CHAPTER 10. LATER EXPLORATION IN THE NORTH-EAST.

10.1. WALKER IN SEARCH OF BURKE AND WILLS.

Frederick Walker commenced his bush career as a pioneer squatter in the districts of Southern Queensland, but afterwards made his residence near the centre, where he joined the Native Police. He had long bush experience, was a firm believer in the training of the natives in quasi-military duty, and had taken a prominent part in the formation of the Queensland Native Police. On this relief expedition, the party was composed almost entirely of Native Police troopers under his leadership.

On receiving his commission, he pushed rapidly out to the Barcoo, and, near the Thomson River, came upon another tree marked L. This might have been made by Leichhardt. He ascended the main watershed, and crossed it coming down on to the head of the Flinders River. Here he experienced many hindrances arising from the rough basaltic nature of the country that borders the northern head-waters of that river. When he finally debouched upon the wide western plains, he crossed the Flinders, without recognising it as the main branch, in the search for which he went on northward. Approaching the Gulf of Carpentaria, he had several encounters with the aboriginals. As he neared the coast, the bend of the Flinders brought that river again across his route, and it was then that he came on some camel tracks, which assured him that the missing party, the object of his search, had at any rate reached the Gulf safely. On his outward way Walker may be said to have pursued a course parallel with that of the Flinders, a little further to the northward.

He pushed on to the Albert River, to replenish his provisions at the depot provided for the use of the various relief parties. He arrived there safely, after having had two more skirmishes with the blacks on the way. He reported the finding of the camel tracks, and having come to the conclusion that Burke and Wills had probably made for the Queensland settlements, he decided to follow them thither. He traced out a tributary of the Flinders, the Saxby, on his homeward route, but saw no more of the camel tracks, and finally crossed the water-shed on to the rough basaltic country at the head of the Burdekin. Here his horses suffered so severely from the rugged nature of the country, that by the time they reached Strathalbyn, a station on the lower Burdekin, the whole of the party were well-nigh horseless, as well as almost out of provisions.

Walker was afterwards engaged by the Queensland Government to mark out a course for a telegraph line between Rockingham Bay and the mouth of the Norman River in Carpentaria. This work he carried out successfully; but when at the Gulf, he was attacked by the prevalent malarial fever, and died there.

10.2. BURDEKIN AND CAPE YORK EXPEDITIONS.

The main portion of eastern Australia was now fairly well known; it had been crossed from south to north, and from east to west, and it was only the elongated spur of the Cape York peninsula that stood in urgent need of detailed exploration.

Amongst what may be called the minor pastoral expeditions of that period, was one conducted by G.E. Dalrymple, who penetrated the coastal country north of Rockhampton as far north as the Burdekin. In 1859 he followed that river down to the sea, and found that the mouth had been located further to the south than was really the case. His party then struck inland, examined the head of that river, and found the Valley of Lagoons. The following year another party, consisting of Messrs. Cunningham, Somer, and three others, explored the tributaries of the Upper Burdekin, and opened up several good tracts of pastoral country. The permanent running stream which flows through a rugged wall of basalt into an ana-branch of the Burdekin, was first noticed by this party, and called Fletcher's Creek.

Frank and Alec Jardine jointly led up the Cape York Peninsula an expedition that in its hardships and dangers emulated that of Kennedy's, but fortunately without a tragic ending. The year 1863 was one of great activity in the northern part of eastern Australia. At Cape York, the Imperial Government had, on the recommendation of Sir George Bowen, the first governor of Queensland, decided to form a settlement. John Jardine, the police magistrate of the central town of Rockhampton, was selected to take charge, and a detachment of marines was sent out to be stationed there. Somerset, the new settlement, was formed on the Albany Pass, opposite to the island of the same name. Jardine was to proceed by sea to his new sphere of office, but, anticipating the want of fresh meat at the proposed station, he entered into an arrangement with the Government whereby his two sons were to take a small herd of cattle thither overland, and on the way make careful observations of the land through which they were to pass. Somerset was situated near the scene of Kennedy's death, and knowing what tremendous difficulties that explorer had met with on the eastern shore, it was decided that the expedition should attempt to follow the western shore through the unknown country that faced the Gulf of Carpentaria. Both the Jardine brothers were quite young men at the time when they started on their exceedingly adventurous trip, which combined cattle-droving with exploration: Frank, the accepted leader, being only twenty-two years old, and his brother Alexander but twenty. Their father had come from Applegarth, in Dumfriesshire; they had both been born near Sydney, and had been educated by private tutors and at the Sydney Grammar School.

They took with them A.J. Richardson, a surveyor sent by the Government, Scrutton, Binney, Cowderoy, and four natives. The stock consisted of forty-two horses and two hundred and fifty head of cattle. The cheerful acceptance of this hazardous enterprise by these youths was a fine indication of adventurous spirit, and reflects great credit on their courage and the courage of the native-born. The fate of the last explorer who dared to face the perils of the Peninsula would have deterred any but the boldest from taking up his task.

Before the final start from Carpentaria Downs, then the furthest station to the north, supposed to be situated on Leichhardt's Lynd River, Alec Jardine made a trip ahead in order to secure knowledge of an available road for the cattle, and save delay in the earlier stages of the main journey. On this preliminary observational excursion, he followed the presumed Lynd down for nearly 180 miles, until he was convinced that neither in appearance, direction, nor position did it correspond with the river described by Leichhardt. On the subsequent journey with the cattle, this conviction was found to be in accordance with fact, for the stream was then proved to be a tributary of the Gilbert, now known as the Einnesleigh.

On the 11th of October the final start was made, and the party commenced a journey seldom equalled in Australia for peril and adventure. The head of the Einnesleigh was amongst rough ranges, and on the 22nd of the month they halted the cattle while they conducted another search for the invisible Lynd. They found other good-sized creeks, but no Lynd, nor did they ever see it. They afterwards found that, owing to an error in the map they had with them, the Lynd was placed 30 miles out of position. A misfortune happened at the outset of their expedition. In the morning a large number of horses were missing. Leaving some of the party to stay behind and look for them, the two brothers and the remainder went on with the cattle. On the second day they arrived at a large creek, without having been overtaken by the party with the missing horses and the pack-horses. After an anxious day spent in waiting, Alec Jardine started back to find out the cause of the delay. He met the missing party, who were bringing bad news with them. Through carelessness in allowing the grass round the camp to catch fire, half of their rations and nearly the whole of their equipment had been burnt. In addition, one of the most valuable of their horses had been poisoned. This terrible misfortune, coming at such an early stage of their journey when they had all the unknown country ahead of them, seriously imperilled the success of their undertaking. But there was nothing to do but to bear it with what equanimity they could muster.

The Cape York natives now seemed to rejoice that they had another party of white men to dog to death. Once about twenty of them appeared about sundown and boldly attacked the camp with showers of spears. Two days afterwards, they surprised the younger Jardine when alone, and he had to fight hard for his life. The creek they had been following down led them on to the Staaten River, where the blacks succeeded in stampeding their horses, and it was days before some of them were recovered.

On the 5th of December, they left this ill-omened river, and steered due north. Bad luck still haunted them; tortured by flies, mosquitoes, and sand-flies, their horses scattered and rambled incessantly. While the brothers were absent, searching one day for the horses, the party at the camp allowed the solitary mule to stray away with its pack on. The mule was never found again, and it carried with it, in its pack, some of their most necessary articles, reducing them nearly to the same state of deprivation as their determined enemies, the aboriginals. Two more horses went mad, through drinking salt water; one died, and the other was so ill that he had to be abandoned. On the 13th of December they reached the Mitchell River, not without having had another hot battle with the blacks, who followed them day after day, watching for every opportunity and displaying the same relentless hostility that they had formerly shown to Kennedy. Whilst the party were on the Mitchell, the natives mustered in force and fell upon the explorers with the greatest determination. After a severe contest, in which heavy loss had been inflicted upon the savages, they sullenly and reluctantly retired. From what was afterwards gathered from the semi-civilised natives about Somerset, these tribes followed the Jardines for nearly 400 miles. This perseverance and inappeasable enmity had been equalled before only by the Darling natives. It can be imagined how these incessant attacks, combined with the harassing nature of the country, gave the party all they could do to hold their own, and but for the prompt and plucky manner in which the attacks were met, not one of them would have survived.

After crossing the Mitchell, steering north, they got into poor country, thinly-grassed and badly-watered, with the natives still hanging on their flanks. On the 28th of December, the blacks began to harass the horses, and another hard struggle took place. Storms of rain now set in, and they had to travel through dismal tea-tree flats, with the constant expectation of being caught by a flood in the low-lying country.

In January, they had a gleam of hope. On the 5th they came to a well-grassed valley, with a fine river running through it, which they named the Archer. On the 9th they crossed another river, which they supposed to be the one named the Coen on the seaward side. But once across this river, troubles gathered thick again; the rain poured down constantly, the country became so boggy that they could scarcely travel, and to crown all their misfortunes, two horses were drowned when crossing the Batavia, and six others were poisoned and died there.

Fate seemed now to have done her worst, and the explorers faced the future manfully. Burying all that they could dispense with, they packed all their remaining horses and started resolutely to finish the journey on foot. On the 14th two more of their horses died, and the blacks once more came up behind to reconnoitre. As may be imagined, the whites were not in a patient humour, and this last skirmish was brief and severe.

On the 17th two more horses died from the effects of the poison plant. Fifteen only were left out of the forty-two with which they had started. They were now approaching the narrow point of the Cape, and found themselves on a dreary waste of barren country whereon only heath grew, and which was intersected with boggy creeks.

On the 10th of January, they caught a glimpse of the sea from the top of a tree, and on the 20th they were in full view of it. As they went on, they were entangled in the same kind of scrub that baffled Kennedy, and at last on the 29th, after some days of scrub-cutting, it was determined to halt the cattle, whilst the brothers should push on to Somerset in the endeavour to find a more practicable track. In the tangled, scrubby country through which they had passed, it had been difficult to form a true conception of the distance, and their estimate of twenty miles for the distance separating them from the settlement was much too short.

On the 30th of January, the two Jardines and their most trusted black boy, Eulah, started to find the settlement. For a time they were hemmed in by a bend of what they took to be the Escape River, but on getting clear of it, they were surprised to come to another large and swollen river, which apparently ran into the Gulf. This forced them to return. After a few days' rest, they made a second vain attempt. Hemmed in by impassable morasses and impenetrable thickets, in some places they were cut off from approaching even the river, by formidable belts of mangroves. In fact, the Jardine River, as it is now called, heads almost from the eastern shore, from Pudding Pan Hill in fact, Kennedy's fatal camp. It overlaps the Escape River, and after many devious windings and twistings, flows across the Cape out on to the Gulf shore.

It was not until the end of February that, on the subsidence of some of the flooded creeks, the brothers made a successful effort, and got into somewhat better travelling country. The next morning they came across some blacks who were eager to be on good terms, and hailed them to their surprise with shouts of "Franco; Allico; Tumbacco". These cries had been taught them by Mr. Jardine, who was getting anxious because of his sons' delay, and had done all he could think of to help them. He had cut a marked tree line, almost from sea to sea; and coached the local natives up in a few English words, so as to be recognised as friends. This last device succeeded admirably. From these newcomers, they selected three as guides, and the following day reached the settlement.

The rest of the party and the stock were soon brought into Somerset, where a cattle-station was formed. When we look back at the difficulties that beset the path of this expedition, and the unforseen disasters that befel them, one cannot help feeling the greatest admiration for the leaders and their conduct. In spite of the numberless treacherous attacks of the blacks to which they had been subjected, not a member of the band had been lost. They had fought their way through the same species of danger that had environed the unfortunate Kennedy, and had all lived to tell the tale. The Royal Geographical Society rewarded the labours of the two brothers by electing them Fellows of the Society, and by awarding them the Murchison medal.

Frank Jardine was for some period Government Resident at Thursday Island, whither the settlement has been removed; but of late he has resided at his own station at Somerset, and engaged in pearl-shelling. Alec entered the Queensland civil service, as Roads Engineer, and in that capacity did much important work in the construction of the roads of that State. In 1871 and 1872, he designed and constructed the road and railway-bridge over the Dawson River, and in 1890 he became Engineer-in-Chief for Harbours and Rivers.

But the scrubby and hilly nature of the country on Cape York militated against its speedy settlement, and it needed the lure of gold to induce men to risk their lives in a land with such hostile inhabitants. In 1872 the Queensland Government decided upon another exploration of the neck of land that forms the northern-most point of Australia. More than eight years had elapsed since the Jardines had made their dashing journey; but their report, coupled with Kennedy's fate, did not offer much temptation to follow up their footsteps. There was, however, a tract of country near the base of the Peninsula still comparatively unknown; and a party was organised and placed under the leadership of William Hann. Hann was a native of Wiltshire, who had come out to the south of Victoria with his parents at an early age. He was afterwards one of the pioneer squatters of the Burdekin, in which river his father was drowned. The object of the trip was to examine the country as far as the 14th parallel South, with a special view to its mineral resources. The discovery of gold having extended so far north in Queensland had raised a hope that its existence would be traced along the promontory. Hann had with him Taylor as geologist, and Dr. Tate as botanist, the latter being a survivor of the melancholy Maria expedition to New Guinea. Apparently his ardour for exploration had not been cooled by the narrow escape he had then experienced.

The party left Fossilbrook station on the creek of the same name, a tributary of the Lynd, north of the initial point of the Jardine expedition. Crossing much rugged and broken country, they found two rivers running into the Mitchell, and named them the Tate and the Walsh.

From the Walsh, the party proceeded to the upper course of the Mitchell, and crossing it, struck a creek, marked on Kennedy's map as "creek ninety yards wide." This was named the Palmer, and here Warner, the surveyor found traces of gold. A further examination of the river resulted in likely-looking results being obtained; and the discovery is now a matter of history, the world-wide Palmer rush to north Queensland being the result in 1874.

On the 1st of September, Hann reached his northern limit, and the next day commenced the ascent of the range dividing the eastern and western waters. A few days afterwards, he sighted the Pacific at Princess Charlotte Bay. From this point the party returned south, and came to a large river which he called the Normanby, where a slight skirmish with the natives occurred, the blacks having hitherto been on friendly terms. While the men were collecting the horses in the morning, the natives attempted to cut them off, each native having a bundle of spears. A few shots at a long distance were sufficient to disperse them, and the affair ended without bloodshed.

On the 21st of September, Hann crossed the historical Endeavour River, and upon a small creek running into this inlet, he lost one of his horses from poison. Below the Endeavour, the party encountered similar difficulties to those that dogged poor Kennedy's footsteps - impenetrable scrub and steep ravines. This went on for some days, and an attempt to reach the seashore involved them in a perfect sea of scrub, and necessitated the final conclusion that advance by white men and horses was impossible. Hann had reluctantly to make up his mind to return by the Gulf Coast, and abandon the unexplored ground to the south of him.

After many entanglements in the ranges, and confusion arising from the tortuous courses of the rivers, the watershed was at last crossed, and on the 28th of October they camped once more on the Palmer, whence they safely returned along their outward course.

The gold discoveries on the Palmer, and the rush caused thereby, coming soon after this expedition, led to a great deal of minor exploration done under the guise of prospecting; and it is greatly to the work of prospectors for gold that much of the knowledge of the petty details of the geographical features of Australia is due. To the courage and endurance of this class of settler, Australia owes a great debt, but their labours are unrecorded and often forgotten.