JOURNAL OF A NATURALIST.
December 21.—The country still continues to be Billybongs and swamps alternately. These Billy- bongs are a series of long necks of elevated land stretching from the mallee scrubs, of which they are in fact a continuation to the river where they assume the character of steep cliffs of a bright red or yellow colour, with veins of pipe clay.
You have no sooner descended one of these Billy- bongs than you have to ascend another, which from the bright red colour of the soil and their
elevation above the general level of the inter- vening large swampy polygonum flats, are per- ceptible a considerable distance ahead. To reach which you have a "Jem Crow's" dance round sundry boggy lagoons. After passing these and
you congratulate yourself on being upon the eve of ascending the next ridge, you have the morti- fication to find that you have a secret and more powerful enemy to contend with, in the shape of a low, deep, narrow, and sinuous water course, which has been imperceptibly overlapping the aforesaid waterholes, and hugging the next Billy- bong to its very base. In this case your only alternative is to follow this deceptive snake-like water course to its head, and as it is not percep- tible at any great distance you have not even the advantage of cutting off the bends.
This will eventually lead you to another part of the ridge which you have been endeavouring to make, but at no great distance from the one
which you had before left.
This may be taken as the style of travelling since leaving Swan Hill.
During the course of our day's stage we
passed over a billybong more than usually puffy, on which I had the pleasure of greeting the ap-
pearance of many of my old northern favourites. These plants I had seen before on the same puffy character of country while following poor Ken- nedy and Sir T. Mitchell's track on the Maranoa near his (Sir T. M.'s) camp No. 80.
They were a very interesting and completely new Leguminous plant, with large rose-like leaves much serrated at the edges, and long apicate blossoms, of a reddish pink colour. The leaves are furnished with innumerable pustules, of a strong volatile oil, which on being rubbed bursts and emits a strong aromatic smell. There was also another plant belonging to the same natural family as the last, but the leaves are long and pinnate, and the blossoms a deep blue—it is pro- bably a Swainsonia—as also an Ipomea, pink blossoms. In passing near one of the swamps or flats we find another Tribulus. Towards evening we saw a fine bend in the river, which was well and richly grassed, a most unusual occurrence, as
I do not believe that the horses had found any- thing interesting in the shape of grasses since leaving the Loddon River. Just before reaching the camp we again saw blackfellows, who as
usual took to their mungoes or canoes immediately on seeing us. Get at this camp both fish and duck. Mr L—— caught a very fine fish like the bream, which, however, Jemmy would not touch, his reason for not doing so I ascertained afterwards, and was of course founded on one of his very ridiculously superstitious customs.
December 22—This was, perhaps, one of the most difficult day's stages we had yet experienced, as instead of the low lagoons, back waters, and ana branches, to which we had been so long ac- customed, we found we had to encounter creeks which had a regular and rapid current, running at right angles, or nearly so, with the river. At the principal one, however, we fortunately found a number of black fellows finishing the erection of a bridge, who came up to us without the least reserve. I was delighted at this, as by their means, I hoped I should at length have an oppor- tunity of seeing the bark, or rather the tree pro- ducing it, of which I had been so long in search.
These blacks advised us to stop until they had placed on the bridge a few more sheets of bark to make it safe, and also informed us that we were not far from a sheep station, and that they had been employed by the whites to erect the bridge, to enable them to cross some sheep. Shortly after crossing this bridge, we have the pleasure of meeting Mr. Crawford, who invites us to tea and damper at his hut, after which we rode together to his Head Station. The country here recedes from the river as much as twenty miles, where there is a chain of eighteen, and some say twenty lakes. These lakes are supplied from the river by means of the creeks which we had crossed.
After leaving the hut, we cross three more creeks, and travel over much bad, puffy, sandy, country, until reaching the station, where it im- proves—there being more gum trees, and the soil, the station being situated among a number of wide water-courses or creeks, is firmer, and tolerably
On reaching the station, we saw a number of blacks, both male and female, but were unable to make them understand anything respecting the
December 23.—This day spelled here, and after breakfast took a walk round the run, accompanied by Mr. Crawford, who appeared to take great in- terest in the study of Botany. We took with us an old black fellow, to carry us across the creeks. In the course of our wandering, we came upon an aboriginal place of sepulchre. This place for some distance was strewed with bones belonging to the human frame ; among them was a nearly perfect skull of an infant. On taking up and handling this, the black fellow ap- peared to be much disgusted, going to some dis- tance and repeating—"No good, no good— baal that boodgery." As I have always, at least to
them apparently, respected the prejudices of these people, I dropped the skull much to his satisfaction. This place is at no great distance from Mount Dispersion, where Sir Thomas Mitchell is said to
have had an encounter with the natives.
The black fellow pointed in the direction of the above mountain, saying, "Midgell, Midgell." Is it possible that he may have seen, and meant Major Mitchell by these words ?
December 24—Spend another day at Mr Craw- ford's. In looking through a small patch of Mangrove scrub near the house, I saw a very interesting Clematis climbing to the very tops of the highest trees, as also a tall deep blue flower- ing Euphrazia (eyebright), an annual. In the evening a Mr. Drummond called, who was on his way to Melbourne, and I availed myself of so good an opportunity for sending down a letter, and the specimen of Sarsaparilla bark.
December 25—Christmas day. About a mile after leaving the station, have to swim our horses again through a very wide and muddy reedy water course, which communicates with the river and lakes. We are assisted, however, by a black fellow, who goes with us from the station, for the purpose of carrying our saddle bags across the water. Travel over mallee scrub and puffy soil, until making the river at the bend where we camp. No grass. This night we had a hot wind, and the mosquitoes were numerous, which prevented us getting any sleep the whole night. Had a johnny-cake in honour of the day in which was put a few plums and currants, which had been given to us for that purpose by Mr Byerly.
Dec. 26—I regret to record that this morning it was the fate of Mr L—— and myself to experi- ence the force of the old adage —"The best of friends must part." We both take different ways—he returned to Mr Crawford's with the in- tention to remain, and I have to follow out my journey down the Murray, and from thence to Adelaide. I deeply regret that circumstances should have rendered this separation necessary, and take this opportunity of tendering to Mr L—— my warmest thanks for his uniformly good-humoured and gentlemanly conduct during the time he remained with me, and trust he may be as happy as his own merits entitle him
About 9 A. M., make a start with my only re- maining companion, and tried friend, Jemmy. Shortly after leaving, came upon another of these beautiful lagoons, which threw us at least three miles out of our course, as well as drawing us into the mallee scrub. After travelling about ten miles through the scrub, we again sighted the river, and saw many blacks, with, for the first time, an equal number of gins. These fellows with their women took to their canoes and crossed the river to the side we were on. They appeared to be familiar with our names, and asked what had become of the other whitefellow, meaning Mr. L——. It seems that the old man who had been out with Mr. Crawford and myself, had been down in his canoe to give them intelligence of our being at Mr C.'s. I had given two or three of the black fellows while there, pocket knives, which perhaps made them feel a greater interest in our move- ments. Before camping in the evening we had to swim another creek, Number 8 going first, who made the other side of the creek at a part where it was very boggy, where he got fixed in the mud, and I thought I should have lost him ; fortunately for me I had scarcely reached the bank, and was consequently enabled to land at a better part where the bank was firm. The blacks here call the river Milleura, which word has a striking re-
semblance to the name they have for that part near Mr. Beveridge's which, as I have before ob- served, they call Millewater, and the mallee scrub here they call koortong. We camp on the other side of the creek which we had so much trouble in crossing, where there was good young feed, both sedges and rushes. At camping, Jemmy shoots
two ducks. The mosquitos being troublesome, he collects a quantity of cow dung, the smoke of which these insects will not face, nor is the smell of the smoke at all unpleasant.
December 27—In two miles after leaving this camp we have another wide, deep, and fast run-
ning water course to swim at a place where the natives had erected a kind of dam for catching fish. Fortunately as we reached this place, and were on the point of entering the stream some black fellow cooed, and on coming up to us offered to carry our saddle bags. This was a great relief to us as it is always dangerous swim- ming these rivers or streams while encumbered with these bags, and I, of course, was doubly anxious as mine contained my dried collections, which unless kept dry would have been ruined. This was the same water course we had crossed the evening before, and proved to be an ana- branch of the Murray. At about four P.M. we
reached Mr. Jamieson's station, which is situated on the back of the river on the edge of another of these salt-bush plains. I was very fortunate in finding Mr. Jamieson at home, who received me very kindly. I was informed by this gentleman that at this place there was a bar of sand run- ning across the river, but not of a character to impede navigation. We try our luck in the evening at fishing, but are unsuccessful.
December 28—Remain with Mr. Jamieson this day, who takes a walk with me on his run. Among the salsolaceous plants a very pretty pink flowering plant makes its appearance for the first time, with blossoms like the silene. Among the shrubs which grow on the banks of the river where the large bends are formed, were a large
blue hyssop-like plant, and a small blue species of Mimulus, or monkey flower.
This morning witness the crossing of a dray over this immense river, by means of a cask which was tied to the bed of the dray.
December 29.—In the early part of the day have some rain, but the weather cleared up a little before noon. After taking luncheon I
made another start, accompanied by Mr. Jamieson, who was going to a sheep station, which he had lately taken up seventy miles lower down the
The day's journey was principally over plains of very considerable extent, on which was an immense undergrowth of the mysembryanthemum aquilateralia and fig marigold, or pigs' faces, as they are colonially called. This is precisely the
same species as the one found growing on the beach near Liardet's Hotel, the small fig-like fruit of which is greedily eaten by the blacks ;
they eat the leaves with shell fish in lieu of salt. These leaves also make an indifferently good
I find a change here in the character of the salsolaceous plants ; the large salt bush of the Terrick Terrick plains near Mr Colyers, atriplex, or Botany Bay greens, as they are sometimes
called, gives place here to a very tall handsome growing glasswort (Salicornia.)
See one of the small patches of scrub which occasionally appear ; as we approached the banks of the river I found a very magnificent labiate plant, with remarkably long and large corolla, the lower portion of the lip being beautifully spotted. It belonged to the natural family, scrophularineæ, as also in the same locality a deep golden flower- ing stenochilus, the first one I had seen of this
About six in the evening after travelling over a loose puffy sandy plain we camped on the bank of the Murray, at the junction of that river with the
Shortly after camping we were visited by a great number of blacks who offered us as usual fish. On one of these fish being placed on the fire by the blacks, my black fellow Jemmy dis- appeared from the camp. After the fish was eaten he again returned. He gave as his reason for running away being from fear of the smell of the fish, as had he touched or smelt the same, a grey head or a hole in his head would have been the result of his imprudence. He represented himself as not being singular in this particular, as the same results would have followed every other strange black fellow on eating the same kind of fish, which is very like the bream. This is not the case with the cod, and two or three other kinds of fish common in the river.
The blacks here appeared to have the same
impression as Jemmy, and seemed pleased at his
leaving the camp while the fish was being roasted.
There is no mistake about their style of cooking these fish—it is far preferable to the English
December 30.—This day we have another long day's stage over a continuation of the same kind of plains ; nothing at all interesting presented itself in the shape of plants.
In the evening we reached the station belonging to Messrs. Crozier and Rutherford, where we met with another hearty and unsophisticated
"Scottish welcome," and enjoyed, again, the luxury of baked bread, cheese, and butter. Here we also saw a large number of the sable beauties, of both sexes, both young and old.
Some of them could speak a little English ; they are destitute of any kind of covering, as in- deed, are all the blacks which I have seen, down this river. I think I cannot do better than copy one of my own letters, written on this subject:
"If Thomson, the poet, speaks truly, when he says 'Beauty needs not the foreign aid of orna- ment but is, when unadorned, adorned the most,' and if, by ornament, he is supposed to mean the various articles of female attire, and that an ab- sence of these ornaments tends to enhance the beauty of the female 'form divine,' then have they, in this out-of-the-way portion of the Australian territory, a galaxy of female charms and female beauty, unrivalled in any other part of the world. In puris naturalibus, would be an appropriate motto for this much neglected (because little understood), unfortunate race of human beings, who wander about in the most primitive state of nature, not having the slightest idea of clothes, or covering of any kind.
The younger and better formed gins displayed no small share of vanity in decorating their per- sons with branches of the sweet jasmine, clematis, (virgin's bower) and other sweet, flowering, fra- gile plants, the long, silky, silvery-looking seed pods of the clematis, combined with the pure, virgin white, waxy, sweet blossoms of the jasmine when twined together in the manner they do it, forms a very pretty wreath, which they wear round their heads; or to borrow the words of the song, "They wear a wreath of roses around their ebon
One of these young girls, as she appears, thus decorated, with her skin shining, from the effect of having crossed the river, has often struck me, as presenting a tolerably good representation of the goddess Flora, done in bronze. One of them, who visited our camp a little lower down this river, made a very deep impression on the heart of the too susceptible Jemmy.
( To be Continued. )