Trifling Geographical Errors
20 October 1832
On perusal of the Sydney Herald of the 1st instant, my attention was drawn to that part of the leading article where it alludes to "a district of country hitherto unknown; and which when a small portion was opened up nearly ten years ago, by those enterprising travellers Messrs Hovell and Hume, excited the liveliest interest and expectation."
Now Sir, as I am a resident of that very delightful country called Yass, a small portion of which those travellers discovered, and which is now tolerably thickly inhabited, I may perhaps be allowed to know a little of the subject on which I am about to write.
The small portion aluded to by the Editors, extending from Lake George (the place I understand from which Messrs H. and H. took their departure) to Port Phillip, exceeds as I am informed, 500 miles, and with the exception of the mountains, all of it a very fine pastoral country.
It appears to me however, the writer of the article is not well acquainted with the subject which he treats of, for on speaking of the Murrumbidgee River, he asks "why the discoveries of Captain Sturt have not been followed up, by entering at its mouth and tracing it to its source?" I answer, that he launched his boats as soon as he found it to be navigable, and went with its stream to the only outlet into the sea, through the Lake Alexandria.
On tracing it upwards from the place where he took to the boats, there is scarcely a mile of it but what is known to many persons here, to its very sources, which pass through the Downs of Manura to the coast mountains, about 30 miles in a direct line from the sea. One of them takes its rise at the back of Two Fold Bay.
Captain Sturt I have no doubt, did all which his means would allow; as he knew well when he arrived at the Lake, that he was then at the place where, previously to his leaving Sydney, he was told by the late Mr. Duncan Forbes, he would arrive at.
Mr. Forbes had commanded a schooner on that coast, employed in sealing, and his boats had been into the Lake, or swamp, whatever it may be, and that the only entrance was, the one described by Captain Sturt.
The entrance is accessible only for small boats, and not even to those without risk. To the sealers residing on Kangaroo Island, this Lake has been known many years.
They state it to be at times very shallow. By a reference to Flinders' charts, the Editor will find, that a range of low mountains (a part visible 20 leagues at sea) extends from Cape Jervis to a considerable distance beyond the head of the gulf of St. Vincent, and which separates the Gulf from the Lake.
I will now point out another part which shows the Editors unacquainted with their subject. They are aware, I suppose, that Captain Sturt could not get afloat on the Murrumbidgee, nearer to Sydney, than he did.
There is no getting up the Lachlan, or the Macquarie, and the course of the Darling I presume to be, nearly SW and NE. taking its rise where Major Mitchell was misled by the bushranger Clarke.
Therefore, from 400 to 500 miles is the nearest it is possible to get to a navigable part of the Rivers; yet he gives the colonists to understand how much they have to regret the loss of the future benefits that were to accrue from Captain Barker's discoveries!
"Whether these be immediate and easy access from the sea almost to the Blue Mountain behind Sydney, or whether the river he closed up by an impenetrable barrier of land and rock," &c.
What good was to arise from Captain Barker's sailing about the lake, or swamp, for a day or so, I must confess to be ignorant of; as much so as many persons who speak of Port Lincoln, and those too that ought to know a little of the geography of their adopted country, and who suppose it to be somewhere adjoining, or very close to the above-named lake; instead of knowing it to be at the entrance on the west side of Spencer's Gulf.
I cannot comprehend what the editors mean, when speaking of removing the Bar at the mouth of the Murray.
He surely does not mean the lake, and all the streams which empty themselves into it, and the entrance into it from the sea, to be all of that name?
And the reef of rocks which runs across the entrance, to be blown into the air; for, without the rocks are removed, they will always be a bar to a settlement being formed there.
The following passage is a bar to my comprehension- "The discovery of the mouth of the Murray, and the settlement of the question, whether that stream is accessible from the sea, or locked up by the land, are points which should not be left unsettled, since a great portion of our future importance as a Colony, will depend on the issue. If it is navigable for a thousand miles, and open at its mouth, a settlement may be formed at no distant day."
Captain Sturt tells us very plainly, that the Murray empties its waters into the lake. I will mention another bar to the settlement being formed at the place he proposes, viz the outlet lies at the bottom of a very deep and wide indent of the land, called Encounter Bay, into which the wind blows strong from the SW eight months in the year at least, and a very heavy swell also rolls in; these circumstances, coupled with the bar across the entrance, will be a sufficient bar to the Editor's speculation of forming a settlement where they desire it.
It will take up too much room in your columns to follow the writer, through his article. Suffice it to say, the whole is faulty, and that he is not acquainted with the subject he writes on.
I have no doubt his object is, to draw the attention of Government to making further discoveries, or following up those of Messrs Hovell and Hume, and Captain Sturt; or perhaps what would be better; if the Government be disposed to make further discoveries around the lake, and the gentlemen to whom the editor alludes to, (but I know of only one that accompanied Captain Sturt down the Murrumbidgee,) would undertake to follow up the second series of adventures for a similar purpose, I would advise him to be on his guard when he arrives on the margin of the lake, nearest to the Gulf of St. Vincent, or the party may be taken by the natives, who in consequence of their wives being stolen from them by the sealers at Kangaroo Island, &e, or stolen by the natives near to Cape Jervis, (and afterwards bartered away), will most likely cut them off.
I will merely say in conclusion, what I have heard repeatedly spoken of by others; that Captain Sturt did not act with that courtesey towards Messrs Hovell and Hume, (the first travellers through this fine country) in renaming the streams which they had crossed on their journey to Port Phillip, and which in their charts, by calling the "Hume" the "Murray," and another stream, first known by the name of the Goulburn, but afterwards named the Hovell, but which Capt S. called the "Linsdsey." Both streams he had been told (I believe by Mr. Hume,) he was most likely to fall in with in due course; and as that information proved correct, it was illiberal to deprive the streams of the names of the original discoverers.
Pleading an apology for occupying so much room in your columns.
I remain Sir, your very obedient servant.
An Observer Gundaroo River near Yass, 7th Oct. 1832.