AUSTRALIA

HAMILTON HUME and WILLIAM HOVELL

           

Hamilton Hume was born on 18 June 1797, at Parramatta. As a boy he had to fend for himself and make his own way in the world. He was devoted to his parents (especially to his mother), and both of them had known plenty of chances in their lives. His father, Andrew Hamilton Hume, who was the son of a Presbyterian minister, came to Australia in 1780, and took up his duties as an agricultural instructor to the convicts. He had already had similar experience, as a superintendent of convicts at Woolwich in England. When Governor Phillip discovered that Hume knew something about the growing and treating of flax, he appointed him the Deputy-Governor of Norfolk Island. He failed, however, to start a flax industry, and two years later was back in Sydney. He farmed thirty acres of land at Toongabbie, and was employed as the Superintendent of Livestock on the Government farm at Parramatta. In 1800 Governor King dismissed him. In 1808 Major George Johnston reinstated him, but later the same year Major Joseph Foveaux dismissed him again. In 1812 Governor Macquarie granted him a hundred acres near Appin, and there he finally settled, his temper as quick as ever, but his position as a private farmer making it possible for him to air it without jeopardizing his family's security. Young Hamilton, therefore, found that the name of Hume was, on occasion, a handicap, and the fact that he earned the respect of a great many influential people while still in his 'teens must be ascribed to his own initiative.

In 1814, when he was only seventeen, Hamilton and his brother, John, were off on an exploring journey, taking with them a young aborigine from the Appin district. They discovered good grazing country around Berrima, and made sure they could find their way home by marking trees along the way. this route they pointed out to the manager of John Oxley's flocks, who wanted to reach the new country. Oxley was the Surveyor-General of the colony, and a most valuable ally for a young explorer to have. Before long there was a flourishing station at Berrima, and other sheepmen followed the trail. Two years later, in July or August 1816, Hume led Dr Charles Throsby to the Toom-boong country and there, too, valuable sheep runs were set up.

The following year Hume, still only twenty, was officially requested by Governor Macquarie to accompany the colony's Surveyor, James Meehan, and Throsby to the new country. A difference of opinion arose between Meehan and Throsby and they agreed to part. Throsby found his way to Jervis Bay, but Meehan and Hume went on and discovered Lake Bathurst and the Goulburn Plains. As a reward for pushing the frontier of known country farther south and west, Hume received a grant of three hundred acres at Appin, and he farmed there until 1828, when he moved to Yass. The lure of the unknown country all around tempted Hume away again and again. The Surveyors, Oxley and Meehan, took a ship south to Jervis Bay in a vain search for rivers, and he went too. Oxley returned with the ship, and Hume and Meehan found their way back across country. Throsby,, as keen as ever to take advantage of better land farther out, commissioned Hume to guide him over the route again. And so, by the time Hume was twenty seven, he had won a great reputation for exploring, and had served under the best leader of his day, Surveyor-General Oxley.   

Brisbane, who was Governor of the colony of New South Wales at the time, did not want to waste public funds investigating Oxley's theory that there was no cultivable land south of 34 degrees and west of 147 degrees 30', so he thought of sending a party of convicts to Wilson's Promontory by ship. They were to be given equipment and supplies for a long journey, and a promise of 'suitable rewards and indulgences' was the incentive to make them find their way home to Sydney. Hume's opinion was sought about the scheme, and he straightaway condemned it, realizing how hopeless it was to send inexperienced men into the bush. As a result Brisbane commissioned Hume to 'try and reach Spencer's Gulf in the hope of intercepting any Rivers that might run south to that parallel of longitude and discharge themselves into these Straights'.

Captain William Hilton Hovell was also approached about undertaking such an expedition at the same time. He was eleven years older than Hume and a very different person in every respect. He was born at Yarmouth, on the east coast of England, on 26th April 1786. When he was very young he went to sea, and by the time he was twenty-two he was captain of a ship, trading with South America. In 1812 his father-in-law, Thomas Arndell, convinced him that a good future awaited him in Australia. (Arndell had been assistant surgeon of the colony from its beginning in 1788 until 1796. So, in 1813, Hovell migrated with 500-worth pounds of merchandise, and a lett4er in his pocket from the colonial Office declaring that he was a desirable settler. The year after he arrived in Sydney, he joined Simeon Lord in a venture to set u a New Zealand Trading company. Lord was a very enterprising person who had been transported to New South Wales as a convict when he was only eighteen. Fifteen years later he was one of the leading merchants of Sydney and governor Macquarie even made him a magistrate. It was Lord's ship, the Trial, which Hovell commanded - in trading along the coast and to New Zealand. He also explained The Brothers on trading voyages and was wrecked once in the Kent Group in Bass Strait. He was one of those rare sailors, though who could give up a life at sea and, in 1819, he settled down one a grant of seven hundred acres at Narellan. he did not have anything like Hume's reputation, though he had made some exploratory rides beyond his own property and, in 1823, had found the Burragorang valley. 

After some correspondence, Hovell agreed to meet Hume at his cottage at Apin, and to bring with him three men and half the necessary supplies. Hume was to supply the same, though to do so he had to sell his iron plough. On 2 October 1824 the little exploring party set out. It consisted of Hume and Hovell, both mounted, together with six men on foot and carrying a musket or fowling piece, four bullocks dragging the two carts which contained the supplies, a spare horse and a spare bullock. apart from the leaders' own personal gear (and, like the men, they had only one blanket each) there were seven pack saddles, one riding saddle, and eight stand of arms, six pounds of gunpowder and sixty rounds of ball cartridge; six suits and and six blankets, two tarpaulins, and one tent 'made of coarse colonial woollen cloth; 1,200 pounds of flour, 350 of pork, 170 of sugar, thirty-eight of tea and coffee, eight of tobacco for the men, sixteen of soap and t3wenty of salt; cooking utensils; and one 'false horizon', one sextant, three pocket compasses, and a 'perambulator'. The last item was an instrument to measure distances. It was lent, like the compass, by Meehan, and called 'Claude's Wheelbarrow', since poor Claude Bossawa usually pushed it. He must have been very glad to see it smashed to pieces, on 14 December, 1824, at a place not far north of Melbourne named Perambulator Hill.  

The Government storekeeper contributed only six pack saddles, suits, the men's blankets, six muskets, ball cartridges, the tent, and the tarpaulin. Even so, he was disgusted when only the muskets were returned at the end of the journey because everything else had been destroyed or worn out. Hume and Hovell, however, were given generous promises; cash payment for the use of the cattle, and grants of land if important discoveries were made. The other six men were all prisoners of the Crown, and expected little; they were Bossawa, Henry Angel, James Fitzpatrick, Thomas Boyd, William Bollard and Thomas Smith, the last three having been brought by Hovell. The Government instructions were for them to leave from Lake George, so they first made their way there, striking on the very first day out, 3 October 1824, one of the major difficulties of the journey, the crossing of a river. It was hard work getting the heavy carts up and down the steep and sandy banks of the Nepean, though there were plenty of shallow places to ford. In the next ten days they crossed five more creeks and rivers before they reached Hume's station twelve miles from Lake George. For most of this part of the journey they simply followed the main track to the south, stopping there possible with settlers.

For the first week the weather had been unreasonably hot. However, on 9 October 1824, black cloud blew up, and for the next few days the party suffered squalls and heavy rain, and everyone was pleased to sight Hume's station. they had been travelling eleven days, and covered 123.1/2 miles. Hume and Hovell occupied the next day by taking two of the men, and riding out twelve miles to Lake George, where they took bearings, Hovell's diary showed that the Lake was estimated to be twenty miles long and eight wide, and he described the circle of steep hills in the south surmounted by mountains, all densely wooded, and with plenty of a species of pine which was likely to be very useful. Friday and Saturday, 15 and 16 October, provided a breathing space before the real journey began, and on Friday they wrote letters, checked their packs, and rested. On Saturday they found to their dismay that the native guide had disappeared and, though they waited all day, he did not reappear. On Sunday they left without him.

Hume and Hovell had marked on a chart a line between Lake George and Western Port and it was their intention to follow this line as closely as possible. the real journey into unexplored land then began, and began very promisingly. first they crossed twelve miles of thinly-wooded and well-watered land. then they crossed a long range of thickly-wooded hills, blazing the route with an axe. On the top of this range, at a spot which they called Mount Lookout (now Mount Mundoonen), they could see miles and miles of fertile pastures, which they named the McDougall Plains in honour of Governor Brisbane's lady; the aboriginal name for these plains was Yarch or Yahr (which has since become Yass), meaning 'running water'. Hovell described the great clumps of native honeysuckle which indicated good soil. They had to ford a small stream, the Gondorroo, a branch of the Murrumbidgee, and they saw several quite low mountains, one of which they called Mount Brisbane.

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Suddenly and without warning the country changed and became broken and irregular, so that it took a long while before they found for the carts a pass which led through to the banks of the Murrumbidgee, near where Goodhope now stands. Ait was at that stage, on Tuesday 19 October 1824, that the little band faced one of the greatest difficulties of the trip. Heavy rains had swollen the banks of the river, and the water was running by the camp site at a rate of five or six miles an hour. The river was thirty or forty yards wide and the water, almost level with the top of the banks, was still rising. Two days later, though the river had ceased to rise, it had not begun to fall. It did provide them with fish, which was just as well, since the hunting party had been unsuccessful. It was a despondent eight men who sat shivering with the cold and the showers (it had been only seventy degrees at noon) amid the great limestone boulders that were strewn on either side of the flooded river. Hume, however, casting around for a solution, remembered a similar situation at Bong Bong River, where a cart had been stripped of its axle, wheels and shafts, and completely covered with a tarpaulin to covert it into quite a a sound boat. One of their two farts was soon converted, and floated well, even with a load of supplies weighing about six hundredweight.

The really difficult part of the crossing was taking a line over the river. Hume and Boyd plunged into the water holding a small line, six feet long, between their teeth. To this was attached a long rope, wide enough to span the river. It was a slow, difficult, and dangerous swim. the weight of the long rope pulled the swimmers right under several times, and the speed of the racing river carried them a lot farther downstream than they had intended. Once over, though, it was not hard to pull the cart boat backwards and forwards with supplies. the horses cattle came separately and had a very rough passage. One of the bullocks was tossed on to its back and crossed most of the way like that, but came to no harm. Altogether it took seven hours to get the men and provisions and animals over the Murrumbidgee.

For the next two days the travelling was hard going. Steep mountains barred their way and, to get the cattle and wagons over, they had to take a zig-zag course, which was very slow. Then their way was blocked altogether, and Hume and Hovell decided they must reconnoitre for a pass. Hovell and Boyd set off to the north-west, following a river, only to find the way blocked by a series of waterfalls, near today's Burrinjuck Dam. Hume with two other men went south-west, following the same river, which was joined by another river twenty yards wide, on the floor of a beautiful valley. The route, however, lay through a very narrow gorge so that, though it was only five and half miles in a straight line, it took the whole of 25 October 1824 to bring the party to the banks of the stream, near the present site of Wee Jasper. Once over, the carts and all but the most necessary of the supplies were hidden for, from the tops of the ranges, as far as the eye could see, lay range upon range of mountains, difficult enough for men and animals without large and cumbersome carts. The cattle now bore a load of over three hundredweight each.

Until the end of October they climbed and climbed, rarely being able to travel in more than single file, doubling back on their tracks, seldom managing as much as eight miles a day, and unloading and reloading the cattle to cross the innumerable small creeks which rose in those high hills. On the flats there were bogs and wombat holes and huge, dead, fallen gums to impede the way. At last, at two in the afternoon of Sunday, 31 October, they reached the end of the range. 'To look down this mountain, much less to attempt to get down it, was of itself sufficient to frighten us,' wrote Hovell in his diary, but 'there was not another place which looked more favourable.'

The bullocks went first. They were easy to lead, and steady, and careful. If the slope were too steep a bullock would get down on bended knees to stop itself from slipping, and even scramble upwards on all fours. The horses were much more difficult, and had to be unloaded on such occasions. the first and short stage of this descent, to where a great shell of rock jutted out from the mountain, took one and a half hours. fortunately the second stage was much less steep. At the foot the men pitched camp by a river, and let the cattle graze all the next day. They also planted some clover seed and a few peach stones, a practice adopted at all the main stopping places. This pleasant break was soon forgotten, however, when the banks of the River 'Medway' (the Coobar regandra) once again led to encircling mountains . Again they struggled up to a summit, only to find that mountain linked with a main range by a causeway twenty feet broad and two hundred long. At the end of the cause way yet another steep climb faced them, so steep that the cattle had to be unloaded, otherwise they were likely to slip, and there was no hope of stopping their fall. the men carried up the loads. Then came another day along the top of the ridge, another steep descent, and another encircled valley. At the foot of the mountains they came upon sassafras trees, fern trees, and musk plants, which they had not expected to find so far inland. They saw lyre-birds, too, and several black wallabies which indicated that they were not out of the mountains yet.

On 8 November 1824, just a few miles north of where Tumbarumba now stands, the most wonderful sight met their eyes. Hume and Hovell had climbed still another mountain in order to be able to decide which direction to take away from this maze of valleys and chasms and streams and, as Hovell wrote in his diary, 'a prospect came in view the most magnificent'. An immensely high Battery Mount, because of its strange shape and dark red colour, and Friday Mount, after the day on which it was discovered. It was time to rest the animals, and for the men to hunt fresh meat, so Hume and Hovell set off to Battery Mount, two miles away, and were well rewarded by the view from the summit. In the distant south-east the range of Australian Alps ran parallel to their path. Immediately in front of them to the north, south, and east lay rolling country, with here and there a gentle hill; while to the west the horizon was flat, dipping out of sigh in the distance. To lend even more encouragement to their hope of an easier journey, they saw the smoke from the aborigines' fires giving promise, too, of fodder for the bullocks and horses.

From the nature of the country and the many streams they had come upon, Hume and Hovell began to expect a river flowing to the west, since the water could not escape past the mountains. they found this river, now called the Murray, but named by them the Hume, on Tuesday, 16 November. It was a fine sight, eighty yards wide, deep clear, and moving at about three miles an hour. food was no problems there, with plenty of cod in the river, delicious bream in the lagoons, large mussels to be dug from the banks, and wild duck among the reeds. Nevertheless it was not possible to remain on the Murray's banks because of swamps, lagoons, and the party had to keep to the higher and drier land two miles distant in their search for a crossing place. today near the Albury showgrounds, a bronze plaque reproduces the inscription Hovell cut in the huge gumtree, which still grows by the bank. the inscription reads 'Hovell, Novr. 1724'. For two days they followed the Murray west without finding a crossing place, so they turned and retraced their steps east. Gradually the river narrowed to little more than forty yards wide, making a crossing possible. this was a pleasant journey with grass sometimes as high as the men, bellbirds in the trees, and the sight of two black swans to interest them. to cross the Murray a boat was built. According to Hovell it was similar to one he had constructed when he was wrecked on the western island of Kent's Group in Bass Strait; according to Hume, however, it was made to his instructions, with three pieces of stout sapling for a base, bound across the ends and middle by cross pieces of sapling, and then laced with wattles bent up to form the sides, the whole shape being covered with the tarpaulin.

Only four miles farther on the way was blocked again, this time by the Mitta Mitta River. Here again the leaders differed. Hovell was for turning back, and trailing the Murray west from its northern bank; and Hume was for continuing. Each man felt that his way was most  in accordance with the official instructions. Hovell appealed to the men to go no further south, and pointed to the already dilapidated state of the tarpaulin; but Hume claimed he could always kill a bullock and use the skin. the men were in a nasty predicament. They were eager to go home, but their confidence lay in Hume. After angry words the two parties again separated, and Hume crossed with his three men, though only after he had seized Bossawa by the scruff of the neck and threatened to throw him the river if he did not cross. Hume had dismantled his boat, but was still within earshot, when Hovell called out that he would cross after all. He must have had grave doubts yet again, however, when that very afternoon they came upon the River Kiewa. this time the delay of boat building and reloading was unnecessary, because an enormous tree trunk had fallen right across the river, stretching from one bank to the other. It made a good bridge with a rope stretched along as a handrail, and the cattle were so used to rivers that they crossed, roped one  behind the other, without any hesitation.   

As they went farther and farther south the party discovered many trees marked by iron tomahawks, which showed that the aborigines had had previous contact with white men. They also found themselves in increasingly hilly, forest land (the Beechworth area), which was very hard on the horses, most of which had lost their shoes. From the tops of the hills in the new range came fine views of the Dividing range on the east; between the two ranges lay open forest country, parched dry grass, and a nearly empty creek, whose course ran south to a gap which they determined to make for. On the way they crossed yet another great river bed, which was named the Ovens, after the Major who had been Governor Brisbane's private secretary; it was then 24 November. They correctly guessed that the Ovens, then nearly dry but bordered by swamps and lagoons and creeks, joined the Murray. The Ovens was easy to cross, with only three feet of water in it and, at the top of another small range of hills, they were able to see, away to the east, more snow-capped mountains, and the eastward course of the river which had obviously risen from those heights. Nearer to them was an odd-shaped mountain which reminded them of a buffalo, and so they named it Mount Buffalo; the surrounding plains were named Oxley's Plains. Rather than avoid the hills which confronted them Hume and Hovell decided to continue south-west, making for Port Phillip. 

A general uneasiness, however, was growing in all their hearts. The hills grew steeper and steeper and, while some were bare unnerving shapes of curiously-piled boulders, others were covered with scrub so thick it was extremely hard to penetrate. there was plenty of evidence of aborigines about, and sometimes smoke from their fires could be seen in all directions; though close enough for the men to hear them speak, however, they were rarely seen. The cattle found it very difficult to cover such rough stony ground, waterholes were hard to find, and much of the grass had been burnt off. The dogs were so famished and weak that, had they seen a kangaroo, they could not have chased it. One of the horses fell into a creek, when the bank caved in beneath it, and, though the animal escaped injury, the provisions were lost. The men, too, had to rest much more frequently because of exhaustion from the heat and the rough going.

The fires which the aborigines had lit in the explorers' path deprived the cattle of fodder, and so Hume and Hovell were unable to take a direct route. At last, however, on 3 December, they came to another rive, where the banks were thickly grassed and the surrounding country very beautiful. This river (the Goulburn) they named the 'Hovell', and again a conveniently fallen tree provided them with a path across it. There were plenty of landmarks about, and Deputy Surveyor-General Meehan had his name given to a mountain and a forest, Throsby was honoured with a mountain, and a mountain, covered nearly a quarter of the way down with snow, sparkled and glittered in the sunshine. Other odd-shaped mountains surrounded it, but they were bare of snow, and not quite so high. Lower still ranged thinly timbered hills which were well grassed. 'All the mountains that we have seen or gone over are more hillocks when compared with those we have seen today' reads the diary. The men caught the enthusiasm, too, and raced to the spot where Hume and Hovell were standing, to marvel at the strange sight, named from then on the Australian Alps.

Marvelling at snow-capped alps in this strange and sunny land soon gave place to despair at the thought of trying to cross them. And it was over the decision on what to do next that the growing dislike and rivalry of the two leaders broke out. Hovell was used to the absolute command of his own ship; he was older, thirty-eight to Hume's twenty-seven, and more polished in his manner; and he was certainly more cautious. he was unused to the day-to-day rough and tumble of an expedition, and he was constantly being made aware that he was out of his element. Hume was never noted for his tact and, indeed, he gloried in being a rough back woodsman, impatient of restraint, and full of confidence in his own initiative. Until the mountains became so difficult, it is true that it was Hovell who had worked out the bearings of the party from day to day, and it was for this reason that he continued to assert himself. However, sextant and compass were no use in finding a way out of the tangle of valleys and chasms and mountains (though Hovell at first refused to see this) and Hume's bushmanship and experience were the only equalities that counted.

The most serious crisis arose a few days after sighting the Australian Alps. Hovell wanted to continue south in the path of the Alps, and Hume was for turning west and seeking a way to avoid the mountains, since neither would give in, they agreed to part. According to the much later account of Angel, a disgraceful quarrel broke out. 'Before they parted,' he said, 'they had a row about who was to have the tent; they were going to cut it in two, but Mr Hume let Mr Hovell have it. Then they quarelled about the frying pan and broke it in pulling at it.' Hovell had not gone very far, though, before he and his men realized the futility of continuing that way. Boyd hurried back and found Hume's track, and they were all reunited, before dark. It must have been even more galling for Hovell when Hume soon after showed his ability to lead them out into open country, especially when, as good luck would have it, Hume had hit upon the only point where it was possible to escape. the route lay across ravines as deep as 1,000 feet, which it looked impossible to descend; but the tracks of kangaroos had carved a narrow path for the bushman's eye to follow and, before long, they were able to travel south-west fairly consistently. The worst feature of these few days, 9, 10 and 11 November 1824, were the small flies which pestered them and gave them no peace. the horses stood almost in the cam fires hoping the smoke would deter the pests; the dogs lay down in the waterholes; and the bullocks in the longest grass, trying to escape. The dogs were so exhausted by then that they were seldom able to track down game; and one had been severely cut and almost killed by a kangaroo. In the following weeks there was so little meat that they had to be fed on boiled flour.

Then on the afternoon of 11 November, the men arrived on the summit of one of the most westerly hills, and there in front of them lay gentle plains, thinly wooded with blue gum and stringy bark, and lush grass. Two outstanding landmarks on these plains they named creek which the cattle had trouble swimming across was named Muddy Creek. Monday, 6 December 1824 was another wearying day; the first halt did not come until two o'clock because they could not find water. Curiously enough, that evening rain fell for the first time since 22 October. Worse was to come on the next day. After crossing King Parrot Creek near the present site of Flowerdale, two ranges had to be climbed and descended, and the top of the second was so densely covered with brush-wood that it was impossible to see ten years in any direction. Two men went ahead cutting a path for the cattle, but night fell and stranded the [party without water or grass, on rough and stony ground completely surrounded by that dreadful barricade. Hovell wrote in his diary:

To describe this brush or scrub is almost impossible. 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 coming into a town in the state we were in, people would have sworn that we had been in some drunken affray.

Leeches, flies and mosquitoes made it an even more miserable night. The men had gone only one and a quarter miles the next day across the 'Jullian' Range when it became impossible to continue; they had to return the way they had come to King Parrot Creek, finding water on the way which gave the animals their first drink in eighteen hours. On 9 December 1824 Hume and Hovell left the party, and set out alone with enough supplies for four days. This time they climbed a mountain in the same range they had crossed the day before, hoping to see the sea from the summit. They reached the top by ten o'clock that morning but there was no view and the mountain has ever since been called Mount Disappointment. For the next two hours the leaders scrambled on hands and knees, the descent was so difficult, and were very relieved to find about midday a spring where they paused to rest. In the whole of the afternoon they managed to cover only four miles. The way was made extremely difficult by a species of grass (probably Dianella), which they described as four or five fret high, with a blade about one and a half inches wide, whose edges were so sharp that they could wound severely. Exhausted, lacerated, and uncertain if they were even proceeding in the right direction, there was nothing for it but to return.

Hume and Hovell rejoined the expedition on the morning of 10 December and, by two o'clock that afternoon, they had all set out again, following the course of the King Parrot Creek in a more westerly direction. the scenery about them consisted of gentler hills and plains, a few trees, and stony ground suitable for sheep pasture. their stores improved the next day when two kangaroos were killed and a couple of cod fish were caught, but the aborigines had set fire to the grass ahead, and a sudden change of wind blew the flame and smoke in their faces, forcing them to beat a hasty retreat back to the creek which they had left a mile and a half before. They were u and away before sunrise the next morning, 11 December, to avoid any breeze which might stir the flames and, by seven o'clock, were eight miles farther on, at the top of a range of hills which afforded a view of open forest hills. the end of that day saw them camped beside what they named Sunday Creek, twelve and a half miles farther on, with the prospect of an easier route in front of them, though ringed by fire. today's Broadford lies only a couple of miles from their camp.

Hume, many years later, wrote that when he came back to the men in the morning, after reconnoitreing for a crossing place, he found a spirit of rebellion amongst them. He himself was convinced that the Jullian Range, named after a friend of Hovell's, was a dividing range, and that beyond it lay the sea; and so he felt confident in promising that if they had not made the coast within the next two or three days he would return with them. His account makes a most exciting story, because he claimed that on the very same day (in his record it was 13 December 1824):

being some distance in advance of the party I observed an opening and fall of land far to the south; thinking the struggle at last won, my heart rose, and I cheered long and loud, most of the men left their cattle and rushed towards me, Mr Hovell among the number.

Their hopes were high after discovering eels and a plant called the sea marigold at one of the few creeks found in this dry and drought-stricken area. On the coastal plains the soil was found to be excellent, and water plentiful, despite the fact that two days before the men had had to sink a well about six feet deep before they were able to get even enough for half a pint a man. At last, on 16 December 1824, they reached the sea, tramping, along the north shore of what is now Corio Bay. the aborigines called that part of the coast 'Geelong', Hovell, however, in taking bearings, made a critical mistake in making the position one degree farther east than it actually was, so that the explorers believed they had reached Western Port. This had very important consequences for the future settlement of the area, and was one of the chief causes of arguments between Hume and Hovell later.

The night before the expedition turned for home was spent in a small wood about a mile from the beach. Hovell described the scene in glowing terms at a banquet held, many years later, at that same place, Geelong. He said

About this time, twenty-nine years back, my brother traveller, Mr Hamilton Hume and myself were talking over what had passed during the journey, the present prospects and the future. The spot on which that conversation took place was at or near the point opposite the Bird Rock. Thirst kept us awake, and we listened to the sound of hundreds of waterfowls which were then sporting on the waters of the bay before us. In the morning while nine-tenths of mankind slept we were on our feet, watching for the light to show us the beauties which were then breaking in upon our view. When day did come, what was our delight to find with what success our outward journey had terminated. the eleven weeks of toil and uncertainty were compensated by the result and we considered ourselves the two most fortunate travellers on record. We therefore simultaneously embraced each other and with extended arms returned thanks to God for the shield of protection which He had thrown over us. We then went in search of water and after an hour's walk in nearly a north north west direction we met with it at Kennedy's Creek, now called Limeburner's Creek. here we remained one day. The shortness of provisions and the mustering of natives warned us that a longer delay would not be prudent. But the day we spent here was one of the happiest in our lives for we had done that which a published record had proclaimed to be impossible.

That day was, in fact, a day of mixed feelings. The cattle had to be tested, if only for twenty-four hours. Yet for the return journey, remembering that the outward trip had taken eleven weeks, there was barely five weeks supply of flour (at eight and half pounds a man instead of ten) only a small quantity of tea and sugar, and no animal food; and the ropes and tarpaulin were unfit for use. Secondly, dangerous situations arose with the aborigines. Fitzpatrick, who was out alone shooting wild fowl, was suddenly surprised by two who were hidden behind some reeds. He began to retreat, and they became as menacing that he turned and fired at them. Fortunately for him, though he did not think so at the time, his gun misfired, and he had to turn and turn for it, shouting for help, which came in the nick of time. A few hours later two of the men were collecting firewood when they were again surprised, but Hume was near; he calmly laid down his arms and ordered his men to do the same. The natives, reassured, laid theirs down and entered Hume's tent for a parley which lasted a long time; though it was only because they were such clever mimics that they were understood.

Tension had been building up on the outward trip about the menace these tribes could be; they were almost never seen, but they frequently harassed the party with fires, and showed that they possessed tomahawks. Many more were seen on the return journey. Hume and Hovell decided it was wise to keep together after seeing so many smoke signals being sent out and, though the parley had been perfectly friendly, the aborigines who visited the tent had proved clever thieves. The men were down to possessions essential for survival, and could not afford to lose a single thing. Hume deserved the excellent reputation he had for his relations with the aborigines. Captain Charles Sturt was to write later that 'his intimate acquaintance with the manners and customs of the natives ... chiefly contributed to the peaceful manner in which we have journeyed'. 

The return trip, due to a brilliant piece of leadership by Hume, was completed in thirty-one days. He saved 150 miles by taking a more direct route which rejoined the old one only a little south-east of Wangaratta. They kept between two and three miles to the south-east of the old route, recrossing the Jullian Range by 'Hume's Pass', which lay between Mount Disappointment and Mount Wentworth; this is assumed to be the Kilmore Gap. Christmas was spent beside the Goulburn River; the fine fish they caught there improved the diet, but that evening Hume's mare was bitten on the nose by a snake, which caused a delay of twenty-four hours. From 'Oxley's Creek' (Hurdle Creek) the old route was followed, and the River Ovens was forded at the same spot as before. On 1 January 1825 light showers and thunder made the men very anxious, fearing that the rivers might flood and that they would not be able to cross them. the alternative to this was to cross the mountains to a point so far east as to be beyond the rivers, and previous experience had shown them how difficult this would be, even if they had had enough food. That day, therefore, following the old track to the Murray River, they made a forced march of twenty miles. So great was their relief to find the river easily fordable, with the water only three or four feet deep, that they let the cattle rest for most of 3 January. By following the course of the Murray eastward they were able to prove that Battery Mount Creek flowed into it.

With 150 miles to go to the nearest station, the last of the provisions were handed out on 8 January 1825. Each man was given six pounds of flour and some tea. The cattle by then were only able to travel short distances at a time, and they had to bind their feet up as best they could. Only one dog was left, and it was so weak that it was no use at all to chasing kangaroos. To add to the misery of crossing the Medway and Tumut Rivers, they had to trudge over range after range of hills studded with coarse granite. The last of the flour was eaten on 15 January, after a difficult and dangerous descent of the eastern side of the range leading into Limestone Valley. The bullocks were exhausted by the climb and Hume and Hovell decided to dash ahead to the carts they had hidden on 26 October. It was a great relief to find carts, harness and supplies all just as they had been left, with the exception of a torn tarpaulin and a spirit keg which had leaked. The rest of the party caught up just after noon the next day.

Two of the bullocks could scarcely clamber up the right bank of the river when the party proceeded again, so two of the men, Boyd and Bollard were left behind to take care of them. They had plenty of salt provisions, but neither flour nor bread. The remaining six men pushed on, fording the Murrumbidgee with ease at the very spot where before they had had so much trouble. Their last night together was spent on the banks of the Gondorro River, and they reached Hume's Lake George Station on 18 January 1825, sixteen weeks after setting out. Bossawa and Smith were so weak they had to be carried on a cart for the last day.  The two men who had been left behind with the cattle soon found the animals were unable to travel farther, and left them and the remainder of the supplies, hurrying home along the track which was clearly tree-marked.

On 24 January 1825 Hume sent an account of their discoveries to Governor Brisbane. Brisbane, in turn, relayed the news to England, though he gave it nothing like the importance expected, and allowed eight weeks to elapse before writing at all. the relevant part of his letter read:

I have also to announce to you the discovery of anew and valuable country of great extent, extending from Lake George towards Western Port in Bass's Streights by two young men, Messrs Hovell and Hume, the latter Colonia); they were directed by me to tray and reach Spencer's Gulf, in the hope of intercepting any Rivers that might run South to that parallel of longitude and discharge themselves into these Streights. They were absent near three months but only got to the former place. I is my intention as soon as I have the means to send a Colonial Vessel to Western Port, to have that explored, as it seems to have escaped Flinders and others; the above persons seem to have performed their duty well.

It was not, however, until governor Darling came to office, when fear of French designs on the Australian coast was very strong, that anything was done. Oxley, whose opinion was sought, thought it unlikely that the French could use Western Port and Hume and Hovell's records could not, of course, show much familiarity with the place. In 1826 an army party was sent out on a navy flagship, with Hovell on board. He roughly identified the area between Cape Paterson and Koo-wee-rup Swamp as the spot reached earlier. It proved to be an unsuitable place for settlement and, because his report was not favourable enough, the military settlement at Western Port was abandoned in 1828, and very little attention was paid to Hume and Hovell's discoveries for ten years. Hovell die, however, discover coal while investigating Cape Paterson, and a lectureship in geology and physical geography was later bequeathed by his widow to the University of Sydney in memory of him.

Hume did not consider joining the expedition to Western Port. For one thing he had married Elizabeth Dight by special licence at St Philip's Church, Sydney, on 8 November 1825, and was busy making a home. Furthermore neither he nor Hovell received a proper reward from the Government; he actually had to sell his land grant of 1,200 acres to meet his expenses. Nevertheless when, in 1828, Darling ordered Sturt to trace the River Macquarie, Hume went along as second-in-command. The River Darling was discovered, but it was a period of extreme drought, and they were forced back without discovering that year where the western-flowing rivers ended. Sturt spoke and wrote very highly of Hume's ability as a bushman and as a leader Frequently Hume took charge of some of the party, exploring in one direction while Sturt went in another. It was Hume, too, who tracked won the cattle when they strayed and were lost. In particular, Sturt noted his good relations with the aborigines. It further proof were needed of Sturt's regard, it came when he asked Hume to accompany him on the journey which followed the Murray to the sea. Had Hume gone on that trip he might have received the recognition he wanted.

Neither Hume nor Hovell went exploring again. Hume settled down to farming and grazing, ending his days at 'Cooma Cottage' at Yass. Hovell, too, settled down to farm. though they saw one another occasionally afterwards there was never much friendship between them and, in 1853, they began a violent quarrel. Hovell journeyed to Geelong where he was acclaimed by the settlers. He made a speech at the banquet held in his honour and reports of it, condensed and somewhat inaccurate, appeared in most of the daily papers. The Melbourne Argus published only a paragraph and certainly did not do him justice. He was recorded as saying that he 'felt no small degree of pleasure and pride in being the man who discovered the country which he found twenty-nine years ago to be a wilderness'.

Hume at the best of times was quick tempered, and h did not improve with age. He did not stop to question the truth of the report, but brought out in 1855 A Plain Statement of Fact, in which every difference and every old grievance was aired, and Boyd, Fitzpatrick and Angel supplied supporting evidence. Hovell replied, and Hume answe4red him; and though Hovell remained silent from then on, even after Hume died, the whole dispute flared up again in 1874. Hume was determined to assert that he was the real and appointed and only leader of the expedition. Certainly governor Darling and the colonial Office thought he was. The second issue was whether or not Hume, like Hovell, mistook Corio Bay for Western Port. On this point Hume must share the blame, for in his reports to Brisbane in 1825 and again in 1826, he specifically mentioned Western Port.

It was a pointless quarrel which only embittered their last years, and reduced the respect which the discoveries warranted. Hume served for many years as a Justice of the Peace on the Yass Bench. His sole public recognition was his lection as a Fellow of the royal Geographical society. He decided sadly in his last years, and was preoccupied at the end with the building of his own tomb. He died on 19 April 1873. Hovell died, a well-to-do farmer, on 9 November 1875. The men who accompanied Hume and Hovell were all granted tickets-of-leave by the Government. Boyd, at eighty-five, was alive to see the junction of the Victorian and New South Wales railways, and was granted a small pension. Fitzpratick took up land between Cootamundra and Gundagai, became wealthy, and later bought the Glenlee Estate near Campbelltown. Bollard managed Berry jerry Station for a while, and was later publican of a hotel at Picton. Angel also farmed, first at Woollongong, then near Hay, and died, at the age of ninety-one, at Wagga Wagga.

There were two immediate consequences of Hume and Hovell's overland journey. first, there was the discovery of a great number of important rivers, all running west or north-west. It was to find some great outlet for all these streams which ld to Sturt's famous journey down the Murray. Secondly, because of the mistaken belief that they had arrived at Western Port, no advantage as taken of the rich land round Port Philip Bay for ten years. Historian now look to Hovell and his detailed, careful, and interesting diary for the best record of the expedition, but it was due to Hume's published accounts of the expedition in 1853 that the real value of the discoveries was known. John Batman, who had known Hume when they were both boys at Parramatta, could not rest until he had learnt for himself whether Hume's account was correct or not. He formed the Port Phillip Association to investigate the area and so began the colonization of Victoria.

Hume and Hovell and their small band of six men made a journey that was more uncomfortable than dangerous; in doing so they revealed what lay between the outward rim of settlement of the little colony of New south Wales, and the charted south-east coast of Australia. What they revealed was the area of fine country which now makes up the State of Victoria.  

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