Page:The Visit of Charles Fraser to the Swan River in 1827.djvu/36

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32

continued their course up the river. It is strange that immediately on getting over these flats they found deep water of nearly 8 fathoms. The river, after running two miles to the eastward, takes a N.N.E. serpentine direction. The scenery was delightful—the trees growing to the water's edge, the transparency of the river, the mountains and plains alternately appearing, and the picturesque points and bays, formed the most interesting scenery possible, and this place only requires a little assistance from art to render it one of the most delightful spots on earth. On Sunday they first observed the natives, two children were playing on the shore, who, immediately on perceiving the boat, ran off, but in a few minutes they could see about two hundred watching them from behind trees and the tops of the hills. We continued our course for some time without noticing them, and the natives kept moving along the shore with their spears in their hands, making signs for our people to come on shore. They having followed for some time, we put on shore, and all the natives on this retreated towards a hill near the spot except five rather elderly men, who immediately laid down their spears and made signs of friendship by holding their arms over their heads, etc. Mr. Belches, third lieutenant, went out to meet them, but upon another following him they showed strong symptoms of alarm, snatched up their spears, and would have fled had not the person instantly returned to the boat. By making signs of peace, and giving them some presents, they soon became more easy and familiar. They seemed particularly fond of bread and sugar, but they could not relish the salt meat. These people are about the middle size, possessing rather intelligent countenances than otherwise, and live in the most simple state possible; they walk upright, are small made, their thighs being no larger than the calf of a leg of a common-sized man; this may be owing to the small quantity of animal food they take, living chiefly on roots and berries, and their possessing no effective instruments for sporting, fishing, or hunting. They go in tribes of twenty or thirty, and each tribe has its chief[1], whom they obey and respect. They speak an uncouth and harsh language[2], and when they express either admiration, surprise, or pleasure they vociferate several times the word "Quabba." They have only these weapons, at least we only saw these amongst them—namely, the spear, knife, and tomahawk[3]. The spear is formed of a species of reed that grows in abundance here. These spears are from 8 to 11 feet long, and they fasten a small piece of wood at the end of it to form a barb; this wood they sharpen with stones to a point, and secure it to the spear with the gut of the kangaroo, and strengthen it with the gum that is found here in large quantities. They throw them with great force and correct exactness. The tomahawk


  1. The aborigines of Australia have no chiefs in the proper sense of the term. Their most expert and powerful warriors are feared and obeyed, bat can scarcely be said to govern.
  2. Some authorities consider the aboriginal dialects to be soft and mellifluous.
  3. In addition to these are others, notably the boomerang, womerah and nullah.