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
THE EXPLORATION OF THE INTERIOR
GOVERNOR PHILLIP AS EXPLORER
The first Governor of New South Wales had soon discovered that although he had been set over so vast a territory there was only a narrow strip within his grasp. Within a few miles of Sydney there ran a range of mountains rising in places almost perpendicularly to a height of from 4,000 to 5,000 feet. Curving above Broken Bay on the north and below Port Jackson on the south they formed a barrier which completely hemmed in the settlement and cut off all advance into the interior.
They were part of the Great Dividing Range which runs with scarcely a break down the eastern coast of the continent from Cape York, the most northerly point, to Wilson’s Promontory at the southern extremity. Because of their cobalt colouring Captain Phillip gave them the name of the Blue Mountains. No more apt designation could have been found, for the atmosphere at the distance from which they are viewed imparts to them a wonderful blueness. For twenty-five years men tried in vain to pass over this barrier. In the days of Phillip and under the rule of his immediate successors expeditions, all of which ended in failure, left Sydney and endeavoured to penetrate different parts of the mountains. Perhaps because in those early years no one was able to cross them they held a strange and powerful fascination for the colonists. Rocks, precipices, and thick eucalyptus scrub might repel the would-be discoverer, but when days bright with sunshine revealed sparkling waterfalls and smooth green patches among the ranges the desire to explore became irresistible. Many set out never to return; often a settler in search of grass or a pioneer starting without proper equipment vanished for ever in the wilderness of forest; but his disappearance caused little surprise and the country to the westward remained unseen and unknown.
The first actual attempt to reach the mountains was made by[p123] Captain Phillip himself shortly after his arrival. On April 15, he departed with provisions for four days attended by officers and a party of marines. In three days they passed the swamps and marshes on the north side of the harbour and found themselves in rocky barren country covered with bush, which made their advance difficult and often impossible. Fifteen miles from the coast Phillip obtained a fine view of the mountains, and he called the northernmost the Carmarthen Hills, the southernmost the Lansdowne Hills, and one between Richmond Hill.
At that time he felt sure that there must be a river near at hand, and on the 22nd started again, taking with him some small boats in which to cross any stream that might be found. For four days, by keeping close to a small creek, his party pushed their way through difficult country, and on the fifth day reached a small eminence whence for the first time a full view of the Carmarthen and Lansdowne Hills was obtained. Phillip named this eminence, which was his farthest point, Belle Vue Hill. Lack of provisions then compelled him to return to Sydney, having fully proved the difficulties of penetrating into the interior, for the whole distance covered by his party had not exceeded thirty miles.
nother expedition was planned by him to examine the country westward from Belle Vue, but it had to be deferred. In June, 1789, however, whilst surveying Broken Bay, which he had seen first in March, 1788, Governor Phillip discovered a large river whose water at a short distance from the entrance was found to be fresh and good. He named it the Hawkesbury, and on June 26, 1789, Captain Watkin Tench and Mr. Arndell, assistant surgeon, reached the banks of another river to which the name of Nepean was afterwards given by the Governor.
Captain Tench describes the latter river as being nearly as broad as the Thames at Putney. “From its banks,” wrote Phillip in February, 1790, “I hope to reach the mountains, which has been attempted by a party who crossed the river, but after the first day’s journey they met with a constant succession of deep ravines . . . so that they returned, not having been able to proceed more than fifteen miles in five days; when they turned back they supposed themselves to be twelve miles from the foot of the mountains.”[*]
[* Governor Phillip’s letter, 1790, ” Historical Records of New South Wales.”]
The party Phillip refers to as having “crossed the river” was one under the command of Lieutenant William Dawes, who[p124] in December, 1789, got across the Nepean and unsuccessfully tried to reach the ranges. Captain Tench says that “at the time they turned back they were further inland than any other Persons ever were before or since–being 54 miles in a direct line from the coast–when on the summit of Mount Twiss–a hill so named by them which bounded their peregrination.”[*]
[* “A Complete Account of the Settlement, etc.,” Watkin Tench, 1793.]
On August, 1790, Dawes and Tench together started on another expedition; they took with them a strong escort and spent a week penetrating in a south-south-west direction “bounding their course at a remarkable hill,” to which, says Tench, from its conical shape we gave the name of Pyramid Hill.”
Some short excursions were undertaken towards the close of 1790, and a little later, on April 11, 1791, Governor Phillip himself again led an exploring expedition inland. Dawes, Tench, and Collins accompanied him, and included in the party, which numbered nineteen persons, were two Sydney natives.
Every man except the Governor carried his own knapsack, which contained provisions for ten days . . . and every man was garbed to drag through morasses, tear through thickets, ford rivers, and scale rocks.” The advance was first directed to the north-west, and two days after leaving Rosehill they reached the river. Tench says they then “turned to the right hand” and traversed a creek, until on the 13th they came to a little hill, from which they had a good view to the westward. The Governor called this eminence “Tench’s Prospect Hill.” On the 14th, on leaving it, they retraced their steps to the river, passing over country which “excepting for the last half mile was a continued bed of stones in some places so thick that they looked like a pavement.”
Although Captain Phillip cannot be said to have actually made any further discoveries, a good deal of general information concerning the inland parts was obtained in this expedition. He ascertained that the Nepean was an affluent of the Hawkesbury; he observed the windings of the various branches of the river and the places that ought to be avoided by future explorers, and he also had opportunities for noting the customs of the inland natives; one old man gave an exhibition of his powers in climbing trees which is described as being “the finest display the Governor had ever seen.”
CAPTAIN PATERSON AND OTHERS
[p125] In September, 1793, Captain Paterson, of the New South Wales Corps, led an expedition into the mountains. He was accompanied by Captain Johnston, Mr. Palmer, Mr. Laing, and a strong escort of soldiers, among whom were some Highlanders, who, like Paterson, were accustomed to Scottish hills. Boats were sent round to Broken Bay, whence they entered the Hawkesbury and on the fourth day reached Richmond Hill. At this place in 1789 Governor Phillip’s progress up the river had been obstructed by a waterfall which his boats could not pass over. Paterson overcame the difficulty by leaving his large boats and proceeding with two that were smaller and lighter. He found the river carried him westward and that the navigation was very intricate; a new river, however, which ran through a huge ravine, was discovered and named the Grose (in honour of Major Grose), and up this Paterson took his boats.
The termination of his journey was at a large rocky precipice which received the name of Canopy Cliff. This cliff faced the junction of the Grose with a smaller stream, the Grose flowing east and the stream west of the cliff. A high peak of land seen by Paterson at this point was named Harrington Peak. From Canopy Cliff to its junction with the Nepean he found the Grose River to descend in falls and rapids about 400 feet. But the party could not continue their exploration, since one of the boats had loosened a plank and the other had been driven upon a stump, so Paterson gave up further progress, “leaving the western mountains to be the object of future discovery.” He reached Sydney on September 22nd, and in writing an account of his expedition to a friend at home he says: “From an accident that happened to our boats, we returned after a journey of ten days and got about 10 miles nearer them (the mountains) than former travellers.”[*]
[* Unpublished letter to Forsyth. In this letter Paterson speaks of a second expedition he was about to take into the mountains.]
“Captain Paterson,” remarks Collins, who relates the story of his journey,[*] “was amply rewarded for his labour and disappointment by discovering several new plants.” He saw but few natives, and believed that their arms and legs were longer than those of the coast natives.” As they live by climbing[p126] trees … it might perhaps have been occasioned by the custom of hanging by their arms and resting their feet at the utmost stretch of the body . . . “
[* Collins’s ” Account of Colony of New South Wales.”]
Following Paterson’s exploit, attempts were unsuccessfully made by different people, among whom were Hacking, Dr. Bass, and Wilson, to find a pass through the ranges. Wilson’s terminal point “may be regarded as being on the hillside overlooking the Wollondilly at Bullio.”[*] Perhaps the most difficult task was that undertaken by Bass, of whom it is said that he used iron boat-hooks on his hands and feet in climbing down the steep sides of the rocks, and, when stopped by ravines, caused himself to be lowered by ropes, but, after fifteen days of danger and fatigue, he returned to Sydney without achieving success. On an old map at the British Museum communicated by Colonel Paterson is an inscription which perhaps tells best what Bass actually did. It runs as follows: “In this direction[*] Mr. Bass’s party went 28 miles from Mount Hunter–beyond that the mountains were impassable; soil good for the first 18 miles.”
[* R. H. Cambage: ” journal of the R.A.H.Soc.”]
[** i.e. westerly from Mount Hunter.]
Ensign Barrallier, New South Wales Corps, was the next to make a notable expedition into the ranges. In 1802, in order to obtain leave of absence for him from his military duties so that he might lead the expedition, Governor King claimed him as his aide-de-camp, and sent him “on a fictitious embassy to the king of the mountains.”
Barrallier first made a preliminary excursion and crossed the Nepean with a party of four men to find out the best route by which to proceed later. He journeyed “as far as about 45 miles,” where he chose a site for a depo~t at a place called Nattai by natives and discovered the river still known as the Nattai River, then he returned to Sydney, and having received his final orders from the Governor went first to Parramatta and then to Prospect. Taking his departure from the latter place with a party which consisted of nine persons besides himself and a native from Cowpastures named Gogy, he crossed the Nepean on November 6, 1802, at a ford called Binheny by the natives. Here it was found impossible for the bullock wagon laden with [p127] provisions to get over the river and the bullocks had to be unyoked, and finally the provisions, as well as the wagon itself, had to be carried by the men to the opposite bank. Once all were safely across Barrallier directed his route to the south-west[*] and spent the night near a swamp called by the natives Baraggel. Here some rare shells were discovered. Next day, November 7th, he passed Menangle. In the lagoon were fish and eels of enormous size, more of which were found at Carabeely, another stretch of water and swamp, and near the latter the men killed a kangaroo. Barrallier here came upon a herd of wild cattle and counted 162 “peaceably pasturing.” They were descendants of the six landed by Phillip in 1788 which through their keeper’s neglect had strayed into the bush more than fourteen years before to live and multiply in freedom.
[* After passing Menangle his route took him near the spot where Picton now stands.]
On catching sight of the party the beasts advanced as if to attack the men and had to be driven off. A second herd and a third were seen, also the body of a bull “of a reddish colour with white spots” lying in a ditch, below a terrace conjectured by Barrallier to have been “the battle-field of the bulls.” Two natives were met on this day where the party halted for dinner. One of these, a “mountaineer” whose name they made out to be Bungin,[*] was very shy and wore a curious mantle of skins of various animals sewn together. The other, whose name was Wooglemai–i.e. in native language, one-eyed–was friendly and knew Gogy the native from the Cowpastures and apparently had visited Parramatta and Prospect. The explorers, continuing their journey at 5.30 p.m., encamped for the night near a running stream on territory belonging to the mountaineer, who in return for kindness shown him built a hut for Barrallier and next day attached himself to the party. Two miles from this place “a chain of mountains was visible, the direction of which,” says Barrallier, “is inclined towards the south.”
[* Barrallier writes: “Bungin was an inhabitant of the south, and had left the Canambaigle tribe because they wanted to kill him.”–Diary of Ensign F. Barrallier, “Historical Records of New South Wales,”Vol. V.]
Continuing their advance on November 8th the men crossed several creeks and late in the afternoon, after traversing a plain, entered rocky country and reached a valley where they spent the night. At this time they were four miles from Nattai. On the morning of the 9th the silence was broken by the sound of “cooees” in the distance, and shortly afterwards two mountain[p128] natives were brought into the camp. One had never seen white people before and was terrified when Barrallier offered to shake hands with him.
On the same morning the exploring party, advancing again over rough country, “all covered with stones and brush,” arrived at Nattai,[*] and Barrallier decided, before starting on his journey into the mountains, to send for a fresh supply of provisions. Three men, accompanied by the native Wooglemai, went back next morning with the wagon to the settlement. They did not return until the 19th, and during the interval Barrallier with some of his party carried out some short explorations. He followed a creek[**] which ran between mountains to the Nattai River, the terminus of his first journey. Tracing the river on its left bank, he came on November 11th to the junction of the two rivers, the Nattai and the Wollondilly.
[* About six miles north-west of the town of Thirlmere.]
[** Shea’s Creek, Barrallier’s route to R. Cambage–” Journal, R.A.H.Soc., Vol. III.]
In the evening he arrived at a valley where he camped for the night.[*] In describing his journey on the 12th he says he passed through another chain of isolated mountains which might be nearly four miles in length and sighted on the right “the great range, the height of which is more and more considerable “, the soil of the country everywhere was very rich; “the hills . . . covered with kangaroos, which resembled a flock of goats grazing peaceably.”[**] He sowed pumpkin seeds and an apricot stone at the foot of a mountain, where he also noticed prints of natives. Observing a mountain which “though high[***] appeared easy of access he climbed it, but could not gain its summit, being stopped by a barrier of rocks-projecting outwards-in the shape of vaults.” Proceeding onwards he met with some strange natives, from whom it was difficult to elicit any information regarding the mountains and who afterwards showed signs of hostility to some of the party. On the 13th he returned to the depo~t.
[* Burragorang Valley.]
[** “Historical Records of New South Wales,” Vol. V.]
[*** Identified by R. Cambage. (“Journal R.A.H.Soc.,” Vol. III) as South Peak, and “is an outline . . . in the extreme southern end of a small chain . . . known as the Peaks . . . the sandstone rocks of which the peaks are composed extend back north-westerly, forming the southern watershed of the Tonalli and are called the Tonalli Range.”]
After the return of the wagon Barrallier started on a longer and more important journey into the ranges. On November[p129] 22nd he left the dep~ot, taking with him five of his strongest men and some natives with sufficient provisions for one month. He travelled through a precipitous gorge (S. 75° W.) by a route which he had already pursued, crossed the Nattai River near which he had “cut some huts,” and on November 23rd arrived at the junction of the two rivers, Nattai and Wollondilly. Here he met several strange natives, including a chief named Goondel. who conversed with some of the members of his party.
On November 24th, having passed at noon the mountain he had tried to climb on the occasion of his first journey,[*] and having crossed difficult bushy country, “going over hills which stood in all directions,” he arrived about four o’clock at the top of a hill where he was able to observe that “the direction of the chain of mountains extended itself north-westwardly to a distance which I estimated to be 30 miles and which turned abruptly at right angles.[**] It formed a barrier nearly N. and S. which it was necessary to climb over.”
[* South Peak, according to R. Cambage]
[** Tonalli Range.]
At seven o’clock he reached the summit of another hill,[*] whence he descried three openings: “the first on the right towards N. 59°30′ W.; the one in front of me and which appeared very large was west from me; and the third S. 35°0′ W.” The sight of these openings filled the party with encouragement.[**] Their spirits had flagged in the course of the day, for the range of mountains which they had passed over was covered with big granite stones which had made the route very laborious.
[* Alum Hill, according to R. Cambage.]
[** The three openings by Barrallier have been identified as follows: The northern opening just south of Mount Colong and at the head of a creek which flows into Colony Creek. The centre one due west of Woolshed, the third that through which the Bindook track passes. (See R. Cambage.)]
The trees were blue gum and iron-bark of medium height; and a number of rivulets were passed. The total. distance covered by Barrallier up to this date is given as 100 1/2 miles. Naturally the distance measured “as the crow flies”[*] was not nearly so great; but Barrallier had to take a zigzag course over the mountains, and his men were sometimes compelled to travel two or three times as far as they might have gone had a direct route been possible.
[* Barrallier’s route is shown upon Oxley’s maps and also upon a map of New South Wales by J. Cross, 1827, corrected to 1829 and dedicated to J. Oxley.]
On November 25th at noon Barrallier reached a large stream, where he halted for dinner. Its current was very rapid and its[p130] bed was filled with granite stones. He crossed some hills, their direction being north and south, climbed a very steep height, and at six o clock discovered a cave large enough to contain twenty men, and he says he was then only half a mile from “the western passage.” He sent two men “to discover it” and “to ascend the mountain at the N. of this Passage,” while he waited in the cave for them, On their return they “related that after passing the range that was in front of us we would enter an immense plain, that from the height where they were standing on the mountain they had caught sight of only a few hills standing here and there in this plain, and that the country in front of them had the appearance of a meadow.” Much elated with the news, Barrallier continued his march at nightfall and arrived at the mouth of a passage half a mile wide, formed by a perpendicular cut in the mountains (the profiles of which were of immense height), and he now writes with certainty about his discovery of a pass through them:
“I sent men to try and find the trees . . . for the building of our huts. This work was completed . . . and after every one was sheltered, they congratulated themselves with having succeeded in accomplishing the passage of the Blue Mountains without accident.”
On November 26th, at daybreak, Barrallier set out, taking two men with him, “to verify by myself the configuration of the ground and to ascertain whether the passage of the Blue Mountains had really been effected. I climbed the chain of mountains north from us, and when I had reached the middle of this height the view of a plain as vast as eye could reach confirmed the report of the previous day.”
To his sorrow, on this day, while trying to get through to the level country, Barrallier found an unforeseen impediment in some hills that formed a barrier. He followed a creek, and then discovered a fast flowing river[*] between two chains of very high mountains. Turning northwards he reached the river at its junction with a large stream,[*] and in crossing it he and his men met with many dangerous obstacles.
[* Identified as the Kowmung River.]
[* Christy’s Creek, probably Waterfall Creek.]
On the 27th so many barriers were encountered that on the 28th Barrallier was compelled to abandon the expedition. “After having cut a cross of St. Andrew on a tree to indicate the terminus of my second journey,” he tells us he turned[p131] homeward and following the line of his outward track back to Nattai, reached the depo~t at 8.30 p.m. of December 2nd.
It will be seen that Barrallier had good reason to claim that he had crossed the Blue Mountains,[*] although the colonists do not seem to have benefited in any way from his arduous travels. Either he was unable to define his route clearly upon his map, or else the details he could furnish were too meagre to be of any use as a guide to explorers; but it is certain that a passage through the mountains remained undiscovered. Cambage writes: “The terminal point reached by this courageous explorer was . . . towards the head of Christy’s Creek about 15 or 16 miles in a direct line southerly. from the Jenolan Caves,” and he adds: “It is remarkable that Barrallier should have followed so far down the Kowmung before turning to the left, for had he turned up the river instead of down he would probably have succeeded in crossing the Great Dividing Range, after which he would have had no difficulty in proceeding westward.”
[* R. H. Cambage,” R.A.H.Soc.’s Journal,” Vol. III.]
Barrallier’s successor as an explorer of the Blue Mountains was George Caley, who in 1800 came to Sydney primarily to collect plants for Sir Joseph Banks, but who interested himself also in matters concerning the welfare of the colony. Soon after his arrival he was made superintendent of the Government Garden, which had been marked out at Parramatta, and from time to time dispatched boxes of Plants and seeds to England in charge of the captains of different ships voyaging homewards. So carefully did he classify his collections, and so skilfully arrange them, that he was called “Botanicus peritus et accuratus” by Robert Brown, who named the Banksia Caleyi in his honour.
Caley soon found opportunities to make excursions inland, going at first only short distances. In October, 1801, with two companions, he left Prospect, crossed a chain of hills called the Devil’s Back, where the Cabramatta Creek takes its rise, and arrived at the Nepean. This river Caley prefers to call the Hawkesbury, saying that “it is the principal branch and ought to have that name.” Encamping near its banks, during the night he and his companions heard the noise of the wild cattle, and next day went in quest of them. They took a south-easterly [p132] course–having crossed the river on a fallen tree–but failed to come up with the herd, though they saw at the head of a marshy flat the body of a dead bull, probably of the Cape breed. Soon afterwards they returned to Prospect.
A few months later, with two others, Caley traced the course of Tench’s River, and, being only familiar with English rivers, was struck with its deep bed and high, perpendicular banks, with trees growing on either side, which he described as “melancholy Casuarinae.“
In March, 1802, he was particularly energetic and on the 9th started on a short tour which lasted five days, but of which he has left but few particulars. On the 26th he set off again from Parramatta, in company with one man, and with his mare laden with provisions, to visit Mount Hunter. Striking out on a south-west-by-south course, they travelled for eighteen miles and came to “a flat piece of ground called Arayling by the natives,” five miles from which they arrived at the Nepean. There they had to take the baggage off the mare and carry it themselves over the river, an operation which Caley says, “took us nearly up to the neck in some places. . . . The water was very cold and the current strong . . . the bottom inclined to quicksand.” They afterwards swam their horse across and reached Mount Hunter on the 28th.
The ascent was steep and difficult, owing to shrubs impeding their path. From it Caley obtained a fine view of the Blue Mountains, which he resolved to explore, observing a little prematurely that “they did not deserve the name of mountains.” He defined them merely as “high hills,” though he admitted that “to the northward they may be more rocky,” from which it is evident that he did not catch sight of the naked rocks forming bastions round them or the deep gorges lying hidden between the “high hills.” A little later, when he attempted to fight his way across them, he altered his opinion that they were hills, and bestowed upon them the title of mountains.
We read in his diary that in October, 1802, he made another short journey from Prospect with two companions–possibly the same two as before–and, taking “a direct W.S.W. by S. course,” came to the Nepean. Having passed over the river, they travelled through forest land, and arrived “at the foot of a hill (Blue Mountains),” to the summit of one of which they climbed.
In December of the same year Caley twice crossed and recrossed the Nepean in an expedition undertaken for the purpose[p133] of defining the true course of the river, for at that time some of its windings were not yet filled in upon the maps in use in the colony. He left Prospect on December 4th, accompanied by a friend, and took his mare laden with sufficient provisions for an extended tour. The party set out on a west-south-west-by-south course, and first arrived at the Great Creek,[*] where they fell in with a number of natives. That day they forded the Nepean at a part of the river which Caley does not seem to have seen before, as he says he found that it trended north and north-west.
[* South Creek.]
After leaving its banks, they travelled a short distance and “got on to the hills (Blue Mountains)”and pushed their way along them for three miles through a dense thicket which at last compelled them to turn back. In their return journey they met with another river, which was probably that now known as Mount Hunter rivulet, for they had only proceeded a short distance from it when he remarks: “This place I thought I had seen before in my journey to Mount Hunter.”
On his return to the Nepean, Caley recrossed it, but did not go back to Prospect, though he says that he looked for that place from the brink of the hills, but could not clearly see it, the weather being hazy. He writes: “We . . . crossed the Hawkesbury River at the end of the hills . . . that seemed to be rent asunder for a passage for it, which I propose to call Dovedale, from its grand and romantic appearance.” From Dovedale, so named after the well-known valley in Derbyshire, Caley made his way to Bagalin, “the place I was bound for, this being at another part of the river. Here he halted. He could see a large vale from Bagalin, and, believing that the river flowed through it to the south-cast, he resolved to explore it with the view of finding the head of the river.
Setting out on this second journey, Caley and his companions crossed the Nepean at a known part of the river where it had been already surveyed, and possibly at a short distance from where Barrallier had forded it a month before.[*] They then directed their course south-by-east three miles, and pitched their tent at a swampy place, the name of which, as they learned from natives, was Menangle. The natives also told Caley in answer to his questions that the river did not run through the vale he[p134] wanted to find, and that he would be unable to take his mare over the rocks to it.
[* This ford was North of Bird’s Eye Corner: another ford over the Nepean was known as Emu Ford, and another Cowpasture Ford.]
During his short stay there a heavy thunderstorm took place, and he allowed four natives to take shelter under his “painted sheet” or tent. Leaving Menangle he travelled to the south-west, and then traced his former course south-by-east and came almost at once upon the river “deeply seated in a narrow, rocky valley with almost perpendicular sides.” He followed it for a quarter of a mile and found that its course ran first south-south-east, a turn north-north-east, then east-north-east. About four miles from Menangle he halted at a place where there was good water and plenty of grass for the mare. It was a very picturesque spot and he named it Ripponden–a name that has since disappeared from the maps.
Still anxious to find the river’s true course, he travelled north-north-west over some hills and came to Poppy Brook, so called (by him) because wild poppies were found growing there. Poppy Brook was a small stream of clear water flowing over a bed of small black stones, similar to those he had often seen in brooks in England. It is the Stone Quarry Creek of Barrallier,[*] whose name for it survives, and takes its rise in the high land west of Picton.
[* In early maps of New South Wales by Arrowsmith (communicated by Lieut-Colonel Paterson and also upon Oxley’s map) Poppy Brook and Stone Quarry Creek are shown as different streams. Apparently Governor King identified them as the same stream.]
The tracks of wagon wheels told Caley that Barrallier had been there before him, and the natives at Menangle had related that “at Nayti, the furthermost outpost reached by him, he had built a bark hut.” Caley remarks that he had already heard from Governor King that “Barrallier had been 150 miles in the country,” where “he had fixed stations,” and says also that the Governor had pointed out one of these to him, “which I understood was 50 miles S.S.W. from Prospect and called by the natives Natta, but which I now learn is Nayti,” and he adds, “with that I endeavoured to find it.”
Crossing Poppy Brook, Caley first proceeded to the south-west and west-south-west without any success: he then turned south-south-west and discovered a sheet of water or lagoon which he called Scirpus Mere; some beautiful plants were growing not far from this lagoon, and where the thicket was densest he found a species of Persoonia with sweet-scented flowers and pubescent leaves. Seeing no signs of Barrallier’s depo~t, and having lost [p135] all traces of his wagon wheels, he went to “another range to the eastward,” but still not finding Nayti returned to Poppy Brook. On leaving this stream a second time Caley struck a course for four miles to the north-north-east, and at the end of the fourth mile arrived at a spot called by the natives Murdogra, “which being a low, flat piece of ground without any trees growing upon it, its green verdure had a pleasant appearance in a country where all was forest.” Here he stayed the night and saw, at about a mile distant from his camp, the smoke of native fires. He continued to search for Nayti, but could not find it, though he was convinced, from what the natives had said, that it was at no great distance.
At this time the party fell in with wild cattle, but “not in a herd; in general two bulls and at the most six, were seen together.” Some of them had humps between their shoulders, though “it is said that there was not a humped one among them when they ran away,” and Caley remarks: “Many people are of the opinion that the natives kill them, but . . . the natives told me that when the cattle see them they immediately run at them and they are obliged to climb up the trees.” Turning back next day, after a tour of nine days, Caley returned to Prospect.
In addition to making sea voyages to different parts of the coast in search of botanical subjects, we find Caley a year or so later again touring inland. In 1804 he set out on an excursion to the territory which he called Vaccary Forest (the Cowpastures), to ascertain the extent of its boundaries. His diary of this journey is enlightening. We learn that it was then conjectured in Sydney that the wild cattle which had so long pastured in Vaccary Forest were now beginning to roam farther into the country and it was feared that they would altogether forsake the tracks they had frequented hitherto. A large party of horse and foot indeed had been sent to drive them if possible into “a very strong fenced yard newly made . . . for this purpose,” but “this scheme or rather chase ended . . . with running one or two cows down.”
It had been usual since the days of Captain Hunter for the governors and officers to take visitors to the colony on excursions to the Cowpastures to hunt the wild cattle, although it was found no easy matter to single one out of the herd. Caley believed these excursions would become even more frequent, owing to the fact that “the trees had been marked all the way[p136] there, a track being visible and a small house built” for the hunting parties. Still at that time little was known with respect to the boundaries of these pastures, and Caley therefore proposed to make a complete survey of them. Loading up his mare with provisions he left Parramatta accompanied by his manservant and went on February 11th to Prospect, whence the party took their departure. They encamped for the night at the side of some small ponds, around which there was young grass growing, and set off early on the morning of the 12th to the Nepean, arriving at the river about noon. Before they reached it they “discovered Cowpasture House seated in a bushy place on this side of the river.”[*] The grass all round it and even close up to it had been burnt, but it had escaped injury. “It was,” says Caley, “no more than a small hut built of boards, thatched with grass, and a wooden chimney. We saw in the house a cask containing a quantity of salt which had been carried there to salt beef.”
[* The principal station was at Cawdor, where a dwelling-house was erected . . . afterwards used as a cowhouse.–W.R.G., “Saturday Magazine.”
The men got over the river easily, the water being low; a little further down they noticed a fallen tree had been thrown across it for the purpose of a bridge. They found its banks crowded with trees, chiefly casuarinae. On leaving their crossingplace, Caley bore away to Menangle, where he pitched his tent. The lake was now reduced to a very small compass, as the weather for so long had been hot and dry. On the following day he went back to the log bridge and recrossed the river in search of a pond where he expected to find some rare plants; but, to his surprise, it had entirely dried up. In making his way back to the camp he heard a voice–not that of a native, but of a white man calling; and, as “some desperate runaways were known to infest that quarter,” he was careful to make preparations for an attack.
Four months before he had accompanied Mr. Robert Brown to Mount Hunter, and when upon the mount they had heard two men “hallooing” who evidently had lost each other, and Caley says: “By our halloaing in return one of them was decoyed to within a few rods of us, but as soon as he got the first sight, immediately fled.” Although Caley did not actually see anyone on this occasion, he resolved to be very much on his guard, but says he did not think he would be “easily overcome even by an armed banditti.”
[p137] Leaving Menangle, he went to Ripponden, which he had visited in 1802. From there he proceeded in the direction of Poppy Brook. On the way he saw a beaten cattle track, along which he travelled, and presently came upon a large herd of cattle lying down, which quickly sprang up and each one stared at the party “with fierce visage.” A young dog that Caley had with him soon put them to flight. There were fifty-three in the herd, and they made off towards the river.
Caley then met with a small brook which he had seen before (possibly in December, 1802), to which he now gave the name of Little Brook. He continued in the direction of Poppy Brook, and noticed as he went how much the road was travelled between there and Ripponden. “Being an important one,” he says, “I have called it London Road.”
In the region of Poppy Brook, where he and his servant encamped, Caley decided to begin his survey, “at the termination of the range where I began my S.S.W. course in the discovery of Scirpus Mere.” He set out next day on his old track to carry out this intention, when he heard a voice through the brushwood, and shortly after “a native came running to me and called me by my name. . . . He informed me there was a large party Walbunga,” which meant “catching kangaroos by setting the place on fire, and by [the blacks] placing themselves in the direction the animal is forced to pass and by throwing spears at it as it passes along.”
In further conversation with his black friend Caley learned that there were strange blacks from the mountains among the party of natives, and that one visitor was no other than the famous Cannabygal, or Cannamikel, a chief much dreaded by the other tribes. At last Caley prevailed upon the native to “cooee” for the others so that he might see the strange blacks, and “a large party came running towards us and by the place being brushy they were upon us before they well saw who we were.” Some of the natives evidently had seen Caley from their hiding-places on a former expedition, for he writes: “I perceived a deal more knew me than I could recognize. . . . My man noticing a few . . . behind a tree I immediately went up to them and inquired for Cannabygal and . . . one man clapped his hands upon his breast and gave me to understand he was the person.”
Of this early meeting with the mountain natives Caley gives [p138] the following account: “I singled out the chief of the party[*] I was known to and opened a familiar conversation. During that time all the rest were in a profound silence. . . . The strangers were four in number, three men and one woman; the men were without any clothing except a belt to fix the mogo in; the woman had a kind of cloak upon her back made of skins of animals but which did not conceal her nakedness. . . . They were of gigantic stature in comparison with the rest; their hair being long and their features in general gave them a frightful countenance, though I must own that Cannabygal had something pleasant in his face while I was conversing with him. None of the four ever had seen a white man before. They had a large domesticated native dog with them.”
[* Evidently a Cowpasture native to interpret for him.]
Caley shot a bird to show the power of his fire-arms and gave it to them, and they were much surprised that they could not discover any wounds. At last, he says, finding that his absence was more wished for than his company, he informed them he was about to depart. They at once pointed out to him the exact direction which they desired him to take, and his native friend acquainted him with the fact that several women belonging to the mountaineers’ party were stationed near by and that therefore he must be careful not to alarm them. Caley gave a promise that he would go in the direction pointed out, and kept his word. This obliged him to go a little way out of his course, but he says that the distance was “too trivial” to be noted on his map. The Cowpasture natives had informed him that the strangers were cannibals, but this he doubted. He asked the natives several questions respecting the source of the Hawkesbury and they pointed to the south-east; when he inquired as to the whereabouts of Nayti they pointed west-by-north.
It was probably at this meeting and from these mountain natives that Caley obtained the information concerning the unknown interior which afterwards in a letter to Mr. Robert Brown he claimed to have possessed. He said in it that he had heard from the natives that there was a great river inland and a plain above the trees, and that “the mountain natives who came at times to the outskirts of the colony had their heads covered with emu feathers.”
After parting from the natives and their guests Caley and his man sought their former track. They ascended a steep hill [p139] to get to a higher and more backward range, and “fell in with a herd of cattle which had taken the road we were going, but before we got on to it they returned . . . the dog close at their heels; seeing them in a state of confusion I was beginning to clear the way for them. However, I had the satisfaction of seeing them keep on the range. . . . Some decayed fallen trees they leaped over like hunters, and there was a noise made by the rattling of horns such as I had never heard.”
A cow fell behind and lay down, evidently unable to move, so Caley went up to her but could render no assistance, for at the sight of him she became so much frightened that he says “it was only tormenting her more.” He regretted being unable to shoot her and put her out of pain on account “of His Excellency’s Proclamation forbidding the like,” adding: “I could not ease my mind at having to leave the poor animal thus, and resolved if I should visit this part again I would know whether she had quitted it.”[*]
[* Caley heard afterwards that a lame red cow always followed the herd in this manner and concluded that she might not have been badly hurt.]
He and his man continued “to rise upon the range,” and saw a great bush-fire at the spot where they had lately left the natives. At length they got to the farthest end of the range, where, Caley says, “I now began to trace the western boundaries of these pastures.”
He thus describes a small valley with some ponds of water and good grass which he thought suitable for a station: “The place we had chosen to pass the night by its greenness had a pleasant appearance. . . . It was rocky in places. . . . The cattle came here for water. . . . This is the place I have called Green Dingle.” On first coming there Caley believed himself fortunate to find such a pleasant camp, but shortly afterwards he rather regretted having chosen it for a resting-place, as the voices of natives were heard close at hand, from which it was evident that the blacks had followed them and were only hidden from them by a turn in the valley. Warning his man to keep very quiet he made preparations to resist them, “as I could not tell in what manner they would act.” At night Caley took care to keep up a very small fire, concealing it and their tent with bushes so that they should not be seen by the natives. He writes: “We could hear them making a loud noise as if they were dancing and making merry. . . . When they became silent we went to sleep . . . and fixed our gun in such a position [p140] as to have nothing to do . . . than pulling the trigger on our being suddenly awakened.”
Next morning Caley and his man rose early and breakfasted before daybreak. After loading the mare with their baggage they went towards the black fellows’ camp, but already they had left it and were upon the march. Caley followed them, wishing to see Cannabygal again, but writes: “He kept out of my presence. . . . My man being eager to get a view of the women kept following them with the mare; by so doing he put them in a fright and they screamed loudly . . . and on my taking hold of the halter to pull the mare round some of the natives hit her with their spears and being high mettled she began to caper. . . . I was afraid I should give offence and create hostilities, but . . . happily the whole ended in a joke.” Some of the Cowpasture natives escorted Caley for some distance after parting with the mountain natives, and he says that when Cannabygal and his companions were out of sight “the others burst into fits of laughter and were highly delighted by their being so frightened on seeing white people.” Caley had noticed that they themselves were “as mute as mice” when the mountain natives were present, and he adds, “The strangers are greatly dreaded and reverenced, particularly Cannabygal, who according to superstition is invincible and more than mortal.”
Continuing his examination of the boundaries of the Cowpastures from Green Dingle on a westerly course, he found some extensive cattle tracts, “the largest running N.N.W., which the party followed and came to a creek named by him Brush Creek. From this creek he traced the northern confines of the Cowpastures. On returning to Sydney he gave an account of his travels to the Governor, who in his remarks[*] upon Caley’s observations says that “By Caley’s journey and chart he makes the extent of the ground frequented by the wild cattle . . . about 11 miles in the north and south direction and about 8 in the widest direction from east to west.”
[* “Historical Records of New South Wales,” Vol. V.]
These short expeditions were the forerunners of exploration of a much bolder character undertaken with the object of trying to find a pass over the mountains. It was in November, 1804, that Caley first tried to cross them, having been provided by the Governor with four of the strongest men in the colony to assist him. On Saturday, November 3rd, taking a boat up the river, the party landed “at the upper part of Richmond Terrace [p141]with the intention of travelling to the Carmarthen Mountains; but between them and their goal stretched ranges of hills which had to be traversed before it could be won.” Being resolved to keep clear of the Grose, Caley shaped his course to the west-north-west. He had gone only a short distance, however, before he was confronted with deep valleys and rocky precipices, some of which rose to a height of over 1,000 feet; and wherever a level track was found it was equally difficult to travel over, the ground being covered with impenetrable bush.
In spite of these obstacles in his path he continued to advance slowly, and on the 5th from a hillside obtained a fine view of the hills he was trying to gain; but he describes himself as “thunderstruck with the roughness of the country that presented itself between them and us.” He went higher up the hill in order to be able to determine the best route to take, and, after scanning the country resolved to steer as straight for the Carmarthen Mountains as the roughness of the country would permit. He proceeded down the side of a valley, and descended it where it was joined by another valley in which there was a swamp. The valley was surrounded by high-topped trees, and the greenness of the swamp gave the place a most beautiful appearance; Caley named it Swamp Valley. The men traversed it by marching sometimes in the valley and sometimes on the edge of the hills. They then crossed the swamp and halted at the north end of the valley, where Caley mounted a hill in order to take bearings and to find out how far they were from the Grose, and “ere long was favoured with a view of Grose’s Head,” about seven miles distant. He there caught sight of an increasing volume of smoke rising from the spot where they had encamped, and, hurrying to it, found his men in great consternation owing to one of them while kindling a fire having set the bush alight. The flames burned furiously and spread among the dead trees so rapidly that for a time the party were in considerable danger.
Leaving Swamp Valley, Caley travelled on the following courses: west-north-west, south-west, west-south-west, and west-by-south, and at length, at the end of the last course, he got another view of the Carmarthen Hills. He next turned west-1/2-south obliquely into a valley which came from the northeast, its waters running to the south-west. Here he found plants similar to those around Sydney. Directing his courses for the most part in a south-westerly direction, he crossed three more valleys, all of which emptied their waters to the south-west. [p142]The last one, which was very deep, with a steep and difficult descent into it, Caley called Dark Valley. Fortunately the weather was fine and on this day he caught sight of some lories,
On December 7th a very fine morning broke, and the party started on a south-west course, and after ascending a hill advanced along a range until they arrived at the brink of a valley which came from the northward. Its sides appeared perpendicular; its depth was about 300 yards, its width nearly a mile, and Caley says: “I was at a loss to know how to cross this deep valley, which seemed to bid defiance to man.” At length he found a place where by holding on to the bushes and small shrub-like trees he was able to make a partial descent and creep along the edge of the rocks. The luggage was lowered by making a rope of twine, and handed on from one man to another over the rocks. Having so far got safely down, Caley determined not to cross the valley but to proceed down to the Grose, which “was joined by another valley that came from the S.W.” Eventually he came suddenly upon the Grose, but was forced to return, “for the rocks formed perpendicular sides apparently to the water’s edge.” After trying unsuccessfully to advance, first at one place and then at another, he says at last he had “only the northern valley to make choice of.” He hastened to it again and his men were at last able to make their descent a little above the union of the northern valley with that which came from the south-west. Fine streams ran through these two valleys, which, after uniting, took a course to the eastward.
In giving an account of his adventures here Caley writes:
“The dreary appearance, abruptness, and intricate and dangerous route experienced at this place induced me to call it the Devil’s Wilderness.” His party advanced two miles in a south-west-by-west direction, “crossed the northern branch of the Grose River and went up a very steep and high hill.” The passage was rough and so dangerous that the men were in great peril, often climbing over ledges of rock where a false step might have cost them their lives. All fortunately gained the top in safety, but much fatigued, and, although they had only just left a stream, parched with thirst owing to the heat. As a substitute for water they ate the native currant. They continued climbing hilly ground until they came to some high bluff rocks, in order to surmount which they again took off their loads and handed them from one to another. An olive-coloured snake about four [p143] feet long passed close to Caley, but, as he had no weapon in his hand, it escaped him.
Having ascended the rocks, which he called Skeleton Rocks, he obtained from the top of them a fine view of the country to the eastward. Continuing an uphill journey the party suddenly came upon a very narrow ridge, which gradually widened until it formed yet another hill “of gentle ascent and descent.” Whilst passing over this, a breach on the left suddenly opened to their view and they saw a valley below, into which Caley descended to look for water and to seek a resting-place for the night. He soon found a spot suitable for a camp, and describes how he had then to humour his tired men, who “were not so overcome by fatigue as overawed by the dangers through which they had passed.” He tried to raise their spirits by telling them that, although the route was a rough one, he was of opinion that they had hit upon the range likely to lead them to the Carmarthen Mountains.
After he had reasoned with them for some time his words had the desired effect and stimulated them to proceed. Caley was much interested not only in the plants but also in the birds, insects, and other things new to him that he saw in this part of his expedition. In particular he found a strange, luminous grub, a number of which had fastened themselves to a projecting rock above where he was sleeping. When he awoke during the night, at first he imagined that he was gazing at the stars. Owing to this circumstance he called the place Luminous Valley, but he says: “Although I saw so many I was able to catch but few.”
On the morning of November 8th the party, in order to get to the range, retraced their steps for a quarter of a mile, and having altered their course arrived at a small, oblong hill the shape of which Caley says reminded the men at once of a pincushion. He therefore gave it the name of Pincushion Hill. From there they could see the smoke of their last camp fire in Luminous Valley east-by-north.[*]
[* A little distance farther Caley gives the following beatings: “Pincushion Hill E. ¼ N., Grose’s Head E.S.E. ¼ S., Round Hill in Grose’s Vale E.S.E. ¼ E,, Round Hill of Mr. Dawes S.W. ¼ S. End of the high range or Fern Tree Hill W.S.W. ¼ W. Courses later upon the range: N.W. by N.W., S.W. by S., and S.W. by W., all half a mile.”]
On the 9th Caley left the range, which he thought was carrying him too far to the north, and entered a shallow valley to try and gain an eminence (Fern Tree Hill). Travelling [p144] due west, he had no sooner got across it than another deep valley appeared, and, thinking this was the last valley, he crossed it in an oblique direction south-west-by-south 1/2 mile which brought his party to the point of another range which “we went down a little south,” where it ended in a steep precipice between two valleys. They tried to descend into the one on the left hand, but found that “the water fell several yards perpendicularly”; and Caley describes the place as resembling a chasm called Grislefoot between Whernside and Ingleborough, two of the highest mountains in England with which he was familiar; and from his experience of climbing English mountains he came to the conclusion that there must be a “midfitter” which united the range he was standing on to the eminence called Fern Tree Hill. After much searching he proved this surmise to be correct by finding the midfitter. The valleys on each side of it soon became very deep; through the one on the left the waters were carried to the Grose, while through that on the right they ran “probably into a branch of Hawkesbury below Portland Head.”
Being now short of water Caley went down into a deep valley to look for it, and found some in another valley which led to the foot of Fern Tree Hill. Here they encamped. A high wind blew in heavy gusts in the afternoon, threatening rain. The night was wild and showers fell, causing the men much discomfort. On the morning of the 10th the sun shone, though it soon became obscured by clouds. Some lories were seen and Caley also heard the laughing jackass. He describes the place as a barren spot, the trees sparse, small, and of crooked growth, some resembling blue gum in colour and others having rather twisted bark. Where there were patches of treeless ground the land resembled that around Sydney, producing the same plants, such as Banksia cricaefolia.
From this camp the party went tip to the midfitter to get to Fern Tree Hill. After some intricate climbing,[*] Caley saw from a height the pivot range, “of the mountains we had crossed on our first leaving Richmond.” From here he led his men west-south-west to a valley and hill covered with brush, and found that he had got on the wrong range, as to which he observes [p145] “a man might soon be bewildered.” He therefore turned back, and upon again seeing the first range of mountains resolved “to keep them as the surest guide. For to keep in direct line by compass was not in my power here to do.” The courses afterwards taken collectively were from south to south-east, and at last the summit of Fern Tree Hill was gained, as to which Caley writes: “Four miles may be said our whole day’s journey,” and “of that, the course S. to S.E. may be called 3 1/2 miles.”
[* Their courses then were S.W., S.W. by S., both 1 mile. W. and S.S.W. across the head of the valley, which had given so much trouble to them when searching for water the night before. Still going up hill on courses first S.S.W, and then S.S.E., and lastly E. by N., both 1 mile.]
The summit of Fern Tree Hill was found to be very narrow and covered with brush, chiefly consisting of, amongst others, “a glaucous leaved Senecio and a white flowered species of Smilax, which retarded progress very much, and nettles which grew very high and stung vehemently.” The part that “was void of bush was thickly covered with timber and a species of fern which as it increases in age forms a tree.” Many of these tree ferns were very tall, as were some of the timber trees. The soil was very moist and commonly of a brown vegetable mould. From here Caley had a view of the mountains on both sides. On his left he saw the first range–his “surest guide” and on the right a fainter view of the ranges in that direction; his bearings were the Grose’s Head, east-1/2-south, western end of Mount Banks[*] south-west-by-west, some whitish rocky breaches between south and south-south-west, whilst Round Hill bore south. The whole country from west to east by way of north appeared mountainous, yet but few peaks were to be seen. The valleys came from the westward, and where “the rocky breaches” were there seemed to be a large valley.
[* Governor King says that Caley always called Mount King George by the name of Mount Banks.]
Leaving the summit of Fern Tree Hill they proceeded down the side of it east-south-east to some rocks,[*] where “there were but few trees,” to pass the night. On the way down the hillside one of the party had a rather bad fall but soon recovered from its effects. During the night rain fell heavily and all complained of being cold and wet, although Caley had hoped that they would have been secure from the rain through “having a hollow rock to creep into,” but the water came trickling down the rock and it was worse than being in the open.
Next day was the 11th–a Sunday morning–clouds of heavy fog prevented the men leaving the camp before ten o’clock, by which time it had dispersed. The party went down hill on a [p146] south-south-west course to cross a valley and ascend Saddle Hill or Mount Banks, but on arriving at the bottom of the hill Caley was surprised to find that the valley formed a “dreadful chasm” with perpendicular sides the depth of which . . . “could not . . . be less than 50 yards. . . . The breadth did not seem to exceed 15 yards . . .”He threw some large pieces of rock into this ravine and records that they made a weird noise and seem to take an endless time to reach the bottom. There being no way of crossing it, the men returned to Station Rock. The afternoon was wet and the fog became so dense that they now could see only a few rods before them, it was therefore thought best to halt for the night.
[* Afterwards named Station Rock.]
Caley mentions the different birds seen. Two crows flew round them and some thrushes and redbreasts with black and white heads made their appearance. The weather of the 12th was as wet and foggy as the previous day, and although the afternoon was clearer, Caley did not deem it prudent to make a fresh start so late in the day and spent his time in trying to get views of the country round his camp.
On going to the top of the rock he found it to be large and to answer his needs in every respect so he called it Station Rock. He accordingly made a level with water and found the place was nearly equal in height with the base of the mount of Mount Banks, nearly also equal with the top of Saddle Hill and with the top of Round Hill, but Saddle Hill was lower; and he ascertained that Fern Tree Hill, Mount Banks, Saddle Hill, and Round Hill did not form one range as he had supposed when travelling there. He writes: “From Station Rock as far, as eye could trace from the S. to the W. the ground appeared to slope towards us. . . . It had the aspect of being rough and mountainous. From Round Hill it sloped towards the N.E. until it met with the opposite branches of the Grose.”
While upon Station Rock, Caley observed that Fern Tree Hill was separated from Mount Banks by a deep valley–the one in which lay the “dreadful chasm” into which he had cast stones. Saddle Hill and Mount Banks appeared to him to be on one range but at the west end of Saddle Hill he saw a broken precipice which seemed to form a valley “most probably . . . not deep.” In the south 1/2 west to south-south-west there was a high breach, of whitish appearance, and he believed that at the bottom of it the principal branch of the Grose River passed, though he says: “It is doubtful to conjecture which is the [p147] principal branch of the Grose, let alone to affirm it.”[*] However, he thought that this branch was “the largest of any that comes from the west by this quarter and is the same as I have mentioned at the Devil’s Wilderness as coming from the S.W., at which place there did not seem any difference in the quantity of the water as in the one we crossed which came from the north.”
[* Mr. Govett describing the Valley or ravine through which the Grose River flows says: “The mountains which rise most conspicuously above the surrounding ridges are Mount Hay, Mount King George and Mount Tomah . . . the first is of conical shape . . . (frowning amidst rugged masses of rock and the tremendous precipices and gigantic walls which overhanging confine the channel of this inaccessible river); Mount King George called by some the Camel’s Back from its double figure (3 1/4 m. north west of Mt. Hay) presents on its west side tremendous walls of rock more than 400 feet perpendicular. Mount Tomah (of flat and tabular shape) is about four miles north of Mt. Hay. The latter possesses rich tropical vegetation. The river winds round the basement of the precipices and divides by a frightful chasm Mount Hay from Mount King George and Mount Tomah which last are both situated on the north side of the ravine. The Grose continuing in nearly an easterly direction for about 15 miles falls into the Nepean and then takes the name of the Hawkesbury which after winding by a tortuous course discharges itself finally into the sea at Broken Bay 30 miles n. of Port Jackson.”]
On the 13th a fine morning burst over Station Rock, though clouds of mist hung in the valleys below. Gradually rising, they enveloped the camp when the men were preparing to leave it, but by noon had dispersed. Mountain fogs now began to hinder the movements of the travellers seriously, and Caley points out that it “would only have been labour in vain to attempt to travel through them.” He feared them, because, apart from the risk they incurred, the delay necessarily reduced his stock of provisions. He knew, too, that since he had come by a zigzag route, he would have to return by it, and the fogs might easily render it impossible for him to find his former bearings.
Leaving Station Rock when the atmosphere grew clearer the explorers travelled west-north-west, following a circuitous route towards a valley which appeared to come from the westward. Their way led them over ground covered with brush, nettles, and large loose stones, “very heavy and of a blue colour like the magnetic stone on Prospect Hill,” Caley being puzzled to find that he could see no rocks in the vicinity, “whence they could have been thrown by any convulsion.” He was anxious to reach the valley which he believed came from the westward; for, he says, he intended “to keep it . . . on our left until it presented some favourable place of crossing in order that I might get to Mount Banks.”
[p148] On reaching the brink of the valley and trying to descend it at this point, “it was found impracticable and so we returned” to the range. After this disappointment Caley caught sight of a hill bearing about north-west, which seemed to join to Fern Tree Hill, and he resolved to make his way towards it, as it seemed to form a passage to the west, and there appeared to be a small range that ran from behind it in a western direction. He therefore decided to head the troublesome valley, and, having done so, took his men through thick brush and came to a hill which lay on the right. From this hill Caley saw what he at first thought was a “saddle,” but it proved to be a deep valley, and opposite to him stood the hill he wished to reach. He could now see that from it ran a high range consisting of small hummocks and he felt sure that upon this another eminence, called the Haycock, must be situated.
The valley, which he had previously imagined came from the westward, he now was convinced came from the northward. “To cross this valley was now the grand object,” so he went along its northern edge, and, though he despaired of finding any place to descend, to his surprise he came upon a narrow cleft. He took off his load, and, having left his men behind, while he went down it, had not gone far before he noticed a kangaroo path and saw that the passage gradually widened. He accordingly returned to his men and all descended, forcing their way through a bush-like species of eucalyptus, which, in places, covered the hillside. They then halted at a hollow rock near which there was a rill of water. Some tall, straight trees with dark green foliage grew there, and at first Caley could not tell to what species they belonged, but he afterwards identified them as Sassafras. The party passed the night at a disagreeably damp place in the depths of the valley, which, as he made the descent, Caley says, “put me in mind of looking down a coal-pit, and where frogs and toads made such a hideous noise that I was induced to call it Dismal Dingle.” Next day, the 14th, the morning was fine, yet from their situation the men were unable to see the sky unless they stood upright and looked through the openings in the trees.
Continuing their journey they went over Table Hill[*] north-west-by-north 1/2 mile to a midfitter. Of it Caley writes: “This midfitter which links Table Hill and a lower range is much like the one that links Fern Tree Hill and the range which cornes [p149] from the Devil’s Wilderness. As we came along it the valley on our left conveyed its waters direct to the valley . . . which separates Fern Tree Hill from Table Hill. . . . Between us and Mt. Banks there seem to be several valleys which . . . became . . . very deep.”
[* Mount Tomah.]
Proceeding from the midfitter, Caley lost the range and followed a jutting spur. On retrieving his mistake he turned abruptly south-west, crossed a valley and fell in with another range south-south-west (a midfitter), then went south-west and arrived at a barren piece of land[*] destitute of trees, and in appearance much like some places in the vicinity of Sydney, such as South Head. Though this was a barren spot there was a wide contrast between it and Dismal Dingle. “It commanded an excellent prospect and the country round seemed to consist of small ranges of hills and valleys that run in a circuitous direction or as though nature had formed a labyrinth.” Caley named this place Bluff Head. They at last were close to the foot of Mount Banks, but another deep valley still remained between them and it. They thought at first that this would check their progress, until Caley again espied a midfitter, and by this means their goal was won.
[* Bald Hills (?)]
The march from Bluff Head to Mount Banks was tedious, and the tired men thought that they would never come to their journey’s end: “Between Bluff Head and Mount Banks they crossed two hills, the larger one being named Range Hill.” A thunderstorm took place and they had to seek shelter in a rock house for the night. From it the Haycock bore north-1/4-east. Table Hill north-north-east-1/4-east, Saddle Hill east 1/4 mile. Here a piece of bark was found which looked as though it had been cut from the tree by natives. The only other signs of the aborigines seen by Caley in these mountains had been the smoke of their fires up the branch of the Grose which ran into the Devil’s Wilderness.
Next day, Thursday, November 15th, Caley ascended Mount Banks[*] and had excellent views from it in every direction. To obtain these he says “was his main object” in journeying to this hill. The sky was clear when he arrived, and the men who started to search for a place at which to encamp, as near the summit as possible, soon found a rock house upon its western side.
[* This was Mt. King George, or the Camel’s Back, so called from its double figure.]
[p150] The day was set aside as a “rest day for the men,” but Caley himself did not rest and made all haste while the light was clear to take bearings and to make some observations. Beginning with the south end of Mount Banks he found that its top formed “an oval about 20 to 30 yards long which was covered with heavy loose stones . . . on the eastern side . . . ferns grow among these . . . but on the western a small bushlike eucalyptus” . . . The sides “break suddenly into rocks and at the bottom there was a deep valley, which comes from the west-north-west. This valley takes a circuitous course to the east and appears to run on the western side of Round Hill.” At the bottom was a fine stream, “evidently that which falls into the Devil’s Wilderness from the S.W.”
The trees there were small in general of only two sorts . . . one with a bark like the colonial mahogany and the other . . . apple tree. There was an excellent view from the N.N.W. to the S. but from S. to N.E. the views are interrupted by the trees and only seen through the openings.” He could not be certain whether he actually saw Prospect[*] as the high land “backwards” prevented him making out “its true figure.”
[* Caley gives these bearings: ” Round Hill S.ES. ½ S., Grose’s Head the high point E. a little S. over it is cleared land, which I suspect to be Castle Hill. Prospect E.N.E. ¼ E.”]
He found that the whole length of the top of Mount Banks was about half a mile, and that the north end was “somewhat the shape of the other . . . the top . . . thickly covered with loose stones . . . among which fern grows and causes bad walking.” It commanded “a prospect from the S.E. by S. to E.S.E. in general very good.” “From N.E. by E. to N.W. by W. Fern Tree and Table Hill prevent a distant view.”[*] Caley looked again and again for “the conical hill which is called Mount Hunter,” but he could not distinguish it.
[* Bearings from here were: “The Haycock N. 1/4 W. High distant saddle land N.N.W. A small hummock on Mount S.S.E.]
As he clambered round the mountain he came to a part which he named the Saddle and its north end “the Middle Hummock,” whence he obtained the views he desired of the surrounding country; and writing of this spot he says. “Though the lowest part on the top of the hill it has the best prospect owing to its nakedness.” After ascending the Middle Hummock he looked eastward and saw in that direction “a wide and extensive vale . . . and the land on the sea coast . . . a little hazy.”
[p151] He then turned and looked westward! Before him lay that hidden region whose secrets so many brave explorers had vainly striven to discover; where fertile plains and wide rivers still awaiting the coming of white men were to prove the goal of those who followed him on his path of exploration–pioneers like himself whose names are written imperishably in the history of the West.
Having gazed at the mountains, Caley, tired and almost worn out, in spite of his indomitable spirit, wrote those familiar words which historians have so often quoted (possibly as paraphrased by Governor King): “On looking to the westward I saw no large valleys but the one close at hand from which the ground apparently kept rising gently and gradually as far as eye could trace. In a few places there appeared . . . swamps, in others void of trees and only scrubby. . . . The present appearance would lead one to imagine it might be readily travelled over provided one was across the inaccessible valley close at hand, yet there is no doubt . . . we shall find other valleys of a similar nature as I am too well convinced of there being such. . . . One comes upon them all at once like a ha-ha.”
Finding his provisions dwindling, his men exhausted, and the mountains impassable at last he decided to return to Sydney.
Caley noted that Mount Banks[*] possessed but few plants. The trees growing there were the bush-like Eucalyptus and a species of mimosa; a glaucous-leaved Senecio mixed with the fern and when climbing the Saddle he remarks, “The Warrote grows here,” referring most likely to the waratah.
[* Mount King George.]
The birds in this region were chiefly lories and crows. On seeing a crow on the 16th, when the men were on the point of starting on their return journey, he writes: “We had several times seen a crow . . . in this part on whichIcould not help remarking one of the men saying they must be lost or they would never stay in such a place . . . which put me in mind of Dr. Johnson’s sarcasm when he saw a crow in Scotland.”
The place where Caley stood to look westward may well be called the limit of his journey. Next day he left Mount Banks and travelled back along his outward track, the party arriving safely at Parramatta on November 23rd, when Governor King sympathetically stated that in his opinion the idea of attempting to cross such a “confused and barren assemblage of mountains with impassable chasms between was as chimerical as useless.”
[p152] In August, 1806, Caley again attempted to cross the mountains, but of this expedition there is no account among his MSS. This is curious, for the expedition was of sufficient importance for King to write to Governor Bligh on August 23, 1806: “Caley is just returned and should have waited on you to-morrow but . . . he is much fatigued and in want of rest. . . . He has confirmed the existence of a large tract of forest land beyond Natai which . . . confirms Mr. Barrallier’s observations . . . and will be useful in extending the interior establishments by which means alone the passing of the mountains can be established. . . . If the party had not taken a liberal supply of provisions they must have starved. The settler who accompanied Caley is quite knocked up.”
It is said that on one of his excursions Caley penetrated far into the mountains and built the cairn of stones near Woodford to mark the limit of his journey. In later years there has been much doubt as to this being the work of Caley, but the fact that Governor Macquarie afterwards called the landmark “Caley’s Repulse” will show that he believed it to be so, and it seems incredible that one so greatly interested in the exploration of the mountains as Macquarie could have been misled upon such a point. As Caley did not leave Sydney until after Macquarie’s arrival, he may well have given the Governor a verbal account of his explorations.
Caley returned to England in 1810 and later was appointed to superintend the botanical gardens at St. Vincent. He never ceased to regret that he was unable to find a way over the mountains, and was sceptical with regard to BlaxIand’s party having crossed them. “Will you believe me if I say the Blue Mountains in New South Wales are not yet crossed . . .” he writes from St. Vincent to Robert Brown; “for such . . . is my opinion. What I mean by crossing the mountains is having gone as far as where the waters are disembogued on the opposite coast and if having got to the summit of a range of hills which commands an excellent prospect of the colony and then descending on its western side, be called crossing the mountains they have long ago been crossed. . . Cox’s River which we are now told runs through Prince Regent’s Glen and empties into the Nepean I take to be a river which unites with the Hawkesbury at Mulgoey . . . Wonder no longer where the conflux of this river . . . is, but turn to the Grose and you will be tolerably correct. . . . Mr. Barrallier crossed the mountains as much [p153] as the others have . . . The forest he travelled over is much superior, with a main branch of the Hawkesbury gliding through the middle of the vale, and if coals be an object I have seen them in that quarter myself . . . though I walked 18 of his miles in an hour in as rough a valley as up the Grose, yetIwould sooner trust to his accuracy than to Mr. Evan’s.”
BLAXLAND CROSSES THE MOUNTAINS
The three men who finally succeeded where so many had failed were BlaxIand, Lawson, and William Wentworth. The last-named, then only a youth of twenty, in after years, owing to his determination and energy in furthering every object for his country’s good, came to be called by his fellow-colonists the Australian Patriot.”
Gregory BlaxIand, who led this expedition into the mountains, had settled at South Creek some years before, and was already familiar with the danger and difficulties to be met with among the ranges, occasionally having made short excursions to the foot of them from his homestead. He was now about to establish his reputation as a. bold and skilful explorer of them.
Lieutenant William Lawson, the third of the party, was an officer of the New South Wales Corps and may be termed “a born pioneer,” as is shown by the way in which he aided BlaxIand in this expedition, and by the part he played later, when he opened up the district around Mudgee.
It has been stated that Lawson often conversed with Caley in England upon the subject of crossing the mountains, and that the plan of ascending the ridge or the spine of the main range and following it westward was then discussed for the first time. On the other hand, it is said that the idea originated with BlaxIand, who, in a previous tour, had noticed that the backbone of the mountains ran westward and determined to ascend the ridge and push his way along the top of it, keeping in sight the heads of the gullies which were supposed to empty their streams into the Western or Warragamba River on the left hand, and into the Grose on the right. Whoever suggested it, it was the plan which ultimately led to success.
At four o’clock of the afternoon of Tuesday, May 11, 1813, the explorers left BlaxIand’s homestead at South Creek with four servants, five dogs, and four pack-horses, crossed the Nepean [p154] at Emu Island (some thirty-six miles west of Sydney), and after travelling two miles to the south-west halted at the foot of the first ridge, where they encamped for the night. Next morning they ascended the ridge, and on reaching its summit came to a spot where there was a freshwater lagoon.[*] As they advanced, difficulties soon overtook them. Their horses were constantly stumbling and the rocky hillsides, trying enough for the men, proved still more so for the animals. After two exhausting days both for man and beast, it was decided to leave the horses in charge of two men while the rest of the party cut their way through the bush. The work was unflinchingly got through, although there was not a man who was not wearied nor a hand that was not blistered and sore.
[* This lagoon still exists. The explorers reached the summit of the first ridge somewhere near the station at Glenbrook.]
On this memorable day, Friday, May 14th, a path extending for five miles through the thicket was completed wide enough to allow the pack-horses to pass and at five o’clock the explorers returned to camp. On the following day, leaving the camp as before in charge of the two men, they cleared two more miles, but, seeing no sign of grass for the horses, they returned again at five o’clock. On Sunday they rested. Next day, the 17th, the whole party pushed on and encamped on a narrow mountain ridge between two very deep gullies where some of the men descended a precipice to a depth of 600 feet to look for water, but none could be found. On the 18th, two miles farther on, they found their path flanked on both sides with precipices. Removing on their way some of the larger pieces of rock, the men crept along the narrow edge of the ridge and eventually got over in safety, but in the evening returned to camp, tired and out of spirits.
On the 19th, they ascended the second ridge,[*] and, looking back from it, caught a distant view of the settlement now a “minute speck ” beneath them. Not far from this spot, while busily cutting trees along the narrow path, they came upon a cairn of stones, shaped like a pyramid. One side of it had been opened and the stones scattered around, evidently by natives. It was thought then that it had been built by Bass to mark the end of his tour and that the exploring party were now following in his tracks; but, as already mentioned, Governor Macquarie [p155] believed that this pile of stones was Caley’s work and named it Caley’s Repulse.
[* This second ridge was the rugged range lying beyond Linden and separated from it by a deep valley.]
What lay beyond Caley’s Repulse was a mystery! The explorers might well have been overawed by the task they had set themselves. Possibly they remembered the old stories of the blacks at Port Jackson, who said it was the abode of evil spirits who hurled thunder and floods and burning winds upon them or, as Caley had learnt from natives, that beyond the mountains there was a great river inland and “a plane above the trees,” which was nearer the truth.
From Caley’s Repulse for some days the travellers advanced step by step averaging four or five miles a day, and on May 22nd reached the summit of the third and highest ridge in the neighbourhood of Wentworth Falls. A precipice here crossed their path and defied their efforts to descend it. At last they found a way round it and noticed that the ridge they were on was widening before them. Next day they passed close to the site of Katoomba and cut their names upon the trunk of a tree growing In their route. New birds attracted them. Emus were heard calling, and on the 24th the sound of a black fellow chopping wood excited their curiosity, and told them, although they could not catch sight of the native, that the mountains were inhabited.[*]
[* On this day they crossed Blackheath.]
On May 25th, the track of a wombat was seen, and a little later the smoke of native fires rising through the trees to westward, where apparently thirty natives were moving about but so far off that it was impossible to ascertain anything regarding them. On Friday, May 28th, as they followed the mountain spur that juts beyond Mount Victoria, to the explorers’ joy, they could see grass country in a valley below them. It was clear of trees and covered with loose white pebbles and stones. At first it looked barren and sandy, but they perceived that it really was grass, long and of a light straw colour. In the evening they descended the ridge to examine it more closely, but returned again to their camp on the edge of a high mountain, which was afterwards named Mount York by Governor Macquarie, though for some time it was familiarly known to travellers as the “Big Hill.” It rose sharply 798 feet from the valley below, which was called the Vale of Clwyd.
On Saturday, 29th., at seven o’clock in the morning, the men began their descent into the valley through a passage[*] between [p156] the rocks thirty feet wide which they had discovered the day before. A low, slanting trench had to be cut with a hoe down the steep side of the mountain for the horses to walk in, since there was no sort of foothold for them.
[* The passage was afterwards named Cox’s Pass, but Blaxland, in a letter to the Governor, dated June 15, 1815, states that it was discovered through a suggestion of Wentworth’s, and that the river was found by Lawson while the others were bringing the horses down the mountain.]
From the foot of Mount York the explorers proceeded northwesterly about two miles and encamped on the banks of a fine stream of water.[*] The natives evidently were still moving before them, for smoke was again seen to the westward on the 31st; remains of their old fires were found and traces where they had been sharpening their spears; and the marks on the trees showed that their method of climbing differed from that of the Sydney blacks.
[* The River Lett.]
On this day Blaxland and his party passed through forest land and open meadow and met with two streams.[*] At nightfall they pitched their tents by the faster-flowing one at a short distance from a high hill, which took the shape of a sugar loaf.[**]
[* The Cox and Lett Rivers.]
[* The Cox River, named by Governor Macquarie; and Mount BlaxIand, so called by Evans.]
After once more surveying the newly found pastures, the explorers, now sorely in need of provisions, prepared to return home. For a time they satisfied their hunger by eating flowers of the honeysuckle tree, which are shaped like a bottle brush and are full of honey. The natives still were encamped at a little distance away, evidently possessing no huts, and would not allow the white men to approach them. Terminating their journey eight or nine miles from Mount York, on Tuesday, June 1st, the travellers ascended the ridge and began their journey homewards; they carefully marked the trees to show each mile of the road, and crossed the Nepean on Sunday, June 6, 1813, with all their party well.
There still may be seen on the old Bathurst road near Katoomba the remains of a tree trunk-now fenced in–on which BlaxIand, Lawson, and Wentworth carved their initials L. B. W. Standing on a high point of the mountains, it forms an inspiring memorial of a supreme effort of those three men, carried to success solely by their courage and endurance.
Great was the excitement in Sydney when the news of [p157] BlaxIand’s success became known. With one accord the colonists rejoiced that they were no longer to live hemmed in to the westward by a mountain barrier, covered by giant rocks with ravines between, which, like some sleeping monster of old, had withheld from them for so many years the land that rightly should have been theirs to till and cultivate–a barrier among whose ravines Caley’s stubborn will had been of no avail and against whose rocks the determined spirit of Bass had spent itself in vain. Had the mountains themselves been removed the hopes of the townsfolk could not have burned more brightly than when their footsore fellow-colonists, thoroughly worn out, their clothes torn and frayed and hands covered with wounds, returned home bringing the good news that their party had passed over the Blue Mountains and had seen long grass growing on the other side. Little wonder if, as it has been averred, Governor Macquarie gave an order to ring the church bells, for the conquest of the mountains was complete.
Perhaps on that day, as the great possibilities for the country’s development dawned upon them, some remembered the words of Captain Tench written on reaching New South Wales with Hunter in H.M.S. “Sirius” on January 20, 1788: “To us it was a great and important day and I hope will mark the foundation . . . of an Empire,” and perhaps, echoing them, some said of June 6, 1813: “This too, is an important day for it will mark a milestone on our road.”
EVANS EXPLORES THE PLAINS
The mystery concerning the Blue Mountains having been solved, the discovery of the new territory led to important results. On November 19th, acting on instructions from Governor Macquarie, George William Evans, Deputy SurveyorGeneral, set out with a party from Emu Island to make a survey of the road and to explore the country from the point where the discoverers had turned back. On November 26th he reached the valley through which the rapid stream ran–the limit of BlaxIand’s expedition–and encamped at the foot of the “handsome mountain like a sugar loaf,” which he named Mount Blaxland, calling two others “similar in figure” Wentworth’s and Lawson’s Sugar Loaves.
In advancing from Mount BlaxIand, Evans, on November [p158] 27th, came upon a range[*] whose hills were very steep and proved a difficult ascent for the horses. He then discovered a valley where the grass was thick and halted to rest them. During his stay in it he remarks that he was unable to find any mimosa. This flower he evidently greatly admired, for he mentions it more than once in his journal. Strangely enough, in the country which he was on the verge of discovering the mimosa grows plentifully, and in some parts in the greatest profusion. When flowering, its exquisitely scented yellow clusters often form one of the prettiest features of the landscape. At this point, however, Evans was yet amid rugged bushland on the side of a hilly range, and could not then have foreseen, unless BlaxIand had already mentioned the flower to him, that he would be likely to find it in his path.
[* Clarence Hilly Range, named later by Governor Macquarie.]
Next day, November 28th, he left the horses in the valley, and sent three of his men to look for a track by which the animals could proceed on the morrow, while he crossed over to the north side of the rivulet to survey it. He returned to the camp at one o’clock and soon afterwards the men also came back, having been successful in their efforts to find a passage.
On Monday, 29th, in spite of precautions, Evans says that he “stopped quite out of spirits, having got completely entangled among the hills.” All this day he had great difficulty in fighting his way to the main ridge of the range. The only path to it led him through wildernesses of scrub and over masses of granite rock where the horses’ feet suffered terribly.
After travelling for two miles and a half, he got upon a lofty hill whence he could see for about fifteen miles to the north-west. He tells us that the view he obtained was all forest trees, but in every other direction it was obscured by high ranges, and the whole journey on this day totalled only three and a half miles.
On November 30th, he succeeded in mounting the main ridge by a difficult path, and from it, after walking for two miles, he could see northwards for a good distance. A peculiar mist rising some twenty miles away attracted his attention; it was so unlike smoke that he thought a river or large lagoon must be there. A quarter of a mile farther along the range he took another look around him from a high mount, and could see for forty miles over what appeared to be open country.
[p159] He then descended the range and passing over huge boulders came upon a river which took its rise in some large hills to the southward. Here his party shot wild duck and caught fish, which were large and plentiful in the stream. The distance travelled on this day was five and a half miles.
Evans then followed the windings of the river, which appeared to lead him “north of west” and next day, December 1st, discovered on the north side of it a remarkable hill with a stone on the peak. The hill was “nearly circular in form or like an Indian Fort,”[*] and this he named Evans’s Crown[**] after himself.
[*Quoted from Oxley’s journal.]
[** It is close to Tarana.]
He walked to its summit and, on looking westward, could see for a distance of fifty miles, then gaining his first view of the Bathurst Plains. His joy was unbounded. One can well believe the story handed down by the earliest settlers there who said that when Evans first caught sight of the plains he imagined that he was gazing at a vast inland sea. He might easily have been misled, for waves upon waves of grass like ocean billows lay stretched before him as far as eye could see. Nor can one wonder that Evans was delighted with his discovery. Few places suited to the wants of civilized man had been so jealously concealed from observation and approach, more bravely striven for or so hardly won as this inland prairie. He soon discovered that it was grassland, and of it he writes “It is a great extent of grazing land! . . . well watered by running streams in almost every valley!” This day he travelled five and a quarter miles. The following day turned out wet, and every one of the party got drenched, the thin leaves of the eucalyptus affording them little or no shelter; but he took great notice of the country through which they passed, and wrote: “I think it equal to Van Diemen’s Land, the river winding through fine flats and round the points of small ridges–that gradually descend to it–covered with the finest grass and intermixed with the white daisy as in England.” On this date he travelled only four and a half miles.
Next day he found the flower that he had before so often sought in vain–the mimosa–“in clusters on the banks of the river,” and evidently his progress on this day was a little faster, for his distance was five and three-quarter miles. On Saturday, December 4th, he came to “an exceeding good tract of country, and he describes it as “the handsomest I have yet seen, with gentle rising hills and dales well watered. The distant hills [p160] which are about five miles south, appear as grounds laid out, divided into fields by hedges. There are few trees on them and the grass is quite green.”
He still kept near the river, which provided the men with an abundance of fish, and the dogs in the meantime killed a kangaroo, of which there were plenty seen, as well as emus. While tracing the river, which wound over the plains, he bestowed upon it, a day or two later, the name of Fish River, because the fish were so easily caught and continued to be so abundant. His men rested near the banks on the 5th as it was Sunday. It rained most of the day and they had no shelter, nor did the trees provide them with any bark as a protection.
The first clear tract of land was named O’Connell Plains, in honour of the Lieutenant-Governor. “At the space of about a mile,” says Evans in his diary on December 6th, “I came upon a fine plain of rich land, the handsomest country I ever saw, it surpasseth Port Dalrymple” (Tasmania). Again he returns to praise it: “This place is worth speaking of as good and beautiful: the tract of clear land occupies about a mile on each side of the river. . . . We saw a number of wild geese but too shy to let us near them.”
Farther on he came to the outskirts of yet another plain which was “still more pleasing and very extensive.” He reached it at three o’clock on December 6th, and observes: “The soil is exceedingly rich and produces the finest grass intermixed with a variety of herbs. The hills have a look of a park and grounds laid out. I am at a loss for language to describe the country–I named this part the Macquarie Plains.” He notes the abundance of game, and fish as well, “which is caught immediately–they seem to bite at any time.” This day’s progress amounted to six miles.
Evans continued to advance along the Fish River, and on December 7th, “at about four miles,” his men were stopped by another river from the southward, which they traced for two miles in order to find a spot where they could ford it. They were held up by an approaching thunderstorm and had to find a shelter, for it was a severe one. This day the distance travelled was five and three-quarter miles.
After a wet night a fine morning broke on December 8th. While employed in tracing the second river, Evans, two miles farther on, came upon more open country, which he named Mitchell’s Plains. His party managed to cross this stream by [p161] throwing a rough log bridge across it, while some of the men swam over with the horses. He found the surroundings very beautiful: “No mountains to be seen. There are high hills at great distances, can observe them green to their tops.”
He named the second river Campbell River in honour of Mrs. Macquarie, it being her maiden name, and came to its junction with the Fish River at sunset. The two streams when united formed one river, to which Evans gave the name of the Macquarie, in honour of the Governor of New South Wales.
The Macquarie River flowed through another extensive plain, and on December 9th Evans in glowing terms praises the scenery: ” The hills are fine indeed. . . . I never saw anything to equal it . . . the soil is good,” and he adds a word of admiration for some trees he saw there: “The small trees on the lower banks of the river stand straight not lying down as . . . at the Hawkesbury.” He also commends the grass:” The grass might be mowed, it is so thick and long, particularly on the flat lands.” He was able to travel eight and a quarter miles on this day.
On December 10th he again followed the windings of the Macquarie across country which seemed to excel all the rest in its richness, and which he describes as “excellent good land with the best grass I have seen in any part of New South Wales.” Even the hills were covered with fine pasture, the trees being far apart. “At the termination of the plains is a very handsome mount,” and Evans went to the top of the mount which stood at the extremity of the plains, and says: “I named it Mount Pleasant from the prospect it commands to the N.E.”
As he stood and viewed its surroundings he wrote upon his map: “I can see at least 30 miles S.W. I could distinguish several plains and the course of a stream.” He certainly makes it plain from his writings that he was pleased with all he saw, and he observes: “The river now winds itself round the points of forest hills.”
There were numbers of emus and kangaroos now to be seen, but he writes, with evident disgust, “The dogs will not give chase and I imagine they are bad ones.” The river compensated for this loss, however; for he presently adds: “Nothing astonishes me more than the amazing large fish that are caught: one is now brought in that weighs at least 15 Ibs. They are all of the same species.”[*] He thus ends his entry on this day:[p162] “I call the plains last passed over ‘Bathurst Plains.'” The distance travelled was seven and a quarter miles.
[* Native Perch or “Australian Bass.”]
From Mount Pleasant, on the 11th, Evans continued to follow the course of the Macquarie. There soon came an alteration in the aspect of the country, and he thus describes his route:”The river leads me among hills the points of which end in rocky bluffs near the water. At about four miles I was brought up by one of them which appears to be the termination of a range of high hills from the south and is the only mass of rock I have met with since leaving the Blue Mountains.” He halted at this spot for a few hours so that he could examine it and ascend a peak, which he named on his map the Pine Hill. From its summit he saw that the river “twined about N.W. round the points of stupendous green hills to the S. and S.W.” On the north side of the river a ridge of pasture hills ranged westward. To the east he could see the fine plains that his party had travelled over. He could observe no rocky ranges with pine trees save the one he was on, and he writes: “The pines have a very romantic appearance . . . the largest of them is about four feet in circumference.”
He wished to go over the river and explore the north side, but says, “we could not cross the water.” On this day the party travelled where there were many rocks but good pasture, the distance accomplished being six and a quarter miles. On Sunday, December 12th, his men rested, while Evans took a walk for a few miles to the south-west, and was pleased to see “steep healthy hills thickly covered with grass and water in almost every valley.”
On the 13th “the hills were still steep and not so fine as those already passed”; “they are rather rough with rocks. . . . The gums are much larger and intermixed with boxtree . . . the soil . . . of a stiffer nature having pieces of alabaster rock among it. The high lands . . . have a great deal about them that on the surfaces is quite white in some places and of a yellow cast in others.” The Macquarie’s course now grew “irregular.” On December 14th the country through which it ran became more and more barren-looking, and Evans says, “it is the worst I have been over since leaving the Blue Mountains.” Nevertheless, he managed to travel seven miles on that day. On the 15th the road grew very rugged indeed, and the only open country to be seen was that from north-west to east.
The travelling for some days had been so rough that the [p163] men were now almost barefoot: the stones and grass had cut their shoes to pieces. Nor could they hope to renew them, since the dogs would not chase the kangaroo and, says Evans, “there is no certainty of obtaining skins for our feet.” The horses’ backs were also in a bad condition, and seeing no hopes of getting to the end of the high range of hills on which he then was Evans determined on December 16th to turn back on the following day. He writes” “I am now 98½ miles from the limitation of Mr. BlaxIand’s excursion.” This he had ascertained through having measured the whole distance by chain.
On the 17th the party turned eastward and made their way back again over the open plains. The track on Evans’s map shows that he did not follow his outward track along the Macquarie, and only returned to the river at intervals, presumably when in need of water. On one of these occasions he was fortunate enough to meet with some of the natives. He had previously looked for them, and had found “late traces” of their presence, so that he writes, “I think they are watching us and keep at some distance.”
On the 21st, however, while the men were fishing on the banks of the river, some were seen making their way towards it. The white men watched the black party advance over the plain, and quietly waited for their approach in order to surprise them. There were only two women and four children. “The poor creatures trembled and fell down with fright” at the sight of the strangers, and Evans says. “I think they were coming for water, I gave them what fish we had–also some fish hooks, twine and a tornahawk–which they appeared glad to get from us. Two boys ran away: the other small children cried much at first. A little while after I had played with them they began to be good humoured and laugh. Both the women were blind of their right eyes.”
Thus East met West on the Bathurst Plains.
BATHURST AND BEYOND
After Evans had returned to Sydney and had given an account of his travels, no time was lost in making a road over the mountains to the newly-found territory. Two hundred and fifty-seven miles of thick bush were cleared (fifty-eight of which spanned the breadth of the mountains); viaducts were built [p164] round giant rocks; chasms were bridged in a way that even to-day would be considered remarkable: with the result that when, on April 25, 1815, the Governor, accompanied by Mrs. Macquarie and suite, left for the settlement, the general and his wife were able to drive the whole way in their post-chaise. This notable feat in roadmaking was the work of Mr. William Cox, J.P., of Windsor.
Upon reaching Evans’s Crown and the highlands above the Bathurst Plains, the Governor obtained an extensive view of the country and of the Fish and Campbell Rivers. The first glimpse of the former gave him an idea that it was a stream of considerable magnitude. Owing, however, to the dry weather at the time, very little water was running and it might have been more properly described as a chain of pools.
At a distance of seven miles from the bridge which had been made over the Campbell River, a little to the south of its junction with the Fish River, the view was again admired. We need not wonder that the general openly expressed his pleasure at the sight of the open country. Years afterwards it was written of him that “he constructed roads like a Colossus and covered the Blue Mountains with corn”! but at this time he knew nothing of the interior, therefore the fertile grassland heralded prosperity and dispelled any doubts suggested by the barren regions of alternate rock and thicket.
A little later he saw the Macquarie, when the course of the river could be easily traced by the tall swamp oaks that grew upon its banks. It is the Macquarie of the white man; but in past ages the black men had called it Wambool or Wandering River, on account of its winding course, and out of the wood of the swamp oaks they had carved their boomerangs, shields, and womerahs. In its reaches were afterwards found large numbers of that curious animal the duck-billed platypus, and on the banks grew in profusion shrubs new to the colonists, strange grasses, and flax with its sweet-scented purple and white flowers.
A few trees were dotted here and there over the open country, chiefly the tall white eucalyptus, others being wattle or mimosa and some casuarina, tall and picturesque as the pine. On each side of the river little dark hillocks or knolls, and peculiar “fairy rings,” had been formed, and long furrows at regular intervals marked the plains. The furrows were remarkable and would have been taken for plough ridges in a civilized land, but no ploughshare had yet broken the soil, and it was conjectured that [p165] the water of a flood which had long receded must have caused them. It was curious that the furrows on each side of the Dividing Range ran in the same direction from north-east to south-west.
On May 4th the party encamped in an open space on the left bank of the Macquarie, whence the Governor made excursions along both banks and saw some natives. He had a portrait of a native chief drawn for him, and in a letter to the Home Government vouched for its being an excellent likeness. Some of these natives possessed cloaks of kangaroo skins, stitched together with the sinews of the emu, which they wore loosely over their shoulders. These had the fur side turned inwards and were often adorned with curious devices on the outer side. Governor Macquarie described one to Lord Bathurst which he said bore “as regularly formed a St. George’s cross as could be made.”
On Sunday, May 7th, the Governor fixed on a suitable site for the erection of a town to which he gave the name of Bathurst in honour of Henry third Earl Bathurst, then Secretary of State for the Colonies. The site designed for the town was found to be by observation taken at the selected flagstaff twenty-seven and a half miles north and ninety-four and a half miles west of Government House, Sydney. Within a distance of ten miles there were “not less than 50,000 acres, quite half of which was fit for cultivation. . . .” On May 11th the Governor and his party set out on their return to Sydney, where they arrived on the 19th.
As the Macquarie River flowed with such strong current and volume past the new settlement, the Governor dispatched Evans to trace the river still farther, and explore the country to the west and south-west. This is known as Evans’s second expedition westward. Accompanied by his man Appledove, he left Bathurst on May 13, 1815, passed through a valley named Queen Charlotte’s Vale, and discovered a small tributary and then a larger one, which he called Limestone Creek. On the 25th he fell in with a creek bearing south, which joined the bed of a stream that came from a north-westerly direction. It was dry, but the banks were seventy-nine feet apart and the large swamp oaks growing on either side made it evident that it marked the course of a large river. Evans named it the Lachlan in honour of the Governor, and established a military depôt at a spot which he called Byrne’s Creek. He discovered many hills and named the highest three Mount Lachlan, Mount Molle, [p166] and Mount Lewin. Emus and kangaroos were seen, and there were remains of burnt-out native fires, around some of which he counted no less than twenty-three heaps of emu feathers. A few days before he started on his return he met three natives, a man, woman, and child; the man ran to a tree and climbed up it, the woman and child remaining terrified at the apparition of a white man. Evans succeeded in getting on good terms with the child, but the man in the tree cried so loudly that he might have been heard half a mile away. On June 1st Evans, after carving his name and the date upon a tree, left the Lachlan River on his return to Bathurst, where he arrived on June 12th.
In 1817 Governor Macquarie ordered Lieutenant Oxley, the Surveyor-General, to trace the courses of the two rivers, the Lachlan and the Macquarie, and to “ascertain their final termination.” In company with Oxley, there went on this expedition Evans; Fraser, to collect plants for Lord Bathurst; Parr, who acted as mineralogist to the party; and Allan Cunningham.