Narrative of a Voyage Round the World (Wilson)/Chapter 18


Proceed on our Journey—Discover a large Inlet into which several Rivers empty themselves—Arrive at the Settlement—Captain Barker's Narrative—General Remarks on our Journey—A Native Dance—Curious Prescription of a Native Doctor.

On Thursday morning, we left, with some regret, this delightful glen; and, walking round the southern base of Mount Lindesay, we were not long in meeting with another rivulet, winding round its eastern side, and, joining that at which we had halted last night;—the united streams being about thirty feet wide, and five deep, running directly south.

This reach, however, only extends a few hundred yards, when it expands, and runs rapidly over a bed of granite. Those who wished it, enjoyed here the refreshing luxury of a cold bath; and Mokărē was advised to endeavour to learn to swim, but, having no ambition to attain this accomplishment, he kept at a prudent distance, lest he might, through frolic, be tumbled in.

The banks, as far as we examined, are rich, but, (as may be readily imagined, from the precipitous nature of the country,) very narrow; the surrounding hills, however, are of good soil, and might easily be turned to some account. The trees, principally blue gum, are the finest I have ever seen.

Leaving this river, which was named the Denmark (in compliment to a physician of the British fleet,) we proceeded south-east, crossing, in our way, several streams of pure water, which might, according to Australian phraseology, be called rivers.

This day's journey was, from the abrupt nature of the country, very fatiguing. The land on the hills was sometimes good, sometimes indifferent, but more frequently very barren. That of the valleys was, in general, of a fair quality. In the evening, we encamped near a stream, running through a valley—as all the others did—to the southward.

On Friday, at daybreak, we started; and Mokărē, having got on known ground, now led the way. After having travelled four hours, at a pretty brisk pace, we arrived at a river, upwards of fifty yards wide, and apparently deep, flowing slowly to the southward. We walked along its right bank, and, in a short time, reaching its mouth, we observed that it poured its waters into the inlet seen from Mount Lindesay, Unfortunately, a bar of sand runs across it,—there were not more than eighteen inches or two feet water, where we passed over: immediately inside, there is from three to seven feet water, and, at a little distance up, the river becomes deeper. I considered this the termination of the mountain stream, where we encamped after the third day's journey. It was named the Hay, in compliment to the under Secretary of State for the Colonies.

We then walked along the shore, for about a mile and a half, when we arrived at another river emptying its waters also into the inlet: there is also a bar across its mouth, which was, at present, nearly dry. Inside the bar, it is about five feet deep, and ten yards wide. I considered this the termination of the stream, which we crossed on the afternoon of the second day, where the land began to improve. It was named the Sleeman, in compliment to the late Commandant of King Greorge's Sound.

We halted here, to take some refreshment, and a little rest; and while the repast was preparing, Mr. Kent and I walked out some distance in the shallow water, to take a few bearings. Mount Lindesay bore N.W. by N. The high conical hill (seen from Mount Lindesay, bearing S. by W.), whose base was apparently washed by the inlet, at about fifteen miles distance, bore west.

This beings the most conspicuous land to the west of Cape Howe, and close to the sea, it was named Mount Hallowell, in compliment to the gallant admiral of that name, under whose flag I served, and from whom I received my first promotion in the service, at the instance of my friend Dr. Denmark.

High land to seaward (between which and Mount Hallowell I supposed the communication with the sea to exist) bore W. by S. ¾ S. The inlet is nearly circular; the water to the north and east is shallow, but deep along its southern boundary; on the west, there is an opening, through which Mount Hallowell is seen in the distance, whose base is apparently washed by the waters, and I have no doubt also by the sea, whose mighty voice was distinctly heard by all of us.

It was imagined that the inlet again expands, receiving the waters of the Denmark, which we knew must be emptied to the eastward of Mount Hallowell. This inlet is of considerable size, being about six miles in diameter, and would, like Melville Water, make an excellent harbour, if it had an entrance[1]. I was on my way to decide the question; but reflecting that the utmost limit of time allowed me was expired, and that our provisions were expended, I was induced, although reluctantly, to give up the attempt.

That there is a communication of some kind with the sea, there can be no doubt, as the tide ebbed considerably during the time we remained. The sand which forms the bar at the mouth of the river, and which also extends along the shore, does not exceed six or eight inches in depth, and rests on a bed of fine clay.

We resumed our journey about two P. M., proceeding east, through a country slightly undulating, for two or three miles, when we arrived at an extensive plain, bounded on the N. and S. by well wooded hills, occasionally watered by small streams, and intersected by narrow strips of finely timbered forest land.

In the evening we encamped near a swamp, rather earlier than we should have done, in consequence of several of the party being much weakened from the violent operations of the brackish water; but this might be considered rather fortunate than otherwise, as it would tend to obviate the bad effects of repletion; this explanation, however, was not at all consolatory to the sufferers, whose appetites had now become more keen, from the knowledge that there was nothing left to appease the cravings of hunger, which were becoming very urgent. But, our journey being so near an end, there was no murmuring.

On Saturday, at break of day, we resumed our march; both men and dogs keeping a sharp look out for kangaroos. About seven o'clock, arriving at an inlet of some extent, we bent our course to the south, and soon came to the beach, when we observed that West Cape Howe, bore S.S.W. The mouth of the inlet was completely obstructed by a barrier of sand, over which we passed, several feet above the level of the sea and inlet.

Having taken several bearings of Cape Howe, Eclipse, and other Islands, and observed that the bay was Studded with reefs, we proceeded, for some distance, along the hoarse-resounding shore, and then crossed over the coast range of sand hills, which, in geological structure, resembles the coast about Swan River. This inlet was perceived to be of considerable size, and communicated, by a serpentine channel, with the lagoon well known to the sportsmen of the settlement.

Having arrived within a few miles of home, we halted, for the purpose of shaving, and making ourselves as tidy as our means would admit, before we entered the camp. This being done, we continued our nearly finished journey at a pretty brisk pace, about noon we reached the S.W. side of Princess Royal Harbour, and walked along its sandy shore; where we observed the recent foot-marks of several natives, by which Mokărē was enabled to tell their names.

Having kept a little brandy in case of need, I distributed it, when within about half a mile of the camp; and, although the quantity was small, yet, from the want of food, it raised the spirits of the party wonderfully; and we entered the settlement, in good order and high glee, about one o'clock P.M. after having walked nearly two hundred miles, over a country previously unknown, without having experienced any privation worthy of notice.

The natives crowded round Mokărē, eager to hear the news from a far country; and the soldiers besieged Gough for the same purpose, but he wisely declined giving them the least information until they brought him something to eat; while Mr. Kent and myself did justice to Dr. Davis's proffered hospitality. Captain Barker and Lieutenant Sleeman were on board the Governor Phillips, hastening the arrangements for her departure, when we arrived. A flag, however, being hoisted from the camp, soon brought Captain Barker on shore.

Our arrival caused much gladness, as, from our long absence, fears were entertained, that we must either have been destroyed by the natives, or that we had lost our way. A great quantity of wood had been carried to the top of Mount Melville, which was to have been kindled this evening, to direct us, if haply we might be wandering about in search of home.

Captain Barker was the only individual who was free from alarm; but had we not returned this evening, he would also have begun to suspect that some accident had befellen us. He was much gratified by the account of our expedition, and determined to proceed, as soon as his avocations would permit, to examine the inlet, and also the interior water seen from Mount Lindesay, far to the westward, where it is likely there may exist a convenient harbour, with a good entrance.

I may here stop the thread of my own narrative, to introduce Captain Barker's descriptive account of his excursion over this tract of country, contained in a letter which I received from him shortly after my arrival in England.

Anxious as I was when you left us, to set at rest the question of the Western Harbour, various circumstances prevented my setting out to examine it, till the 3rd inst., when I proceeded with your old party, Mr. Kent being very desirous of seeing out his adventure in that quarter. I had long since, however, learnt from Mokărē that the entrance to the inlet would only admit of boats, and the event is another confirmation of the general accuracy of the natives. I can only give you a hasty outline of our journey, as I found a government vessel here on my return, and have besides, been occupied by some tedious magisterial business.

On the 3d of February, we started at six A. M., and avoiding your sand hills, by keeping to the right of the lagoons, stopped to breakfast at the end of eight or nine miles, on the banks of a river five yards broad, and nearly as many feet deep, which Mokărē said divided above into three small streams, and came from no great distance. Five miles farther, he pointed over some wooded hills on our left, to where you had slept the night before your return, soon after which we got on a plain, where for about a mile the soil (a reddish and black loam with clay underneath,) might perhaps be made something of; but except here, it was indifferent throughout the day; the rising grounds wooded and strewn with iron stone, the hollows and flats open and sandy. Mokărē being unwell, and lagging much behind, we halted for the night, after going W.N.W. seventeen or eighteen miles, at a swamp, where the water was very good.

On the 4th at five A. M. we proceeded, crossing several dry beds of streams, and a chain of ponds, and afterwards bringing up our right shoulders, fell in with the Sleeman, where it was fifty yards wide and apparently deep. Following its course towards the inlet, we came to a part only seven yards wide and eighteen inches deep, where we crossed; but some water that you had stopped at on leaving the inlet, on the 11th December, being strongly recommended, we returned to the left bank, and another mile bringing us to it, we sat down to take our dejeuné, and while preparing, I sought an open view, and found Moun. Hallowell to bear W. ½ S., Mount Lindesay N. W. ¼ N. A short walk brought us to the inlet, and I went out, with Mr. Kent, to, as nearly as he could recollect, the spot where you had taken your bearings, being about 600 hundred yards from the mouth of the Sleeman, now a dry sand. I found Mount Lindesay, (the highest part) N. 39° ½ W. Mount Hallowell W. 5° S., agreeing as nearly as could be expected with your owm. I took various other bearings, both here and at other places, but have not time to arrange them. Meanwhile the rest of the party moved on to the Hay, to shoot ducks, but were unsuccessful. Beyond the Hay, we found some very fine blue gum, though the soil was not apparently rich. There was sometimes, however, a narrow strip near the inlet, of thick grass. The bay expands considerably, as you imagined, on the north shore, but not on the south. We followed its different windings, from the difficulty of getting over the points of land, where was often an almost impenetrable underwood, and about ten miles of not a very straight course brought us from the Hay to the mouth of the Denmark, about forty yards wide, deep, with a muddy bottom, and little or no stream. We were obliged to make a considerable détour into the inlet to avoid deep water, and passed where it did not exceed thirty inches. Those who preceded fell in with two native women, one of them perfectly naked, each carrying a child in a bag of kangaroo skin, and leading another. They were a little startled till they saw Mokărē, with whom they stopped to chat a few minutes, but would not wait for me. I was then a little up the river, swimming about for three ducks that had been shot. We proceeded two or three miles farther, quitting the inlet, and halted for the night at a water hole in the bed of a small mountain stream. Mount Hallowell bearing W. 34° S. distant two miles and a half.

February 5th.—Wound round the N.E. of Mount Warrumbup, over stony and rocky ground, but with fine blue gum occasionally, and again approaching the inlet, stopped to breakfast at a small running stream washing the foot of Mount Hallowell. Here two natives joined us, and I left them with half our party to spear wallabi and shoot ducks, while I went with Mr. Kent and Mokărē to the mouth of the inlet, wading through some luxuriant grass, in a rich soil part of the way, but it was of no great extent. We passed a few small streamlets, but with little water in them, the dry weather since you were here, having made a great change. The inlet, as you approach its mouth, for a mile or two becomes shallow all the way across. The communication between it and the sea is through a break in the coast line of hills (which appeared a calcareous sandstone, like those near us), of nearly 700 yards; but it is only at very high tides that the water covers this. It was now (at noon on the 5th) a flat dry sand, with a small channel near the centre the narrowest part of which was only thirty yards wide. About ten yards of this was out of my depth, but I came back more within the inlet, where it had widened to a hundred yards, and found no part deeper than four feet. The sand was yielding, and it is probable that in the rainy season, when there must be a considerable discharge of water, it may force itself a broader and deeper channel. The surf outside, at a short distance from where I passed, was very heavy, and I think no boat would be able to come in, except in very fine weather, and with the wind off the land. I do not say but that a navigable passage might be made; but where is the equivalent for the expense, for a hundred years to come? A small stream of delicious water rises near the cliff, forming the west point of entrance, and, running a few hundred yards, falls into the inlet. From this cliff. Mount Hallowell bore N. 43° ½ W., the nearest opposite shore about N.E. ¾ E., and the east point of the bay to seaward E. 29° S. I have not leisure to calculate my distance, but consider it about thirty-two English miles from the settlement in a direct line. Our native friends had not come back from their wallabi hunting, on our return to the party, but one (Cumwhite) made his appearance just as we were finishing our dinner. He led us some distance towards the Denmark by a better and shorter route than we had come, and then wishing us good-night, returned to his family. We slept about a mile east of the Denmark, Mokărē being puzzled to find the watering place, though any spot might have done, for the rain was coming down in torrents.

"February 6th.—Before we moved this morning, having been delayed till past seven in baking dampers, as we had no biscuit, Cumwhite, and four other natives, joined us; two of whom accompanied us towards Mount Lindesay. After walking an hour and a quarter, Mr. Kent's dog started and killed a kangaroo (about 100lbs), to the delight of all, and not least of our two new friends; one of whom leading the way, and striking to the west, after the pleasing burthen had been hoisted on Gough's shoulders, we soon came to a deep narrow glen, at the bottom of which was a small stream running south, where we breakfasted, and cut up our game; and I never shall forget the capacious appetites of Cumwhite and Talpar, who certainly did their part towards the fulfilment of the custom of the natives, to eat up the kangaroo where it is killed. We put up for night at a small stream on the eastern foot of Mount Lindesay, which Talpar, Mr. Kent, and myself, ascended; Mokărē having eaten too much kangaroo to be able to move, he, therefore, very shrewdly told me, the other knew the way better. The view was indeed magnificent, but I was unable to enjoy it as you did, in consequence of a haze coming on, and which also prevented my taking many bearings. The few I got correctly agreed with yours, except the distant interior water, which T made W.S.W. ½ S. nearly. You call it S.W. ½ S., having, probably, left out the first W. Mr. Kent had it W. by S. ½ S. After our descent, I had a long talk with Mokărē, and the two others, about this said water, which I considered about thirty miles off. They called it two days' journey, and, you will be pleased to hear, persisted in saying it would admit of large vessels. I could not, however, get at their means of judging, and have, therefore, my doubts till I see the place; for you know they are unable to swim, and have no boats, so that they would probably make no distinction in the depth of any water that was permanently over their head. Our provisions would not permit our going so far comfortably, and I had no mind to try the mettle of my party, as you were obliged to do; but I shall not lose sight of the place. They describe the land as very barren.

"February 7th.—I ascended part of the mountain this morning, with the intention of going again to the top of it, had it been clear; but, after waiting some time, I found it would be useless, and rejoined the party, when we set out on our return. The direct way to the settlement was very bad, we were told, and therefore edged off to the southward a little, till after we had passed near the spot where you had slept on the tenth, when we kept more northerly than you. The land, with a trifling exception, was very bad; the walking over the iron-stone hills not the best, but, by all accounts, a turnpike road compared to some that you had travelled. The natives left us after dinner, with a promise to visit the settlement in their month, or season, called Pruhner (about April). We encamped for the night on the Hay. The bed of it here was considerable, and there were marks of the water rising six or eight feet above its present level. The banks were eighteen feet high. The general depth of water was from one to four feet, and, at first, I thought it stagnant. In my rambles, however, I found a part where there was a run; but you will hardly credit me, when I tell you its size. It was actually less than I could span: it was from one to two inches deep only, and had a fall of about six inches. This was the whole breadth of the water: the bed of the river, in this spot, being a large ironstone rock, over which I walked.

"February 8th.—Crossed several dry beds, over an indifferent country, and two branches of the Sleeman, one dry, the other inconsiderable. We eventually got into our old track near the plain, where the soil was tolerable, the first day. We afterwards turned to the left a little, and slept on one of the small branches of our first day's river.—Reached home in the afternoon, having given the party a great part of the day, to enable them to carry some game into the settlement; but they met with no success.

"The land, during the whole of my excursion, was generally bad; but it could hardly be expected otherwise in the route I took. I hear continued good accounts of that in the interior, but it is now in want of water; and I find that is usually the case two or three months in the year; wells, however, might be dug. Mokărē gives me the names of tribes he has heard of to a great distance northward, and says he understands their country to be very fine, but they have no rivers. All their water is procured from lakes or wells."

I now resume my narrative, with a few general remarks on our journey.—1st, Had we followed the advice of the native, and proceeded in the direction he wished us, I have no doubt we should have been enabled to give a much more favourable account of the fertility of the soil; as, from his report, and the observation of Mr. Baxter, joined to the knowledge acquired by ourselves, I believe that a great extent of good land exists to the north of the Morrillup range; but, be that as it may, I do not hesitate to affirm, that the area we walked over contained as much land, fit for every purpose of rural economy, as any portion, of equal extent, in New South Wales.

In travelling onward, it was a rule for each individual to carry a day's water, lest we might not meet with any, when we halted for the night; which, however, we never had occasion to use, from necessity, excepting once. Indeed, those who wished, enjoyed the luxury of a cold bath, at least once a day (one day excepted): it may, therefore, be evident, that the country is well watered; but it is not to be denied, that, by a long continuance of drought, many of the streamlets and shallow lagoons might become dried up. From the situation, however, of the country, it is not likely that droughts are so frequent here, as in the neighbourhood of Port Jackson.

The country is also well supplied with several kinds of useful timber;—the honeysuckle, swamp oak, blue gum, apple tree, turpentine, box, &c. flourished luxuriantly, each in its congenial soil. It may be further observed, that the western mountains are not, as it was imagined, continuous, there being a considerable extent of level land between them and the Porrongorup range; whereby easy communication may be held with Swan River.

These mountains are similar, in structure, to the Darling range. They are chiefly composed of a coarse grained granite; the summits of several which we passed over, were crowned with immense blocks of this material. The Morrilup and Porrongorup mountains are, I understand, also of granite. During our excursions, we observed many beautiful plants; and, imagining they were yet undescribed, I selected a few with the intention of presenting them to Mr. Allan Cunningham, on my arrival in Sydney[2].

A considerable concourse of natives had assembled in the camp, having come to present an address to Lieutenant Sleeman, on his departure, and to congratulate Captain Barker, on his assuming the reins of government. A ball and supper had been promised them, which, through the politeness of Lieutenant Sleeman, had been deferred until our return, to give us an opportunity of seeing their manners, and of ascertaining whether they danced as well as the natives on the north coast.

As soon as it became dark, a large fire was kindled in the centre of the camp, and the ball commenced, and was kept up with great spirit; the performers, evidently using their best endeavours to inspire us with a favourable idea of their dexterity, were much gratified by our repeated plaudits, which incited them to still further exertions.

There was not that elegance of gesture which we witnessed among the Aborigines of Baffles Bay; but there was more meaning in the dance, although we could not make it out. They began by marching slowly in a circle round the fire, gradually accelerating their pace; and then in turns, they placed their spears at the feet of one of their party who stood outside the ring viewing, but without taking any part in, the ceremony; then they danced with might and main, until nearly exhausted, when they retired to supper, quite elated that their amusement had apparently given us satisfaction[3]. Mokărē did not take any active part in the dancing; both, it may be supposed, from his being very tired, and from his affecting to be one of us.

Shortly after the conclusion of the ball, Mokărē brought his relation, a native doctor, to prescribe for me; he was a man of mild and grave aspect, who was evidently highly esteemed by, and possessed much influence over, the other natives. I thanked him for his kindness, and submitted my ankle, now much swelled and exceedingly painful, to his examination. He immediately began to press it with his fingers, blowing on it at the same time; I bore this painful operation as long as I could, and then told Dr. Eurul (so he was called), that I thought he had done me much benefit, and that there was no occasion for his giving himself any further trouble; but he gave it another squeeze or two, and then went to the door, and blew over his fingers, and also over his kangaroo skin,—thus, as I was told, first taking the disease from me to himself, and then blowing it away; he was pleased that he had been of service to me, and seemed to understand medical etiquette too well, to receive any remuneration from a member of the profession.

This was certainly a new mode of treating a severe sprain; but I understand it is their panacea for every disease. However, as may be readily conjectured, the remedy rather aggravated my complaint, which was now treated secundum artem by Dr. Davis, from whose assistance, I derived more benefit than I did, or was likely to do, from the Aboriginal Æsculapius.

  1. Sir James Stirling, the Governor of Western Australia, has done the Author the honour to name this "Wilson's Inlet."
  2. Several of the plants collected here, and at Swan River, which at that period were unknown, have since been described; viz. Anigozanthos Manglesii of Don, Conospermum triplinerivum of Brown, Rhodanthe Manglesii of lindley; amongst the collection was a very distinct species of Grevillea, hitherto unpublished, which is thus characterized by Mr. Cunningham, who has named it, in compliment to the discoverer,

    Grevillea Wilsoni. C. mss. Foliis bipinnatis: laciniis linearibus subulatis mucronatis pungentibus divaricatis, marginibus revolutis super subsericeis, pube rarâ appressâ, racemis terminalibus altemis erectis, perianthiis extùs glaberrimis, intùs basi barbatis, pilis cinereis brevibus strictis, bracteis lanceolatis attenuatis deciduis, ovario villosissimo, stylo infra medium hirsuto, stigmate dilatato obliquo convexiusculo.

    In its native woods, this new Grevillea forms an elegant upright shrub, two to three feet high, with showy purple flowers, each half an inch in length, having a pistillum extending as much more beyond it.

  3. On seeing one of the soldiers' wives among the spectators, a native made an apology, that he had not his kangaroo skin, and wished to retire: this was a mark of delicacy, that made us blush at the want of it in our women, who had learned not to he squeamish at such sights.