Journal of another Expedition to the Eastward of the Darling Range, under the direction of Ensign Dale; commenced on the 25th October, and concluded on the 7th November, 1830

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Journal of another Expedition to the Eastward of the Darling Range, under the direction of Ensign Dale; commenced on the 25th October, and concluded on the 7th November, 1830  (1831) 

JOURNAL OF ANOTHER EXPEDITION to the Eastward if the Darling Range, under the direction of Ensign Dale; commenced on the 25th of October, and concluded on the 7th of November, 1830.

Having accompanied the Lieutenant-Governor on an expedition into the interior as far as Mount Bakewell (situated on the eastern side of Darling's Range, and described in my report of a former excursion) I took a temporary leave of his Excellency, who was thence bound homewards, after receiving a supply of provisions for ten days, to enable us to prosecute our journey further inland, with the intention of penetrating as far to the eastward as circumstances would admit of, and from thence, after proceeding to the southward for one day, to prevent our crossing on our return in the same tract, and also to intersect any river that might exist in that quarter, to return to Darling's Range in a westerly course.

Passing in the afternoon of the 28th of October with my party, consisting of six volunteers, with five horses to carry our baggage, along the northern base of the Dyott Hills for a mile and a half, where we found an excellent loamy soil, well clothed with grass, we arrived at the Avon river, which washes their base; which we crossed, and proceeded in our course S.1 E. over an undulating country, which had a most gratifying appearance, the soil being a rich red loam of good quality, and lightly timbered with gum, wattle, and a tree pronounced by some competent judges to resemble sandal wood; and which was apparently a richer district than that on the western side of the Avon. This prevailed for nearly three miles back from the banks, when on ascending a ridge, we arrived at a remarkable change in the aspect of the country; viz. large open downs or wolds, commencing about a mile and a half, and extending several miles to the north and south. They were of a sandy nature, and covered principally with short brushwood. Travelling over this it again became wooded, and continued so till we bivouaced on the banks of a stream running to the N.N.W., having effected eleven miles to the eastward of Mount Bakewell. The scenery on the eastern side, on the banks of the Avon, resembles the term so frequently used of a demesne or park. The country also seemed to exceed it in the fertility of the soil, which had, for three miles from the river, a most promising appearance; and although it often afterwards became sandy, it was frequently diversified by portions of good soil.

October 29th.—Leaving the stream on which we bivouaced, we pursued our course for two miles over grassy, undulating plains, the soil on which was a light sandy loam. On our right was an apparently fertile valley, beyond which were low hills, the trees on which were dispersed like a plantation. Travelling four miles further, over an unusually sandy district, we penetrated a forest more thickly wooded than ordinary, with a tree answering in some respects the stringy bark of New South Wales; when we arrived at a stream flowing northerly. Quitting this, we immediately afterwards came to open downs extending for many miles to the N. and S., and of a breadth, where we crossed, of two miles. Before reaching this, we had a beautiful chase on an open plain with a kangaroo, which fairly beat one of our greyhounds. At the termination of three miles from the latter water-course, we halted for the night, having accomplished fifteen miles to the eastward. The commencement of our journey was over grassy, undulating plains, tolerably well adapted for pasture. The extensive sandy downs were compared by the two Yorkshire gentlemen (who accompanied us) to the wolds in that county. The latter part of our walk lay through a thick forest, of an apparently different species of eycaliptus from any we had yet observed, the young trees growing perfectly straight, and would form, if not too heavy, fine spars for ships. The stem of the tree was fluted, and from its peculiar appearance, some of our party named it the cable gum. We procured a supply of muddy water tonight, by digging wells.

October 30th.—We followed the water course on which we encamped last night, in an E.½ S. direction for one mile, until we arrived at its source, when we again found the same style of country as yesterday, viz. sandy undulating commons, stretching for a considerable distance to the north and south; upon crossing them the country evidently changed, the surface being occasionally broken, and a greater expanse of woodland scenery being visible; from the valleys it seemed to dip or incline to the northward, in which direction, at the distance of twenty miles, was a range of elevated land, at the base of which was a broad valley. A little beyond this we followed the bed of a stream lying S.E. for one mile, and as the herbage was good, we rested our party here during the middle of the day, to refresh the horses. On the bank of this stream were two native huts, of a different, but more substantial construction, than those on the Swan. At the conclusion of fifteen miles we entered a dense forest of gum trees and brushwood which we penetrated with difficulty; after walking nearly five miles through it, we came to a tea tree and samphire swamp, the water of which was brackish; at the eastern extremity of it, we reached the base of two remarkable isolated hills, for which we had been steering; we found each of them to be composed of one mass of granite; they appeared to be detached from some high land stretching away to the southward; we gave the northern one the name of Mount Caroline, and the southern was called Mount Stirling, after my fellow traveller, Mr. W. Stirling. We encamped to night on a flat between a salt water marsh and the latter mount, and obtained a scanty supply of muddy water by digging wells; we estimated this day's journey at nearly twenty miles.

October 31st.—We all started this morning at sunrise, to take a bird's-eye view of the country from the rock; after climbing on our hands and knees, we reached an elevated part, from which nothing of consequence was seen. After breakfast, Mr. W. Stirling and myself proceeded to examine a sheet of water we had observed in the morning; we found it to be a salt marsh, on which were several ducks. Three miles N.E. of our bivouac, we ascended Mount Caroline, from which we made the following observations. In the distance, about thirty miles S.E. we observed a low range of hills lying nearly N. and S., on the western side of which was a broad valley, over which a bluish vapour was hanging. In the same direction as the valley, were several round hills, one of which had a tabular summit. We traced the course of the salt water marsh a few miles to the eastward, when it trended round to the N. and we lost sight of it. On our return we examined our provisions, and were greatly disappointed on doing so, to find that our friends Messrs. Clarkson, Hardy, and Cornfield had barely a supply left for two days, which entirely put an end to the hopes we had formed of penetrating a day's journey further into the interior; and as we estimated our distance from the sea coast to be 100 miles, we calculated that we should not be able to return in less than seven days to Perth, as we wished to take a southerly course for one day, in which direction his Excellency was desirous that the country should be explored. Having divided our provisions, we started at noon and steered a course varying from S. to S.E. for nearly three miles, over grassy elevations, the soil of which was a light sandy loam; at the termination of this distance, we found, on the summit of a hill, a red loamy soil, which seemed to extend to the southward and eastward; from this, we altered our course W.S.W. in the direction of a sheet of water we had remarked from Mount Stirling. Proceeding two miles through a thick wood, we ascended a rock, in the hope of gaining a sight of it, but not being able to discern it, we shortly afterwards encamped in a valley, in which we found an abundant supply of excellent water. We walked this afternoon six miles, and passed a native wigwam, which was much larger than those we had seen on the 30th instant.

November 1st.—Wishing to examine the valley for the purpose of ascertaining if any considerable body of water existed in the neighbourhood, we proceeded S.S.E. up it, when we ascended a hill, from which a high peaked hill, (of which several bearings had previously been taken) being observed, bearing S. 34° W., about thirteen miles distant, we altered our course to it, as we considered it a good point to make on our return as I thought it to be a distant hill I had seen from Mount Bakewell. Three miles from this valley where there is tolerable soil, we arrived at extensive downs of a breadth, at the part we crossed, of six miles; we here saw numerous herds of kangaroos, one of which we killed. In the middle of one of these downs, we found two pools of fresh water, around which were several traces of natives; we also observed in them some small fish, and a musk duck, which latter circumstance seemed to indicate the existence of water all the year round. On leaving these we penetrated the angle of a deep wood of gum and tea trees, and pursued our course up a long aclivity. At the distance of fourteen miles from our bivouac, I came to a superior description of country; it had a fertile appearance, the soil being a red loam, well clothed with grass, the trees consisting of the gum, wattle and sandal wood. Crossing a mile of this description of country, we ascended the peaked hill towards which our course had been directed, and which was not of any considerable altitude; from the summit we observed a sheet of water bearing N. 74° W., around which were seven native fires; eighteen miles N.N.E. we imagined that we perceived Mount Caroline. We calculated there might be from one to two thousand acres of very fair arable and pasture land in the vicinity of this hill; the extent of our journey to-day was fifteen miles, the general course of which was S.S.W.

November 2nd. — Having prepared every thing for our return, and some of our party their arms, in case of rencontres with the natives, whose fires we had seen yesterday, we proceeded, soon after sunrise, on our route homewards, and passing down the valley to the foot of the peak, we entered an open common, which led us to a thick and almost impenetrable forest of cable, gum, and tea trees; after struggling for nearly an hour, we succeeded in forcing our way through the most impassable part, when we came to a lagoon of salt water; we soon after fell in with another, which had a similar taste. Upon reaching the extremity of the forest, which may be four miles in breadth, we, in three miles, arrived at a hill, on which we found a rich red loam, of a yielding and pliable nature, but it did not appear to be of any great extent. We crossed before noon several grassy hills, on which we found better soil than in the valleys. We traversed, until we halted this evening, a well wooded country, which contained a considerable portion of very fine land. Not being able to find water, we were obliged, much to the annoyance of some of our party, to put ourselves upon an allowance for the night; we travelled today upwards of eighteen miles, in a W.½ N. course. In the morning, we suddenly met with a party of four natives, who, from the terror and surprise they manifested at first beholding us, evidently showed that they could never have seen Europeans before; after two of them had advanced in a hostile manner to allow the two women who accompanied them time to escape, they ran away as fast as their legs could carry them, and disappeared behind a hill.

November 3d.—We started at dawn this morning to procure water for breakfast, which we found, after passing several broad and fertile valleys, in one of which we met with excellent pasture, which appeared to be of some extent; after travelling six miles, we rested at a spot where we obtained good herbage for our horses. Traversing after breakfast the same distance and a similar country, we reached a district where the surface became more broken and abrupt: our course led us down a ravine, and we entered a rich and extensive valley; continuing along this for two miles, we ascended a hill, from which we observed water in the lower part of it; on proceeding down to it, we found that we had reached the Avon, about eighteen miles, as we then conjectured, to the S.E. of Mount Bakewell; it had here expanded into a reach of an average breadth of thirty yards; but on tracing its course downwards, it became contracted, and the stream was partly concealed amongst the tea trees that lined the banks; one mile below this we bivouaced for the night, at a beautiful spot where the river had again become broad and deep, and which here ran to the westward, after flowing a short distance north; behind us were two low peaked hills; we here killed a brace of ducks, &c. &c. Considerably more than half the land we passed over to-day was of a good quality; we observed on this part of the river marks of excessive inundation.

November 4th.—We determined to spend this day in examining the valley of the river, in order that we might give the gentlemen who accompanied us an opportunity of seeing as much of the country as possible before selecting their grants. We started at day light this morning with the intention of crossing the Avon, and proceeding due W. until we intersected one of its minor branches, which had previously been fallen in with by Lieutenant Erskine, and from thence to take a N.E. course in the direction of Mount Bakewell. We crossed the river about one mile lower down than where we bivouaced, and walked the same distance over a lighter and more sandy soil than we had lately met with, when we arrived at a rivulet running towards the main branch; leaving this, we ascended the hills on the eastern side, and again came to good soil and grass, which appeared to be abundant here; after making a few observations on the surrounding country, we descended to the Avon, and continued along its banks, which presented generally a N. by W. direction for five miles, when we pitched our tent, and as we had arrived at the part we wished to examine, Messrs. Clarkson, Hardy, and Camfield, proceeded to the opposite or eastern side, whilst Mr. W. Stirling and myself proceeded to ascend a hill behind our encampment, one side of which, towards the east, we found bare and sandy, whilst on the summit, and apparently to some extent beyond it, we met with fertile soil: in the afternoon the party returned completely drenched with rain: they went about three miles down the right bank, and at the distance of a mile and a half inland, the soil was of good quality, and the grass plentiful. The stream occasionally expanded itself in the course of this day's journey, as it had done yesterday, to a breadth of fifty yards. We started this morning due W. with the intention of making the western base of Darling's Range, behind Lieutenant Bull's house on the Canning River, and passed over an extent of nearly five miles of beautifully fertile country, the grass on which was growing most luxuriantly on a rich soil, and was well adapted for agricultural and grazing purposes; in fact, in the opinion of Mr. Hardy, two acres of the grass lands in this district were capable of supporting three sheep per annum. As soon as we came to Darling's range, an unfavourable change took place in the soil. The range, at this point, was easy of access, and the travelling good; during our walk ve passed a party of natives sitting round a fire; they did not appear to take any notice of us, and we did not disturb them. We walked to-day eighteen mileS, over a country which, from the time we ascended the hills, after having proceeded five miles from the river, contained, occasional patches of good soil.

November 6th.—We were unfortunately detained this morning by the two horses belonging to Mr. Clarkson straying during the night; leaving him what provisions we could spare, we proceeded on our journey at 7 o'clock, and travelled over a more hilly apd mountainous country than we had lately done. Fourteen miles from our bivouac, we arrived at the valley of the Helena, to which we descended down a deep and precipitous hill; we crossed it at a place where it was running W.N.W.; we walked to-day seventeen miles.

November 7th.— We experienced more difficulties, and encountered more obstructions this morning than we had yet met with, owing to numbers of fallen trees. At the distance of eight miles from last night's bivouac, we arrived at the height immediately overlooking the plain; from this distance we were clearly able to distinguish, through a telescope, the jetty and houses at Perth, and had an extensive sea view, embracing Garden Island and its neighbouring isles; we also observed a large and open lagoon, bearing S.W. at the apparent distance of seven miles. After an estimated journey of fourteen miles from the foot of the hills, we reached Perth in the evening, and found then that the Lieutenant Governor had arrived there a week before us.


The surface of the country traversed in the expedition above detailed, would admit of the following descriptive division, viz:—open downs destitute of timber, and thickly covered with low brush,—open forest land, characterised by its growth of timber, with little brushwood below,—swampy forest land, (which we only twice met with) producing timber trees growing close together, and thickly matted with an undergrowth of shrubs,—and open grassy pasture thinly wooded. The greater part of the district between Mount Bakewell and the terminating point of the excursion eastward, consisted of the second description; the open downs or wolds, bore the next proportion. The greatest quantity of grass was observed in the open forest and grassy pasture country. Our limited time, and expeditious mode of travelling, did not admit of our paying much attention to the collection of minerals; traces of limestone were however observed on several occasions. We met with no birds or animals not previously known to us. Amongst a great profusion of flowers and shrubs, we observed several apparently new varieties, one of which bore a red round fruit, about the size of a cherry, and containing a stone within; two or three other varieties of shrubs were remarked, producing novel and singular seed vessels.

(Signed) R.DALE.

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