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3 corrections, most recently by peter-macinnis - Show corrections

THE KIMBERLEY DISTRICT.

[By a Young Victorian.]    

The above-rained district, about which so much has been lately written, consists of that portion of Western Australia lying northward, of 22 degrees lat, and stretch- ing in the same direction to the northern most limits of tie continent. The Govern- ment of the colony, knowing the vast extent of their unexplored territory, and being desirous of promoting the condition of the

place by offering some inducement to people to settle here, fitted out an exploring party under the leadership of Mr Alexander: Forrest: About March 1879 the band of explorers started from the DeGrey River Station, the furthest settlement north.   They steered an easterly course, and having travelled over a great deal of country with- out seeing anything worthy of note, at length struck the Fitzroy River. The delight of all may be imagined when they here met with vegetation and grasses the luxuriance of which they had never dreamt of. After resting themselves on this plea- sant spot, they followed the river's course for a distance of 200 miles. During this journey they had to cross the Leopold Ranges, which are remarkably steep and dangerous. They had not proceeded much further when they found their provisions almost exhausted, and seeing no possible means of replenishing their stock in this hitherto undiscovered region, they were obliged to return to the Mergry River, a tributary of the Fitzroy. This stream they followed for some distance, in the vicinity of which they found some excellent country for pastoral purposes. Eventually they set out for the Transcontinental telegraph line, which, through the heroic and praiseworthy endeavors of their leader, was reached in safety by all. The chief result of this ex- pedition was the discovery of one of the   finest fresh water rivers in Western Austra- lia and of a broad expanse of excellent pastoral country. In due time, this was thrown open for settlement. The wonder- fully energetic way in which blocks were applied for testified to the great value of this place for grazing purposes. Applica- tions were sent in for twice the amount available for selection. Since that time the work of stocking the selected parts has gone on vigorously. Messrs. Brockman and Paterson were the pioneer settlers. Land-

ing at Beagle Bay with their sheep and a good supply of provisions they endeavored to remain there for a while. Finding, however, that the grasses, in consequence of their proximity to the sea coast, were too coarse for the sheep, they made a start over- land for the Fitzroy. This they ultimately reached, having lost on the way one or two horses and a few sheep, but without incur- ring any other serious mishap. They   resolved to camp at this place, and in a short time they were rewarded by seeing their sheep improve rapidly. Then came the Fraser River Co., the Kimberley Pas- toral Co., the Meda River Co., Lukin, Monger and Co., Poulton, O'Reilly and Co. Mr. Game is the principal representative of the Fraser River Co. This gentleman resides in England, and the stations are managed here by Mr. Alexander Forrest, of Perth. Before leaving the subject of com- panies, there are two others which I consider worthy of mention, viz., the King Sound Pastoral Co. and that of Messrs.   Daly, Clune and Butler. The stock on all these runs thrives remarkably well. Recent- ly, however, that great plague the scab has made its appearance, and unless prompt measures are taken for its immediate eradi- cation, the baneful results consequent on the prevalence of such a disease as this will be the means of ruining the strug- gling setters. It is satisfactory to know that a scab-inspector has been-appointed, and it is to be hoped that before long this evil will be no longer a source of dread to sheep owners. That scourge which gene- rally prevails in young settlements (I allude to the wild dog) is causing little or no   trouble, and is comparatively unknown. With regard to the natives, whom some Victorians have a wholesome fear of, they are harmless and inoffensive. Those reports about their being treacherous and revenge- ful are perfectly groundless and void of truth. There are two kinds of land here which the most casual observer could not fail to notice. One is the timbered country called by the natives Pindan; the other is a   plain and open country known by the   native name of Kallawa. These names have been adopted by the whites, and, as most of them have pieked up the native tongue, it has become a custom amongst them to designate places and things by words familiar enough indeed to themselves, but which seem very strange to a new- comer. The Pindan invariably consists of a red sandy surface with a subsoil of a peculiar red clay. It produces a great quantity of very tall grass, reaching in some places from 6 to 10 feet in height. It is of a coarse quality, but nourishing, and suits admirably for cattle and horses. This timbered country does not in the least resemble that of Victoria. It is quite free from those dense scrubs so common to Victorian forests. The trees never exceed the height of 25 feet, and as a rule they branch out at an altitude of about 10 feet from the surface of the ground. They are exceedingly crooked, and it is a difficult matter to get suitable building material from them. As the names of the principal trees may be of some service to your readers, I may as well mention them. They are the Baobab and White Gum and the Box trees. Of these the Baobab is by far the largest. The prodigious size to which the girth extends in favored spots is euormous. Whilst travelling through the Pindan one day I saw one which held me spell bound with astonishment. Impelled by curiosity, I   proceeded to examine it, and found that it consisted of a group of trees growing out of one trunk. Walking round it I measured it as accurately as possible by pacing it. It took me no less than twenty paces before the circuit was completed, and allowing at least 2½ feet for each, that makes the cir- cumference 50 feet. Truly, a most wonder- ful tree. And yet it was not more than 25 feet high. The fruit of the Baobab tree, which forms the chief article of food for the natives, resembles an emu egg in shape. It is twice the size, however, and might best be described as a large nut with a soft shell. Our dark skinned neighbors are excessively fond of it, and seem to relish it just as much when green as when ripe. In the former case it is roasted and the flavor which my palate experienced on tast-   ing one after being thus handled remind-

ed me very much of a good Warrnam- bool potato. In the latter case it is pounded into flour by means of stones, then moistened with water, to the consistency of butter, and eaten without farther prepara- tion. Although there is no surface water in the Pindan, one can easily obtain a cop- ious supply by sinking a well to the depth of 20 feet. As to the Kallawa or plains the soil is mostly black. The grasses grow from 2 to 3 feet high, and contain much nutri- ment The principal grass is termed the wheatear, in consequence of its similarity to that cereal. The blade and stem exactly resembles those of our ordinary wheat, but the head is like wild oats. The spinifex grass   which is always green, comes in very suitably at a time when almost everything else is dried up. The current and peach bushes are useful in the same way, and sheep are very fond of them. In the month of March the river flats are adorned with myriads of blue and white daisies. Along the banks of the Fitzroy River for a space of from two to three miles the plains are intersected by numerous waterholes, or, as they are called, billabougs, running to and from the river. All these billabongs, as well as the river it- self, are lined with various kinds of trees and shrubs, such as wild palms, Leichardt or bitter wood, paper bark and others. The rainy season commences about Christmas time, and continues until March. About January or February the noted Willie-Willie   shows itself, and it is then the settlers must be on the qui vive for its advent. Willie- Willie, is a name used to indicate an ex- ceedingly heavy downpour of rain. It con- tinues for three whole days without the slightest sign of abatement During that period the atmosphere becomes quite cold and the wind blows a gale. All are com- pelled to take to the high lands while it lasts. After receiving such a drenching, the earth, which under the scorching rays of a tropical sun had become parched and fissured, is transformed into a vast morass. It would be worse than useless to attempt crossing it with our teams and pack horses, and so we must wait till our old friend Sol comes to our assistance by hardening the ground with his welcome beams. There is another kind of storm known as Cock-eye Bob. It usually comes on at noonday and lasts till midnight. The first warning you have of its approach is a violent dust storm. This is succeeded by reports of thunder and frequent flashes of lightning. Finally, the rain sets in steadily for some hours. When it ceases all is so calm and tranquil that you can scarcely believe such a boisterous affair had taken place. These storms are of fre- quent occurrence during the rainy season, there being sometimes as many as two or three in a week. The wet season is not without its injurious effects on the settlers. A very common complaint at this period of   the year is that known as the Billy Andrew Vomit, which comes on either at meal time or after meals. It is often the cause of much merriment when a comrade is seen to rise unexpectedly from the table and run to some out of the way spot so as to comply with the relentless demand of his stomach. With regard to game, the kangaroo and emu do not exist in great numbers, and fowl and wild tur- key are rather scarce. There is, however, a plentiful supply of guinea fowl, but in point of numbers the duck far exceeds all others. The rivers and swamps teem with them. The whit fowl, also called the ibis, and somewhat resembling the turkey, is to     be met with wherever there is water. The Fitzroy abounds in different kinds of fish, the principal of which are the cobbler and king fish. As showing the size of some of them I may mention that one was recently caught which turned the scale at 60lb. Then there are those most unpleasant am phibious monsters, the water adders and crocodiles. The latter vary in size, and are extremely dangerous to sheep. They have been known to sever a sheep's head from his body in one bite, and have attacked even horses. As this is a warm country some people may be anxious to know whether we are troubled by mosquitos or not. They exist in a far greater degree than in New South Wales or Queensland, and are much larger than those in the last mentioned place. I should advise all who intend to come over here to provide themselves with mosquito nets. Without these very neces- sary articles one is subjected by these in- sects to an amount of torture sufficient to unhinge the intellect. The Government have formed a township at Escape Point, to which the name of Derby has been given. Besides the resident magistrate, Mr. Fair- bairn, there is also a postmaster, a sergeant and four other police. To the praise of these be it said that they have rendered great aid to parties landing with stock, and their hospitality, which seems to know no bounds, has earned for them the respect and esteem of all who are acquainted with them. — Melbourne Leader, June 21.

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