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1 correction by okysmates - Show corrections

THE KIMBERLEY COUNTRY. CAPE DOMETT. (By "Traveller.") Cape Domett. The name is not familiar to those who live outside the Kimberleys. Also, it might be at either of the Poles for the number of footprints that have been made by the white man upon its soil, for the greater part of the Kimberleys is still a wilderness. This is not surprising, con sidering the vastness of this territory, and the almost unconquerable evils which exist there. Moreover, the white people there are few in number, and have settled only in parts, and, after the manner of their kind, as closely together as circumstances will permit, probably because of the sense of comfort and protection unity affords. On the west side of Cambridge Gulf there is no settlement at all, and nearly as far west as Derby this country, thousands of square miles of it. is exclusively the do- main of the myall black. Of course, one may go and live there if so minded, there is nothing to prevent it, only indescribable loneliness, and the chance-may be remote. but still a chance-of being removed from further participation in the good things of life by a stealthy spear thrust. The reason- ing of the black man is conclusive, and makes esssntially for his own safety. He must kill-it is his nature to kill-so, if he can find a white victim always dangerous quarry, he chooses the darkest hour, just before the dawn, when slumber is deepest. Thus he may strike with greater certainty of success. Otherwise it becomes a matter of opportunity, when the hour may be dark or light. The native question and its bar to settlement and progress is one on which the Kimberleyite calculated may be to speak with conviction and considerable fluency. On the east side of the Gulf the same conditions prevail, except that settlement has extended some distance east and north of Wyndham, to beyond the Ord River, but it has gone under the thinning-out process until it has reached a fringe where civilisation, as civilisation goes in these parts, ceases, outside which only a few have had occasion to go. Of those who have gone and the wherefore of their going there is no neces sity to write. Cape Domett, 50 miles or more, as the crow flies, north of Wyndham, marks the northern limit of the wilderness, on the east ern side of the Gulf, .in which our cattle spearing relative may find safety. Later on, as white settlement advances northward, he must make towards the Territory, or take to a log and swim to the more extensive wil. derness on the western side of the Gulf. The, other alternative is for him to accustom himself to the ways of the white man and behave himself, a remarkably difficult thing for the Kimberley native to do. An Educative Trip. We southerners who had heard so much of this wilderness; of its hostile natives; of its intense, tropical heat; of its innumer able pests, which make life a torment, had an opportunity of learning for ourselves how much of it was true, and how much untrue, because it was into the wilderness we went, and came out of it wiser regarding how we would fare; in common with thousands of other southerners, in. populating this im- mense, unprotected country. Briefly, its settlement is one of the most difficult prob- lems the present or any succeeding Govern- ment of the Commonwealth or State could well face. Our first experience was one in contrasts. We left Fremantle in the cold snap of winter. Eight days later we landed at Cape Domett, under a sun that would drive the entire population of the capital city to Cottesloe Beach and iced lemonade. The party comprised 12, Captain Airey, Mr. Surveyor Sanderson, and 10 men. There were also 14 horse-hacks and packs-and two boats. The party divided into two branches worked inland and along the shores of the Gulf, keeping in touch with each other all the while, from Cape Domett to Wyndham. Three of the party were Kimberley men, and when they met us at Cape Domett, the stock inspector, who had come out from Wyndham with them, kindly recounted some anecdotes of the natives' doings in these parts which, whether we entertained contempt or respect for the coloured nui- sance, resulted in our losing a lot of sleep. Land Pirates For instance, there is a buck at large in this neighbourhood whose thieving propensi- ties are marked by a decided partiality for boats, and who, for this reason, has been dubbed by Kimberleyites. 'The Admiral." This gentleman and his tribe of course, are said to have feloniously purloined four boats fom right under the very noses of the townspeople-and the police-at Wyndham. In appearance he is reputed to be of tall and commanding presence, with-er-a re- markably intellectual cast of countenance. By way of a little spice, the information was added that- the Admiral's tribe, which runs loose on this side of the Gulf, is par- ticularly hostile. Very cheering; but, for tunately, some of us had been there before - in other words, had had experience of the proportions a menace to the public safety will assume when the mensce is new. Still, the story of the Admiral and his depreda- tions, coming on the authority of the stock inspector and given here faithfully to de- tail as hs gave it, was not ignored, and our sleep was lost in two-hour watches during the stillness of the night, and every night thenceforth. But neither the Admiral nor his lieutenante, nor his tars, made any effort to steal our boats or our stores, at least to our knowledge, though the, watches were kept conscientiously enough. The only rea- son we could assign for the Admiral's lack of enterprise in this connection was that, when we landed, he saw our equipment, which was a revelation. The work at Cape Domett occupied a

week, and while the writer knows nothing.       Impressions. Here Nature has fashioned the picturesque with greater effect than in many places else where, and has not ignored utility in the process. The coast of the Cape is a belt of rocks, beginning in cliffs on that side facing the gulf, and continuing in confused, prodigal piles along the north shore which faces the ocean. And this belt forms the hub of a row of reefs which radiate out wards into the sea--needle-pointed, razor and whale-backed reefs, menacing enough in appearance but constituting an excellent breakwater for the deep harbourage on the south side of the Cape. Between breaks in the rocks are short stretches of white beach. but these are wholly covered at high tide. From the shore the land slopes gently upward to a safe height above high water level, from whence it trends inland as flat as a plateau. Here one is greeted with the familiar Australian bush, with its deep-toned, sombre foliage, the brighter green of tropical vegetation here and there adding new effects. About a mile inland Cone Hill rears its rugged shape upward, and beyond. across some swamp, Shakes peare Hill, two lonely sentinels in a lonely land. On the southern extremity of the Cape, which is swept by an arm of the Gulf, commence the mangroves, which on this side of the, Gulf extend in unbroken succession for miles inland and right down to the Ord River, and thence, with only in- termittent projections of high land, on to Wyndham. From the mouth of the Gulf to where the mangroves begin there is ap- parently a channel of deep water. The taking of soundings in this channel necessi- tated lanes being cut through the man- groves in order that observations might be taken of the high land which they tho- roughly obscured. Ten lanes about 15ft. wide, and varying in length from two to five chains, were hewn right through to the water's edge. A Mangrove Inferno. It is possible that there are worse places in the world to work in than a mangrove swamp. but the writer doubts it. In its depths reigns eerie gloom, for overhead the foliage is dense. Underfoot a tangled mass of roots--and there may be a dozen to each tree-grows upward from a slimy ooze, forming an arched framework, from the apex of which springs the trunk like a cathedral spire. And over the ooze swarm legions of loathsome. crawling things. Everything here seems to be alive-intensely alive-and alert, and everything inanimate seems to have the power to walk and, what's more, does so when provoked. Shells which one may reach down to pick up sud denly protrude a set of legs and dart away to safety. Twigs become animate and slither into holes in the ooze. Small dry mounds of what appears to be mud, and offering an apparently secure foothold. evade being stamped into oblivion by sud- denly ambling away, distending claws which snap viciously That these things are not winged is something to be grateful for, for the things that fly are quite a distinct curse in themselves. Of these the gnat (or sandflv) comes first for belliger- ance. and if the writer's opinion is worth anything, for its size the gnat can inflict a sting beside which that of the most vindic- tive mosquito in the world is a positive laugh-provoking, tickle. And the unfortu- nate trespasser in a mangrove swamp learns very quickly, for the gnats fall upon him in a cloud, and as much of him as isn't   dressed immediately becomes a source of frantic and unalloyed irritation, to remain so for some days. And last, but not least, of the importunate creatures which infest these

swamps is the alligator, the habits of which are too well-known to need any comment; but before going further the writer would like to express his fervent gratitude that Nature has so constituted the alligator that it cannot fly, too. The difficulty of crossing one of these swamps may be gauged by the fact that one may travel five yards in as many min- utes. There are, of course, several methods of progression, but none can be said to be wholly successful One may try stepping across from arch to arch of each cluster of roots, but sometimes the effect of in experience in this method is startling-and violent. Later the luckless passenger will find that these roots are covered with a soft, puloy bark, which is infinitely superior to soap as a lubricant- Another method is to step over the roots-walk on terra in firma, in fact; the foot and half the lee will probably disappear in the ooze, but it is better than sitting in it. But all thse difficulties were nothing to that which at tended securing a foothold in order to swing an axe, and the tormenting swarms of winged pests made the job hideous; but at last it was done, and it took two days to complete. Oh. yes! ye may sniff, crack axemen of the south! But stand waist deep in mangrove mud as part of the con- tract, and then sell your reputation to an immigrant !   The Search for Fresh Water was prosecuted over the entire Cape with out success. The water we made shift on was that located by the Kimberleyites at a swamp about three miles from our camp, and this was only sufficent to keep us and the horses going for a week. Scattered over the Cape are a number of palms, which may indicate the presence of water below the surface, but as for permanent water on the surface, beyond that which we had and which stank evilly with decayed vegetation, there is not a drop. At Cape Domett there is a heavy dew fall, which does not seem to be so pronounced elsewhere in the Gulf. It saturates everything left out in the open. and made our tents tight as drum heads with shrinkage. It has the effect of giving the atmosphere a hint of chilliness towards the dawn, but otherwise the tem- perature was such--and it must not-be for- gotten that it was winter-as to render any more than barely decent covering, night or day, quite unnecessary. And the winged pests which throng the land! By day countless flies, by night countless gnats, to say nothing of other things which fly and crawl. At sundown we would cool off by bathing in the rock holes in the reef. but the operation of un- dressing. drying, and dressing was invariably a hurried one, accompanied by much dancing and wild gesticulation to keep the winged brutes away. Eventually the two parties separated to rejoin at Elephant Hill, the boats making their way to their destination along one of the salt arms of the Gulf, while the mounted party, in order to reach the same spot, had to make a circuit of the immense reaches of swamp mentioned--a journey of some days. To realise the Enormous Extent of this Swamp Country one needs to see it, to sail along the Gulf four hours and watch the endless mangroves slipping by, to go inland by one of the many salt arms and be walled in for miles   by banks of mangroves. Along one of these arms, narrow as a street, but deep, drifted the boats with the tide, helped occa- sionally by puffs of wind, and when Ele phant Hill was reached even its base was found to be fringed with mangrove. Later the writer climbed to the top of Elephant Hill in order to obtain an idea of the extent of this swamp. Looking towards the Gulf he saw flat desolation to beyond the range of vision, for it reached into the indefinite. Northward it reached to the hazy outlines of Cone and Shakespeare Hills; and to the east, further inland still, it continued for at least another ten miles to Knob Peak, which rose out of it in bold contrast. And all this is an incredible waste, a slime in which nothing will survive but the man- groves and things-that crawl and prey upon one another. But sometimes Nature hides her good intent in hideous guise, and if the blood-red juice of the mangrove bark can be profitably extracted in a part so remote as this and utilised. for tanning purposes, the enterprising individual, who may not mind being stung into madness would here find a fortune,to reward him for his martyr dom. But to the south, towards the cattle coun try. there is welcome change. Here lie the cypress pines and our beloved Australian gums, fed by springs which flow eternal, Here lie riches, in fertile soils and fat cattle, but over all is the blighting condi- tions which Nature has created here as lavishly as she has bestowed her gifts. (To be continued.)