Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales
Journals, 1856-1857, kept during the North Australian Expedition
MLMSS 291/ Item 18
[This volume consists of three journals kept by members of the North Australian Exploratory Expedition of 1855 to 1857, led by Sir Augustus Charles Gregory:
The journal of James Spottiswood Wilson, geologist, and Joseph Ravenscroft Elsey, surgeon to the expedition, from 3 January to 1 February 1856 (pages 1 to 13);
The diary of J S Wilson from 31 January to 4 February 1856 (pages 15 to 30); and
The meteorological journal of James Flood, collector and preserver, from 22 June 1856 to 31 March 1857 (pages 31 to 41).
The journals contain details about the activities of the depot party members: building a relatively permanent camp, exploring the countryside, retrieving stores from the damaged schooner the Tom Tough, and, in particular, describing encounters with members of the local aboriginal community.]
Kept at the Main Camp
by J. S. Wilson Geologist
and J. R. Elsey Surgeon to the
North Australian Expedition
from January 3rd 1856 to May 9th 1856.
To day the party has again started, the horses went off quietly and in regular order all the bustle of preparation is past; the camp is quiet and I now find myself necessarily in charge of the greater portion of our company, and the property of the Expedition to perform duties that I had not contemplated.
Mr Elsey and one of the men have had an unsuccessful search for the lost packs.
Humphrey and Melville have been out all day in search of the lost packs but returned without finding them, the other men have been employed in improving the comfort of their huts, and hauling a log for the Schooners repairs. Four natives made their appearance on the other side of the river as the ships Carpenter was pushing off from the place in the dingie with a Kangaroo he had shot, one of the sailors was still ashore in search of game, and fearing a collision between
him and the natives, the Captain went ashore with another man to fetch him off during the time he was ashore the Captn had a parley with the natives and observed that they spoke a few words of English, one asked for tobacco and seemed to understand its use perfectly when a small piece was given him, he said tomorrow in a manner that the Captn understood to mean that they would come tomorrow Mosquitoes being exceeding troublesome to him he would strike them with his hand, and say, no good, no good. It would be difficult to account for this acquisition on the part of the native could it not be supposed that the natives at Port Essington acquired a considerable number of english words, adopted some of them ad transmitted them to the neighbouring tribes, the native who used them on the present occasion was the oldest man of the party and may have been much farther to the Northerd during the time that Port Essington was a settlement.
I gave orders that no hunting should be done on the other side of the river so long as the natives were supposed to be in the vicinity. The same natives appeared to day again (as they had promised) at the same place and seemed anxious to improve their acquaintance, Some of the sailors solicited Captn Gourlays permission to go and trade with them for spears &c, but were refused, there was no other attempt at intercourse with them, they remained all the afternoon when seeing that they were not likely to be attended to they departed.
Got a barrel of Sugar landed from the Schooner and the river being low we were enabled to get some iron ballast hauled to the bank to be brought up to the camp at leisure for the purpose of making an oven, Melville was employed in drawing the straw stuffing from the remaining pack-saddles in order to reduce their bulk for putting on board, Humphreys and Selby in sifting flour and arranging the casks in the store, Showell in making a cot for himself, we took account of and collected the preserved meat and found the quantity ashore to be 106 tins of Beef, and 3 small tins Soup.
Yesterday evening the men had arranged that all of them who could be spared from the camp, should go and search for the lost packs but were prevented doing so this morning by the severity of the weath[er], a heavy thunderstorm arose in the South and about 2 O clock this morning the rain and wind (in consequence) came with great voilence from that quarter, toward noon and after the wind shifted a little to the West, 3 inches of water in the rain gauge before noon, Afternoon fine, Three natives came to the same place to day again who finding that we would not attend to them they soon departed, The river rises otherwise we might expect them to visit us soon on this side of the water.
To day 4 men have been employed in digging a ditch to enclose the camp and serve as a visible line of demarcation that the natives are not to be allowed to pass
such precaution is now essentially necessary to secure peace, having most probably seen the party with all the horses going towards the interior they will suppose us weak and venture to approach us, there were some natives on the other side of the river to day again but no attention was paid to them.
This morning was very stormy, a thunder storm commenced soon after midnight in the South and we had strong wind and heavy rain from the same quarter, the rain cleared of soon after sunrise, 2 Ό inch in the rain guage, the day has been fine with the exception of a short but sudden shower at 5 in the afternoon. Noon temperature 90° Spread some of the biscuit on a tarpauline in the sun for a few ours then sifted it to remove the dust and wevils, these and other insects were carried off in great numbers by the ants.
The river continues to rise, the same 4 men that worked at the ditch yesterday have been in like manner employed to day, Selby was attacked with the sickness prevalent at the camp and left off work in the afternoon, have succeeded in collecting 17 oiled capes.
We had rain and wind from S.E. this morning between the hours of 4 and seven without thunder Ύ inch rain fell, The river this morning was about one foot above the flood of last month, but rose no more during the day Mr Ryan (at my request) hove the log and found the velocity of the river where the Schooner lies, to be 3 miles pr hour which might be considered as the main velocity
as the schooner lies only about Ό the breadth of the river from the bank, The men continued working at the ditch.
Rain fell last night from 8 O clock till midnight to the amount of 2 in wind from E.S.E. the thunder was tremendious one peal broke overhead and never was the report of a volley of artillery more like itself than was that peal, it reverbrated as it passed away to the Westward ad died away as it were in the distance, the river rose 2 ½ feet during the night, the day has been fine Sunrise Temp 75° afternoon 93°. During the forenoon when the Therm stood at 80° in the shade some water in a bucket exposed to the sun acquired a degree of heat so high as 110°, vast quantities of drift wood pass down with the current, frequently the stem and branches of trees standing upright and an Island of drift collected round and floating with them
Gave Capt Gourlay one tierce of pork for which he is to return an equal amount of beef, Collected, Dried, and stowed away 20 corn sacks, Do 13 pack saddle pads.
The day fine and the river ceased to rise it had exceeded the height of the flood of last month by 3 feet, the log hove from the Schooner to ascertain the velocity of the stream at three different times of the day indicated respectively 3. 2. and 2 ½ knots per hour, the cause of the difference is undoubtly the interference of the tides which difference I had suspected and therefore the velocity to be taken at different times of the day
the men are still employed in building the house that is to be occupied by themselves
Temperature Morn 75°. Noon 95°. night 90°.
Day fine, rarather hot, we have had no thunder for the last two days, and the river is considerably fallen. Men engaged in building as before stated, in the afternoon sifted and headed up 3 casks of Maize.
Sunday, Day fine with a pleasant breeze from S.E. throughout the day temp sunrise 78° afternoon 96° water cooled by evaporation 84°.
Two logs were hauled in this morning for the repairs of the Schooner, and are supposed to be the last required, the day fine Temp nearly the same as yesterday, the men progress with their building.
The weather has continued clear and fine the day rarather hotter than the few proceeding days, and in the evening the glare of distant lightning appeared to the Northward, the Mosquitoes continue excessively troublesome the camp at night looks like a blackfellows camp having a fire in the entrance of every hut to intercept the venemous tormentors, how are you off for smoke, has become a civil interogation that passes through the camp by way of a new "bye word", the men finished the roof frame of their house this afternoon and hoisted a flag above the ridge poll, having desired that they would make themselves as comfortable quarters as they could, they are pleased with the privilege and seemed determined to make their dwelling the best in the camp, the situation is certainly the best and the prettiest.
Tempt 5h30m A.M. 81°. noon 95°. 8h P.M. 82°. between 4 and 5 in the afternoon we had thunder and a squall with a little rain from S.E. the first thunder we have had since the 10th
Day fine sky rarather cloudy Tempt 6h A.M. 82°. noon 95°. Richards hand improves, Selby is cook, which office is to be filled in turns monthly, instead of weekly as before, all the other men (the shepherd included) are still employed in building the house.
The day has been clear hot and calm 2 P.M. Ther 98°. two of the men who had been out cutting grass for thatch (Showell and Melville) killed a large brown snake and brought it very little damaged to Mr Elsey, the reptile measured nearly 10 ft, and weighed nearly 9 lbs, Capt Gourlay having been a little way up the side of the river to procure a small spar for a boat mast, he reported to have seen the footprints of four natives that he thinks must have been close to the camp, all the available hands are still at the building of the house.
The weather quite clear and the heat increases 3h P.M. therm. 100°. 8h P.M. 92°. men continue employed as before, last night, coming off my watch at midnight and having lighted a candle I saw a rat running off with a bit of biscuit, which I shot with my revolver and handed it over to Mr Elsey for examination, he reported that it was a common rat and a female and that I had destroyed a progeny of seven young rats that should soon have assisted me in looking after the Stores
Soon after I had gone to bed, I felt a rat creeping over me (perhaps the mate of the dead one coming to revenge its loss) I struck it with my hand, but it escaped, about three hours afterwards I was awoke from my sleep by feeling the rat against the side of my head, I caught it in my hand and
killed it and gave it over to the doctor for dissection, (It is a male rat).
Thermter rose to 104° in the afternoon, the sky has been slightly clouded, and in the evening there has been distant lightning in the East.
Day hot and cloudy but a good breeze from N.W. In the East and N.E. much lightning a thunderstorm seems to threaten a change of weather.
The morning hazy, but not so hot as on several preceeding days, the thunderstorm last night did not reach us, the moon was at the full, and Mr Elsey had observed a considerable fall in the Barometer, I begin to suspect that there is a high range to the East and North East of us, as on several occasions the thunderstorms seemed to rest there, and most of those that have reached us have come from that quarter.
All the available hands are kept at the building of the house. Landed to day a tierce of Beef received from Captn Gourlay in payment for a tierce of pork lent him on the 10th inst also a cask of flour, the cask had the damaged mark but the damage was very trifling. Lightning and thunder similar to that of yesterday evening not quite so violent but in the same quarter.
McDonald lost the sheep yesterday evening and gave no notice of it, but looked for them awhile in the night and has been away all day from four O clock in the morning, till night but without finding them.
We had a squall of wind from N.E. during the night, the morning is cloudy and looks very heavy in the N.E. Yesterday evening when
McDonald had returned without the sheep, I announced to the men that if the sheep should not be found I should feel myself under the necessity of causing an immediate reduction of the rations to the amount of one days allowance pr week, this had the full effect intended and all felt an interest in the recovery of the sheep, I proposed sending all hands in search of them next morning, but McDonald thought that with Melvilles assistance he should be able to find them, according he and Melville went in search early this morning and brought the sheep all home about noon.
The day has been very cloudy and very mild the highest degree of tempt being 90°. in the shade
Humphreys, Showell, and Dawson employed in building as before.
The day clear and warme Temp 99°. the river is as low as it was before the last rains, Richards improves and has offered to take his watch at night, there is less complaint of sickness and there are no sore eyes, the Mosquitoes continue to be a nightly pest, at 3h P.M. distant thunder was heard in the South and an hour afterwards we felt its full force, the wind blew fresh all the afternoon from that quarter the sky looked very heavy yet the rain that fell amounted only to 3/10 of an inch, the mercury fell to 81° and the wind blew the Mosquitoes away consequently the evening was the most comfortable we have had for a considerable time. The men were all employed as usual their work at the house draws near to a close.
The morning clear and pleasant but hot
toward noon 3h P.M. Temp 97°. distant thunder is heard in the Southerd.
The thunder continued all the afternoon but only a very slight shower of rain fell, two of the men Dawson, and Showell, have been working at the ditch, the others at the house as usual.
Day rarather hot at 2h P.M. Therm. 98° in the shade at 3 the thunder again commenced in the S.E. and the sky overcast there was every appearance of a heavy storm coming, the storm continued all the afternoon and rain was seen falling in different directions yet at the camp it amounted to only about 2/10 of an inch, the men were employed in the same order as yesterday. We had a sheep killed in the afternoon which weighed 42 lbs (a considerable improvement) the sheep are very restless at night in consequence of the annoyance they suffer from Mosquitoes, and sometimes break out of their pen, the Shepherd McDonald requested a bell to enable him to find them on such occasions, being supplied with a horse bell he went to the pen after dark and put it on one that he considered the most likely to be unruly soon afterwards the animal (unaccustomed to such appendage) in shaking off the Mosquitoes made such a noise that he took fright and broke out of the pen and was followed by most of the others who went racing about the place like mad things, all hands turned out to collect them, but the night being very dark two hours were spent in racing after them they were all found but three which we supposed would find their way
back during the night.
This morning the Shepherd reported that the sheep had all got out sometime during the night, having desired to take a man to help in finding them, he and Melville went and found them all including those that were wanting yesterday evening.
The morning clear and hot as yesterday thunder commenced in the S.W. about 3h P.M. and continued all the evening but produced only one light shower, not amounting to more than 1/10 inch.
To day the thunder commenced earlier than usual about noon it appeared in the S.S.W. and P.M. ½ inch rain had fallen but ceased toward evening. The men were variously employed McDonald & Melville thatching, Dawson cutting ditch Humphreys and Showell sifting flour, and shifting stores of Maize and Bran.
Rain had fallen through the course of the night to the amt of 1 inch, and this morning was the coolest we have had for a considerable time. Temp 64° at 6h P.M. Went on board the Tom Tough and brought off 4 parcels of Botanists paper that were being damaged by vermin, examined a chest of the ships tea that was rendered totally useless by salt water, McDonald and Melville finished the thatching of the workmens house, Humphreys, and Showell, forenoon improving the Maize and Bran store, afternoon Showell with Dawson at the ditch and Humphreys, casting revolver bullets.
Thunder in the S.E. commenced late in the afternoon but as yet (8h P.M.) no rain has
fallen, thunder continues.
This morning was similar to several preceding days, thunder commenced rarather earlier than usual and threatened a heavy storm which we have since experienced, heavy rain commenced about the time of sun-setting and continues still to fall 10 h P.M. The men employed at the house have finished that job to day, Dawson and Showell were at work at the ditch.
Heavy rain fell last night but an accident having befallen the rain guage, dont know the exact amt at least between two and three inches.
Mr Wilson with the men Humphreys Melville and Showell left the camp this morning for an excursion down the river they left in the long boat with Capt. Gourlay and two hands, intending first to Survey and fix upon a suitable place below the flats for laying up the vessel, and afterwards to proceed up Curiosity Peak creek, and thence to return overland to the camp with 2 men. The day has been fine, indistinct thunder was heard in the E.S.E. about 4h P.M. and continuous sheet lightning up to 9h30m P.M. when a fresh wind sprung up from S.E. bringing with it rain clouds and at 11h P.M. rain fell heavily and lasting for some time, Dawson was employed at the ditch and various small matters about the camp, McDonald cleaned out and repaired Richardss hut, which it is desirable he should occupy till his arm
is in a more healthy state. whilst so doing he turned up the tomahawk marked T.T. belonging to Mr Ryan which had been lent to one of the men, and lost by him, and for which one of our new tomahawks was most improperly given without Mr Gregorys knowledge or sanction.
3/16 of an inch of rain has fallen during the night, the Morning is cool and cloudy.
Dawson the only man for general work now in the Camp, was employed at the [word or words missing]
Macdonald finished the raised bunks for the men and added other wall fittings to the house. As there are no Cartriages of No 16 bullet rnd fit for the guns supplied to the men I gave out today materials 20 rounds for each man, with the exception of Dawson they are without ammunition but no mention was made of it. The day was rather close, about 3 P.M. a storm was observed gathering on the North horizon over Sea Range and spreading round rapidly to West & S.W. without much thunder, at 5 PM the rain commenced first preceded by a very strong wind from the S.E. it continued for about an hour and then afterwards at short intervals during which there were tremendous bursts of thunder steady heavy rain set in and continued till 3 AM. 3 inches of rain fell
Diary of J. S. Wilson Esqr.
Geologist attatched to the North Australian Expedition
From 31st January to 3d February 1856.
Left the camp in the long boat in company with Captain Gourlay for the purpose of examining a place down the River where he supposed the schooner might be laid up to have some of the damage done to the bottom repaired Observed that the right bank of the River from stony Point to Sandy Island was a deep alluvial deposit Having no wind to help us we halted at the latter place to have some tea and to await the wind we expected to come down the River, Thunder having kept a continuous rumbling all the afternoon along the Steep Head Range (S.E.). After remaining one hour we again got on board the boat. the appearances of wind proved deceptive at least we concluded so and the men were oblidged to row for more than an hour before the wind overtook us. light at first but as the thunder storm approached it become stronger and the night darker, the men were ordered to stand by the sheets to be ready to let go in case of danger At this time we were rounding Kangaroo Point the rain began to fall heavily Soon after rounding the Point we discovered some native fires in front of Sea Range. As we approached the men Cooeyed but could get no answer, at length I desired a gun to be discharged. No
sooner was this done than the camp seemed all active, and they began to call to us seeming to know who we were, the men requested permission to discharge all their guns as they had got wet with the rain and might give them some trouble to clean out in the morning I consented to their doing so at intervals as we passed along which would indicate to the Natives that we were going down the River, They calling to us and answering (inteligibly) the calls of our people and we could even see one of them coming to the River with a fire stick, We passed on a little distance till fearing that we might run on the shoals we anchored for the night and fixed up some blankets in the form of a tent to shelter us from the rain and thus endeavoured to spend the night. To sleep was impossible, We had congratulated ourselves on the Idea that the wind and rain had driven away the Mosquitoes, but our satisfaction was of short duration. about 3 oclock in the morning everyone was out of temper, rubbing and scratching cursing and swearing at the Mosquitoes which realy came off so thick that in the darkness the air seemed loaded with them, keeping up one loud continuous and most disagreeable hum,
This morning by daylight we hauled in anchor to move farther down the River before breakfast, we had not started many minutes when we were hailed by the Natives but as we would not come to or wait for them, they kept running along the shore until we came to a place we thought most convenient to breakfast at, on the opposite side of the River to that on which the natives were. It happened that at the place where we landed there were a great number of Cockatoos feeding on the wild melons that grew abundantly at the place where we
landed, As we landed I fired amongst them with my rifle and killed one, as they rose and were flying over head, one of the men fired up among them and a cockatoo come tumbling down.
The Natives who now stood on the opposite bank of the River watching us, simultaneously gave a yell of mixed admiration and astonishment, some of our men scattered into the bush with the intention of shooting enough to give us a meal but soon came back to say that they had been hailed by natives and that they thought they were numerous
The scene however soon changed, the natives on the other side hearing the voices of their countrymen, called to them, a conversation took place and apparently an understanding produced, as nine of those on the off side marched into the River untill out of their depth and then swam to a sandbank in the middle across which they marched in the same regular order, and again swam towards the bank carrying their spears above water in the left hand.
As they approached the bank (about 200 yards below where our boat was moored an elderly Native swam out to meet them bearing in his hand a green bough. The Green bough, the well known emblem of Peace I could not now well understand, whether it was intended to signify a compact of Peace between themselves, or that the proceedings on the occasion in relation to ourselves should be peaceable. The tide was low at the time they crossed, and our people who anticipated a cooperation for hostile purposes had got over the bustle of loading with ball, stood on the high bank and expressed in high terms their admiration of the scene before them and lamented the absense of our artist on the occasion.
The place added materially to the effect, The broad river, the repulsive red cliffs of Sea range, the picturesque dome in the back ground. Most of the people supposed the intentions of the natives to be hostile, but the interview indicated nothing but what was peaceful. Having united their forces they ventured to approach us but apparently unarmed, We went likewise to meet them and made signs to them not to approach nearer which they understood and remained where they were, They were all young men with the exception of one rather elderly man who had come about 30 yards in advance of the others. He stood still notwithstanding the angry attitude of our people, and ordered his own people to keep back when he saw that we did not approve of their approach he then trampled down the long grass where he stood to shew that he had no concealed weapon with him, having done so much to allay our apprehensions he endeavoured to draw our attention to a supurated sore on his back, Our people were rather disposed to drive the natives away but when I came up to this poor fellow who seemed most anxious to make us comprehend him, I desired our people to hold back, that they came rather to have their wounds healed than to have others added, though it was certainly the more difficult of the two particularly so as we had not got the Doctor with us or any medicine that would be of any use to the wound on the poor fellows back which seemed to have been produced by a spear having entered in an oblique manner and glanced off one of his ribs outwards had thus produced the second opening, or it might have been opened at the second place to extract the spear head. Of course his sufferings
excited their sympathy and each endeavoured to suggest something for his releif. A sailor at length proposed a quid of tobacco to be bandaged on the sore, no sooner was this mentioned than another pulled out his fig of Negrohead to supply the proposed remedy, but said his companion they will have no faith in it unless a fellow goes through a pack of D.d. mummery
Jack however undertook the task, chewed the Tobacco muttered a lot of gibberish, performed a number of gymnastic movements which ended (muttering all the time) by taking off his hat looking at the sun first over his right shoulder then over his left and dashing his hat with violence on the ground proceeded to apply the solacing weed, which we all wished to produce the best effects.
In order to complete his job poor Jack was under the necessity of tearing a strip off his shirt to bandage round the natives body who seemed to feel very grateful for the service done him and tried to make himself as intelligible as possible and said much in allusion to his countrymen, which we of course did not much understand. While all this was going on our men had approached the natives and an amicable understanding established which I trust will ever continue.
The line of conduct that we have persued seemed to have excited in them a desire to be acquainted, they came to us perfectly unarmed that we might be convinced of their peaceful intentions, while at the same time they did not intimate the slightest desire that we should do so likewise which confidence must have arisen from the peaceful and distant
disposition we have always hitherto observed to them while at the same time they had evidence of and felt our superiority,
They intimated their knowledge of our camp and seemed anxious to visit it, which civility we were rather disposed to evade any allusion to, They likewise invited us to see a corroboree at their camp that night which we also declined.
We returned to where breakfast was prepared, the natives remained where we left them while we were taking our meal, we then made them a few very trifling presents and got into the boat to depart they accompanied us walking along the side of the river until we came to Alligator Island, where we parted from our sable friends.
They gave us to understand that there was a passage to the west of the Island which they seemed anxious we would follow but we gave the preference to that with which we were better acquainted. As we were passing the Dome we were again accosted by native voices but this time it was by that of women, It seemed that all the women children and old men of the tribe had crossed the neck of land which projects above the Island and took an elevated position near the above hill to have an opportunity of seeing us as we passed, they signified a desire that we should land but we resisted the temptation and passed on merely exchanging a few Cooeys and other calls. The wind was slack yet we managed to reach Curiosity Peak where the Captain proposed we should land and have dinner while the wind was coming down which we anticipated from a thunder storm.
that then seemed in full operation to the Eastward a quarter of an hour however only elapsed before it came with the fury of a squall and (nautically speaking) a sea was soon rolling on the River The waves rolled in with such force that the boat was in danger of being swamped or broken against the bank so that we were oblidged to bundle in with our pots of tea under a drenching rain and shove off to avoid the danger
We passed down into the next reach the wind abated and we began to think of encamping, The miseries of the previous night still fresh in our memories induced us to look for more comfortable quarters and to chose the most likely to be free from Mosquitoes
The Mangrove bank on each side afforded little prospect and the only place likely to suit was the point projecting from a little hill opposite the Mosquito flats and near to where the Tom Tough had lain aground. We landed at the point but found it to be rather a dirty place. it was formed out of the decomposed shale rock, rendered quite soft and muddy by the late rains, but was strewed over with flat water worn fragments of sandstone
Most of the party looked at the place rather dispairingly, and seemed to anticipate the miseries of a wet night on a mud bank, the choice however was made and it remained for us to turn it to the best advantage, night coming on dark and threatening to be wet there was no time to be lost. I collected a number of stones and laid them level and close together over the mud yet leaving sufficient space to allow the water running
down the slope to pass between them.
The example was readily adopted and all set about making stone beds and two of the men began facetiously to quarrel about having the softest stones, Two large fires of driftwood were made to keep the Mosquitoes away, tea was made and the weather kept sufficiently dry to allow us to sup and retire.
It rained nearly all night, and being once awoke by heavy drops beating in my face I heard the waves beating against the boat and fearing that it was in danger of being broken against the blocks of rock which lined the waters edge, I called the Captain and we went down together and found that the tide had left the boat upon the stones, and the waves made a noise by beating under her bottom. the Captain thought all was safe and we returned to our beds again. before morning however the tide had risen and swamped the boat laid her over on her side and tumbled all the arms ammunition and provisions into the river, It had been judged safest to leave these things in the boat covered up, fortunately for myself I thought otherwise and placed my Knapsack &c under my head for a pillow and laid my gun by my side beneath the blanket where though it was saved from a soaking it was pretty well rusted externally by the vapour produced by the heat of my body under wet blankets.
The morning hazey and damp cleared up after breakfast the people spread out their Blankets to dry and make bread before hand for dinner with the damaged portion of their flour. I took advantage of this delay to go to Curiosity hill and get bearings of the Faralone hills in doing which I had more difficulty than I had anticipated the flat lying between over which I had to cross seemed covered with a luxuriant growth of grass but when I got into it it proved to be a swamp covered with reeds and knee deep with water through which to force my way was excessively laborious returning however I chose the River side which though muddy proved much easier traveling.
On my return the boat was in readiness and we proceeded down the river.
The men were much refreshed and spoke with satisfaction of the nights rest they had enjoyed on their novel beds. Frank a little Dutchman said "Dem me see what it is to know these things, I could not help thinking after I laid down, wahat an English gentleman or Lady would have done had they been left at that place why they would have walked up and down all night or perhaps sat down under a bush there up the hill, but they would never have thought of making a bed of stones."
Soundings of the Channel were taken as we passed along and were found to be generally much deeper than they were before the floods came down and the flats rather higher, the tides were as usual but the current was still downwards which prevented the sand being thrown back into the channels. We got down nearly to the mouth of Lilly Creek, a broad sand bank
was thrown up on that side of the river which in the opinion of the Captain destroyed the suitableness of the ground he had intended to lay the Schooner on for repairs to her bottom. Saw two places on the opposite side of the River that were sufficiently level and deep water just in front but being solid rock of a shaly sandstone were judged to be too unyealding for the purpose required, The Captain did not feel disposed to continue the search any farther on the present occasion in consequence of his ammunition being destroyed and provisions much damaged we therefore turned to retrace our way to the camp. The tide was flowing and the wind fair and we got on very well but night overtook us before we could get clear past all the shoals and we at length found ourselves aground on a bank nearly opposite the Dome.
It is strange to see the disposition of apathy or indifference that has taken possesion of the people, arising in part from the torrid character of the climate and the habits of indolence in which they have been allowed indulge, Except when moved by some object of immediate interest, labor seems to be regarded by them as a punishment and exertion as a crime. This is more particularly the case with the ships people which no doubt results from the vilanous manner in which they have been treated by the owner in sending them unsupplied with the necessary stock of provisions that he professed to have provided for them. They have now scarcely anything left to subsist on but biscuit and salt beef and the latter of very inferior quality.
a diet that is evidently doing injury to their health, This state of indifference was strikingly depicted in the conduct of the sailors during this trip in the boat and especially on the return.
So long as there was wind to sail with all went on well but when it became necessary to row the boat the Captains order to that effect was attended to with indifference or not at all and he seemed afraid to speak insistingly well knowing that the answer he was most likely to receive would be in comparative allusion to their fare and the faith of their employer whom they considered the captain to represent
In the present instance night was coming on and the boat aground on a sand flat opposite the Dome and near to Alligator Point. At the Captains intimation we all got out to lighten the boat and haul it over the flat in the direction in which he said that the deep water lay, this was done freely so long as the boat floated but unfortunately the water shoaled the boat began to rub heavily against the ground and required a proportionate increased amount of force to drag it along, all exertion on the part of the sailors
then ceased was then palbably a mere pretense which when observed by others better disposed, who thought it fruitless to haul by themselves slackened off also and all came to a standstill. It was the general opinion that we were getting farther away from the channel yet all seemed afraid to move away any distance from the boat lest they should encounter alligators, these brutes being more dangerous at night than during the
daytime. From having passed that way so often I knew the deep channel passed nearer the Dome but to convince all parties it was necessary to prove it. I therefore went and was followed by one of the men (Melville) we found the water to deepen gradually as we proceeded until at length it was sufficiently deep for the boat and then deepened rapidly enough to convince me that we were on the border of the Channel. I measured the distance back to the boat by steps and then told the men that it was only 160 steps to where there was sufficient water to float the boat with all hands aboard, that the tide was falling and that if they did not get off soon they should be oblidged to remain where they were till the morning tide rose sufficiently high to float them, while in the mean time they should be devoured by Mosquitoes without an inch of wood to raise a smoke, This last appeal spoke powerfully to their feelings and had the desired effect, they set to work in real earnest and soon had the boat afloat and on her way, there was no good ground to encamp on either side of the River, near, and therefore we continued on our way till after about an hours good rowing we reached the long high bank above Alligator Island and stopped there near to the place where we had the interview with the Natives the preceding day.
We had a fine night and were less than usually annowed by Mosquitoes As we were finishing breakfast the natives discovered our boat at the River side and hailed us, there were
but six men altogether four of whom we had seen before, the other two were very young men they stood aloof and we were given to understand by the others that they belonged to another tribe up the River. They differed in having two of their front teeth knocked out, the others seem to have their teeth ground down to an even surface.
They may be considered about the middle stature but are so very slender that they appear taller when at a little distance. They have generally very thin beards yet they seem to admire and value that gift of nature, one (who seemed the most intelligent) had enough on his chin to allow of its being drawn together and tied, had the tip of
with a Kangorue tail added to it to increase its length. The man with a spear wound in his back was the only one we saw who had an abundant beard. They practise the rite of circumcision but whether it be with them a religious rite remains to be learned. They wear no clothing with the exception of a belt made of bark and bound round the body with about a dozen plies of cord. They examined us with extreme minuteness and observed that we had not all got hair of the same color, but what seemed to astonish them most was our superior muscular proportions which they observed with extreme admiration. The gentleman with a Kangaroo tail tip to his beard became my inspector, he opened my shirt to see my chest and examined it with all the minuteness that a military Doctor might be supposed to do that of a young recruit, he next examined my arm from the shoulder down comparing
each part with his own, he seemed a little better satisfied within himself in finding that his hand was longer than mine and called another to witness the fact, this man laid his hand in mine to examine and compare it and while doing so, I grasped his hand so tightly as to make him wince and sing out affording much merriment to those who looked on, he looked both pleased and astonished while he rubbed his hand and described his sensations to his bretheren.
Captain Gourlay and his men in their love for curiosities endeavoured to trade with the natives for spears and stone tomahawks, two of the former were obtained in exchange for a blanket and a red woollen shirt, but the Tomahawks they appeared to value very highly, seeing which I requested that nothing should be taken from them but in exchange for something eaqually serviceable to them and not to be guided by value at which we might estimate the article we gave for instance the market value of a blanket with us might be more than that of three Iron Tomahawks, but to them, a people who wear no clothing, a blanket was of very little value, while a tomahawk would be inestimable. They had two stone tomahawks one was made from a fragment of trap the other of Syenite this latter was rather an object of interest in a Geological point of view, as I had not yet
got been able to discover any rock of that class in North the drift of the Victoria, but I could obtain no information from the natives relative to the locality in which it
[Trap, or trap rock, is any dark, fine-grained, non-granite, extrusive or intrusive igneous rock, for example, basalt, diabase, peridotite.]
it had been obtained, My impression was that it originally belonged to some tribe up the Adelaide and had passed from them through the intermediate tribes.
We parted in the most amicable manner, and got into the boat which they accompanied some distance along the River side admiring the boat but did not express the amount of astonishment that I should have expected at seeing the use of oars and sails, probably from having seen us pass on former occasions (while they yet feared to approach us) that part of the novelty had worn off.
The night was advanced several hours when we reached stony point and encamped there as we had intended chosing that spot as being free from damp and Mosquitoes, and in no way likely to be visited by natives.
Reached the camp at 3 in the afternoon, the weather had been to us fearfully hot, on the first day out one of the sailors had the back of his hands blistered, on the second day the Captain had the back of his hands blistered in the like manner, and my own skin had almost yielded to the same fiery influence.
It is perhaps worthy of remark that the two persons thus affected are fair skinned and have sandy or reddish hair, and were the only individuals of that complexion in the boat
3 February [Should read 4 February.]
On enquiry at the camp we were informed that the weather was no hotter than than we had frequently experienced it at the Camp the greatest heat during out absense being 98° in the shade.
[Table showing aneroid barometer and air temperature readings at sunrise, noon and sunset for the period 22 June 1856 to 31 July 1856, together with remarks on wind direction, cloud formations, etc. Not transcribed; see image for details.]
[Table showing aneroid barometer, air temperature and sea temperature readings at sunrise, noon and sunset for the period 1 August 1856 to 30 September 1856. Not transcribed; see image for details.]
[Table showing evaporation by wet thermometer readings at sunrise, noon and sunset for the period 1 August 1856 to 30 September 1856, together with remarks on location, wind direction, cloud formations, etc. Not transcribed; see image for details.]
[Table showing aneroid barometer, air temperature and sea temperature readings at sunrise, noon and sunset for the period 1 October 1856 to 21 November 1856. Not transcribed; see image for details.]
[Table showing evaporation by wet thermometer readings at sunrise, noon and sunset for the period 1 October 1856 to 21 November 1856, together with remarks on location, wind direction, cloud formations, etc. Not transcribed; see image for details.]
[Table showing aneroid barometer, air temperature and sea temperature readings at sunrise, noon and sunset for the period 22 November 1856 to 18 January 1857. Not transcribed; see image for details.]
[Table showing evaporation by wet thermometer readings at sunrise, noon and sunset for the period 22 November 1856 to 18 January 1857, together with remarks on location, wind direction, cloud formations, etc. Not transcribed; see image for details.]
[Table showing aneroid barometer, air temperature and sea temperature readings at sunrise, noon and sunset for the period 19 January 1857 to 11 March 1857. Not transcribed; see image for details.]
[Table showing evaporation by wet thermometer readings at sunrise, noon and sunset for the period 19 January 1857 to 11 March 1857, together with remarks on location, wind direction, cloud formations, etc. Not transcribed; see image for details.]
[Table showing aneroid barometer, air temperature and sea temperature readings at sunrise, noon and sunset for the period 12 March 1857 to 31 March 1857. Not transcribed; see image for details.]
[Table showing evaporation by wet thermometer readings at sunrise, noon and sunset for the period 12 March 1857 to 31 March 1857, together with remarks on location, wind direction, cloud formations, etc. Not transcribed; see image for details.]<
[Transcribed by Barbara Manchester for the State Library of New South Wales]