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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 85

New Guinea. — By Mr. H. H. Romilly

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New Guinea.

By Mr. H. H. Romilly,

I do not propose to bore you with a dry list of names of coast and inland districts, names of tribes, etc., but to describe as well as I can some of the principal features of the country, the peculiarities of its inhabitants, and the possible future of the Protectorate.

There is but little that I can tell you of the work which has been done by the different exploring parties which have bean organized by this society, and by private enterprise, which you do not already know. Though a considerable amount of information has been gained by them, they have been on the whole disappointing. D'Albertis added considerably to the list of known birds and fishes, but he discovered no geoghaphical facts of any importance, and the rough map he made of the course of the Fly River has since been proved to be very incorrect. The collection, too, which he made was allowed to go out of the country, though his expenses had been defrayed almost entirely by New South Wales.

In his book he hardly mentions, if he does so at all, haying passed the mouth of the river ascended recently by Captain Everill. One of the members of his expedition told me some years ago that there was much discussion at the time as to which stream they should ascend. Most of them were in favour of going up the Strickland, but D'Albertis decided on the other stream. I think he must have exaggerated the number of miles he ascended, as he was not an accomplished navigator. I have found, myself, while, ascending rivers, that one is very apt to exaggerate the distance travelled. Perhaps the greatest results were obtained by an expedition of miners in 1877. Very little was said or known of them at the time, but they penetrated some forty miles into the interior from Port Moresby, in a north-easterly direction, till they were stopped by the enormous Owen Stanley Range. Forty miles sounds very little, but a great part of that distance was cut through the dense jungle at the rate of about a mile a day. Many of them died, and they returned disheartened to the coast, having failed in the principal object of their expedition, but having succeeded in holding friendly intercourse with some of the natives of the interior, and having ascertained that there was inland a splendidly watered, rich country.

The explorer from whom I anticipate the best results is Mr. Forbes. He is, as you know, partly supported by the Royal Geographical Society. He is a man as he has shown, of immense resource and pluck, and he is always cheerful under misfortune. He has a most comfortable camp now at a place called Sogere, situated about forty-five miles northeast of Port Moresby. It is about 1500 feet above the sen level, and is on one of the spurs of the Owen Stanley Range. From it he can explore in every direction. It was where I left the country within ten miles of the furthermost point reached. it is supposed that the natives from the north coast occasionally visit Sogere, and if this is the case the day must be near at hand when we can shake hands across the page 5 boundary with our neighbours the Germans. Mr. Forbes originally intended to be quite independent of the natives of the country, and accordingly he engaged the services of a number of Malays to accompany him and to act as carriers, but he soon found that they were a source of trouble to him as the inland natives refused to hold friendly intercourse with them. The principal reason assigned for this was that the Malays refused to eat the pork which was offered them on their arrival as a mark of high respect. He has now got rid of nearly all of them, and intends to carry on his work with the assistance of the natives of the country. It had been my intention to ask Mr, Forbes to accompany me in the expedition which was organised in November of last year for the purpose of ascending the Mai Cassa and Aird rivers, but the melancholy death of Sir Peter Scratchley necessitated a complete change of plans. These two rivers, more especially the Aird, we know very little of. Mr. Chester, at present police-magistrate at Cairns, and Mr. M'Farlane were the first to ascend the Mai Cassa. Mr. Chester has described it to me as a salt water creek and not a river. It is probably connected with the Fly by swamps. It has been ascended nearly a hundred miles, till the shallowness of the water prevented any further progress. On its banks many varieties of fine timber are to be found, and at the present moment some enterprising timber-getters are getting cedar there. The extensive swamps which extend from this part of the coast many miles into the interior make the country very unhealthy and very difficult to work in. On the other hand, the banks of the Mai Cassa are very thinly inhabited, and the white men have nothing to fear from depredations or attacks by natives. Of the Aird River I may say that we know absolutely nothing. For eight or nine months of the year the south-east trade is blowing, and the numerous sandbanks and bars, with heavy breakers on them, close this river even to whaleboats. But in the north-west season it is supposed to be possible to enter it. There can be no doubt that it is a river well worth the attempt, and my disappointment at having to give up all thought of it last year was very great. We have a few native accounts of it, and through them it would appear to be a very rapid clear river, magnificently timbered on the borders. We know, also, that the banks are densely populated with powerful and savage tribes.

Our knowledge of the country west of the Mai Cassa is very slight; in fact, with the exception of a few pearl shellers, it is unvisited by anyone.

The natives of this part of the coast are probably the true aboriginals of the country. They have little of the Malay type about them, while both east and west of them their neighbours grow fairer skinned and smaller in stature. Their language, too, differs greatly from those of the eastern and western tribes. Their nature is fierce and treacherous, and they are, on the whole, very awkward people to deal with.

Following the coast to the eastward from the great Papuan gulf, we find a succession of fine rivers, harbours, and roadsteads, which is unequalled, I should imagine, by any country in the world. Every few miles a river discharges its waters into the sea. Many of them would be called fine rivers in Australia.

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On the banks of these rivers, after passing the inevitable belt of mangroves, are plains densely covered with the tough cane grass which grows only on rich soil, With the exception of the country round about Port Moresby, the whole of the south coast appears to be entirely fertile, and at South Cape, where the Government have acquired a large tract of territory, the richness of vegetation cannot be surpassed.

It may be interesting to compare the country comprised within the limits of the British Protectorate with the German territory. While on the south harbours and rivers abound, on the north they are not nearly so plentiful. In fact, Finsch Haven, on the north, is the only good harbour they possess. The rivers are small and not very numerous. The mountain ranges which run parallel with the coast are so short a distance inland that it would be impossible for any very large river to exist. The country from Mitre Rock—the point of departure of our boundary line—to Astrolabe Bay, appears to be rocky barren soil, and it is evidently but thinly inhabited by natives. It changes in appearance very much, however, below Astrolabe and Humboldt bays. I visited that part of the coast some five years ago, and made short excursions inland at several points, and I was much struck with the magniflcence of the country and the friendly character of the natives. I had at that time just left the Admiralty and New Britain groups, where the natives are as savage as in the Pacific, and the contrast between them, and the Papuans of Astrolabe Bay was very great. In fact, the Russian explorer Maclay named the islands in Astrolabe Bay the " Archipelago of Contented Men." He lived with them for two years, and though they treated him rather badly : first, eventually they got on very well together. As not much is known of the natives of the northern coast it maybe interesting if I read an extract of a journal, kept at the time, of my impressions of them five years ago. I was at that time visiting all the various groups of islands south of the line. Commodore Wilson had kindly placed H.M.S. " Beagle," Captain Matusin, at my disposal. New Guinea at that time was inclosed in the Western Pacific district. We coasted from a spot about one hundred miles north-west of Astrolabe Bay, as far as Dampier Straits, when we were turned back by heavy southerly gales and adverse currents.

Extract from Journal.

"Up to Saturday night we had almost dead calms, only making about twenty miles a day. We got a rain squall on Thursday night, however, in which we made another fifteen miles.

"When it cleared up we Found land all round us. However, till next day Matusin could not determine his position. On Friday we found that they were Lottin, Crown, Long, and Dampier islands; we could also see the New Britain coast, and straight ahead of us rose the coast of New-Guinea, at that particular spot some 12,000 feet high. This morning we were close up to it, and it was certainly a most magnificent sight to see this land rising straight out of the sea to such an enormous height. In the afternoon, about two o'clock, we came to an anchor in a tiny little page 7 cove with only just room to swing in, but very deep water. Maclay had called it Port Constantine, and it was his headquarters while he was staying in Astrolabe Bay.

"We saw a few canoes putting off to us, but they seemed rather shy at first till I shouted out the magical name of " Maclay," when they came up as fast as they could. They had all got very powerful bows and enormous canoes. By the help of the few words Maclay had written down for me I was able to inform them that he would come hack to them soon, that I was his brother, and that I wanted to see their towns. They at once became extremely friendly and kept on telling each other that I was Maclay's brother. I then asked for the principal men of the villages by name, and they promised that they should come off next day and would then take me to their towns. In the evening Matusin and I went ashore to look for water. I took my gun in the hope of shooting some birds, but though I heard plenty the bush was so thick I could not see one. We looked about for some time and found a little creek with good water, but we did not explore it very far as it looked a most likely place for alligators.

"In the morning a crowd of canoes came out to us to trade. They seemed to have nothing but bows and arrows and spears of rather a rough description.

"A few of them asked for tobacco, but they evidently did not care much about it Knives and beads were in great demand, but they had so few things of any interest that their trading was not carried on with very great vigour. Matusin and I had settled to visit Gorendu, which is the biggest village here, after divisions in the morning. As soon as they were over a native told me that "Sa-ul," the chief I had asked for, was coming off in a canoe, so we determined to wait for him. When he came alongside we lowered the boarding netting for him, and he came on board after some persuasion, as he was evidently in a great fright. We took him down to the cabin, where we showed him anything we thought likely to take his fancy. Oddly enough he seemed much more pleased with the masks and spears, etc., which we had brought from the other islands than with anything else. The poor old man then attempted a feat manifestly beyond him, though he had evidently tried it before—namely, smoking a day pipe filled with trade tobacco. After a few draws he dashed up the steps of the cabin and was violently sick. When he came back he roared with laughter for some time. The Steward gave him a piece of bread and jam, which he gravely licked with his vermilion tongue, and then handed it to the other members of his staff, who all did the same. No one, however, thought of eating the bread till it came to a small boy who made the attempt. He was not, however, allowed to swallow it as the elder members of his family, when they saw it was good to eat, made him disgorge it, after which it was handed round from tongue to tongue in the most convivial manner. We then made Sa-ul some small presents, which seemed to delight him hugely, and proposed that we should go to Gorendu. Before he left the cabin, however, he was destined to suffer a severe shock to his nerves. He was pulling everything about in a great state of astonishment, and finally came to a seltzogene, the handle of which he pressed. page 8 Of course it at once discharged a stream of soda water into his face, and poor Sa-ul tumbled down as if he had been shot.

"After this we got him into the boat and started. . We began our walk to the town from a point about a mile along the bay from where we were anchored. There was a capital path leading us through two walls of bush into which we could not see a yard and which came together about twenty feet oyer our heads. Along the skies of it were any number of ferns and crotons, and there were innumerable festoons of orchids hanging down all round us.

"It was a luxuriance of vegetation I had never seen before and had not imagined possible. I had been in hopes of shooting some birds, but such a thing was quite impossible.

"The orchids I had not seen before anywhere, and there were several Borts of crotons quite new to me. Unfortunately there was no room on board the ship to carry cuttings. After walking some time we heard shrieks and the sound of people running, and then we came to a clearing in the bush, with a few wretched bamboo huts in the centre of it. This village, the name of which I have forgotten, was entirely deserted. evidently on account of our arrival. "We could hear the people talking, no doubt discussing us, quite close in the bush, but we could not see one. As there were no points of interest in the external appearance of this village, and as in the absence of the owners I could not enter any house, we started off again. After walking some time we came to another large clearing and a larger number of huts, which, Sa-ul informed us with a proud air of proprietorship, was Gorendu. We heard the same shrieks there and retreating footsteps, but this town was not absolutely deserted.

"An aged lady, totally devoid of clothing, no doubt owing to her extreme anxiety to get away, as it is not the habit of the women to go naked, was discovered sitting on the ground, in the middle of the town, and one by one they began to come in. Only one woman, however, made her appearance, perhaps, owing to the fact that she possessed a garment of grass which came down to her knees. After the people had come in there was a great deal of patting and pinching to be endured which could have been dispensed with, as they had all got skin diseases. I went into Sa-ul's house, but he seemed to have hardly any property in it. There were some very rough earthenware cooking pots and a few spears and bows, but nothing else. Sa-ul was perfectly civil to us all the time we were on shore; but it is rather remarkable that though I gave him a good many things, he never offered me anything in return. In the Admiralties, where they looked infinitely more savage than they do here, the chief insisted on making me presents in return for mine to him.

"After walking about for some time round about Gorendu wo turned back to the boat with a crowd at our heels, and got back to the ship about two o'clock. At all the places we called at before going to New Guinea I made inquiries about an interpreter for Astrolabe Bay, but at no place could I hear of anyone who had been there. I made out that two ships had been at Port Constantine, both English, but how long ago I could not find out. I believe the only foreigner of any country who has stayed with them and can speak their language is Maclay. I could see no sign page 9 of European implements, beads, or cloth, which there probably would have been had they mixed with foreigners."

Maclay says every yard of land is owned by someone and every fruit bearing tree has its owner. There may, no doubt, be scented woods on the mountain ranges, but we saw no signs of them, Tobacco, I should say, there certainly was not, as we not only saw no signs of it in the towns, where it most probably would have been planted, but the natives did not at all seem to care about ours, though some of them did know the use of it. As far as the appearance of the people goes, I imagine Wallace must be wrong when he says that the Astrolabe natives are not true Papuans, but a colony from another place. They are utterly unlike the New Britain, New Ireland, or Admiralty islanders, and where else they could have come from I do not know. They are copper-coloured instead of black, and have Jewish features. There is none of the flat-nosed, thick-lipped type about them, and their heads are better shaped than those of any of the natives round about. If they did not all suffer from skin diseases they would be a very fine looking people. It is possible they were more civil to me than they would have been to anyone else, owing to the fact of my acquaintance with Maclay, which I made the most of. They seem to fight very little among themselves. None of them were scarred like the Solomon Islanders, and the bows they sold us had evidently been out of use for a long time, and had all new cane strings. There seemed to be very few weapons of any sort in any of the houses I went into.

No doubt there must be very fine land up the rivers. Indeed, up the valley of the Gabina Hiver we could see plains stretching for some twenty miles or more.

The natives of New Guinea vary very much in appearance and language. It may be roughly said that in the east and west they are fair skinned small men; and that in the centre they are powerfully made black men, probably the true aboriginals; while their neighbours are colonists from other places. They are always fighting amongst themselves, and as a rule the black men have the best of it, as their weapons are superior and they keep themselves in constant practice

I have found, also, that the black men are more to be trusted than their fair skinned neighbours, in spite of their being cannibals, which the others, as a rule, are not.

The population of the country has been estimated at between three and five millions, Some parts of the interior are densely populated by wandering tribes, so that it is difficult to form anything like a correct estimate. Mr. Chalmers, who should know more about the country than anyone else, believes the population to be about three millions. In conclusion, I must apologise for the rambling nature of this paper, and thank you once more for the honour you have done me in asking me to read it.

The Chairman referred to the lucidity of Mr. Romilly's paper and the pleasure it had given the members in listening to its reading.

Mr. Thomson said that after the reading of a paper it was usual to invite discussion, and thought it was very desirable to do so, as it made the subject more [unclear: interii-üno] to the members and more satisfactory to the author. Referring to that part of the paper which described the native of New Guinea. he had travelled over a great portion of the South Sea Islands, many places frequented by the page 10 author himself, and had associated much with the natives, and being a keen observer of human nature generally, he had taken great interest in studying the habits of the natives, and considered that while they could be trained to make excellent servant when away from the influence of their own tribes they are naturally inclined to be treacherous when influence [unclear: ane] by a close association with their own people and could not be trusted like a European

In the absence of the author, the hon. Secretary read a paper entitled

Western Tasmania.

Although Tasmania ranks as the second settled colony in Australia, yet it is only within the last few years, owing to mining enterprise, that the western portion of the island has become permanently populated and partially explored. I avail myself of the opportunity, this evening, to give a sketch obtained by personal observation of the physical features, resources, etc., of this comparatively unknown region.

In 1876, Mr. C. P, Sprent, Deputy Commissioner of Crown Lands, then district surveyor, on behalf of the Government, led the first expedition to Mount Heemskirk, from the north coast, viâ Mount Bischoff and the Parsons Hood, the extreme southernmost termination of the Meredith Range. Mr. Sprent made many interesting discoveries, and reported favourably upon the mineralogy of the country, which naturally excited the minds of the enterprising spirits, and in the following summer three expeditions were formed to explore the terra incognita Two of the parties proceeded by small sailing crafts, and landed their effects at the Pieman River and Macquarie Harbour, where they commenced their explorations, the vicinity of Mount Heemskirk being the centre of attraction. The third one, under my leadership, had the honour of first crossing the island from the south, via Lake St. Clair, the Eldon Range, and Mount Dundaas. Along this route, endowed by nature's most lovely charms, discoveries were made of numerous small picturesque lakes, dashing torrents, and high rugged mountains. Minerals were discovered and land selected by each party, the result of these finds being an influx of population and the permanent settlement of the coast generally.

Western Tasmania is divided from the other portions of the island by continuous chains of high mountain ranges, commencing in the north in the granite peaks of the Meredith Range, followed by the eon glomerate-capped Silurian heights of the West Coast and Elliot ranges, and terminating in the white cliffs of the Willmot, Franklin, and Archer ranges. These insurmountable barriers attain heights of between three to four thousand feet above the sea level, and run parallel within fifteen to twenty tuiles of the coast line.

Owing to the inaccessible nature of these massive piles of rock only three practicable routes for overland communication have been discovered. One in the northern part taps the important gold deposits of the Pieman district, and has a commencement at Mount Bisehoff, viâ the north end of the Meredith Range. A central track leading from the vicinity of Lake St. Clair I had the honour to discover in the summer of 1883, when ex- page 11 ploring for the Government. This passes between Mount Lyell and Mount Sedgwick, through the only accessible saddle in the West Coast Ranges, and, after following a dividing spur situated along the auriferous zone of the King River goldfields. terminates at the Macquarie Harbour.

The most southerly one to Port Davey starts from the township of Victoria, and. after following the course of the Huon River for a considerable distance, passes through a splendid opening between the Franklin and Arthur ranges.

As yet horse traffic has only been attempted on the Pieman route, the Other proposed lines of communication being merely used by explorers, no roads or horse track having as yet been constructed, but an expenditure of public money ¡a voted for opening out the central thoroughfare during the coming summer.

By examining the map other ranges may be observed to be charted within a short distance of the coast. The first of these, north of the Pieman River, are the quartzite and conglomerate rocks of the Norfolk Range; south of that stream the granite slopes of Mount Heemskirk; and between Macquarie Head and Port Davey the slate, schist, and quartzite formations of the D'Aquilar, Junction, and De Witt ranges.

Rivers.

This densely timbered and mountainous tract of country it intersected by largo rivers flowing from the interior, which, after passing through lofty precipitous gorges in the Coast Ranges, traverse the lower-lying country in deeply cut channels and ravines. All the entrances to these streams, with the exception of the Gordon River, are obstructed by sand bars. The Arthur and Henty rivers at certain seasons are so completely blocked by these treacherous barriera that a traveller with sufficient caution can cross dry-footed, yet not without experiencing the feeling that he is sinking to eternity. The Gordon and Pieman are the only navigable streams; the latter, emptying its waters into the Indian Ocean, is exposed to the prevailing westerly and north-westerly winds, it has also the disadvantage of a difficult entrance, with a bar covered by only two and a-half fathoms of water, over which in boisterous weather it is impossible for vessels to pass; but this, dangerous obstacle once over there come deep reaches, in places one-quarter of a mile wide, extending inland for twenty miles, where ships of any tonnage might safely float.

Further along its course, its channel being shut in by precipitous banks from two to four hundred feet in altitude, the flood waters caused by torrents of rain and thaws of snow on the inland mountains have no outlet, there by raising this river, and many others on the coast so situated, sixty feet above the ordinary level, and sometimes leaving the boat of some unhappy prospector thirty or forty feet high and dry in the fork of a tree. The Gordon flows into the south-east corner of Macquarie Harbour, and is navigable for thirty miles. It is, without exception, the grandest and most picturesque river in the island, for the monotony of the densely timbered high hanks of the other streams is varied by large pine and blackwood covered Hats, beautiful cliffs of black limestone intersected by veins of calcspar, small wooded islands, and lovely views of distant mountains.

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Harbours.

The coast line bears towards the south-east, and is formed of successions of soft sandy beaches, backed by stunted scrub covered dunes; craggy cliffs of quartzite, slate, serpentine, limestone, and granitic rocks, ranging from fifty to one hundred and fifty feet in height, sometimes found jutting out into the sea, with huge isolated detached masses, boldly defying the angry ocean; and scattered here and there high ranges stand out in bold relief a few miles from the shore. Toward the southern part the outline is even more rugged, where barren hills rise perpendicularly from the waters of the ocean. Here and there are two large indentations—namely, Macquarie Harbour and Port Davey. The latter is the only harbour on the coast where large ships can enter; it is a magnificent sheet of water, completely land-locked and sheltered by high quartzite ridges. Near the entrance to the Davey River, located in the north-east portion of the harbour, a settlement was formed many years ago by men engaged in pine cutting, but owing to the exhaustion of that valuable timber in places of easy access, and an in hospitable climate, all that now remains of that busy settlement is a deserted village, with decayed and desolate huts and once well kept gardens grown wild. About a quarter of a mile from the narrow rocky entrance of Macquarie Harbour the soundings average two fathoms; but as this ocean bar is protected by a long point formed by Cape Sorell, small steamers are able to cross and enter in unless the weather is exceptionally stormy. The harbour extends twenty miles towards the south-east, and its northern shores are formed principally of raised beaches and upheaved submerged forests, where, embedded in blue clay, may be found huge tress of semi-lignite containing impressions of existing plants. Here we do not find the bold outline or the grand scenery of Port Davey; yet beautiful bays and inlets covered with flocks of black swan, jutting promontories, small timbered Islands, and distant views of prominent mountains everywhere delight the eye of the traveller.

On Sarah Island, situated in close proximity to the outlet of Birch Inlet and lying opposite to the steep spurs of Mount Sorell, the extreme southernmost point of the West Coast Range, a penal settlement was formed in 1822, but after twelve years was disbanded, and now ruined dungeons, decayed log-constructed docks, tall fruit trees clad with the Macquarie Harbour vine ([unclear: MwktenbtcHa ad pressa]), half hidden by luxuriantly growing raspberry canes and English rye-grass, are the only indications and monuments of prison work, and of the first population on the West Coast. For a lapse of over forty years the natural beauties of this lovely spot remained undisturbed by civilization until the mineral discoveries at Mount Heemskirk brought enterprising miners and citizens to Long Bay and Swan Basin, who have erected two small townships on a large area of land now reserved and surveyed by the Lands Department for the future town of Strahan.

Trial Harbour is a small open rock-bound bay, exposed to the prevailing winds, therefore impracticable for navigation except in extremely fine weather; being only two miles distant from Mount Heemskirk, it served as the main depot for landing the heavy plants used in classifying page 13 and crushing the tin ores of this locality, and consequently saved mining companies a large expenditure which would have been entailed if their machinery had been brought over the soft beaches and treacherous Henty River from Macquarie Harbour.

The only other inhabited port is the Pieman River, settled immediately after the stanniferous discoveries at Mount Heemskirk. Yet there are other slightly known inlets in which fishing and piners smacks frequently anchor with sufficient safety in stormy weather, and there is little doubt that these small havens will eventually become as useful depots to future mining districtsas Trial Harbour has been to Mount Heemskirk,

Timber and Scrubs.

The coast line is fringed by stunted scrubs of ti-tree and banksia matted closely together, but the lower-lying broken country for the most part is covered by forests of myrtle (Fagus cunninghami), sassafras (Atherosperna moschatum), celery, top pine (Phyllocladus rhomboidalis), and many species of the eucalyptus. with an undergrowth of dense scrubs of shrubs of many different genera, some bearing lovely blossoms and foliage, or berries of all hues. Of these the wharata (Telopea truncata), native lilac (Prostanthera rotundifolia), climbing heath, and native laurel (Auopterus glandulosus), are the most lovely. The heath adds brightness to the sombre gloom of the woods, and of the above-mentioned plants is the only indigenous one to this part, and is found covered with bright green leaves and clusters of long scarlet flowers, fall decayed stumps or fallen giants of the forests. Twined together in a close network, defying the passage of mortal man without the aid of his axe or billhook, these forests are surrounded by impenetrable thickets of horizontal (Anodopetalum biglandulosum), ti-tree (Leptospernum lanigerum), native rose (Banera rubioides), scrubs forming barriers so harassing and detrimental to surveying and exploration.

Long strips or patches of useless button grass (Gonnoschcenus [unclear: sphcerocejihalui]) country, in many localities, take the place of the scrubs. These open areas must not be mistaken for pastoral land, for not only is the soil of an unproductive nature but the coarse herbage unfits it for any use. The button grass consists of round tussocks from two to four feet in diameter and one to five feet high; it is found at all altitudes, in wet swampy flats, on dry barren ridges, or on the summits of high ranges.

Before being burnt the locomotion is excessively tiring for the traveller, who must either spring from tussock to tussock or sink deeply in the soft black slush, or when wending his way on the higher lands has to wind his course between the tussocks, so as to avoid being tripped by the entanglement of long wiry leaves. The prospector hails the sight of this country with delight, for when fired it burns furiously and sweeps the scrubs of hated banera, always found adjacent to its edge for miles, and gives a freer passage and a sight of mother earth to the searchers of mineral wealth, besides freeing the land of destructive pests and venomous snakes.

Along the large flats and brinks of the rivers, the graceful white blossomed pinkwood (Eucryphia billardieri), the pyramid-shaped pencil page 14 cedar (Athrotaxis selaginoides), and valuable black wood (Acacia melan-oxylon), King William (Athrotaxis cupressoides), and Huon pine ([unclear: DaciyiKitin fmniii'tii]), beautify and add wealth to this barren country, for more durable woods for ship-building and furniture-making cannot be obtained in Australasia than the far famed logs of blackwood, King William and Huon pines, exported during the last half century from the western streams to the other colonies.

Of late years the Government have altogether restricted the whole sale slaughter of the pines, supposing that the supply would soon be exhausted by the reckless destruction of young timber. In this respect the conservation was a wise legislation, but the absolute restriction is a mistake, because it has been a crushing blow to the development of mineral wealth. Formerly small crafts could afford to bring necessary supplies at cheap rates, if a return load of pine was obtained, thereby saving the exorbitant dues now paid for the charter of steamers, who are obliged to return homeward bound empty laden. It is also a mistaken idea to imagine that the pine is on the eve of extinction, for on many of the rivers and their tributaries I can vouch from personal knowledge of the existence of extensive beds of Docydium franklinii.

In a country so excluded and shut off from the settled districts by the want of overland communication, the Governmental powers ought rather to have fostered the principal resources than put obstacles in the way of development, which might have been easily obviated by forming stringent regulations and insuring sufficient supervision to prevent the wasteful cutting of timber and needless destruction of small trees.

Many of the mountains are completely hidden by the variable foliage of alpine shrubs. The one most peculiar to this district is the Fagus gunnii, the deciduous tree indigenous to Australasia; its habitat is on the snow-covered heights of the Western Ranges, where it grows in dense patches, attaining an altitude of four to twelve feet. No other locality in Tasmania produces a more beautiful variety of rare ferns; notably among these is the Aspidium hispidum, growing in greatest profusion in the gullies of the Pieman district : it was first described as a new species in Tasmania through the instrumentality of Mr. George Lefroy, but discovered years previously to his visit to the West Coast. The Macquarie district wholly claims the delicate Lindsaya trichomanoides, which is found in the sunshaded chasms of the West Coast Range and occasionally met with south of the harbour in deep valleys.

Two of the rarest filmy ferns, new to Tasmania, were brought from this locality into the settled districts by myself in 1883. I had hoped that one of the species might have proved a new discovery to the world; fronds were forwarded to Baron von Mueller for determination, and the illustrious botanist concluded that the first was the rare Hymenophyllum marginatum, one of the smallest filmy ferns, hitherto only known in localities in the neighbourhood of Port Jackson, New South Wales. The Other, a tomentose little fern, gathered from the bark of the King William pine, proved precisely identical with Hymenophyllum malingii, hitherto only known from New Zealand.

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Agricultural Land.

Western Tasmania is destitute of any extensive areas of agricultural land, and the Government, instead of encouraging settlement, have unwisely reserved the whole district for mineral purposes, thereby shutting out the small farmers from selecting the patches of rich deep soil met with on the shades and banks of the. harbours and rivers : and where there might have been comfortable little holdings to be a help and stay to the mining industry the lands lie untilled, and not one cultivated paddock can be found in this quarter of the island.

The existence of grass is only found on the sandy hummocks along the coast, growing in rough tussocks, quite unfit for pastoral purposes, even if the areas were more extensive.

The rivers are stocked with a plentiful supply of fresh water fish, although the variety is not numerous and those fish only worthy of notice are the eel, herring, lobster, and black fish. Three species of eels abound in all the streams, and to estimate the quantities that can be caught may be instanced the fact that a friend and myself have bagged eighty, weighing from one to four pounds each, during a few hours' fishing in the evening. This haul was made during a time that Mr. O. Meredith and myself were the only inhabitants on the West Coast. We had made our way overland with the expectation that a vessel which had preceded us with men and supplies would be able to cross the Pieman bar, but owing to [unclear: seu'ie] westerly gales she did not perform her mission until two months had elapsed. During six weeks of this time we had to invent means to secure food, and subsisted almost entirely on eels, crawfish, and black swans. Although living like aborigines in this precarious fashion many a pleasant evening was spent on the river fishing, or with a punt full of waddies excitingly chasing and pulling down the flapping moulting swan, or spending a happy day in the seaweed gulches of the coast, capturing an abundant supply of crawfish. We both agreed that the eel had the most sustaining and nourishing properties, and instead of [unclear: riring] of their constant use we became excessively fond of them; and hooking a large one of six pounds weight on Christinas eve, as a treat, saved it for our dinner next day, and relished it with perhaps as much gusto as if we had been feasted on the national dish of old England. The herring (Protocroctes [unclear: viarirnu]) is the most delicate and delicious fresh water table fish in the colonies, and affords excellent and exciting sport to anglers. They frequent the shallows and rapids of the large rivers, and may be seen especially in the early morning and evening swimming in large shoals and throwing their bright silvery bodies out of the water while in hot chase after an imprudent white moth, their principal food.

Since the importation of the English brown trout (Salmo fario), these beautiful little luxuries have become almost extinct in the once famous herring fishing streams of the south, and all Tasmanians hail with delight the proposed scheme of Mr. Saville Kent, the inspector of fisheries, to artificially breed and restock these streams with the locally page 16 called cucumber mullet. The lobsters (Astacopsis franklinii) are not plentiful, and as yet have only been captured in the Arthur, Pieman, and Gordon rivers.

The black fish (Gadopsis marmoratus) was supposed to be confined to the northern rivers; yet one western stream, the Arthur River, has an abundant supply. They may be captured in the evening, in still pools, sluggishly swallowing the bait.

The flounder, sole, ling, skate, and rock cod frequent the salt waters of the harbours, and the excellent trumpeter (Lartis necatelu) and crawfish the deeper waters of the ocean bays.

Animals.

The tiger (Thylacinus cynocephalus) and devil's (Sarcophilue ursinus) chief habitat is on the coast, principally in the undisturbed portion south of Macquarie Harbour, where they find sufficient prey in kangaroo (Halmatarus bermettii) and wallaby (Halmatarus billardieri), only found in small numbers, picking up a living on the coarse grassed hummocks.

Tiger cats (Dasyurus maclatus) overrun the woods, and are the scavenger and most plucky animals of the forests, and unlike the cowardly snapping tiger, fight bravely to the last. The sleepy wombats (Phascolomys wombats) roam over the button grass plains, making their domiciles under the shade of the thickly thatched tussocks, or burrowing long underground tunnels at the edge of the forests, They are numerous in all parts, and often prove good friends to the provisionloss pioneer and miner. On one occasion, when my supplies were unavoidably delayed, myself and brother travelled over the Western Ranges, and subsisted entirely for five days on roast wombat; and many other cases may be instanced where life has been saved by the use of their flesh, which is not to be despised, and surpasses the insipid preserved meats and soups so commonly used in the

It is only within the last two years that many of the smaller animals of Tasmania found in the unpopulated regions have become known to the zoologist. Dr. Higgins, and Mr. Petterd, of Launceston, undertook the work of description, and solicited collections of specimens from every locality in the island, and in many instances received entirely new species. Being on the West Coast at the time, and always anxious to forward any scientific investigations, I collected all the varieties of kangaroo rats, antichians, and rats that came under my observation. Four of them proved to be new species to the island, and described by "Dr. Higgins, in a paper read before the Royal Society, as follows :—Red kangaroo rat (Potorous rufus), Antectinus moorei, Mus castaneus, and Mus pachyurus.

Minerals.

Inferences may be drawn that this beautiful wild waste, with its limited area of rich soil and timber lands, will remain a natural wilderness with a sparsely scattered population unless the mineral resources are developed. The day will come, and not at a far distant date, when men of all nationalities will be enticed to the golden west in search of wealth. I speak from practical experience of the country, the result of extensive page 17 exploration; and have we not also the predictions of greater men, the renowned geologists, Cuout Stezlecki, Clarke, and Gould, who maintain that this will become one of the richest mineral parts of Australasia, but one of the last to be developed? The strata in the Pieman and Heemskirk districts has a strike of about 10° E. of N., but in the Mncquarie and Port Davey portion about the same variation to the westward. The formation generally belongs to the Silurian epoch, containing zones of productive auriferous country, highly remunerative in parts, but in others almost barren. Stanniferous masses of granitic rocks oceur in many places bursting through the other strata.

The Pieman River goldfields commence a little north of the Long Plains, and are situated between the granite slopes of the Meredith Range on the east, and the quartz and conglomerate cliffs of the Norfolk Range on the west; the auriferous belt is four miles wide and extends for twenty-four miles S. E. to the Pieman River, At the base of these ranges two large Streams, the White and Donaldson rivers, cut the surrounding strata in deeply worn channels. A third stream, the Savage River, flows through the intervening country, and between it and the White River a long dividing spur extends south to the Pieman Range. This spur comprises a series of tertiary gravels of the pliocene epoch, resting on a micaceous schist bottom, and overlaid by a more recent quartz conglomerate, cemented together with a siliceous binding. These tertiaries or ancient rivers have partly been encroached upon by disintegration and denudation, and the watercourses; these gravels now form the secondary washes, mined at one time with such good result.

The more recent streams rise from the breaks, and furrow othe sides of the dividing spur; and from these shallow, easier worked, secondary deposits gold has been traced to the older tertiaries; but owing to the little encouragement given by the mining regulations to prospectors, when this field carried a large mining population of miners, little attention was paid to the heavier and more lasting auriferous depostis.

The quality of the gold of this district is of a high percentage of purity, and is dissimilar in character to any discovered in Australia; it is beautifully crystallized in deulrictic plates of united crystals, or clusters of the large crystals formed in to suggest . Associated with it are quantities of the rare minerals, iridium and [unclear: osiri] and at one time it was thought that these [unclear: heaver] metals exceeded the commercial value of gold but sample of them being sent to England the returns showed that, instead of increasing, it diminished its value, as the great weight and infusibility of the associates were detrimental to easy extraction of the precious metal.

Only two auriferous reefs have been discovered in this district, and owing to the difficulty of road making this more permanent branch of the mining industry has not as yet been fully established. Besides the before-mentioned metals large lodes of specular iron follow the strata of the country; and smaller veins of carbonate of copper, asbestos, graphite, and galena are occasionally met with in quantities not sufficient to be remunerative.

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The King River gold fields are situated in the same zone of silurian rocks, but considerably farther south, at the western base of the West Coast Range, and are at the present time absorbing most of the attention of the speculators and miners of this portion of the island. The zone follows the valley of the Queen River, and in this stream, and in many of its eastern and western tributaries, rich patches of alluvial gold, shed from quartz veins, in close, proximity, have been worked with satisfactory results. But, unlike the Pieman district, this field has not the promising indications of deep leads; yet there is every appearance of its becoming a rich reefing country, and until there is further expenditure on the miserable tracks from Macquarie Harbour it will remain undeveloped for as many more years as it has been since its discovery. In 1882, Mr. C. Lynch, the first discoverer, a most energetic prospector, succeeded in tracing the gold from the alluvial flats to a rich reef, from the cap of which one hundredweight of specimens was taken and forwarded to Hobart; on being assayed, a yield of nearly two ounces of gold to the pound of stone was obtained.

The principal stanniferous deposits occur in the granitoid rocks, porphyries and metamorphic schists of the Heemskirk Range and surrounding hills. The tin ores are beautifully crystallized and considerably associated with tourmalines and chlorites : they are found in impregnations, bunches, or solid leader masses in variable lode stones. Other minerals are found in small quantities associated with the veins of cassiterite; principally among these are galena, copper, bismuth, and molybdenite.

Great excitement prevailed for a few years after the discoveries were made, and large syndicates were formed to work many of the multitudinous sections applied for and leased from the Government; expensive plants of crushing and classifying machinery were erected before the mines were properly opened out or tested; a wild over-speculation ensued, and before any legitimate mining was done or any of the lodes proved a crash came and destroyed for a time the prospects of this grand stanniferous country.

The western granite base of the Norfolk Range and the northeastern slopes of the Meredith Range have also been unsuccessfully worked for tin ores, but not in such an extensive or expensive a mode as the deposits of Mount Heemskirk.

Large lodes of galena found within the last few years at Mount Zeehan, and reported favourably upon by the Inspector of Mines, promise to become a lasting resource to this district.

South of Macquarie Harbour is the least known part of the West Coast Still here there are good indications of gold, silver, and copper country, and it only requires time, money, and a helping hand from the ruling powers to change this district and the whole of the West Coast from a sterile waste to the most populous and thriving mining territory of Tasmania.

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The Chairman spoke in favour of the paper just read, and quoted many instances referred to therein from his own personal experience in Tasmania, when examining the gold mining features of the West Coast.

On the motion of Mr. J. P. Thomson, seconded by Dr. Waugh, a vote of thanks was passed to Messrs. Romilly and Moore for their papers, and the meeting then closed.