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




On returning from his western tour, Cunningham set out with a small party to visit Cox’s River. He chose a new route across the Blue Mountains, taking a road that had been lately marked out by Mr. Bell, and known as Bell’s Road. Owing to unforeseen circumstances, Cunningham could not reach the river, although lie was able to examine Mount Tomah and other parts of the mountains lying to the north of the Grose.

As a botanist he was perhaps more drawn to the Blue Mountains than to any other part of the colony, for an amazing variety of plants grew in the ranges. It was there that he obtained the rare specimens of mountain flora which can be seen to-day in the herbarium at South Kensington including those he gathered at Mount Tomah.

In this excursion he seems to have been most attracted by the “stately” timber trees, their rigid branches half hidden by creepers; the tall, tree-ferns in groups beneath the shade of massive rocks with rough brown trunks supporting fronds of delicate green; the lichens and mosses, in places covering the face of the sandstone; the tender tiny maidenhair growing in the crevices of the rocks and under the dripping ledges; and, towering above them all, the waratah or native tulip (Telopea speciosa), its crimson flower, upon its upright stalk, visible upon the more distant heights of the mountains. All these he saw and described in his journal.

Having left Bell’s Farm on November 26th, 1823, the little party followed the marked trees of a surveyor[*] who had reported upon this new route, and quickly gained the main range. The “road” was bounded on each side by deep ravines, and in the[p512] course of their ascent became very narrow, its surface being covered with ferns and thicket. At 4 p.m. after having travelled six miles, the men rested for the night near a gully where they found fresh water. On the following day their path led them through a brushy forest, then across an open patch of rising ground which soon reverted to forest, its timber being chiefly Tristania albicans, the turpentine tree of the colonists. Here they saw some beautiful tree-ferns, Alsophila, fifteen to twenty feet high, Tetrathera dealbata, and a tree of Urticaceae bearing compound globular fruit.

[* This surveyor may have been Mr. Govett, who discovered Govett’s Leap, and was the writer of an interesting article describing the mountains (signed W.R.G.) that appeared in “The Saturday Magazine” for May, 1836. In the magazine his name is spelled Govatt.]

Ebook editor’s note: It was, in fact, The surveyor Robert Hoddle, as shown in the Colonial Secretary Index, which states:–

“On Sep 23rd 1823, J. Oxley instructing him to survey Bell’s track from Richmond to Cox’s River, explore for better road to Hunter River settlements, report on farms occupied at Kurrajong Brush, make survey of Government lands at Longbottom, etc.” (Reel 6068; 4/1814 pp.91-4)

Hoddle reported on Nov 4th “–on his survey of new route from Hawkesbury River to Cox’s River discovered by Mr Bell, exploration of mountainous district overlook Hunter River; discovery and naming of Panoramic Hill and Pyramid Hill” (Reel 6068; 4/1814 pp.109-15).

Half a mile farther the range came to an abrupt rocky termination to the westward. From the top of this rocky height, which had received the name of Bell’s View, an extensive landscape from S. by way of W. to E. opened to their gaze. To the S.W. and S.S.W. a series of moderately broken ranges extended beyond the Old Western Road, then better known as Evans’s Track. From N.W. to N.N.W. Cunningham found that the features of the country resembled those of the land on the Cudgegong to the eastward of Dabee, seen by him in his last tour.

The western face of the rocks where the range ended being too steep and precipitous to descend, the party followed the surveyor’s marked trees along the slope of a steep ravine that trended to the S.W. and descended into brushy, level country. The brush now became exceedingly dense, being over twelve feet high in places and composed chiefly of Pultenaea linophyllaDaviesia ulicina and Bursaria spinosa, or perhaps a distinct species similar to some found on the Hastings River. Four miles from Bell’s View the party encamped on the edge of another ravine which they quitted next morning, the 28th, and, following the blazed trees westerly, came to another Pultenaea brush as lofty and dense as those they had passed on the previous day. The timber at this point was of regular growth, and consisted of blue gum, stringy-bark and turpentine trees. No stream crossed the lonely road, but some water was found in the neighbouring gullies.

At the 14th mile a dry scrub took the place of the brush, in which Banksia serrata of large size, Lomatia silaifolia (parsley fern), Isopogon anemonifoliusTelopea speciosaLambertia formosa and several well-known Parramatta plants were flourishing in great luxuriance. Another mile onward, Indigofera australisBursaria sp. and Daviesia ulicina, bound together by Smilax australisCassylha paniculata and Clematis coriacea, formed a[p513] compact thicket and it was with difficulty the men and the pack-horses got through it. Dense bush continued until the nineteenth mile, when Cunningham reached the broken country he had seen from Bell’s View. Tracing the blazed trees upward, he and his men ascended the side of the mountain and climbed the fallen timber and scaled the large rocks, some of which were concealed by luxuriant ferns, until at last the summit was gained, and the tents pitched at the spot where the surveyor’s party had previously rested.

“The summit of the mountain is named by the aborigines Tomah,” writes Cunningham, “and is 20 miles distant from the Hawkesbury ford at Richmond.” The appearance of the timber at this height differed greatly from the Eucalyptus in the open country below, and he was struck by the stupendous size and extraordinary windings of the climbers, particularly of a Cissus, and also by the magnificent tree-ferns, Dicksonia antarctica, some of which were thirty feet in height and six to fourteen inches in diameter. All were tired out when they reached the top of Mount Tomah and no grass could be found for the exhausted pack-horses; only among the ferns was a species of Senecio, the heads of which the animals appeared to nibble.

Nov. 29th.–“It was my intention,” continues Cunningham, “to have spent a whole day at this encampment in order to examine the summit of Mount Tomah, but as it afforded my horses no fodder, that determined me to proceed westward early in the afternoon. As far as I could ascertain the timbers were two lofty species of Eucalyptus; one called white gum, Ceratopetalum apetalum (I have not the fruit); Achras australis,. Tristania albicansOlea paniculataElwaeodendron australe; and by far the more general tree, growing 60-70 feet, is a species of Atherosperma (sassafras).

“Twining and climbing plants of vast strength and magnitude hang from the heads of the loftiest trees and bore upon their pliant stems abundance of climbing Polypodia and tufts of Dendrobium allied to D. rigidum. Another plant of this beautiful family, rarely to be met with in the colony, I observed in flower sparingly; it was Sarcochilus falcatus, of which I gathered a few living specimens. Hanging in clusters from the highest branches of the trees, I detected a third species of this family, probably a Dendrobium, not apparently noticed by Mr. Brown: its long, slender, almost filiform stems were supported by strong roots which adhered firmly to the branches of the trees whence[p514] these plants swing in the breeze perfectly unencumbered and clear of the stems. A climbing, rooted-stemmed plant adhering to the trunks of the tree-ferns is very general in these shaded woods, where it also covers fallen timber. I was fortunate in detecting it in fruit and flower: it belongs to that division of Bignoniaceae of Jussieu producing baccate fruit.[*] The filices are numerous and curious.

[* Field’s “New South Wales,” p. 363, T. 2.]

“The soil of these shades is a loam blended with much decomposed vegetable matter. In this earth I remarked, partly buried, large blocks of compact whinstone, and in the banks of the water gullies I traced an abundance of slate. Fresh water percolates through the soil into the gullies and, although impregnated with iron, was of good quality. About 1 p.m. we continued our route over the mountain by the marked trees along a winding course through the darkest parts of the forest to the north-western declivity.

“Lofty, densely-timbered, mountainous ranges now appeared before us, peering over each other in no series or order but assuming an aspect so formidable by their peculiar faces overhanging deep ravines as to seem to defy all further attempt to penetrate westerly. However, we traced our way by the line of marked trees down the declivity, which at every step became more and more dangerous by reason of the loose fragments of sandstone and shelving rock strewn on the surface.

“In spite of every care, the heaviest-laden packhorse, in attempting to jump down a perpendicular fall of rock of three feet in depth, lost his balance and got off his legs in an instant on the edge of a declivity, down which he rolled over five times before his descent was stopped by the saddlebags. On being disburdened of his load, he got upon his legs, evidently much shaken but with no bones broken. The dangers of the loosely-stoned track along a sharp decline of the mountains, frequently obstructed by fallen timber, appeared so considerable as scarcely to warrant our further prosecution of the journey to Cox’s River with packhorses so heavily laden as ours. Unwilling, however, to halt and suffer myself to be discouraged by a single accident, we continued along the slope of the mountain another half-mile, when, both my wearied beasts having repeatedly fallen and the path becoming more rough and dangerous with shelving rocks and fallen timber, I was obliged to halt in stony scrub on the sharp side of the mountain, it being dusk, and heavy rain having[p515] set in for the night. We pitched our tent, gave our poor beasts a little corn, frugally issued, and secured them to the trees around our fire without a blade of grass or herb for them to eat, the recent fires having destroyed every kind of vegetation.

30th–“Some young rushes being found on a patch of bog by one of my people, I caused the horses to be shifted and tethered upon it. It however benefited them nothing, since they partook but little of it.

Dec. 1st.–” The route westerly proving much more rugged and dangerous, and as my horses are now much reduced and the line of road before me (18 miles to Cox’s River) having been reported by the surveyor to be of nothing but and brushes, I have been induced from necessity to proceed back to my encampment at Tomah, where I propose to remain a day to rest my wearied horses.”

The horses having refused to eat the grass found on Mount Tomah, and growing daily more emaciated, Cunningham despatched the weakest in charge of one of the men back to his encampment of the 27th, while he employed himself at the mountain in collecting parasitic orchids, of which three species were diffused through the forests, though difficult to obtain, since they were hanging from the highest branches of the largest trees. He collected Sarcochilus falcatus in flower growing on the branches of AtherospermaDendrobium linguaeforme (allied to D. rigidum); and a third species hanging from the highest trees. He succeeded in gathering specimens in flower of a tree forty feet high whose natural habits were very remarkable. It was seen frequently growing together with the Dicksonia antarctica, the tree-fern of this mountain, each having its separate stem in the ground, but so united as to appear a single tree, although on one side could be perceived the rough bark of the tree and on the opposite the rugged caudex of the tree-fern; and every specimen of the Dicksonia had young seedlings of this tree growing from its stem.[*] On the 3rd Cunningham quitted Mount Tomah and began his homeward journey to Parramatta.

[* Heward states that this tree was Quintinia Sieberi (A. de Cand.). See “Annals of Natural History,” Vol. II, P. 356.]

Another expedition to the Illawarra in July and August was purely a botanizing tour, and it was noteworthy, like the last, for the number of living plants Cunningham obtained.

Before starting for Illawarra, he paid a flying visit to Bathurst, and on returning to Parramatta found that the French ship[p516] “Coquille” (Captain Duperrey) was at anchor in Port Jackson. He accompanied the French scientists in their excursions over the Blue Mountains; and his knowledge of the ranges proved helpful to MM. Durnont d’Urville and Lesson, the former then acting as botanist, while the latter was naturalist to the French expedition.

At the end of March, 1824, the King’s Botanist (the title by which Cunningham appears to have been best known) began a southerly journey through the counties of Argyle and Camden. At this time he visited Lake George and Lake Bathurst. A plant of the south coast discovered in 1802 by Mr. Brown (Lomatia ilicifolia), found growing in great profusion in the Argyle district, and the singular limestone caves to which he paid a short visit, seemed to him the most interesting features of this excursion. The distance travelled was about 420 miles, and he returned to Parramatta in May.

Cunningham was botanizing at Illawarra when he heard that Mr. Oxley was preparing to voyage to Moreton Bay, taking with him a party “equipped with every necessary store and provision to found a colony there.” Included in Oxley’s party were Lieutenant Millar, 40th Regiment, his wife and family, fourteen soldiers, a commissariat officer or storekeeper, his assistant, and about twenty prisoners, Lieutenant Millar having been appointed commandant of the proposed settlement.

On hearing this news Cunningham hurried back to Sydney and joined Oxley, who sailed in the “Amity” brig on September 2nd, arriving safely at Moreton Bay on September 11, 1824.

Before relating Cunningham’s adventures at Moreton Bay it is necessary at this point to give some account of the earlier history of the bay wherein the capital of Queensland is situated.



It will be remembered that on Thursday, May 17, 1770, Cook had discovered Point Lookout and had named a wide, open bay on the north side of it Morton’s Bay. Banks, too, had written on that day, “I was led to conclude that the bottom of the bay might open into a large river,” for the sea-water here had turned a dirty clay colour as if charged with freshes.

[p517] In 1799 Captain John Hunter, Governor of New South Wales, aware that Cook’s discoveries of Moreton Bay and Harvey Bay remained unsurveyed, agreed to Matthew Flinders’ proposal to examine both harbours; Moreton Bay at this time being more generally known as Glasshouse Bay. Hunter, however, informed Flinders that he must complete the voyage in six weeks.

Flinders and his brother Samuel Flinders, a midshipman in the “Reliance,” left Sydney on July 8th in the colonial sloop “Norfolk,”[*] the small ship in which Flinders and Bass had recently circumnavigated Tasmania. She was manned by volunteers from the “Reliance” and the “Buffalo”; and Boongaree,[**] the Broken Bay native, made one of the crew. As he sailed northwards Flinders carefully traced the East coast placing on his chart that part of it which Cook had left uncharted. On the 9th he named Sugarloaf Point and noted the situation of two dangerous rocks (Seal Rocks). At Cape Hawke he found that what Cook had mistaken for two hillocks was in fact the pitch of the Cape itself. On July 10th, the “Norfolk”sprang a leak which gave all on board cause for alarm. She now passed the Solitary Islands, and Flinders added five to those on his chart discovered by Cook. He records that he thought these islands might with equal propriety have been termed “miserable.” On July 11th, he saw a small river-like opening (Wooli Wooli River) in 29°43′ S., with an islet at its entrance, and at sunset entered a larger inlet, to which he gave the name of Shoal Bay. He went in his boat to examine this harbour and found it shallow, but missed seeing the entrance to the Clarence River, which admittedly is not easily distinguished.

[* Built in Norfolk Island of the pine of the country.]

[** There are variations in the diaries of the spelling of this name.]

Returning to the sloop at noon he next landed on the South Head and proved the entrance to be in 29°26’28”. On the South Head some native huts were seen, circular in form, the framework of each being made of vine shoots crossed and bound together with grass, superior to any at Port Jackson. The palm-nut tree mentioned by Cook was found growing here.

On the afternoon of the 12th Flinders weighed and made sail, and next day passed Mount Warning and Cape Byron; and, in order to avoid the reef off Point Danger, he then kept his ship at some distance from the coast.

On the 14th he again drew near the land at Point Lookout[p518] and found its latitude to be 27°27′ S., whereas Cook had made it 27°6′. At dusk Cape Moreton bore west two or three miles and over the distant land the highest Glasshouse Mountain appeared W. 3° or 4° N. Two hummocks resembling hay-cocks opened soon afterwards a few degrees to the southward.

The “Norfolk” stood round Cape Moreton and steered westward to enter Moreton Bay, but, finding the passage blocked up by sand shoals and there being little wind, Flinders dropped anchor for the night at eight o’clock, Cape Moreton then bearing E.S.E. two or three miles. Weighing again on the 15th July[*] the sloop steered eastward and worked down the western shores of what Flinders afterwards called Moreton Island until he reached lat. 27°00’29” S., Cape Moreton then bearing east 10° north two or three miles. While ranging within a mile of the shore ten natives, some of whom were women, greeted the vessel after the native fashion, shouting words similar to those used by the Port Jackson blacks; one waved a green branch from side to side until it touched the ground; others beat the surf with their sticks and all seemed anxious for the ship to draw further into the bay.

[* This is an important date, as, according to Flinders he made his way into Moreton Bay on the 15th. Collins, who wrote his Voyage, makes it the 14th.]

At eight in the evening Flinders anchored in eleven fathoms of water, two miles from a low sandy shore on the west side of the bay, off a point at the southern end of Bribie Island. At daylight next morning, the 16th, the sloop weighed to sail up the bay, and while she was beating through the shoals Flinders caught sight of an opening in the low land to westward. He wished to come to an anchorage there but, shoal water preventing him, he anchored among the shoals at a quarter past eight in three fathoms. After breakfast a boat was lowered and Flinders, accompanied by Boongaree, went to examine the opening. “In approaching the sandy point on the east side of it some dogs were noticed on the beach,” and soon afterwards natives appeared with their fishing nets over their shoulders. They apparently were unarmed but many carried pieces of wood in their hands. The boat drew closer in shore and the men lay on their oars while Flinders by signs tried to converse with the natives.

Boongaree wished to go and speak to them, and on meeting them immediately began to make friends, exchanging his yarn belt for a fillet of kangaroo hair. As all seemed well, Flinders[p519] took his gun and prepared to join Boongaree, but, seeing that they eyed his weapon suspiciously, he placed it on the beach before he approached the group of natives. He gave one man a woollen cap and showed that he desired a net bag in exchange. Flinders happened to be wearing a white cabbage-tree hat, at which from the first moment they saw it the blacks cast longing glances. Its neatly plaited strands drew forth their admiration, for they were experts of the art, and a little later the hat became the innocent cause of a sudden display of anger on the part of the islanders. On their asking for it and its being refused them the man who had accepted the cap threw it behind him and tried to secure the hat. At first the natives appeared amiable, and although they followed Flinders and Boongaree too closely on their return to the boat they were not unduly excited.

Then a native with a long, hooked stick tried to remove Flinders’ hat; another stretched his arm for it from behind. These futile attempts created laughter, but when they saw the boat putting off from the shore the temper of the natives suddenly changed. One threw a piece of firewood at the strangers; another, running into the surf, hurled a second piece at short range. Both missiles fell short and a few moments later the man in the water threw a spear, which passed over the centre of the boat close to the gunwale. In reply to this unprovoked attack Flinders twice snapped his gun at the blackfellow, but each time it missed fire. At a third attempt the gun went off and the natives, including the man in the water, fell flat on their faces. As they quickly made off it was seen that this man went slowly as though he had been wounded. The bay had to be examined and the leak had to be repaired; so Flinders says that he was determined to create respect among these people, and therefore he ordered two shots to be fired into the brush where natives were seen watching the boat through the trees.

From this low and sandy point, which on account of what had occurred was called Point Skirmish, the boat proceeded into the opening leading to the Glasshouses. Unaware that this point was a part of an island Flinders named the opening Pumice Stone River (it is now called Pumice Stone Strait) because of the quantity of pumice stone strewn there, from which it was inferred that the three Glasshouse Mountains were of volcanic origin. The boatmen could not get far up the opening owing to the strong ebb tide, and Flinders landed on its eastern side to view the country. Here five or six native huts twelve to fifteen feet long were[p520] standing close together. In one was found a small and very light shield; in another was an old net with a bag attached–the mesh knotted after the manner of European seine-makers, and obviously it was a scoop net, which was unknown on the south coast.

Among the large trees growing on Bribie Island was one different from any at Port Jackson. Its leaves were dark and resembled those of a pine; its wood smelt strongly of turpentine and it was red in the centre like an ironbark. Blue gum, she-oak, and cherry-tree all grew at this place, as well as a tree possessing the leaves of a gum, yet having the soft bark of the tea tree.

On returning to the ship Flinders found that the leak had been stopped and he therefore decided to leave the examination of the Glasshouses until another time and to proceed southwards and explore the southern shores of Moreton Bay. At daylight on Wednesday, July 17th, the sloop got under weigh, and at half past ten anchored at a mile and’ a half from a point with red cliffs, which was named Red Cliff Point. He says: “slightly to westward of it the latitude was found to be 27°16’25” S.” This is the latitude of Woody Point. Flinders had now reached the mainland shores of Queensland.

From Red Cliff Point he pulled over to a green headland (Woody Point) two miles distant to westward; some small reefs lying off it resembled a miniature barrier reef. In a native hut on the west side of the headland where he landed he found a seine 14 fathoms long with meshes larger than any English seine and the twine stronger, while at each end there was a pointed stick, three feet in length (a net for catching dugong). Upon a shoal near the house were some weirs set in a semicircle and made of sticks and branches so closely interwoven that no fish could get through. Flinders brought the net away and left a hatchet in its place. The remains of a stringy-bark canoe were lying close to the house, and footprints of dogs, kangaroos, and emus were seen on the beach. Flinders shot a curious hawk here of a dull red colour with a milk-white head, neck, and breast. In the afternoon the “Norfolk” made further progress down the bay, anchoring for the night over a muddy bottom. It is a pity for the sake of those interested in the early history of Queensland that Flinders did not publish his own story of the surveys he now made, for he was the first navigator to examine Moreton Bay after Cook had placed its outer shores upon his chart. Governor Hunter, however, delivered Flinders’ journal[p521] to Colonel Collins to edit, and he gives the following account of the explorations that were now carried out:

“On the following morning, July 18th, they got under weigh with a flood tide and a moderate breeze from the northward. In their progress they passed two islands of from 3 to 4 miles in circuit. The northernmost was the largest, being nearly level with the water’s edge. [This apparently was Mud Island.] The foliage of the trees upon the southern island was equally dark and luxuriant, but the interior part of it was higher. [St. Helena Island.] There were two other smaller islands nearly on a level with the first, but the southernmost was very small. [These appear to have been Green Island and King Islet respectively; see chart, which will now best help to identify the discoveries.] In passing between the two islands [Mud Island and St. Helena] they had deep water, but on its suddenly shoaling they tacked and stood to the westward. In this situation the entrance from Moreton Bay was open. To the south-east about five miles distant was another island larger than any of the four islands above mentioned. [Peel Island.]

“Reckoning the northernmost of the four islands to be the first in number they made their course good for the third island [Green Island] and the water deepened to six fathoms.[*]

[* Collins.]


As the “Norfolk” proceeded higher up the bay a number of natives with long poles like those of the South Sea Islanders appeared to be advancing towards her. It was thought that they were in their canoes and were coming to attack the ship which was quickly prepared for defence. The supposed fleet however turned out to be only a number of peaceable fishermen standing in a line upon a mud flat surrounding the island and splashing the water with their long sticks in order to drive the fish into their nets.

Some smaller islands[*] (now known as Fisherman Islands) concealed the entrance to the Brisbane River, blocking Flinders’ view so that he was not aware that a river opened here into the bay. The flood tide having ceased, the “Norfolk” anchored at noon in 27°27¼’ S. in six fathoms. This latitude confirmed his[p522] previous observations made on the 14th at Point Lookout. The third island then bore south-west about one and a half to two miles, the centres of the two northern islands north and north-west and the entrance to Moreton Bay N. 77° E.

[* Dr. Lang says that Flinders named these islands Fisherman Islands. Collins’s account, however, and Flinders’ chart make it appear that the name Fisherman Islands was first bestowed upon Green Island and its neighbours. For Collins states: “The third island on which the natives were,” bore W. 4° S. about one and a half to two miles from the “Norfolk’s” anchorage. The islands now called Fisherman Islands would bear N.W. from it, and they are not placed on Flinders’ chart.]

From the “Norfolk’s” anchorage the shores of Moreton Bay looked closed all round excepting in the south-east, where there was a small opening. A sixth island was seen in the passage to this opening, and as soon as the ebb tide had slacked Flinders weighed and made sail, beating up to it against a south wind.[*] The “Norfolk” passed close to the third island (Green Island), and on standing round the south part of the shoal which seemed to surround it a native was observed signalling to those on board, but being anxious to get up the bay as far as possible while the tide was favourable, Flinders paid no attention to him. To the east of the sixth island the deep water contracted to a narrow channel, and a little before midnight the sloop was compelled to anchor there.

[* “Terra Australis,” p. 197 and Collins, Vol. II, P, 240.]

On the following day, July 19th, Flinders landed upon the sixth island (Innes Island) with instruments to take angles and to observe the latitude. He saw footprints of dogs and of men, those of the latter barely visible. There were, however, native fire-places on the island and other signs that it had lately been visited. “It was two or three miles in circumference . . . the west side abundantly covered with mangroves.” The trees, “among which was the new pine, were large and luxuriant.” The north-east and south-west sides were chiefly low and sandy, and here again the nut-palm was growing. Boughs were seen stuck in the ground and placed round native fire-places to keep off the southerly winds. A black and white cockatoo, a beautiful lilac-headed parrot, and the mocking-bird with a bald head (of Port Jackson) were the most noticeable birds there.

Flinders writes at this time: “The latitude observed upon the sixth island was 27°35′ S. . . . Above this island [i.e. farther southward towards the southern extremity of Moreton Bay] the east and west shores from being 9 or 10 miles apart, approach each other within two miles and the space between them takes the form of a river [here he would be alluding to the space at the mouth of the Logan River], but the entrance was too full of shoals to leave a hope of penetrating by it far into the interior. . . . Under this discouragement and that of a foul wind all further research at the head of Glasshouse Bay was given up.”

[p523] These words show that although Flinders afterwards wrote in a general way, “no river of importance intersects the east coast between the 24th and 39th degree of South latitude,” he had seen signs of an opening into the land. It was left for Captain Logan, commandant at Brisbane, to discover the river which bears his name. It is, however, only navigable for small vessels.

Next morning, on leaving the anchorage off Innes Island, Flinders sailed northwards, again passing between St. Helena and Mud Islands and anchoring at sunset within two miles of the entrance to Pumice Stone River.[*]

[* Collins.]

Early on July 21st he set out in his boat to explore the river and the opening which later proved to be a strait, in order to find a spot where he could lay his ship ashore. On approaching Point Skirmish he saw five or six natives unarmed on the beach. The shoals in the stream were very intricate, but he found a place large enough to admit the sloop.

At nearly the end of this boat excursion Flinders went on shore, choosing a piece of dry sand “out of the reach of native spears” at about six miles from Point Skirmish, where he shot some swans. Before the boat had reached the sand at a higher part of the river a man with whom were women and children had hailed Flinders from the west side calling “Woorah,” “woorah.” The boat was backed near enough for a yarn stocking to be thrown at him, and to show him how it might be worn as a cap, and Flinders and the blackfellow parted good friends.

On the 22nd the “Norfolk” was brought into Pumice Stone River to be repaired. The place chosen to lay the ship down was “on the east side[*] at a small beach five miles above Point Skirmish, where the depth was 7 fathoms.” On this day Flinders seems to have seen dugong in the river, and it is strange he had not met with them sooner as they were very numerous there in early days. He describes “several animals that came to the surface to blow in the manner of a seal,” they did not spout nor had they any dorsal fin–their heads “resembling the bluff nosed seal.” He fired three musket balls into one and Boongaree speared another, but they both sank. These animals, observes Flinders, might be sea-lions. They are, however, better known as sea-cows.

[* Introduction to “Terra Australis,” p. 197.]

On the 25th the “Norfolk” was ready for sea. Her cargo[p524] having been restowed and her water completed, Flinders proceeded in her up Pumice Stone River for two or three miles, intending to visit the Glasshouse Mountains, which, he says, “had excited his curiosity.” In the deepest parts of the river there were four to six fathoms, but the channel was narrow and much divided. The “Norfolk” was brought to an anchorage on the west side, at the place where Flinders had been hailed by a blackfellow on the 21st. Here a fire was seen burning and several women’s voices were heard. Next morning Flinders went by boat “up a small branch that pointed towards the peaks,” but it was found to rejoin the same stream and form two low mangrove islands the Glasshouses then being “on the left hand.”

Leaving the boat at 9.30 and taking Boongaree and two t seamen with him Flinders set out on a north-west-by-west course, which brought them to a creek with low muddy banks covered with mangroves. This creek they followed to the southwest over swampy country towards its head, and as it became shallow they waded over it. They then steered north-west, occasionally sighting the Glasshouse mountain with sloping sides, and according to Flinders’ description, “a Stony Mount” towards which, as it was nearer, he turned, and after having walked nine miles from the time he had left the boat he climbed to the top. The ascent was difficult, and he was reminded of Mount Direction in Tasmania. The trees on it were taller and straighter than were those passed on level ground.

From the summit of this mount Flinders obtained an extensive view of the southern shores of Moreton Bay and the neighbouring country. “The uppermost part of the bay (i.e. the southernmost) appeared at S. 24° E. and most probably communicated with a line of water which was visible at S. 12° E., where there were several distinct columns of smoke.”[*] This last bearing, says Collins, “Mr. Flinders apprehended to be near the head of the river he was not Permitted to enter with the sloop from the intricacy of the channel and the shortness of time which remained for his excursion.” In this direction too he must have seen the High Peak of his chart which was named later, Flinders Peak.

[* See Collins, Vol. II, P. 247. The “line of water” in the south-east seen by Flinders from “Stony Mount” was most likely the Brisbane River, and not the Logan which he had been unable to enter.]

From Stony Mount the highest Glasshouse (Beerwah) bore four miles distant to the north-west. Flinders also saw in[p525] the direction of the head of Pumice Stone River a large sheet of water which seemed to divide into small branches; and doubtless he then obtained a view of the waters of the channel which led from the strait to the sea. There was a large smoke near the foot of the mountains inland.

On continuing their journey, the sun being then below the trees, they encamped for the night by a stream at about two-thirds of the distance between the Stony Mount and the Glasshouse with the flat top. At seven the next morning, July 27th, they arrived at the foot of this Glasshouse Mountain (Canowrin); but owing to the steepness of its sides it was found impossible to ascend it. Flinders found there no marks of volcanic eruption, and few traces of men or animals were noticed at this stage of their tour.

Flinders now turned back and took a south-south-east course in order to get clear of the head of the creek and the swamps; this course leading him inland, he altered it, and after crossing a broad stream of fresh water walked three miles back to the boat. Next morning, Sunday, the 28th, the “Norfolk” proceeded down the river and anchored about a mile within its entrance, where she was detained for two days.

At this time natives from both sides of Pumice Stone River visited the parties on shore. Flinders now seems to have learned more about the natives than ever before, which, he says, was due to the friendliness of “the gallant and unsuspecting” Boongaree, who, finding their spears inferior to his own, not only made them a present of a better one and a throwing stick, but showed them how to use them. Afterwards they, in turn, were very friendly and sang songs for the visitors in a most pleasing way. On observing that they were listened to attentively they each selected a white man, and with much earnestness sang in his ear as if trying to teach their song to him. Like the natives of Endeavour River it was the custom for them to introduce strange natives to the white men by their names. Flinders made them many presents. It was ascertained that they fished almost altogether with cast and setting nets. Their spears were of solid wood and they did not use the womerah. Their canoes, one of which was closely examined, were of stringy-bark, the ends being tied up in a rather clumsy fashion.

On Wednesday, 31st, Flinders sailed out of Moreton Bay, after having spent fifteen days in exploring it. He then named the land on which Cape Moreton was situated Moreton Island, [p526]”supposing that Cook would have called it so had he known of its insularity.” Steering northward along the coast he passed Wide Bay on August 1st and Sandy Cape on the 2nd (placing it in lat. 24°45′ S.) and entered Hervey Bay on the 6th. On the voyage he noticed in the water one of the spotted sea-snakes with a flat tail such as Banks had seen off Hervey Bay and like those he himself had seen when sailing through Torres Strait with Bligh in H.M.S. “Providence.” Flinders thought they were a similar kind to those Dampier had observed on the North-West Coast.

Hervey Bay appeared to be deep and extensive. Flinders sailed round it and did not find any rivers there; his time, however, was too limited to allow him to examine it very thoroughly. He tried to take the sloop into one opening–apparently about two miles wide–but it was full of shoals and he could discover no channel into it. He anchored half a mile to the north-west of a low islet rocky sandy spot in 25°17′ S.–lying in this opening. On the islet were seen thousands of curlews, besides other birds, and he named it Curlew Islet. A cluster of palms and a few small trees grew there and two or three large trees–of a tough close-grained wood–lay upon the shore thrown down by either wind or flood. Upon one of these was caught the cap of a whale’s skull and in one of the eye sockets a bird had built its nest. Natives visited Curlew Islet, for their spears of solid wood–one being barbed with bone–were picked up there and their fires were burning in different places around the bay.

Flinders found that Hervey Bay was divided into an upper and lower bay; the shores on the east side of the former being high and bounded by steep white cliffs. He thought a channel would be discovered, for he “was unwilling to believe that there was not a good passage even to the head of a sheet of water 6 or 7 miles square into which probably one or more streams emptied themselves.” He left Hervey Bay on August 7th. Owing to unfavourable winds the “Norfolk” did not reach Port Jackson until the 20th.


Twenty-four years passed away and no further survey of Moreton Bay took place until 1823, when John Oxley was instructed by Sir Thomas Brisbane to examine various harbours[p527] to the northward and to select one as the site for a new penal settlement.

Oxley left Port Jackson in the “Mermaid,” Charles Penson, master, on October 23rd, taking with him Lieutenant Stirling of the Buffs, Mr. Uniacke, and a Sydney native named Bowen.

After touching at Port Macquarie the “Mermaid” met with a strong gale, from which she sought shelter on the 31st at Cook Island off Point Danger. Before coming there Oxley had sighted the mouth of a river to the northward, which he afterwards named the Tweed. Next day he sent the master to inspect it while Stirling and Uniacke landed on Cook Island. The island was thought to be of volcanic origin, for the rocks of which it was composed were full of curious holes; there were similar rocks upon a bluff headland on the main opposite, and these were “only inferior in extent to the Giants Causeway”; the headland to-day is known as Fingal Point. The surf beat upon Cook Island with terrific force, driving the water up through the holes in the rocks with a deafening noise.

On the north-west point Stirling and Uniacke saw a wreck and imagined that the ship might have belonged to the expedition of La Pérouse, whose fate was then still unknown. The larboard quarter, with part of the stern and quarter deck, were all that remained of a vessel of about 300 tons. The oak planks “were not yet totally destroyed,” says Uniacke, who was of the opinion that the wreck could not have been a recent one. Oxley closely examined it, hoping to trace the ship’s name, but without success. A piece of slate with part of a name deeply scratched on it and part of a case of mathematical instruments were all that could be found. Turtle were so numerous on the island that Oxley was induced to call this island Turtle Island, a name, however, that has not survived.

On his return the master reported that he had inspected the river which had been sighted to northward, and that it had a bar entrance; a party therefore crossed over to the mainland to explore it and found that it ran through “a deep rich valley clothed with magnificent trees behind which rose Mount Warning’s singular peak.” On the right bank of the stream, which was traced for some distance, a native man with some women and children were seen whose only defensive weapon was a stone hatchet. The man was curiously scarified all over his body.

A favourable wind arose, and as Oxley wished to proceed to sea the further survey of the Tweed River was postponed.

[p528] The “Mermaid” hoisted her sails and was preparing to weigh anchor when 200 natives armed with spears came to watch her go, evidently pleased at her departure. On November 6th at noon Oxley reached Port Curtis. He immediately went to sound the port while Stirling and Uniacke landed at Facing Island to seek for fresh water, and found a small quantity. Later in the afternoon they accompanied Oxley on an excursion. On quitting the ship with two boats and sufficient provisions to last his party three days, he at first steered to South Shore Head, six miles from the anchorage. Here the mangroves were impenetrable and the boats were taken two miles beyond the Head to a sandy beach, where the tents were pitched–the seamen building a comfortable hut for themselves out of boat sails.

Oxley left a corporal and three men in charge of the camp, and crossed the country in a south-south-east direction, when he met with two rivulets, a larger and a smaller stream. Near the first he discovered a curious native grave lying at the foot of a large tree. The bark had been torn from the trunk upwards for about six feet and the wood was deeply engraved with rude symbols resembling the footprints of kangaroos and emus. It was therefore supposed to be “the grave of a great hunter.”

The outward journey had been a difficult one, but the men having notched the trees, their journey back to the camp was made easier. Oxley set out next day with another party to look for the mouths of the two rivulets, and soon came to a creek which, after he had traced it for six miles, led him to a spot where there was fresh water, but in such small quantities that he considered the place unsuitable for a settlement.

Meanwhile the master who had been carrying out explorations elsewhere had discovered a fresh-water river to the southward. On hearing this piece of good news Oxley decided to remain longer at Port Curtis. On the following day he proceeded in his boat with some of his party twelve miles up the newly discovered river and encamped on a bank forty feet above it. Teal, widgeon, and numerous wild birds covered its surface, and Uniacke shot two swamp pheasants (a black bird in shape like an English pheasant), a small dove unknown in Sydney, and a new kind of owl–with a black head. The mosquitoes here were unbearable, “their noise alone sufficient to banish sleep–their stings extremely painful,” so that the party spent a broken night and could get no rest.

Next morning Oxley returned on board the “Mermaid.”[p529] Before taking his departure he ascended a hill and from it obtained a good view of the surrounding country. He gave the name of the Boyne to the river.

The mate, who had been absent sounding the entrance, now announced that he had found a harbour to the south-east. On the receipt of this information Oxley decided to abandon the idea of visiting Port Bowen altogether and to investigate the new harbour. On Saturday, November 15th, he therefore left Port Curtis and made his way towards it. The inlet, to his disappointment, proved to be Rodd’s Bay, which had already been reported by Captain King. The “Mermaid” left Rodd’s Bay, where the sea was infested with sharks, on November 21st. She experienced very tempestuous weather and did not reach Moreton Bay until November 29, 1823, at 6 p.m., when she anchored 150 yards off the shore in the exact place where twenty-four years previously Matthew Flinders had brought the “Norfolk” to an anchorage.


The “Mermaid” had scarcely let go her anchor off Skirmish Point than a number of natives were seen hurrying towards the beach. While they were still some distance off Uniacke, who was watching them through his glass from the masthead, noticed a man with a lighter skin than the rest and pointed him out to Stirling and some others on board, consequently, when the blacks collected there, Uniacke says, “we were all on the look out for him.” To their surprise on coming opposite the ship the man hailed them in English.

Oxley, Stirling, and Uniacke immediately went ashore, and on their landing the blacks were overcome with delight and embraced the white man, for such he proved to be, again and again, while he seemed nearly as wild as they, He was perfectly naked and covered all over with red and white paint.

He told Oxley his story. His name was Thomas Pamphlet and he had left Sydney in an open boat for Five Islands with three companions on March 21, 1823. They had been driven out to sea and suffered inconceivable hardships, being twenty-one days without water. One of them had lost his reason and perished. On April 16th they had landed on Moreton Island, where their boat was stove in. His two surviving companions, named Parsons and Finnegan, were absent, as only six weeks[p530] before all three had started to walk to Sydney. He had knocked up after walking fifty miles and returned to this tribe again. Finnegan, having quarrelled with Parsons, had also returned, but was now absent at the south end of Moreton Bay. Parsons had not since been heard of. The man grew so bewildered as he tried to tell this story that little that he said could be understood. Oxley distributed presents of knives and coloured handkerchiefs among his black friends and took Pamphlet back with him on board the “Mermaid.” Next day, Pamphlet gave Mr. Oxley an account of his adventures, which, as he related it, Mr. Uniacke wrote down, adding Finnegan’s story to it when he joined the ship on this day, Sunday, November 30th.

They stated that after landing at Moreton Island in a thoroughly exhausted condition they found fresh water, which had saved their lives. While they remained there they had met with natives, who treated them in a most humane way. They left the island in a native canoe and took up their abode with this tribe, whose principal dwelling-place was at Pumice Stone River. The blacks proved true friends to the shipwrecked men, not only lending them nets with which to provide themselves with fish but catching it for them and showing them how to obtain dingowa or fern-root, which was very nutritious. (Parsons tells us that a larger root was called bangwa). The three men quarrelled among themselves; Parsons and Pamphlet were anxious to return to Sydney, while Finnegan, remembering the terrors he had endured in his last voyage, was just as anxious to remain at Moreton Bay.

After making vain attempts to get away, Parsons and Pamphlet determined to build a canoe in which to put to sea. They chose a tree suitable for this purpose and having felled it started to make the canoe. For nearly three weeks they, worked from sunrise till sunset with no other tool than an axe saved from the wreck. The natives watched them and took keen interest in their work. While the men fashioned their craft they brought them food and left fish in their hut every day. Finnegan declined either to undertake the voyage or to help the other two build their boat. When they saw that he would not bear any share of the toil, the natives frequently would take the axe away from the other two and offer it to him. On Finnegan’s persisting in his refusal to use it they no longer would bring him food, and he was compelled to dig fern-root for himself. To the delight of the two men and also of the natives at last the canoe was finished. They[p531] insisted on launching it, and when they saw it afloat with Parsons and Pamphlet in it their joy knew no bounds. They gave the two men a store of fish for their use, and on the following afternoon watched Parsons and Pamphlet set out on their voyage with the flood tide. Finnegan, who had been firm in his resolve to remain behind, was then forced by the blacks into one of their canoes, which quickly followed the other men, but not catching them up Finnegan was put on a sandbank, where the natives left him. He would have been drowned at high tide had not Parsons and Pamphlet, seeing his plight, turned back and rescued him.

Following directions given them by the natives, the men steered to an island at the bottom of Moreton Bay. Here they spent the night. After rounding the island and laying in a supply of fern-root on the opposite side, they crossed over to another part of the bay. A strong tide was running which made the passage difficult, and they did not reach the shore until after dark. They landed and next morning made their way to some high ground in order to view the coast and saw another point at some distance to northward, but the land between appeared to recede so deeply that they were afraid to venture across the wide opening in their frail craft. They therefore drew their canoe high up on the beach and started to walk round the bay. The shore was thickly lined with mangroves, and they soon were forced to leave it and follow a native footpath.

On the third day they arrived on the bank of a river at a spot that was evidently used by the natives for a crossing place. The stream was too wide for them to swim over it, and as the men could find no canoes there they determined to follow the river’s course until they reached a part where it could be forded. They accordingly traversed the bank of the main stream for nearly a month, their path being much impeded by a number of salt-water creeks which joined the river, and as neither Parsons nor Finnegan could swim well enough to attempt to cross them they were obliged to walk round them.

At length the men reached a creek on the opposite bank of which two canoes were seen. Pamphlet swam over and brought one back to his companions. It was very small and would only carry two people, so, he says, “I therefore took Parsons over the main river first.” He afterwards returned for Finnegan.

Then for the first time white men crossed the Brisbane River.

The brush on the opposite side was so thick and the country[p532] so rough that the men could not travel over it with their bare feet. They therefore commenced their return journey, and having found another canoe paddled down the stream until they came to its mouth.

On the one hundred and first day after they had left Sydney, that is to say, on or about June 30, 1823, they reached a point of land which they had previously seen from Moreton Island, and again recognizing it knew that they were back in Moreton Bay.

To return to Mr. Oxley. Hearing on Saturday from Pamphlet that Finnegan had gone on an expedition to the bottom of the bay, he resolved to find him on the Monday. Next day, however, a man was seen walking on a sandbank off the shore opposite, who proved to be Finnegan, and he joined Pamphlet on board the cutter.


Both these men informed Mr. Oxley of the existence of the large river that fell into the south end of Moreton Bay,[*] and on Monday, December 1st, Oxley and Stirling, taking Finnegan with them in the whale-boat and providing themselves with provisions for four days, set out from the anchorage to explore the bay and the river. The first day’s survey terminated a little above Red Cliff Point. Writing of this day’s progress Uniacke says: “Mr. Oxley told us that after losing the first day in the examination of a large creek which Finnegan mistook for the river they had on the following day entered the river itself by an entrance three miles wide.”[**]

[* Pamphlet in his narrative makes it certain that it was the Brisbane River these men had crossed, for he says: “Mr. Oxley and Mr. Stirling set out the following morning, taking Finnegan to examine the river we had been so long in attempting to cross.”]

[** “Field’s Geographical Memoirs,” P. 82.]

Oxley thus describes his coming to the Brisbane River: “Early on the second day (2nd of December, 1823) we had the satisfaction to find the tide sweeping us up a considerable opening between the First Islands and the mainland. The muddiness of the water and the fresh-water mollusca convinced us we were entering a large river; and a few hours ended our anxiety by the water becoming perfectly fresh while no diminution had taken place in the size of the stream after passing what I called ‘Sea Reach.’ . . . At sunset we had proceeded about twenty[p533] miles up the river. Up to this point it was navigable for ships not drawing more than 16 feet of water.”

Oxley thought the scenery peculiarly beautiful, the country hilly and level, the soil brushwood on which grew timber of great magnitude. He then noticed a pine (doubtless the tree mentioned by Cunningham and called after him), and he writes: “A magnificent species of pine was in great abundance . . . and to the south-east a little distance from the river were several brushes . . . of Cupressus australis of a very large size.” On the following day Oxley continued his boat voyage for another thirty miles, the river keeping its depth and width excepting in one place, where a rocky ridge crossed it. From these sunken rocks to a place called Termination Hill the stream maintained its size. The day was very hot and the boatmen exhausted after their long pull, so Oxley determined to end his journey there, being then “70 miles from the vessel and our stock of provisions expended.”

He landed on the south bank of the river and ascended a low hill about 250 feet[*] above its level. (He named it Termination Hill.) From it he obtained a better view of the river’s course, being able to trace the stream for thirty or forty miles, and seeing a distant mountain (“which I conjecture to be the High Peak of Flinders”) bearing south 1½ east distant from twenty-five to thirty miles.[**]

[* According to Oxley’s report.]

[** There was evidently an error in Oxley’s chart, as upon it Termination Hill was placed within six miles of the Peak. Captain King remarks “the mountain must be some part of the range north-west of Mount Warning.”]

The place of Oxley’s turning on this boat voyage has been a much discussed point, and it is said that it is impossible to determine the exact spot where the voyage ended either from Oxley’s own report dated January 10, 1824, or from Stirling’s chart of the part traversed. The chart published with the report shows that the point where Oxley turned back was slightly beyond Termination Hill, and he himself says that he was then seventy miles from the ship. (Cunningham, who went with him on his second excursion up the river, states that “the extreme-point of the former party’s penetration was about sixty miles from the sea,” and that on again reaching that point Mr. Oxley “instantly recognized the clear grassy bank on which he had then encamped.”)[*]

[* To Telfair.]

Oxley returned down the river with the ebb tide and spent[p534] the night at the base of the Green Hills, the highest of which was ascended next morning, when he obtained an extensive view. The high range of Mount Warning appeared to lose itself westward, and with the exception of the peak before mentioned (which was the termination of the north end of that range) there was scarcely a hill to be seen. So much time was spent in examining the country above Sea Reach that it was dark before the boat reached the river’s entrance, where Oxley again encamped. He named the stream the Brisbane River in honour of Sir Thomas Brisbane. The whole of the following day was spent in sounding the entrance and surveying the country in the vicinity of Red Cliff Point, and it was late on the night of December 5th before the party got back to the “Mermaid.” In this voyage Oxley discovered that Point Lookout was on an island and that the bay extended as far south as 28°. In five or six days the cutter got under weigh and set sail for Sydney. Before he sailed Mr. Oxley left a memorandum in a bottle near the wooding place on Bribie Island for Parsons telling him that he had called there and had taken his companions away.


When the “Amity” arrived at Moreton Bay on September 11, 1824, it was Oxley’s intention to establish his colony on some of the islands at the head of the bay. None of these proving suitable he afterwards fixed upon Red Cliff Point as the site for his settlement, because “water was found convenient to the beach and the timber was tall and straight.”

Oxley’s first thought, however, on returning for the second time to Moreton Bay was for Parsons, the shipwrecked man who since the day of his parting with Finnegan “had not been heard of.” In an old field notebook of Oxley’s[*] an entry in his handwriting dated September 16, 1824, shows that he lost no time in making inquiries about him. The entry runs: “After dinner the whale-boat was lowered and I proceeded in her to our old station on Pumice Stone River for the purpose of seeing if the bottle left near the wooding place had been removed. It had been left for informing Mr. Parsons that a vessel had been here during his absence. . . . [This bottle had been carried away by blacks for a distance of fifty miles, but eventually reached[p535] Parsons safely.] I confess I was by no means sanguine that he had survived. It will be recollected that he . . . proceeded singly towards the north . . . near twelve months ago, and considering the nature of the population and the privations he must necessarily suffer . . . the chances were that he no longer existed. It was therefore with feelings of the most pleasing description that among the group on the beach at landing the first man was recognized as our long lost countryman.”

[* Surveyor-General’s Office, Sydney.]

Of the three shipwrecked men Parsons had travelled farthest. After parting from Finnegan he had continued to trace the coast northward on his supposed route to Sydney, only detecting his error when the heat became gradually more intense and overpowering. He then guessed that he was far to the northward of Sydney. At this time he really was on his road to Hervey Bay. In his progress he met with many different tribes, who at first avoided him, but he says when he could not “entice” them to him he would if possible get hold of one of their children and caress it; he adds: “This stratagem usually succeeded and they would then offer fish and be friendly.” None of the women were allowed to bring him food. The men gave it to him themselves. This jealous feeling with regard to their females pervaded the whole of the tribes he met with “in a greater or lesser degree.” Often he suffered terribly from hunger and sometimes was three or four nights without food. Water he generally was able to obtain by bearing three or four miles to westward. He fared better on his homeward journey through being acquainted with the blacks. He had had no clothing for fourteen months.

The country was covered with thick scrub and vines; the land was sandy and poor. For months he saw no rain. His only method of telling the time was by watching for the new moon and cutting a notch in a stick. The trees that he saw were pine, ironbark, swamp oak and spotted gum. The best timber grew on a river to the northward, and currajong was abundant in the interior. Parsons was three months on this outward journey to Hervey Bay, where he found the natives unfriendly, and he took four or five months to make his way back to Moreton Bay. When still sixty miles from there he sought the hospitality of a tribe of blacks who were loath to let him leave them. Only by watching his opportunity and stealing off by moonlight was he able to effect his escape.

The foundations of the settlement at Red Cliff Point were now[p536] laid and building operations were begun. In after years when the settlement was moved to a more convenient spot on the banks of the Brisbane River, the deserted buildings were handed over to the natives, and by them called Humpy Bong, which in their dialect signifies “Dead Houses.”

When Oxley had fulfilled his instructions with regard to the settlement, he started to carry out his further exploration of the river. Cunningham tells us: “No sooner had we landed the commandant and those connected with his command and marked off the lines for the little township than Mr. Oxley fitted out two boats to explore the River Brisbane farther towards its origin than the part at which a former party under the direction of our laborious and intelligent Surveyor-General had penetrated last year.”

In this second survey of the Brisbane River in the month of September, 1824, Oxley was accompanied by a party which included Allan Cunningham and Lieutenant Butler of the 40th Regiment. The botanist has given the following account of the tour.”The mouth of the stream which is two miles wide at its entrance is characterized by low mangrove shores with a narrow deep water channel on its south shore. Its reaches soon become picturesque and interesting . . . the banks being higher, densely clothed with evergreen vegetation and overhung by twines of BignoniaClematisIpomoea, and a new Dolichos which I have called D. hymenocarpus. The breadth of the stream decreasing adds not a little to the beauties of the water, whose depths of 5, 8, and 9 fathoms render it important from a commercial point of view, being thus navigable for vessels Of 200 tons sixty miles from the sea, that distance being about the extreme point of the former party’s penetration. . . .

“We now began a continuance of the survey of the river upwards from the point where the examination of last year had closed and which Mr. Oxley, on again reaching it, instantly recognized by a clear grassy bank on which he had then encamped.[*] The banks hitherto densely clothed with a matted jungle of twining and scandent plants at length are clear of brushwood, thinly timbered and showing us the upper or “puniary” banks which define the verge of the … forest land on either[p537] side. The stream narrows to 800 yards and then to 500 and a surface covered with aquatic plants that usually inhabit still or stagnant water showed us . . . that no freshes or floods had taken place for many months. Notwithstanding a breadth of 500 yards, the circumstance of our boats having taken ground off several of the levels of the river (as well as in mid-channel in the succeeding reaches) after having ascended the river about ten miles of the new survey, induced the apprehension that its origin would prove to be not very far in the western interior.[**]

[* To Telfair.]

[** In the course of Oxley’s voyage up the river he saw “a large creek entering the river,” and called it Bremer’s Creek, this being the Bremer River. Oxley encamped at its mouth, and the site of his tent is given on the chart of that river (p. 608).]

“A few miles further confirmed our suspicions. Extensive beds of alluvial gravel occupied its entire channel putting a stop to the progress of our boats–a few inches in depth of water occupying a small portion in the centre. Mr. Oxley, however, with his accustomed perseverance encouraged the boatmen who in a few hours actually dragged the boats over this barrier into a depth of about 12 feet water which continued along a short reach where we were again stopped by rocks in fast and fallen timber entirely choking up the very contracted channel . . . the river in period of flood had cut itself another channel a quarter of a mile wide the limits of which were marked by the gravel deposited there. These beds of gravel were of a compound character for besides the rounded pebbles or masses of rock there were torrent-worn fragments of whin of which we had noticed none in the country around.

“Finding it was perfectly useless to attempt to carry our boats beyond this second bank and seeing in our examination on foot a further series of impediment . . . we regularly encamped and planned a tour on foot to a high mount distant about ten miles about west, from us in the presumed direction from which the river proceeded, from which elevation we hoped to gather such facts as would enable us to determine whether or not this river is an inland or Western stream communicating with the internal marshes.”


Oxley ended this boat voyage at a spot where the actual bed of the river measured “one-fourth of a mile in width and the old flood marks on the trees ranged between 30 and 40 feet in height. This spot is said to have been fourteen miles beyond the termination of his former survey. He and Cunningham then made their way to the “high mount” beyond this point and obtained from its summit a fine view extending over the country known to-day as the West Moreton district and reaching to the Albert River. They saw a line of native fires marking the river’s course and[p538] wreaths of smoke rising against the dark background of the Macpherson Range.

Cunningham gives the following description of this journey:

“The country . . . we found very hilly and broken obliging us to preserve our position on the main ridges winding with them. . . . Thus although we made a circuitous route we avoided the labour of descending and again ascending deep cavities and some sharp ravines. About an hour before sunset we reached the mount which Mr. Oxley had proposed should be our extreme point of penetration. It was a part of the day best suited for our observation. We therefore (Oxley and myself, our servants being sent below to make a fire) set ourselves down on the pinnacle and made the following remarks: You will perceive, (by a reference to Flinders’ Chart) to the southward of Moreton Bay there is a lofty collection of hills on the coast of which the highest is named Mount Warning Ranges. From these elevations lateral ranges extend far westerly assuming . . . an abrupt and formidable aspect. To the northward of our position are also ranges of magnitude . . . these however together with the Mount Warning Ranges were observed to lower and to soften down in a level flat country bearing from us to the westward from which this river running at the foot of the mount on which we stood was traced proceeding. The setting sun throwing over the western country a vast diffusion of light showed us that so far from there being a dividing range of waters, there was not even a hill in the distance west of us to prevent one common communication taking place between . . . the western waters and those flowing upon our coasts, but as we were at least 300 miles from that part of the Macquarie … at which Mr. Oxley stood eastward for the coast in 1818 and the present contracted channel of the Brisbane–a part filled up by sand shelves and beds of gravel–inducing us to conclude its origin is far within 100 miles we cannot reconcile ourselves to the opinion that they unite without supposing an area . . . between the meridians of 151° and 147° to be one immense marsh.”

Oxley and Cunningham at this point seem to have reached different conclusions as to the termination of the Brisbane’s course for Cunningham continues: “I would have wished to have marched another day’s journey westward to have set our little differences of opinion at rest; the state, however, of my friend Oxley’s health would not allow this. We therefore returned to our encampment, struck our tents and with dispatch returned[p539] to the Bay, my friend being satisfied that the great problem of how the internal waters are disposed (from which it has been presumed this river would prove to be an eastern outlet) still remains to be solved . . . and the origin of the Brisbane is yet to be discovered.”

A species of fresh-water fish found only in Western rivers was caught in the Brisbane, and this circumstance again led Oxley to suspect that its waters might communicate with Western channels.

Writing of the plants here Cunningham remarks: “Of the flora of this part . . . the greater portion is equinoctial or of plants hitherto limited to tropical regions . . . such as we observed during our voyage on the north-east and north coasts.” And he adds: “If the valuable tropical produce of other countries such as coffee, cotton, and sugar cane can be cultivated upon any shore of our continent, we need not advance farther from the northern coast of Moreton Bay in search of a suitable spot, seeing that the indigenous vegetation of its shores is identical with that of the parallels of 19°, 15° 12° and 10°30′.”

It was then that for the first time in the dense forests on the banks of the Brisbane Cunningham discovered the pine known by his name, a new species of Araucaria (A. Cunninghamii, Sweet), and noted the species as distinct from the Norfolk Island tree. This tree grew less profusely on the river nearer Moreton Bay, and since it was thought its timber would be useful as spars for ships a few trees were cut down and brought back to Sydney in the “Amity” for the dockyard.

Oxley seldom visited Moreton Bay after he had completed this voyage. A few years later he was unable to undertake any kind of exploration, for sickness and infirmity laid hold of him and he could no longer endure the fatigue of covering great distances on land or the continuous strain of surveying at sea. The expeditions under his able leadership which had brought back to Sydney so much knowledge of the country inland and of the harbours on the coast therefore soon ceased. But Oxley will never be forgotten, for his work has won for him a lasting memorial in the history of Australian discovery.


Cunningham returned to Port Jackson on October 14, 1824, and soon we find him planning and making preparations for[p540] another expedition to the northward–the direction in which so many of his discoveries were made. When he had reached Pandora’s Pass in 1823, the reduced state of his provisions would not permit him to push beyond the pass or even to examine it. He now determined to approach the mountain-gap from another direction and go through it to the Liverpool Plains; and this journey he accomplished to as far as 30°47′ S.[*]

[* The account of this journey is extracted from an old issue of “The Australian” (dated July 21, 1825), and it seems as though the article, if not written by Cunningham himself, must have been inspired by him.]

1826 March 28: He set out from Richmond with a small party, crossed the Nepean on March 28, 1825, and made his way northwards towards the Wollombi along a rugged and dangerous track previously taken by Mr. Howe. In 100 miles he fell in with the Hunter River near Patrick’s Plains (Whittingham.), and advanced up its stream for about forty miles, when, its channel taking a bend to the eastward, he decided to leave it. He proceeded as far as Mount Dangar, a singularly rounded hill in lat. 32°18’51” S. and long. (reduced from the meridian of Richmond) about 150°27’30” E., whose summit formed a striking feature in the landscape.


From Mount Dangar, Cunningham took a fresh departure: first travelling north-west and then due west, he passed over tracts of sheep pasture which were bounded by hills connected with the Liverpool Range.

On April 25th, about the parallel Of 32° S., he reached Smith’s Rivulet, and in advancing westward began to identify from an opposite position from which he previously had viewed them the principal landmarks seen by him in 1823 after he had first left the Goulburn. Thus he was able to verify his own earlier observations.

Continuing his route westward in the parallel Of 32° S ., he crossed the streams he had already seen, among them Scott’s Rivulet, the Wemyss, and the Goulburn Rivers, and passed over a small lateral range. This separates the Hunter River streams from the waters that fall into the Macquarie, particularly those of its tributary, the Erskine. He next turned north-west, crossed Duguid’s Plain, and, rounding the fringe of mountain to the northward of it, passed over alternate plain and forest ridge on his way to Hawkesbury Vale. At the entrance to the Vale he crossed his former line of route when he made his way back to Bathurst from the pass in 1823.

On May 2nd Cunningham went through Pandora’s Pass and[p541] descended with his pack-horses into the south-western corner of Liverpool Plains. From the level of Hawkesbury Vale the rise of the acclivity on the southern side through the open forest to the pitch of the pass–about two miles distant–was found singularly gradual. The northern decline was steeper, and measured not more than one mile from the range to the grazing forest at the foot of it, but proved “very practicable.”

The entire length of Pandora’s Pass from the head of Hawkesbury Vale to the bank of Bowen’s Rivulet[*] on the northern side of the Liverpool Range did not exceed three miles, and it was Cunningham’s opinion that only two or three weeks of labour well spent would be required in constructing a few small bridges over the narrow but deep channels to enable the team of the grazier to pass northwards to the extensive open country. He continued to penetrate farther to the northward, passed along the banks of Bowen River between two high peaks of the Vansittart Hills (Ker’s Peak and Mount Hoddle), and, crossing the York River, reached the northern portion of Camden Valley at Dunlop Hill, where he encamped on May 15th, and where he decided to end his journey.[**] Camden Valley, which he says may be considered the north-west branch of the Liverpool Plains, was found throughout the last stage of the journey northerly towards Hardwicke’s Range to be “a perfect quagmire,” the plants growing there being of species found only in marshy soil.

[* Bowen River.]

[** At Boonatta.]

It will be remembered that Oxley had entered Liverpool Plains from the north-west; Cunningham came into them from the south-west and found them elongated strips of country varying in breadth from five to ten or more miles and lying between the meridians of 150° and 150°50′ E. and within the parallels 30°45′ S, and 31°30′ S. With the exception of a few straggling trees of Acacia pendula, or weeping wattle, and Eucalyptus mannifera, or white gum, scattered singly at long distances upon them, they formed one uninterrupted patch of level plain from south to north exceeding fifty miles in extent. Another portion, crossing them from west-north-west to east-south-east, could not have been estimated at less than fifty or, probably, sixty miles.

From these two principal branches other strips of country stretched north and south, of which the valleys of Camden and Barrow ran in the former direction; and Cunningham describes thus the isolated broken mountains which are dotted over them:[p542] “The ridges and rounded mounts that interrupt the plane of the country appeared to be perfectly isolated and took the form of various figures of picturesque appearance on the common level of the plains, whose entire arc will comprehend one million and a half acres, of which four-fifths are rich grazing land for cattle, while many dry situations (more especially along the southern side of the plains) will afford healthful, sound walks for sheep.” Bowen River, or Bowen’s Rivulet, a brisk stream rising in the Main Range, flowed through the west side of the plains, and, after a course of fifty miles, united with the York River, and, bending with the dip of the country at north-north-west, made its exit at that point down an extensive slope.

“We know of no tract of timberless open country in New South Wales that forms so perfect a level,” writes Cunningham, doubtless proud of the part he had played in helping to bring these pastures within the reach of civilization. ” The natural consequence is that ordinary rains falling on the southern mountains cause an overflow at Bowen’s Rivulet, and, as the surface of some parts was observed to be lower than the outer banks of this stream, a great portion of the N.W. plain, the whole of Camden Valley, together with the boundary forests on the same level, are laid under water; of which fact the wrecks of floods on the outer banks of the rivulet, the little pools in the cavities, the clodded nature of the soil, and the rottenness of the forest trees afforded ample proof.”

From the appearance of the ground Cunningham thought that the last considerable inundation had been as recently as the months of January or February, 1825,[*] since in some places on the north side of the plains a depth of twelve inches of water still rested on the muddy surface which, he says, “determined the limit of my journey to the northward.”

[* See also Hooker’s “Journal of Botany,” Vols, III and IV.]

Among the indigenous vegetation of the land traversed, the following plants were noticed: a species of Plantago, or rib-grass; Scorzonera sp., or viper’s grass; Lotus, or birdsfoot trefoil; Centaurea occidentalisAjuga australis, or bugle; Campanula gracilis, or bell-flower; Rumex dumosus, or dock; Galium aparine, or goose-grass; Epilobium, or willow-herb. There were no fewer than eight distinct grasses, among which a late Danthonia gigantea (giant oatgrass, resembling wheat in the ear) was most remarkable. Ranunculus lappaceusLobelia[p543] inundataArundo phragmites, and Indigofera sp., a proof of a permanent marsh-were also observed.

The soil was found to be a rich loam; the timber trees were stately stringy-bark, box, and some white gum, while the lower forests on the western outskirts of the plains were composed of iron-bark and a species of Callitris or cypress.

On his homeward journey Cunningham followed his outward track back to Pandora’s Pass; but, after passing through it and leaving the Hawkesbury Vale, he made his way to Talbragar, spending the night of May 28th at Mr. Lawson’s station. Continuing his journey, he crossed the southern tributary of the Erskine at its widest part, and travelling in a south-easterly direction to the Cudgegong, crossed Emu Creek, and on June 1st visited the new settlement that had been founded at Mudgee. Thence he traced the Cudgegong, proceeding down its south bank, until it bent eastward, when he left it, and, pursuing a south-westerly course over the Turon River, made his way to Bathurst, where he arrived on June 7, 1825.

The last three months of 1825 were spent in the vicinity of Wellington Valley, then a growing settlement that had been first founded in 1823. From here he botanized in a circuit of 150 miles on each bank of the Macquarie River, during one excursion visiting Croker’s Range, where he obtained a large collection of seeds and tuberous roots, including twenty-five species of orchids, for shipment to Kew Gardens. From a note on Arrowsmith’s map accompanying “Sturt’s Expeditions,” he seems to have journeyed to Mudgee again before he returned to Parramatta.

Writing of the natives seen in this tour, Cunningham remarks: It is curious that I should have met with only one small group of native women and children and seven males who were prowling about in quest of the scanty subsistence in grubs and kangaroos or opossums afforded by the surrounding country and from the boundary heights only perceived two distinct smokes of the fires of the aborigines.”

Cunningham made a sketch of the map he had drawn during his expedition to Dunlop Hill.[*] This sketch, which he sent to Doctor Hooker at Glasgow, is now preserved among Hooker’s correspondence at the Kew Herbarium. A reproduction of it is given at page 540.

[* Dunlop’s Table Head of the old maps.]