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3-209 (Text)

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author,male,Gregory, Francis Thomas,40 addressee
Narrative Discourse
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Private Written
Fitzpatrick, 1958
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15th May. The shore was found to be generally very sandy, a low flat valley extending from the head of the cove across the isthmus about two miles to Mermaid Strait, where it terminated in a muddy mangrove creek. In about half-an-hour several wells were found, some containing rather brackish water, but one, about eight feet deep, in a hollow under a steep range of bare volcanic and granite hills, not more than 200 yards from the beach, was found to contain an abundant supply of good water; grass being plentiful and of fine quality in the valleys under the hills.  Our principal requirements being now satisfied, it only remained to bring the ship in near enough to land the horses..  While on shore to-day several new and very beautiful plants and flowers were observed, amongst them one in particular,. which, without exception, is the handsomest shrub I have ever seen in Australia; in form the plant resembles a large chandelier, with a series of branches springing from a centre stem in sets of five each; on these are short flowers, nearly three inches in length, grouped like lustres, producing a very gorgeous effect; the leaves of the plant are elegantly formed, like those of the mountain ash, and are of a rich green. A purple flowering bean, the seeds of which are the size of the English horse-bean, is here found in abundance, and are eaten by the natives.
25th May.  we made a fair start this morning by 9.0 a.m., and arrived on the edge of the marsh by 11.30, where, having first taken a survey of the several channels from the summit of a high granite hill, we entered the waste of mud at a point where it did not appear to be more than two miles wide; an hour's struggle carried us fairly through on to terra firma, only one horse having to be assisted by the removal of his load. After resting an hour and a half for dinner, we resumed our route in a south direction, across an extensive low grassy plain of red clayey laom, passing over a few' rocky ridges at sunset, and at 6 p.m. encamped on a dry creek twenty yards wide, water being found in some clay pans in the adjoining plain.
26th May. - Being Sunday, the camp was only moved a mile further to a fine pool of water in a river eighty yards wide, with beautiful grassy banks, which I named the Maitland.  Cockatoos and other game were plentiful, sixteen of the former being killed by Mr. Brockman at one shot; they were white, with orange-tinted feathers in the crest, similar to those on the Murchison and Gascoyne Rivers.
27th May. - Having determined in the first instance to strike to the westward, with a view to cutting any large rivers coming from the interior that might serve to lead us through the rocky hills that hemmed us in that quarter, we this morning took a south-south-west by south course to 11.40 a.m., when we crossed a dry stream-bed sixty yards wide, coming out of the granite ranges to the southward, the country becoming more barren as we edged upon the spurs of the rocky hills.  At 2.0 p.m. we halted on the banks of another stream-bed of the same size as the last, when it came on to rain; resuming our march at 4.10, steering west to 6.0, when we encamped on a dry gully, with a little feed near it. Having pitched the tents, it continued to rain until 11.0 p.m., when a sudden rush of water swept down the valley, filling the watercourse and carrying away our-fire, and before we had time to remove the baggage to higher ground, we had a foot of water in the camp. Fortunately, nothing was lost or injured, and it only served as a useful lesson for the future 
29th May.  Steering north 230 degrees east mag., soon brought us out of the hills into a plain extending as far as the eye could reach to the north-west, with a few patches of good grass upon it, but mostly covered with triodia, which was now lust ripe, yielding fine heads of seed, which the horses are very fond of. At thirteen miles struck the channel of a considerable river coming from the south. As this offered us a fair prospect of working inland, and we had already attained nearly to longitude 116 degrees, or about the meridian of the mouth of the Alma, the stream was followed up for an hour, its average breadth being over 200 yards  31st May. - The general course of the river during the day was very little to the south of east, its banks still maintaining the same rocky and precipitous character, marks of inundation being frequently observed at the height: of thirty feet above the present stream, which now was only running gently in a channel not more than thirty yards wide, - but when in flood occupying the whole of the valley, which averages a quarter of a mile in width. The larger pools are lined with flags and reeds, and contain numbers of small fish
resembling trout, similar to those found in the Lyons and Gascoyne Rivers. A very handsome tree, resembling an ash, grew on the margin, bearing a beautiful white flower, four to five inches across, having on the inside a delicate tinge of yellow, and yielding a sweet scent like violets. 
1st June. - There was a decided improvement in the appearance of the valley as we continued to ascend the river, the deep pools were more continuous, and grass more abundant; the high lands on either bank still, however, retained their rugged outlines, and were clothed with little else but triodia. Travelling along the bed of the river was nevertheless difficult and dangerous for the horses, on account of the immense quantity of rounded boulders of water-worn rocks that occupied a large portion of the channel, and frequently jammed the horses into narrow passes, where they could not be extricated without meeting with very severe falls, which very soon crippled more than one of them; their shoes also began to be wrenched off by being caught in the deep clefts of the rocks, very soon expending all the extra sets brought with us 
4th June. - During the forenoon the river became much hemmed in by steep rocky hills, the bed being a succession of rapids, over a bare, rocky channel; but after the noon halt the stream came more from the south-east, with wide grassy flats on either side, in many parts very boggy, and producing melaleuca leucodendron, with tall, straight stems, and a variety of eucalyptus, resembling E. piperita. White sandstone and shales began to make their appearance on the banks, and the water in the river had a saline taste. Several, of the horses began to show signs of being much distressed, by falling and sticking fast in the mud, from which they had not strength to extricate themselves, even after being relieved of their loads: Ducks were plentiful, and tolerably tame.
5th June. - Having marked a large double-stemmed gum-tree with NAE and the date, we made a start up the river, but at about a mile found the valley narrow in until the channel of the river, which was here full of water, was walled in on both banks by perpendicular cliffs, from which we were compelled to turn back nearly to our last night's; camp. During the last two days we had caught an occasional glimpse of an elevated range of hills extending for many miles parallel to the river and about ten miles to the southward, which rendered it probable that some change would now be found in the character of the back country, enabling us to travel without being so frequently retarded by the rocks and bends of the river.  A suitable spot was accordingly selected for ascending out of the valley, which was accomplished with some difficulty, when the country was observed to be intersected for many miles by deep ravines, terminating, however, to the south in a level plain, extending to the base of the range already referred to. After four hours' heavy toiling, we at length reached the summit of the plain, water having been found in one of the rocky gullies by the way.  For the first half-mile, on entering the plain or tableland, the ground was stony and covered with stunted acacia, but it very quickly changed into a rich clayey loam, yielding a splendid crop of kangaroo and other grasses, melons, and small white convolvulus, yielding a round black Seed the size of a pea, which we found scattered over nearly the whole surface of the plain for miles together. In the lower; parts of the flat rain-water appeared to have remained in shallow clay-pans until very recently, killing much. Of the grass, which was replaced by atriplex bushes. As we approached the foot of the range the ground became stony and covered with triodia; good grass was still, however, to be found in the ravines leading out of the hills, and as our object was now to shape a course to the-southward, we followed up one of the most promising valleys, in the hope that it might lead us through the range; we were, however, disappointed in finding, that, after pushing some distance up very steep and rocky passes, they all terminated in cliffs of horizontal sand stone, running in parallel bands one above another to the height of 500 or 600 feet, and frequently extending without a break for ten or fifteen miles along the face Of the range  
6th June.  Quitting the range, which had been named-after one of the most liberal promoters of the expedition, Hamersley Range, we took a north-east course, crossing over twelve or fourteen miles of beautiful open grassy plain, in many parts the kangaroo-grass reaching above the horses backs; the soil being of the richest clay-loam, occasionally containing beds of singular fragments of opaline rocks, resembling ancient lava. By 5.30 p.m. we reached the river again, several miles above the deep glen that had checked our course on the 5th.  The valley having again opened out, gave us easy access to its banks, which were here a rich black peat soil, containing numerous springs. Here was first observed a very handsome fan-palm, growing in topes, some of them attaining to the height of forty feet and twenty inches diameter, the leaves measuring eight to ten feet in length. The river had again opened into deep reaches of water, and contained abundance of fish resembling cobblers, weighing four and five pounds each. The whole character of the country was evidently changing for the better; and as I have no doubt that at no distant period it will become a rich and thriving settlement, I named the river the Fortescue, after the Under Secretary of State for the Colonies, under whose auspices the expedition took its origin, and the large expanse of fertile plain that lies between the river and the Hamersley Range, Chichester Downs.
12th June.  we again made an attempt more to the eastward, and this time succeeded in reaching a considerable stream-bed, which ultimately proved to be the main channel of the Fortescue, and led us through the range.
14th June. - On our first landing at Nichol Bay the nights had been very mild, but we now began to feel them cold and bracing. This was partly owing to the increased elevation of the country we were now travelling over; the southeast wind coming off the mountainous country was very keen, and almost frosty early in the morning. Our course this day was at first over tolerably good country, which gradually became more and more rocky, the ridges increasing in elevation until the aneroid barometer fell to 27.33, giving an altitude of 2,400 feet above the sea.
21st June. - Although the size of the channel of the river we had been following down for the last sixty miles had considerably increased both in width and depth, yet very little water had been found in it, and as it took a decided turn in its course this morning to north-west, after two hours' ride, without observing any change, and there being every appearance of its keeping the same course for the next twenty miles, I was convinced that it could not be a tributary to either the Edmund or Lyons, which I had at first hoped it might prove.  The barometer also ranged too high for it to be at a sufficient elevation to admit of it flowing into either of those rivers, as the elevation of the Lyons at the confluence of the Alma is at least of the same altitude above the sea. Having named the river the Hardey, we fell back upon the pools passed yesterday, where I had decided upon forming a Depot camp at which to rest the weakest horses, while with a lightly equipped party I proposed to complete the exploration of the country intervening between this and the Lyons River 
22nd June. - In accordance with the plan decided upon yesterday, I started this day accompanied by Messrs. Brown, Harding, and Brockman, with three pack-horses, conveying eight days' provisions and fourteen gallons of water.
23rd June.  The first five miles was across an open grassy plain, at times subject to inundation, which brought us to the bank of a fine river, containing permanent reaches of fresh water, lined with canes, the channel generally being from 100 to 200 yards wide, with a depth of forty feet; it was now barely running, but it was quite evident that it was too large for either the Alma or Edmund, and its bed must be at least 200 feet below the level of those rivers. We, however determined to follow it so long as it ran to the south of west, which it did until it came in contact with the range observed yesterday, when it altered its course to west-north-west, and appeared to continue that direction for many miles, probably until joined by the Hardey, when, in all likelihood, it continues its course direct of Exmouth Gulf. Anxious as I naturally was, to continue the examination of this promising river, time and the condition of our horses' feet did not permit us to do so with advantage. Naming it the Ashburton, after the noble President of the Royal Geographical Society, we quitted its verdant banks, and took a south course up a stony ravine, which led us into the heart of the range, where we soon became involved amongst steep rocky ridges of sharp slaty schist, which very quickly deprived the horses of many of their remaining shoes.
1st July. - The horses left at the Depot were much improved by their nine days' rest, and had we been provided with more shoes for them I should have at once returned to the Ashburton, and traced that river up to the eastward, as it offered a fine opportunity of penetrating to the south-east probably at least another 200 miles; and our provisions on a reduced allowance would admit of our remaining out forty days longer; but the lameness of many of the horses and lacerated condition of their fetlocks convinced me that, should we meet with any more difficulties or rough country before obtaining a fresh supply of shoes, much valuable time would be lost, and we should probably fail to get many of the horses back.  I therefore deemed it more prudent to return at once by a shorter route more to the eastward so soon as we had repassed the Hamersley Range, and, obtaining a refit at the bay, to throw all our remaining time into the second trip