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No single navigator has hitherto contributed so largely to our knowledge of the Australian countries as captain Flinders: besides circumnavigating Van Diemen's Land, the coasts of some of which he minutely surveyed, he explored the whole southern coast of New Holland, much of the eastern coast, Torres' Strait, and the great Gulf of Carpentaria. His observations were lively and accurate, and he seldom failed to establish an intercourse with the timid and suspicious natives of Australia. Nor were extensive hydrographical surveys the only fruits of his voyages; he was accompanied in the Investigator by Mr. Robert Brown, who, as a philosophical botanist, is without an equal, and whose volume on the botany of New Holland is among the most valuable contributions to physical geography.
By the detention of captain Flinders in Mauritius, whereby he was prevented from publishing the narrative of his expedition, the French obtained the short-lived honour of anticipating him in a display of Australian discoveries. In 1801 two ships, the Geographe and Naturaliste, commanded by captains Baudin and Hamelin, were despatched by the first consul to complete the discovery of Terra Australis. No measures were neglected which could add brilliancy and ensure success to this expedition. Men eminent in every branch of science were attached to it; but its success was by no means proportioned to the care bestowed on its equipment, and the French officers effected much less than Flinders, notwithstanding the superiority of their vessels. They saw but little of the land. The ships often parted company, and lost their time in seeking the rendezvous appointed in case of these accidents, or in struggling with the adverse currents, in which they had imprudently engaged themselves. Their difficulties and disappointments have been ascribed to the obstinacy of the commander Baudin, who, as he died before the conclusion of the voyage, had no opportunity of vindicating his character from the charges brought against him. Peron, the naturalist, has written a narrative of the expedition, in which the name of the commander does not once occur. This writer did not under-estimate the difficulties of the undertaking : “Never had any navigator,” he says, “ Vancouver alone excepted, a more difficult undertaking. In fact, it is not voyages in the open ocean, however long they may be, that have in their train such misfortunes and shipwrecks; it is those which, confined to unknown shores and savage coasts, have continually new difficulties to encounter and new dangers to experience." These observations reflect much credit on Flinders, who executed so arduous a task with such inadequate means, rather than on the French, who, without encountering any of the difficulties here enumerated, gained but little knowledge of the coast. Peron, speaking of captain Flinders, who, it has been seen, had
been zealously pursuing Australian discoveries since 1795, conceitedly affirms, “That he was sent by the English government to rival our endeavours.” The French ship the Geographe, passing westward through Bass's Strait, met with Flinders, as we have seen, in Encounter Bay; and in his voyage on the southern coast from that point, did little more than change all the names hitherto imposed. To the extensive line of coast from Nuitz Land to Bass's Strait he gave the designation of Terre Napoleon: Spencer's and St. Vincent's Gulfs were named respectively Golfe Bonaparte and Josephine. In the same manner every island and cape received a French denomination.
On the western coast the French naturalist examined the Swan River, which had been discovered in 1697 by Vlaming, and was thus named by him from the great number of black swans which he saw there. It was not without difficulty that the French officers passed the bar of rocks which obstructs the mouth of the river; within, the depth of the stream rapidly increased: when they ascended a considerable way, the river expanded into a great basin, nearly a league wide, and almost every where extremely shallow. On climbing a hill near this part of the river, the French officers were charmed with the beauty of the prospect; on one side was discovered the upper course of the river, which descended from a range of flat mountains, in the distance, since called Darling's Range; and on the other were seen its windings down to the sea shore. The banks of the river appeared almost every where covered with beautiful forests, which extended a considerable way into the interior of the country; the soil was calcareous, composed of sand and shells, mingled in abundance with the remains of decayed vegetation.
The French officers, having passed several shoals, ascended the river about sixty miles, and found it to decrease rapidly in breadth, but to have still a depth of about eight feet, without any sensible variation. Want of provisions compelled them to return; in descending the stream they suffered much from exhaustion and the frequency of the shoals; their vexation was increased too by an inexplicable and rather ludicrous alarm. “In the midst of these increasing distresses and dangers," says M. Bailly,“ night came upon us suddenly, and we were preparing to land and dry ourselves, and to recruit our exhausted strength by a little rest, when all at once we heard a terrible noise that filled us with terror; it was something like the roaring of a bull, but much louder, and seemed to proceed from the reeds, which were very near us. At this formidable sound we lost all desire to go on shore; and, though benumbed with cold, we preferred passing the night on the water without food or being able to close our eyes, and suffering the whole time from
the rain and the weather.” No indication has yet been discovered of any large or formidable animal on the Australian continent beyond what is afforded by this strange story.
Sharks' Bay and the islands in its neighbourhood were diligently examined by the French, and in the Archipelago to the north many points were laid down by them with accuracy; but they were in general at too great a distance from land to form a continuous survey of the coast. The ravages of disease among their crews compelled the French ships to return before they effected any thing of importance. Of twenty-three men of science who embarked in the expedition only three returned to their native country, after performing the entire voyage. The kind and hospitable reception which the French navigators expérienced from the English colonists at Port Jackson is gratefully acknowledged by M. Peron, who expresses, in terms of enthusiastic admiration, his surprise at the prosperous appearance of the new settlement. “The population of the colony," he says, “ was to us a subject of astonishment and contemplation.”
INTERIOR OF NEW HOLLAND.
Captain King's Surveys.-Port Essington discovered.—The Malays.-The Alli
gator Rivers.-Melville and Bathurst Islands.-Apsley Strait examined.The North-West Coast.--York Sound.--Regent River.-Cunningham Inlet. -Exmouth Gulf.--Archipelago.-Unexplored Points.-Early Attempts to cross the Blue Mountains.-Failure of Bass and others.-Routes into the Interior discovered.-Oxley's Expedition down the Lachlan.-He reaches a great Morass.--Second Journey to explore the Macquarie.--The Country inundated.-Returns through a fine unexplored Country.-Discoveries of Captain Sturt.-The Murray River found to reach the Sea.-Discoveries of Hovell and Hume.-Progress of Colonization.-Settlement on Melville Island.-Colony at Swan River.-King George's Sound.-Port Western.-Van Diemen's Land.
The discoveries hitherto made on the coasts of Australia only served to increase the mysterious interest that invested the interior of the country; no great river, in short, had yet been discovered. During the continuance of the war little could be done to complete the task which Flinders had left unfinished; but among the numerous expeditions despatched from the shores of Great Britain on the restoration of peace, for the purpose of geographical discoveries, one was directed to survey the coasts of Australia. In four voyages, made between 1817 and 1822, captain Philip Parker King has made most important additions to our knowledge of the intertropical coasts of Australia. If we review the results of his expeditions in continuation of the discoveries of Flinders, the first object worthy of attention which presents itself, is a river of considerable size on the northern coast, which was named the Liverpool River. The discovery of Port Essington in the peninsula to the north of Van Diemen's Gulf, promises still greater advantages. “As a harbour, Port Essington is equal, if not superior, to any I ever saw ; and, from its proximity to the Moluccas and New Guinea, and its being in the direct line of communication between Port Jackson and India, as well as from its commanding situation with respect to the passage through Torres' Strait, it must, at no very distant period, become a place of great trade, and of very considerable importance.”
On the shores of Van Diemen's Gulf, captain King discovered several rivers of the same general character, and all named alike, from the alligators which swarmed within them. One of these rivers was examined by the boats to the distance of about thirty-six miles from the mouth, where the water was still two and a half fathoms deep. The banks were low, and thickly lined with mangroves, the country around being a level plain, occasionally diversified by some wooded hills, on which the palm tree was conspicuous. The physical character of these rivers, the sources of which must be distant, as they flow through a level plain apparently of great extent, seems to favour the conjecture that they are only the mouths of one large river, which divides itself, and reaches the sea through a sort of delta.
The gulf of the great bay of Van Diemen was discovered by three Dutch vessels, that sailed from Timor in 1705. They entered, but did not explore, it; and, up to 1818, its shores remained unknown. When captain King sailed out of it, he coasted the eastern shores of the northern Van Diemen's Land, which had hitherto been considered as a peninsula. He examined minutely the northern shores of this land; and on doubling Cape Van Diemen, its most northern point, he was surprised and delighted on discovering an inlet opening to the south, which appeared to be the mouth of a great river. Our voyagers entered it with the flood tide, and having advanced sixteen or seventeen miles, anchored in eleven fathoms. The banks being overrun with mangroves were nearly inaccessible. The country on both sides was low, and thickly wooded. The sago palm, the fan palm, and pandanus, were distinguishable among the ordinary trees of the Australian forests. Captain King and his companions entertained no doubt that they had discovered what had been long the object of anxious research on the Australian continent,--a river of considerable magnitude,—when, on advancing a few miles, the open sea suddenly appeared, and dispelled all their hopes, demonstrating that what they took to be a river
was but a strait. From further examination, it appeared that the Van Diemen's Land of old maps is in reality composed of two islands, separated by the narrow channel which had so cruelly deceived our navigators, and to which captain King gave the name of Apsley Strait. This strait is forty miles in length, and from one to three broad; the depth is generally from ten to thirteen fathoms; but at the southern extremity there are many shoals, and the channels are very intricate. Of the two islands, the largest, which is to the eastern strait, and is perhaps 200 miles in circumference, was named Melville Island; that to the west, which is not perhaps above half the size of the former, was named from Lord Bathurst.
Proceeding to the south-west from Clarence Strait, as the broad channel is called which separates Melville Island from the continent, the coast is generally low and uninviting in appearance. In lat. 15° captain King explored a deep inlet, to which he gave the name of Cambridge Gulf. Though at first it had the appearance of a great river, it was found to terminate at a distance of seventy miles from its mouth, in a few small streams of no importance.
The examination of the northern half of De Witt's Land was repaid by results of a more interesting nature. Here the country assumed a more bold and mountainous character, and the shore was indented with numerous deep bays and inlets. Some of these, such as Admiralty Gulf, York Sound, and Brunswick Bay, were carefully examined, and found to contain many excellent harbours. Brunswick Bay is an extensive sound, running about twenty miles inland, with good anchorage all over it. At the head of the sound was discovered Prince Regent's River, which, to use the language of captain King, “ is, without exception, the most remarkable feature of the north-west coast. In general the inlets of this coast form extensive ports at their entrance; and when they begin to assume the character of a river, their course becomes tortuous and very irregular. But Prince. Regent's River trends into the interior in a S.E.E. direction for fifty-four miles, with scarcely a point to intercept the view, after being thirteen miles within it.” At the fiftieth mile, a ridge of rocks, crossing this river, forms a rapid, above which the tide does not reach; but above the rapid the stream formed a beautiful fresh water river, of limpid clearness, and 300 yards in width. About a mile below the rapid it was joined by an inferior stream, which fell from a height of 140 feet; and though our voyagers visited this coast at the dry season, this cascade nevertheless made an imposing appearance. The marks of great floods were noticed upon the shores of the inlet; and the trunks of very large trees were seen thrown up to the height of twelve feet above high water mark. As the surrounding