John Lort Stokes.

Discoveries in Australia, Volume 2 Discoveries in Australia; with an Account of the Coasts and Rivers Explored and Surveyed During the Voyage of H.M.S. Beagle, in The Years 1837-38-39-40-41-42-43. By online

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Online LibraryJohn Lort StokesDiscoveries in Australia, Volume 2 Discoveries in Australia; with an Account of the Coasts and Rivers Explored and Surveyed During the Voyage of H.M.S. Beagle, in The Years 1837-38-39-40-41-42-43. By → online text (page 24 of 35)
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beetles, finely broken up;* its head was covered with yellow pollen, out
of a flower resembling the mallow, which is frequently resorted to by
small beetles during the heat of the day, when the petal closing over
them they are extracted, with some difficulty, by the bird. The other
specimen was a brown grain-feeding kind; it invariably rested on the
ground, where in its habits, head erect, tail down, and short, sudden
run, it greatly resembled a tit-lark.

(*Footnote. Usually observed in the specimens of this species procured by
Dr. Bynoe.)

At daylight on the 14th we continued our exploration from the spot where
we visited the shore, marked on the chart as Red Hill; and found that the
coast trended West by South to the part fronting the Amphinome Shoals,
and that instead of the continued sandy beach were occasional low rocky
projections. Eleven miles from Red Hill, a detached rocky ledge extended
two miles from the shore, and at the end of twenty, commenced a line of
low red sandstone cliffs five miles in extent. Here we, for the first
time, saw native fires; and the country was evidently higher.


October 15.

In the evening the ship was anchored five miles from a small island,
bearing South-South-East, which we found to be in latitude 19 degrees 55
minutes South, longitude 120 degrees 55 minutes East; and which, from its
lonely situation, was named Solitary Island. Six and nine miles North by
East from it we had crossed several lines of ripplings and shoal patches
of 4 and 5 fathoms. On visiting it next morning (16th) it was found to be
of red sandstone formation, thirty feet high, and devoid of vegetation.
Although lying a mile from the shore it is connected at low-water by a
flat of sand. From its summit the view of the interior presented a slight
change. At the distance of six miles there was a bank or rise in the
country having rather a fertile aspect, above a hundred feet high,
trending South-West with dense woodland intervening.

On the same afternoon the ship was moved fourteen miles further on. The
many patches of ripplings we now saw in every direction westward, assured
us that the Amphinome Shoals were close at hand; on patches one and two
miles west and south of the ship there was only six and nine feet.


October 17.

In the morning another party visited the shore, landing under a low
sandhill, sixty feet high, bearing South by East six miles, called Mount
Blaze, in latitude 20 degrees 0 minutes South and longitude 119 degrees
40 minutes East. This was found to stand on a projection, with two small
rocky islets on either side. Eastward from it cliffy points separating
shoal mangrove bays, formed the character of the coast; whilst in the
opposite direction extended a bay, fifteen miles wide, over the western
point of which we recognised the sandhills seen on our visit to this part
in July, 1840; the shores of this great bay were fronted for some
distance by shoal water.

Behind Mount Blaze the country was swampy, with mangroves, for a few
miles; it then gradually rose, and on the bearing of South 7 degrees
East, distant nearly fifteen miles, were seen conical-sided flat-topped
hills about two hundred feet high. This was the first remarkable
elevation in the country we had seen during the two hundred miles of the
coastline traced by the Beagle; it appears to be the North-East
termination of the high land seen southward from the Turtle Isles.

Some small burrowing animal had so excavated the ground in the vicinity
of Mount Blaze, that at each step we sunk in knee-deep; a few quails were
shot, but no varieties of birds were seen beyond what had been already
observed at the other points of the coast visited.

Weighing, we stood to the westward, after making a short stretch to the
north-east; but shoal water, at the end of six miles, obliged us to go on
the other tack. The change in the direction of the flood- tide, from
westerly to northerly, did not leave much hope of our finding a passage
to the westward. At sunset the anchor was dropped in 9 fathoms, with a
shoal patch of 5 fathoms two miles to the eastward, Mount Blaze, just
visible from the masthead, bearing south sixteen miles. During the
afternoon we had crossed no less than five lines of ripplings, on which,
at low-water, there was only from 2 to 5 fathoms.

October 19.

After the noon observation another attempt was made to find a passage to
the westward; but at the end of eighteen miles we found ourselves embayed
among patches of ripplings and breakers. The western sandhills, seen
yesterday, bore at this time South by East fifteen miles. Two-thirds of
the distance from the shore was a continued line of broken water.
Finding, by sounding with the boats, that there was no passage for the
ship, we retraced our track east; and in the evening anchored again in 7
fathoms, between two ridges of 4.


The outer breaker of the Amphinome Shoals bore North 37 degrees West
three miles, which placed it in latitude 19 degrees 41 minutes South and
longitude 119 degrees 24 minutes East; and as these shoals extend
eighteen miles off such low land, they may fairly be considered


Next evening we anchored off the east side of Bedout Island, having, in
the morning, nineteen miles to the east of it and twenty-two from the
mainland, passed over a ridge of 5 fathoms.

October 21.

We spent the day on Bedout, the centre of which we found to be in
latitude 19 degrees 35 minutes 45 seconds South, longitude 119 degrees 08
minutes 45 seconds East. It is a circular sand islet twenty feet high,
and half a mile in extent. Off its western side ripplings and rocks
extend nearly three miles; in other parts it is fronted by a circular
reef a mile in extent, and of a different kind from the Turtle Isle
reefs, being composed of live corallines and fan-like leaves, which
giving way readily to the feet, we suddenly found ourselves immersed
almost up to our necks; within fifty yards of the island this became
worse. The reefs and beaches abounded with turtles of two kinds, the
Mydas and a species of the Imbricated. We were in time for the noddy's
eggs; but the other birds had hatched theirs, and left for sea, returning
only at night. From their great abundance and constant visits they had
formed a kind of guano on the island. Among the varieties of the
feathered tribe was the golden plover.

On the following afternoon we stood over, South-South-East for the main;
but were again prevented by shoal water from approaching within twelve
miles of the nearest part, which was the western point of the bay seen
from Mount Blaze. Broken water and dry sands extended between south and
east, and to the south-west the entrance of Breaker Inlet and other parts
of the last year's survey were readily distinguished.

October 22.

During the forenoon the boats completed the soundings, and in the evening
the ship was anchored under the North Turtle Isle. Thus terminated the
examination of this hitherto unexplored part of the coast, which had been
the field of many years' speculation. One of the most remarkable points,
is the great rise of twenty-eight feet in the tide, which can only be
accounted for by the fact of the water being heaped up in the concavity
formed by the coast; on the first part of the bight the direction of the
flood was from West, and on the latter from West-North-West. We had found
that no river or other interesting feature existed; and that it was the
most dull and uniform portion of the continent we had seen, or that could
possibly be imagined.


While I have no reason to believe that an examination of Breaker Inlet,
which, from the numerous sandbanks forming the Amphinome Shoals, has
probably a considerable outlet, would lead to a discovery of any
importance, nevertheless, I regret that the heavy surf which breaks
across its entrance at this season of the year entirely prevented my
exploring it.

The winds we had experienced on this part of the coast were light, from
the eastward, during the night, and moderate from North-North-West to
West-South-West towards the latter part of the day, the morning being
frequently calm. On one or two occasions in the night we had slight
squalls from South-East accompanied by lightning; but, commonly speaking,
the weather was very fine, the temperature on board being generally 77,
the maximum being 82 and the minimum 75 degrees. On shore it was about
five degrees higher.


The necessary chronometric and magnetic observations were completed, and
a supply of turtles taken on board by the evening of the 26th, when after
leaving a paper in a bottle, recording our visit and describing the
nature of the coast eastwards, we left with the intention of exploring
Exmouth Gulf, which was the only remaining portion of the north-western
shore of the continent that had not been visited by Captain King or
ourselves. But as we were forced away from the land by southerly winds as
we approached the North-West Cape, and as there was no certainty of
procuring water, I have been obliged to content myself with the report of
a whaler who went in there and found it to be the mouth of a large inlet
conveying a vast body of water into the interior, occasionally, I
imagine, even as far as the neighbourhood of the north-east shore of
Shark's Bay, as Captain Grey speaks of finding there extensive plains of
mud and sand, at times evidently flooded by the sea and presenting no
limit in a north-east direction.

Continuing our passage we arrived at Swan River on November 23rd.


Reported Harbour.
Set out for Australind.
The Grass-tree.
Correspondence with Mr. Clifton, etc.
Sail from Gage Road.
Examination of coast.
Reach Champion Bay.
Visit Mount Fairfax and Wizard Peak.
Arid nature of country.
Want of water.
Native Grave.
The Greenough river.
Leave Champion Bay.
Koombanah Bay.
Naturaliste Reef.
Reach South Australia.
Port Adelaide.
Proposed Railroad.
Visit Mount Barker.
Encounter Bay.
Native fishing.
Return to Adelaide.
Sail from South Australia.
Portland Bay.
Tour in the interior.
Fertile country.
View from the Sugarloaf.
Visit Cape Bridgewater.
Sail for Hobart.
Liberality of Sir John Franklin.
Atmospheric changes.
Arrive at Sydney.


Among the news that most interested us on our arrival at Swan River, was
the report of the discovery of a harbour on the west coast, near
Moresby's Flat-topped Range. In the Surveyor General's office I was shown
a map of that portion of Western Australia by Mr. Arrowsmith, "from the
surveys of Captain Grey," whose name the port bore; and the united
authorities of this talented explorer, and this celebrated geographer,
would have removed all doubt from my mind as to the correctness of the
report to which I have alluded, even if the alleged discovery had not
taken place on a portion of the coast unvisited by Captain King or
myself. In the colony, however, very different opinions were held; and it
was confidently maintained that Port Grey, although placed, by accident
or otherwise, twelve miles to the southward, was no other than the bay we
had previously visited, called by us Champion Bay. It is true I could
trace a resemblance between their southern parts; but they differed so
widely in their northern - Port Grey being represented in the chart, and
printed description, to be perfectly safe, and sheltered in that quarter
by a point and a reef - that I saw no grounds for giving credence to the
opinion industriously circulated at Swan River, that the reef and point,
or perhaps the whole port, had been fabricated by the land-jobbers at
home. Such an opinion, however, was quite a disinterested one on their
part; as an extension of the colony northwards, and the establishment of
a settlement near Moresby's Flat-topped Range, would have led to a result
much desired by them, the occupancy, namely, of the intervening country.
It was in the neighbourhood of the harbour, the existence or identity of
which was thus called in question, that Captain Grey had reported to have
seen a fertile district; and a company had actually arrived from England
for the purpose of forming a settlement there. Mr. Clifton, the Chief
Commissioner, however, on hearing the opinion prevalent in the colony,
did not think proper to risk the lives of the people under his charge, by
conveying them to a port that might be fabulous, and to a country the
fertility of which was absolutely denied; and the destination of the new
settlement was, accordingly, provisionally changed to the shores of the
Leschenault Inlet, which held out a prospect of solid, if not brilliant,
success, and possessed advantages, which, if not dazzling, were at least
exempt from the suspicion of being visionary.

Anxious to have further information on this subject through a personal
interview with Mr. Clifton, I accompanied His Excellency Governor Hutt
and the Surveyor General on a tour in the direction of the new
settlement, whilst the ship underwent a slight refit, and the men had a
run ashore. The survey of the Swan, from the entrance to Perth, was,
meanwhile, undertaken by Mr. Forsyth.


Leaving Fremantle, the first part of the road lay between low ranges of
limestone hills, and through quite a forest of grass-trees, gums
(Xanthorroea) some knobby, old and crooked, others erect and reaching the
height, occasionally, of perhaps seventeen feet, with their tufted and
overarching crests towering above those of smaller growth that were
scattered over the earth around.*

(*Footnote. These trees, called Blackboys by the colonists, from the
resemblance they bear, in the distance, to natives, attain, it is said, a
great age, and there is a vague report that when fifty years old they are
only a foot above ground.)


The road passes through the township of Pinjarra, on the fertile banks of
the Murray. Where it crosses the river, the first and only great affray
took place with the natives, whose blood on that unfortunate occasion
stained the waters of the reach that now slept in peaceful beauty, as if
strife had never polluted its banks.* Here we met Mr. Clifton, who
accompanied us to his new township of Australind, to plant the germs of
which, in the wilds of Western Australia, he and his worthy family had
left England and all the comforts of society. This interesting spot is
situated on the east side of Leschenault Inlet; the approach is laid out
with much taste, the road leading along the foot of a hill covered with
wood, whilst on the right is an open growth of trees, affording every now
and then a glimpse of the beautiful estuary, with its surface just
ruffled and glittering in the rays of the setting sun. I was much struck
with the beauty of the scenery during this evening's and the morrow's
excursion, having had no idea that there was such a fertile, well
watered, and heavily timbered district so near the coast in Western

(*Footnote. A spirited painting of this encounter I saw ornamenting the
walls of Captain Mears' cottage at Guildford.)

(**Footnote. Her Majesty's dockyards are now availing themselves of this
supply of excellent timber; and its proximity to the sea must greatly
enhance the value of this part of the continent.)


Having conversed with Mr. Clifton on the subject of the settlement he had
intended to make near Port Grey, and been made acquainted with his
reasons for doubting the existence of the harbour, and the fertility of
the surrounding country, as well as with his desire to have the question
satisfactorily set at rest, I requested him to write to me on the
subject; and on the receipt of his letter,* I communicated, also in
writing, with his Excellency, Governor Hutt, and the Surveyor-General,
Mr. Roe; the result of which correspondence was, that I determined to
examine that portion of the coast; and to afford Mr. Clifton the
opportunity of accompanying me, and with his own eyes convincing himself
of the policy or impolicy of the course he had adopted.

(*Footnote. From which the following is an extract: Your arrival at Gage
Roads, in her Majesty's surveying vessel, Beagle, under your command,
affords me an opportunity of soliciting your able assistance towards the
solution of a question of great interest, not only to the Western
Australian Company, whom I represent, but to this colony at large; and I
feel assured that your known zeal in the cause of Geographical and
Hydrographical research will induce you, if it be within your power, to
comply with the request which I now take the liberty to make. Under these
feelings I proceed to state to you, that the Western Australian Company,
after all their plans had been formed for founding their intended Colony
of Australind, in Leschenault inlet, were led under circumstances which
occurred, and information which reached them, to abandon that intention
and to determine to fix their settlement at a port discovered by Captain
Grey, designated in England by the appellation of Port Grey, and lying on
the North-West coast of this colony, in or about the latitude of 29
degrees south, within the limits of the district between Gantheaume Bay
and the River Arrowsmith, in which district her Majesty's Government had
permitted the Company to take possession of extensive tracts of land in
lieu of their property in other parts of Western Australia.

Upon my arrival, however, in March last, at Port Leschenault, with the
intention of conveying in the Parkfield, with the first body of settlers
and emigrants to the new district, the Company's surveying establishment
already employed in this neighbourhood, I received such communications
from his Excellency the Governor, and such information respecting the
supposed Port Grey, and the country in its vicinity, together with a
tracing of the partial survey made by you in Champion Bay, lying in
latitude 28 degrees 47 minutes South which is presumed to be identical
with Port Grey, that I was induced, after full consultation with his
Excellency, to unite with him in opinion, that it would be proper for me
to depart from my instructions, and to found the colony under my charge
on the spot originally contemplated in Leschenault Inlet, instead of at
Port Grey, which determination I accordingly carried into effect under
the Governor's sanction.

It naturally was my most anxious wish, as it would have been my duty, if
it had been practicable, to visit myself the supposed port, before I
took, in conjunction with his Excellency, a step involving so great a
personal responsibility, and so seriously affecting all the predetermined
plans of the company, settlers, and emigrants. I have since made every
practical endeavour, but without success, to obtain means of proceeding
to the district in question, in order to establish the fact by actual
observation and research, whether that district does or does not afford a
proper site for the establishment of a new settlement on an extensive
scale, or is totally inapplicable for it, according to the information
which led to the decision come to. And as the result of such examination
involves measures which may prove of very great importance to the local
interests of this colony, and even to the interests of the
mother-country, I venture to submit to your consideration, whether you
would not deem that inquiry of sufficient importance to justify your
proceeding to Champion Bay, in her Majesty's sloop, Beagle, under your
command, to ascertain fully the capabilities of the country in its
immediate vicinity, and to determine whether there be another harbour or
not at the place assigned to Port Grey on the map recently published by

If your proceeding to that part of this coast should be within the scope
of the service assigned to you by the Lords Commissioners of the
Admiralty, or the importance of the solution of these questions, on which
such extensive interests and operations depend, should induce you to take
upon yourself the responsibility of going there, I earnestly request you
will allow me the honour of accompanying you, for the purpose of
fulfilling my duty to the Directors of the Company, and to the very
numerous body of persons interested in the formation of the intended
settlement under them.)


On the 12th, accordingly, we sailed from Gage Roads, and next morning
closed with the land in latitude 29 degrees 13 minutes South being
thirteen miles south of the position assigned to Port Grey in
Arrowsmith's map, before alluded to. From thence we followed the shore at
a distance of between three and five miles, in soundings of 7 and 12
fathoms; the first part trended North by West two miles, and then
North-West 1/2 West to Point Grey, lying five miles South by East of
Point Moore (a bight of that width being formed between) without any sign
of the sought-for harbour. The general appearance of the coast was that
of high sandhills, partly covered with vegetation; immediately in the
rear of which there appeared a range rather higher, and of a less barren
appearance; behind these again, at a distance of eight or nine miles,
rose a series of singular table-topped broken ranges, terminating
southwards in about latitude 29 degrees 5 minutes South. Mount Fairfax
and Wizard Peak are the most conspicuous objects in this range.


Owing to the water being very smooth, we found ourselves embayed on
approaching the point of the above mentioned bight, by a reef, the outer
part of which bore South 37 degrees West fifteen miles from Mount
Fairfax. The delay caused in clearing this danger, made it evening by the
time we reached Champion Bay, in latitude 28 degrees 47 minutes South,
from whence we had previously examined the coast northward for nearly
thirty miles. We had, therefore, now satisfactorily ascertained that,
excepting Champion Bay, there was no good anchorage on the coast between
the latitudes of 28 degrees 20 minutes South and 29 degrees 20 minutes

(*Footnote. For a description of Champion Bay, see above.)

From what I have said it will appear, that the point represented in
Arrowsmith's map, as sheltering the north side, has no real existence. It
is probable, that the following passage from Mr. Moore's Journal, may
have had some share in suggesting the contrivance.

"To the south of the tongue of land which forms the bay, there is also
another bay, which would be completely sheltered from all northerly
winds, so as to combine, between the two bays, perfect shelter at all
seasons of the year."


This point being set at rest, we proceeded with a large armed party at
daylight on the morning of the 15th, to examine the country. Landing, we
took an East by South direction for Mount Fairfax, the nearest and most
commanding point. About one mile and a half from the beach, we crossed
the dry bed of a stream, trending South by East about twenty yards wide,
with banks from twenty to thirty feet high, composed of reddish earth and
sand, having considerable portions of ironstone in it. A few small
tea-trees of the colonists grew in the sand that formed the dry bed of
the stream. Our course continued afterwards uninterrupted, over a
gradually rising plain, of a sandy scrubby nature, until reaching the
foot of Mount Fairfax, when we crossed another small watercourse,
trending South by West where, for the first time, we noticed a solitary
stunted casuarina. Mount Fairfax is the southern and most elevated part
of an isolated block, forming Moresby's Flat-topped Range. It rests on a
reddish, sandy, sloping plain, on which were occasionally noticed
fragments of quartz and ironstone, which latter formation is the
character of Mount Fairfax, and apparently of the neighbouring heights.
Having completed our observations, which place Mount Fairfax 582 feet
above the level of the sea, we continued our journey to the south-east,
in the direction of Wizard Peak. Two miles, over a scrubby sandy plain,
brought us again to the Chapman or Greenough. Here, for the first time,
there was an appearance of fertility; but only in the valley of the
river, which was about a quarter of a mile wide.

With the exception of a few brackish pools, the bed, as where we before
crossed it, was dry, and formed of white sand, growing in which was a
small crooked kind of drooping gum, besides a species of wattle and
tea-tree. Its course was about South by West and appeared to come from

Online LibraryJohn Lort StokesDiscoveries in Australia, Volume 2 Discoveries in Australia; with an Account of the Coasts and Rivers Explored and Surveyed During the Voyage of H.M.S. Beagle, in The Years 1837-38-39-40-41-42-43. By → online text (page 24 of 35)