1846 - Thomas Livingstone Mitchell
First View from Mount First View
30th April.-Obliged to keep at some distance from the river, I came upon open forest land, where gentle undulations took the place of the rugged gullies. Thus we travelled over a beautiful country, due north, with sufficient indications of the river on our right, in the slopes that all fell to that side. There were ponds in some hollows, and we made the river itself at various parts of our route. At length, where it bit on a high scrubby bank, I again proceeded northward, and came upon a large lagoon, sweeping round to S. W. and S. S. W., further than we could see. It had on its surface numerous ducks, and a large encampment of native huts appeared at one end. We encamped by this lagoon, in latitude 27° 20' S. Again vast plains and downs to the N. E. were seen by Dicky, our youngest native, from a tree. Thermometer, at sunrise, 27°; at 4 p. m., 65°; at 9, 43°.
1st May.- On leaving the lagoon, passing between its head and the river, we were soon enveloped in a thick scrub of Casuarinae, on ground broken into gullies falling to the river. I tried to pass by the lower margin of this, but gullies in the way obliged me to ascend and seek a passage elsewhere. Forcing our way, therefore, through the scrub and out of it we found outside of it, in an open forest, the box and Angophora, and could go forward without impediment, first to the N. W., afterwards northward, and N. E. At length the woods opened into fine grassy plains, bounded on the east by trees belonging to the river berg. There I saw still the trees we had so gladly got away from, the Casuarina; also the cheering white arms of the Yarra, or blue gum. The prospect before us improved greatly; fine plains presented a clear way to the northward, with the river apparently coming thence, and even round from the N.W. From a tree, Yuranigh descried hills in the N.E. and the plains extending before us. I also perceived, from the wide plain, a distant low rise to the N. W. We crossed two hollows on these grassy plains, each containing deep ponds, and descended towards what seemed a branch of the river; we encamped near it, in latitude 27° 15' 4" S. As we approached this spot, natives were seen first looking at us, and then running off - Yuranigh said he recognized one of them as a countryman of his own. I endeavoured to make him cooey to them, or call them, but they made off, setting fire to the grass. Any information from natives of these parts might have been very useful to us then, and I hoped they would at length come to us. Thermometer, at sunrise 72.6°; at 4 p. m., 62°; at 9p.m., 48°; - with wet bulb, 46°.
2d May. - There was a decided difference between the river we were now upon, as well as the country along its banks, and the large river by which we had travelled so far. This was undoubtedly but a small tributary, as its direction seen this day showed, being from the westward, while its waters, meandering in various narrow channels amongst plains, reminded us of some of the finest parts of the south. Which was the principal channel, and which to cross, which to travel by, was rather difficult to determine. The country was very fine. These water courses lay between finely rounded grassy slopes, with a few trees about the water's edge, marking their various courses at a distance. A considerable breadth of open grassy plain, intervened between this river and the woods back from it. At length, sloping, stony bergs came near the river's bed, but there the smooth naked water-worn clay was the best ground we could have for wheels, and we thus hugged each bend of the river, passing close to the channel. I hoped thus to find plains on the next change of the river's course. And so it turned out for some way, but the receding bergs guided me, even when only seen at a considerable distance, in shaping my course. Keeping my eye on their yellow slopes, I travelled far along a grassy flat which brought me to a lake containing water like crystal, and fringed with white lotus flowers. Its western shore consisted of shelving rock. An immense number of ducks floated on its eastern extremity. From this lake, following a grassy flat to the N. W., we at length reached the river, or rather its bed, seared into numerous channels. The lake, and long flat connected with it, appeared to me more like the vestiges of a former channel, than as the mere outlet of surplus waters; nor did it seem that the water is now supplied from the floods of the river. I followed this a few miles further, and then encamped just beyond, where much gravel appeared in the banks. While the men were erecting the tents, I rode some miles to the westward, and found an open iron-bark forest covering it, with much luxuriant grass. This was rather peculiar, as compared with any other part passed through. It was also undulating; and, from a tree ascended by Yuranigh, it was ascertained we were approaching mountains, as he saw one which bore 77°, also a hill to the eastward, in which latter direction (or rather in that of 333°), he saw also an open country. Thermometer, at sunrise, 47°; at 4 P. m., 62°; at 9 p. m. 57°; mean height above the sea, 694 feet.
3rd May.- Natives were heard near our camp during the night, and we perceived the smoke of their fires, in the bushes, behind in the morning. Yuranigh went up to them, accompanied by one of the party bearing a green branch, and he prevailed on three of their tribe to come to our tents. One stood amongst the carts and tents, apparently quite absorbed in observation. Intense curiosity in these men had evidently overcome all their fears of such strangers. They were entirely naked, and without any kind of ornament or weapon, offensive or defensive. With steady -fixed looks, eyes wide open, and serious intelligent countenances, what passed in their minds was not disguised, as is usual with savages. On the contrary, there was a manly openness of countenance, and a look of good sense about them, which would have gained my full confidence, could we but have understood each other. They asked for nothing, nor show any covetousness, although surrounded by articles, the smallest of which might have been of use to them. There must be an original vein of mind in these aboriginal men of the land. O that philosophy or philanthropy could but find it out and work it! Yuranigh plied them with all my questions, but to little purpose; for although he could understand their language, he complained that they did not answer him in it, but repeated, like parrots, whatever he said to them. In the same manner, they followed me with a very exact repetition of English words. He, however, gathered from them that the lake was called "Turánimga", this river "Cogoon", a hill to the eastward "Toolumbá", &c. They had never before seen white men, and behaved as properly as it was possible for men in their situation to do. At length we set out on our journey, and in mounting my horse, which seemed very much to astonish them, I made signs that we were going to the mountains.
Travelling by the river bank was easy, over grassy forest land. The deep ponds were tolerably well filled, but the quantity of water was small, in comparison with that in the Balonne; which the natives seemed to say we had left to the right, and that this was "one of its brothers". Malga scrub crowned the bergs of the river, where they bounded one of these forest flats forming its margin, and the mere sight of that impervious sort of scrub was sufficient to banish all thoughts of making straighter cuts to the north-west. Our course, with the river, was, however, now rather to the west of north-west; and that this was but a tributary to the Balonne, was evident. That river line, as traced by us, pursued a tolerably straight direction between the parallel of 29° and 27°, coming round from nearly north-east to about north. For these last three days we had travelled with this minor channel, to the westward of north-west; in which direction I had, therefore, good reason to expect that we should soon find mountains.
As soon as we arrived at an eligible spot for the camp, I proceeded, with Yuranigh, towards a height presenting a rocky face, which I saw through the trees, and seemed distant about two miles. From that crest, I perceived woody ridges on all sides, but all apparently sloping from the south-west; and a misty valley beyond the nearest of them in the northeast, like the line of the Balonne. But the most interesting sight to me then, was that of blue pics at a great distance to the north-west, the object of all my dreams of discovery for years. No white man had before seen these. There we might hope to find the divisa aquarum, still undiscovered; the pass to Carpentaria, still unexplored: I called this hill Mount First View, and descended, delighted with what I had seen from its rocky crest.
Journal of an Expedition into the Interior of Tropical Australia, in Search of a Route from Sydney to the Gulf of Carpentaria
London 1848, Reprint New York 1969