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4-060 (Original)

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author,male,Curr, Edward Micklethwaite,63 addressee
Narrative Discourse
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Public Written
Ward, 1969
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4-060.txt — 4 KB

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The explorers who first entered Riverina were Oxley and Sturt. Oxley's was what might be called a trial trip, and a very gallant one, and no old hand forgets that 'Sturt's furthest' held the post of honour on our maps for nearly twenty years, and that he was a most energetic explorer. But though I value highly the labours of these leaders and their results, I may remark that the records of their travels produce the impression that they suffered a good deal from despondency as they wended their way through the woods at the heads of their small parties. Brought up in the old country, where the features of nature are on a small scale and the presence of man everywhere visible, they appear never to have been able to overcome early associations, or to reconcile themselves to the bush. Transplanted from an island, continental features affected them unpleasantly. Forests which look weeks to traverse; plains, like the ocean, horizon bounded; the vast length of our rivers when compared to those of England, often flowing immense distances without change or tributary, now all but dry for hundreds of miles, at other times flooding the countries on their banks to the extent of inland seas, wearied them more in the contemplation than by travel.
Then we know that our cloudless skies, the mirage, the long-sustained high range of the thermometer in the central portion of the continent, troubled them a good deal more than they do us, and helped to make them look on the dark side of things. Hence, as a rule, their reports were unfavourable. If the reader has any doubt on this head, let him read, as an instance, Sturt's account of his detention at Depot Glen, and then remember that the locality described as so horrible proved in time to be a very good sheep run, differing in nothing from others around it; and eventually was found to be a goldfield, and got extensively worked. The garb of romance with which Sturt cloaked it, wore off. Hence, in connection with early misjudgement and despondencies, the funny outcome has often presented itself of persons buying in fee simple, allotments on Mount Miseries at £2 or £4 an acre, and of others determined, at all hazards, to locate themselves for life, if possible, at some Mount Desolation or place with an equally objectionable name.
Referring particularly to Sturt's estimates of country, the reader will be amused if he contrast them with those of the Melbourne auctioneer of 1882, by finding now and then that a tract of country which the explorer had passed over during a day or two's march, and described as little better than genuine desert, is now covered with immense flocks of sheep in prime condition, and is valued, with stock, at perhaps from £50,000 to £100,000. In fact a great portion of the land which Oxley and Sturt described as useless is now worth, on an average, at least twenty shillings per acre. But all explorers were not constituted like Sturt and Oxley. Though a far none desolate country fell to Eyre than to any other explorer, country which, though bordered by the sea and comparatively near at hand, is still unoccupied, the Bayard of Australian explorers never faltered. [222] Even three consecutive stages, each of one hundred and fifty miles, without finding a drop of water, were insufficient either to turn him back or extract a sigh; and it was not until his only white companion was butchered by the Blacks in his party, and he found himself in the desert, with a single black boy for a mate, horses drooping from thirst, the whereabouts of water unknown. and provisions all but exhausted, that 'some natural tears he shed' - not for himself, but for his lost companion, and then kept on his way. As for Mitchell, Leichhardt, and other explorers, they had imbibed a good deal of the knowledge and ideas of persons born and brought up in the bush; and, instead of suffering from despondent views, we find them, on the contrary, with a fresh paradise to report at the end of each exploration.