2 – 20 June


June 1.

The country to the eastward seemed so dry and scrubby that I could not
hope in returning to join Mr. Stapylton’s party or reach the Murray by
any shorter route than that of our present track; and I therefore
postponed any further survey back towards the junction of the Darling and
Murray until I should be returning this way. We accordingly proceeded
upwards and were followed by the natives. They were late in coming near
us however which Piper and his gin accounted for as follows: As soon as
it was known to them, the day before, that we were gone to the junction,
the strong men of the tribe went by a shorter route; but they were thrown
out and disappointed by our stopping short of that promising point. There
they had passed the night and, having been busy looking for our track in
the morning, the earth’s surface being to them a book they always read,
they were late in following our party.

Kangaroos were more numerous and larger here than at any other part we
had yet visited. This day one coming before me I fired at it with my
rifle; and a man beside me, after asking my permission, fired also. The
animal nevertheless ran amongst the party behind, some of whom hastily
and without permission discharged their carabines also.


At this four horses took fright and ran back at full speed along our
track. Several of the men who went after these horses fell in with two
large bodies of natives coming along this track, and one or two men had
nearly fallen into their hands twice.


Tantragee (McLellan) when running at full speed pursued by bands of
savages escaped only by the opportune appearance of others of our men who
had caught the horses and happened to come up.


The natives then closed on our carts, and accompanied them in single
files on each side; but as they appeared to have got rid of all their
spears I saw no danger in allowing them to join us in that manner.
Chancing to look back at them however, when riding some way ahead, the
close contact of such numbers induced me to halt and call loudly,
cautioning the men, upon which I observed an old man and several others
suddenly turn and run and, on my going to the carts, the natives fell
back, those in their rear setting off at full speed.


Soon after I perceived the whole tribe running away, as if a plan had
been suddenly frustrated. Piper and his gin, who had been watching them
attentively, now came up and explained to me these movements. It appeared
that the natives entertained the idea that our clothes were impervious to
spears, and had therefore determined on a trial of strength by suddenly
overpowering us, for which purpose they had planted (i.e. hidden) their
spears and all encumbrances, and had told off for each of us six or eight
of their number, whose attack was to be sudden and simultaneous. A
favourable moment had not occurred before they awoke my suspicions; and
thus their motives for sudden retreat were to be understood. That party
consisted of strong men, neither women nor boys being among them; and
although we had little to fear from such an attack, having arms in our
hands, the scheme was very audacious and amounted to a proof that these
savages no sooner get rid of their apprehensions than they think of
aggression. I had on several occasions noticed and frustrated
dispositions apparently intended for sudden attacks, for the natives
seemed always inclined to await favourable opportunities, and were
doubtless aware of the advantage of suddenness of attack to the
assailants.* Nothing seemed to excite the surprise of these natives,
neither horses nor bullocks, although they had never before seen such
animals, nor white men, carts, weapons, dress, or anything else we had.

All were quite new to them and equally strange, yet they looked at the
cattle as if they had been always amongst them, and they seemed to
understand at once the use of everything.

(*Footnote. For a proof of this see extract from Sydney Herald of May
21st 1838 in Appendix 2.3.)

We continued our journey and soon found all the usual features of the
Darling; the hills of soft red sand near the river covered with the same
kind of shrubs seen so much higher up.


The graves had no longer any resemblance to those on the Murrumbidgee and
Murray, but were precisely similar to the places of interment we had seen
on the Darling, being mounds surrounded by and covered with dead branches
and pieces of wood.* On these lay the same singular casts of the head in
white plaster which we had before seen only at Fort Bourke.** It is
indeed curious to observe the different modes of burying adopted by the
natives on different rivers. For instance on the Bogan they bury in
graves covered like our own and surrounded with curved walks and
ornamented ground.*** On the Lachlan under lofty mounds of earth, seats
being made around them. On the Murrumbidgee and Murray the graves are
covered with well thatched huts containing dried grass for bedding and
enclosed by a parterre of a particular shape, like the inside of a
whale-boat.**** On the Darling, as above stated, the graves are in
mounds* covered with dead branches and limbs of trees, and are surrounded
by a ditch, which here we found encircled by a fence of dead limbs and

(*Footnote. See Plate 16 volume 1.)
(**Footnote. See Volume 1.)
(***Footnote. See Plate 20 volume 1.)
(****Footnote. See above.)


As we proceeded the sandhills became more numerous and their surface
softer; while the scrub was at length so close that it was difficult to
follow any particular bearing in travelling through it. Near the river
the surface was broken up by beds of dry lagoons which evidently became
branches of the main stream in times of flood; and the intervening ground
was covered with Polygonum junceum. At length I reached an angle of the
river and encamped on a small flat beside a sandhill. Here the Darling
was only a chain of ponds and I walked across its channel dry-shod, the
bed consisting of coarse sand and angular fragments of ferruginous
sandstone. The width and depth between the immediate banks were about the
same as I had found them in the most narrow and shallow parts during my
former journey. While I stood on the adverse side or right bank of this
hopeless river I began to think I had pursued its course far enough. The
identity was no longer a question.


The country on its banks in this part presented also the same unvaried
desert features that it did in the districts examined by us during the
preceding year. The Murray, unlike the Darling, was a permanent river,
and I thought it advisable to exhaust no more of my means in the survey
of deserts but rather employ them and the time still at my disposal in
exploring the sources of that river, according to my instructions and in
hopes of discovering a better country. My anxiety about the safety of the
depot brought me more speedily to this determination. During the wet and
cold weather there might be less activity among the savage natives, but
it was not probable that the tribe which had collected 500 men to attack
Captain Sturt would be quiet in my rear after having lost some of their
number. To be in detached parties amongst a savage population was
perilous in proportion to the length of time we continued separate; and I
did not feel warranted in exhausting all my means in order to attain, by
a circuitous route, the point where my survey ought to have commenced;
while a second duty for which the means now left were scarcely adequate
remained to be performed. I had already reached a point far above where
any boat could be taken, or even any heavy carts; and nothing was to be
gained by following the river further.

The natives were heard by Piper several times during the day’s journey in
the woods beyond the river, as if moving along the right bank in a route
parallel with ours; but they did not appear near our camp, although their
smoke was seen at a distance.


June 2.

For several days the barometer had been falling and this morning the
weather was rainy and cold.


After tracing the further course of the Darling for some distance and
obtaining, during an interval of sunshine, a view from a sandhill which
commanded a very extensive prospect to the northward, I commenced the
retrograde movement along our route, which was but too deeply visible in
the sand. From what Piper had said the men expected an engagement during
the morning; and it was doubtful, on account of the wetness of the day,
whether their pieces would go off if the natives came on; but fortunately
we continued our journey unmolested. We reached our former encampment
notwithstanding the unfavourable state of the ground, and again pitched
our tents upon it. We found among the scrubs this day a new curious
species of Baeckea with extremely small scattered leaves not larger than
grains of millet, plano-convex and covered with pellucid dots.*

(*Footnote. B. crassifolia, Lindley manuscripts; glaberrima, foliis
subrotundis oblongisque obtusis plano-convexis crassis, floribus
solitariis axillaribus pedicellatis cernuis, laciniis calycinis
marginatis integerrimis petalis integris brevioribus.)


June 3.

The natives had not again appeared, so that Piper’s conjecture that they
were moving up the river by the opposite bank with a view to assemble the
tribes higher up appeared to be correct. Their gins had been left at
their old camp; for as the party crossed a flat not far from it, and I
fired at a kangaroo, their voices were immediately heard, signal columns
of smoke arose in the air, and they hurried with their children to the
opposite side of the Darling. From this astonishment on their part at our
appearance, and especially from their flight, knowing well then who we
were, it was not improbable that they knew the men were absent on some
mischievous scheme affecting us.


I struck out of the former line of route for the purpose of extending my
measurement to the junction of the rivers, and thus at length found the
Darling within a zone of trees which I had formerly taken for the line of
the Murray. The banks were high and the channel was also much broader
here. After tracing this river about four miles I found that the still
but turbid backwater from the larger stream nearly reached the top of the
grassy bank of the other. At length I perceived the Murray before me
coming from the south-south-east, a course directly opposed to that in
which I had followed the Darling for a mile. Both rivers next turned
south-west, then westward, leaving a narrow tongue of land between, and
from the point where they both turned westward to their junction at the
extremity of this ground between them, I found that the distance was
exactly three-quarters of a mile. A bank of sand extended further and, on
standing upon this and looking back, I recognised the view given in
Captain Sturt’s work and the adjacent localities described by him. The
state of the rivers was no longer however the same as when this spot was
first visited. All the water visible now belonged to the Murray, whose
course was rapid, while its turbid flood filled also the channel of the
Darling, but was there perfectly still. We were then distant about a
hundred miles from the rest of the party who, before we could join them,
might have had enough to do with the natives. I thought that in case it
might ever be necessary to look for us, this junction was the most likely
spot where traces might be sought; and I therefore buried near the point,
beside a tree marked with a large M and the word Dig, a phial in which I
placed a paper containing a brief statement of the circumstances under
which we had arrived there, and our proposed route to the depot, adding
also the names of the men with me. As the ground was soft it was not
necessary to dig but merely to drop the phial into a hole made with the
scabbard of my sabre; and I hoped that the bottle would escape in
consequence the notice of the natives.


The greater width and apparently important character of the Darling near
its mouth may perhaps be accounted for by supposing that floods do not
always occur in it and the Murray at the same time. The remoteness of the
sources of the two rivers and the consequent difference of climate may
occasion a flood in the one, while the waters of the other may be very
low. That this is likely to happen sometimes may be inferred from the
difference between the relative state of the atmosphere on the eastern
coast and on the Darling. This difference seems to have been so
considerable during the last journey as materially to have affected our
barometrical measurements taken simultaneously with observations at
Sydney. When the bed of the greater river is also the deepest any flood
descending by the other channel when the larger stream is low must flow
with greater force into that which is deeper, and in a soft and yielding
soil may thus increase the width of its own channel. On the contrary a
flood coming down the greater river while the minor channel may happen to
be dry must first flow upwards some miles and so fill this channel and,
being thus affected both by the rising and subsidence of the greater
stream, this process would have had a tendency to deepen and widen the
lower part of the Darling.


Return along the bank of the Murray.

Mount Lookout.

Appearance of rain.

Chance of being cut off from the depot by the river floods.

A savage man at home.

Tributaries of the Murray.

A storm in the night.

Traverse the land of lagoons before the floods come down.

Traces of many naked feet along our old track.

Camp of 400 natives.

Narrow escape from the floods of the river.

Piper overtakes two youths fishing in Lake Benanee.

Description of the lake.

Great rise in the waters of the Murray.

Security of the depot.

Surrounded by inundations.

Cross to it in a bark canoe made by Tommy Came-last.

Search for the junction of the Murrumbidgee and Murray.

Mr. Stapylton reaches the junction of the rivers.

Reception by the natives of the left bank.

Passage of the Murray.

Heavy rains set in.

Row up the Murray to the junction of the Murrumbidgee.

Commence the journey upwards, along the left bank.

Strange animal.

Picturesque scenery on the river.

Kangaroos numerous.

Country improves as we ascend the river.

A region of reeds.

The water inaccessible from soft and muddy banks.

Habits of our native guides.

Natives very shy.

Piper speaks to natives on the river.

Good land on the Murray.

Wood and water scarce.

Junction of two branches.

Swan Hill.


Returning from the junction towards our last camp on the Murray we again

crossed, when within a mile of that position, the dry channel we had seen

on proceeding towards the north-west. It contained some deep lagoons on

which were pelicans, but we crossed it where the bed was quite dry and

where it presented, like many other parts occasionally under water,

striking proofs of the uncertainty of seasons in these parts of

Australia. Numerous dead saplings of eight or ten years growth stood

there, having evidently flourished in that situation until the water

again filled this channel, after so long an interval of drought, and

killed them.

On reaching the firm ground beyond we came upon some old graves which had

been disturbed, as the bones protruded from the earth. Piper said that

the dead were sometimes dug up and eaten; but this I could not believe.


By three P.M. we again occupied the remarkable point where we had

formerly encamped. It is at this point (Mount Lookout on the map) that

the berg of the Murray terminates on the basin of the Darling and thus

commands, as before observed, an extensive view over the woody country to

the westward. It would be an important position in any kind of warfare,

and during my operations I felt as strong upon it with my party as if we

had been in a citadel. I had now, I hoped, again got between the junction

tribes and our old enemies, though the latter were still between us and

our depot; and thus any danger of the junction tribes uniting with those

up the Murray was less to be apprehended. Piper however discovered the

track of a considerable number who had proceeded up the river the day

before. Indeed all the tracks of natives he found led upwards and, seeing

no longer any of them there, we felt more anxious about the safety of the



The barometer had been falling gradually from the 1st instant, and this

was another source of anxiety to me; for we were in no small danger of

being separated from the other party by any such rise of the river as

might be expected after a heavy fall of rain.

June 4.

Notwithstanding the unpromising state of the mercurial column the night

had been fair, and in the morning the sky was clear. We lost no time in

moving on and we continued until we were four miles beyond our former

camp; and then crossing Golgol creek we occupied a clear point of land

between it and the Murray.


As I was reconnoitring the ground for a camp I observed a native on the

opposite bank and, not being seen by him, I watched awhile the habits of

a savage man at home. His hands were ready to seize any living thing; his

step, light and noiseless as that of a shadow, gave no intimation of his

approach; and his walk suggested the idea of the prowling of a beast of

prey. Every little track or impression left on the earth by the lower

animals caught his keen eye, but the trees overhead chiefly engaged his

attention; for deep in the heart of some of the upper branches he

probably hoped to find the opossum on which he was to dine. The wind blew

cold and keenly through the lofty trees on the river margin, yet that

broad brawny savage was entirely naked. Had I been unarmed I had much

rather have met a lion than that sinewy biped; but situated as I was,

with a broad river flowing between us while I overlooked him from a high

bank, I ventured to disturb his meditations with a loud halloo: he stood

still, looked at me for about a minute, and then retired with that easy

bounding step which may be termed a running walk, and exhibits an

unrestrained facility of movement, apparently incompatible with dress of

any kind. It is in bounding lighting at such a pace that, with the

additional aid of the woomerah, an aboriginal native can throw his spear

with sufficient force and dexterity to kill the emu or kangaroo, even

when at their speed. One or two families of natives afterwards appeared

hutted on the riverbank nearly opposite to our camp, and Piper opened a

conversation with them across the river. These people had heard nothing

of what had befallen the Benanee tribe. They had some years before seen

white men go down and return up the river in a large canoe; and Piper

also learnt from them that the Millewa (Murray) had now a flood in it,

having for some time previous been much lower than it was then; but they

assured Piper, apparently with exultation, that it flowed always.


The name of the creek we had just crossed was Golgol, and it came from

the low range of the same name which I had observed on May 29. From what

these natives said of Bengallo creek I thought it might be that branch of

the Lachlan, already mentioned as Boororan, flowing westward under

Warranary and other hills between the Murrumbidgee and the Darling.


June 5.

Rain had fallen during the night but the day was favourable though

cloudy. I ventured on a straight line through the sand and bushes of

Eucalyptus dumosa in order to cut off some miles of our beaten track,

which was nearer the river and rather circuitous. We crossed some

sandhills, the loose surface of which was bound down only by the prickly

grass already described. From these hills the view was extensive and

bounded on all sides by a perfectly level horizon. On one of them a

solitary tree drew my attention and, on examining it, I discovered with

much satisfaction that it was of that singular kind I had only once or

twice seen last year in the country behind the Darling. The leaves, bark,

and wood tasted strongly of horse-radish. We now obtained specimens of

its flower and seed, both of which seemed very singular.* By the more

direct route through the scrub this day, with what we gained yesterday,

we were enabled to reach, at the usual hour for encamping, the red cliffs

near the spot where we formerly met the second division of the Darling

tribe. I took up a position on the western extremity of the broken bank,

overlooking an angle of the river, and commanding a grassy flat where our

cattle would be also secure. The weather became very boisterous after

sunset, and our tents were so much exposed to the fury of the wind that

at one time I thought they would be blown into the river. The waters

continuing to rise, the Murray now poured along nearly on a level with

its banks, and how we should cross or avoid: The mosses, waters, slaps, and stiles

that lay between us and the depot, if the river rose much longer, was a

question for which I was prepared. On the other hand the very cold and

boisterous weather was in our favour as being opposed to any assembling

of the tribes at points of difficulty along the line of our track, as

they certainly ought to have done as good tacticians, for they never lost

sight of our movements while we were in that country.

(*Footnote. A new and genuine species of Gyrostemon. Gyrostemon pungens,

Lindley manuscripts; foliis rhomboideis acutis glaucis in petiolum

angustatis. The capsules are arranged in a single verticillus and

consequently this species will belong to Gyrostemon as distinguished from

Codonocarpus by Mr. Endlicher.)


June 6.

It had rained heavily during the night but the morning was clear. As we

continued our journey the natives were heard in the woods although none

appeared. Fortunately for our progress the floods had not reached the

lagoons, and we succeeded in passing the whole of this low tract, so

subject to inundations, without difficulty; and we finally encamped

within four miles of the ground where we had been obliged to disperse the

Darling tribes. We pitched our tents on the eastern side of the lagoon

where we found an agreeable shelter from the storm in some scrub which,

on former occasions, we should not have thought so comfortable a

neighbour. We could now enter such thickets with greater safety; and in

this we found a very beautiful new shrubby species of cassia, with thin

papery pods and numbers of the most brilliant yellow blossoms. On many of

the branches the leaflets had fallen off and left nothing but the flat

leafy petioles to represent them. The pods were of various sizes and

forms, on which account, if new, I would name it C. heteroloba.*

(*Footnote. C. heteroloba, Lindley manuscripts; foliolis bijugis

linearibus carnosis cito deciduis apice mucronulatis recurvis, glandula

parva conica inter omnia, petiolo compresso herbaceo nunc aphyllo

mucronulato, racemis paucifloris folio brevioribus, leguminibus oblongis
planis obtusis papyraceis continuis aut varie strangulatis.)

June 7.

The ground had been so heavy for travelling during some days that the

cattle much needed rest; and as I contemplated the passage, in one day of

that dumosa scrub, occupying twenty miles along the tract before us, I

made this journey a short one, moving only to our old encampment of May

26. The scrub here seemed more than usually rich in botanical novelties

for, besides the Murrayana tree, we found a most beautiful Leucopogon

allied to L. rotundifolius of Brown, with small heart-shaped leaves

polished on the upper side and striated on the lower, so as to resemble

the most delicate shell-work.* Piper discovered, on examining the ground

where we had repulsed the Darling tribes, that they had left many of

their spears, nets, etc. on our side of the river, and had afterwards

returned for them, also that a considerable number did not swim across,

but had retired along the riverbank. Upon the whole it was estimated that

the numbers then in our rear amounted to at least one hundred and eighty.

(*Footnote. L. cordifolius, Lindley manuscripts; ramulis pubescentibus,

foliis sessilibus subrotundis planis patentibus cordatis mucronatis

margine scabris supra laevigatis subtus striatis, floribus solitariis

sessilibus axillaribus.)


June 8.

As soon as daylight appeared this morning we commenced our long journey

through the scrub; and we discovered to our surprise, by the traces of

innumerable feet along our track, that the natives had not, as I till

then supposed, come along the riverbank, but had actually followed us

through that scrub. They have nevertheless a great dislike to such parts,

not only because they cannot find any game there, but because the prickly

spinifex-looking grass is intolerable against their naked legs. While we

were encamped in the scrub on May 25 they must have also passed that

stormy night there, without either fire or water. On our way through it

now we discovered a new hoary species of Trichinium, very different from

Brown’s Tr. incanum.* The cattle, though they were jaded, accomplished

the journey before sunset, and we halted beside the large lagoon adjacent

to that part of the river which was within three miles of our former

camp, being the spot where the natives, in following us from lake

Benanee, first emerged from the woods. The weather being still

boisterous, we occupied a piece of low ground where we were sheltered

from the west or stormy quarter by the river berg.

(*Footnote. Tr. lanatum, Lindley manuscripts; incano-tomentosum, caule

corymboso, foliis obovatis cuneatisque, capitulis hemisphericis lanatis,

bracteis dorso villosis.)


On the brow of this height and just behind our camp I counted the remains

of one hundred and thirty-five fires at an old encampment of natives and,

as one fire is seldom lighted for less than three persons, there must

have been at least four hundred. The bushes placed around each fire

seemed to have been intended for that temporary kind of shelter required

for only one night.

June 9.

We proceeded this morning as silently as possible, for we were now

approaching the haunts of the enemy, and I wished to come upon them by

surprise, thinking that I might thereby sooner ascertain whether any

misfortune had befallen the depot.


Two creeks lay in our way and, from the flood then in the Murray, it was

likely that they might be full of water, and the savages prepared to take

advantage of the difficulty we should then experience in crossing them.

The first channel we arrived at, which was quite dry when we formerly

crossed, was now brimful of the muddy water of the Murray and before we

reached its banks we heard the voices of natives on our right. We forded

it however without annoyance, the water reaching only to the axles of the

carts, but the current was very strong and FROM the river, that is to

say, upwards. We next reached our old camp where we had passed that

anxious night near Benanee. Here to my great satisfaction and indeed

surprise, I found the bed of the larger creek, which occasioned us so

great a detour when we first met the natives, still quite dry at our old

crossing-place; being in the same state in which it was then, although

the flood water was now fast approaching it. We got over however with

ease and at length again traversed the plain which skirts the lake; and

we were glad to find that tranquillity prevailed along its extensive



I perceived only one or two natives fishing, and I took Piper down to the

beach to speak to them, being desirous also to examine at leisure this

fine sheet of water. We found on arriving there that other natives had

run off from some huts on the shore, but Piper pursued those in the lake,

for the purpose of obtaining information about the tribe, until they ran

so far out into the water that they seemed at length up to their ears,

and I was really afraid that the poor fellows, who were found to be only

boys, would be drowned in endeavouring to avoid him. I could scarcely

distinguish them at length from the numerous waterfowl floating around.

In vain I called to their pursuer to come back, Piper was not to be

baffled by boys, and continued to walk through the water like a giant,

brandishing a short spear, or, as the boys would probably say to their


Black he stood as night
Fierce as ten furies, terrible as hell,

And shook a dreadful dart.

At length, when apparently near the centre of the lake, he overtook one;

and while leading him towards the shore he ascertained that the Darling

tribe had returned to the lake only on the day before, having been ever

since their dispersion on the 27th May until this time, on the opposite

bank of the Murray. That they were then fishing in a lagoon near the

river (where in fact we afterwards saw smoke and heard their voices) and

that they had despatched three messengers to a portion of the tribe on

the upper Darling, with the news of what had befallen them, of our

progress in that direction, and requesting them to join them as soon as

possible at the lake.


I perceived that the depth of water in this basin did not then in any

part exceed 8 or 10 feet, although the surface was probably 20 feet below

the level of the sandy beach, thus making 28 or 30 feet the extreme depth

when full. Now that I could examine it at leisure, I found that this fine

lake was much more extensive than I had at first supposed. The breadth

was about four miles, and I could see along it in a westerly direction at

least six miles. Part of the north-western shore seemed to be clear of

trees but well covered with grass, and to slope gently towards the water.

The whole was surrounded by a beach consisting of fine clean quartzose

sand. This was an admirable station for a numerous body like that from

the Darling. The cunning old men of that tribe seemed well aware that

there they could neither be surrounded nor surprised; the approach to the

lake from the river being also covered in both directions by deep creeks,

passable only at certain places. Their choice of such a position was

creditable to their skill in strategy, and consistent with their thorough

knowledge of localities. I could spare no time to look at the country

beyond this lake (or northward) as I wished to do. From what we learnt

however we were satisfied that the depot was safe, and this fact relieved

me from much anxiety. We had still to cross that creek or ana-branch

which apparently supplies the lake, although it was then still dry. I had

observed that such ana-branches* were deepest at the lower mouths, as if

the river floods entered first there and flowed upwards; although before

the river reached its maximum a strong current would probably set

downwards in the same channel, which would thus become at last a branch

of the main stream.


We reached our former camp on the Murray by 3 P.M., and once more pitched

our tents on the bank of this river. By comparing its height, as measured

formerly, with as much of it as remained above the waters, I found that

it had risen eight feet and a half. We were then within a short day’s

journey of the depot but anxious enough still to know if it were safe.

June 10.

We started early and, by crossing a small plain, cut off half a mile of

our former route. When within a few miles of the camp of Mr. Stapylton we

heard a shot, and soon discovered that it was fired by one of the men

(Webb) rather a mauvais sujet, who had been transgressing rules by firing

at a duck. We learnt from him however the agreeable news that the depot

had not been disturbed.


It was now cut off from us by a deep stream which filled the creek it

overlooked and which flowed with a considerable current towards the

Murray, having also filled Lake Stapylton to the brim.


Mr. Stapylton and his party were well; and during the whole time that we

had been absent the natives had never approached his camp. Such singular

good fortune was more than I could reasonably have expected, and my

satisfaction was complete when I again met Stapylton and saw the party

once more united. The little native Ballandella’s leg was fast uniting,

the mother having been unremitting in her care of the child. Good grass

had also been found so that the cattle had become quite fresh and indeed

looked well.


I was ferried over Stapylton’s creek in a bark canoe by Tommy Came-last

who also, by the same simple means, soon conveyed every article of

equipment and the rest of the party across to the depot camp.

We had now got through the most unpromising part of our task. We had

penetrated the Australian Hesperides, although the golden fruit was still

to be sought. We had accomplished so much however, with only half the

party, that nothing seemed impossible with the whole; and to trace the

Murray upwards and explore the unknown regions beyond it was a charming

undertaking when we had at length bid adieu forever to the dreary banks

of the Darling.


The first object of research was the actual junction of the Murrumbidgee

with the Murray. I knew that the creek on which I had fixed the depot

camp came from the former and entered the latter; and that our depot thus

stood on a tract surrounded by water, being between the creek and the

main stream. We were already in fact on a branch-island, immediately

adjacent to the junction we were in search of and, as I intended to

across the Murray either at or below that point, I determined to make an

excursion in search of it next morning.

June 11.

Riding southward I reached a bend of the river about two miles from our

camp. While tracing the stream upwards from that point we saw some

natives running away from their fires. One of them however held up a

green branch in each hand and, though as he ran he answered Piper, and a

gin had left a heavy bag near us, yet he could not be prevailed on to

stop. When Piper took the bag to the tribe he was obliged to follow them

nearly a mile, when a number at length stood still together, but at a

considerable distance from us, and kept incessantly calling for

tomahawks. From the number of huts along the riverbank it was obvious

that the inhabitants were numerous, and I was therefore the more

surprised that our depot could have continued so long near them without

their discovering it. After following the river upwards of eight miles

without meeting with the Murrumbidgee I came to a place where it seemed

to have formerly had a different channel, and to have left a basin where

the banks of the stream were of easy access, the breadth being only 110

yards. This spot was so favourable for effecting a passage that I

determined on moving the party to it at once; and to entrust to Mr.

Stapylton the further search for the junction of the Murrumbidgee, which

could not be far from it.


June 12.

While I conducted the party to the point at which I intended to cross Mr.

Stapylton returned along our old route to where we first traversed the

now flooded creek and, by tracing it downward to the Murrumbidgee, and

that river to the Murray, he ascertained the junction to be little more

than a mile from the encampment which I had taken up with the intention

of crossing the Murray. Meanwhile no time had been lost there in pitching

the boats and sinking them in the adjacent basin of still water that the

planks might swell and unite.

June 13.

I crossed early in the morning and found the opposite bank very

favourable for the cattle to get out; this being a object of much



I was met as favourably by the natives on this first passage of the

Murray as I had been on our first approach to the Murrumbidgee. A small

tribe came forward and laid a number of newly-made nets at my feet. I

declined accepting anything however save a beautifully wrought bag,

telling the owner through Piper that when the party should have passed to

that side I would give him a tomahawk in return for it.


As soon as the day had become rather warm we endeavoured to swim the

bullocks across by driving them into the water at the mouth of the basin

where the river seemed most accessible. But the bank was soft and muddy,

and the animals, when driven into the water, got upon an island in a

shallow part, whence they could not be dislodged, much less compelled to

swim from it to the opposite shore. Not a little time was thus lost,

while only a few could be drawn over by ropes attached to the boats; and

by which process one was accidentally drowned. This was owing to the

injudicious conduct of one of the men (Webb) who gave the animal rope

instead of holding its head close aboard, so as to keep the mouth at

least above water. The drivers then represented that the rest of the

bullocks had been too long in the water to be able to cross before the

next day but, having first tried their plan, I now determined to try my

own; and I directed them to take the cattle to the steepest portion of

the bank, overhanging the narrow part of the river, and just opposite to

the few bullocks which had already gained the opposite shore.

Notwithstanding the weakness of the animals this measure succeeded for,

on driving them down the steep bank so that they fell into the water, the

whole at once turned their heads to the opposite shore and reached it in

safety. We next swam the horses over by dragging each separately at the

stern of a boat, taking care to hold the head above water. Thus by sunset

everything except one or two carts and the boat-carriage had been safely

got across.

The natives beyond the Murray were differently-behaved people from those

of the Darling for, although one group sat beside that portion of our

party which was still on the right bank, another, at a point of the

opposite shore to the eastward of our new camp, and a third near my tent

in the neck of a peninsula on which I found we had landed, not one of

them caused us any anxiety or trouble. It was to the last party that I

owed the tomahawk, and I went up with it as they sat at their fires. They

were in number about twenty and unaccompanied by any gins. The man who

had given me the bag seemed to express gratitude for the tomahawk by

offering me another net, also one which he wore on his head; and he

presented to me his son. He saw the two native boys who then accompanied

me as interpreters dressed well and apparently happy, and I had no doubt

the poor man was willing to place his own son under my care. I

endeavoured to explain that we had no more tomahawks, that we had given

none to any other tribe upon the Murray, and that our men were apt to be

very saucy with their guns if too much troubled. Experience had taught me

the necessity for thus perpetually impressing on the minds, even of the

most civil of these savages that, although inoffensive, we were strong;

an idea not easily conceived by them. They however came forward and sat

down near us until very heavy rain, which fell in the night, obliged them

to seek their huts.


June 14.

The morning dawned under the most steady fall of rain that I had seen

during the journey; and this happened just after new moon, a time when I

had hoped for a favourable change in the weather. Everything was got

across the river this day, and we were prepared for the survey of a new

region. I was occupied with the maps of the country which we had just

left sufficiently to be regardless of the rain, even if it had continued

to fall many days; and very thankful was I that we had got thus far

without having been impeded by the weather.

June 15.

The rain ceased in the morning and the barometer had risen so much that

no more was to be apprehended then; yet the blacksmith had still some

work to do to the boat-carriage, and we were therefore obliged to halt

another day.


In the afternoon I proceeded in one of the boats up the river to the

junction of the Murrumbidgee; and I ascertained that there was a fresh in

that river also. It was certainly narrower at the mouth than at Weyeba;

and here indeed some fallen trees almost crossed the stream. There was a

hollow or break in the bank of the Murray, about 100 yards lower down,

which seemed to have been once an outlet of the Murrumbidgee. The opening

formed a deep section through a stratum of ferruginous sandstone, and was

fully equal to the present breadth of the tributary river. On pulling

higher up, the Murray seemed rather smaller above this junction, although

still a splendid stream. The natives on this side told Piper that the

Darling tribe from the other had danced a corrobory with them about six

weeks before, and promised to return in one moon. They also inquired

whether Piper had seen any of that tribe as they were waiting for us

whitefellows, to which Piper answered that he had NOT. I blamed him for

this reply, and asked why he did not say that we had been obliged to fire

upon and kill some of them: but he said he could not tell them that,

because they would hate him so.


June 16.

We left our encampment and commenced our travels up the left bank of the

Murray over ground which seemed much better than any we had seen on the

right bank. We crossed grassy plains bounded by sandhills on which grew

pines (callitris); and open forests of goborro (or box-tree) prevailed

very generally nearer the river. Where this tree grew we found the ground

still good for travelling upon, notwithstanding the heavy rain, in

consequence apparently of the argillaceous character of the soil; for in

the plains of red earth, which before the last fall of rain we had found

the best, the horses now sank above their fetlocks and the carts could

scarcely be dragged along. In the course of the day we passed several

broad lagoons in channels which probably were ana-branches of the river

in high floods. On the largest plain crossed by the party four emus

appeared, and one of them was killed after a fine chase by the dogs. The

river appeared to come from the east-south-east but the course was very

tortuous, and we encamped at a reach where it seemed to come from the



The most remarkable incident of this days’ journey was the discovery of

an animal of which I had seen only the head among the remains found in

the caves at Wellington Valley. This animal was of the size of a young

wild rabbit and of nearly the same colour, but had a broad head

terminating in a long very slender snout, like the narrow neck of a wide

bottle; and it had no tail. The forefeet were singularly formed,

resembling those of a hog; and the marsupial opening was downwards, and

not upwards as in the kangaroo and others of that class of animals. This

quadruped was discovered on the ground by our native guides, but when

pursued it took refuge in a hollow tree from which they extracted it

alive, all of them declaring that they had never before seen an animal of

that kind.*

(*Footnote. The original has been deposited in the Sydney Museum but,

having shown my friend Mr. Ogilby a drawing of it, he has noticed the

discovery in the Proceedings of the Zoological Society for 1838

describing the animal as “belonging to a new genus closely allied to

Perameles, but differing in the form of the forefeet, which have only two

middle toes resembling those of a hog, and in the total absence of tail.

This genus has been named by Mr. Ogilby Chaeropus ecaudatus.)

June 17.

The cattle were not brought up until ten o’clock, an unusual

circumstance, and one which curtailed the day’s journey. The course of

the river compelled us to travel southward, and even to the westward of

south; but we found better ground by keeping on the open forest-land of

box or goborro, which in general occupied a very extensive space between

the river and the bergs of soft red sandhills on which grew the



The plains covered with salsolae which, as I have just remarked, before

the rain, were considered to afford the best surface for travelling on,

had now become so soft as to be almost impassable, at least by our

wheels, and I this day avoided them as much as I could. The margin where

the box or goborro grew was in many parts hollowed into lagoons or

ana-branches of the river, so that it was desirable to shape our line of

route as closely by the base of these bergs or sandhills as possible.


On crossing the point of one of them we came upon a most romantic-looking

scene where a flood branch had left a serpentine piece of water,

enclosing two wooded islands of rather picturesque character, the whole

being overhung by the steep and bushy slope of the hill. The scenery of

some lakes thus formed was very fine, especially when their rich verdure

and lofty trees were contrasted with the scrub which covered the

sandhills nearest the river, where a variety of shrubs such as we had not

previously seen formed a curious foreground. Amongst them was a creeper

with very large pods, two of which were brought to me last year, while on

the Darling, by one of the men, who could not afterwards find the tree

again, or say what it was like. We also found one Eucarya murrayana with

young unripe fruit. (See Plate 28 which represents the general character

of the scenery on the Murray.)


The country abounded with kangaroos. On ascending some grassy ridges I

perceived a verdant plain which extended as far as I could see to the

westward. It was bounded on the south, not by scrub, but by a forest of

large trees; and the horizon beyond presented something like an outline

of hills, a refreshing sight, accustomed as we had been for several

months to a horizon as level as that of the ocean. After travelling about

three miles we were obliged to turn westward by a creek or ana-branch of

the river, having on its banks large yarra trees resembling those in the

main stream. It prevented us from approaching the Murray during the rest

of the day, and we finally encamped on its margin having found there most

excellent grass.

June 18.

Continuing along the firm ground between the bergs and this creek we

pursued a course which for some miles bore to the westward of south. We

passed through forests of the box or goborro, under which grew a

luxuriant crop of grass and two of these flats (on which we saw yarra

trees also) stretched away to the westward, breaking the elsewhere

unvaried wilderness of sandhills and scrub. On crossing one of these

forest flats we heard the sound of the natives’ hatchet on some hollow

trees before us; and Piper as usual hastened forward to communicate with

them, but in vain for, as soon as they saw him, they ran like kangaroos,

leaving the fortunate opossum which they had been seeking still alive in

his hole in the tree. At length we got clear of the creek on reaching a

bend of the river not far beyond the spot where we had seen the natives.


The Murray was flowing rapidly in a narrower channel and within two or

three feet of the top of the banks. The country appeared on the whole

superior to any that we had seen on the other side of this river. The

grassy flats backed by hills covered with callitris seemed very eligible

for cattle runs, the chief objection to them being only that the banks of

the river were so steep and yielding that the water was in general

inaccessible. The breadth seldom exceeded 60 or 70 yards; and I suspected

that we might be already above the junction of some stream on the right

bank, especially as the course came now so much from the southward.


On crossing the extremity of a sandhill, about two miles from the spot

where we afterwards encamped, I perceived that reeds covered a vast

region before us. They grew everywhere, even under the trees, and

extended back from the channel of the river as far as I could see and, no

alternative presenting itself, we endeavoured to face them. The lofty

ash-hills of the natives, used chiefly for roasting the balyan (or

bulrush) a root found only in such places, again appeared in great

numbers. We soon came upon a lagoon about a mile in circumference and

surrounded on all sides by high reeds. One or two smooth grassy hills

arose among them, but the ground, even where they grew, was as firm and

good for travelling upon as any that we had recently crossed. They were

no impediment to a man or bullock in motion, but grew to the height of

about seven or eight feet.


Grass was also to be found among them and I was willing to encamp there;

but the difficulty was in finding a spot where the cattle could approach

the water. The flood ran high in the deep and rapid river; yet the margin

was covered with high reeds and, although I ultimately encamped near a

small lagoon within the reeds, the cattle would not venture to drink at

it, instinctively shrinking back from the muddy margin. In the course of

the evening one animal fell into the river and was extricated with great

difficulty and after much digging in the bank. One remarkable difference

between this river and the Murrumbidgee was that, in the latter, even

where reeds most prevailed, a certain space near the bank remained

tolerably clear: whereas on this river the reeds grew most thickly and

closely on its immediate banks, thus presenting a much less imposing

appearance than the Murrumbidgee, with its firmer banks crowned with

lofty forests of yarra. Each Australian river seems to have some peculiar

character, sustained with remarkable uniformity throughout the whole



June 19.

Piper, although so far from his country, could still point directly to

it, but he had grown so homesick that he begged Burnett not to mention

Bathurst. To return except with us was quite out of the question, and as

we still receded he dragged, as the phrase is, a lengthening chain. He

studied my visage however and could read my thoughts too well to doubt

that I too hoped to return. The whole management of the chase now

devolved on him and the two boys, his humble servants; and this native

party usually explored the woods with our dogs for several miles in front

of the column. The females kept nearer the party, and often gave us

notice of obstacles in time to enable me to avoid them. My question on

such occasions was Dago nyollong yannagary? (Which way shall we go? ) to

which one would reply, pointing in the proper direction, Yalyai

nyollong-yannar! (Go that way.) Depending chiefly on the survey for my

longitude, my attention was for the most part confined to the

preservation of certain bearings in our course by frequent observations

of the pocket compass; but in conducting carts where no roads existed,

propitiating savage natives, taking bearings and angles, observing rocks,

soil and productions, so much care and anxious attention was necessary

that I believe I was indebted to the sympathy even of my aboriginal

friends for the zealous aid they at all times afforded.

Notwithstanding the obvious necessity for closely watching the cattle,

they had been suffered to ramble nine miles up the river during the

night; and were not brought back to the camp until noon. This unusual and

untoward circumstance was the more surprising as the whole country along

the riverbank was covered with good grass. Whether they had instinctively

set off towards the upper country, where most of them were bred; or that

want of water after a hard day’s work had occasioned such restlessness,

it was difficult to say; but they wandered even beyond the camp that we

reached this day in a journey commenced however only at half-past 12.


The natives peeped over the reeds at us from a considerable distance; and

some of those whom Piper saw when in search of the men with the cattle,

immediately jumped into the river, carrying their spears and boomerangs

with them. We had not proceeded above a mile and a half when I perceived

among the reeds close to the berg on which we were travelling a small,

deep and still branch of the river, apparently connected with numerous

others, in all of which the water was quite still, although it had the

same muddy colour as that flowing in the river, and they seemed to be

equally deep. These still channels wound in all directions among the

reeds. Further on the water was not even confined to such canals, large

spaces between them being inundated, and lofty gum (or yarra) trees stood

even in the water. Light appeared at length through the wood before us,

which soon terminated on a sea of reeds bounded only by the horizon. On

ascending some sandhills confining this basin of reeds on our side, I

observed a low grassy ridge with pines upon it, and forming a limit to

the reedy basin, except in a part of the horizon which bore 14 degrees

South of East. A broad sheet of water (probably only an inundation

occasioned by the late rain) filled the centre of the reedy space. About

six miles from our last camp we came upon the river flowing with a strong

current; and at its full width the water not more than a foot below the

level of the right bank. Thus the Murray seemed to flow through that

reedy expanse, unmarked in its course by trees or bushes, although one or

two distant clumps of yarra probably grew on the banks of the permanent

stream. At two miles further on these trees again grew plentifully, close

under the berg along which we travelled, and where I hoped again to see

the river. We found however that the yarras only enclosed shallow

lagoons; and on a small oasis of dry ground near one of them we encamped

for the night. A species of solanum forming a very large bush was found

this day in the scrub, also several interesting shrubs, and among them

some fine specimens of that rare one, the Eucarya murrayana. But in all

these scrubs on the Murray the Fusanus acuminatus is common and produces

the quandang nut (or kernel) in such abundance that it and gum acacia may

in time become articles of commerce in Australia.*

(*Footnote. Having brought home specimens of most of the woods of the

interior, I find that several of the acacias would be valuable for

ornamental work, having a pleasing perfume resembling that of a rose.

Some are of a dark colour of various shades and very compact; others

light-coloured and resembling in texture box or lancewood. The new caper

tree also resembles the latter so much as not to be distinguished from

it. Specimens of these woods may be seen at Hallet’s, Number 83 High


June 20.

The morning was frosty and clear. Soon after we left our encampment we

came to a ridge or berg, bare of trees with the exception of a fine clump

on the highest part; and behind it was an extensive flat which was also

destitute of wood, only a few atriplex bushes appearing upon it. I sent

the carts across this flat while I rode along the crest of the ridge. The

sea of reeds skirted this ridge on the north, and a meandro-serpentine

canal full of water intersected the reedy expanse in almost all

directions. The river flood had not reached it, at least if it had the

water continued unmoved by any current. I perceived some smoke arising

from the reeds at the distance of a mile, and at the extreme point of a

tongue of firmer ground which extended into them.


Piper went boldly up to the fire and found three families of blacks in as

many canoes on the river. They told him there was a junction of rivers

some way ahead of us; and I understood him to say that part of these

natives had come across from Waljeers. The country opened more and more

as we proceeded, and the basin of reeds was more extensive. The bergs on

the opposite side (on which I had fixed several points) were distant on

an average about eight miles, which was the breadth therefore of that low

margin of reeds. The winding borders of this plain terminated on our side

in rich grassy flats, some of which extended back farther than I could

discover; and on two of these plains I perceived fine sheets of water,

surrounded by shining verdure and enclosed by sheltering hills clothed

with Callitris pyramidalis.


One or two spots seemed very favourable for farms or cattle stations. The

soil in these grassy flats was of the richest description: indeed the

whole of the country covered by reeds seemed capable of being converted

into good wheat land, and of being easily irrigated at any time by the

river. This stream was also navigable when we were there, and produce

might be conveyed by it at such seasons to the seashore. There was no

miasmatic savannah, nor any dense forest to be cleared; the genial

southern breeze played over these reedy flats which may one day be

converted into clover-fields. For cattle stations the land possessed

every requisite, affording excellent winter grass back among the scrubs

to which cattle usually resort at certain seasons; while at others they

could fatten on the rich grass of the plains, or during the summer heat

enjoy the reeds amid abundance of water. We found on these plains an

addition to the common grasses.* The fine open country afforded extensive

views, and to the eastward and south-east we saw hills with grassy sides

and crowned with callitris.

(*Footnote. An Andropogon allied to A. bombycinus.)


Through the intervening valley flowed the Murray, the course of which was

seldom visible as no trees grew along its border. Under such

circumstances we could not encamp upon the bank, neither could it be

safely approached by cattle; and our prospect of obtaining wood and

watering our animals was this day rather uncertain. At length we came

upon a path which Mr. Stapylton pursued amongst high reeds for a mile

without reaching the river as we both expected. I continued to travel

towards four trees on the side of a green hill, still at a great distance

but in the direction in which I wished to proceed.


When we arrived there just before sunset we had the good fortune to find

close under the hill a bend of the Murray, and to discover the junction

of another river or branch with it at this point. Within the margin we

found a small pond quite accessible to the cattle, and behind the hill

was an extensive flat covered with the richest grass. Here therefore we

could encamp most contentedly beside a clear hill, always a desirable

neighbour, and an accessible river. We were also thus enabled to

determine the junction perhaps of two rivers, an important object in

geography. The latitude was 35 degrees 19 minutes 43 seconds South.

The lesser stream was about 50 yards wide, but below the junction the

main stream divided into two branches so that I was doubtful whether this

might not be only the termination of an ana-branch. From the falling off

of the bergs on the distant right bank, and the approach of a line of

lofty trees from the same quarter, I was almost convinced that some

junction took place thereabouts, as indeed the natives last seen had

informed us. During the day columns of smoke arose behind us in the

direction where we had seen these natives, and further eastward we

perceived a widespreading conflagration, doubtless caused by them

although this expression of ire troubled us but little so long as the

flames did not approach our route. The scrubs now receded from the river,

but the curious variety of acacias they contained still drew our

attention towards them. We found this day several which were new. One

with a rigid hard leaf, not in flower, resembled in many respects the A.

farinosa met with two days later, but it was perfectly smooth in all its

parts.* Another appeared to be related to A. hispidula, but with much

narrower leaves without the ragged cartilaginous margin of that


(*Footnote. A. sclerophylla, Lindley manuscripts; ramulis angulatis

glabriusculis, phyllodiis rigidis carnosis rectiusculis linearibus apice

latioribus mucronulatis multinerviis glabris eglandulosis, capitulis 1-2

sessilibus glaberrimis.)

(**Footnote. A. aspera, Lindley manuscripts; phyllodiis

oblongo-linearibus uninerviis mucronatis eglandulosis ramisque angulatis

asperrimis, capitulis 1-2 axillaribus, pedunculis villosis phyllodiis

duplo brevioribus.)