REPORTED HARBOUR—SET OUT FOR AUSTRALIND—THE GRASS-TREE—CORRESPONDENCE WITH MR. CLIFTON, ETC—SAIL FROM GAGE ROAD—EXAMINATION OF COAST—REACH CHAMPION BAY—VISIT MOUNT FAIRFAX AND WIZARD PEAK—ARID NATURE OF COUNTRY—WANT OF WATER—NATIVE GRAVE—THE GREENOUGH RIVER—NATIVES—LEAVE CHAMPION BAY—KOOMBANAH BAY—NATURALISTE REEF—REACH S. AUSTRALIA—PORT ADELAIDE—PROPOSED RAILROAD—VISIT MOUNT BARKER—ENCOUNTER BAY—NATIVE FISHING—RETURN TO ADELAIDE—SAIL FROM S. AUSTRALIA—PORTLAND BAY—SQUATTERS—TOUR IN THE INTERIOR—FERTILE COUNTRY—VIEW FROM THE SUGARLOAF—VISIT CAPE BRIDGEWATER—SAIL FOR HOBART—LIBERALITY OF SIR JOHN FRANKLIN—ATMOSPHERIC CHANGES—ARRIVE AT SYDNEY
Among the news that most interested us on our arrival at Swan River, was the report of the discovery of a harbour on the west coast, near Moresby's Flat-topped Range. In the Surveyor General's office I was shown a map of that portion of Western Australia by Mr. Arrowsmith, "from the surveys of Captain Grey," whose name the port bore; and the united authorities of this talented explorer, and this celebrated geographer, would have removed all doubt from my mind as to the correctness of the report to which I have alluded, even if the alleged discovery had not taken place on a portion of the coast unvisited by Captain King or myself. In the colony, however, very different opinions were held; and it was confidently maintained that Port Grey, although placed, by accident or otherwise, twelve miles to the southward, was no other than the bay we had previously visited, called by us Champion Bay. It is true I could trace a resemblance between their southern parts; but they differed so widely in their northern—Port Grey being represented in the chart, and printed description, to be perfectly safe, and sheltered in that quarter by a point and a reef—that I saw no grounds for giving credence to the opinion industriously circulated at Swan River, that the reef and point, or perhaps the whole port, had been fabricated by the land-jobbers at home. Such an opinion, however, was quite a disinterested one on their part; as an extension of the colony northwards, and the establishment of a settlement near Moresby's Flat-topped Range, would have led to a result much desired by them, the occupancy, namely, of the intervening country. It was in the neighbourhood of the harbour, the existence or identity of which was thus called in question, that Captain Grey had reported to have seen a fertile district; and a company had actually arrived from England for the purpose of forming a settlement there. Mr. Clifton, the Chief Commissioner, however, on hearing the opinion prevalent in the colony, did not think proper to risk the lives of the people under his charge, by conveying them to a port that might be fabulous, and to a country the fertility of which was absolutely denied; and the destination of the new settlement was, accordingly, provisionally changed to the shores of the Leschenault Inlet, which held out a prospect of solid, if not brilliant, success, and possessed advantages, which, if not dazzling, were at least exempt from the suspicion of being visionary.
Anxious to have further information on this subject through a personal interview with Mr. Clifton, I accompanied His Excellency Governor Hutt and [the Surveyor General on a tour in the direction of the new settlement, whilst the ship underwent a slight refit, and the men had a run ashore. The survey of the Swan, from the entrance to Perth, was, meanwhile, undertaken by Mr. Forsyth.
Leaving Fremantle, the first part of the road lay between low ranges of limestone hills, and through quite a forest of grass-trees, gums (Xanthorroea) some knobby, old and crooked, others erect and reaching the height, occasionally, of perhaps seventeen feet, with their tufted and overarching crests towering above those of smaller growth that were scattered over the earth around.*
- * These trees, called Blackboys by the colonists, from the resemblance they bear, in the distance, to natives, attain, it is said, a great age, and there is a vague report that when fifty years old they are only a foot above ground.
The road passes through the township of Pinjarra, on the fertile banks of the Murray. Where it crosses the river, the first and only great affray took place with the natives, whose blood on that unfortunate occasion stained the waters of the reach that now slept in peaceful beauty, as if strife had never polluted its banks.* Here we met Mr. Clifton, who accompanied us to his new township of Australind, to plant the germs of which, in the wilds of Western Australia, he and his worthy family had left England and all the comforts of society. This interesting spot is situated on the east side of Leschenault Inlet; the approach is laid out with much taste, the road leading along the foot of a hill covered with wood, whilst on the right is an open growth of trees, affording every now and then a glimpse of the beautiful estuary, with its surface just ruffled and glittering in the rays of the setting sun. I was much struck with the beauty of the scenery during this evening's and the morrow's excursion, having had no idea that there was such a fertile, well watered, and heavily timbered district so near the coast in Western Australia.†
- * A spirited painting of this encounter I saw ornamenting the walls of Captain Mears' cottage at Guildford.
- † Her Majesty's dockyards are now availing themselves of this supply of excellent timber; and its proximity to the sea must greatly enhance the value of this part of the continent.
Having conversed with Mr. Clifton on the subject of the settlement he had intended to make near Port Grey, and been made acquainted with his reasons for doubting the existence of the harbour, and the fertility of the surrounding country, as well as with his desire to have the question satisfactorily set at rest, I requested him to write to me on the subject; and on the receipt of his letter,* I communicated, also in writing, with his Excellency, Governor Hutt, and the Surveyor-General, Mr. Roe; the result of which correspondence was, that I determined to examine that portion of the coast; and to afford Mr. Clifton the opportunity of accompanying me, and with his own eyes convincing himself of the policy or impolicy of the course he had adopted.
- * From which the following is an extract:—"Your arrival at Gage Roads, in her Majesty's surveying vessel, Beagle, under your command, affords me an opportunity of soliciting your able assistance towards the solution of a question of great interest, not only to the Western Australian Company, whom I represent, but to this colony at large; and I feel assured that your known zeal in the cause of Geographical and Hydrographical research will induce you, if it be within your power, to comply with the request which I now take the liberty to make. Under these feelings I proceed to state to you, that the Western Australian Company, after all their plans had been formed for founding their intended Colony of Australind, in Leschenault inlet, were led under circumstances which occurred, and information which reached them, to abandon that intention and to determine to fix their settlement at a port discovered by Captain Grey, designated in England by the appellation of Port Grey, and lying on the N.W. coast of this colony, in or about the lat. of 29° south, within the limits of the district between Gantheaume Bay and the River Arrowsmith, in which district her Majesty's Government had permitted the Company to take possession of extensive tracts of land in lieu of their property in other parts of Western Australia.
- "Upon my arrival, however, in March last, at Port Leschenault, with the intention of conveying in the Parkfield, with the first body of settlers and emigrants to the new district, the Company's surveying establishment already employed in this neighbourhood, I received such communications from his Excellency the Governor, and such information respecting the supposed Port Grey, and the country in its vicinity, together with a tracing of the partial survey made by you in Champion Bay, lying in lat. 28° 47' S. which is presumed to be identical with Port Grey, that I was induced, after full consultation with his Excellency, to unite with him in opinion, that it would be proper for me to depart from my instructions, and to found the colony under my charge on the spot originally contemplated in Leschenault Inlet, instead of at Port Grey, which determination I accordingly carried into effect under the Governor's sanction.
- "It naturally was my most anxious wish, as it would have been my duty, if it had been practicable, to visit myself the supposed port, before I took, in conjunction with his Excellency, a step involving so great a personal responsibility, and so seriously affecting all the predetermined plans of the company, settlers, and emigrants. I have since made every practical endeavour, but without success, to obtain means of proceeding to the district in question, in order to establish the fact by actual observation and research, whether that district does or does not afford a proper site for the establishment of a new settlement on an extensive scale, or is totally inapplicable for it, according to the information which led to the decision come to. And as the result of such examination involves measures which may prove of very great importance to the local interests of this colony, and even to the interests of the mother-country, I venture to submit to your consideration, whether you would not deem that inquiry of sufficient importance to justify your proceeding to Champion Bay, in her Majesty's sloop, Beagle, under your command, to ascertain fully the capabilities of the country in its immediate vicinity, and to determine whether there be another harbour or not at the place assigned to Port Grey on the map recently published by Arrowsmith.
- "If your proceeding to that part of this coast should be within the scope of the service assigned to you by the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty, or the importance of the solution of these questions, on which such extensive interests and operations depend, should induce you to take upon yourself the responsibility of going there, I earnestly request you will allow me the honour of accompanying you, for the purpose of fulfilling my duty to the Directors of the Company, and to the very numerous body of persons interested in the formation of the intended settlement under them."
On the 12th, accordingly, we sailed from Gage Roads, and next morning closed with the land in lat. 29° 13' S. being thirteen miles south of the position assigned to Port Grey in Arrowsmith's map, before alluded to. From thence we followed the shore at a distance of between three and five miles, in soundings of 7 and 12 fathoms; the first part trended N. by W. two miles, and then N.W. ½ W. to Point Grey, lying five miles S. by E. of Point Moore (a bight of that width being formed between) without any sign of the sought-for harbour. The general appearance of the coast was that of high sandhills, partly covered with vegetation; immediately in the rear of which there appeared a range rather higher, and of a less barren appearance; behind these again, at a distance of eight or nine miles, rose a series of singular table-topped broken ranges, terminating southwards in about lat. 29° 5' S. Mount Fairfax and Wizard Peak are the most conspicuous objects in this range.
Owing to the water being very smooth, we found ourselves embayed on approaching the point of the above mentioned bight, by a reef, the outer part of which bore S. 37° W. fifteen miles from Mount Fairfax. The delay caused in clearing this danger, made it evening by the time we reached Champion Bay, in lat. 28° 47' S., from whence we had previously examined the coast northward for nearly thirty miles. We had, therefore, now satisfactorily ascertained that, excepting Champion Bay, there was no good anchorage on the coast between the lat.s of 28° 20' S. and 29° 20' S.*
- * For a description of Champion Bay, see above.
From what I have said it will appear, that the point represented in Arrowsmith's map, as sheltering the north side, has no real existence. It is probable, that the following passage from Mr. Moore's Journal, may have had some share in suggesting the contrivance.
"To the south of the tongue of land which forms the bay, there is also another bay, which would be completely sheltered from all northerly winds, so as to combine, between the two bays, perfect shelter at all seasons of the year."
This point being set at rest, we proceeded with a large armed party at daylight on the morning of the 15th, to examine the country. Landing, we took an E. by S. direction for Mount Fairfax, the nearest and most commanding point. About one mile and a half from the beach, we crossed the dry bed of a stream, trending S. by E. about twenty yards wide, with banks from twenty to thirty feet high, composed of reddish earth and sand, having considerable portions of ironstone in it. A few small tea-trees of the colonists grew in the sand that formed the dry bed of the stream. Our course continued afterwards uninterrupted, over a gradually rising plain, of a sandy scrubby nature, until reaching the foot of Mount Fairfax, when we crossed another small watercourse, trending S. by W. where, for the first time, we noticed a solitary stunted casuarina. Mount Fairfax is the southern and most elevated part of an isolated block, forming Moresby's Flat-topped Range. It rests on a reddish, sandy, sloping plain, on which were occasionally noticed fragments of quartz and ironstone, which latter formation is the character of Mount Fairfax, and apparently of the neighbouring heights. Having completed our observations, which place Mount Fairfax 582 feet above the level of the sea, we continued our journey to the south-east, in the direction of Wizard Peak. Two miles, over a scrubby sandy plain, brought us again to the Chapman or Greenough. Here, for the first time, there was an appearance of fertility; but only in the valley of the river, which was about a quarter of a mile wide.
With the exception of a few brackish pools, the bed, as where we before crossed it, was dry, and formed of white sand, growing in which was a small crooked kind of drooping gum, besides a species of wattle and tea-tree. Its course was about S. by W. and appeared to come from the valleys, formed by the ranges in the rear of Mount Fairfax, and north of Wizard Peak. Continuing our journey, we proceeded over an undulating plain, on the higher parts of which a reddish sand and ironstone gravel universally prevailed; in the lower parts, and near the watercourses, the soil approached a light mould, and produced the warran, so much sought after by the natives. In all this district the vegetation was of the worst description—the trees, which grew only in the valleys, were small kinds of banksia, wattles, and drooping gums—not large enough to furnish building materials.
In the course of the afternoon we reached the summit of that remarkable and almost solitary pyramidal hill, Wizard Peak,* which we found composed of large blocks of ironstone, having a most powerful effect on the needle, and changing its direction in different places ten°. Here we noticed two or three stunted xanthorrhoeas growing on the S.W. side of the hill; and a few small casuarinas, and wattles were thinly scattered on its summit, which, by barometric measurement, was found to be 715 feet above the level of the sea. Part of the range lying immediately north was absolutely a mass of bare ironstone. This view was very commanding—to the N.N.W. and N.E. lay extensive valleys, all of which appeared through a spy-glass to be of the same arid nature; for a few miles to the eastward, and a great many to the northward, the formation of the country was of the same flat, broken, and irregular character, but no part visible appeared to be of greater elevation than that on which we stood; to seawards the appearance of the country was that of an undulating plain, with patches of stunted woodland widely scattered.
- * Distant eleven miles from Champion Bay.
After attentively examining with my glass, resting on the ground, all that lay within the extensive range of vision afforded by Wizard Peak,* I could not help congratulating Mr. Clifton on his display of judgment, in taking the responsible step I have mentioned; and it is to be deeply regretted, that one so energetic, and so well adapted for the duty he had undertaken, should have been totally abandoned by those who sent him out. It was now clear that this part of the country was not fit for the settler, being deficient in the three most necessary articles, water, timber for building, and food for stock.† It was also now clear that the opinion expressed at Swan River, regarding both the harbour and the quality of the country was substantially correct. But it was not until it became apparent to my own eyes, that I could believe anyone could be so reckless as to induce a large number of individuals, including women and children, by false, or at least exaggerated representations, to sever the ties of kindred and of friendship, and become voluntary exiles to a far country, in search of a new and more prosperous home; whilst in lieu of the promised streams and fertile plains, nothing in reality awaited them but sterility—the certain loss of property, and the imminent risk of their lives.
- * The reader will see my position, at this time, together with the track of the Beagle's party, and that of Captain Grey's, laid down in one of the charts accompanying this work.
- † Mr. Moore's description of the country near Champion Bay, is as follows: "Judging by the eye at that distance, the entire space, as far as we had any opportunity of seeing, after going a little way back from the coast, on the slope to the hills, upon the hills, among the hills, beyond the hills, and, in short, everywhere, as far as the eye could discern, appeared a grassy country, thinly sprinkled with some low trees or shrubs, perhaps acacias. If this be the case, and there be water sufficient, of which there is no reason to doubt, this may certainly turn out to be the finest district for sheep pasture that this colony can possess." This testimony, one would have thought, was much too vague to justify the expression of any decided opinion as to the capabilities of the country. Mr. Moore judged entirely from a distant view with the naked eye: he could not discern the nature of the trees, does not assert positively that the land was grassy, is unable to speak with certainty as to the existence of sufficient water, and ventures only to draw the conditional conclusion that this district may turn out to be the finest the colony can possess.
- Mr. Bynoe, who accompanied me in my excursion over this part of the continent, writes as follows respecting it: "There can be but one opinion of the country in the vicinity of the supposed Port Grey, namely, that it is comparatively sterile. All the soil passed over, during our two days' journey, was of a sandy nature; and the gumtrees, particularly in the open country, were stunted and gnarled. Isolated clumps, however, of a taller, straighter, and smoother character, were met with in the dried watercourses. Near Wizard Peak, the warran, or native yam seemed to grow in great abundance, and to some considerable depth. There the soil could be pretty well judged of; and the deeper the holes had been dug by the natives to obtain the root, the more pure was the sand; it was only the surface soil that held decayed vegetable matter. Twice during the trip, near the bases of cliffs, I saw a few acres of alluvial deposit, two very circumscribed beds, which were lost in the bottom of a watercourse, sliding, as it were, gradually under the sand. Near Moresby's Range, where the soil became freely mixed with ironstone and pebbles, the vegetation was more stunted, consisting principally of a prickly bush, mingled with coarse brown grass. During the whole time of our ramble, we saw only three kangaroos, and five emus; and in some parts of the tall scrub were wallaby tracks."
Descending, we found the party left below in the dry bed of a watercourse had failed in their endeavour to procure water by digging; we, therefore, as we supposed, had no resource but to return, exhausted as we were, to the brackish water-pools we had seen in the Chapman or Greenough.
Happily, however, our dog discovered a deep hole under a drooping gum, which proved to be a native well, and after clearing and digging deeper, afforded our thirst relief. The soil through which this well was sunk was a light alluvial deposit, based on sand six feet below the surface. Numerous native paths and deep holes, from which the warran root had been extracted, encircle this spot; some neighbouring huts of a superior structure gave us snug quarters for the night; Wizard Peak bearing S. 50" E. about a mile distant.
At break of dawn we resumed our exploration. The morning was dull and cloudy, thermometer 59°; on the previous day its greatest height had been 85°. Two miles from our bivouac, we fell in with a recent native grave—a circular pit three yards in diameter, filled within a foot of the surface with sand, carefully smoothed over. Small sticks, some with red horizontal marks painted on them, and others scraped, with the shavings tastefully twisted round, ornamented the edge of the grave; a large semicircular fence fronted the south-east side; and the neighbourhood bore evidence, in the shape of several destroyed huts, of its having been deserted by the companions of the dead. After walking at least five miles, we again made the Chapman or Greenough, above a mile south of the point at which we before met it, and pursuing its usual course between S. and S.S.W. The bed was still dry sand, but we found a small hole of brackish water in a hollow. Crossing, we continued our west direction, and were surprised to find ourselves again on the river; a line of red cliffs thirty feet high, forming the south bend, had changed its course to the northward. We subsequently again crossed two dry parts of it; from an elevation on the S.W. side of the last, Mount Fairfax bore N. 50° E. and Wizard Peak S. 58° E.
Hitherto I had been in doubt whether this was the Chapman or Greenough of Captain Grey; but here finding that a branch trended southwards, I was convinced it was the latter, and gave this part the name of Recognition Bend, as it further led to my discovering that Captain Grey had mistaken the hills in Captain King's chart,* and that, therefore, his description of the country refers to another portion; and it is only justice to him to state, that considering he was travelling for his life, and the great hardships he endured, it is surprising how the information collected was obtained.
- * This error Captain Grey candidly acknowledged in the following letter to me, afterwards published by his authority in the South Australian Register.
- "My dear Sir,
- "I have attentively read your letter to the Honourable the Surveyor-General of Western Australia; I have also considered the observations made by you to me, relative to the error you suppose I have fallen into in mistaking the Wizard Peak of Captain King for the hill named by him Mount Fairfax; and I find that I have certainly fallen into this error, a by no means unlikely one, considering the very similar character of the singular group of hills, called Moresby's Flat-topped Range, and the circumstances under which I was journeying. Consequently the country I have described as lying near Mount Fairfax, lies near some other hill to the north of Mount Fairfax, and the country I have described as lying near Wizard Hill lies near Mount Fairfax, being placed from ten to twelve miles south of its true latitude
- "The mistake arose thus: I carried Captain King's chart, and having only a Kater's compass with me, on recognizing what I considered to be Mount Fairfax, I assumed the lat. of that hill as laid down on the chart to be my true lat., and made an entry in my journal accordingly.
- "On substituting the name of Mount Fairfax for Wizard Hill, the description of the small portions of the country traversed by us in common, will be found to coincide almost exactly. I am, my dear Sir, yours faithfully, G. Grey."
- I need scarcely add, that Captain Grey having been obliged to assume his latitude, none of his positions, during this harassing journey, can be expected to be accurate.
From this point we proceeded one mile west over a dry, arid plain, covered with yellow and white everlasting flowers of small growth: a little patch of woodland, consisting of a species of wattle and a very small kind of gum, here delayed our progress. The ground beneath these trees was entirely barren of vegetation; but emerging from them, we came upon the only piece of grass of a useful nature seen in the route; it was, however, quite parched, and occupied a space only of three or four acres. From thence to the coast dunes, to reach which we made a detour to the S.W. walking over about six miles of country, all was scrub and sand. On the low ridge, lying immediately behind the coast range of sandhills, limestone occasionally cropped out. Embarking, we proceeded in a boat to examine a small estuary, seen from Mount Fairfax, at the northern part of the bay. This we found to be separated from the sea by a low bank of sand, thirty feet wide and five high, over which the sea appeared in gales to enter; but from the manner in which the sandhills overlapped at the mouth, it was not possible to detect the entrance from seawards. We landed and traced it for a mile in an east direction, until we proved it to be the mouth of the Greenough; the water was entirely salt, and the banks, in some places seventy feet high, were composed of limestone. Near the head of this estuary we discovered the place where Captain Grey crossed it, as described in the following extract from his notes communicated to Lord John Russell, then Secretary for the Colonies.
"The character of the country again changed, and for the next two miles and a half the plains were sandy, and covered with scrub. At the end of another mile we reached a river, about twenty-five yards wide; it was salt where we made it, and it was so shallow, that we soon found a place where, by jumping from rock to rock, we could cross it. This river discharged itself into a bay;* it ran rather from the S. of E. [E. of S.?] Four miles further, S. by E., were sandy plains, with scrub, etc."
- * This was doubtless Champion Bay; but in our examination of the coast, we did not see anything of the bay or harbour which Captain Grey speaks of in his work (volume 2 page 35) about nine miles north of the Greenough, and which he supposed to be Champion Bay, "since denominated," he says, "Port Grey." According to the true lat. of Champion Bay, the bay in question would be in about 28° 38' S. or nearly twenty-two miles north of the position assigned to Port Grey in Arrowsmith's map, before alluded to.
Thus terminated our exploration of this part of the country, called, by Captain Grey, the Province of Victoria; and certainly all we had seen of it deserved the character of sterility, which in some measure it appears to retain further northward, as we learn from the report of Lieutenant Helpman, who has recently visited it in the colonial schooner Champion. We did not, on our route, fall in with any native, but on reaching the boat, found that a party of five men had approached the beach, and held friendly communication with Mr. Pasco, who, in exchange for a handkerchief or two, had obtained from them a hunger belt, composed of wallaby furs, a throwing stick, and a nose-piece of kangaroo bone. They were entirely naked, and slightly scarred, but were not smeared with the red pigment called wilgy, and had their hair knotted upon the crown of their head, like the natives of the neighbourhood of King's Sound.
On the morning of the 16th we were again on our way southwards, with, strange to say at that season of the year, westerly winds, which prevailed for the three succeeding days.
After touching at Swan River (where, finding His Excellency the Governor still absent, an account of our cruise was left with the Surveyor-General) we reached Koombanah Bay on the 27th. Mr. Forsyth, whom I had sent overland, had completed the survey of this anchorage, and Leschenault Inlet, which it joins in the south corner by a narrow boat channel. The wreck of a large whale ship in the head of the bay shows the folly of attempting to ride out the winter gales to which it is exposed; but this may be remedied by a breakwater thrown out from Point Casuarina, of which nature has laid the foundation in the reef that extends out across the bay in the desired direction. The strong outset from the estuary during the rainy season materially lessens the strain upon the cables of ships caught there by a gale. The peculiarity in the formation of this neighbourhood consists in some basaltic columns on the coast close to Point Casuarina.
We devoted the 28th to making observations,* &c.; and I was surprised to find that this part of the coast was laid down four miles too much to the northward.
- * These observations were made on the beach, midway between Point Casuarina and the mouth of the estuary, which spot they place in lat. 33° 19' 10" S. and long. 0° 7' 00" W. of Swan River. From a sandhill, 190 feet high, bearing S. 11° W., six-tenths of a mile from that spot, I found that the highest part of the Darling Range, Mount William, bore N. 40° 6' E. thirty-three miles, and was in height 1720 feet; and that Mount Leonard, another excrescence on this range bore S. 81° 44' E. distant thirteen miles and seven-tenths, and was of an elevation of 1270 feet; whilst the summit of Cape Naturaliste bore S. 65° W. and the visible extreme S. 66° 50' W. which confirmed the error I had before remarked in the position assigned it in the chart, being four miles too far north. All the above bearings are true. The rise of the tide, and the time of high-water, are the same as at Swan River.
Daylight, on the 29th, found us outside Koombanah Bay, running to the westward before a light land breeze. From the offing, this part of the western shore of the continent was much more prepossessing than any we had before seen. The outline of the Darling Range, here approaching within fourteen miles of the sea, and broken only by Mount Leonard and the gorge of the Harvey, was sharply pencilled against the eastern sky that glowed with the pure light of morning; whilst the country between was clothed with trees of such magnitude that their verdant summits could be seen, over the coast sandhills, stretching away in one sea of foliage as far as the eye could reach.
The course we held led us within five miles of the north side of Naturaliste Reef,* in 29 fathoms; the depth we found sixteen miles west of it was 60 fathoms, and half a mile south of it 26 fathoms. It partakes of the error in lat. previously discovered in Cape Naturaliste, which is distant sixteen miles, and bears, when over the centre of it, S. 2½° W. (true).
- * A circular patch of breakers half a mile in extent, with, according to report, six and nine feet water on it.
Being desirous of confirming our meridian distances along the south coast, we visited for the purpose King George's Sound and S. Australia, at which latter place we arrived on the morning of January 26th, 1842. Since our former visit, a change had taken place in the governorship of the colony; and though it was with great regret that we learnt Colonel Gawler had left for England, we were glad he had found a worthy successor in our brother explorer Captain Grey.
His Excellency and the merchants expressing a wish that the Beagle should visit the port, no man of war having yet done so; and being anxious myself to examine the capabilities of the place, as well as to complete our survey of twenty-three miles of the eastern shore of Spencer's Gulf, on the afternoon of the 29th the Beagle was running into Port Adelaide.* The ladies of the Governor, the Surveyor-General, and others, honoured us with their presence on the passage round.†
- * Besides the light vessel off the bar at Port Adelaide, a flagstaff close to the southward at the pilot station serves to point out the entrance to strangers.
- † I have already given some account of this port; and here, therefore, I need do no more than refer the reader to the accompanying chart.
It was the examination I made on this occasion of Colonel Gawler's excellent road between the port and Adelaide, which convinced me that a portion of it might easily be converted into a railroad, as there is sufficient width for a single line of rails without detracting from its present value. That such an undertaking would prove of great advantage to the colony there can be no doubt; and it is equally certain that it would be profitable to those engaged in it. The exports and imports of S. Australia are, year by year, rapidly increasing; and now that its vast mineral resources have been discovered, and are in progress of development, no bounds can be set to its probable wealth and prosperity. A railroad would be sure to attract a large amount of traffic even at present. As, however, the Port of Adelaide only admits vessels of moderate draught, large ships must discharge part of their cargo outside, or at Holdfast Roads; between which place and Adelaide a railroad might also be carried without any difficulty, there being a complete level the whole way.
Being desirous of seeing a little more of this fertile part of the continent, I left Adelaide accordingly, after sunset, on January 31st, for Mount Barker,* and before sunrise next day visited its summit, nearly 1700 feet high, in order, if possible, to obtain a view in the clear atmosphere of early morning of Lake Alexandrina, or Victoria, and the river Murray. In this, however, I was disappointed, the weather being hazy in that direction, so that nothing could be seen but the extensive scrub on the eastern side of the river, stretching away like a brown-coloured sea. Mount Barker, which may be recognised by a saddle-shaped hill to the south of it, lies about thirty miles S.E. by E. from Adelaide; the latter part of the road between is hilly; from its foot a strip of very rich land, about one mile wide and three long, extends to the south-west, in the direction of Willunga, on our way to which I noticed several similar blocks. Following the southerly course of the Finnis, at that time a dry rich flat, we entered a hilly picturesque country with deep fertile valleys. Tracks of wild cattle were numerous on the ridges, but we saw none, and were again disappointed by the haze that prevailed throughout the day, of a view of the surrounding country. In the evening we reached Willunga, distant thirty-five miles from Mount Barker; though sight-seeing had taken us, during the day, over fifty miles of country. This township is prettily situated at the western foot of the hills on a woodland slope, bordered by the waters of the Gulf, at a distance of about six miles.
- * Named after the unfortunate Captain Barker by his friend Captain Sturt.
Our party was to have been here joined by Governor Grey, who, however, did not arrive till late next morning; when, after examining the slate quarries in the neighbourhood, where the cleavage and quality equalled any I have seen in Wales, we left for Encounter Bay, bearing nearly south-east. The first three miles of the road lay over stony ridges; and the next eighteen traversed the worst part of the province, a sandy, scrubby, slightly undulating country, about five hundred feet above the sea. We were glad to find ourselves descending from this wearisome sterile tract upon some rich flats at the head of the river Hindmarsh, named after the first governor of the colony. These we followed four miles in a S.S.E. direction, where meeting the river, its tortuous course led to the southward for about five miles. Where it joins the sea, in the north-western corner of Encounter Bay, a township, also named Hindmarsh, had been laid out, which will, doubtless, be a pleasant summer residence, as we felt a great change in the temperature; indeed the evening was quite bleak, with a moderate breeze from seaward.
I was naturally much interested in this part of my journey, being anxious to see if the shelter here existing merited the name, given in the chart, of Victor Harbour; but the only protection, excepting for a small vessel in the north-west corner, and from northerly and westerly winds, is under a little island, where it is possible one or two vessels may lie. From Hindmarsh I saw the entrance of Lake Alexandrina, among some sandhills at the entrance of which Captain Barker was murdered by the natives; a circumstance which gave rise to the name of Encounter Bay, and attached a melancholy interest to the spot.
Here for the first time, I met a Murray River native among a party of others. He was certainly the finest Australian in make I had ever seen, being robust and stout, like a S. Sea Islander. A German Missionary, who had a native school at Hindmarsh, took us to see a curious method of catching fish resorted to at this place, which, as it has not been noticed by Mr. Eyre, I shall describe. A party of natives, each provided with a large square piece of net, rolled up, with a stick at either end, swam out to a certain distance from shore, and spread themselves into a semicircle. Every man then relinquished one of the sticks round which his piece of net was rolled, to his right-hand neighbour, and received another from his left; when, bringing the two together, a great seine was formed. They now swam in, followed by other natives, who, by throwing stones and splashing the water, frightened the fish, and prevented them from getting out.
Leaving Encounter Bay, we for some distance followed the left bank of the Inman, when the road turned off to the westward. The country was good in patches, till we made a cattle-station of Mr. Hacks, near Yankalilla Bay; when, instead of a succession of forested hills and dales, we passed over extensive treeless downs, contrasting strikingly in appearance with the woody country around. Here we pitched our tents for the night: and next morning were deprived of the company of His Excellency, who was obliged to return to Adelaide; whilst Messrs. Macfarlane, Burr, and myself, who were mounted from the station, went to Rapid Bay, lying about fifteen miles S.W. by W. As there was some difficulty in catching the horses, it was 10 a.m. before we got away. I was by no means pleased with my mount; I had suspected that all was not right by an exchange of looks, I caught the overseer and stockman indulging in, as I threw my leg over as ugly a hammer-headed, standing-over brute as ever man crossed; but with the aid of a severe bit and a sharp pair of spurs I kept him alive, and he only came down twice during the journey, which, although over a very hilly country, was performed in four hours. After taking some refreshment, we started at 4 p.m. for Adelaide, distant nearly sixty miles.
We crossed the Myponga; and led our horses down a winding path on the almost precipitous side of Mount Terrible, well worthy its name, just as the sun was shedding his last rays over the waters of the Gulf, that stretched away westward, apparently, from our feet; the white sails of a coaster here and there dotting the blue expanse. Hitherto the road had been over a succession of hills and dales, with occasionally a patch of pretty scenery; but from the foot of Mount Terrible a level, lightly-timbered piece of country extended to the Unkaparinga, which we crossed, passing through the township of Noarlinga, on its north bank.
After stopping to bait the horses, we continued our ride; but it was now so very dark that I lost all the beauty of this part of the country, and from the undulations in the road I could easily imagine that many a pretty glen was veiled from us by the darkness. Getting off the track, we became entangled among some high five-railed fences, from which we were extricated by the sagacity of my horse, belonging to the mounted police; on being given his head, he soon brought us back upon the road to Adelaide, where we arrived about midnight, having ridden, since 10 a.m., nearly ninety miles. We had scarcely reached the town before a hot wind set in, which lasted forty-eight hours, when a squall from seaward relieved the gasping inhabitants: at one time the thermometer at the public offices was 158°.
We sailed from S. Australia on February 7th, but it was not until the forenoon of the 9th that we cleared Backstairs Passage, passing half a mile from the reef fronting the east end of Kangaroo Island, in 16 fathoms; the south-eastern part of this island is a steep rocky shore, with few sinuosities. Southerly winds brought us in sight of the land at daylight on the 11th. The most remarkable features were Mounts Gambier and Schanck; the summit of the latter, the least conspicuous, is flat, with a hollow in the centre. According to my observations, it is in long. 10° 29' W. of Sydney. The ship's position, just before dark, was ten miles N. 65° W. from Cape Bridgewater, which is a hummocky cliff-faced point of land, separated from the main by a low neck.
February 12.—Finding ourselves still off this part of the coast, which was laid down three miles too much to the northward, I resolved, for the better means of determining this fact by observations on shore, to go to the nearest anchorage, Portland Bay, where we arrived in the evening. I had another object in visiting this place, namely, that of helping to determine the 141st meridian, which had been fixed on as the western boundary of the colony of New S. Wales.
The approach to this anchorage is remarkable, and cannot escape the memory of anyone who has seen it; for the information of those who have not, I here subjoin a woodcut.*
Our anchorage was in 7 fathoms, midway between the bluff on either side of the settlement, which we were surprised to find had already assumed the appearance of a town, lying in the western corner of the bay, on a sloping grassy bank.
Here I met Mr. C. J. Tyers, government surveyor, who had laid out the township of Portland. As he had also made an accurate survey of the Bay, little remained for us except to test its qualities, which the prevalence of easterly winds gave us an opportunity of doing. They at first caused a little anxiety, as the anchorage was exposed in this quarter; but this feeling rapidly subsided on our discovering the excellence of the holding ground—mud with a coating of sand, out of which we had some difficulty in weighing our anchors.
At Portland I had the pleasure of making the acquaintance of Mr. Stephen Henty,† the leader of an enterprising family who had been the hardy pioneers of civilization, in discovering and laying open the fertile districts of this part of the continent, and under whose fostering care Portland has risen from a mere whaling station to its present prosperity. Such being the case, it is with regret that I am obliged to say that Mr. Henty received no consideration from Government when the land was put up for sale, being obliged to bid against the public for ground he had brought under notice, and spent years of labour in getting into cultivation.*
- * Lawrence Isles lie off the point forming the south side of Portland Bay.
- † My observations refer to this gentleman's new house, which they place in lat. 38° 20' 45" S. and long. 9° 36' 22" W. of Sydney, by satisfactory meridian distances to the latter place, and from S. Australia. Preferring Mr. Tyers' difference of long. by triangulation to the east entrance point of the Glenelg River, 37' 29", which is 1 minute 27" more than his chronometric measurement; the mouth of the Glenelg will be 10° 13' 51" W. of Sydney. By Mr. Tyers' triangulation, calculated by Captain Owen Stanley from Port Phillip, Batman's Hill, with my long. of the latter 6° 16' 17" W. of Sydney, the Glenelg is W. of Sydney 10° 14' 02", which is 57" less than Mr. Tyers' calculation. The long. of Sydney, by different observers, ranges between 151° 12' 0" and 151° 17' 0"; but, as I myself believe 151° 16' to be within a minute of the truth, the Glenelg will, accordingly, by my observations be in 141° 02' 09" E. and therefore within the New S. Wales territory, the limit of which it had been supposed to mark. If the 141st degree had been selected as the boundary of the colony, with reference to the long. of Sydney, there would not be much difficulty attending its determination.
- * The squatter, who often at great risk locates himself in a remote spot, and renders such essential service to the mother country by finding new lands, yea new homes, for the surplus population, merits much greater encouragement than he receives, particularly in instances similar to that of Mr. Henty, whose station at Portland was, for years, hundreds of miles removed from other occupied parts. This gentleman's case makes it clear at once that something ought to be done for the squatter. His comfortable house and garden he was obliged to leave to make room for a street of the new township; but this would not have been very hard had he been given an allotment in lieu; which, however, as I have stated, was not done; and he was compelled to witness the labour of his hands entirely swept away, and found himself, after years of toil, placed exactly in the same position with those who came to enjoy the fruits of his enterprise.
But the greatest hardship sustained by the squatter is the Special Survey system, according to which, anyone desirous to become a purchaser to the extent of twenty thousand acres may choose his land where he pleases. A party clubs together and finds out spots, that have been improved by squatters, with a view of purchasing them when able; many of these are often included in one special survey block: and even if the squatter is able to purchase the rich and hardly-won small patch he occupies, the special survey party, generally a knot of jobbers, have the preference. This is apparently for the benefit of the crown, twenty thousand pounds being thus added to the revenue under the pound per acre system; but it is certainly not advantageous to the country, as the large purchasers seldom buy for occupation, but for sale; and the smallholder, the squatter, is driven from the land in distress. I have seen instances of persons being utterly ruined in this way. My own opinion is, that the squatter ought to be allowed to purchase the land he occupies by private contract from government; or that an allowance should be made him, equivalent to his improvements.
The detention we had experienced afforded me an opportunity of visiting the country; and having just seen between two and three hundred miles of the Province of South Australia, I was glad of the chance of comparing these two parts of the continent. Accordingly, after making a series of magnetical observations, and others for the errors of the chronometers, I left Portland one morning in company with Mr. Tyers. Taking Mr. Henty's road to the northward we soon passed the rich land surrounding Portland, and entered a stringybark forest, eight miles in extent. Then crossing a heathy tract we came to the Fitzroy, distant fifteen miles from Portland. Here, as elsewhere, the presence of water improves the soil, for along the banks of the river there was some good land. This was also the case near a hill just beyond it, called Mount Eckersley. where I saw Sir Thomas Mitchell's initials cut in a tree at the time when he explored this country, and found to his surprise that Mr. Henty had a station in Portland Bay.
With the exception of the flats near the Crawford, twenty miles from the Fitzroy, the road lies through a poor country, until it approaches Mr. J. Henty's station, fifteen miles further. Here we appeared to have turned our backs on the bad land; and entered a tract of country in which the herbage is so excellent that an acre is capable of feeding one sheep, whereas in other parts three or four are required.
From a pointed hill, called the Sugarloaf, fifty-eight miles from Portland, I had an extensive view of this fertile district: the outlines of those magnificent mountains, the Victoria and Grampian ranges, that completed the distant part of the landscape, to the eastward, were distinctly defined against the clear morning sky; whilst, in the foreground, grassy round-topped hills, rose on either side of wide valleys sparingly dotted with trees, marking the course of the streams that meander through them, and the margin of the singular circular waterholes, with sides so steep as to render it necessary to cut through them to enable the cattle to drink, that were distributed around as if formed by art, rather than by nature. W.ward, I saw the winding course of the Glenelg, and was told that some of the squatters had located themselves on its banks, and that others were even talking of stations (which they have since made) as far as the volcanic mountains, Schanck and Gambier, where there is some rich country, recently visited from Adelaide, by Governor Grey, who has discovered that the barrier of desert between New S. Wales and S. Australia, is less marked than was supposed; there being patches of good land intervening, so that at no very distant day, we may hope to see the whole of the coast, from Port Phillip to Spencer's Gulf, supporting a scattered white population.
I noticed that there was a vast superiority in the soil on the north-west side of the hills; but saw none equal in richness to the five-mile patch at Mount Eckersley.
The steep sides of a part of the valley of the Wannon, however, a few miles to the eastward of the Sugarloaf, are very fertile, and being clothed with patches of woodland, form extremely pretty scenery. The rocks of this part of the country are chiefly trappean; in the immediate neighbourhood of Portland, they consist of limestone, ferruginous sandstone, and trap.
After having extended our ride to above seventy miles, we returned, having satisfied ourselves, from what we had seen and heard, that there was a greater extent of good land here, than at S. Australia; though it was more scattered, and farther from the sea. On our way, we met a party of natives; and seeing a bundle of spears leaning against a tree, I rode up to examine them, but the owner instantly ran and seized them, in a manner that confirmed the report I had before heard, to the effect, that the settlers and the aborigines of this part, either through the mismanagement of the one, or the evil disposition of the other, are not on very good terms.
February 17.—I went this day to Cape Bridgewater, to make a sketch of the coast, and visit some caves lying four miles north of it. These we found to be from forty to fifty feet high, and of the same depth; the ceilings were encrusted with stalactites and the mouths overlooked some pretty freshwater lakes, three miles in extent separated from the sea by a narrow chain of sandhills; upon these were a few swans, and a black and white kind of goose, one of which Mr. Bynoe shot; it resembled the species we had seen flying over the Albert in the Gulf of Carpentaria.
February 20.—A slight cessation of the easterly wind allowed us to leave Portland Bay in the morning; but scarcely had we got outside, when it blew strong again from the same quarter: accordingly, it being highly desirable that I should consult with His Excellency, Sir John Franklin, before we commenced the survey of Bass Strait, we proceeded direct to Hobart, where we arrived on the 26th. The lat. of the south-west cape was determined on the passage to be 42° 35' S.: and a running survey was made of the south coast of Tasmania.
Our stay in the Derwent, during which land and seabreezes prevailed, afforded me an opportunity of comparing our compasses at the magnetic observatory, established since our last visit by the Antarctic expedition, and left in charge of Lieutenant Key and Messrs. Dayman and Scott, officers belonging to it. This place His Excellency, who took part in the observations made there, named after the leader of the expedition, Ross Bank Observatory: I found it to be 20" west, and 1 minute 10", north of the Beagle's observation spot in Fort Mulgrave.
Sir John Franklin, who has always taken great interest in the Beagle's voyage, testified every wish to afford me assistance: and in the most liberal manner placed at my disposal the colonial cutter, Vansittart, to assist in the survey of the Strait. Messrs. Forsyth and Pascoe were selected for the service, the former being in command. After giving the Vansittart a slight refit, and a few alterations which were expedited in a most praiseworthy manner by Captain Booth, commandant at Port Arthur, she was to proceed to the scene of operations near Banks Strait. In the meantime the Beagle sailed for Sydney to receive the stores we expected from England.
March 10.—This was our second day from the Derwent; but owing to the prevalence of N.E. winds we had not made further progress than to be at noon, thirty miles east from Cape Pillar. The atmospheric changes during this day were curious. The morning broke hazy, with a moderate breeze from N.N.E., which gradually subsiding and veering at the same time to E.S.E., left us becalmed for three or four hours; thick impenetrable fogs meanwhile passed at intervals to the S.W.; and whenever this obstruction to our vision was removed, could be seen a dark heap of clouds collecting, some of which detaching themselves passed rapidly over our heads. About three p.m. there was the sighing of a breeze from that quarter. The barometer, also, at this time, ceased falling and stood at 29.57, being as much as two-tenths lower than what it was an hour before, and having fallen since eight a.m. four-tenths.
The rapid depression of the mercury was quite perceptible to the eye. Under reduced sail the ship, like the petrel with closed wing, waited the coming blast. A dense fog enveloped us; but an hour after the barometer had ceased falling, it lifted up and revealed a long sheet of hissing foam crowning the troubled waters that were rolling, urged by the tempest, tumultuously towards us from the south-west.
For a while the heavy reduced canvas still flapped with a lazy swag against the masts; but suddenly it was filled by a violent gust; and the Beagle was hurried swiftly onwards, careering over the waves like the misty spectre in a storm. Two hours after (six p.m. the barometer had risen a tenth. We now expected our passage to Sydney to be short: but the ill luck of foul winds again attending us, it was the fifteenth before we arrived.