In offering to the public an account of Expeditions of Discovery in Australia, undertaken in the years 1840-1, and completed in July of the latter year, some apology may be deemed necessary for this narrative not having sooner appeared, or perhaps even for its being now published at all.
With respect to the first, the author would remark that soon after his return to South Australia upon the close of the Expeditions, and when contemplating an immediate return to England, he was invited by the Governor of the Colony to remain, and undertake the task of re-establishing peace and amicable relations with the numerous native tribes of the Murray River, and its neighbourhood, whose daring and successful outrages in 1841, had caused very great losses to, and created serious apprehensions among the Colonists.
Hoping that his personal knowledge of and extensive practical experience among the Aborigines might prove serviceable in an employment of this nature, the author consented to undertake it; and from the close of September 1841, until December 1844, was unremittingly occupied with the duties it entailed. It was consequently not in his power to attend to the publication of his travels earlier, nor indeed can he regret a delay, which by the facilities it afforded him of acquiring a more intimate knowledge of the character and habits of the Aborigines, has enabled him to render that portion of his work which relates to them more comprehensive and satisfactory than it otherwise would have been.
With respect to the second point, or the reasons which have led to this work being published at all, the author would observe that he has been led to engage in it rather from a sense of duty, and at the instance of many of his friends, than from any wish of his own. The greater portion of the country he explored was of so sterile and worthless a description, and the circumstances which an attempt to cross such a desert region led to, were of so distressing a character, that he would not willingly have revived associations, so unsatisfactory and so painful.
It has been his fate, however, to cross, during the course of his explorations, a far greater extent of country than any Australian traveller had ever done previously, and as a very large portion of this had never before been trodden by the foot of civilized man, and from its nature is never likely to be so invaded again, it became a duty to record the knowledge which was thus obtained, for the information of future travellers and as a guide to the scientific world in their inquiries into the character and formation of so singular and interesting a country.
To enable the reader to judge of the author's capabilities for the task he undertook, and of the degree of confidence that may be due to his impressions or opinions, it may not be out of place to state, that the Expeditions of 1840—1 were not entered upon without a sufficient previous and practical experience in exploring.
For eight years the author had been resident in Australia, during which he had visited many of the located parts of New South Wales, Port Phillip, South Australia, Western Australia, and Van Diemen's Land. In the years 1836, 1837, 1838, 1839, and 1840 he had conducted expeditions across from Liverpool Plains in New South Wales to the county of Murray, from Sydney to Port Phillip, from Port Phillip to Adelaide, and from King George's Sound to Swan River, besides undertaking several explorations towards the interior, both from Port Lincoln and from Adelaide....