New Holland 13 March 1834
Extracts from Sturt’s Expedition in Southern Australia.
Since, therefore, it appears, from what has been advanced, that it is not to the westward the views of any settlers should be directed, excepting under particular circumstances, it remains for us to consider what other parts of the colony hold out, or appear to hold out, greater advantages.
The eye naturally turns to south the one hand, and to Port Macquarie northerly on the other.
It is to be remarked that the eastern shores of Australia partake of the same barren character that marks the other three. It is generally bounded to a certain extent by a sandy and sterile-tract.
There are, however, breaks in so prolonged a line, as might have been expected, where, from particular local causes, both the soil and vegetation are of a superior kind.
At Illawarra for instance, the contiguity of the mountains to the coast leaves no room for the sandy belt we have noticed, but the debris from them reaches to the very shore.
Whether from reflected heat, or from some other peculiarity of situation, the vegetation of Illawarra is of an inter-tropical character, birds that strangers to the county of Cumberland frequent its thickets.
There is no part of Australia where the feathered race are more beautiful, or more diversified.
The most splendid pigeon, perhaps, that the world produces, and the satin bird, with its lovely eye, feed there upon the berries of the ficus (wild fig,) and other trees: and a numerous tribe of the accipitrine class soar over its dense and spacious forests.
We again see a break in the sandy line of the coast at Broken Bay, at Newcastle, and still further north at Port Macquarie; at which places the Hawkesbury, the Hunter, and the Hastings severally debouche.
Of Port Macquarie, as a place of settlement, I entertain a very high opinion, in consequence of its being situated under a most favourable parallel of latitude.
I am convinced it holds out many substantial advantages. One of the most important of these is the circumstance of its having been much, improved when copied as a penal settlement.
And since the shores of the colony are now navigated by steam-boats, the facility of water communication would be proportionably great.
I believe the Five Islands or Illawarra district is considered peculiarly eligible for small settlers.
The great drawback to this place is the heavy character of its timber and the closeness of its thickets, which vie almost with the American woods in those respects.
The return, however, is adequate to the labor required in clearing the ground. Between the Five Islands and Sydney, a constant intercourse is kept up by numerous small craft; and a communication with the interior, by branch roads from the great southern line to the coast, would necessarily be thrown open if the more distant parts of it were sufficiently peopled.
Recent surveys have discovered to us rich and extensive tracts in the remote interior between Jervis Bay and Batemans Bay, and southwards upon the western slope of the dividing range.
The account given by Messrs. Hovel and Hume is sufficient to prove that every valley they grossed was worthy of notice, and the several rivers they forded were flanked by rich arid extensive flats.
The distance of Moneroo Plains, and of the Doomot* and Morumbidgee Rivers from Sydney, alarms the settler, who knows not the value of those localities; but men whose experience has taught them to set this obstacle at nought, have long depastured their herds on the banks of the last two.
The fattest cattle that supply the Sydney market are fed upon the rich flats, and in the grassy valleys of the Morumbidgee; and there are several beautiful farms upon those of the Doomot.
Generally speaking, the persons who reside in those distant parts, pay little attention to the comfort of their dwellings, or to the raising of more grain than their establishments may require; but there can be no doubt this part of the interior ought to be the granary of New South Wales; its climate and greater humidity being more favourable than that of Sydney for the production of wheat.
The most serious disadvantage under which the colony of New South Wales labours, is in the drought to which it is periodically subject.
Its climate may be said to be too dry; in other respects it is one of the most delightful under heaven; and experience of the certainty of the recurrence of the trying seasons to which I allude, should teach men to provide against their effects.
Those seasons, during which no rain falls, appear, from, the observations of former writers, to occur every tenor twelve years; and it is somewhat singular that no cause has been assigned for such periodical visitations.
Whether the state of the interior has anything to do with them, and whether the wet or dry condition of the marshes at all regulate the seasons, is a question upon which I will not venture to give any decisive opinion.
But most assuredly, when the interior is dry, the seasons are dry and vice versa.
Indeed, not only is this the case, but rains, from excessive duration in the first year after a drought, decrease gradually year after year, until they wholly cease for a time.
It seems not improbable, therefore, that the state of the interior does, in some measure, regulate the fall of rain upon the eastern ranges, which appears to decease in quantity yearly as the marshes become exhausted, and cease altogether, when they no longer contain any water.
A drought will naturally follow until such time as the air becomes surcharged with clouds or vapour from the ocean, which being no longer able to sustain their own weight, descend upon the mountains, and being conveyed by hundreds of streams into the western lowlands, again fill the marshes, and cause the recurrence of regular seasons.
The thermometer ranges during summer months, that is, from September to March, from 36° to 106° of Fahrenheit, but the mean of the temperature during he above period is 70°.
The instrument in the winter months ranges from 27° to 98°, with a mean of 66°.
However great the summer heat may appear, it is certain that the climate of New South Wales has not the relaxing and enfeebling effect upon the constitution, which renders a residence in India or other parts of the south so intolerable.
Neither are any of the ordinary occupations of business or of pleasure laid aside at noon, or during the hottest part of the day.
The traveller may cast himself at length under the first tree that invites him and repose there safely as if he were in a palace.
Fearless of damps, and unmolested by noxious insects, his sleep is as sound as it is refreshing, and he rises with renewed spirits to pursue his journey.
Equally so may the ploughman or the labourer seek repose beside his team and allow them to graze quietly round him.
The delicious coolness of the morning and the mild temperature of the evening air, in that luxurious climate, are beyond the power of description.
It appears to have an influence on the very animals, the horses and cattle being particularly docile; and I cannot but think it has some degree the same happy effect upon some of the hardened human beings who are sent thither from the old world.
As I have before observed, it has not yet been discovered whether there are any indigenous fruits of any value in Australia.
In the colony of New South Wales there certainly are none; yet the climate is peculiarly adapted for the growth of every European land of many tropical productions.
The orange, fig, the citron, the pomegranate, the peach, the apple, the guava, the nectarine, the pear, and the loquats grow side by side together.
The plantain its broad leaves over the water, the vine encircles the cottages, and the market of Sydney is abundantly supplied with every culinary vegetable. In climate, therefore, so soft that man scarcely left it but with regret, and so enchanting that few have acted upon, - and the heart feel lighter.
Such indeed, I have myself found to be the case; nor have I ever been happier that when roving through the woods or wandering along one of the silent and beautiful bays for which the harbour of Port Jackson is so celebrated.
I went to New South Wales as I have already remarked, highly prejudiced against it, both from the nature of service, and the character of the great body of its inhabitants.
My regiment has since quitted its shores, but I am aware there are few of them who would not gladly return.
The feeling I have in its favour arises not therefore, from the services in which I was employed but from circumstances in the colony itself; and I yet hope to form one of its community, and to join a number of valuable and warm-hearted friends whom I left in that distant part of the world,
* Tumut River