[Kennedy traces the Victoria in its final course south--Re-named the Barcoo--First notice of the pituri chewing natives--Leichhardt's second Expedition--Failure and Return--Leichhardt's last Expedition--His absolute disappearance--Conjectures as to his fate--Kennedy starts from Rockingham Bay to Cape York--Scrubs and swamps--Great exertions--Hostile natives--Insufficiency of supplies provided--Dying horses--Main party left in Weymouth Bay--Another separation at Shelburne Bay--Murder of Kennedy at the Escape River--Rescue of Jacky the black boy--His pathetic tale of suffering--Failure to find the camp at Shelburne Bay--Rescue of but two survivors at Weymouth Bay--The remainder starved to death--Von Mueller in the Australian Alps--Western Australia--Landor and Lefroy, in 1843--First expedition of the brothers Gregory, in 1846--Salt lakes and scrub--Lieutenant Helpman sent to examine the coal seam discovered--Roe, in 1848--His journey to the east and to the south--A. C. Gregory attempts to reach the Gascoyne--Foiled by the nature of the country--Discovers silver ore on the Murchison--Governor Fitzgerald visits the mine--Wounded by the natives--Rumour of Leichhardt having been murdered by the blacks--Hely's expedition in quest of him--Story unfounded--Austin's explorations in Western Australia--Terrible scrubs--Poison camp-- Determined efforts to the north--Heat and thirst--Forced to return.]
The importance of deciding the final course of the Victoria was at once recognised, and Kennedy was chosen to lead a lightly equipped party. However convinced Sir Thomas Mitchell was of the affluent of the Victoria being in the Gulf of Carpentaria, others did not at once fall in with the notion. It was evident that the vast flooded plains, and many channels of Cooper's Creek absorbed immense quantities of water from the interior, and apparently this water came from the north-east. What more probable than that the Victoria was lost there.
Kennedy followed the old track to the river, found by Mitchell, and reaching his lowest camp on the 13th of August, commenced to run the river down from there. On the first day's journey he met a native, from whom he learnt the aboriginal name of the Victoria, the Barcoo.
On the 15th Kennedy noticed with anxiety that the valley of the river certainly fell to the south, and that ever since it had turned from its northerly course, it was making for the point where Sturt turned back on Cooper's Creek. He consequently began to dread that he might follow the course of it, so far as not to be able to carry out the second part of his instructions, namely, to look for a road to the Gulf, not having enough means with him for both journeys. He decided to follow with two men along the Barcoo, far enough to the south to leave no doubt about its not being a north coast river. After two days' journey, the direction of the Barcoo turned west, and even north of west, and the bed contained fine reaches of water, one hundred, and one hundred and twenty yards wide. Kennedy turned back for the whole of his party, considering that his duty was to follow such a river, no matter in what direction it led him.
On the 30th August, they came upon a large tributary from the N.N.E., which was named the Thomson, and they found the country very different from the grassy plains of the upper reaches.
Finally, the river led them amongst plains gaping with fissures, grassless and waterless, where the only change in the flat character of the country was the sandhill formation, that exactly agreed with Sturt's description. In fact, it was now evident to Kennedy that the only result of his journey would be to connect with that explorer's most northerly and easterly point, and, however satisfactory or unsatisfactory this might be, it was scarcely worth risking the lives of his party, and the certain loss of his horses to attain. Grass, or feed of any sort, had now failed them for several days, and at last they could find no more water. They were confronted with the desert described by Sturt with such terrible accuracy, and there was nothing to be gained by entering into a struggle with it. Kennedy turned back quite satisfied that the end of the Victoria was in Cooper's Creek.
As the nomenclature of these watercourses is rather conflicting, and they were the field of many subsequent explorations, it may be as well to mention that the Victoria (now the Barcoo) joins Kennedy's Thomson, which still retains its name, and below the junction the united stream is always now called Cooper's Creek. Thus, as the residents out there tell you, it takes two rivers in that part of Australia to make a creek.
A noticeable incident here occurs in Kennedy's journal. Writing on the 11th September, he says:--
"A curious fact I observed here is, that the men chew tobacco; it is, of course, in a green state, but it is strong and hot."
This was almost, certainly, the pituri plant, which the natives of the interior chew, and then bury in the sand, where the heat of the sun causes it to ferment; it is then chewed as an intoxicant, the natives carrying a plug behind their car in their hair. It is offered to a stranger as an especial compliment, and great is the affront if this toothsome morsel is declined. It only grows in certain localities, far west of where Kennedy saw the natives using it, and the blacks of the locality where it is found barter it away with other tribes, by which means it is found at a considerable distance from where it grows. Amongst the natives there are pituri and non-pituri chewers.
On his downward journey Kennedy, to ease his horses as much as possible, had buried a great quantity of flour and sugar. On his return he found that the natives had discovered it, and wantonly emptied it out of the bags into the hole, reducing it to a mixture of earth and flour that was completely useless. This loss prevented Kennedy from making his intended excursion to the Gulf. The party started back, and on his way Kennedy picked up his carts, which he had also buried. He was just in time; a native, probably one of the burglars already mentioned, had been examining and sounding the ground but a short time before the party arrived.
On reaching the head of the Warrego, Kennedy determined to follow it down, and ascertain whether it was a southerly or westerly flowing river. They followed the Warrego south, through fine grazing country, the river being full of splendid reaches of water, but at last it failed them, running out in flat country in waterless channels. From here they struck across easterly to the Culgoa, which river they reached after a ride of seventy miles without water, over a barren country, timbered with pine and brigalow. Here they were delayed getting the carts across this dry track, and lost six horses from heat and thirst. Thus vanished the high hopes entertained of the Victoria River.
Meantime, Leichhardt, encouraged by his first success, had received liberal support from the public to enable him to start on a new expedition, which at once was to settle the question of the nature of the interior, the ambitious project being nothing less than to traverse the continent from the eastern to the western shore, on much the same parallel of latitude if possible.
The party travelled overland from the Hunter River to the Darling Downs, bringing with them their outfit of mules, cattle, and goats. On December 10th, 1846, the expedition left Mr. Stephens' station on the Condamine, the members then consisting of seven whites and two blacks. Of stock, they had two hundred and seventy goats, one hundred and eighty sheep, forty bullocks, fifteen horses, and thirteen mules. This stock, with their flour, tea, sugar, etc., was to last them on a two years' journey.
It is almost needless to go into particulars concerning this unfortunate trip. They never succeeded in getting away from the old Port Essington track. The rains came down on them in the sickly brigalow scrubs of the Dawson and Mackenzie. Fever was the result, and they had no medicines with them--a strange omission. Their only coverings during the wet were two miserable calico tents. Their life, as told by members of the party, consisted of semi-starvation, varied by gorging and feasting on killing days, in which the Doctor apparently set the example; in fact, his character throughout comes out in anything but an amiable light, and one is led to wonder how anyone so destitute of tact and readiness of resource ever achieved the journey to Port Essington, favoured even as he was on that occasion by circumstances and seasons. Suffice it to say, to end the miserable story, that, having first lost their sheep and goats, then their cattle and most of their horses and mules, they turned up on the 6th of July at Chauvel's station on the Condamine, having done nothing but wander about on the old track and eat their supplies.
On reaching the station, Dr. Leichhardt was put in possession of the finding of the Victoria, the Maranoa, &c., and being anxious to examine the country between Sir Thomas Mitchell's track and his own, he, in company with Mr. Isaacs and three of his late companions, left Stuart Russell's station on a short excursion, during which he crossed to the Balonne and back, making some subordinate discoveries.
Still persisting in his idea of crossing the continent, and fearful that he might be forestalled, he made great efforts to get together a small party of some sort to make another attempt. He succeeded; but this time his party was neither so well provided nor so large. In fact, very little is known of the members constituting it. The Rev. W. B. Clarke, speaking of this final trip, says:--
"The parties who accompanied Leichhardt were, perhaps, little capable of shifting for themselves in case of any accident to their leader. The second in command, a brother-in-law of Leichhardt, came from Germany to join him just before starting, and he told me, when I asked him what his qualifications for the journey were, that he had been at sea, had suffered shipwrecks, and was, therefore, well able to endure hardship. I do not know what his other qualifications were."
For some inexplicable reason, this man, whose name was Classen or Klausen, has always been selected as the hero of the many tales that have been brought in of a solitary survivor of the party living in captivity with the natives; probably, because his was the only name besides Leichhardt's generally known and remembered.
The lost expedition is supposed to have consisted of six whites and two blacks. The names known are those of the Doctor himself, Classen, Hentig, Stuart, and Kelly. He had with him fifty bullocks, thirteen mules, twelve horses, and two hundred and seventy goats, beside the utterly inadequate allowance of eight hundred pounds of flour, one hundred and twenty pounds of tea, some sugar and salt, and two hundred and fifty pounds of shot and forty of powder.
His last letter [See Appendix.] is dated the 3rd of April, 1848, from McPherson's station on the Cogoon, but in it he speaks only of the. country traversed, and says nothing of his intended route. Since the residents of this outlying station lost sight of him and his men, no clue to his fate has ever been found. The total evanishment not only of his men but of the animals (especially the goats) that accompanied him, is one of the strangest mysteries of our mysterious interior.
Leichhardt's expressed intention was to endeavour to skirt the edge of the desert--which was then supposed to exist in the centre--to the northward, seizing the first opportunity of penetrating it, and then making for Perth. From what we now know, it is quite impossible to guess how much or little of this programme was carried out, as the existence or non-existence of what he would consider a desert would entirely depend upon what the season had been like immediately before his arrival.
The perusal of his journal to Port Essington, impresses one with the opinion that, considering his scientific training, he was singularly deficient in observation. In one place he writes that horses and bullocks never showed that instinctive faculty of detecting water so often mentioned by travellers, and that they seem to be guided entirely by their sight when in search of it--an assertion which seems incredible on the part of a man with any bush training at all. If Leichhardt had ever had to steady a thirsty mob of cattle during a pitch dark night, with a strong wind blowing from water, or even across the damp bed of a lagoon or river, miles and miles away, he would soon have found out by what sense cattle are guided in their search for water.
Although one does not want to harshly criticise these obvious errors in the very rudiments of bush-craft, they serve to indicate how likely he would have been, if entrapped in dry country, to commit a mistake that would sacrifice his men. And one cannot but believe that he relied quite as much on the chapter of accidents to pull him through as upon his own helpfulness or experience. Of the causes that led to the destruction or dispersion of the whole of the party it is next to impossible to hazard a guess. The completeness of the disappearance is the most the puzzling part of the mystery. Had they been killed by the natives, relics of the explorers would long since have been recovered from them. In some shape the iron work of the implements they had with them would have survived.
Many have tried to explain it by imagining them swept away by a flood when camped on flat country, but this is scarcely likely, for even then, on the subsidence of the waters, the blacks would have found something of their belongings. Thirst was most likely the agent of their destruction, and fire completed the work.
Once across the waters that wend their sluggish way into the lake district of South Australia, Leichhardt and his followers would be in the great region of fragmentary watercourses; rivers and creeks, when met with, pursuing no definite courses--now lost in miles of level country, now reforming again for a brief existence, but always delusive and disappointing. Here they would one day find themselves in a position that left them no other chance but the slender one of still pushing forward into the unknown. Probably it was during one of the cycles of rainless years that periodically visit the continent. Led on mile after mile, following the dry bed of one creek, to lose it in some barren flat, whereon the withered stalks of blue-bush alone told of a time of past vegetation; again picking up another creek, to lose it in like manner, knowing that to retrace their steps was impossible; making at last for a hazy, blue line in the distance that turned out to be spinifex and stunted forest; trusting still that this might indicate a change that would lead them to higher country and to water, they would struggle forward, weak and disorganised.
Then would come the beginning of the end. As they pressed on, the forest became scantier, and the spinifex higher, spikier, and harder to march through. One by one their animals had fallen and died, and the desperate resort of drinking the blood had been tried by some. What little water they had in their canteens was fast evaporating. Still some of them would keep heart. The ground was getting stonier, and bare patches of rock were constantly passed; surely they must be getting on higher country; they were doubtless ascending the gradual rise of one of the inland watersheds, and suddenly they hoped the ground would break away at their feet in deep gullies and ravines; below they would see the tops of green trees, shading some quiet waterhole. How anxiously they looked out for any sign of life that might be a good augury of this, but none could be seen.
Since leaving the open country, even the tireless kites had deserted them; all around was silent, still, and lifeless. It was useless to stop to rest, the ground was blistering to the touch, and there was no shade anywhere. Then came night, but no change; throughout the long watches, the radiance of the stars was never blurred by clouds. Some of the men slept and dreamt of streams of clear, cold water, awaking only to greet the dawn of another day of blinding, stifling heat, heralded by the faint sultry sigh of the hot wind. And as the day grew hotter and hotter some lost their reason, and all lost hope. Then came the end; they separated and straggled away in ones and twos and fell and died. Day after day the terrible and pitiless sun .looked down at them lying there, and watched them dry and shrivel into mummies, and still no rain fell on the earth.
By day the sky was clear and bright, and by night the stars unclouded. Years may have passed; higher and higher grew the spinifex, and its long resinous needles entangled themselves in each other, unchecked by fire for no black hunters came there in that season of drought, and the men's bodies lay there, growing more and more unlike humanity, scorched by the seven times heated earth beneath, and the glaring sun above untouched, save by the ants, those scavengers of the desert, or the tiny bright-eyed lizards. At last, the thunder clouds began to gather afar off, and when they broke, a few wandering natives ventured into the woods, living for a day or two on the uncertain rainfall. This failing, they retired again, leaving perhaps, a trail of fire behind them. Then this fire, fed by the huge banks of flammable spinifex, the growth of many years, spread into a mighty conflagration, the black smoke covering half the heavens. The hawks and the crows fled before it, swooping down on the vermin that were forced to leave the shelter of log and bush. The great silence that had reigned for so long was broken by the roar, and crash, and crackle of a sea of flames; and beneath this fiery blast every vestige of the lost explorers vanished for ever.
When, on the blackened ground, fell heavy rain once more, the spinifex sprang up, fresh and green to look at, only in spots here and there, where a human body had fertilised the soil, it was greener than elsewhere.
So Leichhardt drops out of Australian history, and with every succeeding year the chances of finding any trace grow more remote.
Expeditions have been started in search of him, but without result, and the tale of their efforts will be told in their proper order.
As if the year 1848, when Europe seemed convulsed with some strange tempest of riot and turmoil, should not be unmarked in Australia, two of the most disastrous expeditions in the annals of exploration started during its course. One, Leichhardt's, as we have just seen, vanished, and all must have perished. Of the other, under Kennedy, two ghastly famished spectres, that had once been white men, and a naked blackfellow, alone were rescued out of thirteen.
The same impulses that led to Mitchell's and Leichhardt's northern journeys, started Kennedy on his fatal venture up the eastern slope of the long peninsula that terminates in Cape York. The desire to find a road to the north coast, so that an available chain of communication should exist between the southern settlements and a northern seaport.
Kennedy started from Sydney on board the barque Tam O'Shanter, on the 29th of April, 1848. He had twelve men in his party, including Mr. Carron as botanist, one of the survivors who published the account of the trip, and Mr. Wall, naturalist. Their outfit consisted of twenty-eight horses and one hundred sheep, besides the other necessary rations, carts, &c. The instructions were to land at Rockingham Bay, and examine the eastern coast of the peninsula, to Port Albany in the extreme north, where a ship would meet and receive them. Such was the programme, alas for the performance!
On the 30th of May, they landed in Rockingham Bay, with the loss of one horse, and Kennedy made his first acquaintanceship with the tropical jungles of northern Queensland (that now is), including the terrible lawyer vine [Calamus Australis.] and the stinging tree. The first, a vine with long hooks and spurs on it, that once fast, seem determined never to let go again; the stalk being as tenacious and tough as wire, and binding the scrub trees together so as to render advance impossible without first cutting a way. The other, a tree with broad leaves, the sting produced by touching which is so painful that horses, who on first being stung have plunged about and been stung all over, have died from the fever and inflammation caused.
These scrubs, marshy ground, salt water creeks, and high mountain ranges, all inhabited by hostile natives, formed the pleasant prospect before Kennedy.
From the very commencement almost, the monotonous record of Carron's journal commences day after day thus--"Cutting scrub all day." Through these marshes and swamps Kennedy strove to make for the ranges, hoping at least to find clearer country to travel through. Often during this time, he must have thought of his last journey over the boundless prairies of the Barcoo, and sighed at the contrast. The natives, too, began to annoy the travellers, and at last they were fired on and four killed and wounded.
On the 18th July, the carts were abandoned, and they went on with twenty-six pack horses, their sheep being reduced to fifty, and these were rapidly falling away, as well as the horses, on the sour coast grasses. They fared no better when they reached the range, or the spurs of the Main Range, for the scrub still hemmed them in, and roads up and down the rugged hills were hard to find; then to add to all, rain set in.
On the 14th August, Carron took charge of the stores instead of Niblet, who had been very extravagant with them, and also sent in false returns; the allowance of flour was now reduced, and hopes were entertained that with care it would hold out; but at first the supply provided was insufficient. The horses too, began to knock up, and one after another they were left behind dead or dying.
Crossing the dividing watershed, the party for some time travelled along the heads of rivers running into the Gulf of Carpentaria, finding it a great improvement in every way--thence they crossed back on to the waters of the east coast once more, and their horses still giving in, one by one, they fell back on them as an article of diet.
On the 9th of November, Kennedy realised that struggling on with the whole of his party meant death by starvation to all, so he determined to push ahead with three men and the black boy to Port Albany, and send back relief by water. Port Albany, in the Pass of that name, being the rendezvous agreed upon with the relief vessel. The camp was selected on the top of a hill, fully visible from Weymouth Bay, and Mr. Carron put in charge of it.
On the 13th, Kennedy started with the best seven of the horses leaving the eight men in camp to await his return, or the relief boat. The only account ever received of his journey came from the lips of the black boy Jacky-Jacky, the sole survivor.
His story ran that three weeks after leaving Weymouth Bay they reached Shelburne Bay, after cutting through a great deal of scrub and crossing many rivers and creeks. Here Costigan accidentally shot himself, and became very weak from loss of blood, so Luff, [Luff; the man mentioned here, was with Kennedy on his Barcoo expedition, and some of the trees on the Warrego, marked "L," and ascribed to Leichhardt, were probably some of his marking.] another of the men, being ill, Kennedy left the third man, Dunn, to look after them, and one horse for food; he and the boy making a desperate effort to reach Cape York and send back succour. But it was in vain. They reached the Escape River, and were in sight of Albany Island, when they met a number of blacks who were apparently friendly, although Jacky mistrusted them. Then came the end. Jacky's story has been often told, but it will bear repetition.
"I and Mr. Kennedy watched them that night, taking it in turns every hour that night. By-and-by I saw the blackfellows. It was a moonlight night, and I walked up to Mr. Kennedy and said, 'There is plenty of blackfellows now.' This was in the middle of the night. Mr. Kennedy told rue to get my gun ready.
"The blacks did not know where we slept as we did not make a fire. We both sat up all night. After this, daylight came, and I fetched the horses and saddled them. Then we went on a good way up the river, and then we sat down a little while, and then we saw three blacks coming along our track, and then they saw us, and one ran back as hard as he could run, and fetched up plenty more, like a flock of sheep almost. I told Mr. Kennedy to put the saddles on the horses and go on; and the blacks came up and they followed us all day. All along it was raining, and I now told him to leave the horses, and come on without them, that the horses made too much track. Mr. Kennedy was too weak, and would not leave the horses. We went on this day until towards the evening; raining hard, and the blacks followed us all day, some behind, some planted before. In fact, blackfellows all around, following us. Now we went into a little bit of scrub, and I told Mr. Kennedy to look behind always. Sometimes he would do so, and sometimes he would not do so, to look out for the blacks. Then a good many blackfellows came behind in the scrub, and threw plenty of spears, and hit Mr. Kennedy in the back first. Mr. Kennedy said to me, 'Oh, Jacky Jacky shoot 'em! shoot 'em!' Then I pulled out my gun and fired, and hit one fellow all over the face with buck shot. He tumbled down, and got up again, and again, and wheeled right round, and two blacks picked him up and carried him away. They went a little way and came back again, throwing spears all round, more than they did before-very large spears.
"I pulled out the spear at once from Mr. Kennedy's back, and cut the jag with Mr. Kennedy's knife. Then Mr. Kennedy got his gun and snapped, but the gun would not go off. The blacks sneaked all along by the trees, and speared Mr. Kennedy again in the right leg, above the knee a little, and I got speared in the eye, and the blacks were now throwing always, never giving over, and shortly again speared Mr. Kennedy in the right side. There were large jags to the spears, and I cut them out and put them in my pocket. At the same time we got speared the horses got speared too, and jumped and bucked about and got into the swamps. I now told Mr. Kennedy to sit down while I looked after the saddle bags, which I did, and when I came back again I saw blacks along with Mr. Kennedy. I then asked him if he saw the blacks with him. He was stupid with the spear wounds, and said, 'No.' I then asked him where was his watch? I saw the blacks taking away watch and hat as I was returning to Mr. Kennedy. Then I carried Mr. Kennedy into the scrub. He said 'Don't carry me a good way.' Then Mr. Kennedy looked this way, very bad (Jacky rolling his eyes). Then I said to him don't look far away, as I thought he would be frightened. I asked him often, are you well now, and he said, 'I don't care for the spear wound in my leg, Jacky, but for the other two spear wounds in my side and back, and I am bad inside, Jacky.' I told him blackfellow always die when he got spear in there (the back). He said, 'I am out of wind, Jacky.' I asked him (Mr. Kennedy), are you going to leave me? And he said, 'Yes, my boy, I am going to leave you.' He said, 'I am very bad, Jacky you take the books, Jacky, to the Captain, but not the big ones, the Governor will give you anything for them.' I then tied up the papers. He then said, 'Jacky, you give me paper and I will write.' I gave him paper and pencil and he tried to write, and he then fell back and died, and I caught him as he fell back, and held him, and I then turned round myself and cried. I was crying a good while until I got well, that was about an hour, and then I buried him.
"I digged up the ground with a tomahawk, and covered him over with logs and grass and my shirt and trousers. That night I left him near dark. I would go through the scrub, and the blacks threw spears at me, a good many, and I went back again into the scrub. Then I went down the creek which runs into Escape River, and I walked along the water in the creek, very easy, with my head only above water to avoid the blacks and get out of their way. In this way I went half a mile. Then I got out of the creek and got clear of them, and walked on all night nearly, and slept in the bush without a fire."
This was the sad tale. It took poor starving Jacky thirteen days to get to Port Albany, short as the distance comparatively was. He lived on what small vermin he could catch, climbing trees every now and again to look for Port Albany and the ship. He carried the saddle bags, with Kennedy's papers, for some distance, but had to leave them hidden in a log.
Immediately that Jacky's story was told to the people of the Ariel, the schooner awaiting Kennedy's party at Port Albany, sail was made for Shelburne Bay to rescue the three men left there. A canoe was captured which contained articles that left little doubt of the fate of the unfortunates. The camp, however, was too far inland to reach without a very strong party, and as it seemed certain that help was too late, and there were eight men, whom Jacky described as being scarcely able to crawl, awaiting relief at Weymouth Bay, sail was again made there.
The wretched men at Weymouth Bay had fared but badly. Douglas died first, and he was buried; a rite which the party had afterwards to leave unperformed, through sheer weakness. Taylor died next and was buried by the side of Douglas.
Meantime, the blacks behaved in an inexplicable manner, at times they would approach and offer the whites tainted fish as if to make friends, and then come up with spears poised, and every token of hostility, compelling the weary watchers to stand on their guard, expecting an attack. Carpenter was the next to die, and he was buried with the others. On the 1st December a schooner was seen in the Bay; and joyfully the flag was hoisted and some rockets let off after dark. But she sailed away, never having seen the signals, and the agony of the disappointed men can be imagined. On the 28th December, Niblet and Wall died, and the blacks came and surrounded the camp and threatened the two helpless survivors, hardly able to stand up and hold their guns.
On the 30th, Goddard crawled out to try and shoot some pigeons, and Carron sat with a pistol in his hand, to give him warning if the blacks approached. Let him tell the end.
"About an hour after he was gone I could see some natives running over the hill towards me. I fired a pistol immediately, but before Goddard could get back they were into the camp, and handed me a piece of paper very much dirtied and torn, but I was sure by their manner that there was a vessel in the bay. It proved to be a note to me from Captain Dobson, but I could only read part of it, it was so covered with dirt. I was for a minute or two almost senseless from the hope of being relieved from our miserable condition. I made them some presents, and wrote a note to Captain Dobson and sent them away with it. I easily made them understand what I wanted, but I soon saw that they had other intentions. I saw a great number of natives coming in all directions, well armed. I saw two from strange tribes amongst them. One man that I gave an old shirt to, and put it on him, I saw him take it off and pick up his spears. We were expecting every minute to be attacked by these treacherous villains, when, to our great joy, we saw Captain Dobson, Dr. Vallack, Jacky (the black boy), and another man who had received a spear wound in his arm (Barrett), so that he could offer no resistance to the blacks, coming across the creek. These men had risked their own lives by coming about three miles through mangroves and thick scrub (surrounded by not less than a hundred natives, well armed), with a hope of saving some of us from starving."
The camp had to be vacated in such a hurry in consequence of the threatened attack, that nothing was saved but a few instruments and botanical specimens.
This was the end of a most unfortunate expedition from the first landing. Against the impassable nature of the line of march, and the hostile inhabitants, the harassed explorers had to combat from the first. Their horses were not acclimated, so they soon wasted away, and when sickness laid its hand upon the men they were doomed. The one brightening touch in the whole gloomy picture is the simple devotion shown by poor Jacky: "He then fell back and died, and I caught him as he fell back and held him, and then I turned round myself and cried," was the funeral oration over the brave and unfortunate Kennedy.
The brig Freak was chartered by the Government to make another examination of the coast. The remains of the men at Weymouth Bay were reinterred, and search made for the missing men at Shelburne Bay, but they were never found. Some of the papers secreted by Jacky were recovered, but Kennedy's body had been taken away. This was all that was ever discovered.
In the south of Australia, in 1847, Baron von Mueller was engaged in many explorations, in some still unknown parts of the continent down there. These travels were undertaken for botanical and geographical purposes combined, partly in the province of South Australia, and latterly amongst the many unexplored recesses of the Australian Alps. The culminating points of several of the highest mountains in Australia were fixed, and their geographical positions accurately defined amongst them being Mount Hotham.
To the west coast once again. Still trusting that perseverance would be finally rewarded, the colonists on Swan River kept making vigorous attempts to penetrate what they would fain consider was only a desert belt bounding their territory.
In 1843 a small private party, consisting of Messrs. Landor and Lefroy, made a short excursion from York, being absent a fortnight. They came across several shallow lakes, both salt and fresh, but their journey was not recompensed by the discovery of any good country.
In 1846 we first come across the name of Gregory in the annals of exploration. There were three brothers of this name, led by the eldest, A. C. Gregory, who as a scientific explorer so greatly distinguished himself in after life. On the 7th August, 1846, they started from Bolgart Spring, the furthest stock station to the eastward.
Their equipment was of the slenderest, and they only took about two months supply of rations. On leaving the settled districts they at once found themselves in the barren country, that had so often stopped the outward march of the pioneers, and their first discovery was a swampy lake (fresh) on the edge of a small patch of better country, but this quickly passed, and they entered into the salt lake region, through which they pushed until they reached a range of granite hills, forming the watershed of the coast streams. Turning somewhat to the northward, they kept along these hills for the sake of the rain water to be found amongst the rocks, until, striking again to the east, they encountered an extensive salt lake or swamp; attempting to cross which their horses were bogged, and only extricated with difficulty.
This lake was found afterwards to be of great size, and to fairly hem them in to the eastward, so after several disappointments they turned to the westward to examine some of the streams crossed by Grey during his unfortunate expedition to Shark's Bay. On the head of one of these rivers (the Arrowsmith), which from the uncertainty of Grey's chart, they were unable to clearly identify; they found a seam of coal. This was the only discovery of any importance that they made, the rest of their journey was over very impoverished country, covered with scrub and sand, with here and there salt flats and lakes. They returned to Bolgart Spring on the 22nd September.
On hearing of the coal discovery the Government sent Lieutenant Helpman in the schooner Champion, to Champion Bay, which place he. reached at the end of the year, accompanied by one of the Gregorys. They landed the cart and horses, and on the 12th December reached the scene of the coal find. They soon filled their cart with coal, and returned by a somewhat different track to the schooner. F. Gregory making a detour to the northward without any noteworthy result.
Not yet disappointed in the hope of finding country worth settling to the eastward, Surveyor-General Roe started from York on the 14th September, 1848; he had with him six men, (including H. Gregory) and twelve horses, with over three months' provisions. It will be unnecessary to follow them over the salt lake country which they inevitably met with soon after leaving civilization, or the outskirts of it Their first attempts beyond were unsuccessful; they were successively turned from their course by scrub of the densest character, and sandy plains, so they at last made for the south coast, where they rested for a while at one of the small settlements.
On the 18th, they again started, following the upward course of the Pallinup River, which was the last stream crossed by Eyre before reaching Albany, on his Great Bight expedition. They ascended a branch coming from the north-east, and for a time travelled through well grassed and promising valleys, but afterwards found themselves once more in the scrubs and sandy plains of the desert. Catching sight of a granite hill to the eastward, they proceeded there, but from its summit the outlook was as gloomy as ever. Fortunately the weather had been showery, and the want of water was not felt so much as the total absence of feed. Still, on to the eastward their difficulties increased at every step. To the impassable thickets and desolate plains was now added the absence of fresh water, and it was not until after days of privation that they reached some elevated peaks, where a little grass and water were found.
Their course was now to the south-east, towards the range sighted by Eyre, and named the Russell Range, and a desperate struggle commenced with the barren country through which they had to work their way. So weakened were the horses, and such was the nature of the belts of scrub, that it took them three days to accomplish fifty miles, and after being four days and three nights without water for the horses, they reached a rugged granite hill, called Mount Riley, where they got a scant supply. From here, their journey to the Russell Range, fifty miles away, was but a repetition of their former hardships. Nothing but continuous scrub; sometimes the thickets were too dense to attempt a passage, even with the axes, and long detours had to be made. At last, with worn-out horses, they reached the Russell Range, and every hope they had entertained of a change for the better was blasted. The range was a mass of naked rocks, and from the summit nothing but the interminable sea of scrub and the distant ocean, was visible. Fortunately, they got a little grass and water, which saved the lives of their animals.
From the Russell Range, Roe's homeward track was not far removed from Eyre's, so that no fresh geographical features could be expected, or were discovered, with the exception of another coal seam in one of the rivers running into the south coast. On the 2nd February, 1849, the Surveyor-General reached Perth.
During the time this last expedition had been endeavouring to proceed east, A. C. Gregory was put in charge of a party to make for the north, and ascertain the value of the country reported by Grey as existing on the Gascoyne. On his way, Gregory reported favourably of the country around Champion Bay, which had been extolled by Gray, and subsequently condemned by Captain Stokes. Beyond the Murchison, he did not succeed in penetrating any considerable distance; being turned back at all points, after repeated attempts, by the tract of impervious scrub that intervened between the Murchison and the Gascoyne. He therefore returned, without seeing the latter river, having attained a distance of three hundred and fifty miles north of Perth. On their return to the Murchison, a vein of galena was discovered, and the river traced upwards and downwards for a considerable distance. They reached Perth on the 17th November.
The following month Governor Fitzgerald, accompanied by A. C. Gregory, Bland, and three soldiers, went by sea to Champion Bay, and landing some horses, proceeded inland to examine the new mineral discovery. The lode was found to be more important than was at first supposed.
On their return journey to Champion Bay, an affray occurred with the natives. The blacks followed them for some time, their numbers constantly increasing, until fifty well-armed natives were present; in a thick scrub they succeeded in surrounding the whites, and commenced hostilities. The party found it necessary to resort to their firearms. and the Governor fired the first shot, bringing down the leading native, who had just thrown a spear at Gregory. A shower of spears then fell amongst the group of explorers, and the Governor was speared through the leg. The natives were, however, kept at bay, and that afternoon they reached the beach and embarked on board the schooner.
This was the second time an Australian Governor had been wounded by the natives, the first occasion being when Captain Arthur Phillip was speared.
Fears now began to be entertained in the other colonies as to the safety of Leichhardt and his party, and, in consequence of these fears being augmented by the tales and rumours that drifted in from the outside districts, gathered from the natives (referring to the murder of a party of whites to the westward), it was decided to equip an expedition to try and ascertain the truth of these reports.
The party was put in charge of Mr. Hovenden Hely, a former companion of Leichhardt on his second expedition, and in the beginning of 1852 he left Sydney on the search, his instructions being to act as circumstances should determine him.
About forty miles from Mitchell's Mount Abundance he met with the first of a series of native statements that were destined to keep luring him forward on a false scent. The story, as usual, was most circumstantial, and did credit to the imaginations of the authors; two blacks offered to conduct Hely to the scene of the massacre, and under their guidance he started, It was a very dry season, and when they reached Mitchell's old depôt camp on the Maranoa, where, it will be remembered that his party were encamped for four months, nothing of the fine sheet of water mentioned by him was seen; it had shrunk to a shallow pool in a bed of sand. Here the two guides insisted that the murder had taken place, pointing to the remains of Mitchell's encampment as a proof thereof. This naturally led Hely to disbelieve their statement, but the blacks added such details to the original story as almost again convinced him. The most minute search, however, resulted in nothing, and one of the natives managed to make his escape. The other then altered his version of the affair, and shifted the scene of the tragedy to the westward again, and the party struck north-west to the Warrego.
More blacks were met with who confirmed the tale, and one guided them to a water hole in a brigalow scrub, which she. said was the place where the tragedy was enacted. She also stated that she was present, and entered into a most minute description of the affair, describing the whole attack. Not the vestige of a trace could be found to give any colour to her story, but ten miles down the river an unmistakeable camping ground was found. There was a tree marked L, the letter being roughly cut into the bark, and inside the letter, X V A was carved; also there were indications that proved that a party of whites had been camped there during wet weather.
Still led on by the natives, Hely at last reached the Nivelle River, when his guides deserted him, and he returned.
On the Warrego he found another camp with a marked tree, exactly similar to the first one, the X V A being repeated, so that it could not have been intended to mean any distinguishing number. He also noticed amongst the natives some tomahawks formed from the battered gullet plates of saddles. His search served only to deepen the mystery around Leichhardt's fate.
The meaning of the marked tree discovered on the Warrego is perplexing, both on account of the recurring letters and its connection with an old camping ground of some white party. Mitchell's party were camped in the neighbourhood for some time; his camps were marked from XLI. to XLIll., but the weather was fine and dry during his stay. Kennedy encamped twice in the locality, and he had with him a man named Luff, whereas no name in Mitchell's camp began with L; but he, too, crossed the river when the weather was dry, and no bushman could possibly make a mistake about the state of the country during the time a large party had remained stationary in a certain position.
The most likely explanation is that these marks had nothing whatever to do with. either Mitchell, Kennedy or Leichhardt, having probably been made by some private party out run hunting.
This futile effort to track up the lost explorer has led us away from Western Australia, where again the desert country was to be encountered, and again fruitlessly.
In 1854, Mr. Robert Austin, Assistant Surveyor-General, was given charge of a party to search for available pastoral country, and also (for now the gold fever was at its height), to examine the interior for auriferous deposits.
They started from the head of the Swan River, on a northeasterly course, and on the 16th of July, reached the Cow-cowing Lake, reported by the aborigines, and hoped by the colonists, to be a sheet of fresh water in the Gascoyne valley. The take proved to be dry, and the bed covered with salt incrustation, showing its character when full. Thence Austin made directly north, and passed through the wretchedly-repellent country that seemed fated to always cross the path of the western explorer; he directed his course to a distant range of table-topped hills and peaks. Here they found feed and water, and named the highest point Mount Kenneth, after one of the party, Mr. Kenneth Brown. From thence to the north-east they traversed stony plains, broken by sandstone and ironstone ridges, and intersected by the dry beds of sandy watercourses; and in this country, one of the worst possible misfortunes happened to them. Their horses got on to a patch of poison plant, and nearly the whole of them were laid up in consequence, and unfit for work. Some few escaped, but the greater number never recovered the effects of the weed, and many died. Pushing hastily on to a safer place to recruit, Austin found himself so crippled by this accident, that he had to abandon all but his most necessary stores for no less than fourteen of the horses having succumbed.
They now turned north-west to make for Shark's Bay, where a vessel was to be sent to render them assistance or bring them away, as should be desired.
Their course to Shark's Bay led them over country that offered them no temptation to linger on the way. On the 21st September they found a cave in the face of a cliff, in which were drawings similar to those seen by Gray near the Prince Regent's River. Near this cave was a spring, and, while resting at this camp, one of the party, a young man named Charles Farmer, accidentally shot himself in the arm, and in spite of the most careful attention, the poor fellow died of lock-jaw, in terrible agony. He was buried at the cave spring camp, and the highest hill in the neighbourhood called Mount Farmer after him. Thus two lonely mountains in the desert interior watch over the graves of men who first saw them-Mount Poole and Mount Farmer.
They now got on to the head waters of the Murchison, or rather the dry channels of these tributaries, and at last reached the Murchison itself; a river with a deep-cut channel, but perfectly dry. Beyond this their efforts were in vain, they fought their way to within a hundred miles of Shark's Bay, but they had then been so long without water that it was courting certain death to proceed. Even during the retreat to the Murchison the lives of the horses were only saved by the party accidentally finding a small native well in a most unexpected situation, namely, in the middle of a bare ironstone plain.
Pushing on ahead of his party, Austin reached the Murchison twenty-five miles south-west of his former course, but the river was the same, or worse, tantalising him with pools of salt water.
A desperate search was made to the southward, during a day of fierce and terrible heat, and when in utter despair they, on the second day, made for some small hills that they sighted, providentially, they found both water and grass. The whole of the party were then moved to this spot, which out of gratitude was named Mount Welcome.
Nothing daunted by the sufferings he had undergone, Austin now made another attempt to reach Shark's Bay. On their way to the Murchison they captured an old native, and took him with them to point out the watering places of the blacks. At first he was able to show them one or two that they would probably have missed, but after they had crossed the Murchison and got some distance to the westward, the watering places the native had relied on were found to be dry, and it was only after the most acute sufferings from thirst, and the loss of some more horses, that they managed to straggle back to Mount Welcome. Austin's conduct during these terrible marches seems to have approached the heroic. When his companions fell off one by one and laid down to die, and the native inhabitant of the wilds was cowering weeping under a bush, he managed to reach the little well that the blackfellow had formerly shown them, and without resting, tramped back with water to revive his exhausted comrades.
Arrived at Mount Welcome, they found the water there on the point of giving out, and weak as they all were, an instant start had to be made for the Geraldine mine, where a small settlement had been formed to work the galena lode discovered by Gregory. The prospect before them was most discouraging; to the mine the distance was one hundred and sixty miles, and to the highest point on the Murchison, where Gregory had found water, which would be their first stage, was ninety miles, but it had to be done. They started at midnight, and by means of forced marches, travelling day and night, reached Gregory's old camp on the river; having fortunately found a small supply of water at one place on the way. From this point they followed the river down, obtaining water from springs in the banks, and on the 20th November arrived at the mine, where they were warmly entertained. From thence they returned, some by sea and some by land, to Perth.
Austin's exploration had led to no profitable result. The large lake (Moore), that had so hampered Gregory, was found to be an arm or outlet of the still larger Cow-cowing, and that was about all. The upper Murchison had not turned out at all well, and the whole summary of the journal amounts to repetitions of daily struggles with a barren and waterless district, under the fiery sun of the southern summer.
Austin thought that eastward of his limit the country would improve, but subsequent explorations have not borne this out. He had singularly hard fortune to contend against; after the serious loss he sustained in having his horses poisoned, an accident that the greatest care will not always prevent, he was pitted against some of the worst country in Australia--dry, impenetrably scrubby, and barren; and this, too, during the hottest part of the year. That he succeeded in bringing his party safely through such difficulties, was in itself a most wonderful achievement.