July 27 – Aug 3


July 27.

The cart which had fallen behind came in about three o’clock in the
morning. The natives had soon been heard about the solitary driver, and
four of them came up to him and demanded tomahawks; but being an old
bushranger, he, on their approach, laid out all his cartridges one by one
before him on a tarpaulin with his pistol and carabine, ready for action;
but fortunately his visitors did not proceed to extremities. The morning
was very foggy and, as this weather did not admit of my choosing a good
line of route, and as the surface of the country was so soft that it was
imperatively necessary to look well before us, I halted. I could thus at
least bring up my maps and journals and rest the jaded cattle after so
much long-continued toil in travelling through the mud.


I directed Mr. Stapylton to ride in the direction of 30 degrees West of
South (my intended route) and ascertain whether we were approaching any
river. The country we were in, being still lacustrine, I hoped to find
the surface more favourable for travelling upon where it was drained by
rivers; for on that amongst the salt lakes, although the land was very
good in point of fertility, there was evidently a deficiency of slope and
consequently much more water retained in the soil. Still the ground
presented undulations, being rarely quite level like the plains except
indeed in the beds of swamps. Recent experience had taught us to avoid
the very level parts and to seek any kind of rising ground. The hills we
occasionally fell in with consisted of white sand, and at first looked
like connected ridges where we might find streams; but we ascertained
that they always parted without enclosing any channels and left us in the
mud. The sand itself still consisted of the same rock (decomposed) which
appeared to be so generally spread over the country then between us and
the eastern shores of New Holland. Mr. Stapylton did not return this
evening, a circumstance which very much alarmed me as he had taken only
one man with him and was to have come back before sunset.

July 28.

Supposing that Mr. Stapylton had gone past our camp in returning, the
afternoon having been very rainy, I this morning sent out two parties,
the one to proceed east, the other west, in search of his track which, if
found by either, was to be followed until he was overtaken. Mr. Stapylton
returned however before midday, having ridden twenty miles in the
direction pointed out without having seen any river. He had passed a
number of circular lakes similar to those already described; the seventh
and most remote having appeared the largest. Just then as he turned his
horse he perceived that the land beyond became higher, indicating a
change of country. The party which had gone eastward heard our signal
shot on Mr. Stapylton’s arrival and returned, having also seen four
similar lakes; but the party sent westward did not reach the camp until
some hours after the other.


They had unfortunately come upon some huts of the natives, where one of
them remained and who, refusing to listen to Piper’s explanations, was
about to hurl his spear at Pickering, when this man, at Piper’s desire,
immediately fired his carabine and wounded the native in the arm. I
regretted this unlucky collision exceedingly and blamed Pickering for
having been so precipitate; but his defence was that Piper told him
unless he fired he would be instantly speared.

July 29.

We endeavoured to proceed today in a direction more to the eastward than
the route of Mr. Stapylton, in the hope of finding firmer ground than he
had seen, by following that which was highest and sandy. But even in this
way we could not accomplish five miles and a half, although the last of
the carts did not arrive at the spot where we were at length compelled to
re-encamp until long after it became dark. The wheels sank up to the
axles, and the cattle from wallowing in the mud had become so weak as to
be scarcely able to go forward when unyoked, much less to draw the laden
carts. I had with difficulty found a spot of firm ground where we could
encamp, but during that evening I had reconnoitred a more
favourable-looking line which I meant to try in the morning.


Soon after we commenced this day’s journey, while I was watching in some

anxiety the passage of a soft hollow by the carts, a man was sent back by

the chaining party to inform me that a number of natives had come before

them pointing their spears. On going forward I found they had retired,

having probably with their usual quickness of perception observed the

messenger sent back and guessed his errand.


But their conduct as I then explained it to the men was quite reasonable

on this occasion. One (I was told) had spoke very loud and fast, pointing

west towards where the man had been fired at the day before and then,

touching his shoulder in allusion to the wound, he finally poised his

spear at Blanchard as if in just resentment.


While awaiting the slow progress of the carts through the mud I found a

most curious new genus allied to Correa, with the habit of C. speciosa,

and with long tubular four-petaled green flowers. It had been previously

observed by Mr. Cunningham, who called it Sida correoides; it was however

not a Sida, nor even a Malvaceous plant, but a new form of Australasian

Rutaceae, differing from Correa in having the petals each rolled round a

pair of stamens in its quadripartite conical calyx, and in there being

constantly two seeds in each cell of the fruit.*

(*Footnote. Didimeria aemula, Lindley manuscripts; undique pilis

stellatis lutescentibus furfuracea. Rami stricti. Folia subrotunda

cordata obtusa opposita brevi petiolata, pellucido-punctata. Pedunculi

axillares, filiformes, uniflori, supra medium bracteolis 2 subulatis

acuti. Calyx conicus, membranaceus, 4-partitus: laciniis acuminatis.

Petala 4, longissima, distincta, linearia, convoluta circa staminum

paria, extus tomentosa intus glabra. Stamina 8, hypogyna; filamentis

liberis, lineari-lanceolatis, membranaceis, alternis brevioribus;

antheris sagittatis inappendiculatis. Stylus filiformis glaber. Discus 0.

Capsula 4-cocca, villosissima, coccis dispermis, endocarpio solubili;

seminibus uno supra alterum positis.)


July 30.

By pursuing a course towards the base of the friendly mountains I hoped

that we should at length intercept some stream, channel, or valley where

we might find a drier soil and so escape, if possible, from the region of

lakes. We could but follow such a course however only as far as the

ground permitted and, after travelling over the hardest that we could

this day find for a mile and a half, I discovered a spacious lake on the

left, bounded on the east by some fine-looking green hills. These

separated it from a plain where I found the ground firm, and also from

several smaller lakes to the right of my intended route. I accordingly

proceeded along the ground between them, and I found that it bore the

wheels much better than any we had recently crossed. The lakes were

however still precisely similar in character to those of which we had

already seen so many. The water in them was rather too brackish to be fit

for use, and the ridges were all still on the eastern shores. From the

highest of these ridges the pinnacled summits of the Victoria range

presented an outline of the grandest character. The noble coronet of

rocks was indeed a cheering object to us after having been so long half

immersed in mud. We had passed between the lakes and were proceeding as

lightly as we could across the plain when down went the wheel of a cart,

sinking to the axle, and the usual noise of flogging (cruelty which I had

repeatedly forbidden) and a consequent delay of several hours followed.


In the meantime I rode to some grassy hills on the right, and found

behind them on the south-west another extensive lake on which I saw a

great number of ducks. Its bed consisted of dark-coloured mud and the

water was also salt. The green hills before mentioned were curiously

broken and scooped out into small cavities much resembling those on

Green-hill Lake near Mount Arapiles. The plain rose gradually towards the

east to some scrubby ground nearly as high as these hills and, in a fall

beyond this scrub, I found at length to my great delight a small hollow

sloping to the south-east and a little water running in it.


Following it down I almost immediately perceived a ravine before me, and

at a mile and a quarter from the first fall of the ground I crossed a

chain of fine ponds in a valley, where we finally encamped on a fine

stream flowing to the south-west over granite rocks.*

(*Footnote. Consisting of white felspar and quartz and silvery mica.)


Thus suddenly were we at length relieved from all the difficulties of

travelling in mud. We had solid granite beneath us; and instead of a

level horizon the finely rounded points of ground presented by the sides

of a valley thinly wooded and thickly covered with grass. This transition

from all that we sought to avoid to all we could desire in the character

of the country was so agreeable that I can record that evening as one of

the happiest of my life. Here too the doctor reported that no men

remained on the sick-list, and thus we were in all respects prepared for

going forward and making up for so much time lost.


July 31.

We now moved merrily over hill and dale, but were soon however brought to

a full stop by a fine river flowing, at the point where we met it, nearly

south-west. The banks of this stream were thickly overhung with bushes of

the mimosa, which were festooned in a very picturesque manner with the

wild vine. The river was everywhere deep and full and, as no ford could

be found, we prepared to cross it with the boats. But such a passage

required at least a day and, when I saw the boats afloat, I was tempted

to consider whether I might not explore the further course of this river

in them and give the cattle some rest. It was likely, I imagined, soon to

join another where we might meet with less obstruction. During the day

everything was got across save the empty carts and the boat-carriage, our

camp being thus established on the left bank. One bullock was

unfortunately drowned in attempting to swim across, having got entangled

in the branches of a sunken tree which, notwithstanding a careful search

previously made in the bottom of the stream, had not been discovered.

The river was here, on an average, 120 feet wide and 12 feet deep.


Granite* protruded in some places, but in general the bold features of

the valley through which this stream flowed were beautifully smooth and

swelling; they were not much wooded but on the contrary almost clear of

timber and accessible everywhere. The features were bold and round but

only so inclined that it was just possible to ride in any direction

without obstruction; a quality of which those who have been shut up among

the rocky gullies of New South Wales must know well the value. I named

this river the Glenelg after the Right Honourable the Secretary of State

for the Colonies, according to the usual custom.

(*Footnote. This granite varied consequently in the size of its component

parts which sometimes, especially in quartz and felspar, exceeded a foot

square, and in this I found distinctly imbedded friable masses,

apparently of sandstone, but which proved to consist of a very

fine-grained grey granite, approaching in character to mica-slate.)


August 1.

The first part of this day was taken up in dragging the carts and

boat-carriage through the river. At one P.M. I embarked in the boats,

taking in them a fortnight’s provisions and leaving Mr. Stapylton in a

strong position with nine men, the stores, and the cattle. We proceeded

for two miles without encountering much obstruction, but we found on

going further that the river ran in several channels, all of these being

overgrown with bushes, so that it was not without great difficulty that

we could penetrate about a mile farther by the time it had become nearly

quite dark. It was no easy matter to push through the opposing branches

even to reach the bank. Many similar branches had been cut during this

day’s navigation, Woods, Palmer and most of the other men having been

more in the water than in the boats during the last mile. Every article

having been at length got to land, we encamped on the side of a steep

hill for the night, and I made up my mind to resume our land journey next

day unless I saw the river more favourable ahead. By the banks of the

Glenelg we found a stiff furze-like bush with small purple flowers, spiny

branches, and short stiff spiny leaves. It proved to be a new Daviesia

allied to D. colletioides.* Bossiaea cordifolia, a hairy shrub with

beautiful purple and yellow flowers, was common.

(*Footnote. D. brevifolia, Lindley manuscripts; glabra, ramis rigidis

strictis apice spinescentibus, foliis conicis spinosis subrecurvis,

racemis foliis duplo longioribus, bracteolis obovatis cucullatis.)


August 2.

There was a noble reach a quarter of a mile below the point to which we

had brought the boats, and it was terminated by a rocky fall which we had

heard during the night. Beyond that point the river turned southward and,

this being the direction of our intended journey, I perceived that we

could more conveniently in less time pursue its course by land. The

country on its banks was, as far as I could see, the finest imaginable,

either for sheep and cattle or for cultivation. A little rill then

murmured through each ravine:

Whose scattered streams from granite basins burst,

Leap into life, and sparkling woo your thirst.

But it was in returning along a winding ridge towards the camp that I was

most struck with the beauty and substantial value of the country on the

banks of this river. It seemed that the land was everywhere alike good,

alike beautiful; all parts were verdant, whether on the finely varied

hills or in the equally romantic vales which seemed to open in endless

succession on both banks of the river. No time was lost this morning in

raising the boats out of the water and, having proceeded myself to the

camp at an early hour, and led the carts round, and the carriage to take

up the boats, the whole party was once more in movement by eleven

o’clock. As far as I had yet traced the course of the river it appeared

to flow towards the west-south-west, and it was thus doubtful, at that

stage of our progress, whether the estuary might not be to the westward

of Cape Northumberland; whereas my chief inducement in looking for a

river on this side of the Grampians was the promising situation afforded

by the great bay to the eastward of that cape for some harbour or

estuary, and this being more likely, considering the position of the

mountains. I had little doubt that under such circumstances some river

would be found to enter the sea there and, having left the Wimmera

flowing westward, and crossed as I imagined the highest ground that could

extend from the mountain range to Cape Bernouilli, I expected to meet at

length with rivers falling southward. The ultimate course of the Glenelg

could only be ascertained by following it down, and to do this by land

was not easy; first because it was joined by many small tributaries

flowing through deep valleys and from all points of the compass; and

secondly, because the general horizon was so level that no point

commanding any extensive view over the country could be found. Thus while

our main object was to pursue the river, we were obliged to grope our way

round the heads of ravines often very remote from it, but which were very

perplexing from their similarity to the ravine in which the main stream

flowed. A more bountiful distribution of the waters for the supply of a

numerous population could not be imagined, nor a soil better adapted for

cultivation. We this day crossed various small rivulets or chains of

ponds, each watering a grassy vale, sheltered by fine swelling hills. The

whole country consisted of open forest land on which grew a few gumtrees

(or eucalypti) with banksia and occasionally a few casuarinae.


August 3.

The ponds where we had encamped were large and deep, and I endeavoured to

ascertain whether the cod-perch (Gristes peelii) inhabited these waters.

Neither this fine fish nor either of the two others found in the streams

flowing towards the interior from the eastern coast range have ever been

seen in the rivers which reach the eastern shores; and I had now

ascertained that all the waters in which we had procured the fish in

question belonged to the extensive basin of the Murray. We were at length

on channels evidently distinct, both from those leading to the eastern

coast and those belonging to the basin of the Murray. The beds of the

rivers flowing to the east coast are chiefly rocky, containing much sand

but very little mud, consequently no reeds grow on their banks, nor is

the freshwater mussel found in them, as in rivers on the interior side,

which in general flow over a muddy bed and are not unfrequently

distinguished by reedy banks. Judging therefore from the nature of the

soil of this southern region, the fishes peculiar to the Murray might be

looked for in the rivers of the south, rather than those fishes known in

the rivers falling eastward. It was important to ascertain at least what

point of the coast separated the rivers containing different kinds of

fish. In these ponds we caught only some very small fry, and the question

could not be satisfactorily determined, although the natives declared

that none of them were the spawn of cod-perch.