Journal of the Proceedings of a party of Officers and men, for the purpose of crossing the Darling Range of Mountains, under the orders of Lieutenant Preston, R.N.


A JOURNAL of the proceedings of a party of Officers and men, belonging to His Majesty's Ship Sulphur, landed on the 8th of September, 1829, for the purpose of crossing the Darling Range of Mountains, under the orders of Lieutenant Preston, R. N.

Left the ship at 10 am.; after beating for an hour and a half, found too much sea to attempt to cross the bar; bore up for Woodman's Point, and landed at noon; all the party excessively drenched; got all the provisions on shore, buried the casks, and proceeded with the rest of the baggage to Fremantle, where we arrived safe at 6 o'clock, men very tired; found Mr. Dawson there, sent him to Perth immediately, so as to be ready to meet the boats according to his orders; next morning took possession of the two tents allotted us.

September 9th.—At 5 o'clock sent Mr. Disney with the men to Woodman's Point to bring up the remainder of provisions, but knowing them to be too heavy for one trip, and it being particularly desirable to leave Fremantle that day, in consequence of spirits being easily obtained, and several of the men ill in consequence, hired Mr. Wells's cart and two horses to meet our men half way, which they did, and arrived at Fremantle at 10 o'clock; found Mr. Collie had struck the tents and got all the light baggage into the boats, so that we were able to leave by 2 o'clock, accompanied by Mr. Knight, a settler, who was desirous of accompanying us, and Mr. Dawson on our passage up, who was returning to Fremantle for the purpose of taking up provisions so as to enable the soldiers to join us up the Canning; at 5, rounded Point Heathcot and landed on the second low Point, on the left bank of the Canning, of course on our right, where we rested for the night. Soil—siliceous sand, with a small portion of black mould; prevailing trees—banksias, casuarinas, and grass tree; the low vegetation—small shrubs, chiefly in beautiful flower; birds—cockatoos and paroquets; wind N.W. with occasional showers.

September 10th.—At 6, struck the tents and breakfasted; appearance of the jolly boat; hearing Mr. Dale wished to join the party, I sent Mr. Gilbert in the Dingy to Perth for him, as I was fearful the party of soldiers would not be able to join before starting for the mountains; commenced our route up the Canning, which we found run in a much more westerly direction than laid down in the chart; the appearance of the soil on both sides of the river was sandy. At 10 a.m. arrived at the island, when we waited for the Dingy; landed on the left bank, and found it the same as where we rested for the night; at 10 o'clock, Dingy joined us, and proceeded up the river at a slow rate, in consequence of the stream running down very strong; landed some of our party on the left bank, and Mr. Dale on the right to walk, as the boats were too deep; about half an hour afterwards, Mr. Disney called out, Mr. Dale is amongst the natives; landed immediately and joined him; found five natives had come upon him suddenly, but were very friendly; gave a swan, some rings, knives, beads, &c., and received in exchange, spears and a stone hatchet, and parted very good friends; it being late and a strong rapid to pass, dropped down a few hundred yards, and pitched our tents on an elevated part of the right bank, of brownish loam, fit for any common agricultural purpose. During our passage up the river after getting above the islands, we landed twice on the right bank, and found good soil each time, but not any distance from the river. The birds, &c. &c., the same as yesterday; heard several shots fired down the river, supposing it to be the jolly boat with the soldiers; answered them until 11 o'clock, when they ceased; wind N.W. with showers.

September 11th.—Struck tents at 6; fired Several shots, which were answered from the jolly boat; fearing they would not be able to join us, from the rapid stream that was running down; sent Mr. Gilbert down in the Dingy with orders to Mr. Dawson to land the soldiers and return to Fremantle, and for him to bring up the provisions and baggage; sent a party with Mr. Dale to walk, and proceeded up the river with great difficulty in the whale boat; at 1 o'clock, landed about a quarter of a mile above the place where Captain Fremantle bivouaced, and made that our rendezvous. Pitched tents, and were soon joined by nine natives, five of whom we had seen the day before. At 2, Mr. Gilbert returned, having executed the orders I had given him; at 3, the party of soldiers arrived, which did not appear to surprise the natives, who were still with us; wind N.W. with very heavy rain; afternoon, occasional showers.

September 12th.—Weather very unsettled; having completed provisions for eight days for twelve men, at half past 8 left the encampment, accompanied by Messrs. Dale, Gilbert, Knight, and eight seamen, for the purpose of proceeding in an east course over the mountains; in an hour, arrived at the foot of them, the distance not being more than three miles; after walking a quarter of a mile over very good soil, we came upon a plain of sandy soil, mixed with a small portion of red and black mould, covered with the grass tree, which extended to the foot of the mountains. Crossed a small stream running to the southward, which we afterwards traced to the Canning; seeing a lateral valley, made for it and began ascending, leaving two conspicuous patches of whitish rock on the brow of the ridge to our right; kept along the run of water in this valley, both sides of which are covered with loose fragments of quartz and granite rock, having a little light soil between them, supporting small shrubs and the grass tree. At half past 11, rested in front of a beautiful small water fall, where the cedar and stringy bark, banksias, and blue gum-trees abound. Noon, resumed our journey; three quarters of an hour, arrived at the summit of the first range (which I estimate at 1000 feet high,) where the surface presents the same appearance as just mentioned, with a mixture of iron stone; the trees similar to those at the water fall. In proceeding, found the mountains to be continued ridges, with small intervening dales filled with marshes. At 3, halted for the night on the side of a swamp, where we found good water from a small stream running to the southward, which most likely is dry in summer; heard the shout of a native, who was seen by one of the party, and for the first time heard the yell of a native dog. The few birds seen this day were the cockatoos and paroquets; course E. ½ S. fifteen miles; wind N.W. with heavy showers.

September 13th—Resumed our journey, passing over precisely the description of country and productions as yesterday, after arriving at the summit of the first range; noon, halted for a quarter of an hour on the side of a small stream running to the N.N.W. and then pursued our route over continued ridges until half past 2, when we crossed a marsh with a small stream running to the southward, and rested for the night in a close wooded country, without any appearance of an opening. Men very tired; the surface was a mixture of siliceous sand and clay in the dales, having large fragments of granite rock and iron stone thickly scattered upon the ridges, in many places almost entirely bare of low vegetation; the same trees, generally of immense size, the largest hollowed out at the root by fires. Course E. ½ S. distance eighteen miles; wind N.N.W. with squalls.

September 14th.—Started at 8; occupied till a quarter past 9 in crossing a marsh; saw a kangaroo rat, which Mr. Gilbert having fired at, we heard the cry of several native women and children, occasioned most likely by the report; saw them flying in every direction from us, but did not attempt to follow them; saw the smoke from a fire they had just lighted; left some feathers, handkerchiefs, &c.; after proceeding about a quarter of a mile, saw a native boy about seven years of age running before us, whom we might have taken, but did not interfere with him; he, however, from fright dropped a spear, which I picked up and stuck in the ground; noon, ascended a very high ridge, and for the first time got a view of higher ridges, bearing from N. by E. to S.E. by E. distant about thirty miles; rested a quarter of an hour and then proceeded down a very deep dale, with a beautiful rivulet running over broken pieces of granite rock to the N.N.W.; continued our course up a very great ascent. Half past 1, passed a swamp with a small stream running southward; at half past 2, halted and climbed a high tree for the purpose of obtaining a view; saw an opening to the eastward, walked on to it with the gentlemen, leaving the men at the place for bivouacing, and came to a small opening destitute of large trees, where we had an extensive view of successive ridges from N. by E. to S.E. by S., the furthest distant about thirty or thirty-five miles, and appeared to be considerably higher than the part we had passed over; the place where I then was I considered to be 800 feet higher than the first ridge. Considering that such an extent of mountainous country as this view afforded, in addition to what we had actually traversed, without the least indication of soil that could be turned to any agricultural purpose, destroyed the hopes of finding any thing in this direction that could be turned to any useful purpose in the present state of the colony, I deemed it wholly unnecessary to advance any further; and I was confirmed in this resolution, by knowing that our provisions would not have lasted to allow us to go to the boundary of our present view and return. I was now the more anxious to retrace my route, as I expected his Excellency the Lieutenant Governor might wish us to proceed in a more promising direction. The country passed over this day was much the same as yesterday, with the exception of more herbage and trees more numerous, the less iron stone and more quartz. Course, E. 14 miles; wind N. W. with rain at intervals. Not having any water near us, commenced our march back to the stream we had crossed running to the northward; at forty-five minutes past 3, advanced to and crossed it; having returned west four miles and a half, found three native huts in which the officers slept, and built a bark hut for the men. Sunset, wind N.W. with heavy rain, which continued all night, completely drenching the men and spoiling a great quantity of bread and all the sugar; the officers' provisions were dry, but not themselves; heard several native dogs during the night.

September 15th.—Raining hard and the baggage wet, as I commenced our march homewards, keeping a little to the southward of our outward track, walking very quick until noon, when we rested for a quarter of an hour; crossed two small streams running to the southward; passed on the left side of a high ridge we had gone over the day before, and found a marsh about a mile and a half long running E. & W. with a small stream to the E.S.E. which appeared to turn more to the southward. Fifteen minutes past 3 bivouaced, the men in a bark hut and the officers in one similar to the natives, but built by themselves; course W. twenty-three miles; wind N.W. with heavy rain. The men were very much fatigued, almost all their shoes worn out and their clothes much torn.

September 16th.—At half past 8 resumed our journey, walked quick, saw several kangaroo rats, passed a small stream running to the W.N.W., which we afterwards found took its course through the Darling range; half past 11 saw an opening to the westward; noon, found it to be the western range; rested for half an hour for the purpose of obtaining bearings, but owing to the density of the atmosphere and heavy rain, it was impossible, although Mr. Gilbert thought he saw Garden Island, and in the direction pointed out bore W.S.W.; descended the mountain in a valley with a stream running down it, about a mile to the southward of where we ascended at 2; three of the natives we had met before joined us and took us a short route to the tents, where we arrived about 3 o'clock very wet, and the remainder of the provisions much damaged.

September 17th.—Rainy weather and blowing hard from the N.W.; men employed preparing to return on board and washing their clothes; a party crossed the river and found the good land to extend further from the water than on the side we were, and the soil rather superior. Mr. Knight saw one emu, and Mr. Gilbert saw two large kangaroos.

September 18th.—At 6, launched the boats; Mr. Dale and a party of twelve set off to walk to the islands; found the river from the late rains had risen upwards of two feet; twenty minutes past 6 started, and arrived at the islands by 10 oclock, where we waited for Mr. Dale until one, fearing they had lost their way by keeping too much to the northward; left Mr. Gilbert there in the Dingy and proceeded lower down in the whale boat; about an hour afterwards saw the Dingy coming, the party having arrived a quarter of an hour after I left, and continued to walk along the bank of the river; took them in at the mouth of the Canning, and proceeded to Perth, where we arrived at 6 o'clock and rested for the night.

September 19th.—Left Perth at forty-five minutes past 7 and arrived at Fremantle at 11 o'clock, where we found the Yawl; gave the men a quarter of an hour's rest and embarked; arrived on board at 3 o'clock.

Remarks.—On going up the river, found the water perfectly fresh: about half way between the distance we bivouaced and the islands, on coming down, passed over the flats without touching,, and Mr. Dale informed me that many parts of the banks were much flooded in the course of his walk from, the encampment to the mouth of the Canning. The iron stone, so abundant up the mountains, was found to possess distinct magnetic polarity.

(Signed)William Preston.

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