JOURNAL OF MR. STUART’S FOURTH EXPEDITION–FIXING THE CENTRE OF THE CONTINENT. FROM MARCH TO SEPTEMBER, 1860.
Friday, 2nd March, 1860, Chambers Creek. Left the creek for the north-west, with thirteen horses and two men. The grey horse being too weak to travel was left behind. Camped at Hamilton Springs.
Saturday, 3rd March, Mount Hamilton. Camped at the Beresford Springs, where it was evident that the natives, whose camp is a little way from this, had had a fight. There were the remains of a body of a very tall native lying on his back. The skull was broken in three or four places, the flesh nearly all devoured by the crows and native dogs, and both feet and hands were gone. There were three worleys on the rising ground, with waddies, boomerangs, spears, and a number of broken dishes scattered round them. The natives seemed to have run away and left them, or to have been driven away by a hostile tribe. Between two of the worleys we observed a handful of hair, apparently torn from the skull of the dead man, and a handful of emu feathers placed close together, the feathers to the north-west, the hair to the south-east. They were between two pieces of charred wood, which had been extinguished before the feathers and hair were placed there. It seemed to be a mark of some description.
Sunday, 4th March, Beresford Springs. Night and morning cold; day very hot. Wind south-west.
Monday, 5th March, Beresford Springs. Wind changed to the east during the night. Morning very cold. Arrived at the Strangway Springs. Day very hot. Wind variable.
Tuesday, 6th March, Strangway Springs. Very hot during the night. Made William Springs and camped. The day exceedingly hot, wind south-west, in which direction a heavy bank of clouds arose about noon; in the evening there was a great deal of lightning, and apparently much rain falling there, but none came down our way.
Wednesday, 7th March, William Springs. The night very hot and cloudy, with the wind from the west, but without rain. Started for Louden Spa,* (* The Louden Springs of the two last expeditions.) the first few miles being over low sand rises and broad valleys of light sandy soil, with abundance of dry grass; by keeping a little more to the north-west the sand rises can be avoided. At seven miles we struck a swamp, but could see no springs. On approaching the Douglas the country becomes more stony, and continues so to the Spa, where we camped.
Thursday, 8th March, Louden Spa. Cold wind this morning from the south-east; the clouds are gone. Camped at Hawker Springs.
Friday, 9th March, Hawker Springs. Very cold last night. Wind from the south. During the day it changed to the south-east, and the sun was very hot. Camped at the Milne Springs, and found the articles we had left* there all right (* See last expedition.); the natives had opened the place where we had put them, but had taken nothing.
Saturday, 10th March, Milne Springs. At half past 11 last night it began to rain, and continued doing so nearly all day. Wind south-east.
Sunday, 11th March, Milne Springs. About 10 o’clock last night we were flooded with water, although upon rising ground, and were obliged to move our camp to the top of a small hill. It rained all night and morning, but there are signs of a break in the clouds. During the day it has rained at intervals. The creek is coming down very rapidly, covering all the valley with a sheet of water.
Monday, 12th March, Milne Springs. A few heavy showers during the night, but now there seems a chance of a fine day, which will enable us to get our provisions dried again. The country is so boggy that I cannot proceed to-day, but if it continues fair I shall attempt it to-morrow morning. This rain is a great boon to me, as it will give me both feed and water for my horses, and if it has gone to the north-west it will save me a great deal of time looking for water.
Tuesday, 13th March, Milne Springs. Started for Freeling Springs. The country in some places is very soft, but the travelling is better than I expected. As we approached the Denison ranges the rain did not seem to have been so heavy, but when we came to the Peake, we found it running bank high, and very boggy. Impossible to cross it here, so I shall follow it up in a west-south-west direction. Camped at Freeling Springs.
Wednesday, 14th March, Freeling Springs. Started on a course a little to the south of west, to try and find a crossing-place. At two miles it turned a little to the north of west, but at ten miles it turned to the south-west, and was running very rapidly, about five miles an hour. I was obliged to stop at this point, as I could not cross the creek, the banks being so boggy. I have discovered another spring at eleven miles on the same bearing as the Freeling Springs, but I cannot get to it. From here it has the appearance of being very good; a hill covered with reeds at the top, the creek running round the east side of it. I shall endeavour to cross to-morrow and examine it.
Thursday, 15th March, The Peake. The creek being still impassable, I remained here another day. Yesterday the horse that was carrying my instruments broke away from the man who was leading him, burst the girths, and threw the saddlebags on the ground. The instruments were very much injured, in fact very nearly ruined; the sextant being put out of adjustment, has taken me all day to repair, and I am not sure now whether it is correct or not. It is a great misfortune. Wind north; clouds north-east.
Friday, 16th March, The Peake. Saddled and started to cross the Peake about three miles to the south-west, but had a fearful job in doing so, the banks being so boggy, and the current so strong. The horses could hardly keep on their feet, and most of them were up to their saddle-flaps, and some under water altogether. One poor old fellow we were obliged to leave in it, as he was unable to get out, and we were unable to help him, although we tried for hours. He is of very little use to me, for he has never recovered his trip to Moolloodoo and back. He has had nothing to carry since we started, and seemed to be improving every day. I wish now that I had left him at Chambers Creek along with the grey, but as he looked in better condition, I thought he would mend on the journey, and I intended him to bring the horses in every morning, when we got further out. We have been from 10 a.m. to 3.30 p.m. in getting across, including the time spent in trying to extricate Billy. I cannot proceed further to-day, and have therefore camped on the west side of the springs that we saw from the last encampment, which I named Kekwick Springs. There are six springs. The largest one will require to be opened; the reeds on it are very thick, and from ten to twelve feet in height. We tried again to get the horse on shore, but could not manage it; the more we try to extricate him, the worse he gets. I have left him; I do not think he will survive the night. It is now sundown, and raining heavily; the night looks very black and stormy. Wind from the south-west.
Saturday, 17th March, Kekwick Springs. About 8 o’clock last evening the wind changed to the north-west, and we had some very heavy rain, which lasted the greater part of the night. Early in the morning the wind changed again to the south-east, with occasional showers. At sunrise it looked very stormy. I must be off as soon as possible out of this boggy place. The old horse is still alive, but very weak. The water has lowered during the night. If no more rain falls to the south-west it will soon be dry, when he may have a chance of getting out. I cannot remain longer to assist him; it would only be putting the rest of my horses in danger. I would have remained here to-day to have dried my provisions, but the appearance of the weather will not allow me. They must take their chance. Started on a north-west course for the Neale. At fifteen miles struck it, and changed to the west to a creek coming south from the stony rises. The banks of the Neale are very boggy. The first four miles to-day were along the top of a sandy rise, with swampy flats on each side, with a number of reeds growing in them, also rushes and water-grass. At four miles was a strong rise, but before we arrived at it we had to cross one of the swamps, in which we encountered great difficulty. After many turnings and twistings, and being bogged up to the shoulders, we managed to get through all safe. It was fearfully hard work. For three miles, on the top of a stony rise, the country is poor (stones on the top of gypsum deposit), but after that it gradually improves, and towards the creek it becomes a good salt-bush country. Wind from the south-east; still very cloudy.
Sunday, 18th March, Neale River. Wind south-east; heavy clouds. I observed a bulbous plant growing in this creek resembling the Egyptian arum; it was just springing. I will endeavour to get some of the seed, if I can. I hoped we should have got our provisions dried to-day, but it was so showery we could not get it done. The creek is so boggy that we cannot cross it, and must follow it round to-morrow. A sad accident has happened to my plans. There was a small hole in the case that contains them, which I did not observe, and in crossing the Peake the water gained admittance and completely saturated them; it is a great misfortune. Sundown: still raining; wind same direction.
Monday, 19th March, Neale River. Rained during the night, and looks very stormy this morning. Followed the Neale round to where it goes through the gap in Hanson range; in places it was rather boggy, but good travelling in this wet weather–firmer than I expected. We had much difficulty in crossing some of the side creeks. Camped on the south side of the gap. Wind south-east; cloudy, with little rain.
Tuesday, 20th March, Neale River Gap, Hanson Range. Wind south-east; a few showers during the night. Still no chance of getting my provisions dried. It cleared off about noon, and became a fine day. Followed the Neale round, and camped on one of the side creeks coming from the south of west. Ground still soft. Wind south-east. Saw some smoke in the hills this morning, but no natives. Good country along both sides of the range on the west side of the Neale.
Wednesday, 21st March, Neale River. Beautiful sunshine. Shall remain here to-day, in order to dry my provisions. On examining them I find that a quantity of our dried meat is quite spoiled, which is a great loss–another wet day, and we should have lost the half of it.
Thursday, 22nd March, Side Creek of the Neale River. Wind south-west; clear sky. I intended to have gone north-west from this point, but, in attempting to cross the creek, we found it impassable. My horse got bogged at the first start, and we had some difficulty in getting him out. We were obliged to follow the creek westward for seven miles, where it passes between two high hills connected with the range. We managed at last, with great labour and difficulty, to get across without accident. At this place four creeks join the main one, and spread over a mile in breadth, with upwards of twenty boggy water-courses; water running. It has taken us five hours, from the time we started, to cross it. The principal creek comes from the south-west. I ascended the two hills to get a view of the surrounding country, and I could see the creek coming from a long way off in that direction. At this point the range seems broken or detached into numerous small ranges and isolated hills. I now changed my course to north-west, over table land of a light-brown colour, with stones on the surface; the vegetation was springing all over it and looking beautifully green. At six miles on this course camped on a myall creek. The work for the horses has been so very severe to-day that I have been induced to camp sooner than I intended. Wind south.
Friday, 23rd March, Myall Creek. Wind south. Started on the same course, north-west. At three miles crossed another tributary–gum and myall. The country, before we struck the creek, was good salt-bush country, with a plentiful supply of grass. The soil was of a light-brown colour, gypsum underneath, and stones on the surface, grass and herbs growing all round them. After crossing the creek, which was boggy, we again ascended a low table land of the same description. At ten miles came upon a few low sand rises, about a mile in breadth. We then struck a creek, another tributary, spread over a large plain, very boggy, with here and there patches of quicksand. We had great difficulty in getting over it, but at last succeeded without any mishap. We then entered a thick scrubby country of mulga and other shrubs; the soil now changed to a dark red, covered splendidly with grass. After the first mile the scrub became much thinner; ground slightly undulating. After crossing this good country, at twenty miles we struck a large creek running very rapidly at five miles per hour; breadth of water one hundred feet, with gum-trees on the bank. From bank to bank it was forty-four yards wide. This seemed to be only one of the courses. There were other gum-trees on the opposite side, and apparently other channels. Wind south. A few clouds from the north-west.
Saturday, 24th March, Large Gum-Tree Creek. Found it impossible to cross the Neale here; the banks were too boggy and steep. We therefore followed it round on a west course for three miles, and found that it came a little more from the north. Changed to 290 degrees, after trying in vain to cross the creek at this point. At about four or five miles south-south-west from this point there are two high peaks of a low range. The higher one I have named Mount Ben, and the range Head’s Range; its general bearing is north-west to opposite this point; it turns then more to the west. I can see another spur further to the west, trending north-west. At four miles and a half after leaving we found a ford, and got the horses across all safe. I then changed to the north-west again, through a scrubby country–mulga, acacia, hakea, salt bush, and numerous others, with a plentiful supply of grass. The soil is of a red sandy nature, very loose, and does not retain water on the surface. We had great difficulty in getting through, many places being so very thick with dead mulga. We have seen no water since we left the creek. Distance, eighteen miles. I was obliged to camp without water for ourselves. As we crossed the Neale we saw fish in it of a good size, about eight inches long, from which I should say that the water is permanent. I shall have to run to the west to-morrow, for there is no appearance of this scrubby country terminating. I must have a whole day of it.
Sunday, 25th March, Mulga Scrub. I can see no termination, on this course, to this thick scrub. I can scarcely see one hundred yards before me. I shall therefore bear to the west, cut the Neale River, and see what sort of country is in that direction. At ten miles made it; the water still running, but not so rapidly. The gum-trees still existed in its bed, and there were large pools of water on the side courses. We had the same thick scrub to within a quarter of a mile of the creek, where we met a line of red sand hills covered with a spinifex. The range on the south-west side of the creek seemed to terminate here, and become low table land, apparently covered with a thick scrub, the creek coming more from the north. I did not like the appearance of the spinifex, an indication of desert to the westward. Camped on the creek. Wind north-west; heavy clouds from the same direction.
Monday, 26th March, The Neale River West. I am obliged to remain here to-day to repair damages done to the packs and bags, which have been torn all to pieces; it will take the whole of the day to put them in order. We have seen very few signs of natives visiting this part of the country. I shall go north to-morrow and try to get through this scrub. Wind south, sky overcast with heavy clouds; looks very like rain.
Tuesday, 27th March, West Neales. Rained very heavily during the night, and is still doing so, but less copiously. About noon it cleared up a little. I have sent Kekwick to get a notion of the country on the other side of the low range, while I endeavour to obtain an observation of the sun. The range is scrubby, composed of a light-coloured and dark-red conglomerate volcanic rock, easily broken. The view from it is not extensive. At a mile from the creek the sand ceases, and stony ground succeeds up to the range. Feed excellent south-west from the camp. To the eastward rugged hills, apparently with fine open grass and forest lands. Numerous rows of water holes visible. To the south-east, country more open. To the south-south-east and south still the same good country. From south to west the same; hills to the west from five to eight miles distant. View from another hill north-west two miles and a half. The hills on the west still continue towards the north-west, but become lower. Country scrubby, with occasional patches of open grass land. Creek coming in from north-north-west. From north-west to north-north-east mulga scrub. From north-north-east to east low range in the distance, like table land. Too cloudy to take an observation; occasional showers during the day. Wind south-south-east; still looking very black. Repairing my saddles; some of my horses are getting bad backs.
Wednesday, 28th March, West Neale River. Started on a north course to get through the mulga scrub. At ten miles could see the range to the north-east. The scrubby land now became sand hills; I could see no high ground on ahead, the scrub becoming thicker; it seemed to be a country similar to that I passed through on my south-east course (first journey), and I think is a continuation of it. I therefore changed my course to the north-east range, bearing 35 degrees. After five miles through the same description of country, mulga scrub with plenty of grass, we arrived at water, where three creeks join, one from the south-west, one west-north-west, and the other from about north-west. The water was still running in the one from the west-north-west with large long water holes; also water holes in the other two; gum-trees in the creek. I suppose this to be the Frew; excellent feed on the banks of the creek up to the range, which is stony. I ascended the table range in order to have a view of the country round. To this point the range comes from east-south-east, but here it takes a turn to the east of north, all flat-topped and stony, with mulga bushes on the top and sides; the rocks are of a light, flinty nature. At about six miles north the country seems to be open and stony. That country I shall steer for to-morrow. To the north-east is the range, but it seems to drop into low table land; distant about fifteen miles. To the north-west and west is the thick mulga, scrubby country. There are numerous tracks of natives in the different creeks, quite fresh, apparently made to-day. Wind south-east; clouds.
Thursday, 29th March, The Frew. Started on a north course. At one mile, after crossing a stony hill with mulga, we suddenly came upon the creek again; it winds round the hill. Here another branch joins it from the north, the other coming from the east of north. Along the base of the range there were very large water holes in both branches. The natives had evidently camped here last night; their fires were still alight; they seemed only just to have left. From the numerous fires I should think there had been a great number of natives here. All round about in every direction were numerous tracks. We also observed a number of winter habitations on the banks of the creek; also a large native grave, composed of sand, earth, wood, and stones. It was of a circular form, about four feet and a half high, and twenty to twenty-four yards in circumference. The mulga continued for about six miles; but at three miles we again crossed the north branch of the creek, coming now from the north-west. The mulga was not thick except on the top of the rises, where splendid grass was growing all through it. We now came upon the open stony country, with a few mulga creeks. There was a little salt bush, but an immense quantity of green grass, growing about a foot high, which gave to the country a beautiful appearance. It seemed to be the same all round as far as I could see. At fourteen miles we struck the other branch, where it joined, with splendid reaches of water, to the main one, which now came from the west of north, and continued to where our line cut the east branch. This seems to be the place where it takes its rise. Camped for the night. The whole of the country that we have travelled through to-day is the best for grass that I have ever gone through. I have nowhere seen its equal. From the number of natives, from there being winter and summer habitations, and from the native grave, I am led to conclude the water there is permanent. The gum-trees are large. I saw kangaroo-tracks.
Friday, 30th March, Small Branch of The Frew. Course north. At two miles and a half changed to 332 degrees to a distant hill, apparently a range of flat-topped hills. At sixteen miles crossed a large gum creek running to the south of east; it spreads out over a flat between rough hills of half a mile wide. The bed is very sandy; it will not retain water long. On the surface it very much resembles the Douglas, but is broader, and the gum-trees much larger. There were some rushes growing in its bed. I have named it the Ross. We then ascended the low range for which I had been steering. Four miles from the creek it is rough and stony, composed of igneous rock, with scrub, mulga, and plenty of grass quite to the top. To continue this course would lead me again into the mulga scrub, where I do not want to get if I can help it. It is far worse than guiding a vessel at sea; the compass requires to be constantly in hand. I again changed to the north, which appears to be open in the distance. I could see another range of flat-topped hills. After crossing over several small spurs coming from the range, and a number of small creeks, volcanic, and stony, we struck another large gum creek coming from the south of west, and running to the south-east. It was a fine creek. These courses of water spread over a grassy plain a mile wide; the water holes were long and deep, with numerous plants growing on their banks, indicating permanent water. The wild oats on the bank of the creek were four feet high. The country gone over to-day, although stony, was completely covered with grass and salt bush; it was even better than that passed yesterday. Some of the grass resembled the drake, some the wild wheat, and some rye–the same as discovered by Captain Sturt. There is a light shade over the horizon from south-east to north-west, indicating the presence of a lake in that direction. I have named it after my friend Mr. Stevenson. There are small fish in the holes of this creek, and mussel shells, also crabs about two inches by one inch and a half.
Saturday, 31st March, The Stevenson. I am obliged to remain here to-day; my horses require shoeing. The country cuts up the shoes very much.
Sunday, 1st April, The Stevenson. I find to-day that my right eye, from the long continuation of bad eyes, is now become useless to me for taking observations. I now see two suns instead of one, which has led me into an error of a few miles. I trust to goodness my other eye will not become the same; as long as it remains good, I can do. Wind east; cool. Heavy clouds.
Monday, 2nd April, The Stevenson. Started at 8 o’clock; course 355 degrees to distant hills. At six miles we struck a gum creek with water in it, but not permanent. At ten miles we crossed another, running between rugged hills; a little water coming from the west and running east-south-east through a mass of hills. At twelve miles crossed a valley a quarter of a mile broad, through which a gum creek runs, with an immense quantity of drift timber lying on its banks. At twenty miles arrived at the first part of the range, and at twenty-eight miles camped on a gum creek running east and coming from the south of west. The first three miles of to-day’s journey were over good country; it then became rather scrubby, with numerous small creeks and valleys running to the east. Plenty of grass and salt-bush, with gravel, ironstone, and lime on the surface. At a mile before we made the rugged creek the ironstone became less, and a hard white stone took its place, and continued to the range, on which it is also found. Gypsum, chalk, ironstone, quartz, and other stones, are the chief materials of which it and the other hills are composed. There are also a few of a hard red sandstone. The range is broken, and running nearly east and west. The country round is slightly undulating; numerous small creeks running to the eastward, with a deal of grass and salt-bush. No water in this creek. Camped without. Wind east.
Tuesday, 3rd April, Gum Creek, South of Range. Ascended the hill at three miles from last night’s camp. The country very rough, stony, and scrubby to the base. The view from it is very extensive. I have named it Mount Beddome, after S. Beddome, Esquire, of Adelaide. To the west is another broken range, about fifteen miles distant, of a dark-red colour, running nearly north and south. The country between is apparently open, with patches of scrub. A gum creek comes from the south-west and runs some distance to the north-east; it then turns to the east. In the distant west appears a dense scrub. On a bearing of 330 degrees there is a large isolated table hill, for which I shall shape my course, to see if I can get an entrance that way. To the north are a number of broken hills and peaks with scrub between; they are of every shape and size. To the east another flat-topped range; country between also scrubby; apparently open. Close to the range, distant about twenty miles saw hills in the far distance; to the east another flat-topped small range; between it and the other the creek seems to run. The highest point of it bears 80 degrees, and I have named it Mount Daniel, after Mr. Daniel Kekwick, of Adelaide. From east to south-east the country is open and grassy; low ranges in the distance. Saw some rain water, bearing 30 degrees, to which I will go, and give the horses a drink; they had none last night. Distance, two miles. Obtained an observation of the sun, 118 degrees 17 minutes 30 seconds. At six miles crossed the broad bed of a large gum creek; gravel; no water. At eight miles the red sand hills commence, covered with spinifex; and on the small flats mulga scrub, which continues to the base of the hill. Red loose sand; no water. Distance, twenty miles from Mount Beddome to this hill. The country good, until we get among the spinifex.
Wednesday, 4th April, Mount Humphries. At break of day ascended the mount, which is composed of a soft white coarse sandstone. On the top is a quantity of water-worn quartz, cemented into large masses. The view is much the same as from Mount Beddome, broken ranges all round the horizon, and apparently a dense scrub from south-west to west. It then becomes an open and grassy country, with alternate patches of scrub. I can see a gum creek about two miles distant; I can also see water in it, which the horses have not yet discovered. I shall therefore go in that direction, and give them a drink. To the north and eastward the country appears good. Went to the aforesaid water, to see if there is any that I can depend upon. On my return, wanting to correct my instrument, which met with an accident three or four days ago, by the girths getting under the horse’s belly (he bolted and kicked it off), I sent Kekwick to examine the creek that I saw coming from the north. He says there is plenty of water to serve our purpose. The creek is very large, with the finest gum-trees we have yet seen, all sizes and heights. This seems to be a favourite place for the natives to camp, as there are eleven worleys in one encampment. We saw here a number of new parrots, the black cockatoo, and numerous other birds. The creek runs over a space of about two miles, coming from the west; the bed sandy. After leaving it, on a bearing of 329 degrees, for nine miles, we passed over a plain of as fine a country as any man would wish to see–a beautiful red soil covered with grass a foot high; after that it becomes a little sandy. At fifteen miles we got into some sand hills, but the feed was still most abundant. I have not passed through such splendid country since I have been in the colony. I only hope it may continue. The creek I have named the Finke, after William Finke, Esquire, of Adelaide, my sincere and tried friend, and one of the liberal supporters of the different explorations I have had the honour to lead. Wind south-east. Cloudy.
Thursday, April 5th, Good Country. Started on the same course to some hills, through sand hills and spinifex for ten miles. Halted for half an hour to obtain an observation of the sun, 117 degrees 6 minutes. Within the last mile or two we have passed a few patches of shea-oak, growing large, having a very rough and thick bark, nearly black. They have a dismal appearance. The spinifex now ceased, and grass began to take its place as we approached the hills. From the top of the hill the view is limited, except to the south-west, where, in the far distance, is a long range. The country between seems to be scrub, red sand hills, and spinifex. To the west the country is open, but at five miles is intercepted by the point of the range that I am about to cross. To the north-west and east is a mass of flat-topped hills, of every size and shape, running always to the east. Camped on the head of a small gum creek, among the hills, which are composed of the same description of stones as the others. This water hole is three feet deep, and will last a month or so. The native cucumber is growing here.
Friday, 6th April, Small Gum Creek in Range of Hills. Started on the same course, 330 degrees, to a remarkable hill, which has the appearance at this distance of a locomotive engine with its funnel. For three miles the country is very good, but after that high sand hills succeeded, covered with spinifex. At six miles we got to one of the largest gum creeks I have yet seen. It is much the same as the one we saw on the 4th, and the water in it is running. Great difficulty in crossing it, its bed being quicksand. We were nearly across, when I saw a black fellow among the bushes; I pulled up, and called to him. At first he seemed at a loss to know where the sound came from. As soon, however, as he saw the other horses coming up, he took to his heels, and was off like a shot, and we saw no more of him. As far as I can judge, the creek comes from the south-west, but the sand hills are so high, and the large black shea-oak so thick, that I cannot distinguish the creek very well. These trees look so much like gums in the distance; some of them are very large, as also are the gums in the creek. Numerous tracks of blacks all about. It is the upper part of the Finke, and at this point runs through high sand hills (red), covered with spinifex, which it is very difficult to get the horses through. We passed through a few patches of good grassy country. In the sand hills the oak is getting more plentiful. We were three-quarters of an hour in crossing the creek, and obtained an observation of the sun, 116 degrees 26 minutes 15 seconds. We then proceeded on the same course towards the remarkable pillar, through high, heavy sand hills, covered with spinifex, and, at twelve miles from last night’s camp, arrived at it. It is a pillar of sandstone, standing on a hill upwards of one hundred feet high. From the base of the pillar to its top is about one hundred and fifty feet, quite perpendicular; and it is twenty feet wide by ten feet deep, with two small peaks on the top. I have named it Chambers Pillar, in honour of James Chambers, Esquire, who, with William Finke, Esquire, has been my great supporter in all my explorations. To the north and north-east of it are numerous remarkable hills, which have a very striking effect in the landscape; they resemble nothing so much as a number of old castles in ruins; they are standing in the midst of sand hills. Proceeded, still on the same course, through the sand rises, spinifex, and low sandstone hills, at the foot of which we saw some rain water, where I camped. To the south-west are some high hills, through which I think the Finke comes. I would follow it up, but the immense quantity of sand in its bed shows that it comes from a sandy country, which I wish to avoid if I can. Wind south-east. Heavy clouds; very like rain.
Saturday, 7th April, Rain Water under Sandstone Hills. Started on the same course 330 degrees, over low sand rises and spinifex, for six miles. It then became a plain of red soil, with mulga bushes, and for seven miles was as fine a grassed country as any one would wish to look at; it could be cut with a scythe. Dip of the country to the east, sand hills to the west; afterwards it became alternate sand hills and grassy plains, mulga, mallee, and black oak. From the top of one of the sand hills, I can see a range which our line will cut; I shall make to the foot of that to-night, and I expect I shall find a creek with water there. Proceeded through another long plain sloping towards the creek, and covered with grass. At about one mile from the creek we again met with sand hills and spinifex, which continued to it. Arrived and camped; found water. It is very broad, with a sandy bottom, which will not retain water long; beautiful grass on both banks. Wind east, and cool.
Sunday, 8th April, The Hugh Gum Creek. I have named this creek the Hugh, and the range James Range. It is scrubby on this side and is not flat-topped as all the others have been, which indicates a change of country. On the other side the bearing is nearly east and west. Examined the creek, but cannot find sufficient water to depend upon for any length of time; the gum-trees are large. Numerous parrots, black cockatoos, and other birds. Wind east; very cold during the night.
Monday, 9th April, The Hugh Gum Creek. Started for the highest point of the James range. At four miles arrived on the top, through a very thick scrub of mulga; the range is composed of soft red sandstone, long blocks of it lying on the side. To the east, apparently red sand hills, beyond which are seen the tops of other hills to the north-east. On the north-west the view is intercepted by a high, broken range, with two very remarkable bluffs about the centre. I shall direct my course to the east bluff, which is apparently the higher of the two. In the intermediate country are three lower ranges, between which are flats of green grass, and red sand hills. To the west are grassy flats next to the creek; beyond these are seen the tops of distant ranges and broken hills; at about six miles the Hugh seems to turn more to the north, towards a very rough range of red sandstone. We then descended into a grassy flat with a few gum-trees. We have had a very great difficulty in crossing the range, and now I am again stopped by another low range of the same description, which is nearly perpendicular–huge masses of red sandstone on its side, and in the valley a number of old native camps. After following the range three miles, we at last found out a place to cross it. Although this is not half the height of James range, we encountered far more difficulty; the scrub was very dense, a great quantity having withered and fallen down: we could scarcely get the horses to face it. Our course was also intercepted by deep, perpendicular ravines, which we were obliged to round after a great deal of trouble, having our saddlebags torn to pieces, and our skin and clothes in the same predicament. We arrived at the foot nearly naked, and got into open sandy rises and valleys, with mulga and plenty of grass, among which there is some spinifex growing. At sundown, after having gone about eight miles further, we made a large gum creek, in which we found some water; it is very broad, with a sand and gravel bottom. Camped, both men and horses being very tired.
Tuesday, 10th April, Gum Creek, Bend of the Hugh. I find our saddle-bags and harness are so much torn and broken that I cannot proceed until they are repaired. I am compelled with great reluctance to remain here to-day. This creek is running to the west. On ascending a sand hill this morning, I find that it is the Hugh (which seems to drain the sand hills) that we saw to the east from the top of James range. There is another branch between us and the high ranges. At about four miles west it seems to break through the rough range and join the Hugh. A large number of native encampments here, and rushes are growing in and about the creek: there is plenty of water.
Wednesday, 11th April, Bend of the Hugh. Got the things put pretty well to rights, and started towards the high bluff. I find that my poor little mare, Polly, has got staked in the fetlock-joint, and is nearly dead lame; but I must proceed. At six miles and a half we again crossed the Hugh, and at another mile found it coming through the range, which is a double one. The south range is red sandstone, the next is hard white stone, and also red sandstone, with a few hills of ironstone; a well-grassed valley lying between. The two gorges are rocky, and in some places perpendicular, with some gum-trees growing on the sides. The cucumber plant thrives here in great quantities, and water is abundant. At twelve miles we got through both the gorges of the range, which I have named the Waterhouse Range, after the Honourable the Colonial Secretary. The country between last night’s camp and the range is a red sandy soil, with a few sand hills, on which is growing the spinifex, but the valleys between are broad and beautifully grassed. At fifteen miles again crossed the Hugh, coming from the east, with splendid gum-trees of every size lining the banks. The pine was also met with here for the first time. There is a magnificent hole of water here, long and deep, with rushes growing round it. I think it is a spring; the water seems to come from below a large bed of conglomerate quartz. I should say it was permanent. Black cockatoos and other birds abound here, and there are numbers of native tracks all about. I hoped to-day to have gained the top of the bluff, which is still seven or eight miles off, and appears to be so very rough that I anticipate a deal of difficulty in crossing it. I am forced to halt at this bend of the creek, in consequence of the little mare becoming so lame that she is unable to proceed further to-day. Our hands are very bad from being torn by the scrub, and the flies are a perfect torment. Indications of scurvy are beginning to show themselves upon us. Wind west; cool night.
Thursday 12th April, The Hugh. Started for the bluff. At eight miles we again struck the creek coming from the west, and several other gum creeks coming from the range and joining it. We have now entered the lower hills of the range. Again have we travelled through a splendid country for grass, but as we approached the creek it became a little stony. At twelve miles we found a number of springs in the range. Here I obtained an observation of the sun. As we approached near the bluff, our route became very difficult; we could not get up the creek for precipices, and were obliged to turn in every direction. About two miles from where I obtained the observation, we arrived with great difficulty at the foot of the bluff; it has taken us all the afternoon. I expected to have gone to the top of it to-night, but it is too late. It will take half a day, it is so high and rough. We are camped at a good spring, where I have found a very remarkable palm-tree, with light-green fronds ten feet long, having small leaves a quarter of an inch in breadth, and about eight inches in length, and a quarter of an inch apart, growing from each side, and coming to a sharp point. They spread out like the top of the grass-tree, and the fruit has a large kernel about the size of an egg, with a hard shell; the inside has the taste of a cocoa-nut, but when roasted is like a potato. Here we have also the india-rubber tree, the cork-tree, and several new plants. This is the only real range that I have met with since leaving the Flinders range. I have named it the McDonnell Range, after his Excellency the Governor-in-Chief of South Australia, as a token of my gratitude for his kindness to me on many occasions. The east bluff I have named Brinkley Bluff, after Captain Brinkley, of Adelaide, and the west one I have named Hanson Bluff, after the Honourable R. Hanson, of Adelaide. The range is composed of gneiss rock and quartz.
Friday, 13th April, Brinkley Bluff, McDonnell Range. At sunrise I ascended the bluff, which is the most difficult hill I have ever climbed; it took me an hour and a half to reach the top. It is very high, and is composed principally of igneous rock, with a little ironstone, much the same as the ranges down the country. On reaching the top, I was disappointed; the view was not so good as I expected, in consequence of the morning being so very hazy. I have, however, been enabled to decide what course to take. To the south-west the Waterhouse and James ranges seem to join. At west-south-west they are hidden by one of the spurs of the McDonnell range. To the north-west the view is intercepted by another point of this range, on which is a high peak, which I have named Mount Hay, after the Honourable Alexander Hay, the Commissioner of Crown Lands. About five miles to the north are numerous small spurs, beyond which there is an extensive wooded or scrubby plain; and beyond that, in the far distance, is another range, broken by a high conical hill, bearing about west-north-west, to which I will go, after getting through the range. To the north-east is the end of another range coming from the south. On this, which I have named Strangway Range, after the Honourable the Attorney-General, is another high hill. Beyond is a luminous, hazy appearance, as if it proceeded from a large body of water. A little more to the east there are three high hills; the middle one, which I should think is upwards of thirty miles from us, is the highest, and is bluff at both ends; it seems to be connected with Strangway range. To the east is a complete mass of ranges, with the same luminous appearance behind them. I had a terrible job in getting down the bluff; one false step and I should have been dashed to pieces in the abyss below; I was thankful when I arrived safely at the foot. I find that I have taken the wrong creek to get through the bluff. The Hugh still comes in that way, but more to the westward. Started at 10 o’clock; the hills very bad to get over; wind easterly. Camped at sundown on the creek; there is an abundance of water, which apparently is permanent, from the number of rushes growing all about it. The feed is splendid. There are a number of fresh native tracks.
Saturday, 14th April, McDonnell Range. Started at 8 o’clock to follow the creek, as it seems to be the best way of getting through the other ranges; but, as it comes too much from the east, I must leave it, and get through at some of the low hills further down. This we at last contrived to do after a severe struggle. It has taken us the whole day to come about five miles. We are now camped, north of the bluff, at a gorge, in which there is a good spring of water; the creeks now run north from the range.
Sunday, 15th April, The North Gorge of McDonnell Range. I ascended the high hill on the east side of the gorge; the atmosphere being much clearer, I got a better view of the country. To the north-west, between the McDonnell range and the conical hill north-north-west, is a large plain, apparently scrub; no hills on the horizon, but a light shade in the far distance; the conical hill bears 340 degrees from this; it appears to be high. From the foot of this, for about five miles, is an open grassy country, with a few small patches of bushes. A number of gum creeks come from the ranges, and seem to empty themselves in the plains. The country in the ranges is as fine a pastoral hill-country as a man would wish to possess; grass to the top of the hills, and abundance of water through the whole of the ranges. I forgot to mention that the nut we found on the south side of the range is not fit to eat; it caused both men to vomit violently. I ate one, but it had no bad effect on me.
Monday, 16th April, The North Gorge of McDonnell Range. Started at 9 o’clock to cross the scrub for the distant high peak. For five miles the plain was open and well grassed: afterwards it became thick, with mulga bushes and other scrubs. At twenty miles we again encountered the spinifex, which continued until we camped after dark. Distance, thirty miles. Met with no creek or watercourse after leaving the McDonnell ranges.
Tuesday, 17th April, In the Scrub. Got an early start, and continued through the scrub and spinifex on the same course, 340 degrees. At three miles passed a small stony hill, about two miles to the west of our course. At eighteen miles saw to the west two prominent bluff hills, and two or three small ones, about ten miles distant from us. At thirty-two miles crossed a strong rise. There are three reap-hook hills about three miles west, their steep side facing the south. At sundown reached the hills. At two miles passed a small sandy gum creek, the only watercourse we have seen between the two ranges. Followed the range to the north-west till after dark, hoping to find a gum creek coming from the range, but without success; nothing but rocky and sandy watercourses. Camped. The poor horses again without water; I trust that I shall find some for them in the morning; if not, I shall have to return to the McDonnell range. Very little rain seems to have fallen here; the grass is all dried up. The spinifex continues until within a mile of the range. The small gum creek that we passed is running south-west into the scrub.
Wednesday, 18th April, Under the High Peak, Mount Freeling. At daybreak sent Kekwick in search of water, while I ascended the high mount to see if any could be seen from that place. To my great delight I beheld a little in a creek on the other side of the range, bearing 113 degrees, about a mile and a half. I find this is not quite the highest point of the range; there is another hill, still higher, about fifteen miles further to the north-north-west. About two miles off I can see a gum creek looking very green, coming from the range in the direction in which I have sent Kekwick, where I hope he will find water. The country from west to north-east is a mass of hills and broken ranges; to the south-west high broken ranges. To the north-north-east is another hill, with a plain of scrub between. To the south-east scrub, with tops of hills in the far distance. Brinkley Bluff bears 166 degrees and Mount Hay 186 degrees. Returned to the camp, and find to my great satisfaction that Kekwick has discovered some water in the creek about two miles off. I am very glad of it, for I am sure that some of my horses would not have stood the journey back without it. I must not leave this range without endeavouring to find a permanent water, as no rain seems to have fallen to the north of us; everything is so dry, one would think it was the middle of summer. The sun is also very hot, but the nights and mornings are cool. Wind east. Old tracks and native camps about. The range is composed of the same description of rocks as the McDonnell ranges, with rather more quartz than mica. We here found new shrubs and flowers, also a small brown pigeon with a crest. I have built a small cone of stones on the peak, and named it Mount Freeling, after the Honourable Colonel Freeling, Surveyor-General. The range I have called the Reynolds, after the Honourable Thomas Reynolds, the Treasurer.
Thursday, 19th April, Mount Hugh. The horses separated during the night, and were not found until after one o’clock. Moved to the east side of the mount to where I had seen the water from the top. We found plenty of water in the gum creek which is the head of the one we crossed on Tuesday night, just before making the range. We were obliged to come a long way round before we could get to it, the hills being all rough sharp rocks, impassable for horses; abundance of grass with a little spinifex on the hills. At this camp I have marked a tree “J. M.D. S.”; the cone of stones on the top of the mount bears 293 degrees. Ten miles distant in a branch creek about half a mile to the north of this is more water; and a little higher up, in a ledge of rocks, is a splendid reservoir of water, thirty yards in diameter and about one hundred yards in circumference. We could not get to the middle to try the depth, but where we tried it it was twelve feet deep. A few yards higher up is another ledge of rocks, behind which is a second reservoir, but smaller, having a drainage into the former one. Native tracks about. Wind north. I have named this Anna’s Reservoir, after Mr. James Chambers’ youngest daughter.
Friday, 20th April, East Side of Mount Hugh. Started to the south-east to find a crossing place over the range; this was not an easy matter, from the roughness of the hills; at last, however, we got over it. On the other side we found a large gum creek with water in it, running to the north-east. Camped. The range is well grassed, with gum creeks coming from it, and a little mulga scrub. Here we have discovered a new tree, whose dark-green leaf has the shape of two wide prongs; the seed or bean, of which I have obtained a few, is of a red colour; the foliage is very thick. The stem of the largest we have seen is about eighteen inches in diameter. The wood is soft; when in the state of a bush it has thorns on it like a rose. Here we have also obtained some seed of the vegetable we have been using; we have found this vegetable most useful; it can be eaten as a salad, boiled as a vegetable, or cooked as a fruit. We have also some other seeds of new flowers. The bearing from this to the cone of stones on Hugh Mount, 233 degrees 45 minutes.
Saturday, 21st April, Gum Creek, East Side of Mount Freeling. Started at half-past seven across the scrub to another high hill. For seven miles the scrub is open, and the land beautifully grassed. At twelve miles from the camp we crossed another gum creek, coming from the range; as far as I could see it ran to the north-east. After seven miles the scrub became much thicker. We had great difficulty in getting through, from the quantity of dead timber, which has torn our saddle-bags and clothes to pieces. There are a number of gum-trees, and the new tree that was found on Captain Sturt’s expedition, 1844, but mulga predominates. At fourteen miles we struck a large gum plain, but after a short time again entered the scrub. At about twenty-two miles met another arm of the gum plains, with large granite rocks nearly level with the surface. We found rain water in the holes of these rocks. At thirty-two miles crossed the sandy bed of a large gum creek divided into a number of channels; too dark to see any water. Four miles further on, camped on a small gum creek with a little rain water; the creeks are running to the north-east. The soil is of a red sandy colour: the grass most abundant throughout the whole day’s journey. Occasionally we met with a few hundred yards of spinifex. Wind south-east. Native tracks quite fresh in the scrub and plain; we also passed several old worleys.
Sunday, 22nd April, Small Gum Creek, under Mount Stuart, Centre of Australia. To-day I find from my observations of the sun, 111 degrees 00 minutes 30 seconds, that I am now camped in the centre of Australia. I have marked a tree and planted the British flag there. There is a high mount about two miles and a half to the north-north-east. I wish it had been in the centre; but on it to-morrow I will raise a cone of stones, and plant the flag there, and name it Central Mount Stuart. We have been in search of permanent water to-day, but cannot find any. I hope from the top of Central Mount Stuart to find something good to the north-west. Wind south. Examined a large creek; can find no surface water, but got some by scratching in the sand. It is a large creek divided into many channels, but they are all filled with sand; splendid grass all round this camp.
CENTRAL MOUNT STUART.
Monday, 23rd April, Centre. Took Kekwick and the flag, and went to the top of the mount, but found it to be much higher and more difficult of ascent than I anticipated. After a deal of labour, slips, and knocks, we at last arrived on the top. It is quite as high as Mount Serle, if not higher. The view to the north is over a large plain of gums, mulga, and spinifex, with watercourses running through it. The large gum creek that we crossed winds round this hill in a north-east direction; at about ten miles it is joined by another. After joining they take a course more north, and I lost sight of them in the far-distant plain. To the north-north-east is the termination of the hills; to the north-east, east and south-east are broken ranges, and to the north-north-west the ranges on the west side of the plain terminate. To the north-west are broken ranges; and to the west is a very high peak, between which and this place to the south-west are a number of isolated hills. Built a large cone of stones, in the centre of which I placed a pole with the British flag nailed to it. Near the top of the cone I placed a small bottle, in which there is a slip of paper, with our signatures to it, stating by whom it was raised. We then gave three hearty cheers for the flag, the emblem of civil and religious liberty, and may it be a sign to the natives that the dawn of liberty, civilization, and Christianity is about to break upon them. We can see no water from the top. Descended, but did not reach the camp till after dark. This water still continues, which makes me think there must certainly be more higher up. I have named the range John Range, after my friend and well-wisher, John Chambers, Esquire, brother to James Chambers, Esquire, one of the promoters of this expedition.
Tuesday, 24th April, Central Mount Stuart. Sent Kekwick in search of water, and to examine a hill that has the appearance of having a cone of stones upon it; meanwhile I made up my plan, and Ben mended the saddlebags, which were in a sad mess from coming through the scrub. Kekwick returned in the afternoon, having found water higher up the creek. He has also found a new rose of a beautiful description, having thorns on its branches, and a seed-vessel resembling a gherkin. It has a sweet, strong perfume; the leaves are white, but as the flower is withered, I am unable to describe it. The native orange-tree abounds here. Mount Stuart is composed of hard red sandstone, covered with spinifex, and a little scrub on the top. The white ant abounds in the scrubs, and we even found some of their habitations near the top of Mount Stuart.
Wednesday, 25th April, Central Mount Stuart. There is a remarkable hill about two miles to the west, having another small hill at the north end in the shape of a bottle; this I have named Mount Esther, at the request of the maker of the flag. Started at 9 o’clock, on a course a little north of west, to the high peak that I saw from the top of Mount Stuart, which bears 272 degrees. My reason for going west is that I do not like the appearance of the country to the north for finding water; it seems to be sandy. From the peak I expect to find another stratum to take me up to the north-north-west. Around the mount and on the west side, the country is well grassed, and red sandy soil; no stones. To the north and south of our line are several isolated hills, composed principally of granite. At ten miles there is a quartz reef on the north side of the south hills. At twelve miles struck a gum creek coming from the south and running to the north; it has three channels. We found a little rain water in one, and camped, to enable us to finish the mending of the saddle-bags. Wind east; very cold morning and night. The large creek that flowed round Mount Stuart is named the Hanson, after the Honourable R. Hanson, of Adelaide.
Thursday, 26th April, Gum Creek on West Course. Started at a quarter past 8 o’clock on the same course for the high peak. At two miles crossed some low granite and quartz hills; and at four miles crossed a gum creek running to the north with sand and gravel beds. No water. The country then became difficult to get through, in consequence of the number of dead mulga bushes. At ten miles the grass ceased, and spinifex took its place, and continued to the banks of the next gum creek, which we crossed at twenty-two miles; the bed sandy, and divided into a number of channels, coming from the south-east, and running a little to the east of north, but no water in them. Native tracks in its bed. On the west side of the creek the grass again begins, and continues to the hills, where we arrived at five minutes to 7. Camped without water. There seems to have been very little rain here–the grass and everything else is quite dry. Distance, thirty-eight miles.
Friday, 27th April, East Side of Mount Denison. Sent Kekwick to the south-west to a remarkable hill which I hope may yield some water, with orders to return immediately if he should find any nearer, so that we might get some for the horses. I waited till past 12, but he did not return, so I started, intending to go to the top of the mount. On getting to the north-east side of the ranges, I liked the appearance of the country for water, and seeing that the top of the mount was still some distance off, and that it would make it too late to return, I set to work myself to look for water. After an hour’s search I was successful, finding some rain water in a gum creek coming from the hills. The natives must have been there quite recently, as their fires were still warm; and, as I had left the camp and provisions with only one man, I hurried back, had the horses saddled and packed, and brought them down to the water, leaving a note for Kekwick to follow in a west-north-west direction to a gum creek about three miles distant. Kekwick’s search was also successful; he found permanent water under the high peak to which I sent him, and which I have named Mount Leichardt, in memory of that unfortunate explorer, whose fate is still a mystery. I have seen no trace of his having passed to the westward. Kekwick describes the water he has found as abundant and beautifully clear, springing out of conglomerate rock much resembling marble; its length is upwards of a quarter of a mile, falling into natural basins in the solid rock, some six feet in depth and of considerable capacity. The country round the base of the range is covered with the most luxuriant grass and vegetation. Mount Leichardt and the range are composed, at their base, of a soft conglomerate rock in immense irregular masses, heaped one on the other; the higher part where the spring appears is of the same conglomerate, but broad and solid, having smooth faces, which makes the ascent very difficult.
Saturday, 28th April, Gum Creek under Mount Denison. As soon as the horses were caught I started for the top of the mount. I left my horse in a small rocky gum creek which I thought would lead me to the foot of the mount. At about a quarter of a mile from the mouth of the gorge, I came upon some water in a rocky hole, followed it up, and, two hundred yards further, was stopped by a perpendicular precipice with water trickling over it into a large reservoir. I had now to take to the hills, which were very rough, and after a deal of difficulty I arrived, as I thought, at the top, but to my disappointment I had to go down a fearfully steep gully. At it I went, and again I arrived, as I fancied, at the top, but here again was another gully to cross, and a rise still higher. I have at last arrived at the summit, after a deal of labour and many scratches. This is certainly the highest mountain I have yet ascended; it has taken me full three hours to get to the summit. The view is extensive, but not encouraging. Central Mount Stuart bears 95 degrees. Mount Leichardt, 155 degrees 30 minutes. To the south, broken ranges with wooded plains before them, and in the far distance, scarcely visible, appears to be a very high mountain, a long, long way off. To the south-west the same description of range. About thirty miles to the west is a high mount with open country, and patches of woodland in the foreground. At the north-west there appears to be an immense open plain with patches of wood. To the north is another plain becoming more wooded to the north-east. As this is the highest mountain that I have seen in Central Australia, I have taken the liberty of naming it Mount Denison, after his Excellency Sir William Denison, K.C.B., Governor-General. The next range (bearing 334 degrees), being the last of the highest ones north, I have named Mount Barkly, after his Excellency Sir Henry Barkly, Governor-in-Chief of Victoria. When on the second highest point of this mount, I saw a native smoke rise up in the creek below, a short distance from where I had tied my horse. This naturally made me very anxious for his safety, and when I descended I was rejoiced to find him safe. The natives have been in the creek and on the mount: their tracks, which are quite fresh, lead me to conclude that they have been running. The descent was difficult, but I discovered a shorter route, and it has taken me two hours to come down. Arrived at the camp at 4.30, and found all right. I intended to have built a large cone of stones on the summit; but, when I arrived there, I was too much exhausted to do so. I have, however, erected a small one, placing a little paper below one of the stones, to show that a white man has been there. I have also marked a tree “J. M.D. S.” on the creek where we are now camped. Mount Denison bears from here 249 degrees.
Sunday, 29th April, Gum Creek under Mount Denison. Latitude, 21 degrees 48 minutes. Variation, 3 degrees 20 minutes east. Mount Denison and the surrounding hills are composed of a hard reddish-brown sandstone. About one hundred yards from the summit is a course of conglomerate, composed of stones from half an inch to four inches in diameter, having the appearance of being rounded at a former period by water. From the foot to the top of this course is about ten feet, and the breadth on the top is about twelve feet. There is red sandstone on the summit, with three or four pines growing. The mount and adjoining hill are covered with spinifex, but the plain is grassed. The wind has now changed to the west, and it is much hotter.
Monday, 30th April, Under Mount Denison. The wind changed again to the south-east during the night, and is much colder. Started on a course, 315 degrees, across the plain towards Mount Barkly. The highest point of the mount is eighteen miles distant from our camp on the creek. We had to round the west side of it, finding no water until we came upon a little in the gorge coming from the highest point. It was dark before we arrived, so that we could not take the horses up to-night. Wind south-east, blowing a hurricane, and very cold.
Tuesday, 1st May, North-west Side of Mount Barkly. On examining the water, I find it is only a drainage from the rocks, and there is not more than two gallons for each horse. I ascended the hill, but could see nothing more than I had seen from Mount Denison. The base is composed of a hard red sandstone, the top of quartz rock. I do not like the appearance of the country before us. Started on a course of 335 degrees, and at six miles and a half came upon a large gum creek divided into numerous channels: searched it carefully, without finding any surface water; but I discovered a native well about four feet deep, in the east channel, close to a small hill of rocks. Cleared it out, and watered the horses with a quart pot, which took us long after dark–each horse drinking about ten gallons, and some of them more. Natives have been here lately, and from the tracks they seem to be numerous. We also observed the rose-coloured cockatoo. I have named this creek The Fisher, after Sir James Hurtle Fisher; it runs a little east of north.
Wednesday, 2nd May, The Fisher. We did not start until 11 o’clock in consequence of it taking a long time to water the horses. We steered for some hills that I had seen from the top of the last two mounts. At thirteen miles arrived at the hills, but found them low, and no appearance of water. Changed my course west 35 degrees north to some higher hills. At 6.30 camped in the scrub without water. The country from Mount Denison to this is a light-red sandy soil, covered with spinifex, with very little grass, and is nearly a dead level. In some places it is scrubby, having a number of gum-trees, and the new tree of Captain Sturt growing all over it. From a distance it has the appearance of a good country, and is very deceiving; you constantly think you are coming upon a gum creek. Wind south-east; very cold at night and morning.
Thursday, 3rd May, Spinifex and Gum Plains. Started on the same course, west 35 degrees north, and at four miles reached the top of the hills, which are low and composed of dark-red sandstone and quartz. The bearings to Mount Denison, 146 degrees; Mount Barkly, 142 degrees; to another hill west-north-west, 302 degrees, distant about ten miles, which I have named Mount Turnbull, after the late Gavin Turnbull, Esquire, Surgeon in the Indian Army. The morning is very hazy, and I cannot see distinctly; besides, my eyes are again very bad. The appearance of the country all round is that of having gum creeks everywhere. To the north there are some more low hills. A short distance off, on a bearing of 328 degrees, there appears to be a gum creek with something white as if it were water, so I shall change my course. At 3.50 camped, some of my horses being nearly done up from want of water, and having nothing to eat but spinifex. I have now come eighteen miles, and the plain has the same appearance now as when I first started–spinifex and gum-trees, with a little scrub occasionally. We are expecting every moment to come upon a gum creek, but hope is disappointed. I have not so much as seen a water-course since I left the Fisher, and how far this country may continue it is impossible to tell. I intended to have turned back sooner, but I was expecting every moment to meet with a creek. It is very alluring, and apt to lead the traveller into serious mistakes. I wish I had turned back earlier, for I am almost afraid that I have allowed myself to come too far. I am doubtful if all my horses will be able to get back to water. In rainy weather this country will not retain the water on the surface, and we have not so much as seen a clay-pan of the smallest dimensions. The gum-trees on this plain have a smooth white bark, and the leaves are some light-green and some dark. Most of the trees seem very healthy; there are very few dead ones about. To-morrow morning I must unwillingly retreat to water for my horses. There is no chance of getting to the north-west in this direction, unless this plain soon terminates. From what I could see there is little hope of its doing so for a long distance.
Friday, 4th May, Gum and Spinifex Plains. At times this country is visited by blacks, but it must be seldom, as since we left the Fisher we have only seen the track of one, who seems to have come from the east, and to have returned in that direction. The spinifex in many places has been burnt, and the track of the native was peculiar–not broad and flat, as they generally are, but long and narrow, with a deep hollow in the foot, and the large toe projecting a good deal; the other in some respects more like the print of a white man than of a native. Had I crossed it the day before, I would have followed it. My horses are now suffering too much from the want of water to allow me to do so. If I did, and were not to find water to-night, I should lose the whole of the horses and our own lives into the bargain. I must now retreat to Mount Denison, which I do with great reluctance; it is losing so much time, and my provisions are limited. Started back at 7.10 a.m., and at thirty miles came upon a native well, with a little grass round it; the bottom was moist. Unsaddled, and turned the horses out. Commenced clearing out the well the best way we could, with a quart pot and a small tin dish, having unfortunately lost our shovel in crossing the McDonnell ranges. We had great difficulty in keeping the horses out while we cleared it. To our great disappointment we found the water coming in very slowly. We can only manage, in an hour and a half, to get about six gallons, which must be the allowance for each horse, and it will take us till to-morrow morning to water them all. One of us is required to be constantly with them to keep them back, and that he can hardly do; some of them will get away from him do all he can. Kekwick’s horse was nearly done up before we reached this place; also one of the others. Those nearest to the cart-breed give in first.
Saturday, 5th May, Native Well. Got all the horses watered by 11 o’clock a.m., and could only get about five gallons for each horse, although we were employed the whole of the night, and got no sleep. Started for the Fisher, and arrived at the native well at sundown. Were obliged to tie the horses up, to keep them from getting into it. We could scarcely get some of them as far as this, as they are quite done up. What was still worse, we found the native well had fallen in since we left. It cannot be helped: we must take things as they come. Commenced immediately to cut a number of stakes, rushes, and grass, to keep the sand back, and by 3 o’clock in the morning we got them all watered, and very thankful we were to do so. It has been, and is still, bitter cold throughout the night and morning, the wind still coming from the south-east. We had a pot of tea, although we could ill afford it, and lay down and got a little sleep, completely tired and worn out with hard work and want of rest.
Sunday, 6th May, The Fisher. Got up at daybreak and went to the well, but found that the rascals of horses had been there before us, and trodden in one side of the well. They had as much water last night and morning as they could drink, and the quantity that some of them drank was enormous. I had no idea that a horse could hold so much, yet still they want more. I shall remain here two days, put down more stakes, clear out the well, and give them as much as they will drink. During this trying time I have been very much pleased with the conduct of Kekwick and Ben; they have exerted themselves to the utmost, and everything has been done with the greatest alacrity and cheerfulness. Although they have only had two hours’ sleep during the last two nights, there has not been a single word of dissatisfaction from either of them, which is highly gratifying to me. It is, indeed, a great pleasure to have men that will do their work without grumbling. Watered the horses as they came in. They do not now drink a fourth part of what they did at first.
Monday, 7th May, The Fisher. Had a good night’s rest, and felt recovered from the past fatigue. Started for the creek on the east side of Mount Denison, to the water at which we camped before, keeping to the north side of Mount Barkly in search of water, but could find none. Arrived at the creek after dark. Kekwick’s horse is entirely done up; he had to get off and lead him for two miles. Another of the horses is nearly as bad, but he managed to get to the creek. We found the water greatly reduced, but still enough for us.
Tuesday, 8th May, Creek East of Mount Denison. I must remain here two days to allow the horses to recover. I am afraid if we have such another journey, I shall have to leave some of them behind. I do not know what is the cause of their giving in so soon; I have had horses that have suffered three times as much privation, and yet have held out. The light ones are all right; it is the heavy ones, of the cart-horse breed, that feel it most. I had been keeping them up on purpose for an occasion like this, and they all looked in first-rate condition, but the work of the past week has made a great alteration in some of them. I suppose the young grass is not yet strong enough for them. It is very vexing to be thus disappointed and delayed. To think that they should fail me at the very moment when I expected them to do their best, and after all the trouble and loss of time I have incurred in giving them short journeys! However, I cannot improve it by complaining, and must rest contented and hope for the best. Wind south-east. Storm brewing.
Wednesday, 9th May, Creek East of Mount Denison. Resting horses and putting our things in order. Wind blowing very strong from the south-east; it has continued nearly in the same quarter since March.
Thursday, 10th May, Creek East of Mount Denison. I find that I must give the horses another day; they have not yet recovered, and I expect we shall have some more hard work for them. We have not quite finished mending.
Friday, 11th May, Creek East of Mount Denison. Ben was taken very ill during the night, and is still so bad that I am obliged to remain here another day. Afternoon: Ben feels much better, so I shall start to-morrow.
Saturday, 12th May, Creek East of Mount Denison. Ben is better, and the horses look as if they can stand a little more hardship. Started at 8.20 on a bearing of 28 degrees east of north, to see if I can get on in that direction. For fourteen miles our course was through mulga scrub and spinifex, in some places very thick. At twenty-seven miles camped without water. The country that we have passed over the last two days is apparently destitute of water, even in rainy weather. I do not think the ground would retain it a single day. Very little feed for the horses.
Sunday, 13th May, Scrub and Gum Flat. I do not like the appearance of the country. As I can see no hope of obtaining water on this course, I shall change to the east, in order to cut the large gum creek that I crossed on the 26th ultimo, and, if I find water in it, to follow it out to wherever it goes. At three miles cut a small gum creek: searched for water both up and down, but could find none, nor any appearance of it. Still keeping my east course, we then passed through a very thick mulga scrub, and at ten miles struck a low range of hills, composed of quartz, with a conical peak, which I ascended. The prospect from this is very extensive, but disheartening, apparently the same sort of scrubby country that I have endeavoured to break through to the north-west. The view to the north is dismal; there are a few isolated hills, seemingly the termination of John range, and of the same formation as this that I am now on. To east-south-east there appears to be a creek, to which I shall now go. At three miles I reached what I had supposed to be a creek, but it is a small narrow gum flat which receives the drainage from this low range. We found a hole where there had been water, but it was all gone. I have named the peak Mount Rennie, after Major Rennie of the Indian army. In this small flat we shot a new macaw, which I shall carry with me, and preserve the skin, if we get to water to-night. The front part of the neck and underneath the wings is of a beautiful crimson hue, the back is of a light lead colour, the tail square, the beak smaller than a cockatoo’s, and the crest the same as a macaw’s. After leaving this flat, we passed through some scrub, and came upon another of the same description. Here I narrowly escaped being killed. My attention being engaged looking for water, my horse took fright at a wallaby, and rushed into some scrub, which pulled me from the saddle, my foot and the staff that I carry for placing my compass on catching in the stirrup-iron. Finding that he was dragging me, he commenced kicking at a fearful rate; he struck me on the shoulder joint, knocked my hat off, and grazed my forehead. I soon got clear, but found the kick on my shoulder very painful. Mounted again, and at seven miles we came upon some more low hills with another prominent peak of a dark-red sandstone. This I have named Mount Peake, after E.J. Peake, Esquire, of Adelaide. I now find that the gum creek which I crossed between Central Mount Stuart and Mount Denison runs out and forms the gum plains we have just passed. No hope of water. I must now bear in for the centre to get it. Passed through a very thick, nasty mulga scrub for five miles, and camped again without water under some low stony hills. I feel the effects of my accident very much.
Monday, 14th May, Stony Hills, Mulga Scrub. Feel very stiff and ill. Started at daylight, and passed through three belts of thick mulga scrub, between which there were low stony hills. At three miles passed a small gum creek, emptying itself into the scrub. At seventeen miles passed another, doing the same; at twenty miles another, and at twenty-four miles a third, under the hills north-west of Central Mount Stuart. This has a very remarkable hill at the north-west, in the shape of a large bottle with a long neck. We have had the greatest difficulty in getting all our horses to the water; three of them are very bad; two have been down a dozen times during the journey to-day. On approaching the range, we passed through some large patches of kangaroo grass, growing very thickly, and reaching to my shoulder when in the saddle.
Tuesday, 15th May, Centre. The horses look very bad to-day; I shall therefore give them three or four days’ rest. It is very vexing, but it cannot be helped. The water here will last about ten days. I shall cause another search for more to be made; I myself am too unwell to assist. Yesterday I rode in the greatest pain from the effects of my fall, and it was with great difficulty that I was able to sit in the saddle until we reached here. Scurvy also has taken a very serious hold of me; my hands are a complete mass of sores that will not heal, but, when I remain for two or three days in some place where I can get them well washed, they are much better; if not, they are worse than ever, and I am rendered nearly helpless. My mouth and gums are now so bad that I am obliged to eat flour and water boiled. The pains in my limbs and muscles are almost insufferable. Kekwick is also suffering from bad hands, but, as yet, has no other symptoms. I really hope and trust that it will not be the cause of my having to turn back. I suffered dreadfully during the past night. This afternoon the wind has changed to the west–the first time since March; a few clouds are coming up in that direction.
Wednesday, 16th May, Centre. I despatched Kekwick at daybreak in search of permanent water, with orders to devote the whole of two days to that purpose. I must now do everything that is in my power to break this barrier that prevents me from getting to the north. If I could only get one hundred and twenty miles from this, I think there would be a chance of reaching the coast. I wish the horses could endure the want of water a day or two longer, but I fear they cannot; this last journey has tried them to their utmost. Two of them look very wretched to-day, and will with difficulty get over it; one I scarcely think will do so. I should not have been afraid to have risked two more days with five of them. If they had been all like these five, I should have tried to the north-west a degree and back again without water. I have been suffering dreadfully during the past three weeks from pains in the muscles, caused by the scurvy, but the last two nights they have been most excruciating. Violent pains darted at intervals through my whole body. My powers of endurance were so severely tested, that, last night, I almost wished that death would come and relieve me from my fearful torture. I am so very weak that I must with patience abide my time, and trust in the Almighty. This morning I feel a little easier; the medicines I brought with me are all bad, and have no effect. The wind still from the north-west, with a few light clouds. Towards sundown the wind has changed to the south-west; heavy clouds coming from the north-west.
Thursday, 17th May, Centre. Wind from the south; the heavy clouds continued until sunrise, and then cleared off. I fully expected some rain, but was disappointed. I have again had another dreadful night of suffering; I had, however, about two hours’ sleep, which, as it was the only sleep I have had for the last three nights, was a great boon. This morning I observe that the muscles of my limbs are changing from yellow-green to black; my mouth is getting worse, and it is with difficulty that I can swallow anything. I am determined not to give in; I shall move about as long as I am able. I only wish the horses had been all right, and then I should not have stayed here so long. Kekwick returned at 3 o’clock, and reported having found water in the Hanson, about fifteen miles from Central Mount Stuart, but only a small supply. Beyond that the creek divides into two, one running north and the other east, but he could see no more water further down. He also saw two natives, armed with long spears, about three hundred yards off; they did not observe him, and he thought it most prudent not to show himself, but to remain behind a thick bush until they were gone. In this instance I regret his caution, for I am anxious to see or hear what is the appearance of the Central natives. Wind variable, with heavy clouds from north-west.
Friday, 18th May, Centre. I have again had a very bad night, and feel unable to move to-day. Wind the same.
Saturday, 19th May, Centre. I had a few hours’ sleep last night, which has been of great benefit to me. I shall attempt to move down to the water in the Hanson. Arrived there about 1.30 completely done up from the motion of the horse. The water is a few inches below the surface in the sand. East side of Mount Stuart bearing 250 degrees, about ten miles distant. I do not think the water is permanent.
Sunday, 20th May, The Hanson. Another dreadful night for me. Wind and clouds still coming from the north-west, but no rain.
Monday, 21st May, The Hanson. Unable to move; very ill indeed. When shall I get relief from this dreadful state?
Tuesday, 22nd May, The Hanson. I got a little sleep last night, and feel a great deal easier this morning, and shall try my horse back again. I shall now steer north-east to a range of hills that I saw from the top of Central Mount Stuart, and hope from these to obtain an entrance to the north-west or north-east. I also hope to cut the creek that carries off the surplus water from all the creeks which I have passed since March. It must go somewhere, for it is difficult to believe that those numerous bodies of water can be consumed by evaporation. Started on a bearing of 48 degrees, crossed the Hanson, running a little on our right; at six miles crossed it again, running more to the north for two miles further. We crossed four more of its courses, all running in the same direction. The most easterly one is spread over a large salt-creek valley, and forms a lagoon at the foot of some sand ridges, the highest of which is ten miles and a half from our last camp. On the east side of it there is a large lagoon, five miles long by one mile and a half broad, in which water has lately been, but it is now dry. We then proceeded through a little scrub, with splendid grass, and at twelve miles cut a small gum creek, coming from the range. We saw a number of birds about, and there were tracks of natives, quite fresh, in the creek. Sent Kekwick down it to see if there were water, while I went up and examined it. This is the large gum plain that we met with the day we made the Centre; it is completely covered with grass. Kekwick ran the creek out. At about two miles he observed a little water in the creek, where the natives had been digging. He also came upon two of them, and two little children. They did not observe him until he was within fifty yards, when they stood for a few minutes paralysed with astonishment; then, snatching up the children, ran off as quickly as their legs could carry them. They did not utter a sound, although he called to them. He remarked that they had no hair on their heads, or it was as short as if it had been burned off close. I wish I had seen them; I should have overtaken them and seen if it were a fact that the hair was burnt. It is reported in Adelaide that there are natives in the interior without hair on their bodies. At fourteen miles we again struck the creek, and found plenty of water in it. It winds all over the plain in every direction. Camped for the night very much done up. I could hardly sit in my saddle for this short distance. Wind north-west.
Wednesday, 23rd May, Gum Creek, East Range, the Stirling. The wind has changed again to the south-east. I have named this creek the Stirling, after the Honourable Edward Stirling, M.L.C. Followed it into the range on the same course towards a bluff, where I think I shall find an easy crossing. At one mile from the camp the hills commenced on the south-east side of the creek, but on the north-west side they commenced three miles further back. There was abundance of water in the creek for thirteen miles; at ten miles there was another large branch with water coming from the south-east. At fourteen miles ascended the bluff and obtained the following bearings: South side of the creek, to a high part of the range about two miles off (which I have named Mount Gwynne, after his Honour, Justice Gwynne), 186 degrees. North side of the creek, to another hill about two miles and a half off (which I have named Mount Mann, in memory of the late Commissioner of Insolvency), 249 degrees. Central Mount Stuart bears 131 degrees to the highest point. At the north-west termination of the next range, to which I shall now go, there are two very large hills, the north one, which is the highest, I have named Mount Strzelecki, after Count Strzelecki, bearing 358 degrees. I have named the high peak on the same range Mount Morphett, after the Honourable John Morphett, M.L.C. The view from this bluff is extensive, except to the west-north-west, which is hidden by this range just alluded to, which I have named Forster Range, after the Honourable Anthony Forster, M.L.C. From the south-west it has the appearance of a long continuous range, but, on entering it, it is much broken into irregular and rugged hills: on this side, the north-east, it consists of table-hills, with a number of rugged isolated ones on the north side. To the north-west there is another scrubby and gum-tree plain; to the north-north-west are some isolated low ranges; to the north are grassy plains and low ranges; to the east are several spurs from this range, which is composed of a very hard dark-red stone, mixed with small round quartz and ironstone, and in some places a hard flinty quartz. The range and hills are covered with spinifex, but the valleys are beautifully grassed. We descended, and at four miles struck a creek coming from the range, and running between two low ranges towards the north-east. At seven miles changed my course to north-east to camp in the creek, and endeavour to get water for the horses before encountering the scrubby plains to-morrow morning. At five miles came upon a low range, but no creek; it must have gone further to the eastward. It being now quite dark, we camped under the ranges. Since I changed my course I have come through a patch of mulga and other scrubs with plenty of grass, but no watercourses. Wind south-east; heavy clouds from the north-west; lightning in the south and west.
Thursday, 24th May, Range of Low Hills. This morning I feel very ill from climbing the bluff yesterday; I had no sleep during the night, the pains being so very violent. About 9 o’clock we had a heavy shower of rain, and a little more during the night. Very late before the horses were found, and the atmosphere very thick, with the prospect of rain for the rest of the day. This and my being so ill have decided me to remain here until to-morrow, there being sufficient rain water for the horses. A few more light showers during the afternoon and evening. Wind still the same; heavy clouds from the north-west.
Friday, 25th May, Range of Low Hills. I feel better this morning. The clouds have all gone during the night, and it is now quite clear. Started for Mount Strzelecki, passing through some very thick mulga scrub, with a few gum-trees and plenty of grass. At twenty-one miles came upon a small gum creek, where we gave the horses water, filled our own canteens, and proceeded to the foot of the mount and camped. At a mile from its base the spinifex begins again. Wind south-east. Very cold.
Saturday, 26th May, Mount Strzelecki. Ascended the mount, and built a cone of stones. To the east are hills connected with this range, which I have named Crawford Range, after —- Crawford, Esquire, of Adelaide. To the east-north-east is a large wooded undulating plain, with another range in the extreme distance. To the north-east the distant range continues with the same plain between. At a bearing of 55 degrees is a large lagoon, in which there appears to be a little water. To the north-north-east the plain appears to be rather more scrubby, and with a few sand hills. To the north the point of the distant range is lost sight of by some high scrubby land. To the west there are a few low hills, from fifteen to twenty-five miles distant. This range is composed of a hard flinty quartz, partly of a blue colour, with a little ironstone. We can find no permanent water in this range, but, from the two or three native tracks, quite fresh, which we have passed, I think there must be some about. Descended, and proceeded round the range to the lagoon, the range being too rough to cross. There is not enough water to be a drink for the horses. Camped. Very heavy clouds from the north-west. The mount is about four miles distant. At sundown there was a beautiful rain for an hour. It is very strange, the clouds come from the north-west, and the wind from the south-east. The rain seems to be coming against the wind.
Sunday, 27th May, Lagoon North-east of Mount Strzelecki. We had a few heavy showers during the night, but it seems as if the rain would now clear off. I hope not, for there is only about two inches of water in the lagoon. I am again suffering much pain from the exertion it cost me to climb Mount Strzelecki, and from assisting in building the cone of stones; but if I did not put my hands to almost everything that is required, I should never get on. My party is too small. It is killing work.
Monday, 28th May, Lagoon North-east of Mount Strzelecki. We could not get a start till 9.15, the horses having strayed to a distant bank for shelter from the wind, which was piercingly cold. I had, in the first instance, to go three miles north-north-west, in order to clear the low stony range that runs on to the east side of the lagoon. I then changed to 22 degrees to the far-distant range. For the first three miles our course was through a very thick mulga scrub, with plenty of grass, and occasionally a little spinifex; it then changed to a slightly undulating country of a reddish soil, with gum and cork-trees, and numerous low sandy plains, much resembling the gum and spinifex plains to the west, where I was twice beaten back. It certainly is a desert country. Camped without water on a little patch of grass. Distance to-day, twenty-eight miles. Wind south-east. Very cold all day.
Tuesday, 29th May, Scrub, Spinifex and Gum-Trees. Started at 8 on the same course for the range, which is still distant, through the same description of country. At seven miles we came upon a plain of long grass, which seems to have been flooded. It is about two miles broad. Between this and the first hill of the range we passed four more of the same description. Distance to the first hill, fourteen miles. In another mile we struck a small creek; searched for water, but could find none, although birds were numerous; thence through another mulga scrub, and after crossing a number of rough stony hills, we arrived at the top of the range, which I have named Davenport Range, after the Honourable Samuel Davenport, M.L.C. It is composed of hard red sandstone, with courses of quartz. I find this is not the range for which I am bound. Although this one is high, the other is still higher, and, I should think, is still forty or fifty miles distant. The day is thick, and I cannot see distinctly. Between these ranges is a large plain, more open than those we have come over. To the north the range appears to terminate; to the west of north, in the far distance, just visible, are two high hills, the northernmost of which is conical. To the east and south-east is the plain and range; to the west, continuation of the same plain that we have come over in the last two days’ journey. Although we had some heavy showers at the lagoon, we have not passed a single water-course, except the one we crossed a few miles before we made this range, nor did we see a drop of surface water: it seems to be all absorbed the moment that it falls. Descended the north-north-east side of the range, and at a mile and a half found some rain water in a creek, coming from the range. Camped. Wind south-east. Distance, twenty miles.
Wednesday, 30th May, The Davenport Range. I find this water will not last more than three days. I have determined to remain here to-day, and have sent Kekwick in search of more water. As I am now a little better, I must get my plan brought up. It has got in arrear, in consequence of my hands being so bad with the scurvy. My limbs are much easier, yet the riding is still very painful; my mouth also is much better, so that I am led to hope that the disease will soon leave me. Native tracks about here, and when I was on the top of the range I saw smoke in the scrub a few miles to the north-west. Sundown: I am quite surprised that Kekwick has not returned, as my instructions to him were not to go above five or six miles, and then to return whether he found water or not. I am very much afraid that something has happened to him.
Thursday, 31st May, The Davenport Range. Kekwick has not returned. I begin to feel very uneasy about him. I must be off and follow up his tracks. Sent Ben for the horses. He was a long time in finding them, as is generally the case when one wants a thing in a hurry. 9.30: Kekwick has arrived before the horses; he overshot his mark last night, and got beyond the camp. I am very glad he is all safe. He informs me that he came upon plenty of water a few miles from here, which compensates for the anxiety he caused me during the night. His reason for not returning as I had directed was that he crossed a gum creek which had so promising an appearance, that he was induced to follow it to the plains, where he found an abundance of water. While he was riding he was taken very ill, and was unable to come on for some time, which made it so late that he could not see to reach the camp. He is unable to proceed to-day, which is vexing, for I wish to get on as quickly as possible.
Friday, 1st June, The Davenport Range. The horses having strayed, we did not get a start till late. Our course was 22 degrees, and at two miles we struck a small gum creek coming from the range and running west-north-west. At three miles and a half we crossed a larger one coming from, and running in, the same direction. Then commenced again the same sort of country that we passed through the other day. At eight miles struck a splendid large gum creek or river, having long and deep reaches of water with fish four or five inches in length; it is running through the plain as far as I can see, which is only a short distance, the ground being low and level. Its course at this place is to the west-north-west; it is very broad, and in some places the banks are perpendicular, and are well grassed and covered with fine gum-trees, mulga and other bushes. From bank to bank its width is about ten chains. This is the finest creek for water that we have passed since leaving Chambers Creek. The day being far advanced, I shall camp here, and get to the range to-morrow. I am very much inclined to follow this creek and see where it empties itself; but I expect to find a large one close to the range, or on the other side. I wish also to get on the top to see what the country on ahead is like. The fact of fish being in this creek leads me to think that it does not empty itself into the gum plains, like others lately passed, but that it must flow either into the sea on the north-west coast, or into a lake. I have named it the Bonney Creek, after Charles Bonney, Esquire, late Commissioner of Crown Lands for South Australia.
Saturday, 2nd June, The Bonney Creek. Started at 8.20 on the same course, 22 degrees, for the range, through a country of alternate spinifex and grass with a little mulga scrub. At seven miles we struck another large gum creek with every appearance of water, but I had no time to look for it, being anxious to make the range to-night, and endeavour to find water either on this side or on the other. The creek is large, and resembles the last. I have named it the McLaren, after John McLaren, Esquire, late Deputy Surveyor-General of South Australia. At seventeen miles, after passing through a well-grassed country with a little scrub, we reached the top of the first range, which is composed of a hard white granite-looking rock, with courses of quartz running through it. I have three or four spurs to cross yet before I make the main range. So far as I can see, McLaren Creek is running much in the same direction as the Bonney. Started from the top of the range and had a very difficult job in crossing the spurs. About sundown arrived all safe on a gum flat, between the ranges, and attempted to get upon what appears to be the highest range, but getting up the horses deterred us. We then sought for water among the numerous gum creeks which cover the plain, and at dark found some, and camped. There is a good supply of water, but I do not think it is permanent; it will last, however, for a month or six weeks. I have named these ranges the Murchison, after Sir Roderick Murchison, President of the Royal Geographical Society, London. Wind varying.
Sunday, 3rd June, Murchison Ranges. I feel very unwell this morning, from the rough ride yesterday. It was my intention to have walked to the top of the range to-day, but I am not able to do so. The small plain between the ranges is a bed of soft white sandstone, through which the different creeks have cut deep courses; the stones on the surface (igneous principally), are composed of iron, quartz, dark black and blue stone, also a bright red one, all run together and twisted into every sort of nick, as also with the limestone, and many other sorts which I do not know. This plain is covered with a most hard spinifex, very difficult to get the horses to face. In another creek, about one mile south-west from the camp, is a large water hole which will last six months; it is ten yards long by twenty yards wide.
Monday, 4th June, Murchison Ranges. Started on a course of 330 degrees to round this spur of the ranges, and at four miles and a half changed to 15 degrees to the high point of the range, and at three miles arrived on the top. I have named it Mount Figg. The view from this is extensive. The course of this range from the south to this point is 25 degrees; it then makes a turn to the north-north-west, in which direction the country appears more open, with some patches of thick scrub, and high ranges in the distance. From north-west to west it appears to be gum plain, with open patches of grass, and a number of creeks running into it from the range. I shall change my course to a high peak on the north-west point of the range, which bears from this 340 degrees 30 minutes. This range is volcanic here, and is of the same formation as I have already given. Started from the top of the mount at 12 o’clock. Went for eight miles along the side of the range, and met with a small gum creek running on our course; followed it up for three miles without finding water; it then took a more westerly course, so I left it to pursue my route. After leaving the mount, the range is composed of red sandstone with a little quartz. We have occasionally met with a little limestone gravel. Camped at 6 o’clock, without water.
Tuesday, 5th June, Gum-Tree Plain. Started on the same course at 7 o’clock for the high peak, through the same sort of country as yesterday. No watercourse. At fifteen miles ascended the peak, which I have named Mount Samuel, after my brother. The top is a mass of nearly pure ironstone. It attracted the compass 160 degrees. From north to west are broken ranges and isolated hills of a volcanic character, in all sorts of shapes. The isolated hills seem to be the termination of these ranges, which run nearly north and south. I have named them the McDouall Ranges, after Colonel McDouall, of the 2nd Life Guards, Logan, Wigtownshire. I then changed my course to the north-north-east in search of water, there being no appearance of any to the north-north-west. After travelling five miles over small grassy, scrubby plains, between isolated hills and gum-trees, I could not find a water-course, so I changed to the east, to try if I could see anything from a high hill, which I ascended, and discovered a gum creek coming from the range on the east side. Followed it down, and, one mile and a half from the top, found a splendid hole of water in the rock, very deep, and permanent. The creek is very rocky, and its course here is north-east into the plain. Wind south-east. Clouds from the north-west,
Wednesday, 6th June, Gum Creek, North-east Side of the McDouall Ranges. There being nothing but spinifex on the ranges and creeks, the horses had been travelling nearly all night in search of food, and had gone a long way before they were overtaken. This morning saddled and got a start by 11 o’clock on a course of 340 degrees, crossing numerous creeks and stout spinifex, through which we had great difficulty in driving the horses. At five miles struck a gum creek in which we found water. The banks have excellent feed upon them, and in abundance, so, for the sake of the horses, I have determined to remain here to-day. This creek, which I have named Tennant Creek, after John Tennant, Esquire, of Port Lincoln, runs east. In searching for the horses this morning Ben found three or four more large water holes in the adjoining creek, a little south-east from this. Before we reached this, we crossed some marks very much resembling old horse-tracks.
Thursday, 7th June, Tennant Creek, McDouall Ranges. Started at 7.20. Course, 340 degrees. At three miles passed through an immense number of huge granite rocks piled together and scattered about in every direction, with a few small water-courses running amongst them to the eastward. We then encountered a rather thick scrub, and occasionally crossed a few low quartz rises coming from the McDouall ranges. At fourteen miles ascended the highest of them, which I have named Mount Woodcock, after the Venerable the Archdeacon of Adelaide. To the north-west and north is another range, about ten miles distant, which seems to continue a long way. I will change my course to 315 degrees, which will take me to the highest point. At two miles on this course came upon a gum creek running to the north-east, which I named Bishop Creek; followed it for one mile and a half, and found water, which will last a month or six weeks, and an immense number of birds. This is a camping-place of the natives, who seem to have been here very lately. We watered the horses and proceeded towards the range. At about two miles passed a low rugged ironstone range, peculiar in having a large square mass of ironstone standing by itself about the centre. I have named it Mount Sinclair, after James Sinclair, of Port Lincoln. Passed through a thick scrub, among which we saw a very handsome bush that was new to us, having a blue-green leaf ten inches long by six inches broad. We looked for some seed, but could not find any. At five miles crossed a grassy gum plain, where a creek empties itself. The same scrub continues to the range, which we reached at twelve miles from the water. It is not very high, but rough and steep, and we had great difficulty in getting to the top, but after many twistings and turnings and scramblings, we arrived there all right, and found it to be table land. At fourteen miles camped without water. The range is composed of ironstone, granite, quartz and red sandstone, running north of west and south of east. I have named it Short Range, after the Right Reverend the Lord Bishop of Adelaide.
Friday, 8th June, Short Range. Started at 8 o’clock on the same course, 315 degrees, to some very distant rising grounds. Short range seems to run nearly parallel to our course, as also does another distant range to the north, which I have named Sturt Range, after Captain Sturt. The table land continued about two miles, and then there was a gradual descent to the plains, and we entered a thick scrub with spinifex and gums. At eighteen miles came upon a beautiful plain of grass, having large gum-trees, and a new description of tree, the foliage of which is a dark-green and rather round, and the bark rough and of a dark colour. Here also was the cork-tree, and numerous other shrubs. This grassy plain continued for thirty-one miles, until we camped, but the last part is not so good. When I struck this plain, I was in great hopes of finding a large creek of water, but have been disappointed; we have not crossed a single water-course in thirty-one miles. Camped at sundown. No water. Wind south-east.
Saturday, 9th June, Grassy Plain. There is some rising ground a few miles further on, to which I shall go in search of a creek; I might be able to see something from it. If I do not find water I shall have to retreat to Bishop Creek, as the horses have now been two nights without water. Started at 7 o’clock, same course, 315 degrees, through scrub and a light sandy soil. At four miles got to the rise, which is a scrubby sand-hill. From this I can see nothing, the scrub being so thick; it is of a nasty, tough, wiry description, and has torn our hands and saddle-bags to pieces. I got up a tree to look over the top of this scrub, which is about twelve feet high, and I could see our course for a long distance; it appears to be the same terrible scrub, with no sign of any creeks. It is very vexing to get thus far, and have to turn back, when perhaps another day’s journey would bring me to a better country. I shall now try a south course, and cut the grassy plains to the westward, in the hope of finding water; if so, I shall be able to make two days’ journey to the north-west. Started on a south course for fourteen miles, through scrub and small grassy plains alternately, but we could find neither creek nor water. I now regret that I attempted the south course, which makes the distance from the water so much greater. Wind still south-east; heavy clouds coming from the north-west, I trust it will rain before morning.
Sunday, 10th June, Grassy Plains. Started at sunrise, and at two miles again got into the scrub. Three of the horses we can scarcely get along; they are very much done up. At 11 o’clock, one horse gave in altogether. We cannot get him up; we have tried everything in our power to do something for him. The other horses have been carrying his load, and he has had nothing to carry for this last hour and a half; all our efforts are in vain, and I am obliged, although with great reluctance, to leave him to his fate. Had this occurred nearer the water, I should have put an end to his existence and taken part of him to eat, for we are now very short of provisions, and the other horses have quite enough to carry without sharing his load; I wish I had left him sooner. At 12 o’clock, I find I shall lose some more of them, if they do not get water to-night, and it will be to-morrow before I can reach Bishop Creek. I shall now go to Short range and try to find some. The little bay mare Polly has become nearly mad, running about among the other horses, and kicking them as she passes; even the men do not escape from her heels. At five miles made the range. There are no large creeks coming from this side–nothing but small ones which empty themselves into the plain; sand up to the foot of the hills. Before we reach the range another of the horses is done up; he has only been carrying about 30 pounds in consequence of his back having been bad for the last three weeks. We lightened all the weak horses two days since. We shall now try if he will go without anything on his back. We are now amongst the granite ridges, and hope we shall find water on this side. The horse has given in before we can get to the other side. We must leave him for the sake of the others. Too much time has already been lost in endeavouring to get them on. Reached the other side and searched the different creeks, but cannot find any water. Crossed a spur of the range running south, and can see a nice-looking creek with gum-trees. Our hopes and spirits are again revived; the sight of it has even invigorated the horses, and they are hurrying on towards it. Traversed it down, but, to our great disappointment, find that it loses itself in a grassy plain. It is now dark, so I must remain here for the night. The sky is quite overcast, and I trust that Providence will send us rain before morning. An accident has happened to the water we were carrying; it was all lost yesterday. If it clears during the night, so that I can see the stars to guide me, I shall move on.
Monday, 11th June, Short Range. During the night there were a few drops of rain, which again raised our hopes, and about 4 o’clock it looked as if we were to have a deluge, but, alas! it only rained for about two minutes, and as much fell as would wet a pocket-handkerchief. Saddled and started through the range, my poor little mare looking very bad this morning; I have taken everything off her, so that she may hold out until we get to water, and I have been obliged to leave as many things at this camp as I could possibly do without. The mare lies down every few yards, I am therefore compelled to leave her for the sake of the others. From the number of birds about here, I think there must be water near; I hope she may find it, although I am afraid she is too far gone even to try it. At 1 o’clock, at the foot of Mount Woodcock, the horses’ spirits revived at sight of their old track. I shall now be able to get all the rest of them safe to water, although there is one still doubtful. My own black mare shows a few symptoms of madness, but still keeps on, and does her work well. About an hour before sundown arrived at the water without any more losses, for which I sincerely thank the Almighty. We have had a terrible job to keep the horses from drinking too much water, but, as they have now eaten a few mouthfuls of grass, I have allowed them to drink as much as they thought proper. The natives have been here since we left.
Tuesday, 12th June, Bishop Creek. Resting: the horses look very bad; they remained by the water all night.
Wednesday, 13th June, Bishop Creek. The horses still look very bad this morning; they have again stayed by the water nearly all night; they had been one hundred and one hours without a drop, and have accomplished a journey of one hundred and twelve miles; they will require a week to recover; one of them is very lame from a kick the little mare gave him in her madness. Thus ends my last attempt, at present, to make the Victoria River; three times have I tried it, and have been forced to retreat. About 11 o’clock I heard the voice of a native; looked round and could see two in the scrub, about a quarter of a mile distant. I beckoned to them to approach, but they kept making signs which I could not understand. I then moved towards them, but the moment they saw me move, they ran off immediately. About a quarter of an hour afterwards they again made their appearance on the top of the quartz reef, opposite our camp, and two others showed themselves in about the same place as the two first did. Thinking this was the only water, I made signs to the two on the reef to go to the water; but they still continued talking and making signs which I could not understand; it seemed as if they wished us to go away, which I was determined not to do. They then made a number of furious frantic gestures, shaking their spears, and twirling them round their heads, etc. etc., I suppose bidding us defiance. I should think the youngest was about twenty-five years of age. He placed a very long spear into the instrument they throw them with, and, after a few more gestures, descended from the reef, and gradually came a little nearer. I made signs of encouragement for him to come on, at the same time moving towards him. At last we arrived on the banks of the creek, he on one side, and I on the other. He had a long spear, a womera, and two instruments like the boomerang, but more the shape of a scimitar, with a very sharp edge, having a thick place at the end, roughly carved, for the hand. The gestures he was making were now signs of hostility, and he came fully prepared for war. I then broke a branch of green leaves from a bush, and held it up towards him, inviting him to come across to me. As he did not seem to fancy that, I crossed to where he was, and got within two yards of him. He thought I was quite near enough, and would not have me any nearer, for he kept moving back as I approached. I wished to get close up to him, but he would not have it; we then stood still, and I tried to make him understand, by signs, that all we wanted was water for two or three days. At last he seemed to understand, nodded his head, pointed to the water, then to our camp, and held up his five fingers. I then endeavoured to learn from him if there was water to the north or north-east, but I could make nothing of him. He viewed me very steadily for a long time, began talking, and seeing that I did not understand him, he made the sign that natives generally do of wanting something to eat, and pointed towards me. Whether he meant to ask if I was hungry, or to suggest that I should make a very good supper for him, I do not know, but I bowed my head as if I understood him perfectly. We then separated, I keeping a careful watch upon him all the time I was crossing the creek. Before I left him the other one joined. The first was a tall, powerful, well-made fellow, upwards of six feet; his hair was very long, and he had a red-coloured net tied round his head, with the ends of his hair lying on his shoulders. I observed nothing else that was peculiar about them. They had neither skins nor anything round their bodies, but were quite naked. They then took their departure. A short time afterwards I saw them joined by five others. We have seen nothing more of them to-day, and I hope they will not trouble us any more, but let me get my horses rested in peace. Wind south, all the clouds gone; nights and mornings very cold. Occupied during the day in shoeing horses, and repairing and making saddle-bags.
Thursday, 14th June, Bishop Creek. On examining the water holes, I find there are small crab fish in them, which leads me to think this water is permanent. This morning we again hear the voices of the natives up the creek to the west. There must be plenty more water up there, as most of the birds go in that direction to drink, passing by this water. The natives have not come near us to-day, but we have seen the smoke of their fires. Shoeing horses, repairing and making saddle-bags, which were torn all to pieces by the scrub.
Friday, 15th June, Bishop Creek. Resting horses, and getting our equipment in order for another trial, as I think the horses will be ready to start on Monday morning. No more of the natives but their smoke is still visible. Wind south; day hot, night cool.
Saturday, 16th June, Bishop Creek. The horses are still drinking an immense quantity of water; they are at it five and six times a day; they must have suffered dreadfully. The grass here is as dry as if it were the middle of summer, instead of winter. I hope we may soon have rain, which would be a great blessing to me.
Sunday, 17th June, Bishop Creek. The horses still pay frequent visits to the water. We have found more about a mile up the creek, and there seems to be plenty further up in the hills; I cannot examine it just now, in consequence of the natives being about. It would not do for me to leave, as the party is so small, nor do I like sending one of them, for he might be taken by surprise and cut off, which would ruin me altogether, being able to do scarcely anything myself. Although I am much better, I am still very weak; the pains in my limbs are not so constant. I attribute the relief to eating a number of native cucumbers which are in quantities on this creek. The horse that was kicked by the mare is still very lame. Wind south-east.
Monday, 18th June, Bishop Creek. Started at 9.30 on a bearing of 18 degrees, through a plain of alternate grass, scrub, and spinifex, and at five miles passed a number of isolated hills close together, composed of large masses of ironstone, quartz, and a hard brown rock, very irregular, and all sorts of shapes; the stones seem as if they had undergone the action of fire. We then proceeded through some very bad spinifex, dark-coloured, long, hard and dry; we could scarcely get the horses to face it. We then came upon a grassy plain, and at ten miles struck a gum creek coming from the west of north-west, and running (at this place) east-north-east; followed it and found an abundance of water in long deep holes, with shells of the crab fish lying on the banks. The water is upwards of a mile in length; the creek then spreads out over a grassy plain with scrub and gum-trees, and is joined by the other creeks coming from the McDouall range. I thought it advisable to camp here for the rest of the day, as a further journey would be a risk for the horse that is lame, and I do not wish to lose any more; as it is, I am afraid he will not be able to cross Short range, which I hope to do in a few hours. Natives about. Splendid grass on this plain, and on the banks of the creek, which I have named Phillips Creek, after John Phillips, Esquire, J.P., of Kanyaka. Wind variable.
Tuesday, 19th June, Phillips Creek. Started at 8 o’clock on the same bearing, 18 degrees. We first passed through a well-grassed plain with a little scrub, then again through hard spinifex to the range. At one mile crossed another gum creek with water in it, coming from Short range. At four miles reached the top of the spur of the range; and at seven miles, the top of the range. About two miles to the east, the range seems to terminate in a gum plain, a spur from the McDouall range running on the other side of the plain, and crossing our line a few miles further on. Short range here is composed of quartz, ironstone, and red granite, with a little limestone. Descended into the plain, and at ten miles came upon another gum creek, spreading over a grassy plain, but could find no water. At thirteen miles came upon some dry swamps with a number of birds about them. At fourteen miles reached the top of the next range. From this the appearance of the country, on this course, is evidently very scrubby. On a bearing of 55 degrees, in the far distance, is the termination of another range. I do not like facing the scrub again so soon after my late loss, and with my horses not yet recovered. I shall return to the swamps and look for water. If I find any, I shall start in the morning for the end of the distant range. My lame horse is unable to do more to-day; crossing the range has been very hard upon him. Returned to the swamps and found a fine pond of water. Camped. The water is derived from the creek that we passed in the middle of the day. I have named these ponds after Kekwick, in token of the zeal and activity he has displayed during the expedition.
Wednesday, 20th June, Kekwick Ponds. Saddled at sunrise, and proceeded to the top of the low range, from which I turned back yesterday, and changed my course to 56 degrees to the northernmost point of the distant hills, through a plain of alternate grass and spinifex. At 3 o’clock struck the William Creek again, with splendid grass on its banks. It ran nearly our course for about three miles, and then turned to the east. We then entered the same sort of scrub as that in which I lost my horses; this continued until we reached the hills, which we did in about eighteen miles. From this we can see a range to the south-south-east. About ten miles off there is a large lake, with red sand hills on the east side. I cannot see the extent of it, the hills that I am now on being so low; they are composed of granite, and run north and south. To the north and north-east is another lake, about the same distance, to which I shall go on a course of 32 degrees 30 minutes. On the north side of this one there are also sand hills with scrub. For two miles after leaving the hills we passed through a soft, sandy, scrubby country and spinifex. It then became harder, with grass and spinifex alternately. At four miles from the hills we camped without water. My horses have not recovered from their last trial, and seem to be very tired to-night, although to-day’s journey was not a long one, but it has been very hot, and the scrub thick and difficult to get through.
Thursday, 21st June, Scrub. The horses having gone back on the track, we did not get a start until 8.30–course, 32 degrees 30 minutes to a high hill on the other side of the lake, passing through a thick scrub of cork-tree and gums, with spinifex and grass. At seven miles came upon what I thought was the lake, but it turns out to be a large plain of rich alluvial soil covered with dry grass, which gave it the appearance of a lake. It was three miles across to the top of the hill; no water-course through, nor any water to be seen. The hills on the north side are composed of ironstone and granite, and, from the distance, looked very much like sand hills. From the top of the hill I can see the plain extending a little to the west of north, but I cannot see far for the mirage. To the north-north-east is another plain of the same description, but much smaller, about a mile and a half broad, and nearly circular. To the north-east is another very extensive one; its dimensions I cannot see. I seem to have got into the land of grassy plains and low stony hills. I wish my horses had had water last night or yesterday. They seem to be very much in want of it. I must devote the rest of this day to a search for it. I shall now direct my course for the south part of the plain that I have just crossed; it seems to be the lowest part, and the flight of the birds is directed that way. Searched all round, but can find no water; so I must return to Kekwick Ponds. The day is extremely hot, and my horses cannot stand two more nights without water. Would that they had more endurance! It is dreadful to have to turn back almost at the threshold of success. I cannot be far from the dip of the country to the Gulf. Returned by another course to where I camped last night, but still no water. I would fain try the plain to the south, but I dare not risk the loss of more horses. Proceeded to the low range that I crossed yesterday; examined round it, but cannot find any water. Camped. Two of the horses very much done up. I must go back through that nasty scrub again.
Friday, 22nd June, Under the West Low Range. Started at sunrise for the ponds, and at 1.30 arrived; the horses being very much exhausted. I am glad I did not remain another night without water; three of them are completely done up, and it has been with difficulty that we have got them here. Wind south-west.
Saturday, 23rd June, Kekwick Ponds. Resting horses. About 1 o’clock we were visited by two natives, who presented us with four opossums and a number of small birds and parrots. They were much frightened at first, but after a short time became very bold, and, coming to our camp, wanted to steal everything they could lay their fingers on. I caught one concealing the rasp that is used in shoeing the horses under the netting he had round his waist, and was obliged to take it from him by force. The canteens they seemed determined to have, and it was with difficulty we could get them from them. They wished to pry into everything, until I lost all patience and ordered them off. In about half an hour two other young men approached the camp. Thinking they might be in want of water, and afraid to come to it on account of the horses, I sent Ben with a tin dishful, which they drank. They were very young men, and too much frightened to come any nearer. About an hour before sundown, one of the first that had come, returned, bringing with him three others, two of whom were young, tall, powerful, well made, and good-looking, and as fine specimens of the native as I have yet seen. On their heads they had a neatly-fitting hat or helmet close to the brow, and rising straight up to a rounded peak, three or four inches above the head and gradually becoming narrower towards the back part. The outside was net-work; the inside was composed of feathers very tightly bound together with cord until it was as hard as a piece of wood; it may be used as a protection from the sun, or as armour for the battle-field. One of them had a great many scars upon him, and seemed to be a leading man. Only two had helmets on, the others had pieces of netting bound round their foreheads. One was an old man, and seemed to be the father of these two fine young men. He was very talkative, but I could make nothing of him. I have endeavoured, by signs, to get information from him as to where the next water is, but we cannot understand each other. After some time, and having conferred with his two sons, he turned round, and surprised me by giving me one of the Masonic signs. I looked at him steadily; he repeated it, and so did his two sons. I then returned it, which seemed to please them much, the old man patting me on the shoulder and stroking down my beard. They then took their departure, making friendly signs until they were out of sight. We enjoyed a good supper from the opossums, which we have not had for many a day. The men are complaining of weakness from the want of sufficient nourishment. I find the quantity of rations is not enough; five pounds of flour per week is too little for many weeks together. It may do very well for a month or so, but when it comes to the length of time we have been out, we all feel it very much; and the dried meat that I brought with me being very young, it has not half the strength in it that old meat has.
Sunday, 24th June, Kekwick Ponds. Our black friends have not made their appearance to-day.
Monday, 25th June, Kekwick Ponds. Started again on a bearing of 345 degrees to some very distant hills, to see if I can get into the face of the country to the Gulf of Carpentaria. At two miles crossed a large gum creek (with long beds of concrete ironstone), which I have named Hayward Creek, after Frederick Hayward, Esquire. The banks are beautifully grassed, and extend for four miles on the north side. At fourteen miles struck a gum creek with large sheets of water in which were plenty of ducks, native companions, black shags, cranes, and other birds. Camped here for the remainder of the day. The course of the creek at this point is to the north of east, and coming from the north of west, apparently from the range, which is distant about ten miles. It very much resembles Chambers Creek. The ponds (in which we found some small fish) are about eighty yards broad, and about three quarters of a mile long, having large masses of concrete ironstone at both ends, separating the one pond from the other; large gum-trees being in the ponds. Wind north-west. Very hot.
Tuesday, 26th June, Large Gum Creek, with Sheets of Water. I have resolved to follow this creek down to-day, and, if the water continues, to follow it out. Started on a course 77 degrees, and at six miles crossed the creek, which is running a little more to the north. There are long sheets of water all the way down to this, the banks in some places being steep, with the lower part formed of concrete, and the upper red sandy soil, which gives me a bad opinion of it for water, if the concrete ceases. Here we saw some blacks; they would not come near us, but walked off as fast as they could. From the top of the rise we saw where they were camped, on the banks of a large sheet of water; we passed on without taking any more notice of them, and at nine miles, not seeing any appearance of the creek, I changed my course to 25 degrees. At three quarters of a mile cut it again, but without water in it; it is much narrower and deeper, having sandy banks and bed. Changed again to 77 degrees, the creek frequently crossing our course, and at fifteen miles saw there was no hope of obtaining water. The country is becoming more sandy, and is thickly covered with spinifex and scrub. We crossed down to the banks of the creek; no rising ground visible. I must keep closer to the hills, and, as the day has been very hot, I shall return and camp at nine miles from our last camp, if there is water; if not, I shall have to camp a short way above where we saw the natives this morning. I do not wish to get too near them, or to annoy them in any way. We could find no water below where they were camped; I therefore pushed on to get above them before dark. At half-past one o’clock, about three miles from the creek, we saw where they had been examining our tracks, and as we approached the creek their tracks became very numerous on ours. When we arrived on the top of the rise, where we had previously seen their camp and fires, we could now see nothing of them, neither smoke, fires, nor anything else: it was then nearly dark. I concluded they had left in consequence of having seen us pass in the morning, as natives in general do. I was moving on to the place where we crossed the creek in the morning, when suddenly from behind some scrub which we had just entered, up started three tall powerful fellows fully armed, having a number of boomerangs, waddies, and spears. Their distance from us was about two hundred yards. It being so nearly dark, and the scrub we were then in placing us at a disadvantage, I wished to pass without taking any notice of them, but such was not their intention, for they continued to approach us, calling out and making all sorts of gestures apparently of defiance. I then faced them, making every sign of friendship I could think of. They seemed to be in a great fury, moving their boomerangs above their head, bawling at the top of their voices, and performing some sort of a dance. They were now joined by more of their tribe, so that in a few minutes their numbers had increased to upwards of thirty; every bush seemed to produce a man. Putting the horses on towards the creek, and placing ourselves between them and the natives, I told my men to get their guns ready, for I could see they were determined upon mischief. They paid no regard to all the signs of friendship I kept constantly making, but were still gradually approaching nearer and nearer to us. I felt very unwilling to fire upon them, and still continued making signs of peace and friendship, but all to no purpose. Their leader, an old man, who was in advance, made signs with his boomerang, which we took as a signal for us to be off. They were, however, intended as tokens of defiance, for I had no sooner turned my horse’s head to comply with what I thought were their wishes, than we received a shower of boomerangs, accompanied by a fearful yell; they then set fire to the grass, and commenced jumping, dancing, yelling, and throwing their arms into all sorts of postures, like so many fiends. In addition to the thirty that already confronted us, I could now see many others getting up from behind the bushes. Still I felt unwilling to fire upon them, and tried again to make them understand that we wished to do them no harm. Having now approached within about forty yards of us, they made another charge, and threw their boomerangs, which came whistling and whizzing past our ears, one of them striking my horse. I then gave orders to fire, which stayed their mad career for a little. Our pack-horses, which were on before us, took fright when they heard the firing and fearful yelling, and made off for the creek. Seeing some of the blacks running from bush to bush, with the intention of cutting us off from our horses, while those in front were still yelling, throwing their boomerangs, and coming nearer to us, we gave them another reception, and I sent Ben after the horses to drive them on to a more favourable place, while Kekwick and I remained to cover our rear. We soon got in advance of those who were endeavouring to cut us off, but they still kept following, though beyond the reach of our guns, the fearful yelling still continuing from more numerous voices, and fires springing up in every direction. It being now quite dark, with the country scrubby, and our enemies bold and daring, we could be easily surrounded and destroyed by such determined fellows as they have shown themselves to be. Seeing there is no hope with such fearful odds (ten to one at least) against us, and knowing all the disadvantages under which we labour, I very unwillingly make up my mind to push on to our last night’s camp. We have done so, and now I have had a little time to consider the matter over I do not think it prudent to remain here to-night; I shall therefore continue on until I reach the open grassy plain or gum creek. They are still following us up; I only wish that I had four more men, for my party is so small that we can only fall back and act on the defensive. If I were to stand and fight them (which I wish I could) our horses must remain unprotected, and we, in all probability, should be cut off from them. Our enemies seem to be aiming at that, and to prevent our advance up the creek; by this time they have found out their mistake, as we did not go a step out of our course for them. Arrived at Hayward Creek at 11 o’clock at night.
Wednesday, 27th June, Hayward Creek. This morning we see signal fires all around us. It was my intention last night to have gone this morning to Kekwick Ponds to water the horses, then to give them the day to rest, and proceed to-morrow back again to the large creek, and go on to the distant hills that I was steering for on the 25th instant, but, after considering the matter over the whole night, I have most reluctantly come to the determination to abandon the attempt to make the Gulf of Carpentaria. Situated as I now am, it would be most imprudent. In the first place my party is far too small to cope with such wily, determined natives as those we have just encountered. If they had been Europeans they could not better have arranged and carried out their plan of attack. They had evidently observed us passing in the morning, had examined our tracks to see which way we had gone, and knew we could get no water down the creek, but must retrace our steps to obtain it above them; they therefore lay in wait for our return. Their charge was in double column, open order, and we had to take steady aim, to make an impression. With such as these for enemies in our rear, and, most probably, far worse in advance, it would be destruction to all my party for me to attempt to go on. All the information of the interior that I have already obtained would be lost. Moreover, we have only half rations for six months, four of which are gone, and I have been economizing as much as I possibly could in case of our having to be out a longer time, so that my men now complain of great weakness, and are unable to perform what they have to do. Again, only two showers of rain have fallen since March, and I am afraid of the waters drying up to the south, and there is no appearance of rain at present. The days are now become very hot again, and the feed for the horses as dry as if it were the middle of summer. The poor animals are very much reduced in condition, so much so that I am afraid of their being longer than one night without water. Finally, my health is so bad, that I am hardly able to sit in the saddle. After taking all those things into consideration, I think it would be madness and folly to attempt more. If my own life were the only sacrifice, I would willingly risk it to accomplish my purpose; but it seems that I am destined to be disappointed; man proposes, but the Almighty disposes, and his will must be obeyed. Seeing the signal fires around, and dreading lest our black friends at Kekwick Ponds might have been playing a double part with us, in spite of their Masonic signs, I gave them a wide berth, and steered for Bishop Creek. Arrived there in the afternoon, and found that the creek had not been visited by natives since we left. These natives do not deposit their dead bodies in the ground, but place them in the trees, and, judging from the number of these corpses which we have passed between this and the large creek, where they made their attack upon us, they must be very numerous. These natives have quite a different cast of features from those in the south; they have neither the broad flat nose and large mouth, nor the projecting eyebrows, but have more of the Malay; they are tall, muscular, well-made men, and I think they must have seen or encountered white men before.
Thursday, 28th June, Bishop Creek. Camped at the rocky water hole north-east side of the McDouall range.
Friday, 29th June, Anderson Creek. Crossed the McDouall ranges and camped on a gum creek on the north-east side of the Murchison ranges, which I have named Gilbert Creek, after Thomas Gilbert, Esquire, late Colonial Storekeeper.
Saturday, 30th June, Gilbert Creek. Crossed the Murchison ranges, and the large gum creek coming from them, and running west-north-west, which I have named Baker Creek, after the Honourable John Baker, M.L.C. I did not examine it, but should think from its appearance that there is water in it; besides, I can distinguish the smoke of a native encampment. Proceeded to the creek where we camped before, but found all the water gone, except a little moisture in the bottom of the holes. I was rather surprised at this, for I thought it would have lasted three months at least. Went to another creek, where there was a large hole of water in conglomerate rock; this we found also to be very much reduced; when we last saw it, its depth was four feet, and now it is only eighteen inches. Camped.
Sunday, 1st July, Murchison Ranges. My horses very tired, and three of them are nearly done up.
Monday, 2nd July, Murchison Ranges. Proceeded to the Bonney Creek to get feed for the horses, there being very little besides spinifex under the ranges. Smoke of native encampments on and about the creek; I must be very careful.
Tuesday, 3rd July, The Bonney Creek. We have not seen any more of the natives yet. I shall rest the horses to-day, there being plenty of feed, which they very much want. Being so very few of us, I am obliged to turn them out with the saddles on; so that, if we are attacked again, one can put the packs on, while I and the other defend him. The water in this hole is very much reduced, but I think it will not fail altogether, in consequence of the small fish being in it. From the diminution of the water in this creek since I left it, a month ago, I am inclined to think that I shall have a very hard push to get back; my horses being so weak from the hardships they have undergone, that they are now unable to do as much as they did before. I fear that I shall not get any water between this and Forster’s range, a distance of upwards of eighty miles, so I shall rest them here for a week, if the natives will be quiet; if not, I must run the risk of losing more of them. To-day, I had made up my mind to follow out this creek, to see if the waters continue, and if it would take me to the north of the spinifex and gum-tree plain which I had to turn back from on my north-west course from Mount Denison, and if rain falls to try again for the Victoria River. I am, however, disappointed, for, on weighing the rations, I find I am terribly short, which I did not expect, and which cuts off all hope of my attaining that point. My troubles and vexations seem to come upon me all at once. Had I but a stronger party, and six months’ rations, I think I should be able to accomplish something before my return. I have done my best, and can do no more. My eyesight is now so bad that I cannot depend upon my observations, which will be a great loss to me; and the scurvy has returned with greater severity. Before I start on my return, if everything goes right, I shall run down this creek a short distance. It may, at some future time, turn out to be the road to the Victoria River, or one of its tributaries. Wind south and south-west.
Wednesday, 4th July, The Bonney Creek. The water in this hole has been diminishing very rapidly since we were here; it is falling at the rate of six inches per day, which is a poor look-out for us on our homeward course. I have not a day to spare now, as the weather is becoming very hot, and will dry it up much faster. I must push back as soon as my horses are rested and able to undergo the eighty miles without water. I must give up the examination of this creek, for every day now is of the utmost importance, and I must not give the horses one mile more than I can help. Oh! that rain would fall before I leave this. It would indeed be an inestimable blessing. Wind from all points. At sundown a few clouds have made their appearance.
Thursday, 5th July, The Bonney Creek. During the night it became very cloudy from the west, and this morning still continues. My hopes are again raised. If it should rain, I shall try for the Victoria River again, even though I should be without rations for my return; I could kill one of the horses and dry his flesh, and that would take me back. Still very cloudy, and every sign of rain. I am making preparations for another trial. At sundown there are still heavy black clouds coming from the west, which have raised our hopes of success to the highest point, and I ardently trust they will be realized. No natives have come near us, yet they are still about.
Friday, 6th July, The Bonney Creek. A sad, sad disappointment; all our most sanguine hopes are again gone, for, during the night, the clouds broke up and have all vanished; it is very vexing. I shall rest the horses till Monday, and then, ill and dispirited, commence my homeward journey. I dare not venture into a new route, for, want of water, and the low condition of my horses, compel me to keep my former track. Last night about 10 o’clock, I observed the comet for the first time, above the west horizon; it set at 7 o’clock 20 degrees north of west. At sundown it has become overcast with heavy clouds, and my hopes are again raised; I trust we may get it now. Midnight: still cloudy, and every appearance of rain. Wind changeable.
Saturday, 7th July, The Bonney Creek. Alas! all the clouds are again gone; our hopes were only raised to be dashed down with greater disappointment. The wind has returned to its old quarter, south-east. Natives still about, but they do not come near us. I shall now prepare for my return on Monday morning; it is very disheartening.
Sunday, 8th July, The Bonney Creek. The weather has every appearance of being dry for some time to come, not a cloud to be seen; the wind south-east, and very cold night and morning. All hope of making the coast is now gone. On weighing our rations to-day, I find that we are again short since we halted here. The man Ben has been making it a regular practice to steal them since he has been with me. I have caught him several times doing so, and all the threats and warnings of the consequences have had no effect upon him. They deter him for a day or two, and then he is as bad as ever. I have been in the habit of reducing our allowance to make up for the loss, which has been very hard upon Kekwick and myself; he has helped himself to about double his allowance during the journey.
Monday, 9th July, The Bonney Creek. Started for the Davenport range, where we camped before; the water is all dried up. Ascended the range, and changed my bearing to Mount Morphett, 196 degrees, in the Crawford range, in the hope of finding water there. At four miles struck the creek that I have before crossed nearer to the range, found water, and camped to give my horses every chance. I have named this creek Barker Creek, after Mr. Chambers’ brother-in-law. I do not think this water is permanent, but, from the number of birds that are passing up the creek, I think there must be permanent water higher up. This range seems to yield a deal of water on both sides. Native graves about.
Tuesday, 10th July, Barker Creek. Started at 6.30 on a bearing of 196 degrees towards Mount Strzelecki. At six miles crossed a gum creek, coming from the range, and running to the west, on my former track. I crossed it where it lost itself on the plain. The country is well grassed, with a little spinifex occasionally, from the range to this point. At twelve miles it became scrubby and sandy with a little grass, spinifex predominating, which continued to where we camped. Wind, south-east.
Wednesday, 11th July, Scrub North-north-east of Mount Strzelecki. One of the horses having parted from the others, and gone a long distance off in search of water, it was 9 o’clock before we could get a start. At seven miles arrived at a lagoon north-east of Mount Strzelecki. Found a little water and feed for the horses. Camped to give them the benefit of it. Wind, south-south-east. Cold.
Thursday, 12th July, Lagoon North-east of Mount Strzelecki. Made an early start, crossing the range, on a south course. Very rough and difficult. Could see no water. To the south-east of Mount Morphett there is the appearance of a creek, and on the south-west there are also the signs of a watered country, which is more hilly. Proceeded on through the thick dead mulga scrub, to the north side of Forster range, where we camped at dark without water. The country passed over to-day is splendidly grassed, especially as we approached the range. There is also a little spinifex, but not much. Distance to-day, thirty-two miles.
Friday, 13th July, North Side of Forster Range. Started early, proceeding to the gum creek coming from the north side of Forster’s range, where we found a little water, numerous fresh tracks of natives, and a great number of birds. I have named this the Barrow Creek, after J.H. Barrow, Esquire, M.P. Crossed the range to the Stirling Creek, which we followed down, and found an abundant supply of water. The upper part of it is now dry, and it is difficult to say whether it is permanent or not; but, to judge from the number of native tracks and encampments, and the many birds, I should think it is. The wood-duck is also on some of the pools. At dark we can hear the natives down the creek.
Saturday, 14th July, Stirling Creek. I shall give the horses a rest to-day and to-morrow, for I do not expect to get water before we reach the reservoir in the Reynolds range. I am afraid it will be all gone in the Hanson and at the Centre.
Sunday, 15th July, Stirling Creek. Resting horses, etc., etc.
Monday, 16th July, Stirling Creek. The natives were prowling about during the night, and startled three horses, which separated from the others, went off at full gallop, and were not recovered till noon, about four miles off. Too late to start to-day, for which I am very sorry, as every hour is now of the utmost value to us, in consequence of the evaporation of the water. Not the slightest appearance of any rain yet. Wind, south.
Tuesday, 17th July, Stirling Creek. Proceeded to the Hanson. Shortly after we started, we were followed by the natives, shouting as they came along, but keeping at a respectful distance. They followed us through the scrub for about two hours, but when we came to the open ground at the lagoons they went off. I intended to have halted and spoken to them there, thinking it would not be safe to do so in the scrub. They were tall, powerful-looking fellows, and had their arms with them. We then went on to the Hanson, crossing numerous fresh native tracks. On nearing the water, we saw five blacks, who took fright and went off at full speed. There were many more in the distance; in fact, they seemed to be very numerous about here. The country all round was covered with their tracks. Found water still there, but had to clear the sand away a little to give the horses a drink. Thinking that it would not be safe to camp in the neighbourhood of so many natives, I went on to the Central Creek, and in going through some scrub, we again disturbed some more, but could only see children, one a little fellow about seven years old, who was cleaning some grass seeds in a worley, with a child who could just walk. The moment he saw us he jumped up, and, seizing his father’s spear, took the child by the hand and walked off out of our way. It was quite pleasing to see the bold spirit of the little fellow. On nearing Central Mount Stuart we saw two men, who made off into the scrub. Arrived at the creek after dark, but the water is all gone. On examining the hole where the water was, we discovered a small native well, with a very little water, too little to be of any service to me. To-morrow morning I must push on through the scrub to Anna’s Reservoir. My horses are still very weak, and I do not think they will be able to do it in a day. Wind variable.
Wednesday, 18th July, Centre. Starting early, we crossed the Hanson, and got through the scrub to the gum plains, where we camped at sundown, the horses not being able to do the whole journey in one day. The creeks empty themselves into the plains, but there is no water. Still, from the number of birds that are about, I think there must be water not far away, but I have no time to search for it. If I do not find water in the gum creek (which is doubtful) the horses will have another long day’s journey. They are suffering much from the dryness of the feed, three of them being infected with worms. Wind, south-east.
Thursday, 19th July, Gum Plains. Made our way through the remainder of the scrub, and arrived in the afternoon at the gum creek, where we found a little water, and clearing away the sand, obtained enough for our horses. There will be enough for them to-day and to-morrow morning. I shall therefore stop here for the rest of the day. There are some heavy clouds coming up from the west and south-west, which I hope will give us rain. Wind still from the south-east. The natives have been upon our old tracks through the whole of the scrub in great numbers, and there are many traces of them about this creek, some of which are quite fresh. The drying up of the water round about has compelled them to collect round this and other creeks which are permanent.
Friday, 20th July, Gum Creek North-east of Mount Freeling. Crossed the Reynolds range to Anna’s Reservoir, which is still full of water. I may now say that this is permanent. The water we camped at is gone, but there is still a little down the creek. We could not get enough for the horses this morning in the creek we have left. Judging from the number of native tracks that we have crossed this morning, there must be permanent water on the north side of the range, which is composed of immense blocks of granite, apparently on the top of mica slate, with occasional courses of quartz and ironstone. To the north-east of where we camped last night, about three miles distant, is the point of the range, on which there is a very remarkable high peak, composed of ironstone, with a number of very rough rounded ironstone hills. I have named this Mount Freeling. Here I found indications of copper, the only place I have seen it in all this journey. The natives do not seem to have frequented this reservoir much of late, as there were no fresh tracks within two miles of it. In the creek close by, there were some very old worleys. No rain; clouds all gone. Wind, still south-east.
Saturday, 21st July, Anna’s Reservoir, Reynolds Range. I shall remain here till Monday morning to rest the horses, for they need it much; they all have sore backs. A small pimple made its appearance under the saddle, and has gradually spread into a large sore, which we cannot heal up; it makes them very weak. The clouds have again made their appearance from the north-west, and the wind has also changed to that quarter. I hope we shall now get some rain, so that I can make short journeys for my horses, to enable them to gather strength. Two long journeys on successive days without water would reduce them again to the same state of weakness as they were in at the Bonney Creek. For the last fourteen days we have been getting a quantity of the native cucumber and other vegetables, which have done me a great deal of good; the pains in my limbs and back are much relieved, and I trust will soon go away altogether if these vegetables hold out. We boil and eat the cucumbers with a little sugar, and in this way they are very good, and resemble the gooseberry; we have obtained from one plant upwards of two gallons of them, averaging from one to two inches in length, and an inch in breadth.
Sunday, 22nd July, Anna’s Reservoir. On examining the creek near the reservoir, we have found some more large and deep water holes. I have named this Wicksteed Creek. The clouds are again heavy, and have every appearance of rain; they and the wind both come from the north-west.
Monday, 23rd July, Anna’s Reservoir. No rain has fallen; again all the clouds are gone. Started early for the spring in the North gorge, McDonnell range, which we noticed on April 14th. Camped at dark in the thick scrub and spinifex. No feed for the horses, so we had to tie them up during the night. Wind, south-east again.
Tuesday, 24th July, Dense Scrub and Spinifex. Started through the remainder of the scrub to the gorge, where we arrived at 7 o’clock, after twelve hours’ journey. Camped outside, and drove the horses up to the spring. There is still the same supply of water; it is an excellent spring, and might be of great importance to future exploration. I have named it Hamilton Spring. Wind, variable.
Wednesday, 25th July, Hamilton Spring, McDonnell range. Resting the horses. Yesterday afternoon we passed a great number of fresh tracks of natives apparently going to Hamilton Peak, which leads me to think there must be permanent water there. The peak is very high–quite as high as Mount Arden, but there is another part of the spur higher than it, to which I have given the name of Mount Hugh; further to the west-north-west is a mount, still higher, which I have named Mount Hay. Wind, north-east. It has been very hot to-day.
Thursday, 26th July, Hamilton Spring, McDonnell Range. Started across the ranges to Brinkley Bluff, and camped on the east side. There is still plenty of water in the Hugh, although greatly reduced. The natives have been following our former tracks in great numbers; some of their foot-prints are very large. There is a great quantity of marble in this creek.
Friday, 27th July, Brinkley Bluff, McDonnell Range. Started down the Hugh, and camped on the south side of Brinkley Bluff, finding plenty of water all the way, in holes of various sizes, with reeds and rushes growing round them, with plenty of feed on the banks. Wind, variable.
Saturday, 28th July, The Hugh, South Side of Brinkley Bluff, McDonnell Range. Proceeded towards the Waterhouse range, and stopped at my former camp of the 11th April. The spring still gives out an abundance of water; we have also found another good spring on the south side of the creek, which is here very broad, nearly two hundred yards wide, with a good feeding country all round, and a small strip of salt-bush on the banks. Splendid gum-trees in the creek. Wind, east; sun, hot.
Sunday, 29th July, The Hugh, between McDonnell and Waterhouse Ranges. Wind variable; some clouds coming from the south-west.
Monday, 30th July, The Hugh, between McDonnell and Waterhouse Ranges. Proceeded towards the range; at four miles crossed the creek, and half a mile further entered the ranges. We made our former camp of April 9th on the creek, but no water, so followed it down to the westward, and after clearing a hole, found sufficient for our wants in the sand. Camped. Very unwell. Wind, south-east. Not a drop of rain has fallen since we were here before.
Tuesday, 31st July, Between the Waterhouse and James Ranges. Started on a course of 220 degrees, following down the creek through James range, instead of crossing it. I am afraid there will be no water at our camp on the south side. I have a chance of getting some in the range. At two miles met with a good water hole, under a sandstone hill. At seven miles the creek enters the range; the bed is broad, sandy, and gravelled. At twelve miles we found some water, and camped, as I am too unwell to continue in the saddle any longer. Cleared a hole, and obtained water sufficient for our purpose. Wind, south-east.
Wednesday, 1st August, In James Range, on the Hugh. Followed the creek through the remainder of the range, and found water in four different places. I have not the least doubt that there is plenty, but the creek is so broad, and divided into so many courses, that it would require four men at least to examine it well. On arriving at our camp of the 7th April, we found all the water gone. Scratched in the sand, and found a little moisture, but no water; after a fruitless search of an hour, I was going back to the last water that I had seen, six miles distant, when two emus came into the creek, and made for a large gum-tree in the middle. On going to it, I found a fine hole of water round its roots. Camped. Wind the same.
Thursday, 2nd August, The Hugh, South Side of James Range. Went down the south side of the creek, through good grassy country. At fourteen miles in a side creek we found a native well about four feet deep. We camped here, as there is little prospect of finding any more water in the Hugh, which is become broad and sandy. As to surface water, my men have neither the strength nor the appliances for digging. There is plenty of water under this sand, but having only a small tin dish, the labour is too great. My men have now lost all their former energy and activity, and move about as if they were a hundred years old; it is sad to see them; our horses, too, suffer very much from their sore backs. On the south side of the creek are some isolated hills, chiefly composed of limestone, ironstone, quartz, and granite. This morning there was ice on the water left in the tin dish, and also in the canteens, an eighth of an inch thick. It was very cold.
Friday, 3rd August, James Range. I find the water in the well is nearly all gone this morning. It would take us nine hours to water the horses here, so slowly does it come in; I must therefore go back to our last camp. I shall follow the creek round, for there might be a chance of getting some nearer. Saddled, and proceeded up the creek, and at four miles found a little under the limestone rocks coming from a small side creek; gave the horses a drink turning back, and made for the Finke on a course of 160 degrees. Crossing a few stony hills and small plains, at ten miles, we ascended a broken table range, which I have named Warwick Range; it is composed of hard grey limestone and ironstone. We then proceeded through a well-grassed country, with mulga bushes, and at twenty miles camped under a redstone hill, not being able to get any further. No water.
Saturday, 4th August, Small Hill between the Hugh and the Finke. The horses strayed a long way in the night, so that I did not get them till after 11 o’clock this morning, and could not start until noon. Passed over a country of much the same description as yesterday, crossing three stony hills running nearly east and west, and at nine miles camped, without water, in a fine grassy country, which, as the grass is green, will be quite a treat for the horses. About six miles north of Chambers Pillar. Wind, south-east.
Sunday, 5th August, North of Chambers Pillar. At sunrise heavy clouds came up from the south-east, bringing with them a very thick fog, through which I had great difficulty in steering my course; it cleared off about 10 o’clock. I expected rain, but none has fallen; it is now quite clear again. Arrived at the Finke at 12 o’clock, and was very much surprised to find so little water. I had no idea it would have gone away so soon. The bed is very broad and sandy, which is the cause of the rapid disappearance of the large quantity that I saw when I crossed before. This is a great disappointment, as it was my intention to run it down, in the hope that it would take me into South Australia. I shall go one day’s journey down, and see what it is; if I can find no more water I must return to this, to rest my horses, and push for the Stevenson. I cannot remain here, for this water will only last a short time. My provisions will barely carry me down, and there is not the least appearance of rain. I am afraid my retreat is cut off. Wind, south-east. Clouds.
Monday, 6th August, The Finke. Thick fog again this morning. From the heavy clouds that have passed yesterday to the south of us, I think a shower of rain may have fallen there; I ought not to allow the chance of it to escape, as it is likely to be my only one until the equinox, and I have not provisions sufficient to remain until that time, so I must push the horses as far as they will go, and then we must walk the rest, which is a very black prospect, considering the weak state we all are in. Proceeded to the south-east, having camped on my former course at two clay-pans, where I think there is a chance of water, if a shower has fallen there. Started on our former course and arrived at the clay-pans without seeing a drop of water; neither is there any in them. Camped; the horses being very tired, from coming through so many sand hills.
Tuesday, 7th August, Clay-pans in Sand Hills. A light dew fell last night and this morning, which I am very glad of; it will be a good thing for the horses. Kekwick was unwell last night, but I cannot stop on his account. He must endure it the best way he can. If I find water at where I suppose the Finke joins the gum creek that runs a little north of Mount Humphries, I will remain there a day to give him rest. He is completely done up. I hope he will not get worse. I must push back as quickly as possible, and get him into the settled districts. At noon we made the Finke. Still the same white, sandy bed; but here it is about a quarter of a mile broad, and the east bank is composed of white sandstone, with a course of light slate on the top of it, then courses of limestone and other rocks, and, on the top of all, red sand hills. The gum-trees are not so large as they are further north. On first striking the creek we could find no water, but, by following it down for a short distance, we discovered a little, which will do for us. It is more than I expected, and I feel most thankful for it. Kekwick still very ill. Poor fellow, he is suffering very much. I dare not show him much pity, or I should have the other giving in altogether. I hope and trust he will soon get better again, and that to-morrow’s rest may do him good. He has been a most valuable man to me. I place entire confidence in him. A better one I could not have got. I wish the other had been like him, and then neither he nor I should have suffered so much from hunger. Wind, south-east.
Wednesday, 8th August, The Finke. Resting Kekwick and shoeing horses. This water was going away very rapidly, so I rode down the creek for ten miles to see if there were any more, that I may risk following it down. After joining the West Creek it spreads itself over a broad valley, bounded on the north by sand hills and on the south by stony hills. Course, eastward. It is divided into numerous courses; very sandy, and immense quantities of drift wood about it. Some very large gum-trees piled high on the banks, and a great number of birds of every description; but I could find no water. It is so broad, with so many courses, that it would require half a dozen men to examine it well. If we were to stay searching for water here, and be unsuccessful, and the creeks on ahead were to be dried up, we should lose our horses and have to walk, which Kekwick could not do. I do not consider it would be right thus to risk his life. I shall therefore make for the Stevenson, where I am almost certain to find water. Wind, east.
Thursday, 9th August, The Finke. Started early on our former tracks, passing Mount Humphrey and Mount Beddome. Camped at our old place. I should think from the appearance of the country that the Finke takes a south-east course from where I left it yesterday. The hills run that way. Wind, south-south-east.
Friday, 10th August, South of Mount Beddome. Proceeded on our former course to the Stevenson, which we made a little before dark, and found water, but I am quite surprised to see so little of it left. The fine large holes are nearly dry. Wind, east.
Saturday, 11th August, The Stevenson. The horses having lost some shoes, I am forced to remain here to-day to put others on. There is more water a little further down the creek, at which I camped. No rain seems to have fallen since I was here before. The sun has been very hot to-day. Wind, east-south-east.
Sunday, 12th August, The Stevenson. I was too unwell to move yesterday, but, feeling a little better this morning, I rode down the creek. For three miles it takes a south-east course, then east-south-east through table land, with rocky and precipitous hills on each side. I then went on a south-east course for nine miles, through a splendidly-grassed country, with numerous small creeks running into the Stevenson. During my ride I found plenty of water, and splendid grass, up to the saddle-flaps, and quite green. Ducks and numerous other birds abound here; the water is quite alive with them. I regret that I have not provisions enough to enable me to follow this creek round its different bends. It is a splendid feeding country for cattle, and much resembles Chambers Creek. Wind, south-east.
Monday, 13th August, The Stevenson. Started on a course of 135 degrees to see if the Stevenson comes from the south; continued on the table land, from where I left it yesterday for sixteen miles from last night’s camp, when we suddenly dropped into the bed of a large broad sandy gum-creek, coming from the west, which I find to be the Ross. There are many rushes about it; it runs in three or four courses, in all of which water can be obtained by scratching in the sand. There are plenty of birds. It is evidently raining to the east of this. Camped. My course takes me across the middle of a range, which I shall endeavour to cross to-morrow. There are two small springs, but they are brackish. Wind, south.
Tuesday, 14th August, The Ross. Started on the same course, 135 degrees, and again ascended the stony table land. Crossing thence, we met two small myall-creeks running north-east with birds upon them. At seven miles crossed another, and found a fine large deep water hole with ducks on it. We again ascended the table land, which continued to the range, and at sixteen miles gained the top, which is table land about a mile broad; the view is extensive to the east-north-east and north. We descended on a course of 175 degrees to search for water in the creek below. We crossed a number of myall-creeks, coming from the range, and running south-east; in many the water has just dried up. At six miles on the same course we found water and camped, the horses being tired by their rough journey. This water hole is not permanent although when full it is deep and large, and will last a considerable time. The Stevenson and Ross seem to take a north-east course. On a further examination of this creek I found a large hole of water about two hundred yards long and thirty broad, with birds upon it, and plants that grow round permanent water. I also found shells. This creek I have named Anderson Creek, after James Anderson, Esquire, of Port Lincoln, and the range Bagot Range, after the Honourable the Commissioner of Crown Lands.
Wednesday, 15th August, Anderson Creek. Started towards the south-east point of Bagot range, which I find to be five miles distant. The country between is undulating and stony, with plenty of grass. To the east, about thirty miles, is a high isolated hill, bearing 100 degrees. At six miles and a half crossed a myall and gum creek, in which, about a mile to the east, under a red bank, is a large water hole, seemingly permanent. At ten miles crossed the Frew, whose bed is sandy, and has many courses, the banks being covered with rushes. The rest of the day’s journey was through mallee scrub and sand hills, in which we camped without water; the feed, however, is abundant, yet not so thick as when I crossed before.* (* See ante, March 28, 29, and 30.) Wind, south.
Thursday, 16th August, Mulga Scrub and Sand Hills. Started at 7 o’clock on a course of 170 degrees, and in four hours made the Neale, and camped, as there was still plenty of water.
Friday, 17th August, The Neale. Proceeded on a south-east course, and camped on a side branch of the Neale, with plenty of water in large holes. Wind, east.
Saturday, 18th August, Side Branch of the Neale. Proceeded towards the gap in Hanson range, and camped near one of the large water holes. It is very cloudy.
Sunday, 19th August, Gap in the Hanson Range. Still cloudy, and looks like rain, so we must push on to-day, in case the Peake River should come down and stop us, which would not suit the state of my provisions, as we have lost a quantity of flour by the scrub scoring the bags, and we have not enough to take us to Chambers Creek. At eight miles camped west-north-west of Freeling Springs, having given the horses a drink in crossing the Neale.
Monday, 20th August, Sand Hills West-north-west of Freeling Springs. It still threatens for rain. Proceeded to Kekwick Springs to see if the horse we had left in the Peake had got out. We found his bones; he does not seem to have made a struggle since we left him, as he is in the same position. From the number of tracks, the natives must have visited him. Proceeded to Freeling Springs and camped. There were a number of ducks and two swans on the large water hole. We shot one of the latter, which was a great treat to our half-starved party. Wind variable.
Tuesday, 21st August, Freeling Springs. Still cloudy, and we had a few drops of rain during the night; also distant thunder and lightning. Resting horses. Wind, north-east.
Wednesday, 22nd August, Freeling Springs. Proceeded through Denison range, and camped at the Milne Springs. Wind, north-east. Still cloudy, but no rain.
Thursday, 23rd August, Milne Springs. Went on and camped at Louden Spa. Wind variable.
Friday, 24th August, Louden Spa. Camped at the William Springs. Wind, north-west.
Saturday, 25th August, William Springs. Proceeded to the Strangway and Beresford Springs, and camped at Paisley Ponds. Wind, north-east.
Sunday, 26th August, Paisley Ponds. During the night thunder and lightning from the north-west, with a few drops of rain. Cloudy this morning; had a few showers on our journey to Hamilton Springs. Found Mr. Brodie camped there three miles south-east of Mount Hamilton. He received and treated us with the greatest kindness.
Mr. Stuart and his party remained at Hamilton Springs until 1st September, when they proceeded to Chambers Creek, where, having reached the settled districts, his journal ends.