18.1. A.C. GREGORY ON STURT’S CREEK AND THE BARCOO.
The Imperial Government having long considered the feasibility of further exploration of the interior of Australia voted 5000 pounds for the purpose, and offered the command of the expedition to A.C. Gregory. As the inexplicable disappearance of Leichhardt was then exciting much interest in Australia, search for the lost expedition was to form one of its chief duties.
On the 12th of August, 1855, Gregory’s party left Moreton Bay in the barque Monarch, attended by the schooner Tom Tough. There were eighteen men in all. H.C. Gregory was second in command, Ferdinand von Mueller was botanist, J.S. Wilson geologist, J.R. Elsey surgeon and naturalist, and J. Baines artist and storekeeper. They had on board fifty horses, two hundred sheep, and provisions and stores calculated to last them eighteen months on full rations.
They did not reach Point Pearce, at the mouth of the Victoria River, until the 24th of September. There they separated, the schooner taking the stores up the river, and the Monarch proceeding on her voyage to Singapore. The horses had been landed at Point Pearce, whence Gregory, his brother, and seven men took them on overland by easy stages. One night the horses were attacked by crocodiles, and three of them were severely wounded. They followed up the course of the Fitzmaurice River and then passed over rough country, not reaching the Victoria until the 17th. On the 20th they rejoined the members who had gone round by the schooner, and learned that she was aground in the river. A large part of their stores was spoiled; and the number of the sheep had also been reduced to forty, in consequence of their being foolishly kept penned up on board. These losses and accidents considerably weakened Gregory’s resources, and it was not until the 24th of November that any excursion on horseback was undertaken. An attempt had previously been made to ascend the river in the portable boat with which the expedition had been supplied, but it was not successful, as the boat could not navigate the rocky bars in safety.
Gregory left camp accompanied by his brother, Dr. von Mueller, and Wilson, taking seven horses and twenty days’ rations, his object being to examine the country through which the exploring party would have to travel on their route to the interior. On this preliminary trip, he penetrated as far as latitude 16 1/2 south, whence, finding the tributaries flowing from fine open plains and level forest country, all well-grassed, he returned to the main camp.