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cutters. The average width is from 450 to 600 yards, with a depth of from six to twenty feet water, the banks from ten to twenty-five feet above high-water mark.
It is right to mention that this district and the immediate plains lying between Richmond River, forty miles north of Shoal Bay, and as far north as Wide Bay, are all taken up and stocked under squatting licences. The soil is rich and the water advantages superior, but the climate more hot and less healthy than the plains on the other side of the way.
“ The country available for grazing at this river is of excellent quality, generally level, and affords greater facilities for shipping wool than at Port Macquarie.”
The next port and centre and site of the capital of all this district is Moreton Bay, into which flows the Brisbane River, discovered by Mr. Oxley, on an exploring expedition, in December, 1823. He reported that “when examining Moreton Bay we had the satisfaction to find the tide sweeping up a considerable inlet between the first mangrove island and the mainland. A few hours ended our anxiety: the water became perfectly fresh, and no diminution had taken place in the size of the river after passing Sea Reach. The scenery was peculiarly beautiful; the country along the banks alternately hilly and level, but not flooded ; the soil of the finest description of good brush land, on which grew timber of great magnitude, some of a description quite unknown to us, amongst others a magnificent species of pine.* Up to this point the river was navigable for vessels not drawing more than sixteen feet water. The tide rose about five feet, being the same as at the entrance. We proceeded about thirty miles further, no diminution having taken place in either the depth or the breadth of the river, except in one place, for the extent of thirty yards, where a ridge of detached rocks extended across the river, not having more than twelve feet upon them at high water.
“From this period to Termination Hill the river continued nearly of uniform size. The tide ascends daily fifty miles up the mouth of the Brisbane. The country on either side is of very superior description, and equally well adapted for cultivation or grazing."
On Mr. Oxley's report, which further explorations have proved to be in no degree exaggerated, a penal settlement was founded at Brisbane, and, among other experiments for employing the prisoners, sugar was cultivated, until a flood swept the machinery away. There is no doubt that the climate and soil of the Moreton Bay district, by which it
* The pine forests mark the commencement and the boundaries of intertropical Australia.
is better known than by its parliamentary title, county of Stanley, would produce sugar and cotton; but that those crops would be remunerative to capitalists at the present or probable price of labour in Australia is more than doubtful. Whether any tropical cultivation could be successfully carried on by families of small freeholders remains yet to be tried. At some future period, when New South Wales has the power of promoting colonization without consulting Downing-street, perhaps families of Germans of the classes who have at times settled with very little success in Brazil may be induced to try the experiment.
Moreton Bay is forty-five miles in length, and twenty in breadth, enclosed between the two islands of Stradbroke and Maitland. This harbour is rendered unsafe by numerous shoals and narrow winding passages.
Moreton Bay Island is nineteen miles in length, and four and a half in breadth. It consists of a series of sandhills, one of which is nine hundred feet in height, quite barren in an agricultural point of view, but producing a cypress which is a good furniture wood.
The River Brisbane flows into the bay about the middle of its western side, with a bar on which there are not more than eleven feet of water at flood tide. Large vessels have to anchor above five miles off, under the shelter of one of the islands.
The towns of Brisbane, North and South, are fourteen miles from the mouth of the river, and thirty-five miles from Ipswich, on the River Bremer, an inland port for shipping wool from the Moreton Bay and Clarence districts.
Steam communication is maintained between Brisbane and Ipswich, and between Moreton Bay and Sydney.
From Moreton Bay a considerable trade is carried on with Sydney, and other less-favoured settlements, especially the Moreton Bay pine (Auracaria Cunninghami), which is of the same quality as the Norfolk Island pine, as well as wool and tallow, the staples of the country.
In the bay and on the coast the aborigines eagerly pursue the dugong, a species of small whale, generally known to the colonists as the sea-pig. The head of the dugong is small in proportion to his body, and is most singularly shaped. The upper lip is very thick, and flattened at the extremity. It is to this queer looking snout, we presume, that the animal is indebted for the swinish cognomen by which it is ordinarily known. The dugong has a thick smooth skin, with a few hairs scattered over its surface. Its colour is bluish on the back, with a white breast and belly.
In size the full grown
male has never, we believe, been found more than eighteen or twenty feet long; but those commonly taken are much less than this.
The food of the dugong consists chiefly of marine vegetables, which it finds at the bottom of inlets, in comparatively shallow water, where it is easily captured. Its flesh resembles good beef, and is much esteemed. The oil obtained from its fat is peculiarly clear and limpid, and is free from any disagreeable smell, such as most animal oils are accompanied with. It has not yet been produced in sufficient quantities to acquire a recognised market value.
The blacks devour the carcase roasted, after expressing the oil for sale to the colonists. A perfumer in Sydney tried to convert this oil into a new mixture for the hair: unfortunately, on experiment on himself and his wife, it produced baldness instead of luxuriance; yet its appearance is as fine as sperm.
Behind Moreton Bay, on the other side the mountain range, forming a district of high tableland and cool temperature, are the Darling Downs, a magnificent sheep country, which is also accessible from the Clarence River.
The climate of the Moreton Bay district, like nearly all the district north of Port Macquarie, is too hot for wheat, which grows luxuriantly, but is subject to blight : for sheep and cattle there is no finer country, and maize and all semi-tropical productions grow in perfection. Grapes ripen, but are too subject to frosts to make good wine.
A very short distance from the town of Brisbane the clearings end and the forest commences, now green trees, then pine, then open plains, and well-watered valleys.
The rainy season of this intertropical region has been graphically described by Mr. Mossman :-“ Masses of dense scud rise up from the Pacific Ocean towards the interior, until they are checked by the southerly wind blowing over the higher, colder New England country (on the other side of the mountain ranges), and packed into a uniform mass shrouding the heavens ; a stifling sultriness succeeds, the lightning bursts forth from the lurid gloom, flash succeeds with fearful rapiditynow forked from the zenith, anon like a chain around the verge of the horizon, while the crash of thunder resounds. The floodgates of the black canopy are opened—the rain descends in torrents with a loud pattering—soon the narrow tributaries of the river are swollen, some rising as much as fifty feet in twelve hours—the surrounding plains are deluged. In the five months of rain the earth becomes saturated, the forests drip continually, while the nearly vertical sun creates a warm, humid, unhealthy atmosphere.” Ophthalmia and general debility follow
WIDE BAY-THE BUNYA-BUNYA.
this kind of weather ; but the author of the passage just quoted considers that if Indian bungalows were erected by the settlers, instead of naked English cottages, many of the ill effects of the rainy season would be avoided.
In the Moreton Bay district may be found many establishments containing all the luxuries of Europe—elegant houses, gardens, libraries, music, pictures, and wives in Parisian bonnets.
Wide Bay, beyond Moreton Bay, and the boundary of the county of Stanley, is the last port of the colony of New South Wales : it receives the waters of the Mary Fitzroy River. The land is undulating, well timbered, covered with good grass, and suited for horned stock. Within the last five years a considerable number of stations have been formed there, and the country taken up in cattle runs for more than 200 miles in the interior. Gold, too, has been found in small quantities in this district. In the 27th parallel of the Wide Bay district grows the bunya-bunya tree, a species of pine, often from seventeen to twenty feet in circumference, and upwards of one hundred feet in height, which, once in three years, yields a harvest of cones about a foot long and three quarters in diameter, containing seeds or kernels, which the natives from most distant regions triennially journey to collect, roast, and eat, afterwards enjoying the relaxation of a little fighting.
Orders have been issued by the colonial government that no stations be planted and no stock run in this bunya-bunya country, which occupies a space of about fifty miles in length by ten in breadth. It will be difficult to enforce this order.
Dr. Leichardt, one of the scientific travellers who has, we fear, like Cunningham, Gilbert, and Kennedy, fallen a victim to his adventurous courage in an attempt to penetrate overland to Swan River, passed some time in the Moreton Bay district, preparing himself for the successful journey he afterwards made overland, in 1844, to Port Essington, in Northern Australia. In a letter addressed to Professor Owen, which is quoted in that eminent physiologist's “Report on the Extinct Mammals of Australia,” read at the annual meeting of the British Association, July, 1845, and which accompanied a box of fossil bones from Darling Downs, he describes his life in terms which sound sadly and strangely affecting, now that we have so much reason to fear that, after succeeding in his first, he has perished in his second enterprise :
“ Living here as the bird lives who flies from tree to tree,—living on the kindness of a friend fond of my science, or on the hospitality of the settler and squatter,—with a little mare, I travelled more than 2,500 miles, zigzag, from Newcastle to Wide Bay, being often my own groom, cook, washerwoman, geologist, and botanist at the same time; and I delighted in this life. When next you hear of me, it will be either that I am lost and dead, or that I have succeeded in penetrating through the interior to Port Essington.”
Leichardt set out on this expedition, and left Timba, the last station on the Darling Downs, 30th September, 1844, and reached Port Essington in December of the same year. The privations he endured were terrible. Mr. Gilbert, a naturalist in the employment of Mr. Gould, fell a sacrifice to the savages. More than once the bronzewinged pigeon, flying to water, saved them from dying of thirst.
BRONZE-WINGED PIGEON. To the parties engaged in this expedition the Legislative Council voted £1,000, and £1,500 was raised by private subscription for the same purpose. Of these two sums, £1,450 were presented to Dr. Leichardt. He lost no time in preparing a second expedition, for the purpose of “exploring the interior of Australia, the extent of Sturt's desert, and the character of the western and north-western coast, and to observe the gradual change in vegetation and animal life from one side of the continent to the other.” This expedition set out in December, 1846, and was expected to occupy not less than two years and a half in reaching Swan River. The following is the last letter ever received from him, addressed to a friend in Sydney :
“I take the last opportunity of giving you an account of my progress. For eleven days we travelled from Mr. Birell's station, on the Condamine, to Mr. Macpherson's, on the Fitzroy Downs. Though the country was occasionally