29 August – 13 September
BEACH OF PORTLAND BAY.
On reaching the seashore at this beach I turned to observe the face of
Tommy Came-last, one of my followers who, being a native from the
interior, had never before seen the sea. I could not discover in the face
of this young savage, even on his first view of the ocean, any expression
of surprise; on the contrary the placid and comprehensive gaze he cast
over it seemed fully to embrace the grand expanse then for the first time
opened to him.
A VESSEL AT ANCHOR. HOUSE AND FARMING ESTABLISHMENT THERE.
I was much more astonished when he soon after came to tell me of the
fresh tracks of cattle that he had found on the shore, and the shoemarks
of a white man. He also brought me portions of tobacco-pipes and a glass
bottle without a neck. That whaling vessels occasionally touched there I
was aware, as was indeed obvious from the carcasses and bones of whales
on the beach; but how cattle could have been brought there I did not
understand. Proceeding round the bay with the intention of examining the
head of an inlet and continuing along shore as far as Cape Bridgewater, I
was struck with the resemblance to houses that some supposed grey rocks
under the grassy cliffs presented; and while I directed my glass towards
them my servant Brown said he saw a brig at anchor; a fact of which I was
soon convinced and also that the grey rocks were in reality wooden
houses. The most northern part of the shore of this bay was comparatively
low, but the western consisted of bold cliffs rising to the height of 180
We ascended these cliffs near the wooden houses which proved to be some
deserted sheds of the whalers. One shot was heard as we drew near them
and another on our ascending the rocks. I then became somewhat
apprehensive that the parties might either be, or suppose us to be,
bushrangers and, to prevent if possible some such awkward mistake, I
ordered a man to fire a gun and the bugle to be sounded; but on reaching
the higher ground we discovered not only a beaten path but the track of
two carts, and while we were following the latter a man came towards us
from the face of the cliffs. He informed me in answer to my questions
that the vessel at anchor was the Elizabeth of Launceston; and that just
round the point there was a considerable farming establishment belonging
to Messrs. Henty, who were then at the house. It then occurred to me that
I might there procure a small additional supply of provisions, especially
of flour, as my men were on very reduced rations. I therefore approached
the house and was kindly received and entertained by the Messrs. Henty
who as I learnt had been established there during upwards of two years.
It was very obvious indeed from the magnitude and extent of the buildings
and the substantial fencing erected that both time and labour had been
expended in their construction. A good garden stocked with abundance of
vegetables already smiled on Portland Bay; the soil was very rich on the
overhanging cliffs, and the potatoes and turnips produced there surpassed
in magnitude and quality any I had ever seen elsewhere.
I learnt that the bay was much resorted to by vessels engaged in the
whale fishery and that upwards of 700 tons of oil had been shipped that
season. I was likewise informed that only a few days before my arrival
five vessels lay at anchor together in that bay, and that a communication
was regularly kept up with Van Diemen’s Land by means of vessels from
Launceston. Messrs. Henty were importing sheep and cattle as fast as
vessels could be found to bring them over, and the numerous whalers
touching at or fishing on the coast were found to be good customers for
farm produce and whatever else could be spared from the establishment.
Portland Bay is well sheltered from all winds except the east-south-east,
and the anchorage is so good that a vessel is said to have rode out a
gale even from this quarter. The part of the western shore where the land
is highest shelters a small bay which might be made a tolerable harbour
by means of two piers or quays erected on reefs of a kind of rock
apparently very favourable for the purpose, namely amygdaloidal trap in
rounded boulders. The present anchorage in four fathoms is on the outside
of these reefs, and the water in this little bay is in general smooth
enough for the landing of boats. A fine stream falls into the bay there
and the situation seems altogether a most eligible one for the site of a
town. The rock is trap consisting principally of felspar; and the soil is
excellent as was amply testified by the luxuriant vegetation in Mr.
EXCURSION TO CAPE NELSON.
I proceeded with the theodolite to a height near Cape Nelson and from it
I intersected that cape and also Cape Bridgewater, Cape Sir William
Grant, the islands to the eastward, etc.
I here recognised also the high hill which appeared within these capes
when first seen from the westward. It formed the most elevated part of
the Rifle range at its termination on the coast and I was informed by Mr.
Henty that there was a fine lake at its base. I named the hill Mount
Kincaid after my old and esteemed friend of Peninsular recollections.
Returning to the party at Portland Bay where I had left my sextant, I
then obtained a good observation on the sun’s meridian altitude. I was
accommodated with a small supply of flour by Messrs. Henty who, having
been themselves on short allowance, were awaiting the arrival of a vessel
then due two weeks. They also supplied us with as many vegetables as the
men could carry away on their horses.
A WHALE CHASE.
Just as I was about to leave the place a whale was announced and
instantly three boats well manned were seen cutting through the water, a
harpooneer standing up at the stern of each with oar in hand and
assisting the rowers by a forward movement at each stroke. It was not the
least interesting scene in these my Australian travels thus to witness
from a verandah on a beautiful afternoon at Portland Bay the humours of
the whale fishery and all those wondrous perils of harpooneers and whale
boats of which I had delighted to read as scenes of the stormy north. The
object of the present pursuit was “a hunchback” and it being likely to
occupy the boats for some time I proceeded homewards.
SAGACITY OF THE NATIVES ON THE COAST.
I understood it frequently happened that several parties of fishermen
left by different whaling vessels would engage in the pursuit of the same
whale, and that in the struggle for possession the whale would
occasionally escape from them all and run ashore, in which case it is of
little value to whalers as the removal, etc., would be too tedious and
they in such cases carry away part of the head matter only. The natives
never approach these whalers, nor had they ever shown themselves to the
white people of Portland Bay but, as they have taken to eat the castaway
whales, it is their custom to send up a column of smoke when a whale
appears in the bay, and the fishers understand the signal. This affords
an instance of the sagacity of the natives for they must have reflected
that, by thus giving timely notice, a greater number will become
competitors for the whale and that consequently there will be a better
chance of the whale running ashore, in which case a share must fall
finally to them. The fishers whom I saw were fine able fellows; and with
their large ships and courageous struggles with the whales they must seem
terrible men of the sea to the natives. The neat trim of their boats set
up on stanchions on the beach looked well, with oars and in perfect
readiness to dash at the moment’s notice into the angry surge. Upon the
whole, what with the perils they undergo and their incessant labour in
boiling the oil, these men do not earn too cheaply the profits derived
from that kind of speculation. I saw on the shore the wreck of a fine
boat which had been cut in two by a single stroke of the tail of a whale.
The men were about to cast their net into the sea to procure a supply of
fish for us when the whale suddenly engaged all hands.
We returned along the shore of the bay, intersecting at its estuary the
mouth of the little river last crossed and which, at the request of Mr.
Henty, I have named the Surry. This river enters Portland Bay in latitude
38 degrees 15 minutes 43 seconds South; longitude (by my survey)141
degrees 58 minutes East. We encamped on the rich grassy land just beyond
and I occupied for the night a snug old hut of the natives.
Early this morning Richardson caught a fine bream and I had indeed been
informed by Messrs. Henty that these streams abound with this fish.
On ascending the highest point of the hill immediately behind the estuary
of the Surry and which I named Mount Clay, I found it consisted of good
forest land, and that its ramifications extended over as much as three
miles. Beyond it we descended into the valley of the Fitzroy, and at noon
I ascertained the latitude where we had before forded it to be 38 degrees
8 minutes 51 seconds South. The river had risen in the interim a foot and
a half, so that we were obliged to carry the flour across on the heads of
the men wading up to the neck. When we reached the summit of Mount
Eckersley, the horizon being clear, I completed my series of angles on
points visible from that station by observing the Julian Island and Mount
Abrupt, two of great importance in my survey which were hidden from our
sight by the squally weather when I was last on this hill.
RETURN TO THE CAMP.
We reached the camp about sunset and found all right there, the carts
having been drawn out of the bogs, all the claw-chains repaired by the
blacksmith, our hatchets resteeled, and two new shafts made for the heavy
carts. Piper had during our absence killed abundance of kangaroos, and I
now rejoiced at his success on account of the aboriginal portion of our
party for whose stomachs, being of savage capacity, quantity was a more
important consideration than quality in the article of food, and we were
then living on a very reduced scale of rations. On my return from such
excursions The Widow and her child frequently gave notice of our approach
long before we reached the camp: their quick ears seemed sensible of the
sound of horses’ feet at an astonishing distance, for in no other way
could the men account for the notice which Turandurey and her child,
seated at their own fire, were always the first to give of my return,
sometimes long before our appearance at the camp. Piper was usually the
first to meet me and assure me of the safety of the party, as if he had
taken care of it during my absence; and I encouraged his sense of
responsibility by giving him credit for the security they had enjoyed. A
serene evening, lovely in itself, looked doubly beautiful then as our
hopes of getting home were inseparable from fine weather, for on this
chance our final escape from the mud and bogs seemed very much to depend.
The barometer however indicated rather doubtfully.
Heavy rain and fog detained us in the same camp this morning and I
availed myself of the day for the purpose of laying down my recent
survey. The results satisfied me that the coastline on the engraved map
was very defective and indeed the indentations extended so much deeper
into the land that I still entertained hopes of finding some important
inlet to the eastward, analogous to that remarkable break of the mountain
chain at Mount William.
STILL RETARDED BY THE SOFT SOIL.
We travelled as much in a north-east direction as the ground permitted
but, although I should most willingly have followed the connecting
features whatever their directions, I could not avoid the passage of
various swamps or boggy soft hollows in which the carts and more
especially the boat-carriage, notwithstanding the greatest exertions on
the part of the men, again sank up to the axles. I had proceeded with the
light carts and one heavy cart nearly nine miles while the boat-carriage
fell at least six miles behind me, the other heavy carts having also been
retarded from the necessity for yoking additional teams to the cattle
drawing the boats. The weather was still unsettled and the continued
rains had at length made the surface so soft that even to ride over it
was in many places difficult. I had reached some fine forest land on the
bank of a running stream where the features were bolder, and I hoped to
arrive soon at the good country near the head of the Wannon. I encamped
without much hope that the remainder of the party could join us that
night and they in fact did remain six miles behind. I had never been more
puzzled in my travels than I was with respect to the nature of the
country before us then. Mount Napier bore 74 degrees East of North
distant about 16 miles. The little rivulet was flowing northward, and yet
we had not reached the interior side of that elevated though swampy
ground dividing the fine valleys we had seen further westward from the
country sloping towards the sea.
LEAVE ONE OF THE BOATS, AND REDUCE THE SIZE OF THE BOAT CARRIAGE.
This morning we had steady rain accompanied as usual by a north-west
wind; I remarked also that at any rise of the barometer after such rain
the wind changed to the south-east in situations near the coast, or to
the north-east when we were more inland. I sent back the cattle we had
brought forward to this camp to assist those behind, and in the meanwhile
Mr. Stapylton took a ride along the ridge on which we were encamped in
order to ascertain its direction. Towards evening Burnett returned from
the carts with the intelligence that the boat-carriage could not be got
out of the swamps and that, after the men had succeeded in raising it
with levers and had drawn it some way, it had again sunk and thus delayed
the carts, but that the latter were at length coming on, two men having
been left behind with the boat-carriage. Mr. Stapylton returned in the
afternoon having ascertained that a swamp of upwards of a mile in breadth
and extending north and south as far as he could see lay straight before
us, and he had concluded that the rivulet upon which we were then
encamped turned into it. Under such circumstances we could not hope to be
able to travel much further with the boats, nor even indeed with the
carts unless we found ground with a firmer surface in the country before
us. Ere we could reach the nearest habitations of civilised men we had
yet to traverse 400 miles of a country intersected by the highest
mountains and watered by the largest rivers known in New Holland.
Although the boats and their carriage had been of late a great hindrance
to us I was very unwilling to abandon such useful appendages to an
exploring party, having already drawn them overland nearly 3000 miles. A
promising part of the coast might still be explored, large rivers were to
be crossed, and we had already found boats useful on such occasions. One
however might answer these temporary purposes, since for the main object,
the exploration of inland seas, they could not possibly be wanted. We had
two and the outer one, which was both larger and heavier than the inner,
had been shaken so much when suspended without the thwarts that she was
almost unserviceable in the water, and very leaky as we had lately found
in exploring the Glenelg. She had in fact all along served as a case for
the inner boat, which could thus be kept distended by the thwarts and was
consequently in excellent repair and in every respect the best. I
determined therefore to abandon the outer boat and shorten the carriage
so that the fore and hind wheels would be brought two feet nearer each
other. I expected from this arrangement that, instead of boats retarding
the party, this one might thus be drawn in advance with the light carts.
EXCURSION TO MOUNT NAPIER.
Having directed the alteration to be made during my intended absence I
set out for Mount Napier and soon found the broad swamp before me. After
riding up an arm of it to the left for a mile and a half I found it
passable and, having crossed, we proceeded towards the hill by a rather
circuitous route but over a fine tract of country although then very soft
under our horses’ feet.
CROSS SOME FINE STREAMS.
We next reached a deeper ravine where the land on each side was more open
and also firmer, while a small rivulet flowing through it amongst bushes
was easily crossed, and we ascended some fine rising ground beyond it.
Rich flats then extended before us and we arrived at an open grassy
valley where a beautiful little stream resembling a river in miniature
was flowing rapidly. Two very substantial huts showed that even the
natives had been attracted by the beauty of the spot and, as the day was
showery, I wished to return if possible to pass the night there, for I
began to learn that such huts with a good fire before them made very
comfortable quarters in bad weather.
NATIVES VERY TIMID.
We had heard voices in the woods several times this day but their
inhabitants seemed as timid as kangaroos and not more likely to come near
us. The blue mass of Mount Napier was visible occasionally through the
trees, but I found as we proceeded that we were not so near it as I had
supposed, for at three miles beyond the little stream we came upon one of
greater magnitude, a small river flowing southward with open grassy banks
in which two kinds of trap-rock appeared. The edge of a thin layer of the
lowest, a nearly decomposed trap, projected over the stream; the other
lay in rounded blocks in the face of the hill above, and appeared to be
decomposed amygdaloid, principally felspar. The river ran through a
valley where the forest land was remarkably open, being sprinkled with
only a few trees as in a park, and this stream appeared to fall into the
head of the extensive swamp already mentioned. About a mile beyond the
river (which I named the Shaw) we came upon the extremities of Mount
Napier, for at least so I considered some rough sharp-pointed fragments
of rock laying about in heaps, which we found it very difficult and
tedious to ride over: indeed so sharp-edged and large were these rocks on
the slopes of the terraces they formed that we were often obliged to
dismount and lead our horses. In these fragments I recognised the
cellular character of the rocks I had noticed in the bed of the Shaw. The
rock here might have been taken for decomposed amygdaloid but, having
found the vestiges of an old crater in the summit of the hill, I was
induced to consider it an ancient lava. The reefs at Portland Bay consist
of the same rock in rounded nodules, a more compact trap-rock consisting
principally of felspar lying above them, as was observable in the section
of the coast. In some of the fragments on Mount Napier these cells or
pores were several inches in diameter and, unlike amygdaloidal rocks, all
were quite empty. The surface consisted wholly of this stone, without any
intermediate soil to soften its asperity under the feet of our horses,
and yet it was covered with a wood of eucalyptus and mimosa, growing
there as on the open forest land between which and this stony region the
chief difference consisted in the ruggedness of surface, this being
broken as already stated into irregular terraces where loose stones lay
in irregular heaps and hollows, most resembling old stone quarries. We
travelled over three miles of this rough surface before we reached the
base of the cone.
CRATER OF MOUNT NAPIER OR MURROA.
On the sides of it we found some soft red earth mixed with fragments of
lava and on reaching the summit I found myself on the narrow edge of a
circular crater composed wholly of lava and scoriae. Trees and bushes
grew luxuriantly everywhere except where the sharp rocks shot up almost
perpendicularly. The igneous character of these was so obvious that one
of the men thrust his hand into a chasm to ascertain whether it was warm.
VIEW FROM THE SUMMIT.
The discovery of an extinct volcano gave additional interest to Mount
Napier, but it was by no means a better station for the theodolite on
that account; on the contrary it was the worst possible for, as the trees
grew on the edge of the crater, no one station could be found to afford a
view of the horizon until the whole circumference was cleared of the
trees, and this was too great a work for us at that visit. Mount William
and the Grampian range presented a noble outline to the northward. The
sun had set before I could recognise distant points in the highly
interesting country to be seen from this remarkable hill. The weather was
also unfavourable and I descended to pass the night at its base in hopes
that the next morning might be clear.
RETURN TO THE CAMP.
On reaching the spot where I had left the horses I found that our native
friend Tommy Came-last could discover no water in any of the numerous
hollows around the hill and, though the superabundance of this element
had caused the chief impediment to our progress through the country at
that time, we were obliged to pass a night most uncomfortably from the
total want of it at the base of Mount Napier. The spongy-looking rocks
were however dry enough to sleep upon, a quality of which the soil in
general had been rather deficient, as most of us felt in our muscles. I
perceived a remarkable uniformity in the size of the trees, very few of
which were dead or fallen. From this circumstance, together with the
deficiency of the soil and the sharp edge of the rock generally, some
might conclude that the volcano had been in activity at no very remote
A thick fog hung upon the mountain until half-past 10 A.M. and when I
ascended an extremity I could see nothing of the distance. I had however
ascertained the nature of the country thus far, this having been the
object of my visit and, as I had resolved from what I had seen to pass to
the northward at no great distance from this hill, I returned with less
reluctance, in hopes that I might have it in my power yet to revisit it
during more favourable weather. The day was squally with several very
heavy showers, the wind being from the south-west. We saw two natives at
a fire when we were returning, and our friend Tommy readily advanced
towards them but they immediately set up such loud and incessant cries
that I called to him to come away. After a ride of twenty-six miles
across swamps and many muddy hollows we reached soon after sunset the
camp which I had directed to be moved back to near where the boats lay. I
found that these had been drawn out of the swamp and one only brought
forward as I wished to this camp and where I found all the carts once
more ranged together. The alteration of the boat carriage required a
little more time, and I accordingly determined to halt one day that we
might also have our horses shod, several shoes having come off on the
rough rocks near Mount Napier.
MR. STAPYLTON’S EXCURSION TO THE NORTH-WEST.
This day I requested Mr. Stapylton to examine the country in a north-west
direction. Some of the swamps crossed by me yesterday had appeared to
fall westward and I wished to ascertain the situation and character of
the ground dividing them from those discharging their waters eastward or
towards the sea, as it was only by keeping on that dividing ground that I
could hope to avoid them. Mr. Stapylton proceeded nine miles north-west,
crossing many swampy flats, and at length a small rivulet, all falling
westward. Beyond the rivulet he got upon some good hills connected with
higher land. Our best line of route homewards was in a north-east
direction, or at rightangles to the route of Mr. Stapylton.
The great swamp already mentioned, being the channel and recipient of the
Shaw, was somewhat in my way, and my object now was to trace out the
dividing ground as we proceeded, so as to avoid the swamps on both sides.
By sunset the single boat was mounted in the shortened carriage, the
whole being now so manageable and light that the boat could be lifted out
by hand without block and tackle; and when on the carriage she could be
drawn with ease wherever the light carts could pass. Thus we got rid of
that heavy clog on our progress over soft ground, the boats, by reserving
but one; and we left the larger, keel upwards, at the swamp which had
occasioned so much delay.
CONDUCT THE CARTS ALONG THE HIGHEST GROUND.
Having chosen for a general line of route the bearing most likely to
avoid the swamps according to the knowledge I had gained of the country,
I proceeded as these and the soft ground permitted, and had the singular
and indeed unexpected good fortune to come upon my horse’s track from
Mount Napier without having even seen the large swamp. The boat-carriage
now travelled with the light carts, and we at length reached the first
running stream at a short distance below where I had previously crossed
it. The bottom was boggy and the water flowed in two channels, the ground
between them being very soft. The whole party crossed it, with the
exception of two carts which did not arrive, and we encamped on the bank
beyond after a journey of about eight miles. Near this stream we found a
pretty new species of Dillwynia, with plain yellow flowers, clustered on
a long stalk at the end of the branches, and with curiously hairy
heath-like leaves. It resembles D. peduncularis but proved, on
examination, to be distinct.*
(*Footnote. D. hispida, Lindley manuscripts; ramulis hispidulis, foliis
linearibus patulis verrucosis obtusis hispidulis, corymbis longe
pedunculatis terminalibus laxis paucifloris, pedunculo glaberrimo,
pedicellis calycibusque pubescentibus.)
At this spot we found a very small bower of twigs, only large enough to
contain a child: the floor was hollowed out and filled with dry leaves
and feathers; and the ground around had been cut smooth, several boughs
having been also bent over it so as to be fixed in the ground at both
ends. The whole seemed connected with some mystic ceremony of the
aborigines, but which the male natives who were with us could not
explain. The gins however on being questioned said it was usual to
prepare such a bower for the reception of a new-born child. Kangaroos
were more numerous in this part of the country than in any other that we
had traversed. I counted twenty-three in one flock which passed before me
as I stood silently by a tree. Two of the men counted fifty-seven in
another flock, and it was not unusual for them to approach our camp as if
from curiosity, on which occasions two or three were occasionally caught
by our dogs.
The remainder of the heavy carts not having come up, I left the two with
us to await their arrival that the men might assist the drivers with
their teams in crossing this stream. On proceeding then with the light
carts only I crossed several soft bad places, and one or two fine small
rivulets, encamping at last where we again fell in with my horse’s track,
on an open space about eight miles from Mount Napier. During the day’s
journey we traversed some fine open forest hills near the banks of
rivulets. We generally found the south-eastern slope of such heights very
indistinct, and the ground soft, boggy and covered with banksias. The
rock in such places consisted of the same cellular trap so common on this
side of the Grampians. Our camp lay between two swamps for no better
ground appeared on any side. I hoped however to obtain a more general
knowledge of the surrounding country from Mount Napier during clear
weather, and thus to discover some way by which we might make our escape
to the northward. The carts did not overtake us this day, and I
determined when they should arrive to overhaul them and throw away every
article of weight not absolutely required for the rest of the journey.
AGAIN ASCEND MURROA AND PARTIALLY CLEAR THE SUMMIT.
Once more I set out for Mount Napier, followed by a party of men with
axes to clear its summit, at least sufficiently for the purpose of taking
angles with the theodolite. The night had been clear and the morning was
fine, but as soon as I had ascended the hill rain-clouds gathered in the
south-west and obscured the horizon on all sides; I could only see some
points at intervals, but I took as many as I could after the men had
cleared a station for the theodolite. I perceived two very extensive
lakes in the low country between Mount Napier and the south-eastern
portion of the Grampian range, which terminated in the hill that I had
previously named Mount Abrupt. Between the largest of these waters
(called by me Lake Linlithgow) and the mountains there appeared an
extensive tract of open grassy land.
To the eastward at the distance of twelve miles I perceived a solitary
hill, somewhat resembling Mount Napier, and named it Mount Rouse; but a
haze still concealed the more distant country. On reaching the camp where
we arrived in the dark, I found that the carts had not even then
returned; but as the barometer promised better weather I did not much
regret their non-arrival as the delay would afford me another chance of
having a clear day on Mount Napier.
I again proceeded to the hill and obtained at length a clear and
extensive view from it in all directions. In the north the Grampian
range, on all sides grand, presented a new and striking outline on this.
Far in the west I could recognise in slight breaks on a low horizon some
features of the valley of Nangeela (Glenelg).
Eastward the summits of a range I thought of naming the Australian
Pyrenees were just visible over a woody horizon; and to the south-east
were several detached hills and some elevated ridges of forest land,
apparently near the coast. One isolated hill resembling a haystack was
very remarkable on the seashore. This I named Mount Hotspur being the
only elevation near Lady Julia Percy’s Isle (not Isles as laid down on
the charts for there is but one, now called by whalers the Julian
Island). To the southward I could just distinguish the Laurence Islands
but a haze upon the coast prevented me from seeing that of Lady Julia
Percy. Smoke arose from many parts of the lower country and showed that
the inhabitants were very generally scattered over its surface. We could
now look on such fires with indifference, so harmless were these natives
compared with those on the Darling, and the smoke now ascended in equal
abundance from the furthest verge of the horizon. It was impossible to
discover the sources of streams or the direction of any ranges visible in
the surrounding country; but upon the whole I concluded that the only
practicable route for us homewards at that time would be through the
forests and by passing as near as possible to the base of Mount Abrupt,
the south-eastern extremity of the Grampians. Several forest hills stood
above the extensive level country extending from our camp to Mount
Abrupt, but I could trace no connection between these hills, and was
rather apprehensive that a soft and swampy country intervened.
CRATER OF MOUNT NAPIER.
I had this day leisure to examine the crater on this hill more
particularly and found its breadth to be 446 feet; its average depth 80
feet. The cellular rocks and lava stood nearly perpendicular around one
portion of it; but there was a gap towards the west-north-west, on which
side the crater was open almost to its greatest depth. (See Plate 22.)
Several deep tongues of land descended from it to the west and
north-west, forming the base of the hill, and had somewhat of the
regularity of water-worn features. No marks of decomposition appeared in
the fragments projecting from the highest points, however much exposed.
On the contrary all the stringy twisted marks of fusion were as sharp and
fresh as if the lava had but recently cooled. One species of moss very
much resembled the Orchilla, and I thought it not impossible that this
valuable weed might be found here as it occurred on similar rocks at
Teneriffe. Just as I reached the highest summit this morning a
bronze-wing pigeon arose from it; a circumstance rather remarkable
considering that this was the only bird of that species seen on this side
the mountains besides the one we saw on Pigeon Ponds on the 3rd of
August. On returning to the camp I found that the carts had arrived soon
after my departure in the morning; but the men had the misfortune to lose
two bullocks in crossing the swampy stream where we had been previously
encamped. One was suffocated in the mud, and the other having lain down
in it could not be made to rise. By observing the stars alpha and beta
Centauri I ascertained the magnetic variation to be 3 degrees 2 minutes
45 seconds East, and by the sun’s altitude observed this day at Mount
Napier I found the latitude of that hill to be 37 degrees 52 minutes 29
In order to lighten the carts as much as possible I caused the
packsaddles to be placed on the spare bullocks, and various articles
carried upon them; thus lightening to less than eight hundredweight each
the loads of two of the heavy carts which had narrow wheels and sunk most
in the ground. The old cover of the boat carriage was also laid aside,
and in its place some tarpaulins which had previously added to the loads
were laid across our remaining boat. A heavy jack used to raise
cartwheels was also left at this camp, and some iron bars that had been
taken from the boat-carriage when it was shortened. Thus lightened we
proceeded once more into the fields of mud, taking a northerly direction.
For several miles we encountered worse ground than we had ever crossed
before yet the carts came over it; but broad swamps still lay before us.
SWAMPS HARDER THAN THE GROUND AROUND THEM.
Despairing at length of being able to avoid them, I impatiently galloped
my horse into one and the carts followed, thanks to my impatience for
once, for I do not think that I should otherwise have discovered that a
swamp so uninviting could possibly have borne my horse, and still less
the carts. After this I ventured to pursue a less circuitous route.
AGAIN REACH THE GOOD COUNTRY.
About that time a yellow flower in the grass caught my eye and,
remembering that we had seen none of these golden flowers since we left
the beautiful valley of the Wannon, I ventured to hope that we were at
length approaching the good country at the head of that stream. Such was
my anxious wish when I perceived through the trees a glimpse of an open
grassy country, and immediately entered a fine clear valley with a lively
little stream flowing westward through it and which I named the Grange.
This was indeed one of the heads of the Wannon and we had at length
reached the good country. The contrast between it and that from which we
had emerged was obvious to all; even to the natives who for the first
time painted themselves in the evening and danced a spirited corrobory on
the occasion. This day Piper had seen two of the native inhabitants and
had endeavoured to persuade them to come to me, but all to no purpose
until at length, enraged at the unreasonable timidity of one of them, he
threw his tomahawk at him and nearly hit him as he edged off; an act of
which, as I told him in the strongest terms, I very much disapproved.
The course of the little stream being to the northward, I proceeded along
its right bank this morning until it turned to the north-west; but we
soon after came to another to which the former seemed to be but a
tributary. Its course was almost due west, and the valley in which it
flowed was deep and boldly escarped. The stream thundered along with
considerable rapidity over a rocky bottom consisting of the same sort of
trap or ancient lava. I had little doubt that this was the principal head
of the Wannon, a river crossed by us on the 11th of August. Meeting next
an important branch falling into it from the south-east and being obliged
to cross this, we effected the passage even with the carts, although the
horses were nearly swimming. We proceeded next along a continuous ridge
of fine firm ground covered with excellent grass, and soon after we saw
before us a smaller stream flowing under a broad grassy vale and, having
crossed it also without difficulty, we encamped in one of the valleys
beyond, where this tributary appeared to originate. A finer country could
scarcely be imagined: enormous trees of the mimosa or wattle of which the
bark is so valuable grew almost everywhere; and several new varieties of
Caladenia were found today. The blue, yellow, pink, and brown-coloured
were all observed on these flowery plains.
MOUNTS BAINBRIGGE AND PIERREPOINT.
The sublime peaks of the Grampians began to appear above the trees to the
northward, and two lower hills of trap-rock arose, one to the south-west
the other north-west of our camp. That to the northward I named Mount
Bainbrigge, the other on the south Mount Pierrepoint.
We broke up our camp early this morning and on reaching the highest
ground we discovered a large lake on our left: it was nearly circular,
about half a mile in circumference and surrounded by high firm banks from
which there was no visible outlet; I named it Lake Nivelle. At a few
miles beyond this lake the cheering sight of an open country extending to
the horizon first appeared through the trees; and we soon entered on
these fine downs where the gently undulating surface was firm under our
horses’ feet and thickly clothed with excellent grass.
The cartwheels trundled merrily along, so that twelve miles were
accomplished soon after midday, and we encamped near the extreme southern
point of the Grampians, which I named Mount Sturgeon. The weather was
very wet but this troubled us the less as we had not known a day without
rain for several months.