1902 Encyclopedia > Western Australia

Western Australia




WESTERN AUSTRALIA. This British colony, the portion of Australia that lies to the west of 129° E. long., forming considerably more than one-third of the whole, has an area of 1,060,000 square miles, is 1400 miles in length and 850 in breadth, and has a coast-line of 3500 miles. It is divided into five districts—Central, Central Eastern, South-Eastern, North, and Kimberley. The Central or settled district, in the south-west, is divided into twenty-six counties. Apart from the coast lands, the map presents almost a blank, as the major portion is practically a dry waste of stone and sand, relieved by a few shallow salt lakes. The rivers of the south are small,— the Blackwood being the most considerable. To the north of this are the Murray, the well-known Swan, the Moore, the Greenough, and the Murchison. The last is 400 miles long. Sharks Bay receives the Gascoigne (200 miles long), with its tributary the Lyons. Still farther north, where the coast trends eastward, the principal rivers are the Ashburton, the Fortescue, and the De Grey. Kimberley district to the north-east has some fine streams,—the Fitzroy and Ord and their tributaries, on some of which (the Mary, Elvira, &c.) are the gold-fields, 250 miles south of Cambridge Gulf. The Darling mountain range is in the south-west, Mount William reaching 3000 feet; in the same quarter are Toolbrunup (3341 feet), Ellen's Peak (3420), and the Stirling and Victoria ranges. Gardner and Moresby are flat-topped ranges. Mount Elizabeth rises behind Perth. Hampton tableland overlooks the Bight. In the north-west are Mount Bruce (4000 feet), Augustus (3580), Dalgeranger (2100), Barlee, Pyrton, and the Capricorn range. Kimberley has the Leopold, M'Clintock, Albert Edward, Hardman, Geikie, Napier, Lubbock, Oscar, Mueller, and St George ranges. The lake district of the interior is in the Gibson and Victoria deserts from 24° to 32° S. The lakes receive the trifling drainage of that low region. Almost all of them are salt from the presence of saline marl.
Climate.—With little or no cold anywhere, the heat of summer over the whole area is considerable. Western Australia differs from the country to the east in having no extensive ranges to collect vapour, while the trade winds blow off the dry land instead of from the ocean; for these two reasons the climate is very dry. Thunderstorms often supply almost the only rainfall in the interior. The south-western corner, the seat of settlements, is the only portion where rains can be depended on for cultivation; but even there few places have a rainfall of 40 inches. As one goes north-ward the moisture lessens. The north-west and all the coast along to Kimberley, with most of that district, suffer much from dryness. The north-east comes in summer within the sphere of the north-west monsoons, though just over the low coast-range few showers are known. The south coast, exposed to polar breezes, with un-interrupted sea, has to endure lengthened droughts. In the Swan river quarter the rainfall is in winter, being brought by north-west winds, and summer days have little moisture. While the south wind cools the settled region, it comes over the parched interior to the northern lands. The hot wind of Swan river is from the east and north-east ; but it is from the south in summer to Kimberley and the north-west. In one season the land breeze is hot, in another cool, but always dry. In the year 1885 Perth had a rainfall of 29 inches with an evaporation of 66. The temperature ranged from 34° to 109° in the shade. In 1885 there fell 32£ inches on 100 days, while Albany had 32 on 138 days, Augusta 46 on 122 days, and York less than 18 on 81 days. Geraldton port received the same as York, but on 63 days, while Cossack, the pearl port of the north-west, had but 9J on 18 days throughout the year. Northampton showed 21J, Beverley 14|, and Eucla 9^ inches.
Ceology.—The base of Western Australia is of granite and its kindred formations, wdiich underlie Silurian or more ancient rocks. Not only are the principal elevations so composed, but throughout the vast extent of bare and sterile land eastward and inland granite is most prominent, rising through recent deposits in knobs and tables onward into South Australia. It is the rock of the Australian desert. The great lake district is a depression, with a granite floor permeated with igneous veins, surrounded by isolated hills and ranges of the Primary and metamorphie rocks. King George's Sound and the mountains around are granite, as also are disjointed ranges northward to Sharks Bay. The streams in the north-west, as well as the Lyons and Gascoigne, take their rise among the old igneous and Palaeozoic formations. Kimberley is full of similar rocks. The upper Irwin has garnetiferous granite. Granite, both on the south and western shores, supports the recent deposits of calcareous and arenaceous material. The horizontal sandstone of the interior and the fiat-topped hills of sandstone rest upon the granite. The arid region around Sharks Bay, glistening with limestone and sand, has the ancient stone for a foundation, upon which coralline forms built their reefs. All sorts of meta-morphic rocks prevail in the Leopold, Weld, and other ranges of Kimberley. Quartz veins are common in the hills. Cambridge Gulf is lined with quartzose grit embodying rock crystal, and the Blackwood river with gneiss. Porphyry appears at York, on the Murchison, and elsewhere. Blue slate occurs on the Canning at Champion Bay, and on Hampton Plains. Carboniferous rocks are present near "the Irwin, Canning, Fitzroy, and Murchison. Mr Hardman traced them north-east over 1500 square miles, bearing coal plants. Secondary formations are rare : a deposit of Oolite 400 feet thick is reported from the Murchison. Tertiary beds of limestone are more plentiful, generally seen near the coast ; others of a coralline nature are more recent. Arenaceous lime-stone cliffs rise two to four hundred feet along the southern shore for hundreds of miles, and similar stone is seen at the junction of the Fitzroy and the Margaret. The spiriferous sandstone on the Denison Plains of Kimberley, like that of the Moresby range, is doubtless Palaeozoic. The desert sandstone, so easily decomposed to furnish moving sand-dunes, is regarded as Miocene by Prof. Tate. Freemantle stands upon a recent calcareous sand-stone. Koeburne is similarly situated. The south-west abounds in calcareous accretions. Cape Arid stops with its granite the progress of Tertiary beds. Tertiary agates and jaspers occur on the Ord and the Ashburton. Three terraces lead from the calcareous mud of the north-west shore to the granite of Mount Bruce. Nuyt's Land is probably Pliocene. Volcanic rocks of various ages have burst through other formations, from Kimberley down to King George's Sound. Basalt runs under the limestone of Bunbury, and even rises in pillars ; it is in scoriaceous dykes at King Sound. Columnar greenstone occurs about Cape Leeuwin and Cape Natu-raliste, while greenstone dykes yield copper in the Champion Bay district. There is a sort of Giant's Causeway at Géographe Bay. Dampier Archipelago, Nickol Bay, the sources of the Fortescue and the De Grey, Glenelg river, Camden harbour, Mount Waterloo, Fitzroy river, and the gold field all show traces of volcanic action. Of the geology of three-fourths of the colony, however, we know-scarcely anything. The presence of a new carbonaceous mineral called cliftonite has been recently determined by Mr L. Fletcher in a meteorite brought by the Rev. Mr Nicholai from Western Australia.
Minerals. —The earliest mines were of lead and copper in Victoria district, the ore being sent to Geraldton, the port of Champion Bay, 30 miles from the Northampton mines of silver, lead, and copper. Berkshire valley has in addition plumbago, the Irwin antimony, and Woongong silver. The Géraldine lead and silver ores were first worked in 1845, and produced £43,000 in 1878. Wheal Fortune and Tortura mines are of silver-lead ; Gelira, Wheel Alpha, and Narra Narra of copper. Iron ores are abundant; they are magnetic at Mount Magnet. Coal has not yet been found in any quantity. Carboniferous rocks are seen in several places, and fair specimens of coal have been obtained. A semi-bituminous mineral near the Swan and the Murray yields a pale oil, wdiich would serve to varnish wood. Gold, long looked for, has been found in Kim-berley; and diggers rushed to the country about the Margaret, Mary, and Elvira rivers. The majority did not find returns equal to expen-diture ; but auriferous quartz of great richness has been reported recently. The proclaimed gold-field lies between 16° and 19J° S., 126° and 129° E. Building stone is found of many varieties.

Agriculture.—This was once confined to the Swan river quarter, but is rapidly extending northward in Victoria district, 'where the land is free of timber, though the rainfall is very light. In Kimberley tropical produce, especially sugar, cotton, spices, and rice, can be readily raised. The south-west is essentially a farm-ing country, but the soil is generally sandy. In 1886 86,248 acres were in crop (hay 25,718 ; wdieat, 24,043 ; barley, 5185 ; oats, 1766; maize, 171; potatoes, 356; green forage, 1075 ; vines, 649). No settlement has a finer variety of fruits, and both wine and raisins are being exported. The cottage homesteads are surrounded with pleasant gardens, vineyards, and orchards.
Live Stock.—Timber was too thick in the old settlement for flocks and herds; the squatting districts are eastward of the divid-ing range and north of the Swan. The want of water both eastward and northward stops progress, but sheep stations are established in oases of reputed eastern deserts. The north-west, in spite of drought, is a favourite locality for squatters ; but the better-watered Kimberley is regarded as the most hopeful. At the beginning of 1887 129,219,079 acres of the available country were leased by 6469 persons, at the rental of £73,863, averaging a little over half a farthing an acre. The horses numbered 38,360; cattle, 88,254; sheep, 1,809,071 ; pigs, 24,655 ; goats, 5301. Some parts, chiefly in the south-west, are troubled with poison plants. Borings in ill-watered places, as the southern and central districts, furnish water for stock. The Angora goat has been a success there. Babbits already begin to trouble squatters. In proportion to inha-bitants, Western Australia has advanced in pastoral pursuits beyond its neighbours, excepting in the quality of stock and the get-up of wool. Of 678,400,220 acres in the colony only 1,851,742 are alienated, though 130,000,000 are leased out by Government. The land laws are liberal. Lessees have pre-emptive rights over parts of runs at 5s. per acre, within a certain period. Inferior land is much cheaper. Kimberley leases are for not less than 50,000 acres at 10s. rent per 1000 acres,—this being the best pastoral country. A certain limited amount of stock is required according to acreage and district. Poisoned land can be leased for twenty-one years at £1 rent per 1000 acres, when the area is granted free if it be fenced and the poison plants eradicated ; a licence, for that term, of such land, costs one-eighth of that rent. The break-up of the extensive original grants is still essential to further progress.
Flora.—Judged by its vegetable forms, Western Australia would seem to be older than eastern Australia, South Australia being of intermediate age. Indian relations appear on the northern side, and South African on the western. There are fewer Antarctic and Polynesian representatives than in the eastern colonies. European forms are extremely scarce. Compared with the other side of Australia, a third of the genera on the south-west are almost wanting in the south-east. In the latter, 55, having more than ten species each, have 1260 species; but the former has as many in 55 of its 80 genera. Of those 55, 36 are wanting in the south-east, and 17 are absolutely peculiar. There are fewer natural orders and genera westward, but more species. Baron Von Mueller declared that "nearly half of the whole vegetation of the Australian continent has been traced to within the boundaries of the Western Australian territory." He includes 9 Malvacex, 6 Euphor-biacex, 2 Rubiacese, 9 Proteacece, 47 Leguminosx, 10 Myrtaccse, 12 Compositee, 5 Labiatte,G Cyperacea;, 13 Convolvulaceee, 16 Graminess, 3 Filiccs, 10 Amaranthacem. Yet over 500 of its tropical species are identified with those of India or Indian islands. While seven-tenths of the orders reach their maximum south-west, three-tenths do so south-east. Cypress pines abound in the north, and ordinary pines in Rottnest Island. Sandalwood (Santalum cygnorum) is exported. The gouty stem baobab (Aclansonia) is in the tropics. Xanthorrhcea, the grass tree, abounds in sandy districts. Mangrove bark yields a purple tan. Palms and zamias begin in the north-west. The Melaleuca Leucadendron is the paperbark tree of settlers. The rigid-leafed Banksia is known as the honeysuckle. Casuarinm are the he and she oaks of colonists, and the Exocarpus is their cherry tree. Beautiful flowering shrubs distinguish the south-west; and the deserts are all ablaze with flowers after a fall of rain. Poison plants are generally showy Legtiminosw, Sicla, and the Gastrolobium.
The timber trees of the suiith-west are almost unequalled. Of the Eucalypts, the jarrah or mahogany, E. marginata, is first for value. It runs over five degrees of latitude, and its wood resists the teredo and the ant. Sir Malcolm Fraser assigns 14,000 square miles to the jarrah, 10,000 to E. viminalis, 2300 to the karri (E. colossca or E. diversicolor), 2400 to York gum (E. loxo-phleba), 800 to the red gum (E. calophylla), and 500 to tuart or native pear (E. gomphocephala). Not much good wood is got within 20 miles of the coast. The coachbuilder's coorup rises over 300 feet. Morrel furnishes good timber and rich oil. An ever-increasing trade is done in the timber of the south-western forests.
Fauna. —Among the mammals are the Macropus giganteus, M. irrna, M. dama, M. brachyurus, Lagorchcstes fasciatus, Bettongia penicillata, Phalangisla vulpecula, Pseudochirus cooki, Dasyurus geoffroyi, Tarsipics rostratus, Antechinus apicalis, Peramelcs obesula, Peramelcs myosurus, Myrmecdbius fasciatus. Fossil forms partake of the existing marsupial character, Diprotodon being allied to the wombat and kangaroo. Nail-bearing kangaroos are in the north-west ; the banded one, size of a rabbit, is on Sharks Bay. Nocturnal phalangers live in holes of trees or in the ground. Carnivorous Phascogalte are found in south-west. There are three kinds of wombat. The rock-loving marsupial Osphranter is only in the north-east, and Peramelcs bougainvillei at Sharks Bay. The dalgyte or Petrogale lagotis is at Swan river and Hypsiprymnus in the south. The colony has only two species of wallabies to five in New South Wales. The Halmaturus of the Abrolhos is a sort of wallaby; a very elegant species is 18 inches long. The pretty Dromicia, 6 inches long, lives on stamens and nectar, like the Tarsipes, having a brush at the tip of its tongue; its tail is prehensile. The hare-like Lagorchcstes fasciatus is a great leaper. The Hapalolis of the interior has nests in trees. Beaver rats and other small rodents are troublesome, and bats are numerous. The dingo is the wild dog. The platypus (Ornithorhynchus) and the Echidna are the only forms of the Monotremata. The seal, whale, and dugong occur in the adjacent seas.
The west is not so rich as the east of Australia in birds. Many forms are absent and others but poorly represented, though some are peculiar to the west. The timbered south-west has the greatest variety of birds, which are scarce enough in the dry and treeless interior. Of lizards the west has 12 genera not found in eastern Australia. Of snakes there are but 15 species to 3 in Tasmania and 31 in New South Wales. While the poisonous sorts are 2 to 1 in the east, they are 3 to 1 in the west. The turtle is obtained as an article of food. The freshwater fishes are not all like those of the east. They include the mullet, snapper, ring fish, guard fish, bonita, rock cod, shark, saw fish, parrot fish, and cobbler. Under the head of fisheries may be mentioned the pearl oyster, which is dived for by natives at Sharks Bay ; the trepang or bêche-de-mer is also met with in the north. Insects are well repre-sented, especially Coleoptera, Lepidoptera, Hymenoptera, Hcmiptera, and Diplera.
Trade and Commerce.—Safe harbours are few, and hundreds of miles of the coast-line are without shelter for a vessel. The coasting traffic, until recently, was confined to the south-west, from the Sound to Victoria district ; but wool is now shipped at the north-west, as well as pearls, while wool, pearl shells, hides, tallow, and gold are claiming attention in the tropical north-east. The imports for 1886 amounted to £758,011, of which £347,915 came from the United Kingdom, and £396,871 from other British possessions, principally the neighbouring colonies and India. The exports reached £630,392,—the main items being wool (£322,578), shells (£104,964), guano, timber, sandalwood, pearls, lead, copper, manna gum, and gold. Of these exports, £505,331 went to Great Britain, and £92,716 to other British ports.
Industries.—The pastoral industry occupies.the first place. Fisheries are taking an important position (pearl shell, bêche-de-mer, and preserved or tinned fish). Mandurah, at the mouth of the Murray, and Freemantle have preserving sheds for mullet and snapper. Guano beds are worked to much advantage at the Lace-pede Isles. Salt is produced largely at Bottnest Island. Raisins are dried, and the oil of castor trees is expressed. The mulberry tree succeeds well, and sericulture is making progress. Dugong oil is got from Sharks Bay. Honey and wax are becoming valuable exports ; from the abundance of flowers the hives can be emptied twice a year. Manna and gums of various kinds are among the resources of the country. Among the wines made aie the Riesling, Burgundy, Sweetwater, Hock, and Fontainebleau.
Roads and Railways.—Excellent roads were made during the period of convict labour. The northern railway from Northampton mines to Port Geraldton is 35 miles long. The eastern line is from Freemantle through Perth to Guildford (20 miles) and to Beverley (90 miles). A concession of 12,000 acres per mile is bringing the rail from York northward to Victoria district, and from Beverley southward to Albany on King George's Sound. Communication between the several ports is conducted by steamers, which have been aided by a state subsidy.
Administration.—Western Australia is a crown colony, adminis-tered by a governor, his executive council, and a legislative council partly nominated by the governor. The colonial revenue for 1887 amounted to £461,322, the expenditure to £456,897.
Education.—As in other colonies, the denominational system formerly prevailed ; but lately an effort has been made to have public schools on a broader basis. The state in 1886 granted £7505 for 3169 scholars in the public schools, and £1415 for 1339, principally Roman Catholics, in the assisted schools. The Perth Inquirer was the first newspaper ; there are now 11 in the colony.
Population.—Of the 42,000 inhabitants 7000 are in Perth, the capital, 5000 in Freemantle, 1000 at Albany, 900 at York. Some trouble from the aborigines was experienced by settlers at first, but now mmy of them are useful upon stations, making good shepherds. A suco ssftil mission for natives has been conducted for many years at New Norcia, about 80 miles north of Perth, by Spanish monks.

History. —Both the western and northern coasts of the colony are pretty accurately laid down on maps said to date from 1540 to 1550, where the western side of the continent terminates at Cape Leeuwen. The discovery of the coast may be attributed to Portuguese and Spanish navigators, who were in the seas northward of Australia as early as 1520. The next visitors, nearly a century later, were the Dutch. Edel explored northward in 1619, and De Witt in 1628. The "Guide Zeepaard" in 1627 sailed along the south coast for 1000 miles, the territory being named Nuyt's Land. Tasman made a survey of the north shore in 1644, but did not advance far on the western border. Dampier was off the north-west in 1688 and 1696, naming Sharks Bay. Van-couver entered King George's Sound in 1791. The French, under D'Entreeasteaux, were off Western Australia in 1792 ; and their commodore Baudin, of the "Géographe" and "Naturaliste," in 1801 and 1802 made important discoveries along the western and north-western shores. Captain Flinders about the same time paid a visit to the Sound, and traced Nuyt's Land to beyond the South Australian boundary. Freyeinet went thither in 1818. Captain King surveyed the northern waters between 1818 and 1822.
The earliest settlement was made from Port Jackson, at the end
of 1825. Owing to a fear that the French might occupy King
George's Sound, Major Lockyer carried thither a party of convicts
and soldiers, seventy-five in all, and took formal British possession,
though Vancouver had previously done so. Yet the Dutch had
long before declared New Holland, which then meant only the
western portion of Australia, to be Dutch property. This convict
establishment returned to Sydney in 1829. In 1827 Captain
Stirling was sent to report upon the Swan river, and his narrative
excited such interest in England as to lead to an actual free settle-
ment at the Swan river. Captain Freemantle, K.N., in 1827 took
official possession of the whole country. Stirling's account stimu-
lated the emigration ardour of Sir F. Vincent, and Messrs Peel,
Macqueen, &c., who formed an association, securing from the British
Government permission to occupy land in Western Australia pro-
portionate to the capital invested, and the number of emigrants
they despatched thither. In this way Mr Peel had a grant of
250,000 acres, and Colonel Latour of 103,000. Captain (afterwards
Sir James) Stirling was appointed lieutenant-governor, arriving
June 1, 1829. The people were scattered on large grants. The
land was poor, and the forests heavy ; provisions were at famine
prices; and many left for Sydney or Hobart Town. The others
struggled on, finding a healthful climate, and a soil favouring
fruits and vegetables, whilst their stock grazed in the more open
but distant quarters. The overland journey of Eyre from Adelaide
to King George's Sound in 1839-40, through a waterless waste, dis-
couraged settlers ; but Grey's overland walk in 1838 from Sharks
Bay to Perth revealed fine rivers and good land in Victoria district,
subsequently occupied by farmers, graziers, and miners. Com-
manders Wickharn and Stokes about that time made discoveries on
the northern coast. Roe was an active explorer, and Austin in
1854 investigated the country to the eastward. F. H. Gregory
traced the Gascoigne in 1857, and made known superior land to
the north-west about Nickol Bay four years later. Austin in 1864
saw a good future for the Glenelg district, previously described
by Grey. A. Gregory was at the north-east in 1856, and J. Forrest
in 1870 proved the way along the south coast to be no hopeless
desert. Giles crossed from the east. Major Wrarburton in 1873 had
severe trials with his camels before reaching De Grey river from the
east. The Messrs Forrest suffered much in another attempt to
penetrate the eastern barren country. A. Forrest had a successful
tour in 1877 through the Kimberley province; two years later he
made the connexion between Kimberley and the north-west. The
difficulties of the settlers had compelled them to seek help from
the British treasury, in the offer to accept convicts. These came
in 1850 ; but transportation ceased in 1868, in consequence of loud
protests from the other colonies. Seeking responsible government,
the settlers were told in 1888 that, if this were granted for the
southern part, the north would still be retained as a crown colony.
The discoveries of lead and copper, and lately of gold, must increase
the working community ; while the newly opened pastures have
brought in a great accession of stockholders. Settlers are arriving
from South Australia and other colonies, so that the prospects of
Western Australia are brightening. (J. BO.)









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