17 – 26 July

PLAINS OF STIFF CLAY.

July 17.

The ground on the sides of the low hills was still so soft (and in this
respect I had found the country we had lately crossed even worse than
that previously traversed by the carts) that the only prospect which
remained to us of being able to continue the journey was by proceeding
over the plains extending along the interior side of the Grampians of the
South. The soil of such plains consisted chiefly of clay, and we had
recently found that it bore the wheels of the waggons much better during
the winter season than the thin and loose soil on the sides of hills;
apparently because this lay on rock, or a substratum so tenacious as to
support the water in or just under the surface. The wheels and also the
feet of the cattle sunk at once to this rocky subsoil whatever its depth,
and up came the water, so that on level parts our track resembled a ditch
of mud and water, and on slopes it formed a current of water and a drain
from the sides of hills. I had observed the plains during my
reconnaissance of the interior from the side of Mount William, and I now
directed our course towards them. We crossed without difficulty the
little river by the passage Mr. Stapylton had prepared during my absence
and, after travelling about four miles first west and then north-west, we
came upon an extensive plain. The soil consisted of good strong clay on
which the cattle travelled very well, and it was covered with the best
kind of grass. On reaching it I resumed my former course which was nearly
west-south-west towards Mount Zero, a name I applied to a remarkable cone
at the western extremity of the chain of mountains. After travelling 2
1/2 miles over the plain we again reached the banks of Richardson’s
creek, and forded it after some delay and considerable difficulty on
account of the softness of the bottom. We next entered on a tract of
grassy forest land, the trees being chiefly box and casuarinae. At 2 1/2
miles beyond Richardson’s creek we crossed a small run of water flowing
west-north-west, apparently towards it. After passing over similar ground
for some miles further and having had another plain on our right, we at
length encamped near a large serpentine pond or lake which was broad,
deep, and bordered with lofty gum trees.

July 18.

We continued for five miles along good firm ground on which there was
open forest of box and gumtrees; and part of the bold outline of the
Grampians appeared to our left.

THE WIMMERA.

At nine miles we fell in with a flowing stream, the water being deep and
nearly as high as the banks. I did not doubt that this was the channel of
the waters from the north side of these mountains, and I was convinced
that it contained the water of all the streams we had crossed on our way
to Mount William, with the exception of Richardson’s creek, already
crossed by the party where it was flowing to the north-west. The richness
of the soil and the verdure near the river, as well as the natural beauty
of the scenery could scarcely be surpassed in any country. The banks were
in some places open and grassy and shaded by lofty yarra trees, in others
mimosa bushes nodded over the eddying stream.

Continuing along the right bank in a north-west direction we travelled
two miles on a grassy plain; and we then turned towards the river,

encamping on its banks in latitude 36 degrees 46 minutes 30 seconds

South, longitude 142 degrees 39 minutes 25 seconds East. Magnetic

variation 5 degrees 21 minutes 45 seconds East.

Some natives being heard on the opposite bank, Piper advanced towards

them as cautiously as possible; but he could not prevail on them to come

over, although he ascertained that the name of the river was the Wimmera.

DIFFICULT PASSAGE OF ITS FIVE BRANCHES.

July 19.

On examining the Wimmera with Piper’s assistance I found that it was

fordable in some places; but in order to effect a passage with greater

facility we took over several of the loads in one of the boats. Thus the

whole party had gained what I considered to be the left bank by ten A.M.

On proceeding I perceived some yarra trees before me which grew, as we

soon discovered, beside a smaller branch, the bottom of which was soft.

We had however the good fortune to pass the carts across this branch

also. At a quarter of a mile further we came upon another flowing stream,

apparently very deep and having steep but grassy banks. The passage of

this occupied the party nearly two hours, one of the carts having sunk up

to the axle in a soft bank or channel island. While the men were

releasing the cart I rode forward and found a FOURTH channel, deep, wide,

and full to the brim. In vain did Tally-ho (trumpeter, master of the

horse, etc. to the party) dash his horse into this stream in search of a

bottom; though at last one broad favourable place was found where the

whole party forded at a depth of not more than 2 1/2 feet. Beyond these

channels another similar one still obstructed our progress; but this we

also successfully forded, and at length we found rising ground before us,

consisting of an open plain which extended to the base of the mountains.

On its skirt we pitched our tents at a distance of not quite one mile and

a half from our last camp; a short journey certainly, but the passage of

the five branches of the Wimmera was nevertheless a good day’s work. I

had frequently observed in the Australian rivers a uniformity of

character throughout the whole course of each, and the peculiarities of

this important stream were equally remarkable, it being obviously the

same we had crossed in three similar channels when on our way to Mount

William, twenty miles above this point. The shrubs on the banks at the

two places were also similar.

ASCEND MOUNT ZERO.

July 20.

While Mr. Stapylton conducted the party across the plains in a

west-south-west direction I proceeded towards Mount Zero, the most

western extremity of the mountain range and distant from our camp 8 1/2

miles. I found this hill consisted also of highly micaceous sandstone;

the whole being inclined towards the north-west. Having planted my

theodolite on the summit I intersected various higher points to the

eastward, and also a very remote, isolated hill on the low country far to

the northward which I had also seen from Mount William, and from several

stations on our route. Several specimens of shrubs and flowers that had

not been previously seen by us were gathered on the sides of this rocky

hill. Among them was a very singular hairy Acacia covered with a

profusion of the most brilliant yellow flowers. In some respects it

resembled A. lanigera, but it proved upon examination to be undescribed.*

(Footnote. A. strigosa, Lindley manuscripts; glanduloso-hirsuta,

phyllodiis linearibus v. lineari-oblongis obovatisque uninerviis

eglandulosis apice rotundatis mucronatis obliquis, stipulis subulatis

villosis, capitulis solitariis sessilibus.)

An isolated mass appeared to the westward, having near its base a most

remarkable rock resembling a mitre. Beyond this the distant horizon was

not quite so level as the plains of the interior usually are and, as far

as I could see northward with a good telescope, I perceived open forest

land and various fine sheets of water. I observed with great satisfaction

that the Grampians terminated to the westward on a comparatively low

country. This was an important object of attention to me then as it

comprised all that intervened between us and the southern coast; in which

direction I perceived only one or two groups of conical hills. I resolved

however, before turning southwards, to extend our journey to the isolated

mass already mentioned, which I afterwards named Mount Arapiles. After

descending from Mount Zero I proceeded towards the track of the carts and

found that the plains, unlike any hitherto seen, undulated so much that

in one place I could perceive only the tops of trees in the hollows. On

these plains I found small nodules of highly ferruginous sandstone,

apparently similar to that which occurs near Jervis Bay and in other

places along the eastern coast.

CIRCULAR LAKE, BRACKISH WATER.

Reaching at length a low green ridge of black soil very different from

that of the plains, I found it formed the eastern bank of another of

those remarkable circular lakes of which I had seen so many near the

Murray. The bed of this hollow consisted of rich black earth and was

thirty-two feet below the level of the adjacent plain. It seemed nearly

circular, the diameter being about three-quarters of a mile. One

peculiarity in this lake was a double bank on the eastern side consisting

first of a concentric break or slope from the plain, the soil not being

clay as usual, but a dry red sand; and then arose the green bank of black

earth, leaving a concentric fosse or hollow between. A belt of yarra

trees grew around the edge of this singular hollow which was so dry and

firm that the carts, in the track of which I was riding, had traversed it

without difficulty. I learnt from Mr. Stapylton, on reaching the camp,

that the party had previously passed near two other lakes, the largest

containing salt water; and in the neighbourhood of these he had also

remarked a great change of soil; so that what with the verdure upon it,

the undulating surface, and clumps of casuarinae on light soil, or lofty

yarra trees growing in black soil, that part of the country looked

tolerably well.

THE MACKENZIE AND THE NORTON.

July 21.

At a quarter of a mile from the camp we crossed a running stream which

also contained deep and apparently permanent pools. Several pine or

callitris trees grew near its banks being the first we had seen for some

time. I named this mountain stream the Mackenzie. Beyond it were grassy

undulating plains with clumps of casuarinae and box trees (eucalypti). At

three miles and a half we crossed another chain of ponds, and at four

miles we came to a deep stream, running with considerable rapidity over a

bed of sandstone rock. It was overhung with mimosa-bushes; and it was not

until after considerable search that I could find a convenient place for

fording it. This I named the Norton. Good grassy hills arose beyond, and

after crossing them we found an undulating country and sandy soil where

there were shallow lagoons and but little grass.

THE WIMMERA IN A UNITED CHANNEL.

At nine miles I was aware, from the sloping of the ground, of the

vicinity of a river; and we soon came once more upon the Wimmera, flowing

in one deep channel nearly as broad as the Murrumbidgee, but in no other

respect at all similar. The banks of this newly discovered river were not

water-worn but characterised by verdant slopes, the borders being fringed

with bushes of mimosae. The country was indeed fine adjacent to the

Wimmera, and at the point where we came to it the river was joined by a

running creek from the south which we crossed, and at two miles and a

quarter further we encamped on a spot overlooking a reedy lagoon, from

which some long slopes descended towards the river, distant from our camp

about half a mile. When we thus again intersected the Wimmera I was

travelling due west, partly with a view to ascertain its ultimate course.

LOSE THIS RIVER.

The isolated hill lay before me, and it was now to be ascertained whether

the course of the stream was to the south or north of it. The appearance

of the country from Mount Zero certainly afforded no prospect of our

falling in with the river where we did, but at this camp Burnett, having

climbed to the top of a high tree, thought he could trace the course to

the southward of the hill before us, which bore nearly west. This

prospect accorded with my wishes, and I hoped to trace it to the coast

without deviating too far to the westward of my intended route.

July 22.

A small stream from the south crossed our way when we had proceeded about

half a mile. At six miles and a half we met with another; and three miles

beyond it I perceived a change in the appearance of the country. We had

been for some time travelling through forest land which now opened into

grassy and level plains, variegated with belts and clumps of lofty trees

giving to the whole the appearance of a park. We had now the hilly mass

of Mount Arapiles on our right, or north of us, but to my surprise there

was no river flowing between us and those heights as I had reason to

suppose from what had been seen from the tree by Burnett. Turning towards

the north-west therefore and at last northward, we finally encamped on a

spot to the westward of the hill after a journey of sixteen miles. Much

of the ground near this hill was so soft that one of the carts could not

be brought in before midnight, although assisted by several teams sent

back from the camp. We were now encamped on a dark-coloured soil from

which arose the same peculiar smell that I had remarked at Cudjallagong

(Regent’s Lake of Oxley). What had become of the Wimmera I could scarcely

imagine but, anxious to ascertain its course, I hastened before sunset to

a western extremity of the hill; but instead of the river, of which I

could see no trace, I beheld the sun setting over numerous lakes: the

nearest, two miles and a half to the northward, being apparently six

miles in circumference. It seemed to be nearly circular and a group of

low grassy hills formed a concentric curve around the eastern margin, and

from the total absence of any reeds, trees, or smoke of natives, it was

too obvious that the water was salt. From the spot where I then stood I

counted twelve such lakes, most of them appearing to have a

crescent-shaped mound or bank on the eastern side. This certainly was a

remarkable portion of the earth’s surface, and rather resembled that of

the moon as seen through a telescope. The eastern and principal summit of

the hill was at some distance; and I returned to the camp in hopes of

being able to discover from that point in the morning some indication of

the further course of the Wimmera.

ASCEND MOUNT ARAPILES.

July 23.

Having ascended the highest summit I counted from that height

twenty-seven circular lakes, two of the largest being about seven miles

to the north-east, the direction in which I expected to see the river.

Beyond these however I observed an extensive woody valley whence much

smoke arose, marking, to all appearance, the course of the Wimmera which

must have taken a turn in that direction, not far below the junction of

the last creek crossed by the party. Beyond that supposed bed of the

Wimmera the country appeared to be undulated, open, and grassy; and it

was probably covered with lakes similar to those on this side, for I had

observed from Mount Zero patches of water in that direction. From this

summit I had a good view of the Grampians of the South and, discovering

that a lofty range extended from them southward, I named it the Victoria

range having also recognised and intersected Mount William, distant 53

1/2 miles. I could see no high land to the westward, and the hill on

which I stood seemed to divide the singular lacustrine country from that

where the character of the surface was fluviatile. Mount Arapiles is a

feature which may always be easily recognised both by its isolated

position and by its small companion the Mitre Rock, situated midway

between it and the lake to the northward, which I named Mitre Lake after

the little hill, its neighbour. Like the mountains in the east Mount

Arapiles consists of sandstone passing into quartz, the whole apparently

an altered sandstone, the structure being in one part almost destroyed,

in others perfectly distinct and containing pebbles of quartz. At the

western extremity this rock occurs in columns, resembling, at a distance,

those of basalt. (See Plate 31.) On the steep slopes grew pines,

casuarinae, and a variety of shrubs among which we found a new species of

Baeckea, forming a handsome evergreen bush, the ends of whose graceful

branches were closely covered with small white delicate flowers.* This

mass occupies about two square miles, its highest summit being elevated

above Mitre Lake 726 feet. I ascended this hill on the anniversary of the

battle of Salamanca and hence the name.

(Footnote. B. calycina, Lindley manuscripts; glaberrima, foliis planis

sparse punctatis oblongo-cuneatis acutis, floribus pedicellatis

terminali-axillaribus, laciniis calycinis petaloideis petalis

longioribus. Near B. virgata.)

MR. STAPYLTON’S EXCURSION NORTHWARD.

July 24.

While Mr. Stapylton rode northward in search of the Wimmera I proceeded

to examine and survey some of these remarkable lakes.

SALT LAKES.

On the margin of one of them, bearing 55 1/2 degrees West of North from

our camp, a green hill of rather singular shape rose to a considerable

height above the surrounding country. I found the water in the lake

beside it shallow and quite salt. The basin was nearly circular though

partially filled with firm level earth which was water-worn at the brink,

its surface being about three feet higher than the water. This was

surrounded by a narrow beach of soft white mud or clay in which we found

no change on digging to the depth of several feet.

GREEN HILL LAKE.

The green hill was the highest of several semicircular ridges whose forms

may perhaps be better understood by the accompanying plan.* There was a

remarkable analogy in the form and position of all these hills; the form

being usually that of a curve, concentric with the lake, and the position

invariably on the eastern or north-eastern shores, a peculiarity I had

previously observed not only in the lakes near the banks of the Murray

but also in others on the Murrumbidgee and Lachlan where the ridge

consisted of red sand. The country on the western shore of these lakes

is, on the contrary, low and wooded like the surrounding country. In such

hills concretions of indurated marl frequently occur, but the earth they

consist of is sometimes light-coloured, in other cases very dark, like

the soil from trap-rock, and the ridges beside the lakes on the

Murrumbidgee, consisted of red sand.

(*Footnote. Having modelled this feature I have the satisfaction of

presenting to the reader the first specimen of a plan of ground worked

from a model by the anaglyptograph, an important invention recently

perfected in this country by Mr. Bates and likely to be of very

considerable value in the representation of the earth’s surface under the

skilful management of Mr. Freebairn.)

MITRE LAKE.

The water of Mitre Lake was also salt,* but there were numbers of ducks

and black swans upon it. The western shore was low, and the soil where it

had been thrown up in the roots of fallen trees was nearly as white as

chalk. A gray rather fine quartzose sand occurred in some places; and

along the water’s edge a very minute shell had been cast up in

considerable quantities by the waves.** The hills to the eastward of this

lake were arranged in a crescent around the basin, but this being

composed of a number of hills almost separate from each other had a less

regular or uncommon appearance, although they were apparently the remains

of a curve equally as symmetrical as the others. The basin of this lake

was very extensive but partly filled on the side next the low hills by a

level tract of dry land covered with a brown bush (Salicornia arbuscula

of Brown); and the concentric curves in which it grew, as if closing on

the lake, seemed to record its progressive diminution. The breadth of

this heathy-looking flat between the water and the crescent of low hills

was nearly half a mile. A small rill of fresh water oozed into the lake

from the sides of Mount Arapiles. The bed of this watercourse was soft

and boggy near the lake, so that I could cross only by going up its

channel much nearer to the hill and at a point where some rocks protruded

and prevented our horses from sinking.

(*Footnote. For Professor Faraday’s analysis of these waters see below.)

(**Footnote. This was a truncatella, a saltwater shell of which there are

several species on the English and French coasts. The one found here has

been named by Mr. J. De Carl Sowerby T. filosa.)

Mr. Stapylton, in his search for the Wimmera, rode about six miles to the

northward without reaching the river, although he saw the valley through

which he thought it flowed; and where the river seemed likely to resume a

course to the southward of west. Upon the whole I think that the estuary

of the Wimmera will most probably be found either between Cape Bernouilli

and Cape Jaffa, or at some of the sandy inlets laid down by Captain

Flinders to the northward of the first of these capes. The country which

Mr. Stapylton crossed assumed the barren character of the lower parts of

the Murray. He actually passed through a low scrub of the Eucalyptus

dumosa; but I have no doubt that the country on the immediate banks of

the Wimmera continues good, whatever its course may be, even to the

sea-coast.

RELINQUISH THE PURSUIT OF THE WIMMERA.

At all events I here abandoned the pursuit of that river and determined

to turn towards the south-west that we might ascertain what streams fell

in that direction from the Grampians; and also the nature of the country

between these mountains and the shores of the Southern Ocean.

THE PARTY TRAVELS TO THE SOUTH-WEST.

July 25.

Proceeding accordingly about south-west, we crossed at less than a mile

from our camp the dry bed of a circular lake. The ground on the eastern

shore was full of wombat holes which had been made in a stratum of

compact tuff about a foot in thickness. The tuff was irregularly

cavernous and it was loose, calcareous, or friable in the lower part

where the wombats had made their burrows. On the opposite margin of this

dry lake the surface was covered with concretions of indurated marl; and

the burrows of the wombat were even more numerous there than in the other

bank; the stratum of compact tuff occurring also and being three feet in

thickness.

RED LAKE.

At 2 1/4 miles we came upon the shores of Red lake which I so named from

the colour of a weed growing upon its margin. The lake was nearly a mile

in length and half a mile broad; the water was so slightly brackish that

reeds grew upon the borders which were frequented by many swans and

ducks. A very symmetrical bank overlooked the eastern shore, the ground

on the westward being low and wooded with the ordinary trees of the

country. We next crossed a flat of dry white sand on which banksia grew

thickly; and then we reached some low white sandhills on which were

stunted ironbark trees (eucalypti). In the higher part of those hills we

crossed a small dry hollow or lake which had also its bank on the eastern

side.

SMALL LAKES OF FRESH WATER.

At the end of 5 1/2 miles we passed two small lakes of fresh water about

half a mile to the right and, soon after, another about the same distance

to the left. On completing seven miles we crossed a low ridge of white

sand on which grew stunted trees of stringybark and black-butted gumtrees

(both belonging to the genus eucalyptus). Beyond this we crossed a

country in which wet, reedy swamps of fresh water, white sandhills, and

fine flats of good forest land occurred alternately. Towards the end of

our day’s journey, the barren sandhills seemed to prevail, but at length

we descended from them rather suddenly to a smooth firm plain, clothed

with the finest grass and on the edge of this we pitched our tents for

the night.

July 26.

We proceeded through a thick fog and found the plain studded with clumps

of casuarinae. About a mile from the camp we came upon an extensive swamp

or lake, full of grass and rushes. Turning this by the left we crossed

some more good country, and then reached the banks of an extensive

lagoon, also full of green rushes and water. The western bank was high

and consisted of rich grassy land, very open; a small stream of water

fell into the lake on the north-west side, and another on the south-east.

It was surrounded by lofty gum trees and had a wood on the south and

east. We met with sandhills and stunted timber beyond. They enclosed a

long grassy flat covered with water, stretching away to the south-east.

We next entered on a fine flat of forest land bounded by a low ridge with

Callitris pyramidalis, or pine trees.

WHITE LAKE.

From this I perceived a circular lake a little to our right and on riding

to it I found the water salt and of a very white colour. No trees grew on

the margin and the surrounding scene was so dreary that it resembled a

mountain-tarn. Two solitary ducks were upon it, apparently of a species

new to us, but this I could not ascertain, having had only my rifle with

me and, the cap missing fire, I lost even that chance of killing them.

The bed of the lake also consisted of a very white marl. A high

semicircular bank swept round the eastern shore; that opposite, or

towards the west being low and swampy. On that side I saw two natives at

a distance making the best of their way to the southward. We had this day

noticed some of their huts which were of a very different construction

from those of the aborigines in general, being large, circular, and made

of straight rods meeting at an upright pole in the centre; the outside

had been first covered with bark and grass and then entirely coated over

with clay. The fire appeared to have been made nearly in the centre; and

a hole at the top had been left as a chimney. The place seemed to have

been in use for years as a casual habitation.

BASKETWORK OF THE NATIVES.

In this hut the natives had left various articles such as jagged spears,

some of them set with flints; and an article of their manufacture which

we had not before seen, namely, bags of the gins, very neatly wrought,

apparently made of a tough small rush. Two of these also resembled

reticules and contained balls of resin, flints for the spearheads etc.

The iron bolt of a boat was likewise found in one of these huts. The

natives invariably fled at our approach, a circumstance to be regretted

perhaps on account of the nomenclature of my map; but otherwise their

flight was preferable to the noisy familiarity of the natives of the

Darling, perplexing us between their brands of defiance and treacherous

invitations to dance. Indeed the two regions were as different in

character as the manners of their respective inhabitants. Instead of

salsolaceous deserts and mesenbryanthemum we now found a variety of

everything most interesting in a newly discovered country. Every day we

passed over land which for natural fertility and beauty could scarcely be

surpassed; over streams of unfailing abundance and plains covered with

the richest pasturage. Stately trees and majestic mountains adorned the

ever-varying scenery of this region, the most southern of all Australia

and the best. Beyond the White lake, which may be the distinguishing name

of the last mentioned, we passed over several tracts of open forest land

separated by dry sandhills, and at length encamped on a rich flat.

MUDDY STATE OF THE SURFACE.

The cattle were very much fatigued from the heaviness of the draught

owing to the extreme softness of the surface, especially on the more open

forest lands; and one bullock-driver remained behind with a cart until we

could send back a team by moonlight to his assistance.