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Title: The Exploration of Cape York Peninsula, 1606-1915
Author: Robert Logan Jack
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Language:  English
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Title: The Exploration of Cape York Peninsula, 1606-1915
Author: Robert Logan Jack

The Australian historical Society.
Vol. III. 1915. PART V.
The Exploration of Cape York Peninsula, 1606-1915.
(Read before the Society, Nov. 30, 1915)

[CONTENTS: (not shown in original publication)

The "Duyfken"
The "Pera" and "Aernem"
The Jardine Brothers
Jack - 1st Trip 15/8/1879 to 3/10/1879
Jack - 2nd Trip 26/11/1879 to 3/4/1880
The Telegraph Line
Missions to Aborigines
The South Eastern Coast ranges
Prospectors and some Gold and Mineral Fields]

The Cape York Peninsula appears on the map to be an insignificant corner
of Australia, but it would only be insignificant in a country of
magnificent distances. It forms a triangle measuring about 480 miles from
base to apex and contains a little over 11,000 square miles, or about the
area of Belgium.

In this peninsula Australian history begins, so far as it is based on
authentic documents.

Early in the sixteenth century it was known to the Spanish, Portugese and
Dutch that land existed south of the latitude of Java. The Dutch believed
New Guinea to be part of this land. The Spanish and Portugese knew
better, but they kept the knowledge to themselves till 1770, when Cook
divulged it.


Torres, coming from Espirito Santo, reached the south end of New Guinea
about September 9, 1606, and the Philippines about May 12, 1607, having
passed through Torres Strait about December 9, 1606. His report to the
King of Spain is vague--no doubt intentionally so--as to longitudes and
dates. From New Guinea he carried off twenty slaves.

He did not claim the discovery of a strait and in making for this passage
he was apparently acting on information already in his possession.


During the acquisition of such a knowledge of the South Land as enabled
one or other of them to draw a passable sketch of the shore, the
Portuguese and Spanish must have landed on the Australian coast, but the
first recorded account of a landing which has come down to us is that of
Flemish sailors.

The 30-ton yacht Duyfken, commanded by Willem Jenszoon (Janszoon) left
Bantam for New Guinea on December 18, 1605. Jenszoon visited Aru Island,
and passed Torres Strait without settling the question of the existence
of a passage. Keeping the land in sight, and under the impression that he
was still coasting New Guinea, he got as far as a point (Cape Keerweer)
where he turned back. We know little more of the voyage than that it was
disastrous. An official document, dated 1664, states that Jenszoon found
"vast regions for the most part uninhabited, and certain parts inhabited
by savage, cruel, black barbarians, who slew some of our sailors." At a
Queensland river, which was afterwards named the Carpentier, one of the
crew was "killed by the missiles of the blacks." Another report says that
"nine of the Dufyken's men were killed by the heathen." If this was
unexaggerated truth it is still doubtful whether the event took place in
Cape York Peninsula or in New Guinea proper.


In 1623 two Dutch yachts, the Pera and Aernem, left Ambonia to explore
the coast of New Guinea. Jan Carstenszoon commanded the Pera and was
senior officer or commodore.

We have not only the Pera's log, but the written orders under which the
two ships sailed. The orders are a model of formality, solemnity and
diplomacy. The adventurers were to study carefully the various kingdoms
they visited, and inquire into their customs, their commerce, their
religion, their politics, and so forth; to enter into friendly relations
with kings and nations, and persuade them to place themselves under the
protection of the States of the United Netherlands; to take formal
possession of the places where they landed, in the name of the Honourable
Lord General Jan Peterszoon Coen, Governor General, in terms of the
charter of the Netherlands East India Company. Finally, they were to
capture, "by strategy or otherwise," a number of adults, or preferably
boys and girls, "who may be-brought here and trained to useful

On July 11, the skipper of the Aernem took a boat's crew ashore on the
New Guinea coast, and he and eight men were surprised and killed by the
natives. Two other attempts to kidnap New Guinea boys failed because the
natives had no real desire for commerce. Besides, "they were cunning and
suspicious, so that no stratagem prevailed to draw them close enough to
be caught by the nooses which we had prepared for the purpose." They
evinced, indeed, a desire to bargain for a plump, young midshipman, for
whom they offered a stone hammer.

The ships got "caught as in a trap" among the shoals of the northern part
of Torres Strait. The mariners were satisfied that, there was really no
passage, but only a "drooge bocht," or dry bight--not exactly dry, but
not wet enough for navigation. Praising God for their "happy deliverance"
from this danger, they stood south and sighted the mainland of Australia
on April 12, 1623. They were, of course, under the belief that it was
part of New Guinea. Then they coasted to the south until they reached
Accident Inlet, one of the mouths of the Gilbert River, which they named
the Staten Revier on April 24. On the southward voyage they landed twice.

At the Staten Revier they nailed up a board inscribed:

"In the year of our Lord 1623, here came two yachts on behalf of Their
High Mightinesses, the States General."

Shortly after the return voyage commenced, the Aernem, whose inferior
sailing qualities had been the cause of much annoyance to the commodore,
dropped behind and disappeared.

On the return voyage of the Pera, several landings were made, always
with the object of taking water or firewood or capturing slaves, and
inlets were named the Nassau, Vereenichde, Coen, Batavia, Carpentier and
Van Spult. At the Coen, the writer of the log (a mate or super-cargo)
landed with ten musketeers and met a party of natives and gave an
illustration of what was understood by the official term "strategy":--

"We kept them on the beach by holding out iron and beads until we were
close to them, when the skipper seized an unarmed one round the waist,
and the quartermaster threw a noose round his neck, by which means he was
dragged to the boat. The other blacks seeing this, tried to rescue the
captive by furiously throwing their assagais. In defending ourselves, we
shot one, upon which the rest took to flight, and we returned on board.
In spite of all our kindness and fair seeming, the blacks received us as
enemies everywhere."

The naughty, naughty heathen that they were!

At the Carpentier River, the Pera's men were no better received than the
Duyfken's men had been. More than two hundred natives stood on the beach
and threatened with poised spears, and in spite of proffered gifts,
refused to parley. "We were therefore compelled," says the writer, "to
'fire one or two shots to frighten them. One of the blacks was wounded
and carried to the boat by our men, upon which the others retired into
the sand hills."

After landing at the Van Spult River (which is probably a mouth of the
Jardine) on May 13, the Pera left the Australian coast. The mariners saw
a mountainous country to the north (Prince of Wales Island) and got
tangled among the shoals surrounding the Wallis Islands. With a vivid
recollection of the perils of the "Drooge Bocht," they turned westward as
on as they got clear, "thanking God Almighty for His unspeakable grace
and mercy on this and other occasions."


Captain Cook's "discovery of Australia" is among the things that every
schoolboy knows.

He spent nine days at Botany Bay and resided at Endeavour Inlet, in the
Cape York Peninsula, for forty-nine days (June 17th to August 4th, 1770)
while the ship was undergoing repairs. Cook, with Sir Joseph Banks, and
the other officers of the ship, revelled in botanical and zoological
research and explored the land as far as they dared, considering that
they were tied, as it were, to the crippled Endeavour.

Cook strove assiduously to cultivate the friendship of the natives and
succeeded so well that the individual members of the local tribe were
known to him by their names. He observed their manners and customs, their
weapons, including spears and wommerahs, and their method of raising fire
by friction.

It was soon found that the "manners" of the tribe left something to be
desired. Encroaching on Cook's good nature and hospitality, they rejected
common food, such as biscuits and attempted to take a turtle by force.
Foiled in the attempt, they leaped into the sea, scrambled into their
canoe and paddled for the shore. Cook and Banks got into a boat and
reached the shore before them. When the natives landed, they snatched a
brand from beneath a kettle of pitch, and fired the grass around the
camp, destroying the smith's forge and burning a pig to death. Then,
hurrying to another spot, where some of the sailors were washing and
drying nets, they again set fire to the grass.

As matters had now gone far enough, a charge of small shot was discharged
at one of the natives, "which drew blood at forty yards," says Cook, and
the natives fled. Then a bullet, was "fired across their bows." A little
later, headed by an old man, they emerged from a wood, made friendly
overtures and were forgiven. Presents were bestowed as usual, and this
time included, by way of object lesson, some musket balls, the uses and
effects of which were explained.

The Endeavour put out to sea on August 5. Except for landings at Cape
Bedford and Cape Lookout, and the Low Woody, Turtle, and Lizard Islands,
and a truly miraculous escape from shipwreck on the Barrier Reef, nothing
of importance occurred until the Endeavour rounded Cape York on August
16, and the insularity, of Australia was settled beyond question. Landing
on August 21, 1770, on Possession Island, Cook took formal possession for
George III, of the whole of New South Wales north of 38 degrees south

The systematic charting of the coast of the Cape York Peninsula for the
British Admirality was commenced by Flinders in 1802.


The exploration of the interior of the Peninsula was commenced by Dr.
Ludwig Leichhardt, a Prussian naturalist who had had already, three years
of Australian experience, and desired to emulate the exploits of Sir
Thomas Mitchell. His confessed ambition was to earn a British knighthood,
but this was denied him. He, however, obtained from the King of Prussia a
free pardon for the offence of having evaded military service.

Leichhardt left the Darling Downs on October 1, 1844, with five white men
and two aboriginals. He had seventeen horses and sixteen bullocks. Having
travelled in what was evidently an unusually good season, by the Dawson,
Comet, Mackenzie, Isaacs and Suttor, to the Burdekin Valley, he rises
above our horizon on May 23, 1845, on the divide between the Pacific and
the Gulf. He struck the head of the Lynd and ran the river down--at first
through rough country--noting its geological and botanical features,
until it fell into the larger river, the Mitchell. He then followed the
Mitchell River down for eighty miles through pastoral country. The river
then debouched on the plain which fringes the Gulf and is formed by the
confluent deltas of many great rivers, and began to leak out into
anabranches, which either rejoined the river or joined the branches or
mouths of other rivers.

Leichhardt, who had dreamed of a great river which would carry him north
westward to Port Essington, had by this time realised that he was too far
north, and that he must make for the south to round the Gulf of
Carpentaria. He therefore left the principal stream of the Mitchell and
made twenty-nine miles of westing. He practically followed Dunbar Creek,
which had left the main stream to form an independent mouth of the
Mitchell. He conjectured that the creek, or rather "chain of waterholes,"
was one of the heads of the Nassau River. This error has been followed by
subsequent cartographers, and the creek, which is named Dunbar Creek,
where it issues from the Mitchell, appeared on the maps as the Nassau
River further to the west. It should be named Dunbar Creek, or the Dunbar
mouth of the Mitchell.

At the camp of June 27th on Dunbar Creek, it became evident that the
natives had predatory designs on the bullocks. On the evening following,
says Leichhardt, after Roper, Calvert, Gilbert and Murphy had retired to
their tents, "I stretched myself upon the ground as usual, at a little
distance from the fire, and fell into a dose, from which I was suddenly
roused by a loud noise, and a call for help from Calvert and Roper.
Natives had attacked us. They had doubtless watched our movements during
the afternoon, and marked the position of the different tents, and as
soon as it was dark sneaked upon us and threw a shower of_ spears at the
tents of Calvert, Roper and Gilbert, and a few at that of Phillips, and
also one or two towards the fire." Gilbert, the natural history
collector, was killed outright, and Roper and Calvert were severely
wounded with spears and beaten with clubs. One. native: was wounded by
the boy Murphy, who shot from behind a tree.

The journey was resumed on July 1st, on a south-west course. Leichhardt
crossed and named the Gilbert River. He then rounded the south end of the
Gulf of Carpentaria, and reached Port Essington, almost without incident,
except for the shooting of game, which was plentiful, on December 18,


Edmund. Kennedy, a surveyor, who had been with Sir Thomas Mitchell's
expedition to the Maranoa in 1845-46, was appointed in 1848 by the
Government of New South Wales to the leadership of an expedition
instructed to explore the coast country from Rockingham Bay to Cape York.
Unfortunately he did not live to complete his task, and his journal and
maps were lost. The record has, for the most part, to be gleaned from the
narratives of two of the three survivors.

The party was thirteen in number--the unlucky thirteen. The equipment
included everything that could possibly be wanted. There were three
carts, 28 horses, 100 sheep, four dogs, a ton of flour, 130 pounds of
shot, 588 feet of rope, and a canvas sheepfold, and this load proved
singularly applicable to the country to be explored.

The Tam o' Shanter, which carried the expedition from Sydney, was
convoyed by H.M.S. Rattlesnake. The debarcation at Tam o' Shanter Point
took place on May 28, 1848. Among the officers who landed was a young
naturalist, Thomas Huxley, who was afterwards to become famous, and who
made a spirited drawing of Kennedy's start.

Kennedy first tried to the north, and then turned his back on his goal
and went south, almost to where Cardwell is. Forty days of incessant
struggle with the coastal rivers and bogs took the heart out of man and
beast before Kennedy was at last compelled to leave his carts behind,
although the natives had been, on the whole, friendly, and had
occasionally given assistance. There can be no doubt that the disastrous
failure of the expedition was due to the waste of strength incurred in
these first forty days. It should have taken only, a few days to convince
any reasonable man that the carts and sheep were only useless
impediments. Kennedy was, however, a man of indomitable will--obstinacy,
the wise call it. He was pious, and confident in the favour of a
Providence, which was bound to assist him in his praiseworthy efforts. In
short, he was that sort of a man which is, or was, bred in the south of
Scotland and the north of Ireland. Reading Carron's account of the
journey, one can picture Kennedy setting his teeth and using the language
of Job:--

"Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him;
But I will maintain my own way before Him."

That "maintaining his own way," in despite of reason, was his undoing.

Even without the carts, the ascent of the precipitous jungle-clad range
cost twenty-six days of toil, and as grass does dot grow in the jungle,
the travelling power and food value of the sheep must have diminished
rapidly. The summit was reached on August 9. It was soon found that rigid
economy must be observed in the consumption of mutton, and when a horse
failed he was killed and eaten, to spare the sheep.

The party crossed the divide between the Pacific and the Gulf, and ran
the Hodgkinson down north westward till it joined the Mitchell; and
Kennedy believed that the Mitchell would lead them to Princess Charlotte
Bay. He, therefore cannot have identified it with the river named by
Leichhardt. He followed it westward till it became evident that he was
already south of the bay, and altered his course to the north. Near
midnight on Sunday, August 10, exactly twelve hours after "prayers as
usual," the blacks threw three spears into the camp, and were answered by
a few shots fired in the dark. No casualties on either side.

When the party were on the Palmer River, six or eight natives threatened
the camp with poised spears, but retired on being fired at. No damage
done. They returned in greater force on thee following day and set fire
to the grass, and a few spears were countered by the discharge of

It had been arranged that H.M.S. Bramble was to have been in Princess
Charlotte Bay in the beginning of August to get into touch with Kennedy,
but as it was October 13 before the party reached the mangrove-fringed
shores of the bay, the junction was not effected. By this time there were
only sixteen horses left and the majority were too weak to carry loads
and were only driven on as a food-supply.

On October 16th-20th, the party crossed the creeks on the western side of
the McIlwraith Range. On the 22nd, the flour had been reduced to 200lbs,
and three of the men were ill. They complained, despairingly, "that they
should never reach Cape York." Poor fellows, they never did!

After coming up the Nisbet Valley for some distance, Kennedy struck to
the left into the McIlwraith Range. The Pascoe River was reached, and
was followed to its head, in the Janet Range. Crossing the range by a
gap, a creek was found running to the north, and it eventually led the
party to tidal waters near the mouth of the Pascoe on November 11. The
last sheep was killed at this camp. The flour had been reduced to 461bs.,
and the stock of beef--dried horseflesh--amounted to 75lbs. The horses,
originally numbering 28, were now reduced to nine.

By this time even Kennedy admitted the impossibility of getting the whole
expedition to Cape York, and prepared for a forlorn hope, or dash for
relief. The distance was only 136 miles as the craw flies, and it was not
too much to expect that this distance might be covered and relief brought
within a fortnight. Eight men were left behind in charge of Carron, the
botanist. Their provision consisted of 281b of flour, half a pound of
tea, and two famished horses. Kennedy left on November 13, taking seven
horses 18lb of flour, the 75lb of horse-flesh and half a pound of tea. He
was accompanied by three white men and the black boy.

When four days out, one of the men, named Luff, was disabled by a "bed
knee." On the sixth, another, named Costigan, accidentally shot himself,
and was brought with difficulty to the camp. This camp was close to a
small sandstone tableland opposite Cape Grenville, and Kennedy mistook
this tableland for the Pudding Pan Hill of the coast chart, which was
fifty miles further north. Here the two disabled men were left in the
charge of a third man named Dunn. A horse was killed to provide them with
meat till the arrival of the relief party. Kennedy's mistake in the
locality had a tragic consequence. Jackey Jackey naturally repeated the
name of Pudding Pan Hill when he reached the ship, and the crew made an
unavailing attempt to find the men at the Pudding Pan Hill shown on the
chart. The three men were never heard of again.

Kennedy and Jackey Jackey were now in a "marching order" so light that
there was nothing to impede their progress. Yet they soon had trouble
with bogs and, matted heath, which 'seriously delayed them. In one place
the heath compelled them to double back.

The exertions and privations of the journey told severely on Kennedy, who
became so weak that Jackey Jackey frequently carried him on his back,
concealing him at night in places where the blacks could not see him.
They also rested for several days when Kennedy was too ill to travel.
Heavy rain added to the terrors of the bogs.

About December 1, Kennedy reached the mouth of the Escape River and was
able to point out Albany Island and the position of Port Albany to Jackey
Jackey. The relief ship lay only eighteen miles off "as the crow flies."
With a supreme effort they might reach it in a single day!

But the natives came up that day in force. For four days the two hunted
men fell back to the south, trying to cross the Escape River (a tidal
inlet), and all the time dodging their pursuers, who alternately
threatened and cajoled. They saw that their victims were far spent and
must soon be too feeble to offer any resistance. They themselves could
afford to take their time.

On December 3, the end came for Kennedy. The blacks surrounded their
quarry and sent showers of spears. It was of no avail that Jackey Jackey
fired a charge of buckshot and Kennedy snapped the cock of his wet gun.
Kennedy was killed and Jackey Jackey wounded.

After digging a grave with a tomahawk, Jackey Jackey eluded his pursuers,
rounded a mangrove swamp and got clear of the Escape River. Eighteen days
later, more dead than alive, he staggered into Port Albany, and hailed
the Ariel. He had crawled on when he was able, scrambling for food in the
lucid intervals between long periods of stupor.

The fact that Kennedy enjoyed the respect of his men throughout all their
hardships is testimony enough of his worth. As for Jackey Jackey, no more
faithful and loyal service was ever offered on the altar of duty than was
offered by that son of a despised and vanishing race. Who so stands
before the marble monument in St. James's Church, King Street, Sydney.
may drop impartial tears to the memory of the master and the man.

The Ariel hastened to the rescue of the party left behind at the Pascoe,
after making an ineffectual attempt to find the Pudding Pan Hill party;
but for six of the eight men the relief came too late!

These men had succumbed, one after another, to famine or one or other of
the diseases which follow in its train. And while they were dying, the
blacks, like mocking fiends, hung around, offering baits of rotten food
to tempt the unhappy men to leave their cover. They had at last, when
only two of the party survived, gathered courage for a general assault,
which was only frustrated by the dramatic arrival of the party from the
ship. Two ghastly spectres of what had been Carron and Goddard were
assisted to the boat and the ship, to be nursed bark to health while the
Ariel pursued her voyage to Sydney.

Carron's account of the sojourn of the men marooned at the Pascoe is a
simple tale, but it is equal in pathos to the most thrilling of Defoe's
histories, and it is all truth, and not fiction.


Frank and Alick Jardine, young men of 22 and 20, took a mob of cattle
overland for the supply of the newly established settlement at Somerset,
where their father was Government resident. To their own equipment the
Government added a surveyor and his outfit. They left Carpentaria Downs,
then the northmost cattle station, on October 11, 1864, when the party
numbered six whites and four blacks, with forty-two horses, and reached
Somerset on March 2, 1865.

Although less of a drag than Kennedy's carts and sheep, the cattle were
responsible for serious delays. The brothers were seldom with the cattle,
which generally travelled slowly behind, while the brothers pioneered the

Carpentaria Downs was near the head of a river, which the owner of the
station believed to be Leichhardt's Lynd. The river was followed down
till it became clear that this was an error, whereupon the new river was
named the Einasleigh, and a northern course was struck.

When at last the Nassau River (which, following Leichhardt, the explorers
took for the Staten), was met with, it was followed westward to the Gulf.
Next on a westward course, the party crossed the mouths of the Mitchell,
Holroyd and Kendall Rivers. As they were then in low country liable to
inundation, they made for higher land, turning off to the north-east at
Cape Keerweer. On this course, they crossed the so-called Coen River
(South Coen), a tributary of the Archer, and then the Archer itself. From
this point north-east they were on the heads of important rivers flowing
towards the Gulf, but could not connect any of them with the "reviers" or
inlets of the Dutch. Opposite Shelburne Bay they climbed the first
approach to a range which they had seen for many weeks, and named it
Richardson Range.

After a short traverse of the heads of Pacific waters they made one of
the mistakes which are so easy to make in new country. Forty miles south
of the mouth of the Escape River, they struck a river running north,
which they were convinced must be the Escape. An excursion to the actual
mouth of the Escape River, where the brothers were caught by the
fish-hook-shaped inlet as Kennedy had been, failed to convince them of
their error, and the whole caravan followed the left bank of the swollen
new river to the north-west, daily expecting it to turn towards the
Pacific, till it brought them to the Gulf, within sight of Prince of
Wales Island and barely thirty miles from Somerset. By order of the
Governor the new river was afterwards named the Jardine. The two brothers
and a black boy made their way to Somerset, which they reached on March
2, 1865, and obtained assistance, and the main camp and the cattle
eventually followed. Three fourths of the horses and at least one-fifth
of the cattle had perished.

Before leaving the Einasleigh, the carelessness of some of the men, in
the absence of the leaders, resulted in a bush fire which consumed a
large quantity of flour and other necessaries. Near the mouth of the
Nassau, the drought was severe, and great sufferings were induced by
thirst. Some of the horses went mad, owing, it was believed to their
having drunk salt water.

Near Cape Keerweer, the wet season set in in earnest, and the remainder
of the journey was a struggle with bogs, flooded rivers, opthalmia, the
absence of edible grass, the prevalence of poison plant, and the loss of
horses and cattle. The daily record is almost monotonous in its
repetitions, though each day brought forth its own difficulties, and
called for fresh expedients. In the neighbourhood of the Richardson
Range, there were still the bogs and floods, and in addition the country
had become of the most miserable character and bore only a matted heath,
alternating with scrub full of thorny vines. The clothing of the party
was torn to pieces, but each man still had a belt and a ragged shirt. The
spare time in camp was hardly sufficient for the task of picking thorns
out of bare legs. Rafts had to be built to cross the Jardine River on two
occasions. There was always beef to be had, but sometimes it was
inconvenient to kill, and the pangs of hunger were often added to the
other discomforts especially after the flour was exhausted.

From the first the Jardine Brothers had resolved to treat the natives
fairly and considerately, but at the same time they would stand no
nonsense. They had more trouble with them than any other explorers before
or since, perhaps because the cattle offered a prize which aroused the
cupidity of born hunters.

A mob of fifty blacks threatened the party on the Einasleigh, and dogged
their steps peristently, but a conflict was avoided. Another hostile
demonstration took place on the Nassau, and a few days afterwards spears
were thrown, and replied to by firearms, but without casualties. Then
Frank Jardine, riding alone, was surprised by twelve natives, who threw
half a dozen spears, whereupon he shot three and the others fled. About a
week later the main caravan was attacked by a large body of natives (in
the absence of the brothers), and in the return fire several were killed
or wounded.

Between Magnificent Creek and the Mitchell, the two brothers were
attacked by a great number of natives, who only retired after eight or
nine had been shot. Next day, on the north side of the Mitchell, a
determined attack was made by a large force who threw showers of spears,
and were only repulsed after about thirty had been shot.

Near Cape Keerweer, while the travellers were fixing the camp in a
furious thunderstorm, the natives stampeded the horses and cattle, and
attacked the party during the confusion which ensued. As the diary puts
it, "the natives paid for their gratuitous attack by the loss of some of
their companions."

The last attack took place on January 14, 1866, in the latitude of Cape
Granville, and on this occasion two natives were shot.

The contribution of the Jardines to the geography of the Peninsula, as
edited by Frederick Byerley, was incomparably greater than that of the
two previous explorers, although Kennedy's notes, if they had been
preserved, would have been more important.


In 1872, William Hann, a Burdekin squatter, set himself the task of
exploring the country northward to the 14th parallel. The Government
assisted, and the party of six white men and a black boy included Norman
Taylor, geologist, Dr. Tate, botanist, and Frederick Warner, surveyor.

The mobilisation took place at Fossilbrook, an out-station of Mount
Surprise, and a start was made on June 26, 1872. The Lynd was followed
down for 25 miles towards the north west. To the north, the Tate River
was first met with, and then the Walsh River was followed down to the
west of north for about thirty miles, and then, on striking out to the
north-west, the Mitchell was met with.

An excursion down the Mitchell to the west located the infalls of the
Walsh and the Lynd. The main camp was then moved up the Mitchell to where
the telegraph line now crosses, and in an excursion the Mitchell was
traced up for about sixty miles to the east.

The Palmer was reached on August 5. Prospecting operations at Frome were
rewarded by the discovery of gold, which was traced for about thirty-two
miles up the new river to what is now Maytown. Hann was of opinion that
the gold, though widely distributed, was not payable. In a few years,
however, gold to the value of five and a half millions sterling, had been
won from the Palmer.

Several parties of natives were seen, but beyond an attempt to burn the
camp out they made no active hostile display.

North-west of the Palmer, Hann discovered a new river in what was at
least possibly auriferous country, named it the Coleman and followed it
northward to its head, crossed the head of Jardine's Holroyd River, and
reached a river flowing to the east, which he named the Stewart, and
followed down eastward to the Pacific.

After skirting the mangroves of Princess Charlotte Bay, Balclutha Creek,
the Annie River and Saltwater Creek were crossed. Some gifts were
bestowed on friendly natives. Then began the usual confusion and attempts
to distinguish rivers among the anastomosing mouths of the Kennedy,
Normanby and other rivers falling into the southern end of the bay. To
the eastmost and most important he gave the name of the Normanby River.

Leaving the Normanby, Hann steered south-east for the dimly descried
Battle Camp Range, which he reached on September 17, after traversing
fifty-five miles of flats which it was obvious were in part liable to be
inundated in wet seasons.

On this part of their journey, the party had their first serious trouble
with the natives. Trusting in the permanency of the friendly relations
which had been established, Tate indulged a black boy with a ride on the
front of his saddle. After reaching the camp, Jerry, Hann's black boy,
and the new comer, wandered out in search of wild honey, when a mob of
excited natives came up and claimed the boy, who was given up without
demur. Next morning, however, the natives mustered in force, and,
dividing into two bodies, attacked the party with spears. Two shots
converted the advance into a rapid retreat, without any casualties.

Hann then followed the Normanby River up to the south east for about
thirty miles and camped on its right bank. Here he was within a mile of
the head of the Endeavour River, and when he had surmounted a low gap and
found a creek running east he never doubted that he was on a branch of
the river discovered by Captain Cook. After he had run this creek (Oaky
Creek) down to the east for twenty miles, it fell into the left bank of a
large river coming from the south and then flowing east. Here, then, he
concluded, was the main stream of Cook's Endeavour River. He traced it
down to Weary Bay on the Pacific shore. It was, in fact, not the
Endeavour, whose mouth was five miles further north, but an independent
river to which the name of Annan was subsequently given. Arrived at Weary
Bay, and still entertaining no doubt that the Annan was the Endeavour, he
commented on the inaccuracy of Cook's description and his over-estimation
of the capabilities of the harbour.

The real Endeavour harbour and its vicinity were by this time quite
well-known to seafaring men, and in fact Hann found in Weary Bay a
temporarily-deserted fishing establishment belonging to Robert Towns and
Co., of  Sydney.

Favoured by an exceptionally good season, the progress of the party
hitherto had been, as the leader remarks, "a pleasure trip." His original
object had been accomplished before his real difficulties commenced.

Hann now set himself to trace the Annan (the supposed Endeavour) to its
head, but as he neared the head the course became arduous in the extreme,
from the steepness of the scrub-covered slopes. Between the Annan and the
Blomfield, the path had literally to be hewn foot by foot through a dense
jungle, covering deep and dangerous slopes.

From the mouth of the Blomfield River Hann persisted for a fortnight in
an attempt to push his way south, or at least to reach the sea. Mapping
was impossible, as he was practically tunnelling through a dense jungle.
It was not, indeed, till years afterwards that pathways were driven
through the jungle, chiefly by the efforts--for the most part
unrecorded--of the officers of the native police.

On October 11, a party of very friendly natives was met with, and two
individuals made themselves useful as guides. Guides are seldom deficient
in self-respect, and the aboriginals proved no exception to the rule;
when Hann reached a summit and explained that he vehemently desired to go
south east, the guides protested that it was impossible--and vanished.
Hann's subsequent efforts only served to prove that the guides were
right, and he admitted that to have persisted must have brought about the
destruction of the whole party.

After retracing his steps for three days, Hann struck out to the
north-west, and emerged from the scrub on waters which he correctly
surmised to belong to the Normanby River. Here he was threatened by
natives, who attempted a nocturnal raid. Next he ran north-west down a
river, which he named the Hearn, (but which later came to be known as the
Laura), in fine basaltic country. Here the natives again threatened the
party with spears, and had to be driven off with a harmless shot.

Getting away to the west, Hann next crossed the Mosman and Little Laura
Rivers, and having struck the Little Kennedy River, followed it up
through the Conglomerate Range and dropped down on the Palmer.

From the Palmer, his home track diverged little from his outward track,
and the starting point at Fossil Brook was reached on November 10. A few
miles to the south, he reached Junction Creek Telegraph station, and
communicated with the Minister for Goldfields.


James Venture Mulligan, who was on the Etheridge Goldfield, when the news
of Hann's discovery of gold arrived, collected a party of five men to
prospect the new locality on the Palmer. Travelling via Mount Surprise,
the Rocky Tate, the Tate, the Walsh and the Mitchell Rivers the party
reached the Palmer on June 29, 1873.

The party had barely settled down, when the natives entered their formal
protest against the trespass. An attempt to burn the camp out having been
foiled, was followed by the discharge of stones from an adjacent hill and
shouts of defiance and the brandishing of spears. A modus vivendi was
afterwards arranged.

The prospectors proved the existence of payable gold from Frome up to the
North Palmer River. After selecting a claim at Palmerville, they turned
homeward on August 24, carrying 102 ounces of gold. The Etheridge was
reached on September 3. Payable gold was reported, and the party obtained
the 1,000 reward. Cooktown was opened as the port, where Captain Cook
had landed in 1770. Within the next three years, about 15,000 white men,
and 20,000 Chinese landed at the foot of Cook's "Grassy Hill." Up to the
present day about five and a half million pounds worth of gold has been

Till his death, in 1907, Mulligan was never long out of the field.
Innumerable prospecting "trips" filled up the greater part of his time.
Many of these trips were only alluded to in "fugitive literature," or
never got beyond his note book.

On the first rush to the Palmer, the blacks had made a determined stand
against the invaders at Battle Camp, and for some time afterwards they
ambushed and speared the diggers whenever they could and the diggers
fired on them at sight. Although Mulligan was constitutionally averse to
violence, he was obliged to fight on several occasions, because the
blacks cared nothing for individual justice, and were satisfied to
redress their wrongs by reprisals; and in consequence many perfectly
innocent white men suffered for the misdeeds of others.

Mulligan's third (i.e., third recorded) trip was a round tour commencing
at Palmerville on August 6 and ending on September 21 1874. On this trip
he prospected the Hodgkinson River, where gold was found, but his verdict
was that there was "no prospect for anything payable." Later on, however,
he claimed, with others, the reward for the discovery of a payable
goldfield, in which rich reefs occurred. The Hodgkinson field has lived,
with ups and downs, for forty years.

On what may be called his fifth expedition, Mulligan was for the first
time assisted by the Government, and a surveyor was attached to his
party. Starting from the head of the Laura on May 11, 1875, Mulligan ran
the Eastern Hodgkinson to its head. Passing eastward through a granite
range he reached a "meadow interspersed by deep creeks," on May 23, and
expected to reach the Mitchell the following day.

A few years later, I had occasion to become very familiar with this
"meadow," which contains the actual head of the Mitchell. The "meadow"
is, in fact, an alluvial flat common to the Mitchell, which flows into
the Gulf, and the Barron, which flows into the Pacific. An extra high
flood in the Barron would send the surplus waters of that river into the
Mitchell. The conclusion was inevitable that the Barron was once the
actual head of the Mitchell River. Geological investigation showed that
at no very remote date this portion of the Barron Valley had been raised
by the accumulation of basaltic lava-flows to a level which enabled the
river to escape through a gap to the east; and this was followed by the
erosion of the stupendous gorge which begins at the Barron Falls, and the
Barron thenceforth emptied into the Pacific instead of into the Gulf.

Continuing his journey to the east, Mulligan hit the left bank of the
Barron exactly where he expected to find the Mitchell. Without a
suspicion that the river was not the Mitchell, he was amazed that it
should, still, so far above where he had last seen it, be a river of so
much importance and carry such a large volume of water, and emphatically
declared the Mitchell to be the "river of Queensland." The mistake was
not only natural, but inevitable.

Practically, Mulligan ran the Barron Valley up to the south. He had not
the luck to discover payable gold to the east of the river, but he drew
attention to the existence of the metal, and in 1879 miners camped at
Timaroo (sic) Creek actually found it payable.

Mulligan did not fail to remark upon the richness of the jungle-clad
basaltic soil in the valley of the Barron. Now that the jungle has been
partly cleared, the agricultural possibilities of this district, which,
though well within the tropics, has an elevation of 2400ft., and, in most
years, a sufficient rainfall, have been commercially realised.

Ascending a granite range, the prospectors found themselves on the head
of the Herbert River, which falls into the Pacific at the North end of
Rockingham Bay.

On the site of the present town of Herberton, Mulligan brought into the
camp "a fine sample of tin ore." The subsequent development of the
metal-mining industry which spread from Herberton as a centre has done
even more for North Queensland than the discovery of the Palmer

Mulligan and his companions reached Junction Creek telegraph station on
June 16, 1875, and he reported progress to the Minister for Mines.

Leaving Mount Surprise station on July 3, the whole party returned to the
Palmer. On the Lynd, they found in a native camp some evidence of a
recent cannibal feast.

On August 13, they left the Palmer, and struck north-west, reaching the
Coleman River on August 22. Mulligan added to the map a new river, which
he named the King. He had long cherished a desire to visit the Coleman,
the possibly auriferous country to which Hann had drawn attention. After
prospecting the Coleman country, he was disappointed in not finding
payable alluvial gold, but noted the presence of numerous quartz reefs.

North of the King, Mulligan crossed the Jardines' Holroyd River, and
named it the Lukin, by which name it was for some time afterwards known
to the miners of the Hamilton goldfield.

Descending to the coastal plain south of Princess Charlotte Bay, Mulligan
made rapid progress, naming on his way the Hann and Warner Rivers, and
reached Cooktown on September 23, 1875.

Mulligan was one of the most amiable men I have known. He was possessed
of a sweet reasonableness and a persuasive charm which always commanded
the devotion of his followers. In his camps there were none of the
dissents and recriminations which disfigure the records of some explorers
with greater pretentions to culture. Withal, he had patience and tact,
and in spite of his poor equipment--of which a ship's sextant and a
bucket of water for horizon may serve as a type, he succeeded in adding
more to the wealth of the Peninsula, and in filling in more of the map
than any previous explorer had done.

In 1875 or 1876, a party of fifteen men went out from Cooktown, to
prospect the Peninsula. Near the site of the future township of Coen they
split up into three parties, one of whom remained on the ground. This
party, consisting of Robert Sefton and two others, got on gold in
September, 1876, and returned to Cooktown in December with sixty ounces.
In May, 1877, they returned to the camp, where they remained till
December, when they again made for Cooktown, this time taking 140 ounces.
In January, 1878, they marked out a track, along which a "rush" from
Cooktown and the Palmer took place. The alluvial gold proved a
disappointment and the field was practically deserted by July. I visited
the deserted field in September, 1879, and saw the "shanty," and the
loopholed log hut which had been the stronghold and head quarters of the
prospectors before the rush.

For fourteen years the field lay untenanted. In 1892 however, it entered
on a new phase of existence as a reefing field, where work has gone on
almost continuously for the past twenty-three years. The geographical
position of the township makes it a useful base for prospecting, which
has already yielded good results.

The contribution of the Coen prospectors to geographical knowledge was
small, but they must have acquired (if they failed to communicate), a
knowledge of the Coen River (which I prefer to call the South Coen), the
heads of Balclutha and Saltwater Creeks, and probably some of the heads
of the Batavia River.



Two years after my arrival in Queensland, I had, in the regular course of
my work as Government Geologist, completed an investigation of the coal
resources of the Cook district, and I started, on August 15, 1879, on a
reconnaisance to the north, with two white men, two black boys and ten

New country was first met with in the Cape Melville Peninsula. After
naming the Starcke River, we struck west, and the horses almost perished
from starvation on a creek which was named Desert Creek. They were nursed
back to usefulness by a few days on good grass on the Normanby River.
Then we made southward for the blazed track which we followed to the
scene of the short-lived Coen rush, which we reached on September 9. I
was tempted to explore the new country beyond the south Coen, but the
extent to which this could be done was restricted within very narrow
limits by the approaching exhaustion of our food.

We left the ruinous Coen "shanty" on September 14, and struck north by
west. In two miles we came on the head of a creek which I named the
Croll, after a former colleague on the Geological Survey of Scotland, and
followed it down on our course. On a branch of Croll Creek we found
prospecting pits, tracks of horses, and an old camp, believed to have
been Sefton's.

Striking north-north-east from Croll Creek, we skirted the foot hills of
the granitic dividing range which lay on our right and crossed Home
Creek. This creek falls into a large river, which we reached in a few
miles, and which we named the Peach River. Later exploration has proved
the Peach to be one of the heads of the Archer River. At the crossing of
the river we found tin. A few miles further we found gold, but we could
seldom reach the "bottom". We also found gold in a reef on the granite
hills south of the river.

Leaving the river, we struck north-west for a conical hill, through open
timbered country, crossing Beetle and Irvine Creeks. The hill was reached
on my birthday, from which circumstance I named it Birthday Mount. A
sand-stone tableland lying to the west, through which the Peach River
made a breach, I named the Geikie Range.

We had now gone quite as far as a prudent regard for the state of our
larder would permit, and had perforce to turn our faces homeward.
Steering to the south, we crossed the Peach and again found tin, about
eight miles below where we had previously found it. We crossed the South
Coen River about eight miles below the prospectors' log hut. South of the
river I noticed the occurrence of promising reefs, while "colours" of
gold were obtained from the river itself.

We then steered a south-south-east course for the bend of the Kennedy, on
the road from Cooktown to the Palmer. After crossing the Holroyd and
Coleman Rivers, and a sandstone range, which is the continuation of the
range known on the Palmer as the "Conglomerate," we arrived at the
Kennedy Bend on September 27.

The first man we met on the road was a carrier named Donald Mackenzie,
who afterwards took up Lakefield station on the Warner River. He was
murdered in his garden by the blacks. Soon afterwards we were welcomed by
Mr Hugh Fitzgerald, Sub-Inspector in charge of the Native Police Camp on
the Laura River. In a recent conversation, Mr Fitzgerald recalled a
forgotten incident of this meeting. Externally we were travel-stained,
and internally we were an "aching void," having run it so fine in the
matter of rations that there had been no supper nor breakfast. Even Mr
Fitzgerald's courtesy could not ignore our condition, and he suggested a
bath and change, but advised us to hurry as dinner was about to be
served. My reply was that I had become inured to rags and dirt, but not
yet to hunger, and that in the circumstances the preliminary toilet would
be mere foppery.

I sent a progress report from the Laura Telegraph Station, and reached
Cooktown on October 3, 1879.


My progress report to the authorities in Brisbane having been telegraphed
to the Hodgkinson, a party was formed there composed of four miners and
prospectors of tried efficiency, James Crosbie, John Layland, George Hume
and George Hamil. This party received assistance from Government in the
shape of horses and six months' rations. My own instructions from the
Minister for Mines were to lead them to the spot and point out what, in
my opinion, were the most favorable localities for prospecting, while at
the same time carrying on my own geological observations. My party
consisted of J. J. Macdonald, who had been with me on the trip which
ended at Birthday Mount, James Love (my stepson, then not out of his
teens), and Charlie, a Townsville aboriginal. Of the seven white men Love
and I are now the only survivors.

A suggestion of mine, that the party should be accompanied by an officer
of the Native Police and a few troopers, was rejected by the Minister, in
terms, as I afterwards learned, which were insulting, although the reply,
as it reached me, was couched in decorous official language. That,
however, is neither here nor there, and may be passed over as merely
personal, but I cannot help contrasting the ministerial attitude of the
time with that of succeeding ministers, who were always ready to provide
police escort for telegraph parties, surveyors, missionaries and others
who proffered a reasonable claim. As we were refused police escort, I
hold myself free of responsibility for what happened when we were obliged
to take the law into our own hands, exactly as I pointed out we might
have to do.

I led straight for the Geikie Range from the Kennedy Bend, so that the
prospectors might commence operations on the Peach River. Having crossed
the "Conglomerate Range," we found ourselves on a creek, running west,
which I named Crosbie Creek, and which was prospected for gold without
success. This creek is a tributary of the Mitchell. Some twenty miles
below where we crossed it, auriferous reefs were afterwards worked at

From Crosbie Creek, we kept a north-west course to the Coleman River. Our
next stage was to the north, up the dry valley of a watercourse, which I
named Dismal Creek, falling to the south to join the Coleman. We saw
numerous quartz reefs on which we would have liked to have spent some
time, but our instructions were explicit, not to waste time on quartz
reefs, our object being alluvial gold.

Two black gins were surprised by our party at the Holroyd. One of them
chose the better part and fled--no man pursuing; but the other took to a
tree, which she ascended or descended with astonishing agility as her
fears increased or diminished, using her hands and the soles of her feet
only. We left her to come down at her leisure, but she was still
discoursing volubly. I could not translate the words, but the tone was
unmistakable. She was scolding, scolding, scolding, as long as we were
within hearing.

On the second day after leaving the Holroyd, we camped on a miserable
puddle, full of tadpoles and frog spawn, and named it Tadpole Creek.
There were many quartz reefs in the neighbourhood, and the camp cannot
have been far from what is now the Lochinvar Provisional Goldfield. Next
day we reached the South Coen River.

Nine miles north of the South Coen, we climbed to the top of the Geikie
Range. After traversing this tableland, we descended to the Peach River,
at a point about ten miles below Birthday Mount. The prospectors got
colours of gold in the river.

Eight busy days were spent in exploring and prospecting the Peach and its
tributaries, which drain a large portion of the McIlwraith Range. I
sketched and named, chiefly after former colleagues on the Geological
Survey of Scotland, most of these watercourses. In their order from south
to north they are:--

Croll Creek, Horne Creek, Peach River, Christmas Creek, Beetle Creek,
Wilson Creek, Irvine Creek, Attack Creek, Skae Creek, Falloch Creek,
Geikie Creek and Hull Creek. There were considerable difficulties. The
watercourses were, for the most part, brawling rapids, with narrow
valleys, in which there was no stay for alluvial deposits. The mountains
were steep and precipitous, and covered with a dense growth of thorny
jungle. Gold was found by the prospectors here and there, but never in
sufficient quantities to be payable.

After eight days (on December 28) when we were near the head of the Peach
River, the tropical wet season set in. What this means to the traveller
in such country, I can hardly convey in words.

In the of afternoon of 30th December, when only Love and Hamil were in
the camp at Christmas Creek, a crowd of armed natives approached, with
threatening gestures. Love and Hamil fired at them, and, when they fled,
pursued them for some distance, but returned to the camp when they
remembered that the Johnny cakes, which were browning on the embers,
would be burnt. The blacks re-appeared on a distant knoll and executed a
war dance, which they accompanied with shouts of defiance.

Shortly after the other members of the party had returned to camp the
blacks advanced in force. A tall native got up on a green knoll about 60
yards off, and shouted and defied us with gestures which would be
considered vulgar in polite society. This champion and our Charlie
exchanged Homeric harangues for some time. According to Charlie, his
opponent spoke to the effect that he (Charlie) should come over and join
them before their legions fell upon us from all points of the compass and
annihilated us. Only the orator kept in view, but he turned from time to
time to address an invisible crowd who responded in a chorus of
encouragement. Crosbie, arguing that the blacks would not have behaved in
this truculent manner if they had not been in great numbers, and really
meant battle, put an end to the conference by firing at the spokesman,
who retired behind a tree with amazing rapidity.

The wet season set in, as already mentioned, on December 29, and from
that date prospecting became almost impossible. The problem was no longer
how to "bottom" on wash dirt, but how to avoid drowning.

Insect life plays remarkable pranks in the tropical rains. While we were
camped on Beetle Creek, we were suddenly invaded by a plague of small
beetles, which drowned themselves in the tea, swarmed the meat and sugar,
crawled over our persons in myriads and ate holes in the saddle-cloths
and pack-bags.

On January 5, 1880, we were at the head of the Wilson Valley, when we saw
four or five blacks camped beside a scrubby creek. As we approached they
disappeared into the scrub. In the boughs of a tree, we observed two
bundles, which, from their odour and shape we took to be corpses. We had
no inclination to disturb their repose, but while we stood at gaze some
natives were seen sneaking up behind, but they retired when we rode
towards them. We had hardly gone a quarter of a mile further when more
blacks were observed. Love and Charlie rode towards them till they were
peremptorily recalled. One of the natives dropped a spear in his flight.

An hour later, in the gap dividing the head of Wilson Creek from the
valley of Attack Creek, we were on a small patch of open country
surrounded by dense scrub. There was a fog; the rain was falling and the
ground was soft. Suddenly a shower of spears raked us from the scrub on
our left. The trajectory of one of the spears could have been charted
accurately enough. The spear passed close behind Macdonald; its tail end
grazed my bridle wrist, and its point stuck fast in the shoulder of
Love's horse. Had Macdonald been a few inches behind; he would have
stopped the spear. Failing that, I would have done so, if I had been a
few inches forward. Failing that, if Love had been a few inches forward,
his leg would have been pinned to the saddle. It was a spear which
narrowly missed three good chances before it found a billet in poor
"Moonlight's" shoulder. Another spear had grazed the chest of one of the
pack horses. We heard, but never saw the enemy. Any attempt to find him
and pursue him through the scrub would have been ridiculous.

North of Attack Creek, we got away to the north and east, rounded a
mountain which we named Ben Lomond, and essayed the crossing of the
McIlwraith Range. I had so named the dividing range from the head of the
Stewart to the Pascoe. The crossing of the range was a tedious and
toilsome business, as we had to cut our way through heavy scrubs.
Nevertheless, we found one clear hill between the heads of Falloch and
Geikie Creeks, which gave us a view of the whole coast range between
12deg. 55min. and 13deg. 38min., which I named the Macrossan Range.

We reached the actual divide on the McIlwraith Range on January 9. The
prospectors were leading, and had just got on the eastern fall, when they
were mobbed by natives, whom they attacked and drove off.

Some two miles further on, we had to descend an open-timbered ridge which
ended in a dense scrub, through which the prospectors were hewing a path
for the horses. Suddenly, the mare "Swallow," which I rode, bounded into
the air, burst her girth, and spun me over her head, scattering my maps,
instruments, and note books among the long grass. A spear from behind,
thrown by a silent and invisible enemy, had entered her flank just behind
the saddle. Love, Charlie and I ran up the spur; but we saw nothing of
our assailant, and it would have been madness to seek him in the scrub.

We cut off the spear a few inches above the skin and got the mare down to
a camp on the creek with some difficulty. We had prepared to throw her
for the necessary operation, but she lay down quietly and put herself in
our hands as if she knew (as she doubtless did), that we were her
friends. I cut out the spear-head, which was buried to the depth of four
inches, and had a bone barb an inch and a half in length. The mare
appeared to be in great agony and died before morning.

In the morning, we saw before us open country in the valley of a river,
running first south and then east into the Pacific. The river was named
the Nisbet. We were at breakfast and almost ready to start, when a large
body of blacks approached from the west, shouting and gesticulating and
brandishing spears. Four or five of us started up the slope to meet them.
The mob in the rear exposed themselves freely, but an advance guard took
skilful advantage of every bit of cover in the shape of trees or granite
boulders. In fact they employed, to my admiration, the tactics which had
been taught me by the Irish drill sergeant, who instructed me while I did
my three years in the Ayrshire Volunteers. After all, the "advance in
skirmishing order" was probably learned in the first instance from
savages. We fired at the crowd in the rear, killing one and wounding
another, whereupon the whole mob disappeared.

Resuming our journey to the east, we camped on the Nisbet River. As we
approached the camping ground, a party of natives was seen hurriedly
breaking up their camp about a quarter of a mile away. They left a number
of spears behind, which we burned. One of them was an ugly weapon. Its
head was a little flattened, and edged with chips of bottle glass let
into grooves. I had not seen flattened spear-heads among the natives
before, and was inclined to believe that this spear--or the idea--had
been imported from some of the South Sea Islands. A few hours later, we
found that the natives had stealthily returned to the camp they had
abandoned, and carried off the dilly-bags, nuts, etc. I was glad to think
that the spears, especially the bottle glass one, had been put out of
their way. Prospects of gold were obtained near the camp where the mare
died. The prospectors found that a saddle, which had been left at the
place, because there was no horse to carry it, had been stripped of every
scrap of metal. After we had camped on the Nisbet we saw signal smokes
arise to the west.

Next morning, Charlie detected some natives crossing a bare patch on a
hillside, which must have commanded an excellent view of our camp. Later
in the day I observed, through a field glass, a group of natives, with
spears in their hands, reconnoitring our camp from a bare spot near the
hill top. They offered a good mark, and presented us with an opportunity
of teaching the tribe that we were not mere timid game as they seemed to
think, and that we could be formidable even at a distance of one thousand
yards. Crosbie and I took careful aim and fired simultaneously. All the
men ran for the nearest scrub at a break-neck pace. One dodged back a few
minutes later and picked up a spear which he had left behind in his

I believe that this long shot, although it was a miss, served the purse
for which it was intended, and had a powerful effect on the minds of the
natives. Even the death of one of their number had not deterred them
hitherto from stalking us, but from this day forward we saw nothing of
them for two months; and although the heavy rain camped us for a week
within five miles of the Nisbet Camp, they never even followed our
tracks, as had previously been their constant practice.

North of the head of the Nisbet, a high plateau divides that river from a
river running to the north. A creek rising in the McIlwraith Range flows
across this plateau and breaches the range on the east, entering the
Pacific by a gap in the hills, which appeared on the coast chart of the
time. This creek I named Hays Creek. We found auriferous reefs on the
Nisbet River and Hays Creek, but only "colours" of alluvial gold. Two
groups of reefs have since been worked, the Nisbet and the Golden Gate

The course of the river running to the north was clearly traceable by its
dark fringe of scrub winding through plains, sometimes timbered and
sometimes open. I named this the Lockhart River.

From Hays Creek we struck west-north-west to re-cross the McIlwraith
Range. The crossing involved heavy cutting through the scrub. Once across
the divide, we had a view of the valley of Hull Creek down to its
junction with the Peach River. Hull Creek has since been worked for
stream tin.

When we emerged at length on open country and found it possible to get
away to the north, we crossed what now proves to be the Batavia River.
Another creek, running west, and a tributary of the Batavia, was named
Sefton Creek. Here we found pegs and ridge-poles for eight tents, more
than two seasons old, and believed ourselves to be on the site of the
northmost of Sefton's camps.

After rounding a promontory of the McIlwraith Range, north of Sefton
Creek, we struck north-est (sic) for Cape Weymouth, where I had arranged
to leave letters to be picked up by the Customs cutter on her tour of the
lighthouses between Torres Strait and Cooktown. This project was
frustrated by the arduous nature of the country. We soon found ourselves
running up one branch of the Pascoe River. Our horses here began to
suffer from the effects of some poisonous herb. Among their most
distressing symptoms were madness and lockjaw. Some died and some were
disabled for the rest of the journey.

Having headed the branch of the Pascoe, we looked into Lloyd Bay, which
could only be reached after the descent of a scrubby escarpment. North of
us lay a lofty mountain mass, which I named the Janet range. Kennedy had
forced his way through this range thirty-two years before, with
calamitous results. The only reasonable course open to us was to follow
the Pascoe down until an opening to the north presented itself.

We turned back, and this time followed down the right, or northern, bank
of the creek. Soon we had to cross the main head of the Pascoe, which was
in high flood. Then we struck northward, through low granite hills, the
river itself being seen further west, turning to the north. Between the
Pascoe and Batavia Rivers, the escarpment of a range, or shelf, of
horizontal sandstone extended from south to north. This I named the Sir
William Thomson Range. Another similar range, west of the Batavia River,
I named the Wilkinson Range.

A few miles to the north, we found ourselves on the left bank of a creek
which was running almost north to join the Pascoe River, and which I
named Canoe Creek. We camped at the junction. The present Mineral Field
of Bowden (wolfram, molybdenite and tin) occupies the peninsula between
the creek and the river.

I have always believed in "travelling light," but on this occasion I had
miscalculated. I had taken only a limited supply of salt beef, having
gained the impression, from the trip to Birthday Mount, that we could
live on game to some extent. The country, however, had now become so poor
that even in the height of the wet season it was incapable of supporting
game, or, for that matter, horses. The last of the salt beef had been
consumed on Canoe Creek, and for the first time we had recourse to
horseflesh. The practice was continued for the rest of the journey,
whenever a horse became too much exhausted to travel or met with an

It was now six weeks since the wet season had set in. It would be
monotonous to detail the daily discomforts of travel under such
conditions. Let me say, once for all, "the rain it raineth every day."
It may be imagined how we plodded day after day through the mud, far too
wet to make it a hardship to cross flooded creeks with all our clothing
on, cut the harness of pack horses sunk in bogs, hauled the horses out
of the glue by main force, carried saddles and loads on our heads to the
nearest solid land, camped on the wet ground and lit our afire in an
anthill, with splinters of wood cut out of the heart of a tree.

We spent some days in preparations for crossing the Pascoe. We managed to
find a place where Canoe Creek could be forded, but the Pascoe River
was clearly impassable. The attempt was given up after I had narrowly
escaped drowning, having been swept off my feet, and swum to the point of
exhaustion before regaining the bank of the river just above a dangerous
reach of rapids.

The prospectors had found a hollow log which they converted into a boat,
or canoe. In this, the saddlery and loads were ferried across the Pascoe
by Crosbie and Hamil. The horses forded Canoe Creek, and then swam the
Pascoe gallantly.

Once across the Pascoe, we made north for the south-west corner of Temple
Bay, while the river bore away to the north-east, its lower reaches
dividing the Janet Range from another range which I called the Carron,
after one of the survivors of Kennedy's expedition. On our west the Sir
William Thomson Range stretched from south to north. Tin has since been
found in the Carron Range.

In this country, a heathy vegetation commenced to prevail and the fear of
absolute starvation for our horses gave us a great deal of anxiety, but
we were fortunate enough to get one good camp near Temple Bay. The hands
of the party were by this time in a sad condition, lacerated by the
scrub, with blood-poisoning as a sequel, and there was always the torment
of flies.

We sighted the Piper Island lightship on February 16. The same day we
observed the wreck of a brig on the shore. It never crossed our minds
that it could be unknown to the keepers of the lightship. It was only
after we reached Cooktown that Mr B. Fahey, Collector of Customs, went
out to inspect it, and identified the vessel as the Kate Connelly, which
left Cairns for Sydney, in March, 1878, with a crew of seven or eight

We travelled northward along the beach. Here we saw two gins and some
children. They left a three-pronged fish-spear, which was barbed with
sail needles, and a fighting or hunting spear with a bone barb.

Arrived at the "remarkable red cliff" of the coast chart, we signalled
the lightship by smokes and fires. These signals brought three men in a
boat next morning, (February 18.) They brought us 121b of tinned beef,
and a pile of newspapers--all very welcome. The men could only stay four
hours during which I wrote a progress report, to be forwarded by the next
passing ship. They had never been ashore before, and knew nothing of the
wreck. They informed us that a man had recently been speared in his boat
in the bay.

Seven blacks came up after the boat left us and parleyed with us through
two interpreters who spoke broken English. They offered to exchange fish
for tobacco, and we agreed, stipulating that only two men should come,
and without spears. Their conversation implied a familiarity with beche
de mer fishers.

On February 20, we struck west, and in less than four miles met with a
river flowing to north-north-east. The river was in high flood, and
repeated attempts showed that it could not be forded. In some places it
could not even be approached for bogs. I named the river the Macmillan.

We were very anxious to get out of this country, which was evidently
entirely submerged in very wet seasons. .The only resource was a boat.
Two canoes were built, and lashed together, as no single vessel of
sufficient carrying capacity could be made out of the material available.

At our camp on the right bank of the river, everything woollen was
fly-blown. Our blankets and socks were covered with maggots. On the right
bank the ground was hidden by a palpitating mass of caterpillars.

The luggage was ferried across with much difficulty, but getting the
horses over was another matter. Only one place, a quarter of a mile above
the ferry, was moderately clear of snags, There was first a long swim
from the right bank to a sandy island near the right bank; but the
current was strong, and if the horses were once carried among the tree
tops below the island there was little hope for them. A sand spit
connected the upper end of the island with the left bank, with only a few
feet of swimming; but the bank was dangerously boggy.

The prospectors' horses crossed first; all reached the island in safety
except one, named "Monkey," which was held by a tree until it became
exhausted. On being freed at last, it struck back for the right bank, and
was caught by the current and drowned. The other horses rushed the
channel between the island and the left bank and had a terrible struggle
to land on the boggy left bank.

When the time arrived for my horses to cross, we swam to, and manned, the
more dangerous of the trees, from which, by shouts and gesticulations, we
kept the horses. Once the horses had been assembled on the island, I let
Charlie lead them, one by one, along the sandspit, and before losing his
footing throw the end of the halter to a man posted on the left bank of
the river. Then began the real difficulty with the boggy bank. Four of
the horses had literally to be dug out of the mud with spades, after
which they were hauled up the bank by main force.

We left the Macmillan River without loss of time, and struck north-west
for higher land. Fortunately, the rain was light. Had heavy rain caught
us lingering on the left bank, nothing could have saved us from being
swept down to the sea.

A deluge of rain set in as we reached solid ground, after struggling with
bogs and scrub. We made fair progress to the north for five days on low
shelves of sandstone below the level of the Sir William Thomson shelf,
whose eastern escarpment was visible on our left. One fragment of these
lower shelves of sandstone must have been mistaken by Kennedy for Pudding
Pan Hill, and the mistake, in a sense, resulted in the loss of three of
his companions, and ultimately in his own death.

As we fared north, the open forest country, which at least supported a
little grass, came to an end, and we found ourselves dragging our steps
through a dense heath. For two days we pushed on without seeing anything
for the horses to eat. Anything wholesome, that is to say, for evidently
there was some poisonous plant. Horses would not stay on the starvation
camps; and when they strayed it was difficult to find them in he heath.

We were on the horns of a dilemma! Push forward and trust to luck, or go
back to the nearest grass we knew of and try again? Two more days forward
through similar country might mean the death of all the horses. On the
other hand two days journey back would take us to grass of a kind; but we
would have lost so much in time and distance. After earnest discussion,
Crosbie determined to push on, and I to turn back. A rendezvous was
appointed at Pudding Pan Hill. One consideration which influenced me was
the hope of picking up a valuable pack-horse, which we had been compelled
to leave behind. We recovered the lost horse, but lost three others,
which, as we judged, showed symptoms of poisoning.

It is noteworthy that in this same region, first Kennedy, and afterwards
the Jardine Brothers, had been compelled to double back, owing to the
barrenness of the country.

From the grass, we struck eastward towards the coast, after having
abandoned practically everything but the few eatables we possessed, as it
had by this time become very doubtful whether the horses would live to
"carry their hides" to Somerset.

As we came in sight of the sea, the heath gave place to grassy open
forest. At this point Charlie saw a black-fellow. From his excited
signals I thought he had seen a kangaroo or an emu. With high hopes of
game for the spot, I unslung my rifle and dismounted. Charlie pointed out
the native, and explained his idea, that we should fire together and make
sure of him, and was amazed and disgusted when I declined the sport. When
the native at last became aware of our presence, he slipped into the
scrub, whereupon there arose a tumult of voices which attested the
presence of a considerable number of men.

Next morning, as we were packing, the blacks came up. Two of them spoke
very fair English, and we conversed with them outside the camp. They
hailed us as brothers and insisted on shaking hands. The principal
spokesman, who introduced himself as "Captain Billy," said that he and
his companions owned several canoes, and were fishermen in a big way of
business. They expressed a desire to barter fish and turtle for tobacco,
flour, trousers, shirts, tomahawks and "big-fellow money." At my request
they guided us to the beach by a native track. Billy accompanied us for
some distance along the shore, while his followers kept us in view from
the cliffs above. At the mouth of a creek, which I named after Captain
Billy, our guide left us. A little further on, the cliffs came down to
the water's edge, and we had to mount on the plateau. A large canoe with
five or six men, was now seen paddling rapidly towards us. At the same
moment we discovered two men concealed in the grass, with a supply of
spears beside them. We cautioned and dismissed them. Three or four more
were coming up behind us. Captain Billy came up presently and invited us
to wait for the men in the canoe, who were all, he asserted, "very good
men," and were likely to have fish to dispose of.

On our getting down again to the beach, Billy and his English-speaking
friend came panting up with some of the canoe's crew. They renewed the
offer to exchange fish for tobacco, and we repeated the injunction that
only two were to come, and to come unarmed. Billy protested his bona
fides in these words: "No gammon; Gammon no good!"

We continued travelling northward on the beach for about six miles, when
four or five blacks were seen coming up behind, with spears, and we
turned to meet them. They offered us one small fish. Before coming up
they dropped their spears, which we found.

Reluctant as I was to recommence the petty warfare I could no longer be
blind to the fact that the intention of the blacks was to surprise and
surround us and make an end of us. We were being stalked and hunted down
by relentless foes, who were all the more to be taken seriously because
their leader was by no means an unsophisticated savage, but, on the
contrary, was familiar with white men, and knew the conditions under
which they were vulnerable. Pointing out the spears which they had
concealed I ordered the new comers to fall back, and warned them that we
should fire on them next time they approached.

In two miles we rounded Hunter Point and crossed a boggy creek. The
blacks, numbering about 15, who had probably expected us to be thrown
into confusion by the bog, were now seen coming up behind, armed with
spears, and with undisguised hostility. We got as close to them as we
could (about 150 yards) and fired. Unfortunately we missed, and the
blacks disappeared.

It was now time to camp and I chose a strategic position on the north
side of the creek, where we had an open beach on three sides of us, and
were separated on the fourth by a lagoon from, a dense scrub.

The night was fine and starry. In view of our relations with our
neighbours, a watch of two and a half hours per man was set, the man on
watch to keep the horses together, and look after the safety of the camp.
Macdonald and I had finished our watches, and Love had taken my place. I
had been about twenty minutes on my canvas stretcher and was dosing off
to sleep, when a spear, coming from the direction of the scrub, pierced
the fly under which I lay and crashed through my neck. The point
projected about a foot, and the shaft was too firmly held by the deltoid
muscle to be withdrawn. Rising on my elbow, I fired to alarm the camp,
and as I did so, a second spear split the wooden head-piece of the
stretcher on which my head had rested a moment before.

Having given the alarm, I took up my sheath knife (which had a chippy,
chippy edge, as it had been used for cutting vines in the scrubs), and
carried it to Macdonald. The spear was too thick to cut, and the only
alternative was to cut through the flesh and muscle and let it drop out.
Macdonald performed the somewhat crude operation with great reluctance,
and, in fact, under threats. Had there been plenty of time, no doubt the
proper course would have been to cut the spear, remove the barb, and draw
the spear through the wound--though that would have taken some time. I
erred in assuming that our assailants would act as white strategists
would have done in similar circumstances, and follow up the "artillery
preparation" by an immediate assault; and I considered that, with an
eight-foot spear dangling from my shoulder, I would not have counted for
much in the defence.

The spear was an inch in diameter--the thickest I had ever seen. The
shaft was of hardwood, barbed with seven inches of quarter-inch iron. The
tail end was of light grasstree, hollowed out for the insertion of the
claw of the wommerah. It must have reached me directly over Love's
stretcher, and must have killed him had he been there. The blacks had
been wily enough to stand in the lagoon at a low level which enabled them
to rake the floor of the tent with their spears.

Macdonald's tent had three spears in it, and one had fallen short
outside. He owed his escape to the fact that he slept on The lea side of
a pile of pack saddle and rations. One of the spears in his tent had
pierced a bag of rice, entered the tin cover of an oil bottle and broken
the bottle, thus giving an excellent demonstration of the force with
which a spear can be propelled by a wommerah. We collected an armful of
spears in and around the tents and burned them in the camp fire.

Another member of the expedition had a narrow escape. Charlie, it
appeared, had heard the blacks stealing down into the waterhole from the
scrub. He tried, he said, to awaken Macdonald. If he tried at all he
probably did so with a minimum of noise. As, however, Macdonald slept
soundly, Charlie decided to consult his own safety, and started in haste
for Cape York. Love, who at the moment was rounding up the horses, heard
the fracas at the camp, and saw at the same time a naked black bounding
along the beach, Dropping on one knee, he took careful aim and fired two
revolver shots, which pulled Charlie up, frightened but unhurt.

The creek where these events took place on March 9, was named Camisade

It would have been sheer folly to have attempted retaliation on the
blacks, who could easily have outdistanced us in the scrub, or escaped to
the islands in canoes. Besides, the condition of our horses and rations
alike made it imperative that we should push on and rejoin the
prospectors. In eight miles on the following day, we found the latter
camped on False Orford Ness. They had had an unenviable time since we
parted. There were heavy rains, laborious scrub-cutting, creeks to be
bridged, and no grass for the horses. All their horses were ill, some of
them apparently in a dying condition.

We camped three days at False Orford Ness, for the sake of the horses. I
was all the better for the rest myself, as the wound was painful and
debilitating. Crosbie dressed and poulticed it assiduously. From time to
time a feather soaked in carbolic oil was drawn through it. Before
dismissing the incident, it may be added that for the first few days
after we resumed the journey, I had to be hoisted into the saddle, and
lifted out of it, and that a good many years elapsed before the severed
muscle repaired itself.

From False Orford Ness, we resumed our journey northward along the beach
on March 13. On the 16th we passed the mouth of a new creek, which I
named the Henderson. Two days afterwards wee were at Shadwell Point,
where we regaled on oysters, crabs and lobsters, while the horses had a
day, on grass. We were now only twenty miles from Somerset, if we could
have gone as the crow flies, but it took us seventeen days to finish the

Profiting by the recorded experiences of Kennedy and the Jardine
Brothers, I had made up my mind to follow the divide between the Jardine
River and the waters draining into the Escape River and Kennedy Inlet.
But I had come too far north, and in attempting to go west was stopped by
the Escape River, whose head waters bent like a fish-hook till they bore
us back south and east almost to the mouth of Henderson Creek. It may be
mentioned that one of the prospectors' horses lost his footing on a
bridge, and some cartridges and a large part of our diminishing supply of
sugar were destroyed. This must have been near the spot where Kennedy was
killed. We cleared the last of the branches of the Escape River on March
21, and were on the divide between the Escape and Jardine Rivers, only
six miles west of where we had been seven days before.

We followed this watershed for three days to the west, and having headed
Jackey Jackey Creek, which drains into Kennedy Inlet, started on a
north-east course for Somerset. The watershed was composed of sandstone,
covered with scrub or heath, wth a gentle dip to the south, and
presented to the north a low scrub-covered escarpment.

North of the escarpment, the country is low and scrub-covered, and
interspersed with unexpected bogs and salt-water inlets fringed with
mangrove swamps. The difficulties offered by unknown country of this
description, whilst nearly every day torrents of rain fell, need not be
described in detail. The building of bridges, and other expedients,
already familiar, had to be resorted to. It was common enough to cut our
way through miles of scrub only to be confronted with an impassable
barrier, and our charted track looks like a nightmare. We lost some more
of our horses. For the last six days of travel wee were reduced to a
daily ration of eight-tenths of a pound of flour per man, and beef and
game had long been things of the past. For a few days I had enjoyed a
fictitious reputation as a marksman. I am, or was, indeed, rather above
the average with a rifle, but on one occasion, after beef had become
scarce, and we had entered the barren country, I managed by a fluke to
blow the head off a sitting cockatoo. Jocularly, I claimed to have aimed
at the head to avoid wasting meat, and the joke was taken seriously.

We reached Somerset on April 2, 1880, having taken six days to cover the
twenty-seven miles from the head of Jackey Jackey Creek. We had much to
talk of with Mr. Frank Jardine, who received us with a hospitality in
which we soon forget the hardships of the journey.

The commencement of the wet season had practically put an end to
prospecting operations, and by the time we had reached the latitude of
Fair Cape, the possibly auriferous country ended, being covered, across
the whole width of the peninsula, by more recent accumulations of
horizontal sandstone. Nevertheless, the expedition was not without
economic results, as the record of our observations guided future
prospectors to success, and new gold and mineral fields were opened up.


Mr. J. T. Embley, surveyor, left Princess Charlotte Bay in June, 1884,
ran the Coleman River down to the west coast, and afterwards went
northward to the Archer River, and south-eastward to Lalla Roohk (the
station on the Stewart River taken up by Massy Bros. in 1882.) On this
journey the blacks were found to be "very wild and warlike."

In 1891, he took pup land at Red Island Point, and built a homestead
named Thornbury on Black Gin Creek, near the telegraph line. There is now
a trade in bullocks, which are killed at Red Island Point, refrigerated
on Red Island, and shipped to Thursday Island.

In 1895, he took a boat eight miles up the Lockhart River (head of boat
navigation). Later in the same year, he took a share in York Downs, a
cattle station which had just been formed by Lachlan Kennedy, an old
Palmer and Coen digger, on Myall Creek (which subsequently proved to be
the head of the Mission River). In November, he navigated a boat for
thirty miles up a new river, afterwards named the Embley, landing station
supplies within nine miles of York Downs. The Weipa Mission Station is
now situated or this river, and the waterway is in constant use.

In 1896 he opened auriferous reefs on Possession Island, his first shaft
being close to the spot where Captain Cook hoisted the British flag in

In 1913 he added to the definition of the Lockhart River by surveying
farm lands which were offered for sale by the Government in the following


In 1886-87 a telegraph line was constructed to connect Cooktown with the
capital. It left the Cooktown-Palmerville line at Fairview, near the
present railway terminus at Laura.

The construction was carried on simultaneously by to parties, one working
from Fairview and the other from Cape York. The former included Mr. M.
Moreton, and Mr. Surveyor Bradford. The latter included Mr. Frank
Jardine, who saw and afterwards took up the cattle station Bertie Haugh
on what he named the Ducie River. Detachments of Native Police watched
over the safety of the construction parties. The Fairview party arrived
at Cape York in a famished and exhausted condition.

These are about all the particulars I have been able to learn. Although
no report has been published, it is evident from the maps of the Lands
Department that the work of the constructors contributed largely to our
knowledge of the interior of the Peninsula. The surveyed line, extending
from Fairview to Cape York, gives precision to previous sketching, and
some new features have been added to the map. The positions of the rivers
in the coastal flat west and south of Princess Charlotte Bay from the
Kennedy to the Stewart were fixed. Among these, a river which had been
crossed by Mulligan and myself was recognised as a district (sic) entity,
and named the Morehead. The relations of the South Coen and Archer Rivers
were definitely fixed. The charting of the Geikie and Wilkinson Ranges
was completed. The Batavia River was traced from Sefton Creek to the salt
water. The Ducie River was traced to Port Musgrave, and was used by boats
carrying stores. A large creek, named the Eliott, was charted as a
tributary of the Jardine River.

Finally, at intervals of from 60 to 70 miles, telegraph stations were
established. In their order from the south to north these stations are
named Fairview, Musgrave, Coen, Mein, Moreton, McDonnell and Paterson.
The last named has been abolished since the extension of the line, by
cable, to Thursday and Goode Islands, but an extensive coconut plantation
was established almost on its site by Mr. John McLaren in 1911, under the
name of Utingu.

Apart from its primary and very obvious uses in putting the whole of
Australia in touch with the Far--to us the Near--East, the line, which is
also officially a stock-route, has been of incalculable service to
prospectors and others, itself as an infallible guide, and each of its
stations as a point d'appui, or city of refuge.


In the attempt to christianise and civilise the natives of the Peninsula
the Moravian Missionaries were first in the field. They planted a station
at Cape Bedford in 1886.

A Lutheran Mission was established on the Blomfield River in 1887.

A Church of England Mission was opened id 1892 by the Rev. J. B. Gribble
at Cape Grafton, near Cairns.

These three missions on the east coast were situated in localities
already fairly well known, and, so far as I am aware, added little to our
knowledge of the geography of their districts.

The Presbyterian Mission on the west coast had a more open field. When
the Jardine Brothers left the lower reaches of the Archer River behind
them, in 1865, to evade the danger of being flooded out, they missed a
considerable tract of unexplored country lying to the west. Here the
first Presbyterian station, Mapoon, was planted at Port Moresby in 1891,
the site having previously been selected by two clergymen, Messrs. Hardie
and Robinson, in conjunction with the Hon. John Douglas, Government
Resident at Thursday Island. The pioneer missionaries were James G. Ward
and' Nicholas Hey, who had become friends at a Moravian training College
in the United States. Ward died three years after, but Hey still carries
on the work, and he managed, travelling by boat, on horseback and on
foot, to extend our knowledge of the district considerably. The
Government steamer Albatross, which first took the missionaries to
Mapoon, took Ward twenty-seven miles up the Batavia River. In 1895, the
mission whaleboat went forty-five miles up the river to meet Inspector
Fitzgerald, who came from the Moreton Telegraph Station. Douglas and Ward
visited the inlet which has been erroneously taken for the Dutch Coen
River, and which was afterwards named the Pennefather River. It cannot be
a river of any importance.

In 1895 a site for a second mission station, which was named Weipa, was
chosen on the river which had already been used by Embly for the
transport of stores to York Downs cattle station, and which was now
called by his name. Later in the same year Hey boated fifteen or twenty
miles up what he called the Mission River, which proved to be the lower
reach of Myall Creek, on which York Downs was situated. He then boated up
the Embley River, when he discovered a tributary to which Douglas gave
the name of the Hey River.

In 1893, two years after the settlement of Mapoon, two white pearlers
were killed by blacks on the Carpentier River, (to which Jardine's name
of the Skardon River had been improperly applied). In 1895 the blacks
were spearing Embley's cattle. These incidents suffice to show that the
missionaries settled in a turbulent district.

A third mission station, Aurukun, was established in 1894 near the mouth
of the Watson River (which was named by Embley). There was already a
cattle station, Merluna, sixty miles up this river, owned by the brothers
Watson, one of whom was killed by the blacks.

Besides adding to our knowledge of the lower reaches of the rivers
already mentioned, the missionaries located a number of smaller
watercourses, namely Namelata Creek, Janie Creek, Nomenade Creek,
Mosquito Creek, Ina Creek and the Ward River. It is to be regretted that
they have not searched the latitude given by Carstenszoon for the inlet
which he named the Coen River in 1623. If it should be proved that no
such inlet exists in the position assigned to it, it would be settled
that Carstenszoon was--as he very well might be--a little out in his
latitude, and that what he named the Coen River may be Ina Creek, or even
the mouth of the Archer River.

The Church of England in 1905 established Trubanaman Mission Station on a
chain of lagoons in the delta of the Mitchell River. Out-stations named
Angeram, Koongalara and Daphne have since been added. The missionaries
have defined the courses of some new anabranches of the river, namely,
Kilpatrick, Bosworth, Koongalara and Topsy Creeks; but, in the vicinity
of a region already occupied by pastoralists and to some extent surveyed,
there was no great scope for exploration. The site was selected in 1902
by the Bishop of Carpentaria and Mr. Grabble, who were accompanied by
Inspector Garraway, of the Native Police. On that occasion their camp was
attacked by natives.

The degree of success which has rewarded the endeavours of the
missionaries to christianise the blacks is a matter upon which I have had
no opportunity of forming an opinion. But I do know that the preparatory,
or accompanying, or resulting partial civilisation has been altogether
beneficial. Within the last few years, prospectors and other travellers
have pursued their objects in safety--with, perhaps, the exception of a
little pilfering--and they are unanimous in attributing the improvement
to the influence of the missionaries, combined with the support afforded
by the white settlements alongside the telegraph line.

It can readily be understood that when famine no longer threatens the
natives they can see that it is not worth their while to kill the cattle
of the settlers or stalk the passing traveller. The principal motive for
infanticide and cannibalism has been removed. There is even, I
understand, some benevolent control exercised over the marriages of the
natives, with the object of enabling well-doing young men to marry,
whereas, in a state of nature, only the old men of the tribes enjoyed the
privilege of owning wives. Finally, the native has realised that whenever
his natural food becomes scarce, he can obtain food at any time in
exchange for light labour, and yet be free to go when he pleases. He
still retains "a wild trick of his ancestry," and is as much alive as the
most advanced white worker to the degradation of continuous wage-slavery.
On the whole, considering his intellectual limitations, I believe he is
being tactfully handled by the missionaries.


The lofty, jungle-clad ranges overhanging the coast between Cardwell and
Cooktown present themselves to the mind in the first place as the country
that wrecked Kennedy and baffled Hann.

In 1873 George Elphinstone Dalrymple, who had been Gold Commissioner at
Gilberton for two years, in conjunction with Sub-Inspector Johnstone, of
the Native Police, explored the mouths of most of the rivers between
Rockingham Bay and the Endeavour, namely, the Moresby, Johnstone,
Russell, Mulgrave, Trinity Inlet, Mosman, Daintree and Blomfield. These
rivers and a few others, notably the Barron, drain the eastern side of
the ranges. It took many years of patient and laborious boring through
the scrub to force the secret of the hills, and it would be an endless
task to apportion the credit. Conspicuous among those who took part in
the work were the officers of the Native Police, Johnstone, Barron,
Thompson, Marrett, Armit, Douglas, Fitzgerald, Urquhart, Galbraith, Carr,
Coward, Lamond, Garraway, and Whelan, an irregular army of cedar getters,
and a host of prospectors of gold and tin and seekers after sugar lands,
besides the surveyors and local committees who supported the rival claims
of Port Douglas and Cairns for the advantage of being the starting point
of the Herberton railway.

Christie Palmerston explored a good deal of the scrub land in the early
eighties. Following on his exploration, alluvial gold was found in 1886
in the Russell River terraces, which are capped by Tertiary basalt. He
was the first to ascend Mount Bartle Frere (October 26, 1886). He guided
me to the summit on February 9, 1888.

Archibald Meston, F. M. Bailey, Government botanist, and Kendall
Broadbent, Collector for the Queensland Museum, made the ascent of the
central (the highest) peak of the Bellenden Ker Range in 1889. The ascent
had fine botanical, zoological and ethnological results. Mr. Meston made
the altitude 5240 feet, and claimed that this peak was the highest point
in Queensland, and at least 150 feet higher than Mt. Bartle Frere. It is
not for me to settle a question of the correctness of aneroid
measurements. The latest maps of the Lands Department give the height of
the centre peak of Bellenden Ker as 5400 feet and that of Mount Bartle
Frere as 5438 feet, but whether these measurements have been made with
mathematical accuracy I am unable to state.

The reefs of the Towalla and Mareeba Goldfields were discovered in 1892.


The beginnings of the Palmer and Coen goldfields have already been
referred to.

The Hodgkinson Goldfield was opened by Mulligan, Sefton, McLeod and
Kennedy in 1874.

The opening of the Walsh Mineral District, with its mines of tin, silver,
lead, copper, antimony, bismuth, wolfram and molybdenite has proved of
even greater moment than the discovery of the Palmer. Its inception was
undoubtedly due to the indications furnished by Mulligan.

The opening of the Starcke Goldfield, which has been known since 1900,
first as a n alluvial, and afterwards as a reefing field, is due to the
prospecting operations of Bowden, Cairns, Lobb and Webb.

The veteran prospector, John Dickie, has probably done more for the
Peninsula than any explorer since Mulligan. He and two other prospectors,
William Lakeland and William Bowden, claim to have discovered wolfram and
tin on the Pascoe River in 1887. This locality became the Bowden Mineral
Field in 1904.

In 1887 Dickie was prospecting in the Pascoe district, when he found a
party working tin in the Carron range, for Captain Stephen Clark.

In 1900, Dickie opened the Hamilton Goldfield, a reefing district, whose
chief township, Ebagoolah, maintains a small population to the present
day, and forms a useful point of departure for prospectors.

Dickie found gold on the Philp River (erroneously known as the Alice) in
1901. In 1903, he reported payable gold in reefs there, and the Philp
Goldfield was proclaimed in 1906. He discovered antimony in the vicinity
in 1907.

In 1909 Dickie and Campbell went from Bowden to the east side of the
Janet Range, and on to the McIlwraith Range.

In 1910, with James Dick and A. H. Sheffield, Dickie crossed the
McIlwraith Range from Mein Telegraph station and visited the Lockhart
River. Dickie never charted any of his travels, but on this occasion his
companion Dick added several tributaries to the Lockhart River to the map
and traced Sefton Creek to its head.

The participation of William Lakeland in the discovery of the Bowden
Mineral Field has already been mentioned. In 1893, he discovered alluvial
gold in the Rocky River, but it was soon worked out, and he searched for
reefs. Following his success in this quest the Rocky was proclaimed a
gold field in 1897. The initial difficulties attending treatment were
overcome only by an almost superhuman perseverance, but Lakeland had the
field almost to himself till a year or two ago, crushing his stone with a
water-power mill of his own construction. I cannot be certain that he was
the actual discoverer of the Rocky and Chester Rivers, and Scrubby and
Neville Creeks, which drain the field, but he certainly did almost all
that has been done towards their exploration. He also added to the map
Leo Creek and the Claudie and Hamilton Rivers.

In 1896 the Nisbet reefs were opened on the northern slope of Macrossan
Range, draining into the Nisbet.

In 1909, Dodd and Preston, who worked their way from the Rocky Goldfield
on foot, carrying their food and hacking through the scrub, discovered
the Golden Gate group of reefs on Dodd Creek, which drains the eastern
side of the Macrossan Range. The ore was unusually rich, and was at first
shipped to Charters Towers, but is now locally treated. This and the
Nisbet group are included in the Hays Creek Provisional Goldfield.

In 1880, I drew attention to the occurrence of auriferous reefs on
Tadpole Creek. In 1904, a Provisional Goldfield was proclaimed at the
head of the Creek, under the name of Lochinvar, but I do not know to whom
the demonstration of the payable nature of the reefs is due.

Potallah reefing field was discovered in 1902 by T. Collins and A.
Ziegenbein, but although it has yielded some good crushings, has not yet
attained great importance.

William Baird took a conspicuous part in the opening up of the tin-fields
on the Annan River, having discovered Mount Romeo in 1887.

In 1892, he discovered payable gold on Retreat Creek, a tributary of the
Batavia River. The place was named Bairdsville, and was proclaimed a
Goldfield in 1893. The bulk of the alluvial gold was soon cleared by a
rush of men from the Coen and Ebagoolah, but Baird continued to work off
and on until 1896, when he was surprised and killed by the blacks, while
engaged with two other men in digging a trench.

An aboriginal prospector nicknamed Pluto discovered alluvial gold at
Plutoville, on the Batavia River, in 1910. The place was soon rushed by
diggers from Coen and Ebagoolah, and some good gullies were discovered in
the neighbourhood. Plutoville has the peculiarity that it yields nuggets
only, and no fine gold. The largest nugget (1913) weighed 120 ounces.
Pluto, I believe, is still an active prospector, and, considering the
highly cultivated powers of observation inherited by his race, it is a
pity that more of them do not devote their energies to prospecting.*

* Pluto died at the Coen township in January, 1916.


In addition to whatever interest it may have from a historical point of
view, the tale which has been told may have some value as a study in the
evolution of a new country. As such I put it before the members of this
Society; leaving them to draw the inferences which it suggests.


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