Produced by Sue Asscher and Col Choat
EXPLORATIONS IN AUSTRALIA:
1. EXPLORATIONS IN SEARCH OF DR. LEICHARDT AND PARTY.
2. FROM PERTH TO ADELAIDE, AROUND THE GREAT AUSTRALIAN BIGHT.
3. FROM CHAMPION BAY, ACROSS THE DESERT TO THE TELEGRAPH AND TO ADELAIDE.
WITH AN APPENDIX ON THE CONDITION OF WESTERN AUSTRALIA.
BY JOHN FORREST, F.R.G.S.
ILLUSTRATIONS BY G.F. ANGAS.
SAMPSON LOW, MARSTON, LOW, & SEARLE,
CROWN BUILDINGS, 188, FLEET STREET.
GILBERT AND RIVINGTON, PRINTERS,
ST JOHN’S SQUARE.
TO HIS EXCELLENCY
FREDERICK ALOYSIUS WELD, ESQ., C.M.G.,
GOVERNOR OF TASMANIA,
LATE GOVERNOR AND COMMANDER-IN-CHIEF of WESTERN AUSTRALIA.
MY DEAR GOVERNOR WELD,
It was during your administration of the Government of Western Australia, and chiefly owing to your zeal and support, that most of the work of exploration described in this volume was undertaken and carried out. Your encouragement revived the love of exploration which had almost died out in our colony before you arrived.
With gratitude and pleasure I ask you to accept the dedication of this volume as an expression of my appreciation of your kindness and support.
Yours very faithfully,
Previous Expeditions into the Interior.
Attempts to Discover a Route between South and Western Australia.
Eyre’s Disastrous Journey.
Leichardt, the Lost Explorer.
The Latest Explorations.
FIRST EXPEDITION IN SEARCH OF LEICHARDT.
Statements made by the Natives.
An Expedition Prepared.
SECOND EXPEDITION. FROM PERTH TO ADELAIDE, ROUND THE GREAT BIGHT.
A New Exploration suggested.
Proposal to reach Adelaide by way of the South Coast.
The experience derived from Eyre’s Expedition.
Survey of Port Eucla.
Dempster’s Station near Esperance Bay.
The Schooner at Port Eucla.
Journal of the Expedition.
RECEPTION AT ADELAIDE AND RETURN TO PERTH.
Departure from Gawler and Arrival at Adelaide.
Appearance of the Party.
Grant by the Government of Western Australia.
THIRD EXPEDITION. FROM THE WEST COAST TO THE TELEGRAPH LINE.
Proposal to undertake a New Expedition.
Endeavour to Explore the Watershed of the Murchison.
Expeditions by South Australian Explorers.
Fight with the Natives.
Finding traces of Mr. Gosse’s Party.
The Telegraph Line reached.
Arrival at Perth Station.
PUBLIC RECEPTIONS AT ADELAIDE AND PERTH.
Procession and Banquet at Adelaide.
Arrival in Western Australia.
Banquet and Ball at Perth.
Results of Exploration.
Description of Plants, etc.
Report on Geological Specimens.
Note by Editor.
Governor Weld’s Report (1874) on Western Australia.
Table of Imports and Exports.
Ditto of Revenue and Expenditure.
List of Governors.
1. General Map of Australia, showing the Three Journeys.
2. From Perth to Longitude 123 degrees in Search of Leichardt.
3. From Perth to Adelaide, around the Great Australian Bight.
4. From Champion Bay to Adelaide.
Portrait of John Forrest.
The Horses Bogged at Lake Barlee.
Portrait of Alexander Forrest.
Arrival at the Great Australian Bight. Fresh Water found.
Public Welcome at Adelaide.
Attacked by the Natives at Weld Springs.
On the March. The Spinifex Desert.
Reaching the Overland Telegraph Line.
General Map of Australia, showing the Three Journeys.
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EXPLORATIONS IN AUSTRALIA.
Previous Expeditions into the Interior.
Attempts to discover a Route between South and Western Australia.
Eyre’s Disastrous Journey.
Leichardt, the Lost Explorer.
The Latest Explorations.
As the history of the principal expeditions into the interior of Australia has been narrated by several able writers, I do not propose to repeat what has already been so well told. But, to make the narrative of my own journeys more intelligible, and to explain the motives for making them, it is necessary that I should briefly sketch the expeditions undertaken for the purpose of ascertaining the nature of the vast regions intervening between Western and the other Australian colonies, and determining the possibility of opening up direct overland communication.
With energetic, if at times uncertain, steps the adventurous colonists have advanced from the settlements on the eastern and southern coasts of the vast island into the interior. Expeditions, led by intrepid explorers, have forced their way against all but insurmountable difficulties into the hitherto unknown regions which lie to the north and west of the eastern colonies. Settlements have been established on the shores of the Gulf of Carpentaria. Burke and a small party crossed Australia from south to north, enduring innumerable hardships, Burke, with two of his associates, perishing on the return journey. About the same time Stuart crossed farther to the west, reaching the very centre of Australia, and telegraphic wires now almost exactly follow his line of route, affording communication, by way of Port Darwin, between Adelaide and the great telegraphic systems of the world.
ATTEMPTS TO CROSS THE DESERT.
The telegraph line divides Australia into two portions, nearly equal in dimensions, but very different in character. To the east are the busy and rapidly advancing settlements, fertile plains, extensive ranges of grassy downs, broad rivers, abundant vegetation; to the west a great lone land, a wilderness interspersed with salt marshes and lakes, barren hills, and spinifex deserts. It is the Sahara of the south, but a Sahara with few oases of fertility, beyond which is the thin fringe of scattered settlements of the colony of Western Australia. To cross this desert, to discover routes connecting the western territory with South Australia and the line marked by the telegraph, has been the ambition of later explorers. Mr. Gregory attempted, from the north, to ascend the Victoria River, but only reached the upper edge of the great desert. Dr. Leichardt, who had previously travelled from Moreton Bay, on the eastern coast, to Port Essington on the northern, attempted to cross from the eastern to the western shores, and has not since been heard of. Mr. Eyre made a journey, memorable for the misfortunes which attended it, and the sufferings he endured, from Adelaide round the head of the great bay, or Bight of Southern Australia, to Perth, the capital of Western Australia; and much more recently Colonel Egerton Warburton succeeded in crossing from the telegraphic line to the western coast across the northern part of the great wilderness, nearly touching the farthest point reached by Mr. Gregory.
It was in the year 1840, only four years after the foundation of South Australia, that the first great attempt to discover a route from Adelaide to the settlements in Western Australia was made. There then resided in South Australia a man of great energy and restless activity, Edward John Eyre, whose name was afterwards known throughout the world in connexion with the Jamaica outbreak of 1865, and the measures which, as Governor, he adopted for repressing it. It was anticipated that a profitable trade between the colonies might be carried on if sheep and other live-stock could be transferred from one to the other in a mode less expensive than was afforded by the sea route between Adelaide and the Swan River. Eyre did not believe in the possibility of establishing a practicable route, but urged, through the press, the desirability of exploring the vast regions to the north, which he anticipated would afford a good and profitable field for adventurous enterprise. He offered to lead an expedition which should explore the country around the great salt lake lying to the north-west of the settled portion of the colony, and to which the name of Lake Torrens had been given. Very little was known of this lake, and absolutely nothing of the country beyond. The general supposition, in which Eyre shared, was that there existed a large space of barren land, most probably the bed of a sea which had at one time divided the continent into several islands; but it was hoped that no insuperable difficulties in the way of crossing it would present themselves, and beyond might be a fertile and valuable district, offering an almost unbounded field for settlement, and with which permanent communications might without great difficulty be established. Some geographers were of opinion that an inland sea might be in existence, and, if so, of course water communication with the northern half of Australia could be effected.
Mr. Eyre’s proposition found ready acceptance with the colonists, The Government granted 100 pounds–a small sum indeed–but the colony was then young, and far from being in flourishing circumstances. Friends lent their assistance, enthusiasm was aroused, and in little more than three weeks from the time when Eyre proposed the expedition, he started on his journey. Five Europeans accompanied him, and two natives, black boys, were attached to the party, which was provided with thirteen horses, forty sheep, and provisions for three months. Lake Torrens was reached, and then the difficulties of the expedition began. Although dignified with the name of lake, it proved to be an enormous swamp, without surface water, and the mud coated with a thin layer of salt. The party struggled to effect a passage, and penetrated into the slime for six miles, until they were in imminent danger of sinking. The lake, or rather salt swamp, presented a barrier which Eyre considered it impossible to overcome. The party turned in a westerly direction, and reached the sea at Port Lincoln. Here a little open boat was obtained, and Mr. Scott, Eyre’s courageous companion, undertook to attempt to reach Adelaide and obtain further supplies. This he successfully accomplished, returning in the Water Witch with stores and provisions, two more men, and some kangaroo dogs. Thus reinforced, the party reached Fowler’s Bay in the great Bight of South Australia. The map shows that a journey of more than 200 miles must have been made before the point was reached. Thence they attempted to make their way round the head of the Bight, but were twice baffled by want of water. Nothing daunted, Eyre made a third attempt, and succeeded in penetrating fifty miles beyond the head of the Bight. But the result was achieved only at a cost which the little party could ill sustain. Four of the best horses perished, which deprived Eyre of the means of carrying provisions, and he had to decide between abandoning the expedition altogether or still further reducing the number of his companions. Mr. Scott and three men returned to Adelaide, leaving behind a man named Baxter, who had long been in Eyre’s employ as an overseer or factotum; the two natives who had first started with him, and a boy, Wylie, who had before been in Eyre’s service, and who had been brought back in the cutter.
Six months after Eyre had started from Adelaide, he was left with only four companions to continue the journey. He had acquired considerable experience of the privations to be encountered, but refused to comply with the wishes of Colonel Gawler, the Governor, to abandon the expedition as hopeless, and return to Adelaide. Indeed, with characteristic inflexibility–almost approaching to obstinacy–he resolved to attempt the western route along the shore of the Great Bight–a journey which, only a few months before, he had himself described as impracticable.
The cutter which had been stationed at Fowler Bay, to afford assistance if required, departed on the 31st of January, 1841, and Eyre and his small party were left to their fate. He had been defeated in the attempt to push forward in a northward direction, and he resolved not to return without having accomplished something which would justify the confidence of the public in his energy and courageous spirit of adventure. If he could not reach the north, he would attempt the western route, whatever might be the result of his enterprise. After resting to recruit the strength of his party, Eyre resolutely set out, on the 25th of February, on what proved to be a journey attended by almost unexampled demands upon human endurance.
Nine horses, one pony, six sheep, and a provision of flour, tea, and sugar for nine weeks, formed the slender stores of the little party, which resolutely set forward to track an unknown path to the west. Accompanied by one of the blacks, Eyre went on in advance to find water. For five days, during which time he travelled about 140 miles, no water was obtained, and the distress endured by men and animals was extreme. It is not necessary to dwell on every incident of this terrible journey. Eyre’s descriptions, animated by remembrances of past sufferings, possess a graphic vigour which cannot be successfully emulated. Sometimes it was found necessary to divide the party, so wretched was the country, and so difficult was it to obtain sufficient water in even the most limited supply for man and beast. Once Eyre was alone for six days, with only three quarts of water, some of which evaporated, and more was spilt. But his indomitable determination to accomplish the journey on which he had resolved never failed. He knew that at least 600 miles of desert country lay between him and the nearest settlement of Western Australia; but even that prospect, the certain privations, the probable miserable death, did not daunt him in the journey. The horses broke down from thirst and fatigue; the pony died; the survivors crawled languidly about, “like dogs, looking to their masters only for aid.” After a few days, during which no water had been obtainable, a dew fell, and Eyre collected a little moisture with a sponge, the black boys with pieces of rag. To their inexpressible joy, some sand-hills were reached, and, after digging, a supply of water was obtained for their refreshment, and for six days the party rested by the spot to recruit their strength. The overseer and one of the natives then went back forty-seven miles to recover the little store of provisions they had been compelled to abandon. Two out of the three horses he took with him broke down, and with great difficulty he succeeded in rejoining Eyre. At this time the party were 650 miles from their destination, with only three weeks’ provisions, estimated on the most reduced scale. Baxter, the overseer, wished to attempt to return; but, Eyre being resolute, the overseer loyally determined to stay with him to the last. One horse was killed for food; dysentery broke out; the natives deserted them, but came back starving and penitent, and were permitted to remain with the white men. Then came the tragedy which makes this narrative so conspicuously terrible, even in the annals of Australian exploration. Two of the black men shot the overseer, Baxter, as he slept, and then ran away, perishing, it is supposed, miserably in the desert. Eyre, when some distance from the place where poor Baxter rested, looking after the horses, heard the report of the gun and hurried back, arriving just in time to receive the pathetic look of farewell from the murdered man, who had served him so long and so faithfully.
Wylie, the black boy, who had been with Eyre in Adelaide, now alone remained, and it is scarcely possible to imagine a more appalling situation than that in which Eyre then found himself. The murderers had carried away nearly the whole of the scanty stock of provisions, leaving only forty pounds of flour, a little tea and sugar, and four gallons of water. They had also taken the two available guns, and nearly all the ammunition. The body of Baxter was wrapped in a blanket–they could not even dig a grave in the barren rock. Left with his sole companion, Eyre sadly resumed the march, their steps tracked by the two blacks, who probably meditated further murders; but, with only cowardly instincts, they dared not approach the intrepid man, who at length outstripped them, and they were never heard of more. Still no water was found for 150 miles; then a slight supply, and the two men struggled on, daily becoming weaker, living on horse-flesh, an occasional kangaroo, and the few fish that were to be caught–for it must be remembered that at no time were they far from the coast.
On the 2nd of June, nearly four months after they had bidden good-bye to the cutter at Fowler’s Bay, they stood on the cliffs, looking out over the ocean, when they saw in the distance two objects which were soon recognized as boats, and shortly afterwards, to their unbounded joy, they discerned the masts of a vessel on the farther side of a small rocky island. Animated by a new life, Eyre pushed on until he reached a point whence he succeeded in hailing the ship, and a boat was sent off. The vessel proved to be a French whaler, the Mississippi, commanded by an Englishman, Captain Rossiter. The worn-out travellers stayed on board for a fortnight, experiencing the utmost kindness, and with recruited strength and food and clothing, they bade a grateful farewell to the captain and crew, and resumed their journey.
For twenty-three days more Eyre and his attendant Wylie pursued their way. Rain fell heavily, and the cold was intense; but at length, on the 27th of July, they reached Albany, in Western Australia, and the journey was accomplished.
For more than twelve months Eyre had been engaged forcing his way from Adelaide to the Western colony; and the incidents of the journey have been dwelt upon because afterwards I passed over the same ground, though in the opposite direction, and the records of Eyre’s expedition were of the greatest service to me, by at least enabling me to guard against a repetition of the terrible sufferings he endured.
EXPLORATIONS BY LEICHARDT.
It is further necessary to refer to another of the journeys of exploration which preceded my own–that of the unfortunate Leichardt. He endeavoured to cross the continent from east to west, starting from Moreton Bay, Queensland, hoping to reach the Western Australian settlements. In 1844 Leichardt had succeeded in crossing the north-western portion of the continent from Moreton Bay to Port Essington, and he conceived the gigantic project of reaching Western Australia. Towards the end of 1847, accompanied by eight men, with provisions estimated at two years’ supply, he started on his journey. He took with him an enormous number of animals–180 sheep, 270 goats, 40 bullocks, 15 horses, and 13 mules. They must have greatly encumbered his march, and the difficulty of obtaining food necessarily much impeded his movements. His original intention was first to steer north, following for some distance his previous track, and then, as opportunity offered, to strike westward and make clear across the continent. After disastrous wanderings for seven months, in the course of which they lost the whole of their cattle and sheep, the party returned.
Disappointed, but not discouraged, Leichardt resolved on another attempt to achieve the task he had set himself. With great difficulty he obtained some funds; organized a small but ill-provided party, and again started for the interior. The last ever heard of him was a letter, dated the 3rd of April, 1848. He was then in the Fitzroy Downs; he wrote in good spirits, hopefully as to his prospects: “Seeing how much I have been favoured in my present progress, I am full of hopes that our Almighty Protector will allow me to bring my darling scheme to a successful termination.”
THE FATE OF LEICHARDT.
From that day the fate of Leichardt and his companions has been involved in mystery. He was then on the Cogoon River, in Eastern Australia, at least 1500 miles from the nearest station on the western side of the continent. His last letter gives no clue to the track he intended to pursue. If a westerly course had been struck he would have nearly traversed the route which subsequently Warburton travelled; but no trace of him has ever been discovered. Several expeditions were undertaken to ascertain his fate; at various times expectations were aroused by finding trees marked L; but Leichardt himself, on previous journeys, had met with trees so marked, by whom is unknown. Natives found in the remote interior were questioned; they told vague stories of the murder of white men, but all investigations resulted in the conclusion that the statements were as untrustworthy as those generally made to explorers who question uninformed, ignorant natives. The white man’s experience is usually that a native only partially comprehends the question; he does not understand what is wanted, but is anxious to please, as he expects something to eat, and he says what he thinks is most likely to be satisfactory.
Leichardt was certainly ill-provided for an expedition of the magnitude he contemplated, and it appears to be at the least as probable that he succumbed to the hardships he encountered, or was swept away by a flood, as that he was murdered by the blacks. Twenty-seven years have elapsed since he disappeared in the interior; yet the mystery attending his fate has not ceased to excite a desire to know the fate of so daring an explorer, and ascertain something definite respecting his course–a desire which was one of the principal motives that prompted my first expedition into the unknown interior dividing the west from the east.
In 1872, Mr. Giles headed an exploring party from Melbourne, which succeeded in making known a vast district hitherto unexplored; but his progress was stopped, when he had reached longitude 129 degrees 40 minutes, by a large salt lake, the limits of which could not be ascertained. In the following year Mr. Gosse, at the head of a party equipped by the South Australian Government, started from nearly the same point of the telegraph line, and at the same period as the Warburton expedition, but was compelled to return after eight months’ absence, having reached longitude 126 degrees 59 minutes. Gosse found the country generally poor and destitute of water. He was perhaps unfortunate in experiencing an unusually dry season; but his deliberate conclusion was, “I do not think a practicable route will ever be found between the lower part of Western Australia and the telegraph line.”
At the instance of Baron Von Mueller, and assisted by a small subscription from the South Australian Government, Mr. Giles made a second attempt to penetrate westward. He reached the 125th degree of east longitude, and discovered and traversed four distinct mountain ranges, on one of which Mr. Gosse shortly afterwards found his tracks. One of his companions, Mr. Gibson, lost his way and perished in the desert, and therefore Mr. Giles turned his face eastwards, and, after an absence of twelve months, reached Adelaide. He encountered many perils, having been nine times attacked by the natives, probably in the attempt to obtain water; and on one occasion was severely wounded and nearly captured.