Report of an Excursion to the Northward from Augusta, by Mr. J. C. Bussell

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Report of an Excursion to the Northward from Augusta, by Mr. J. C. Bussell  (1832) 

REPORT of an EXCURSION to the Northward from Augusta, by Mr. J. C. Bussell.

We followed for about three quarters of a mile the creek, McLeod, being obliged by its directions to pursue a route rather to the north of our proper course; the land was sandy, and abounded in a very coarse grit. After one attempt to cross, and a complete wetting, we obtained the opposite side, when the country presented much the same aspect; the timber was of minor growth, and as thick as usual, excepting, however, some few grass tree plains, in which water was standing, though not over the shoes; old red sand-stone rock was common. After advancing about four miles, the country improved; the trees were of taller proportions but very thick. We passed a large basin tolerably free from trees; it apparently had water in the lowest parts. On the rising ground from which I looked upon it were large masses of rock, {old red sand-stone.) From this place the face of nature became more and more pleasing; the soil a rich red loam; the bush of the same kind as that at Augusta; the trees were very large and tall; here we caught a —; this order of things continued till we came to the banks of a small run of water, quite overgrown with reeds, where we halted. The prevailing timber, the white gum, previously blue, though on the bad land mahogany had been most general. We crossed the brook which held a southerly course; the soil again began to deteriorate; tracts of sand were few, but rock (granite) abounded in extensive fields; the country was hilly, though it afforded no elevation of sufficient height to enable us to overlook the trees. After about a mile and a half of such a country, we came to a large flat, abounding in banksia, grass trees, and a swampy vegetation; this flat was a black sand, with, however, a considerable admixture of soil. Beyond this, bearing W., we now observed rising ground, but before we began to ascend we came upon a brook surrounded with most magnificent white gum-trees; the scenery here was very beautiful, and on the banks that sloped down to the water we dined, with the prospect of steep acclivities before us, and rivers branching out in every direction. The men supposed we had marched about eight miles, and taking into the consideration the difficulties of travelling, it perhaps was no more, though we had walked from seven till half-past one.

After dinner, half-past three, we again moved on, and ascended a steep hill for three quarters of an hour, without intermission. The whole of this tract was exceeding fertile, but greatly encumbered with timber of stupendous size, all white gums. I say the soil was fertile, judging of it from the bush, taking into consideration the species and luxuriance; the mimsta and red creeper abounded; though the trees were very large, and on that account, perhaps, appeared numerous, the ground was not shaded to the extent that might have been supposed, owing to the nature of the foliage of that sort of tree; rock was every where visible, when a fallen tree had turned up the soil, a lime-stone, without organic impression, as far as the short space I could devote to such inquiry permitted me to observe. Ascending this hill, we had proceeded about two or three miles, when the blue gum became occasionally interspersed, and I perceived through the trees on the left hand what appeared an open space; concluding that I had nearly reached the summit of the hill, I made for this in order to obtain a prospect of the country I had passed. We now entered a large grass-tree plain, from which we had a more extensive view than I had before obtained from any height in this country; so blue and even did the horizon appear, that it was some time before I could persuade the men that it was not the sea. The range of hills we were on seemed to stretch north and south, and before I was on it, I never saw so large an assemblage of the white gum. Both the freshness of the wind and the leaning of the trees on the right of the plain from the west, convinced me that the sea was at hand, though we could hear nothing of it; nor did these indications deceive me, for, on passing another small thicket, having about the level of the top of the hills, we saw before us the vast expanse of ocean about a mile and a half distant; from a high hill on the shore we saw Cape Leeuwin, bearing S S.W., the cliff overhanging Turnerian stream S. We supposed we might have come over the land we had passed in a straight line, and without impediment of bush or swamps in a much shorter time, judging the distance to be about ten miles.

I have now conducted you to the sea; we reached this at a quarter to eight, on the morning after we left Augusta; having left our night berth rather upwards of half an nour; I might have done it easily overnight, but I did not think myself so safe.

The hills I had lately left stretched apparently to a great distance in a line with the coast; they constituted a lime-stone range, the rock of solid texture, and of the same description as that on the White Patch, and that occasionally, but rarely, seen on the conical hills, and again on the hills above Cape Leeuwin; to avoid the troublesome walking that the beach always affords, we kept a little inland; the soil was generally sandy and barren, but where the least symptom of an admixture of mould shewed itself, the grass-tree, of stinted stature, as though just struggling for existence, was always seen, and sometimes in extensive tracts. Before we came upon the White Patch, we encountered a valley, the most difficult of passage of any thing I ever yet met with in the shape of bush; its vegetation consisted solely of shrubs, advanced to a larger standard than usual in this country; the ground (I suppose in consequence of perpetual shade and want of circulation) was covered with moss, and on this we were obliged to crawl under the thicket, while sliding down and climbing up the numerous and steep descents and acclivities in which the place abounded: half a mile from this brought us upon that remarkable feature, the White Patch, and as I believe an opinion obtains, that it is a sand-stone, and formed of hardened drift from the beach, I shall insert my own observations.

The first peculiarity that strikes the eye is a large surface of limestone, upon which, in the hollows and lower parts, is deposited a considerable portion of sand, accumulated both from the sea shore (which the presence of broken shells attests) and from the gradual decomposition of the rock itself; and that this process is going rapidly on, I conclude from the following evidence:—above the surface on every side, may he seen strong excrescences, resembling the stems of shrubs, sometimes very slender, sometimes as large as the timber of a large tree; one might imagine with the poet that nature had first given birth to a thicket,

Then framed a shell when the work was done.
And changed the hasel wainds to stone.

They do not, however, on close examination, appear to have in them anything analagous to incrustation, but to be the harder parts of the rock that have resisted the action of the atmosphere, probably zoophytes, embedded in a more friable matrix, which had disappeared from around them, and blown away in the form of sand: there are nodules of a closer grained limestone, to be seen protruding above the surface, sometimes yellow, much resembling Grallo Anticho, and sometimes black or slate coloured. From the White Patch, we walked on the beach in the hope of finding water, for we had now been many hours without any, and it was very hot, and walking laborious. We now descried the wished for renovator, trickling out of the rock; and as the sun was now "pillowing his head upon the western wave," we halted—fortunately found wood enough for a fire, and gave up the idea of reaching the Turnerian stream that night. Limestone was still abundant on the beach, wearing a foliated appearance; the laminae so thin, that it may possibly become a matter of fiscal consideration to Government, applied to the purpose of roofing; I had saved many specimens, but one of the men accidentally lost them, by removing my cap, in which I had placed them.

We started at 8 o'clock the next morning, preparing for an early march to Augusta. Instead of following the beach, I walked over the sand hills; part of those I found forming into a stone of a slate colour, cemented by what I could not tell; possibly an example of the undulated sand downs, mentioned by Cuvier, as observed by Peron on the coast of New South Wales; the new-formed rock waa soft, so as easily to be cut with an axe, and occasionally presented a superficial crust. Passing those curious caverns, which have procured the name of Turner's Chimney Pots, from the sombre-like manner in which the sea sends up its foam through them; first entering at an orifice on the beach, and then breaking out again through the chasm that the falling in of the earth and rock has made above in the bush, we searched the Turnerian stream at half past 9, where we shot a duck, upon which we dined; after we passed the conical hills, from the head of the creeks, I made a direct course for Augusta, and came out upon the river about a hundred yards above Mr. Turner's.

Rainy weather deluged me at Augusta, two or three days; but when all was fair, arriving at the head of the creek by water, I set out with the intention of following, as near as possible, the direction of the future road. I at first walked N.E.,, which course, however, seeming too much inclining easterly, and as the estuary was in sight, I changed first for N. by W., so as to clear creeks, swamps, &c.; afterwards for N., then again N. bv E.; the land was at first sandy, and abounding in iron stone, where it all elevated itself above the general flat surface. We encountered here some native huts, one peculiarly large and well made, in the bottom of which was spread an oblong mat, of tea-tree bark, I should think nearly six feet long. The nature of the soil continued much the same, till we had passed the head of the estuary a mile, or somewhere thereabouts; it then improved, was rather hilly, and the trees large. We crossed a small brook running E.S.E.; the white gum was frequent,—not thick, but large; the soil—a red loam; the bush where unburnt, luxuriant. I passed several small brooks, all flowing towards the river; the land was not now generally rocky, and we occasionally saw large blocks of granite. A stream, clear, rapid, and with banks free from underwood, now crossed our path; here we dined, about 2 o'clock. While the men were preparing to cook a cockatoo, I, as usual, was preparing to make memoranda, when, alas! I discovered I had lost my pencil case; this I regretted much, both because it was a very handsome article, and because it prevented me making any more notes on the spot. Steering, after dinner, N.E. by N., we came on very swampy flat ground, and afterwards passed some extensive sandy plains, nor did the country improve when we entered the woodlands. A shrub, having a leaf resembling the holly, prevailed, the true indication of meagre soil. At 5 o'clock, we came upon a deep broad stream, which surprised me, as I supposed we had dined upon the only one for which I remembered a corresponding creek, on the banks of the Blackwood: as I felt convinced that river was at hand, I traced this stream for about half a mile, to ascertain the point where they joined their waters; returning, we crossed by a tree and continued our journey N.E. by N., which, after about an hour, brought us out again on the banks of the river then flowing at right angles to our course. I now steered, first in a westerly direction, then directly north, till near sun-set, when I again made for the river, purposing to remain on its banks for the night, as I still fancied myself far from home, judging firom the creek I had just passed; we halted, made a fire, and a screen from the wind, of the branches of the beef-wood or the oak, for the country had, for some miles, abounded with that valuable timber, which I understand is a remarkable thing; neither the soldiers nor I had ever seen so much of it before: the trees were, many of them, large and fine, many much injured by fire; they afford the lightest wood, and the only bark that can be applied to the purposes of the tanner. These particulars concerning this tree, I learned through the medium of the sawyers, who, in my absence, had visited my grant, on their way to Swan River, and had expressed their satisfaction at seeing it so abundant on the banks, relating to my brothers, at the same time, its various uses.

In the morning, after a walk of three quarters of an hour, due north, having first made westing enough to clear the windings, we came again on the river, and saw on the opposite bank my house, most unexpectedly. The distance, I think, in a direct line, would be about ten or eleven miles from Augusta, N.½ E., or N. by E., the most direct course to that part of the river which extends most west, near about my brother's house. Nothing could be freer from obstructions, with regard to declivities, water courses, and swamps, than the path by which we came; a bridge, rather more artificial than those on the Augusta roads, would be required over the largest stream we crossed, though a more northerly direction would most probably render even that unnecessary.

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