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



(From Cunningham’s Report to General Darling)

[p582] In 1828 Cunningham renewed a request already made to the authorities at home that he might be allowed to return to his native land in the following year. He informed the Treasury, however, that before leaving Sydney he should visit both Moreton Bay and Tasmania, and accordingly, after visiting Illawarra, the pine ridges of the Macquarie, and one or two other localities, he embarked in June in the ship “Lucy Ann” for Moreton Bay. She touched at Port Macquarie, and in due course Cunningham and Fraser, the Colonial Botanist, who sailed with him, arrived at Amity Point. Anchor was cast in Rainbow Reach,[*] and on July 1st the botanists landed in Moreton Bay.

[* Named after H.M.S. Rainbow.]

On July 27th they started with Captain Logan, commandant of the settlement, for the Mount Warning Ranges in order to examine the discoveries of Captain Rous.[*]–who when sailing from Moreton Bay in 1827 had passed the entrance of the Tweed River and had called it the Clarence. He afterwards wrote: “The River Clarence more properly the Tweed discovered by Mr. Oxley . . . is in lat. 28°9′. Mount Warning is very conspicuous . . . at least 20 miles inland beyond the place allotted to it on the maps.”[**] Rous next discovered the Richmond River in lat. 28°53′ and examined Shoal Bay. He steered past the entrance of the Clarence River, however, without seeing it.

[* Captain the Hon. H. J. Rous, of H.M.S. “Rainbow”, was a son of the first Lord Stradbroke and when in command of H.M.S. “Pique”, in 1835, he sailed his ship home for 1,500 miles without a rudder. The north-east county of New South Wales is named after him. He is better known to-day as the Admiral Rous who exercised so much influence in English racing circles.]

[** Wilton’s “Quarterly Australian Journal,” Vol. I.]

In this journey Logan’s party visited Mount Lindesay, and as Cunningham wished to reach the Gap seen by him in 1827, they attempted to journey thither by a westward route but failed, [p583] and Cunningham finally investigated the pass from Limestone Station (now Ipswich) alone.

Beginning their journey from Brisbane they took four weeks’ provisions for the eight persons who composed the party and left the river opposite the settlement. Their route led over a line of road which lately had been marked out and ran in a southerly direction to Cowper’s Plains. To these plains salt water flows through Oxley’s Canoe Creek from the Brisbane River. The plains stretched about a mile westward of the explorer’s route, and, as the pack-bullocks were heavily weighted, they halted at Canoe Creek, at a part of it sufficiently distant from its point of connexion with the Brisbane to afford fresh water, and pitched their tents on the bank. To the southward of the camp the country was alternately flat and forest ground, in which honeysuckle (Banksia compar) and tea-tree were interspersed. The barometer at sunset showed that the land was of so low a level that its elevation above the seashore was scarcely recognizable.


On the following day richer soil was met with, producing good grass. In the labyrinths of bush several dry channels were found all dipping eastward, and at last the party came upon the Logan River in latitude 27°28′ S. This stream, after another course of twenty miles, discharges its waters on the southern shores of Moreton Bay opposite Stradbroke Island. At the spot where they crossed it, however, it was nothing more than a murmuring brook. Farther on they came to native huts that had been occupied recently and again met with the River Logan and followed it southward for two miles, when it was observed to take a bend “from the westward” . . . They then mounted the summit of a lateral ridge which declined to the westward southerly and traced the ridge in this direction till the close of the day, halting upon it at a spot that was found to be quite destitute of water. After diligent search some was obtained at the foot of the range about a mile distant. On these hills, to which the name of Birnam Range was given, there were seen interesting plants hitherto unknown to Cunningham and fragments of rock, the latter evidently having been used by natives to polish their spears. Often the stone was perfectly white, and although it contained clay appeared to consist of granulated[p584] quartz. There were also numerous footpaths, which showed that the blacks crossed the Birnam Range in their wanderings from the southern bushland towards the coast regions.

On the morning Of July 28th at the south base of the ridge a passage was found cut through the bush, and tracks of natives as they passed and repassed could plainly be seen. From the south-west side of Birnam Range the road improved, leading to a pretty stretch of plain about a mile in breadth by perhaps four in length from east to west, called by Captain Logan Letitia’s Plain.[*] It was watered on the western side by the Logan River, which was now seen winding northwards round the western base of the range. On the south side of Letitia’s Plain a lagoon of considerable depth and about a quarter of a mile long appeared to be fed entirely by an overflow from the Logan. While Mr. Fraser was engaged in taking up the knobbed roots of a beautiful water-plant [**]–a buck bean-that had unrolled its heart-shaped leaves to the sun’s rays on the surface of the water, Cunningham observed the latitude at its southern extremity, which, “proving 27°56’05” S., placed our position on the chart 271 geographical miles south of Brisbane Town, and its longitude by account 31 west of the meridian of that settlement, viz. 152°58′ E.”

[* All three, Logan, Cunningham, and Fraser, seem to have had a share in naming the various parts of the country now seen.]

[** Cunningham writes: “This fine plant I examined on the spot, and was, with Mr. Fraser, much gratified to find that it was an undescribed species of that division of the Linnaean genus Menyanthes, which now constitutes the distinct one named Villarsia by M. Ventenat.”]

The journey southward was continued by the side of the river, along a path overshadowed on the fight by a dense thicket of vines and leading over ground liable to occasional inundation. The country on the opposite bank of the river appeared altogether more open and better adapted for travelling, and “it became desirable to cross it at any part where the brush would permit the descent of the bullocks to the bed of the stream. A ford was discovered at our third mile from the lagoon. We therefore passed over to the level ground on the western bank and then, finding the day far spent, it was deemed advisable to rest.” During the whole of the following day, July 29th, the men were confined to their tents by heavy rain blown over the mountain ranges by the prevailing westerly winds. When at last the sun burst forth Cunningham was able to take an azimuth, as also the latitude at noon. “The former gave a variation of 8°35′ E.,[p585] while the latter showed us that we were within 2′ of the parallel Of 28° S. The results placed our encamping ground 320 feet above the shores of Moreton Bay.”

The morning of the 30th [ July 1828 ] being fine, the journey was resumed to the south-south-west–a route shaped in the direction taken by the Logan’s course. The party now travelled over a rich flat, and among the plants they observed native birdsfoot trefoil (Lotus australis). This forest flat extended north-west for several miles towards a lofty mountain which, Cunningham says, was marked on the old charts as High Peak,[*] an elevated cone forming a striking feature of the landscape. Men they had completed the third mile of their journey across the flat they came to the foot of a grassy hill, under the eastern base of which the river winds from the south. On climbing the hill in company with Captain Logan and Fraser, Cunningham found that ” it commanded a very fine and extensive view, embodying as much variety of feature to be met with in any known part of New South Wales.”

[* Note in MS–“Recently named Flinders Peak.” It will be seen on Flinders’ chart in Chapter XVI.]

Immediately beneath them a grassy vale stretched southward, bounded on each side by forest ridges clothed with grassy verdure to their summits. Through this vale the windings of the Logan could be traced for several miles flowing from a hilly country at the south, where writes Cunningham: “We subsequently discovered that stream originated.” The view to the south-south-west and south-west disclosed a bold and singularly precipitous range of mountain peaks distant about twenty-five miles, the adjacent country being broken and irregular.


He continues: “It was to the base of these peaks that Captain Logan (who had thought one or other of them to be the cone of Mount Warning) had penetrated last year from Brisbane Town and . . . had attempted vainly . . . to gain the summit of the highest point. A simple reference, however, to the chart of the coast . . . showed me that we were at least fifteen geographical miles to the westward of the meridian assigned to that lofty peak by navigators, and that therefore unless we . . . agree with Captain Rous, who asserts that it is actually situated[p586] at least twenty miles further inland than the situation allotted to it on the maps[*] (which cannot possibly be the case), it is abundantly obvious that the lofty points before us bearing S.W. and S.S.W. are perfectly distinct from the range seen daily from seaward by the passing mariner, of which Mount Warning of that great navigator, the immortal Cook, is the most elevated pinnacle.”

[* Vide “Wilton’s Quarterly Australian Journal,” Vol. I, No. iv, P. 33.]

Making their descent from this hill, which was named Mount Dunsinane, the travellers pursued their journey southward for five miles through the valley (Erris Vale) to a small, round, isolated “rocky mount” standing about 150 feet above the plain of the vale. At the foot of this remarkable hill (Mount Edgar) immediately on the bank of the river, they again rested. As he climbed the “rocky mount” to take a few bearings, Cunningham observed that its eastern side and summit were composed of “trap rock in large masses, while the western slopes were studded with basaltic columns of regular prismatic figure of five sides, of which some were 4 to 5 feet in height. . . . The original position of these columns, which was doubtless an erect one, appeared to have been disturbed by some violent concussion, as many were thrown down on their sides; whilst others, by being wedged up, stood so nearly upright as not to incline more than a few degrees out of a vertical line.”

Finding this hill too low to allow him to make further observations, he descended to the tents. On arriving at the encampment, at the close of the day, he saw a rising smoke at the foot of the hill, and immediately afterwards made out two or three natives upon the summit, whither they had retired in haste, leaving their fire, so that they might watch the movements of their new visitors. Being anxious to meet them, Cunningham again went up the hill, but on reaching the top found that they had fled down the opposite side, and in all probability had crossed the river and taken refuge in the bush on the right bank. He writes: “An old man who had concealed himself behind a tree near the bottom of the hill ran off (upon our passing the spot) in that direction in a state of dreadful apprehension. Such was the alarm induced by our presence that it totally prevented that friendly parley which we wished to have brought about. At their fire we found the bags and little paraphernalia of the women, showing clearly with what precipitous haste these savages had urged their flight, which had not even afforded them a moment to[p587] gather their few articles of economy together. Around were quantities of the large seed of that exceedingly ornamental tree of close woods called chestnut[*] at Moreton Bay (Castanospermum australe. A. Cunn.) Upon these nuts the few natives who wander through these lonely regions chiefly subsist. Like the English chestnut they contain some saccharine and much farinaceous matter, and by being well roasted are rendered easy of digestion.” At about two miles south from this encampment the Logan bends from the eastward, watering on its course a patch of plain originally seen by Lieutenant Innes, of His Majesty’s 57th Regiment, who, during his residence at Moreton Bay, frequently undertook bush excursions. Captain Logan accordingly attached that officer’s name to it, and so it now appears on the chart.

[* “This tree, than which there is no plant indigenous to the shores of Moreton Bay and adjacent country upon which the eye rests with greater pleasure, constitutes a genus perfectly distinct from any yet published, and, independent of its highly ornamental habit and refreshing shade afforded by densely-leaved branches, its nuts are produced in pods in such abundance as to be ere long worthy of the attention of the farmer, as its fruit would form nutritive food. The tree affects a rich and moist soil.”–Note in MS.]

Cunningham resumes: “The valley through which we continued our journey south (named by Captain Logan, Erris Vale) continues from the hill about five miles and is then bounded on the south by forest hills. On a course southerly we penetrated a rising country and . . . at length again sighted the river which had wound from the eastward . . . On the 1st of August, in picking our way to the south, we crossed the Logan, much diminished in size, and, after a fruitless attempt to continue to the southward, found ourselves so hemmed in by steep, lofty, wooded ridges that we were obliged to find the river again,[*] which we traced westerly until . . . divers streamlets indicated our approach to its source. On the 2nd August we climbed the hills and pursued a course to westward . . . Early in the afternoon of this day we descended to the flat or valley (the Vale of Erris), where there was abundance of good water, and I directed the tents to be pitched.”

[* Here they evidently retraced their steps.]

The camping place he had chosen was only a short distance from the spot where Captain Logan had bivouacked in the previous year. Cunningham and his companions were now within three miles of the high range of mountains, which he had seen first from Mount Dunsinane, “whose broad, dome-like summits and conical peaks, for the most part bare and now fully open to view,[p588] presented a fine example of bold and rugged scenery such as is not to be found in any hitherto explored territory.” It was their intention to penetrate no further than to the base of this colossal range, of which Captain Logan still thought the peak of Mount Warning formed a part. The bullocks, however, needed a rest and they decided to spend the spare time in examining the mountain group and afterwards to proceed towards the Gap or opening in the Dividing Range which Cunningham had discovered in June, 1827.


He now writes: “The morning of the 3rd of August, dawned with a singular clearness, and, as its temperature was unusually low and bracing (35°) we were induced to quit our tents at an early hour to commence the interesting labours of the day. We proceeded from our encamping ground at 6 o’clock on our journey to the summit of the highest mountain the easternmost of the range bearing from the tents S. W. by W. 3 miles . . . over an extent of thinly-timbered flat recently burnt by the natives and stretching nearly two miles from the base of the first range of hills . . . the back of which we gained by climbing a sharp acclivity.

“Travelling along the ridge about another half-mile, we ascended to the base of the mountain, whence the difficulties of the ascent commenced. Large masses of rock forming large blocks and shelving slabs . . . blocked the path; among these flourished luxuriantly many tufty plants. Fraser and I culled several previously unknown species to enrich our collections. With considerable exertion I climbed to a point . . . of the mountain where the face became precipitous and our advance attended with so much danger that I deemed it prudent to proceed no farther, especially as I had attained a height from which I could make necessary observations. . . . Whilst I was occupied in taking a set of bearings . . . our indefatigable commandant and Mr. Fraser who had both preceded me in the ascent continued their journey towards the summit, notwithstanding the alarming steepness of many parts of the mountain.

Cone of Mount Warning

[p589] “The cone of Mount Warning (respecting the true situation of which we were divided in opinion) I was gratified to see distinctly amidst a group of mountains nearer the coast-line and bearing E. by S. distant from 25 to 30 miles. This most fully confirmed me in what I had already advanced respecting its position; its bearing . . . carrying it as far easterly as the meridian under which . . . Captains Cook and Flinders have long ago placed this most striking of all landmarks on this coast to passing seamen. It was now Captain Logan clearly saw his mistake in supposing one of the peaks of the mountains about us, which cannot be perceived from seaward, to be the Mount Warning of Cook.[*]

[* Mount Warning is 3,300 feet; it dominates the whole of the Northern country of New South Wales, and is visible even from One Tree Hill, Brisbane.]

“A range distant scarcely ten miles and stretching from east-by-north to south-east, of bold appearance, was named Macpherson’s Range in compliment to Major Macpherson, of His Majesty’s 39th Regiment, whilst in its southern extreme a very bluff rocky head and a rounded mount or hummock about its centre received the names of Coke and Burrough respectively.

“Along the eastern base of Macpherson’s Range I could trace a deep ravine bounded on its eastern side by a vertical wall of rocks of very rugged aspect. This ravine, at the suggestion of Mr. Fraser, was named Glen Lyon; and through it ran a stream (indicated by a line of mist throughout its length) which doubtless falls southerly into the channel of a river seen by Captain Logan from the summit of this mountain, and, from the direction of its course towards the sea at south-east, is doubtless the Richmond of Captain Rous, of H.M.S. “Rainbow”.

“To the E. of Glen Lyon, the entire country extending to the lofty ridges connected with Mount Warning group appeared broken and irregular. A lofty mountain bearing N. by E. five miles received from Captain Logan the title of Clanmorris, whilst to a lofty wooded peak lying about ten miles further to the north I attached the name of my friend, Lieut. Hughes, of the Royal Staff Corps.[*]

[* Hughes’s Peak.]

“At S.S.E. five miles a very precipitous rocky head, seemingly inaccessible from any point around us, was named Mount Hooker, in honour of the mutual friend of Mr. Fraser and myself, the[p590] Regius Professor of Botany in the University of Glasgow. Far to the north other points were distinctly discerned, particularly the towering peak of Captain Flinders now bearing his name. . . . Having noted all the more prominent features of the country around, excepting at S. and S.S.W., in which direction my position on the mountain prevented my observation, I employed myself investigating the scrubby, blighted, vegetable productions about me, and among the many described well-known plants I gathered several yet unpublished. . . . I also set up the barometer (which I had with much care carried from Brisbane Town) . . . I had, however, to regret that in the carriage from the tents to the point at which I had halted, the instrument had become deranged by some sudden jerk . . . and thus rendered perfectly useless.” Cunningham afterwards found that this halting place on Mount Lindesay was 1,500 feet above his encampment. He continues:

“Mr. Fraser had followed the commandant up the very steep face of the mountain more than double that elevation above me; but, arriving at the base of a rock nearly perpendicular, without a bush to assist him to pass over it, he very wisely stopped; and having rested, and contemplated with pleasure the grandeur of the surrounding scene from so considerable a height (verging on 4,000 feet above the sea), he began his descent. It was not, however without great difficulty and . . . on more than one occasion at a great risk of his life that he found his way back to my station . . . in a state of considerable exhaustion.

“Five hours, however, elapsed before the commandant, who also with great labour had gained the extreme summit of this formidable mountain, returned to us. It had afforded him a very extensive bird’s-eye view of the entire country. The sea was seen at E.S.E. over the very low country lying between the southern extreme of the Mount Warning Range and the coast-line; a fine, open, grazing country breaking into plains was . . . perceived to the south-west. The traveller might reach it by passing over twenty miles of broken, brushy country from the base of the mountain, a few miles from which a river was observed bending its course to the southward and eastward, which has since been considered by Captain Logan to be none other than either a branch or the main trunk of the Richmond, recently discovered by Captain Rous.

“About the close of the day we returned to our tents, amply rewarded for our exertions by the . . observations we had made.[p591] The mountain we had visited . . . was named Mount Lindesay as a compliment to the officer commanding His Majesty’s 39th Regiment in this colony.[*] Our bullocks requiring further rest, we determined to remain encamped during the whole of the following day (4th Aug.), whilst Captain Logan was absent on an excursion to ascertain how far a communication could be opened round the eastern base of Mount Lindesay with the apparently fine grazing country seen in the south-west from the summit of that lofty mountain, I was occupied in taking the necessary observations to determine our situation.

[* It is one of the peaks of the Macpherson Range on the New South WalesQueensland border, and is situated between Killarney (Queensland) and Kyogle (New South Wales). Near here the Richmond River has its source.]

“These gave the following results. Latitude, by a solar meridional altitude, 28°15’21” S., longitude 152°45’45” E., or 16 geographical miles W. of the meridian of Brisbane Town. Variation of the needle (by azimuth), 11° E. I also measured a base of 608 yards on an extensive flat near the tents, and, observing the angles subtended by the summit of Mount Lindesay, ascertained its perpendicular height over our encampment to be 4,750 feet. To this, upon adding 953 feet, the elevation of the tents above the seashore (as already determined by the barometer), the mean height of the mountain above the level of the seashore is shown to be 5,703 feet, which is by far the most elevated point[*] (measured) that has been hitherto ascended by any European in Australia. In the evening our laborious commandant returned to the encampment, fully satisfied of the practicability of marking a road to the country lying to the south-west by directing its line to leave the Mount Warning Range to the west.”

[* The highest peaks in New South Wales are now known to be Mount Kosciusko, 7,328 feet, and Mount Townsend, 7,260 feet. Mount Lindesay is 4,064 feet.]


On the morning of August 5th, Captain Logan’s party left their encampment in order to travel westerly and attempt to penetrate to the hollow in the back of the Dividing Range now known as Cunningham’s Gap. They were surrounded on all sides by steep hills and lofty mountainous country and they could only push their way forward on a northerly course with difficulty.[p592] They passed through a glen bounded westerly by forest hills immediately connected with Mount Clanmorris, and to the eastward by a steep, rocky-sided ridge overhanging a brook formed by junction of the creek (“at which last we rested”) with the others which ran briskly through it northerly over a bed of large stones, so much rounded by water attrition as to render the crossing and recrossing its channel . . . too dangerous to risk the lives of the bullocks in the passage. The laden bullocks were therefore sent round among the hills easterly, and joined the men again on an open, level patch of forest ground. Cunningham writes: “We then prosecuted our course to the north-west, climbing . . . wooded ridges, with an occasional flat . . . and observing that all the water-courses dipped easterly. They therefore threw the rains, that are collected in these hills in a wet season, into the Logan. From several points in these hills, I took bearings to a lofty, wooded mount, named last year by Captain Logan in honour of Lieut. Col. Shadforth, of His Majesty’s 57th Regiment as also to a conical-shaped hill . . . to the W.S.W. about 15 miles, which also Captain Logan had named . . . Wilton’s Peak.

Seven miles to the north-west we gained the pitch of the hills, whence we observed . . . two miles to the W.N.W. a patch of plain bounded on the western side by a, ridge of craggy hills. The commandant recognized a point at whose base he had bivouacked in the progress of last year’s excursion. Our oxen having descended the ridge on its western side with considerable difficulty, owing to the steepness of the declivity from the several rocky heads and abrupt terminating bluffs, we soon reached the plain, which we found to be a reedy flat without a tree, of a springy sponginess to the tread and evidently swampy in wet weather . . . The long-protracted droughts of the year had, however, dried the surface sufficiently to allow our burdened beasts to cross it . . . to the channel of a rivulet washing the eastern foot of the craggy hills.

“On the western bank of this stream (which is a tributary to the Logan and named Teviot Brook[*]) we were very glad to encamp, as the sun had some time dipped below the western horizon. This plain, or marshy flat, which lies nearly north and south, is about three miles in length, and is (as already observed) bounded . . . by rocky hills of singularly picturesque appearance, named, at the suggestion of Mr. Fraser, Minto Craigs.

[* Now Teviot River.]

South-westerly, beyond these craggy hills, we had a peep[p593] at a part of the Dividing Range, which . . . formed a beautiful landscape; and, if anything tended to give a higher effect to the extremely pleasing scene whilst crossing the marshy flat, it was the warm tints produced by the radiance of the setting sun striking upon the naked rocks of the Craigs. Just before we halted, five emus, who were feeding on the plain, met together and, as if prompted by a curiosity to know what we were, stalked over the flat after us, preserving, however, a respectable distance from the dogs. We were all too much engaged to give chase to them; and, therefore, after following us some distance, they filed off, retired with some little precipitancy to the wooded lands, and, as if fully apprehensive of danger, disappeared altogether. A hill of square, tabulated figure, bearing about north 7 or 8 miles, was last year named, by Captain Logan, Mount French; and a singularly sharp-pointed cone, wooded to its extreme summit, and lying to the N.E. about 9 miles, received from me the title of Knapp’s Peak after an esteemed friend at this time attached to the Department of the Surveyor-General in this colony.

“At an early hour of the morning of the 7th August we broke up our encampment. . . . Passing the northern extremity of Minto Craigs, we pursued our course to the north-west . . . until (in about our fourth mile) we reached another patch of plain on which I observed the meridional altitude of the sun, which gave for latitude 28°4’26” S., and showed us that we had arrived at about the parallel of the mountain gap, which bore west from us. . . . The plain was flanked on its west and north-west sides by densely-brushed rocky ridges connected with Mount French, and it appeared extremely doubtful whether we could penetrate them with the bullocks to the foot of the Dividing Range. We therefore proposed to halt and employ the remainder of the day in determining the practicability of effecting a passage through to the westward. About one o’clock we set up the tents on the edge of the plain, near a pond of exceedingly fine water.

“Our commandant, attended by two . . . of the people, undertook to examine the rocky western ridge, and I in the meantime ascertained our position.”

Cunningham named this beautiful plain Dulhunty Plain, as a compliment to the . . . family of that name residing in New South Wales. He says, of the land: “It lies about S.S.W. and N.N.E. and in extent is about five miles in length by three quarters of a mile in breadth.” He found the soil of the plain in[p594] all parts exceedingly rich and fertile and capable of yielding heavy crops of grain, and, although he thought it was scarcely sound enough for pasturing sheep, he believed it would make “a fine range of horse and cattle feed.”

At the close of the day Captain Logan returned to the camp having climbed the rocky barrier to the westward, which he found clothed with a thick jungle of twining plants, so that it was with the utmost difficulty he gained the height, whence he saw clearly that it was quite impossible to penetrate westerly to the Dividing Range. He also saw that there was but one path for him and his companions to travel and that ran to the north-east, in which direction the country not only appeared more level but was unencumbered by the thickets that, in many parts, formed a dense jungle for miles, which, adds Cunningham, “we have repeatedly satisfied ourselves, is not to be passed by laden bullocks until the axe has fully effected a passage for them.”

“On the 8th we stood away to the north-east across Dulhunty’s Plain, and in two miles and a half reached the forest ground watered by the Logan, which had become a connected stream. In another two miles to the N.E. we entered a second plain, . . . containing about 700 acres, to which was given the name of Rattray, after a relative of Mr. Fraser. As we continued our journey, we could not but admire the landscape at E. and S.E.made up of gently-rising forest hills, with here and there a point more elevated and having in their midst the sharp cone named Knapp’s Peak, which overtopped the whole. The forest ridges continued to stretch to the north and obliged us to pursue our course to the eastward.


“At noon, on crossing the channel of the Logan, we found ourselves . . . in the parallel of 28° S., and, perceiving that it was not possible to make our way to the westward . . . in consequence of the bushy ridges which stretched across the country northerly to the foot of Flinders Peak, I was induced by the advice of Captain Logan (who had became anxious to return to the settlement) to relinquish my design of making the mountain gap from this part of the country, but to prosecute our journey to the north and north-east, until we should pass the parallel of latitude of Flinders Peak on its eastern side, on effecting[p595] which no obstacle could prevent our reaching Limestone Station on Bremer’s River (a tributary to the Brisbane), whence the Dividing Range could be approached with the utmost ease, as the intervening country was known to Captain Logan to be of very moderate surface.

“Thus determined, we pursued our way to the E.N.E. about 3½ miles over a succession of forest ridges and narrow valleys, when, again intersecting the Logan at our 11th mile, we were induced to halt, as our bullocks were much exhausted. At daybreak of the 9th the commandant despatched two of our party with letters to Brisbane Town, and by that opportunity I wrote to the Officer in Charge of the Commissariat to forward to me at the Limestone Hills on the Bremer a further supply of rations to enable me to perform the journey I had in contemplation from that station south-westerly to the pass through the mountains discovered in June, 1827.

“On resuming our journey this day we left the Logan and repeatedly made attempts to pass to the westward at points appearing likely to afford us a passage through. All our essays were, however, in vain. The dense repulsive thicket soon stopped our progress and showed us that the utmost we could do would be to pursue our course to the northward and eastward. We therefore continued over low forest ridges, taking care to clear the brush which stretched down them to the narrow, intermediate valleys, in which again we met the Logan, and as we had completed our tenth mile we halted on its banks. From this encamping ground we observed the hills connected with Birnam Range, the central parts of which bore nearly east from us, and appeared to be distant about 10 miles.

“At our second mile to the north in our stage of the following day, the Logan, which we had traced from its course, left us, trending to the east-north-east. Throughout the day we were climbing hills, with Flinders Peak continually in view. We were unable to approach its base, it being perfectly surrounded by steep and rocky ridges. It was not until after sunset that water was discovered for the use of our exhausted bullocks and selves, and, although it was found in a small quantity and stagnant state, we were exceedingly glad to close our labours for the day at it.”

Early in the morning of the 11th Captain Logan and Mr. Fraser bade Cunningham good-bye and took their departure for Brisbane Town, distant from their camp about twenty-four[p596] miles. As Cunningham intended to make his way to what is now Ipswich he set out with his party to the northward and westward. He writes: “After effecting a stage of ten miles over hilly uninteresting country . . . we rested in a valley affording both excellent grass and good water to our wearied oxen. We had at length passed sufficiently north of the range connected with Flinders Peak to be enabled to shape a course to the westward . . . and we therefore, on commencing our last stage to the Limestone Station on the Bremer River, penetrated directly west among some stony hills . . . and at the 7th mile came out upon the skirts of a plain on the surface of which were scattered fragments of calcareous rock, flint and agate,” and limestone also was seen, which told Cunningham that he was nearing his destination.


Having crossed the plain to the north-west, Cunningham arrived at the Limestone Hills, where he found the provisions that he had demanded from the Commissariat. They had been brought by boat under charge of one of Cunningham’s servants. He now reduced his establishment to two bullocks, a driver, and two servants, sending back to Brisbane Town, agreeably to the request of Captain Logan, the other two oxen, and two servants. He thus writes: “As I shall have occasion to refer frequently to this station (Ipswich or Limestone Station), I will make a few brief observations upon its situation and general productions.

“In the course of the last year Captain Logan, in tracing the Bremer (of Mr. Oxley, who merely passed its mouth in 1824) from its junction with the Brisbane,[*] discovered at ten miles through its many windings from that point, the hummocks on its right bank now named the Limestone Hills.

[* Bremer’s River at its junction with the Brisbane is 
about forty yards wide.]

“Landing, he was much struck with the singular appearance of the lofty Xanthorrhoeae, or grass-trees, which abound in the open flats, low hills and forest grounds at this particular part, and which the commandant had not inaptly compared to beehives elevated on stools.”

Some months after this discovery, a kiln was built and a party, under an overseer (acquainted with the operations of sapping and mining) and five convicts were stationed at these hills to commence lime-burning. It was not long before the[p597] station was visited by the wandering aborigines, who, after threatening the lives of the white men, seized the first opportunity to run off with their tools. To protect the lime-burners from further molestation from these savages a corporal and three privates were stationed on the spot, and from that period no natives ventured to approach the huts of either soldiers or people, although they were seen prowling through the woods.

The lime burnt in the new kiln, which Cunningham says was excellent, was conveyed by boat to Brisbane, where it was used for building purposes. His report shows that the mineral wealth of the newly-formed settlement did not escape his notice. It runs: “In some specimens of flint which I caused to be broken, I found beautiful specimens of chalcedony, containing cavities filled with groups of minute crystallized quartz.

“Chalk is also found among the hills, in which are nodules of flint, and a stratum or seam of coal has been observed on the Bremer, both immediately above and below the station; and, as that mineral was noticed three or four miles to the north in the steep banks of dry creeks dipping to the Brisbane, and again in another mile, in the bed of that river, it is highly probable that the seam extends nearly horizontally throughout.

He also describes the soil as being black and rich, if one might judge from the luxuriant growth of the vegetables in the settlers’ garden. The flats too were covered with grass and supported a flock of sheep belonging to the Government. He continues:

“During a stay of five days at this station, in which period the rest and good pasture afforded my bullocks most materially benefited them, I determined its position as follows, viz. mean latitude by meridional altitude of the sun, 27°37’00” S. longitude of the mean of distances on both sides of the meridian mean 152°; variation by azimuth, 9°45′ E.

“The distance from Brisbane Town by water has been estimated at about forty-eight miles, whilst its bearing from that settlement is S.W. by W. (true) only 18 statute miles.

“From a hill in the immediate vicinity of my tents I took the following bearings to points in the south-western country about to be examined: Mount Forbes of Mr. Oxley, a remarkable hill, rising from a level country and in shape ridged like the roof of a house, S. 48½° W., about 16 miles; Mountain Gap, S. 38½° perhaps forty miles; Wilson’s Peak of Capt. Logan, S. 12° W., 45 or 50 miles; Flinders Peak, S. 19° E_ 12 miles.”

[p598] Cunningham at last found himself free to search for the break in the Dividing Range. This object had been uppermost in his mind ever since his former visit. Nor can one wonder that he was filled with ambition to rediscover the pass through the range which runs along the east coast almost without a break southward from Cape York and divides the interior from the eastern coastal regions.


On the morning of the 18th August with his small company he left the Limestone Hills[*] on his way towards the Dividing Range. He directed his course up the valley of the Bremer and the streams flowing into it. Immediately on leaving the limestone country, the land was found to gradually rise and the soil to change to lumpy grit. At the second mile the track led through open forest over fairly level country, the rock formation of which was chiefly a coarse sandstone quartz and very fine specimens of jasper. Occasionally in the thinly wooded parts the soil became richer and was strewed with “small fragments of calcareous stone.” Passing over a tea-tree flat Cunningham came to the bank of a narrow but deep creek, falling north-easterly towards Bremer’s River. Although at that time little else than a chain of stagnant pools, its banks showed traces of floods twenty feet above its then low level. He writes: “We left this creek winding from the southward and continuing our route to the southward and westward to our 11th mile, I despatched a man to search for water in the direction of the remarkable level-topped hills seen from the Limestone Station (named by Mr. Oxley, in 1824, Mount Forbes). . . . We were obliged to extend our stage . . . to the 13th mile ere we found a sufficiency of water for our consumption.

[* The route he pursued towards the pass appears to have been a different one to that now generally used by the people of Moreton Bay, and it is difficult to identify.]

“No natives were met with in this stage, although patches of the forest grasses had been very lately fired and the recent traces of these people were noticed on the trunks of the trees, from which they had torn off the outer paper-like bark to roof their huts. After some heavy showers of rain accompanied by thunder, the morning of the 19th (August) broke upon us exceedingly clear, pleasant and cool. . . . Our route to the southward[p599] and westward was resumed about 7 o’clock and, having traversed open forest, on the eastern side of Mount Forbes, abounding in grass, we reached some hilly ground. . . . On gaining the summit of the ridge, a most pleasing view was laid open to us from S.W. to S., and thence to E. and E.N.E.

“At E.N.E. and thence to E.S.E., a large patch of plain lying at N. and S. appeared as at a distance of about 3 miles, in many parts very verdant, and watered evidently by a large creek, the course of which was marked by a line of swamp-oak winding through its centre. To this plain I gave the name of Bowerman as a compliment to my friend, the officer in charge of His Majesty’s Magazines at Parramatta. The irregular ridge connected with Flinders Peak, still further to the eastward, was very conspicuous, presenting four distant pinnacles; more distant points in a southerly direction extending as far as Mount Lindesay, which was distinctly recognized. On quitting the ridge we descended to a grassy vale, and then continued our journey to the S.S.W. through a forest tract plentifully clothed with grass but . . . destitute of water.

“On completing our tenth mile, the ground appeared on its S.W. side to dip easterly; I therefore sent one of the people to make a diligent search for water in that direction. This was almost immediately met with in deep holes, and, as there was abundance of good grass for our oxen, I again halted. At night a wind from about S.S.W. sprang up which obliged us to secure our tents by strong guys to prevent their being blown down; the wind continued with unabated violence throughout the night and until sunrise of the following morning (20th), when it moderated. Being by estimation about 12 miles to the N.E. of the pass through the Dividing Range, it was my intention to have penetrated near to its base in the course of the day. . .. . We therefore quitted our encamping ground soon after sunrise, but soon the inability of the bullocks to travel over some stony hills, owing to the tenderness of their feet, obliged me to halt in a valley among the hills, having made only four miles towards the pass. At noon I found our latitude to be 27°56’48” S. . . . The smoke of natives’ fires was seen curling above the trees a little to the eastward of us, but these people kept themselves very quiet: not a voice was heard, nor a person seen.

“August 21st. About 7 a.m. we made another attempt to penetrate to the foot of the main range: climbing a forest ridge at S.W. without difficulty, the bullocks descended (by the care[p600] of my people), amidst much fallen timber and loose stones, to a valley stretching north and south, which we crossed, continuing towards the range to our fifth mile. We intersected the stony bed of a mountain torrent 12 yards in width, at this season perfectly dry, but evidently at other periods filled to the depth of six feet. The position of the driftwood on its shallow bank showed us that its fall was to the south; it therefore most probably pours its rapid waters into the Richmond of Captain Rous.

“Passing the stony channel of this watercourse, we traversed an apple-tree flat, pursuing our way over some hilly ground to a narrow valley where, meeting with fine weather, we again halted within four miles of the actual mouth of the Gap. As it was early in the afternoon, I despatched a man to look out and examine the hollow in the mountain ridges directly open to our encampment. After an absence of five hours he returned, having failed in his attempt to climb to the pitch of the Gap. . . .

“From the precipitous aspect of this hollow in the main range, its elevated appearance, its breadth between the boundary heads, I was induced to conceive that the Gap, into which I had simply looked from its western side in June, 1827 . . . was distinct from the one now before us. And, as the Dividing Range to the north of us trended easterly, I felt disposed to believe it was to be discovered a few miles in that direction. With this impression on my mind we left the spot on which we had rested, on the morning of the 22nd to proceed round the lateral ridges, intending to observe attentively as we travelled every indentation of the main range. We immediately entered the valley and in five miles reached its head, which to the eastward is bounded by forest hills. Passing a low, grassy ridge and continuing about two miles, we descended to an apple-tree flat watered by a creek running to the northward, on which we encamped. The low, grassy ridge is sufficiently elevated to give opposite directions to waters discharged on our east coast. We remarked that those streams falling on its northern side (its direction being east and west) eventually joined the Bremer, whilst those descending southerly without doubt are received into the Richmond, the embouchure of which Captain Rous has recently discovered upwards of 100 miles to the south of Moreton Bay.”

Cunningham determined to remain at the apple-tree flat for the whole of the 22nd, possibly because here he wished to add to his botanical collections and he sent two of his men at daybreak[p601] to a very steep forest ridge, directing them to climb to the highest point of the Dividing Range and from it to view the western country and its landmarks and to bring back to him information that would enable him to fix the situation of the pass seen during the previous year, and especially by any bearings that they might take to as far as the extensive downs he had discovered on the western side of this formidable range. Meanwhile he ascertained the situation of his camp to be latitude, by observation, 27°55’45” S.; longitude, deduced from the meridian of the Limestone Hills, 152°27’30” E.

He then seems to have spent some time in his botanical researches and writes on the 23rd “Among the brushes that overshadowed the creek on which we were encamped, grew most luxuriantly, the native Bignonia and a fine Clematis being intertwined and abundantly in flower, formed the richest festoons.” He continues:

Whilst on the subject of the flora of this fine country, so generally interesting in all its features, it may be observed that, barring the vine-clad banks of the Brisbane, the whole line of country through which we had travelled after leaving Brisbane Town, proved by no means so interesting to the botanist. The grasses are chiefly those of the colony, the richest flats and alluvial grounds being adorned with the vetch (in bloom) called Swainsona, and with Lotus australis, or birdsfoot trefoil, as also a Geranium and a Senecio frequent in the Bathurst country. The collections of dried plants that were found were therefore detected on the barren, rocky ridges and stony mountains that lay in the way of our expedition.

“In this place I will merely notice the singular association of our common Eucalypti with the tree of a genus whose splendid scarlet flowers render it very conspicuous among even the more brilliant subjects of the flora of intertropical countries. The tree I allude to is a species of Erythrin or coral tree, which I first observed in an excursion to the foot of Flinders Peak. Under the Dividing Range I frequently met with it in a forest of blighted., uncomely iron-bark forming a tree 35 feet high with a smooth trunk but thorny branches and, during the winter months, without leaves. Its last year’s pods continued hanging at the extremities of the branches, and, although pigeons (which abound in these woods) and other birds had eaten most of the seeds, still many of a brilliant red colour were found among the grass beneath each tree.

[p602] It was late in the afternoon ere my two men found their way back to the encampment, when I learnt from them that from the grassy ridge, which they had ascended in front of the tents, they had gained a lofty point of the Dividing Range to the southwest. Here they observed among the very elevated mountains to westward a valley extending through them in the direction of W.N.W. to a very low declining country at that bearing; but, as no appearance of plain could be perceived, and as there did not appear any part of the main range to the north worth the examination for the Gap so obvious in the winter’s journey in 1827, it was concluded that either the hollow back we had just left was the identical pass of last year, or that it was in its immediate vicinity. With this view I concurred; and therefore, on the morning of the 24th, we returned southerly to it, with the fullest determination to examine leisurely the main range from the extreme points of which I felt quite certain the last year’s Gap would be discovered.

“About one o’clock we passed a mile to the southward of our last position, and, entering a valley, we pitched the tents within three miles of the entrance of the Gap now suspected to be the pass of last year’s journey. It being early in the afternoon, I sent one of the people (who, having been of my party on that long tour, knew the features of the country lying to the westward of the Dividing Range) to trace a series of forest ridges which appeared to lead directly up to the hollow back in the range.


“To my utmost gratification he returned at dusk, having traced the ridge about 2½ miles to the foot of the Dividing Range, whence he ascended into the pass, and, from a grassy head immediately above it, beheld the extensive country lying west of the Main Range. He recognized both Darling and Canning Downs, patches of Peel’s Plains, and several remarkable points of the forest hills on that side, fully identifying this hollow back with the Pass discovered last year at the head of Millar’s Valley.


“Resting my oxen on the 25th, I determined to occupy the whole of the day in examining this very important passage as it would lead from the coast lands through a formidable main range of mountains to a vast extent of pastoral country on the western side of the mountains. Accompanied by my servant with[p603] an odometer, or measuring wheel, we commenced our labours at 7 a.m.

“From the valley in which we were encamped, we immediately ascended a low forest ridge at S., trending S.S.W. and S.W. throughout the first mile and a half. . . . In tracing the leading ridge, we found an ample passage between detached masses of sandstone which were covered with parasites (of ferns and Dendrobia or rock lilies) of species heretofore only found within the tropics.

“In another half-mile, the ridge takes a decided bend to the westward and its surface, becoming wider, presented an open patch of forest-ground, timbered chiefly with oaks and appletree in quantity sufficient for a small farm. The ridge at length narrows again, but the acclivity continues most promising. Patches of brush clothe its sides, and also those of the gullies falling from it, leaving its back clear of wood, open and grassy. At about 23 miles the ridge bends to the northward of west, and immediately the summit of the pass appeared broad before us, bounded on each side by most stupendous heads.[*] These heads were towering at least 2,000 feet above the Gap.

[* “I had at the time great pleasure in giving names to these very elevated points of the Dividing Range, which are very distinctly seen over fifty-four miles of wooded country from Brisbane Town. The south head, which forms a long backed mount, with a lofty point at each extremity, I have named Mount Mitchell in honour of the Surveyor-General of the Territory, whilst the north head was entitled Mount Cordeaux, as a compliment to Wm. Cordeaux, Esq., of the Surveyor-General’s Department.”]

“Here the difficulties of the passage commenced. We had arrived at the actual foot of the pass without the smallest difficulty; it remained to ascend, by a steep slope, to the level of its entrance. This slope is occupied by a very close wood, in which red cedar, sassafras, palms and other ornamental trees are frequent. Through this shaded wood we climbed up a steep bank of very rich, loose earth where a very compact rock (of white stone) is embedded. At length we gained the foot of a wall of bare rock which we found stretching from the southward into the Pass.


“This face of naked rock we perceived (by tracing its base northerly) gradually to fall to the common level; so that, without the smallest difficulty, and to my utmost surprise, we found[p604] ourselves in the highest part of the Pass, having fully ascertained the extent of the difficult part, from the entrance into the wood, to this point, not to exceed 400 yards. We now pushed our way westerly through this extraordinary defile, and, in less than half a mile of level surface, clothed with a thick brush of plants common to the Brisbane River, reached the opposite side of the main range, where I observed the waters fell westerly to Millar’s Valley beneath us.

“Climbing the northern summit of Mount Mitchell, which bounds the pass on the south, it was with no small pleasure that I looked over the beautiful tract of country at which my labours of the last year closed. Portions of Canning and Darling Downs, with patches of Peel’s Plain, are distinctly recognised at distances of 20 and 30 miles; the entrance to Logan Vale, indicated by the table-topped hill named last year Mount Sturt, was also observed, as was the forest ridge overhanging that rich valley beneath which my tents stood several days at that period. My elevated situation on Mount Mitchell enabled me to take bearings to points on the western as well as on the eastern sides of the Barrier Range, thus most satisfactorily affording me materials to connect on the map of the country the northern points of my last year’s journey with the settlement on the Brisbane River. The day was considerably advanced by the time we had effected these truly interesting observations; we therefore descended to the pass, and, making the best of our way along the eastern forest ridge, reached the encampment about eight o’clock, having been occupied in severe exercise about thirteen hours. The Gap through the Dividing Range is situated in latitude 28°2’40” S., and longitude (reduced from the meridian of the Limestone Station) 152°24’20” E., and lies S.W. from Brisbane Town 54 miles, being also in direct distance from the sea-coast (near Point Danger of Captain Cook) about 64 geographical miles.”

Cunningham continues: “The weather had favoured our operations throughout the whole of the day, but we had scarcely been seated within our tents half an hour before the sky became overcast, and heavy clouds passing over us to the eastward in a rapid succession presaged the storm that was gathering.

I had taken the precaution to secure the tents by extra guys, and therefore felt fully prepared to meet the impending tempest. The thunder at length approached in rolling peals accompanied by the most vivid lightning; and a deluging rain[p605] commenced a storm as awful, at the same time as grand, as any that are to be witnessed. With unabated violence the tempest continued until after midnight, when, as if suddenly exhausted, the wind moderated, the clouds broke, gradually sinking down towards the horizon; and a bright moon, just past the full, now burst forth with many a brilliant star, to assure us, by affording light to observe the extreme pinnacles of the mountains perfectly divested of clouds, that at length calm, serene and settled weather was again restored to us. The thermometer stood at 64°.

“On the 26th (August) we commenced our journey back to the Limestone Station, distant something under forty miles. The surface of the soil was quite saturated with the rains, and the vegetation assumed a lively verdure, evidently refreshed by the showers. We soon reached our last encampment on the creek that ran northerly to the Bremer, and then pursued a course to the north, with the design of passing to the westward of Mount Forbes. This line of route led us over forest ridges, clothed with a luxuriant carpet of grass and timbered with loftier and statelier iron-bark than we had seen for some time.

“In two miles these undulated grounds . . . dip to the level of an apple-tree flat . . . extend northerly several miles, and form a most beautiful valley, well watered by the creek on which we had rested on the 22nd.

Continuing north about three miles through this very level valley, a patch of plain opened on our view, round the skirts of which the creek, which we had . . . crossed, bent its course. This plain, which I felt gratified in naming after Lieut. Bainbrigge, of His Majesty’s 57th Regiment, at present the very active engineer at Brisbane Town, is of an irregular square figure. It contains about 800 acres of beautiful land of as truly a level as it is possible to conceive any patch of ground could be, untouched by the hand of man. Nothing can possibly exceed the richness and mellowness of its fine black soil, and certainly there is not in any explored part of New South Wales a more beautiful subject for the pencil of the artist than the landscape presented to the traveller from the centre of Bainbrigge’s Plain, to which no description of mine can possibly do justice.[*]

[* This plain met with by Cunningham on his route back to lpswich appears to have been a part of what is now Normanby Plains, which extends to 50,000 acres.]


[p606] “Immediately on the S.E., low forest ridges and some detached hills meet the eye. One rather elevated and remarkable figure was named Mount Fraser, after my friend and fellow-traveller. Whenever this country is thrown open to the grazier and a public road is constructed through the mountain defile just explored to the extensive western pastures, then will Bainbrigge’s Plain become a stage, being nearly equidistant from the Limestone Station and the Pass, the distance from each . . . not exceeding a day’s journey. In about six miles further to the N.N.E. we made the foot of Mount Forbes, where I determined to rest a whole day, as well to fix its position as to obtain from its summit a full set of bearings to all points around, and by them to connect and close the sketch of my journey.

“I . . . took bearings to every eminence of moment. . . . As these bearings were to points already frequently mentioned, no observation need again be made of them. I would, however, simply remark that I was at length enabled to fix the true situation of the lofty hills, marked on the chart of the country to the southward, which I named Mount Edwards and Mount Greville, the latter in honour of a very distinguished Scotch botanist.

“Of certain parts of this curiously diversified country, it may be important to know that, upon passing to the eastward of the range of Flinders Peak, the land appears a perfect level to the coast, which an eastern line would intersect about the southern extreme of Stradbroke Island, so that if it should at any period be deemed expedient to order a road to be formed from this hill direct to that part of the coast . . . there appears to be no difficulty in passing the line of ridge stretching southerly from Flinders Peak, to prevent its being made.

“The summit of Mount Forbes presents a narrow, level ridge at its southern extreme, from which it gradually contracts northerly until it becomes a sharp ledge of rocks, having on the eastern and western sides precipitous falls Of 200 feet. The rock is an ironstone upon which the decomposing effects of the elements were everywhere obvious, and this doubtless gives the mountain its sharp figure when viewed either from the N. or S.

“29th. Having ascertained the situation of Mount Forbes as follows, we prosecuted our journey to the north along a continuation of the valley traversed on the 27th. (Lat. 27°[p607]47’00” S.; long. 52°35’00” E.). At noon our latitude (observed on the bank of the Bremer) placed us five miles south of the Limestone Hills, which bore from us E.N.E. about 15 miles. This distance we covered early in the afternoon of August 30th, after having been absent from that station 12 days.”

Cunningham thus ends his report: “It is highly probable that upon the site of these limestone hills a town one day will be raised.” This was a true prophecy, since here had arisen the town of Ipswich of the Southern Hemisphere, so called in honour of Captain Rous, who was a native of Suffolk; it is now the centre of the Triassic coalfield of Queensland.