THROUGH NORTHERN AUSTRALIA
oN August 23rd, 1924, we published the diary of two adventurous young men, Mr. Michael Terry and Mr. Richard Yockney, who crossed the. Continent of Australia in a motor car from Winton in Western Queensland to Broome on the coast of Western Australia.
Mr. Michael Terry has lately returned to England after completing yet another expedition through Northern Australia, this time no light-hearted adventure but an undertaking with the definite object of removing the ignorance that still exists in England with regard to the North Australian Continent. We give below some extracts from Mr. Terry's latest diary.
Seven men, a dog, a wireless receiving set, a mineral prospecting outfit, survey equipment, all on two Guy-R,oadless trucks with trailers and an A.J.S. motor cycle with sidecar. This caravan assembled at Port Darwin, Northern Territory, Australia, to traverse the interior. Moving pictures, minerals, survey, altitude readings and production possibilities were the objects of the journey. The purpose of the undertaking was to amass data for publication in England, in order that,a better and less prejudiced knowledge- of the North should -be awakened. The belief behind the purpose is that the Empire must do big things soon to justify continued tenancy of a land that his lain almost idle. for 100 years under our flag. It is a liability that is increasing as the problems of the world move to the Pacific.
July 26th, 1925.—Christened the cars Maililma (centipede) and dWalowa (caterpillar). Called bike Gelaben • (black cockatoo). Outfit set out from Katherine, the railhead 200 miles inland. Lord Apsley and Redknap rejoined us after excursion to buffalo hunting country. Great sport securing moving pictures. Camera hidden oblong bamboos on edge of plain. Herd of -buffalo stampeded, by hunters on horseback, to it. One shot almost on top of Redknap. Tongue grilled on coals for lunch. Large wild pig bagged by. Lord Apsley; wiia geese, duck, cranes, pelicans, etc., thronging lagoons in hundreds. Stinging ants falling from trees keep one busy. Black- -fellow king at shooters' camp with long grey beard. Striking, because his only covering 1 July 28th.—Up with stars and bitterly cold too. Car engine caught fire as we started up. Tested rifles, found O.K. Gelaben hit stump in tall gran::.d Sidecar frame amaged. • Rodfi1/41 solo and had many spills. Shot first turkey—species of busteril. Turke and steak done d /a casserole and damn good too. July 29th.—On looking around for corned beef bag foUncli3onienne had stuffed, boots in it as well. Couldn't distinguish it from old leather ! Set up a lot of quail.
August lat.—Celebrated a birthday with champagne in tin mugs, ntuck bottle in tree. Called spot Champagne camp. Blacks call Gelaben " piccaninny longs motor car." Had first violent argu. Anent over which day of week it was.
August 5th.—Melbourne broadcasting received clearly: Item, " Carnegies are giving a dance next Thursday." What a contrast. flaw ant hills numerous as tombstones in a graveyard. Some 15 feet high. Had lazy morning, i.e., breakfast not till. 7.30.
August 19th.—Stones and rough country, fallen trees and gullies prove benefit of creeper tracks on cars. Miles upon miles of " basalt boulders " make it wonderful that • cars hold together. Te;rribly jolty. Dingoes came very close to camp at night. Howled in dismal choruses. Found native bees' nest in hollow tree limb. Tiny fly-like insects—harmless. Honey strong and coarse. Great delicacy for blacks. They stick white bird's down on a bee so that its flight to the hive can be followed.
August 31st.—Beautiful shady camp under pandamus palms. Wind rustling in palms sounds like rain falling. Moonlight struggling through foliage illuminates ground like giant checker board. Neet of snakes, in hollow limb of giant native fig tree, burnt out, Great sport.
September 24th.—Arrived Lower Sturt homestead. Found many blacks assembled, for corrobonse had gone bush. , Hurried on to Billiluna to catch some, and send out messengers for others to come for display for film. I arrived on Gelaben and blacks started to, bolt thinking I was police trooper. Guilty consciences. .
September 29th. Saw blacks making fire by rotating point of
hardwood stick in soft wood. Saw blind black being led about by his lubra, both holding *stick. Saw string making. Husband rasps
.off wife's locks with stone. Then twines hair into string like saddler
rolling thread. Shown spear heads chipped from glass, stuck on to shank with wax from resinous grass. Blacks open artery in: fork of elbow to ,get blood for gum. Use this to stick on down as deCorations for body during dances. Rewarded dancers with " trade." Coloured spectacles a la Harold Lloyd gieat success.' '
October 3rd.—Visited Gregory's Inland Sea. First vehicle there. Sea dry due drought. Glistening expanse of white salt bog. Air like seaside with aroma of drying salt. Gleaming white in moonlight, it looked like the sea. Memories of Brighton. '
October 8.—Trouble crossing sandhills in remote interior. Front wheels of cars and trailer wheels in deep red wind-driven sand at crest. Pushed through by caterpillars as though brakes hard on. Special low gears (78 to 1) of cars invaluable. Sandhille run in parallel, straight lines like sea waves. They run east and west. Endless succession to dimmest horizons. Few flat topped hills break monotony. Scrub, bushes inirgrass everywhere and patches
of trees. Pastoral country. -
October 11.—Arrived at edge of South Esk Tablelands. Won• derful view to plains far below. All hills same height and flat topped as though cut off with gigantic scythe. Trouble finding way down. Pick and shovel work.
October 12th.—Wind 40 to 50 m.p.h. Raging dust and sand from West. Impossible to work so laid in shelter of cars. Water gets muddy as it is driink. Sun, faint due dust, went down a dull red. Like London fog.
October 15th.—Examined Godfrey's Tank and Kunningarra- rock holes in escarpment. Expected find plenty water. Only dry sand and rocks. Chalked " Dry-oh-hell " on boulder and photo- graphed it to record chagrin at discovery. Set out for Mount Cornish. Erected cairn there on summit. Think we are first white men reach spot. Blacks' signal smoke column went up less than a mile away. Never see them, but obviously always close. Owing exceptional dryness will not tarry in sand plains. Route changed for better watered parts.'
October 20th.—Camped at Lake Stretch on Sturt Creek. Thou. sands of duck in groups of 500 flew over at sundown. Washing, swimming, cooking, mending and specking for the day.
October 26th.--Camped it Ruby Plains station. Their pet frog sang out, so they reckon rain will come within five days. I was amused, but the laugh was on me. It lives, in a hole by a tree dos* to the house. In honour of our-stay an enormous plum duff was-made. It was put in a big bag and left in an eight-gallon drum of boiling water. A report like a gun was the signal that it had burst the bag. Wreckage saved and fully appreciated.
October 30t11.--Set out for Mount Dockerell where - the richest leader in Western Australia was worked. Went " specking " is nearby creeks. Got colours of gold bat no nuggets.
October 31st.—Day hot and sultry., Storms working UP. Terrific lightning at night.- Wet camp.
November 6th.-Arrived Fitiroy Crossing Converted cars to wheels, in view of excellent travelling ahead. Rains-working up
so must. hurry before rivers come down in flood or we Will 1)5 stranded for wet season.
November 13th.—Running down flats beside Fitzroy river. Excellent going. Cars speedier than expected, which we don't forget. Bog holes on track which were rushed in safety and in showers of mud.
November 20th.---Crossed Fitzroy to southern bank, making for Broome. Maililma stuck in quicksand while doing so. Sinking rapidly. towed back by Gwalowa in a hurry. Then rushed water at apeed. Great shower bath, free gratis. goveniber 22nd.=Arrived Broome after covering 2,000 miles. Personnel) andequipment shipped south on board as. ‘` Gorgon." I went by Aereplarie to Perth (i8 hours' flying) to Make arrange: wants. The impression I have returned with is that economic handicaps are at'-the--root of the difficulties hindering development. North is a land of everything on an immense scale. The great dis- tances and the primitive forms of transport now in use Make transport too costly. - Telegraphs, roads and railways are virtually non-existent. White women are a curiosity ; mails bring papers two months old. On the other hand, the ulterior is consistently about 1,000 above sea-level, and the climate is fit for white people— in fact, the winter season is most delightful. Fresh sunny days and cold nights, rainless and bracing, cannot fail to recuperate the system after any ill-effect of the hot season. Even the latter is not at all sufficient to deter labour throughout the year, especially as the occupation is at present grazing. Cattle are now the principal source of revenue, but I feel sure that the majority of the well-grassed black soil plains of the interior will some day prove worthier pastures for sheep.. Cotton will play its part in the future, and mining may be a big factor.- I cannot see any real forward movement taking place till te question of communications has been thoroughly solved. by men of vision, backed by sound finance. The North is -similar country to great areas in other parts of the Commonwealth that are now most pro- ductiVe and _carrying a healthy. white.population. It is most surely not the sandy sclesert of the geography book, nor is it a land, where returns wiltbe achieved other than by.cohisistent toil, backed by the knowledge so ably applied by the great pioneers of the Australian pastoral industry in other States. I believe the North 'will come into its own when a railway is built across the Continent from; say, Broome tolhe Queensland system at •Camooweal. There are many other factors involved in this question, but to discuss them would entail delving into a great amount of detail. Nor would -this alter my firm belief that the futtire, desired by every loyal citizen of the Empire, can only be built upon the foundation of a steel link, from coast to coast across the North.