Hovell's journal | State Library of New South Wales

William Hovell's journal

William Hovell's journal of his 1824 expedition with Hamilton Hume was kept in a small field notebook. He describes the landscape and the tough conditions under which the men and beasts had to travel. These included navigating through rough, mountainous country, swollen rivers, impenetrable bush and dealing with plagues of mosquitoes, sandflies and the irregular supply of fresh game, such as kangaroos and waterbirds. He also makes several references to the importance of the animals which accompanied the party. The bullocks, which struggled up and down uncleared hills with heavy loads, and the dogs which which were essential in killing kangaroos to feed the expedition. Hovell documents the kills made by the dogs, the many injuries inflicted on them by the kangaroos, and their emaciated condition during periods of low food supply when the dogs could only be fed on boiled flour. William Hovell regularly recorded encounters with the Indigenous peoples of the region, commenting on their methods of food gathering, tools used and land management techniques, such as grass burning and damming of rivers to catch fish. He seems to have been respectful and perhaps a little envious of the ability of the local people to live in a landscape he found hostile. One journal entry states:

'Those are the people we generally call "miserable wretches," but in my opinion the word is misapplied, for I cannot for a moment consider them so. They have neither house-rent nor taxes to provide, for nearly every tree will furnish them with a house, and perhaps the same tree will supply them with food (the opposum). Their only employment is providing their food. They are happy within themselves; they have their amusements and but little cares; and above all they have their free liberty.' 29 November 1824

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Selections from Remarks on a journey from Lake George, Lat. 35 deg. 5 min., Long. - , towards Western Port, 2 October-21 December 1824, by William Hilton Hovell
Manuscript  Safe 1 / 32b



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Saturday, 16th October; Weather cloudy, and, towards the evening, inclined to rain. Did not start to-day, as the black native, who was to have been our guide through Yass, ran away. I wrote to Mrs. H. and Dr. Bland.
Sunday, 17th October; After breakfast we left Mr. Hume's place, and took our departure, it being the last station. Our strength was as follows:—four bullocks, a cart, and one horse, belonging to myself; two horses and cart, and one bullock, belonging to Mr. Hume. We travelled twelve miles and rested for the night. On the road the dogs killed one large kangaroo. Weather very squally, with rain. Country very good for cattle, and principally composed of slate, coarse crystal, and granite.

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Monday, 18th October; Started about 7 a.m. Commenced marking the trees as we passed along. All the country on the north side of the range which separates it from Yass Plains is composed of slate and granite, but the soil is very bad, and the country rugged. About noon we got to the top of the range. I went to a high hill at a little distance, which I named Mount Lookout, and saw Yass Plains, and a fine view of the country around, but in particular the mountains to the southward, which separate Yass from the country to the southward. About half-past twelve p.m. we began to descend the range towards Yass, and, contrary to our expectations, we found a much better road down than could be supposed, and only one place where we had to take the beasts from the carts. The whole, with little trouble, could be made a good passable road to the plains. About half-past-one passed the second branch of the Lachling [Lachlan] (or the first branch

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Thursday, 21st October; Throughout the day very fine clear weather. Sent the people ahunting, as we were not able to cross the river, nor had it, to our appearance, fallen since last night. The men returned, but with no success. The rivers in this quarter abound with excellent fish, the same as in the Lachling and Fish Rivers. They are equal to any fish I ever ate, either in this country, or in England.   Thermometer 70 deg.
Friday, 22nd October; First part of the day cloudy and showery; latter part squalls of heavy rain at times. As there was but little appearance of the river falling to any extent, we thought it advisable to try to pass the river by converting the body of one of the carts into a boat, by means of a tarpaulin put round the cart, leaving the top open, and, by lines from side to side of the river, to haul her backwards and forwards. In this plan we were fortunate enough to succeed

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far beyond our expectations, and in about eight or nine turns we had everything across. The other cart we laid fore and aft the boat, with the shafts aft, and the wheels off. By 3 p.m. the three horses and five bullocks were swum over, and by 5 o'clock everything was stowed away. Thus did we accomplish in a few hours and without loss or injury, what we before thought impracticable. My cart, being the lightest, was taken for that purpose.
Saturday, 23rd October; Throughout the day, with fine pleasant weather, we proceeded on our journey, taking a road to the top of the range, which is a very considerable height above the river. It is singular to observe that, notwithstanding the height and very broken character of all the mountains to the top of which we have been, yet the whole is covered with a beautiful coat of excellent grass. This must be attributed to its being a limestone soil.

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Notwithstanding, the coarse mountain stone is in general at the top of all the high mountains, yet the grass grows as well there as in many places where the soil is good. The timber is also good, being principally stringy-bark and cow-pasture box. Water in every direction of the very best quality.. Thermometer, morning at sunrise, 44; noon, 84. Saw two black snakes and one white ditto and several kangaroos.
List of articles I left behind yesterday: one cart, three sets of new harness, one back and one tally chain, pork in a cask, one blanket, one jacket, and other small articles of clothing and several other articles in a box besides clothing belonging to the man. Mr. Hume left one cart, two sets of harness, one tarpaulin, some clothes, etc., etc. My strength for carrying provisions, etc., etc., was four bullocks and three Government pack-saddles, and one my own, and one horse; Mr. Hume, two horses and one bullock.

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Monday, 1st November; Throughout the day, it was very warm, the thermometer at sunrise reading 50deg. and at noon, 89deg. in the tent. As the feed is so very good, and the cattle so much fatigued from the last three days' journey, we made Sunday off to-day, in the place of yesterday, and prepared for to-morrow's journey. Killed one very large kangaroo, and caught a lobster out of the river. I cannot perceive any difference between it and the lobsters in England. Sowed some clover seed and four peach stones. I should have observed in its proper place that, to the best of my belief, I have had some put into the ground in every place we have stopped at, commencing at Murrumbidgee River on the 19th ultimo.

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plagued by the devil fly and the mosquito— we cannot rest for them now, unless we get into a cloud of smoke, and the remedy is nearly as bad as the evil. I think the snakes are not numerous, as we have not seen more than one these last few days.
As I have seen the necessity of the thing, I take this opportunity to remark that in all long journeys, there should be tradesmen in the party, viz., a man that can shoe horses; for the want of him the horses are crippled, for two pairs of extra shoes with nails for each horse is sufficient. There should be a harness maker, to alter or stuff the pack-saddles to make them easy to the backs of the cattle. For if attention is paid to that, the beast will carry a whole load much better than he can carry half a one, if it is set uncomfortably upon him. He can also keep the rigging in repair which belongs to the saddles. There should also be a shoe maker; he can prevent the men from being crippled by keeping their shoes in repair, as in such journeys

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a pair of shoes is soon worn out, particularly those we had from the Government. The shoes should always be made to fit the men and on a different plan to that upon which they are now, with a capping on the toes, as the grass cuts the upper leather through long before the sole; and each of those men can drive a bullock era horse as well as those taken for the purpose. They can mark trees (that is on the track going) or push along the perambulator. I mention this so that it should not be thought I mean them as a surplus number.    Thermometer at sunrise, 62deg.; noon, 87deg.
Killed two snakes to-day, both of a dark brown colour. These are the first we have seen for some days past except one which Mr. Hume saw at the river. We have seen very few centipedes or tarantulas and no scorpions.

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having gone nearly four miles into the scrub, our whole distance from the station to where we returned to sleep being about fourteen miles. To describe this brush or scrub is almost impossible, as it cannot be compared with any that is known in the Colony. Suffice it to say that it is worse than, any that is known in it, or worse than any jungle in any other country. It is much worse than the scrub at the Five Islands, for there, if you cannot get over it, you can get under it, and can see your road before you; but here we could not see either over or under, nor two yards before. Sometimes we were on the top of dead logs, lying five or six feet above the ground, at other times in holes fully as deep, and had we been seen joining into a town in the state we were in, people would have sworn that we had been in some drunken affray. Mr. Hume had his face so nearly covered with the brambles and boyers that it appeared as if it

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had been done 'by the fair hand of some Amazonian damsel; and myself had an eye that would have done honor to any young gentleman taking his first rudiments in that admirable art, pugilism. But worse than all was one of the men that had got on the only pair of trousers among three men. He had got an unfortunate tumble, which not only took away every part of his trousers, but the front flap of his shirt also, thereby leaving him in that state that, had there been any doubt of his manhood before, these doubts were now removed. In many respects this may be compared with the Five Islands mountains as the fern tree, and the sassafras, the mountain leech, and the small insect called the tick, which buries itself in the flesh, and would in the end destroy either man or beast if not removed in time. We also heard the pheasants, but could not see them.

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though the whole is easy travelling. Men have only then to cross the Jullian range in almost any part they choose and have the chance of a good country all the way, and another day will most probably take them to the banks of the Goulburn, and from this to any part of the interior they please, even to the banks of the Ovens and the Hume, which last is a very desirable situation for grazing. When this is carried into effect, there is little doubt but they will be able to surpass us in the County of Cumberland both for sheep and cattle. They will not only have the advantage of easy access with the interior, where their bounds will be unlimited, but they will also have the advantage in another respect. As a nautical man, I may be allowed to point out that they will have, even before the Derwent the first arrivals from India or England. Vessels returning to India will not have to go round the south end of Van Diemen's Land, or to venture through the dangerous passage of Torres Straits, and returning to England, there is a safe passage through Cook's Straits, New Zealand,

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which gave the latitude 38deg. 6min. and longtitude 145deg. 25min. E. We bore down nearly south, and about 4 o'clock we could plainly perceive that that which we at times thought was fire and smoke was the very thing we were so very anxiously looking out for. At 5 o'clock we came to the point of land which separates the S.B. from the N. W. branches. On this point I took several bearings of the harbour (refer to bearing book). From the place we were standing upon to the nearest land on the opposite, but S.E. side, I think is not less than eight or ten miles, and about the same distance to the west side. But higher up the S.E. branch than where we stood it was one immense sheet of water, and continued up as far as the eye could reach, and as I thought up to an opening near to the south end of the Australian Alps. Should there be water for shipping of a large tonnage up that branch it is equal to any harbour I have seen, and it will be an easy conveyance

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for the timber for building, from those mountains, and the one most recommended is Mount Disappointment. Into this branch all the waters which we have crossed since coming upon the plains empty themselves, and it will be the conveyance for the produce coming through the Duke of York's Downs, which come up to the first river we crossed from Mount Disappointment round to the Gap in the Australian Alps. From this river to the Arndell River is Salamank Plains, in compliment to his Excellency, who distinguished himself in that action. From the Arndell up to Kennedy's Creek is the Duke of Clarence's Downs. This creek comes round the west end of Mount  Wollstonecraft. I gave it that name for the respect I have for the gentleman bearing its name. It is a very conspicuous mountain, or rather it consists of a number of peaked hills adjoining each other, particularly when it bears N. 50 deg. W. (distance about five miles.

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they retreated as fast as they had before advanced. About two hours afterwards, as two of the men were going for a little firewood, from among some standing trees, taking their arms with them, two natives sprang from behind the tree, but seeing the men present their guns at them, they made signs of peace, at the same time calling out, as the men understood: "Good while ago, good while ago." As Mr. Hume was not far off, and knew their manners, he also made signs to them of peace. They laid down their arms, and at the same time called out to our men to lay down theirs also. When this was done they advanced, and, after a great deal of jabbering on both sides (not a word either one or the other understood), they came with us to the tent, and by degrees we began to understand each other by signs. From this we understand that a vessel had lately been in the bay, that they had been landing some things, among the numbers was

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little of the Jervis Bay language, which he spoke to them, but they could not understand one word. Their manners are the same, and they use the same kind of weapon. By the largeness of their belly and their appearance they seem to live well. The name of the bay where they said the vessel lay is Geelong; Mount Wollstonecraft they call "Wibamanharter"; water is "Golamoo"; the name of a bird which Mr. Hume shot and skinned (something of a diver) they call "Bonering"; dog is "Narranuki"; bread is "Mumbungea." They did not appear to be astonished at the sight of the horses and bullocks, but they were very much afraid of them, much more so than they were of us, and dreadfully alarmed if they saw the bullocks look towards them, notwithstanding they were at a great distance from them. This fear we encouraged, as we considered it the greatest security against any attack. I have no doubt but this is the principal cause of our not seeing any of the natives during the whole of our journey before.

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Saturday, 18th December; By 7 o'clock this morning we had the natives with us again with the addition of another, but having shown our displeasure at their concealing the articles, they did not move from the place where they first sat down (their wives, children, and some other men remained at a little distance in the rear) they stopped until they saw the men bringing up the horses and cattle to be harnessed, when they took a hasty leave and retired. It was not till after they were gone that I missed a small bag, which contained a number of very useful articles, and such as I shall feel the want of before we get home. I had had it out the evening before to get some trifles as presents to give them, but not being satisfied with what I had given them, they watched where I had laid it down, and took the first opportunity to conceal it from our sight. At 9 o'clock we set off, and followed the creek down part of the way which we had come the day before. This we did purposely to fill our

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bottles with the water, and to get other things necessary as a proof of our having been to Western Port. Myself and Mr. Hume rode to the extreme point of land which separates the two branches, to take another view of this fine bay and harbour before we take our departure for home. I have already spoken much in its praise. Should I say much more, it may be thought I have said too much, I shall therefore leave the rest for those that may be sent to survey both it and the country. When that is done, I feel little fear of being contradicted in the account I have given of either. By 10 a.m. we began to retrace our steps, but kept nearer to the water than when we had come. By so doing we avoided the stones which we before passed through, and about the distance of fifteen miles we stopped for the night, beside Dickson's Creek. This creek comes from Mount Wollstonecraft.   Round the edge of the salt water are numerous black swans and pelicans, and other sea birds. On the downs are numbers of emus, native companions, and Cape Barren geese. The emus run too fast to be caught by our dogs.