EJANZH: Hulme Chapter Five

Volume 5

Famous trip up the Murray River, 1856 The ‘Leichardt’ Chinese to Albury Over the Bar Meetings with Aborigines Making wood Moira Station

With the exception of our having lost flesh (for we were all thin enough) we were all in a fair way to regain our strength again but we were in no hurry to leave again. The ‘Jenny Lind’ shipped a new crew and loaded for Lauceston, Van Diemen’s Land (Tasmania).

As we got stronger we spent about half our time in the city. Traveling between the Port and City was now changed for the better, the stages were all gone and replaced by the new railroad that had been built from the Port and now had been extended from the city through Gawler to Burra Burra and from there on to Kooringa, having crossed the extensive Kooringa Plains. So that the wool from all that large sheep grazing country now came down to the Port by railroads as well as the copper ore from the Burra Burra Mines, while the mines at Mount Barker in the Gawler district bid fair to rival the Burra Burra in the output of copper.

But the one topic that now seemed to occupy public attention the most was the opening of the River Murray running through a part of South Australia and forming the boundary line between that Colony and the Colony of Victoria and also the boundary line between Victoria and New South Wales right up to its headwaters in the Snowy Range of mountains.

About the time I returned to the Colonies in the schooner ‘Swallow’ from the Mauritious a Captain Cadell, captain of a barque called the ‘Queen of Sheba’, a little barque engaged in the China trade, became interested in the projects then under way and resigned his command in the ‘Queen of Sheba’ and entered the employ of the Murray River Steam Navigation Company, who were then building two small boats at a small town called Goolwa distant about twelve miles up the river from its mouth where the river empties into the ocean at or rather about five miles from Port Elliott in Encounter Bay; the lower part of the River being considered impassable for either steam boats or anything else as the mouth of the River and for ten miles up was all full of quick sands that were shifting with every tide, but from Port Elliott to Goolwa was only about five miles and the two places connected by a horse railroad; and Port Elliott forming the shipping point for the lower part of the Murray from which source there had already sprung up an extensive trade during the winter season; Port Elliott being the nearest shipping point for all that tract of country lying around the lower Murray and around Lake Alexandrina, a shallow lake about thirty miles wide through which the channel of the Murray River passes.

As the winter season was now close at hand all the navigation enterprises connected with the river were being pushed ahead. During the present summer Captain Cadell had been sent up the river by the Company he was working for to make notes of the river in its lower stages and to form business relations with some of the most influential settlers on the River and prepare them for the next winter’s trade. He had been provided with a light built boat fitted with paddles to be worked by hand with a crane in the middle of the boat. The programme mapped out for him was that he should try and go through to the town of Albury; but they had not rightly estimated the difficulties to be overcome nor the extent of the services he was expected to perform with that cockle shell of a sixteen foot gig with four men only for the motive power to ascend a river of such magnitude as I afterwards found it to be.

About the time the Murray River Steam Navigation Company was formed there were certain other Adelaide capitalists figuring on the Murray River trade and made a contract with a ship-building firm in Liverpool, England, for a light draft boat of two hundred tons, an iron boat to be sent out to Adelaide in pieces and put together there.

We had been ashore about two weeks and had regained our strength and felt as well as ever when this new boat was ready for launching. We went down to the yard on the appointed day and saw her launched, a young daughter of one of her Owners performing the christening ceremony naming her the ‘Leichhardt’ after Dr. Leichhardt the German Explorer who had lost his life some time previous exploring Central Australia which was even at this date unknown territory and this was February 15th, 1856.

The man who was going as engineer of her boarded at Harry Williams’ and it was through him that we got interested in the boat. While in conversation with him after the launch he told us that the engines were set up and that by the time the boat was fitted out the machinery would be all ready, adding that if we felt like going in her we had better speak to the 0ld Man who he pointed out to us as Captain McCoy, an old Hobarttown Whaling captain and this was his first command of a steamboat.

Waiting until we found him disengaged, we asked him if he had shipped his crew yet. ‘No,’ he replied, ‘and I want three men to go to work to-morrow morning’. Myself and Charley Beattie promised to be on hand the following morning and bring another man with us – wages six pounds per month.

We had no difficulty inducing Gleeson to go in her for in our talks about the new boat at different times he had always spoken as though he would like to make a fresh water voyage, no danger of going on an allowance of water there.

So the following morning saw us aboard the ‘Leichhardt’ and reported ready for duty, and while carpenters were to work finishing the interior arrangements of the cabin and building bunks and bunk heads in the forecastle, the three of us with the mate, a sandy complectioned Scotchman whom we heard called Mr. MacGreggor, went to work and rigged shears and took on her Fore mast and got the rigging over and set up, it was only a small stub spar to set on if needed, a small fore and aft sail.

Next day we shifted the shear legs and took in a similar spar for a main mast and got the sails bent and as soon as they were in there was to be a trial of her engines which was done by a run down the River to the Gulf and about two miles out to an American barque called the ‘Jamestown’, lying to anchor. And now we could see the reason of their being in such a hurry to get the boat ready to start. The ‘Jamestown’ had 320 Chinamen passengers from Shanghai, and the owners of the ‘Leichhardt’ had secured those Chinamen as passengers to take them up the River to Albury.

After staying alongside the Barque a few minutes we ran back to the port and alongside the Central wharf and commenced right away to take in freight consisting altogether of Digging supplies intended for the Beechworth and Ovens Gold-fields – flour, beef and port in barrels; tea, sugar and every conceivable article that any one could expect to find in a store in the Gold Diggings.

In less than two days we were loaded and ready to go for our passengers who by this time we learned were to be deck passengers. Even at this early date the Chinaman had become a nuisance to the Australian colonists, but more particularly to the Gold Miners; and the Legislature of the Colony of Victoria had passed a law known as the ‘Poll Tax Act’ levying a tax of ten pounds on every Chinaman landing in Victoria after the passage of that law. And that Act had now been in force about a year.

The leaders or head men among these were men who had been on the Australian Gold fields before, and knowing the laws of Victoria were now trying to evade the payment of the Poll Tax by landing in the Colony of South Australia. But as soon as the ‘Jamestown’ arrived and the head men were told that a steam boat would leave in a few days for the upper Murray, arrangements were soon made with the owners of the ‘Leichhardt’ to carry them to Albury as deck passengers for three pounds per man, they to furnish their own provisions and do their own cooking. And the American Captain of the ‘Jamestown’ was very willing to keep them on his vessel a few days longer until the ‘Leichhardt’ could come alongside and take them off his hands.

Just one week from the day the ‘Leichhardt’ was launched, we were alongside the Barque and the Chinamen were soon transferred from her decks to ours and they and their luggage filled our decks so that it was with difficulty we could pass through in going forward to the after part of the boat. And of all the abominable smells I ever had the misfortune to smell, and we got the full strength of it working our way through them, I don’t know any word in the English language that fitly described the peculiar odor that rose from those Celestial strangers, strong enough to almost see it Its counterpart I don’t believe can be found outside of a Chinese Cooly ship or an African Slaver on her mid passage.

As soon as the last bale or package of the Chinamens’ was on our decks our lines were let go and we steamed down the Gulf. There was no attempt to get the decks into any kind of order though it was late in the afternoon when we left the ‘Jamestown’, the water was smooth with the wind from the eastward off the land.

The mate told us not to bother the Chinamen any but let them settle themselves for the night the best way they could, ‘for’ said he, ‘they will all go ashore at Port Elliott in the morning and be transferred to Goolwa’.

We steamed all night after passing Wolunga under check, so as not to reach Port Elliott until daylight. And as the first rays of the sun shot up we found ourselves heading on to the little town or village of Port Elliott. As we drew in closer there was no sign of a harbor of any kind, nothing but a small wharf, but we did not head for that, but the Old Man who was with me in the wheel-house was looking for a buoy and the mate and the rest of the men were getting a line ready to make fast to the buoy with.

There was one man belonging to the ‘Leichhardt’ that I had forgotten to mention, belonging to the crew forward, that was a ‘Kanaka’ belonging to Honololu, who went by the name of Jack, he had been with Captain McCoy for several years in different vessels, having shipped with the Old Man on one of his whaling voyages. This man Jack, was over the bows hanging on to a line and waiting to drop on to the buoy which had been found, and we were slowly steaming up to it. The buoy was a large square built buoy some six or seven feet square, with plenty of room for a man to get on to it and make a line fast to a large iron ring fast to the end of the heavy mooring chain that came up through the center of the buoy.

As we steamed slowly up to it the Old Man told Jack to watch his chance and jump on to the buoy. He made the jump all right and the line was thrown to him on the buoy and the Old Man rang the bell to stop the engine, and the engine stopped, and he rang again to back, but the engine was stopped on the center and could not be moved, and the boat had weigh enough on her to bring her right up to the buoy.

Before Jack had the line fast, the paddle box was over the buoy and the Kanaka had to take to the water and although he had heavy clothing and sea boots on, he still kept hold of the line.

The mate started to haul in the line again but the Old Man called out, ‘Stick out line instead of hauling in; hurry up and get that line fast to the buoy before we drift off too far,’ and the Kanaka towing about ten or twelve fathoms of five inch line behind him swimming with one arm only at liberty, got back to the buoy and climbing on top of it made the line fast.

I knew that the Adelaide and Melbourne steamer ‘Havilah’ always made a stopping here but thought she landed at a wharf; but found out now that these moorings were laid down here for her to hang on to, by the Steamboat Company and her passengers and freight transferred to and from the shore by lighters, and by this method our Chinamen and their baggage were to be taken ashore and moved on the horse railroad to Goolwa.

We got them and their baggage ashore that day and then it was decided to transship as much of her cargo as would lighten her up until she drew only two feet of water; and as she now was drawing four feet, that involved the unloading of nearly half of our cargo. But she had to be lightened before she could be taken through the network of channels and quick sands forming the mouth of the River, and for miles up.

The Company had a man here for the last week who had been looking out the best channel through which to pilot the boat and he reported that it would be unsafe to undertake to take her through drawing more than two feet, and he would want a perfectly calm day even then, for although the mouth of the River was more than a mile in width, there were dozens of channels, and they changing their position with almost every tide so that we were compelled to wait after we had the boat in trim and ready to make the passage of the River mouth for nearly a week before the Pilot reported a favorable opportunity for the attempt.

This morning there was a breath of wind and he thought he had a channel looked out that he could take her through; it would be high water at a few minutes past ten o’clock in the fore-noon and he would take her over the bar at about half flood so that if he was successful he would have her through the most intricate part of the passage by the time the tide was at half ebb.

As soon as we were through breakfast our slip lines were let go from the buoy and we steamed away for the mouth of the River and as we drew near and saw the line of breakers foaming and curling in every direction, the Old Man hesitated about putting her into them for although the bay was calm and smooth where we lay at the moorings, the whole mouth of the River was a sheet of broken water.

The Old Mar and one of the owners stood on the hurricane deck forward of the wheel house, and when within about a quarter of a mile from the line of broken water, he told me to put the wheel hard a port. I did so and she came flying round. The Pilot’s attention had been called to something the mate wanted to say to him and did not hear the Old Man give me the order to port the wheel and as he rose up after talking to the mate and saw the boat coming round so fast, he did not know what to make of it and started for the pilot house but the Old Man checked him saying, ‘Before we take that bar, I want everything battened down’. So the engines were checked down and the mate was told to batten the hatches down and as soon as they were secured I got the order to keep the wheel a port and she was brought round and headed for the River again.

‘Now,’ said the Old Man to the Pilot, ‘I give her to you, if you know a channel through those breakers take her in’. Without a word of reply the Pilot came into the wheel house and got the bearings of some object he had in view and telling me to ‘starboard a point and then steady her’. I did so and by this time we were in among the breakers; the mate was at the lead and gave six feet. The Pilot now pointed out to me a flag that showed itself occasionally, apparently about half a mile distant. There was nothing to indicate a channel or anything like a passage the course we were steering, the water seemed all broken alike. The mate gave soundings as often as he could cast the lead and the soundings ran from six to three feet.

‘Now’, said the Pilot to the owner and the Old Man, ‘abreast of that buoy with the red flag on is where she will strike if any where’, there was only two feet of water there yesterday and this is the best channel I could find, if we had any more wind than we have now it would be impossible to pass it without grounding’.

As we drew near the mate gave three feet, then two and a half and before he could get another cast she had stopped, but at that moment the Old Man rang the bell to open her out and a big heavy roller coming along just at that time, rolled right over her stern filling her decks for a few minutes and the next one rolled over her but also floated the boat, and the engines going at full speed started her off but she dropped on the bottom again and another heavy roller came along running over the rail both sides but floating her again and she started off again and this time she kept going and in a few minutes the water was clear from her decks, there being plenty of chances at the paddle boxes for the water to run off and the two gangways that were both open. But though we kept going we were not clear from the bottom for in between the rollers she touched, though not heavy enough to stop her way. We went through broken water for near a mile until after passing another buoy with a red flag on, when leaving them on the starboard hand we entered a clear water channel and from here up he had the channel buoyed out.

The hatches were now unbattened and the fire men were glad to get a mouthful of fresh air again. The lead was kept going continually and though we did not touch bottom enough to stop her headway we often had two feet of water and as much as five fathoms, although the Pilot told the owners that the day before he had sounded that same channel and did not find less than four feet anywhere only in between the two red flags.

The River for the first five or six miles from one to three miles wide and the Pilot said full of quicksand banks and channels all over from one side to the other. He had sounded four different channels but this one offered the most chances for success.

After running five or six miles the River narrowed down to about one mile and kept that width for two or three miles more until we were clear of the quick sands when on going round a point of land the Murray River in all its grand proportions opened to our view.

The River here, and as far as we could see, was over half a mile wide and the soundings which were given about every five minutes gave from six to five fathoms. A run of about two miles more brought us to Goolwa, and the little iron side wheel boat ‘Leichhardt’ had the honor of being the first boat larger than a whale boat that had ever crossed the Murray River bar from salt water to the fresh water of the river, on the this the 3rd day of March 1956.

As we steamed up to the wharf the whole population of the little town turned out to give us welcome. The work of reloading our cargo was now pushed right along for one of the rival Company’s boats had been completed, a small boat of fifty tons named the ‘Sturt’ in honor of another of Australia’s explorers who also lost his life with all his party crossing the Great Australian Desert, their camp and all that remained of their bodies were afterwards found by a party sent out to search for them by the government of South Australia, with a record of their sufferings they had gone through scratched on tin panikins; that whole party died from thirst.

And while speaking of the great explorers I may now say that of Dr. Leichhardt, neither he nor any of his party were ever found or any trace of them. They started to cross from the North-east coast to Port Essengton on the North coast. This was Dr. Leichhardt’s second expedition, he having successfully crossed from New South Wales to the Gulf of Carpentaria on the North coast before.

But to return to the Rival Company’s boat the ‘Sturt’, she had been completed and sent up the river and their other boat was almost ready for launching. She was a twin boat, two boats built side by side and a frame built in from one to the other and decked over from one to the other, her engines working one large paddle wheel in between the two boats; she was to be called the ‘Gemini’. It was now decided by the owner to tow a barge and put about thirty tons of flour into her so as to make room for the Chinamens’ provisions and some other freight. We found her waiting for us.

The barge we were to take in tow was a small schooner of about thirty tons called the ‘Lady of the Lake’. She had been built some years before to trade around Lake Alexandrina and the lower Murray and had brought down most of the wool that had been shipped from Port Elliott. She had done a good business previous to the building of these steamboats and her owner was only too glad to sell her to the owner of the ‘Leichhardt’ to be converted into a tow barge, and we were sent on board of her to take out her spars and bowsprit and, acting on the advice of the man who was to command the ‘Gemini,’ it was decided to take out the spars of the ‘Leichhardt’ also.

The Captain of the ‘Gemini’ having been one of the four men who went up the River with Captain Cadell, and he assured Captain McCoy that he would find in certain bends of the River, overhanging trees that it would be impossible for him to avoid, so we unbent her sails and took her spars out and her sails had never been once set yet.

As soon as this work was done the work of loading the barge was completed, and in the meantime the Chinamen had all got back on board and our decks had the appearance of some fair ground, for the Chinamen were prepared with everything requisite for the Diggings, even to tents, and these they had set up on deck covering her decks all over with the exception of a space reserved for wood.

We now learned for the first time that we should have to make our own fuel – after passing Lake Alexandrina we should find some wood ready for us at a landing on the starboard bank of the River before crossing Lake ‘Alexandrina and probably at the Lindsey Sheep Station, some twenty-five miles up the river after crossing the Lake, but after that, we should have to depend on our own resources for fuel.

This was something we had not figured on that we were coming away up in the Bush to turn ourselves into wood choppers – but Jack easily adjusts himself to any station he may find himself in. There was not a man aboard who had ever been up the River before and in addition to our Chinamen passengers we were to have three or four young gentlemen from Adelaide who were making the trip for pleasure to see the country and the splendid River scenery that must be found according to report, on some portions of the river.

As soon as the Chinamen were settled down to their quarters on deck, everything was in readiness to start, and the morning of March 9th we let go from the dock at Goolwa and taking the ‘Lady of the Lake’ in tow, started on I think the first fresh water voyage any man on board had ever made. Before starting, the Old Man told us forward that the boat would only run between daylight and dark so that we should be sure of our nights watch below. We had heard that he was instructed to take soundings and make notes of any shoals, snags or rocks as there never had been any survey made of the River.

Gleeson took the boat’s wheel leaving and I was sent on to the barge, and Charly Beattie took the lead. The Kanaka Jack was to be a general handy sort of a man to pass wood down to the fireman or anything the mate might want of him. The Leichhardt loaded down deep for she was deep drawing about four feet six inches and the ‘Lady of the Lake’ towing behind her did not make very fast time going up stream. About five miles an hour was all she made the first run to our first wooding point at Hartman’s Ferry for here we found one of the typical ferries used on all Australian rivers for crossing or transferring sheep, cattle or teams from one side to the other; the ferry consisted of a long scow or punt as they are know here; they are generally built long enough to take on at one time a full ox team and load and an ox or bullock team as they are always called consists of four or five yoke of bullocks, one yoke ahead of the other and if hauling wool from up in the Bush, sometimes seven yoke of cattle are used in one team and a huge two wheeled cart with from one and a half to two tons of wool bales on them the cart wheels and everything about the cart home made, wheels with wooden tires about six inches wide.

I did not much admire our method of wooding up, there was about thirty cords of four foot wood on the bank and with two planks from the open gangway to the shore, one to go ashore on and one to come back on; each man would take so much wood in his arms as he could conveniently carry and walk aboard with it on a single plank.

There was one redeeming feature about that method of loading; the Old Man made arrangements with the head men of the Chinamen to furnish all the help needed, and as about fifteen cords was about all the wood room we had on deck, when that room was filled up we had to start again. But by the time we were loaded here, there was only about two hours daylight left, so we steamed up the River to where it leaves Lake Alexandrina and tied up for the night as we needed daylight to keep the channel.

The mate had told us to arrange among ourselves as to the steering of both barge and steamer and the leading as well. So we concluded that whoever went to the wheel or lead, starting in the morning should stay there until noon and the same way with the barge; and the same from noon until supper and so on until tying up for the night, and that we should each take alternate turns at each of these duties so that every day we should each of us have a spell at the boat’s wheel and at the lead, and also at the barge’s tiller. So when we started Gleeson took the wheel and I the lead; Beattie went on to the barge.

The Old Man had a sort of general direction given him about the course of the River through the Lake but we soon began to rely on the lead exclusively, for we found that so long as we were in the true channel that we never got less than four and d half fathoms and from that to five. And as we sung out the soundings so that they could be heard all over the boat, any shoaling of water was attended to at the wheel right away. We got out of the channel several times during the first fore- noon though we always had plenty of water for the boat; we found an average depth of from ten to twelve feet outside the River channel. When the sun was shining the channel was clearly defined by the color of the water; but when cloudy, the lead was our guide but we necessarily had to go slow.

Lake Alexandrina is the largest body of fresh water I had seen in Australia, not having seen Lake Torrens; but the Lake we were crossing seemed to me a large body of fresh water that to me, who had so lately been on short allowance of fresh water, it seemed like a crime to have so much of it running away to the sea. These thoughts were passing through my mind as we were winding our way up the Lake interrupted every few minutes with my song of the lead of a half-four, or a quarter less five. Whenever we left the river we ran right into two fathoms.

At noon I took the wheel and the mate relieved the Old Man on the bridge. At or rather after supper, I went to the barge’s tiller whenever the barge had to be relieved; the engines had to be checked down to allow the barge to be hauled up so that one of us could make a jump on to her and at the same time whoever was steering would leave the tiller and make a run forward to get on to the boat when the tow line was slacked out again and the bells jingled to go ahead again.

We got through the Lake about four o’clock and entered the Murray River again and when twilight came we had not yet seen any sign of a station or anything that would indicate that we were near one. Both banks of the river were heavily wooded with the under-brush coming down to the water’s edge.

As the night did not set in very dark, the Old Man concluded to keep right on until we made the Lindsey station which could not be far ahead of us, and before eight o’clock lights were seen moving about on the starboard bank of the River and the ‘Leichhardt’ was steered in and a line run ashore, for we also brought along with us a light handy whale boat for just such work as was now wanted of her to run lines.

The light we had seen moving, now came down to the water’s edge. They were torches made of gum tree bark in the hands of the blackfellowc of whom by the glare of the torches there seemed to be a whole tribe down to welcome us; but after getting out a gang plank, three white men came aboard; one of them introduced himself as Mr. Lindsey, the proprieter of the estate.

On the Old Man asking him about wood, he told him he had made arrangements for wooding the ‘Sturt’ and ‘Gemini’, and he thought he could also wood the ‘Leichhardt’; but his wooding facilities were two miles down the river — we had passed his wood piles after dark, but as Mr. Lindsey had wood enough on the bank to fill us up this time, the Old Man concluded to run back the two miles in the morning rather than go on. So we got orders to get out stern lines and get supper, and this ended our first day in the bush.

After supper we went ashore to where we could see the blackfellows’ fires burning; we found some twenty or thirty werlies as the small attempt at a hut or dwelling is called, and the space between the fire and werlies was full of blackfellows, old girls (gins), leubras and children, and all begging for tobacco, for the Australian native man, woman and child use tobacco when they can get it and there is nothing they will not barter for tobacco and liquor.

They were a weird looking lot of savages as we saw them by the light of their fires; but few of them had any article of clothing on more than an opossum skin rug thrown over their shoulders and sometimes held together at the front, sometimes not; some of them with not even a rug or the slightest covering of any kind; some of them had on a pair of pants and nothing else and another one was full dressed in an old tattered shirt and nothing else; all ages and sexes apparently in the same condition as to clothing.

The blackfellows’ werlie or house, at least all I ever saw of them, don’t require a great deal of ingenuity to construct for all there is about them is six or eight sticks about six or eight feet long stuck into the ground in the form of a half circle, about two feet apart and their ends brought together on top, forming a half circle space underneath, while the outside is either thatched or covered with long kangaroo grass or generally if there are any trees near, with bark of which the e is always a good supply at the foot of every tree, as the trees of Australia shed their bark annually instead of their leaves.

Under these half open werlies as many as can crawl in with the upper parts of their bodies, do so, and cover them with an opossum skin rug, their feet and lower part of their bodies all outside and pointing towards the fire. And standing by the werlie or stuck in the ground close by are the blackfellows’ weapons a bunch of spears, waddies, boomerang and mulla-mullas; and I noticed a few short oval shaped wooden shields. The blackfellows had heard about the big fellow canoe and had gathered there at the station with the expectation of getting some tobacco or a ‘big fellow tuck out’ as they term a good square meal.

We stayed around the camp until those who had tobacco had traded it all away for opossum skins; the carpenter got a splendid large rug fro two pounds of tobacco and both the firemen traded for loose skins enough to make them each a rug.

Before daybreak next morning we were steaming down stream again to the wood piles; Mr. Lindsey coming down on horse-back soon after we got to work. We now took on all we could find room for and crowed the Chinamen into smaller space to make room for more wood. The Old Man made arrangements here with Mr. Lindsey to be supplied with more wood here for both up and down trips. This wood business was a new industry here but as the prospects were that now the River was opening to steamboat navigation that the call for wood would increase year after year, and Mr. Lindsey owning a large track of timber land bordering the River, he would now utilize it to advantage, although he also owned an extensive sheep range with his Head Station fortunately on the River. We now learned that stations were far apart or at least any that we could see from the River and that as we should now have to depend almost altogether on our own resources for fuel, we should have to take advantage of tracks of good timber to tie the boat up and make wood. We also learned a good deal of useful information about the River from Mr. Lindsey and some of his stock men who had been up the River and seen it in its low stages.

After wooding we lost no time in getting started again and the carpenter was now told to make axe helves and fit cross cut saws of which tools there seemed to have been enough sent aboard of the boat to start a hardware store.

So far as we had come up the River we had generally kept the center of the river which ran in long straight reaches for miles with not very high banks on either side; but before dark of the day we left Lindsey the River scenery had changed, the country was more broken and the River reaches shorter and in some places short bends, and the channel instead of following the center of the River as we had found it below, now kept the shore on which the highest banks were on. We now found from five to six fathoms of water in the channel, but the channel was narrower though the River held its width over a quarter of a mile wide. With the last glimpse of daylight a suitable location was selected and we tied up for the night.

As there were no facilities for the Chinamen cooking on deck, and they had been told they would have plenty of opportunities for cooking ashore, as soon as the boat was alongside the bank and a gang plank out there was a general stampede from the boat to the shore, and while some made fires others were setting up tents and by the time we had eaten our supper the Chinamen had transformed the river bank into a Chinese village and kettles of rice and a dozen other condiments that go to make up a Chinaman’s meal were boiling and steaming over a hundred different fires; and the song like dialect of the Chinamen could be heard mingling with shouts and bursts of merriment as something or other seemed to give them cause for it.

I could not wonder at their evident pleasure at getting ashore for they were kept in such confined space on deck, while on the boat, that they scarcely had room to stretch their legs.

As the head men had been informed that they must all be aboard at daylight and not delay the boat in getting started, as soon as their meal was cooked and eaten quietness soon settled over the camp, and as the nights in Australia are never so cold but that a man can sleep comfortably outdoors with a very slight covering over him, they were far more comfortable than they would have been in their confined quarters on the boat’s deck.

Having two firemen who kept alternate watch, one of them was always on duty so that at night they always acted as watchmen and had everything in shape for an early start in the morning; and before daylight we were eating breakfast and the Chinamen getting back on board and the first streak of daylight saw us cast loose from the bank and steaming up the river.

To-day we must look out for a site for wood making as two days fuel was all we could take on at one time. We were still passing through broken country judging from the high bluffs lining both banks of the river, until after noon when the country opened out into either marshes or plains, for as far as the eye could see it was perfectly level and apparently covered with some low scrub, and the brush down to the river bank was nothing but tea tree scrubs and wattles; but before dark we ran into timber again and choosing the most promising site for wood and a good landing, the Old Man concluded to tie up for the night and the Chinamen started their village into life again on the bank.

Next morning at daylight we got ashore with axes, saws, mauls and wedges and started on our new roll as wood choppers. Our first day’s work satisfied the Old Man that he would have to do something else than depend on his boat’s crew for all the wood required to carry the ‘Leichhardt’ up the river and back. The wood as fast as made was carried aboard by Chinamen and when night came the Old Man estimated that we had made about enough wood to run the boat one day, and we had worked hard not being accustomed to that kind of labor; and the wood being tough to split accounted for our not having any more wood to show for our day’s work. The timber was mostly red gum and peppermint, both of which varieties made good fuel but were hard to work up. Next day the Old Man hired as many Chinamen as he could find tools to work with and the wood carried aboard as fast as made, and that night we had our wood room on deck filled and five or six cords left behind for some other time.

Bright and early next morning we were steaming up the River and with some laughable incidents and some accidents caused by limbs of trees falling and hurting some of the Chinamen while making wood, we made the run to the mouth of the River Darling 800 miles, in three weeks including the stoppages for wood.

We passed through some extensive plains that appeared to be covered by a low bush that our cabin passengers said was salt bush the favorite forage of the Australian sheep. Occasionally we saw a solitary shepherd with his flock of sheep? but no signs of any stations near the River. At almost every landing that we stopped at to make wood we were visited by wandering bands of blackfellows whose curiosity never seemed to be satisfied in looking over the steamer; but I never heard one of them offer to work – they are confirmed beggars. They were cunning enough to find out the Old Man who they always called, ‘big white fellow,’ and as soon as they found him out the first question would be, ‘Give em tuck out’` but the Old Man had been too much among the Kanaka’s to be fooled with the blackfellows; his reply would be something in the following style: ‘Mine no give em tuck out, you like um work blackfellow, mine give um tuck out,’ to which he would often get the following reply, ‘Mine no like um work, bale budgery work, got um bacco, bale bacco me’. But if the blackfellow would not work for tobacco he would spear fish and lobsters; and as soon as the Chinamen found out that lobsters were plentiful in the River, every night, they had traps set for them and got large quantities by sinking a bag to the bottom of the River with a few beef bones in that they could yet from the steamer’s cook; and another source of meat supply for the Chinamen was following the young gentlemen in the cabin when they went hunting. Opossums were very plentiful but an opossum shot out of a tree never struck the ground but fell on the outstretched hands of the Chinamen and were often torn to pieces by one man grabbing one part of the animal while some other man got hold of the other and each held to whatever he got hold of.

One day we felled a large red gum tree in which could be seen three or four big opossums and there were about a hundred Chinamen watching for them. We did not know in what direction the tree would fall and tried to drive the Chinamen away, but they did not understand our intentions and would not leave. The tree fell in the opposite direction to the one we wanted it to fall, falling from its top toward the Chinamen’s tents, reaching within a few yards of the nearest tent with its top, and it was a miracle that there were not fifty Chinamen killed for it seemed as though they were all under the falling tree; but with the exception of a few slight bruises from tall limbs, there were none hurt, but the laughable part of it was the race after the opossums which as soon as the tree fell, ran among the tents and one was caught by a Chinaman who happened to have a kettle full of boiling water close by and the moment he grabbed it he hurried with it to the kettle throwing him alive into the boiling water and with 2 stick poking him back as the opossum attempted to crawl out of the kettle, and every poke of the stick peeling off the fur leaving the skin white and bare, for the opossum was literally scaled to death.

At the junction of the Darling we found another ferry and the starting of what promised to be from its advantageous location, sometime a thriving river town. The River Darling at its confluence with the Murray is about the same size as the Murray, I should judge about a quarter of a mile wide, and I was told that there were no settlements up the Darling beyond about 150 miles above, that was all unexplored country.

Before we left the Darling the Old Man got a blackfellow aboard to act as river pilot, the Darling being the boundry with the Murray to a tract of country claimed by a numerous tribe as their country and the Old Man was advised to get one of this tribe to go up the River with him as far as their range of country extended to show the location of some large rocks that in the present high stage of the river were submerged, and there was danger that we might strike them as they were in the channel that would most likely be taken by a steamboat. The Captain of the ‘Sturt’ had also taken a blackfellow pilot.

It was understood that the blackfellow should not be taken beyond the confines of their own country as the different tribes were almost always at war with one another and it would be almost certain death to the blackfellow if landed in the territory of another tribe.

After leaving the Darling we had the Colony of Victoria on the starboard bank of the river, and the Colony of New South Wales on the port side having previous to reaching the Darling had the Colony of South Australia on both side of the River.

The characteristics of the River Murray above the Darling differed greatly from the lower Murray; the River was more narrow, the current ran stronger and we now seldom found a straight reach of more than one or two miles in extent but mostly we got one sharp bend after another until it seemed to us that we were traveling about 100 miles to get 25 miles ahead.

The Old Man was told that he could get wood at the Chambers’ station about 75 miles from the Darling and we were five days getting there, making wood once ourselves. Stations on the river now began to be more plentiful, both sheep and cattle stations. The country as far as we could see it from the boat seemed to be broken and rough with high banks on both sides.

The day before we made Chambers’ station the blackfellow who spent most of his time squatted on his opossum skin rug on the bridge at the front of the wheel house, he and his old gin, for he had brought her along, the Old Man keeping them both in tobacco, I was at the lead and the soundings had been running pretty regular from a quarter four to half four – the Old Man told me to cast often and watch the soundings close as there was danger somewhere ahead. Gleeson who was at the wheel at the time told us at night that the old blackfellow rose up and going over to the Old Man who was talking to the mate, said to the Old Man, ‘Bime by big fellow rock sit down’. ‘Now soon?’ asked the Old Man. ‘Bime by,’ was all they could get from him. So the Old Man told me to keep the lead going and keep a good lookout for rocks too.

We had gone probably two miles when the old blackfellow told the Old Man, ‘Take um boat other side river water no burgeree’. We were now going up close in on the port side of the river and had been carrying four fathoms; the water now began to shoal; I got three, then two fathoms and the blackfellow made the Old *an understand then that there was a bank or shoal and pointing ahead told the Old Man ‘big fellow log there’ and wanted the boat on the other side of the River, and the order to port the wheel was not given any too soon tor we had shoaled to six feet and a large splintered end of a heavy snag was seen just on the surface of the water; the tow barge just cleared it by a few feet; we were now on the starboard side of the river and carrying three fathoms when the old blackfellow wanted the boat on the other side. ‘Big fellow rock sit down there’ pointing to a spot almost in the center of the River, and sure enough when we got abreast of the spot we could see not one, but several large boulders with the water just washing over them, and before we tied up that night he had pointed out over a dozen rocks and snags, some of which we should undoubtedly have struck as the rocks were some of them in three fathoms of water and from this day on snags and rocks were passed every day; but so long as we had a blackfellow aboard we were always told of them before we got to them showing that their knowledge of these obstructions in the River was thorough. So sure as the blackfellow said, ‘Water no burgeree’ so sure we found shoals, and whenever they said either, ‘Rocks or logs sit down,’ then we lost no time in avoiding the spots shown whether the Old Man was on the bridge or not; though as a general rule the bank of the River that had the boldest banks carried the best water; low bank on the upper Murray almost invariably indicating shallow water.

At Chambers’ station we found wood ready for us. This was a very large cattle station. As almost all of the sheep and cattle stations were at this time occupied and held under what was known as the ‘Squatters License’, some of the wealthy squatters claimed large tracts of land for grazing purposes and the Chambers’ Station was one of these. As he expected to be largely benefited by these new River Steamers he would aid and encourage them all he could and had established a wood landing about one mile above his head station and another one about twenty miles from the station; but we steamed about 150 miles to get there. Of all the tortuous winding crooked streams in the world, I do not believe there is a river in existence that will equal the Murray.

For about 500 miles above the Chambers’ Cattle station in Victoria, Australia, there is a bend of the River known as the North-west bend that took us all next day to pass. Soon after starting in the morning we saw the River across a narrow strip of land not more than a quarter of a mile distant and the two branches of the River ran parallel with each other for a mile or more when we lost sight of the other part of the River until about an hour before dark when we sighted it again on the starboard bow, and when we tied up that night after steaming all day up the River, we were not over ten miles in a different line from where we started in the morning.

Next day we passed the mouth of the Murrumbidgee another large river; though not quite so large as the Darling, but like that river entering the Murray from the N.S.W. side.

To-day occured the only fatal accident that we met with during the trip. In coming round some of the bends the current was very strong; we had been steaming up on the port side of the river and were crossing over to the starboard side. After making the bend the current held the boat on her port bow and forced her in close to the bank, and before any one saw the danger the smoke stack was crashing in among the over-hanging branches of a large tree growing close to the bank of the River bringing down a large limb that fell among a group of Chinamen killing one outright and badly injuring three or four others.

Next morning while we were making wood a grave was dug and preparations made for the burial of the unfortunate Chinaman; the dead man had one brother and he was the only one who evinced any feeling whatever at the death of their country man; not one of them would touch him, after he was hurt he lay right where he fell. The mate and the Kanaka cleared the limb off from both the dead man and the wounded ones, the Chinamen scattered in all directions; and the mate and Jack laid out the dead man on a bed on deck and washed off the blood that had run all over the man’s face, covering him up; and after we had the grave dug (for none of the Chinamen would dig one) then we had to go on board and carry him ashore for none of his country men would lay a hand on him, but before we had a shovel full of dirt on him his brother and another man came with a number of small dishes of different kinds of cooked food, rice and other kinds, and some Chinese coins in a small purse, laid at his feet some incense, and colored papers were also burned over the grave and then we were allowed to cover him up, and there on the banks of the winding Murray far from any habitation, in the Australian Bush we left the lonely grave of the poor unfortunate Chinaman who had left his distant home only a few months before with the expectation of getting rich from the Australian gold fields and then returning with a competency to his loved flowery land.

But it was only one of the thousands who have left other lands with the same ideas and pre-arranged plans whose careers have been cut short some on the bush trail lost, some on the boundless plains lost, some buried up in a caving in of the Gold Diggings, some one way and some another; but thousands who went to that fair land with hopes buoyant that gold was so plentiful that they would soon have all they needed and they could return to their loved ones again, but who were doomed to disappointment and to leave their bones scattered all over the length and breadth of the Australian gold country.

The following day after leaving our wood landing we passed the mouth of the River Lodden. On the head waters of this stream some very rich gold diggins were already being worked. A few days after passing the Lodden at a landing we made on the New South Wales side of the River, our black fellow pilot after getting a good stock of tobacco and he and his gin had filled themselves well by ‘a big fellow tuck out,’ picked up their opossom skins and his spears and boomerangs and walked ashore.

The Old Man said ‘Where going blackfellow?’ ‘Go long um scrub’ he replied, and the two of them stalked off into the bush. Two days after we left this wood landing we tied at night at the mouth of the Avoca and here found a party of men making wood for the river boats; they had floated down the Avoca in an old dug out of a canoe, hunting and fishing and were camped here when the ‘Sturt’ went up and her Captain had made them a good offer to go to work there and make wood for him, and trusting to their honesty furnished them with tools and provisions and they being men adapted to that kind of work were making good wages, and promised Captain McCoy to have wood ready for him as well as for the ‘Sturt’ and ‘Gemini’ and the Old Man let them have more tools in the shape of saws and wedges – and flour, sugar and tea. We were soon wooded and away.

The next time we stopped to make wood there was quite a large camp of blackfellows and the Old Man made a bargain with the chief to let one of his men go with him up the River to Lake Moira, that was the limit of their range of country.

Next day we passed the mouth of the Campaspie a smaller river than either the Avoca or Lodden, and all three of these rivers forming their head waters in the center of the richest of the Victorian Gold Fields. We were now getting on to a part of the river where stations and small settlements began to be more numerous; we were now in the track of travel from the Victorian Gold Fields and those of New South Wales.

At Echuca, where we found wood ready for us, we also found a good hotel and ferry kept by an Englishman an old Yorkshire man named Maiden. The ferry being well known all over the country as Maiden’s Punt, I had often heard the place mentioned by men in Melbourne who had crossed over the River there traveling from one gold field to another, never thinking then that I should ever pass there in a steamboat. Two days after passing Maiden’s Punt, we entered the Reed beds – thousands of acres of marsh covered with the tall Murray reed growing from ten to fourteen feet high, and full of bayous or lagoons up some of which we should have gone undoubtedly if we had not the blackfellow along with us for some of them had the appearance of a river; in one or two instances even the blackfellow was uncertain as to which was the right channel; we went up one bayou half a mile or more before we got his eye on the right or main river. There was considerable current in this bayou but the water shoaled down to a fathom and a half; the Old Man stopped the engines and told the blackfellow, ‘Water no burgeree,’ to which he replied, ‘Mine no like um,’ and we turned around and steamed back to where the blackfellow pointed out the true channel and we got straightened up again.

These reed beds are the favorite haunts of all kinds of water foul wild duck had been numerous all the passage up the River and occasionally we saw flights of black swan, but here the lagoons and bayous seemed to be swarming with wild ducks, geese and swans. The Australian black swan is a noble looking bird seen on the water as we saw them in immense flocks that rose up on the wing as we approached them with the boat, showing their four white feathers – two in each wing; but the swan as he sits on the water is black as jet all over. Our young Nimrods in the cabin shot a number of them, only two of which were recovered by steering the barge alongside of them as they drifted down stream; but ducks and geese they got plenty of while we were wooding.

After passing the reed beds we had a few miles more timber and then entered Lake Moira another marshy shallow piece of water four or five miles wide through which we had to feel our way principally with the lead and the blackfellow’s eye, for being so wide the current was very slow, sometimes so slow that we could not have told that we were in the River had it not been for the depth of water we carried and having the benefit of the blackfellow’s recollections of the place as these reedy marshes are favorite resorts for the blackfellow to hunt not only the black swan but also the wild goose in a manner peculiar to themselves – building a small frame with the tufted ends of the Murray reeds in the under side of which there is a hole for the blackfellow’s head. With one of these bushy disguises the blackfellow goes into the water and with his whole body under water slowly approaches the birds; and they, unsuspicious of the floating tufts of reeds know no danger until their legs are grasped by the blackfellow and quickly pulled under the water. But the blackfellow never exerts himself even to the amount of this simple device for catching birds unless he wants tobacco or whiskey.

After passing Lake Moira and entering the timber again we were compelled to stop and make wood for we had the last of our fuel used up. When we tied up here our blackfellow disappeared without so much as saying good bye. We were making wood on the Victorian side of the River and his range of country was in N.S.W. and we had no doubt but that he swam over to the other side during the night, although as the Old Man said, there was no cause for his doing so for he would not only have landed him on that side but have given him tobacco as well.

While wooding here we were visited by a white man and two blackfellows; the white man was a stock rider for Eadlam Brothers who owned an extensive cattle and sheep station called the Moira Station, their head station being distant only about three miles from where we now lay and the Old Man returned with them to the station and made arrangements with the owners of the estate to establish a wooding point for him where we were then wooding and also secured another blackfellow who came with his whole family, his gin and a young leubra fourteen or fifteen years of age, and two younger ones both boys.

As soon as wooded we started up the River and a short run brought us in sight of the Moira station and being the head station of a large estate there were necessarily a large number of buildings required, giving the place the appearance of a small village, houses for a large force of men employed around the station, besides shearing sheds, horse and cattle stables.

As we passed their river landing a gentleman rode down on horse-back and told the Old Man to keep his blackfellows on the boat at Albury and bring them back with him.

We were now only three days run from Albury and we all felt pleased that our up River voyage was drawing to an end, and the Chinamen also were glad to get to the end of their voyage for their provisions were running short, rice all gone and none to be bought; one bag had been secured at Echuca and after that was gone they had bought flour from the Old Man.

It was near dark the second day after passing the Moira Station, the Old Man was looking for a suitable site for wood making and steering close into the bank on the port side of the River (I was steering the barge this after-noon and wishing the Old Man would tie up) when all at once there was a crash in the port paddle box and some one called out for me to port on the barge and keep outside off the boat. But the warning came too late for the ‘Lady of the Lake’ went crashing with her port bow into a snag fast on the bottom; the tow line broke and by the time I could get a line ashore to hold her and keep her from drift