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Journal of an Expedition under the direction of Ensign Dale, to the Eastward of the Darling Mountain, in August, 1831

JOURNAL OF AN EXPEDITION under the direction of Ensign Dale, to the Eastward of the Darling Mountains; in August, 1831.

Having provided a sufficient supply of provisions for three weeks, and prepared whatever was necessary for my expedition, I left Perth in the morning of the 31st of July, and in the morning reached Messrs. Thompson and Trimmer's, on the Swan River, a distance of about seven miles. On the following morning, I proceeded to Mr. Brockman's, four miles higher up, who proposed accompanying me on my intended expedition. I was obliged to await there the arrival of the boat I had despatched from Perth with my provisions, and then succeeded in swimming our horses over the river, after experiencing some danger in the attempt, owing to the Swan, from late heavy rains, having overflowed its banks to a considerable height.

On the 2nd of August, having arranged our different packages, and reduced them as much as possible, I proceeded with my party, consisting of Mr. Brockman, one soldier, and a store-keeper, the two latter each leading a pack-horse to carry our baggage across the plain, which extends from the left bank of the Swan to the base of the Darling range, until we reached, in a course varying from north to east, the foot of those hills, the ascent of which we commenced up a narrow defile, through which a stream was running to the westward. Following this for one mile, we left it on its leading us too far to the southward, and proceeded due east till we encamped in the evening on the banks of a mountain torrent flowing to the north, after an estimated day's journey of eleven miles.

August 3rd.—After quitting our bivouac, we ascended, and continued along the summit of a ridge, from which no higher land was visible for two and a half miles, when we arrived at its eastern side, from which we had a view of the country round for eight miles; we soon afterwards passed a broad stream flowing W.N.W. Continuing our course due E., we obtained a view of the valley of the Swan, and could discover beneath us through the trees, that river falling over a bed of rocks. On descending, I recognised it to be a waterfall which I passed when accompanying Capt. Irwin in an expedition into the interior, in April last. Quitting this, and proceeding to the southward of E., we in three miles again came to that river, and continued along the banks till we arrived at the termination of Capt. Irwin's journey, where we had left a depot of provisions. We had the satisfaction of finding them uninjured. As we had had a journey of twelve miles this morning, I determined to rest here the remainder of the day to refresh the horses. The greater proportion of country seen to-day was sandy in the valleys, and on some of the hills we passed over a rich loamy soil, producing grass of a tolerable description, and also the wild vetch; the trees consisting principally of mahogany of a very vigorous growth, the blue and red gum, and a few banksias.

August 4th.—Thermometer this morning at sunrise 33°. An hour's walk from the depot brought us to a second branch of the Swan, which we traced up for two miles, and crossed it at a spot where it was flowing to the southward. The country was an open forest scene, the trees consisting almost entirely of blue gum. This peculiarity I have observed in another part of the mountains about the same distance in the interior. Continuing our course due east, we were afterwards obliged to make a short detour to the southward, and as the country was swampy, we had some difficulty in again crossing the last-mentioned stream, the banks of which were composed of a rich alluvial deposit. Leaving this second branch of the Swan behind us, at about two miles farther eastward, we halted for a short time during the middle of the day, on the banks of a small stream which Mr. Brockman and myself traced to its source, and were led to think it might have its origin in a lake. On our ascending it for a mile in a S.E. direction, it appeared to terminate and be formed by the draining of swampy land; we here observed numerous traces of emus. On returning to our party, we again proceeded eastward, and taking a more elevated course, passed over two and a half miles of a barren description of country, the trees being of a more stunted growth, and the soil sandy, having its surface covered with fragments of iron stone. Descending this ridge into a valley, we had the satisfaction of discovering the first stream running to the eastward, the timber on its banks consisting of blue gum, casuarina, and black wattle, and a tree similar in its growth to the apple, which bore a fruit resembling in form, although exceeding in size, an unripe hawthorn berry; its wood has a remarkably sweet scent, and the bark a delicate pink colour; a specimen, which we brought home with us, has been pronounced by some professed judges to be sandal wood.

August 5th,—,Last night's rain having rendered the country insecure travelling for the horses, we had a great difficulty in proceeding a mile E. from our bivouac, when our course was interrupted by the last mentioned stream flowing northerly; on penetrating a short distance down its course, with the expectation of crossing it, we were obliged to return to nearly where we had forded it last night, where, owing to the wet and hollow nature of the ground, we had to unload the horses before they could approach the margin: having carried the baggage across, we attempted to remove it to a hill opposite the ford, but our progress was again arrested by a broader stream flowing to the north, the channel of which was too deep to ford. Recrossing to our horses, we went a quarter of a mile below the junction of the two streams, and employed the remainder of the day in swimming our horses across, and getting the baggage over. To accomplish this, we adopted rather a hazardous plan, for, having selected a tree that was growing in the middle of the stream, we attached a long rope to it, by one of its branches, and Mr. Brockman and myself having previously crossed to the opposite side, drew the different packages over as they were secured at the opposite extremity of the rope. The valley through which this stream flows is of some breadth; the soil being occasionally of a loamy description, and affording pasture for sheep.

August 6th.—Leaving this latter stream flowing northerly, we advanced in a due E. course for eight miles, over a succession of barren, uninteresting ridges, separated from each other at various distances by small grassy valleys, and clothed principally with low stunted shrubs, and a gum tree, the bark of which was white. We then descended into a rich and picturesque valley, of inconsiderable breadth; the luxuriant verdure of the grass, and its banks sloping down to a small rivulet, gave it exactly the appearance of a lawn. Three-quarters of a mile further brought us to a brook running easterly; the soil and grass continuing good here; on the bank of this we bivouaced.

August 7th.—Thermometer this morning at sunrise, 44°. Shortly after quitting our bivouac, still pursuing an easterly course, we ascended a hill, and at its base again fell in with the brook on the banks of which we rested last night, and which here intersected our course owing to its turning abruptly to the northward. It being too rapid, and also too deep to attempt to ford it, we constructed a bridge by cutting several long poles, and placing them across a tree that was growing in the stream. Over this we carried the baggage to the opposite shore: having with some danger crossed our horses, we picquetted them, and pitched our tent on a small rich alluvial flat that skirts the margin of the brook. Mr. Brockman and myself proceeded in the mean time to examine an elevated hill bearing E.S.E. about a mile distant. On arriving at the summit, we were gratified by obtaining an extensive prospect over a comparatively level country to the eastward, through which we observed, at the apparent distance of two miles, a considerable stream. On the summit of this hill were two remarkable peaks, the valleys between them forming at their union an irregular basin; the highest of these we estimated to be about 1,000. I named this hill Mount Mackie, in compliment to the Chairman of the Court of Quarter Session.

August 8th.—Thermometer this morning at sunrise, 31½°, with every indication of a severe hoar frost. In order to avoid passing over the hill we ascended yesterday, which we found too much saturated with rain for the horses to attempt to travel, we continued our course down the right bank of the brook, in a north and north easterly direction for two and a half miles, when we had the gratification of arriving at the considerable stream we noticed yesterday, running towards the N.W. It had evidently overflowed its banks, the apparent channel or bed of the river being about sixty yards: the water was discoloured and muddy, with a rapid current, and enclosed between banks moderately clothed with trees and shrubs.

August 9th.—Thermometer this morning at sunrise, 41°. We advanced this morning two miles up the river, but with considerable difficulty, owing to the soft and yielding nature of the soil in the neighbourhood of the river, caused apparently by excessive rain, and not by inundation. Being obliged to halt here the remainder of the day to refresh our horses, in the afternoon Mr. Brockman and myself proceeded two miles further up the stream, when we arrived at its junction with a brook from the S.S.W., which latter we traced upwards for half a mile, and then returned to our halting place.

August 10th.—Finding it impossible to make any further progress with our horses, which were completely exhausted from their unusual exertions, and having secured them, we left our tent pitched, considering them as a sufficient protection against the natives, none of whom we had as yet met with, and proceeded with two days' provisions to explore the left bank of the river towards its source, not deeming it prudent to be longer from our encampment than that time. Recommencing our journey, the middle course of which was S.S.E., we in six miles arrived at a remarkable range of hills, (which I propose naming the Dyott range, in compliment to General Dyott, the Colonel of the 63rd regiment,) rising abruptly and almost perpendicularly from their southern base, and presenting a wall-like barrier to the river. They had a rich and verdant appearance, and were clothed in grass to their summit, and moderately wooded with gum trees. At this spot we heard the natives, whose traces we had been following this morning, hailing each other at a great distance: we were fortunate enough this night in finding shelter from the rain, which was pouring down in torrents, under a shelving rock; it was of considerable size, having the shape and appearance of a thatched roof of a cottage. In the neighbourhood of our bivouac, and for some distance around, were large masses of granite; in one of these we discovered a cavern, the interior being arched, and resembling somewhat in appearance an ancient ruin. On one side was rudely carved what was evidently intended to represent an image of the sun, it being a circular figure about eighteen inches in diameter, emitting rays from its left side, and having without the circle, lines meeting each other nearly at right angles: close to this representation of the sun, were the impression of an arm and several hands. This spot appeared to us to be used by the natives as a place of worship. Our walk to-day for upwards of eighteen miles up the left bank of the river, led us over a country well clothed with grass, apparently of the same description as that on the banks of the Swan. It had little underwood, and was lightly timbered with a species of gum tree, leaving a rough stringy bark of a light brown colour, which appeared to us to be a different kind from any we had observed on the Swan. The flats bordering the river being mostly flooded, we were unable to judge of their general character. The soil in the uplands and hills being chiefly composed of a light sandy loam, with a stratum of clay about a foot underneath the surface, rendered the travelling from the late excessive rains rather fatiguing, as we were obliged to tread on tufts of grass to avoid sinking in many places into this wet and hollow ground. On the banks of the river were numerous holes, the burrows of some animal which we were unable to see. We also found a litter of native dogs; the mother having left them at our approach, we succeeded in bringing two of them alive to Perth.

August llth,—,Having only brought two days' provisions with us, we regretted now being obliged to retrace our steps to where we had left our horses, and proceeded N. by W. We in seven miles arrived at the base of that part of the Dyott hills which rises so abruptly from the river. In twenty minutes we reached the summit, after a fatiguing ascent, and were amply rewarded by it in commanding from it a greater expanse of country than could be observed from Mount Mackie. To the eastward it presented a view of lightly timbered forest land, rising in alternate undulations, and expanding itself from nearly north to S.S.E., till it finally disappeared in the distance from twenty-five to thirty miles off, seemingly partaking, as far as we could discover, of the same character as the adjacent country.

This being the most conspicuous hill of the range, I propose to name Mount Bakewell, in compliment to a friend. I had also an imperfect view of an elevated peaked hill, which I nad ascended while on an expedition into the interior in December last, being nearly S.W. Quitting these hills, we at the termination of seven miles reached our old encampment, which we found had not been visited by the natives during our absence.

August12th.—Mr. Brockman and myself proceeded at an early hour again to explore the Dyott hills, while the men were employed in conveying the horses and baggage three miles lower down the river, to the spot at which we discovered it. After walking about seven miles, we arrived at the northern side of the range, but were much disappointed in not being able to obtain a view of the plain, as, directly we reached the summit, it was obscured completely by the dense state of the atmosphere, and by the heavy rains which then set in. Having collected a few specimens of rocks, and taken a few bearings of the country around us, we returned to our bivouac. On rejoining our men, we found they had encountered so much difficulty in urging on the horses whilst loaded, owing to the excessive wetness of the ground, that they had been obliged to unload them, and carry the baggage themselves.

August 13th.—Thermometer at sun-rise 39°, at eight o'clock a.m. Commenced our route homeward over the same country we had passed over a few days previously, but with far greater celerity; as we accomplished to-day nearly the same distance that it then took us four days to perform, owing to our better knowledge of the country, and its being more passable to the hcrses, which had now only a light load to carry. After proceeding ten miles from the river, we had an interview with three natives on the banks of a stream which we had passed on the 5th instant, and to which we descended for three-quarters of a mile down a grassy hill, when we saw numerous traces of emus, which I think they had been just hunting. We found them very friendly, probably from the little intercourse they had evidently had with Europeans. After assisting us to load our horses, they accompanied us some distance, being at great pains to direct us on our journey. In the evening we bivouaced near the stream we had so much difficulty in crossing on the 5th instant, having effected to-day fifteen miles.

August14th.—Before commencing our journey this morning, we were visited by three natives, whom we recognised as having seen at Perth. This intercourse with the settlers seemed to have the effect of rendering them more familiar and even daring in their manners, for, on leaving our bivouac, and aacending a hill, they attempted to prevent our pursuing our course, on account, as we conjectured, of their women being near, but on our making a detour to the left, they joined us with apparent satisfaction. We this day accomplished fourteen miles in a westerly direction.

August 15th.—Thermometer at sunrise 46°. We left our bivouac at an early hour this morning, wishing if possible to reach the western base of Darling's Range before evening. We traversed a thickly wooded forest country, with a sandy surface, to the foot of that range, and were enabled before night-fall to reach the termination of our journey at Mr. Brockman's house, from which place we had been absent exactly a fortnight; but not before one of our horses became so exhausted, that he sank to the ground, in which situation we were obliged to leave him till the following morning.


In the course of this expedition we collected several specimens of the mineralogy of the country we traversed. Among these there are some varieties of granite, rock-crystal, and limestone. Some of them appear to be metalliferous, but as they have been placed in the hands of a competent gentleman for the purpose of being analyzed, whose report is shortly expected, it is unnecessary at present to hazard an opinion as to their specific qualities. We estimated the distatice from Mr. Brockman's house to the river which washes the base of the Dyott Hills, and which formed the extreme point or termination of our journey, to be forty miles in due easterly course, and to which there is no obstacle of sufficient importance to prevent a good communication from being opened. The general characteristic of the soil of the country to the eastward of Mount Mackie, which we considered to be the eastern extremity of Darling's Range, was a light, sandy loam, the sub-soil of which was clay, which occasionally appeared on the surface. In some places there was a rich red loam, and the banks of the last-mentioned river were principally alluvial.

(Signed) R. DALE.

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