Journal of Landsborough's Expedition from Carpentaria, in search of Burke & Wills
To Captain Norman, of H.M.C.S. Victoria, and Commander-in-chief of the Northern Expedition Parties.
I have the honour to inform you of the following particulars with regard to the Albert River:
On Tuesday morning (the 1st instant) at 8 o'clock we reached the mouth of the Albert River, on the sandy beach of Kangaroo Point.* There were about a dozen blacks, who appeared friendly and kept speaking to us as long as we were within hearing; but none in the barge (not even the native troopers) understood them. With the exception of Kangaroo Point, on the east bank, the river has an unbroken fringe of mangrove to a point two miles in a straight line from its mouth, and an unbroken fringe to a point three miles in a straight line from the mouth on the other side of the river. Above these points the lower part of the river has (where the edges have no mangrove) fine hard sandy sloping banks which are well adapted for landing horses or goods. A short time before we reached the point, above thirteen miles in a straight line from the mouth of the river where we anchored for the night, we saw about six blacks, who were very friendly and followed us for some time. We found that the water was fresh when we reached Alligator Point, about twenty miles in a straight line from the mouth of the river; above this point the fringes of mangrove are scarce on the edges of the river, and back from the river there is rising ground, consisting of fine, well-grassed, and slightly timbered downs. On passing up the river, on the left bank, we observed a blackfellow asleep. At sunset we anchored at a point about twenty-six miles in a straight line from the mouth of the river, where a river from the southward, which Mr Woods called the Barkly, joins the Albert River.
(*Footnote. Kangaroo Point would in my opinion be a healthy site for a township. The ground is sufficiently high along the shore at that place, and without mangroves. We did not find water there, but, as there were a few blacks almost always in that neighbourhood, I have no doubt that there is some surface water, or that it is easily procured by digging.)
On going on shore on the western bank of the Albert River I found within a hundred yards of it a waterhole at which it would be more convenient to water stock than the river, as the banks of it are at this place too steep. Above the junction of the Barkly the Albert River is not navigable for even boats, from its being too full of snags. On the following morning we went up the Barkly on the barge for about two miles, to where it was too full of snags to proceed further up the river by water. We then took a walk over the Plains of Promise and crossed at a point about three miles from where we had left the barge. In doing so we started a black man and woman; they were both old and naked; the former went out of sight by running down the bank and plunging into the river, and the latter climbed up a tree, where, while we remained, she continued speechless. Where we crossed the Barkly it had a narrow muddy bed, the water in which was cool from its being shaded with pandanus, palms, and Leichhardt-trees. A short distance lower we recrossed by a tree which the carpenter felled for that purpose, at a point where the deep water in it is caused in some measure by the rise of the tide; afterwards we followed down the river to the barge. At different places we marked the trees, but did not see any that had been marked previously, nor indeed any traces of any European parties. After walking over the Plains of Promise we went down the river and anchored opposite the point where the cliffs are mentioned in the charts as thirty feet high. In the morning, accompanied by the native troopers Jemmy and Jackie, I went north-westerly over slightly timbered grassy plains, and reached in about a mile a waterhole, and in about another mile a narrow mere, which I called Woods Lake, extending northerly and southerly at least for a mile or so in an unbroken sheet of water. I went southward along the edge of Woods Lake to a clump of box and tea-trees, and while I was marking a tree Jackie shot (chiefly with one discharge of his gun) about half a dozen of whistling-ducks and a large grey crane. As I never saw so many aquatic fowls assembled as were at this place it is to be hoped that, when we reach the Albert River again, we will be able to shoot great quantities of them for fresh food.
The bank on which I marked the tree will, probably at no very distant time, be chosen as the site of a homestead for a sheep establishment, as it is surrounded by fine dry plains which are covered with good grasses, among which I observed sufficient saline herbage to make me feel satisfied that they are well adapted for sheep runs. As the wind was unfavourable during the afternoon the crew had to row down the river. On passing near where we saw the blacks on our way up we found about twenty, counting men, women, and children, waiting to see us as we passed. On the following morning we went ashore and got water in a waterhole near the bank, and also firewood off an old fallen tree, which, I think, is probably the real ebony. Late in the evening we reached a point on the eastern bank about three miles above Kangaroo Point.
We went ashore and in the course of a walk started on the wing two large bustards, and also, within shot of us, two or three wallabies.
In our way up and down the river the temperature ranged on the bar from 74 to 94 degrees. The nights were agreeable, and we were fortunately not troubled with mosquitoes or sandflies.
On the upper part of the river we saw altogether three crocodiles, but they were so shy that they remained in sight only a few seconds.
The slightly timbered downs and plains on the banks of the Albert River are, as I hoped they would be from their western position, of a similar character to good inland settled sheep country of New South Wales and Queensland; the trees that we saw are all small; but as sheep do best in Australia where the temperature is dry, the soil rich, and slightly timbered, and as this is the general description, I believe, of the country and climate of the Albert River, the sheep farmer should be willing to put up with the inconvenience caused from the want of good timber for building purposes.
We saw large quantities of the small white cockatoos, and the rose-coloured ones, which are to be found only in the inland settled country of New South Wales and Queensland. The Albert River being navigable will make the country on its banks very valuable, as I believe sheep will do well on it, more especially as they do well on inferior-looking country within the tropics to the north-west of Rockhampton.
Allow me to recommend for the Depot which you propose forming with the Firefly hulk on the Albert River some place as convenient as possible to Woods Lake, or the waterhole that I mentioned that I had found near the head of the navigation, and as there is very little forage on board the Firefly it would be advisable to land, as soon as possible, the horses on the west bank of the river above the second inlet, that is, if there is any chance of the Firefly being delayed in proceeding up the river.
I have the honour to be, etc.,