Australian Access Federation

You are here: Home Corpora Corpus of Oz Early English 2-214 (Text)

2-214 (Text)

Item metadata
Speaker:
addressee author,male,Mitchell, Thomas Livingstone,47
ns1:discourse_type
Narrative Discourse
Word Count :
5054
Plaint Text :
ns1:register
Private Written
ns1:texttype
Diaries
ns1:localityName
http://dbpedia.org/resource/New_South_Wales
Created:
1839
Identifier
2-214
Source
Mitchell, 1839
pages
vol I, 147-163
Document metadata
Extent:
29396
Identifier
2-214-plain.txt
Title
2-214#Text
Type
Text

2-214-plain.txt — 28 KB

File contents



EXPEDITION To The RIVER DARLING IN the YEAR 1835
CHAPTER 1 
ON returning to Sydney from the banks of the Karaula, my attention was immediately drawn to other duties, and especially to those of the department of roads and bridges, which had also been placed under my direction.
I did, however, entertain hopes, that I should be permitted at a subsequent period, to continue my journey towards the north-west.
In May 1833, the local authorities were informed, that His Majesty's Government judged it expedient, an expedition should be undertaken to explore the course of the River Darling, and that this service should be performed by the survey department.  
Until that time, I had understood the supposed course of the Darling to have been sufficiently evident, but from the necessity for this survey, and circumstances which I had not, until then, fully considered, I began to entertain doubts on that subject. It seemed probable, from the divergent courses of the Macquarie and Lachlan, that these rivers might belong to separate basins, and that the dividing ridge might be the "very elevated range," which Mr. Oxley had seen, extending westward between them. It was obvious that this range, if continuous, must separate the basin of the Darling from that of the river Murray.
As a preliminary step towards the exploration of the Darling, Mr. Dixon was sent, in October 1833, with instructions to trace the ranges between the rivers Lachlan and Macquarie, by proceeding westward from Wellington Valley. Instead, however, of doing this, Mr. Dixon first followed the Macquarie downwards from Wellington Valley, and then crossing to the Bogan, which flowed at that time bank-high, he followed the course of this river for 67 miles, and finally returned without having seen any of the high land between the Macquarie and the Lachlan, which he had been sent to investigate. A season so favourable for exploring that high land, did not occur for four years afterwards, but it was within that period, and during a long continued drought, that the two succeeding expeditions were sent to ascertain the course of the Darling.
Preparations had been made for the departure of the expedition in the month of March following, but my duties as a commissioner, to investigate claims to grants of land, having been then urgent, the undertaking was deferred until the next season.  
In the mean time, two light whale boats were built by Mr. Eager of the dock-yard at Sydney; and wood was cut for the felloes of wheels which would be required for a boat-carriage and carts, and it was laid up to season in the lumber yard at Paramatta.
In completing the equipment for the journey, in the following year, at the same place, I was much indebted to the zealous assistance of Mr. Simpson, of the department of roads.
The boat-carriage was constructed according to a model, made by my friend Mr. Dunlop, King's Astronomer at Paramatta, and the plan of it will be easily understood by the accompanying figure. One boat was made to fit within the other, the thawrts of the larger or outer one, being taken out. The double boat, thus formed, was suspended on belts of canvass, which supported it buoyant and clear of the frame work. Those parts of the canvass of the carriage, most liable to friction, were guarded with sheepskin and greased hide. The smaller boat was suspended within the larger, also on canvass, so as to swing clear of the outer boat's sides; and the whole was covered by a tarpaulin, thrown over a ridge poll.
Besides Mr. Richard Cunningham, who was attached to the expedition as botanist, Mr. Larrner, a very young assistant surveyor, was appointed to accompany me; the services of the other officers of the department being required for duties within the settled districts. 
The following men composed the party. 
Nine of these men (distinguished by italics), had been under my command on my former expedition, and were consequently well acquainted with the service. Their subsequent steady conduct, also satisfied me, as to their eligibility for the contemplated journey.
At noon, on the 9th March, 1835, I had, at length, the satisfaction of seeing this party leave Paramatta, with an equipment fit for the undertaking. The boats appeared to swim very well in their carriage, which was followed by seven carts, and as many pack-horses, affording the means of carrying provisions for five months. Two mountain barometers were borne by two men, the only service required of them, while travelling. The whole party in motion towards the unknown interior, and prepared for sea or land, was to me a most gratifying spectacle. The cares of preparation were at an end, and I could still count on three weeks of comparative leisure at Sydney, during which time I could arrange the business of my office.  The cattle station at Buree, where I intended to commence operations, was distant 170 miles from Sydney, and as it was necessary, that the party should travel slowly, in crossing the mountains with the boat-carriage; and equally indispensable that the cattle should rest some days after arriving at Buree; I calculated, that the expedition could not be ready to advance from that point, in less than three weeks from the time, at which it left Paramatta.
On the 31st of March, I quitted Sydney on the important errand of geographical discovery. My horse, which had been in training by Brown for some weeks, seemed impatient of roads, and full of spirit, a pleasant sensation, at all times to the rider, and very congenial to the high excitement of such an enterprise.
We soon arrived at Paramatta, where I obtained the loan of a good chronometer from Mr. Dunlop, at the observatory. Having noted various important memoranda and suggestions, and partaken of an early dinner, I bade my scientific and obliging friend farewell, and pursued my journey along the western road.
I arrived, in a few hours, at Emu ferry, on the river Hawkesbury, the boundary there of the county of Cumberland. I had traversed the county in its greatest width, by this western route; and thus crossed by far the best portion. Unlike the northern sandstone district, where the road towards Wiseman's ferry could be made, only by following one continuous ridge, the surface being intersected by deep and precipitous ravines, we were enabled here, the surface rock being trap, to travel along a perfectly straight road over a gently undulating surface. The soil in this district is good, consisting chiefly of decomposed trap. The land is wholly in the hands of individuals, and, in a climate sufficiently moist. would answer well for cultivation. The road passes near Prospect Hill, which is the most conspicuous eminence in the county, and is cultivated to the summit.  The rich red soil derived from the subjacent trap-rock, produces crops as abundantly now, as when it was first tilled, upwards of thirty years ago.
Nearly the whole of the western portion of this county, consists of soil equally good; but it remains for the most part occupied by the original wood. It is, however, very generally enclosed by substantial fencing, and affords good pasturage. There is some rich, alluvial land on both banks of the Hawkesbury, and some of it, near this road, is let for as much as 20s. per acre.
The mansion of Sir John Jamieson, situated several miles above Emu, commands an extensive view over that noble stream, the rich margins of which are hemmed in, on the west, by the abrupt precipices of the Blue mountains. The intermediate space beyond the ford, is called Emu plains. At the inn near this ford, I passed the night, being desirous to cross the Blue mountains next day.
April 1. - At day-break we crossed the river in the punt. The Hawkesbury is 130 yards broad at this ferry, being the broadest fresh-water stream known in Australia, before the discovery of the Murray.
We now entered the county of Cook, so named by me, in considering that its lofty summits must have been the first land, that met the eye of the celebrated navigator, on his first approach to the eastern coast. Here again, we meet with that precipitous, inaccessible kind of country, which distinguishes the sandstone formation, so extensive in Australia. This arenaceous deposit, for a long time, confined the colonists within the line of the Hawkesbury, and until the want of fresh pastures, during dry seasons, compelled them to explore these rocky regions. One party succeeded in penetrating the country to the westward, by following the continuous line of high land, which separates the ravines of the valley of the river Cox on one side, from those which belong to the valley of the Grose on the other.  In this direction, the road to the interior country, was accordingly opened by Governor Macquarie; and the ravines, on each side, are too deep and precipitous to admit of any extensive alteration of the line, although it has recently been much improved, especially in the ascent to these mountains above Emu, and in the descent from them to the interior country. These were the chief difficulties in making the original road across this mountain mass, as the old passes of Lapstone Hill and Mount York still testify. The upper region being once gained, it presents considerable uniformity of feature, at least along the connecting ridge. The rise is gradual from a height of about 1000 feet above Emu plains, to 3,400 feet its maximum, near King's Table-land, 25 miles further westward. This mass of sandstone is intersected by ravines, deep in proportion to the height of the surface, until the profound depth of the vallies adjacent to the Weatherboard Inn and Blackheath, inclosed by rocky precipices, imparts a wild grandeur to the scenery, of a very uncommon character.* The whole mass consists of a coarse, ferruginous sandstone, composed of angular or slightly worn grains of quartz cemented by oxide of iron. There is scarcely a patch of land, along the line of road, fit for cultivation. One solitary spot, rather better than the rest, has been wisely appropriated for an inn, and at a point very convenient for travellers, being about half way across these mountains. This inn is about 2,800 feet above the sea, and the clouds and temperature give it the climate of England. Potatoes of an excellent quality grow there, also gooseberries; and a fire is as frequently agreeable as in the latitude of 52° N.
The only summits which meet the traveller's eye, above the common horizon, are Mounts Hay and Tomah, situated about twelve miles northward of the road - the river Grose passing between them. These heights consist of trap-rock and grey porphyry, and like Warrawolong, are crowned with lofty trees. 
Some idea may be formed of the intricate character of the mountain ravines in that neighbourhood, from the difficulties experienced by the surveyors, in endeavouring to obtain access to Mount Hay. Mr. Dixon, in an unsuccessful attempt, penetrated to the valley of the Grose, until then unvisited by any European; and when he at length emerged from ravines, in which he had been bewildered four days, without reaching Mount Hay, he thanked God (to use his own words in an official letter), that he had found his way out of them. - (See the accompanying View of the Grose; also a general view of the sandstone territory, in Vol. 2. Pl. 38.)
Mr. Govett was afterwards employed by me to make a detailed survey of the various ramifications of these ravines, by tracing each in succession, from the general line of road; and thus by a patient survey of the whole, he ascertained at length, the ridge connected with Mount Hay, and was the first to ascend it. Guided by Mr. Govett, I was thus enabled to place my theodolite on that summit. I found the scenery immediately around it very wild, consisting of stupendous, perpendicular cliffs, 3000 feet deep, at the foot of which, the silvery line of the Grose, meanders through a green valley, into which, neither the colonists nor their cattle have yet penetrated. Having looked into this valley from the summit of Tomah also in 1827, I was tempted, soon after, to endeavour to explore it by ascending the river from its junction with the Hawkesbury near Richmond; but I had not proceeded far in this attempt, accompanied by Major Lockyer and Mr. Dixon, when we were compelled to leave our horses, and, soon after, to scramble on our hands and feet, until, at length, even our quadrumanous progress was arrested in the bed of the river, by round boulders, which were as large as houses, and over, or between which, we found it impossible to proceed. The object which I had then in view, with the concurrence of the Governor, was to carry the western road along the valley of the Grose, and by cutting a tunnel, of about a mile, through a ridge at the head of it, to reach the vale of Clywd, and so avoid the mountains altogether.  The ascent to them from Emu, and the descent from them at Mount York, were both then extremely bad; so much so indeed, at the latter pass especially, that a grant of land was publicly offered by the Government to whoever could point out a better. Both these obstacles have since been overcome. The pass of Mount Victoria, named by me after the youthful Princess, and opened by Governor Bourke in 1832, descends at an inclination of 1 in 15 (where steepest), and avoids the abrupt descent by Mount York.
The new road from Emu plains, which is still less inclined, has been made during the government of Sir Richard Bourke, and relieves the Bathurst teams from the difficulties of Lapstone hill, the ascent of which cost them a whole day. The value of convict labour to a young colony, is apparent in these new passes, cut in many places out of the solid rock; and this advantage will be permanently recorded in these works and others now going forward in different parts of this mountain road, which must finally make it one of the best in the colony.
The difference between the lower country, on the Hawkesbury, and the region which I have endeavoured to describe, is very striking. The rocks are also different, for on the side of Cumberland they consist of trap, and on the other or that of the mountains, of sandstone. The course of the Hawkesbury above Emu plains, presents a singular feature, in forcing its way through a very steep-sided ravine, and thus cutting off a portion of the mountain mass, after its channel has previously bordered on the lower country of Cumberland, where no such obstruction is opposed to its waters, which might there pursue a more direct course to the sea. The river takes this remarkable turn near the junction of the Nepean, and there we find in the bed of the stream, (at Cox's Basin"), a dark coloured trap-rock, apparently containing steatitic matter, and doubtless connected with one of the disturbing operations, to which this fractured country has been exposed. 
Beyond the ferry, the road crosses Emu plains, a level tract, here about a mile in width, and intervening between the river and the base of the mountains. This flat consists chiefly of gravel - composed of large pebbles, for the greater part quartzose; and in sinking a well, a bed of them was found, in which many were nearly spherical.
A township has been marked out at the ascent of the new road, the question as to the most eligible situation for a town on Emu plains, having led to the construction of the new pass. The growth of towns depends very much on the direction of great roads, and must be more certain, and the allotments consequently more valuable, when the most eligible line of thoroughfare is ascertained and opened, in the first instance. Such Works of public convenience should precede, as much as possible, the progress of colonization. The plan at least should be well considered, before the capital, or the labour, which is the same thing, is applied. Buildings and other improvements can then be commenced with greater certainty of permanent value. " Les depenses utiles sont economie," said Guibert, but in new countries, the economy will much depend on the permanent utility of works, for which, in most cases, the necessity should be foreseen. With the example of so many old countries for our guidance, obstructions to the spread of population in a new one, should be removed, according to plans of general arrangement, keeping in view the best distribution of towns, with respect to local advantages, and the best sites for all public buildings requisite for the towns still in embryo. The most advantageous general lines of direction should be ascertained for the roads - that the public means may be applied with certainty to their substantial improvement, by removing obstructions and building bridges. On good roads, there is greater inducement to individuals to erect inns ; and in well arranged streets to build good houses - than where uncertainty as to the permanent direction of the one, or irregularity in time plan or line of the other, discourage all such undertakings. 
It has been my duty to keep these objects in view, as sole commissioner for the division and appropriation of the territory of New South Wales; and as head also of the department of roads and bridges, I have, as far as lay in my power, applied the means at my disposal, only to works of a permanently useful character, guided as I have been in my judgment respecting them, by a general survey of the country.
My ride along the mountain road, presented, no object worth describing; but I have frequently found, that the most dreary road ceases to appear monotonous or long, after we have acquired a knowledge of the adjacent country. The ideas of locality are no longer limited like our view, by the trees on each side. The least turn reminds us, that we are passing some "antre vast," or lateral ridge, occupying a place in the map, which thus determines our position. In crossing these mountains an extensive knowledge of the localities relieved the monotony of the road to me, and being inseparable from it in my mind, the digressions in this part of my journal, will, after this explanation, perhaps appear less objectionable.
Twilight overtook me, as I was giving directions to Sub-inspector Binning for the completion of the pass at Mount Victoria; and I halted for the night at a small inn at its foot.
April 2. - Although some heavy rain had fallen at Sydney, and yesterday during my ride across the mountains, yet the grass in this valley, which at other times had appeared green and abundant, was now parched and scanty. A swampy hollow, across which a long bridge had been erected, was quite dry, and the whole surface bore a brown and dusty aspect.
This lower country, to which we had descended from Mount Victoria, was named by Governor Macquarie "the Vale of Clywd," from its supposed resemblance to the valley of that name in Wales.  It is enclosed by other heights named Mount York and Mount Clarence, and is watered by a small stream called the river Lett. A wooden bridge has been erected across this stream, and the site of a village marked out on the bank opposite to it. When such a spot, has once been determined on for the establishment of a town or village, and divided into small allotments, available to blacksmiths, wheelwrights, coopers, innkeepers, &c. the land is no longer liable to be sold in a section of a square mile, according to the land regulations. Much attention is necessary, during the progress of colonization, to prevent the monopoly of the land, in thoroughfares where water is to be had. The convenience of the public, and the encouragement of the mechanic, who is indeed the pioneer of colonists, cannot be sufficiently studied, in affording facilities for the establishment of inns, and the growth of population along great roads.
The aspect of this valley is very different from that of the mountain region, and equally so from that of the lower country, on the Hawkesbury. This change is obviously owing to the difference in the rock. Granite appears here, for the first time, on this road; and we accordingly find those bold undulations, and that thinly wooded surface, which usually distinguish the formation in Australia. It is at this point, in general finely grained, but the felspar partly decomposed, with distinct crystals of felspar unchanged.
From the pass of Mount Victoria, I travelled to Bathurst by an entirely new road, opened in a direction, first recommended by me in 1827.
At fourteen miles from Mount Victoria, is Farmer's Creek, so named after a useful horse, which fell there and broke his neck, when I was surveying and marking out the line of road. The formation of the descent to this mountain stream was a work of considerable labour, and at that time several gangs of prisoners in irons, were employed upon it. Crossing Farmer's creek near its junction with Cox's river, the road is continued for one mile along the right bank, to the site chosen for throwing a bridge over this river.  The ascent on the opposite side has been cut, with unnecessary labour, through a point of the hill, and upon this the gangs were then at work. The gangs of prisoners in irons, were lodged in a stockade, which had been erected here, and was guarded by a detachment of the 17th regiment. The river Cox is at this point 2172 feet above the level of the sea. It pursues its course, through a wild inaccessible mountain country, and joins the Warragamba, about twenty miles to the southward of Emu plains. This course of the Cox could be traced by the surveyors only by scrambling on foot, or by following out the several extremities of the mountain ranges, which abut upon its rocky channel.
Mount Walker overlooks that part of the Cox, which is crossed by the new line of road. The summit of this hill, consists of a dark grey felspar. At its base, and in the bed of the river, is trap, which appears to be the principal rock of the country, to some distance beyond the river. The road reaches at three miles from the Cox, a small brook, named Solitary Creek, which waters a valley where an inn was then building. This is the first rivulet falling towards the interior country, all the other streams, previously crossed by this road, flowing to the eastern coast; consequently the apparently low ridge, between Solitary creek and Cox's river, is there part of what is termed the Coast Range, which extends from Cape Howe to Cape York, across 33 degrees of latitude.
The road, beyond Solitary creek, winds around the side of Honeysuckle-hill, a summit of considerable elevation, consisting of trap-rock. The country beyond that bill, is more open and favourable for road making. An inn has been built on a small flat, distant about twenty-three miles from Mount Victoria, and about half way between that pass and Bathurst. The only remarkable feature, on the remainder of this line, is Stony Range, distant from Bathurst fourteen miles.  It is a ridge of high ground, which traverses the country from north to south, and terminates on the Fish river. The road crosses it at the very lowest part, and where the rock consists of a dark grey felspar, with grains of quartz. Time soil is red and rich, and bears trees of uncommon magnitude. The timber is found useful by the inhabitants of the Bathurst district, who keep the sawyers constantly at work there. 
From Stony Range, the plains of Bathurst appear in the distance to great advantage; the eye of the traveller from Sydney having long sought, in vain, for some relief from the prospect of so much waste mountainous country.
We reach the open plains of Bathurst, six miles from the settlement. I arrived early at Mrs. Dillon's inn, where I took up my quarters, in order that I might complete, with less interruption, a report which I was instructed to make to the Governor from this place, respecting the state of the works along time road.
April 3. - My friend Rankin called, and insisted on my accompanying him to his residence at Saltram, which I accordingly did. The houses of the inhabitants here are scattered over the extensive open country, and give a most cheerful appearance to the plains of Bathurst. These fine downs only a few years before, must have been as desolate as those of a similar character still are, on the banks of the Nammoy and Karaula. Peace and plenty now smile on the banks of "Wambool," and British enterprise and industry may produce in time, a similar change on the desolate banks of the Nammoy, Gwydir, and Karaula, and throughout those extensive regions behind the Coast range, still further northward, - all as yet unpeopled, save by the wandering aborigines, who may then, as at Bathurst now, enjoy that security and protection, to which they have so just a claim.
The inconvenience of a want of plan for roads and streets, is strikingly obvious at Bathurst. A vast tract had indeed been reserved as a township, but then no streets having been laid out, allotments for building could neither he obtained by grant nor purchase.  The site for the town was, therefore, only distinguished by a government house, jail, court house, post-office, and barracks; while the population had collected in 60 or 80 houses, built in an irregular manner on the Sydney side of the river, and at the distance of a mile from the intended site of the town. The consequence of a want of arrangement became equally apparent in the line of approach to the township, for the only road, in use, being very indirect, and passing through a muddy hollow, named "The Bay of Biscay," could not be altered, because the adjacent land had been granted to individuals. Thus, when the good people of Bathurst, prayed in petitions for delivery from their "Bay of Biscay," and a dry and more direct line for the road, had been easily found and marked out, the irregular buildings and private property lay in the way of the desired improvement. All these inconveniences might have been obviated, by due attention to such arrangements in the first instance, when any plan was practicable; whereas subsequently, it has been found possible to remedy them only in a limited degree. The streets having now been laid out, a church and many houses are in course of erection, and a new road, leading over firm ground, to the site of the intended bridge, has been opened with the consent of the owner of the property. Part of the reserved land of the township, has been given to small farmers - a class very essential to the increase of population, but by no means numerous in New South Wales - and least of all at Bathurst, where the land is laid out chiefly in large sheep farms.
A bridge across the Macquarie, has long been a desideratum. This river, although in common seasons fordable, and in dry seasons scarcely fluent, is liable, after heavy falls of rain in the mountains, to rise suddenly to a great height, and cut off the communication between the public buildings on the one side, and the peopled suburbs and great road from Sydney on the other.  The country beyond the Macquarie affords excellent sheep-pasturage, the hills consisting chiefly of granite. A number of respectable colonists are domiciled on the surrounding plains, and the society of' their hospitable circle, presents a very pleasing picture of pastoral happiness and independence.
April 4. - It was not until two o'clock that I could conclude my correspondence with the road-making, land-measuring world, and join a very agreeable party, assembled by my friend Rankin, to partake of an early dinner and witness my departure.
Mr. Rankin accompanied me in my ride that afternoon, and we reached at a late hour the house of Charley Booth, distant about 25 miles from Bathurst. Some years had elapsed, since I first passed a night, at Charley's hut or cattle station, then a resting-place for whoever might occasionally pass; and inhabited by grim-looking stockmen, of whom Charley, as my friend called him, seemed one. Now, the march of improvement had told wonderfully on the place. The hut was converted into a house, in which the curtained neatness and good arrangement were remarkable for such an out-station. Mr. Booth himself looked younger by some years, and we at length discovered the source of the increased comforts of his home, in a wife, whom be had wisely selected from among the recently arrived emigrants.
April 5. - Here I at length took leave of my friend, to pursue a long and dreary ride along the track which led to Buree. The wood consisted chiefly of those kinds of eucalyptus, termed box and apple-tree - forming a very open kind of forest, the hollows being in general quite clear of trees. The farther I proceeded westward, the more the country exhibited the withering effects of long drought.
The mountain mass of the Canobolas, lay to the southward of my route; and on crossing the lofty range which here divides the counties of Bathurst and Wellington, the summit was distant only four miles.  The country in the neighbourhood of that mass, consists of trap and limestone, and is, upon the whole, very favourable for sheep-farming. The region to the westward of the Canobolas is still unsurveyed, being beyond the limits of the county divisions. Before sunset, I joined my men "in the merry greene wood," and in my tent, which I found already pitched on the sweet-scented turf, I could at length indulge in exploratory schemes, free from all the cares of office.

http://ns.ausnc.org.au/corpora/cooee/source/2-214#Text