by Ida Lee
F.R.G.S and Hon. F.R.A.H.S
From the Log-Books and Journals
with maps and illustrations
First Published 1925 by
Methuen & Co Ltd
36 Essex Street WC London
Transcribed to eText by
Permission to use eText given by
Col Choat of Project Gutenburg Australia 2003
Converted to Web Enhanced eText by
J&DChallenor of The Allan Cunningham Project 2009
OXLEY’s LAND JOURNEY–Cont.
Journey Southward:-Farewell Hill to Mount Flinders
18 May–21 June, 1817
1817 May 18th. Sunday. Our boats being of no further use to us we hauled them up on the bank leaving them with keel upwards; barked them over in order to preserve them as long as possible from the action and effects of the weather, in case we should be obliged to return to them in consequence of any unforeseen accident. We likewise divided the provisions that had been conveyed by the boats equally among the whole of the horses (both saddle and pack), leaving under the boats. all weighty iron tools that we might reasonably conclude we should not require on our new course. I here sowed–near the spot where we left the boats–some peach stones and quince seeds.
This arranged, we commenced our journey on a true S.W. course by compass towards Cape Northumberland,[*] Mr. Evans taking the lead, accompanied by two persons, the one having the perambulator, and the other marking the trees with an adze as a guide to our pack-horse leaders. The horses groaned beneath the weight of their loads, which was not less than 300 lbs. weight each. Having passed the heads of some lagoons the country becomes exceeding brushy, and assumes a greyish gloominess in consequence of the great numbers of Acacia pendula and Rhagodia dilatata, which are the two predominant shrubs. The soil is a loose red earth, with a large proportion of sand. About 3 o’clock we had made good about 10 miles on the given course when we stopped at a gully containing stagnant, white, muddy water.
[* From Oxley’s journal we learn that where the river formed two branches he left it and began his journey to the south-west.]
[p215] The plants are the same as those already noticed and made mention of. Eucalyptus micrantha (Bastard Box) was more frequent. The Cypress grows occasionally in large clumps about 40 ft. high. I gathered duplicate seeds of Acacia Pendula.
1817 May 19th. Monday. Continuing our route from our last night’s resting place, the general character of the country we passed over is brushy and sterile. We passed the rocky range of hills at Mount Maud[*] through a stony rugged gully. At this spot I discovered the following:– Pimelea colorans, a beautiful plant, whose involucre and flowers change from white to bluish colour according to its age and exposure. Zieria sp. [a kind of Sandfly Bush] a shrub 2½ ft., with white and purple flowers. Solanaceae, a suffruticose plant, flowers blue. Eutaxia sp., Sida sp., and Aster decurrens (= Olearia decurrens), a slender shrub.
[*Mount Maude is Oxley’s name for Manna Mountain Latitude: 33° 23′ 60 S, Longitude: 147° 19′ 60 E and is located about 65km west of Forbes.]
We passed some fine specimens of Sterculia heterophylla having the last year’s capsules on them, forming stems about 30 inches in diameter. A creeping shrub probably of the Asclepiadaceae is very abundant twining among the small cypress. In an open space having marks of inundation the holes were very dry, and gave us but little encouragement to hope for water at any resting place where we might halt at night. Acacia Pendula [Myall], is common with another species. A. homalophylla [Curly yarran], remarkable for its lanceolate, smooth, flat leaves, which have a solitary gland on the interior margin. A tree 25 ft. high.
Our journey was unavoidably lengthened in hopes of finding water; we had travelled 12 miles and found none or the appearance of any! We managed 2 miles farther and encamped among some burnt grass which had been fired by natives. Having pitched the tents and unladen our poor horses, who felt the privation infinitely more than ourselves, we sent our people in several directions in quest of water, when, after a diligent search, some was discovered about half a mile westerly of our tents, where the natives had encamped some time since, their bark huts being still in existence. It is a great relief to the eye to observe a deviation, however slight, from the dull gloomy sameness–the want of diversity in the timber of Western Australia.[*] At the base of the range of hills at Mount Maud some tolerably fair specimens[p216] of the western iron bark (Eucalyptus sideroxylon) were noticed, being easily distinguished from its congeners by its extremely rugged, furrowed, bark, containing like others of the Eucalypti a strong astringent styptic gum.
[* Cunningham’s name for the country west of the Blue Mountains.]
1817 May 20th. Tuesday. Our people had [taken] the precaution to fill all the vessels we had with us suitable to carry water, in case we should not be so fortunate to find any at our next resting place. Continuing our course due S.W. over a most sterile dry, flat country notorious for the uniformity of its productions, being the same as passed yesterday. The only timber of any consequence is a few scattered specimens of Callitris glauca Of 50 or 60 feet high and about 2 feet in diameter, the smaller trees being the Casuarina before mentioned, and Acacia pendula, on which I detected a new species of Loranthus [probably L. linophyllus], with round linear foliage. I likewise discovered a monaecious shrub allied to Croton, a slender tall shrub with linear lanceolate leaves and triangular branches. At 8 miles on this day’s journey we came to a tract of country full of water holes or hollow places not quite dry, but the whole of the land had evident signs of having been flooded, although at no recent period. Penetrating three miles further we traced the same miserable wild country that we had had all day, when, having cleared 11 miles, we came to an anchor for the night. The whole of us went out in search of water as usual; after some time expended in a fruitless search one of our people procured some miserable filthy water by digging a hole on some low damp ground. We had taken the precaution to supply ourselves by filling a keg previous to leaving our last night’s encampment, which we served out at 1½ pints per man.
1817 May 21st. Wednesday. We had hitherto been tolerably supplied with water, nor was it till this morning that we learnt to appreciate the value of good water, which like other great blessings are only estimated by the loss of them. All the water we could procure, which we brought from distant corrupted holes, was very foul and muddy and filled with animalcules, to destroy which we boiled and strained the water. We had scarcely left our resting place when we found water in a small hidden hole, tolerably good at which we supplied our horses. The country south westerly on this day’s journey has an equally barren red soil, and the timber produced is very diminutive and stunted. The eye rests with pleasure[p217] upon the Native Cherry, our common eastern coast plant, Exocarpus cupressiformis. The plants were but few, as follows:–Pentandria; Monogynia; Rutaceae, a beautiful tree about 30 feet high, of very spreading habit, with branches very slender and pendulous. Dodonaea cuneata is very frequent. This day’s journey afforded me duplicate specimens of the monaecious shrub collected yesterday allied to Croton.
At nine miles a burnt grass tract induced us to halt and look for water, of the existence of which we had some hopes, from the circumstance of having seen recent foot impressions of natives, and a swan having flown over us led us to conclude that water is not far distant. Mr. Evans, who had gone forward two miles beyond this place, returned to us, having found some stagnant water holes. After a diligent search we discovered some fine clear water in a lagoon or swamp about 5 miles to the westward of our tent. One of our people came near to a native who was of a very strong athletic habit, he however escaped. One of their spears was likewise found.
22nd. Thursday. In order to rest our horses, who had by reason of hard labour through an intricate country with little provision and still less water become much debilitated, we remained at this place where is good grass. A small pentandrous plant (of the Gentianaceae) is now very frequent in damp situations. The flowers are light brown, it is frequent on the arid sandy flats.
23rd. Friday. It was well advanced in the day before we were able and ready to proceed forward on our journey, occasioned by the distances we are obliged to fetch water. At about two miles on our route, arriving at a small opening, we could distinguish some high mountains to the northward and westward of us. Passing through a country covered with the melancholy Acacia pendula we came to a gentle rising, but rugged sterile tract covered with a tall thick brush, chiefly of plants before observed.
The Western Iron Bark and Cupressus glauca are the timbers of the stony ascent. I here gathered specimens of a species of Daviesia with linear rounded leaves, which are spinescent, the flowers are axillary and bracteated. I likewise procured the following specimens:–Leptospermum sp., forming a slender spreading shrub 6-8 feet high, the flowers are in pairs and axillary. Eucalyptus acmenioides, shrub about[p218] 12 feet high, allied to E. saligna. Eucalyptus dumosa, leaves alternate, ovate-lanceolate, fruit rough. This plant forms the principal shrub in a tract of confined brushy scrub. Melaleuca sp., allied to M. uncinata. And a shrub of the class Syngenesia, a species of Cacalia, a slender, twiggy shrub.
We saw some fine specimens of a tree which our people termed Snakewood; it is not in flower, but has a small fimbriated capsule and its bark is rough and scaly. Descending through a thick brushwood we came to a water channel (now dry), but which from the recent appearance of water here we concluded some might be discovered in the bottom to which the water course leads. Having travelled nearly 10 miles we halted in this descent for the night. Our people found some holes of excellent standing water about half a mile westerly of us to the no small joy of the whole of us. Recent marks of natives on the trees. Kangaroo were likewise observed at a distance. Much water has an outlet to the lower parts of the country by this channel which is evident from the marks of flood and the deep excavations formed (now dry) and no rain of any consequence has fallen for a considerable period. Day continued fine, sultry, and the night clear. On the brush or small timber the parasitical Loranthi are common.
24th. Saturday. It was deemed advisable to remain at this place the whole of the day in order to rest our horses, all of which required that indulgence. The barren brushy country around us appeared to afford me some scope for botanical investigation, my time therefore was now occupied throughout the day. The following are specimens collected:–Goodenia sp., closely allied to G. ovata, differing in having a leaf not too finely serrated. Prostanthera nivea, a beautiful slender shrub with large white flowers. Prostanthera sp., a depressed shrubby plant, Myoporum gracile, allied to M. armillaris a shrub 8-10 ft. high. Melaleaca sp., differing from M. squamea in the nerveless leaves, and the spike of flowers apparently cylindrical, from the dispositions of the remains of capsules.
This tract of country is covered with several Eucalypti, and Callitris glauca. The Brushes (Eucalyptus dumosa) are overrun with the Cassytha, whose filiform stems had so matted together as to render a passage very difficult. I gathered seeds of the large blue-flowered shrubby Aster, and also of the two species of Melaleuca above mentioned. To my[p219 surprise I found a few plants of Goodia lotifolia hitherto only known to be indigenous in Van Diemen’s Island. The country is now one continued level.
On our way back to the tent, which we did not reach till after dusk, we passed some small holes of water, near which we disturbed a large emu and two young kangaroo, which were feeding upon the trifling herbage which the sterility of the country can only produce in small patches.
25th. Sunday. Travelling over a continuance of brushy country for a space of about 4 miles, the plants of which are duplicates of what I have already collected, we came out upon a more clear open tract of land thinly covered with Icacia Pendula, from whence we took bearings of a lofty hill opening upon us, bearing S.S.W., distance about 7 miles. It may be worthy of observation that among other signs of humidity this Acacia is one; hence whenever we observed this grey tree we might on all occasions rest assured that water was or had been in existence near it. The waterholes here were but just dry! This kind of country continues about 3½ miles, on which I discovered a delicate blue-flowering Erodium with ternate leaves, allied to E. hymenoides.
Entering again a thick and intricate brush, matted strongly with Cassytha, I detected the following plants:–Aster aculeatus of the East coast, and some other syngenesious plants abound. I gathered seeds of a Rhagodia, a low depressed shrub, with rough seeds; and Westringia triphylla, a stiff shrubby plant with angular stem and ternate leaves.
Advancing near the base of the Mount before us the Grevillea allied to G. sphacelata observed on all rocky hills since 28th April last, again presents itself. Approaching its ragged rocky foot we found some water in small portions, in the excavations formed by the rapidity of the waters descending from the Mount during the rainy seasons, and there being some good grass for our horses we determined to encamp under the hill. Round its base and on the lower lands the print of the feet of natives (of children as well as of adults) were very visible. They had passed over it when the soil had been softened by rain, and some of the impressions were of ankle depth.
We had travelled 11 miles, and our horses were much fatigued, more particularly while passing the last Cassythian brush, where some of the lighter laden horses had their[p22o] burdens pulled from their saddles by the strength of the plants. Mr. Oxley, Mr. Evans and myself ascended this hill on the western side (which is highest and steepest), from whose summit we had a very extensive view of the whole country around us. Mr. Oxley took several bearings to the southward and westward of this Mount. A lofty range of hills bearing about N.N.W., about 60-70 miles distant, he has called Mount Granard. A range commencing at N.W. northerly, and terminating at about W.N.W. has been termed Goulburn’s Range, in honour of J. Goulburn Esq., of the Colonial Office. A long range of hills commencing at W.N.W. and ending at S.W. by S., distant about 25 miles, Mr. Oxley has named Peel’s Range, in order to commemorate the name of the Secretary of State for Ireland. Some hills lying behind one, and from the point of view bearing southerly about 5 miles, are called Jones’s Hills, after a merchant at Sydney. At my suggestion Mr. Oxley has named the commanding eminence Mount Aiton, in honour of W. T. Aiton, Esqre. at Kew, author of the Hortus Kewensis, whose extensive knowledge in botany and horticulture is well-known in the botanical world and needs no comments here.
The lower flats of Mount Aiton have been fired by the natives, but the upper range is covered with a great profusion of valuable and interesting plants, many of which I have seen before, such as the Aster, whose beautiful radiated blue flowers have decorated our dreary path more or less since we left the boats. Grevillea spacelata, at its summit; Tecoma Oxleyii is rare on the western face of this mount. I, however, detected the following new plants Correa sp., a shrub 4 ft. high; leaves ovate, obtuse, lanigerous beneath; flowers terminal and solitary; corolla campanulate and green.
Prostanthera atriplicinifolia, a shrub strongly scented with turpentine. Callitris sp., a small tree 25 feet high.
The perpendicular height of Mt. Aiton is presumed to be 250 feet, composed of an indurated sandstone. To the northward we observed the smoke from several native fires, and the country to the south and westward appears more open and less bushy. The numerous tracks of emu and kangaroo suggested to us that this eminence is frequented by these animals in search of water.
26th. Monday. Our horses having strayed into the thick brush we were detained the whole of this day under the mount.
[p221] It afforded me an opportunity of examining its rocky declivities with more leisure and more minutely than I was enabled to do on the evening of yesterday. I discovered a species of Xerotes, with linear canaliculated leaves; panicle compound, loose and horizontal. Hibbertia sp., with willowy branches; flowers large and yellow. A species of Goodenia is very frequent on the N.W. side. Tetratheca sp., a shrubby juncous plant, forming close bushes, smaller in habit than the species termed T. juncia, in capsule and flower. Lobelia erinoides, producing a beautiful long tubular blue flower.
Exocarpus cupressiformis is a fine shrub on the rocks here. A species of snake, chequered on the back like the common diamond snake of New South Wales, but shorter and of a lighter brown colour, is by no means infrequent in Western Australia on rocky hills. I killed a fine large specimen lying in a dormant state on this mount. Two of our people who had been out 12 hours returned with two of the horses and reported to us that the other three men, who had been sent by Mr. Oxley in another direction, had fallen in with their tracks and were tracing them back to our last encampment. Our dogs were on the alert throughout the night. Some natives who had heard us from their encampment westerly of us, induced by curiosity, had come in a circuitous route to the lower range of rocks under the Mount in order to observe our motions. Some of the people could hear them distinctly in conversation.
27th. Tuesday. Fine clear weather. This morning we sent out two men to their comrades with provisions and also to assist them in the search and securing of our horses. At 2 o’clock p.m. two others returned unable to give an account of the animals. At 5 p.m. the other men absent, who had with a determined unwearied perseverance continued the pursuit of the beasts, returned with seven horses, but could not find the other five. The delay occasioned by this unfortunate affair enabled me to examine, ticket and pack my specimens. One of our people, who had been sent with the dogs in search of kangaroo and emu for us, saw a fine tall young man (native) not far distant from our tent. The dogs had seized him before the person was able to call them off, but the moment he was released from their grasp, he made a quick precipitate retreat in a westerly direction. He was unarmed and perfectly naked, having a few cockatoo feathers stuck[p222] in his hair. This sufficiently convinced us that our last night’s conjectures were not unfounded.
May 28th. Wednesday. This morning we despatched four men mounted on horseback in search of the five beasts missing. A large flock of emu descended from the rocky heights of the Mount, but unfortunately we were unable to secure any of them, our dogs being in another direction. We shot an owl which was hovering around our tent. It was large and the feathers of the wing were beautifully speckled with brown and darker colours.
29th. Thursday. During the last night I was seized with a violent ague (originating in a cold), which increased this day and obliged me to remain at rest. The men sent in search of the horses returned without them. Our dogs killed three emu which we found to be an excellent change from the salt provision upon which we have of late entirely subsisted. Much wind at night.
30th. Friday. Found myself much relieved by the physic I had taken last evening. We are still detained by the loss of the horses. Mr. Oxley, accompanied by two others, left the tent in search of them, while Mr. Evans, Fraser and Parr went on foot in a north westerly direction. They found the following plants. Brunonia sp., allied to B. sericea of Dr. Smith, but smaller in all its parts; on grassy flats. A stroloma sp., allied to A. humifusum, having erect branches; in fruit. Dodonaea sp., leaves oblong, entire, margin revolute. Mr. Oxley returned with the five horses about noon, which was a great subject of joy to us all. They had strayed in search of water but a short distance from our old line of road N.E., and were stopped at about 7 miles distant from the tent. The party discovered a nest of emu’s eggs, amounting to ten in number; they are almost as large as an ostrich’s egg, and of a dark green colour. Mount Aiton is situated in lat. 34°30′ S., long. 147°00’00” East, and distance from Sydney 420 miles West Southerly.
31st. Saturday. The whole of the horses having been found that had strayed, and been secured the preceding evening, and having been detained five days, Mr. Oxley was determined to proceed on our journey this morning with all possible speed. Although not sufficiently strong and scarcely recovered of my late attack, still I was unwilling to become the instrument of further delay, and as the whole of us walk,[p223] all our horses being very heavily laden, I had no other resource or alternative but to walk likewise.
Leaving the richer patches of good grassy land immediately around Mount Aiton, the country again assumes a sterile and dreary aspect, covered with small timbers of Eucalyptus micrantha and small cypress. Onward about two miles we passed a small rising mount, near which is a water hole, now perfectly dry. From the remains of a fire and grass burnt near the base of a cypress tree, and from the fresh impression of human feet, it is clear that natives had not left it two days. The country S.W. again becomes brushy, producing plants of which frequent mention is made. Hakea sp., allied to A. rugosa, is observed here–a small tree 20 feet high. Jasminum sp.; Stenochilis longifolius; Bursaria spinosa are all common plants of these wastes. Crossing some lone rocky elevated spots, covered with fragments of a red granite. Mount Aiton bore N.E. 6 miles. Descending on some woody grassy lands of considerable extent, Jones’s Hills appeared in sight, of which Mr. Evans took bearings. Some old venerable Sterculiae of considerable magnitude appear near this open situation.
At 9½ miles we entered a very thick brush, which from the glaucous hue of Eucalyptus dumosa, the usual and principal shrub of this miserable tract, has the appearance of extensive plains from a distant view. We had already performed the usual daily number of miles, which upon the average we generally found prudent not to exceed, but we were led on under the impression that the brush was not of any extent and that possibly we might fall in with water and grass for our horses in the range of a mile or two further on our course. Continuing through this thicket which we named Euryalean Scrub (after one of the Gorgons), we found it grow thicker and exceedingly difficult for our horses, so much so that a man led the way and cut an opening for them. The whole is strongly matted together with Cassytha and other climbing plants. At sunset we had travelled 19½ miles but were not clear of this scrub when we arrived at a small open space, where we were obliged to halt for the night, although no water could be found for our horses or ourselves.
Dismal as the brush was to all of us it nevertheless afforded me some new plants, which recompensed me at least for the severity of the march through it. They are as follows:–
[p224] Pimelea diosmaefolia, a delicate shrub. Grevillea acicularis, nova sp., a dwarf dense pungent shrub: Leucopogon sp., (Epacridae). Viola sp. Dodonaea sp., a very small flowering shrub. Daviesia microphylla, a small shrubby rigid plant. Bossiaea sp., distinct from B. scolopendria in the size of its flower and fimbriation of its calyx and bracteae. Callitris verrucosa, a slender tree 10-20 feet high. Acacia conferta, leaves broad, ovate and carinate, capitulum of flowers axillary and crowded; forming a large dense bush. A spinescens with the habit of Daviesia in having spiny branches.
Among the combination of plants annoying us in this brush were a prickly Daviesia, observed near Mount Maud, and a strong prickly grass (not in flower) growing in large tufts about three feet high, and with the habit of Astragalus tragacantha. We had taken the precaution to carry some dirty water with us from Mount Aiton, which we served out at one pint per man.
1817. June 1st. Sunday. The want of water obliged us to leave our present station at an early hour in hopes of arriving at a more hospitable tract of country affording us grass and water. At a distance of about 1½ miles we cleared this intolerable brush and came out upon an open forest country equally sterile and covered with a coarse grass (Dianella divaricata) and some other plants by no means interesting. Continuing our journey about 8 miles, a miserable prospect before us (not a symptom or a sign of the least running or stagnant water to be seen) we came to some rising ground on which several naked bald rocks make a romantic appearance. From this elevation we had a view of Peel’s Range, three miles distant, which we determined to make and halt for the day. At midday we encamped within half a mile of it. We sent out people in search of water, which they found in some holes at the immediate base of the Range. Served portions of dry provisions to the people.
2nd. Monday. Our horses were so much enfeebled and debilitated by the late severe exercise and want of water that it was considered advisable to remain the whole of this day under the range. Having attended to my plants, I accompanied one of our party, Fraser, on a botanical excursion over these rocky hills, which upon examination afforded me very few novelties, being chiefly a repetition of the plants I have[p225] already collected of which Dodonaea pinnata, Grevillea sphacelata and a Phyllanthus are most predominant, We bore away S.W. to a very remarkable bluff point, distant about 3½ miles. From the rugged declivities of Peel’s Range I gathered fine flowering specimens of Eriostemon sp. The country is broken with small rocky hills, and covered with brushwood, which furnished me with the following specimens. Dianella sp., a new and beautiful plant.
Pimelea microcephala, a new species, with large involucre to the flowers. Sida sp., Acacia sulcata, discovered on the S.W. coast. The capitulurn of flowers is solitary, as well as geminate. Acacia sp., specimens in flower; this species differs from the preceding in its deciduous bracts, and from A. acicularis in its geminate capitula. Ascending to the summit of this elevated point, I gathered specimens of Pomaderris sp., Ceanothus globulosus, a strong shrub. Glyceria sp., a grass of the Festuceae. Tecoma Oxleyi is very common on the naked rocks, in fine flower. The country to the southward and westward of us, as seen from this hill, is exceedingly flat and barren.
This mount has been named in honour of Mr. George Caley a most accurate, intelligent and diligent botanist, who laboured on the Eastern coast of this continent a number of years with considerable success, and who well merits such a mark of distinction. A corresponding mount southerly has been called Mount Brogden, in honour of Charles Brogden, Esq., of Clapham.
Gathered Stenochilus sp., Croton sp., Euphrasia sp., leaves opposite, flowers blue.
The majestic bluff front of Mount Caley is very grand. The large granite stones of which it is composed being covered with a red lichen, giving it a tint and appearance of old brickwork. An inference may be drawn from the deep gullies and rugged country we passed over at the base of the range of the great bodies of water that fall on Peel’s Range and descend, forming these excavations, whose general inclinations are westerly. We searched in vain for water; all the creeks are dry now. We returned to our tent at dusk. One of our horses from debility, and in an attempt to rise up under his load, having fallen down was so strained as to be rendered useless which obliged us to shoot him. Our lat. is 34°08’08” S., and long. 146°42’25” E. Variation of[p226] compass 7°18’00” E. Our people made shoes of the skin of the horse.
3rd. Tuesday. About 10 o’clock we departed from our encampment on a S.W. course along the valley dividing a part of Peel’s Range and arrived at the base of Mount Caley about 1 o’clock. Being almost surrounded by the range and finding the country somewhat on the ascent, Mr. Oxley went up to the summit of Mount Caley in order to observe and discover any opening that would allow us to pass to the flat country S.W. of Mount Caley and Mount Brogden. We, however, found a ridge too elevated to be passed, especially in the present enfeebled state of the whole of our horses. Descending into the lower lands, and passing several large muddy holes now dry, skirted with Acacia pendula, we came upon a patch of burnt grass about 4 miles S.E. of Mount Caley, where we stopped for the day, having travelled about 9½ miles. [This was Oxley’s farthest South.]
Eucalyptus sideroxylon (western iron bark), specimens in flower and some duplicates of others. We found water (after diligent search) in small quantity, in a well that had been dug by the natives, about 5 feet deep. It was of an indifferent quality.
4th. Wednesday. Continued our stay at our present halting place. Mr. Oxley sent two of our party to observe the general appearance of the country to the southward of S.W. Occupied myself at my plants, ticketing my specimens, etc. The small quantity of water discovered yesterday being expended, we sent men with seven horses to a considerable waterhole discovered by myself yesterday, about seven miles on the road back to our last encampment. Upon the return of the two persons, they gave a very unfavourable report of the country they had seen, in point of sterility and drought, as well as the intricacy and difficulty of penetration, in consequence of the thick brushwood with which it is covered. The native or wild dogs that were howling around us kept our own continually upon the alert,
5th. Thursday. Our latitude now is 34°13’33” S., and long. 146°39’50” E.; the variation of the compass 8°08’06”. Unwilling to proceed in a particular direction until we have ascertained the nature of the country to the northward and westward, I made an excursion in that direction. Crossing the first range S. of Mount Brogden I descended into the[p227] valleys or flats, which are in patches covered with brome grass, and of a tolerable good soil, where I sowed some peach stones and quince seeds. Ascending a lofty range (being a part of Peel’s Range) running north and south, the view of the north-west country is in a great measure hidden by other ridges still to the westward. I descended the elevation on the western side, which furnished me with no new plants, and passed through a small narrow valley, and reached a third range (running S.W. and N.E.) of very steep and rugged ascent. The country to the westward as seen from its summit is much broken with hills and rocky declivities. I took bearings at upwards of 40 miles distant of hills and mounts.
The bleak exposed rocks on this range are covered with an Acacia in flower that has much the habit of A. armata found on the south coast. The leaves, however, have scattered villi on their surface, and the spinescent stipules longer.
The Zieria is in great abundance, and the rest of the plants are the same as those seen previously. On my way back I gathered seeds of the following plants:–Camera eremophila, a simple pinnate-leaved plant (shrub) 6-7 feet high. Pimelea micrantha, involucre of flowers scaly, an irregular growing shrub. On the flats I gathered specimens of a Lavatera, differing but little from L. Africana; frequent with a species of Senecio, with the stalk purple, and the flowers yellow, large and radiated.
No marks or signs of natives except on one tree which was very ancient, The summits of all these ranges are covered with Cupressus glauca. Returned about 7 o’clock in the evening. The country at the verge of the horizon southerly is in flames, being fired by natives.
6th. Friday. Our horses having acquired considerable strength in consequence of two days’ rest and good provender, we commenced our route on a westerly course, working our way round the lower base of Peel’s range through a thick brushwood of seedling plants, of Cypress chiefly. The country becomes more grassy and thinly covered with small timber of Eucalyptus micrantha and Cupressus glauca. In these flats I gathered specimens of Pimelae linifolia a slender gigantic shrub and Dodonaea heterophylla, of which I gathered seeds. Having penetrated about 8½ miles on a W.N.W. course we halted at a spot where there was some tolerably[p228] good grass for our horses. We found some fine clear water in a sandy hole under Peel’s Range, to the northward and eastward of our tent. Hitherto we have seen no animals except a few kangaroo-rats in these wastes, however, some black cockatoos saluted us as they passed over our tents. The creeping shrub, which I had suspected to belong to the order Asclepiadaceae, I observed this day (from a decayed flower) to be one of the Rubiaceae it has likewise the stipules so characteristic of this extensive tropical order.
7th. Saturday. We did not leave our halting place under Peel’s Range till a late hour, occasioned by the wandering of our horses. Continuing on a course N.E. we arrived, after travelling about 8 miles, at some rising ground of gentle ascent, covered with quartz and small pebbles of iron-ore stone. Passing this elevation we approached the base of a small range of hills running almost north and south, and finding grass we proposed to stop, being about 10 miles distant from our last night’s encampment. The difficulty of passing through the thick brushwood is very distressing to those of our horses whose backs by the great friction and heavy burdens were not in the best condition.
We had for some time seen the necessity of carrying water with us rather than trust to the contingency of failing in with any holes at those places where necessity herself might oblige us to halt. We had therefore filled, previous to our departure, an empty keg with the excellent element found yesterday, which we divided equally among the whole of us. After a long wearisome and fruitless search none could be found here, although experience had taught us to examine those places where probably it might, if it existed, be detected.
I gathered flowering specimens of a Cassia, which is now the greatest ornament of these deserts and might be termed eremophila from its being found in such places; also a species of Sida, with lanceolate, ovate, crenulate leaves; peduncles very long, 2-3 flowered. The timber is a small cypress (Callitris), and Bastard Box, (Eucalyptus micrantha). The grass, clear of the hills, is very dry and wiry, chiefly of a species of Bromus. Our dogs had procured for us two kangaroo-rats which offered us a fresh meal. Native dogs are frequent about the hills.
8th. Sunday. Remained at the spot the whole of this day and sent our people in different directions in search of water.[p229] I took a walk on the rising ground near us, but made very few new discoveries, the country being covered with Acacia homalophylla. At the base of the grassy hills near our tent, which Mr. Oxley has termed Disappointment Hills, I found a species of Myoporum, differing from M. ellipticum in the throat of the corolla being more villous, and the anthers extended, the leaves are nerved as in Hakea dactyloides. It is an observation I have frequently made that the heads of the trees incline to the northward and eastward, indicative of the prevalence of the south-westerly winds. Mounts and terminations of ranges are bluff-like to the westward, generally evidently from the action of the air and wind upon these points.
Our people are returned from different points after a fruitless search for water. One small hole was discovered, with a quart or so in it. Our poor horses are languishing for the want of this precious element. The arid appearance of the country to the westward, has unavoidably obliged Mr. Oxley to change his course again, rather than unjustifiably continue our journey over a country that would destroy our horses and endanger our own lives by extreme drought. It is therefore proposed to return to our last encampment where the grass is good and where there is water for the horses and having renewed their strength to proceed northerly and make the Lachlan River on the swampy lands occasioned by its distribution, and we might hope to intersect the Macquarie River, respecting whose course little or nothing is known.
9th. Monday. Our journey this morning, independently of the painful idea of tracing out steps back a stage, was rendered more disagreeable by the continuance of small rain, which did not cease until we had arrived at the foot of the range near our old encampment at the waterholes. The travelling is excessively heavy and fatiguing to the horses, being very boggy, by reason of the present wet weather, from which we might infer that a rain of two days would render the whole tract of country wholly impassable. Mr. Evans and three others who had gone on before us had made a large fire of cypress by the time we arrived, and we were enabled immediately to shift and dry our clothes. While our horses were enjoying their new pasturage, we were feasting ourselves upon kangaroo-rats (secured by our dogs) and excellent good water.
[p230] 10th. Tuesday. We rested ourselves and the horses under the range the whole of this day. In the afternoon I took a walk and examined the range above us, and detected the following interesting plants:–Indigofera sp., a shrub 6-7 feet high. Anthocercis albicans, a slender twiggy shrub. Tecoma Oxleyi, a few good seeds. The seeds of this plant are extremely difficult to be procured, the moment they are ripe they are scattered and eagerly devoured by the kangaroo-rats. Acacia armatoides [= A. armata], some good seeds. Teucrium sp., a species of Goodenia, is very abundant on the ridge. The soil on the sides of the gully is rich, dark and loamy. Returned at nightfall.
11th. Wednesday. We continued at this resting place until we had received some information respecting the country northerly of us. For this purpose Mr. Oxley despatched two of our people in that direction and also requested them to look out for a resting place where we might enjoy water of any quality. Mr. Oxley has adopted this mode of proceeding rather than advance on any particular course, with the doubt of finding grass or water to the very serious injury of our horses. I availed myself of this opportunity, and was occupied on the rocky summit of the range by which we are partly surrounded. I gathered some seeds of a Hibbertia, so common in similar situations. The Zieria is now richly in flower, from which I furnished myself with handsome specimens. Among the seeds I collected this day the following are most interesting:
Prostanthera atriplicinifolia. Bellis ciliaris [= Brachycome ciliaris], specimens in flower. Lobelia senecioides [= Isotoma axillaris], seeds and specimens. Senecio anethifolius, fine specimens, in shaded damp situations. The Pomaderris observed on Mount Caley is common here, with another of the same natural family, a rigid shrub with a white, hoary corolla. The hanging rocks are adorned with Tecoma Oxleyi whose great profusion of flowers will always render the plant valuable in Europe. The brush on the rocky declivities is very thick and difficult to pass being held together by the wiry arms of the Cassytha. On the highest part of the range I found two long pieces of the heart of an Acacia, which I have called A. doratoxylon. These pieces of wood were about 9 feet long, and had been split out of the centre of some trees of this species that had been broken[p231] down by natives, and doubtless intended for spears, as the wood agreed exactly in point of grain and texture with that of all finished spears we have had opportunity of examining. Our presence at the foot of the range had doubtless disturbed them at their work, which appeared very new and fresh. The manufactory of these weapons must be a very laborious task. When we consider that their tools are a mogo or stone hatchet and a cockle shell.
A shower obliged me to return to our tent about 3 o’clock. Fraser and the other man who had been out to reconnoitre returned at dusk, having found a good halting place about 10 miles northerly. He brought me specimens of Nicotiana undulata, whose long tubular corolla differs so materially in shape from the other species of this genus, to which it was first referred by Monsieur Ventenat and adopted by other botanists. He likewise brought me specimens of a Loranthus with oblong-ovate, obtuse, wrinkled leaves and axillary peduncles, parasitical on the snakebark, and a Lotus, with obcordate cuneated foliage and red flowers. Our dogs killed several kangaroo-rats, among which I observed a species of pigmy kangaroo with the head of a hare, it has five toes to the forefeet as in Macropus elegans, it, however, stands only about 14-16 inches high when resting upon its hind legs and tail. The skin is dark gray, and the fur of a very fine texture.
12th. Thursday. In the anxious hope of soon arriving at a tract of country where the doubts of finding water and grass would scarcely exist, we left our last two day’s encampment, winding round the base of Peel’s Range in a northerly direction. The country now is of a grassy, woody character and broken by gullies from the range in which we discovered running water. Passing some dry water courses that intersected our course, the land is open and less encumbered with timber, which is of the Bastard Box and Cypress. Tracing the ridge to its base through tracts of the above description and bushy alternately, we arrived at a small grassy creek furnished with a stream of running water, where we stopped, having advanced about 10 miles by 2 o’clock in the afternoon. Jasminum sp., Cryptandra sp., Grevillea sphacelatoides, Hibbertia, 2 species, etc. are all common plants observed in this day’s route. A pentandrous tree of the order Rutaceae, remarkable for its spreading habit, is covered with flowers;[p232] beneath its shade some of the Atriplicinae and Pimelea linariifolia grow very luxuriantly.
The Salsola so common on the plains of the Lachlan River was observed this day, on this grassy land, which has evident signs of having been under water in the rainy season. We noticed the recent impressions of the feet of natives on the soft soil, which is less perforated by the kangaroo-rats than some tracts of country to the southward and westward. Brunonia sp., before seen, is very common among the grass with some trifling Gnaphalia. I gathered several pretty specimens of crystallized quartz from some hills, over which our course led us. One of our people shot a bronze pigeon.
13th. Friday. Continuing our course about 9 o’clock this morning under the range we crossed several small gullies, of which some had running streams. The country has the same aspect as observed yesterday, being a continuous brush and open forest land alternately. We had travelled about 14 miles when we came to a creek furnished with grass, and stopped for the night. Water was found about 1½ miles nearer the range. In a barren brush, of which a Meleleuca (allied to M. squamea) and a species of Leptospermum are most abundant. I gathered specimens of Eriostemon brevifolius with linear, short, rough leaves. Scaevola spinescens. Anadenia anethifolia a dense bushy plant. A Loranthus with linear-lanceolate leaves in fruit, parasitical on snakebark.
Some very fine trees of Sterculia heterophylla were observed to-day, one of which I measured, and found it 3 ft. 10 in. in diameter, although only 20 ft. high, with very strong horizontal spreading branches, forming a very agreeable shade. Acacia conferta is now very common, first observed on the 31st ultimo. Some patches of soil that had been inundated and in which I observed Pancratium Macquaria [ = Calostemma purpureum], is rich and good, being the deposition of the waters. The shelving, rocky appearance of the creek on which we encamped suggested to us that considerable bodies of water descend by this gully to the lower lands. We could clearly distinguish from some rising ground over which we passed the low flat brush to the westward, forming an impenetrable barrier against us. The latter part of our course was N.E.
14th. Saturday. Resuming our journey on a north west course for about 4 miles through an uninteresting scrub,[p233] we descended from the barren slopes of the hills to a rugged creek containing small rocky excavations and standing water. Unwilling to halt at so short a distance from our last night’s encampment, we continued our journey over a more open grassy and apparently better tract of country, with timber of cypress of tolerable size, interspersed with Eucalyptus micrantha (Bastard Box) of larger bulk than we have seen them since we abandoned our boats. Arriving at a dry sandy watercourse, on the margin of which grew some fine patches of grass (Avena), and, luxuriantly, Sonchus oleraceus, our people who had traced the creek up found plenty of water about half a mile out of our line of course, where we halted and pitched our tent. Dianella divaricarta, Prostanthera nivea, a Hakea allied to H. rugosa, Tetratheca dumosa, Boronia pinnata, etc., are all common plants. I gathered some specimens of Sterculia heterophylla in pods, and Eucalyptus sideroxylon is observed sparingly near the creek, in which I detected a large flowering Goodenia, with radical spathulate leaves.
15th. Sunday. We remained the whole of this day at the creek and I employed a few hours in repapering my specimens and booking the seeds that had been collected some days previous. I took a walk to the continuance of Peel’s Range, about one mile distant, but discovered nothing new. Among the plants frequently observed I recognised Calythrix tetragona of the Eastern Coast, but a miserable stunted shrub, like the whole of the plants on this sterile front of the range. I gathered some duplicate seeds of a Phyllanthus and of Persoonia scabra, and a Tetratheca. The summit of the range is covered with Acacia doratoxylon, Cupressus glauca and Casuarina macrocarpa, all starved pigmy trees. The margins of the creek are clothed with the western iron bark. Returned to the tent about 2 o’clock.
One of our people who had been out in search of game came very near to a solitary native, who was in the act of making his fire. He ran off with all possible despatch, with a long spear with which he was armed. The afternoon, which was very cloudy, produced a shower at dusk. To the northward and westward some very singular ranges having some remarkable peaks can be seen from the summits of Peel’s Range. Mount Aiton bore S.E. by E., distant about 30 miles. By observation taken this day our lat. and long.[p234] are as follows 33°49’00” S., 146°33’00” E., variation of the compass the same as the last observation. We are two miles north of Sydney. Showery at night.
16th. Monday. In consequence of the wet weather and the very doubtful appearance of the atmosphere we were prevented from stirring from our present position. Our people reported to us the death of one of the most able pack-horses of the whole troop. The animal had been strained in the loins, and died of internal mortification.
17th. Tuesday. About 9 o’clock we commenced our day’s journey N.W. northerly from the creek over a very barren rugged country, broken with water-courses from the hills, now perfectly dry. Some grassy lands present themselves, thinly covered with tolerable sized timber. On our left hand a range of hills ran parallel with our course, and Peel’s Range on the right hand, above the usual level of which is observed a rising woody point bearing about N.E., a few miles from us. Mr. Oxley has termed it Mount Barrow, in honour of Barrow Esqre., author of “Travels in Southern Africa,” and now of the Admiralty Office.[*] Passing round the S.W. termination of Peel’s Range we continued our route about 1½ miles and halted on a grassy open flat. Our journey was about 10¼ miles, and as naturally might be expected the ground was excessively soft and boggy. After a diligent search for water, about a quart was found at dusk in a rocky hole of a small range, N. of Peel’s Range.
[* John Barrow.]
18th. Wednesday. At daybreak we sent two others to the range of hills near us in search of water, with directions to continue in the course of Mount Barrow should they not be so fortunate as to find any nearer on the range or in the gullies proceeding from it. They returned with a small quantity, enabling us to distribute to each a pint for our breakfast. Our people who had been sent to bring up the horses reported that there was some good grass a mile and a half distant in a valley between the hills. Anxious to remove to a more hospitable spot where water would in all probability be found, sufficient for ourselves and horses, we proceeded forward with the most necessary and the lightest of our provisions and luggage, leaving five casks of pork, which we could send back for in the course of the day. About 2½ miles N. easterly over some rocky hills we descended to a fine rich[p235] valley of good grass and some holes of rain water in the gullies, enough for ourselves and horses. We accordingly pitched our tents in the valley and turned our horses out to feed. Mr. Oxley sent the strongest of our animals for the casks of pork left at our last resting place.
As a proof of the badly watered condition of the country we discovered a hole that had been made with great labour by the natives very recently, and containing a little dirty water. It is obvious that the gullies were dry three days since, and that the late rains have supplied these cavities with the water we now enjoy!! Our dogs killed a native dog, which was devoured among us! The natives had not left the valley many days, because their huts of green branches and remains of fires were so fresh.
Upon taking a survey of our dry stock of provisions in hand there appeared a deficiency of a considerable quantity of flour, which at first view could by no means be accounted for. It appears, however, from a little investigation that took place this afternoon, that when on the river our boatmen hauled up one of the boats too short–by her painter–to a tree on the bank, and in the course of the night the water had fallen a foot, leaving the boat resting on her stern whereby many casks were rolled out into the river and 300 lbs. weight of flour totally lost. It was an accident they were fearful to communicate to any of us till now by dint of cross-examination. This is a severe loss to us and will oblige us to be content with a half ration.
June 19th. Thursday. The country has been softened and bogged by the late rains to such a degree as to prevent us quitting our encampment in the valley this day, which is of essential service to our horses that are in very bad condition. The hills bounding the valleys have been lately fired by the natives. In the declivities I gathered the following specimens. Gentianaceae: Pentandria: a second sp., of the same genus gathered on the 22nd ultimo; this is of a smaller habit. I likewise gathered some specimens of Eucalyptus micrantha or Bastard Box, the common timber of the country.
Mr. Oxley took bearings of some remarkable points. Two very singular hills, appearing to form a part of Goulburn’s Range, bearing at N.W. about 12 miles he has named Mount Brown and Good’s Peak, in honour of Robert Brown Esqr.[p236] who accompanied Capt. Flinders round the continent, and whose extensive knowledge in the most refined and scientific parts of botany justly entitles him to that degree of prominence in which he ranks among botanists in London. The peak is thus entitled to commemorate the name of the late Mr. P. Good, the valuable assistant of the above mentioned gentleman, whose death was a subject of such regret to all who knew him. A species of Solanum, beginning to shoot from its burnt stump, is very common in the hills.
I observed a small Drosera similar to D. rotundifolia in all the gullies from the hills, in which grew some species of Sterculia. The valley in which we are encamped receiving the washing of the hills on both sides of it, north and south, if of a very rich soil. I sowed some quince seeds and a dozen good stones of peach, which induced our people to call it “Peach Valley.” It appears less troubled with kangaroo-rats burrowing in it, and consequently the seeds committed to its soil have a fairer chance of succeeding than perhaps in a few other situations where I have sowed these seeds.
20th. Friday. In order to lighten our baggage we overhauled the ironwork that we had carried with us from the river, under the idea it would have been found useful in our journey to the coast. On a tree we left ten pairs of horse shoes, and some of the less useful parts of the boat builder’s tools. Following Peach Valley in a winding course for a distance of about two miles to the rising point of a small stony hill thickly covered with some seedling Casuarinae and western iron bark.
We observed the country to the northward and westward is a low flat tract of land thickly covered with a dense scrub, and exceedingly sterile, which induced Mr. Evans, who usually led the way, to change the course by turning up a low foresty valley between the hills, in a northerly direction. At its extremity we entered a very barren brush of small trees and shrubs, in a deep red soil, which afforded me a few nice specimens viz:–Stenochilus serrulatus, a shrub 4 feet high. S. ochroleucus, gathered duplicate specimens. Cacalia sp., leaves linear, a shrub observed on hills and rocky mounts. Aster cunealus [= Olearia stellulata]. The Loranthus[probably L. linophyllus] is now in fruit on the tree of the Rutaceae, whose capsules are 2-valved, observed before. Dodonaea heterophylla, a shrub with lanceolate leaves, was in flower, [p237] of which I gathered specimens. Also a monaecious shrub allied to Croton, but having a different capsule. Passing this confined brush and entering the flat deserty country, covered with a low dense scrub, I observed a new Bossiaea and Anadenia anethifolia, discovered on the 13th inst., to be the most common plants of these gloomy wilds. I likewise noticed some of the Atriplicinae, particularly a species of Rhagodia, with small fleecy leaves and spinescent branches, forming a depressed horizontal spreading brush. The whole is overrun with the beautiful Clematis occidentalis, with pinnated ternate leaves, which are lanceolate and entire. I gathered seeds of a Pimelia, with some others and a few duplicates, particularly of Isler decurrens [= Olearia decurrens] and a herbaceous species with reddish purple flowers. The thorny aculeated grass abounding in the Euryaleanscrub is frequent here.
Arriving at an extensive tract of burnt grass we traced it to the foot of Peel’s Range, near which we gave chase to a flock of about 20 emus. The dogs killed one in the thick brush, but it could not be found. Following the range about 1½ miles we halted and pitched our tent beneath the shade of the Pentandrous tree of the Rutaceae. I accompanied Mr. Oxley to the summit of’ the range. He is very anxious to lead us to more elevated country clear of this sterile brushwood. Mount Brown and Good’s Peak bore N.E. distant 1½ miles. Upon another part of Peel’s Range, divided from that on which we stood, lay a narrow deep valley. Fraser crossed this valley and ascended the western side of Good’s Peak, which with Mount Brown and the whole of the range is exceedingly rocky and barren. The plants found on Good’s Peak are a species of Cacalia, and an Eriostemon. Our day’s journey is 10¼ miles.
We could only find water in the holes of the gullies sufficient to serve all and each of us one quart, but unfortunately none for our horses. The eastern side of the Peak has been lately burnt by natives, whose fires we could distinctly see at the base of a hill a few miles to the eastward of us. We sent back a horse and man in search of the emu which the dogs had killed this morning. In about an hour he returned to us with a fine large bird standing 8 feet high, which was distributed equally among ourselves and dogs. No variation in the timber which is very much stunted.
[p238] 21st. Saturday. As our horses could not be supplied with water at this station we were the more anxious to leave it at an early hour, proposing to stop at the first spot where we might naturally conclude from appearance it might be found by diligent search. Passing the burnt flats under Peel’s Range, we came to an elevated open but burnt country full of gullies and water-courses, now dry, on which I observed the following plants. Helichrysum, two new species, one a beautiful white flowered herbaceous plant. Erodium sp., scarcely different from E. cicutarium. Solanum sp., a very narrow lanceolate-leaved species, crowded with prickles, in fruit. Solanum, sp., allied to S. lanceolatum, but without prickles. Nicotiana undulata [= N. suaveolens] is very frequent on these flats, the lower leaves of which our people gathered, and when dried found them not a bad substitute for its congener N. tabacum, although not so strong a narcotic. A Senecio is likewise very common, together with a species of Goodenia, whose leaves are oblong-lanceolate, and serrated; flowers yellow.
The country again becomes bushy, presenting us with the same plants as have been observed yesterday. Passing a mount that has been fired on our left hand, and another equally rugged and sterile on our right, we continued over a flat of burnt grass and scrubby spots alternately, until we arrived at a lofty mount about 5½ miles from our last night’s halting place. We here stopped, and sent out the whole of our people round the mount in search of water, which was found near its summit on the eastern side. It is very rocky and barren, and has been named by Mr. Oxley Barron’s Hill, in honour of Barron Field, Esq., judge of the Supreme Court in this Colony. [Oxley calls this hill Barrow’s Hill.] From it he took several bearings. Mount Bowen, so named in honour of Bowen Esqre., of the Navy Board, which forms a part of Goulburn’s Range, bore northerly about 7 miles. We could perceive considerable bodies of smoke ascending from the small timber, indicating natives being there.
A most romantic rugged bare range runs south and north. Mr. Oxley has called it Macquarie Range, in honour of His Excellency the Governor. A lofty hill, distant about 1½ miles west, has been named Mount Flinders by Mr. Oxley, to perpetuate the memory of the Australian circumnavigator,[p239] whose name it bears. Barron’s Hill is composed of quartz, pudding stone, and indurated sandstone. We were obliged to drive our horses up the sides of this hill in order to water them, which we did by serving it out to them in vessels.[*]
[* Oxley wrote in his journal on this day that the land he now passed through was uninhabitable for civilized man, but he afterwards came upon the rich country watered by the Lower Lachlan, his farthest point being, 33°57’7″ S., long 144°31’15” E. E.]
MOUNT FLINDERS AND BACK TO THE
LACHLAN RIVER, 22 JUNE–11 JULY, 1817
22nd. Sunday. We rested ourselves and horses at this Mount the whole of this day, which gave me an opportunity of attending to my specimens which I had found in consequence of the late humidity of the atmosphere dried very little. The day appearing to brighten up about midday, I determined to visit Mount Flinders which bore from our tent west-northerly about two miles. On my way to the east point I had to pass through a confined arid brush-wood, where I discovered the following plants.
Cassia sp., leaves simple, linear-lanceolate; the flowers axillary in pairs, Cassia sp., specimens and seeds. Rhagodia sp. The Psychotria, first observed on Mount Cunningham forms in the bush some fine strong young trees, in fruit, but all abortive. It is a singular circumstance that Pimelea linearifolia [= P. micracephala] is uniformly found under the shade of a Pentandrous tree of the order Rutaceae in company with some of the Atriplicinae; I observed it in the bush in such situations. Acacia pulverulenta is frequent in fine flower. The space between the outskirts of the brush to the foot of the mount is open and covered with several syngenesious plants (Compositae) and Nicotiana undulata.
Ascending the mount on the eastern side, which is very rugged, I found the whole of this part to its summit and the southern side had been recently fired by the natives, consequently it afforded me nothing, the whole being burnt to the ground. Descending the northern and western declivities which are covered with quartz and beautifully overrun with the showy Tecoma Oxleyi, I distinguished a few new plants; among others less rare and previously observed:[p240] Croton sp. a shrub 3-5 ft. high, which appears to be the same as Labillardière’s C. viscosus, which was discovered on the south coast of this continent. Like that species my plant was viscid, and had triquitrous branches and incrassated peduncles. It is diaecious. I invariably found the male and female on separate trees. Cassia sp., leaves pinnated, with 3-4 pairs of linear leaflets; flowers axillary; a greyish shrub common with preceding. Acacia doratoxylon, Stenochilis longifolius, Aster cuneatus [= Olearia stellulata) and the Tetrandrous Australian nut are very common with the preceding on the brow of these hills, with the shrubby slender Leucaena and Dodonaea. I procured a few more seeds of the Tecoma.
The gullies leading from Mount Flinders were very dry. The great bodies of water evidently are absorbed in the red sandy flats at its base. The lat. and long. of this mount are lat. 33°26’30” S., long. 146°20′ E., and the variation of compass 7°45′ E.
The country to the westward is an extensive flat, with a few small hummocky hills scattered on its surface, having ranges at the extremity of horizon. Finding the afternoon well advanced, I went round the south side of the Mount and bore easterly for our tent. I gathered specimens on the grassy flats of a small-flowered glutinous Gnaphalium. About 6 o’clock I reached our encampment. Fraser, who had been to Mount Bowen, returned at about the same period and brought me a new Eriostemon, with linear tuberculated leaves and white flowers. The Pancratium macquaria [= Calostemma purpureum] so prevalent on inundated flats is found on the summits of this range in a very rich decayed vegetable soil. Also Sterculia heterophylla and Acacia doratoxylon.
23rd. Monday. We again watered our horses from the rocky excavation on the Mount [Barrow], reserving some for our keg and bottles, previous to breaking up our encampment and departing from the hill. About 10 o’clock we pursued our route northerly, with the faintest hopes of falling in with any water for our horses in the low tract of flat country before us. Passing a sterile brush for the first 4½ miles, we entered upon an extensive clear plain free from timber trees or shrubs, and as we advance there is an obvious change of soil, being much darker than the dry hard deserts behind us, and of a clayey[p241] and binding nature, retaining the rain water on its surface. At length the same description of vegetables so common on Field’s Plains, on the Lachlan River, began to appear, inducing us to form many conjectures as to the probable country to which this sudden and remarkable change might lead us. Our dogs got on the scent of game, and it was not long before they ran down two kangaroos and an emu. The plains are skirted by a species of Eucalyptus, which takes the place of Acacia Pendula, so abundant on Field’s Plains. The northern extremity of Peel’s Range, of which Mount Brown forms a part, presents from a retrospect view a noble bluff point, which Mr. Oxley has called Dryander’s Head, in honour of the late Jonas Dryander Esqre., of Soho Square, London. The northern termination of Macquarie Range runs out into a singular headland, entitled by Mr. Oxley Cape Porteous, after his friend Captain Porteous, of the Royal Navy, and late of the Porpoise Storeship. Having crossed the plains we observed some swans flying over our heads, a circumstance, when considered with the extraordinary change of country, which induced us to conclude we could not be far from bodies of water. We immediately came to a lagoon of water, which we traced up a short distance to its connection with a river or stream about 20 feet wide and of moderate depth, running generally westerly and at the rate of 2½ knots per hour. This singular and surprising circumstance gave rise to many conjectures what this stream is, whether the Lachlan or Macquarie or distinct from either.[*] When we left the N.W. branch of the Lachlan River on the 18th ultimo, there was a considerable and increasing fresh or flood, the water rising to the level of the banks and beginning to disperse its waters on the flat country, now N.E. of us. Had it found an outlet this increased body of water must have gone with it through all its windings to this spot where we have intersected it. It appears, however, very evident that there has not been any flood for a considerable time, from the circumstance of holes containing white clayey water appearing in the creek that runs from the river to the lagoon, and through which it is supplied by the river. Mr. Oxley observed that it might be the Macquarie, which was likewise the opinion of Mr. Evans. If it is the Lachlan, the two arms join again in the swamp and form an outlet running through[p242] all its windings not less than 100 miles to this remarkable spot, which is about 8¼ miles N. of Barron’s Hill of our late encampment.
[* Oxley had now reached the Lachlan again.]
The banks of this river are high and clothed with the Eucalyptus or Blue Gum of very large size, and the whole of the plants are duplicates of those I have seen on the Lachlan River. The flats had signs of inundation. We encamped on the bank and turned our horses out to feed on its rich herbage, among which I discovered a species of Senecio remarkable for its short calyx being half the length of the florets. I gathered seeds of Aster decurrens [= Olearia decurrens], and duplicates of a species of Cassia, and specimens of Dodonaea heterophylla. The Eucalyptus skirting the plains is about 20 ft. high; branches slender and drooping, and has much the habit of Acacia Pendula. The plains have been called by Mr. Oxley, Strangford’s Plains, in honour of Lord Viscount Strangford, our late minister to the Court of Brazil. They produce a species of Anthericum with a fasciculated root and a fistular leaf, and a pigmy species of Sowerbaea.
Our people by way of experiment threw some baited hooks into the river, and they caught five fine fish of the same kind of perch as that of the Lachlan River, enough for the whole of us. Among the high grass we found a bark canoe, and Mr. Oxley, who was the first of our party that arrived at the bank, observed a native man running off down the river. The day continued fine, and the travelling, when we arrived on the plains, was tolerably good. Mr. Oxley intends to trace this small river for three miles, as far as our provisions will allow us to advance westerly. Trusting, from general appearances, we shall be able to arrive at its termination or learn something more respecting it that will enable us to clear up the doubt at present existing.
MOUNT PORTEOUS. OXLEY EXPLORES THE LOWER LACHLAN
June 24th, 1817. Tuesday. Relieved from the dreadful uncertainty of finding water, which has of late harassed us, we commenced a new course this morning on the bank of the rivulet. We found, however, it much better to leave this[p243] stream and take the margin of the plain in order to make a true westerly course. The plains are uninteresting in this day’s journey, the soil is a stiff clay, sufficiently retentive to hold rain water upon its surface, rendering the travelling fatiguing. The gullies, of which we passed several in this day’s route, all have their inclination from the river, and were dry, showing evidently that the lagoons with which they are connected derive their supplies from the river’s inundation through those channels, all tending to establish the hypothesis that this river is not the Lachlan. Our courses were variable, at first S. and S. by E., in order to clear the low swampy lands, and lagoons, and afterwards S.W. and westerly, when having cleared 11½ miles we struck in for the river and halted on its banks. It appears at this spot wider, being about 25 feet, having a current running half a knot per hour. I observed its channel frequently choked up with fallen timber, so that if we had had the boats it would have been almost impossible to have formed a passage for them. I observed marks (scarcely a day old) made by natives on the Eucalypti, of which E. Pendula, allied to E. paniculata of Dr. Smith is frequent. The plants of the plains are an Erodium, before observed; Pancratium Macquaria [= Calostemma purpureum]; Sowerbaea juncea, and two species of Mesembryanthemum, fine in flower; one M. aequilaterale, so frequent in arid sands about Port Jackson, and well known by the colonists under the strange title of “Pig’s face”; the other species is of much smaller habit. and appears to differ from glaucescens and nigrescens, to which it is very closely allied. In some bushy barren spots, I gathered seeds of Cassia lineata, and some duplicates of Pittosporum lanceolatum and Stenochilus longifolius. In order to take bearings and observe the appearance of the country westerly, Mr. Oxley, Fraser and myself proposed to walk to the northern extremity of Macquarie Range, which has been as before stated, called Cape Porteous, distant from our tent about 8 miles westerly. In passing through a wood skirting the plains we came to a native encampment of many bark huts of recent erection. Of the many hypotheses formed upon matters connected with this expedition, the use to which the natives appropriate the oblong square pieces of bark (cut from the stem of the Blue Gum and so frequently observed on the river) is one. There were two of[p244] these “Barks” at this Australian Camp, perforated with holes in lines after the following manner.
Fraser who had seen similar pieces of bark round the native fires under Mount Bowen on the 22nd inst., found them with little wooden pegs in the holes. Those found at this place had none. Mr. Oxley is of the opinion that they might be conversation cards, by which one division of a tribe is enabled to give information to another party coming after them, the course they are pursuing or any other matters that they may deem necessary. Their different ideas may be expressed by a transposition of the pegs understood by each party? These cards when perused by the succeeding troop of natives are destroyed and the pegs taken out which we observed in one of the pieces that had been broken.
Passing round a lagoon of considerable magnitude at its head near the river, where it was dry and muddy, we came to the edge of the plain, and took a bearing of the highest point of the cape. In not less than an hour we arrived at its base, which is composed of shelving rocks overlapping each other, over which we had to climb in order to gain the summit of the lower range. This was the only part of the mount I was able to examine. It was interesting, although productive of nothing new or not before observed. Correa speciosa, enjoying the shade of the overhanging rocks, now very luxuriant, so much so that I was induced to furnish myself with better specimens than I was in possession of–gathered at Mount Aiton. Anthocercis albicans, rich in flower. Croton viscosus in flower and fruit. Acacia doratoxylon advancing to flower. Grevillea sphacelata, Scaevola spinescens and Dodonaea heterophylla are all abundant. We had underrated the distance of this mount from our tent, and the[p245] afternoon being far advanced before we could reach it, prevented us from descending to its extreme elevation. Mr. Oxley having made his observations, proposed to return by the same route to the tent. On our way I gathered the following new plants:–I discovered a new Amaryllis, it was in its winter habit, a few decayed leaves above ground enabled me to trace its roots below the surface which are very large. It appears to be a white flowering species and the corolla is about the size and figure of that of Conostylis aemula which I ascertained from the remains of a flowering stern. Fearful of being benighted in these wastes, I was only able to procure 6 large roots. I gathered specimens of a new and remarkable Acacia, whose long narrow leaves have induced me to propose the trivial name of stenophylla. Also of another species of Acacia, a small tree 20 ft. high, with long lanceolate leaves, slender pendulous branches, and axillary heads of flowers. Acacia acicularis, A. calamifolia, and A. pulverulenta are common in the brush. Our dogs killed a little animal of the kangaroo family, with a long tail, singular for its flat hairy formation at the point. A native dog was killed, which had approached too near our tent. I discovered on the slimy plains a new species of the triandrous genus Arthrotriche with a dense pyramidal head of flowers. We did not return to our encampment on the river before 7 o’clock p.m.
25th. Wednesday. We had passed the night in a swamp. Upon resuming our journey down this river we steered a course south of west, in order to head the lagoon seen yesterday and to avoid bogging our horses by attempting to pass it on the river’s bank. Passing the Cape Point we travelled northerly over a considerable tract of descending flats, on which I discovered a new species of Cryptandra, having the largest corolla, which like its congeners is white, and the greatest profusion of flowers of the whole of the species I have seen. We discovered a few more of the new Amaryllis near the northern extremity of Macquarie Range. The scrubby parts consist of the new Bossiaea, Scoevola spinescens Anadema sp., with some others, common in such situations. Passing a brush of seedling Cypress (Callitris), a considerable flat opened to the view, which Mr. Oxley named Smith’s Plains in honour of Sir James Edward Smith Kt., botanist and physician and author of several most valuable works,[p246] as well on the botany of Australia as of countries less remote. On these plains is a plant allied to Bellis, perhaps a Cotula, with an elongated cuneate leaf and stipitate seeds. I gathered specimens of a Bellis with a solitary flower on a long naked stem. Penetrating through another brushy tract at the extreme of the plain we made the river, but our people and horses, who had continued northerly, had halted one mile above us on the bank. Mr. Oxley, Fraser and myself returned to them.
In the circuitous route we had travelled to-day we had made upwards of 11 miles, which on a true west course is about 9½. The twining shrub frequently observed proves to be an Asclepias. I detected it with a pod or follicle upon it. The river has much the same appearance in point of width, and is tolerably clear of dead timber, but subject to many abrupt windings, and the banks in places are high. Acacia sp., and A. stenophyllaare very strong on the immediate banks of the rivulet, the herbage of which is the same as on the Lachlan River. The timber is the Bastard Box or Eucalyptus micrantha, Eucalyptus allied to E. paniculata, with pendulous branches, and Callitris glauca. The rivulet has a course considerably to the northward of west since our last encampment. A little Euphorbia covers the ground where it has been inundated.
26th. Thursday. Being desirous to continue our journey this day as much on a westerly course as the nature of the country would admit, we left our resting place and entered a dense brushy scrub, abounding with the same description of plants as I have frequently observed. I gathered 5 specimens of Eriostemon rotundifolius, forming a round dense bush. I likewise gathered seeds of Stenochilus ochroleucus and its congener S. longifolius. Several species of Rhagodia appear among others in this scrub. The Bastard Box is frequently much encumbered with the twining adhering Loranthus aurantiacus which
“Scorning the soil, aloft she springs
Shakes her red plumes and claps her golden wings.”
Having passed the brush, we travelled over large clear plains, which are boggy and fatiguing for our pack horses. They are skirted by Acacia Pendula and dwarf eucalypti and the herbage is chiefly the Erodium and some new syngenesious[p247] plants already observed. Continuing our route about 9 miles, having passed several short brushy spots and small open grassy plains alternately, we approached close upon the banks of the river and halted for the day. The last mile of our journey is through a thick grassy open swamp, where I gathered a species of Artemisia. The river now presents to us another appearance. The banks are not so high, the timber is more diminutive, and the land or flats on each side bears clear marks of inundation, although not recent. This, considered with the current being scarcely perceptible, induces us to conclude that we are fast approaching to its termination. A species of Satureia grows strong in the swamps, which our people gathered and made use of as tea. A species. of Senecio is very common.
27th. Friday. In order to rest our horses we remained the whole of the day at our present encampment. By observation taken by Mr. Oxley, the site of our tent is in lat. 33°32′ S., and long. 145°56′ E., and the variation of the compass 7°20’00’ E. Our huntsman, who had been in pursuit of game about 3 miles down the river, returned and reported the extreme swampiness of the land on each side, rendering it impossible to continue on its banks in our advancement south westerly. The fishermen were unable to secure any fish, the weather being too cold. Great abundance of black swans, native companions, (Grus australasiana) wild ducks etc., are on the lagoons. One of our party shot a pair of ducks; the bronze of their wings is exceedingly beautiful.
1817 June 28th. Saturday. In consequence of the unfavourable report of our people respecting the inundated country before us, Mr. Oxley rode on horseback on the immediate bank of the river about 7 miles, until he was unable to advance, by a creek running from the river to lagoons in the background. Mr. Evans, who led the way for our horses, kept well out southerly from the river in order to head the swamps and lagoons, among which it is impossible to travel. On the boggy lands I gathered specimens of seeds of a Teucrium. Salsola sp., leaves round and fleshy; capsule hoary. Sida sp., with very narrow lanceolate leaves and axillary small flowers, forming a small branching shrub. Polygonum junceum [= Muehlenbeckia Cunninghami] overruns all other plants in these gloomy swamps. The passing eye rests with pleasure on a a beautiful tree of the Bignoniaceae, frequent in[p248] the solitary shades of a brushwood surrounding these bogs, From these sterile spots we continued our route northerly, in order to make the river, but we only entangled ourselves in swamps; and Mr. Evans found after penetrating 7½ miles that it was impossible to proceed near the river’s bank. The whole country south and south-west being under water for at least 3 feet, we were obliged to return to the brush, where we halted and pitched the tent near a very extensive inundated tract of Blue Gums in several feet of water, above the level of which we observed on the timber marks of floods 2½ and 3 feet higher. The natives had cut out several conversation cards or barks from these trees, which doubtless they find are more easily extracted from the Blue Gums in water than any other species of Eucalyptus on dry spots. This immense sheet of water, which shines through the trees westerly as far as the eye can see, has great numbers of swan and all other kinds of waterfowl upon it. Those most invaluable, faithful animals and bush companions, our dogs, caught a fine large emu, which was equally divided among them and us. The plants on the margin of the lake are the same as we observed near Farewell Hills, viz: Mimulus sp., Lythrum sp., allied to L. hyssopifolia, and a little Adiantum. The plains we travelled over to-day have been called Harrington Plains in honour of Lord Harrington. We did not make above 4 miles on a true west course.
1817 June 29th. Saturday. We continued our journey on a true westerly course, determining, if possible, to make the river, but we are rather inclined to suspect that we are not far from the spot where the river ceases altogether, or where from the depression of the country, its banks being too low to contain it, a general inundation commences. Having crossed a grassy woody swamp, with occasional scrubby spots, we arrived at a large expanse of open country, a continuance of Harrington Plains.
Crossing this flat we came to the banks of the river, which are much higher than could have been reasonably expected. The channel is in some places very shoaly and narrow and blocked up with drifted decayed timber. Its inclination being considerably southerly of west we changed our course and crossed the plains in that direction. The loose hollow nature of these plains was very heavy for our horses, and in some measure fatiguing for ourselves. The animals[p249] frequently sunk under their loads up to their knees in its poor sour soil which produces a plant of the genus Galium, and a new plant[*] of the same order as Brunonia with remarkable undulated leaves. I likewise gathered specimens of a species of Xerotes (aspen). The scrub afforded me a new Acacia, with linear, round and sulcated leaves, in pod. We had advanced about 11 miles, when Mr. Oxley proposed to halt in a dry situation about 2 o’clock.
[* Cunningham named it Arthrotriche. He first saw it on Field’s Plains, but it has no connexion with the plant of that name described by Mueller, and seen during Gregory’s expedition of 1861.]
We now see the fallacy of forming any ideas respecting this stream; all our conjections of yesterday are overthrown by observations of this day. We have (by a little perseverance) passed the swamps that obliged us to turn back yesterday, and have now before us to all appearance a considerable journey if we are determined to see the termination of this stream. The bank on which we encamped is very high, and of a red sandy marl, and the soil of the flats very rich, being the depositions of floods, and producing an abundance of a species of Anthericum before noticed. The opposite bank, which is lower, has been lately flooded, and the whole country inundated at no very distant period. I gathered seeds of an Aster, an herbaceous plant with blue radiated flowers, and an Achyranthes from the swamps. Some plains on the right (north) side of the river we termed Holdsworthy’s Plains. Those unwearied purveyors, our dogs, provided for us two of the largest emu we have ever seen on the expedition, standing at least 8 feet high. We are not likely to starve, although our flour and pork ration is exceedingly scanty. Our fisherman caught only one small fish Of 3½-4 lbs. weight.
1817 June 30th. Monday. Advancing over the plain westerly, on the edge of which we had encamped last night, we continued that course about 7 miles; bushy country affording me nothing interesting; the plants being the same as those of which so very frequent mention has been made. We made the angle of a large lagoon of considerable depth, thickly clothed with trees that had marks of inundation about 4 feet above the present level of its waters, and a few inches above the general flatness of the plain. I here gathered specimens of a species of Eucalyptus having a submucronated hemispherical operculum, and flowers of two colours, red and white, in terminal[p250] panicles, a tree about 30 feet high. I observed a little cryptogamous plant, called Azolla pinnata, floating on the surface of these waters in considerable abundance. Near our 8th mile Harrington Plains are in some measure terminated by a few scattered trees of Eucalypti stretching themselves across to the opposite brush in an irregular manner. Its continuance, open and extensive, evidently descending at its south western extremity, from the circumstance of our being able to distinguish the heads of trees and not their stems. Mr. Oxley has called them Molle’s Plains, in honour of the late Lieut.-Governor, Colonel Molle. Passing through a small tract of the burnt scrub called Polygonum junceum [= Muehlenbeckia Cunninghami] we continued our journey about a mile and a half, when we considered that our horses, which were far behind, would scarcely be able to come up with us, in consequence of the bogginess and decayed nature of these plains. We passed through a thick brush of the rushy Polygonum and came upon the bank of the river, intending to halt for the night. On these plains I gathered seeds and specimens of a shrub with fleecy, sulcate crowded leaves. These leaves are like the succulent Salsola. Also another shrub entirely clothed with wool, having an echinated nut, many seeded. I observed a singular grass, dead, with long beards [stigmas] as in Zea; and the little recumbent Zygophyllum, which is sometimes very common, and in some instances appears to differ in habit, which may be caused by the shade or being smaller in all its parts, or which may be effected by increased sterility. The appearance of these plains is that of a gloomy desert with stunted trees and dry wiry tufts of grass. But if anything tends to enliven the scene or relieve the eye it is the bright golden flowers of a Senecio, with pinnately laciniated leaves. I gathered seeds of a shrub of Anredera sp., producing a bladdered capsule, 2-winged, containing a single seed in the centre. The river is as broad as ever! With little alteration, current slow, but the banks appear not so high as where we left it in the morning, and are muddy. We started two native dogs on the plains before us. We observed the marks of the natives on the trees, and the old impressions of their feet on the soft clayey soil. We likewise passed an old native bark hut. The general inclination of the river is south-westerly. Its banks are furnished with tolerable Blue Gums and Acacia stenophylla.[p251] One of our party caught a species of lizard on the plains, having on the back very rough scales, which are not imbricated but distinct from each other. It has no tail. Its body being terminated in a wedge-shaped stump.
1817 July 1st. Tuesday. In consequence of the heavy bad country we passed over yesterday we considered it advisable to rest the horses the whole of this day. By observation it appears our lat: is 33°32’22” S., and long. 145°38’30” E., and the variation of the compass is 6°49’00” E. The river at our encampment is 20 ft. wide, and upon sounding, we found 6 ft. to be the greatest depth. Our people caught a few fish 2 or 3 lbs. in weight.
1817 July 2nd. Wednesday. The native dogs, which were howling around us during the night, kept ours upon the lookout. A small hailstorm, seconded by a shower of rain, detained us a few moments. At 10 o’clock our baggage-horses and ourselves left the banks of the river and proceeded in a south-westerly direction over the plains, which are not much softened by the morning showers. I gathered duplicate seeds of Lobelia sp.(closely allied to L. purpurascens), from the swamps; in which humid situations Haloragis tetragyna accompanies a species of Achyranthus, with whorls of flowers. At 10 miles on a south-westerly course we struck in for the river, at which we arrived in 4 miles and halted, the horses considerably behind us. The river here is very shallow and muddy, not exceeding 3 feet; the banks are low, and the current runs about half a knot per hour, the water of which is turbid and of a fetid scent. The Blue Gums we daily observe do not appear upon the plains and are only to be seen on the immediate banks of the river, which they clothe pretty thickly, forming large heads and bulky timber, but, like many of its congeners, hollow. It may not be altogether amiss to mention here that the tubular stems of several species of Eucalyptus on the eastern coast, when well selected, have proved tolerable good conductors of water and have been turned to good account in draining land. The plains now appear very extensive and of considerable width, and of such continuance to the southward and westward as to be lost in the horizon, forming one continued dead flat.
3rd. Thursday. We were enveloped in a very thick fog, by which we were unavoidably detained until the mist had in[p252] some measure evaporated. Leaving the river about noon we advanced on a course southerly of S.W. over the plains, which are an immense expanse of flat open country. They are exceedingly barren and naked for the first 8 miles. About 3 o’clock p.m. we altered our course, steering westerly in order to make the river, but we were much deceived in its distance from us. On this course we saw Stenochilus longifolius, Acacia Pendula, Rhagodiae and some Salsolae miserably stunted.
Arriving at the angle of a wood near an old native encampment we halted at sunset, having travelled 11¼ miles, about 11 miles southward of the river, where we found plenty of water in a lagoon abounding with wild fowl. We noticed very recent impressions of the feet of some natives, one of them was very small, and might have been that of a woman. We were induced to hope that, from the very recent marks of the feet of emu upon the clayey soil, our dogs would have been able to secure one or two of these birds, which would have very materially benefited the whole of us, the ration that could only be allowed us being by no means sufficient to satisfy the keen appetites augmented by hard corporeal exercise. We shot a brace of pigeons of a new species, wings brown, with pinion feathers white, slightly bronzed, and green breast, slate colour; and they are rendered more handsome by reason of the small tuft or topknot of feathers on their heads. Some other strange birds were observed (supposed to be Parrots), about the size and flight of a pigeon, with beautiful red breasts; they were noticed to fly generally in pairs to and from the northward.
1817 July 4th. Friday. The birds observed last night, and which I suspected to be of the parrot kind, flying to the northward, returned this morning, flying in flocks to the southward. They are of a light ash colour on the back and wings, and have rich pink breasts and heads.[*] Resuming our route westerly about 2 miles we came to extensive low swamps and inundated woods of Blue Gum, on the margin of which were several native huts, built rather stronger than usual, evidently in the wet season, and having a loose thatch of red grass. Upon entering these abandoned Aboriginean houses,[p253] I found several conversation cards or barks perforated as before described, some fish, a snake bone and some mussel shells. Obliged to change our course, we passed about 6 miles southerly of west, until we were stopped in our progress by a small creek running from the swamps or wooded lagoons. Finding it impossible for our horses to pass it at this spot we struck south, over a flat covered with high grass and herbage and full of clear water-holes, in order to pass round this boggy creek, which we accomplished in a circuitous route of 3 miles. Continuing to the angle of a wood or line of gum trees, we stopped for the day, having travelled 14 miles. The plains are very heavy and boggy, and not so bare as we have observed them in other parts, but afford few new plants, the majority being duplicates of what we have already seen. The following plants, however, appear new:–Gnaphalium sp., allied to G. apiculatum. Dalea sp., with terminal blue flowers. Helichrysum polygalifolium, nova sp. Aster sp., 4 flowers, rays many, white. I observed the remains of a plant of an Orobanche in capsule (the whole of the root was dead), sparingly on the flats, in the waterholes of which Polamogeton natans and Polygonum junceum [= Muehlenbeckia Cunninghami] abound. Mr. Oxley, who had rode on before us, descried a pair of emus, male and female, with several young ones. Our dogs gave chase and, after a good run, secured the male, and our people ran down 6 of their young, which made us an excellent dinner. At the southern extremity of the plains a body of water was standing, of considerable length and about a quarter of a mile wide. We were all of us more or less seized with dysenteric affections, the natural consequence of living among swamps.
[* Rose-breasted cockatoos (Galahs): —The Galah comes in from sunrise for about two hours, same in the evening for about two hours of sunset . . . they fly right into water, settle round . . . and drink and then break up into flocks and fly away to feeding or roosting grounds. “–Campbell’s “Nests and Eggs of Australian Birds.”]
1817 July 5th. Saturday. Our two men who were employed as huntsmen were sent forward in search of game for us. Resolving to make the river this afternoon if possible, we departed from our encampment in a westerly direction for about 7½ miles, stretching from point to point of the woods formed by the northerly bights or bends of the river. Making for a point which we found to be the river, having a current scarcely perceptible, its banks very low, not exceeding 8 feet and appearing very shallow. Tracing its left bank down to a dry spot, we halted and pitched our tent. Our journey is about 10 miles. About 200 yards below us two islands are formed in the channel of the river, which are covered with[p254] the Eucalyptus called the Blue Gum and Acacia stenophylla. We could clearly distinguish through the spaces between the trees plains of great extent on the opposite side of the river. The plains are again naked in many places and the soil dry and hard. A Lavatera, much allied to L. arborea, afforded me duplicate seeds. Clitoria sp., and another, leaflets elongated, blunt and silky, with a spike of flowers. Sida sp., a low depressed shrub, and Galium sp. At 2 miles on our day’s journey we crossed the parallel of latitude of Port Jackson southerly. In order to make the most of the dry provisions we now have in casks we were obliged to reduce the ration, particularly the flour, to 2 quarts or 3 lbs. per week per man, in order to enable us to return home to Bathurst which we calculated upon reaching the last day of August. We had, as before stated, suffered a very severe loss in our flour, and our people all saw the necessity of this reduction. Mr. Oxley likewise stated to them that in all human probability (there was a moral certainty of it) we should be relieved from this privation in two or three weeks–from the time we turn our faces eastward–by arriving at a more hilly country, which would afford us game of all kinds, and that should we continue on the river banks we should find a resource in the fish, which are large and abundant in the deeper waters.
1817 July 6th. Sunday. Considering the small quantity of provisions we are now in possession of, the great distance we are from any resource, being about 350 or 370 miles south-westerly of Bathurst, and the rivulet still continuing to run westerly although very slow, Mr. Oxley has resolved to halt at this spot the whole of this week, during which period our horses would recruit their strength, and their backs, which are much galled, should be attended to in order to heal them. And considering he would act up more fully to the spirit and tenor of the instructions he has received to continue the journey westward on horseback. Naturally concluding that the river would terminate and totally cease to run, being spent in low lands in the course of a distance of 70 miles westerly (which he calculating upon advancing in 3 days), or that it ended in an open lake, he was the more desirous of continuing his route westerly for 3 days if possible, because that distance would enable him to cross the parallel of latitude and the meridian of longitude of a part of the country the[p255] coast of which has been but very imperfectly surveyed, and hence has given rise to the possibility of the embouchure of a river or rivers there. Mr. Oxley therefore prepared himself to leave us for a week, taking with him two of the party, with bedding and provisions for that period, intending to leave us to-morrow morning. A serviceable packhorse which had been badly strained in the loins was reported to us to have died in the course of the last night, reducing our number to 11, this being the third horse that has died in the course of the expedition, and from singular causes.
1817 July 7th. Monday. This morning Mr. Oxley left our encampment on his journey westerly, accompanied by Fraser, Burns and Simpson, with provisions for six days, and trusting they will be able to clear 25 miles per day for three days, at the end of which, should the stream still continue to run westerly, they hope to reach some hills or rising grounds from which they could make observations as to the nature of the country S.W. and N.W. of them. In their absence our people will be employed in mending the pack-harness, attending to our sick horses and preparing for our return home early next week. Economy and necessity had taught us to turn every accident to some account. The flesh of our deceased horse afforded our faithful but famishing dogs some tolerable meals, and the skin furnished our people with materials for mocassins or shoes, which they divided equally with mathematical niceness. I employed myself in repapering and drying my specimens. I likewise overhauled that description of baggage which belonged to me, rendering more compact and repairing my saddlebags, which had suffered much by friction through a difficult country.
About 2 o’clock in the afternoon, Mr. Oxley and those that accompanied him returned to our encampment, having advanced about 9 miles on the immediate bank of the rivulet until they were obliged to desist from proceeding further, the horses being bogged up to their girths, endangering the lives of their riders and themselves.[*] About 4 miles from our tent they observed two arms or branches running from the rivulet in a northerly direction. Onward the current is[p256] scarcely perceptible, and the water is muddy and discoloured. At the termination of their journey the banks do not exceed 3½ feet in height, its channel very narrow and choked up by miserable Blue Gums growing in it with Arundo phragmites, when its current ceases and the water is stagnant. On the small shrubs of Eucalyptus, which are remarkably strong and mossy, indicative of the perpetual humidity, the highest water marks do not exceed 4½ feet. The only plants observed at this “Ne plus ultra” of our expedition are the Blue Gums, Acacia stenophylla, Polygonum junceum [= Muehlenbeckia Cunninghami], and a long reed grass all on the muddy banks or in its channel. Its extreme termination was probably not above 10 miles farther on[**]–19 miles from our tent–which Mr. Oxley doubts not he would have verified had it been possible for him to have continued on the banks, which being the highest part was the best travelling. We proposed to continue at our present encampment until Thursday morning, and then commence our route easterly home. Our people shot several of the new pigeons.
[* The above will show that Oxley’s farthest West was nine miles beyond his encampment. Mitchell, whilst exploring the Lachlan, came there on May 5, 1832, and surmised that this part was under water at the time of Oxley’s visit. He saw a tree there marked on each side which the natives informed him had been “marked by Oxley at the farthest place he reached.”]
[** The Lachlan after passing through the marsh joins the Murrumbidgee in 34½° S. and 143½° E., the latter river, then turning on a south-westerly course unites with the Murray and falls into the sea in 35½° S. and 139° E.]
1817 July 8th. Tuesday. By way of experiment and as a proof of the immense expanse of clear flat country, Mr. Oxley took his amplitude of the sun at its rising, an observation that has never been taken before in the interior of Western Australia, and it may be the first observed in any country, for want of an horizon, which is this morning very clear and cloudless. By further observations taken this day the site of our present encampment is as follows. Mean altitude 33°53’19” S., computed longitude 145°07’15” E., or the same free from errors of chart 144°39’30” E., mean var. of compass 7°25′ E. The place where the stream ceased to have motion is in lat. 33°57’30” S., computed long. 144°59’0″ E., and freed from errors of chart 144°31’15” E., the hill, an eminence in a S.W. direction, terminating in lat. 34°22’12” S. and long. 144° E., that being the calculated extent of our visible clear horizon. I gathered some seeds of a plant with globular heads of flowers and agreeing with Richea in the number of its plumose pappi. I dug up some fine roots of a species of Anthericum before observed, which is very abundant with the Pancratium Macquaria [= Calostemma purpureum]. I sowed several [p257] peach stones and quince seeds near this last south-westerly encampment.
We wrote a paper stating the latitude and longitude of the spot, the object of the expedition, with names of those who comprised it, and observed that it was our intention to return to Bathurst in a northern circuitous route, in hopes of intersecting the Macquarie River. This paper was carefully enveloped in a sheet of brown paper, put into a dry wine bottle, corked, sealed over, and its neck covered strongly with leather, intending in the morning to bury it beneath a species of Eucalyptus bicolor near our tent.
1817 July 9th. Wednesday. We buried the bottle, which we had closed the last evening, beneath the shade of a moderate sized Eucalyptus, engraving on the solid timber “DIG UNDER,” information that could not well be expressed by less letters.[*] The whole of us left this spot this morning in good spirits and intend to retrace our footsteps to the place where we discovered the river on the 23rd ultimo. At 2 o’clock we arrived at our last stage, where we stopped for the night. I gathered a few specimens:-another species of Sowerbaea, or a variety of the species discovered on Strangford’s Plains. The petals are generally sulphur-coloured with purple stripes. Lotus sp., a slender herbaceous plant. Helichrysum, a new sp., with terminal white solitary flowers. Also specimen of a shrub with linear leaves; the whole plant is woolly, different from others of the same habit, discovered on these plains. Also a Callitris and some grasses. I observed a species of Plantago, scarcely differing from the species found on the flats.
[* The natives led Major Mitchell to the spot where Oxley’s tent had stood. He saw there the stump of a tree that had been recently burned down, which the natives said had had marks upon it. Mitchell dug under it for the bottle without success, and he learned from a native tribe that after the tree had been fired a child had found the bottle and broken it. It had contained a letter they said, and “this news” be observes “saved us further search.”]
1817 July 10th. Thursday. It was late before we could leave our encampment, a delay occasioned by our horses having strayed away some miles back S.W. in the course of the night. About 3 o’clock we arrived at our resting place of the third inst. Having pursued a more direct course we made it in 12 miles, which was 14 on the 4th. I gathered the following specimens: Gnaphalium sp., musk scented when fresh. Anacyclus sp., leaves bipinnate and linear; scape elongated, one flowered. Gnaphalium sp., a delicate diminutive plant, accompanying[p258] Siloxerus humifusus, a dwarf plant discovered by Labillardière on the south coast, which is abundant with a species of Gymnostyles, a plant of the same class and pigmy growth. A raised mound of earth which we passed on the plains, we suspect to be an Aboriginean grave, near which grew a dwarf shrubby species of Solanum, with narrow lanceolate leaves. Large flocks of new birds, some of which we have shot and find to be a species of cockatoo, and the pigeons passed over us in their diurnal northern and southern flights.
1817 July 11th. Friday. Continuing our journey easterly we travelled over the plain passed on the 3rd inst., and although we did not return upon our old tracks,–launching out upon the open plain,–the soil is equally heavy travelling. We continued our march 3¼ miles up the river, rather than halt upon the low swampy spot where we stopped on the 2nd inst. The river presented to us an appearance that we little expected to see. It had received a sudden fresh from the eastward; the current ran about 1½ knots, and the waters are far beyond their usual channel, being within 4¾ feet of the highest part of the flats. It however decreased ½ an inch in the course Of 4 hours. The old marks of inundations were 7½ to 8 feet above their present level, which had rendered these extensive plains a sheet of water upwards of 2 feet deep. The Satureia, of which our people made tea, grows luxuriantly here. I gathered seeds of it. It assumes a woody habit and rises to the height of 6 ft. We shot some of the new cockatoos to-day, but found their flesh hard and rancid. A small mound of earth having been found near our tents of the same character as others that we have supposed to be natives’ graves, I accompanied Mr. Oxley and Mr. Evans to it. It was 3 ft. high, of conical shape, and of ancient appearance. We dug into it with an adze and found the remains of bones, and several rough pieces of bark placed across each other and apparently with some order and regularity but very much decayed.
N.B. I must here mention a singular mark of affection in a brute which will tend to prove the paucity of animals inhabiting these inhospitable plains. Our kangaroo dogs had been suffered wantonly to destroy one of a native species on these flats in our journey westerly. His carcase we fixed up in the fork of a small low tree. The female, his mate, had doubtless taken a range in search of him, when, having found[p259] his dead body, she drew it down from the branch and coiling herself round his lifeless remains seemed determined there to die! On our return this, day we passed the spot and found her in an emaciated state, pining from grief and hunger, and in that debilitated low condition as not to be able to make the slightest resistance or attempt to escape.