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CALCULATION FOR STEAM TRAFFIC.
present conveyed to Melbourne and Geelong in bullock-drays, travelling about ten miles a day, occupying many weeks in its transit to the port.”
To this statement it is right to add, that, in our opinion, speculations involving so trifling an amount of capital as a couple of small iron steam-boats, should be undertaken and managed by colonists or the provincial government, and would be, if worth doing at all.
The navigation of the Murray is an enterprise, if feasible, within the means of a party of colonists, although the clearing of the river is a national and provincial work, to which this country might be called upon to contribute; but the less absentees have to do with small colonial speculations the better for their finances and the credit of the colony.
In the Murray scrub, a beautiful but barren belt of shrubs and plants from fifteen to twenty miles in breadth, which runs parallel to the river for many miles between Lake Alexandrina and the Great Bend in lat. 34 S.,—a great number of the rare birds and animals of Australia are to be seen; amongst others, the leipoa, or mound-building bird, improperly named by the colonists the wild turkey, is found in great numbers ; and the satin, or bower bird, which builds a bower for its mate so curiously arched and adorned with shells and shining stones that when Mr. Gould first discovered one he took it for the playground of some aboriginal child. The leipoa, which was first brought before the attention of the scientific world by Mr. Gould, realizes the ancient fable of the ostrich, and buries its eggs, to be hatched by the fermentation of a mound of decomposed leaves and earth.
Mr. Gould observes in his great work, from which all our objects of natural history have been, by permission, copied :
“This family of birds (Tallegalla, Leipoa, and Megapodius) form part of a great family of birds inhabiting Australia, New Guinea, the Celebes, and the Philippine Islands, whose habits and economy differ from those of every other group of birds which now exists upon the surface of our globe. In their structure they are most nearly allied to the Gallinacæ, while in some of their actions and in their mode of flight they much resemble the Rallidæ: the small size of their brain, coupled with the extraordinary means employed for the incubation of their eggs, indicates an extremely low degree of organization. Three species inhabiting Australia, viz., Leipoa ocellatta, Tallegalla, and Megapodius tumulus, although referable to distinct genera, have many habits in common, particularly in their mode of incubation, each and all depositing their eggs in mounds of earth and leaves, which, becoming heated either by fermentation of the vegetable matter or by the sun's rays, form a kind of natural hatch
ing apparatus, from which the young at length emerge, fully feathered, capable of sustaining life by their own unaided efforts.”
The male bird of the leipoa (according to a letter to Mr. Gould from Sir George Grey, the present Governor of New Zealand) weighs about four pounds and a half; they never fly if they can help it, and roost on trees at night. The mounds are from twelve to thirteen feet in circumference at the base, and from two to three feet in height. To construct the mound a nearly circular hole of about eighteen inches in diameter is scratched in the ground to the depth of seven or eight inches, and filled with dead leaves, dead grass, and similar materials ; over this layer a mound of sand, mixed with dry grass, &c., is thrown; and, finally, the whole assumes the form of a dome. When an egg is to be deposited, the top is laid open, and a hole scraped in the centre to within two or three inches of the bottom of the layer of dead leaves ; the egg is placed in the sand just at the edge of the hole, in a vertical position, with the smaller end downwards ; the sand is then thrown in again until the mound assumes its original form. “ Egg after egg is thus deposited up to eight, arranged on the same plane in a circle, with a few inches of sand between each. The cock assists the hen in opening and covering up the mound. The native name on the Murray River is marrah-ko; in Western Australia the name of the bird is ngowngoweer meaning a tuft of feathers.”
The megapodius of which we give an engraving was found by Mr. John M Gillivray, during a survey of Endeavour Straits, to construct a much larger mound, 24 feet in its utmost height, and 150 feet in circumference at the base.
South Australia has been divided into counties, which are more recognised as distinctive boundaries than in the other colonies, where the first colonization was effected by sheep.
These counties are eleven in number, viz. :-1. Adelaide; 2. Hindmarsh; 3. Gawler ; 4. Light; 5. Sturt; 6. Eyre; 7. Stanley ; 8. Flinders; 9. Russell ; 10. Robe; 11. Grey.
The county of Adelaide is that in which cultivation is most extensively carried on, the other districts being chiefly occupied for grazing, as the difficulty of getting crops to market prevents sellers from raising more than for their own consumption. But in every favourable situation vineyards are making great progress.
Port Adelaide has a population of 2,000, who find occupation in the extensive movements of a large export and import trade. The primitive appearance of the Mangrove Creek through which the disconsolate first colonists waded has disappeared.
A road of seven miles, through sterile sandy ground, leads to the city, which is traversed by conveyances of all kinds, from the heavy drag to the omnibus and smart dog-cart. Crossing the Torrens by a wooden bridge, one of four, which is occasionally swept away by the torrents, after performing a sinecure duty for many months, the city of Adelaide appears in the midst of trees, often full of the most rare and curious birds, which migrate periodically from the colder to the hotter climates, in a warm, pretty, and dusty valley. Adelaide, although very unlike a city according to European notions, presents a much more pleasing appearance than Melbourne, which is crowded into a narrow valley, without squares, park, or boulevard. In the park lands surrounding and intersecting the straggling streets of the former, which are as picturesque as Wiesbaden or Cheltenham, although less finished, Colonel Gawler encouraged the blacks to camp by frequent feasts of flour and mutton, and there strangers had an opportunity of seeing, sometimes to their amusement, oftener to their surprise, their peculiar customs, habits, and sports. Many pretty cottages are to be found in the suburbs as neat and highly finished as in England.