A Freezing Night

In case you haven’t noticed, the weather in Victoria is freezing at the moment. Sub-zero temperatures recorded at the summit of Mount William, the highest peak in the Grampians where snow has fallen in the past thirty-six hours, had me thinking of an event in history 180 years ago today.

On the morning of 14 July 1836, explorer Major Thomas Mitchell and members of his party, left their camp and set off toward a mountain range first sighted a few days earlier. Hoping for a good view to the southwest, the highest visible peak was their target.  The mountains Mitchell would later name the Grampians and the lofty peak, Mount William.

http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/236428

MOUNT WILLIAM BY EUGENE VON GEURARD. Image courtesy of the State Library of Victoria. http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/236428

After reaching the base of Mount William, Mitchell and four men began the steep ascent while the rest of the group and the horses returned to their last river crossing to set up camp.  Arriving at the summit late in the day, the low cloud prevented Mitchell surveying the area.  He was so keen to see the views the mountain had to offer and the measurements he could record, he decided to stay the night.  I’m not sure what his four companions thought of the idea but Mr Richardson would have been glad he’d taken along his daily share of provisions.  That was until Mitchell, realising it was the only food they had, split Mr Richardson’s food five ways.  Not suitably clothed to spend a night in sub-zero temperatures and with no decent rocks to shelter from the cutting wind, they tried to light a fire as the temperature dropped below -1.5 degrees Celsius,

We strove to make a fire to protect us from the piercing cold; but the green twigs, encrusted with icicles, could not by our united efforts be blown into a flame sufficient to warm us. There was abundance of good wood at the foot of the cliffs – huge trees of ironbark, stringybark and bluegum but, had we descended, a second ascent might have appeared too laborious on a mere chance of finding the summit clear; so we remained above. The men managed to manufacture some tea in a tin pot, and into the water as it boiled I plunged a thermometer which rose to exactly 95 degrees of the centigrade scale. We got through that night of misery as well as might have been expected under the circumstances, and we succeeded in keeping the fire alive although, while twigs were blown into red heat at one end, icicles remained at the other, even within a few inches of the flame. In order to maintain it through the night we divided, at eleven o’clock, the stock of branches which had been gathered before dark into eight parcels, this being the number of hours we were destined to sit shivering there; and as each bundle was laid on the dying embers we had the pleasure at least of knowing that it was an hour nearer daylight.

(Three Expeditions into the Interior of Eastern Australia : with descriptions of the recently explored region of Australia Felix, and of the present colony of New South Wales by Major T. L. Mitchell, Volume 2, Chapter 3.8)

By sunrise, the sky had cleared above them but below was mist. It was still bitterly cold at below -2.5 degrees with freezing winds and icy rocks. At first, Mitchell could only make out a body of water just to the north named Lake Lonsdale.  However, with momentary breaks in the cloud, looking to the west he could see a magnificent mountain range and to the south, flat timbered country.

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THE VIEW FROM MOUNT WILLIAM. Image courtesy of Kiri Handreck of Kiri’s Images https://www.facebook.com/imagesbykiri/?fref=ts  (Click on the photo to enlarge)

It was soon time to make the tricky descent and return to the horses, about eight miles from the summit.  It was a relief to reach the riverside camp and Mitchell made the most of the “comforts”,

…we found a large fire and, under a wide spreading casuarina during a delightful interval of about twenty minutes, I enjoyed the pleasures of eating, sleeping, resting, and warming myself, almost all at the same time. To all who would know how to enjoy most intensely a good fire, shelter, sunshine, and the dry soft turf I would recommend, by way of whet, a winter night on a lofty mountain, without fire, amidst frost-covered rocks and clouds of sleet. I shall long remember the pleasure of those moments of repose which I enjoyed on my arrival in the warm valley after such a night. 

(Three Expeditions into the Interior of Eastern Australia: with descriptions of the recently explored region of Australia Felix, and of the present colony of New South Wales by Major T. L. Mitchell, Volume 2, Chapter 3.8)

It was only a short rest as they still had to return to the main camp, reaching it on the morning of July 16. Not all the party made it through the night on Mount William unscathed.  Two men who had been with Mitchell on earlier expeditions fell ill, Mr Muirhead with fever and chills, and Mr Woods with a lung condition. They recovered after a couple of weeks but Mitchell conceded they were never the same.

http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/75656

MAJOR THOMAS MITCHELL. Image courtesy of the State Library of Victoria. http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/75656

 

Major Mitchell and his party moved north from Mt William and skirted the northern Grampians. We’ll join him again next month when the expedition moves south from Mount Araplies to the coast. If you would like to read Major Mitchell’s record of his expedition through Western Victoria, you can find it on the following link to Project Gutenberg Australia from Chapter 3.8 – Three Expeditions into the Interior of Eastern Australia Journal

Trove Tuesday – Halls Gap in Pictures

Since the Grampians and Halls Gap have been in the news this week for the unfortunate reason of a bush fire, I thought this week for Trove Tuesday, we should visit this beautiful place in Victoria’s West.

Halls Gap particularly is a special place for me because Dad has lived there for almost 40 years.  So just as I grew up in Hamilton, I grew up in Halls Gap too.

Along with the history books I have collected about Halls Gap, I’ve collected newspaper articles found at Trove.  But I had never searched Trove for Halls Gap/Grampians photos.  Of course, I wasn’t disappointed with the results and it was difficult to narrow down the photos to share.

The Rose series of postcards, held by the State Library of Victoria, are an ever reliable source for photos of Western Victoria and there was little doubt that I would find some great photos of Halls Gap among them.  It’s hard to date the Rose postcards as they are all dated 1920-1954, so most times it’s guess-work based on cars, dress and buildings.  Photos such as the following from Sundial Peak, looking over Halls Gap, is pretty well impossible to date.

Image Courtesy of the State Library of Victoria.  Image no,. H32492/2391  http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/63933

Image Courtesy of the State Library of Victoria. Image no,. H32492/2391 http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/63933

There were two photos of Halls Gap’s main street in the series, several years apart.  The General Store in the second photo, looking almost as it does today, is not in the first photo.  However, I think the first building on the right, with the Holiday House sign, still stands today.

MAIN STREET, HALLS GAP.  Image courtesy of the State Library of Victoria.  Image no,  H32492/8694 http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/58172

MAIN STREET, HALLS GAP. Image courtesy of the State Library of Victoria. Image no, H32492/8694
http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/58172

Despite the date range on the postcards being up to 1954, and correct me if I’m wrong, there is an EH Holden parked in the main street.  Holden produced the EH between 1963 and 1965.  There were also two petrol stations, today there is one.

MAIN STREET, HALLS GAP. Image courtesy of the State Library of Victoria,  Image no. H32492/4136 http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/62227

MAIN STREET, HALLS GAP. Image courtesy of the State Library of Victoria, Image no. H32492/4136 http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/62227

The main street 2012.

Halls Gap

The Mountain Grand Guest House, built in 1944,  still stands today.  This is how I remember the Mountain Grand when I first went to Halls Gap in 1975, but it has changed somewhat over the years due to renovations.

MOUNTAIN GRAND GUEST HOUSE, HALLS GAP.  Image Courtesy of the State Library of Victoria.  Image no. H32492/7789  http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/60702

MOUNTAIN GRAND GUEST HOUSE, HALLS GAP. Image Courtesy of the State Library of Victoria. Image no. H32492/7789
http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/60702

FYANS VALLEY, HALLS GAP.  Image Courtesy of State Library of Victoria.  Image no. H32492/2399  http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/63181

FYANS VALLEY, HALLS GAP. Image Courtesy of State Library of Victoria. Image no. H32492/2399 http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/63181

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The Delleys Bridge, named after a pioneering family, welcomes visitors from the east into Halls Gap.  Since those first pioneers arrived in the valley, different bridges have spanned the Fyans Creek, one of the few access points into town, and now there is a modern bridge. The bridge in the photo is the style I’m most familiar with, except since the photo, it was widened and a pedestrian lane added.  Just beyond the bridge, a road runs of to the left.  Dad lived a few hundred metres down that road for many years and now still lives close by to the bridge.  I have been over the bridge, under the bridge and ridden nervous horses across while fearing altercations with cars and the long drop over the side.

DELLEY'S BRIDGE, HALLS GAP.  Image Courtesy of the State Library of Victoria.  Image no.  H32492/6669 http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/58616

DELLEY’S BRIDGE, HALLS GAP. Image Courtesy of the State Library of Victoria. Image no. H32492/6669 http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/58616

Just over the mountain from Halls Gap is Lake Wartook and the Wartook Valley.  While Halls Gap remained untouched, this part of the Grampians suffered greatly in the fires last week and the level of damage is yet to be fully assessed.

LAKE WARTOOK, GRAMPIANS.  Image Courtesy of the State Library of Victoria.  Image no.  H32492/5317 http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/59375

LAKE WARTOOK, GRAMPIANS. Image Courtesy of the State Library of Victoria. Image no. H32492/5317 http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/59375

The last of the Rose postcards was a real surprise for me.  It is of the Halls Gap Bowling club that I didn’t know existed.  I’m guessing from the mountain range behind, it was located on the western side of the township. I will ask a couple of born and bred locals when next there exactly where the greens were.

HALLS GAP BOWLS CLUB. Image courtesy of the State Library of Victoria.  Image no. H32492/4224 http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/62069

HALLS GAP BOWLS CLUB. Image courtesy of the State Library of Victoria. Image no. H32492/4224 http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/62069

The Victorian Railways collection, also held by the State Library of Victoria, is another great source of Western District town photos.  I just love this photo of the Pinnacle, a popular lookout at the top of the Wonderland Range.  The unfortunate part about this photo is that it does not give you a feeling of how high up the lookout is.  Well, I’m suffering vertigo just looking at those brave trekkers.  Thankfully, the fence was later extended down the side of the lookout.

THE PINNACLE, HALLS GAP.  Image no. H91.50/1002  http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/97372

THE PINNACLE, HALLS GAP. Image no. H91.50/1002 http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/97372

I thought they were brave until I found this photo, before the fence.   The photo was dated 1910-1930 however I have found a newspaper article from 1918 that mentions the fence, so it must be closer to 1910.

The gentleman in the photo is not as daring as Halls Gap photographer, Gilbert Rogers (1880-1950).  A photo in Ida Stanton’s book Bridging the Gap: the history of Halls Gap from 1840 (1988) shows Gilbert hanging from a ledge below the Pinnacle, with his camera and tripod, capturing the best views of the mountains.  Crazy.

THE PINNACLE, HALLS GAP.  Image courtesy of the State Library of Victoria.  Image no. H84.461/488 http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/51930

THE PINNACLE, HALLS GAP. Image courtesy of the State Library of Victoria. Image no. H84.461/488 http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/51930

Not only do kangaroos and emus, call the Grampians their home, so to do deer, a legacy of the homesick gentry of the 19th century.  This sketch from 1881 gives some clue as to how long they have roamed the mountains.

DEER IN THE GRAMPIANS.  Imprint by Alfred May and Alfred Martin Ebsworth,(1881) Image Courtesy of the State Library of Victoria.  Image no. A/S31/12/81/420 http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/258236

DEER IN THE GRAMPIANS. Imprint by Alfred May and Alfred Martin Ebsworth,(1881) Image Courtesy of the State Library of Victoria. Image no. A/S31/12/81/420 http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/258236

These are deer in Dad’s backyard, descendants of those in the 1881 sketch.  Last Friday evening, with fires burning in the mountains three kilometres away, a stag ate fallen pears from one of Dad’s trees, oblivious.

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The next series of photos are real treasures.  Again, they are held at the State Library of Victoria and are from a collection gathered by Richard Holdsworth.  The date range for the magic lantern slides is 1860-1930.

gramps1

Image Courtesy of the State Library of Victoria. Image no. H2012.90/51 http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/245940

THE GRAMPIANS. Image No. H2012.90/54.  Image courtesy of the State Library of Victoria. http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/245952

THE GRAMPIANS. Image No. H2012.90/54. Image courtesy of the State Library of Victoria. http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/245952

Image courtesy of the State Library of Victoria.  Image no. H2012.90/56 http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/245952

Image courtesy of the State Library of Victoria. Image no. H2012.90/56 http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/245952

Image Courtesy of the State Library of Victoria.  Image no. H2012.90/50http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/245959

Image Courtesy of the State Library of Victoria. Image no. H2012.90/50http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/245959

Finally. one of the photographers.  Funnily enough the gentleman with the camera looks very much like my gg grandfather Richard Diwell, himself a keen photographer.

Image Courtesy of the State Library of Victoria.  Image no. H2012.90/49 http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/245996

Image Courtesy of the State Library of Victoria. Image no. H2012.90/49 http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/245996

Halls Gap is a busy tourist town, but the Grampians fire last week will bring financial strain to the businesses there, as did the 2006 fires that burned a lot closer to the township.  The town has now reopened to the public and it is business as usual, but with the fear created, thanks to sensational journalism that spread through social media, it will be hard work to get the word out that Halls Gap is safe. Now is the time to visit and support the wonderful people living there.

Trove Tuesday – In the News

The newspaper articles I have shared each week for Trove Tuesday are similar to those I choose for the spasmodic “In the News” posts.  There are now 21 in total (TT is drawing close with 19 posts), so I thought I would share a few of my favourites for this week’s Trove Tuesday.

September 23, 1870 – Fire swept thorough Hamilton’s main street, Gray Street.

The Bushfire series – February 8-13 1901, January 13, 1905, January 19, 1944

December 8, 1909 – The Grampians Bunyip

November 16, 1929 – Less than 12 months after my gg uncle, Charles James Harman flew on the airship R101, it crashed over France.

June 16, 1881 – Ploughing matches from Byaduk and beyond.

In the News – December 8, 1909

I’ve heard many stories of pumas living in the Grampians, but a bunyip?  In 1909, a Mr A. J. Campbell of Armadale wrote to the “The Argus” suggesting such a creature was residing in the Black Swamp near Pomonal.

NATURE NOTES AND QUERIES. (1909, November 26). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1956), p. 4. Retrieved December 5, 2011, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article10749956

That letter led to a report in “The Argus” on December 8, 1909 about the strange creature of the  Black Swamp.  An expert had arrived and an attempt made to identify the creature.  Dudley Le Souef, an interesting character from an even more interesting family, and then director of the Melbourne Zoological Gardens, got within 20 yards of it and confirmed that the bunyip was in fact a seal.  A seal would not be that surprising in a seaside town but Pomonal is around 150 kilometres from the sea.  Browsing through the newspapers at Trove, I found many references to bunyips, with musk ducks commonly mistaken as were wombats and platypus.  I also found many accounts of “inland seals” around the country, also mistaken for the mythical bunyip.

SEAL NEAR THE GRAMPIANS. (1909, December 8). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1956), p. 12. Retrieved December 5, 2011, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article10752746

An explanation to how the seal could have come to be so far inland, was found in “‘The Argus” on December 21, 1909.  The idea of a seal in the Grampians had created some interest and the “Naturalist” who authored the article encouraged people to visit the little known tourist destination.  He even recommended tourists picnic beside the Black Swamp.  That would be okay if you were not scared of bunyips!

THE GRAMPIANS. (1909, December 21). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1956), p. 5. Retrieved December 7, 2011, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article10755530

Looking at maps of the Grampians, I believe the seal’s path along the Wannon possible, but in the depths of the Grampians, where the Wannon ends, it seems the seal would have had to have travelled overland and along smaller creeks to meet up with the Mount William Creek.

At the time of his sighting, Le Souef offered a £10 reward to anyone who could catch the seal and deliver it alive to the Stawell Railway station.  Hopes were up that by the end of summer, the swamp would have dried enough to assist the seal’s capture, however a query to the “Nature Notes” in “The Argus” on May 20, 1910, closed the story.  Until now.

NATURE NOTES AND QUERIES. (1910, May 20). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1956), p. 9. Retrieved December 7, 2011, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article10857617