Men and Wild Scenes
Men Killed and Eaten by Cannibals in New Guinea
Calls with Death
SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 23, 1924,
WILD MEN AND WILD SCENES
News” readers are invited to come with me on a trip down the
west side of the Cape York Peninsula, about 30 years ago, and
on the way we shall take off our hats to the memory of the
grand old Dutch navigators who left their names on that coast
319 and 301 years ago, or 165 and 147 years before Cook.
It is a wild romantic coast, even today, for there are
no white people anywhere actually living on that coast, for
nearly 500 miles, except the Mapoon Aboriginal Station, at the
mouth of the Batavia, 100 miles south of Thursday Island.
In 1605, the yacht Duythen, the “dove” was sent to
explore New Guinea, and the captain landed on the east side of
Cape York Peninsula, and also sailed south to what he called
Cape Keerweer –“turn again” –and returned to Java. That cape
is 150 miles south of the Batavia. The total depth of that
vast Coast of Carpentaria, named from the Dutch Governor
Carpentar, of Batavia, is 400 miles in width, from the Batavia
to Cape Arnheim, named from one of Jan Carstens’ ships of
And Carstens, with the Pera and Arnheim, went 160 miles
south to Cape Keerweer in that year, and named the Staaten and
Nassau Rivers, the first rivers named in Australia. Gilbert,
the naturalist of Leichhardt’s Expedition of 1843, was killed
by the blacks on that old Dutch Nassau about the junction of
the 16th parallel and the 142nd
Then Leichhardt turned south, and went round the shores
of the Gulf. The farthest north cattle station at the time of
my visit was York Downs, on the head of the Embley, and the
manager, Lachlan Kennedy, told me he shot three remarkable
strange cattle, over on the Batavia, a bull and two cows, no
bigger than Newfoundland dogs. He kept neither the hides nor
the skeletons, not even the skulls. He appeared to have no
sane reason for shooting them at all, except that they were
wild and unbranded, and belonged to nobody.
In my opinion those two pigmy cows and the pigmy bull
were descendants from some stock left there by the Dutch
navigators over 300 years ago, and their descendants had
degenerated. But Kennedy’s rifle consigned the whole
fascinating romance to eternal oblivion.
Fifty miles south from the mouth of the Batavia is
Albatross Bay, named by John Douglas from the Government
steamer Albatross. Between that Bay and the Batavia is a short
but broad river the Dutch call the Coen, from Governor Coen of
Batavia. Like all the rivers on that coast, it swarms with
crocodiles, the “gamburra” of the blacks, and the captain of
the wrecked Kanahooka was taken by one on his way along the
coast to Mapoon. Albatross is a large bay, the two capes
guarding the entrance, north and south, Pera Head and Duythen
Point being 20 miles apart, though the actual entrance narrows
to about two miles. The blacks call Pera Head “Imbangga,” and
Duythen Point “Loopanninjin,” the names of the tribes who
owned the locality.
There can be hardly a doubt that the Dutch sailed into
that bay 300 years ago, and probably went in their whaleboats
to examine the two rivers, and also the long estuary that runs
into the bay. We really know nothing of the first white men
who landed on the coasts of Australia.
The crocodiles would not be new to the Dutchmen, as
there are plenty in Java, but the aboriginals would be a very
different race from the Javanese, and the Dutch have left a
record that they had a serious conflict with the blacks,
apparently somewhere about the Coen River.
The aboriginals all along that coast throw the spear
with the woomera, “meendee,” and at Albatross Bay they use
three kinds of spear, a three pronged one, “andoolo,” a single
point “ahdoon,” and a stingaree “lannip”. The last is a most
diabolical weapon, and the wound it inflicts rarely ever
heals. The point is composed of from five to 12 stingaree
barbs, the centre one being the largest 4in in length, the
others in circles round that centre, each circle receding half
an inch, until the whole forms a pyramid which makes a ghastly
and intensely painful wound – actually a round hole, half an
inch in diameter, which never seems to close. This spear is
usually thrown at the thigh or the buttocks.
My first experience was in Albatross Bay. We had taken
the whaleboat up one of the rivers running into the bay, and
camped all night on a beautiful little glade fronting the
river, about two acres, as level as a billiard table, covered
with beautiful flowering plants that scented the whole area.
The river bank was not more than 5ft above the water, the
river dark and deep, about 40 yards across a narrow, dark,
uncanny looking creek coming into it on our right. It was just
becoming dusk when we started to camp, about 40 yards from the
river, and my Coen River blackboy, “Gnootaringwan,” called my
attention to two big “gamburra” (crocodiles) cruising up and
down in midstream, showing only the tips of their noses, and
their eyes, which are only about an inch below the crown of
the head. The two front teeth in the lower jaw go right up
through two holes in the end of the top jaw, and project half
an inch, the two white points being clearly seen when the nose
is just barely out of the water. They had the heads of
crocodiles from 14ft to 16ft in length, and were a pair of
ugly visitors on such an occasion. After dark, they began to
utter those horrible sounds, something like the grunt of an
old boar and the yawn of a lion, varied by the sound made by a
bull bellowing with his nose on the ground.
And it was not a cheerful serenade in that black
darkness, with the dark scrub around us on three sides, the
Stygian gloom of the river in front, and beyond and on our
right the dark, dense mangrove stretching away into inky
blackness. The silence was one that could be felt, broken only
by those dreadful animals we could only hear, and not see. Had
they known their power, and rushed the camp in the darkness,
they would probably have got two of the party. But the
blackboy and myself knew their habits, and that they would
never come near a fire, and so that fire was most carefully
kept very much alight – all night!
Next morning, when going down the river to the
Albatross, there was an 18ft crocodile sunning himself on the
mud at low tide. At the second of firing, one of the men was
nervous and moved, the rifle bullet just grazing the
crocodile’s back, and throwing up the mud behind him. The shot
woke him, and he glided into the river, without making a
On the way down, at low tide, the depth was about four
or five feet, the water very clear, and the bottom of the
river swarmed with splendid crabs up to five pounds in weight.
One of the blacks thrust a spear through a choice specimen,
and lifted it on board, following that with three more.
Those crabs were in their hundreds.
Nearing the mouth of the river, we saw, a short
distance ahead, a couple of wild blacks fishing from a bark
canoe, one sitting in the bottom, and the other standing
erect, with a spear, both with their backs to us.
At a signal from me, the men stopped pulling, and the
boat drifted down with the tide to within ten yards of the
canoe, before the erect man turned and saw us.
At first he was going to sit down with the other, but
the spirit of the warrior asserted itself, and he promptly
stood erect, and looked defiantly at us all. He was a fine
specimen of a man, about 6ft, and, as we drew alongside the
canoe, my attention was directed to a terrible circular wound
on his left thigh, “teenee,” made by one of those terrible
We took the canoe in tow, over to a sand bank covered
by shells and pebbles, and there his wound was dressed by me
with bichloride of mercury and a little cotton wool, bound by
a strip of adhesive plaster.
The stern savage watched the process with great
interest, probably wondering if it were more effective than
his own remedy, the powdered gum of the bloodwood, E.
corymbosa, the “boonah” of the South Queensland blacks, a
powerful astringent, antiseptic gum. During this scene, an
immense crocodile crawled out on to the mud, about 200 yards
away from us.
The sound of the ball striking him, somewhere on the
side, was distinctly heard, and the huge beast threw himself
over into the water, in a half somersault, with incredible
agility. It may or may not have been a fatal wound. If fatal,
they may die in the water, and sink until decomposition sends
them to the surface, or they may crawl out and die on the
The blacks expressed great joy at “gamburra” being hit,
and were much amused at his somersault.
While treating the spear wound, the black repeated the
words “lannip” and “indrooanna,” the stingaree spear and
woman. My Coen blackboy explained that the man had been
speared in a row, through jealousy over a woman, a fruitful
source of trouble among all the races of mankind.
So it must have seemed to Chrysostom, when he said,
“Woman is a necessary evil and a desirable calamity!” He never
had a best girl, or he would not have talked like that. Byron
said, “The love of woman is a beautiful and a fearful thing,”
and so it may be when stingaree spears are introduced.
In the cape York dialect a woman is “indahmoo,” and a
man “imbahmoo,” an affinity not known in any other district.
An old woman is “immahtha,” and an old man “woorpoo,” a little
girl, “gimbutta,” water is “getta,” and fire, “ooma.”
In the afternoon the blacks showed me where a Thursday
Island policeman, with black troopers, came down in a cutter,
enticed a number of blacks on board, and then shot them, as
some of that tribe were suspected of stealing a cutter. That
policeman was afterwards murdered at Thursday Island by a
That Albatross Bay is a romantic and delightful spot,
perfectly sheltered from all winds, with abundance of fresh
water an unlimited supply of fish, and a wealth of splendid
crabs, probably unexcelled in Australia.
Just inside the bay, on the left hand side, is a small
river, called the Pine River, the “Leeoopannanjinni” of the
aboriginals. Between the mouth and the sea stands the
romantic, rugged, cliff faced Pera Head, seamed and grooved
and caverned by the wild north-west monsoon storms, the
cyclonic winds, and tempestuous surges of ten thousand years,
sweeping across the Gulf, and leaving their hieroglyphs cut
into the grey stone crag, as the silent “testimony of the
rocks.” And that glorious, beautiful headland is covered by
flowering shrubs, by superb orchids and lycopodiums, by
marvelous lichens, green, brown, blue, and yellow, and elegant
creepers and graceful ferns, a wealth of wondrous tropical
vegetation. And yet that fascinating headland holds a very sad
memory for me, not mentioned heretofore, even to a friend. On
my first visit to that bay we ran into the mouth of the river,
or, at least, anchored near the mouth, and two of us went
ashore with the intention of going to Pera Head. My friend was
behind me, and we were walking very quietly, in sandshoes,
over flat rocks, through scattered clumps of bushes, when what
appeared to me to be a dark rock wallaby moved in some
undergrowth, and a sudden snap shot with the rifle evidently
stopped him about 15 yards away; but when we walked up to the
spot the supposed rock wallaby was a thin, old, grey-haired
blackfellow, just breathing his last.
Alas! Alas! He must have been on his hands and knees,
for the merciless Swinburne rifle bullet entered his right
hip, and came out under his collarbone. That pathetic
unfortunate accident made a sad day for me, and many a sad day
SATURADY OCTOBER 6, 1923
NEW GUINEA’S WORST TRAGEDY
In the year 1895, my last visit was paid to Frank
Jardine at his romantic home at Somerset, on the shore of
Albany Pass, near Cape York, and facing Albany Island, the
“Pahbajoo” of the Straits Islanders, who are a Papuan race, of
whom those once living on Thursday Island, Prince of Wales
Island, Possession, Horn, and Hammond Islands, are extinct.
Frank Jardine was one of the two brothers who conducted
the remarkable expedition from Rockhampton to Cape York in
8164, an account of which was written by me for “The World’s
A week as the guest of Jardine, in 1895, gave me a rich
patch of stirring incidents in his career, and they were
promptly recorded in my notebook. He also gave me a copy of a
letter and report handed to him in his official capacity as
police magistrate at Somerset in 1873, being a report and
extracts from the log of the brigantine Franz, a vessel of 148
tons, which had left Sydney on July 2, 1872, on a pearl
shelling voyage to the South Seas and Malayan Archipelago.
The report was signed and handed to Jardine by Captain
Edwin Redlich, a Prussian, and August Baumgarten, the second
mate. They dated their report at Somerset.
Jardine, in his letter enclosing the report to the
Colonial Secretary in Brisbane, throws a brief but lurid light
on some of the deeds too common in the days when Polynesians
were being recruited for the sugar plantations. He says: “By
adhering strictly to the letter of the Act, the master is
perhaps liable to punishment for bringing Polynesians into the
colony without the necessary authority.”
“He left Sydney on July 2, when the Kidnapping Act was
not in force, and when masters employed in seeking native
laborers had a wide margin for committing with impunity all
sorts of atrocities in procuring them. But, after a strict
investigation of the proceedings of the voyage, I find that in
times when it was the rule among traders to swindle and ill
treat their men, the master of the Franz made a fair written
agreement with the natives he shipped, and while on board the
vessel had treated them well. Since leaving Sydney he has not
been into a British port, or had a chance to hear of the
Kidnapping Act being passed, so I have taken no proceedings
against him, except holding the vessel until the arrival here
of H.M.S. Basilisk, due here about March 1. Before leaving
Salawatty, Captain Redlich left a letter in the hands of the
Rajah, addressed to his brother, the Prussian Consul-General
in Hamburg, reporting the murder of his crew.”
Now we shall accompany the Franz on her disastrous trip
to the final terrible tragedy. She left Sydney with the
master, first and second mates, and 14 colored men, a very
mixed lot of Chinese, Fijians, and Loyalty Islanders.
They reached the Island of Mare on July 13, and shipped
two men there, followed by two at Sango, three at Uea, and
three at Lifu.
Could get no men at the Banks Group, and at
Uraparapara, they were received with a shower of arrows, and
were forced to shoot. The captain’s log laconically records:
“I believe we hit some.”
At St. Christoval a sailor, and native of that island,
named Jimmy Ketumah, died on board, and was taken ashore and
buried, the mate reading prayers over him. Jimmy had been in
the last stage of consumption when leaving Sydney. At Duke of
York Isles, the natives were friendly, and came to the ship in
crowds, but, though many offered to be hired, the muster only
took seven men to complete his complement of 34.
On October 26, they reached the coast of New Guinea,
and on November 12, the master sent away the mate, Henry
Schleuter, with the two large boast and 17 men, to prospect
for pearlshell, taking provisions and water for three weeks.
Not one of these 18 men ever returned. The captain would have
sent more men, but 11 of his crew were down with fever.
A boat sent in search could find no trace of the
missing men and two boats, but those on board were told by
friendly natives that they had gone into a dangerous place and
not come out again.
The captain went to see the Rajah of Salawatty, and get
his assistance. The boats had called there and gone away,
being warned by the Rajah against the natives where they were
going, but the mate only laughed and pointed to their
On December 16 the Rajah came off with three armed
proas and 45 men, and was supplied with guns, revolvers, and
ammunition, but he took none of the white men, as he did not
want the natives to see them with him.
Five days after, and the Rajah returned with seven
guns, a revolver, the mate’s watch, a boat compass, and the
Hamburgh colors, but no trace of the boats. Then the captain,
the steward, and two of the sailors went on board the proas
with the Rajah, and anchored next night at Cape Saylee,
passing on Jan 1 the two small islands of Elfmatal, and next
day going 30 miles up the large river Crarbera, where it was a
On Jan 3, they caught three wild bush blacks, one of
whom was actually among the murdering party, and, according to
his confession, the two boats had been anchored under Elfmatal
Island, when three canoes, each with 15 men, came off from the
mainland of New Guinea, were quite friendly, and gave them a
lot of pineapples and bananas, then returning to the mainland.
What followed may be told by the captain himself: “My
men in the boats had divided into two parties, some sleeping
in the boats and the others going ashore to light a fire and
sleep there. Meanwhile the savages had returned, landed at the
back of the island, and walked across, lurking in the bush for
hours, watching the men ashore until they were all asleep;
then they rushed up and killed them all, without a cry being
raised or a shot fired, the whole being murdered before those
in the boats heard a sound or realised that they were to be
the next victims.
“When the horrible cannibals had finished the massacre
on shore, they went silently in their canoes to the boast and
killed every soul in his sleep, there evidently not being a
cry uttered or a shot fired, and I could find no marks of
blood on the guns or the men’s jackets. Then the cannibals
took the boats to a place which dries at low water mark, near
Elfmatal Island, and burned them there, the anchors and cables
being thrown into deep water. Then they took all the bodies to
the village at Crarbera, where they cut off all the heads for
trophies, selling the bodies to a neighbouring tribe, who
cooked and ate them. The three prisoners were horrible looking
fellows, especially the fellow who had helped to murder my
poor men. They are a different race from the more civilised
Papuans, with dirty brown skin, short poodle hair, flat
African noses, projecting lips, and are of horrible
“If my poor men had only been watchful and fired at
them they never would have been killed by these miserable
wretches. We went some distance further up the river, but the
Rajah could not be induced to go above Crarbera, as there are
a thousand savages there, and he said our party was not strong
enough, so we returned and anchored at Epnatal Island, where I
ordered the terrible cannibal to be brought ashore. Facing the
spot where the two boats had been lying, we tied him up to a
tree, and shot him, myself and the mate firing the two first
shots. Then the natives cut off his head and tied it on a
tree, hanging the body in a branch, as a warning to the next
cannibals who came along. My men witnessed the execution, and
it had the Rajah’s sanction.”
Such is the captain’s story, but, with the aid of a
Malayan sailor and much patience, he got the whole story from
the New Guinea native who acted as pilot from the river to the
open water. It appears that he was fishing from his canoe when
he first saw the boats with the doomed men in them; that he
and others paddled up to them, counted the number of the party
and the firearms, were quite friendly, and gave them a lot of
fruit, and returned two days after with 120 men to murder them
all. There were 16 of the ship’s people ashore, and only two
in the boats. The cannibals crawled up to them when they were
sound asleep, and speared them all in one act, the mate being
the first, several spears being run through each man, and
others rushed up with bamboo knives and cut their heads off.
Eighteen men murdered in one party probably form a record for
In Australian history the 19 whites killed on the Nogoa
at Will’s station in 1861, and 11 on the Dawson, on Hornet
Bank station, are the greatest numbers of whites killed at one
time, and next come the nine of Faithfull’s men, overloading
with teams to Victoria.
In all these cases there was a total absence of common
sense caution, such as would have prevented all these
tragedies. The clearly apparent ease with which ill deeds may
be done frequently suggests the doing.
In the case of the murder of 18 men of the Franz, it
does seem incredible that so little suspicion and watchfulness
were shown. A whole party of 18 men are caught sound asleep,
quite unsuspecting, on the beach of an island within a very
short distance of a mainland swarming with murderous,
treacherous cannibals, of whom about 40 had visited them with
presents of fruit, and nothing required in return, a most
ominous sign in itself.
The Rajah had solemnly warned them of the treacherous
character of the natives, and among the party were several
Polynesians and Malays, two of the most suspicious races on
earth, and no strangers to all forms of treachery.
That there was no sentry guard, not even a dog, seems
beyond comprehension. The free gift of fruit should alone have
been enough to raise suspicion, especially in the Malays and
Polynesians, and the evil looking types should have warned the
mate of their general character.
And they were actually camped in that unguarded manner
for three or four days. It is a hopeless conundrum.
And then one terrible night there came, just before the
dawn, that awful and tragical scene, the 120 black human
cannibal tigers, hungry and thirsty for blood, on their
midnight march through the darkness, then crouched in the
shadows, crawling like tigers on to the doomed men, wrapped
there in peaceful slumber, lullabied by the long wash and
metallic ripple of rhythmic waves upon the coral beach, the
final signal by the chief tiger, the simultaneous rush, the
muffled sound of a hundred spear thrusts, then silence and
SATURDAY MARCH 15, 1924
It has been my lot to crowd a considerable number of
exciting incidents into my life, and death has given me a
close call on several occasions, but being a confirmed
fatalist enabled me to regard the Valkyrie in the vicinity
with perfect indifference, firmly believing in the horoscope
cast for me by a dear old Caledonian grandmother, who passed
away at the early age of 104.
Among the pastimes of past years were three bites from
snakes which have all unpleasant reputations. At the age of
14, a brown snake bit me at the junction of the left small toe
and the foot, at Ulmarra, on the Clarence, and a full account
is in the old Grafton “Examiner.”
There was a distance of 300 yards between me and my
brother, and for that distance anyone could have heard me
whiz, like Mark Twain’s jackass rabbit, long after he was even
out of sight!
My brother made a liberal incision, and started to suck
the poison out, but the blood around the bite was black and
congealed, and he had to cut further back to the red blood.
That black blood poisoned his mouth for a week after.
Then Billy Goodger galloped up, waving a bottle of
brandy he had got from Sam Cohen, father of J. S. Cohen, who
went to school with me, and is now Judge Cohen of New South
Wales. He and his brother, Dr. Aaron Cohen, another
schoolmate, will remember this incident. People came from all
directions, as if they came out of the earth, and most of them
had infallible snakebite remedies, any one of which would have
successfully killed me.
There was great excitement, and the only calm,
unconcerned person was the youth who was bitten.
They took turns in walking me up and down the verandah
for about four hours, and gave me spoonfuls of brandy and
water, until they found me speaking in a language supposed to
be extinct. Then came ten hours sleep, and pleasant dreams
about snakes that have never been seen since; thousands of
snakes, all colors of the rainbow, and all sizes, up to 200
feet, with teeth that tore sheets of bark off the spotted
gums. That joyous nightmare is not forgotten yet.
My next familiarity with a snake was at the crossing of
the Brunswick River, in 1870, when Marshall, the cedar getter
there, was the only inhabitant from the Tweed Heads to the
lighthouse at the mouth of the Richmond. The great butter
factory at Byron Bay today was not even in the primordial,
atomic, globule stage of Evolution.
Muir and myself, coming from the north, swam our horses
over the Brunswick with Marshall’s boat, and then hung our
bridles over two small bushes until we had something to eat.
On returning for my horse, my left hand grabbed a five foot
black snake instead of the bridle, and he promptly bit me
viciously on the left forearm. A Brunswick River aboriginal
had the wound cut and sucked in about two minutes, and all the
poison out. Then he bound on a puffball to stop the blood,
left it on for an hour, got some young tea-tree leaves, heated
them over the fire, and bound them on the wound with my
handkerchief, the cure being so complete that there was no
more sensation of any kind.
The next unfriendly snake interviewed me when camped on
the shore of Weymouth Bay, in the Cape York Peninsula.
It was a fairly cold night, and the snake evidently
crawled in beside me, under the blanket, just about daylight,
though he may have been there much longer. Being restless in
my sleep, and turning over on might right side so as to crush
some part of him, he bit me on the outside of the right wrist.
This did not wake me, but it caused me to turn back to the
left side for a few minutes, and turn back to the right just
in time to see the snake moving off into the bushes, leaving
me quite unconscious of being bitten.
Had this been known to me, there were blacks there who
would have cured me in three minutes, but it was only known to
me from the agonizing pain in my hand at midnight, on board
the cutter Myro, when on my way with Fred Lancaster to
Thursday Island. A Pascoe River black on board saw in a second
the cause of the pain, and told me it was the bite of
“irra-irra,” a brown snake with two red spots on the head, and
two of which were killed by me on the previous day, the blacks
telling me that the bite of that snake was not fatal for two
days. On the Myro the black took my razor and made two
longitudinal incisions on my wrist, but no blood would flow,
and so it was left until we reached Thursday Island. How a man
can endure the unspeakable agony for a day and a night and
live through it, is something to marvel at.
It landed me a month in the Thursday Island Hospital,
and that month reduced me from 11 stone 12 pounds to 9 stone 3
pounds, about 6 months being required to restore my weight.
Doctors White and Wassell credited my recovery to what they
called my “chilled-steel constitution.”
It may be well to say here that the bite of a snake
feels like a slight pinch by two sharp fingernails, or a small
stab from the points of two needles. The poison fangs are very
sharp, the hole through which the poison is expressed coming
out on the side of the tooth, some distance back from the
point, so that the bite of the deadliest snake would be
harmless unless the fangs were driven in far enough for the
poison orifice to get below the skin.
This explains the escape from fatal consequences of so
many people who were really only partly bitten.
Travellers on the present Little River road from
Grafton to Glen Innes, when coming down the “Big Hill” to
cross the Mann River, can see away in front, in to the right
of the road, a large mountain with a sheer vertical precipice
about 800ft. It is ribbed from base to apex, and, in
appearance, might be vertically stratified sandstone or
columnar basalt. The name of “Samson’s Ribs” was given to it
when the Big Hill cutting was being made in 1865, if not
The picturesque road along the Little River was only
opened even for horsemen in 1868, and Jim Braham, the mailman,
and myself, were two of the first who rode through. The old
road by Barney’s Hill, the Stony Pinch, and the old Hook’s
River – the Nymboy – was easily the worst road in Australia.
As a boy, my curiosity was great to go to the foot of
Samson’s Ribs, and Jim took me over. We had to leave our
horses at one stage and walk to the foot of that awful
precipice, which grimly towered above us,
pillars of the skies, like the ramparts of the world.
and impressive spectacle.
While we were standing there, and only about two yards
apart, a mass of rock, detached from somewhere on the summit,
and weighing at least at ton, fell with an ominous “swish”
within ten or twelve yards of us, and smashed into a thousand
pieces, the awful concussion making a tremor under us like
some great blast of dynamite. We were both struck by several
small fragments, and giving me a nasty bruise on the ribs, and
another hurt Jim badly between the shoulders.
Had it been five or six yards nearer, we would
certainly both have been killed by the large fragments, some
of which passed unpleasantly near. Jim at once hurried back to
the horses, where he said, “By Jove, that was my closest
call!” And yet he had told me of much nearer calls than that,
one when he was riding along the deep ravine of the Nymboy,
and a sharp tomahawk, thrown by a blackfellow from a rock
overhead, cut the purse pouch off his waist belt and took the
head off his lead packhorse alongside of him! And once, when
riding a matchless grey mare along a narrow wallaby track on
the face of a precipice, he had to close his eyes to shut out
the awful gulf below, a gulf of such fearful depth that if the
mare had slipped they would not have reached the bottom until
some time the next day!
But that falling rock from “Samson’s Ribs,” apparently,
for the time at least, overshadowed the grey mare on the
precipice and the tomahawk and the headless horse!
Ever after that falling rock was Jim’s star tragedy. It
increased in size to a hundred tons, and the fragments cut
down all the big timber in the vicinity. Dear old Jim! He
would share his last meal and last shilling and do anything
possible to oblige you, so it was very easy to accept all his
narrative as authentic and encourage him to go one better.
He was a fine type of the old time mailman, with
cabbage tree hat, and blue silk turban, a silver watch chain,
chin band, a blue or grey Cardigan jacket, corduroy or
moleskin trousers, and half Wellington boots, a red or blue
sash round the waist with a tassel at each end. He usually had
two muzzle loading revolvers and a small but very loud brass
trumpet to announce his arrival or scare the blacks. He stayed
one night at “Hook’s Crossing” of the Nymboy, and the next at
Newton Boyd station, then owned by John Small, of Ulmarra,
with Sellen as managing partner. Through all weathers, hot or
cold, wet or dry, thunderstorms and flooded creeks, mostly
rough mountains and deep gorges from the Nymboy to the top of
the Big Hill, a long lonely ride when he had no companion. He
told me of close calls he had, twice with falling trees, twice
with lightning, and a very narrow escape when washed away at
the crossing of the Nymboy. After leaving Chambigne station,
on the Urara, there was not a soul from there to Rusden’s
Shannon Vale station, on the Mann River, except at Hook’s
Crossing, and Newton Boyd. Rusden, who was a fine old fellow,
with a splendid library, was a brother of Rusden, the
historian, of Victoria.
Along the Mann River were hundreds of Rusden’s geese,
that had gone as wild as the wild geese. He invited me to stay
with him for a week, with full permission to shoot geese, and
all hands dined on geese during that week.
He was delighted with my reading to him for a couple of
hours every night.
COPPER AND IRON
The sudden evolution of a great mine. From the primeval
wilderness, to a fair sized town, and a populous centre of
mining activity, that in one year is known to the civilised
world, is one of the wonderful romances of Australian
No November 27, 1864, Frederick Walker, in search of
Burke and Wills, picked up two leaves from Burke’s memorandum
book, near the junction of the Norman and Flinders Rivers,
about 30 miles from salt water, in the Gulf.
One of the tributaries of the Flinders, entering that
river at the 20th parallel, Burke named the
“Cloncurry,” from his birthplace in Ireland.
Today, the Cloncurry River is the centre of the present
most extensive known copper bearing field in the world, and
part of it was proclaimed a gold field on October 1, 1874, but
the actual already known mineral area of gold, copper, silver,
and lead, extends over 13,000 square miles, an area nearly as
large as Tasmania.
The town of Cloncurry is 481 miles west by rail from
Townsville, and about 200 miles due south from the Gulf of
Carpentaria. It stands on level country of Silurian formation,
600 feet above the sea, near the bank of the Cloncurry River,
which runs north into the Flinders, and was named from
Cloncurry in Ireland, the birthplace of Burke, of the Burke
and Wills expedition of 1861. The town is midway between the
140 and 141 Meridians, near the 21st parallel.
A squatter named Ernest Henry, who was the original
holder of Hughenden station, found the Great Australian Copper
Mine, and took it up in 1864. The Mount Cuthbert Mine, 40
miles beyond Cloncurry, was not found by the Power brothers
until 1900, and was opened by the Chillagoe Option Company in
the following year.
Considerable quantities of alluvial gold have been
found over a wide area and reefs also gave fair returns. The
gullies and flats round the Mary Douglas Hill gave rich
alluvial gold, and in some of the claims the gold was found
mixed with carbonates of copper, or coated with iron oxides,
so that the diggers called it “black gold.”
Gold and bismuth are found together in the “Pumpkin
Gully,” near the town. One nugget weighing 28lb was found.
Very remarkable in the Cloncurry area are hills of
almost pure magnetic iron ore. One of these, named Mount
Leviathan, close to the town, is about 200ft in height and
three -quarters of a mile in circumference at the base.
Picture the quantity of first class iron in that one hill!
The copper ores occur usually as carbonates and red
oxides, and there are vast quantities of both. The lode also
occurs as oxychloride, known as aetamite, and chalcocite,
known as “glance copper.”
Sixty nine miles from Cloncurry by rail are the Mount
Cuthbert mines, 840 feet above sea level, among rough rocky
hills, and 80 miles north-west, out on Leichhardt waters, is
the famous Mount Oxide, another discovery by Ernest Henry,
where the company first started operations in 191. It is one
of the richest copper mines in the world.
Sixty eight miles southwest of Cloncurry is the small
mining township of Duchess in a valley encircled by low hills.
The copper mine here was sold to the Hampden Company by
Kennedy, of Bushy Park Station, for £15,000, and it was a good
investment, as large quantities of ore are sent weekly by rail
to the smelting works at Selwyn, 58 miles away. Duchess is
also the depot for a large extent of pastoral country, and
over 20 stations, some as far as Lake Nash, 210 miles, and
even Brunette Downs, 320 miles.
One needs to study for a short time a map of that
country, to get even a faint idea of the enormous territory
represented by the watershed of the Gulf rivers and that of
the Diamantina and Georgina.
From Kynana opalfield, stretching away northwest into
the Barclay Tableland near Camooweal, runs the divide between
the Gulf rivers and those that are lost in Central Australia.
And, if you cut out the purely mineral country, which is
usually poor and rough, you can know that four-fifths of the
remainder consists of first class pastoral country, splendidly
watered, with a fair rainfall and a healthy climate, at a
height of from 500 to 1000 feet above sea level.
The Burke, Camooweal, Cloncurry, and Norman districts,
Gulf country alone, carry 350,000 head of cattle and 12,000
head of horses. That country is not subject to the droughts of
The average fall at Normanton is 48, Burketown 28,
Floraville 28, Donors Hill 27, and Canobie 21.
The Gregory is the most remarkable river in Queensland.
It rises in the limestone of the Barclay Tableland, fed
evidently by perennial springs, and carries an unvarying
current of clear, cool, excellent water at all times of the
year, apart altogether from the wet months which usually
extend from December to March. It is a beautiful river, with
splendid fertile country on both sides.
The Beames’ Brook, named by Leichhardt, is really a
branch of the Gregory, and it leaves that river on Gregory
Downs, runs parallel for over 30 miles, the two only 10 miles
apart, and then empties into tidal waters in the Albert. That,
too, is a perennial stream of pure water, with beautiful
country on both banks. The Gregory at Alice Downs joins the
Nicholson, another river coming from the Barclay Tableland and
fed also by never fail springs. The whole of the Gulf
watershed, from the Flinders west to the Nicholson, is a
network of running creeks and good country.
Mr. George Phillips, C.E., a very careful observer,
estimated the daily flow of four streams as follows:- Gregory
River, 100,000,000 gallons’ Beames’ Brook, 30,000,000 gallons;
Lawn Hill Creek, 16,000,000 gallons; Widdallion Creek,
Just as Landsborough described the Gregory in 1861, so
did Phillips find it in 1909, for it had undergone no change
in 48 years. Phillips does not mention the O’Shannessy, a
large stream flowing into the Gregory, and also permanent.
The bed of the river is densely lined by large
tea-trees, beautiful Leichhardt trees, figs, plum trees,
casuarinas, cabbage palms, and pandanus, a gorgeous wealth of
Cloncurry must always be an important town, being the
centre ofa vast mineral field and the depot for an immense
extent of splendid pastoral country.
Cloncurry has a population of about 1500 people, but
the district has over 4000. At one Christmas time about 1500
people went from there by excursion trains to Hughenden,
Charters Towers, Ravenswood, and Townsville.
Ernest Henry, who discovered the Cloncurry mine in
1867, was also the finder of the Argylla in 1867, and Mount
Oxide in 1881.
Henry and Roger Sheaffe (afterwards M.L.A. in 1879)
found the Duck Creek mines also in 1867, but Henry had taken
up the Great Australia mine in 1864.
The first Police Magistrate and police officer was
Reginald Charles Heber Uhr, Sub-Inspector Kaye was stationed
there for a while before he went to the Woolgar, where the
blacks speared him.
He was escorting the blacks out from the settlement,
quite unsuspicious, when an old grey haired black walking
beside him, a few yards away, jerked a woomera spear from
under his arm, and it passed through Kaye’s heart.
The first divisional board started in 1884 with George
Seymour as chairman and W. S. Willmer the first clerk. The
water supply comes from wells 30 to 60 feet deep, and rain
tanks. There is no artesian or sub-artesian water in granite.
They also get water a mile away, from a long, deep, permanent
reach in the river. The climate is dry and healthy, people
having lived there in good health for 30 or 40 years. Rain
usually falls from October to March, and comes from whence
come the monsoons of the Gulf.
The first newspaper, the “Cloncurry Advocate,” was
started by Kennedy and McGrouther in 1889, and bought by the
present proprietor, H. Hensley, in 1892.
The famous Mount Oxide Copper Mine lies away northwest
119 miles from the Oona Railway station, six miles from Mount
Cuthbert. The coach leaves there at noon on Wednesday, and
arrives on Sunday at noon. The mine is in a small hill
surrounded by higher hills, and the top of the main shaft is
1000 feet above sea level. Ernest Henry’s old camp being 300
On the route from Cloncurry to Normanton travellers are
on Flinders waters all the way until they cross the Divide on
to the Norman, and the formation soon after leaving Cloncurry
is Rolling Downs (Lower Cretaceous), which extends to Leonard
Downs and Taldora, and from there west of the Norman to the
Gulf shores is what the geologist calls Recent Alluvia, Raised
Beaches, and Bone Drifts, or Post Tertiary Limestones. East of
the Norman, on all the tributaries of that river, is the
Blythesdale Braystone (named from Blythesdale rocks in the old
country), a rolling downs formation, extending to the edge of
the Croydon goldfield.
Seventy-one miles south from Cloncurry is the mining
town of Selwyn. It stands at a height of 1230 feet above the
sea on the dividing watershed of the Burke and Cloncurry, the
former running south past Boulia to Eyre’s Creek and Central
Australia, and the latter into the Flinders and the Gulf.
On the east side of the town are remarkable formations
of rock, an intrusive section of the old Desert Sandstone of
the Cretaceous Period, coming up in a belt from the Kynuna
opal field, and mostly covered by spinifex on the feet of men
or stock. A mile from the post office is the famous Mount
Elliott Mine, discovered in 1893 by James Elliott, who died
nine years afterwards in the Cloncurry Hospital. In 1904 the
lease was floated into a company with 150,000 shares at £5 and
then work began in earnest, first with a plant costing
£10,000, and then new works costing £80,000, finished in July,
1910, the result being copper to the value of £2,000,000 in
the first five years.
There are several other copper mines near Selwyn,
including the Belgium, found by the Kluver brothers, while
kangaroo shooting in Jan 1916. The mine is about seven miles
from Mount Elliott. There appears to be copper in all
directions in that country, and all that has been discovered
so far was found entirely by surface outcrops or indications.
Considerable quantities of copper ore are brought into
the smelting works by the “gougers,” parties of two or more
miners working small shows and picking out the best of the
ore. New discoveries can be expected any time in that
Cloncurry district, which appears to be one vast field of
copper, silver, gold, lead, zinc, and iron, and all that, too,
surrounded by some of the finest pastoral country in
Australia. It is deficient in nothing but good timber.
The western country generally has a poor supply of
timber, especially the Rolling Downs and the Desert Sandstone
areas, the low rainfall being chiefly accountable. The best
timbers are on the basalt country.
Outside of that there are chiefly gidya, mulga boree,
brigalow, lancewood, leopard wood, the western bloodwood,
which differs from that of the coast, and along the
watercourses are coolibah gums, tea -trees, and swamp oaks
(casuarinas). The boree and gidya, two very hardy and hard
acacias, are used largely for fencing posts, stockyards, and
rough outbuildings, having remarkable durability, posts of
both being taken out of the ground sound after 30 and 40
years. It is remarkable that, as acacias are the principal
trees of the west, the commonest of all the coast acacias, the
wattle, is entirely absent. Even firewood has to be brought
long distances to many places. Witness all the firewood
sidings on the far west lines.
Another mining town in an important centre is Hampden,
originally Friezland, 53 miles south by rail from Cloncurry,
and 1132 feet above the sea, on an open flat, with a
background of very rugged and picturesque hills. The chief
mine is the Hampden, owned by the Hampden Cloncurry Company,
who have a very fine smelting plant, which in one month of
1915 produced 813 tons of copper, a record for Australia. The
company also manipulate ore from their other mines – the
famous Duchess, Happy Salmon, Trekelano, and Macgregor.
The Hampden mine was first discovered by Fred Gibson in
1896, but not much was done until the present company started
in 1905. The Mount Elliott Company own an adjoining mine, the
Hampden Consuls, and close to the town are the Hampden Queen
and Hampden Central. The Hampden Company also purchases all
the parcels of ore from the surrounding “gougers’” just as is
done by all the other smelting works.
Hampden is a considerable town with good hotels and
stores, and many neat private houses. There are six hotels and
five stores. In one year the smelters produced 6000 tons of
copper, 1980 ozs of gold, and 52,000 oz of silver, worth a
total of £382,600 of silver, so the importance of the district
is clearly established.
SATURDAY OCTOBER 27, 1923
WILD WHITE MEN
The historian naturally wonders that no wild white man
was ever found among the wild blacks of New South Wales, South
Australia, or West Australia, and only one among the
aboriginals of Victoria.
Of the six wild white men in Australian history, five
were found in Queensland. The Victorian, James Buckley, was a
convict who escaped from the soldiers at the first attempt to
found a settlement at Port Phillip in 1803, and he was out for
33 years with the blacks before he was found by the white men.
Of the Queenslanders, Davis, Bracefell, and Baker were
also escaped convicts, but James Murrells was a shipwrecked
seaman from the barque Peruvian in 1846.
It was somewhat unfortunate that the wild blacks had to
form their first estimate of the white man on such types as
Buckley, Davis, Fahey and Bracefell who were actually far
below the average aboriginal in intelligence, and still
further below him in dignity, honesty, courtesy, and
self-respect. The precarious thinness of that white man’s
artificial veneer, which we are pleased to call “civilisation”
is very clearly apparent when we see the readiness with which,
when the occasion arises, he becomes what we have the
effrontery to call a “savage”!
And this, too, in calm defiance of the painfully
apparent fact that the worse and lowest types of real savages
are found today among the civilised white races. Buckley was a
type for whom the wild blacks could have no respect whatever,
but he had red hair, and they though he came from Balamee, and
that he was the reincarnate spirit of some dead aboriginal.
Exactly the same reason led to the adoption of Davis,
Bracefell, Fahey, Baker and Murrells.
Other escaped white men, who gave clear and fatal
proofs that they could never have been aboriginals, were
promptly killed. In Queensland territory alone, from 1840 to
1860, there was an official record of 250 white men killed by
the blacks, apart from those who, in the language of Essex
their weary ways alone,
In nine years there were 174 killed, according to the
official records of that time. How many aboriginals were shot
and poisoned in the same period, frequently without any
justification whatever, is a question to which the answer is
something not pleasant to hear, so the omission here is
In any case, it must necessarily fall far short of the
actual number, only a fraction –a terrible fraction – ever
When Buckley was found, he had become as wild as any of
the blacks, and was expert in throwing the boomerang and the
woomera spear. He could also use the shield and nulla, and had
adopted all their habits and customs, and ate exactly the same
food cooked in their own way.
Fahey, in only 12 years, had become just as wild as
Buckley, and went away back to civilisation very reluctantly
with Lieutenant Bligh and the native police, when they brought
him into Brisbane, in December, 1854. In the 12 years he had
forgotten his own language and spoke fluently the “Wacca”
dialect of the Darling Downs and Bunya Mountains.
The blacks must have passed him through the “Bora”
ceremony – “Boorool” in that locality – because his body bore
the “Xoolgarra” scares and the epaulette Bora marks on the
right shoulder – the shoulder no blacks, when fighting with
the stone knife, ever injured under any provocation, however
wild a rage they might be in.
When Davis, “Duramboi,” was found by Andrew Petrie and
Stuart Russell, in 1842, on the Mary River, he was clearly
wilder and more savage than any of the other wild white men.
Russell, in his “Genesis of Queensland”, gives a highly
dramatic and poetic description of that remarkable scene, when
the white savage was taken away from the wild blacks of the
Mary River, “Nummabulla.”
He was located by the aid of Bracefell, “Wandi,” who
had been found among the Noosa blacks, with whom he had
resided for ten years, having escaped from Moreton Bay in
1832. Of all the six wild Australian white men, Davis was the
nearest to the primeval savage.
He was well known to me for over 20 years, and we had
many interviews concerning aboriginals, their habits, customs,
and language, but he had none of the courtesy or politeness,
or desire to please characteristic of the aboriginal in his
wild state. That has been my experience of the wild
aboriginal, over a wide area of Australia, for considerably
over 50 years.
So that the low class of white man, after years with
the blacks, seems to acquire none of their good qualities, nor
lose any of his own bad ones.
Bracefell and Baker, “Boralchu,” were quiet men, whose
policy with the blacks was probably that of “tacit
acquiescence” in all that happened. Soon after coming in,
Bracefell was killed by a falling tree, near Goodna, 14 miles
from Brisbane, when he was felling scrub for a settler.
All my research failed to find out Baker’s subsequent
career, beyond the fact that he was taken to Sydney,
identified by the Superintendent of Convicts, and was actually
sentenced in 1854 to 12 months’ hard labour, for absconding
from a road gang, near Armidale, in 1842, one of those cases
in which the law may justly be regarded as a first class ass.
The best type of all the six wild white men was
certainly James Murrells, who was an honest English yeoman,
born at Heybridge, near Maldon, in the county of Essex. His
photograph, which is a very rare copy of the only one ever
taken, shows him to be a good, honest, type of the old time
sailor, with the circular style of beard of that period.
When he was brought down to Brisbane in 1863, he was,
fortunately, interviewed by the late Edmund Gregory, who in
after years was Government Printer of Queensland, and we have
to thank Gregory’s manuscript for all the existing records of
And Gregory expressed to me on several occasions his
earnest regret for not making a special effort to exhaust
Murrells’ store of rare and instructive knowledge, of which he
admitted only touching the fringe. He spoke in high terms of
Murrells’ modesty, and his kindly readiness to answer any
Ad even Murrells’ partly told tale reads like a wild
romance. After a few short voyages as a youth, on the English
coast, he finally sailed as carpenter’s mate on board the
Ramilies, which shipped the 11th Regiment of Foot
for Hobart Town, and a detachment of Royal Artillery for
Sydney, bound for New Zealand and the Maori War.
At Sydney he shipped on a small schooner called the
Terror, and went across to New Zealand and back. Finally, on
Tuesday, February 24, 1846, he shipped on board the barque
Peruvian, bound for China, with a cargo of hardwood, and in
charge of Captain George Pitkethley.
The Sydney Collector of Customs in 1863, W. A. Duncan
wrote in reply to Mr. Edmund Gregory, giving the list of
passengers on the Peruvian when she sailed out of Sydney
Besides the captain and his wife, there were a Mr. And
Mrs. Wilmott, Mr. J. B. Quarry, and Miss Quarry, but Murrells
told Gregory there also Captain Pitkethley’s brother as first
mate, J. R. Quarry, and a six year old daughter, while Mrs.
Wilmott had an infant and a nurse girl, the second mate, the
carpenter, John Millar, the sailmaker, the cook, James Dicks,
James Gooley, James Murrells, and two black men who had been
stowaways, and were allowed to work their passage.
Finally she ran on a reef away east of Cape Cleveland,
in the night, and remained there. Next day there was nothing
around them but surf and rocks. The captain’s brother was
washed away while trying to launch a boat, and was never seen
again. The bread was all destroyed by the salt water, and the
preserved provisions was overboard.
Then a raft was made, and 21 people drifted away on
that at the mercy of wind and waves. Then Murrell’s narrative
tells us: “The first death was James Quarry, leaving his child
to survive him but a short time. He told us on the day before
that he was dying. As soon as he died, he was stripped, and
thrown over, the sharks devouring him instantly before our
eyes. Mrs. Wilmott’s baby went next, then herself, and, one by
one, they were thrown to the sharks.” They fished for sharks
with a dead man’s leg for bait, caught one on a running
bowline knot, on the end of an oar, chopped him up and ate him
And so that dreadful journey, in which they and the
sharks ate each other for 42 terrible days, and finally seven
out of the original 21 landed three or four miles south of
Cape Cleveland, and were all treated kindly by the wild
blacks, with whom they stayed until only Murrells survived,
and he remained until one day he walked up to the white men
forming a new station on the Burdekin, in 1863, and was nearly
shot before they saw he was a white man. He only lived until
the 30th of October 1865, and died at Bowen, where
he was a great favourite and the whole population went to his
funeral. He had married a white woman, who bore him one son.
When leaving the blacks he relates that, “I told them I
would probably be away for three or four moons, and they said
‘You will forget us altogether.’ When I said ‘Goondawyn,’ the
man I was living with burst into tears, so did his wife, and
several other men and women. It was a wild touching scene, and
the remembrance of all their past kindnesses came up terribly
strong, and quite overpowered me. There was a short, sharp
struggle between a feeling of love for my old friends and
companions and the desire once more to live civilised life.”
SATURDAY DECEMBER 1, 1923
TROPICAL SEAS AND ISLANDS
ROMANCE OF CORAL REEFS
In an old essay by John Foster, in 1805, he tells us
that “it is the high test and proof of genius that writer can
render that which is interesting to himself, in the same
manner equally interesting to his readers. If the great works
of antiquity had not this power, they would long since have
ceased to charm.”
Thus do the ferocious warriors of Hemer, and the
splendid characters of Lucan, Plutarch and Xenophon remain
perpetually silhouetted gloriously on the imperishable pages
of the classical history of the ancient world. There, in still
ever luminous pages, stand the Greek Achilles, Ulysses,
Hector, Ajax, Diomede, and other heroes of the Iliad, and the
men who are immortal for their splendid virtues in the palmy
days of Rome.
The epic poetry of the ancients has left the most
remarkable descriptions, not of scenery, but of individuals,
the scenery of the Iliad, Odysseus, or Aeneid, leaving no such
permanent remembrance as the amazing characters in those
wonderful books. One of the best passages of descriptive
writing in all the Bible is the word picture of the warhorse
We can see that warhorse today as he appeared to the
eyes of the Hebrew Prophet, far back across the vast expanse
of long dead centuries. And we still thrill with the spirit
breathed through what Burns calls “rapt Isaiah’s wild seraphic
fire.” Among modern poets, Byron and Shelley stand apart in
the splendour of their descriptive writing, but Byron admits
that “no painting can give is any picture of the ocean.” No
painting done by human hands can give us even a faint
conception of the glories of a tropical sunset or sunrise. As
well expect a six feet clay model to enable you to grasp the
sublime magnificence of Everest or Chimborazo.
The limitation of the power of description in giving a
reasonable picture of some wondrous scene that makes a
boundless appeal, equally to the eye and the imagination, must
have been felt acutely by the descriptive writers of all ages
and nations,. The most eloquent of the world’s men and women
cannot get themselves properly understood or utter more than a
wild fragment of their thoughts, and what a wild whirlpool,
whirlwind, and vortex of stormy thoughts, ever restless, as
the rays of radium, must have been, in the brains of the
world’s thinking men and women, before the evolution of
language at all!
But this is diverging from the tropic seas, reefs, and
islands of North Australia. Comparison of one class of scenery
with another bearing not the slightest resemblance, is mere
foolishness. To the seeing eye each class of scenery has its
own excellence and its own charms. To the Norwegians, his
steel blue fiords, his weird lakes, his ice mountains and
avalanches, his pine clad hills and ravines, his snowdrifts,
his skies, rainbow tinted by the Aurora, would appeal more
strongly than all the gorgeous jungles and coral seas of our
tropic north. Even the Icelander, with his volcanic Hecla,
throwing mounded oceans of tempestuous fire and lava over the
fields of perpetual ice and snow, in that weird battlefield of
fire and frost, sees more beauty in his scenery than the
average Australian in his own. If we could suddenly transport
a Norwegian, an Icelander, and an Eskimo direct on to a
beautiful island on the Barrier Reef, the end of the first
week would find them all pining for their snow and ice, their
pineclad hills, fiords, and avalanches, their white hares,
foxes and polar bears.
You would get the same result if you took the wild
Arab, untamed son of the desert, away from his eternal sands,
his mournful camels. His green oasis by the palm tree wells,
for all this has been proved thousands of times in the world’s
So true is that story of the little American backwoods
girl who was on a visit to some town friends, with one of
whose little girls she had a quarrel. The little town girl
taunted her by saying, “Ah! You haven’t got two ponies and a
nice new carriage, ah!” But the little bush girl promptly
replied, with a crushing air of triumph, “Ah! You ain’t got a
skunk under your barn ah!”
You see, that skunk was more of a prize to the bush
girl than the ponies and carriage to the town maiden. So, when
we display the splendour of our own Australian scenery, tropic
or semi-tropic, to people from other countries, and attempt to
overawe them, by proudly saying, “You have nothing like this,”
you will probably find that the most of them have got skunks
under their barns! And you will merely be wasting time in
trying to depreciate the value of those skunks.
Among the tens of thousands of tourists who annually
travel France, Germany, and Italy, there are thousands who see
nothing but themselves and their clothes, and think of nothing
but their stomachs. A few of that type, too many, tour the
Australian coast, and visit the tropic north, people to whom
every animal is only a skunk, and a bird of Paradise may be a
crow – for all they care!
But there are hundreds of enthusiasts who raise their
hats to the glories of Nature, and gaze with boundless
admiration, and more or less reverence, at the magnificent and
majestic panorama which God has spread before us in that
wondrous tropical Northern Australia.
We shall go north to the 16th parallel, to
Captain Cook’s Cape Tribulation, where the Endeavour was
nearly wrecked on a coral reef.
A few miles south is the Daintree River, and within a
short distance – three miles from the Daintree – is an island,
called Schnapper Island, which was named by Lieutenant
Jeffreys, of the armed transport Kangaroo, on her way from
Sydney to India with a number of troops, 108 years ago. Think
of the vessels that have passed through Sydney Heads since the
Kangaroo sailed out, and the subsequent terrible tragedies so
many of them represented. How did those early navigators find
their way through those uncharted coral seas, among that
tangled wilderness of reefs and islands.
Lieutenant Jeffreys landed on that island, there being
at the time thousands of Torres Strait pigeons, and they got
great numbers of large crabs and big rock oysters, all three
being in abundance during four days spent by me on the island.
We lived exclusively on crabs, oysters and pigeons, which
included the whampoo, white headed pigeon, pheasant tailed
pigeon, flock pigeon, and the little green pigeon.
There were also numbers of scrub turkeys and scrub
hens, while fish of many kinds swarmed everywhere off the
The island shown on the next page consists of a hill
covered by thick tropical jungle, with glorious vegetation,
and there is plenty of excellent fresh water. The point
showing in the picture is Point Kimberley, named by Dalrymple
on October 24, 1873. A short distance south, is the mouth of
the Daintree River, named by Dalrymple in 1873, one of the
most romantic and picturesque rivers in tropical Australia.
The view from the outer beach, on the east side, is away out
over the Barrier, with splendid coral in all directions.
Westward is a scene not to be forgotten. Towering up before
you are two of the most remarkable mountains in Australia.
One is Mount Alexandria, named the “heights of
Alexandra,” from Queen Alexandra, by Dalrymple, in 1873, and
the other is Mount Peter Botte, named by the captain of H.M.S.
Rattlesnake in July, 1848, from a fancied resemblance to the
Mount Peter Botte of Mauritius. Peter Botte, 3320 feet, the
“Numbalburroway,” or “rock emu,” of the aboriginals, rises
abruptly to a curved rock peak like the neck and head of an
emu, clothed with dense tropical jungle from the base to the
foot of the rock apex, which is apparently unscaleable for at
least the last hundred feet. Both mountains are of solid
granite. Alexandra rises to a height of about 4300 feet, the
highest point a tremendous bare granite rock about 300 feet,
and also evidently unscaleable. All from that rock down to the
base, at the sea beach on one side and the Daintree River on
the other, is clothed with splendid tropical jungle, a tangled
wilderness of rich and gorgeous vegetation, fruit trees, and
flowering plants, tree ferns, and dwarf ferns, elegant palms,
and wild bananas, with perfect and magnificent leaves, frayed
by no touch of any wind, wonderful tree orchids, and beautiful
ground orchids, the air heavy with their delightful perfume,
majestic pines, and great red cedars, as tangled network of
amazing vines and creepers; and there, too, the dreadful
serpent of that Eden, the dark green heart shaped leaf of that
terrible stinging tree, Laportea gigas, the very touch of
whose leaf means such acute pain to man, and a cruel death to
a horse. Long experience taught me that for the stinging tree,
or the bites or stings of insects, or scrub tick, or any sort
of itch, a wet, thin paste of bicarbonate of soda, well rubbed
in, is an effective remedy, and nobody should ever be without
it. Alexandra is a double mountain, divided in the middle by
an impassable thousand feet ravine, along which runs a large
rapid stream, that falls abruptly over a thousand feet
precipice, and flows thence into the Daintree. In 1895 my
ascent of Alexandra was from the west side, with Harry Crees,
of Port Douglas, and two wild blacks. Great was my surprise,
and much my disappointment, on reaching the top, to find the
great rock summit at least 400 feet higher, and divided from
us by that impassable chasm, whose sides are strewn with
tremendous, insurmountable granite rocks and dense, tangled
wiry, rank vegetation.
And yet the aneroid gave me a height of 4000 ft, so
that great rock crest, which overlooks the sea, and Schnapper
Island and the Barrier Reef, and a truly wondrous panoramic
view of fantastic ranges, north, south, and west, must be at
least 4400 feet. The Lieutenant Jeffrey, who named Schnapper
Island also named Cape Melville in 1815, the most savage and
romantic looking cape on the coast of Australia. From Point
Lookout, near Cape Flattery, near Cape Bedford, that amazing
man. Cook, saw the opening in the Barrier, opposite Lizard
Island. He went through that channel,, and came in through the
Barrier again at another opening, which he called Providential
Channel, southeast of Cape Weymouth. How could Cook possibly
know what depth was inside or outside the Barrier, that there
was a far extended Barrier, that there was a far extended
Barrier at all, or that the inside channel might not run into
a cul de sac, whence there was no exit.
Cook named nearly 100 capes, bays, islands, and
mountains on the east coast of Australia, Baptist Botany Bay
and Cape York, and all those names are on our maps today. He
was outside the Barrier from Lizard Island to Cape Weymouth,
and so named no points Baptist Cape Flattery and Weymouth Bay.
From there he kept inside the Barrier, and anmed Bolt Head,
Temple Bay, Forbes, Cockburn, and Sir Charles Hardy Islands,
Cape Grenville, Bird Isles, Shelburne Bay, Orford Ness,
Newcastle Bay, and Cape York, all places well known to me,
having landed on them all. At Cape Grenville, we got about six
bushels of the largest rock oysters ever seen by me, and they
were absurdly fat. Somewhere at or near Cape Grenville, or
Bligh’s “Pudding Pan Hill,” the three men left by Kennedy were
killed by the blacks, or died of starvation. Those three were
Dunn, Luff, and Costigan, and the search party never even went
to try to find them, probably just as well, as even a delay of
one day would have been fatal to Carron and Goddard, the two
who survived at Weymouth Bay. There is hardly a bay, or cape,
or island, on or facing the Barrier without some tragedy, but
most of them, have not been recorded, and those who could have
recorded them have gone hence or forgotten, apart altogether
from those old time mariner tragedies, long since hidden in
the oblivion of the vanished years.