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The journals

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“This is a very poor rocky and sandy country….the gullys [sic] extremely deep.”

Lawson’s journal

Trained as a surveyor, Lawson kept accurate records of compass readings, and times and distances travelled, making it easy for others to retrace the explorers' path.

It is a testament to his skill that the first road over the mountains, surveyed by George William Evans and built by William Cox in 1814-1815, closely follows the explorers' original trail.

In his journal Lawson documents the daily routine including the trial and error strategy by which they found their way through the rugged terrain.

Lawson's pride comes through in his descriptions of vistas previously unseen by Europeans. The broken landscape left its mark on Lawson who noted: “No doubt this is the remnant of some dreadful earthquake”.

As a colony official and military man, he also recognised the value of the Blue Mountains as a potential retreat for the colony, should Sydney ever come under coastal attack. He also noted its potential resources, writing: “Here is a great extent of fine forest land and the best watered country of any I have seen in the colony.”

“Here is a great extent of fine forest land and the best watered country of any I have seen in the colony.”

Although the expedition did not travel all the way through the mountains, he suspected they had opened up the interior, writing: “I have every reason to think that the same ridge of mountains we travelled on will lead some distance into the interior of the country”

He seems to have proved himself right as he is reputed to have taken the first stock across the mountains in July 1815.

From 1819 to 1824 he served as commandant of the new settlement at Bathurst, and made several further journeys of exploration in that area. He died at Veteran Hall, his grant at Prospect, in 1850.

William Lawson - Journal of an expedition across the Blue Mountains, 11 May - 6 June 1813, together with wax impression of Lawson's seal
1813
William Lawson, 1774-1850
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Digital ID: 
a1482003
William Lawson - Journal of an expedition across the Blue Mountains, 11 May - 6 June 1813, together with wax impression of Lawson's seal
1813
William Lawson, 1774-1850
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Digital ID: 
a1482004
William Lawson - Journal of an expedition across the Blue Mountains, 11 May - 6 June 1813, together with wax impression of Lawson's seal 1813
1813
William Lawson, 1774-1850
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Digital ID: 
a1482013
William Lawson - Journal of an expedition across the Blue Mountains, 11 May - 6 June 1813, together with wax impression of Lawson's seal
1813
William Lawson, 1774-1850
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Digital ID: 
a1482019
William Lawson - Journal of an expedition across the Blue Mountains, 11 May - 6 June 1813, together with wax impression of Lawson's seal
1813
William Lawson, 1774-1850
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Digital ID: 
a1482020

 

"A country of so singular a description could in my opinion only have been produced by some Mighty convulsion in Nature"

Wentworth’s journal

In his journal Wentworth paints vivid pen portraits of the landscapes the men encountered in their journey. He documents the varieties of trees and vegetation, native animals, the geology of the mountains and the fog and frost they felt on the western side.

A country of so singular a description could in my opinion only have been produced by some Mighty convulsion in Nature – Those immense unconnected perpendicular Masses of Mountain which are to be seen towards its Eastern Extremity towering above the Country around, seem to indicate that the whole of this tract has been formed out of the Materials of the primitive mountains of which these masses are the only parts that have withstood the violence of the concussion.

- William Wentworth

Wentworth writes on numerous occasions of the possibilities for cattle to traverse the mountain pass. This was one of the aims of the expedition: to locate further grazing lands that would encourage settlement beyond the Cumberland Plain.

He also notes the promise of the area: “The principal cause of this Superiority is the abundance of excellent Water, which is every where to be found.”

William Charles Wentworth - Journal of an expedition across the Blue Mountains, 11 May-6 June 1813
11 May-6 June 1813
.William Charles, Wentworth, 1790-1872
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Digital ID: 
a1461002
Transcript: 

On the Eleventh of May our party consisting of Mr . Gregory Blaxland, Lieutenant Lawson and Myself with four servants quitted Mr . Gregory Blaxlands farm on the South Creek and on the 29th of the June Month descended from the Mountain into forest land having travelled as nearly as I can compute about 60 Miles from Mr . Chapmans farm on the Nepean River although I do not imagine that we made more than 40 Miles of Westing. This newly discovered tract of country commences about 20 Miles West of Jamiesons farm on the Nepean River - From there the Height of our Situation enabled us to distinguish that it runs SW for at least 30 Miles - It stretches to the Northward for nearly the same distance - How far it reaches to the Westward we could not determine further than that we travelled in that direction for about 10 Miles and from the Top of a very high Mountain which we ascended on one of our early excursions could distinctly perceive that the summits of the Hills were covered with grass for at least fifteen Miles further - From means 

William Charles Wentworth - Journal of an expedition across the Blue Mountains, 11 May-6 June 1813
11 May-6 June 1813
.William Charles, Wentworth, 1790-1872
Digital ID: 
a1461003
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Transcript: 

of Information so circumscribed it is evidently Impossible to speak with any degree of Certainty of the extent of this tract of Country I think however that it may be safely concluded at least equal in magnitude to that part of New South Wales which is termed the County of Cumberland - The whole of its East side and as much of its North and South sides as could be distinguished are perpendicular Walls of Stone from 500 to 1000 feet in Height - Whether it is entirely surrounded by such terrific barriers must at present remain mere matter of speculation - A country of so singular a description could in my opinion only have been produced by some Mighty convulsion in Nature - Those immense unconnected perpendicular Masses of Mountain which are to be seen towards its Eastern Extremity towering above the Country around, seem to indicate that the whole of this tract has been formed out of the Materials of the primitive Mountains of which these Masses are the only parts that 

William Charles Wentworth - Journal of an expedition across the Blue Mountains, 11 May-6 June 1813
11 May-6 June 1813
William Charles, Wentworth, 1790-1872
Digital ID: 
a1461014
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William Charles Wentworth - Journal of an expedition across the Blue Mountains, 11 May-6 June 1813
11 May-6 June 1813
William Charles, Wentworth, 1790-1872
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Digital ID: 
a1461019

This story has been developed with the support of the State Library of NSW Foundation.

We would like to acknowledge the generosity of Vincent Fairfax Family Foundation.