Captain Sturtís Expedition to the Macquarie River
10 April 1829
Captain Sturts expedition of discovery.
Two letters have been recently received from this 'gentleman relative to the progress of his expedition. They are dated Mount Harris, 4th and 5th March respectively, and have appeared three times at full length in the Government Organ, from which we make the following abridgment: -
The expedition moved on the 26th December to the Macquarie Plains, where they were stopped by a barrier of reeds, and compelled to make the nearest part of the river on the left, when the boat was launched.
Mr. Hume proceeding westerly, struck into the channel, about 12 miles north of the position he had left. Two creeks were discovered, branching to the north-west and north-east, the termination of which was traced.
The waters which were perfectly sweet after running several courses, flowed to the north where a declination appeared. Here the party returned to the spot at which Mr. Oxley is said to have lost the channel of' the river.
In consequence of the obstacles thrown in the way of Mr. Hume's progress to the north, the party determined to ascertain the nature of the country to the east and west.
With this view they took a week's provisions and after a tour of ten days and upwards, during which period many, creeks and small streams were fallen in with, they found, that the Macquarie flowed for many miles through a bed and not a declining country, and unless in times of flood, had little water in it - consequently it loses its force before it can reach the formidable barrier that opposes its progress northward.
The breadth of ground subject to these sort of inundations is more than twenty miles, and its length considerably greater: thus at a distance of about 25 miles from Mount Foster, to the N. N. W., the river Macquarie ceases to exist; and at a distance of 60 miles, the marshes also terminate, though the country appears subject to extensive inundations, as shewn by the withered bullrushes, wet reeds, and shells, scattered on its surface. After this, the party proceeded over plains. Immediately, bordering the lower lands of the Macquarie, two creeks were crossed before they made the hills, which were called 'New Year's Range.'
The land about this spot appeared to be good and healthy. From this place Mr. Hume rode over to the S. W. Mountain, a distance of 40 miles, without crossing a brook or a creek. High land was discovered from this mountain, exceeding thirteen hundred feet in elevation.
Water could not be found, although anxiously sought after. The passage from the mountain being found impracticable to the westward, a north-west route was taken, in which a river was met with, flowing round an angle from the N. E. to N. W., and extending in longitude as far as the eye could see.
Numerous wild fowl and pelicans were seen on its surface, while the path on the banks was trodden down by the natives on both sides - the water, however, was found perfectly salt.
On the second day a numerous tribe of natives was fallen in with. After tracing this river for a considerable time, it was deemed advisable to return, in consequence of the want of fresh water. The country is stated to wear the appearance of barrenness, although much good and bad land was passed over.
Generally speaking, the timber is supposed to be bad. The rough gum may be useful for knees, and such purposes. No timber was discovered fit for general or household purposes. The intercourse the party had with the natives was incessant, and on all occasions they behaved remarkably well.
Finally, Captain Sturt states his apprehension that the expedition will not prove of any ultimate benefit, although it has been the means by which two very doubtful questions, the course of the Macquarie, and the nature of the interior, have been solved; for it has been ascertained that the interior, for two hundred and fifty miles beyond its former known limits to the W. N. W., so far from being a shoal sea, is to all intents and purposes a bulk land, and has scarcely sufficient water on its surface to support its inhabitants.
The next route intended to be taken by the party was in a N. E. direction towards the Castlereagh, intending to trace that river down, and afterwards to penetrate to the northward and westward as far as possible.