« AnteriorContinuar »
In the course of the expedition, they met with tracks of the natives, and on several occasions encountered individuals or parties of the natives themselves. These, when not friendly, usually confined their demonstrations of hostility to wild outcries, or such attempts as were easily warded off
. On the night of June 28th, however, the camp was attacked, just after dark, by a band of natives, and one of the party mortally, and two others very severely, wounded.* A timely discharge of the guns of the black-fellows, Charley and Brown, put them to flight, and they gave no further trouble. This was their first misfortune in a journey already exceeding a thousand miles. Dr. Leichhardt's surgical skill was of great service to his companions, who recovered very rapidly. The body of the unfortunate traveller was buried in the wilderness, and the funeral service of the English Church read over it, — a melancholy proof of the presence of civilized man.
On the 5th of July, nine months after leaving the last outpost of the colony, they made the joyful discovery of salt water. But here our traveller must speak for himself.
“ The first sight of the salt water of the gulf was hailed by all with feelings of indescribable pleasure, and by none more than by myself; although tinctured with regret at not having succeeded in bringing my whole party to the end of what I was sanguine enough to think the most difficult part of my journey. We had now discovered a line of communication by land between the eastern coast of Australia and the gulf of Carpentaria : we had travelled along never-failing, and, for the greater part, running waters; and over an excellent country, available, almost in its whole extent, for pastoral purposes. The length of time we had been in the wilderness had evidently made the greater portion of my companions distrustful of my abilities to lead them through the journey ; and, in their melancholy conversations, the desponding expression, “ We shall never come to Port Essington,' was too often overheard by me to be pleasant. My readers will, therefore, readily understand why Brown's joyous exclamation of · Salt water !' was received by a loud hurrah from the whole party, and why all the pains, and fatigues, and privations we had endured were, for the moment, forgotten, almost as completely as if we had arrived at the end of the journey."
pp. 318, 319.
* A similar misfortune occurred in Captain Blackwood's expedition, one of his sailors being speared by the natives; and Captain Stokes himself received a wound which had nearly proved mortal.
Their course was now for some time to the southward, around the gulf, though generally at a considerable distance from it; then to the westward, and lastly in an oblique direction to the northwest. But a bare geographical statement conveys no idea of the hardships which they had to encounter. Five months of painful journeying are more easily counted on the fingers of travellers at home," than the weary hours and days of lengthening toil and privation by those who must bear them. The want of water was sometimes severely felt ; and the stock of luxuries, for such they had become, grew very low. We find this entry under September 22 :
to We had pot of tea, and were now fairly put on dry beef and water.” Early in August, the expedition crossed the “ Plains of Promise," as Captain Stokes had called the extensive level at which he abandoned the exploration of the river Albert. On the 16th of October, they lost their kangaroo dog, through whose means they had procured nearly all their game. They had become greatly attached to the poor creature, and felt his loss keenly.
“Mr. Calvert and Charley returned on our tracks to endeavour to recover our poor dog. They found him almost dead, stretched out in the deep cattle track, which he seemed not to have quitted, even to find a shady place. They brought him to the camp ; and I put his whole body, with the exception of his head, under water, and bled him; he lived six hours longer, when he began to bark, as if raving, and to move his legs slightly, as dogs do when dreaming. It seemed that he died of inflammation of the brain. If we become naturally fond of animals which share with us the comforts of life, and become the cheerful companions of our leisure hours, our attachment becomes still greater when they not only share in our sufferings, but aid greatly to alleviate them. The little world of animated beings, with which we moved on, was constantly before our eyes ; and each individual
; the constant object of our attention. We became so familiar with every one of them, that the slightest change in their walk, or in their looks, was readily observed ; and the state of their health anxiously interpreted. Every bullock, every horse, had its peculiar character, its well defined individuality, which formed the frequent topic of our conversation, in which we all most willingly joined, because every one was equally interested. My readers will, therefore, easily understand my deep distress when I saw myself, on recent occasions, compelled to kill two of our favorite bullocks long before their time ; and when our poor dog died, VOL. LXVI. NO. 139.
which we all had fondly hoped to bring to the end of our journey. Brown had, either by accident, or influenced by an unconscious feeling of melancholy, fallen into the habit of almost constantly whistling and humming the soldier's death march, which had such a singularly depressing effect on my feelings, that I was frequently constrained to request him to change his tune." pp. 438, 439.
A more serious accident befell them. On the 21st of October, three of their best horses were drowned, and Dr. Leichhardt was obliged to leave behind the greater part of his valuable botanical collection. " The fruit,” he says, " of many a day's work was consigned to the fire ; and tears were in my eyes when I saw one of the most interesting results of my expedition vanish into smoke.” The loss was the more severe, as the long duration of the expedition had furnished him with blossoms, fruit, and seed. But they were now approaching the close of their toils. The first sign of the neighbourhood of their own race was the appearance of a fine looking native, “who stepped out of the forest with the ease and grace of an Apollo, with a smiling countenance, and
a with the confidence of a man to whom the white face was perfectly familiar.” He was soon joined by another native. The amazement of the travellers was more than equalled by the inexpressible joy with which they heard this Australian Samoset utter, with a somewhat incoherent display of his attainments as a linguist, the words, “ Commandant !” “Come here!" " Very good !” “What's your name ?" were electrified,” says Dr. Leichhardt, “and I was ready to embrace the fellows.” Continuing their route, they arrived, on the 17th of December, upwards of sixteen months after their departure from Sydney, at Victoria, the English establishment at Port Essington, with eight horses and old Redmond, the only surviving bullock, who had been carefully spared, and would now, as the most thoroughly travelled civilized bullock of modern times, be deemed a jewel by our Carters and Van Amburghs. Well might Leichhardt write,
“ I was deeply affected in finding myself again in civilized society, and could scarcely speak, the words growing big with tears and emotion; and even now, when considering with what small means the Almighty had enabled me to perform such a long journey, my heart thrills in grateful acknowledgment of his infinite kindness."
His appearance at Sydney, in the following March, was hailed like the return of one from the dead. The colonial Muse hastened to redeem her error by an effusion of “spirited verses”; and private contributions were raised to the amount of £ 1500, to which the government now added £ 1000. His merits have been also duly appreciated in Europe; the Royal Geographical Society of London has awarded him the queen's gold medal, and he has received a similar acknowledgment from the Royal Geographical Society of Paris.
Such has been the successful termination of one of the nost hazardous enterprises of discovery ever undertaken. What difficulties its leader had anticipated, more trying and severe than those which he really encountered, it is not easy to conjecture; but we have his assertion that these had not equalled his expectations. We trust that this will not prove his only disappointment of the kind. It is impossible to dismiss his volume without an expression of admiration for the simplicity and manly modesty which everywhere characterize this narrative of trials and sufferings of no common severity.
A few weeks before his return, the scruples of the colonial executive being at last removed by advices from England, Sir T. Mitchell set out on his expedition from Fort Bourke. Of this enterprise, a full narrative of which is about to be issued from the London press, we have a condensed journal in the despatches to the government, which Dr. Lang has printed in an Appendix. We learn from these, that this accomplished traveller has met with highlands in the interior of the country, which form a division of the waters, and has discovered near the tropic an important river, Aowing through downs and plains, seemingly sufficient, as he says, to supply the whole world with animal food. To this river, which, as he supposes, has its estuary in the gulf of Carpentaria (though Leichhardt's experience may render this doubtful), he gave the name of his “gracious sovereign,” Victoria.
How the question of title is to be adjusted between this namesake of the queen and the river discovered and so named by Wickham and Stokes on the western coast remains to be seen. By the important results of this expedition, Sir T. Mitchell has made a large addition to his previous claim of having travelled over nearly a seventh part of the continent.
The farthest longitude attained by Mitchell being between
144o and 145° E., and the extent of the continent from east to west reaching from 1530 to 113° E. longitude, it is
apparent that by far the greater part of the interior of the country was still unexplored. A bolder enterprise yet remained ; and near the end of 1846, before Mitchell's return, Dr. Leichhardt, less dismayed by the hardships than encouraged by the success of his recent enterprise, started again, with the intention of crossing the continent in the latitude of the tropic, and falling down upon the colony of Swan River in Western Australia ; his train consisted of six whites, two native blacks, one of whom was Harry Brown (our old friend, we presume), fourteen horses, sixteen mules, and a large stock of goats, sheep, and cattle. If his own expectations are realized, the journey will occupy two years and a half. Where he is now, it would be of little use to conjecture.