Cunningham’s Log, July 7 and 8, 1827

August 9, 2016

On the night of July 6, 1827, Allan Cunningham and his party camped just west of Graman between Inverell and Warialda. They were on their return journey from having discovered and named the Darling Downs, and, having trekked south along the New England highlands, had turned west and were about to re-enter the Gwydir Shire Region.

On July 7, 1827 Cunningham’s log reads:

Throughout the first 8 miles of this day’s Journey to the Westward, the Country may be characterized, as being a Continued line of forest ground, occasionally very thinly wooded & Park-like, and again were heavily and densely timber’d with Box and Iron-bark, in all parts abounding in good sound pasture, & at almost every mile, furnished with a stony Ridge with a few scatter’d fragments of Trap-rock, on its brow appear’d, otherwise we could scarcely perceive the general evenness of the Surface to be at all disturbed.

At our ninth mile, however, the forest ground became broken, & a Breccia, or puddingstone appear’d, and at length we descended to a rocky Creek, having very little water, but so thickly brushed with a Tea-tree ( Melaleuca and Leptospermum) as to oblige us to cut a path for the Horses.

Passing this Water Course, an irregular hilly Country obliged me to pursue our Course to the N.W. among a series of forest ridges, from which we descended to a narrow rocky Valley, immediately bounded on the north by “Masterton’s Range”, (observed on the 23rd May) and water’d by a broad reedy Creek, evidently the Channel, by which the streams we have of late crossed, pass to the Westward.

We accomplished 16 miles, when we came to a spot in the Valley producing good grass, I therefore directed the Tents to be pitch’d intending to rest the Horses until the morning of the 9th.

The marks of the Native wandering in quest of Sustenance were frequently noticed on the Timbers of the forests thro’ which we passed. We could not but remark, how very scanty a provision, these Human Beings derive from woods furnishing few or no opossums, for upon observing many Trees, up the trunks of which were the Hatchet clefts (to aid in climbing) we perceived that the poor Aborigine only obtained the chrysalis or the Larva of an Insect for his labour, the existence of which in a Knot at the upper limbs of a straight grown Box, these people, naturally of a quick ocular perception, observe sufficient proofs to induce them, without the apprehension of being disappointed, to ascend the loftiest Trees.

It is to be wonder’d at, that the Interior of this vast Continent, as far as our Knowledge of it has extended, should be found to be so thinly peopled, when not withstanding its rivers teem with fish, and its forests abound in Kangaroos & Emus, its few inhabitants are in possession of so few of the Arts of Life, that they neither take the one by hooks, or rarely secure the others, by reason of their fleetness, by spears, but they rather have recourse to the larva of Insects, from which they can at best derive but a miserable support.

The latitude of our Tent I found by observation to be at noon of the 8th, 29o.34’02″So. the variation of the Compass by Azimuth 8.00’ East – its Longitude deduced from the Meridian of Logan’s Vale being 150o35’50″Et.

The transcript makes it difficult to determine the site of Cunningham’s camp on the evening of July 7 but it must be very close to “Fish Ponds” and an area along Warialda Creek of amazing geological and botanical significance.

The next day the journey was westward along Warialda Creek, until the rockiness of the trail forced Cunningham to a more south-westward path and to his campsite of July 8, in what is now Stonehenge National Park. There is no explanation as to why he did not remain at the first camp “until the morning of the 9th” as he had intended.

Cunningham’s comments about the Aborigines seeking food high up in the trees may possibly be an error of both observation and deduction. The Aborigines would be unlikely to cut climbing notches high up trees for “opossum” or for “insect larva” but very likely do so to seek “honey”.

Warialda, meaning “place of honey” increases this possibility. Cunningham never says he observed the aborigines actually climbing the trees, and makes no mention of he, or any of his men, making the climb to see what food source was there.