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2-283 (Raw)

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author,male,Leichhardt, Friedrich Wilhelm,31 addressee
Narrative Discourse
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Private Written
Fitzpatrick, 1958
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OCT. 1. [1844] - After having repaired some harness, which had been broken by our refractory bullocks upsetting their loads, and after my companions had completed their arrangements, in which Mr. Bell kindly assisted, we left Jimba, and launched, buoyant with hope, into the wilderness of Australia.
Many a man's heart would have thrilled like our own, had he seen us winding our way round the first rise beyond the station, with a full chorus of 'God Save the Queen,' which has inspired many a British soldier, - aye, and many a Prussian too - with courage in the time of danger. Scarcely a mile from Jimba we crossed Jimba Creek, and travelled over Waterloo Plains, in a N.W. direction, about eight miles, where we made our first camp at a chain of ponds. Isolated cones and ridges were seen to the N.E, and Craig Range to the eastward: the plains were without trees, richly grassed, of a black soil with frequent concretions of a marly and calcareous nature. Charley gave a proof of his wonderful power of sight, by finding every strap of a pack-saddle, that had been broken, in the high grass of Waterloo Plains.
October 7. - In following the chain of lagoons to the westward, we came, after a few miles travelling, to the Condamine, which flows to the north-west: it has a broad, very irregular bed, and was, at the time, well provided with water - a sluggish stream, of a yellowish muddy colour, occasionally accompanied by reeds. We passed several gullies and a creek from the northward, slightly running.
The forest on the right side of the river was tolerably open, though patches of Myal scrub several times exposed us to great inconvenience; the left bank of the Condamine, as much as we could see of it, was a fine well grassed open forest.
Oct. 11. - Travelling north-west we came to a Cypress-pine thicket, which formed the outside of a Bricklow scrub. [212] This scrub was, at first, unusually open, and I thought that it would be of little extent; I was, however, very much mistaken: the Bricklow Acacia, Casuarinas and a stunted tea tree, formed so impervious a thicket, that the bullocks, in forcing their way through it, tore the flour-bags, upset their loads, broke their straps, and severely tried the patience of my companions, who were almost continually occupied with reloading one or other of the restless brutes. Having travelled five miles into it, and finding no prospect of its termination, I resolved upon returning to our last camp, which, however, I was not enabled to effect, without experiencing great difficulty, delay, and loss; and it was not until the expiration of two days, that we retraced our steps, and reached the lagoon which we had left on the 11th. We had lost about 143 pounds of flour; Mr. Gilbert lost his tent, and injured the stock of his gun [...]
Nov. 3. - For the past week, the heat was very oppressive during the day, whilst, at night, it was often exceedingly cold; for two or three hours before dawn, and for an hour after sunset, it was generally delightful, particularly within the influence of a cheerful cypress-pine fire, which perfumes the air with the sweet scent of the burning resin. 
It had now become painfully evident to me that I had been too sanguine in my calculations, as to our finding a sufficiency of game to furnish my party with animal food, and that the want of it was impairing our strength. We had also been compelled to use our flour to a greater extent than I wished; and I saw clearly that my party, which I had reluctantly increased on my arrival at Moreton Bay, was too large for our provisions. I, therefore, communicated to my companions the absolute necessity of reducing our number: all, however, appeared equally desirous to continue the journey; and it was, therefore, but just that those who had joined last, should leave. Mr. Gilbert, however, who would, under this arrangement, have had to retire, found a substitute in Mr. Hodgson, who had perhaps suffered most by additional fatigues; so that he and Caleb, the American negro, prepared for their return to Moreton Bay. Previous, however, to their departure, they assisted in killing one of our steers, the meat of which we cut into thin slices, and dried in the sun. [213] This; our first experiment - on the favourable result of which the success of our expedition entirely depended - kept us, during the process, in a state of great excitement. It succeeded, however, to our great joy, and inspired us with confidence for the future. The little steer gave us 65 lbs. of dried meat, and about 15 lbs. of fat. The operation concluded, we took leave of our companions; and although our materiel was reduced by the two horses- on which they returned, Mr. Hodgson left us the greater part of his own equipment. The loss of the two horses caused us some little inconvenience, as it increased the loads of the animals. The daily ration of the party was now fixed at six pounds of flour per day, with three pounds of dried beef, which we found perfectly sufficient to keep up our strength.
Nov. 7. - The first two hours of the day were cloudy, but it cleared up and became very hot; the atmosphere was hazy and sultry; cumuli with undefined outlines all round the horizon: wind from south-west and south. I travelled west by north about eight miles, along the foot of Bastard-box and silver-leaved Ironbark ridges. The country was exceedingly fine; the ground was firm; the valley from two to three miles broad, clothed with rich grass, and sprinkled with apple-tree, flooded-gum, and Bastard-box;. the hills formed gentle ascents, and were openly timbered. The water-holes seemed to be constant; they are very deep, densely surrounded by reeds, and with numerous heaps of broken muscle-shells round their banks. Scrub was, however, to be seen in the distance, and formed the dark spot in the pleasant picture. Game became more frequent; and last night every body had a buck. As we were pursuing our course, Mr. Gilbert started a large kangaroo, known by the familiar name of 'old man,' which took refuge in a water-hole, where it was killed, but at the expense of two of our kangaroo dogs, which were mortally wounded. As we were sitting at our dinner, a fine half-grown emu walked slowly up to us, as if curious to know what business we had in its lonely haunts; unfortunately for us, the bark of our little terrier frightened it; and, although one of my Blackfellows shot after it, it retired unscathed into the neighbouring thicket. [214] Mr. Roper killed a Rallus, which Mr. Gilbert thought to be new. The high land from which we came, appears at present as a distant range to the south-east. Finegrained sandstone, with impressions of leaves, was again observed, and a few pieces of silicified wood. A Thysanotus with fine large blossoms now adorns the forest. The native carrot is in seed; the Eryngium of Jimba, and a leguminous plant, prostrate with ternate leaves and bunches of yellow flowers, were frequent; several beautiful species of everlastings were occasionally seen, and the little orange-tree of the Condamine grew in the scrub.
Nov. 10. - The country along the river changed, during the last two stages, considerably for the worse. The scrub approached very near to the banks of the river, and, where it receded, a disagreeable thicket of Bastard-box saplings filled almost the whole valley: fine lagoons were along the river, frequently far above its level; the river itself divided into anabranches, which, with the shallow watercourses of occasional floods from the hills, made the whole valley a maze of channels, from which we could only with difficulty extricate ourselves. 'I never saw such a rum river, in my life,' said my blackfellow Charley. [...] 
Nov. 14. - A dense scrub, which had driven us back to the river, obliged me to reconnoitre to the north-west, in which I was very successful; for, after having crossed the scrub, I came into an open country, furnished with some fine sheets of water, and a creek with Corypha palms, growing to the height of 25 or 30 feet. The feelings of delight which I experienced when, upon emerging from the more than usually inhospitable Bricklow scrub, the dark verdure of a swamp surrounding a small lake - with native companions (Ardea antigone) strutting round, and swarms of ducks playing on its still water, backed by an open forest, in which the noble palm tree was conspicuous - suddenly burst upon our view, were so great as to be quite indescribable.
[Nov. 19] [...] I had descended - from a scrubby table land, the continuation of Darling Downs - into a system of easterly waters. I had followed down the Dawson for a considerable distance, and then, following up one of its creeks, found myself again on westerly waters. [215] I could not decide, to my entire satisfaction, whether my views Were right; for the country was difficult for reconnoitring; and I was necessarily compelled to move quickly on, to accomplish the object of my expedition: but it is a very interesting point for geographical research, and I hope, if I am not anticipated by other explorers, to ascertain, at some future period, the course of these creeks and rivers [...]
[Nov. 20] We now entered a mountainous country; and the banks of the creek became sometimes very steep and broken by narrow gullies, rendering our progress slow and difficult. We had to wind our way through narrow valleys, and over ranges from which the descent was frequently very steep and dangerous. The latitude of our camp of the 21st November was 25° 28' 12"; that of the 22nd was 25° 25'; that of the 23rd, about 32 miles west of Murphy's Lake, was 25° 27' 12'. Here the ranges were for the most part, openly timbered, with the exception of the higher points, which were generally covered with vine-brush; in one of which we found the nests of the brush turkey (Talegaila Lathami), and observed the bird itself. Some considerable stretches of beautiful country were now travelled over; the leading feature being low ridges, openly timbered with the silver-leaved ironbark, covered with an abundance of grass and herbs, and furnished with large lagoons; there was also a constant supply of water in the creek itself. On the banks of the latter, a species of Sterculia grows to a large size, and is one of the most pleasing and ornamental trees of the country; it is probably different from, although nearly allied to S. heterophylla. Very disagreeable, however, was the abundance of Burr and of a speargrass (Aristida), which attached themselves to our clothes and blankets, and entered (particularly the latter) into the very skin. I have also to mention, that a yellow Villarsia was found on one of the lakes; which were generally surrounded by high sedges. We have not seen black swans since leaving Murphy's Lake; at which place we first saw a species of whistling duck, (Leptotarsis, Gould.)
Appearances indicated that the commencement of the ranges was a favourite resort of the 'Blackfellows.' The remains of recent repasts of muscles were strewed about the larger water-holes, and, as I passed a native camps which had only lately been vacated, I found, under a few sheets of bark, four fine kangaroo nets, made of the bark of Sterculia; also several bundles of sticks, which are used to stretch them. [216] As I was in the greatest want of cordage, I took two of these nets; and left, in return, a fine brass-hilted sword, the hilt of which was well polished, four fishing hooks, and a silk handkerchief; with which, I felt convinced, they would be as well pleased, as I was with the cordage of their nets. [...]