14 – 24 October
As we proceeded the broad swampy bed of this river or morass appeared on
our right for a mile, the country being still covered by an open forest
of box, having also grass enough upon it. At eight miles we approached
some low hills of clay-slate, and I ascended one to the southward of our
route from which I recognised a sufficient number of previously observed
points to enable me to determine its relative position and theirs. On
this hill I found the beautiful Brownonia which we had seen before only
on Macquarie range beside the Lachlan. We here also met with the rare
Spadostylis cunninghamii, whose heart-shaped glaucous leaves so much
reminded us of the European euphorbias that it would have been mistaken
for one of them if it had not been for its shrubby habit and bright
yellow pea flowers.
PASS THROUGH FUTTER’S RANGE.
The country crossed beyond this hill was first undulating then hilly, and
at length became so much so that it was necessary to pick a way for the
carts with much caution. Nevertheless we at length succeeded in crossing
this range also at its lowest part where the hill to the northward of it,
already mentioned as the end of a range, bore nearly north. On reaching
the head of this pass the prospect before us, after winding through such
a labyrinth of hills, was agreeable enough. One fertile hollow led to an
open level country which appeared to be bounded at a great distance by
mountains; and I concluded that I should find in this extensive valley
the rivers King and Ovens. Keeping along the verdant flat (which was
watered by a good chain of ponds) we encamped about a mile and a half
beyond the pass, and I then named that feature above it Futter’s range
after a successful and public-spirited colonist of New South Wales.
IMPEDED BY A SWAMP AMONG REEDS.
We had not proceeded more than half a mile in the general direction I
proposed for our route when a reedy swamp compelled me to turn northward
and, after travelling in that direction about a mile and a half, we found
the swamp on our right had produced a small stream running nearly on a
level with the plain. Its banks were soft and boggy, and beyond it we saw
through the trees extensive tracts covered with reeds. I was soon
compelled by the rivulet to deviate from my intended route even to the
westward of north until, at 10 1/2 miles, on meeting with a chain of
ponds falling to the eastward, I turned north-east, which bearing, at
less than a mile forward, again brought us upon the stream running from
the swamp but which was here flowing between firm banks and forming ponds
of some magnitude. We forded it with difficulty by crossing at two
points, that we might not break too much the soft earth over which it
flowed by the passage of all in one place.
JUNCTION OF THE RIVERS OVENS AND KING.
At two miles further on we met with another stream of less magnitude
flowing also to the north-west and at about a mile beyond it we reached
the bank of the Ovens, fortunately just below the junction of a rather
smaller stream which I took to be King’s river.
The two united formed a noble stream finely breaking up the dead levels
of the surrounding plains which indeed, where we approached it, formed
its highest bank and were there twenty-three feet above the water.
No time was lost in launching our boat, and we effected a passage and
encamped on the opposite bank before sunset, having driven all the cattle
and horses safely across also, although with considerable difficulty from
the steepness of the banks and softness of the soil at the water’s edge
on the side where they got to land.
This morning the river had fallen three inches; its temperature was 59
degrees (of Fahrenheit) the current flowing at the rate of 1 1/4 miles
per hour; the mean depth two fathoms; and the width, where measured, 47
yards; the breadth of the river King at the junction being nearly as
much. The right bank to the distance of a mile and a half from the river
was low and alluvial, and intersected by narrow watercourses and lagoons.
On the alluvial flat where we crossed it stood a small isolated hill,
between which and the higher ground still farther back water was running,
apparently from a swamp, but as soon as we crossed this we reached firm
ground and travelled on an open forest plain for nearly eight miles.
ASCEND GRANITIC RANGES.
We then came upon a hill of granite, and from its summit I perceived that
we were already on the northern extremities of the high ranges we had
seen from the westward. After travelling some miles along the summits of
ridges in order to reach their connection with another range more to the
northward, I ascertained, on crossing the highest part of a second ridge,
that its northern slopes were very steep and rocky. A hill of
considerable height lay before us and therefore, as soon as I had
selected a spot for our camp in a little intervening valley, I hastened
to it, certainly in doubt how we should extricate the carts from the
rocky fastnesses before us. That summit afforded a commanding view of the
country beyond the granitic range, and I perceived that it was low to a
considerable distance northward, while the ranges beyond that extensive
basin seemed of no great elevation to the westward or north-west, and all
terminated on the level interior country where the horizon was broken by
only one remarkable hill which, as I afterwards learnt, was named Dingee.
In that direction I saw also open plains along which I thought I could
trace the line of the Ovens. In the lower country before me I hoped to
find the Murray, according to the map of Messrs. Hovell and Hume, which
in the two rivers we had recently passed seemed wonderfully correct.
LOFTY MASS NAMED MOUNT ABERDEEN.
I again recognised in the south and south-east some of the snowy peaks
formerly noticed, and I named the most lofty mass Mount Aberdeen. Beyond
what I considered to be the course or bed of the Murray there appeared
some steep ranges, to avoid which I chose a course more to the northward
than I should otherwise have pursued in my way towards Yass. Before I
returned to the camp I sought and succeeded in finding and marking out, a
line of route by which the carts could be conducted across these rocky
ranges and down to the lower country beyond them. On that range we found
a handsome blue flower which I had previously seen growing abundantly on
Bowral range near Mittagong within the present colony. We found in these
valleys abundance of good grass.
We descended from the higher range without difficulty, and then crossed
several low ridges of quartz and clay-slate extending westward; some
flats of good land lay between these ridges and, at about 6 miles, we met
with a creek or chain of ponds. At 13 1/2 miles we entered a rich plain
terminating northward at a low but remarkable hill which I had observed
from the mountains.
REACH THE MURRAY.
The grass grew luxuriantly on this plain and after crossing and passing
through the forest beyond it I recognised with satisfaction the lofty
yarra trees and the low verdant alluvial flats of the Murray. No one
could have mistaken this grand feature; for the vast extent of verdant
margin with lofty trees and still lakes could belong to no other
Australian river we knew of. On descending the berg or outer bank which
was sloping and grassy, I found the still lagoons so numerous that I
could not, without very great difficulty and after a ride of nearly an
hour, obtain a sight of the flowing river. I found it at length running
bank-high and still of greater width than any other known Australian
THE RIVER VERY DIFFICULT OF ACCESS.
The water was then just beginning to pour over its borders into the
alluvial margins by which I had approached it; and on the opposite side
the border consisted of a reedy swamp, evidently impassable and unfit for
a landing-place. In no direction could I find access for our carts to the
running stream. Deep and long winding reaches of still water shut me out,
either from the high berg or bank at one part, or from the flowing stream
at another. Returning from the river in a different direction I found, in
a situation where I had nearly gained as I imagined the high bank after
riding a mile, that a deep reach still separated me from that high bank
which I then saw was beyond it, so that in order to return to the carts I
was obliged to retrace my steps for several miles. Having got round at
length I ascended the hill before mentioned for the purpose of taking
some angles, and I found that it consisted of granite, the component
parts being white quartz and felspar and black mica. I named this
remarkable feature, probably the lowest hill of granite on the Murray,
Mount Ochtertyre. I had sufficient daylight left to conduct the party
over part of this hill to a portion of the riverbank accessible then to
carts by fording only one lagoon. The velocity of the Murray at the spot
where we could thus approach its border exceeded that of any other river
we had previously crossed, being at the rate of 2 1/2 miles per hour.
At daylight this morning the boat was sent across with Burnett and Piper,
who landed to examine the ground within the reeds on that bank; and they
ascertained it was so intersected by various deep lagoons that we could
no longer hope to pass that way. I next went down the river in the boat
and found at about a mile and a half below our camp a place where I
thought we might effect a passage. This point was under a steep bank of
red earth on the opposite shore where the river seemed to be encroaching.
A CARRIAGE TRACK DISCOVERED.
We landed and endeavoured to ascertain by looking for cattle marks
whether any stations were near; and having heard that the flocks of the
settlers already extended to the Murray we proceeded northward, eager to
discover the tracks of civilised men. The wheels of a gig drawn by one
horse and accompanied by others were traced by Piper, but the impressions
were several months old. We walked as far as a spacious plain at some
distance from the river without seeing any more recent tracks; and we
were at length convinced that no station extended then in the immediate
neighbourhood. The left bank between the spot where our camp then was and
the crossing-place which I had selected was low though apparently firm;
but on landing and returning along it I met with several narrow channels
into which water was then flowing from the river and which afterwards
cost us considerable trouble to cross with our carts.
PASSAGE OF THE RIVER.
That part of the bank which I had selected for driving the cattle into
the river, that they might swim over, was soft and boggy, but in the
opposite shore where they were to go out we cut in the firm clay at the
base of the red cliff before mentioned a landing-place and path with
picks and spades, so that the cattle on reaching that side could pass
along the foot of the cliff to a lower part of the bank adjacent. After
all other obstacles had been surmounted and the best portion of the day
had been spent in conducting the party to within a short distance of this
place my horse unexpectedly sunk in what had appeared to be firm ground.
This impediment the party however overcame by cutting down some brush and
small trees, and opening a lane through which we at length contrived to
bring the cattle forward to the bank. It was near sunset before they
could be driven into the water; yet we finally succeeded in forcing the
whole to swim to the other side that evening with the exception of one
bullock which, having got bogged, was smothered in the mud on the first
rush of the others into the water. The landing of some of these animals
on the opposite bank was attended with difficulty for they did not all
make for the proper place, some turning towards the bank they had left
and endeavouring to re-ascend it much lower down where the banks were
either too soft or inaccessible: others swimming straight down the stream
turned to parts of the opposite bank which they could not climb. With
these last I was prepared to contend, having taken my station in the boat
to watch such contingencies; and by dragging the foremost of those who
had swum back across the river by the horns, and those which had arrived
at the wrong place out with ropes; we succeeded at length in forcing all
that had floated too far down to land on the right bank. But the greater
number had got out higher up the river upon some fallen portions of the
red cliff instead of taking the path we had cut under it; and the footing
there was so slight that, as they crowded on each other, groups fell,
from time to time, back into the river. The last part of the operation
was therefore to row towards these, when Woods, who was in the boat, soon
induced one of the bullocks well-known to him to take the path, upon
which all the rest followed until they reached the grassy flat where
others more fortunate than themselves were already feeding. At the close
of this laborious day I encamped on the right bank, leaving still on the
other side however a small party in charge of the horses and carts. The
day was extremely hot and the full and flowing river gave an unusual
appearance of life and motion to the desert whose wearisome stillness was
so unvarying elsewhere. Serpents were numerous and some were seen of a
species apparently peculiar to this river. Here they invariably took to
it, and one beautiful reptile in particular, being of a golden colour
with red streaks, sprang from under my horse’s feet and rode upon the
strong current of the boiling stream, keeping abreast of us and holding
his head erect, as if in defiance and without once attempting to make
off, until he died in his glory by a shot from Roach.
The first half of this day was required for the passage of the horses one
by one; and for taking the carts across. We left the boat carriage on the
left bank and sunk the boat in a deep lagoon on the right bank, to remain
there until the party should return to the spot with a stock of
provisions for Mr. Stapylton. Here the last mountain barometer, which had
been carried in excellent order throughout the journey, lost mercury so
copiously that I could not hope to use it any more, time being then too
valuable to admit of delay; and thus my list of observations terminated
on the Murray. I supposed that the intense heat of the sun to which the
instrument had been exposed when tied to a tree for some hours after the
tents had been struck had contracted the leathern bag so much as to
loosen it from the edges of the cylinder, and thus formed openings
through which the mercury had escaped. The breadth of the Murray was 80
yards at the place where we crossed it and the mean depth was 3 1/2
fathoms. At length I saw with great satisfaction my party on the right
bank of this great river; having now no other stream to cross until we
reached the Murrumbidgee where we might consider ourselves at home.
PARTY RETURNING TO MEET MR. STAPYLTON.
Just at this time Archibald McKane, a carpenter, came forward and
proposed to return with any two of the men and the native Tommy to meet
the party coming after us upon the Goulburn; and to construct there such
rafts of casks and other gear as might enable Mr. Stapylton to cross that
river and the Ovens and so come forward to the Murray; an arrangement
which would render it unnecessary for me to send back any cattle or the
boat as intended. I was much pleased with the proposal of McKane and,
Tommy Came-last being also willing to return, I appointed John Douglas, a
sailor and most handy man, and Charles King, a man who feared nothing, to
accompany McKane. Full rations were issued to the four and, having given
them a letter for Mr. Stapylton, the little party returned towards the
houseless wilds, when we left the Murray to continue our journey
homewards. Although we did not set off before one o’clock we this day
travelled fourteen miles, but did not encamp till long after sunset. The
scarcity of water compelled us to travel thus far, for none had been seen
except one small muddy pool until I reached the valley where we encamped,
and even there we found little more than enough for ourselves and cattle.
After travelling five miles over tolerable land we crossed a range of
very fine-grained granite consisting of felspar, quartz, and small
particles of mica and having a very crystalline aspect. This range was a
branch from a higher mass on our right. At seven miles we crossed the
shoulder of a hill whence I intersected others to the right. This also
consisted of fine-grained granite, similar to that of the other hill, but
it was not so red and had fewer spangles of mica.
A CREEK TERMINATING IN A SWAMP.
At eight miles we came to a chain of deep ponds which seemed a tributary
to some greater water, as indicated by the yarra trees and flats before
us, apparently covered with verdure. On advancing into these flats
however we found them soft and swampy, being so very wet and so covered
with dead trees that we were obliged to retrace our steps and turn
eastward, thus crossing to a higher bank altogether east of the chain of
ponds; and along this we proceeded without seeing any further continuance
of the deep serpentine channel, full of water, which appeared to
terminate there. That woody swamp seemed very extensive and was the only
instance met with in the course of our travels of the termination of a
stream in a swamp, although I understood subsequently that this was the
fate of various minor brooks descending towards that part of the interior
plains. We found there a curious black-headed grass which proved to be of
the carex genus. At 11 1/2 miles we arrived at a running stream, its
course being northward; and at 15 1/2 miles we reached a very fine little
rivulet flowing between grassy banks twenty-five feet high, the soil
consisting of a red earth similar to that on the interior plains and the
banks of the Murray.
MOUNT TRAFALGAR. RUGGED COUNTRY STILL BEFORE US.
At five miles we were abreast of a pointed hill which I ascended and
named Mount Trafalgar in honour of that memorable day. From it I obtained
a view of the country before us, and I perceived in the direction of our
intended route some high cone-shaped hills. A ridge extended from them to
the westward, but its height seemed gradually to diminish in that
direction, although it presented two very abrupt and remarkable hills
whose steepest side being towards the north overlooked as I supposed the
spacious basin of the Murrumbidgee. One solitary mount appeared much
farther to the westward and was also steep-sided towards the north. On
descending I shaped my course towards the hollow where the ridge could be
most easily crossed. At 8 3/4 miles we met with some good ponds of water
and beyond them the winding channel of a smaller watercourse falling
southward from the range already mentioned. After crossing and recrossing
this channel and its various branches we at length gained the crest of
the range, and I directed the party to halt while I hastened to a conical
summit on the left, apparently the highest and most pointed of those
previously observed. It consisted of syenite and from it I obtained a
very extensive view to the northward, but yet could not see any
favourable opening in the direction in which I wished to reach the
Murrumbidgee: on the contrary as we reduced our distance from home the
obstacles to our reaching it seemed to increase.
PROVISIONS NEARLY EXHAUSTED.
Our provisions had been counted out to a day, and any delay beyond the
time required to cross that country at our usual rate of travelling might
have been attended with great inconvenience. Mr. Stapylton’s party, then
so far behind, were depending upon us for supplies; while a labyrinth of
mountains, entirely without roads or inhabitants, was to be crossed in a
limited time with carts before any such supplies could be obtained and
sent back. Some high and distant mountains appeared to the eastward, and
in the west I intersected the hills I had previously seen which were now
much nearer to us. On returning from the hill to the party we descended
from the range into some flats of good open land where a solitary
kangaroo became an object of intense interest now that our provisions
were exhausted. The week was out for which the last of our stock had been
issued in very small rations; and although most of the men had
endeavoured to make this very reduced week’s allowance to last them nine
days no mutton remained, nor could it well have been preserved during
such hot weather. This kangaroo would have been therefore a most welcome
addition to our store; but we had no dogs and I was so anxious as to
venture a shot at too great a distance and to our great disappointment it
escaped. We finally encamped in a valley which fell to the right or
eastward, near some good ponds, and after performing a journey of upwards
of 15 miles. I found near the hill I first ascended in the morning a new
kind of grass with large seeds.*
(*Footnote. Danthonia eriantha, Lindley manuscripts; panicula
subcoarctata lanceolata, spiculis sub-4-floris gluma laevi multo
brevioribus, palea exteriori laevigata basi apiceque villosissima,
aristis lateralibus subulatis debilibus intermedia brevioribus, foliis
setaceis vaginisque patentim pilosis, collo barbato.)
Soon after we set out this morning we approached a range of barren hills
of clay-slate on which grew the grass tree (xanthorrhoea) and stunted
eucalypti. On ascending this range I perceived before me a deep ravine,
and beyond it hills less promising than even these which were
sufficiently repulsive to travellers with wheel-carriages. Turning
therefore from that hopeless prospect towards the eastward, we crossed
the head of a valley falling to the right, and after a somewhat tortuous
course we gained the highest part of a range beyond it, from which a
grassy vale descended on the opposite side towards the north-east. This
vale turned to the left after we had followed it 2 1/4 miles and we next
crossed a ridge of quartz rock.
CATTLE TRACKS FOUND.
Beyond the ridge the natives found some old cattle tracks and this
intelligence very much pleased and encouraged the men.
At two miles farther on we came upon a little rivulet flowing to the
westward through a good grassy valley, and it was joined about the place
where we came upon it by one coming from the south. The stream washed the
base of a lofty mountain which I ascended while the people were passing
our carts, cattle, and equipment across the rivulet which I named after
my trusty follower Burnett.* The mountain consisted of granite and was so
smooth that I could ride to its summit. The weather was boisterous and
the country which that height presented to my view seemed quite
inaccessible, at least in the direction of the colony where:
Hills upon hills and alps on alps arose.
(Footnote. See figure with the fowling-piece in Plate 17 Volume 1.)
IMPEDIMENTS IN THE ROUTE.
The only valley of any extent which could be seen was that watered by the
rivulet below, and this extended, as I have stated, to the westward, a
direction in which we could not follow it with any prospect of either
getting nearer home or reaching a cattle station. Our provisions were
exhausted, while the rocky fastnesses of a mountain region still
threatened to shut us out from the Murrumbidgee, a river on whose banks
we hoped to meet with civilised people once more and which, according to
the map, was almost within our reach. Again and again I examined the
mountains with my glass, and only discovered that they were numerous and
all ranging towards the north-west, a direction right across our way to
the Murrumbidgee. I could indeed trace among the hills in the north the
grand valley through which the river flowed, but the intervening ranges
seemed to deny any access to it from this side. I was determined however
to find some valley likely to lead us into that of the Murrumbidgee, and
although it could only be looked for beyond that mountain range, our
route had been so good and so direct thus far, from the very shores of
the southern ocean, that I could not despair of crossing the
comparatively small space occupied by these mountains; and I descended
the hill firmly resolved to continue our course in the same direction as
we best could. I found on reaching the foot that, to the delight of the
men, more cattle marks had been discovered in the valley, and in one
place Piper pointed out a spot where a bullock had been eaten by the
natives. Following the little stream upwards I at length placed our camp
in a grassy valley near its head and then, on riding forward, I found
that no obstruction existed to our progress with the carts on the
following day for at least several miles.
The hills we ascended offered much less impediment than I had reason to
apprehend when I surveyed them at a distance, but they became at length
so steep-sided and sharp-pointed that to proceed further, even by keeping
the crests of a range, seemed a very doubtful undertaking: to cross such
ranges was still more difficult while the principal chain, which led to
the south-east, appeared equally impracticable even had its direction
been more favourable.
AT LENGTH REACH A VALLEY LEADING IN THE DESIRED DIRECTION.
Drizzling rain came on and prevented me from seeing far beyond the point
we had reached when I at length halted the party and, taking Piper with
me, descended into a valley before us in order to ascertain its general
direction and whether the carts might not pass along it. We found in this
valley the tracks not of cattle only but of well shod horses: we also
discovered that it opened into extensive green flats and, its direction
being northerly, I hastened back and conducted the party into it by the
best line of descent I could find, although it was certainly very steep.
Having got safe down with our carts we found excellent pasturage, the
cattle marks being very numerous and at length quite fresh, even the
print of young calves’ feet appeared, and all the traces of a numerous
WILD CATTLE SEEN.
In short cattle tracks resembling roads ran along the banks of the chain
of ponds which watered this valley; and at length the welcome sight of
the cattle themselves delighted our longing eyes, not to mention our
stomachs which were then in the best possible state to assist our
perceptions of the beauty of a foreground of fat cattle. We were soon
surrounded by a staring herd consisting of at least 800 head, and I took
a shot at one; but my ball only made him jump, upon which the whole body,
apparently very wild, made off to the mountains.
OBLIGED TO KILL ONE OF OUR WORKING BULLOCKS.
Symptoms of famine now began to show themselves in the sullenness of some
of the men, and I most reluctantly allowed them to kill one of our poor
working animals, which was accordingly shot as soon as we encamped and
divided amongst the party.
BY FOLLOWING THE VALLEY DOWNWARDS, WE ARRIVE ON THE MURRUMBIDGEE.
The valley preserved a course somewhat to the westward of north, and I
now felt confident that by following it downwards we should reach the
Murrumbidgee without meeting further impediment. This unexpected relief
from the hopeless prospects of the drizzling morning was infinitely more
refreshing to me than any kind of food could possibly have been, even
under such circumstances.
As we continued our journey downwards the waterholes in the chain of
ponds became small and scarce, while we found the cattle-tracks more and
more numerous. No change took place in the character of the valley for
nine miles; but I recognised then at no great distance the hills which on
the 22nd I had supposed to lie beyond the Murrumbidgee. On riding to a
small eminence on the right I perceived the dark umbrageous trees
overshadowing that noble river, and close before me the rich open flats
with tame cattle browsing upon them, or reclining in luxuriant ease, very
unlike the wild herd. The river was flowing westward over a gravelly
bottom, its scenery being highly embellished by the lofty casuarinae,
whose sombre masses of darkest green cover the water so gracefully and
afford both coolness and shade. Now we could trace the marks of horsemen
on the plain; and as we travelled up the river horses and cattle appeared
on both banks. At length we discovered a small house or station and a
stockyard. On riding up to it an old man came to the door, beating the
ashes from a loaf nearly two feet in diameter. His name was Billy Buckley
and the poor fellow received us all with the most cordial welcome,
supplying us at once with two days’ provisions until we could send across
the river for a supply. Just then several drays appeared on the opposite
side, coming along the ROAD from Sydney, and these drays contained a
supply from which Mr. Tompson the owner accommodated me with enough to
send back to meet Mr. Stapylton on the banks of the Murray.
WRITE MY DESPATCH.
Having pitched my tent close by the house of my new friend Billy, I wrote
a brief account of our proceedings to the government while my horses were
permitted to rest two days preparatory to my long ride to Sydney.
PIPER MEETS HIS FRIENDS.
Piper’s joy on emerging from the land of Myalls (or savages) was at least
as great as ours, especially when he met here with natives of his
acquaintance–“CIVIL blackfellows,” as he styled them, bel (not) Myalls.
He was at least a Triton among the minnows, and it was pleasant to see
how much he enjoyed his lionship among his brethren. Little Ballandella
had been taken great care of by Mrs. Piper and was now feasted with milk
and seemed quite happy.
NATIVE NAMES OF RIVERS.
I learnt from the natives we found here their names for the greater
rivers we had passed, and of some of the isolated hills. Everywhere the
Murray was known as the Millewa; but I was not so sure about Bayunga, a
name which I had understood to apply to the Goulburn, Hovell or Ovens.
A STOCK-KEEPER’S HOSPITALITY.
When Billy Buckley, who was only a stockkeeper at that station, saw my
party arrive and was at length aware who we were, he came to me when
enjoying a quiet walk on the riverbank at some distance from his house,
carrying in his hand a jug of rich milk and a piece of bread which I
afterwards learnt, with dismay, had been baked in butter. I felt bound in
civility to partake of both, but the consequence was an illness which
very much interfered with my enjoyment of that luxuriant repose I had
anticipated in my tent, under the shade of the casuarinae on the brink of
the living stream.