Journals of Several Expeditions Made in Western Australia, During the Years 1829, 1830, 1831, and 1832

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1829, 1830, 1831, and 1832;













Captain Royal Navy,












































Some of the wisest and most benevolent of modern Legislators, after careful and elaborate investigation, have recommended Emigration, as a happy mode of relieving the country from the burthen of an unemployed population. The relative position of the British Islands, "inter se,"—the peculiar consequences that have resulted from the application of different laws, to different parts of these countries—countries united by legal enactments, and, since the invention of steam navigation, connected, as it were, by flying bridges, have occasioned an undue, partial, and perilous pressure; one that must continue to increase, unless a safety pipe be provided for the reservoir, to carry off the surplus water introduced by the continual stream of the feeder. The wealth and industry of England cannot sustain her against an inundation of the hungry and the destitute, which, like the wave of the great ocean, in obedience to the laws of nature, will continue to roll until it obtains its level. This miserable mass of unoccupied and destitute poor presents a calamitous picture, and, feeling as if they had been called into life for no useful end, will at length become reckless and desperate.

Would not Emigration go far in preserving the level of wholesome water in the reservoir? Would it not prove a double blessing, in relieving those who go and those that remain behind? The present moment is a crisis in the doctrine of Emigration; there is a manifest and a daily deterioration in the condition of our labouring poor; and while all other avenues to relief are darkened, a light has just burst upon the cause of Colonial Legislation, which gives new strength, and revives the sleeping energies of many who had early fostered the growing spirit of migration, yet despaired of obtaining sufficient encouragement for those who were willing to run the serious hazard of its trial.

The allusion is obvious,—he who has made this important question the subject of reflection, during its latest agitation, will readily comprehend it. The auspicious moment, then, at which the publisher is enabled, through the kindness and influence of Governor Stirling, to lay the following valuable and authentic journals before the public, seemed also favorable to the introduction of a few remarks, suggested by the documents themselves; which, at another period, might appear less legitimately incorporated with matter of a mere prefatory nature.

The history of Swan River Settlement, and of its rapid but steady progress to importance, has been, year after year, submitted to the enquiring world, by the same publisher, committed to him through the same benevolent and public spirit, and by the individual to whom he is alike indebted for the possession of this valuable collection of documentary information.

In 1829, a short account appeared of the birth, infancy, and increasing growth of this settlement, in which the manly department of its enterprising Governor, with his handful of hardy followers, was fully detailed, in a manner simple and interesting. In the following pages will be found a continuation of that history,—the increasing ambition of the first settlers of the Colony,—the latest information of the state of commerce and of society,—the prospects that may reasonably be indulged in, both by those who are now warmed by the brightening rays of its prosperity, as well as by those whose native homes being less happy now meditate a participation in those blessings, at no very distant period.

The authentic narratives here collected into a volume, contain a simple and unaffected, clear and intelligible account of many extensive and fertile districts explored, under the sanction and protection of the local government, during the four last years. Without pretending to scientific accuracy, the reader will find that the most material objects of enquiry have been anticipated and satisfactorily answered; and, duly considering the difficulties and privations under which such journeys of discovery are necessarily performed, will acknowledge, that information more extensive and exact, has been thus supplied, than even under circumstances of less inconvenience could have been expected. Every exploring party, each individual, seems to have imbibed that right feeling and anxious spirit of investigation, possessed by their very popular Governor, and to have undertaken their meritorious tasks from a two-fold object—the public service and the personal approbation of the head of the settlement.

The Journals extend their information over a vast field of discovery, reaching from King George's Sound in the S.E., to the district of Northam near the Avon, to the N.E. of Perth; including minute circumstantial details of much of the central country, and faithful delineations of a considerable extent of coast between Swan River and Albany.

The matter is given to the reader in the simple and original language of the hardy adventurers, who themselves enacted the bold scenes they there describe, in a style that bears internal evidence of their truth. This mode appeared preferable for two reasons: alteration in style might possibly endanger the travellers' own meaning, besides, it is a respect due to the meritorious exertions of the intelligent Journalists themselves, to collect their sibylline leaves as they were wafted across the ocean, and throwing them into our portfolio, leave it to mankind to interpret their contents.

Amongst the number and variety of new facts relative to Western Australia, developed in the present Journals, some are of so remarkable a character, as to demand an especial, although brief, notice in this place.

The general appearance and character of the country in the vicinity and district usually understood by "Swan River Settlement," are here fully, finally, and satisfactorily unfolded. The nature of the coast, its approachable as well as inaccessible harbours enumerated and described, and the natural productions of the whole territory amply set forth. Neither are the apparent disadvantages of position, climate, soil, and other drawbacks, urged against the settlement by its avowed enemies, or, by the artful cruelty of pretended friends, concealed from view. The origin of our information is above suspicion.

It seems uniformly conceded by all exploring parties, that the great tract between Swan River and King George's Sound, bounded by the Darling Mountains on the west, and by unknown regions on the east, presents an undulating surface, averaging about 600 feet above sea level. The soil varies much in quality; in some places sandy, in others a rich loam, with rocky pasture, amidst regions of granite and limestone. Occasionally extensive forests of noble timber encumber the surface, and sometimes single trees, in all the luxuriance and pride of natural beauty, so decorate the scene, that the landscape resembles the spacious park of some wealthy proprietor, rather than a sylvan solitude in a newly discovered world.

Rivers and rivulets are extremely numerous, and water is found in abundant supplies, notwithstanding the general prevalence hitherto of a contrary belief: 'tis true that few rivers of any magnitude have yet been traced. The courses of those that are yet known are short and rapid, and if they should ultimately prove unsuited to the purposes of navigation, they will still afford ample sites for mills, and place an immense water power at the disposal of the settlers. It is said that some of the mountain torrents dry up in summer, while others, on the contrary, in rainy seasons, expand and swamp great districts of level land. The first objection may be advanced with equal truth, against the rapid mountain rivulets in our own island; and the second, in all probability, we shall be able to show, is a curable complaint. In very many instances, the channels, water courses, or beds of the rivers, are obstructed by huge trunks of trees, that at their first decadency form substantial and convenient bridges, but after awhile, their own weight bringing them deeper, they become a perfect dam, and throw back the obstructed waters upon the level district. This injury would not continue to be sustained by improving settlers; it is too serious to be borne while the remedy is so easy.

Such advances towards civilization certainly presuppose a tolerable supply of labour, more than can, with truth, be stated as now existing in those retired districts. It is possible, also, that these swamps may arise from another cause, such as the gushing up of a subterraneous river—an event of frequent occurrence in countries of limestone formation; in which case, a proper direction must given to the water-course. The chief and real source of regret, as to the rivers of Western Australia is that no great volume of water—no St. Lawrence—has yet been discovered, along whose surface the Australian barks might glide with swiftness and security, and where the light pendants of all nations of the world might freely wave.

That the navigable qualities of West Australian rivers may be made much more available than hitherto, is not improbable. A species of boat has recently been constructed, adapted to still water navigation, which lies on, rather than sinks into, the water, is capable of being moved at the rate of ten miles an hour with little difficulty, and attended with a very trifling agitation of the sustaining surface.

Lagoons and salt lakes are scattered every where amidst the valleys and the forests; the former constitute the necessary drains of some encircling region; and the latter may be looked upon as depositaries from whence wealth and commercial eminence may hereafter be derived to the settlement.

From the unaffected style in which each little adventure is narrated in the accompanying Journals, it is possible that a conclusion might be drawn contrary to the real intentions of the narrators, and at variance with truth. Each explorer speaks occasionally of having passed so many hours on his journey without meeting with fresh water, and of himself and fellow-travellers carrying a supply along with them. It is proper to observe upon these passages, that whenever the party adopted a well-chosen route, they never suffered from the want of a refreshing draught of water; but as they sometimes crossed the highest points in search of extensive prospects, or forced their way through the thickest parts of a forest, it is not at all extraordinary that a day's journey might have been made, and no cool fountain met with. And, let it be remembered, that, in every instance where they chanced to meet a native, he infallibly conducted them to a spring at no great distance from their position.

This point is insisted on in this place, not only from the importance of the subject, and desire to correct a too prevalent error, but for this further reason, that attention may be invited to the procuring of wholesome water in those districts where a scarcity may be really felt. Now, our Journalists assure us, that they have always found water by digging; sometimes with their bare hands, only to the depth of about one foot: if this be true, as there is every reason to suppose it is, the common mode of well sinking would be tolerably certain of obtaining a supply; and the method of borings so successfully attempted in France and England, called the "The Artesian Well," might finally be called in to the settlers' aid, with an entire dependence upon its efficacy.

The harbours, and character of the coast generally, form a subject of anxious inquiry. Information upon this head is still less full than could be wished, but, as far as our discoveries do extend they are satisfactory. Colonel Hanson asserts, "that Princess Royal Harbour is equal to any port in the world." Our latest survey establishes Cockburn Sound to be a safe and excellent asylum. Gage's Road is a safe anchorage, but the seasons as well as the soundings, should be well understood by the mariner who approaches these shores. The recently explored littorale of Geographe Bay presents a front of seventy miles in extent, along which there is safe lying, with good anchorage, but only during the summer season; and where possibly future ages shall witness many a cargo shipped and landed at quays and wharfs along this hospitable shore.

It would be foreign to the object of this prefatory sketch, to touch upon the species of information useful to emigrants; this service has already been Well and satisfactorily performed;[1] but it may be observed, generally, that since the publication of the work here alluded to, new districts have been explored,—additional depots and settlements formed,—the number of settlers augmented, and the hardships and terrors of early emigration to a newly-discovered land removed or mitigated.

Apprehension of violence from the natives was one of the grievances of the "Terrorists," but this phantom has been dissipated, as will appear from the simple story of individual settlers having passed whole nights under the shelter of the native's wig-wam, unarmed, and unaccompanied by any of their own countrymen. The conduct of the natives has, from the commencement, evinced a desire to cultivate friendly relations with the whites. At Albany, they have actually submitted to the imposition of some few articles of dress, whereby their presence has been rendered less uncomfortable to members of a civilized community.

Recent investigation has also added largely to the number and value of the natural productions of Western Australia, from which there are reasonable grounds for hoping that the commerce of the settlement will speedily be extended to a profitable length, and the comforts and happiness of the settler considerably augmented. In addition to the varieties of mahogany, gumtrees, &c., a valuable species of oak, and of large dimensions, has been found in the country north of Augusta, a new and very promising settlement, at the embouchure of the Blackwood river. One district has been found peculiarly adapted to the culture of the vine, which may here be conducted, as at the pyramidal rocks of Goodesburg, up the almost naked front of the limestone cliffs. The waters of the saltpools, when an intercourse shall be opened between the sea and the interior, may be compelled to evaporate and yield their briny depositions to the children of industry and enterprise; and the cotton plant may yet be seen putting forth its beautiful flowers on the Australian saline marshes as vigourously as in the transatlantic world. A good brick clay supplies convenient and manageable material for building; but there can be no doubt it will shortly be superseded by the more permanent natural material of granite or limestone, when passable roads and navigable rivers shall render the removal of heavy masses practicable.

In estimating the probable chances of success, the ingenuity of the settler ought to be directed to the discovery of the best modes of abridging labour, and much will depend upon timely and wise determination on this point. This is an important question, and surrounded with difficulties. Labourers could, of course, be imported from the parent country, but the expense of transport, and of after maintenance startle the young adventurer. The presence of convicts is irksome in a settlement of freemen, and where crime is, happily, as yet, less known than in the countries from which they have emigrated. Yet, without a large supply of labour, or some obedient power, improvement and civilization must stand still.

A few suggestions for the abridgment of labour and general amelioration of the settler, by the assistance of modern scientific inventions, have been already introduced; it remains now to address some words of advice, or rather matter for reflection. Let it be borne in mind that this country is principally adapted to pastoral pursuits, and offers very great advantages for the investment of capital in that way. The first and greatest want in the settlement is "communication by lines of road." This cannot be supplied without a command of labour. Would it not be worth the consideration of all parties, whether convict labour might not be applied, without compromising the dignity and moral feeling of the settlement? If the intrusion of criminals into the presence of the settlers be too irksome to be borne, let their labour be expended on those portions of each line of road most remote from the established settlement, while the termination adjacent to each town shall be formed by free-labourers, remunerated, as may be arranged, amongst the inhabitants. It is probable, too, that, after some of the principal and most necessary lines shall have been completed, the natives will bring their labour into market, at rates more reasonable than the free whites, and under circumstances more comfortable than would attend the employment of convicts.

Whenever the interior shall be rendered accessible by lines of road, the settlers may call to mind with gratitude, the vast natural resources that have lain for so many ages concealed within. Then may their opening prospects be compared to the natural formation of the great region of Australia, surrounded by low-lying sand-banks and forbidding coasts, that alarm the emigrant at his first approach, but when once the breakers are cleared, and a safe asylum reached within, all is beautiful, and bright, and happy-looking.

The peculiar manner in which the surface is timbered presents features both beautiful and advantageous on the southern coast. Detached trees of mature growth are scattered over the greater part of the low land, only sufficiently numerous to supply a grateful shelter to the flocks and crops, and form an ornamental screen to the dwelling of the settler.

The vast water power of which the Australians are possessed should be immediately and profitably directed. Besides the establishment of mills for various objects, advantage should be taken of the same sites for the expeditious division of timber, by means of the "Portable Saw Mill," a modern invention and likely to prove of inconceivable benefit in remote wooded districts.

The manufacture of glass, pottery, and iron, are resources that will hereafter be found available, though now, from necessity, kept in abeyance.

So much of introductory matter appeared to the publisher to be demanded, by the valuable quality of the collected Journals, which succeed it, at the advanced age of this rapidly increasing settlement.

The first establishment of a few persons at Swan River afforded an exercise for the ingenuity of the base and wicked, in holding up false lights, and drawing the adventurer upon shoals, where his fortunes were wrecked and his heart was broken; but the period has now happily arrived when such infamous practices must prove abortive.

It is not expected that converts to the cause of emigration will be made by the publication of the accompanying authentic documents; they constitute only a small, but certainly a very valuable portion of the history of the settlement. The ends hoped for are, by giving publicity to their contents, to disabuse the public mind of erroneous statements, circulated by interested foreigners, relative to Australia generally, and to assist those who already meditate the adoption of a new country, in forming a true estimate of the chances of happiness likely to attend their migration thither.

18, Holborn,

June, 1833.

  1. In a Pamphlet entitled "Hints on Emigration," &c. London. J. Cross, 1836.

This work is in the public domain in Australia because it was created in Australia and the term of copyright has expired.

See Australian Copyright Council - Duration of Copyright (August 2014).

This work is also in the public domain in the United States because it was in the public domain in Australia in 1996, and no copyright was registered in the U.S. (This is the combined effect of Australia having joining the Berne Convention in 1928, and of 17 USC 104A with its critical date of January 1, 1996.)