The Visit of Mr. Charles Fraser, Colonial Botanist of New South Wales, with Captain Stirling, in H.M.S. "Success," to the Swan River in 1827, with his Report on the Botany, Soil, and Capabilities of the Locality

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The Visit of Mr. Charles Fraser, Colonial Botanist of New South Wales, with Captain Stirling, in H.M.S. "Success," to the Swan River in 1827, with his Report on the Botany, Soil, and Capabilities of the Locality  (1909) 
by Charles Fraser
Published in 1906. See The Visit of Charles Fraser to the Swan River in 1827.

The references to Augustus Gilbert is an error: Stirling's clerk was actually W. C. Gilbert. The photograph captioned H.M.S. "Success" is actually that of the prison ship Success, built in 1840.


The Visit of Mr. CHARLES FRASER, Colonial Botanist of New South Wales, with Captain STIRLING, in H.M.S. "Success," to the Swan River in 1827, with his Report on the Botany, Soil, and Capabilities of the Locality.



(A Paper read before the West Australian Natural History Society
by Mr. J. G. Hay, 20th March, 1906).



The visit of the Colonial Botanist of New South Wales, with Captain Stirling, in H.M.S. "Success," to the Swan River in 1827 was pregnant with considerable importance, as it was mainly on Mr. Fraser's report that the subsequent settlement was directed.

Previously to 1826, the British practically made no claim to Western Australia, being content to allow that portion to remain under the name of New Holland.

If reference be made to Captain Phillip's instructions, it will be seen that he was directed to occupy all that portion of New Holland lying eastward of the 135th degree of longitude; and although, only a few years after, Captain Vancouver[1] took possession (on Michaelmas Day, 1791) of the land he discovered and named King George the Third Sound, yet no occupation of this territory was immediately effected.

It was only after the expedition of 1800-4, ordered by Napoleon[2], had usurped Flinders' discoveries, and named the whole southern coast "Terre Napoléon," and other French ships had visited these shores, that the British authorities, being alarmed, at last directed the occupation of King George's Sound, which was accordingly carried out on Christmas Day, 1826[3].

Following this event, the Governor of New South Wales directed Captain Stirling to take the Colonial Botanist with him, for the purpose of reporting on the suitableness of the Swan River neighborhood for a settlement.

The "Success," leaving Sydney on January 17, 1827, was accompanied by a cutter, named the "Currency," intended to be employed in coast survey, but which, meeting with mishaps, had to return to Port Jackson.

After a preliminary visit to Hobart, the "Success" arrived off Rottnest on the 5th of March, 1827; and, three days after, the ship's gig and cutter entered the Swan River for the purpose "of examining the banks, the depth of water, to fix on an eligible spot for a settlement, to ascertain the productions of the country, the nature of the soil, and the practicability of shipping." Considering the short time occupied in all this work (not a month in the whole territory), it can scarcely be said that anything like an exhaustive examination of the country was made, and certainly not one that would justify the laudatory terms that were afterwards used to attract the settlers. The report on which the colony was founded is not in the possession of the State, but a copy of a semi-official journal kept by Mr. Augustus H. Gilbert (clerk of the "Success") is preserved; and from a paper compiled on the botany of the Swan River, etc., by Mr. Charles Fraser, for his friend Dr. Hooker, and published in the first volume of the "Botanical Miscellany," in 1830, we learn much of the prevailing flora seen by the visitors.

Some slight mistakes were made such as calling the Red Gum (Eucalyptus calophylla) Angophora; but, taken in all, the description of a totally different series of shrubs to those common on the Eastern Coast of Australia, may be called fairly accurate. Mr. Fraser, in the course of his paper, says:—

"The soil on the South Head is a barren sand, producing a considerable variety of interesting plants, amongst which I observed Anigozanthus Rufus, Anthocercis liitorea, two species of Metrosideros[4]; a charming species of Prostanthera[5], producing large quantities of rich blue flowers; a species of Gnaphalium[6], with procumbent stems, the white flowers of which give a snowy appearance to many parts of the cliffs; and a beautiful species of Dryandra[7]. The appearance of the Gnaphalium above mentioned is in some measure confirmatory of the sandy character which the French give of these hills

"On tracing the river a quarter of a mile from its entrance, on the south bank[8], I observed quantities of a species of Brunonia[9], growing in great luxuriance on the margin of a salt marsh, its flowers of a brilliant sky-blue. Here I likewise gathered a magnificent species of Melaleuca with scarlet flowers[10], and two species of Metrosideros, with various other plants, which, from their being neither in flower nor in fruit, I could not attempt to describe.

"Half a mile from the entrance, I found the soil, although apparently sterile, to consist of a fine light-brown loam, containing a small proportion of sand, and capable of producing any description of light garden crop. This character not only applies to the immediate bank as far as the reach[11] below Pelican Point[12], but likewise to the hills as far as my observation led. These hills present the appearance of a petrified forest[13], from the immense quantity of trunks which protrude for several feet above the surface; their decomposed state renders them of benefit rather than otherwise to the soil. Here I observed a brown snake, similar to that of Port Jackson, and it is remarkable that this was the only snake seen during the survey[14].

"At the distance of one mile from the mouth of the river[15], the genus Eucalyptus appears, although in a stunted state. I was much astonished at the beautiful dark-green and vigorous appearance of the trees, considering that the season had been evidently unusually dry; but the cause must arise from the great quantity of springs with which this country abounds. On penetrating two feet into the earth, I found the soil perfectly moist, and I feel confident that, had I penetrated a foot deeper, I should have found water. On the beach I observed several small pools of water and many moist spots, which, in seasons of unusual humidity, must be the seat of active springs issuing from the calcareous rocks that bound them. The luxuriance of the vegetation on the immediate beach is truly astonishing. It consists principally of syngenesious plants, and a species of Hibiscus with peltate leaves[16]. Here I observed a beautiful pendulous Leptospermum, resembling in its appearance, and the situation which it prefers, the weeping willow[17]. An arborescent species of Acacia[18] was likewise seen associated with it.

"While examining the productions of a mass of cavernous limestone rocks on the beach, I was astonished by observing an extensive spring issue from beneath them, in width about 7 feet, running at the rate of 3 feet in a second. The water was brackish, but it is evidently fresh at some periods of the tide. Its elevation is about 3 feet above low-water mark, yet at its lowest ebb its current was at the above rate. The water was found, on being analysed, to be of the same quality as that at Harrowgate[19]. "The soil on the North Head is sandy; its productions much the same as that of the south. Two hundred yards from the beach the soil changes to a light-red loam, improving, as the hills ascended, to that of a fine virgin earth[20]. The valleys separating these hills along the coast are of the richest description, as far as my observations led, and inland extending to Pelican Point[21], beyond which their character was not ascertained. These hills[22] are admirably adapted for the site of a town, their elevated situation commanding a view of the whole of Canning Sound[23], with the adjacent coast, the interior for some distance, and the meanderings of the river. Their lying open to all breezes, too, is an additional advantage.

"The limestone with which these hills are studded renders them admirably adapted for the production of the vine; and, as they are free from timber and brushwood, they may at once be brought into a state of cultivation. "The trees and shrubs seen on these hills consisted of stunted Eucalypti and Leptosperma, and a beautiful species of Calytris[24], or Cyprus, of the finest green color, producing large warted cones.

"On traversing the beach, I was agreeably surprised at the great degree of fragrance imparted by two graceful species of Metrosideros, then in flower, which exceeded anything I ever experienced. On the beach I observed a magnificent arborescent species of Rhagodia[25], 20 feet in height, immense quantities of Gnaphalium, two species of Helichrysum[26], and a beautiful species of an unknown plant. There were no marine productions observed upon the shore[27].

"From Pelican Point[28] to the entrance of the Moreau the country is diversified with hills of gentle elevation and with narrow valleys, magnificently clothed with trees of the richest green. Here the genus Banksia appears in all its grandeur, consisting of three species, of which B. grandis is the most conspicuous[29]. The principal timber is Eucalyptus. The shrubs consist of a species of Dryandra, two species of Hakea, one of Grevillea[30], and a pendulous species of Viminaria[31] of considerable height, richly clothed with yellow and crimson flowers, associating itself in the most graceful manner with the weeping Leptospermum formerly alluded to, Xanthorrhoea Hastilis[32] is abundant, as is Zamia spiralis[33] while Anthocercis littorea is seen to attain a height of 10 feet. The shores are covered with rushes of great height and thickness, concealing many beautiful syngenesious plants, but they are occasionally flooded. Here I observed the common Casuarina[34] of Port Jackson, though with a stunted habit. These beds of rushes are probably the rendezvous of the dugong, mentioned by Mons. Péron, but of which we saw none[35].

"On examining the shoal water of Pelican Point, I observed an aquatic stoloniferous species of Goodenia, with which the sandy bottom is covered.

"The soil between the above points resembles, in its surface, the sandy soil of the shores of Port Jackson more than any hitherto seen; but, on digging a few inches, it is found to contain a considerable proportion of loam. The valleys and headlands furnish an excellent soil, more particularly that of Garden Point[36]. Here we planted several bananas, and seeds of all sorts of culinary vegetables. This point produces an immense quantity of herbaceous plants, amongst which I observed a pulverulent species of Goodenia and a species of Centaurea.

"The botany of Point Heathcote[37] is splendid, consisting of magnificent Banksias and Dryandras, a remarkable species of Hakea,

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West Australian Aborigines.

1. Man, Yalgoo, Age, 50; Height, 5ft, 9in.  2. Yalgoo Maid, Age, 17; Height, 5ft. 2in.  3. Kimberley Natives  4. Man, Beagle Bay, Age, 60; Height, 5ft. 8in.  5. Man, Drysdale River, Kimberley.

two species of Grevillea, a species of Lepiospermum, and a beautiful dwarf species of Calytris. Here we came to great abundance of fresh water on the beach, by scratching the sand with our fingers, within 2 inches of low-water mark. The beach at Garden Point is of the same character, and I doubt not but within the heads will be found of the same description. This was afterwards found to be the case, not only on the river, but on the beaches of the islands of Buáche and of Berthollet [38].

"The view from Pelican Point[39] is exceedingly grand. The contrast between the dark blue of the distant mountains and the vivid green of the surrounding forests is such as must in a peculiar manner strike the attention of a person long accustomed to the monotonous brown of the vegetation of Port Jackson. It is, indeed, materially different from anything I have yet seen in New South Wales.

"From Point Heathcote to the islands[40] the country seems to improve, as far as I could judge from the immense quantity of herbage it produced.

"Point Belches[41] on the opposite shore, the only spot on that shore examined, was found to produce Banksias and Eucalyptus. The shrubs consisted of a beautiful Isopogon, a species of Acacia, and a Jacksonia with crimson flowers[42], together with the general productions of the opposite shore. The soil is sandy. The cliffs[43]—of very considerable elevation—on the northern shore, are formed of fossil-limestone and sandstone. The view from this point of the meanderings of the river and the Moreau[44], with the surrounding country and distant mountains, is particularly grand[45]. This seems to be the extreme easterly boundary of the lime-stone[46].

"The islands[47] on the flats are composed of a rich deposit carried down by the floods. Their margins are covered with Metrosideros and Casuarina[48], and their interior with seaside succulent plants. On one side of these islands I caught sight of a plant with an arborescent habit, which, on examination, proved to be a species of Zamia with spiral fruit, differing only from Z. spiralis in habit. Here the equatorial Goodenia, formerly alluded to, disappears. The difficulty[49] which the party now experienced from having mistaken the channel, and in having, consequently, to drag the boats over the mud, were great, but by perseverance were overcome. From the extensive beds of oyster shells[50] which lie a foot deep in the soft mud, our feet became dreadfully lacerated. These flats are extensive, but by employing flat-bottomed boats they may be easily crossed[51].

"At Point Fraser[52] the bank may be said to terminate, and the channel appears to be that of a beautiful inland river. From the entrance to this spot it may more properly be called an estuary. The flats, or levels, at this spot are very fertile, composed of a rich alluvial deposit, but evidently occasionally flooded, drift timber having been seen 5 feet above the surface. Here are extensive salt-marshes, admirably adapted to the growth of cotton[53]. This has already been produced at Sydney, and pronounced by the ablest judges in Britain to be of very superior quality. There can be no question but that, both as to soil and climate, the banks of the Swan River would prove better adapted to the cultivation of this plant than Port Jackson, and the seed that should be tried is that of Sea Island Cotton.

"The hills on the bank of the river are exceedingly barren, resembling those of Port Jackson, but producing a magnificent species of Angophora[54], which seems to assume the same situation in the botany as the genus Eucalyptus does in that of Port Jackson. Banksia grandis was here seen to attain the height of fifty feet, and its trunk frequently exceeded two feet and a half in diameter.

"Amongst the new botany of this tract may be enumerated a species of Metrosideros of great elegance, forming thickets on the flats, and intermingling with two other species of the same genus, but of less beauty; its flowers of the most brilliant scarlet[55]; the general height of the tree, 6 feet. There were also a pink-flowered handsome species of Centaurea, a remarkable dwarf species of Hakea, two species of Daviesia and Dryanda Armata.

"I observed a species of Psittacus[56], in large flocks, whose voice is more plaintive than that of the white cockatoo. It feeds on the roots of orchideous plants, to obtain which it scratches the ground to a considerable depth.

"While attending to a boat in the river, which the party was dragging over the mud, I distinctly heard the bellowing of some huge animal, similar to that of an ox, proceeding from an extensive marsh further up the river[57]. (Could this be the dugong of the French?)

"Immediately afterwards, I was visited by three natives, armed; they made signs for me to depart, but offered no violence. On hearing the voices of the party they retired in the woods.

"One mile up the river from the last point is a small creek[58] of fresh water, issuing from an extensive lagoon clothed with arborescent species of Metrosideros of great beauty. The banks are covered with the most interesting plants, amongst which I observed two species of Calytris, a species of Acacia[59] with a scolopendrous-stem, and several Papilionaceous plants. The Angophoras on the flats are gigantic. These flats are formed of tolerable loam, of great depth, and capable of producing fair crops.

"The Zamia seen from the islands was here observed to attain the height of 30 feet. Xanthorrhœa arborea, too, was of equal size, and, associated with the splendid Banksias, imparted to the forest a character perfectly tropical.

"I was astonished at observing the facility with which water was obtained in this apparently sterile tract, for on digging to a depth of 3 feet it was found in abundance, and of the best quality.

"Proceeding up the river from the above-mentioned creek, the country assumes a distinct appearance from that seen below. On the left is an extensive marsh[60], bordered by thickets of Casuarina surrounded by a flat of the richest description, rivalling in point of soil that of the Hawkesbury. Here I first observed the Brome, or kangaroo-grass of New South Wales, in great luxuriance (with the exception of some seen on the banks at Point Fraser). Bastard and blue gum[61] is seen here in considerable quantities and of great size. The opposite bank is high, and covered with Eucalyptus and Banksia. The soil is a light sandy loam.

"From the above point the country resembles in its features that which borders all the rivers of New South Wales the course of which is west of the Blue Mountains, varying alternately on each bank into hilly points and extensive flats. The hills are covered with magnificent Angophoras, Zamias, and Xanthorrhœa. The soil is a rich red loam of very great depth, throwing up a luxuriant herbage, amongst which I observed Anigozanthus rufus. Clematis aristata, and a beautiful species of Borya (?) The flats, which are composed of the richest brown loam, equal to any on the east, are thinly studded with gigantic blue gums, and occasional stripes of suffrutescent Acacias and papilionaceous shrubs, occupying in this country the same situation in the geography of its botany as the green wattle in New South Wales. Banksia and Zamia are still seen on the high lands.

"It is worthy of remark that, in New South Wales, the presence of Banksia, Zamia, and Xanthorrhœa are considered sure criterions of a bad soil; and, such being the impression on my mind, I pronounced all the land on which they were seen to grow to be sterile, until I examined a ridge on the banks, producing them in great luxuriance, when, to my astonishment, I found the soil to be a red earth of great depth, producing the most luxuriant Brome grass.

"In proportion, as we ascend the river, the flats increase in breadth and luxuriance, each being backed by a terrace of forest land of the finest description, extending for miles from the river, and resembling in character those seen on the banks of the Macquarie River, west of Wellington Valley. On further observation, towards the source of the river, these flats were seen to extend to the base of the mountains, interspersed with stripes of good forest land, on which I observed a considerable portion of stringy bark[62]. The variety of plants seen on this tract was great; amongst the new ones I observed I may enumerate seven species of Hakea, a species of Lambertia[63], four species of Isopogon, three species of Leptospermum, a species of Petrophila, and a liliaceous plant not seen in flower. Banksia grandis was remarked in a stunted state.

"The base of the mountains (which was named Darling's Range, in honor of General Darling) is covered with fragments of quartz and chalcedony. The soil is a red sandy loam. Here I observed a species of Hakea with holly-shaped leaves[64]. Further up the soil improves to a light-brown loam, but, from its rocky nature,

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West Australian Aborigines.

1. Fitzroy River Native, Age 25; Height, 5ft, 9in.  2. Broome Woman in Mourning (hair dressed with clay, wilgie and fat).  3. Kimberley Natives  4. Man, Broome, Age, 25; Height, 5ft. 9in.

is incapable of cultivation. I saw a beautiful species of Dryandra, and a species of Hakea and several syngenesious plants. The summit of the mountain is studded with noble Angophoras. Here, too, I found a beautiful species of Arthropodium[65] with filiform leaves, an arborescent species of Hakea[66], a species of Dryandra, and two species of Isopogon. The view from this summit is extensive, resembling that seen from Princess Charlotte's Valley, which I witnessed in 1817[67]vide Oxley's Journal—but divested of the permanent swamps. The highest part of the range is of ironstone, but it is remarkable that there is no underwood. The ranges are of equal height, so that no view could be had to the eastward.

"At the source of the river I observed thickets of an arborescent species of Acacia, and gigantic thistles[68] 11 feet in height. Here I found a magnificent species of Hibiscus[69] with brilliant sky-blue flowers, and a species of Euphorbia[70]. The ridges on the banks are perforated with immense numbers of deep pits, the origin or cause of which we could not at first ascertain. They proved to be made by the natives for the purpose of catching land tortoises, with which these ridges abound.

"We found the river to be navigable until it almost ceases to be a stream, or where there is not room for a boat to pass[71]. The water is fresh 16 miles below its navigable source, and that at the end of a very dry season; what, therefore, must it be in the wet season?[72]. Mons. Freycinet[73] states that he found no fresh water, although he was in the country during the rains, a decisive proof that we must have penetrated at least 25 miles higher than he did. We saw nothing of the lake[74] laid down by him, and judge it to be a swamp. The supply of water from underground springs into the river must be immense, for it is impossible that the springs at the source could furnish such a quantity of fresh water[75]. The tide at the entrance of the Swan River was not observed to rise above 2 feet, even at spring tides and at the source it was hardly observable.

"The climate during our stay was the most delightful I ever experienced, the thermometer seldom ranging above 85 deg.; the nights agreeably cool. The sea-breezes set in at two hours after sunrise, and cease at sunset, when they are immediately succeeded by the land-breeze, which, even in February[76], is so agreeable that, while surveying the river, we preferred sleeping in the open air to lodging in tents.

"The quantity of black swans[77], pelicans, ducks, and aquatic birds seen on the river was truly astonishing. Without any exaggeration, I have seen a number of black swans which could not be

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The Three Graces of Leonora and other Aborigines of the Eastern Goldfields

estimated at less than 500 rise at once, exhibiting a spectacle which, if the size and color of the bird is taken into account, and the noise and rustling occasioned by the flapping of their wings previous to their rising, is quite unique in its kind. We frequently had from 12 to 15 of them in the boats, and the crews thought nothing of devouring eight roasted swans in a day.

"The animals are the same as in New South Wales—the kangaroo[78], emu, native dog, etc. Fish were abundant, and the Sound swarmed with tiger sharks[79].

"The few natives which we saw were not disposed to behave ill; on the contrary, they seemed much alarmed at first, but soon gained confidence. We gave them some black swans, which they eagerly accepted, and we dressed several of them in the old jackets of our marines. They had, indeed, a most ludicrous appearance, and seemed like men in shackles. It is worthy of remark that these savages have no means of navigation, and rather show a horror of the water. Their arms are the same as those of the natives of New South Wales, their clothing and appearance equally loathsome.

"The advantages which this country holds out to settlers above those in New South Wales—besides the important circumstance of its vicinity to India, the Spice Islands, Java, the Mauritius, and the Cape of Good Hope, and independent of its situation as a place of call for East India and China ships—are, in the first place: The great ease with which a settler can bring his land into cultivation, the forests averaging not more than eight to ten trees per acre;

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Beagle Bay Natives Under the Care of Catholic Missionaries.

secondly, the facility with which he can bring his produce to market, either by land or water, the coast being easy of access on any part near the river, and no impediments[80] existing in the interior; thirdly, the great abundance of fresh water of the best quality, an advantage which New South Wales, east of the Blue Mountains, does not possess, excepting on the immediate banks of rivers and creeks; fourthly, the great abundance of limestone.

"Ten miles from the entrance of the Swan River, the Moreau of the French branches off to the south, according to the report of the party who went to explore it. It seems of equal extent with the Swan River, and the country on its banks is of the same description.

"The island of Berthollet, distant one mile from Buâche, is a barren inhospitable spot, producing abundance of hares, seals, and mutton birds. Its shores present many tesselated cliffs of limestone, resembling the turrets of a Gothic cathedral. There is no water on this island.

"The island of Buâche is composed principally of low ridges of light sandy loam, traversing the island from north to south, and terminating on the south with high cliffs or banks of sand, the loftiest parts of which are thickly covered with Cypress (Calytris), and the surface, towards the sea, is considerably interrupted by limestone rocks. The soil, though light, appears to me—from the immense thickets of a species of Solanum[81] which it produces, and which attains the height of 10 feet—to be capable of producing any description of light garden crops. The interior of these ridges are singularly divided by transverse dykes or banks, forming deep pits, which receive all the water from the ridges, the dykes preventing its escape otherwise than by absorption. The pits are covered with gigantic Solana, and a beautiful species of Brunonia. Fresh water may be found on each of these islands by digging 2 feet deep. The north side of the island is in many places covered with extensive thickets of arborescent Metrosideros, and the soil I found to be of a very fine brown loam, studded with detached blocks of limestone, and susceptible of producing any description of crop. In one of these thickets we sowed various sorts of culinary seeds and introduced several plants of the banana. "The coast towards Point Cockburn is thickly studded with Cypress; the soil a light sand. Here we found abundance of fresh water on the beach, as well as in Cypress thickets beyond the influence of the sea My observations did not extend beyond Port Cockburn; but, from the appearance of the country, I doubt not its being of the same quality as that already described.

"Between the isles of Berthollet and Buâche is the entrance for ships drawing more than 16 feet of water into Port Cockburn[82]. Vessels drawing less than 16 feet can run directly across the Sound, from the entrance of Swan River to Port Cockburn. Vessels of any burthen can proceed up the Sound to the entrance of the river, where there is good anchorage, with plenty of room to beat out should the wind come to blow hard from the north-west.

"It is remarkable that on the shores of the Sound, at the entrance to the river, there is not a perpendicular height of 5 feet from the line of low water to that of vegetation, a proof that there is never any heavy weather in the Sound. There is no surf, and boats may land on any part of the main. On the bar, at the entrance, there is only 1 fathom of water[83], but that is always smooth. Port Cockburn is only distant eight miles from it, where there is room for the largest fleet, with 7 fathoms of water within 20 yards of the shore, and this perfectly land-locked.

"Proceeding from the mouth of the river along Baie Géographe the appearance of the country is particularly pleasing.

"The shore seems well clothed with timber, and the foliage is of the richest green. The observations taken here confirm me in my opinion that the principal part of the timber consists of Eucalyptus. I saw no trace of Banksia or of Casuarina.

"From the shore the country is seen to rise gradually into gentle undulating hills, separated apparently by valleys of considerable size, the whole terminated by a magnificent range of hills, thickly covered with heavy timber extending all along the bay.

"At the head of the bay the feature of the country changes, exhibiting bold hills, with large masses of granite, in many instances jutting into the sea with considerable grandeur. The hills, too, are clear of timber, with the exception of some stunted Eucalyptus, and are divided by beautiful winding valleys, in each of which is a small stream, and a soil of richest loam, throwing up immense quantities of herbaceous plants, amongst which I observed thistles[84] of 11 feet in height. I found the soil, on examination, to exceed 10 feet in depth. On digging the sand on the beach we found abundance of fresh water, while the soil with which the hills are covered is of the finest description to the very summit.

"At Cape Naturaliste the character of the soil continues without any visible change, but in the geological structure there is a very great difference. Here are immense cliffs, presenting at their base large beds of granite and schistose rock, passing alternately into each other, and observing in their dip an angle of 15deg. They were seen occasionally to enclose immense masses of pudding-stone, and an extraordinary aggregate containing petrifactions of bivalve shells and other marine productions, every part of which was covered with minute crystals of lime. Large masses of felspar were seen traversing these beds in various directions, and of various thickness. The granite rock was succeeded by a bed of micaceous schist, in an advanced stage of decomposition, over which were observed several caverns, which were found to contain rock-salt in crystallised masses in large quantities. The rock is decomposed pudding-stone, containing various sorts of granite, the salt having penetrated the most compact parts of the granite. The base of the cavern is a coarse sandstone, the whole covered with limestone. The southern extreme of the cape consists of lofty cliffs, presenting two ranges of superb caverns, the lowest of which we explored[85]. The great or outer cavern is about 40 feet high at the entrance, 40 feet in breadth, and about 90 feet in depth. Into this cavern the sea rolls at high water, over immense blocks of granite, in awful grandeur. The stalactites in the cavern are many of them from 20 to 25 feet in length, covered with minute Cryptogamic vegetables of fantastic colors and form. The walls are clothed with the same substances, which give to the whole an extraordinary appearance. The second cavern is distinct from the first. The entrance is about 20 feet in height and 20 in breadth, increasing in height and breadth further in. The stalactites and stalagmites are abundant, and of the purest white. The former were observed to exceed 15 feet in length. There was a remarkable circumstance observed at the entrance of the cavern, the stalactites being all bent outwards, as if a gale of wind was perpetually blowing through the cavern. The three succeeding ones are of minor importance, but all containing stalactites.

"The appearance of the cliffs and caverns from the sea is exceedingly grand. It is impossible to pass along the beach 14 yards without crossing a stream which issues from caves of limestone, and which forms banks of shells, seaweed, stones, and whatever substances may come within their reach, incrusting them in a most beautiful manner.

"Such, indeed, were the attractions of the country that we all felt sorry on leaving it."
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H.M.S. "Success."


  1. Captain George Vancouver, with H.M.S. "Discovery" and "Chatham, was on a mission to the north-west coast of America, when, with a crew stricken, by dysentery, he made the southern coast, at about Chatham Island, and left it at Termination Island.
  2. Napoléon's expedition, sent out under the French Republic, consisted of the "Géographe," Commodore Baudin, and the "Naturaliste," Captain Hamelin, who was afterwards sent back to France with despatches when a second visit to Western Australia was made with the "Géographe," accompanied by a schooner bought in New South Wales, and christened by the French the "Casuarina," into which Lieutenant Freycinet was placed in command.
  3. General Darling sent Major Lockyer from Sydney, with a detachment of the 39th Regiment and a party of convicts, to King George Sound, numbering in all about 70 persons. They landed 25th December, 1826.
  4. Dr. A. Morrison, the Government Botanist, to whom I am indebted for these botanical notes, says :— Metrosideros, at the time Fraser wrote, was a name applied to a great variety of myrtaceous plants, now known under the genera Melaleuca, Kunzea, Callistemon, Angophora, Eucalyptus, Syncarpia, and Exanthostemon. Probably he referred to paper-bark trees.
  5. Most likely Hemiandra pungens.
  6. Calocephalus Brownii.
  7. Dryandra floribunda probably, a shrub or small tree.
  8. The position of Phillimore-street, Fremantle.
  9. Probably Dampiera Linearis.
  10. More than one such.
  11. Black wall Reach.
  12. Pelican Point. This is evidently intended for Point Walter. Fraser wrote this paper in Sydney, two years after his visit, and a number of errors principally small, occur in its pages.
  13. The petrified appearance may be observed at several localities, notably At Cottesloe, Mount Eliza, and Arthur's Head. It is due to the shrubs and small trees being buried by drifting sand, then calcified by the lime (dissolved out of the sand by the rains) taking the place of their decaying tissues.
  14. Snakes. On the occasion of the French visit in June, 1801, the report states:—"Snakes are common enough on Rottnest Island. Many are not less than 4ft. to 5ft. long, with a diameter of 1½in. to 2in. Their color is greyish, but we did not observe if they were venomous." This was probably the brown snake (Diemienia superciliosa), the color of which varies. It may be presumed that they would also be on the mainland, as brown, black, and brown-banded are to be obtained about Perth to this day, though not so numerous as in the Eastern States.
  15. This would be the position of the present railway bridge crossing the river at Fremantle.
  16. Hibiscus Huegelii, but leaves not "peltate."
  17. Agonis flexuosa. The peppermint tree.
  18. Acacia cyanophylla.
  19. This mineral spring would be about the position of the Port Brewery, near the railway bridge; but the water is not similar to Harrogate.
  20. This very fulsome account was not borne out by Captain Fremantle R.N., who, in a despatch to the Admiralty, dated 8th October, 1829, said:—"The soil of the sea coast was generally sandy; but on arriving at the fresh water in the Swan and Canning rivers the banks were rich, and the soil capable of producing anything." Vlaming's description of the same spot, visited on the 5th January, 1697, is still more pithy. The Dutchman says:—"As regards the country it is sandy, and in the place where we were had been planted with a good many shrubs, among which were some quite three and four fathoms (vademen) thick, but bearing no fruit, in short, full of prickles and thorns. Several of these yielded gum nearly like wax, of a brownish-red color."
  21. Now known as Crawley Point.
  22. These hills are Buckland Hill and those in the neighborhood, but the evident intention of fixing a town there was abandoned by Captain Stirling in 1829, for the provision of two towns, as mentioned in Captain Fremantle's despatch of 8th October, 1829:—"The Lieutenant-Governor had fixed on a site for a town about 12 miles up the Swan River, on the right bank, just below the islands, where he intended removing to immediately with the whole of the party landed on Garden Island. The town is to be called Perth, There is also another town to be built, at the mouth of the river, for the convenience of the shipping in Gage Roads, near the spot where the party from the ship first established themselves" The capital, Perth, was so named after the birthplace of Sir George Murray, the Secretary of State for the Colonies, who had granted Stirling's request of giving him Garden Island, and 90,000 acres besides, for his visit to the Swan River in 1827. The seaport town was called after Captain Fremantle, R.N., of H.M.S. "Challenger," who arrived at the mouth of the Swan River on 2nd May, 1829, and hoisting the British flag on the South Head, took formal possession, in the name of His Majesty King George IV., of all that part of New Holland which is not included within the territory of New South Wales. Exactly one month after, Captain Stirling arrived with the first settlers in the hired transport "Parmelia."
  23. Canning Sound, in 1827, gave place, in 1829, to Gage Roads and Cockburn Sound.
  24. Calytris. Callitris robusta.
  25. Rhagodia, 20ft. high, may have been Rhagodia Billardieri, common also on the south-eastern coasts.
  26. Helichrysum cordatum.
  27. The French said:— "The beach was covered with a very large number of gelatinous and transparent white molluscs, abandoned by the tide, and which are doubtless the food of the birds frequenting these shores."
  28. Pelican Point, now known as Crawley, is opposite the entrance of the Canning River, and Fraser again, no doubt, means Point Walter, on the same side as the Canning.
  29. Banksias. The three commonest are B. grandis, B. Menziesii, and B. attenuata.
  30. Dryandra, Hakea, Grevillea. More than one species of each found in the neighborhood.
  31. Viminaria denudata. Same as in the East.
  32. Xanthorrhœa Preissii, not Hastilis.
  33. Zamia spiralis. The western plant was found afterwards to be a distinct species, and was named by Miguel Macrozamia (or Encephalartos) Fraserii, after Fraser himself.
  34. Casuarina. If the same shrubby species as that common at Port Jackson, it would be Casuarina distyla.
  35. On the return of the French boating expedition from exploring the Swan River, the party was for 13 hours up to the waist in slime and water, dragging the boat over the mud-flats at Heirisson's Islands, in cold and rain. The following graphic account was given by Mons. Bailly :— "In the midst of all these troubles and dangers, which had come upon us without ceasing, night descended. We were preparing to get ashore to dry ourselves and restore our spent vigor, when all of a sudden a terrible howl freezed us with terror. It resembled the bellowing of an ox, but much louder, and appeared to come out of the neighboring reeds." This occurred at what is now the foot of Plain or Bennett streets, and was not ascribed by name to any animal. May it have been the sea lion or sea bear, Arctocephalus (or Otaria) Forsteri, which has been known to frequent reeds for a lair? Probably the animal was as much frightened as the French.
  36. Garden Point. This is now known as Point Lewis on the maps, and is the present termination of the Mount's Bay-road tramline. The banana groves existing in this locality are the product of the plants placed there by Fraser. A second garden was also planted, probably at the site of the present gardens, which Stirling named, after himself, Stirling Square. These take the place of botanic gardens elsewhere.
  37. Point Heathcote is the Eastern Cape of Frenchman's Bay, about a quarter of a mile north-west of what is known now as Coffee Point.
  38. A garden was planted on Buáche, and Stirling, in 1829, changed its name to Garden Island. In like manner he called Berthollet "Carnac," after one of his lieutenants. The whole group was called "Isles Louis Napoleon" by the French in 1801.
  39. Pelican Point, now known as Crawley, is a long sandspit, and the reference of Fraser more accords with Point Walter (named after Stirling's uncle, Sir Walter Stirling) than with any other. Point Walter has a fairly high ridge, commanding a good view.
  40. Heirisson's Islands, named after the midshipman in charge of the French boating party who explored the river.
  41. Point Belches is the extreme northern point of South Perth, or what was afterwards called Mill Point, at the Narrows. It was named after Lieut. Belches, of H.M.S. "Success."
  42. Jacksonia furcillata.
  43. Mount Eliza; so named, in 1827, by Stirling, after Lady Darling, the wife of the Governor of New South Wales.
  44. The French did not explore the Canning River, but named its entrance "Entree Moreau." They at first set it down as being another communication with the sea. Stirling, in 1829, named the tributary river after Canning, the Prime Minister of England.
  45. The view from the King's Park, on Mount Eliza, is the finest of its kind in all Australia. In no other city is there such a combination of city, suburb, and river, backed by a mountain range. It certainly is a view that no visitor should miss.
  46. This has since been found not correct.
  47. These islands (Heirisson's) it is intended one day to convert into recreation gardens. One of them has already been chosen by some of the black swans for a nesting ground. These swans were obtained from other localities under Sir John Forrest's administration, and after a little nursing at the Mill Pond, South Perth, were liberated on the river. They are now again thoroughly at home on the river named after them, by Vlaming, on the 5th of January, 1697.
  48. Casuarina glauca.
  49. The French, with one boat, had a greater difficulty; whereas the English party had two boats, and consequently a greater number of hands.
  50. These shells make excellent footpaths in Perth.
  51. A canal was cut through the isthmus of Burswood Island in 1830, and a dam constructed to divert the water in such a manner as to keep open a channel. This canal has long since been allowed to close up, and barges and boats have to make the circuitous course round the three sides of this so-called island. Another canal, some years ago, was cut through the mud-flats, and is still used.
  52. Point Fraser (named after the Colonial Botanist of New South Wales) is the south-eastern extremity of the City of Perth. The Swan River here takes a northerly sweep.
  53. The cultivation of cotton at the close of the eighteenth century was enthusiastically taken up by one Baron De La Clampe, a retired French officer of the ancient regime, who after serving in India against the English, and being taken prisoner, desired to emigrate to New South Wales rather than join the army of the French Revolutionists. Mons. De La Clampe's plantation at Castle Hill, In New South Wales, was visited by Mons. Peron in 1802, and fine specimens, similar to Nanking cotton were then inspected.
  54. Eucalyptus calophyila, the red gum of Western Australia. An excusable Mistake by Fraser, as a strong resemblance exists to the apple-tree gums of New South Wales.
  55. Metrosideros, with flowers of a brilliant scarlet, would be probably either Melaleuca lateritea or Beaufortia squarrosa.
  56. Psittacus, Mr. A. W. Milligan, the Western Australian ornithologist, says:— "The ground-feeding cockatoo I take to be Cacatua Leadbeateri, or Leadbeater's cockatoo. It is possible, however, that it may be Licmetis nasica (commonly known as the corella), which also feeds upon and digs into the ground." On referring to Gould, that celebrated ornithologist says:— "Cacatua Leadbeateri. The pink cockatoo of the colonists of Swan River. This beautiful species of cockatoo enjoys a wide range over the southern portions of the Australian continent. It never approaches very near the sea, but evinces a decided preference to the interior of the country. It annually visits the Toodyay district of Western Australia, and breeds at Gawler, in South Australia." Of Licmetis he says:— "Licmetis nascius. The habitat of the present species would appear to be confined to Victoria and South Australia, where it inhabits the interior rather than the neighborhood of the coast. Like the Cacatua galerita (great sulphur-crested cockatoo), it assembles in large flocks, and spends much of its time on the ground, where it grubs up the roots of orchids and other bulbous plants, upon which it mainly subsists, and hence the necessity for its singularly-formed bill." And of the other species he says:-"Licmetis pastinator. Western long-billed cockatoo. All ornithologists now admit that there are two species of the genus Licmetis, one inhabiting the western and the other the eastern portions of Australia."
  57. This would not be very far from the lair of the animal that so startled Mons. Heirisson's party in 1801.
  58. Claise Brook. Now the main sewer of Perth, the site of the septic tank treatment of sewage.
  59. Acacia diptera.
  60. Walter's Brook, named by Stirling after his uncle. This is now the city boundary, dividing Perth from Maylands.
  61. May refer to the flooded gums of this State.
  62. No stringy bark exists, but this would refer to the jarrah (Eucalyptus marginata).
  63. Lambertia multiflora, with yellow flowers.
  64. Hakea with holly-shaped leaves would be either H. glabella, cristata, or amplexicaulis.
  65. Arthropodium Preissii.
  66. Hakea glabella.
  67. Fraser was formerly a private soldier in the army, and Oxley alludes to him as "Fraser, our soldier-botanist."
  68. These thistles must have been introduced, probably by the French in their exploration of the Swan.
  69. May be Hibiscus hakeaefolius.
  70. Euphorbia. May refer to Phyllanthus calcinus, which is quite a common Euphorbiaceous plant.
  71. The furthest portion of the Swan shown on Stirling's map is its junction with Ellen's Brook (named after his wife). The river now is navigable beyond this.
  72. This is extraordinary, as that part of the river shown by Stirling as "river-water fresh here" would scarcely be as far as the present site of Guildford, where it is only fresh with the winter rains.
  73. There is no mention in Peron's Journal of Mons. Freycinet (who was a lieutenant) being in Midshipman Heirisson's boat.
  74. The French, on their map, showed a "pond" of fresh water on the west side of the river, close to its bank, at the termination of their survey. This would be about the site of Guildford.
  75. The river has a much longer course than was suspected for many years. It may be said to rise some distance to the east of Pingelly, and taking a northerly course flows through Beverley, York, Northam, and Newcastle, under the name of the Avon; from Toodyay it takes a westerly course, through the Darling Range, down to Guildford, etc.
  76. This is a serious mistake by Fraser, as the English party visited the Swan River in March, 1827—not February, as stated. The summer ends in March, while the temperature in February is the hottest in the year. The exact dates are as follow:— January 17: H.M.S. "Success" sailed from Sydney, and on the 27th anchored in the Derwent, in Van Diemen's Land. February 8: Left the Derwent, and on March 5 arrived off Rottnest Island, March 8: The first gig and cutter entered the Swan River, which was examined by the 14th; and, after another day spent by the gig in exploring the Moreau (Canning River), the remainder of the time, to March 20, was employed in surveying the islands of Rottnest, Buâche, and Berthollet. March 21: Stood to sea, and after examining Géographe Bay and Cape Naturaliste, anchored at King George Sound on April 2. April 4: Stood to sea, with a strong breeze from the S.W., and at 10 p.m. on the 15th anchored at Port Jackson.
  77. The black swan (Chenopis atrata) is not a true swan, but an allied form. It was first observed by Vlaming on January 5, 1697, when he named the river after them. It is not, however, exclusively confined to this part of Australia. These birds were nearly exterminated from the river, but having been obtained from other places are now again seen upon the waters of the Swan. Gould says :— "Our celebrated countryman and navigator, Cook, observed it on several parts of the coast. I may state that the black swan is generally distributed over the whole of the southern portion of Australia, the islands in Bass' Straits, and the still more southern country of Tasmania, wherever there are rivers, estuaries of the sea, lagoons, and pools of water of any extent. In some instances it occurs in such numbers that flocks of many hundreds may be seen together, particularly on those arms of the sea which after passing the beach-line of the coast expand into great sheets of shallow water, on which the birds are seldom disturbed either by the force of boisterous winds or the intrusions of the natives. In the white man, however, the black swan finds an enemy so deadly that in many parts, where it was formerly numerous, it has been almost, if not entirely, extirpated." Of pelicans, the only species found in the State (Pelecanus conspicillatus) is still to be seen on the river, while ducks frequent its reaches above Heirisson's Islands.
  78. Kangaroos, emus, etc., after nearly eighty years' occupation, have naturally been driven further afield, and are still plentiful in some parts of Western Australia. Fish, also, are abundant, although the grounds have been heavily worked by Greeks and Italians for some years past, while the river itself has been almost denuded of its finny inhabitants by the reprehensible allowance of net-fishing. Another factor is the use of trawls for prawn-catching, the constant dragging over the bottom destroying the ground piscine food and disturbing their breeding-grounds. Amended legislation for the preservation of food fishes is urgently needed.
  79. Dr. Gunther says:— "The tiger shark (Stegostoma tigrinum) is one of the commonest and handsomest sharks of the Indian Ocean. The ground color is a brownish yellow, and the whole fish is ornamented with black or brown transverse bands or rounded spots. It is a littoral species, but adult specimens, which are from 10 to 15 feet long, are not rarely met far from land. It is easily recognised by its enormously long blade-like tail, which is half as long as the whole fish." At Sydney the carpet shark, or wobbegong (Crossorhinus barbatus), is often erroneously called the tiger shark; and, as the fish are still to be found at Rottnest, it is possible Fraser meant these, and not the true tiger shark of the Indian Ocean. The French also noted the very large number of sharks that hung round their ship off Rottnest in 1801. They are far less plentiful now.
  80. This is not the fact. The sandy nature of the land is a serious impediment in the matter of roads for carriage of produce and goods, and road material in the country generally is absent where agricultural development is practical.
  81. May be Solanum simile.
  82. Now called Rockingham
  83. At a heavy expense this bar has been removed, and a channel of 34 feet provided into the Port of Fremantle.
  84. At the locality referred to Riédlé, the chief gardener of the French fleet, in 1801, sowed vegetable seeds, and it is probable that here, as at the upper reach of the Swan, some thistle seeds were accidentally introduced.
  85. Adjoining the marine caverns of Cape Naturaliste is a series of limestone caves, extending about 50 miles to the neighborhood of Cape Hamelin, which have been opened out by the Government. In some respects they rival, if not surpass, the Jenolan Caves of New South Wales.



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