Extract from the 1824 Journal of Mr. Hamilton Hume

An Extract from the Journal of Mr. Hamilton Hume, written on a Tour through the interior to Bass' Straits, in the Year 1824.

The Sydney Herald

4 July 1831

"On the third of October, 1823, at the request of His Excellency, Mr.Thomas Brisbane, Mr. W. H. Hovell, and myself set out from the County of Cumberland, taking six servants, two carts, drawn by five bullocks, and four horses, and a supply of provisions for sixteen weeks.

Our instructions were to penetrate through the interior, to Bass' Straits. On the 21st we arrived at, and crossed the Murrumbidgee, (a river so called by the natives,) about 50 miles to the westward of Lake George.

(From the size of the Murrumbidgee, it was our opinion, that Mr. Oxley was under a mistake in supposing it to be the river Lachlan. The banks of the Murrumbidgee are in general high about this part, and composed chiefly of limestone and granite, the former containing numerous petrefactions. The openings of several caverns were also observed.)

Our course was now to the SW until the 27th the country then became too broken to admit of our proceeding farther with the carts, and we were compelled to abandon them, together with a part of the supplies, and trust solely to the pack saddles for the for the conveyance of the remainder.

We travelled to the SW over, chiefly, a high granite country, abounding with Kangaroos, and the animal called Wambat, until the 3d of November, when we crossed a river, nearly 30 yards in breadth, running North; it was named the Medway. [Note.-This river is called by the natives Doomot, or Toomot.] {Now known as the Tumut River tumuthistory.com}.

There are some rich alluvial plains along its banks. The country on each side of the river is mountainous; but it is covered with a good sward of grass.

This stream, we supposed, would at the distance of 30 miles join, or rather receive the waters of the Murrumbidgee, as that river appeared to take a W by N course, from the place at which we crossed. Granite of a dark green colour, (glossy), was met with on the summits of the lofty ranges; this sort of stone, from its flinty nature, very much injured the feet of the cattle.

On the 4th and 5th we ascended a high range of mountains, extending nearly North and South, parallel with the river. The strata, chiefly coarse granite. T

he timber, lofty, and very large. The top of the mountain was nearly level, forming what is generally called a Table Land. The basis of the soil, granite, clothed with a wiry sort of grass, and small scrub. Numerous small streams rise in these mountains and ran in various directions.

On the evening of the 6th, but with much difficulty, we descended the SW side of the mountain, into a hilly and broken country, thinly wooded. In making the descent, one of our bullocks was nearly killed, and a man much hurt.

Pheasants, and the black brush Kangaroo, called Wallaby, were plentiful about this part. From the summit of this range, high peaked mountains were seen at a considerable distance to the SSW.

On the 8th of November we were suddenly surprised by a sight, to the utmost degree magnificent:- Mountains of an immense height, and some part of them covered with snow, were seen extending from the SE to SW, (about 20 or 30 miles distant); the sun was bright, and gave them an appearance the most brilliant : they stretched away to the SW, and appeared to be topped with snow as far as the eye could reach.

They were named the White Mountains, or Australian Alps. [ Note -I have since been informed by some natives from those mountains, that the only food they can procure in the winter, in this high country, is the flesh of the Wambat, and the Wood Grub] Many natives' fires were seen at the foot of these mountains, and apparently in a fertile country.

Being now convinced from the mountainous appearance of the country to the SW, that it would be impossible to proceed further in that direction, we altered our course to W, passing at the base of the mountain we had descended on the 6th. The country was in general covered with a good sward of glass; and Kangaroos were frequently met with.

On the 11th, in consequence of deep and impassable gullies, we were obliged to alter our course to the NW, and ascend the mountain, from the craggy summit of which, another, but distant view was obtained of the Alps.

One of the snow topped mountains bore SE, and some others S, 15 degrees W, with a mountainous or broken country, extending from the last mentioned, bearing to S, 80 degrees W.

On the 12th we were clear of the mountains, having got into a good grazing country, thinly wooded. (Note. - This part was named Camden Forest, from its resemblance to the Cowpastures. Kangaroos were plentiful. The stones, (or strata), were of several kinds, but the greater portion granite.]

We now resumed our old course S W, with an open country in front; and on the 14th, passed a most singularly broken mountain, which was named Battery Mount.

We proceeded in the late mentioned direction, through a rich, open, and undulating country, until the 16th, when we arrived on the banks of a fine river in south latitude 36 east, longitude 147, about 80 yards broad, and in general deep, flowing at two or three miles an hour to the W N W; the water for so considerable a current was clear: this river was named the Hume.

Judging it unsafe (and I may say almost impassable in consequence of its great breadth,) to cross the river without the assistance of a boat; we determined on tracing it for 15 or 20 miles to the westward, in hopes of finding a shoal where we might be enabled to pass; but in this we were disappointed, and had to return and travel up the river to the east-ward for three days, until we got above the junction of a considerable stream.

This stream was named the Oxley, in compliment to the Surveyor General. The scenery along its banks is very picturesque, and the soil equal to any in the Colony being an alluvial deposit from the Snow Mountains. It is 30 yards in breadth, falling in on the south bank.

On the 21st both these rivers were crossed after much difficulty and risk, by means of a temporary boat made of a large tarpaulin; the frame of the boat was not unlike the crates commonly used for the package of crockery ware.

The river is serpentine, the banks are clothed with verdure to the waters edge, their height various, but seldom either more or less than 8 or ten feet.

Immense numbers of large birds of a new kind, having a long half-moon bill, were frequently met with on the extensive flats near the river, and it was observed that they fed chiefly on a kind of small lizard and spiders, &c. Mica state was frequently met with about the hills, and it was observed that the bed of the river, was in general composed of sand containing a good deal of mica.

On each side of the river is a perpetual succession of lagoons, extending generally in length from one to two miles backwards from the river, and about one fourth of a mile in breadth. The general appearance of the Country, together with that of the soil, is rich and beautiful; the flax plant and curryjong flourish here in abundance; from the bark of which the natives, who are numerous, make their nets, &c.

Water fowl of many kinds were plentiful on the river and lagoons, the timber is in general of the best quality, being blue gum, stringy bark, and white box.

The general course of this river appeared to be to the W N W, through a flat country, as no high land was visible in that direction. [Note. - At the place where we fell in with the river on the 16th, some peach-stones, clover, and other grass seeds were planted; and our initials and the date of the year were cut in a large gumtree. The large cod, and a very fine fish resembling a tench, were caught in abundance both in the rivers and lagoons.]

After passing the Hume, we continued our course to the S W, chiefly through a good country; the strata met with was principally granite and blue limestone. [Note. - On the banks of this river, an extensive agricultural settlement could be formed. The soil is alluvial, and I am led to believe, from the size of the river, that it is navigable to the sea.] On the evening of the 24th, we arrived at a pretty river nearly 100 feet in breadth, running to the N W through a very rich country; it was named the Ovens in compliment to the private Secretary; and is in south latitude 36 degrees, 40 minutes, and which must at no considerable distance join the Hume.

The Ovens was forded on the 25th, and we travelled over good land to the SW, until the 26th, when the Country became poor and mountainous, which compelled us to make about a WSW course, across collated ranges, until the 29th, when we ascended the main range, which formed another table land, and was well clothed with grass; the timber was of several kinds, immensely high and large, the soil generally a red loam. This mountain, and also some others we had passed, were inhabited with the animal called Wombat.

On the 30th we descended into a fine forest Country abounding with kangaroos; we proceed S W through an open country until the 3rd of December, when we arrived at a river 60 or 70 yards broad, in south latitude 37 degrees, east longitude 145 degrees, 30 minutes, which was named the Goulburn; its course, like all the other streams, was still to the WN W through a good open country. [Note. - The fall, decline, or dip of the country was invariably to the westward; and it was further observed, that most of the high lands terminated abruptly upon an even plain; the horizon to the N W, was at times unbroken.]

Having crossed the Goulburn, we continued our journey to the S W until the 8th, over a tract of fine country, thinly wooded, and well adapted for the depasturing of sheep, &c.

We were now obliged to change our course to the N W on account of a mountain, which was found, after many efforts, to be impassable in consequence of an impenetrable brush. This range was named Mount Disappointment; it is wooded much the same as the mountain at Illawarra. [Note. - From the nature of the soil on this mountain, and the luxurious growth of the native vine; I am of opinion it would be a fine place for the cultivation of the grape.]

On the 12th we resumed our journey to the S W, with an open country in front; some extensive plains were seen to the N W, and in that direction, the country was undulating and thinly timbered; the smoke of many native fires, was also seen to the westward.

On the 13th we ascended a main, or a dividing range, and saw at a distance of five or six miles, in a S S W direction, some extensive plains; which had a very superior appearance to any we had passed.

We encamped for the night in a fertile valley, on the bank of a small stream, running to the Southward. This stream was the first met with running in that direction.

On the 14th December, about nine o'clock in the morning, we reached the NE side of the plains that were seen last evening. [Note. - These were named Bland Plains, in compliment to Dr. Bland of Sydney. On the range, iron stone of good quality was found, being the first met with.]

We continued our journey to the SW, for 60 or 70 miles, (to the beach), passing over downs, beautiful beyond description; the soil good, it being a black and brown loam, well covered with a thick sward of grass and herbage, and in many places, the large sow- thistle was growing luxuriantly.

In several parts of the downs are small woods or forests, containing about 600, or perhaps 1000 acres; these clusters are generally distant from each other from 5 to 10, and 15 miles, and being so disposed throughout the downs, (the termination of which to the Westward was not ascertained), had a picturesque appearance, and presented to the eye a scene beyond my powers of description.

The downs were in general well watered by small rivulets, all of which run in a Southerly direction, and abound with fish and water fowl of many kinds.

On the evening of the 16th, we had the satisfaction to arrive at an extensive bay, or inlet, the water of which was perfectly salt, We travelled until dark, and finding no fresh water, stopped for the night in a small wood on the Northern bank, about half a mile from the beach, opposite to a point, or headland, bearing S by W, distant 4 or 5 miles, and which stretched a considerable distance into the harbour from the opposite side.

The land on the south shore, round from S by E to SW, was rather high, and partially wooded. The land to the northward and eastward is also high, with several apertures in the ranges.

The entrance from the sea, at least, the place which we supposed to be the entrance, bore by compass S by E, distant 15 or 20 miles; and in this direction the land was low, and a distant view of the ocean was obtained.

The most eastern part of this extensive inlet bare E by S, distant about 30 miles. The extreme point to the SW, bore SW by S, distant 6 or 8 miles.

The tide, we observed, rose 7 or 8 feet. The downs continued to the water's edge, and extended to the westward for many miles.

The recent track of natives was frequently observed, during the last two or three days; and from meeting with some of their old encampments, we were induced to believe, that they lived in the same slothful manner as those about the country we inhabit. [ Note. - Several tribes of natives were met with, but they invariably made from us, and what is remarkable, they in general ran up the highest hills.]

On the 17th, at 9 o'clock in the morning, we came to a stream of fresh water, near which we fell in with some natives, who at first gave us some reason to suppose they were hostile; we afterwards got on friendly terms with them.

On the banks of this stream we encamped, near to a small wood, the trees of which were Eucalyplus,

The natives remained with us the greater part of the day; and we very soon learnt, that these ancient Australians, were admirable adepts in the art of thieving.

At this stream a white cockatoo of a new kind, having a top knot of several colours, and a very singular note, was met with, and several other new birds.

During the time the natives stopped with us, I learnt from them the native names of several places in sight: - the harbour they called Geeloong - the downs,

Iramoo - and a remarkable high hill on the downs, a few miles to the N E, they informed me was called Wilanmarnartar. This mount would bear from the place I supposed to be the entrance or outlet of this extensive port, nearly N N W. The down extends to the northward and eastward of Wilanmarnartar upwards of 70 miles, and more than 20 miles to the westward.

In fact the end of these beautiful and rich plains to the westward was not ascertained; they varied in breath from 20 to 30 miles. [Note. - The plains here in formation, much resemble those of Bathurst; that is, an undulating surface; but the soil differs materially, being a black and brown loam; the strata is principally grey wacke, lime, and sandstone. The latter prevails on the banks of the rivulets, which are in general high.]

Two of the principal streams (of fresh water) flowing through the downs, we re-named the Arndell and Exe rivers; they are about the size of the Macquarie River at Bathurst. [Note. -eels were caught in these streams. The first found in any of the waters west of Goulburn Plains.]

The natives wished very much that we would accompany them two or three days journey to the W S W to another piece of water, similar (as they described it) to Geelong, and at which place, they informed us, there were some white men cutting down and squaring timber. These poor people gave a very clear account, we concluded that the party they described, must be a gang of sealers, or perhaps some runaways from Sydney.

We regretted that we could not proceed with them, and ascertain the truth of their story; but it was not in our power to continue the journey to the westward, as the whole supply of provisions now remaining was 250 lbs. of flour, and 10 lbs. of tea; - sugar we had none, in consequence of the loss we met with in crossing one of the rivers.

Animal food we had been without for some time, except what we procured with our guns. (A cask of pork having been left with the carts, and our dogs, with the exception of one, were lost and killed.)

This was our stock to support eight persons to Goulburn Plains, a journey upwards of 500 miles; and should wet weather have set in, God knows, how long we might have been in getting there.

To cross the rivers in time of flood would have been impossible, having no boat; we frequently & anxiously looked towards the entrance of the harbour in hopes to see some of the sealing vessels; but in this we were disappointed.

[Note. - Had the Government sent a small vessel round to have met us, with a supply of provisions, and which most certainly might have been done, as we had in the first instance been at almost the whole expense in fitting out the expedition; we should have been enabled to have remained a few days to rest our cattle, and then examine the country towards Spencers Gulf, - it being our opinion, from the direction most of the rivers we passed had taken, that the outlet of the waters would be found in that direction; but as we had now fully accomplished the Governor's instructions, we agreed under present circumstances, that our next movement should be homewards; and in consequence of our scanty supply of provisions, we would be compelled to make forced marches until we reached Goulburn Plains.

I must confess that I think it a singular circumstance, that so extensive and fine a country should remain unobserved by Captain Collins, during his residence at Port Phillip; and I am now of opinion, that as soon as it is known to the British Government, we shall, in a few years, see it one of the most flourishing parts of this Colony; as it possesses the chief advantages for an extensive agricultural settlement. There is adjoining a fine harbour, which is near the centre of our fisheries; at the lowest calculation, one million of acres nearly clear of timber, and fit for any purpose of agriculture or grazing - and access to a good and unlimited interior, is easy.]