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15 corrections, most recently by vondo - Show corrections

INTERIOR DISCOVERY,  

BY MAJOR MITCHELL.

Colonial Secretary's Office     Sydney, 17th September, 1835.  

His Excellency the Governor has been pleased to direct that thefollowing commu-   nication dated the 4th instant, from Major     Mitchell, Survevor-General of the Colony,

reporting the result of his exploring expe- dition into the interior of the Country, be published for general information.   By His Excellency's Command,           ALEXANDER M'LEAY.   Camp West of Harvey's Range,     4 September 1835                 SIR,             I have the honor to submit for the information of His Excellency the Governor, the following report of the progress of the party, and result of the expedition which His Excellency was pleased to place under my command , for the purpose of exploring the course of the River Darling.     Having joined this party at Buree on the 5th of April, I reconnoitred the country on the following   day, and on the 7th we proceeded, by a route not hitherto explored, to that part of the Darling spe- cified in my instructions. My plan was to proceed along the high ground between the Rivers Lachlan and Macquarie, and which extended further into the interior than had been explored. Thus I hoped to avoid the necessity for crossing any rivers, or incurring any risk of delay from floods, such as those which formerly at the same season of the year impeded the progress of the late Surveyor- General. Another object I had in view in choos- ing this route, was to extend my trigonometrical sur- vey as far as possible along these heights into the interior. By this line we reached the River Darling near the Junction of New Year's Creek in thirty-one days travelling from Buree; having found the     country so favourable that it was never necessary to unload a dray or cut a way through scrub, or to pass a night without water. On my right I had the waters of the Bogan, and on my left a connected chain of heights, whereof New Year's Range is the last.             But a grievous misfortune befel the expedition in     the loss of Mr. Cunningham, the Colonial Botanist, who wandered from the party near the head of the River Bogan on the 17th of April. After an anxious search continued for twelve days, during which the party halted, his horse was traced till found dead, having still the saddle on, and the bridle in its mouth. It appeared that Mr. Cun-

ningham after losing his horse, had directed his   own steps northward; we traced them into the Bogan, and westward along the bed of the river for twenty miles, and until they disappeared near a recent encampment of Natives. There a small portion of the skirt of his coat was found; also some fragments of a map which I had seen in his pos-   session. There were two distinct tribes of Natives on the Bogan, but from those with whom we had communication we could team nothing of his fate. I have ever since indulged a hope that he might have crossed to the Macquarie, and so returned to the settled districts, but hope has           not relieved me much from the most painful appre- hensious, considering the disposition of the Natives. Whether Mr. Cunnhighim really survives or not, his absence has made a melancholy blank in our party, and has certainly caused a serious loss to science.           We found the interior country parched by such excessive drought, that the swamp under Oxley's Table Land, mentioned by Captain Sturt, was com- pletely dry, and only a few ponds remained in the river Bogan (which is New Year's Creek of that traveller). Indeed, for three hundred miles below that creek, we drank no other water than that of the Darling. In this river there was a slight cur- rent, the quantity flowing in rapids being about as much as might be required to turn a mill. The water was in all parts as transparent as that of the purest spring well, and it entirely lost all brackish taste below an extreme point of Dunlop's Range, where a hill consisting of a very hard brescia closes   on the river so as to separate the plains above it from those lower down. The taste of the water was worst where the river is nearest to D'Urban's Group—above that, at the junction of New Year's Creek, and for seventeen miles from thence down- wards, it was excellent.             When the party first arrived on the Darling, I was induced, from the favourable appearance of the reaches, to try at what rate I might proceed on the river with the boats. It was necessary to rest and refresh the cattle after so long a journey, even had I possessed no other means of proceeding further. That part of the river bank which I fixed on for the depot is situated about twelve miles below the junction of New Year's Creek; the position was naturally good, overhanging the river, and commanding a good run for the cattle ; but I strengthened it as a place of defence against the Natives, by cutting down the few trees on it, and erecting a blockhouse large enough to contain all our stores and equipment.           On the 1st of June (the sixth day after our arrival). I proceeded down the river in the boats, with the greater portion of the party; and on the   following day we returned to the fort, having found too many shallow and rocky places in the river to admit of our making such progress as was necessary to enable us to accomplish the object of the ex- pedition.     Having next ascertained, by a reconnaisance I made as far as Dunlop's Range, with a party on horseback, that the water below was good, and the country not unfavourable to our further journey by land ; we evacuated the depot on the 8th of June (the cattle having then rested two weeks) and pro- ceeded along the left bank of the Darling.   As the cattle became weaker, the country, as we descended, became much more difficult for them to travel upon. It consisted chiefly of plains of   naked earth too soft to retain roots, yet just tena- cious enough to open in deep cracks, across which it was not always safe to ride. Impassable hollows (covered with polygonum juncium) at length skirted the river so extensively, that we could seldom encamp within a mile of it, and sometimes not within three. Still we could not have existed there without the river, which contained the only water, and had on its banks the only grass for our cattle ; consequently it was necessary to send a separate parly to remain with the cattle at the river, gene- rally, in the presence of Natives, and it required the utmost vigilance on the part of these men every night, to prevent cattle getting bogged in the soft mud of the banks.   I had proceeded thus about three, hundred miles down the Darling, when the weakness of the bul- locks, and the reduced state of our provisions, obliged me to consider the expediency of going forward, with a small party only, and at a faster rate, while the exhausted cattle might in the mean time be refreshing for the homeward journey. But before deciding on the separation of the party, in the presence of several powerful tribes of Natives, I halted it to rest the animals, while some prepara- tions were goiug forward for setting out. In two days I was convinced, from tha movements I ob- served amongst the native tribes, that in proceeding further at so great a risk of compromising the   safety of the stationary party, I should have acted   contrary to the 9th Article of His Excellency's instructions, and thereupon I abandoned the inten- tion.             Scarcely an hour had elapsed after I had commu-     nicated to the men my determination to return, when firing was heard from the forage party on the river. At that time a tribe of strangers, just arrived, lay before our camp. By amusing them and inter- cepting a messenger, we succeeded in preventing them from joining the river tribe; while more men and a supply of ammunition were sent to reinforce   our party on the river. These arrived just in time   to prevent the sacrifice of seven of our men. A chief, to whom I had given presents and shewn particular attention, had been the first to break the peace. The conduct of several of these tribes was   very extraordinary. To conciliate them was quite   hopeless, but not from any apprehensions on their part. On the contrary, the more we endeavoured to supply their real wants and shew good will towards them, the more they seemed to covet what was utterly useless to them, and the more they plotted our destruction. Some of their ceremonies were different from those of any other Aboriginal tribes nearer the Colony, such as waving the green bough, first setting it on fire, with furious gestures at us ; throwing dust at us with their toes, and spitting at our men. They behaved thus just after they had received presents, and while we endeavoured, by   sitting in the dust, to conform to their manners and customs. I had every reason to be satisfied with the conduct of my men in this affaiir. Of the three parties most offending, two were killed, and one (the chief) shot through the groin. The only injury done, on our side, was the blow of a waddy by that chief, who knocked a man down while carrying water, in order to take his kettle. We remained masters ever after of the left bank of the Darling, although a very savage tribe, 120 miles higher, crossed one day in a scrub, and imme-   diately set about burning the bushes and grass close to our tents, until we drove them across the river. I ought to mention that these were not strangers to us. On our way down we had taken much pains to conciliate them, yet they used the knives, as soon as they got them, to cut the cording of our tents, and stole or tried to steal whatever they saw.   The track of our drays had formed a road, which was much easier for the cattle in returning, so that by short marches, and occnsional rests, while I ex- plored the country on each side, we reached the former depot on the 10th of August, having lost only six of tha bullocks, these having either got fast in the mud of the river, or lain down exhausted and unable again to rise.           The interior country westward of the Darling is diversified with detached groups of hills, and low ranges broken into portions resembling islands, but the genernl aspect thereof afforded no indication of its having then any water on its surface. From two different hills, each about 12 miles west of the Darling, and distant from each other about 70 miles, I obtained extensive views across the country ; but from neither of these heights could I perceive any smoke, or oven any appearance of trees: the whole   country being covered with one kind of bush, form- ing a thick scrub, with intervals rather more open, but strewed with smaller bushes. During the four winter months just past, no clouds gathered to any particular point of that horizon ; no rain has fallen, neither has there been any dew ; and the winds from the west and north west, hot and parching, seemed to blow over a region in which no humidity re- mained.                   The Darling did not, in a course of three hundred miles, receive a single river or chain of ponds from either side. Such was the extent of the plains on its banks, and the depth and absorbent quality of the soil, that much of the waters of high floods appear to be retained therein, besides all the drainage from the back country. Thus the springs appear to be supplied, by which the river is sustained during the present season of drought. These absorbent plains extend to about five miles, on an average, from the river on each side; hills of soft red sand bound them, and recede about three miles further. Undu- lutions of diluvial gravel (of a very hard siliceous brescia) succeed, and skirt the base of the heights, which generally consist of primary sandstone.   The country eastward of the river rises gradually   backwards toward the hills, by which I advanced to the Darling. There the higher grounds are more connected, and send down chains of ponds, which

appear to be absorbed in the plains. The same kind of bush however, covers the first region of high back from the Darling on both sides; and the character of features, and direction of vallies, were not very apparent from heights near this river.   The general course of the Darling, as far as I had explored it (which was to the latitude of the head of Spencer's Gulf,) is somewhat to the west of south- west (variation 8° 27'. This would tend to the westward of the head of Gulf St. Vincent, if the   longitude of the Upper Darling were correct; but I   make the longitude of that river, on the parallel of   of 30 ° south, nearly a degree more to the eastward, and from that longitude, the general course tends much more nearly towards the supposed junction below, although considerably to the west of that     point as laid down on maps.   Having measured the whole of our route, and sur- veyed the country, as I proceeded, in continuation of my general survey of the Colony, I had thereby the means of ascertaining the longitude of points connected therewith. Thus I place,     New Year's Range (clear hill,)           in longitude. . . . . . . . . . . 146 ° 53' 00"E     The latitude (by several obser-           vations) being. . . . . . . . . . 30º 27' 45" S Oxley's Table Land (south side)             in longitude. . . . . . . . .. . .146º 16' 9" E Latitude .... ..... ........... 30 ° 11' 15" S   D'Urban's Group (high south               hill) longitude. . . . . . . . .145º 43' 30" E Latitude. . . . . . . . . . . . .30° 34' 40" S Fort Bourke in longitude... 145 ° 52' 12" E       Latitude .......................30° 7' 4" S     The last mentioned, being an important station,     accessible at all seasons by the line of the Bogan, and available for carrying the survey into the more remote country, I have taken the liberty to distin- guish withthe name of His Excellency the Governor, under whose orders the survey of the Colony has   been connected with the geography of the interior. From Fort Bourke I continued the survey of the     Darling, by actual measurement, corrected by inter- secting distant points, and also by observations of   latitude, to the termination of my journey in latitude 32° 24' 20" S., and I make the longitude of that point, as deduced from this survey, 142º '24' 26"E. Having ascertained the most westerly of tbe two creeks crossed by Captain Sturt on his journey be- yond the Macquarie to the Bogan; and being desirous to discover the origin of the other named Duck Creek, I sent Mr. Larmer last week to survey it. Mr. Larmer returned yesterday from the Mac- quarie, having traced Duck Creek upwards to a large lagoon on the margin of that river, from which other lagoons and channels also led into this creek. Mr. Larmer found in Duck Creek extensive reaches of excellent water, but the bed of the Macquarie was dry where he made it. Thus it appears that as the     dip of the whole Country is to the westward, the surplus waters of the Macquarie are conveyed to the Darling by Duck Creek, a separate channel altoge- ther to the westward of the marshes. I have much satisfaction in stating that no men could have been animated with a better spirit than those of this party have been for the accomplishment of the object of this expedition. Our long journey proceeded with equal regularity and security. No   cattle were allowed to stray and retard it, and both these and the camp have been vigilantly guarded and watched every night. The patient forbearance and good will of the men towards the aboriginal natives deserves my highest praise, and certainly not less their courage when circumstances called it forth. This was most conspicuous when exposed almost   singly to the savage natives, as they often were from necessity when watching the cattle on the Darling. I have to add that our provisions are scarcely sufficient to supply the party until it reaches Buree;     also that one man is dangerously ill, and another unable to walk, from scurvy.                   I trust my humble testimony of the services these men have rendered under perilous circumstances, in expiation of the errors of the past, and with the best hopes and intentions respecting the future, will be favourably received by His Excellency the Governor. I have the honor to be, Sir,         Your most obedient Servant,                 T. L. MllCHELL, Surveyor General.             To the Honorable the Colonial Secretary.      

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