Australian Access Federation

You are here: Home Corpora Corpus of Oz Early English 1-130 (Text)

1-130 (Text)

Item metadata
author,male,Blaxland, Gregory,35 addressee
Word Count :
Plaint Text :
Public Written
Fitzpatrick, 1958
Document metadata

1-130-plain.txt — 17 KB

File contents

ON Tuesday, May 11, 1813, Mr. Gregory Blaxland, Mr. William Wentworth, and Lieutenant Lawson, attended by four servants, with five dogs, and four horses laden with provisions, ammunition, and other necessaries, left Mr. Blaxland's farm at the South Creek, for the purpose of endeavouring to effect a passage over the Blue Mountains, between the Western River and the River Grose.  They crossed the Nepean, or Hawkesbury River, at the ford, on to Emu Island, at four o'clock p.m., and having proceeded, according to their calculation, two miles in a south-west direction, through forest land and good pasture, encamped at five o'clock at the foot of the first ridge. The distance travelled on this and the subsequent days was computed by time; the rate being estimated at about two miles per hour. Thus far they were accompanied by two other gentlemen.
On the following morning (May 12,) as soon as the heavy dew was off, which was about nine a.m., they proceeded to ascend the ridge at the foot of which they had camped the preceding evening. Here they found a large lagoon of good water, full of very coarse rushes. The high land of Grose Head appeared before them at about seven miles distance, bearing north by east. They proceeded this day about three miles and a quarter, in a direction varying from south-west to west-north-west; but, for a third of the way, due west. The land was covered with scrubby brushwood, very thick in places, with some trees of ordinary timber, which much incommoded the horses. The greater part of the way they had deep rocky gulleys on each side of their track, and the ridge they followed was very crooked and intricate. In the evening they encamped at the head of a deep gulley, which they had to descend for water; they found but just enough for the night, contained in a hole in the rock, near which they met with a kangaroo, who had just been killed by an eagle. A small patch of grass supplied the horses for the night.
They found it impossible to travel through the brush before the dew was off, and could not, therefore, proceed at an earlier hour in the morning than nine. After travelling about a mile on the third day, in a west and north-west direction, they arrived at a large tract of forest land, rather hilly, the grass and timber tolerably good, extending, as they imagine, nearly to Grose Head, in the same direction nearly as the river. They computed it at two thousand acres. Here they found a track marked by a European, by cutting the bark of the trees. Several native huts presented themselves at different places. They had not proceeded above two miles, when they found themselves stopped by a brush-wood much thicker than they had hitherto met with.  This induced them to alter their course, and to endeavour to find another passage to the westward; but every ridge which they explored, proved to terminate in a deep rocky precipice; and they had no alternative but to return to the thick brush-wood, which appeared to be the main ridge, with the determination to cut a way through for the horses next day. This day some of the horses, while standing, fell several times under their loads. The dogs killed a large kangaroo. The party encamped in the forest tract, with plenty of good grass and water.
On the next morning, leaving two men to take care of the horses and provisions, they proceeded to cut a path through the thick brush-wood, on which they considered the main ridge of the mountain, between the Western River and the River Grose; keeping the heads of the gulleys, which were supposed to empty themselves into the Western River on their left hand, and into the River Grose on their right. As they ascended the mountain these gulleys became much deeper and more rocky on each side. They now began to mark their track by cutting the bark of the trees on two sides. Having cut their way for about five miles, they returned in the evening to the spot on which they had encamped the night before. The fifth day was spent in prosecuting the same tedious operation; but, as much time was necessarily lost in walking twice over the track cleared the day before, they were unable to cut away more than two miles further. They found no food for the horses the whole way. An emu was heard on the other side of the gulley, calling continually in the night.
On Sunday they rested, and arranged their future plan. They had reason, however, to regret this suspension of their proceedings, as it gave the men leisure to ruminate on their danger: and it was for some time doubtful, whether, on the next day, they could be persuaded to venture farther. The dogs this day killed two small kangaroos. They barked and ran off continually during the whole night; and at day-light, a most tremendous howling of native dogs was heard, who appeared to have been watching them during the night.
On Monday, the 17th, having laden the horses with as much grass as could be put on them, in addition to their other burdens, they moved forward along the path which they had cleared and marked, about six miles and a half.  The bearing of the route, they had been obliged to keep along the ridge, varied exceedingly; it ran sometimes in a north-northwestern direction, sometimes south-east, or due south, but generally south-west, or south-south-west. They encamped in the afternoon between two very deep gulleys, on a narrow ridge, Grose Head bearing north-east by north; and Mount Banks north-west by west. They had to fetch water up the side of the precipice, about six hundred feet high, and could get scarcely enough for the party. The horses had none this night; they performed their journey well, not having to stand under their loads.
The following day was spent in cutting a passage through the brush-wood, for a mile and a half further. They returned to their camp at five o'clock, very much tired and dispirited. The ridge, which was not more than fifteen or twenty yards wide, with deep precipices on each side, was rendered almost impassable by a perpendicular mass of rock, nearly thirty feet high, extending across the whole breadth, with the exception of a small broken rugged track in the centre. By removing a few large stones, they were enabled to pass.
On Wednesday, the 19th, the party moved forward along this path; bearing chiefly west, and west-south-west. They now began to ascend the second ridge of the mountains, and from this elevation, they obtained for the first time an extensive view of the settlements below. Mount Banks bore north-west; Grose Head, north-east; Prospect Hill, east by south; the Seven Hills, east-north-east; Windsor, northeast by east. At a little distance from the spot at which they began the ascent, they found a pyramidical heap of stones, the work, evidently, of some European, one side of which the natives had opened, probably in the expectation of finding some treasure deposited in it. This pile they concluded to be the one erected by Mr. Bass, to mark the end of his journey. That gentleman attempted, some time ago, to pass the mountains, and to penetrate into the interior; but having got thus far, he gave up the undertaking as impracticable; reporting, on his return, that it was impossible to find a passage even for a person on foot. Here, therefore, the party had the satisfaction of believing that they had penetrated as far as any European had been before them.  
They encamped this day to refresh their horses, at the head of a swamp covered with a coarse rushy grass, with a small run of good water through the middle of it. In the afternoon, they left their camp to mark and cut a road for the next day.
They proceeded with the horses on the 20th nearly five miles, and encamped at noon at the head of a swamp about three acres in extent, covered with the same coarse rushy grass as the last station, with a stream of water running through it. The horses were obliged to feed on the swamp grass, as nothing better could be found for them. The travellers left the camp as before, in the afternoon, to cut a road for the morrow's journey. The ridge along which their course lay, now became wider and more rocky, but was still covered with brush and small crooked timber, except at the heads of the different streams of water which ran down the side of the mountain, where the land was swampy and clear of trees. The track of scarcely any animal was to be seen, and very few birds. One man was here taken dangerously ill with a cold. Bearing of the route at first, south-westerly; afterwards, north-north-west and west-north-west.
Their progress, the next day, was nearly four miles, in a direction still varying from north-west by north to southwest. They encamped in the middle of the day, at the head of a well-watered swamp, about five acres in extent; pursuing, as before, their operations in the afternoon. In the beginning of the night, the dogs ran off, and barked violently. At the same time, something was distinctly heard to run through the brush-wood, which they supposed to be one of the horses got loose; but they had reason to believe afterwards that they had been in great danger - that the, natives had followed their track and advanced on them in the night, intending to have speared them by the light of their fire, but that the dogs drove them off.
On Saturday, the 22nd instant, they proceeded in the track marked the preceding day rather more than three miles, in a south-westerly direction, when they reached the summit of the third and highest ridge of the mountains south-ward of Mt. Banks.  From the bearing of Prospect Hill, and Grose Head, they computed this spot to be eighteen miles in a straight line from the River Nepean, at the point at which they crossed it. On the top of this ridge they found about two thousand acres of land clear of trees, covered with loose stones, and short coarse grass, such as grows on some of the commons in England. Over this heath they proceeded for about a mile and a half, in a south-westerly direction, and encamped by the side of a fine stream of water with just wood enough on the banks to serve for firewood. From the summit, they had a fine view of all the settlements and country eastward, and of a great extent of country to the westward and south-west. But their progress in both the latter directions was stopped by an impassable barrier of rock, which appeared to divide the interior from the coast as with a stone wall, rising perpendicularly out of the side of the mountain.
In the afternoon, they left their little camp in the charge of three of the men, and made an attempt to descend the precipice by following some of the streams of water or by getting down at some of the projecting points where the rocks had fallen in; but they were baffled in every instance. In some places the perpendicular height of the rocks above the earth below could not be less than four hundred feet. Could they have accomplished a descent, they hoped to procure mineral specimens which might throw light on the geological character of the country, as the strata appeared to be exposed for many hundred feet from the top of the rock to the beds of the several rivers beneath. The broken rocky country on the western side of the cow-pasture, has the appearance of having acquired its present form from an earthquake, or some other dreadful convulsion of nature, at a much later period than the mountains northward, of which Mount Banks forms the southern extremity. The aspect of the country which lay beneath them much disappointed the travellers; it appeared to consist of sand and small scrubby brush-wood, intersected with broken rocky mountains, with streams of water running between them to the eastward, towards one point, where they probably form the Western River, and enter the mountains.
They now flattered themselves that they had surmounted half the difficulties of their undertaking, expecting to find a passage down the mountain more to the northward.  
On the next day they proceeded about three miles and a half; but the trouble occasioned by the horses when they got off the open land induced them to recur to their former plan of devoting the afternoon to marking and clearing a tract for the ensuing day, as the most expeditious method of proceeding, notwithstanding that they have to go twice over the same ground. The bearing of their course this day was, at first, north-east and north-north-west. They encamped on the side of a swamp, with a beautiful stream of water running through it.
Their progress on the next day was four miles and a half, in a direction varying from north-north-west, to south-southwest; they encamped, as before, at the head of a swamp. This day, between ten and eleven a.m., they obtained a sight of the country below, when the clouds ascended. As they were marking a road for the morrow, they heard a native chopping wood very near them, but he fled at the approach of the dogs.
On Tuesday, the 25th, they could proceed only three miles and a half in a varying direction, encamping at two o'clock at the side of a swamp. The underwood, being very prickly and full of small thorns, annoyed them very much. This day they saw the track of a wombat for the first time. On the 26th they proceeded two miles and three quarters. The brush still continued to be very thorny. The land to the westward appeared sandy and barren. This day they saw the fires of some natives below; the number they computed at about thirty men, women, and children. They noticed also more tracks of the wombat. On the 27th they proceeded five miles and a quarter; part of the way over another piece of clear land, without trees; they saw more native fires, and about the same number as before, but more in their direct course. From the top of the rocks, they saw a large piece of land below, clear of trees, but apparently a poor reedy swamp. They met with some good timber in this day's route.
The bearing of the route for the last three days, has been chiefly north and north-west.
On the 28th, they proceeded about five miles and three-quarters.  Not being able to find water, they did not halt till five o'clock, when they took up their station on the edge of the precipice. To their great satisfaction, they discovered that what they had supposed to be sandy barren land below the mountain was forest land, covered with good grass and with timber of an inferior quality. In the evening they contrived to get their horses down the mountain by cutting a small trench with a hoe, which kept them from slipping, where they again tasted fresh grass for the first time since they left the forest land on the other side of the mountain. They were getting into miserable condition. Water was found about two miles below the foot of the mountain. The second camp of natives moved before them about three miles. In this day's route little timber was observed fit for building.
On the 29th, having got up the horses, and laden them, they began to descend the mountain at seven o'clock through a pass in the rock, about thirty feet wide, which they had discovered the day before, when the want of water put them on the alert. Part of the descent was so steep that the horses could but just keep their footing without a load, so that, for some way, the party were obliged to carry the packages themselves. A cart road might, however, easily be made by cutting a slanting trench along the side of the mountain, which is here covered with earth. This pass is, according to their computation, about twenty miles north-west in a straight line from the point at which they ascended the summit of the mountains. They reached the foot at nine o'clock a.m., and proceeded two miles north-north-west, mostly through open meadow land, clear of trees, the grass from two to three feet high. They encamped on the bank of a fine stream of water. The natives, as observed by the smoke of their fires, moved before them as yesterday. The dogs killed a kangaroo, which was very acceptable, as the party had lived on salt meat since they caught the last. The timber seen this day, appeared rotten and unfit for building.
Sunday the 30th, they rested in their encampment. One of the party shot a kangaroo with his rifle, at a great distance across a wide valley. The climate here was found very much colder than that of the mountain or of the settlements on the east side, where no signs of frost had made its appearance when the party set out.  During the night the ground was covered with a thick frost, and a leg of the kangaroo was quite frozen. From the dead and brown appearance of the grass it was evident that the weather had been severe for some time past. They were all much surprised at this degree of cold and frost in the latitude of about 34 deg. The track of the emu was noticed at several places near the camp.
On the Monday they proceeded about six miles, southwest and west, through forest land, remarkably well watered, and several open meadows, clear of trees, and covered with high good grass. They crossed two fine streams of water. Traces of the natives presented themselves in the fires they had left the day before, and in the flowers of the honey-suckle tree scattered around, which had supplied them with food. These flowers, which arc shaped like a bottle-brush, are very full of honey. The natives on this side of the mountains appear to have no huts like those on the eastern side, nor do they strip the bark or climb the trees. From the shavings and pieces of sharp stones which they had left, it was evident that they had been busily employed in sharpening their spears.
The party encamped by the side of a fine stream of water, at a short distance from a high hill, in the shape of a sugar loaf. In the afternoon, they ascended its summit; from whence they descried all around, forest or grassland, sufficient in extent, in their opinion, to support the stock of the colony for the next thirty years. This was the extreme point of their journey. The distance they had travelled, they computed at about fifty-eight miles nearly north-west; that is, fifty miles through the mountain, (the greater part of which they had walked over three times), and eight miles through the forest land beyond it, reckoning the descent of the mountain to be half a mile to the foot.