-
dent from the absence of any tributaries of importance ; the
sandy channels of water-courses from that quarter having had
no effect in changing the course or character of the river, which
last was very peculiar and remarkable, especially in its habit of
spreading into several chains of ponds surrounded by brigalow
scrub, apparently a provision of nature for the preservation of
surface-water, resembling the net-work of rivers in the south.
On the banks of one of these tributaries, we found some trees seen
by us nowhere else. One was a true fig-tree, having small leaves,
and with the fruit fully developed and ripening; the water abound-
ed with the Harlequin fish, identical with those in the Maranoa.

I lost no time in retracing my steps back to this camp, with the
intention of renewing my search for the river of Carpentaria
from three remarkable points of the range just behind ; in re-
turning, I was able to perfect our track as a line of road, cutting
off circuitous parts, and avoiding the difficult passage in the bea
of Balmy Creek, and other obstacles, so that a tandem might now
be driven to the furthest point marked by our wheels. I ought
to mention here, that I have found the syphon barometer, by M.
Bunten of Paris, and recommended to me by Colonel Mudge, of
sreat utility in these researches, affording the only means of
judging of the relative height of the various ranges. Thus I as-
certained, when far up the Balonne, that we were but little higher
than the bed of the Darling ; that the Narran has scarcely any
inclination at all ; that the Belyando, at the lowest point attain-
ed by me, was not 600 feet above the sea ; and in the present
case, that the range under the parallel of 25* S. is the highest we
have crossed, extending into the western interior ; our route
across it is in long. 147*23 E.; where the mean height above the
sea exceeds 2000 feet ; yet this we were only made aware of by

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the extreme cold, or by the barometer, for there is nothing in
the appearance of the country to lead to such a conclusion. On
almost every clear night Fahrenheit's thermometer fell to 9®, and
occasionally at four, a.m., the mercury was as low as 7".

The height of this spinal range throwing off to the south-west
all rivers south of it, and the course of the Belyando northward
indicating an impulse so far in that direction, reduce the proba-
bility that the waters falling from that portion of it still further
westward form a river running to the Gulf, almost to a certainty,
while the field of exploration has been so much narrowed that I
am resolved to make another attempt to solve the question ;
therefore, although my draught animals can be driven no further
without having first some time to rest, and my stock of provisions
is nearly exhausted, I intend to set out to-morrow morning on
this interesting excursion, with two men and Yuranigh, an ab-
original native, who came with me from Buree. I leave no more
horses fit for work, when I take two laden with provisions.
■ Our route has been measured by Mr. Kennedy with the chain
from Cannonb^ camp to his present position on the Maranoa, and
I have extended a trig(Hiometrical survey beyond Mount Mudge,
to some hills within the tropic. I have numbered those camps
where the country was really good, and marked them by Roman
numerals, deeply cut in trees, commencing from the Culgoa north-
ward ; the lowest on the Belyando being LXIX ; this, whence I
write, XLIV. By this means I hope our survey will be found
practically useful in the future occupation of the country.

Whatever may be the result of the further exploration con-
templated, I have the satisfaction to be able to assure your Ex-
cellency, that this party has opened a good cart-road through
well-watered pastoral regions, of greater extent than all those at
present occupied by the Squatters ; and, strange as it may seem
to persons but little acquainted with the interior of this country,
that since the exploring party crossed the Darling, it has never
suffered any inconvenience from heat or want of water. I have
found in Mr. Kennedy a zealous assistant — Mr. Stephenson has
ably performed his duties, especially as surgeon, and the conduct
of all the men deserves my approbation, but that especially of
the party with me has been admirable.

We have had no collision with the Aborigines, although par-
ties of them, who, on different occasions, visited my party at the
camp during my absence, very significantly declared, brandish-
ing their spears or clubs, that the country was their's, and mak-
ing signs to my men to quit it and follow me. On such occasions
the finnness and forbearance of my party have been such as to
discourage any attempts of further annoyance.
I have the honour to be, Sir,
Your Excellency's most obedient humble servant,

T. L. Mitchell, Surreyor-GenercU,

To His Excellency the Governor \
of New South Wales. )

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No. 2.
Camp on the River Balonne, in long. 148*46*45 E.; lat. 28*2 S.

9th November 1846.

Sir, — The three remarkable summits of high land to which I
alluded in my bist despatch, are three volcanic cones, which I
named Mounts Pluto, Hutton, and Playfair. These form an ob-
tuse angled triangle, and the longest side being towards the west,
I hoped to find in the neighbourhood a bitinch of high land ex-
tending north-west, forming a division of the waters, the dis-
covery of which I found necessary before I could hope to dis-
cover rivers running in that direction. I take leave to add, that
this was the chief object of the present journey, as it was of my
journey in 1831. No person had seen that interior country, nor
the waters properly belonging to the basin of Carpentaria ; I
have now the satisfaction to inform your Excellency, that the re-
sult has exceeded my most sanguine expectations.

I crossed a ranse of clay ironstone, which extends northwards
from Mount Playiair; it is covered with dense scrubs, and in it
I found sources of the Warrego, a river flowing south-west. On
the western side I followed down the head of a river falhng north-
west, which from its magnitude, and the fine forest-country along
its banks promised well ; but the bed was full of sand and quite
dry, and after pursuing its course a whole day, I found it to turn
towards the south, and at length even to the east. Passing the
night by this river, (without water,) I left it, calling it the Nive,
and hastened back next moi'ning to where I had seen a gap in a
westerly range connected with that to the northward, and arrived
by sunset near the gap, in a valley, where I found lagoons oi
water and green flats in the midst of brigalow scrub. This was
in longitude 146-42-25 East, latitude 24-50-35 South.

On ascending the range early next morning, I saw open downs,
and plains with a line of river in the midst, the whole extending
to the N.N.W. as far as the horizon. Following down the little
stream from the valley in which I had passed the night, I soon
reached the open country, and during ten successive days, I pur-
sued the course of that river, through the same sort of country,
each day as far as my horse could carry me, and in the same
direction, again approaching the Tropic of Capricorn. In some
parts the river formed splendid reaches, as broa4 and important
as the River Murray ; in others it spread into four or five chan-
nels, some of them several miles apart ; but the whole country is
better watered than any other portion of Australia I have seen,
by numerous tributaries arising in the Downs. The soil consists
of rich clay, and the hollows give birth to water-courses, in most
of which water was abundant. I found, at length, that I might
travel in any direction, and find water at hand, without having
to seek the river, except when I wished to ascertain its general
course and observe its character. The grass consists of panicum
and several new sorts, one of which springs green from the old

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stem. The plains were verdant ; indeed, the luxuriant pastor-
age surpassed in quality, as it did in extent, anything of the kind
I had ever seen. The myall tree and salt bush (acacia pcndula^
and scUsolcB, so essential to a good run,) are also there. New
birds and new plants marked this out as an essentially different
region from any I had previously explored: and sdthough I
could not follow the river throughout its long course at that ad-
vanced season, I was convinced that its estuary was in the Gulf
of Carpentaria ; at all events, the country is open and well
watered for a direct route thereto. That the river is the most
important of Australia, increasing, as it does, by successive tri-
butaries, and not a mere product of distant ranges, admits of no
dispute ; and the Downs and plains of Central Australia, through
which it flows, seem sufficient to supply the whole world with
animal food. The natives are few and inoffensive : I happened
to surprise one tribe at a lagoon, who did not seem to be aware
that such strangers were in that country ; our number being so
small, they seemed inclined to follow us. I crossed the river at
the lowest point I reached, in a great southern bend, in longitude
144*34 E., latitude 24*14 S., and from rising ground beyond the
left bank, I could trace its downward course far to the northward.
I saw no callitris (pine of the colonists) in all that country, but
a range showing sandstone chffs appeared to the southward in
longitude about 145* E., latitude 24*30 S. The country to the
northward of the river is, upon the whole, the best, yet in riding
ninety miles due east from where I crossed the southern bend, I
found plenty of water and excellent grass ; a red gravel there
approaches the river, throwing it off to the northward. Ranges
extending N.N.W., were occasionally visible from the country to
the northward.

The discovery of the river, and this country through which it
flows, was more gratifying to me after having been disappointed
in the courses of so many others. The Cogoon, the Maranoa,
the Warrego, the Salvator, the Claude, the Belyando, and the
Nive, are nevertheless important rivers, and a thorough investi-
gation of the mountain ranges in which they originate, will en-
able me, I trust, to lay before your Excellency such a map of
those parts of Australia as may ereatly facilitate the immediate
and paramount occupation of the country, and the extension
through it of a thoroughfare to the Gulf of Carpentaria, to which
the direct way is thus laid open. With a deep sense of gratitude
to the Almighty, and loyalty to my gracious Sovereign, I named
the river watering the best portion of the largest island in the
world, the Victoria ; and hastened back to my party on the Sal-
vator. I reached that camp on the 8th ultimo, having been ab-
sent about a month — found the cattle and horses refreshed, and
in condition for pursuing our route homewards. In nine days
we reached the dep6t camp, where I left Mr. Kennedy with the
heavy drays and cattle, and received the agreeable intelligence,

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that during the long period in whidi that party have been sta-
tionary, the natives had given no trouble ; that the men were
all well, and the old cattle in good condition. I had straightened
the route in returning, so that it is now a most convenient road,
well-watered by permanent suppUes.

Mr. Kennedy's inquiries amongst the natives led to a very im-
portant discovery, which we have since made, namely, that the
Maranoa turns south about thirty miles below where he had his
camp, and joins the Balonne only a day's-joumey above this spot
whence I write. We have explored and surveyed the Maranoa
« downwards, thus avoiding in travelling by it parts of the old
route, where we feared that ponds, formerly small, would be now
dried up. We have also discovered on the banks of this river
much rich pastoral-land, and about lat 26*30 S. open downs re-
sembling^ on a smaller scale, those on the Victoria, and whether
the vast extent of intervening country may not admit of a direct
passage across fi*om there to ^e central Downs, without crossing
the Plutonic ranges, remains to be ascertained during a season
when the wateivholes are better filled. Into that country the
channels of the Warrego and Nive turned, when I had to leave
them ; much native smoke arose there ; and I regret that I can-
not now explore the course of these two rivers.

The survey of the Maranoa forms a line permanently supplied
with water and grass, from this camp to the furthest limits I have
reached — and directly in prolongation of my road across the
Hawkesbury and Hunter, intended originally to have been made
to Liverpool Plains. One link only is still wanting to complete
the chain ; it is from this natural bridge on the Balonne, to the
furthest point reached by me in my journey of 1831, a distance
of about 70 miles ; and I hope to find the country in that direc-
tion passable for this party in its way homewards.

I have the honour to be, Sir,

Your Excellency's most obedient humble servant,

T. L. MiTCHBLL, Suroeyor-Oenercd,
To His BxcelleiM^ the (Jovemor \
of New South Wales. /


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