Hume & Hovell – Expedition to Port Phillip c 1824

” . . . Messrs. Hovell and Hume, in November, 1824, accomplished an overland journey, from Sydney to Port Phillip, in the course of which they crossed and named several rivers.  They penetrated as far as Geelong and saw Port Phillip Bay, which Hovell mistook for Western Port, whilst Hume held differently, in consequence of information received from Mr. James Fleming, a member of the Grimes Survey Party . . . “

Source:  Excerpt – ‘The Chronicles of Early Melbourne – 1835 t0 1851 – Vol I’ – by Garryowen – published 1888

Essentially, this expedition carved the route between Sydney and Melbourne, since known as the Hume Highway.

HumeHamilton Hume was born near Parramatta, NSW, Australia on the 19th June 1797.  As a child, he and his childhood friend, John Batman (some 4 years younger than he), made  the most of exploring the bush surrounding Parramatta and learnt much about the land, culture and language from the local Aborigines.  As a result, they became skilled bushmen at a very young age and developed a deep respect for Aborigines, the Aboriginal culture and their way of life.  At 15 years of age, Hume moved with his family, to a large grant of land near Appin.  From the age of 17, he began exploring the land south to the Berrima region.  He grew to become an expert bushman who understood aspects of the Aboriginal language and survival techniques.


William Hovell was 11 years older than Hume.  He was born in Norfolk, England, on 26 April 1786.  By his early 20’s, Hovell’s career at sea was established, commanding a trading ship in South America.  In 1813, he and his family emigrated to New South Wales where he worked for Simeon Lord, again as captain of the coastal and trans Pacific trading vessels.  He was an exceptional seaman and navigator, however, he lacked the expert bush skills required for Australia’s harsh and varied terrain.

The Expedition to Bass Strait

The plan was to explore, document and land a party on the Bass Strait Coast and then return to Sydney.  After the Governor of the time, Sir Thomas Brisbane, had been unsuccessful in his bid to finance the expedition, Hume investigated the possibility of paying for the expedition himself.  It was then that Hovel expressed a desire to accompany the explorer.  Hovel was prepared to supply half the provisions, and a number of bullocks and horses and hence, the two men became partners:

” . . . On the third of October, 1823, at the request of His Excellency, Mr Thomas Brisbane, Mr. W. H. Hovell, and myself set out from the County of Cumberland, taking six servants, two carts, drawn by five bullocks, and four horses, and a supply of provisions for sixteen weeks.

Our instructions were to penetrate through the interior, to Bass’ Straits . . . “

Source:  Excerpt – Sydney Herald (NSW) – Article ‘An Extract for the Journal of Mr. Hamilton Hume, written on a Tour through the interior to Bass’ Straits, in the Year 1824′ – published 4th July 1831

Hume & Hovell Expedition Map 2 lge

The party assembled at Hume’s Father’s farm at Appin on Saturday, October 2, 1824.  The two leaders were assigned 3 male servants or convicts, each:

Hume’s Men:

Claude Barrois (recorded as “Bossawa“).  He never married and died in the Sydney Convict Hospital in 1841.

Henry Angel, granted ticket of leave in July 1825.  He later accompanied Sturt and Hume in 1828.

James Fitzpatrick, who later took up land between Cootamundra and Gundagai.  Subsequently, he bought ‘Glenlee‘ station near Campbelltown.  He died aged 86.

Hovell’s Men:

William Bollard, who later built and kept a hotel called the “Farriers Arms” in Upper Picton in the 1840’s.  He died on the 21st August, 1854 and was buried in the Catholic Cemetery in Upper Picton.

Thomas Smith, who later married Sarah Dean, raised 2 children and died at Eastern Creek, NSW in 1837.

Thomas Boyd, who was known to Hume as a well-respected horseman, bushman and swimmer, was at the time, indentured to the Kennedy family.  Hume arranged for Boyd to join the party as one of Hovell’s men.  Boyd returned to the Tumut district and settled on Gilmore Creek.  He married, fathered 12 children and died at ‘Windowie‘, near Tumut, on the 27th June 1885, aged 86 years.  He is buried in the Tumut Pioneer Cemetery, where a headstone marks his grave.
Hovell’s journal describes the supplies he took with him for the 4 month journey:

” . . . 640 lbs. [pounds]  flour, 200 lbs. pork, 100 lbs. sugar, 14 lbs. tea, 8 lbs. tobacco, 12 lbs. soap, salt, coffee, etc., etc., etc., for myself and three men, together with a musket and ammunition for each man. This is exclusively for ourselves, as Mr. Hume has supplied (as I understand) the same quantity . . . “

– Source:  Excerpt – William Hovell’s Journal – 2nd October 1824

A detailed journal of the expedition was maintained, including bearings and distances.  It was the first Australian expedition to use bullocks, and, it was also the first to use an innovative odometer.  Hovell had attached a device to a baby pram wheel which, like a modern car odometer, was designed to measure the distances travelled.

The return journey of almost 1,900 kilometres was accomplished in just 16 weeks.

In order to reach Western Port, Hume and Hovell endeavoured to lead the party in a south-westerly direction wherever possible.

It was a tremendously difficult journey.  Hume was ingenious in his adaption of the equipment to enable supplies to cross large rivers such as the Murrumbidgee and Murray Rivers – converting bullock drawn carts to river crossing punts and back again:

” . . . The details may perhaps be of some utility.  The timber of the country unless dry, and there was none to be found in this state, is not even of itself buoyant, or they would hare availed themselves of it, to construct a temporary raft or boat for the conveyance of the supplies; and at this season, as the trees do not readily part with their bark, they were precluded also from having recourse to this not unusual substitute for the former.  They now, therefore, but accidentally, turned their thoughts to the carts; one of which, stripped of its axle, wheels, and shafts, and securely covered with a tarpaulin, was readily converted into a tolerably good punt, or boat; this was found both sufficiently buoyant, and not too crank.  The next step was to convey the end of a stout rope to the opposite bank, for the purpose of their being enabled to ply their boat backwards and forwards across the stream; and to effect this indispensable object, Mr. Hume and one of the men undertook the dangerous enterprise of swimming across the river, taking with them a small line, of about six feet long, which they carried between their teeth; and to the bite or middle of which, was attached a line of a similar description, but which was of a length sufficient to reach across the stream.  This was not done without great difficulty, and some danger, both from the extreme rapidity of the current, and the great pressure of the water on a length of line so considerable as was necessary for the purpose, the weight of the latter, not only retarding the progress of the swimmers, but occasioning them to swim deeply, and at times dragging them almost under the water, and by which circumstance they were in fact, swept down the river a considerable distance, ere they could reach the opposite bank.  They now conveyed one of the ends of their intended tow‐rope across the river, by means of the line, and by ten o’clock, every thing being in readiness, and their boat loaded, and carrying not less than 6 or 7 cwt. made its first trip.  The bollocks and horses were now conducted across separately; some of the bullocks being in a state of almost complete submersion, during the operation, and one of them becoming turned upon its back, and continuing in this position a considerable portion of the passage.  These difficulties were attributable, partly to the cattle not being accustomed to swimming, and partly to the dangerous rapidity of the stream; which, with the roughness of the weather, and the unusual coldness of the water, contributed to render this undertaking to the swimmers at least, not less unpleasant than it was evidently hazardous . . . “

Source:  Excerpt – Journey of Discovery to Port Phillip – by William H Hovell & Hamilton Hume – published 1837

[Friday, October 22nd 1824]

” . . . One of the carts is made to supply the place of a punt or boat, and the end of a tow‐rope, having been conveyed across the river, in the course of four or five hours, the whole of the supplies, including the second cart is landed, without loss or injury, on the left bank of the Murrumbidgee.  The horses and bullocks are now conducted separately across the stream, though not without much difficulty, and considerable risk, by means of the tow‐rope.  By five o’clock, every thing had been readjusted; and they rest for the night on the banks of the stream, a short distance from the place at which they had crossed.  The weather during the earlier part of the day, cloudy and showery; towards evening, squalls, accompanied at intervals with heavy rain . . . “

Source:  Excerpt – Journey of Discovery to Port Phillip – by William H Hovell & Hamilton Hume – published 1837

Crossing the Murrumbidgee River, the expedition entered unexplored territory finding the landscape to be rugged and mountainous with barely penetrable bush and swollen rivers, though:

” . . . This river, as well as those streams which they have already crossed, abounds with excellent fish, of the same species as that in the Lachlan, and in the other streams which run to the westward.  These are in shape like the cod-fish, and of a fine flavour. . .  These fish weigh in general from five to twenty pounds; some of them even exceed the latter weight.  They take bait readily . . . “

– Source:  Excerpt – William Hovell’s Journal – 21st October 1824

As the weather became hotter, swarms of flies, mosquitoes and pests tormented them, making the expedition even more difficult:

” . . . Having descended this hill, they halt in the bed of a small ravine, formed between this, and a similar, but smaller eminence in their advance.  Here they remained until three o’clock, but were utterly unable to obtain any rest, in consequence of the incessant and distressing attacks of the small flies before noticed; the horses retreated almost into the fires for the sake of the smoke ‐‐ the dogs lay down in the water holes and the bullocks in the long grass, in order to escape from these insects.  During the entire period that they have been among the mountains, the cattle have been, from this circumstance, totally unable to feed during the day, and but little at night, from the incessant and almost equally tormenting attacks of the mosquitoes . . . 

Source:  Excerpt – Journey of Discovery to Port Phillip – by William H Hovell & Hamilton Hume – published 1837

On November 8th, they caught sight of the ‘Australian Alps’ – now known as The Great Dividing Range:

” . . . At the end of seven miles a prospect came in view the most magnificent. This was an immensely high mountain covered nearly one-fourth of the way down with snow, and the sun shining upon it gave it a most brilliant appearance. It was surrounded by other irregularly formed mountains, but they did not appear to have any snow upon them on the north side, nor were they so high as the former. The supposed distance is about fifteen or twenty miles. From E.S.E. to S.W. was one continuous range of the highest mountains I have seen in any part of the colony . . . “

– Source:  Excerpt – William Hovell’s Journal – 8th November 1824

The Murray River

Eight days later they reached a river which they named ‘The Hume(renamed the ‘Murray River’ by Captain Sturt):

” . . . Tuesday, November 16. ‐‐ Soon after sunrise they re‐commence their journey, and having proceeded three miles and a half S. (the land gradually sloping as they advanced), arrive suddenly on the banks of a fine river.*  This was named “The Hume.”
* Mr. Hume having first discovered it, but since named by Captain Sturt, the Murray, after Sir George Murray.  Both Mr. Hume and Mr. Hovell, had anticipated the early appearance of a river in this direction; from the opinion that the large bodies of water which they had of late continually encountered, though all pursuing a southerly, or even an easterly course, would, from the apparently impenetrable barrier which is presented by the South Australian Alps to the eastward, ere long revert to the westward, and thus become distributed to the interior.  This beautiful stream is found to be not less than eighty yards in breadth, apparently of considerable depth; the current about three miles an hour; the water, for so considerable a current, clear . . . 

Source:  Excerpt – Journey of Discovery to Port Phillip – by William H Hovell & Hamilton Hume – published 1837

The men of the Hume & Hovell expedition were the first Europeans to encounter the mighty Murray River.  They reported:

” . . . The river abounds with that species of cod fish which is common in all the western rivers.  In the lagoons they caught a kind of bream or carp, of the weight of about two pounds, and of the finest possible flavour.  The lagoons are literally crowded with wild ducks and in the muddy bottom near the banks, is plenty of large muscles; these are inferior to those found in salt water; the natives dive for them in the same manner they procure the mud-oyster near Sydney, and these, with the fish caught in the river, seem to form the principal part of their food.

Their method of fishing is as follows:  they select the outlet from a lagoon, which generally consists of a little stream of about two feet deep, and of about five or six feet broad.  Across this, at no great distance from its junction with the river, they form a palisade with small stakes, which are driven firmly into the mud, and then carefully interwoven with wattles.  Beyond this palisade, at the distance of five or six feet higher up the stream, they form a similar palisade, but leave an opening midway in its length, of about two feet wide.  A dam being thus prepared, the natives go into the lagoon, where it is sufficiently shallow for their purpose, and beating the water with their wattles, and disturbing it in every possible way, drive the fish before them into the dam, which on being sufficiently full, is immediately closed, the fish in consequence falling an easy prize . . . “

– Source:  William Hovell’s Journal, 16th November 1824

Near the Murray River, at a site that is now known as Albury, the explorers carved their names on separate trees – one flanked by the other – on the 17th November 1824.  Hovell’s tree remains, with a plaque duplicating the carved words.  The tree is called the Hovell Tree.  Sadly, Hume’s tree was destroyed by fire in the 1840’s . . .

Map Excerpt – Australian Explorer Routes by J Arrowsmith published 1842 – the gold coloured trail showing the diversion westward, then eastward along the Murray River, of Hume & Hovell’s expedition of 1824


The Murray River proved and enormous challenge to cross.  Hume, Hovell and some members of the expedition traipsed downstream, then upstream to find a suitable crossing place:

” . . . Wednesday, November 17. ‐‐ Messrs. Hovell and Hume take with them two of the men, and proceed seven miles further down the stream, still in search of some practicable crossing place, but without success, the stream becoming, as they advance, of somewhat increased magnitude; its banks more beautifully regular, and perhaps somewhat higher than what they had been before observed.  The lagoons are nearly the same, and in consequence of which circumstance, it was possible only twice to approach the river.  The soil, the trees,* the herbage, similar, but perhaps superior.  There were no marks of floods; should the banks, however, become at any time inundated, the land, at a little distance, is sufficiently high to afford perfect security from such an occurrence.
* Viz. on the banks of the river, the blue‐gum, and at a distance from the banks, where the soil is not so good, the box, the whitegum, and the stringy‐bark, but there was no swamp‐oak, the tree so universal, on the rivers to the northward and eastward.

At four o’clock the party had returned to the tent, having determined on proceeding on the morrow in the contrary direction, (up the river), in quest of the same object.  They have not taken a kangaroo since Monday last, nor have they seen an emu since their departure from “Swampy Valley.”  The total distance travelled to‐day, is fourteen miles; viz. seven miles westerly (down the river), and the same distance on their return.

Thursday, November 18. ‐‐ They travel about seven miles (eastwardly) up the river, when they fall in with their own track, at the place where they had first discovered the river on Tuesday last (the 10th).  They now proceed S E. three miles; here the river takes a sweep to the E N E.  There was at this time some distant thunder, and at four o’clock a violent storm of wind and rain, not far from them, accompanied with some heavy thunder‐claps; this, though it passed off, induced them to stop, and they halted for the night, in consequence, at the extremity of a very beautiful flat.  To‐day they had travelled, by the perambulator, twelve miles; but, in a direct line, they are not more than three miles to the eastward of the spot at which they had first discovered the river.

Friday, November 19th. ‐‐ They resume their route, (which they commenced the day before yesterday,) up the river (to the eastward).  The general appearance of the country, together with that of the soil, is rich and beautiful.  The grass having apparently been burnt early in the season, and being now in full seed, is fresh and luxuriant, frequently as high as their heads, and seldom lower than their waists.  On both sides of the river, the “bell‐birds” are “ringing merrily”, a treat hitherto unusual, this being only the second time, that they have met with this delightful bird since their departure from the Cow pastures.  Fish and ducks are still abundant; they also meet with two black swans in the course of the day, the first they had seen on their journey.  About six miles from the place of their starting this morning, they observed a small islet of rock, lying nearly in the middle of the river; this consisted of a coarse granite, and lay in perpendicular ridges, N E. and S W.  Four miles Eastwardly from this spot, at the foot of a high forest range, the stream suddenly narrows, and is in some places reduced to the breadth of little more than forty yards; this was attributed to their probable advance beyond the junction of some important branch, and which they might have passed without notice at the considerable distance from the river, at which they were frequently compelled to travel.  Here, having determined on making the attempt to cross the river at this spot, they halt for the night.  The distance travelled to‐day, measured by the perambulator, is ten miles, but which in a direct line, would not exceed seven . . . 

Source:  Excerpt – Journey of Discovery to Port Phillip – by William H Hovell & Hamilton Hume – published 1837

Successfully conquering the Murray River, the expedition penetrated further into the unknown – crossing several major rivers, including the Ovens and the Goulburn Rivers.

” . . . Thursday, November 25. ‐‐ Little difficulty was experienced in crossing the “Ovens,” the water being so low, that it was found fordable in several places.  The ford at which they passed was only three feet deep, and the bottom pebbly, so that although there was a considerable current, they were enabled to cross with the cattle laden.  The banks of this river, are somewhat higher than those of the last two, and they appear less liable to floods . . . 

” . . . Monday, November 29. ‐‐ . . . Having travelled five miles and a half, they cross a creek running to the northward and westward, on the bank of which they rest; at four they cross another range, the whole of this range appears to have suffered by some violent explosive operation of nature. The rocks a coarse granite, lying or standing in the utmost confusion, in every possible direction; this range they descend in the direction S W. then cross another range . . . 

Source:  Excerpts – Journey of Discovery to Port Phillip – by William H Hovell & Hamilton Hume – published 1837

” . . . On the banks of this river they remain the night, and prepare for passing it in the morning.  Some fish are caught, in the course of the evening, similar to those in the Lachlan; and they kill a kangaroo.  This river has been name “the Hovell” . . . “

– Source:  Excerpt – William Hovell’s Journal – 3rd December, 1824

” . . . Friday, December 3. ‐‐ Proceeding S W. in the course of the creek twelve or thirteen miles, they arrive, as they had expected, on the banks of another river.  The country along its sides is extremely beautiful, clothed with a luxuriant herbage, and both hill and lowland thinly wooded.  The river they cross, as on a former occasion, by means of a large tree which lay extended from bank to bank.  But the access to the water for the cattle is somewhat difficult; the banks being, at least, twelve feet in height and perpendicular.  The river has appended to it the usual series of creeks and lagoons, and in some places (particularly on the N. or right bank) the terminations of some high ranges come down so close to the water, that there is no practicable pass, at least for cattle.  On the banks of this river they remain the night, and prepare for passing it in the morning.

Some fish are caught, in the course of the evening, similar to those in the Lachlan; and they kill a kangaroo.  This river has been named “the Hovell.”*
* Originally the Goulburn, after the late Colonial Secretary.  But as there was, though unknown at the time to Messrs. Hume and Hovell, another stream named after that gentleman, to prevent confusion, this river was subsequently named by Captain Sturt, and Mr. Hume as above . . . 

Source:  Excerpt – Journey of Discovery to Port Phillip – by William H Hovell & Hamilton Hume – published 1837

Mt Disappointment

Continuing their south-westerly trek, the expedition encountered the very southern part of the Great Dividing Range which was blanketed with thick scrub and ‘cutting grass’ that scratched and tore at the explorers, as well as steep, unexpected escarpments that promptly halted progress . . .

Map Excerpt – Australian Explorer Routes by J Arrowsmith published 1842 – the gold coloured trail showing the trek south-west which is reversed just beyond Mt Disappointment & then diverted westward, then resuming the southerly direction, of Hume & Hovell’s expedition of 1824


The bullocks had trouble keeping their footing on the steep, slippery mountainsides, and the leaders, Hume and Hovell, were not always in agreement as to which path to take.  A battle of the wills ensued – Hovell being older than Hume was generally accustomed to being in charge and had had extensive navigational knowledge acquired during his sailing days.  Hume, on the other hand, was arrogant, but knowledgeable about bushcraft, survival skills, and the Australian landscape.  Mt Disappointment would challenge the experience and know-how of both men:

” . . . Tuesday, December 7th. ‐‐ Proceed two miles and a half S W. across some ranges, and then come to a creek, which derives its waters from the mountains to the eastward; the stream strong, the bottom pebbly, and the waters evidently subject to occasional and very considerable risings.  This they name the “King Parrot Creek,” having observed here for the first time during their journey the bird of that name.  They now ascend a very high stony range, lying in about the directions N W. and S E. a most toilsome task for the cattle.  By nine they arrive on its summits, when they find to their great disappointment that they have to descend its S W. aspect, there being no connecting range, between this and another range, which is of yet greater height, running parallel with it, in their advance.  They descend accordingly and having rested about two hours, commence climbing the next range, when after two hours toil, they arrive on the summits* of this also.  Here, however, they find themselves completely at a stand, without clue or guide as to the direction in which they are to proceed; the brush wood so thick that it was impossible to see before them in any direction ten yards.  They proceed therefore a mile and a quarter by guess, with two men ahead, cutting a route through the brush for the cattle.  During this operation they were overtaken by night, and compelled to halt, utterly unable to proceed one step further:  here, without water or grass, or a spot on which to rest (from the stony and rugged character of the surface,) men and cattle have to pass the night.  From the summits of this range, the principal objects observed were a plain bearing N. by E. distant about four miles, and pursuing its course along the centre of this plain, the “King Parrot Creek.”  The plain is not very broad, of the length they were not enabled to judge.  The “King Parrot Creek,” no doubt joins the Hovell, about west from the spot at which they had crossed it.  They were enabled to travel to‐day only eight miles S W. by W.  On the range they found the land‐leech.  This animal bites with an avidity equal to that of the water‐leech.  The flies and musquitoes are again extremely troublesome, and in addition the tic.
* Part of a range, which they afterwards name the Jullion Range.

Wednesday, December 8. ‐‐ After a miserable night, anxious to remove with as little delay as possible from the causes of their discomfort, they were this morning stirring before it was day light, when proceeding one mile and a quarter in a southerly course across the range, cutting their way as they went, they at length found their further progress in this direction impracticable; both from the almost impenetrable kind of brush wood which they had to encounter, and from the immense quantity of dead timber that every where strewed the ground, as well as from the stony nature of the range itself, by which the cattle were completely crippled.  They now therefore descend the range in an easterly direction, and in their return to King Parrot Creek, when near the bottom of the range have the good fortune to meet with a fine run of water, an object equally desirable to themselves and to the cattle, who had been eighteen hours without any.  About nine they cross the King Parrot Creek; and, in the course of the afternoon, arrive at a spot where they halt, within about two miles from that at which they had crossed the same creek yesterday . . . “

” . . . Messrs. Hovell and Hume now propose to themselves the following plan:  to make a fresh attempt on foot to cross the range in a south westerly direction, and if successful to return for the cattle and persevere in pursuing that course until next Saturday se’nnight, by which time should the country yet appear unfavorable for the further prosecution of their original design, as they will then have left flour enough only for five weeks consumption, they purpose returning, and completing the outward journey by an examination, as far as circumstances may permit, of the course of the Hovell.  The hoofs of the horses are sadly broken, and the feet of the cattle are so swollen, that they are at present unfit for travelling, particularly their finest bullock, the leader.

The natives here are in the habit of extracting grubs from the trees (a practice of which they had seen no trace since their
leaving the Murrumbidgee).  This had in one instance been done with an iron tomahawk.

Thursday, December 9th. ‐‐ Agreeably to their proposed plan Messrs. Hovell and Hume start this morning at an early hour provided with provisions, except animal food, for four days.  Animal food they had none not even kangaroo, for although they had seen several of these animals, they had not been able to capture any in consequence of the loss of some of their dogs, and the wretched condition of the rest.

Proceeding in a South Westerly direction about seven o’clock they were ascending a mountain, (part of the same range (The Jullion) they had ascended yesterday) which from the repulse they subsequently experienced, they afterwards named “Mount Disappointment,” at ten they arrive at the top, and crossing their track of yesterday, commence descending its western aspect; two hours they were employed in scrambling literally on their hands and knees over brush and rock, when having advanced about two miles they halt, (at noon,) near a small spring; they then renew their efforts, when to add to their difficulties, they had the misfortune to encounter that species of long grass, which is known in the colony by the name of the “cutting grass,” this was between four and five feet high, the blade of it an inch and a half broad, and the edges exquisitely sharp, and fine enough to inflict a severe wound.  It is a similar plant to that of the same name, which is found in the Illawarra district.  Uncertain of their route, fatigued, themselves lacerated and their clothes torn at every step, it had at length become literally impracticable to proceed, they now therefore return towards the tent, and remain the night near a small spring, after having succeeded in penetrating four miles into this dreadful scrub, and advanced fourteen from their station in the morning.  In this scrub they found the turtine, the fern, and sassafras tree.  The mountain leech was common, and the tic; which burying itself in the flesh, becomes destructive to the lower classes of animals.  Pheasants they had heard, but had not seen any.  The timber as they advance to the southward, is observed to be gradually of a finer appearance, but that which they met with on the mountain, a species of black butted‐gum infinitely surpasses all that they had seen hitherto . . . 

Source:  Excerpts – Journey of Discovery to Port Phillip – by William H Hovell & Hamilton Hume – published 1837

Passing through the site now known as Yea, they report the fish caught in a creek nearby:

Friday, December 10th. ‐‐ They start at sunrise, and at nine o’clock reach their tent, the shelter of which after their late excessive fatigues was highly acceptable.  At two the whole party again proceed on their journey, and following the course of the “King Parrot Creek,” pass along the plain of which they had taken the bearings the day before yesterday . . . “

” . . . Two lobsters were caught in the creek, where they seemed numerous, but no other kind of fish.  The country from “Muddy Creek,” up to “Mount Disappointment,” and from their tent station of this morning to the Hovell, they named after Saxe Bannister, Esquire, late Attorney General of the Colony, “Bannister’s Forest . . . “

Source:  Excerpts – Journey of Discovery to Port Phillip – by William H Hovell & Hamilton Hume – published 1837

Fire . . .

” . . . Saturday, December 11th. ‐‐ This morning they continue their progress about W N W. along the course of the creek six miles and a half, and then breakfast.  At four (afternoon) they again start and leave the creek in the direction west, when having proceeded only about one mile and a half they are compelled to return, the whole of the country in this direction being on fire, and a sudden change of wind blowing both blaze and smoke full in their faces . . . “

” . . . Sunday, December 12th. ‐‐ . . . The country on fire in every direction.  At five, having proceeded about the distance of twelve miles and a half, they stop near the banks of a creek.  This they name “Sunday Creek.”  The mosquitoes and flies are still very troublesome.  They had the misfortune, to‐day, to lose a second dog.  The animal had been cut in the conflict with the kangaroo that was last killed, and had very probably remained behind to rest, in consequence, until it was too late to follow . . . “

Source:  Excerpts – Journey of Discovery to Port Phillip – by William H Hovell & Hamilton Hume – published 1837

The Naming of Mt Odometer

” . . . Tuesday, December 14. ‐‐ . . . At the end of this stage of their day’s march they ascend another hill.  Here the perambulator was broken to pieces, and from this circumstance the hill was named by them “Mount Odometer.”  From this hill, between the points S E. and W., alternate plains and forests are seen extending to the utmost verge of the horizon, and from N N E. to S E. part of the Alpine Chain; while towards the south, the land gradually dips.

Nothing could surpass the beauty of this view . . . “

Source:  Excerpt – Journey of Discovery to Port Phillip – by William H Hovell & Hamilton Hume – published 1837


Arriving at Port Phillip Bay

On the 16th of December, 1824, the exploration party arrived at a body of water which Hume believed to be a bay other than Western Port, however, Hovell insisted that it was indeed, Western Port.  It would be revealed to William Hovell during the attempted settlement of Western Port in 1826 that his calculations had proven to be incorrect, quite possibly due to his adapted pram odometer providing inaccurate readings . . .

” . . . The harbour or bay consisted of an immense sheet of water, its greatest length extending E. and W. with land which seemed to them an island, to the southward, lying across its mouth, but which, in fact, is a peninsula, with a very low isthmus connecting it to the western shore.  Hence the mistaking of this spot, Port Phillip, for Western Port, a bay about fifteen miles to the eastward of the latter . . . “

” . . . The bay too is literally covered with black swans, and various other aquatic birds.  Caught some black bream in the creek.  Messrs. Hovell and Hume each marked his initials on a tree with an iron tomahawk, at some distance from the left bank of the creek, about two miles from the beach . . . 

Source:  Excerpts – Journey of Discovery to Port Phillip – by William H Hovell & Hamilton Hume – published 1837

The location the exploration party had reached is now known as Corio Bay – the area of Port Phillip Bay that the town of Geelong now fronts.  Interestingly, William Hovell had even noted that the Aborigines named the area ‘Corayo’, and the bay ‘Jillong’.  Hovell maintained that they had reached Western Port, however:

Further on Hume says,—

“On our making the coast, Mr. Hovell’s decided impression was that we had reached Western Port, while my conviction was that we had made Port Phillip, for during our journey out, on the 14th December, when we sighted Willaumanater, bearing forty or fifty miles S.W., I then made direct for it, believing it to be, as it afterwards proved, the ‘Station Peak’ of Flinders.

“This singular mountain, as also ‘Arthur’s Seat’, at Western Port, had often been described to me by Mr. Surveyor Meehan, who had been along that coast with Surveyor-General Grimes many years before.  He also told me that there were islands in Western Port, but none in Port Phillip.  I drew my inferences from this information, and it proved correct.”

Source:  Excerpt – ‘Early History of the Colony of Victoria . . . ‘ by Francis Peter Labilliere – published 1878

Meeting the Natives of Port Phillip . . .

” . . . Friday, December 17th. ‐‐ . . . This morning, one of the men, James Fitzpatrick, having proceeded a short distance up the creek, to shoot wild fowl, was suddenly surprised by a couple of natives who were lurking behind some reeds; the man no sooner perceived them, than he begun to retreat, and they to advance, throwing off their cloaks, and with their arms in their hands; perceiving this, he turned and snapped his piece at one of them; but as it missed fire, he had no resource left, except flight, and which also would have been unavailing, had not his shouts for assistance, brought him timely aid.  About two hours after this occurrence, as two of the people were employed in procuring firewood, in a small clump of trees, not far from the tent, two natives sprung towards them from behind the trees.  These, however, on the men presenting their muskets at them, made signs of peace.  Mr. Hume who was at hand now approached, when laying down his arms, and beckoning to the men to do the same, the natives followed the example, and after much conversation, but of which not a word was understood by either party, they proceeded with Mr. Hume to the tent.  These people by degrees began to be a little better understood, when they seemed to wish to describe (Alluding however very probably, to the original settlement, of Port Phillip, and when it appears in the account given of that event, that the natives were so troublesome, it became necessary to fire on them ‐‐ a circumstance, which must have taken place, not far from the very spot, where the present party of discovery, was now encamped) that a vessel had been in that bay, and that the people had landed; and to imply that both the master and the people were continually in a hurry (A notion perhaps formed from the mere routine labour, or employment of the settlers, and which, compared with their own habits of indolence, and their utter ignorance of labour, might wear that appearance).  They also appeared to point out where the vessel lay, and suiting “the action to the word,” endeavoured to explain that they had seen men felling trees in that direction, and this was all done with a gesture and grimace, evincing that these people were at least not bad mimics.  These natives, who were soon joined by a third, it was discovered were inquisitive, troublesome, and great thieves, cunning and treacherous.  They made a laugh of the circumstance of one of the people having been pursued, though there could be no doubt as to the hostility of their intentions on that occasion.  Messrs. Hovell and Hume, had been desirous of taking their horses in the direction of what they supposed to be Port Phillip, but the conduct of these people, and the numerous fires which were being made around them, apparently as signals among the natives, made them conclude, that it would be unsafe for the party to separate.  The natives here, in their form and features, very much resemble those about Sydney, their manners and customs appeared very similar, and they have the same kind of weapons.  Their language however seemed totally different, as to words, from that of the Sydney natives, or those about Jarvis’s Bay, though in sound, it is much the same . . . 

Source:  Excerpt – Journey of Discovery to Port Phillip – by William H Hovell & Hamilton Hume – published 1837

The Journey Home

Saturday, December 18. ‐‐ This morning they commence their return, keeping between two and three miles to the southward and eastward of their outward route; at four, having travelled about fifteen miles, they halt on the banks of a large creek, taking its rise in Mount Wollstonecraft, and which they named “Dickson’s Creek,” after Mr. John Dickson, (To whom the colonists are indebted for the first introduction of the steam‐engine into the colony, in the year 1814) sen. of Sydney . . . “

” . . . Sunday, December 19. ‐‐ They re‐cross the Aradell, a short distance below the spot at which they had first met with it; on the following day they renew their course along the downs in the direction N E., cross Broughton’s Creek, (The banks of this creek are, in general, steep and lofty, in some places from 50 to 100 feet high, so that they could find only one spot where they could cross it) . . . “

Wednesday, December 22. ‐‐ They re‐cross the Jullian Range by the same pass (Hume’s pass.  This lies between two remarkable hills, Mount Disappointment, to the eastward, and another named Mount Wentworth, after the late Mr Wentworth, of Sydney, to the westward, about equadistant (10 or 12 miles) from each.  The whole of their route, from Port Phillip thus far, has been over fine land, consisting of Plains and Downs, fit for every purpose of grazing, and agriculture) by which they had entered the downs on the 13th, and taking a northerly direction, travel successively through an extensive scrub, some fine forest land and a beautiful plain (Ornamented with clumps of that beautiful tree, the native Willow and from which circumstance, they were induced to name it Piper’s Park.  The whole line of country to the west of their route from Hume’s Pass as far as the Hovell consists of a high broken surface, and beyond this were observed continuous ranges of considerable elevation, extending in the directions N W. and S E. ) a few miles to the west of their outward route, on the 12th, and halt for the night on the left bank of Sunday Creek.  The following day having crossed Sunday Creek and a small stony range stretching obliquely across the line of their route, proceeding still northward, through a track of fine country, they arrive on the left bank of the Hovell, about twenty miles lower down (or more to the west) than the spot at which they had before crossed that stream, on the 4th of the present month.  The river here was about seventy yards broad, apparently deep, and without any perceptible current, (but its waters had, it was evident, been greatly reduced by the late drought).  Tracing it upwards about a couple of miles they were so fortunate as to find a convenient ford, where the water was only about three feet deep, with a current not exceeding a mile an
Friday and Saturday, December 24 and 25, ‐‐ were spent on the banks of the Hovell, in order that they might avail themselves of the fine fish which abound in its waters, as well as refresh the cattle.  In the evening of the 25th Mr. Hume’s mare was bitten on the nose by a snake, and became immediately a shocking spectacle, the head swelling so much that the eyes were quite closed.  An attempt to bleed having failed, half a pint of spirits of turpentine with some water was given, and about twenty minutes after, at which time the swelling had began to subside, some eau de luce properly diluted was also administered.  Half an hour from this period the swelling had become considerably reduced, but covered with small bladders containing a thin sanious fluid; sight was restored and the animal was in every respect rapidly recovering; ‐‐ as, however there still remained some sickness or nausea, with a thick viscid phlegm flowing copiously from the mouth and nostrils and much drowsiness, in order to prevent the animal from sleeping, she was kept walking gently during the whole night.  They obtained from a hill a fine view of the river flowing from the N E. through a gap in a mountain range, distant about 8 or 10 miles, when after making a considerable curve to the west, (This is no doubt the most southern bend of the river, and is the spot where they very unexpectedly met with it on the 23rd.  The Hovell, thence, from what has been said, as well as from what was to‐day again observed of the country to the westward, it is only reasonable to conclude, must take a N W. course; and is therefore identical with the most southerly of those streams, seen in his late journey, by Captain Sturt, flowing eventually into the lake Alexandrina) it eventually turned to the N W. in which direction it was visible to a great distance.  To the south the land was high and broken, to the west moderately so; from that point towards the north, the country was low but undulating.  From N E. to S E. was seen a lofty range, forming for a considerable extent the left bank of the stream.
Sunday, December 26th. ‐‐ The mare being sufficiently recovered, they resume their journey, and proceed N. half W. ten or twelve miles, for the most part through a fine undulating forest country, similar in some places, to the Cow‐pastures; and abounding in kangaroos, but of which circumstance they could not avail themselves, from the disabled state of their only remaining dog.  The timber met with today, was in general good.  The views (A plain on the banks of the Hovell, distant to the N W. about ten miles, Mr. Hume named after Mrs. Hovell, Esther’s Plains) of the country to the N W. and N. resembled those of yesterday.  Halt for the day at two o’clock in the afternoon, (the mare being unable to proceed further) near a chain of ponds, in a fine meadow, as they conjectured, about 25 miles W. of their outward track . . . 

Source:  Excerpts – Journey of Discovery to Port Phillip – by William H Hovell & Hamilton Hume – published 1837

Their journey continued, surviving on the remaining rations, as well as swans, fish, kangaroo, etc. that they were able to catch – retracing much of their steps back to Hamilton Hume’s station near Lake George, arriving on the 18th January 1825.

Note that South is to the top of the Map.  This Map of Hume & Hovell’s Expedition of 1824 was acquired by Sir William Dixson, from Thomas Mitchell’s grandson. It is believed that Thomas Mitchell reproduced this Map from a rough sketch provided to him by Hamilton Hume.


The party would again stumble across some Aborigines – 6th January 1825:

” . . . In the course of the day, they again came by surprise upon a body of natives, consisting of eight men; these appeared much alarmed, and, on perceiving the bullocks, fled through a small creek, and concealed themselves among the reeds on its banks.  In the evening, about a mile from the spot where they had been first seen, the natives again made their appearance, and approached them with marks of friendship.  One of these men dressed in an old yellow jacket, spoke a few words of English, and had been at Lake George.  They had among them, one iron axe, and four tomahawks. ‐‐ The whole party remained with them till dark, when, except two of their number, they all retired, promising to return in the morning.

” . . . Friday, January 7.‐‐ . . . The natives now returned with a considerable augmentation to their numbers, amounting altogether to not less than forty able bodied men, all armed.  The horses having strayed, two of the people assisted by two of the natives were employed a considerable part of the morning in bringing them in.  The natives, when they were just going to start begged the travellers would accompany them to their camp, about a mile further up the creek, so that the women and children might have an opportunity of seeing them.  Mr. Hume, taking three of the men with him, complied with their request, when he met with a party of about thirty women, as many children, and some fine young men.  These were extremely pressing, that he and his party should remain with them, as they were going they said, to have a “Corrobera,” two of them promising, in event of his compliance, to accompany him and his party, the following day as far as the Murrumbidgee.  The men were the finest natives, they had ever seen, one of them about six feet high, and another whom they measured, five feet, nine inches and a half. ‐‐ They were all robust and well proportioned, and possessed what is unusual among the native tribes, well formed legs ‐‐ Some of them had higher foreheads than are generally observed among these people.  Their weapons are like those of the natives of the Colony, except the spears, which were made of strong knotted reeds, about six feet long, to which was affixed a piece of hard wood, about two feet in length, with a rounded point, barbed in some instances, with numerous small pieces of flint or agate.  Each of these people was furnished with a good ample cloak of opossum skin, many of them had necklaces, made of small pieces of a yellow reed strung with the fibre of the currajong, the flax‐plant, or the hair of the opossum. ‐‐ At nine they took leave of their Camden friends, who appeared to be a kind and inoffensive people . . . 

Source:  Excerpts – Journey of Discovery to Port Phillip – by William H Hovell & Hamilton Hume – published 1837

William Hovell regularly  made reference to he importance of the animals that had accompanied them on the expedition – the bullocks, for managing the heavy loads across almost impenetrable terrain – the dogs, for killing kangaroos to feed the expedition, etc.  He also recorded encounters with the Aborigines, noting their food gathering techniques, their tools and land management skills such as damming rivers to catch fish, grass burning, etc.  In fact, he gew to admire their way of life:

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

– Source:  Excerpt – William Hovell’s Journal – 29th November 1824

It was the Hume and Hovell Expedition that disproved the widely held theory that the interior of Australia was an uninhabitable wilderness.  They had found abundant, well-watered grazing lands between the Murrumbidgee and the Murray Rivers, and also in the lands surrounding Port Phillip Bay.  It was Hume that informed John Batman of the wonderful grazing lands on the western shores of Port Phillip Bay – as well as to the north.

And there begins another story . . .


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