The situation of the southern capital of Tasmania, is almost, if not altogether peerless. Genoa, Naples and Rio Janeiro may assert their claims to vie with it in this respect, but it is doubtful whether nature has done so much for the last three cities as for the former; and most impartial judges would concur in giving it the preference. Placed at the head of a noble estuary, and at the foot of a magnificent mountain, surrounded by foliage of English verdure, enveloped in an atmosphere of Ausonian blandness, and overarched by a sky of Australian brilliancy, Hobart Town fascinates the eye of the artist; and, excepting in regard to some of its architectural details, combines all the elements of the picturesque, both as regards site and scenic accessories. Behind it Mount Wellington rises to an altitude of more than 4,000 feet and its gigantic slopes are covered with forests, extending from its base to the edge of the bare granite peaks, which are crested with snow during the winter months. In front of the city, the Derwent expands into a lake-like sheet of water, irregular in outline, and fringed by undulating hills dotted with farm houses. And the whole scene is dominated by the gigantic mass of the mountain, with its head in the clouds and its feet in the sea, filling the eye with its vast proportions, and impressing the mind by its imposing bulk. Sometimes it disappears from view for hours and days together, hidden by an impenetrable veil of clouds; and when, after these periods of retirement, it does reveal its utmost height and amplest magnitude, it seems to challenge a more fervid admiration and to compel a more respectful homage, than it would do if it were perpetually visible and if familiarity blunted the spectator’s perception of its undeniable sublimity. This view, it is necessary to add, is engraved from a sketch made in 1855, and the publishers believe that additional interest will attach to it on that account; as enabling persons to compare the present with the former aspect of the city, and thus to measure the gratifying progress which Hobart Town has made during the last twelve years.
Eugene Von Guerard’s place in Australian art history as the most important colonial romantic landscape painter is embodied in works such as this view of Hobart. Von Guerard himself wrote of this view: ‘Placed at the head of a noble estuary, and at the foot of a magnificent mountain, surrounded by foliage of English verdure, enveloped in an atmosphere of Ausonian blandness, and overarched by a sky of Australian brilliancy, Hobart Town fascinates the eye of the artist’. From Australian Landscapes.
The Reedy Creek is an intermittent tributary of the Oven River in the Beechworth district, and the Falls themselves are only to be seen in their full strength and beauty at certain seasons of the year. A similar name has been conferred, for obvious reasons, upon half a dozen other creeks in Victoria. The great charm of this particular cataract consists not so much in its broken flow and fantastic motion, as in the exceptional combination of granite ledges and Alpine vegetation which presents itself here. Accustomed, as the eye is in Victoria, to the ragged forms and dull colour of the indigenous trees to be met with in other parts of the colony, the graceful outline and diversified hues of pine trees and other conifers which flourish in this neighbourhood, strike the spectator as much by their novelty as by their picturesqueness. The Falls are sufficiently near Beechworth to be within the compass of a pedestrian excursion, and in their immediate vicinity there are points of view from which a noble prospect is attainable.
This view is taken from the summit of a lofty range of mountains, skirting the south-east coast of the county of Polwarth, in the colony of Victoria, and separating the Valley from the Barwon from Apollo Bay. A narrow and imperfectly-defined cattle track, winding through moist groves of fern trees, thick scrub, and avenues of gigantic trees, conducts the traveller from the open country in the interior to the wild scenery on the coast. The journey is as difficult as the physical features of the declivitous and thickly-wooded ranges are grand and romantic; and it is only at rare intervals that the tourist obtains such a glimpse of the mountain slopes, and wide-spreading forests as the artist has succeeded in doing at the spot which forms the foreground of the accompanying landscape. Lying about a hundred miles from Melbourne, as the crow flies, this tract of country is comparatively a terra incognita; so impenetrable is the jungle, and so vast the scope of the boundless forests, filled with battalions upon battalions of towering trees, the more eminent of which rise to an altitude of 300 feet. There are indications of the existence of gold, copper, and coal, in various parts of these ranges; but they offer so many obstacles to the explorer, and are so remote from the outposts of pastoral or agricultural settlement, the nearest station ( Mr Roadknight’s) being upwards of twenty miles distant from the summit of the mountain, that their mineral wealth is likely to await development for some years to come.
Junction of the Buchan and Snowy Rivers, Gipps Land.
The sylvan scene represented in the accompanying engraving is not the least attractive of the numerous lovely landscapes which charm the eye of the explorer as he penetrates into the more secluded districts of Gipps Land- the Tuscany of Victoria. In the centre of a magnificent amphitheatre, rises just such a river-girdled peninsula as the commander of a Roman legion, in Gaul or Britain, would have been chosen for his camp. At its base, two mountain streams mingle their icy waters, and thence flow southward to the sea. The more important of these-the Snowy River-takes its rise among the ranges to the eastward of Mount Kosciusko, and travelling a distance of 400 miles, debouches in the ocean about 100 miles to the westward of Cape Howe. The point of view selected by the artist is rather more than six miles from what is known as the Buchan Station, on the road Gipps Land to Maneroo, in New South Wales. Besides the natural beauty of the scenery, the artist, the geologist, and the tourist in search of the picturesque, will each find a subject of interest in the spacious and romantic stalactite caverns which abound in these ranges. Faintly indicated in the extreme distance are the Delicate Mountains, which attain an altitude of 4000 feet.
Moroka River Falls, foot of Mount Kent, Gipps Land.
In the very heart of the Gipps Land Mountains, in one of the most secluded districts of the colony, though little more than sixty miles from Melbourne, well forth the springs which unite to form the torrent of the Moroka. The artist has reason to believe that he and Mr.Alfred Howitt were the first to discover these falls, while descending from the summit of Mount Kent. Guided by the roar of a cataract, and penetrating, with great difficulty, the woody fastnesses in which it was hidden, they at length reached this romantic spot, and experienced all the gratification which attends the first sight of a magnificent object hitherto unrevealed to human eye. Issuing from the northern slopes of Mount Wellington, the Moroka, after traversing the ravine here represented, winds round the basis of the Snowy Bluff and finally empties itself into the Wonangatta at Eagle Vale. But before doing so, it breaks into numerous cascades, which, when the river is swollen by the melting of the mountain snows, under the warm breath of the spring, assume imposing proportions and fill the air with the reverberation of their angry voices.
This sylvan scene is situated at a distance of little more than ten miles from Wollongong, near the junction of a little stream upon which some prosaic devotee of the bottle has bestowed the dishonouring appellation of the Brandy and Water Creek, with the American Creek, and at the foot of a noble range of mountains. With the lofty bangalow palm, the cabbage palm, the gigantic wild fig-tree, the fire tree (otherwise known as the blaze tree) with its vividly scarlet blossoms, are intermingled the nettle tree, the rose-wood, the sassafras, the white-wood, the wild rose, numerous varieties of the fern tree, and parasites innumerable; the whole being woven together into one dense and almost impenetrable mass of foliage. Unfortunately the progress of settlement is necessitating the destruction of some of these magnificent forests, which in many instances clothe a rich chocolate soil of especial value to the farmer. At the time this view was sketched, numerous fires had been kindled by the wood-cutters, and the stately giants were rapidly falling before the pitiless axe of the hardy pioneers of civilization.
Mount Eccles, situated about twenty-five miles north-east of Portland, and about 200 west of Melbourne, belongs to that great chain of extinct volcanoes which stretches towards the frontier of South Australia; and is about equidistant from the craters of Mount Napier and Mount Eckersley. Although its greatest altitude is not more than 490 feet, this hill commands a magnificent prospect of a wide expanse of undulating forests, towering above the dense foliage of which, are the bulky forms of Mounts Napier, Rouse, Clay, and Eckersley. Southward, the prospect is bounded by the blue line of the sea, and northward by the faint outline of the Grampians. The crater itself is one of the most picturesque in Victoria, owing to the irregularity of its structure, the fanciful disposition of the timber on its declivitous slopes, and to the circumstance that a beautiful fresh water lake occupies the concavity in the centre, and the waters are of a brilliant green harmonizing with the hue of the surrounding vegetation.
Of the comparatively limited number of extinct volcanoes in Australia, the above is, perhaps the most remarkable and, to geologists, the most interesting. It is not so much a crater, as a series of craters, about six miles in circumference, filled with fresh water, and walled in by precipitous rocks of black lava, brown ash, and coralline. These walls vary in height from 200 to 300 feet, and are sprinkled with shea-oak, tea-tree and honeysuckle. The Blue Lake crater which is the most distant from the spectator, is about 240 feet deep, and has obtained its name from the exquisite azure tint of the water, which is as clear as crystal. The edges of the basin, in which it lies, are of almost uniform height, and the Rev. Julian Woods concludes that whatever eruption took place from this crater, it was sustained from a line in the centre, without being subject to any variation. Between the Centre Lake and the Valley Lake, which occupies the foreground of the picture, there is no barrier wall, such as rises between the Blue Lake and the Centre Lake, but a narrow neck of land, indented by three circular ponds. The slopes are well grassed, and the pastoral tranquillity of the present scene has been contrasted with the awful grandeur it must have exhibited during an eruption, by the writer previously referred to, in a chapter which presents a rare combination of poetic feeling with scientific lore. After a graphic description of the primeval landscape, of the earthquake, and the tremendous outbreak of the subterranean fires, which might have caused even Vulcan to think-
In Chaos antiquum confundimur
… Neque enim tolerare vaporem
Ulterius potuit, nic dicere plura;
Mr Woods goes on to observe :- “ But now how changed is the scene! The smoke has cleared away, and the fires are extinct. Nature is at her repose. The melted walls have cooled, and an azure lake covers them. The ashes on the bank are covered with verdure, and reeds grow where fire glowed. The underground thunders are indeed heard no more, but the wind sends a soft moaning through the shrubs, while the gentle splashing of the calm and glassy lake is now the only echo that is heard from shore to shore.”
Mount Gambier occupies the centre of a tract of splendid agricultural land, farmed principally by German settlers. There is a township at the foot of the hills; and the plains shown in the distance are timbered with gum and blackwood, and stretch away to the sea coast, which is faintly indicated by a line of low sand hills on the horizon.
In the river system of Australia, the Murray with its tributaries the Darling, the Lachlan, the Murrumbidgee, the Goulburn and the Loddon, occupies a premier position. Of these rivers, the Murray is 2,400, the Darling 1,800, and the Murrumbidgee 1,000 miles long; the first being navigable for a distance of 2,000, the second for 800, and the third for about 750 miles, at certain seasons of the year. The point of view selected by the artist is near Moorundee in South Australia, and about 130 miles from the embouchure of the Murray. The width of the river at Moorundee is 250 yards. Its channel is bordered by two banks of fossiliferous limestone of the tertiary period, which rise in places to a height of more than 100 feet. The plains on both sides of the river are covered with large tracts of the Mallee Scrub or Dwarf Eucalyptus, occasionally diversified by clumps of cypress and box. There is an abundance of game in the neighbourhood , and excellent fishing in the river.
The natural Amphitheatre, pourtrayed in the Illustration, lies between Morse’s Creek and Harrietville, about two hundred miles north-west of Melbourne. Nothing can be more striking than the contrast between the amenity of the Scenery in the foreground and the austere grandeur of the lofty ranges for which it is enclosed. The mountains which, for most part, assume a pyramidal form, are of slate formation, and their sides are clothed with forests of great density. The serrated ridge which dominates the group is the summit of Mount Feathertop, the loftiest mountain in Victoria. It is 7,000 feet above the level of the sea, and wears a dazzling crown of snow. Far away to the left the snow-clad peaks of the Bogong Ranges arrest the eye. The district is rich in Mineral Treasures; as, besides Gold and Tin, Diamonds, Sapphires, Rubies and Topazes, and other Precious Stones have been discovered in the creeks by which it is intersected.
The point of view chosen by the artist in this instance, is the eastern slope of the Mount Hope Ranges, so that the spectator surveys the north-west side of Mount Kosciusko and obtains a tolerably clear comprehension of its enormous bulk. The dense forests which envelope its huge surface are as gigantic in their character as the mountain itself,and do not terminate at a lower elevation than 6,500 feet, or within 700 feet of the loftiest peak. Full of magnificent timber, they offer to the naturalist and landscape painter endless themes for study, while their value in an economic view will not be appreciated until they are brought within the range of human settlement. At present, though distant from Melbourne little more than a hundred miles as the crow flies, this romantic district is only accessible by devious and difficult routes, on horseback, and under the contact of an experienced guide. But arduous as is the journey, and numerous as the risks and hardships which have to be encountered, the tourist or artist finds himself richly repaid by the enchanting beauty of the scenery, and the grandeur of the mountain range which constitutes its most impressive feature. The first sight of it produces the same effect upon the mind as the first sight of the Bearnese Alps, and dwells as durably in the memory.
North East View from the Top of Mount Kosciusko, New South Wales.
This is the grandest, the loftiest, and the most imposing of all the Mountain Crags which constitute the Australian Alps. It is situated about 300 miles from Sydney, and among its western slopes lie some of the numerous sources of the Murray, while on the opposite side of the range is the gathering ground of the waters which feed the rivers of Gipps Land. Mount Kosciusko has three principal crests running almost equilaterally from south-west to north-east, with an elevation, as ascertained by barometric measurement, of from 7,100 to 7,200 feet; while the plateau, upon which the snow lies far into the hottest months of an Australian summer, is from four to five miles long. Its altitude, therefor, is about the same as that of Athos, Pindus, Olympus, and the most celebrated mountains of Greece, and the view from the summit sweeps over an area of 7,000 square miles. “ Standing above the adjacent mountains which could either detract from its imposing aspect or intercept the view,” writes De Strzelecki, “ Mount Kosciusko is one of those few elevations, the ascent of which, far from disappointing, presents the traveller with all that can remunerate fatigue. In the north-eastward view, the eye is carried as far back as the Shoalhaven country, the ridges of all the spurs of Moneiro and Twofold Bay, as well as those which, to the westward, inclose the tributaries of the Murrumbidgee, being conspicuously delineated. Beneath the feet, looking from the very verge of the cone downwards almost perpendicularly, the eyes plunges into a fearful gorge 3,000 feet deep, in the bed of which the sources of the Murray gather their contents, and roll their united waters to the west.” In all probability, the party represented in the Engraving, and consisting of the Artist, Professor Neumayer, two Guides, and a Servant, were the first white men who had ever trodden the most northerly of the three peaks, as the chief Guide stated that even he had never penetrated so far. The mountain is composed of sienite and granite, and among its rugged and fantastically shaped crags and boulders, the adventurous traveller learns to feel the full force of the sentiment expressed by Childe Harold:-
“Not vainly did the early Persian make
His altar, the high places and the peak
Of earths o’er-gazing mountains, and thus take
A fit and unwall’d temple, there to seek
The Spirit in whose honor shrines are weak,
Uprear’d of human hands. Come, and compare
Columns and idol-dwellings, Goth or Greek,
With nature’s realms of worship, earth and air,
Nor fix on fond abodes to circumscribe thy pray’r.”
The oil for this lithograph is inscribed by Eugene von Guerard, 'Mt. Kosciusko 19 Nov. 1862'. On the stretcher bar upper right is inscribed 'John Eugene von Guerard, Gipps Street east, East Melbourne' and on the upper left 'South East view from the summit of Mt. Kosciusko, New South Wales, Australia ascended by the artist 19th November 1862, elevation 7,200 Engl. feet.'
The work was exhibited in the Intercolonial Exhibition held in Melbourne in 1866, under the title 'Southeast View from the Northern Top of Mt. Kosciusko, New South Wales with snow on Top.'
On this expedition to Mount Kosciusko with Eugene von Guerard, was Professor G.B. von Neumayer, two guides and a servant.